The Castle Plays Sickle 2019
a guest Aug 5th, 2019 113 Never
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- I recently had the opportunity to participate in the 2019 Sickle Megagame being hosted at GenCon. It was my first ever experience with Megagaming personally, though I had seen several videos previously which had gotten me interested into the hobby. Really, my whole purpose for even attending GenCon at all had revolved around finally getting to play one of these games, and Sickle did not disappoint in the slightest.
- Since I'm not omnipotent by any means, I'll simply discuss the most interesting aspects of my personal game, my viewpoints on things, and my thoughts on it as a whole, including what I think could possibly be changed in the future.
- After all players had selected their teams, I found myself sidled up with the Republic of Polania. For those unfamiliar with Scythe; the game whose universe Sickle is based upon, you may effectively consider Polania to be Poland after the Great War. To my knowledge, we had suffered somewhat severely at the hands of oppressive regimes near us, especially the Saxons and the Rusviets. (Germans and Russians), though the most fierce combat had apparently taken part on the Rusviet front, and so we were especially inclined to dislike them as a nation.
- At round-start, faction cards were passed out which represented the various groups which made up the political spectrum of Polania government, and I was given The Castle. Immediately, I decided that this was exactly the group for myself. While I won't reveal all of the information on the hidden back of the faction card in order not to spoil any future games for anyone else, I will dictate what the attributes of my faction were:
- Apolitical, Generally Socialist, Pro-science cabal of elites, Based in a castle in Warsaw, Ambitious, Modernizer, Doesn't think negatively of Authoritarianism.
- The largest words used to describe the Castle though were "Power-Hungry Moderates". A quick review of the card put me in mind that the Castle were effectively a small shadowy cabal of persons who were attempting to take power for themselves, and who didn't necessarily care a great deal about who was running the country proper so long as they were effectively pulling the strings. I was fascinated by the idea of this faction, and that only grew when I was also assigned to be Marshall of the Republic, the person in charge of all of Polania's military, and shortly after, as Ambassador to the West.
- My first turn was spent understanding the travel rules, and making contact with Saxony's military governor. We exchanged a series of pleasantries, and agreed to meet up again in the future, though there were those in our team who seemed somewhat opposed to any sort of formal agreements with the Saxons due to the past war. As Ambassador to the West, I also made efforts to make contact with the Nordic Kingdom, and establish small bouts of trade, though often these were more or less missions of introducing our trade minister to whichever visitor had arrived, and then delivering information to the President of Polania, who was incidentally also representative of the First Legion, a band of military veterans and personnel who I quickly decided to ally. While the Castle was not itself pro-war, it was also not anti-war, and as controller of the armed forces, it seemed a logical alliance, especially since he controlled a great deal of power.
- As with all power, there is eventually a corruption, and I had found myself dealing rather candidly with the Albion Expeditionary Force; a small group representative of a British analogue nation who had come from afar offering humanitarian aid, and who also possessed recon planes and other resources desired by Polania or myself. Taking it upon myself to be the first person to greet any newcomer into Polanian territory paid off in this regard, as I found myself involved in a rather covert deal with the AEF. They required military uniforms and weapons, and had stated that they would prefer if they were another nation's, but then clarified that they would accept our own uniforms.
- As the Marshall of the Republic, I was fully capable of handing over uniforms and weapons without consultation of the remaining government, but a quick assertion that the AEF was planning to attack the Factory and the subsequent smile from the AEF representative made it fairly clear that I should find someone else's clothes for my friends. Incidentally, and possibly because of my correct guess, the AEF representative handed off an oil chip; representative of an exceptional amount of oil and used to meet nation-wide quotas, to me in order to keep me quiet while I worked. This was roughly the first time that the Castle started to really live up to being a shadowy cabal.
- As the Marshall of the Republic, I didn't have any authority to take any resources from Polania's resource board, at least not without a full vote being passed by the Parliament (which I was often absence for, since I was wheeling and dealing elsewhere constantly), but I had personally been given the oil chip, and it had never touched our resource board, which meant simultaneously that no one else in the nation knew about it, and that I wasn't removing it from our national pool. While I may have been incorrect in how I played it out, I assumed that so long as the chip never left my personal possession, it was effectively mine to deal with, which led quite quickly to a playstyle of using personally gained resources to bribe other nations.
- Taking the oil chip I had gotten, I approached a pair of Crimean Khanate representatives near our border, summoned their naval representative, and made arrangements with him to ship over the uniforms and weapons in exchange for the oil chip, highlighting that I could give him the resource right then and there without any government approval. He seemed to think the benefits outweighed the costs, and promptly sent over the equipment, which I then handed over to the AEF in return for items which I was seeking to acquire (possibly recon planes at this point? Maybe something else.)
- The subsequent sacking of the Factory a turn or so later by "Crimean" forces came as a shock to the Crimean Khanate, but my AEF friends and I kept quiet on the matter, and the person who had sold uniforms and weapons to me was executed, leaving very few loose-ends in our business dealings. Later news items did vaguely assert that the Castle might have been involved in the occasional illicit dispute, but at no point was I ever completely caught in my subterfuge.
- Meanwhile, border tensions between ourselves and the Rusviets were reaching a boiling point as the small town of Vilnaus on our border was being coerced towards unifying along with the Rusviets, or, at the very least, the town was being surrounded by military forces from the Rusviets. Not seeking an unnecessary war, the more peace-minded members of our Parliament elected to allow Vilnaus to effectively vote for themselves which nation they would be a part of, though subsequent chaos due to occupying Rusviet forces meant that the democratic process never really went through. This issue at Vilnaus would later escalate fully into bloody shootings and aggressive actions on the part of the Rusviets.
- Meanwhile, in neighboring Saxony, some form of military coup had been thrown, and so I made a point of speaking to the man in charge of our neighbor's military in order to ensure we could continue our good relations. He was a very amicable gentleman, and we spoke privately for a while before he came up with a clever scheme which I wholeheartedly approved of. In previous turns, a massive oil pipeline had been built which had stretched through the Nordic Kingdom, Albion, Polania, and the Khanate, but as it turned out, had somehow managed to bypass giving resources to the disgruntled Saxons who had already contributed resources to the project. Some form of tensions between the Nordics and the Saxons had also apparently broken out, leading to the idea from the Imperial Saxon Army faction to allow for a "rogue band" of soldiers to attack the pipeline in Polanian territory, siphon off the oil which would have gone to the Nordic Kingdom, and in return, provide military equipment as a gift to our Polanian military.
- A short while later, and utilizing the authority I possessed as Polania's military controller, I moved away our defending soldiers from the pipeline, allowing the rogue Saxon force to commit their brazen attack and steal the oil. Incidentally, they had managed to steal oil not just from the Nordic Kingdom, but from every nation connected to the pipeline. This had not been in accordance with our agreement, but a quick negotiation with the Imperial Saxon Army faction led to them promptly returning one of the oil tokens which had been taken from us, and later the pipeline was restored regardless, meaning that we effectively gained more oil than we had ever lost. I handed over the oil chip to our President, as I had done with multiple resources throughout the game, always following with an admonition that he was not allowed to ask where I had gained the items I had found. Effectiveness seemed to outweigh curiosity on his part, because he never really questioned it.
- I was later approached by another member of our Parliament, who I believe represented some form of Magister or Magistrate... but who I know for certain wore a purple-shirt (PS). PS saw that our country had an excess of food, but was lacking in other resources, and I wholeheartedly agreed. Thus, he sent me off to find opportunities to trade, and assisted me in a few instances of it, solidifying our relationship as useful partners, despite the fact that his faction and my own disagreed on some points. Casting my eyes towards our Promethiest Prime Minister; a modernizer and similarly-faction minded person and the man with the authority to call Parliament meetings together, I discussed with PS that perhaps it would be better if someone else held his position. In the past, there had been some measure of filibustering taking place in regards to our decisions involving the pipeline, and these discussions had quickly devolved into needless talk over percentages gained or lost. Believing that the Castle wished for more efficiency in government, and hoping to gain further power, we began talk of a coup.
- As the only member of Parliament with immediate control over the military (to my knowledge), I threw onto the proverbial table that we could simply seize the position and remove it from him if necessary, though PS was fairly adamant that we attempted a more legal overthrow, and I left him to it. In the meanwhile, I spoke to my friend, the Saxon military governor, and pointed out the inadequacies of certain aspects of our government, and how I was attempting to rectify these, and that I held what the Saxons had done with their own military coup to be admirable. Being apolitical, I didn't necessarily care who ran the show so long as I was able to pull strings and hold power, and if my ideas failed entirely, I might have requested some assistance from our Saxon allies in performing a more violent coup. I had an inkling that they would probably be down for it, but, it never came to that.
- In the midst of a discussion, PS returned, tapped me on the shoulder, and informed me that "it's happening". He had apparently been extremely successful in his work towards an official coup, and the President decided to revoke the position of PM from the Prometheists. He attempted to hand over the position to our folk hero, but she was fairly adamant about remaining entirely anti-war, which didn't suit out situation in Vilnaus, and likely didn't settle well for our pro-military President, because he once again revoked the position. Noting that the Castle was apolitical, he didn't wish to give the position to myself, and so I promptly elected to give the position over to PS, stating that he had been extremely effective in behind-the-scenes deals, and that he had been instrumental to the function of the government. This idea gained support, and PS was made our new PM.
- It was probably somewhere around this point wherein the Crimeans declared war on the Rusviets, and conversations of fighting against the Red Menace began to circulate in every country that wasn't the Rusviets themselves. The Saxons seemed to have made friends with the Crimeans, and my Saxon Army ally hinted often about using our defensive pact; a result of earlier turns binding ourselves, the Nordics, and the Saxons together, to assault the Rusviets. He was also interested in using our military forces to launch an assault on the Factory proper, but with the Vilnaus situation escalating to open violence, I didn't believe it was in our best interests. Incidentally, the Saxons later integrated the Factory on their own, making it a part of their nation.
- As the Vilnaus situation steadily deteriorated, I took efforts to slow the Rusviets by hiring Japanese assassins to target members of the Rusviet military command, though I was never able to hear of their effectiveness in that regard. I was also pulled aside by our President at one point who saw me down for a private meeting, and confronted me about my constant sneaking, and the fact that he had heard talk of a coup. I assured him that the coup had already occurred, and had been against the PM, and that the First Legion and the Castle were natural allies. I also accidentally let slip that the Saxons had been behind the pipeline attack, and that it had been directed at the Nords, but softened the blow by mentioning I had gotten all of our oil back. It apparently never occurred to him as to the reason why I knew that information, but I was let off the hook, and control of the military was kept in my pocket.
- PS, the PM and now my solidified ally was kept in the loop in regards to most of my activities thereafter, and I made efforts to mobilize our forces in order to retake Vilnaus. Not able to call together a Parliament meeting, and recognizing that these meetings were often rather slow and inefficient (just like the real-world, no complaints there from an OOC standpoint), I got the signatures of the PM and the President to behave defensively, and simply mobilized the military to retake Vilanus, and defend our border, trusting that the Saxons and Crimeans would be able to lead an offensive against the Rusviets.
- Learning that there were defectors from our country, including the ousted Prometheists, I met with my Saxon allies; the Army and the Military Governor about having these persons arrested and marched back to Polania. While the Army seemed perfectly fine with this idea, the Governor was not as adamant about it, though she was also not inherently opposed, and I believed in a number of turns, we would have had the defectors rotting away in prisons.
- The game was called to a close shortly thereafter, and I had the opportunity to reveal my many schemes to the game room as elected by the Polanian players who apparently thought that "I knew what was going on anyway."
- While I did miss out on a few interesting story hooks, I think that I was involved in a lot of what happened throughout the Sickle game, and I had an absolute ball getting to play as a shadowy cabal throughout the entire incident. If I had one issue, it was one shared by a number of players and that was that some of the roles given out didn't seem to have a great deal to do, and lacked an overall goal. While I made an effort to make my story, I recognize that some players probably wanted to be working towards some form of objective.
- I also do understand that a Minister of Agriculture might not have nearly as much exciting gameplay as the Marshall of the Republic or the Prime Minister or the President, and so it might not be a bad idea in future iterations to give some roles more guidance on what type of activities they should pursue, or what would be a good thing for them to accomplish. That said, there was a lot of creativity on the part of a lot of people, and the occasional person pulling me aside to ask about secret projects being undergone, or the construction of military academies or other fascinating buildings was awesome.
- All in all, I rated the experience to be a 10 on pretty much every front. I had an amazing time, and look forward a lot to trying out Sickle again if its ever in the area, or at least trying out another Megagame.
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