My first player game of 2019 was the Den of Wolves game be John Mizon of South West Megagames, run through Horizon Megagames.
It’s been run a few times before, and I knew it was modelled on the Battlestar Galatica Board Game (which I have never played but want to).
Humanity has been mostly wiped out by a devastating attack by the planet Wolf. The remnants only survive because they are on individual ships that avoided the devastation: the Star Alpha, the ICSS Aegis, the Dione, the Icebreaker, the Lucas, the Shepherd, the Quellon, Refinery 124, the Salvador, the Endeavour and the Vulcan. We few, we are what survive at the edges of space, trying desperately to outpace the Wolf vessels that pursue us, and the Wolf spies that infiltrate us.
Each ship had its own special thing about it. My own, Dione, was a luxury cruiseliner from FAS (basically space America), with a ton of mouths to feed and not much in the way of resource generation – but a ton of untrained crew who could potentially be put to use.
The Star Alpha hosted the President (previously Minister for Transport before everyone ahead of him in line to the Presidency died). The Aegis was the military vessel – basically a law unto itself, but realistically the only way we could survive a wolf attack.
My position was as Council Member from the Dione, a political influencer who was in charge of sorting out the politics that would rule our lives. And… I was a Wolf Sleeper Agent.
I was activated just before the first turn, and given the code word “shell”. I knew I might be on my own… but that my objective now was to ensure the certain death of everyone I knew. It was a tough task, but I felt I was up to it.
Early days in space
I met my team. All so innocent. All so doomed. I normally try to be a good team player when I know my team is newer to megagames than me, but this time I couldn’t bring myself to input much on their ideas.
The Dione crew consisted of a Captain, a First Officer and a Chief Engineer. They seemed a likeable bunch, and likely to be reasonably good at my job. I decided early on I wasn’t going to be a quick-to-act, quick-to-die sort of Wolf. I was going to bide my time on the Council.
Excited to get started at the Den of Wolves megagame with Horizon Megagames.Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 March 2019
(Note that in the above video you can see one of the hints that were in live videos that I was a wolf: at 00:44, John asks to speak to me.)
As the Council was being held on the Dione, I put out a spread of cheese, crackers and ham, to make sure they knew that Dione knew how to do hospitality, even in these tough times.
I gave just enough input into the discussion that I wasn’t overlooked, but I tried not to be the most outspoken. Luckily we had a few characters in the room that made that unlikely. Early on, I identified the Council Members from the Icebreaker and the Quellon as being useful shields as radical idea proposers who I could hide behind.
The first Council meeting brought up the topic of elections.
President Ed seemed to want to stay out of the spotlight and had already announced his intention not to run. As whenever they come up at megagames, I decided I was going to run, though I held off on announcing it for several turns. I also made sure that the voting would be done by ship population, giving me an automatic advantage as the Dione was one of the biggest ships.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a) how to actually sabotage things from within the council and b) how to slip my codeword into conversation. “Shell” is actually a pretty tough word to just squeeze into random conversation.
Luckily, my other wolves weren’t as stumped. After a second council session, where we voted to not centralise any resources (which seemed great to me, as they would therefore use the resources less efficiently), the Vice President Johan made it onto the airwaves. His second sentence made me look up so sharply I was sure someone else would have noticed.
“We need to get the fleet to come out of their shell.”
I agonised for almost a whole turn, where in council we discussed Privacy and Security. I made sure to vote with the council when they determined that no one had privacy from their Captain onboard the ship and that Captains could control who boarded their ships.
As we headed out to team time, I caught Johan and muttered that I had enjoyed his speech about the fleet coming out of its shell. Moments later, I felt my phone buzz.
“Becky for president.”
Law and Order in Space
This was a particularly interesting council session. I supported the idea that we could vote investigate any ship’s actions that seemed suspicious. If the vote passed by a super super majority (6/7), we could send two independent investigators to look into the matter.
Having discussed law and order, we naturally moved on to punishment. Logically, I knew that harsh punishment would be the best deterrent, and that we were struggling to feed our good citizens… but my Wolf-self knew that it was highly likely that myself or one of my fellow Wolf agents would be on the receiving end of this punishment eventually. The Shepherd rep, Cheryl, suggested sending them to do hard labour on the prison ship Vulcan. We decided to keep both that and the death penalty on the table as options for the council.
Finally, the Pres mooted a vote to second Marines from the Aegis to be a police force. This failed with a resounding NO.
Meanwhile, in the main room we had jumped location twice. The first time, both the Dione and the Quellon had arrived some time after the other ships. I had no idea what this meant – I hadn’t sabotaged my own ship! That would be madness and would lead the hunters right to my door. It turned out that my team had staffed the Jump Room with an injured crew, meaning they acted less efficiently. I filed away the Quellon as a great place to throw suspicion on later if need be.
After both jumps, the Wolves had immediately caught up with us. I took this to mean that Johan or someone else was feeding them coordinates, so I didn’t worry about doing that. As I had resolved to do virtually nothing too untoward, I dumped most of my Wolf equipment, keeping hold of just a few pieces of hacking kit.
My next plan was to switch the Dione jump codes, ideally during a jump when the entire council was present on the Dione. Previously they had all been entered into the ship’s board as soon as the Aegis had received them. I hoped to turn a 7 into a 1 or a 5 into a 6 at some point, isolating my ship and removing the Council and any sort of sensible governance from the game entirely.
Meanwhile, it was unfortunately the Dione that was taking a bit of a pounding. The size of our ship was causing serious food and water shortages, and most of our crew tokens had been sent out to work on other ships without sufficient trade deals in place. One crew token in particular had now become the main pilot trainer on the Aegis, having only learned to fly a turn before.
And we had taken quite a few hits from Wolf attacks. Thanks to all of this, our morale was plummeting. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I had to make it look convincing, so I started pleading at Council meetings for assistance. Unfortunately, what mostly happened was that the Press started reporting on it, which further hit our morale, and very few people seemed to offer us aid.
Aegis Over Eager
The council continued its discussions. This time on the agenda were Jump Destinations (we agreed unanimously that the Aegis would determine them) and then the position of the military. Put simply, President Ed thought the Aegis were getting out of hand. They were overstepping their boundaries as military operatives.
In turn two, Admiral Harrison had told the Pres that he would jump without hesitation of the fleet was in danger, whether or not the other ships had the fuel to jump with them. This immediately put everyone’s backs up, and during the resource distribution discussion that turn we’d determined that we were going to restrict their fuel supply so they only ever had enough for a single Jump. This, we hoped, would keep them dependent on us, and less willing to leave a ship behind.
(It has come out in the aftermath that this was a clever ploy by the VP and the Admiral never said anything of the sort).
So when the topic of Military Power came up in the council, there weren’t many that supported them having any at all. The downside, of course, was that they do have an awful lot of guns. Calls to remove Harrison as Admiral started around this time, although Ed was naturally hesitant to do anything too rash. For myself, I still hoped there was a Wolf onboard that ship, and was willing to wait a little longer, so I agreed with Ed.
This turn was the last turn we actually had any formal matters to discuss. After that, it all got a bit more manic…
A Bad Choice of Running Mate
That turn I announced my run for President, alongside Jonty, the Council Rep from Refinery 124, as my running mate. Being from one of the “old nations”, I knew that choosing a potential VP from one of the “new nations” was a good plan. As the producer of most of the fuel in the fleet, Refinery 124 seemed to be a good choice.
I’d asked Johan for any suggestions (as a subtle way to see if he’d sussed out any other Wolves), but he didn’t get back to me until too late. I was announced as the first candidate that Press phase.
The next Council Phase, we called in the Admiral to answer for his
crimes comments. We reasserted our dominion over him (which he didn’t exactly love) and discussed the issue of the Jump Codes being leaked to the Wolves, which that had been for a third time.
It was a short meeting, and as I headed out into the main room, there was a ruckus. I looked over to see Jonty, my Running Mate, being manhandled into the Brig of the Aegis, and the press saw me gawping and came running. They said a Wolf communicator had been found in his bunk.
I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t know whether he was a wolf or not. Even if he was, I couldn’t stand by him. I condemned him in the harshest possible terms, and accused him of manipulating me and my supporters to try to get the Wolves into a position of power.
His Captain had handed him over to the Aegis, rather than to the Council, so I went and tore him a new one too. Not my best move, as it turned out I would need him later.
Dione in Distress
Meanwhile, the Dione was getting more and more smashed up, and our council meetings were frequently being interrupted with declarations that the ship was on fire… again.
After one particularly bad attack, I even ran and got my emergency biscuits that I’d bought for when things seemed to be going south.
But it wasn’t enough to keep the Council meeting there. We switched over to the Star Alpha (the President’s ship) for our meetings. I threatened to remove all the tasty snacks I’d bought, but unfortunately was a bit too busy to follow through.
Two more candidates for President announced themselves. One was the Adam, Council Rep for the Icebreaker. I knew him from council meetings as being outspoken and revolutionary. But he wasn’t my big threat. My big threat was none other than Matt Bambridge, Captain of the Lucas.
He was such a threat that immediately after announcing my bid, I had gone over to try to bribe him not to run. I didn’t have much at my disposal, but what I had I offered him. Naturally, he turned me down.
To cover all bases, Johan offered to be his Running Mate. In fact, eagle eye watchers of my Livestream would have seen him whispering it to me in this video, even though Matt eventually went with someone else:
It’s getting tense in space…Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 March 2019
Wolves on Refinery 124
Meanwhile, further evidence had come to light. It appeared that Russell, the First Officer of Refinery 124, had been the one to accuse Jonty of Wolfishness. It appeared he had entered Jonty’s bunk not long before the communicator had been discovered, and that his fingerprints, not Jonty’s, were found on the device.
The evidence was circumstantial, but we had a job to do as the Council. Our meeting was held up as President Ed started being late to meetings, and we spent at least two council sessions on this.
I had no idea if either, both or neither were wolves. The evidence seemed to point to Russell, who was found guilty almost unanimously. But then Jonty mentioned a “confusing word” he had received from Matt Bambridge, my political rival. I knew it wasn’t the secret Wolf word, but eager to find something to pin on Matt, I voted that Jonty was guilty as well. Only two votes went that way, however, and once he was pardoned he even offered to continue standing as my Running Mate despite my vote. I couldn’t risk the heat, so I declined.
Russell was sentenced to hard labour on the prison ship Vulcan. I wouldn’t find out until after the game, but he was also a Wolf, and the only other one in fact.
Around this time, two new processes were put into place. Firstly the ships went into a “web” formation, which was designed to prevent long distance comms – i.e. the ones that Johan was sending to the Wolves.
Secondly, the jump codes would now be transmitted securely through the Captain’s chat. I had hoped that this could be through the Council Reps, as surely we were the most trustworthy. Instead this decision was decided completely by the Aegis.
Luckily Johan was still in the “Captain’s Chat”, and still had access to the codes. Not to mention that my poor team was too trusting of me, and I could generally get it from them.
However the web seemed to work, and we managed to jump without the Wolves catching up for a few turns. I was almost relieved for the sake of Dione, until I remembered I didn’t care about my ship.
Speeches and Spats
During Team Time, the Press started running Presidential debates between the three candidates. While Adam took a hard Communist line, Matt went for a happy-clappy “everything is fine in space” sort of line.
I was NOT impressed. He was in the main room swanning about while I was off in council meetings, and even though his optimistic pledges seemed to have no connection to reality, they always got a hearty cheer. Plus I had absolutely zero campaign policies, seeing as my only objectives were to secure the certain death of everyone on board.
As such, I decided my platform would be “everything Matt says is wrong”. This got even easier when he said that even though the resource situation was a challenge, it seemed to be working, and that we were doing well militarily. I got to explode with the following speech:
“If we weren’t stuck on these ships with all planet life wiped out, I’d be asking Matt what the hell planet he was living on. We have no resources. We are being SHELLed the shit out of. Matt needs to wake up and get a grip.”
Or something like that. I got to include the “Shell” codeword. But no one came forward to make themselves known to me. I felt very alone.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned, President Ed was frequently running late to council. It came out quickly that it was because of Johan. Rumours flew about. Did Ed suspect Johan? Did Johan suspect Ed?
I was flustered on the inside but nonchalant on the outside. I had to keep my cool. Even when he messaged to say that Ed suspected me as well. Even when he was arrested in the council chamber in the middle of Russell’s trial!
He asked for Matt as his emergency contact, to point suspicion his way.
Then things got more confusing. Chris, XO for the Aegis and generally deemed almost certainly a Wolf by everyone prior to the game, stormed the Star Alpha and took Johan into his custody. This was illegal, and Chris ended up getting spaced for it, with Harrison called to the Council Chamber to explain his rogue XO’s actions.
Luckily, Johan was still in the Captain’s Chat and sending me codes, although I had no way to get them to the Wolves, with the web still in place.
I also managed to talk the Council out of even putting Johan on trial. Instead he was sent, pending trial, to the Vulcan. I didn’t want to risk his death.
Water for Dione
Meanwhile, Dione’s cataclysmic position was finally proving useful. We had massive water shortages two turns in a row, and plummeted to a morale of 1. And the ship that was supposed to be supplying us – the Lucas. Matt’s ship.
I took his council rep to task in the meeting, saying that he was deliberately withholding water because I was his political rival. I didn’t think for a moment that was actually the case, but it suited me to pretend.
I said that it was jeopardising the lives of the people on my ship… and by extension the entire fleet! I said that he was essentially committing treason. I said that he had told Jonty that mysterious word several turns ago, that surely that meant he might be a Wolf!
It took several turns for this message to be believed – both the Press and the Council were hesitant of supporting me out of fear of appearing too partisan. But finally Ed decreed that Matt was to be investigated. I was thrilled… until he announced that, to maintain an appearance of fairness, he intended to investigate myself and Adam, the other Presidential candidates, too!
Investigating a Wolf
I had no idea what investigation entailed. I only hoped that my actions had been below the radar enough.
What was worse, was that the two people investigating me – the Captain of the Salvador and the First Officer of the Quellon – were some seriously hardcore megagamers who I wouldn’t be able to fob off. As soon as I told them they had been appointed my investigators, they started following me around the room!
Finally I gave them a slip and spoke to Game Control. I confirmed I had ditched most of my stuff, and he asked where I’d stashed what I had left. I decided it would be in the room of my ship’s First Offcier, who my other teammates had briefly wondered might be a Wolf.
It worked. My investigation came back clean. I was in the clear. Unfortunately, so were Matt and Adam.
As it turned out, my ship’s First Officer was a traitor, of sorts. Not long after, he tried to abandon us in order to become a freelance shuttle pilot. That was where some of our food and water had gone, apparently. I almost told my crew to check his room, but realised how suspicious that would look, and changed my mind.
Populists and Poison
Turn 11, the election turn, crept up on me. In turn 10’s Team Time debate, I called Matt a populist candidate and pointedly said that if we manage to find any Wolves we should deal with them harshly. I saw a smile from the Aegis, and hoped I had their votes.
I also had to last minute appoint a running mate, and on Jonty’s suggestion I approached his ship’s Captain. Refinery 124 was still a useful ally. It took a bit of persuading – one of the policies I’d randomly made up for myself gave him some pause – but he agreed eventually.
In turn 11, there was no Council phase, and I planned to do some hardcore campaigning. I marched decisively down the room, and ran into the Captain of the Salvador. I asked her who she was voting for. She offered me a refreshment while we talked. As soon as it hit my throat, I tasted the poison.
Her crew manhandled me into an ambulance shuttle and hastened me to her ship to recover. Apparently it wasn’t too severe, but they were from the same world as Matt, and had poisoned me to prevent my final round of campaigning. I sat and stewed, texting my frustration to Johan.
With mere minutes to go before the election, and fully recovered, I headed straight to my own ship to find the doctor. Unfortunately, they’d been sent to the Salvador, the one place I knew I wouldn’t get a reliable blood test. I could go to the Press and say I’d been poisoned on Matt’s orders, but without proof I’d come across vindictive.
(It came out later that Matt hadn’t even ordered it – they’d done it of their own volition because of their shared planet. Outrageous.)
Instead, I put my faith in the people. I trusted, nay, I hoped, that I had played my cards well enough. Adam was too radical to be taken seriously by the mass population. And Matt was popular, sure, but he was too positive about the dire straits we were in.
Each person voted one at a time, so to pass the time I livestreamed again, right up to when the election was announced.
Shelve whatever you are doing and watch this video – it’s the Presidential election with me and Mr Megagame.Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 March 2019
Finally, the votes were in. One spoiled ballot. Ten votes for Adam Carpenter, including the entirety of the Press Team. And, with 30 votes and a lead of 6… ME!
I won the election. I was so stunned. They had voted in a Wolf.
Wolf in the Star Alpha
After a short winning speech, where I said I was sure Matt could still be a good Captain under supervision, I took up residence on the Star Alpha. Then it was time for my first council session – and my only one, because the game ended at the end of that turn.
Honestly the council phase passed in a blur. Everyone had questions. Was it finally time to try Johan? How would the Aegis be punished for hoarding resources from the latest jump? What was the plan going forward? How would we recover? Obviously I did not give a shit about most of these questions.
One thing I put into motion was that I suggested it was time to start looking for safe harbour. Were there any other survivors out there? What about viable planets? This was to lay the groundwork for lowering the web at some point in the future.
To Infinity And Beyond
And with that, the game was over. I was President. I was a Wolf. But my two fellow Wolves were locked up, and I was the only one left. I had ideas, tons of ideas, but only time would tell whether any would pan out.
Here’s my top one:
- Send coordinates to the Wolves somehow, probably by arranging them to be transmitted from the Quellon when they jump late, or by dropping the web to “look for planets”.
- Lead the fleet into another cataclysmic Wolf attack.
- Suggest that one of the Captains might be leaking the Jump Codes.
- Arrange for myself to send all of the Jump Codes to the Captains individually.
- Send them all to different locations. Arrange to have a Wolf Welcome Party.
- Get myself and Johan (probably not Russell because we didn’t know he was a Wolf) picked up by Wolves.
- Wolf Forever.
A massive thank you to my crewmates on the Dione, the rest of the council, president Ed, my opponent Matt, my running mate Riccardo and of course my fellow Wolves Johan and Russell – the game wouldn’t have been the same without you.
Den of Wolves is one of the best megagames I’ve played. Granted, I was in a very good role as a Wolf, but others have told me they really enjoy the game as well.