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.