Today’s story centers around a 20-year-old Star Marine named Chester Chase. He’s just finished basic training and deployed on his first assignment: An invasion campaign of a desert world owned by the Bugs. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, let’s just say Chester’s first day on the job doesn’t as smoothly as hoped.
This game was played on the Two Hour Wargames system 5150 Star Marine. A few terms worth knowing if you’re unfamiliar:
- Rep – Short for Reputation, which represents a character’s overall training, experience, morale, and motivation. Higher is better and means you win more dice rolls.
- 5 rep — Combat experienced officers and elite troops.
- 4 rep — Reliable soldiers that are trained and motivated, bulk of most armies.
- 3 rep — Newly trained troops, rookies, or those just plain not fit for combat.
- SAW-4/A-2 – Weapon designation with number of shots per combat round (e.g. SAW-4 shoots 4 times).
- PEF – Potential Enemy Force, AKA a “blip.”
Since Chester Chase is the protagonist of the story, he gets Rep 5 even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a 20-year-old fresh out of training.
Chester has been assigned to the command of a grizzled veteran named Sergeant Dick Buckshot – an altogether neutral person with no personality traits to speak of except being good at kicking ass.
Their first mission is a simple Raid with 3 PEFs – the perfect chance for Chester to get his feet wet with his first taste of combat. They resolve the first PEF as a group of 6 Bugs.
Each Bug has Rep 4 and the Rage trait, which means they get an extra die during Melee rolls. Note that Corporal Nathan Gil is the only squad member with that same trait, meaning most of the squad is disadvantaged in melee despite some having higher Reps.
The fight begins with the Bugs taking Advantage and moving first.
Since there’s 6 bugs and 6 Marines, the beginning of the fight is simple enough. Each Bug charges a Marine, and that Marine has a chance to return fire. If they miss, they must fight Melee with the Bug.
In the first section, the two privates – our protagonist Chester Chase and his good friend Dope Boy Johnny – manage to land their shots and kill each of the Bugs rushing them. However, fortune is not on Sergeant Buckshot’s side – he misses his shots and begins fisticuffs with the Bug.
In the second section, things are looking even worse. All three Marines miss their shots and must engage in Melee. Corporal Gil is the only one with an advantage having both a higher Rep and the same melee bonus as the Bugs.
The Bugs slice through the squad, taking out Sergeant Buckshot, Private Smith, and Private Long. Corporal Gil manages to prevail and kill the Bug with nothing but his boots, fists, and a knife.
At the end of the first activation, each side has been cut evenly in half. Suffice to say the startof Chester’s career has been pretty dicey.
The survivors regroup and pass the Will to Fight roll under Corporal Gil’s assumed leadership. On the other side, the Bugs pass just enough to keep one of the three bugs in the fight. The other two take off and scamper up the nearby buildings.
Now it’s the Marines turn to activate, and they’re pissed. They all let loose on the remaining Bug who had the gall to stand and fight. Corporal Gil sprays and misses despite his high Rep, but Private Johnny manages to land the killing shot once again.
The first PEF has been finished – two to go.
The next PEF is resolved as a Pod, which means I roll randomly to see what threat the Marines encounter. Using the Hive Peril homebrew rules, my Marines might encounter something horrifying enough to test their resolve… But I get lucky and resolve it as Nothing.
The third PEF is another swarm of Rep 4 bugs – this time five in total versus my three survivors.
Once again, the Bugs get the drop on the Marines and activate first. This time, the rattled Marines spread their shots between targets for maximum coverage – rather than dumping all their shots on one target for maximum damage.
Private Chase and Corporal Gil manage to land their shots, each man killing a Bug and sending another to Duck Back (e.g. hiding for cover).
Private Johnny doesn’t get so lucky. He misses his shot and must fight hand-to-hand.
The melee fight between Johnny and the Bug is a slow, painful struggle. Despite the massive disadvantage of having one fewer die, Johnny manages to gradually chip away at the Bug’s Rep without a decisive killing blow, and vise versa.
Finally, a bad roll does Private Johnny in. With the next Will to Fight roll, all the bugs run away.
The mission ends with the remaining Bugs scampering away, dragging Private Johnny away to a certain grim fate. The mission is technically a success, but it feels like a Pyrrhic victory. We roll for replacements and get a full four fresh faces, bringing our squad back up to full strength – including a stunningly attractive new sergeant who I christened Sergeant Rimshot.
The campaign morale for the Bugs reduces from 5 to 4. This means missions will get a bit easier going forward, but if I lose the next fight, the Marines will similarly lose morale. If Chester can keep himself alive through the whole campaign, he’ll have one hell of a story for his grandkids.