sobota 28. června 2014

Blood and Sand!

In spite of the name of my blog, the only ruleset appearing in my posts was Song of Blades and Heroes, from Ganesha Games. Although it is a good ruleset that gives ejoyable results while being easy to learn, dwelling at it all the time would deny the very idea behind this blog: To search for the unattainable goal through many a mysterious land and having lots of adventures (and fun) on the way. 
But fear not! I know there are other rulesets. A few of them I have already either played or tried (or at least tried to try): Melee (with houserules) and Swordplay (updated version just released!), and others wait to be tried, like Savage Worlds Showdown, ItEN, Chain Reaction, or Flying Lead.

Why Gladiators?

Because it's fascinating subject, and (more importantly) gladiator games don't require too much space, scenery nor miniatures. Unless you're into naumachiae, of course. So far, I have printed the rules for Mordheim Pit Fighter, modified Melee and read through Munera Sine Missione. I have also bought half a box of Chaos Marauders, which I intend to convert to Pit Fighters. 

This time all the equipment remained at home - fortunately, I had my usual miniatures for SoBH, hex paper and tablet with the rules. We tried my gladiatorial variant on Melee (still in progress) first, and then the Pit Fighter second.

1. Melee

I like Melee. It was the first skirmish game that I didn't play solo and the rules are simple enough to be modified (the first modification being omitting the HTH combat). After some three- and two-player games in the dungeon (and experiments with leaving the hex grid) I set to write a variant for gladiatorial combat, which we playtested. Well, it failed.

We created four gladiators, bid for them, equipped them, and it was good. Mostly. But then, we chose one gladiator each and sent them into the arena - and  it all turned into quick but quite tedious dicefest. I had tried to spice up the maneuver possibilites: a character could use shieldbash, shieldrush or bodyslam, or he could decide to focus his attack on less armoured parts of the enemy, but to no avail. As much as I liked Melee in group vs group mode, it was still too dull for a duell. 

Still, I may try to add even some more variety, but I fear that either it won't help, or I'll use Munera instead and save the effort for something else, like painting some gladiators...

2. Pit Fighter

The bad taste a single duell in Melee left made us try something else for the evening's final clash. From what I had read I liked the rules of Pit Figher quite a lot, and using Melee as a counterexample I lured my friend into a quick rules overview and -as his enthusiasm grew- a game.

Why I liked the Pit Fighter even after just reading the rules?
  • The paralell between the Empire and Roman Empire: The pit fighters represent enemies that the men of the realm had to face.
  • Pre-plotted movement with slightly different options for each type of gladiator
  • Hit locations: There are five hit locations (Head, Body, Arms, Groins, Legs), and when you attack, both you and your opponent secretly choose one. If they are the same, the attack was blocked. If the attacked location is not adjacent to defended location, the attack was successfull. If the locations are adjacent, weapon skill contest follows.
  • Different armour on different locations
  • If you're hit, you can lose more than just hit points... Better executed attacks can scar, cripple you (loose a finger/eye/ear/arm/leg/precious parts), or even kill you by decapitating (crowd roars) or hacking in half.
  • Easy and quite benevolent campaign system with fighters improving their stats and gaining skills, crowned by the fight of one against three. If the lone challenger can pull it off, he's won the campaign.
  • In spite of all this, the rules are short, understandable and simple, and the game is quick.
The game was a huge success. Our fighters advanced to each other, lunged, maneuvred to get the best position, there was a swing and a miss, clash and separation... It really gave us the image of a gladiatorial bout, complete with a lucky blow leading to a decapitation in the end. Another great thing was that even with rules explanation, checking the rules, passing tablet with movement scroll and picking moves it took us about an hour. I look forward to playing it again!

čtvrtek 19. června 2014


The Borderlands, two years into another war with dwarves... Lothar's Lot standing orders have been to patrol the woods around the Great Eastern Road. Ambushes have become quite a common occurrence with so many warbands and brigands all around the Borderlands with most of these incidents having the purpose of disrupting supply or information lines, or getting rich on the expense of someone else, with most of the victims captured or just robbed. However, recent discoveries of either men and dwarves butchered, or -which was worse- sacrificed, indicated there's something other roaming the wilderness.

I had considered all variants of campaign and how to start it, however, in spite of all the labour I choose the first battle to be simple free for all. Bad decision.

Scenario: Free for all

Lothar's Lot:
  • Lothar der Schwarze, Leader (P); Q3+, C3, Leader, 60 pts
  • Antar (P), Q3+ C3, Group Fighter, 36 pts
  • John, bowman; Q3+, C3, Shooter: Long, 44 pts
  • Vladimir, bowman; Q3+, C3, Shooter: Long, 44 pts
  • 3 halberdiers, Q4+ C3, Tailslap, 27 pts each
  • crossbowman; Q4+, C3, Shooter: Medium, Good Shot, 33 pts
  • Beastmen Chieftain (P)Q4+ C4, Leader, Forester, Tough, 80 pts
  • Bestigor, Q4+ C4; Savage, Forester, 40 pts
  • 4 Gors, Q4+ C3; Savage, Forester, Dashing, 36 pts each
  • 1 Minotaur Warrior, Q3+ C4, Big, Savage (probably)
  • Lich leader (P); Q3+ C2, Probably: (Undead, Magic User, Leader, 86 pts)
  • 5(?) human skeletons; Q3+ C2, Undead, 26 pts each
  • Wraith; Q3+ C4, Undead, Free Disengage, Flying, 72 pts
  • Gorm Shieldbearer (P)Q2+ C4, Leader, Fearless, Short Move, Steadfast, 95pts
  • Ragnar "Knock-knock" Shieldbreaker, Q3+ C4; Fearless, Short Move, Steadfast, 46pts
  • Gimli (shield and axe); Q3+ C3, Short Move, Steadfast, 30pts 
  • Robur Scabby (shield and hammer); Q3+ C3, Short Move, Steadfast, 30pts 
  • Skadi the Sharpshooter; Q3+ C3, Good Shot, Shooter: Medium, Short Move, 44pts
  • Lorn the Leery, crossbowman; Q3+ C3, Good Shot, Shooter: Medium, Short Move, 44pts
The warbands were set in a corner each, with the longer distance separating the dwarves and the undead from men and beastmen. I expected two more or less separated battles, with the winners clashing over blood-soaked battlefield - however, I did not enforce it in any way. My fault. The Beastmen promptly turned on the Undead, while Lothar's Lot failed to move any significant distance.

Beastmen going for easy kills...
I could have written this post for another month or so, but instead of that I decided just to slap here some photos of the battle interspersed with comments. Lazy me.

End of many un-lives. Lothar's Lot struggles to advance.

Focal point: Undead leader turned dead again.
Dwarves' main contribution were crossbow bolts.
The Undead really suffered by two things this game. The first was their frailty (their average score of C2 was not exactly impressive), and the second was the decision of beastmen to heap upon them. They could have fended off the dwarves (no matter how unlikely would that be), but stuck between the hammer and the horn they were ground to dust.

Purging the undead. Amazingly, Lothar's Lot still not in the picture.

With skulls crushed to fine powder and lack of other targets,
the dwarves and beastmen turn on each other.
The Beastmen were terryfying this game. Charging easily through woods they were getting yet higher combat score, and their successful activation ratio was a thing of envy for my human warband.

Beastmen reduced, but still strong enough.

Finally arrived! Combined effort of John and Vladimir brought down
one crossbowman, while the rest of the band readies for advance.
All those failed activations eventually put me into very advantageous position in a compact, unscathed group against scattered remains of other warbands, but this was not what I wanted it to be. At least my bad luck had run out.

Lothar's Lot regrouping, everyone else taking cover.
Tell me something about weak ranged attacks...

The clash is imminent... 
The dwarves thought this was the right moment to attack their arch-enemy. However, human leader was well screened and they had only one crossbowman (crossbowdwarf?)

Those beastmen that failed to withdraw were taken down
The screen worked as it should, moreover, the dwarves failed to kill anyone. In retaliation (and with Lothar's personal assistance), Gorm himself was brought down. Ragnar shared his leader's fate and the pesky crossbowman was knocked down...

Dwarves decided to join the fray, but this time, Lothar's can't be denied victory!
...and then the time ran out. Too bad, my warband would own the battlefield and bask in the glory.

Summary: Poor scenario choice and general stubbornness (no one would quit) made this game longer than anticipated, with no time for post-battle resolution this one might even get declared an one-off game. 
I'm toying with the idea of making the campaign consist mostly of one on one games interspersed with four-players specials (with more elaborate scenario). Maybe I'll try and convince others to contribute with their  terrain and scenario ideas. It would be great if we met and created the scenario and storyline together, however, with all of us having too little time for gaming it seems a rather distant dream.