Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chapter One: The Battle of Spoil's Farm

Comte Jean de Ristalier is the current governor of Havenbrook on Trent and its environs. This territory is a recent re-addition to the realm of Ekra, having formerly been part of rebellious Treyine. As a result Jean is not too convinced of the loyalty of his subjects.

 As far as Jean is concerned the disappearances were simple acts of Treyinen perfidy, orchestrated to defy his authority and call his ability to govern into question.  Why now they have even gotten the Brethren involved by the Bones of the Saints!

Such thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of his right hand man, Sir Bebe.  A local peddler has arrived at Havenbrook in a terrible state raving about abominations he found on calling at Spoil’s Farm. Naturally the peddler, one Wynne, is now being held as a "peasant of interest".

More Treyinen treachery! Drawing a party of Brethren into his domain and slaying them all! When word of this gets back to the Priory, it will mean even closer scrutiny by the Brethren…and  that has never served the scrutinized well, even if they are innocent.

So it came to pass that Jean mounted an expedition of his own to finish this episode once and for all. Being able to gift the next contingent of Brethren with the heads of the guilty would be well worth the risks involved.

The above was created from whole cloth, or more precisely by taking bits and pieces of barely remembered books and films and patching them together in ghoulish Frankensteinian style.

The net result is that I’d generate a party of Ekran knights and their followers and have them approach Spoil’s farm using the rules for PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) and NPC (Non Player Character) actions to cover the Lycans’ reactions. Most likely this will be a patrol encounter.

The above story also serves as an example of how to *not* let the rules dictate the game to you, rather how you can take bits of the game and use them to fashion the story you want to play

De Ristalier’s exploratory mission, first action:

De Ristalier's Expedition
De Ristalier left Havenbrook accompanied by five knights, including the faithful Sir Bebe, his banner bearer,  9 crossbowmen, 2 mercenary arquibusers, 2 halberdiers and his ever cheerful and slightly mad go-to peasant Guilleme.  This force weighed in at 32 CV which as fate (?) would have it matched the CV of the 5 Lycans that were the root cause of the expedition.  As his retinue approached the wooded ridges beyond which lay Spoil’s Farm, distant howling could be heard, a sure sign that a rough day’s work lay ahead.
Possible Enemy Forces (PEF) in the fields

Possible Enemy Force (PEF) on the ridge.

Believing that the howling indicated an enemy force to his front right, de Ristalier split his retinue into three battles. He would order three of his knights to follow his lead. Sir Bebe was directed to take the missile troops and form by a cairn on a low rise to the front. Sir Alain an eager young knight who showed great promise was given the most dangerous assignment. In command of Guillemin and the halberdiers, Sir Alain was to act as bait and draw the hated Ekrans down from their ridge top fastness.

Being careful to scout the terrain about, de Ristalier made his way to the open center of the main ridge line, and formed his men in line facing the suspect wood, as Sir Alain approached from the road. Sir Bebe had formed the missile troops as ordered.

With one last blood curdling howl, the enemy broke cover and a wall of fur and teeth rushed on Sir Alain. The enemy force consisted of six wolves  led by a single armored man on foot, followed, and soon outpaced, by 4  of the Brotherhood, towering man-beasts with fangs as long as a dagger, brandishing fiendish spears!
The warband charges!

Sir Alain put spurs to his mount and charged to meet the oncoming grey tide. One of the man-wolves met his charge in frothing frenzy, while the other beasts passed by to attack Sir Alain’s men beyond. Meeting the infantry, the wave of bestial rage split around them some charging the left of the missile line, while the others stopped in their tracks, for the first time seeing de Ristalier and his chevaliers on the ridge to their right.
Sir Alain meets the charge.

At Sir Bebe’s command the arquibusers barked their defiance while a cloud of bolts raced out to meet the foe. One wolf and one of the monstrous werewolves, for now de Ristalier knew the rumors were true, fell dead in their tracks. Another werewolf near the slain brute howled his despair and turned to run from the fight. Seeing this, the sole human among them also fled.
Bolts and balls do their work.

Meanwhile though Sir Alain pushed his opponent back, the wolves made short work of the infantry and poor, mad, Guilleme.

Another volley of shot and bolt lashed out and more of the beasts fell.

De Ristalier, seizing his moment, put spur to charger and his chevaliers followed suit. When fur met iron, fur gave way or was trampled under hoof.  Another of the werewolves loped back into the forest, as Sir Alain put down the man-beast who had dared oppose him.

In a matter of minutes it was over. Three of de Ristalier’s men lay dead surrounded by the corpses of 6 wolves and 2 abominations.

The sound of howls from beyond the ridge warned the brave band that it was not yet time for mourning or celebration.

Game Note:
I got really lucky here.

On the left the first volley took out one werewolf, and caused another to rout. That was really fortunate as the routing one was the leader for this force, causing all the others to test and while most passed at least one (the man) routed.

The second stroke of luck was when de Ristalier caused the Test of Wills with the right hand bunch of wolves and they halted their charge. Had they carried on into the missile troops it would not have been pretty. Had they met de Ristalier in a rush, the missile troops would not have gotten another shot at them. Halting was really the best result from my point of view.

I had actually planned to use Sir Alain and the infantry as beaters, rather than bait but it all worked out in the end (if you weren’t one of the infantry).

Now I shall probably send another knight to aid Sir Alain in flushing the next bunch. I could use some of my crossbowmen; however in my experience missile fire can only be effective en masse, and splitting a few fellows off from Sir Bebe’s command could have dire results.

Now back to the story:

Chasing Phantoms

The knights crossed over the ridge followed by the crossbowman and

The woods to the right and the farm to the left could not be scouted
successfully by visual means alone so  Sir Bebe entered the woods by himself. They were clear.

Sir Bebe then took the crossbowmen and moved into the first field, where the
second PEF had been placed. False alarm, the field was empty.
Crossbowmen in the field.
Sir Bebe led the crossbowmen across the field to the bordering hedge to look in on the adjacent field. You may remember that the the third PEF had deployed. During the intervening turns this PEF had moved further away from de Ristalier's men and was now between the field and the stream.

Meanwhile the knights formed on the road between farm and field. A few tense turns passed waiting for an unseen enemy to pounce from the farm complex before Sir Alain, leading the two arquibusers, was in position to enter the farm yard. Yard, farm house, and barn showed signs of intense violence but were devoid of the living. 
Investigating the farm.

There was another very tense moment when an arquibusers entered the stables only to find a PEF was indeed there. Fortunately it turned out to be one of famer Spoil's nags, near death and maddened with fear. The mercenary barely stepped out of its way before it ran off.

In game terms the terrain test turned up a 1, and the resulting PEF turned out to be bogus.

Now all that remains is for de Ristalier to uncover and defeat the remaining PEF near the stream.

Game notes:

I've been using unpublished PEF rules, the first draft submitted for WHAA having always preferred those to the published version. As such some of the results above would not have happened under the  published rules.

If any of you remember my pre-publication game in the vampire infested town of  Kuhldorf, well. could things have turned out any more contrary? In Kuhldorf every PEF, split, every tied activation roll led to another PEF, and more often than not the PEF's turned out to be baddies.

In this game only one PEF turned into an enemy force so far, only one terrain piece generated a PEF, and out of four activations rolls of doubles none have resulted in a few PEF.  With only one PEF left and no more un-scouted terrain, I wonder if the Lycan Big Bad will be run to ground at all?

I was actually counting on de Ristalier getting his head handed to him as my story line predicted his defeat and eventual avenging by my Brethren Witch Hunter and Priest team newly joined by the two pistol Dwarf with No Name Whose Real Name is Davenport.

Oh well, it ain't over till it's over...

Day of the Wolf

Sir Alain had one of his arquibusers open a door in the farm wall that gave LOS to the remaining PEF. In hindsight it was a mistake to do this before having the rest of de Ristalier’s forces were in position.
Don't open that door!
As it happens the PEF resolved as the Lycan main body: 4 Brotherhood, 9 pack, and from the Treyine list, one Infantry and 4 longbow men.
Fur, fangs, and fury.

As the wolves were more than 12” from the farm there was no test of wills and I was able to start moving the rest of de Ristalier’s men. The knights formed a line across the road parallel to the hedge dividing the two fields.  The crossbowmen advanced obliquely to the left, moving into the second field and covering the road in front of the knights.
I figured the wolves would charge Sir Alain at the farm, and either be taken in the flank by de Ristalier’s knights OR divert to charge de Ristalier’s knights and be taken in the flank by the crossbowmen under Sir Bebe.

That’s not at all what actually transpired.

The longbow men let fly at the arquibuser in the farm doorway. Luckily he managed to avoid being hit, although he did no damage in return.

This is where the NPC movement system dealt me a curve and took the game in an unexpected direction.

The longbow men moved to my right to outflank the farm, while the wolves and Brotherhood ran directly for the table edge from which I had entered the game.

This meant a mass of fur and teeth went charging through the hedge into the same field the crossbowmen occupied. The tall grain preventing any firing unless they charge home while the resulting Test of Wills saw the wolves halt rather than charge blindly on.
Fields of Furry?

That ended the turn so here’s the sitch:

Crossbowmen with no LOS share a grain field with horrible beasts. My knights would have to turn 90 degrees and charge over a low wall and into the same grain field to engage the wolves and Sir Bebe and his arquibusers have no LOS to anyone while a contingent  of longbow men are sidling up to the farm from a blind spot.

The Lycans won the next activation. The score was too great for the longbow men to act. The wolves charged!
Field of Fury.

Reaction fire from the crossbowmen failed to drop a single wolf. Brave Sir Bebe put spurs to mount and charged, splitting one of the Brotherhood from head to groin in a single stroke! A nearby member of the Brotherhood fled.

The number of wolves was too great however. Two crossbowmen fell, Sir Bebe and two more crossbowmen fled. Seeing the banner of their Lord retreating all of de Ristalier’s men within LOS had to test to flee as well. The remaining crossbowmen fell back but did not flee. The knights stood firm.  Sir Alain and his charges could not see the banner retreat due to the farm buildings around them.
Run, Bebe, run!

De Ristalier had his remaining crossbowmen loose another volley which again failed to bring down any foes and then ordered his knights to follow as he charged into the grain field. A member of the brotherhood and another wolf were brought down under the charge and the remaining Lycans fell back to the far side of the field.
Bloody work.

Rallying, the Lycans charged anew. De Ristalier countercharged the Lycan leader and slew him with a single blow!
The tide turns.

On seeing their leader fall most of the wolves and archers fled.

Two wolves made to charge the crossbowmen. One was brought down by a bolt and the other held at bay until a knight could join the fray. The wolf was slain in short order.

Only one longbow man remained, madly shouting something about how the Ekrans could take his land but never his freedom.

Having had more than his fill of Treyine patriotism, de Ristalier gave strict orders that this varlet was his and put spurs to his charger once more.
The ignoble end of an ignoble peasant.

The bowman loosed an arrow that pierced de Ristalier’s shield, yet left man and steed untouched. De Ristalier’s “varlet” put up a good fight in the unequal battle that followed but simple bowman was no match for a fully mailed and well mounted knight.

And so ended the Battle for Spoil’s Farm with the power of the Lycans broken on the field.

Honor satisfied, de Ristalier congratulated his men on putting down a treacherous Treyine rebellion.

As gift for his conspicuous bravery, Sir Alain was awarded title to the farm and its lands.

As penance for his timidity poor Sir Bebe has been sent forth as a pauper knight in quest of his lost standing.

Of the losses among his footmen, de Ristalier's chronicle takes no account.

And so the Comte de Ristalier returned to Havenbrook on Trench, the matter at an end in his mind, and yet…

And yet, when the moon is full and the wolf bane blooms, men still say the ghostly howls of the Lycan may yet be heard in these parts.

The body of the Alpha Male was never found.

Game note:
This was the first game of Warrior Heroes Armies and Adventures I’ve played in a long while and it was a hoot. Usually I end up baddie fodder so this outcome was a bit unexpected. 

I hope the report gives you some idea of how same side and solo play works and how the PEF and NPC movement system combine to keep players on their toes.

Hope you enjoyed it.


  1. Thank you.

    BTW, I hadn't realized Bongolesia has a blog. New follower!