This follows on from Unbridled Savagery Part One.
After a small, and unwanted, post-midnight adventure involving key safes, I managed to get into my lodgings and sleep. Next morning I got up, had an unexpected and rather unwelcome cold shower, wandered into town, ate a decent breakfast and then headed into the sunshine towards B.I.G. I had another small and unwanted adventure, this time smart-phone inspired, on the way, which prolonged the walk by about half an hour. But it was a nice morning and I ended up at the venue in good enough order. On a side note, Bristol is peculiarly American-feeling with lots of social venues like the Bocabar bar (and indeed B.I.G) having taken over units in industrial sites. So this wasn’t as surreal as it might otherwise have been:
The first game of the day was A Walk in the Woods. The British had to escort Mynheer Sterngange to safety, which would mean crossing the length of the table. This was a tall enough order but as they had been badly mauled the day before, the table was set to be very unfavourable for them, though I think that it was not immediately obvious to the players that this was so.
The left hand side of the table (from the British perspective) was unattractive – woods, swamp and a tributary stream to cross from their Deployment Point. The right hand side of the stream, by contrast, offered easier deployment and rapid passage towards the farm.
Ian, commanding the French, played a very cagey game, refusing to deploy anything but a single unit of Milice for many turns, much to the frustration of his co-player, Dee, who was eager to get stuck in. It was fascinating to me that Ian, playing only his third game, had grasped so quickly the sense in making the enemy commit before himself committing. Of course the danger was he might delay too long, but he remained quietly confident behind his beard.
Lieutenant Mill seemed to have got lost in the woods but Murray pressed on with his half of the highlanders and led by the rangers. Captain Cutlass and his Mohawks chose to move across to the other flank, but were first delayed by an unexpectedly deep river, and shortly afterwards, and ironically, by becoming parched by thirst.
The rangers’ shooting temporarily chased the Milice from the hill above the cabin, from which two women emerged, begging piteously to be saved from the lecherous and garlic-reeking French. Sergeant Warner was not immediately inclined to offer succour, but after some discussion, more piteous begging and some shots from the returning Milice, he sent them back to Murray so he could decide what must be done.
The highlanders deploy into line and the Huron appear from the woods to fire into Mill’s men.
Rob and Ben, commanding the British in their first ever games had done pretty well to this point, coming up with probably the best plan available. Now, however, they became painfully aware of how the terrain was going to constrict their options – there simply was not enough room for the highland lines to maintain formation and advance.
Veteran Lardy, Matt Slade of Glenbrook Games, who offers a top-quality painting service (and whose wife, Debs, runs Saddle-Goose Designs, making the world’s best chip/dice bags) had turned up shortly before this. I’d met him at the WorLard Gaming Day earlier this year, and availed myself of his services, getting some rather nice Peninsula riflemen painted by him. He was able to offer some sage advice regarding wheeling of lines.
Mill wheeled to engage the Huron, the rangers drove the Milice from the hill and occupied it, and Murray attempted an advance, but his line foundered trying to cross the fence into the pumpkin field and got seriously bogged down. More Milice arrived to reinforce the French left, but the British were still looking to be doing fairly well.
A devastatingly effective volley from Clouzeau’s Compagnies Franches de la Marine scythes down a swathe of Mill’s highlanders.
With enemies all around, the highlanders hold grimly on until a shot from Capitaine Terieur, who has wiped out the rangers with superior numbers, brings down Mynheer Sterngange. This shot ends the game, rendering a somewhat unlikely British victory impossible.
Ian’s tactic of delaying his deployment until the highlanders were in the worst position, constrained between river and farm, paid off in spades.
The final game of the weekend was Full Frontal, a straightforward meeting engagement, although again down the length of the table, played between Rob (French) and Alex.
Unfortunately this game ran a bit short of time, but it was enjoyable nonetheless as Murray’s highlanders, enraged by Milice sharpshooters picking off not only their piper but the highly regarded Sergeant Watson, launched a classic highland charge with a sharp volley followed by a wild rush into the woods with broadswords swinging, against which the Milice could not stand.
I really enjoyed running these games. Some of my thoughts on the game were confirmed:
New players get the idea quickly and readily buy into the spirit of the game. However certain mechanics are hard to immediately grasp, especially the distinction between a leader activating and having a certain number of Command Initiatives and a unit activating (via CIs or otherwise) and having two Actions (plus possibly a bonus movement). Most players seem to take a full game at least to get the differences straight.
Three and a half hours seems to be a good timespan for an introductory game involving more than one new payer. Three hours is certainly possible but requires briskness and less chatting.
Everyone who plays the game really likes it.
Umpired games are enhanced by introducing special random events and encounters, allowing the players to interact with ‘NPCs’ as if in a role-playing game (at least to a degree).
The game probably begins to ‘break’ with more than 16 leaders in total and more than four command cards per side has some undesirable consequences. 10-14 leaders in total would seem to be ‘optimal’ in terms of promoting player involvement and enjoyment.
There is a huge appetite for this kind of game outside the usual club/event circuit. Open gaming venues are not just about fantasy and science fiction games.
As I said in part one, Bristol Independent Gaming is a fantastic venue and offers a great gaming experience. If you are in the Bristol area, it’s well worth a look, with Peninsular War Sharp Practice now set to be a staple for many of the regulars.