Battle Report: Operation Black Box

Finally a battle report! The elapsed time since my last game session here is criminally long, and well overdue for some new content. So I wrangled together a few posses, grabbed a pal, dug up an old childhood F-14 Tomcat airplane model, and set out to play some Dinosaur Cowboys v2.6!

Also some of the inspiration for one of the posses comes from the Defense of the Ancients computer game. In other words the moba Dota 2, which just had a huge 7.0 patch update. The largest tournament for professional e-sport players of Dota 2 has a prize pool of $20 million plus. So yeah, players of that game should recognize some familiar names and roles, like Vanguard the tanky leader, or Desolator the ranged sniper.

Also I realize I mix up my past and present tense when I write these. I really don’t mean too, but it’s such an ingrained bad habit I have trouble breaking. I think it’s because I writing the session report after the fact, so I tend to the past tense, but sometimes think of new information and use the present tense. Hopefully it doesn’t throw you off too much.

Background
Rumors have started of a strange new allegiance in the wasteland: Ascendants. Some sort of sky people…old tech scientists drifting down from on high…power and concepts beyond Dusters and even Neotechnoist reasoning. Word of an artifact spreads to eager ears in the noble, wealthy circles in the city of Hope. Some kind of aerial war machine was found. Records were searched in secret, and a highly specialized and trained commando squad was dispatched to recover a “black box” from this old tech airplane.

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But the commando squad was not quite as airtight and flawless as their Neotechnoist hirelings would like. One of the members, fearing the corrupting influence of old tech, went rogue and started trying to raise a posse to fight off the commando squad, destroy the black box, and stop any war machine from being recreated.

Setup
dc-operation-black-box-0019The central feature of the table was the crashed and decaying F-14 Tomcat. I used a bunch of trailing rocks to make a slide/crash zone and hopefully give some sense of weight to the plane. The pilot was likely heading for the softer jungle at the edge of the table, but fell short and crashed into a solid stone hill. Otherwise an old corral/pen containing barrels and a sabertooth skeleton, a few hills and the usual trees, and the table was set.

A simple “Edge” deployment would be used, along the long table edges, to really start close to the airplane.

A turn limit was set: 6 turns, with a situational 7th if either the black box or engine parts were still in play at the end of the 6th turn.

Objectives
dc-operation-black-box-0016For this game Secret Objectives would be used. Specifically the Delta Commando Squad had to “Smash & Grab” the black box and engine pieces from the airplane. The Eastwood Rovers had to “Demolish” the same pair of objectives. And there was a main public Objective of “Capture” with the F-14 Tomcat being the contested objective.

dc-operation-black-box-0024The black box and engine parts were represented by pieces of actual computer RAM, which looked pretty neat and fit well! They would have DEF 2 and HP 10.

Features
As for Features a few “Weapon Emplacements” were used as part of the airplane. Specifically a Flare Gun (represented by the black minigun on the model), and a pair of Wagon Blazer equivalents (basically flamethrowers) which originated from the missiles hanging under the swing wings.


Posse: Delta Commando Squad – 130 IP, $1,700 ND, 4 traits – PDFSaloon
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I busted out some old, old figures for this posse. Like high school era Plague Marines from Warhammer 40,000. One of the few times I tried to do a consistent, matching color scheme. I also used my new-ish Dilophosaurus toy dinosaur, made famous as the “spitter” from Jurassic Park.

As mentioned above the intent was the mirror some of the functionality from Dota 2 items into Dinosaur Cowboy characters. Starting with Vanguard (a shield in the computer game) who is represented here by DEF 3, HP 14, and the Thick Skin trait (a one time boost of +2 DEF). Next up was Bloodthorn, a midrange damage dealer with a Volcanic Pistol and Coil Gun for utility. Then the sniper Desolator who has a Twin Rifle, but the miniature has a massive lascannon haha. And finally Skull Basher, a melee monster with a Claw Axe and one of my favorite close combat traits: Onslaught (+4 Attacks instead of +1 on Charge). The Dilophosaurus was bought as a Raptor, in this case named Iron Talon, who is Feral but has no traits.

The strategy and plan was to rush and capture an objective and hurry it off the table with Skull Basher. Sort of a trade off since he ideally wants to be moving forward into melee, not away from the violence. But he’s also significantly faster than the rest of the human members. Otherwise the rest would setup a perimeter, rain down fire, and let the dinosaur distract and hold off the enemy.

Posse: Eastwood Rovers – 130 IP, $1,700 ND, 4 traits – PDFSaloon
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dc-operation-black-box-0004I think this is the debut of one of my new-ish (notice a trend?) miniature that looks vaguely like Clint Eastwood from his spaghetti westerns. I mean not as much as another mini I have, but certainly a generic looking cowboy fellow. I had painted a “fan the hammer glove” on his hand, to help grip the hammer. Otherwise the miniatures should look familiar, except maybe the defector Plague Marine. He was actually from an old, old game I wrote called “Twilight” (yes, before the movies), which is why he’s customized for an RPG and on a hex base.

Also yes I know the posse picture above is washed out. I didn’t have much luck, but the rest of the photos are spot on, thankfully.

Anyway to celebrate the newly painted miniature the rest of the posse is somewhat Eastwood themed. The leader is named Pale Rider and has a massive Ranch Blaster, with the usual plan of using Fan the Hammer weapon ability then the Speed Reload trait to be ready to rock. Alexander Keith is my recurring bartender character, and a paintjob I love. He had the mighty Streetsweeper Shotgun and the dicey, but potentially life saving trait Inspire. Sister Sara is the medic, because I really like the healer type traits like Doctor. D12 times two is a lot of potential healing. Powder Monkey was a funny case, since he looks like a Savage but is actually a Neotechnoist. So a reversal of the usual “going native” empire soldier, and is instead a naturalized wildman trying to meld with the upper classes. And finally the defector from the Delta Commando Squad was represented by Dominator (from the Dota 2 “Helm of the Dominator”). He had a Cutlass but likely not enough Defense or Hitpoints to reach combat with it. The dinosaur was a Fin, one of Papo’s better sculpts (which is saying a lot considering their high quality!) who is named after a less popular Eastwood movie: Eiger.

The plan is simple: shoot objectives. Pale Rider will be the main attacker in that case. Sister Sara will move forward with Keith, Powder Monkey, and Dominator, and try to keep them all healthy. Eiger will likely shield Dominator, or try to get into close combat as a team.


Turn 1
The Delta Commando Squad setup first, opting for the right side, or east, or kitchen-ward, haha. They were able to deploy Skull Basher far enough forward that he could reach the black box objective on the first turn. On the opposite edge the Eastwood Rovers set up in a fairly tight formation, since there were no explosive weapons to fear.
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The first turn more or less nullified the Secret Objectives, which was kind of funny. Pale Rider and Alexander Keith were able to destroy the engine parts objective on their side of the table. And Skull Basher grabbed the black box on the other.

In terms of shooting at living things Powder Monkey managed a lucky hit on Iron Talon that caused Panic. The dinosaur had edged forward around the hill, but still presented a fairly big target. Iron Talon attempted a far 5″ Charge against Eiger, but failed and was a bit exposed. From on top of the hill Desolator hit Alexander Keith for 6 damage. The bartender then failed his Bravery Test and would be Fleeing. The Commando sniper had a fairly good view of the battlefield, but the F-14 Tomcat did a good job of blocking line of sight for some of the approach.

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Turn 2
This turn the dinosaurs met in combat. For all the thematic dinosaur training and discpline, and both player’s idea of using the dinosaur to distract human enemies, the beasts still went right for each other and started tearing in. Iron Talon succeeded at his much closer 1″ Charge, hitting Eiger quite handily. Bloodthorn mounted the tall hill the F-14 Tomcat had crashed into, and fired down at Eiger. The Fin dinosaur took a pounding and was quickly down to 6 HP.

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Meanwhile Skull Basher rushed the black box towards the table edge, as was the Delta Commando Squad secret objective. Vanguard mounted the plane, trying to draw a bead on an Eastwood Rover. The leader trusted in his DEF 3 to keep him safe in the mean time.

Sister Sara did her medical duty and healed Alexander Keith back to full Hitpoints, thanks to her Doctor trait and Small IRP. Keith had fallen back from Fleeing. The pair were a bit away from the plane, under the wing of which Dominator advanced to try to avoid shots from Desolator.

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Turn 3
Both dinosaurs were in rough shape after being the focus of various attacks. Dominator rushed out from under the plane wing, used his Berserker trait for +2 Attacks, and managed a Charge against Iron Talon. The Cutlass did solid work, hitting for 9 damage, which left the surprised Iron Talon with a mere 1 Hitpoint. The dinosaur Panicked at this.

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dc-operation-black-box-0073Unfortunately for the Delta Commando Squad player, Iron Talon had a 1A-5D claw, Eiger had 6 Hitpoints, but because Iron Talon had 1 Panic he suffered -1 Damage. Amazingly though the attack was a Critical hit, resulting in exactly 6 damage, so Iron Talon killed Eiger. But Sister Sara was quick to finish up Iron Talon, similarly killing the wounded beast.

At this point Skull Basher successfully captured the black box objective by bringing it to the table edge. Hooray for them!

On the deadly hilltop, Powder Monkey hit Bloodthorn quite hard, making the commando Flee. In return Pale Rider takes a tiny shot from Vanguard, who then ducks off the exposed top of the airplane.

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Turn 4
dc-operation-black-box-0094So far Dominator has been called a defector. But from the Delta Commando Squad point of view, he’s a stone cold traitor. The voodoo of dice agreed, as Bloodthorn lined up a pretty tough shot from his elevated perch. Then proceeded to 1-shot Dominator with an amazing roll. He hit for 10 damage, and Dominator only had 8 HP. So that was a surprising turn of events.

Unfortunately for Bloodthorn this was also his doom, as Powder Monkey returned fire and avenged Dominator’s death by killing the enemy commando. So far Powder Monkey’s Bronto Gun hasn’t been hugely needed, as he’s shooting DEF 0 or 1 targets.

Meanwhile Pale Rider hugs the rear fin of the airplane, and not to be outdone, returns the 1-shot by outright killing Desolator. There was some concern for the Eastwood Rover player whether they’d ever be able to safely advance under the sniper fire of Desolator. But a solid roll with a Ranch Blaster sorted that problem out right quick.
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In response to the unspoken leader-to-leader challenge, Vanguard boldly stepped onto the top of the airplane. He activated the Thick Skin trait, which gives +2 Defense until the start of his next activation. So total DEF 5…wow. Call the Bronto Gun pronto!

As if to demonstrate how feebly the enemy shots will be, Alexander Keith climbs up the airplane wing and tries to hit Vanguard with his Streetsweeper Shotgun…on a 13+. Needless to say he doesn’t have much luck with 2 Attacks.

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Turn 5
The Delta Commando Squad started the turn with just Vanguard and Skull Basher left, whereas Eastwood Rovers still had four survivors.

The use of Thick Skin by Vanguard was interesting, since as mentioned the trait stays in effect until the start of his next Activation. Which means he wants to delay activating as long as possible, to tank as many shots as he can.

The turn starts well in that regard as the Eastwood Rovers win initiative and have to activate first. Powder Monkey moves to the edge of the stone hill and tries his Bronto Gun, needing a mere 8+ to hit. No luck, a miss!

Pale Rider sees the armored beast of Vanguard, and decides to switch targets to Skull Basher instead. He moves to Short Distance, grips his Ranch Blaster, and uses Fan the Hammer for a brutal 6 damage hit that makes Skull Basher Flee.

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Vanguard is still trying to hold his activation, so Skull Basher runs away due to Fleeing, then tries to Hustle back. Certainly not the most effective posse member due to spending half the game herding an objective, then getting shot in the face when it’s time to chop things.

The Eastwood Rovers win the next initiative, so Vanguard gets possibly the best value out of Thick Skin ever as he maintained it through 4 enemy activations. However Alexander Keith and Sister Sara are focused and on a mission to roll some hot dice. Keith hits for 7 damage, even though he needs 11+, and this makes Vanguard Flee. Then Sister Sara hits for another 7 damage (at 10+ to hit) which outright kills Vanguard! And to add insult to injury Skull Basher fails his Bravery Test for having his leader taken out of action and is Fleeing.

Turn 6
At this point the game was pretty much over, but the Eastwood Rovers player wanted to get a bit showy in how they kill Skull Basher. First they won initiative, and moved Alexander Keith to the Flare Gun mounted on the F-14 Tomcat. The intent was to get the Illuminate effect on Skull Basher, applying a -2 DEF penalty to make the rest of the posse hit a lot easier. But instead Keith got a Critical hit on the Flare Gun attack, resulting in 4 damage which killed Skull Basher!

So a win for Eastwood Rovers by both objective and posse wipe!

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Conclusion
Quite an interesting game. The F-14 Tomcat made a great centerpiece with lots of nooks and crannies to block line of sight in. The game certainly spiralled out of control for the Delta Commando Squad player. Pretty rough having Skull Basher moving the objective for a lot of it. And of course the luck of Keith and Sara both hitting such unlikely, highly damaging shots on Vanguard. Just goes to show as intimidating as high Defense is, eventually weight of fire can bring the target down.

Anyway hopefully you enjoyed the battle report! And maybe the black box will make another plot appearance in a future session…

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