14 February 2016

AAR - StarDust Ground - Extra Dust Please!

Hi all. My big January/February work projects wrapped up yesterday and I'm not going to know what to do with my weekends now. I did, however, convince my Valentine to playtest one of my Gnomecon StarDust Ground scenarios with me. The primary mechanics to be tested were artillery and weather-reduced visibility. I also needed to see if the scenario was remotely close to being balanced.

Remember this

The setup - a Red Guard platoon and some armor are defending a bridge crossing. The Khan's Battledogs are moving up the road toward the bridge. Intermittent winds keep kicking up enormous dust clouds, playing havoc with visibility.

The Battledogs at their start line.

The first two turns were both featured severely reduced lines of sight due to the dust so my Red Guard were unable to get any early hits on the Khan's troops. Not auspicious, for those of you keeping track at home.

On turn three, the winds died down, exposing plenty of targets for both forces. A Brawler snaps off a shot at one of my Horseman light grav tanks and kills it instantly.

Revenge is noisy, but sadly ineffective as the platoon leader calls in a few rounds on a cluster of Battledogs. The shells actually did get a kill on the Dogs' leader but he was saved by the medic he was with!

Just what I needed - the lull in the weather opens up an opportunity for the Seer which zips overhead, raking my squad in the ruins with automatic cannon fire. Two of my stands are killed! The squad is left with its AT rocket launcher and squad leader.

The Dogs' tank spread out past the bridgehead and get to work on my defenders. My return fire is ineffective. By far the worst part of the mid-part of the battle is three more turns of reduced visibility. I had things to shoot at, but my infantry was blinded for the most part and unable to pick off  any attackers crossing the bridge.

The writing on the wall implies that I need more guns aiming at the bridge so my rear squad with the machinegun take advantage of the dust and the fact that the tanks had just fired, to rush forward. The two Predator walkers leaped over the crevasse with their jump jets - bridges optional!

Small arms fire from the squad I pushed forward and plasma blasts from the AA vehicle begin taking their toll on the Battledogs as pin markers and casualties mount. I'm still having an impossible time with the tanks and simply cannot break their armor. On the right, two Predator walkers begin ripping chunks off one of my Lancers.

And then... the weather cleared. The blasted Seer returned. Mercifully, its attacks were much less effective this time around.

The Horseman OP tank calls in a barrage on the enemy on the bridge. No casualties, but loads of pin markers for the Battledogs.

Red Claw close combat specialists rush the ruins, wiping out what remained of the squad I had there. Buh-bye missile launcher!

Then a Brawler finally finds the sweet spot of one of my Lancers and brews it up.

My immobilized Horseman light grav "turret" is euthanized.

My remaining infantry squad pulls back out of close combat but two stands are gunned down as they fall back. Tragedy!

The Battledogs pursue their quarry and finish them off with gunfire. (Heavily penalized due to the pin markers they're carrying and the fact that the were moving. Fortunate dice roll timing is a thing.)

With that, my Red Guard were done. I had an AA vehicle, and artillery observer light tank and one heavy tank left. The win goes the Khan's Battledogs.

So, what is the takeaway?
1) I need to crank up the lethality of artillery.
2) Weather rolls were fickle and unfortunate for me. My wife's army got to advance almost unscathed while all I could really do was sit and watch. The shots I did have (against the tanks), I wasn't able to capitalize on. Here is a recap of the visibility during the game:

(1) 9"
(2) 8"
(3) Clear
(4) 10"
(5) 14"
(6) 10"
(7) Clear
(8) Clear

So, ONE of the first six turns featured clear lines of sight. In SD:G, most weapons have "full table" range so at the very least I'd planned to get a couple more turns of fire at the enemy before they were across the bridge. I'm chalking the results up to dumb luck. If I reversed the die rolls, I think the Dogs would have been slowed considerably by loads of pin markers.

3) Game balance was fine I think, though I may add a third Lancer heavy tank to the Red Guard. It's a tough call. The Khan's force does not include much in the way of anti-tank weaponry, so adding a third tank for the humans may be a mistake.

The game a a lot of fun, resulted in a couple of situations that bear clearing up in the rules, and was a wonderful break from five straight weekends of work!

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