Saturday, 19 June 2021

The Plague: an SSD game in Pattayavium

Another cracking missive from Mark in Thailand:

I’ve been mulling this game almost since the COVID pandemic began, considering various scenarios, but I kept putting it off as over-complicated. But at last, with too much time on my hands (tho it seems never enough) I gave it a go. Here are the results. The rules used are Song of Shadows and Dust: Miniature skirmish rules for urban violence and civil disruption in the Ancient World (Nic Wright, published by Ganesha Games 2013).


Rumours of a terrible contagion have been coming down country for months, with traders and visitors. Now, a mob of refugees is approaching Pattayavium. The municipal authorities have not been idle, but will their preparations be enough? Or will the plague get into the town and wreak havoc? And how will the people of Pattayavium respond to the imminent threat? Many have already fled, to their home villages or - if wealthy - their country villas.

⬇️ Here’s the bit of Pattayavium just inside the Mapyailia Gate. You couldn’t call the town ‘fortified’ but this section is protected by a makeshift palisade to discourage wildlife such as elephants and tigers looking for food. In their different ways.

⬆️ Inside the gate to the left is a poor neighbourhood, mostly housing peasants and labourers. Across the main street are shophouses and better quality accommodation. The red building near the gate is the Dolphin brothel, conveniently positioned for travellers. Outside the gate are fields, and the abandoned tannery.

⬇️ And here is the cast. The largest block is 20 x plague refugee hordes [Q5 C4, Short move, slow]. The movement brakes represent their lack of cohesion, although the leader, known for some reason as MakMak (its what my sister-in-law calls me) has some influence over this. Their high combat factor reflects their desperation, and also the fear of contagion they instil.

⬆️ The two cards behind the plague horde carry the two groups assigned to defend this area of the town boundary (considered low risk by the Prefect and his advisers). A group of 5 x Artisans (emergency levy of armed civilians) [Q4 C2, Armed]. And 2 x Zealots assigned by the Jewish Council [Q3 C3, Armed, Hard, Streetfighter].

⬆️ The three cards at R carry three groups of potential reinforcements. From the rear these are: (1) An officer and two men of the Prefect’s Guard [Q3 C3, Armed, Steadfast, etc]; (2) Brasidas and his gang of enforcers [Q3 C3, Armed, mostly Bellicose, etc]; (3) The perennial nuisance Iunius Cicero [Q3 C2, Demagogue, Plebeian] leading another Artisan group he has rounded-up off-table. Cicero and his followers may pile in on either side according to what the voices in his head currently say.

As the plague horde approaches, all buildings are tightly shut, with the inhabitants (apart from those in arms) having fled, or cowering inside.

The plague hordes must exit at least 3 figures off the further table edge to claim a win. The defenders win by preventing this,


And off we go. Here’s the starting position ⬇️ The defenders include some with army experience, so know how to defend a choke point against superior numbers. MakMak (yellow robe) urges his followers forward.

I’m using my Undead figures as the plague mob, but I ended up not going with ideas about making the plague contagious to Pattayavium people within the game timeframe, as the contingency outcomes quickly get too complicated to be fun.

The horde figures will usually roll only 1 activation dice each, to avoid turnovers and spread them out as the failed activators fall behind. I roll multiple dice (corresponding to each natural subgroup) and always move the hindmost figures in the subgroup first (not MakMak if this would put him in unnecessary danger ;).

⬇️ After 3 turns the horde has attacked the gate guards and is getting much the better of the fight. One defender has been killed, one has fallen (red marker) and one has recoiled.

On turn 4 the plague horde overran the gate guards.

⬇️ Turn 5: With the gate guards below half strength, I rolled for the possible arrival of reinforcements. Yes! But which lot? It was Brasidas and the boys, who came on with a group move. Seeing this, Saul and Matthias (the Zealots) fell back to link up with them. To the L the surviving Artisan is fleeing, but may yet rally (no he didn’t).

⬇️ By the end of Turn 8 the defenders have formed a second line, with one end anchored on a building. The plague horde is almost on them.

On turn 9 the horde closed in, they’ll be in contact next turn for certain. As they advanced the horde crossed the centre line of the table, the next trigger for possible reinforcements. This time no dice, but the odds will improve each turn.

⬇️ On turn 10 the two lines clashed. The defenders repelled the first surge, eventually killing or recoiling all plague horde figures in contact, so that by the end of turn 11 the losses were: Defenders 1 (the zealot Matthias); Hordes 3.

And more reinforcements are on the way! It’s an officer (Victor) and 2 men (Diogenes and Teres) of the Prefect’s guard. Is this all who can be spared? Matters elsewhere in the town must be desperate.

⬇️ On turn 12 the defenders prepared to meet another onslaught, as Brasidas solidified his line. But the plague hordes rolled really bad activation dice - put off by their losses last time? - and only two of them moved into combat. Causing two defender recoils (not shown here). Victor and his men are hurrying up along the inside of the perimeter wall, through the poor neighbourhood.

⬇️ In turn 14, here is the position after the both sides had moved but before the plague horde initiated their combats. You can see 1 defender has fallen (red marker) during his own round of combat. As well as the main defensive line commanded by Brasidas, a second melee has just started as the hordes have rushed the guard troops at bottom of the photo.

⬇️ The outcome of the combat round was much in favour of the defenders. In the main melee, the fallen defender (Luke, of Brasidas’s gang) was killed, but 3 hordes were felled and so should be easy pickings for the defenders next turn. In the other melee one of the guards (Diogenes) was killed but 3 more hordes were knocked down, including 1 by Diogenes before a second horde got him.

⬇️ In turn 15 the defenders took down a total of 7 hordes, including all the fallen, with no losses themselves. The hordes have now lost 10/20 figures, and have a new figure fallen (knocked down in the defenders move, failed to get up in the attackers move). They have now charged into both lines of defenders with pretty much their last reserves …

… and it did not go well 🔽 The guardsmen Victor and Teres killed 2 more hordes. Brasidas and Alketas killed 1 each. Solon caused a knock down. The only defenders loss was Saul the zealot, who was knocked down (but will have a chance to stand up).

⬆️ And here at last (just coming on-table in the background) is Iunius Cicero and his rag-tag band of citizens with too much time on their hands. Cicero may be a crank, but he can see writing on the wall as well as anyone. The plague hordes are clearly the losers, in this part of town anyway, so he turns his rhetoric around. “All men are our brothers” can turn on a sesterce into “We will decide who comes to this town”.

So the game ended in a clear win for the defenders, who have managed to hurl back the horde of plague refugees from the Mapyailia gate. We’re waiting to hear what has happened elsewhere in the town.

The hordes lost 15/20 figures. The rest will be rounded up and disposed of shortly. The defenders lost 4/5 artisans from the emergency levy (overrun at the gate), 1/5 members of Brasidas’s gang, 1/3 men of the Prefectoral guards, and 1/2 of the zealots. Could have been worse.

Cheers once again from Pattayavium. 

Achoo! Sniff! Perhaps I’ll go and lie down now.


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