Playtest time! I’ve decided to make three experienced ants (put them at level 3) and see how they do with a challenging mission…
Gus - Fun-loving Ant Infantry 3
A3 Lance Corporal; Grit 10; Clout 40
Body 2 | Mind 2 | Reflex 2
Medic 1; Small Arms 1; Transport 1
AM-16 (Ct. 12; dmg. 4) 5 Aid Kits (10); 6 grenades (18)
Mort - Serious Ant Recon 3
A4 Corporal; Grit 12; Clout 45
Body 3 | Mind 2 | Reflex 1
Heavy Weapons 1; Hunting 1; Stealth 1
AM-3Z (dmg. 6; Ct. 30); Camouflage Fatigues (6); 3 grenades (9)
Rocko - Reckless Ant Heavy Weapons 3
A3 Lance Corporal; Grit 14; Clout 40
Body 3 | Mind 1 | Reflex 2
Heavy Weapons 2; Toughness 1
AM-3Z (dmg 6; Ct. 30); Camouflage Fatigues (6); 2 Aid Kits (4)
My ants are on a mission to sneak up on a hidden bee facility where they are manufacturing a prototype helicopter. They are to sneak in, steal the helicopter, and escape with it. The facility has 12 bees and a hornet (as the overseer). The roof requires 3 rounds to retract once the button is hit to open it. There is an anti-aircraft gun positioned on the roof (dmg. 10). Once an alarm is raised, another helicopter will arrive in 1 minute to engage.
The ants try to sneak up towards the back of the facility, moving through thick grass. Gus rolls 2 dice, Mort rolls 3, and Rocko rolls 3. The watchman has Mind 1, so they each need only 1 success. Gus gets 2, Mort gets 3, and Rocko gets 4. They are super sneaky, getting to the back wall of the complex. The back door is locked, and the windows appear to be sealed shut. None of them has security, but they can try to pick the lock anyway; this is a straight up Mind roll, but with DT 4 (so good luck, boys). Um. Okay. Mort gets double 6s (4 successes), with no extra successes on the second roll, but he didn’t need them. Wow. Okay. He gets the door open.
There are a few bees milling about. They can try to sneak to the helicopter, but odds are not good. They need 4 successes to cross without being detected… they decide to create a distraction… and maybe take out a few bees in the process. The idea is to throw a grenade to the far end of the area, draw attention, and use that to sprint to the helicopter. If all goes well, the stealth check will be vs. DT 2. They are no longer outside, so nobody gets a bonus from camouflage fatigues; all are rolling 2D to use stealth. Rocko will throw a stun grenade that he gets from Gus. Gus will prepare to sneak towards the helicopter, and Mort will sneak towards the button to open the roof.
Not loving this plan. But whatever.
It goes sideways quickly. Rocko failed his check to throw the grenade; it bounces back towards the helicopter and goes off next to it. One bee is nearby, and gets caught in the blast. He fails his BODY check, and is stunned for 4 rounds. All of the other bees and the wasp are suddenly at attention. The ants seek cover. It’s initiative.
The ants win with double 6s. Nice. Gus runs to the chopper, and Mort runs to the button. Rocko will lay down support fire. Mort is successful (no check required), and the roof begins to open. It will be open in three rounds. It is possible that the helicopter is open. Nope. Door is closed. It is likely that the door is unlocked; Nope. The helicopter doors are locked. Well darn. Rocko fires at one bee; only 2 successes on 5 dice is a little disappointing, but it’s still a hit for 6 damage, which deals 4 to the bee, leaving it at 4. He fires again, this time getting 6 successes, which is 10 damage and shreds the first bee. One is dead and one is stunned.
The bees go. Three will attack each ant. Then I’ll decide on the hornet…
One hits Gus for 3; his Body soaks 2, so he suffers 1 damage. The second misses, and the third hits him for 3, so he suffers 1 more damage, down to 8.
Mort gets peppered; he’s hit three times, for 3, 4, and 6 points respectively. His Body 3 soaks a good chunk of this, but he suffers 1 and 3, down to 8.
Rocko is hit twice, but his Body absorbs all of it.
The hornet is smart (gets 2 successes on his MIND roll) and knows they are trying to steal the helicopter. He flies to Gus to stop him. He orders the bees to focus on the other two.
Gus tries to pick the lock with his first action (which is going to be very, very difficult). 1 success. Nope. He takes his rifle and tries to break the lock open. I’m going to argue this is part of his small arms training (use the butt of the weapon as a hammer), and he rolls 3 dice… and gets no successes. Yeah. He needs the key. Which is around the neck of the Hornet…
Mort and Rocko decide that he’s the biggest threat, and both fire at him as he flies (they won’t be able to once he’s in melee with Gus).
Mort opens fire, getting 3 and 2 successes. He hits once for 6 damage; the hornet soaks 3, so suffers 3 and is at 17. The 2 misses.
Rocko also fires, getting 3 and 8 successes. He hits twice; once for 6 and once for 11!. The hornet soaks 3 from each, so suffers 3 and 8… the hornet is down to 6 Grit remaining. Wow. That helps a lot.
4 Bees attack Mort. They get 0/2/1/2 successes. This is hits for 4, 3, and 4. Mort’s Body soaks 3 from each, so he suffers 2 and is at Grit 6 remaining. He’s hurt, suffering a 1 die penalty.
4 Bees attack Rocko. They get 1/3/1/4 successes. These are hits for 4 and 5 hits; his Body soaks 3 from each, so he suffers 3 damage total, leaving him at Grit 11.
The Hornet attacks twice as it lands in front of Gus. It gets 5 successes on its first shot, and 5 on its second; each attack deals 10 hits; Gus’ Body soaks 2 from each, so he suffers 16 damage! Wow. Gus is very dead. The hornet is going to try to get inside the copter before it is killed. It is using Gus’ body as cover (+1) as it tries to get the lock open.
Mort unloads on the hornet, but only gets 2 and 3 successes; he misses both times (but peppers Gus’ body a little bid for good measure).
Rocko does the same. He gets 1 and 2 successes. Well fudge. He misses twice.
The hornet gets into the helicopter, slams the door, and fires up the engines. That’s not good.
4 bees attack each ant.
Against Mort, they get 0/3/2/4 successes and 3/1/1/4 successes. I have been forgetting to let the bees attack twice each round. Uh oh. This is hits for (after accounting for his BODY soaking 3) 2, 1, 3, 2, and 2 damage. He suffers a total of 10 and is at -4, and is dead. Drat.
Against Rocko, they get 3, 1, 1, 2 and then 2, 4, 4 and 1. Five of these hit, for a total of 1, 2, and 2 damage (Body soaks quite a bit). He suffers 5 damage, and is down to 6. He’s now suffering a penalty of +1 to DTs because he’s hurt.
The roof is open (thanks to the ants), and the hornet is about to escape. Rocko has one round to try and do something about it. He checks MIND (DT 4 because of his penalty) to come up with something clever, but he gets 1 success. That’s a hard nope.
The only thing he can do is try to shoot down the helicopter, which is very, very unlikely in one round, but what the heck. The hornet is piloting, so it’s his REFLEX as the defense (+1 because Rocko is hurt); Rocko fires twice, getting 4 and 5 successes. He hits twice, once for 6 and once for 7 damage. The helicopter has armor of 4 and GRIT of 15… he deals 5 hits, which definitely punches some holes in the side of the helicopter, but it’s not enough to stop it. The hornet lifts off, ordering the incoming combat helicopter to destroy the building; it has served its purpose.
Rocko steps out into the middle of the room, emptying his belt at the bees who swarm at him as rockets set the entire building ablaze.
Well, that was… interesting. It ended up feeling like the first ten minutes of an action movie, setting up the big bad (the hornet) and probably killing the older brother of the real star of the movie. Like, it was Rocko’s younger brother who was supposed to be on the mission, but Rocko stepped in at the last minute and took his place… so now he has guilt, and needs revenge, and all of it. Anyhow…
The game is deadly, which is should be because A) It’s about Army Ants and B) it’s an old-school game. A total party kill should not be that exceptional.
They would have died quicker if I remembered that the bees get two actions per round. I was only giving them one per round for a little while there.
In retrospect, this mission was a little overly-hard for them. If they had pulled off the stealth pieces of it, they might have been okay, but in a straight up firefight, they had very little chance. I figured that the presence of the helicopter, and the possibility that they could commandeer it quickly, was playing in my imagination as the balance. If they get control of the helicopter quickly and can get someone in the pilot’s seat, this whole thing changes dramatically. A failed grenade toss and the 1 in 6 chance it was locked that happened to end up with a 1 did them in.
I like the game a lot, and I like the balance of the characters. If you want to deal a lot of damage and be tough, be heavy weapons. You are hard to kill, and you dish out lots of damage. However, the other two characters had a little bit more flexibility in what they could do outside of combat, so that seems to mitigate things quite a bit.
I didn’t get a chance to check the rules for applying aid kits in a fight (because things were very chaotic), but I do think that these are going to be valuable; changing bugs back from hurt to not hurt (for example) can be a significant event. For Gus to give up actions to apply aid kits makes sense; he’s dealing the lowest damage, so putting him in a support role as infantry is workable. I don’t know if restoring 2 hits is enough for an aid kit; I think I’m going to bump this up to 4, which Medic +1 would put at 4. That’s a bit more reasonable to me. I might even want to have medic grant more; for example, maybe have each rank of medic grant +2 to GRIT restored (so Medic +3 makes an aid kit restore 10 Grit - that is not that outrageous considering the amount of damage they were taking).