Thursday, 17 July 2014

Pulp Week!

My playtesting this week was entirely taken up with my new d6-based Pulp game. The first game was set in my sideways “Star Wars” RPG universe, The Starstrider Chronicles. Upon learning of the death of her father, the Emperor, Princess Leilani Starstrider flees the Imperial precincts with her “handmaiden” Eliah ben Arbor, Imperial Knight Anwar Sudain and Goss Baron, the mysterious but lethal military scout. Alongside them were a few Patriot soldiers, men who, like the Princess, were sworn to support the royal family rather than the usurping government of the Chancellor Menoth Archon.

Against them were pitted the mysterious murderess Aina Loss, the Chancellor's right-hand killer, and almost a score of Ivory and Ruby guardsmen, mere minions one and all.

The princess had to get off the far side of the board – the Imperials would arrive in scattered clumps from random board edges as they realised that this powerful young lady was not going to meekly submit to their master's coup. What neither side realised was that the death of the Emperor (whoops, spoiler!) had raised a powerful rua ghost in the ruins in between the princess and her goal. Whoever woke it would be in grave danger. As would anyone who woke the space bears from their rest.
The Patriots begin their move into the woods.

Ivory Guardsmen are shot down by Goss Baron.

More Guardsmen appear, a little confused.

The evil rua ghost wakens at the princess' appearance.
A Ruby Guardsman prepares a Patriot soldier julienne.
Anwar Sudain takes out two Ivory Guardsmen.
A duel between two masters of the laser sword.
Eliah watches smugly as the space bear awakes. Angry...
In the end, the princess escaped both the evil ghost she woke and the minions sent to capture her. Eliah ben Arbor proved ruthless in her attempts to protect her charge, zapping Ivory Guardsmen willy-nilly with her pistol and actually knocking down the ghost with her preternaturally accurate shooting. Goss Baron was equally lethal, but found himself surrounded and outnumbered by Ruby Guardsmen, and ended the game captured (providing the seed for another adventure...). Anwar Sudain mostly just stomped around looking heroic until Aina Loss arrived to attack the party from the rear, whereupon he engaged her in a tense duel and forced her to teleport away half a second before he severed her wicked head from her shoulders. Ted's Ivory Guardsmen woke a space bear at one point, which true to form pulled the arms off the soldier who had been rude enough to wake it.

Tonight's game was a traditional “Pulp Era” pulp game. Captain America, supported by the Phantom's Four, was breaking into the subterranean headquarters of a cult engaged in terrible and terrifying experiments. Their goal was to steal the data from the computerised tube holding the creature, though anyone looking upon would have to take a Pluck check or faint (thank you Lovecraft...). I am quite convinced that the cult was made up of corrupted Mithras-worshipping policemen, because they were all tough and brave as nails. Their commander declined to comment.
Two cultists slow up Grimm and the Captain all game (I forgot to use that passage behind them).
Uniquely unaffected by The Horror, the professor proceeds.

Hansel Stern is taken out by a cultist after his terrible shooting.

Having slain Professor Rwyt's killer for the disc, Shoshannah fights for freedom...

And claims victory, jumping into the sewers with the Knowledge.
It was a tense game. The heavy iron doors separating the various areas of the dungeon were difficult to prise open, and both Hansel and Professor Rwyt were KO'ed, the latter after he had successfully removed the data from the prison of the Thing. The preternaturally tough cultists who opposed them were equally prone to fainting at the sight of their creation, but put up a stiff fight, even against the Captain and his fellow bruiser Jacob Grimm. Only three cultists were KO'ed, but as Shoshannah jumped back into the sewers with her prize, there was just one robed figure still standing, the others all lying dazed on the stone floor throughout the complex.

Both games were enjoyed by everyone, and moved at a good lick. The core of the rules are sorted, and games are now just to iron out any incongruities arising from awkward moments in play (and appropriate points values), but as a whole they are very flexible. If anyone is interested in trying the beta version, please get in touch at infoatmorningstar at gmail dot com.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Battle of Koree Farm

We had a very bloody game of Some Corner of a Foreign Field last night. Israeli paratroopers attempted to seize Koree Farm, a vital strongpoint in the West Bank.
Starting positions - Jordanians central, Israelis flanking.

The Jordanians defending took a real kicking in the first turn - even losing their corporal to a Serious Wound in the first volley. But over the course of the game they clawed back the casualty rate with vicious determination until eventually, they went from being a sure loser to being one shot away from a total (and I mean total) KO.
The corporal and his oppo go down, seriously wounded and dead.

A sniper on the edge of the wood takes down a third man.

...and a fourth gets hit in the fields.

The silent death surveys his work with Fired and Prone markers.

The turning point was when two isolated Israelis got taken down with Serious Wounds. Their comrades couldn't get to them without crossing open ground in front of the Jordanian field of fire - so they moved into the open to try and neutralise the stronghold, only to be wiped out in the courtyard themselves, just like the first Jordanian casualties.
The Israeli grenadier goes down.

Liebgott gets shot on the run! The Samal flees offscreen!

Rav Turai Avraham about to shoot the Bren gunner.

A second before Friedman gets shot from the field.

Barak attempts to avenge him - the Rav Turai succeeds!

All-conquering Paratroopers, a second before the grenade went off.
Lance Corporal Hakim's grenade killed two men, seriously wounded a third and convinced the fourth to surrender. Sadly, he was unceremoniously dispatched by men in no mood for prisoners.

Jordanian lancejack and private about to kill the Israeli gunner.

In the very last turn, with his last conscious action, a Jordanian private fired at the sniper and was only a pip away from ending him - but alas, he missed. It was all very dramatic, and good fun was had by all.
The lone survivor walked not in the valley of death.

Result: Draw, favouring the Israelis

Butcher's Bill
Everyone except one Israeli sniper was either dead or seriously injured. Oh no wait - the Israeli Samal (corporal) ran off the board when he saw his buddy get shot.

The game was absolutely brutal, largely because the Jordanians had nowhere to retreat except the house, and the Israelis had to take the house to save their injured comrades.

We "learned" that: grenades are excellent for clearing courtyards; men standing in the open are much easier to shoot than those lying down in cover; larger calibre rounds are great for taking down the enemy; suppressive fire from machine guns is horrible; sometimes people surrender at absolutely the worst moment for their side; staying out of the cauldron is the best way not to get boiled.

It was great fun nonetheless, especially watching the Jordanians nearly manage to hold the strongpoint after a terrible first pounding from the Israeli sneak attack.

A new twist was tried out with the Called Shots rule, namely that if the enemy are within x of the character calling out their spot, that character counts as having fired a bolt action rifle that turn, as the noise draws their attention. It worked quite well, but could be considered needlessly complex. We only really did it because I was playing with my usual RPG crowd, and we fancied adding in a few more consequences to things.

Some Corner of a Foreign Field is available exclusively from The Wargame Vault.

Monday, 7 July 2014

1967 - Road To Jerusalem

Forces Involved
Israeli Paratroopers: S&D4, no armour, Regular Morale, 2 Uzis, 3 Mauser 98ks, 1 FN FAL (Heavy Barrel), 4 AK47s.
Jordanians: no armour, Regular Morale, 2 S&D4 with 1 Thompson, 1 M1 Garand, S&D3 7 M1 Garands, 1 Bren.

Wary of ambushes against their few armoured assets, the Israelis have sent the Paratroopers to scout ahead. There is a small farm and a ruined church on this road – a golden place for a Jordanian sneak attack! Sure enough, when Samal Levy's squad arrives, the Jordanian infantry are in both positions – but luckily, half the squad is resting!

Can they take out the enemy without significant casualties in a sneak attack of their own? Find out in today's game of Some Corner of a Foreign Field!

Hakim's Bren group on top of the house.

Corporal Hassan's men relax in the ruins.

Samal Levy's men approach the house.

Rav Turai Avraham leads his men from the other side.

Turn 1
Dahan spotted the Jordanian fire team on top of the farmhouse and told his oppo Friedman, sotto voce – who immediately went prone and started crawling forward to line up a shot.

Barak did not see the enemy until Samal Levy smacked him round the helmet and pointed.

On the other side of the battlefield, Rav Turai Avraham's pointman Liebgott saw the outpost straight away and ducked to cover, letting everyone in his gun group know. As Tversky and Sayar moved to execute an L-shaped ambush in conjunction with the other half of the squad, Avraham himself led Shalom toward the church, pointing out the sentry as they went.

The house surrounded.
All that stealth was for nought however, as the eagle-eyed Thamara warned everyone in the house of the idiot Barak's approach and opened fire – alerting everyone else that the battle had started! Beside him, Tawfeek turned and sprayed the field with Bren gun fire, killing Barak instantly and mortally wounding Samal Levy. On the other side of the house, Ibn Souf and Lance Corporal Hakim scanned the fields before them intently, but saw no sign of the prone paratroopers opposite them...
Spotted from two sides, Tawfeek opens fire magnificently!

Turn 2
Dahan ran back to his commander, trying desperately to stabilise him as he choked on the ground. Friedman lined up a perfect shot on Thamara from his prone position, but unfamiliar with his captured AK47, missed everything but his water bottle! The sustained fire from Cohen's heavy-barreled FAL did no more damage, though it successfully scared everyone on the house roof.

Tversky was lying down by the side of one of the fields, and calmly slipped another round into his ancient but well-oiled Mauser 98k. When he saw the far off enemy go down with a jerk he just racked the bolt and reloaded. At the other end of the same field, Sayar decided to misuse one of his “anti-tank” rifle grenades. Knowing how upset his Samal would be if he missed, he was relieved when the round he fired landed just inside the rooftop and obscured the occupants in a cloud of screams and smoke.
Hakim's command decimated - he's the only one standing!

Shalom crawled forward. Staying in cover, he could only see the Jordanian sentry on the upper floor of the ruins. Worth a shot. His careful aim was rewarded with a grunt of pain as the man swung round. Liebgott and Avraham ran to support him, recognising almost instinctively that the house was already neutralised.
Liebgott runs into place as Avraham goes prone.
Shalom watches them go as he keeps an eye on the church.

Without really knowing what happened, Hakim found himself on the floor, one leg burning with pain, staring at the wreckage of his gun group. With laboured breaths he forced himself to look over the parapet, and saw a lone Israeli lying in the dirt not thirty yards away.

In the ruins of the church, Corporal Hassan had grabbed his gun and roused his men as soon as the firing started. He saw an Israeli firing at Hakim's position and waved at his men to see before opening fire with his Thompson to give a graphic demonstration of exactly where the enemy was. Mahmid followed his fire and sent the man spinning to the ground. El-Amin ran forward with a fixed bayonet, confident that his brothers were covering him. It did not take much to finish off the enemy with the big rifle. Souad saw an enemy on the other side and called out. Nejem ran to his side and tried to aim, though his breating was laboured from the swift dash through the dusty church courtyard. He missed, but saw the man duck.

Upstairs, Khatib's vision was swimming with pain from his wound, but he saw the Israeli helmet screech to a halt behind the next field. When he tried to warn his battle-brothers however, he could only gasp.

Turn 3
Corporal Hassan was not pleased at El-Amin's impetuous rush. Who knew how many more damned Israelis there were crawling around out there? Looking around though, he was confident his men had a good base of fire in the church, so he motioned to Mahmid and ran out to support him.
Hassan joins El-Amin out on a limb.

Friedman laid a spray of automatic fire on the house, Tversky's single aimed shot lost among his cacaphony. As they suppressed the rooftop, Sayar ran forward and was at the top of the steps when the barely conscious Thamara managed to pull the trigger on his rifle and shoot him in the leg.
You're only safe from the dead, Sayar...

Turai Shalom wriggled through the dust and lined up his German-engineered sights again on the man upstairs in the church. Left a bit... right a bit... stop wincing! he thought, ignoring his complicity. Crack. Slide. The man went down. Reload.

His commander, Rav Turai Avraham, spotted the two riflemen at the church wall and sprayed them with Uzi fire, but couldn't be heard over the roar of battle. Still following the original plan, Liebgott made a madcap dash for the house, reaching the bottom of the steps as Sayar crumpled at the top.
Liebgott sees Sayar get hit.

El-Amin saw the Israeli fall as he approached whatever was left of Hakim's section, and told his reinforcements. Mahmid fired off two quick shots to make him keep his head down. Back in the church, Souad and Nejem did the same to the Israeli who had harassed them with small-calibre fire.

Turn 4
Hobbled by the enemy, Sayar beat a quick if limping retreat from the house. Liebgott ignored him and went up to secure the area.
Having eliminated Thamara and Ibn Souf, he turns toward Hakim...

Friedman was sure he'd heard something in the fields where Cohen had been firing – and he didn't hear Cohen firing. He turned around slowly, deliberately, and settled down with his rifle to his shoulder...

Seeing Liebgott bayoneting people on the roof, Tversky got up and ran towards the house, ducking behind a little side wall. On the other side of the field, unaware that his Rav Turai was beating a tactical retreat, Shalom crawled through the field and sent a round whistling over somebody's head.

Tversky was not the only one to see Liebgott doing dirty work on the house. Mahmid and El-Amin saw too, and without question raised their rifles and sent him home to his ancestors with a bullet through one lung another through his neck. Corporal Hassan moved to the edge of the field and saw Friedman – just as Friedman saw him! A bullet caught him in the leg, sending his own shot wild.

Souad saw the crops moving around Shalom and nudged his squadmate as he fired. Nejem weighed his options and decided not to aim, cranking half a magazine into the rustling opposite. The rustling stopped.
With Shalom down, Avraham realises how alone he is...

Turn 5
Hassan dropped to the ground, dragged down by his bad leg. He sprayed the Israeli with his Thompson and watched the bastard roll over in pain, missing him entirely.

Dahan was back, having dropped off his squad leader behind the lines. But what carnage was this? He moved forward carefully and saw a Jordanian exchanging fire with someone. A quick snap shot did nothing but make him flinch, so he readied his AK for a better shot.
Tversky appears to threaten Corporal Hassan!

Tversky had another round in the chamber, and so moved out toward the loudest sound of gunfire. He saw a prone Jordanian firing and left him still and red in the dust. Click. Clack. Reload. To his right, Sayar stealthily retook the heights of the house's roof. He was not expecting the storm of fire that greeted him, nor the hammerblow to the head that sent him swimming into unconsciousness...
Seeing Liebgott's glassy eyes, Sayar felt a premonition...

Rav Turai Avraham, honoured with command of a half section by the Israel Defence Forces, was not proving worthy of that trust. He was retreating under the fire from the church, desperate to overcome the gnawing fear that ruled him.

At this point, the Israelis conceded. They had one lightly wounded, two seriously wounded men and four dead, out of the ten men who had entered the encounter – and one of the three uninjured men had retreated every time he came under fire! The Jordanians had three men bleeding out and three more dead, but they still held the church and were in a position to retake the house.

Butcher's Bill
Israelis: Friedman lightly injured, Samal Levy & Sayar seriously injured, Shalom, Barak, Liebgott & Cohen dead.
Jordanians: Hakim & Khatib seriously injured, Ibn Souf, Thamara, Tawfeek, Corporal Hassan dead.

A good game, and one that shows that skill isn't everything against a determined opponent with good terrain. Of course, things went wrong from the moment that Barak (silly Barak!) was spotted in Turn One. Losing two men to Bren fire was a good reminder to keep the men spread out when facing automatic weapons. A lack of body armour really makes things much more dangerous. I may stick to Osprey-equipped Brits from now on! El-Amin was lucky to survive his rush into open terrain, though you might say that Mahmid made that luck by killing anyone with a line of sight to him.

Man of the Match
My favourite was personally the cool-headed sniper Tversky, who did a great deal of damage including killing my runner-up favourite, the bearded Corporal Hassan. He killed a man in each of the three turns he fired in. Corporal Hassan just seemed like a really good squad leader - until Friedman winged him and Tversky put him down for good.

Some Corner of a Foreign Field is available here, now updated with squad lists for the Six Day War, Somalia 1993, Afghanistan 2001-present and the Falklands War.