It was too cold for crickets. Snow was piled waist-high in places, the Caledonian forest around them choked with white powder. The air was completely still as if it had been frozen solid by the Ariadnan winter, but the deep reverberations of an electric guitar bounced from tree to tree, sounding again and again from a brightly-lit bar in the center of a small town.
The sign was marachino red and read "Cherry's," a pair of wooden shields hanging from the doors. A stone building, not unheard of but strange especially considering the year it was built, and from the humm of neon and the smell of cigarette smoke it was, undoubtedly, an Ariadnan institution. The sound of laughter and libation inside proved it was Caledonian-- the smell of ale was unmistakably hanging in a cloud along the doors.
Inside, Uxia sat at her place of honor-- the seat where she'd smashed an antipode's head on the bar, a long, long time ago, back before she'd ever joined the SAS. She leaned on her elbows, a bottle in her hand, her braid messy. The television in the corner wall blared, showing footage of the Crisis, talking heads mumbling in closed-captioning about the loss of Lafayette to the Tohaa. She could see her face go by, William Wallace's, everyone. A ticker read-- DID WILLIAM WALLACE THE ALEPH RECREATION CONSPIRE WITH THE PANOCEANIC FORCES IN A LAFAYETTE COUP?
"Don't pay 'em no mind," McMurrough rumbled from a seat beside her, hunkered up in enough space for three men. He had a stein in his hand that was at least the size of her torso, brimming with foaming beer.
"Who said I was?" she said, turning the bottle over and waiting for the last drop to hit her tongue.
"You 'ad a dark look about you," McMurrough said. "Ain't never meant somethin' good."
"It's good," she said, the bartender handing her another bottle and opening it with her elbow. "I drink free here, so what could be bad?"
The door opened and in walked a pair of Hassassins. It was easy to recognize Al-Djabel from the number of times he'd tried to kill them in the last week, and beside him stood Leila Sharif. Instantly, the bar was like a hedgehog of chain rifles, all spines faced outwards. No one said a word-- not even Al-Djabel, or Leila, who raised their hands-- slowly.
Stepping from the pool table was William Wallace. All eyes were locked on the Caledonian commander. He held the cue with purpose-- it was common knowledge that Wallace's arms were the source of his incredibly strength, and in his hands, any weapon might as well be explosive. But he set the cue down in its rack, approached the bar and took a pair of bottles from behind it.
"We didn't mean to interrupt," Al-Djabel said finally, his voice masked.
"Let me see your face," Wallace said, walking up to them. Al-Djabel tapped the side of his helmet and his facemask retracted into the neck. The chain rifles bristled, but Wallace calmed them with a look.
"Do you come in peace?" Wallace asked, popping the cap on the bottle with his thumb.
"We came with that in mind," Leila said. "An apology for our actions in the Crisis."
William Wallace stood there for a moment, considering the bottles, and then handed one to Al-Djabel. "Who am I to refuse the extending of a hand of peace from the religion of peace?"
The Hassassin Fiday opened his bottle with his clawed hand-weapon. The two men clinked glass. Wallace asked "You have men with you?"
"Yes," he said, "but we cannot stay long." He stared at the bottle like it was poison, his nose wrinkled, but finally drank it-- alcohol was banned on all of the 'civilized' worlds, after all.
"That's nonsense," Wallace grinned. "Tell them to pile on in here and get a taste of some good old fashioned Caledonian hospitality-- and not the T2 kind."
Al-Djabel looked to Leila-- and Leila smiled sheepishly. "I think the men would appreciate a moment's rest," she said. "I'll call them?" and he nodded in approval.
Wallace gripped the fiday by the arm and turned him towards Uxia and McMurrough. "Come on over to the bar and Uxia can tell you the story of how this place got its name."
Uxia slapped her shotgun on the bar and let out a deep sigh. "So I was sixteen years old, and I snuck in to this place because I fancied a boy who worked here..."
So for today, we've got the Duban version of Firefight-- I think my second Kurage mission ever using the actual Kurage rules!
I mean, this is Firefight. What's there to really talk about? We're going to fight. There will be fire.
Oh-- right-- the 20 inch deployment zones. Which means that our HVTs have to be so far forward that they have to be outside of 24" ... exactly on our opponent's edge of the board! Which is pretty crazy, right?
Knowing that I'm playing against Hassassins and the Mutts with Jammers that can be 20 inches out... that's rough! I'm also worried about fireteams deploying so close-- it'll be hard to leverage my AP HMG when a fireteam could be within 24" of my backline after a single MOV order! I'm gonna have to turtle up real hard. Good thing I'm testing a list that has a lot of killing potential in ARO!
The one good thing? Because of the huge deployment zones there isn't a great vector for Fidays to land-- if they want to get in without a WIP roll they'll have be pretty far out there, and I should have a net wide enough to catch them.
We roll off-- and I roll a 2 to his 5! He chooses to go first and I choose deployment, picking the side with a pair of sniper towers and a good spot to spiderweb my fireteam out to cover maximum angles. From there we begin deployment... !
Standard things to expect-- Muyibs, Ghazis, Leila Sharif in a fireteam, twin spitfires-- and camo, camo, camo. Lots of Daylamis-- and only one of them lands in the center of the board, the rest whisked away by bad luck.
The big thing to watch for is the Asawira Haris. I can tell that's going to be a problem if I let it get rolling at full capacity.
The things I'm most worried about are the Ghazis in this list-- Mutts provide a specific kind of nastiness that makes it tough to press forward, so I'm going to be doing a lot of castling up and shooting his units as he presents them to me-- and then trying to present more opportunities.
And his held deployment is totally not a Fiday, right?
There's a great spot in the midfield where I can watch all three areas of egress and cast a wide net over the entire battlefield with my AP HMG. There's enough cover that I can spiderweb out my link without revealing or compromising any of their locations, which is amazing. On top of that-- from where he is there is no way to attack him with cover. You must leave Cover to engage him at range, which is frickin' fantastic. For the first time EVER I leave my AP HMG out as an ARO piece.
Cateran on the left tower, Cateran on the right tower, and... that Mutt is touching the building. I place my Scots Guard ML front-and-center, prone, looking through the door of the bar. If the Mutt runs through I'm going to mess up my opponent's day.
The idea is -- don't engage at close-range with an army that has free shotguns on every one of their profiles. Hang back, far back, eight inches off the board at max in places that I can castle up hard. The goal is to trade cheap for expensive then turtle, force him to come to me and then pick things off and range back to the same defensive formation. Definitely don't deploy my camo tokens forward where he can Intuitive Attack them with Jammers through walls to force them to reveal
To draw his Mutts in the way I want, I bait the net first turn with a WarCor deployed as far forward as I can get. A good 3 point bait line!
And lastly... I go for a risky infiltration with my chain rifle grenades assault pistol SAS. I place him just out of my opponent's deployment, within 3 inches and in LoF of his fireteam leader, watching his entire backline all at once. I stick it with a 5! That's exciting!
My opponent's held is a Fiday-- and he's inside of the bar, in the corner, kind of hiding. Dangerous. He has great cover from me where he is and will be a huge pain to uproot, so, like most Impersonation markers... I'm going to just ignore him.
My held is McMurrough, not too concerned with guarding Wallace, but ready to rush up the side and engage that Asawira. He's gonna be my dude for that.
The baton is lit and my opponent begins his first turn of DUBAN FIREFIGHT! Awwww yeah.
First thing's first-- extremely impetuous!
My WarCor draws all of the Muttsto the left, away from the flank and towards the Cateran's killing ground. The first one runs towards my SAS and stops. I expect a smoke grenade to neutralize him for the turn-- instead, he Discovers, committing to putting out this fire as fast as he can. The roll is successful, revealing my chain rifle grenades assault pistol SAS.
That's not what he expected to be there! He expected Uxia! And with the SAS chain rifle within inches of his fireteam, the SAS could easily template them if they activate... and he's at an angle where it's going to be a hell of a time to get good LoF... this isn't good!
Next order-- the Mutts all run for the SAS!
The first one runs up and throws a smoke grenade on top of the fireteam, protecting them. He lands it! I shoot him with a pistol and fail to hit on an 18, rough. The second runs up at a far distance and shoots with his pistol-- the SAS dodges. The next Mutt spends an irregular and throws himself on the SAS grenade and goes for a Jammer-- so I Reset, landing a crit to his crit, and stay where he is, resolute.
Next two orders are dedicated to breaking the fireteam and then reforming it so that Leila can slip out the back and into LoF of the prone SAS. She opens fire-- and the SAS dodges. The idea here is that I want to make it even more obnoxious to uproot him, and give him an even better chance of hitting the fireteam if he's successful, so I dodge him forward out of cover.
This proves to be a mistake-- one order later and Leila has the SAS smoked on a crit. If I had stayed behind cover, it would've missed by 3! Dang!
Either way, he ate up an absolute ton of orders!
Reforming the link and moving them out, the Muyib spitfire who was threatened by the SAS takes the lead and leans out of cover looking at my T2 Cateran's Camo Marker... and my WarCor.
Yeah-- best to not do anything, perhaps, but I want to split his burst with the WarCor to see if I can get a good shot here. We're in my good range and outside of his, I have Mimetism and Cover... I reveal for the shot, breaking one of my rules (never reveal a Camo marker on the order a unit spends to walk into LoF unless it's at mega distance and I'm contesting smoke). The Muyib splits burst 4 on the Cateran 1 on the WarCor and hits the Cateran once-- she makes ARM with a miraculous 17!-- and the WarCor once, killing him.
He spends an order focusing on the Cateran with the failed-infiltration Daylami just below it, but the Cateran proves fatal to the Daylami, dealing 2 wounds and removing him. He presses in with the Muyib Spitfire... and the Cateran is hit again, twice! She rolls... and gets a 19 and a 20, so survivable! Who even needs cover?!
The next order brings the duel to a close. My roll is a 20 and he nails 3 hits, one dealing a wound and dropping the Cateran to Unconscious.
Now without the Cateran on overwatch, the spitfire can attempt to tackle the 3rd Highlander Grey Rifle AP HMG. Unfortunately, the vectors I was talking about come into play-- no way to get a good shot on him without giving up cover, which is rough!
Nonetheless the Muyib spitfire presses forward and engages the Highlander Grey. With everything, they're shooting on a respectable number and I'm replying on 19-- it doesn't matter what they roll as I roll a 19 and a 20, critting!
With only one order left and a fireteam of Number 2, they go Dogged! And try again! But the AP HMG refuses to yield and drops the Muyib on the second volley.
Now I need to press up to the unconscious Cateran to get my Classified (Experimental Drug) since I don't think I'm going to see a lot more unconscious people in a game vs Haqq where Viral and Shock run amok...
Just before the end of the turn, a flurry of irregulars move the Mutts and other models-- placing one Mutt forward and in LoF of the AP HMG 3rd Highlander Grey... in a smoke grenade. Basically just trying to slow me down or get a free shot on a Volunteer.
So it passes over to me...
First thing's first-- running forward, throwing smoke vs the flash bot, and sending McMurrough out to wreak some havoc.
A 45th Highlander drops smoke as he goes and McMurrough rushes into it, preparing to go up the flank and try to remove everyone and everything along that side. But that's not yet-- first is the 3rd Highlander Grey Rifle taking care of some business and removing some dangers.
The biggest one is the Mutt muscling up the side there and the flash bot is an easy target besides. Two orders take the Mutt from alive to dogged to dead and the flash bot goes down in one burst, taking 3 wounds in one order-- that's NEVER happened for me, ever!
I dredge the fireteam up the building then up the tower to the Cateran and give her the paddles, bringing her back up and scoring 1 OP. Sweet! The rest of my orders bring everyone back exactly how they were with the same firing lines, protecting Wallace from the Impersonation token in a huge castle.
Second group time! First thing's first... my Cateran stands up, having been knocked prone by being knocked unconcious.
McMurrough dives forward like a reckless madman with only a handful of orders to spend. He leaps into battle against a Daylami, a camo token and the Asawira spitfire. My opponent gives it away that the camo token is a mine, but I'm not going to run into it-- I'm not going to try to contest a shotgun shot and two shots from a Spitfire in good range with a smoke grenade to go melee centric here. Instead, I go big-- McMurrough drops dual templates hitting all of the above and hoping to survive.
But neither does the Daylami or the Asawira who are both knocked unconscious by McMurrough's volley-- and the mine is also removed!
With nothing else to do and no more orders to spend, the turn ends and I pass the baton back to my opponent for the next go around!
Starting the turn with a few orders missing, my opponent begins with extremely impetuous-- heading towards Wallace. And the shortest route? Through the center of the command room of course! And there are people all around him as he moves in! And the only way to cancel that order is with a regular order and he doesn't have one so here goes the Mutt, let's see how this does... !
This turns out to not be the best move when the Scots Guard Missile Launcher reveals himself and shoots in Blast Mode, catching a second Mutt and Leila Sharif. There's a good possibility I'll miss or the Mutt's smoke will land here, especially because we're outside of 24" by a wide margin so I'm in my +0 Range-- so I'm surprised as hell when I lay down a 12, critting the Mutt with the missile and hitting Leila and the other Mutt dead-on.
A bunch of ARM rolls later and the Mutt is dogged and Leila is unconscious and the first Mutt who kicked THAT off is straight dead. Good job Scots ML! ... I still need to paint you... !
Leila is Doctor Plus'd back onto her feet on a 17, the Muyibs are brought together and the link reforms. Now it's time to challenge the other Camo Token on the other side of the map and see what he can do.
Leila Sharif sticks her neck out, looking down the sights of her rifle to the Camo Token... who does nothing. Leila Discovers, so the Cateran appears and shoots!
It's a bunch of dice at a negative versus a single die on 12, like usual, and the Cateran nails a 10... where Leila needs 9s. She goes straight past unconscious to dead from the Shock, and Number 2 kicks in for the second time this game!
For a moment my opponent considers engaging the Cateran... but instead he decides eff that and puts a smoke grenade down, crossing the gap to the other Muyibs and forming a five-man fireteam of them behind a long crate. The heavy rocketlauncher leans out so he can see my camo token but nothing happens-- we simply wait as I choose not to ARO. I see the idea-- the 45th Highlander behind him will run and blow them both up-- but I'm going to cancel that with an order and prevent that from happening real quick.
With not much else to do in this turn my opponent uses his sole infiltrator to rush up to the Scots ML and gat him with a shotgun. Even though I try to resist with a pistol shot, the Daylami is successful and Scot goes unconscious, ending my opponent's turn.
With the center clear a Mutt rolls forward to occupy the front corner of Cherry's. So... no going forward to there with any of my extremely impetuous guys or others, for sure. A target that we can handedly deal with as my main focal point of my next turn-- along with the Daylami, and the rocket launcher leaning out from behind cover looking at my 45th Highlander and Scots Molotok!
First thing's first-- a heavy rocket launcher is staring at my 45th Highlander and I have a regular order to cancel him moving thanks to William Wallace. Thanks Wallace!
I begin by moving my Scots Molotok forward four inches, moving towards the Rocket Launcher. The idea is to get up to cover in my good range band another two orders away, playing Discover chicken the whole time... but my opponent doesn't have time for that and reveals that the rocket launcher is actually Husam Yasbir! He throws a Discover... which prompts me opening fire with my Molotok for free shots, caught in my bad range.
Even so-- Yasbir survives the volley of shots thanks to his cover bonus. Now, I was clearing the way in case I needed to bring my 3rd Highlander Grey AP HMG over to get this guy, but right now the Scot is blocking LoF if I do. I need to get him out of the way-- which means do or die time.
The Scots Guard drops prone to give LoF in case he's unsuccessful and opens fire again. Without cover, but with camo, the Scots is successful-- Yasbir hits the dirt, unconscious.
Next: Dealing with that Muttawi'ah and the Daylami.
I move my fireteam forward, hugging the right wall. The idea is the Volunteer will likely go down when I double chain rifle the Daylami and I'll be forced to swap in William Wallace. I want this to happen anyways-- Wallace needs SSL2 and I'm expecting a Hassassin Fiday to come rocketing towards him next turn.
So the volunteer rounds the corner, double chain rifles the Daylami, takes a shotgun shot to the dome-- and rolls a 20 on her ARM save, staying up!
I move the Volunteer forward again now, not needing to change Volunteers like I was expecting, and she chain rifles the Muttawi'ah. The Mutt goes dogged and she goes unconscious-- and I swap Wallace into the link, returning to my castle once again with Wallace in the center.
On the way back, I bring my Paramedic up to my Scots Guard ML and try to bring him back too-- but I put him to sleep permanently instead. Ssshhh, shhhhh... no tears, only dreams... and my castle reforms up-- all standing-- so they can intercept whatever's going to come at them next.
Sadly that's all I can manage-- no one else is available to be shot. This ends my turn, moving a single 45th Highlander closer to see what he can do on the next turn.
With only five orders and knowing I have one Classified, my opponent starts the turn doing the thing I've been waiting for all day-- rushing Wallace with the Fiday to put me in LoL for my final turn.
I think this is actually really clever-- it keeps me from gaining OP on the last turn and it keeps me from being able to mount an assault to regain lost ground. Basically, if I'm losing right now, I -can't- win if the deck is stacked against me like this. So I approve!
Fiday moves... and a Cateran sees him, rolling Discover and getting a 6-- nailing it by one! It downgrades.
Fiday moves... and my OTHER Cateran sees him, rolling Discover and getting a 10! He's revealed!
IT'S HUSSEIN AL-DJABEL EVERYBODY!
But it doesn't matter because he moves into melee with Wallace!
Now I have a decision-- I can berserk with Wallace for the first time EVER in this entire campaign or I can hold back and shoot. If I shoot there's a 100% chance he'll go down from about 6 or 7 shotgun shots, pistol shots, assorted violence. But if I berserk... well, I have Extreme Prejudice. I want to knock him unconscious so I can step on him. And worst comes to worst? I'm going to secure his death and we'll trade-- I think we're about the same points!
I throw a pistol shot from a 45th Highlander and Wallace berserks. He lands a hit, and Al-Djabel somehow SURVIVES two of three saves and goes unconscious-- a serious windfall for me-- as the pistol shot hits and he makes another ARM save. Oh wow!
Wallace goes down HARD though, his NWI turned off by Shock and taking 2 wounds. Down for the count and I'm in LoL!
With only a few orders left, he reforms the fireteam and rushes a unit over to put my HVT in checkmate for the final Classified.
It's my turn... and I'm not sure if I've killed more units than him.
I put my orders down on everyone, look around and realize... there's nothing I can do here to get more points. Any activations are risky. The only safe one is my 45th Highlanders-- so I use one extremely impetuous to move safely, an extremely impetuous to move ... and end up with maybe 8mm showing to two units. Damnit. He gets smoked by a flurry of shotgun shots and I can't respond.
So that's everybody.
I step my 3rd Highlander Grey up to the unconscious Al-Djabel and coup de grace for my second Classified. That's all I can do this turn!
What I should've done here was reveal Uxia and move her up 8 inches to put HIS HVT in Checkmate... but I wasn't thinking. I was too preoccupied thinking of what I could kill!
Nonetheless, this ended the game with me passing every irregular order.
I knew he had more points on Lieutenant kills, for sure... and I had lost none of my specialists during the game, so I had that... but if I beat him on Army points... !
So I've killed more specialists (1 - 0).
He's killed more lieutenants... (1 - 2)
I've gotten both of my classifieds (3 - 2)
and so has he because I didn't think about Uxia... (3 - 4)
We forgot to do datatrackers... OR Panoplies... lol (3 - 4)
We tally up army points... and after stupidly losing my 45th Highlander, I'm at 166.
And he's... at 143.
That gives me 3 points, placing me the endgame results at (6 - 4) !!!
My T2 Cateran was 24 points. It would have put me at **142** if I hadn't brought her back up.
Definitely an extremely close game made possible due to my staggering luck at certain points. But there was a lot of good luck going around the whole table at times-- one of those games where it's back and forth down to the wire and it ends up being a meticulous point-count at the end to try to get everything you can get your hands on!
I had a hell of a lot of fun playing Myomer and he taught me some things about the game that even I didn't know. And it was so close throughout the entire game, even up til the end-- even though he had 5 orders he used them like a surgical scalpel to eke out every single OP he could. Definitely a playstyle to learn from!
An awesome end to an awesome campaign (though I'm still going to try to get 4 more barebones reports up before the end in a day or two here to hit 20 like I did last year)!
McMurrough sloughed the paint off his chestpiece. "You're still puny, tiny men," he said to the Asawira who felled him with a smirk. "Just coz you can shoot good don't mean a thing."
The Asawira laughed. "Says the suicide diving dog warrior," he quipped.
McMurrough was about to frown when he heard a dismissive laugh from behind him. "Safety first, fun second?" the daylami he'd paint-rifled asked her companion, her beige armor dripping with blue Caledonia colors, her face smeared and stained. Her pink hair was fluorescent in the bar-light. "What's the joy in that?"
"That's what I'm talkin' about," McMurrough said with a dumb grin, pulling his stool closer to hers.
Al-Djabel had his arm around Wallace, the two of them carrying pint glasses, sloppy and covered with paint-- Al-Djabel's shoulderplate carrying a 'COOP DE GRACIE' message scrawled on it and Wallace's chest lined with five green streaks. The two men leaned back and forth, arms in the air, stout splashing down their forearms as they belted "SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT AND NEVER BROUGHT TO MIND? SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT AND DAYS OF AULD LANG SYNE--" and the Muttawi'ahs broke into song, arms linked with the 45th Highlanders, filling the bar with tone deaf singing.
Lucille the Cateran was leaned up against a wall with her sniper rifle, talking T2 with a Lasiq as Murdock nursed a beer near the door-- a second sitting across from him at an empty seat at his empty table. Cait and Texas were near the door, the USAriadnan SAS talking big about the story of how he got his name and Cait politely listening, her blood-red Wulver eyes glowing in the dark. Broithaght was wrestling with the jukebox and asking who'd put Tunak Tunak Tun on it on repeat thirty times, and somewhere she could see Bob from accounting making the rounds wearing Hassassin colors.
The Muyibs were standing and talking with the 3rd Highlander Grey about his tartan, and the Dozer was repairing a chip on the Fanous's antennae, and the Volunteers were asking the Daylamis about their panzerfausts. The bar was alive with laughter and happiness.
Uxia McNeill stepped out into the cold, her shotgun on her shoulder and a bottle in her hands. She sat down on the steps, overlooking the snow, and poured the glasses full of clear liquid. One hand raised one to the sky and the other to her lips and she poured it into the snow, drinking the other down. It made a neat hole in the snow, sinking into the earth. Uxia thought of her lost comrades and of the saying they had written that day so long ago among themselves-- the pleasure of a Caledonian soldier is to die on the corpses of their enemies.
Uxia wondered if wherever Alastair was he was pleased with how he had died. She thought of who would have to lead the men now that their Grey was gone, and decided she would step into his place as best she could.
Uxia drank a second shot, burning as it went down her throat. She laughed, remembering her dream. "Carrying the fire," she said to the cold night sky. "Just like you told me to."
Forcing a grin, Uxia stepped back into the bar and the doors closed behind her. In the Caledonian Highlands the beauty of their beleaguered singing echoed across the snow-filled forests, up, across the mountainsides and down the plains towards the shore towards ruined and wreckaged Novvy Cimmeria. Here, the air still but for the sound of enemies becoming friends, and it was a silence well-earned, fought and died for.
Uxia felt at peace.
The Kurage Crisis was finally over.
My army and his army posed atop his Mayacast terrain contest entry. The Caledonian themed bar is so frickin' amazing! I love it!