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Sunday, 29 December 2019

Little Whiskey – Mayhem on Main Street

Little Whiskey – Mayhem on Main Street

The opening phase of the Little Whiskey Bath House and Brothel War took place in 1875, in a small and very dangerous town in the New Mexico Territory, the town was called, - surprisingly - Little Whiskey. Unhappily for the town’s inhabitants the outbreak of the war coincided with various other events that occurred on the same day. This culminated in the mayhem on Main Street and the only person who could have benefited from this would have been the Undertaker, but so far he’s not been seen in Little Whiskey.

Stories of the various events abound, some true, some not true and some so outrageous that you would find them hard to believe even though they were true. This impartial account of the blackguard outlaws, back shooting gunmen and of course the heroic Lawmen and citizens of Little Whiskey, will lay to rest all the rumours and fabrications you may have heard in the low dives and saloons you might frequent.

Questions will be answered, questions such as:-

Did Pearl de Ville and two of her girls really beat up Captain Snapcase and his band of ex Confederate soldiers or were they just negotiating bulk rates?

Were Joe Turner and Temperance Jenkins really estranged lovebirds or was it just a one night stand – again?

Did Poker Face Fitz-Badger the Wells Fargo Office Manager, really face down the Embroidery Sewing Circle gang single handedly, then dive through a window and live to tell the tale, or was someone embroidering the truth?

Had bounty hunter Dougal Emfore set up an ambush in the Saloon to capture Texas Red, or was he just in there getting drunk?

What happened to the Stage coach carrying the silver bullion and did the bank get robbed or was it an inside job?

Why did Sheriff Tarot stand tall in front of four desperate Desperado’s on the Jail House steps, when he could have had another cup of coffee in his nice warm office?

How many prisoners would they get into the Jail before they couldn’t shut the door, and indeed how many would escape?

Would Drunken Donna get her man or was the bottle the only solace she would get today?

Why didn’t the Snake Oil Salesman arrive in town driving his new wagon and what happened to little Dolly Brown, she should have been pushing her pram along Main Street as the mayhem was taking place.

Don’t forget the stampede, stampede you say, - yes - there’s always a stampede in a western, not usually along Main Street but then again this aint no ordinary town - pardner.

These are just some of the questions that have been asked and there will be others, such as “what were these three guys drinking and can I get a bottle of the same stuff”, the answer to the last question is - no - we drank it all.

I’m afraid this just another pre-amble to the game proper but I just want to set the scene for the game and explain a little of what I was trying to achieve. That and get at least 1 post out in December.

My idea was to set up something different to the normal western shoot out, you know the sort of thing, 3 gangs ride into town and shoot each other for no apparent reason, they all know where each other is and react accordingly. I wanted to introduce some uncertainty into the game and avoid players seeing the overall table and reacting to it. Almost all the figures were placed on the board before the players arrived and many of them were in buildings out of sight but even when they could see figures they wouldn’t know if they were friend, foe or didn’t care, until it was revealed. This would also apply to me because quite a lot of the reaction was dice controlled, so there were various options but no certainty.

To shake things up a little there were 22 separate groups of individual characters, all with a different objective or task to accomplish, group size varied from one to five characters and there were three players, Captain Bertram Snapcase a veteran of the Civil War, bounty hunter Dougal Emfoure, just a veteran and Johnny Vagabond, just civil – mostly.

The Town is the same as always but hopefully this picture will enable a clearer idea of where buildings are placed to get a good understanding of how it impacts the various groups and their objectives.

A nice quiet atmospheric look down Main Street before it all went to rat s**t.

Introducing the wild and woolly participants, and I don’t mean the players. Sorry about the poor quality of the pics, I've sacked the photographer.

Whiskey Jack (Martin) runs the Saloon and wants his rival put out of business, so he has hired Captain Snapcase to do the job. They are to go and break up Blonde Edna’s Brothel run by Pearl de Ville. There is a bit of a sub plot as Texas Red rode with the Captain in the war and if she gets into trouble there is a chance that the Captain will help her out. The other bit of the sub plot is that Jack has shares in the bank and will try and stop any robberies.

Strangely enough Pearl de Ville (Doug) has hired Col Nathanial Ffawcett with his men to do exactly the same thing to Jack’s Saloon. Neither of them know of the others plan and to further complicate things Pearl has shares in the Silver Mine and will try and stop any robbery of the bullion. Snapcase starts from the Saloon and Ffawcett starts from the Brothel.

The Embroidery Circle Gang (Martin) are waiting to rob the Stage coach carrying bullion from the silver mine when it pulls into town, they are hiding in the Wells Fargo Office and are holding the manger Poker Faced Fitz-Badger (Doug) at gun point. Martin knows he forgot the rope to tie up the Badger so has to guard him and keep a watch for the stage. Doug doesn’t know that the Badger is a prisoner but does know that on turn 6 he starts to roll dice, if he fails a Brains test Badger will do something stupid, he then checks if it will be something brave and stupid, if it is he will draw his Pepperbox pistol and take on the gang of four outlaws.

The Hole in the Pocket Gang (Doug) led by Frank MacAuley are buying ammunition from the gunsmith, they will then go to the Saloon for a shot or two of red eye before becoming brave enough to go and rob the bank. There are various rules for everyone drinking in the Saloon as to how drunk they get depending on how long they stay there.

The employees and customers (Martin) in the Bank may get a little uppity if someone tries to relieve them of their money.

These bad men have tethered their horses by the new building site and need some Dutch courage before looking for the Marshall (Me) and shooting him. Dave Stone has a sub plot, if he sees Frank MacAulay (Doug) he will call him out and if he wins the gun fight will head up the Hole in the Pocket Gang and be controlled by Doug taking on the Hole in the Pocket mission.

The Bounty Hunters (Doug) Wild Dougal Emfore and his side kick J.J.Tucker are looking to collect the bounty on Texas Red (Me) All he knows is that she has red hair and is travelling with an old man (Johnny Vagabond) there were a few red haired women on the table and he obviously didn’t realise I was playing out of character as an old man.

Texas Red and Johnny Vagabond (Me) Left their horses in the Corral, have to go to the Gunsmith, the Grocery Store then the Saloon and back to the Corral before leave town, spending 5 periods in each business.

Shawnee Mary (Martin) has a thing for Big Jim Smith(Me) and will protect him if she can.

Mary Ann Conklin (Doug) has a thing for Big Jim Smith (Me) but he favours Shawnee Mary. Conklin will stab him if she can overcome her love for the big bloke.

Dora Du Fran (Doug) has a thing for the Marshall (Me) and will protect him if she can.

Drunken Donna (Martin) has a thing for the Marshall (Me) and will seduce him if she can. I created various rules for the seduction to be effective and for Conklin to overcome her love for Jim before stabbing him.

Joe Turner (Doug) his brother was killed by Bill Samuelson who is in jail, he has to either shoot him in cold blood or preferably join or raise a lynching party.

The men in Black (Me) Judge Bryan, Holy Joe the Preacher and Fecadermis Mouse, they are Vigilantes and will not suffer bad behaviour on the streets. They are also Event cards and so may get called away to do other things.

Rose Dunn (Me) will roam around town depending on dice roll and will help the citizens against bad and immoral characters. (Martin and Doug)

Homesteaders (Me) and Apache George (Me) in the buckboard will arrive randomly and go to a business randomly.

The Stage Coach (Me) Driven by Brummie Quinton with Dew riding shotgun, Dew was an orphan and he was named Dew because his mother was a Dark Eyed Widow. Inside the stage unbeknown to anyone but me is Gravedigger Awdry as an extra guard for the Silver Bullion.

The Local Law (Me) Sheriff Tarot and Deputy English Bob, may take a turn around the town or react to gunfire, will try and arrest rather than shoot bad men (Doug/Martin). Some chance.

Marshall McAlister (Me) The love interest of Dora and Donna but his main job is to keep the peace.

There are various other characters around town who will play an active part if it suits them and the dice, as well as the event cards that gave a huge amount of spice to the game. Well I thought so anyway.

I’m a big fan of “events” in my solo games and so I decided to have some random event cards for this game. Such things as “The Town Drunk” who drops his gun and it fires at the nearest character. “The Accusation”, where the Ranchers wife accuses someone of improper behaviour and her husband has to call him out. “Dysentery” (Hard Nosed Dave Stone’s suggestion) a random character has to run to the nearest outhouse. Mostly they were something intended to be humorous in a schoolboy fashion and I ended up with 36 of these but the very best thing was that Captain Snapcase volunteered to make the cards for me.

This is a selection of the ones he did and they are brilliant. To get a good unobstructed view of the picture on the card we did this as a two part thing, there’s the card obviously which shows the event and a caption at the bottom to bring a smile and then a separate sheet that describes what it all means in terms of the rules for this game.

The really good thing about doing it this way is that I can change the rules but still use the same card. In this game Old Timer was going to be Flannel Mouth Henry and he would wake up on a random porch, startled, and discharge his shotgun that the nearest character, whoever that was, in my next game it could be something entirely different so double bonus.

There were 4 different takes on being drunk as well as one having a hangover, don’t take this as encouragement to drink to excess, it’s not good for you, I can attest to that.

The game went on for about 6 hours, we didn’t really finish but arrived at a point where most things had been resolved and we could call a halt and go to the pub to eat, but there were a number of loose ends that I wanted to tie up before writing the final account and so I finished the game solo.

Events are a bit fuzzy and not because of the alcohol but because I wanted to keep the game rolling for the guys so I deliberately took no notes, just pictures and I’m using these and the original outline game plan to describe the action. Well maybe the alcohol had some contribution to the fuzzyness but not much ;). Certainly looking at some of the photos there are people getting shot and I’ve no idea who is doing the shooting, but I’m not sure that matters.

I’ve finally sorted the game photos into some sort of coherent order, well as coherent as any of my stuff is and I’m hoping to get this posted early in the New Year.

I failed to post anything before Christmas, things just got on top of me a bit and so I would like to wish anyone reading this a belated Happy Christmas and a brilliant New Year.

All the best.

And Cheers.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Memories of an Old French Sea Dog - When the Fog Lifts

Memories of an Old French Sea Dog (Souvenirs d'un vieux chien de mer fran├žais)

We had been sailing hard for four days and nights, beating against contrary winds from the Straights of Messina to The Balearic Islands via the very windy Straight of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia. We nearly lost our foremast there due to a misunderstood order on the fore deck. Five of the foredeck crew were put in irons for that but everyone on the ship knew it was the Captains fault. He’d been drinking more than ever and the situation on the ship was getting worse, I believed at the time that he would fall (or be pushed) over the side before too long.

We sit here in this cosy bar, in front of a roaring log fire and you see an old man, but back then I was Jean Vagabond 1st Lt on the French Navy’s ship Hermione, a beautiful Concorde Class Frigate and should the Captain fall (or be pushed) overboard or just drink himself to death, I would have to take command and try to get the officers and crew to operate as one, if not we would all perish in our next action against the enemy.

We were chasing a British Navy ship, HMS Unite, she was the same class as us, one of our ships taken by the British in ‘93 I think it was and we might as well have been sailing in convoy, we sailed at the same speed and as close to the wind as each other, neither of us could break the invisible chain that joined the two ships.

HMS Unite was carrying a passenger who had vital information for the British and we needed to stop him reaching the port of Mahon, on the island of Menorca, how we would achieve that I did not know, until the night of the 18th June.

I can remember it like it was only yesterday, thick fog has enveloped us, the wind has died and we are making slow progress, the Captain is in his cabin, drinking. I came on watch at 04:00 and 2 hours later the fog was lifting and daylight was lighting up the eastern sky, when there was a shout from the Main Top Lookout, “ship on the starboard bow”. Call the Captain I shouted at the nearest crewman, it must be Unite, and I ran up the ratlines, yes I could run up the ratlines in those days, when I was a young man. Don’t think I’ve always been this fellow with grey whiskers that you see today, propping up the bar in this old tavern.

We were closer to the island than the Captain had calculated, and in the distance I could see the north cape of Menorca, I can’t remember its name now, but I do remember thinking that the Unite had missed her landing, Mahon was south of us.
Cap de Cavalleria that was it, you see my memory is not so bad, there was Fornells to the south, I could see the entrance to the Cala off our larboard quarter. Unite had made landfall 15 miles further north than she should have, but so had we, this was a good thing or we would have run straight into the east coast of Menorca before we even saw it and my life would have been very different as a ship wrecked mariner.

With the wind from the North this meant she would have to circumnavigate Menorca, or put in at one of the other harbours but I think Ciutadella on the west coast was the only deep water harbour and almost as difficult to get into as Mahon.

Any way enough of that, you bar flies don’t understand a word I’m saying so I’ll just concentrate on my story. Yes another brandy would be nice, it’s cold outside and this winter of ’32 has been damnably hard for an old man, even if I have the blood of a young sea dog flowing in my veins, it’s just flowing a little slower these days.

I saw the Unite as soon as I reached the top, she was close on our starboard bow, in irons having come up into the wind and I could see we had the advantage if we could take it, raking her stern would cause devastation.
For you lubbers here who don't understand these things, the wind was blowing towards the land and when a square rigged ship faces the wind she stops moving forward, the trick is to sail at an angle to the wind and turn through it, using the ships momentum to make the change, if you don't make it the ship stops and eventually goes backwards. Don't look so glassy eyed, it's a simple enough concept, have another swig of your brandy, that always helps the brain cells.

I slid down the main mast back stay but before I could issue any orders the Captain staggered on deck, ordering the helm over and we slowly turned into the wind and lost way. I looked on in amazement as the Unite put her helm to larboard and slowly came round onto a starboard tack. She was never going to clear the small sandy island in front of her.

With the wind on her starboard bow she can only pay off to larboard and there just isn’t enough sea room. What do you mean you don’t understand “larboard” you dumkoff, a ship has 2 sides, looking forward, that’s the pointy end to you from the stern, that’s the blunt end. On your left is larboard and on your right is starboard, no more questions if you please, just listen to my tale.

If I may be allowed to continue. She only just had enough way on to move forward very slowly and so although the collision did quite a lot of damage as she slid into the shallow water if there had been rocks rather than sand she would certainly have been sunk there and then.

Our Captain finally managed to stutter out some orders to the helmsman, if I’d heard them I would have risked my career to countermand them, but we turned slowly to larboard and both ships fire a partial broadside. We should have turned to starboard and raked the enemy as they lay at our mercy, but it was too late, our course was set.

I can tell you now sat here in the warmth of this bar, it was not as warm as it was that day. Our fool of a Captain ordered another change of course and we turned back into the wind, tight in front of the full broadside from Unite.

We were lucky that the violence of the collision had shaken the gun crews on the Unite or we would have suffered terribly, but you can see that our new course was going to lead to another collision.

No – you don’t understand, well let me use these bottles of beer to show how the two ships stood. Don’t worry the bottles are empty. Ohh, well almost empty.

There was a loud grinding noise as we ran straight along the side of the British ship, we were not going fast and glanced off, but there was a lot of damage to the paintwork although nothing significant to the structure of our ship.

Our Captain was blaspheming at the Helmsman, threatening him with the lash, but it was all he could do to stay on his feet he was staggering so much, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so drunk before and not fall over.

As we bounced off the British ship, they let go a blast from their quarter battery but they were in much disarray, finally our gallant captain fell to his knees and slowly toppled forward onto his face and lay still, snoring like a pig.

Get him below I shouted, with such anger that the crew jumped quickly enough.

With the wind behind us we were able to get some sea room and bring the full larboard guns to bear, causing tremendous damage to the Unite, it was hard to see a good French ship take so much damage even if being sailed by the British, but this is war after all.

The British Captain finally managed to get a boat over the side with a kedge anchor to try and kedge the ship off the shore.

What do you mean, you don’t know what a kedge is for, good grief I can see why France is in the state it’s in with citizens like you who know nothing of the sea. You take an anchor from the ship, row it out in a small boat, drop it in the water and then pull on the anchor warp, then that pulls your ship towards the anchor, do you understand now. Oh pass me those beer bottles again and I’ll show you what I mean.

They were successful pulling Unite off the shore and then putting the helm over they quickly got underway, heading west. They were in a good position and ahead of us, so there was still a strong possibility they would get away.

I got Hermione as close as I could and we were able to fire another salvo into Unite, how much more of this terrible punishment they could take I didn't know. We would just have to pound them and pound them again until they struck their colours and surrendered.

More punishment than we had given them so far, that’s for sure, they got as many sails up as possible and started to pull away from us but I wasn’t done yet.

Turning Hermione to larboard (well done young man, you are correct, we turned left) we were able to get a final shot at the Unite and at that they lowered their colours and surrendered the ship to us.

It was a famous victory, I was feted in Paris and even met the great man himself, Napoleon did ask me what happened to the Captain and I told him he was lost, a hero’s death, buried at sea, I’m not sure that satisfied him but Josephine entered the room and he seemed to lose interest in me. Probably just as well.

Come on young man put another log on the fire and if you bring me another brandy I’ll tell you more stories of Jean Vagabond and my exploits fighting for France during the great Napoleonic Wars.

For those who know about these things here are the ships cards at the end of the game.

The Hermione was sailed and mostly Captained by the French hero Lt Jean Vagabond a proud, bold and handsome sailor in the French Navy.

HMS Unite was sailed by Captain Horatio Snapcase, this was his first independent command and at the Court Martial to investigate HMS Unite running aground it was agreed that the aged seaman Scrotum was to blame, his Ear Trumpet was full of freshly peeled prawns and he did not hear the command to go to Starboard, turning to Larboard instead.

It's rumoured that this action was the main reason that 30 years later the Admiralty changed the name of the left hand side of ships from Larboard to Port, it was too easy to confuse Starboard and Larboard in the heat of battle, of course with a Scrotum on the helm many things could go wrong.

This was one of the games we played when Wild Dougal Emfore and Captain Bertram Snapcase came to the north for a few days, Dougal arrived a day later than the Captain and missed this entertaining game, it's main entertainment was the incompetence of the two Captains, but in our defence it's only the 4th time I've played the game and the first for the Captain.