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by Stephen Tucker

Background

The South African colony on Mars has always been a small one. The colony was given independence by the UN Extra-Planetary Land Grants Commission shortly after establishment. The grant awarded them a large area of land in the Terra Tyrrhena area of Mars. Shortly after this a large terra-forming plant, owned by the UN, was constructed at the edge of SAC lands. A particle-accelerator was also built as part of the complex, for sending valuable ores into orbit.

The Mars SAC government assumed control of these assets much to the annoyance of the French colony who held lands some 100km across the desert.

The French claims were heard in the UN courts but no decision was forthcoming. Lawyers and bureaucrats continued to wrangle and argue but no agreement could be achieved.

So the French government decided to act without UN approval!

Setup

The game was based around a French strike to capture the terra-forming/particle accelerator plant. The South Africans were on the defensive and were allowed to deploy in the hills and desert surrounding the plant.

The French were attacking with an armoured battalion made up of Garibaldi heavy tanks, Montsabert medium tanks, with infantry support as well as artillery, and a squadron of Caribou attack VTOLs.

The South African defence was more ad hoc. They had some armoured support from Rhino and Ratel tanks. They had managed to draw together two batteries of Warthog MRLs, plus a platoon of colonial militia, and another platoon of VTOL-borne power-armoured infantry.

The Action

The French approach was cautious, trying to locate the SAC units. The Garibaldi company spotted Rhino tanks atop the hill to the north of the position and opened fire, knocking out two of them. First strike to the French! The South African response was to pull their armour back, behind the crest of the hill. To the south, the SAC moved their Ratels into position to engage the French reconnaissance. The SAC fire drew more return-fire than they anticipated - the recce was not alone! The Ratels also drew back behind the hill.

The Caribou attack VTOLs came on to the battlefield, looking for targets. They sent a flurry of rockets at the Ratels to the south, but none were hit. The Caribou took off, flying low, around the hill to attack the SAC in the flank. They came round the hill, letting rip with missiles and autocannon. The amount of fire was overwhelming, brewing up all but one of the SAC tanks! But the Caribous had been rash, and they found themselves face-to-face with the SAC anti-aircraft battery. Down went the caribou.

It was at this point the SAC brought on their powered-infantry. They were landed behind the southern hill, and the infantry had to slog their way to the top, where they promptly dug in, waiting the French onslaught.

The French attack to the north slowed down. The Garibaldi tanks were slow to take advantage of the South African retreat and moved hesitantly across the desert. They paid for this caution. As soon as the SAC powered-infantry had dug in they called down artillery fire on the French tanks. Slowly but surely, the French started to lose their armoured support. In the meantime, the SAC militia made their way through the scrub to the north of their main battle line, to ambush the French tanks if they got that far.

The French moved their HQ and artillery along the track and hid in the scrub that ran alongside it. Once in place they started calling their own artillery onto the SAC powered-armour positions. This caused disruption in the SAC lines and a slight let-up of fire. This was enough for the French armour to the north to start moving again, out of the SAC artillery bombardments, and also allowed the French to bring up some infantry support.

The French commander received a desperate radio message from General Eugene Leclerc; it was imperative that the position be taken by night fall - after that news of the strike would break out all along the Solar System, and the French government would face a huge backlash from authorities who held colonies elsewhere on Mars.

Conclusion

But it was not to be.

The French had lost a lot of assets, and caused considerable loses among the South African defenders. But they now lacked the means to finish the attack.

The strike to capture the facilities at Tyrrhena had failed.

The South Africans could hardly claim a major victory. Their loses had been considerable, and would be hard to recover from. The French had much greater resources from which to draw reinforcements.

But for the time being, the South Africans held the field…

Rules

We played this game using the Steel Rain rules (available free on the internet - Google it). Just about every sci-fi land battle we've played we have used different rules in the quest for the ideal ruleset. So it seemed only right that we played this game with a new set as well.

Steel Rain plays well enough. It has its shortcomings, primarily the armour/weapon range of values is quite small (from 1 to 5). This makes it difficult to come up with different weapon varieties. That wouldn't be too hard to remedy though. Some clarity in the rules wouldn't go amiss, and you will find yourself coming up with lots of house-rules to cover things. We did. But again, it's nothing too serious. The game also has some nice and simple hidden movement rules that I think added to the game. The core mechanisms are simple enough, and that's one of the most important things.





Initial SAC Deployment - two Rhinos have already been knocked out on the Northern hill

The French advance with artillery strikes brewing up around the Garibaldi company

SAC power armour units on the southern hill

Caribou race ahead of the main line of advance ...

... to knock out most of a Ratel platoon, but in turn getting chewed up by AA

Overall view from the SAC end

View from the French end

SAC VTOLs fly over scrubland

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