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Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Memories of an Old French Sea Dog - Duty and Daring

This is a scenario from the Sails of Glory site, one that they used in a campaign run back in 2015.  

These tales are told by that old French Sea Dog Jean le Vagabond to anyone drinking in Martine’s Bar in central Provence some time in the 1830’s. His usual audience is Baptiste and Baptiste’s handsome Daughter Hermione, but in general includes anyone who will listen and then fill up his glass with the proverbial 98 Brandy, or indeed anything alcoholic.


I have stolen my style from Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Memories of Brigadier Gerrard a Light Cavalryman in the Napoleons Wars, it is a great read if you like tongue in the cheek humour.

The Story

We had been working on the old Orient night and day since the battle but we still hadn't managed to rig a working sail or jury rig a rudder that would work and help us overcome the wind and tide that was carrying us towards the coast. I could clearly see the breakers crashing on the strand and knew that without some assistance we would end our days on that desolate beach.


I know Baptiste that the tales I have told you in this snug bar in central Provence have been mainly of fame and glory but the one I want to recount tonight shows another side of sailing and warfare at sea, the one that no one really talks about. It is the despair when you realise that no matter how hard you fight the elements, they will always be stronger than you. 


I was just a young Aspirant then, I’d only been in the Navy three months and was still wet behind the ears but I fondly remember the time the 3rd Lieutenant sent me to the Carpenter for a Long Stand, it was 90 minutes before I understood the joke but I have not been deceived like that since then.

We had fought a long and hard battle against Johnny Rostbif, and as you would expect the Orient and I had acquitted ourselves well. She was old and I was young, only 14 years, yes Hermione I was only 14 years old when I went to sea, and I can say with a clear conscience that although there were younger men in the service there were none as brave and bold as Jean le Vagabond. 

You gasp in wonder but I can see in your face you are a young woman of great intellect and I can’t pull the wool over your eyes, so you know I speak the truth when I say all around me men despaired and it was up to me, a 14 year old boy to maintain the ships morale.

I was the first to see her, my eyes were strong and sharp then and I saw Courageous before any of my compatriots and shouted out “we are rescued, we are rescued” They all looked aft to see a glorious sight, a Concorde Class Frigate under full sail chasing and catching us as fast as ever you like.

Beware - Johnny Rosbif someone shouted from the bows and sure enough a British 74 was hull up on the horizon. Why the lookout hadn’t seen her earlier I really don’t know but Capitaine Nubuierre didn’t keep such a tight ship as I would have done in his position.

The two ships approached as fast as the wind would allow but Courageous was going to reach us first, if only we could get a towline across we might still be saved. It was a forlorn hope Hermione because a 74 against a 32 gun frigate would be no match at all, but you know that don’t you. You have been listening and learning these past few weeks, a very admirable trait in one so young and beautiful as yourself, but you know there is still much to learn from older and wiser heads, I will endeavour to teach you more.


Ah Baptiste, my glass seems to be empty, would you be a good fellow and go and ask Martine to fill it up and I can continue my tale when you get back. Yes the 98 brandy is the one, I’m glad you remember, and don’t forget it’s from the green bottle, ahh you remember that as well, bien tot.


While we wait for him, maybe I could tell you about the Monkey’s Fist, don’t blush so Hermione, it is nothing but a knot. Yes a grande knot in the shape of a ball, it is usually tied around a stone or sometime a lead ball, the weight allows it to be thrown a long way and you attach a light line to it. On the other end of the throwing line you attach a thicker line and that is how we sailors pass a tow rope from one ship to the other. It is simple n’est pas, although it does require strength and skill to throw it accurately.

Well of course when Capitaine Nubuierre asked for a man to throw the line to Courageuse everyone stood aside to let me make the cast, at such a critical time we could not endure failure.

The cast was straight and true and caught cleanly by a evil looking fellow on Courageous and they hauled it in, first the light line and then the towing line and we made fast both ends to strong points on our respective ships.

Le Rosbif’s 74 was closing but instead of continuing straight towards us he turned into the wind, a strange thing to do in the circumstances.

That’s right Hermione we call it tacking when the ship crosses the line of the wind but it is a manoeuvre that can be fraught with problems, there was one occasion that it was nearly my undoing but I will recount that tale another time.

As Le Rosbif turned away from us he let opened fire with his starboard quarter battery, causing some damage to Courageous. She was drawing ahead of us at the time, quite slowly because she didn’t want to put too much strain on the towing line and snap it but the damage was quite superficial and didn't deter her purpose.

Which was accomplished with panache, but as you have heard me praise French seamanship in the past that will come as no surprise to you Hermione and indeed even your Father Baptiste here will have gathered that by now.

Le Rosbif continued to move away from us as he reloaded his cannon. The only thing I could think to account for his timidity was that he knew what a fearsome fighting ship Orient was, and even in our damaged state dared not approach to closely.


(The main reason though was that the French Commander was using the AI Manoeuvre charts wrongly, but that is another story - best forgotten)

The tow was established and we were making slow progress away from the coast. 

The 32 gun Frigate is dwarfed by the size of the Orient and necessarily finds it hard work to pull us away from the land especially as the tide and wind are pushing us towards our doom.

Le Rosbif had tacked again and was approaching with the wind blowing over his quarter, pushing him along quite quickly, he soon regretted his boldness when he came in range of our guns and received a raking broadside from Courageous, but the real damage was done by our starboard bow battery on Orient. Fire blossomed on the enemy ship, maybe we had hit his galley stove I don’t know, we always extinguish ours when joining battle but the Rosbif’s are careless fellows.


What did you say Hermione, who was the commander of the starboard bow battery, why of course it was I, Jean le Vagabond from Marseilles. I had some steady gunners under my command that day, obviously they needed my guidance to lay their guns accurately, but that’s only to be expected from these uneducated fellows. They may have been at sea most of their lives but I had spent a month at the Artillery College in Toulon and knew all the latest ballistic science, and of course you know science will always surpass ignorance even if  it is, experienced ignorance.

I had an especial fondness for the No 2 gun in the battery, we called her 'Madame' and pushing the grizzled gun captain aside I laid her carefully and fired, this was the ball that took down the Fore mast on our enemies ship and won the battle, a claim that the gun captain on No 3 gun disputes to this day but what did that cross-eyed old greybeard know.

The panic and confusion on the enemy must have been dreadful to behold because when they brought their starboard battery to bear the shots fell short and did no damage at all.

Heartened by the damage I had caused to the enemy, our stern battery did great execution to them as they came closer. By now there was total panic, the fires were spreading and we were concerned that she shouldn’t collide with the old Orient, if we touched the fire would quickly spread and that fire would have been the end for us.


The British ship struck her colours and surrendered rather than take a further pounding from our canon but the fires were so well established that she burned to the water line and sank without a trace. We could not put along side because of the fire and all our boats had been destroyed in the previous battle so we could only rescue a few of the poor fellows, those who could swim and they were not many.


A sad sight for us all.


Well Baptiste I must be off to my bed, one day I will tell you about that fight in the Orient, indeed my first sea battle and the reason we were in such dire straights when Johnny Rosbif caught us on that lee shore but it will have to wait for another day. Mademoiselle Hermione it has been a pleasure to have your company tonight and I look forward to meeting you again, your nautical knowledge is a pleasure for an old man to behold.

Yes I shall be here in Martine’s bar on Monday evening, maybe I could tell you the story of how I protected a convoy of valuable merchantmen from Johnny Le Rosbif when I was Capitaine of my true love, your namesake Hermione and how I almost came to grief through the foolish mistakes of my enemy.


Baptiste maybe you would care to order a fresh glass of the 98 when we meet on Monday, it lubricates my tonsils so well.


Adieu and Bon Nuit to you both.


Courageous took almost no damage.

Orient, the C damage is the damage from the previous battle that was included in the scenario directions.

Le Rosbif’s 74 a smouldering wreak after my forward starboard battery had decimated them.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Crocs - Why did it have to be Crocs

The Continuing Story of Becky and the Red Jade Buddha

Becky wasn’t the only one after the Red Jade Buddha, there were some very unsavoury characters in the hunt as well, Meinhard Wencke and his side kick Kamilla Altmann, Major Kamilla Altmann for instance. They had come up river, passing Becky and her friends as they were recuperating at Mission St Mary.

They had hired a local guide Nancy Black to help them make it to the Native Village where they hoped to get more information about the route to take. The three of them and Dietmar Eckert are in conversation prior to setting off into the jungle.
The tough looking women in the background, wearing black uniform’s are Altmann’s troops. They were dismissed from the SS because they made the other troops look as hard as a soft boiled egg, I guess their comrades were just scared of this bunch, probably with good reason.

Johnny Mo and his partner are telling Billy Ryan that they can’t provide any porters for the trek, Billy knows that money talks, but his wallet is just not vocal enough.
Goro though is wondering if he could become an independent contractor but on reflection, Johnny Mo’s pearl handle revolver seems to have dissuaded him from a change of employer.

Soko and Jamal have no intentions of becoming porters; they have enough on their plates gazing at the weeds growing in their small patch of fertile land.

A woman’s work is never done, so Mrs V tells me, but behind our water carrier you can see the dense bush that the column will have to traverse if we ever get underway.
If anyone should be bored enough to be reading this, please note my hand painted sky backdrop, unfortunately it only covers one side of the table, I need to finish the other pieces but at least it’s a start.

This is the Native Village that Altmann and Mencke are expecting to reach. It’s looking pretty empty at the moment.

Deserted villages are always a worry, but they don’t know it’s deserted - yet.

Finally the troops line up and start the march to the village, it doesn’t look very far but it’s a long and winding road beset with many dangers.
Helen Naismith leads the way, she doesn’t want to, but Nancy Black waved her machete vaguely in her direction and so she is making her way cautiously to the river.

Obviously not cautiously enough because half way across the river she spots a crocodile. That would normally be bad, but the croc has spotted her, and that’s much worse. It goes for her leg but she fends it off.

She tried to shoot it but was too slow and it finally got a hold on her leg and in a leg to teeth fight Helen Naismith’s leg was always going to come second.
Erika runs forward and sprays the area with bullets from her sub machine gun but hits nothing. 
There’s lots of blood in the water.

The croc disappears into the depths of the river, taking Helen with him. Nancy Black shouts we must get across the river before the blood draws more croc’s.

The rest of them look a little dubious at this but Corporal Rockmeir shouts for Erika Baeker to take point and move out. Erika fails her brains test but passes her guts test and so wades out into the river.

She’s a little nervous and rightly so because another croc, drawn by the fresh blood attacks her. This one doesn’t mess around and takes her down straight away.

Astrid Wiese who passed her brains test had decided to wait a minute and see what happens, she’s thankful for this and is able to opens fire with her trusty Lugger P08 she is a crack shot and hit’s the croc in the head. It thrashes around a little before rolling over and sinking out of sight. 

There’s a lot more blood and I do believe blood attracts croc’s.

Wenke and Billy Ryan move to the river bank and gaze at the blood but Kamilla Altmann, passes her Guts test but then fails her Brains test so wades out into the river shouting come on follow me. There’s a distinct lack of enthusiasm for this course of action.

She makes it to the far bank and doesn’t get attacked and the others start to cross. Astrid and Billy Ryan shout “We’ll cover you” they failed their Guts test and so remained on the bank.

Nancy setting a good example to her crew made it across as did Ingrid and Wencke but Dietmar has got his foot stuck and hasn’t made the far bank. He failed to activate. Astrid and Billy Ryan have also set off which only leaves Gerda to start across the river.

Then there’s movement in the water and another croc swims into view Kamilla is awake to the situation and lets fly in it’s general direction and with a couple of lucky shots she drives it away, streaming even more blood from it’s wounds.

Seeing another croc has lent wings to the guys still in the water and they all make it to the bank except Dietmar who is still stuck, everyone on the far bank is shouting encouragement but no one goes to help him.

Gerda thinks it’s a long way to get to the far bank and as she only polished her jackboot’s to a high shine that morning she doesn’t want to get them wet so declines to enter the water.

Billy Ryan seeing the wounded croc swim away, rushes in to help Dietmar, you’ve guessed it, he failed his brains test and passed his guts test. They both made it to the bank just as another croc arrived but Nancy Black was waiting and hit it between the eyes and it rolled over dead and started to sink out of sight.

I’d decided that for the river crossing there was a good chance of a croc, 1,2 on a D6 and once there was blood in the water there would be a die roll each turn and I kept rolling 2 or less and they just kept on appearing. It rather cut down the numbers in the party and I wasn’t sure if I’d made it too hard, but them’s the breaks on my table.

Gerda decided it was now or never and waded out into the river, it takes 2 turns to make the crossing.
CROC, yes another 2 rolled but Nancy is reloaded and ready, she fires and misses. Kamilla is also ready, she fires and misses. Wenke fires and there’s a dry click as he realizes he’s out of ammo. It’s the croc’s turn next and he would ordinarily go for Gerda but I thought “ there’s a lot of free food in the river at this point”. So are croc’s attracted to dead meat rather than thrashing around screaming meat? I don’t know but decided that D6 on a  5,6 he prefers screaming meat and goes for Gerda, but he threw a 3 and went for a piece of dead meat, we can only speculate if it was human or croc. Gerda made it to the bank a quivering wreck.

There’s now lots of blood in the water and so probably no going back.

No sooner had the column got back into some sort of order and moved out than Dietmar who had taken the lead failed to see a trap on the edge of the trail and he received a body full of punji sticks or whatever the equivalent is in this part of Africa. Whatever it is, it’s pretty deadly and he falls down bleeding profusely.

I used an opposed roll between Dietmars awareness and the awareness + half the stealth of the person who set the trap. As it was a skilled hunter who had laid the trap it was harder than normal for Dietmar to spot it. He was badly injured and unable to continue. He was fortunate in so much as he was within sight of the river camp in the distance and maybe someone would come and help him but the rest of the party continued on their way leaving him with a little water and promises to collect him on their way back!!!
And then there were 7.

This left Nancy Black a bit short handed, and much against her best judgement and with her demand for a 15% increase in her fee accepted - with reluctance, she set out taking Point, wondering what else could go wrong.

Looking carefully you might see what else it could be, but you’d be wrong.

She hears a noise ahead and round the bend in the trail bumbles an Elephant, and she comes face to face with it. These things can be bad tempered at the best of times and so far this wasn’t proving to be the best of times.

Unfortunately for Nancy, Nellie got to react first. It hesitates for a second or two and then charged. Nancy doesn’t lack for guts and could stand her ground and shoot but nor does she lack brains and she knows she’s a pretty poor shot so she takes the smart course of action and runs. As fast as her little legs will carry her into the thickest undergrowth she can find.

Coming round the bend Nellie sees the rest of the party and doesn’t slow at all, she just flies straight at them, trumpeting her war cry.

Normally I would test their gut’s to see if they stand their ground and if they pass that then they can usually shoot but in this case I decided they would have to be mad to stand in front of a charging Nellie armed mainly with pistols (the characters not Nellie) and so tested Brains first. Pass that and run, fail Brains then test Guts and if fail that then run, pass that and try to shoot the beast. Ok – got it?

Kamilla, Wencke, Ingrid and Gerda are smart enough to run straight away, Astrid and Billy Ryan are stupid enough to stand there but not brave enough and they also run. 

The smart ones run into the jungle and the dumb ones run down the trail.

Billie and Astrid run straight past Dietmar, shouting something incomprehensible like “there’s an Elephant coming” , the badly injured Dietmar thinks running sounds like a good option but knows it’s just not going to happen. 

Then Nellie arrives and tramples him into a bloody mess in the dry earth, but the upside of that is that Astrid and Billy escape.

The expedition has effectively been split into 3 separate parties by the Nellie attack, Kamilla and Nancy found some very thick undergrowth to hide in. They are both in agreement, they can’t stay here and so move carefully back to the track.

As they are both bold and fearless leaders they emerge from their hiding place looking for their underlings. Underlings are always useful, bold fearless leaders can always stand behind them so they must be rounded up quickly.

They are more concerned with looking for their underlings than checking the undergrowth so that they don’t see the Pigmies hiding in it, self preservation doesn’t always work as well as it should. The good news for them is that the Pygmies don’t see them either.

Wenke takes command of the largest group and tells Gerda she must take point and lead the way, he will follow and Ingrid will take the rear. Ingrid doesn’t like that idea and when the other two strike out she remains behind in hiding.

You can’t rely on anyone – can you.

Billy and Astrid had run down the track and are next to the croc infested river. Billy insists that they should enter the forest and work their way through it, back to the track behind Nellie. This is the sensible and safest course of action but Astrid fails her brains test and doesn’t agree with me or Billy and so decides to cross back over the river and strike back for the river camp.

She stupidly enters the river near where all the blood is mingled with the muddy water and is immediately attacked by a croc. Fear and some very lucky dice means it doesn’t get its teeth into her and she does make it to the far bank and safety? Well safe until Kamilla calls her to answer for her actions.

Billy makes his way north, creating a lot of noise.

Kamilla and Nancy continue along the track and still don’t see the Pygmies but the do see Wenke and Gerda so all breath a sigh of relief. Even more so when Billy arrives with Ingrid, in spite of the noise he was making he heard Ingrid moving in her hiding place and fortunately he didn’t shoot her and once he discovered what was making the noise he was able to convince her to go with him.

The party wait to see if anyone else will turn up and as they do Wenke feels the hairs on the back of his neck start to bristle. You don’t survive in the Gestapo as long as he has without paying attention to the hairs on the back of your neck. Then he spots them.

"Pygmies" he shouts and all hell lets loose. One of the little chaps reacts first and fires an arrow at the party but it’s deflected by a tree branch and flies off harmlessly into the undergrowth. A volley of shots is fired in return but they also hit nothing. Bullets and arrows fly back and forth but arrows are no match for bullets and eventually all the wee folk are gunned down.

All this noise has attracted the attention of the remaining encounter markers and I checked to see what they were and then how they would react, most of the animal encounters moved away from the noise except for one.

One of the encounters was a woman from the village fetching water from the river.

And the one animal that hadn’t moved away was a lion which saw in front of him a good square meal and advanced towards her.

The Kraal wasn’t deserted but guarded by a troop of women, all armed with bows and as the lion charged across for lunch they fired a volley of arrows. I think five arrows constitute a volley, but it’s immaterial because they all missed the big cat.

The lass carrying the water was as brave as the lion, but just not as big or ferocious, she didn’t run, tipping the water from the pot and putting the child behind her, she stood her ground prepared to use the pot as her only weapon.

As you would expect, the lion knocked her to the floor, killing her immediately. The women behind the Kraal fences fired again and one of them succeeded in putting an arrow into the beast.

This gave it pause for thought but it was only a short pause.

However their next volley was no more successful for the majority of them, except that the same archer put another arrow into the lion and is was severely injured. Here you can see her striding forward and being accorded the honour of making the kill.

I expect they are feasting on lion loin tonight and she might be wearing a lion mane headdress at the feast.

Wenke and his party have finally started moving down the track, totally unaware of the drama that had been enacted at their destination.

They did see a big silver back male gorilla in the distance but it just beat its chest and then moved off.

It was probably more disturbed by these hunters rather than Wenke’s party who were still making their way through the jungle. Either way they were veteran hunters both of animals and men and Nancy didn’t see them at all, although they saw her.

Just to give some context and more importantly to show off my painted backdrop, this illustrates where the expedition has reached, they just need to cross the river and the village is to their left.

As the Expedition approached the Bwanabab bushes one of the native hunters fired his bow. Billy took the first arrow and went down out of the fight. "No" the leader shouted at the culprit, he had fired too soon and the trap was not complete. 

Another exchange of arrows and bullets led to a similar result as last time. Bows and arrows are no match for pistols and sub machine guns, at least not in my rules.

This time the fight just lasted longer and more of the expedition were hit than last time. Wenke and Billy are both down, Gerda had an arrow sticking in her thigh, but she has Teutonic thighs and they shrug off the effects of an arrow, now if it had been an 88mm shell that might have been different, but it wasn’t.

Many of the natives are down, hit by the accurate gunfire, well it wasn’t so accurate but there was a lot of it. The balance of the encounter is slowly shifting in favour of the gun toting SS.
A couple of the natives back away, as does Ingrid but the rest of the Expedition move forward and counteract the advantage the natives had enjoyed from the cover provided by the Bwanabab bushes.

Within a short time the remnants of the ambush party decide retreat is their only course of action and they head for the hills. Fortunately avoiding a final confrontation with a crocodile as they cross the river and make their escape.

Kamilla had never liked Wenke and so she left him by the side of the path, explaining with Teutonic logic that they must leave him there and she will endeavour to collect him as they return to the river station.

Nancy questioned the wounded native and he failed his guts test and so spilled the beans then she cut his throat. As she is now the only one in the expedition that speaks the local language she thinks that makes her invaluable and is not surprised when Kamilla agrees to an additional 20% bonus when the job is done.
I don’t think she understands Gestapo negotiating tactics, but I’m sure she will learn soon enough.

Back on the move, Karmilla has put Ingrid on point, she decided she couldn’t afford to lose Nancy at this stage of the game and whilst she would have preferred to have Gerda on point because she was the most expendable she was also as much use as the rear end of a pantomime cow when it came to moving stealthily through the jungle.

She put Nancy immediately in front of herself so she could keep an eye on her and lumbering Gerda brought up the rear (of the pantomime cow).
Shortly after passing this derelict tower Ingrid encountered a man trap, or maybe that should be a woman trap or perhaps in these enlightened times we live in, it should be a person trap. Whatever it should be called it needs to be prefaced by failed.

Once more they arrive at the serpent like river, there they are confronted but a line of very aggressive looking women with bows. They look like they know how to use them as well, but we know better.

Nancy shouted over to them, “We have killed your men, those that didn't run away, and we will kill you too if we must. We just want porters and guides to take us to the Monastery up river, you will live if you help and die if you don’t.”

Well - fairly clear and unambiguous, they passed their Brains test and also their Guts test so they could do the sensible thing or the brave thing.

In the end I decided to roll a D6 for each of them, 1 being a complete no and 6 being a complete yes, with shades in between. I got a split decision 2 no’s 2 yes and one don’t know.
So I rolled a final time for the leader and it was yes we will help, no we don’t want to be killed and damn the cowardly men for leaving us in this pickle.

Just about the time this momentous decision was being made there was a whistle as Captain Hawke arrived with his launch carrying Becky and her friends to the River Station. Anyone reading this won’t remember but the last time Captain Hawke had embarked on his beloved launch called Esmeralda she lacked a steam engine, well now she has one and so he can blow his whistle anytime he wants.

The passengers all jump ashore, well after 2 days and two nights in Esmeralda you would want to get ashore as fast as possible. The bathroom facilities are not all you might desire.

Becky and her friends are already deep in conversation with Johnny Mo and the other men from the Station but the other passengers are making a more leisurely disembarkation.

Johnny seems very impressed with Becky’s twin colts as well he might, he would be even more impressed if he knew how well she could use them, she in return is admiring his pearl handles revolver, they are going to get along just fine.

Esmeralda’s new steam engine has been given a thorough rub down with black stove polish by Sister Matilda and is a lovely shade of undercoat black. Maybe there are no shades of black I’m not sure, anyway it will be painted when I can get to it.

So, as she languished in Mission St Mary after being wounded in the last action packed adventure Becky has now been overtaken in the race for the Red Jade Buddha. The Nazi’s are on the trail ahead but there’s a whole bunch of properly bad people after the Red Jade Buddha, who are either ahead or close behind our heroine. 

See the label "Becky" to read the rest of this exciting series of  astounding adventure tales :).

Will she be able to pass those in front or get caught by those behind, you'll have to tune in later for the further Astounding Adventure Tales of Becky.

Alas as this is the only wargame I’ve played since December last year you will probably grow old waiting to find out.

So it’s another long and rambling tale and if anyone finished it – well done.

Finally I must just blame Joe (Zabadak) for this post, I played the game back at the beginning of May and started to write it down but really just couldn't face completing it, goodness knows what you must feel if you spent so long reading it. Anyway, he posted his 500th post a few days ago and he inspired me to finish it, so thanks Joe.

I'm off down to Devon soon, we are having DevLAM 2021 which I'm looking forward to, as we cancelled 2020 as did most other people. 

I am expecting to play a few interesting games there, designed by master game scenario designers and I've even done some work on 2 games myself, although to be honest one is just a refresh of a game I drew up but we were too tired to play in 2019 but I doubt they'll remember.

Once again