Monday, 26 August 2013

How Can Tanks And Planes Stop THAT?

I've often said that I feel the greatest weakness of Giant Monster Rampage was that it has a weak portrayal of on-table military forces. They've never felt right to me. True the game has a lovely abstract system for them, in games that feature just monsters - a Military Strike Phase allows damage to be inflicted on combatants randomly, making the army annoying but mostly ineffective. But I've never been sure about how the design rules allow you to create troops on table.

Last week I put together some designs for military units using the Swarm rules in the book. From the name you can tell that they rules are designed to allow you to create swarms of things; really they are designed for monsters that attack in huge numbers, with the 'creature' being broken up into a number of discrete bases. But the rules say they can be used for military units, and I decided to give them a try.

And here they are. The members of a swarm are identical, so if you want different types of troops you need to create different swarms. So rather than create a 200pt Military swarm (always a possibility) I went for two 100pt swarms.

Heavy Tank Company (Mechanical) - 100pts - 5 members
Distance 3 Dexterity 2 Toughness 4 Instinct 4
Archaic Blast, Blast Armour, Alternator
(Archaic Blast is a power in the Toy Battle System Digest. It's a weak attack which may not activate at all, but could allow a lot of individual shots if it does.)

The tanks are constructed from layers of card, and pieces of wire for the guns. They are mounted on 20mm bases.

Jet Planes (Mechanical) - 100pts - 3 members
Distance 5 Dexterity 3 Toughness 1 Instinct 3
Fly, Mechanical Blast, Aternator, -2 Wounds
(The '-2 Wounds' gave me bonus points to spend, at the cost of having fewer members in the swarm)

My planes are also constructed from card. I made these about eight or nine years ago.

With two swarms ready to go, I pitted against the only obvious foe - Godzilla. And once again he was attacking a city made of Lego, although I added an impressive arabic shopping centre as well, just because it happened to be around.

Godzilla (Animal) - 200pts
Distance 3 Dexterity 3 Toughness 5 Instinct 4
Bite (2"/2), Claw (2"/1), Tail (2"/1, Knockback 2")
Energy Blast, Regeneration, Swim, Tenacity

The destruction of the city began

The tanks advanced. They fired a few long-range shots to no effect.

Two planes swept off to one side ...

... whilst the other made an attack run, inflicting a hit on the big lizard.

Godzilla went for the shopping centre, and failed to make any impression on it at all. The tanks moved in, firing as they came.

With a good roll for Atomic Power al three planes swept into the attack. They all got to fire, and their volley of missiles inflicted a whopping five wounds on Godzilla, plus a couple of critical hits. This wasn't a good start for the monster at all.

Indeed the force of the explosions knocked him off his feet.

In a given phase you can only automatically activate as many swarm members as you have Atomic Power points; other members have to dice to act. Having used them all up in the attack, the planes tried to break off and move out of range of Godzilla's inevitable counter-attack. One didn't make it, and the lizard's atomic breath roasted it.

He then turned and stomped two of the tanks. Despite his wounds, he was inflicting some real casualties on the military.

But swarms can recover wounds (members) just like monsters, and reinforcements were on the way.

The planes made another attack run, inflicting another hit. This wasn't a good turn for Godzilla; he failed to get enough Ap to power his breath weapon, and lost the initiative to the planes and tanks who both rolled well for AP, giving them enormous firepower for the turn.

Whilst two of the tanks regrouped, another pair failed to move, and one was destroyed.

But Godzilla's atomic breath failed to take down one of the aircraft.

The planes came in for another run, and inflicted more damage, before a volley of fire from the tanks finished Godzilla off.

The casualties. One tank had been lost, and returned to the fray as well. So they had suffered quite badly and had Godzilla been luckier with some of his rolls things could have been very different.

The planes perform a victory flypast.

On the whole the swarm rules seemed to work well for military forces, something I didn't expect. The AP rolls worked well as a kind of PIP system (like in HOTT). I'd possibly rethink the use of Archaic Blast for the tanks as it gave them an awful lot of shots for very little AP outlay - it's a possible way of doing a swarm representing infantry forces though. Whilst they are relatively ineffective (the target gets to double their Toughness against them), the tanks rolled well for criticals, which not only cause potential wounds, but force the automatic loss of characteristics as well. By the end of the game Godzilla was down to a Distance, Dexterity and Instinct of 1, and  Toughness of 3; he could barely move fight or fend off attacks.

Both tanks and planes rolled well for AP when it counted, giving them plenty of shots, and also got the initiative on a couple of turns when Godzilla could have benefited from acting before they did. Swarms have the advantage, of sorts, that, given enough AP, they can make multiple use of attacks that a 'normal' monster can only use once per turn. This gives them  lot of fire power. In addition, whilst a normal monster has all of their wounds lumped into one point of the table, each 'wound' in a swam has to be individually targetted, so an attack which does more than one point of damage isn't very cost effective against them.

Godzilla may not have been the best monster to match against such forces; although he have a few close combat attacks, his breath weapon is very all-or-nothing; it's only good for destroying one target a turn (if it hits), and there's a 1 in 5 chance he won't get enough power to use it anyway. A spray weapon such as Flame Blast, or area effect attack such as Barrage Blast could make a real mess of a swarm, allowing multiple opportunities to inflict damage. Perhaps I will have to see how the military fare against some of my other monsters.

So, a short game, but a not uninteresting one. It's certainly given me a few things to think about.


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