After Action Report
I was privileged to get to run a game at Colonial Barracks in New Orleans last weekend. It’s an amazing convention, where a number of legends of the miniature gaming hobby showcase the best of the hobby with wonderful terrain and grandly painted armies. I was assisted by The Jackson Gamers, who loaned me a hundreds of true 25mm figures for the human forces.
During the Second Hive War numerous mated pairs of reproductive aliens were scattered across the globe. Most of these were quickly located and destroyed before they could form Hives of their own. Several were able to find remote and distant location is which to get a start before humans discovered them. One such was in South Africa. Once word reached the British in the Cape Colony a Royal Navy aerial cruiser was dispatched. It expended its entire ammunition supply upon the alien structure and reported that the Hive had been destroyed.
A ground force was dispatched to confirm the destruction of all the Hive creatures, especially the Queen and larva. The force was composed of various Imperial units, British, South African and Zulu. The British Army provided a unit of lancers and two of dragoons. These were supported by a Boer commando and a Zulu cavalry unit. The bulk of the infantry were traditionally armed Zulu forces, fifteen of them and one armed with rifles. Three companies of British infantry were also present. They were supported by three batteries of Royal Artillery field guns and one of Royal Navy machine guns. Unfortunately there were no steam tanks or flying machines available in the area and it was deemed important to get a force there quickly.
From the alien point of view they had been having a very bad week. First a giant sky object appears and blasts the Hell out of their home. The attacker had extremely powerful explosives that penetrated deep into the heart of the Hive, killing many larva and eggs and destroying the brood chambers. The collapse of the galleries and chambers put all the larva at risk, so workers labored unceasingly to bring them to the surface until new tunnels could be excavated. Just as that activity had begun to show results the deadly aliens of the world had shown up in large numbers. To meet them the Hive had limited resources. Only four units of shooters were available and not a single flying lancer. Troopers, lancers and fighters would bear the brunt of the combat and even a large number of workers, including butchers would have to be placed on the surface. If the aliens reached the helpless larva the Hive would be wiped out.
The victory conditions were simple. If the human player was able to kill the larva they would win. If the bugs were able to preserve them they would win. For results in which some larva died and others lived would be determined on a ratio to killed versus survived.
The humans were allowed to place any or all of their units on the sixth of the board at their end. Their entry area was constrained by a river, which was fordable at one location but which could be swum by the Zulu infantry units at any point. The humans could bring on any unit not initially placed on the table any time they chose. The human players decided to use three of their heavy weapon batteries to form a base of fire and leave one artillery battery available to move over the ford with the advancing troops. The Zulus were lined up along the river bank ready to swim across and the cavalry and European troops were to cross at the ford.
The bugs were allowed far more limited placement. They had approximately 1/3 of their total force on the board at the start and would only get additional units if they drew a Black Joker during movement. The Bug initial placement included three of their four shooter units (on high ground atop the remaining towers of the Hive) and a number of other warrior units. Their larva groups were each protected by a unit of smaller warriors.
Play of the Game
The human player counted on the fierce melee ability of his vast number of Zulu warriors to force the bug units back. He had not counted on either the melee prowess of the insectoids or their extremely aggressive nature. As the humans began fording the river (and suffering truly remarkable casualties due to its swift current and deep channel) the Bug player moved one of their heaviest warrior units right into the ford. This unit of Media Troopers advanced right into the midst of several human units as they waited to cross and attacked them. They charged right across the water and up the steep bank. Suddenly the human plans were completely overtaken by events. Instead of pushing forward and establishing a bridgehead they were confronted by a mass of very deadly alien warriors holding the only crossing point for miles in either direction. In an effort to dislodge this unit they fired into it and had several infantry units charge. Finally they were able to kill all the controlling drones and most of the warriors. This did the humans little good as no sooner had they pushed the first unit out of the way an second charged into the ford and the process needed to be started all over again.
On the human left flank the Zulu warriors had finally gotten most units across the stream and were moving to help clear the ford. As they did so they found themselves under fire from the shooters and charged by several units of warrior and worker bugs. Several melees broke out and although the masses of Zulus were generally able to defeat individual bug units, usually by the simple expedient of piling four or five Zulu units on each bug unit they found themselves taking savage casualties in return.
The only clear bright spot was they rapid destruction of Bug shooter units. Both the field artillery and the machine guns outranged the alien shooters and the aliens usually were able to fire for only a single turn or perhaps two turns before the human artillery made short work of them. Two of the Hive’s shooter units were wiped out in this manner.
Around the ford the main battle still swirled. Three times the humans tried to cross in force and three times the Bug players sent a single unit forward to stop them. Each of these units was smashed in turn but they prevented the human force from making any real progress towards their objective. After four hours of combat, with the bugs having lost half their shooters and several units of melee arthropods it was clear that the humans would not be able to force the river crossing. For their part the humans took considerable casualties to the traditional Zulu troops but relatively few to their other units. No cavalry was ever able to get into combat with the aliens and only a single company of British line infantry found itself face to face with the aliens. As the battle ended it was certain that the larva, and the Hive as a whole would live another day.
First I totally screwed up the Human artillery. I think I mixed up Patrick’s Boilers and Breechloaders rules with the original Sword and the Flame and gave the human artillery 1/3 the dice they should have had when firing artillery. Secondly I probably should have made the bug start area further back. I also should have briefed the human players better. They should have been made more aware of the bugs’ melee abilities.
For their part the human players counted on melee far more than fire to deal with the bugs. As stated above this may have been partly my fault. However the human player should have ensured that all his rifle units were able to cover the ford with fire as he pushed his cavalry across to guard the bridgehead. The human player was also taken aback (and really dice whipped) by what happened when his Zulus tried to swim the river. It was horrific as the stream became choked with the bodies of brave warriors. He lost probably 10% of his force to drowning (this is an original TSatF rule, so I can’t be blamed for that).
For their part the Bug players made the most of what they had. They kept feeding units into the ford, stopping the human main advance. Each of the units was shattered in turn, but that is of no importance to The Hive. Only the survival of The Hive itself matters and the bug players internalized that very well. They fed melee units into the front just enough to force the humans to deal with them. The humans defeated every bug unit but it took them time to do so. With all that happening the humans were never able to push an artillery unit far enough forward to get the helpless larva in range or have their cavalry break free to charge distance.
Seven players participated and even with my mess ups seemed to have a good time. Getting seven people at my table, when they could have played in a number of spectacular games was very gratifying. I’d like to thank the Broms for putting the convention on, and all my players for spending their very valuable convention time with me!