To celebrate the second birthday of Ludus Giganticus I’ve written a second post! I hope in future I’ll be able to do better than one entry a year!
So the other night I finally decided to execute a project I have been planning for several years now: skirmishing with small bands of pirates in the islands of the Caribbean during the first quarter of the 18th Century – ‘The Golden Age of Piracy’.
Flashing Steel from Ganesha Games is by far one of the best skirmish-level wargaming rulesets for conducting cinematic swashbuckling adventures in this era. Using the online character builder designed for the game, I created two rival pirate crews at the recommended 500 points per side and played a simple all-out battle, the first part of a pulp-style narrative I’m hoping to develop over the course of several solo game sessions. THE CURSE OF CAPTAIN MORGAN
I. JUNGLE ENCOUNTER
It is the Year of Our Lord, 1717.
The dastardly pirate, Captain ‘Cutthroat’ Symthe, is on the trail of a
legendary treasure. Rumours abound in taverns across the Caribbean that a great prize, once belonging to the infamous Captain Morgan, lies hidden somewhere deep in the
jungles of the Spanish Main. It is said that a map, detailing the location of the
treasure, was last seen in the hand of an old
sea-dog who, some years ago, sailed out of Tortuga in search of the treasure. His ship
was recently spied, so it was claimed, run aground off the coast of Panama, mysteriously abandoned. But
the ship’s log was recovered from the cabin and brought to the pirate haven of Nassau where it was highly sought after amongst the gentlemen of fortune. Somehow, by means unknown, the log has fallen into the hands of Captain Smythe, who plans to go after the prize. Following the details of the log to the letter, Smythe and his crew have anchored somewhere off the mainland of Panama, just south of the San Blas Archipelago, and set up camp on the shore. Smythe has left three members of his ten-man crew at the camp to keep eye on the ship, while the remaining seven have followed him southward into the steaming jungle in search of the old sea-dog. Or, more specifically, his map.
Only a few miles into the expedition, shouts from the trees ahead suggest that a rival pirate crew have already beat them here, apparently with the same agenda. As their leader strode forth out of the forest, a tall, broad-shouldered man with pistol in each hand and burning tapers in his hat, there was no mistaking that fearsome face – a name feared by every sailor in the Caribbean.
Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, Captain C5/Q3/P171 Blur of Steel, Dashing, Double Pistols, Fear, Fearless, Follow On,
Great Defense, Impetus, Leader, Maximise Weapon, Murderous,
Passing Strike, Pistol, Quick Reactions, Riposte, Sea Legs, Slippery
Jonathan Roberts, First Mate C4/Q3/P75 Fearless, One Leg, Pistol, Quick Reactions, Sea Legs, Second in Command, Steady Under Fire, Strong Thomas ‘Redbeard’ Crowe C3/Q4/P52 Drunkard, Main-gauche (Hook), Pistol, Sea Legs, Sword
Philip Morton,Gunner C3/Q4/P50 Double Pistols, Pistol, Sea Legs, Sword
John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham C3/Q4/P46 Pistol, Sea Legs, Sword Anne Bonny C3/Q4/P65 Double Pistols, Parrot, Pistol, Sea Legs, Sword
Benjamin Jeffrey C3/Q4/P44 Main-gauche, Pistol, Sea Legs
Total Points: 500
Boldly, Captain Smythe marched forward, determined not to back down to his rival. His crew, however, hung back. They were not so keen about the idea of going toe to toe with Edward Teach!
Captain Teach, his one-legged quartermaster Jonathan Roberts, and crew-mate Benjamin Jeffery all ran forward to set up a defensive position behind an old fallen tree, overgrown with vegetation.
Benjamin Jeffrey believed he had a clear shot at Captain Smythe, and, despite the range, fired his pistol at the enemy. He missed.
Under fire, Smythe quickly realised that a direct approach toward the enemy’s well-defended position may not be wise. He took cover behind some nearby trees and decided a flanking attack would be necessary.
The captain was quickly joined by the burly cook, Sharky.
Two other crew members, Pierre le Grand and B.A., soon followed, moving to attack Blackbeard’s right flank.
But Blackbeard’s other crew mates were waiting in reserve. John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham and Anne Bonny both dashed out of the undergrowth and waved their weapons threateningly at B.A.
Unperturbed, B.A. charged Anne Bonny before she had time to draw her guns. They engaged in a fierce duel, but he gained the upper hand and drove her back.
Symthe used this opportunity to strike, stepping out of hiding and firing one of his pistols at Jack. Rackham leapt back to avoid the shot.
Smythe’s men pressed forward the assault. Sharky dashed out of the trees, stepped between his mate B.A. and Anne Bonny, ready to carve up some fresh meat with his giant cleaver.
This proved an unwise course of action. Bonny easily dodged his swing, kicked his wooden peg-leg out from under him and gutted him like a fish with her cutlass.
Then Pierre Le Grand leapt into the fray – frantically whirling his spiked club and dagger at Calico Jack.
Meanwhile, Old Man Hook thought it might be a good plan to assault Blackbeard’s left flank at the same time. He cautiously moved forward and took cover behind a bush. His shipmates, however, did not seem too enthused about getting into this fight and lagged behind once more.
Meanwhile, another of Blackbeard’s men, Philip Morton, joined the assault on the right flank. He fired his pistol at B.A., missed, and was subsequently shot to the ground by Captain Smythe himself. The wound, however, was not fatal.
Anne Bonny, having retreated to a safe position, now fired a pistol at B.A. The shot went right through his skull, killing him instantly, as Philip Morton climbed back to his feet.
Furious at the loss of his crewmen in so short a time, with both his pistols now empty, Captain Smythe drew his sword and charged at Morton. Normally an expert swordsman, Smythe must have been blinded by rage, for Morton parried him easily and dealt him a heavy blow in return. Smythe, seeing his error, counter-parried this at the last possible second, avoiding embarrassment and perhaps even a deadly wound.
Concerned for his personal safety in the proximity of Cutthroat’s Smythe’s sword, Benjamin Jeffrey decided to abandon the defensive position at the fallen tree and find another member of Smythe’s crew to pick a fight with.
He noticed Old Man Hook hiding behind the bush and, having reloaded his pistol already, he fired, missing once again.
Meanwhile, with no targets advancing down the centre line, the bloodthirsty Blackbeard was growing impatient. He stepped away from the fallen tree and fired a shot at Captain Smythe, not caring that Philip Morton was standing directly in the way. Needless to say, he hit his own crew mate in the back, knocking him down a second time.
With Blackbeard now shooting at his own men with reckless abandon, Jonathan Roberts, the quartermaster, wisely decided to follow Benjaman Jeffrey’s example and crept away from the fallen tree to seek a safer position.
Surprise! Quick as a flash, Cutthroat Smythe slipped away from Philip Morton (now writhing on the ground), dashed around the fallen tree and leapt at Roberts before he could get away. But Roberts, even with one leg, was not to be trifled with. He caught Smythe’s blade on his crutch and clobbered him hard in return with his pistol-butt, sending him reeling backwards.
Meanwhile, on the other flank, Old Man Hook returned fire on Benjamin Jeffrey. Unlike the latter, Old Man Hook did not miss his mark. Jeffrey was knocked to the ground.
Blackbeard, meanwhile, without a single thought for the well being of poor Mr. Morton, and having reloaded his first pistol, fired both of them simultaneously at Pierre Le Grand. Unfortunately, Le Grand was busy fighting Calico Jack at the time and Teach’s guns were just as indiscriminate as before. Both shots hit Calico Jack instead, killing him instantly!
Anne Bonny then fired at Pierre Le Grand, knocking him to the ground.
Meanwhile, Old Man Hook raced up to the fallen Benjamin Jeffrey and fell upon him, ripping and tearing with sword and hook. Jeffrey fought for his life with axe and knife, but the Old Man prevailed. After a brief and bloody struggle, Benjamin rose no more.
Back at the fallen tree, Jonathan Roberts, having hit Captain Smythe over the head with his pistol, followed up by firing at him. The shot went wide, so he hurried away to find a safe place to reload.
Smythe had intended to give chase to Roberts, but then he noticed he now had an open path to his nemesis, Teach himself, who was busy reloading his pistols. Smythe readied his sword and prepared to charge.
Boom! Blackbeard was too quick. He spun around and fired off a pistol at Smythe, who was knocked flat on his back by the impact.
Anne Bonny wasted no time; she sprinted over and ran Smythe through with her cutlass, ending his quest for the treasure, and his pirating career, for good. Despite the sudden loss of their leader, only one of Smythe’s crew fled the scene: 'Big’ John, dashing off back into the jungle. The rest of them stood their ground.
With the immediate threat neutralised, Jonathan Roberts returned to his defensive position at the fallen tree, where was able to reload in safety.
Meanwhile, Pierre Le Grand and Philip Morton, both back on their feet after being shot, engaged in furious combat.
It was then that Akira Mifune, one of Smythe’s remaining crew, crept forward, tentatively. He knew he ought to help his mate, Pierre Le Grand, but he lacked resolve.
Another of Smythe’s men, Curly, seemed to have more courage. He rushed straight forward and fired a shot at Anne Bony. Unfortunately for him, he missed.
Blackbeard was keen to teach this whelp a lesson. He holstered his pistols and drew his dirk, rushing at Curly. Curly lost whatever courage he had summoned earlier; few men have come face to face with Blackbeard in combat and lived to tell the tale. Terrified, Curly dropped his weapons and ran for his life into the jungle, abandoning his crew mates.
With Curly gone, Smythe’s crew were down to three – less than 50% of their starting number. The survivor’s morale quickly plummeted. Old Man Hook fled back into the jungle. Pierre Le Grande tried to escape but was cut down and killed by Philip Morton. Akira Mifune, now alone, also turned and ran as fast as he could away from the scene.
Jonathan Roberts took a carefully aimed shot with his pistol and fired. Direct hit. Akira dropped dead. Blackbeard’s crew had won.
With Smythe dead and the survivors of his crew scattered, Blackbeard is now free to pursue the prize of Captain Morgan himself. He’s lost two of his six-man crew – one by his own hand – but this concerns him not. Leaving the dead for the wild animals, he gathers his remaining crew and sets off on the trail…