Monday 16 May 2011

Toy Soldiers: Critical Mass Games Participation Game

As I mentioned in my Carronade 2011 post the other day, Mike and I  took part in a participation game run by Craig from Critical Mass Games of their new rules (logically called Critical Mass). We had both bought the rules in the morning and then settled in to pick up the basics from the man himself in the afternoon. Firstly, can I say that Craig did an excellent job of running through the rules with us before we started and then directing the game dropping in little titbits from the rulebook as he went along. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read the rules through yet, so this is purely going to be a brief run through of my impressions of our first try of Critical Mass. Mike took command of the Kaamados army and I shared control of the ARC Fleet with another chap who’s name I have woefully forgotten.
The game itself uses the alternate activation system, whereby one player activates a unit and then the other player activates on of his units. This goes backward and forward until all the units have activated, and then the turn ends and new turn begins. I have liked alternate activation over the more common “you move all your stuff then I’ll move all of mine” for many years, actually since we used to play Target’s Warzone, a great system let down, in my mind, by some very average figures (at least in it’s first edition, which was all I played).
First off we have some photos of the Kaamados Dominion troops and buildings. For this game the Kaamados are defending their Comms building, and the ARC Fleet are trying to destroy it. In the foreground of this first photo you can see two sections of Kaamados Squamata, lurking behind the two smaller pyramids. These are reserves that (in theory) should emerge from said pyramids, after a successful dice roll, at the beginning of a Kaamados turn. Don’t expect to se them move during this game… the dice were definitely against them.
Here we can see the main line of Kaamados Vivipara infantry split into two squads, in front of the large pyramids. Between them is an assault squad of the rather vicious Naga. Lurking off at the back and just peeking out from behind the far pyramid is a  Dragamaa heavy tank, equipped with a twin heavy slug cannon. The Dragamaa heavy tank in the foreground is equipped with at twin heavy plasma cannon, this is also the Kaamados command vehicle!
Here we are looking at the Kaamados battle-line from the other end. The square, squat building on the right-hand side is the Comms centre. This is the objective. The ARC Fleet must take and hold it for a turn, the Kaamados simply have to stop them…
The ARC Fleet army consisted of two companies of troops carried in GRAV APC's and each accompanied by a GRAV medium tank. They also had two units of three, lightly armed, GRAV Scout vehicles. The force was finished off with the command vehicle, another GRAV APC. I suggested to my team mate that I would distract the Kaamados forces while he went straight out for the objective, which was on his side of the table.
I would also add at this point, before the action starts, as well as the on table forces both sides were able to call in orbital strikes. These were refreshed on a turn by turn basis, and should have given an extra boost to both sides offensive capabilities. Once again however, as a result of some poor dice rolling on both sides, of the six or seven strikes called in only one actually caused any damage. Consequently I have more or less ignored it during my battle report.
The first turn opened with my winning the initiative, I forced the Kaamados command tank to move, which basically wasted it’s first turn. Then I moved my recon unit fast down the right-hand side of the table in the hopes of avoiding any combat and then getting around the back of the command tank. Then I moved my mechanised infantry company forward between the two hills and disembarked my troops. At this point I also opened fire with the medium tank, taking a pot shot at the Kaamados Dragmaa command tank. As soon became evident, the Dragmaa tanks are very well armoured and it shrugged off the hit n a fashion that soon became all to familiar to us.
My team mate sent his Scout unit down the far left-hand side of the table, taking advantage of the hill for cover. He then, cautiously, sent his infantry company that way too, rather than making a direct charge on the objective. His plan was to approach the Comms centre from the rear, emerging from the cover of the hill at the last possible moment. To mind my, laudable though a commanders concern for the safety of his men is, this reluctance to commit and risk his troops probably cost us the battle!
On the Kaamados turn, Mike first rolled to see if any of his re-enforcements arrived, no luck this time.He then chose to send the Naga forward to occupy the hill at the centre of the table, planning to have them sweep down into my infantry company on his next turn. He also moved his main line infantry, the two companies of Vivipara infantry forward across the table, allowing one to move close to the objective and lining the other one up to take on my infantry company on the right-hand side of the table. Mike then opened fire on my infantry company, trying to take out the attached medium tank, and as many of the infantry as he could. He managed to put one of my APCs “Out of Action”, needing a repair roll to return to action, and also take out several squads of troops.
Still my diversionary tactics were working reasonably well. More than half of Mike’s available force was concentrating on my company and not on the main assault force that was heading for the objective.
My infantry company was fairly bogged down now, taking fire and  heavy casualties. They were returning fire and managed to wipe out most of the Naga squad and also inflict a fair bit of damage to the Vivipara company that was advancing towards them. The medium tank was still popping away at Mike’s command tank, but not managing to quite get through his front armour. The dice rolling definitely favoured Mike throughout the whole game. At one point, rolling to hit with a weapon that had the Sustained Fire ability (on a roll of 6 you can roll an additional D6 for a further hit) he rolled ten 6s in a row.
My GRAV Scouts now sitting nicely behind the Dragmaa Command tank kept up a continuous barrage of attacks on both the tank and the Vivipara company in front of it. They managed to take a fair toll on the infantry, but still couldn’t even scratch the paintwork on the command tank (even in the rear armour).
The Kaamados Vivipara infantry took a pounding both from the front and behind, and were slowly whittled down.
Over at the other side of the table we finally managed to destroy the other Dragmaa tank, and slowly reduced the second Vivipara company, eventually wiping them out.
However, the remains of the Naga fell back from the central hill and occupied the Comms centre. Mike also kept up his barrage on my remaining medium tank and two APCs. I advanced these towards what remained of the right-hand Vivipara company and of course the ever present command tank.
Our left-hand ARC Fleet infantry squad disembarked from their APCs and advanced on the Comms Centre.
Mike’s Naga burst from the rear door of the Comms Centre and charged into close combat with the ARC Fleet troops and APC’s.
After some furious close quarter fighting the Naga were finally wiped out, but unfortunately for us it was at the end of the final turn, and we didn’t have any infantry left to occupy the Comms Centre. Defeat for the ARC Fleet. Although such a near thing that both sides had taken a real pounding, and all things considered neither side came away with much glory.
As for the Squamata reserves that remained hiding in their pyramids for the entire game (on the last turn Mike needed a two for them to arrive, but Craig cursed them with the comment “you can’t roll another one for your re-enforcements, can you?”), well they were consigned to guard a convict colony on a distant ice planet for their complete cowardice.
Now, I know I have not gone into a great deal of depth about the rules mechanics in this battle report, but as I said at the beginning, I haven’t had a chance to digest them myself yet. Craig guided us through this game giving us hints and tips on tactics and telling us what dice we needed to roll and when. However, I can say that the feel of the game was excellent, two forces felt different and played well against each other, both with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The dice rolling varied from a single dice for an attack, to rolling around twelve dice for some of the larger units. There is the usual Hit/Save mechanic which will be familiar to most players. Dice roll results can be brutal at times, but you can also pull off some spectacular near misses where units take a serious punishment but somehow manage to get through it in one piece.
I am in the middle of pointing up my own ARC Fleet army and Mike is doing the same for his Kaamados Dominion army. Once our group has had a chance to play a few games for ourselves I will post some further comments, but don’t hold your breath, we tend to take some time to organise games.
If you are interested in 15mm science fiction gaming you can do far worse than ordering up a copy of Critical Mass, oh, and if you get a chance to sit in on one of Craig’s games at a show, do so!


  1. Good report!

    I liked the look of the game although I'm not overly daft on Sci Fi. I di dthink the multi tracked vehicle looked cool though!

    How long did it take to play through a game? If they are going to be at Wappinshaw or Claymore I may give it a try as long as it doesn't take too long as there will be plenty of other games to go and have a try of!

  2. Game took about an hour, maybe a little longer.

    I don't think they are going to either of the other show though...

  3. What is that awesome pyramid terrain?

  4. They pyramid buildings are produced by Critical Mass Games (that is their demo table).
    They are amazingly good quality. Nice internal detail too...


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