Tuesday, 9 November 2021

A new Pocket Army with a Sci-Fi setting.



This is certainly the smallest / cheapest / fastest build of the Pocket Armies series that I have worked on, using 28 miniatures for gaming on a domestic kitchen / dining table sized space.

It comprises of three boxes of Games Workshop figures and an MDF Sewer Grating from Warbases, which collectively, the list prices would cost £78, but I was able to pick them up for £71 (see Resource Section below). The ‘human’ based force is taken from Cadian Shock Troops plus the Sentinel kit (a Walker). The ‘infestation’ comprise of the Tyranid Hormagaunt Brood models.

With relatively few bases to build and the ‘creatures’ being so easy to paint, this makes for a great starter point for getting into the genre or just getting into some fun figure gaming.

The project has been put together for ‘search and destroy’ type scenarios, with just squad / team sized armies per side and the infestation being re-cycled after loss.

The rest of this post is given over to a description to the settings that these figures will be used in, plus the inclusion of a small scenario and a link to a 3 page fast play set of rules, making this project a quick and relatively economic venture to jump into.  

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.


A few years ago, using Pendraken’s 10mm Alien and Marine armies and some home made ‘Seeders’, I put together a small project based around a specialist battalion that dealt with alien incursions. The whole project costs came in somewhere at around £32 and it generated an article based upon three linked scenarios that graced the pages of the Miniatures Wargame magazine.

With this framework already in place, I have borrowed some of that background fluff, together with a lighter version of the home grown rules and put together a small game for testing. The small forces have enabled this to go from idea to table very quickly.

I already had the Walker done, plus two soldiers. It just remained for eight soldiers, twelve Tyranids and the sewer grating to be built up and painted.

The Tyranids were undercoated black, then sprayed white from above to create lower shadow. Over the white went a single Contrast Paint and then the boney skeleton was picked out with Game Workshop’s Ushabti Bone. Some purple went into exposed joints, wounds and tongue etc. That is speed painting!

Background.

The number of ‘Top Secret’ files, marked up as ‘Deimos-Rex’ (meaning King of Terror), have been slowly growing in number at the Bio-Tech Laboratories over the past five years, as sightings of a savage, agile dinosaur type creature have become more frequent around the country. 

The labs already have several specimen bodies, recovered from previous locate and destroy missions, but it has proven impossible to satisfactorily catalogue them to fit within known species. The ‘creatures’, nicknamed ‘Rex’ by the soldiers, are similar to hunting dinosaurs, but their bone structure does not match anything in the fossil record that might indicate a true lineage and some elements of the DNA investigation remain a puzzle to the scientists. Whatever their origin, they have become highly evolved to hunt aggressively and several  more sightings across the UK this summer suggests a potential for successful broader colonisation.

To date there has not been any official public admission to the existence of these strange beings, helped by the fact that there has been a total lack of community based witness accounts, as witnesses simply do not survive contact. Of course, rumours abound, as the unresolved missing persons numbers grow, crime scenes of unexplained violent events become increasingly common and armed soldiers are seemingly playing their wargame exercises in a wider setting! Misinformation abounds.   

It is the nature of these things that money gets thrown at such problems and here the main beneficiary, Bio-Tech Laboratories, working with the military, have secured sufficient resources to create the secretive 1st Bio-Tech Battalion, stationed in an underground complex on Salisbury Plain (UK).

The unit is divided into two wings. The function of the first is research, but in reality this is a weaponisation program. The least said about that, the better.

The second is a military based unit, divided into two companies, Alpha and Beta, with the former, under Captain Meyer, being a surveillance / Intelligence gathering unit, tasked with internet and phone interception to make early identification of localities that may harbour an infestation. They also monitor the electronic systems of other states, which unsurprisingly have been as secretive on the matter as the U.K. 



Alpha’s hacking capability has been significantly enhanced by cutting edge technology based around the new generation of Octavian chips and it is now known that the ‘Rex’ is ensconced in at least five other nations.

Beta Company, under Captain Smith, is at the sharp end. It has three elite strike teams, which can deploy to any UK hot spot identified by Alpha. It is their job to hunt the hunters! 

Organisation and Equipment.

Beta Company is unique within the British Army as not having a command structure between that of the company commander and the individual soldiers.

The company commander simply has three teams at her disposal. Every soldier has coms (audio, visual and health monitoring) and every soldier of each Strike Team is directed personally by Smith from the command vehicle, resulting in a highly co-ordinated and effective force, where under one authority, the Strike Teams can operate together on a single battlefield or be deployed to multiple situations located hundreds of miles apart.

Smith’s command vehicle, a converted APC, is nicknamed Horus, due to its all seeing capability. From the outside it still looks like one of the new models from the Ranger series, but the inside had been totally gutted and crammed full of electronics. The crew of 7 are served by banks of screens keeping them apace with the tactical situation and personal medical condition of each team member. At one end of the cabin, a large 120 cm wall mounted computer screen reveals the Captain’s seating position.

 

The Horus is armed with an RKZ automated weapon system and a supplementary close combat suppression fire unit. If it is ever out of action for any reason, limited command function can be handled by each of the armoured Walkers.

Each strike team has the following assets.

6 Riflemen with the RK10 Assault Rifle, firing both anti-personnel and armour piercing rounds

1 Rifleman with heat sensing and movement detection equipment - this enhances the weaponry of all other team members located within 6” of the equipment.

1 Heavy Assault Rifle (RKZ) with a heavy armour piercing round

1 Flamer

1 Engineer with power saw and Sub Rifle, plus one disposable Rocket Launcher 

1 Walker which is an ‘all terrain’ vehicle with some limited jump capability and armed with a pair of high velocity 30mm cannon. It is also the weapon platform for the laser guided Starburst Missile, but only one such missile is carried per walker.

The company has an airlift capacity to get them to a drop zone based upon a modified design of the army’s large four rotor cargo shifter, affectionately known as Dobbins, because of their workhorse qualities. 

Todays situation

Captain Meyer’s surveillance network had been alerted by the combined use of the vocal keywords ‘monster’ and ‘attacked’. The mobile phone conversations emanated from somewhere near Scatterbridge, a small village in Northern England. Three separate callers had used the 999 emergency system and each call had been terminated within seconds of being answered, but the tell-tale indicators of vocal stress caused by sheer terror and the keywords, were enough to order the immediate deployment of a Beta team.  

Smith always had one team on permanent standby. Team Apache were ordered to ‘load up and move out’. The drop zone was designated a mile outside the village. With her crew of technicians, she activated the Horus and monitored the updates on the large cabin screen, relaying any necessary information and instructions to her soldiers as the data streamed onto her terminal.

By the time they touched down, they knew they were dealing with an infestation of unusual size. Smith had put a second team on stand-by, which was something she had never needed to do before for a deployment to the same location. The Deimos-Rex threat was growing. 

Strike Team Apache left the Dobbin and started to make on foot to the village, approaching from its southern edge, getting the benefit of wooded cover.

“OK - listen up". Captain's Smith voice broke across the distant sound of an explosion coming from the village and entered the earpiece of every soldier. "Alpha are getting reports of multiple Rex sightings, this looks to be something more than just a single emergence. Advance in a column of two’s with the Walker taking point. Avoid the lane, it is too confined. The first objective is to secure the small bed and breakfast farmhouse that sits on the road leading into the village, one of the emergency calls was made from that building”. 



Scenario’s and objectives

Scenario 1 - Objective ‘A’ secure the farmhouse and any civilians located there. Objective ‘B’ secure the village and any civilians located there. Primacy is to destroy any Rex on sight.

Strike Team Apache sets up first at their table edge and up to 7” deep into the table, in double column. All of their bases will start facing towards the opposite end of the table in a formation of the players choosing.



The scenario will generate three ‘emergences’ of Rex.



Emergence 1 - On turn 1, roll a D6 to ascertain whether there is an emergence. On a score of 1 - 3 there is and if so, roll a D3 to establish which storm drain the Rex will emerge from. Then roll D6+5 and this is the number of Rex that will immediately emerge from that location. They are highly aggressive and will always move at maximum speed, without regard for safety, to attack Strike Team Apache in close combat.

If the Rex do not emerge, then emergence is tested at the start of every subsequent Rex player turn.

Emergence 2 - Once all of Emergence 1 are destroyed, roll a D6 in each subsequent Rex Emergence phase until getting a score of 1 - 3, which causes a second emergence. Run the same emergence process as for the 1st emergence to establish Rex numbers and from which storm drain they will emerge, except this time, the number of Rex will be D6+4.

Emergence 3 - Once all of Emergence 2 are destroyed, roll a D6 in each subsequent Rex Emergence phase until getting a score of 1 - 3, which causes a third emergence. Run the same emergence process as for the 1st emergence to establish Rex numbers and from which storm drain they will emerge, except this time, the number of Rex will be D6+3.

Once all three Emergences have been fully destroyed, place 3 wounded Rex in the upper building at the hamlet of Scatterbridge and 3 wounded Rex with a randomly determined storm drain. They behave normally (i.e. must attack etc) except their movement is reduced to 8” and their close combat strength is down to 2D6 against all targets.

Once Rex emerge, they must move at maximum speed towards members of the Strike Team and take every opportunity to attack them. Exception - one Rex per emergence can move directly to a building or storm drain to reclaim it from the Strike Team, even if that location is currently unoccupied. Once it reclaims the objective, it will immediately leave it and move at maximum speed to attack the team.

The scenario ends the moment that the last wounded Rex has been disposed of.

Victory - At the end of the game, total the number of victory points received by either side, the player with the higher number wins.

Strike Team;

+1 VP for each emergence fully destroyed (do not count the final wounded Rex).

+3 For controlling the farmhouse by being the last side to occupy it.

+2 For controlling any one storm sewer by being the last side to occupy it (1 max).

+4 For controlling Scatterbridge by being the last side to occupy one of the buildings.

Rex;

+1 for every foot soldier killed.

+2 for destroying the walker

After Action Report as collated by Captain Smith at the Horus.

Horus to Team Apache - give me 360˚ vision of your position via video cams”

Horus to Team Apache - views clear, I have 11 soldiers with positive vital signs - proceed to the first objective, but avoid the road if possible, it is very confined amongst the hedges”

Walker to Horus - we are under way, switching to wide angled panning view”

Horus to Team Apache - Urgent, you have a large emergence to your immediate left from the storm drain. The system is counting at least 10 lifeforms”.



[There are in fact 11 Rex and this is a very unlucky moment for the team, as this is the most than can emerge and they are so close, the team will be hit before they can put up defensive fire].



Horus to Team Apache - I have lost vital signs for four of the team including your flamer - you must pull back to make space”.

Horus to Team Apache - One more man down, repeat one down - fall back”.



[Above - the team have fallen back to the hedgerow, while putting down very heavy fire].

Walker to Horus - All Rex are down, Eleven in total. We will continue to the farmhouse”.

Horus to Walker - A new emergence directly ahead from Fingles Wood. Deploy the Starlight missile”.

[The Walker is facing the wrong way to fire and the Rex are closing. To get some room, the Walker ‘jumps’ to get the better position, the race is on to fire before the Rex get inside the missile’s minimum range. The rest of the team prepare as the luminous scaly Rex quickly close].



Walker to Horus - Starlight deployed …. on target ….. casualties look to be 50%, the rest are still running towards us”.

Walker to Horus - All Rex down, repeat all Rex down, estimate 10 kills. Proceeding to the farmhouse”.

[The Walker and the five remaining soldiers in the team, press on to the building. What they don’t know is that a third emergence has occurred behind the road as the farmhouse is blocking the view. The Walker has pulled back to give covering fire while the team deal with the farmhouse. The Walker gets a glimpse of movement to the side of the building].



Walker to Apache - Alarm, Rex in close proximity to the left of the building - fall back”.

Horus to Apache - I have three down, including the assault rifle - fall back towards the Walker”.

[The Rex came on at speed! The Engineer used his only disposable rocket, taking one Rex down at range. The Rest just didn’t stop, they moved like they had blood lust].

Horus to Apache - I am showing the Walker down, just two of you standing, Scanners and Engineer - get out of there”.

Horus to Engineer - Scanners is down, it is just you. Make back to the woods, keep moving, I will bring the Dobbin transport in for you”.

Engineer to Horus - all visible Rex down, I am making for the front edge of the woods”.

[The Rex looked spent. This had been the largest sequence of Rex emergence to date, with 30 of the creatures in this one area. The mission had been a failure, there had never been surviving civilians to rescue in the past, so this was no different in that regard, but never had a team been so savaged. The first hand account from the engineer will be important].



Horus to Engineer - I am picking up slow moving Rex to your rear - keep moving, your transport is just three minutes away”.

[Wounded Rex had emerged at Scatterbridge and also from the woods, they could barely keep up with the engineer, but for the first time team Apache, in their short history of Rex encounters, were running away!].      

Conclusion.

A fun game and the pressure was really on the team after that first emergence. It was maximum size (11) and too close for the team to get any fire down before they were attacked.

The Starburst missile helped against the second emergence, but the Walker only carries one of them and needs the space to deploy it. The final emergence, from behind the farmhouse, by chance presented another ambush and that was the straw that broke Apache’s back.

The 'Rex' rules have been run three times now, so even though ongoing tweaking will be necessary, they are fairly stable. The maths of attack / defence seem to be working, with the balance set towards giving the team a tough time and the variables of location / emergence size setting the story.

This initial posting gives the basis for an ongoing narrative of seek and destroy missions against the Rex. As a pocket army pairing, the relatively small investment offers a lot of gaming scope and I am already thinking of some interesting scenarios. Perhaps over time the true nature of the Rex will be revealed!

Future expansion additions to the Pocket Army could include, larger numbers of Rex, a second Strike Team and the Horus Command vehicle, though at this point in time, I am fine with what I have.

The short three page set of rules created to go with this army and used to run the above scenario, are simple, fast play and designed for fun. They can be downloaded from my DropBox (thank you DropBox) at the link provided in the Resource Section below.

Resource Section

Fast play ‘Rex’ rules downloadable from my DropBox. LINK


https://www.dropbox.com/s/3yf2rkgsurr6er0/Rex%20Rules.pdf?dl=0

I bought my figures from. LINK

https://www.wargamestore.com

I bought the sewer grating from Warbases. LINK

https://warbases.co.uk/product-category/buildings/sci-favela/page/2/

Commanders, my sister webspace to this blog, there will be more about the ‘Rex’ posted there. LINK

https://commanders.simdif.com


33 comments:

  1. Well, Norm, this was off on a tangent I had not expected. Looks like you had a good dose of ‘pocket’ fun. Table looks great.

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    1. Hi Jonathan - I have been meaning to do something like this for ages and then a few weeks ago, I saw a box of the brood and decided to go for it. The project is so small, you can go prom purchase to paint to table before the enthusiasm drops.

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  2. Excellent….like Jon I hadn’t expected you to be a 40k gamer, well almost. Good looking fun, it reminds me I need to get my early German zombie painted 😀. Perhaps for Christmas

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    1. Hi Matt, I did dabble with the Space Hulk boardgame years ago, which I liked.

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  3. Wow Norm, never thought this was your kind of bag. I’m going to read it again. Looks brilliant!

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  4. Thanks JB, I suppose it is in the ilk of your current Martian shenanigans, which I have been enjoying. The Rex game comes out as 21 figures plus a walker, so some clear advantages there in terms of dining table games.

    You will be relieved to know that order has been restored and that historicals (ACW) are currently on the painting sticks :-)

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  5. What a fun game report and a nice example of the pocket army approach.

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  6. Thanks Peter, a good refresh for me.

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  7. Norm thanks for this great post and putting your sci fi rules out there. I just completed a few singly-based 15mm Sci Fi squads to play against 15mm not-orks, so this is all very timely:)

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  8. Hi Steve, sounds like you are ready to go. Interesting, as you are beavering away painting for your big Napoleon game ….. Warlord Games have just announced that ‘Epic’ will do Waterloo next!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your rules and the write up. It looks like lots of fun. I am just about to make an order from Pendraken so I will be sure to add a pack or two of aliens.

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  10. Hi Ben, thanks for following. I like their Alien packs, they look big amongst the 10mm and so have good presence for that. they also do eggs (for nests) and juvenile aliens, which can add another layer of interest in home brew rules.

    Here is a link to a Pendraken article here, with links at the bottom that show further posts, including army building.

    http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2015/11/containment-alien-invasion.html

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  11. Well that certainly came out of the left field Norm! However I love the background fluff and the size of the forces involved, plus the fact that it's in a countryside setting, which makes it immediately accessible. I always liked the Pendraken Aliens and this has given me some ideas for a pre-WWII setting, as if I need any more projects!

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  12. Hi Steve, for the sake of a dozen figures per side, I think a lot of gamers could quickly jack something up around this with existing terrain and models.

    When I last did this, it was based on hex terrain, which makes accessibility harder to a broad church.

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  13. Great stuff Norm - as others have commented, I think you have shattered a few preconceived ideas we all build up of each other, however subconsciously! The mechanics remind me a bit of a game we played at Julian's a few times many years ago - based on the film Alien I think - a few "space marines" working their way through the corridors of a space ship, with multiple aliens appearing randomly in front or behind them at almost every step. Similar concepts could be used in all manner of skirmish settings of course!

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    1. Thanks Keith, there was boardgame called Space Hulk that did just that. For the foot soldiers I had considered using soldiers from Warlord Games Antares system, because they have drones that they can send ahead, which seems most appropriate, but might have undermined my ambush element.

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  14. Brilliant stuff, always had a leaning towards a sci-fi game but have never really found the figures I fancied for it. Strange given the plethora of figures out there. Closest I got was painting up some Copplestone alien hunters, got some Rogue Stars figure but sold them on, didn't like the rules.
    Here you are tempting me again.

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  15. Thanks Phil, I note that the next Miniature Wargames magazine has a free ruleset from Mantic worth £25, but I wanted this just for fun, rather than having to pick up ‘another’! In depth system. A fast paint / fast play, fun game certainly has its place, when set against the background of how much effort we put into our main projects.

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  16. Excellent fun. For my last ShelterCon (weekend gathering at my house on Shelter Island, NY), I had been thinking about a tabletop game using my Star Wars Imperial Assault figures (Empire and Rebels) converging on the location of a stranded Imperial probe with the Rebel base’s coordinates, and about to be surprised by aliens in the form of my Nemesis figures (Intruders and Void Seeders). Unfortunately, I had (and still have) not yet settled on a rules system…

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  17. Hi Renaud, have you seen the up-coming issue of Miniature Wargames magazine? It says it has a free rule set by Mantic worth £25. It may be the sort of thing you are looking for. here is a link to the magazine cover.

    https://www.thewargameswebsite.com/forums/topic/miniature-wargmames-464/

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  18. Nice! That was a fun scenario and cool bit of storytelling. I’ve always liked the Tyranid and Guard models. My first army ever was a 40k guard. Long gone now. 😀
    I always thought that they would be great fun in a starship troopers like scenario. Code to what you’ve written here

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  19. Hi Stew, the original, Alien Containment, had a queen, egg clusters and crab like juveniles! Also Horus was always on the table and always getting attacked :-) so a ton of scope for many people to run this thing with whatever variety of models that they already have …… anyway getting my head down now to some ACW :-).

    You might want to check out the below YouTube Link, it is first of three parts doing an intro into Fire and Fury Brigade. I think his table / scenario will interest you.

    https://youtu.be/QniFmI1EBPU

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    1. Thanks Norm. I caught it. It’s pretty good. 😀

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  20. This was straight out of an eighties sci fi movie Norm! Great stuff !!!

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  21. Hi Mike, the best of times and no doubt a sub-conscious contribution to the look :-)

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  22. That was a fun read Norm, took me a couple of sessions to get through but well worth it :) Must say it came as something of a surprise but as you say all put together very quickly from planning to table top and that's something I like too. Of course your terrain is excellent and the photos really show it off. I'm something of a closet Sci fan fan, quite recently I re watched all the episodes of the classic TV series UFO and thoroughly enjoyed it, even on the Moonbase they are all smoking cigars :)

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  23. UFO …. I saw that re-released a couple of years ago as a box set. I’m surprised that such good themes are not getting up to date revamps.

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  24. What a fantastic scenario and game! Small,compact and possible to be played with a small number of figures. Thanks for sharing- a great idea for a game!

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  25. Thanks John, a load of fun that looks to be quite replayable.

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  26. Great writeup and a whole project (inspiration, plan, buy, build, paint, write rules, play) in one from go to whoa. That is quite an achievement and must have been very satisfying!

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  27. Hi Shaun ….. at last, a real shoebox project :-) yes, it all happened while the mojo was high.

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  28. What an interesting and entertaining surprise! I think I have most of those figures ( or close enough) assembled in the loft,a tempting idea however, I have enough disparate projects to add another but I will mark this and return at a later date!
    Best Iain

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  29. Thanks Iain, ideal if you have the figures, as it would a zilch cost, the little project is especially handy for when time is a bit tight to put something bigger out.

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