Saturday, August 23, 2014

IHMN: The Good, the Bad, the Weird

My first event at the Guns of August game con was IHMN: the Good, the Bad, the Weird, which was based off the movie plus a few twists. The time is the mid 1930's; the setting, Japanese-controlled Manchuria.

The table had a square walled courtyard in the middle and a scattering of buildings and hillocks around it. The courtyard had gateways opening east and west; inside the courtyard was a coterie of cultists, surrounding the McGuffin.

Four forces started at the table corners and set out to capture the McGuffin. In the southwest, my Red Sash Gang of bandits, plus Park Chang-yi (the Bad). To the northwest, a squad of the Japanese Army, plus Yoon Tae-goo (the Weird). Northeast, Faction A of a Chinese warlord's army, plus the bounty hunter Park Do-won (the Good). And southeast, Faction B of the warlord's army, assault troops with submachineguns. The three heroes could have been used separately from the forces they started with, but none of the players took that route. Each of the players had about a dozen figures.

In early turns, the Japanese and Faction A advanced towards their corners of the courtyard, my forces moved onto a rise to get a line on the Japanese, and Faction B advanced towards me. I pointed out to the Faction B commander that my rifles outranged his SMGs, and mentioned that he could speed up his promotion by arranging a vacancy in the captaincy of Faction A. Prodded by a sprinkling of rifle fire that he couldn't effectively return, he took the message to heart and withdrew to the east.

I advanced carefully, getting into position where I could cover the western courtyard entrance. Meanwhile Faction A deployed half its men against the Japanese and sent the other half, led by the fearless Park Do-won, into the cultists' lair. On the west, the Japanese mirrored their deployment, although they were marginally distracted by bandit bullets. Only "marginally", though, as my bandits evidently went to the Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship. I rolled 3s so often that we concluded that my forces must be a Triad gang.

The game master announced that, now that outsiders had violated the sanctuary, on every cultist turn he would roll d%; on a 01 result, Something Bad would happen. ("Something Bad" could have been a Yeti, or Cthulhu, or a dozen giant spiders, but the GM never rolled a 01). The Japanese and Faction A forces assaulted the cultists. Faction B dithered for a couple of turns, but eventually started taking potshots at the backs of Faction A. And I continued shooting the air, the ground, the walls, passing birds, everything except the Japanese troops I was aiming at.

The Japanese finished their melee opponents first. While Faction A was still entangled with the cultists on their side, the Japanese formed a line and fired indiscriminately into the melee. In the ensuing havoc, they took possession of the McGuffin, and victory.

Due to taking careful cover and not being much of a threat, I only lost one bandit. For all my shooting, firing in volleys with military rifles, my tally was one soldier killed (literally, my last shot in the game) and one knocked down. The latter lay helpless in the open for a couple of turns, exposed to my massed rifle fire--and therefore absolutely safe--before getting up and rejoining his unit in the assault on the cultists.

Game Prep Lessons: put all the unit info (weapon and armor characteristics, effects of Talents) on the unit cards so people don't have to flip back and forth through the books during play. Distill the Quick Reference Sheet down to one page (or less) of what's relevant to that session--no need for Vehicle and Beast stats if they're not going to be in the game. Make copies of the QRS for everyone. Twelve figures is too many for new players with a three hour time slot; start with six or eight and keep reserves at the table edge to replace casualties.

Tactical Lessions: roll better dice.

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