Tritchel now faced another choice. The Martian force was rushing to Panther Burn. Reinforcements from Col. O'Malley in the north were rushing south to meet him as well. He could wait, and face a much larger force, but with fresh men and tanks that he sorely needed, or he could strike fast, right now, and hope to cut off the Martians by retaking Panther Burn before the Martians arrived.
Mustering the survivors of his last raid, which were not many, and were very short on large caliber weapons, he did not even hesitate to order them into battle at Panther Burn.
Lacking tanks, he was forced to rely on slow, unwieldy, but more powerful artillery. Having to tow them into range however meant they would not be able to prepare a pre-battle bombardment (or fire the first turn).
And there, in the Martian rear, was why. A strange sphere rested atop some concrete ruins. This experimental device, now fully active, allowed for drone control over several miles out from Panther Burn. Tritchel recognized his main target when he saw it.
Yet it would not be easy to get to.
A gamble - a truck loaded with high explosives makes a suicide charge down the center of the road.
The rest of the force advances more cautiously.
Early fire damages the lead veteran tripod.
But Martian return fire is surgical and deadly. One of the heavy guns is knocked out, as well as the big MKIV tank. Tritchel begins to worry if he made the right choice. The device was surely heavily armored and he was quickly loosing his heavy weapons. This battle might well come down to infantry setting charges on the sphere - but first they'd have to make it through the Martian gauntlet.
The truck was detonated before it could get too close to the Martians by fire from some Lobototons, of which there were plenty.
The entire American left was blocked by the zombified troops holding a bog. The American advance on that side ground to a halt, Tritchel not wanted to waste shots on the worthless lobototons.
The first Tripod to fall was one of the two scouts which had been targeting the American heavies for the grenadiers. It got a bit too close and took a whithering amount of fire from the American lines.
Soon after, the lead Veteran Tripod finally toppled down from fire by some MKIII tanks.
However, Tritchel had pushed his men too far for too long. It was perhaps inevitable that this tired, if high-spirited group would start to show the stress of constant battle. As the advance stalled in the center of the board, units began to rout right and left.
The American left was stronger, but advancing under the constant fire of sniper drones hiding in a building. A unit of MKIIs screen some armored infantry carriers, but for how long?
The routing MKIIIs are destroyed by fast-moving Scorpion drones. The Martian controllers inside the sphere know that the scorpions will likely be destroyed by the inevitable infantry counter-attack, but the sacrifice is judged worth it. The Americans now have little that can damage the sphere.
On the American right, the Lobototons slowly begin to advance...
The Veteran bodily blocks shots against the Sphere.
Meanwhile on the American left, problems begin to develop. Sniper fire destroyes an infantry carrier, routing the rest of the unit. The armored infantry inside bravely jump from the moving carriers to screen their withdrawal. Two full units take terrible fire from drones. One unit tries to run but is cut down by the drones' reaper tentacles.
Cutting a hole through the American lines, the drones finish off the armored carriers (and more importantly, their HMGs).
The breakdown on the left makes Tritchel's morale problems worse.
Sensing weakness, the Martians begin to advance in force.
They are met by surprisingly stiff resistance...
The remaining veteran emerges from the assaults unscathed, but the last remaining scout has worse luck (and worse armor).
Beyond the scout, little damage is done, but the Americans do manage to enter the large factory guarding the approach to threaten the sniper drones with close combat.
Machine guns and mortar teams cling to cover as they approach the building, waiting for the all-clear from the doughboys that went ahead of them.
And it is indeed up to the humble infantry now. There's just no big guns left to back them up.
The Martians, facing the sheer numbers of American infantry, begin to fall back to the Sphere, trying to prevent a breakthrough.
On the right, things go less well. Wild fire from the inaccurate grenadier tripods and the first shots from the line of lobototons coming into range routs another unit.
A solitary clamp tankis destroyed before it can catch up with the veteran tripod - again by fire from lobototons.
And while the infantry manage to wipe out the sniper drones (sadly, after they'd already done their job and killed all the tanks), they in turn are wiped out by black dust lobbed into the building by the grenadier. One single squad of armored infantry made it out, and damages the grenadier with grenades.
However, the lobototons ambling about the road make it difficult for reinforcements to back them up.
Meanwhile on the American right, the larger force of zombie troops is finally getting into range. Tritchel had withdrawn from the right, hoping to prevent any more needless deaths and their effect on morale, but instead, the Americans are backed into a corner, and far from the Sphere to boot.
The sphere which remains undamaged, despite an attempted assault by the solitary squad of armored infantry which made it into the Martian base.
On the right, the lobototons are largely cut down by rifle fire. They did some damage, but they succeeded in their mission - dying in order to bottle up the Americans, keeping them far from the Sphere. One solitary squad of blasters survives long enough to do the unthinkable. They rush forward, ignoring other targets and slipping through the thin American line. Tritchel, having spent the battle running hither and thither to rally his cracking men, suddenly found himself under fire!
A shot from the single stand of lobototons, through the corn fields, finds Major Tritchel, killing him instantly.
He staggers for a moment and then falls lifeless among his men.
The remaining infantry, seeing their leader fall, and the shining of Martian metal in the distance withdraw in a panic. They don't make it far before the Martians approaching at their rear find them.
As division headquarters in Vicksburg waits for news of Tritchel and Panther Burn, they find only silence. Surveillance planes only confirm the destruction of his force the next day. A terrible, dark day for the United States, and humanity.
Scenario Rules: Break point at 70% (round up), unless Tritchel or the Sphere are killed, which drops the corresponding break point to 50%. No pregame bombardment, and all artillery start as towed.
1 command stand - 30
1 MK III 225
1MK IV 190
2 Mortar teams 90
3 machine gun teams 120
1 towed AT gun 80
Option Heavy Howitzers, towed by tanks (no shot first round or pre-bombard) 165
5 infantry units 150
Armored carriers - 150
Armored infantry 130
Clamp tank - 100
Truck - 15 (no extra points for H.E.)
Total: 1665 pts
2 veteran assault tripods: 500
5 lobos - 100
2 grenadiers - 200
2 scouts - 300
scorpions - 100
snipers - 75
drones - 60
Total - 1335 pts