Down to the Sea in Cheese!
NOTE BENE: attached are some pictures I took with my Ipad during this game on Saturday. The complete package is HERE in a Flickr Slideshow.
I ran my first convention game in a while, a BIG DANGED BOATS game, with something other than “sail around and bash at each other” for a scenario.
The event description reads:
The return of a game of bloody conflict with dubiously seaworthy ships in an all out donnybrook to achieve naval supremacy. In this installment,Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard’s tower with the stolen Orb of Power, a stout body guard and several siege guns to back up his demands. The Elves, who consider themselves to be rightful owners, would sell their own grandmothers to get it– resulting in a rare alliance between the hoity toity Sea Elves and the Earthy Wood Elves. Other parties (virtually everyone else) seek to own it themselves, or at least put one in the eye of those who have a better claim! Very kid friendly. very casual and extraordinarily silly game. Under 12, will probably require a parent to play with. Rules taught.
Essentially this is gaming a rather dusty trope from fantasy– the local mad wizard gets his hands on artifact that grants him some special power, a group of distrusting allies band together to thwart his evil scheme, and etc., etc. The unique element is the nautical flavor– Gordon is locked up in his tower, along with the Orb of Power (which is a battery for Spells), and the various local powers in the Middle Sea have to figure out how to get him out of his tower by force. This is more difficult than it looks due to terrain and the small army of mercenary soldiers that Gordon has acquired to defend himself with. Gordon’s Tower is situated in the ocean near the large volcanic island of Ket, in shallow water dominated by many small rock formations. These would provide a solid ring of outer defenses to the Tower.
Newish to the BDB rules (which always seem to be evolving) are rules for landing parties and spell casting wizards. The latter are purchased like mercenaries early in the game using SMCs (shining moment coins). Both of these worked just fine– in some cases, splendidly.
The game began with some intense jockeying for position as the ships approached Gordon’s tower. They were hampered by a ring of outposts on the rocks. Many of these had a small field piece, some pikemen and missile troops.
I need to streamline the rules a bit yet, they are still a little too kitchen-sink for my liking. I can’t help it, I’m a tinkerer. Most people got the ideas behind combat, maneuver and magic easily enough. I had fixed the broken weather table with a better approach. I’m not happy with how steam works; I will be redoing that one as well– I think I may just go to tokens (yes, another token) to indicate current speed, and then redo the speed change table to see if the ship blows up when changing speeds.
The ships chosen were The HOPLITE (Spartans), The PRIMUS (Rat-men), FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD (Followers of F’Vah), The STEELHEART (Empire of Stahlheim), The SYLVAN TERROR (Wood Elves), the three ships of the Ironforge Elves: VON RIPPER, PLUNGER and RED MENACER, and The GREY EMPRESS TZU (the Seng). Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
The game commenced with the Wood Elves skirmish with one of the outposts to the South and the Spartans skirmishing with one in the North. Both did for their opponents in trademark style: the Wood Elves dispatched the opposition with a hail of arrows, the Spartans landed a landing party that took out the outpost, looted a cannon and rowed off with it. Style points all around for that.
Meanwhile, the PRIMUS and the FOOT made their way to the base of the tower from various routes– with Gordon the Enchanter casting a STINKING CLOUD on the Foot which missed them. The 3 Dwarf ships and the Steelheart appeared to cooperate until it came closer to resolution– and then they fell out, with Steelheart ramming Red Menacer ineffectually, then the Von Ripper doing the same to Steelheart (due to the Stalheim player throwing in their “Sheer OFF!” action card).
At the far side of the battlefield, the Spartans and the Gnomes were getting fractious because they weren’t in at the denouement, like the other factions were. The Spartan player had to leave a little early, so we ruled, for the sake of game narrative, that he spent some fatigue points to charge the HOPLITE to the base of the tower but ran aground on the rocks, spilling his daunting Spartans, wizard and two cannon into the drink. The Rat-Men, perhaps guided by mercy, dispatched a lifeboat to pick up survivors (ahem, maybe it was ‘mercy’, or maybe they wanted a free wizard and the best melee troops in the game working for them?)
The Gnomes of Batenburg wanted to get their grimey paws on the Orb of Power, too! They could see they weren’t getting to Gordon’s Tower fast enough, and the intervening terrain was just blocking them. So they had to go the long way around.. or did they? The Gnome player, a young lad (and BDB veteran) played his first Wizard Spell in the game, GASEOUS FORM, which turned the Siege Machine into an intangible mist that went right through the rock!
Unfortunately this put the SIEGE MACHINE directly into the path of the onrushing SYLVAN TERROR. The Wood Elves got their wizard to cast RIVER OF WIND which pushed the Siege Machine 3 sticks away. They maneuvered back into a position in front of the Terror and unloaded the famous (or not so famous) Gnome Marines. While this was being accomplished, the Wood Elves, now a bit thwarted from being in on the kill, decided to to board the Siege Machine (which they were up against). Boarding procedure requires the potential border to reach into the Red Bag of Courage and fish out a token, which will determine how things proceed. The Wood Elves, unfortunately, drew “STUPID” and that caused the boarding party to dash off in a random direction AWAY from the Siege Machine.
Well, the main event had to get moving on so we were set up for the big fight in the tower to seize the Orb. Gordon the Enchanter had several artillery pieces guarding the center tower but each of them had been silenced and the big siege gun on the roof had collapsed when the wall went down to a FIREBALL spell from the Wood Elves. Gordon, his ears ringing from the explosion and in a foul temper, ran downstairs to join the defense. Gordon’s mercenaries (mostly pikemen) fought hard and long, knowing they were in a no-quarter situation. The Rat-men swarmed in and were cut down to a man.. er.. rat. Then the Gnome Marines gave it a try and they managed to gain a lodgement, then, finally, defeat the last remaining pikemen with the last three remaining Gnomes. And hurrah! A victory was had by the “Good” guys!
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Orb Scenario was a hugely entertaining game for me to run and I’m relatively certain the players had a great time. The new material (Wizards, Landing parties) caused me to do a crash rewrite of the rules the night before, just to make sure everything worked together well. The new weather gauge really is superior to the old one, even if the old one was more colorful. The Steam Engine rules (and wrenching to fix things that break) will be rewritten for speed of play and elegance. Oared ships work well, so do Magic ships. I wish I could come up with a faster set of sailing rules but they do sort of make sense and are consistent to the universe– if a person is on the ocean in a ship that is powered by wind, they are going to have a slow time of it if they try to sail against the wind. There’s a lot of detail in the rules right now which I will pare down a bit for convention games. With all that said, the game DID play right through to a conclusive end, in the time allotted (slightly over actually, by request). So I’m pretty happy with BDB as it is, it just needs a little fine tuning.
Thanks for the great pack of people that came to play .. little Jake, Doug Kline, Kayla? Kline, Nancy Ott, and etc. BDB is a game that requires a sense of humor to play and I think we hit the jackpot there.