Another missive from Mark in Thailand. This game of Song of Shadows and Dust was actually played over the summer, but I forgot to share it at the time!
I set up another multi-thread game in Pattayavium, my Graeco-Roman trading outpost on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Siam. The action takes place at night, on the first full moon night of the summer solstice.
Here are a couple of shots of the tabletop showing part of the town near the Battambang gate. It’s smaller than some previous games (only 900x900mm) so the various groups of players are more likely to cross each others paths, with more or less unpredictable (contingent dice driven) results.
The relatively open area at top L (of the first pic, mid R of the next pic) is a marketplace, but no business is happening at night and only a couple of stall awnings have been left standing, near the little cult shrine to Artemis (square thatched roof).
The building at top C (below) is the entrance wing and front garden of the luxurious villa of Evangelus. The other buildings are all more humble. The small wood & thatched structures are the houses of the towns poorest inhabitants, mostly immigrants from rural areas looking for the streets paved with gold.
And here is the cast of characters.
The photos are rubbish, sorry. In my defence, it was late at night (real time).
A religious procession, from one of the less reputable ecstatic cults that seem to flourish in these grossly permissive days. They include maenads (the most committed adherents), and other followers including a torchbearer, who retain some shred of respectability, and a priest (probably a hired actor or juggler).
The Maenads are Q3 C2: Belligerent, Hard. All the others are Q4 C2. These folks are only civilians, but they’re under the influence (of something!) so a bit more brave tonight.
A gang of toughs, hired by a political candidate to advertise his campaign with appropriate graffiti around the town, and rough up any opponents they might encounter.
Brasidas the gang leader is Q3 C3: Determined, Leader, Street fighter. His followers are Alketas, Evander, Luke, & Solon: all Q4 C3: Armed or Bludgeon, Bellicose or Grey.
A band of robbers, who have chosen tonight to do a break and enter job on the villa of a wealthy rice trader, Evangelus.
The boss of this vile crew is Barabbas: Q3 C3: Armed, Hard, Leader, Streetfighter. The others (Marcellus, Nikias, Plautus, & Simeon) are Q4 C2: Armed, Streetfighter.
Evangelus’s household slaves, overseers etc. Who may or may not (wait and see) resist the robbers.
To make it easier to distinguish them from other civilians, I used ‘artisans’ (civilians carrying improvised weapons, implements etc). They are all civilians (see below).
The night watch patrol, comprising men from the Prefect’s Guard led by their Officer.
Victor (the officer) is Q3 C3: Armed, Combat master, Leader, Steadfast. His patrol (Antiochus, Senex, & Teres) are Q4 C3: Armed, Javelins, Steadfast.
In addition there are a surprising number of civilians out on the streets tonight. Rolling home from a late-closing bar perhaps. Or just taking the air on this full moon night as the temperatures finally dip and a cool sea breeze picks up. Here are some of them. Actual numbers were determined by dice rolls.
All civilians are Q4 C2: Plebeian, Rabble.
Several other possible narratives were deleted as I pruned the game to a manageable size, including an assassin looking to hone his skills, a gang of arsonists, and a very hungry tiger from the hinterland.
The starting points and objectives of each group of players were:
The religious procession will enter from the S, pause to pay respects at the cult shrine of Artemis (Diana Venatrix) then go on their way down the main avenue and exit off the N table end. They are not aggressive but will actively resist anyone who gets in their way.
The gang of toughs will enter from the W, and must scrawl their political graffiti in at least five places, each at least 2L from any other. They’re not looking for trouble, but will beat up any partisans of their paymaster’s rival, and they are on bad terms with Barabbas & Co.
The gang of robbers will come on from the E, near the villa. They must launch an attack, overcome any resistance (not much is expected as Evangelus is absent, visiting his estates up-country), then loot the place and make their getaway.
Evangelus’s household start within the villa. They may or may not resist the robbers, and might even be tempted to join in.
The Night Watch will start in a randomly determined position but at least L from any other group above. They will react to trouble, but aren’t paid to get killed. Reinforcements are not available in game time, but civilians may possibly assist the Watch.
Civilians are distributed (numbers and locations) randomly. I moved them a bit, and added or subtracted numbers, as the game progressed and as I remembered to do so.
I also added two herds of feral pigs (the night scavenging team) and a few of the large jars used to dump human waste for collection. Because you never know.
It was a slow start with multiple early turnovers, no doubt caused by various players stumbling around in the dark (tho there is enough moonlight to see moving people, who aren’t lurking in the shadows, some distance away). Here is the position at the end of turn 2.
At bottom L, Barabbas and his robbers have broken into the villa garden through a side door, and so discarded their ladders. The household staff havn’t reacted yet. At upper R, over on the edge of the image, Brasidas (who can write) is painting the first of his teams political messages, implying that their paymaster’s opponent likes livestock a bit too much. Up by the top edge of the photo, the religious procession is in a standoff with the Watch patrol. However Victor will let them go on their way after a warning to keep it peaceful.
Turn 3, and things are starting to happen. The religious procession has reached the shrine and begun their rites (they’re mostly hidden behind the shrine roof). A couple of civilians are crossing the main road to take a look.
Brasidas and his gang are still sign-writing. How do you spell “ad bestias” anyway ? But a couple of busybody civilians have drawn their activity to the attention of the Watch. Luckily (for the gang) they were ignored. Move along please Sir. Nothing to see here.
The larger civilian group further up the road has noticed the robbers making their forced entry, and is wondering what to do. Evangelus’s household are in much the same position. Initially 3 of them confront the intruders in the garden, the others consider their positions. But no-one (yet?) has overtly decided to join in the robbery.
During turn 4, the religious procession was fully immersed in its ecstatic ritual at the shrine. More civilians have come to take a look, but all may not be well. Notice the man next to the chicken thief (near the market awning). He’s shouting something at the worshippers, possibly derogatory.
Elsewhere, Brasidas and his crew of graffiti artists have ducked down a side alley, oblivious to their close shave with the Watch. Victor, the Watch officer, has continued leading his men along the Main Street and is now listening to some civilians from the larger group, who are telling him about nefarious activity around the back of Evangelus’s villa.
In the villa garden, Barabbas and his men quickly killed all three of the household first responders. The last was a gruesome kill. This resulted in one slave taking to his heels, but the other two passed their morale tests - amazingly. But it remains to be seen what they can do. The folks on the street outside - the Watch and civilians - saw and heard nothing of this in the darkness. A few shouts and screams perhaps. Could mean anything.
On turn 5 a nasty little scuffle began when the Maenads attacked the spectators who had been hurling insults at them. Brasidas began painting his second graffiti slogan (top L). The terrified survivors of Evangelus’s household rushed onto the street through the main gate, right into the arms of the Watch patrol. The patrol wasted no time going into the garden to see what was going on.
In the fight at the shrine, the civilians gave a good account of themselves. One Maenad, and another cult member, were killed, for no civilian losses. Following this, one civilian got cold feet and fled, one more joined the Civilian faction*, and the others backed warily away.
* I ruled the 3 civilians who the Maenads originally had attacked now had a taste of blood and formed into their own ad-hoc anti-Maenad faction.
In the villa garden meanwhile, there was enough light for the Watch to recognise Nikias and Simeon (habitual criminals) who Barabbas had left on guard, and throw javelins at them. Nikias was wounded (knocked down).
This photo doesn’t show casualties, sorry.
Turn 6. At the shrine, the cultists went full ballistic when the Maenads were killed, and all the others attacked the civilians, including some who were backing away. Three were killed, for no more Cult losses. The surviving two civilians (the children and the chicken thief) kept backing off.
But there are more civilians in the Main Street, who are close enough (1M) to have seen it all. What will they do?
Over in the villa garden, the Watch, aided by both household slaves, fought the robbers. I removed the orange trees a few turns ago, to access this confined area.
It was rather one sided. Barabbas himself was brought down by Senex, with help from one of the slaves. Two other robbers, Nikias and Plautus, also fell. One Watchman, Antiochus, was knocked down. The surviving robbers (Marcellus and Simeon) fled through the postern door and disappeared.
Turn 7. The Cultists decide it’s time to move along. The survivors reform their procession and head up the Main Street towards the villa, which they must pass to make their exit from the table. Don’t know how they’re going to explain all the bodies in around the shrine though.
Brasidas leads his men through a small alley that comes out opposite the villa’s main gateway. He needs to paint at least 3 more messages tonight, and they’ll have to be on the villa side of the main road.
Victor calls his men together in the villa garden, for a debrief and pep talk before continuing the patrol. The night is not over yet. Some kind of commotion seems to be happening in the Battambang market.
Evangelus’s surviving household slaves are left to clean up the mess. Victor will send some people in the morning, to remove the heads of the robbers as evidence.
On turn 8 we get this. Purely through the mysterious workings of contingency dice rolls for each group.
The Watch patrol is coming out of the villa gate just as the religious procession passes by, and also just as Brasidas and his boys come out of the alley and cross the road. All remaining civilians (there is a group at either end of the photo) are keeping their distance.
Turn 9: Initiative is with Victor, the Watch patrol officer. What will he do? And how will the cultists, and Brasidas & Co, react?
He decides to take no action. The religious procession continues on its way to the table edge. They aren’t actually breaking any laws. The blood probably comes from their rather outré ecstatic rituals. Brasidas and his toughs likewise. Though they are acting a bit suspiciously, Victor knows this lot usually is hired by powerful backers, so better take a hands-off approach.
So, here are some final photos.
Shows the bodies from the two melees (at the market, and in the villa garden*). The Watch are standing in the street outside the villa gate. Brasidas and his men are heading down the road along the near side of the villa.
* The garden shows only the dead robbers, not the dead slaves because I forgot to put them back. D’oh.
Another angle, also showing the religious procession as it heads off the table at R.
Obviously there will be questions to answer in the cold light of morning. Mainly the Prefect will be asking, and Victor will be answering. What are all the bodies in the Battambang market? And how come all this graffiti (attacking a political candidate I wish to see elected) has appeared mysteriously overnight?
But it’s time for us to sleep now, the fun and excitement are over for tonight.