Roman Seas at Fall In!
Last weekend I went up to Gettysburg to host some Roman Seas games at Fall In! in support of Eric’s recent launch of the rule book. Although the convention staff had a lot of “difficulties” leading up to the event, the con director did a stellar job of pulling it out of the fire. One of my games got moved from the time slot listed in the preliminary event listr, but since I was running three games, people who wanted to try Eric’s new rules were able to get into one of the games. I did two sessions of a convoy escort scenario and one of my 289 AD scenario. The couple of weeks before the convention had been busy ones so I hadn’t had the time to make all of the little improvements on my ship models that I had wanted (such as adding rigging to all of the merchants) and I spent Thursday night at the convention painting bases on the marine stands. But by the first game on Friday I was satisfied with the look of the game and judging from the many, many positive comments I received, I’d say I achieved a nice level of visual spectacle.
Scenario One – Even Caesar’s Men Must Eat
The first scenario featured a convoy of supply ships trying to break through a naval blockade to resupply Julius Caesar’s army in Greece during the civil war. Caesar’s fleet consisted of 3 large merchants and 6 small merchants escorted by a Roman quadreme and six triremes supplied by one of Caesar’s allies. The Roman ship was fully decked and outfitted in the Roman manner with heavy marines while the allied triremes were semi-cataphract ships with only light marines and light ballista, but veteran rowing crews. The blockading force of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus consisted of one quniquireme, 2 quadremes, 4 triremes, and 4 liburnians. The heavier 4’s and 5’s were fully outfitted with legionaire heavy infantry and medium ballista while the lighter ships were mostly manned by light marines. The convoy set up along the west edge and were tasked with exiting the east edge while the Pompeian forces were to capture or sink Caesar’s ships
The first game began with Caesar’s forces running north in two lines, with a line of escorts screening the merchants. The commanders of Pompey’s fleet moved straight forward and then sprinted to ram speed, striking several of the escorting ships. One of the triremes was reduced to a floating wreck right away, taking all of it’s marines with it, and others suffered severe damage. Caesar’s men also found themselves being handily outdueled by the missile troops aboard Pompey’s ships. A couple of liburnians from the blockading fleet broke through the escorts and rammed some of the smaller merchants, sinking two. After a few exchanges of close combat, Pompey’s forces in the south cleared the decks of the opposing triremes, extricated their own ships and gained maneuver space. These ships then came in behind Caesar’s fleet and grappled the remaining merchants. At this point Caesar’s captains surrendered the field. The players all had a great time and I we had lots of passersby stopping to oogle the game. Two of the players walked away with prizes supplied by Eric and many others left vowing to buy the rules and boats
Game 2 – Rule Britannia!
The second game was Saturday morning and was a repeat of the scenario I ran at Historicon in the summer between forces of the rebellious general Carausius and forces of Emperor Maximian. As usual, the forces of Carausius approached from the south with his Frankish allies approaching from the north and with the Imperial fleet emerging from the mouth of the Rhenus River between the two. The game was placed in the back of the further gaming area, so at the outset we only had three players and I was helping the Imperials. However, we a couople of additional players wander up and I was able to go back being the referee.
The Imperial players initially deployed with a couple of squadrons to go close inshore and another couple to swing out to sea and form a line of battle. However the arrival of the Franks drew two squadrons north. The two squadrons sent south were engaged by three squadrons of rebels. A couple of ships were grounded on the shoals, and although they were losing ships, the imperials were keeping the better crewed rebels tied up and wearing down their crew levels.
Howver, in the north the situation was definitely going in the Imperial’s favor. The Frankish squadron carried a lot of marines, but without rams, was dependent on boarding for results. The Imperial commander played carefully, using his superiority in missile troops to wear down the Franks and cutting away grapples from any boarding actions not likely to be in his favor. Soon the Frankish flotilla was thinned out considerably and the Imperial commander detached his otther squadron of of liburnians to reinforce in the south. These ships got up to full maneuver speed and ran past the end of the rebel line, which was tied up in combat with imperial ships. This fresh influx of troops tilted the balance and the rebels lost a number of ships rapidly. Since I had been scheduled to run two games on two separate tables only an hour apart, so I called the game 30 minutes early. Again, everyone had a good time, liked the rules, and the ship models and their Baccus 6mm infantry were the star of the game. Two more gamers walked away with goodies from Eric.
Game 3 – Even Caesar’s Men Must Eat
After a quick turnaround (the game sets down and packs up quickly except for the step of placing and removing the 300 or so crew stands) I was set for another game of the convoy scenario. The arrangement of the islands was different than before and I added a ring of shoals around each. One of the islands was close to the set up area for the convoy and served to divide their forces, with two squadrons going around it to north and south.
This time the escorting forces came out much more aggressively, meeting the blockading ships closer to the center of the table. In the north, Caesar’s admiral had some initial traffic jams but soon had things sorted out. One of his triremes made a very effective oar rake on an enemy quadreme and the slowing of that ship rendered it largely unable to affect the outcome. Other ships in the northern half of the table grappled to Pompey’s ships to keep them busy while the merchants tried to work past. One of the liburnians from Pompey’s force worked past the escorts to grapple a smaller merchant, but the crew of the merchant was able to keep hacking away the grappling lines and edging toward their goal. Another small merchant tried to sneak past by crossing the shoals, but grounded and remained stuck for the rest of the game. Eventually, Caesar’s forces had worked a large and small merchant past the escorts. One liburnian was able to grapple the large merchant and managed to kill off it’s deck crews, but Caesar’s captain had one of his small merchants tie up alngside and transfer it’s deck crews to the larger ship. Soon a trireme arrived to chase away the liburnian and the large merchant and one small merchant were positioned to escape
In the south Caesar’s captains played a cagey game, using their veteran crewed triremes to harass the Pompeian ships with oar rakes, hit-and-run rams, and lots of missile fire. However, they were outnumbered by Pompey’s forces and a couple of Pompey’s ships out flanked them to come in and grapple a large and small merchant. The marines placed aboard the merchants put up a good struggle, so their capture took valuable time. During that time, Caesar’s men managed to capture a quadreme and to sweep the decks of the quinquireme with repeated missile attacks so that when she did grapple one of the merchants, she was vulnerable to counterattack. The Caesarian triremes rushed in and boarded the quinquireme, which brought her rowers to the decks to fight, but not in time to save the ship.
Suddenly the Pompeian players in the south found themselves in possession of two enemy merchants but with no way to hold them against counterattack. The game was declared a victory for Caesar’s men. A couple of the players in this game had played in my earlier games as well and so this game really clicked along smoothly. I gave out the last of my goodies from Eric to a couple of the players.
All in all I had a great time running these games. Eric’s ships make a great looking game and people are always amazed that they are paper models. Everyone in my games seemed to have a great time and to enjoy the new rules. These rules definitely passed one of my standard tests for convention suitability in that after a couple of turns the players were able to do all of the game’s mechanics themselves and all I had to do was keep the turns moving along. This will definitely be a staple of future convention games for me.