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Monday, December 23, 2013

Ironclads

I got Josh a copy of Ironclads for his birthday, and we set up Scenario 2, in which CSS Atlanta comes down a river to a sound where two Union monitors wait. The Confederate objective is to damage at least one monitor and get out to sea; the Union ships need to capture or sink the Atlanta.
Atlanta made it to the sound and met Weehawken, which looped around. Atlanta charged past with spar torpedo lowered; the Union monitor, having narrowly escaped the ram, crossed Atlanta's stern at point blank range and hammered her with heavy guns. Atlanta took a waterline hit and flooding meant she rode lower in the water; but her return fire damaged Weehawken's rudder, forcing her to circle port. The Confederate left Weehawken behind and steamed on to meet the USS Nahant, but her damage slowed her just enough that the second monitor was able to avoid her ram. Once again, Atlanta took the brunt of Union heavy guns at point blank range; but once again, she gave better than she got. Nahant's turret jammed and she couldn't bring her guns to bear; and she was forced to maneuver out of Atlanta's way or risk being rammed with a spar torpedo. With the two Union monitors out of position to block her, the Confederate raider steamed out to sea.
From a tactical point of view, this was a tie. Atlanta had been seriously damaged but not disabled, and the two Union ships would have been in good shape once they repaired the effects of their critical hits. From a strategic point of view, though, Atlanta won...although the Union ships had a slight edge on speed by that point, and might have been able to pursue...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

DnD 4e Online game

I've joined a Play by Post game of D&D 4th Edition. The premise of the game is that we'll be a military unit, with action on land and sea and underwater. I decided to take a Warforged fighter.

Unit DEN-10, level 9
Warforged, Fighter (Weaponmaster)
Build: Great Weapon Fighter
Fighter Option: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents Option: Two-handed Weapon Talent
Theme: Watershaper
Background: Experimental Prototype (+2 Athletics)


FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 21, CON 17, DEX 10, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 10

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 17, CON 14, DEX 10, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 10

AC: 25 Fort: 24 Ref: 17 Will: 20
HP: 80 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 20

TRAINED SKILLS
Athletics +14, Endurance +12, Intimidate +11, Perception +11

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +2, Arcana +3, Bluff +4, Diplomacy +4, Dungeoneering +6, Heal +8, History +3, Insight +8, Nature +6, Religion +3, Stealth +2, Streetwise +4, Thievery +2

POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Watershaper Attack: Buffeting Wave
Warforged Racial Power: Warforged Resolve
Fighter Attack: Combat Challenge
Fighter Attack 1: Footwork Lure
Fighter Attack 1: Weapon Master's Strike
Fighter Attack 1: Steel Serpent Strike
Fighter Attack 1: Unstoppable Advance
Fighter Utility 2: Glowering Threat
Fighter Attack 3: Dance of Steel
Fighter Attack 5: Bedeviling Assault
Fighter Utility 6: Ignore Weakness
Fighter Attack 7: Come and Get It
Fighter Attack 9: Jackal Strike

FEATS
Level 1: Warforged Tactics
Level 2: Weapon Proficiency (Gouge)
Level 4: Armor Proficiency: Plate
Level 6: Warforged Superiority
Level 8: Battle Berserker
Level 9: Improved Defenses
Level 9: Two-Handed Weapon Expertise

ITEMS
Dread Gouge +2 x1
Magnetic Layered Plate Armor +2 x1
Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier) x1
Rushing Cleats x1
Amulet of Life +2 x1
Gauntlets of Blood (heroic tier) x1
Potion of Water Walking x5
Distance Javelin +1
Adventurer's Kit
Helm of Exemplary Defense x1

Friday, November 15, 2013

OGRE

The OGRE Designer's Edition game arrived today. This is the one from Steve Jackson's 2012 Kickstarter campaign, that started with a goal of $20,000 and ended up with over $923,000. And it grew, and grew, and grew...it's the only game I've seen to have a "Team Lift" warning label on the box. Just to give an idea of the scale, the box was 28lb and measured 25" x 21" x 7.5"--I'd been imagining that I could put it into the bookcase with the other games, but this is way too big, so it'll have to go under the coffee table. Over 1000 counters. At least 27 of the 3D OGRE counters; I may not have found them all because there are still thirty-one counter sheets I haven't punched yet.
So Josh and I set up the original Mark III scenario and had a game. My defenders managed to immobilize his OGRE before it got in range of the Command Post, although I had only one GEV and one Mobile Howitzer left, right down to the wire. Good times.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Eylau: The Morning, redux

Josh and I played this scenario a couple of months ago, and decided to revisit it; I took the French again, hoping to do better than last time.

Josh commented "Clearly the cards know what they want me to do, and they don't care in the slightest what I want to do." I was in the same boat, with plenty of "Attack Left" and "Attack Right", but nothing for the center. In fact, we played for two hours before I even got a "Scout Center" card. But once they started coming....[cue ominous, foreshadowing music].

In the beginning of the game, though, I was stuck with Left and Right. On the left, I moved the Lights into the windmill hex and discouraged anyone from getting too close. The Russian artillery eventually whittled the Lights down to half strength, whereupon it withdrew. I kept the pressure up (and burned some of my plethora of Attack Left cards) by pushing a Line regiment over the hill and into the woods, where it broke the Russian's right Cossacks and generally tried to look menacing. Meanwhile my artillery took long range shots when it could. All told, nothing much happened on the left.

I didn't really want to do much on the French right, but when you have three Attack Right and an Assault Right in your hand, well, there you are. I reluctantly advanced, and then decided that I might as well see if I could take that pesky artillery battery on the hill. Unfortunately, Josh had First Strike, and my assaulting battalion was decimated. He then threw his cavalry at me, and my Lights and mangled Line formed square. This wasn't as bad as it usually is because the cards he picked were Attack Left and Attack Right, and it's not like I didn't have plenty; however, it did lock those two units in place. Over a turn or two, the cuirassiers, guns and an infantry unit destroyed my Line regiment.

The situation at this point was the left was stalemated, the right was ineffective, and the center was immobile. I was down 4:1 in victory banners. And then the cards smiled....I drew Forced March, Bayonet Charge, and Assault Center.

Masses of French infantry surged forward with Forced March. With Bayonet Charge, the Old Guard charged up the slope, shattering a Russian regiment and taking the hill. On the center-right, a brigade pushed forward, less dramatic than the Guard but still effective; another Russian unit was destroyed. The Russians attempted to counterattack. The Guard took heavy casualties, and an ordinary regiment would have fled (from two Flag results)--but the Guard never retreats, and the battle-backs took a toll on the Russians! I played Assault Center and decided to polish off wounded Infantry units instead of destroying the Artillery, trusting to the French skill with the bayonet ("French OP", Josh muttered) and the gamble paid off. All three attacks destroyed their targets. And the Old Guard had started their turn on the Russian ridge, which brought me to seven Victory Banners.

My lesson is that I should stop trying to take a couple of regiments against artillery on a hilltop; Josh invariably has First Strike, and it never goes well.  I'd like to claim credit for the win, but I have to say that my main merit was persevering until I finally got the hand I needed. The rest of it was all the cards.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chamber of Eyes

This is the story of Kephalades muKhao, a warrior of the Runehorn kindred of the Bone Stele clan, and his passage through the Maze of Years.

In accordance with the word of the seer, I journeyed west, seeking the son of Bahamut whom the seer promised. At Thunderspire Mountain I came to the Halfmoon Inn, wherein I took council of those there, who bade me to the Seven Pillared Hall. And thus did I, and awaited to take whatever adventure Kord should send. Scarce had I entered when a half elf came crying for aid, saying that his friends were captured of slavers, they being a half orc, a human healer, and a dragonborn, and him being verily a champion of the Golden Dragon. So I offered my blade in service, as did two of the lesser folk there.

The four of us went into the Chamber of Eyes, which seemed an evil temple with heavy chains set across the floor, and some great carven Frog god at the altar. We fought there two hobgoblins, one an archer, the other a warcaster. Once the blood cooled, we heard sounds of struggle, and followed a hall to to cells, wherein the dragonborn and the others, though naked and unarmed, fought their jailers, who were dwarves of a type I had not seen before. They had power over fire. We slew them, in a fight that was harder than it should have been, for the narrow hall did not give room to maneuver, and, more importantly, the rescuers and rescuees had no experience in how to fight together. I will need to teach them.

I found two doors, which a hobgoblin would have thought hidden. One lead from a priest's chamber to the altar; the other was a trap door, on the other side of the altar. From the sound, its ladder led to a barracks kitchen, with hoblins below.






Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kephalades muKhao

Once Josh and Gwen moved away and things settled down a bit, I started looking for another RPG campaign. That mostly meant a choice of DnD, or DnD, or DnD. But at least some of them were 4th Edition instead of 3.5, so I contacted a DM and set up a character. My very first roll of the campaign was a Natural 20, which I thought boded well.

And so we have Kephalades muKhao:

Minotaur Warlord
Warlord Option: Combat Leader
Commanding Presence Option: Tactical Presence
Geography (Mountain) background, Dungeoneering skill
Theme: Guardian

 STR 21, CON 18, DEX 14, INT 19, WIS 13, CHA 16

AC: 19 Fort: 17 Ref: 15 Will: 15  HP: 40 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 10

TRAINED SKILLS
Athletics +10, Dungeoneering +7, Endurance +8, History +10

 UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +2, Arcana +5, Bluff +4, Diplomacy +4, Heal +3, Insight +3, Intimidate +4, Nature +5, Perception +5, Religion +5, Stealth +2, Streetwise +4, Thievery +2

POWERS
Guardian Attack: Guardian's Counter
Minotaur Racial Power: Goring Charge
Warlord Feature: Inspiring Word
Warlord Attack 1: Commander's Strike
Warlord Attack 1: Intuitive Strike
Warlord Attack 1: Warlord's Favor
Warlord Attack 1: Lead the Attack
Warlord Utility 2: Adaptive Stratagem
Warlord Attack 3: Devastating Offensive

FEATS
Tactical Assault
Level 2: Heavy Blade Expertise

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eylau: Murat's Charge

Having played the first scenario of the Battle of Eylau  a couple of times, we were ready to move on to the second part, Murat's Cavalry Charge. Historically, the Russians under Bennigsen were pushing back the French under Napoleon, when Joachim Murat, "First Horseman of Europe", led 13,000 cavalry in a charge which broke through the Russian lines and disrupted their advance. Napoleon was able to hold a draw until nightfall, when the Russians withdrew, leaving the French holding the field.

In this battle, the French have seven infantry (including a unit of Old Guard), three artillery, and seven cavalry (including a Guards Heavy Cavalry); almost all the infantry is on the flanks, with the cavalry in the center. Opposing them, the Russians have eleven infantry, three artillery and five cavalry, although two of those cavalry are Lights and two more are Cossack.  Josh took the French.

The Russians got first move and immediately sent two battalions to attack the one Ligne infantry in the center; the Russian grenadiers broke them with the bayonet on the first charge. After that I concentrated on wiping out the two forward artillery batteries, which the grenadiers accomplished with heavy casualties. I sent my one unit of cuirassiers to tie down the French infantry on my left, but their concentrated musketry quickly destroyed the squadron. My Cossacks spotted a gap and drove through. "Grigory, those other fools are riding around the French to loot their camp. We shall ride straight through them, and get there first!" Slashing left and right, laughing and chugging vodka, they rode across the front of the French heavy cavalry (who stood amazed) to charge into the mouths of the French Horse Artillery battery in the rear.   Yes, a single, unsupported Cossack squadron broke through the center of 13,000 cavalry...almost. Except for the actual "breaking through" part. A little matter of the French artillery getting to fire back. Ah, well.

The French horse continued to stand still, then stand still a little more, followed by doing nothing much. Meanwhile, on my left, their infantry pushed back my two remaining units (one light cavalry, one light infantry); and on the right, Napoleon himself sent the Old Guard ahead, and followed them with a line battalion. They captured the windmill on my far right and advanced against the ridge line I was holding, trying to turn my right flank. They assaulted, but my grenadiers and guns struck first, and drove back the Old Guard unit. "La Garde recule!" Okay, technically they took one flag hit and elected to use it instead of ignoring it, but they still retreated.

By the end of the game, I had no units on my flanks; everything was pulled in to defend my three gun batteries and the ridge line they held. And finally the French cavalry stirred itself and charged. The Guards Heavies and Cuirassiers swept past Eylau and threw themselves at the right flank of the ridge, wiping out the artillery battery I had anchoring that end and one poor depleted infantry battalion. That was enough to gather the final two victory banners the French needed. Final score, French 9, Russians 5...although the Russians claimed "Most Glorious Charge" for their insouciant Cossacks, and also counted "driving back the Old Guard" as a moral victory.

Josh revealed that he'd had two Cavalry Charge cards in his hand the whole game, but only at the end did he get cards for the center section that would allow him to marshal his squadrons before the charge. He also pointed out that "you played the Russians in French style"--daring attacks, bayonet charges and so forth--while he'd played the French in a stolid, plodding, inexorable Russian style. A fun game.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Battle of Sybota

Ryan hosted a Trireme game for us, with Kevin, Dan, Brian, John, Bob, Joe and I attending (Josh had to work, but cheered by phone).
Starting positions

The scenario was the Battle of Sybota, which in this scenario pits fifteen Corinthian triremes against an allied force of eight vessels from Corcyra (Corfu) and ten Athenian biremes. The average quality Corinthians and green quality Corcyraeans have the same type of ships, with a cruising speed 3, maximum speed 5, and two armored marine squads per ship; the Athenians are expert quality but their biremes are smaller and overloaded with two light marine squads, so they only move at speed 2.  Corcyraeans start in line abreast with their left flank at the middle of the south edge; the Athenians are behind their right flank, in three columns at the eastern edge; the Corinthians start in two ragged lines form the northwest. The Athenians are just arriving and cannot have a command conference with their allies, and there are no fleet signals. The scenario as written also has a rule that the Athenians can't attack until either they are attacked or two of their allies' ships are destroyed; we didn't use that rule, although things worked out as if we had.

Athenians try to flank
We the Corinthians divided our fleet into left, center and right squadrons, each squadron having three ships in the first line and two following. Our theory was that the front line ships could ram (or be rammed by) and immobilize an enemy, and the second line could then follow up with another ram. Kevin and John took the center and right, with their 10 ships tasked to engage the 8 lower-quality Corcyraeans; my five ships of the left wing were to hold off the ten Athenians. The Athenians, in turn, counted on their allies to hold firm while they got around my flank.

They just didn't get around my flank far enough away from me. I brought my wing into an echelon line, then wheeled left, driving home rams with four triremes against two biremes and causing others to collide with their suddenly-stopped friends. Meanwhile, Kevin and John were methodically ramming and boarding the Corcyraeans, and generally winning, although there were several tense moments pulled out by Kevin's luck with the dice. The resemblance of the Corinthian ships to bacon was noted.
The Corinthian left wing rams

The Athenians swarmed one of Kevin's ships which drove into the fray, and destroyed one of mine as well, but at a cost; they lost a couple, several more were dead in the water (which is one good ram from being "dead, period") and the rest of the Corinthian fleet was heading their way. We called it at Turn 10.

Just before the end
At the end of the battle. 3 of 15 Corinthians had been destroyed, versus 7 of 8 Corcyraeans and 2 of 10 Athenians. Post-game discussion focused on the Athenians' being heavily laden with consequent slow speed; perhaps the Athenians should be allowed to bring fewer marines and thereby gain some speed? They'd be toast in a boarding battle but the extra maneuverability, and ramming ability, might make it worth it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Battle of Eylau, Take 2

We traded sides and played again. This was the Mirror Game, as the Russians generally played about the same card, in the same sector, as the French had just played.

Josh, as the French, opened the game by playing Bayonet Charge, which took two blocks off each of two Artillery, and killed a Russian regiment in the center; the Russian Bayonet Charge in reply destroyed a French regiment. We spent three more turns pushing back and forth in the center, rendering most of the infantry on the front line. Score is now 2:2.

On turn 5, the focus shifted to the flanks. The French took the windmill on their left; Russian cuirassiers charged past them and up the hill to saber the gunners. Score was 3:3. At this point, things started coming unstuck for the Russians; there wasn't enough infantry on the flanks to hold back the French, and there weren't any cards for the center section to let the regiments there transfer to the flanks. My gunners managed to bombard the windmill and destroy the regiment there, but the French finished off damaged regiments and won with a 7:5 victory. A much harder-fought game than our previous play of this scenario.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eylau: the Morning

Josh and I played a Command and Colours game from the Russian expansion, the Eylau scenario for the morning of 8 February 1807.

Historically, the forces were facing each other on two parallel ridges, with the French holding the town of Eylau, which they had taken the preceding night. The day started with an artillery duel, which the French were considered to have won; then the French attacked the Russian center and left, but the Russian grand battery decimated Augereau's corps in the center and Soult was unable to make headway on the right.

In this scenario the French have two each of Light Cavalry, Artillery, and Light Infantry, plus nine Line Infantry, one unit of Old Guard, and four generals. The Russians bring two each Light Cavalry, Cossacks, and Light Infantry, one each Heavy Cavalry and Cuirassiers, four Artillery, three Grenadiers, six Line Infantry and three generals. The French under Napoleon get six cards, the Russians under Bennigsen get five, and the victory requirement is seven banners.

Turn 1: an artillery duel, with the French killing one gun, the Russians killing two.
Turn 2: the French pull back the damaged battery and bring infantry forward; the Russian guns keep up their fire.
Turn 3: both sides advance their flanks.
Turn 4: the Old Guard advances into Eylau; the Russian guns continue to bombard.
Turn 5: the French assault on the right with three regiments, but only kill two blocks of a Russian line infantry. The Russians launch a cavalry charge, forcing back Davout and his light infantry at the cost of a Cossack unit; a French line unit in square repulses the Russian cuirassiers.
Turn 6: Pressing the attack on the right, the French regiment with St Hilaire charges the left-most Russian battery, but a Russian First Strike forces them to retreat. The enemy Light Cavalry units engage each other on the far right. The Russians reply with Short Supplies, forcing St Hillaire and his regiment back the the baseline.
Turn 7: The French continue to try on the right; the combined Light Infantry and Light Cavalry are unable to finish off the Russian light cavalry, but bayonets destroy the last block of the Russian regiment they'd attacked in Turn 5. The Russians reply by wiping out a Line regiment and the Light Cavalry with their guns and heavy cavalry.
Turn 8: The two surviving units on the French right pull back to cover and attempt to look inconspicuous. The Russian batteries fire on the French infantry in the center, reducing them by 50%.
Turn 9: Having just lost half their strength, the French get the Bayonet Charge card, and mutter darkly about the rotten timing. Three units in the center and one on the left charge, but the dice are unkind and they do essentially no damage. The Russians reply with Cold Steel, destroying two regiments.

At this point the score is Russians 5, French 2, and the French right and center are broken; the French concede. This is pretty much the same as the historical outcome; Murat's charge and Ney's appearance late in the day allowed Napoleon to achieve a draw, and hold the field when Bennigsen decided to withdraw. That'll be the next scenario.

Josh said we can attribute this one to Russian luck, or more accurately, to karma catching up to me for all those lucky shots I got in the last MegaMek game. If I'd gotten the Bayonet Charge even one turn earlier, things would have been very different.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

MegaMek

Josh  and I had a 19 turn game of BattleTech, using MegaMek.  The terrain was fairly open, although there were some patches of woods and hills in the middle; no unusual terrain or weather. 16,000BV battle. My forces came in from the north.

I had three Perseus LRM mechs, two Warhammers for general use, two Black Hawks for combat, one Marauder II and Striker for assault, plus two scout helicopters and a machine-gun armed gunship. Josh brought one each Bandersnatch, Awesome, Marauder, Patriot, Stalker, Perseus, Albatross, Yao Lien, Men Shen, and several squads of infantry.

My scout choppers quickly located the enemy and just as quickly got shot down. I advanced, sending my Black Hawks to my right flank and my Marauder and a Perseus to the left; then I pulled both wings in and struck at his center, with the Marauder getting there first and dying in a couple of turns against four mechs, but killing several of his and giving time for the Black Hawks to get over and melee. Things were going well and I'd pretty much wiped out his center, when his second line started firing and a Perseus suffered an ammo explosion which triggered an engine explosion. Fusion engine, that is. The explosion destroyed that mech and severely damaged four others nearby. Things went downhill from there; I was still able to take down another one or two of Josh's mechs, but he knocked mine out faster. At game end, I had one Perseus left; he had the Men Shen, Yao Lien, and an immobile Albatross.

14 Mechs dead. 2 unrecoverable, 2 salvageable, 10 Inoperable.

My mechs went down due to:
Warhammer - engine hits
Black Hawk - engine hits
Black Hawk - engine hits
Marauder II - engine hits
Perseus - engine hits
Stalker - head hit
Perseus - ammo explosion
Warhammer - ammo explosion

Josh's fell due to:
Bandersnatch - head hit
Awesome 10KM - head hit
Marauder - engine hits
Patriot - engine hits
Stalker - head hit
Perseus - ammo explosion
Albatross - gyro hits

Josh said "In general, your stuff was more heavily battered than mine, taking more armor damage and crits to kill, and often losing multiple limbs before dying."

Lessons:

  • That gunship was worthless--too easily shot down. I do need some anti-personnel capability but that isn't the way to get it.
  • Similarly, I need to keep my scouts back until they can TAG things, rather than risking them while my LRM platforms are still out of range.
  • The Stalker, with movement 3/5/0, was way too slow. If I'd been able to send it in alongside my Marauder, I think that would have made a significant difference. 
  • Don't stackpole.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Storms of Steel: Wounded Tiger

Josh and I had a Conflict of Heroes game today, using the "Wounded Tiger" scenario. The Germans, with two Panzer III L's,  a Panzer IVh and a tank recovery vehicle, are trying to retrieve an immobilized Tiger; the Red Army has sent four T34c and four T70 tanks to stop them.  The Germans enter the board in the southwest, coming through a village which gives them cover; the Tiger is parked north of the village, outside a small wood; the Soviets enter from the east, between two gullies which hamper their maneuverability.

As the Soviets, I sent four tanks left to deal with the German reinforcements, and four right to tackle the Tiger; Josh sent one of his Pzkw IIIs to guard the Tiger while the other two tanks dealt with my left and the recovery vehicle hid in the village.
I discovered that while the Tiger's 88mm gun has an 18 hex range, the T34s only have a 10 hex range, and the T70s have 6 hexes. Further, the T70's little 45mm gun has almost no chance to damage the Tiger, and the T34's gun isn't much better unless it can get a flank shot. I tried charging in to point blank range, losing both T34s before they could get a shot off; the two T70s got in close behind the Tiger, but their shots resulted in "Light damage / no effect" and a "Panic" chit which had no effect on veteran crew. If only I'd had better luck on the damage draw....The Tiger and its attending Pzkw III finished the T70s. On my left, I did manage to knock out one German but the other one took a position with its flanks protected by buildings, and I couldn't get through its frontal armor. I sent a T70 behind it, crashing through a stone building to take pot shots at the Panzer's rear from point blank range; unfortunately that "point blank" thing works both ways, and the Germans knocked out that T70 and one of the T34s.

Final score, the Germans lost one tank of four, giving 2VP to the Russians; the Russians lost six of eight, for 1VP each, for a German 6:2 win.

Next go round I'll take the whole swarm of Russians against the Tiger and see if I can roll enough dice to get some good hits.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Under the Lily Banners

I tried out the cavalry skirmish scenario, just to get a feel for the combat system. Two Croatian arquebusiers, which I suppose I'd call medium cavalry, attacked a French cuirassier. The French unit attempts to countercharge but fails his intercept roll; he reaction-fires one pistol but misses. Going into close combat, the Croats have momentum for +2 and outnumber the French 2:1 for another +1; the French unit has a morale advantage -1, expends his second pistol for another -1, and gets another -1 from the unit type matrix for being a cuirassier defending against arquebusiers, for a net modifier of 0. The roll is a 1, and both attacking units are defeated.

Not sure that makes a great deal of sense.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Concept: Activation Order

Each side draws one card per command, plus one card for quality level of the general (which could be negative...). Assign cards to your commands as desired. Count down in order from Ace, King, Queen, etc. A reserve would be valuable for soaking low cards.

Option: Aces can count as high or low, so even if you have a deuce, you're not sure you're moving last in the turn.

Option: draw cards based purely on the quality of the general, not "one per command", to represent command span. Average generals get three or four cards.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Impetus

Josh and I are mostly playing MegaMek, but that's not entirely satisfying--he's on his computer, I'm on my computer, there's no personal interaction. And I've been looking for a game where I can put, say, Thirty Years War armies against each other, or against Aztecs, or against Byzantines...
I could do that with Field of Glory, but that's a wall of text written for tournament gamers. I was looking for something like DBA, but with some of the more glaring problems fixed. I thought about writing my own...but then I heard about Impetus, and got a copy of that plus Basic Impetus.

At first glance, Basic seems to be the equivalent of DBA, while the full thing has a little more chrome--multiple commanders, activation order, troop quality and such. Instead of being either pushed back or destroyed, units can take cohesion hits. Large units, such as pike blocks and deep formations of impetuous infantry, can be formed from multiple bases, and absorb damage with the rear bases--feeding men into the line. Units which pass a discipline test can respond during the enemy's activation, for instance by counter charging or firing.

There are some publishing problems, such as hyphenation in odd places, lack of paragraph indentation, and some typos; however, it's more readable than DBA (which I realize is damning with faint praise). It calls for units which are (when using 15mm figures) 80mm wide instead of the de facto standard 40mm. But it looks good and I'm looking forward to trying it soon.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Montgisard

A solo play of the Montgisard scenario in Infidel, the second of the GMT Games "Men of Iron" series.

In this battle, the terrain is flat and clear. Ten Crusader units--five knights, five infantry, under Baldwin the Leper--face eighty Saracen units, mostly light and medium cavalry, under Saladin. The Saracens have to gather 15VP to win, with Baldwin counting for 5, Reynald 2, knights 3 and foot 1. The Crusaders have to get 60vp, including the result of a d10; Saladin himself is 5, the Mamluk heavy cavalry are 3, other horse and generals 2 each.

The Saracen forces all start Disordered. Their left is a single formation of thirty Seljuq light cavalry; the right is a formation of ten medium cavalry and a formation of ten light cavalry farther right. Saladin, with ten Mamluk heavy cavalry, is in the rear. A force of fifteen infantry units will arrive as reinforcements. The Saracen leaders are all in the second or third lines of their formations, rather than the first, on the theory that safety is better than glory.

The Crusaders start with a line of knights facing the enemy, with a line of infantry behind. Baldwin is in the center, with the Templars. The infantry line has a unit of crossbowmen on the right, with the rest of the line being men at arms, commanded by Raynald de Chatillion.

By scenario rule, the first activation goes to the Crusaders. They advance to the seam between the enemy wings, and charge. The knights on the Crusader right are disordered by Seljuq archery, but shatter all before them and pass through all four lines of the Seljuq formation. The band on the near left does the same to the Syrian medium cavalry. The other three knights each defeat two units, including, on the far left, al-Adil's unit, but the general slips away as his troops rout around him. At the end of the activation, four of the five knights are disordered, but they have destroyed seven units and forced six more to retire. 20vp for the Crusaders.

Second activation: The Saracens decide not to contest it, and Raynald de Chatillion makes his roll to activate the Crusader infantry. They advance, and the crossbowmen on the right fire at an opposing Seljuq unit; the range is long, but the Frankish crossbows are steady, and the Seljuq archers retire. 21vp for the Crusaders.

Third activation: Baldwin announces his intent to activate again; Saladin tries to seize initiative, but fails the roll. With his free activation, Baldwin urges his knights to attack. The company on the left pivots to attack al-Adil; attacking from the flank, this time they succeed in cutting him down, and pass through the Syrian cavalry to end up facing the Kurdish light cavalry of the Saracen right. The other four knights ride to attack the Mamluks--one on each flank of the formation, and Baldwin with the Templars and another company charging straight in. The two flanking units, being disordered, make no progress, but the frontal attack succeeds; the Templars crash through the lines, destroying two Mamluk companies and forcing a third to flee. Saladin narrowly escapes, taking refuge with his last company of guard cavalry. Atthe end of this activation, eight of the ten Syrian medium cavalry have retired or been eliminated, as have four of the Mamluks and seven Seljuqs. The Crusaders are at 35vp, over halfway to victory.

Fourth activation: Reynald rolls a 0 and activates. Good thing this is solo or the Saracen would be muttering darkly about the dice. The Crusader infantry advances to engage the front and right flank of the Seljuqs. As they close, Saracen archery disorders the crossbows and one of the men at arms companies; the crossbows' reply forces the Seljuq unit to retire. Reynald's frontal attack bogs down, but the two companies on the left force yet another horse archer to retire. Crusaders are at 37vp.

Baldwin fails his next activation attempt, so the Saracens finally get to do something. The Saracens would prefer to get the Mamluk heavy cavalry in the game but almost all of them have a Crusader adjacent, so they can't be rallied from disorder. Only one of the Seljuq light cavalry has an enemy adjecent, so the Saracens activate that command and rally it.

And then Baldwin seizes initiative again. Most of the knights are disordered and all of them are adjacent to enemy units, so they can't charge, but they can melee. The company off tangling with the Kurdish horse forces one to retire, and advances, working its way closer to the general. The other four knights attack the Mamluks, killing two and forcing Saladin to scramble to escape yet again. The Crusader score is 44 now, and only three Mamluk bands are still functional.

Saladin tries to regain initiative, choosing his Seljuqs with some misgivings; he rolls badly enough that none of his commands would have made it. The Crusaders had been planning to activate Reynald, and do so, although since it was a Free Activation, the knights could (and probably should) have activated instead. The crossbowmen exchange ineffectual long range fire with a Selujuq band; the men at arms on the left swing around the flank but are unable to make much of their attack; Reynald's men force a horse archer to retreat,  but it has no avenue for escape and is destroyed. Reynald advances. The Crusaders are at 46.

Saladin again rolls a 9 and fails to seize initiative. Baldwin and the Templars charge, destroying two bands of Mamluks; Saladin is mounted on his racing camel and easily escapes to the last remaining Mamluk band. The lone company of knights engaging the Syrian cavalry attacks successfully, destroying a band. The Crusaders now stand at 54 points. They don't quite make their roll for victory but Saladin can't get away and the next Crusader activation will finish him. The Saracens surrender.

Final tally:
Crusaders: no losses. Four knights and two infantry are disordered, which doesn't count for victory points but would help the Saracens if they ever got a chance to attack.

Saracens: Mamluks, 5 eliminated, 4 retired; Syrian medium cavalry, the general and 4 units eliminated, 4 retired; Seljuq light horse, 6 units eliminated, 6 retired; Kurdish light horse, 1 unit eliminated and 1 retired.

The results are unbalanced but something like this is what actually happened; the Crusaders destroyed 90% of the Saracen force, including Saladin's bodyguard and almost including Saladin himself. So in that sense it's fairly faithful historically. The results would have been less lopsided if Saladin had been able to succeed with an activation roll, but c'est la guerre.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Storms of Steel: Firefight 3 "Wind or Sniper?"

In this Conflict of Heroes scenario, a Russian force must assault a German-occupied village. The Russians have two hidden sniper teams and eight infantry squads; the Germans have two hidden rifle squads, plus a squad and two heavy machineguns in the village. In this one, the Soviets start off with an advantage in command points, but they need them.

Josh started by taking sniper shots at one of the HMGs, doing one hit and forcing me to spend most of its action points rallying. A few Red units came in from the northwest corner, losing one to machine gun fire; most of the rest came from the southwest, with one running into a hidden German unit in the field. I'd been trying to get that squad into the building on the west side of the map but had unwisely activated it too soon in the turn, so when the Russians ran into it, it couldn't do anything. On turn two, that unit was quickly killed by close range fire, although the HMGs quickly polished off a couple of Russian squads in return. The ability of the HMGs to fire three (or four, with a CAP) times per turn made them deadly. The Russian northern prong got down to point blank range before succumbing to the HMGs; the southern prong made it to close range on the next turn, but was whittled down to two squads. At that point, the Russians had one detected sniper, one hidden sniper, and two squads; the Germans still had both HMGs and two squads functional, so the Russians resigned.

It's not immediately clear how to win this as the Russians. They have to cross at least seven hexes of open terrain to get from the cover of the building at the west edge, to the woods at the south of the village. They aren't hidden when they enter, and with only five turns to clear the village, they don't have time for hidden movement. It seems a human wave is the only option, but the German machineguns make that expensive.

We'll trade sides and see if I do any better.

Edit:

Hoo, boy, did I do better.

As the Russian player. I put one sniper in the building on the west edge of the board, and the other off the north edge of the village, with a LOS to both machineguns. I brought in two squads as bait, to draw fire from the HMGs and get them to use up their actions; this cost me a squad, but meh, Russians. And it meant the HMGs couldn't respond if they discovered my snipers. When the HMGs were spent, I activated my snipers. Using Command APs prolifically, two shots at +2 killed the first HMG, and a single shot at +2 managed an instant kill on the second one, and Josh resigned. I still had six squads I hadn't even gotten onto the map.

So it seems that this scenario is sensitive to how well the snipers do. Partly that rests on careful use of CAPs, and partly it's just rolling well when you need to.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel

Josh and I have gotten out Conflict of Heroes, dusted it off and started playing it. One of the nice things about it is that it's rules-light -- nineteen pages covers fire, movement, line of sight, tanks, aircraft, mines, snipers, everything. And it's quick. Each of the first two scenarios has taken maybe five minutes to set up, and about 90 minutes to play to completion. I expect the play time to go up as we get into more complex scenarios, but not much.

Scenario 1 has three German squads moving into a village held by a Russian platoon consisting of three rifle squads, an SMG squad and a machine gun crew. The Russians have poor fields of fire, and the Germans can  defeat them in detail and capture the terrain object pretty easily, if they are fast and careful. This was a learning scenario.

Scenario 2 posits that the Russians have captured German documents; they're trying to get a courier to a local HQ while the Germans try to retrieve them. Four German squads enter at the board edge to tackle a  Russian force consisting of two Maxim crews and three rifle squads, plus the SMG squad acting as courier. Josh brought all his forces in at one end of the map, which I thought was a bit risky; he didn't even try to stop the courier getting to the HQ, he just bet on being able to clear the entire village. Which he proceeded to do. He came in through the woods and focused fire on the Russians there until they broke; the superior German firepower was a help, as was my inability to roll a 5 or better to rally my squads. Then he moved in on the center of the village. One squad was too eager, and came to close range with active machine gun and paid the price; however, that was his only casualty. He retrieved the captured documents and wiped out every single Russian unit within five turns.

Good infantry tactics are rewarded. Stay in cover. Don't bunch up. Suppress the enemy then assault to finish him off.

Looking forward to the next scenario.

Kestrel: The End

After discussion with our gamemaster, in which I expressed considerable frustration with some aspects of the character build system and he expressed a complete lack of interest in resolving the problem--which has been an ongoing pattern--we concluded that it's best to call this campaign dead. Therefore....

The Impetus sailing in company with us, and the service of the Company being wearisome, and uncommon dangerous, and ill Rewarded, the latter being the most salient point, I took leave of Prosperity, as being a ship woefully misnamed, and Kanak and I took my boat, that which I had paid for of my own purse, and joined the service of Caleb Grey. In keeping with this fresh start, I close my current Journal, and may in time begin a New one. Onward we sail, to Fortune and Glory!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Champions: Roundshot

I've had this concept floating around a long time, and finally created him, using the Hero System 5E rules. He's a simple brick. A short, chubby guy who wears a tuxedo and a domino mask, he is cheerful outgoing, possibly even manic; he's also naive, overconfident, and likely to go enraged when he sees innocents hurt.

Where did his powers come from? He doesn't know. It probably happened when he took that look tour around the Caribbean after his parents were killed. Was it that "special drink for the special seƱor" instead of the mojito(s) he'd ordered ? Or the voodoo ceremony, which he'd thought was kinda hokey but the locals seemed really scared? Or was it the visit to that Yucatan cenote--and why would they have carvings of elephants in Central America, anyway? Well, whatever their source, now he can bounce bullets off his chest and lift trucks, and he's going to Make the World a Better Place, somehow.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Battle of the Atlantic, Take 2

Mark Campbell put on a Close Action game in DC as a playtest of a hypothetical scenario which pits an elite British force against a line of American super-74s and super-44s. I participated in a previous game at Historicon 2012, reported here. This time, I was the British admiral, I had several advantages--I had time to study the scenario, I had motivation to study--the enemy admiral being Lee Tankersley, I knew I couldn't just wing it--and almost all my players were experienced.

The scenario opens with both fleets in line ahead, close hauled, on a collision course with the Americans a couple of hexes closer to the intersection. The Americans have heavy frigates, effectively about the same as a normal 74, in parallel line a few hexes to windward. The British second squadron is also a few hexes to windward, but behind the first squadron.

I don't always stress staying in line, but in this case I did; and I stressed that we should stay at least 7 hexes away from the enemy, given their abundance of short range carronades.

We started with first squadron turning starboard in succession, coming into broad reaching with the wind (and Americans) off our port side. The Americans maneuvered to close the range by a couple of hexes; I ordered  first squadron to wear and open the range, an order which Mark described as "perfect--exactly the right thing to do, at exactly the right time". I admit to some qualms as the line turned, moved, and turned, but when it was done we accomplished the maneuver with no collisions, everyone in line and no one blocking fire of anyone else. I was quite pleased.

Quite pleased with first squadron, that is. While we were doing aquatic ballet and leaving half the Americans leeward and without targets, a couple of my second squadron ships decided it was time to play chicken with the American battle line--apparently forgetting completely about the whole "stay seven hexes away" part. These two ships got hammered but they also dished out a lot of damage and disrupted the American line; and even when they struck, they had the American admiral's ship Ohio trapped between them.

Meanwhile, the enemy frigates had swept around the furball and come down to attack the head of our line. I ordered my lead ship to tack--pausing first to be sure it was Joshua commanding that ship, so I could trust that it would be handled properly--and then ordered other ships to follow. They worked their way to windward, came down on the Americans, who were still disordered, and handed out stern rakes as they passed by, dismasting Franklin and forcing her to strike, and lining up to rake the hapless Ohio as well.

Meanwhile, the rest of our line moved to windward to engage the frigates. Ocean guessed badly on a maneuver and discovered that getting shot at by three American heavy frigates is just as bad as getting shot by three normal 74s, but she helped block the enemy line of movement. My own ship, the 100 gun San Josef, got pretty badly battered as well (and failed 3 of 3 moral checks, sigh). However, we forced two of the frigates to strike, and the third one was stuck and obviously doomed. The fourth and smallest--captained by a nine year old girl--slipped out of the net and escaped, battering Ocean as she passed.

With eighteen turns complete and a snowstorm bearing down on DC, we called it. The Brits had six ships effective, San Josef and Ocean seriously damaged, and Benbow and Black Prince struck. The Americans had Franklin, Independence and Guerriere struck, Ohio and Constitution immobilized and doomed, Delaware severely damaged, and three super-74s and the little 38 gun frigate still effective. A convincing British victory, and a good game.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sailing in Company

Having boarded Prosperity, and made my Report, I went to my Cabin, and admired the Spyglass which Caleb Grey had given me. Had I been Asked to name a boon, I had chosen that Fra Veritan be invited to the court of Alzakarra, that he might study the great Book, for that would, I think, delight him greatly, and had I something of my own chusing, it had been of the art Martial, or else Musickal. Yet the Spyglass is of great use to a ship's Officer, and further a Handsome gift, both in its own right, for it is finely worked with Filigree, and for its Value, that being, I reckon, four hundred gold or more. And it fits nicely into my Belt.
And I called Fra Veritan to examine the Books, who said that the Musical book is written in the Kannae, a script for holy works, and the other book is a meditation in, he said, the Mazite tradition, and that one I gave to him. The herbal and bestiary, and the third, are in the writing of Druids, and the last book, whose illuminations be spirals and swirls, is, he says, in the Draconic tongue, much used in dweomercraft. 'Pon the latter I essayed a little Charm, for the reading of Incantations, but the pages are still a Mystery.
The Captain charged me to stay abed and rest, which is a Novelty, for such orders be seldom given to a Midshipman! But when I have prepared my Blades, the edge and the point, and anointed them, then I will rest.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Departing Innis Byr

I went again into the Fane, for upon the pillars were Flowers like unto orchids, which, when the Guardian loomed above us, were pale, but when that lay at our feet Hewn by Kanak's stroke of legend, were suntouch'd, and thereby Golden. And we recalled the words of the Prophecy, viz, that we must walk the Path of golden Petals. And so Inae gathered them, and with mortar and pestle and a Fire kindled on the stones, made an decoction, and while she was busied with these matters, Kanak and I cast our eyes upon the Altar. And behold, it was no solid stone, but a Coffer, and therein, diverse Books, and a Casket of herbs, and these things we took. I delved not deeply into them, but examined lightly, and they appear to be:

  • a  large Boke, thirty pounds or more and hundreds of pages, written in different hands, in a language I know not, but I surmise it to be the Journal of the settlement here. This was in a trunk of its own, the rest being all together in a second.
  •  In the same tongue, or one very like it, a slim Volume, written in a dashing hand, by one, methinks, whose flow of words exceeded his pen; and another, but somewhat larger, and precisely writ, and containing many Symbols, as perhaps may be musical Notes.
  • In Chondathan, an antique dialect, an Agronomical accounting, viz, seeds sown, frosts and rainfalls, and such; and a Second which interested Kanak, for its pages depicted plants and fishes of the Deeps, but I wonder how those high upon these Cliffs gained familiarity thereof.
  • One book in an alphabet unknown, neither Elvish nor Dwarvish (for those runes I recognize, though I do not read them) nor any I have seen of Men, and I know not of what it speaks, for its Illuminations be only of spirals and swirling lines.
  • In yet another tongue, whose glyphs I ken not, three Books, one an herbal, with many pictures of botanicals therein, and the second some beastiary or Anatomical work, for its drawings were of birds and beasts but also their bones and organs, which I expect will delight Inae, and Greyson also, for I remember his drawings of marvellous Beasts; and the Third a mystery, for it bore no illuminations, but some columns of Numbers in the margins. 

The Tisane of goldpetals being readied I, being of least Weight and likely swiftest Affected, drank first, and shewed no Harm, though scare any Benefit neither, whereupon Kanak partook, and Inae also, and reserved a portion for Laithoren. We departed that place, Kanak and I between us bearing all that remained of the Knowledge of those Monastics who had been Slain those centuries ago, and I was much in thought, videlicet, that those Men, accounted Wise, had withdrawn from the World, and thus, upon their Passing, all their words were Lost, save that chance which brought Us here. Is it not better to Wander, as verily I myself, and tell Others whatever Lore we may have, and if they find in it Merit, they shall pass our Words, and thus in some measure our Selves, down from generation to generation. For our Bodies we shall lose in the fullness of time, but our Glory may live as long as our stories are told and gods remember.
And with such weighty thoughts, we followed the path stones back, and passed over the Bridge of the golden Forest, and through the Cleft in the Rock, and came to the top of the first Cliff, where we were beset by wild Dogs, but Kanak slew two, and I one, and took no harm. And as we cleaned our Blades, we looked to the Sea, and behold a ship, not Prosperity, neither Silver Rose, but a chebec of the Shining Sea, and a party of her Men in that Cove where our longboat lay. And when we had gone down that great Cliff, and joined again with Laithoren, and Dunders, and the two Cheray, we went down to the shore, but as chebecs are favored of Pirates, and also of Calimshan, who had once brought death to Keldisle and might do so again, we went theftily, seeking not to meet them.
Yet as we approached them, we saw these men bore neither Arms nor armor, and they called out as if to one Lost, and so, leaving my companion hidden lest I risk all, yet for myself trusting my Luck, I stood and Hailed them. They having very little of the Chondathan tongue, and I none of theirs, sent for an officer, Reshan by name, a well-favored Man and fluent, who pledged Peace and brought me to their ship, and I went with them, thinking privily that if they slew me, then I, arising as a Ghoul and doubtless to their very great surprize, would at least Revenge myself. When I had gone Aboard, I knew her at once for no Pirate, for she was as clean and orderly as mortal hands could make her, and I trow even Hazlitt could find no fault in her.
And on her quarterdeck was that merchant Prince of Alzakarra, Caleb Grey, and his leman, Contessa Lissette, a very beautiful minx, though I paid her no Mind, for I judge her to be that sort of Woman who, being jaded of men's Attention, will respond to one who pays her None. Although, there being little Time, unlikely it is that such flirtations be brought to Fruition, nor, remembering Lady M the admiral's wife of Waterdeep, would it be in any measure Prudent to do so (though tis truth that stolen kisses be sweetest), yet if she takes Interest, her word in the Prince's ear may be of much Benefit to me. And when they guested me, and asked what Drink would I, I inquired if they knew of Chocolatl, which they did not, therefore I most willingly gave of my supply, and it was to the prince a Pleasure, and to the countess a Revelation, which I hope will dispose her Favorably, and perhaps as well my brother shall reap a gold piece or twain in Trade from that introduction.
And when they asked my tale, I could scarce ask a better opportunity for showmanship, for being a Bravo worn, stained and bloodied, in great contrast to all on this pretty little vessel, yet I bore a Gift that none else there could offer, for the Prince being a scholar, and greatly desirous of knowledge, I gave him that weighty  Tome which we had found, recounting, as I believe, the History of the island, and further, the tale of how I and my Companions had received the Prophecy, fought our way ashore, conquered the Cliffs, slain the guardian Monster, and won that prize which I presented to him.
Prosperity being sighted, under all sail to the topgallants, and Silver Rose a league or more beyond her but pressing hard after her, the Prince offered an Alliance of understanding, and sent his longboat to fetch our people from shore, and from esteem and gratitude gave me a cased spyglass. And we, having commended our fallen comrade Radge to the deep, embarked in the launch and raised sail for Prosperity. Grey's ship weighed and set out as well, with the banner of Waterdeep at the main, and from the jack, a banner of gold, bearing as charge a Kestrel rampant.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Golymin, 26 December 1806

Two quick, and odd, plays of the second scenario of the Russian Expansion to C&C Napoleonics. Each side needs eight Victory Points to win; the Russians can get VPs by moving units off their base edge. The French have 14 infantry and 3 cavalry units, and the Russians have  13 infantry, 4 cavalry and 2 artillery units; despite this, the Russians feel outnumbered--partly because the French infantry are all 4 block units, while the Russians are mostly 3 blocks.

Game 1:
The French start the game with almost all Center sector cards, and so launch their advance. The Russians have no center cards; they maneuver their  left to create a defensive line to hold off the French right. Desjardin uses one turn for preparatory musketry, then launches a mass bayonet charge with his entire division. The Russian center shatters, giving the French four VPs and getting them in position to cut off the Russian right. The Russians resign after a total of three turns.

Game 2:
The French left rolls over the Russian right, which barely gets off a shot in return. However, the Russians start with Forced March, which allows them to pull back their entire infantry line in the center (except for the hapless regiment in Kaleczin, which gets thrown to the wolves); they follow with Grand Maneuver, which allows them to withdraw four units off the left baseline. In a total of five turns, they pull out eight units and win, 8 to 3.


Upon the Heights of Innis Byr

On the Night Watch I saw as it were a Star on the horizon, near and north of that great ruby star which sailors name the Whale's Heart; yet after a time, I perceived that it was the light of a Ship, as it may be Prosperity. And though she be afar, yet on the morrow she will come Swiftly, and we not done yet our Quest, nor is any Healing yet given to us. And beyond Her to the northeast, over the world's Edge, Gwynneth and Llewellyn port and the warm halfling lasses I knew there, and many long, long leagues beyond them, Ravahana and Alihana and my own bed in Waterdeep; and, homeless wandering, Shautha of Sorrows. For her sake, in the dark of the night, I began composing a Ballad, in part thus:
Long leagues away,
My hearth and home
Where lovers wait,
Yet I sleep alone. 
The wind cries cold;
My bed is stone.
The Moon's gone down,
Yet I sleep alone.*
Although my watch was not complete, from weariness I must rouse Kanak, and after drawing apart from the nook wherein Inae slept, for we desired Not to wake her, then Kanak spake of certain things he had found upon the Ghoul ship, viz, an Arrow and a Wand, and by my gift I discerned that some Potency lay within them, although what, I knew not. Kanak, having no magery in him, desired me to hold the Wand, and he will gift the Arrow to Laithoren or whom he wills.

At dawn we rose, all my Bones feeling split for marrow, and I scarce able to walk, yet by main Will I sang and made my voice merry, for though I be verily at threshold of the Iron Gate, shall I not greet Urogalan with a jest? Inae also is very weak, and I fear will not see the Morrow an we find not that Herb of which her goddess spake.

Beyond the Waterfall we found fallen Statues, perhaps of the brethren of this place, now cast down, methinks, by the hand of Calimshan. And there was a dim and narrow Gorge which led up into the Cliff.  Inae and I being too weak to Climb, Kanak carried us, past more statues all fallen and defaced. And after a time the siq opened onto a shelf, and beyond a Chasm, two hundred feet deep or more, and in the depths a forest gold with Autumn; and a little ways to the East a stone Bridge spanned the gulf. Little confident in the Mastery of those ancient Masons, I resolved to go alone, and ordered Kanak and Inae to remain behind. And there came a swarm of sprites, like unto blue Butterflies save they were clear as glass, and flew as readily through Stone as air. Thinking them the Spirits of the slain brethren, I spake to them most courteous, but they moved not aside, and when I walked into the midst of them, I fell senseless, and Kanak must drag me back. And so, seeing no way around, I essayed again, yet this time removing my Rapier, and my daggers, but still Armored, and unable to pass so; yet when clad only in my Doublet, the butterflies alighting  only, did no harm; and Inae the same. Kanak was much loathe to disarm, yet needs must; and he wisely put our armory into a bag, and dragged it behind him, and so also crossed over the Bridge.

Onward led the flagstones, and onward we followed, Inae and I much impaired by our Weakness, until shortly Kanak, mindful of the creeping hours, and desirous to Speed us lest we be marooned, carried us through the gardens of that place, much overgrown and Wild, of interest if we be marooned here and seeking Food, or perhaps to a druid, but none else. We came after a time unto a cliff with a line of Caves, as it were monastic cells, but these Sealed upon a time with stone, and within them a jumble of Skeletons, burned with fire. I privately thought this an ill Omen, for it seemed to me that the Calishites who came here with great effort, and wrought thus, would not do so without strong Reason; yet I spake not, seeing no need of troubling the others. Yet verily had we trod the path of old Bloodletting, and, in accordance with the Prophecy, must now seek a path of golden Petals.

And so we marched on, or more aptly, Kanak marched on, I being perched on his Shoulder, and Inae carried, passing fallen Pillars and ruined Walls, until we came to a Temple, still standing, although the back wall had fallen and Trees intruded therein. And as we approached the Altar, there was a rustling amongst the Vines, and a seed flew out, catching me as if a Net, yet I slipped free. Kanak was similarly struck, but deigned not to release himself, rather bringing his Sword heavily upon the creature, which we now perceived to be some animate Tree. Thinking it rooted and Sessile, we withdrew, but it pursued us to the Door of the temple and outside. My Rapier being ill suited to hacking vines, and I not minded to be caught again, I tried my luck with that same Wand which Kanak had given me, and behold, it cast a Dart of arcane force, which wounded the creature, albeit to no great effect. The beast, more troubled by the sword, rose up and smote Kanak, who, being already wounded twice or thrice, Fell, to my great Dismay. Yet before Life had ebbed, I sprang to his side, under the very shadow of the Beast, and by the magic of my Belt healed him, and he arose and took up his Blade once more. I ordered him to carry Inae to safety, which he did, but the Lust for battle was strong upon him, and he leapt upon the beast, and with a single furious Stroke, cleft the thing right in Twain, and so it died.


*Inspired by "The Moon's gone down, but alone I lie", from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, which was probably inspired in turn by a fragment from Sappho.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Innis Byr


Radge is dead.
As we came to the north Coast of the isle, we passed great stone blocks under the water. The water orc swam to investigate them, but could not discern their Purpose.
As our boat came to the beach, we were attacked by two great Beasts, like unto Dolphins but as large as our Launch and of a sort I had not before seen. By hard fighting we Slew them, but Radge was taken, and one of the Cheray wounded, but I healed him. The Cheray men shew most brave, for, Inae being shaken from the Boat and in the water, one of them Leapt out, despite the danger of these beasts, and caught her, and swam her to the sandbar. Kanak also leapt out, not to rescue, but to Slay, and his blade wrought great Wounds on the beasts. Afterwards, he ate of the flesh of one; I know not whether this is some Rite of his people.
The Beasts being slain, and I busy tending the wounds of Inae and Laithoren, the men carried the boat to shore through the water behind the sand bar, whereupon, two Sharks sought to attack them. Kanak slew each with a single stroke, although he was loathe to do so, for he said, "They are but Hungry." I had thought to send him to search out Radge's body, but we saw many more Sharks beyond the sandbar, for there was much blood in the water, so I sent him not.
The Island rises up to a wall of Cliffs, and another wall above and behind. We made the launch fast and then sought a Road or some sign of where the Ruins lay, but saw nothing, save that Laithoren espied shaped wood on the beach some furlongs to the west. We found there ship's Timbers each laying separate, not joined together, and Above the high water mark. We found also a Stone, curiously carved with runes, and among them some words like unto Illuskin, which Kanak could read, viz, knees and ribs, and behold, there were such pieces among the timbers there; but we had not Leisure nor Craft sufficient to puzzle out the Mystery, .
And so we pressed inland, I riding on Kanak's shoulders to save my Strength, and came after a time unto the base of the first cliff. There near a waterfall we found a piece of some ancient Siege engine, corroded and weathered, near the foot, and high above, Stairs carven into the rock face. I, being the best Climber, gathered rope and tools and made ready, whereupon, commending myself to the attention of Tymora and Brandobrais, I began the ascent. The water orc, not as nimble nor, I may say, as Skilled as I, yet made up for these deficiencies with main Strength, and followed along the ropes I set, and he pulled up Inae, who came up in as Lubberly a manner as I have long seen, but came nonetheless, while Dunders and the Cheray remained below, with Laithoren who was too Weak to climb. With great effort, I led up the Wall, across a traverse, and up a talus slope with scrub, or as we called it, a thinnet, being less than a thicket. From thence, ten feet above and fifteen right, was a Hollow, or shallow Cave, this being about an Hundred and fifty feet above the base. I sought to reach said Cave, but the rock being Smooth, and somewhat wet from the waterfall spray, I slipped and slithered back down. Kanak, who had followed to the top of the slope, caught me on Belay, and started to haul me up, and then, of a Sudden, swung the rope up, with me on the end as the Grapnel, to my very great Surprize, which I expressed with the most Heartfelt invective. By Tymora's favour I landed in the cave, else my Soliloquy had been cut short ere I reached the particularly pungent profanity in Orkish, which, sadly, Kanak did not understand, being a Water orc, and knowing nothing of the tongue of the landbound tribes. But I told him that I had left Fingermarks in the rock, and behold, Inspiration struck, and I withdrew the Flask of Stonecutting from my belt, and with droplets thereof verily made such Marks, which I shewed him, when he joined me in the Cave. There was a Skeleton in the cave, of a Human, but who he was, or how he came there, I know not, for there was neither Armor nor weapon, nor Book, nor any Sign to know him.
From the Hollow, it was another climb up, and a difficult one, over smooth wet Rock, but by the luck of Langstaff, and with the aid of the Stonecutting flask, I reached those Stairs, which we had seen from below, which were about a Spearlength width. Again Kanak followed me, and brought up Inae, but the rest remained below, as we had not enough Line to reach them.
And so, having reached the broad stone Landing at the top of the Stairs, and being greatly weary from the Climb, and facing yet another cliff on the morrow, we rest.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Russians Are Here

The Russian Army expansion for Command & Colors: Napoleonic arrived, and Josh and I got in two playings of the first scenario--the Battle of Czarnowo, 23 December 1806.

In the first game, the French were fortunate in their card draw and, with several cards for their right sector, were able to maintain an attack. They pushed the Russians out of Czarnowo before the Tsar's troops could respond; then the French hussars launched a cavalry charge which forced the grenadiers into square, which only made them a better target for the French tirailleurs. The Russians shifted troops from the center to shore up their battered left; but then the French in the center sent two assault columns in a bayonet charge which carried the revetments. The VP requirement was 7 banners, but with the score at Russians 0 French 6 (4 for unit kills, 1 for control of a revetment, 1 for control of the town), the Russians conceded.

On the replay, the French attacked the left and center while refusing the right. After a close contest, a Russian counterattack failed to quite dislodge the French on the left, and the counter-counter attack barely finished off the last unit needed to claim victory. Final score 7:4 but if the Russians had had slightly better dice, it could easily have gone the other way. Highlights of this game included the Russian heavy cuirassiers charging into the French rear--all the way to the map edge--and overrunning an artillery battery; not enough to eke out victory, but a famous moment.

Given that most Russian units are three blocks instead of four, that the Russians get four cards instead of six (particularly damaging when you have to form square), we're wondering whether the Russians need to be beefed up a little.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

NPC preparation

Major NPCs could potentially have:

  • personnel: family, friends, employees, lawyers, guards, contacts
  • locations: house, fort, hideout, bolthole, ship, temple
  • information: about the PCs, the territory, the situation
  • resources: weapons, money, tools, maguffins

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ironclads

Two Ironclads games today, with Josh, Ryan and Dan.

In the first one, Dan played CSS Stonewall vs Josh and me with USS Niagara and Sacramento, in a scenario which took place off Ferrol Spain in 1865. Historically, the Union commander decided the Confederate was too intimidating, and withdrew; he was court martialed for that, but he may have been right. In our game, Dan jinked west, then ran down the center between sandbars; he got lucky with his big 300lbr Armstrong gun and crippled Niagara first--which pretty much defeated us--and then nailed Sacramento's engine as well. Both Union ships, immobilized, anchored and waited. Dan could have stood off and shelled us to do enough damage for his victory conditions, and we wouldn't have been able to do anything about it; but he elected to give us a sporting chance by coming back around and lining up a ram on Sacramento. And we still couldn't do anything about it: Niagara didn't have a shot, and my last second, point blank, do-or-die shot only chipped Stonewall's armor. The ram stove in Sacramento's side, and she sank like a stone; Stonewall backed away from the wreck and sailed off proudly.


The second game was a theoretical action between CSS Atlanta and Savannah (casemate ironclads) vs USS Weehawken and Nahant (monitors) at Wassaw Sound, GA, 1863. Historically, Savannah was still being built when Atlanta sought action; Atlanta ran aground and surrendered after 15 minutes of close range fire from Weehawken.

In the game scenario, the Confederates come down a river and dodge around sandbars in a break for open water, while the Union ships try to stop them. In this game, once again Dan got a lucky hit early on, which did severe damage to my ship, enough to prevent us from achieving victory conditions; however, the casemates are tough, so we fought on. Ryan's Nahant went aground briefly, evading Josh's ram; by the time Savannah came back around for another try, Nahant had freed herself and frantically backed out of the way. Savannah skimmed over the shoals and pursued, and Atlanta came down and tried to box in Nahant, but we couldn't quite manage to deliver the ram. At the battle's end, my ship was low in the water and barely under way, Ryan's ship nearly out of crew, and Josh and Dan's ships were battered but still dueling. A good scenario with nicely matched forces: the Union ships are good shots and hard to hit, but their guns are slow to load and don't have much range; the Confederates have long range guns with limited fields of fire, and aren't quite as maneuverable. They also have rams with spar torpedoes, but to drive home a ram, you have to get close to those Union guns...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Setting: Bright Face

Imagine a rift valley, forty miles wide, over a thousand miles long, running east and west. And threaded down the valley, weaving from side to side, is a smaller rift, a canyon, with branches and various levels as the rock has worn away over the millenia, and the deep places at the bottom over five thousand feet below. There are duchies of hundreds of square miles; there are single farmsteads of a couple of acres, terraced in one tiny notch of a cliff.  The south wall of the rift, thousands of feet high, is always in shadow; and the north wall is the Bright Face. To the west, the Long Lake and the oldest cities; to the east...well, the new tribes who come, come fleeing from the East.
They say the elves were here first. Elves or goblins or dwarves--they're all the same thing. Short and ugly, with pointed ears and sloping brows, but masters of crafts and smithing. And the powerful ones, it's said, shape not just steel but flesh, creating monsters for their soldiers and slaves. Thus the ogres, the wights, the terrible beasts guarding the deep places of the earth. But also the great swords, the vaulting bridges, the mighty works of old.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Actions and Disorders

One of the characteristics of land warfare is that, in a given time period, well trained troops can do more stuff than green troops. You can give an order and trust that the elites know what to do and where to do it; with the new meats, you have to watch them to make sure they do it right, shoving or yelling as needed. Any game that gives each unit, regardless of quality, the same number of actions, isn't going to give a good depiction of what happens.
One way to handle that is to assign, based on quality, a varying number of actions for a unit to take during a turn. An elite might get three, a regular unit two, a green unit one. On the other hand, it's not like the elites are all jogging along at 15mph while the greens are only doing 5mph, so you're still not going to get a realistic depiction of some situations.
I'm thinking that a more realistic way might be to impose a chance of Disorder on units when they take actions; poorly trained units will get a higher chance than elites. This means that an elite unit is likely to be able to operate smoothly--although even they will need to take a break every now and again--while a green unit will need to spend a lot more of their actions to recover from Disorder.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sailing to Innis Byr

Whilst in my fever and betwixt Nightmares, I spake, so Fra Veritan says, a few lines of an old Druidic cant, the meaning of which, in Inae's rendering, is thus:
Seek the isle of cold forgetting,
Seek the isle with cliffs of metal;
Walk the path of old blood-letting,
Walk the path of golden petals.
Lady Inae believes this to be a message or prophesy given of the Earthmother, albeit, why She would speak through me, rather than through Inae her Dedicant, I know not. The Captain was not eager to heed this word, thinking two or three fighting men, viz, those of us wounded by the Ghouls, to be but scant loss in compare to his Mission, and Silver Rose now in sight to our northeast, but Inae persuaded him, and he will give us the Launch and a few men, and wait two Days for us as we go ashore and seek our healing.

Inae and the Captain think that this Isle of Cold Forgetting is Innis Byr, called also Keldisle, a small isle and distant from the mainland. A Monastery of sorts was founded there, five hundred years ago, but the Calishites came and overthrew their walls, and slew all within, and none now knows Why. Privily, methinks that ships and soldiers are not sent hundreds of Leagues on a whim, and thus it may be that the Calishites had good reason. Doubtless the monastics forged hideous Monsters which haunt the island, and are themselves a cloud of vengeful Ghosts.

And to this, we take myself, Inae, and Laithoren, all much worn from Fever, and Kanak, also fevered albeit not much worn, and further, two Chersay warriors lately joined of the ship's company, and Dunders and Radge as oarsmen. I thought the latter Twain, having been our oarsmen to the Torvald, and thus having been scarce a fathom from Ghouls, were going, as 'tis said, too oft to the Well, and wondered that they volunteered, but perhaps they came on orders. The Chersay, who it appears fight naked with cleavers like unto our Falchion, speak no Chondathan nor any common tongue, but Fra Veritan has taught them, he thinks, a few words, viz, Fight, Run, Guard, and such.

Our leathercrafter, having worked on my armor whilst I was ill, presented it back to me, and has wrought most Excellently, with fine scribings and tiny runes etched within the curves and lines; it were better in a mathom-house than a melee, and I pray Sune's help in keeping it unmarred. Our weapons are ready, our gear prepared, the Launch provisioned and is now swayed out, and all aboard. The Captain plans some strategem or Ruse, with floating lights and changes of course, to Deceive the Silver Rose, while we in the launch sail to Innis Byr. We shall leave at nightfall, and sail through the dark.




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Battle of Cape Henry

Josh and I drove to DC yesterday for a Close Action battle hosted by Albert Parker. We had eleven players total: Richard Kunkel (admiral), Heather, Will, Dave Cross, Josh and I for the French, and Jim Rumizen (British admiral), Al Cook, Albert, Mike Bosworth and Steve Becker for the English. We were using Albert's twelve-direction movement, which takes more effort than the standard six-direction but is well worth it.

The scenario was the Battle of Cape Henry from 1781, Destouches vs Arbuthnot, which is Scenario 15 in the Rebel Seas book. The Royal Navy has eight ships, ranging from the 98 gun London to the Adamant, 50; the French also have eight, ranging from Duc de Bourgogne, a small 80, to a captured British 44 gun two decker, Romulus; both sides were about even in points and crew quality. Both sides start in line ahead, close hauled with the wind on the port bow, the British pursuing the French. This scenario is unusual in that heavy seas, and the way ships heel to leeward, mean that ships need to close their lower deck gunports on the leeward side; this means that all ships are penalized when firing downwind, but not upwind.

The French plan was to wear, engage the head of the British line at medium range, and--according to the admiral--keep reversing course with successive wears to keep the range open. I don't know what the British plan was, but from comments among the British players, it seems no one followed the plan anyway--the military maxim is "No plan survives contact with the enemy", but this may have been "No plan survives contact with my subordinates."

On the first turn, the British continued in line ahead, and the French wore...most of the French wore. Turn One is where the French plan started coming unstuck, a little earlier than is usually the case. The Romulus, which would be the third ship in the French line, didn't complete the wear; she therefore was an obstacle for the rest of our line to detour around, while Provence and Eveille sailed straight toward the enemy. By turn 5, the leading elements of both fleets were in action, but Neptune was still trying to get past Romulus without a collision. This left a gap between the first two French ships and thee rest of the French line; why the Brits didn't keep in line and sail through the gap, I don't know. Busy pursuing our lead ships, I suppose, or the British having bad luck with their signal limitations.

The lead two French ships tried to withdraw from the Brits but had to turn to avoid the French admiral who was sailing by. They got trapped and by turn 8 they had collided and fouled with Robust. Eveille was stuck in a position where she couldn't shoot effectively so Josh, her commander, formed boarders--I believe that's the second time I've seen it done in ten years. Unfortunately Robust managed to get loose just before Josh could launch his attack. Nonetheless, a dogpile was forming, and they always seem to attract other ships, as people try to maneuver to protect their teammates or take close range shots at immobilized enemies. That's what happened here. My notes for Turn 11 read "To the west, London and Adamant collide and foul. Main island still a scrum. Mass drifting and fouling."

On turn 13, southeast of the main glob, Heather's Neptune and my Conquerant nearly got two Brits to collide with us; they escaped only by the favor of the dice. As the game wound down, I boldly sailed right to the edge of the traffic jam to deliver some close range rakes; Neptune prudently kept a little farther away from the mess and engaged one of the few remaining mobile Brits; Duc finally got into the action after a long detour to leeward, and Romulus, 44, suicidally attacked the 98 gun London.

The game was called due to time at turn 16, which was good because I'd tempted fate a little too long; by some good maneuvering and sheer luck I'd managed to get my shots in while keeping out of enemy firing arcs, but on turn 17 I would almost certainly have gotten stuck, with four Brits around me. The damage count was about even for both sides--the French would have been ahead if Romulus hadn't chosen to attack London and Adamant. The battle was undecided when we left, but the consensus was that the French had the advantage; call it a very marginal French win.

A weird battle with a mass melee instead of neat lines of battle, but fun and interesting for all that..well, it was for me--I imagine somewhat less so for those who spent half the game fouled and immobile. I think Jim Rumizen did a commendable job as the British admiral, particularly with the signaling limits imposed by the scenario; new players Heather and Will also did well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Halfling Freaking in a Dim Green Haze

Getting weaker. The bite of the Ghoul is healed, but still I am wracked by Fever. Kanak and Laithoren as well, and now, to my sorrow, Inae. Fra Veritan is tending us as...

The entry continues in another hand:
The halfling Kestrel Langstaff asked me, while I tended him, to be his amanuensis. I have written as much as I can, although I must tend the others also, and in his fever his attention strays and his voice fades. Nevertheless, he spake thus:

Who slew Lord...the neck and the knife. Why both? Moffrey. Was there another?

Tell Grayson. The thought of Death troubles me not, but were I turned to a foul and loathsome undead, would I not be rejected when I come to the gates of Sune's House? Tell Grayson. Make him swear the oath of blades. Vow by the salt and the stone, by the edge and hilt of a blooded knife. Let me not be turned. Put the dagger tip behind the collar bone, and a straight thrust down. Make him swear!

Dada, is Mama ever going to come home?

Remember the smoked cheddar, Fra? The hickory was over strong, a little, although still very fine it was. Next time, smoke it maybe over apple boughs.

No, take care of Inae. Lady Inae. Guard thou well the healer. I can wait.

Send my possessions to my brother Rook, in Baldur's Gate. Most particularly Mother's sword and dagger, and her Mandolin, and my armor. Tell Da that I am sorry, and he was right. And send I pray you something for Peony and Violet of ...that town. Harbor where we were. That last lovely sunny afternoon. Sune grant them each a red headed Son to hold, and a song for their pretty lips. Sunny, Sune, son, song.

This fever is like unto a fire shut up in my bones. Would that they were mithral. The silver-steel forged anew, it shines...

The sword is beautiful of itself. Holly never understood that. Grace, elegance, speed, and skill, enough to stake your life on, quick and brilliant.

Two thousand years, and more ago,
The elves came fleeing, bearing woe.
They sought to hide, from reaver bands,
Elereisolon, he watched the strands.

Look at the butterflies, swirling up, and now they burst like fireworks. Remember when the wizard came? He did likewise, but with magic. These butterflies are songs, and their magic is deep. Deep as the sky. And now they are stars, shining in the dark...whilst I kiss the Sky....

Mama?

 Written in the same new hand:

    It is late and I can barely see to write, but this must be written.

    The halfling is near unto his final hours, may Ilmater grant him respite from his sufferings.  He spake sense and not-sense as his mind wandered, tho' he was earnest in his desire to be destroyed ere he succumb to unlife. 

    Then he spake no more, and for some hours in the deep of night lay motionless and staring, such that I thought he had already been taken.

    Then it meseemed he was listening, mayhap to some distant music, though I heard nothing but the steady creak of this vessel's timbers.  He seemed to smile slightly, and then he spake thus:

    A phennaeth ehalaeth a ffraeth vnbyn,
    A phennaeth meib o veli dyrchafyssyn;
    A gwedy dyhed anhed alludd mehyn,
    A gwedy hoelyon ym deithic eu hafwyn.

    It is no language I have ever heard, though it meseems like to the lost speech of the Guoleyn in some respects, though I cannot fathom its meaning.  It is well that I had some of the Lady's chalk at hand; I have written it on her worktable, and I will ask of her whether she knows it, should she wake again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Letter home

Unto Rook Langstaff, Langstaff Smial, Halfling Hill, Baldur's Gate,

Salutations, Runt! And greetings to Mistress Mayflower, and to Olive, Orchid, and Osprey.

As I said in my missive dated 8th Ruthven, I have taken service of the West-Sea Trading Companie, and am now aboard their ship Prosperity, in the capacity of Senior Midshipman. As you doubtless expect, the promotion came not of Navigation and Seamanship so much as quickness of Wit and Blade; for since leaving Waterdeep I have been engaged in three Actions and two other occasions at arms, and in defense of the Ship and its people have slain nine Men, three Ghouls, one swamplight Lynx, one Crab the which was somewhat greater in Size and Girth than Fern Underhill's father's white bull, and one Ghost. It would be best not to tell any of that to Father.

I have in these Adventures gotten a bruise or two, and mayhap a scrape, but we have a good Healer who looks after me so you, and more to the point Father, need have no Fear. Midshipman's pay is not o'ergenerous but I may be Promoted to lieutenancy ere long, and meanwhile have picked up a few petty stones and trinkets to amuse myself and make the Voyage worthwhile. One of these stones is a slate from the dwarves of Llewellyn, bearing in runes the word Uzzik, viz, Dwarf-friend; and the getting thereof is its own tale. And another thing I have gotten, worthy of its own tale, is Mother's gift, although it were best not to tell Father that either. While on the Moonshaes coast, I drank of a Moonwell, and since then can work Magick, albeit minor weavings only, as yet.

When next you send an agent to Waterdeep, twould be better for him not to call at Sanremi House, for the name Langstaff may be received not well there. Send, I pray you, my Affection and the enclosed letter to the half elves Ravihana and Alihana, of Threeoak Way or the fane of Sune. My warmest affections also to Tamarie Brightleaf at Sune's House in Baldur's Gate, and our aunt Phoebe; and send also to Meadowsweet and her family.

The ghost we fought was an elvish Spirit, hight Elereisolon the Seawarder. I have made, although not completed, a Lay which tells his tale, and enclose a copy here; the Music I have sung it to is Misty Mornings. I enclose also one claw of the Lynx I slew, for Olive.

I have much more to tell, but must close, for the vessel which will carry this to Athkatla must soon depart.

I remain,
Incorrigibly,
Kestrel

Written aboard Prosperity, on the Sword Sea south of Flamsterd,  xx days out of  Waterdeep

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ghost ship

The next morning, set to Study certain books commended to me by the Captain, one concerning the currents of the Sword Sea, and another on the lines of a Hull, some forms being Swifter while others more capacious or steady, and yet another on the subtle arts of Mathematics and navigation. Although there was no Occasion to exercise these Arts, the sky being hard overcast from dawn to dusk, and no sight of Sun or star possible. Yet by means of casting the log, and some Thought on the currents, it was possible to reckon our position, that being off Dragon Head, and when the mist cleared, and we could see the loom of the point to starboard, it proved to be so.

In the afternoon, my watch being done, the water orc sought me out, to teach him the language of the ship, for though he speaks four tongues, he has no Chondathan, and so I set out for him those Words of which I thought him most in Need, viz, for working the ship. Fra Veritan, joining us after a time, proved to be adept in Illuskin, and the twain of them thus able readily to converse, I left them to, thinking, that the crew seeing Fra Veritan, who is but a rabbit at heart, yet so readily at Ease with the warrior, they might also be less timid of him.

The following day, that being the second day after the raiders, I, being the watch officer at Dawn, charged Laithoren to keep a sharp watch for strange sail. And lo, at two points off the starboard bow, he perceived a Vessel, which, seen through the glass, proved to be a galleon of Luskan work, but adrift, with her mizzen and maintop carried away, and sails torn, and neither boats on her decks, nor movement nor sign of Life to be seen. The Captain gave orders to approach her, which we did until, at half a league away, we noted a Stench as of death and corruption, and still no sign of Movement upon her decks. Whereupon I, from curiosity and hope of Loot, volunteered to lead a party aboard, which notion the Captain endorsed, and gave me Kanak and Laithoren and Inae, and the yawl with two men for the oars.

And so we came upon her, through water that was foul and murky around her hull, and we boarded her. First searching the great cabin, Kanak and I found an envelope of shipping manifests, a gold Disk, and some pouches of coins, which we hid privily away. Belowdecks there were sea chests, with some few coins and trinkets, and a seal hide, and a ivory figurine of some northern goddess, scarce Sune Firehair, yet  Kanak kept it. In the hold, a rotted cargo of cloth and furs, but forward, behold!, a small chest with gold and silver. Yet as I sought to put lines around it, so that Kanak might hoist it, two pairs of cold dead Hands came up through the hull planking, and struck at me, whereupon Kanak, hearing my call, heaved away, and brought me up out of the hold. We made our way with Haste to the top deck, yet it profited us not, for crawling over the sides came foul Wights who stank of rot, and struck at us with tooth and claw. Shortly we had all taken Wounds, yet Kanak slew them with every stroke, and Laithoren shot, and I plied my blades to some effect. Kanak, being weighty, and the deck weak and treacherous, fell through, and down again, into the Hold, but took no great harm, and indeed he sprang up again, and slew the chieftain of the dead. I saw it not, for the Poison from my wounds overcame me, and I sank down, unable to move, but Inae's ministrations soon mended that, at least in part, though in truth I yet feel weak. With the undead, who had numbered twelve or fourteen, thus slain, and water rising in the hold, we made swift to haul up the Chest of treasure, and further Laithoren and Kanak searched the quarter cabins, and found therein a wand, and certain other items. Whereupon we descended into the yawl, and cast off to return to Prosperity.