Friday, March 14, 2014

Labyrinth Lord (4): Jang-Aru's storm of displeasure

#3 A storm is blowing in on the island. The PC's go to the crone's hut to complete the marriage of the charmed Andrew to the crone. Wendyberg completes the ceremony, and the crone can hardly keep her hands off her new husband as she explains she has esoteric knowledge and can train Zander. She also has knowledge of the island near and far. She warns the group that terrible things can be blown off the ocean with a storm like this. She also notes that Xander has a evil mark upon him, explaining his poor sleep, and that it is likely caused by a cursed object. Xandar suddenly thinks of the threatening note on the drowned boy, but doesn't have it anymore.

The group goes back to the camp and gathers people from the beach where they forage. Uncle Chu reports recovering his boat and drops heavy hints about being rewarded for not simply absconding with it. Elrond dubs him Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Xandar pays a small retainer to him. He is tasked with finding a productive use of the 2 remaining evil prisoners. He quietly suggests getting bribed by them to spirit them away, and then seeing about turning them in for a bounty from White port. If there is no bounty then at least they are gone. Elrond commends his outside the box thinking and approves.

The village battens down and guard rotation of 2 each on the front and back gate is arranged. Xander searches the grotto for the note but can't find it. One of the 2 women who find the grotto reassuring suggests that he look for it in the rag picker bags above, but he can't find it there either. Overnight Xander is unable to sleep and guards the back tunnel with a villager. In the depths of the night Kwong (the confessing cultist) awakens Wendyberg in a panic, during his watch he has spotted the beacon (the bonfire that attracted the ship) aflame on the beach. He begs her to awaken everyone while he goes back to the palisade gate. The village is awoken and prepares for the worst. Bruno organizes the clan at the camp, and notices that Uncle Chu and their prisoners are gone. Wendyberg checks the grotto and awakens the women, one of whom she swears has glowing eyes for a moment, before joining with Xandar to update him. They walk out the secret entrance and espie the fire from a hill and decide to head towards it.

Meanwhile Elrond makes haste from the village to the beach and spots 5 men at the fire. He casts sleep from a distance, downing 4 of them, but as he closes some are awoken by the resistor. Putting down 2 of the sleepers to even the odds, he faces two well armoured and competent swordsmen. The third hunts in a bag while the fight rages. As Zandar and Wendyberg rush into the fight from another direction, Elrond takes near mortal sword strikes. The third enemy manages to cast a gourd into the fire before Zandar brains him, and Wendyberg manages to heal Elrond and the pair eliminate one enemy before driving the other off.

The gourd in the fire ignites, causing the large bonfire to grow and take on an ominous green cast. The smoke gathers above it and moves towards the ocean, contrary to the winds. Zandar scoops wet sad with a rusting shield to try and put out the fire while the other 2 watch. A strange phosphorescence is noted offshore, and then a constellation of glowing green dots. As the PCs back away, a horde of 20 rotting, coral encrusted undead sailors lurch from the sea. Wendyberg calls upon the Maker and turns back half of them, but the others lurch ominously towards the village as the party races them back.

The villagers are moved into the cave and Elrond takes place in the cave mouth to defend it. Wisely it turns out, as the undead drop over the cliff edges and pour through the pallisade towards him. He stands cutting down enemy after enemy when word comes from below that the door to the Grotto has been closed from within. Wendyberg and Zandar go below to investigate and spot one of the woman who finds the creepy grotto soothing standing at the pool, rocking back and forth while back lit. Zandar casts a pot of oil at her, igniting her and knocking her into the pool. Wendyberg with her keen hearing notes a soft chanting that sounds as the tide in the grotto.

Meanwhile Elrond takes a final enemy strike as he misses with his 2 handed no dachi sword and he collapses. Bruno leaps forward to guard the breach as villagers pull the mortally striken Elrond within the cave.

Zandar casts charm person and talks to the stranger in the grotto who reveals himself as Lo Pan. The man wears a soaking gown in blue and a coral ringlet on his head. He is saddened his 'good friend' Zander is caught up with the unbelievers who must be punished. He instructs Zander to make the symbol of Jang-aru, the god of tides, upon his head to spare him from the vengeance. He is even coaxed into showing him the symbol itself. Zandar returns to the villagers and instructs everyone to make the mark in charcoal on their forhead. The undead ignore the villagers and move down the cave to the barred door and begin attacking it. In the larger area the villagers fall upon the undead and destroy them.

Zandar attempts to convince Lo Pan that the remaining villagers are worshippers but he will have none of it. He spots Kwong and gets into a towering rage calling him a betrayer and defiler. Kwong drops to his knees in fear. Lo Pan casts sleep and everyone but Zandar and Wendyberg fall asleep. He notes that the Maker must some some element of power and encourage Zandar to flee to the west and that “our agents will find you if you don't find us. Wear the mark of Jang-aru!”. Lo Pen escapes from the group as the morning dawns and the fury of the storm is spent.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Volley and Bayonet: First Game

Related to my first game of Heavy Gear, the group of gamers I found through a fortuitous local ebay auction pickup plays Volley and Bayonet. As I'm quite interested in naps gaming these days I was quite happy to get out and play a game.

VnB has very modest miniatures requirements. The group plays half scale as they use 15mm, and it allows for a greater scope of maneuver. This means that a single base, representing a brigade, is only 1.5" by 1.5". You can load up the base with however many figs as you wish, but 4 to 8 seems to be the standard. If I manage to field my own figs for this, I suspect I'll just use a sabot with 1 or 2 stands of my bases (my own bases for fire and fury and Napoleons battles are 3/4" x 1").

The group has recently transitioned from 1st ed to 2nd ed, although apparently the differences are fairly modest. The group mostly uses a formula to buy their armies, rather than using the historical lists, I think this is a holdover from the 1st edition which didn't have army lists in the rule book. I'm a bit hazy on their army design rules, but there is point buying for strength points, size of artillery, infantry vs cavalry, elites vs no elites and so forth. They have instituted a cap (% of total points) on cavalry and artillery, although the player gets to choose whether cavalry or artillery gets the higher of the 2 caps.

The group has decided to play corner to corner. This results in a harder to predict setup zone as there are essentially 4 areas you could end up starting in, rather than 2 (long edges) of a board you play in the normal direction. VnB has a great closing speed I found (even ignoring the reportedly complex marching rules which require you to shake out/redeploy before combat or you are going to have problems).

The french (my team) is on the lower left, upper right is Austrians. We ran a little low on figs, so there are some weird things like russian pike's, and 28mm austrian grenadiers around, but mostly it works.
Each division is usually 4 bases, an artillery base or two, plus a leader and maybe a skirmisher or two (of the foot or cavalry variety). Command are recognized by the circular foot print.

Here we see the french ready to leap off the start line. The house(?) rule is you can deploy with the back of your base on the line. The string is a set length which easily allows you to figure out how deep to place it on the corner.

My own command is in the foreground. A division of cavalry, and 2 infantry divisions (1 of crappy reserves).
Our perfidious foes ready to advance.
One of the surprising things I found was how fast the closing speeds are. It's quite a while ago that I played this now, but infantry moving 8" and cavalry 12". The forests inflict some disorder on units, which require rectifying, so it was better to just avoid them.

The squares are towns and villages, and they were 2 sided colours (brown and grey) which represented whether they were stone or not. This is important for when you try and cannon infantry hiding in them.

Firing range is 1" for muskets and it's not super effective at that range. Cannons are really only effective at 2". Units have strength points that degrade until they disappear. Infantry have 4, cavalry 2, and skirmishers 1. There are a variety of saves that bases get to avoid hits on them.
End of Turn 1. Unfortunately the terrain was scattered in such a way that with this particular axis we were encourage to defend a line that funneled troops through a few narrow gaps.....both sides in fact.
Here I'm spreading out my command to cover the right flank, but also the narrow gap just to the right of the lake in the middle of the table. Happily I have will beat my opponents to some stone villages which will help anchor my defense.
End of French turn 2
The Austrians have broken along their command lines to the right and left as well. I'm facing some extra cavalry which may be a problem. I'm mostly hoping to draw in more forces than I warrant to allow my fellow french marshal to have a more free hand to achieve some damage.
End of turn 2 we can see the problem of terrain now. The contact zone just happens to be slightly past a narrowing. It's dangerous/reckless to race for it, and it makes more sense to defend the gap. This will turn into a relatively static battle.

Turn 3 French. Move forward on the left to seize the stone village. On the right I'm out numbered by the approaching cavalry, so I am already holding back and playing defensively, trying to set up my guns protected by skirmishers in the town.

Steven on the Left flank has done the expected and creates a defensive line in the narrowing. The reserves seen in the bottom of the picture to the right has taken a central position to reinforce either flank. At this point we are beleiving it will be more useful on my side.

End of Austrian turn 3.
There was a bit of a lack of appreciation  on how hard it is to evict troops from a stone village, so the Austrians boldly plunge into the gap. They haven't close on the far flank, leaving my troops relatively under utilized.

On the French left flank we see the predicted lining up of armies continuing.
French Turn 4. My far right decide to advance to put pressure on the Austrians, rather than let them channel all their strength down the narrows.

In hindsight this probably wasn't a great idea as I could have given him more time to smash his troops against the wall.

The reserve in the top left of the photo is skirting the lake to help defend the gap.

End of French turn 4. Each turn is about 30 minutes. So after 2 hours the armies are faced up and ready to start killing on another.
Austrian turn 4. They respond to my movements on the right and redeploy their cavalry. Once again I'm outnumbered (and out classed). Not a great move advancing.
The battle at the village gap is going better though. The austrians move up to blast my dragoons at short range to drive them back. The reserve is well positioned to cannonade the advancing austrians from the flank (2x 12 pound batteries are on the shores of the lake).
On the left flank, the Austrians move skirmishers through the woods. Steven (my fellow french marshal) is fully convinced that his opponent will attack him. He remains firmly back, though he has moved his cavalry up along the lake to threaten some of the Austrian forces.

Here I've totally lucked out. French turn 5 see an opening for my cavalry on the right to get a flank charge. I've further increased my cav inferiority, but I should be able to roll up a few bases of infantry and destroy a battery. I continue charging in order to do so and end up blowing my cavalry. I'm advised this is unwise, but we were running out of game time due to a late start and slow play (because it was my first game).
Overview of French 5.
The enormous 28mm grenadiers have struck the austrians in the flank, driving them back from the narrows. It's been a very effective turn in this area of the battle. With some good opportunity for the french to gain some counter attacking momentum.
A standoff continues on the left flank.
Austrian 5 sees the storm descend on the french right. Perhaps the narrows as an intentional gambit to see if I'd risk my right flank.

Cavalry charges go in against almost every unit I have. With skirmishers and a cannon on the right ready to pour in some extra fire to help.
With their more plentiful and slightly inferior troops, the austrians double down and continue to assault the narrows. They are well placed for another advance next turn.
At last the left flank erupts in battle. The Austrians refuse the far flank and pour in their troops into the lakeside gap.
End of Austrian 5. This gives a good indication of the trouble my command is facing. I should be able to slow the flanking force, but I've defintely lost it. This basically kaputs any chance at a counterattack on the narrows, but we should have time to contest it yet.
French 6. The heavy guns are limbered up, while the guard (28mm) set themselves up to fire fight the corner unit and firm up the line. The french are content to allow the Austrians give another attempt to evict them from the village.
French troops are moved towards the lakeside gap on the left. It's a bit early to tell what the effects will be, but there is a strong force on that side of the battle.

Towards the middle foreground we can see a cavalry division racing towards the right flank to try and stabilize the situation there.
Looking pretty grim on the far right flank at the end of the Austrian turn.

We ran out of time, with the battle only fully engaged for about an hour and a half (3 turns).
I can definitely see play going much faster now that I'm a bit more familiar with the game.

Our host had a late night and hadn't had a chance to assemble many of the troops yet, so there was a late start (1pm ish till 430). I imagine even with a such a large battle, you could play to an obvious conclusion within a reasonable time.

Looking forward to having another go on these in the future.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Labyrinth Lord Red Tides (3): Robinson Crusoe ville

A child is missing from the group that was originally abducted by the seaside bandits. Bruno and Zantar go to "Bandit valley", bringing along all 8 village men. Toshi and Zacary accompany Zantar. Toshi is craven and won't enter the cave. They discover 600gp in 3 foot lockers but the fourth is open and looted. Footprints show up and down a hallway and into the previously unexplored drowning chamber, a cone shaped room with a spiral walkway that decends into a sea water fed pool. It's quickly determined that between all the small holes and tunnels the water level must fluctuate with the sea level.

The missing child is in the
chamber at bottom of the pool. Zantar dives in and recovers the child. After removing a silk string wrapped pouch around the childs neck, it opens glowing red eyes and attacks. Bruno knocks her
into the pool, and Zantar tosses flaming oil on the surface. Regaining the surface and now on fire, the child attacks bruno, bites lump of thigh out. The Pouch around the childs neck is a threatening message by Lo Pan.

Zachary the villager is fearless and checks various tunnels by crawling down them. He finds an escape out into entrance under a bramble bush. Hunting around they find, then lose foot tracks though.

Back at the strand the woman and children forage. One brings word to Elrond and Wendyberg of a man on poling boat. He approaches and waves, then Elrond sleeps him and he collapses into the ocean. An adolescent manages to save him, but not the boat. He awakens to Elrond's sword and pleads neutrality. Uncle Chu is from a village about 12 miles to the north west. It's called stormspite, hope, or mostly just the village. A hard scrabble living is to be had there. Elrond impresses (in the imtimidating way "good health benefits if you join us") Chu as a local scout. White port is reported to the northwest about 24 miles and engages in some commerce with the shogunate. There are rumors of renegade Kueh Samurai in the interior of the island who wish to topple the shogunate. Overland routes and sea routes are known to be very treacherous.

Chu recognizes some of the bandits as being exiles form his village, for breaking the few rules (regarding murder, rape, food and water theft, etc). One cries out that he will share info if taken away from the others.

Wendyberg casts discern evil intentions, and finds 3 of the 5 are evil. One not evil is the man crying out. She questions him and he reveals that Lo Pan gathered in the exiles and they engaged in rituals to 'the gods'. Rewards were obtained, random ship crashes and wanders found and taken when needed. The rituals worsened and victims send to the caves. Kwong (the confessing bandit) panics when he finds out that Lo Pan isn't dead and begs to be protected. Wendyberg offers him a holy symbol of the maker and converts him.

The entire clan heads to the bandit valley to take up residence. Water is a scarce resource so far. The bandits try to trade their knowledge for freedom, but Elrond has none of it. He manages to trick them into revealing 2 sources of intermittent water (Rain gathering pools). Rationing is instituted. One of the captives is totally simple and can only say Hodor. They release him and try and chase him off, but he hangs around like a dog and is eventually accepted.

Zantar, Bruno, and Zachary find a grass hut while hunting around the surrounding area with a stout cauldron and rank midden pit near the escape tunnel. They encounter a hunchbacked crone by the name Moshi. She makes fine tea for Zantar and explains she is a trader. Zantar doesn't have enough money for her 'rarities', but she explains she'd be very generous to one whom could find her a husband. She loses her husbands to bad luck and freak accidents she claims, and suggests the gods might be cursing her. Zantar observes it would be unwise to oppose the gods will and then quickly backpedals from her dark look. The hag appears to be a frequent victim of bird dung.

Zantar charms a bandit and sneaks him away from the camp so Elrond won't murder him during his 'escape'. The bandit agrees to woo the fine woman, although is certainly less excited once he sees Moshi. Zantar agrees to return the next day with a priest to marry them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Battle of Kore Una Mirror World! (pt2)

I previously wrote of the game that Doug and I managed to play of a holding action by Prussians to hold a village where they will evacuate to the Sea. The French are persecuting their expedition before it can escape to the sea. It is roughly based upon a similar action in Spain by Moore and Soult. Although of course, no self respecting Prussian would have a name like Moore, no....more like Mohr.

The previous writeup is HERE. This was the second game he bashed out in about 5 hours. This time we swapped sides and it was my job to run a holding action with the Prussians. I declined to roll for initiative as I felt the replay should as closely match as possible and let the French go first.

I definitely think that I had the advantage here, having played the stronger side the first time, and then getting a chance to try out an alternative strategy for the weaker side after seeing how a stiff defense at the base line went (not too well, actually).

The french managed a great PIP roll to start and (using a rule I had forgotten), you can chain together your units to extend your command range. The ENTIRE french force (except for the cavalry) managed to aggressively push forward on French turn one. Luckily Doug didn't have the same artillery luck I had managed, but he still took out 2 strength points with cannonades.

Doug had left the French cannon perilously close to the front line however. In Prussian turn 1 (hence forth to be abbreviated P1), I moved up to engage them. Cannon receive a +2 for combat to the front, but if they lose they are destroyed. I believe we gave the Prussians a +2 for fighting on the hill, which made it a straight roll. Luck was with me and I halved the French artillery strength. Considering what it did last game it was a worthwhile gamble (as Doug had tried in the previous game with less dice luck). The combat involved the adjoining French infantry base which lacked the +2, and so it lost and recoiled as well. Battle line disrupted the Prussian commander thought as he patted himself on the back.

Meanwhile half of the troops on the hill turned around and starting moving to the embarkation point. There was a bit of discussion around movement here. The rule is (roughly) you measure the farthest distance the base moved with a move stick. The problem with this is during turns and retreats, the stick will need to cross the base and all you're nicely based miniatures. Doug fiddled to try and make it possible to measure off a different corner with a shorter (cannister range) stick. I think it works, but I'm a bit hazy on the entire thing, I think I need to see a written rules with a diagram to fully grok it.
The long and short is that reversing direction causes you to lose about a base width of move distance.

F2 - Doug manages another great pip roll and uses some of his excess points to advance the cavalry. This could be useful late in the game, but I still felt it was too far away. You'd really need a lot of pips to get them into combat and I'm not sure they'd be able to do enough to make it worthwhile (I find cavalry hits hard, but is pretty brittle......fairly historic I believe).

Meanwhile, back at the hills the French move their troops through the village, and aggressively advance a block of troops to turn the right flank of the Prussians.
P2 - The Prussian continue to retreat a column of troops, while one more stand marches off the hill to follow. The rearguard in the foreground abandons any hope of covering their flank in a gamble to destroy the unit emerging from the village. The cannon assassinating troops close on the flank in a joint attack.

In a reprise of the last game, the worst result of locked in combat results. The Prussians are in a bad BAD position for flank and even rear attacks.
F3 - A lower pip round for Doug. Still enough to close the door on the 2 prussian units locked in combat. In the foreground they are flanked. In the background it's just possible to see the poor guys hit in the back.

Rear attacks gain a +2 bonus, and if the enemy loses they are destroyed.
We diced off to see if the Prussian (mostly) on the hill would get the defended obstacle bonus. They did and, miraculously, survived and recoiled backward. The situation at the end of F4

P3 - the Prussians forgo an attack this round and continue to march their columns away (off screen). Instead they reposition their rearguard to slow the french and threaten the flank of their rapid advance.

In the background the last unit has moved off the hill crest to avoid getting cannoned to death. He's done to 1 point.
P3 full table view. In the bottom right you can see the Landwehr (2 strength unit) reserve has moved up to threaten the french advance as well. It was a tough decision as I really wanted to be withdrawing, not moving forward, but it would give Doug some tough decisions I hoped.

End Turn 4. I missed a picture or 2 here. The french have cleaned up the rearguard pinwheel near the village. They also advance their cannon toward the crest.

The prussians steadily march away. One of the units in the pinwheel has advance to the left of the picture and is now beside the commander Mohr.

The landwehr has a double line of defenders, but traffic control will be tough for the remaining 2 turns. The cannon coming up on the ridge will also be a problem for the Prussians.

F5 - The cannon advances and starts laying waste to everything on the plain. One unit disappears under the terror of bombardment. The Advance along the rough terrain resumes.

P5 - The withdrawal continues. I struggled with charging the furthest unit away towards the cannon, as a sort of forelorn hope, but I wasn't able to get close enough. In hindsight I probably should have left it close as a threat, but I was very focussed on withdrawal. I also didn't think they'd appreciate those orders much and might choose that moment to mutiny and rush the boats on the beach (not of course anything that is even remotely possible in the rules)

F6 - the last turn has double pip costs as darkness falls. The cannon and some infantry move up. It's too little too late to kill much more. The Prussian expeditionary force has managed it's holding action against imperialist french aggression. Soult may get a dressing down by his superior.

The game was actually fairly close, Prussians managed to kill 1 unit (with 2 more on 1 strength). They evacuated 6 vs a loss of 3. Another round of shooting could easily have killed 2 or even 3 more. The rear guard was looking VERY brittle (lots of 1 point stands around). In hindsight killing off artillery was very critical to squeeking out a win in this scenario. One wonders if the artillery might be just a smidge too good. I could see that increasing the rate of attrition (1 in 3 perhaps rather than 1 in 6) would nerf it more, while giving the artillery commander some more difficult decisions.