Martians against the Mahdi

“You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;”

To give you a scale from the map, from Dongola to Khartoum/ Omdurman is 531km.  

The aim of this scenario is to give you a scenario and another opponent for your Mahdists. Bored of the British? Then give the Martians a twirl. The rules, ‘The Incredible Events of the Century and the Attack of the Inner Planets,’ rather assume 6mm or smaller figures, but I do suggest a few tweaks for larger scale figures.

The situation is thus.

It is 1886 and a Martian cylinder has crashed north of Dongola.

Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, ruler of the Sudan.

You have received a missive from the British. The bearer claimed that everywhere seems to be in uproar, monstrosities in huge three legged machines are causing chaos and the world seems to be degenerating into terror. Still he had some solid information for you, bullets do little to them but can have an effect, artillery can damage them, and attacking the legs, especially with explosives, does work. But these machines fire beams of intense heat which can incinerate a man in a moment, and can produce a black smoke which kills everything it touches. The monsters kill and eat men for food.

The Martians.

You have one cylinder and seem to have landed further south than intended. Still you remember your briefings. If you head south, across a terrain that looks comfortingly like Mars, you will arrive at an area where there are vast numbers of undeveloped humans for you to herd. Your inadvertent diversion might well have been to your long term advantage.

Aims and objectives.

The Martians have to take Omdurman, their gateway to the rest of Africa. Abdallahi ibn Muhammad has to stop them.

Timing

The campaign starts on Day 1 when the Martians crash.

Day 3 they can open the cylinder and start work.

Day 5 the first fighting machine is ready and word has arrived in Omdurman to let the humans know the trouble they’re in.

Terrain and movement

Looking at the maps, or at the illustrations, you can see the terrain is ‘interesting.’

I would suggest you create a map as the Martians advance using playing cards.

  • Spades are impassable to Tripods. Humans know the ways through
  • Clubs are difficult to Tripods, maximum speed 10cm (which is approximately 100m per minute under the rules). There is probably no limit to the humans who could be hidden in this terrain.
  • Diamonds are risky. A lot of broken ground, wadis, loose rock. You can pick a way through easily enough but the maximum safe speed is 20cm. Again, humans can doubtless hide all over the place without being easily seen.
  • Hearts. Good going, move at full speed if you want. Humans could hide here but they would have to arrive a couple of days before and prepare the ground. There would be a 50% chance of spotting them.

Deal five cards, face up. This is the front the Martians see as they advance south. Each card is about two kilometres across and four kilometres deep. If the Martians decide that they don’t like what they see (for example, you’ve dealt five spades) then they can move east or west and you deal another five cards. Each time you do this, another day goes by.

Once the Martians are ‘happy’ with the five cards, the Mahdist player deals another four rows of five cards behind them. They are dealt face down, but the Mahdist player can look at them at any time. The Martian player can only look at one when he moves (or attempts to move) a tripod onto it. The Martians can move ‘forward or back’ or ‘sideways’ but cannot move diagonally between cards. They can also move sideways onto a 6th card to get round an obstacle. There’s plenty of room, they’re unlikely to hit the ‘edge of the world’.

It takes a Martian tripod a full day to cross an unknown card, and it takes a full day for them to check out the next card to see how difficult it is. (But if they can cross it, at the end of the day they will.) If you have three tripods on a card, there is nothing to stop you sending one each into the three adjacent cards to check them out simultaneously. Should the Martians decide to retreat, going back across cards they have already crossed, they can move more quickly, doing six cards a day.

Now the map is 12 rows of cards deep, once through these it’s ‘the green fields beyond’ or at least open ground to Omdurman and a final climactic battle.
Note that you’ll need two packs of cards, as the map could end up ‘wider’ than the original five.

The Mahdist response

Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, the Mahdist player sits with all 12 rows of cards in front of them. I suggest you just give them a grid on a piece of A4. At the start of the game only the five rows nearest to the Martian player are known, but this isn’t a disadvantage. Your men move 12km per day (or three cards lengthways or six if you’re going across) whilst artillery moves at 2 cards or 4.

Each day more troops arrive in Omdurman. You start off with one thousand cavalry, five thousand infantry and four light guns. We’ll divide the infantry up into five ‘regiments’ each of ten ‘companies’. The cavalry you can keep together or split them up in 100 man companies to support the infantry. You can send men north, just by noting what card they end up in. You can have them dig in. In this case the idea is not a firing position but somewhere where they’re hidden. If troops have a full day to prepare, the Martians have a 10% chance of spotting them.

You can do the same with guns.

Each day 2d10 companies of infantry arrive in Omdurman. You can organise them and send them north. On a roll of 6 on a d6, another light gun arrives. Toss a coin, on a heads, another company of cavalry arrive.

You have a maximum of 60,000 infantry. Once they’ve all arrived, that’s it.

How are your men armed?
It really depends on the figures you have to be honest, as the effect of rifle fire on a Martian tripod is limited, the best you can hope for is that it irritates it enough to pull back out of range.
On the other hand, you might be able to give some of your men explosive charges or similar which will give them an edge in close combat. I would assume you start off with enough explosives to provide charges for ten companies, and each day your armoury makes d6 more.

Irregulars

Remember, in the nicest possible way, your men are irregulars. Given their effectiveness with firearms, under the rules I would count them as Green with only 1d6 if firing. But for morale their determination to press on warrants them rolling a d6 as veterans. In close combat, I would allow those units of Hadendoa without rifles an extra +1d6 to account for their verve and enthusiasm.

Troops with explosive charges get +2d6 but this isn’t added to the +1d6 for being Hadendoa. Hadendoa only get an extra +1 for explosive charges.

The Martian quandary.

You are powerful but not that powerful. Your first fighting machine is ready on day 5. You then get another fighting machine on days 7,9,11, and 13.

At this point the Martian working the handling machine which is assembling them pre-packed tripods has to make a decision. It can assemble a 6th fighting machine and just abandon the cylinder and everything in it.
Or it can sling the handling machine from its tripod and carry it with it. After all with a handling machine you can repair tripods and hopefully, at some point, when you start reproducing, produce new ones. But a tripod with a handling machine dangling from it is handicapped in combat and the handling machine would be very easily damaged. The tripod would have to stay out of combat, or stash the handling machine somewhere safe.

With regard to distances, from Dongola to where you meet the first playing card of the map is 186km. A tripod could do it in a day. You could send one ahead, have it start exploring and send the others along afterwards. Or you could wait and go in mob handed. Or you could try any combination of the alternatives.

With regard to supplies, the rules contain supply rules, and if you’re in close combat with humans you will get plenty to eat, but once you leave Dongola, there’s poor hunting. On a day you decide to hunt, you’d end up doing d10x10km. Once you enter the playing card map, the only food will be your enemies you meet in battle. But you can always leave the map to hunt.

Black smoke

You have one cylinder of black smoke per fighting machine. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Unless of course you have a handling machine. After working for three days, (So it cannot move) it can refill any cylinders you have managed to recover. Once it’s got the ‘manufacturing plant’ set up, it can produce another 4 cylinders a day full of black smoke. But these cylinders are local materials, cannot be reused, and malfunction on a roll of 1 on a d6 when you fire them. Toss a coin if they malfunction. Tails you get black smoke all over you, heads, the cylinder just lies there inert and nothing happens.

Fighting the battles

Slowly but inexorably more and more human infantry will be dug into the hills ready to attack the Martians.

From the Martian point of view the faster they get through the hill country on the map the better, as things are only going to get worse.
From the Human point of view, whilst it needs men in the hills to stop the Martians, at some point you’ll need men preparing to defend Omdurman. In the open plain, hidden positions and similar for men to hide in could be essential if you’re not just going to be burned down before you can get close enough to fight.

Another thing the Mahdist player ought to consider is holding the artillery back. It outranges the Martians. Whilst it is unlikely to destroy them (as you don’t have much) it could force them to move forward to within heat ray range. Ideally that means your infantry are hidden well forward of your artillery so that they can fall on the tripods as they advance.

Playing solo

Here I think it’s technically easiest to play the Mahdists. Martians are unemotional and can be relied upon to do the sensible thing.

Make your policy decisions for Martians are the start of the game. So decide whether you’re going to feed your Tripod fighting machines in in penny packets or en-masse. Also what is your policy about stopping to make more black smoke?

Then as the Mahdist player, I suggest you keep all the cards face down until the Martians turn them over. This puts you are a slight disadvantage in that you don’t know what the terrain is where you’re putting your men, but if you leave them there for a couple of days before the Martians hit, you should be dug in and hidden.

Martians will always fall back to repair damaged machines, (provided you’ve fetched the handling machine) and see no reason to bang their heads against impenetrable defences. They will happily fall back or sidestep your positions if they don’t get through them.

If you want to play the Martians, then the easy way is to let the card you turn over tell you how many Mahdists there are. The value of the card tells you how many d10 you roll for the number of companies present. (So a 9 means you roll 9d10). A jack means there is one artillery piece, a queen means there are two, and a king, three. On black cards and diamonds, everybody will be hidden. On hearts they will be hidden on odd numbered cards, not on even numbered cards.

For finding hidden troops, metaphorically divide your table into 10cm squares. When a tripod steps into a square, roll a d6.

On a roll of 1 or 2, d10 bases of Mahdists are in ambush and attack you when you arrive.

On the Mahdist move, roll a d6 for squares next to tripods (that a tripod hasn’t previously passed through). On a 1 or 2, d10 bases of Mahdists charge out of that square to attack the tripod.

Add +2 to the d6 roll if the tripod is already in close combat.

When a force of Mahdists attack, roll a d6, on a roll of 1, they have explosive charges.

Figures

Well for tripods, I confess to a fondness for the one produced by Iliada Game Studio

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/martian-tripod

For Mahdists, I’ve always liked Baccus and Irregular, both of whom produce figures in 6mm

Baccus

https://www.baccus6mm.com/catalogue/Colonials/Mahdists/

Irregular

https://www.irregularminiatures.co.uk/6mmRanges/6mmColonial.htm

The choice is entirely yours.

♥♥♥♥

If you don’t know the rules, ‘The Incredible Events of the Century and the Attack of the Inner Planets,’ are available from Iliada Game Studio for £4 in pdf format

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/the-incredible-events-of-the-century-and-the-attack-of-the-inner-planets

Or from Wargame Vault, also £4 in pdf format

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/404445/The-Incredible-Events-of-the-Century-and-the-Attack-of-the-Inner-Planets

Or from Amazon, £4 on Kindle, or £9.50 in paperback.

Battlefield Salvage

We all know about fighting battles, it’s what wargamers do best. But what about tidying up the battlefield afterwards? Some of this equipment can be fixed and returned to service. At the very least some can be broken for spares. But it’s not just that, at the moment decent steel is £1,300 per ton. A serious heavy tank could be worth well over £120k cashed in over the scales for metal weight alone. Not bad if you can just hitch a couple of industrial tractors to it.

The town of Silsburg has been fought over and finally the front has moved on. A small garrison were left behind by the advancing Confederacy to maintain order and to protect stores which were stockpiled there during the fighting. There is also a knocked out heavy tank which they’re keeping an eye on.
Finally you arrive with a salvage team to collect the tank and other stores. As far as you know the garrison is to provide you with security.

Unfortunately no sooner do you arrive than the Captain in charge waves a casual arm at the various piles of stuff and says, “It’s all yours, Bud.” With that he climbs into the lead APC and leads his force out of town.

This shouldn’t be a problem, the front is a hundred miles away now, but even as you assess the situation you are certain that you’re being watched. Here is a 6mm (or if you’ve got suitable figures) a 15mm scenario for Hellfire.

The potentially hostile parties.

The Silsburg militia

As forces fought their way backwards and forwards, that part of the population of Silsburg who didn’t get a chance to flee, hid. They would creep out at night or during the quiet times to forage for food and water. Battlefields being what they are, they picked up quite a bit of military equipment and have used it since to stop the scavenger gangs that try creeping into the town at night.

They are armed with a mixture of energy rifles. None of them wear any armour, but because this is their town and they’ve been slinking round it trying not to be seen for some time, they count as ‘gone to ground’ even when moving.

There eight groups of them, each eight bases strong.

Reaction 2,3,2,2,1,2,1,2 15pts

Their aim is to hold the town and to keep any food and fuel in the supply stockpiles.

They also have a group of porters, unarmed, ten bases strong, which will strip the stockpiles and carry the supplies to safety in the buildings.

Brattan’s Boys.

A mixture of deserters from various units and from both sides, they have survived by scavenging. They are armed with a miscellany of energy rifles, and their force has four crew served energy weapons they’ve managed to keep working. These are mounted in four of their trucks.

There are eight groups of them, each six bases strong.

Reaction 3,3,2,1,1,2,1,2 15pts

They advance on foot but they have ten trucks. These are to cart away any supplies they find. Note that the trucks were stolen from Tango’s Heavy Haulage, Battan ambushed a convoy of his and massacred the crews so Tango probably doesn’t know who has them. But if he sees them he will know and will not be happy.

Battan’s objective is to both seize stockpiles, but also to sack some of the tower blocks because there will be food in there as well.

Tango’s Heavy Haulage.

Tango is a reasonable respectable scrap merchant (amongst other things.) He’s turned up with trailers, tow trucks and similar. He has five groups, each six bases strong, each with a tow truck, and lorries and trailers. The six bases can ride in on the trailers and in the lorries but they don’t get any cover if anybody opens up on them. Each tow truck has a crew served energy weapon for defence.

His men are armed with energy rifles, ablat armour.

Reaction 3,3,2,2,2,2,1,2 17pts

If Tango sees the trucks that Brattan’s Boys are using, he’ll see red and attack to get them back.

Otherwise he’s here for the disabled tank and any of the stores he can collect.

The Recovery team

You have one large recovery vehicle, one medium recovery vehicle, and two small recovery vehicles. The vehicles count only as improvised armour. Each vehicle has a crew of one base. They work the vehicles and each vehicle has a crew served energy weapon.

Reaction 3,3,3,3,2,3,2,2  21pts.

You also have a security company. This consists of eight bases with ablat armour and energy rifles.

Reaction 3,3,3,3,2,3,2,2  21pts.

You have to get the tank, any other stores are a pure bonus.

Things to put on the table.

Obviously it depends entirely what you’ve got. Also I have no doubt people can improvise and scratch build.

But for the stockpiles, Perfect Six Miniatures produce oil drums, jerry cans, crates and similar.

https://perfectsixscenics.co.uk/shop/ols/categories/battlefield-scenics.

For Battan’s Boys, assuming they’ve gone to seed a bit since they were in regular units, you might like to look at Microworld Games, Citizenry of the Wastelands.

https://www.microworldgames.com/collections/microwasteland/products/citizenry-of-the-wastelands-1

For Tango and his crew, it could be worth going through various ranges looking for equipment.

Brigade have their Wrenchmobile

https://www.brigademodels.co.uk/HammersSlammers/Slammers%20Regiment%20-%206mm/HS6-115.html

Shapeways have a heavy towing vehicle at

https://www.shapeways.com/product/LBT7LPSYU/6mm-at-t-artillery-towing-vehicle
It’s the Soviet “AT-T” artillery towing heavy vehicle based on a T54 chassis. Other companies have all sorts of towing vehicles in their WW2 and Modern ranges which are worth a look.

For the Recovery team vehicles I was much taken by some Iliada Game Studio has produced. He has a mobile workshop, utility raft, and a ‘fixer’ which are all worth a look.

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/mobile-workshop

The wargames table.

I suggest a central ‘square’ where the tank and stockpiles are located. The player who has the The Silsburg militia decides which buildings his people are defending. Then outside that central square put enough buildings and miscellaneous terrain to keep things cluttered.

Timing

How does the game last and how long does it take for things to happen? Well I assume a table that is about six feet by four. But the main part of the timing is decided by the recovery team.

The game starts on move 1 with the militia already in place, the recovery team landing their vehicles next to the tank, and Tango and Battan’s first figures being placed on opposite table edges.

Then as the game progresses

  • Each move the recovery team rolls a d6. On a 6 they have got the tank safe to transport. This means there are no live rounds jammed in the barrel or the fuel cells aren’t split and leaking highly inflammable substances. You can drag it onto the heavy recovery vehicle without worrying about it exploding.
  • Then as you try to load it, roll 2d6 per move. On 10, 11 or 12, it is loading and will be loaded next turn. But if you get an even number, 11 or 12, you’ll need the assistance of the light vehicles to achieve this. For each light (or medium) vehicle assisting) roll a d6. When your total is ten or more, they’ve deal with the issue and next move the tank has slid safely into place.
  • Finally, there is one move of strapping it down.
  • After that you can leave. Because you are fully loaded it takes three moves of climbing to get out of range of small arms and crew served weapons.

Playing the game

It’s best played by up to four players. At the start of the game it’s obvious that the Recovery Team cannot succeed unless they ally with one of the other factions. Realistically the Recovery team and the Silsburg militia should be able to work together. One takes the tank, the other takes the rest. There could be some tense moments towards the end should the Recovery Team bug out with the tank and leave the Militia in the lurch. Battan and Tango will get on perfectly well, until Tango spots the trucks. At that point he’ll declare war on Battan for massacring his people.

Playing Solo

Here the solo player takes the role of the Recovery team and the Silsburg Militia. Tango and Battan can come on opposite sides of the table. The reaction system with Hellfire means that you’ll soon lose control of them anyway, and the little issue of the trucks means that they’re not going to work together. But even as they fight, they’ll still try and get the stores and tank.

♥♥♥♥

If you don’t know Hellfire rules, they’re available from Wargame Vault for £4 as a pdf

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/361114/Hellfire

They’re available from Amazon on Kindle for £4 or in paperback for £9.50

Do Martians fear the Rebel Yell?

You are a Major in the army of the Confederate States of America. If you read the newspapers you’ll know that General Jackson is currently campaigning successfully in the Shenandoah Valley. Meanwhile you are detached with three companies of infantry to go on a ridiculous wild goose chase which is keeping you out of the fighting. Your three companies are each eight bases strong. They are ‘Reservists and normal troops’. They are armed with rifles.

Also, probably because somebody upset somebody, two 12pdr Napoleons have been attached to your force.

A message came on the telegraph, a strange cylinder has crashed near the Harewood Place, and nobody is quite sure what is going on. So the regiment has decided that you are taking three companies, plus three supply wagons, an engineer and his wagon, the doctor and his wagon, as well as a field forge and plenty of rope. People seem to think that you’re going to salvage the damned thing. The steamer ‘Irredeemable’ has been sent to assist. (She mounts a heavy gun on the deck at the bow which can traverse 45 degrees from straight ahead.
There are also four light guns, mounted so that there are two on each broadside.
She also has two machineguns and two machine gunners for a total crew of 33 men. Other than that she has light improvised armour. Her build points are 270 so she takes 27 points of damage.)

At the very least there’s enough timber in the area to build a raft to float the cylinder downstream on.

Look on the bright side, you’ve inadvertently got plenty of horses, mules and men to haul it with.

Oh wait, there’s a new message. Old Man Harewood has telegraphed to say that there appears to be a lid to the cylinder and it’s unscrewing and Satan himself is sitting inside. Regiment suggests that you check to see if Old Man Harewood’s moonshine is any good and if it is, fetch them some.

And another message. From Mrs Harewood this time. Apparently this cylinder fired a blast of heat and Old Man Harewood was just obliterated.

Probably just some damned Yankee trick. Better be careful out there.

The terrain


This is simple. The northern base edge facing the Confederate player is the river. The River road runs along it’s southern bank. On the eastern half of the table spreading north is the north wood. It probably reaches half way across the table. The West wood covers most of the western table edge, stretching at least a third of the way across the table. Between the two is the Harewood place and the fields around it.

Your force marches along the River Road. You cannot see the cylinder because of the North Wood. You can deploy in North Wood, the Harewood Place and the fields north of it, but haven’t time to reach the West Wood when things start to happen.

With regard to distances and scales, the cylinder has crashed over 600m from the river. Roll a dice to see where the opening of the cylinder faces.

1,2 It faces North Wood

3,4 It faces the Harewood Place

5,6 It faces the West Wood.

The steamer ‘Irredeemable’ cannot see the cylinder, but can see the Harewood Place when not obscured by woods. The North Wood is passable for your infantry. There are rides and tracks which mean you can move wagons and guns through it as well.

The tripod in the photo is from Iliada Game Studio https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/1-600

The Martians

The cylinder has cooled enough to unscrew the exit. In spite of the ridiculously thick atmosphere and unbearable gravity, you have managed to activate the handling machine and with that you have built the first fighting machine. The pilot is just getting into it now.

There was a few of the local creatures wandering about earlier but you drove them off with a heat ray. Now that the fighting machine is ready, you are confident you will be left alone to get on with assembling the next prefabricated fighting machine.

The Game Starts.

The first thing that happens is the Martian Tripod Fighting Machine stands up. Given it is about 200ft high, this is impressive. It’s so tall that the Irredeemable can see it over the trees of North Wood.
Given it has already killed somebody, the assumption has to be that it is hostile.

Playing the part if the Martians

The Martians can be given to a player. They pilot the tripod, this is the only weapon the Martians currently have. The rest of them are hiding in the cylinder, they cannot even close the lid again because it’s too heavy for them without using the handling machine and that would mean you’d have to leave the handling machine and crew-entity outside.

For solo play, move the tripod in line with the tripod’s mission. This is to drive off the human force. It has to keep between them and the cylinder because the last thing the Martians want is for somebody to throw explosives inside. Indeed given the cylinder is about thirty yards in diameter, and the opening cannot be much less than that, firing artillery into it is entirely possible. Obviously this must not happen.

If the tripod stays in front of the opening it halves the chances of artillery getting shots into the cylinder.

The Martian is currently learning what the various threats are. Until it sees the effect of an artillery piece (whether hit by a shell or a solid shot doesn’t really matter) it doesn’t see them as a threat. The infantry are the obvious first target as it’s already shot at humans on foot.

The Martian does have problems. It still hasn’t got used to the gravity, and hasn’t piloted a fighting machine for some months and never in circumstances like these. So for this scenario only, it cannot move more than 20cm per move, and must halt before it can turn.

Human Objectives

Ideally, knock out the tripod and storm the cylinder. If you have to soften the cylinder up by firing into it, that’s just fine and dandy.

What happens when you fire a cannon into the cylinder?

Damned if I know, to be honest. But it cannot be good. The cylinder is going to be full of prefabricated fighting machines, a handling machine, and somewhere, there could be five cowering Martians.

  • For each solid shot that goes in, roll a d6, this is the number of points of damage done.
  • If a shell goes in, roll 3d6, this is the number of points of damage done.
  • If the engineer throws (we’re talking something so large that it takes more than one man to roll it or throw it) a suitable explosive charge into the cylinder, roll 10d6 for damage.

If the Martians do drive off the attackers, tot up the total damage inflicted by the various attacks on the cylinder. Treat the figure as a percentage (so if it suffered 12 points of damage that is 12% damage.) Roll percentage dice and if you roll less than or equal to the damage, something irreplaceable has been damaged and the mission has failed.

If infantry with fixed bayonets burst in, it’s all over. Any surviving Martians which aren’t killed out of hand will surrender.

♥♥♥♥

Welcome to, ‘The Incredible Events of the Century and the Attack of the Inner Planets.’

A set of wargames rules aimed at smaller scale figures, which will hopefully help you refight the wars of the later 19th century. They allow you to refight not merely the invasion of the Martians but have rules for building your own armoured trains and warships. They also allow you to design and built your own armoured fighting vehicles, taking advantage of all the modern technological advances you are willing to pay for. Whilst you can refight perfectly historical battles, it has to be confessed that the aura of steampunk clings possessively to the entire project. 

Resistance is not merely futile, it is nugatory, bow to inevitable and embrace the future. Thanks to the wonder of steam, all problems are resolvable by bigger guns and more armour. It is considered improbable, nay inconceivable, that one could have more fun without removing one’s monocle.

Available as a pdf for £4 from Iliada Game Studio

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/the-incredible-events-of-the-century-and-the-attack-of-the-inner-planets

Or from Wargame Vault as a pdf for £4

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/404445/The-Incredible-Events-of-the-Century-and-the-Attack-of-the-Inner-Planets

Or from Amazon, £4 on Kindle, £9.50 in paperback

You wouldn’t believe.

The Raja and his army await, a photograph obviously taken from the besieged fortress in the foreground

The things you pick up with playtesting! I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion… I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…  

We had another playtest of the Indigenous Warfare rules I’m working on. I’ve been pondering scale. Basically the unit is a single base. So, aside from ground scale, it doesn’t really matter whether the figures used at 2mm, 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, or even 54mm. Each base is strength 6. So for casualties you just put a d6 behind the unit to show the remaining strength.


Now with ground scale I’ve played a lot of games where they use the base frontage as a unit of measurement. So infantry will move 3 base frontages per move, bow range will be 6 base frontages, that sort of thing. That is fine. I’m considering it but I do wonder whether I couldn’t just give the numbers, and if you’re playing 15mm and below, they’re in centimetres, and if you’re 28mm and upward, they’re inches.

The issue is the base sizes. My innate humility reminds me that nobody is going to rebase an army just to play these rules. So I’m happy if both sides have units with approximately the same base frontage. I’m going to have to watch and see if having ‘strange’ sized units does ‘interesting’ things to the game.

There’s a reason for playtesting wargames rules. Yes, mechanisms need tweaking but that could be done briskly and efficiently in a handful of solo games. The advantage of playtesting with rumbustious and darkly cynical players is that you discover that some truths are not generally self-evident.

Let us take one simple example. I default to being an ‘ancients’ player. I’ve been pushing the toys about since the mid-1970s. So in our playtest game last night, I was somewhat nonplussed when one player wanted his cavalry to charge an enemy baggage wagon. To do so, his cavalry base was going to shave across the front of an enemy sepoy unit. It didn’t actually hit the sepoys, but it came awfully close.

My first thought was, ‘haven’t you ever heard of zones of control?’ This was followed up by my second thought which was, ‘probably not.’ After all, mentally running through the games he normally plays, most are ‘skirmish’ or games like Bolt Action or similar. These don’t even need the concept. To the best of my knowledge he’s not a player of those hex-based board-games which is somewhere else you pick up the term.

So this morning, I’ve added a brief ZOC rule into the draft rules.

The other advantage of playtesting with iconoclasts is that you get to rethink assumptions. Take the idea of units being hit in the flank. Now with DBx and other rules, it’s a standard way of taking an enemy out. Pin the enemy unit by charging it from the front, and in the same move have another unit charge it in the flank. Most rules assume this to be somewhat terminal for the unit hit in the flank. I tend to agree, but after watching one melee, it struck me we had room for second thoughts.

My cavalry base charges your cavalry base. Then my infantry base hits your cavalry base in the flank. Let us stop and think about it. The cavalry melee is not a push of pike. Squadrons are charging, counter-charging, being rallied and thrown back in. Any infantry caught up in that lot is going to have problems. If they just charge in, they could lose men ridden down by their own side who never saw them. They’d be in everybody’s way. But if they stay ‘on the edge’ and hold their formation, then they’ve cramped the style of the enemy. At the very least, there’s a direction your cavalry cannot take when they evade. So we decided in this case, when this happens, your cavalry suffers a penalty, a -1 on their saving throws. It’s a way of showing their style has been cramped.

But what about the case where my base (be it mounted or foot) charges your base frontally and then my cavalry charges your base in the flank. In this case shock cavalry are just going to pile in. They have no fears about ‘mixing it.’ In this case everybody on both sides fights, and if the troops hit in the flank don’t do more damage to the enemy than the enemy does to them, they’re destroyed.

Another issue is those troops who aren’t really geared up for fighting anyway. What happens when, for example, cavalry, hit artillery or skirmishers from the flank or rear? Nominally there would be some resistance, but most people caught up in those circumstances would recognise the futility of trying to make a stand. We decided that in those circumstances, the artillery or skirmishers were just destroyed. Indeed we decided that skirmishers caught in the open by mounted would also be destroyed. I even took the decision that in these circumstances the skirmishers wouldn’t inflict casualties. This means that you cannot abandon skirmishers in the open with the intention that they will act as a speedbump. The cavalry don’t even slow down. But on broken ground or similar, obviously the skirmishers will be able to fight and may even have an advantage.

The tinkering I did after the first game seems to have worked. Artillery is dangerous but at long range not all that dangerous. Musketry is savage at close range but troops who stay some distance away can exchange volleys for some time.

The attackers left wing, with the marines, the sepoys to their left and the supply wagons behind them

The game itself? Well one side, the Raja was trying to prevent his opponents relieving a fortress he was besieging. His force was large but a bit old fashioned.

The relieving force was equally old fashioned. Indeed its cavalry was not as good. But it did have some support from a force of Marines (they weren’t Royal at this point) and some sepoys.

Initially the relieving force wanted to send the ‘Western’ troops up one flank to cover the advance of the supply wagons which were to go into the fortress. On the other flank, the plan was to send forward their Pindari (bandits on horseback) to play with the enemy Pindari. This was to ‘keep them amused’ and the idea was the cavalry fracas would screen the attackers from enemy guns. Some native infantry were sent up through the woods on the flank to support the Pindari.

Thanks to the infantry support the attacking Pindari eventually beat the Raja’s Pindari. On the other flank the ‘western’ troops advanced through some low hills, watched from a safe distance by the Raja’s armoured cavalry. In the centre both sides glared at each other at extreme artillery range. Given the quality of their force in the centre, the attackers were happy with that.

Finally as the Marines breasted the last hill, the enemy horsemen appeared to wake up and swept across to deal with them. When the smoke cleared there were no armoured cavalry, and one of the sepoy units looked distinctly battered. At this point there was a change of plan from the attackers. From just making sure the wagons got into the fortress, they swung their line round and prepared to roll up the Raja’s centre. On the other flank, the attacking cavalry swept forward to pin the centre in place.

It took a gratifyingly long time for the Raja to turn his forces round. Command and control was not a strong point for large armies of undrilled irregular troops. He got his matchlock men off, but the heavy artillery was ridden down by cavalry as the elephants tried to pull it away, and perhaps half of the irregular infantry escaped off table.

Next game will need more tweaks in command and control as players kept wanting to do reasonable things I’d not considered and had to invent rules on the spot.

♥♥♥♥

Have rules, will travel

From wargame vault, £4 in pdf

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/361114/Hellfire

From Amazon, £4 on kindle, or £9.50 paperback

NeuBielefeld welcomes careful drivers.

The wargames table of Shawn Reis. The scenery (other than a couple of drop ships,) is from Iliada Game Studio

Somebody muttered to me about how I don’t do much for mecha. I was asked, “How about a ‘proper 6mm scenario so I can get the mecha out?”
Now there are several really detailed rule sets for mecha, but with Hellfire we have one where the great lords of war have to interact with hoi polloi and even riffraff such as infantry. Then I saw the pictures Shawn Reis posted of his wargames table. At that point a game (and the city of NeuBielefeld) was born. When describing the scenario, this wargames table is the battlefield I’ve got in mind, but just use what you’ve got to get the same general layout.

More from Shawn Reis and Iliada Game Studio. I suspect property values in NeuBielefeld are about to fall.

The basic outline of the scenario is simple. For some weeks now, there has been fighting to the west of NeuBielefeld. Finally the Confederacy has thrown in the mecha, and has punched a hole through Federation lines. The front has collapsed and Federation forces are streaming north and south rather than get trapped in NeuBielefeld.

Only 147th infantry battalion, which had been in NeuBielefeld, getting rebuilt and re-equipped, remains to defend the town.

Help is at hand, a Marine Assault Battalion is off shore and is going to deploy to strengthen the garrison.

Currently, advancing upon NeuBielefeld, is the 4th Mecha Company. Although part of the breakthrough, they were pulled back to rearm, and then sent to spearhead the attack on NeuBielefeld. Because of the fierce nature of the fighting, there are no frontline units to send with them. Instead they are supported by the 3rd Independent Irregular Brigade. This formation is part horse mounted, and part carried in civilian lorries that have been repurposed. Further supports are promised, including a battalion of Military Police to ensure the Brigade doesn’t make off with anything not actually structural.

The forces

4th Mecha Company

This company starts by entering the table on the first move, at the opposite end to the port.

The Mecha, ‘Liberty or Death.’

This has Heavy Armour. Mounts vehicle mounted artillery with two guided and twelve unguided projectiles, one crew served energy weapon, one crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Moves at 6″ per move,

The Mecha, ‘God of War’

This has Heavy Armour. Mounts two crew served energy weapons, one crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Moves at 6″ per move,

The Mecha, ‘Peace Maker’

This has Heavy Armour. Mounts array of 16 manportable unguided rockets, can fire all at once at the same target, or as many or as few as you want. (When it uses all of them it can retire off table to reload, takes d6 moves). There is also one crew served energy weapon, one crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Moves at 6″ per move,

The Mecha, ‘Mailed Fist’

This has Heavy Armour. Mounts vehicle mounted artillery modified to fire unguided nerve gas projectiles of which it has six, plus 6 unguided HE projectiles, one crew served energy weapon, one crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Moves at 6″ per move,

The Mecha, ‘Load Sixteen Tons’

This has Heavy Armour. Mounts vehicle mounted artillery capable of firing smoke, has six prismatic and six ordinary. It also has 12 unguided HE projectiles. It also has one crew served energy weapon, one crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Moves at 6″ per move,

Note that whilst 6” may not seem a lot, you can move extra using order points.

3rd Independent Irregular Brigade.

These come on in dribs and drabs, but at least the battalions manage to stay together. They will arrive at random, both on the same edge as the Mecha. This is the western edge. But they can also potentially arrive on the northern edge as well.  At the end of each move, roll a d6. On a 5 or 6 one of the battalions will arrive. Roll at random to see which one and where it appears. Next move it can deploy on the table edge and can move properly in subsequent moves. Note that they have no electronics so will depend on the mecha for ECM. They also have only improvised NBC.

Each battalion also has attached to it an engineer officer whose job is to detect mines that might have an unfortunate effect on mecha. Some ill-intentioned person may have placed a couple of tons of explosives in a storm drain or similar. This figure can move between companies but costs order points to do so. The engineer doesn’t need to spend points to spot a mine, merely move over it (or within three inches of it). Because of the sensitivity of the equipment, he may get false positives. The defender must tell the engineer where the mine is, but can create as many false positives as there are mines.

Note that the Irregulars are prone to looting. If Irregular troops get within six inches of a building they will ‘storm it’ and loot it. (This they do without you having to spend order points.) This happens company by company, but men of the same battalion are happy to join together in looting the same building, but if men from a second battalion try and enter the building, the first battalion with attempt to throw them out. There will be one round of combat, and the second battalion will count as assaulting a defended position. If they are defeated they abandon the attempt.

Troops will spend 2d6 moves looting a building. When they’ve finished, roll a d6 for each company. That’s how many bases will desert with their loot. You can amalgamate the remaining bases to bring companies up to strength if you want. Also roll d6 for the building. On a 1,2,3 it is building, smoke will start to drift downwind (roll at random for wind direction when you need it) for the rest of the game, the front edge of the smoke will move at 6” per move, but after 24 inches will mainly go upwards limiting the length of the ad hoc smoke screen.

There are two ways of getting them out of the building early. One is to fire nerve gas into it, and next move everybody tumbles out. They lose one reaction number and take 2 moves to reorganise themselves.

You can sent in military police. One military police company can go into a building, and the entire battalion will tumble out next term. Again they lose one reaction number and take 2 moves to reorganise themselves.

Rakell Cavalry Battalion.

This has three companies, each of seven bases of horsemen. They are armed with personal energy weapons and wear ablative armour. There is also one company equipped with two technicals mounting a crew served projectile weapon. These have improvised armour.

Reaction 3,2,3,2,1,2,2,1 16pts

Savoyard Cavalry Battalion.

This has four companies, each of eight bases of horsemen. They are armed with personal energy weapons and wear ablative armour. There is also one company equipped with three technicals mounting a crew served projectile weapon. These have improvised armour.

Reaction 3,3,3,2,1,1,1,1 15pts

How about these for the Irregular Horsemen

Figures by Brigade Models, https://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/SAC/SF300-675.html

Markoff Infantry Battalion

This has four companies, each of nine bases of Infantry. They are transported in unarmoured civilian trucks. They are armed with personal energy weapons and wear ablative armour. Each company will have a crew served projectile weapon. This will be carried/dragged by the crew at infantry pace.

Reaction 3,2,2,2,2,1,1,1 14pts

Bardwin Infantry Battalion 

This has four companies, each of ten bases of Infantry. They are transported in unarmoured civilian trucks. They are armed with personal energy weapons and wear ablative armour. Each company will have a crew served projectile weapon. This will be carried/dragged by the crew at infantry pace.

Reaction 2,2,2,2,2,1,1,1 13pts

And if you want infantry to match the horsemen

More from Brigade Models https://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/SAC/SF300-670.html

Further Supports.

Military Police Battalion

This has four companies, each of eight bases of infantry. They are armed with personal energy weapons and wear ablative armour. They travel in armoured personnel carriers with light armour, the only fire is from their small arms. Each company does have a 9th APC which mounts a crew served projectile weapon.

Reaction 3,2,3,2,2,2,2,1 17pts

Once the last of the 3rd Independent Irregular Brigade have arrived on table, roll for the Military police using the same system. They arrive one company at a time having been spread all over the countryside trying to collect evidence of Irregular malfeasance. They have personal NBC protection and each company has portable ECM.

And if you’re short of military police try these

More from Brigade Models https://www.brigademodels.co.uk/HammersSlammers/Forlorn%20Hope%20-%206mm/HS6-360.html

Note, if you’re in the UK and what to see Brigade Models in the flesh, according to his website they’re going to be at

  • Sept 10th – Colours
  • Oct 16th – SELWG

The Defenders

The civilian population has been (largely) evacuated.

147th infantry battalion

This has been brought up to strength and is fully equipped. There are five companies, each ten bases strong. They are armed with personal projectile weapons and wear flak. Each base has one man portable guided rocket, and each company has portable ECM. Each man has personal NBC protection. Each company also has two crew served energy weapons, each of which has an extra base to man it.

Reaction 2,2,3,3,2,2,2,2 18pts

You have also planted three large mines which can demolish a mecha. Note them down on a map. They can be detected by competent infantry, but otherwise a mecha cannot detect them. They’re probably in storm drains, or attached to the city’s gas pipes or something. Because they’re so big, instead of the usual 50% chance of causing damage as the mecha passes through, these are 60% chance. This will immobilise it. If it is damaged there is another 60% chance of it falling over and being put totally out of action. If it does survive, it gets -3 to hit with any weapons systems because everything is so shaken up. Also it cannot move more than six inches. (If it has survived but has problems with targeting the mecha can leave the battlefield and spend d10 turns recalibrating targeting computers.)

Deployment. You cannot deploy within a foot within the western or northern table edges. They can be dug in open areas or holed up in buildings.

Marine Assault Battalion

This arrives on the Eastern edge where there is the harbour. The Battalion is merely part of an assault force which includes the ships that deliver it. Here it really depends what you have. I would suggest that you have a couple of ‘gun barges’ providing heavy support, a couple of small patrol boats, lightly armed to get in fast and see what’s there, and enough tank landing craft of various sorts to unload six heavy tanks. Also if you have a big Roll-on/roll-off ship it can carry an infantry company as well.

Vague suggestions as to armament, depending on what you’ve got. If you need reaction for these boats and aircraft, the crews count as marines.

If you want marines, what about these from Brigade Models
https://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/PacFed/SF300-770.html

Gun barge. Has light armour and mounts vehicle mounted artillery with three guided and effectively infinite unguided projectiles, along with a couple of crew served projectile weapons. It also has portable EC and full vehicle NBC protection.

Patrol Boat. Light armour, crew served projectile weapon. It also has portable ECM and full vehicle NBC protection

Tank landing barge. Light armour, a couple of crew served projectile weapons. It also has portable ECM and full vehicle NBC protection. It also carries one heavy tank.

Roll-on/roll-off Landing ship. Light armour three or four crew served projectile weapons. It also has Emplaced ECM (because a ship is a big vehicle) and full vehicle NBC protection. It also carries several heavy tanks and an infantry company.

I don’t know what ships you’ve got but have you seen those from Iliada Game Studio

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/a-c-r-c

Marine Transport Ship

Light armour three or four crew served projectile weapons. It also has Emplaced ECM (because a ship is a big vehicle) and full vehicle NBC protection. It also carries several infantry companies and has facilities to load them into VTOLs.

Marine VTOL

This is a transport aircraft, and as a crew served projectile weapon, basically for self-defence.

Also from Iliada Game Studio https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/vtol-ship

Or https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/6mm. (Currently there is free shipping on orders over $60)

Air deployment.

Some of your marines will come in by air from a ship off shore. You can ferry troops ashore in two big troop carrying VTOLs, each capable of carrying a company. The ship will also have Light armour, a couple of crew served projectile weapons. It also has Emplaced ECM and full vehicle NBC protection.

A Marine Company

Each company has 9 bases of infantry who wear flak armour with full NBC protection, and carry personal projectile weapons. A tenth base has a crew served projectile weapon. Each Company has three bases which have three manportable guided missiles.

Reaction 3,3,3,3,2,2,2,2 20pts

The Marine Heavy tanks

Each tank has heavy armour and mounts a vehicle mounted artillery with three guided and twelve unguided projectiles. It also has a crew served projectile weapon. Portable ECM. Full vehicle NBC protection.

Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts

Marine arrival

The arrival of the marines is determined randomly. Given the various parts a number on which they arrive. (I suggest 15) Each part will then roll a d6 each move and can come on when its total is fifteen. So the patrol boats might arrive after the landing craft. You can stop this, as troops can always arrive AFTER they make the total of 15. So effectively they’re lurking offshore wondering where the rest have got to.

Boats will enter via the harbour, troops landed by VTOL can land anywhere, but it’s probably unwise to spend too much time flying over the battlefield.

Solo Play

This is probably best done with the player being the defender.

The mecha will advance methodically, ideally they will not go down a road until their infantry have been down it first to check for mines. So the attackers will probably spend a lot of time trying to keep their infantry moving forward.

  • If a mecha is fired at it will return fire and will try to step back into cover.
  • If a mecha isn’t fired at, it will try and open fire on enemy firing at other mecha.
  • If it isn’t fired at and cannot see any enemy, roll a d6. On a 1 it will open fire on the nearest building with artillery, having mistaken hiding civilians for enemy infantry. Otherwise it will then try to advance
  • The mecha will work their way towards the harbour. If a mecha isn’t under fire and can see no enemy, it will move towards the harbour. But if it doesn’t have Irregulars leading the way, it needs a 6 on a d6 to go down a street no mecha has been down.
  • Irregulars will try and get into buildings to loot them. If possible military police or mecha will attempt to get them out.
Stand really still and they’ll just think you’re street furniture. More from Shawn Reis

Winning and losing

During the game, mark buildings hit by artillery or missiles. Each building gets 1 point per hit. At the end of the game roll d6. If you roll less than the total, the building is unsafe and must be demolished.

Buildings which were set on fire must be demolished because they’re unsafe.

The winner is the one who controls a city which still has more than 50% of its buildings that do not need to be demolished.

♥♥♥♥

If you don’t know Hellfire rules, they’re available for £4 as a pdf from Wargame Vault

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/361114/Hellfire

And from Amazon, for £4 on Kindle, or £9.50 in paperback

Indigenous Warfare

Amazing what being without a computer or access to the internet gives you time to do. I’ve always had an interest in the Taiping Rebellion, and some time ago I picked up ‘God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan.’

https://www.abebooks.co.uk/Gods-Chinese-Taiping-Heavenly-Kingdom-Hong/30733508692/bd?

And of course I’ve got the Osprey

https://ospreypublishing.com/the-taiping-rebellion-1851-66-pb

Finally just before I was rendered computerless, I had ordered, ‘Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom,’ by Stephen R. Platt

https://www.wob.com/en-gb/books/stephen-r-platt/autumn-in-the-heavenly-kingdom/9780857897664?

Being unable to get on with other projects, (because they’re on the computer) I started thinking about the Taiping Rebellion. At Phalanx I even bought some figures. But what occurred to me was that in the 18th and 19th centuries you had a period where Indigenous powers, be they Chinese or Indian, fought each other with or without European support. Europeans were an addition to their warfare, not necessarily the drivers of it. In India this probably lasted, in simple terms, until Wellington’s victories and then the Third Anglo-Maratha War. In China the period lasted longer, even as late as 1859, Chinese forces could thrash a British force at the Battle of Taku Forts. If you want a simple end point, the first Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and the Boxer Rebellion in 1899 might serve.

So I wanted a set of rules which made sense of the troop types the Indigenous forces used and somehow wanted western forces to be supernumerary, rather than dominating. The idea being that you could have a perfectly good battle without the westerners ever appearing; and all without the game feeling like Hamlet without the prince.

After some thought, perhaps as much as ten minutes, it struck me that Hell and Uncivil Disorder might provide the engine. The rules are comparatively simple, and the ‘magic’ system meant that another way of differentiating between Indigenous and European forces was they used entirely different magic systems.

So you’d have Western Magic (based on fierce discipline). One spell could be, ‘Dress Your Ranks.’

If Successful, the unit fires or fights as if it had not suffered any casualties. It continues to do this until it suffers more casualties and the commander fails to cast the spell. Also the unit becomes truculent.

Indigenous magic could include a spell like, ‘You know who I am!’ It could be cast on both friendly and hostile troops (not Western units as they don’t understand). If successful a friendly unit will improve one level of morale, and a hostile unit will drop one level of morale.

I also pondered basing and unit sizes. I’ve always liked Impetus rules, and there, the figures are effectively added to decorate the base.

http://www.dadiepiombo.it/english-impetus.html

Here’s some bases, a photo I borrowed.

Single based units work in other scales as well, as you can see in these 3mm figures from Iliada Games Studio

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/

The advantage of the one base per unit was you don’t have to rebase everything for the rules. If you look at the picture below you’ll see that a lot of my figures are based for DBA/DBx but are deployed as four bases to a sabot. This brings them up to size for Impetus.

The defender’s forces await the enemy

But anyway last night we tried a first playtest game.

As usual it’s a nightmare for the designer as I always put in too many troops (so people have a selection and don’t worry too much about losing a few) and wargamers always use too many troops anyway.

At one point Matt wisely recommended I go and have a walk round the room so I had a chance to think without everybody offering me contradictory advice.

But yes, the rules, after a fashion, worked.

Artillery works, but is far far too effective. After two moves I ‘switched it off’ and we got on with the game without it. But by this point we’d probably got rockets about right.  

The Royal Marines were formidable, but so were western trained infantry.
Units generally weren’t quite strong enough. I’d arbitrarily decided four hit points per unit (because there’s four bases on the sabot) but actually six would be better.

Firepower needs dialling down at longer ranges.

But I think it’s a game which will allow you to put a lot of units on the table, throwing entire cavalry wings forward and not messing about with penny packets of a couple of units.

Inevitably, more work to be done. But I think that it’ll be a set of rules which will work well right across the scales. Probably measuring the distance in centimetres in 3mm and 6mm and in inches in 28mm, with 15mm getting the opportunity to decide which of the two options they’ll go for. (For a faster game in 15mm I’d go for inches.)

The Royal Marines and allies are the spearhead aimed at the heart of the enemy forces

♥♥♥♥

In case you don’t know Hell and Uncivil Disorder rules, they’re available from Wargame Vault for £4 as a pdf

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/368891/Hell-and-Uncivil-Disorder

They are also available from Amazon for £4 on Kindle or £9.50 in paperback

Just looking after the interests of the sect

A little more from Caldoom.

Unloading the last few supplies

The Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint has sent you and a small team to the city of Liberty on Caldoom. At one point the Order was an influential landowner within the city. But that was before various leading figures within the Order settled land on their mistresses, sold it to pay gambling debts, or somehow just mislaid the deeds. Still a decision has been made to install a new shrine. The obvious place to do this in in the Shanties. After all, the denizens of the area have shown your people a distinct lack of respect over recent times.

To understand the significance of this you have to realise that the city of Liberty is built on the delta of the Iron River. The eastern parts of the delta are reasonably firm and the buildings there are substantial, even if they do rest on concrete rafts, deep foundations or on piles driven down to hit bedrock. The western side of the delta is far less firm. In fact before colonisation, the area consisted of a mixture of almost floating islands, shallow lakes, and winding channels. Because the mud was virtually bottomless it was easy to sink a power plant into it to extract geothermal heat and above the power plant is a huge floating steel raft. Almost immediately, people moved onto the raft and build shanties to live in. Over the years more and more of these rafts have been added and a fair proportion of the city’s working population lives on them.

It has been decided that you will build the shrine on one of these rafts. You need one that is reasonably populous but not so crowded there is no room for the shrine. Your superiors selected a site. Even as you deposit the documents with the city authorities saying that you are building on the open area not far from the water filtration plant, a team of combat engineers is ensuring that there is an open area not far from the water filtration plant. Before night has fallen, contractors are assembling the shrine, build from preformed panels. By dawn the shrine is completed and you and your brethren have taken possession.

The forces of the Order

You are the commander, your force, only ten strong is composed of two squads. One led by you, one led by the Brother Almoner.

Support Squad, Second class regulars, 19 reaction points.

You, the commander, Veteran, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.  

Brother Roundsman. Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Cantor. Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Cellarer. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Malthas. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Street Squad. Second class regulars, 18 reaction points.

Brother Almoner, Veteran, flak jacket under robes. Power mace, hard wired. 

Brother Infirmarer, Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Guest Master, Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Cadwel. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

Brother Walland. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

Your Street squad is patrolling the area, having collected the rents (protection money) and is now providing law and order. You, along with the Support squad, are in the shrine itself. You are in constant communication with Brother Almoner through his throat microphone.

All your brethren get one dice shift in their favour because whilst they are not superbly training in close combat, (which would give them two dice shifts) they have some martial arts training meaning they get one shift. Brother Almoner has a power mace which gives one dice shift because it’s a specialist close combat weapon.

You are always being watched

The previous collectors of rents and protection money.

Pags and his gang have run this and adjacent rafts for some years, since they displaced a previous gang. Whilst most are alien (but everybody is an alien somewhere) they have been caught up in human culture so largely react in a human manner.

They have the following combatants. These are based on the CP Miniatures Scum and Smugglers.

https://cpmodels.co.uk/product-category/28mm-ranges/28mm-sci-fi/alien-scum-smugglers/

I’ve tried to give them, ‘what you see is what you get.’ You might also want to give them an energy carbine for ‘general’ use. They’re not hardwired into this weapon.

Group One Warriors Reaction point total 18

Pags. Veteran Unpowered Composite armour. Submachinegun. Energy blade. 

Plutt. Normal. Flak jacket, Mace,

Kossh Normal, Flak jacket, energy trident.

Rhac, Normal, Flak Jacket, pistol, sword.

Dormi. Normal, Flak Jacket. Energy pistol

This group all get one dice shift because they have some close combat experience and training. Four of them also get a bonus for specialist close combat weapon.

Group Two Composite aliens. Reaction point total 17

Queenie. Normal, Flak Jacket. Energy pistol

Hammer, Normal, Flak Jacket, Submachinegun

Hawkes. Normal, Flak Jacket. Pistols, Hardwired

Dazh. Green, Ablative armour. Energy carbine

Arim, Green, Ablative armour, Energy pistol

Mandrid, Green, Energy Carbine, hard wired

Nus, Green, Energy pistol, hardwired, explosive charge

Chana, Normal, Flak jacket, pistol.

Composite Alien reaction table.

Playing the scenario

As solo

The scenario starts with the Street squad of the Order in the streets. Split the table into a three by three grid of hypothetical squares. Roll a d10 and reroll 10s, and also the Street Squad cannot land in the square on which the shrine sits. The Support Squad are in the Shrine. If you’re feeling particularly vindictive you might want to split the Street Squad into two groups, (toss a coin for each figure, heads they’re in one group, tails they are in another) and then place the two groups separately)

When placing the Smugglers and Scum, roll for Group 1 and Group 2 separately. Pags, evaluating the calibre of his forces, decides he will take Group one and hit the Street squad, whilst Group two take up a position to open fire on the Support squad if they move out of the shrine to assist.
Because Pags has superior intelligence and knows what is going on, sticking with your grid of hypothetical squares, Group 1 will be placed, randomly, in a square next to the Street Squad (but not in the same square as the Shrine.) Don’t count squares ‘diagonally’ adjacent to the Street Squad. Depending which square the Street Squad is in there could be anywhere between two or three squares to chose, randomly. If the Street Squad has been split, there could be even more.
Then for Group 2, just throw randomly to place them in one of the four hypothetical squares adjacent to the shrine. They can be placed in the same square as Group 1 but not in the same square as the Street Squad.
Ideally Nus will place his explosive charge against the Shrine door if the Support squad doesn’t come out. Then when the Street Squad has been eliminated, the two groups can storm the shrine.

He’ll never know what hit him!

As Multiplayer

Obviously this works for up to four players, with each having a squad to play with. There is no real sophistication to this scenario, which seems appropriate given the nature of the protagonists.

Two men work, one supervises, and three more stand about pretending to look busy doing guard duty.

Winning and losing.
The aim is to eliminate or drive away the opposition. It’s that simple.

The Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint obviously doesn’t welcome all and sundry to their services.

In case you need reminding, the terrain is by Iliada Game Studio, available at

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/caldoom-by-starlight

The rules I tend to use are Hell by Starlight (but they’re generic so your own rules should cover it.) Caldoom is covered in Caldoom by Starlight, (Which supplements ‘Hell by Starlight Campaigns’) and rather than cluttering up a wargames supplement with flavour text, there is a novella set on Caldoom. Caldoom and the Ship of Dreams.

All are avaialble from Iliada Game Studio in pdf, or from Wargame Vault, also in pdf, also for £4 (£2 for Caldoom and the Ship of Dreams)

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/397568/Caldoom-by-Starlight

And they’re available from Amazon, £9.50 in paperback, £4 on Kindle. (£4.50 and £2 for Caldoom and the Ship of Dreams.)

Well You Better Go and Rescue Him Then!

A solo scenario for Caldoom.
In the previous scenarios we have seen Brother Roberto, an inspiring preacher and evangelist, in action. Not only that but we have seen The Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint attempt to arrest him. Obviously under your careful guidance he will have avoided this, but just in case he was captured it was felt we ought to have a scenario where the Scum could try and ‘unarrest him’.

Now the Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint have their own Theocratic Republic. The Order’s territory is split into four quarters, each centred on a defended monastery. Each monastery will have scores of serf villages attached to it, as well as outlying shrines which are smaller fortresses to overawe the serf population. Around these shrines tend to cluster the service industries which serve not merely the monks in the shrine, but also serf villages around. It is the shrine which monitors tax collection, administers ‘justice’ and ensures that quotas are met. These clusters of buildings can grow into small towns, the inhabitants of which will all wear a token showing they have been granted their freedom, or a brand showing they are serfs tied to the town.

Within the walls of the shrine there is accommodation for the small number of monks who live there, plus store rooms, as well as the instruments of justice, holding cells, a pain suite, and humiliation rooms.

Normally these small shrines will have about ten members of the Brothers Militant. These act as the garrison and support the Brothers of the Administration. It is the latter who handle the paperwork and assessments.

Rather than take Brother Roberto to one of the monasteries, it has been decided that he should rather be held in one of the many, almost anonymous, small shrines. Thus the authorities can deny any knowledge of him and should he disappear, his passing will neither be noted nor lamented.

One advantage the Smuggles and Scum of Liberty have is that being an openly criminal conspiracy, they can openly use criminal methods. So by judicious use of bribery, blackmail and intimidation they have discovered the location of Brother Roberto.

Now a cunning plan has to be hatched. Obviously there will be no extra guards at the fortified shrine, because that would draw attention. But a rapid reaction force could be held nearby in case it’s needed.
Thus the Smugglers and Scum need a way to get in which. Pounding the walls with artillery and then storming them at cutlass point is probably going to take too long.

So a plan is hatched. When you’re a criminal, acquiring an air raft is merely the job of a moment. Similarly, given the number of Bretag deserters who make their way into Liberty, Bretag uniforms are almost at a discount. Thus the air raft, manned by ‘Bretag Military Police’ flies towards the shrine. Using the correct Order codes (acquired in return for two crates of imported white wine) the crew of the air raft radio ahead to the shrine explaining they have captured Madam Veronica, (obviously a known opponent of both Bretag and the Order) and after high level talks, they are bringing her to the shrine so that she may be held in secret captivity. That way both Bretag and the Order can deny knowing anything about her whereabouts.

At some point the air raft is ‘bounced’ from ambush by a baastruk of Scum who continue to pursue. The air raft flees to the shrine, goes in through the gates to avoid provoking the automated weapon system which takes out anything flying over the walls.

Once in the courtyard the raft crew open fire on the guards, break out Brother Roberto, and at the same time the Baastruk arrives to break down the gate and the party escape.

It’s so much more comfortable when you’ve got out of the uniform and are just wearing your proper kit and with weapons you know.

OK so you’ve read the novel, how do we play the game?

Well in reality it’s a Brandenburger operation.

These were men who were often recruited from Germans who had lived outside Germany and were fluent in foreign languages. Often dressed in foreign uniforms they could, for example, advance ahead of German forces and seize bridges and stop them being blown up by the retreating enemy. As wargames they’re always difficult to model as players get a bit hacked off if you as umpire give them a unit which, three moves later, once they’ve put it somewhere vital, opens fire on their men.

So this game I’m suggesting is played solo. You are in charge of the Smugglers and Scum. The game starts with the air raft and baastruk engaged in a fierce (but ineffectual firefight) as the air raft flees for the safety of the shine.

This will bring all the defenders out to see what is going on. At which point the ‘Bretag’ troops on the air raft open fire. This is quite a delicate part of the operation as initially the ‘Bretag’ troops on the air raft are vulnerable. They’re a bit tightly packed and one or two lucky bursts could be catastrophic. So the presence of the ‘pursuing’ force in the Baastruk is important, they can open fire on those defenders on the parapet and can distract them.
They’re also important because they can open the door with an industrial cutting tool. This saves the air raft team having to worry about it and might hopefully save more time.

The Defenders, Brothers Militant

Current on the walls, Second class regulars, 17 reaction points.

The Lesser Abbot, Veteran, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.  

Brother Clarant. Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Decant. Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Foldrin. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Malthas. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Off duty. Second class regulars, 17 reaction points.

AlsoBrothers Militant, they are inside the buildings of the shrine and will take one move to appear, armed and ready.

Brother Aldreth, Veteran, flak jacket under robes. Power mace, hard wired. 

Brother Istan, Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Bowrel, Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Brother Coldharbour. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

Brother Wissant. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

The squad on the walls are fully alert and will watch to see what is going on. Brother Istan is downstairs in the shrine, and is on radio duty. He will get the message from the air raft that they are under attack. As standing orders dictate, he will tell Brother Bowrel to tell the guards on the walls what is happening. He will then contact the rapid reaction force and have them arrive.

Brothers of the Administration. Militia. 14 reaction points.

There are quite a few of these, but they’re all out doing proper jobs. Roll a d6. That is the number who are scattered around the buildings outside the shrine. Just place them at random. They are Green but don’t have a flak jacket under their robes. They carry an energy carbine but are not hard wired.

Sequence of play.

Assuming a six foot by four foot table, with the shrine/fort in the middle of the table, there will be about three moves before the air raft reaches the gate. With alternate moves, just toss a coin to see which side goes first. That remains the sequence of play throughout the game.

  • The game starts with Brother Istan already having received the radio message, and on the Cult’s first turn, Brother Bowrel will shout out a warning to the defenders to let them know what is going on.
  • The move after Brother Bowrel shouts, place Brother Aldreth, Brother Coldharbour, and Brother Wissant in the shrine.
  • Once the firing starts, place the Brothers of the Administration on the table. They’ll be placed at random in the houses around the shrine.
  • The gate will be opened to allow the air raft through.

Provided they’re not being shot at, it takes one move for the Baastruk crew to cut the gate down.

It takes 1d6 moves for the Smugglers and Scum to find Brother Roberto and release him. On a roll of 1, obviously he wasn’t locked up anyway and wandered up to see what was going on.

Smugglers and Scum

There are initially complicated because they appear in two versions. All count as Warriors Reaction point total 19. They are also something of a picked force.

First we have those in the air raft posing as Bretag infantry.

Squad leader, flak jacket under greatcoat, sword and pistol.

Soldier. Flak jacket under greatcoat, assault rifle, grenade

Soldier. Flak jacket under greatcoat, assault rifle

Soldier. Flak jacket under greatcoat, assault rifle

Soldier. Flak jacket under greatcoat, assault rifle

Then there are the party of five in the Baastruk

As to how competent both groups roll a d6 for each figure.

1,2     They are Normal

3,4     They are Normal but hardwired for their normal weapon.

5,       They are Veteran

6.       They are Veteran but hardwired for their normal weapon.

Because the figures came from the CP Miniatures Scum and Smugglers range, all are different and figures tend to have a wide variety of weapons.

https://cpmodels.co.uk/product-category/28mm-ranges/28mm-sci-fi/alien-scum-smugglers/

The Bretag troops initially use their Bretag weapons, but if a figure takes a turn throwing off their Bretag kit they have their own stuff with their own weapon underneath. It’s up to you whether they do this. Just replace them with a Smuggler and Scum figure.

Once you’re using the Smuggler and Scum figures, look at an individual figure. I would give it either flak or ablative armour. If the figure has a hand to hand weapon this will give them two dice shifts in close combat. I would allow them the weapon they are equipped with, as well as an energy carbine for ‘general’ use.

Retribution

There is a rapid reaction force poised to strike, but how rapid will it be?

Each move roll 2d6 and keep a running total. When the total is 35 or over, an air raft of five Brothers Militant arrives from the opposite side of the table to the gate. Continue to roll every turn, and from then on, when the total is even, another air raft with five Brothers Militant will appear. This will continue until the Smugglers and Scum have left the table.

The terrain

The shrine fortress is one that Iliada Game Studio produced as a commission. I have no doubt that if you want one, they can produce another. The other stuff is from https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/caldoom-by-starlight

♥♥♥♥

Should you want to know more about Caldoom the guide, ‘Caldoom by Starlight’ which is an extension of Hell by Starlight Campaigns is widely available.
It is available as a £4 pdf from


Iliada Game Studio at

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/caldoom-by-starlight

From Wargame Vault as a pdf for £4

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/397568/Caldoom-by-Starlight

And from Amazon, on Kindle for £4 or for £9.50 in paperback

What about the workers ?

The mechanics park their Baastruk next to the job

This is the second in a loosely linked series of scenarios set on Caldoom. The idea is that you can use the same small group of figures and a lot of the same terrain. OK so the terrain might vary but my intention is good.

The first scenario was ‘Collecting the Goods’, at

This scenario rather assumes that you have still got your three monks. They are the three preaching monks of the Itinerant Order of the Poor Brethren.

Three monks from the Itinerant Order of the Poor Brethren

They consist of Brother Roberto, an inspiring preacher and evangelist. He has already been driven out of six systems as a trouble maker, suggesting that theocratic republics should give up little luxuries and support the poor. He has no martial skills.

There is Brother Virgil. He is supposed to chronical the sayings of Brother Malthus, ensuring his sermons are spread more widely than just those who hear them in person. More usefully he is also a doctor of medicine rather than theology. Again, not a fighting man, but really useful at patching up those who are.

Finally there is Brother Theodore. He is a kindly soul, always ready to help anybody, and has several times laid out those attacking the party, using his heavy staff as a weapon. A Veteran Warrior before he took his vows of poverty, he counts as supremely skilled in melee combat with it.

If you have managed to inadvertently mislay these three, then feel free to acquire three more. The Itinerant Order of the Poor Brethren has turned its unkind gaze upon the Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint and feels they need investigating. If they lose their first three investigators, another team will be sent.

Also, there’s a scenario for if you need to rescue them. That will appear in due course.

The scenario starts with the three monks talking to workmen servicing Water Filtration Plant. These plants are important, because as a city built on a delta, Liberty suffers from a shortage of fresh water. The water in the delta is both brackish (because the delta is tidal) and also heavily laden with silt and organic matter. Thus there are water filtration plants dotted around the city. In the Shanties each of the great steel rafts has a small water filtration plant. Unusually they are a service provided by the Municipality of Liberty and are serviced by city employees. All citizens have a ‘water card’ which allows them to a fixed amount of water. Once they have used that, they can buy more by putting money onto their card by visiting an office in the Administrative area.

Once you have a card the procedure is simple. Just put your bucket under the nozzle, insert your card, fill your bucket and then withdraw your card. Some bosses will have a bully loitering in the area, just to make sure that nobody tries to get their water paid for using the card of somebody weaker or more infirm.

Preaching to the workers

These three workmen consist of Dinko, Maggoo, and Affo. Dinko the Mechanic is the leader of the tea. For a number of years he was a conscript serving in the Grelfarl armed forces. He managed to desert and has built a new life in Liberty. From time to time he does ‘security’ work for various people and carries a pistol. He is Normal, second class line. 16 reaction points.

Maggoo. He was conscripted into the Bretag armed forces, deserted and after serving for two years with the Planetary Defence force, got a new name, some engineering training and a job with the municipality. He counts as Normal, second class line, 16 reaction points, and his pipe dogs/Stilsons give him a bonus in hand to hand combat.

Affo. He just appeared on the world, doesn’t talk about his past, and has enough basic engineering background to get a job with the municipality. He counts as Normal, second class line, 16 reaction points, and his big hammer gives him a bonus in hand to hand combat.

Keeping a maternal eye on this is Madam Veronica,

Madam Veronica

She is the Boss on this raft, a neighbour and collaborator with Pags.

She is carried in a palanquin, which is somewhat modified. Firstly it contains a grav plate so she can hover without bearers if she needs to. Secondly the chair contains a Personal Force Field Generator. The field created is a sphere that protects Madam Veronica, her two bearers, and anybody who can place the sphere between them and somebody shooting at them.

Her two bearers are bullies, they count as warriors and they have submachineguns hidden in the palanquin. Madam Veronica is a veteran warrior with a hard wired energy pistol she will use on anybody who attempts to attack her.

Mal, Normal, submachinegun.

Tac. Normal, submachinegun

The Order of Malthus in his Aspect as the Personification of Self-Restraint

When senior members of the order within the city heard that the three monks were still pursuing their enquiries as well as preaching, they decided something had to be done. When they heard the monks were at the water filtration plant, the despatched an air raft to capture them.

The cult arrives

The air raft has a hand of five cultists on it.

Original Squad. Second class regulars, 18 reaction points.

Brother Almoner, Veteran, flak jacket under robes. Power mace, hard wired. 

Fifth Lay Brother, Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

Sixth Lay Brother. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

Seventh Lay Brother. Green, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired.

Eighth Lay Brother, Normal, flak jacket under robes. Energy carbine, hard wired. 

All your brethren get one dice shift in their favour because whilst they are not superbly training in close combat, (which would give them two dice shifts) they have some martial arts training meaning they get one shift. Brother Almoner has a power mace which gives one dice shift because it’s a specialist close combat weapon.

Reinforcements

Both sides get reinforcements.

Each move roll a d6. On anything but a 1, one of Madam Veronica’s bullies arrives to provide support.

On a roll of 1 another air raft appears with another hand of cultists. They will effectively be the same as the first squad to arrive.

There are only two more air rafts than can arrive. There is a maximum of twelve bullies.

Madam Veronica’s reinforcements

Composite aliens. Reaction point total 17

Because the figures came from the CP Miniatures Scum and Smugglers range, all are different and figures tend to have a wide variety of weapons.

https://cpmodels.co.uk/product-category/28mm-ranges/28mm-sci-fi/alien-scum-smugglers/

Looking at an individual figure I would give it either flak or ablative armour. If it has a hand to hand weapon this will give them two dice shifts in close combat. I would allow them the weapon they are equipped with, as well as an energy carbine for ‘general’ use.

As to how competent they are roll a d6 for each figure.

  1. They are Green
  2. They are Green but hardwired for the weapon they are holding
  3. They are normal
  4. They are normal but hardwired for the weapon they are holding
  5. They are normal and hardwired both for the weapon they’re holding and their energy carbine.
  6. They are veteran and hardwired both for the weapon they’re holding and their energy carbine.
Scum in action

Solo Play and Victory Conditions.

Because the reinforcements’ arrival is determined at random, a solo player can take either side.

The Cult

The Cult want to arrest all three monks. Brother Roberto and Brother Virgil will surrender if there is a cultist in base to base contact with them, and nobody defending them within a base width. Brother Theodore will not surrender until he’s incapacitated. Note that under no circumstances should these three brothers be shot down and possibly killed. It’ll be on prime time before the day is out and the Order would obviously have to claim that the operation was the act of rogue elements. This would have a deleterious impact on both your career and life expectancy.

Similarly gunning down the three Municipal Employees maintaining a water filtration plant would also be very hard to explain away. Given the Order is working hard to be accepted as respectable by the Municipality, unless the cultists shot them down in self-defence, those on the expedition could expect difficult and embarrassing questions with the, only to be expected, deleterious impact on both your career and life expectancy.

In the eyes of the cult, Madam Veronica and her people are criminal scum and shooting them down is the act of a public minded citizen.

Madam Veronica

She regards herself as having extended her protection over both the three monks and the three mechanics. So mess with them and you’re messing with her. The problem about running a protection racket is that people feel they’re entitled to protection. Madam Veronica and her bullies will endeavour to provide that protection.

So she will attempt to drive off the cult and to protect the mechanics and monks.

So for solo play

Pick your side and play both sides according to their victory conditions. Scum and Cultists will fire on each other with enthusiastic abandon. Madam Veronica will have no qualms about attempting to shelter the monks within the force field generated by her palanquin. If the two bearers leave her the three monks can take cover within the field. They will have to be dragged out bodily if anybody wants to take them prisoner.

Standoff

Caldoom.

So Caldoom has another scenario!
Just a word about the figures, when Ali (https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/ ) and I started with the idea of creating our own world, we decided that for Caldoom we would use CP Models figures.

I confess that this is for no better reason than they’re nice figures and Ali and I both liked them. CP Models is, as it were, an innocent bystander. For them, Caldoom is something of a surprise. Hopefully people will like their figures and make it a pleasant surprise. As we continue our way through the sector, leaving a litter of bad prose and shattered mdf behind us, on other worlds, we could well use other figures. We’re already working on a world for 6mm figures and bigger actions.

The other thing that makes Caldoom is that Ali makes such cool stuff. Obviously some of it is there in the photos, but there’s a lot more. It’s worth taking a minute just to look at it!  https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/caldoom-by-starlight

Rules and stuff? Well I geared it to Hell by Starlight. But I’ve tried to ensure that you can use your own rules with your own figures. Also I’ve tried to ensure that as much as possible is geared to solo play as well as against an opponent. So hopefully for the solo player Caldoom is a setting you can immerse yourself in. There is a Caldoom by Starlight book which is a supplement to Hell by Starlight Campaigns. Also, rather than cluttering up Caldoom by Starlight with a lot of flavour text, I wrote a novella, ‘Caldoom and the Ship of Dreams’. That way if you want background, you can buy it and read it, but you’re not tripping over it when you’re looking for something in the guide.

So ideally Caldoom is a world of imagination, and with all the stuff Ali is turning out, there’s plenty for your imagination to work with.

♥♥♥♥

If you’re interesting in Caldoom by Starlight it’s available from Iliada Game Studio for £4 in pdf

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/caldoom-by-starlight

Or from Wargame Vault for £4 in pdf

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/397568/Caldoom-by-Starlight

Or from Amazon in paperback for £9.50 or on kindle for £4

Caldoom and the Ship of Dreams is also available from Iliada Game Studio, Wargame Vault, or Amazon

Playtesting with Martians, or changing the rules as you go along.

After a while, there is only so much reading of other people’s playtest reports you can usefully do, and you have to get stuck into it yourself. I’d got myself a suitable discerning opponent and we would have several games over the course of a week.

The first thing I wanted to do was to hammer the core rules. Whilst the rules do handle ships, Martian war machines, poisoned gas and armoured vehicles; frankly, unless they can cope well with infantry, cavalry and artillery, they aren’t going to be worth playing. So the first few games would concentrate on these three core troop types.

I set up the terrain on my wargames table. The first thing to consider is the ground scale. This is determined by our determination to include Martian tripods, because we have a really cool Martian tripod. Now when you read War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells, it’s probable that there were about six Martians to the cylinder and ten cylinders were fired at Earth. So during the campaign against England, there probably were no more than 60 tripods. So from a wargaming situation, each tripod model represents one tripod.

For me, this determines the ground scale. 100mm (10cm) is 100m.Given that the Iliada Game Studio tripods are 80mm/8cm tall, and the gap between their feet is about 7cm, the gap means that with the ground scale, tripods are suitably big.

So what we have with our figures is 1 man is one man and a base is a ‘squad’. Also, for ranges, it means your weapons have a good range. Smoothbore muskets have a range of 300m, which is 30cm. Rifled muzzle loaders have a range of 500m, or 50cm on the table.

This means that the accent of the game is unusual for one designed for smaller scales, rather than being geared to wide sweeping movements and grand strategic vision, (a level I love) this is a game where the manoeuvre unit is a company, and each base represents a ‘squad’ of some sort. There is one important result of this. It is vitally important to have lots of terrain that breaks line of site. A look at the photo shows something of what the table was like. There two green felt patches are an attempt to show ‘dead ground’. It’s something we wargames do tend not to think about. But soldiers don’t fight on flat tables. Whilst we will take account of dead ground behind woods, towns and hills, we struggle with the dead ground caused by shallow depressions or rises too small to show on the table. It’s still experimental, we’ll see how well it works.

These games were played with what I had about at the time. Years ago I put together 6mm Turkish and Egyptian forces for the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Somebody else put together a Russian force. So I used the Turkish figures and used my 6mm Napoleonic Russians as the opponents.
We took two small forces, each of us had a cavalry company and three infantry companies, all ‘normal’. We also both had two light field guns, 12pdf Napoleons.

Companies were 8 bases (squads) strong, and if needed, the company could shed platoons of two bases to do specific tasks.

First Game

The first game was a ‘meeting’ engagement. As the Russians, my cavalry dashed forward to Maggie’s farm, dismounted and prepared to defend it. The Turks advanced on a broader front, one company took the ridge between Wiley and New Paris, the cavalry moved to take the wood to the east of Marfa and the last company took Joyce and then moved up to take Marfa.

I decided that speed was called for. I had one infantry company line the river bank to the west of the bridge whilst another moved across the bridge to take Marfa, whilst the last (reserve) company followed them.

Subject to a hail of musketry, the company on the bridge fled, one of my guns got too close trying to support them and the crew were shot down. The reserve company, trying to ‘shake out’ and return fire, suffered more casualties than the unit that had fled and it broke. With half the force streaming back in disarray, at this point it seemed a good point to pull back.

A note about the rules. Shooting is squad firing at squad, and one of the possible results is that the targeted squad finds things getting a bit hot for them and falls back. Provided their parent company remains under control, these squads will automatically return to the line next move. But if too many do it, the rest of the company will fail their morale and fall back to join them.

Second game

Maggie’s farm was held by a Turkish company, the rest of the force was held back in Joyce. I decided to mount my attack with no preliminary artillery, because the minute firing was heard, the Turkish reserves could move out of Joyce to support.
I threw all three companies at Maggie’s farm. Two could attack simultaneously out of the dead ground, the third battalion would be late arriving because it would have to come from the concealment in the wood. The artillery were to take up positions to open fire on the enemy reserves arriving, and the cavalry were to rush the ford when the Maggie’s Farm defenders were busy. The cavalry would then take and hold Marfa.

The advance on Maggie’s Farm was slower than I would like, bases falling back under fire and having to keep dressing the ranks to move forward. Then the fighting in the farm itself was savage, (in close combat, the losing squad just dies). It was in the balance until the third company arrived. As it did, I sent the cavalry past, heading for the ford. Unfortunately the Turks took a calculated gamble and rather than throw those troops not in combat into the maelstrom of combat, they had them fire at the cavalry instead. The cavalry took heavy casualties, broke and fled. Still Maggie’s Farm was securely ours and the Turks didn’t fancy assaulting across the river to retake it.

Third game

Obviously the Turks had had to fall back because my Russians were able to cross the river. Half a company garrisoned Marfa, and there was a platoon each in New Paris and Wiley. There was also a 12pdr dug in in Wiley. The rest of the force were in camp well behind Maggie’s Farm.

This time the Turkish counter attack was spearheaded by their armoured vehicles. These mount a machinegun. When the vehicle is moving the gun merely suppresses the enemy rather than causes casualties. (You try aiming the damned thing in a lurching vehicle).

Each column headed by their armoured vehicle, two Turkish companies attacked New Paris and Wiley. The third, also with their armoured vehicle in the lead, attacked Marfa whilst the cavalry tried to work round to take the wood east of Marfa.

The field gun got a solid hit on one of the vehicles but did no real damage, then the attacking companies, supported by the artillery swarmed forward and stormed both Paris and Wiley with comparatively few casualties. Outnumbering the enemy four to one is the way to go.
Around Marfa, the fighting was frankly savage with the attackers being the ones who broke first. The remaining field gun, safe on the Russian side of the river, kept trying to knock out the armoured vehicles but their armour was just too much for a light gun at this range.
When the dust finally settled, the Russians had lined their side of the river with troops lying down on the river bank. The Turks held the ridge but their attack on Marfa had run out of steam.

The fourth game.

In this we removed the Russians and gave the Turks Martha’s Farm and Marfa. They also had a tin clad ship mounting a medium gun in the river, west of the ford. They also had a medium gun dug into the woods near Marfa. The other two guns were dug in on the ridge between Paris and Wiley. Infantry held the various villages and farms.
We wanted to try out the Martians, so I advanced with a single tripod. Other than to see how a tripod fared, and what sort of forces were needed to stop them, I decided this was a reconnaissance. I would try and destroy human forces in the area if possible, but otherwise see what was necessary to push in this direction.

I skirted the wood and ended up close to Maggie’s farm. On the way forward I had suffered a little damage from artillery (which outranged my heat ray).  I was involved in a duel with the boat. As a game mechanism, whilst artillery has to roll to see how many hits it gets, the heat ray being superior technology, is guaranteed five hits. Initially I split these hits between the two medium guns, but their saves were good enough to survive. So next move I put all five on the boat. This knocked out the gun but with engines and rudder still working, the boat pulled out.
Unfortunately at this point, infantry assaulted out of Maggie’s farm and started damaging my legs. I fought back with tentacles. I couldn’t use a heat ray on my own feet. I had one black smoke canister but given Martians always avoided moving through black smoke, I wasn’t keen on dropping it below me.

I concentrated on destroying the enemy artillery, but one hit from a 12pdr Napoleon damaged my steering so I could no longer turn left. (I could go forward and back and turn right, but not left.) Irritated by infantry, I moved 20cm to outrun them, and then hit them with my heat ray. I shared the five automatic hits between five squads. It didn’t kill anybody but each squad ran back out of the way. Unfortunately for me they didn’t break, but at least they were out of my way.
Also unfortunately for me, moving fast on a damaged leg had aggravated the damage and one leg no longer articulated properly. I could no longer move quickly. Still I was finally clear of the infantry and at last I’d destroyed all the enemy artillery.
Then I was mugged by another infantry company storming out of the wood. More leg damage and I decided that now was time to make my way home. I’d now got over 25% damage (so not cataclysmic) but I was walking funny. Still as I was leaving I wouldn’t have a problem with using my black smoke as I wouldn’t have to return through it.

Tripods are tough, two would probably have cleared the humans out of the area, but a lucky artillery shot can sway things either way.

Other thoughts

What you don’t see is the discussion, the tearing up and rewriting of rules. There was simplification and the removal of special cases that didn’t actually make any real difference. So each game was played with a subtlety different set of rules to the game before. Overall we currently have a game where troops will survive better in cover. You need at least 3:1 to successfully assault a position, and whilst troops might lose their nerve under fire and fall back, until a unit has 50% casualties, they’re probably coming back again.

As always more things need testing but I feel we’re getting there.

♥♥♥♥

And in case you think I’ve taken my eye off the Ball, there’s still stuff from Caldoom to explore.

From Wargame Vault for £4 in pdf

https://www.wargamevault.com/product/397568/Caldoom-by-Starlight

From Iliada Game Studio for £4 in pdf

https://www.iliadagamestudio.com/product-page/caldoom-by-starlight

And from Amazon in paperback for £9.50 or on Kindle for £4

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