Friday, 16 September 2016

Opening moves; A Horizon Wars AAR

The board of directors for Zephyr, the latest megacorp to arrive at the fringe, were concerned. More than a dozen raids on company assets clearly attributed to the mercenary unit known as "Burke's Iron Men" had taken place during the last fiscal quarter and who knows how much of the other sabotage was really their work? Sending the Armed Response Unit Alpha was supposed to keep a lid on things, but instead it had escalated to the point that both Bravo and Charile units had been cleared for insertion.    

But this was all taking place in a boardroom on mars, far from the fringe.

Out on the fringe, the common notion among the corporate citizens and their protectors was that the threat posed to Zephyr assets have been exaggerated. Most of the citizens lived in the urban areas, well protected and somewhat removed from the ARU's bases and the research and manufacturing facilities that was often the targets.

ARU base 252 in the desert badlands of the planet Attis III was just such a place..

Base 252 was established to function as a quick-response base in case of attacks or natural disasters to the nearby factories and their workforce settlement. It was a comfortable enough duty, more of a policing duty to keep trespassers out and supress the odd dissident amongst the workers. If not for the scorching temperature, it would be the envy of most of the recently arrived response units. 

Perimiter security had turned somewhat lax as of late, when the unit stationed there realized that little to nothing ever happened this far outside the developed areas. Some local bandits has made some trouble, but the base commander had sent out their aerospace fighter and the Zyklop mech to take care of them a few days ago and the small party was expected back any day now..

Having learned of this through local informants, a small strike force of the Iron Men had set out. Their mission was to cause as much damage as possible before falling back, seeking to cripple the local garrison to aid in future attacks. Leading the attack was the senior tank commander of the newly arrived grav tanks, major Grant Pryce. Besides his own command, he'd been given a lance of Watchers, led by captain Johann Waltz.

 Both units rush forward, firing as they advance. The mechs concentrate their fire on the armoury building just inside the base, blowing great chunks out of the ferrocrete structure.

The lonely Zephyr raptor mech moves up behind the bunker guarding the entrance, taking a few near misses from the cannons of the advancing tanks. Bright bolts of plasma lances straight into the plating of the nearest tank, armor runs off the sloped hull in rivers of melted steel and shattered ceramics.  

Lending their firepower, both tanks and the heavy infantry defending the base light up the sky, but fail to do any noticable damage.

Waltz drives his lance ever closer, their fusion guns blowing larger and larger holes out of their target.

Keeping their cool, the heavy infantry unit defending the arsenal returns fire with heavy lasers and anti-armour rockets. Bits of ceramic fly everwhere as plates shatter from the rocket's impact. Both the leg armour and more critically, the fusion cannon, is damaged by the fierce attack!

An ear-shattering explosion, followed by a blinding flash and a rush of heat as something inside the munitions bunker of the arsenal sets off a chain reaction. The heavy infantry unit on the roof of the building simply vanishes without a trace and the air is thick with smoke and noxious gas.  

Closign the distance, one of the Zephyr tanks blows chunks of armour off the weapon arm of one of the Watcher-class mechs.

Just as his mech is hit, the pilot squeezes the trigger, sending a bolt of incandescent energy ripping through hull-plates as well as wreaking havoc on the electrical systems of the machine.
 Sensing his comrade is in danger of being overwhelmed by his courageous but somewhat reckless charge into the open, the second tank follow suit.

Focusing his fire on the same target as his fellow, the tank commander scores another grueling hit to the weapon systems of the mech.
 The damage caused was no doubts significant, but he was about to pay a heavy price for it.

In a manouver similar to his own, another Watcher turns to unleash his man-made lightning upon him. Even as the tank reels from the hammer-blow of the enery bolt, a tank from Pryce's squad have been detached to support the mechs and he pounds the already stricken tank with several rounds at close range, stunning the crew into inaction.

The second tank powers forward, it's heavy rounds slamming into the raptor. Tearing through powerlines feeding the plasma cannon and ripping apart armour, the mech is left damaged but still standing.

With it's guns all but useless, the pilot of the raptor makes a desperate gamble: He charges the tank at his best speed!

Slamming his heavy form into the tank he crushes and pulverize armour, bend control nozzles, damage sensors and weapon systems, but the damage he takes in turn is almost equally critical, as his armour bends and buckles, he is reduced to a limp on barely functioning actuators and the barrels of his guns are twisted and the cockpit canopy cracked. But he has stopped the tank, at least for now..
Taking advantage of a gap in the fence, the remaining heavy infantry manage to melt some more armour off the damaged mech. In a brilliant explosion, the Watcher topples over. The head shoots off into the distance, as the pilot ejects from his falling mech.

Finally, Pryce springs into action with his command tank. Taking a shot at both the damaged raptor and one of the tanks, he manages to further reduce the fighting capacity of their enemy.

Trying desperately to get ahold of the heavy mech, and perhaps more importantly the fighter, the Zyphyr commander finally manages to raise them on his comms unit. The reinforcements are moving double-time and will arrive shortly!

With little chance to do any crippling damage, the tank nontheless keeps firing, knocking chunks off the leg armour.  

Combining their fire again, Waltz and his remaining two Watchers blow up a set of barracks.

As the smoke trails into the air from what used to be some quonset huts, both the remaining tank and infantry unit again lay into the mechs, scoring multiple hits! The weakened state of the tanks weapon systems make sure that the damage is less than optimal, however the infantry manages to again score a killing blow, as yet another pilot ejects from his damaged mech!

Using it's final action the tank commander charges it's fresh Iron Man equivalent. The deafening crash of two metal giants smashing into each other eclipse all other sound for a split second, before the already damaged armour of the Zephyr tank gives way as the bow of it's target cut through the interior of the vehicle. Damaged but still combat efficient, the crew of the Iron Man tank back out of the wreakage. 

At the same time Pryce shoots forward again, opening up on the unnocupied bunker infront of him. After a few rounds, the structure simply collapses into a heap of rubble.

Knowing he's not likely to walk away from the pair of tanks, especially since one is untouched, the pilot of the raptor re-routes whatever power he can to the damaged leg actuators, and throw his mech at the tank infront of him before ejecting. Even without the cockpit assembly, the mech is plenty heavy, and all but cripple the tank as it lands on it's bow. 

A thunderous rumble can be heard and the ground shakes slightly, as the Zephyr reinforcements arrive!

Seing the tide turn against them, Pryce decides that it's probably time that they be on their way. Recovery teams report that the first pilot have been picked up, and the second pickup is underway. 

Initiating a fighting retreat, the remaining elements start falling back, firing as they go.

Like a deadly arrow, the Aerospace fighter finally catch up to one of the mechs. Firing every weapon system it has, the deadly barrage cuts a leg clean off and pock-marks both the mech and the surrounding area.

The Iron Men have accomplished what they'd hope, causing a crippling blow to Bases 252. The victory didn't come cheap, but they gave better than they got. As they fell back into the canyons and bluffs, the aerospace fighter broke off the pursuit, having spent more than half of it's ordnance and unsure if the mercs had some anti-air assets hidden away, waiting to ambush it.

It was forunate that they managed to destroy the munitions bunker, without that the ARU would be critically short of missiles and other ordnance. The plan was in motion, the next step of the plan could now proceed. Burke would be pleased.

This was the first of what I intend to turn into a short campaign following the Iron Men and their foes, Zephyr. In this first game I'd decided to use victory points to determine the winner, as this will have an impact on the next battle fought.
Burke's Iron Men got 2 VP for each structure destroyed and 1VP for each element destroyed or made combat inefficient (Firepower stat reduced to 0)
Zephyrs ARU got 2 VP for each element destroyed or made combat inefficient (Firepower stat reduced to 0)

So at final count we had
IM           9 VP (3 structures destroyed, 3 units destroyed)
Zephyr    8 VP (3 units destroyed, 1 combat inefficient)

So it was a close race, had the reinforcements arrived 1 turn eariler the result could have been rather different!

Each side will be given a total pool to buy units from that will have to last them the rest of the campaign, I haven't decided on the exact number just yet, but probably somewhere in the vicinity of 50-90 FC, forcing both sides to try and preserve as many units as possible in each battle, rather than throwing more meat into the grinder as it were. I'm hoping this will make for some interesting tactical and strategic problems when playing this campaign!

I have a pair of mech sculpts that I'm working on that will hopefully be ready for battle pretty soon, and some more terrain courtesy of Angel Barracks and Sayiner Micro toys.

I hope you've enjoyed this AAR, and that you'll follow the rest of the campaign as is progresses!

Til next time!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

More of Burke's Iron Men, the Grand Raptor and some thoughts about "Survey and Explore" from NWG

The last of my current set of mechs, the Grand Raptor have made it through the paint cue and along with another raptor have been dispatched to Zephyr.

The two mechs.

The Grand Raptor. Bigger and better armed, this heavy mech is the big brother of the Raptor class mech. Seen here with the standard double extended-range fusion cannons, this warmachine is deadly at any range. 

 At the same time as the new models arrive for Zephyr, reports are coming in that in the wake of a recent raid, conventional elements of the Iron Men have been positivly identified from footage taken by the Megacorp's security forces.

The first contingent. 

The new heavy tanks. These grav tanks are the first three of a custom machine manufactured for Burke´s Iron Men. Slightly larger and more powerfully armed than their standard heavy hover tanks, these metal giants have an advantage not commonly afforded by mercenaries.

The Slugger heavy mech. In essence a modified Watcher, this mech have heavier armor and an upgraded powerplant. Instead of the small fusion cannon usually carried by it's parent model, the Slugger has an extended range cannon. It also has a new head model to house the upgraded fire-control software and also comes with a  choice of an additional cannon or a close-combat claw.

The remaining conventional elements that have been identified by Zephyr intelligence.

The backbone of the mercenary company, the eponymous Iron men heavy infantry units. Clad in powered armor with machineguns and a heavy rifle mounted over the shoulder, this elite infantry units are trained to take on anything thrown at them, even mechs. So far 6 elements have been sighted, but more are surely waiting to strike.

The standard cavalry units of the company is the Chaser class hover tanks. The light tank have a lighter turret with linked auto-cannons. The lower weight makes it faster than the heavy and artillery versions, an exellent ambusher and scout.  

The heavy Chaser has bigger engine and a 120mm cannon, so like the other versions it relies on ballistic weapons rather than energy weapons like most mechs. This is mostly due to the fact that the fusion engines used in these models aren't powerful enough to support a fully energy based weaponry system as well as engine and support systems.  

The last of the Chaser models used by the Iron Men is an armored artillery version. Most of the hull is taken up by the targeting computers and the increased magazine with it's integral auto-loader, so this version of the Chaser is by far the slowest as well.
 But using missiles instead of a conventional cannon allows for mobile fire support as the artillery unit doesn't need to stop and settle down before firing. 

Finally Burke´s Iron Men have their own aerospace fighters. These two modular assault craft can be equipped and modified to fly a variety of missions against any number of targets.

Finally, I just had a look through one of the latest offerings from Nordic Weasel Games, the Survey and explore supplement. Disclaimer: I got a copy to look over from Ivan, the owner and proprietor of NWG.

So a here's my thoughts, along with some (hopefully) helpful insight into what it's all about:

The copy I was give clocks in at 16 pages, but it's a deceptively full 16 pages!

This little gem is intended as a companion to help you generate previously unsurveyed/unexplored planets and encounters and sights on these planets for adventure games like Starport Scum.

As you might have noticed, I really like Starport Scum, and the supplement gives you a good set of tools and ideas for a traditional "hex-based" exploration, either as part of an ongoing campaign or even as a campaign in itself.

Like with a lot of the NWG offerings, there is a fair number of charts and tables that let's you randomly roll up everything from the size, temperature and overall disposition of the planet. There's also some nice details you can generate; like poisonous atmosphere that makes any damage potentially deadly and rubbery ground that threathens to bounce you around and stun you to things that have little to no mechanical impact on the game, but add flavour, like strange lights in the sky and shorter or longer days.

Each time you move along to a new area, you generate new terrain and that introduces the possibility for some sights, which are special features in the new area that things can happen around or play some part in if an encounter happens. Both sights and encounters is rolled for when you enter a new area, sometimes one or both might happen, and sometimes nothing of any particular note is present. This adds a bit of exitement every time you enter a new area, as you will never be sure what exactly will await you. It could be something simple like some tracks or a stack of resources, to a band of pirates or a group of wild animals less than happy to see you..

It's important to recognize that these areas are fairly abstracted, and the size and relative impact of each encounter and sight in an area is mostly left to the players (or game master, if applicable) which I think is fine in a supplement like this, since it fits with the general RPG-vibes of Starport scum and other RPG-lite wargames or even straight up RPGs.  

The last few pages also have some loot-tables and such to help you generate some booty after hard fought battles.

All the specific examples in Survey and Explore are based on Starport Scum, but the supplied information is general enough and clearly presented, so it wouldn't be too hard to use this for any other story-driven adventure game or even RPGs.

If you are looking to make adventures on an unexplored planet, or just want to create some terrain and notable sights for a pick-up game, this might very well be something for you. I know it will serve me well!

Next time I hope to share the first clash between Zephyr and Burke's Iron Men as well as my first attempt at a retro-inspired super-heavy tank.

Til next time!  

Monday, 5 September 2016

Zephyrs Beta unit, some opposition and another WiP

With Alpha unit on the fringe, Zyphyr have a strong core force. They do not have any mechas however, but that is about to change with the arrival of Beta unit: 

The 2 squads of Beta: 5 heavy Zyklop mechs and a pair of lighter Raptor mechs.

The Zyklop is a heavy unit from the factories of the core worlds. A no-nonsense slugger, this mech is known for it's ability to take a punishment while producing an impressive volume of fire.

The Raptor is a medium mech made for scouting actions and harassing enemy units. Quick and agile like it's namesake, the raptor often work in small units flanking and herding their prey towards it's heavier comrades. 

These mechs are part of Zephyr's problem on the fringe. After the Warg units were driven back from Union space, Zepyr decided to take direct control of their Union asset. Shortly after this decision was finalized and Zephyr had taken control, new trouble started brewing. Reports of strikes by a unknown mercenary regiment came filtering in. After some time, and more attacks, the Megacorp's intelligence division managed to put a name to them: Burke's Iron Men. 

So far only a lance of mechs have been positively identified, but rumors of armored infantry and combat vehicles have been reported in several attacks. The identified lance consists of a raptor and 4 Watchers.  


The Raptor is the same basic model as the one used by Zephyr, exept for the extra missile launcher attached over the cockpit.

The Watchers are a medium class mecha from the same factories as the Raptor. Unlike it's sister model, the Watchers are made for frontline combat. Armed with a large fusion cannon and with a optional laser, it also carries sophisticated electronics and advanced sensors.

The Iron Men will have conventional elements added as time goes on, but I still have a few ideas that I want to make into models.

Having looked at a few futuristic tanks too many, I decided to try my hand at one. And this is what I came up with. I also have a prototype super-heavy tank in the works, but it might end up being more of a victorian landship. We'll see I guess.

I have recently tried out a supplement for Starport Scum, I'll talk a bit about it and maybe have some pics for you next time.

Til next time!