Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dark Passage - the Anatomy of an Naval Scenario, part 3: the Game

Here then, is finally the account of the naval scenario we played out at Fall In, this past November. Apologies for the delay in typing this all out. The game was played in the open gaming area (used for the flea market during the day) hence all the empty tables. We started to set up about 7:30 but didn't actually start playing until much later, continuing - if the time stamps on the photos are to be believed - until after 1:00AM! I honestly didn't feel tired. I guess when you are "in the game" you ignore everything else. :-)

The basic premise was that the Princess Ma'in and her entourage are sailing serenely down the Gulf of Perudaya in two sailing ships, having visited her brother's pleasure palace in a nearby bay. There is an early morning mist that reduces visibility to the length of the range stick. Beyond that you might see shadows but not much else. The tide is going out and the two vessels are moving slowly with the tide down a known channel. There are large sandbars in the Gulf that become exposed as the tide recedes and so it is necessary to navigate carefully to avoid running aground.

Unfortunately for the Princess the Gulf is quite a busy place that morning. A Haida Pakallan pirate ship is lurking in the mist, as is a Mu'ugalavyani raider galley. Both would dearly like to earn a Princess' ransom! To further complicate matters a spawn of vicious Hlutrgu has drifted into the Gulf. These vicious beasts will attack any humans they encounter, torturing, killing and eating all - though not necessarily in that order!

The game was played with an action deck of cards to determine turn sequence, each ship having two cards. 

There was also a Tide card to regulate how fast it was going out. Each time it was played the sandbars all moved one short length across the table. The ships were not moved as all were drifting at the same rate. In addition, each sandbar was gradually increased in size and new sandbars added. The idea was that gradually quite large sandbars might be exposed and some vessels might end up grounded. This would turn the vessel into a wooden fortress on the sandbar until the tide came back in to free it once more. Theoretically, two vessels might be grounded on the same sandbar and attacks could be launched from these newly created citadels. Of course, the Hlutrgu would swarm onto the sandbars and assault these fortresses in earnest. Sadly, this never came to pass - but it could have! :-)

I might have used a Turn End card, but honestly I can't remember. At the start of each turn we re-spawned 2D6 worth of Hidden Markers. These started near the edges of the table and were placed so that all vessels were threatened all the time. They had a card and all moved at 'M' rate towards the nearest human vessel. If they got within sight a roll was made to determine what each marker was. Most were Hlutrgu coracles holding either five or nine of the critters. A "sea monster" was another possibility and also local fishermen seeking safety. 

The Sea Monster was a generic beast with armoured scales and taking 3 hits to kill. In the game it turned out that there was a pod of the creatures in the Gulf that day as I think at least three attacked the vessels and were slain or driven off.

The local fishermen were Tsolyani who could have been added to the crew of any friendly vessel as additional sailors. Unfortunately they discovered the vessel rescuing them was Mu'ugalavyani, who were no doubt happy to supplement their complement of galley slaves! 

The Hlutrgu were allowed to move at 'L' rate once placed as they were keen to come to grips with their prey. 

Foreground: the Princess' ship, following the escort vessel.
Background: Tsolyani naval galley coming to the rescue.

Another view, also showing some Hlutrgu coracles 
previously hidden by the morning mist.

Some local colour, in the form of a "Sea Monster". 
Mu'ugalvayani raiders seen in the background.

The initial stages of the game were marked by Hlutrgu and Sea Monster attacks. The latter were mostly on the Tsolyani who seemed to have sailed into the midst of a pod of the creatures. The Hlutrgu, however, proved troublesome to all parties. I think all vessels were boarded at least once by the vicious beasts. 

The pirates were able to target the Princess' escort vessel as the Mu'ugalavyani were still maneuvering into position. Mind you, I think the raiders were under assault be Hlutrgu at the time so I think they were happy to give the pirates "dibs" on the Princess. 

The larger Haida Pakallan ship slid along side the smaller escort vessel. As both were sailing vessels there was no shearing of oars. A good thing as I hadn't worked that out in the rules yet! As the pirates came along side they dropped down onto the deck of the escort vessel and a fierce melee ensued. This was complicated by Hlutrgu climbing up over the opposite side at about the same time.  

The pirate crew included four Ahoggya who were quite impressive in combat. The Princess, on the other hand, had her entourage of Heroes, which was split between the two ships. The Ahoggya had a great armour save, took two hits, and could attack each figure they were in base with. The heroes were better skilled in fighting and took a random number of hits to kill. Each time one was hit they rolled a D6 and as long as they rolled equal or higher than the number of woulds taken then they could fight on wounded. A '6' always allowed them to carry on. In the game several were killed, IIRC one to a single blow and the others after taking a few wounds each. 

The Haida Pakallan pirates engage the escort ship.

A confused melee ensues...

...complicated by the fact that Hlutrgu keep drifting 
out of the mist and boarding as well. 

A seemingly endless supply of Hlutrgu coracles!

Overview of the action, late in the game.

Another view of the situation.

The Hlutrgu spread to the pirate ship.

The two vessels drift by each other...

This picture shows the sandbanks becoming 
exposed as the tide goes out.

The Tsolyani Navy moves to intercept...

The Tsolyani Priest animates the Pirate's anchor chain!

I handled magic in a simple manner. The mechanics are described on the cheat sheets, but the spells themselves were only described in vague terms. Each vessel had someone who could cast magic. I declared that one could cast a "shootie" spell (like "fireball" or "magic missile") or some sort of summoning enchantment, or practically anything else the players could come up with - though it would be approved or rejected by the referee. 

Only the Princess' House Priest really did any magic in the game, however. IIRC the Mu'ugavlani tried but were not successful in their casting. They might have summoned a wave to sink a coracle. The Pricess' mage, however, first cast "Mage Fire"- which burns with black flames - at the pirates and then animated their own anchor chain as a sort of giant golem!  That occurred right at the end of the game - it being so late, we had to call it. By that point the pirates were in a bad way, having suffered a severe holing after being rammed by the Mu'ugalavyani raiders, their crew reduced from melee with Hlutrgu and Tsolyani heroes, and now also having to deal with a Chain Golem!

Another view of the melee. The Mu'ugalavyani in 
the background are also fending off waves of Hlutrgu.

The Mu'ugalvayani galley rams the Pirate vessel!

The game ended with the Princess and escort maneuvering around the stricken pirates while the Tsolyani Navy prepared to ram the Mu'ugalvayani raiders amidships.

I think all the players had fun. I know I had a great time. I've since had time to revise slightly my cheat sheets and make a couple of improvements. See below.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dark Passage - the Anatomy of a Naval Scenario, Part 2

Háida Pakálan Pirates

Mu'ugalavyáni Raiders

Imperial Sailing Vessels

Princess Ma'ín Krüthái hiTlakotáni and Entourage

L-to-R: sailor, an aridáni hero, another hero, Shén body servant, 
sailor, the Princess, her pet Rényu, a second aridáni hero, sailor, 
a fourth hero and personal sorcerer. 

At "Fall In!", held on the 5-8th Nov, in Lancaster, PA, I had the opportunity to run the Dark Passage scenario. These pictures were taken by some of the participants and have been seen previously on the Tékumel facebook page.

The scenario was that the Princess Ma'ín Krüthái hiTlakotáni and entourage are sailing south down the Gulf of Perudáya in two vessels on a mission to the Southern Isles. The water is a dirty brown because of the immense amount of sediment that the mighty Mssúma river carries far out to sea. This sediment is deposited throughout the Gulf making navigation treacherous at times, especially at low tide when the sand bars are exposed. These can be tens of kilometers long just like those in the Thames estuary on present-day Earth.

The Gulf of Perudáya is top center. The horizontal 
hatching shows shallows and tidal sandbars.

 The scenario takes place somewhere a little north of the label for Lilsú Isle. It is morning and the two Imperial sailing vessels are sailing slowly south with the tide as it goes out, exposing more and more sandbars. It is a misty morning as is typical in the region and visibility is restricted, hence the slow speed. Unbeknown to the Imperial party, they are not the only ones on the water this morning. Also in the area are a large  Mu'ugalavyáni raiding galley and a  Háida Pakálan pirate ship.  Both would be very happy to take the Princess prisoner!

To make things even more interesting I added some of the vicious Hlutrgú to the mix. These are one of the nastier non-human races on Tékumel. The inhabit the enclave marked with the red border on the above map. They are in the habit of from time-to-time "spawning", that is taking to the seas in coracles made from human hides and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Of course, they "never spawn this time of year"... :-)

Lastly, there is a Tsolyáni naval galley rushing south to warn the Princess' escort of the danger from the spawn, which has been conveyed by frightened fishermen.

Here are the Cheat Sheets I used, that is to say, the rules...

There are a couple of additional items to these rules and there are one or two errors on the sheets, but otherwise this is pretty much what we used to play the game. I had chopsticks to measure the shorter distances, per the illustration on the left border of the first sheet. I picked up a package of 5 sets from a Hong Kong seller on ebay. Less than $5 with free shipping! Can't beat that! :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Inimitable Forces of Ancient Kái

Pijéna and the City of Kái

Pijéna is a small nation located to the South-west of Yán Kór. Its western border is with Mu’ugalavyá and Tsolyánu is directly south. To the North-west are is the mountainous home of the N’lüss, and Ghatón is just along the North-western coast. In other words it is a piss-poor little country wedged in between a lot of powerful or fierce neighbours.

Before the war with Yán Kór began, Baron Áld occupied the country and installed "advisors" to oversee things. The southern border shown on the map snippet (which comes from the Swords & Glory map) shows the situation after the war has begun and the Yán Koryáni forces have moved south and seized the Átkolel Heights from the Tsolyáni.

The Tékumel Project is slowly building up the forces of Tsolyánu and Baron Áld. Little Pijéna contributes two legions to the Baron's forces. That said, there are so many legions that need doing that the likelihood we will ever be able to offer specific figures for these legions is slim to none. There is just too much else that needs doing.

This leaves making do with Proxy Figures, something all Petal Heads are familiar with! :-)

Here then is my attempt to build one of the Pijéni legions: The Inimitable Forces of Ancient Kái
The following is taken from the Yán Koryáni army book:

The Inimitable Forces of Ancient Kái

Ochür: Rdésh Pré, High Priest of the Goddess in Kái

Based: Kái, a city in Pijéna

Arms: Heavy Infantry have small round shields, full armour, long pikes, short swords; Medium Infantry have half armour, tall conical helmets, large oval shields, barbed spears, swords, maces, or morningstars; Crossbowmen have light armour, heavy winch crossbows, short swords; Light infantry are mainly junior priests and priestesses armed with spears, axes, or clubs.

Strength: 2,500 Heavy Infantry, 2000 Medium Infantry, 2000 Crossbowmen, 6000 Light Infantry.

Stats follow...(omitted here).

Remarks: Another priestly legion, good considering its various elements.

The Heavy Infantry: For these I have decided to utilize some of the figures from the old Ral Partha Chaos Imperium range. The shields are those that come with our Ahoggyá. Following the usual method, I am using a figure ratio of 1:100, so the 2500 HI would yield 25 figures.

I am intending to base the figures in groups of six on 60mm x 40mm MDF bases, as shown below. At six to a base that means four bases gives me 24 figures, or 2400 men. But all that means the others are either ill or off somewhere else. :-)

Medium Infantry and Crossbows: I am still working out which figures to use for these. They will probably be more figures from the Chaos Imperium range. 

Light Infantry: There are 6000 of these, so 60 figures. They are divided half-and-half between those with long spears and those with melee weapons - axes and clubs being mentioned. They have neither armour nor shields for protection, and we know that they are "mostly junior priests and priestesses". Those with spears make me think of the DBM category Auxilia(X). In both cases I think they would be irregular troops, not really properly suited to fighting. That is to say, I doubt they have any maneuver skill but they might still be fierce in combat, being driven by religious fervour! 

The list says there are 3000 of each type. So that is 30 with spears and 30 with hand weapons. I would base skirmishers on single bases but these light infantry are not skirmishers so I will be using the 60 x 40 bases again. For the spears I will be mounting five figures to each of six bases to give the proper amount; I like to use even numbers for regulars and odd numbers for irregulars. For those with the hand weapons I will be mounting three figures on a base for a total of ten. 

For figures I decided to go with Wargames Foundry Spartans and Amazons, in both cases using the unarmoured nudes. To add women to the melee weapons group I am using some of Foundry's Elf Nymphs, many of whom are armed with a fierce looking war club. 

Edit: I just remembered that I didn't just use Spartans for the nude males. I also selected packs of Ancient Germans, Vikings and Greeks. 

Figures shown front and back...

As you can see I've mounted them on popsickle sticks with white glue. Hopefully I will be able to get them off without too much trouble when it comes time to mount them to their bases proper! The next phase is to clean them up a bit and prime them black. I also have to make some minor adjustments to the figures. I need to trim the elf ears on the Foundry Nymphs, for one. And some of the capes are more ragged than I would like. I also feel that I need to make the axe blades more exotic looking, like they belong on Tékumel! 

The back of the army book has a very sketchy chart that serves as a painting guide of sorts. It provides one line of information for each legion, listing helmet, body armour, shields, straps, cloaks and banner colours.

The line item for this legion shows:
Helmet: base colour - turquoise, plume - light blue, trim - green;
Body Armour: base colour - turquoise, kilt - light blue, trim - green;
Shield: base colour - turquoise, plume - light blue, trim - gold;
Straps: none given;
Cloaks: none given;
Banner: base colour - turquoise, plume - light blue, trim - gold.

This system may have worked after a fashion for the Tsolyáni army list where each legion was composed of a single troop type. It works less well for the forces of Yán Kór which are composed of many diverse elements within each unit. But it at least provides a starting point. :-)

One thing I am wondering is whether I should add plumes to the helmets of the heavy infantry, and perhaps even the lights. It might serve to make them even more suitable for Tékumel. 

I haven't painted in a big way for quite a long time so this will give me practice. And I have a new recipe for suitable flesh tone to try out, which I have from a fellow Petal Head: Mike Lung. :-)

Here are some of his figures in action: