Monday, June 21, 2021

Market Day at the Watchtower Inn (Solo battle report)

It was market day at the Watchtower Inn, in the Darmish borderlands near Wardenskeep.  

 However, unwelcome visitors were about to arrive.  Uccsai of Varkrek was leading a band of foragers far out beyond the fringes of the main Orcish army.  Attracted by the distant sounds of the market, and the smells of good cooking, he led his warriors toward a bridge.

The humans were watchful, though, in this uneasy border region, and from the top an an old tower visible across the river, a horn call sounded.  Not abandoned after all … Uccsai ordered the troop to forget about the bridge; the river looked shallow enough for safe crossing if they were quick about it.  His warriors were not.  Exhausted from the days’ march, they were slow in reaching the ford, and quickly fell in a line, as a few eager yopungsters, anxious to prove themselves, pressed ahead, while the rest lagged.

Meanwhile, at the Inn, the market goers quickly gathered inside the thick stone walls and prepared to defend themselves.  Happily for them a Darmish officer, Lieutenant Zanther, and his bodyguard of four soldiers was present today, looking to buy supplies.  He quickly took charge, sending the lightly equipped men of the local militia out to the hilltop to see what was happening.

One of the local militiamen reached the ford just as the first orc, one of the eager youngsters, was splashing across.

Life is hard in the borderlands, and the local warrior was able to hold his own against the orc.  As more orcs waded the stream, a couple of Zanther’s soldiers arrived.  Two orcs quickly fell, but a shudder of fear ran through the humans, for they could see that a troll was eyeing them from the far bank of the stream.

Hungry and tired, but still possessed of the ferocious tenacity of life that was the mark of their kind, the troll waded across the stream, to be met by three humans.  The troll fought hard, but the combined efforts of the humans were too much for it.  A ragged cheer rose from the human soldiers as they slew the troll.

Uccsai looked across the stream in dismay as the troll fell.  He suspected that the day was lost, but raised his mace of command to urge his straggling warriors to one final effort.  At that moment, a human militiaman took careful aim, and, as though from nowhere, an arrow pierced Uccsai’s throat, and his last command remained unspoken.  The surviving orcs fled the field, seeking only to return to the safety of the main army.

As the soldiers and local militia returned to the Inn, the grateful people came out to greet them with gifts of food and drink.

Gamemaster’s notes: My intention yesterday morning was simply to unload the Portable Fantasy game box, iron the groundcloth, and then pack everything away neatly, since the box was in a bit of disarray after the DBA extravaganza the other week.  However, there have been a couple of threads on various gaming fora this past week about scenery (and whether it should be a collaborative effort between players) and use of scenery in role playing games, so I decided that it wouldn’t take much longer to actually lay out a battlefield before sorting and storing.  With the previous Dragon Rampant game having produced a draw, I am considering this skirmish to be a tie-breaker, indicative of the overall situation in the province during this strategic turn in the campaign. I don’t ordinarily expect that man-to-man skirmishes will be reflected in the strategic map situation, but this one is an exception.

After that, I ended putting out some of the non-combatants for a couple of pictures, and then decided that I might as well use a couple of the prepared war band lists (for A Song of Blades and Heroes) that are in the box to stage a quick solo game.

My general experience with A Song of Blades and Heroes is that the point values given are a bit optimistic for troops with a quality of 4, as most of my orcs were.  I was surprised the last time I played with the rules to see an orc warband win.  This time was less surprising.  The orcs were having trouble activating, and ended up scattered and unsupported, and the humans just mowed right through them.  No human figure was killed during the game.  I haven’t played enough of this in recent years; it’s possible that there are tactics which would compensate, but I haven’t generally found them yet.  As with that game in march, the unpredictable shifts of initiative make this a pretty fair solo game out of the box.

Speaking of boxes, I did get everything cleaned up and neatly packed away in the travel boxes afterwards, so I’m ready with a pick-up game for the next convention or club night where one is needed.  I didn’t get as far as the next project, though, which was to unload the 1/72 group base figures and sort them into a couple of Dragon Rampant warbands, so that I can add one 6-liter box to the stack and be able to do a pick-up Dragon Rampant game as well.  Eventually, I’d like to have a selection of pre-printed and laminated warband sheets in the travel box, for improved readiness.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Recent Activities

  Norman wrote up a report on the “bracket campaign” for the DBA forums after our visit over the Memorial Day weekend, now three weeks ago.  My intention to blog about this sooner was completely overwhelmed by quotidian reality.

It was nice to see all of his painstaking pandemic painting placed in play.

While bad for blogging, I made the decision at the time to be “present in the moment”, and therefore did not take notes, nor too many pictures.

The following Friday (June 4th) the HAWKs met for the first face-to-face club game since this all started. Since our regular meeting location was not yet open to the public, we met at a member’s house, and we played a D-Day American paratroop scenario in honor of the date (or nearly so).

Irene and I then took a road trip to Michigan to visit my parents and my son in grad school.  It was good to see them, and we had a nice dinner out as a combined celebration of all the events that we missed over the past year. I got in a shopping trip to the Michigan Toy Soldier company and picked up a few things for Norman as well as a box of 1/72 scale Ultima Ratio medieval Italian civic militia, who may eventually appear in my solo fantasy campaign.  While I did take a hobby kit with me, the only thing I actually managed to finish was another settlement map for later use in my D&D game:

It was a (successful, I feel) experiment in using watercolor pencils to put some basic color on the pen and ink drawing quickly.  While I intend to do the next trial map with regular watercolors, the ease of putting down fairly precise colors with the pencils makes me think that will be the technique of choice for this work going forward.

There was another HAWKs meeting on the 18th (the day before yesterday…seems longer already), and I took my 54mm medieval skirmish game.  I had it out for ScrumCon last year, so it hasn’t been too neglected.  

Since it seemed to be a good week for gaming, my brother and I finally resolved a pending skirmish (using Dragon Rampant) in my solo campaign.  I had pulled out the troops and sent him the war band sheets months ago, but the game just never got played.  I decided that I had better keep the set up simple, so that it actually got done.

The situation developed as the result of an orc incursion near Wardenskeep, in eastern Darmis.

In accordance with my usual methods, I had determined that a skirmish was occurring, randomized an order of battle for the two sides, and then randomized a scenario.  Because I have not yet painted enough 1/72 scale orcs, and my son’s orcs (used for a previous encounter) had been returned to him, I ran this battle with 25mm lead figures, which are not in short supply here.

We ended up playing an ambush scerario.  The Darmish forces (consisting of a unit of axemen, 4 units of archers, and a unit of scouts) ended up as the ambushees.  Looking at the table above, their objective was to make their way down the road and exit at the end with the town, while the orcs entered from the sides, by the hills, and attempted to cut them off.  

The orcs sent their light wolf riders (with javelins) out to skirmish with the lead humans, but the archers out shot them.  The battle was fought cautiously by both sides…we frequently passed the play on a failed activation roll, but the (dis)honors were pretty evenly distributed, so it didn’t feel like either of us was particularly disadvantaged.  Eventually the Darmish commander’s guard (the axemen) stood off the wild charges of two bands of goblin berserkers before retiring from the field and leaving the fight to the archers.  The archers were equal to the task; eventually shooting drove off all the orc/goblin units.  Casualties among the humans were also heavy, though, and the game was pronounced a draw.

Again, I neglected to take enough pictures for a proper battle report.  At any rate, though, I’m glad to have that behind me, and will return to map maneuvers this week, as the first campaign season in the Northlands winds to an indecisive close.

I’ll leave this as a teaser: