Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Furius rematch - with a better result!

Following my less than impressive performance in our last Faustus Furius race, my wee lad was gracious/cocky enough to humour me with a rematch. As last time, we only played a single lap race. This time there were six racers - Antiochos and Darius, both driving scythed chariots, and Ranzo, the orc archer class chariot were teamed up, all racing on behalf of the lad. Driving to restore my honour were Hattusilis driving a standard chariot, Medb in her agile chariot, and Romulus in a heavy archer class chariot.  

Despite having to set up behind the rest of the racers at the starting line, Romulus ended up having to activate first. He fired off a ballista bolt at Antiochos to try and clear a path, but completely missed his target. His compulsory move then saw him ever so slowly plod forward, collide with both Antiochos and Darius and flip over. Antiochos was shunted out of the way, heading off to the right (not the way he wanted to be going!), and Darius bounced away into a house and crashed as well. Thus, the game started more or less as it was to continue.

The other three racers, Hattusilis, Ranzo and Medb managed to escape the carnage at the starting line and made their way off the grid. Medb made good use of her agility and sped off to an early lead around the first corner.

My the time Romulus, Antiochos and Darius had managed to flip their chariots and get back on the right heading, the three leaders were some way off. Medb and Ranzo had a bit of an altercation, allowing Hattusilis to take the overall lead.

Medb and Ranzo continued to push and shove while the rest of the pack caught up. Between the five chariot teams and an angry mob who were annoyed by Medb's obvious lack of skill, the track was turning into a bottleneck. 

Antiochos ran his scythed chariot into the centre of the mob, dispersing it promptly, but crashing in the process. In the ensuing confusion, Medb once more proved that she has what it takes, when the mood takes her, and sprang around the next couple of corners with the grace and alacrity of a polecat.

Antiochos flipped his chariot over again and made a slow return to the race. Meanwhile, Darius and Romulus then crashed into each other - again - allowing Ranzo to swing around in front. However, the orc took the corner too wide and headed up and 'alternative' track, into the suburbs.

In the end, Medb crossed the finish line first, moments before Hattusilis (his victory had been sooooo very close), and Antiochos took third place. 

Thus, equilibrium was restored, with Daddy coming in 1st and 2nd, and the dutiful son getting third. After two races, that puts us even on the leader board. It might be time for me to retire now, before he upsets the balance again! ūüėá

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Thorfinn's Saga

“… but when Loki, Mischief-Maker, the cause of all the troubles of the gods, admitted that it was he who cut Sif’s golden hair, Sif’s husband, Thor the Thunderer, threatened great revenge unless Loki replace every thread.

“Of course, you all know the story of Loki’s descent into Nidavellir, how the sons of Ivaldi crafted new hair for Sif, and how the Mischief-Maker then tricked the dwarves into crafting other gifts for the gods.

“But I have heard tell that Loki first past the way of the Western Lands, and while thinking up new ways to trick the gods, he carelessly allowed one of Sif’s hairs to become snagged in a branch.

“That hair was found many years later by a skilled smith, who worked the golden strand into a magical ring. It is said that whoever wears the ring will be never be without food or ale or mead, that their every meal will be like feasting in Valhalla, and that their stores will overflow with grain and their livestock will be ever fruitful…”

Before the skald had even finished his tale – the bit where he revealed that the ring was now possessed by some trolls – Jarl Thorfinn Hardluck was decided on his quest. It was true, sure enough, that he was a great man, a leader of his people. But his people were poor; scratching their meagre existence out of rock-strewn fields, sustaining themselves on the odd boar, deer or seal, and whatever else they could hunt. The possession of the magic ring would bring his people prosperity, and his name would live on forever in the sagas of the Norsemen.

Gathering together a dozen of his closest followers, Thorfinn fitted out a small knarr and set sail for the Western Lands. Although the journey started well with a stiff breeze and a gentle swell, the little trading vessel was not destined to return to Thorfinn’s farm. Within sight of their destination, the Great Eagle that flew high above the world-tree, Yggdrasil, beat its wings with merciless fury, causing storms the likes Thorfinn had never experienced in all his years. After many hours being tossed about like a giant’s plaything, the knarr’s mast prostrated itself to the wind’s power and broke. In the ensuing chaos, the knarr, turned side-on to the crashing waves, capsized below the weight of the water pushing down upon it, and was lost to the depths.

Those few who could, swam towards the grey smudge of land on the horizon until, weary and with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the tools in their hands, they were washed up on the rocky shore.

Thorfinn’s Saga was designed as a mini-campaign for Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten. Although written for prehistoric hunting expeditions, Palaeo Diet is suitable for any situations that might pit solo or co-operative players against the natural world and savage beasts controlled by the games mechanics. This campaign follows the adventures of Thorfinn Hardluck and his companions as they embark on their quest to recover the magic ring.

Throughout the campaign, the player/s have access to only three characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses:

Jarl Thorfinn Hardluck
Equipment: As appropriate for a man of his standing Thorfinn wields a well-wrought sword. The sword is treated as a Club (PDEE p.5). It can only be used against beasts or foes in base contact, but confers a +1 modifier to Thorfinn’s attack rolls.
Traits: Thorfinn is the ruler of his people and insists on leading from the front, an attitude that has made him Crotchety (PDEE p.13). Nevertheless, his experience (and the fortune of having inherited some armour) has forged Thorfinn into a formidable warrior, rendering him a Brute (PDEE p.13).

Thorvald the Touched
Equipment: Thorvald carries multiple axes which he throws at foes and wields in combat with equal skill. Axes are treated as Spears (PDEE p.5). They can be used against beasts or foes up to 1x Short distance away.
Traits: Touched by the gods and a little weird, Thorvald has knowledge of many natural and supernatural things. He is both a Healer (PDEE p.14) and a Thinker (PDEE p.14).

Thorbj√łrn Bjarnason
Equipment: Thorbj√łrn carries a bow. He may pelt beasts and foes up to 1x Long distance, but always suffers a -1 modifier to his pelting and attack rolls.
Traits: The youngest surviving member of Thorfinn’s household, Thorbj√łrn eager to prove his worth; he is therefore Excited (PDEE p.14). However, his skill with a bow is already spoken of highly, and Thorbj√łrn is known as a skilled Hunter (PDEE p.14).

Scenario 1 – A contested feast
Thorfinn started to raised his beaten body from where he lay, stared around him through salt encrusted eyes, and then let his head fall with a painful thump, back to the stony beach. From what he could make out, the beach was littered with debris from his broken knarr. A few of his crew sat hunched in a little circle further up the beach. Thorfinn could see two or three bobbing, face down, just beyond the break line, their arms or legs entangled in flotsam.

Gathering his strength, and muttering under his breath - cursing and entreating to the gods with equal measure, the jarl rose and strode as manfully as possible up the beach to the survivors. If they see the despair in his eyes, it was because they were blinded by their own.

Thorfinn licked his cracked lips and spat. In his most commanding voice, he gestured to the two most … ‘reliable’ wasn’t the best word … likeable men in the group. “Thorvald, Thorbj√łrn, we have a ring to find. The rest of you, do what you can with this.” Thorfinn gestured vaguely around the beach, at the remains of his vessel, at the bodies of his drowned crew, and the mess of their outward journey.

“Right lads” said the jarl quietly to his two companions, “if we can manage to find this thing, then we can work out a way to get home. If we can’t, then we won’t have to worry about it. First things first though, lets get something to eat eh!?”

As he said it, a pack of wolves started howling in the near distance. Thorvald gave a crooked grin, clicked his tongue and whistled. Thorfinn smiled, shook his head and walked inland, followed by a wide-eyed Thorbj√łrn.

The Norsemen have been washed up in a strange and unforgiving land. With nothing but the clothes on their backs and the weapons on their hands, their first challenge is to collect provisions for their onward journey.

Set up the table with the three Norsemen standing in the centre. Place five landscape features (any combination of hills, thickets or tricky ground, but at least one of each) around the table, leaving 1x Long distance between each piece. No beasts are placed on the table at the start of the game.

Roll 1d6 every time a character moves into, or within, a hill, thicket or tricky ground terrain piece and consult the table below to find out what the character has spotted.

Die roll
Hunter on a hill
Hunter in a thicket
Hunter in tricky ground
A single angry critter has been flushed out of hiding. Place it at the centremost point of the hill ground.
The gods have blessed us with a Boar! Place a pack preadator at the centremost point of the thicket.
A single angry critter has been flushed out of hiding. Place it at the centremost point of the tricky ground.
Nothing is found
A single angry critter has been flushed out of hiding. Place it at the centremost point of the thicket.
A single angry critter has been flushed out of hiding. Place it at the centremost point of the tricky ground.
Nothing is found
Character discovers fungus worth ½ bulk.
Character discovers fungus worth ½ bulk.
Character discovers fungus worth ½ bulk.
Character discovers nuts or berries worth ½ bulk.
Character discovers fungus worth ½ bulk.
Character discovers nuts or berries worth ½ bulk.
Character has flushed out a critter.
Character discovers nuts or berries worth ½ bulk.
Character has flushed out a critter.
Character has flushed out a critter.
Character has flushed out a critter.

Gathering fungus, nuts or berries costs one action. During the process, characters will naturally pop fungus, nuts and berries in their mouths. However, whenever a Thorfinn or Thorbj√łrn gather fungus, roll 1d6. On a roll of 1-2, they have chosen poorly and collected poisonous fungus and immediately suffer one wound as it beings to sour their bellies. Being more experienced with such things, Thorvald is not affected by eating strange berries.

The Norsemen only have a limited time to gather provisions. At the end of turn 8, roll 1d6. On a roll of 1-3, a large pack of savage looking wolves appear on the table and the Norsemen make an immediate withdraw. On a roll of 4+, the Norsemen have another turn to complete their mission. Roll again at the end of turn 9 and every subsequent turn until the Norsemen are successful or the wolves appear.

In order to progress on their quest, all three Norsemen must survive and 6 bulk worth of provisions must be collected.

New beast type: Angry critters (details to come!)

Starting at the center of the table, our brave heroes set off for the woods and immediately found a boar.

Thinking this was going to be a foregone conclusion, Thorfinn and Thorvald take down the boar, securing the first two bulk worth of provisions.

Thorfinn headed off to some tricky ground and flushed out an angry critter which attacked, but failed to wound the jarl.

In a separate tricky patch, Thorvald also flushed out an angry critter who attacked and bit him on the knee.

Unfortunately, Thorbj√łrn then messed up an activation roll. The angry critter reacted and again bit Thorvald, bringing him down in a crumpled heap and losing us the scenario.

Still, playing on, just to test things out, Thorbj√łrn continued with his turn, found some fungus, ate it, and felt immediately sick. It was clear that the game could be played to completion and a win, but we weren't going to do it! Sure, we thought, lets ay we did. And we moved on to the next scenario.

Scenario 2 – The washer at the ford
Thorbj√łrn slowly raised his head above the tussocks of wiry grass, his body prone to the cold, damp crest of the little hillock. From his vantage point he could see a slow winding river making its way through the valley. The still-looking water obviously ran deep, except for one point, where it crashed and danced joyfully across a natural causeway of well-worn stones.

Other creatures obviously knew these shallows to be a crossing point too. The gentle slopes down to the ford were well trodden, meandering paths leaving patterns through the tall grasses. The real object of his attention though, was the figure standing ankle deep in the middle of the crossing. From a distance, and with the dusk sun so low on the horizon, it had looked like some sort of stooped crone, swaying this way and that as she washed her threads in the cool waters.

Now that he was closer, however, the young Norseman knew that his eyes had deceived him. What he had taken to be abundant shawls and cowls, defence against the cold north wind, he saw now was nothing less than a thick shaggy coat. No more a stooped washer at the ford, the figure’s ursine bulk was now obvious.

Behind him, somewhere off in the distance, the pack of wolves who had been following them for days could be heard baying in the wind. Somewhat closer, at the foot of the hillock, Thorbj√łrn’s companions sat impatiently waiting his report. He shifted his body so that the earth’s bulk protected him from the bear’s view and scurried down the hillside. “Well,” he said, “There is a crossing. But also a bear. What do you want us to do Jarl Thorfinn?”

Thorfinn scratched at the base of his chin – there was something caught in his beard which prickled his skin. He was not sure if it was a thorn or if it was something biting him. Either way, it made him irritable. “Well, we can’t go back” he said gruffly, waving a thumb in the direction of the wolves. “So I suppose we have a talk with your bear. After all, there are three of us … perhaps we can persuade it to bugger off.”

The Norsemen must cross the river and escape off the table on the far side.

Set up the table so that a river crosses between to opposite sides with a crossing point at the centre of the table. Treat the river as impassable and the crossing point as rough terrain. Place at least one hill on either side of the river, and three other terrain features. Place a single apex predator at the river’s crossing point.

The Norsemen must start the scenario within 1x Medium distance of any one corner. They must escape the river valley via any board edge on the far side of the river within six turns, at which point the sun sets and they risk losing their way.

Thorfinn Hardluck and at least one of the other characters must survive and make it off the table in order to progress to the next scenario.

Having not really succeeded in the first game, we penalised out heroes at the start of scenario two by giving both Thorfinn and Thorbj√łrn wounds at the start of the game. Thorfinn started by hurling himself down the hill towards the ford.

The bear initially moved away from him, but then, smelling the blood, turned back and had a sniff of the Norseman.

Thorvald used his healing ability to patch up Thorbj√łrn, and the two sidekicks set off in support of their jarl.

Thorfinn slipped away past the bear, and in the confusion, so too did Thorvald. The bear followed him, and Thorbj√łrn was able to head off in the other direction. All characters survived, but we only just finished the scenario within the turn limit.

Scenario 3 РInto Jötunheimr
The skald had been right about one thing. There were certainly trolls around. Thorfinn wrinkled his nose in disgust as he scraped the j√∂tunn dung from the sole of his boot. On crossing the river, he had managed to leave wolf pack far behind him, but the incident with the bear had also left his separated from his men. They had all been in the hall when the skald spoke. They had all heard tell of the two j√∂tnar, brothers, who now laid claim to the ring and the bountiful powers imbued by the single strand of Sif’s golden hair. If they still lived, the companions would be making their way to the rocky plateau before him.

As he carefully made his way through the tumble of rocky outcrops, Thorfinn was able to smell them first; a potent musky scent mixed with the rich odour of decay, and the faintest hint of wood smoke. He clambered up one last shelf of barren rock as the rosy fingers of S√≥l illuminated this surrounds with the day’s first light. He was again stuck by the hopelessness of the barren landscape. Nothing but bare rocky hills, stagnant gullies and the ever present north wind, still wafting the j√∂tnar’s powerful perfume towards him.

Ahead of Thorfinn was the troll-hall, a shadowed cave delving deep under a low rise. The j√∂tnar obvious had a fire burning at the entrance of the cavern. Although the fire itself was hidden from view, it cast a fading glow through the dawn light, flinging lethargic shadows against the surrounding stones around it as the trolls moved languidly around their hearth. So, though Thorfinn, he would not be catching them at slumber. He was confident that if he could separate the beasts, he stood an even chance to bring one down. If Thorvald or Thorbj√łrn had survived, it would make it all the easier. The trouble would come if he spent what energy he had left to slay one j√∂tunn, only to find that it was the other who held custody of the ring.

And then, he reflected, if he was successful in this quest, he would still need to make his way back to the beach somehow. Gods’ willing, his surviving crew might even have thought up a means to get home.

The Norsemen must recover the magic ring from the corpse of a j√∂tunn and escape of the table. If a character manages to kill a j√∂tunn and moved into base contact with it’s body, they may spend one action to search for the ring. Roll 1d6; on a 5+, they have discovered the magic ring and pick it up automatically. On a roll of 1-4, the ring is being carried by the second j√∂tunn.

Set up the table with a selection of hills and tricky ground, two or three of each terrain type. Place a single small impassable feature at the very centre of the table to indicate the hearth. The two jötnar (great bipeds) should be placed within 1x Short of the hearth.

Thorfinn can be placed within 1x Medium of one table corner. If they survived the encounter with the bear, Thorvald and Thorbj√łrn must each be placed within 1x Medium of any other table corners – none of the Norsemen may start in the same corner.

The complete the campaign, At least one character must survive the game and carry the ring off the table edge.

New beast type: Great bipeds (details to come!)

The two jötnar are in the centre of the table. Our three heroes come in from different corners.

Thorfinn (in ambush) and Thorvald attack one of the trolls, while Thorbj√łrn's shooting drives the other off into some tricky terrain.

... but only for a moment. Continued archery enrages the beast which spins around and launches itself on the surprised Thorbj√łrn who succumbs to a series of vicious attacks.

Over with the other troll, Thorvald too was eviscerated before Thorfinn managed to slay the beast. Unfortunately, the jarl too suffered a number of wounds in the process. Searching the dead j√∂tunn, Thorfinn failed to find the magic ring and so had to move on to j√∂tunn no.2 (Thorbj√łrn's-bane). The struggle was fierce, and close, but in the end, too much for the Norsemen. Thorfinn too collapsed from his wounds, and the saga was at an end.

I actually replayed this last scenario the next day with my wee lad, and though we lost Thorbj√łrn and Thorvald yet again, Thorfinn managed to kill both trolls and get home again with the ring. So, you know, it can be done...


On an unrelated note. Here is a shot at the end of one of the other games we played over the weekend. Herc slain by a bunny. Oh the shame!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Fantastic little racers

In the process of playtesting Faustus Furius, I collected two examples of each class of chariot in the game, leaving me with 14 chariots in all (including the flying carpet). Each chariot that I had was then used as inspiration for the turn order cards illustrated by local artist and gamer, Ewan Robinson.

Above you can see three of my racers - they've all been seen before, except now I have dry brushed some buff paint over the sand on the bases. This lightens the base, makes the figures pop a bit more (otherwise there is a whole lot of brown) and works better with my buff coloured racing track. 

Enter the wee lad. He is almost seven, and has recently started sowing an interest in daddy's figures. Rather than just buy him some figures with no purpose, I showed him a few of my games and asked what sort of figures he might like to play a game with. He'd just watched Radagast in the Hobbit movie trilogy, and liked the idea of of a chariot. He also liked the idea of spiders, and goblins, and skeletons... Trying not to get to carried away, I put in an order with Perfect Six Miniatures - actually, ordered, amended the order, and received the order all in a matter of three days!

A quick paint later, and I present you with the newest racers for Faustus Furius, Blood Fang and Ranzo. Chosen by the lad, painted by me, named by him. I have to say, the figures from Perfect Six were a real joy to paint - very characterful, tiny, wee sculpts.

Blood Fang is a spider rider. We decided that a spider would be good on the bends, so he is being used as an agile chariot. The lad wanted the goblin to be red, and who am I to fight creative genius?! Blood Fang's crash marker is just the goblin without the spider. presumably the spider has run off somewhere and needs to be called back. 

Ranzo is an orc boar-drawn chariot. I ordered two packs to make the active and crashed versions and was told that the active chariot needed all four boars to pull it. Ranzo himself is the orc archer on the back, Again, I followed instructions and had him firing backwards at the other racers far behind him.

In our first race, I took Nasreddin the fast carpet and Gilgamesh the heavy battle cart, while the lad took his to fantastic racers. The end result saw Gilgamesh come in last, then Nasreddin in third, Blood Fang sneaking into second place, and Ranzo speeding on ahead to snatch the first place! I demand a rematch!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

L'Art de la Guerre 145 BC - Seleukid Dissolution

The year is 145 BC. Alexander Balas sits uneasily on the Seleukid throne in Antioch. The issue of his bastardy had been resolved through a marriage alliance with Ptolemaic Egypt, but now, as he grew tired of Ptolemaic interference, the court at Alexandria turns its eyes to his young cousin Demetrios Nikator. 

Demetrios, with Egyptian money, experienced Cretan mercenary generals and a large body of soldiers for hire, has landed in Kilikia. Alexander sends word to his Arab allies, and prepares for war.

The forces deploy somewhere along the north Syrian coast. Demetrios' mercenaries come down from the north (on the right). Leading the massed heavy infantry himself, Demetrios anchors the western flank on the coastline. One of his mercenary commanders brings the light infantry and elephants up behind, while to the other commander leads the cavalry to the east. The far east flank is protected by a steep hill.

Alexander's forces have marched up the coast from the south (on the left). The eastern flank is made up of Arab auxiliaries, the west flank is the small but able Seleukid royal army. An ambush is located in the woods in front of the Arab line, and the third command is curious absent.

Both lists are 100% legal, but some unit names have been changed to allow for the historic situation - Late Seleukid civic militia foot and horse are used to represent the less than reliable Arab tribesmen that fought for and against multiple Seleukid kings. Ultimately, Alexander would lose his head to one of his allied sheiks. But not on this day.
Alexander's regular forces. The Agema heavy cavalry are in reserve - just in case the small horde of yibbering Galatians don't live up to their fierce reputation.

Demetrios' infantry commands a low hill by the coast while hillmen make sand castles on the beach.

 Alexander's Arab allies prepare to hold the town and the woods in front of the camp.

Both sets of lines advance. Despite some marvelous CP rolling, the ambush in the woods prevents Demetrios from throwing his infantry forward too quickly. The Arabs are able to advance and fill the gap - exposing the fact that the ambush marker was a bit ephemeral to start with.

Alexander's horse archers start to outflank Demetrios' mounted division. In the centre, Demetrios' elephant corp pushes on towards the Arab camelry. Some of the Cretan skirmishers are able to move forward in support, but others get mired in among the heavy infantry.

Arab tribesmen take up a rather awkward position in the town while their bow-armed brethren make there way through the woods.

In the west, the Arabs hold the town and the woods. Arab skirmishing archers and camelry unleash volley after volley of arrows at Demetrios' elephants. Despite trying to hold back Alexander's horse archers with their own, Demetrios's mounted wing charges forward with wide open flanks.

 The disordered elephants charge home into the Arab camelry ...

... while Demetrios' Thracian mercenaries turn around and start heading back the way they camp. To form a camp guard, so they said.
At the same time, Demetrios' cataphracts plow forward into Alexander's infantry. Everyone watching that clash expected the horsemen to drop dead on the pikes, but to cleave straight through the Galatian warband. Surprisingly, none of the melee rolls proved decisive.

Demetrios' elephants destroyed one unit of camelry, but there then both routed by the remaining camelry and skirmishing archers. Demetrios' skilled Cretan mercenary general was killed by the routing elephants. The camelry then turned and took one unit of Demetrios' cataphacts in the flank. At the other end of the cataphract line, Alexander's imitation legionaries marched around to engage the other flank. 

Alexander's horse archers eliminated their opposites and started making eyes towards Demetrios' camp. At the same time, the Arab cavalry made their way through the elephant shaped hole in Demetrios' line and wiped out the elite Cretan archers.

While the inland - eastern - half of the battle was going the way of Alexander, along the coast, Demetrios' hillmen and imitation legionaries attacked the town. In the distance, the Arab cavalry ride over the Cretan archers and start forward towards the Thracian mercenaries who had turned to face Alexander's horse archers.

Demetrios' remaining mercenary general manages to keep his remaining cataphracts in decent shape, but his line is gradually worn down.

Back along the coast, Demetrios' forces sweep into the town and drive off the Arab tribesmen. One unit of Hillmen start approaching Alexander's camp.

With nothing better to do, Alexander's allied commander joins a unit of Arab skirmishers and leads them forward into some Cretan slingers. A camera with better zoom would have revealed the slingers' look of surprise, but unfortunately, none was at hand.

And just when it looked like everything was going his way anyway, Alexander's third commander with his glorious flank march decided to turn up! Exhausted, the Galatian cavalry would really play no further part in the battle.

So close! part 1: Demetrios' Hillmen can almost smell Alexander's camp. In the background, the Arab cavalry can be seen hitting the Thracians in the flank.

 So close! part 2: Alexander's horse archers can almost smell Demetrios' camp. 

And that was when Demetrios' army lost its nerve and started to pull back to the north. Demetrios lost all 23 morale/break points, while Alexander lost 19 of his 23. It was a fairly touch and go situation once Demetrios' infantry made it to the village, but at the end of the day, they were too slow in getting there. His pikemen - the core of Demetrios' army and his real strength over Alexander's forces, failed to meet any enemy head on. Demetrios' cavalry was too eager to charge whatever foe were to their front and suffered the consequences. 

Meanwhile, Alexander's elite Agema heavy cavalry just sat in reserve and did nothing, and his Galatian cavalry on the flank march was so late to the battle that it also had no real impact. The mediocre Arab medium swordsmen reinforced my existing poor opinion of medium swordsmen. If a 'man of the match' prize were awarded, I would give it to either the non-existent ambush marker in the woods, or failing that, the Arab camelry who managed to take on elephants and win!