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MERCS: Oh god it BURNS   Leave a comment

Took Mercs out for another spin tonight.

Steve took the CCC. I took KemVar, for the first time.

KemVar is distinguished by their active camouflage (which puts them in constant cover, making them hard to hit at the best of times), extreme mobility (especially on the assassin, who can also close with the enemy and do two blood on a single charge) and flimsy armour (doesn’t deter assault rifle fire; malfunctions with relative ease).

So what would be the best way to take on an army that closes fast, is almost impossible to hit, and is readily damaged?

Everyone who said “flamethrowers”, come to the head of the class.

We played on Steve’s Xeno-Terror table, full of close quarters and corridors. This is a table that really favours KemVar’s style, and I was eager to try out the last of the factions in my MERCS toolkit. We selected a scenario based on the “Fire Station Epsilon” encounter designed for CCC and USCR, with the objective to get three uncontested figures in the centre space of the table.

Those huge burning smoke templates were worth every cent Steve didn't get from customers.

I figured I’d get my main army around one side and close the pincer with the Heavy and Assassin coming from the other side. But I got mixed up and sent the Heavy with the main group, and the Assassin and Mechanic went off on their own. Not smart! The Heavy gets a big bonus when he’s on his own, and the Assassin is a key mop-up piece. Instead, I led with the assassin, and grouped the Heavy with the rest of the squad, losing out both on his Heroic Loner bonus and the Leadership benefit from my Assault Leader.

Steve brought his Heavy, Incinerator and Medic up the east half of the table, while his Sniper and Assault Leader snaked around to engage my main force. My assassin inflicted brutal damage on his flamethrower trooper, but once again, hands up everyone who remembers how many Blood tokens the Incinerator can take before dying.

That’s right: four. In the time it took to ambush his one tank, his Heavy waltzed up and demonstrated what happens when a toad gets hit by lightning brawling heavy attacks a lightly-armoured assassin.

Though I took out his medic, it was just a bit too late to save the game for me. I managed to get my troops into the central room, only to have them largely burned out by Steve’s barely limping along Incinerator. A background swordfight saw my Leader put down his Sniper, and my Heavy was able to shut down his Assault Leader eventually. But in the end, the flames got them all.

The moral of the story? Pick those key targets and make sure they go down. Especially when you have key clutch pieces — almost always including the Heavy — in your sights, focus on taking them out to the exclusion of lower-priority troops like Assault Leaders and Snipers.

Here endeth the lesson, but the fire still burns…


Posted February 8, 2012 by Ilan in Battle Report, MERCS

Go ahead, corporal. I’ll cover you.   1 comment

Last Tuesday I brought in four complete armies, taught two new players, and played two games.

Justin has been talking about trying new skirmish games, so I decided I’d bring in a couple of armies to teach MERCS to anyone who was interested. MERCS is a sci-fi skirmish game, decidedly close-ranged and squad-level, but without a heavy melee “scrum” component, and also without obsessing over distance measurement and optimization, and giving an enormous amount of control over individual miniatures.

And once you know it, it’s one of the fastest games out there. Each army consists of six unique miniatures, of which you build a “squad” of five for a default game (or fewer, for teaching or playing tighter scenarios). Each miniature from both players rolls a 10-sided die for initiative each turn, and then they all activate counting down in sequence. Each miniature takes one action on their turn – moving (using the card template for their figure) or combat (shooting, or taking a “Class Combat Maneuver” specific to their troop class) or “holding”, no action but boosting initiative for next turn.

That’s how you play, basically. The charm is in the details – differences in weapon firing modes, base-width “snap to cover” slide free with any action,  spending movement points to climb stairs inside buildings, about how weapons damage armour so that subsequent shots can injure troops, etcetera. Advanced rules (but still important) include bounding (for fast, coordinated squad movement), Overwatch and Suppression (firing wildly all over the battlefield to keep enemy troops pinned down).

I brought in four corporate armies. The CCC Yellowjackets are post-American troops with self-repairing nanotech armour, very competent all around. The USCR Skana are post-Russian bruisers in elephantine super-thick plating. The KemVar Dogs of War are nimble assassins with active camouflage and a base in former Brazil. And the Keizai Waza are a bushido-driven band with an atomic edge – quirky armour and an on-board tacnuke.

I taught Justin first, with him using CCC and me using USCR. He took the Leader, Heavy, Incinerator, Medic and Sniper; I used the Commissar, Sniper, Medic, Mechanic and Behemoth.

Justin’s Yellowjackets managed to get the advantage in a little killing zone on the east side of the board. Sustained fire managed to short out my Commissar’s armour and despite the best efforts of my medic, he eventually went down. My sniper pinned his sniper to the wall, but also got him out of the line of fire to heal up.

When Justin got the incinerator into close range, he was able to flood the remains of my core squad with fire, thinning the ranks considerably. The Behemoth held his own on the west side of the table, laying down withering fire turn after turn, but eventually succumbing to the closing pincer of the rest of the CCC troops. Justin won the day!

Next I taught Steve. It was later, so my rules summation was more fractured. Steve used the same squad as Justin so I knew how to explain their rules, while I took the wacky Keizai Waza – the Daimyo, Pathfinder, Forward Observer, Sniper and Heavy Hybrid.

Early on we got our troops into cover in the densely-packed city. The cover gave my forward opportunity to quickly close with his leader and incinerator, and the Daimyo gave the order to release the kraken warhead, immediately damaging his two critical troops. A sniper duel broke out in the open terrain to the west, with my guy taking the stairs to get up the tower and hold the high ground.

The coolest part, though, was when we clustered around the complicated central building, with a bunch of marketplace stalls and a second-storey window. Assault rifles at short range eventually took out my Pathfinder, but between the sniper and FO the Waza were able to trap Steve’s guys from a number of angles.

Ash Barker has written up excellent FAQs and strategy articles on the Mercs Minis site and forums, and it’s worth checking those out after you’ve gotten a feel for the game. It’s amazing how much each troop can actually do – only one thing per turn, but each action is significant. Movement is very specific — move the WHOLE card length unless you hit and snap to a wall – so you can’t obsess over millimetres like in Warmachine. Initiative is HUGE – acting at just the right time can make the difference between taking their guy out and getting a face full of flamethrower.

And most importantly, you win by getting the troops in a squad to work together. Get your assault trooper to suppress the enemy while your heavy gets into position. Get your sniper into high ground. Get your leader and medic near your key troops to boost rolls and keep them alive. You win by thinking like a squad leader. And that’s awesome.


Posted February 2, 2012 by Ilan in Battle Report, MERCS