The joy of random events and freelances in Burrows and Badgers

Over the last few weeks we’ve been running a little campaign at our club. Witch hunters, wild beasts and necromancers have been facing off against each other and it’s been a lot of fun. Even more so, since we started to include random events and freelances, so I thought I’d throw some gamed experiences on the internet to give an idea of how they worked for us.

When the rules were released for the new factions, it quickly became apparent there was a slight fly in the ointment. Anyone who’s in the Burrows and Badgers facebook group will know that the development of the rules for necromantic warbands has been something of a process (I think Michael is currently on version four and his perseverance is greatly appreciated).

In my first game against the undead they certainly seemed a smidge on the powerful side (I mean being a rubbish player can only account for so much right?). That being said, for a first game against a new power in Northymbria there was something suitably characterful about my beleaguered witch hunters being swamped by restless spirits from beyond the veil. However, as cinematically appropriate it may have been, such a bad defeat at the start of a campaign does throw up challenges and can create a bit of a downward spiral. Following the first defeat my warband went into the next game one beast down. Then, following a second defeat at the hands of the wild beasts, couldn’t afford to feed themselves before heading back out onto the moors to track down more ghosts.

So, after having a chat with the necromancer in chief we decided it would be a good opportunity to add in two new sets of rules. To help me out I sent for a freelance, using the rules from The Warren Percy Affair. We also agreed to introduce the random events table from the second edition of the Oathsworn Journal. Whilst I was a little worried that introducing the random events might blow up in my face, I was rather hoping they would blow up in my opponent’s face a bit more often.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

The decision to give freelances a try turned out to be wonderfully characterful. I’m not usually a fan of using allies or hired help in games, but the poor old witch hunters were pretty much as down on their luck as they could be. I originally looked at them because I remembered you can claim a free mercenary if you lose three campaign games in a row, and I felt I was highly likely to qualify for that in the not-too-distant future.

A freelance deals the final blow to the witch in the witch hunt scenario…

I think this is a great campaign mechanic even if freelances aren’t used outside of these circumstances. Yes, winning isn’t everything, but losing multiple games in a campaign on the trot isn’t always fun, so having a bit of support when you really need it is always helpful.

However, I had only lost two games at this stage so what brought my decision to employ a freelance forward? Word reached the witch hunters that the necromancer’s warband had grown in numbers following their previous game, and even though there had been a couple of rule changes to reduce the threat from the mist ghasts, I really needed more boots on the ground now, rather than after another loss.

There are two ways of paying for freelances, either using coins (of which I had none) or fate points. There is however an additional consideration. Not only do you have to pay for them, but they then also increase your warband rating; and depending on who you choose that increase could be substantial.

This requires a bit of thought. Especially if you are paying with fate points because not only are you reducing your own, depending on your opponent’s warband rating you are potentially increasing the number they have. For my first game I decided to go for the armadillo character. An absolute tank that increases your warband rating substantially and meant my starving zealots went from being the underdogs to a having warband rating which meant the necromancer, who was undefeated at this stage, was now getting additional fate points! Was I doing the right thing?

Make them earn their living

I had to remind myself that freelancers are only a part of your warband during the game, and not to get attached. They aren’t going to do any labouring for me, they aren’t going wondering for me and they could easily end up facing off against me in the next game. Yes, they can be expensive but equally they are expendable.

Consequently, I’ve recruited freelances with specific aims in mind (kill big nasties). Provided they manage that I’m not too worried if they go out of action because they’ve done something, and suffered the consequences in doing so, that a full time warband member would have had to have done.

In both games they’ve contributed, with the Armadillo striking the winning blow in the witch hunt scenario, so I’ve been really happy with their performance and more than happy to take a hit on the fate points.

The freelance subsequently gets killed proving the risks involved for other less skilled fighters.

Random events

Random events add suspense to the game and tactical challenge. They are the source of cinematic excitement where our heroes take advantage of cracks on frozen lakes and falling masonry to bring an otherwise undefeatable foe to bay. Of course, in a game they can be considered an interruption, disruption or at worst an unfair advantage.

Searching bodies for loot becomes noticeably more difficult when they are at the bottom of a sink hole.

So far, the experience we’ve had has been fun. It’s helped us get a better understanding of the rules as we’ve picked through what exactly the implication of each event is. They have definitely created a few surprises, and have impacted game outcomes. However, in the context of the campaign those outcomes have not necessarily been all bad. In one game the necromancer warband lost three of their members to holes in the ground in one turn, however when the beasts emerged after the game they did so with shiny rare items, not bad for taking a fall!

The events seem pretty balanced and certainly give items like rope and lucky charms a bit more value, as well as increasing the use of skills and stats other than those directly related to combat which brings a bit of a roleplay feel to the game, and I’m all for that.

Witch hunters form a conga line to avoid falling terrain.

One last observation

Our adventures with these new rules have been really good fun to date so I’d absolutely recommend them to anyone who hasn’t given them a whirl yet. There is one final thought I will leave you with though. Last night I sat with my freelance and six fate points wondering if I’d made the right choice as my new warband rating dwarfed that of my opponents, providing them with 18 and 15 fate points respectively. The feeling that I might not have done the right thing began to settle in once again.

However, as the random events occurred I made an interesting observation. A lot of the more unfortunate events on the random events table are triggered by rolling a 1. This makes the decision as to whether to use fate points for that all important combat a little more interesting. By rolling multiple dice you are not only increasing your chance of rolling those all important big numbers, but also your chance of ending up in a hole, or being possessed.

Consequently, as my mercenary finished off one of the big nasties I had hired him to deal with, without having to put my beloved beasts into harm’s way, I marvelled at the number of fate points being used by my opponents to get their fighters stuck in sink holes. I’m sure that was never the intention, but I guess fate has always worked in mysterious ways.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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