Ryu was told that I was taking nothing but hovertanks. He disappeared into his room and played with Gear Grinder for ages before asking what the biggest AT missile I had on a painted model was... I told him that it was the Tusked Naga and he walked away with a grin... uh oh...
The PRDF contained two squads with some southern allies attached. His plan was to turtle up and try to crack the CEF tanks one at a time. Using the Peace Officer Corps sub list allows for some southern armour crackers to back up the already impressive selection of bazookas - as well as providing free light grenades to the vanguards and reduced cost medium grenades to the CO. The greyhound command gears that would have completed this list are ordered but haven't arrived yet! The strike squad has a CO Warrior IV backed up by a Scourge Warrior IV and Scourge Warrior. Two Vanguard Warriors and a Sweeper Warrior round out the squad along with an attached Chatterbox Iguana for forward observation. The Fire Support squad has a Cataphract leading it. He is backed up by an Argos and a Demolisher Crusader IV. A Tusked Naga is attached to help crack the armour that is coming their way.
A quick play with Gear Grinder the other day gave me this nasty thought - it's almost as though Dave McLeod might have planned it this way - 6 tanks with a "Supreme Commander" and "XO" upgrade equal exactly 150 points! I could see that this has many downsides (no comms, ECM, or even much anti-infantry) but with the heavy armour and huge guns it looked like it would be entertaining! The Medium Tank squad (Artillery Squad) contains the CO in a standard MHT-95. He's backed up by a pair of MHT-95s with support packs. The Light Tank squad's leader is in a standard MHT-95 and is accompanied by a pair of Assault MHT-95s.
We rolled up a five turn game and set to deciding on mission selection. The PRDF wanted to turtle as hard as possible so hold (primary), wipe them out (the CO's Artillery Squad), and recon were chosen. The CEF then discovered another weakness to this list! Very limited mission choices! Luckily the MHT-95 is able to be LT or MT so they chose Wipe them out twice (the strike squad being primary) and capture. We decided on the scene being a continuation of our last game;
The wounded PRDF commander and the remnants of his team ran from the pursuing CEF forces for days before finally getting a message through to their comrades. Their communications also reached the ears of a nearby southern garrison who were eager to avenge the death of their heroic friend in the King Cobra. The arrival of southern reinforcements encouraged the beleaguered PRDF forces, however the iguana scout that accompanied came with grave news - the CEF frames were licking their wounds inflicted by the last battle, but had sent their heavy tank forces against them instead. The PRDF and southern forces converged on a small, forested area hoping that the woods would dissuade the tanks from advancing too close and waited. A loss here would see the CEF with an open route to Peace River.
The CEF won the roll for initiative after a creepily weird 4 re-rolls (we managed to roll the same number on three dice four times!) and chose to deploy on the open edge and avoid the forest entirely. The table had many roads, but with the huge amount of AT weapons on the PRDF side of the table, using them would likely end in pain. The CEF made a huge mistake and deployed the CO away from the two Support MHT-95s, forgetting the terrible EW 6+ that they'd have to use for comms tests. The PRDF huddled in the forest and waited for the tanks to enter optimum range.
The CEF won initiative and came out swinging - the free movement at the start of the game conferred by the tank sub list and their usual 6" hover movement meant that an Assault Pack MHT-95 had a clear shot down a street at the PRDF strike squad. The heavy grenade launcher hammered the Scourge Warrior IV for two damage (the PRDF commander re-rolled dice that would have resulted in the gear being killed!) and caused a crippling 4 damage to the Sweeper Warrior. It then opened fire on the same targets with its rocket packs. The Scourge Warrior IV narrowly escaped death burning another command point to re-roll another roll that would have killed it - ending up dodging the rockets completely. His brother Support HVT-95 spotted the Chatterbox Iguana trying to remain inconspicuous in the forest and fearing the combination of its target designator and the Tusked Naga, he focused on killing it - the heavy grenade launcher critically wounding the gear on only a margin of success 1! The squad leader's rocket packs finished off the scout with his rocket packs before turning his rail gun on the Cataphract - only to have the massive gear strider nimbly dodge out of his sights.
Chuffed that the Crusader IV had survived the first enemy activation (something of a novelty!) he ran forward and popped an ineffective shot at the Support MHT-95 with his snub cannon. The Argos took aim at the XO's MHT-95 and managed to causing a glancing hit with his rotary cannon.
The Naga - deprived of his spotter had to make do with his own sensor booms. He spotted the Support MHT-95 that had hammered the strike squad and the Argos chained his standby order as well - but both shots missed their mark. The CO MHT-95 snap fired at the Naga causing 1 damage with his rail gun. Until now, the PRDF commander had always favored gunlines and staying in cover so I didn't foresee what came next - the Cataphract broke into a run, covering the distance to the closest hovertank as he drew back his enormous sword. Using both actions, he cleaved seven hitpoints from the defenseless hovertank, crippling it!
Realising that the combat prowess of the gears was a major advantage, the hovertanks were in a sticky situation - they needed to advance on the objectives, but ran the risk of being carved up by vibroblades! The CEF artillery tanks activated next and opened fire on the strike squad's heavily fortified position - the medium artillery guns and rocket packs did their job with the Scourge Warrior IV being crippled and the Sweeper Warrior being killed by the high explosive barrage.
The PRDF strike squad was left with no doubts that they needed to get out of their current position before the artillery guns got a chance to repeat last turn's carnage. The cripple Scourge Warrior IV braced to take aim at the Support MHT that the Cataphract had abused and knocked it out with a bazooka round. The Cataphract was happy for his new heavy cover! The rest of the Warriors scuttled around firing at the CEF CO with little effect as they found safer places to hide.
The PRDF sigh with relief after winning the initiative roll and immediately get to work with the strike squad. They break cover and some gears begin pumping ECM defence to cover them from the hovertanks as they advance (fittingly the model is flipping the bird at the tank). The Scourge Warrior IV scans the MHT that he shot down as other squad mates unsuccessfully attempt to fry the CEF CO's sensors. The Squad leader uses the evade order to make the gears that didn't advance a little harder to hit.
The CEF assault squad activates next and the XO takes a cheeky shot across the battlefield while backing up - catching the vanguard from behind before it can engage the CO. The railgun misses due to ECM interference but the laser cannon manages to hit for three damage! The surviving Assault MHT-95 backs up, firing at the crusader as it goes, causing two damage with some very ordinary rolling.
The PRDF fire support squad activates next and goes hard after the assault squad in front of them, trying to secure the objective point. The Crusader's snub cannon fails to damage the XO, but he pulls closer to use his axe. The Argos causes a point of damage on the XO with his rotary cannon. His rocket pack misses the XO but hits the Assault MHT beside it causing three damage! The Cataphract takes aim at the XO and cripples him with three damage from his rail gun before activating his own ECM defences. The Naga hits a Support HVT-95 for a point of damage with a heavy anti tank missile to finish off the activation.
The CEF artillery see the Cataphract as the biggest threat and go after him. Between the two artillery guns and laser cannons they manage to cause a whopping five damage and cripple the monster. The CO, realising that between the evade order, the close proximity of the gears and their ECM defence, his weapons were unlikely to hit solidly - and chose to do something unconventional - he rammed the vanguard that was providing ECM cover (and flipping the bird). The cheeky little bugger passed all of the piloting rolls but two and as the vehicle had not been at top speed this meant only two damage to the vanguard and none to the tank.
Turn 3The CEF won the initiative roll and in order to avoid retribution from the strike squad had to activate the CO's artillery squad first. The CO backed up, hammering the Scourge Warrior for three damage with his laser cannon. The PRDF commander was heard to remark "don't you dare" as the CEF commander measured the distance between the closest Support MHT-95... and declared another ram move. This time, at top speed the poor gear became a speed bump, taking four damage. The hovertank didn't leave unscathed though, taking two damage itself - the final revenge of the cheeky, bird flipping gear!
The PRDF fire support squad activated next and tried to finish off the CEF assault squad. The Demolisher Crusader IV moved up and took a swing at the Assault MHT, but only managed one damage. The return snap fire from the MHT's laser cannon crippled the gear, causing three damage.
Here, a flaw in the setup of the CEF army became apparent - lack of comms and very low EW skill meant that command points were unreliable when not in formation. The Argos and Cataphract opened fire on the damaged Assault squad. The Argos caused a point of damage on the XO, making him burn his command point. The Cataphract took aim at the same tank and fired - ending up with a margin of success of 4! The CEF CO tried to react with a command point to save his XO but failed the roll. The snap fire from the XO missed the Cataphract and there was much mumbling about lack of satellite coverage!
The last remaining tank from the Assault Squad tried to avenge his brothers by firing at the Cataphract. Hopes were high as the Cataphract rolled dismally, but the tank wasn't much better! The Cataphract had access to a command point and rolled high enough to avoid the damage - the CEF CO managed to again fail the comms roll to get a command point to his friend and the roll stood - no damage to the hulking beast. The PRDF strike squad, hoping to emulate the success of their fire support brothers moved against the artillery squad. After initially failing an ECM attack on a Support MHT-95, the Scourge Warrior and Scourge Warrior opened fire on it and scored a point of damage each, crippling another tank. The PRDF CO opened fire with his rocket pack and caused another point of damage on the almost wrecked tank and overkilled the wrecked PRDF gear it was hiding behind (after turning it into a speed bump).
Turn 4The initiative roll goes to the PRDF and the strike squad goes after the hover tanks in front of them. The shooting begins with the Scourge Warrior and the Support MHT-95 firing at each other - both crippled machines are knocked out!
The CEF turned to the last remaining Assault MHT-95 from the assault squad. Down the road the Scourge Warrior IV and the PRDF CO were clearly visible. The blast from his heavy grenade overkilled the crippled Scourge Warrior IV and caused a point of damage to the Cataphract leaving it on only a single box of damage. Unfortunately the PRDF CO managed to take cover and avoid damage. The rockets arched our from the tank and took out a Vanguard Warrior and again missed the CO. A few rockets found their mark on the Cataphract - but frustratingly the glancing hit failed to take off its last hit box.
Giddy with delight at surviving more than a turn, the Crusader IV took aim at the back of the last Assault MHT-95 with his snub cannon, crippling the tank. The Argos shredded the beleaguered vehicle with his rotary cannon, knocking it out. The Cataphract engages his ECM defence and takes aim at the last Support MHT and nails it for three damage. This results in a cripple result and the CEF CO again tries a comms roll to give his friend a CP... checks the back of his radio and sees that his Morgana Grell subordinates appear to have replaced it with a toy one...
The Tusked Naga takes aim at the crippled Support MHT and swats it out of the sky. The CEF CO finishes off the turn with an impressive amount of ones rolled for shooting at the Naga.
Turn 5Going into the last turn, the writing is on the wall for the CEF. They do however, win the initiative allowing them to do something before meeting their end! In an act of pure spite, the CEF CO backs up and takes aim at the crippled Crusader IV with his rail gun - killing it. The Cataphract then bears the brunt of his wrath, being knocked out by his rocket packs. Before going down, the monster machine's rail gun lashes out and scores a point of damage on the CO!
The PRDF strike squad (now composed of just the PRDF CO) scan the CEF CO, completing their recon objective. The fire support squad finishes the game with the Naga hitting the CEF CO for one last point of damage, leaving it damaged, but not crippled.
The PRDF convincingly win the day despite heavy casualties! They completed all of their objectives including the casualty objective for 5VP. The CEF only completed their primary objective to wipe out the strike squad. The capture objective proved impossible (brawling gears aren't to be messed with) and they failed to knock out enough gears from the fire support squad (3 wounds from 7). In the end they only ended up with 2VP
Inside the command MHT-95 the squad status indicators blinked out one by one signalling the demise of the CEF forces. The CEF commander found himself alone on the battlefield, low on ammo and with armour piercing rounds impacting the hull of his tank with startling regularity. Knowing the punishment for failure, but seeing no other option he told his driver to retreat...
The cheers broke from the PRDF lines as the hover tank turned and fled. The battered defenders were under no illusion that they had beaten the CEF for good, but knew that they had bought much needed time for reinforcements to arrive -as well as exacting a good deal of vengeance for fallen brothers.
And there you have it - a very messy battle! Lack of comms and EW support make things difficult if you have to spread out. Close combat also proved to be nasty for the CEF as the prevalence of the brawler trait in the PRDF made closing in to claim objectives came with the danger of being engaged in melee. Ramming was nice though - but only against smaller gears - against a Crusader or Argos things may have been different!