Monday, December 5, 2016

Swatters: UN Marine Force Guns Down Bugs in 2nd Try of Rules

Joel and Allen in the center were the Alien Bugs for the evening,  and faced the same frustration that last Bug Commanders did
Keith wanted to give the Ganesha Games "Swatters" rules another try, so cooked up a scenario with the UN Marines on the attack in an African desert. Under Keith's storyline, the alien bugs have invaded the Earth for unknown reasons, and are actively seeking out and establishing a present in the desert regions of our planet. Since the U.S. and Soviets are engaged in their 1950s-era Cold Wars posturing, the UN has taken the lead in aggressively confronting and turning back the alien incursion.

My force had one tank, 3 squads of UN Marines, and one elite squad -- all accompanied by one support personnell armed with a rocket launcher
My fellow commander, Mike W, took my cue and began a tentative advance. The last thing we wanted was a squad that advanced too far and become strung out. A small town hid the Bug advance from us, as we cautiously jockey our units for the best firing positions. We avoided getting too close to the center, where the Bugs would be able to "spawn" from any rocky outcropping. As soon as the Bugs came within range, we began firing.

Beyond the town, the Bug force advanced in earnest. They had learned from the last battle, and carefully hugged terrain to limit the effect of our gunfire.
One different thing, force composition wise, we were trying for the Bugs was more screening troops. Both Allen and Joel's contingents had units of Swarms or Worker Drones. The goal was for them to put them out front and soak up the the human fire rather than their more expensive troops. As it was, neither Bug Commander truly adopted this tactic. Instead, both did a good job of hugging terrain to decrease our firepower.
View from the Marine side as the Bugs come within sight and we begin to blaze away at them.
The rules employ a mechanic called a "Dice Pool," which the UN side used to supplement their fire regularly. In fact, we would see our dice pool dwindle to single digits by the game's end. I was forced to be a bit more conservative this game and sometimes fired without any bonus dice provided by the pool. The Bugs tried a new tactic with their dice pool. They also used them to supplement their die rolling rather than use it all for spawning new units. In fact, it wasn't until I had destroyed most of Allen's units on the table that they chose to attempt to spawn.
Three new units of Bug Swarms are spawned by the Bug side to replace Allen's losses.
Keith had unbalanced the forces using the rules' point system to favor the Bugs. Nevertheless, the UN continued to gun down the approaching alien units. They actually scored fewer successes than last time. Allen had a Bomb Bug which acted like a massive mortar, firing the length of the table over the heads of his troops. However, he mis-deployed it, and it was unable to spot enemy of our troops for a number of turns. When it did hit, it would typically take out one or two figures in our 5-man squads.

A Stomper Bug spawned, Allen's new force is ready and begins to scuttle towards my marine infantry and tank.
There was a moment when it looked like the Bugs might crash into our forces and create some mayhem. They had closed to within movement range and a number of very effective melee units were poised for the attack. I "crapped out" on my first activation roll, which meant no firing from me this turn. However, the Aliens responded in kind, with Joel crapping out as well, and Allen having a less than effective turn, as well.
Allen's King Bug lumbers into one of my marine squads who cause one hit upon it and escape unscathed.
Still, the Bugs moved into contact with my side of the battlefield. However, by this time, they had totally depleted their own dice pool. I was able to bump up my rolls (which allow you to roll more than one attack or defense dice and choose the best number), while Allen could do nothing except roll a single die and hope for the best. A number of times, in key situations, he rolled a "1" or "2" on a six-sided die, causing his troops to be repulsed or his attack to be less effective.
King Bug down! The last final attack of the Bugs came up short against my mostly undamaged troops
As it was, the result was the same as the first playtest: Human victory! Although they still had troops left on the table, it was apparent that they would be unable to break through our cordon of fire. Once again, the UN had done a good job of gunning down the advancing Bugs and preventing them from getting into effective melee contact. Keith vowed to keep tweaking the points to see if he can obtain a more balanced matchup. Joel pointed out that "crap outs" -- activation failures -- are more deadly against a side that relies on closing to melee than one that shoots. I feel the dice pool mechanic heavily weights the game in the Humans' favor. I think if we were not able to routinely use two dice every time we fire to ensure a higher number rolled then maybe we would not gun them down as effectively.

Either way, Swatters provides a fun game (at least for me, having played the winning UN side both times...ha, ha!) and we'll continue to play around with it to come up with a more balanced matchup.

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