Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cold Wars 2013

This is a report on my experience at Cold Wars 2013 in Lancaster, PA. Due to other personal commitments, I was only able to spend Friday through Saturday afternoon there. I still had a very good time and got to run one game and play in another.

My impression was that attendance might have been a bit light but I could be wrong. There were plenty of games, especially on Friday night. The quality of the game presentation was pretty high.

I had some problems with my camera but did manage to take a few photos:

There were several very impressive siege/castle assault games

There was a beautiful Joan of Arc siege game going on at the table next to mine Friday night

This was from a Peninsular War siege:

This was some sort of Arthurian legend game that looked very interesting:

A magnificent dungeon crawl game:

Regarding the game I ran, it was called Caesar vs. Pluck, Bellum Ruritanicum. I used a modified version of Science vs. Pluck by Howard Whitehouse. SvP is a set of colonial rules for recreating the British campaigns in the Sudan and has a strong element of role-playing in it; the players all take the roles of British commanders while the natives are run by the game master. It was surprisingly easy to modify it to ancient Rome, especially for a Romands vs. barbarians game, a lot of similarity in feel. In these games, the characters have their own personal agendas, often in conflict with those of other players.

This was the board in my game, the valley of Dokidovum

My game was set in the ancient Balkans, premised on the an uprising by a local Celto-Dacian tribe, the Shueti under their king, Ducebagus. The risign had been incouraged by a raid from the Sarmatian Ruritanii under their king Rhescopuris (see some of my earlier entries about the hereditary speech impediment of the Ruritanian royal family). Ducebagus had promised the hand of one or both of his daughters to the Ruritanian king in exchange for an alliance against the Romans.

As I mentioned, the players all took the roles of commanders within the Roman task force that was attempted to thwart the barbarian alliance, drive out the Ruritanii and bring the Shueti back to allegiance. The force consisted of about 6 cohorts of the VII legion, one cohort of the V Legion (force that had been disgraced in the recent civil wars), a wing of Gallic cavalry, several auxiliary units, a couple of carroballistae, and a large baggage train. The Governor of Moesia was ostensibly in command of the forces, aided by the Legate of the VII Legion and various other aristocratic officers along with a couple of sensible seniro centurions, the legion aqualifer, and auxiliary commanders. Also present was Caesar Domitian, the very young and inexperienced second son of the new Emperor Vespasian, together with a Praetorian cohort and some Praetorian cavalry and his new bride, daughter of the late general Corbulo who had been executed by Nero, who had been forced to divorce her Senator husband to marry the young Caesar.

The success of a Science vs. Pluck game relies heavily on the players. I was fortunately to have all the players get into character and the spirit of the thing. I had listed spots for eight players and had a couple of extra roles as well. In the end, I had 12 very enthusiastic players. Of particular note was Walt O'hara who played Caesar Domitian with the right amount of prima-dolla bravado, Steve Winter added appropriate self-serving gravitas as the older but not particularly wiser Governor. Another player, whose name I didn't catch ran a disgraced tribune trying to redeem the family name with a great degree of pathos. Howard W. also played in two roles, the pullinarius in charge of wrangling the chickens for the auguries and Domitia, the completely unimpressed daughter of Corbulo ("Nobody can live up to my daddy who was so good Nero had to execute him.")

The Romans advancing out of the morning mist (OK, I had camera problems)

The Roman cavalry takes a rich prize of slaves

As the game played out, the Romand swarmed into the valley, seeking to lay waste to the villages there, especially the tribal capital and to the Shrine of Zalmoxis, whose dark priests had encouraged the uprising. Any slaves or livestock captured would also be a plus. After some initial success rounding up a herd of sheep, the Romans were checked by a flank attack by tribal cavalry and an ambush in a hilltop homestead by native archers and a loaned ballista. A Thracian auxilary unit buckled under a fierce attack by tribal women armed with rakes. In the midst of this, the Governor, who had set himself in what he thought was a safe rearward position, found himself abandoned by his elite bodyguards and surrounded by enemy cavalry. He was only saved by some lucky shooting from the carroballista that managed to drive off the cavalry without hitting the Governor.

Flank attack by a returning hunting party

The Governor abandoned

The Romans in the midst of the valley

Despite these initial surprises, the main body of the VII legion ran into another host of tribeman who had been camped in a hollow near a smaller village. After a hard fought battle for a ridge overlooking the small village, the main force was hit by a horde of naked fanatics who charged from the woods in which lay the Shrine fo Zalmoxis. While locked in this struggle, the Romans were struck on their right flank by a arrival of the Ruritanii heavy cavalry and spearmen. In a desperate action, the Romans, through the determined leadershipf of senior centurions and aqualifer, managed to hold off the Ruritanii as well as the Shueti's falxmen, lead by King Ducebagus daughter, Burebista (He always wanted a boy). This was not without heavy loss, including the young tribune who managed by his death to achieve his family's redemption. Finally, the hapless Governor found himself in the midst of the fight and after nearly being eviscerated, managed to slay Burebista.

Praetorian stand at the causeway.

Holding the line

In the meantime, Domitian at the head of a mixed group of cavalry and Praetorians managed to capture the hilltop homestead and turn the ballista on the enemy. The cavalry charged down to the plains to envelope the tribal capital but became mired in an undiscovered swamp. At the same time, a horde of Shueti charged over the causeway from the tribal capital but were destroyed by a combination of ballista and pilum volleys from the Praetorians. Domitian charged after the fleeing barbarians and rode into the barbarian fortress. There he came face-to-face with King Ducebagus and killed him in hand-to-hand combat, achieving the glory he so desperately wanted, along with the sneeking admiration of his new wife.

The end result was a pretty substantial victory for the Romans, especially for Domitian. All of three of the native villages had been sacked and substantial livestock and slaves captured. They did not however reach the Shrine of Zalmoxis nor recover a stolen Roman pay chest that was being kept at the Shrine.

As I said, the players made the game and I laughed for most of the 4 hours the game ran.

Saturday I played in Science vs. Pluck game run by Steve Turn. This was actually set in the Sudan and was a recreation of one of the more successful battles of El Teb. This was smaller in scope that my game but still quite fun. I got to run the British cavalry brigade and managed to snatch disaster from the jaws of victory by launching an uphill mounted charge against entrenched Beja tribesmen supported by captured Krupp guns. Let's say I added to that list of gallant yet fruitless British cavalry charges and managed to get the poem by Tennison written about me.

Here's the charge fo the 19th Hussars.

They've made it to the crest of the enemy position, but not for long.

Another great convention. I can hardly wait for Historicon.


PMMDJ said...

Oh hey, yours was one of the tables I wandered by and admired. Nice work!

Misternizz said...

Great to see you at Cold Wars, Jeff. See you at Historicon!

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..