Friday, 24 March 2017

Dark Waters - the denouement

I played the second chapter of the 4AD programmed adventure Dark Waters.  Following on from the first chapter, the brave party of adventurers had now to descend into the depths of the flooded caves under the pirates' hideout looking for the gold statue of Tezany of which they had had a tantalising glimpse before it had been whisked away.  Unlike Chapter 1, this was actually a standard 4AD roll-the-dungeon adventure but with appropriately themed aquatic monster and special features tables.

The underwater caverns of Dark Waters

I will not dwell too much on the details of the adventure.  Suffice to say, the party explored the largest cavern system of their careers to date.  A high spot was meeting and defeating a Sea Hydra (a tricky Level 5 weird monster which grew attacks as it lost lives) before progressing through several rooms, hitting a dead end, doubling back to the Sea Hydra room before meeting a wandering monster.  This was, you've guessed it, another Sea Hydra.  The party then progressed north through a series of interlocking corridors before coming across the Final Boss, being the Avatar of Tezany, the Shark God, with 8 cultist minions.  The fight was hard but bloody to begin with, until Zandemar remembered he had discovered a sleep wand early in the adventure, which he promptly used to on the Avatar.  Having defeated the Avatar and recovered the gold statue, the party worked its way out of the complex with little trouble. All the characters had levelled up to Level 3 apart from the cleric Flandrian who had got luckier and made it to Level 4.

I am afraid I got a little bored with this one, although this was partly down to the roll of the dice which meant I met quite a lot of monsters and not very many special features and no special events.  It's really these elements that add to the story of the game as there is a chance of a clue or being sent on a quest and these seemed lacking in Dark Waters.  I am going to explore whether I could use a solo roleplaying game engine to add something to 4AD for the last two games in the 6 by 6 Challenge but I think this may be a bit of a gaming dead end.  Having said that, you may need to be in the right mood to play this game in order to be prepared to fill in the story telling gaps which makes this more interesting.  I will have to see!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Dark Waters Chapter 1

Cover art for the Dark Waters adventure
I've gone back to Four Against Darkness for the next instalment in the 6 by 6 Challenge.  This time I have played one of the pre-designed 4AD adventures published by Ganesha Games.  I downloaded it from Wargames Vault in pdf format.

Dark Waters has two chapters.  Chapter 1 sets the scene for the overall adventure and takes the form of a pre-programmed, follow the map type of adventure.  It reminded me of the Tunnels and Trolls solo adventures of my dim and distant youth, or the slightly more recent Fighting Fantasy books, albeit rather shorter.  I haven't looked at Chapter 2 yet, but this is rather more faithful to the original 4AD random dungeon generator but with different tables more aligned to the marine theme of the adventure.

I will not give a blow by blow account of my Chapter 1 adventure as it would be a bit of spoiler.  Suffice to say the adventuring party of Albanac the Warrior, Flandrian the Cleric, the Dwarf Uthacar and Zandemar the Wizard joined forces once more in search of the leader of the corsairs who was hiding in his underground lair. There were some tense moments either in combat with some of the boss level monsters or dodging traps.  Zandemar finally levelled up to Level 2 having managed fail all his previous levelling up rolls in the previous adventures. Flandrian too levelled up while the real "star" was Alabanac who became a Level 3 Warrior and would be known as the "Iron Wind" due to the way he sliced through the opposition.  Uthacar on the other hand would be known as the "Unready" due to the almost unbroken run of ones in combat.

I quite enjoyed the programmed adventure but I think I prefer the random generator approach as you really never know what is going to come next.  Having a theme to the game does help though.  Where I think 4AD is interesting is in the way the characters start building a rather rudimentary backstory which could be used to spur the imagination if ever a wider RPG or wargame campaign were ever to be generated.

I hope my next instalment of Dark Waters will not be too long delayed.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Battle of Warchester - the Scots March On

The commander of the Scottish Army, Sir Vernon Cottar, fresh from his epic victory at Louthburn, re-gathered his forces and continued his march south by way of the west midlands.  Thomas, the Lord Lieutenant of the Northern Marches had been recalled to London to answer for his failings to the Lord Protector and had been replaced by Anthony Smythe, the Lord Lieutenant of the Welsh Marches, despite calls to recall Fairfax from his self-imposed retirement. 

Despite being offered few units of the New Model Army by way of reinforcement, Smythe was charged with blocking the Scots' march south at Warchester, either at the main road through the town or by holding the high ground to the west.  If he could hold Cottar there long enough (ie to the end of the 15th turn) then much of the New Model Army itself would be able to march north and block the way south. (This is Scenario 14 - Static Defence).
View of the battlefield from the west during turn 1 - the key hill is in the left lower corner, Warchester is top centre.  The battlefield is divided by the central woodland. The scenery is somewhat rudimentary!
Cottar himself had been reinforced by the first of some Royalist sympathisers. Rumour had it that he had been joined the Royal heir but this was not confirmed.  The wily old soldier, veteran of Marston Moor and the continental wars knew that Smythe would have to cover both key landmarks (ie would have to keep at least two units within 12 inches of the town and the hill) and therefore concentrated his forces on the town, looking to cover his left flank with a unit of reiters and a unit of Highlanders (swordsmen).

The position after Turn 2
The Scots advanced on Warchester, looking to wear down the defenders with their firepower while the powder lasted.  Supplies were clearly being disrupted to both armies as very quickly most units ran out of firepower (rolling 1 or 2).  Although taking damage, the English unit in Warchester would prove a tough nut to crack being under cover.  The Highlanders were pushed forward into the wood with the aim of attacking an open flank if they could find one.  On the English right, the cavalry was sent forward to see if they could encircle the Scots flank.  They quickly thought better of it when faced off by a further Scottish infantry regiment.
The Scots close in on Warchester
 With the English cavalry retiring on the right to await a better opportunity to attack, the Scots were able to concentrate all their forces onto Warchester, although the Highlanders were still pushed forward under cover of the wood.  The second English infantry regiment moved forward from behind the town to blast the advancing Scots, only to find their matches were damp and the powder kegs empty.

The battle proceeded to its inevitable conclusion.  With the English having to leave two units to hold the hill, they could only look on as the Scots slowly encircled Warchester's plucky defenders and moved into the town.  But could the English hold on just long enough to be relieved by the New Model Army?  The answer was not quite.  By the end of the 13th turn, the Scottish infantry were just able to surround the last English regiment and winkle them out.

For his victory, Cottar was ennobled and became Lord Cottar of Hawburgh.  But his work was not yet done and he pressed on south looking for fresh victories.

This was another finely balanced scenario from One Hour Wargames, although this one was as much a battle against the clock (the 15 turn limit) as it was against the English.

Next up: Scenario 20 - Fighting Retreat