The Polar Bears

The Polar Bears
4th Battalion, 31st Infantry

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another shorty: Spring Break and Historicon

Just a quick post before Spring Break kicks in (I'm a teacher after all!).

So after tooling around I finally have the basics down for my next scenario.  I probably wont't get to it before I take off on Spring Break, but I should have a battle report posted by Easter or so.

The next scenario is going to be the Ambush scenario from the 5150 First Contact book.  To do that I'll have to muster out all of my available AFVs and vehicles to cover the convoy.  It should be a motley crew of M577s, Khurasan's  light tracked crawlers, some British Landrover Snatches, and perhaps a Khurasan armored prime mover if I order one really soon.  That should give the 'Johnny Rebs' more targets to shoot at!  And with the bug level set to 2 then maybe some critters will come out to play.  I have to say, I'm pretty excited about this scenario.  I've never fielded vehicles in a THW game before so this will be a learning experience to say the least!

But before I go there I have 4-8 vehicles and 15 or so insurgents to paint up.  So I'll be pretty busy in the last couple of days before Spring Break.

Finally I've committed to running a CR3/5150 game at Historicon on that Friday at 11:00 AM.  It's a search and destroy mission like the last one I played, but a lot bigger.  I'll play the rebs (with all the fog of war stuff in place) while the players take over a reinforced USCM infantry platoon with an attached tank section.  That should be enough forces for four players each running a section of marines or tanks.  Going up against them... who knows????  Intel isn't very helpful here, they just know that there are unfriendlies in the area taking pot shots (and ambushing!) convoys running down the MSR.  Is it going to be just another "Bug Hunt"?  I'm not telling you.  You'll just have to come and find out!

Anyway, have a great Easter and I'll have more up later.

Semper Fi, carry on...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Second Battle Report: CR 3.0/5150 USCM vs. Insurgents

And now for something completely different!  

Last week I took a full section out on a bug hunt so I decided this week to go against human insurgents.  I also wanted to run the game using the Chain Reaction 3.0 rules with some 5150 elements (armor and bugs) to spice things up.  Like I said last time, I haven't had a whole lot of luck running Chain Reaction 2.0 based games so I tend to shy away from the main 5150 rules when it comes to human vs. human fire fights.  However Chain Reaction 3.0 is a different story.  Several things that gave me fits in 2.0 were pretty well fixed in 3.0. So this time I'm running with Chain Reaction. Time to break out the minis and go looking for trouble!

So who are the bad guys?  After looking through the Colonial Marine Technical Manual I decided to go up against insurgent colonists.  To keep things simple I assembled a fairly irregular war band of rebels.  I gave them a mix of weapons so that I could try out some of the different weapons in CR 3.0. Here they are:

It's a strange mix of assault rifles, pistols, RPGs, and machine pistols.  Rep wise there are a pair of 5s (Klein and Laura: a star), a lonely pair of 4s, and the rest 3s.  Keep an eye on Ellen.  She's a Rep 3 moog, but proved to be a monster!

Going up against them are Gunny Anderson's bunch: 2d Squad from the last game with Jordan (Rep4), Miranda (Rep5), Gomez (Rep4) and Crossley (Rep3).  Not a bad bunch.  Everyone but Miranda has an AR and grenades (no grenade launchers though). 

The terrain set-up was dictated by the table on page 21 of CR 3.0.  I went with forested terrain. I decided to stick with the "Patrol" mission in Chain Reaction 3.0 because I've heard that it is a real hoot.  It really was!

Fluff wise I elected to continue with my group of USCM heros with Gunny Anderson taking the lead again.  This time the Gunny is short handed with only being allowed to take a single squad!  The LT needed 1st Squad to join the rest of the platoon to screen the refugee camp from bug incursions.  The LT is planning to evac everyone to Centerville, the main town in this region, via a secondary dirt road (my starting edge).  Only one problem... human insurgents have been attacking USCM units that have traveled down the road!  So our little band of heroes have been tasked to recce the board and mop up any active insurgents so they can't take pot shots at the fleeing refugees and their marine escorts.  

Just to make things even more fun for the gunny I decided that the bugs could be in the area too!  I set the bug level to 1... just enough to spice things up!  I'm sure that the gunny would understand.

The picture above shows the on table PEFs.  I also assigned PEFs to the forests in the last row so there were a total of 6 PEFs on the board, but only three were 'mobile'.  Rolls for their Reps were pretty crummy: two 1's and a 2...  

I split the squad into its two fire teams with the Gunny leading the weaker Bravo team.  Lcpl. Miranda was a Rep 5 and had Pvt Jordan (of missed flamer fame) in tow.  As events would later show, Pvt Jordan must have still felt that he had something to prove!  The move found both fire teams maneuvering quickly around the right side of the big hill.  Both teams making use of bounding over-watch.  The squad took a couple PEF checks with the far wood lines.. which turned up empty.  The gunny growled at the squad about being too d$%^&d jumpy! 

Things picked up on turn two.  The gunny noticed something moving behind the hill and took Bravo team up to some bushes to check it out...

"CONTACT FRONT!!!"  Instead of some local critters... was a whole squad of insurgents led by the infamous Laura Craft! 8 heavily armed irregulars backed-up by an RPG.  Not a pretty sight!

And they were on their toes too!  A quick in-sight test lead to a barrage of lead!  Ellen, a fresh recruit, proved have the sharpest eye.  A couple of quick, controlled bursts sent Pfc. Gomez crashing down like a sack of bricks (OOF) and another deadly burst from the merc, Klein, glanced off the gunny's torso armor, knocking him onto his butt!  Pvt Crossley dove into the bushes and ducked down just in time to avoid a RPG round...

Klein slapped Mutquar on the back of his head. 

"What the hell are you aiming at, shitbrick???" he snarled!

The dazed gunny watched the RPG round fly over head and knew that his team was toast unless he did something fast!  He barked over the TAC to Miranda to take his team around the hill and flank the enemy position.

 Well, somebody had to do something.  Because Bravo team was down for the count!

Laura must have decided the same thing.  Her tactics roll told her to take half her squad and sweep right and flank Bravo team... but she is too late.  Her team reached the edge of the tree line just in time to be in-sighted by Alpha team.  Lance-corporal Miranda lowered his SAW and went to work, suppressing the whole team and taking out the only girl with an AR!  All that was left were troopers with pistols and machine pistols!  12" range... just too short to fire back! The next activation roll would decide everything!

 And it did!  2 blue, 6 red!  The marines now had a chance to turn the tables!  Pvt. Jordan raced to the bushes near the tree line and primed his grenade...

And boom!

In one bright flash all of Laura's squad mates went down and stayed down. Only Craft was left.

What a Yin-Yang picture at the end of turn four.  The marines were getting a serious schlaking from Ellen on the right, but they were demolishing Laura's team on the left.  Alpha team couldn't win it all by themselves and the gunny knew it.  It was time to do something stupid.  The gunny clinched his cigar and barked on the TAC to Crossley...


The activation roll went the marine's way! Crossley popped up... 

And Ellen was watching...  Crossley went down in a spray of blood (OOF)!

The gunny didn't hesitate though.  He zeroed in on Ellen and squeezed off a perfectly aimed burst of his own.  The gunny's rounds slammed into Ellen and down she went!

The splatter of Ellen's brains and blood freaked out the rest of her squad and they ran for it.  Klein only passed 1D on his man down roll and raced for cover, but too late.  The gunny drew a bead on him too and expertly dropped him too.

It was just like that.  One minute Bravo team was down and out.  The next the Gunny was the last man standing.  The action with Alpha team was almost anti-climatic.  A bad activation roll left Laura deep in cover and penned in place.  Miranda and Jordan just stayed in cover and tossed grenades into the tree line, right down on Laura's head.  But strangely they only found a blood trail (hey, it's good to be a star!)

The surviving rebels fled the board and the bugs stayed off the field.  I guess super gunny left them shaking in their bug holes.

I suppose the butcher's bill could have been worse.  The Battle Recovery table was tough, but at least Crossley and Gomez would live to fight another day.  I might have to bring back Ellen too.  That goes to show you!  Even a Rep 3 moog can have her day!  Heck, she passed two pitiful shot rolls and dominated nearly half my force, at least, until the gunny opened a case of 'WHOOP A@@' on her and Klein.  Good job, gunny!  

All in all, a very brutal battle.  Once contact was made the fight went really fast and furious.  I botched a couple of things (like forgetting to roll for NPC tactics EVERY turn), but on the whole I think I got everything right.  It's amazing just how quickly everything can turn around in Chain Reaction!  One minute I thought that the insurgents had me, then the next some luck fell my way and my tactics worked!  Crossley paid the price there but he opened the door for the gunny to get his shot in.  Also, having Alpha team flank was a good gamble.  I get the feeling that if I didn't then the battle would have been totally different.  Finally, I have to say hats off to the NP Force Movement Table.  It was 'smart' enough to give me a run for my money.  If lady luck just smiled a bit more on the NP force then this fight would have ended differently.

One last thing: never take a 12" weapon into a ranged firefight with regular troops! Just don't do it!

On the whole, another very pleasing game courtesy of THW.

Semper Fi, carry on! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

A shorty: How about these as sentry guns??? And armed colonists.

No sooner than I mention that I can't find sentry guns then one piratically falls into my lap.  Check this guy out here

Just scroll down a bit and you'll find the NAC Grenade Launcher Team (SG15-A16).  These aren't too shabby.  Just drop the NAC Marines and there you go.  They actually look like the LEG sentry guns:

However they have a nicer base for the gun.  I think I'll hit up John for a couple of these once he gets GZG back up and taking orders.

Also, I have a question.  How do these guys look???

G15-V7 - Available: 889
Armed Civilians/Colonists pack A (8 figs)
£ 2.50 

SG15-V8 - Available: 891
Armed Civilians/Colonists pack B (8 figs)
£ 2.50 

SG15-V9 - Available: 884
Armed Civilians/Colonists pack C (8 figs)
£ 2.50 

I'm looking for some nice, but armed, civilians for my games.  I need some colonists for my marines to take out... errr... save!

Building my first company part 2b: Platoon TO&E and Figures

I've finally decided on a basic organization for my marines after going over the various sources out there.  There aren't a lot of sources to look at really... comics, the Aliens novel, the movie itself, and finally the Colonial Marine Technical Manual.  The first two sources I mentioned weren't a whole lot of help, so I'm hanging the whole collection on the CMTM and the movie.  Fortunately, both seem to jive pretty well together.

At first I thought the whole 'binary' organization system was pretty 'fishy'.  It seemed an odd way to organize troops (see my previous blog about that) if not pretty contrived. However, as it turns out, this 'binary' system has some basis in sci-fi and in the real world.  Who'd thunk??

First the real world.  The system about having squads and sections in a platoon was something used in the US Army during the 1920's through 1930's.  The old Square divisions actually had platoons that had two sections of three eight man squads.  I haven't seen any tactical manuals on this so I have no clue how this clumsy system would work in the field, but apparently it worked well enough up to WWII.  In addition, the US Army (and Marine Corps for that matter) used a binary section system in their heavy weapons platoons.  For example, a US HMG platoon in 1944 was equipped with 4 M1917 HMGs which were assigned to a small squad of 5-6 men.  Then two squads were grouped together as a section and so on.  Pretty interesting that.

Also this system isn't unheard of in sci-fi.  It turns out that the Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers used a World War One style 'square' division format that followed the US Army prewar 'square' division too.  It also had platoons of two sections each with three squads of 7 men (6 marauders and 1 scout). William H. Keith seems to like this system too for that matter. In his "Semper Mars" book the USMC platoon sent to Mars used an almost identical system: two two man fire teams with a squad leader to a squad, two squads to a section, and two sections to a platoon (see p. 33 for details).  I guess there must be something to this.

So I'm going to go on ahead and used the USCMC organization as listed in the CMTM.  So here's what I'll need:

1 LT for Platoon Commander
1 Platoon Sergeant
2 Sections with two four man squads and a section leader.  

That gives me a platoon with roughly 20 models (not counting drivers for vehicles and specialized personnel).  Miniature wise I'll need at the very least 4 Smart Gunners and 16 troopers with pulse rifles... although, if Gorman is any indication, then my platoon commander is not really a 'line trooper' in full armor and fully armed.  He's just another 'support' type in BDUs/Coveralls and maybe a pistol. But on the other hand this guy is voyeur who spends all of his time sitting around in a nice, warm, and somewhat same APC ordering everyone around.  So let's focus on the actual figures that will appear on the battlefield.  

On the section level that amounts to: 

1 Section Sergeant (say an E-6 equivalent) with a pulse rifle
2 Squad Leaders (either E-5s or E-4s) with pulse rifles
2 Smart Gunners (Lance Corporals or PFCs)
4 Pulse Riflemen (PFCs and less).

If the movie is any indicator then all of these guys are in full body armor (modified for the smart gunners) and have pistols in addition to their main weapons. 

So what about support weapons and other heavy weapons?  Great question.  The CMTM and the movie are pretty silent on that part.  The weapons are mentioned but there isn't any clear answer.  However the CMTM does give this brief hint:

"Organic support weaponry available to the platoon usually includes eight M240 flamethrowers, eight UA-571 remote sentry guns, two M78 PIG phased plasma guns or M5 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, eighteen M83 SADAR anti-tank rockets, and a single M402 multiple-launch fire-support mortar."

Jeeze, that's a lot of 'extra' gear.  Certainly too much for roughly 20 guys and gals to tote around on foot.  My guess is that this gear forms a weapons 'pool' that is drawn from depending on the mission.  I guess if you're literally light years from other supporting units that you would really need to carry as much gear as you can stuff into your starship, apc, or pockets for that matter!  Each marine is probably cross-trained to be qualified on as many of these weapons as possible so that the platoon commander can 'task organize' his limited human resources as much as possible.  So then the basic platoon is armed with pulse rifles and smart guns as standard but it can 'kit out' as needed for the mission using the pool of weapons mentioned above.

You actually see that in how the section in Aliens gears out for the initial drop on LV 426.  Here's what I found:

Aliens Marine Section

Msg. Apone. A. - Platoon Sergeant / 1st squad's leader. Pulse Rifle (later takes a flamer)

1st Squad
Pfc. Hudson. W. - Com-tech/Rifleman. Pulse Rifle. Team 1. Motion tracker and computer (?)
Pfc. Vasquez. J. - Smartgunner. Smart Gun. Team 1
Pvt. Wierzbowski. T. - Rifleman. Team 2. Pulse Rifle.
Pvt. Crowe. T. - Rifleman. Team 2. Pulse Rifle.

2nd Squad
Cpl. Hicks. D - 2nd squad’s leader. Pulse Rifle/Shotgun. Motion tracker. Team 1.
Pvt. Drake. M. - Smartgunner. Smart Gun. Team 2. 
Pvt. Frost. R. - Rifleman. Flamer. Team 2. 
Cpl. Dietrich. S. - Medic/Rifleman. Flamer. Team 1.

So what does that mean for me the gamer?  A very small but flexible force!  Excellent!  With all the cross training it wouldn't be hard to imagine missions where I just go with smart guns and pulse rifles.  But when I go 'bug hunting' then maybe I might be better served with flamethrowers and PIGs. I might also want to bring some sentry guns with me to for those hard to scratch places. Tanks a problem?  Then I probably need to grab some PIGs, SADARs, and RPGs.  The mortar is the thing that has me scratching my head.  Maybe it is just a small guy like the British 51mm mortar in use right now?

So what about figures?  Well there are a lot of cool sci-fi 15mm models out there that are CMC like.  The closest, to me, are the Deep Space Marines from QRF.  They have the right mix of weapons and gear to look right for CMCs.  They come in two different 'squad' sets (Deep Space Marines "Alpha" and "Beta"  )

You would think that each pack would be almost enough to make a Colonial Marine section.  But they really aren't.  In fact, I've found that, to use the organization I mentioned above, you need two packs to make a proper section.  With two packs you have enough figures to kit out a complete section and you have a number of spares with flamethrowers, causalities, a Ripley looking civilian, and an odd mix of 'officer' looking guys in soft caps with pistols, a pulse rifle, and a flamethrower.   I guess they are around for the more studly leader types!

So I guess that means, at a bare minimum, that I'll need four Deep Space Marine packs for each platoon.  Not a bad price really.  The only problem with QRF's Deep Space line is that while you get all the basic Colonial Marine weapons you will miss out on other support weapons such as PIGs, RPGs, SADARs and others.  Also, the QRF line doesn't have any sentry guns and they haven't posted a picture for the wheeled Cheetah APC which is part of the line.  I'm thinking about grabbing one just to see what it looks like however $10 is a big much to buy a vehicle sight unseen.  But I'll say this, $10 is a much better price than $20, $30+ for the other 'official' Aliens APCs that I've seen on ebay.  But that's for another post!

I may do another game this weekend with my son.  I'm getting the urge to take my fledgling marine section (Gunny Anderson's boys) out for another test spin but this time against a foe that has guns!  I might do that tomorrow.

Anyway, enough for now.

Semper fi, carry on...