30 March 2020
Night of The Scarecrows: a free horror scenario for Miniature Wargames
This scenario was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Miniature Wargames. Released to coincide with Halloween, we thought it would be a nice treat for gamers everywhere to dive in to this miniatures agnostic scenario.
Miniature Wargames and Tabletop Gaming Magazine are both continuing in print as normal, you can pick up a copy of each with free UK P&P here:
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Credits: Fiction by James Winspear. Rules by Mike Hutchinson. Miniatures by Henry Smith and James Winspear
With that all out of the way, carry on to read our short fiction setting up the scenario. Rules to follow.
Night of the Scarecrows
Night. A windpump creaked painfully as the fans moved slowly around their rusted axis. The wind howled around the dismal cottage, rattling the moss-eaten tiles and rotted shutters. Inside, the fire sputtered fitfully in its squat brick alcove. Several old-fashioned gas lamps had been lit, and the single electric bulb flicked intermittently in the kitchen as the ancient generator grumbled and groaned. Far from dispelling the darkness of the place, the illumination seemed merely to push it into the corners, and the edges of the room were shrouded in oppressive gloom.
Vasquez turned away from the window, propping her rifle against the ledge. Save for the incessant blowing of the wind, everything had been silent out there for the last several hours. She surveyed the scene around her. The cottage was little better than a shack, its interior mouldering and shabby. The whole impression was one of interminable and unmourned decay, and it weighed on Vasquez’s already strained nerves.
She looked at the others in the room. Rourke had leant forward against a window, his steady gaze looking out beyond the makeshift barricade for any sign of disturbance. Shanks was sitting on an ammo box they’d carried in with them, muttering to himself as he obsessively checked and rechecked the sights on his weapon. Butch lounged on an ancient sofa, picking the dirt from his fingernails with a penknife. Archer faced away from the group, bent over a map he’d spread across a battered table.
Rourke caught her eye and began to walk towards her. It was time to switch watch with Butch and Shanks.
“You holding up?” asked Rourke, his deep bass voice as unperturbed as ever. Rourke was built like an ox; a giant of a man with arms like pythons, he moved with a smooth, almost preternatural grace that his heavy frame belied. He was the nearest one of the group that Vasquez would call something like a friend; they worked well together and each one respected the other’s taciturn nature.
“Just about,” Vasquez said, stretching as she pressed her fists into her spine. Rourke turned his head to her window, scanning the outer darkness. “Hell of a night, huh?” he said, not taking his eyes off that inky vista.
“Mm-hmm,” Vasquez replied, noncommittally.
Hell of a night indeed. In the history of botched jobs this was sure to go down as the most spectacular screw-up of them all. Maybe it’d been flawed from the start. Rourke was okay, but the rest? Take Shanks. There was a nutter, a dyed in the wool loco. A thin-faced, ginger haired Irishman, he’d been brought on as the team’s explosive expert. He knew his stuff, and then some, but his wanton appetite for destruction meant he was as much of a liability as an asset at times. Butch, meanwhile, was what you might call your more garden-variety social misfit. He was a broad, beefy ex-biker type, sporting a beard and tattoos that ran all the way up to his neck. Beneath his expansive beer gut was a layer of thick, compacted muscle honed by years of bar-room brawls and curbside beat-downs. And Archer? Archer was a frank mystery. No one on the team knew anything about him. There was speculation about ex-special forces, but speculation was all it was. He’d been the one to organise the whole shindig, and served as the brains of the operation. He was also apparently medically trained, though the idea of Archer saving lives rather than taking them was something that Vasquez would believe when she saw it.
Whether it had been down to the personal failings of the team or simply the random vagaries of fate, the plan had gone FUBAR at the crucial moment and they’d had to make a speedy getaway. In the ensuing gunfight their helicopter had been grazed by a stray bullet and had been leaking fuel slowly but surely ever since they’d got airborne. They’d flown on, travelling over sparsely populated farmland in the hope of remaining anonymous. The sun had been lowering over the horizon when it finally became clear that they were going to get no further. The choice had come down to either landing in some nearby field or crashing into one. In the fading light they’d seen the indistinct shape of the farmhouse from the air.
“There. Touch down there.” Archer had said to Benny, their pilot. They’d come down in the middle of a cornfield a little way off from the cottage, the team scanning for signs of activity. They’d have to hijack a ride from the unfortunate residents of the place, avoiding bloodshed if possible, but that was a distinctly secondary priority.
What the setting rays and distance had obscured from the air the team now saw for themselves. The cornfield lay neglected, the tall stalks shrivelled and brown, the earth clogged with weeds. It wasn’t just that the whole place was run-down; it seemed dead, somehow, forgotten, emanating an aura of forlorn abandonment. Remembering it now, Vasquez was sure that she hadn’t heard a single bird or insect stir at their presence.
Archer was taking no chances. He’d jumped out onto the flattened area caused by the helicopter’s descent and gazed around him, eyes alert.
“Benny, you stay here with equipment. The rest of you, with me. Take your sidearms; leave the rest of the weapons here. Stay sharp; another complication is the last thing we need right now.”
The team had started making their way towards the outline of the house, pushing through the dead stalks and bracken. As they did so they noticed the scarecrows for the first time. There were about a dozen of them, bundles of rags on crosses like tattered ships sails, and as they continued they came across several more that had been pushed over by the wind. There didn’t seem anything particularly peculiar about them – just masses of straw, old clothes and sticks – but there was something vaguely off-putting about their sheer abundance. It was like one of those optical illusions of animals in the jungle; you’d look around and only see shadows and foliage, but when you looked again you realised that what you thought had only been a mound of earth was another scarecrow, lying face down in the earth like a discarded marionette.
“Man, I guess someone really hates crows,” said Butch, chuckling uneasily.
“Can it, Butch,” growled Archer. Something about the place had put them all on edge.
They emerged from the cornfield onto a worn dirt road, a copse of woodland opposite them, and began to trek towards the house. It was full dark now, and in the silence the only sound they could hear was the crunching of their boots on the gravel.
“What was that?” Shanks had whipped around, pistol raised, his eyes darting across the woodland. The rest of them turned instantly, drawing their guns up. Nothing moved between the trees.
“Jesus, Shanks,” said Butch, letting out a breath, “it’s just a goddamn scarecrow. Get a hold of yourself.”
The thing stood against a tree, its cross propped haphazardly against the trunk.
“Yeah, but… I thought… ah nevermind,” said Shanks, uncertainly.
“You been skippin’ your meds again, Shanks?” Butch taunted, leering at him.
“Shut the hell up, Butch,” spat Shanks.
“Quiet, the both of you,” hissed Archer. “All of you, spread out.”
They made their way into the farmyard. Even with a cursory examination it was clear beyond a doubt that the place was abandoned. Even if some crazy, shotgun-toting hick had decided to squat here at some point, he was long gone now. A car that had probably rolled off the assembly line when Roosevelt was still President was now little more than a rusting-heap of junk, wheel-less and resting on a couple of old cinderblocks.
Archer looked around the place. “Damn,” he swore under his breath. He turned to the rest of the team, who’d reassembled after briefly checking a nearby barn and stable. “We’ll go back and get Benny. We’ll lie low here tonight and head out to the nearest town on foot in the morning. Vasquez; I thought I saw some lamps in one of those barns; Shanks, see if you can get that old generator running.”
Doing as he said, the group had begun making their way back to the helicopter, the light from the lamps bobbing up and down as they walked. They bisected the field this time, pushing through into the clearing made by the helicopter’s descent. “Benny,” called Archer. “Look alive; we’re camping here for the night.” He came around to the side of the helicopter.
Benny was gone. His helmet lay discarded on the deck, and a sickle, curved and rusted, had been embedded into the helicopter’s control panel. A thin pool of something glistened blackly in the light of Archer’s lamp. A look of surprise crossed his face, vanishing as fast as it had appeared. He wheeled around, his features taut with tension. “We’re not alone out here. Grab what you can and head to the farmhouse. We’ll set up a defensive perimeter there.”
“Wha-” Shanks began to ask, then saw the puddle of blood. His eyes widened. “What the fu-?” Archer slapped him around the face. “Didn’t you hear me? We’ve got company.” The others, quicker on the uptake, had already grabbed their weapons from out of the helicopter. Shanks came to and pulled something out from under the co-pilots seat. In spite of the situation, Vasquez still found herself shocked. It was a grenade launcher, an honest-to-god grenade launcher, like the type they’d used in Vietnam. Somehow Shanks had stowed the thing on board without any of them realising.
“Yo, boss,” said Rourke, his baritone voice urgent but unwavering. “Heads up.” The cornfield seemed to have come to life, and all around them the stalks were waving and rustling with motion.
“Move, now!” shouted Archer, and they began running, crashing through the rows and onto the path that led to the house. Shanks nearly ran straight into the thing that stood in front of them. He yelled in surprise and fear, falling back onto the gravel. It stood tall and gaunt before them, a vision from some fevered childhood nightmare, moonlight streaming through the holes in its rags. The face beneath its long, pointed hat was shrouded in shadow, hiding its features. Something moved in those shadows, rotten-looking with the suggestion of hideous, needle-like teeth. Impossibly, the apparition began to move, wooden limbs creaking as it extended a pair of rancid talons towards them.
It was Vasquez that acted. Willing her trembling legs to move, she dropped down to one knee, raising her rifle at the creature. Light and noise filled the universe, and the creature went wheeling back, stumbling as it crashed into the cornstalks.
“Go!” She screamed.
They ran. More were coming now, shambling from out the rows. Their comrade began to pick itself up, straw and a tar-like ichor dripping from a large rent in its chest. In a blind panic they crashed into the cottage, slamming the bolts on the door behind them.
Now, Vasquez and Rourke stood looking through the window. They stood in silence, the wind whistling through the cracks in the panes. After the team had made it inside the things hadn’t pursued them, and they’d spent the hours since barricading the place as best they could. They were out there though, just beyond the dim ray of illumination provided by the generator-powered porchlights. Vasquez had a pretty good idea that it was the light keeping them at bay; either that, or the scarecrows were just toying with them. If they could just make it until morning they’d have a chance of escaping.
“Why do you think they’re after us?” asked Vasquez.
“Who the hell cares?” snapped Shanks, glaring at her. She ignored him.
“Dunno,” said Rourke, almost to himself. “Maybe they want what they ain’t got. Life, I mean. They’re just imitation men, right? Fakes.” He paused, musing.
“Where are we before we’re born? Maybe they were the unlucky ones. The never-weres. The could-of-beens.”
Rourke could be quite the poet when he wanted to be. But as Vasquez looked at him, she thought she understood what he meant. She remembered her old life; the violence, the poverty, the degradation. She remembered looking at those people in the rich cities– the high flyers – in their smart business suits and nice cars. Such people had never had to face the muck of the world, never had to fight tooth and claw just to survive. She’d hated them because of what they represented to her; glimpses of a life she could never have. If that’s what these things felt towards the interlopers she could understand it. Yes, she could understand it well.
“Well,” Butch said, grunting as he got up from the decrepit sofa, “Whatever they are, they can kiss my ass. They go after me they’re gonna be in for a world of hurt. Hell, I want them to come; first one I set eyes on I’m gonna punch a hole straight through its goddamn head.” He spat into the fire, racking the slide on the shotgun he carried to emphasise the point.
As if in answer, a noise came from outside. It was a horrible, strangled sound, a rasping howl that filled the night like the expelled air from a thousand dead lungs. The generator began to stutter, then failed altogether. The lights outside dimmed and darkness rushed in to envelop them. As one the team jumped to their feet, cocking their weapons and flicking on their torches.
Archer had taken up his gun and was looking through a gap in one of the barricaded windows. Dim shapes, twisted and skeletal, were moving out there, loping and shambling towards the house. He turned to the ex-biker, a savage grin on his sharp face. “Looks like you’re going to get your wish sooner than you expected, Butch!”
Night of the Scarecrows: A Free Miniatures Scenario
Night of The Scarecrows uses the Perilous Tales ruleset to pit Archer’s team against the scarecrow menace. Perilous Tales is a co-operative skirmish game of thrilling horror adventures created by Mike Hutchinson, designer of Osprey’s Gaslands. Below is a quick-play version of the Perilous Dark ruleset, giving you everything you need for 1-5 players to try and survive the night. If you enjoy it, you can download the full beta game for free from PerilousTales.com
What You’ll Need
All that is needed to play is a small collection of appropriate miniatures, a tape measure, and a handful of ten-sided dice (d10) two of which need to be a different colour.
To brave the horrors of the corn, you will need miniatures to represent the five members of the isolated squad. Divide the five members of the squad up as equally as possible among the players. Each squad member counts as a heroic model and has the following statistics and special rules:
10 Wounds, 3 Action Points, Skill 4.
Binoculars: Acher gains the following action: (1) Peek at a single threat marker in line of sight, placing it back after.
12 Wounds, 2 Action Points, Skill 2.
Tough Guy: Rouke may ignore the first wound received from each attack.
8 Wounds, 2 Action Points, Skill 3.
Grenade Launcher: Shanks may take the following attack action once per game: (2) Grenade Launcher Attack Range 10”, +7 skill. Wound from this attack may be assigned to any combination of the target and/or any enemy models within 2” of the target.
Crazy: Once per turn, Shanks may ignore any one non-attack effect from a villainous model or threat market.
10 Wounds, 2 Action Points, Skill 3.
Brute: Butch gains +2 skill in hand-to-hand combat.
8 Wounds, 2 Action Points, Skill 3.
Rifle: Vasquez gains an additional 4” range and an additional +1 skill when making a shooting attack.
Hair Trigger: Vasquez may always make an immediate attack action if any villainous model ambushes within their Line Of Sight.
Most actions that are more trivial than walking require a Skill Check. This includes interacting with objectives and attacking foes.
To make a skill check, roll a D10 (of one colour), which will be the Difficulty Dice for this check. At the same time, roll a number of D10 (of a second colour) equal to the Skill of the model, which will be the Skill Dice for this check.
Any skill dice that rolls equal to or higher than the value of the difficulty dice is a success. In almost all cases, you require just a single success to succeed at a skill check.
Some skill checks have a minimum difficulty. This is the minimum skill dice roll that can ever count as a success for this action: regardless of the value of the difficulty dice.
If a model has advantage, than roll two difficulty dice and discard the higher before checking for successes. If a model has disadvantage, than roll two difficulty dice and discard the lower before checking for successes.
When checking for successes, if the difficulty dice has rolled a “0”, then the skill check automatically fails, regardless of the values of the skill dice.
A model may attack an enemy model within range and line of sight. When a model attacks another model, it must make a skill check. Each success causes 1 wound to the enemy. When a model has suffered wounds equal to its Wound statistic, that model is killed and is removed from the board.
- Line of Sight: If a line can be drawn from any part of the attacker’s base to any part of the target’s base, without crossing blocking terrain, the attacker has line of sight to the target.
- Cover: If any line can be drawn from any part of the attacker’s base to any part of the target’s base which passes through obscuring or blocking terrain, that target counts as being in cover. If the target is in cover, the attacker suffers a negative flip on the attack.
- Engaged: If a model is within melee range of an enemy model, both models count as engaged with each other.
- Supported: If there are any other heroic models engaged with the target, and one or more of those models aren’t engaged by other villainous models, the attack gains a positive Peril Flip.
- Outnumbered: If there are any other villainous models engaged with the attacking model, and one or more of those models aren’t engaged by other heroic models, the attack suffers a negative flip.
When a heroic model dies, the horror of the situation can cause her friends to falter. When a heroic model dies, every heroic model within 8” and line of sight must make a skill check or immediately move 6” away from the closest villainous model within line of sight, or nearest threat marker if no villainous model is within line of sight.
1. Heroes’ turn
a) Increment the Turn Number
b) Heroic Activations
2. Villains’ turn
b) Threat Roll
c) Villainous Activations
During the heroes’ turn you will activate each model in turn. Each model has a number of action points, which may be spent on the following actions, with the cost in action points listed in brackets:
(1) Walk: move 4”.
(1) Hand-to-hand Attack: Attack range 1”, positive flip if supported. Minimum Difficulty against an Evil Scarecrow or a Murder of Crows: 4. Minimum Difficulty against Hafermann: 6.
(1) Shooting Attack: Attack range 10”, +1 Skill, Minimum Difficulty: 5.
(1) Escape from combat: Minimum Difficulty: 5, if successes equal to or greater than enemy models engaging this model: walk 4”.
(1) Call Over: Range 6”. The target may make an immediate 4” move.
(1) I’ll Cover You: If any villainous model ambushes within line of sight of this model during this turn, this model may make an immediate attack action.
During the villains’ turn, one player must first make a Threat Check to see what unseen perils await your heroes, and then the players take turns to activate each of the villainous models.
Make a threat check, which is a skill check in which you roll a number of skill dice equal to the current turn number plus the number of villainous models in play. This skill check has a minimum difficulty equal to the number of heroic models that are still in play.
E.g. On turn two, assuming four heroic model are in play, and two villainous models: you would roll one difficult dice, and four skill dice, with a minimum difficulty of 4.
Count the number of successes and compare the value against the following table:
Pick up any unrevealed threat marker, without looking at it, and place it anywhere within 7” of a random heroic model.
Place a Murder Of Crows within 1” of the most isolated model. The most isolated model is the one with the fewest number of models within 3” of it. Randomise if unclear.
+ Then apply the Rustling Sounds result
The Noose Tightens
Move each unrevealed threat marker 3” towards the nearest heroic model to it. Reveal any markers that are now within 6” of a heroic model.
+ Then apply the Shrieking Flock result
+ Then apply the Rustling Sounds result
From The Corn
Place 2 Evil Scarecrows within 1” of a random heroic model.
+ Then apply The Noose Tightens result
+ Then apply the Shrieking Flock result
+ Then apply the Rustling Sounds result
Activate the villains
During the Villains turn, you must activate each villainous model once. You can choose the order in which to activate them. When activating a villainous model, follow these steps:
- If this model is within 1” of a heroic model: it must attack a random heroic model within 1” and end its activation; else go to 2.
- If this model can draw line of sight to any heroic model: this model must move 6” towards the nearest heroic model that it can draw line of sight to ending as close as possible to it. If this move brings the villainous model within 1” of a heroic model it must attack it. Regardless: go to 3.
- If this model has neither moved nor attacked so far: then move this model 3” towards the nearest threat marker.
Play on a 24”x24” board. Select one edge as the friendly board edge. The opposite board edge becomes the villainous board edge.
Set up some suitable farm-land terrain. Place a barn (or shed, etc.) in the villainous half of the table during setup. Set up the eight threat markers as described below. Finally, deploy all the Heroic models. They must be touching the friendly board edge.
Terrain can either be open, difficult, obscuring or blocking. Open terrain has no effect. Difficult terrain causes models move at half speed. Obscuring terrain blocks line of sight into or through, but can be seen out from. Obscuring terrain confers Cover on a model touching this terrain. Blocking terrain blocks both movement and line of sight.
After setting up terrain, you need to shuffle and randomly place eight Threat Markers into play in the following placements. The Threat Markers must be numbered 1-8 on the underside and indistinguishable from each other from the top. Players should not known which threat marker is where.
The • icons mark the locations of the threat markers.
Revealing Threat Markers
At the end of any movement that results in a heroic model and a threat marker being within 6” of each other, reveal the threat marker, check the number and activate the effect indicates below, then discard the threat marker:
1: Showdown! The revealer is ambushed by the Hafermann
2-3: Ambush! The revealer is ambushed by an Evil Scarecrow
4-5: Ambush! The revealer is ambushed by a Murder of Crows
6: Unholy Thickets: This threat market remains in play. The revealer, and any heroic model that activates within 6” of this threat marker thereafter, immediately suffers a Skill 3 attack.
7: Rasping Howls: The revealer, and any heroic model within 6”, must pass a skill check or immediately move 6” towards their board edge.
8: Unnerving Silence: This threat market remains in play. All heroic models within 6” suffer a negative peril flip on all attack actions.
When a villainous model is revealed, it will ambush the model that revealed the threat. Place the ambushing model within 1” of the revealer, and as close to the threat marker that revealed it as possible. When a model is ambushed, immediately end the heroes’ turn, and then begin the villains’ turn.
Hafermann, Haunter of the Barren Fields
The Hafermann is a malevolent corn spirit with 12 Wounds. His attacks are Skill 8 and Range 1”.
Chill Touch: after attacking, if this model caused no wounds, the target suffers 1 wound.
Fearful Visage: after attacking, the target must make a skill check or move 4” directly away from the Hafermann in fear.
Men Of The Corn: After this model activates, if there is a heroic model within 6” of it, place an Evil Scarecrow in base contact with the nearest heroic model.
Evil Scarecrows have 4 Wounds and their attacks are Skill 4 and Range 1”.
Murder of Crows
The murder of crows is a single model with 2 Wounds who’s attacks are Skill 3 and Range 1”.
Winged Malevolence: At the end of the villains’ turn, pick up this model and place it within 1” of a random heroic model.
Men Of The Corn: After this model activates, if there is a heroic model within 3” of it, place an Evil Scarecrow in base contact with the nearest heroic model.
Call for Rescue
Deploy a 30mm “Generator Marker” (or a suitably sized item of terrain) anyway in the villainous half of the table, and at least 3” from any other objective.
Radio For Evac: If a heroic model starts an activation within 1” of the Generator Market, a rescue chopper has been called. Deploy two Evil Scarecrows 5” away from this heroic model. The game lasts for exactly 3 more turns after this one.
For each member of you party alive at the end of the game, score 1 point, to a maximum of 4 points.
At the end of the game, if your party killed 3 Evil Scarecrows during this game, score 1 point. If you party killed 4 Evil Scarecrows, score 2 points instead. If your party killed 6 or more Evil Scarecrows, score 3 points instead.
Burn Down The Barn
Place a barn (or shed, etc.) in the villainous half of the table during setup. A heroic model may take an interact action when in base contact with the barn to make a skill check. If they pass the skill check, the barn is set on fire. If the barn is on fire when the game ends, score 3 points. Alternatively, if a model makes a successful RPG Attack targeting the barn: immediately remove the barn from play (replacing with wreckage) and score 3 points.
Game End and Victory
The game ends when the evacuation helicopter arrives, or all of the heroes are dead. You can score a maximum of 10 points in this game, try to get a perfect 10!
If you have enjoyed this scenario, and want to play more spooky showdowns with classic horror monsters, you can download the free beta version of the Perilous Tales rulebook by visiting the website PerilousTales.com.
Perilous Tales is a solo or fully cooperative tabletop miniatures skirmish and adventure game for playing thrilling tabletop horror and pulp adventures with 28mm miniatures from 1890 to the modern day. The full game features more than 25 classic horror foes, and allows you to play thrilling adventures across dozens of iconic locations, each with their own unique challenges and threats.
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