Friday, August 3, 2012

La Longue Carabine Play-test AAR

Well, I got a chance to do a play test of "La Longue Carabine", the French & Indian War supplement to "Sharp Practice" (SP) by Too Fat Lardies.  The system seems to work well, but the scenario did not go very good for the English player, mainly due his bad luck on dice to hurry up the local militia to get on board.

First a quick cover of the rules, then I will cover the actual game played.   For those who never played a Too Fat Lardies (TFL) game, their games revolved around the concept of Friction (Chaos) on the battlefield. I like the uncontrollable feel that TFL gives and the method of trying to force order into the chaos with Big Men (TFL's name for leaders).   I feel this system reflects a lot of my own personal military experiences in training and in my civilian career in directing people.  There are times that one can get very frustrated at the lack of "total control" by the TFL system, but for me, it is the best system to give you the flavor of command.  Richard Clarke wrote an excellent article about Friction and their game systems and I highly recommend that everyone should read it (Link to article.)

SP is different from other TFL games in a few aspects, but very similar in many ways.  First off, SP is light heart in certain rules and designed to be use for skirmishing with flair towards a romantic literary version of war.  Inside there are rules for pitching woo with ladies and even a task number for removing a lady's corset!  But even with rules like that, it should not be laugh off as a non-serious, quirky rules.  It has been used by many to do more serious skirmish games. 

The three biggest differences between SP and TFL's company level games, "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!" and "Charlie Don't Surf", is the lack of cards for units.  In SP, only Big Men get cards in the random turn sequence deck vs. both Big Men and units in the others.   The other big difference is the 'Grasp the Nettle' (Initiative) cards.  The initiative card gives a Big Men an additional initiative point to spend on different actions, like telling a group to do something or rallying a unit.  The third difference is a Bonus deck that can be used during the game, like a 'Forced March' for extra movement or 'Water' to put fires out.  As the game is more about literary heroic Big Men, there are also rules on fleshing out your Big Men with personalities, background history, and even looks (a handsome Big Man is more likely to get the girl, then a hideous Big Man!)

Overall, I like the differences.  The only one that I am thinking of changing is for groups not actives by a Big Man before the turn ends.  By the rules, those groups can act using their action dice, but are limited to what they can do.  One of those things that they can't do is move.  I am thinking of allowing them to move, but only away from known enemy forces or leave a structure in damage of collapse.  The reason I am thinking of doing this is during the play test, the Indians had two groups that lost their Big Man, but had completed their overall objective.  I will suspect that under real conditions they would start fading away into the forest and back towards their lodges. So I allowed them to move one dice away from the enemy until another Big Man eventually took command of them.

The scenario for the play test was a mini-version of the LLC scenario in the TFL's 2011 Summer Special, "On Company Business".  Basically I halved everything, but round up the colonial militia since I dropped the English friendly Indians due to the available number of Indians figures that I had.  I also just gave both sides three Big Men, one of each of a Status rating I, II, and III.  The general outline of the play test was for the French allied Indians to destroyed the colonial settlement and if possible capturing the white women and children.  The English settlers had a small group of armed settlers to try to hold the Indians at bay until a local militia force that was training nearby could come to their rescue and drive the Indians off.  The Indian players successfully meet their goals, but not without a bloody toll to their force.

I did take some pictures, but not many.  Blake (one of the Indian players) took several and they can be seen over on his blog here.  Also Todd from the Itinerant Hobbyist blog stopped by to pick up some 15mm WWII minis from me and also took some pictures that might show up on his blog here.  We had the play test at the Wargamer's Cave in Granite City, IL.  This is a link to their website.  If you go there, tell them Sapper Joe sent you!  You won't get anything, but a puzzle look and probably be asked, "Who is Sapper Joe?"

Basically, the scope of this play test was to see how the initiative cards work, use the Bonus Deck, have a couple of firing actions, a couple Fisticuffs (melee) actions, a couple Task actions, see how formation vs. groups work, and finally have a Big Man who is also rated as a 'La Longue Carabine' be used in action.  Most of these goals where met except, the last two in this play test.

Any way, on to the AAR of the game!  (Plus editorial comments about each turn afterwards.) I tried to be true to the events or at least be true to the spirit of the events of how the game went down.

***********

The Cooper family had a small settlement in the Ohio Valley.  The family lived in a large cabin and their hired help had a small lean-to cabin. The settlement had the patriarch of the family, Eli Cooper (Status III, La Longue Carabine Big Man), four men, four women, and one boy, Johnny.  They were a happy, industrious family and were very successful in carving out a living in the disputed territory between the English and the French…too successful as it seems.  Their success drew the hate of the local French trapper, Louis Petite.

With evil in his heart, Louis Petite approached the nearby Huron Indian tribe to launch a raid on the Cooper family's settlement.  'Chief Falling Rocks' agreed to send a raiding party as he also hated the 'La Longue Carabine' that had been responsible for so many brave warriors to have fallen.  'Chief Falling Rocks' agreed to send a raiding party of 27 warriors.  Three of these warriors were among the best of his tribe, 'Red in the Face' (Status III), 'Howling Moon' (Status II), and 'Red Shirt' (Status I).  Of the remaining 24 warriors, they were broken up into four groups of six.  One group of warriors had plenty of powder for their muskets, where the rest only had enough powder to fire a single shot with their muskets before reverting to traditional weapons of bows and tomahawks.  'Howling Moon' also had several arrows pre-made into flaming arrows to burn down the settlement.  So once the raiders had spent their last night at the lodge, they went to do the Cooper family great harm.

Unknown to Louis Petite or 'Chief Falling Rocks', the nearby militia company was having their drill meeting.  The captain of the company, Captain Henry Majors, was an old warrior in many skirmishes with the Indian tribes.  He was well known to train his militia company to be fighters and not a social club.  This drill he decided to allow his platoon leaders to get some patrolling training.  So he instructed Lt. Dan Henry (Status II), and Sergeant David Winters (Status I) to take a patrol of 16 men out around to outskirts and visit several of the settlements, one which happens to be the Cooper's.  Lt. Henry divided the patrol into two groups of eight men each to allow Sgt. Winters experience of running a patrol too.

It was an idle morning at the Cooper's settlement.  The men and women were busy working the crops and feeding the chickens.  Little Johnny Cooper was out in the nearby woods playing with a hatchet and gathering fire wood.  Slowly the Huron raiding party approached the family.  

A Peaceful Settlement
'Red in the Face' decided to break the raiding party into three groups to surround the main cabin.  He would lead the war party and 'Red Shirt' would lead one of the hunting parties near him.  On the other side of the settlement, 'Howling Moon' would lead the two remaining hunting parties.

Little Johnny was chopping up some wood when suddenly seven Indians run up on him out of the woods.  Although too surprised to try to yell out a warning, little Johnny was able to swing his hatchet and land a killing blow on one of the Indians before being clubbed and taken prisoner by 'Red Shirt'.  'Red Shirt' was fairly amazed at little Johnny's killing blow and decided to spare him so the he could be raised by his tribe to be a warrior.

(The Indian Blinds card came up before the Sentry card allowing Steve to run up is blind with a Status I Big Man and one of the hunting groups vs. little Johnny acting as a Sentry.  We did a round of fisticuffs.  After the game, I had realized that I had gave little Johnny too many dice, so the 4:1 ratio would have been meet and little Johnny should had automatically surrender - oh well, it made for a good scene anyways).

With little Johnny captured and not able to warn the rest of the family, 'Red in the Face' took the war party around some woods to get a clear shot at the Cooper family.

The war party open fired with their muskets two times before the Coopers had time to realize that they were being shot at.  The women started screaming as Eli Cooper looked stun until he realized that the home was under an attack about the time as an Indian war cry sound from the westerly woods. 

A War Party In The Woods
(With the previous turn's blind card, Steve was able to get his war party's blind into position to start shooting next turn.  Unfortunately for the settlers, their Big Man Status III card did not come up before the Indians blinds came up again.  While on a blind, a group has 3 actions instead of 2, so the Indians where able to fire their muskets, reload, and fire again.  Their fire was rather ineffective at long range, only causing some shock to the group of women.  So Steve played his bonus deck card, "War Cry" and added some more shock to the women's group.  Blake's Indians also moved up.  Up to now and a few more turns, I failed to remember that the settlers' groups could have done spotting or shooting at the end of turn card since they did not get activated by a Big Man.  However, this really did not affect them since the only blind they could attempt to spot revealed themselves and the armed male group was too far to shoot back.  With my change to allow a one die retreat for groups not activated by a Big Man, this would have allowed them to have made one dice move towards their cabin for cover.  However this did not affect the game.)

Eli quickly took command of his senses and grasp the nettle of the events around him.  "Martha, you and girls are not hurt, so quit your crying.  Take the girls inside," Eli cried out.  Turning his head back around, Eli yelled out, "Boys, get in the house and prepare to do some shooting". With that, Eli followed his family and workers into the cabin. 

Outside, 'Red in the Face' was much disappointed as now he had to cross open ground get close enough to have any real effect at shooting through the one window that was exposed to them.

'Red Shirt' brimming with confidence at his capture of little Johnny ordered his hunting party up to the north face of the cabin.  Fortunately for 'Red Shirt', there are no windows on this side.  'Red Shirt' directs his braves to start setting fire to the cabin, which is nearly successful. 

'Howling Moon' also led his two hunting parties to the east face of the cabin, which again is lucky for the Indians as there are no windows there either.  'Howling Moon's' braves were not able to reach the cabin, so 'Howling Moon' pulled out a flaming arrow from his quiver.  After lighting it, he shot at the cabin only to miss it. 

Off in a different hollow, Lt. Henry thought he heard musket shots, but shrugged it off as only being the wind. 

(In this round, several Big Men were able to use the initiative bonus cards allowing them an extra initiative or two.  In the first case, Dennis was able to use two initiative cards that came up before his Status III Big Man's card did.  This gave him five initiative pips to something, three from his status and two from the cards.  So he spent three pips to remove three of the four shock points on the women's group.  Then he spent one pip to activate the women and the remaining initiative pip to activate the men to run into the cabin.  Had Dennis not had the two bonus initiative cards, the women probably would not have made it inside the cabin due the negative effect of the shock on their movement.  Later, I came to realize that I had too many initiative cards in the deck for both sides.  Also in this turn we got to try out the tasks rules with Steve trying to set the cabin on fire.  He almost made the roll, only to miss by one point.  We got to try the flaming arrows rule, however, Blake missed.  With the previous turn with shooting, that activated the local militia to a random turn to enter on the board, sadly, Dennis' rolls were always bad for having them show up.  They did make it on board, but much too late.)

Outside the cabin, 'Howling Moon' got his braves finally up by the eastern wall.  With just a little assistance with a torch, 'Howling Moon' got the roof to finally start to blaze. 

Inside the cabin, Eli Cooper instructed the men to start shooting out towards the western woods and the women to use all of the water in the cabin to put out the fire on the roof.  Eli Cooper also took some time to finally claim down his daughters. To no mercy for the Cooper family, their musket fire was ineffective.

(In this turn, we saw Blake directly one group to move up to the cabin and perform a task of setting the cabin on fire.  As it only took one more point to ignite, it was a done deal. But to both Blake & Steve's dismay, Dennis had a "Water" bonus card which allowed him to put out the fire on the cabin.  As this was the first game that I have played with a bonus deck, I forgot all about checking for random events and possible additional bonus cards.  That is something that I will have to get use to doing when running these games.)

'Red Shirt' was upset that the fire was put out, but directed his braves to start torching the cabin again from the safety of the wall without windows. 

'Howling Moon' got both of his hunting parties to ignite fires on their side of the building.  With so many torches on the old wood, the fire started up again and spread fast. 

'Red in the Face' directed his war party out of the woods and to run towards the smaller lean-to cabin that was part of the settlement. 

Inside the smoke filled cabin, flames were starting to roll up and underneath the rafters in the cabin.  Eli knew that they didn't have much time before the roof would collapse.  "Martha, get the girls out of here and go to the Anders' farm.  You boys, we got to give the women a chance to escape.  Follow me!”  With that, the Cooper family ran out of the burning cabin. 

Martha led the women, after arming themselves, towards the southwest and hopefully safety.  Eli and the men ran out to the east to fight one of 'Howling Moon's' hunting parties. 

Eli let off a howl as he butt stroked the first brave he saw with his long rifle.  The brave's neck made a loud crack as it snapped back farther than it should go.  Eli's eldest son, Able, also knifed a warrior's across the throat before a tomahawk came crashing down on his head.  Poor Ben, the hired hand, never had time to react to the brave that drove his knife deep into Ben's heart.  Eli cried with rage at seeing Able fall dead, that he grab a tomahawk from the hands of the dead Indian and struck down another brave before being struck over the head with a club.  As Eli sunk to his knees and fell over into the darkness, the last thing he saw was his two remaining sons being killed by the remaining braves, but not before they also killed one more of the raiders. 

(This turn was a nail biter! Both Steve & Blake's Indian restarted the cabin on fire.  I didn't have rules for how long the cabin would burn before collapsing, so I rolled a d3 and got a 1.  That was a really hot fire!  Reflecting back on it, I think a dAv roll would have been better and to be counted off with the showing of the Blank card.  At the time of game, I still was following the rules that a group not activated by a Big Man could not move at end of the turn. There was a good chance that the Cooper family would all perish in the burning cabin, but fate gave Dennis his Status III Big Man card.  Unfortunately, none of the English initiative cards came up to help Dennis out.  So, Dennis used one pip to activate the women so they could run out of the burning cabin; another pip to order the men to follow him into fisticuffs; and the final pip to increase his fervor by one die.  The first round of fisticuffs ended in a draw with both sides losing two men, so fisticuffs was done again with the settlers losing all three men, included their Big Man, to two more Indians.)

Off in the distance, Lt. Henry again thought he heard the sound of musketry.  But now he saw a black smoke column rising about the wood line.     
"Sergeant Winter, do you think that is coming from the Anders' or the Cooper's farm?" 
"I don't know, sir.  I think it’s the Anders' farm." 
"Alright.  Platoon! Double quick, march!"

Martha Cooper stood in shock at the destruction around her.  Tears were dwelling in her eyes from the acrid smoke of the burning cabin, but more from the site of her beloved husband and her sons laying in a bloody mess at the feet of their killers.  Although the tears were being merciful at slowly blocking out the site of her Eli and boys, they still allowed her to see the band of Indians come running around the western side of burning cabin.  With all her strength, she swung the cast iron skillet at the first Indian that approached her and her daughters.  As the skillet made a jarring crash into the temple of her attacker, it was quite clear that he would never rise again.  

They Want Our Women!
'Red Shirt' was taken aback by the powerful blow of this woman.  But he was not alone in his awe, as the rest of his hunting party started to run away.  

That Is One Tough Bird!
(This was an interesting turn.  I had rated everyone regulars for fisticuffs, including the women - hey, these were hardy frontier's women and not ladies from a social society!  Steve ran his hunting party and his status I Big Man round the building into fisticuffs and tries to capture the women.  For all of Dennis’ bad rolls to get the militia on the table, he made up a lot of it with getting kills in melee.  With the women winning fisticuffs, Steve was force to retreat his hunting party.)

"Sir, I was wrong.  That is the Cooper's farm.  We can get there on this trail."
  Sgt. Winters panted.  "Good God!  Hurry up, men!" Lt. Henry cried.

'Red in the Face' directed his war party forward to try to capture white women.  With arrogance, 'Red in the Face' thought to himself, "That squaw for a man, 'Red Shirt', is fleeing from a bunch of women.  He is not even worth to be called a brave." 

As the war party closed in on Martha and the girls, Martha swung her skillet once more to send another warrior on his way to the happy hunting grounds.  Out of the corner of her eye Martha saw that one of the savage brutes had grabbed Sarah.  Martha screamed, "Let her go, you savage!" As Martha lunged forward drawing back her skillet, up stepped the nastiest looking savage she had ever seen.

'Red in the Face' watched the older women swinging a black, circular metal object killing one on his warriors.  He sprinted towards her with his tomahawk to strike her down.  He was a great warrior of his tribe and had many scalps to prove his fighting abilities.  She was just a lowly woman, not even worth the effort to have her blood stain his tomahawk.  As 'Red in the Face' swung his arm high up, he suddenly had vision.  Many of braves wait their whole life times to have a vision and he was having his now.  He didn't understood it at first, but he knew what it meant as soon as the pain started.  It was a mother bear defending her clubs.

Martha collapsed in exhaustion, spent from the fight and sadness. She heard the daughters' screams as she felt rough hand grab her and force her to her feet.

(What a turn!  Steve's war party close assaulted the women settlers.  Steve stated that he only want to capture the women and not kill any.  So we treated any kills by Steve's warriors as captures.  The first round of fisticuffs was a tie with one brave being killed and one women captured.  So we fought another round.  In the next round, Steve rolled a lot better capturing all of the remaining women, but not without suffering another dead warrior.  This time when we rolled to see if it was the Big Man killed, it came up he was the one to be heading to the happy hunting grounds.)

'Red Shirt' decided it was now time to leave, especially with his prize of little Johnny Cooper.  He directed his group back towards the lodge.  'White Canoe' stood over the body of 'Red in the Face', then looked back at his war party and gave the signal to start back towards the lodge with the four white women captives. 

Suddenly running into the field was Lt. Henry's patrol.  Slightly out of breath, Lt. Henry yelled out, "Form up.  FIRE!" A volley from eight muskets roared out.  The militia saw two Indians collapse.  Now Sgt. Winters patrol arrived to also deliver a deadly fire.

'Howling Moon' watched two of his braves that fought the white settlers so hard only to be shot by the forming body of white men.  'Howling Moon' was about to give the signal to the other hunting party to run for the trees, when heard the sound muskets firing again.  He felt the sharp pain as a bullet struck him.  Over the hill, 'Howling Moon' saw his grandfather waving to him to follow him over the golden hill.

They Have Our Women!
A little while later, 'Windy Bird' realized that he could be a great brave if he would just lead the remaining hunting party out.  With all three remaining Indian groups heading north towards Canada, the militia give some pursuit until they lost them in the tall pines.  

They Left Nothing But Tears
Lt. Henry looked over the scene of destruction while his men finally reload their empty muskets. Lt Henry knew that there will be lodges burning before the year is out.

(Finally, the militia shows up!  The above story covers two turns as it was pretty much a decided game as the militia could not move fast enough to keep the Indian raiders in sight and they had to use all of their actions to move and never had a chance to reload after their first fire.  Steve rolled to see if another Big Man steps up from his war party to take command and one does.  Blake, however, was unlucky to receive musketry fire from both militia groups.  In the second militia group’s fire, the kill was rolled for and it turned out to be his Big Man.  This is bad for Blake as now the militia could fire some nasty dice at his undamaged hunting party.  At this time I felt sorry and started to allow groups to move one away from the enemy or damage as an action if they had not been activated by a Big Man by then end of the turn.  After the game I realized that failed to do two things.  One was that when Blake's Big Man was shot, I should have rolled to see how badly he was wounded.  This is not the same in IABSM or CDS, so I just didn't remember since I was not use to it.  It was possible that Blake's Big Man might have been slightly wound and he could have started to run away sooner.  However, I also failed to make the Indians group roll for looting once they completed their main objective.  So, there was a good chance that Steve and Blake would not have been able to get away from the militia as easy as they did.) 

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So there, you have it.  It was an Indian victory, but not without cost.  Both sides lost about a third of their total force. The Indians meet their main objective by destroying the settlement.  They also made their secondary objective of capturing the white women and children.

The Victorious Indians
The English settlers lost their status III Big Man, one sentry, four male settlers, and four women settlers.  Half were killed, the rest were captured.  Also they lost the main cabin of the two buildings.  With the militia showing up so late, they took no injuries.

The Indians in return lost both their status III & their status II Big Men, as well as eight braves. 

Depending what my next available time to game is, I will probably run a game with militia band pursuing the Indians and their captives through the forest.

Until then...

Be seeing you

Sapper

5 comments:

Itinerant said...

Great write-up - when I post up a couple of the pics I'll send you a link.

As I watched I kept thinking, "that's not how it's done in IABSM.' but I've just begun reading the IABSM rules so I'm not completely familiar.

combatcolours said...

Looting???
To paraphrase 'Full Metal Jacket'-'we're WELL-disiplined Huron!'
..and if this WAS IABSM! I would have had some KVs supporting my attack on those foreign invaders!
-Steve

Itinerant said...

a reader on my blog asked where/how you made the cornfields.

Sapper Joe said...

Itinerant:

I have no idea from what company I got them from. I bought back in 2000 when I was a historical gaming convention over in Lancaster, PA. It might have a million years ago on another planet as far as my memory goes.

Joe

Ray Rousell said...

A great report, one of my favourite periods!