Wednesday, December 14, 2011

49. Death in the Desert, finale (Part 1)

(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.)

Turn 5 continues:

You may recall from the previous post that I had to pause the game temporarily while Real Life ©®™ intervened.  The famous French Foreign Legion had just received a bit of a setback by being forced to fall back from an Arab attack.

It was still the French side's turn, and the Legion had 2 Action Points remaining, but I chose to save them for the inevitable mêlée phase (inevitable since the Swords were within charge distance, and they had...swords).

Next in order of activation was the Professor and his porters.  With a firm grip on his men's nerve, and disregarding the shabby performance of the Legionnaires, he calmly ushered his men back into the ruins that they had only so recently quitted.  One AP's worth, in Open formation.
Turn 5 continued:  Professor Trouver moves his Native bearers back behind the Legion, hoping the "stalwart" soldiers won't retreat again!
There are now three Arab units on the table, and their card draw allows them to activate up to half of their units and expend all available Action Points (APs).  How to designate half of three?  I rolled a 1d6; 1, 2, 3 = 1 unit; 4, 5, 6 = 2 units.  I rolled a 3, meaning only one unit could activate, but it would be able to use all AP.  I decided to do this every turn it was applicable, meaning some turns two units would activate and other turns only one.

I quite naturally chose to activate the Swords.  I advanced them their maximum move of 9" in Mass formation, which brought them to exactly 10" away from the closest Legionnaire in the line.
The Arab Swords advance (apparently dragging their dead?/wounded? men with them - just kidding, I kept them together for simplicity's sake; they're in the Rally Zone).
It was weird how it worked out that way precisely, without any manipulation on my part.  The rules specify that a unit must stop when it moves to within 10" of an enemy in LOS so that the enemy can react.
Now that's 10" precisely.  No fudging, I promise.
In retrospect, I think I made a mistake by advancing like I did.  The Swords had 2 AP remaining, and my main thought was to get them into mêlée as quickly as possible.  What I forgot was that charging units don't stop at 10" and thereby prompt a reaction at that point.  Granted, there is a charge reaction phase, but at least at that point the charge is on-going.  I had also been worried that I wouldn't be able to reach the enemy, but I forgot that for each AP spent my unit would charge 9" + 1d10", for a minimum of 10" to 20" for 1 to 2 AP, which would have been more than enough to make contact.  As it stood now, if the Legion reacted by firing well enough they might easily cause the Swords to spend their last remaining AP in reaction, thereby stranding the Arabs at 10" away!

(Note to self for the future:  this means it's possible, with enough AP, to charge from outside of rifle range!  This changes my thoughts on how to use this technique.  Interesting, I'm only just now realizing it as I write this.)

Enough introspection, on with the game!  The Swords were 10" away, the Legion must react.  I rolled a 52 versus their Coolness of 90, so the calm leadership of Lt. Sylvère kept them from reacting at all; no AP was spent.  Perhaps he was waiting to see what would happen next; perhaps he was still busy keeping his men from panicking.

The Swords then passed on their last activation, saving their 1 AP for the charge.

My next decision was to decided whether or not to charge the Legion against the Swords.  The order of charges is determined using the same card-draw method as the Action Phase, so it's possible to have two units charge each other, but who goes first?  That's what's important.  However, taking my cue off the Lieutenant's non-reaction on the last reaction roll, I decided that he was still disciplining his men, or possibly just standing-to, waiting to see what the Arabs would do.  So no double-charge this turn!  Keeping it simple....

Mêlée Phase:
The Arab Swords charge the French Foreign Legion!  (big surprise)  For 1 AP, they moved 9" + 1d10" = 17" (and all I needed was 10" so I didn't really need to roll at all, but I wanted to see what I would get).
The Swords charge into close combat!
The Legion's charge reaction was a 73 versus their Coolness of 90:  Stand and fight!
A more dramatic angle as the Legion holds the line.
There are bonuses added to each card draw.  The Legionnaires' received +1 for being in a Supported Line, +1 for having Bayonets = +2.  The Swords received +1 for having, well, Swords.  Oddly enough, there are no bonuses for the initial impetus of the charge.  (Also, I counted both the Swords and the Bayonets as the modifier "1/2 or more [figures] have melee weapon + shield."  Obviously none of them have shields, but bayonets are scary, and so, for that matter, are swords.)

The actual scuffle is taken care of by the card-draw mechanic, with the highest total winning and sending a certain number of losing figures to either the Rally Zone or "to the rear" of the losing unit.  In either case they no longer take part in the immediate fight, although those figures "to the rear" make up what's left of the unit after the mêlée is over.  The number of figures lost depends on the difference between the two totals each draw, with winning red cards sending figures to the Rally Zone, and black cards sending them to the rear.  Also, Officers and NCO's have the option to re-draw a losing card in the hopes of winning, but put themselves in jeopardy when they do whether or not they win.  (I actually didn't divine that last bit until half way through this mêlée; I'm still learning, apparently).

I won't go through the fight card by card, as it lasted 11 rounds.  On the very first round, the Legion won by 5 (black), the Arab "NCO" opted to re-draw, tied on the card draw but still lost after modifiers, then lost the jeopardy roll and was promptly sent to the Rally Zone for sticking his neck out too soon!  There were now no more leader figures in the Swords unit.

Back and forth it went for four rounds, with one side or the other losing 1 figure.  On round six, the Arabs won by 4 with a red card, so the Lt. felt obligated to try to save his men; he needed a face card...and got a Queen, which with modifiers meant he won (this was before I realized he should roll for jeopardy, so I didn't).  Round seven, the Legion won by 4 (black).  Round eight, the Swords won by 5 (black), so again the Lt. re-drew; this time he needed a nine or higher, but was only able to manage a 7; after modifiers, one Legionnaire dropped out, but the Lt. then lost the jeopardy roll and was sent to the Rally Zone.  Round nine was a tie, meaning 1 figure on each side dropped out.  Round ten saw the Swords win by 1; by this point the Legion line was looking a little thin, so the Cpl. felt it his duty to step up and re-draw.  He needed to beat a King but only drew a 3; using the best card drawn, the original win value remained; also, the Cpl.'s jeopardy roll saw him stay safe.  Finally on round eleven, the Legion won with a red Queen to a red 3 (after modifiers, 12 to 4), meaning 8 Swords figures were sent to the Rally Zone.  Since there were not 8 figures left in the unit, this effectively "wiped out" the unit and ended the mêlée.
A Legion victory!  The tipped-over figures are in the Rally Zone, the upright "in the rear" figures are dropped out.
The Foreign Legion wins.  The Swords retreat 3d10" = 23", Shaken.  The Legion dresses their Supported Line and advances 1d10" = 3".  (I had hoped for more, because I really wanted to get some movement going to get off the table, but 3" was all I got!)
The Swords retreat, Shaken.  The Legion advances...a little.
Morale Phase:
Now to determine what happens to all those figures in the Rally Zone.  This is decided by card draw, with simple variables as to resolution.  A lot of it can be boiled down to:  Red is bad, Black is good.

For the Legion, Lieutenant Sylvère remained in the R.Z., perhaps still unconscious.  In total, two Legionnaires returned to good health, one more stayed in the R.Z.

For the Swords, their "Officer" was killed, as was their "NCO."  In total, four more figures died and six returned to the unit.
The Swords get some men back, but no Leaders.
And not to forget the Tirailleurs Algériens, their one casualty shook off the pain and returned to formation.

Morale check:
Each Shaken unit must make a Morale check during the Morale Phase.  This tends to either go very well, or very very poorly.  There is not a lot of middle ground.

The only Shaken unit on the table was the Swords.  Without any Leaders their Morale rating (after calculations) was a dismal 43.  The d100 roll = 68, causing them to Retreat 2d10" = 14", still Shaken.
Going, going....
However, a straight line 14" would have them leaving the table, so they got a "last ditch" Morale check to possibly prevent this from happening.  M=43, d100=50.  BAM!  They have routed and are removed from the game.
The Legion says, "Woot!"

Turn 6:
Action Points:  FFL, 2.  Tir.Alg., 4.  Professor, 3.
Spears, 3.  Rifles, 3.

The Arab side drew the honor of first activation, and would be able to use one unit for 1 AP.  Don't spend it all in one place.

But it was a conundrum.  The Spears were too far away to do much good, but the Rifles weren't actually in range of anybody although they had a commanding view of the battlefield (and incidentally of the Swords ignominious scarpering).  I didn't really want to force the Rifles to leave their most excellent vantage point, as I knew (since I am also the French commander) that the French would have to "run the gauntlet," so to speak, of the center of the table in order to win; and when they did the Rifles would have a fantastic place from which to shoot at them.

To that end, I wanted to get the Spears into a position to stop the survivors as they dragged their dying bodies towards the table edge--"Infidels!"--so I had the Spears move in Mass formation into the Rough Terrain.  They easily passed their R.T. roll.
Turn 6:  "Psst, guys, wake up, it's our turn."
With the immediate Arab threat gone, the Professor brought up his porters with his antiques.  He had the ability to move a lot farther, but felt it better to let the Legionnaires stop the bullets rather than his breakable valuables.
"O.K., Corporal, let's go.  You first."
Caporal Cendrars apparently didn't feel fully confident in himself to take immediate command while the Lt. was indisposed.  In other words, the French side could only spend 1 AP on only 1 unit.  Seeing as how a Supported Line can only move 3" and they had no one at whom to shoot, I decided to see what the Tirailleur Algériens could do.  Luckily, their previous fall-back move had put them within 1" of exiting their Rough Terrain sand trap, and in perfect view of the competing Rifles of the Arabs on the other side of the table.  "I believe a shot is in order," said I.
"Hey, there's bad guys over there!"
"Hey, there's bad guys over there!"
A quick measurement showed the Rifles at 21", just within range.  The Probability of Hit (POH) calculation came up 70.  The d100 roll = 79.  Miss.  
"Aim carefully.  Fire!  I told you to aim carefully!"
However, merely being shot at forces a Reaction by the shootee.  The Rifles have a Coolness factor of 75, but unfortunately for them today they roll 1d100 = 96(!).  Not good for them.  This causes them to Retreat 2d10" = 9" Shaken and to lose 1 extra AP (leaving them 1 remaining).  However, their Rough Terrain roll (which needs to be less than or equal to 7) is a 9.  Uh oh.  However again, being Natives they get a single R.T. re-roll, which equalled 8.  This means they are unable to move at all, stumbling and falling in the shifting, sucking sand!  Ohh, the humanity!

What's worse for the Rifles is this little tid-bit of the rules under the Morale Phase:  "Units retreating, falling back, or advancing due to morale or reaction tests (or melee results) obey all normal movement rules.  For each inch it is unable to retreat, a unit loses one figure to the Rally Zone."  Zoinks!  That means 9 figures go to the Rally Zone, all caused by them trying to get out of the way of being shot at.  I guess they bumped heads or some Keystone Kops-kind of thing.  That must have been a really withering volley of fire...or something.

Huh.  Well, I wasn't expecting that to happen.
That must be some really deep sand.
"Remember what I said about aiming carefully?  Well, forget it and keep missing!"
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase, I drew cards for the Legionnaires; both the Lieutenant and the one remaining soldier returned alive.  No Legionnaires remained in the Rally Zone.  And for the Rifles....brace yourself.  Seven Red cards out of nine = 7 die, 2 return.  I think the sand is more dangerous than the Tirailleurs.

"Yes, madame, I'm sorry to report that your husband died by tripping and falling down in a sand dune."
Morale checks:  after calculations, the Rifles had an M = 59.  Their d100 roll = 95.  Baaad dice.  This result forced them to Retreat 2d10" = 7" Shaken.  Still in Rough Terrain, another lovely, dreaded R.T. roll was made, resulting in a 7, just exactly the minimum number needed to safely exit the sand dunes.  Luckily, though, they remained on the table.
"Man, am I glad to be out of that deadly sand trap.  I'm never playing golf again!  It even ate all the bodies!"
"Ha ha!  Look at them run, scared of a little sand!"
Turn 7:
Action Points:  FFL, 3.  Tir.Alg., 4.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 4.  Rifles, 2.

The card draw put the Professor and his minions at first activation, so he advanced them 2 AP's worth, or 18", in Open formation.
Turn 7:  Heading for cover.
A broader view of the field of battle.  Top to bottom:  Legion, Professor, Tir.Alg., and Spears.
Next the Arab Rifles advanced in Mass formation 9", hoping to get to a position from which they could safely shoot at the Professor; he was their real target, after all.  Killing Frenchmen might be fun, but their national identity demanded the restoration of the missing artifacts.
What's left of the Rifles moves into position where they can see the Professor.
"If I can see them, they can see us.  Uh oh.  Good thing they were only able to spend 1 AP.  Wait, how'd I know that?"
Well, since the Rifles were obliging enough to move back into view, the Tirailleur Algériens felt similarly obliged to shoot at them.  Their POH = 70, their d100 roll = 5(!), causing 3 casualties and a "roll again" result.  They shot again, caused 2 casualties, one of which was "Officer."  This is  not a good day to be an Arab Rifle.
"What are those bullets made from?  Sand?"
The Rifles Reacted using their NCO's leadership value, now calculated at a Coolness of 5.  Yes, 5.  And the d100 roll?  84.  Yeah, that's not good for them.  They Retreat 7" Shaken, and at 0 AP.
"Run!  Just leave 'em and run!  And stay away from the sand!"
A better view of the tactical situation.
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase, I drew cards for the Arab Rifles.  Officer, dead.  Three men, dead.  Three more men who return.

The Morale check:  The Rifles M value = 48.  Their d100 roll = 31.  They return to Normal.  (A deep sigh of relief by the Arab player.  Er, that would be me.)
This photo is slightly incorrect, in that the red Shaken marker should be removed after their return to Normal.
Turn 8:
Action Points:  FFL, 2.  Tir.Alg., 3.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 3.  Rifles, 4.

This card draw was a bit of a nail-biter.  All three parties drew Face cards, which are all equal in value, except that Red beats Black.  That meant the Arabs would move first, followed by--after the tie-breaking draw, two more Face cards for the French and the Professor--and after THAT tie-breaking draw--followed by the French, then the Professor.  (The French drew three Face cards in a row.  That kind of luck can't last.)

At any rate, the Arab side was able to move one unit one AP.  I decided to get the Spears into a little better position, and moved them 9" in Mass formation.  They passed their Rough Terrain roll easily enough.

Turn 8:  Here come da Spears!
Uh, Professor Trouver, something seems to be blocking the exit.
The French side was next to activate.  Only being able to spend 1 AP limited my options (I guess the Lieutenant and the Professor were arguing about what to do), so I had the Tirailleur Algériens shoot at the Spears, who so willingly put themselves "out there."
"Do you see any targets?  I can't find any targets.  Oh wait.  Never mind."
As the Spears player, I should add that I moved them knowing they might get shot at, but with the hope they would resist being decimated or running away just long enough to be able to charge the Professor's group.  That's partly why the card draw was such a nail-biter for me:  who would get to activate first was very important.

The Tirailleurs' firing was reasonably effective, causing 2 casualties.  Off to the Rally Zone they went.  The Spears' Reaction was outrage!  Their Coolness = 65, and their d100 roll = 3!  That's about as outraged as you're going to get in this game.  It allowed them to return fire.  Of the Spears, four figures carried pistols (out of range) and two had rifles, so only two could shoot back.  They missed.  Apparently their outrage didn't improve their aim.  The Tirailleurs' Reaction was to not React.

Finally, Team Trouver decided discretion was the better part of not getting killed, and removed themselves further behind some intervening terrain.
"Let me just go over here where I can quietly contemplate staying alive."
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase, only the Spears needed to draw cards.  One died, one returned.  No units were Shaken, so no Morale check was needed.

Turn 9:
Action Points:  FFL, 4.  Tir.Alg., 4.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 3.  Rifles, 2.

The French and the Professor both drew Queens, but the French's was red, so first activation was theirs.  The Arab side drew an 8.  It was good that the French would act before the Professor, in that I hoped to be able to drive off or clear away the intervening enemy, thereby allowing the Professor and his minions an easy escape route.

It was not to be.

The French could use one unit, one AP's worth, so I had the Tirailleur Algériens shoot at the Spears again, well within range at 15".  Their POH = 85; their d100 = 80, causing 1 casualty.  The Spears Reacted by keeping their cool and not Reacting, thereby spending no AP.  They were not cooperating with letting the French kill them.

Next, the Professor, seeing the enemy still blocking his way, decided to not do anything, and passed his activation.

This was a bit of a mistake on my part because I didn't really take stock of the situation.  By not moving the Professor I inadvertently left him in view of the Rifles (what was left of them).  So I advanced them 9" in Mass formation...
What remains of the Rifles sneak around the edges of the battlefield.
...but very carefully kept them out of range of the Tirailleurs.
"Trust me, this time we won't let the sand get us.  Or the bullets."
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase the one Spearman in the Rally Zone returned.

Turn 10:
Action Points:  FFL, 3.  Tir.Alg., 4.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 4.  Rifles, 2.

The French drew highest card, one unit, all AP.  Once again, I had the Tirailleur Algériens fire at the Spears.  POH = 85, d100 = 97(!).  Miss.  How do you miss when they're just standing there in the open?  I guess sand got in their eyes or something....

Nevertheless, the Spears Reacted by firing back with their whopping 2 rifles.  (Next time I might make it so they don't have ranged weapons; on a Reaction result like that, if they can't shoot back then they get to advance, which is good for close combat specialists.)  At any rate, they missed, too.  This prompted the Tirailleurs to React, by not Reacting, so no AP spent.

Frustrated, I then spent a second AP and repeated the firing process, hoping for better results (better from the French perspective; from the Arab perspective, the results were fantastic!).  This time they caused 1 casualty.  The Spears Reacted by firing again, missing.  The Tir.Alg. Reacted by firing back, also missing.  The Spears Reacted to that Reaction by firing yet again, missing yet again.  Finally the Tir.Alg. had had enough, and Reacted by firing at half strength and falling back 1d10" = 7".  They succeeded in their Rough Terrain roll and exited the sand trap safely.
Turn 10:  "...Caporal Cendrars bravely ran away...."  "Yes, well, they just kept shooting back at us, it was unsafe to be there."
Their half-strength shot very efficiently missed, but it caused the Spears to try to fire in reply; however, not having a target anymore, they instead advanced 1d10" = (wait for it....) 1".  Yes, one inch.  Weee.
Great job, Tirailleurs!  Well done.

After all of the ineffectiveness on the part of the French forces, the Professor decided he liked where he was and did nothing.

Hoping to accomplish something this turn, the Arab Rifles (what was left of them) advanced 9" into yet another sand trap Rough Terrain, in Mass formation, looking to get a clear shot at the Professor et al.  This time, after much mental preparation, they easily passed their R.T. roll with a 1.
"But I thought you said there'd be no sand this time.  Wah!  Oh wait, never mind, we made it o.k."
There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase the one Spearman in the Rally Zone died.

Turn 11:
Action Points:  FFL, 3.  Tir.Alg., 2.  Professor, 4.
Spears, 2.  Rifles, 2.

Professor Trouver was getting impatient, as evidenced by his drawing a Jack versus the other draws of a 2 and a 3.  But there was no where for him to go, especially since the Tirailleurs were now blocking him from seeking deeper cover, so he passed his turn.

The Rifles, finally in position to inflict damage, fired at the Professor and his porters, rolling a 59 and needing a 60 or less.
Turn 11:  "At last, Infidel.  Die!"
They inflicted one casualty.  As it wasn't dictated to be a leader figure, I removed one Bearer.  The Professor, unfazed by the possible death of a trusted helper, chose not to React.  Perhaps he was busy checking to see if anything was broken when the poor man dropped it....

The Arabs were only able to spend 1 AP, and had now spent it.  Activation passed to the French, who were able to spend all AP on up to half of their units, which in this case is the same as one unit.  After seemingly hours of inactivity, the Lt. saw an opening in which to act.  He advanced and pivoted his men 3" in Supported Line formation, then fired at the Rifles (what was left of them, anyway).
"Le advance!  Le pivot!  Le fire!"  (That's French, in case you were wondering).
This caused 4 casualties.

"Ow, ow, I think I got sand in my bullet wound."
The Rifles had a fair chance of replying, since each man had a rifle.  In point of fact, they Reacted by firing, but missed pretty substantially, with a roll of 92 to a needed 50 or less.  Still, this did prompt the Legion to React, firing again, causing 3 casualties.
"I feel rather exposed up here on top of this dune."
The Rifles wanted to React--really, they wanted to--but with zero AP remaining they were unable to.  They rolled against their Coolness and succeeded with a very cool 2 on a d100, meaning what was left of the unit was not Shaken.  That's a couple of brave dudes!

The Legionnaires then spent another AP, firing again, causing 4 casualties.  As there were only 2 men left, this essentially sent the entire unit to the Rally Zone.  Can you say 'wiped out'?  I knew that you could.
"Do you have any reaction to being wiped out?  What?  No comment?"

Therefore, the Rifles had no Reaction to make since there were no more Rifles.

There was no mêlée.  For the Morale Phase the bad news for the Professor was that his faithful porter Ajiba, with sixteen children, two wives, six chickens, one cow and a big screen TV, was now dead.  To the Professor personally this was distressing in that he now had to re-pack all the antiquities and spread them around to his other bearers;  what a lot of unnecessary work Ajiba caused by dying, the rotter!

For the Arab Rifles, things were a bit worse.  With no parent unit still on the table, any "returning" Rifles were harder to come by.  After the dust settled (I draw cards really fast!), the 'NCO' was dead, 3 men routed (out of the game), 4 were captured, and 1 returned to any leader (so he got added to the Spears.)

There were no Morale checks to make.

So ends Turn 11.  As this is rather long, and I don't want to overwhelm you my dear reader any more than I already have, I will end this now, to be continued at a later date, so that this one single blog entry doesn't exceed all my previous verbose blog entries combined.

I really do appreciate you taking the time to stop by, whether you read my ramblings in depth or just skim to the photos:  thanks!


  1. Yes, it's long, but I am enjoying it. Seems like quite a fun game. I just might have to go take a look at the rules.

  2. I got the Pith Helmet download. I think I'm going to have to retype it up for my use! Man, the colors and gradients and all, yikes! ha ha

  3. It actually prints up pretty nicely, and I have been able to read it fine. That being said, it is a lot of info crammed into a very small space. Hey, if you want a one-page set of rules, ya gotta break a few eggs...or something like that. :-)