Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Rustling rustlers...

Rumours at the Tepid Cup, a secluded inn on the road to Harsten, with a reputation for having a reputation, swirled around the bar room like heirs around a dying monarch.  Most of them started with Ralph, the publican.  They started with Ralph because they would usually end with Ralph leaning over the bar telling his whispered hearsay over and again; he was a man who liked the sound of his own dramatic whisper and had a positive penchant for leaning.

The rumours of the past week flowed as free as ale, which is to say that for a fistful of copper coins one could partake their fill of both.  Cattle had been raided from farms outlying Harsten, there were brigands in the Dark Wood; cattle thieves hiding up and away in the forest.  Ralph rather enjoyed repeating his joke; that he had heard rustling in the woods.

That's what they were and what they remained, rumours and idle jokes oft repeated. That is until the tall man from Harsten came offering real coin for any familiar with the Dark Wood who could return the stolen cattle and stop the forest rustling.

Three intrepid bands set out to claim their share of what they could.  
A run-down farmstead with signs of recent repairs? 
What ho? What be those bovine-like creatures there in that pen?
The three groups came at the farm from different angles, each trying to make off with as many of the cattle as they could, the tall man of Harsten would pay well for each head returned, as long as the body was returned as well, and everything seemed in functioning order.

The first moves are made, with as quick and cautious a foot as could be laid...
Searching the old farm houses found no trace of the rustlers...
A group led by Lord Tuffington, known only as the 'Crump Troubadours', made for the old farm houses in the hope of finding rustlers or loot, or both.  The cattle thieves had left signs of a hasty departure, and a search yielded some stashed coin, enough to make the effort worthwhile.

All very cautious... trying to avoid getting bogged down in fighting while there was loot to be had.
'The Order of the Wild Wood', led by Badger (who else?) made the first  attempts to secure the pen, or at least as many of the cattle as they could safely lead away.

In, grab, run.  Get away with as much loot (well, cows) as plausible and safe...
Sadly, the Crump Troubadours and the Order of the Wild Wood raced into action too quickly for the lumping likes of the 'Wrecking Machine' and 'Willy The Fist' members of the group known as 'The Marrow Raiders' - who managed after some time to nab one misbegotten and emaciated old cow the others had left behind as too shabby.

To the victorious go the spoils... the Crump Troubadours managed to make the most hay whilst the sun shone...


So this was the first of several scenarios I designed to be three player affairs.  Each of us players had a 300 point warband, using the rules from the basic Song of Blades and Heroes Rulesbook - as well as campaign rules from Song of Deeds and Glory (both from the excellent Ganesha Games).

Each warband started in its own little deployment zone on the points of a triangle, with the goal or objective of the game (in this case being the Cattle) smack bang in the center.  The goal of the game was simple - you could move a cow if you had a member of your warband within 'short' of it, and the maximum move you could make while getting the cattle away was also 'short'.  The cattle had a combat of '0' - so theoretically one could try and kill the cattle being led by the opponents in a sort of scorched earth approach to winning the scenario.

Each cow a warband managed to return to their deployment zone was worth D6x5 gold.  

As it played out there was no combat at all, aside, I think, from the odd ranged shot.  This didn't mean the scenario was uninteresting however - we all avoided combat, wanting to get away with as much as we could as quickly as we could.  Our better quality models were quickly moved into position, and this positional play was a tense little dance.  It would have been interesting if one or all of us had a better quality long range archer, but as it stood it was an interesting and fun game.

As a three player scenario it worked well, the poor 'Marrow Raiders' didn't manage to achieve much, and this mainly due to some poor rolling.  From that point of view the scenario seemed relatively balanced.  In retrospect I would have positioned the terrain differently - perhaps have the cattle in a forest clearing with a few paths in.  A slightly different terrain layout may have concentrated the figures and encouraged more combat.  But despite the lack of direct conflict the game was a lot of fun, so maybe I'd leave everything as was!

I should note that the poor luck of the 'Marrow Raiders' continued after the scenario was played out.  I wrote that the warbands received a D6x5 gold, he (my brother Ewen, erstwhile brain behind the Marrow Raiders), of course rolled a '1'. 

In the Song of Deeds and Glory rules warbands go exploring between scenarios and can find interesting things and have interesting encounters.  A fun way to build a little history and sense of campaign.  The Crump Troubadours managed to encounter and recruit a wolf - useful and definitely increases their awesome factor.  I wandered into a 'blessed glade', and found a one use magic charm stone, good for one reroll.  The still wily, less successful and increasingly less optimistic Marrow Raiders rolled one less than I did and managed to stumble into a 'cursed glade' - of course it was cursed.  Hilarity ensued, jibes coming from at least two players.

At the least the Marrow Raiders managed to make good in the following scenario...  but more on that later.


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