by Walt O'Hara
NEW! See New and Improved
"LE GRAND CIRQUE DU COW TOWN REDUX!"
This scenario ran at NOVAG GAMECON, Mclean VA
Le Grande Cirque du Cow Town was an event staged at HMGS' Cold Wars convention, held in Lancaster, Pa once a year (in conjunction with the Summer convention, HISTORICON). About twelve (?) guys showed up to play, though I had registered the event as "Unlimited"... which I regretted almost at once (how do you plan for an unlimited attendance? The answer is you don't). Still, for what turned out to be a lightly attended convention, I did reasonably well in terms of attendance.
Le Grande Cirque (LGC) was designed, originally, to take advantage of the excellent figures available from Eureka Miniatures. In particular, their Pax Limpopo line which features many different figures mounted on pennyfarthing bicycles and unicycles. I love this line-- the casting demonstrates a certain whimsy and "devil-may-care" attitude towards historical accuracy that I like to emulate in games I run. So the idea was to actually use all those Eureka Miniatures I bought at last HISTORICON (2000) directly from Nic Robson (Mr. Eureka).
The drawback to this approach, it turns out, was listing the event as "Unlimited" in terms of max numbers to play. I had about a dozen unicycles and pennyfarthings of different types, but felt a bit apprehensive (needlessly, as it turned out, but we'll get to that). I felt that maybe I had made a mistake and needed to add more bikes. So I bought more, from J&T Miniatures (Eureka's US distributor)... and tried to figure out a way to add variety to the throng. This was fairly easy. I had/have a wide mix of riding cavalry figures (without saddle) already. It was a fairly easy trick to mount them on a bicycle:
After a while, I started adding more "Victoriana" style racers to the group, including steam cars, vampire coaches, etc... to give the game more color. So Racers became "Conveyances" to more adequately describe the action. A full listing of the types of LGC conveyances can be found at this link:
The rules I started with were pretty simple: just use THE RULES WITH NO NAME (and my SCARY MONSTERS OF THE GOLDEN WEST add-on) as the movement model (and combat model if it came to that), and run a race that way. Our playtests convinced us this was a non-starter of an idea. The combat chart, for one thing, was far too lethal for the game I had in mind. Racers were murdering each other with gay abandon before getting two feet around the track. So I came up with a new model of movement for the race, which emphasized ENERGY over actions. You have to expend energy (no matter what the source of the energy is) to perform actions in real life... so why not model this into the race mechanics itself? To move, you paid a price in EPs-- to attack, you paid a price in EP as well. The interplay between getting, expending, and regaining energy became a part of the model, and, if I daresay my self, is not a bad one for modeling races with.
Energy is tracked on a nifty little clipboard I made for the individual racers.
|Each player got one of these-- they are made out of two sauce cups from a fast food restaurant, pieces of orange crate wood, and a fistful of my daughter Annie's craft beads. The cup on the left tracks POTENTIAL energy (that you already have), the cup on the right EXPENDED (recoverable) energy. To perform an action look it up on your action list, check the COST, and move the Energy Points (beads) from potential to expended. Each clipboard comes with a little chart that shows you the stats for that particular conveyance type. With a few minor variations (adding rockets, some "supernatural powers", etc.), most human powered conveyances act alike, most supernatural vehicles act alike, and most machine powered vehicles act alike-- and pay the same amount of EPs to do things. I did make a change or two for WIND powered vehicles, giving them "free" energy when the wind is behind them, and greatly increased energy costs when the wind blows against them. The DIST column give you an idea of how far your type of conveyance will go for the energy costs. I like this mechanic quite a bit-- it's simple, easy to understand at a glance, and players picked it up in no time flat. I DO have a problem with the numbers I punched in (distance for energy expended), and will have to fix that in future revisions. More on this later.|
I made combat simple, fairly non-lethal, and pretty goofy-- you can attack another racer, or you can attack his/her conveyance. Person to Person combat was of the melee variety, as I'm discouraging gunfire in anyone but Spoilers (more on that below). Conveyance-to-Conveyance combat was a different matter-- more of a mass-to-mass thing. Finally there's a Person-to-Conveyance combat that attempts to take out critical system on a conveyance. For bicycles, this amounts to sticking a sword between your spokes, but for steam wagons, it could be something as complicated as cutting steam lines.
|Finally, I added spoilers. These are additional
figures on the race course that act as ambush teams for certain racers. For
instance, Chief Rattleshirt might have a few Injuns out on the course somewhere waiting to
take on the leader of the pack, or the Crimson Mandarin might have a few jingal teams at
the ready to fire away. These guys CAN fire missile weapons. Playtesting
dismissed the idea of putting these under the RACER's control, instead they are
referee-handled random events.
"Harvey", seen here in a rather blurry picture, is the most famous spoiler of the group (contributed by Col. Hairy Hagis). He was Elwood Dowd's spoiler, but unfortunately didn't make it very far into the game when the Dowd Steam car blew up to high heaven taking Elwood (and I presume Harvey) with it! I also threw in Anarchist Nannies, a Jingal Team, Injuns, and the Burrito Brothers. Spoilers may seem artificial, but they did add a comedic element, and served to balance a race where certain conveyances were in the clear lead.
ON TO THE RACE!!!