“Marnie picked up a good scrape of snow from the ground in her ungloved hands and packed it hard into a snowball. Ignoring the pain of the cold snow on her freezing fingers, she aimed carefully at the advancing shape of one of the Blue Hills Boys coming through the pine trees. Her hair in bunches with her red ribbons flew up as she let loose her snowball, watching as it exploded into white fragments across Schulz’s chest. She whooped! Another one up for the Red River Gang …”
A glimpse of this weekend’s snow ball fight, which probably takes place somewhere like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegon in America of the 1940s / 1950s through to the 1970s but could also be here in my rural Southwest of the UK or anywhere in Europe … take your pick!
The blog post title “Packing Sugar at Freddy” is a slang phrase for snowballing that I have so far found nowhere else. It comes from a 1941 unpublished diary that I have in my collection from a wild “Just William” Brown type teenager awaiting call up in rural Shropshire. Freddy must have been one of the other wild boys repeatedly hit by snowballs.
The Blue Hills Boys
Wearing bright blue scarf and / or blue hat. Numbered on their bases 1 to 7 and named (left to right)
Blue 1 Biff
Blue 2 Andy
Blue 3 Goalkeeper Bob (Marksman advantage, d6 +1)
Blue 4 Bart
Blue 5 Linus
Blue 6 Charlie
Blue 7 Schulz
The Red River Gang
Wearing bright red scarf and / or red hat. Numbered on their bases 1 to 7 and named (left to right)
Red 1 Dwight (Marksman badge, +1 on a d6)
Red 2 Teddy
Red 3 Abe
Red 4 Gary (Garrison)
Red 5 Otto with a red scarf and red feather in his hat
Red 6 ‘Goalkeeper’ Freddy defending the red base
Red 7 Marnie (the only girl in the Red River Gang) with red ribbons in her hair.
Figures are all repainted Lemax Christmas Village resin figures roughly 54mm to 60mm, some painted with red scarves and hats, some blue.
Scenario and Victory Conditions
This weekend’s Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop related post builds upon previous Snow Forts scenarios.
Instead of defending a fixed point like a snow fort, this time two patrols or gangs are snow ball fighting their way to the other’s baseline and camp (a lamppost and barrel) to retrieve the opposite gang’s coloured totem and getting it back to their own baseline.
Losing a Game Life
Each snow ball fighter loses a game ‘life’ after two snowball hits, except for the goalkeeper (defending the lamppost / base) who takes three snowball hits to take down.
Each hit is marked by a clear plastic gem attached to or placed beside the figure base. These gems came in bulk in a big bag of hundreds from a supermarket (Sainsbury’s?) for flower arranging.
Once hit, this character or figure heads directly back to base and can play no further active part except getting in the way to block lines of sight and fire until a new game life has been restored. The two hit gems remain attached or next to the figure base until they reach their baseline.
Game lives can only be restored, Scouting Wide Games style, by heading back to their baseline and waiting two turns (gem removed each turn). Alternatively, a character can be removed entirely from the playing area once they have been hit twice and their game life has been lost.
As it is snow and ice, movement per turn is restricted to half a lollystick. These are bigger figures on a smallish hex board for a quick play test.
Shooting snow balls (so unlimited ammunition) as per Snow Forts game rules
Close Range (1 lollystick range) d6 – 4,5 or 6 for a hit.
Medium Range (2 lollystick range) d6 – 5 or 6 for a hit.
Long Range (3 lollystick range) d6 – 6 for a hit.
If target undercover in snow fort, take -1 from d6 roll for each dice thrown at target.
IGOYUGO rules – roll d6 for each Gang, so for example Reds move first, Blues move second, Reds fire first. No melee phase. I use a red and a blue dice here.
First Turn – Reds move first, Blues move second. No firing this turn as all out of range.
Again Reds move first, Blues second. First few long range snowballs thrown but miss.
Red 2 Teddy lands a long range Snowball shot on Blue 2 Andy – a hit counter gem is placed by Andy’s base.
Similarly Red 1 Dwight lands a long range Snowball hit on Blue 1 Dwight – a hit counter gem is placed by Dwight’s base.
Blue boys move first, Reds second, so Blues fire first. Red Gary and Blue Charlie are point blank, touching bases.
Gary misses but Red Charlie lands direct hit on Blue Gary, another hit gem, so hit gem counter attached to Gary’s base.
Over the other side of the Snow Fort, Blue 2 Andy lands a direct hit on Red 3 Abe – gem hit counter attached. In turn, Red 3 Abe lands what amounts to a snowball hit on Andy – a second gem added to Andy’s base as he becomes the first character to lose their game ‘life’ and have to return to baseline to have it restored.
Finally Red 7 Marnie aims a mid range Snowball shot at Blue 7 Schulz and lands a hit! (See opening paragraph of this blog post).
Blue Linus, climbing the hill levels at one level per turn, climbs into the cover of the Snow Forts ramparts. He discovers a small barrel in the fort and has to throw a d6 to decide what to do with this:
d6 1 to 3 – carry barrel back to open it at base but unable to throw snowballs
d6 4 to 6 – No, leave it behind and carry on.
He throws a 5, so leaves it behind for later.
Another hit by Blue 4 Bart downhill shot from the ramparts – first red life lost, red 4 Gary heading back to his baseline.
Playing a solo game, d6 rolls are needed to clarify a choice of targets.
Red Otto has two choice of targets – Blue 6 Charlie getting through to red baseline (d6 1-4) or less immediate, Blue 5 Linus who is uphill in his Snow Fort, under some cover. He rolls a d6 2, so aims at Charlie and misses.
Blue Bart is hit by a second snowball and heads back to base. Likewise, Red Gary is hit a second time and heads back to the Red baseline.
By the end of Turn 6, only the goalkeepers and Red 1, 2 and 3 and Blue 7 and 5 are left in active play.
At this point both bases and goalkeepers are threatened by the remnants of each opposing gang, whilst the rest of the gang, game lives lost, also head for their baselines to have their game lives restored.
Red goalkeeper Freddy brought down by three well aimed snowballs – the base undefended!
This turn the Blue Hills Boys were “really packing sugar at Freddy” the red goalkeeper who went down under a torrent of well aimed snowballs. The red base and totem is now undefended!
At this stage I quickly reviewed the victory conditions and each side’s aims.
The aim of the Blue Hills Boys is to make it to the Red baseline and secure the Red totem on the barrel. In a longer game, they would have to get this back home.
The aim of the Red River Gang is to take out the Blue goalkeeper and secure the Blue totem before the downed Blue characters are restored to life again and active. Again in a longer game, they would have to get this Blue totem back home to the Red baseline and potentially recover their own Red totem .
After poor shooting in Turn Seven, the remaining Red snowballers Red 1, 2 and 3 Dwight, Teddy and Abe get their aim and land two hits on Bob the Blue goalkeeper. Teddy is now touching the Blue baseline, barrel and goalkeeper Bob.
Both sides are close to a draw. It’s getting late in the game (and now late evening for me). Figures are reaching the opposing baselines, the prize totems are in reach and their defenders down or nearly out.
Turn 9 Final turn – how will it play out? Last few Snowball shots.
Final firing by Red River Gang sees the Blue Keeper brought down by a third hit, a snowball shot from Red 1 Dwight.
A draw of sorts is declared, just before the first Blue and Red figures off the board are restored to life (one gem hit counter removed at each turn) and ready to take part again.
What I learnt playtesting this time.
A clear end requires strict(er) victory conditions.
Traipsing two gem hit counters etc across the board for downed and out characters gets a bit messy and confusing. A curtain ring, ring of wool or washer over the character’s arm would be clear and visually effective, although when reaching their own baseline to have lives restore, having two gems to track how long they are out of the game for is quite clear. For each turn off the board having life restore, a gem counter is removed at the move stage until they are ready to return and active on the game board again.
In my haste, I kept no hit tally for each character in my note book. If hit counter gems got mixed up, this would be hard to account for.
Marksman aside (a 6 rolled for on a d6 at start), no other RPG character skills were attributed.
Being a Street or rural Gang, there is no Scoutmaster, umpire or observer of “fair play”.
Playing the test game was slowed down by keeping notes and taking photographs. However the game could be speeded up if I had stuck small Subbuteo style player numbers on each base and / or their name to easily identify them without having to repeatedly pick up each player and hope to put them down in the right same place again. Tiny Subbuteo player numbers are still available online.
Old Merit made pine trees and Christmas village trees could also do with tuppenny basing as they also fall over easily.
Some random element of “snow ball hands” or “snowball fingers” (when your hands get too cold and you need to stop snowballing to warm up a while) could be introduced to temporarily take certain characters out of the game for a while could be introduced.
I still have no idea what was in the tiny barrel in the Snow Fort.
A fun game, played solo or in pairs or more, that I may take along for play testing with the Boy and Girl Scouts to the 54mm Little Wars Revisited forum games day in Woking in March 2020. http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net/thread/404/lwr-forum-games-day-2020
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 29 October 2019.