39 dice in the bag…

I didn’t mean it to be 39 dice in the bag. It all started quite innocently. ‘Oh, great. You’ve started painting your C3? I know others have and Tim3* wants to use Outcasts. Why don’t we have, say, a 1500 point game next week?’ A biggish game, for sure, but probably manageable in the time we had.

Matt’s reply was enthusiastic. ‘Yeah, that’ll be great. I can field 1000, half painted.’ Shortly afterwards, it turned out so could Ant. ‘Have you got 2000 points of Rebels?’ I nodded. ‘Okay. Let’s do one of the straightforward scenarios. 2000 a side. Four of us.’

Oops. We ended up with 16 Rebel units (20 dice), 18 Concord units (18 dice) and a distort dice. Because we were concerned about the number of units, some of us turned up early to set out a larger table (9×6) and terrain and, as the scenario was #2:’Reinforce the Position’, deployed a little further in than normal (10″).

This was the first mistake: the table should have been much more shallow. It took too long to get anywhere, despite a deeper deployment, the only saving grace being the flank entry. It also meant that the ranges favoured the Concord’s heavy plasma weaponry, the only really heavy units the Outcasts having in plentiful supply being disruptors or scourers. Sure, the Outcasts had three bombers, but they were slow, most units burning out Plasma Amplifiers in turn 1.

Turn 1 was just a stream of running Ghar, the only real action being the Concord’s M4 dominating the centre of the table and pinning everything it could see – including Fartok – and the stuttering whine of the C3D1 drones’ Plasma Light Supports doing likewise. The Rebels tried to sneak closer but, despite okay rolls, had to keep in cover for fear of the Concord’s X-Launcher. A Bomber unit got off a nice load of pins but didn’t see a spotter drone…

Turn 2 saw Amplifiers failing (by turn 3, every Amp bar Fartok’s had failed) and a bomber unit pinned to the ground by an exuberant X-Launcher and multiple fire from the plentiful Concord. As soon as the reinforcements started coming on another problem was unveiled: because we put all the dice in the bag to have one game, all the Concord came up on one flank and despite trying to open up the other, the Rebels were forced to do the same. that meant we were only really working on half that 9′ table… it should have been narrower!

Not that the C3 were complaining, mind you.

It also meant the game was somewhat slow: 39 dice to get through meant that to finish in under 3 1/2 hours, we’d have to stick strictly to less than 1 minute per dice. That’s difficult for experienced players but with relative newcomers (though experienced wargamers) and units like the Black Guard that was going to be a problem.

We persevered with the format, mostly being scrunched up at one end other than the few Outcasts and a Bomber unit at the other end of the table taking out a D1 drone and an M4 (with the assistance of Fartok and a Mag Cannon and Bomb Flitters). They were then stranded, having to run across the table to join in. That might have worked on a narrower table but in the meantime the Concord were lining up (see photo below) and pouring fire into the Outcast’s flank units. The only saving grace was a hill that blocked line of sight…

Outcast Ghar started taking pins, but few casualties. In return, they were pouring fire into whatever units they could see but nothing would stick at the ranges the Rebels were working at.

‘Get closer’ said Fartok…

Turn 3 saw Bomb Flitters almost take out the pesky X-Launcher and strip it of its spotter, but it still had a crewman left. Elsewhere, strike units kept surviving, but the drones take a beating. A threatening Bomber flank unit took out a strike squad but the pinned bomber unit continued to take fire and rolled an appalling ‘1’ on its Rally dice. It was quickly shot back Down. In the meantime, an exchange of fire took out a flanking Ghar Disruptor then, with a lucky shot, the flanking Outcast Bomber unit suffered a plasma reactor overload cascade: three 10’s on the trot! The unit was destroyed…

In a fit of pique, Black Guard tried to take out the strike squad and failed. Then came a bunch of outcasts who popped out from behind them, fired all 9 luggers (18 dice, close range) and took the strike squad down to one human! The IMTel helped the human shrug off the injuries and it stood on the hill surveying the bent and burning battle suits around it. Another lucky shot and a fail on the ‘Down’ Bombers resulted in another plasma reactor explosion but only one suit was taken out (phew!).

Continued after the gallery…

Then we had to call it a day. Three turns, 3 1/4 hours. Concord had lost 5 units, including the M4 and had two units vulnerable with only one figure left. The Outcasts had lost 2 units, including a Bomber squad, was about to lose its last Bomb Flitter and had a ‘Down’ Bomber squad with a fair few pins.

As always, it had been an enjoyable game and one that was kept alive by the mechanics and the game system. As it was, it might have gone either way: the Rebel Outcasts still had half their army on the other end of the table from the Concord but Fartok was closing in on some vulnerable C3 units in the centre…

However, a number of errors made it – frankly – harder work than it should have been. This is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but the turn rate was just too slow. I’ve mentioned them above but, in summary:

  • To be honest, it was too big a game for the time slot given the experience (most only had 2-3 games under their belts);
  • Never forget that compound units that fire an OH shot and multiple other shots (lance, carbine and mag weapons) take much more time than normal due to the need for hit allocation and different shooting factors. This counts for Black Guard, some Freeborn units and also AI squads;
  • Tectorists are worth their weight in gold. Again;
  • Bomb Flitters are nasty but weren’t too nasty against the M4. They pinned it but it was the Mag Cannon and good old disruptors that made the difference. In small numbers they are annoyances. I’m still on the sidelines whether overloading them will be too much (don’t forget that if they look like they’re in a single unit, they probably are and can be targeted as such);
  • The table was waaay too big, both too wide and too deep, even for 4000 points and loads of infantry on the table. 8′ wide may have helped, perhaps even 7′, but 5′ deep was absolutely the maximum it should have been. That 4′ depth is important from a range perspective;
  • We had 39 dice in one bag at the start of turn 2. To fit it in the time, frankly, I’d have preferred to have two dice bags – as has been suggested elsewhere – and, effectively, two simultaneous games on two separate flanks, switching dice over if units move. It makes some sort of sense with two commanders. However, a ‘single game’ was asked for and this has to be viewed together with the last comment below;
  • With just one shared bag, it was too easy to ignore half the table. A Bomber unit came on one flank, then the remaining Concord reinforcements all deployed on the other flank or from the other table side (the Ghar had bad dice that second turn). Normally this wouldn’t have made any difference and, tactically it made sense as it maximised the C3’s range advantage and isolated some Outcasts. But from a game and speed viewpoint, on the size table we had I’m not so sure it helped;
  • On the upside, that one shared bag did make it game where the Rebels just shared rolls and units (I rolled that 1:10,000 reactor cascade, if you want to know) and felt able to discuss tactics whenever anything developed. The Concord, though they used two forces, also discussed who best to allocate it to each turn.

From a community perspective, the shared bag was a success, even if it slowed down the game and allowed a bunched-up deployment. Further, despite the turn-lag, it was still an enjoyable game, tense, still in the balance and one that produced quite a few laughs.

From a different perspective, lessons were learned on how to run this sort of game in the future. Only this morning I got a suggestion we run something similar on an all-day event… 🙂

*Tim3: We have a shortage of names at the BDAWC . Depending on whether you focus on WWII or SF depends on who regards a Tim as Tim1 or Tim2.

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