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A tale of two worlds

A tale of two worlds

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Project Blog by hutch Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

Victorian Science Fiction is one of my favourite periods, if you can call it such. We have played many games set in our alternative history. To sum up our setting is based sometime after War of the Worlds. After the Martians were defeated on Earth mankind started to make numerous breakthroughs. Large flying ships called Aeronef rule the skies. Man has reached Mars and has spread its influence over the lost and ancient civilisations that live there...

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Timeline

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Timeline



MARTIAN TIMELINE

5 MILLION YEARS BC

Arrival on Mars of the Ancient Ones.

Nothing is known of their origins save that they came a great distance and brought with them to Mars a large variety of species and their own servant races. Fossil records on Mars do not record these species prior to this time, though data remains incomplete due to the evolutionary / mutated nature of the species that survived the Wars of Annihilation. Ancient texts give suggestions to the fact that the Ancient Ones were themselves refugees from a War against an unknown foe.

Mars at this time had an atmosphere much closer to that of Earth with some similar plant and animal eco-systems. The appearance of Earth species on Mars at this time attests to the Ancient Ones visiting Earth and collecting species. Rock carvings indicate that ancient hunting parties visited other planets and would hunt and collect specimens, including those from Earth.

2 MILLION YEARS BC

The ‘golden age’ on Mars. The inhabitants record this time as the building of the fabulous Nebular cities and the Polar Canal Highways. The Seven Wonders of the Martian World are recorded as being created in this time, including the lighthouse of Xandria, the temple of Nostros and the pillar city of Infinitos. The races have by this time grown and spread across the planet. Although still servile to the Ancient Ones they live as vassals rather than slaves and enjoy a degree of autonomy. Trade flourishes and outposts are established on several other worlds, including Earth.

600,000 YEARS BC

Time of corruption. Increasing disharmony among races leads to small wars and skirmishes. The long period of prosperity has led to a false sense of prosperity and safety amongst the Ancients. Much of their original skill and technology has been lost due to lack of use. They are a race in their twilight and their growing weakness and disharmony amongst themselves further exacerbates that weakness. The 12 keys of power become scattered.

500,000 – 300,000 YEARS BC

The First Rebellion. The Mechanoids rise up in several places and slay their masters. Although they seize several key cities with great destruction, the Ancients still command  support from other races to fight back ad crush the Mechanos, who are almost completely destroyed. Those that remain are banished forever to the Polar Wastes.

The absence of their mechanical helpers who drove the furnaces and services of the great cities leads to a gradual abandonment of the larger ones . During this period a series of great plagues and famines sweep the world. Climate changes cause the Polar Icecaps to extend, crushing and destroying huge swathes of land under their advancing glaciers.

200,000 YEARS BC

The Second Rebellion and time of Civil War. Re-emergence of the Mechanos as a stronger, mechanically adapted race from the wastes. The mechanoids are beaten back only by a grand alliance of races, but at great cost. The last of the firstborn ancient Zar- Ramais is killed at the battle of the Sea of Tears.

40,000 YEARS BC

The Ancients are besieged within their last remaining fortresses, with only the race known as the Seers and some clans of the Drune coming to their aid. The Wars of Annihilation raged for almost 100 years. Weapons used by all sides blasted the atmosphere, poisoned the air and turned vast swathes of irrigated land to desert. Almost 90 percent of all species perish, including 3 of the eight tribes. The air is thinned as oxygen is burnt up and the climate changes to that of the harsh one on Mars today.Seeing the end was near, the handful of surviving Ancients that remain board their last serviceable ship with those servants that remained faithful to them and departed. However, as they did so they invoked the ancient and terrible seal portals which had been created at the polar extremes of the world in the earliest days of the Ancients. These had been created to protect the world from the great enemy, but now acted as a great seal to prevent the inhabitants from escape. The Ancients, their technology now diminished to a point where intergalactic travel was a lost art to them, managed to travel to earth with their remaining artefacts.

15,000 YEARS BC

The last of the Ancients are believed to have perished on Earth. Their remaining servants, without their masters, split up and formed the tribes of the Aegyptos, the Aztecha the Asio and the Aryani and build their own great civilisations on Earth, often using the architectural styles of their masters. Meanwhile on Mars the climate has stabilised and the survivors have all but forgotten the once all powerful ancients.

50 YEAR AGO

On Mars: All that remains are their crumbling cities and dry canals which have become the homes for nightmarish creatures. Survivors of the wars of annihilation are scattered and adapt to survive. Some races such as the Mechanos are mutated beyond all recognition. They take over and inhabit several of the Ancients cities, turning them into nightmarish places of fire, metal and ice which look like the pits of Hell .The Martian volcanic Badlands are peppered with their war factories.  They try in vain to batter the seals of the Ancients but without success. The seals cannot be touched from within.

The race of peacable Nool who once tended the astral paddy fields have mostly perished, but their descendants have been forced underground and lead a cannibalistic, termite style existence. Their bodies and eyes have adapted to the murky environment and they have tamed some of the nightmare creatures found underground in their termite style cities. Mostly they are content to fight amongst themselves as each termion kingdom seeks to extend the city realm. Many of these fierce fights are underground in the phosphorous murk. Occasionally however there will appear a strong clan leader who looks further afield and raids against other races are increasing, especially in the southern part of their realm where they brush against Drune outposts and caravanserai.

Morlogs in vast numbers have formed squalled communities as they struggle to develop from their neanderthal like society.  Fashioning crude tools from wood and stone they slowly carve themselves a place in the future of Mars.

The Drune, once the shepherds and beastmasters of the Ancients have now become a nomadic people, forced to move between dune sea to dune sea, following the rains in the wet season and the dung fields of the Astral Architeuthis in the dry during their island migration. They remain on good terms with the Seers, who they regard as akin to Gods, though they tread their own path. Only in the Jebel areas of the southern dune seas do they retain large static settlements. Here the inhabitants are known as the Jebel Drune or Jebalis. Here, large underground water reservoirs fed from the mountains have been located and are closely guarded in cities hewn into the great cliffs, almost impregnable from all sides and protected by many hidden watchers. The Drune do not allow outsiders into their kingdoms. They remain and respect those who are self sufficient, but do trade with others and their laws prohibit the harming of outsiders while under their protection or whilst trading. However, some of the deep dune Drune have turned to piracy. Their great desert ships with full sails skim the surface of the dunes and are an amazing sight.

Lastly there are the Seers. Little is known about these secretive people save that they are few, they live among the floating islands of the archipelago, they have telepathic powers and they have a symbiotic relationship with the large astral architeuthis. Some believe the seers to be an original race that lived on Mars prior to the Ancients, others that they are themselves members of the the race of Ancients, or that they acted as their most loyal and intelligent advisors. The Seers have the power of mind control over certain creatures. They live in cooexistance with the Architeuthis who act as their transport and their guards. The Architeuthis feed on the blossoms of the floatwood trees, which exist in large numbers only on the great floating islands of the archipelago where the rarefied altitude allows their pollination. The Seers have several cities with their largest  Dinae Aesor built on the largest of the floating islands.The Seers have relations with the Drune (with who they trade) in the Market City of Korbat, a floating island city anchored to the mountains. They have nothing to do with the Termions (who fear them) and nothing but hatred for the Mechanos. The Mechanos have attacked them in the past but were driven back each time with great loss, often turning on each other as the Seers exerted their considerable mental powers. However, there are rumours that the Mechanos have developed mental defence mechanisms to combat this. Apart from the Mechanoids, the Seers are the only ace to retain the knowledge of Astral travel, and their cities are themselves great ships.

1895

The Earl of Redgrave’s mission to Mars aboard ‘The Astronef’ is a success. However, while investigating a notable structure at the Southern Martian Pole’s surface the craft lands. The Victorian explorers enter the southern seal portal and unwittingly de-activate it by removing power key of the Ancients. As they do this the portal starts to collapse around them and they are forced to flee for their lives, taking the key with them. What the Mechanoids have tried to achieve for almost 40,000 years has been achieved by the Humans in a split second. The seal is broken, although it is a while before the races (aside from the Seers) realise this.

1898

By this time human trading posts and outstations have been set up on Mars by Britain, Germany, France and Russia.The discovery of large Gold deposits on Mars sees the landing of many human settlers and the setting up of prospecting camps. Many prospectors die from the very harsh conditions and violence that besets the camps and Earth forces are sent to control them. In a few years these camps have transformed into sizeable towns and trading posts. The majority of contact is with the Drune ,though limited contact is made with the Seers. Several expeditions and prospecting caravans go missing during this time as Mars is charted. The Mechanoids capture and study these new human specimens. Meanwhile an exhibiton of Martian artefacts is put on at the British Museum in London entitled ‘Relics of Mars’. Unwittingly they include 1 of the 12 keys of power left by the ancients. During this time, another key is discovered whist on an archeological dig in the Marmarus Sea. Drune join the various imperial navies and astronef fleets where they prove capable and reliable at all tasks and exceptionally resilient.

The first Martian conflict occurs when German ships clash with Astral- Architeuthis while escorting logging vessels to the floating archipelago. Several ships are destroyed though the survivors are allowed to depart by the Seers. Germany plays down the incident as a misunderstanding. Meanwhile, a small British garrison at O’Malley’s Drift beats off a large Termian Horde, though sustaining many casualties. This is the first contact with the Termians.

1899

The Mechanids, having amassed years of observation of Earth and her forces now, launches a huge offensive against Earth. Within the first week most of the conventional forces fall prey to the huge Astronef barrage fleets, which bomb the major cities and destroy most of the aeronef fleets before disgorging tens of thousands of their mechanical ground weapons which walk, crawl or swim across the planet. Once proud earth armies are reduced to tatters and play a cat and mouse guerrilla warfare style trench and urban war against their foe. The Martian forces are defeated during some notable minor actions through the use of new weapons, unconventional tactics and sheer guts. The majority of Martian activity is in Europe at this stage, though some actions are fought in America and the Far East. Ultimately a deadly virus is created by  French Scientist Louis Pasteur which annihilates most of the Martian ground forces and several Martian Astronef squadrons, forcing the survivors to retreat to Mars.

In the aftermath of the invasion the Earth (and especially Western Europe ) tries to pick itself up amid almost 2 million dead and 10 million displaced people. There follows four years of re-building. During this time, contact with the Mars Settlements is re-established, new classes of larger more powerful astronefs are completed and some scientific advances are made into understanding aspects of the Mechanoid technologies, but their weapons remain a mystery. Many scientists are killed trying to open Heat Ray devices or Smoke projectors in massive explosions that rip apart laboratories.

During this period America and Japan, left relatively untouched by the invasion, become the main super- power states, though Britain and France, supported by raw materials from their vast territorial Empires are quick to bounce back. Japan and America both send Astronef expeditions to Mars and claim sections of it. Seeing her chance to claim world dominancy and angered by American interference in her plans, Japan begins to plot ‘the Pacific Solution’.

1903

War breaks out on Mars between the Termians and Drune. The Termians are found to be using German built weaponry and it is not long before British, Russian and French forces become involved. German Luftbattalion forces annihilate the Russian garrison outpost of New Minsk. Relief forces are sent from Earth to relieve several cut off settlements, the most famous being the French Legion Espacial fort at Wadi Rouge, which holds out for 121 days against a Termian force of over 10 thousand.

Northern Europe, embroiled in Martian affairs and with diplomats doing their best to avoid conflict spilling onto Earth, ignore the move Japan starts to make to massively increase her Naval power. Both Japan and Germany are being supported by Mechaloid involvement, her Kaiser and Emperor given visions of easy victories by the mechaloids gift to them of various weapon technologies. These are but carrots….

1904

Japan’s aeronef fleet destroys the majority of the American fleet at Pearl Harbour.

Russia enters the war alongside the Americans to fight to increase her Pacific holdings. They fight an inconclusive action at Johnston’s Atoll.

Germany joins the war on the side of Japan and Britain joins her old allies Russia in the fight with America. France declares her neutrality in agreements with the other powers that her territorial boundaries will be respected. The First World War rages.

Having started the conflict that has weakened the major powers, the Mechaloids send their second major invasion force. This time their attack is coordinated with Japanese and German forces, which act as their ground troops (a lesson learned in their first invasion).

War rages on both Mars and Earth.

Russian troops revolt on Mars, forming their own city state and driving out their imperial officers. Their city is renamed Stahlgrad. It is soon besieged by Luftbattalion forces.

Seeing the Mechaloid involvement with the German and Japanese forces, the Seers use their forces to try to drive off their fleets. As the Termian attacks have all the hallmarks (and increasingly the technology) of the Mechaloids, France can bear neutrality no longer and joins Britain, Russia and America.

1905

German Luftbattalion Mechaloid – enhanced troopers are seen for the first time, proving nearly unstoppable on Mars. They soon reach Earth.

The Seers reveal to the British ambassador Sir Hector Wilkie the true threat of the Mechaloid is their search to gather all 12 keys of the ancients to gain their full powers. They already retain 3 of the keys. The others are scattered in archeological sites around Egypt, the Yucatan, the Gobi, the Paris sewers, the jungles of Cambodia and in Antarctica, as well as in several similar locations on Mars. The Drune retain one, as do the Seers. With the seals broken they are able to use their mind powers to locate the remaining keys.

Messages sent back to London are intercepted, and as expeditions are sent out to the sites to try to reclaim the artefacts, other parallel expeditions are sent by dark forces…

 

The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part One

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The Battle of Sandrigham - Part One

The Battle of Sandrigham

Part One.

Captain Blashford – Robbins tugged at his collar to relieve the heat as he watched the Queen climb the gantry for the official ship naming ceremony. It was late in the day due to delays which had been beyond his control but which he knew he’d be blamed for by his superiors. As long as Queen Victoria wanted to stay in the inn swapping tall tales with her highland officers and that annoying Lady Marmalade there was little he could do about it. Overall though he couldn’t be too disappointed. Although the Queen had not initially been too amused by the rather unsteady gait of the new army walking artillery platform ‘HMMS Gladiator’, she had been excited to use it to chase grouse across her estate. It had been quite a sight to see the ageing monarch who needed help to keep upright suddenly start belting away with her shotgun at anything that moved, including at one stage a game warden from the RSPB reserve. The test range forgotten, the mechanical terror had waded tidal inlets, crossed salt marshes and at one point crashed a party of the local WI. Once the smelling salts had been passed around the good ladies were more than happy to pass cakes and scones up to the thankful naval brigade who scoffed them at the insistence of the Queen who scolded Admiral Standish for being too ‘po faced’. The captain smiled at the memory of the admirals expression.
It was vitally important for certain members of the cabinet to get the Queen’s approval for the new war initiative which was being funded by the 23rd war bond. As usual the job of pleasing the Queen had been given to the officer lowest in the food chain.. Him. The artillery trials had gone well except for the first round which had overshot. Really there was no way of knowing that the pig farm was there. Correction..that it once had been there. At least the good citizens of Lower Titchwell would be eating chops for a good few weeks to come. And the Queen had been impressed by the pintle mounted gatling guns, though he’d not heard of them being used for rabbit hunting before.

Standing on the fore-deck of HMMS Gladiator, the captain was aware even above the din of the crowd which had gathered on the royal-estate of a growing squeaking sound. He’d put it down to another infernal component in this machine, but the noise was getting louder. No time to look about though as the Queen had reached the top of the gantry. The crowd shushed into silence and a hundred pairs of eyes watched as the queen took hold of the lever which would drop the bottle onto the front deck of the ship. Something fell behind the captain and clattered to the ground but he dared not look away.
The Queen had managed to gather some composure now and look slightly more regal, despite the bunting which had somehow got snagged on her foot and which no one had had the bravery to tell her she was dragging around.
“God Bless this ship and all who shail in her”
Oh God, how many had she had..and some of those highlanders didn’t look much better..
CLUNK the lever was pulled. The bottle released…and …exploded in midair.
The captain turned, wiping champagne from his face while several thoughts buzzed through his head. In roughly this order he thought: “that’s not supposed to happen…why is there a large Prussian tank on the other side of the millstream …why is midshipman Phelps unconscious behind me…why do they always use such cheap champagne for these things?”

And so began the infamous battle of Sandringham.

Will Queen Victoria be snatched by the ruthless Prussian special forces? Will someone tell the Queen about the bunting she is dragging around on her boot? Will someone get the highlanders out of the pub in time? Were the WI scones really poisoned? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there, can we assume it has been caused by an ageing British monarch with a Gatling gun? Can somebody please get me an aspirin?

These questions and more probably will not be answered fully as the battle unfolds.

I picked up a copy of GASLIGHT and Battles by GASLIGHT for this game.  We didn’t really have to long to prepare for the game so we decided on a rather small skirmish, slightly themed (yes very slightly) on The Eagle Has Landed.
It was also a good excuse to paint up some new figures and hang good old Union Jack bunting around my little town.

Prussian forces consisting of Clockwork Cranky pants, A Metal Bicycle, Derailer Tank and a handful of Elite Prussian Guards would attempt to snatch Queen Victoria in a lightning raid whilst at the same time a Prussian Spy who had not only sabotaged the H.M.M.S Gladiator but had also stolen its blueprints would try to escape undetected.

We decided that the Prussian Clanks could only make sustain rolls if there was a friendly figure in base contact with them, someone needs to wind them up.  So the Prussians also had a 4 man Bavarian repair team.

The damage caused to the Gladiator would mean that it had a really low Start and sustain number and could only fire its main gun once it was up and running; its two gatling guns however were fully operational.

The Prussian spy was chosen in secret and hidden within the unit of townsfolk.   At any point in the game I could reveal his true identity and immediately take command of him.  He was armed with a pistol and a bomb should things get desperate for him.

On the British side were 20 Highlanders split into 2 units of 10.  A unit of Marines a large mob of 20 Townsfolk (including our spy.) and the two British tanks freshly back from the hunting trip with the queen.

Anyway  enough of my ramblings and on with the pictures.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria addresses the townsfolk.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part One

Prussians advance on the town using both bridges in a pincer manoeuvre.  Uhrwerk-verschrobe Hosen at the fore; their solid metal skins all but impervious to small arms fire.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part One

No sooner has the Prussian assault started it starts to falter.  Clanks begin to unwind blocking the way.
Bavarian Wind Up teams rush forward to restart the static assault troops.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part One

Highlanders and townsfolk rally forth to defend the Queen whilst the H.M.M.S Orca, a British scout class walker, attempts a flanking manoeuvre on the smaller of the two Prussian forces.

H.M.M.S Gladiator stirs to life and begins to trade blows with the Prussian Derailer.  Round-shot skims past chimney pots in this deadly exchange of heavy metal.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

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The Battle of Sandrigham

Part Two

 

The Stahlfahrrad, Prussian Scout bike, barges through the Highlanders holding the secondary entrance.  A closely following Clank is not so lucky and is battered to death single handily by Captain Mc Doogle
The Stahlfahrrad lines up a flanking shot on the H.M.M.S Gladiator, unfortunately Wachtmeister Eberhard hadn’t counted on the most fearsome thing in the British Empire¦

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

A Queen Victoria, who was anything but amused, with her trusty double barrelled hunting shotgun.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two


Highlanders, realising that their rifle fire is having little effect on the clanks, unleash volley after volley into the much squishier Prussians.
Without the constant supply of people to keep the Clanks fully wound up its not long before they start to grind to a halt.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

With the Prussian assault in ruins the few survivors make a fighting withdrawal, erm ok it was more of a rout.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

In a last act of defiance the Derailer fires a departing shot at the Queen¦ A direct Hit!

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

A deadly silence covers the battlefield whilst both sides wait for the smoke to clear¦

People gasp, the only person left standing is Lady Marmalade.  But wait, the body of the Queen is nowhere to be seen.

In a bizarre act of pure chance the Queen was blasted into sky by the explosion.  Only the several layers of petticoats saves her, acting as a parachute bringing Her Majesty, trailing a thin whisper of smoke, down safely onto a nearby roof top.

The Battle of Sandrigham - Part Two

The Battle of Sandrigham - After Battle Report

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The Battle of Sandrigham

After Battle Report

 

 

Father O’Mally Sighed as he looked around at the devastation.  Familiar faces, members of his Parish lay in the blood splattered mud.  Their limp bodies broken and lifeless.
Although tired from the days exertions it would be some time before he could rest.
Personal effects needed to be gathered from the fallen and passed on to surviving relatives.  Graves would need to be dug, oh so many graves.
The Motionless Clanks would need to be disassembled less anyone proved foolish enough to wind up the giant keys embedded in their backs and unwittingly unleash their foul anger once more.

With a crisp salute Private Perkins came to attention before Captain Blashford.

“Sir, father O’Mally found these on the body of Mister Clements, Sir”

The Battle of Sandrigham - After Battle Report

Building Sandringham

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Building Sandringham

Building Sandrigham

My little set up for the Battle of Sandrigham inspired and ruthlessly taken from the fabulous article in one of the Touching History books which are sadly no longer in production.

A little over 4′ Square in total on two terrain boards.

I think the pictures explain the building process on there own better than I probably could in writing.

Basically the terrain boards are made of MDF ‘trays’ with polystyrene inserts which were carved and contoured.  Inserts were then cut into the polystyrene for the buildings to be inserted into.

The buildings were constructed in foam-core and wooden stirrers and balsa wood used to create the wooden beams.

The roofs were made from MDF with a literal ton of individually cut tiles.

The whole lot was painted with regular household paint from Bunnings and flocks and the like added to create a rather dreary semi cold and damp looking town.   Just like a good old English summer 🙂

Bunting

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Bunting

For the most part the Prussian forces are made from WWI German troops from the fantastic Renegade Miniatures range.  Sadly this range of figures seems incredible hard to find these days with the company closing shop for long periods of time.  To this day I am not even sure if they are still in business.

Added to those are a mixture of all kinds of models that I have picked up along the way.

The joy of this campaign is it really is anything goes.  We really don’t mind who wins or loses or if the forces are balanced, as long as we have fun and can tell a good story.

Of course many of the models would look ridiculous in any other setting, like the Bavarian Wind-up Merchants who's job is to keep the clockwork fighting machines working.Of course many of the models would look ridiculous in any other setting, like the Bavarian Wind-up Merchants who's job is to keep the clockwork fighting machines working.

The bunting strewn all around town was very simply made from little Union Jacks printed out and glued to string.  I suppose I could of done them in little triangles, but I am a bit lazy.

Bunting

HMMS Gladiator

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Her Majesty’s Mars Ship Gladiator.

The HMMS Gladiator is one of the largest land ships currently in service in the British Army.  Built in the Metropolitan Carriage of Birmingham this fearsome machine is at the pinnacle of land warfare.

With a top speed of no less than 4.3 mph (7 kph) in good conditions with the wind behind it and armed with a ferocious howitzer capable of firing shells of 900 kg for over 11 miles (18 km) and two Richard Jordan Gatling Guns the Gladiator lives up to its name.

Able to trade blows with the toughest fighting vehicles out there.

With a 35% reliability record the Gladiator is set to really take the fight to the Martians.

 

 

Model scratch built by the fabulous British Commander, Lev Vykopol out of Cardboard, plastic kits and the odd trip to the local hardware shop.

 

HMMS Gladiator

Scale comparison with the Orca, Light Scout walker.

Also Scratch built from plastic kits, old star wars models and plumbing fittings found at the DIY shop.

Battle of the Floatwood Archiapeligo Migration 1898

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Battle of the Floatwood Archiapeligo Migration 1898

This battle was first contact between one of the races of Mars and a German logging fleet and set in the history of our campaign, back in 1989.

For this we used the Aeronef rules system, although we could have just of easily used Full Thrust rules and just changed the names of things to suit our ideas.

The German forces are from Brigade Games, The Astro Squid are home made from beads, cheap jewellery and bits of wire.  Nothing like wargaming on a budget.

The floating islands are chunks of polystyrene with kitchen towel soaked in PVA glue draped across the tops to for the soiled areas.  The Trees are cocktail sticks with a little red flock glued to them.

 

 

After battle report

Unteroffizer Blucher surveyed the desolate Martian expanse before him as he listened to the roll call made in the sharp, Prussian voice of Sergeant Kurtz. He turned once again to look at the men. Barely 40 able to stand, another ten who needed to be propped up and probably another 10 who would die before the day was through. A motley mixture of marines, dirigible crew, engineers, a cook and even the captain’s faithful wolfhound. Sixty men from a ships company of nearly seven hundred. A ship which was launched only a year before to be the pride of the new German Martian fleet by the Kaiser himself. A ship which lay in pieces all around them, scattered as far as the eyes could see.

Blucher shuddered as the winds whipped dust around his greatcoat and harsh sunlight started to fall on the camp, still surrounded by fires from the falling debris of the dig fleet. But is was not the cold he shuddered from. He could still hear the screams of men trapped in the ships stern section, slowly being crushed. He could hear the gunshot like sound of metal rivets being torn loose. The fire crews braving the inferno of the upper decks and the harsh sound of gunnery captain Smeltzer as he barked orders even when all was lost. In barely twenty minutes the force of expeditionary ships ordered to accompany the Bavarian logging crews during the past week had been nearly totally destroyed.

Admiral Hutz had received notice two days prior to this happening when a strange ship had signalled it’s approach. The visitors had come aboard and spoken with the admiral for nearly an hour before departing. Obviously things had not gone well. Some sort of warning had been given and the admiral was not a man to take a warning well. The mission was to extract the floatwood material for new ship testing. Floatwood gave the ability for ships to remain static in the air and still be able to move at vastly greater speeds then the digs they currently used. But the mature trees only grew on the vast floatwood archiapeligo that migrated around the planet. After a week of harvesting they had seen and harpooned a specimen of the architeuthis species. While only a juvenile it weighed in excess of 2000 kg. That was the day before the attack.

Blucher had been in charge of the forward damage party when the attack happened. From his vantage point near the bows of the ship he had seen the astral monsters approach quickly from the south. The sound of the gunnery decks opening fire was deafening and for a little while at least it seemed as if their ship was warding off the attacks as architeuth after architeuth fell before them. When they started to get into close range however the tables turned. Blucher saw strange electrical charges appear from the animals that caused fired to erupt on deck and gunnery decks to lose electrical power to move turrets. Men on fire fell screaming overboard. When the large architeuths hit it was with the force of a freight train. Superstructure buckled and bent, large gun ports were torn free like a small child playing with a tin opener. Still they fought on. Hundreds of marines swarmed the tentacles with axes, swords and anything they could use to cut through the hideous tentacles. Men mounting the deck machine guns poured fire into the vast hulks, aiming for their eyes. Their eyes…. At one point Blucher remembered being knocked down a companionway staircase and seeing a great eye through a rent in the hull.

After that things became a little harder to recall. The shouts and screams of the men became subdued and then quiet. It was as if they were in a trance or a nightmare. Blucher recalled seeing the midships explode and the tail section fall away as the gas compartments were destroyed in quick succession. The deck beneath him had buckled and then risen sharply as the great weight was released. It was the floatwood store that had saved them. When the men came to their senses they found themselves drifting slowly down to earth some half a mile below them with the large tree trunks giving them enough lift in order to sink like a feather and not a stone. It all seemed surreal now.

Blucher turned to see the massive frame of chief engineer Hummel approaching him. He was limping painfully from the acid burn to his right leg.“Sir, I’ve assessed what remains of the ship and the scout parties have returned with some of the parts I need. It’s possible to build something but it will be pretty basic. With all the men helping I could probably have us in the air again in six days. But there is one problem…we have no means of propulsion”. Blucher looked at the three steam clanks that were making repairs to the hull in the distance and then to the  low row of tents which the men were using as shelter, their canvas flapping hard in the breeze. “No my good Hummel, we have the wind..” he said.

And so began the epic voyage of the crew of the dread 33 in their vessel which they nicknamed the ‘Frieda’ (after the engineers wife who had a rather portly appearance and was known to stagger a little after heavy drink).

Meanwhile in Germany the loss of their main Martian navy drew a great cry of indignation from all strata of society. Calls were made for war but it was hard for the public to find an outlet for their rage. Ultimately it was the British who grew suspect in the eyes of the German high command for orchestrating such an event. The British High Commissioner claimed that they knew nothing of the event but was expelled shortly afterwards. Things grew tense. A British ship off the coast of East Africa was sunk without survivors or explanation. The Russians made noises to support the British while the French carefully avoided taking sides with anyone but instead offered a negotiating table for all parties. The Boers in South Africa seem to be receiving German arms and heavy calibre weapons. In the Sudan a British Aeronef patrol has been attacked by an ‘unknown force’ which bore markings last seen during the time of the Mahdi. Things are looking grim. Meanwhile on Mars a secret expedition has been sent out by the Kaisers feared and hated chief of secret police Heinrich Von Hinkel to the southern Polar regions to make contact with the only race known to have defeated the Seers..the Mechaloids.

Floatwood Trees and Space Squid

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Floatwood Trees and Space Squid

 Floatwood Trees

Floatwood trees are a species native to Mars which have been used for a multitude of purposes for aeons by the native Drune tribes. Their most famous use however is in the creation of the skyships of the Martian tribes, where their lighter than air properties combined with floatgas balloons (which give either lift or weight depending on heat) have enabled vast fleets of ships to be assembled by the natives.

 

The plantation owners mainly use them however for their harvested sap, which is highly prized back on earth. One of the main considerations is making sure the trees stay anchored to the ground and it is not unusual to see entire floating islands of the things drifting in the air currents of mars..sometimes single trees..sometimes entire forests. They also form the main food supply of the Astral Archiuteuthis (space squid) who feed on their nectar and who have a strange symbiotic relation with the plants, though this has not been fully studied yet.

Floatwood Trees and Space Squid

Astral Archiuteuthis or more commonly known as space squid.

 

Despite being a relatively non threatening creature the Astral Archiuteuthis are one of the most terrifying creatures to inhabit Mars and have proven the demise of many Aeronef.

 

None more so then the destruction of the Tzars 3rd Imperial Russian Fleet which unfortunately found itself stuck between two herds of squid during mating season.

Floatwood Trees and Space Squid

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

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This Battle happens sometime after the Battle of Sandringham.   The conflict has escalated, and the war is now fought on two fronts, Earth and Mars.

Several ‘keys of power’ have been hidden across both earth and Mars.  These keys are what keep the Martians tied to Mars.  they can be used to unlock a barrier allowing the indigenous population of Mars to travel beyond its gravity once again.

The setting is a French archaeological dig to recover one of these lost keys.  At the time the French have no idea what the keys is or indeed for.  The Prussians on the other hand know full well how valuable the item is and have plans to break the barrier.

 

 

Anyway onto…

 

 

The Lafitte Incident
Part One

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

A prelude…

Trooper Dumas of the Legion Terra-Rouge looked out over the dark shapes of the ruins that surrounded him and huddled further down into his coat. The twin Martian moons gave little light to the landscape, but enough for him to shudder at the eerie sight of the twisted and misshapen columns that surrounded him. The lost city of Ganash could stay lost for all he cared. He could hear laughter coming from camp. Sounded like Raymond has just won another game of ca va. He silently cursed the sergeant for taking away his smokes but remembered his words “blinds a man at night and your enemies know just where to aim..two inches above the glow..”  Not for him to argue with the sergeant. Not that anyone did. Sergeant Lafarge WAS the legion. No one knew how old he was or how long he’d been on Mars. There were many stories about him. But the most famous was that of the siege at the fort at Gauche. Over two thousand Termions has attempted to dig under or climb over the battlements for six months. When the Martian war was over the defenders were relieved. Out of five hundred legionnaires only six were found alive. It was said that Lafarge was found with the bodies of fifty Termions piled around him, and had fashioned a crude club from the femur of one enemy, having devoured his flesh.
Dumas shoved his hands so far into his coat that he found an old stub of a Drune charoot he’d forgotten about. Leaning his rifle against the wall he crouched down behind the large stones so that no-one in camp would be able to see him and lit it up. For a split moment he noticed that the glow was reflected by numerous eyes that stood directly in front of him and that the stars above were blotted out by the great legs of the gigantic beast. But that is all he noticed as his head was split in two. About two inches above the glow of his cheroot.

The next morning dawned on the dig site. Lines of Drune labourers were already silhouetted on the skyline, making use of the early morning cool. The soldiers of the French expedition were milling around camp or forming search lines.  In the officers tent Raymond O’Keefe was amusing himself by flicking dung beetles onto the research table of Gaston, the half deaf researcher from the Sorbonne, who was poring over the findings of the day before, including some rubbings of the central pillar hieroglyphics. The flap opened and in strode the tall shape of Henri, Comte d’Artois and leader of the expedition. His normally placid face looked drawn.
“Do stop annoying Gaston..he has got some work to do..”
“Sorry old bean. Any news on your chap?”
“Not yet. They found this next to one of those foul-smelling holes” he placed a stub of cheroot on the table. “Think he may have fallen in. Also, they found some blood.”

Gasto’s head arced up “Hmm, Blood you say? Yes, I think that about sums it up for these inscriptions on the pillars.”
“You’ve found something?” Henri bent over his worktable, flicking as he did so a dung beetle out of an inkwell.
“Well, the older stuff still baffles me, but the crude work is definitely Termion, but very old. From the Drune cipher we know that these symbols mean blood, and this one means sacrifice. But I’m struggling to understand this one. Appears everywhere, this eight pointed star.”
“Well all this is fascinating gentlemen” O’Keefe said swinging his legs off his camp-bed and strolling to the tent flap “but a face doesn’t shave itself. Back soon.”
Gaston raised one eyebrow at Henri in a way that stated, “why did we have to bring him along?”. Henri smiled. “Ignore him, he’s an old friend. And besides, we may yet have need of his skills”.

A moment later O’Keefe re-entered the tent, his face half shaven and a tear in his shirt quite apparent. He strode up to the worktable and took another look at the picture. “That is not a star gentlemen, that is a spider?”
Henri smiled “You English are so impetuous. How can you know this?”
But O’Keefe was already opening a box under his bed and pulling from it a stick of dynamite.
“Because my dear fellow” he said stuffing the fuse into the casing and pausing to light it with the pipe that was now half hanging from the dropped jaw of his friend “you have a spider problem”.
Striding outside with O’Keefe, the archeologists were met with the sight of the roof of the officers latrine lifting off to reveal a huge white bulbous thorax . The side walls already had several legs which had split through the timber and the door reading ‘officers only’ had somehow got wedged on its mandibles. O’Keefe flung the stick directly at its eyes.

Ten seconds later the largest pieces of beast and timber latrine had ceased descending on the startled Frenchmen, who lay spread around the crater which had once been the toilet.
“Mon Dieu!” Henri Comte d’Artois exclaimed.
“What is it that we have discovered?”
“Well old chap..” O’Keefe looked at his friend “always check under the toilet seat would be a good start I’d say”.

The detonation shook around the old city. Stones toppled from their perches of aeons and pillars tilted more precariously. And not a mile distant many eyes were watching.
Colonel Muller of the Kaisers Shocktruppen took the field glasses from his sentry and looked over at the plume of dust emerging from the French camp. More blasting? That one seemed to be on the surface though. Perhaps an accident? He winced a little as he noticed the dark shape of Spiegler appear next to him.
“Problems Muller?.”
Spiegler of the Kaisers own secret police knew just how to twist words. It sounded to Muller like “YOUR problem Muller..”.
“Probably nothing. Our spy still indicates that they found the main chamber yesterday. The item is already in their keeping. We still go at dusk”.
“Good. And the good Professor Snapes will do the rest I am sure. Any news on your missing men?”
“Not yet, but we found traces next to one of those stinking holes. My men are exploring it now.”

And further into the city more eyes watched both the Prussians and French. The Drune chieftain and his tribal leaders would not sit by idly as the desecrators destroyed the city of their ancestors or bring forth the power trapped within. At dusk they would be put to the sword.

And as the sun slips it’s grasp upon the shattered stones of Ganash for yet another day, the sound of the clicking of mandibles rises from the stinking chasms that surround our brave explorers….

Colonel Muller slid shut the fine hand-crafted telescope he had been using to watch the French.  The night was fast approaching, and he knew he needed to get this attack underway.  He would have preferred to have waited until total darkness fell across the campsite, but he could feel the soul piercing stare of Spielger drilling holes into his back.  There was something very wrong about that man, something very wrong indeed.
He tried carefully to recall the telegram he had received from headquarters.
French uncovered the item stop retrieve at all costs stop command relinquished to secret police stop assets expendable stop

What did it mean assets expendable.  He was travelling light as it was.   With his small force of elite sturmtruppen, veterans of many campaigns, and two newly commissioned armoured cars this would be a lightning-fast attack, but an attack that had no expendable components.

And what of the American.  He had already betrayed his own country in turning to assist the Kaiser.  Apparently, a specialist in his field.   An Archaeologist, a man who scrapes through mud and dirt to find things from times gone by.  What use would a man like that be to the war effort.

Muller was not impressed with how in only a few short days he had in effect lost complete control of the situation.  At least he could trust his men.

As night closes in the French are posting sentries, the archaeologists are around the camp studying the items recovered earlier that day, whilst the Drune Labourers head back to camp for some well-earned rest.

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

Under cover of the fading light the small force of elite Prussians moves towards the dig site. Even the Howling of the harsh Martian winds cannot hide the sound of steam engines.

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

From the west, a thunder of hooves, as a horde of Drune Raiders charge through the site of the ruined city.  Close on their heel’s hordes of raiders on foot, screaming like dervishes.

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

The Raiders throw themselves upon the French Foreign Legion.  In this sudden and brutal act of carnage many French fall to the savage blades, including Captain Legras. The French fire volley after volley into these fanatics but the fast-fading light makes it almost impossible to hit anything.

The Lafitte Incident - Part One

Darkness finally falls and something large and nasty stirs…

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

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The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

The Sturmtruppen advance under horrific amounts of fire, their resolve put to the test time and time again as men fall under the rain of bullets.
However, these are no normal soldiers, these are Mullers men, and their morale shows no signs of breaking.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

Spiders, attracted by the sounds of fighting, catch the Drune raiders unaware.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

Finally, the French walker stirs to life and unleashes a hellish blast with its heavy flame thrower directly at one of the Prussian Armoured cars.  Rivets pop and steam erupts from every opening.  The scream of burning men tears across the battlefield.
Hearing the brave crewmen roasted alive the Prussian Navy vows to avenge the fallen and forms up in firing line.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

The Prussians push on the attack.  Sticks of dynamite bounce off the hull of the second armoured car as it pushes forward.  A lucky blast having jammed its turret it finds itself without a target.  Shots fly dangerously close to the explosives shed but thankfully not one sets the store off.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

As Raider Cavalry attacks the rear of the French camp, they find themselves set upon by the Drune Labourers.   A well-aimed shovel puts an end to the Raider Leader and several others are pulled from their horses and beaten to lifeless pulp.  In the confusion one of the Drune Labourers skulks off and locks himself in the toilet.   Despite a promising start the diggers are no match for the crazed fanatics, and they are mowed down.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Two

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

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The Prussian Navy, taking cover behind the sand dunes, trades shots with the French walker.  Neither able to cause any damage to the other.  Meanwhile Raider infantry are hotly pursued by a giant spider.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

In a remarkable show of bravery, the fanatics turn back on their tormentor and bring the big beast down.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

O’keefe, his last stick of dynamite gone, charges at Colonel Muller.  Both men of incredible skill with a blade.  Both heroes.  A clash of titans.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

More spiders emerge from their burrows.  Sixteen eyes watch the Prussians.  With nowhere to retreat the attack must push on.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

As the French death toll rises the few remaining men turn to the fight between the two Heroes.   Whist their backs are turned Spiegler creeps through the ruins behind the French.
With a great show of skill O’Keefe parries then trusts his knife deep into the chest of Muller.   As he falls to his knees, dropping his sword to the ground, he reaches out but falls lifeless to the floor.

The Lafitte Incident - Part Three

With spiders, raiders, and Prussians closing in, the few French survivors decide on desecration being the better part of valour.  Although not conclusive the forces of Prussia hold the upper hand.   Not by much, but by enough.  Well that’s providing they survive a night with the spiders.

The Lafitte Incident - Conclusion

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Conclusion.

It was a great game, The French player put up a cracking defence and played like a true Gent.
Some last minute (Very last minute) terrain was quickly knocked together by both of us and helped to create an interesting and different battlefield.
The French look great and it was nice to see another nationality being drawn into our conflict.

The Lafitte Incident - Conclusion

For those interested the forces consisted of:

French
4 Archaeologist.
10 Foreign Legion.
16 Regular French Infantry.
8 Drune Diggers/Labourers.
1 Two Legged Patrol Walker with 3 crew armed with a Flamethrower.
Captain Legras of the French Foreign Legion (Hero)
Henri Comte d’Artois (Hero)
Raymond O’Keefe (Leader) immune to the ‘Orrible Monsters Rule.

Prussians
20 Sturmtruppen.
12 Navy.
2 Scout Armoured Cars with 3 crew each and armed with Gatling guns.
Colonel Muller of the Kaisers Shocktruppen (Hero)
Spiegler of the Kaisers Secret Police (hero)   Armed with a repeater long nosed pistol.  Will shoot any Prussians that fail morale checks.
Mercenary American Archeologist.
1 traitor amongst the Drune diggers.

Raiders
20 Raider Infantry with Big swords
12 Raider Cavalry with Big swords
1 Raider Hero

Spiders
4 Giant Spiders that enter at random points (They are treated in a similar way to vehicles and take 3 hits to kill)

Establishing a Forward Outpost - Part One

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Establishing a Forward Outpost.

Part One

 

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space.

No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.

 

At midnight, on the 12th of August, a huge mass of luminous gas erupted from Mars and sped towards Earth.  Across two hundred million miles of void invisibly hurtling towards us came the first of the missiles that were to bring so much calamity to Earth.

 

As I watched, there was another jet of gas. It was another missile starting on its way, and that’s how it was for the next ten nights, a flare, spurting out from Mars, bright green, drawing a green mist behind it.  A beautiful, but somehow disturbing sight.

Ogilvy, the astronomer, assured me we were in no danger.

He was convinced there could be no living thing on that remote forbidding planet.

 

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said.
The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, but still, they come.

 

Then came the night the first missile approached Earth.  It was thought to be an ordinary falling star but the next day there was a huge crater in the middle of the common and Ogilvy came to examine what lay there.

 

A cylinder, thirty yards across, glowing hot with faint sounds of movement coming from within.

 

Suddenly the top began moving, rotating, unscrewing and Ogilvy feared there was a man inside trying to escape.

 

He rushed to the cylinder, but the intense heat stopped him.  Before he could burn himself on the metal.

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said.

 

It seems totally incredible to me now that everyone spent that evening as though it were just like any other.

From the railway station came the sound of shunting trains, ringing and rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance.

It all seemed so safe and tranquil.

 

Despite the immense power of the Martian invaders, from the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate, and drank, they were doomed.

 

They were undone, destroyed, after all of man’s weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this earth.

 

By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet’s infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges. For neither do men live nor die in vain.

 

Unfortunately, the Martians have learnt from their first invasion and now at the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century the Martians have launched their second invasion, this time the forces of humanity are better prepared.

 

All Quiet on the Martian Front is a simple yet engaging set of rules for battles set in an alternative history much in the vein of the story by H G Wells.

 

This battle was played out on a 6′ x 4′ table in my games room.  The Martian invaders, which in our campaign history are Mechaloids, evil protagonists that are seeking the Keys of Power.  In this scenario the Mechaloid fighting machines are harvesting the local population of a small rural setting in the United States whilst trying to establish Power Nodes throughout the countryside.

The Forces of Earth on the Allied side are attempting to destroy the Power Nodes whilst also ensuring that refugees can reach the safety of the ruined town site.

Mighty metal warlords come across the horizon unleashing sheets of flame whilst Mk II Steamer Tanks rumble slowly down the cobbled roads.

Establishing a Forward Outpost - Part One

Infantry form up along hedge lines, willing to sell their lives in the defence of Earth and Mk II Mobile Artillery take up position.  Howitzers taking aim on the metal monstrosities.

At the front line a Field Gun Battery unleashes a barrage of fire in an attempt to draw the Martians attention away from the fleeing civilians.

A 90mm Anti-Tripod Gun launches shot across the battlefield, striking the Power Node.  Unfortunately, the shot only causes superficial damage.

With a terrifying moan the Tripods surge forward.

Establishing a Forward Outpost - Part Two

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Establishing a Forward Outpost.

Part Two

 

Both human and Martian forces trade shots doing little damage to each other whilst the civilians continue to flee the wicked blades of the Lobototon Slicers.  Even as they run a heat ray strikes out leaving a charred skeleton where once there was flesh and blood.

The Martian battle line, towers over the small farmstead as Tripods move into range of the waiting infantry.

The forces of humanity are not without a few tricks up their sleeves.  Forlorn Hope teams use grappling hooks to attack the approaching machines.  Planting explosives to cripple the huge machines.

The Red Martian, so named by the blood of its victims it sprays upon its armed shell, unleashes bursts of its heat-ray turning three tanks to molten lumps of metal.

Infantry push the assault on the Martians legs whilst tanks fire shot after shot into the globe like bodies.

 

Gunner Simmons takes careful aim…

Establishing a Forward Outpost - Part Two

Establishing a Forward Outpost. Part Three

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Establishing a Forward Outpost.

Part Three

 

 

… and lands a perfect hit!  Completely obliterating one of the fighting machines.

Establishing a Forward Outpost.  Part Three

Slicers gain on the fleeing villagers.  The Slaver Tripod pushing them into a frenzy.

Establishing a Forward Outpost.  Part Three

One after another the tanks of the brave forces of humanity are destroyed.

Establishing a Forward Outpost.  Part Three

The ammo train feeding the Anti Tripod Gun becomes a rather attractive and vulnerable target.

Firing its last shot the Anti Tripod Gun unleashes its vengeance on the Scout Tripod.

With smoke obscuring visibility, the forces of man retreat, leaving the battlefield firmly in the hands of the Martian invaders.

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