Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cornless in Xochimilco

Kevin Smyth, Dave Schueler, and I ran another game of our Quetzalcoatl Rampant variant for Dan Mersey's Lion Rampant rules. We test-played the Kevin's scenario, which we'll host at the upcoming Drumbeat game day in February.

The scenario has the Spanish and their Tlaxcalan allies attacking an Aztec village in search of corn to feed themselves. The village sits in the middle of the board with four maize storage structures in its four corners.

Come to beautiful Mexico and be sacrificed on the altars of our bloodthirsty gods
There are also several chinampas, floating gardens, on one side, which are also a source of grain.

To win, the Spanish/Tlaxcalans needed to capture corn from the granaries and take it back off the board. To do this they had six 6-figure bearer units, plus their soldier/warriors could be pressed into service schlepping grain as well. The Spanish/Tlaxcalans started just outside the town on one side and the Aztecs started on the opposite side. There was also an Aztec relief force that could come in on the Spanish/Tlaxcalan flank on turn 2 or in their rear on turn 5.

Kevin and I played the Aztecs, Dave and Bailey played the Spanish/Tlaxcalans. Another player, Will, joined us and took over Kevin's forces, leaving him free to command the relief force.

The rules we used were a bit more tweaked from our last game. We gave the Aztecs and Tlaxcalans an 8" move and a 12" atlatl shot. Unlike our previous games, this was not a walkover for the conquistadors.

Dave and Bailey were plagued throughout the game by the most abysmal die rolling in the history of dice. My rolling and Will's was average; Kevin rolled some of my roughly six-sided antique bone dice and was unstoppable. He failed only one courage test or activation in the game, sometimes against heavy odds.

The hated invaders of Aztecland started with their Tlaxcalans forward with the idea that because they move faster, they'd be in position beyond the first granaries when they made contact with the Aztec defenders. However, they just couldn't get things going. Too many failed first activations ceded the initiative the the Aztecs who poured into the town.

Aztecs overrun the town
On my left, Will advanced steadily against Bailey's troops. The Spanish arquebusiers barely got into position, but then couldn't activate their fire actions. They got hurt by Will's skirmishers and later attacked and beaten by his warriors. Will was the only Aztec player to attempt the "Your beating heart" rule, which allows the Aztecs to opt for attempting to capture enemy casualties for sacrifice. It's a bit dicey because a failed attempt returns the casualty to the unit that lost it. However, successful attempts permanently increase the capturing unit's courage and decreases the courage of the unit whose men have will have their beating hearts offered to Huitzilipoctli.

Securing the temple
Kevin's relief force on the Spanish/Tlaxcalan flank pretty much sealed their doom—along with his amazing die-rolling. The relief force were the best of the Aztec units on the board. Will and I had basic warriors and skirmishers with one veteran unit. The relief force were several veteran units and an Eagle Knight unit.

Fearsome Eagle Knights on the flank
The Tlaxcalans managed to briefly secure one granary and even got bearers up to it to start loading the corn, but they were soon overrun by Aztec warriors. Kevin smacked them on one side and I smacked them on the other.

Spanish/Tlaxcalan high water mark
 By the end of the game, the Aztecs held the town and all the granaries. The Spanish soldiers had hardly been engaged, though it didn't look as though they would be able to pull off a win—even if their die-rolling dramatically improved. (Which wouldn't happen; let's face it: when you're cursed, you're cursed.)

Bailey on the ropes, pressed hard by Will's Aztecs
The invaders got no corn at all and will have a hungry time of it as they continue their campaign against Tenochtitlan with empty bellies.

This is the end
I'm not sure how to figure the Spanish/Tlaxcalan loss. Their die-rolls were legendarily bad. In the hall of shame for all-time poor rolling, they'd be on Mount Rushmore. They just couldn't get their units to do anything. Most of the Spanish remained unengaged and those who got engaged only did so too late. The Spanish lost their war-dogs and had one rodelero unit chewed up (one man remaining), they also lost a couple horsemen from the caballero unit and had their arquebusiers smacked around. Aztec losses were negligible. I don't think we lost any units, although some of Kevin's were down to below half strength.

Kevin's die-rolling was truly astonishing. Had it been just average, the Spanish would have fared much better on that flank.

I think the rules are tweaked to where we want them. We'll play this scenario at Drumbeat and again, plus another scenario, at Enfilade! in May.

Postscript: Grizzled Mox &c.

After the game, Kevin, Dave, and I repaired to Mox Boarding House in Bellevue for beer, lunch, and a short game of The Grizzled, a cooperative card game set in the trenches of World War One. Players have to work together to survive missions.

It's not easy and we lost the game after three missions when my character, Gaston Fayard, accumulated too many hard knock cards. By then it was late in the day and we didn't have time to play more rounds and drink more beer—which was all to the good as I was operating on only four hours sleep from the night before and nappy time beckoned.

The Grizzled card examples
On a poignant note, Tignous, the artist who designed the cards for The Grizzled, worked for Charlie Hebdo and was killed in the terrorist attack on the magazine on January 7, 2015.

When I got home, I found a small package from Bicorne Miniatures waiting for me: reinforcements for my ECW that I'm painting for The Pikeman's Lament. I got some English musketeers ramming a charge and fumbling with their cartridges, some Scots Covenanters ramming a charge, and a command group. There was another package from Bicorne, too, but it required my signature, so the post office is graciously hosting it until I come and sign for it on Monday. It's odd that one package required a signature and another didn't. The one that did has the ECW cavalry and artillery I ordered.