Saturday, 10 October 2009

Aliens v Marines in FWC

ALIEN… in space no-one can hear you scream!

Matching FWC Army Lists Based on the Cult Sci-fi Films.

Having seen Nik Harwood’s wonderful Alien/Colonial Marine FWC Armies and being a long-time fan of the Alien films, I set out on creating two matching army lists for the main protagonists of the Aliens films based on Pete’s FWC system.

Army List Planning
Translating the film Alien we have become familiar with into a workable FWC Army list presented a number of issues:

1. How would I represent an alien colony similar to that of the films that relied heavily on stealth and speed (as well as fear) to close with an enemy bristling with firepower?

2. I didn’t like the idea of ‘acid blood’ as a potential ranged weapon. Every army list in FWC contains a ranged fire combat and to leave out such an attribute could potentially leave a non-firepower based army at a severe disadvantage.

3. How would I develop ‘different’ army lists that didn’t require the use of creating wholesale rule changes or additions that would potentially overcomplicate the simplicity of the FWC system? ‘As is’ FWC works really well. Why change a system that isn’t broke?

4. Incinerator units feature heavily in Alien, Aliens and Aliens 3, however In FWC flame weapons are typically attributed to armour and not infantry. How would I incorporate ‘incinerator units’ into the Colonial Marine list without tipping the balance further in favour of the Marines? Early play-testing revealed this weapon to be far too powerful.

5. How would I incorporate many of the film characters – Ripley, Cpl Hicks, Bishop, Burke etc.

6. How would I incorporate the Predator figures from Pendraken into any list I created? Any AVP fan knows the history of these fearsome warriors.

Trawling through the army lists in FWC I went with Nik H’s ideas of the Bug Colony list and the Colonial Union Defence Force as starting points for the new lists.

Converting the Bug Colony to ALIEN HOST
Although the Bug Colony list was my start point there was a lot about the list that I felt didn’t quite represent the Aliens as we have all come to know, love and fear as depicted in the films. The most obvious issue was that the original list presented too many troop types.

Mulling over memories of the films I decided that there need only be four troop types;

• Face-huggers
• Alien Juveniles
• Alien Adults
• The Alien Queen

Pendraken Miniatures 10mm range had all I needed as well as one or two others – namely Egg Clusters/Chest bursters and a pack containing 8 medium alien creatures that closely resembled the later Aliens of Alien Resurrection. With these additional miniatures in mind I decided upon a fifth troop type, Alien Retinue as a particularly tough troop type limited in numbers.

The Egg Cluster pack from Pendraken comes with human victims. I modelled the Queen bases with Egg clusters to add to the look of the base and modelled the ‘victims’ along with some spare face-huggers as ‘Infested’ stands. More on this one later.

For Special Rules I chose to stick largely with the original Colony theme (with only minor changes as highlighted with*):

• Swarm tactical doctrine/advanced tech level
• Air Superiority – enemy always has full Air Superiority
• All units have the Tunneler Ability *(1)
• All units do not incur the command penalty of assaulting enemy units *(2)

*(1) Only Warrior Units have the Tunneler Ability in the Colony list
*(2) Only Warrior Units do not incur the assault command penalty in the Colony list

The following Colony units were used as baseline stats in translating the equivalent Host Units:

• Warrior TG772 = Facehugger
• Warrior GS772 = Alien Juvenile
• Warrior LT825 = Alien Adult
• Warrior LT825 = Alien Retinue
• Warrior HS109 = Alien Queen

Ranged combat stats were removed from all listings.

Facehugger stands were given a new ability rule INFESTATION, whereby if an enemy infantry unit is knocked out in close combat by a Facehugger its stand is replaced with an Egg Cluster/Chest Burster stand. In the next Alien initiative phase the Marine stand is replaced with a facehugger stand.

Alien Adult and Retinue stands hits stat lines were modified upwards and the Queen Stands Assault stats were modified downwards.
Converting the CUDF to Colonial Marines
For Special Rules I chose to stick entirely with the original CUDF theme.

• Normal Tactical Doctrine and Contemporary Tech Level
• Air Superiority: +2 modifier to die roll
• Any command unit can request air support at a -1 modifier

The combat elements were far simpler to replicate in terms of the initial starting point. The following CUDF units were directly translated as:

• Command Stands = Retained the CO & HQ as CV9 and 8 respectively
• Recce (S9 Survey Team) = Colonial Scouts
• CU Defence Team = Colonial Marines* (1)
• IFV Unit (CU-731A) = M577 APC
• Dropship Unit (Eagle Transporter) = UD-4H Dropship

*(1) Each Marine stand was also equipped with an ‘Incinerator Unit’ (Flamethrower)

In addition to these stats I had a number of units I wished to create to replicate other Pendraken Miniatures I had in my collection. I trawled the various army lists in CWC and created the following additional units:

• FAO = There is no FAO within the CUDF force so a CV8 unit was added
• Tank Unit (M22 Jackson)
• Artillery Unit (M292A SPG) including an ‘off table’ option

Introducing Predators as a troop type
Pendraken also produce a pack of 10 Predator miniatures. I created two bases of four figures and a single stand of two figures to represent an independent command stand.

The main design elements I wished to create for my Predators was an ability to survive against Alien Numbers and an Ability to take on the Aliens in a stand up fight.

The following abilities appeared to give the Predators a bit of an edge:

• Teleport
• Adaptive Camouflage
• Stealth

Early Play Testing
In early play-testing I chose balanced forces of equal points in straightforward meeting engagements. I deliberately placed lots of cover on the table to cut down lines of fire as I fully expected the Aliens to get cut to ribbons on the way in.

Interestingly I have made very little change to the ALIEN HOST; it is the Colonial Marine list that I have had to tinker with the most.

• Marine firepower was a lot weaker than I anticipated with the exception of incinerator units which were ridiculously powerful
• The Alien Host Tunneler Ability was way too effective
• Vehicle’s were incredibly vulnerable in close combat
• The Alien Queen stands were way too powerful
• Predator Teleport Technology also seemed far too potent and clashed too much with Stealth Technology

Patience is a virtue so they say, sadly its not one of my better known qualities. The four or five play tests I had run were such one sided affairs that other projects took precedence in terms of wargaming.

Old passions rediscovered
Several months and one or two completed wargaming projects down the line, I decided to re-visit my earlier efforts as a prelude to deciding whether to ‘Evil-bay’ said miniatures. I am glad I did this as I think I am now at a point where the new lists feel both playable and aesthetically right. I am even considering a more robust and thorough play-test in December at a local sci-fi gaming show.

I dug out a long forgotten spotters guide, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s ‘Colonial Marines Technical Manual’ (Boxtree Ltd, ISBN 0-7522-0844-6) and the rest is history, hopefully.

List modifications – Colonial Marines (Oct 2009)

• Created optional CO and HQ units to reflect film-specific characters such as Bishop, Ripley, Burke, Gorman etc
• Up-rated several Attack ratings of the Marine elements taking into account the deployment of M56 Smart Guns at squad level and the M41A1 Pulse Rifle with under-slung grenade launcher
• Made Incinerator Units (M240 Flamethrower) a limited numbers upgrade and reduced their range and attacks dramatically
• Developed two versions of the M577 APC including the M577A2 with plasma weapons
• Introduced the M22 Jackson Medium Tank and the M292A2 Self Propelled Gun
• Seriously upgraded the UD-4H Dropship to reflect its role as dual purpose dropship/gunship role
• Changed the Recce Units Planetary Surveyors to ‘Motion Trackers’
• Gave Command Stands and M577 model APC’s an option to incorporate Motion Trackers as upgrades
• Introduced stats for the UA 571-C Remote Sentry Weapons System
• Removed Predator Units Teleport technology

List modifications – Alien Host (Oct 2009)

• Removed the Tunneler Ability from the list
• Downgraded the Alien Queen to a new troop type Ancient Alien
• Upgraded the Facehugger assault factor
• Introduced Stealth Technology
• Gave all units the Stubborn ability

Subsequent play-testing (v1.6)
The latest play-test certainly gave a more balanced game with the Aliens quite rightly being cut down in swathes during the initial moves to contact. Once the Aliens got into close combat both sides fared much better with many encounters not necessarily going the predictable route of an alien whitewash.

The M577A2’s plasma weapon came into its own suppressing stands close to the impact area and generally the Marines fared much better in what was essentially a ‘stand-up’ fight coming close to, but not exceeding their breakpoint having beaten off the alien onslaught.

The next play-test will introduce hidden deployment and ambush to test the Motion Tracker theory

Paul Martin
(aka Nosher)
October 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.