Having successfully thwarted the enemy assault on the Fortress base and conferred with the base commander the conclusion was reached that the enemy’s secret plans were too sensitive and dangerous to broadcast even in code and must be taken in person to high command. So our hero and their companions set out for high command, but soon discover they are being followed by the dread Agent X, the elite enemy special agent intent on retrieving those secret plans at any cost!
Swiflty changing course our heroes dive into the Zone of Dread! An area of thick asteroid fields, the wrecks of countless rockets, thick dense clouds of nebulaic gasses and rogue planetoids on unpredictable orbits all scoured by the rader-blinding E-rays of the zones giant purple star! In the Zone of Dread a pilot must be skilled and can rely only on their eyes in poor and limited visability!
But it won’t be enough to lose Agent X, for they will quickly pick up the trail again when our heroes leave the Zone of Dread, so it will be a reckoning! Hunter become Hunted, Cat and Mouse, a deadly duel to the death in a twisting maze where destruction lurks around every corner!
And what of the fell rumours told by old space-dogs on long cold orbits when the meteor and solar storms are at their fiercest… of dread creatures that live in the depths of space that are said to nest in the asteroid fields and hunt the unwary smugglers and ne’er-do-wells, pirates and scum that are so foolish and desperate to try and use the Zone of Dread to their advantage?
This is another rather complicated scenario in my series of Serial-Adventure inspired War Rocket Scenarios. It’s actually based on a cool optional game mechanic from classic battletech called Double Blind Rules which produced some really fun and tense games, with all the fun of a submarine film or the nebula battle in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan or the ice asteroid sequence in Titan A.E. But it is a bit involved compared to normal war rocket games.
Firstly it needs an adjudicator, someone to run the game who is impartial and attentive to detail. It also needs not one but two hexmaps, though the playing area can be smaller than usual as this will be just two rockets, one to each side. When we played the battletech version we would often set up a line of box lids with some heavy weights to keep them standing to screen each players view of the other players map. Kind of like a game of battleship. Other times we’d have the players in seperate adjoining rooms or sitting facing away from each other back-to-back. In each case the players are playing on identical maps with identical terrain placement but unless they have line-of-sight to their opponent then the opponents piece is not on their board! The adjudicator is there to check each players move to see if they can see their enemy, to add, move and remove the model of the enemy rocket on each map. These games were particularly enjoyable both for players, the adjudicator and the audience as players would hunt around dense terrain, often passing right by one another on opposite sides of the same building unawares till one or both would be spotted and there’d be a flurry of action.
Terrain: This is set up by the Adjudicator. 2 hex maps or one big one with a screen across dividing it into two identical areas of hexes. Lots of planetoids, dense clusters of asteroids etc. A few wormholes could be fun too. These all need to be placed carefully so each map has identical terrain and that each players starting edge will be opposite sides of the map. I have known some adjudicators in the battletech version to use a 3rd table for themselves and/or an audience or little hexgrid notepads to keep track of things but these are often unneccessary.
To help keep things tense, to make things easier for the adjudicator and to help out if you just don’t have enough pebbles or fancy asteroids for the maps the whole area could be considered to be in a nebula, in which case line of sight should be restricted to a number of hexes, perhaps 6 hexes as a rough idea.
Forces: Players are restricted to a single rocket each (but will need at least two copies of this model, three if the adjudicator is usuing a thrid map). If played as part of a campaign then the ‘hero’ rocket from a past game should be used, though perhaps some shifting or addition of customisations that could represent additional crew members, gained skills or genius scientists/engineers inventing and building new equipment on the move, and then the opponent can build Agent X’s rocket to the same points value. Alternatively the players can start with a dice-off, the one who rolls highest is the ‘Hero’ who can choose the points value they want to spend on this rocket and custom upgrades and then both players can spend this on whatever class and upgrades they wish.
Special rules: Glimpses in the clouds. The game plays as normal, however After each rocket moves the adjudicator checks both maps to see if either can see the opponent’s current hex. A rocket is assumed to be able to see everywhere they have a fire arc and also the 180 degrees that a pirate class 1 has for it’s arc. This means that a class 1 valkeeri can still see something in front of them off to the side outside their fire arc, while if this battle is between class 3s or custom rockets with larger than normal arcs they will be able to see every direction they can shoot. This is a bit complicated but with only one rocket each side it shouldn’t be too much of a chore (certainly we managed it with battletech and it was much more complicated). This can easilly mean that one player might manage to see the enemy but by being behind them not be seen back. When it comes to firing the hit markers should be put on both maps so the player being shot knows they are being shot!
Because rockets are only seen after each movement step it means rockets can pass right by one another and one or even both players not know (because they may see the enemy before they move or after but not during), adding to the mystery, tension and excitement!
But what if a player ends its movement in the same hex as the enemy without knowing they were there? Accidental Collision! Treat it as a ram! No problem 🙂
Optional Extra Rules:
(for when you want a fun chaotic and dangerous maze, as if flying blind in a maze in a battle to the death wasn’t enough!)
C’mon cadet, thats a myth, there’s no such… oh no, oh no… Aiiiieeeee!
The simple way to introduce the Star Beasts is to have a set piece of terrain or hex that if either player moves into, through or within a few hexes of results in an attack from the Star Beast(s) in which case it could work much like the Terror-Dactyls from the valley of the Terror-Dactyls scenario, functioning as a rocket-troops attack. The Lurking star beasts are absorbing the E-rays of the purple sun to later use while hunting, while the Nesting ones are protecting star beast eggs, woe-betide the rocketeer who tarries too close to the star-beast lair!
Hunting Star Beast:
If using the fancy set-up of 3 tables or the adjudicator is using a little hex-pad notebook map of the game then another option could be used such as having wandering predation. 1-3 star beasts moving, until it spots some prey, in a random direction (choose one direction as ‘north’ and assign it the value of 1, then go clockwise, roll a d6 and it gives you the direction of travel, roll a second d6 and this is the number of hexes the starbeast moves in that direction. The star beast doesn’t have a facing and may move around impassable obstacles as if a zenithian rocket, changing direction without cost but it should move in as straight a line as possible. Once spotting prey the star beast will head directly for the nearest rocket and zap it! The hunting star beast projects stored purple-sun-energy also known as concentrated E-rays or in the coloquial terms of those who ply the spaceways “Hyper Death Rays”, and each Hunting Star Beast has a range of 4 and a firepower of 1 with a 360 degree fire arc, they also have a defence of 1.
Only a mad fool would court death by flying near that rogue world! Which is exactly why Agent X won’t expect it!…
Wait, Watch out! It’s coming right for us!
To make matters even more random the Rogue Planets/Planetoids can be added. These are a bit like hunting star beasts but sometimes move and sometimes don’t as the weird effects of the unstable purple star system wreak gravitational havoc. To represent this instead of rolling a d6, roll a d10 but a result of 7-10 means the planet/oid is imobile this turn. if it moves it will go either d6 or (d10 divided by 2 rounded up) hexes. This means that lurking rockets laying in wait for their prey to appear might have their cover move away from them or worse towards them! If it moves into a hex occupied by a rocket there’s a Horrible Collision! count the planet/oid as a class 4 rocket ramming and of course the planetoid is impervious to the rocket. However if a planet or planetoid collides with another planet or planetoid there’s a Cosmic Catastrophic Collision! and both are automatically destroyed and replaced with an asteroid field. If, by some tragic quirk of fate, two planet/oids collide simultaneously from roughly opposite directions with a rocket in the middle, and both planets moved more than 3 hexes this is a Kimball Kinnison Collision, the rocket is automatically destroyed (though as ever in serial style stories the greatest favourite heroes and villains never die) and the game ends and if anyone gets the referrence the adjudicator is encouraged to shout out, and encourage the players and audience to chant: “Death to Boskone!” (but if the planets collide with the rocket at an acute angle or moved less swiftly then it’s a Horrible Cosmic Catestrophic Collision, hits the rocket as a class 4 ram attack, destroys both planets automatically and creates an asteroid field)
Without the extra complications this should be another nice tense exciting and unique game. With the extras it should be a hilarious romp and great fun for a viewing audience.