Friday, December 4, 2020

Four get lost in the Asturias

Kinch doing some of his best work

I played an RPG last week, which was a surprise.  I played with one old pal (Mad Padre, who joined late, but will no doubt be taking an active part later) and three new friends from Twitter.  To be honest, if it wasn't for a campaign of constant harassment on the part of Marcus Cribb - it probably wouldn't have happened. 

Weirdly, just having some one keep at me helped things immeasurably because it meant that rather than overthinking things and worrying, we just did it.  The result was a short, lively game played over Google that was very enjoyable and that whizzed by.  We packed a lot of stuff into two hours. 

Proof, if proof were needed, that I do my best work under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat. 


The players are all subalterns in the British army being shipped to Wellington's army in Portugal in January 1810.   They are being transported aboard the HMS Alacrity, a frigate under the command of Captain Stern. 

The HMS Alacrity suffered badly in a storm and was blown badly off course.  Her her water casks got lose in the hold, being badly damaged in the process.  Captain Stern was obliged to put into the nearest land, the French occupied coast of northern Spain. 

Dramatis Personae

Captain Stern

Captain Stern

A distant authority figure who can never be pleased.   Captain Stern is the commander of the HMS Alacrity, a frigate which came to grief in a storm and which had to venture ashore looking for water, somewhere in the Asturias. 

Viewing the players are landsmen, soulless creatures little better than the beasts of the field, Stern took the opportunity to put them ashore and send them off to collect some intelligence from the farmhouse overlooking the bay.  Meanwhile, his sailors took on the proper jobs of repairing casks, finding fresh water and trying to find supplies. 

Midshipman Evans

Midshipman Evans and his party put the players ashore and then settled down to proper work.  He reiterated the Captain's instructions (which the players promptly forgot) that they were to get up to the farmhouse, find out exactly where they were (which they also forgot to do) and find out what the French presence in the area was (if any) and what the state of the country was. 

They were put ashore at 0930 and were to be back by 1230.  If they heard three guns fire, they were to hightail it back to the beach as fast as their feet could carry them.  Evans was absolutely explicit on this point. 

Some farmhouses are further away than they appear. 

But who were the plucky lads sent up to explore strange new bits of Spain, to seek out new friends and allies against the French and to speak English slowly and loudly where no Briton had spoken it before?

They were; 

Ensign Molloy (Right) & Ensign Peterson (Left)

Ensign Molloy

Twenty one year old Ensign Molloy of the 86th is the senior man in the party. He was born to rich landed gentry somewhere in South County Dublin. A handsome youth with polished manners and fine command of French, he is a persuasive speaker and is no doubt putting in a few years in uniform before being pack off to parliament.

Carrying: Sabre, Pistol & Purse of Gold.

Ensign Peterson (played by the Mad Padre)

Seventeen year old Ensign Peterson of the 18th Royal Irish The second eldest son of landed (but not titled) gentry somewhere in Britain or Ireland (we haven't worked out where yet). A pimply young creature, he has the benefits of a classical education and also, crucially, speaks Spanish.

Carrying: Sabre, Fancy Pocket Watch, Caesars Gallic Wars.

Peterson and Molloy are accompanied by two men of the 18th whose names escape me. 

Ensign Egan and CSM O'Brien

Ensign Egan (played by Tom)

Twenty year old the Honourable Ensign Egan of the 18th Royal Irish. The youngest son of the Lord Butler, First Marquess of Ormonde - there are some doubts as to his legitimacy, which might explain why he ended up in the line rather than gracing the ranks of a more fashionable regiment. A youth of average mien, he is a gifted fencer and rather good at sneaking around.  

His enthusiasm for cold steel and ruthless streak have yet to find full expression, but he is already being referred to as "Slasher" Egan around the mess. One can only hope that CSM O'Brien can keep him on the straight and narrow.

Carrying: Sabre, Spyglass, Compass.


Twenty year old the 2LT Cribb of the 95th Rifles (date of commission equal to your date of birth). You are the middle son of a country clergyman from deepest darkest Kent. A youth of average mien, he is a good shot and scandalises decent opinion by carrying a rifle himself and swanning about in a fancy pelisse. He is a good cross country runner. He is accompanied by his servant and minder, Rifleman Harris, who is not finding this the cushy number he was expecting.

Carrying: Rifle, Sabre, Writing Materials. 

So how did it go? 

There was a quick comparing of commission dates (I used the players birth dates) and it was determined that young Molloy was the senior officer.  He led the party ashore, was given a brief lecture by Midshipman Evans, which he promptly ignored, then had a brief break to get their land legs and then set off inland. 

Looking at the approach to the  farmhouse, the party had two routes - a more direct route which lacked cover, but would be faster and a second more circuitous route which had more cover.   Molloy plumped for the second and soon the lads were scrambling up the escarpment.   

Once they got to the lip of the cliff, Cribb and Harris slithered forward and had a look. 

They saw a farmhouse complex surrounded by hedges and with a fountain in the middle.  They snuck forward and realised that the closest building seemed to be a kitchen and servants quarters.  Ensign Egan told off CSM O'Brien and two men to hunker down by the entrance to the court yard and keep sketch. 

Thankfully this lady was not permanently harmed by her ordeal

Cribb and Egan dived over the window sill and heroically subdued the cook who was boiling a large cauldron of water.  They tied and gagged her, without questioning her, and then everybody hid in the building.  A particularly grumpy looking French squaddie appeared outside the  second house and started smoking.  Meanwhile there were anguished screams coming from the other house.  

Now 15% more dastardly

There was a quick conference and the boys decided that the dastardly French were clearly torturing someone.  This impression was only copper fastened when a second French squaddie appeared and started being heartily sick outside the second building. 

Cribb and Harris took up position overlooking the court yard, while Egan and Molloy waited to rush the French sentries.  The Riflemen fired and while Harris dropped his man, Cribb's piece flashed in the pan.  The surviving French stared agog as Egan and Molloy leaped from cover screaming like maniacs. 
Of course, CSM O'Brien and the boys had fixed bayonets and were charging across the yard too. 

Molloy shot at the sentry with his pistol, winging him, but the man dropped his firelock and managed to run back inside.  The lads chased him through the front door, hard on his heels, so that he kept going until he dived out the back.  Meanwhile more howls and screams echoed through the farmhouse. 

Cribb damning his rifle as he ran, took Harris around the corner to cut the fleeing Frenchman off and ran straight into this. 

The paths of glory...

A Spanish surgeon doing his best to get the ball out of a French Colonel's back.  The surgeon was too busy to bother with what was happening, while the orderlies were too shocked.  The few French infantrymen got themselves together.  Young Cribb pointed his rifle at the closest one, who returned the favour and then both men fired. 

Only to roll double ones!  Both men flashed in the pan, while Harris sent a ball through the other French sentry that was showing fight. 

Do you know who wouldn't have messed up his shot twice in a row? Just saying...

Cribb charged his man, who promptly surrendered. 

Molloy used his excellent French to call on the others to surrender and they soon saw that discretion was the better part of valour.  The bag included three French infantrymen, the colonel and a staff lieutenant named Le Marchant. 

Don Sanchez and his assistant, Manuel

A quick conversation with Don Sanchez through an interpreter, confirmed that moving the Colonel would kill him, so they decided to leave him, but they rounded up the rest of the prisoners.  Le Marchant offered Ensign Molloy his sword, but it was politely returned in exchange for his parole.  It was at this point that CSM O'Brien politely but firmly reminded the young gentlemen, who were a bit giddy with victory, that time was a wasting. 

Ensign Molly is very happy

The lads decided to head back to the ship as quickly as they could, Ensign Egan was complaining that the prisoners were slowing them down.

They moved down the escarpment and made their way onto the beach only to discover that despite the fact that they were fifteen minutes early...the ship was gone. 

And there was no sign of it or any of the rest of the shore party. 

I called the game over there as it was a school night.  I am cautiously optimistic that we might get another session in before Christmas, but we shall see.