HAVOC 2022

The HAVOC 2022 gaming convention ran in Sutton, MA this year from April 8-10. It was the first one held since 2019 due to COVID. As I promised, I would share some pics and brief discussions about the four Feudal Patrol™ games I ran there. Yes, it’s a couple of months late post-wise, but I think the pics are nice enough to share. As I shared in my last post, the last two to three months have been very busy!

I ran “Surprise Aztec Raid on the Spanish Outpost” on Friday night, “July 7, 1520 – The Battle of Otumba” on Saturday morning, “July 1, 1520 – La Noche Triste – Bloodbath on the Tacuba Causeway” on Saturday night, and “Cortes’ Causeway Escape Attempt” on Sunday morning. Yes, that’s a lot of games, and each one had a four hour time slot. This convention also occurred right before our Florida trip (for RECON and golfing which you will read about in a future post hopefully shortly). Also, the HUZZAH gaming convention was coming up May 12-15, so I was aware that I had a LOT to do to be ready for that. More on HUZZAH later…

At HAVOC you will notice that masks were required for the convention – hopefully the next time HAVOC happens we won’t need them. I definitely think they kept attendance lower than otherwise. Just my opinion.

For this post, I’ll share my game briefing and then a gallery of photos that you can check out individually. The game briefings help the gamers to understand the basics of the scenario and how it fit into the history of the Spanish Conquest. I do not run the games in any historical sequence – I rather set them up based on the time slots and time required for setting up.

“Surprise Aztec Raid on the Spanish Outpost”

I have run this gaming scenario several times before – and it really works well at a con or club gaming day.

Here is my game briefing:

Near harvest time, a Tlaxcalan village is being raided by the Aztecs, seeking to take wealth, food, and prisoners.  The Aztecs know the majority of the Tlaxcalan troops are with the Conquistadores elsewhere, and expect an easy task.  Unbeknownst to the Aztecs, there are some Spanish troops at this town who will help to defend it.  This is a generic scenario based on Aztecs launching a surprise raid Veracruz or a Tlaxcalan Village serving as a supply base for Cortes.  This scenario lasts 10 turns.

Below are the pics – as memory serves, the Spanish held on to a victory.

“July 7, 1520 – The Battle of Otumba”

This is another scenario that has been popular.

Here is my game briefing:

For almost two weeks, the troops under Cortes retreated across central Mexico – hoping to reach the safety of Tlaxcalan territory.  All of the Spanish were wounded to some degree – many died each day from the wounds suffered during La Noche Triste and the subsequent skirmishes that occurred as the Aztecs, under Cuitlahuac, pursued them mercilessly.  The Conquistadores found themselves on a small rocky outcropping – and according to Diaz nearly surrounded on two sides.  They were just short of the mountain pass that would bring them to safety of Tlaxcala.  They took up an infantry square position bristling with pikes and halberds upon on the rocky outcropping overlooking plains.  The Aztecs rained missile fire upon the Spanish, and subjected them to numerous human wave attacks.  The brutal end was near when Cortes noticed that the attacks were being coordinated by the cihuacoatl, the High Priest of Tenochtitlan, the Cihuacoatl Matlatzincátzin.  He was the one who was acting as the Aztec General.  This High Priest was using signalers and bannermen to coordinate the attacks.  Cortes personally rounded up what remained of his cavalry and with great personal courage led a mounted charge towards the High Priest and his retinue.  The Aztecs had never before faced a massed cavalry attack.  While the hooves of the Spanish cavalry were previously unable to make such a charge on the smooth pavements of Tenochtitlan – at Otumba, they were able to make a classic cavalry attack.  The charge succeeded in killing the High Priest and many of his officers.  It was reported that Cortes himself dispatched the High Priest with his lance.  With the death of their leader and disruption of his communications system, the Aztec attack faltered.  It quickly fell apart without the command and control that the signals had provided.  Cortes and what was left of his troops were able to escape to fight another day, and eventually conquer the Aztec Empire – but this battle could have changed the course of history.  This game will last 5 turns and can accommodate 4-12 players on a 6’ x 4’ tabletop.

The Spanish took massive casualties but the arrival of Cortes and his cavalry managed to eke out a Spanish victory.

“July 1, 1520 – La Noche Triste – Bloodbath on the Tacuba Causeway”

Here is my game briefing:

The struggle for the high ground of Temple of Yopico had been a fleeting success for Cortes.  Importantly, the Spanish had not succeeded in the most important task at hand – allowing Cortes and his troops to escape Tenochtitlan and reach the safety of Tlaxcalan allies on the mainland .  While the Spanish did temporarily seize the high ground of the temple, their war wagons were now destroyed, their supplies of food and water were gone, and they found themselves again trapped in the Palace of Axayacatl surrounded by thousands of angry Aztecs.  Times were even more desperate.  For those trapped in the city, one last try would either succeed or fail.  Either way, a Spanish failure meant either death on the battlefield or on the Altar of Huitzilopochtli.  Success might still mean death on the battlefield.  Cortes knew that the Aztecs had removed multiple spans over the canals on the causeways, which effectively meant that he would have to bridge those gaps to get to the mainland.  Cortes’ men stripped beams from the palace, and had constructed pieces to make temporary haulable bridge pieces.  No matter which causeway the Spanish took –  they faced a dire situation.  Cortes decided to try to make a night escape attempt with all of his forces – and head for the Tacuba Causeway – which was the shortest way out of the city.  He left at midnight, and under the cover of darkness, made headway undetected – for a while.  The Aztecs finally detected the Spanish movements, and raised an alarm.  War canoes, manned by Aztec warriors, surrounded Cortes’ troops on both sides of the Tacuba Causeway, and he faced enemies to his front and his rear.  Cortes’ men and his Tlaxcalan allies had taken with them as much looted treasure as possible, as well as prisoners (sons and daughters of the now-late Montezuma).  The Aztecs are hell-bent on stopping their escape.  A Tlaxcalan warband will try to help clear the way to the Spanish from the mainland.  This scenario can accommodate 6-10 players and lasts 10 turns.

This time, Cortes’ escape failed and the Aztecs won the day handily.

“Cortes’ Causeway Escape Attempt”

The last game I ran was my massive “Cortes’ Causeway Escape Attempt” game. I was honored to win the “Al” award for this game – described by Battle Group Boston as follows:

“Starting at Havoc XXVI (2010), this award is presented for the game with the most stunning visual appeal. Our crack team of experts (expert team of cracks) will vote on the game that made us say “Wow!”.” The Al award was created in honor of Al Garnache, an avid and active local player.

This is the second time that I was honored to win this award – the other being in 2018 for “Attack of the Warbots”.

Here is my game briefing:

While Cortes was away confronting Narvaez at the Battle of Cempoala, some of his troops under the command of Pedro de Alvarado had remained in Tenochtitlan. Cortes had previously bloodlessly seized Montezuma as his prisoner/puppet, so he felt relatively secure to make the trek to Cempoala.  This was not the case with Alvarado. He feared that the Aztecs were planning to surprise his troops and massacre them; thus, he decided to strike first.  At the Feast of Toxcatl (an annual Aztec religious festival), hundreds of the political and military elite of the Aztec Empire were participating in the “Serpent Dance” – and were unarmed. Alvarado took the chance and attacked all of those celebrating with no quarter. Most were murdered and some were captured. The warriors killed by Alvarado and his men were among the best in the Aztec Empire. Still, the Spanish and their Tlaxcalan allies were far outnumbered in Tenochtitlan, and they now faced an entire city that was rising up against them. Cortes returned from the Battle of Cempoala. His forces were reinforced by the men and equipment of Narvaez who had defected to Cortes’ banner. He was able to enter Tenochtitlan with his men, and soon learned of the general uprising. As a goodwill gesture, yet a strategic mistake, he released Montezuma’s brother, Cuitlahuac – who had been captured by Alvarado at the massacre. Cuitlahuac almost immediately became the leader of the Aztecs, effectively becoming the new Emperor – and Montezuma’s replacement. The siege of the Spanish began in earnest.  The Spanish had occupied the Palace of Axayacatl, were without water, and were coming under increasing attack. The Aztecs even tried to burn the palace down around the Spanish, but were stopped with artillery, crossbow, and arquebusier fire.  Cortes tried to use Montezuma one last time – to see if the Aztecs surrounding them would stand down. Montezuma was brought out at the Palace of Axayacatl try to get the attackers to stop their assault. Montezuma’s exhortations not only failed to sway the crowd of enraged Aztecs, but he was hit in the head by a rock from an Aztec sling. That wound would incapacitate him. Shortly afterwards, he died. The cause of his death was the slung stone or perhaps he was murdered later by the Spanish as he lay unconscious – the truth is forever lost to history. In the end, Cortes realized that he had no safe escape route to the causeways. In any such attempt, his troops would be vulnerable to a massive volume of missile fire. Cortes ordered his men to tear out any lumber available from the palace to build a number of war wagons.  These would serve as similar devices to the Hussite war wagons of the 15th Century, but would be moved by humans, not horses. Cortes hoped that they would hopefully provide cover for his own missile troops from withering Aztec missile fire – and therefore help his forces make it to the causeways. With these war wagons, Cortes launched an escape attempt that he hoped would be able to punch through the Aztecs and escape to the causeways – and then onto the safety of the mainland and the his Tlaxcalan allies.  This scenario lasts 10 turns.

I was pleased to run so many games and especially to see that the players had a great time. My personal thanks to all at Battle Group Boston for a fun convention – and especially to Leif Magnuson for ALL his help with setting up and taking down of my games.

And of course, a big THANK YOU to the players. It has been very rewarding to see players coming back again and again just to play in my games. As Cortes would say, muchas gracias!

Next up in the blog – RECON Convention in Florida, gaming with Buck Surdu and Dave Wood, and golf school with my lovely wife Lynn!

Thanks for taking a look and I hope you found this interesting – if late!

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Author: Mark Morin

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