Friday, 28 April 2017

Mayhem in the Mediterranean - Galleys & Galleons with the HKSW

Over at the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers, Bertie has just posted another of his epic accounts of their latest game of Galleys & Galleons. It is well worth checking out, so please do head on over!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Palaeo Diet - So, tell me the basics... ?

Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten (PDEE) is a table top hunting game set in a pre-historic world where our hunter-gatherer ancestors (and their hominid cousins) had to hunt and eat, or be hunted and eaten. The game seeks to model a time when humans are not yet in control of the world around them - a time when the landscape could just as easily give succour to a struggling tribe, as it could cripple a thriving people. 

The game is designed to be used for solo games or for (mostly) co-operative play with up to four players. Models are divided broadly into three categories: 

1) Hunters, armed hominids activated and controlled directly by players. Hunters may attempt up to three actions per turn, although if they attempt to do too much at once, they can get a bit stressed out and mess up. There are different equipment types and a range of optional traits that can be diced for to give each of your tribe members a back-story and personality.

2) Hounds, domesticated wolves or dogs under the limited control of players. A hound has to activate after its master and is often quite obedient. However, when it does fail activation rolls, a hound's instincts take over and it automatically conducts actions out of the player's control.

3) Beasts, non-player models that react to the actions of hunters (and hounds). Ranging from giant grazers and apex predators, down to fluffy little critters, beasts are never directly controlled. They react to various triggers and their actions are randomly determined against their stimulus. 

The hunting party should normally consist of between two and eight hunters in total, divided equally between the players. Any number of beasts may be placed on the table but, as a rule of thumb, the total bulk of the beasts (a determination of both their number of wounds and their food value as a carcass) should be equal to, or more than, the number of hunters. The introductory scenario, for example, sets four hunters against a single mammoth (bulk 4). 

Monday, 24 April 2017

The man who would be king

The grey beard led the tribe for many long suns, and many long darks. Now his body lies, half eaten, in the cave of the great bear. The tribe’s hunters prepare for a contest to show who can provide most for their people; who will be the next chieftain.

Set up the table with two equal herds of lesser grazers, no closer than 2x Long distance of any table edge. There should be at least one lesser grazer on the table for every hunter used. Place one apex predator in the very centre of the table. Hunters may be placed anywhere within 1x Short of any table edge.

A hunter who strikes the killing blow against the apex predator within eight turns will be proclaimed the new chief of the tribe. If the apex predator is still alive at the end of the eight turn, the chieftainship will fall to the hunter who struck the killing blow against the most grazers. This game is an individual challenge. While hunter’s may not actively attack other hunters, they may try all sorts of cunning ploys like driving fleeing or stampeding beasts into their friends, or stealing in to kill beasts already wounded by others.

Above you can see the setup for the hunt, with a stream running down a lightly wooded valley. There is a small herd of sheep/goats drinking by the stream, and a cave bear sitting in the centre of the table. The hunters had earlier dug a great pit on one side of the alley floor, far enough away from the stream that there was little chance of flooding. Fergg, Snogg and Dogg are visible at the top of the picture, while Ogg, Urgg and Bow* entered from the opposite table edge at the bottom of the picture. We rolled for random hunter traits with the following results:

  • Fergg the fire-bearer was a climber - not a great trait given the lack of cliffs in this hunt;
  • Snogg the Excited - Snog was required to always roll all three activation dice. Snog carried a spear and was accompanied by Dogg the hound;
  • Ogg the Shaman - potentially a splendid trait, being able to commune with beasts (at least that's what he tells the other hunters);
  • Urgg the Hungry - always tricky to handle as hungry hunters compulsively move towards wounded beasts;
  • Bow the Trapper - trappers can set snares to help catch critters, not a hugely useful trait in this hunt.

*I realise that there is no consistancy between posts regarding the spelling of names, but hey, it's prehistory. It's not like the names were ever intended to be written down...

The first turn saw Bow, Urgg and Ogg make a mess of their stealthy approach, scattering the herd on their side of the river. Snogg and Dogg were much more effective - Dogg was especially clever, sneaking up on one of the sheep/goat ready to attack on Snogg's command. Fergg attempted to get upwind of everyone, hoping to start a fire like the prehistoric pyromaniac he is.

In the following turn, Dogg took a bite of his sheep/goat, scaring it off towards Bow who was able to snap off a quick shot, bringing the beast down and scoring the first kill of the game. The scent of fresh blood almost drove Urgg to madness - he leapt the stream just to savour the smalls, but was able to suppress his more animal instincts and managed not to gorge himself then and there. The site of blood also drew the cave bear in towards the kill.

Urgg took advantage of the (somewhat illusory) protection of the river and hurled a well-aimed spear at the bear, prompting it to charge across the river in turn! One swipe, and Urgg was nursing a savage wound.

Meanwhile, that sneaky git, Fergg, took advantage of the scattering herd of grazers to wave his fire at one, causing it to flee straight to the bottom of the pit.

Back at the action-filled centre, Snogg managed to take down his first sheep/goat. The spouting plume of blood attracted the bear which left a very relieved looking Urgg to investigate. The kill tally now sat at one sheep/goat each for Bow, Fergg and Snogg.

Not wanting to be left out, Ogg and Urgg collected their wits and sprang upon a fourth sheep goat. Ogg struck a blow, but the sheep/goat then fled back, past the bear towards Snogg. 

Bow took a shot at the cave bear which roared in anger, causing Ogg and Urgg to flee in terror. The last two sheep/goats (one of them wounded) had by now sprung across the stream.

Snogg retreated to the cover of the tricky boggy ground by the river and hurled an optimistic spear at the bear, drawing the predator to him. One more swipe, one more wounded hunter. Snogg tried another optimistic attack and while his hit struck home, he was in turn dispatched for his trouble, sinking into a puddle of boggy, bloody mud.

Ogg, thinking that his shamanic personality would somehow help him against a bear, approached the beast. He stabbed at the predator and, once more, the bear attacked back, causing - you should already now the answer - a nasty wound.

Meanwhile (again), Fergg had managed to get behind the last two sheep/goats. He ambled up to them and, waving his fire, chased one of them into the pit, scoring his second kill for the game. The last sheep/goat fled off the table.

Bow, not wanting to be showed up by Fergg, shot at the cave bear, scoring a hit, but was then charged for his troubles. Happily for the archer, he escaped having his guts torn out.

Urgg tried to match Bow's skills, missed the predator and was forthwith predated. The bear had now killed two hunters and wounded a third.

At this juncture, the first critter of the game was flushed out of hiding by Bow. Ogg, well placed, was able to knock it on the head and claim his first kill - not that it put him in the running for chief at this point though.

As the eighth turn came around, Ogg started a desperate action to seize the chieftainship by bringing down the bear. It didn't work. The bear ran him down and pulled him apart - proving, once and for all, that if you disturb a bear in the woods, you should respect its privacy.

So at the end of the hunt, Fergg came out as the chosen chief having netted two sheep/goats to Bow's one. Nobody managed to kill the cave bear and, lets face it, with only two hunters left in the tribe, the people are going to face a grim future.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Late Night Blundering - an SSD game from Pattayavium

Last week I received the following missive from gaming chum of old, and now fellow ex-pat Mark:

This time I stayed up late and ran the game during the small hours, at about the same time of the night the action is set, in fact! So here is the bleary-eyed report. I say "ran" rather than "played" because both (all?) sides were given objectives but then their decisions and actions were derived from weighted options + dice rolls (decision dice). This is more fun than it sounds, as the games always diverge from what the player / puppetmaster thinks is going to happen, sometimes a lot. The role of the Night Watch in this game is exhibit 1 for this point, as will be seen. I originally only included them because it seemed silly not to have a Watch, and I handicapped them to ensure their role was on,y decorative, but still they ended up having an important influence on the game outcome.

Anyway, on to the game, starting with the backstory.

Salvius Prostatus (who doesn't appear in the game at all) is a crony of the Prefect, although the two of them are known to have had a serious disagreement recently, no one is sure what it is about. Salvius has built a thriving if unlikely business empire by collecting urine and excrement from around the town for use in his tanneries. He has a monopoly right to place large collection jars on street corners, which are regularly emptied by his slaves and honey wagons.

For the last few nights, some of his jars have been tipped over, or even smashed, and no one knows or has seen anything. It's a mystery and it's bad for business. Salvius has arranged for Brasidas and his boys, who keep the tannery slaves in line, to covertly patrol the town in the dead of night to apprehend the miscreants and find out who is inciting them. It could be mischief-making revellers celebrating the Songkran holiday, or maybe business rivals. Or even - worrying thought - the Prefect sending him a message.

The first photo shows Pattayavium after midnight. Note the two-man night patrol of the Watch standing outside the arena. Some of the large collection jars can also be seen.

The darkness means movement (of figures) can only be seen at 2xL, and individuals can only be distinguished at 1xL in the moonlight. 

The saboteurs faction comprised four civilian figures, who have been paid (by who?) to do their dastardly work. They split into teams of two and moved sneakily out of the poor neighbourhood (top L of previous photo) towards their targets. Meanwhile Brasidas and his four henchmen, also in two teams, lurked in alleyways and waited to see what would happen. The Watch stayed in position outside the arena, they would not get involved unless absolutely necessary (= something is happening close by and they roll a 5/6 decision dice). And another faction of three men skulked among the woodpiles at bottom R of the prev photo. Who can they be?

One team of civilian saboteurs started to tip over a honey jar within hearing of the Watch patrol, who moved to investigate. The saboteurs fled, the soldiers pursued, and one saboteur was killed "while trying to escape" and the other got away. They had however succeeded in smashing a jar.

The other team attacked a set of two jars outside the block of flats (the large building at top R of the photo). Both of Brasidas's teams jumped on them from different directions, killing one man and capturing the other. In the next (second) photo you can see the aftermath: most of Brasidas's men are moving away down the alley to resume surveillance, but Brasidas himself (with steel cap) and Alketas are interrogating the prisoner. However, he didn't provide any information (unsuccessful decision-dice roll), so he was incapacitated and left lying at the foot of the wall to be collected later.

The fracas attracted the attention of the mysterious faction hiding in the woodpile, and these figures moved up cautiously, keeping buildings between themselves and the action, as can be seen in the next (third) photo. They are Pattayavium's Jewish priest, Levi, and two hard men, Saul & Matthias, zealots, all of whom are known around town, although no one mocks them and their one God to their faces any more!

But what are they doing here? 

What with it being 3.00am and all, there is a gap in the pictorial coverage at this point. But the game continued like this. Brasidas's two patrols set off down more alleyways to see what other teams of saboteurs might be at work. The decision dice decreed they remained ignorant of the Jewish faction. Brasidas himself and two henchmen ended up in a standoff with the City Watch who didn't believe their story about guarding the honey jars, and it was several moves (and a bribe) before his team could move on. This was critical as it meant his other team, two men only, was unsupported when it encountered the Jews and had to back off after some inconclusive scrapping. This is shown in the last photo below.

Had Brasidas and his other men not been delayed by the Watch, there is a good chance the zealots could have been overpowered and interrogated. Instead they were able to slip away, though not before being recognised.

So the game ended with no clear result, just like most of real life in fact. The hired civilians who had been upsetting and smashing the jars were eliminated (2 killed, 1 captured, 1 escaped) but they did not reveal who had hired them. And two out of the five jars had been destroyed. 

Brasidas reported to Salvius about his men encountering Levi and his zealots, so Levi's cover is blown and he'll have to explain to the authorities what he and his men were doing on the streets, armed, late at night. The suspicion is that he was the organiser of the jar sabotage*. But nothing can be proved in the absence of any confessions.

[* According to Salvius, Levi has it in for him because he won't sell a piece of land the priest wants to build a synagogue on. Perhaps it will all come out in the pending court case.]