First chance of a game in quite a while came last night at my friend James’ place. Our chum Barry (one of the criminal syndicate behind the Hot Lead gaming con this month) wanted to try the Victorian steampunk rules In Her Majesty’s Name from Osprey. That was fine with me. I told James that since I was so game starved, I would be happy just to drink beer, roll dice on an empty table and go “Pew Pew!” all evening, so this was fine. Our game was set somewhere on the NW Frontier and we used James’ excellent collection of figures. Chumrade Patrick and I took the villainous Pathan tribesmen, who had abducted Miss McGuffin and were holding her somewhere in one of the buildings of their village. Patrick and I both had ten tribesmen armed with rifles and swords, and a chieftain armed with a sword and pistol.
Patrick massed his band in the hills just outside the village, just visible in the top centre to the left of the mountain. My fellows were distributed through the buildings in the half of the village on the top half of the photo. Miss McGuffin was concealed in the tower on the top of the square. My plan was to hold up the Imperials from whatever side they appeared until Barry could throw his whole force against part of theirs.
James being in a lazy mood decided to enter from the side of the table he was sitting at, so the Imperials entered from the bottom of the photo, Barry with a squad of British infantry and James with a squad of his trusty Sikhs. Apparently Miss McGuffin was quite important to rate what turned out to be an elite black ops team. Our poor villains didn’t have a chance.
Two of my fine warriors take up position in a tower. The prone figure is one of my two special ability marksmen figures. “Ahmed, this will be a great place to snipe the infidel from, eh?"
Not so much. Barry’s own marksman picked them off early on. There were fewer Imperials, but they were better shots, as it turned out, and their officers had funky armour, since it was steampunk, after all. These are very fine buildings, by the way,
James’ Sikhs push forward on the other side of market square. I’ve managed to drop one of them, but my shooting was pretty wretched, seeing as most of my fellows were busy screaming and falling off rooftops.
I didn’t get much of a chance to look at the rule book or at the charts, so I pretty much let Barry explain the rules to us. They seemed fairly conventional skirmish stuff, roll for your chance to hit based on shooter’s ability, shooting modifiers and target’s armour (cover plus the armour he is wearing). Then if hit the target takes a saving roll against something called a Pluck rating. Heroes are much harder to kill than rank and file types. So each attempt to shoot requires two die rolls (to hit and to save). Some of the modifiers seemed a little eccentric to me, in that moving figures are harder for stationary figures to hit, but don’t seem to have the same penalties when shooting at stationary targets. At least, that’s what it seemed like to me, though my dice weren’t especially lucky.
It got quite bloody hand to hand. So the orange pipe cleaners aren’t to simulate steampunk coal fired plasma cannons. They are to simulate broken weapons. Roll a 1 on a d10 and your weapon jams or breaks. The Pathans rolled a lot of “1s” so were reduced to trying to stop the British with swords, which didn’t work too well. The British infantry brushed my chaps aside quite easily with their bayonet skills. The figure in the foreground is the British doctor, who would be the hero of the game.
Hard luck for the Sikhs. James moved his section through the mosque, searching for Miss McGuffin. The one part of our plan that worked, worked quite well. My leader and one of his few remaining brigands, plus almost all of Patrick’s Pathans, surged in and caught the Skihs in a vicious melee that lasted quite a few turns. By the end of it, the English Sahib had killed my leader and then died, was at once avenged by his loyal sergeant, and then the brave Sikh sergeant and Patrick’s leader killed each other in the same turn. By the end of the battle the floor of the mosque was littered with dead and dying men, and the brave Sikhs had been wiped out. One Sikh private almost survived, and was a pretty sure candidate for a chestful of medals …. but he died too.
Carnage in the mosque.
However they bought Barry the time he needed to win. The heroic doctor approached the tower where Miss McGuffin’s cries could be heard (“Over HEREEEEE, you morons!”) when my last fellow, her captor, decided that since his rifle was broken (of course), he could take out the infidel with his sword. After all the infidel was just a doctor, right? Easy prey. Wrong! The intrepid young doc dispatched the pathan with either a tongue depressor or a prescription pad (it happened so fast I couldn’t see) and Miss McGuffin was saved. Rumour has it she will return to England with the Doctor, now fabulously wealthy thanks to her dowry, and set up a psychiatric institute for the care and cure of steampunk mad geniuses and super villains.
So a pleasant evening. I can’t say I learned enough about these rules to call this post a fair review. All of us were relying on Barry and he had barely digested them, so we likely made many mistakes. It did seem that there was an awful lot of dice rolling for a fairly small skirmish, but that does seem to be the level these rules are pitched at. Since we weren’t using any really steampunk abilities or technologies, there were no walking armoured behemoths, no clanky things, or villains with eldritch superpowers, so we didn’t get to appreciate how those flavours are baked into the rules.
At any rate, it was a pleasure to enjoy some laughs and good company, and to play with James’ excellent figures, always a treat.
Blessings to your die rolls!