Monday, 20 March 2017

My first Alien Squad Leader AAR

Yesterday my Human Imperial army, of Ground Zero Games 15mm infantry and vehicles, had its first outing on the table at the club. My opponent was Alex Self, the author of the Alien Squad Leader rules, so I approached this game with some trepidation. His army was one made up from the Victorian Imperial list, which represents the troops of a human empire whose formerly advanced technology has gone into decline, but whose troops are subjected to a regime of iron discipline.

The objective of the battle was to take and hold a particular location, identified here as the "Production Centre". In the end, the attacking side (me) was unable to achieve this, although I did manage to cause a lot of casualties on Alex's army, for the loss of much of my basic Stormtrooper infantry. Poor command dice rolls by me also led to my tanks being immobile for a fair part of the game. The "Victorian discipline" rule helped Alex on several occasions, allowing him to re-roll failed command dice throws. 

My heavy battle droid, despite early success against the artillery on Alex's right flank also suffered from rubbish dice-itis when I really needed it to knock out his gunboats and the infantry in the main built-up area which was my objective.

To illustrate the battle, I have put together a narrative that explains why the two armies came to fight one another.

 Long ago, this region of the galaxy was under the control of The Neo-Solar Autarky (NSA), a human empire whose ships ranged far and wide across dozens of star systems, exploiting the resources of countless worlds and bringing them under the paternalistic rule of the imperial government. Hundreds of planets were ruled by colonial governors whose rule was imposed by the brute force of battle-hardened regiments of disciplined troops, backed up by massive war machines of frightening power and complexity. However, absolute power brought complacency and, over the centuries, the knowledge of the technology behind the machinery was lost and the technologists of the empire were forced to admit that they could no longer build new weapons of the same complexity, nor even maintain the weapons that remained. Therefore the giant factories on the imperial industrial planets found simpler ways to build weapons systems and the empire maintained itself using cruder methods, relying on the stern traditions of the regimental system, draconian drill and discipline and massed formations. Against the primitive planetary populations of humans and aliens of the empire, these methods worked, but the decline continued. 

Eventually, younger human societies, possessing newer and more advanced technologies and using superior weaponry began to make inroads into the imperial domains, planets were lost and systems began to break away from imperial control. One of the most aggressive and expansionist of these new societies was the Third Human Condominium (3HC), whose leaders saw the decaying Autarky and proclaimed that their mission was to free the subject peoples of the empire from the iron boot of tyranny. The opportunity to exploit the resources of the NSA's planetary systems was, naturally, never mentioned.

This AAR covers just one raid by 3HC forces against an NSA production facility on an agricultural colony world. 

 Commandant Henry Fortescue-Smythe's family had centuries of military tradition in the service of the Benign Autarch. He himself had fought aliens and humans alike, defending the empire against pirates, raiders and insurgents. Now, his latest posting was to the grain-belt planet of Hospar IV. Three days before, a corvette of the Imperial Navy had brought news of a raiding fleet from one of the upstart worlds approaching the planet and now he knew that the planet's Fourth Production Centre was the target. He concentrated his troops around the target site and awaited the raiders. He had powerful ironclad land cruiser tanks, artillery batteries, hover gunboats, massed regiments of infantry and his beloved cavalry, mounted on their marvellous mechanical steeds. He even had a unit of troops in the latest clanking mechanical armour, sure to vanquish all before them.

His initial deployments filled him with confidence. His command post, together with his line troops and the armoured mechanicals, was located in the central production facility itself, surely the main target for the upstart pirates.

His cavalry and gunboats took up their positions in a wooded area;

The mighty ironclads supported by massed artillery batteries held his left flank;

And skirmishers and more artillery held his right, taking over a barracks block for agricultural slaves;

Meanwhile, the 3HC strike-force deployed to the south of the main facility. Force commander Brigadier Natasha Franklin, secure in her armoured command vehicle took up position in a wood, supported by a unit of powerful heavy weapons.

To her left, stormtrooper infantry and power-armoured jump-pack marines were supported by the fearsome fire-power of a Vanquisher class heavy battle droid.

To her right Goliath main battle tanks waited to unleash their weaponry on the forces of the corrupt and decadent imperialists.

In the centre, some of the 3HC stormtroopers and the marines advanced towards a ridge, known as the Razorback to the south of the target site.

Fortescue-Smythe's mechanical cavalry clanked into action, piston joints creaking in the light of the rising sun. His gunships waited for the coming onslaught.

Brigadier Franklin's  left wing stormtroopers advanced to take up position in a built-up area around a storage silo complex. A road stretched northwards towards the barracks block occupied by imperial troops.

Initial exchanges of fire led to the destruction of the artillery on the imperial right, but their cavalry, supported by skirmishing infantry forced the 3HC stormtroopers back from their positions. The fighting around the storage complex would continue throughout the battle, eventually leading to the loss of most of the clanking robo-nags (as the 3HC troops called the brave and impetuous imperial horse).

Many buildings were destroyed, but eventually the marines of the 3HC managed to gain control over this flank of the battlefield. Despite some appallingly poor firing from the Battle Droid, no doubt caused by some kind of NSA jammer mechanism interfering with its targeting software, the threat of the giant machine was sufficient to occupy the NSA gunboats, whose weapons were unable to cause any damage to it.

In the centre, the battle for the Razorback was long and bloody, with the imperial armoured mechanicals being an early casualty, but eventually the 3HC troops won and forced their enemies off of the heights and into the valley below, where they were destroyed by massed fire.

On Brigadier Franklin's right, the Goliath MBTs destroyed the massed artillery of the NSA but were then assaulted by Fortescue-Smythe's hulking ironclads, spewing fire from their guns and oily smoke from their exhausts. Eventually, these primitive behemoths managed to delay the progress of the superior 3HC tanks sufficiently to prevent them from driving forwards to take control of the battlefield.

A final assault by 3HC infantry, supported by marines was unable to dislodge the Autarky's troops from the Production Centre and Brigadier Franklin was forced to recall her troops from combat. 

So, a pretty tense battle in the end. My technological superiority wasn't really enough to neutralise Alex's army, even though I did manage to knock out a lot of his troops. It was interesting that the threat of his tanks and massed artillery on my right was enough to stop me pushing my tanks into the gap between the two hilly areas, from where they would have been able to fire on the objective. I just couldn't risk losing them. In the centre and on my left, both combats pretty much descended into a meat-grinder slog, which went my way in the end but still wasn't enough to take the objective. 

In the end, we ran out of time.