Thursday, June 10, 2010

26. A Continuing Brief Interlude

After my foray into Dinosaur hunting at Texicon (see last post), I bought the rules in order to play again.  I was really excited about "Adventures in the Lost Lands" because I realized I have everything I needed to actually be able to play RIGHT NOW.  No need to go buy more miniatures; I had figures painted and ready.  Plus, I didn't even need to buy dinosaurs.  I simply raided my son's old tub of dinos and away we went!

I played a few solo games to get a better grip on the Two Hour Wargames reaction system, then coerced persuaded my wife and two oldest offspring to play too.  Here's what happened.

Please forgive the poor quality of photography.  I took the pictures "on the fly," as it were, without stopping to pose them (or for that matter, frame them well) mainly because I didn't want to slow the game down any more than necessary.

I decided to play a Dino Safari, just as I did at Texicon.  This would give me the added benefit of having something familiar to compare my game to, as well as letting my family experience something like what I did at the con.  There were three Big Game Hunters, each with a Native bearer, an Askari guide and a Foreign Legion mercenary.  The Hunters all had modern Big Game Rifles, and the Askaris and Legionnaires each had a Bolt Action Rifle.  The Native was unarmed.  I gave them the mercenary as an added gun, because at Texicon we could really have used one!  I had been playing up the "You're gonna get eaten by a dinosaur" angle leading up to the game, so I felt justified in giving them the extra firepower.

The Hunters had to explore all nine areas of the table, and kill and skin at least one dinosaur as proof of their existence.  Plus, each kill was worth points, and the player with the most points at the end of the game would be the winner.  But if the table remained unexplored, then no one would win.  My wife (who is not a gamer) was a real trooper, and kept the game moving by embracing the spirit of the scenario.  My daughter, the younger of the two kids playing, is very cautious by nature, and didn't really want to shoot anything, or move too far away from the other Hunters.  She was really good at "watching our backs" (her words).  My son, on the other hand, had no problem about staying on his own, making kills, and then being ready to bolt off the table as needed.

The danger level of the Safari was determined by dice roll to be 3, so three PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) were placed out of LOS (Line of Sight) in randomly-determined Areas.
Above:  I rolled for terrain setup and got mostly clear-type terrain.  This is the left half of the table, showing Areas 1, 2, 4, 5, and part of 7 and 8 (at the bottom of the screen).  That's a trail on the left and a fordable river on the right.
Above:  This is the right half of the table, showing Areas 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8 and 9.  Yes, the river is construction paper.  But it served it's purpose.  The little grey crosses indicate the Areas that the table was divided into.
Above:  The Hunters entered Area 8 and proceeded to pass through Areas 7 and 4, whereupon they caught sight of their first PEF.  It was determined to be four medium-sized Feeders, docile plant-eaters.
Above:  While my son plinked away and got his first kill (worth 3 points), my wife and daughter decided to continue exploring.  They headed toward Area 5 (the center of the table) where there was another PEF.
Above:  Here they are cautiously approaching Area 5.  You can see the black sphere I used as the marker for the PEF (leftover from spaceship combat games, but still good for representing something that is unknown).
Above:  This PEF was determined to be 4 small Feeders.  My wife and daughter moved closer, and my daughter got a one-shot kill, worth 1 point.  My wife also got a kill, but since it was a multi-shot kill on a small dinosaur, it netted her zero points.
Above:  Here they are harvesting the kill, while half the group watches for danger.  The two remaining dinos ran for it when their buddies bit the big one, and try as they might the Hunters couldn't get another hit.
Above:  Meanwhile, my son had been trying...and trying...and trying to kill any of the other medium Feeders from the first PEF.  But every time he shot at them and missed, they ran away.  Even though he got in two or sometimes three more rounds of firing before they fled the table, he STILL missed.  He was getting very frustrated, and bored, and making comments like, "I don't like this game.  It's boring.  It's too hard to hit anything.  D&D is better because it's easier to do good dice rolls."  I was biting my lip so hard it hurt.  Here he is shown harvesting his one kill.  Minutes later, he finally got a second one-shot kill, scoring 3 more points (totaling 6 now).  He was in the lead, and still complaining!
Above:  My wife, still trying to get her first points, knocked down and wounded the small Feeder at the river.  The third PEF burst into view on the left side in Area 6, but it wound up being a result of "nothing there now, but the next PEF is automatically a dinosaur."  The trouble was, there were no more PEFs on the table!  Since there had been kills, the "Scent of a Kill" rule was in effect, meaning that anytime the Activation dice totaled 7 then a new PEF was generated.  But I couldn't roll a 7 to save my life!  If I'd been playing craps, I'd have lost my shirt.  I mean really, the single number on 2d6 most likely to be rolled, and I couldn't do it.  What's more, all the Hunters had to do was explore Areas 6 and 3, and the table would be explored, so after that no more PEFs could be generated at all.  This was verging on boring!

My son, meanwhile, had finished harvesting his two dinosaurs and had retreated back to the table edge of Area 7, ready to run off the table as soon as the rest of the table was finally explored.  My daughter had already retreated off-table too, her nerves shot from the possibility of meeting more dinosaurs; fortunately her 1 point was enough for her personal morale.

My wife, though, was determined to explore the table, thereby fulfilling the requirements of the scenario, and trying hard to get the kids into the spirit of the game play.  So I did what any self-respecting GM would do at a time like this:  I fudged a die roll.  I rolled the Activation dice, and one of them came up 5, but the other wasn't I re-rolled it until it was a 2.  I needed another PEF, and I made it happen.
Above:  Here it is, in all it's PEF unknowable glory.  I also needed it to be a Ferocious dinosaur.  I was prepared to shred my credibility yet again by fudging the die roll, but I was spared that horror as it legitimately came up as a Ferocious.  Then it got interesting:  not only did I honestly roll for the Ferocious to be gigantic size, I also honestly rolled for it to be Gigantosaurus!  How could this be any better?  Here the Hunters thought they were getting a cake walk, and now I was worried about them ALL being eaten!  How could they stop Gigantosaurus?  Did my wife have any idea how dangerous this critter was?  Luckily for everyone, I only rolled for ONE Gigantosaurus (which was good for me, too, as I only have one plastic model that size!).
Above:  The Gigantosaurus moved from Area 3 to Area 2, and my wife followed from Area 6 to Area 3, thereby exploring all the Areas on the table.  But the game wasn't over until she decided to leave the table, and she was bent and determined on bagging that Gigantosaurus.  Normally, on-table Ferocious dinos behave the same as PEFs do, meaning they move directly toward the nearest players or other dinosaurs.  In my solo prep games, I had decided to modify that rule, and went with my house rule of:  if the Ferocious has the other players/dinosaurs in its front half LOS then it will behave as a PEF; otherwise, it will move in a random direction based on a d6 roll (after all, it doesn't have eyes in the back of its head, and my Hunters needed all the help they could get).  So, after one random d6 roll Giganto pushed forward, spotted the remains of the medium Feeder my son had killed earlier but not harvested, moved towards it and began to eat it.  Something that small would not last it long, however.
Above:  My wife's Hunter tracked the Gigantosaurus from across the table, keeping plenty of space between them, and taking pot shots at it each chance she got.  I was really worried about what would happen when Giganto had finished his appetizer.
Above:   And then, just as the Gigantosaurus was finishing it's meal...BLAM, a hit; WHAM, a six for Ranged Combat Damage; and WHAMMO, boxcars for maximum Dinosaur Damage!  (Boxcars, for you uninitiated out there, means two 6s.)  12 + 5 (for the Hunter's Rifle's Impact rating) = 1 Obviously Dead dinosaur!
Above:  Called shot to the head, apparently.  From waaay across the table, no less.  That's 7 points, baby!  Way to go, Mom!  Unbelievable!  Astounding!  Hoody-hoo!
Above:  Final score:  Mom 7, Son 6, Daughter 1.  My son was...upset, shall we say?  Since there were no more unexplored Areas, there could be no more PEFs, ergo there was no way for him to earn more points.  So he did the only thing a frustrated 12-year old boy could do:  he tried for a kill on Mom's group.  We weren't too worried, based on his dismal dice-rolling previously, but when the smoke cleared he'd knocked the faithful Askari OOF (Out of the Fight).  Mom promised retribution back at the Sportman's Clubhouse.  We tried to explain to him that when you hang back right on the edge of the table, ready to run, it smacks of being chicken and that you shouldn't be surprised when the people who TRY, actually get results.  His response was, "I wasn't hiding, I was playing it safe."  Whatever, Sport, whatever.  We ended up laughing about it, though, so it's all good.

The end result was a fun game...for me and my wife.  I think while the two snotlings didn't hate it, they didn't enjoy it much either.  I put this down to a lack of gaming experience (my fault for not getting them more), as well as to it being my first public game, coupled with uninteresting dice rolls.  Next time (if there is a next time), I think I'll fudge a few more rolls so as to guarantee more Ferocious types.  There's nothing more fun than running for your life through the jungle from something bigger than you that wants to eat you.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Below is a possible help for running the game. But I would guess that with all your lead figures, you have years of experience with RPG and miniatures. I understand that this was a training game for yourself and your family and thus you didn't avail yourself of all your options.

    Anyway, here goes:

    Were you involved in the game as a player?

    If not, then you were running the game. That can be done in two ways. Run it as a solo game (with dice telling you exactly what to do) and then you making that happen for the players.

    The other way is the way of the Game Master. The Game Master's job is to make the game challenging and fun. Dicing for a random event is there as an aid for the GM. You can use those dice or not. If, as the GM, you feel its time to bring on 10 giant insects, go for it.

    Try this same set up as this last time. However, preplan. You know your son wants action and your daughter wants cuddly. Your wife is a trooper and will take anything from what I've observed.

    In advance, collect up a whole bunch of dinosaurs, giant insects, some other animals. Determine if there are any of these that you want to throw specifically at them, regardless of the PEF status.

    Put the PEFs in the same place as the previous game.

    Now run the same thing. If pacing is slow or some are getting bored, throw something at the bored ones. (However, you can't help their lousy dice rolls.)

    For your skittish daughter, you might have her come across some chimpanzees or gorillas that befriend her and perhaps help her fight the big baddies (like her brother if he attacks.)

    You don't need to use all the dinosaurs and other things you came up with. But you have them just in case. And it could be intimidating for your son when he sees the array of baddies.

  2. Thanks, John Paul. (I think this is the single longest comment I've received yet!) I appreciate the advice.

    You're correct that I do have more years than I care to count of gaming. I think my mistake (if it can be called a mistake) was in letting the rules run the game. I had been having so much fun -- truly enjoying myself -- playing solo test games, that I really just went with that for the family game. I enjoy those exploration-type scenarios a great deal, and assumed my kids would too. But as you say, some pre-planned bad guys, with more of an RPG slant, would probably been the ticket.

    And I really like the chimpanzee idea. Thanks again.

  3. One of the things that I like to do as a GM is to be sure that there is some sort of "group monster" relatively early in the game.

    By "group monster" I mean a swarm of something that are relatively easy to kill, but because of their numbers, everyone must fight. In D&D terms, I like something like Stirges.

    Another thing to keep in mind is some sort of "wandering monster". It doesn't really need to be on the ground either . . . pick up some of those bags of plastic dinos at a "dollar store" that have some flying critters. Mount them on "flying bases or just move them with your hands . . . they can be seen soaring across the board and your son can blast away at them.

    By the way, you might consider limited ammunition too . . . that can provide tension as the game progresses, particularly if they waste ammo early.

    Finally I'd make "leaving the board" somewhat dangerous rather than a safe thing. Roll a die to see if you run into a PEF . . . and, for that matter, your "wandering monsters" should probably roll to see what section edge they enter from.

    Have fun!

    -- Jeff

  4. This was really informative - thanks. I have been thinking of getting this rule set and have just begun to delve into the world of Dinosaur Hunting myself.

  5. Great AAR - I'm a fan of THW and once you get your around them, you tend not to look back...