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Wabbit Hunting

It is perhaps an appropriate time to introduce you to the Caldoom Electromagnetic Anomaly. This arose at the time of the Bretag/Grelfarl war. Both sides used some guided weaponry, and this meant that both sides needed to use electronic counter measures. The problem was mainly budgetary. Whilst it was possible to pick up cheap (and obsolete) weaponry, it was less easy to acquire cheap and competent ECM units.

But both companies employed a lot of engineers and engineers, faced with a problem, will tackle it. This they did. Both sides produced ECM units which they deployed with varying success. (Remember, they might be engineers, but they were mining engineers.) Still the ECM units deployed were adequate. Still there are always those who want to improve on these things, and even when the war moved on and ECM was no longer an issue, the engineers kept playing. Eventually, in a fit of exasperation and for the public good, somebody senior on the Bretag side gathered up all the unlicensed experiments and buried them in a marsh near Liberty but still technically in Bretag territory. Unfortunately, these buried units were designed by mining engineers. The fact that something was abandoned and buried deep in a swamp was no reason for the ECM units to stop working. Obviously they didn’t work as well, and at times they worked differently, and they (and the water slowly seeping into the systems) interfered with each other and various theorists have suggested that they were effectively evolving.

In practical terms it meant that this area of swampland and the wilderness around it became a no-go area for anything dependent on complicated electronics. Apparently nothing more complicated than a sparkplug was reliable.

At the same time we have the issue of the sentrybots. Short of infantry, or at least reliable infantry, Bretag had purchased some sentrybots off the second hand market. The idea being that a company supported by one of these had the same defensive capability of three or four companies. To be fair, it worked. But there were problems. The sentrybots came without the proper manuals and documentation. They had obviously been modified away from ‘factory settings’ by the time they arrived on Caldoom, and from that point on things just got more complicated. Each time somebody serviced them they would ‘improve’ them and add in even more features, or modify some of the subroutines. One of the last surviving sentrybots was in stationed in the Caldoom Electromagnetic Anomaly. Given the physical pounding it had taken in the fighting, and the electromagnetic pounding it took from the buried ECM units, it ceased to work and was abandoned.

 This was not an entirely wise move, but for twenty or more years, there was no problem. It was then that vehicles started disappearing near the area. Or they would be found with bits missing. It seems that the sentrybot had reverted to some of the original programming and was repairing itself. Looked at with hindsight it may have reverted to defending the area according to instructions laid down in code a century or more before. Perhaps, or perhaps not. Those who had to deal with the bot swore it was sentient and acted like a living creature. Eventually enough went missing for the bot to be regarded as a problem and it was decided to send some decent infantry in to deal with it. With regard to support it was felt that they should ride in APCs, one of which mounted a ‘man portable’ artillery piece in a turret. (Man portable is class rather than saying a man can carry it.)

The Slab (or Jothrom Armoured Personnel Carrier,) was perfect for working in the anomaly. It could function with no electronics. Admittedly the radio had to be switched off, and the weaponry had to be fired manually (taking the gunner’s skill rather than a machine skill) but decent infantry can cope with this. They could even cope with the fact they had no coms and no hardwired weaponry. Still it was decided that a platoon should be sent. This consists of five, five man, hands plus an officer. They were given three Slab APCs, one with a turret. The lieutenant and one hand took the turreted APC as a command vehicle, the other two Slab APCs each carried two hands.

Playing the Game

Bretag picked force.

Three Slab APC. Light armour. Moves as in the rules. The turreted version has a man portable artillery piece.

Five hands of infantry.

A Standard hand.

Squad leader, Veteran, flak jacket under coat, sword and pistol.

Soldier. Normal, flak jacket under coat, Heavy man portable automatic. To fire at over assault rifle range, firer needs to be prone or resting the weapon.

Soldier. Normal, flak jacket under coat, assault rifle

Soldier. Normal, flak jacket under coat, assault rifle

Soldier. Veteran, flak jacket under coat, assault rifle

The squad leader’s sword gets one dice shift because it’s a specialist close combat weapon.

They are First class regulars with a reaction point total of 20

When in an APC, one man from the hand will be driver. In the turreted APC one man will be gunner. A word to the wise, things go better if both driver and gunner are veterans.

In the APCs without a turret, you might want to leave at least one infantryman in to watch and make sure nobody is sneaking about, and to open fire on it.

The officer has been hand-picked.

Officer, Veteran, flak jacket under coat, sword and pistol.

The sentrybot

This has modified itself using its retractable maintenance tentacles. It has added extra plates. It also now has modern vehicle mounted projectile weapons. (Heavy automatic weapons) These are excellent against infantry and dangerous to light armour. These two weapons will normally hit the same target, but if there are two targets not too far apart (both in the same 90 degree frontal arc as seen from the bot, two targets can be engaged simultaneously.

The armour modifications.
With Hell by Starlight, when firing at armoured vehicles if you aim successfully, you’ve hit the vehicle. If you aim successfully a second time, you’ve hit the part you want. When firing at the sentrybot, if you aim successfully, you hit medium armour. If you aim successfully a second time you’ve managed to hit the basic improvised armour still visible between the extra plates.

Seeing the sentrybot

If it moves more than 6” it is visible unless it’s in a different piece of terrain to the onlookers. If it opens fire it is visible. If it is within 6” of a person, they can see it even if the figure doesn’t happen to be facing in that direction.

The sentrybot’s mind.

Frankly in this scenario it makes sense to treat the sentrybot as if it were a living creature rather than a programmable machine. I suggest you treat it as a first class regular but with these differences.

  • On reaction it will only ever use fire types ‘a’ or ‘b’. Any other result is a ‘b’.
  • If it gets a retreat reaction it will fall back into cover. If it is within close combat range it will not go into close combat but ideally will fall back into cover.
  • Once the sentrybot is in cover it can toss a coin. Heads and it has disappeared from view.

The map

How big a table and how much terrain have you got? What you need here is a mixture of swamp, woodland, and what you might call a ‘junk jungle’ where all sorts of machines and other broken down stuff have been abandoned. Ideally the table would be six feet by four.

Visibility in terrain is six inches.

There are some lanes through it. They are to allow access to dumping junk, so they should be just twice the width of an APC and needn’t be straight.

Hunting the sentrybot

This game could best be played solo. This is because the sentrybot doesn’t want a fight, it wants you to get bored and go away and then it can get on with a quiet life of mugging passing vehicles for useful bits and energy sources. So the only way you can reliably find it is sweeping terrain with infantry who are well spread out. The problem with ‘well spread out’ is that you are effectively telling the infantry to act as bait, so their dying screams will bring the rest of them to avenge their deaths. It’s not an easy plan to sell.

When you sweep a piece of terrain (a lump bordered by the lanes vehicles use to travel through) your APCs cannot enter, but they can stay in the lanes around it and watch the lanes to make sure nobody crosses them.

In each area you sweep, assume the sentrybot is there. It will retreat ahead of the sweep (provided it can stay hidden) and will also move across the front of the sweep to try and get round the end.


  1. If there is a lane it can cross without being seen it will head for that.
  2. If there’s a lane it can cross only covered by one APC, it will head for that and shoot at the APC to knock it out as it crosses the lane.
  3. If there are no obvious crossing places it will wait in hiding and then attempt to kill everybody in the sweep that it can see and then advance through the sweep and get behind them and disappear.

When sweeping a piece of terrain, each move roll a d10, and on a 1, the sentrybot has done something you notice. Whether shooting up an APC or your sweeping team.

Note well, you can roll a maximum of five times in each piece of terrain. Even if the sweep isn’t finished (but you ought to finish the sweep). It means you’ve dithered so much the sentrybot has sneaked away. (This rule is to ensure you cannot find the sentrybot just by searching and researching one convenient piece of terrain.)

Playing with two players.

If there is a player for the sentrybot, they should mark their initial position on a sketch map and ‘move’ on that map, keeping track of what is going on. If there is a player in charge, it’s up to the player whether they want to take the offensive, picking of the search party and their vehicles.


If you like the APC they’re available at

If you’ve not seen Hell by Starlight rules, they’re available from at £4 for a pdf.

Or from Wargame Vault at £4 for a pdf

Or from Amazon as a paperback at £9.50 or on kindle for £4

Also a bit of news. I’ve been working on Caldoom by Starlight. A campaign guide to supplement Hell by Starlight Campaigns. If Ali ever stops producing nice stuff that just demands a scenario, I might have it finished in the next ten days.


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