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Merchant Caravan

A solo game/campaign for Hellfire.

The caravan prepares to march out. At the head a drummer sets the pace. Behind him come the beast wagons laden with the produce of the city of Tizzan, bone combs, delicately ornamented, flutes made from the leg bones of flightless birds, loaded dice and hookah pipes of wondrous complexity. Behind them come three grav cars on a low loader, its aged engine howling as it slowly builds up speed. They are travelling to the coast where their motors can be serviced and if necessary, replaced. Next comes the great covered wagon of High Master Garond, the carpet merchant. He sits astride the shoulders of the prodigious lizard drawing his wagon. His kohl eyed wives kneel at the windows of the wagon, smoking blat and shouting coarse jests at the embarrassed gendarmes who ride swiftly past, their role to scout ahead. Next come the three heavy lorries of the Orange River Citrus Cooperative, laden with grain for the lowlands, their drivers squinting as the early morning sun shines on the cab windows. They are followed by the coach of the Sea Breezes Finishing School. On board, a dozen youths who are going to the finishing school to be trained as perfect husbands for wealthy widows in Boraz. Next comes Shea, Priestess of the Outer Sea. She rides in a palanquin carried on the shoulders of two score monks. Another four score monks follow carrying her baggage. More importantly each monk bears at his waist the short sword of their order.

As you watch, the column passes you. A fat merchant and his tame alph prepare the jingal mounted on the cab of their truck. This battered vehicle, driven by his wife, groans under the weight of its load of metal scrap. There is the gendarme technical, a flatbed truck which mounts a crew served energy weapon on a high angle mount. Equally useful at taking out insurgent snipers in the rocks high above the road, or deterring bandit air cars. The gun captain scans the sky with his vision enhancer. There are pilgrims on foot, already dusty at the start of the day. They make a point of avoiding a company of Darras Adventurers, their breech loading jezails slung casually. These formidable fighters exchange casual banter with the young ladies who work for the Bank of Boraz. The young women, formally dressed in three piece business suits with matching combat helmets ride on the roof of the massive tracked and armoured bank vault, manning the two heavy laser cannon mounted en barbette.

This is the caravan you have to escort, through the insurgent haunted hill country to the lowlands on the other side. Basically it’s a shambling, rumbustious, chaotic collection of vehicles, pedestrians, ox carts and palanquins which stretches almost the length of your wargames table. It’s pretty much everything you’ve got. On the move it displays little sense of march discipline but with the fall of night it will laager up with the pedestrians camped on the periphery. They will be ‘encouraged’ to dig shallow firing trenches or if the ground is too hard, to build sangers of rocks and stones. Given that the caravans tend to camp on the same ground it is more a case of refurbishing than creating anew.

The caravan guards

It’s not unreasonable to assume that the caravan includes some defenders who are part of the caravan. It may be that you’ve got obvious candidates, but I suggest you allow an element of randomness.

Roll a d6. That is the number of crew served heavy weapons in the caravan. Half will be obsolete. They either have half the normal range, or have the normal range but will fire every other move.

Roll another d6. This is the number of armed companies in the party. Each will have d10 bases. Half the companies will have close combat weapons only. Of the others half will have obsolete missile weapons (fire at half effect) and half will have modern personal missile weapons.

Reaction code. 2.2.3.2.2.1.1.1  14pts

The Map

I assume that everybody knows how to play Dominoes. If not, here’s the basic rules of the game https://www.mastersofgames.com/rules/dominoes-rules.htm

Note well, if you search for Dominoes on google you get the game, search instead for Dominos and you get pizza. The choice is, as always, yours.

Given that you can get a set from The Works or other places for a couple of pounds a set, I feel no shame in suggesting this. After all, once you’ve used them, they’re available for the family to play with. Indeed you might want to splash out on an extra set in case the family fancy playing whilst you’re using them.

To create the map, play a game of dominoes. When all the dominoes are in place, this is a map of a route through the broken terrain held by the insurgents. Movement on foot, or for a merchant caravan, is one square (so it takes two moves to cross a domino) whilst beast mounted can move at two squares. Those riding in vehicles can move at three squares.

There are six moves in a day. There are another four available but these are after dark but moving at night brings extra penalties.

Your Forces

To defend this caravan you have the following

A Gendarme battalion with three rifle companies and a heavy weapon company.

Gendarme Rifle Company. Eight bases Flak armour, personal projectile weapon. Technically there should be ten bases but with sickness, training courses, leave, desertion etc., the fact that you’ve got eight isn’t bad. 

Reaction code 2.3.2.2.2.2.1.2. 16pts

Gendarme Heavy Weapons Company. Two crew served heavy weapons. They can be deployed separately or can be deployed with an ordinary company.

Reaction code 3.3.2.2.2.2.2.2   18pts

The expensive bit. How do you transport your Gendarmes?

While you get your gendarmes ‘free’ you have to pay for their transport and support. You have 150 points to spend.

Gendarmes APCs. 10 points per company

Again obsolete or civilian vehicles hastily armoured. Some could well have extra improvised armour layered across their existing armour.

So count as improvised armour, but mount no heavy weapons. Obviously they have the advantage of being reasonably fast but when the caravan is on the road, it may not be possible to overtake other vehicles in the caravan if you need to rush to tackle attackers further along it.

Gendarmes in lorries. 4 points per company

These have all the disadvantages of the APCs (you may not be able to overtake in the caravan,) but they are at least reasonably fast. In 6mm, Irregular Miniatures has a nice ‘Troop filled lorry.’

These vehicles don’t have any sort of armour, if they did they’d be an APC (see above). If you buy trucks for your heavy weapons company, it’ll produce two technicals.

Gendarmes mounted on beasts of some sort. 2pts per company.

Whether horses, lizards, flightless birds, or some other creature, these have the advantage of being faster than walking, and of course they can pass easily enough up and down the convoy when needed.

Gendarmes mounted on motorbikes. 5 points per company

I wasn’t going to include these until somebody mentioned the Alternative Army bikers. They have the same advantage that beasts have, they can move up and down the caravan. But they’re also as fast as lorries and APCs. Also those with a side car can fire when on the move, just not particularly accurately.

Gendarmes on foot.  Free

Admit it, it’s cheap, and if you want to overtake the caravan, just jog. Not sure the lads will entirely approve.

Tankette or Technical Company. 40 points per company

This unit is equipped with ‘almost’ armoured vehicles. After all, if they had proper equipment, a passing army officer might see them, mention it to a superior and before you know where you are, they’ll be whisked away from you and deployed to the front.

So these are vehicles which aspire to light armour. They might be obsolete training vehicles taken out of stock or civilian vehicles that have been hastily up-armoured. A company will have three of them. Obviously there will be times they cannot pass up and down the caravan.

Count as light armour and mount a crew served heavy weapon.

Reaction code 3.3.2.3.2.2.2.2   19pts

Actually finding wargames figure manufacturers producing poorly armed and armoured vehicles is tricky, but in point of fact if you start looking among command vehicles, especially in 6mm, there’s a lot of opportunities. I rather liked the Xie Fang Command APC

http://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/CDSU/SF300-503a.html

But you can always use WW2 Tankettes

Obsolete tube artillery, 20 points per battery

Rather than a sophisticated self-propelled gun, this may be an old self-propelled gun refurbished, or even really old-fashioned towed guns. They still count as vehicle mounted when considering their effect. They can reach out and hit targets three squares away from the square they’re set up on. You can deploy them anywhere with a garrison. Once deployed they don’t move because they’ve got no vehicles.

Reaction code 3.3.3.2.2.2.2.2   19pts

Armed civilian air car. 30pts

It’s not the latest model, and the crews spend more time fixing it than flying. So a company has one air car and can only fly one day in three. If you fly it more often toss a coin when it arrives over the table, on a tails it has to abort the mission because of some failure and has to spend two days getting fixed.

Each mounts a crew served projectile weapon and has three crew.

Reaction code 3.3.2.2.2.2.2.2   18pts

Bridging vehicle, 20pts
Nothing sophisticated, at the very least it’s an unarmoured truck with the bits on necessary to build a bridge across any culverts or similar. Use this and you can bridge anything in under an hour. Still it could be armoured and listed from proper engineering company who are still looking for it.

If you’re looking for figures, Irregular Miniatures do a Churchill assault bridge in 6mm. Brigade have their M-827 Boyd Bridgelayer Tank

http://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/AmRep/SF300-201h.html

Garrisons

These are ‘free’ in that you don’t have to pay or equip them, somebody else does that. Those squares with a 6 on are assumed to be more densely populated. So you can place a garrison on them. (As the 6s will be adjacent to other 6s, you only put a garrison on one of the pair (or of the four when double six has been played. This garrison will be at least company strength. They’re assumed to have a fortified base which has room for passing units to rest and for an artillery unit to set up.

If there is a company strength garrison on a square there will be no incidents (because the garrison has made a point of rounding up known trouble makers) and you get +4 to your die roll when rolling for an incident on an adjacent square.)

Garrison troops. 10 bases, no armour, personal projectile weapon. At the start of an action roll a d6. That’s how many bases aren’t there because they’ve gone AWOL. Garrison troops can be used to support the caravan. They can travel as far as their artillery will support them. If they’ve no artillery, then they’ll only go into the adjacent square.

Reaction code. 2.2.1.2.2.1.1.1  12pts

So having worked out what your forces are and placed the garrisons, you’re now ready to move. Moving provokes incidents. Incidents mean insurgents.

The Insurgents

There are three types of insurgent.

Insurgent swordsmen. D10 bases strong. No armour, hand to hand weapons and suitable improvised charges for taking out vehicles.

Reaction code  3,2,2,2,2,1,1,1  14pts

Insurgent riflemen.d10 bases strong. No armour, mainly obsolete personal projectile weapons, but happy to send out a sniper with a modern weapon.


Reaction code.  2,3,2,2,2,2,2,2  16pts

Elite Insurgent riflemen. d10 bases strong. No armour, armed with modern captured or purchased personal projectile weapons, happy to send out a sniper with a modern weapon.


Reaction code.  3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2  18pts

Crew served heavy weapons

Elite riflemen are associated with crew served heavy weapons that have also been acquired. For every two groups of these elite riflemen there will be one crew served heavy weapon. Toss a coin, heads it’s modern, tails it’s obsolete.

Reaction code.  3,3,2,2,2,2,2,2  18pts

Incidents.

When you cross a square with any force, be it a caravan, or troops rushing to the rescue, roll a d10. If you roll less than or equal to the number on the domino square you are crossing you have ‘an incident’. If you defeat a large force of insurgents (more than five groups) add +1 to your dice for each defeat you inflict upon them, along that road, in that trip. On subsequent trips you can only carry over one +1 from any previous trips.

Darkness

If travelling after dark roll a d6 rather than a d10 to see if there is an incident. If there is, roll a d6 on the ‘incidents after dark’ table.

Incidents table

  1. An abandoned and broken down vehicle blocks the road. A broken down vehicle can be pushed off the road in one move by men assisted if available by beasts and vehicles.
  • Insurgents hit the rear of the caravan.
  • An abandoned and broken down vehicle blocks the road. The vehicle is mined, if the mine isn’t detected, it explodes with the power of a vehicle mounted artillery round. As people move to deal with it, a sniper opens fire on them.
  • The road is blocked with large stones rolled into the way. It won’t stop infantry or beast riders, is it an ambush?
  • The road is blocked by fallen stones and tree trunks making a formidable barricade that will stop all movement on the road. Is it an ambush
  • As you travel along the road it is blocked by mines. You hit them on 1,2,3,4 on a d6. Beast riders and infantry add +3 to their die roll to spot them. Otherwise the area is treated as if infested with anti-vehicle booby traps (which impact on everybody) and even if nothing else happens it takes a full move to clear a safe road through.
  • Insurgents hit the rear of your caravan
  • Mines tripped by innocent civilians, plus an ambush. You have to get the civilians out of there to safety, and obviously some will need medical treatment, as well as dealing with the ambush.
  • A bridge or culvert has been destroyed, it’s going to take a full map move to bridge it, unless you have an engineer bridging vehicle with you.
  1.  A bridge or culvert has been destroyed, it’s going to take a full move to bridge it, unless you have an engineer bridging vehicle with you. Not only that but there’s an ambush.

If there’s an ambush

First you deploy the caravan and your gendarmes before you roll the next dice.

  1. Locals roll d10 boulders down at you when you enter a steep sided valley. Put your caravan out on the road. Toss a coin for each boulder. On a heads the boulder will reach the road. Work out at random to see where on your column the boulder hits.  Any infantry group or vehicle hit suffers casualties as if hit by a vehicle mounted artillery round.
  • Locals roll d10 boulders down at you when you enter a steep sided valley. Deploy your caravan on the road. Toss a coin for each boulder. On a heads the boulder will reach the road. Work out at random to see where on your column the boulder hits.  Any infantry group or vehicle hit suffers casualties as if hit by a vehicle mounted artillery round. This bombardment is followed immediately by d6 groups of insurgents armed with swords, axes, and explosive charges to take out vehicles. Each group is 1d10 strong. They appear within one move of the road.
  • The area is hilly and densely wooded. Indeed there are woods within an infantry move of the road and from somewhere in the woods is an insurgent unit which keeps sending out a sniper who puts under fire the men attempting to remove the roadblock. Every time you send him scurrying off, another takes over. You’ll have to send men in to drive the unit off. Toss a coin, once they’ve entered the woods. Heads and they find one unit of insurgent riflemen. Tails 1d6 units of insurgent swordsmen, 1d10 strong charge out from among the trees.
  • D6 units of insurgents, half riflemen, half swordsmen ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the swordsmen within one move of the road.
  • D10 units of insurgents, half riflemen, half swordsmen ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the swordsmen within one move of the road.
  • D6 units of insurgents, half riflemen, half elite riflemen, ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the riflemen under half range of the road.
  • D10 units of insurgents, half riflemen, half elite riflemen, ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the riflemen under half range of the road.
  • D6 units of insurgents, all elite riflemen, ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the riflemen under half range of the road.
  • D10 units of insurgents, all elite riflemen, ambush the party. There will be terrain capable of concealing the riflemen under half range of the road.
  1. D6 units of elite riflemen, ambush the party. They are accompanied by D10 units of swordsmen. There will be terrain capable of concealing the swordsmen within one move of the road.

Incidents after dark.

  1. As you travel along the road it is blocked by mines. You hit them on 1,2,3,4 on a d6. Beast riders and infantry add +2 to their die roll to spot them. Otherwise the area is treated as if infested with anti-vehicle booby traps (which impact on everybody) and even if nothing else happens it takes a full move to clear a safe road through
  • Road is blocked with tree trunks or rocks. A sniper with a night scope is there to take out anybody trying to check the roadblock for mines.
  • Road is blocked by tree trunks or rocks. The roadblock is mined. If the mine isn’t detected it explodes with the power of a vehicle mounted artillery round.
  • A culvert or bridge has been partially weakened. Infantry or beast riders will notice, vehicles toss a coin, tails and the vehicle crashes through the weakened bridge/culvert and will be damaged and blocks the road. The vehicle will have to be moved before the bridge can be repaired. It’ll take three vehicles (or seriously large draft animals) to move it. Roll a d6. On 4+ there is a unit of elite insurgent riflemen dug in covering the bridge/culvert.
  • The road is mined (as with 1) but is covered by a dug in crew served projectile weapon.
  • The road is blocked, the roadblock is mined, (as with 3) and there is a sniper and a dug in crew served projectile weapon.

Insurgents hit the rear of the caravan

Roll a d3

  1. The insurgents try to explode a command detonated mine under the middle and rear of the caravan. Start from the middle, working to the back, and roll a d6 for every vehicle whether beast powered or with an engine. On a 1, the mine explodes under that vehicle. If you get to the end of the caravan and it still hasn’t exploded, it’s failed and the attack is abandoned. If it does explode, D6 groups of insurgent swordsmen, d10 bases strong, charge out of cover (within a move of the road) and fall upon the rear of the caravan. Once they’ve defeated any defenders then they’ll spend one move taking what they can before fade back into the trees.
  • D6 groups of insurgent swordsmen, d10 bases strong, charge out of cover (within a move of the road) and fall upon the rear of the caravan. Once they’ve defeated any defenders then they’ll spend one move taking what they can before fade back into the trees.
  • D6 groups of insurgent swordsmen, d10 bases strong, charge out of cover (within a move of the road) and fall upon the rear of the caravan. Once they’ve defeated any defenders then they’ll spend one move taking what they can before fade back into the trees. They’re supported by two groups of elite riflemen, each d10 bases strong, and a crew served heavy weapon, which attempts to block the road with knocked out vehicles to prevent pursuit. When the looting swordsmen fade into the trees, the riflemen and heavy weapon will also fade away.

So there you have it, all you have to do is to escort the caravan along the road and off the other end. How difficult could it be?

With regard to Hellfire rules, whilst they’re not written as a set of solo rules, some suggestions as to how to play them solo are available on the Hellfire page of my blog

Thoughts about figures

Obviously with Hellfire the rules are designed for 6mm but frankly I’ve played it in 15mm almost as often recently. Still for this I’ll look at 6mm figures on the grounds that the caravan could be a major project in a larger scale. (But what a project!)
The thing about this scenario is that almost nobody will have the appropriate figures for the caravan. I don’t have those I mentioned in the introduction. But there is all sorts of stuff out there. I’ve acquired all sorts of interesting vehicles. You get things like the Irregulars Miniatures Covered Doolie Wagon carried by 8 attendants from their 6mm colonial range. Whilst from their Conquest of Mexico range you can get a ‘Team of Aztec gun haulers’ to drag any wagon. Then you have the General on litter from the same range to add a touch of colour. But really it’s a case of using what you’ve got amongst your civilian vehicles from all periods and if no two are the same, that has to be a good thing, surely?

How about using these cement eaters to pull your wain?

https://ns-games.com/product/brute-gorusk-herd6mm/

For the gendarmes it depends what you want. If you fancy them on horseback, Baccus does Boers both mounted and dismounted.

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

or Pony Wars US cavalry mounted and dismounted

https://www.baccus6mm.com/catalogue/PonyWars/USArmy/

Brigade has Lizard riders

http://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/Yenpalo/SF300-1173.html

They also have Thrall Hover-truck (pickup body or closed body)

http://www.brigademodels.co.uk/6mmSF/German/SF300-310.html

It strikes me that the pickup body will be easier to grossly overload as part of the caravan.

Adler have WW2 Soviet cavalry (Which I confess I’ve not seen)

http://home.clara.net/adlermin/page40.html

GZG has all sorts of stuff, but it’s worth looking at their cargo trucks and HEMTT heavy articulated transporter

https://shop.groundzerogames.co.uk/6mm-dirtside/future-wars.html#3

Then looking for the heavy weapons for the gendarmes, how about these from Microworld Games?

Or these as pack animals in the caravan? They stand 26mm high (without howdah).

So really, with this scenario, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

♥♥♥♥

In case you haven’t come across Hellfire, they’re available from Wargame Vault as a pdf

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

They are available from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle

And as an ebook from everybody else from here

https://books2read.com/u/m2RWld

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