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Siege of Lowenheim

February 1, 2006 1:35 AM - Posted by Phil - Category: Game report

Short gamereport — extended version will follow

January 31st we played THE SIEGE OF LOWENHEIM, a game I designed and ran for 6 players in my wargaming attic. The design of the game is inspired on ‘55 minutes in Peking’, which appeared in Wargames Illustrated 27.

I put the game in a medieval/fantasy setting. 6 players were playing different factions, trying to beat the Ratmen that came crawling through the sewers all over the city. The players each got an individual briefing, and the whole setup was cooperative/competitive.

The 6 factions differed in force composition and special powers. There was the City Guard (mostly average soldiers), the Palace Guard (mostly elite Knights), the Queen’s Own Elven Guard (Elven warriors), the Wizards (3 wizards but with a lot of magical artefacts and spells), the Musketeers (sowrdsmen), and the Tiger Warriors of Cathay.

The game started with the forces spread out over the city. From turn one, ratmen started to appear through the sewers. Luckily for the players, the ratmen were held in control till the end, although in some quarters it became very tense. Also, fires broke out, and various attempts were made to extinguish the fires.

The game ended around 11.30, and havig started at 8.00, it was a good and fun evening. After the game, there was a small briefing, and some of the players thought it was more challenging than I perceived it as a GM. But I guess that’s good!

For those interested in reading all the briefings of all players, here’s the full game design document: Siege of Lowenheim.

Comments on this entry

Yes, it was great fun. The fact that I was supposed to leave at 22:00 but stayed on till the end (a massive headache is currently reminding me why 5 hours of sleep isn’t enough) shows just how much fun it was.

As for balance, I wouldn’t change too much. Had the game gone on for an extra 2 turns, we would have been in serious trouble. The only thing I would change is to mount a faint attack on the walls to create the sense that the enemy is coming from there. And maybe, when rolling for effect of a hit increase 1 stun to kill. But that’s it. Ok, dze damned French are invinzible, but dzey cannot be everywhere, sacré bleu!

February 1, 2006 8:33 AM - Posted by BartD

Report to his Royal Highness the Emperor of Cathay by his unworthy ambassador Wen Ziao Bao, stationed in Löwenheim - Western Barbarian lands.

Your majesty,

For weeks now the good city of Löwenheim was being besieged by Ratmen, Orcs and other vile creatures. Fearing a breakthrough of the city wall I ordered part of my personal bodyguard - your trusted Tiger Warriors - to defend the foot bridge over the mid-town moat. As this bridge constitutes the direct access route towards the embassy, this was meant as a forward defence of the embassy itself. With the Tiger Warriors being young and relatively inexperienced I took it upon myself to lead them in person, leaving only a small reserve force at the Cathay Embassy.

The Barbarians didn’t know that the true purpose of the Cathay Embassy amidst them is not to improve trade relations - who needs their animal furs when you’ve got silk ? - but to guard the secret of the Silver Haired airgod whose very presence there must be kept a secret.

As soon as our forces had deployed on the other side of the foot bridge three things happened : The Ratmen had dug a tunnel underneath the city with their exit point right in the middle of my forces. The second incident occured when your brave Tiger Warriors defending the bridge itself were flung into the water when the bridge was detonated. Peasants rushed to the scene to repair the bridge, just in time for a party of Ratmen who were fleeing the fight to move across the bridge in the direction of our embassy. If this stroke of bad luck wasn’t enough : a lucky shot from the besiegers managed to set the Cathay embassy on fire.

But then fortune started to turn. The Tiger Warriors at the tunnel exit fought bravely and with the help of the Palace Guard succeeded in totally annihilating the Ratmen. We did take some serious casualties but as our main objective was to protect the embassy there was no time to mourn the dead as we chased after the Ratmen who had managed to get across the bridge, no doubt escaping an early grave at our hands. Meanwhile our small token force at the embassy managed to hold the Ratmen who now found themselves between the defenders of the embassy and our approaching main force marching with the speed of the wind. As priority was given to defend the embassy it took some time to put out the fire which had started within, but we finally managed to do so with no great damage to the building or to it’s secret which remained hidden throughout the fight.

As to the performance of my Tiger Warriors : I could find no fault in their zeal and enthusiasm but I would pray your majesty to enhance their close combat training as they performed admirably when on defence but are a bit weak when having to attack the hordes of Evil.

Your humble servant,

Ambassador When Ziao Bao

February 1, 2006 11:23 AM - Posted by Eddy Sterckx

Hi Phil, it was good fun and the game looked superb. You introduced Eddy to me as your long time gaming buddy, and in the pre-game planning he confidently predicted all sorts of disasters (explosions, tunnelling by the enemy, unexpected attacks in strange places), which I thought not too likely. But he obviously knows you well! This is exactly what happened.

I thought the scenario worked well, but was a bit too easy for the players. This is not a criticism, but I wondered if you could have slightly adjusted some of the rules you were using to cope with this. For example some tougher monsters. Or food could have just run out all together, leading to heavy attrition.

For our characters, I say ‘our’ because BD turned up unexpectedly and joined my Knight Eternal, the Hero of the City, husband to the Emperor’s daughter, Commander of the Armies of Jousting Ground and ready to flee the city when things got tough. Bart took the knoghts and slaughtered vast amounts of ratmen. The Knight Eternal sort of danced around a bit, leading from the rear, watching fires and generally keeping out of trouble. This seemed to suit his character and kept Bart V amused and irritated, as his feeble peasants were massacred by the invaders. But, the legend of the Knight Eternal is intact.

Conclusion - terrific game.

Suggestion - use this as a kind of universe for future games, role play etc. Could be fun.

Special award - to Frank for speaking English and Dutch with a great French accent.

February 1, 2006 8:22 PM - Posted by Alan

As the commander of the city guard (or city girls according to some of the other players) in the game, I enjoyed myself tremendously. As opposed to most of the other players, I knew beforehand that we would have intrusions in various places throughout the city because i) I know Phil and ii) there was a not so subtle hint to that effect in my briefing.

So while I did offer grandiose to perform sweeping movements in the pre game discussion (one of my objectives was ‘try to take leadership of the defense of the city’), I knew that I would not get very far as we would soon be overwhelmed by ratmen. And indeed, hardly had my bunch of peasants set foot outside of the guard barracks, they were set upon by the first bunch of ratmen, and a fight ensued that lasted pretty much throughout the game.

I was one of the players who actually felt we had a real challenge, as my men were quite ineffective (certainly compared to the roving division cuirassée that were the musketeers) and I actually lost a few men to the ratmen hordes. So, for me I thought the game balance worked quite well.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended the game fighting in front of the entrance of the guard barracks, fighting tooth and nail with the latest pack of ratmen, who had a rat ogre with them for a bit of extra muscle. I also would like to add that Captain Johan Mannheim, as opposed to that buffoon the Knight Erratic, was always to be found in the thick of the fighting! :)

Finally, I second Alan’s nomination of Frank and his Blitzquetiers as highlight of the evening. Well done, monsieur.

February 1, 2006 8:40 PM - Posted by Robartes

Indeed an excellent game! I had a great time. Archmage Severus Arrhenius answered the call of the city guard and together with an apprentice rushed out to defend the city. In the meanwhile Avandrel the commander of the Elven Queen’s personal guard assured me I could count on his assistance when I needed it. Though I suspected he really wanted one of my powerful artifacts hidden in my tower. I managed to summon 2 powerful ents (not as powerful as Jean-Jacques’ blitzquetiers though) and a horde of frenzy bees. I needed them to stop the ratmen entering my wizardtower… despite the help of the elven guard one ratman managed to enter the tower but fortunately it was immediately carried out by a giant bee and plunged to its death from the top of the tower.

final thoughts: - imho combatsystem should have been faster. The fact you had to roll all your dies seperately was rather tedious. Frank had trouble remembering how many hits he had done in one round. (only 10 fingers you know :-) - I’m in the ‘too easy’ camp. I was never really in trouble and I had no need to use my powerful artefacts. - Combining Bart D’s and Vince’s remarks it would indeed have been nice if the first event of the evening would be the breach of the Main gate and a first skaven assault from there. - too make the game more difficult. Make the Fench less powerful. The fact they wiped entire hexes for the first 3 turns made it much much easier for all of us. Reduce the number of cards everyone gets by 1 and allow only 1 discard at the end of the turn.

The question is: are we going to play this game again? I really hope so! In another post I’ll try to come up with some replayability ideaq. In my opinion the the game has a lot of ‘boardgame’ potential and thus a lot of replay value.

cheers, maarten

February 3, 2006 10:45 AM - Posted by maarten

Yes, I think a replay can easily be done. Of course, the ‘hidden’ briefings will not be there anymore, and it will a game with known objectives.

As for the combat system: yes, it should be adapted, possibly using the Warhammer Skirmish rules.

I can even add more players. The Barbarian Ghetto can easily be staffed with hostile barbarians, and I still have a dozen Disciples of the Red Redemption crazy monks from my GW-junkie days — all painted and ready to go.

Yes, the Musketeers were obviously overpowered, we should have given them fight skill 5 during the game already — as well as limiting the player’s hand to 5 cards. The problem was that I imagined that troops would get spread out much more (and thus you would need more attack cards as well), not walk around in little tank-like units ;-)

Anyway, the table is cleared already, so there’s room for another game!

February 3, 2006 12:13 PM - Posted by Phil

I still think that the game wasn’t that unbalanced. By the end of the game our troops still hadn’t dealt with the scaven who erupted from the sewers at the beginning of the game! And I had lost 2 of the 5 knights on horse. What was problematic however was that from the scaven player’s perspective he hardly seemed to do any kills at all.

To solve this one might position ‘civilians’ in the city. These figures are crap fighters who ‘when scaven pop into a nearby hex’ run away in panic. Players could then rally these men to fight. This will give the scaven player something to kill, while the human player has an extra objective to protect and needs to deal with panicking footfolk disrupting his approach.

February 3, 2006 1:48 PM - Posted by BartD

BTW, many of the names of characters were NOT chosen at random:

Lowenheim — inspired by ‘Leuven’, that’s all.

Johann Manheim — this is in fact random ;-)

Sigisbiduwald von Trappstein-Hohenschlieffen — recurring character in many of our games.

Alavandrel Vanmaris — Elven Master of the Hunt in ‘Power Behind the Throne’, an adventure of the Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, published in the 80s, and without doubt one of the most brilliant fantasy roleplaying campaign ever written. Has been republished a few times. I did GM it for several years, one of the best campaigns I ever Gm’ed.

Wen Ziao Boa — actual name of the current prime minister of China

Order of the Blue Lotus — inspired by the Tintin album ‘The Blue Lotus’. The Blue Lotus character from the album is also painted on the Cathay Embassy.

Severus Arrhenius — Severus is the name of Professor Snape from the Harry Potter novels, Arrhenius is a famous plant scientist (because of all the weird plants in the wizard’s garden). The other wizard names are sort of random, except that Minerva is also a name of a professor in Harry Potter.

Mask of Nyarlathotep — Old Call of Cthulhu adventure that I once GM’ed.

Jean-Jacques Descartes du Bois des Loups-Garou — my character in a Seven Seas campaign some years ago. Descartes refers to Rene Descartes, famous mathematician and philosopher. “du Bois des Loups-garou” literalyy means “from the Woods of the Werewolves”, a not so subtle hin to the fact that Jean-Jacques was actually a werewolf.

Luitpold von Lowenheim — small pun on the name of Belgian Kings ‘Leopold’.

Elenwe — name of Elven Queen, actually an ancestor of Arwen in LOTR, as well as Fingolfin.

The Wise Tree — our roleplaying publishing company in days long gone. Schimmen en Schaduwen rules!

Cathay & Bretonnia — name of lands in the Warhammer Universe.

February 3, 2006 1:51 PM - Posted by Phil

My elven warriors were overconfident and left the castle in search of some vermin to kill, only to realize in shock that the castle was undefended in case of an outbreak of skaven behind my lines. And guess what happened! While I was (not so successfully) defending the entrance to the magical forest and the wizards tower, Skaven emerged from the sewers close to my castle! However, the Graf, in all his wisdom, had just in time summoned a mobile reserve in the castle. That there were Cathay warriors in that reserve, remains a hard nut to crack! And someone should get punished for that failing food distribution!

The game was a blast! Elven armor rocks! Only two warriors had to be sent temporarily to the temple for some healing. But the armor obviously did get in their eyes, as they didn’t hit much. Nevertheless I agree with the suggestions of the other players here to make things more desperate for the defenders.

February 4, 2006 11:10 AM - Posted by Koen (Heverlee)

A write-up of this game is now also published in the 2nd issue of The Tin Soldier:

March 21, 2006 3:32 PM - Posted by Phil