Monday, July 24, 2017

Historicon 2017: Ben Franklin's War

The other game we ran at Historicon was Ben Franklin's War: The War Moves South.  This is a weird science/clockwork punk/whatever take on the American Revolution.  I had done a similar game a few years ago, based roughly on the Battle of Saratoga.  This was sort of a sequel, based even more roughly on the Siege of Yorktown.  I had a couple of reasons for this, it allowed using French forces and could be a combined land and sea battle.

This was by far the physically biggest game we've ever run, using a table about 20' b 6'.

My concept for these games is that the Scientific Revolution began with Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton did not reject alchemy.  Coupled with the earlier introduction of steam power in Britain, these elements led to late 18th century warfare containing a lot of weird science elements.

The British have steam-based technology refined by James Watt while the Americans use electricity and harmonics invented by Ben Franklin.  The French have a technology based on chemical/alchemical principles developed by Antoine Lavoisier.  These later included chemically induced genetic mutations as well as poison gas.  The former was represented by the impressive-looking char d'escargot and the latter by the empoisonneur mecanique, a poison gas-spewing automaton fueled by the decomposing bodies of French peasants. 

The scenario was this: in 1781, Benedict Arnold led a British-Hessian force to raid the Virginia Tidewater region.  He was corneredand besieged at fictitious Port Albemarle on the Virginia coast by a combined French and American army and fleet commanded by the vengeful George Washington himself. Lord Cornwallis leading an elite force of steam-powered gun carriages and aeromobile troops rushes from the Carolinas to save the hard-pressed Arnold.

The Franco-American assault force battered their way into the town against the British defenders with the poison gas and favorable wind doing much of the heavy-lifting, wiping out two British regiments and several gun batteries.  The last remaining British regiment, under Captain Blackadder decided that discretion was the better part of valor, especially when Hawkeye and some American riflemen appeared within the fortifications using a mechanical drilling mole to tunnel under the fortifications.  Blackadder worked out a safe passage in exchange for turning over the Munro sisters that Hawkeye was after. Seeing half his garrison destroyed or surrendered, Arnold chose to flee the town, making in a boat for the British fleet.  The Hessian commander, seeing this, promptly asked, "Who's going to pay us now?" and promptly sought honors of war for a quick withdrawal.  This was promptly granted by the rifleman who achieved complete victory without ever having fired a shot.

Popular hero and darling of Broadway, Alexander Hamilton lead the American assault forces

A British extra-heavy steam gun

Meanwhile, out on the Bay, the British Ship of the Line and Steam Ram had some early successes, quickly sinking the small American mine-layer and fending off a couple of sorties by the American wooden submersibles.  However, the French Ship of the Line L’Insouciance traded broadsides and achieved a lucky hit on the powder store of HMS Vindictive, blowing her out of the water.

By this point, the British naval commander was granted passage out of the harbor after surrendering the turncoat Arnold to French Admiral de Grasse.

On the other end of the board, Cornwallis forces pounded the defense line of American militia under Patriot Benjamin Martin and the Legion of Prince Leopold of Ruritania.  Washington and Franklin lent support from the American reserves including the great electrical discharge weapon, causing substantial British casualties particularly among the aeromobile troops.  Nonetheless, the American defenses were almost completely wiped out. However, hearing that the port had surrendered and Arnold was taken, Cornwallis concluded that there was little to be gained by continuing the attack and withdrew.  The end result was a major Franco-American victory but not the deciding battle of the war.  Cornwallis was retreating back into the Carolinas pursued by Washington and Rochambeau.  One more battle would be fought.... at another convetion

We also played in a couple of other games.  The pictures below are from Seal Team 6 vs the Giant Bugs.  A fun little game using the 7TV rules.  The players ran four fire teams of special forces troops investigating a town that had been over run by Starship Troopers giant bugs.  We did surprisingly well against an ever increasing horde of bugs and a disastrous helicopter mishap.

We also played in a introductory game of Warlords of Olympus put on by Crocodile games.  A fun set of rules with some interesting tactical choices.

Here are some other games that caught my eye.  There were some really impressive tables on display.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Historicon 2017: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

My son Nick and I had another great Historicon. This marked the fifth year in a row that we ran our dreaded Musical wargame.  These are games loosely based around one or more Broadway Musicals and usually involve large numbers of people singing, usually off-key.

 This year the game was based on Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  As in previous years, we awarded the coveted Wazzi Award for the "Best Actor" in our game.

Forum, which is based on several actual Roman comedies by Plautius, is about the slave Pseudolus who is seeking his freedom which has been promised him by his young master, Hero, if the slave can help him get his beloved, Philia, a virgin slave in the next door house of Lycus, a procurer, who had been promised to the magnificently psychotic general Miles Gloriosus.

The game took up at the climax of the story.  Hero, believing that Philia had died of the plague had gone to have himself killed in the Arena.  Philia was not actually dead but replaced by the head slave Hysterium disguised in drag and feigning death.  On hearing that Hero planned to have himself killed, decided she could no longer live and would volunteer for Human Sacrifice Day at the Temple of the Vestal Virgins.  General Gloriosus was planning a dramatic funeral for his deceased bride.  Meanwhile, Hero's shrewish mother, Domina, had returned unexpected from a visit to her mother while Hero's father, Senex, was scheming to get some quality time in at the House of Lycus.  Lycus was trying to get back into his own house, his identity having been stolen by Pseudolus as part of the plan to free Philia.  Finally, old man Erroneous was charged by a soothsayer to run seven times around the Seven Hills of Rome which will somehow reunite him with his lost children who had been stolen infancy by pirates. Got all that?
We started from point where Pseudolus and his love, the large but silent courtesan Gymnasia had just rescued Hero from the gladiators in the Arena.  They then had to rush across the city to save Hysterium from the funeral pyre and Philia from the sacrificial blades of the Vestal Virgins.

Keeping their priorities straight, the trio promptly forgot about Hysterium and went to rescue Philia.  Fortunately, a nearby chariot rental place provide means for a quick crossing of the city.  They were soon assisted by the assorted courtesans of the House of Lycus and a group of soldiers under an over amorous centurion.

Hysterium realizing that no help was coming, leapt off the pyre.  The enraged Gloriosus, pursued with the remainder of his soldiery.  The courtesans stormed the House of the Vestal Virgins, the sight of which caused a four-chariot pile-up. Various groups of gladiators, acrobats, and eunuchs, all hoping for a swipe at one or more of our heroes, added to the chaos, with the Head Eunuch of the House of Lycus bewailing the loss of inventory.

Pseudolus, Hero, Philia, and Gymnasis ultimately escaped the House of the Vestals by means of a fortuitously placed crane.  As they fled to a nearby chariot, they were spotted by Gloriosus.  The general however was spotted by Domina, who couldn't resist a man in uniform.  Senex took this as an opportunity to lead a parade of citizen into the House of Lycus, all singing about the wonders of female domestic help.
The end result was a raucous chariot chase across the countryside that involved an elephant and numerous camels.  In the end, Erroneous who was in the middle of his fourth lap, recognized the signet rings worn by Philila and Gloriosus matched his own. They were his lost children, and brother and sister.  Thus, the lovers were united, Pseudolus won his freedom and force Lycus to free Gymnasia.  A happy ending of course!

Here's a cast photo, all of the players did an exceptional job and played their characters to the hilt.  The Wazzi went to John Kerstetter who, as the Head Eunuch, had everyone in stitches with his running falsetto commentary.

And we won an award!