Sunday 6 January 2019

Trouble on Mango Island - a post Christmas entertainment

I gave the background to this 18th Century treasure hunting game in my  previous post.

If anyone wants to try their own variation of my game I have put all you need in the Download side bar - Pirate Game. Here is a link: Mango island Pirate game briefs, maps and rules. Of course it could lend itself with adaptations to any period; terrain and clues are as variable as your resources and imagination.

Just for fun here is one of the maps of the area. I gave a  separate one to each player showing their start positions, subject to random dice rolls within the specified base line and then multiple dice in inches to get on the table in their vessels, one large and one small each. To keep things manageable I restricted each to no more than three active groups; they could have more, such as guarding boats, but they could not move.

This is the map for the Revenue Men. Trelawney's Treasure Seekers used the same baseline. The Eastern European Pirate Coalition had a slightly larger mutual area in North Mango Bay.
As mentioned in the previous post this was a game for two of my grown-up children and their partners and so I created the impression of competition between each pair but harmony within. Whereas one of each pair had a separate objective beyond just getting treasure that was initially unknown to their partner......but these are all essentially 18th century adventurers out for their own ends!

Jon and Katie had The Revenue Men and Trelawney's Treasure seekers respectively. Jon's regular British troops and Government Agents were seeking treasure from a clue obtained from a prisoner. Katie was both Squire Trelawney and his sidekick "Lady" Katherine; the Squire was following clues to treasure after being deserted by a mutinous crew in "Treasure Island" fashion, whereas Katherine was a naturalist seeking samples of the rare Mango Mushroom and the Sacred Orchid to increase her scientific credibility with The Royal Society and Kew Gardens (worth Victory Points - VPs). Both groups had one character who could speak the native Mango language (subject to dice roll to be understood).

Lucy and Rossen controlled the Eastern European/Russian Pirate Coalition and were classic pirates, ruthless and seeking treasure for enrichment from the easy pickings of Mangoland. However, a small streak of compassion had led Rakovsky to lead his band to Mango Bay as he had heard that his old pirate friend, Nikolai Durov, was in trouble and last seen in that area. He would score Victory Points by rescuing Durov. By contrast Luskaya had fallen foul of Durov in the past and sworn to kill him, (worth VPs) though she did not know of Rakovsky's friendship with him.
Jon, Katie and Rossen soon after the start. Lucy is out of shot
Beyond all this intrigue the buried treasure (up to 100 VPs worth) was hidden beneath the Sacred Orchid on The Isle of Wrecks and I had pre-arranged a trail of about 5 or 6 cryptic clues for each of the four groups. There was some flexibility for me in the system, and towards the end the clues would overlap until they would all eventually learn of the whereabouts of the treasure and weigh up if that was more important than their specific objectives.

The game needs a Games Master to run the clues and also a few seasonal special "treats" which will become obvious in the narrative, and today I also controlled the natives but there is a Native Briefing if you have a fifth player. Most of the natives were generated by random dice (Similar to the Mr Babbage system in the "Men who would be Kings" rules), and many were recyclable if I wished once they were killed or wounded. However, the natives can be a game changer if pressed too hard so I resolved to make them break off from contact if they looked like spoiling anyone's day (but it came close once or twice!)

I did not take enough pictures to record every salient point but I hope the following gives sufficient flavour of how it all panned out. (click to enlarge)

A Revenue barge heads straight into South Bay while behind them Trelawney's group
 seek their first clue in a cave on the headland while others climb the slope to the breastworks
A landing by the rowing boat triggered natives in the jungle. Most of them were
musketmen but were shot down by more accurate fire from Trelawney's
Trelawney, Katherine and William the linguist all stick together searching for
another clue in the Plantation Battery.......
.............but they've disturbed a group of spearmen in the plantation, who attack.
Poor William tried to reason with the natives but the die roll was too poor for
them to understand and he got a spear wound and Trelawney was killed. However,  
the pistols and muskets were sufficient to see them off. Lady Katherine
 assumed leadership and led the party to find a clue in the Battery, pointing 
them to Fungus Head. That fitted in nicely with her nature quest.
In North Bay Luskaya's and Rakovsky's crews were getting in each other's way due to
the random deployment dice and different perceptions on what clues to go for.
Rakovsky's telescope had identified the hulk of the "Kristina" and expected Durov to
 be there, so he sent his large barge to land nearby and was about to disembark when four
 natives charged from the jungle edge. Grape shot from the prow cannon got rid of two of
them but the others charged home killing one of the crew and losing one before the other ran off.
Rakovsky and some of his men boarded the "Kristina" but there was no one there and
a note was pinned to the cabin door saying the following:
If I’m not home then try my beach house - the cave just on the sand East of the Isle of Wrecks  

So Rakovsky in his barge set off towards the sandy bar connecting the Isle of Wrecks to the main headland hoping to find Durov.
Luskaya tried to land her barge just beyond him while watching the small boat's crew disembark to head  towards the Great Battery. She knew her men were tasked with climbing to the flag on the hilltop which bore a shield emblem as that was where her clue was leading,.....but what of Rakovsky's men?
There is no photograph but Rakovsky had been surprised by two natives in a small canoe appearing out of the sea mist. They'd gunned down the natives and commandeered the boat to get three men to shore. At this point I thought I'd sow a bit of discord and so both small pirate groups "discovered" a clue directing them to look inside the Great Battery.........Luskaya's men were not put off from their quest and proceeded uphill. But Rakovsky's suddenly found themselves under fire from the Trading post/Stables and took shelter behind the breastworks.

And what of the fourth participant in this game?

The clue obtained by The Revenue Men had involved the cutter "L'Esprit Perdu"
and Captain Chumley-Smythe had realised this lay, apparently abandoned, in one corner
 of South Bay. Jon forced his barge there in a straight line but unfortunately got a
succession of poor movement cards and it took an age to get to the beach.
Hitting the beach they split in two as Goosey Gander and her small flock had arrived there at the same time. Braving the raucous honking of Goosey Sergeant Baxter found the next clue and his men collected the poultry for Christmas Dinner! Chumley-Smythe had gone to the "Esprit Perdu" and removed the fallen sail, revealing a dead officer. In his pockets was the clue they had originally been seeking. Between these two clues Jon gleaned that the giant mushrooms were a link towards the treasure hoard under the orchid.
Meanwhile, fortuitously, he had sent three men to investigate the shore near the giant mushrooms.
They found themselves attacked by some spearmen, and the Government Agent, Sir Bulkilly Billt,
 was killed and one wounded before beating off the warriors with musket and bayonet.
With all the Revenue Men now proceeding to Fungus Head a glance across the table revealed elements of all crews doing a similar thing.  Luskaya's two Looters had got to the flagpole and dug frantically, but found no clues (chronically bad dice) so headed back to the Great battery where they found their clue suggesting that the cave on the beach by Wreck Island would be a good place to look. With the willing suspension of disbelief allowable in party games this information was automatically transmitted to the main boat in the Bay!

Trelawney's remaining men now consolidated in the two boats heading to
Fungus Head and Wreck Island
Luskaya, with most of her crew,  just keeps ahead of Rakovsky,
both now intent on reaching the cave on the beach. In the distance, one of
Rakovsky's men is investigating an erroneous clue in the area of the felled timber
I had envisioned at the start that Rakovsky's might get too easy a game with the "Kristina" leading them to the cave so, apart from the native attacks which were random, I tried to split Rossen's crew with bogus errands. That worked well so that by now he only had 4 figures to hand near the objective. Three others, one wounded, felt pinned down at the Great Battery until they saw a clown glove puppet being waved outside the Trading Post window!  This was soon followed by the hermit, Santa Gunn, emerging from the building. Suddenly their recently found clue made sense and they rushed up to Santa asking "May we see your clown?" To which he gave them another clue to send them back to Fungus Head too. At this point I found out that Rossen was not only living up to the character given to Rakovsky (ruthless pirate) but, as a newcomer to my Christmas games, he thought booty could be obtained anywhere and not just from my pre-arranged VPs. So his men slaughtered poor Santa and looted his sack, only coming away with some low-value toys made by local native women........

Santa Gunn emerges from the Trading Post
As I had hoped, by now all the players had been suitably distracted around the table and were converging,  for different reasons, on objectives in the general area of Fungus Head and the sandy "bridge" to the rock surrounded Isle of Wrecks. It now became critical for the players to realise that
the island was not really approachable by boat (hence the name!) as it was surrounded on the three seaward sides by raging waters hitting the rocks. Only on the landward side the water was calmer and shallower, so the island could be accessed by foot on its Eastern shore.

Ruthless Rakovsky contemplates his next move..........

Things now began to move faster than I could point my camera. The next sequence follows the Luskaya Looters and Rakovsky's Raiders. One of Luskaya's men got to the cave entrance and spied shadows deep within (but not good enough dice roll to detect what it was). He called Luskaya over who summoned the shadow but without answer. Then she specified to me that she wanted to shoot but not aim to hit. That she did and got the response "don't shoot!". Apart from spreading out from the boat that was her move over and Rakovsky was next. He was expecting to find Durov within the cave and jostled Luskaya out of the way. Durov recognised him and, once pleasantries were exchanged, gave Rakovsky the final clue - that the treasure hoard was buried under the Sacred Orchid and, though the natives would guard it from thieves, they revered it too much to go very close to it. Durov begged to be rescued.

According to my plan Luskaya was meant to kill Durov and Rakosky try to save him, so that meant all three should be fighting!  Instead Lucy and Rossen took off out of the wargames room to confer in private!   A few minutes later they returned and the figure of a wounded Durov emerged from the cave being escorted by some of Rakovsky's men towards his boats. I was flabbergasted that Luskaya was prepared to let this happen, but it turned out that the two had swapped all available information and agreed to cooperate and split the treasure.

While this was going on the Nasty Natives' initiative card came up and some hunky savages popped up from the jungle on Wreck Isle and rushed to attack the now-cooperating pirates

A lot is happening here! Luskaya's crew are spreading out in the foreground ready to protect Rakovsky from the approaching Revenue men and Trelawney's band. But yours truly has activated one of the GM's Treats - Wild Rover the old sea dog, who charged the Looter nearest to the Giant Mushrooms, seized his coat and would not let go. In fact Rover received a gunshot wound, reducing his hand-to-hand power, and the tussle continued. Beyond them the natives are fighting Luskaya (in red) Rakovsky and his men.  Durov was lucky to escape their clutches and made it to the boat where Rakovsky's "healer" (Yes, I'm addicted to "Outlander" too!) Valeriya, was waiting to fix his wound.
Valeriya got the healing dice roll and Rakovsky's VPs just doubled. A Raider began to row Durov to the ship and safety.
The natives continued to fight whoever was to hand but Rakovsky, Little Ivan and Valeriya got past them onto the island and were trying to reach the Sacred Orchid while the remaining natives were distracted by the approach of Katherine's men.....
.....but those natives came back, and joined by the survivors of the first group, surrounded Rakovsky and things looked bad for him. Meanwhile Luskaya was watching developments from the cave mouth and Wild Rover fought two rounds with Luskaya's men before being killed by a stray round shot. The first of the Trelawney/Katherine men can be seen at left.
The two groups ostensibly representing British interests were now well and truly collaborating. The small Revenue boat came ashore amidst the rocks of Wreck Isle and was in imminent risk of attack by natives. Katherine and some of her group had disembarked and she now had to work out how to get both natural objects for her Finds Bag. The British redcoats were halted from bashing bits off the Giant Mushrooms when we realised she had a pruning knife with which a good botanical sample could be obtained worth 10 VPs. She was the only one with the knowledge to do that job.
 At this point one of those fun things happened that Games Masters love when the dice run in just such a way you can think on your feet and make the game flow better. Jon, with the Revenue Men had resigned himself mostly to a support position for Katie's plant gatherers and was popping away at anything that moved. He was firing cannon balls from the barge in the direction of natives and pirates on Wreck Island but one overshot and the die roll indicated it had sliced through the Sacred Orchid, toppling it to the ground!  The natives, immediately distracted from their warlike pursuits in its defence, were awe-struck by this omen into inactivity. Rakovsky had  been  digging for treasure and he quickly unearthed a sack worth 5 points and a chest worth 10 VPs. There appeared to be more in the hole but before it could be extracted William Peckover and pals had come up with a determined look on his face.

William Peckover bargains with the natives
 William was near enough to the Native leader not to be misunderstood this time and he persuaded the natives that only he had the expertise to "mend" the Orchid by taking it to KIng Georgey and bring it back safely to them (sickly smile).  But not content with that, with the natives in their power Trelawney's men had the drop on Rakovsky and his pirates, stripped to the waist digging out treasure, and magnanimously allowed them to take the 5VP sack and leave the 10VP chest and get out.

Jon puts his Revenue Men firing line in place
 Luskaya's band was now in a heated exchange of musket, swivel gun, pistol and blunderbuss fire with the Revenue men who had formed a firing line behind a large rock. At one point, the Looter Hawkovich was killed and his hawk, let loose, instinctively headed for the nearest Revenue musketeer and nearly tore his head off! (1 on his saving roll).

Katherine struggles to get her Mushroom sample back to the boat
Redcoats fire into the disorganised-looking Russian pirate mob
Above and below: the Trelawney/Lady Katherine group decide not to push their
 luck by outstaying their welcome

Rakovsky and his mates had beat a hasty retreat from Wreck Island with their sack of jewels while Luskaya held off the Revenue Men. That left William staring into a hole which probably contained more treasure, but the surrounding natives were murmuring menacingly and investigation of the truncated orchid deemed it "good enough for Government work" - in this case transplanting in Kew Gardens. A wounded Katherine was struggling back to a boat with her mushroom sample too.

Both pirate bands consolidate at their boats before making a hasty retreat
This cannon had given useful covering fire while Katherine recovered the mushroom
  By this time we had played from about 2 pm, broke off for evening meal, recommenced and it was about 7.30 pm and the point was reached where all agreed that honour was as satisfied as it was likely to be and we called the game to tot up the points.

Nikolai Durov is rowed away to safety and gains Rakovsky 10 VPs

Katie - 10 points for Mushroom, 10 points for Orchid, 5 points of the treasure shared with Jon = 25 VPs (Squire Trelawney was killed and Lady Katherine wounded and William Peckover the linguist was wounded!))
Rossen - 10 points for recovery and healing of Nikolai Durov, 2.5 points of the treasure shared with Lucy = 12.5 VPs
Jon - 5 points of the treasure shared with Katie. Sir Bulkily Billt (Government Agent) killed. Poultry for supper.
Lucy - 2.5 points of the treasure shared with Rossen. Now friends with Durov?

Chris - Santa Gunn killed by Rakovsky's men, Goosey Gander - gone for the Revenue Men's pot. Wild Rover Dog - killed by a stray roundshot from Revenue men's cannon.
Native Musketeers - all killed
Native Spearmen - killed or fled into the jungle
Native Guardians of the orchid - duped by Gunner Peckover's quick thinking and linguistic skills into giving up their sacred orchid (after it was felled by another Revenue rounshot)

In my opinion it worked out brilliantly, worth every minute of the considerable preparation time. My thanks to the youngsters for all competing in such a fun spirit and humouring me yet again.
Readers - don't forget all the background info is available as PDFs in the Pirate Download at right if you want it.

Historical and Social Notes:
It wasn't till I was quite old that I realised that I owe a lot of my modelling skills and love of miniature worlds to my late Mother, Mary Gregg. As a kid, in the post-war years of shortages, she was often making me Red Indian villages for my toy soldiers, cowboys and indians using household stuff and natural bits from the garden and I took it for granted. In later life she also loved making dolls and occasionally I would give her advice on techniques for scenic settings. When she died my sisters suggested I might like some of the imitation flowers, plants and grass she used as backdrops. Most of it is too big for me but it got put in a bag and stored and gave me the inspiration for the Giant Mushrooms and the Sacred Orchid in this game. I'd like to think she would be very happy that we are using her stuff to amuse some of her grandchildren, even though they are grown up now!

Now, how to make them useful in the game? Two separate historical thoughts gave me the clues.

Marianne North was a Victorian artist who travelled the world and painted landscapes and close-ups of exotic plants which are exhibited at Kew Gardens in the days before useful photographic records
So here was a practical precedent and I could make an interesting role for one of my young lady players.

But there is more, going back to my period of the third quarter of the 18th Century. Joseph Banks was a noted naturalist and sailed with Captain James Cook on Endeavour on his 1768-71 expedition to the South Pacific and was celebrated by The Royal Society and advised George III on Kew Gardens
Which enabled me to have a legitimate reason, in period, for exotic plant samples to be valued as "treasure".  And that led to yet another family connection.

One William Peckover, born 1748 at Aynho, Northamptonshire, was also on the Endeavour as a young Gunner. Unusually for a seaman he was educated and was used by Banks to assist in gathering and recording botanical samples. Though Banks did not, Peckover sailed on all Cook's further voyages of discovery and by the late 1780s was obviously well enough thought of to be given charge of negotiations with the natives over the breadfruit being collected by HMS Bounty. He was on the ship during the infamous Mutiny of 1789. He was also a linguist. By then he was a Warrant Officer Gunner. He was one of the 19 loyal crew in Captain Bligh's open boat which sailed 3,500 miles to safety, and then got back to England. This is considered one of the most amazing feats of navigation and endurance in British Naval history.  I'm particularly interested in him because he was an ancestor of my wife, Jane, daughter of Muriel Bradley, nee Peckover, of Cropredy, Oxfordshire

And as for the name Rakovsky - well Christian Rakovsky was a famous Bulgarian 20th Century Revolutionary,  and Rossen chose this for his pirate's name as he is of Bulgarian heritage himself.
However, there is no intended connection to this Rakovsky or his family, so any resemblance is entirely accidental and please don't write me any angry comments.

Not only a fun game but also a bit of pseudo family history embodied in a game. I hope you enjoyed it.