The year is 2103ad. Mars has been inhabited by man for many years now, and atmosphere processors have been steadily increasing the thin Martian air to make it breathable. The first colonies have evolved into cities, and the settlers have explored further into the great deserts. Even the Martian canals are no longer a myth, as great irrigation channels bring water from the thawing icecaps as the planet gently warms up.
In Beijing, a routine report drops onto the desk of a government official charged with overseeing the CDSU colony on the Tharsis plateau. Normally the reports are quickly skimmed and filed, but the eagle-eyed official spots something and races to see his superior. Surveys have detected deposits of the isotope Thorium-232, vital to the manufacture of faster-than-light starship drives.
The wheels of government turn quickly when resources as valuable as this are at stake. The Thorium would be enough to power vast fleets of Chinese built starships, but it must be secured before anyone else gets to know of it. Realising that they don't yet have the military strength to take on the rest of the world, Russian and French ambassadors are summoned and promised their share in return for assistance. Troops and tanks are quietly loaded aboard transport vessels under cover of spurious 'redeployments', while in the dark skies above, battleships and carriers assemble for hastily announced 'joint manoeuvres'.
But that much military hardware doesn't go unnoticed, and even the tightest governments leak secrets. In Washington, London, Berlin, Cape Town and Canberra, spies report late night cabinet meetings and satellite tracking stations watch the great grey hulks of warships pass by. 'Mars' is the whispered destination. The Western powers know they're missing something, even if they don't know what it is. Troops are hastily recalled, fleets redeployed and strategic reserves activated, just in time - the two war fleets are on course to converge in the upper orbits of Mars.
The Sands of Mars (with apologies to the late Arthur C Clarke) is a multiplayer, multi-format SF mini-campaign which is aimed to be run at the club early in 2010. The intention is to make it a two day affair based around the scramble to colonise and exploit Mars following the discovery of new mineral resources under the sands of the Red Planet. Day 1 will consist of starship games as the protagonists race to get to Mars first, the second day will be ground combat games.
The campaign will be somewhat abstract as there will be no map as such, the games being part of a larger series of battles which the players are influencing, rather than representing the entire campaign. Another reason for setting things up this way is the desire to avoid a series of decisive victories for one side of the other on day 1, so that day 2 is almost a foregone conclusion. Instead, the results of the spaceship battles will have a significant but not overwhelming effect on the ground battles.
The intention is to make most of the information transparent (handwave this away however you like ... satellite tracking and surveillance, spies, sophisticated data intercepts etc). This means that both sides won't have many secrets. It also means that we can do away with an umpire, which is ideal since I want to play rather than act as referee !
The spaceship battles will be fought using Starmada X (SX:B) rules, with ship designs coming from the 'Brigade' edition. The ground battles will use Future War Commander (FWC) rules.
Conveniently the second day coincides with the spring Curry Night, so we'll have the ideal chance to pick over the bones at the end of the campaign.
Ten people have signed up ... hope the painting is going well so far !
Sides will be determined using the Iron Cow background. In Central and Northern Europe, Germany and other members of the ONESS are assailed on one side by the French dominated European Federation and on the other by the Neo-Soviet republic. On the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, that immediately places the EuroFed (Trevor and Mark) and Soviets (Jon) on the same side. The Chinese (Mike) will likely ally with their communist brothers. On the other side, German forces (Tony and Andy) will be joined by those implacable enemies of communism, the AmRep (Dave). South African forces (Steve) are constantly fighting the EuroFed throughout Africa, while the Pacific Federation (Jeremey) opposes the expansionist policies of the CDSU throughout the Pacific region - both will thus be allied with the Western powers. This leaves Marcus, who can conveniently slot in with the Sino-Soviets to even up the numbers.
Each side will need to nominate a commander - although this is an umpire-less campaign, I'll be doing most of the coordinating so I won't be a commander since I'll know too much !