Sunday, 15 April 2012

London's Burning - The Remake

I decided to revisit my 'London's Burning' game for Giant Monster Rampage and see if I could turn it into a proper scenario. And here it is ...

(This is a seriously long post. Get a cup of tea or coffee now)

The basic premise can be found in the post linked to above - the latest German V-Weapon is a giant robot, and it's demolishing London. The British rush to stop it.

The Playing Area

Set the board out as follows (click on it to make it bigger). I used a 3' x 3' table:

Black and White
For that authentic aerial reconnaissance feel

Basically the parks (which are just for show) should split the table. The South and East edges are actually the Thames; this makes no difference to the game, but it's nice to know. The British start on the East edge, the Germans on the West. All buildings have one section, unless marked with a '2'.

The buildings marked with a red asterisk are Primary Targets. There are ten Primary Target building sections  within 8" of the British edge; four buildings with one section each and three with two sections. They represent such things as the Admiralty, the Houses of Parliament and the War Office. They have a Toughness of 6. In the centre of the table is Buckingham Palace. This has two sections, and has a Toughness of 4. It is easier to destroy than the other primary targets, but doing so will seriously upset the British.

There are sixteen other building sections, eight north of the parks and eight to the south of it. These have a normal Toughness of 4.

All buildings can potentially catch fire, becoming Flaming Rubble, as described in the rules.

You may, if you wish, scatter three or four areas of rubble around the table, and up to six objects.

The Forces

These are really up to you. Both sides should have an equal number of points, but one or both sides may have them split into swarms or squads or may have monsters with minions. The original assumption of the scenario is as above - one giant German robot against an equal points value of conventional British troops (squads or swarms). However the British may have robots or war-machines of their own, or either side could conjure or create magical beings to aid them. Create your own story as you see fit.

200-400pts on each side should be about right.

As with any system where you create your forces with points it's possible to create things which are carefully crafted to be ultra effective. I can't stop you doing this, but please don't.

Playing The Game

Roll for initiative as usual. There is no military strike phase, as the British are the military strike. The game lasts for eight turns, at which stage overwhelming British forces arrive and destroy or drive off the Germans. At the end of the game total up victory points.

Destroying Buckingham Palace is easy to do, but bolsters British morale. If Buckingham Palace is destroyed, the British immediately get three points of Willpower. Each point of Willpower can be spent to reroll a single British die roll. (This is the Determination ability in Atomic Super Humans or Power Warriors).

Winning The Game

Both sides score points for wounds inflicted on the enemy. The Germans also score points for destroyed buildings, regardless of who destroys them.

The British double their score at the end of the game - each wound inflicted on the Germans is worth two victory points.

The Germans should record destroyed Primary Target sections separately from other buildings destroyed. The maximum points they can score from things which are not Primary Targets is equal to the total number of Primary Targets destroyed, unless all Primary Targets have been destroyed, in which case there is no restriction.

Example: The Germans have destroyed four sections of Primary Targets, inflicted six wounds and destroyed five other building sections. Ordinarily the wounds and the hits on non-Primary Targets would be worth 11VP, but because they have only scored 4VP from Primary Targets they can only claim 4VP of the 11VP. Their total is 8VP.

As you can see, the Germans must concentrate on hitting the tougher Primary Targets in order to accumulate a reasonable score.

The First Replay

Having set up the scenario, I replayed it using the same force setup as before - one German V4 robot against a group of tanks and a group of planes. I made changes to all three forces, though. The redesigned V4 looked like this:

V4 Robot (Mechanical) - 200pts
Distance 3, Dexterity 2, Toughness 4, Instinct 4, Iron Fists x2 (2"/2 wounds), Cluster Blast, Flame Blast, Barrage Blast, Blast Armour, Alternator

It still relies on getting a good atomic power roll, but even with a low score has choice about how it can shoot at things. It packs more of a punch (literally) in close combat.

The British 'conventional' forces were designed using the new (experimental) Squad rules posted on the Radioactive Press Yahoo group.

Heavy Tanks (5 figure squad) - 100pts
Distance 2, Dexterity 2, Toughness 4, Instinct 2, Ranged Attack 18", Blast Armour

Fighter Bombers (5 figure squad) - 100pts
Distance 4, Dexterity 3, Toughness 2, Instinct 3, Ranged Attack 12", Fly

Unlike the previous game the Germans didn't have it easy. The V4 was at the mercy of atomic power rolls, and even the Alternator power, which allows them to reroll bad rolls, didn't always help. The V4 advanced down the table using close combat to hit some buildings, whilst prioritising attacks on the Primary Targets at the British end with Barrage Blast. Disaster nearly struck for the Germans when the fighter bombers made their attack:

(This time some of my 1/600th WW1 aircraft collection is standing in for the RAF Typhoons)

Squads make a single, group, attack, but the wounds they inflict are based on how well they make their hit roll. The first attack by the fighters needed a four or better to hit on a D10, and they rolled a '10'. That meant seven hits, plus a bonus critical hit, for a potential of eight wounds. The V4 rolled badly against its Toughness, and even the Blast Armour failed it - it was down by five wounds before it had really got started.

Revenge was swift, though. On its next turn it used the Flame Blast to destroy three planes (and Victoria Station), before taking out a fourth plane with its mighty fists.

As in the previous game the tanks were unlucky; in the whole game they inflicted one wound on the V4, for the loss of four of their bases. Here they can be seen engaging the V4 through Mayfair and The Mall, with a partially destroyed Buckingham Palace in the foreground:

Neither planes nor tanks were lucky enough to roll any reinforcements.

The Germans inflicted eight wounds of damage on the British, destroyed ten Primary Targets and four other buildings. This gave them 20VP. The British inflicted seven wounds on the V4 for a total of 14VP. So it was a German victory again, but closer than before.

The Second Replay

Before recounting the second game, a little bit of history.

The two games played out above were, in fact, simulations run by British Intelligence in order to determine the likely effect of a V4 attack on London. British Intelligence had long known that the V4 was being developed, and worked hard to come up with a countermeasure. The simulation helped them do this, so that when the first attack came they were able to present the Germans with a nasty surprise.

A team, headed by Barnes Wallace and including Alan Turing and a young Bernard Quatermass, amongst others, worked to produce their own war-machine - something that would match the scale and combat ability of the V4. They stuck to traditional technologies for the frame of their machine, producing what was basically an enormous tank - dubbed a landship. But as well as conventional weaponry it was also armed with technology derived from that of the Martians who had made a landing in England at the turn of the century. In honour of the naval vessel which had resisted the invaders in that conflict, the machine was called 'Thunderchild', and it was armed with nothing less than a Heat Ray. The scientists felt that it was more than a match for the V4 robot.

But when the first V4 landed, it wasn't alone ...

Whilst German scientists were at work refining the technologies that would be used in the V4, other groups also had Hitler's ear. One of these was the infamous Thule Society. They were keen to show that sorcery could play as much of a part in the German war effort as did science and had developed a ritual which would summon an extra-dimensional being at a place of their choosing. Hitler ordered that these new weapons be deployed together, to maximise their effect on British morale. Thus it was that, as the first V4 landed in West London, a huge entity rose up alongside it - a creature not of this world, or even of this universe. The first person driven insane by its mere appearance gave it the name by which it was forever known - A Thousand Gaping Maws:

This is not a fair fight ...
Enter the final players in our drama. Whilst the Germans had the awesome and secret power of the Thule Society, the British had a small, dingy office in Bloomsbury, occupied by a handful of men and women concerned with prosecuting the war on a mystical level. Officially known as Department 5-13, it was more commonly known as 'The Ministry Of Magic'. Headed by Miss Eglantine Price and Doctor Brian Dumbledore, it had something of a rivalry with Wallis's 'Thunderchild' team, although papers released by Special Branch twenty years after the war showed that Dumbledore and Turing were apparently on friendly terms, and often socialised together.

As the otherworldy entity coalesced alongside the V4, Miss Price enacted a newly researched ritual she called 'Substitutiary Locomotion'. It was focused on the bombed ruins of the old Imperial Theatre and, in front of amazed onlookers, the rubble rose up, forming a massive humanoid shape. As the the HMLS 'Thunderchild' headed into action for the first time, the Old Imperial walked alongside it.

HMLS Thunderchild and The Old Imperial
HMLS 'Thunderchild' and The Old Imperial
Oh, and some tanks.
The stage was set for one of the strangest battles of World War II ...

The board was set out as above, and I added some objects and a couple of areas of rubble.

Aside from the V4, which was unchanged from above, the stats for the monsters were as follows:

A Thousand Gaping Maws (Deity) - 200pts
Distance 3, Dexterity 4, Toughness 4, Instinct 5, Maws x3 (2"/1 wound/Duplicate), Sonic Blast, Regeneration, Awe

HMLS 'Thunderchild' (Mechanical) - 200pts
Distance 2, Dexterity 2, Toughness 6, Instinct 4, Laser Blast, Mechanical Blast, Squat, Blast Armour, Alternator, Armour Plating, Megavehicle

The Old Imperial (Elemental) - 200pts
Distance 3, Dexterity 3, Toughness 6, Instinct 4, Fists of Stone x2 (2"/2 wounds/Daze), Mechanical Blast, Heavy, Lifeless

Here's the position after the first move:

South of the parks A Thousand Gaping Maws has already destroyed and damaged some buildings, whilst the V4 has done the same north of the parks. Unfortunately the V4's Barrage Blast was proving ineffective against the Primary Targets on the British baseline. the British monsters were advancing into action; the Thunderchild had managed some ineffective shots with its heat-ray, but the Old Imperial was beset by low atomic power rolls and couldn't attack at range.

A Thousand Gaping Maws finished off Buckingham Palace, leaving it a burning ruin:

This, of course, just bolstered the British will to fight. Not that it was obvious early in the game; at one point the Thunderchild managed to get off six shots at the V4 with its Mechanical and Laser Blast, and failed to inflict a single wound, despite a couple of criticals. The criticals did leave the V4's stats looking a little weak, though.

The Thunderchild persevered, though, and managed to knock down the V4, stopping its advance:

A Thousand Gaping Maws rushed to its aid, closely pursued by The Old Imperial:

The Thunderchild kept up a steady fire on the V4, who was now taking damage. But every time it got up it was able to use its Barrage Blast to bombard the Primary Targets, and soon the whole of Whitehall was demolished.

A Thousand Gaping Maws now moved down the Mall, to attack the few remaining Primary Targets in that part of the table, but what followed set the trend for the rest of the game; a seeming inability to hit most things, followed by lucky Toughness rolls if any hits were made. Try as it might, the eldritch monstrosity just couldn't destroy anything. The Old Imperial kept pace with it, with the Daze ability linked to its fists preventing retaliatory attacks in close combat.

This was the position at the halfway mark:

At this stage the British switched to a new strategy; the Thunderchild changed targets to A Thousand Gaping Maws, which didn't have the V4's Blast Armour protection, whilst The Old Imperial moved to finish off the V4 in close combat, where its armour wouldn't protect it.

The Thunderchild's initial ranged attacks on A Thousand Gaping Maws were ineffective, but The Old Imperial did far better, downing the V4 in a mighty hail of rubble:

Don't mess with the Old Imperial Theatre!
The Germans were one monster down.

The last few turns settled into A Thousand Gaping Maws attempting to destroy Primary Targets whilst being pursued by the British monsters. As ever, the German monstrosity could barely hit or destroy anything, but the battle did finish with a suitable dramatic attack on the Houses of Parliament:

The game closed with the British pouring fire into A Thousand Gaping Maws; it was unlikely that it would survive another turn.

The Germans had destroyed 10 Primary Targets, out of the 12 on the table, and inflicted 8 points of damage and wounds elsewhere. The British inflicted 21 wounds on the German monsters. Technically this gave the Germans 18 victory points, whilst the British got a whopping 42. But I probably need to rethink the victory conditions a little; the Germans do have a tough mission to complete against a competent foe. Saying that, they were very unlucky with a lot of their damage rolls but then early on, so were the British.

Of course the problem is that different monster designs, or the use of swarms or squads, can radically alter the balance and style of the game. Probably the best way would be for players to run the game twice, swapping sides for the second game and seeing who can get the best combined total. Regardless, what can be said was that it was fun to play. Despite the dodgy Lego terrain, it's great being able to picture the ground over which the battle is being fought.

Right, this post is long enough. I have another WWII monster scenario at the design stage which I will play out once I've designed a couple more monsters and squads for it. This time the Allies will be taking the fight to the Germans ...

Notes On Figures

As stated in earlier posts, the V4 is a plastic toy I found in the local market, whilst the tanks were scratchbuilt from card and wire. The planes in this run-through are 1/600th WW1 models from Tumbling Dice, but the company does do a wide range of WWII aircraft as well.

The Thunderchild is a GW Epic Land-Raider tank with a sci-fi tank turret glued to the top. The shape of the Old Imperial  was made from modelling putty, with pieces of gravel and clipped sprue stuck to it to give that rubble texture. Finally A Thousand Gaping Maws is a seed pod from a Banksia; obviously I have painted it, but they really look like that. I have a bigger one ear-marked for use with the Bandai HG figures.


  1. I love the Thousand Gaping Maws!

    Have you read The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross? It's modern day Call of Cthulhu meets British spy fiction. And it has Nazis in it. Who live on another planet.

  2. Great read KK! I think the Germans should have won a moral victory given the irreparable destruction they have wrought on the various institutions of the Empire

  3. I had to google Eglantine Price. Well played sir!

    Loving the alt-history alomost as much as the game and the figures. Turing and Dumbledore eh? ;-)

    1. I'm glad someone appreciated the references in the back-story :)


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