Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Battle of 'Not Bautzen': Pinning force engages (part 3)

A resumption of the coverage of a fictional, but historically based, game I recently played over at Doug's place with his convention fast play rules. Napoleon returns from Elba a year late and the French army splinters into Royalist and Bonapartist factions. Blucher and Brunswick are supporting a Royalist army against Napoleons attack.

Napoleon has sent his army to engage the enemy while he flanks with his guard. The defenders are aware of reports of Napoleon approaching from the North and have staged reserves appropriately.
For the set up see here. For action on the left flank here.

To the right we see the Royalists on the left (east) and the Bonapartists about to cross the river on the West (left)

 The center of the battle lines are dominated by the cavalry commands. Napoleon's forces have 4 cuirrasier of better quality (4 strength) vs the royals 4 cuirassier and 2 hussars, but the fighting on the left flank quickly bleeds off 2 of the cuirassier to stabilize that front.

Luckily for the Royals, they have dominated the approaches to the bridge with 2 batteries of artillery (1 foot and 1 horse). They manage to score some long range hits on the horse coming across the bridge and drive back the first attempt.

The royal horse is well placed to counter charge any successful move across the bridge, but to do so too early will block any artillery fire. The newest rules iteration requires quite large fields of fire to be open.
Meanwhile on the Right flank the Bonapartists have lined up on the stream. The small command facing them is based around a gabion on the hill with foot artillery (already firing across the river), and 4 elements of infantry on either side.

Brunswick has his forces anchored in towns and a gabion to the left bottom of the picture. He moves his hussar up to help contest the crossing of the stream. I was quite concerned about the flanking force arriving, so was quite unwilling to move anything else up to contest the stream.

 The second attempt of the bridge sees the Bonapartists much closer. The foot artillery (bottom of the pic) can't hit the lead unit at this point, but the horse artillery (on the far side of the cavalry) is now in cannister range, giving a bonus to it's firing.

This area of the field is very congested, and to try and keep opening firing lanes required no movement by the Royalists. They have a large infantry reserve located behind their cavalry, but are not in a good position to advance until there are some units destroyed.
 Meanwhile on the right flank we see the Bonapartists have crossed the stream. We were experimenting with a disordered marker that would give a penalty in combat right after crossing the stream, but would disappear the next turn.

The incentive was there to hit the troops as they crossed, but my troops (the royals) were a bit out of position to achieve this. The cannon on the hill was particularly ineffective for most of the game (actually Doug was very effective at rolling high enough to weather the salvos).
 A long shot of the battle. We can now see the 2 reserves of the Royalists. One is located to the left of the hill and gabion. This would be critical for facing the arrival of a flanking force, and so it was very hesitant to move early as we didn't know where the force would arrive. It could be to the right near the stream, or to the left of the building at the bottom threading between 2 villages. Not much stood in the way except Brunswicks small command.

In the distance we see the congested mid field with an infantry reserve behind the cavalry. This reserve was constrained by lack of space and need to preserve firing lanes. Napoleons troops are struggling to bring up their own artillery which is just below the bridge on the edge of the stream in a 2x2 block. This force wasn't able to get many shots the entire game. It appears that artillery on the offensive is very challenging to use. Lots of time was spent bringing it forward, but then the crush of troops inhibited it's ability to fire.

 On the right flank the Royals charge into their enemy trying to hurl them back into the stream.

A battery of artillery has moved up and will start exchanging fire with the artillery in the gabion for a number of turns after this. New rules now see the effectiveness of artillery degrade as it loses strength. This seemed another fitting nerf to artillery and worked reasonably well. With 2 points artillery loses it's bonus to attack, and at 1 point it loses 1 range band.

The royalists are bounced back. On the bottom right we can see unopposed troops are moving across the stream as well. This flank will need to bow back under the pressure or start to face flank attacks.
 Meanwhile back in the centre the cavalry have charged home. The horse battery will be charged in the following turn, but will get one more round of shooting. It has been fairly effective at stripping off strength from the enemy and there is every possibility it might survive battle.

We can see Napoleons reserve is moving forward, screened by the cavalry. Unfortunately these troops are mostly green (strength 2) bolstered with a couple units of naval marines (strength 4). The village is now considered problematical and will attempt to be cleared.

 Mid-Right flank. The artillery has just about finished fording the stream. 2 units of infantry face a large foe, but the Bonapartist commander has faced a long run of low pip rolls, contributing to the slow crossing of troops.

 Pic from the other side taken a turn later. We can see the Royalists are drawing back. The cavalry is done to a single point of strength. One of the infantry has been successful in dispersing an enemy unit but it is also done to 1 point. Some unit losses are imminent.

The entire line is not hotly engaged. The Bonapartist reserve is moving foward (just below the bridge on the left). Note the limbered artillery on the left hill (the blue wheel is a marker to indicate limbered status). This unit limbered up quite early, and then there wasn't excess pips to move/unlimber due to the action across the stream. It could have been very effective bombarding the village for the duration of the game. Unfortunately the reserve will now need to clear the town.

The Royalists have started moving one reserve to the front (the top right mass of troops located between 2 hills). Dust has been spotted in the air from Napoleons approach on the top/North/Right flank. Large numbers of unopposed troops have crossed the stream and the command facing them is fairly depleted.

Napoleons will arrive on turn 2d6. It is approximately turn 7 (3.5 hours into the game) and his appearance is expected any time now. With the line engaged and reserves moving up the rupture point could well be developing. The guard would ideally make an appearance any time now...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Battle of 'Not Bautzen'. The Left flank (part 2)

Following on from the set up (HERE). The left flank of the battle formed a nice self contained battle. It would be great for a convention as the two commanders fight against one another. It also lends itself to writing up in a self contained way.

Grouchy has been detailed to advance on the royalist left flank. The flank is well secured by a small corp anchored on two villages with a forest limiting options for flank attacks. It will be a tough nut to crack.

Commanders get 1d6 pips per turn. If they have a command greater than 6 units they get a bonus equal to the number of units above 6 (so in theory they can move everything in a turn). This bonus degrades as units are lost. For this game attackers were awarded an extra +2 pips per turn that didn't degrade. Moving an element straight forward costs 1 pip, any other direction 2. A group of 2 elements in base to base contact can be moved together.

Two infantry units and a hussar unit move across the river while under fire from the Royalist artillery. As a reminder, it is only artillery that have any ranged attacks. All musketry is considered to occur during base to base contact (Each unit actually represents a huge body of men, more like a division. The artillery bases I believe are in the 20-30 gun range).

The royals counter attack with their one free infantry unit. The cavalry corp located just to the right of this has helpfully sent over 2 units of Cuirassieur to help stabilize this wing. The cavalry hq had the pips to spend as they were holding their units back and cannoning the attacking cavalry to good effect.

Back on the left flank the hussars advance with dispatch against the foot artillery battery.

Combat rolls a weird dice with 0,0,0,1,2,3 and adds current strength (on the little black dice on the base) as well as a unit based power rating (infantry 3, cuirassier 6, guard are 4 maybe? horse artillery 2). There are a handful of modifiers such as flanking, being in a town, being in square (or not) against cav.

If you exceed your opponent you do one point of damage, double and it's two. At the end of the combat both sides with attrition down 1 point (to a minimum of 1). A new rules has been instituted to cause recoiling of the losing units by a half base. Previously once you stuck in a force it stayed in combat until someone voluntarily withdrew or someone was destroyed. Probably more realistic this way. It makes for the attacker needing to spend extra pips almost every turn though.

We see Grouchy has been moving up a second wave of troops to cross the stream. Top right on the hill the foot battery of Grouchy's command has, unfortunately, been limbered too early.

In hindsight it should have sat tight and cannoned the village for most of the game. Towards the end of the battle the infantry holding this village needed to be displaced, which is always an expensive/difficult proposition.

The Royalist player, not wanting to face a 2:1 combat, charged in against only 1 unit. He (I!) misjudged the movement ranges, and the Bonapartists 'close the door' on their own move. He now faces a flank attack coupled with a 2:1. Eek.

To add seasoning the hussars finish their advance on the foot battery.

Another view of the same point of battle. At this point it looks a bit ugly for the Royalist, although he has a cavalry backup, and two garrisoned towns. I felt that this flank would likely be 'lost' although with the town garrisons it would slow things down enough that I wouldn't need to pull off much reserves to stalemate it.

The hussars end up bouncing off the artillery (although damage them via attrition. All units take 1 point of damage, down to a minimum strength of 1, for being involved in a combat that doesn't destroy the enemy). A unit of cuirassieur charges through the rubble of the royalist infantry unit.

Square must be formed during your own turn (it's free to enter, but costs pips to get out of square). This occured a couple times during the game and was recognized as a great tactic. Allow the enemy attack to crush a weak infantry unit with your cavalry right behind it. On your own turn counter charge with the cavalry to possibly eliminate a weakened infantry unit.

The next turn we see the hussars have been blasted out of existence (out of effective fighting capacity in reality) by canister. The cuirassier face a double attack with flanking, while infantry are in position to hit the foot battery.

And the cavalry win the fight! They have been depleted by the fighting down to 1 strength, and are likely to disappear soon, but Grouchy's troops have suffered in the fight. There is realistically insufficient troops on this flank to offer much threat to the Royalist defense now.

 The remnants of the fighting smash themselves to pieces. The Grouchy withdraws his last unit under continued artillery fire. 

His attack has pinned the Royalist Left flank, and drawn off 2 important units of Cuirassier for most of the day. Has it been enough, we'll have to see in the next exciting installment of the battle.
A view of the overall battle. Napoleons troops have surged across the stream, and there is a strong engagement across the entire front. Dust has been spotted to the North and it's known Napoleon should be arriving any time. Will that occur in time?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Battle of 'Not Bautzen'. The set up (part 1)

Doug and Seth continue to develop their fast play convention rule set for Napoleonics. I was invited to help Doug play out a game to see how some changes were working, and to offer up my 2 cents. I rather like these games, it's very easy to grok how the system works, and the player gets to focus on big picture planning. For  bit more of a rule preamble (and the battle of Montereau), see HERE.

We played a fairly large game with 6 commands on each side. Normally that would involve 4 - 6 players on each side (you can dole out the reserve to players who have smashed their forces earlier in the game), but we did it with the 2 of us. Given that we were chatting quite a bit as well, I think it's safe to say we took 50-100% longer than a new group to the table would take.....and we were finishing turns less than 30 minutes per. A turn in the game is set around 30 minutes as well.

Friends can't infringe within the template, or block firing
Notably the changes to the rules this time were:
1/. No road effects (this didn't work as they liked last time)
2/. Artillery: Artillery was far too effective last time, and sniping down narrow alleys (that would be me). At the suggestion of another player, the artillery went to a template. The template requires that friendly units don't crowd the artillery unit too much, and that friendly units can't be in a given field of fire earlier than the enemy (a straight forward, left or right). I thought these rules actually worked out quite well to nerf the artillery a bit, and make proper siting for your batteries a more thought out procedure.
3/. Artillery corp commanders get extra pips. Given that it's way more difficult to move artillery, a command with just artillery will not be able to move anything effectively. They are given extra pips to allow for being able to move all their elements if they roll a 6 on their command die (this puts them in line with what other commands can do).

Edits during the game:
1/. Attacker gains extra pips. I had suggested to Doug that attackers should get some bonus pips to allow them to move all their forces forward more reliably. Call it an operational offensive tempo or something. But it certainly seemed a problem for attackers in the past, and makes for a slower game if they can't minimally shuffle everything forward in a straight line half of the time.

Starting with turn 3 Doug upped his commanders bu 2 pips a turn, (and that was the minimum bonus even if they lost lots of units), and this seemed to dramatically pick up the tempo of the game. Doug suggested that the defender should be granted the same bonus, with the thought that it's more simple, allows the defender to counter attack as desired, and the defender is unlikely to use/benefit from the extra pips much. I think it's a very sensible idea.

Enough talk! To the battle!

Bonapartists on the left, Royals on the Right.
A what if battled modeled on Bautzen. Napoleon has returned from Elba a year later, the french army splits with royalist units as well as bonapartists. Blucher and Brunswick march to the assistance of the Bourbon monarchy as Napoleon establishes his resurgent kingdom. A better writeup for the background is seen on Dougs blog here.

The Bonapartists are attacking across an easily fordable stream/rover. The intend is to pin the allies while the guard swings in from the North (Royalist right) to hit them in the flank. The Royalists have a few redoubts they can choose to occupy. The Royalist player (me!) was given a blank slate to set up in while seeing the Bonapartist forces (in hindsight a too powerful bonus. I suppose my scouts had access to satellite imagery).

Brunswick Holding the Right flank. One reserve behind the hill
I chose to hold my 2 largest forces in reserve, as the bonus pips large commands receive would help them get into position quickly when I needed it. The 3 small smallest commands were set up to hold likely locations (Brunswick on the right flank holding 2 villages and a gabion), a small force on the Centre right holding a gabion and hill, and the far left held 2 villages. The cavalry forces set up across from each other setting the stage for epic cavalry on cavalry action across a bridge (except I had cannon support on my side).

 The left flank is seen to the right. Both buildings (towns) have been occupied. The foot artillery is well placed to cover the stream, while just out of range of the enemy cannon on the opposite side.

 The cavalry command has it's horse gunners covering the bridge (off the page to the left), and 4 units facing the bridge (cuirassier x2 and then hussars).  2 units of cuirassier are on the hill facing the left flank, in case the Bonapartists are able to carry that flank. It costs 1 pip to move forward, but 2 pips to move and it behooves one to place your units in the direction you expect to move. It makes sense that rotating a huge body of troops would take time and effort.

To the top right you can see the second reserve, ready to reinforce the centre should it collapse.

 The centre right shows the gabion occupied by foot artillery, flanked by 2 sets of infantry. I fully expected this command to be destroyed quickly. The reserves are just to the left, and their horse cannon has been placed to help cover the gabion. It is also facing the expected direction the Napoleon flanking force will arrive from.

Get your guns in place early people.

 The first reserve, positioned to advance against arriving guard. They also are reasonably well placed to reinforce the two small commands holding the right flank (I say reasonably becuase they would need to pivot to hold the gabion and the hill).

Stolen from Dougs blog

Nice panoramic shot of the start above. We see the cav vs cav fight set to go. The Bonapartists face a tough go here. Nearly equal numbers, on the attack, and with a (minor barrier) stream in the way.

 Their primary consolation (as historically in many cases) was a flanking force that should arrive.....any time now.
As the defender I was warned that a force was expected from the North.....but neither of us had any good idea when that would occur (i.e. random dice roll).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Osric: The fall of army group North (21)

The party leaves the hidden vale, having been revealed secrets of the weakness of the ice witch by the druid of the North. They head towards the location said by the elves to hold the horn of Daydri, a valley sized horn from the elemental plane of ice, that threatens to convert all of the world to an icy wasteland.

After 3 days of travel upon their last sled through  heavy snowstorms and blizzards within the ice finger mountains, the group hears war cries and the steady tattoo of drums. The party is able to avoid the goblin outrider piquets of the massive army of the north (with their white clothing and sharp senses). They find themselves on a precipice overlooking the vast valley, howling with the energy of the horn of Daydri, as well as the legion of the ice witch.

Hordes of the goblinoid races can be seen, as well as evil humans, and ice drakes. There are pillars of smoke and the clash of metal indicating the manufacturing of the weapons of war. While the party considers how to get through the army, a troll guard stumbles upon them. The Troll manages to blow upon his horn just before Dan the fighter decapitates him. An answering horn raises it's note to the left, then the right, then and chain. The alarm has been raised.

The party pulls back from the edge, but is quickly accosted by 2 ice drakes, one ridden by a magic user. Jenks the druid casts a large hallucinatory forest to help the group try to escape. Briefly confused the enemies round the forest until the magic user above dispels the illusion. The Drakes are able to swoop down upon the group. Dan is nearly killed by a blast and fakes his death for a number of rounds until goblin skirmishers rush to his body to chop him into Carpaccio.

The battle goes poorly as the drakes swoop in to attack and then retreat into the sky. Some magic spells of magic missle and a paralysis type spell put the hurt on the party as well. The gnomes hide in the thick snow and, as the drakes come down to pick on the survivors, manage to sneak attack with their dragon bane swords. The ice drakes go down hard to catastrophic damage and quickly the party is able to defeat their enemies, although they are heavily depleted in magic and health. An amusing moment for the battle is the original troll that raised the alarm has been staggering around the battle headless, slowly regenerating.

The party quickly dresses up in the garb of the slain goblins and begins blowing on the captured horns and pointing and charging to the South. They hope to confuse their enemy and remain free from attack for a bit. A general pursuit seems to be developing as enemies close in on the area and head in the direction our disguised team is leading.

Meanwhile Jenks, the druid, transforms into a huge snow raptor and carries the gnome Scabs with the everburning ember towards the mouth of the horn of Daydri. In a similarity to LoTR a group of two will bring the magic item to the destination under the nose of an army while the remaining group acts as a distraction.

The pair are able to drop in amongst a small collection of huts upon a vast scaffold to the mouthpeice of the massive icy horn of Daydri. While Jenks remains as a raptor, the small gnome sneaks forward and breathes upon the everburning ember, sending a gout of flame down the mouthpiece of the valley sized horn. A more explosion result could not be imagined. The howling ice winds that have since been emitting from the horn turn to flame which washes across the army of evil camped in the valley. As the Horn collapses and pandemonium breaks out, there is much collapsing of the ice cliffs and structures in the valley. The situation already overloaded with danger a group of mature red dragons is seen to rise into the sky preparing to unleash devastation.

The devastation wrought is upon the ice army however. The Red Dragons are revealed (by the GM) to be captives powering the weapon manufactoriums. The chaos is enhanced as various factions in the army turn upon one another, and large fragments can be seen regaining cohesiveness and moving off in disparate directions out of the valley.

Jenks transforms into a winterwolf while scabs dresses himself in the garb of a dead goblin warrior. The pair begin to prowl through the chaotic army camp. Ice walls continue their collapse and looting is prevalent. Some groups are regaining organization. Eventually the pair spy a large group of humans all wearing gold collars labouring to remove a massive collapsed ice sheet from a portion of a cliff face. It would appear that the ice witch has been entombed in a collapse. The opportunity for an assasination of head of this Northern evil now presents itself to the characters. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Osric: Hunt for the druid of the North (20)

Our group leaves the camp and attempts to use the goat of travel. It appears to be gnome sized, and barely sits Scabs and Chester upon it. While far too slow to pull the sled, the two gnomes race off to scout around while the humans cluster on the remaining sled with the 6 surviving dogs (Jenks transformed into a small rat to spare weight and space).

After traveling for most of a day, the group espies a flying lizard swooping over a jagged range of mountains, and they alter their course in the direction. The fierce snowstorms of the last few weeks recede as they get closer, and the group approaches a high escarpment with sheets of steam pouring off the rocky walls. Past the steam is seen a verdant valley hidden in the ice finger mountains. Giant lizards are spotted moving through the jungle. The hidden Vale that the Treant spoke of is before the group.

Scouting about they find a stoney cave mouth than forms a natural tunnel (although unnaturally smooth) sloping downward towards the base of the Vale. The party encounters corpses of various evil creatures in the tunnel, many have been crushed and some even are still wrapped in the vines and creepers that populate the tunnel. A barrier blocks further progress with an ironwood door inset upon a rocky wall. The moss covered surface is rich with vines and creepers. Knocking upon the door causes a flurry of movement as the vines seize Jenks and begin squeezing. Jenks cries out in druidic about their request and hunt for the druid of the North. The vines pause, and Jenks, is held in the air uncomfortably. The other group members have wisely retreated up the tunnel a ways.

At last a large face forms out of vines and creepers moving together. Speaking in druidic it demands to know more of Jenks quest and his official title. There is some confusion (increasingly painful) for Jenks as his copy of Osric doesn't have titles for each of the levels achieved.... appararently this is a trade marked item for TSR. Eventually some intelligence and wisdom rolls reveal the correct answer. The druid of the north insists that Jenks promises proper behaviour from all his guests (the other PCs)...which is a bit concerning, and tells them to come into the vale. Proper behaviour includes being able to hunt, but not waste food, nor pollute water sources, etc. Jenks spends lots of time briefing the group on nature etiquette.

Moving into the jungle the group finds a verdant wilderness. After a bit of exploring they are accosted by a giant tyrannosaurus rex bearing down upon them (as prey animals flee past the group). Jenks wisely casts animal invisibility on the group and they hold position. The TRex stops and starts chuckling, and transforms into an aged but hale and healthy human. Such is the power of the druid of the North. He summons forth a bounty of food and drink and speaks to the group of the past months and the happenings of the outside world and the ice witch.

The druid is able to shed light on the ice witches vulnerabilities and how to banish the horn of daydri from their world. Fortuitously
the group carries with it the everburning ember, a fragment of the elemental plane of fire, much as the horn is from the elemental plane of ice. Taking the everburning ember to the mouth piece of the horn and blowing flames forth should destroy/banish the horn. The druid cautions the party that the horn is in a valley full of the armies of the ice witch. Ice giants and elementals can also be counted amongst her allies.

The ice queen is both a vampire and a necromancer, and has concluded a dark pact with an ice demon patron who adds to her power. She is susceptible to silver weapons and magic, and lairs within the crystal caves. She also possesses some of the weaknesses of regular vampires in that she needs to sleep in the day as a normal vampire and can be destroyed by cutting her head off and burning both head and body separately. In addition to her evil army she also has a host of magically enslaved minions. A gold collar encircles their necks and makes them as will-less slave to the ice queen.

A tough adversary to be sure. Thank goodness are only intend to destroy the horn rather than attempting to assassinate the master villain.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Battletech: Rules interlude....speeding things up (6)

Interestingly in our last game we chatted a bit about how to speed up Battletech. We only played with 7 mechs, yet it probably took us about 2.5 - 3 hours to conclusion. I don't think this is a terribly slow rate of play either. One of the fears moving forward is that many of the missions are calling for 8 mechs.....on a side. Time is going to be a challenge.

Part of the discussion on speeding things up was prompted by talking about Battletech history. Bryan's favoured period is pre-clan invasion (Succession wars). The mechs have a fairly set level of technology, and every design has flaws and are sub optimal. With the arrival of the clan, you started to get mechs that are 'good at everything' as per Bryan. New weaponry and double strength heat sinks result in more deadly fire, faster movement and less decision making about how to manage heat. It therefore makes for a shorter game as the weapons are much more lethal. Perhaps this was one of the drivers for the popularity of the era (and who doesn't like power creep?).

Back to slow speed of play.....We identified that the calculations to hit that often (quite often) result in misses (and general low level of damage delivered per turn) draw the game out. I suggested maybe we should give a global to hit bonus (arbitrarily suggesting +2). Thinking about it, we didn't think that it would likely change tactics that much. It will make light mechs more squishy......but I think everything gets more squishy. We will attempt this next time we play (one on each side) to see the actual effects of the change.

Some other items we need to consider with this campaign are:
1/. Do we kill off pilots in mechs that explode? vs allowing them to be bought back or some other effect (loss for a period of time)
2/. How to handle ammo costs without being too annoying to track shot by shot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Osric: Expedition to the Ice Fangs..... (19)

The adventuring group gather their equipment and supplies to brave the Ice Fang mountains where the forces of the Ice Witch gather their strength. The league of Justice has already been swallowed by these mountains and waves of undead servants and ice drakes have been unleashed upon the Southlands, it is a foreboding destination.

Loading up two, 6 dog, sleds Jenks (druid), Dan (fighter), Renauld (fighter), and the pair of gnomes (Scabs and Chester) head off from the Snow covered village of compliments. They have loaded themselves with rations, fine wolf pelts, and some firewood. A week of travel ensues through steady snow storms. Visibility is terrible, often in the dozens of feet range. The dogs are unruly and upset by the strange whispers and howling heard above. Jenks can see strange, dark eldritch lines of power narrowing towards the North when viewed with the blindfold of many eyes.

The first disquieting event occurs when camping and a dog brings in the frozen headless corpse of a small child. Scouting out in the direction the dog came, the party finds an ice tower stretching storey's above us. Closer inspection shows that it is built of corpses embedded within ice.....a village was destroyed to make this dark edifice. The magic lines of dark power appear to touch down from the sky as well....perhaps this is amplifying the magics of the ice queen. Chester brings forth the magic ember and blows forth gouts of flame to cleanse this dark tower. A sharp crack of ice gives us scant warning as the tower collapses rapidly and manages to kill two of our sled dogs.

A day later we encounter a primitive village of limestone and black shale rock. Jenks transforms into an ice martin to scout the village and finds evidence of an attack and looting is everywhere.....yet there are no corpses or survivors. The party chooses the most defensible house and camps overnight. In the morning the gnomish thieves give a thorough search of the village and find an etched rock face with gold and valuables cleverly hidden in it by freezing them within ice. Application of the embers warmth (through touch) yields up some treasure, but the more intriguing items are 3 delicately carved goats in ivory. Small druidic wording on the bottom gives a first hint of what they are, and we eventually discover these statues transform into 3 goats of power (a battle goat, a messenger goat, and some scary fear goat we haven't tried yet). It becomes obvious very quickly that the goats only have 3 uses each, a resource we must conserve.

The battle goat, with a huge rack of spikey horns and tall as a horse is secured to one of the sleds, and is able to propel our group for most of the day at nearly 3 times the normal rate. We can see the mountain range through a break in the clouds and judge ourselves to be about a week and a half away at a normal speed. Unfortunately the battle goat begins to lose size, and speed, towards the end of the day, and we almost lose the figurine in the blustering snow fall as it finally returns to it's original size.

The group camps overnight until the guard hears horns and a snarling pack of animals in the distance.....getting closer. A wounded stranger comes staggering towards the camp, from the distance of direction of the horns. The fur clad, balding (with long hair on the sides) human carries no sword. We wave him into camp, and Jenks applies some healing magic. The human thanks him, and then causes him to fall unconscious. Laughing the human gains in stature and skin turns blue and a ivory spike grows form his had. He disappears into a burst of mist as the snarling and horns arrive at camp.

Two dozen winter wolves with goblin riders appear. After a brief (unsuccessful) parley, the wolves charge in. Dan searches Jenks looking for the goats (hoping to deploy the fearful one). Scabs manages to flame breath the charging enemies with the ember, largely destroying them and scattering the survivors. The blue skinned ogre magi stages a return to stab Renault in the back, upon taking damage he again disappears in another puff of smoke. Renault manages to locate the blindfold of many eyes on the unconscious Jenks and dons it to spy the magi creeping about to attempt another back stab. Renault grapples with the ogre and, despite it casting forth inky blackness around the party, he is able to force it's surrender and agreement to leave without either group inflicting more pain on another.

In a moment of hilarity, Jenks awakens from his magical slumber (dispelled by the magi) into inky blackness, and begins crying out in panic, believing his eyesight stricken from him. The error is quickly corrected and our party has survived for the time being, now within striking distance of the ice fang mountains.