Monday, December 26, 2011

50! Death in the Desert, finale (Part 2)

(A full review of the Pith Helmet 2 rules can be found at a previous post here.  There is also a download link on that page if you want a copy of them for yourself.)

The posts leading up to this one can be found here and here.

As Turn 12 begins, the tactical situation is as follows.  The Arab forces have been almost completely wiped out as a viable fighting force.  However, the French side is not home free, as there is still one full-strength Arab unit blocking the way off the table.  If this unit is able to get into contact with the Professor and his native bearers, the French could lose the game.

So, we begin:

Turn 12:
Action Points:  FFL, 3.  Tir.Alg., 2.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 3.

Professor Trouver drew a Queen for first activation, and the ability to use one Action Point.  However, seeing as how his precious artifacts may have been damaged, and that pesky Arab force is between him and his escape, he decided to pass his turn.

Next, those self-same Arab Spears activated, with the ability to spend all of their AP (3, this turn).  My problem, as the Arab player was complex.  I wanted to get into contact with the Professor's group, but I didn't want to risk moving through the intervening Rough Terrain.  I also didn't want to move around the right flank as this would put me squarely in the sights of the Legionnaires.  My only option was to move around the left flank, towards the Tirailleur Algériens, hopefully forcing them to run far enough away to let me get to the native porters.

Accordingly, I advanced the Spears 9" in Mass formation around the left flank.  Per the rules, I stopped at 10" from the Tirailleurs, forcing a Reaction check by them.  This could work well for the Arabs, as the Tirailleurs had fewer APs than the Spears did.
Turn 12:  "Who's got the fewer number of guns to shoot us?  O.K., we'll head left."
The Tirailleurs rolled versus their Coolness of 75, needing equal to or less than that number.  The d100 roll = 01!  That's pretty darn cool.  It's damn chilly.  In fact, I think there was a little frost on the sand dunes just then.  The Tirailleurs fired in reply to the suddenly-appearing Spears.  However, only 6 men could actually see the Arabs due to the terrain, so their overall effectiveness would likely suffer.
Peek-a-boo!  I see you! 
With a Probability of Hit (POH) = 60 (after all modifiers), I needed that or lower to inflict damage.  The d100 roll = 66.  Miss!

As I mentioned in the previous write-up, merely being shot at necessitates a Reaction check, so accordingly the Spears rolled versus their own Coolness of 75.  Their d100 = 11.  Pretty darn cool, too.  They would fire in return.  However, only 1 pistol and 2 rifles had Line of Sight (LOS) to any Tirailleurs, so their own firing would likely suffer as well.  Their POH = 20.  Not a lot.  The d100 roll = 53.  Big miss.

Again, the Tirailleurs React.  C = 75.  d100 = 08.  Very cool.  The whole desert is turning into an arctic zone.  Talk about climate change!  What global warming?!  They fired in return.  POH = 60.  d100 = 85.  Another miss.  (Both sides seem to be very Cool under fire, but terrible shots!)  They now have zero AP.

And finally, the Spears are forced to spend their last AP in Reaction.  C = 75.  d100 = 76(!).  So close, missed by one!  Not only do they fail their Coolness, but since it's an even number they must Retreat 2d10" = 4", Shaken, and lose 1 extra AP (if they had any; they are now at zero anyhow).
"Run away!  Run away!"  The Spears Retreat.
Hmm.  Well, that didn't go anywhere close to according to plan.  The Arabs were successful in draining the Tirailleurs of the Action Points, but lost all of their own as well, and ended up retreating instead of driving away their enemy.  What's the old saying about battle plans not surviving contact with the enemy?  If the Spears had only passed their last Coolness check and fired, then the Tirailleurs might have been Shaken, which next turn could have been of benefit.  But, alas, t'was not to be.
When figures Retreat I face them away from the enemy; when they Fall Back, I leave them facing the original direction.
With that little exercise in futility out of the way, I turned to the French side.  They could used half of their units, for all of their AP.  Since the Tirailleurs had used up their AP already, this greatly simplified my choice of what to do.  I would activate the Legion!  (Am I a great general, or what?)

It was time to get the Legionnaires into a better position, quickly, in order to take advantage of the Arabs' situation.  The Lt. had his men reform into an Open formation and advance 9", which brought them into a better view of the Spears.  They then fired from 14" away.
It's time to get some use out of these guys.  Re-form into Open formation, please.
While the Legion has LOS to the Arabs, they really needed to get closer in order to capitalize on the Arabs' bad luck.
The Legion has advanced 9".
"Legionnaires, ready, aim, fire!"
Three men technically did not have LOS to the Spears so the total number firing was reduced by that amount.  The end result was that their firing caused one casualty.  Yes, one.

The Spears, being already Shaken and out of AP, did not React and spent no more AP.

There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase, I drew cards for the one guy from the Spears in the Rally Zone.  He returned, safe and sound.  For the Spears' Morale check, necessary because as a unit they were Shaken, their M = 75.  Their d100 = 54.  They returned to Normal.

Great job, Legion, taking advantage of the Spears' bad luck.  Really, really great job.

Turn 13:
Action Points:  FFL, 4.  Tir.Alg., 2.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 4.

The Spears drew first activation.  The Arabs still had hopes of driving off...somebody...with the 1 AP they were going to spend.  Stuck out in the open, with only 1 AP to use, they did what any self-respecting Arab Spearmen would do:  they advanced towards the Legionnaires, once again hoping to force the issue.  This time, both units involved had 4 AP.

The Spears moved less than 9", stopping at 10" from the Legion.
هجوم ("Attack!" in Arabic)
Turn 13:  Another view of the tactical situation, so you can see all the relative parties.
The Legionnaires React.  C = 90.  d100 = 34.  They fire!  The whole unit has LOS.  After modifiers and d100s, their shooting causes 4 casualties.  That's more better!
This is going to hurt.
Funny how the ones at the back always die first....
The Spears React back.  C = 55.  d100 = 85.  They fire at half their ability.  Due to their maneuvering (ie, their running away) the individual figures had gotten moved around a bit, and when I tipped over the 4 casualties I purely and accidentally tipped over the two of the figures carrying rifles.  Now, I generally play WYSIWYG, so their firepower was greatly reduced.  That will teach me to pay more attention next time!
They look very intimidating.
"C'mon, men, they don't look that tough!"
In the end it didn't matter much:  they needed 15 or less, they rolled 96, so they missed.  They then fell back 1d10" = 2".
"I guess they weren't that tough after all."
The Legion then Reacted by not Reacting and spent no AP.

I felt the Legion needed to continue to push their initiative so they fired again.  This is when the Spears' gamble to burn the Legion's AP failed.  After d100s were rolled, the Legion caused 2 casualties, one of which was the Spears' "Officer" (one of the die rolls ended in '1').  Now when the Spears Reacted, they had to use their "NCO's" leadership value of 60 or less instead of their "Officer's" value of 75.  They rolled 52.  If the "Officer" were still there everything would be fine; unfortunately, this result forced them to Retreat 2d10" = 4", Shaken, and lose 1 extra AP (now at zero).
This is the only picture I took vertically.  Isn't that interesting?
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase, I drew cards for the Spears:  the "Officer" returned plus 2 others, but 4 died.  As they were Shaken I rolled for their Morale check:  M = 67, d100 = 49.  They returned to Normal.

Turn 14:
Action Points:  FFL, 3.  Tir.Alg., 3.  Professor, 3.
Spears, 3.

The Spears drew highest card and could spend 1 AP.  Feeling that the Legionnaires were perhaps a trifle too tough, and still hoping to get at the soft chewy center of the Professor, the Spears advanced 9" in Mass formation towards the Tirailleurs, stopping as usual at 10".
Turn 14:  Go left, go right, go left.  Make up your mind!
(As I mentioned last post, this is before I realized the alternative tactic of charging from outside of rifle range.  But really that would not help here:  if the Spears didn't move somewhere they would be shot by the Legion; but with only being able to spend 1 AP there was not much the Spears could do; they would not be able to just sit there and wait for the Mêlée Phase.  So once again I was hoping the Tirailleurs' Reaction would get them out of my way.)

The Tirailleurs Reacted (C = 75; d100 = 93) by firing at half strength.  Only six figures had LOS, so their POH = 30; d100 = 17.  1 casualty.  They then Fell Back 1d10" = 7".

Uh oh.
...and now the Porters are easily accessible.  Thank you, once again, Tirailleurs!
"See, we just have to swing around that little sand dune and we win!"
However, the Spears now had to React to the Tirailleurs' fire.  This was crucial.  Falling back and/or Retreating now would be disastrous for the Arabs.  Coolness = 75, d100 = 23 meant a result of Fire, but since I only had pistols that meant the enemy was out of range; so I was able to advance the Spears 1d10" = 6", which ironically put them 11" away, thereby not forcing a Reaction.  Whew.
"Just a little closer.  At least those mean and nasty Legionnaires can't see us to shoot us anymore."
However however, the Spears had now "shot their load," so to speak, and had used up their 1 AP.  It was now the French side's turn.

The Lt. wisely had the Legion advance 2 AP's worth, or 18", in Open formation, behind the Spears, and stop at the 10" mark.
"You know, this long war might finally be over soon."
The rules state, "A unit must stop if it comes within 10” & LOS of the enemy."  They further state that a Reaction occurs whenever "An Enemy Unit Moves to within 10 Inches of the Unit."  Personally, and maybe this needs to be a House Rule for me, but how can a unit React to something behind it?  It has no LOS.  It's funny that the Active unit can continue moving to closer than 10" if it can't see the enemy (behind a wall, for example) but per the letter of the rules the enemy unit would React anyway.  At any rate, depending on the Reaction, the Arabs might not be able to do anything as they would not have LOS to the Legion.  I'll have to think on this some more.  Any thoughts would be appreciated in the comments section.

So let's see what happened.

The Spears rolled for their Reaction:  C = 75, d100 = 57.  No Reaction, no AP spent.  (See?  All that worrying for nothing.)
Proof the Arabs don't have eyes in the back of their heads.  Otherwise they'd be really worried right about now.
And not to forget him, but the Professor, finally realizing that the men send to protect him kept removing themselves from that position quite frequently, moved 9" away from the Spears.  I don't know why I didn't have him move his full 3 AP.
"We're walking, we're walking, we're walking."
There was, finally, a Mêlée Phase.  Astute readers may have noticed I held back one AP for the Legion; they didn't fire immediately after moving.  I wanted to ram the point home--with a bayonet!  I also decided that the Spears wanted to charge the only unit they could see, which was the Tirailleurs.

Which charge occurred first might well be the game-deciding factor.  I drew cards to determing the order of charges.  The Spears drew a 4 of clubs; the Legion drew an Ace of hearts.
More cool action shots.
The Legion would charge first.
They charged 9" + 1d10" = 15".  Then the Spears Reacted to being charged.  Their C = 75, their d100 = 17.  The result was "fire, then stand and fight."  As they were unable to fire at their attackers, what with being charged from the rear and all, the Legion crashed in with bayonets glinting!  It didn't appear that the Spears would be charging after all....
This is going to be brutal and messy.
A right vicious bloodletting.
For the mêlée the Legion had a total bonus of +4 (+1 for bayonets, +3 for attacking from the rear [on the first turn only]).  The Arabs had a total of +2 (+1 for having spears [on the first turn only], +1 for the Legion being in Open formation).  This meant that after the first turn, both sides would be evenly matched in bonuses.  Hmmm.

The first round, the Legion won 15 red to 12 red, but the Spears' "Officer" redrew.  Too bad he only drew a 5.  Three Spears went to the Rally Zone.  The "Officer's" stick-his-neck-out roll indicated he was safe.

Round two:  the Legion won 11 black to 3 black.  Again, the Spears' "Officer" redrew, this time with an Ace black.  Now the win would go to the Spears by 1, so one Legionnaire dropped out.  However, even though the Spears won, the "Officer's" safety roll sent him to the Rally Zone!  Now the Spears had only their "NCO."

Round three:  the Spears won 9 black to 3 red.  This meant 6 Legionnaires would drop out; the Lt. deemed this unacceptable so re-drew a 10 red, which gave him the win by 1 (to the Rally Zone).  What's more, the Lt.'s safety roll was successful.

Round four:  the Legion won Queen black (11) to 2 black.  This would send 9 Spears to the Rally Zone; the "NCO" deemed this unacceptable so re-drew a 7 (8) black.  Only three were sent to the R.Z., and the "NCO" was safe.

Round five:  Tie!  One from each side dropped out.

Round six:  the Spears won 3 red to 2 black.  One Legionnaire packed his things for the Rally Zone.

Round seven:  the Spears won 10 black to 9 red.  One Legionnaire dropped out.

Round eight:  the Spears won again 9 red to 6 black.  This was getting worrisome, so the Legion Cpl. re-drew a 4 red (becoming a 5).  I hadn't wanted to risk the Lt. again, but since the Cpl. came up short, I felt I had to.  The Lt. then re-drew with an 8 red (becoming a 9).  The Spears still won, but only 1 Legionnaire went to the Rally Zone instead of 3.  The Cpl.'s safety roll left him safe, but the Lt. was not so lucky and was sent to the Rally Zone!  Talk about wasted effort.

Round nine:  another Tie.  One each dropped out.

Round ten:  the Spears won with an Ace black to 3 black.  Yikes.  The Cpl. re-drew an 8 black (becoming a 9) so only three Legionnaires dropped out instead of eight.  The Cpl.'s safety roll was successful.

Round eleven:  believe it or not, despite all the losses the Legion had taken, they now outnumbered the Spears by 2:1, so gained a further +3.  The Spears card draw was a 10 black (11) to 8 red (becoming 12), giving the Legion the win when they otherwise would have lost the round.  One Spearman was sent to the Rally Zone.

Round twelve:  the Spears won with a Jack red (11) to 3 red (7).  The Cpl. re-drew a whopping 4 red (becoming an 8).  Three Legionnaires were whisked off to the Rally Zone.  The Cpl. was safe.

Round thirteen:  lucky turn 13.  It was a tie card draw, both Kings.  However, the extra +3 gave the win to the Legion by 3 (red).  The Spears' "NCO" attempted a last second save with a re-draw, but only managed a 2 red (becoming a 3).  Three Spearmen, all that remained including the "NCO," went to the Rally Zone.
After all the dust had settled.
Not a lot of places for the Arabs to go....
The Foreign Legion won the mêlée!  Eight men remained.  The drop-outs from the Spears Retreated 3d10" = 17" in Open formation, Shaken.  After 7" of movement this meant they were about to leave the table, giving them a last ditch Morale Check.
The Spears disappear into the horizon.
Their M = a dismal 25 (no leaders, as they were all in the Rally Zone, and I hadn't begun the Morale Phase yet to see if they would return); their d100 = 04!  Still cool customers.  They returned to Normal and remained on the table.  However, attempting to retreat off the table is considered (according to prior personal consultation with the author of the rules, Don Bailey) being unable to Retreat, and what's more there was 10" of movement left when they encountered the table edge.  This meant that 10 of the 5 figures were sent to the Rally Zone; in other words, all of them.  (For more on not being able to retreat, see the last posting and the Rifles in the sand dunes....)

I now did begin the Morale Phase.  For the Legion, the Lt. remained in the Rally Zone...again.  This was getting to be a bad habit with him.  As for the rest, 3 died and 2 returned.

The Spears were going to be a bit more complicated.  I had drawn so many cards for the mêlée that I had to shuffle the deck in the middle of the Spears checking.  Their "Officer" and "NCO" were not killed.  But with the parent unit not present, the draw was different:  4 died, 2 were captured.  The "NCO" and one other would return to any leader, but all the rest (6 including the "Officer") Routed and were removed from the game.

I could easily have declared victory there for the French forces, but since the "NCO" and one other figure would return to "any leader," I figured that leader could be the "NCO" himself!

So two figures returned/remained from the mighty Arab force.
"C'mon, we can't quit now.  Victory is just around that sand dune!"

There were no Morale checks to make.

Turn 15:
Action Points:  FFL, 4.  Tir.Alg., 4.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 2.

The Spears won the card draw and would be able to use all 2 of their AP.  As the Arab player, I still might be able to squeak a partial win, if I could just kill a porter or the Professor.  Accordingly, I advanced them in Open formation (yeah, right, like you can tell with only two guys) into the Rough Terrain 9" worth.  Luckily they passed their R.T. roll.  They stopped when they came into LOS of the Professor and his men (which actually put them at less than 10").
"Now, Abdul, we strike!  Throw your mighty spear!"
Before the stalwart Arabs could attack, the Professor got to React.  His C = 90, his d100 roll = 4.  That's some serious coolness going on in the Professor.  Once again, I figure he's simply concerned with protecting his valuables.  He raised his trusty revolver and fired.  As he was the only figure armed in his unit, calculations were simple.  His POH = 30.  d100 = 28.  1 casualty!  Good shot, sir!
"Abdul, you did not throw your mighty spear quite fast enough."
The Spears, well, the one guy remaining, Reacted to having his fellow shot (C = 60, d100 = 10) by firing in reply!  ("Yaaa, take that, infidel!")  POH = 25, d100 = 58.  Miss.  ("Ah well, Abdul, we tried.")  The Spears were now out of AP.

Professor Trouver Reacted again (C = 90, d100 = 60) by not Reacting.  No AP were spent.  He could tell that the lone remaining Arab was no threat.

However, the French commander (ie, me) was not convinced.  The French could use half of their units (1) and spend 1 AP.  Accordingly the Tirailleurs fired at the standing-on-top-of-the-sand-dune-silhouetted-against-the-sky Spearman.  POH = 75, d100 = 36, causing 2 casualties (which is pretty good when there is only one target!).
"I think we got them this time."
The Spears could not React as they were all potentially dead.

Lastly, the Professor activated, able to spend all his AP.  As he had 3 AP remaining, I moved his unit 3 AP worth or 27" towards the "exit" in Open formation.  This very nearly took him off the table.
"We're walking, we're walking, we're running."
There was no mêlée.

For the Morale Phase I drew cards as usual for the Rally Zone occupants.  Would the Spearmen return to harry the fleeing Professor, and drag out this game even longer?  Or did the Tirailleurs' bullets strike true and kill the desert dogs?
For the Spears, since the parent unit was no longer present on-table, the NCO and the other Spearman were both captured.

For the Foreign Legion, the Lieutenant finally Returned safely.  It's about time, sir.
"Hey, you guys in the sand dunes, consider yourselves captured."


  1. Excellent report!
    As to whether the Arabs should roll for reaction when the FFL approached them from the rear my take would be yes. It's possible someone would look around to see where the FFL had got to or maybe even kept an eye on them. As long as the FFL could be seen from the Arabs' position if they didn't happen to look around. That's different from someone being out of sight due to terrain. And as happened it's possible they wouldn't react anyway, which could be taken as no one happened to notice the FFL approaching (or they did, but chose to concentrate to their front).

  2. Thank you, Mr. Fitz-Badger. I appreciate the comments. I think you're right, as well, that a unit should get some chance of Reacting. Of course, a slightly different tactic would be to stop before reaching that critical 10" mark, and then firing. That would pre-empt any Reactions until after the damage is (hopefully) done. I continue to find new depths to this simple set of rules.

  3. A very enjoyable read - thanks for sharing.