Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven
'Schild en Vriend' is an old Flemish battlecry, used in the
rebellion of the city of Brugge against the French, May 18, 1302.
Legend tells that it was used to differentiate between the
French-speaking (who could not pronounce 'schild') and
Flemish-speaking citizens. Nowadays, historians tell us that it
was probably 'Des Gilden Vriend'.
"From China with Love"
Inspired by an account in an old issue of Wargames Illustrated, I decided
to try out a Multi-Activity Wargame (MAW) for my regular wargaming group.
This game would be composed of several mini-games, each of which could succeed
or fail, and which would affect the overall success of 'the mission'. In some
sense, it was very similar to a roleplaying game, except that various actions
were resolved by various subgames.
This page is a short account of this MAW. Sadly, no pictures were taken,
but I think that most participants remember the mission very well! The players
were Frank Vleugels, David Van Dijck, Bart Vetters, Dominique Coene and
Maarten Logghe. I was taking the honours of being the gamesmaster.
The theme of the game was a rescue mission by British Military intelligence
of an undercover agent in mainland China, after which a raid on a chemical
weapons lab was to be executed. The global mission was split in several parts,
and various players could take part in each of the subgames.
The players each play the role of a secret agent. They were all gathered
in the super-secret briefing room of British Intelligence, a place only known
to the Queen and James Bond (you get the picture).
The initial stage of the game was to generate the characters. Each player
could pick his own name, and drew from a bag 2 slips of paper, which indicated
his 'specialty'. Each specialty gave special bonusses in some of the subgames.
This was supposed to be a mechanic to force the players to think a little
bit about what players were sent on what missions. The slips of paper mentioned
things such as "Sharpshooter", "Parachutist", "Codebreaker", etc., but also
a few indicated "You failed the course!".
The briefing consisted of saying that one of our spies was trapped in China,
and a secret rescue mission had to be mounted immediatly. This is the time
for everyone to introduce themselves and boast about their past exploits.
Subgame 1: Parachute Drop
The first subgame simulated a parachutedrop into enemy territory. For this,
I used a computer game "Freefall", to be found at the Shockwave site (http://www.shockwave.com/sw/content/freefall).
Basically, the more points a player scores, the closer he would land next
to his intended location. Players who had the special ability of being a
paratrooper got an extra bonus. The fun part was also that there was a fair
chance that the player would drop dead if the parachute was opened too late,
thereby being eliminated from the game. The team had to select 3 players
to make the jump.
Subgame 2: Rescue Mission & Helicopter Construction
Once landed, the agent had to be located and be brought to a RV point, were
the remaining two team members would pick them up by a high stealth helicopter.
The rescue game was played out using the old classic from Avalon Hill "Outdoor
Survival". The players had to locate the agent, at the same time evading Chinese
patrols, and trying to reach the agent before the Chinese got there. Then,
a signal was sent out to the recovery squad. Skills such as Survival Specialist
and Sharpshooter came in handy.
The two team members that didn't make the jump, were given the task to construct
a helicopter using a Revell plastic modeling kit. They had to do this before
time ran out in the board game. Only when the helicopter was "functional",
they could pick up the ground crew.
Subgame 3: Raid & Cracking the Safe
Once the spy was safely recovered, information about the location of a secret
base was retrieved from her, and a raid could be mounted to locate a safe
in the base, open it, and try to get out. Two subgames were used here: Spacehulk
(Games Workshop), and the old classic MasterMind. A special forces team (including
the players of course), was put on land by a submarine near the location
of the enemy base.
A Spacehulk game was set up, using 'modern' plastic toy soldiers, but using
exactly the same rules as Space Hulk. Players each had their own figure,
along with some 'henchmen'. Of course, if a player's figure would die, that
player's character would be dead as well. The players had to reach a specific
room were the safe with the weapon plans was located. Important skills included
Sharpshooter, First Aid, or Close Combat specialist. In order to crack
the safe and retrieve the secret plans, one figure had to crack the code
using the MasterMind game. Each turn in the Spacehulk game, he could take
one guess at Mastermind if he would be adjacent to the safe. This created
quite some tension, since the other players were trying to keep the enemy
at bay and keep their escape routes open. A player with the Codebreaker ability
trying to crack the safe was given a headstart of 2 guesses.
Space Hulk & Master Mind
Subgame 4: Escape
Once the safe was cracked and the surviving players made their way out, they
captured a tank, and now had to race to the pick-up point at the beach. This
was simulated using the computergame Tank Wars (http://www.shockwave.com/sw/content/tankwars).
The player driving the tank had to reach a certain score in order to be 'safe'.
The players would then embark on rubber dingos, get back to the submarine,
and be content that yet another plan for world-domination had been foiled.
There were several ways to determine victory in this Multi-Activity game.
First of all, each individual player had a strong incentive to survive, very
much like a more traditional roleplaying game. Secondly, the GM attributed
a 'rate of success' to each subgame. This percentage score depended on game-length
to reach the objective, or overall score of the subgame. After all subgames
were completed, an average percentage score was computed and was communicated
to the players.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable experience. Players really got into their
roles, inventing silly names and acting out their characters. Also, the special
abilities gave each character an incentive to participate in specific subgames.
The special abilities worked really well: depending on the subgame, some
special abilities gave bonuses within the context of that game. Also, a campaign
could be devised by rewarding surviving players additional special abilities
for future missions.