October 6, 2014 by crew
In our continuing series on “Make the Game Your Own: Star Wars Ground Minis,” we’ve been looking at a conversion of the old Star Wars PocketModels TCG into a miniatures wargame. So far we’ve talked about the basic conversion and reviewed some play testing results for the Battle of Hoth. In this article, we’ll expand the discussion into the “Prequel Era” and also look at multi-level games, where combat on a planet’s surface is coupled with a simultaneous engagement in orbit.
A Prequel Battle!
It’s no secret that many Star Wars fans hold Episodes I-III in dim comparison against the original Episodes IV-VI. So why recreate them in a wargame? Firstly, the PocketModels packs are “blind buys,” so anyone who collects them will get loads of prequel-era units anyway. Second, a lot of the prequel vehicles look pretty cool (despite the movies they’re in), so why not use them? Third, it’s much easier to set up a “balanced” large-scale wargame between Separatist and Republic forces in the Clone Wars than it is between the Empire and the Rebellion twenty years later. This is especially true in light of all the great “expanded universe” material that’s been produced for the Clone Wars era. For these (and many other reasons), we decided to set up our next series of play tests at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, recreating the Battle of Geonosis.
In this game, the Grand Army of the Republic had just landed powerful forces on the surface of Geonosis, a remote but key Separatist world vital to the production of their droid-based army. The Republic’s objective was a massive droid foundry complex, where a pair of C-9979 class landing craft were trying to take off with key Separatist leaders, plans, and materials. A pair of huge Trade Federation battleships loomed in orbit, ready to cover the Separatist escape from the approach of several Acclamator-class planetary assault ships. In game terms, the victory conditions were simple. The Republic had until the end of Turn 8 to destroy the two landing ships, which could not move or fire. If they didn’t do so, the Separatists won.
While the battle would ultimately be decided on the ground (where the landing craft were), the orbital battle had to play a key part in the overall outcome. All the same, we didn’t want the orbital battle to be the sole decisive factor, with the winning side’s capital ships and fighters free to rain destruction on opposing ground forces. In particular, we didn’t want the Republic’s assault ships to be able to simply pound the Separatist landing ships and end the game before it began. The overall aim was to keep the importance of the two games balanced.
Accordingly, we agreed on some rules whereby fighters launched from capital ships could spend an activation to switch boards, either from the orbital board to the surface board or vice-versa. They could do so from any spot on their current board, but always appeared in their respective side’s “reserve zone” on the new board. This transfer constituted their entire movement phase.
Capital ships, meanwhile, could never enter the atmosphere (yes, Acclamator-class assault ships can actually land, but we were trying to keep this game balanced). Capital ships could hit targets on the surface board, however, regardless of range or line of sight. To compensate for this “finger of God” approach, and because the capital ship weapons were extremely powerful, we applied a -3 to hit penalty for capital ships shooting from space. This also accounted for things like atmospheric refraction, ranges of 200+ kilometres, and the difficulty of hitting walker-sized units with weapons designed to engage star destroyers. This resulted in a game where capital ships could rarely hit a ground unit, but vaporized anything they did hit. Ground units, meanwhile, could never engage anything on the space board, but could easily shoot down fighters that entered the surface board.
Both sides started the game with about twenty stars in both their ground forces and orbital fleet. This basically resulted in a “double game,” so we added extra poker chips to the bag for our alternate initiative mechanic. The Republic fielded four AT-AP walkers, three AT-TE walkers, and one massive HAVw A6 Juggernaut “turbo tank.” The Separatists squared off with five huge OG-9 homing “spider droids” and three NR-N99 droid tanks. In space, the Republic vectored in with three Acclamator-class assault ships and four flights of Eta-2 Actis “Jedi” Interceptors, one of them flown by Mace Windu. The Separatists were ready with two of their mammoth Trade Federation battleships and a swarm of Vulture droid fighters.
As we’d done for our Hoth battle, we moved and fired five “build stars” worth of units with each activation. Ground units and capital ships could move six inches and fire, while speeder, air, and fighter units could move twelve inches. Weapons range was always twelve inches, with the attacker getting a +1 to hit if the range was three inches or less.
The action started off violently on the space board, with the ground board remaining quiet for the first few turns. This may have been because I was having difficulty getting my Republic forces through a narrow valley, while my Separatist opponent was content to await my approach. On the space board, however, my Republic ships came off very badly. While my Jedi Fighters did well against the first wave of Vulture droids, a second group of Vultures swung around my left and hit Yoda’s flagship in the flank, destroying it instantly with a well-placed torpedo strike. I hope Yoda had an escape pod, or we just caused some serious plot issues for subsequent movies.
Another problem I had was the sheer firepower of the Trade Federation battleships. True, I had them outnumbered. But bad dice, good play by my opponent, and the handy playing of some droid-themed battle cards (the General Grievous card had a “grievous” effect on my last assault ship) quickly had my fleet reduced to a planetary ring of debris. My last-ditch effort to shut down the droid fighter force (and thus protect my ground troops) was a playing of the Anakin Skywalker card. In true “falling to the Dark Side” style, this card gives +3 to hit, but inflicts +1 damage to both your target and yourself. To make matters worse, I played this on a Jedi Fighter that was already damaged, so Anakin’s fighter destroyed itself to take out the last of the droid fighters. So Yoda’s down, Anakin’s down (which means no Luke or Leia in later movies); at this rate the last throne room scene in Return of the Jedi will be between Ewoks and a Jawa Sith Lord. “Give yourself to the Dark Side…or buy some droids, whichever you like.”
On the ground, the battle was going much better for the Republic. I found that selectively shooting apart droid formations (and leaving surviving units widely scattered) to be a handy tactic. Remember, in order to keep an approximation of the original TCG’s “zone” mechanic, we’re stipulating that when you spend an activation to move and fire your five “build stars” of units, they have to be within six inches of each other. Thus, by knocking out part of each five-star battle group, I was leaving the remainder “stranded” until they fell back and regrouped.
Still, my opponent kept forces between my walkers and the landing ships, even after I pulled my last two Jedi fighters to the ground board and started strafing surviving droid tanks. Things really got bad when the Separatists scored not one but TWO lucky hits with their orbital bombardment rolls (the two Trade Federation battleships were still looming overhead, remember), incinerating my Juggernaut tank and one of my AT-TE walkers. I played the “Reinforcements” card which helped bring a new AT-PT up from my reserves, and finally brought the landing ships under fire. But these ships have a high defence rating and can take plenty of hits, and although they were both heavily damaged, both were still in play at the end of Turn 8.
Using The Force!
On my very last activation, I had just my two Jedi fighters left (other surviving units had already moved this turn). Both Separatist landing ships had just one hit left, so I had to score one more hit on BOTH ships to win the game. I swear I could almost hear the “Obi-Wan Force” theme in my head as these fighters split their attack, each Jedi fighter going for one landing ship. The rolls were extremely difficult, and the odds of making them both were all but non-existent. But if I believed in the Force, trusted my instincts, and “stayed on target . . . stayed on target…”
Nope. I destroyed one landing ship, but missed the other. Thus, on the very last roll of the game, the Separatists had one hit left on their last landing ship, and walked away with a razor-thin, laser-scorched, blood-soaked victory…the very best kind if you ask me.
As always, we’re still experimenting. I now have some Republic drop ships scratch-built for my AT-TEs, and the link below leads to a forum post where we’re experimenting with true infantry units to add to our PocketModels games. So let us know what you think. Comments and suggestions are more than welcome.
"I hope Yoda had an escape pod, or we just caused some serious plot issues for subsequent movies..."
"...if I believed in the Force, trusted my instincts, and “stayed on target...stayed on target...”"