Saturday, 25 May 2013

MAYDAY 2013: Death in the Dust.

Highlanders clash with Beja.
Battle reports and thrilling pictures for the discerning wargamer.

I was invited to Edmonton's MAYDAY convention to run a G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. game. Me and the New Teenage Visigoth headed up on the 300km odyssey. My Mighty Jeep was in the shop, so I borrowed my Mom and Dad's ancient Jimmy, complete with a 'Let me tell you about my Grandkids' bumper sticker. That's how we roll.

Initially I decided to run a four-person game but popular demand dictated an increase to 6. That was a nice feeling. But it soon evaporated when I realized all the painting I had to do to incorporate those extra two players. All praise The Dip.

Meanwhile, after inventing and discarding several ideas for the scenarios, I rehashed the demo I used at the Sentry Box. I sexed it up a bit, added more impassible terrain and encounters, but it was essentially the same thing. An Alliance of European sorts launch a punitive expedition to crush the Slavers and Spice Pirates who are held out in a secret fortress deep in the forbidding Sudanese desert. The Pirate Leader, rich from the illicit seasoning trade is known as Pasha Spice.

All six players showed up for the game.(Yeah!) I put them on one side of the map as allies, Liam the New Pre-Teen Visigoth worked as my sub-general and monster-runner.

Each player got a Hero, a squad of troops and a 'special'. Except for Marco. He forgot the Bersaglieri he had painted just for this game in Calgary. Alas, so all he got was a steamtank, which he made good use of.  

After a short discussion, the players deployed their forces.

On the right flank, Kenneth and his Scots Highlanders (supported by a Gatling gun) joined forces with Capitan Marco and his Simonelli MkIII Steamtank. The Scots have a piper in their midst and as such receive a morale bonus so long as he plays.
The Scots Gatling crew familiarizes them selves with their equipment, whilst the officer attempts to memorize his activation cards.

Scots mill about in confusion, dancing to bagpipe squawk.
Terry would command the Camel Corp on the left flank. His orders I believe were to rush ahead and secure the flank.

Lal Singh accompanies the Camel Corp to glory.
The Camel Corp is my favourite unit (full disclosure) of the game. The Hero is inevitably slain heroically. I penalize the shoot score of the Camel Troops by 50% when mounted. The Camel Corp can dismount up to six riders at a time. The special is 'Lal Singh, Veteran Guide'. Lal is classed as a Hero as well and has quite exceptional skills and stats.

Holding the line next to the Camel Corp was the Prince on Methi's Own 11th Light Infantry aka 'The Blue Sikhs' on account of their natty blue turbans and puttees. Their special was a redcoat-crewed Gatling. Don took command of this the most 'vanilla' of the units involved. Sometimes we wargamers know 'vanilla' is good and gets the job done when those 'triple-fudge-orange-pepperment with sprinkles' type units have failed or run away.

Sikhs and Gatling gun prepare to assault.
Todd took command of the valiant naval party from the HMS Callypigia (I like that name, I cannot deny) and deployed them in the centre.  They're long serving veterans in dealing with hostile locals and prehistoric weirdness. I stat them a little different than the infantry by giving them a better score (9) in scuffle and less in shooting (7) on account of the surly cutlass wielding ways. Their special is the funky Gardiner Gun. Which is pretty much identical in stats to the Gatling. I think next time I'll have the Gat's break-down if a 20 is rolled (remember in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. lower is better for fighting and morale) but the mighty Gardiner is more reliable and not prone to this vice.  

Naval Brigade take up positions.
Also occupying the centre was the second Sikh unit, the 23rd Cuminpore Rifles.  Whimsically, their special is Dafadar Stampy the regimental elephant. Stated with two attacks and two hits and a reasonable save, he is a valiant pachyderm. Mark took these guys under his wing and renamed Stampy 'Larry' for sentimental reasons all his own. Along with the naval party, these guys were tasked the slow and steady job of pinning the centre and advancing to optimal firing positions.

The opposition were assorted smugglers, pirates, slavers, bandits and rogue real estate agents. Their centre was secured by the Fortress of Wadi Dafuq and the Gun.

'Enemy in sight. Make haste with the cannon ball Aziz!'
Hordes of Slavers and Pirates emerge.
I grouped the various bandits into 'shooty', 'stabby' or 'mixed' units. Each unit had a reasonably coherent colour scheme so Liam or I could clearly decide to 'send the orange guys to close' or 'stand off and shoot with the red guys'. I had intentions of giving them fanciful names and affiliations (and may still do so) but instead referred to them during the game as 'Team Orange' and 'Red Squad'.
Let's face it, in Con games detail is lovely for the first 5 minutes, but after that it gets drowned out by the gnashing of teeth of self loathing Warhammer players.

My strategy was simple. Blast away with the cannon and disorganize their units. Soak up their martial zest with my endless cannon fodder and then let them bash themselves to pieces on the rock that is the

'Simple is good': Teenage Visigoth's Rule of Happy Wargaming #56

The game started on time and the assault began.  Impetuous Terry led the Camel Corp in a head long charge.First speed bump was the dread 'Black Guard' a crew of shield and scimitar badasses from the old ESCI set of Muslim Warriors. Terry dismounted his guys and leveled a crippling barrage at the black-clad fanatics (I had given them a 10 scuffle for all the good it did) and then proceeded to plow his Camelry into the disorganized survivors,scattering them.

The epic charge begins!
Beja Camelry move to intercept the Camel Corp.

Hah! As my opponent on that addictive little Civilization game on the Nintendo DS would say, 'I had no use for those guys'... However, to be sure Liam swung the mounted Beja camelry from behind the fortress and send them head long into the path of Terry's Camel onslaught.

The centre advanced slowly. Don seemed to have DBA on the brain and was trying different geometric marching orders for his Blue Sikhs. This slowed him down a bit. As the quick, easy G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. way of doing things became apparent he was able to move up and secure a decent firing position for the Gatling and make contact with the OBELISK OF DREAD. Will speak of this eldritch abomination from the ancient world later...

Todd too moved cautiously, doing his best to achieve an optimal firing position for his Gardiner gun. His first positions were at long range and produced little effect. When he moved it up to a more effective range the Gardiner began to produce results shooting up the tower garrison and the surrounding units. That put him directly in the sites of the Slaver's gun as well. It exacted a grim toll and disordered the naval party for most of the game. It kept his Hero busy too, running about rounding up the scattered Jack Tars.

On the right flank the steamtank 'Contessa' prowled about with the Highlanders supporting but keeping a respectful distance.
Note to GM's: That bit in the catastrophic results table regarding a 'fireball' roasting everything around tends to make the ground- pounders angsty about supporting too close.

Jocks support the Italian Steamtank 'Contessa'.
SUDDENLY! The Contessa veered off and plowed into the Forbidden Oasis.  At the same time Price Haile Unlikely and his Beja badasses broke cover and charged the surprised Jocks.

On the right flank, the Highlanders face down the Beja.
The clinch, who will break first?
This produced a most picturesque and deadly battle. The volley the Highlanders let out before contact was not as effective as they might have hoped and the Beja made contact as an intact horde. In three turns of grim close order fighting the Beja had been decimated. The Scots were in little better shape, retaining their Hero and three troopers. The moral supporting piper went down in mournful SQWUEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee.... after being cleaved by a Beja broadsword. 

Meanwhile the Il Contessa had chugged into the Forbidden Oasis. Yes, I told everybody playing, 'THIS IS THE FORBIDDEN OASIS, HERE, WITH THE PALM TREES... IT IS THE FORBIDDEN OASIS'. I really should not have been too shocked that Marco was the first to violate its 'forbidden-ness'.

So enter Agent Growf (as Liam calls him) a spiffy Carnosaur of some sort from the Reaper 'I'm too damn lazy to paint my own lousy miniatures' line. So, out of the Forbidden Oasis, out pops a great bloody dinosaur which proceeds to fight a Steamtank.
(Deep satisfied sigh)
It is moments like this we game for, is it not?

So the dino and tank proceed to rumble. And doing so poorly. Lousy rolls all around. One would think they are not that into it. But as the biggest and baddest on the map they feel the societal pressure to fight like Grade 8 bullies behind the bike racks...

'I think I know why it is called The Forbidden Oasis'.
So, to and fro these behemoths tussle. Scientific Engineering versus Pre-History Resurgent! This goes on for some time...not many hits and all saves made. Marco had one minor damage roll to make, but the drama was brief.

But lo, a hero arrives. A drunken Scotsman! Indeed, Kenneth's Highlander hero wandered over into the fray after his Pyrrhic victory over the Beja. As I had to comply with strictures of the Office of Victorian Stereotypes, the Scots hero had the 'drunk' attribute. Simply put, half the time he's awesome, the other half pretty useless. So our Caledonian sot wanders over to the churning oasis and proceeds to empty his revolver into the preoccupied prehistoric beastie. Confused, the carnosaur switches targets and attempts to chomp the wee Scots morsel. This allows the tank crew a chance to rally and they blaze away at the critter. Steam fried crispy dino would be served.
Dinosaur! Steamtank! Drunk Scotsman!...FIGHT!
At this point the battle enters the hottest phase, and from the lack of photos you can guess I was busy...

Right flank: After defeating the dinosaur, Our Scottish winebag gathers up the remnants of his troops, Larry the elephant and the Steamtank and advances to take out the Slaver's gun. They run smack dab into the a guard unit of fanatical dervishes. The elephant makes short work of them. See some excellent pics over at Mark's top blog.

Photo Credit: Mark Wall
Centre: Fierce artillery fire and repeated charges by enemy hordes have halted the advance of the Red Sikhs and the Naval Party. Both units have taken serious casualties repulsing their foes. They hold the line, but are disordered. Most importantly, the Gardiner gun is in action and repeatedly shooting up the fortress garrison and picking off the gun crew.

Left Flank: The Beja Camelry has slammed into the Camel Corp resulting in a deadly melee. Lal Singh distinguishes himself (again) but finds he's in command of a shattered, leaderless unit when the smoke clears. Here's a pic from Terry's spiffing blog

Photo Credit: Terry Silverthorn.
Lal had precious little time to reorganize his troops when they were hit again by another horde. Don knew the precarious situation the Camel Corp found itself in and was tempted to move to support. However his redcoat Gatling and the Blue Sikhs had found an excellent firing position and were raking the Slaver's troops (attacking the Red Sikhs and Naval Troops holding the centre) with deadly enfilading fire.
When the last enemy unit broke, Don hurried his troops to succor Lal and the survivors of the Camel Corp, leaving his Gatling in place to cover their advance. In their haste the Blue Sikhs violated the perimiter of the OBELISK OF DREAD and awakened the horrid guardian within...
Elder Gods send a freakish spider...
Keen eyed observers will note the wee Cthulhu statue on the obelisk. Is there anyone out there that DOES NOT KNOW that Cthulhu (and other assorted Lovercraftianisms) is gamer code for crazy shit is about to go down?
Yes and apparently that guy is Don. He casually ignores the graven image of the Sleeping One. So a hideous creature emerges and ambushes the valiant Sikhs from behind. However, the officer is nonplussed. He draws his revolver and proceeds to drop the creature with two well placed shots.
I have to say I was a little crushed... after my dinosaur proved to be a Nerf toy with a glass jaw, I had hoped my desert spider wold be a little more deadly.
After this act of pest control, the 11th Light Infantry advanced and routed the remnants of Slaver's units in the left flank. But alas, too late to save Lal Singh. He had died a hero's death, surrounded by heaps of the dead.

Endgame: After the collapse of the last Slaver's unit on the left flank the end came quickly for Pasha Spice and his forces of nefariousness.

Marco drove the steamtank up to the tower and opened fire. This forced many morale roles. Most of which failed.

Dafadar Stampy aka Larry the elephant has squished the foot guards into paste before succumbing to his injuries.

Our drunk Scots hero routed the already nervous gun crew and dispatches the enemy commander Pasha Spice in hand to hand fighting. The Gardiner despite taking hits, continued to shred the enemy.  

As we see in this picture, the Blue Sikhs, the last tangible allied unit advance on the tower. The tower garrison is a quite a little bit thinner and the last unit on the field was composed of a only a drummer and rifleman who both resolutely passed all morale tests.

At that point we called the game. The tower guards threw down their guns. The surviving members of the Allied force looked around a little stunned, but were pleased to be holding the field.
Don is chuffed to have the last
tangible unit on the board.
Capitan Marco: Have Steamtank, will fight Carnosaurs.

Only one command on the Allied side was completely decimated, the Camel Corp. The rest had their Hero and some troops intact. I believe the Scot's Gatling was blown away by a direct cannon hit and the Gardiner down to 50%.
We all agreed in classic hockey fashion that the Three Stars of the game were:
1. Lal Singh
2. The Drunken Scot
3. The Gardiner Gun

All three dished out more than they took and profoundly affected the outcome of the game.

Mentioned in Dispatches:

I count the game as a ripping success. Importantly all six players quite enjoyed themselves and would play again.

What would I do different? Re-stat the monsters. I gave each of them spider and carnosaur only two hits as opposed to three. They were pretty weak in this game. But previous games I've played with Liam the three hit monsters were a little too deadly. I wanted an temporary obstacle and not a full fight so maybe they worked OK.
Next game I run is going to be a full-on dino hunt, so there will be room to figure out what works best.

I must give a deep thanks to Terry, his wife and birds for giving Liam and I a place to stay over. Could not have done it without you.