Saturday, July 9, 2011

Turn Five

Sergeant Wayne called to the rest of his squad “fire everything you’ve got and keep it busy”. Then he calmly spoke to the gunner “take your time and hit it where it hurts”. The squad fired their heavy laser rifles in short controlled bursts. Most of the shots ricocheted of the building, but they succeeded in distracting the monster long enough for the gunner to take careful aim. His shot found a gap in the wall and struck the creature cleanly on the back. However, despite leaving a smoking scar where the beam burned through the creatures armour, it seemed unaffected.

The critters on the left then finally built up the nerve to advance and occupy the ruins vacated by the slinkers in front of them. From the security of that position, they fired another volley of grubs at squad Autry. None of the humans were injured by the grubs, but once again, they had to stop shooting to make sure they scraped away any grubs that did land on them before they could burrow under their clothing.

But sergeant Autry quickly got his men back up and shooting and they let loose another volley on the slinkers to their front.

The nearby brain bug floated into the ruins behind the critters and nudged them to keep shooting. Squad Autry was subsequently hit by another large cloud of grubs launched by the alien weapons.

Corporal Cooper reached down and selected yet another AP round for his missile launcher and his gunner fired once more at the big bug. Again, the heavy round did nothing but stun the creature. It roared once more and turned its head as if trying to work out what kept hitting it.

Meanwhile, squad Bogart kept falling back until they were behind squad Douglas. The bug that had attacked them lifted its head and looked around searching for a new target. Corporal Stewart launched another AP round at it, but it impacted on one of the walls and merely caused the creature to take cover again.

The slinkers in front of Clarke began shuffling about, but he fired a long burst at them. One more of them blew apart in a spray of ichor and the rest dropped to the ground again to stay out of the fire zone.

If anyone had been looking closely, they may have seen a brief shimmer of energy surround the brain bug on the right. The beast in front of it momentarily shook itself and then recommenced it slow march towards the line of soldiers. While the critters that were now securely behind the ruined building in front of Cagney began firing volleys of borer beetles at him and his men.

Corporal Grant fired yet another AP missile at the advancing beast, but once again, the round impacted in front of the creature and merely stunned it. Grant cursed whoever it was that had made the batch of missiles he had been issued with. The creature shook itself once more, turned towards Grant and took a few paces.

Gable did not see the monster approach as he was busy lining up the slashers. His twin machine gun fired with a loud clatter. Five of the creatures were shredded, but the rest simply huddled lower to the ground and screamed in defiance.

The critters continued firing at Cagney. A veritable hailstorm of beetles came flying over the walls forcing the men to drop behind its protection. Even then, one of them was hit cleanly in the head, but the bug was crushed as it hit his helmet. Cagney tried to get his men to raise their weapons again, but the storm of beetles was to thick and they could not be persuaded.

The slinkers in the centre could be seen moving about behind the large mound of rubble in front of Wayne and Gable. Lieutenant Robinson surveyed the scene. He determined that the bug in the centre of his position was still the greatest threat and quickly relayed that thought to sergeant Wayne. Then he tried once more to get hold of sergeant Bogart and see if he could get his men back into shape.

Wayne’s fusion gunner knelt down and took a deep breath. He pulled the trigger releasing a sustained pulse of energy that struck the monster just behind its head. the creature roared briefly and then dropped to the ground, a smouldering gash almost severing its head. It tried to rise again, but seemed unable to support its weight and it collapsed, still breathing, but seemingly disabled.

Now that they were behind squad Douglas and comparatively safe, Bogart was able to gain control of his men and settle them down. He had them check their ammo and begin to straighten themselves out.

Squad Douglas cautiously advanced toward the position vacated by Bogart. While some of the broods of bugs began to shuffle and sniff the air in preparation for attacking.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Turn Four

Squad Bogart levelled their rifles and fired another volley at the slinkers threatening squad Autry. While the sustained fire was obviously causing the slinkers to keep their heads down, the rubble provided too much protection to actually hurt them.

On the other flank, the brain bug began to use its influence to improve the cooperation and coordination of the aliens. Unknown, to the humans, the brain sent a psychic message to the slashers in front of it to prepare to launch their attack. Simultaneously, it commanded the critters behind the slashers to charge forward and fire at the humans to provide the distraction necessary to give the slashers the chance to pounce.

[Rules: the brain used its 2 actions to communicate with the slashers and critters. The slashers then attempted to remove their one suppression marker, failing on their first attempt, but succeeding on the second. The critters used one action to advance (10 inches after subtracting 2 to cross the ruined wall) and then fired at squad Wayne in the open.]

The strange weapons carried by the aliens fired a swarm of beetles at squad Wayne, catching them by surprise. Fortunately, the extra armour worn by the rangers was proof against the strange ammunition.

However, squad Cagney did not flinch. They continued firing at the slashers they knew to be lurking mere metres away from them in the ruins. As near as they could tell, the fire from the laser rifles was not hitting the slashers, but it did succeed in keeping them pinned for a few more precious minutes.

[Rules: In a two player game, the obvious thing to do at this point was have Cagney fire at the slashers that were now completely unsuppressed and well within charge range. However, as I was playing solo, I decided that on a d6 roll of 5 or 6, I would leave the slashers and activate some other human squad. as it happened, I rolled a one and so Cagney got to shoot. Once again they only managed to score a suppression, but that was enough to keep the slashers from charging.]

Yet, even the sustained laser fire was not enough to overcome the instincts of the slashers, particularly after they had been egged on by the nearby brain bug. The swarm shrugged of the effects of the shooting and leapt over the fallen walls and rubble heading straight towards squad Cagney.

Meanwhile, sergeant Wayne rallied his men and they quickly climbed the sandbag wall and took up firing positions behind it once again.

The critters that had raced towards his squad, then seemed to have lost their nerve, as they moved further from the brain bug, and reverted to the skulking and lurking that is their normal nature. They rushed into the ruined building that the slashers had just left. Feeling more secure amongst the protection of the rubble, they fired a hasty salvo of beetles at squad Cagney above them. Most of the ravenous beetle simply collided with the walls, but enough of them made it through gaps and over the walls to cause the soldiers to check their fire.

Corporal Gable still had his guns facing both the slashers and the critters and he pulled the trigger to unleash another sustained burst at the slashers that were now in open ground. This time, four of the creatures were mown down and the remainder were briefly stunned.

However, despite the growing casualties amongst the smaller bugs, they were doing their primary job of keeping the human defenders busy. As the soldiers manning the defensive line concentrated their fire on the nearby bugs, the big bug that had been slowly advancing continued to do so. It relentlessly approached the humans and was preparing to charge.

Corporal Grant was watching the beast as it steadily made its way along the road. he loaded another armour penetrating round in his gunner’s missile launcher and, as he tapped the gunner’s head to signify the weapon was ready, he muttered a silent prayer for divine guidance. With the beast now so large in the gunner’s sight, it was difficult to miss. The missile streaked towards the target, but once again only struck a glancing blow that momentarily caused the creature to halt.

The aliens were now very close to the defenders position and maintaining pressure all along the line. The brain bug in the centre skimmed forward and took shelter behind some ruins amongst the slinkers there. As it approached, it issued a psychic command to the beast nearby to spur it forward. Jolted into action by the command from the brain, the beast that had been lurking amongst the ruins, sprang up and galloped toward squad Bogart who were busy shooting at the slinkers.

But this bug too was in the sights of one of the missile teams. As it broke cover, corporal Stewart’s gunner fired an AP round at it. The round went wide and the beast continued charging.

[Rules: Stewart’s team were just over 12” away making the range die a d6. He rolls a d8 for quality and a d10 for the firepower of the AP round. The d6 scored a 5, but the other dice were a 1 and a 3 respectively indicating a miss. Only one of the firing die needed to beat the range die to cause suppression and prevent the bug from charging. because the bug had been activated by a transfer action from the brain, it still had its own activation available. It moved 10” in the previous turn (after shaking off one suppression marker) and was now only 2” from squad Bogart. Oh dear]

With a roar, the beast tensed ready to leap over the wall protecting Bogart and his men. Bogart saw the monster charging and was already yelling at his men to run. But they were not quick enough. With the momentum its bulk provided, the creature leapt over the first wall reached the second in a single bound. It immediately sprang over that wall and crashed into Bogart’s men just as they themselves were scrambling over it.

[Rules: it might be worth explaining the close assault rules here. In order to initiate a close assault, the attacker must have 2 actions available. ie it can not be suppressed. The attacker declares they are charging and must pass a confidence test. In this case, the alien needed to beat a 1 on a d10. The defender then must also pass a confidence test (beat a 2 on a d8 in this case) or automatically withdraw one combat move (1d6x2”). The defenders passed, but elected to voluntarily withdraw anyway. They rolled a 4 allowing them to withdraw 8” and just exit the rear of the building. At this point, the attacker has 3 options: Abort the assault, automatically occupy the vacated position, or try to charge anyway. The alien elected option 3 and therefore got to spend its 2 actions moving. Because they had withdrawn, the defenders lost the option to stand and shoot. The beast rolled a 6 and a 1 for its movement giving it a total of 14”. Subtracting 4 for having to cross the two walls meant it still had just enough speed to contact the retreating humans. In close combat, the beast attacks with a d8 and a d10, while the humans defend with a d8. In response, the humans also attack with a d8 and a d10 while the beast defends with a d10. However, the humans are unlikely to have the strength to actually injure the beast if they hit it. At the end of each round of combat, both sides (usually) test confidence again and may run away. The winner is left to regroup on the position. Each time a unit withdraws, it drops a confidence level and it becomes harder to get them to fight again.]

The creature crashed into the men and slashed its long talons wildly. One trooper was impaled and flung away in a heap. The men raised their bayonets to try to fend of the hulk, but they were unable to coordinate themselves. Instead, they turned and ran again. The beast briefly looked around for something to strike, sniffed at the wounded soldier and then withdrew into the rubble while it looked for a new target.

Meanwhile, the third missile team, commanded by corporal Cooper, rapidly reloaded an AP round and fired once again at the big bug immediately in front of them. Again, the round glanced off the creature.

The brood of slinkers in front of Cooper began moving again as if they were ready to charge. Corporal Clarke tried to dissuade them off this and turned his heavy machine guns on them, but it did not seem to have much effect.

[Rules: I have to interject here as this may be crucial. The twin heavy machine gun rolls a d8 and 3d10 for firepower against a range die (shifted up for concealment) of a d6. The aliens rolled a 5 on their d6, while the shooting dice rolled 3 fours and a five – no effect. At this point, the slinkers are therefor no longer suppressed, having used their activation to recover, and a brain is potentially close enough to activate them again and send them forward.]

The third brain bug floated forward and its proximity was all the added incentive the slinkers needed to make their move. The jumped from their hiding places and raced straight towards squad Autry. However, the fire from Clarke’s FSV caused just enough hesitation for Autry to turn his men and loose a hasty volley at the slinkers as they rose up. Instead of running headlong straight towards Autry, the bugs crept slowly trying to stay low and out of the line of fire.

[That is, they rolled a 2 and a 1 for their movement]

That only gave Autry and his men the time they needed to steady themselves and improve their aim. They fired another volley and killed two of the slinkers, but did not force them back.

The critters behind the slinkers could be seen to shuffle around, but remarkably, they did not move forward to follow their kin.

Sergent Flynn watched as Bogart’s men ran from the beast to his right. But he could also see the position on his left was at risk too. He yelled at Autry’s men to keep the pressure on the slinkers and squash them with their rifle fire. Another controlled volley tore into the slinkers and another two of them fell dead, but still they held their ground.

The beast nearby roared again, but still appeared slightly dazed and did not move.

Lieutenant Robinson tried to contact sergeant Bogart and restore some degree of control. However, Bogart was having trouble getting his men to listen to him and they remained on the verge of panic. Instead, Robinson radioed sergeant Wayne to get him to deal with the beast in their midst. The veteran rangers, as cool as ever, reacted quickly and turned on the beast. The fusion gunner aimed his weapon, but the beam was deflected by the rubble hiding the creature.

Turn Three

The critters on the right skittered into the protection of the ruined building, presumably in order to creep towards squad Cagney and support the slashers already in the ruins.

Meanwhile, the fusion gunner in squad Wayne lined up his weapon and took a second shot at the rearing big bug in front of him. He timed his shot to perfection and hit the weaker underside of the beast with a concentrated beam that bored right through it. As it fell to the ground, sergeant Wayne shouted to the rest of the squad to withdraw back behind the defensive wall.

The big bug on the left, facing squad Autry, also reared up and seemed to shake itself as if preparing to charge again. But, as it did so, corporal Cooper fired another round at it. The missile exploded against the thick armour on the beast’s shoulder, tearing a large chunk of chitin from its body. But he was not as luck as the fusion gunner and the beast remained upright, seemingly unhurt.

The swarm of slinkers advancing up the centre raced forward into the ruins dircetly infront of squad Wayne. From his vantage point at the top of the shrine. Lieutenant Robinson saw the slinkers advance and radioed Wayne to warn him. Rather than simply turning to run, the ranger squad turned their guns on the emerging slinkers and fired a volley at them as they steadily stepped back towards the protection of the sandbag wall. The big bug to the rear of the slinkers also began moving forward and reached the cover of the ruins sheltering the slinkers.

Squad Autry continued to fire on the bug in front of them, but even the plasma rifle did little more than irritate the creature.

Behind the alien line, the brain bugs began to advance. First the brain on the left floated towards the critters that were creeping along the road. They seemed to jump as it approached them and leapt forward firing a hasty volley from their strange weapons as they did so. A stream of grub like things burst from their cone shaped guns and sprayed the walls around squad Autry. Fortunately, despite the enormous number of grubs that were launched, no one was injured, but the men did stop firing and began checking themselves to make sure there were no grubs attached to them.

Fortunately, corporal Clarke already had his heavy machine guns pointed in that direction and only had to make a slight adjustment to fire a long burst at the critters. Four of them were shredded by the heavy calibre rounds and the remainder fled to the safety of the nearby ruins.

The slinkers that were already hiding in those ruins shuffled about as the critters pushed through them, but remained close to the ground to avoid the attention of Clarke’s heavy guns.

Squad Bogart now turned from the bug to their left and began firing at the slinkers to their right to cover the withdrawal of squad Wayne.

Another brain bug drifted forward towards the big bug and slinkers hiding in the ruins in the centre of the battlefield.

Platoon sergeant Flynn noticed that squad Autry had stopped firing and could see them patting themselves looking for grubs. He shouted to sergeant Bogart to have his squad fire at the slinkers in front of Autry to make sure they did not use the lull to launch an attack. He then yelled at squad Autry, ordering them to ‘get back on the line’.

The remaining big bug, on the right, marched slowly down the road towards the imperial line, all but ignored by the imperial soldiers who were already engaging nearer targets.

Squad Cagney maintained their fire on the slashers to their immediate front, but their fire was having little effect. The slashers could be seen leaping and bouncing behind the rubble ready to spring at any moment.

Corporal Gable was working his guns across the line of aliens in front of him. He fired a long burst at the slashers and caught one as it emerged from the rubble, vaporising it.

The third brain bug reached the protection of the ruins behind the slashers and critter.

Corporal Grant fired his missile at the big bug that was slowly moving down the road toward him. Once again, the thick hide deflected the missile, causing nothing more than a flinch. Corporal Stewart’s gunner fired at the big bug in the centre, but this round also simply bounced off its hide.