Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Mummy, or should I say, "The Skeletons"?

French archeologist controlled by Mike S arrive at the door to King Tut's tomb

For a change of pace, Keith hosted a take-off of the modern, Brendan Fraser “The Mummy” movies. The game was set with the opening of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s, but with competition between various European factions to be the first in the tomb. Keith was using Flying Lead rules from Ganesaha Games, with a generous helping of the fantasy Song of Blades and Heroes thrown in, too. Keith had picked up a bunch of painted skeletons last weekend at The Bookery in Fairborn, OH, and wanted an excuse to get them onto the tabletop.
The British archeologists peer through the doorway and see movement where there shouldn't be any...

With a big turnout — 1 GM and 7 players — we had four European factions and four “bad guy” factions — mostly skeletons. Allen started off with a force of Arab tomb looters, and was supposed to die off quickly and become the third skeleton command. However, his looters held off the Europeans for longer than anyone anticipated, which meant for the first part of the game the skeletons sat around like…well, they’d been sitting there for thousands of years!
Having guarded against tomb raiders for thousands of years, the Pharaoh's skeletal soldiers are ready to repel the incursion

Once the Europeans made it into the tunnels leading to the tomb, they were a little gun-shy about entering the complex. Several turns were spent with skeletons waiting to pounce on the Europeans as they entered the tomb, unable to pour out because of the “magic” involved. Eventually, Keith let the magic flow out the doors and we took the battle to them (I was playing a skeleton, along with newcomer Brett). Keith had thrown in special event cards, which chiefly had the effect of allowing the Europeans to interrupt or steal our actions when we rolled them. There was one glorious moment when I played my first, hard-won card (you received them only when you eliminated an enemy figure) and knocked down “The Moose”, one of the burly European raiders.
The first instinct of the Europeans was to try to stay at the door and shoot down the skeletons
Seven players in one game tends to make the action move a little slowly at times, and we ended up calling it quits just before 11 pm. Steve’s Chinese archeologists were close to breaking into Tut’s inner chambers. Mike S had moved his French into the same room, and was busy holding off the skeletons. My “rabble” skeletons were doing their best to hold off Joel and Mike W’s factions, though it would not be long before they broke past my weak command.
Once the Europeans entered the tomb complex the skeleton guards tried to swarm the doughty, well-armed archeologists

It was a different style of game, and was definitely fun once the Europeans entered the tomb complex. A little less preamble (and a little better rolling command rolls by the Europeans) might have produced a faster game that was fought to a conclusion. All in all, it was a good chance to get new figures and Keith’s new scratch-build dungeon complex on the tabletop!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Raid on Deerfield Convention Game

The Raid on Deerfield (a Massachusetts frontier town) gets under way as raiders set fire to a house
Each year, I pick a new game to run at conventions to promote my French & Indian War rules, Song of Drums and Tomahawks. This year, along with my coauthors Keith and Mike, we decided to stage the 1704 Raid on Deerfield, fought as part of Queen Anne's War between the French and British. This wintertime raid by roughly 300 French and Indians devastated the Massachusetts frontier town. They took dozens of captives back north to Canada with them. However, the interesting thing was that some of the houses fought out till relieved by a force from neighboring towns. Unlike the Raid on Schenectady (which was our original choice), the execution of this attack was much more haphazard. It seemed like a better fit for a man-to-man skirmish game.

Our Deerfield -- pooling together the buildings of myself and my coauthors Keith and Mike

The three of us met one Saturday, bringing all of our 28mm buildings, to lay out the map. At that time, we were still planning on Schenectady, and we laid out each of the four 3'x3' battlefields which would be arranged in a square. A couple weeks later, when we decided to change to Deerfield, I referred to my catalog of buildings and online images and layouts to create a Deerfield version. A key part of our multiplayer Song of Drums and Tomahawks games are that each pair of opponents essentially plays their own one-on-one game. The four games are tied together strategically and tactically -- with players being able to send reinforcements if they wish to another table. But to make it work in the eyes of the players, I needed clear delineations and blocked sight lines between neighboring board sections. I decided to use fence sections to accomplish this, and was pleased that when it was all laid out on the tabletop, the battlefield did appear broken up.

More French militia and Indians pour into the town looking to create havoc and take captives

As part of getting this ready for the tabletop, I needed to create four new battlefield mats to represent a snowscape. Prior to the raid, it has snowed heavily and drifts piled up against the town palisade actually permitted Indians in snowshoes to climb up them and surmount the walls. These infiltrators then opened up the gate the rest of the force. A trip to Joanne's Fabrics produced a white felt with glitter set inside it, which was subtle enough to give a reflective sparkle here and there, like light reflecting off of ice and snow. I used the same method I'd used for my other felt battle mats. I used a sifter filled with Woodland Scenics blended green Turf, shaking it lightly over the surface. I then sprayed it with a 50/50 mix of water and Acrylic Matte Medium. It is important to spray the mixture up and let the droplets settle on the felt rather then squirting it directly. Once the first coat has dried, the second coat and be sprayed more directly onto its surface.

Some townsfolk men rally together to try to save some of their neighbors

I also painted another batch of winter dress Indians, this time from Knuckleduster Miniatures. These Grand River Nations (Winter Dress) Warriors are not as detailed and nice as my normal Conquest Miniatures, but they add nice variety and a few of them are quite striking. I also touched up my some of my friends' contributions to our pool of women and children townsfolk -- a few of which weren't flocked and needed this to look nice on the tabletop. Similarly, I touched up a few buildings my friends had donated (but shh, don't tell them that!).

My first running of the Raid on Deerfield filled up with 8 players

We ran a playtest of it one Sunday evening, and I was glad that I did. We came up with two key instances that the rules would need to be modified for the scenario. I was satisfied with the solutions I came up with both, but it is always better to encounter these situations when playtesting rather than on game day. The first convention running of the Raid on Deerfield, 1704, would be at the brand new DayCon 2017 held in Fairborn, OH, Feb. 18. The night before I had laid out all four battlefields and packed all the buildings and scenery needed for each sector of the battlefield into their own separate boxes. Being anal like I am, I even put a sticker on the bottom of each terrain piece recording its location. For good measure, I took a photo of each with my cell phone so that I could refer to it when setting everything up. As it was, the table size I'd requested turned out to not be available. Instead of a 6'x6' square, I was given an 8'x5' area. This required some squeezing together of each sector of the battlefield, which actually worked out better as it broke up the sight lines even more.

Townsfolk spot some Indians lurking in a copse of trees and rush to attack them

I had a full 8 players for my afternoon event at DayCon. All eight had played the rules before, so this abbreviated the introduction time and let me get into explaining the scenario more quickly. Essentially, the four French & Indian players each start with a force of 8-9 figures entering on one corner of the board. The Townsfolk started with four armed men in the opposite corner. Each board had six buildings containing random numbers of townsfolk. They could include more armed men, armed women, unarmed women, and children. When either the raiders or townsfolk player had figures open the door of the building, the townsfolk player reached into a bag and drew a chip which designated what was inside. To enter a building, you had to batter down the door, which could take anywhere from one to five turns depending on the player's roll and the number of figures battering away at it.

A rare shot of me here on my blog, center, teaching two new people how to play Song of Drums and Tomahawks

The goal of the Indians is to take captives. I ruled that any time a French or Indian player wounded (killed) a townsfolk figure, they could count it as knocked out or subdued. Then, they could shuttle it off board by moving it to a designated point on the edge of the board, returning after dropping it off with the off-board forces marshaling and stringing together the captives. Historically, the French wanted to simply create havoc and chaos, terrorizing the frontier. So, players were equally free to simply kill townsfolk. The objective of the townsfolk was to try to save as many of the women and children as possible. The game was a lot of fun, with each player having a lot of leeway in how they tried to accomplish their mission.
Townsfolk also could go house to house, collecting up their neighbors to try to save them from the raiders

We received a lot of compliments on how the table looked. There certainly were a LOT of buildings on the table. One of the four sides of the town was lined with my Acheson Creations fort palisade. I think it would have been really cool to be able to line all four sides. Who knows? Maybe I can get them to cut me a break on more fort wall pieces -- I certainly showcase their products a lot in my games...ha, ha!

A French officer surveys the havoc being caused by the raid

The only sour note of the process of getting this game ready to run at this year's conventions was that we missed the deadline for Cincycon. I was so busy that I simply did not see or notice the deadline had come and gone. It is unfortunate, as I have been running games there for a number of years, now.

Successful Indian raiders lead off two captives for the long journey north to Canada

Otherwise, look for The Raid on Deerfield at the following conventions:
May 6: First Capital Gaming Convention, Chillicothe, OH
May 19-20: Drums at the Rapids, Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, OH
July 12-16: Historicon, Fredericksburg, VA
Oct. 6-8: Advance the Colors, Springfield, OH