Captain Hopkins scowled as he scanned the terrain in front of him. Nothing in sight yet but, if the scanners were correct, there was a whole damn swarm of Bugs out there heading his way!
The mission? Well, most of the Division were engaged in evacuating colonists off of this desert hellhole of a planet, so only his rapid Reaction Force was available, and had the speed over the harsh desert terrain, to take the fight to the Bugs and delay them for long enough, and far away enough, for the evacuation to complete. As the Colonel so succinctly put it: hold until relieved or until you get overrun by the Bugs.
He reviewed his plans again. His position was based on the old Burleigh centre: two buildings carved out of one side of a large rocky outcrop in the centre of the battlefield. That's where the three squads of the leg infantry platoon would make their stand: two in one building, and one on the hillside above. To their right, hull down behind the outcrop's main spur were the four armoured buggies of the heavy weapons platoon: two armed with missile launchers, two armed with cannon. In front of them, at the base of the spur, concealed in a depression, were the three squads of the mobile, buggy-mounted infantry platoon. Out to the far right, behind another hillock, were the four armoured medium UAV drones that comprised his main punching power. In reserve, behind the Burleigh centre, floated the eight unarmoured light UAV drones that formed his only reserve. The command unit for the drones was up on the outcrop: the only place he could be sure that they could keep their link to the drones no matter what.
Suddenly his radio squawked: "Here they come, sir. Your two o'clock". The Captain raised his enhancers: three distinct clouds of dust that soon resolved themselves into individual Bug units. Hmmm: brown carapace, plastic-looking coverings in primary colours, grey metal equipment…Spugs. And, by the look of it, a recon squad on jet bikes, an infantry platoon, and…yes…a couple of those damn support weapons.
The Captain gave the leg infantry the order to fire as soon as the Spugs came into range, seeing the insectoids scuttling for the cover of a series of buttes. Once they were grounded, as it were, the missile launchers of the armoured buggies laid down a terrible barrage that just about wiped out the Spug recon squad, and caused severe casualties to their infantry.
Some fire was coming back, but not that much and, as the seconds ticked by, the Captain realised that these Spugs must have got ahead of the main force and that he therefore had an unmissable opportunity to take them out now, before they were reinforced.
The buggy-mounted infantry drove out of the depression and opened fire, and the medium drones popped up from behind their outcrop and sent a hail of missiles and lasgun fire into the hapless Spugs. In the lens of his enhancers, the Captain could see carapaces shattering, green pulp exploding everywhere, as the Spugs frantically tried to burrow into the ground.
Both Spug support weapons were destroyed, along with half their platoon and the jetbikes, before more Bug forces entered the fray…but these forces were somewhat more formidable that what had gone before. Out of the dust to the left of the outcrop behind which the remaining Spugs were sheltering emerged a mixed platoon of Spug armour: two 4-leggged and one 8-legged walker. The 8-LW opened fire, and although it missed directly hitting one of the armoured buggies, the blast from the miss was close enough to jam the firing mechanism of its missile launcher. A shot and a missile from the two 4-LW then blew up the other missile-launcher armoured buggy, and sent the two armoured buggies armed with cannon scurrying for cover and therefore unable to fire.
The Spug armour had, however, halted to fire, and now the Earth forces had their revenge. With a whine of engines, the four medium UAV drones popped up from behind an outcrop and let rip with a storm of missiles. Both Spug 4-LW were destroyed, but the 8-LW remained undamaged: the barrel of its formidable gun turning towards the buggies of the mobile infantry platoon.
Fortunately the platoon's commander realised the danger he and his men were in, and shot off across the battlefield, ending up just in front of the second, empty building on the outcrop. This proved to be out of the frying pan into the fire as, to the right of the Spugs, two more clouds of dust revealed themselves as more Bugs, lots more Bugs.
The Captain looked at these new arrivals: red carapace…he'd seen enough! Space Bugs! Nasty b*stards: not very tactically sophisticated, but armed to the teeth. This latter point was proven as the Space Bug platoons opened up on the main position. The leg infantry took a few casualties, but suffering more were the mobile infantry: caught mounted in their buggies. Casualties were severe: six dead out of twenty-four! The troopers quickly dismounted: two squads getting into the second building, with the four men remaining from the other taking cover on a hill to the left of the first building. Worse was to come: swinging in from the left was a major force of Space Bug tanks. Well, three armoured car-sized six-legged bugs, and three of the terrible Space Bug tripods: horrible things armed with a devastating, if short range, heat ray. If they got in close to his infantry, they would all be toast!
From the Captain's right came the blast of a powerful explosion: the Spug 8-LW had turned its attentions to the hillside and second building: plastering both with fire. In the centre, both infantry platoons were engaged in a fierce firefight with the two Space Bug, and remnants of the Spug, platoons. On his left, the Space Bug walkers were coming forward rapidly. It was the battle's crisis point!
He quickly considered his options and issued his orders. The eight light drones shot forward from the rear of the battlefield, each armed with a lasgun. Although individually weak, the combined effect of eight lasguns was enough to knock the leg off one 6-LW. At the same time, the four medium drones howled across the battlefield at maximum speed, aiming to curl round the flank of the tripods. Missiles fired, and one tripod fell to the sand, its legs twitching feebly.
Unfortunately, this left one medium drone too close to one of the remaining tripods. Up came the heat ray, "boom" went the drone! Just after this, the 8-LW, shooting from across the battlefield, knocked down another. The Captain felt the sweat freeze on his back: if they lost the drones, they lost the ability to hold the Space Bug walkers and tripods at bay!
Missiles and heat rays fired again, leaving the battlefield obscured in clouds of swirling smoke. The Captain held his breath, waiting for it to clear, and then sighed with relief as it cleared to reveal all the Space Bug walkers and tripods either knocked out, halted or driven back for the loss of just one more medium drone. Meanwhile, in the centre of the battlefield, the advance of the Space Bug infantry had also been halted, although casualties amongst the two earth infantry platoons were high. Only the Spug 8-LW was still a real threat, and even that formidable tank couldn't take the position on its own.
He had done it: it would take the Bugs time to regroup and come forward again…enough time for the evacuation to be completed and for the main battle group to deploy. This was one planet the Bugs wouldn't get their mandibles on!
A great game of GYFTOOMF, the sci-fi variant to IABSM from the TFL Christmas Special 2009, even if I have to confess that I was playing the Bugs not the Earth forces!
What was especially good was the way that the game had a really different feel to it from IABSM: we were definitely playing a sci-fi/ultramodern game not a WW2 game with lasers. In the event, the sheer speed of the UAVs meant that my opponent, Neil, could use his interior lines to great effect: "double pips rolled and ignore terrain" meant that he could move them right across the battlefield right when and where he needed to. His elite recon troops proved a difficult nut to crack, despite their lack of decent support weapons. I suffered from having my troops come on in dribs and drabs at the beginning of the game, meaning that the Spugs never really got into the game.
Still, the Bugs will be back, and next time, painting time allowing, they will bring bigger tripods with them, three more eight-legged walkers from GZG, and introduce a third Hive race: Khurasan's space wasp Vespulids. Die, soft-skinned earthling scum, die!