Atomic Highway: A Little Wars Battle Report
We've been hyping the game we've come up with for HMGS' Little Wars convention for some time now, and after a weekend of furious action, here are the results.
First, let's take a look at the gangs that took the field. We had 6 factions involved in this game.
The Settlement Survivors — These folks are not inherently violent, but are willing to do what it takes to defend their families and their fragile settlement on the outer wastes.
1. Gas Runner tribe — Nomads who specialize in the acquisition and transport of Black Gold. In this case they are working for the Settlement Survivors faction.
2. Settlement Scouts — These warriors are specially tasked with finding supplies (in this case Black Gold) for the settlement.
3. Settlement Defenders — These survivors have come along as extra muscle to ensure the safe delivery of the Black Gold
The Vandals — These villains survive not by their own efforts, but by raiding and stealing from others.
4. Butchers of Boozetown — Feared by all, these psychotic raiders are not known for leaving survivors... intact.
5. Rat Scavengers — Mostly comprised of former Settlement Survivors, the Rat Scavengers are raiders who prey on their former comrades.
6. Lone Skulls Biker Gang — No stranger to violence before the Great Catastrophe, the Lone Skulls now find their skills in violence and intimidation to be a valued commodity.
In our scenario, the survivors of a dark future have secured a tanker of Black Gold (gasoline, of course, using a term borrowed from "The Road Warrior") with the help of the Gas Runner tribe. In order to get it back to their settlement, they attempt a daring cross-country run, trying to avoid the Vandals by staying off the highway. The Survivors need to get the tank of fuel across the wastes to their settlement, while the Vandals' objective is to seize the truck.
We managed to set up a table featuring 14 feet of post-apocalyptic madness! The settlement objective is in the foreground. Notable areas include the Narrows and the Splits.
This game used a very simplified version of the Wasteland Meltdown rules. Over the course of three separate playtest games, we tweaked the rules to create a fun, easy-to-learn scenario.
The game began with a roar of engines as the Gas Runners took off across the wastes, defended by the Settlement Survivors and pursued by the Vandals.
Adrenaline and a sense of duty overpowered sound logi,c and early in the game the Settlement Defenders tried a suicidal blocking maneuver to slow their pursuers.
The Gas Runners and Settlement Scouts roared ahead into the Splits.
Unfortunately for the defenders, the massed firepower of the Vandals and the ramming power of their death trucks made short work of the blockers. The defenders' vehicles were crushed, smashed and crippled, with most occupants slaughtered.
With only one surviving figure, the Settlement Defender player opted to take advantage of a "respawn" rule we had created for just such a situation. The player received one vehicle and two passengers at a garage located further down the battlefield. The respawn option was available to any player who lost both of his vehicles.
Ambush! As the Gas Runners and Settlement Scouts come out of the Splits, they were ambushed by a Rat Scavenger sedan.
To represent their control of the wastelands, the Vandals were given the ability to begin the game deployed anywhere up to the last road section. Additionally, any Vandal vehicle ending its turn on a black asphalt road section was able to re-enter the board from another road section the following turn.
This ended up being a great mechanic for keeping the action fast, and keeping players whose vehicles were damaged from being completely left behind.
The ambush was largely ineffective, though a few of the Vandals managed to leap onto the Gas Truck just before it roared into the Narrows. Shortly after, the majority of the Vandals left at the table at a road section in order to ambush the truck after the Narrows.
As the Gas Truck left the Narrows, it was beset by several Vandal vehicles, which rammed it and poured on the firepower. More Vandal riders boarded the truck; absolute chaos ensued as it neared the settlement (and the end of the game)!
Though indestructible as part of the scenario, damage nonetheless took its toll on the Gas Truck. Every 20 points of damage meant a panic check, which meant friendly passengers might fall off!
At the settlement, the defenders rolled back the vehicles blocking the entrance...
.... meanwhile the attackers and defenders massacre each other until only the driver and one Vandal warrior remain aboard the Gas Truck as it rolls through the settlement gates.
Despite the loss of all the Gas Runner defenders, the Settlement Survivor faction won the major objective — and by only losing three vehicles, they secured a MAJOR VICTORY!
Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better game. The outcome actually became less sure as the game progressed, and it was in contention right up until the moment the Gas Truck rolled into the settlement.
Including briefing, the entire game of 14 turns took less than two and a half hours. Except for collision results and a few inevitable GM rulings, the players were able to handle almost all gameplay themselves within four turns. The respawn and road re-entry mechanics kept all players engaged through the entire scenario, and they all seemed to be having a great time.
Special thanks is due to Pat, who created and modified the scenario and would have run it if life hadn't intervened. Also, thanks go out to the Chicago Skirmish Wargames club members, who gave up three club nights (nearly two months of meetings) to heavily playtest this game. The playtests resulted in many, many changes, and when I think of what the rules first were, the game would have been a true disaster without the modifications.
Thoughts on Little Wars
Little Wars was a great venue for running the game. They were very friendly and more than willing to give us a double-long space for our 14-foot game boards. They also provided the GM (me) with a goodie bag of snacks and a medal to give to the best general. The award went to the gamer who had only lost one vehicle and two passengers.
Even though our event was sold out in pre-registration, only three players actually showed up! However, we were able to fill the three spots with two walk-ups and Ryan, our erstwhile club member who had come in from Kansas City to hang out for the weekend and help our with the game.
The convention sights were great as always. Little Wars consistently has a multitude of great battlefields and miniatures representing the entire historical spectrum of eras and scales. The flea market was small but excellently run and there were lots dealers. I made some great finds at both.
Though not having much interest in historical gaming, I had a good time looking over the tables and at the paint-and-take booth.
Interestingly, there isn't free admission for GMs, and unlike Adepticon, there also isn't free admission for folks who want to come and shop, or just walk around and watch games in progress.
This is the second year that we've run an event at little Wars. We'll likely run another event at Little Wars next year, but we are considering other venues. It's very heavily weighted toward the historical side of the spectrum (as one would expect for an event run by HMGS). Aside from the Warmachine tournament (which had the distinction of being the only games featuring unpainted miniatures, haha), our game was one of only three non-historical games I saw. As most of our group does very little historical gaming, we are left wondering if we are reaching the right audience with our games. Moreover, if we didn't run a game at the convention, would we spend $20 to stroll around and shop?
We have plenty of time to discuss this question before next year's event. I'd urge the event organizers to consider free admission for GMs as well as a reduced rate for non-players who just want to browse and spend money in the vendor area. Anything to make the convention more accessible is a good thing!
As always, we'd love to hear your impressions of Little Wars. Post a comment below or (if you're in the Chicago area) join our mailing list!
— Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member