The Curse of Dead Man’s Hand

The Curse of Dead Man’s Hand is the zombie expansion for Dead Man’s Hand.  It needs the main rulebook to play.   Although it does not need the expansion Legend of Dead Man’s Hand a fair part of the book is made up of gang experience statistics that make no sense without the Legend book.  Curse includes a campaign of linked missions together with stats for supernatural baddies and some new regular gangs.  The undead are allowed to fight battles outside this book although the text warns that some of the victory conditions in the existing scenarios are not going to work with an undead faction.

What follows is a playthrough of the full Curse campaign.  As the scenarios chosen depend on the results of previous games not all the possible line ups have been fought.  The exact details of the scenarios have been glossed over so a reader would need to buy the book to fully re-create these games.

All the scenarios are played out on the same board but increase in complexity as the campaign draws on.  Even so Dead Man’s Hand is a simple game and there is never going to be much complexity.  Here we see the town, the buildings are TTCombat.  The mat is designed for Gaslands hence the road forming a loop.

The first action sees 2 guys trying to run past undead monsters on the rooftops.  The description of these monsters include no indication of flying so we assume they can jump off the roofs taking a single hit roll as if they fell off.  The monster’s actions are largely controlled by the game.  They will try and attack then run away.  The good guys have to run past them or shoot them down.

Our lads got halfway up the street before being caught and brought down.  This is a simple scenario with few options.  If treated as a puzzle and thought through before setting off the good guys might make it.  Luck is an important factor is that a hit from the monsters has a 50% chance of doing any harm, the living are hoping for more than their fair share of misses.

Having lost the first game the living are now less strong and the undead stronger.  The rational for that being pretty easy to follow along with.  The undead have 3 evil dwarf spirits and a host of zombies to face off against only 2 living.  One side has to wipe out the other.

Another unhappy ending. 2 undead and 2 evil dwarfs are down but the good guys were overwhelmed with numbers.  This scenario and the previous only made use of a fraction of the town playing area.  The zombies here are from the Zombicide game.  These fit in well size wise with the Artizan metal figures, the same height but a good deal skinnier.

Now the good guys face zombies and a massive beast (the Batman Solomon Grundy model).  Not convinced with the effect of pistols on undead, two living are equipped with shotguns.

The living all activate before the undead hulk and pull back to form a gun line with their rear protected by the railway station.  Even with the high levels of luck in the Dead Man’s Hand combat system both barrels of a shotgun at point blank range are a major asset.  The bad guys are all down at no loss to the living.  This scenario has also been notable for only making use of a fraction of the playing area.

With the score at lost 2, won 1 the living head out to disinfect the town.  The 4 buildings (including the railway carriage and water tower) at the top of the board are infested.  At least 3 must be cleaned out.

2 Buildings purified but 2 good guys down.  The ending is still anyone’s game.  The zombies are coming back as fast as they are being shot down. This scenario is showing good use of the terrain as the living need to move and try to avoid the dead. The witch who could have been  a major threat is down giving some relief to the living.  Those oxen have been very well behaved not moving throughout any of the games.

A knife edge victory.  2 of the living are left.  Both still in combat but not down.  The models on top of the railway carriage are in ‘reality’ inside it.  The carriage has been disinfected.  The remaining dead return to dust with a victory for the living.

The final battle and the living face off against the full force of the undead.  The living line up at the end of main street.  The main body of undeads are holed up in the railway station but the witch and a handful of zombies hover at the flanks hoping to whittle down the living.

The battle does not go entirely to plan.  With the firepower of a full posse the living are able to concentrate shots into the flanking zombies.  The witch herself does not last long, only getting off 1 useful spell attempt and whiffing it.

Realising plan ‘A’ is not going to work out the undead heavies charge out.  Although still at full strength the living have been forced to split up with their best man (the sheriff) still far to the rear trying to avoid the last of the flanking zombies.

The undead hulk charges into hand to hand in a combat that he is almost certain to win but loses.  He is a powerful fighter who is hard to stop but he must stay close to his undead leader forcing the leader to expose himself to possible attack.   Just crossing the railway lines is a powerful ‘mad bear’ thingy that could do some serious damage if it gets in close.

The living player lets the evil leader have both barrels of shotgun at close range.  The leader ducks back but the shot would have missed anyway.  Another living dude moves out of the saloon, aims and shoots the evil leader (the baron) through the head, game over.

Show ‘s over with a win for the living as the cause of the undead menace is brought down.  The games illustrate the importance of luck in Dead Man’s Hand games with almost certain actions failing and eventual victory coming from a 1/5 chance of success (aim, +1, pistol at point blank, +2 , needing 19+ on 0-19) )although other opportunities would have come up for either side to win had that shot failed.

The games were played as a run of short sessions over 3 days but the whole campaign could have been run over a long-ish evening. The earlier scenarios are best seen as an opportunity to bone up on the nuances of the rules rather than a supreme test of strategy.

Curse of Dead Man’s Hand includes new cards for all factions although the card draws here tended to favour the living.  This is because some event cards favour shooting and as most undead models do not shoot these cards are unlikely to be used except perhaps to block plays of event cards by the living player.  There is certainly enough variety to play the whole campaign again with the added gaming bonus of getting the basic rules back off the shelf.  The scenarios could be adopted for other rules such as Dracula’s America or 7TV, the various special rules are flexible enough although all the shooting and melee stats would need to be re-jigged.

Bolt Action: Demolition, Soviet vs Japanese

A 750 point ‘Demolition’ scenario between Kwantung Japanese and Stalingrad Soviets.   The Kwantung list options do not include spearmen or Stuarts chock full of machine guns but they do get 2 nice shooty wheeled armoured cars.  The Soviets are almost in period as the Japanese army in Manchuria was not at the front of the weapons issue queue so all this might have happened in 1942.  A strength of the Stalingrad list is that the free rifle squad gets to be fanatic (also for free).

To win at demolition a unit must be adjacent to the enemy objective at the end of a turn.  At 1,000 points it is usually a slug fest ending in a draw as neither side can fight through the other.  At 750 points there is less stuff on the table so holding your own objective and threatening the enemy’s is tricky.  The 2 approaches are to hammer down the centre or outflank.  An objective will usually be in the middle rear field, 36″ from each side.   To outflank a unit cannot come on until turn 3 (at the centre of an edge) and infantry can run 12″ at best.  On subsequent turns an outflanking unit can come on further down the board edge.  Even so the maths is against an infantry outflanker making the objective, any terrain in the path will properly scuttle the plan.   Vehicles especially wheeled vehicles are the ‘go to’ outflanking choice.  In this game the 2 Japanese armoured cars have been sent to outflank.  The exact edge of arrival is written down on set up.  The Soviet knows the units are outflanking or in reserve but not to which side (or if they will use their friendly rear edge).

The Soviet scouts and Japanese tank hunters have forward deploy, everyone else is 12″ in from their rear edge.  That Ba10 at bottom left is awfully exposed without infantry support. On this board the woods and ruins are dense terrain, units cannot see through them from one side to the other.

Both sides move up aggressively.  Unusually the Japanese do not banzai but advance and shoot.  The Japanese squads here are without LMGs.  We must assume that the LMG teams are operating the guns in the armoured cars (10 shooting dice each).

The Ba10 is down to a suicide tank hunter.  It moved away from 1 team and tried to shoot the other down but whiffed it. In the centre massive Soviet fire has created a hole in the Japanese line.  If the Japanese go down they cannot banzai forward so have to take it on the chin.  The Soviet scouts are out of it but they took a stack of Japanese with them.

Looking across the table we see both objectives and a definite lack of boots on the ground.  The Japanese armoured cars both come on.  One to protect their own objective the other to take the Soviet.  The Soviet squad near the Japanese objective are the fanatical conscripts who have gone up to regular morale.

The conscripts are shot again and fail their leadership on activation going down.  An advance would have put them on the Japanese objective and won the game this turn.  The armoured car by the Soviet objective is having difficulty moving past the Soviet troops.  It has been shot at at point blank over 2 turns but only hit twice and passed leadership to activate normally each time.

A lone Japanese survivor clears a path for the armoured car and it drives onto the Soviet objective.  At the other side of the field the conscripts are all over the Japanese objective.  A clear draw.