When the Imperial Commander answered the astro-communicator, it was with great surprise that he saw the alluring but icy features of a Valkeeri Commander with wrath in her eyes on the grainy flickering monochrome screen.
“Imperial Commander, you are hunting the Zenithians on Dormientes Draco.” The melodic voice carried levels of menace like the picking up of lightning-laden; a storm wind heralding a tornado or sand-tsunami, and she certainly didn’t seem to be asking a question. Still the Imperial Commander answered as if it were.
“Affirmative, what business is that of the Valkeeri?”
“We have a debt of vengeance against the Zenithians. We intend to slaughter them, and reap blood for blood. You Imperials should understand at least some measure of the right of vengeance.”
“We are the agents of Marduk’s wrath. We recognise the right of vengeance as part of a warrior’s honour.”
“We know the location of the Zenithian fleet on Dormientes Draco. It is too great for our force alone, but we will share the location in return for assistance in wiping them out. We offer a truce that will hold till the last member of the Zenithian fleet has spilled its ichor on the red sands of Dormientes Draco. Will you show yourselves to be honourable warriors and help us pay the blood-debt?”
“We are searching for a missing Imperial citizen. Do you have any information about the location of any Imperial citizens on this planet?”
“No. We have taken none of your men”
“This is not a man, but a woman we search for.”
“We have no need of your women. And we have killed and encountered none of those on this world either. Will you help us get our vengeance?”
“Marduk is merciful, Marduk is honourable. We will help you get your vengeance.”
“Your missing woman… if you find her be wary. She may not be real.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our leader was replaced by a Zenithian clone sent to betray us! It is vengeance for her death that we will slaughter the foul Saucermen in her name!”
With that, the connection severed leaving the Imperial Commander even more worried than he had been at the flickering of the sun!
Once more it was time to go down to my local game store The Sleeping Dragon for another fun game of War Rocket! My friend Taphyl came along, deciding to use my Zenithians while Jason played once more but this time choosing to use his partner Sam’s Zenithian fleet. I explained the outline of the story-so-far to Taphyl and asked them both if they wanted a free-for-all battle or a two-vs.-one and if so who vs. who. They decided two vs. one with me and Taphyl vs. Jason. They also opted for a land battle using the stores Hotz game mat so we set up the battlefield and went for a straight on firefight with each side trying to wipe out the other.
The points were set at what Jason had available, and Taphyl and I split our points between us though with a slightly larger share going to Taphyl so he could use the Class 3 Valkeeri Lamia that I’d recently bought. Taphyl chose the Lamia, a Class 2 Fury and two Class 1 Sirens, while I took two Class 2 Imperial Raptors and a Class 1 Scorpion.
We were all so excited to play that I forgot to get photos of the first couple of turns as we started moving onto the battlefield! But I quickly caught up.
As I looked at the array of Saucers and considered both their manoeuvrability and their firepower, I swiftly started to regret not having taken a Class 3 Gryphon instead of the Raptor as though they are sturdy; the firepower and fire arc is rather limited. But I resolved to make the most of my Raptors, especially as they are my favourite of the lovely Imperial range.
I move cautiously up our left flank, The Valkeeri pulse confidently to the towers on the right. And Jason splits the Zenithian fleet as he prepares to engage our forces.
The movement order as always depends on the speed of the rockets. The two largest Saucers move first, then the Valkeeri Class 3 and my 2 Imperial Class 2s, then the Valkeeri Class 2 then finally all the rest dice off in groups with the Zenithians having the big advantage of Class 2 Saucers that are as fast as most peoples and their own Class 1s. I had handled Taphyl my dedicated Valkeeri dice and Jason my dedicated Zenithian dice… and that translucent green d10 sure liked to give Jason the initiative, forcing Taphyl and I to move our fastest rockets before Jason moved his hyper-agile Saucers!
So with the large Saucers splitting up, I swing my rockets towards the centre where several of Taphyls rockets are, preparing to strike as the Saucers close in.
But the swiftest Saucers make this their time to strike! The Class 1 Alpha-Z’s and Class 2 Beta-Z dart in and rake at the alliance with their atomic deathrays!
My Scorpion and an Alpha-Z Saucer exchange beams…
The dice fall, which will draw first blood? I recall the amount of times I’ve lost a Scorpion in the first attack several times before, but the exchange of shots between the Scorpion and Alpha-Z both miss! While the shots against the Valkeeri Siren?
The Zenithian Class 3 Epsilon-Z comes close, and so Taphyl and I send our rockets in to deal with it. With a historically unprecedented level of cooperation between Valkeeri and Imperial military! The Scorpion puts its armoured hull between the Valkeeri Siren and the Zenithian guns while allowing the Siren to fire past it into the fragile Saucer… The imperial Commander making a note to review the recorder in that Scorpion to be sure no divided loyalties or unprofessional communication with the Valkeeri… But again Jason has won initiative and the swiftest Saucers swing round to split their fire on my Class 2 Raptors. One Raptor though can get a shot in on one of the Alpha-Z’s and the gunner doesn’t hesitate to fire!
Meanwhile, on the right of this next image you can see one Class 1 Zenithian Alpha-Z is dancing around the Valkeeri Class 3 Lamia hoping to hit a vulnerable spot.
Nooo! Not another raptor taken out as soon as it’s shot at! Surely there must be saboteurs weakening the Imperial armour at the factory? The Imperial fleet Commander pens a memo to recommend some random spot-check-executions of some of the factory workers and to drag a few off to the radium mines just to discourage such poor workmanship. Meanwhile, the Class 3 Epsilon-Z escapes damage and does none to our side either – but the other Raptor…
So far, the Zenithians are making a significant dent in the Alliance, with Taphyl and me a rocket down each, but hopefully with this stunned Saucer we can start to change that around.
Jason withdraws the Class 3 Epsilon-Z Saucer, seeming to leave the Alpha-Z and its clone pilot to its fate. I send my Raptor in to finish the stunned Saucer off. Taphyl elects to leave the Class 3 Valkeeri Lamia inactive for the turn to get a delayed action next turn but sends the Class 2 Fury after the mighty Class 4 Omega-Z, we send the Scorpion and remaining Siren in to be as sure as possible that the pilot doesn’t get the Alpha-Z back under control, while Jason leaves an Alpha-Z to strike at the rockets attacking the stunned Saucer, moves the Class 2 Beta-Z away from combat for now, towards the conflict with the Valkeeri Lamia and keeps harrying the Lamia while it waits for the time to strike.
The Valkeeri Class 2 Fury and Zenithian Class 4 Omega-Z exchange two hits each but neither do any damage. I roll for the combined Valkeeri/Imperial hits on the stunned Saucer – needing anything but a 1 or 2 to finish it off…
But the Zenithians were not about to let us have even that easy kill without extracting a heavy toll. For while the Imperial ships flew triumphantly through the burning debris of the invader from the 7th dimension, the other Saucer had been firing into the last of the Valkeeri Sirens!
The next turn begins, and still the Zenithians are ahead. But now the Valkeeri Class 3 Lamia gets its Delayed Action Phase!
Taphyl takes his time, pondering carefully and calculating the chances of bringing the Lamia’s full firepower to bear on the Class 2 Beta-Z before deciding instead on the nearer target, the Class 1 Alpha-Z that has been dancing around blasting the rocket. Acting outside the normal turn sequence, the delayed action allows the Lamia to strike without being hit back if the target is destroyed.
Taphyl rolls my Valkeeri-themed dice….
As the delayed action phase ends, Jason moves the huge Class 3 and 4 Saucers into the centre of the ruined ancient city. I then have to contend with the wide; slow turning of Imperial Thruster movement, the price paid for the mightiest of armour so I swing my Raptor around behind a tower, hoping to be well positioned for next turn, while Taphyl sends the Fury in to attack the Class 3 Epsilon-Z only to learn my Scorpion can’t get much further than the Raptor and can’t support the attack this turn! The Fury is on her own! And the Alpha-Z which had just taken down the last Class 1 Valkeeri rocket chased my Imperial ships as they turned around the tower trying to set up their next pass.
The dice roll in the damage phase and…
While we have been making a dent in the Zenithians, they are still tearing us to shreds! Jason spins the two huge Saucers around on the spot, the devastating forward arc of the Class 4 now pointed at the stunned Valkeeri rocket and the Class 3 covering much of the approach. Taphyl sent in the Lamia to attack the Class 2 Beta-Z with the advanced long-range of the Valkeeri craft, I sent in the Raptor and Scorpion with a cry of “For Marduk!” charging right in to the Omega-Z’s guns! And the tailing Alpha-Z Saucer blasting away tries to hit the narrow rocket exhausts or some other chink in the thick Zorastrianite armour of the mighty Imperial rockets.
We carefully go through all the simultaneous fire, rolling one by one for the rockets and clearing away the counters from the many misses. Amazingly, the Valkeeri emerges unscathed! Taphyl elects that I roll for the combined attack on the Zenithian’s largest and most powerful Saucer the Class 4 Omega-Z with its terrifying forward fire arc…
Meanwhile, Taphyl rolls for the Valkeeri Class 3 Lamia’s attack on the Zenithian Class 2 Beta-Z
With the loss of the largest Saucer and another of the fast Saucers immobilised for a turn suddenly the alliance has the advantage. In one conflict the Lamia presses on with its attack on the stunned Beta-Z,
While the last Alpha-Z strikes back, while in the other the Fury, Raptor and Scorpion form a deadly wedge formation charging into the Class 3 Epsilon-Z’s guns
To the damage phase! Where Jason has been excelling through so much of the early game and especially the roll-offs for initiative (so many 10’s!) this turn, like the last, is not good for him. He poured his shots into my Scorpion and needed an 8 to take it down, but the roll rested on the edge between the 8 and the 3! So he re-rolled the dice… and the dice rolled onto the 8 for a fraction of a second then rolled back one facing towards him right onto the 3! We took a moment to commiserate Jason on this terrible misfortune then continued…
For all their mighty firepower and agility, the Saucers are quite fragile, even the toughest is only as tough as an Imperial Class 1 and most forces Class 2. Things are looking dire for Jason’s force of Zenithian extra-dimensional clones! And it’s at this moment Taphyl, referring to the shot he is making on the Class 2 Beta-Z asks me: “What happens to an already stunned rocket if the damage chart says automatic stun?”
The wedge remains in place to try and finish off the Epsilon-Z and the Lamia comes over to do the same. The fate of the Zenithians looks sealed now. With just the little Alpha-Z active chasing after the Lamia as it goes for the bigger vulnerable prey.
The little clone that could! After turn after turn of zapping the Valkeeri rocket finally a weak point is found!
So much for the Zenithian’s fate being sealed, but what about the stunned Epsilon-Z? Taphyl rolls this time and…
Having to act before Jason with the Fury and Raptor, Taphyl and I both elected to take delayed-action turns and my Scorpion followed suit. But Jason wisely went for more awkward terrain where he could use his agility advantage from his superior Saucer movement to its maximum effectiveness. Say what you want about clones but these ones weren’t giving up!
The Imperial Rockets growled and squealed as girders and plates flexed with the strain of the tightest turns the massively heavy Imperial rockets could manage… while the Valkeeri rushed towards the clone and…
Oh no! Our most agile rocket down… suddenly things are looking good for the Zenithians! It’s now up to me to try and make sure I can get a hit in and hope to take out the Saucer before another 10 is rolled!
I try a delayed action… and… My Raptor got shot in the tail! He needed a 9 to stun, 10 to destroy the mighty Raptor
We fly in circles as Jason’s tenacious clone tries several times to take down the Raptor but cannot get through the armour and I try in vain to even get a hit on the saucer!
And the result.. neither of us do damage. I try for a delayed action when he gets initiative..
But then fails to destroy it!
The tension is thick with every roll. The Raptor recovers and moves off to try and lead the Saucer to where the Scorpion can strike it…
Now I’m thinking that Jason has this won! For I doubt my Raptor could have a chance against the Alpha-Z because it’s speed and manoeuvrability would mean I’d not get any shot at it unless Jason made a big mistake. He shoots at the scorpion again and… Fails to damage! The Scorpion recovers!
I’m turning the Raptor around hoping to get a delayed action strike against the Saucer with the Raptor while it deals with the Scorpion but Jason, losing the initiative roll-off, instead chases after the Raptor so that I wouldn’t be able to hit him with two shots at once. I carefully count the hexes and turns in my head and smile… This time the Scorpion pilot knows what to do. Ready to die for Victory, for Marduk, he burns full-jet at the Zenithian Saucer firing and… RAMMING into it!
Jason rolls first for the Raptor and it again emerges unscathed!
Then we roll at the same time for the collision, the Saucer taking one hit from firing and one from the collision so would be stunned on a 5+ and destroyed on a 7+, the tougher defence 2 Scorpion taking just one hit from the collision so would be stunned on an 8 and destroyed on a 10….
Dun, dun, dun-dun, daaaaaaah!
Victory for the Empire!
Despite an incredible effort from Jason that nearly snatched back victory, when all had seemed lost for the Saucermen long before and that one clone who somehow must have been some kind of superior mutation; experiment or veteran who had improved through experience, still the Empire had won the day.
The Imperial Commander kept looking at the dull weak light from the sun in between interrogations of the survivors. He wasn’t surprised to learn that had the Valkeeri not been defeated that the moment the Zenithians were destroyed they had planned to turn on his troops next. He was able to learn of an escape at the MacGuffinite mine that sounded like the Princess got away in a Zenithian Saucer with some other prisoners and went… somewhere… but what if the Valkeeri Commander was telling the truth about the Zenithians having cloned a Valkeeri leader… if a Princess escaped was it the real Princess Taegan or a Zenithian imposter set out to betray the Empire? Also what of the strange ice-teroids forming all over the planet; around it and with the flickering of the sun? The Zenithians he interrogated knew nothing about that, merely following orders from their mysterious hidden masters… or they were completely torture resistant and were just feeding him the bait for a fake-Princess trap! Again the sun flickered in the sky, the last remaining prisoners could be interrogated later, and he must transmit to command what he had learned about the possible fate of Princess Taegan and let them determine what to do next!