Monday, 24 April 2017

The man who would be king

The grey beard led the tribe for many long suns, and many long darks. Now his body lies, half eaten, in the cave of the great bear. The tribe’s hunters prepare for a contest to show who can provide most for their people; who will be the next chieftain.

Set up the table with two equal herds of lesser grazers, no closer than 2x Long distance of any table edge. There should be at least one lesser grazer on the table for every hunter used. Place one apex predator in the very centre of the table. Hunters may be placed anywhere within 1x Short of any table edge.

A hunter who strikes the killing blow against the apex predator within eight turns will be proclaimed the new chief of the tribe. If the apex predator is still alive at the end of the eight turn, the chieftainship will fall to the hunter who struck the killing blow against the most grazers. This game is an individual challenge. While hunter’s may not actively attack other hunters, they may try all sorts of cunning ploys like driving fleeing or stampeding beasts into their friends, or stealing in to kill beasts already wounded by others.

Above you can see the setup for the hunt, with a stream running down a lightly wooded valley. There is a small herd of sheep/goats drinking by the stream, and a cave bear sitting in the centre of the table. The hunters had earlier dug a great pit on one side of the alley floor, far enough away from the stream that there was little chance of flooding. Fergg, Snogg and Dogg are visible at the top of the picture, while Ogg, Urgg and Bow* entered from the opposite table edge at the bottom of the picture. We rolled for random hunter traits with the following results:

  • Fergg the fire-bearer was a climber - not a great trait given the lack of cliffs in this hunt;
  • Snogg the Excited - Snog was required to always roll all three activation dice. Snog carried a spear and was accompanied by Dogg the hound;
  • Ogg the Shaman - potentially a splendid trait, being able to commune with beasts (at least that's what he tells the other hunters);
  • Urgg the Hungry - always tricky to handle as hungry hunters compulsively move towards wounded beasts;
  • Bow the Trapper - trappers can set snares to help catch critters, not a hugely useful trait in this hunt.

*I realise that there is no consistancy between posts regarding the spelling of names, but hey, it's prehistory. It's not like the names were ever intended to be written down...

The first turn saw Bow, Urgg and Ogg make a mess of their stealthy approach, scattering the herd on their side of the river. Snogg and Dogg were much more effective - Dogg was especially clever, sneaking up on one of the sheep/goat ready to attack on Snogg's command. Fergg attempted to get upwind of everyone, hoping to start a fire like the prehistoric pyromaniac he is.

In the following turn, Dogg took a bite of his sheep/goat, scaring it off towards Bow who was able to snap off a quick shot, bringing the beast down and scoring the first kill of the game. The scent of fresh blood almost drove Urgg to madness - he leapt the stream just to savour the smalls, but was able to suppress his more animal instincts and managed not to gorge himself then and there. The site of blood also drew the cave bear in towards the kill.

Urgg took advantage of the (somewhat illusory) protection of the river and hurled a well-aimed spear at the bear, prompting it to charge across the river in turn! One swipe, and Urgg was nursing a savage wound.

Meanwhile, that sneaky git, Fergg, took advantage of the scattering herd of grazers to wave his fire at one, causing it to flee straight to the bottom of the pit.

Back at the action-filled centre, Snogg managed to take down his first sheep/goat. The spouting plume of blood attracted the bear which left a very relieved looking Urgg to investigate. The kill tally now sat at one sheep/goat each for Bow, Fergg and Snogg.

Not wanting to be left out, Ogg and Urgg collected their wits and sprang upon a fourth sheep goat. Ogg struck a blow, but the sheep/goat then fled back, past the bear towards Snogg. 

Bow took a shot at the cave bear which roared in anger, causing Ogg and Urgg to flee in terror. The last two sheep/goats (one of them wounded) had by now sprung across the stream.

Snogg retreated to the cover of the tricky boggy ground by the river and hurled an optimistic spear at the bear, drawing the predator to him. One more swipe, one more wounded hunter. Snogg tried another optimistic attack and while his hit struck home, he was in turn dispatched for his trouble, sinking into a puddle of boggy, bloody mud.

Ogg, thinking that his shamanic personality would somehow help him against a bear, approached the beast. He stabbed at the predator and, once more, the bear attacked back, causing - you should already now the answer - a nasty wound.

Meanwhile (again), Fergg had managed to get behind the last two sheep/goats. He ambled up to them and, waving his fire, chased one of them into the pit, scoring his second kill for the game. The last sheep/goat fled off the table.

Bow, not wanting to be showed up by Fergg, shot at the cave bear, scoring a hit, but was then charged for his troubles. Happily for the archer, he escaped having his guts torn out.

Urgg tried to match Bow's skills, missed the predator and was forthwith predated. The bear had now killed two hunters and wounded a third.

At this juncture, the first critter of the game was flushed out of hiding by Bow. Ogg, well placed, was able to knock it on the head and claim his first kill - not that it put him in the running for chief at this point though.

As the eighth turn came around, Ogg started a desperate action to seize the chieftainship by bringing down the bear. It didn't work. The bear ran him down and pulled him apart - proving, once and for all, that if you disturb a bear in the woods, you should respect its privacy.

So at the end of the hunt, Fergg came out as the chosen chief having netted two sheep/goats to Bow's one. Nobody managed to kill the cave bear and, lets face it, with only two hunters left in the tribe, the people are going to face a grim future.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Late Night Blundering - an SSD game from Pattayavium

Last week I received the following missive from gaming chum of old, and now fellow ex-pat Mark:

This time I stayed up late and ran the game during the small hours, at about the same time of the night the action is set, in fact! So here is the bleary-eyed report. I say "ran" rather than "played" because both (all?) sides were given objectives but then their decisions and actions were derived from weighted options + dice rolls (decision dice). This is more fun than it sounds, as the games always diverge from what the player / puppetmaster thinks is going to happen, sometimes a lot. The role of the Night Watch in this game is exhibit 1 for this point, as will be seen. I originally only included them because it seemed silly not to have a Watch, and I handicapped them to ensure their role was on,y decorative, but still they ended up having an important influence on the game outcome.

Anyway, on to the game, starting with the backstory.

Salvius Prostatus (who doesn't appear in the game at all) is a crony of the Prefect, although the two of them are known to have had a serious disagreement recently, no one is sure what it is about. Salvius has built a thriving if unlikely business empire by collecting urine and excrement from around the town for use in his tanneries. He has a monopoly right to place large collection jars on street corners, which are regularly emptied by his slaves and honey wagons.

For the last few nights, some of his jars have been tipped over, or even smashed, and no one knows or has seen anything. It's a mystery and it's bad for business. Salvius has arranged for Brasidas and his boys, who keep the tannery slaves in line, to covertly patrol the town in the dead of night to apprehend the miscreants and find out who is inciting them. It could be mischief-making revellers celebrating the Songkran holiday, or maybe business rivals. Or even - worrying thought - the Prefect sending him a message.

The first photo shows Pattayavium after midnight. Note the two-man night patrol of the Watch standing outside the arena. Some of the large collection jars can also be seen.

The darkness means movement (of figures) can only be seen at 2xL, and individuals can only be distinguished at 1xL in the moonlight. 

The saboteurs faction comprised four civilian figures, who have been paid (by who?) to do their dastardly work. They split into teams of two and moved sneakily out of the poor neighbourhood (top L of previous photo) towards their targets. Meanwhile Brasidas and his four henchmen, also in two teams, lurked in alleyways and waited to see what would happen. The Watch stayed in position outside the arena, they would not get involved unless absolutely necessary (= something is happening close by and they roll a 5/6 decision dice). And another faction of three men skulked among the woodpiles at bottom R of the prev photo. Who can they be?

One team of civilian saboteurs started to tip over a honey jar within hearing of the Watch patrol, who moved to investigate. The saboteurs fled, the soldiers pursued, and one saboteur was killed "while trying to escape" and the other got away. They had however succeeded in smashing a jar.

The other team attacked a set of two jars outside the block of flats (the large building at top R of the photo). Both of Brasidas's teams jumped on them from different directions, killing one man and capturing the other. In the next (second) photo you can see the aftermath: most of Brasidas's men are moving away down the alley to resume surveillance, but Brasidas himself (with steel cap) and Alketas are interrogating the prisoner. However, he didn't provide any information (unsuccessful decision-dice roll), so he was incapacitated and left lying at the foot of the wall to be collected later.

The fracas attracted the attention of the mysterious faction hiding in the woodpile, and these figures moved up cautiously, keeping buildings between themselves and the action, as can be seen in the next (third) photo. They are Pattayavium's Jewish priest, Levi, and two hard men, Saul & Matthias, zealots, all of whom are known around town, although no one mocks them and their one God to their faces any more!

But what are they doing here? 

What with it being 3.00am and all, there is a gap in the pictorial coverage at this point. But the game continued like this. Brasidas's two patrols set off down more alleyways to see what other teams of saboteurs might be at work. The decision dice decreed they remained ignorant of the Jewish faction. Brasidas himself and two henchmen ended up in a standoff with the City Watch who didn't believe their story about guarding the honey jars, and it was several moves (and a bribe) before his team could move on. This was critical as it meant his other team, two men only, was unsupported when it encountered the Jews and had to back off after some inconclusive scrapping. This is shown in the last photo below.

Had Brasidas and his other men not been delayed by the Watch, there is a good chance the zealots could have been overpowered and interrogated. Instead they were able to slip away, though not before being recognised.

So the game ended with no clear result, just like most of real life in fact. The hired civilians who had been upsetting and smashing the jars were eliminated (2 killed, 1 captured, 1 escaped) but they did not reveal who had hired them. And two out of the five jars had been destroyed. 

Brasidas reported to Salvius about his men encountering Levi and his zealots, so Levi's cover is blown and he'll have to explain to the authorities what he and his men were doing on the streets, armed, late at night. The suspicion is that he was the organiser of the jar sabotage*. But nothing can be proved in the absence of any confessions.

[* According to Salvius, Levi has it in for him because he won't sell a piece of land the priest wants to build a synagogue on. Perhaps it will all come out in the pending court case.]

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bunny model comparisons

Right. Now that I have your attention - and have no doubt attracted some attention from unusual fetishists - lets talk bunnies. 28mm bunnies to be exact. I wanted to get a few rabbits to serve as 'critters' for Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten. Critters are not placed on the table during setup, but there is a chance than hunters moving into or through certain landscape features may flush them out.

I have ordered (so far) two different packs of nominally 28mm rabbits, but I have also identified a number of other suppliers where these charismatic wee pests are currently available. This listing may not be exhaustive, but it should get the idea across that there is a lot out there and both the cost and quality of the sculpts varies dramatically.

£1.75 for five bunnies. I ordered these bunnies for the craic on Easter Sunday. That's what started my current search because, although they are nice wee sculpts, they are definitely wee. I'm not sure how big I was expecting them to be given the price, but lets just say that they are realistically scaled for 28mm figures. Not a lot of eating on them. I'm not convinced that they will work with my 20mm exaggerated hunters (as in the second picture), and so my quest continues...

Scotia Grendel
£5 for three bunnies. These guys remind me of the bunnies in Aardman's Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I have ordered some because I thought the exaggerated and comic like features may suit my prehistoric hunters although they may not be to everybody's taste. The photo is also tiny, so hard to say much else. We'll see when they get here...

Black Cat Bases 
£2 for four bunnies. In the first picture from the Black Cat website they look a bit like Blackavar from Watership Down. In the second picture (from Tim's painted bunnies found HERE) they look completely different...

Bad Squiddo Games (currently on pre-order for May 2017)
£6 for eight bunnies. These look great - there are also guinea pigs already available and cats coming soon too. £1 from all purchases will be donated to a bunny rescue organisation.

2.31 Euros for five hares. Technically not bunnies, but close enough!

US$10.99 for one bunny. A great sculpt with loads of character, but hugely overpriced if all you want is the bunny - especially if you then add on the daylight robbery USP prices to the UK as well. Might be worthwhile if you want the other critters and are already placing an order large enough to justify the postage.

If you have any other suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

This is the pits

I've just finished putting together this little pit for mammoth hunting. I neglected to take any WIP photos, but it was made by cutting a cork-backed table mat to the right shape and scraping out the cork in the center to make a shallow depression. The cork scrapings were then glued back onto the remaining cork around the depression to build it up slightly, giving the impression of depth.

Sand and glue was mixed together into a putty to even up the edged of the the piece and it was all painted brown before being covered by another layer of patio sand and flock. The depression was then painted a mix of black and brown, lightening towards the middle of one side to give a suggestion of some light hitting the base of the pit. Not a masterpiece, but more effective than a plain circle of black card.