Friday, August 26, 2016

Robbing Madonna: Siege of Czestochowa

The theme for the Fall In convention in November is the military history of Poland.  Given my ancestry, I feel required to run a couple of theme games.  One is going to be very loosely based on the legendary siege of the fortified Jasna Gora monastery, home of the icon of the Black Madonna, near the city of Czestochowa in 1655.  The siege is celebrated in Sienkiewicz's epic novel The Deluge as the turning point of the Swedish invasion which had overrun the Polish Commonwealth already beset by Cossack rebellion and Muscovite invasion.  Most of the Polish army had surrendered or gone over to the Swedes and the monastery was one of the few locations that did not recognize Swedish king Karl X as King of Poland.  The monastery was reputed to have a sizable treasure from various donations and it was this that was the reason for the Swedish interest in the fortress.  The unsuccessful 40-day siege became the symbolic "Noah's Ark" that survived the Deluge resulting in mass uprisings across the Commonwealth that drove the invaders out.

 Historically, it may not have been that desperate a siege as Sienkiewicz portrayed it and resistance against the Swedes would likely have occurred even without the siege but it did give a substantial morale boost.

I'll be using a modified version of Howard Whitehouse's Science vs. Pluck colonial role-playing rules.  I've previously run games set in this era using some modifications for 17th century warfare (the rules portray late 19th century colonial warfare) - I call the modification Zagloba vs. Pluck. All of the players will be commanders in the Swedish forces, each with different goals that will be only marginally related to the successful capture of the monastery while I will run the Polish forces.  The players will determine how to tackle the fortress, either by direct assault, prolonged siege, or even negotiation.  Although only the small garrison was involved historically, I will include some outside forces attempting to aid the fortress, just to keep the players off-balance.

An escalade in progress 

A raid on the Swedish lines by peasant rebels.  This is one of the non-historical complications I've added to the game. 

Aerial view 

 The Swedish siege lines 

Here's some of the attacking forces:

Some Polish cavalry that had defected to the Swedes.  Winged hussars, hoping to protect the holy site from desecration. Although there were some large bodies of Polish cavalry aiding the Swedes in the siege, there were no winged hussars but they are just so iconic of this era that I had to include them.

Kuklinowski's brigands, hoping to share the plunder.

A Scottish regiment under Colonel McFiltheigh

Swedish regiment, some of the finest troops in Europe

Some of the Polish forces.  Prior Kordecki, leader of the defenders

Szlachta volunteers

Monkish defenders

A heavy battery 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Historicon 2016 - Meat Pies and Iambic Pentameter

My son Nick and I attended Historicon again.  Another great time!

We ran the fourth annual Historicon Musical Wargame: My Fair Demon Barber of the Opera. This time it was a mash-up of the large number of roughly Victorian-era horror themed musicals with a few others thrown in, including The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and Oliver.

 The Phantom of the Opera

 Sweeney Todd

 And that greatest of all Victorian fiends, Mary Poppins.

The action all took place in a London Opera House and environs where the various characters were attending a performance or seeking to overcome some of the attendees for vengeance or otherwise.

The action was pretty fast and furious so I can only give a few highlights.  The most well-meaning disaster occurred when Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins (My Fair Lady) tried to rescue Sweeney Todd's daughter Joanna from the clutches of the evil Judge Turpin.  As it turned out, they accidentally shot and stabbed Joanna.  Ultimately, Higgins did assassinate the judge but tried to blame it on Sweeney Todd, who deprived of his vengeance, hurled himself into the portable meat pie oven (In Sweeney Todd, the bodies of his victims are disposed of by baking them into meat pies.)  

Fagin's urchins robbed everyone blind. Jekyll could not keep from changing into Hyde and spent most of the game hurling people off the balcony.  Lucy, the hooker-with-a-heart of gold, escaped from Mr. Hyde by confessing everything to the police.  The other hooker-with-a-heart of gold, Nancy, Bill Sykes' girlfriend, did not fare so well - Bill ended up throwing her into the meat pie oven although he was promptly arrested by Police Constable Arthur Treacher.  The Phantom kept trying to shut the diva Carlotta up and failed, after a chase through the sewers to his secret lair, where he was prompted thrown by the diva into the noisome waters, leaving open the possibility of a sequel. 

We actually had another Julie Andrews on Julie Andrews fight when Eliza Doolittle (Ms. Andrews played her on Broadway) had an extended bout of fisticuffs with Mary Poppins (Ms. Andrews famously played her in the Disney movie) which ended with the Cockney Flower-girl winning against the Nanny who was finally done in by Bill Sykes' pitbull Bulls-eye.  Bert the Chimney-sweep was thrown into the meat pie oven on general principle.  Most memorable line of the night, from the Sweeney Todd Player: " Even as a mature, straight man, I can proudly say that Johnny Depp is as hot as f___!

Here's picture of most of the "cast."  I think we had about 20 players all told and still managed to finish the game in about 2 and 1/2 hours.

Our other game was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), wherein a modern town in English holds their annual Shakespeare Festival on an old Druid site that accidentally opens a portal to an alternate universe where all of the works of the Immortal Bard are real. I didn't have the chance to take pictures during the game - I think we had 19 players and this too was a fast and furious game.  Here's the table:

Richard III on his arrival

Macbeth - since there's an old theatre superstition that saying the name of "The Scottish Play" is bad luck, we had a special rule that if any player other than the one running Macbeth said the name, the Macbeth player automatically got a free action.   We had another special rule for Hamlet.  Since the Melancholy Dane is famously conflicted, no one player controlled him.  Whenever his card came up, everyone diced off and the high-roller controlled Hamlet and his guardsmen for a turn.

Sir John Falstaff, apprehended breaking into a liquor store.  Several of the players represented the townspeople, I used characters from Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as well as an Elvis-impersonating mystic.  

Constable Danny Butterman encountering Queen Titiania and her Fairy Court

One of the primary goals was for the various Shakespearean factions to get to a Women's Shelter in town where all of the various put-upon heroines had sought refuge.  The fate of the women varied by play, per the plays, was generally going to be unpleasant.  They were defended by a fierce female attorney named Porthia.

Just a few highlights, a whole lot more went on - Henry V and Macbeth wiped each others forces out, although both personally survived, likewise Othello and Brutus & Cassius.  Coriolanus and his modern soldiers ended up getting wiped out fairly early in the game but only after he did the same to Tybalt (Romeo's nemesis).  Richard III was the major villain, careening over the countryside in a surplus Russian tank. He attracted a lot of attention, including a tempest cast by Prospero until Constable Nick Angel leapt onto the back of tank and emptied a can of pepper spray into the turret, causing Richard and crew to tumble out incapacitated into the street where a passing Macbeth ended the life of the Hunchback Usurper.  The game concluded of something of a feminist note with Porthia having convinced the insufferably gallant Richmond (Richard III's enemy - the future Henry VII and founder of the Tudor dynasty - Shakespeare knew how to suck up to his patrons) and Marc Antony to form a cordon around the women who she escorted off the board to relative safety.  All that is except Juliette who rushed to her Romeo as he wreckless drove his car through the heavily armed troops of Richmond and Antony, accidentally hit Juliette in the process. When Richmond's men opened fire on Romeo, she jumped in front and both died tragically. Also, Liz, Sean's sometimes girlfriend who was helping out at the shelter, decided to reunite with Sean and Ed and the three of them made it to the Winchester, had a nice cold pint, and waited for all this to blow over.  In the final Act, the Elvis mystic made to the henge and reversed the spell that should have closed the portal and returned the Shakespeareans to their own universe.  In the final action of the game however, Prospero, deciding the modern UK was better than a desert island, reopened the portal, thus plunging our world into a nightmare of iambic pentameter.

We also played in Howard Whitehouse's delightful Jabberwocky game, there was much whiffling and galumphing .

We also played in Peter Panzeri's relief of Vienna game, a fun romp but sadly I didn't get any pictures. also played in Buck Surdu's Warsaw Uprising where I uncharacteristically played a German.

Finally, here's pictures from a number of tables that caught my eye:

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) - The Village of Nether Tiddlington

In addition to the musical wargames, we're going to be putting on a fantasy/sci fi game, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).  The idea is that a small English village, Nether Tiddlington, has used a rather tenuous connection to the Immortal Bard to set up an annual Shakespeare festival to drive up tourism revenue.  This year, they decided to hold it on an old henge site outside town.  It turns out this was an old Druid site and the mix of mystical location, iambic pentameter, and bad weather has resulted in an act of unintended ritual dramaturgical magic.  The result is that a gate to another dimension has opened and it's inhabitants are now streaming into this world.  However, this alternate universe is one in which the works of Shakespeare are literally real, and not only in the original written forms but in the various adaptation that have been done since.  The local inhabitants are now faced with hordes of very well-spoken but anachronistic invaders.

Here's some shots of the village itself.

This is only one half of the table.  The second half will be more countryside with the Druid site featured prominently.

The invaders will each have their own goal, most related to the female leads of their respective stories.  They will include Ian McKellan's Richard III

 Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet:

Laurence Fishburne's Othello

Marlon Brando's Marc Antony from Julius Caesar:


Michael Fassbender's McBeth:

And Laurence Olivier's Henry V (I prefer the Branagh version but I'm already using KB for Hamlet and having 2 Branaghs would just be silly):

I'm also including the Leonardo Di Caprio version of Romeo but I haven't finished painting the Capulet's Hawaiian shirts

The town is defended by its hardy constables, Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman, recently transferred here after the unpleasantness at Sandford. See Hot Fuzz.

The main objective for most of the invaders will be the recovery of the much put-upon Shakespearean heroines who have been gathered into a domestic violence shelter by their protector, feminist solicitor, Porthia Burbage.  They are, from the left, Ophelia, Princess Katharine of France, Desdemona, Juliet, Porthia, Lady McBeth, and Cleopatra (I know she doesn't appear in Julius Caesar but Shakespeare did write A & C as a sequel and I would have loved to have seen Brando in that).