Say what you like about zee chermans but you’ve got to admit their language always makes a military plan sound super sexy.
Where was I?
Oh yes Maulwurf, the second game in my mini VSF thingy.
Having calculated when the Martians would be landing, Bismarck had persuaded the Kaiser to give the go ahead for Maulwurf Tag, assuring him that this was the moment the British would be most vulnerable.
Within 48hrs long columns of Prussian infantry were observed descending obediently into tunnels that would take them under the North Sea and into the very heart of England.
(Okay, I was expecting another Martian encounter but the series of die rolls used to determine the game set up decided otherwise. This time the Prussians, skilfully painted by Lee, would be making an appearance).
The die rolls produced the following:
Enemy force encountered: 2 x 12 Prussian infantry
Friendly force encountered: Royal Navy Aether Launch
Extra equipment collected: 1 smoke pot. (+1 already held by Cpl Figgis).
New character traits: None. (Hobbes remains a bruiser and Figgis a scout).
British morale level: 3
Prussian morale level: 3
Leader ratings: Sgt Hobbes (2) Cpl Figgis (1), Feldwebel Kraus (2), Oberleutenant Lange (3) Gefreiter Kurtz (1)
As usual I’ve tried to make a scenario meal out of the ingredients the die rolls gave me. The most obvious means of arrival for the Prussians for instance was by the Mole that I documented a few posts ago.
The Royal Navy Aether Launch I’d always considered as a one of a kind experimental vehicle, so I thought it’d make a great objective marker for both sides to try and capture. Since you’d have a hard time doing that if it was in mid air I assumed it had been forced to land through mechanical failure and would eventually be fixed and able to fly off again - unless captured.
The Prussians would have a 2:1 numerical advantage over No1. Section but I decided to limit their deployment to 12 men already out of the Mole’s tunnel with the others arriving at the rate of three per turn.
The objective for No1. Section is to hold off the Prussians until the aether launch can be fixed and flown away while for the Prussians it is simply the capture of the super secret British invention or Professor Brown - the egghead responsible for it’s construction.
To capture the aether launch the Prussians need to have more men on or in the vessels front hex than the British do at the end of any game turn, to capture the professor they just need to enter into close combat with him.
The aether launch needs 21 points to be “fixed” and this will be the rolling total of a single card drawn at the end of every turn. Once fixed it must spend a turn rising into the air (during which it could be shot at) before it can exit the board. The crew of the aether launch is made up of Sub Lt Hargreaves and Professor Brown.
So then this is how events unfolded in what turned out to be a fairly interesting game. The rules used are Mr Lambshead’s diceless ones.
Sgt Hobbes and the remaining 11 men of No1. Section were heading north when the ground began to shake violently beneath them. The vibration became so intense that the chancel and part of a nearby church tower collapsed in an avalanche of stone. Determined to avoid whatever it was the Martians were up to now, Hobbes led the men off the road and through a gate into the cover of a walled field.
It was while he was consulting his map that an object he would later describe as half boat, half carriage, came whistling overhead. Descending rapidly it skidded across the grass then ploughed nose first into the fields boundary wall. Initially stunned, the soldiers quickly recovered and gave chase.
The man was too preoccupied with fixing whatever had gone wrong in the machines engine bay to get into any meaningful conversation though Hobbes heard him muttering darkly about something called an electro inductive aetheric capacitor (oh come on…you’ve got to let me do a bit of technobabble).
The Sergeant was about to offer his assistance when a shout from Pvt O’Rorke got everyone’s attention.
Almost beyond surprise by this point Hobbes ordered the men to take up defensive positions behind the high stone wall. He had no idea what the strange contraption was that had fallen from the heavens but he instinctively felt it was important to stop the Prussians from getting their hands on it.
Watching some of the men in blue march towards the church Hobbes ordered Corporal Figgis along with privates 232 Jones, 249 Jones, Edwards and Murphy to double around the crashed contraption to cover their right flank. As his own numbers dwindled more Prussians could be seen negotiating the woods to their front. The papers had been speculating for months that the Kaiser was up to no good - and now somehow his goons were here, as bold as brass, marching through Blighty!
Hobbes of course had the element of surprise, or at least he did until Pvt Davies let fly with his Martini Henry. The weapons discharge was followed by guttural shouts of “Achtung” and “Gott in Himmel” though not, it should be noted, the hoped for cries of a wounded target. The Prussians in the woods melted deeper into the undergrowth and those heading for the church rushed quickly into its cover.
What Hobbes did not know was that fresh troops were continuing to exit from the tunnel bored through the rock by the mole. Soon he would be both outnumbered and outflanked!
Reaching the other flank as instructed Corporal Figgis could see that a determined rush by the Prussians would take them straight on to the deck of the defenceless contraption. Blocking that approach meant leaving cover and occupying the bow of the vessel himself. Reluctantly his men followed him over the wall.
Sensing that the enemy were preparing to to encircle him Hobbes sent men to keep an eye on the road. When he was happy that Davies would not be firing off any more wild shots he went to join them.
After briefly climbing up the church tower, Oberleutenant Lange managed to get a good view of the British dispositions. Noticing his reserves were now gathering nearby he ordered the men below back out of the church in order to rush the enemy defences and seize the Britishers remarkable machine.
Back on the other side of the field Hobbes could hear the Prussians marching down the road as though they hadn’t a care in the world. Such effrontery was too much for the bold Sergeant, and with a curse that would have made even Figgis blush he ordered his men to climb over the wall and give the foreign johnnies what for! Cutting through a gap in the hedge the four British soldiers caught the enemy napping. Three shots rang out and three of the leading enemy soldiers went down.
(I think that calls for a quick huzzah, don’t you?)
After blunting the enemies advance Hobbes led his men back to the wall, but what this…the downed Prussians have regained their feet?!
(In Mr Lambshead’s rules a downed figure is not necessarily dead. During a turn end admin phase a card is drawn for each potential casualty, red confirming their demise and black indicating that they were only lightly wounded or just took cover. As you can see from the picture, three black cards were drawn in a row and the Prussians dusted themselves down and got back up on their feet. While they were on the floor they’d have been almost helpless against melee, and had Hobbes closed to melee them rather than retreating to the wall they’d have likely have been gonners).
Just when all seemed lost Professor Brown finally realigned the polarity of the electrically stimulated lift crystal. (I knew he could do it!). Slamming the engine bay hatch closed he scrambled back over the wall and climbed aboard.
In the wheelhouse Hargreaves watched the dials on the control panel flicker into life and gently he eased the lift lever upwards.
(The vehicle was always going to be fixed when the total of cards drawn at the end of every turn reached 21. Nice idea, but the turns in Mr Lambshead’s rules are of variable length, only ending when a joker is drawn by either player from the action deck. The British were very lucky in that several turn ends occurred quite close together and the cards drawn for repairs during this period were a Queen (12) a ten and a two. If the turns had been further apart, the total repair values drawn were lower, or the Prussians had received more activations, they would have had plenty of time to capture the target).
The Prussians halted as their target rose slowly from the wreckage of the wall.
(I’m pretty sure that if my 1970’s Battle Picture Library comics were anything to go by - this would have caused a lot more “Gott in Himmels”).
Unsure of what to do, Feldwebel Kraus fired. The machine seemed unaffected, but one of its occupants immediately slumped to the deck. Professor Brown had been hit!
The aether launch rose higher and as the Prussians struggled to reload or draw a bead on it, it clipped the tops of the trees.
Ignoring the dangers of extreme velocity the launch hurtled away from the scene at a mind blowing 30mph. What madness!
The fusillade of shots from the Prussians who’d downed Figgis convinced Hobbes that they were being enveloped from both flanks. With the strange contraption saved from the clutches of the cabbage crunchers (sorry, I’m running out of stereotypical epithets here) he ordered his remaining men to make for the hedge to their rear.
But what of poor Figgis and co?
The lift off of the aether launch was only seconds ahead of two Prussian soldiers who’d run forward to seize its dangling mooring rope. Frustrated in this they turned their beastly attention to the British casualties lying helpless at their feet. Bayonets swiftly despatched 249 Jones and Edwards and they advanced with measured tread on Figgis.
On the other side of the wall the remaining two soldiers of the flanking force had been steadying their nerve. The Prussians prodded the recumbent Figgis with the tips of their bayonets (I imagine they’d have had an evil leer on their faces at this point?) but having recovered their composure 232 Jones and Pvt Murphy popped up from behind the wall and with rifles blazing at zero range, let rip.
The two Prussians fell where they stood.
232 Jones continued to give covering fire as Pvt Murphy climbed over the wall and hoisted Corporal Figgis onto his shoulder. Dragging him back into cover he made slow but deliberate progress towards safety as his plucky Welsh side kick held back the advancing blue horde.
The men of No1 section made it through the hedge and out of sight as the Prussians reached the wall and took brave 232 Jones prisoner. (Naturally the Huns clubbed him with a rifle butt first).
Frustrated in their efforts to capture the strange British craft, the men of the 128th (Danzig) Regiment had at least managed to secure their initial bridgehead in Britain. Reinforcements would continue to flood in through their tunnel in the days that followed.
A few observations.
The unpredictable length of a turn in these rules worked hugely in the British favour - on this occasion. It could very easily have gone the other way.
At the end of the game I drew a card for poor old Figgis and it was black, so he survived with what I’ll count as a superficial wound.
Pvt Murphy should get a medal for rescuing his Corporal but will probably have to accept an annulling of the gambling debt he owes Figgis in its stead.
The whole shebang rattled along at quite a pace with its speedy card draw resolutions - taking just over two hours from start to finish on a 3 x 3 board.
So Hobbes and his remaining men have survived this encounter and will live to fight another day.
I suspect I won’t get around to their next mission before the 2mm construction effort is complete.