Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sedition Wars: Battle Report - Tabletop Style

"Data extraction complete command, now get us the hell out of here”
“Understood Ramirez, extraction coordinates have been linked to Hurley.  Extraction team inbound, ETA 6 minutes, ground time of 2 minutes, lift-off with or without you after that.  Get that data to the bird, we need it!” 
“On our way captain, send heavy support as well, we are being swamped with these things, and Hurley’s gun is offline!” 
“There is no support F@&#ing available! Suffering heavy losses here too, now move!”
The game is Sedition Wars, a game I picked up last year through a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. Unlike many Kickstarters that you are forced to buy into with little pre-existing physical product to base you opinion on, this one had a lot already in place and was the main reason I bought into it.

The game is based on a set of figures that have already been done in resin versions of the past number of years.  The box contains plastic versions instead of resin, which means less detail and some changes to accommodate the moulding process, but considering the creator I was willing to give it a shot.  The creator(s) are none other than Mike and Ali McVey, well known and respected personalities in our hobby. 

Given the fact that I had always liked the resin versions, and knowing that Mike would not put crap out and ruin his long-standing good reputation in the industry, I bought in just for the figures.  I honestly could have cared less about the rules and expected to just chuck them as I don’t need another sci-fi rule set. 

However, after getting them and playing through them several times, I was immensely impressed. Sure, there are issues with the rules (they are a version 1.0 and from the look of it didn’t undergo external beta-testing), they have several really poorly worded sections, are laid out poorly, have some contradictions, have a few clunky parts, and are not balance correctly. 

However, as an overall system and when played for fun with some common sense applied, they are very fun and extremely effective in capturing the feel of dread and foreboding that you should get from what is essentially a zombie / Resident Evil / Aliens / Space Hulk style game.  With the massive FAQ applied, some in house minor tweaks, and a play for fun attitude though it is my hands down current favourite small skirmish game. 

Even better news is that Studio McVey is in the process of fixing all the issues and will be releasing a new version 1.5 rule book sometime soon.

The Mission:

I think you will agree this looks better
than playing on a flat board.

OK, enough background, onto the game itself.  While the game is shipped as a Space Hulk style board game and played on space station tiles, tiles are not fun, terrain is.  Therefore, I took one of the missions from the supplied campaign book and changed it up to fit some Infinity terrain I have been working on, including some printed street images from Toposolitario, which I cut and mounted on foam core wrapped with back duct tape so that there were curbs.  I also changed some of the rules and distances slightly to fit better on a table top instead of on a grid based board (more on that later). 

The mission in the book was to fight through a train station and escape on the inbound train.  On the tabletop the scenario became a mad dash though the streets of a city that has been infected with a nano-virus.  The Vanguard force had been sent to a military hospital that had been overrun to collect the secured data files in a hope of finding a way to stop the outbreak.  The data has been downloaded to the mobile support vehicle “Hurley” and the Vanguard must now make their way to the helicopter that will land at a nearby helipad in 6 turns and will leave 2 turns later, unless delayed by spending tactics.

The Vanguard would start with two fire teams, each made up of two standard Samaritan Lancers and a special weapon elite trooper.  The special weapons were a fusion lance and a reaver support gun (think Aliens smart gun and you won’t be far off, hence us nicknaming the trooper Ramirez).  Also included on the team was Hurley, a heavy support mobile CIC AI unit. However, for this game he essentially servers as a “potato”, having a set path to get to the helipad, and counted as having no weapon, a defensive drone built in, and only generating 1 tactic per turn instead of 2.

David and Kevin commanded the Vanguard.
The Strain started with 7 phase 1 necroforms, and 2 of each phase 2 exo-forms. The necroforms are essentially reanimated corpses, while the exo-forms are living bodies that have been infected with and taken over by the nano-virus.  There were 4 containers on the battlefield that would be strain strategic points.  These would allow the strain to generate additional models.  In addition d6 corpse counters would be placed on the table to infect.  However, the strain rolled a single corpse to be placed on the board, severely limiting their reinforcements.

Frederick and Byron controlled the Strain.

The Game:

NOTE: I took far too few pictures, so the game play is from memory, and therefore while the gist of things is probably pretty close, the exact details may be messed up as to which turn some of the action took place on.
Games setup was done with the Vanguard heading up the central road guiding Hurley towards the helipad.  The Strain started on either side of the main road hidden amongst the shipping containers.

Our deployment map, and the path that Hurley would take to the Helipad.

Turn 1 – 

The Strain won the roll for first turn and counted themselves lucky, and moved in.  However in doing so the Vanguard were able to react with “reflex fire” and dropped 2 necroforms before they any got to range.  However, enough moved and were shot to make it safe for the Strain heavy hitting Quasimodo’s to move into gun range and fire without fear of being shot (much to our mistake, as realized later). One missed horribly and the other was out of range, things were looking bad for the recently re-animated.
Looking down the street, again better than
just using boards, isn't it?
Reflex actions are essentially overwatch reactions.  Each model has a different reflex that they can do during the enemies turn based on certain conditions, however they are only once per enemy turn.
The Vanguard then got their first turn and rolled a 6 for tactical points and were off to a smashing start.  This gave Dave and Kevin enough tactical points to ensure everyone was able to have at least 1 to use for special abilities.
Tactical points are used to power special abilities that the Vanguard have or to place target priority markings on any enemy they can see.  They start with a random number of them and generate additional points each turn based on the skill of their highest surviving trooper.  The points represent the tactical network and command and control operators that are helping the Vanguard troopers.  The system works very well and helps make them feel like an advanced fighting force as they utilize these abilities.
As they started moving, they learned that they were not the only ones with reflex firepower and the Quasimodos unleashed shots on them as they advanced, missing the mark yet again though.

The Vanguard were able to get beads on several Strain though and dropped 1 necroform, wounded another, and wounded one of the Quasimodos. The wounded necroform however got to move forward up to 4” as his reflex action, bringing him into base contact for next turn!

Turn 2 - 

The strain had several nano-clouds on the table as a result of the necroforms that were killed last turn. 
Nano-Clouds are used by the Strain to re-animate dead corpses, morph strain models to bigger more powerful versions, infect the Vanguard, and several other nasty tricks.
One nano-cloud was used to re-animate a corpse and bring a new necroform into play, the other 2 both moved towards Strain strategy points for re-animation next turn. The medical container that house 3 Strain strategic points was also set into motion this turn.  The 3 different effects there allowed the Strain to mulch a necroform for 2 nano-clouds, create a necroform from a nano-cloud, and evolve a phase 2 exo-form for 3 nano-clouds instead of 6.

The wounded necroform in contact activated first and hit the Vanguard on the second attempt doing minor damage but inflicting a bleed.  Next up the Quasimodo that had been out of range re-positioned and was set to fire when Kevin activated his reaver support weapons reflex fire.  He would get not 1 but d6 shots at any target in a 3” area, things looked grim for the Quasimodo. 

Luckily for the Strain, Kevin rolled a 1, and then failed to even hit.  The Quasimodo launched a shot in and struck an unlucky Samaritan, damaging her and leaving acid melting through her armour.  Several other Strain moved up, however they were all gunned down with only a single one making contact, but without any activations left to attack.

The Vanguard then activated and one became infected (rule change discussed below).  The Vanguard were able to gun down both Quasimodo’s and a Stalker (the phase 2 hand to hand beast) that had been trying to position for the attack at the right moment.  The Vanguard had been wise to it and set themselves up so that when 1 fired at it, the reflex ability to jump out of the way up to 4 inches before the shot was resolved, would not allow him to get out of line of sight.  It took a few shots at him but he was shredded were he stood.  At the end of the phase the vanguard affected by the acid melted away and died, leaving a corpse token behind.

Turn 3 – 

The Strain were able to spawn two new quasimodos from strategic points at each side of the board, and to spawn new necro-form right in the middle of the Vanguard formation. The rest of the nano-clouds were moved to spawn more Strain next turn.

Several attacks were made, however everything was gunned down on the way in or missed! The only thing that went according to plan was the newly spawned necroform was able to infect a Vanguard, and not just any Vanguard, the reaver support gunner that we had nickname Ramirez. Despite that, things definitely looked rough for the Strain.  There were only about 6 strain left by the end of the turn.  Five were setup in ambush mode for the next turn, and one lone stalker was in the open making a run for the medical module to be evolved next turn.

The Vanguard activated and continued the advance.  They managed to kill the necroform amongst them, as well as the stalker in the open thanks to Ramirez rolling a 6 for the number of shots from his reaver weapon.  The bleeding vanguard was finally able to stem the flow of blood, and Ramirez didn’t become any more infected.

Turn 4 – 

Not much left of the Strain.  The nano-cloud floating around created another Quasimodo that started moving towards the medical container, making sure to stay behind cover.  At the medical container the mulch and recycle continued, maybe not so coincidentally near a Soylent green container…  remember the green ones taste better.

All that really happened was everything being gunned down by reflex fire other than a single necroform making it in and killing the vanguard that had been down to one health, thereby leaving a corpse marker.

The Vanguard had 2 models become infected during the start of the turn, including Ramirez becoming more infected, now at stage 2 infection. They then cleared up all of the remaining Strain other than 1 near the landing pad, the one in the medical container, and the Quasimodo moving towards it.

Turn 5 – 

The Strain were able to create 2 new necro-forms (from the corpse and from the medical container) and the continue the mulch again.  The three necroforms moved in trying to stall the Vanguard just one more turn so that they could get the Quasimodo upgraded.  No luck though as every one of them was gunned down.  The only upside was that the Quasimodo was still too far from the Vanguard to be shot and there was a nano-cloud marker near the Vanguard.

The Vanguard setting up a perimeter around the helipad.
The Vanguard turn started out in an interesting way.  The nano-cloud was closest to Ramirez and therefore put a 3rd infection counter on him.  That meant that best case would be if he passed his infection test at the end of the turn the strain could convert him to a necroform or 2 nano-clouds next turn, and worst case if he failed the Strain could convert him to phase 2 model right it the middle of the Vanguard! The remaining Vanguard decided that as much as they appreciated Ramirez and his gunnery skill, they couldn’t take the risk and gunned him down on the spot. 

The 3 remaining Vanguard then moved up getting ready for the helicopter to arrive on the next turn and created a defensive perimeter around the landing pad.  They did however make sure that they positioned themselves to be able to shoot at the Quasimodo as it neared the medical container on turn 6.  

All hope died for the Strain when the Quasimodo was gunned
down trying to get to the medical container to evolve.

Turn 6 –

The strain had enough nano-clouds by the medical container to spawn another necroform and sent both of them into harms way to block the shots that were going to be heading at the Quasimodo. 

The Vanguard however had enough tactical points left to use “Frosty” and fire and kill both necroforms and the Quasimodo as they moved.  It came down to the last shot and the last point of damage, and rolling just enough to hit, but the Vanguard did it, all with reflex actions before they even got their turn 6!

On their turn 6 the Vanguard moved Hurly to the newly arrived helicopter and uploaded the data. 

Even though there were 2 turns before the helicopter would take back off, with only a few nano-clouds left floating around the table and a single necro-form the strain admitted defeat and the game ended.

The Vanguard escape with the data.
Can they find a way to stop the Strain infection?

Post Game Comments:

Frederick and I realized late in the game, that we would have been much better off to start funnelling our phase 2 Strain, the Quasimodos and Stalkers that we started off with, towards the medical container and waited to upgrade them.  We would have had access to phase 3 models by turn 3 or 4 due to the strategic points there and then able to make a late game heavy assault.  Oh well, re-animate and learn.
I am sure it would have made a difference, how much, I don’t know.

I know both sides made errors at times, and that we modified and butchered several rules at times, the result was great!
Would things have gone differently for the Strain
 with either of these phase 3 eco-forms in play?

I thought the game played very smoothly, and felt very cinematic (at least to me).  Even though it may sound like the Vanguard ended up clearing the table essentially by the bottom of turn 4, up until that point both David and Kevin were extremely worried.  After all they only started with 6 fighting models and were down to 4, kept seeing us getting re-enforcements, and had a few infected models.

Even going into turn 6, if Frederick and I had managed to get the Quasimodo 1 more inch and into the medical container, we would have had a huge nasty phase 3 beast on the table to smash the Vanguard with.  It would have been too little to late as we could probably only have dropped 1 each of the next 2 turns before the helicopter took off, meaning that 1 would have still escaped, but it would have been hugely cinematic and fun!

Hope everyone had fun with the game, as I said when I sent out the invite it’s a great little system that provides a great feel.  It has some issues, but they are easily glossed over as long as you play in the right spirit of thing.  That spirit to me is, play it like a zombie / resident evil movie and play for fun.  Played that way, I love the system it has a huge potential.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on, hope you made it this far, and hope to do another game like this soon.

Footnote - Rule changes:

As mentioned at the start, the core rules need some work for clarifications and balance.  They needed even more to make them work in an outdoor environment. 

Just a few of the things that were modified were ranges, and sequencing of effects.

Ranges were lengthened out to 6 / 12 /18 inches from 4 / 8 / 12 inches. However, after playing this way, those should get stretched out even further.  This however means that the necroforms also need to get substantially cheaper (probably down to 1.5 points instead of 3) so that you have enough of them to deal with the heavier closing gunfire. 

Sequencing of effects was also changed to check the effect and applying additional damage after activating a model instead of before.  This was done to provide a more heroic feel, as a model could then do something beneficial just before they died from bleeding out or melting from acid.

Part of the sequence change as well was that Vanguard would become infected if they started their turn within 2” of a nano-cloud.  The normal ending on the same square simply doesn’t work in an open environment.  Honestly, it hardly ever works even when played on a board, and even when it does, infection takes too long to do anything and is almost always a non-issue.


DaveV said...

I had a lot of fun! The rules changes made for a tense, cinematic game. I especially liked how the "tactics" mechanic simulated both skill at close quarters battle and the networked technical abilities of the battle armoured Vanguard.

One slight correction: the trooper who died around turn 2 had 3 wounds remaining before the acid burned through their armour. It was the female trooper with only one wound left who survived to the end of the game, to gun down the big creature with a lucky die roll.

ByronM said...

Ah, see, I knew I should have taken more pictures, I would have gotten it right then.

I played through the scenario again the next day with Riley and Quinn and with the phase 1's at 2 points and worrying about evolving a stage 3 instead of sending the phase 2's forward. It was super close, with only a single vanguard lifting off at the end with the data.

Curt said...

Wow, great looking game! I'll have to get a copy of the rules as I'd be very interested in their mechanics. Nice post Byron!

Alan M said...

That is a seriously good looking game! Nice scenario idea as well.

Obsidian3D said...

That board looks excellent and it sounds like you had great fun with the game.