Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sacre Bleu! Pirate Skirmish

My most recent experimentation with miniature games is Sacre Bleu! from AGEMA. It is defined as "mass skirmish wargame rules for the age of pirates, reason and wayfare." The entire rules are contained in just six pages. The book also includes four scenarios with different objectives. The text is well-written and the few tables are clear.

The main distinguishing feature of Sacre Bleu! is that it is played as a succession of randomly determined phases. A given phase may allow one of the players to move their figures, or to shoot with figures that didn't move in the previous phase, or allow all figures (from all players) to fire simultaneously. Close combat is resolved at the end of every phase as necessary. The game designer explains that this was done to model the chaotic nature of skirmishes. From a solo gamer's standpoint I found this idea very cool; in a way it is a variation of activation rolls that can add even more unpredictability to the game.

Each figure is described by its discipline grade, the weapons it carries and possibly one of a few modifiers. Discipline is used when a "decision check" phase is rolled. Essentially it is a kind of morale roll that can cause a number of figures to move randomly (they panick or decide to try some crazy plan) if failed -- but if they succeed they may gain an extra action too.

Rush for the Treasure

In this scenario, two bands of pirates try to grab the treasure chests from the center of the board. Once a figure is in contact with a chest, it can pull it at half movement rate. The green patches provide soft cover. The bands are almost the same, however the left one (side A) has two peg-legged pirates with pistols while the group on the right (side B) has two guys with polearms. All figures count as bad-disciplined units and the leaders are the figures carrying the pirate flags.

The game started with a static shooting phase but, since no one was in range, nothing happened. The next phase was a movement of side B, so they all advanced towards the chests. However, the third phase was a decision check for side A. The group of four melee pirates from side B was selected and, since they failed their discipline check, they moved in a random direction (in this case, back to their edge of the board.)
On phase 6 side B moved again and side A moved on phase 9. After that, a phase of static shooting allowed the musketeers from both sides to target each and the result was one casualty for each side. Since shooting is simultaneous, I marked the the killed units to remove them after the shots were all resolved.
Side A was able to move twice, in phases 11 and 12, so one of the musketeers grabbed a chest and started moving away with it. Side B got a shooting phase and targeted Side A's leader, who was saved due to being in soft cover. On phase 15 a new round of static shooting happened, with the musketeer from side A who was dragging the chest and the leader from side B killed. The other two musketeers from side B would be defeated on the following phase, leaving them without any ranged attackers.
On phase 20 side A got another decision check. Three melee fighters from side B near the bottom of the board were targeted and failed. However, the random movement actually made them charge towards the treasure chest!
Unfortunately, after this side A got a couple of shooting phases while side B didn't get any movement phases. This allowed the musketeer at the wooded area to pick the pirates one by one. At phase 27, side B was outnumbered 2:1, with figures scattered and without any shooters. Therefore I declared the victory of side A. This battle took 45 minutes including taking notes and pictures.


Sacre Bleu! is a very chaotic skirmish game and thus, I think it is very appealing for solo play. The random phase system keeps the game unpredictable and, at the same time, limits what can be done in a single phase. If you get a movement phase, it's just a matter of deciding which figures you want to move. This might blend well with an "opponent A.I." with rules for what to do on each type of phase. It also keeps the game fast.

I described the previous battle in an almost blow-by-blow fashion to give a feel of how the game moves. However, I think this system works better with narrated battle reports, because of the dynamic flow of the phases. I'm currently making a few more pirate miniatures from PERMES Pirate set #2 so I'll try to post another battle report in a more narrative style.

To add even more chaos to the mix, I think one could include some kind of activation roll -- after all, rolling a Shooting phase doesn't mean that all figures manage to fire. I'm thinking about combining this game with the Salt mechanic from Strange Grogge, so that troops tend to grow weary and less reliable as the battle goes on. As the two games are meant for the same general setting (although Strange Grogge is more of a fantasy game) I expect them to mix well.

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