Saturday, January 7, 2012

Raid on Frederikshavn Playtest #2

Saturday saw us venturing forth to the FLGS to give my Ogre Miniatures scenario "Raid on Frederikshavn" another test-run. We had done one playtest of it back in November, and many good lessons were learned, resulting in a much tighter set of rules for the second run-through, mostly concerning the victory points. I'm going to be running this twice at Dreamation next month, so I wanted to make sure it was solid.

The basic thrust of the scenario is that the Combine is attacking a PanEuropean spaceport in Frederikshavn, Denmark, with a coordinated attack by GEVs and an Ogre MK-IIIB sent across the North Sea. The PanEuropean player has to hang on long enough for enough reinforcements to arrive to push back the invaders.

The biggest changes were that victory points were now given only for destroying the critical objectives; the spaceplane itself and six critical structures (adminstration buildings, fuel depots, and workshops). No points are awarded for destroying enemy units or the various town areas.

Here's the setup for the game before the units were placed. The spaceplane is near the upper edge of the board, buildings and fuel depots scattered nearby, with swamp and forest in the middle of the board. The thin brown strips are road, the large brown blocks are town areas, which favor infantry greatly (triple defense!).

The PanEuropean defender (me) placed my Fencer (an Ogre with a whole lot of missiles and weak guns, code named "Rommel") right in the middle, with a mobile howitzer, a couple of missile tanks and infantry scattered about. The Combine attackers decided to divide their forces into two groups, each running up one edge of the board. You can see them in the upper-left moving through the few strips of solid ground between the swamps and forest. Unfortunately for the attacker, the defenders scored a very lucky roll right off the bat and took out two GEVs with one shot thanks to spillover fire (those two white puffs on the right side).

Eventually the attackers moved their remaining GEVs and Ogre MK-IIIB (code named "Skorzeny") up the left flank and took out the large building. 35 victory points in the bag. One of the GEVs was lost in the process, but the attacking Ogre was completely undamaged.

Meanwhile, on the right flank, the attacking force of GEVs and a GEV-PC carrying a platoon of infantry raced up and got close to striking distance of the spaceplane itself. 10 structure points of damage and it would be a guaranteed marginal victory for the attackers. Fortunately, the defenders had committed their Fencer to staving off the threat. Between the Fencer and the mobile howitzer (which, despite the name, wasn't all that mobile in the town area, only moving one inch per turn, but it did have the advantage of double defense) the threat was largely neutralized (completely so in the next turn or two, especially thanks to some fortuitous reinforcements in that sector).

Finally, the attacking Ogre Mk-IIIB was left alone. Only the one building had been destroyed, all of its screening GEVs destroyed, and the Fencer and scads of reinforcements (mostly GEVs and Light GEVs) rushing to engage. In two turns, the Fencer and the defending tanks and GEVs took out almost all the weapons on the Mk-IIIB, and the attacker threw in the towel. End result: marginal defender victory.

On the whole I'm very pleased with the way the scenario has turned out. Although this was something of a lopsided result, things would have turned out very differently had the attacker simply switched his forces running up the sides of the board. As it was, his Ogre ended up on the side that was furthest from the primary objective and most of the victory point-rich buildings. If the Ogre had been on the right instead of the left, we could easily have seen a couple more buildings taken out for a tie or even a marginal attacker victory.

Now, on to the con! (I'll post the pdf of the scenario after the convention, for anyone who might be interested.)

Erseta Campaign #11

We had a much more focused session this evening, due in large part to two new players (one the wife of one of our regulars, the other an old friend of two others, so nobody was a new newt dropped in the fishtank). This was a "caper" evening, where the players were presented with a problem that seemed pretty simple on the surface, but spent three hours planning how to pull it off.

First off was a little more intelligence gathering about "The Cleavers" and their leader Osterbeck. Since the party had learned last time that the magical lantern needed to reactivate the gate back to the ruined dwarven city of Glitterdark was in their possession, they decided to ask their shadiest contact in the city about them. Said contact, Thrivin Mossberg, a halfling fence, provided them with a little more information than they had; the Cleavers were a pretty low-rent band of thugs who mostly worked the area near the docks, but not exclusively. He didn't think too much of the Cleavers, apparently. He did, however, offhandedly ask if the group was open to another job-- several sessions ago they agreed to bring in some merchandise from the docks without it being inspected by the sheriffs for tax purposes.

At first they didn't bite, and that was fine with me (from a GM point of view). But then somehow they decided that the job might lead them closer to the Cleavers, and accepted. The job turned out to be bringing in two wagon loads of fruit into the city for a "secret society" in time for something happening on the Full Moon in 6 days. The catch? The fruit was a "surprise" and nobody could know that it was being brought in.

After being assured that the fruit was legal, and merely "a surprise", they set about their task, and this was where my fun began.

Was it really fruit? Was that just some euphemism for something else? They went to the farmhouse a couple miles out of town where the wagons were being kept and, yep, it's fruit. Bushels and bushels of some rare fruit nobody'd ever seen before. What was it for? The farmer's wife had no idea, but pointed out that the Feast of Deliverance, which commemorated the end of the Drowning Death in the town of Ritterheim, was going to be celebrated on the same day as the Full Moon. When this information was relayed to the party, you could just see the wheels turning. Why? What was this secret society going to do with rare fruit? The Cleavers were long forgotten.

Then came the planning of the caper. For three and a half solid hours, they argued and planned and plotted and schemed and came up with idea after idea. Our usual asides into movies, other games, and shiny things catching our attention were minimized as everyone focused on the problem of how to get two wagons full of fruit through a guarded gate and past the watchful eye of a tax-collecting sheriff. They'd use barrels, no, illusions, no, cover the wagons in straw, no too obvious, cover the fruit in dung, no, that would squish the fruit, maybe cover it in tarps and then cover those in dung, no the fruit would still get squished, maybe pack it in barrels and cover them in dung, no, fill them with fish, no, take out empty barrels, no, that would be suspicious, hire a third wagon and take it out to the farm to fill it up with fruit, no, that would attract attention, so go out one gate and return through another, no, there was no road connecting them outside the town... round and round they went. It was glorious.

They eventually settled on a scheme involving a facade of a third wagon, empty barrels, tarps covering the actual fruit, and the illusionist using his mirage cantrip three times to fool the sheriff into thinking the fruit was just empty barrels. While the two clerics staged a diversion at the gate involving a fascinate spell, because no plan would be complete without a clerical diversion. All the planning paid off, for they thought it through to the point where no obvious roadblocks stood in their way, got the wagons through the gate and to the home of the secret society. Which was known as The Shockers and whose headquarters was decorated with black and yellow bunting. The fruit was delivered to several men wearing masks and dressed in black and yellow motley (surely this had to be the most conspicuous "secret society" ever seen), the PCs got their pay from their halfling employer, and all was right with the world. At least until the mystery of the Shockers and their "secret fruit" is revealed...

What really excited me about this session was it was all role-playing. The players might be feeling a little frustration that there haven't been any goblins to hack through lately, but this time it was because the game just went in a different direction, not because we were distracted by other non-game-related things. And their forethought and planning paid off. The caper went off without a hitch.