Saturday we played game four of our campaign series on Mars. It really was a great game with lots of moving parts, posing many challenges for both sides.
First, the battlefield was very unique. The scenario called for an amphibious assault up a canal with many requirements on the British forces. The 8' X 5' board was bisected lengthwise by a canal, crossed by a single bridge. Though it was possible to take small boats across the canal too, I can only presume the process would have been very time-consuming.
Four scattered Martian militia units were allotted to defend the canal area. As Martian defenders, we chose to defend high value targets that would take considerable time to rebuild if destroyed. These included heavy gun batteries, the bridge crossing and the Thunderer prisoners from the previous battle. The role of the Martian defenders was to hang on as long as possible until help could arrive.
The defenders' disillusionment began immediately. The British and their allies achieved complete surprise, sailing quietly past the defending shore batteries and disembarking their troops directly onto the bridge. There, these troops rapidly overcame the few sentries and secured both ends of the important canal crossing. Flanking parties landed near the heavy Martian cannon defending the mouth of the canal, and quickly spiked the guns, though the gunners and their defenders inflicted some loss on the landing force.
More adventurous was the airlifting of two companies of Egyptian troops up the canal to attack Martian supply points. These troops were landed far in advance of the British drive and attacked Martian militia units and disembarked . . . just as Martian reinforcements began arriving on the table. Far from British support, these troops began to receive unwanted attention from an imported walker, spraying Gatling rounds at flyer and soldier alike. Though they recovered some important documents, their demolition crews were killed and they recalled their transport for rescue.
The British advance halted, not because of any action taken by their enemies, but because they were willing to settle for half-measures. As Martian troops began streaming down both banks of the canal, it was clear that their massing was going to result in some serious bloodshed. The flyer lifted off with its charges, taking damage as it went. A small force of Martian reinforcements arrived on the north bridge road, behind the British flank. Rocket fire struck the flyer, and the fanatic Sverdlinkers launched a desperate attack on a band of Hill Martians.
The Hill Martians, firing bows, and massing their own much larger force to receive the crazed red-men, quailed under the initial assault. Eventually the tide turned and each swordsman in was slain except for their leader, the Prince Imperial, and he was carried off, bleeding from a half dozen wounds, with his fate to be bartered by the wild hillmen.
As the Sverdlinkers met their fate, the British decided to retreat up the canal. Pre-positioned charges destroyed the bridge. Guns were spiked and captured supplies were destroyed. Using their firepower to cover their retreat, Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors and their native allies re-embarked. The Martian commander Willie Fraser arrived on the scene just in time to vent his frustration. Grabbing the Thunderer survivors, he dragged them to the tallest watch tower. Fraser kicked the remnants of a destroyed rocket launcher down the stairs before hacking the head from each airship crewman with his highland broadsword. Then he tossed each headless body from the watchtower as the British raiding forces withdrew.
The British once again damaged the city's defenses with relative impunity. The damage was not so bad, but it demonstrated once again the Martians' limited ability to respond. More scarce resources would be spent on repairing valuable infrastructure. On the other hand, the British missed an important opportunity devastate the city's suburbs.
A note on photos. These were taken by both Mark and me. The top left shows an assault on one of the gun batteries defending the mouth of the canal. Sverdlinkers and Martian askaris attack the front and right flank of the gun, while sailors make their way around the left. The gun is defended by the gunners and a unit of militia muskets.
Two views of the British flotilla on the canal. The first is of the British gunboat leading the way, crashing into the bridge. This is the paper gunboat model by Reviresco. It's first battle, it was nice to get this in action. The guns mounted on this vessel were source of constant irritation to the defenders. The second view shows the Brits in position on the bridge after overcoming the few Martian defenders.
The middle view shows the Sverdlinkers' counter attack against the Hill Martians near the end of the game. In our game the Sverdlinkers are fanatic swordsmen who receive a +2 in melee combat. The Hill Martians are indifferent troops, but I had twenty and he had four. Eventually the weight of numbers ran against him and I captured the Prince Imperial. This is a personal character (mine is Willie Fraser) so this is a great loss for the British allies.
Last, but certainly not least, is Chris Bauermeister's beautiful flyer. Armed with a couple of Gatlings as well as two companies of Egyptians, the flyer was all over the place. It shot up a couple of militia units and air landed its charges behind enemy lines. Took a lot of damage too, but survived the game after braving fire to extricate its cargo.