Origins After Action Report
The scenario was basically the same as that run at Border Wars and Diecon, although the increased space let us use a larger number of human flyers. The Human forces included a squadron of Mk I Ornithopters, two squadrons of landers, armed US ones and unarmed British ones and five Shakespeare class gunships. The ground troops aboard the various landers included Ghurkas, Australian Light Horse, British infantry as well as 12th United States Cav, 1st US Volunteer Cav, US Infantry and artillery as well as a number of mechanical fighting machines from both the US Army and the British Army.
Bug forces included pretty much everything I had based and flocked with 240 flyers available as well as hundreds of other ugly arthropods. A large proportion of the bugs were shooters and there was also a higher number of supra majors available, as this was a last ditch (last tunnel) defense of the Hive itself.
The terrain consisted of a number of tables representing the tops of the enormous hive structure. Round tables were not available so we made do with some short rectangular ones to represent the outlying towers and then three 8 foot tables for the main hive itself. Two of the three outer towers were connected to the main hive by narrow ridges. All the tables were covered with dyed and textured fabric and some hills were built up under the fabric with boxes. In all the area was approximately 30 by 30 not including room for the auxiliary tables.
The total area was almost 30 feet by 30 feet and over 1000 figures were in play. Dozens of aerial vessel and tank models were also used.
The bugs started with all their units on top of the Hive, with the exception of the flyers who were position on the bug left flank and somewhat before the main hive ridge. The Humans were in a rather loose formation at the edge of the playing area. The separation of enemy flying units allowed two turns of movement before contact. This allowed the human players to shake out into a more tactical formation and to decide upon what part of the Hive they would make their landing. They chose to make a bee line for the tower on the Hive right flank (human left flank). They did this because it was the more exposed of the three towers, since the other two offered mutual support to each other, it was connected to the main hive by a ridge and it was furthest away from the cloudlike swarms of flying lancers.
The bugs used their superior speed to rapidly close with the aerial armada and a huge scrum between the flying lancers and the Ornithopters quickly developed. The new flight stands made it psychologically easier for the bug player to keep his fliers together and that is what he did. Each of the Ornithopter models quickly found themselves being swamped by a unit of 12 flying lancers. Although Machine guns were able to take out some of the bugs they could not do nearly enough damage and the Ornithopters began to be chewed from the sky. Matt, one of our usual players at Origins, had an excellent suggestion about aerial close combat, which was rather than run the close combat phase until a unit was destroyed and removed or forced back run just one round of close combat. This gives air units much more longevity but still lets a swarm keep the flyers engaged, or lets escorts keep flying lancers away from troop transports.
By turn four the landing force had begun to trade fire with the long range shooters on the top of the Hive. The humans had twigged into what their rockets were for and as each of the Shakespeare class vessels came in range they salvoed all their rockets. Their primary targets were the larger shooters but if any rockets were left those were directed at clearing the top of the tower upon which they intended to land of melee bugs.
The long range duel and aerial gun and rocket barrages continued until turn seven by which time the chosen tower was covered with craters and strew with the twitching body parts of shattered arthropods. Chitin and claws lay thick across the ground. The humans has not had everything their way though. The Bugs had concentrated their fire on the larger Shakespeare class gunboats and had inflicted serious damage on two of them. Additionally the screen of Ornithopters was ripped apart and the surviving flying lancers came charging towards the vulnerable transports. As yet no Human flyers had landed although three groups of American ships had slowed so they could come down the next turn, as had two of the Shakespeares.
This ended the first session on Wednesday. We played 8 turns in approximately four hours. Serious casualties had been done to both sides and the Humans had used up almost all of his heavy rockets. The chosen landing zone still was within range of bug shooters and a handful of bug melee units were still intact on the surface. However the Humans were poised to land in force and take the ground war to the aliens.
The next session conflicted with the dealers’ room opening so we didn’t have enough players so took a break. The Thursday Afternoon session had enough to make a go of it and off we went. Two of the Shakespeares that had unloaded their rockets earlier turned and faced the swarming aliens. The ensuing scrum saw both Shakespeares downed and a third forced to use its rockets (set with time fuzes) to break up the clouds of aliens.
This left the landing zone seriously devoid of aircover as the American armed landers were on the ground unloading and the unarmed British machines were circling awaiting their turn. The need to get troops down and air vehicles back off the ground quickly resulted in the loss of a previously damaged Shakespeare and its cargo of tanks as it was swarmed by a large group of Major Crushers as it touched down and they succeeded in destroying it in a single turn. Its shattered remains continued to burn and suffer secondary explosions as its magazines cooked off for the remainder of the game.
There was absolute chaos on the landing zone as units became jumbled together and the vicious attacks of the remaining bug units caused casualties and prevented an orderly disembarkation. This was made even worse by the landing of the second wave. The unarmed landers came barreling it so they could escape from the pursuing flying lancers and get their troops off loaded before the aliens ripped them from the sky. They were able to land just as the armed American flyers were taking off and although no collisions occurred the sky looked to be covered by a steel and aerolyth overcast for some time. As the British troops unloaded the American Flyers and a remaining Shakespeare covered them, which cost the humans yet another of their heavy gunboats and the aliens a large number of their flying bugs. On the land the aliens were rushing all their forces towards the landing zone and attempting to build a defensive line across the ridge connecting the two with the main hive. For this session and the next the battle raged on the ground as bug units attempted to hold their ground and humans mopped up the last warriors in their landing zone and began to push their perimeter outwards, across the ridge. The flying bugs had been reduced in numbers to being more of a nuisance than a critical force and so the humans used most of their armed flyers to interdict the oncoming bug hordes as they rushed towards the ridge and its threat to the main hive.
In the last session there was a chance that the Alien Queen and king would be forced to the surface by all the commotion and on the second turn they surfaced. The nearby armed flyers quickly switched targets and began to pour fire into them. Initially the fire wasn’t terribly effective and realizing the threat to their Royalty the bugs launched all their remaining flying lancers into the aerial fray. In addition there were a large number of various types of shooters which also joined in. Between these two types of bug units the American landing craft began to take casualties and also they were unable to concentrate all their fire on the alien Royalty. This prevented the humans from killing either of these enormous creatures before the end of the game.
In view of the heavy losses in airships suffered by the Human and their inability to kill either the King or Queen the game was determined to be a Marginal Hive Victory.
In the four sessions that went we had a pretty decent number of players and played twenty turns. Our location at the very far end of the miniatures hall (well hidden by a number of large and high booths kept us from having as many players as last year, where we had a large number of walk ons. We did get a goodly number of observers and lots of pictures were taken, questions asked and compliments handed out on the models, miniatures, flight stands and game in general. I definitely want to thank Matt, Lee, Richard and Arun for helping out so much and all our players, as well as those that came by to watch or say hello.
Also a big shout out to Proving Ground Games who retailed for us. They sold not only our books but also The Original The Sword and the Flame from Sergeants3 and Gaming Models Inc’s new line of 15mm resin cast vehicles designed specifically for The Hive and the Flame but perfect for any Steampunk/Victorian Science Fiction miniatures game.