HG Well Floor Games like game - Once upon a time in Bosnia...

Started by MatrixGamer, April 02, 2012, 01:33:23 PM

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I ran this game at the Seven Years War Association Convention in South Bend Indiana on March 31st 2012. The SYWA con is the largest gathering of SYW miniatures players in North America and features some of the best miniatures out there for beauty of figures and kick ass terrain. Game range from the 1690's era to the 1780's and range the whole planet. I tend to do games set in or on the fringes of the Islamic world being the token Muslim of the group.

This years game was set on the border between Austria and the Ottoman Empire. A detachment of Austrian infantry and a few cavalry scouts, led by Captain von Fritz was charged to go to a small village to round up deserters. The village sits right on the border (a river) and though technically inside Austria it is populated by Bosnian Muslims, who have regular concourse with their kin across the bridge.

I had six players (including myself) play, all old and experienced gamers, most of whom have played my games before. They know my stuff is weird compared to most wargames, more talk that rules heavy.

I run Matrix games so the first step of any game is to introduce the players to the matrix of the world. I did this in a series of steps. First I laid out the terrain board - three 2x2 foot green boards. The first board has a hill, lots of woods, shepherds and flocks of sheep, and a Turkish looking horseman riding the edge of one of the woods. The Austian column was marching up the hill with cavalry vedettes out of their four corners. The next board had a river through the middle of it, a small village of half timbered building, a bridge across he river, more woods on either side of the river, more shepherds and flocks of sheep, a herd of cattle, women, children and a deserter in the village, a mounted Imam (islamic cleric) in the village, and people coming and going across the bridge, on the Turkish side of the border were two ornate columns that looked very arabresque just so you would know you had entered the Orient. The has board was flat and green largely covered in forrest with an old fort where the local Bosnian border guards were posted, along with an antique looking cannon. The players looks at this visual and automatically have good idea of how this world works.

I told the players the scenario, the next piece of the matrix. They now know that they have a mission. Next I told them that technically they are all playing von Fritz because he is who the story is about but that they also champion another force on the board. One player championed von Fritz himself, another took the Austrian sergeant, another the Bosnian border guards, another the mounted Turkish gentlemen, another the deserters, and I took the civilians. Now the players all have roles, filling in still more of th matrix. They have self interest.

I tell them that they cannot kill von Fritz but they can kill any other characters on the board. Von Fritz they make suffer.

The last piece of the matrix comes from picking a secondary goal to work on. Von Fritz picked keeping the peace on the border - he was to try and make good things happen for the Captain. The sergeant wanted to duel a certain Turkish gentleman and also wanted good things to happen. The Turkish horseman wanted to visit his girlfriend and make good things happen. The deserters wanted to despoil local virgins and make bad things happen for the captain. The Bosnian guards wanted to ambush the Austrians and make bad things happen for the captain. The villagers wanted someone to cross the border and make bad things happen for th captain.

So the matrix of the world is in short: 18th Century Eastern Europe, small scale action, Oriental, overt mission to round up deserters, self interest due to role, secondary goals that clash, and an over all directive to make the captain's live easy or hard.

The I handed each player a stack of gold coins. Winning and losing in the game is determined by coins rather than by what happens to the characters on the board. As players did stuff, if someone did something you liked you gave them one of your coins. At the end of the game you added up the coins you had been given and subtracted the coins you didn't give out. The player with the most coins left won.

They now have a complete vission of the world and are ready to play.

I told them that after each turn they could move (1 cubit for horse, 1 hand span for people on foot, 1 finger length for the cannon.) The game started with a player pointing to a spot on the board and saying what happens there. It automatically happens unless another player jumps in and challenges it. If they do they say what happens instead, the two players then roll dice, the high roller wins. Then next player around th table then adds to the scene or points somewhere else and starts a new scene. A turn consists of one player making an addition so people could be moving all the time. As the game played, players jumped in out of order to make stuff happen. I ran with this because the point was to capture people's energy rather than to be procedural. With that I pointed to a Austrian horseman and a shephard and started the game.

The Austrian column moved up and shot a sheep, driving off the now disgruntled shepherd. The column then moved forward, driving more civilians off with cavalry. Austrian stragglers were picked off by some clever ambushes by civilians and a detachment of Turkish cavalry (there were lots of figures not on the board at the start of the game that could appear anywhere). The deserters were spread out despoiling virgins but were largely unarmed. One Turk horseman ran off with his girl to the woods on the far side of the river. When the locals realized that the Austrians were coming they tried to run their animals across the river but only managed to create a traffic jam on the bridge. The Austrians split their column to face off the Turkish horse and to go to the village. The village column entered town and caught one deserter. The sergeant did fight a duel and lost. Villagers did pelt them with stones, but the real action was when the Bosian guards showed up in ambush in the village. Some Austrians went down, other fled (Captain von Fritz and the deserters) and the wounded sergeant was captured. The Austrians then pulled back and the game wound down.

The end result was the that Captain von Fritz wrote a make up report of the encounter so that he would not look bad. The village was left waiting for the eventual reprisal. Peace on the border was maintained and the sergeant returned some years later to write a largely fictitious book about his adventures in the East.

Action in the game went fast. Play moved from event to event cleanly with few breaks. Movement happened when people wanted it to but it was not the main focus of play. Players objected to one another pretty often. Coins were passed whenever people did gonzo things and at the end of the game the Bosnian player emerged as the winner.

It was a great game and I will certainly do it again. I'm thinking next year I will run a village game set in Iran during the reign of Nadir Shah next year.

Chris Engle
Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games