Friday, October 18, 2019

The Second Battle of Pithy Gulch

A Headless Body Production 
Location:  Garth's Basement

Event:         Providence Gamer's Game Knight
Game:          All Quiet on the Martian Front
Scenario:      Defend Sappington, Montana
Players:        ??, 98th Brigade, 51st Division
                      Garth Parker, ??  Hive थिलबन्धनात्, Pod जलाद्रक्षेत्तैलाद्रक्षेद्रक्षेच्छि

The Scenario:  Pithy Gulch was one of the 50 or so critical passes through the Rocky Mountains that needed to be held against the invading Martians, to contain them in the central states. 

98th Brigade
4 Towers, 3 units Mk II's, 2 units Mk III's, 2 Infantry Companies, Patton Mk IV, 2 other Mk IV monitors, Tesla Gun, Tesla Mine Layer,  Flame thrower tank, Mobile Howitzers, Heavy Howitzers,  A MG Company, A Motorcycle unit, HQ, Command Tank.  19 units, breakpoint is 10.  Around 3380 points.

Hive थिलबन्धनात्, Pod जलाद्रक्षेत्तैलाद्रक्षेद्रक्षेच्छि
The Overseer, 6 Assault Tripods, 3 Scouts, 5 Units of Drones, a Slaver, a Scientist and Grenadier.  18 units, breakpoint is 9.  Around 3370 points

Victory Conditions: 
Keep the Martians from getting to the town, represented by the coaling station on the lower left side of the board.

Our story so far:
General Schiff's 98th Brigade lay in total ruins.  The field lay obscured in black oil fires of burning vehicles, occasionally brightened by the release of a Martians heat ray.  The last radio communication from the field was over 5 minutes ago.  He scanned the field one last time through the big eyes and saw nothing, he gave the order to evacuate.  An order he knew would result in the death of at least half his brigade, but also life for the other half.

Captain Patton was right, and paid for it with his life.  Schiff was observing his Mk IV when it took a heat ray square on, and  watched the turret blow off.  Damn fine officer.

That old growth forest, which General Schiff relied on to cover his artillery covered the advancing Martians as well.  And did nothing to stop that horrendous sun like ray that ripped through the forest, tanks and the coal bunker in one shot.


The evacuation was chaotic, but wasn't a rout.  No tripods pursued the bedraggled group of humanity.  Amazingly, soldiers from the field caught up with them, and also reported no pursuit.  They crossed another deep stream and entered a wood line, when General Schiff ordered a halt.  Deploying the two surviving 8" guns.  The generators were left behind, but the Tesla's portable generator was more then capable of powering up the transceivers. Standing in the shadow of the fearsome Tesla gun, General Schiff listened to the staccato of the Morse code operators send and receive their messages.

Captain Patton dug out of the hole beneath his ruined tank.  They hadn't heard any skittering of drones for hours, and the ulas of the major war machines since dusk.

The full moon cast eerie shadows over the battlefield.  Muting the colors, but sharpening the details.  About a mile off, stood the huge tripod, code named "Overseer".  Still and silent it stood, but there was motion around it.  "So they haven't left." he thought,  "Probably recovery machines while their damn war machines ran General Schiff's army to the ground." 

"All right men, lets scavenge what we can.  Some weapons, but food and canteens are a priority.  I don't know how long it will be before we will enjoy a hot meal again."  

They were about a mile up into the mountains, when they heard a racket from whence they came.  Looking back, there was a rising pile of dust, but of the Overseer, there was nothing.  He scanned the field with his Bausch and Lombs.  "Well I'll be!"  He passed the binoculars to the next man.

"What happened to it sir?"

"It collapsed!  Look at it, and those smaller tripods are assault tripods, not recovery machines."

They watched as the tripods gathered up the debris of their now collapsed companion, and dragged them back up into the gulch.

"What's it all mean sir?"

"It means we won, I don't know how, but we won, it looks like we won't be missing too many hot meals after all."  And with that, he lead his men back down the mountain.

The 99th brigade replaces the 98th, taking up positions and wait for the return of the Martian.
Our reporter and photographer were killed during the battle, and this is what was scrounged from their bodies.

This time, monitor tanks are behind the high mountain, with II's and III's being offered as bait behind the concrete walls.

The Martians arrive and destroy only a single Mk II tank and two turret guns.  The Americans damage two Tripods, when suddenly one assault tripod explodes!

The Martians win the initiative on turn 2, routing a tank platoon.

The American guns were well aimed and the shells were coming fast.  One assault tripod takes a hit, then another, then explodes!
Then the Overseer is attacked.  The Tesla penetrates and damages it. Followed by Patton's tank, then a turret gun, then a Mk III, then a critical hit by a MkIII.  The overseer has one critical hit and has it

It makes the explosion of another Assault tripod by the flame tank anti-climatic by comparison. 

That's 3 tripods down, to 1 platoon of tanks.
With so many tripods destroyed, the Americans are revitalized and renew their efforts.  Another tank hits the Overseer, causing a critical, then two MG companies release a total of 18 shots on the Overseer, 9 hits, all penetrate for +4 on the damage charts.
Causing the required 3 criticals on the Overseer, and for the first time, one is brought down.

Like the first battle, another tripod tries to sneak through the old growth forest, but unlike the first, it to is reduced to rubble. 

A monitor tank lines up its 7" gun on a scout tripod.  A direct hit!  The relatively thinner armor cannot resist the impact of 150 pound shell traveling at high subsonic speeds, and it to detonates.

Scorpion drones, race through a mine field, tripping one, which cascades to another, and then to the minelayer itself.  Another Mk II is destroyed, but the platoon holds firm.
Another tripod burst out of the trees, heat ray sweeping ineffectively.  Another monitor tank barks it's heavy round, another hit.  The tripod figure detonates, it's blast wave tearing through the concrete walls of the fortifications.  Heavy fragments strike man and machine, ruining a heavy gun and tank. 
And then, as one, the remaining martians turn and silently moved away.  To the disbelief of the surviving Americans.  It was not a rout, just an acceptance that they were not going to lose more machines this day, and will return again, and again, until victory is achieved.

Brigadier Mahan looked through the big eyes in disbelief.  Seeing the martians at nearly point blank range with these lenses brought them into horrifying focus.  The gunnery of his men was impeccable.  He was unsure, but followed General Schiff's recommendations to follow the suggestions of Captain Patton and ordered massive firing exercises.  Expending ammunition at a precipitous rate.  But it paid off.  His stocks were now at a critical level, but his brigade was nearly unscathed.  Losses included only 5 tanks and one large gun.  Barely a company of men.   

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Forcing of Pithy Gulch

A Headless Body Production 
Location:  Garth's Basement

Event:         Providence Gamer's Game Knight
Game:          All Quiet on the Martian Front
Scenario:      Defend Sappington, Montana
Players:        Bruce Potter, Scott Landis,Anthony Glancatarino, Dan Lerch, 98th Brigade, 51st Division
                      Garth Parker, Phil Gardocki,  John Forsyth, Hive थिलबन्धनात्, Pod जलाद्रक्षेत्तैलाद्रक्षेद्रक्षेच्छि

The Scenario:  Pithy Gulch was one of the 50 or so critical passes through the Rocky Mountains that needed to be held against the invading Martians, to contain them in the central states.  If the Martians destroy the coaling station, the next fight will be at a deficit due to a shortage of coal.

98th Brigade
4 Towers, 2 units Mk III's, 2 units Mk II's, 2 Infantry Companies, Patton Mk IV, 2 other Mk IV monitors, Tesla Gun, Tesla Mine Layer,  Mobile Howitzers, Heavy Howitzers,  A MG Company, A Motorcycle unit, HQ, Command Tank.  18 units, breakpoint is 9.

Hive थिलबन्धनात्, Pod जलाद्रक्षेत्तैलाद्रक्षेद्रक्षेच्छि
The Overseer, 5 Assault Tripods, 3 Scouts, 5 Units of Drones, a Slaver, a Scientist.  18 units, breakpoint is 9.

I realize there are missing units in the lists, I'll see if I can find them as I write.

Victory Conditions: 
Keep the Martians from getting to the town, represented by the coaling station on the lower left side of the board.

Our story so far:
In the far west, the Martians have been held back by a series of fortifications at strategic locations in the various passes, ravines and gorges. Concrete has been the greatest ally against the Martian as it was nearly indestructible to heat rays.  And though plentiful, there was never enough.  While losing any state was politically unacceptable to Theodore Roosevelt, the concrete factories of Portland and Benicia were considered of strategic importance.    

"Sir, he has arrived."  The lieutenant stood at perfect attention waiting for his commanders response. 

"He has a name Harmon, just like everyone else.  We don't need to mystify Captain Patton like some cheap dime store novel villain."

"Yes Sir!  Captain Patton has arrive with a platoon of those new Mk IV steam tanks, they are unloading at the depot now."

"So the mighty Captain Patton has descended from Mount Olympus to our pithy corner of the world, and he has brought Zeus's own lightning?"

The lieutenant stood, unresponsive.

The General got up, and paced to a corner of the tent, looking at the maps displayed there.  "And why is it that a captain rates so much special attention?  A private train, an entourage, of special armored vehicles, and apparently the ability to replace field commanders at his whim."

"Sir, he apparently is from a wealthy military family and it is said that he pays for the trains out of his own pocket."

"And that explains how a mere captain has more power of independent action then most Generals.  No, there is something else.  He is not just some spoiled rich kid from a spoiled family."

From the rear of the tent bellowed, "Maybe he has bailed out of more burning tanks then you have seen battles, General."

General Schiff turned to see the new arrival.  An officer wearing a freshly pressed uniform, and standing at parade ground attention with perfect salute.  General Schiff threw a return salute, and the officer adopted a perfect parade rest position.

"Captain Patton, I heard you had just arrived."

"I arrived last night, General, and was getting the lay of the land.  My tanks arrived this morning."

That was disturbing.  "And what have you seen?"

"Your men are well trained on their individual units, but need more work coordinating with others.  You have covering forces on both exit points of the gulch, but your forces covering one gulch cannot support the other if need be, lending itself to being defeated in detail.  There is a patch of old growth forest obscuring the view of then nearest exit point to your command which renders your operations and heaviest artillery combat ineffective.  Lastly, you have a coal bunker without suitable sprinkler systems that could explode after receiving a minor hit from a heat ray."  With that, the captain came to attention, and saluted, "Sir."

The lieutenant's face, turned bright red, and shouted back, "Those woods provide excellent cover for our heaviest forces, Allowing us to rain shells on the Martian without retaliation, and we will have plenty of time to adjust our forces when once we see where they are coming from!"

It was Captain Patton's turn to turn a little pink in the face.  He gave the General a raised eyebrow as an unspoken query.  The General made an affirmative gesture, and the captain faced the lieutenant.

"Lieutenant, I am not going to argue my credentials, but to say I have seen the Martian in action, and you obviously have not.  That old growth forest is going to provide excellent cover, for the Martian, and when they have used it, your best weapons will be useless scrap metal.  And how will you know they are coming?  When you see them?  That is way too late, do you know how fast those 3 legged jackasses move?  The time from sighted to burned to a crisp is under 2 minutes.  How are you going to react to that?  Where are your air craft?  I haven't seen one all morning."

"They have a 25% loss rate.."

"And that should tell you something.  That's one or two men.  When the Martians come, that will be the casualty rate for the whole division.  Then what?  If they break through here, then what is your casualty rate then?"

He faced the General.  "General, I have noticed there is an attitude among the General Staff, that winning the war is inevitable.  That we have stopped them and now we just need to build up forces.  We have the numbers.  That attitude isn't worth a donkey schlong sausage.  How many Martians do you think there are on the Planet?  Today?"

"Estimates are just over 5,000, about 1,000 capsules and 5 Martians each."

The captain took a deep breath, calming him self, "General, we have killed at least 7,000 Martians so far in this war.  That is just the USA, and no telling how many the British, Russians, and Japanese have killed.  What does that tell you?"

"The estimates are wrong?"  The General paled somewhat.

"General, the number of capsules shot to Earth is probably correct +/- 50%, no one really knows.  Do you know how the Martians breed?  I do, the egg heads call it binary fission, or budding or some such.  One Martian becomes 2, and both Martians have the same memories of the original.  EVERY.  GOD. DAMN. YEAR.  They have been in the hinderlands for who knows how many years before they showed themselves.  So again I ask, how many are there?  1912, 10,000, 1913 20,000, 1914 40,000, 1915 almost 100,000 of the bastards.  And they have industry, I have been in their hives, I have seen their fabrication facilities.  Their ability to turn out war machines is totally automated, put rocks in a hopper, and a tripod emerges.  It makes Henry Ford's moving conveyor belt look like look like a cave man chipping away at a a spear-point."

"General, I am here because we have to stop them here, and everywhere, because with their mobility, if the penetrate anywhere, they will be able to send a thousand of those bastards in our rear before we could react, and the west coast will be lost."

"General, I am here because I have seen the most action of any tanker in the army, and I know what works and have seen what doesn't.  I'm not a general, because I haven't earned it, and Generals have to be more worried about logistics and stuff, I only need to know how to fight.  You have a good killing field here, lets make it a great killing field."

The Martians have two entry points on the board.  The standup cardboard markers represent fortifications.  By house rules we charge 2 points per linear inch.  For tanks, the forts only add +1 to hit, +1 to armor.

Pithy Gulch, far exit points.  Tanks and a tower defending.
Close to the nearer gulch exit point, a concrete wall and two Mk Monitor Tanks.
Nearest to the coaling station, more concrete, tanks, including a flame thrower model
The far gulch is suddenly swarming with tripod figures.

The nearer gulch is also filled, It is an Overseer, with the rest of the tripods squeezed in.
Early shots disable the forward guns of two towers.

The humans focus their guns on the Overseer, chiseling the armor. and causing a mobility hit.
From the command area steam tanks pull out, lead by the Tesla gun.
Turn 2:
The humans lose the initiative and move second.

Using the Overseer as an umbrella, an Assault Tripod slides underneath.

Heat rays continue to slash at the tower.
A pair of heat rays reach out and destroy a pair of Mk IV's
Captain Patton gets to bail out of another tank!
A wounded tripod works his way through the old growth forest.

8" shell falling all round, the remain Martians in the nearer gulch spread out to avoid cascade explosions.
We discovered a special rule regarding the Heavy Howitzers.  They should have a 9" bombardment circle, but only a 4" is used, and for each additional inch, a plus is added to the power.  So Heavy Howitzers actually bombard with a + 9 power, rendering their armor almost useless.

The replying shots from the humans bounces off of Martian armor.

An 8" round plummets through the Overseer, reducing it's armor to 2!

Tanks and Tesla both cause armor hits on the Tripod in the verge.
Turn 3:
An Assault Tripod on a suicide run. 

The heat ray sweeps the Heavy Howitzers, melting one.

His armor useless, and a critical hit taken, the pilots of the Overseer drops their load of drones.
  Also, it fires the dreaded "Sunbeam", destroying the Flame Thrower tank,, leaving a 4 foot hole through a defense tower and damaging the coal station.
The Human Mobile artillery is routed, but a tripod is taken down by brute force.
Turn 4:
The humans win the initiative and elect to move first.

It's a chip shot, but somehow all of them miss.  But long range shots take the Overseer down to armor of 1 and destroys one of it's heat rays.

The view from the coal station.  The Martians have a great turn.  The rones take out a platoon of tanks, a pair of tripods sweep a hidden Machine-Gun company out of existence, while green gas turns another company to goo.
That's 8 units so far.

The far gulch is now bereft of targets for the Martian
So to, the center of the board is short on targets.

And with that, we called the game on time.  Technically there was one human unit left needed for a win, but so far, the Martians only had one tripod killed, so the win seemed inevitable.

George rapidly dropped out of the escape hatch, and with a practiced roll to the right, just stopping short of his driver in the dirt.  Two of his gunners were already in the dirt on the left side of the tank.  Two of his boilermen followed. 

Off in the distance, the bottom of tripod figures could be seen. 

"They look in pursuit mode." commented Captain Patton.  "Lets bunker down here."  Within a few minutes there was nothing to be seen from under the still burning Mk IV but dirt. 

"Captain, they got the coal bunker, so, even if we got the fire out, we won't have enough coal to get out of here."

"I don't don't think we're riding out of her Tom, this place is going to be infested with the three legged bastards."

"The radio got clipped, Captain, we might have a shot at fix'en it if the fire hadn't reached the command space."

"That won't help us either Mack, no help is going to answer that call.  I'm afraid we are on our own."

"We'll wait for dark and break out of this huddle, then after a taking a ferocious piss, we'll gather what we can and head over the mountains.  It's going to be a hard hike..."

Sunday, August 11, 2019

First Flight, Tripods and Triplanes

A Headless Body Production
Location:  Regency at Providence Community Center, Phoenixville, Pa
Event:       Providence Gamer's Game Knight
Game:      Tripods & Triplanes
Scenario: Basic
Players:    Phil Gardocki running Baron von Richthofen in his classic Fokker DR1 Triplane. Bruce Potter running Navarre in a highly modified Nieuport. Joe Contegiacomo running Rickenbacker in a Spad XIII.
                  Steve Turn and Scott Landis running the evil and vile Martians

The Scenario:  Two Martian war machines are encountered during a training exercise where the top pilots of 3 nations were trying to figure out how to work together.  Shot down aircraft are replaced on the following turn.

Victory Conditions:
Destroy both tripods before they can shoot down 3 aircraft.

The Tripods start on one edge of the map, the planes fly in on the other.  There are four large facilities on the board that the Martians can convert into energy.
The Tripod figures are gorgeous and horrible at the same time.
Their detail is exquisite. 
The WWI aircraft are straight from the Wings of War collection. 
The scale is 1:144.  For the record All Quiet on the Martian Front is 1:100 (aka HO, aka 18mm, nee "heroic" 15mm)
So you can get away with the planes in AQMF, but the Tripods are way too small.

The Martians advance to the closest abandoned facilities.
The Red Baron appears to ignore the plan to gang up on one of the tripods and vectors in on one.  Rickenbacker and Navarre line up on the other.
One tripod farts out a cloud of black dust.
The black dust is a low grade area of effect weapon.  It's placement follows a template for positioning, but is still very flexible with targeting.  When a plane hits the cloud, it draws a hit card, but the cloud is dispersed.
The Baron is in long range range, and fires his machine guns.  The Martian fires his heat ray. 
Damage is in the form of drawn cards.  A machine gun shot causes the Martian to draw a card from pile 'A'.  The heat ran causes the Baron to draw a card from pile 'X'.  A's are the weakest cards.
The Baron lines up for a shot on the other tripod.
Movement is preplanned and simultaneous.  If the stands overlap, like the above, then they are too close and cannot shoot at each other.
However, that does not prevent the other tripod from shooting it's heat ray.  The card drawn was an explosion, and the Red Baron goes down in flames. 
The Nieuport and the Spad are both much faster than the Fokker Triplane, and their players are new to the game system, and have not been able to get any shots in.

One tripod farts another cloud of black dust.  Right in the path of Rickenbacker's Spad.
Rickenbacker avoids the cloud, while Navarre does an Immelmann turn.  Steve reported his Martian stomped the hell out of the triplane on the way by.
The tripod fires his heat ray, but Rickenbacker is way out of arc.
Each tripod has a number of energy points.  Firing their weapons expends energy, as does taking hits on their shielded sides, the sides and rear.  They can recover their energy by being stationary, or from the buildings below.  Also, their weapons have recharge rates, and cannot be fired in adjacent phases.

Navarre has been trying to get a shot in all game.  Here he is out of range.
Another Fokker arrives over the field.
The Spad is also having trouble lining up shots, or even staying on the board.
Finally, a shot!  Navarre's Nieuport has two packs of rockets, and fires them all!  The Martian draws 2 'D' cards.
D's are the best cards we have.
Another nuance is the players draw their damage cards, but do not have to reveal them except in specific circumstances.

When two planes over lap, one is represented by a card, the other a figure.  The Martian draws 4 'A' cards for damage as these are at short range.
I am thinking King Kong here.
Breaking off to set up another fly-by
Navarre catches a mouth full of black dust and goes down.
Things are looking grim.  Two live, albeit damaged tripods, but they only need to shoot down one more plane to win.
And they have decided to focus on the Fokker. 
Another respawn.  A Nieuport with rocket packs.
The Fokker pilot disperses a cloud of black dust.  The Nieuport lines up his rockets. 
The Fokker, with it's clockwise spinning rotary engines, could make astonishing tight right turns.  Two more 'A' damage cards for the tripod. 
The French Nieuport launches both rocket packs. 
Scratch one tripod!
We killed it twice.  It had taken it's 18 points of damage AND drew an explosion card.
3 on one, but all the planes are damaged, and the rockets, contrary to the counters you see, have been expended.
The Spad is trapped in the corner.
But manages to escape.  The Tri-plane gets too eager and too close for it's shots. 
Don't fire until you see the white of it's eye.
Too close, neither can shoot.

The tripod seems to be heading for friendly territory.  The planes all look like a good setup for the next set of strafing runs.
But the back of the tripod has "Shields"  As long as it has energy, it cannot be hurt from the rear unless he draws a very unlucky card from the damage deck.

Rickenbacker gets two 'A' hits, one with +1 damage.  But this is against the shields, so the Tripod loses what turns out to be one point of energy.

The tripod turns on his tormentors.  Receiving machine gun fire both front and back.  His energy is depleted, so all the shots count.  Rickenbacker tries another trick.  He throws an anchor and chain out the cockpit and tangles a leg! 

What does anchor and chain do?  If you meet all the conditions, and they are painful to work out, this:
This is for Bruce, who hasn't seen any Star Wars movies.

And a note to all my readers, I won't be doing that again.  I find gif's really annoying.
We didn't need the chain, as smoke started emitting from a half a thousand 7.92mm holes.
This is a fun game.  I look forward to playing it again.