War on a Budget: Sandraiders, Miners & Mercenaries: what could go wrong?

19 July 2022
Words by Jim Webster. Photos by Tony Francis

This is a scenario using Hellfire rules suitable for two or more players (Hellfire – written by Mr Webster – has been reviewed in Miniature Wargames Magazine and has previously been featured in scenarios – such as A Policeman’s Lot – in issue 463 of Miniature Wargames. Ed.). Whilst written with 6mm figures in mind, Hellfire is flexible enough to cope with you using 15mm or larger figures.


The world of Ammos is known for the sand mining and mineral extraction. Whilst not a classic ‘desert world’ it does have large expanses of desert and these have considerable areas of drifting sand. These are mined for rutile, ilmenite, and zircon. In the heart of the great southern continent rutile contains considerable amounts of tantalum.

Ammos has a reasonable population (what makes a population ‘unreasonable’? Ed.), spread along the coasts where there is often enough rain to allow for settled agriculture. This has been boosted by technology, the planet is a major user and manufacturer of desalination plants.

Whilst the coasts are controlled by a complex web of ‘city states’ who owe nominal allegiance to a notional planetary government, the interior of the continents is controlled by tribes of Desert Raiders. They rely on their age old skills to survive in the desert. They also provide security for the miners. Unkind people have described them as levying protection money. But in all candour, mines can be small, well scattered and the miners are potentially vulnerable to both raids and the environment. Dust storms can bury a camp, or a hostile tribe can hit a mine hard as they attempt to expand their area of influence.

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The Yallow Root Mine is particularly valuable. It is situated near drifts of mineral sands especially rich in zircon and tantalum. The main processing plant is built on an area of hard rock, and unusually there is adequate water available due to the presence of an oasis. Next to it is the town of Yallow Root, which is inhabited mainly by miners and those providing services for miners. The Yallow Root lending library is rightly renowned for its collection of geology text books and modern romantic poetry.

The miners themselves work out on the sands, a team of them will drive a ‘rig’ which will slowly work through the sand, sifting and sorting out the various minerals. Whilst some rigs are small, ten men operations, sifting down to perhaps ten feet or more, some of the big rigs are operated by teams of a hundred or so, working various shifts, and they go down to the bedrock. The sorted minerals are brought to the main processing plant by a stream of the three-wheeler pickups that are ubiquitous on this world.

The plant can often have ten thousand credits worth of processed and purified material sitting awaiting rail collection. The rail service is irregular running sporadically when there’s enough produce to be worth hauling.

The plant’s turnover is variable: if one of the big rigs hits a rich pocket, income can soar. Costs are high, wages, haulage, protection money to Sand Raiders and other costs eat into the margins. But still, the company can post an annual profit of anywhere up to 18,000 credits. (But careful reading of the company annual report shows that in reality it’s nearer 10,000c)



This is a game for two sides: the Baccan Consolidated Investments (BCI) team and the Miners. Because the BCI player is going to have a security consultant ‘case the joint,’ BCI can first read their own section, and then read the Yallow Root Mine section. But not the Intelligence section. After all, their security consultant has produced some intelligence...

After a read through, the BCI player must organise their force, working out the costs and producing something that comes in under budget. At the same time the Yallow Root Mine Management is allowed to read the section about what troops are available.

Then when BCI has organised and paid for their forces, both players read the Intelligence section, and work out the impacts it has on forces and readiness. Then... play the game! Obviously the battle might not necessarily be the one everybody is expecting.


The Baccan Consolidated Investments has been casting covetous eyes on the Yallow Root Mine for some time. A sector wide investment company aimed at investors who want to be at the cutting edge of finance, the company has decided to acquire the mine. You, as an up and coming acquisitions manager have been tasked with acquiring the mine. You have been given a budget which must not exceed 30,000c. The idea is that this is three years profit, so – in year four – the mine will be back in profit.

Note that doing anything which causes serious structure damage to the processing plant (like hitting it with artillery) is frowned upon, as this will increase costs and reduce profits. Similarly doing major damage to the town will make it harder to keep the mine open as there will not be the miners or the facilities to support them.



  • All costs in credits per month.
  • A month is the minimum hire time.
  • RT = Reaction Total.



This is the cost of hauling troops to Ammos. It includes one month’s wages (standard embarkation pay) and the actual freight charge. In crude terms it costs 500c to transport an infantry company (powered armour troops extra) and 1000c to transport a company with heavy vehicles. The extra is pay. This transport to Ammos means the ship will land in the desert and slowly disgorge combatants. It’s not an assault landing: you are unloading freight. You could have a secure perimeter within the hour, but – by the time you got spares, fuel, maintenance crews and similar unloaded – it’s going to take all day.

With Assault Transport, you pay the cost of Transport to Ammos and then pay the extra to have your troops brought in from orbit in assault landers, each carrying an infantry or tank company. This means that the troops can deploy on the battlefield. These landers will touch down, unload their troops and then leave. They will provide supporting fire whilst they’re on the ground but they’re not there as air cover.

Troops wearing powered armour arrive in drop pods which are (ideally) recoverable. Each counts as a fast flying vehicle (okay, it brakes towards the end of the drop but has some armour so this is a fair compromise) with portable ECM. To see where it lands, mark the target point and then just roll as if it was artillery that had missed.

The multirole combat aircraft have their weapon load fitted before they deploy, so – whilst they always have the crew served projectile weapon – they can either mount two vehicle mounted guided missiles, or two vehicle mounted guided bombs. They also have portable ECM.

With locally recruited infantry, a company costs 350c a month. If you fly them to the site using mixed local hauliers they’ll drop them at the edge of the battle field and leave. That’s what you get for the extra 250c. Or you can acquire APCs for them for another 350c and pay 100c for the extra fuel to get them to the mine. Once there, the APCs will be part of the combat unit.



You decide to have a company of infantry with power armour. This is 900c to pay the infantry (and the maintenance crew and parts inventory that travel with the company), plus 1700c to get them to Ammos and 500c to get them to the battlefield in a drop pod. To a total of 3100c.

If you decided to hire an ordinary, four company, mercenary infantry battalion from off world that costs, per company, 500c for wages, 1000c to get them to Ammos and a further 1000c to get them to the battlefield. So 2500c per company, or 10,000c per battalion.



Note that these stats are given for Hellfire. However Hellfire is a generic set of 6mm SF rules so it’s never difficult to use the stats for another rule set. The only thing that few other rule sets have is a Reaction Total or RT. So for ease of conversion to rules that may not use this system: troops with a reaction total of over 20 are Veterans, troops with a reaction total of less than 15 are green conscripts or recruits.


  • Off-world mercenary infantry company, powered armour. RT 21

Company of 8 bases wearing powered armour, energy weapons and one base with crew served energy weapon. Reaction 3,3,3,3,3,2,2,2 – 21pts


  • Off-world mercenary infantry company. RT 20

Company of 8 bases wearing ablat armour, energy weapons and one base with crew served energy weapon.


Company of 8 bases wearing flak armour, projectile weapons and one base with crew served projectile weapon. Reaction 3,3,3,2,3,2,2,2 21pts

  • Off-world mercenary infantry company. RT 17

Company of 8 bases wearing ablat armour, energy weapons and one base with crew served energy weapon.


Company of 8 bases wearing flak armour, projectile weapons and one base with crew served projectile weapon. Reaction 2,3,2,3,2,2,1,2 17 pts


  • Local mercenary infantry company hired on the coast. RT 14

Company of 8 bases wearing flak armour, projectile weapons and one base with crew served projectile weapon. Reaction 2,2,2,1,2,2,1,2 14pts


  • Tracked APCS. Note that This unit does not have a reaction total because they’re just vehicles: so their RT will be that of the infantry you have riding in them.


These are for a local mercenary company. They are light armoured vehicles with tracks and improvised ECM. The APC carrying the crew served projectile weapon, counts as mounting that weapon. The other APCs count as having the same firepower as the base inside them.


  • Off-world heavy armoured company. RT 24

Three vehicles with heavy armour, portable ECM and a choice of crew served energy or crew served projectile weapons. They also have a vehicle mounted artillery piece firing guided rounds. They will engage infantry targets with the crew served weapon retaining the artillery piece for anti-tank (and anti-aircraft) combat. They don’t carry enough rounds to fire as artillery for infantry support. Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts


  • Off-world medium armoured company. RT 24

Four vehicles with medium armour, portable ECM and a choice of crew served energy or crew served projectile weapons. Reaction 5,5,5,5,1,1,1,1 24pts


  • Off-world artillery company. RT 18
    • One light armoured vehicle with vehicle mounted tube artillery.
    • Two light armoured vehicles with ammunition
    • One light armoured vehicle with CBR and portable ECM
    • Reaction 3,3,3,2,3,2,2,2 21pts


  • Air support

Detailed above.



If you hire a full battalion, you get four companies. One is the HQ Company: this doesn’t differ from the other companies other than it can have a different crew served heavy weapon to the other three. The choice is yours. Additionally, the HQ company has a man-portable guided anti-vehicle weapon and a portable ECM unit.


There is a selection to choose from:


  • Mine Security

Company of 9 bases wearing flak armour, projectile weapons and one base with crew served projectile weapon. One base is also armed with a vehicle mounted guided missile. They can use it for air defence or as an anti-tank weapon. They have three missiles and can fire up to three a move. They are based in the Processing Plant which has built into it an emplaced ECM unit. Reaction 2,3,2,2,2,2,1,2 16 pts


  • Miners

They are organised in ad hoc Local Defence Company (LDC). Once the alarm goes off, one will gather in the town, toss a coin, on a heads it’s ready to deploy. There will also be another in the processing plant, men who happen to be there loading and unloading. Toss a coin: on a heads, it too will be deployed. Finally there will be miners out on the rigs who will gather together and arrive pretty much at random.


To see how strong the LDC is roll a d6 and add 6 to get the total number of bases. The men are unarmoured and carry projectile weapons. One base will have a crew served projectile weapon. The companies that come in from the rigs will ride in on three wheeler pickups and similar vehicles, one per base. The base with the crew served weapon will have their crew served projectile weapon mounted on a pickup as a ‘technical’ with improvised armour. Reaction 2,3,2,1,2,1,2,1 14 pts


In each move, roll a d6 and keep a running total. Every time the total reaches 10, another Local Defence Company comes in from the sands. Roll a dice to decide at random which table edge they arrive on.

As an example. Let us assume in the first move you roll 2, then next move 3, third move 3, and the fourth move 4, then that totals 12. So on the fourth move a company arrives, and you have 2 points to carry over to the next total of 10.


Now for the Desert Raider Patrol (you’re paying for protection so now you’re about to get your money’s worth!). To see how strong the Patrol is roll a d6 and add 8 to get the total number of bases. The men wear flak armour and carry projectile weapons. Behind scouting units of saurid riders, the Desert raiders arrive in convoys comprising a mixture of dune buggies, trucks with balloon tyres and technicals. All count as improvised armour. There will be one technical for every six bases: the first will mount a vehicle mounted projectile weapon. The second technical will have a crew with unguided man portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Reaction 2,3,2,2,2,2,1,2 – 16pts.

As with the LDC’s, each move, roll a d6 and keep a running total. Every time the total reaches 15, another Desert Raider Patrol comes in from the sands. Roll a dice to decide at random which table edge they arrive on. The first Desert Raider Patrol will always consist of saurid riders, (after all they are the scouts.) For each successive patrol roll a d6, on a 1 or 2 it’s more saurid riders, otherwise the patrol will arrive in vehicles.



There are a number of factors to consider:


Various things done by BCI may make the management of Yallow Root Mine nervous. BCI will doubtless send a ‘security consultant’ to make a brief reconnaissance. Similarly it’s unlikely you can hire battalions of mercenaries without somebody asking questions.

  • Sending a security consultant. +1
  • Hiring a company of Local mercenary infantry +1
  • Hiring a battalion of Local mercenary infantry (or at least four companies) +2
  • Hiring APCs to move your mercenary infantry +2

Tot up the total, and then roll a d6: if you get less than or equal to the total the management of the mine are nervous. The difference between the roll and the total is how nervous.

For example, if you send the security consultant, hire a battalion of local infantry (which is +3 because you hire a company as well as hire a battalion) and equip them with APCs (because obviously you’re not getting ready to ship them off-world) +2, that’s a total of 6. If you then roll a 3, then the management is distinctly nervous.


  • Difference of 0 or 1.

Management concerned: the local defence companies roll d6+7 when finding their strength. (But don’t get more than 12) Also, when rolling to see when reinforcements arrive, you only need to roll 9 rather than 10.


  • Difference of 2 or 3.

Management are distinctly nervous: A local defence company, twelve bases strong, is deployed in the town. As well as rolling d6+7, the reinforcements arrive when you’ve rolled 8 rather than 10.


  • Difference of 4 or more.

Management are panicking: they keep pestering the Sand Raiders. (This adds +1 to their total for their intelligence roll). Also they have retained a deployed local defence company (random size) deployed in the processing plant ‘just in case’. This is in addition to the miners who happen to be there.


Take the total you got for the Mine Management and half it (rounding up, so 2.5 is 3.). Then add the following factors:

  • If BCI have landed a space ship in their desert and is unloading troops, +3.
  • If the Mine Management are panicking add +1

Then roll a d6 and roll less than or equal to the total for how nervous the Sand Raiders are.


  • Difference of 0 or 1.

Word has gone out to the patrols to stay alert. Each move, when you roll a d6 and keep a running total for them. Every time the total reaches 12 you’ll get a patrol


  • Difference of 2 or 3.

Nervous: as well as potentially arriving sooner, the patrols are to be reinforced. To see how strong the Patrol is roll a d6 and add 9 to get the total number of bases. You get a technical for every four bases.


  • Difference of 4 or 5.

Completely paranoid: the Sand Raiders mount a sweep four reinforced patrols strong. Roll a d6:

On a 1,2,3 the sweep blocks the path of any local mercenary infantry moving from the coast in their APCs. You might fancy fighting out the engagement or you might prefer just to assume that the mercenaries aren’t going to arrive in time to achieve anything.

On a 4,5,6 the sweep finds the ship unloading. This should be a fight worth having. Toss a coin for each infantry company, on a heads it has disembarked and has been sent out to form a perimeter. The other troops are still disembarking. Set up the table, put out the perimeter and then roll randomly for what table edge the entire Sand Raider force arrives on. For troops still to disembark, pick a unit. Toss a coin. On the move you roll heads, it has disembarked and can deploy. Then when it’s deployed, next move, pick another unit and start deploying that, on a heads. Just to note that it would be frightfully embarrassing if somebody put a hole in the ship meaning it couldn’t leave...



There’s a lot of dust, which isn’t surprising given the terrain. Each move roll d6+3. That’s the level of armour the dust gives to anybody. This is why the locals use projectile weapons.


The game is over when Baccan Consolidated Investments player holds both the town and the processing plant. Alternatively it is over when the BCI player concedes that it’s impossible to take both.

The Mine Management win if they hold the processing plant and the town at the end of the game.

Baccan Consolidated Investments win if they hold the processing plant and the town at the end of the game having come in under budget.

To be fair the BCI player has far more ways to spectacularly screw up than the Mine Management player. Perhaps if the BCI player fails, the next game could be where they try to mount a boardroom coup with what is left of their forces in a desperate attempt to keep their pension and their share options. 


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