Sweat dripped down the face of Strike Leader Cadarn. A warning flashed up on his visor, showing multiple inbound signatures. He’d sent probes into the jungle to seek out signs of Virai. Before his eyes they blipped out of existence one after another. He immediately issued instructions to his own squad via the local nanosphere, as well as a broadcast to local C3 forces announcing that the enemy had been found.
Less than 24 hours prior, a battle had raged on the surface while teams in orbit had been shuttled down to the surface. Their destination: a fifth age weapons facility near the northern pole of Brochunus IV whose proximity to underground Teplodian deposits inhibited the use of orbital transmat. The IMTel placed a high priority on acquiring whatever data the facility might hold whilst denying it to the Virai.
A thousand miles north of the crash site, the facility was nestled in an area of dense jungle, providing ample cover for the Virai advance. The small C3 strike force, not equipped for this kind of engagement, was unable to accurately pinpoint the best location to stem the tide, which had left them thinly spread and reliant on short range probes. But it was vitally important that the Virai did not reach the facility before the Concord technicians had erased any data that the Virai might use to leave the surface and infect neighbouring systems. Cadarn and his troopers would bear the brunt of the advance while the thinly spread C3 forces in the local area rushed to reinforce the position.
For this second part in our Concord vs Virai mini campaign, Andy chose scenario 6: Outpost, in which a small Concord force of defenders attempt to delay the advance of a larger Virai force. Credit to Andy for choosing a scenario based on its narrative value, even though it put him at a clear disadvantage.
I can’t complain at having 100pts to spend, but in the last game I really had to pad the force out with army options due to a lack of enough painted models to comfortably fill out the list. This time, I’ve thrown in a surprise by painting up a Virai Mining Support Team with Heavy Frag Borer. I originally planned to use it as a counter to the M4 Combat Drone before we decided on the scenario. Once we picked Outpost, it felt unlikely that Andy would invest precious points on a single unit (or even be able to), but I didn’t want to change the list so I kept it anyway. The plan is to maximise cover whilst sprinting across the field. Hopefully my Defenders might actually get to tear apart some fleshbags this time, and with some more reprogram shenanigans it shouldn’t be hard to get at least one unit off the opposite edge, ensuring at least a partial victory.
I knew I wasn’t making things easy for myself choosing this scenario and knowing that I was only going to get 50pts (edit: neither of us read the scenario properly – turns out that Andy should have had 67pts). What I hadn’t appreciated was that I’d only start the first turn with 2 units on the table! So with that in mind I figured it was just about putting a few units in the way and trying to delay the Virai as long as possible. Though with the reprogram abilities its going to make that difficult too. So two Strike Squads it is, plus two C3D1 Support Drones and an X-Launcher for hopefully a few extra pins, and that’s me done!
It was a bit of a surprise when Andy drew the first order die, given the numerical advantage of the Virai. Andy gave his X-Launcher team an ambush order – not ideal given the limited line of sight, but them’s the breaks. The Virai enjoyed several order dice following this, bringing on both Architectors, the Virai Assault Squad and the Heavy Frag Borer. It was immediately apparent that the latter would have trouble drawing line of sight since the Concord were unlikely to leave their entrenched positions, so the slowest unit on the field started “running” to try and find a better vantage point. The Virai Assault Squad managed to sprint nearly half way across the table, nestled safely out of sight behind the woodland. With their high agility, they easily avoided the pin for sprinting, and when the nearby First Instance Architector issued a reprogram dice shortly thereafter, they emerged from the Concord side of the trees at a sprint, triggering an ambush. As suspensored units, the Virai have immunity to difficult terrain (edit: we later realised this isn’t entirely true – see the post battle comments). Combined with their high movement speed, it meant that this would be the Support Team’s only chance to slow the attackers before they closed to melee range. Unfortunately for Andy, the X-Launcher team missed, landing the suspensor net somewhere among the trees behind the Assault Squad. Completing their charge, the Virai reached the barrier marking the edge of the outpost. The heroic Concord were able to take down one of the incoming Virai with point blank shooting, suffering only a single casualty in return thanks to the combination of batter field and cover. But the remaining C3 trooper was no match for the ripclaws of the Virai, succumbing all too easily to their assault and delivering the first casualty of the game.
On the Virai right flank, the Second Instance Architector failed its command check to reprogram the nearby Weapon Drone, meaning the latter would have to wait for turn two to bring its flamer array to bear on the Strike Squad. This also left the Strike Squad without any viable targets for its ambush order, which Andy chose to retain for turn 2.
With all the dice now in the bag, the robo-bugs still had a big numerical advantage, so it was no surprise that the Virai opened proceedings. It would be tempting to sprint the Hive Assault Squad off the table edge, but such an effective unit might be put to better use tearing through the incoming Concord. Instead, the Virai Weapon Drone advanced into line of sight of the Strike Squad and opened fire, but failed to even hit the outpost, never mind the troopers inside. Next, the Second Instance moved forward into the safety of the ruins at a run. This drew the ambush of the Strike Squad, who hit twice with focused fire and killed one of the Hive Defender Bodyguards. With two more order dice going the way of the Virai, the Second Instance reprogrammed the Weapon Drone, who rounded the ruins and fired again at the outpost with a single focused shot. Miraculously, Strike Leader Cadarn’s Hyperlight armour was sufficient to the task, leaving the Concord defenders shaken but not stirred.
Virai units kept pouring out of the jungle depths, though the Scavenger Squad and one squad of Mining Constructors took a wrong turn somewhere and would have to wait another turn to join the fray. The Concord had better luck, with a second Strike Squad entering the field to reinforce the overrun Concord position. They fired focused plasma at the Hive Assault Squad still lurking by the outpost. Self preservation algorithms dictated a cautious response, leading the Virai to get down behind cover. The well trained Strike Troopers still managed to hit three of the Virai despite the re-roll. But an Assault Warrior is no ordinary Virai, and is possessed of superior armour plating, leading to a single pin but no casualties.
The First Instance sped forward in support of the beleaguered Assault Warriors, but before it could do more, the hum of Concord suspensors announced the arrival of a C3D1 Drone. It floated in behind the Strike Squad, offering its superior firepower as well as its batter field. While technically the drone shouldn’t be able to shoot through the other unit, it was agreed between both players that the suspensors would allow it to hover just above the troopers, drawing line of sight to and from the drone. And so the drone opened fire on the downed Assault Warriors, managing to kill two of the remaining four and inflicting a third pin. Thankfully, the proximity of the First Instance meant the Assault Squad passed their break test, but this was still a serious blow to the attackers, as it severely reduced the chances of the Assault Squad getting up from the Down order. Or, it would have if not for the Architector issuing a reset order that removed all three pins. Andy cursed the tricksy Virai and their cheating reprogram dice.
On the C3 left flank, the second C3D1 Drone joined the fray, firing over the heads of the entrenched Strike Squad to hit the advancing Virai Weapon Drone. Two shots hit, but in another example of “skill at rolling dice”, Jamie managed to save both hits, leaving only a pin behind to show that this flank was actually engaged in a firefight.
The final action of the turn was for the Virai Support Team to bring the Heavy Frag Borer down off the hill. It was clear that it wasn’t going to win any medals for speed, so drawing line of sight to the Concord left flank might force the Strike Troopers out of cover if Jamie could only land a hit next turn.
Thanks to the Architector’s reset order, the Hive Assault squad recovered its order die at the end of turn 2, and, seizing the initiative, sprinted past the onrushing Concord defenders and off the other side of the field. This removed them as potential targets while inching the Virai closer to victory.
Next, the slightly slower Mining Constructor Squad sprinted forward to join the First Instance. Thanks to a successful Overclock, they managed to leapfrog the Architector, assault the Strike Squad and, despite picking up a pin in the sprint, wipe out the defenders whilst taking only one casualty in return.
Needless to say, this left the C3D1 in a precarious position, unable to adequately defend itself in hand to hand combat. In a desperate act of self preservation, the drone fired its light plasma support weapon at the Constructors, inflicting a single casualty and a third pin.
Still pulling out Virai dice from the bag with cackles of robotic glee, Jamie had the Weapon Drone fire its flamer array once more into the Concord outpost. Fuelled by foolish bravado, Strike Leader Cadarn leapt in front of the shot, hoping to deflect it a second time. Needless to say, Private Jenkins received an on the spot promotion to Strike Leader shortly thereafter. Moving up to support the troopers, the nearby C3D1 Drone fired on the Second Instance Architector, assessing it as the greater threat. The Architector wisely chose to take cover, and thanks to the ruins, both it and its remaining bodyguard survived the attack, but took a second pin. This proved crucial when, in attempting to issue an overclock to the nearby Weapon Drone, the Architector’s programming suffered a temporary malfunction and the reprogram order was lost. On the same flank, the remaining members of the Strike Squad failed their order test and went down, sadly too late for Strike Leader Cadarn.
The First Instance Architect moved to support the remaining Constructors, issuing a reset that removed two out of three pins. Unbelievably, the two Virai Squads that had failed to join the battle in turn 2 repeated their performance in turn 3, thanks to the generally low command of Virai Constructor Squads. The normal cure for this is Hive Summons, an army option that comes free with each Architector. But in all the excitement of turning C3 Troopers into mincemeat, Jamie completely forgot about Hive Summons, so the offending units stayed AWOL for the time being.
The Heavy Frag Borer also failed to hit the distant Concord targets, despite two STAA tags, thanks in equal parts to range, cover and a batter field provided by the Support Drone.
With so many Virai units already in the defender’s half of the table, a Concord defeat seemed a certainty without some miraculous luck. Andy chose to fight to the bitter end, knowing that every moment the Virai could be delayed was another moment the boffins could spend wiping hard drives or whatever they were doing at that weapons facility.
Unfortunately for the Concord, the increasing numerical advantage of the Virai meant they seized the initiative, surging forward to assault both flanks up close. The Mining Constructors lost three of their number to the deadly fire from the C3D1’s Plasma Light Support, but the compound attacks of the remaining two Constructors were too much for the Drone to withstand.
Elsewhere, the Second Instance Architect emerged from cover at pace, crashing into the C3 outpost and the downed troopers within. The defenders couldn’t immediately return fire and the two casualties inflicted by the point blank shooting were enough to force a break test, which they failed without firing a shot. The C3D1 Drone covered their escape with a rapid burst of plasma fire, but it was not enough – the IMTel issued new orders to withdraw, ceding the jungle to the Virai.
Post Game Analysis
Well, given the scenario, I expected the Virai to dominate, but I feel like a lot of rolls went my way in this one. Even without lady luck on my side, there is no denying that the Virai are unusually suited to this kind of scenario. A lot of their units benefit from higher than average movement, and with the ability for key units to move twice in one turn, it is possible to overwhelm defenders before they can mount an effective response.
That said, I spotted a couple of mistakes we made that swung it further in my favour. The first was negligible – we used the command radius of Architectors to issue reprogram orders, but the rules state 5 inches. Analysing the photos, there were no flagrant abuses – most such orders were issued at 7 inches or less in areas where the Virai could have easily moved within 5 inches without changing the outcome. The more significant mistake was in our treatment of suspensored units and difficult terrain. On rereading the rules, the Virai ought to have made agility tests for difficult terrain that isn’t “relatively clear”. This would have potentially slowed the Hive Assault Squad in turn 1 to the point where they could not have made the assault on the X-Launcher Support Team. With their agility, it would have only been a 40% chance of failure, but who knows what another turn of shooting with the X-Launcher might have done?
All in all, it was a narrative battle, not a balanced one, and really captures the swarm-like nature of the Virai.
They say no plan survives first contact with the enemy and that was certainly true here. Placing my X-Launcher in the outpost right from the start meant they were very exposed and isolated, and the speed of the Virai thanks to their reprogramming meant it failed to achieve anything. Maybe another Strike Squad would’ve been better. Also the drones were perhaps a mistake – although the plasma light supports were effective, once assaulted, the drones could do little to fight back and were therefore unable to slow the Virai down.
Having said all that, I knew I’d be taking a beating in this game. My main objectives were to have fun and go down in a blaze of glory, and I succeeded on both counts. It also helps that I rather enjoy playing the underdog, especially if it makes a good story. It was a great narrative game and it really helps set the scene for our next encounter on Brochunus IV….