My gaming group got together to play test another classic hex and counter game I converted for play with 25 mm miniatures. This time, Howard Barasch’s Goblin! A Dwarfstar game, which I guess was a division of Heritage USA (or they purchased or sold the rights at some time). Here it is on Gameboard Geek:
It is now a free downloadable game: http://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_goblin.html
I have always wanted to design a quick and dirty goblin raiding game, and this hex and counter version gave me an excellent head start in the design. I was able to maintain the combat and morale system and I think it works great. Major tweeks were necessary in order to convert it to a double blind area movement game. By adding scouts, supply trains, and random events, I think it has the perfect mix of luck, skill, and intuition. The double blind feature makes up for the comparatively small number of areas you can move to vs. the large number of hexes on the original map. Combat is now within the areas, which is always a complication when the original version had combat from hex to hex.
In order to maximize the chaos, the Goblin Chief has a battle board with magnetic unit counters, in addition to his allotment of miniatures. He also has “task force” type magnetic markers so all he needs on the battle board are units for his own scouts, wagon trains, and leaders (the leader’s units are on each task force plate)
Of course, this could just as easily been done using a computer screen or tablet, but I am old school and have no tablet. So I’d take the Goblin’s magnetic map with his units stuck on them into the 25 mm game room to check out what the Goblin scouts would see and how the hidden movement was working out. This is how we kept the game secret, and kept it safe.
With the players’ aids I made, we were able to maintain the double blind feature by isolating only the Goblin King (Steve) in another room. His chief minion (Andy) ran the tactical battles for him, and reported back only what we he was allowed to know (what their troops could actually see and not the entire game board).
The human generals were randomly started in 3 of the 5 towns and 1 general started in the keep. The Goblin generals entered the game from one of the caves or the great goblin gate. The Goblin King could choose to either start on board, or he could get double moves offboard (strategic movement, assuming Goblins use strategy). If he were to start offboard, he could not be detected by enemy scouts until he entered the playing area, but once he were to do that, he could not use strategic movement again.
In this minis version, you win by victory point accumulation, which is accomplished by taking towns, raising them, stealing resources (which are generated throughout) or by killing enemy units or leaders. The hex and counter version did not have the resources.
And now to the action…
A large Goblin warband moved straight away to assault the Swamptown. They did this without the benefit of a scouting report; somewhat dangerous, but these were good Goblin troops with a good leader, and the downside would be more of a tactical setback than a major loss. In this game, you don’t tend to lose many high quality troops unless you are very unlucky; they tend to retreat instead.
The first battle of Swamptowne was a draw as one of the Baron’s Generals had a significant force encamped within, so the Goblins were unable to take the town. The Goblins were forced to retreat but were undaunted. Of course the Human scouts knew where these troops were, and quickly sent for reinforcements from the Keep, where the permanent valley garrison were deployed.
The Humans won the initiative on the next turn and the Garrison of Swamptowne along with the Baron’s Legions from the Keep were able to conduct a pincer movement on the hapless Goblins trapped in the middle. Although they lost the advantage from the Swamptown river since they were flanked, they did manage to beat a hasty retreat without loss. Another victory for the humans, but not the decisive victory they were hoping for. Still, as long as they hold the Goblins at bay, one could assume that they are busy packing off the season’s harvest to the Human lands to the East.
Turn 5 was to see the Goblins win the initiative, and that, along with a lucky random event allowed them to send in a vast force to attempt the capture of Swamptowne again. It was really quite a one sided battle, as the human Regulars had left the town for their pincer movement the preceding turn. The Goblins may have even been disappointed that there were not a couple of regular fighting units in the town which was ripe for the taking, instead it was only defended by the local militia (townspeople who never leave) since the Baron’s forces had just left. The humans rolled as well as they could in their missile phase, actually causing a Goblin unit to route. That unit disintegrated, becoming the only loss in the first 5 turns. The Goblins then rolled as poorly as they could have, and because the militia was in a town, they actually lost the battle and were unable to capture it. I can tell you many a ballad and poem would be written about the heroic defense of the townspeople in this Second Battle of Swamptowne (or Swamptowne Creek, as the Goblins would call it). This amazing turn of events led the Goblin’s tactical commander to rant and rave about the rules so much that his defeat was greatly relished by the Gamemaster as well as the lucky Humans.
But throughout this whole first phase of the game, the Goblin King himself was nowhere to be found. What happed to their Glorious Leader? Until a scout or troop contacts the Evil King, the Baron and his personal household troops will not enter the Valley. Tricksy. Very Tricksy indeed, my precious.
More to follow…