Sci Fi with Horizon Wars - 2016
GZG Miniatures vs Original Epic Tyranids
Horizon Wars, from Osprey - a brand new generic SF ruleset with stompy great robots and a lot of positive chatter on the web. Not only a lovely book for the money, with lots of pictures and high production values even by Osprey standards, but a justification for all of the Mechs that have appeared on this site in recent months. So, eventually, after making terrain and painting up far too much stuff, it was time for the first game of Horizon Wars!
The War had started suddenly.
Humanity had been greedily reaching out across the nearest limb of the galactic spiral for more than two centuries. The first few years after Profession Vishwanath's research team had open-source published the results of their successful reverse engineering of sub-space tunnel technology had been a time of radical change across the home planet, as instantaneous point-to-point travel made old concepts of nations and borders suddenly irrelevant to anyone with access to enough electrical power at one node, and the ability to place a sub-space notifier beacon at the other.
Nations, empires and corporations dissolved and reformed as the economic tsunami reshaped a world, but in the end the real game-changer still came from one of the oldest names - the Californian arm of the Google Foundation's acquisition of NASA and their assets had seemed just a footnote in the margins of the collapse of the US Federal State at the time, but when some 40 years later they announced that their "Message in Bottle" programme of launching deep space probes had actually been a cover story, and instead they had now physically landed sub-space beacons on a dozen planets the news networks went wild.
This next clip repeats every 20 seconds or so, so if you only see stars, just wait..
This day was a landmark. One of the original 12 Google Worlds was on the list to be liberated, and SSRC Combat Team 27 were going to be at the pointy end.
SK-12 Mini-Suit Walkers and Power Suit Infantry were on the Go Line - industrial units in the distance looked unoccupied and almost derelict, but everyone in the team knew that aliens had taken this area over a year ago, and this was now a free-fire zone.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - each turn in HW you take turns to activate your forces. Each model or base can do two things (hence the rather over-large counters we used here) in it's activation, or can save one of the two actions for use as a reaction later in the turn, in response to enemy activity. Probably having a smaller, 2-sided counter to flip over (like a coin) would be neater, but this was our first game and bizzarrely I had more counters with me than coins...
Most of the industry on Google 8 had been automated, but with every month that went by the chance of systems failure had increased and now remote telemetry had showed that the reactor cores were becoming unstable - this had pushed this part of Google 8 up the liberation list, hardly an encouraging development for Team 27, but they were keen to get the job done and get home. As they opened up their scanners, their worst fears were realised - the aliens had been here for a while, and some of the largest life-forms in their inventory were prowling the deserted industrial cityscape in the distance.
Chris Nuttall's great value (and great fun) Ark Royal Series
Not the greatest works of prose ever committed to the small Kindle screen, but actually pretty dammned good fun, especially for any Brits. These novels are old-school space opera space battle SF, with the added bonus of being set in a "stiff upper lip" Imperial British Empire future. Great fun, worth a punt at this price too
As the factories bled out into the organic landscape of Google 8, more Power Suit Infantry moved up cautiously. With a bigger field of fire, SSRC CT27 had broken out a more mobile mix of GG-256 "Lump" and DX-17 "Dancer" Medium Walkers, with one of the teams key assets, a Koimanu 9 "Rocket Ship" Kaiju Mega-Walker, with area-removal missile batteries and heavy armour providing powerful backup to the teams tasked with taking back territory from the aliens and their "Teeth" infantry-analogues
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - HW is really a skirmish game, with each unit having a set of 4 characteristics (walk speed, defensive hit-blocking capabiilty, firepower, and a combind stat for agility/armour - essentially how big it is and how easy it is to hit) each of which can be eroded by enemy fire or combat. This means you need to keep a record of each element on table, so we had, of course, rather overcooked out first game by having about 30 pieces each side!
The aliens were known by CT27 as "Teeth" for obvious reasons - the speed of their multi-limbed scuttle had surprised many a soldier over the course of the war, and once you had seen comrades ripped to pieces in a flurry of blue and white chitinous limbs you never forgot it, and never dropped your gunsights when in the field.
The Tyranids - with a mad voiceover
The Teeth were entirely organic, and no-one still knew how they manipulated sub-space to travel between worlds - their bodies collapsed on the rare occasions they were killed, but every speculation centred around the "Bosses" - several of whom were on the field of battle today.
Making Giant Bugs
Power Suit Infantry advanced cautiously, taking cover in the lee of once-busy factories and power plants as recce drones zipped overhead trying to generate tactical awareness for the Combat Team.
When Google followed up with an announcement that all of these beacons were now being made available to the highest bidder, the excitement turned first to fury, and then to steely resolve as finally the UN&C Security Council developed some teeth and formed a global alliance to take ownership of the beacons, and develop a planet-wide approach to take advantage of the myriad new possibilities opened up by the sudden reality of limitless real estate.
The flickering light source in this decaying reactor is a tea light, bought from China on eBay and glued in underneath a bottle top from a tub of shower gel. Complex..
8-wheelers were a favourite of Combat Team 27, and the terrain around this industrial area was ideal terrain - hard, mostly flat - and the recce troop were racing to the flanks of the combat zone to take up enfilading positions looking across the zone when they stumbled across another Boss. The recce troop had a combination of light armour and heavy tactical blasters, but they were still heavily outgunned here.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - Big Mechs (or Aliens) are the realy cool bit of HW, and they can be configured pretty much as you like with an overall pool of points which the player distributed for each of the 4 characteristics of speed, defensive hit-blocking capabiilty, firepower, and agility. Bigger Mechs get more points to spend, whilst infantry, vehicles and flyers have pre-set stat lines. You can add bolt-ons (special abilities) to some models in your force with a very basic points system.
As the lead elements of the Recce Troop got chewed up in short order, another DX-17 and 8-wheeler started harassing the Boss with energy and kinetic weapons , ably supported by a Fuhatsu Industries "Super Sniper" Kaiju Mega-Walker who poured hyper-accurate long range fire into the alien.
Aliens Best Bits!
The Power Suit infantry crept cautiously forward through the buildings, inching their way towards the crippled reactor core, acutely conscious of the presence of large alien life forms in the distance.
Music in Space
The Recce Troop were committed to a close quarters fight they were ill equipped to survive, but with waves of their own infantry still taking up positions they pushed forward, keen to occupy the alien Boss and also to enfilade the powerful alien organic artillery cannon which had been raining death and destruction on the advancing Earth forces for some time already.
A programme of opening corridors to other worlds gathered pace, and humanity had been lurching greedily from planet to planet at an ever accelerating rate ever since then. Fortunes and heroes had been made, lives had become great, and lives had been lost, but in all of that mad rush to grab space and tame it, ever now and then a scientist, a soldier, or a xenobiologist would pause to wonder why no intelligent aliens had been discovered. Until the day the war, the war that became known just as The War, started.
The Koimanu 9 "Rocket Ship" was now engaged in a long-range duel with yet another alien Boss - this was fast turning into a bad day at the office for CT-27, as this site was clearly a major next site for the Teeth.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - The shooting mechanic in HW is super-clever. Each model rolls a number of D12, as defined in its attack stat (1-3 for infantry and vehicles, maybe as many as 6-7 for Big Mechs or Aliens), with the objective of adding several dice together to match or exceed the range to the target. The target's agility score is added to the actual on-table range and therefore adjusts the to-hit target number upwards. There are additional modifiers for cover etc. The defender rolls as many defence dice as it has in it's stat line, and removes any matching dice from the firers pool of to-hit dice.
Teeth infantry screamed across the space between factories and fell upon the Power Suite Infantry in wild fury, initiating close combat before the SK-12 supporting them could get off any shots with its integral rail gun.
The Teeth destroyed the infantry squad, but in putting up a brave fight they had blunted the Teeth's momentum and this allowed the pilot of the SK-12 a chance to fire up the railgun and pummel the Teeth from close range. They screamed in alien fury and fear, and fell back around the corner, to be pursued by the lurching Mini-Suit.
Fully half of the planets occupied by man had seen simultaneous attacks, as aliens straight out of videogame nightmares had burst out of subspace in elemental fury, laying waste to cities and farms, spaceports and industrial facilities in s series of seemingly senseless, but utterly relentless attacks. Millions had died in collapsed buildings, immolated in alien fireballs, or, worst of all, eviscerated by their bare claws and teeth before any form of military response had been pulled together by the forces of Earth.
The third Kaiju Mega-Walker in CR-27's inventory was a Mitsubishi Electric "Standard Samurai", and it was advancing down the centre of the industrial park when a Teeth Lord emerged from the ruins t confront it.
Starship Troopers - best bits
The "Rocket Ship" was finding its range, and slamming wave after wave of missiles into the industrial units, forcing Teeth to take cover as Power Suit infantry crept forwards under cover of the barrage.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - Here the infantry have rolled a very good set of dice in shooting at the Teeth in the buildings in front of them. Natural 11's are enough to hit on their own as they exceed Range (7") + Armour/Agility (3) - they are on the edge of the buildings so don't count cover, but if they were counted as in cover the range would go up to 7+3+3=13 meaing that 2 of the dice would need to be used together to generate a score of more than 13, so they would have only scored one hit. But, at this range and no cover bonus they have generated 3 hits on the enemy infantry. If two of the dice had been (for example) an 8 and a 3, they would have had to be combined into one hit, giving a total of 2 hits on the Teeth rather than 3. If the Teeth had rolled an 11 for their defensive roll it would have been matched to one of the 11's from the attacking roll, and therefore "saved" a hit
The Aliens were strong here - another Lord emerged, but as they strode confidently forwards a unit of Power Suit infantry took the initiative and attacked over the hill, swarming the Lord and preventing it from moving forward as crucial joints in it's creaking exoskeleton shattered under close quarters blaster fire. The infantry had taken these Lords down before, and knew that once inside the arc of their major talons the Lords had a limited repertoire of responses. Stay clear of the teeth and aim for the elbows was the troopers mantra.
Industry and science fused together across a hundred worlds to formulate a response, and the outcome was Sub-Space Response Command. Forged in a crucible of rapid prototyping and survive-or-die in the field testing, the SSRC soon developed into a formidable fighting force, able to go toe-to-toe against the aliens across a hundred different ecosystems under far more than a hundred suns. Powered armour for the grunts, combat walkers to take on the aliens larger life-forms one-on-one, and fast moving attack vehicles buckling under the weight of the most powerful and experimental energy weapons currently available were poured into a mixer, and a potent all-arms force eventually emerged.
An imposing Boss was now soaking up attention. The GG-256 "Lump" driver facing it knew that his walker was rocking a tooled-up combat rig, but even so she was furiously radioing for support from the other three "Lump" drivers even as she cranked up the energy feed to her defensive armour.
Yosshimi vs the Giant Robots
The Boss rolled forward, and the combat rig's defences were put to the ultimate test. As the "Lump" kicked out at the aliens many bony legs, it spewed acidic bile over the roof of the walker, burning away the external sensors and antenna. Had the "Lump" called in its colleagues before signal was lost?
Yes! The first GG-256 staggered backwards, badly damaged but still functioning as two more "Lumps" staggered towards the Boss, kicking legs flexing ready for close combat even as they poured in rounds of laser fire at the alien behemoth.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - Combat is brutal, as both sides take hits which can leave both badly damaged. When taking hits the owning player can choose which stat lines to degrade, unless the attacker rolls a natural 12, in which case they choose. Three of the four stat lines can be reduced to zero without eliminating the element, but when "Agility/Armour" hits zero they are gone. This first "Lump" has taken severe damage, and is now only left with a presence of 1, all other stats were wiped out rendering it literally useless. But, its still counting towards the break point for the command.
The three "Lumps" attacked in waves, staggering back then recommitting themselves to the fray until the Boss eventually collapsed and dissolved under the weight of so many ultra-violent attacks. The original "Lump" was now an immobile hulk, but the pilot had survived...
The "Standard Samurai" driver knew that he out-gunned and out-armoured a Teeth Lord, and so strode forwards into the heart of the enemy nest site with some confidence.
Classic Military SF on Kindle
Classic move and fire infantry tactics were back in fashion as DX-17's and SX-12's leapfrogged towards the enemy Bosses. The DX-17 "Dancer" units were not the most capable offensive units, but their agility and automated evasion software meant that they were irritating targets for the organic aliens, attracting fire but dodging much of it.
How Does That Work Then?
Horizon Wars - Rules Hint - With the DX-17 Medium Suit Walkers I had chosen to max out the movement and defence stat lines, making them something of a tar-pit for enemy fire as they could still absorb a lot of fire without taking damage - hence the "Dancer" nickname. This left their shooting stat lines very ineffectual, but shooting was the job of other Walkers in the force. This simple idea managed to give a relly different flavour to the different types of Walkers in the game, whilst leaving the infantry and vehicles pretty generic.
The Result is a win for the forces of Earth! Combat Team 27 had swept the field of the alien menace.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What a great little set of rules! Even allowing for the fact that I, of course, won this first game of Horizon Wars, there was a great deal to like in this day of fighting the alien menace. The rules fairly rattled along as soon as we had gotten the basics down pat, and even the potentially traumatically complex issue of interrupt actions were easily managed by the counter-based initiative action mechanic.
But, not only are they easy to pick up, they are packed full of interesting mechanics which, once you see them in play on the table, actually make perfect sense both as tabletop game mechanics and in the way they represent real-world (ish... we are talking Giant Robots here) characteristics of the troops on table. Elegant and easy, what's not to like?
Even better, the winning strategies were about concentration of fire, and using the different characteristics of the troop types in my force in the most appropriate way possible,
I think these rules will be replayed. Maybe with neater markers, and probably less models (to allow keeping track of their damage to be a bit easier), but soon.