I was dawdling over a leisurely lunch when I realised I hadn't set up my afternoon game yet and I hadn't devised a scenario either.
So I dashed off to the car and grabbed a crate of toys before lugging them over to the Beech Room.
The thing about the scenario is I'm never sure how many players I'm going to get. It depends on what else is on & who is doing what to a large extent as well as whether you have caught the conference's Zeitgeist.
I thought I might get four players, feared I might get two and idly wondered if there might be six. In the end I was at the maximum end of the spectrum, and was joined by Wayne, Stephen, Charlotte, Matthew, Nigel & Alan. Some of these players had been at my last run of this system back in 2013. (BTW I was otherwise distracted at the time, and never wrote that conference up so I have no record of what happened, although the players reminded me. Stephen especially bemoaned the lack of decent rifled artillery, such as the excellent Armstrongs)
What am I talking about? Sorry, - forgot to say. We're back in China for Taiping Era*, only this time no Europeans are in evidence. It's a straight fight between the Imps and the Long Hairs.
Okay. Scenario. I knew I needed to start the armies closer together than normal and also find something for 6 players to do.
So we have a strong Imp column marching on the edges of Taiping territory, keeping the locals in order. In addition they are going to camp in the region of the Enchanted Flower Pavilion so their General can renew his acquaintance with Lotus Blossom of the Moon.
So, yes, first proper outing of the infamous Chinese Puzzle building that has featured on these pages before (on the right centre of the picture). Any how, the Pings know the Imps are on their way and have ordered their local forces to converge on them. On the road they have thrown up a quick entrenchment with a gun and some jingals in it. From the right their cavalry forces are closing quickly, on the left is a strong force of infantry.
The Pings were played by Charlotte, Nigel & Alan. The Imps were lead by Stephen (father/daughter confrontations always being good value) assisted by Wayne with the advance guard and Matt with the rear.
Opening shots from the artillery on the road disrupted the head of the column. Were the Imps down hearted? Well, his Excellency wasn't, secure as he was under his Yellow Banner in the middle of his army.
As the Pings rushed on the Imps started to form a type of Brigade column**, which provoked some pointing.
In the background the first of the major cavalry battles had started, with two units of Pings, taking on some elite Mongol horsemen.
The cavalry melee breaks the Mongols, but the Pings are badly roughed up. The Mah Jong tiles record their current EDNA level. That's a 1 & a 3 if you can't read the tiles. Elsewhere Nigel is manoeuvring his infantry to attack the head of the column whilst simultaneously avoiding the cavalry on the right of the picture. Charlotte has attacked with her two infantry yings with fair success. Matt has managed to deploy a gun and is taking pot shots at Nigel's infantry. In the middle left cavalry from both sides dance round each other, looking for an advantage.
The Imp "box" starts to fragment as it tries to face up to its various attacking foes. Elsewhere units are breaking and fleeing in various directions. About this time Wayne ducked out to play something else, as I was running a double session. Light weight.
On the left top there's a unit of Mongol cavalry breaking free, led by an Imp general of the Red Banner, looking like he's going to outflank the gun emplacement.
Nigel has broken the front of the column, and has enough troops to cover the rest of the cavalry, the Imp army is in tatters, so it's a complete win for the Pings, as they chase the remnants of the government forces back up the road from whence they came...except...
Yes, Stephen of the Yellow Banner blocks off the Pings with the remnants of his infantry, picks up a Qing cavalry guard and re-unites with his Mongols and arrives at the Pavilion with his Jade Stem in tact. Lucky old Lotus Blossom.
And all it cost him was an entire army.
Post game de-brief indicated I had happy players, and they all (except Wayne) came back voluntarily after tea break, despite being offered a way out.
It might be this is the end for this particular set of rules. It has done most of what I want to do with them in terms of development and the overall concept of the design has proved to be effective if a little bit eccentric at times.
Time to tidy up and get some dinner, after a sojourn on the terrace with a beer.
* The rules are available up top left, if you are interested.
** This formation probably has a Chinese name like "The Crab With Four Claws"