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Desperadoes waiting for a train.

The world of St Jerome is often described in the textbooks as balkanised. Certainly you will find an incredible number of independent political entities. Still by and large they are civilised and wars tend to be brushfire or proxy and it is rare for a major conflict to break out. Indeed the various states on the world share several facilities. There is the extra-territorial area which contains the planet’s only recognised spaceport. Another joint enterprise is the Gallowsfield prison colony. Many states have scrapped the death penalty, at least for criminal offences. Political opponents on the other hand are still seen in many states as evil beyond salvation and are thus fitting subjects for interesting execution. Still it was felt that the planet could support one proper prison colony. Thus and so it was carved out of the territory of the Archonate and of the Ape Reserve. These being the two contiguous territories small enough to be bullied into handing over the land. The running of the area was handed over to The St Jerome Prison Corporation, (known as the SJPC).  

A land train is used by SJPC for transporting supplies to the prison colony of Gallowsfield. It also brings cargos back from the prison to the small coastal port of Tackadone Crossing. Due to the risk of escape, assisted by co-conspirators on the outside, the whole area is a no-fly zone. Around the prison itself this is enforced by automated laser towers which spend their time mindlessly obliterating the occasional bird. Indeed one form of recreation among the prisoners, (encouraged by the staff) is the creation of small hot air balloons out of papier-mâché. There is fierce competition to see how high they can get before the lasers destroy them. Thus travel is generally restricted to the land train. This travels the only reasonable route, following the trail between the forest and the river. Then when the river runs into the marshes, it follows a causeway towards the edge of the marsh. At the end of the marsh there is the first night stop. These night stops are broad, level, areas where the land train can laager up and form a square inside which the crew rest in safety. If the train doesn’t make one of these, once the light falls it will have to halt on the road and wait for daylight.  The land train then climbs through woodland until the woods fail. At this point there is the second night stop. Then the hills continue. After the first pass the road drops down until it reaches the Halfway Lake (which confusingly isn’t half way, however you measure it). This sits in a long valley, in wet seasons taking up much of it. Finally the road climbs over the last pass before taking the long, steady descent to the sea. A good trip lasts three days, but four can be more common. The train will halt for the night, laagering up as travel can be too dangerous in the dark.


The idea came when I saw the Iliada Game Studio land train, so I’ve tended to use 6mm figures here. But any scale will work.

The size of your road train.

The minimum contract calls for two supply wagons. You need one troop wagon (because the train crew won’t travel without some infantry to protect them when they’re having to unblock the road or whatever.) Obviously you need a leader wagon.

A second leader is useful, not only for ensuring you have enough power on the climbs, but also for pulling the other leader out of holes and similar.

You can always pull more supply wagons, and there are attack wagons and rocket wagons available if you want them.

The company will pay you to haul as many supply wagons as you can take. Indeed winning involves getting as many undamaged supply wagons to Tackadone Crossing as you can. The only thing that limits things is the number of leader wagons you have. Only two are currently available. So, in theory, you could pull a dozen supply wagons, double-headed, roll really good dice, and live to brag about it. I’d personally recommend a more nuanced approach. Three wagons per leader is not a bad ratio.

This land train is from Iliada Game Studio.

Moving wagons and fixing wagons without a leader wagon.

If you have a troop wagon with an infantry company, they can unhook the wagons and push one wagon at a time, provided it’s not uphill.

They can probably manually get a leader wagon unstuck and do other jobs. The crews can probably do these things but it will take a lot longer.

Speed of the train

I would suggest that if you’re using Hellfire rules and playing in 6mm, you assume that the land train travels at a steady 8 inches a move. It’s not ridiculously fast but given the length of the vehicle, the nature of the road and similar, it’s probably reasonable.

If you have a second leader wagon, it can be chained at the front to assist in pulling. Here it will guarantee that you travel 8” per move. It can be chained at the back to act as a brake going down hills. It can also be unchained and will be able to clear obstacles whilst the other leader wagon can remain to pull the train.

Accelerating and decelerating.

With one leader wagon per three towed wagons, the train will accelerate and decelerate at four inches per move.

With more than one leader wagon per three towed wagons (so two leaders for five wagons) accelerate at 8 inches per move, decelerate at four inches per move.

With up to six wagons per leader wagon, the train will accelerate at 1 inch per move, decelerate at 2 inches per move.

Reversing the train.

I have, occasionally, tried reversing not merely a tractor and trailer, but a tractor pulling a forage harvester which was also pulling a trailer. It’s not easy. If you have another trailer tagging the end of the line it’s getting awfully close to impossible.

Using a second leader wagon chained to the back to pull, it just counts as moving forwards.

Also if the train has to be reversed, rather than the leader wagon having to steer things backwards, the last attack wagon will steer using its rear wheels. The leader wagon just travels in reverse providing the power and doesn’t attempt to steer. Doing this, the train will move at half speed.

Covering the ground.

In simple terms, with everything going well, your road train will cover one box on the map in an hour. So if you start off from 6 at 9am, you will pull into 12 at 3pm. So you’ll still have some daylight to set up camp, prepare a decent evening meal and allow men to relax.

The first day is always something of a nightmare as you never get the early start you hope for, somebody always has to go back for something, there is always more paperwork to fill in, so it’s a struggle to make 6 for the first night.

Day length

At this time of year, at this latitude, usable day length is about 9 hours. On the forest road, because of the nature of the terrain, usable day length falls to eight hours.

Losing time.

The various problems you encounter will give you the amount of time lost. If you have to fight a combat, that is assumed to last an hour. If you win but have casualties or damaged wagons, this adds another hour to the time taken as you get stuff roadworthy again.

Travelling the road.

First day.

Roll a d6. On a 1,2,3,4, you lose time for no obviously explicable reason. You’re forced to halt on the road to spend the night.

1,2,3 you stop on area 4

4,5,6 you at least make it to area 5

Look on the bright side, the crew and guards now have a chance to fraternise with the almost human population of the swamp, buying narcotics and selling metal tools. The NCOs seem on the ball, at least they’re stopping the men smuggling women on-board.

Second Day

If you spent the night at 4 or 5, there is definite pressure to make time up, rather than risk being forced to spend the next night in the forest.

Roll a d6 on the table below. If you spent the night at 6 you get +1 on the dice. If you spend a night at 4, roll twice on the table and that’s the order things happen in. (So if your first roll is a 5 or 6 and the second roll is a 3, then obviously you were lured into a false sense of security.)

  1. You get an early start but probably too early. In the early morning gloom, the engine goes too near the edge of the road, skids off and gets stuck in the swamp
  2. Taking a corner too fast the second car catches a wheel on a stump.
  3. Travelling quickly you don’t notice a low hanging branch. Roll a d6 for each vehicle starting from the front. A leader or an attack wagon gets the branch jammed under the turret on a roll of 1. If there is a rocket wagon, it gets the branch jammed on a roll of 1,2,3. The branch will only jam once and if you roll for all the appropriate wagons on the train and it doesn’t jam on any, you got away with it.
  4. A tree has fallen across the road. A team with chainsaws will cut it up and move it out of the way.
  5. Nothing goes wrong, a good trip. You arrive at 12 in good time to spend the night.
  6. Nothing goes wrong, a good trip. You arrive at 12 in good time to spend the night.

Now as always, things can get more complicated, let us unpick the results above.

In the early morning gloom, the engine goes too near the edge of the road, skids off and gets stuck in the swamp.

If you have a spare leader wagon, it’s simply a process of using the spare leader wagon to tow the rest of the road train out of the way, then use it to get the other unstuck. This will add an hour to your journey.

If you don’t have a spare leader wagon, but do have an infantry company in a troop wagon, they can do exactly the same thing as a spare leader wagon could do, but it’ll take a lot longer. Toss a coin. Heads it added two hours to the journey, tails it added three.

If you just have train crew, they can do it using boards and winches and pulleys, but it isn’t easy. Toss a coin, heads it takes four hours, tails it takes five.

Whilst you’re getting the leader wagon unstuck, roll a d6. On a roll of 7 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes, after the first, add one to the die roll.

Taking a corner too fast the second car catches a wheel on a stump.

Roll a d6.

1,2,3 It’s a puncture. You can replace with a spare and be away in an hour.

4,5,6 A sub-axle has been damaged. Toss a coin, heads it takes two hours to replace with a spare, tails it takes three hours.

Because of the design of the vehicles, you can make a temporary fix so the vehicle runs with only two wheels on one side. This takes only a few minutes, but each hour until it’s fixed properly roll a d6. On a 1 another wheel/axle has collapsed because of the load and you will have to stop and fix it. It takes three hours to fix both. If you ‘get away with it’ then you can fix it at night, ideally when laagered up.

Whilst you’re solving the problem, roll a d6. On a roll of 7 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes, after the first, add one to the die roll.

Toss a coin, on a heads this happens in open terrain near the swamp, on tails it happens on the forest road.

Travelling quickly you don’t notice a low hanging branch. Roll a d6 for each vehicle starting from the front. A leader or an attack wagon gets the branch jammed under the turret on a roll of 1. If there is a rocket wagon, it gets the branch jammed on a roll of 1,2,3.

Roll a d6 (Note the rocket battery counts as a turret for this)

  1. Turret damage, the turret cannot traverse (although to a limited extent the vehicle can turn to aim the main weapon. In the case of an attack wagon it’ll have to be unhooked from the train and manhandled.)
  2. Weapon damaged, it cannot be fired.
  3. The turret mechanism has been damaged but your mechanics think they might have fixed it. Every time you have to fire or traverse it roll a d6. On a 1, it jams.
  4. Your mechanics think they’ve fixed the weapon, but it could overheat. It can only fire every other turn.
  5. Amazing how rugged these wagons are, after a lot of hammering and swearing it’s as good as new.
  6. Careful inspection shows no damage.

Note that just unjamming the branch and making an initial assessment takes one hour.  So 1,2 and 6 take an hour.

For 3,4,5 toss a coin, heads they take one hour, tails they take 2. Or before tossing the coin you can treat them as a 1 or 2 and press on, hoping to fix it at night.

Whilst you’re solving the problem, roll a d6. On a roll of 7 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes after the first, add one to the die roll.

A tree has fallen across the road. A team with chainsaws will cut it up and move it out of the way.

Admit it, it sounds a bit suspicious, especially if the chap with the chainsaw turns round and asks if you want him to start from the cut end. Removing the tree isn’t too big a problem, it just has to be cut into lengths that the leader wagon can move out of the way.

Also the tree has fallen in such a way that you cannot see it more than six inches away. So how fast can you decelerate? If you hit it, add broken front sub-axle to your other problems, to be fixed as above.

Still, whilst you’re solving the problem, roll a d6. On a roll of 1,2,3,4 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’

Hostile Elements.

Greens from Iliada Game Studio

The enemy force is composed of genetically modified Apes who are raiding. There is a prolonged legal discussion being conducted at a very high level. Given that the route runs through territory that was assigned to them, they may merely be the legitimate forces of a local authority with a brisk attitude to community policing.

Apes move as human infantry.


Each company has d6+2 bases. They have personal projectile weapons.

Reaction 3,3,2,3,2,2,1,1   17pts


Each company has d6+4 bases. They have close combat weapons.

Reaction 3,3,2,2,1,1,1,1   14pts

Big One

Has flak armour, and in close combat fights as ten bases but dies as one.

Reaction 3,3,2,3,2,2,1,1   17pts

The warriors and juveniles also carry shaped charges and similar, suitable for opening up the various wagons. Also they have the agility to climb the vehicles and put the charges in the best place. Thus they get an extra die shift in their advantage when in close combat with the vehicles.

The Big One carries a big steel bar which has much the same effect.

To see the size of the force attacking you roll a d6. If there are more than six wagons in the train, the ape player will add +1 to the die roll. The train is so big it’s ostentatiously worth looting.

  1. One company of warriors plus a sniper.
  2. Two companies of juveniles and a company of warriors.
  3. Two companies of juveniles, a company of warriors and a big one.
  4. Three companies of juveniles, a company of warriors and a sniper.
  5. Three companies of juveniles, two companies of warriors and a big one.
  6. Four companies of juveniles, three companies of warriors.
  7. Four companies of juveniles, four companies of warriors, a big one and a sniper. 


If the hostile elements hit you in open terrain, the turret weapons of the wagons can come into play. But if the fighting takes place on the forest road, the apes are smart enough to attack where the timber is close to the road. Because of the difficulty experienced in depressing the turret weapons to target attackers who are too close, they have a minimum range of 4 inches.

The rockets aren’t a lot of use in this terrain.

Defending the train

The crews of each leader wagon, attack wagon, or rocket wagon can defend themselves with small arms fired through firing ports. Each crew counts as a full base and when shot at, not only does it get the advantage of cover, it counts as being in powered armour.

The company in the troop wagon will normally deploy. They are the ones who will use the chainsaws to cut up the tree, or attach tow chains, or use shovels and planks to get stuck vehicles unstuck.

The company has six bases, but when you deploy them you might wish to have them as separate groups. One base can defend a supply wagon and gains the advantage of cover. It only takes one base to cut up a tree or do the ‘engineering’ stuff, the others will be expected to cover them. If you have to physically pull a wagon, then it takes the entire company.

Note, when apes physically make contact with a wagon, toss a coin for each move they have bases touching it. On a tails, they apes have uncoupled it from all the other wagons.

Infantry Company

Reaction code 3,2,3,2,3,2,3,2  20pts

Flak armour, personal energy weapons.

Wagon Crews

Reaction code 3,2,3,2,2,2,2,2  18pts

Don’t normally wear armour because they’re in the wagons, but if they have to go outside there is flak armour available for them.

The crew have personal energy weapons. The wagons themselves only have light armour and the crew served weapon is an energy weapon.

The Rocket Wagon

The crew have at their disposal a static mounted ECM unit. If they’re no longer coupled to a Leader Wagon, even if there are other wagons between) then they cannot draw the power from that as well so it drops to being a portable ECM unit.

They have a score of star shells, eight guided rockets for anti-aircraft use and ten reloads of ordinary unguided rockets. When firing unguided rockets they count as a salvo of eight manportable missiles, when firing guided rockets you can fire up to eight, but each is guided onto the target as an individual missile.

Spending the second night

It really depends where you started off and the problems you encountered. If you camp somewhere other than 12 and you haven’t already fought off an attack, roll a d6. On a 1 or 2, hostile elements make a night attack. Because in a night camp you have drones and sensors out, roll a d10+d6 and add 4 to the total. That is how far away, in inches, that you are aware of the attackers. As defender you can use the rocket wagon to fire ‘star shells’ every move to ensure the whole area is as light as it would be in day time. Whilst doing this it can do nothing else, but if it doesn’t do this, you ought to use the night fighting rules. If you have to camp along the forest road, you’ll still be constrained by the terrain when it comes to using the attack wagons. But thanks to the electronic sensors already deployed you will be able to ‘see’ enemies when they’re much further away and shoot at them with the attack wagons. But the enemy do count cover.

The third day

Whilst the terrain is more open, if you have to start the day still travelling on the Forest Road, roll once as if it was the second day, until you do arrive at 12. After that roll below. If you had a tough time on the forest road you might want to spend the rest of the day and night at 12. It would allow your men to fix stuff, rest, and if you’re using Hellfire, their reaction codes can recover back to the full eight numbers.

Roll a d6, plus two if you have no more than three wagons per leader wagon.

  1. Going uphill you burn out a motor in the leader wagon. Toss a coin. Heads you stop safely on a level (ish) bit of road and can change the motor in relative comfort. Tails, you slid when the motor burned out and your back wagon is off the road. You have to stop and change the motor. This takes two hours, and if you’ve got to get the back wagon onto the road it’ll take your infantry company all that time to get things jacked up and ramped up so you can just start off again. Whilst you’re getting things fixed, roll a d6. On a roll of 6 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes, after the first, add one to the die roll.
  • Going down one of the slopes you suffer from brake failure. Toss a coin, heads the brakes of the other wagons hold you, tails the train runs away and smashes a front wheel and axle. Takes two hours to replace with a spare. Whilst you’re getting things fixed, roll a d6. On a roll of 6 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes, after the first, add one to the die roll.
  • Halfway Lake is full, there isn’t much room between lake shore and impassable slopes. Toss a coin, on a heads, you manage to make your way through although with some difficulty, at walking speed with your infantry company checking the ground ahead and cutting down brush and similar for you to run on. Takes an extra hour. Tails and you get stuck and it takes two hours for the infantry and others to get you unstuck and through the difficult bit. Whilst you’re getting things fixed, roll a d6. On a roll of 6 on a d6 you are attacked by ‘hostile elements.’ For every hour it takes, after the first, add one to the die roll.
  • Locals roll boulders down at you when you enter a steep sided valley. Did you pay protection when you passed through here on the way out? If so they don’t roll the boulders, they merely wave cheerfully from high up above you. Otherwise, they’ll roll d10 boulders. On a 6 on a d6 the boulder will hit the train. Work out at random to see which wagon the boulder hits. Then roll another d6, on a 1 or 2 that particular wagon is so badly damaged it will have to be abandoned here and collected later. Bit of a blow if it’s your only leader wagon.
  • You are ambushed.
  • On six plus, you get through with no problems at all.

Hostile elements on the third day.

Figures are Brigade Models civilians

Ape patrols and forces have been seen along the side of Halfway Lake, so just roll for an ape force as above.

Otherwise the hostile forces are local scavengers who normally collect protection money (half a dozen cases of ‘rations, ready to eat’) when you drive from sea to the prison camp. If you paid protection, toss a coin. On a tails, this is ‘the other lot’ that you didn’t pay protection to and they will attack. You will see nobody, but each move a sniper with a reaction total of 20 will try to attack. As well as any casualties and problems caused by reaction, it means the job takes three times longer.

There are also 2d10 bases of scavengers, armed with personal projectile weapons and flak armour. They aren’t there to get involved in fire fights, they’re there to go in and pick up the stuff you’ve abandoned. They will swoop in to attack wagons that have been abandoned if their crews run off.

Reaction code 3,3,2,2,1,2,1,2  16pts

Being Ambushed

Figures from Irregular Miniatures

This is far more professional. A pirate crew have decided to attack and take your cargo carrying supply wagons. They have four flitters, each mounts a crew served projectile weapon and two guided missiles. There are also two bunches of infantry, each four strong.   


Infantry. Two groups, each of four bases, wearing ablat and carrying personal energy weapons.

Reaction 3,2,3,2,2,2,1,1   16pts


Improvised armour, portable ECM, two guided missiles, crew served projectile weapon.

Reaction 3,3,2,3,2,2,2,1   18pts

Once the fighting has reached move 7, the ship will have to land. If the train is no longer fighting the ship will land and the pirates will push the supply wagons into its hold and leave. If the train is still offering resistance the ship will land out of line of fire and the pirates will fall back to it. They cannot afford to get the ship damaged. Damage might meant that they’re unable to leave the atmosphere. Given that the reaction forces of several minor but belligerent states have already been scrambled and are heading in this direction, they will have to leave. If the train is still capable of firing when the ship has to leave, you can book this down as a case of beating them off.
Fighting off the ambush can take a lot of time, so roll a d6 for each wagon that has been knocked out by heavy weapons. On an odd number, you have to abandon it. On an even number, that’s how many hours it will take to fix. If you haven’t got a Leader wagon left that will work, you’ll have to laager up and wait to be rescued.


Simply get to 18 and you’re home.

What happens if you cannot get home?

Another green from Iliada Game Studio

There are times when your best solution to the problem is to do your best to reverse out of the problem and call for help. You may not be strong enough to fight your way through.

Or perhaps you won your engagement but are just too battered to go forward?

In which case you have to report to SJPC HQ at Tackadone Crossing and they will contact the local Archon. This worthy will march with his forces along the road to rescue you. He has a force with three dog packs, two triceratops companies, two companies of bird riders and he is escorting a spare Leader Wagon and a troop wagon with a corporate infantry company in it. They will set off from 18, two hours after you make contact and will travel at a box per hour, but for them, there are 12 hours of usable daylight.

For details of Archonate forces, go here;-

If you rolled a 6 or 7 for ape hostile forces these will stay to contest things, especially if they’ve got a lot of wagons to break up for loot.

Any battle will be fought around the ruins of the train as the apes make a careful withdrawal and attempt to keep all their loot. Note that they’ll strip the wagons down for metal and bits, so if you left them to it, when you finally went back, there’ll be virtually nothing left.

Winning and losing.

To be honest you can breeze through this game wondering if anything is going to happen. The next time you try it, it could be the trip from hell.

If you want to play it both ways, Tackadone Crossing to the camp, then the camp back to Tackadone Crossing, then just reverse the route. The pirates won’t attack on the way out because all you’ve got is supplies which they can buy more cheaply.

You might see an elderly lady sitting in a rocking chair by the side of the road. Just give her a few cases of ‘rations, ready to eat’ and she’ll have a word with the boys.

When you hit the forest trail, because you’re not rushing you’re less likely to have problems, and should make 6 to laager up. Similarly on the final day, because your train crew and infantry expect to trade with the people in the swamp on the way back, they’re not going to waste your time there either.

Still if you have my dice rolling ability, you could still end up with a fight.

So my suggestion is for those who want to play, is for each player to run a train from the coast to the camp and back a couple of times. Then see who has got the biggest number of undamaged supply wagons to the coast.

Playing Solo                      

It will play solo, but you’ll lose some of the fog of war in the various battles. Because the Ape player or the other attacking players shouldn’t announce the troops they have in hand, the Ape player with only a couple of units might try to bluff the train player into abandoning stuff in his haste to get away.

If you use Hellfire, there are suggestions for using the rules for solo play. They’re in Hellfire Campaigns. The Universe at Your Feet.

They’re on Amazon, but also at Wargame Vault

They’re on the Hellfire page of the blog.


2 thoughts on “Desperadoes waiting for a train.

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