Savage Ops: Monte Camino, Dec 2, 1943

edited December 2006 in Actual Play
At the request of Matt Wilson, who was visiting for the holidays, I ran a big ol' battlemat-based Savage Worlds WWII fracas. The players were Matt, John Aegard, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, and Brandon Amancio (with Tony Dowler subbing in for Brandon for the last 30 minutes).

When I was prepping for the game, the name "Operation Raincoat" came into my head, so I decided to look it up online and see if there was ever a real operation called that. Sure enough, there was. Not only that, the real Operation Raincoat was in fact a WWII op, and it was perfect for a game scenario.

The men of the First Special Service Force (a joint US-Canadian commando unit, aka, "The Devil's Brigade") assaulted Mount la Difensa at night with a small force and dislodged a massive group of veteran German soldiers from the peak. Sounds like a gaming scenario to me.

So, with the real-world engagement researched, I got a 5'x8' battlemat (from the fine folks at Noble Knight), sat down with some markers and drew up the town of Camino (scaled for Savage Worlds, of course). And, being a game designer, I had to write some rules for WWII-style combat: beefing up suppresive fire, adding a tactics mechanic, and generally scaling the game up to account for longer-range shooting combat (1 square = 10 feet).

We played for roughly 9 hours, doing two engagements (the smaller nighttime raid on AA batteries so they could land reinforcements, then the big battle at Camino). There were 4 players, plus me as the GM. We all had a blast.

The system really delivered, giving us several classic war-story moments like:

* The Sergeant yelling encouragement to his men and holding off two German squads singlehandedly -- suddenly getting headshot in the middle of a sentence.

* The recon scout who got caught out in the open and pinned by machinegun fire, while his buddies desperately tried to reach him before it was too late.

* The brave charge against the machinegun nest to toss in a grenade and keep the assault moving.

* The grisly face-to-face bayonet battle inside an abandonded house.

One of the players (Johnzo here on Story Games) took photos while we played and has been kind enough to share a gallery on his website. I love the image of Lt. LeGault pinned down in the street (those black beads are suppression tokens). And yes, they did manage to save his life. But not his eye.

Anyway, this post is mainly just my way of recording a fun game experience. If anyone feels inspired to do the giant battlemat game and has any questions about my SW hack, I'll be happy to answer them. I'm also interested in any specific feedback from the players. I know everyone had fun, but I bet a few of you have some thoughts on the system and game play overall. I'll definitely run one of these again, so any suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Here are a couple of the character and squad cards I made for the game:

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I'd also like to talk about historical wargaming in general in this thread. For instance, I found the roster of the FSSF and French Resistance and used real-world people as the characters in the scenario. This was my small way of memorializing those incredibly brave men and women. Have you ever done anything like that in your own games? Feel free to share any thoughts you have on wargame/RPG play here.

Comments

  • What are the divisions on the map? The one pic seemed to show a couple of areas where a line cut straight across.
  • I've mentioned my electropunk game a lot, which incorporated more real-world NPCs than made up ones. Everyone from Woodrow Wilson to Ota Benga appeared, with many obscure guest stars like John McDonald, the engineer of the New York subway system and Victoriano Huerta, President of Mexico. It ran from 1909-1917 in game time, and one really fun aspect was that many, many famous mid-century Americans were just getting their start in their careers at that point. So the players got to befriend and interact with Lieutenant Chester Nimitz, commander of the submarine E-1.
  • The divisions you're seeing are probably the barbed wire and gates into the town.

    Jason: Ah yes, I remember you talking about that game. Sounds great.
  • This was a ton of fun, John.

    From a storygames standpoint, I think the most interesting sequence was the Legault rescue, where Wil's squad jumped in to help save my direly wounded Lieutenant. Since there were no victory point or other game consequences for losing the Lt, the rescue felt a pure roleplaying decision, and it definitely enhanced the game for me as audience and participant. The player group was nicely coherent and never questioned Wil's rescue impulse--and they could have, because the rescuers' fire could have definitely been used elsewhere to good effect.

    I thought the Savage Squad system was fab. It's a good set of rules that will teach its own nuances -- I'm thinking here of how Matt started splitting his guys into a suppression team and a kill team.

    Half of the cool moments John describes above arose when jokers were dealt. For those who don't know, Savage uses player cards for initiative, and if you are dealt a joker, it's like you're Mario and you've just picked up a star. This rule is definitely a funmaker and a game-mover.

    I liked the shifts into macro-time that cut down on unopposed maneuvers.

    I *really* liked how you didn't try to shoehorn Hindrances into our guys. I'm working on a big Savage scenario right now with lots of pregens and the hindrances aren't adding any value.

    The ammo system worked with no annoying paperwork.

    I liked the philosophical statement up front about the importance of suppressive fire. I thought the suppression rules worked well--being under suppression gave me-the-player a pretty queasy feeling of impending doom. Some concrete rules on how suppression decays would be nice, though -- I'd guess you could have one or more tokens evaporate at the end of every round.

    It'd be good to come up with a slicker way of rolling squad-level damage. We rolled squad to-hits as one giant clump of dice. This is one of the fast things about Savage, is that all skill rolls for extras are single dice so they can be rolled at once. Unfortunately, damage dice are usually multi-dice-and-add rolls. Brandon sped things up by having matching sets of damage dice for each weapon in his squad but Brandon has a more impressive dice collection than most.

    It'd be really cool to have squad-type minis, ala Memoir '44, that could be removed as casualties mounted, instead of needing another type of casualty token on the board. These could be kitbashed like so: http://www.juniorgeneral.org/howto/paper.html. This is a bunch of work on top of everything else, though.

    Using actual historical guys was neat from an educational standpoint, but also a bit sobering. I'm very glad I only ever get shot at in games.
  • Thanks for the detailed feedback, John.

    I agree about Hindrances. Thats one part of Savage Worlds that just doesn't work for me. I'm tempted to write up a whole new set that are more focused on Persona stuff that the character does as opposed to "faults."

    I was even considering something like TSOY Keys. When you hit their activation, you put a Bennie on the Key. Each Key can hold one Bennie (so you have to spend it before you can charge it up again). Most characters would have one Key. Stuff like:

    Key of Homesickness
    Wistfully tell someone a detail about your homeland.

    Key of On Point
    Lead the way in an assault.

    Key of the Sneaky Bastard
    Observe the enemy without being spotted.

    Key of Don't You Die On Me!
    Go to the aid of a fallen comrade.

    Might be something worth trying out.
  • Hey dude, that setup looks really slick.

    I'm still puttering around with Savage Worlds, haven't tried to go for a mass combat yet (just characters vs an equal or less number of opponents). Could you spell out which rules you used (squad rules?), rules you made up, etc?

    Thanks!

    -Andy
  • Ah, wire, okay.

    I was curious mostly because scene changes are a bit trickier with minis games than non-minis story-games, and I was wondering if those table divisions represented a change of locale or an interior of one of the other locations.
  • Hey, I like this!

    Key of Shortstop
    Throw a grenade back at the enemy.

    Key of Sgt. Rock
    Rally troops under suppression tokens.

    Key of Over The Top, Men! No One Lives Forever!
    Leave cover while under suppression tokens.

    Key of Waste Not, Want Not
    Commandeer enemy equipment.
  • This game was superlative awesomeness. Grenades, due to a rules oversight, were a bit too destructive, I think, but it was pretty cool to see a squad hammer a location with bullets to suppress the enemy while some poor schmuck ran up to huck a grenade.

    John, since you're always looking for excuses not to finish Stranger Things, maybe you should produce a WWII game loosely based on Agon that makes use of suppressive fire and grenades and squads and stuff.
  • ...maybe you should produce a WWII game loosely based on Agon that makes use of suppressive fire and grenades and squads and stuff.
    Is it a surprise that I've already made the character sheet? No? Not even a little?

    Andy, I don't have time right now, but I'll get back to you about the rules stuff I did for this game. I'm keen to discuss it.
  • Wilhelm here... I really enjoyed this play session. Savage Worlds really shines for situations like this, because it is an actual game that can be played and enjoyed in its own right, and moments of character based drama can emerge naturally, rather than being forced. Playing squads was also a nice choice, as it allowed character death to be a real risk, yet not have that knock a player out of the action. I also enjoyed how certain squaddies grew in character as a result of essentially random events in play.

    John's changes to the basic Savage engine were for the most part good. I'm not 100% convinced about dealing the initiative cards in batches, I think it did help speed things up a little, but also produced a "chunkiness" to the action where one squad could get frozen for an awful long time. It would also take some more fine tuning to the initiative related advantages as well. The suppression rules were key to the genre, but recovery would need to be made a little more concrete, as Johnzo pointed out. Finally, the ammo check rules were perfect, and essential for keeping the flow. If we'd had to track clips for our entire squads, it would really have bogged down the game.
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