Actual Play – The Leafboat Expedition (6/7/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Mouse Guard


We picked up the third installment of Mouse Guard on Sunday. Sadie started us off the prologue recalling how Kenzie had broken out of being held by the Axe, but then caught in her attempt to take back the map, and thrown into the River. Sadie, after being chased off by other mice, saw Kenzie being taken downstream and leaped to her aid. Together they pulled Kenzie from the river, but not without losing a lot of ground on the army marching toward Lockhaven.

Sadie scouted ahead and found a path her patrol could use to catch up with the Axe. Crawling along the bark of an old spruce they found the army, hundreds of mice strong, making camp.

Kenzie was hungry from getting pulled down stream so she rounded up some berries for the mice to eat. Meanwhile Sadie, thought still angry, opted to spend her time sneaking into camp to steal back the map. And she did!

Our adventure

After Sadie recapped the last adventure I told the mice that they needed to make haste to Lockhaven and warn them of the encroaching army. The mice updated their goals.


  • Belief: A mouse must think with her head but act with her eart.
  • Goal: We will make it to Lockhaven before the army on my leaf boat.
  • Instinct: Never delay while on a mission.


  • Belief: It’s not what you fight, but what you fight for.
  • Goal: I’ll report everything we’ve found to Gwendolyn.
  • Instinct: Always consult with Sadie on important matters.

First obstacle. The mice needed to sneak out the axe’s camp and make a leaf boat to travel up the river to Lockhaven.

Kenzie consulted with Sadie about the best way to sneak past the Axe’s patrol and Sadie agreed to be a lookout, helping with her scouting skill. While listening for patrols she heard two of the Axe arguing with each other, one who wanted to be brave and fight for the Axe, the other, clearly a long time friend mouse who wasn’t sure what they were doing was right. With Sadie’s aid, and despite being tall, Kenzie slipped the Mouseguard past the Axe’s patrols. [Nature check, OB 3. +1 helping die from Sadie’s scouting, +1 die from Patrol Leader-wise -1 die from the trait “Tall” (to earn a check). Success!]

At the stream, Sadie quickly went about building a boat from a leaf, fashioning oars and making supports to keep the leaf strong. Kenzie helped by rounding wood to use as oars. As they were getting ready to launch the boat though, Sadie stepped on a twig that snapped loudly and alerted the guards, who scampered down to the shore after them. [Boatcrafting check, OB2. +1 helping die from Kenzie’s survivalist, +1 die from Coast-wise. Failure -> Plot twist, argument with the patrol]

Two of the Axe knew they weren’t a good match for two of the Mouseguard but they had a horn to blow to summon the rest of the army. Kenzie consulted with Sadie briefly and agreed they should speak to the patrol, see if they could convince them the error of their ways. Sadie identified that this was the patrol she overheard and at least one of them was uncertain. An argument broke out with Sadie and Kenzie trying to convince the mice they should desert the Axe as the cause was wrong and go back home. The patrol was arguing to blow the horn and summon enough mice to overwhelm the Mouseguard. Some wise words from Kenzie and a heartfelt plea from Sadie convinced these two sellswords that the corn of copperfield called them strong than the charge of the axe. With one bold move the mouse who had wanted to go home all long tore the horn from the string it hung from and tossed it into the river. Kenzie and Sadie watch satisfied as the two mice walked down stream talking about corn recipes and dropping off bits and pieces of their armor as they went. [Argument conflict. Kenzie’s starting disposition 7, Axe mice starting disposition 5. After an exchange of neither side making progress, Sadie channeled her mouse nature on an attack (which was opposing a feint) and rolled 5 successes, winning with a clean victory.]

Second obstacle. Warning the Guards.

The two mice made their way safely up the river to Lockhaven and started calling for the guard to man the walls, an army was coming. They knew they needed to speak to the Captain Rand so Kenzie started asking around for him, while Sadie made impassioned speeches about the dangers outside the gate. Rand was found and the order to man the wall was made. When the portcullis was dropped, however the chains had rusted and it would not fall all the way. [Circles roll, Ob 3 (Rand is higher rank). +1 Helping die from Sadie’s oratory, +1 die from Patrol Leader-wise and +1 die from “Leader” trait. Success!]

Player Turn. Kenzie had two checks, and Sadie one, so I let the patrol leader start off.

Seeing that the portcullis would not drop, Kenzie rounded up mice to build a barricade to block the Axe. One was created but it was done in haste, One of the guards was rolling a wagon out there to use as when it was tipped over it landed on his leg trapping him under it. The Guard drew his dagger and said valiantly “Leave me here, I’ll be the first to cut down the Axe as they charge in!” [Persuasion roll, Ob 4 (to create something in such a rush), +1 die from Patrol Leader-wise. Failure -> Plot twist, the trapped mouse. In retrospect I probably should have had Kenzie make a Resources roll]

Sadie was still angry about all of this and needed time to clear her head, but time was not something she could afford, seeing that a mouse was trapped she charged over to left of the cart and free his leg from under it. While Kenzie propped her staff under the cart and pried it up, Sadie dragged the mouse out, though his leg was broken, he was a alive, at least for now. [Heath roll, Ob 2, +1 helping die from Kenzie’s Fighter. Success!]

With her last few moments, Kenzie rounded up Sadie and made her report to Gwendolyn. Returning the map and telling the Matriarch of Midnight’s plan. Gwendolyn was impressed by the heroics of her Guard, but had no time to dole out honors, an army was at their doorstep!

Wrap up

We wrapped and awarded fate and persona a plenty. Everyone achieved their goals and followed their beliefs. Sadie did delay somewhat while on the mission but won everyone’s heart with her plea to the mice and saving Lewis, the mouse trapped under the barricade, earning her MVP.

Next game I think the GM’s turn will use conflicts as the main obstacle, rather than as twists. The first will be a Military Conflict to determine how badly damaged Lockhaven is and the final will be a Fight to protect Gwendolyn. I imagine getting chased by bees could be a fun twist in the first one.

What rocked

Each of the conflicts were really fun to play out. I love how teamwork allows all the mice (albeit I only have two) to participate, making each of the rolls feel packed with action. This is nothing new, BW does this all the time, but it’s still worth mentioning how cool this is.

Sadie got to make a leaf boat and sail it. She’s been wanting to do that for ages.

My wife seems to be getting more excited about the game. At first it was really “we’ll do this thing with our daughter” but I thinks she has really warmed up to it as well.

Fuller uses of traits. We explored how to gain checks with traits and it paid off for the mice. I like this system a lot.

The game is nice and short. I feel like a lot gets done is a fairly short time. Next session will be our fourth and will resolve the story with midnight, ending Spring 1152 for our mice. After that, if we continue I’ll break from canon completely and either play out the winter season in Lockhaven or skip right to fall 1153.

What could have been improved

As you might be able to tell, I cheated, again. In the first obstacle I required two rolls, one to sneak from the camp and one to make a boat. I did this for several reasons. One, I wanted both players to feel like they were meaningfully contributing. Two, I wanted to increase the chance they would get caught and have an argument with the patrol. This really smacks of railroading but frankly I find the “plot twist” the most interesting part of the mechanics and so far they have resulted in lots of fun encounters (and our only two conflicts thus far). Plus I wanted to show that actions have consequences (sneak into the camp and you might get caught) but that not every foe was fought with swords. I had intentionally foreshadowed the mice’s doubt in hopes one of their rolls would fail so they would feel confident that they could talk to the patrol rather than have to fight them. I’m not sure if this is really a bad thing as the game play we got out of it was fun, but it does break the convention of two obstacles per GM turn.

During the argument my daughter got really scared. In the first exchange the patrol was unmoved (nobody’s disposition had dropped) and she was really afraid they were going to sound the alarm. I assured her that the way the game worked, they couldn’t do it yet and that Sadie and Kenzie were still doing well (7 disposition vs. 5). It was Kenzie’s turn to act next so I asked her if it was okay if Kenzie took her action and then we’d see if Sadie was up for continuing. She was crying some, and having a hard time telling me exactly what was wrong but I assured her that even if they lost, all it would mean was an exciting chase back to Lockhaven. She whimpered a bit and let mom take an action, which she won, and that gave her some more hope. On her attack, I recommended she use her mouse nature and it paid off big for both player and character. Sadie won the day (knocking their disposition down to 0) and my little one felt much better knowing the mice were safe. It was weird because in previous encounters she hasn’t had much of a problem loosing or being in danger, but this one hit her hard. I’m going to keep talking to her about it.

I realized the portcullis failing to drop probably should have been the result of a plot twist rather than a successful circles roll. I was establishing some optional goal for the player turn, a way for the army to get in, and most importantly, a reference back to the comics for my little one, who really wants to see some of that stuff happen in the game. It’s not the end of the world, but it does strike me as contrived.

As mentioned above, when Kenzie wanted to build a barricade, I probably should have used resources instead of persuader.

Rules question: Can you use wises and help in circles rolls? I know you couldn’t in BW, but there are no affiliations in Mouseguard so I wasn’t sure. I just winged it and said she could, but I should double check.

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – The Leafboat Expedition (6/7/2009)”

  1. Sounds like good fun! I’m always delighted to read your MG actual play reports.

    As to your question:
    p. 93 Abilities Can Always Help Abilities: If Nature, Will, Health, Resources or Circles is being tested, anyone can help.

    Next heading though on p. 94, it says that Skills and Wises help Skills and Wises. I don’t know if that’s can ONLY help Skills and Wises, though.

  2. You forgot to mention that Sadie’s player was also somewhat occupied with details like the name of the guard who was rescued from under the wagon. His name was Lewis (or Louis).

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