Sunday, November 20, 2016

We like pike!

After a long hiatus since our last Pike & Shotte game, we played some 30 Years War on Saturday at the Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA. Mike Lombardi and Troy Wold provided all the figures. Mike provided the brains, too. The rest of us pushed lead (and plastic) and rolled dice.

Mike wanted to try the Mercenary Captains campaign in The Devil's Playground supplement for Pike & Shotte. The campaign pits coalitions of players in a mini-campaign of four scenarios. At the start of the campaign, the players roll dice to determine the character of their commander and the forces he commands. The commanders start as average, the troops start as a bit below average. As the campaign progresses, the quality of both may rise.

I rolled up a force whose commander was rated as "popular," which modified my die rolls for my troops but also gives my opponents an advantage in their command rolls in the games (although we forgot to do this...). My units came out to 4 x musketeers, 2 x pike blocks, 1 x reiters, 1 x dragoons. At eight units, I had the biggest force on the board—not that it counted for much.

One of my battalia deployed with musketeers forward supported by pikes
There were four forces in the game. Troy and I played one side, Brett and Paul played another, while Mike adjudicated and kibitzed. The object was to hold a small town in the center of the board. The scenario in The Devil's Playground calls for a 4' x 4' playing area. We were on a 6' x 8' area. We started just 12" in from the edge, so we actually had more ground to cover to get at each other. Instead of being just 24" apart at the start, we were 48" apart. The medium guns that Troy and Paul had were out of range on turn 1.

Troy's Bavarian horde on my left
Troy had one battalia of 2 musketeers and a pike block, another battalia of just one musketeer unit and a pike block, a medium gun, and a unit of militia scum. He deployed opposite the town with the intention of rushing in and occupying it first.

Brett countered by charging his cuirassier unit against one of Troy's musketeer units, but just failed to contact. The next turn Troy managed to shoot it up with muskets and close range artillery, which sent it packing when Brett rolled snake-eyes on his courage test.

Bavarians in the village defending against Brett's Proddies
Troy got a musketeer unit into each of the village areas and managed to hold them against attacks by Brett's pikes on one side and Paul's pikes on the other. Troy was helped against Paul by the intervention of his commander who was rated as 'bloodthirsty', a characteristic that gave him extra combat dice.

Troy's 'bloodthirsty' commander inspires his troops to hold the farm
I slowly advanced on the right against Paul's forces. For both Paul and I our command rolls didn't let us make huge sweeping movements. It wasn't until turn 3 that I got into musket range of any enemy, though Paul's gun was popping away (without effect) on my musketeers from turn 2.

The highwater mark of my advance
My musketeers managed to pepper Paul's pike block that had been repulsed by Troy's hedgehog. I pushed him into shaken status, which left him in a delicate state. Shaken, he couldn't do much except sit and take fire or attempt to rally, but that option had its own peril. All our units are rated 'mercenary', which means that a failed attempt to rally from being shaken will cause the unit to retire ("They don't pay me for this!").

While onr village area was secure, Troy and Brett remained locked in combat for the second. Brett lost a musketeer unit in the fight, but his pikes remained stuck in against Troy's musketeers in the buildings.

Brett's pike assail the village
On the other side, my other battalia was advancing towards Paul's gun and militia. My dragoons were on the far left (mounted) with the reiters behind them. There was one point where I hoped to fling the dragoons against Paul's militia, but I failed the command roll (they were at -2 because they were out of range of my commander).

My second battalia and commander stride confidently forward
By now we'd completed six turns: end of game. Starting so far apart kept us from getting at each other sooner. There was also a lot of blocking terrain that obscured fields of fire and hindered movement. On the plus side, I didn't lose any units, which is beneficial to the campaign.

After the game we rolled dice to see how we improved. Because we held the town, we were the winners, which could factor into the results. The three things we checked for were 1) commander upgrades, 2) unit skill upgrades, 3) reinforcements.

I managed to get a commander upgrade that give a +1 in combat to any of my troops within 12" of my commander. All my units got plusses to either their shooting (musketeers) or combat (pikes). My dragoons got increased stamina (I'd rather they shot better). I had a chance at getting up to two more units, but flubbed it on a die roll of "1" and got no reinforcements.

Troy managed to get another gun and milita unit, Brett recovered his lost cuirassiers, but got no reinforcements leaving him minus one musketeer for the campaign. I don't recall how Paul fared. I think at least one player got a command boost to "8" (we all started at "7").

We decided we liked the campaign and we'll stick with it. It's a good encouragement to finish painting my 30 Years War figures that I started nearly a year ago. (Longer, actually, because December is when I completed painting my first batch of figures. I'd started them much earlier than that.)