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Dragon Dash

We had five players sign on to participate in last Saturday night's skirmish, so I cooked up a scenario in which I played the referee and controlled the non-player units. When I first became interested in playing Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes I had the germinal idea for a scenario that involved warbands hunting dragon hatchlings. I decided it was ripe for fleshing out for a five person scenario in which I could throw in some narrative surprises as the game progressed.

I had introduced Ash, Jared, and Bryan to the ruleset in the past year, all of whom are avid gamers and steeped in fantasy role playing games. Bryan's wife Sarah, who heard Bryan and I waxing enthusiastic about our recent game at dinner a month ago, expressed curiosity and asked if she could join in our next game. I have to admit that I was skeptical that she would enjoy a miniatures wargame, especially since she had never played any D&D or other role playing games in the past, the natural bridge (at least for me) to this kind of gaming. To my surprise and pleasure, it wasn't long before Sarah had mastered the mechanics and was even catching us in rules flubs as the game proceeded. At the evening's end, she said she genuinely enjoyed the affair and would play again. Another convert to the pleasures of miniatures gaming!

The Battlefield: To the east are cliffs and the ocean below. The dragon hatchlings cavort in the general area of their nest in the ruined watch tower. Two hunting parties start along the west side, and the other two start on the north and south sides near the woods.

DRAGON DASH (scenario)

For the Players

Some dragon hatchlings have been spotted flitting about along the Cliffs of Felinor near the ruined watchtower. They cannot yet fly more than three or four feet off the ground and only in bursts of a few yards. 

Why you are here: 

(1) Elven Dragon Wranglers—A small band of elves is looking to capture the dragon hatchlings to raise as mounts. The elves are under orders to dispatch with anybody who tries to stop them from claiming the dragons for their own, including the meddling dwarves, who vindictively slew many of the elves’ dragon mounts in the aftermath of the Battle of Six Armies, just before the armistice between their peoples was signed.

(2) Dwarf "Peace" PatrolThese “peace keeper” patrols keep watch over the neutral lands separating the elves and dwarves. They have been tracking the elf party since spotting them entering Felinor last week, noting the curious choice of dragon armor worn by the elven leader. The Dwarves see harnessing dragon power as an unacceptable military provocation; they will attack the elves on site for this indisputable act of hostility, and they will kill the hatchlings to prevent anyone from absconding with them.

(3) Orc ReaversThis thuggish band of orcs is looking to kill the dragons to harvest their eyes and “brimstone humors” for a sorcerer on the far side of the Red Chasms who has offered an unbelievable bounty on their return. Orcs hold all others in undiluted enmity, and have no compunction about killing anybody who gets in their way.

(4) Ratkind Hunting PartyDragon meat consumed while the creature’s heart still beats is a delicacy enshrined in legend among the ratkind. The ratkind king demands it be served at the Black Moon Feast in honor of his son the princeling’s coming of age. As is the tradition, the princeling insists on joining the hunt. If they fail to return with live dragons for the feast, the king’s fury will know no bounds. Out of a fear for their lives, the ratlings will kill anything blocking their path.

Scenario Notes For the Referee

Turn Order, Reactions, and Turn Overs

The players should roll for initiative at the start of the game and maintain the order for the remainder of the battle. The referee will take the hatchlings' turn after all players have had a turn. Any rolled Turnovers simply go to the next player in the turn order. Any Reactions are rolled for by all other players, including the referee, with the highest claiming the Reaction for their warband.

Introducing Hatchlings

The game begins with no hatchlings in sight. The referee should introduce a new hatchling every other turn until all four are eventually on the board (e.g., place one at the beginning/end of the second player's turn, another at the end of fourth's, etc.). Use the ASBH 2d6 random direction method, and have a hatchling fly out of the nest (i.e.,ruined watchtower) up to 1x medium in that direction. I rolled the dice inside the ruined tower model just to reinforce the idea with the players that this was the nest they were emanating from thinking it may encourage them to check it out and perhaps find some loot (see Nest Treasure! below).

Nets: Attacking, Breaking Free, Carrying Netted Creatures

  • An Entangled target may not move on its own until it breaks free.
  • Netted units cannot engage in melee combat, and are considered Prone (+2/lethal). 
Attacking with a net:
  • Attempting to entangle with a net is a simple opposed combat roll.  
  • Attacks with a net against a prone figure automatically succeed. 
Carrying netted units:
  • It requires double the actions to make a normal movement when dragging a netted creature (e.g., one unit spending two actions, or a leader issuing an order to multiple units who then spend actions to carry the netted creature).  
  • Units carrying/dragging netted creatures fight at –1 C, unless they choose to drop the net. Grabbing the net again costs one action.
  • A unit can spend an action to disentangle itself from a net on a roll of 6, with +1 for every extra action devoted to the activity. Dropped nets (e.g., to engage in combat, or net carrier gets knocked prone) add another +1 to disentangle attempts.
  • Entangled targets do not count for outnumbering purposes.

Nest Treasure!

If a unit wanders into the nest/ruined tower, roll 1d6, and a result of 4-6 means they've spied something of value amidst the rubbish used to build the nest that was likely on the body of a recent meal. Roll another 1d6 to determine the treasure: 
  • 1–2 = Magic sword (+1 C in melee)
  • 3 = Magic bow (+1 C for ranged)
  • 4–5 = Potion of Speed (imbiber can move double movement lengths for 2–3 turns; referee secretly keeps track of effect's expiration)
  • 6 = Potion of Fire Immunity (imbiber immune to breath weapon for 2–3 turns; referee secretly keeps track of effect's expiration)
Only one such check can be made per unit, and only one of each item can be found in the nest.

The Mother’s Return!

Players are not told in advance anything about a full-grown dragon in the area. The red dragon matriarch starts the game away from the nest in search of food for her fledglings. If one of her babies is physically harmed or ensnared, it will let out a high-pitched screech, summoning her back to the scene along the cliffs on the eastern border within 1–2 players' turns. See the Matriarch's unit profile for special attacks and behaviors.

Breath Weapon

  • After each use, there’s a 50/50 chance that the dragon will not be able to breath fire the subsequent round. It will, however, have mustered the ability to breath fire again by the following round. 
  • Modification to Dragon Fire trait: Dragon fire uses a breath-weapon template (see in-game photos below), instead of being able to fire at multiple lengths across the battlefield. Any creature in the path of the template makes a Combat roll.
  • The dragon's breath leaves a conflagration on the battlefield that billows smoke and blocks line of sight  (see in-game photos below).
  • The baby dragons can use their breath weapon a single time in the game, but it is of a reduced size, only covering an area 1x Short in diameter immediately adjacent to the dragonling's base.

Forest Fires

If the dragon breathes into a wooded area, then that area fills with smoke, preventing any unit from shooting in or out of it (and effectively counteracting the Elven Longbowmen's Leaf Sight trait).  If the dragon breathes fire into the woods a second time, it sets them aflame! All units inside must make a Q roll on three dice:
  • 3 Fails = Unit incinerated
  • 2 Fails = Unit on fire, suffers –1 to Q, flees to nearest forest edge and falls prone to extinguish flames
  • 1 Fail = flees to nearest forest edge and falls prone to extinguish flames
  • Passes = Unit flees to nearest edge, coughing but unscathed

Victory Points

Share with players at start of game: 
  • Elves/Ratkind:  Escaping off any map edge (other than cliffs) with a live dragon = 40 points 
  • Dwarves/Orcs: Killing a dragon hatchling = 30 points 
  • All: Killing a rivals’ leader/unit = 10/5 points 
Share with players after the matriarch arrives:
  • All: Delivering the killing blow to the Red Dragon Matriarch = 80 points

Scenes from a Skirmish

Dragon hatchlings one by one start to leave the nest and play about in the area, oblivious to the danger presented by the warbands closing in one them. In fact, they have the Oblivious to Danger trait.

Several hatchlings wondering who these strange creatures are...
Meanwhile, hereditary enemies orcs and dwarves get distracted early on from hunting the hatchlings and decide to start beating the snot out of each other instead.

Oh, orcs and dwarves, will your blind hatred for each other never cease?

After ordering a couple of warning shots at the nearby orcs, Lyfilien, the Dragon Cavalry Captain, leads his band into the woods to lie in wait for the hatchlings.

Some ratlings sneaking about the elves' flanks...

Meanwhile, the ratling prince skirts the nearby elves and leads his band of hunters toward their prey.

Eventually the dwarf leader and a crossbower peel off from the fray to hunt the nearby baby dragon.
A bolt zips through the air piercing into the gamboling hatchling's hide...

....inspiring a loud shriek from the beast who has never known pain!

Within a few moments, a tremendous roar reverberates and shakes the earth and trees, leaving most of the hunters transfixed, staring in awe at the cliffs as a red dragon matriarch rises into view on great leathery wings!

A video that shows the flaming smoke markers in action. I cued up Orff's "Carmina Burana" just before reaching under the table and placing the red dragon model on the board. Who doesn't like a little theater with their war game?!?

Quickly circling the field to survey who dares assail its progeny, the dragon drops the hatchlings' breakfast, Bill the Pony, from its talons.
The ratling prince's shieldman was standing in the wrong place and most definitely at the worst of times, dying a gruesome death beneath Bill.

A nearby ratling is the next to experience the wrath of an angry dragon matriarch!

Watching the flames and hearing the ratling squeals of anguish in the the distance, the elves contemplate returning to the safety of the woods before being spied.

One hatchling scurries back to the safety of its mother's side, while the mother turns its attention to the dwarven crossbowman that has proceeded to fire off another bolt which slays one of her young.

Strept, ratkind princeling

The remaining ratlings decide it's best to net the nearest hatchling and attempt to scurry into the woods while the mother dragon is preoccupied with the dwarves.
But the elves take the opportunity to dart from the woods and grab the net before the ratlings can pull the ensnared beast away.
A mighty tug of war ensues...
Eventually the elves succeed in shooting a ratling, which forces them to drop the net's rope, allowing the elves to drag the hatchling to some compatriots waiting in the woods to spirit it away.

Meanwhile, back to the rampaging red dragon...

The dwarven crossbowman stands his ground!

And is no more!

Was it the Dwarf Captain who successfully convinced the orcs that the only way to avoid a shared destruction was to lay aside their lifelong hatred and join against their common foe, the dragon? We shall likely never know...but a historic alliance was formed, however briefly, on that day's battlefield!
Ash argued that her dwarven captain's natural endowments should have come with the Transfix trait, but I suggested something more along the lines of Mesmerize. Also please note that the fire marker in this picture suggests that Jared is a liar (or a really hot lover).

The dwarven captain and one of her troops go down in a literal blaze of glory!

Chaos and flame reign for the remainder of the skirmish!

In the end, the dwarves were the ostensible winner with two dragon hatchling kills and a couple of orc heads. The elves were a very close second by absconding with one hatchling and then succeeding to drive the entire ratling warband from the field, morale broken by all of the abuse they suffered.

Some more random shots from the day's fun!

Playing around with the breath weapon template.

Netting created for the game.

Poor ol' Bill...

Choose your warband! 
Doodling baby dragons as we explain the rules to Sarah.

Ash was the only one to deduce that I matched my shirt to the game.

The Photographs

Once again, my beautiful wife Ellen took the wonderfully evocative photos that constitute 90% of any reason to look at this blog. A few crappy photos can be found interspersed throughout taken by me to capture a couple of key moments in the game when the wife was away from the camera. Thanks again, babe!

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that Ellen unwittingly provided me with some inspiration for writing this scenario. She has been semi-obsessively watching the Washington D.C. Bald Eagle Nest Cam, periodically showing me live streams of the mom and dad eagles feeding fish and rodents to the fledglings in their nest. The bit I included where the Red Matriarch drops Bill the Pony (the dragonlings' breakfast) on a nearby unit was inspired by the eagle cam. Check the eagle family out for yourself at this cool nest cam

The Warbands

Elf Dragon Wranglers

Notes: The wranglers’ mithril nets are too heavy to throw, but their tensile strength requires units caught in them to spend three actions (instead of two) to free themselves.

Lyfilien, Dragon Cavalry Captain (pts. 88)
Quality: 3+ / Combat: 4 Loot/Items:
Traits: • Dragon Armor • Leader

Elven Dragon Wranglers (with mithril nets) (pts. 45) x2
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3 Loot/Items:
Traits: • Entangle

Elven Longbowmen (pts. 36) x2
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3 Loot/Items:
Traits: • Longbow • Leafsight

Dwarf "Peace Keepers"

Greeley, Dwarf Captain (pts. 68)
Quality: 3+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Leader • Piercing Weapon • Short Move

Dwarven Border Guard (pts. 30) x3
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3
Traits: • Block • Drilled • Short Move

Dwarven Crossbowmen (pts. 33) x3
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3 
Traits: • Crossbow • Good Shot • Short Move

Orc Reavers

Skirx, orc gang leader (pts. 70)
Quality: 3+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Leader

Chlank, Brother of Skrix (pts. 39)
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Block • Piercing Weapon

Orc sneaky snipes (with shortbow) (pts. 30) x2
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3 
Traits: • Short Bow 

Orc thugs (pts. 41) x2
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Battle Hunger • Melee Block

Ratkind Hunting Party

Notes: The Ratkind hunters’ rope nets can be thrown up to 1x medium. If they miss, it requires one action to reel them back in before they can be used again.

Strept, Ratkind Princeling (pts. 84)
Quality: 3+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Block • Dashing • Leader • Short Move

Fleck, princeling’s shieldman (pts. 29)
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3
Traits: • Expert Block • Reactive • Short Move

Ratkind Warrior (with crossbow and polearm) (pts. 38)
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3
Traits: • Crossbow • Dashing • Long Reach • Short Move

Ratkind hunters (with net) (pts. 50) x2
Quality: 4+ / Combat: 3 Loot/Items:
Traits: • Dashing • Entangle • Long Reach • Short Move

Six-week-old dragons

Notes: If morale roll failed, will not flee battlefield but instead flee back to its nest. Drgonlings will not engage in combat uless provoed in melee or netted (using their one-time breath weapon).

Dragonlings (50 pts.) x4
Quality: 3+ / Combat: 4
Traits: • Free Disengage • Hard Hide • Oblivious to Danger • Quick • Dragon Fire (limited) • Flying (limited)

Red Dragon Matriarch

Notes: When the red dragon matriarch arrives:

(1) She lets out a roar that can cause all non-dragon units to become transfixed. Units must pass a Q roll on three dice to avoid being transfixed; failing on one die is a transfix requiring 1 action to break; two failures requires two actions; three failures results in fleeing 1x medium and then standing transfixed until two actions are used to regain composure.

(2) She is carrying a dead horse that was meant as food for her dragonlings. She drops this horse on top of the unit nearest the cliff side. The unit makes a Q roll: three failures is a gruesome kill; two failures traps the unit under the horse, requiring four actions to free itself; one failure knocks the character prone; three successes results in a recoil.

Carrying units and dropping them over the cliffs: If the dragon successfully knocks a unit prone, it may opt to carry it in its talons to the cliff side and drop it to its death with its next movement action. The carried unit can try to break free en route (a successful Combat roll against the dragon), and if it succeeds, it falls to the ground half way between the start of the move and the cliff, landing prone and taking –1 Q damage). 

Winglblast: Any unit knocked prone by a wingblast within 1x Medium of the cliff side is blown over the edge to their death.

Red dragon matriarch (pts. 250ish)
Quality: 2+ / Combat: 6
Traits: • Dragon Fire • Flying • Heavily Armored • Huge • Long Move • Tail Slap
• Wingblast • Tough

Post-game Reflections

This was our first time playing with a referee, which allowed for some fun "narrative" twists in the game (e.g., the behavior of the hatchlings, the surprise arrival of a giant red dragon). In fact, some folks thought it was the best skirmish we had had yet. As referee I gave up the competitive pleasures of duking it out across the battlefield, but I can't say I didn't have lots of fun flying a giant red dragon around terrorizing everyone else.

If we play this scenario again, Jared had some nice suggestions that I think are worth trying, including a slightly different set up: (a) no cliff, (b) tower/nest in the center, and (c) maybe knowledge of the treasure within the nest (something I did not tell the players, hoping to surprise them if they entered of their own accord). Jared also suggested a rule that each band should be required to exit from the side on which they started instead of any mat edge they choose (which I think would make some thematic sense, too). I'll let folks know here if we try it again with those modifications

All in all a fun evening!


  1. Good write up, buddy! Perhaps the best one yet so far. As always kudos to the photographer. And as for recruiting new gamers and their loved ones... you never know who will enjoy a miniatures game until that first crucial die roll that determines the fate of their painted characters.

  2. Curious that there are no pictures of a furious mob of orks and dwarfs teaming up and surrounding that mama dragon in an (ultimately futile) attempt to murder it!

    1. Ellen was out of the room when that happened. If you happened to take any, shoot 'em my way and I'll post them!


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