The Hill of Gold
The Hill of Gold. Sacred site and HeroQuest location for almost every religion on the Lozenge, even if they all have their own reasons for its importance. However yours not to reason why, yours to lead your glorious army to capture the place, so your religious advisors tell you. The Sun Domers want to keep it. But it's under attack from Lunars, Trolls, Orlanthi, and Durulz (don't ask). Lead your troops to take the Hill, then defend it from all comers!
I've been very pleased to host a game at Tentacles Con 2005 (click the banner at the top of this page to know more). The game was based on a light version of HOTT. I will not display it here for obvious copyright reasons. Simon Miller helped me by proofreading the rules and Jane Williams by writing the background, helping me to referee the game and writing the battle reports. Neil Smith provided the miniature speakers which, once attached to Jane's PDA, allowed her to play suitable nationalistic tunes to encourage each army. Finally, the game wouldn't have been the same without Oliver Derks from the Tentacles team who provided a professional spotlight to illuminate the Hill of Gold. This page is to remember those 2 great games, to thank Simon, Jane and Oliver and last but not least to thank the 10 players who agreed to play a five sides and partly simultaneous HOTT battle (I do not think anyone has played such a HOTT game before) with the novice referee that I am. It was an exhausting but rewarding experience and I thank you all for it !
Oops! Maybe I should also thank my wife for letting me play with sand, glue, paint and various bad-smelling things in the dining room for a week to prepare the terrain. Thank you Marie Noëlle ! (pictures of the battle field in the design and construction stages are here)
Jane Williams verifying that I ve made no mistakes in units names and orlanthi tabard schemes before the first game.
The Hill of Gold, is, as we all know, the site of the defining HeroQuest of the Yelmalian religion. Here it was that Yelmalio lost his powers of Fire to Zorak Zoran, was beaten by Orlanth, by Inora, and by Chaos, and learned of his greatest power - to survive the worst that could happen to him. Individual Yelmalians who carry out this quest can become effectively immortal. But the same HeroQuest is also important to those other cults. Trolls carry it out in order to gain Fire powers. Orlanthi come here to woo Inora (and gain Yelmalio's Lightning spear).
Whoever controls the Hill of Gold controls an incredibly important mythic site. Its importance to the Sun Dome Templars is obvious, and they maintain a Holy Guard there, vowed to defend the Hill with their lives. Since these guards have all carried out the Quest, killing them is in fact impossible - but chopping them into very small pieces incapable of resisting is no harder than normal.
Today, several armies converge on the Hill, each for their own reasons, and the Sun Dome Templars stand resolutely to defend their Hill to the last.
The Orlanthi have followed the winds here - while the Quest here is of less direct importance to them, they seek to weaken Yelmalio and strengthen Elmal, substituting their own version of the rites.
The Trolls have come here, not just Zorak Zorani seeking Fire, but with Gorakkiki allies. If they can combine the effects of the two cults, serious-sized Fire-flies may be part of the next army!
The Lunars seek, as always, to absorb this myth and make it a part of their own pantheon. If they can prove Inora to have been a part of the Red Goddess all along, and sought by Orlanth, Yelmalio and Zorak Zoran as a wife, they can influence all those religions.
And the Durulz. well, they have their own ideas. They're not here to free the Hill of Gold. No, they're after the Golden Egg, from which will hatch a Messiah who will give them back their powers of Flight. No, really. The other races here are pretty sure this is Silly, but are also very sure they don't want any Ducks messing up their own, serious HeroQuests. (A word of warning. In the playtest, the Durulz won!)
In addition to gaining control of the Hill proper, the entry points to the Ascent are also important. These are power-points, sites where the barrier between this world and the HeroPlane is thin. Ancient carved stones mark each site, covered in Runes and glowing with Power.
Battle Report :
The Battle for the Hill of Gold
This battle was fought twice, with very different approaches leading to entirely different games. Saturday's game was conducted entirely in French (leading to some interesting times for our mono-lingual English war correspondent) and to start with almost ignored the Hill, while Sunday was mainly in English, and was marked by a much more direct approach to the problem of the Hill - never mind the other armies or the access stones, get in there with the fastest troops you've got, and hit it.
Orlanthi - Ruben in't Groen
Lunar - Phillipe Auribeau
Duck - Pierre Pradal
Troll - Wilfried Hallier
Yelmalian - Remy Croxatto
Lunars decide that the Orlanthi are the only enemy worth considering, the ducks being mere comic relief, and the trolls and Yelmalians being left to attack each other. The entire Lunar army heads for a lone Vingan warband.
The Uz ignore every other army on the battlefield and head for the two access stones nearest to them.
The Orlanthi first demonstrate the comparative importance of Movement and Unity by splitting their army up into as many elements as possible, with the Vingan Sisters of the Black Eel heading for the Lunars. Then on noticing the troll and Lunar manoeuvres, they attempt to reunite, whether to flee the trolls or face the oncoming Lunars is unclear.
Only the Durulz make a determined bid for the Hill, the Death Blades of the Black Feather leading the way and the Marsh Skirmishers following, with the Durulz Royal Guard held in reserve. They are the first to enter combat, as the Golden Rain Bowmen shower arrows on them from above, but to no avail. The Templars move in to support their comrades, the Marsh Skirmishers join in the exchange of arrows, but one unit falls to the deadly fire of the Golden Rain. Seeing their comrades in danger, the Death Blades reform into a Thin Black Line. The Golden Rain are joined by the Maidens of the Silver Star, and the famous hero Haloric Glowbrow and Melo Yelo - yet even assailed by this force, the Death Blades push the enemy back up the slopes of the Hill, and the "March of the Sinister Ducks" rings out across the battlefield.
Meanwhile the Orlanthi cavalry, their general, and some warband has ascended to the first level of the Hill, behind the backs of the Templars. They are now uphill of the advancing Lunars and can attack their flank.
The trolls have taken the access stone between them and the Orlanthi, and start to climb the Hill.
One unit of the Red horse Sisters ascends the Hill, sees 5 Orlanthi units, and beats a hasty retreat.
The Ducks and the Templars sign a truce. The Death Blades agree not to ascend the Hill while their opponents are still under attack by both trolls and Orlanthi, as this would be taking unfair advantage. The Yelmalians gratefully agree, retreat out of melee range - and recommence arrow fire from a safe distance! Safe in the knowledge that even now, the Humakti will not break their oath, the Templars reform to face the Orlanthi threat.
To add insult to injury, a band of Lunar lurkers ambush the ducks! But no oath binds the enraged Humakti now, and they counterattack. The lurkers flee in terror.
A force of troll beetles take the entry stone, and start to ascend the Hill. A two-mandibled attack! But only in the shadow of the Hill, as the light is too bright for them elsewhere. (Take a look at the photos. The big spotlight was pointing right at them!)
Haloric and the Maidens head back over the Hill, their job done, leaving the Ducks in disarray.
The Lunars put one unit of Silver Arrows on Hill. The Orlanthi and Yelmalians attack first it, then each other. The Lunar general smiles.
Back at the Orlanthi/Lunar border, the Vingans are still hiding in the undergrowth with their naked Storm Bull friends. Still holding off half the Lunar army. Or are they? What is going on in those bushes?
The Beetles, having sorted the access stone, take the Orlanthi in the flank. One warband dies heroically, the other holds them off briefly, then exits pursued by a beetle.
Meanwhile the fight between Orlanthi and Templars on the lower slopes has resulted in the Templars being pushed back. This leaves enough space for some Lunar skirmishers to attack the Orlanthi rear - so they do. A few rounds later, the Orlanthi have lost most of their troops in that area.
The Moonboat also raises anchor and flies straight over the Vingans, while the Red Goat Phalanx, with cavalry support, take the access stone. The Moonboat then lands just behind the Vingans, while the Red Goat attack from in front. The Vingan unit is destroyed, leaving their Uroxi comrades to face the enemy alone. Which they do, for an amazingly long time…
The troll undead horde ascending the Hill are met by a single unit of the Golden Rain Archers - who drive them back! The other unit of the Golden Rain are less successful against their Marsh Skirmisher opposition.
The Mighty Trojan Duck takes the access stone between them and the Lunars! Horrified by this, Melo Yelo, Haloric, and a griffin go to correct the matter.
The Troll command makes a final push for the Hill, with the Bee Riders taking the Holy Guard in the flank. For a while there is stand-off. The Griffin abandons the Ducks to attend to this more serious threat, and together they manage to kill the Troll general! The Zorak Zorani warband try to avenge him, but are destroyed by the Holy Guard. No Fire powers for you today….
Now under the leadership of the (female) Gorakkiki priestess, the Trolls turn to cunning rather than brute force. She turns the Griffin into a maggot, then orders the zombies to push the Golden Rain back into the advancing Duck skirmishers, who kill them. Seeing this, the Yelornans finally realise that the little slingers are a serious enemy. They charge - and die.
The Mighty Trojan Duck advances up the Hill, the treadmilling Durulz inside pedalling furiously. Melo Yelo kills one of the supporting troops (at last! Now maybe someone will take him seriously!) but the unstoppable Mighty Duck lumbers on, and in a brief skirmish involving beetroot, the Durulz have their revenge on the poor unsuspecting baboon. Dismayed by the loss of their mascot, the Sundomers flee.
The Troll priestess orders a second assault on the Hill, considering using her own magic directly on it, but deciding against. After all, the idea is to capture it, not to turn it into a maggot. Once more, the Holy Guard drive the trolls back. But trolls are stubborn (and hungry). In a third assault, an overly-enthusiastic berserker tries to eat the Hill itself. Do not try this at home, kiddies. So powerful is the magic of the Hill that the troll dies of indigestion, and all forces cease fighting in awe.
At this point (6:30, the agreed stop time), the Yelmalian and Orlanthi armies had been destroyed, and the Hill was held by the Holy Guard. It had also destroyed one army, thus scoring four points and being declared the winner.
The Ducks and Lunars held two access stones each, and had each destroyed one army, the Yelmalians having fallen to the Ducks and the Orlanthi to the Lunars. They therefore scored three points each.
And even at the end, the Death Blades of the Black Feather remained true to their oath. They never ascended the Hill.
Trolls - Graham Robinson & Claire Steyert
Ducks - Merlin Cox
Lunars - Rick Meints
Yelmalians - ReinierDobbelmann
Orlanthi - Stefan Langveld (with tactical but not strategic advice from a passing war correspondent, and assistance in reaching his troops from every tall person in the room)
All four armies took the same approach, almost racing for the Hill, while the Templars braced themselves. The first to enter combat are the Death Blades of the Black Feather (all right, so maybe some aspects of the battle were the same as Saturday), and after a lengthy standoff the Yelmalians take casualties.
In the second combat of the battle, the Orlanthi charge the plateau, but with disastrous results. The great hero Korath Stom Cloud and the cavalry accompanying him are lost. Is Orlanth dead? Judging by the dice rolls, one might think so. The Lunars hit the demoralised Orlanthi flank, and the surviving Orlanthi reform further along the narrow ledge - carefully positioned so that the Lunars will have to undergo Yelmalian missile fire to reach them.
The Troll attack on the Hill stalls, and they turn their attention elsewhere. A Bee Rider heads for the access stone. The Orlanthi blades & bowmen guarding it see this and laugh. Then they see the skeleton hordes following up, and laugh somewhat less. After a quick count, and running out of fingers, they look for a more defensible spot, preferably a mile or so to the rear, and send messengers to the dithering Orlanthi warbands: "Where are you? Get over here, quick!"
But the warband have their own problems, in the shape of a Moonboat. Happily, terrifying though it is in the air, it is less so on the ground, and is quickly surrounded. With cries of "Sorcery! Chaos!" they burn the crashed remains, leaving the ruin blocking their route to the access stone. Oops.
Up on the slopes of the Hill, one lone group of Vingans survived the slaughter. And now the Bee Riders head in to finish them off. But they are met by a storm of javelins, at a range much shorter than a mile. Orlanth may be dead, but his daughter is not. The Vingans race down hill to encourage the men facing the oncoming troll advance. Not well enough, perhaps. The Orlanthi, even with the warband now in support, continue to retreat.
Over on the far side of the Hill, the Durulz advance continues, with more Templars dying. The Lunars have some success against the feathery onslaught, driving the Trojan Duck back into defeat by a combined force of Red Goat phalanx and Silver arrow cultists, but the Marsh Skirmishers make short work of the Griffin and a Beetle.
In the last few minutes of struggle, Melo Yelo holds off a troll advance almost single-handedly, and the Durulz Royal Guard take revenge for the loss of their Trojan Duck by challenging the Lunar General to single combat and taking his head. Or his kneecaps. Something like that…
And then, in the final second of the final minute of the final round… a Bee Rider zooms across the battlefield. All stand stunned at its speed and nerve as it lands just before the access stone on the far side of the Hill from the Trolls. The access stone that until moments ago, the Lunars had thought was theirs. And the battle ends.
The Yelmalians kept the Hill, and scored three points. The Trolls controlled three access stones, and also scored three points. Lunars controlled one access stone, and thus scored one point.
And the Durulz and Orlanthi survived to fight another day. Just. In both cases, the loss of one more unit would have meant the loss of the army.
A view of the lunar army before the first game. A card was displaying the stats of each kind of unit.
A partial view of the duck army centered on the Mighty Trojan Duck.
Ruben in't Groen concentrating before the battle. He s sitting by the troll army but will play the Orlanthi.
Jane waiting for the first battle.
Claire "She who wait in the Dark" Steyert, the troll leader in all her dark beauty ! Beware "the too tall to fit in the picture" Zorak Zorani behind is her favorite male warleader, Graham Robinson.
While Merlin Cox is carefully moving the black feather death guard, Stefan Langveld is thinking about victory behind his orlanthi army.
Durulz and Uz running for the hill and meeting the yelmalian army. The ducks will have a bit more success than the zorak zorani skeleton hordes...
Ruben in't Groen is trying to find how to manage the lunar incursion while Remy Croxatto is moving his sun domers.
Pierre Pradal (ducks) taking a picture (will he send it to me ?). Jane with her battle report notebook.
The picture is taken, now let s fight those sun domers !
Lunar aproaching the hill ? No : the lunar player sacrificed this bow unit to have the sun domers fight the orlanthi !
The Moonboat at the top of the Hill ! Time to take some new pictures !
Wilfried Hallier (troll player) seems confident in victory.
The strong light on the Hill of Gold was done with the help of Oliver Derks from Tentacles who used a big professional spotlight with colour filters. In the pictures, the Hill is still controlled by the Yelmalians. Blue and red filters were ready for Orlanthi/Durulz and Lunar, and if the trolls had taken control we would have simply switched off the light.
Grégory Privat, the referee, looking at Pierre Pradal movements in the glowing light.