Monday, June 21, 2010

Specimen Collection on Sonora 41-b

The bioweapons division at InenBåen has been trying to obtain the Ir-larvae through official channels for over seven years. Having exhausted that, they've turned to very unofficial channels. The first four sponsored expeditions all met in disaster. A hired crew that doesn't return doesn't need to paid, so a fifth band of mercenaries was sent in.

Going outside the standard shipping lanes was not only costly in both fuel and bribe money, but added two and a half weeks to the trip. It was bad enough with Mangalores on board, but the extra trip time pushed the limits of the ships air-scrubbers. It didn't help, the Spugs clicked among themselves, that the poorly equipped humans also chose not to bathe during that time, opting to save recycled water. The captain of the ship kept he and his men in the forward compartments. Being the overall leader of the expedition, they were able to claim the only proper quarters on board the Sabre-class ship, the ZERΩ.
When I had made my "more 15mm sci-fi" vow at the beginning of the year, I didn't really think it'd be in the familiar grounds of 5150. About a week or so back we did just that. We kicked it into 5150 gear, scaled the figs down to 15mm, and had a go at it. I need to say up front that 5150, and 2HR Wargames in general are really cool rules, but if you get rusty on them, you're in for a long haul. The important thing to bear in mind; just wing it so the game doesn't get too hung up. We had four players, cooked up a scenario on the fly, and played cooperatively against a game-mechanic controlled alien xenomorph threat.

The ZERΩ touches down, the mercs file out
Sonora 41-b is the tertiary moon of a lifeless rock in the Hades Nexus. Seventeen cycles ago it was the staging area for a petty rebellion until it was relentlessly crushed by the system monarchy. The rebels used the natural caves on Sonora 41-b so effectively, the military they sought to overthrow used incredibly dubious (and ultimately irreversible) means to cleanse the planet. Sonora 41-b has been quarantined since. Biological weapons were used to eliminate the rebels, but what exactly was used is completely unknown. It is known that whatever it was, shut down the planet in terms of fauna, both sentient and animal. What actually happened is the scientists had unleashed the dormant egg pods of Internecivus raptus unto the rebels. These predatory xenomorphs consumed everything in their path, including the science team that unleashed them. InenBåen doesn't know the details, they just know whatever was used was damnably effective, and they want it. Enter the fifth mercenary team to take on this dangerous assignment.
I've already mentioned how great 5150 can be, and choosing forces further goes to show this. We basically grabbed a little bit of what we had on hand and 'wung it' from there. We had a few different alien reference sheets for the PC's and put together an ad hoc crew free trader band, ready to hit dirtside. We didn't worry about points, just common sense numbers. We used the 'captain' as the overall leader of the expedition.

"Hudson, run a bypass."
Three science buildings remained intact in this quadrant and as the ZERΩ circled the deserted compound, it picked up no signs of activity. The Ir-larvae, if it existed at all, would be in one of these hab-labs. The team was acting on a hunch, a very expensive piece of information, but a hunch nonetheless. The air was breathable, but the compound was eerily quiet, devoid of any background animal sounds.

The salvage crew exited the ramp and split into teams to speed up the search.
The pair of Mangalores, hefting their fearsome ZF-1s, made their way to the rocky rise in the middle of the compound, climbed up it's short but steep side, and took up defensive positions. Their role was simple, kill anything that might delay the team's progress. The Spugs, an alien insectoid race, made it across the grounds towards the largest structure. Interestingly enough, whenever two or more Spugs are present, they develop a collective conscience, kind of like a local-area mini hive mind. This allows them to react quicker and perform tasks more efficiently. Armed with their shard-technology rifles, two kept overwatch while the third worked on bypassing the hab-lab door. The militia troops filed out in a disheveled mass and made their way in the direction of the Spugs. The troops weren't a total loss, they had adequate combat skills, just none of them had ever served in a structured military and their lack of experience showed. Their weapons, crude slug throwers were in various states of quality. Captain Sheryl and his team moved out with the precision one would expect of their military background. They sported well-maintained laser carbines and carapace armor.

"Click, clickkkkkk, click." The Spugs approach hab-lab #3

Captain Sheryl's team quickly bypassed the security door, but their search turned up empty. The Spugs were having more difficulty in bypassing the door of the hab-lab where they were. Two stood guard while the third kept re-writing security protocols and trying to override the stubborn door.

The militia team moved across the open looking for any threats

The motion tracker goes nuts!
As the Spugs continued to override the door, and Captain Sheryl's men exited the building, as the militia was spread out, as the Mangalores looked on with their squinty gaze the threat appeared. Xenomorphs, the butchers of Sonora 41-b's past inhabitants sprang from the shadows. Their chitinous armot gleaming a deep metallic blue in the sun. The only sound to be heard was the scraping and clicking of their talons on the rocky ground.

The range proved to be too much for the slug-throwing auto-rifles of the militia. They were able to sight-in on the xenos, but failed to cause any significant damage. The Spug leader's smaller SMG suffered the same problem, but the other Spug's shard rifle managed to take out a single xeno. Much to everyone's surprised, as soon as the first xeno fell to the dirt, another one sprung up from behind to take its place. The Mangalores, whose sole job was to dish out heavy firepower to any threats were completely caught off-guard when the xenos emerged, and the brutes failed to fire a single shot against the first charge. Captain Sheryl and his men heard the commotion and moved from behind cover to add their firepower, only to be surprised by what they saw and being forced to duck back behind the building, hoping they weren't seen by the xenos.

The Mangalores seemed to wake up at the sound of gunfire and turned their heavy-barreled ZF1's towards the oncoming horde. As loud as a thunder peel, the slow staccato of their guns echoed off the hills and the large bore rounds ripped through the xenos, taking half their number in one volley. The xenos kept bounding forward however, it seemed every time one of them fell, two more replaced them. The lone Spug gained access to the hab-lab, but a quick rifling of the interior didn't turn up anything noteworthy. The militia, seeing the rushing horde panicked and took flight, taking cover behind some derelict wreckage. Combined fire from the other two Spugs, alongside the highly effective Mangalores was able to eliminate the last of the Xenos. This cleared up the corridor for Captain Sheryl to get to the last hab-lab.

Smash and grab, Captain Sheryl grabs the larvae
Captain Sheryl's men couldn't bypass the last door, and were forced to simply bash it down. Inside they found a row of cylindrical cryo tanks. Of the six, two were broken, the specimens nowhere to be found. One had leaked out all of its fluids through several fine cracks, leaving the specimen inside a dessicated husk. Two others appeared operations, but the specimens inside were obviously dead, leaving the last tank. As Captain Sheryl walked up to it he drew his sidearm and tapped on the glass with its barrel. A large eye opened up and swiveled to look directly at the startled captain. This is what they were looking for. News went over the comm-net and the others began to take action. The pilot of the ZEROΩ began warming up the engines. The Spugs regrouped and began moving towards the dropship. The Mangalores pulled up short and stayed atop the rocky outcrop, still keeping a wary eye out for any other threats. The militia were slow going, not seeming to have received the message because their hand held radios were switched to silent mode.

The mission was all but a success. The Ir-larvae had been obtained, the team had suffered no casualties, and thanks to the guncams on the Mangalore ZF1's, they also had solid evidence as to what was lurking on Sonora 41-b. The picket ship in orbit responsible for guarding the area of space that contained the ZERΩ's exit vector had already been bribed. They were to run a routine systems diagnosis on their long range sensors, unfortunately making them inoperable for, not coincidentally, the time it would take the ZERΩ to lift off and leave the planet.

Thinking of the paycheck at the end of the mission, the team moved towards the dropship...and right into another horde of xenomorphs! This new group swung around the very hill the ZERΩ was perched upon, its engines rumbling to life. Captain Sheryl gave in no uncertain turns that is the LZ became hot, he would not wait for any stragglers. This declaration pulled even the slower footed Mangalores from their defended perch among the rocks. The Spugs dashed forward, firing their shard weapons into the center of the xenos. The militia however were still having trouble with their radios and didn't even know about the new xenos, or the evac order.

The Mangalores were very successful with their ZF1's overall, but were itching to test the mettle of these xenos in hand-to-hand combat. As they closed the distance, guns blazing, the Spugs found the sweet spot of their shard rifles' ranges, and between the Mangalore and Spugs, they tore apart the last of the xenos. Acidic blood splattered the ground and rocks, sizzling acrid plumes of smoke into the air. The militia finally got the clue as they looked around and saw everyone else running to the ship. Extra incentive came in the form of a third wave of xenos, this time emerging directly by the militia! They were the last to get to the ship, and not a moment too soon, the last human was still on the ramp as it began to retract.

A jetwash bathed the immediate area, revealing more xenos that had been lurking in the shadows. There was no cover to be had from the flames as it engulfed the xenos. The pilot pulled back on the controls pointing the nose of the ZERΩ skyward, then he swung it around in a strafing pattern. More xenos had arrived, it seemed the team had made a more narrow escape than they originally realized. Assault cannons on the ZERΩ's wings opened up and particle guns under the cockpit did the same, raking across the masses of xenos as the ship made a low pass. A pair of Armiger missiles flew out, striking two of the hab-labs in great explosions. Many xenos were caught in the collateral damage, and signs of the team's passing were deleted.
So, there's another 5150 game in the books. We were pretty hazy on the rules, and made a lot of "just roll a die" decisions on the fly, but in the end the game didn't suffer on iota. In fact, I had a blast with it, it was a lot of fun. It was also a nice change of pace to have four players at the table, all playing a miniatures game, and all cooperatively on the same side. It'd be nice to finally get to grips with a game that offered that 'gaming transparency' in regards to rules and player grasp. This isn't the case here, but it could be. The chain reaction-based system can be intuitive and play fast and fun with not a whole lot invested on the players' part. The trick is not to let too much time lapse between games, and you won't find yourself unproductively rusty with the rules. It was solid sci-fi goodness with plenty of goodies thrown in there.


  1. Dear lord, where did you get those "Aliens" figs??? I've wanted to make a home brew Aliens mini game since I was a kid.

  2. Check out Khurasan Miniatures' "Space Demon" line, they've got all you could want!

  3. Great battle report, the narrative-style has always been my favourite :)

  4. Thanks Chris, they're a little extra work, but make a fun game report even better.