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.