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.]