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.