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Utopia #5 – Disaster

February 21, 2013

After the devastating events of their previous mission, squad 16 was reeling. With their sergeant and heavy missing and their corporal KIA, morale was low and the atmosphere on UTP Tien Shan sombre. Pvt. Lau had started doing heavy drugs while the normally optimistic medic Evans was just shutting down. Dour Pvt. Hämäläinen’s daily verbal output had gone from four words to two. Pvt. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson had been promoted to corporal, a fact she was trying to get her head around.

The genocidal AI Hamachi had dealt the UTOPIA project its first real blow. While most squads had succeeded in their evacuation mission, the casualties were horrendous, on average around 35-40%. Squads 39 and 42 had been completely destroyed, and several of the 50 squads were at half strength.

Another squad that had suffered was the 21st. With only four survivors after the previous mission, the squad was merged into the 16th. This brought the following new faces to the table:

Sgt. Fender, a stern bastard of a career sergeant in his fifties. Fender operates on a no pain, no gain mentality. There are rumours of him once having killed one of his subordinates for poor performance. Fender is accompanied by his foul genhanced mastiff Baton.

Pvt. McSorley, a true jarhead and the squad’s new heavy weapons specialist. He enjoys his job and is more than happy to hose down enemies with his smartgun, Jane.

Pvt. Trill, a genuinely likable female tech specialist. Trill knows her way around technology, but isn’t the most socially active in the squad. She is the third tech to join the 16th, after the demise of her predecessors Bjornssen and Ghillian.

Pvt. DiGlaeser, the squads new communications specialist. While somewhat creepy, DiGlaeser is a downright wizard when it comes to communications. He has established superiority over Baton the dog by tazing him.

Sgt. Fender took over the squad very efficiently. He made a pretty distinct entrance, when the first thing his lovely little pet did was urinate on poor Pvt. Lau. Fender didn’t bother with small talk or pleasantries, instead putting the new combined squad through a couple of days of very strict training. This training was interrupted by Cpt. Jensen – it was time for a new mission.

It appeared that Hamachi was a bit more resourceful than expected, and had captured several troopers wounded in the previous mission. They were interrogated as well as used for experimentation, providing the AI with both information and a useful tool for eroding morale. The prisoners were held in POW camps around the planet Ryukyu Epsilon. Most interesting for the 16th was the fact that Sgt. Brauer was still alive! Implanted with a tracking chip like all soldiers with an undefined amount of service ahead of them, Brauer had been found to be in a camp in the ruins of the settlement of Fuji Reach. The mission was simple: get the sergeant and as many prisoners as possible out of the camp and show Hamachi what the UTOPIA squads were capable of. As a result of previous experience, the squad was supplied with two RPGs – carried by McSorley and Hämäläinen – to help deal with Hamachi’s killer cyborgs.

The sixteenth deploys. The dog insisted on being included in the photo

The sixteenth deploys. The dog insisted on being included in the photo

The 16th deployed carefully and observed the situation. The small POW camp was guarded by four cyborgs who were standing behind concrete barriers and keeping watch. The squad moved forward with caution, and prepared to open fire. Hämäläinen started towards the right and McSorley towards the left, in an attempt to get the RPGs into a flanking position. DiGlaeser activated his signal jamming device to make the squad more difficult to target.

McSorley and DiGlaeser

McSorley and DiGlaeser

Wu and Trill

Wu and Trill

The squad started firing at the cyborgs but without much effect. The long range and cover meant that most fire simply pattered off the thick concrete or glanced from the cyborgs’ chrome hide. The cyborgs on the other hand were much more effective. The first shot fired by one of the guards punched into Cpl. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson and dropped her to the ground, heavily wounded. Evans the medic sprang out of cover to go to the corporal’s assistance, and was promptly gunned down with the light machinegun carried by one of the cyborgs. This was turning out to be much harder than expected.

With determination the 16th went forward. However, their firing continued to be ineffective. With the exception of a single cyborg knocked down for a moment, the massed firepower wasn’t doing much. Even the lethal sniper Wu was having a hard time getting a shot off, and McSorley’s smartgun kept jamming. A third trooper went down as the cyborgs’ bullets found Pvt. DiGlaeser, but luckily he wasn’t badly hurt, just shaken. This left the entire left flank up to McSorley. The right flank with Hämäläinen, Trill and Lau pushed on, while Wu and Sgt. Fender held the center.

The medic Evans is down, with DiGlaeser and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson in the background

The medic Evans is down, with DiGlaeser and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson in the background

The right flank started having a hard time. Hämäläinen was preparing for a shot when a lethally accurate cyborg shot exploded his head, showering Trill and Lau with blood and brain matter. While Lau lost his nerve and turned to flee, Trill kept it together and picked up Hämäläinen’s RPG. Sgt. Fender, assessing the situation, saw that third of the squad was gone with no real progress made so far. He started calling for a retreat, but the squad insisted they keep on fighting to rescue Brauer and the other prisoners. A moment later Wu dropped one of the cyborgs with a well placed shot to the head. The squad capitalized on the fallen cyborg and their shooting managed to destroy it completely.

Trill moved up the right flank with the RPG. Things were looking up, as one of the four cyborgs was down and the squad was making progress. DiGlaeser had recovered and was covering Cpl. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson while trying to get her to safety.

Suddenly there was a crack of a shot heard, and in the following silence Wu the sniper, veteran of Velasco Creek and Triton-4, slumped to the ground, the back of his head missing and smoke drifting out from his bullet-shattered scope. This was the breaking point. “ABORT MISSION!” called Sgt. Fender, and the squad went into retreat. Unfortunately this left Pvt. Trill in a very difficult situation. She was far up the right flank and had been cut off by the cyborg machinegunner keeping watch over her path of retreat. To make matters worse for the whole squad, McSorley was hit and dropped down, shaken by the close call. The same happened to Fender, who nevertheless recovered very quickly.

The retreat was going well. Pvt. Lau was experienced in this sort of thing, and was making his way quickly away from the hot zone. DiGlaeser was doing his best, crawling along with Franz-Haugen-Ankerson in tow. Meanwhile, Trill’s situation was going from bad to worse, as one of the cyborgs finally left the safety of the barriers and went to investigate the wall ruin that Trill was hiding behind. Before Trill could escape, the cyborg stepped up to her, brought up its gun and pulled the trigger.

There was nothing but a click.

Pvt. Trill was quick to react, blasting the cyborg down at close range. This prompted the machinegun-wielding cyborg to move in to investigate the disappearance of its squad mate. The third cyborg had a weapon malfunction, and it discarded the ruined assault rifle and started walking towards McSorley, who still couldn’t get up and moving. Not so for Trill, who was running as fast as her legs could carry her to put as much distance as possible between her and the machinegun cyborg.

Lau made it off the battlefield, as did Fender who was dragging the unconscious Evans with him. As the unarmed cyborg advanced on McSorley, DiGlaeser stopped his retreat, pulled out his pistol and shot it in the neck, momentarily knocking it down and buying McSorley more time. Trill was almost out, too, and in cover. There was still a chance of most of the squad escaping. Then the machinegun carried by the cyborg roared, and down went Trill, heavily wounded.

Pretty much all was lost. DiGlaeser took one look at the two approaching cyborgs, got up and carried Franz-Haugen-Ankerson away with him. McSorley was still trying to get himself moving, when the unarmed cyborg loomed over him. As Trill slowly drifted into unconsciousness, she could hear the desperate sounds of McSorley’s short, doomed struggle against his metal opponent.

The mission had been a disaster throughout the field. Reluctantly, the UTOPIA troops were pulled away from Ryukyu Epsilon, and the Union Navy moved in with their orbital bombardment ordnance. The POWs would need to be left behind.

What a game.

There are moments when you just feel sorry for your players. This was one of those games. The combination of lousy dice rolling and a dangerous enemy led to the worst beating the players have had during the campaign, with two very good veteran troopers confirmed dead, two more left behind and two heavily wounded and in need of lots of down time. All in all the squad lost most of their specialists (sniper, heavy, tech) and their NCO and medic were hospitalized, and their beloved old sergeant was left behind. A disaster indeed.

We had a chat after the game and despite the heavy losses mood wasn’t bad. The campaign has managed to do one thing that I was hoping it would: it strikes a good balance between RPG and miniature game in the way that losing characters, especially important ones, hurts, but not as much as losing an actual RPG character. After the game, the players were already picking out new minis from my collection and making up new background stories for them. It really helps to have a group of experienced role-players when you’re running a game like this, thanks guys! The survival of old characters also helps with the continuity. While only three (Pvt. Evans, Pvt. Lau, Pvt. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson) of squad 16’s original nine members are alive, it’s definitely still the Sweet Sixteenth. By the time they’re gone, the new guys will have become regulars and so on.

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4 comments

  1. I’m really enjoying these campaign reports. Great stuff. I have a soft spot for medics, so I’m very glad Evans made it.


    • Thanks for the comment! Evans is definitely one of my favourite characters, and I’m always rooting for her a bit.


  2. […] We’ve been playing a science fiction miniatures campaign with heavy roleplaying game elements for …. I’ve always liked the idea of having a handful of characters to run at the same time and this game is the first instance where I’ve got to really try it with other people. As a much younger man I used to play some RPGs by myself, running a group of characters against myself – I remember playing Earthdawn, Mechwarrior and some edition of Dungeons & Dragons this way. […]


  3. […] unit 16 was slowly recovering from their disastrous last mission. With Wu and Hämäläinen dead, Trill and McSorley left behind on Ryukyu Epsilon and Evans and […]



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