First Contact – Part Two – A Polyversal Short Story

Recon Team Blue encounters a surprise while trying to ID two unknown signatures. Will they make it back to Checkpoint Omega?

Advertisements

Read Part One here.

First Contact – Part Two

by Maurice Fitzgerald @moefantasci

San Isabel National Forest
December 16, 2130
Sector 29 – Coalition Area of Operations outside of Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
Battlegroup Prowler
1954 (GMT)

Continuing their move to Checkpoint Omega, Blue Three’s vehicle commander, Corporal Stefan Gangestad was trying to discern the signatures of the other two contacts they had picked up right before engaging the Ares.

Scarabs.jpg
Scarab APCs continue to the checkpoint. Model by Microworld Games.

Feverishly working his onboard systems, he could not get a fix on what or where they were. They were as good as ghosts. A call from his driver broke his silent contemplation, “Nizzlebats one o’clock!”

He didn’t need to find those ghosts, they found him. Mercs, providing security for the complex?

Corporal Gangestad looked through the front viewport of his Scarab and confirmed the sighting; two Nizzlebat light grav-tanks had crested a low hill and were angled towards his position to cut him off. A spread of snow and soil rooster tailed out from the sides and rear of each craft, kicked up by the turbulence as both tanks hurtled at a high rate of speed toward them. The deafening bass thrum of the anti-grav drives at full power shook the Scarabs and everyone inside with their approach.

The Nizzlebats swung in his direction lining up their Light Plasma Cannons on his vehicle, they know I’m the jammer so they’re trying to hit us first, thought Gangestad.

NizzlebatsFiring.jpg
Nizzlebat Light Grav Tanks firing. Model by Plasmablast Games.

“Blue, engage right!” Gangestad yelled into his mic. The three Scarabs faced to the right, presenting a smaller profile while simultaneously bringing their guns to bear. As he let off a quick snapshot, Gangestad feverishly sent off another brief contact report. “Blue Three engaging two Nizzlebats to the southwest. One Ares hit and disengaged, the second is still out there, position unknown at this time, out.”

All three Scarabs rippled several volleys at the tanks but the outcome was concealed by the berm that came rushing up to Gangestad’s front. Blue Three’s driver in his haste to get them under cover had rammed the vehicle into a deep berm, the blunt nose of the Scarab digging into the hard packed soil of the frozen ground.

Encounter.jpg
Scarab APCs scramble to avoid Nizzlebat Light Grav Tanks. Models by Microworld Games and Plasmablast Games.

“Driver back up”, Gangestad commanded while trying to track the closest Nizzlebat. As his driver reversed the vehicle a quick scan out of his viewport showed the other two APCs of his group spread out to the sides of the onrushing Nizzlebats, sandwiching them in from the flanks. Blue One had taken some damage from at least one plasma blast but the damage looked minor, nothing that would limit its effectiveness in the fight.

Both Nizzlebats appeared unscathed as they continued their move towards his vehicle, rapidly closing the distance. Depressing the trigger on his control yoke, Gangestad fired off another salvo of shots and then reactivated his EW suite. Knowing he could not outrun the faster grav-tank, Gangestad ordered his driver forward back into the berm they had just come out of. “Driver forward, get us back into that berm, now!”

His shots hit the rear Nizzlebat but the craft just shrugged off the damage and continued unimpeded at him with reckless abandon, each firing as it came. Both Nizzlebat shots impacted as the Scarab moved into cover, sending a powerful tremor through the vehicle as armor crunched under the assault. A quick glance at his damage schematic showed the front drivetrain was impaired and more concerning, missing armor near the turret. Another hit there would prove fatal.

Magnusson saw the Scarabs were in trouble and called in air support to assist Blue while he moved the rest of the battlegroup to cover their fall back. “Red One this is Gray Six, you’re cleared hot to assist Blue, expedite! We’re still seeing multiple signatures out there but can’t ID them yet, so don’t linger, over.”

“Roger that Gray, Red is Oscar Mike, out.” McNulty responded as he led his pair of Dragonfly VTOLs on their run. Both VTOLs screamed across the sky, their resonance permeating the air as the craft gained altitude and speed on their course to Blue’s position. McNulty planned to buy the Scarabs some time while keeping his craft safe from ground attack. The only real threat to them would be enemy air.

20160605_174736.jpg
Dragonfly VTOLs on an attack run. Model by Microworld Games.

The ground slipped beneath them in a blur; a tapestry of colors rolled past beneath the VTOLs as they made their way above the snow covered forest. McNulty kept his eyes dancing around inside his visor watching his real-time readouts and scope, continually scanning for enemy contacts. His IFF squawked showing positive idents for Blue’s Scarabs; vectoring his view from there he was able to get a solid fix on the two Nizzlebat grav-tanks that were his targets.

“Red Two, take the bandit I tagged for you. Egress to the northwest and see if we can’t pick up any more targets on the way out. Then we’ll swing back and provide cover for Blue.”

Each Dragonfly climbed to 2,500 feet, allowing an extra few seconds to get a solid lock on their targets to increase their chances of hitting. “Fox one!” called McNulty as he depressed his firing trigger, a second later he heard the same thing repeated by his wingman as both craft loosed their Ripper direct-fire missiles on the targets below.

Gangestad saw the UN Nizzlebats charging at him on his scope, rock and dirt raining down on his Scarab as the berm he hid behind took a constant pounding. The mercenary gunners must be thinking they could force their shots through the ground but the odds of hitting through this heavy cover were minimal. Blues One and Two called out hits on the Nizzlebats repeatedly, which targets they were he couldn’t tell from his vantage point. Just then the sky overhead went black momentarily and he felt a massive impact onto the top rear of the vehicle. Gangestad checked, fearing it was the Ares he had forgotten about but the scope was clear of all but the two grav-tanks engaging him. PFC Irwin Pratt, Gangestad’s young driver was the first to realize what had happened. “We got run over!”

Pratt’s assertion was correct; the second Nizzlebat had landed on top of the Scarab as it crossed the berm. Slowed down by the damage it had already taken, it didn’t have the momentum to carry it over the length of his vehicle. The impact proved fatal to the already heavily damaged grav-tank as it spun wildly out of control into a cluster of boulders, coming to a violent end in a sickening shriek of metal and ceramic. Seconds later the craft exploded in an intense fireball, melting the surrounding ice and snow while spewing armor wildly across the field. At the same time the other Nizzlebat seemingly exploded on its own, the reason was made clear as his radio crackled to life.

“Scope’s clear Blue, get to Omega ASAP, over.” Red’s team leader McNulty barked. His attack run had finished off the last Nizzlebat and Gangestad could tell that he was quite pleased with himself.

Gangestad felt a surge of relief and silently took back all the bad things he had ever said about the ‘fly-fly’ boys.

“You heard the man gents, let’s get to Omega, out.” Gangestad called to his team. Switching to the air freq Gangestad called up to Red One, “Bravo Zulu Red, thanks and we owe you one.”

“Damned skippy on that Blue, you do owe us one.” McNulty further taunted in an imitation Irish brogue, “one case of Jameson my lad, oh and we do look forward to that, aye, we do.”

Turning off the levity, McNulty finished, “we’ll swing back around and cover your move to Omega Blue, you’re welcome. Out.”

The three Scarabs formed up and made their way at cruising speed, the best that Gangestad’s vehicle could muster due to its damage, in the direction of Checkpoint Omega.

Keying up his radio, Gangestad called up to Battlegroup commander Magnusson. “Gray Six this is Blue Three, heading to Omega, ETA 10 mikes. Two Nizzlebats destroyed, one Ares damaged, one other out there status unknown, over.”

The radio chirped as Magnusson’s response came back, “Roger that Blue, good work, although you did have a little help. I sent Red over to assist, sounds like they arrived just in time. Forget the Jameson, get them a case of Porsbrännvin instead.” The Major was always teasing McNulty about the merits of Swedish vodka over Irish whiskey, “See you at the checkpoint Blue, out.”

Gangestad thought about what his CO had just said and figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea. He could pay back the pilots for saving his bacon and at the same time have a little fun with Captain McNulty, giving him a case of Swedish vodka in place of his beloved Jameson Irish whiskey.

PFC Pratt broke him from his silent reverie, “give me a case of good German beer any day over whiskey or vodka. Swedish, Irish, it’s all nasty. Nothing can compare to the golden nectar of a good German brew.” Pratt spoke as if he were some sort of liquor connoisseur, yet didn’t appear old enough to shave, let alone drink. The words were almost comical coming from his mouth.

“Easy there Cochise, let’s get back to the rest of the Battlegroup and get this baby repaired before we start thinking of celebrating.”

“Roger that, I’m just glad we got through that Corporal, it got a bit hairy there.”

“That it did, that it did. You did well for your first taste of combat, though we might need to work on those driving skills of yours a bit”, Gangestad teased.

Color rose in the cheeks of young Pratt, a feeble “sorry Corporal” was all he could manage in response. He knew he’d never hear the end of it from the others in the group but he was glad he’d be able to take that ribbing; it meant he was still alive.

Replaying the scene in his mind he had to chuckle at it himself, that chuckle was infectious and grew to a raucous laughter from the both of them. Amazingly through all of this, Pratt was able to keep his vehicle in formation with the others of the section. Both men were coming down from the adrenaline high that combat produces, giddy at the realization that they were still alive and able to fight another day. The wheels of the three Scarabs crunched through the snow, ice and rock of the Colorado countryside as they made their way to the safety of the rest of the Battlegroup at Checkpoint Omega.

CheckpointOmega.jpg
Checkpoint Omega. Models by Microworld Games and Dark Realm Miniatures

With his recon element safely on their way to Checkpoint Omega, Magnusson mulled over the recon team’s discovery in the compartment of his Growler. Nizzlebats meant private military contractors, mercs. Is money really a motivator to fight anymore? Inwardly he shrugged; determining the motivations of others is best left to the head shrinkers.

With the element of surprise now gone, a foot recon team could no longer be inserted into the complex undetected to gather the proof they needed. Instead of a stealth approach, they’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and force their way inside. Not an easy task with this facility, but it’s not the same fortification it was more than a century ago. After much geological shifting brought on by the UN’s weather modifications, there were two known weak points that could be exploited to get a team inside. Can they do it before the government recognizes the threat is real and destroys the proof they’re after?

Magnusson decided to move the timetable up on the alternate plan, Infinite Nighthawk will succeed. It must succeed!

 

 

 

 

Polyversal Relaunch – A critical look at the changes

Polyversal is back on Kickstarter for a relaunched campaign. Read this blog post for a critical look at what we did wrong in the initial campaign and how we addressed it for the relaunch.

photo-originalAfter a lot of hard work, I relaunched the Kickstarter project for Polyversal, a science fiction miniatures game I’m publishing from designer Ken Whitehurst. I’ve tried to implement my own advice and the advice of others for the relaunch, incorporating a ton of feedback from fans and other publishers. Jamey’s blog helped reshape the relaunch in particular, and I believe the second time around, Polyversal will be successful. After less than a week, we’re already in less than $9k away from funding a $30k goal, and we’re about to reveal the first stretch goal.

“I know we’ve got a great game, that’s not the issue- the issue boils down to how well we presented it.”

So why did Polyversal require cancellation when originally launched in January? I know we’ve got a great game, that’s not the issue- the issue boils down to how well we presented it. Here are some thoughts in hindsight that could have contributed to an unsuccessful initial campaign:

  • Issue 1: We needed a lower goal. $80k was the initial goal and was very kitchen-sink based. In other words, we put everything into the campaign we wanted to see for the game- that included a web-based design tool which is expensive to do, a set of terrain for which we were paying for the molds, and a production estimate of 1000 units minimum, which was too much to start.

  • Answer 1: We scaled back production estimates, broke the terrain out into its own Kickstarter, and for now, eliminated the web-based tool opting for templates instead which will accomplish the same thing. In addition, shipping is not included in the Kickstarter pledges, removing unpredictability, a buffer for that unpredictability, and allowing a lesser goal that would be the shipping portion of the campaign- which is ultimately a guess. This allowed the goal to be further reduced since it is all going to the product, not shipping and fulfilment. Notice the 4 shipping icons in the project image above.
  • Issue 2: The project video was too long. Even at 5 minutes, we included a story portion which was good and still useful, but, we never really pitched what the game is or does for players. It needed to be 2 minutes and include a pitch.

  • Answer 2: The project video was re-done completely, shortened to less than 2 minutes, and focused entirely on the pitch. The story video was embedded elsewhere in the page, but, the project video was not the place for it. Here’s a detailed blog post on the video changes.

  • Issue 3: The miniatures we presented in our boxed games are from 5 different manufacturers. We used their images to present those miniatures, which led to less cohesion in the overall presentation. Each company had their own photographic background and their own paint scheme for these miniatures, so, it looked like a hodgepodge.

  • Answer 3: Ken Whitehurst, the designer, painted all of the miniatures we needed in several distinct patterns for a much better presentation. I then photographed them very carefully to present them as “battlegroups” which better communicated their cohesion and purpose in the game. Here is an example of 1 of 4 battlegroup images:

    d29258485bdb437532ce2acc354a5cc0_original

  • Issue 4: The pledge levels were all over the place. Too many pledge levels were presented, they were unnecessarily confusing, adjusted after the project start, and provided too many options.

  • Answer 4: Less is more. Pledges in the new campaign were simplified to just a handful of the most important options for the game. Since shipping is handled externally from the pledges (post-KS invoicing for actual shipping costs), this allowed simple pledge options applicable to everyone regardless of location. Breaking out the terrain eliminated all of the terrain-based bundles.

  • Issue 5: We made a lot of adjustments and additions after the original campaign started. This is a problem because we should have had some of our embedded videos, explanations, and strategies for the game presented initially, not through updates mid-campaign. How many people were turned off at first glance due to too little information to never return for a second look after the information was added?

  • Answer 5: Gameplay videos, print-and-play demos, story elements, reviews, well-thought-out shipping strategies, all pledge options, and fully-explained game contents were all presented up front from day 1 in the new campaign. This ensures all of the information is there at the beginning, not added piecemeal throughout the campaign. It’s important. It’s all there. And it eliminates a lot of stressful work once the campaign is active- responding to questions, confusion, and adding content that should have been there to begin with.

I hope you’ll agree that our relaunch is much better than the cancelled original campaign. If you agree or disagree with any of these insights, please let me know!

 

Polyversal Plans from Fans

Recently, we asked fans of our upcoming miniatures game, #Polyversal, what they plan to do with the game. The possibilities are endless with the game’s ability to use miniatures from any line and tell any story. Read some responses from fans here.

To help support the Polyversal Kickstarter re-launch and get a few feedback quotes, I asked backers of our first Kickstarter attempt as well as fans on Facebook – “What are your plans for Polyversal?” Polyversal is a very open miniatures gaming system not only regarding what miniatures you can use in the game and how you can design “Combatant Tiles” for them, but, the story itself. We certainly have a setting and story framework, but, you as a player are not limited to using what we provide. The opposite of limitation is true. We’ll be encouraging your creativity with the system and story and we want to hear your plans and see how things play out as you explore what is possible. I want to share some of the responses. If you have something to add, please comment and I’ll update this post.

557f4dd94be0da7bb0dad55723fcab3a_original

Below are some quotes from some vocal supporters of our concept. We hope it inspires you to think out of the game box and generate your own big plans for Polyversal.

“The cooperation of multiple manufacturers around one ruleset with a physical boxed product has me excited the most. This brings to 6mm sci fi something that it desperately needs in the form of a product that stores can stock thus giving new players ease of access. If anything can revolutionize the 6mm sci fi hobby, Polyversal and its partners will be it.” -Abnatha Pryde

“A Miniatures game that allows me to use my imagination and available toys. Gives me the opportunity to keep everything to scale as well as purchase miniatures designed for the game. Add that to the care that Collins Epic Wargames uses to make a fully tested and gamer friendly rules set and you have a winner.” -Kevin D. Schuler

“Simply put there is a lack of open build 6mm rules sets out there. I’ve got lots of figures, I’ve got lots of terrain, but I need solid and easy to play rules with a good build mechanic. I was a long time battletech player and the reason I stuck with that game so long was because it offered an electronic build program so I wasn’t restricted to ‘book designs’. I have since moved over to Gruntz and CAV:Strike Operations for the same reasons. Both have solid rules backed by a solid build program.” -Todd ‘Mastergunz’ Farnholtz

“The Polyversal project has excited me since I first heard about it on the Meeples and Miniatures Podcast years ago. I have been a big Sci-Fi fan for many years (40+ years). I played a ton of Dirtside for a very long time. Polyversal seems to get where I want to go with my Sci-Fi gaming. I have a lot of minis that I want to incorporate into the game… I’m also looking for a game that my friends and I can explore Sci-Fi combat in a different way than we have before. I’m hoping that I can use Polyversal for club games, and to host games at our local conventions here in Southwestern Ontario.” -Brian Hall

“What I hope to do with PolyV is to set up a proxy war campaign. Where the players are Agents of the true Star Nations that do not want all out war but do want resources and land in a new area of space that has opened up. So the players will not be producing things but getting stuff from their patrons based on objectives completed, missions won, keeping things in check. Will have each player Choose a Tech they excel at and one they are lagging behind with, then build a base army profile. Upgrades and New units will come from the Nation backing them, some will be Mercs, others like the Foreign Legion, others will be Units from the Nation on extended duty.” -Lee Sweeney

“What you have in me as a supporter is someone with two armies worth of miniatures who’s (1) interested in expanding their use and (2) is interested in the newer miniatures available, but is too timid to actually purchase them without a solid justification. Polyversal afforded me the opportunity to sample and use the newer miniatures while being able to use what I already have. A win-win from my standpoint.” -Scott Chisholm

“I backed for the rules. I like having a good mix of infantry, vehicles, aircraft, and big stompy robots. Any rule set with a solid emphasis on combined arms is going to catch my attention. Most of the models I’ll use are from Combat Assault Vehicle (10mm) as the tanks/apcs/aircraft suit my style.” -jstenzel

“I’m looking for a really good ruleset I can use 10 & 15mm figures in. I love the dropzone & planetfall miniatures, but I’m not really happy with either set of rules. Being able to combine them into one game would be exactly what I’m looking for.” -Duskland

“My goals include using modern military vehicles (real tanks and stuff) and do invasion scenarios with battle tech or other futuristic mini’s. The questions I would like to answer include what would an Atlas (B-Tech) do to a battalion of M-1 Abrams tanks? How would modern tanks and mech infantry react to Hammer’s Slammers. In short re-create many short stories from Science Fiction.” -Doug Houseman

“Rules for many brands of minis, sadly I only have a few from each producer, include some from the now closed Steel Crown. I liked that you had the network to pickup that spot fast, even though some don’t think the awesome Hawk minis fit.” -Kenneth Mashburn

“I was planning on using Polyversal to play larger scale games using my Battletech collection. I have always enjoyed the BT universe and minis, but the rules are too random. I tried using Future War Commander, but it was more generic than I wanted. I heard about your system on the Meeples and Miniatures podcast, and I liked the potential to develop the combined arms scifi game I was seeking with my existing collection.” -Jake

“I became a backer of Polyversal as it looked like it had an easy and flexible stat mechanism and would be fast and fun to play. I have a great deal of mostly 6 & 10mm kits from multiple manufacturer lines – CAV, GZG, BattleTech, Brigade, Scotia-Grendel, GW Epic, to name a few, and I’m actually looking forward to spending a few hours (though probably weeks as I have so many different types) statting up for combined play in a new universe, secure in the knowledge that I can arrive in my games room, look at the numerous models I have lined up there and think; ” I’ll have one of them, one of them, two of those, Oooohhh, and THREE of those… ” and not care who the manufacturer or origin game line is…
Yes… finally… 3 GW Whirlwinds vs a CBT Atlas – Game On! :-)” -Kevin Boyce

What are your plans for Polyversal?