04 May 2022
Words and pictures by Conrad Kinch
Relatively early on in my gaming career I was given a copy of Heroquest followed some time after by a copy of Advanced Space Crusade. These bred in me an affection for the Warhammer universe that persists to this day and the sort of roleplaying game with figures type of game that is exemplified by Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. Stargrave is Joe McCullough’s latest iteration of that sort of rpg/wargame hybrid.
Lowth is a barren irradiated planet, its cities levelled by atomics during the last war. It remains a stopping off point for wayfarers travelling between the Blackpool and Rivermouth systems, where some scraps of civilisation still survive. It is a home to muties, smugglers and pirates attracted by the chance to scavenge lost technology or prey upon those passing by. The risks are substantial, but the rewards can be great. In one of your recent heists, you came across a map which pinpointed the location of Warp Sextant, a device which facilitates safer interstellar travel. The Sextant is in an underground robot construction facility on Lowth. Salivating at the prospect of a big payout, you set a course and land your crew to recover this hidden bounty.
To play you will need the Stargrave Rules and the free solitaire rules Stargrave Dead or Alive which are available online. You will also need the following figures and terrain, in addition to your usual Stargrave crew and loot markers.
- Some ruined buildings: at least three, but whatever you can muster.
- Some Rad mutants: I think about 15-20 should do. I used some Mantic ghouls that I have for Rangers of Shadowdeep, but any kind of mutant or zombie type figure will do the trick.
- One robot: ideally a large-ish one.
- Some kind of building: something that could reasonably conceal an underground entrance.
- Floor plan: this is to represent the sublevel.
This scenario uses a 2.5’ by 2.5’ table and takes place in the ruins of a factory on the planet’s surface. I’ve provided a map, but that’s really more of a suggestion. Otherwise, start by placing one building on the table. This building should have one door and be relatively whole. Place two other buildings randomly within 16” of the central building. Each of these buildings will have a loot token placed on them. If at all possible, ensure that at least one of the ruined buildings is two storeys high and place the loot token on the upper floor. Distribute other pieces of blocking terrain around the table. These can be ruins, rubble, wrecked vehicles and other detritus. There must be one piece of terrain within six inches of the central building. I would suggest five to eight pieces of terrain to achieve the appropriate level of clutter.
Once you have placed the terrain, distribute seven loot tokens randomly on or in pieces of terrain, with at least one in the central building. Rather than generate loot tokens as normal, whenever a figure contacts a loot token draw a card from the Loot deck. Use seven Red number cards from a standard deck of cards for this. Swap the token for the appropriate one when drawn. The Loot deck cards will also have an event attached, resolve this event as the card is drawn.
The player’s crew deploys five inches from a nominated table corner. Rad Muties deploy from the other three corners.
THE CENTRAL BUILDING
The central building is either a bunker or a free standing office or whatever suits the table setup that you’ve created. What is important is that it controls the lift to the sub level where the Warp Sextant is stored. To gain entry to the building, a figure must pass a locked door. This can be bypassed in two ways, a figure spends an action adjacent to the door and rolls a 14+ (Chisellers get +4 to this roll) or a figure may attempt to shoot or smash the door open (Hit automatically, Armour 14, 12 Health). When the door is opened, it creaks on it’s bearings, sparks fly and it fuses open.
Within the building is a lift and a control panel. A figure which spends an action examining the interior will be able to determine that the lift is barely functional and will be unable to bring figures down to the underground, but that there is a pressurised postal tube adjacent to it, large enough to transport the Warp Sextant.
The control panel controls HO-CHI-KO-CHI 1826, a dormant and somewhat damaged Facilities Robot which was used for construction and maintenance duties in the sublevel. The robot could, if programmed correctly, collect the Sextant and transport it to the postal tube, which would bring it to the surface.
Place a Rad Mutie next to each Loot token. Then place another Rad Mutie in each corner of the table that the player isn’t deploying in. Every turn thereafter add X Rad Muties, where X equals the number of figures required to equal the number of figures currently active (i.e. not down) in the players crew. These Rad Muties are placed divided evenly between the Locked Loot Tokens, disregarding tokens that have a player model within three inches. Rad Muties that cannot be placed on Loot tokens are placed in a random table corner. On turn six and each turn thereafter, increase X by one (i.e. on Turn Eight, place X+3 Muties).
One figure at the control panel may spend their activation to operate HO-CHI-KO-CHI. The robot is operated using Programme Cards (see below – copy these instructions onto simple squares of card). A player may hold as many Programme Cards as he has Data Loot. Each turn on the controlling figures activation the player may discard up to two cards and draw Programme Cards up to the number of Data Loot the Crew has, up to the total number of Data Loot in the Crew’s possession.
To programme the robot, the controlling figures spends his activation and the player places up to two cards (three if the figure is a Hacker) in a pile face down. The cards (and the attendant actions) occur the turn after they were placed during the Soldier Phase, in the order they are turned over (i.e. the player places Advance with Turn Right on top, the top card is turned - the Robot turns right, the next card is turned, the Robot advances). If there are already cards in the pile and the player wishes to play more cards, those cards are played as before and are then placed next to the original pile, to be activated on the following turn.
EXAMPLE OF PLAY
- John has three data loot and manages to break into the Central building and activates the control panel. He draws three Programme Cards. He draws Turn Left, Advance and Activate Cutting Beam.
- If John manages to unlock another Data Loot, he will be able to draw another Programme card.
- John uses his Hacker’s activation to programme the robot. He places the Advance card down and then places the Turn Left Card on top. He could place Activate Cutting Beam, but chooses not to as he is hoping to unlock another Data Loot this turn and wants to be in a position to play it the following turn.
- On the next turn, John has unlocked another Data Loot and has drawn another Programme card, a second advance. He uses his Hacker’s activation to place Activate Cutting Beam and Advance. During the Creature Phase, John turns over his cards, HO-CHI-KO-CHI turns Left, then Advances, the next turn HO-CHI-KO-CHI will fire it’s Beam to destroy the door in front of it and then hopefully Advance through the blasted remains of the door.
- Once cards are activated they are transferred to the Discard Pile. Once the Draw Pile of cards is exhausted, turn the Discard Pile face down without shuffling and continue play.
Advance: Move robot directly forward a full move.
Advance: Move robot directly forward a full move.
Advance cautiously: Move robot directly forward a half move.
Turn Left: Turn the robot 90 degrees to the left.
Turn Left: Turn the robot 90 degrees to the left.
Turn Right: Turn the robot 90 degree to the right.
Turn Right: Turn the robot 90 degree to the right.
Reverse: Move the robot three inches backwards without changing orientation.
Turn Around: Turn the robot 180 degrees.
Fire Cutting Beam: Make a shooting attack directly to the front.
Swing Wrecking Ball: Make a melee attack directly to the front.
Re-calibrating: Do not act on this card.
Repeat programme: This card copies the last action the robot performed.
Pick up/Release Warp Sextant: This allows the robot to either pick up or place the warp sextant in the postal tube.
SETTING UP THE SUBLEVEL
I used an old Space Crusade board section which measures 1 ft by 1 ft. This gave quite a challenging game as it meant that I had to do a fair amount of movement to get HO-CHI-KO-CHI to where he needed to be and get him back again. Depending on your level of patience, you could adjust the difficulty by removing doors or by granting additional programme cards.
Anytime the HO-CHI-KO-CHI cannot complete it’s movement because it has walked into a wall, deduct one health. HO-CHI-KO-CHI will stop at closed doors. They will open automatically on his next activation and close immediately after it passes through. Doors can be attacked either with the cutting beam or in melee (Hit automatically, Armour 10, Health 6). Doors that are destroyed will remain open.
LOOT & EXPERIENCE
- Experience as normal. Data Loot does not generate a reward for this game beyond a Programme Card. Physical Loot counts as normal.
- +100 Experience if you collect the Warp Sextant and take it off board.
- The Warp Sextant is worth 1000Cr.
ENDING THE GAME
It will have become clear that it should be impossible to finish this scenario in one go, unless you are both incredibly lucky and clever. The game ends the turn after the player has unlocked the last Loot token or he has no figures left on the board. Figures may leave the board voluntarily to “live to fight another day”.
The player may also “Call in the drop ship”. Nominate an area where either the Captain or the First Mate are that is either on top of a terrain feature or an open area at least six inches square. So long as there are no enemy figures within three inches of the Captain/First Mate, all friendly figures within that area are picked up. This can only be done once per attempt and the drop ship takes 50Cr worth of damage on the way in.
The player may keep any remaining Programme Cards they have in hand at the end of the game. The number of cards the player can keep in hand increases to Data Loot +1 for the second attempt and +2 for the third.
The player may try to complete the mission three times. For the second try, reset the board, though if the Pedway or Emergency Signalling system events has been drawn, those remain in place as before. Do not reset the Sub Level. However, start increasing X from Turn Five rather than Turn Six.
For the third attempt, no more Rad Muties are placed after Turn Five (though they may be spawned by Events), but local pirates have turned up and investigated the ruckus. Roll on The Gang Chart (p12 Dead or Alive) and place the pirates and one Mark (p15 Dead or Alive) of your choice on three randomly determined table corners. They act in accordance with the Creature rules given in Dead or Alive.
Rad Poisoning: Any figure which takes five or more points of damage from a Rad Mutie is treated as having been hit by a Toxic attack. This can be healed as normal.
Limited Attack: The Facility Robot may only fire directly forward, targeting enemies in a 90 degree arc directly to the front of the figure. It may only make a melee attack at enemies to the front of the figure.
Programmed: The Facility Robot will not move of its own volition and must be programmed to move.
*Note: Events marked with an asterisk do not recur after the first instance, but remain on the board for subsequent attempts.
Firstly, this is a solo scenario or you could theoretically play it co-operating with one player taking their Captain and the other player taking their First Mate, so there may be instances where the rules throw up situations which don’t quite make sense. I would use your own best judgement but reflect that the game should (and this scenario was written quite explicitly to be) hard and proceed accordingly. Solo scenarios are easier to play than they are to explain and along the way, I may have made assumptions that are unfounded. I apologise. If anything is unclear, please contact me on Twitter at @aquestingvole or on the Stargrave Facebook page.
This scenario is a love letter to the old Rogue Trader era Robot rules which were delightfully batty and probably unplayable: but I loved them and cut out my own little counters to try and “programme” robots. I find one robot and a small deck of cards just about as much as I can handle. I am still very proud of the moment in one game where lacking a Turn Right card, I managed to substitute a Turn Left and Turn Around cards, getting my battered and cranky mechanical charge to go (mostly) where I wanted.
I thought I’d add a few tips from having played this scenario a number of times while fine tuning it.
- Do not despise the Rad Muties. They are killed by a single hit, but they come in numbers and if they manage to get into melee, there is a good chance that you can be poisoned. This will slow you down and speed is of the essence. A wise man will invest in at least one flamer or Rapid Fire.
- Keep an eye on the clock and move fast. Your chaps should be haring around the board trying to grab loot as quickly as possible in order to unlock Programme Cards. The flood of mutants will soon become a problem towards the latter half of the game.
- Depending on your Sub Level layout, you are going to have to think about what cards you’re going to need ahead of time. Also remember that the discard pile isn’t shuffled when you run out of cards, so it’s worth trying to remember what order they were discarded in so that you have some idea how quickly you need to cycle through the deck.
- Have an exit plan and don’t discount the calling in the drop ship option, which – while expensive – can save you valuable lives.
- Remember that the board doesn’t change, so that the buildings stay in the same place, the Ped Way and lure events (if generated) stay where they were, but your entry point can change.
- Learn the terrain and use that to your advantage. A moment I will treasure was winning a combat, only to fail to break the Rad Mutie’s armour. I moved him back one inch onto the Anti-Grav Ped Way, which then propelled him across the board to smash into an advancing Pirate Trooper, taking them both out. A great success!
- If you’re still on the board by the time the pirates show up on your third attempt, consider taking a moment of silent reflection to make your peace with the Almighty, because things get a lot lot tougher from then on.
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