Sunday, July 29, 2012


Lord Ventir having been found dead, the Captain was sent for with haste. He, apprised of the happening, returned with Lady Inai and I to the Great Cabin for a privy conference, and summoning Laithoren as well, the Captain warranted us to investigate. There is a Second binnacle in the Great Cabin, and concealed therein is a Device of rare design. Perceiving that one of the Latches of this devyce was Undone, I asked the Captain what was it? Whereupon the Phantasm appeared and rushed at the Captain. Laithoren cut at the Phantasm, but it took no harm thereby, nor did it work any ill upon Captain Garrity. The hunter saw some little sign of movement by the door, and slashed at it with the dagger, drawing blood from an Unseen foe but not enough to lead to capture.
Examined Lord Ventir's body, finding a bruise on the Head and a stab into the liver, which wound was, from the blood trail, inflicted as he lay in his cot. There was also a strand of caterpillar Silk. The Wound was covered by his shirt, which was not pierced through.
Upon questioning various officers and marines, I believe the story to be thus:
  • Shortly before noon, someone told Mr. Moffrey to pass the word that Lady Inai wanted to see Mr. Tolen in the herbarium. Mr. Moffrey does not remember who told him this, but he passed the word to Mr Raelan, who told Mr. Tolen, who went on a fool's errand.
  • The marine Sentry at the Wormerie door reports that Lord Ventir entered after Mr. Tolen left. Neither the Sentry nor his Relief saw Lord Ventir leave.
  • The noon sight, with the captain and Mr Hazlett in attendance, and myself and the midshipmen, the noon sight being one time when it is certain the Captain will be out of the Great Cabin.
  • The phantasm at the yardarm frightened the Men, and one fell into the sea, attracting the attention of all on deck.
  • The man being rescued, a second phantasm appeared at the rail, which I attacked.
  • The Captain, Lady Inai and I went to the Great Cabin, where Lady Inai sought whether any Magick was imbued in my blades. I expect if someone unseen was in the Cabin, Lady Inai would have become aware of the enchantment rendering the lurker invisible.
  • Blood spots were found by the Second binnacle, and a hair from Lord Ventir; a further blood spot was found by the Wormerie jamb, and the ladder to the wardroom, and a blood soaked bread crumb under the wardroom table.
I believe Lord Ventir entered the Great Cabin to look at the Marvellous Device, but was struck down by the unseen Assailant, who then used the Phantasm to distract the sentry and others on deck. The Assailant then carried Ventir down to his cabin and slew him, but covered the wound. The Assailant then returned to the Great Cabin as he had opportunity, until Laithoren heard him.
Questions which trouble me:
  • How did it happen that both Lord Ventir and the mysterious Unseen both picked the same time to enter the Great Cabin? Noon, yes, as the Captain would be at the noon sight, but still it is a Coincidence which troubles me.
  • Why would the Unseen attack Lord Ventir at all, instead of remaining hidden?
  • Why carry Lord Ventir back to his cabin, instead of opening the stern lights and dropping him out? Mere distraction would not be enough to remain unseen. But the blood trail leads that way. Why did the Unseen expect to remain hidden?
  • Why is there a crumb with blood under the wardrobe table?
  • Why try to conceal the wound?
Things to do:
  • Keep Lady Inai safe, as she is able to detect magic and lies.
  • Examine every man for the knife wound which the Unseen got by Laithoren's hand.
  • Hide in the Great Cabin by whatever strategem, and lay in wait for the Unseen to enter.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brits vs Americans

My Saturday afternoon game at Historicon was a fictional Close Action scenario, pitting Brits vs Americans in 1821. The Brits had 10 ships, ranging from 74s to a 110, while the Americans had super 74s and super 44 frigates. All ships had A or B crew quality, and were heavily armed. (One ship got a 45 gunnery result without either Initial Broadside or Rake modifier).
The scenario started with both squadrons in line ahead, close hauled, with the Americans a little closer to the point where the lines would meet. The Americans were in two lines, with their four frigates behind the line of battle ships.
The Brits wanted to keep the action at medium long range, where the American carronades and medium guns would be less effective; consequently we planned to turn in succession to a broad reach and then fade away from the USN line. The American plan, as it turned out, was to let us do what we planned while they sent their first few ships around to windward to come down and break our line. The American plan worked pretty well, trapping most of the second squadron (four of whom were inexperienced players) to windward, making it difficult for the other RN ships to come to their aid. The Americans did have a couple of ships fairly thoroughly beaten up, including Delaware which was sacrificed to break the line, but they definitely came out ahead. Both sides played well, including the four new guys on the British side, and it was a very intense battle. I'm still trying to figure out what the best British plan would be.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Buck Surdu and Chris Palmer put on "Mars by GASLIGHT" for Saturday morning at Historicon 2012. Twenty-one players, and generally each player got two infantry units plus a vehicle, gun or special unit. There were a variety of factions, each with different (and sometimes conflicting) objections; as best I could determine, the factions included:
  • Sand warriors with cannon (my faction)
  • Redcoats and Sikhs with steam-powered spider tanks
  • Prussian female hussars with helicopters and a machine gun
  • Russians with steam tank and cavalry
  • Nameless Ones with armored pennyfarthings
  • Red Martians with air skiffs and champion
  • Green Martians with thoat-riding champion
  • Navy landing parties with ironclad monitor in the canal and a steam tank
  • War of the Worlds cephalopod Martians with tripod
  • Rockmen with champion
  • Lizardmen with gun
  • And probably a couple others that I missed
The table was set up as a long battlefield with a canal running down one edge; halfway down the length there was a bridge which led through some buildings to a fort. The Sand Warriors started on the battlefield side of the canal; our objective was to rescue our captive chieftain from the fort, which was held by Red Martians.

The bridge was a bottleneck; we elected to move into position at the mouth of the bridge and then wait, letting the Russians cross the bridge and go past us, particularly since they led with their tank. As we waited, my partner spotted a pack of Green Martians coming along with Dejah Thoris as captive. We quickly negotiated a deal with the men of Helium: "we'll attack the Green Martians, capture the princess, and then trade her for our chieftain."
The Green Martians were already being attacked by rock men, so it was an opportune moment. One of my units destroyed the remnants of a Green unit, while my other unit took down the Jeddak in a glorious and honorable moment of "attacking someone from behind while he was fully engaged on the other side", and so we captured Dejah Thoris. Around about this point we realized the rock men also wanted D.T. We'd been planning to carry the princess up to the fort and trade her there for our chieftain, so as to leave the least opportunity for treachery; however, as the rock men advanced, that plan started to look a little risky. We hastily called a conference with the Red Martians and told him to send his air skiffs to pick up the princess, while my remaining units held off the rockmen; if he'd give us his word as a Prince of Helium, we'd trust him to deliver our chieftain. And so it was. One of my units was destroyed by the rockmen, but held on long enough for the Red Martians to deploy and avenge us; the other unit put Dejah Thoris safely aboard an air skiff and then turned and--with the help of our gun crews, who had finally figured out what this whole "aiming" thing was about--broke the pursuing rockmen.

GASLIGHT is a pretty simple game, not too worried about realism--when it's Martian tripods vs Sikh steam spiders vs 1880's Prussian helicopters, you can't be too worried about realism--and consequently the game moved pretty quickly even though there were 21 players and about 60 units on the board. Lots of color, lots of fun.


Best quote: (in reply to a question about converting rules from 10mm to 28mm)

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing in three scales"
--Buck Surdu

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I'm planning to play in a couple of GASLIGHT games at Historicon next weekend, so I tried out a small skirmish just to get some familiarity with it.

First I wrote up a Quick Reference Sheet, a good way to get familiar with the rules. This is not a complex game; everything I needed easily fit on one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet (although I left out vehicles and artillery).

I contemplated having an evenly balanced game--each side getting one Main Character, one Unit and one Vehicle--but where's the fun in that? Our heroes, Major Garnet Wooley (Hero, stats 14/14/14, only one card in the turn order because I forgot he should have two) of the Albionic Army and his reasonably faithful companions Beau Brummidge and Clytemnestra Crumpet (Adventurers, 12/12/12), are exploring a ruined city on the lost continent of Mu. They hear the tramping of goblin boots approaching, and hastily take cover behind a broken wall. The goblins, all greencoats of the Guz 16th ("Blood Moon") Regiment, are a sergeant and two squads. The sergeant (Leader, 10/10/10) has a brace of pistols and a cleaver; each squad has seven infantry (Extras, 8/6) armed with flintlocks. They are patrolling the road that runs past the wall where our heroes are hiding. The first squad marches on, unaware, but as Beau peeks out to keep an eye on them, a goblin spots him. Action!

Turn 1:
Goblin Squad 1 is abreast of the explorers, marching in column past them. Most of the squad turns to get ready to charge, but three have line of sight and fire. The hapless Brummidge is hit and falls.
Goblin Sergeant Thurk fires one barrel of his pistol; the ball whizzes over Wooley but misses.
Blood Moon Squad 2 charges through a gap in the wall; their charge is not very enthusiastic (d6 for extra charge distance = 1) and only two of them make it into contact with the adventurers. The Major draws his saber and meets them with a menacing "Baa!", the battle cry of the Wooley clan. He cuts one down, and fends off the other. He calls over his shoulder, "Doctor, may I suggest that you gather up Brummidge and make an expeditious withdrawal?"
Clytemnestra decides that this might be one of the rare occasions when she should pay attention to the Major's instrctions. She scoops up Brummidge, flings him over her shoulder and scrambles away over fallen stones to take cover behind a small structure; she tentatively identifies it as a wellhouse. The carvings are fascinating.
Wooley circles left a little, and beats down his opponent's guard; a moment later, he beats down his opponent as well.

Turn 2
The five remaining Guz soldiers of Squad 2 are undismayed by the fate of their two fallen fellows, and press in. Three of them surround Wooley, incidentally blocking the line of fire from Squad 1 (although goblins have been known to fire through their own units, to get at the enemy...). One of them even pinks Wooley with his bayonet, although the Major manages, barely, to twist away from the point without serious harm (made his Save by one). Wooley lays about with the saber and a third goblin falls.
Sergeant Thurk circles to his right, intending either to flank the explorers, or to keep Squad 2 between himself and the deadly Albionic steel.
Squad 1 fires at Clytemnestra, but she (and Brummidge, who is limp but jabbering in Old Haptic) are protected by the stone wellhouse. One round does come uncomfortably close, snipping off a plume from her hat. Dashed ungentlemanly of them, to fire at a woman!
Cly returns the favor with her Lady's Patent Galvanic Death Ray. She remembers to aim low. The goblins are on the other side of the broken wall that the adventurers had been hiding behind; the galvanic bolt scorches the stone. She makes a mental note to aim a little less low, next time.
Wooley withdraws a few steps, and then lunges to strike down an overeager pursuer. Four goblins now lie victim to his blade.

Turn 3
Wooley retreats to the wellhouse.
Squad 2 breaks and the three surviving goblins scamper away.
Sergeant Thurk had been intending to clamber over the wall and take Wooley in flank, but without Squad 2, this is no longer looking prudent. He fires the second barrel of his first pistol at Wooley, putting a hole through his coat but not injuring him. Wooley, thinking of the distance to the nearest acceptable tailor, expresses himself with a few soldierly words.
Clytemnestra had qualms about leaving Wooley to fend off the goblins on his own, but he seems to be doing quite well. She calls out "I'm away, heading South! John, do be careful!" Wooley spares enough attention from his swordwork to say "It's Garnet!" but by then Clytemnestra has sped away, with the babbling Brummidge still over her shoulder.
Greencoat Squad 1 has no target, so they advance in skirmish line over the broken wall.

Turn 4
Clytemnestra continues her retreat.
Sergeant Thurk draws his second pistol, fires at Wooley again, and misses.
Wooley yanks out his Nemesis Liberator Mk III Hand Cannon and returns fire lefthanded. It's a poor shot, but the round crashes into the wall and sprays stone chips into the Sergeant's torso. The goblin falls, feet drumming on the stones.
Squad 1 could charge Wooley, but they are aware that didn't work so well for Squad 2. They have no line of sight to either of the adventurers, and upon reflection, decide that they're quite content to leave it that way. They withdraw, "awaiting reinforcements".


Simple and straightforward. The goblins would have done better to stand and shoot; in melee, only the ones in contact (maximum of three) could attack, and Wooley got to counter attack. Their Shoot number was better than their Scuffle, so in theory that would be another reason to fire; however Wooley also didn't get the benefit of cover, so that was a wash.
One key point, mentioned by Dr Vesuvius of the Axis of Naughtiness, is that colour is all-important.
"Whatever the setting of your GASLIGHT game, whether it's lacepunk pyrates or Darkest Africa, try to give everything colourful names. If you start feeling obliged to put on a silly accent then you're probably doing it right."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Battle of Guadalcanal

One of our former Tidewater Area Naval Gamers was visiting from Okinawa, so Ryan hosted a multiplayer game of Ironbottom Sound. I was selected to be Japanese admiral, while Dan K was the American admiral. The briefing we received was that the scenario was happening at night, with limited visibility. Our Imperial Japanese ships, including two battle cruisers, a light cruiser, and eleven destroyers, were entering the map from the northwest, intending to pass south of an island and exit off the east edge of the map, 50 hexes away. One of our scout planes had reported an American force south of the island, which would put them 30-40 hexes away. Our ships move 5-6 hexes a turn, so we had plenty of time till contact; Ryan had us write in advance our movement orders for the first three turns.
And then he put all our ships on the map, and lo, there were the American ships, at a range of about 5 hexes instead of 40. Oops.
The scenario, it turned out, was the First Battle of Guadalcanal, Nov 13, 1942. The Americans were in a tightly spaced line heading north. Our leading ships saw them in time to respond and turned aside, but the ones behind didn't see the Americans in time and sped into close range. In the second turn, the Japanese forces broke into three loose groups--by happenstance rather than planning--with one going left, one right, and one plunging ahead. A couple of our center ships ran through the American line. Naguno rammed Atlanta, crippling her, and in two other places, American ships collided. One of the Japanese heavies, Kirishima, hammered Juneau but was set on fire; the Heie was behind Kirishima and didn't have a clear line of fire. Torpedoes ran in all directions, but the only victim was Naguno, sunk by a Japanese torpedo intended for Atlanta.
Third turn, the Americans continued circling around, which left half their forces too far away to fire. The Japanese right was also too far away from the end of the American line to shoot; the destroyers on the left were dancing around at extreme range from San Francisco. Our destroyers in the center were mostly crippled or sunk, but the two heavy cruisers continued dishing out damage, mostly shrugging off return fire. Another round of torpedoes had some nail biting near misses; San Francisco was hit, but to our great disappointment, the torp was a dud--must have been using an American detonator.
It was a Japanese tactical victory, due largely to two American mistakes: they stayed in a tight line, which lead to several collisions; and they wasted a lot of fire on the heavily armored battlecruisers. Overall, with the admirals unable to exercise much control and the individual captains doing the best they could, it was a crazy swirling knife fight of a battle, and a very intense game. Lots of fun.