Friday, September 20, 2013

Space 1889: Soldier's Companion First Impressions

Actually, 1st impressions may not be wholly accurate.

 I acquired Soldier's Companion (in dead tree) a few years ago, around the same time I acquired some French Foreign Legion and Lizard Men in 15mm. I really wanted the book more for source material / campaign background ideas than for gaming and so, while i read them, it was never with the intent of actually playing the rules, either wargame or as RPG.

But, as part of the Save a Dead Tree project, I decided to spend some time with them and actually use them. 

Last night, I had a chance to break out a half-warband of lizard warriors and a squad of Prussian infantry (aka my imagi-nation of Riesling) to try out the basics of the rules.

[As an aside, it was great seeing these figures again. It has been quite some time since I brought them out last and it was a bit like going home. Victorian Sci-Fi / Darkest Africa type games were some of the first I really invested time in. For a long time, the lizard folk were my largest force]

Wow. It sucks to be irregular infantry armed only with melee weapons.

Initiative is 1d6 for each side, highest score of result + modifiers goes first. As it turns out, regular vs. irregular get a +1 bonus right off the bat. 

Only the winner of initiative does any moving - the loser can defensive fire or participate in any melee it's dragged into, but can't instigate any of its own.

In my first quick setup, the lizard folk were in the open, possibly a charge distance away - they never moved and were shot to pieces. Even with the long range penalty, they dropped like flies. Morale didn't even allow them to flee.

Speaking of morale, it's not entirely clear to me whether or not casualties count on successive morale checks or only in the turn in which they occur. As written, it sounds to me like the latter, which led to the unusual situation of 2 lizard warriors passing morale checks when a comrade was dropped.

For the second setup, I took Mr. Chadwick's advice on playing irregular's from his Designer Notes chapter, and had the lizard folk ambush the Riesling soldiers. By starting hidden, they could automatically steal the initiative.

If I am reading the rules correctly, defensive fire occurs before melee and so charging troops can be shot up at any point along their charge path. The result is that the lizard folk were stopped halfway to their objective, having failed their morale check.

Although it looked like it'd be a repeat of the first test there on out, luck was on the lizard warriors' side and they won the initiative several times - but troops that are "checked" (failed their morale) can't act in the remainder of the turn in which they are checked, or in the entire turn after, so much of those wins were negated.

I think it was in my Intro. to Philosophy class that we talked about two runners, who having run halfway to the finish line, run half of the remaining distance to reach it, and then half of that again, and so on, but never reach the end (because you can split numbers in half infinitely) - obviously physical objects can travel distances, so something is up. 

Anyway, that's how the lizard warriors advanced, never quite making it close enough to contact the European troops. And in the end, they were slaughtered.

I want to try some bow armed irregulars next, because at least they can attack from a distance.

My goal is to play the Martian Messiah scenario from the rule book, reskinned for Helvetica and then go from there for perhaps a mini-campaign.


  1. That's Xeno's Paradox. :)
    Sounds like fun.

    1. Fitz-Badger,

      That's it! I could not for the life of me remember the name!


  2. On the face of it, the usual result when irregulars take on European Colonials. Fun, for the guys with superior fire power; for the irregulars, not so much.

    But, think Zulu wars. What if the lizards attack in several impis, from different directions? Johnny Colonial's fire is split and he then runs the real risk of being over run!

    1. Hi Kobold,

      Thanks for the comment!

      For the scenario I ran most recently (Helvetican Messiah), the lizard warband split, and that might have been effective were it not for an oddity in the rules (or my application of them) which resulted in my imperial force getting a better position than when they were ambushed into melee.

      I think for a larger force this would have worked well.


  3. I agree with Kobold. At 1:1 the scalies are going to drop like flies. Try 3:1 instead. I ran a game at Cangames in Ottawa this year and also ran into some initiative issues. See for a suggestion from Oerjan in the comments.

    Another question would be did you give the lizards any field craft? That can help quite a bit.

    1. Hi Pat G,

      In this little sample, I didn't put the lizard anywhere that Fieldcraft would have helped. When they did ambush from suitable cover, I failed to flank the Riesling force and they were thus able to shoot at the attackers. In the actual full game I just ran though, the Fieldcraft helped quite a bit in keeping the lizard warriors alive.

      Ordinarily if I'm playing natives vs colonial troops, I shoot for 3:1, but when I was doing these little tests, I already knew the scenario called for around 2 to one. In retrospect, I should have gone with my gut and upped it to 3:1.

      Thank you for the link. A great looking game by the way! I like the initiative suggestions. Although I wanted to play more or less rules as written the first time, this might be something to consider as a tweak to make the rules salvageable for future use.