Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kas'trum Campaign Pre-season Game one - One of our Ruperts is missing.

The early morning Sun licked steaming humidity up from the marsh surrounding the canal hamlet of Roogie's Landing. The adjutant of the Earl of Hereford's Regiment of Foot (The Hedgehogs) was doing his best to shuffle papers in the marsh reed shack that served as the battalion office but the damp made the pages stick together in a most unsatisfying manner. There was a knock at the door - or rather a series of thumps on the door frame. "Enter"
"Morning sir," came the voice of one the captains as he pushed aside the the thin blanket that served as the door to the shack. "We've heard rumours that a shipment of contraband has just arrived and is being stored in some ruins just up the abandoned canal. It is probably nothing like all the previous rumours but I'd like to send a patrol to take a look."
"Who do you have?" "Well there's the new chap, Puller. Fresh from Sandhurst. He landed a couple of weeks ago and could use some seasoning." "Right give him a couple of good NCOs and send him out. The usual reminder about no heroics of course." "Right you are sir, I'll put him on it." The captain stepped out through the door and the adjutant turned his attention back to the petty administrative tasks that even the most g-d forsaken outpost of the Empire required - At least it wasn't Venus. "Mister Puller", the Captain said in a voice that while quiet, seemed to permeate every corner of the Officer's quarters. "Sir" replied a young thin voice. "I have a job for you. You will be taking out a patrol today, nothing too strenuous. You'll be assisted by Sergeant ----- and Corporal Jones. Two good men. Follow their advice and you won't go wrong. No heroics mind. Out, a quick look around and straight back to report." "Yes Sir!" replied Puller. "Get your kit together and I'll see you outside in a couple of minutes to brief the men. The sergeant has them well in hand."
After the Captain turned and left another voice piped up "I say, Toffee! Off to have a go at the natives wot?  Good show!"
"Right you are Pomfret, I"ll give them one of the old school tie!"
As his batman Puller wasn't quite so sure, but he daren't let anyone see his nervousness. Stiff upper lip and all that....

I wanted to run a quick pre-campaign game to refamiliarize myself with the Soldier's Companion rules. I have a set of revised SoC rules by Bob Giglio that I will be trying out later in the campaign.

I decided to go with a British platoon versus a full warband of Hill Martians. In theory this should be roughly balanced, but I wasn't too worried about a perfect match.  

The Patrol sets out
The British head out in column for rapid movement. The notional objective was a set of ruins on a hill at the back of the table.

What's that on the ridge?

Eyes hidden in the boulders.

End of the trail - or is it?
The Martians reasonably placed pickets out while the main mass started concealed. This bends SoC a little but makes sense.

Red and barren vistas.
Looking up the table. The terrain is simple but I think effective.

Look sir! Up there!
The British spot one picket and are in turn spotted. The classic desert problem of no cover.

Reporting back.
Winning the initiative, the picket moves off the hill and behind the ridge to report. I ruled that the main Martian body would not move until they knew what was going on.

Advance with resolution! 
The British shake out into line to maximize firepower.

The conference.
The Martians decide what to do.

Moving up the valley
While the British, seeing no opposition, move up the valley to the protective boulder field at table centre.

Secure the centre!
Under the rules as written, the British (or European regulars) will win the initiative more often than Matian/Native armies composed of irregulars. This can give them several moves in a row.  This has been a bone of contention with some SoC players.  Bob Giglio's rules change this up to allow a reduced number of actions for the non-initiative player.

Open order and into the rough
Moving forward, the British take a half move to open order so they can move into the rough. Knowing when to use mass or open formations is essential when playing Soldier's Companion.

Take firing positions men!
Into the rough and taking cover.

The cunning natives plan.
Finally getting another initiative, the Martians shake out into two separate groups.

In position.
Under the rules, the British could just stay in line and all would be good, Spreading them however, just looks better.

One band heads up the hill.

One band headed up the hill.

The other heads west behind the ridge.
The other heads behind the ridge.

The rough ground holds things up.
There were some bad movement rolls that delayed the flanking force.

Hold your fire - They're too far away lad!
I measured the distance to see what the ranges were and figured I should show that on the table.

Up, and over!
Up on the hill, the second band heads toward the broken ground on the hill top. The rules say that a low wall does not impede cavalry so I went with an action shot.

Shaking out behind the ridge.
The flanking group tries to get into position. Low rolls and infrequent initiatives make this difficult. Again Bob's revised rules will make this go a lot faster.

The natives head into the rough.....
The Martians disappear into concealing terrain. Not really allowed under the rules as written but it fits the theme.

And disappear - the cowards!

Into line.
The flank force moves into line - not a legal formation for irregulars but of no consequence in the long term.

And the earthers wait under the blazing sun.
A long series of initiative rolls was made here. When the British won, they didn't want to leave cover in the face of possible cavalry. In turn, the Martians weren't going to charge light cavalry against infantry in cover.

Orders are orders, move out!
I ruled that the British would eventually think nothing was going on so would proceed the mission.

But the hills have eyes.
The Martians chose to wait.

A quick look then back to barracks.
The British move forward in open order - not the best for defending against cavalry but better when facing snipers.

Forming mass to charge.
Mass or open - those are the choices for irregulars and charging in open order is a bad idea. By declaring a charge by a hidden unit, the Martians take the initiative.

Why have the dice gods forsaken me?
The charge goes in - Not! The roll gets halved for charging over the hill. But still that's a crap roll.

Re-checking the rules didn't help. 
And yes it is - charging cavalry gets 8 dice not 4 but the extra 4 dice still come up garbage.

Over the hill!
The charge comes up just short. Frustrating.

But come up short, ending in disorder....

Puller takes a shot!
I let Puller take a shot with his Webley but to no effect.

And the whole line opens up.

Casualties on the hill...
The left wing firing on a second charge coming down the hill dropping one rider.

Form triangle!
The British win the next initiative, allowing them to form triangle - a very period formation.

The riders fire!
Mass formation limits the number of figures that can fire and muzzle loaders halve that rate resulting in an anemic effort.

As do the band coming down the hill.
The other band takes a shot.

Like Earther like Martian - the only thing taking hits is dirt.
Also forgetting to check ranges first. This does highlight the difference between muzzle loading and cartridge firing weapon ranges.

From disorder to line to lay down fire.
The charge having failed, the band shakes out into an open line to maximize firepower and defence.

The hill band charges!
The hill band makes an excellent charge roll.

Puller's men fire at the skirmish line taking one down.
In the defensive phase, the British fire.

As the second charge is about to hit, the triangle fire! 
Inflicting hits.

Two more hits!

But no effect!
But no kills.

Hits on the second charge.
The charging band does not fare as well...

Taking hits...
And Martians drop....
And taking kills. But the Martians make their morale check and the charge goes in.

But not all...
The melee is relatively ineffective with the Martians being mounted, coming out a bit better.

The reluctant warriors steel themselves and charge again!
Allowing the Martians on the ridge to charge in. The morale roll to charge in open order passed with a squeek.

The mass of melee
With the melee joined and the British surrounded, this was the deciding moment.

And the British fall under the knives of the Martians.
But the British could not hold leaving some men left to be captured.

Num'da looked at the fallen earth men. "Take all their arms and ammunition - we can use that later. Share out any cloth and metal and be sure to set aside the widow's portion."
"And the bodies War Leader?"
"We don't know their burial practices - lay them out in rows. We're not barbarians."
"The roogies will get them...."
"They might, yes - but let the red mens' ghosts bother the roogies and not us. And move the goods out of the ruins - they know we're here now."

The Captain watched as a full company scoured the site of Puller's last stand. His men were busy dragging the scarlet clad bodies to a waiting cart, handkerchiefs wrapped around their faces to keep out the stink and the flies.
A sergeant approached "Guns, ammunition, leather, cloth and metal all gone. It looks like they were stripped and then cut to pieces. It might have been animals... From what we can find it looks like two are missing from the patrol. We can't tell who yet."
"Animals indeed!" snapped the Captain, "The most vicious animal on this ball of dust walks on two legs. Get them on the cart, and for God's sake find a tarpaulin to cover them before we take them into camp. A patrol wiped out is bad enough without showing the results to the new arrivals."
There would be a price to pay.