Sunday, July 31, 2022

Kammebalango's Capital Rocked by Factional Warfare as President's Motorcade Fired Upon

    Mysterious helicopter with unknown intentions hovers over the capital of Kammebalango
This trip to Historicon, the first since 2018, would be an experiment of sorts. Normally, I bring one of our First Command Wargames rules sets to run at the show. This time around, I was running two of my rules - both Mean Streets gang warfare and Wars of Insurgency modern skirmish. To make this more doable, I created scenarios for both that could utilize the same basic terrain. For Wars of Insurgency, the downtown area I used for Mean Streets became the capital of Kammebalango. I changed out the magnetic billboards to my third world Africa ones, and shifted the location of a couple buildings to create a "Z-shaped" route for the president's motorcade to move from the middle of one of the short edges of the 5'x4' area to the opposite corner.

President's motorcade & bodyguards roll through the capital streets - will he make it to the airport?
The scenario would be "To Kill A President," which I playtested last month at DayCon 2022. Each player controls a faction in the country with varying degrees of support or opposition to the President. One faction is the President's bodyguards, which are attempting to shepherd him safely off the table in the direction of the airport. He wants to attend a meeting of African leaders in Cairo, something the UN Faction opposes. The Ghanaian peacekeepers don't want to kill him, they just want to make sure he doesn't make it to that summit. The mercenary faction, on the other hand, has other plans for him. They are trying to kidnap the president and take him to a secure location where he can be intimidated into signing away mining rights to a Western corporation (who is paying for the Mercs).

    The president will be safe if the loyal Peoples Militia have anything to say about it!
On the other hand, the Peoples Militia wants to protect the president. He is the Great Elephant and beloved of the people. They don't care if he exits off the correct table edge or not. They just want to stick to him like glue and ensure his safety. Aiming to frustrate that, the Army Faction is in open rebellion and is attempting to assassinate the president. Their goal is the most straight forward. Finally, there is a mysterious new faction, Kammebalango for Kammebalangans (K4K). Their goal is to root out foreign influence, and they are kind of a wild card faction. They violently oppose both the Mercs and UN, but have no beef with the rebel Army faction. How aggressively this faction was played often was the hinge that the events of the game turned on.

How do the Ghanaian UN peacekeepers feel about the president attending that conference in Cairo?
In the final game on Saturday, K4K was fired on immediately by the People's Militia and presidential bodyguards, who were spooked by their advance. Ostensibly, they are an ally of the president -- though there is nothing in either faction's briefing to spell that out for them. This degraded the combat ability of K4K, and in the end, gave both the Mercs and UN more free reign. In this game, the President's motorcade was turned back. The president and his bodyguards took shelter inside an apartment building from the fire of the two mercenary helicopters, who were hosing down his escort vehicles with LMG fire. Not checked by K4K, the UN player enforced his own "no fire zone" in the vital intersection the president would have to pass through to escape.

    The answer would lie in the hands of these people - our players - who were a wonderful group!
The game on Saturday morning ended with the president alive and well-protected inside the building. His mission to fly to the meeting failed, but he was alive. The every-loyal Peoples Militia was at his side, meaning they had actually won a Major Victory. The UN won a Minor Victory as the president did not make his flight. However, he had not give up and left the table, preventing it from being a major one. The fate of the UN faction in the two runnings of this game at Historicon could not have been more dramatically different. In Friday night's game, everyone seemed to be taking pot shots at the UN. They were not completely eliminated, but they lost a substantial number of troops. On Saturday, the player really got into the role playing aspect of it, making announcements and doling out clues that kept the other players from firing upon him for most of the game. It was fun to see the blue helmets take on a leadership role in the progress of the game.

    First ominous signs - two APCs of an army unit roll onto the table, looking angry, fingers on triggers
Unlike at DayCon, where the president succeeded (barely) in getting off the table, neither game went according to script for the beleaguered Kammebalangan president. He was turned back in Friday night's game, and on Saturday had to exit his motorcade and take shelter. On Friday, the Peoples Militia pulled off a surprise win, too. The father-son team playing President and People had a shocking ending to their teamwork. The militia actually fired upon the president's driver to prevent the limo from taking him out of their vicinity and "into danger." This sudden betrayal by a stalwart ally was the final nail in the president's hopes at getting off board. It made for a fun and interesting ending Friday night.

    Another warning sign - a helo lands on a rooftop disgorging a squad of mercs...followed by another!
Both groups of players did an awesome job and were loads of fun. When the president's turn came to move on Friday, his loyal players would immediately let out a cheer in honor of the Great Elephant. Once the shooting started, some of those turned to jeers. It was all in good fun and smiles were all around. On Saturday, the president was Steve from Little Wars TV. His role in the game is featured in their Historicon 2022 report on YouTube, which is well worth a watch. I encourage readers to check it out. They do a high tech, fast-paced and fun look at their attendance at historical miniature's biggest show in the States. Steve ended up buying both the Wars of Insurgency and Mean Streets rules. He seemed to have a great time, and was a perfect example of the great players we were lucky to have sign up and play for our games.

    The motorcade and Peoples Militia come under fire from the rebel army's APC-mounted HMGs
Steve's presidential motorcade was ruthlessly hounded by the mercenary helicopters in Saturday's game. The player was definitely the most aggressive and persistent in the use of the mercenary's air mobile assets I had seen yet in any of the three times I've run the game. The helicopters did take some hits, but neither were forced down like happened at DayCon. The Mercs plan looked like it might be working to fruition until one of his squads made the mistake of running across the street in the open. A burst of fire from K4K cut down three of the four professionals. These losses hamstrung his firepower and made him give up on his attempt to nab the president.

    Even the president's (or is it his decoy's?) up-armored SUV begins to take hits from the HMGs
I may have to give the Mercs a few more troops in future runnings of the game (though technically they have the highest starting point total). So far, none of the mercenary factions have laid hands on the president or even been within one move distance of him. None of the three players expressed any dissatisfaction with their lot in the game, though. On the contrary, they seemed to enjoy the challenge of planning and executing a Special Ops mission. So, maybe I'll leave it "as is," and see if future Dogs of War surprise me and pull off a victory in the scenario.

    A look at the table for 'To Kill a President' and our Friday night players -- a fun, boisterous group
The rebellious army faction was played aggressively, as well, in both games. They have a clear-cut mission and in both games hammered away at their enemies. The key to their survivability is to not make unnecessary enemies. Both games saw their firepower diluted by responses from either K4K or the UN, who should not be an enemy as the scenario is set up. Both games saw their forces slowly dwindling due to the attrition of attacks by other factions.

    A squad of mercenaries descends the stairs after disembarking from their helo on the hotel roof
One of the things I almost included in the scenario was for the army and UN to be able to set up barricades. This could be burning tires or a bus or other vehicle blocking the road. However, I felt that this might make it too difficult for the president to escape. I certainly can't have them completely block the road, otherwise I would need to include mechanics for removing the barricades. I don't know, though. The three games of it I have run so far were all fun, interactive, and all the players said they had a great time. Maybe I will leave it alone?

    Too much fire coming from the intersection forces the presidential motorcade to divert down an alley
Another success, I feel, was using similar terrain setups for Wars of Insurgency and Mean Streets. I feel my mostly Sarissa Precision buildings work equally well for my 28mm gangs and 20mm modern forces. This has been a definite success, and I will likely continue to do this in the future. As the sole author of these two sets, it is kind of up to me to run games of it to promote the rules. This pairing of events allows me to run both games in one day, as I did Friday at Historicon. I may do the same thing at Advance the Colors 2022, the October convention for HMGS Great Lakes.  I even have an idea for a new terrain set up that would work well for both games. Stay tuned for details on that!

    In most games, the Mercs and rebel army realized they were allies and poured fire into the motorcade

All in all, I want to thank my players for being such great groups of wargamers to roll dice with. We all know how one sourpuss can cast a pall over a game, and that did not happen in any of the Mean Streets or Wars of Insurgency events at Historicon. It was fun to have my buddy from South Carolina, Jason M, play in each event, too. And of course, thanks to Jenny for helping me run all four events. If you watch the Little Wars TV report, you will see her there in the First Command Wargames shirt ably running the game on Saturday morning.

    Unfortunately for the president's enemies, the K4K faction tipped the balance against them
With all four games successfully run, and the terrain and miniatures packed away, I could relax and enjoy the remaining hours of the convention. So, what does that mean to an avid wargamer? Shopping in the Exhibit Hall, of course! As I was running my final game Saturday morning, my friend Jason texted me to let me know the last of my DBA armies had sold at his flea market table. I ended up with $340 in profit from minis that have been sitting on my shelf, unplayed, for nearly a decade. This would make my trip to the dealer area even more sweet!

    With little hope of kidnapping the president, a squad of mercs exfiltrates via their helicopter
What did I buy? First, I got some essentials. I picked up more wire spears for my Saga armies from Brigade Games. I use the North Star ones and trim them to length to be a javelin, spear, lance, or long thrusting spear. I also picked up some Howard Hues paints from Dayton Painting Consortium - I use these for my dry brushing as they are a bit thicker in consistency. I bought some Gamers Grass flower tufts from Michigan Toy Soldier Company. Lastly, I visited Pastimes on the Square, who make all kinds of great terrain for wargames. They had great pre-made and flocked hills, three to a bag, for $11 each. I ended up buying about six packs in all. My Saga hills are getting a bit abused or in need of an upgrade and these fit the bill perfectly for practicality and looks.

    Two of the Bad Squiddo Games animal packs I bought from Badger Games & Cotton Jim

Those were the "Needs." Next, were the "Wants." I went to the Badger Games booth and bought a pack of Crusader Miniatures Thureophoroi as mercenaries for my Republican Romans. I also picked up another pack of their Roman gladiators so that I have more figs for my students to use if I redo my gladiator game day this year. While I was there, I was captivated by their animal packs from Bad Squiddo Games. Between Badger's booth and Cotton Jim's, I picked up Freyja's Wildcats, Ravens, Beavers, Moose Family, and a very cool pack called "Angry Tree Stumps." These resin tree stumps appear to be carved into leering faces by a primitive tribe and will make perfect objective markers for Saga. Wait till you see in another post what I did with them to make them even cooler! The ravens will make good fatigue markers, preying upon corpses or body parts littering a battlefield. The other animals can be used in my French & Indian War games for hidden movement or decoy markers.

Crusader Miniatures purchases sitting on the 6'x4' fleece mat I bought from Shieldwall
Finally, there were the impulse purchases. Cotton Jim was running a 50% off sale on lots of Saga stuff, so I bought five different packs of warlords. I plan to paint these up and give them away as prizes in the upcoming Advance the Colors Saga tournament, Oct. 8, 2022. I also bought the Greek and Barbarian Age of Hannibal dice since they were 50% off, too. Who knows? I may paint one of those armies one day! The last impulse purchase was at Shieldwall Gaming Club's booth. I went back and forth whether to buy one of his 6'x4' neoprene ocean mats or a fleece mat I can use for basic land games. I ended up going with the fleece one. Jeff Gatlin was one of our incredibly generous sponsors at last year's Saga tournament, so I always like to support his booth when he attends a show that I visit.

    My "impulse purchases" - five packs of Saga warlords (50% off!) to be painted up as prizes for ATC
Doubtless, the money I made off of the DBA armies spurred some of my purchases, but I felt that I kept my buying under control this trip. I didn't sink money into a whole new period or rules set or anything like that. Everything I bought was either something I needed for a current project or supplies I was running low on. So, I guess "self-control" is a success, too! With my Wars of Insurgency games continuing the success of my earlier Mean Streets ones, it was an overall "win" on my visit to Historicon 2022. And though the president of Kammebalango did not get to Cairo, my trip east was a definite success!

    The Peoples Militia and his bodyguards escort the motorcade through a narrow alley

    Another look at our full Wars of Insurgency game being run at Historicon 2022

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Gang Rumble in Downtown Lancaster, PA

    A terrified pedestrian backs against a wall as the Flippos arrive in downtown Lancaster
For the first time in years, the First Command Wargames crew was heading to a big convention to run our games. Five of us had scheduled events at Historicon 2022 in downtown Lancaster, PA. I would be running Mean Streets on Thursday night and Friday morning. Jenny would be helping me run Wars of Insurgency on Friday night and Saturday morning. I had created a terrain setup that would be usable for both games, which minimized the amount we had to haul east and pack and unpack out of the convention. Meanwhile, Mike S and his son Jason would be running Battles on the American Frontier using Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. Steve V would be running his Battle of Mollwitz, 1741, using his War of Austrian Succession supplement for his For King or Empress rules.

    Two gangs of bitter rivals battle it out on the Mean Streets - the Flippos and the Mohawks
Kicking it all off was my Gang Rumble in Lancaster Mean Streets scenario. I have to admit, I did nothing to make my terrain resemble downtown Lancaster, PA. Until this point, I had never even been to the downtown portion. I was pleasantly surprised at all the historic buildings and the many restaurants, markets, and brewpubs there were within walking distance of the convention center. Jenny and I arrived Wednesday night and met up with Jason M, who had reserved the rooms and been very helpful reminding us when event registration opened and so on. One of our regular Sunday night gamers, Andy, also arrived Wednesday night. We met him and his roommates Tim and Don for beers on a rooftop bar that evening. It was an enjoyable way to begin a weekend convention.

    Our Thursday night group of players start to rumble on my downtown battleground
The convention actually began on Wednesday, but its first main day was Thursday. After breakfast, Jenny and I grabbed a hotel cart and took the terrain, miniatures, and First Command rule books up to our table. The Historicon staff was very gracious and placed all three of our event tables adjacent to each other. We hoisted our First Command Wargames banner and (I think) made a nice presence in the Commonwealth room. It took less than an hour to set up the terrain for Mean Streets. I was given an 8'x5' table, which gave elbow room for the players with my 5'x4' setup. I was really pleased with how the table looked. In the last couple months, I have made some tweaks to my urban terrain. I've added cork squares as the asphalt streets to place between the acrylic floor tiles which resemble gray concrete. The latest addition were my street medians, which I had scratch-built using wooden molding decorated with Woodland Scenics street lamps and small shrubs and flowers. The scratch built guardrails on each end with their yellow and black pattern really set them off. I find it is the little things like the medians that often make a table "pop" and draw attention.

    The martial arts gang, the Daos, stand their ground as the Santanas approach in their leather jackets
Once we were finished setting up the terrain, we wandered through the rest of the convention center to check out the early games that were under way. One that stuck out to me in particular was the Have Gun Will Travel Old West game. His game spread across several tables popping with eye candy, including a mine lit with electric lights and a native American cliff dwelling. When the Exhibit Hall opened at noon, I was able to take my time and get my shopping fix in right away. I didn't want to buy a lot on the first day, though, because Jason would be trying to sell my last three 15mm DBA armies in the flea market. If they all sold, I'd get an influx of more than $300, so I was going to buy only the things I really needed Thursday. Or, at least that's what I told myself! I'll cover my purchases in the next post covering my Wars of Insurgency game.

    The Kings, in their black and green gang colors stalk towards the gas station to join the rumble
I had a very relaxing start to the day, and was ready to go when 7pm and rolled around and the first session of Gang Rumble in Lancaster was set to begin. The table was completely full - as were all four of my sessions of both games. I find that if you can set up your game early, place a sign telling potential players which event it is, then your terrain can sometimes recruit those last spots to fill up. That was my #1 reason for getting set up first thing that morning. Most gamers at Historicon don't know me or my games like folks back home in HMGS Great Lakes country. I'm lucky back home that enough people have had fun in one of my previous games that my events tend to fill up.

    A Flippo tries to convince a market stall owner to pay protection money (their gang mission)
The scenario is my standard one for Mean Streets. There were six players, each controlling their own gang. I chose my most eye-catching gangs, which for this game would be the Flippos in their clown masks, the punk rock Mohawks, the leather jacketed Santanas, the black and green Kings, the Highlanders in their checkered pants, and the Daos in their purple and yellow martial arts attire. Each gang would have a Primary mission, which might be stealing a car from the service station garage, shoplifting at the general store, or shaking down merchants for "protection money."

    Meanwhile, Ramona of the Santanas sneaks into the service station bay to steal a car
Each gang also had a secondary mission, which was to get some payback on a rival gang that had put a "beat down" on them last week. I selected the target gang so that every gang had one other going after them. Finally, all gangs had the additional way of earning victory points by "tagging" buildings with their gang logo. Players received a stack of foam circles emblazoned with each gang's logo. Players also lost victory points for each of their gang members knocked out of action.

    A late-arriving police officer puts knocks down a Flippo with one blow from his billy club
After one of my CincyCon games, I have a special mechanism I've installed in my gang warfare games. If a player is essentially knocked out of the game with all (or nearly all) of his gang members down for the count, I have that player control a police car which arrives on the scene. The player is given complete control over where to bring it on and what he wants the two policemen to do. They can get payback on the player who beat them up, try to take out the one that appears in the lead, or just have fun with it. I tell the other players that they hear sirens. This also has the effect of encouraging players to wrap up their missions and heading for the board edge. I don't tell them the game is moving towards a conclusion, but by this time, they are getting into their role of a street thug and they begin to think it might be a good idea to take their winnings and skedaddle!

    Julio, gang boss of the Santanas, and his warchief Cruz catch Kira in the act of tagging their turf
I thought about writing separate battle reports for Thursday evening's and Friday morning's games. However, I figured that might get a bit redundant. I liked how the balance worked out, though. The gang that scored the most victory points on Thursday, the Flippos with 21, actually scored the least on Friday. Similarly, the winner on Friday, the Mohawks, were in the bottom half of scores on Thursday. Some players were laser-focused on their primary missions. For example, the Kings on Friday barely engaged in any scuffles with other gangs until they had completed their mission. Once they each had a six-pack of beer under their arm, they returned to the street ready to rumble. Other gangs ignored their mission for most of the game and concentrated on attacking or evading other gangs. The Daos did that on Thursday, and it ended up causing them to fail to complete their mission of convincing the owner of Finn's Factory to pay protection money. In fact, Manager Keith bloodied the nose of the punk who tried to rough him up!

    The other Mohawks come to avenge Kira's knockout, while the Kings decide to join the fray
One thing that was common in both games was much of the mayhem centered on the gas station near the center of the board. The wide open space and clear path to rival gang members was too much for most players to resist. At one point, nearly every gang was involved in a huge scrum in the center of the board. Mohawks traded punches with Santanas, while Kings and Daos duked it out in front of the alarmed patrons of the Shell station. When I am setting up scenario, I make it a point for each gang to have to traverse the board to a far side to complete their missions. So, a player who starts in the middle of one of the long edges of the board will likely have to go to an opposite corner to reach their objective.  If you were to draw arrows from where gangs deployed to where they ended up, you'd see the arrows intersecting many times in the middle of the board.

    The Santanas don't look happy that other gangs have muscled in on their turf - the gas station!
Adding in the secondary mission of wanting payback against a certain gang, and making knocking their figures out of action worth double points, usually tempts them away from focusing only on their primary mission. The player may have planned to stay on target, but when they see a punk from a rival gang by himself, they can't help but dash in and beat him up! Honestly, I feel that if players just moved around the board and tagged buildings and then beat up shopkeepers, it would be a fairly boring game. That's why I structure my victory points and starting positions/objectives to encourage them to mix it up. I am always reminded of my old friend Eric's frustration in a game when no casualties were being removed and it was mostly maneuver. He pounded the table with his fist in mock anger saying, "I just want to kill something!"

    The Flippos and their creepy clown masks are always a scary sight on the streets
Keeping Eric's adage in mind means my games and scenarios are designed to allow players to inflict casualties. Mean Streets' combat system reinforces this. When a gang member wins a combat, he either inflicts a wound on an opponent (permanently giving that street punk a -1 to further rolls...and wounds ARE cumulative), doubles them and inflicts twice as many wounds plus a special effect for the weapon the figure is armed with, or triples them knocking that figure out of action. No matter how mild mannerd a player may be in real life, there is a visceral thrill to beating up the rival players' street punks. This is YOUR turf and you're the baddest street gang out there!

    What's this? A truce between the Santanas and Highlanders to go beat up other gangs??

And speaking of casualties, both games saw the police car arrive on board late game. This time, I told the player the cops are armed with billy clubs but also have their pistol. They could choose whether to shoot the gang member or just try to beat up the punk. Surprisingly, no shots were fired this time around, but the officers did knock out a punk or two! The arrival of the police car always seems to light up the table. Players smile and pull out their cell phones to take pictures. Maybe I should find on that has actual flashing LED lights? Or maybe I should get a police siren sound effect on my phone and play it when the cops arrive? The thing a GM wants is for his or her players to have fun. Anything that adds to the thrill is worth looking into!

    The colorful Mohawks are one of my favorite gangs - most figs are modified from The Assault Group
Speaking of which, all the players said they had a great time. It is always satisfying to hear your players say that, and even more when they are excitedly recapping events in the game. As a rules designer, I love to hear players say, "Hey, I could use these rules for ____!" Mean Streets seems to get those comments more than any other system. It is a "toolkit" kind of system which can be accessorized and added to so that it fits a different period. I have run this same engine for French & Indian War frontier raids and even Pulp adventures in the South Seas. 

    In both runnings of the game, a swirling melee broke out in the back alley near the gas station
This was our first time coming to a convention and having several vendors already stocking our rules. So, although we had a small holder with a copy of the rules we were using on the table for our games, we did not have the whole line displayed like we have done at other conventions. We told players where they could buy the rules in the Exhibit Hall and encouraged them to to get it from them (even though we make less on wholesale to vendors than retail to players). As a company, we realize we can't be at every convention running games and then selling them off of our table. We need those vendors out there taking our rules to shows, putting them on their websites, and so on.

    The back alley rumble gets bloody as more gang members wade in with chains, clubs, and knives
One of our vendors told me that people must have had fun with Mean Streets because there was a "run" on the rules he had. That was satisfying to hear. Only a dozen people total participated in the two sessions of Gang Rumble in Lancaster, but you hope your game creates a "buzz" as they tell their friends and others how much fun they had. Based on vendor feedback, First Command Wargames' trip to Historicon was a success. Based on my players' comments, it was a knockout success!

    Mean Streets cover was drawn by one of my students - pick up a copy if you don't have one already!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

President of Kammebalango's Nightmare Motorcade through Capital

    I ran my "To Kill a President" scenario for Wars of Insurgency at DayCon 2022 this past weekend
I wanted one final tuneup of my Wars of Insurgency scenario that I am taking to Historicon next weekend. So, I scheduled an afternoon session this past weekend at DayCon 2022 for "To Kill a President." It is a reworking of a scenario that I had first run in 2018 at Advance the Colors. For this version, I added a sixth player faction. I wanted to run it to make sure things still ran relatively okay. I also pared down and reworked the order of battle a bit more, too, so things would move quickly with six players.

    The table at DayCon (and rule books) all set up prior to the start of the game
The six factions include the President in his motorcade of two jeeps with heavy machine guns (HMG) and two up-armored SUVs. Inside these four vehicles are the drivers and two extra crewmen or passengers of "Professional" status (best troops in Wars of Insurgency). The player controlling the faction decides which vehicle the President will ride in, and where in the vehicle itself. They can choose between one of the two SUVs or two jeeps. He can't be a driver or machine gunner, though!. On the President's side is the Peoples Militia of Kammebalango. They are immensely loyal to the "Great Elephant," and are there to escort him the president and keep him safe. They control three squads of 10 Militia with small arms. Each squad also has a Militia light machine gunner (LMG) and RPG man.

Players read through their mission briefings to learn their individual goals & victory conditions
Opposing the President is one of the local army commanders. He is from a rival tribe whose people have been neglected, mistreated, and persecuted by the president's regime. The general has brought soldiers loyal to him in a bid to assassinate the president. They are riding in two armored vehicles, each equipped with a HMG and an extra crewmen. Each vehicle also carries a squad of four Regular soldiers with small arms and one with LMG. Also attempting to prevent the president from escaping off-table (he is on his way to the airport to fly to Cairo for a meeting of African leaders), is a Mercenary faction. These have been hired by an unnamed country who wants to have a "chat" with the president to convince him to sign away some mining rights to them. Their job is to kidnap the president and take him to the undisclosed location where the "chat" will take place. They arrive in two helicopters, each armed with a LMG, and each carrying a squad of four Professional mercs with small arms.

    'Kammebalango for Kammebalangans' (K4K) arrives on table through the park playground
Slightly less anti-president is the faction of UN Peacekeepers from Ghana. For their own selfish political reasons, they do not want the president of Kammebalango to attend the meeting in Cairo. Their forces have been ordered to divert or prevent him from escaping off the designated board edge heading to the airport. They are NOT to kill him -- that would be a disgrace to the nation of Ghana if their peacekeepers killed the president of their host nation. The peacekeepers are all on foot. They have two Regular squads of eight men armed with small arms, plus a LMG and RPG gunners in each squad. Finally, the forces of a new and somewhat mysterious movement are present in the capital - Kammebalango for Kammebalangans (K4K). They also have two squads armed identically to the UN peacekeepers. However, their mission is to attack and drive off any foreigners. They believe only citizens of Kammebalango should determine the future of the nation.

    The Peoples Militia of Kammebalango marches down the dirt road to meet the President's motorcade
So, the way I intend for it to work out is there are three factions somewhat on the president's side, and three factions who are somewhat (or wholly) against him. They all have their own individual victory conditions which do not coincide perfectly. Even the goals of the intensely loyal People's Militia are subtly different than the President's. Each faction doesn't know the other players' goals, so it is a bit of a free-for-all rather than a straight up, two-sided confrontation. I ended up with five players signed up, so Jenny volunteered to play the role of the President since she will actually be helping me run this scenario at Historicon. I am also running Mean Streets, so she's giving me a break or two from GMing. She was there to observe and learn, and what better way to learn than to be thrown into the role of the President and his motorcade, trying to navigate the streets safely to the opposite corner of the table?

    As gunfire erupts in the streets, two helicopters hover over the downtown streets of the capital
The game opened in a relatively low-key fashion, with two squads of the Peoples Militia advancing down the alley, cheering as they met the Great Elephant's motorcade on the main street. A third squad began sneaking down the long table edge behind the buildings, climbing the chain link fences separating each apartment block from each other. To the President's right, the two squads of K4K advanced through the park playground and took up positions along the wall, making his bodyguards very nervous. Gunfire first erupted, though, from the Peoples Militia climbing the fences when they spotted the Ghanaian peacekeepers. One blue-helmeted trooper went down. With the sound of gunfire, all the forces on table suddenly became alert, fingers on their triggers.

    The rebellious army commander's troops roll onto the table inside two APCs, ready for a fight
More shooting was about to erupt, though. The armored vehicles of the rebellious army commander rolled onto the table almost precisely where the President would be trying to exit. They moved steadily towards the intersection with the main street, down which the motorcade was progressing. Turning the corner, they saw the President's jeeps and SUVs, escorted by a massive throng of the militia, all headed towards them. BRAAAAP!! The gunner on the HMG opened up on one of the President's escorting jeeps. The other Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) turned the corner and opened up on the same jeep. Sparks flew and the vehicle shuddered to a stop. Its occupants were Professionals, though, and immediately began firing back, pouring rounds aimed for the driver's observation slit. With two jeep-mounted HMGs hosing down the APC, one round made it inside, killing the driver of the lead vehicle. It rolled forward past the median and slowly ground to a stop. 

    Blue-helmeted peacekeepers march onto the table and take up positions on the Jersey barricades
Gunfire erupted up and down the main street, echoing off the walls of the downtown buildings. The sound of the gun battle reverberated back and forth, at first masking the sound of the rotor blades of two khaki-colored helicopters suddenly arriving overhead. One of them hovered inches above the hotel's roof. Four white mercenaries leapt out and raced for the trap door, leading to the ladder from the roof to the building's top floor. Soon, the clamor of the helicopters began to drown out the sound of the gunfire. With the arrival of the mysterious choppers, two other factions leapt into action. The K4K squads clambered over the park walls and advanced down the alley way. One squad of UN troopers dashed along the concrete Jersey barricades between the street and the hotel. The other squad ducked through a side door into the neighboring, three-story apartment building. Half of those blue helmeted troopers dashed upstairs to the second floor, as well. From there, they engaged the militia they could begin to see advancing down the street. The militia had fired first, after all - at least that was how they interpreted their rules of engagement!

    Cheered on by the jubilant militia, the President's bodyguards escort him down the main street

The APCs continued to fire upon the militia and the bodyguard. The second jeep was also disabled, but both HMGs were still operational and firing back. The militia added their small arms fire to that of the bodyguard's, as well as keeping up a running gun battle with the UN troopers. Everyone kept eying the hovering helicopters, which so far, had yet to tip their hand why they were there. As the helicopter over the roof lifted off, the two switched places, disgorging another squad of mercenaries onto the rooftop. Suddenly, one of the choppers descended abruptly to low level, alongside the three-story apartment building. The crew chief's LMG roared to life shattering the glass and riddling the second floor firing position of the Ghanaian peacekeepers. The Mercs were firing on the UN! 

    The tiger-striped K4K troopers spring into action, vaulting the park walls and advancing

The blue helmets ducked to avoid the spray of bullets and then returned fire. Sparks flew and bullets ricocheted or pierced the sides of the chopper. From the first floor, an RPG rock screamed skyward and slammed into the underside of the helicopter. The explosion sent red flames rushing out the sides of the aircraft, which lazily spiraled down to the street. It crashed onto the pavement, turning partially on its side as broken rotor blades whirled like deadly scythes through the street. The UN troopers continued to fire on the wreckage. Both pilots were killed, but the crew chief was able to sprint from the wreckage for safety.

    The President's escorting HMG-armed jeeps begin to take fire from the rebel's APCs
Meanwhile, the president's bodyguard had a decision to make. There was a lot of shooting and flames in the intersection they had been rolling towards. Talking back and forth by radio, the bodyguards decided to turned down the alley behind the Shell station. Maybe the SUVs could work their through the alleys and rejoin the main road beyond the intersection? They kept their eyes on the tiger-striped, K4K troopers who seemed to have no interest in them. Both K4K squads disappeared in the direction of the intersection. One of the squads ducked inside the Shell station and took up firing positions looking across the street towards the hotel and the diner. The  other crept alongside the buildings towards the same intersection.

    A huge gun battle erupts in the streets as the milita and bodyguards return fire on the rebels
The bodyguards in the disabled jeeps kept firing on the rebel soldiers. Both APC squads dismounted and scrambled for cover along the front of the gas station. One squad eventually worked up the nerve to get back into the fight and moved to the corner of the building and opened fire. The other passed by the K4K, giving them a wide berth, and ducking into the service bay of the Shell station. There they watched the opening, ready to engage the motorcade if it came that way.

    UN troopers take up a firing position on the 2nd floor of an apartment building overlooking the street
Meanwhile, the mercenaries' day continued to get worse. The first squad descended the stairs and into the alley. For some reason, they decided to go around the front of the building rather than rear. The K4K player had been waiting all game for the perfect opportunity and he opened fire. "Die Mzungu!" Half of the mercenary squad went down, the rest retreating into the diner. The second squad, hearing the gunfire erupt where their companions had gone, wisely ducked around the back of the building, making their way towards where the President would have to exit the board. 

    Chopper down! Concentrated gun & RPG fire from a UN squad forces shoots down a Merc chopper
The UN troopers celebrating the downing of the helicopter were surprised when the militia squad, which had been clambering over fences, suddently burst into the first floor of the apartment building. A point blank range gun battle erupted. Wood splinters, stuffing from chairs, and shattered glass flew into the air. The UN troopers were badly outnumbered, even when their mates from the second floor hurriedly clambered down the stairs to join them. The Ghanaians eventually fled the building and joined their other squad at the Jersey barricades.

    A K4K squad takes up a firing position overlooking the diner and hotel (and some rebel infantry)
The key moment of the game was approaching, though. First, one SUV zoomed past the service bay of the Shell station. The rebel soldiers fired into the engine block and tires, hoping to disable it. Bodyguards, with their red berets, fired back. The first SUV successfully ran the gauntlet and accelerated through the gas station's lot. But was that the one carrying the President? Then it was the turn of the second SUV. It also braved the rebel soldiers' gunfire. It also made it past without being disabled, these being special up-armored limos purchased from the United States. As it turned out, the passenger in the back seat of the second SUV was the President. Had the troopers known this, and fired upon him rather than the vehicle itself, they could have won the game then and there. However, his armored limo escaped only slightly damaged, and the President's driver hit the gas and accelerated to safety. 

    Return fire from the President's bodyguards and the militia begin to whittle down the rebel ranks
We'd reached the three hours allotted for the game, so we decided to call it a Presidential victory. The surviving mercenary squad decided to exfiltrate rather than block the president's exit. The UN had come under fire by K4K, too, so knew they couldn't do anything to stop the limos at long range. My players all said they enjoyed the game. I was very happy with how it progressed. Everyone was involved, everyone was firing on rival factions. There was an air of mystery till the end on what some of the factions were doing. So, I liked that dynamic. My favorite part was how it literally came down to the last attack roll of the game. If the rebel soldiers had scored more hits, and the limo had made fewer of its armor saves, the President may not have made it out alive.

    A squad of mercenaries descend the stairs into the alley, preparing to move out

I look forward to my two runnings of this at Historicon Friday night and Saturday morning. The game at DayCon certainly set a high bar, though! It's hard to see how things can go as well as this game, at least from a GM's perspective!

    A full squad of K4K advances towards the intersection, continuing to hold their fire
    A squad of militia burst into the ground floor of the apartment, surprising the UN troopers

    The President's bodyguard decides to turn the SUVs into the alley and try to find an alternate route

    One of the Merc squads wisely advances along the backside of the diner away from the gun battle

    The President's limo and decoy limo turn up the alley - but which is which??

K4K squad fires at the 2nd limo putting two hits on it, but not disabling it - the President escapes!

    The battle's end - a great game with a gripping ending. Most importantly, everyone had fun!