Teaching Descent, Converting New Gamers

My good friend Brian emailed me about a month ago asking about Dungeons and Dragons. His son John started expressing interest in learning the game and Brian wanted some tips and suggestions. Brian had played only once during college 20-25 years ago, and while 4E D&D is relatively easy to learn I think it can be a tough game to bootstrap without a dedicated teacher. I proposed that they come out to Sherwood to join us in a game of Descent. Not quite D&D but a great opportunity to get a feel for this style of game. I also felt this was a game they could pick up on their own and play with 1 or 2 of John's friends.


Jacob and Matthew joined us, and we played the intro scenario for what seems like the fourth or fifth time. In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever played anything but the first scenario. This is a cakewalk for the heroes but Jacob still managed to die twice, adding some fun to the session. John absolutely loved the concept of adding skills to his character, even going back to town to spend 1,000 coins on a new skill card. This is a good sign he'll be a big fan of deeper RPGs.

Game 2 Highlights

I promised to post some highlights from our second game against St Helens. We had some great things happen, but if you watch closely you'll see how a great running back can overcome some mistakes made on the line.

For a play that will blow your mind, skip to the 2:12 spot in the video. Where's the ball?

Game 2 result: Sherwood 33, St Helens 7

We had a much better showing on offense this week, gaining over 300 yards with a decent mix of passing and running. It was nice having our starting fullback in the lineup - he broke two plays for about 50 and 95 yards for touchdowns in the first half, breaking the game open. We ran a healthy mix of plays, completing two passes for 50 yards but throwing one interception on a missed WR route.

Our defense was solid and we had a lot of non-starters in the lineup in the second half. St Helens wisely ran their wedge play frequently which was about their only successful play. It was tough to stop and we hadn't drilled technique in practice at all. We were up 33-0 at the time so I didn't get too worked up about it and I don't think we'll see another team this season that will wedge. That said we still had some problems at time with sweep containment so we need to drill that hard this week and even look at some personnel changes in our hawk positions to bolster things. The team we are playing this weekend runs a shotgun spread most of the time so we have a lot of work to do for preparation. They have a talented QB that can run and throw so this will be a good test for our defense.

I'll post a few game highlight videos shortly.

Game 1 result: Sherwood 16, Aloha Blue 12

Our first game was a grinding victory that found us needing a sustained drive to score with only 6 minutes left in the game. The defense was extremely solid, allowing a net of -27 (yes, that's MINUS) of Aloha offense for the game and only 2 first downs. Unfortunately a kickoff return for TD and a fumble recovery for TD kept Aloha in the game. The difference ended up being 2 safeties by our defense - one a tackle in the end zone, the other an intentional grounding in the end zone as the QB avoided a sack by on of our linebackers.

The game called out some work we need to do on offense, but after reviewing film it wasn't as bad as it felt while watching it. We gained just over 200 yards in the game and had two sustained drives (9 plays, 12 plays) that showed a level of consistency that is promising looking ahead. We were also without two of our best players (both running backs) for the game, and our backup FB stepped up big time, rushing for 75 yards and scoring the game winning touchdown.

Some areas to work on:

  • Our linebackers are not filling well on running plays - they are too tentative and flowing left/right instead of downhill into the backfield.

  • We are seeing too much penetration on the interior line as our guards pull. We need to make sure our center/tackles are sealing properly.

  • Our guards are still tentative as they turn upfield on our sweep plays, often looking back for the runner or being indecisive about who to hit. We will drill this heavily during the week.

Our next opponent is St Helens on Saturday Sep 19 at home, under the lights at 7pm.

Combat Commander: Stalingrad, Scenario 37

Ken and I resumed what will hopefully be weekly Wednesday wargaming sessions. We've been playing through the Stalingrad scenarios for Combat Commander and loving it. We played scenario 37 which has a weak Russian force trying to hold out against a superior German force in an urban combat setting. I played the Russians, Ken the Germans.

20090917-Combat Commander- Stalingrad

The default setup and victory conditions has the primary objective for Germans close to the front line - a dividing road near the German setup location. We drew additional objectives that made the two buildings near the rear line worth an extra 14 VPs, which is a huge strategic change in the scenario. Ken was sufficiently aggressive, running up my weaker left flank in an attempt to capture one of the bonus buildings. In short order he was also moving up my right front or the 12 point bonus and there wasn't much I could do with my garrison near their front lines.

Some early time triggers put the screws on Ken pretty hard but he stayed with his plan. He only managed to capture a single objective by the turn 6 trigger that brings in my reinforcements plus an extra squad/LMG for each objective I still hold (4 total). We both felt like this was probably game over for the Germans but Ken persisted and I made at least one tactical error by having my front garrison run for the sewers. I forgot about his hero that could dash across the map at will and this allowed him to capture the building. It then became a race of casualties vs. time, and as you can see from the photo below we were both up against our surrender limits.

20090917-Combat Commander- Stalingrad-1

Unfortunately for Ken the sudden death time trigger came before he could eliminate another unit and the Russians were the victors.

This is a very well balanced scenario (considering a single play) with loads of tension and a classic attacker/defender posture. The time-based reinforcements force the Germans to act quickly which keeps the pace brisk.