Wednesday 27 March 2013

Welcome to Beltene - Your Settlement Orientation Guide

The Beltene Union Settlement Trust Incorporated is pleased to welcome you to Beltene. If you check your viewscreens, you will see Beltene shown with a marker to indicate the initial settlement area.
Our surveyors have identified highly valuable resources that will ensure that all settlers will profit from this settlement package. They assure us that Beltene is as close to paradise as it is possible to get. The main chosen settlement locations of Avalondon and Landfall City lie within warm temperate zones for your increased comfort as well as being close to the main resource sites. Gravity is Terra Normal. Better yet, most of the wildlife will not be trying to kill you and there are no known native sentients to concern you. Please consult the maps on your tablet displays for further information about the planet.
The highlighted area on the world map identifies the main settlement area. Touch your screens in that area for a close-up. Avalondon will be the headquarters of the Albion Collective, whose main function will be harvesting the resources of the sea within their area. Landfall City will be the headquarters of the Bwendi Syndicate, whose main function will involve mining the spinal hills on BUST Inc Island, as we have chosen to name the main settlement landmass.
We shall shortly upload more detailed maps for you to peruse as we arrange for all settlers to be transported to their chosen settlement sites. Please be patient and use this time to learn more about this amazing world. We look forward to working with you in these exciting times. We are at the cutting edge of frontier exploration and you, the settlers, are the backbone of this effort. Thank you.

Scouts Out - Tomorrow's War AAR

The Bwendi Bugle

27th March 2313 Standard Reckoning

Scout Camp Terror

A fun week away at Camp Crystal Lake turned to terror for young scouts this week. An Albion Defence Force special forces platoon descended on the camp, where young Bwendi were learning how to tie knots and earning their woodcraft badges. The ADF shot up the camp, killed two of the young scouts and kidnapped 14 others along with 3 the scout leaders. They left the rest of the scout leaders wounded on the ground at the camp together with several of the scouts. In response to this outrage, Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus has ordered the Bwendi Army to block access across the land bridge to Beltene Starport to deny the Albion monsters any external support. The blockade will be removed when the Albion government returns the kidnapped youths and formally makes restitution to the families of the slain.
Camp Crystal Lake
Bwendi scouts may be seen in woods at bottom left and at top centre. A troop is also pinned in the ruined building in the centre of the hill. Bwendi scout leaders are present in the woods at top centre and in the tree at bottom right (sniper team in the tree) Albion terrorists lie wounded in front of the building (circular green bases) as the scouts use every trick they have to defend themselves
Our thoughts are with the families of the slain. The names of Carmen Fandango and Kanye C. Mekebab join others on the Wall of Heroes. Their heroism in the face of this vicious onslaught is an object lesson to us all. Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus announced yesterday, "Their names shall live on in our hearts and their deeds shall stir our souls. As the leaping savannah frog they leapt. They sought the stars and only the acts of vicious Albion curmudgeons prevented them from achieving their dreams. We shall realise their dreams for them. Woe to the nation of Albion if it seeks to stand in our way."

So, I decided to field a militia platoon (d6 quality, d10 morale) for a change. They had no armour but I made the fire teams larger (6 figures each) to compensate. This was clearly not enough. Steve fielded Albion regulars (d8/d10) and chose to group them as full squads instead of as fireteams, giving him massively more firepower at the expense of flexibility. We both got 7 points to spend on additional troops. I bought a sniper team and a regular Bwendi section (both d8/d10). Steve bought a special forces section (d10/d12).

We both rolled the same mission: Break Contact. This meant that we both started at the centre line of the table and had to get half of our forces off our own table edge. We both drew Fog of War cards at the start. I got one that affected Steve's off-board artillery (he had none). He got 'This won't play well on the holovids' and lost several victory points at the outset because of some perceived atrocity committed by his troops. That's why I chose to represent my force as peaceful scouts on a camp.

Tactically I made a huge mistake in engaging Steve's force. I won the initiative and my central militia section was able to retreat after shooting at some of Steve's troops but before they could shoot back. This put me in a great position for getting most of my troops off the table very quickly. All my troops that were in buildings or woods started hidden so he had to spot me before shooting at me. I should have taken advantage of that to get out of there and claim a draw. Instead I lost track of my main objective and shot at Steve with other units, thus causing him to shoot back. His dice were smoking hot and I lost two entire fire teams to two rounds of fire. More fool me for starting by shooting at him. My sniper proved his worth though. Using a laser rifle (suppressed weapon) he was able to pick off Steve's medic and a few other troops, which could have given me the win had I been sensible.

So, what have I learnt from this game?

  1. Well, I thought it would be fun to field militia. It was, but in a frustrating way, because they were too easy to take down. For militia to be useful, I really need to focus on the mission and just achieve my objective. I need to avoid contact with regular troops while using militia and accept that a draw is really a victory under those circumstances.
  2. Using the campaign rules, both sides should start from the same baseline quality and morale, unless we use the points system. I shall try costing up both sides to see what the points system suggests as a balanced start.
  3. The 'hidden' rules are not that difficult and added a new edge to the game, which was fun. Likewise, the sniper team was interesting to deploy. It lasted longer than I expected.
  4. I need to throw Steve's dice into the Humber! His dice-rolling was unfeasibly high last night. I mean regularly getting a 90% hit rate with a 50% or 60% chance of success and most of those hits being at the high end of the range too. I lost three fire teams in their entirety to his dice in single rounds of fire. Bah! Those die are going in the river next time Steve leaves them unattended!! ;-)

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Perfidious Albion Once More (Tomorrow's War AAR)

The Bwendi Bugle

19th March 2313 Standard Reckoning

Perfidious Albion Attacks Aid Station

Once more Albion has struck at the institutions that are the envy of civilised planets everywhere. This time their assault was on the Rocktoad Aid Station in Pyntagahl province. A company of Albion regulars reinforced by a Special Forces Team attacked the aid station in the early hours of Tiwsdaeg evening. Bwendi Republican Army forces were on manoeuvres in the area but were hampered by their Biochem protection gear. They were training to operate in the event of a probable Albion gas attack. It is known that Albion has large stockpiles of chemical agents ready for deployment against the peaceful Bwendi people.
A Bwendi newscopter supplied this view of the BRA platoon advancing with a Callixus IFV in support
As our heroic soldiers advanced in their bulky biochem gear, they suddenly came face to face with an entire company of Albion soldiers.
Albion soldiers (left) occupy firing positions to ambush the Bwendi (right). In the far distance (centre back), an Albion special forces squad can be seen cowering before the Bwendi might
The firefight was short and desperate. Bwendi fire caused an unknown number of casualties, but the Albion curs left 2 dead and 5 wounded behind to be captured. Two of their special forces soldiers were unwounded but surrendered as fast as they could. Of the 21 Bwendi soldiers involved in this fight, 6 were killed and 6 were wounded. The roll of honour for the dead now adds these brave soldiers to the Wall of Heroes in Landfall City:
  1. Corporal Airport Carruthers-Smythe
  2. Lance Corporal John Jones
  3. Private Riley Carpark
  4. Private Fabienne D'Iscard
  5. Private Seamus Besworth
  6. Private Cedric Carpongo
Their sacrifice was not in vain, for the Albion forces might have escaped with more valuable medical equipment and supplies than they did. As it was, they were able to steal one of the aid station's Machine That Goes Ping Mk.1 before they were driven off at great cost by our heroic Bwendi soldiers.

This was another game that we set up using the TW campaign system but on a 2'x3' table this time, because we felt that 4'x3' was too large last time. I chose to try using multi-based figures for this game. It worked very well and meant that I could keep my troops together easily. The large bases also provided a useful platform for wounded markers, making it easier to move my fireteams. I chose not to use individually-based figures to make change in this game, but I might do that in the future.

I rolled high for momentum points and scored 8, which gave me the opportunity to buy an IFV to support my troops and an additional fire team. This is the first time we have used vehicles and it was not problematic at all. Steve's only comment on the vehicle was "Next time I should try attacking it." The IFV actually saved the day for me, because I chose to draw a Fog of War card at the start of the game and got gas. No, not that sort. The card is called 'Gas Gas Gas'. My troops deployed in biochem gear, which reduced their troop quality by 1, from d8 to d6. You should have heard me whinging about this during the game! Rolling d6 versus d8 in TW makes quite a difference. The IFV was unaffected by the gas so it rolled normally, which saved my bacon, because it was able to wipe out two fire teams of Albion troops. Steve really needed to get his RPGs into the game against it, but he chose to withdraw his troops as fast as he could once the special forces got close enough to the objective for him to score the victory points for his mission.

Steve's mission was Snatch and Grab, which involved getting a unit to within 3" of an objective marker on my side of the table and then getting some troops off the table. It does not state that the troops leaving the table have to be the same ones as the troops that get to the objective. Presumably that means that the spotters radio the results to their compatriots. Once he had achieved this objective, Steve skedaddled pretty sharpish. This was in turn 3.

My mission was to occupy an objective on Steve's side of the table and ensure that there were no enemy troops within 5" of it at the end of the game. Steve basically handed success in this mission to me by skedaddling so early on. I had at least 2 turns to complete my objective, so I scored a victory on that account too. Had Steve held his positions to the end of the game, he might have scored a full victory.

When Steve's troops left the table, they also left 9 unchecked casualties on the table, so my lot were able to secure them. I scored 7 prisoners of war and found 2 dead bodies.

My own casualties were all victims of my rubbish dice rolling. I managed to roll 3 ones on one first aid check and wound up with an entire fire team that was dead. This seems to be par for the course for me. Still, my troops held the battlefield and saw off the cowardly Albion curs.

The Final Tally
Me: -3 victory points
Steve: -10 victory points
We both achieved our objectives so we both won, but our casualties ensured that in fact we both lost too. I lost a little bit less than Steve though!

Some additional thoughts and a whinge
Tomorrow's War works for us, despite the fact that we keep getting things wrong with the rules! It works really well for 'realistic' science-fiction warfare. We have enjoyed every game so far and the rules have given me plenty of opportunity to complain about my dice-rolling, which is all to the good. Most of the rules are straight-forward and easily applied when you remember them and the game flows well. The biggest problem is in keeping the reaction rules straight. That section of the rulebook is not well written and I have trawled the forum for answers. I think I have it now but have asked for clarification on the forum. This brings me to my whinge.

We changed the table size for this game because we felt it was too large last time. I did ask on the Ambush Alley forum about table size for the campaign games after the last game but received no response. I have asked other questions on there and have been roundly ignored by the authors. I find this very frustrating, because I want to get to grips with the rules properly and I see that some people get their questions answered while others do not. Perhaps my questions are stupid or obvious. If so, a simple page reference would suffice as answer. Either way, I hold out little hope of an answer to my latest questions.

EDIT: My latest questions have just had an answer, so that is positive and better than my previous attempts did. Perhaps they were just having an off day before?

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Bwendi Republican Army in the 24th Century

We've been playing Tomorrow's War lately. We have decided to spend some time playing these rules and learning them properly. As I wrote in the last post, TW is not the easiest rules set for me to read. However, the last game went very smoothly indeed, so clearly they are easier to play once the rules have been read once. Perhaps the difficult reading forces them to be mentally ingested and digested properly. Who knows? Anyway, the battle report for this game (with comments on the campaign rules included with TW) has been posted, but today's post is about the background and organisation of my troops, the Bwendi Republican Army. I plan to add the local militias, the Bwendi Uniform Militia Companies, when I have worked out what they have and how they should be organised. I have figures painted for them, but probably not a full platoon yet. I really should check. So, back on topic ...

Background to our games
For our sci-fi games we are planning on playing both platoon level and company level military actions, as well as some character-driven skirmishes. These will all be set in the Traveller universe but starting in the 24th century with lower tech level troops (about TL8 or 9 for the Traveller buffs). Our nations occupy the planet of Beltene in the Reaver's Deep sector, which is technically the back end of nowhere at this time. Supplies come in from outside, but it is not worth the cost to merchant shipping concerns to send the latest technology out that way. The goal is to run our nations using one of the Traveller supplements that allows you to do this (possibly Pocket Empires, but The World Tamer's Handbook has some useful ideas in it too, as does Dynasty from Mongoose). We can then develop our nations in whichever way we think best. Populations will rise, research will be undertaken and developments made that should see us moving from ground vehicles to grav vehicles over time and then on to a mass migration to spinward of the Spinward Marches in time for the Traveller Milieu 0 setting or thereabouts. I just want to place our pocket empires in the position to fight Zhodani and Sword Worlders, as well as making characters from our nations able to take part in the Classic Traveller adventures.

History of Bwendi and the Bwendi Republican Army
The BRA is a force of regular troops. The Bwendi do not practise conscription, so all troops are volunteers. It has existed in one form or another since the unification of Ztumsia on Terra in the mid-1980s under the command of Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus XXIII. Ztumsia was a war-torn central African republic/dictatorship until it was unified by the Bwendi tribe under the Colonel. After that it adopted a British-style democracy ruled by an elected prime minister and his government. Such was the love of the people for the first Colonel, though, that they have always re-elected one of the Colonel's children to this post when the old Colonel is too old to carry on in the role of prime minister. There is also a tradition that each sibling adopts the name Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus upon taking up the reins of power for the first time.

The core of the BRA is the armoured infantry. In the 24th century they wear full ballistic cloth suits with communications arrays in the helmets. Riflemen carry the Gladcorp M23 Assault Rifle and fireteams have either a Gladcorp Model 33A Team Support Weapon or a Gladcorp TAC19 RPG as support weapons. See the TOE page for a full breakdown of the standard Bwendi infantry company.

Armoured support is supplied by the Bwendi Republican Armoured Troops. The standard BRAT platoon of eight tanks divided into a command section and two tank sections is usually subordinated to an infantry battalion or company commander as a support element, although it happens that the tank regiments sometimes operate en masse, especially when pursuing a breakthrough in enemy lines.

Scout teams are a battalion-level asset, although they are often parcelled out as need to the lead companies of the battalion when advancing. Each scout team comprises six men in three Mebebque-class light transports. Scout teams are heavily armed with Gladcorp SN5h Heavy Sniper Rifles and Gladcorp Flash12 Laser Rifles. They function both as snipers and as scouts, using the laser rifles to paint targets for the battalion's heavy assets.

To supplement the BRA, BUM companies were formed in each town. These local militia units train at weekends and also go on a camp once a year for two weeks. They are generally poorly trained overall but morale can be quite high. Numbers in the BUMs can be variable and many are not at full strength. A full-strength company would have 1 officer, 5 NCOs and 24 Troopers organised into three sections, each of 10 men. The officer is attached to one of the sections for combat operations. Armament is Gladcorp M20 Assault Rifles, Gladcorp SM13 SMGs, Gladcorp TAC11 RPGs and Gladcorp FN80 GPMGs. Each section usually has an RPG and a GPMG. Some BUMs are designated Close Assault Companies. BUM CACs are universally armed with SMGs and GPMGs. They also have a higher than usual allocation of grenades. BUMS will usually wear flak vests although not all of them can afford the armour.

Monday 4 March 2013

Bwendi 2300 - Traveller skirmishing using Tomorrow's War

We're working on learning Tomorrow's War, as the recent battle reports show. We are also setting up to play a campaign set on a world in the Traveller universe (Classic Traveller, of course. I still have my LBBs). As part of this process, I am thinking about Traveller technology and how it fits in Tomorrow's War, so here is some of the background and how it fits together.

The campaign setting is the Classic Traveller universe adapted to include elements of 2300AD. It is set in the non-canon sector of Reaver’s Deep and is designed to remain at a remove from the main empires and worlds of the Traveller universe. The basic campaign only takes place in Beltene system, which is basically the arse end of nowhere. The plan is to have a resource management campaign that will see our nations rising in tech level and provide organic growth that should ensure that our armies end up different in the end.

Campaign home system
System: Beltene
Subsector: Riftrim
Sector: Reaver’s Deep
UWP: 2203 B866675-9 Ag Ni Ri

The colonies of Albion and Ztumsia Nova were founded on Beltene some time back and are now fully established. Both colonies have an avowed love of all things English. Unfortunately both nations interpret what Englishness is differently, which has led to significant problems between the two. While there is some contact with the wider galaxy, there is little to be gained by trade with Beltene, so the planet is mostly left on its own, except for occasional pirate raids and the potential for alien invasion, if I save enough up to buy the GZG crusties to use as Kafers.

Military Technology
The technology available is similar to present day but with enhanced optics, etc. Laser rifles are a relatively recent phenomenon and can be used both as a weapon and for painting targets. The lists below give the stats where necessary of each weapon at the current tech level. They assume that the baseline technology level in Tomorrow's War for our game will be TL1. Where stats are not given, then the standard TW rules apply. These are all draft stats and subject to revision.

When outfitting troops, reference will need to be made to the Traveller books for Traveller tech levels. As a general rule, armies will always have equipment available that belongs to the previous tech level. Equipment from the current tech level is likely to be less common with elite units getting it first. Militia units may well have equipment from two tech levels lower than the current one, depending upon the culture they come from.

  • Assault Rifle
  • Laser Rifle
  • SMG (close assault)
  • Pistol (close assault)
Squad Support Weapons
  • GPMG with bipod mount (TL1, Lt, AP:1)*
  • SAW (TL1, Lt AP:1)
  • RPG (TL1, Med, AP:2/AT:2(M))
  • RAM Grenade Launcher (TL1, ABW, AP:1/AT:1 (L))
*GPMG is also a medium support weapon when fitted with a tripod.

Medium Support Weapons
These are usually tripod mounted or fitted to vehicles.
  • Autocannon (TL1, ABW, Hvy, AP:3)
  • GPMG on tripod (TL1, TST, Med, AP:2)
  • RAM Auto Grenade Launcher (TL1, ABW, AP:2/AT:2 (L))
I have figures for GMS/L and HAMR gunners and a couple of RAFRAM Mortars, so I need to work those out in Traveller terms too, but I shall save them for when I finalise my platoon organisation.

Traveller armour is not as simple as TW armour. Having looked at attempting to add some chrome, I decided that it was not worth the additional effort for our games, so decided on the following armour availability at each tech level:

TL9 Light Body Armour (TL1, 1d) = cloth / flak / ablat
TL10 Light Body Armour (TL2, 1d)
TL10 Hard Body Armour (TL1, 2d) = combat environment suit
TL11 Light Body Armour (TL3, 1d)
TL11 Hard Body Armour (TL2, 2d) = combat armour
TL12 Hard Body Armour (TL3, 2d)
TL13 Light Powered Armour (TL2, 2d) = battle dress
TL14 Heavy Powered Armour (TL3, 3d)

Armour can incorporate various sensor suites and the grid should be available at all tech levels. Chameleon suits are available at various tech levels too, but I am not sure quite how to incorporate those into TW yet. All of this is still provisional and subject to discussion with Steve, but I reckon it's a good basis for setting up our game.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Curzon's Camp - A Tomorrow's War AAR

The Bwendi Bugle

2nd March 2313 Standard Reckoning

ADF defeated at Curzon's Camp

Another incursion into Pyntagahl province by ADF regular army troops was defeated by a Bwendi Republican Army patrol supported by a small detachment of The Colonel's Own Guard last Wodensdaeg.
BRA troops supported by a COG fireteam advance on the ADF regulars. The landfall monument that is a feature of every Bwendi settlement stands proud on the hill.
In a swift and decisive firefight, the BRA and COG troops advanced rapidly through the logging camp to surround the ADF troops, who were swiftly neutralised and captured. About half of the ADF troops were captured. They claimed to be on a map-reading exercise, but had got lost. When challenged by the BRA patrol, the ADF officers lost control of their troops, who panicked and started shooting, instead of surrendering as ordered. The BRA patrol lost Private Abiola Smith, who was cut down in yet another ADF atrocity. Her family has been informed and the funeral service will be on Freyasdaeg 8th March.
The COG fireteam (left) moves swiftly into the woods, while the BRA patrol provides covering fire. Wounded ADF troopers can be seen left centre of the photograph 
Our reporters were able to obtain the photographs shown here, which demonstrate the skill and training of our heroic BRA and COG troopers. It is reported that the Gladcorp logging crew that lives at Curzon's Camp will be returning there next week to resume logging operations. Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus has stated that he will not permit the ADF to continue these incursions and has written a strong email to the King of Albion, ordering him to desist all military action on Bwendi soil. No response has yet been received.

BRA - GZG New Israelis
COGs - CMG Vadorian Assassins
ADF - GZG New Anglian Combine
Wooden Buildings - 4Ground
Solar Arrays and Satellite Dish - GZG

My Forces:
Bwendi Republican Army Section (d8 quality, d10 morale)
1 command fireteam (1 section leader with assault rifle, 1 rifleman and 1 gunner with RPG)
2 fireteams (each with: 1 fireteam leader with assault rifle, 1 rifleman, 1 gunner with SAW)

The Colonel's Own Guard Fireteam (d10 quality, d12 morale)
4 figures armed with assault rifles

All figures are wearing TL2 hard carapace armour

Steve's Forces (d8 quality, d10 morale):
ADF regulars organised into four man fireteams with two fireteams per section.
1 heavy weapons team.

Thoughts and Comments
This was a test game for the Tomorrow's War campaign rules. We each diced for our objectives. Mine was to advance to an objective marker on Steve's side of the table and then return off my board edge with the information obtained by getting there. Steve's objective was to enter my half of the board and stop any of my troops from exiting. Although randomly determined, these dovetailed nicely. We began with two sections each and diced for asset points. I scored enough for a special ops fireteam (the COGs) and an additional fireteam. Steve added a heavy weapons team and possibly something else, but I cannot remember what. We also diced to see if we got any additional figures. I received a medic and Steve received nothing, although he already had an integral medic in his platoon organisation anyway.

Steve's troops mainly clustered in the woods in the centre of the table, but two fireteams moved to a ruined shack on his left flank where an objective marker lay. I advanced one section up the left flank with the COGs team and my additional fireteam. My plan was to engage the bulk of his forces and keep them busy while my other section advanced up the right flank to the wooden shack. This basically worked. As my troops emerged from the woods they were able to win the reaction tests and shoot the ADF first. My dice were on fire and ADF troops dropped like ninepins. On the right flank my lead fireteam took some fire and suffered the only fatality of the game for my side. Their brave action in absorbing that fire permitted the rest of the section to advance and lay down heavy fire on the ADF section, destroying them as a fighting unit. The way was clear to move to the objective and one fireteam advanced into the stream, using it as cover to approach the building safely. At this point the game ended. Technically it was a draw. Steve had not advanced into my side of the table and I had not exited any troops after getting to the objective. However, Steve reckons it was a victory for me because I annihilated his troops with my lucky dice-rolling. I'm happy to take any victory I can! 

So, how do the rules fare with this game? Well, I am pleased to report that the mechanisms of infantry combat are becoming significantly easier for us. We barely had to consult the rules at all and we think we got most things right. My comments about how easy the rules are to read still stand, but the mechanisms are much more intuitive and easy to remember after a few games and the gameplay itself is quite a pleasure now that we have the hang of it. Expect more whinging when we move on to the vehicle rules though! :)

We did use the Fog of War cards, but none of the cards drawn significantly affected game play. Still, there is pleasure to be had from drawing them, knowing that some random chaos could be injected into the game. When we introduce the full range of troops, they are more likely to affect the games. I look forward to that.

The campaign rules seemed to work quite well too, despite my previous comments about how sketchy they are. We worked through them and were able to put the game together easily enough. Where they fall down is in the guidelines for set-up and initial forces. They do not mention how large a table the scenarios were playtested on. We played on a 4' x 3' table and think that was too large. Campaign scenarios are meant to be 5-8 turns long with a random roll to end the game from turn 5 onwards. Even with 8 turns to play, my forces would have struggled to exit the table. The rules make mention of 2' x 2' and 2' x 3' tables so perhaps that is the intended table size, but it is not made clear in the campaign section. Our next campaign scenario will use a 2' x 3' table and we shall see how that goes. The other problem is the initial forces you get. The rules recommend two sections and are purposefully vague, so that you can use whatever you have. That is a good thing, but it does mean that you need some experience of the rules to be able to balance the games properly. I have already designed a platoon structure for my troops, so I just used that, but Steve had to figure his out on the fly at the start of the game, because he has not done so. This involved a certain amount of dithering and thinking. That said, the campaign rules look like a great way for generating quick pick-up scenarios too, so all credit to AAG for that.

I am now looking forward to the next skirmish in wartorn Pyntagahl province. I really should get that Rebel Minis dropship painted for my troops so that they can arrive in style ...