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Friday, May 12, 2023

Hold the Bridge or How to Write a Scenario


Hold the Bridge

How do you write a scenario? I guess there are many different ways. Inspiration comes from many places. You might try to recreate a moment from a historical battle or a favourite novel or film this is where we draw a lot of our ideas from. You might think of a tactical situation which would be fun to play. You might, like me, wrack your brains for days or weeks trying to come up with an excellent plot for a fun yet challenging game. Or…

Jordan and I turned up at BIG with no real idea about what to play other than it should be the start of a campaign. I had brought a river and a bridge and the usual collection of trees, hedges, walls, and buildings. I left Jordan to set up a table and when I came back, he had created a perfect little scene. A meandering river crossed by a small stone bridge with a few small houses, maybe the outskirts of a village or small town. The kind of place you might retire to.

As for the scenario we made it up as we went along. A night attack to hold the bridge for the rest of the army who were some way behind and expected to come up in the morning. Jordan had to take the bridge and hold it until daybreak, d3+3 turns.

Jordan was the attacker. He sorted his Retinue into four spears and we agreed they should enter the table on the first turn as their cards were drawn.

As the defender, my Retinue were divided into four spears, three of which were billeted in the houses and the fourth led by Simnel Bodkin, Captain of Archers, drew guard duty on the bridge. The guard can not move or raise the alarm until they see the enemy or they are attacked. Only Simnels card is in the deck, my other Heroes cards are added only when the alarm is raised

  It’s night, so visibility is 12”. We established a rule that outside that range Jordan could move normally without being detected, but movement within that distance has to be at half speed, they are creeping, and can be detected if I can roll my prowess or lower on a d6. I can only check when my card is drawn, other than that, I have to remain at my post on the bridge.

As it happened, my captain of archers card stayed on the bottom of the deck for 6 turns! I shuffled, split, and cut the deck every way I know how and yet…

We later decided that a spotting check should be performed on winning a Bonus card, it could then be choice as in the “I Spy” scenario, “Sport or Draw?” However, Jordan won every Bonus Roll…

Jordan had the idea of adding a Special Event card “Full Moon” which would increase the visibility to 18”, a great idea. We decided the Queen would represent it and added four to the deck. It turned up on the third turn and Jordan’s characters began creeping!

We liked the moonlight idea and, deciding it should have more chance of occurring ,chose to use a new rule for future games where a dice roll is made at the beginning of the turn to see if the moon has come out. A d6 rolling less than the turn number would trigger the moon.

Jordan’s other Special Event card “Call of Nature” was genius. If this card appears one of my Squires has “urgent need” and comes out of the house to relieve himself which means I get to make a spotting check. We used the nine and shuffled two more into the deck.

We thought we should follow wargaming tradition where river scenarios are concerned and that there should be a second crossing so created a ford lower downstream. In the event, we did not use it but I think it should stay in.

“’ere, what be all this then?” Special Event “Ambush” is drawn and group of angry villagers emerge from the small cottage and begin to murmur threateningly at Sir Henrys men.

It’s unlikely that the peasants are going to survive for long against Sir Henry’s retinue, so I move them to a safe place intending to attack with them later in the game.

Sir Henry Graves, caught in a moon beam, glowering over his bevor

Sir Henry’s men creeping through the undergrowth, emerge into the moonlight “sssshhhhhh!”

the villagers move up to the hedge to peer at these creeping men

closer and closer…

Jordan had drawn “You Tardy Knave!” and played it to stop Simnel Bodkin from making a spotting check. He also used a Forfeit card to stop him on the next turn!  Ah well, I suppose all the best games have some frustration in them!

Sir Henry’s squire John Hamlyn, leads an attack on the pesky villagers. Incredibly, he is unable to wound the angry peasant who pops him in the eye with the butt end of his quarter staff. John takes a wound although I suspect the blow to his pride is more painful.

At last the alarum is raised! Sir Edmund Foxe emerges from the tavern!

Bertram le Chance leads an assault on the bridge. One of the sentries has been shot dead, the other takes to his heels, dropping his bow and his quiver in his haste to evade the enemy.

  In the middle of the bridge Simnel stands his ground.

Bertram le Chance leads an assault on the bridge. One of the sentries has been shot dead, the other takes to his heels, dropping his bow and his quiver in his haste to evade the enemy.

  In the middle of the bridge Simnel stands his ground.

Simnel runs away as Sir Henry leads his men onto the bridge. This game proves the Evade rules work. Simnel failed his Calamity check and throws away his bow and quiver!

Sir Henry orders his archers and crossbows up to shoot at the opposite bank

Bridge secured! Now all they have to do is hold it! Jordan rolls a d6. He has to hold the bridge for 6 turns until daylight!

Ernoul Hampton charges Sir Henry. For this game we decided to play melees over several turns. This is how the game was originally written, to fall in line with Billhooks Major but it does create several challenges. The initial melee is I tied so we use a 6mm dice to mark the first turn of combat.

Bertram le Chance slams into Ernoul. We decide this constitutes a new melee and treat it as such. Sir Henry stands back to watch. The melee is marked with 6mil .So far so good

Now things get interesting! Roger Stiles attacks Sir Henry, both have a supporting Bill man. Bertram and Ernoul continue fighting, their 6mil should read “2”. Meanwhile, Simnel Bodkin has “armed for War” and charges into Sir Henry’s Billman, depriving that Lord of his support.

After being held up by a Forfeit card, Sir Edmund finally appears on the scene but he is too late…

…Simnel pushes his way through and charges Sir Henry in a desperate bid to get onto the bridge. They fight…

…in my excitement I forget Simnel is “Captain of Archers” and roll only one dice for him as if he is a lowly armed archer. However, he hits Sir Henry who fails to score a hit himself.  He also fails his saving roll and sustains a wound. He now has to pass a Will To Fight test and…

…fails! Falling to his knees Sir Henry begs for mercy and the game is over.

We had a great game! It was fun! It had challenges! It allowed good tactical use of cards so that Jordan could keep first Simnel Bodkin and then Sir Edmund Foxe busy and unable to get involved. It had an exciting climax, Jordan had only to hold the bridge for one more turn to win.

What we learnt

Applying the KISS principles, Melee needs to happen in one turn. Much as I like the idea of having melees span several turns and the tactical ploys that would induce, it becomes quite difficult to track what is happening to whom and for how long, particularly where several fights are happening and even more so where there is little space. Keeping It Simple is one of the game’s principles and we really don’t want produce extra admin for little reward.

The “Captains of Archers” should start with no skills in a campaign, with two skills each they were very powerful in this game of beginners.

Heroes should only surrender if they fail a WTF test AND have only one Health left.

I like this scenario and shall write it up. It took quite a while to get going, which meant an increase in Calamities, so…

Would it play better on a smaller table? Should there be a pre-game “manoeuvres” phase with the game proper only starting after a successful spotting roll?

Only one way to find out…

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