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.

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