Historicon 2013

A few of our merry band traveled up to Fredricksburg for Historicon 2013 last weekend.  Chris scouted ahead and spent most of the convention at the PicoArmor booth promoting his new project The Phalanx Consortium and the upcoming Kick Starter.  Andrew and myself only ventured up for Saturday as I had to work Sunday and boy destroyed his car and was relying on me for wheels.

The convention was the usual joyful mix of games and excellent shopping opportunities, though getting registered for games was a challenge as many had already filled up by that morning.  that was certainly a disappointment for me personally.

I did get to play a very interesting pirate game that I had just read about online earlier in the week.  The game was hosted by FFOS and I forewarn you that they are fond of lewd and bawdy puns and references so if that sort of thing makes you squeamish you best not continue to their link.

010   What attracted me to the game was not that the staff were all dressed in piratey      costumes (though Kayla the watch keeper certainly looked nice in hers) nor that they were advertising it as a Hollywood look at piracy.  It wasn’t even the enormous size of it, but frankly it was the eye candy.  I mean the models not Kayla.

The game took up several tables in a cordoned off portion of the main gaming hall.  Before play began Mr. Christian mentioned that they had asked for a seperate room.  That would certainly have pleased some of the players of the other games.  Kayla’s bell could get loud!

The first thing we did is randomly pulled tokens from a bag to determine what faction the 21 Captains (Players) would belong to.  The factions that I am aware of or at least remember now were The British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Pirates/Smugglers, Cannibals, and a Ghost Ship.

Most, but not all of these factions had a base or port and these were governed by well Governors.  This was a clever idea.  The Governors were part of the costumed staff I mentioned and acted as local or regional GMs which made running a game on this scale much easier.  We were informed by Mr Christian however, that these Governors also had a game of their own.  They had to answer games rules question honestly, but if asked for advice or when bartering with them we should be warned that they had their own agendas for their own internal contest.

008      My token was French, so I went off to the French port with my soon to be compatriots.  the ports themselves were beautiful.   the picture here is off the French port, though you can see the Pirates and Smugglers gathering around their secret port in the background.

The Governors taught as the details of the rules which were very, very simple, and provide most of the information we would need right on our Ship cards.  This also really helped with getting the game started as all 21 of us would never had heard one GM in that crowded hall.

The game rules were rather simple.  Movement was based upon the wind with each ship having a list of its movement on any particular point of sail. Different rig types and different sized vessels all behaving differently.   The ship cards also had a diagram to remind the non-sailor what those points of sail are.  Personally I have sailed square rigged ships, but I rather suspect I was the only one playing who has.

Cannons were handled by rolling a d6 for each and the defender rolling his defense value of dice in response.  Any matches on these two roll would be cancelled.  Any attacks not cancelled would be hits and a simple chart would determine the result of those hits.  Later in the game I noticed much to my surprise that little boats had more defense dice than larger.  I suspect that was to represent the difficulty of hitting a smaller target.  It would later (until a storm came) prove the only advantage of my command.

007     Speaking of my command.  Worried that the game might prove long (it did) and that Boy would fail to find something to occupy himself (he didn’t) I decided to take the smallest of the French vessels.  A small merchant sloop, armed with 6 guns and with a name that was an example of the aforementioned bawdy jests.  I figured this small vessel would allow me to have some fun (it did) give me a feel for the game (it did) and would find itself at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker rather quickly (it didn’t). You can just make out some of the other French vessels behind mine in this pic.

The game allows for a simplified version of triangle trade and so as a good merchant i took on a cargo of trade goods at my home port.  This I hoped to deliver to the Dutch port just south.  There was a large demand for whatever the trade goods were and an abundance of slaves.  I would sell my goods, purchase slaves and deliver them to the British port were I would trade them for rum which was in high demand at my own port.  All of this I would do while trying to avoid pirates as well as the Ghost ship and the Kraken.

The game allows for a list of Port Actions, things you can do in port.  Each turn consists of three phases.  A plotting phase, in which we had two minutes to write or courses for the turn, and two action phases listed as day and night to make them more nautical.  I would suggest the rethink that as it apparently has confused some before and Starboard, Larboard were how the watches were divided typically.  In any action phase you could move and or shoot, or make two port actions.  Also in port you could buy “Rumour Cards”.  These cards were similar to chance cards in many British games.  they might give you a hint of where something was hidden, they might give you a luxury cargo.  They might also cause storms, or summons the Kraken, etc.

009

We set sail as a fleet for the Dutch port with very little event and then things got difficult.  One of my escorts, a small Navy sloop somehow was demasted and then rammed by a very large ship of one of the other powers.  I never did find out how it was.  About this time I arrived at the port just to learn that due to a rumour card, the port was closed on account of the plague.  I decided to anchor outside the port and wait.  Sailing on would only lose me a good deal of money.  And then the unthinkable happened.  Another rumour card informed us that the Glorious Revolution had just begun in England.  Suddenly the British and French Kingdoms were at war with Holland, and here I was sitting between my own Navy’s Frigate and the guns of the Dutch port!

I think the addition of the declaration of wars, and later peace was a great addition.  It meant that those of us playing various nationalities were not simply hunting or prey to pirates but that or relations with each other would change.  Problem was the timing was not good for me!  I weighed anchor and slipped out from under the guns of my bigger brother and together he and I began to bombard the Dutch port.  Eventually the French marines from the frigate stormed the port and soon the Fleur de Lise was flying over the town.  I quickly traded for the slaves and slipped away to the British port.

This proved more dangerous than I had hoped as well.  Another rumour caused informed us of a tropical storm and my poor little vessel, so far unharmed lost six of her eight hull points.  I was in trouble.  As if that was not enough, suddenly the Ghost ship was bearing down on me.  The ghost ship seeks to take souls, and any crew of a living vessel killed by the Ghost ship further strengthen its own.  I knew I would have little chance against this terror.  Only a few turns earlier my compatriot, our much larger merchant vessel was sunk by the pirates with one broadside.  But low, suddenly across the waves comes my old friend The French Frigate! What are the odds?  this brave fellow quickly puts himself into harms way placing his ship between me and the ghost ship.  I am again saved!  Before I can make good my escape however the terrible Kraken arises from out of the depth and wraps its tentacles around the Frigates hull.  I offer to help him against the creature, but the brave Captain refuses my aid and bids me to continue onward to the British port.  What a brave man.  Skilled as well.  He defeats the Kraken and frightens the ghost ship away!

My last challenge was that upon reaching the british port I find it closed to me as it is blockaded and being attacked by a squadron of Dutch as I approach trying to decide if I should try to run the blockade or  attack them wish would have no doubt been my last act the port fell into their hands.  Almost as soon as it did so the war ended!  What are the odds?   Now I can land in port but my slave will have lost their value.  I return home.

Overall a very enjoyable game with a large number of well modeled and beautiful 28mm ships and scenery, and with a little humour hidden around.  I loved the Spanish flag as a door on one of the cannibal hut.

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