Thursday, February 27, 2020

The City of Pillars: a Spectre Operations scenario plus AAR. EDITED Victory conditions

Extensive research has brought to light the disturbing possibility that an ancient Artefact of unfathomable power lies buried beneath some ruins in Afghanistan. The US administration, eager to acquire this powerful asset, dispatches a small and low-profile task force, led by a CIA officer, to secure it. Unfortunately, with the task force already on its way, a satellite scan discovers unknown forces already present in the area, busy unearthing an as yet unidentified object. Intelligence suspects Iran to be most likely responsible for this undercover mission on Afghan soil. Given Iran's ambitions in the field of unconventional weaponry this most unconventional weapon should definitely not fall into their hands.

Two parties attempt the same mission: acquiring an Artefact from a Afghan archaeological dig to deny this asset to the enemy. One party is already in the possession of the asset but is awaiting transport. The other party has transport but is only now entering the area. Parties are aware of each other’s presence. All units are Alert. 

Parties and deployment:

US Army:
 17 Professional US soldiers (including 2 Commanders) & 1 Professional CIA operative (Force Commander) Armament as shown
 1 Bradley IFV, 2 Humvee transports, 1 Land Rover (including Land Rover driver, Untrained and unarmed)
·         Will deploy in vehicles on the road entering the table


Iranian Republican Guard (Undercover)
·         25 Professional IRG (plainclothes) including 2 Commanders plus 1 Professional SS Operative.
·         Armament include 2 RPGs and 1 M40 recoiless rifle. The rest is as shown.
·         6 Civilian laborers, Untrained and unarmed
·         1 eagerly awaited truck including driver and guard
·         IRG may partly or completely deploy in hiding on the far half of the table (away from the US convoy entry point).


The table represents a small valley. The US Convoy will enter at one point, starting on the road from the table edge at the start of turn 1. The Dig lies near the other end.  A few small buildings, rocks and sparse trees and scrubs dot the valley. The Dig is a cluster of ruins, in the middle of which lies the Artefact.

Special Rules

The Eagerly Awaited Truck
The Iranian truck will arrive at the start of a random turn. At the end of each turn, roll a D6. Add the turn number. On a result of 7 the truck arrives on the road at the IRG end of the table. The truck has a Civilian driver and an Trained guard with a sidearm.

The workers
These are unarmed locals, intimidated to do the bidding of anyone with a weapon. They can be controlled by whichever player has the most figures closest to them, with a maximum distance of 6”. They will not fight and take off to the nearest cover as soon as no player has figures within 6” of them. The workers start the game near the Dig close to the Artefact.

The Artefact
This is a heavy statue made of a strange type of soapstone. It actually feels slippery to the touch and is hard to hold on to. Four (4) workers in b2b contact are needed to move it (reasonably) safely. For each move roll a D6. On a 6 the workers drop the Artefact. See below “The Entity” for the effects. These effects also apply when the Artefact is hit by fire or explosion. Add 1 to the roll for each worker below 4.  Add a reroll for each worker above 4. Max 2 rerolls.

The Entity
The Artefact is actually a Binding Spell containing an Elder Entity (choose an appropriate monster). It is not a stone statue but an energy field shaped like a statue (hence the slippery feel when touching it).

The Entity's influence will make itself felt when the Artefact is damaged the first time. Rolling a result of 6 while moving it, each time the bearers are shot at or hitting it with firearms will damage the Artefact and releasing the Entity's influence. 

This will release a number of smaller entities. These will possess all humans within 6” of the Artefact.

When the Artefact is damaged a second time, the Entity contained in it will escape, appear and then start moving at 10” per turn in a random direction and continue in that direction until it leaves the table. It will ignore all players and is invulnerable to weapons as represented on the table. The game will then end in a draw. 

The Possessed
These pose the most immediate danger after the Entity appears. The possessed are nearly mindless creatures, driven by hunger. They do not use weapons. Each will move at 6” per turn towards the nearest unpossessed human in order to attack them in close combat. Only a lethal hit will kill them. They ignore all other wounds. Their touch is lethal and a figure losing a close combat to them will be possessed itself. This lethality will dissipate when a Possessed is killed.  

The Possessed move 6”, have a Defence of 1 (they move but do not attempt to evade anything and go straight for their prey). A Possessed has a Melee of 2 also due to its fierce and reckless attack mode. Being targeted by a Possessed gives 1 Suppression to the figure targeted per Possessed.

The MOAB (Massive Ordnance Areal Blast)
As soon as the Entity starts moving an airstrike is launched from a plane already loitering in the area.

This was the US backup plan should the Artefact prove harder to handle than anticipated. At the end of each turn, roll a D6 and add 1 for each consecutive turn. On a 6 a MOAB hits the location of the Entity and may or may not destroy it. When the Entity is still on the table at that time everything on the table is lost and the game is a Draw. 

If Players choose to flee they will need to exit the table beforehand and in the opposite direction of the leaving Entity to escape the blast area.

When the Entity is already off the table when the MOAB hits the table is untouched and the players automatically escape. The game is still a Draw. 

Optional Hidden Rules
Option 1: Units completely hidden by terrain
Spread 20 to 30 numbered stones across the table, near or on terrain that enables hiding. Write down your units and the number of the stone they are hiding.

Option 2: Units hidden but partly exposed by heat signatures
I use three types of counters: small, medium and large. Each type represents a known heat signature of a number of people. Place the counter on the table at the location of the hidden unit. The counter must reveal the correct number of figures when exposed.

Small:                 1 or 2 people
Medium             3 or 4 people
Large                  5 or more people

In any case, models are displayed on the table when Scanned, Detected or Activated in order to move into view or deliver unsilenced direct fire. 

How it played for us: 

We used the heat signature Hidden Rules and these did indeed enable the IRG player to effectively hide his ambushing troops from my US Army column.

My column entered the table in a cautious manner, Scanning and seeking targets as we went. Too cautious as it turned out, because it gave the IRG time to take a shot at me with his hidden M40, damaging the Bradley and when I Scanned a team of IRG entrenched in a building I was too far away to employ grenades effectively. To make matters worse I deployed my infantry in terrain with not enough cover and took the predictable heavy casualties. Smokescreen you say? It didn't cross my mind.....

One of my Humvees was riddled with bullets. The gunner dead and his car immobilized, the driver heroically manned the .50 and laid down some withering covering fire until he died as well. Those IRG had laid their ambush very well and my fears that I might have under-equipped them were quickly dissipated...

The Bradley nevertheless was very effective. It knocked out the M40, survived two RPG rounds and then eliminated the crew of the truck that had in the meantime appeared to pick up the Artefact. My infantry began rolling up the IRG flanks which were firmly entrenched in buildings and scrub. Things were beginning to look better. And then it al went pear-shaped.

The workers carrying the Artefact to the truck did indeed drop it, the Entity appeared and Possessed all workers and 4 IRG. Loads of Suppression all around and to make matters worse the Entity began moving towards the nearest table edge giving us all of 2 turns to clear the table of Possessed and skedaddle before the MOAB dropped. We decided to end the game there and await the Big Bang.

Lessons learned: 
When driving a tank one should behave like one. Take the lead!
Smoke screens are invented for a reason.
Don't deploy your troops in open terrain. They will not like you afterwards.
A standard Humvee is an about as well protected against light weapon fire as a pup tent....

This scenario was inspired by the stories of -amongst others- Howard Phillip Lovecraft,  Tim Curran, Charles Stross, Jonathan Maberry, David Conyers and John Sunseri.