Xenos Snacks?

After playing Dragon Rampant a few weeks ago, it was time to give Xenos Rampant a go. This is the Modern/SciFi version of the Rampant rules from Osprey Wargames. The basic mechanics are very similar to the other game, so it was relatively easy to set things up and get the game started.

Whilst digging through my figures, I found a set of civilians that I decided I wanted to use, and that defined the scenario for the evening. It was going to be an escort mission, with a team of soldiers getting the group of civilians and their dog to safety.

They would be navigating through a ruined city which was infested by hostile xenomorphs. The aim of the xenomorphs was to kill the civilians. The aim of the humans was to get the civilians to the far side of the table unharmed.

The xenomorphs (some genestealers that I obtained cheap and pre-painted from a bring and buy at a show a long time ago) were easy to classify as greater xenomorphs.

At 4 points each, they had no shooting ability but we’re good in close combat and had decent armour. They also had wild charge, which would turn out to be their biggest weakness.

The main human forces I designated as Elite Infantry. These were more WH40K figures that I had obtained painted and cheap. At 6 points each they were tough, but I only had enough for three squads.

Deciding to try the vehicle rules, I add a fighting vehicle (Ground Zero Games hover tank) and two groups of Recon Infantry (a mix of mercenary/gangster figures from Copplestone Castings).

Finally, my unarmed civilians were zero points, and consisted of a group of figures from Hasslefree Miniatures.

Deployed forces

The military units deployed first within 12″ of one long end of the table, then the Xenos deployed within 12″ of the other edges, but 24″ back from the human end. Then the civilians deployed within their zone.

I went with a smaller table this time (90x120cm) to give the game a more claustrophobic feel. This should have benefited the Xenos, who didn’t have ranged weapons, but I think it actually did the opposite.

Humans went first, and unlike Dragon Rampant and Lion Rampant, a lot of units have ‘free’ actions. These are activations that the unit can perform automatically without needing to check. Since you can’t fail, it means you can be guaranteed to activate all your units during your turn. This is quite a big change from Dragons Rampant. The civilians didn’t have any free actions, but the recon infantry could move for free, and the elite infantry could both move or shoot for free.

Civilians starting near the tank and guarded by some recon infantry

So all the military units moved forward. At this point in time there wasn’t anything to shoot at. The tank rolled forward towards the woods, and the civilians – did nothing. They had to make a check to move, and failed it.

Over to the Xenos to move, and they got a move activation for free. They scuttled forward, trying to keep in cover (there was plenty of that) to avoid being shot at. I also had to consider that they all had wild charge, which meant that if they came within 10″ of an enemy unit, they would have to make a check to charge them.

Are those xenos in the ruins?

Turn two, and one of the elite infantry units was able to shoot. The xenos being in hard cover gave them a +2 bonus to their armour, but one was killed. The civilians continued to refuse to move.

Humans taking up defensive positions

One unit of xenos was now close enough to a recon unit to attack. Indeed, they didn’t get much choice. So they charged forward and the recon unit was no more. With 10D6 to attack with and getting a hit on 3+, it meant the Xenos got a lot of hits. The recon unit had an armour of 1, which meant every hit was a kill. With an armour of 4, the recon team needed to score 4 hits for every kill, and needed to roll 6 to get a hit. The first encounter turned out to be very one sided.

The next few turns didn’t go as smoothly for the xenos. The infantry were starting to do a lot of shooting. Whilst it didn’t hurt the xenos a lot whilst they were in cover, they were still taking one or two casualties each turn.

They also had to wildcharge. This was the main limitation for the Xenos – they couldn’t use tactics. If there was an enemy unit nearby, they had to attack. They couldn’t go around and aim for the civilian targets, the infantry could effectively pin them down just by being there. With the infantry dug into ruins, it also turned out to be difficult to dig them out.

Aliens swarming through the ruins

On the Xenos turn, they charged dug-in infantry, and both took casualties. On the human turn, the humans used shooting to take out the Xenos at no risk to themselves.

Snacks ahead, but they didn’t stand still

At one point quite early on the Xenos got close to their target. If it hadn’t been for wild charge, they could have continued through and had a tasty snack, but instead had to attack those within range after the civilians finally figured out how to run. Caught between a tank and infantry, they fell back into the ruins behind them and were gradually worn down.

The tank acted mostly as a blocker. A couple of Xenos units were attacking it, and by the end of the game had worn it down to less than half strength. But it took out two units of Xenos in exchange.

The alien hordes

What started as a large wave of Xenos was gradually getting whittled down. The elite infantry were doing their job – refusing to give up their ground and let the Xenos through.

The civilians meanwhile had scuttled around to the apparent safety of some woods due to the open ground being threatened, when the Xenos made a breakthrough and came really close again to being in munching range. Only two elite infantry stood in their way.

The Xenos spot the tasty looking teenagers

Fortunately for the humans, the civilians managed to make it back to safety whilst the xenos were finishing off the elite unit. They in turn were finished off by the nearby unit in the ruins.

Soon, it was all over. The humans had lost two whole units and the odd casualty here and there, the Xenos were pretty much wiped out. The gang of teenagers (and their dog) were able to head down the road in safety and get to whatever transport it was that was waiting to take them away.

Victory went to the humans, though it had looked like it might be an easy Xenos victory at the start. The human troops were designed for firefights, not close in combat, so suffered badly when it came to hand to hand combat. There was enough cover though that they could choose a good place to defend and turn the tables on the Xenos.

The Xenos didn’t have much choice for their actions, so couldn’t go around the human units and congregate on the one unit that was their objective.

The tank didn’t do anything special. The rules for vehicles are pretty simple in Xenos Rampant. Apart from being quite tough, there was no difference between attacking a tank compared to attacking a unit of infantry. The converse was also true – a tank against infantry was no different to infantry against infantry. This didn’t quite feel right.

It also got to a point that once a unit got down to half strength, it only had 5 attack dice so couldn’t do anything against a unit with an armour of 6. This included the tank, but also any Xenos or Elite unit that was in hard cover (since the latter gives a +2 to armour).

The state of the battlefield towards the end

The game was really quick. With seven units on each side, it was over well inside three hours. This included table setup, socialising, deployment and a quick refresh of the rules.

For me, the rules are too quick. If you are doing competition games, where you need to play lots of small games, I can see it being an advantage. But after I’ve played one game I’m rarely in the mood to play a second. I prefer a single game to last the evening rather than be able to fit in two games.

Though the victory for the humans was fairly one sided in terms of casualties, there were a couple of points in the game where the Xenos threatened to win. An attack on the civilian unit would have almost definitely won them the game, so merely getting close enough to threaten was coming close to victory. Giving them Ponderous (to lose wild charge) or high powered blades (to reduce the armour of their enemy) could have turned the tide of battle, by either allowing them to side step the infantry or by allowing them to kill the infantry quicker.

I was hoping that Xenos Rampant would be a decent set of generic rules for modern/near future, but their simplicity is I think a bit too much for me. it might work for larger battles (maybe company sized battles, rather than platoon sized), where the extra units would slow things down, but the rule set is also quite shallow, and doesn’t have and command and control options in place to handle larger military forces.

What would be interesting would be trying this scenario a second time, but with the Stargrunt rules instead. Stargrunt doesn’t have any special rules for alien xenomorphs (still waiting for the long awaited Bugs Don’t Surf supplement), but counting them as being in powered armour for close assault might be a suitable work around. Of course, Stargrunt can go in the opposite direction for complexity, but it might be fun to give it a try.

Samuel Penn

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