Major Wilhelm Tritchel, torn between a preemptive strike on an unknown Martian installation and the rescue of a group of civilians being herded by tripods has chosen to be a humanitarian. (Scenario rules and OOB at bottom.)
Of course, Tritchel is a soldier first. He's not just rescuing the civilians, but attempting to strike a terrible blow against the Martians arrayed to capture them. He suspects that the Martians will more strongly guard the installation, and that the force sent after the civilians will be less prepared for organized resistance. He gathers his full strength and, armed with the captured reconnaissance photographs, knows just where to position himself. His men move in during the night, into the edge of the Mississippi bayou, between the tripods chasing the civilians and those waiting to round them up.
In the rear, the American forces have set up a first aid station and depot. His men have been instructed to get the civilians to the rear as fast as they can.
Unsuspecting the ambush, the Martians arrive in the south. Tritchel was wrong about their strength. Metal from dozens of drones and lobototons can be seen shining in the early morning light, as they skirt the edge of the swamp.
To the north, three tripods appear, driving the fleeing refugees before them.
But what is that? Two Veteran Tripods!?! Tritchel tensed as he looked through his field glasses. This was no regular gathering force. They appeared to be escorting another, smaller machine...
A Scientist!! There it stood, waiting by a heat ray pen prepared for human captives. While Tritchel and his fellow officers had heard tales of these mysterious tripods, he'd never seen one himself. These strange slow figures were rumored to be not only the creators of the horrific lobototons (captured humans with hijacked nervous systems), but have often been seen in conjunction with strange new Martian war machines. Perhaps this Scientist is responsible whatever the Martians are building among the ruins of Panther Burn? Tritchel decided to leap at the opportunity. If he could kill the scientist here...
The scientist meanwhile, had similar thoughts in its strange alien mind. It knew all about Tritchel's force, and the damage they'd done to the Martian rear in this swampy land, even if it hadn't been expecting to encounter them here. Orders were instantly relayed to the rest of the Cell - "Neutralize the human leader!"
While both sides would aim to rescue or capture the civilians, they would also be looking for an opportunity to crush the head of the snake.
Battle was joined almost immediately. Despite the American attempts at stealth, their numbers were simply too great to conceal. The Martian drones and lobototons pressed into the swamp, directly at the American lines. Tritchel, despite not being sure of the exact disposition of the enemy, had luckily deployed most of his forces in the southern part of the swamp. The Martian infantry pressed them hard, but they were unable to advance quickly.
The larger Tripods meanwhile, supported by the sniper drones, prioritized the great line of tanks that stretched out along the tree line.
In the north, which was more lightly defended by the humans, the three tripods used their tentacles to herd the refugees forward. The whipping, snapping tendrils of metal worked well to keep the terrified humans moving in the direction the invaders wanted.
Shouts and screams drifted to Tritchel's ears from the swamps, punctuated by occasional explosions as the tanks burned with their crews still inside.
Scoripon drones tore through the human infantry, but the human numbers were such that they were barely able to move the line forward. Lobototons moved slowly up from behind to support them.
The American soldiers, shocked by the initial onslaught, gathered their forces and made their move. They rushed at the Tripods in the north and threw grenades from behind, distracting them from their captives. A brave few made a run for it.
Meanwhile, the infantry commanders in the north ordered a full charge. Men surged forward and threw their grenades with great skill. All of the scorpion drones were immediately wiped out, with many other casualties as well. The Americans were quickly decimating the Martian infantry.
Damage done to the herding tripods, the infantry withdrew to the cornfields on the roadside to regroup.
One brave little girl fled behind the church searching for safety.
Others scattered, fleeing from the carnage. The American soldiers shouted themselves hoarse trying to direct them to the first aid station. Two wealthy Mississippians turned their car off the road, speeding in the direction the tanks were coming from.
More infantry emerged out of the swamps and into fields. Despite careful deployment of Lobototons and drones, they were able to punch a hole in the Martian lines and slip some rough riders through it to strike at the lead slaver.
Soon, the Martian front line had collapsed and rough riders and infantry attempted to assault one of the veterans. The bikes successfully deployed their tow cables, but the infantry was able to do little against such a formidable tripod.
At this point, nearly all of the Martian drones were destroyed, leaving only Lobototons and a handful of single elements of drones to defend the Tripods from mass assaults.
The rough riders that immobilized the slaver bravely pressed on into the cotton field beyond, becoming the first American unit to come face to face with the Scientist. A group of lobototon blasters pulled back to block their path to the Martian leader.
Despite the American success at wiping out the drones, none of the Tripods had fallen, and used their heat rays to return the favor by destroying nearly all of the American tanks. A great line of fire and smoke was all that remained of the formation. Similarly, the lobototons pressed forward, protecting the tripods, and doing some damage to the human infantry. While the Americans were still holding strong, their numbers were getting dangerously thin in the northern part of the battle. It was looking less and less likely that they could break through to the Scientist.
The remaining American forces pulled back, trying to draw the Martians away from their leader, and others took up a strong position at the center of the battle, hoping to intercept the civilians as they were herded towards the pen.
From the first aid station Tritchel ordered his armored infantry carriers, his big MKIV tank and a support truck to advance and attempt to intercept the civilians nearing the crossroads at the center of the battle. The carriers unloaded their detachment of armored infantry just in time, as one of the carriers was melted to slag by a heat ray.
In the north swamp, only a single infantry unit remained, trying to keep the Martians from redeploying, even at the cost of their own lives. They succeeded in tying up several units of lobototons for quite some time before they met their fates.
Despite significant damage, the lead tripod driving civilians made it to the crossroads. The other two were lagging behind, harassed by infantry, or crippled by damage to their navigation systems.
Tritchel ordered his men in the central fields to keep the remaining Martians busy. It would be costly, but he was determined not to let the stronger Martian force from linking up with the damaged civilian-herding tripods. If the two forces met, it would become nearly impossible to rescue the humans in time.
Accurate fire from the MKIV's big guns and grenades from the infantry brought down the tripod at the crossroads. A major set-back for the Martians! "Get in the truck!" the lead NCO yelled to the refugees.
Meanwhile, an entire platoon engaged the sluggish tripod at the rear, holding it up further and giving the civilians another chance to flee.
Then, a lucky shot downed the immobilized slaver, making it that much more difficult for the Martians to advance.
One slaver remained in the south swamps, still attempting to eliminate the remaining infantry.
Meanwhile, the Scientist's elite escort began to press forward, hoping to intercept the truckload of civilians before they made it back to the first aid station and safety.
The Martian force was starting to come apart. Civilians were fleeing in all directions and with the incoming fire it had become more difficult to round them up.
The American force was decimated, but the Martians could barely tell given the amount of fire still coming out of the trees. Machine guns, mortars, and even a big tank continued to fire at the shrunken Martian force.
Most of the civilians were now scattered or working their way out of harm's way. Only a handful were still in immediate danger.
A last ditch effort saw the Martians burning their final orders (and getting that Scout under control) to press towards the crossroads. The two forces were nearly linked up, and at the largest concentration of refugees!
The lobototon hoard began its slow pivot towards the fight, commanded by the remaining slaver.
Just when the refugees at the truck through they were safe, Martian tripods towered over them on both sides.
Tritchel, seeing victory about to be snatched from him, executed his own pivot, and found that his tanks were much quicker than the slow lobotons. With a burst of extra steam (orders) they had the gathering tripods in their sights.
Relentless fire rocked the tripods, making them sway like a tree in the wind. Pieces of them fell to the ground all around the gathered civilians like a rain of metal. But still they stood.
...until they didn't. Concentrating their fire, the Americans destroyed the last two tripods that had been herding the civilians from the north.
The civilians fled towards safety!
At the same moment, a detachment of machine gunners fired over the heads of the approaching lobototons, and destroyed the last slaver. The lobototons at once stopped in their tracks, standing motionless in the fields and swamps.
The Scientist, seeing the battle was lost, gave the recall order to its elite guard and began to retreat back to Panther Burn with its tentacles between its legs.
Allowing the Martians to flee (and having little remaining to stop them), Tritchel turned his attentions to collecting the civilians. Many thanked him, hugged him and kissed him. Despite everything he'd been through in the past few months, Major Tritchel found that he could still smile.
The 29th was victorious!
The Americans had the momentum for the first time in the campaign. Division headquarters in Vicksburg pondered what to do. In the end, they decided that Tritchel must be supported. Orders were sent to Colonel O'Malley, fresh from the Battle of Bolivar County, to send two battalions south to support the victorious Major. The Colonel was less than thrilled with the prospect of weakening his own force, but orders were orders. He complied.
An additional battalion was moved to support O'Malley's containment of the Martians in the north.
Soon after, the two battalions digging in on the east bank of the Yazoo River reported something strange. For days they'd been preparing for the inevitable attempt by the Martians to cross the river and make a thrust for the Jackson-Memphis rail line (a campaign objective). But at dawn they found that the enemy no longer moved on the other bank. They had withdrawn during the night, turning back towards Panther Burn and Major Tritchel. Orders were given to cross the river and pursue.
Now it would be a race. Would O'Malley's divisions meet Tritchel in time? Or would the Martians gather their strength at Panther Burn before they can arrive? Had they withdrawn from the strategically important Yazoo in order to prevent getting cut off, or to protect the Martian installation being built there?
And in Bolivar County, would Colonel O'Malley's weakened regiment be able to contain the Martians already gathered there?
Game End: Ends either when all civilians are rescued/captured or 75% of human or 50% of Martian forces are destroyed.
Ends either when all civilians are rescued/captured or 75% of human or 50% of Martian forces are destroyed.
1/civilian (not stand) rescued/captured
3 points for killing the enemy commander (scientist/Tritchel)
3 points for breaking the enemy.
Deployment: Martians must decide their deployment first (perhaps writing it down) but the humans actually deploy first. Humans deploy in the swamps and forests, 2/3 of one long side of the board. The Martians deploy on two ends of a road stretching down the other side of the board, on the short edges. Only three Tripods may be placed in the north section, driving the civilians forward. Martians may not deploy any tripods in the swamp initially but drones are may be placed there, closer to the humans. A Martian heat ray pen is on one end of the road, the human civilians at the other. A first aid station is set up for the humans on their deployment edge, at the end of a road.
Civilian Movement Rules: Civilians move along the road if there is no Martian within 8", moved by the human player on their turn. If there is a Martian within 8", they Panic. When they reach the half way point in their movement (the crossroads leading to the aid camp), they realize the trap and Panic.
Panic: When a civilian is panicked, roll a scatter die and move the civilian in the direction indicated, unless it is towards a Martian, in which case reroll until a safe(ish) direction is found. If the target symbol is rolled, the civilian freezes in place. I also modified one of the target symbols (there were 2) with a red dot, indicating that the civilian moves 1d10 in a blind rush in the direction it's already facing.
If an American army unit is within 6" of the civilian they will be assumed to be yelling for them to go towards safety, and from that point on, the civilian will flee directly towards the field hospital, under the human player's control.
If at any point a Martian comes within 8" of a civilian moving in such a way towards the hospital, the human player rolls off with the Martian, and if the human wins, the civilian continues, if the Martian wins, the civilian panics.
If a Martian tripod touches base with a civilian at its front, the tentacles will herd the humans in whatever direction the tripod wants (although the civilians may only be at the front). It can move with them and capture others as well, as many as desired. The only way a human player can rescue these captured civilians is to either destroy the tripod (and hope it doesn't explode), grapple it with rough riders or clamp tank, or assault it. If a tripod is assaulted, he rolls off with the human player for each stand of civilians. If the human wins, the tripod is distracted and the civilians flee towards the hospital. If the Martian wins, the humans remain ensnared. No hits are needed in the assault in order to get the roll.
Civilians are in play until they reach either the field hospital or the heat ray pen. These may be optionally destroyed by the enemy, in which case all civilians within panic, and the new objective becomes the table edge.
Civilians may be targeted by either side and destroyed if it becomes clear that victory is impossible. If the humans do this, all units suffer a -2 to morale checks for the rest of the game (and possibly the next game in the campaign!). Killing civilians gives no benefit in terms of victory points - it just makes for less points total.
1/civilian (not stand) rescued/captured
3 points for killing the enemy commander (scientist/Tritchel)
3 points for breaking the enemy.
2x Veteran Assault Tripod (Scientist's Elite Guard)
2x Slaver Tripod
2x Scorpion drones
2x Shock drones
2x sniper drones
5 lobototon blasters
4 lobototon slicers
1 assault tripod
1 assault tripod w/ black dust
1 scout tripod
1 Command stand
3 MK IIs
2 Rough riders
1 armored infantry carrier
2 armored infantry
1 flivver transport
1 AT Gun
...maybe more? In the end, both sides had the same amount of points, roughly - something like 2300.