Invasion of Cylene 3 (Alpha Strike)

As news from the battle at Ghetra stream in it looks grim for FedCom. Their supply depot at Ghetra is in enemy hands, the surviving Mechs are still on the retreat and not available for the final stand. Combine forces have advanced far and are now on the other side of the New Rhine river. It marks the last defense line FedCom can maintain. Their forces are mainly light machines but for the force commanders Warhammer heavy Mech.

The Combine smashed through everything FedCom could field within mere days. It has precious little to make the final push. Even the Dragon from the battle of Ghetra is joining with most of its armor gone.

Assault over the New Rhine

Said Dragon (bottom) and a Locust advance around the large woods on the right flank to be safe from enemy fire.

On the left flank the Wolverine (bottom) and a Jenner hug the hills.

FedCom makes use of the large central hills to utilize its Warhammer (center). It is the slowest, most powerful Mech that has to be protected from light Mechs flanking it.

The FedCom Wasp pushes on aggressively but receives precise fire that strips its armor.

With the Wasp damaged Combine forces make a push for the central hill. The Dragon with damage from the battle prior hangs back and fires missiles into the fray.

The tag team of Jenner and Locust outmaneuver FedCom forces. In order to protect the Warhammer Fedcom pushes its light machines into close combat only to get smacked to the ground by the Combine Jenner. The FedCom Wasp laying down wont stand up after this, ever.

Some hundred meters away the other FedCom Wasp jumped to different positions turn after turn making the Combine Wolverine’s position untenable. With long range support from the Warhammer armor and internal structure breaks, tears and burns. The Wolverine is too damaged to stay around and is about to retreat.

After this pivot turn passed several turns of high maneuver warfare commenced. FedCom’s Firestarted broke away to go after the already damaged Crusader. Moments after this hsot the Crusader closed and cored the tiny Mech from point blank range. The pilot had no time to eject.

This left FedCom with only two Mechs but the Wasp lost all its weapons and retreated. The FedCom commander in his mighty Warhammer was all that stood between teh Combine forces and total victory.

But the machine and its pilot were simply no match for three enemy Mechs. It took out an enemy Locust but crumbled into a pile of molted metal and torn myomer muscles shortly after. The Combine managed to pull through and achieve victory even with inferior forces. One day later the black and red flag of the Draconis Combine was raised at Cylene’s military base and all FedCom forces formally surrendered.

Thoughts on Alpha Strike

During play I tried many different advanced rules and house rules and always came back to the base rules with the exception of variable damage. In Alpha Strike damage is deterministc, only the hit roll is up for chance. This makes for a very deadly game where there is not much chance for unit damage and critical hits. At the rather low unit count I’m playing with this robs me of the epic feel of these large lumbering machines. Variable damage makes you roll 1d6 for every point of damage. On a roll of 3+ it is scored as damage with a minimum of one damage. Especially the last scenario showed me that this is a good rule but even the minimum one damage is too powerful. Small Mechs can survive extremely well with high movement modfiers while chipping away at larger targets. They only deal 1-2 points anyway so the variable damage with minimum of one damage is not that relevant for their shooting. It rather helps them, as large Mechs will hit only few shots but with high damage. Damage that is potentially reduced by the variable damage rule.

The movement modifier system makes light Mechs very hard to hit but also at no downside for them. In classic Battletech light Mechs are a bit weak while here they seem a bit strong.

Apart from that the game flows quickly and gives interesting decisions. It is reliant on the Battletech flavor (universe and single mechs) or I would not play it I fear. What is lost by summarizing all the weapons into a statline of four numbers can only be won by knowing what weapons the Mech actually fires.

As the Combine won all three scenarios there was no chance to test the repair and resupply rules but the scenarios and their limitations produced intersting games and dilemmas. I had to fudge it a little here and there as the campaign rules are unclear here and seem unbalanced there. In the obove scenario for example the defender deploys all terrain without restrictions and then chooses his home edge. There is not much to prevent the defender from stacking the terrain into a killzone. FedCom could have sat in forests behind Level one hills for a whopping +4 to hit while Combine charged at them for 2-3 turns without any cover.

It was a fun experiment and I found several, more intricate scenarios I might try in the future or write my own rules.

Invasion of Cylene 2 (Alpha Strike)

After smashing through enemy forces at Valley Pond the Combine commander sees a chance to exploit the hole in FedCom lines. The recon and assault lances are brought forward to break through enemy positions and wreak havok. FedCom has their heaviest assets in the are but these lumbering beasts will have problems catching the lightning fast Combine recon Mechs.

Breakthrough at Ghetra

A kilometre in front of the town of Ghetra, where FedCom has a supply depot, the opponents clash in a hilly area. Combine outnumbers the enemy 2:1 but they need to exit 4 Mechs through the opposing table edge to win. FedCom needs to prevent that.

The FedCom commander knows that the center of the board is too open for trying a breakthrough, so he positions his Mechs to the flanks where the enemy light Mechs are expected.

The Combine hols back its heavy machines as fire support while the light machines are split to the left and right. They race off from turn one to make the breakthrough.

Although Combine pilots push their engines into the red, heavy fire occasionally connects with the lightning fast Mechs and a Combine Hermes III (top) receives too much damage. Its pilot turns around to get back to safety as a severely damaged Mech behind enemy lines would do no good. Shortly after the other light Mech successfully breaks through. 3 more Mechs and the Combine wins.

On the other flank FedCom has more problems. The enemy can advance in cover of the hills and heavy Combine Mechs are closing in on the flank to give their fellow Mechwarriors some breathing space.

Some turns later Combine forces put up so much pressure that FedCom had to retreat into the forest. The Jenner (bottom left) could have broke through to Ghetra easily but turned around to surround the enemy completely.

Back on the right. With the retreating Hermes II down and the Locust through, Combine heavy assets advance to put pressure on FedCom Mechs. Their goal is to keep FedCom occupied here so they cannot help on the other side of the battlefield. The FedCom commander sees no way to extricate his forces securely so he pushes his Hunchback (right) forward aggressively to at least score a kill on the Awesome (left), a slow Assault Mech.

The Hunchback cannot close fast enough, however. It melts in a spectacular fireball before bringing its heavy autocannon to bear. Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow churns out swarms of long range missiles that damage the Awesome badly. It has to crawl back to safety.

The attrition battle on the right is costly for both sides but FedCom at least has the upper hand. On the left side, however, a Dervish succumbs to enemy fire and the Marauder nearly lost a leg and is overheated. Combine Mechs push into the enemy without abandon and even forget their mission goals. It has become costly for them as well, as their Battlemaster (middle) is badly damaged and has to retreat.

A FedCom Valkyrie manages to peel off from the right flank and help the struggling Marauder. It will finish off the enemy Battlemaster but the Marauder will be destroyed soon after and another Combine Mech breaks through, with a third into position to make a dash.

Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow has become the MVP on the field. It beat back the Awesome, stripped a Dragon heavy Mech of its armor and now goes toe to toe with a Combine Crusader. Missiles slam into the surprisingly fast Crusader. As it gets obvious that Combine forces elected it to break though, the remaining FedCom assets pour everything they have into the mech but it withers the fire and breaks through together with a Blackjack on the other end of the battlefield, completing the mission.

Aftermath

Another victory for the Combine forces but at atrocious costs. Only after I read the next scenario I come to realize that I just witnessed a pyrrhic victory. Draconis’ heavy machines are all damaged beyond battlefield readiness. Repairs and resupply are still not available and so Combine forces can field precious little to go into the potentially last scenario. It doesn’t look good for FedCom either but in contrast they seem to be in good shape with a pristine Warhammer to field.

Invasion of Cylene 1 (Alpha Strike)

I bought Alpha Strike, Battletech’s quick play rules, some years back but never got around playing it for real. Partly due the lack of Mechs and partly due to lacklustre test games.

I decided to give it another try and generally stock up on some Battlemechs. Together with my existing miniatures and the new recruits I’m about to field a company of Draconis Combine and a company of Federated Suns each, with about two stars of Clan Mechs as well.

I decided to play the campaign outlined in the core rulebook which is basically a branching and winding scenario tree with basic supply management later on. The Combine invades the border planet Cylene in the 3rd Succession War. They have a recon lance, a battle lance and an assault lance. Their commander has the Disrupt Communications special rules which limits enemy movement on a roll of 6 on 1d6 at the start of the turn.

The Federated Suns field a light battle lance and two normal battle lances. The command ability is Forcing the initiative, which grands initiative bonuses for destroyed Mechs the turn prior. Pilots on both sides start as veterans.

Meeting Engagement at Valley Pond

After Combine forces made planetfall the battle lance starts an aggressive patrol to deny defensible areas to FedCom forces. One of such areas is the aptly named Valley Pond where a FedCom battle lance was about to go in defensive position. Battle is joined shortly after.

Disclaimer: Miniatures and Mechs they represent differ. If you are a purist who only plays with the Mechs the miniatures reperesent that’s Ok. But I don’t.

The start of the battle has both sides in good positions for a long range battle but neither side is really equipped for these ranges.

In an aggressive move the FedCom lance pushes out to get their close range Mech, the Victor, into range (bottom). They also want to park the Crusader in the water to cool it down for more firepower (the Warhammer in the pond).

Initially the plan goes well. After several turns of concentrated firepower the Combine Whitworth slides down the hill, completely destroyed.

On the other side of the table, heavy Combine Mechs overheat and bring down the Victor before just before it can deal serious damage.

With the threat to their firing line gone, Combine forces concentrate on the Crusader in the pond, while their light Mech flanks around to be a general nuisance. With the mighty Victor lost FedCom cannot match the firepower and the Crusader goes down while retreating. This secures the win for Combine forces.

Aftermath

FedCom losses are heavy after this first clash but several Combine Mechs are already stripped of armor. Neither side can repair or recruit after this scenario so these damaged assets are of no use right now and are shifted behind the front line as emergency reserve.

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