A Club Dronescourge Campaign: 1 – Firm Foothold
A few of us as the Boscombe Down wargames club (BDAWC) decided to run through the narrative campaign in The Dronescourge Returns. At the moment, we’re following the straight line from scenario 1 to 2, but may alter that as we go on using the custom mini-campaign rules outlined in Dronescourge (p.28) itself.
We started off on the evening of 3rd July. That’s right, England and the World Cup. Even with such distraction that, there was a decent attendance! So we started with Rik Baker taking a Isorian force (supplemented by a Hükk – more on that later!) and Chris with a heavy force of Algoryn.
Scenario 1, ‘Firm Foothold’, is a boarding action. Unfortunately, two of the boarders have been forced to land in the same, huge, docking bay in the vast TOR 563 (Transient Observation Report), City of Exile. They did not know what to expect – perhaps Ghar – but it turned out to be a completely new enemy or, rather, an old enemy returned: the Virai. Attacking were the Algoryn and Isorians; defending were the Virai.
We set up the table exactly as in the book and as shown in the photos. The Virai defenders deployed fortifications and a Fractal DBC looking down one firing line and a Frag Borer looking down another: both were on Ambush. Facing them, to their left, was a tough Isorian force led by Xan Tu whilst on their right was an Algoryn boarding force led by an Avenger and a huge squad of assault troops – plus regular AI, of course.
The central lift shaft and corridor tiles were those provided by Warlord Games specifically for Antares and the scenarios in The Dronescourge Returns. You can download the PDF and print them out from https://www.gatesofantares.com/complete-dronescourge/#corridors. The mat is from Deep Cut Studios (Warlord do a number of others) and terrain is a mix of custom built and from various manufactures – Mantic, TT Studios and Blotz, for example.
The Isorians – Boarders
The Isorians had a strong, close-assault force consisting of:
- Xan Tu plus a light support drone with batter shield
- A single Light support drone
- A Phase Sniper
- A 4-strong Tsan Ra Torus squad for assaults
- A Phase squad
- A Hükk bounty hunter with a drone swarm and three angkriz – nasty!
The Hükk was expensive and the sniper potentially difficult to deploy as we felt it was inappropriate for him to be too far forward – and the scenario guidelines do say ‘all’ the attacker’s units had to be deployed in the entry area. However, it was felt that a strong assault presence in the Tsan Ra and Hükk would be useful, especially when bolstered by Xan Tu. In the end (spoiler alert!) this proved to be a useful approach.
The Algoryn – Boarders
The Prosperate bording party consisted of a number of larger squads with strong support:
- An Avenger with drones and mag cannon
- A few targeters
- A Large and mean Assault squad
- Two large AI squads
Yes, we did play a bit loose with the AI lists, but felt the Algoryn force was fine – it had the same number of troops as a normal list, just in fewer squads!
The Virai – Defenders
The Virai chose a very defensive list:
- Secondary instance architector and two warrior drones
- Two tertiary supervisor architectors, one with two constructor bodyguard
- Mining team with Frag Borer
- Mining team with Fractal Demolisher (DBC)
- A warrior drone squad
- A scavenger squad, led by the heroic and much confused drone 70419.
- STAA probes
Apart from the mining teams, half were to come on in turn 1, the other half in turn 2.
Having three architectors in a 750-point Virai list is, perhaps, one more than would normally be required but they would be outnumbered 2:1, so need every boost they could get and would need the resilience the architectors could bring. The tertiaries were to stay close to the weapon teams and boost them, whilst the secondary was to bolster the centre and right. As it turned out, one of the tertiaries had to shift to the right for protection, and the secondary shifted over into the centre to bring its flamer arrays to bear.
The Isorians set up behind much of the barricades, their Phase Sniper in a secure position able to harass any Virai assaulting the advancing force. The Hükk and angkriz anchored on their left and the heavy Tsan Ra assault squad on their right – the latter intending to sneak up behind some empty containers and hit the Virai left flank.
The Algoryn set down their skimmer towards the centre of the table, cautious of both the Isorians and the Virai. Their assault and AI squads were placed fairly centrally in their half of teh table, but intended to run along teh Virai right and concentrate their fire.
The Virai’s two weapon teams set up behind barricades in the left half of their table edge. These were placed so as to command two firing lanes: one into the Algoryn and one into the Isorians.
The Algoryn opened up with the Avenger securing their right flank, but in a firing lane, and trying to take out one of the Virai weapon positions. There was nothing for it but to go Down. The Phase sniper then did the same on the other firing lane and the Virai weapon team, but quickly established a routine with its phase rifle and its RFD6 hits: it rolled no more than 1 or 2 hits all game, every turn! This was a stroke of luck as the Virai would have struggled with the range and with the sniper going down and covered by its camo drone.
Another Tac Tip!
From the Virai perspective, they weren’t too bothered with the sniper staying back as it meant it wasn’t entering the ship – so they largely left it alone. The Avenger, on the other hand, had a nasty weapon that could put a real dent in an architector and, being MOD2, was potentially highly mobile. The Virai were delighted they were able to pin it down in a firing lane.
Once the Virai secondary and tertiary Architector came on, the weapon teams were immediately Overclock’d and began their barrage. The left-most frag borer did nothing to start with (actually, almost all game apart from the later stages) but the rightmost DBC waited for the STAA probes to lay their tags down, then began firing on the Avenger, scoring a hit despite its batter shield and achieving a fractal lock. The DBC had no option but to keep firing against the Avenger all game to keep the deadly skimmer down and stop it raging havoc through the defenders – unfortunately benefitting the Isorians in the process.
Turns 2 through 4
Turn two (and through four) saw the Algoryn try to dash from cover to cover in the abandoned hangar bay, but the rough-ground training for the AI squads had obviously been lacking. They tripped over the abandoned power generators (treated as boulders), were continually out of breath after sprinting (so picked up pins) and were easily pinned down by the lackless fire from the constructors and scavengers. The Avenger found itself accumulating STAA tags, pins and damage from the DBC’s increasing SV (Fractal Lock), until it lost a MOD dice.
In many ways, though, it was doing its job: distracting the Virai from attacking the three, dangerous infantry squads. If only they had followed their PT regimen strictly enough… (they failed their Agility tests for Sprinting throughout the game!).
The Isorians tried a pincer movement, their two weapon drones in the centre, supported by a phase squad, and their heavy assault squads on the flanks (the Hükk and Torus squads). Both the pincer squads tried to keep in cover, and largely succeeded, but the warrior drones concentrated fire on the Hükk time and again, overclocked when they could, eventually whittling his unit down to, well, just him.
Finally, the Virai left flank collapsed and the Isorians threw caution to the winds – the cover their drones were using for protection being shot up by the frag borer (Breaching rules – Dronescourge p.20 & p.72). The drones moved forward, Xan Tu to cover the Hükk and the other drone to cover the Tsan Ra.
The Torus squad surged towards the exit corridors and the phase squad ran forward behind a decaying power generator. Unfortunately, it was stripped of biological existence by the warriors but not without damaging the warrior drones severely! – the Virai had rushed forwards too far, out of the protection of their tertiary Architector. This meant they became easy meat – Well, easy metal alloy and composite ceramics, really – for the Isorian weapon drones.
On their way, the Tsan Ra briefly met a tertiary, trampled it into the ground, only to see that in its death throes it caused havoc in the Virai’s combat shard (a Systems Overload result –Architector combat results table, p.82-83). As a result, the constructor squad was forced to act erratically and fled into a corridor – unfortunately, one the only successful Algoryn AI squad had sneakily just entered and claimed.
Finally, the Algoryn Avenger accumulated too many pins and damage from the stream of fractal dissonance coming from the continually locked-on Virai DBC – how strange the Isorians never stopped this weapon firing! 😉 Finally, it blew up, but not without having done its job. With the loss of their support, and this late in the game having taken constant stream of nit-picking pins from the Constructors, the Algoryn assault squad rushed onto the lift shaft. Unfortunately, being in the open (they had no dice left in the bag!) they became targets for the Virai and, unfortunately, rolled a ‘10’ on a break test and ran… their compatriots in the AI squads were finally wiped out by the concentrated fire from Scavengers, Constructors and bodyguard drones, all of which caused a constant stream of pins.
But the Isorians had one exit in the bag and the Tsan Ra prowling the innards of the ship. Now, it looked like their claim on the lift via the Hükk would be wiped, but another tertiary architector was badly damaged by a plasma light support drone. The overload this time caused 419’s Scavenger squad to behave erratically, and it rushed onto the lift to join the Hükk.
At this point, in the last turn, the Virai had no choice: warriors gone, constructors gone, two tertiaries down and a weapon team now mangled metal, they felt they had little choice but to do something with the remaining scavenger squad before it, too, was shot off the lift by Xan Tu’s weapon drone and the Hükk. With little left to lose, drone 70419 suggested a charge and to its surprise, the Scavengers complied. The resulting melee saw the Hükk show just why his(?their) species are such feared bounty hunters, even without the angkriz, and the squad was all but destroyed, drone 70419 finally conceding that prudence was better than valour – even for a drone.
The final score? Algoryn 0, Isorian 2 (33% and more exits taken), Virai 3 (three exits left). We’ll feed this into our mini-campaign as we go forward, and it’s a good start. 😊
Let’s see what happens next time!