This week saw the first playtest of the new sci-fi rules at Lard Island. The brief was simple: let's play a game with people who are very familiar with historical wargaming but have little experience of sci-fi gaming, and see if they like it. It would also be another opportunity to playtest the rules: and with four to five players a side, it would certainly test them!
The scenario was a simple one. A force of Protolene Khanate (immediately nicknamed the "Dogs") would defend a small settlement behind a ridge against an attack from the Aphids (equally immediately nicknamed the "Frogs"). Here is the initial layout:
The defending Protolene had two platoons of regular Hunter infantry, backed up by a squad of three Ayame light walkers and three Marrock medium walkers. They also had a platoon of close quarter specialistPredators supported by a squad of Predator Ayame light walkers. The Hunter infantry would defend the left side of the ridge, with their Ayame and Marrocks in the middle, and all the Predators on the right. Finally, lurking back in the settlement itself, was a Hunter Ayame electronic warfare specialist.
The Aphid force was considerably stronger. The core force was three platoons of foot infantry backed up by another platoon of heavy infantry in powered armour (the "Eggs"). Accompanying them was a reconnaissance force comprising a platoon of elite scouts and a platoon of grav-bike mounted scouts (christened "space lambrettas" by the Lardies); and a powerful armoured force of two squads each of three Flycatcher tanks each.
The Aphid plan was simple: the fast moving hover tanks and scouts would zoom onto the battlefield and pin the Protolene line down whilst the slower moving infantry would move up and then overwhelm the defenders. The Flycatchers would go up the middle, the scouts and heavy infantry on the left, and the main infantry force on the centre right. The idea was to keep everything on Blinds for as long as possible in order to keep movement at maximum and prevent too many casualties on the advance.
Unfortunately for the Aphids, the Protolene Electronic Warfare specialist could scan the whole battlefield with relative ease, and quickly forced the Flycatcher tanks and scouts to deploy. Opening fire, the Hunter Marrocks managed only to damage one Flycatcher, and quickly lost one of their number to return fire. Meanwhile, the Protolene Predator Ayames moved forward to attack the scouts.
More spotting meant that the forces on both sides were no almost totally revealed. The Aphids swept across the battlefield in a most impressive manner: "Here they come, green as grass and thick as...er...grass!"
The battle then divided into three parts. On the Aphid left, their heavy infantry and foot scouts were engaged in close combat by the Protolene Predator Walkers: a messy affair that ended up with the Predators retreating but a lot of dead or awe-struck Frogs! The Aphid grav bikes managed to avoid this combat - by flying over the top - and decided to launch an attack on the Predator infantry position on top of the ridge. Unfortunately, the Predators were ready for them, and utterly defeated them in a viscous melee.
On the right, the Protolene and Aphid infantry had engaged in a firefight, with the Protolenes generally having the upper hand. Several Aphid squads were quite badly battered.
In the centre, however, the Flycatcher tanks were having a better time of it. Another Marrock was blown to pieces, and the third and final walker rendered immobile with only one cannon working. The Dogs didn't have a lot that could damage the Flycatchers, as one characteristic of the Protolene force, at least how I compiled it for this battle, was a lack of decent anti-tank weaponry.
At that point we decided to declare the battle a draw. Although the Protolenes had so far fought off the Aphids, the Flycatcher tanks were poised to cause them real trouble. An excellent game, however, and one that everyone seemed to enjoy. You can read more about it on Sid's blog here. The rules worked well (phew!) and the playtest went well too, as one section of the close combat rules has now been re-written to better explain how to treat close-combat capable walkers in action. As a final comment, for a game that I insist is hard sci-fi where close combat almost never happens, there was a huge amount of close combat in this battle! I blame the Predators!