Greetings Robin Hood fans!
We just completed another exciting and dramatic multi-player, “triple-blind” email game of The Legend of Robin Hood! It took us about two months, total, but that also included an almost two-week hiatus over the Holidays. We had one player for the Sheriff’s side (Mike B.) and two outlaw players (Alan D. and Kim D.). Robin Hood and Will Scarlet were played as co-equal outlaws, each leading their own faction, commanding only those units they personally recruited, and maintaining separate bank accounts.
The game started out in the usual way with Robin evading the King’s Foresters by disappearing into the woods, and then dashing about to recruit forces. The Sheriff meanwhile skillfully used his spies and deductive powers to keep relatively close tabs on the fledgling rebellion. After recruiting Sir Guy, the Sheriff forces fanned out into the forest in hopes of capturing Will Scarlet when he first appeared, but though they did manage to actually stumble upon him at one point, he nonetheless managed to escape and disappear again… Worried, then, that perhaps outlaws might be circling back toward Gisbourne Castle, Sir Guy returned to his castle with his Men-at-Arms unit prepared to protect is home turf.
And indeed it turned out to be just in the nick of time! The rebels burst from the woods to assault the castle with Hood, Scarlet, Munch the Miller and 4 Merry Men units!
While Gisbourne’s veteran home guards fought valiantly, Sir Guy himself took the opportunity to flee. Then, the following turn, the outlaws kept up the attack, but the home guard Men-at-Arms continued to put up a fight, surviving and withdrawing in good order to the castle keep. The outlaws began to grow nervous, anticipating at any moment to be counterattacked from the rear by the Sheriffs and a returning Sir Guy. And indeed, the Sheriff’s forces did show up very soon after that, but it was just barely too late. The outlaws had finally finished off the guards, hijacked the Gold Marks, and had just slipped out the secret passage and into the woods.
Meanwhile, Alan a dale had appeared on the board and was now wandering, seeking paying work as an itinerant musician at various towns and villages (his career in fact managed by random die rolls and pre-plotted moves by the judge). Until intercepted and recruited by Hood or Scarlet, this would be his unpredictable role. Both sides monitored his movements as best they could.
In the next chapter, Maid Marion appeared on the board. Traveling in disguise and seeking Robin Hood, (her independent moves also pre-plotted by the judge). In our game, the turn of her appearance is only revealed to the Sheriff player (her noble parents report her missing to the authorities). Robin and Will Scarlet (both marriageable), quite busy fighting the rebellion, of course, have no idea when she appears. Only when she finds them and declares herself do they know she’s in play (or when Turn 15 was reached, of course).
With spies and recognition rolls, the Sheriff did his best to track and capture her. He did manage one or two capture attempts, which she thwarted, but ultimately he got confused by other rebel movements nearby in the forest, and finally when she went one way, he and his men went another. She ultimately found her way to a lone Merry Men unit set up in ambush on the crossroads of Lincoln. There she maintained her disguise as a young man and joined the rebellion as an anonymous fighter-robber, biding her time till she could join her true love. For the moment, then neither side actually knew where she was.
Tragedy struck the first Knight reinforcement. Appearing in the town at Lincoln Castle, the armored men and horses galloped off directly into Sherwood forest and into an ambush of Merry Men. While the rebels’ arrows bounced harmlessly off their armor, the knights then rolled a terrible “1” on the melee table, and the Merry Men were miraculously able to pull the Knights from the horses and courageously overcome them in an extraordinary feet of asymmetrical hand-to-hand combat. But they, of course, sacrificed themselves in that superhuman effort. (“EX” on the 3 to 1 column).
By mid-game, the traditional roles seemed to have been reversed… The outlaws controlled the periphery, robbing virtually every traveler, efficiently draining the Sheriff’s Treasury and filling their own, while the Sheriff’s forces had become the guerillas of Sherwood forest… remaining hidden in the trees and lying in wait to ambush outlaws who might dare attempt to cross or rob within the forest’s depths.
First to fall victim was Little John and a Merry Men unit entering the forest in pursuit of a Noble who’d slipped the outer net. Expecting an easy Gold Mark, the outlaw found instead the Sheriff of Lincoln and two Men-at-Arms units! The Merry Men were scattered and Little John escaped, only to be hunted down the next turn by the Sheriffs and their forces. Rather than be captured, Little John fought fearsomely to the death.
But his fate, in fact, was only known to the Sheriff player. All that the outlaws knew was that he had disappeared. Was he dead? Or was he now a captive?
Next into the perilous forest was Will Stutley, seeking to make a pre-ordained rendezvous with Will Scarlet, only to disappear himself in much the same manner as Little John. His fate would also remain a mystery.
Then, cleverly using his spies and deductive reasoning again, the Sheriff laid a trap for Robin Hood on the Banks of River Trent, occupying the forest square that overlooks the deep-forest river ford. Robin Hood and his men obliviously made the crossing, emerged from the ford with wet bow strings and suddenly found themselves in a life-or-death hand-to-hand struggle with the Sheriff of Nottingham and his forces!
It looked grim on the melee table, but again, as the Merry Men had done earlier on that forest road battling the Knight, they managed an extraordinary hand-to-hand combat roll and ended up taking Nottingham prisoner.
The Sheriff of Lincoln, also in the forest, immediately counterattacked them, but the outlaws’ bow strings were now dry, their melee skills still formidable, and soon a second Sheriff was captured as well!
Then began a protracted set of prisoner exchange negotiations, with some questions hanging in the air as to whether they were indeed bargaining for live or dead bodies…
But the process was interrupted by outside events. For personal reasons, our Sheriff player had to withdraw from the game, and new Sheriff a was recruited (Andy K.). This actually transpired at quite an appropriate moment, what with the two on-the-board Sheriffs in outlaw custody, and Prince John just arriving to save the day!
Both sides had, in fact, been severely depleted by the series of engagements in the forest, but neither side knew by precisely how much. Truth be told, the Sheriff’s side had been wiped out entirely, and only Sir Guy was left, trying to get away to Nottingham castle with his one live prisoner Will Stutley.
The departing Sheriff player had made an initial move for Prince John in which he dashed over the river (revealing his presence by galloping through Nottingham town), in order protect Sir Guy, but the NEW Prince John player revised that move and instead circled wide (and out of sight) into the Southern reaches of Lincoln.
But Sir Guy then paid the price as he shortly ran into Munch the Miller and some Merry Men who were at that moment tracking a Noble near Nottingham Castle. In addition to gaining the Noble’s Gold Mark, Munch unexpectedly ended up rescuing Stutley, learning the true fate of Little John, and planting an arrow between the shoulder blades of Sir Guy as he once again fled the scene of conflict.
When this news reached Robin Hood, he promptly slit the throats of his captives and threw them in the river. He then proceeded to joyously charge his men into an undefended Lincoln Castle and rack up four new Gold Marks! By now, he had also picked up Alan a dale, and the musician now entertained a large crowd from atop the castle battlements. Maid Marion hid in the woods nearby.
Now Robin Hood had, in fact, calculated the possibility that Prince John, were he to be on the board, and taking that out-of-sight Southerly course, could, in fact, be in a position to now counter-attack at the castle, but Hood had decided to take the chance anyway.
And, in fact, he ended up facing a furious counterattack. Prince John, his Knight and King’s Foresters assaulted the outlaws (2 Merry Men units plus Hood and Alan a dale) in the keep, while two Men-at-Arms moved in to occupy both the main castle square AND the outer exit of the secret passage.
Hood was in desperate straits, his archery, of course, useless in the castle keep. Again, he would have to rely on hand-to-hand combat at very short odds.
And so it was… the Knights apparently found themselves severely restricted in the narrow halls and stairways of the castle keep, unable to fully wield their heavy broadswords and maces, and the Merry Men popped out from behind tapestries, out of closets and minor passageways, hurling whatever heavy objects they could put their hands on…then resorting to their daggers to finish off their prey…
…the die came through yet again for the outlaws. Prince John rolled “1” on the 2 to 1 melee column. The outlaws then dashed out the secret passage on their own turn and easily cut down the Men-at-Arms there with their two miraculously surviving Merry Men units. Prince John then counterattacked again, with the very last of his forces, this time in the open field and facing archery again, and soon found himself a captive, victim again to flawless rebel dice.
It was Turn 21. All the Sheriff leaders were dead or captured, there were plenty of turns left for a wedding and a King’s pardon, the Sheriff’s Treasury was empty, and the combined outlaw Treasuries stood at 23 Gold Marks! (Stutley and Munch and just looted Nottingham as well).
A glorious and dazzling victory for the outlaws, the stuff of legend and tale-telling, and even topped off then by the gracious concession by Robin himself, that both Sheriffs had, in fact, played a masterful game, and were really undone by the fickle favoritism of the hand-to-hand combat dice…
...and ANOTHER triple-blind email game completed!
And yet another double-blind PBEM game completed!
This was actually a two-player game with only one Sheriff player and one outlaw. The outlaw player was one of our most experienced players, and the Sheriff a relative novice... having played only half the outlaw side in our last game as his first outing, and never having played the Sheriffs before at all.
It turned out to be a pretty clear demonstration that perhaps our double-blind email system might be tilted toward the outlaws, especially when the outlaws don't have to deal with split command. We anticipated this in fact, and had already agreed to institute a new rule that stipulated that archery fire by the moving/attacking (phasing) player would always suffer a -1 die modifier.
Our Robin Hood player was bold right from the start. He went straight off to recruit Little John before recruiting any Merry Men! And the Sheriff (aided by good spy work) was hot on his trail from the very start! Lucky Robin didn't get wounded dueling with LJ, and was able to immediately recruit the big guy. He then doubled-down on his risky behavior and went on to recruit Will Stutley with no fighters to watch his back! (LJ went to recruit the Merry Men at MM3). The Sheriff's spies were spot on the job again, and RH and Stutley were promptly pounced on by the King's Forester!
Robin Hood was actually in disguise and managed to avoid detection... But not so lucky was Will Stutley, who never even got to pack his things. He was surprised and killed in capture...
Rattled, RH and LJ buckled down to recruiting the Western forces (MM2, MM1, Munch, Ruined Castle MM), and the shape of the game quickly started to emerge...That is, total outlaw domination for many, many turns...
But early on, while the outlaws were out West, the Sheriff's forces, temporarily in control of Sherwood Forest, fanned out to attempt catch Will Scarlet at the moment of his appearance... They executed this plan perfectly, but failed the recognition rolls and Scarlet slipped the net.
In our system, Scarlet appears in disguise and under the control of the third judge (me). I secretly plot his movement turns in advance and attempt to anticipate Robin Hood's movements... RH just goes about his business until his older cousin suddenly pops up in his square demanding "recruitment." In this game, Hood was moving so fast, it took quite awhile before Scarlet finally caught up with him, and Scarlet nearly got caught by the Sheriffs' forces on a couple occasions.
On Turn 8, Lincoln and a small force ran into a Merry Men ambush on the road deep in Sherwood Forest. Despite the surprise, they soundly defeated the Merry Men, but they'd tragically been revealed and stopped on the road at the site of the ambush. They were then decisively counter-attacked by Hood, LJ and a large force of MMs. Despite the -1 archery modifier, Lincoln was history. I don't actually remember if he was killed in action or executed, but the point's really moot. I can't remember any instance in any recent game where a Sheriff leader was ever ransomed and released alive... They usually just quickly disappear without a trace.
The outlaws certainly didn't need the gold, that's for sure. They dominated the roads throughout the game; I don't think any travellers, save one Noble in the very earliest turns, ever successfully crossed the board. Gisbourne and Nottingham Castles were looted by mid-game, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy and virtually the entire forces of the "law" ended up in the second half just hiding out in Lincoln Castle, quaking in fear of unseen outlaw archery out there in the big world...
Prince John did make it onto the board and was able to join up with the rest of the blue side. In his entry he avoided Nottingham town (which would have instantly revealed his presence) and managed to stay hidden for quite a while in the broad open plains Southeast of River Trent, but when the bulk of his forces probed North toward Lincoln and toward the forest ford, the Prince hung back with a single Knight unit, playing it safe... or so he thought. Scouting Merry Men spotted him and he was efficiently dispatched to his heavenly rewards...
Maid Marion had a few tense moments when she appeared, avoiding King's Foresters (The Sheriff side is notified by her parents the moment she runs away in search of her true love, but Robin and his side are not). She did meet up with soulmate though, got married, and became a 1-1-5 outlaw leader. But then later in the game, combing the forest with just a single MM escort, the combat-capable bride was spotted by a spy and ambushed by King's Foresters! And she was killed trying to escape!
So despite having technically achieved the "marriage" victory condition, it was hard to not judge that the outlaws would have to lose their claim to it after the shocking tragedy.
The game ended with the outlaws in possession of nearly 30 Gold Marks, completely owning the roads and virtually all the board, King Richard's glorious return, Hood's pardon, and the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy still hunkered down in Lincoln Castle, sitting on their last 6 Gold Marks and guarded by a towering stack of blue units.
Clearly a solid outlaw victory, despite the tragedy of Maid Marion...
Now, our Sheriff is chafing for another go, and we have a few new experimental rules on deck...
Particularly, variable unit values determined by random die rolls. Hence, spotting enemy forces (e.g. two Merry Men, or a Men-at-Arms and King's Forester) will not always tell you precisely and reliably what their combat values are...
And it will be another chance to re-balance things a little. Merry Men may occasionally have an archery value of only "1"...much more rarely, a melee value of "2". Sheriffs forces, however, will only improve with the occasional lucky die roll. Sometimes Men-at-Arms will have an archery value of "1", and sometimes a King's Forester may have an archery value of "2". Perhaps an occasional Men-at-Arms unit will have a melee value of only "1" but a movement allowance of "4"! Could shake things up a little!
Also, Bishops and Nobles, especially later in the game, may sometimes have "guards"... that is, a melee value of "1" as well...
Here's another idea: Since personal combat is extremely rare, I've thought of a new use for those personal combat values. How about, in a pinch, any leader may choose to "lead the way" in melee combat and use his personal combat value as a positive die roll modifier! (or negative if he/she is on defense). With the stipulation that if the unmodified die roll matches his value or is less, then he is wounded... An unmodified "1" perhaps will always mean death...
None of our regulars are willing or able to start a new game right away, so if anyone feels inclined to take on our on-standby and eager-for-a-rematch Sheriff, just raise the alarm!
At any rate, we'll keep you posted!
Best to all,