Sharke's Wagon by Simon Evans

Issue: 26
System: Flintloque
Publisher: Alternative Armies

Sharke's Wagon
by Simon Evans

Sergeant Montage shifted his musket slightly, seating it more comfortably in the crook of his right arm as he trudged along beside the supply wagon. It was a pleasantly cool day, excellent marching weather, and Montage was a seasoned enough campaigner to appreciate the fact. He just wished he was somewhere else. He was a Voltigeur, an elite light infantry Elf, not a baggage guard, and it rankled that he and his section had been reduced to nursemaiding supplies way behind the front lines. Sure, it had to be done, but why couldn't it be done by some other bugger?

He looked around him at the rest of the section, strung out in two files; either side of the wagon. Without being aware he was doing it, he checked their tactical spacing, their alertness, the way they were carrying their muskets. He noticed one of the recent replacements, Escargot, had slung his musket over his shoulder. Montage called over to him, "Oi, Escargot, get that weapon in your hands you waster. If the sling was meant to be used you'd get an instruction book for it". Several of the older members of the section grinned, and Escargot unslung his musket, muttering an apology. "Don't apologise lad, just don't make the mistake again" his Sergeant replied. Nothing like a spell behind the lines to make you drop your guard mused Montage, spitting into the verge. Still, the youngster was shaping up well. If he survived the next few battles he'd the makings of a good soldier.

"'Ere Sarge". A voice interrupted his reverie, brought him back to the task in hand. It was Fusilier Eclair, ex-poacher and the section's champion forager. He had stopped and was crouched by the side of the road, looking at something, Montage strode over. "What have you got?" Eclair picked the screw of paper up and passed it to him. "It's a cartridge, but look at it. If that's not Orc issue you can cut my legs off and call me stunty". Montage examined the cartridge, then tore it and tipped the powder and bullet into his calloused palm, "I think you're right Eclair, this powder's very fine, like a rifle cartridge". They looked at each other. Montage raised his voice to the rest of the Elves. "Listen up. There could be an Orc raiding party nearby, so wake up and keep your eyes and ears peeled, because if you don't some big ugly greenjacket'll do it for you". He returned to his place, easing the lock of his musket back to half-cock and scanning the woods to his front as he did so. Not like the uglies to be that careless he thought; overconfidence can be a killer.

Not a hundred yards up the road Lieutenant Sharke had watched and listened thinking the same thing. Instead of ten slightly drowsy and less than fully alert Elves he and his Orcs were now faced with ten wary and prepared Elves. He turned to Sergeant Harpy. "We'll pull back and set a new ambush a few miles ahead. Give 'em time to relax again". Harpy nodded and turned to pull the section out of their positions. "And Harpy", Sharke said quietly. "Soir?" replied the big Bog Orc.

"I want an ammunition count when we stop. Find out who's Iost a cartridge, because I want to have a little chat to him about fieldcraft." Harpy nodded grimly - Sharke's 'little chats' usually made their point in a painfully physical manner.

The section melted back into the trees. The dying time was postponed. For the time being...

The High Elves:

Your forces are a section of Voltigeurs from the 57e Regiment de Ligne whose nickname is 'Le Terrible', thanks to some particularly inspiring and heroic actions on the battlefield. Sadly, the 2e battalion is currently not very terrible at all; it's at well under half strength and suffering badly from an outbreak of dysentery. As a result it has been pulled out of the line and sent to the rear areas to recover, acting as security detatchments and baggage guards while it is away from the parent regiment.

lst Section, Voltigeur Company is commanded by Sergeant Montage, a professional soldier who is not happy at being relegated to what he considers non-combatant status. However, with recent warnings of Orc Rifle squads operating behind the lines he accepts the work may be necessary. He just doesn't have to like it. Montage is an Experienced Regular, armed with a musket and bayonet and a very bad temper. His second in command is the dependable if accident-prone Corporal Detente who is considered to be lucky by the rest of the section because he's been wounded so often. When asked why this is lucky, they will point out that he may have been wounded a lot, but he's never been dead. The Corporal is Average and carries a musket and bayonet. Of the other eight members of the section, three are Average and five Raw. They are all armed as Montage and Detente. The Corporal and one of the Raw Voltigeurs also have magical ability, with the following spells:

Corporal Detente - Open normal door immediately; Unblock normal weapon jam immediately
Fusilier Escargot - Unblock normal weapon jam immediately

Orders for Montage and his Elves are to escort a supply wagon from their camp out to a guard post on an important crossroads a days walk away. The wagon is carrying food, ammunition and wine - officially. Unofficially it is also carrying some valuable stolen jewellery which the wagoner is going to fence to one of the outpost NCOs. The wagoner is a civilian Elf who for game purposes should be considered as Raw Militia and is armed with a knife.

The Orcs:

They're doing what they do best - Lieutenant Sharke and his 'Boyz' are back, operating as a detatched section behind enemy lines. Sharke is enjoying himself; for once he's been given free rein to do what he likes, just as long as it involves, in the words of Major Wogan: "slitting up as many of those pointy-eared nancies as you can, lay your claws on". Orders to be inspired by indeed, and so far Sharke and his section have fulfilled them to the letter. The section is part of a much larger plan involving almost all the Rifle troops the Orcs possess, operating in a harassing and commerce-raiding role deep behind Elf lines. Teams range from full reinforced companies right down to individual sections like Sharke's. Their orders are simple; cause trouble and spread unease, much as Wogan's colourful instructions to Sharke For this scenario, Private Hagsmun has spotted a lone supply wagon escorted by a section of Elves while he is out foraging. On hearing the news Sharke decides that an ambush is in order. Not only is it a further chance to inflict damage on the Elves, but the wagon is most likely carrying proper food which will be a welcome food from living off the land. Sharke moves his Orcs out to get ahead of the wagon and set up a reception for it a couple of miles down the road. With luck they will be eating Elven rations in a few hours, not to mention Elves.

Lieutenant Sharke is an Experienced Elite and his details, and those of his section, are as per pages 20 and 21 of Flintloque. However it should be noted that Private Tunge is stone cold sober for this scenario, but if the wagon is captured he will automatically drink as much wine as he can and become subject to the alcohol modifiers noted for him in the rules. In addition, all the Orcs in the section should roll for temptation in line with the rules suggested in Orcs In The Hills 1, (and repeated in Ragnarok 24). For those who didn't buy a copy (why not?), Orcs have a 50% chance of being tempted by alcohol. Roll 2d10 and modify as follows:

Officer present-20%
NCO present-10%
Being shot at-15%
Enemy out of sight-15%

Modifiers are cumulative and feel free to add more. Results of a drinking bout range from the effects on Private Tunge all the way up to complete unconsciousness for d6 turns.

Terrain, Conditions and Set Up:

The board should be set up in a similar fashion to the sketch map - a gently winding road with plenty of low hillocks, hedges, walls and patches of woodland. Typical mixed farmland in fact, and good ambush country. There should be clear verges approximately 10-15cm wide at the side of the road for about half its length, and the road itself should be wide enough for the wagon and a file of Elves on each side. It is a fine day with good visibility, so no weather modifiers apply. The wagon should start at one end of the board and simply proceed up the road and at some point, chosen by the player representing Lieutenant Sharke, it will be ambushed. It is up to the Elf player how he deploys his section, but none of them should be further than 30cm from the wagon and any detached figures must be at least in pairs.

Additional Rules:

Flintloque doesn't have specific ambush rules, so consider the following:

Ambushes must be executed at a range of 20cm or less for the ambusher to gain the benefits of surprise. The player setting the ambush must choose his site, decide how he will deploy his troops and inform the GM of this before the enemy player sees the board. The figures representing the ambush party are not placed on the board until the ambush is sprung. When an ambush occurs the ambush party are all permitted to fire their opening shot as aimed fire +5% to simulate the effect of being prepared and having the advantage of surprise. When fire is opened, all the members of the section under attack, regardless of whether or not they were fired at as individuals, must take a morale check. In addition, for the move subsequent to the ambush the victims conduct hand to hand combat at -1 and firing at -10% in addition to any other relevant modifiers.

There is a chance that a particularly alert or skilful soldier may spot something out of the ordinary before the ambush is sprung, thus reducing or eliminating its effectiveness. This is because they are talented at Fieldcraft. Different troop types and races will have different abilities in this respect. To detect an ambush using fieldcraft, roll a D10 and modify as follows:

RaceUnit StatusCharacterOther Modifiers
Orc +1
Bog Orc +2
Ogre -1
High Elf +1
Dark Elf +2
Dwarf  0
Goblin  0
Rat +1
Elite +1
Regular +1
Guerrilla +2
Militia  0
Experienced +1
Average  0
Raw -1
Dwarf in built-up area +2
Dwarf in woodland -2
Dark Elf in built-up area -2
Dark Elf in woodland +2
Rain, Snow or Fog -2
Night -3
Cavalry -1
Using Spot Hidden Spell +2

To successfully spot the ambush your modified score must be 8 or over. If the spotting attempt is successful the ambusher loses all the benefits he would have gained from a surprise attack. Additionally, the target characters are not affected by the special minus modifiers and morale rules for ambushes as detailed above.

To decide which member of your section is the one who attempts to spot the ambush you have two options. Either dice randomly for a character each time it is necessary to try and spot an ambush and base your attempt on his attributes, or follow the procedure for ascertaining magical ability ie roll a D6, the score being how many of your characters have a useful fieldcraft ability. You may then either pick figures to receive the skill or decide randomly which ones it applies to, and pick one of them at random each time you need to try and spot an ambush. I realise that these procedures involve a lot of chance, but then so does trying to spot an ambush so I think it averages out.

An alternative and slightly simpler system of ambush detection is to use the above table, but omit the modifier for character level. The rationale for this is that quite often a soldier is good at fieldcraft from the word go, and their ability is pretty much the same as a recruit or as a seasoned campaigner. Fieldcraft - both in terms of knowing someone else is there and in terms of concealment and protection - is a lot to do with how you interact with the ground; some people have it and some don't.

Characters with magical talents may not also have a fieldcraft skill. However if you wish, Average or Experienced characters with magic ability may exchange one of their spells for a Spot Hidden spell by rolling a D10 and scoring 8 or above. This spell allows the character to add +2 to any attempt to spot an ambush. However, the character must elect to use the spell and not cast it when an ambush is declared. When cast, the spell will provide warning of hidden groups of five or more armed troops within 35cm of the soldier using it. This spell will not provide detailed information such as how the ambushers are armed, their exact numbers, precise location and so on. What it is intended to do is act as a warning to parties operating in particularly perilous country and under a definite threat from ambush. Because it is a variant on a search spell and therefore rather complicated to cast, it can only be used twice in any one game and no other spells may be used by the caster for D6 moves after it is cast.

As a development of this spell, Experienced characters may try and add a true Search spell to their talents by rolling 18 or over on a D20. Search is a very useful spell which can pinpoint an object, person or group and provide a visible marker to its location. The character casting the spell visualises his chosen target and creates a self-sustaining bubble or sphere with the image of the target inside it. The sphere is then released to seek out a match for the image it holds. When it finds one it hovers above the target and releases a brilliant white light to guide the spells caster to its location. This is a difficult and complex spell, and while it is in use the caster can do nothing except move at walking speed. In addition they will not be able to cast any other spells for D8 moves after the Search spell has finished, and will not be able to move faster than a walk for three moves.

Search spells travel at the walking speed of the race of the character casting them and have a duration of five moves. If they haven't found a match for their image by that time the spell fades naturally. Because the success of the spell depends to a great extent on the quality of the image it holds, there is a chance that it will latch on to the wrong thing, so roll a D10 and on a score of 8 or over it fails to find the right target. This rule can be altered at the GM's discretion; for instance if they feel the image given wasn't sufficiently detailed the chance of failure can be increased. Where the spell is cast can also affect its chance of success: a Search spell given the image of "a blonde-bearded Dwarf" stands a good chance of success in the wilds of Catalucia, but is almost guaranteed to fail in a Krautian mining town.

Ed Note: Flintloque is a set of Black Powder Fantasy wargames rules produced by Alternative Armies and was reviewed in Ragnarok 23. Flintloque won both Best New Fantasy/SF Rules and Best Fantasy Rules in the 1996 SFSFW Awards and Alternative Armies also retained the Best Fantasy Figure Manufacturer category as well. For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Alternative Armies, Unit 6, Parkway Court, Glaisdale Parkway, Bilborough, Nottingham, NG8 4GN.

The Orcs in the Hills Flintloque fanzine referred to in the article is produced by Wessex Games and was also reviewed in Ragnarok 23. It won the Best Non-Professional Journal category in the 1996 SFSFW Awards. Send an SSAE to Wessex Games, 4 Old Acre Road, Whitchurch, Bristol, BS14 0HN for further details.