Today, at Iron Forest Games in Benfleet, I played a game using the playtest rules of Beyond the Gates of Antares by Warlord games, using two starter forces (Algoryn and C3) against each other.
Antares is based on the Bolt Action rules, with a number of changes to reflect its science-fiction theme.
The game used a narrative-focused scenario devised by Adam Isherwood, my opponent, using the following rules:
Board Size: 4′ x 4′
Setup: Place a suitable miniature in the centre of the board to be the objective. Assign it an order dice of a colour not used by either faction.
Deployment: Units move on from their players’ board edge.
Victory Conditions: Control, or have the most models closest to, the drone at the end of the game. To control the drone, a model must move in base contact with it, at which point it joins that unit until the unit is destroyed. The game lasts four turns.
Special Rules: When the drone’s order dice is drawn, roll that dice and follow the order rolled. In the case of “Rally” orders if the unit has no pins, simply turn the unit in the direction of the arrow on the dice and treat it as “Down.” If a Fire or Advance order is rolled, the drone will attack the closest model of a faction not currently controlling it.
Treat the drone as armed with a Light Mag Support.
The forces used were:
Blood Moon Algoryn [Adam Isherwood]
– Command Team
– AI Squad
– Assault Squad
– Mag Light Support Team
9th Cosmo Rangers [Ray Webster]
– Command Team [Liubov “Lulu” Gagarin]
– Strike Squad [Braxton Kinsey]
– Strike Squad [Christine Dalton]
– Light Plasma Support Drone [MULE / Munitions/Utility Lifter]
Summary of Game Events
Both players moved their units on – owing to some surprising luck with the order dice the entire C3 force activated before a single Algoryn unit appeared. The drone turned around and opened fire on one of the Strike Squads, putting a pin marker on them but otherwise achieving nothing. Similarly, the Algoryn weapon team put a second pin on that unit, but otherwise neither side was able to bring effective fire to bear.
The Algoryn weapon team continued to pin the Strike Squad, but the second C3 unit retaliated by killing its loader. With the ranges in Antares being quite long, this turn saw a lot of action. The Support Drone killed an AI Squad member, the AI Squad killed one of the C3 soldiers (the only casualty from the C3 army all game) and in return a member of the Assault Squad was also downed. Even the C3 command unit contributed, killing another AI Squad member. The AI Squad also tried firing its Micro-X Launcher, but the shot scattered due to the number of pins on the unit. This turn, the Drone did nothing.
After the action of Turn 2, Turn 3 was mostly spent repositioning, shaking pins and ineffectually firing. The C3 forces captured the Drone, the Support Drone outflanked the Algoryn Command Unit, and with some shockingly lucky fire the C3 Command Unit killed two members of the Algoryn equivalent. Furthermore, the Algoryn player saw his support weapon fail a Command check and go Down, and the Drone pin his AI Squad.
In the final turn, the added firepower of the Drone to the C3 forces proved impressive – putting a pin on the AI Squad, who were wiped out in a last-chance assault order that failed owing to difficult terrain and devastating point-blank fire. The C3 Drone failed to kill the Algoryn commander, while an impressive 3 hits by the Algoryn support weapon were all saved by the C3 commander. With 4 turns elapsed, only a few Algoryn remaining and the Drone in C3 hands, the battle was decided to be over.
Result: C3 Victory!
Yellow sun rose over the ochre deserts surrounding the Research Agency’s encampment in the New Tharsis Basin. Their buildings, disorderly and spread over the rough landscape with its patches of strange alien grass, were far away from the excavations that had gone from neat squares to a deep mine-network as discoveries had begun to be forthcoming. Right now, at the slow dawn of this planet, the temperature was still surprisingly cold, and on the bright silver suits of the approaching spacemen a thin layer of condensation formed bubbles and misty patches. On the roughly-flattened road out of the encampment, an overturned crawler, one track shed and the other pointed skywards, showed no sign of ever having had occupants – the windstorms following the solar event had torn away any tracks that might have been left.
Its location had been chosen not precisely at random, but certainly without any consultation from the researchers themselves. Reaching the excavations required traversing a dried-out river just rocky enough to require heavy-duty crawlers to easily negotiate, while the outcroppings of honeycombed needle-like rocks obscured just enough sunlight at seemingly random points of the day to necessitate the placing of the greenhouses some distance in the opposite direction. It was from the ridge that the advancing soldiers looked down on the encampment, and wondered at its emptiness.
“Seven days with no news, and I’m thinking it wasn’t the solar flare that knocked out their dish. ID says there was an Algo drop-ship landed from that ‘merchant ship’ they’ve got in orbit, so…” The leader of the recovery team was Liubov Gagarin, a C3 soldier of some experience in these affairs.
“You think they wanted that Fifth Age artifact?” Sergeant Braxton Kinsey spoke little when on duty, but thoughts were slowly running through his head egged on by the constant feed of data the internal micro-computer provided him with. “And they killed the explorers?”
“I would say that, but something isn’t right. Assuming they arrived and took the artifact, they would have left signs of a search – or they would be still here looking for it, or waiting for someone to get it off. Outside that wrecked crawler there’s no sign any vehicles left the camp, no sign of a fight and no sign that the Algos raided it. So I’m guessing either the Algos don’t know about the artifact yet, don’t care much for it, or-” On the horizon something glinted, far down the dried-out river. “Or they’ve just made their move for it. None of which explain what happened here.”
Gravity on the planet Balarant was probably four-fifths that of what was known of Old Earth, enough to put a real bound in your step and soften quite sharp drops. Kinsey’s squad of Cosmo Rangers hopped down the ridge, suit gyros keeping them balanced with micro-pulses of thrust while they readied their weapons “on the bounce.” One low-g bound put them at the edge of the camp, and then the long gazelle-like strides of a space armour catapulted them up onto the roof of one of its buildings. Behind Kinsey came Dalton and her men, taking a firing-line at the door to the building ready to investigate whatever might come.
“Lulu, can you see anything in the middle of the camp? There’s one hell of a disturbance on the scanners.” Christine Dalton peered around the corner, but could not see anything out of the ordinary.
“I can’t. But there’s a lot of debris in that crossroads. Could be survivors I guess. Kinsey, advance a bit and see if you can get a good look. I’ll come around to the right and see if I can’t lay a trap for the Algos.” Gagarin led her own unit down a shale-y escarpment towards the mess hall of the camp, delayed a little in their progress by the need to open a window to enter by. Balarant’s atmosphere was fifty per cent oxygen, forty per cent nitrogen and a not insignificant percentage hydrogen – mostly breathable, if you wore filter plugs or had the right gene tonics, news to Gagarin’s advantage since it meant the camp was not fully airtight.
“This is pretty strange. There’s not a body in here. No sign of the crew here at all.” Whatever had acted upon the base camp had not been conversant enough in cliché to leave meals uneaten on the tables, but it had certainly left the mess a ghost-town. “Dalton, bring up the Mule.”
The Mule – Munitions/Utility Lifter – was a flying saucer about the size of a man carrying a light machine-gun and various accoutrements to supply a patrol on the move – food, pop-up shelters and basic medical supplies. It bobbed down the hill, emitted a cheerful recognition beep as it passed the waiting riflemen, and took up a firing position by the corner of a building. For a few moments there was absolute silence in the camp, the Rangers beginning the process of searching. Then with the antique chattering of actual ballistics, the Algoryn began their attack. On the edge of the camp a tripod-mounted machine-gun began spitting tracers – burning particularly bright in the hydrogen-rich air of Balarant – towards Dalton and her squad, forcing them into cover behind some empty barrels of cooking oil. Emboldened by covering-fire, the remainder of the enemy platoon – two sections of black-armoured infantry – rushed towards the crossroads in unison.
From his position atop the building, Kinsey began scanning the area for enemy positions. One of the Algoryn sections was rushing towards a skybridge connecting his building to the main complex, while another was headed into a half-wrecked motor-pool. This just left the disturbance in the cross-roads, something his sensor revealed to be a large mass of metal with perhaps some hint of life within. Something, possibly that strange god of the stars that all space-men believe in to some extent, told Braxton Kinsey that it was a good time to duck. So he did, and a hail of fire from a Fifth Age combat armature, of the designation Heavy Metal Elgane, passed safely over his head as a tall silver man that despite its Adonis-like stature was no more effective than the burbling Mule stood up and opened fire.
The Algoryn machine-gun continued to lay fire upon Dalton’s squad, bullets flickering into nebulae and supernovae against their force-fields, and in return she opened fire back. Each of the Cosmo Rangers carried a smart new plasma gun that could project a beam of green light well over a quarter-mile that, the manufacturer (Concord General Armaments Co. Ltd.) claimed, would stop any kind of space monster with designs on the wielder’s life. While the way the beams flickered off a barricade of oil-drums for the most part showed that, even in the Seventh Age of man, advertising was still mostly bull, the one which did find its mark vapourised an Algoryn soldier smartly. At the same time, the Mule opened fire with its own gun, killing one of the Algoryn riflemen approaching the Fifth Age artifact. Combat information from ID, the super-computer aboard the Cosmo Rangers’ ship, suggested that the Armature could be reprogrammed by linking it to the ship’s combat computer – and that this course of action would be recommended by Concord Command. To cover the probably advance of Dalton to this end, Kinsey ordered his own men to engage in a frank exchange of arms with the approaching Algoryn; they had already managed to bring down Ken Chesky with a storm of sub-machine-gun fire sprayed from the hip, and in return Kinsey’s men felled one of the enemy.
A grenade fired by the Algoryn rifles fell well wide of the Mule, and their small-arms were quite incapable of penetrating its armour at long range. And thus, with Gagarin’s team providing more fire to keep their heads down, the Algoryn proved unable to advance quite as far as they had planned.
The exchange of fire – the Algoryn endeavouring to suppress Gagarin’s ambushing units, and Kinsey and Dalton combining fire on the enemy sub-machine-gunners to bring another down – attracted the attention of the Armature, which turned, and opened fire at the Algoryn grenadier. It proved positively effective at short range, forcing the unit deep into cover and buying time for Dalton to rush forward.
“I have the drone, Lulu. ID is rebooting it now.” With the Algoryn well suppressed, and the Mule swinging round on one flank as Gagarin held the other, the battle seemed a foregone conclusion. Even the renewed salvoes of the machine-gun could do little but irk Gagarin in her firing-nest atop the communications array. Seeing their chance at capturing a Fifth Age relic slipping away, the surviving Algoryn drew side-arms and melee weapons and charged Dalton’s unit in a final attempt to break the deadlock – ultimately unsuccessful, as after a sudden exchange of fire at point-blank range they were forced into retreat.
Exploring the remainder of the camp took little time, and revealed few clues about the fate of the explorers. The only logical explanation was that the Armature had hunted them down and dealt with them in some way that had left no obvious remains – the wrecked crawler, damaged by machine-gun fire much like the gun it mounted, seemed to make sense of this. That was the story that circled within the heads of Gagarin, and Dalton, and Kinsey – it put a neat start and end on this mission and accounted for those things they were not paid to think too closely about. The Armature would be handed to the Research Agency, most likely, and the Algoryn ‘trader’ would slink away from sun-burned Balarant with no cargo to sell.