Cleared to Engage: The Mystery of the Atom
Last week Josh and I got together to try out Cleared to Engage, a fun, fast-playing ruleset written by P. Todoroff and hosted over at his blog Stalker7. As you might surmise, the intent of the ruleset is to provide a basic framework of rules for running sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and/or cyberpunk skirmish games.
These are Todoroff's homebrew rules used for most of the games featured on his blog. CTE lacks a points system or premade character profiles, but that was no
problem for us, as we relish the challenge of crafting scenarios. We were eager to try the rules out! I set the scenario in the Derzhensko Exclusion Zone, which is one of several homebrew settings we've used for our sci-fi and post-apoc games. Here's the scenario outline:
The Lure of the Atom
Location: Derzhensko Exclusion Zone
Area: Unsecured Perimeter K-18
Zone’s porous perimeter has been compromised by a group of ex-military
scavengers, trespassers and adventurers. The goal of the expedition is a
single unexploded atomic bomb -- a relic from a past era, when such
weapons rained down from the skies. Could it hold the secret to the
Zone’s existence? The explorers must first get past the defenders of a
small settlement nearby. These hardy folk have spent years rebuilding
some semblance of a society in the ruins of the Zone, and they are
unwilling to watch their hard work get destroyed by invaders.
The game pitted a group of veteran stalkers, mercenaries and ex-military types (backed up by some rather frightful mutants straight out of the lab) against a ragtag band of dug-in settlers armed with mostly improvised weapons. The stalkers' objective was to reach the atomic bomb and explore its mysteries. Their secondary objective was to reach the water tank outside the greenhouse and restock their dwindling supplies.
The settlers' objective was to annihilate the mercs -- and as we saw in our game, a combination of poor terrain placement and the sheer lethality of "Cleared to Engage" helped the settlers achieve their goal quite nicely.
I deployed my mercs in the wooded perimeter outside the settlement, intending to use the "Snipers in the Woods" scenario rule to lay down withering cover fire while my guys advanced. I knew my weapons and equipment were better than the settlers' pitiful rakes and garden hoes. (That's sarcasm, of course. As you can see in the pics, Josh's guys were lovingly converted to hold all manner of nifty weapons, from a leaf trimmer to a stop sign to a pneumatic air gun!)
I advanced through the woods, sending two groups of guys toward the two objectives. In this pic, Floyd the Mega Mutant and Yadonovsky the stalker close in on the water tank, which is attached to the side of the greenhouse -- and critically, within range of the settlers' firearms!
A turn later, they arrived, taking cover behind the greenhouse before sprinting to the water tank.
Over by atomic bomb, another pair of mercs was advancing cautiously, using broken barricades as cover. Alas, they were ambushed by Josh's recon element, which had been forward deployed near some shipping containers.
Actually it looks like the recon settler killed the mutant berzerker and was then slain herself. Here's the pic -- you be the judge.
Alone and unsupported, Morsov (with the shotgun) darted across the street to link up with the stalkers by the greenhouse. He made it halfway before encountering some defenders. After a brief, fierce close combat, both figures killed each other.
In fact, that happened a lot. Every single one of our close combats resulted in both figures dying in the first round. I'm not sure if that was due to CTE's deadly close combat system, or some misunderstanding on our part. The result was a veritable killing field near the greenhouse! Here's an example of the carnage after three or four turns.
The results were similar over by the greenhouse. Ranged combat thinned the ranks, and close combat took care of the rest. Josh and I both slaughtered each other's figures with reckless abandon! Josh had a medic, which meant that he was able to revive a couple figures -- only to see them butchered a turn later by my guys.
When the dust cleared, I hadn't managed to secure even one of the two objectives, and Josh had decimated my fighting force. His settlers wouldn't be doing much settling anymore, though, as they had left more than half their number strewn about the streets as casualties. We agreed that Josh won the scenario.
CTE proved to be quite deadly, almost to a fault. We couldn't stop our guys from dying! Even the settlers, with relatively poor stats, were able to score hits when rolling buckets of dice with their machine pistols. Some of this came from terrain placement -- the wide open street was an absolute killzone -- but even figures in cover, such as my snipers in the woods, didn't last long once they started to draw fire.
We agreed to try out more multi-wound figures in our next game, as well as lower benchmark combat values across the board. The great part about this ruleset is that it is very easy to modify and tinker with. After the game, we were just brimming with ideas for possible tweaks and enhancements to better suit our play style and figure/terrain collections.
Hats off to Mr. Todoroff for crafting a fun ruleset that has energized our players. Doubtless we'll try this one again soon!
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member