After many, many years of waiting… a miniatures game is finally coming to the Traveller universe!
At 4pm (GMT) on Wednesday November 14th, we will be launching a Kickstarter to produce a massive box set miniatures game for Traveller, entitled Vanguard: Boarding Actions in the Fifth Frontier War. This set will provide everything you need to build Imperial and Zhodani forces, and then play through a campaign to board or defend a warship – all against the backdrop of one of the largest wars to strike Charted Space.
If you have dropped by Planet Mongoose to learn more about Vanguard, then you have likely already seen some of the sneak peeks we have revealed of this game – this post is an in-depth exploration of the game and what we are planning for it…
The Box Set
Vanguard will be arriving in a massive box set, jam-packed with everything you need. We are still finalising the contents (we keep adding new bits and pieces, like we always do with a Kickstarter project!), but you can expect to see the following:
- 16 Imperial Marines in Combat Armour
- 14 Zhodani Troopers in Combat Armour with 2 Warbots
- 6 Large (A3 size) gameboards depicting the interior of a ship
- 64 page Rulebook, complete with never-before-seen background on the Imperial Marines and their Zhodani equivalents
- A Card Deck with miniature representations of the gameboards (to randomly generate areas of a ship) and Strategy Cards
- Many, many Counters to represent wounds, debris, barricades and a lot more
- Stand-up Iris Valves in both open and closed versions to help or hinder forces fighting in narrow corridors
The miniatures of Vanguard are produced in ‘heroic’ 28mm scale, and will fit in well with any similar modern game.
As with our previous miniatures games, we have kept the core rules simple, allowing us to layer tactical options on top to create a game with some considerable depth.
To play Vanguard, two players choose which force they will fight for (Imperium or Zhodani Consulate in the core set) and whether they will be the attacker or defender, and then select the type of ship that will be boarded – Frigate, Destroyer, Cruiser, or Battleship. The size of the ship determines the number of units each player has at their disposal.
Once the players are ready, they play the Breach! mission. The attacking force has closed in on the target ship, given it a good pounding, and then launched boarding units – burning their way through the hull, the boarders have a few vital seconds to gain entry before the defenders can properly react. They must secure the immediate area before the defending forces can mass an effective resistance and throw them off the ship.
The attacker has several advantages in the Breach! mission, and so will likely win – it is the defender’s task to make the boarders pay for every inch they advance.
After the Breach! mission has been completed, the players run through a number of missions that chart the progress of the boarding action. The attacker must consolidate their position and then send out reconnaissance teams to quickly find out the quickest routes to the most vulnerable areas of the ship. In return, the defender can draw enemy units out of position and ambush them.
The end game of the boarding action will see the boarders launch a Strike mission against a critical objective (such as the bridge or engineering section), or the defender launching a successful Counterattack that pushes the boarders off the ship – at that point, the attacker has the option to launch a new boarding action if they feel they have enough forces remaining, or gracefully concede the campaign to the defender.
All of these games can be played in a single day of solid gaming, or be conducted over several evenings down the local games club.
Throughout the game, both players must manage their resources, choosing when to commit their most powerful units to the fray and avoid frittering them away in less important clashes. The player who can gain the most momentum will have a solid advantage, but things can reverse quickly with one bad choice!
The Core Rules
This is a Traveller-based game, and the core rules will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the RPG.
If you want a model to perform an action beyond simply moving, a Check will be needed. This is simply a roll of two dice whose values are totalled, and then an appropriate modifier (usually a skill) is added. If you gain a total of 8 or more, you have succeeded. It is that simple!
For example, an Imperial Marine has just entered a corridor and sees a vile Zhodani trooper at the end of it. He raises his Laser Carbine and fires!
He rolls two dice and gets a total of 7, but then adds his Gun Combat skill of 1, for a total of 8 – he has just made it it!
This system is used for shooting targets, hitting people in close combat, hacking doors, setting explosives… just about everything!
Each model itself has a number of Action Points (AP), which are used to select specific actions. For example, moving one square ahead consume 1 AP, while shooting a heavy weapon requires 2 AP.
The core rules really are that simple, and they are flexible enough for you to do what you want in the game, while staying simple enough that they effectively become ‘invisible’ while you play (something we strive to achieve in all of our miniatures game – it is far more fun to actually play rather than constantly look up things in a rulebook!). However, we have added one complication – Snapshots.
A Snapshot (aside from being a reference to a very old Traveller-based game) is an opportunity that a model can take during their opponent’s turn. If it sees an enemy model complete an action (such as marching around a corner), it can attempt a DEX check (Dexterity check). If successful, it can loose off a ‘snapshot’, hopefully wounding or disabling the enemy before it can act.
This means you cannot simply move models around with impunity – you will need to flank enemies and support your own troops as you advance towards your objectives, and one model going down can create a gap in your line that will be quickly exploited by a cunning opponent.
The Forces: Imperial Marines
Both Imperial Marines and Zhodani troopers are equipped with Combat Armour and carry Laser Carbines as their standard armament. However, there the similarities end.
An Imperial Marine wears heavier Combat Armour than their Zhodani counterpart, is equipped with a Cutlass for ‘close encounters’, and has access to a wider variety of weaponry. Beyond the Laser Carbine, they can instead carry a Laser Sniper Rifle (useful for covering long corridors), a rapid-firing Gauss Rifle, and the feared Accelerator Shotgun (for when you absolutely, positively have to kill that last Zhodani).
In addition to weaponry, the Imperial Marine can also carry Shaped Charges to get through sealed Iris Valves (airtight doors), Medikits to keep other Marines on their feet, and Terminal Intrusion Comps to hack into vital systems on the ship. Officers even have access to expensive Psishield Helmets…
The Imperial Marines are led by Captains and Lieutenants, and are organised into Boarding Squads, Special Weapons Squads, and Pathfinder Squads.
Their basic tactics are to weather the assault of an enemy and defeat them with well-equipped Marines who have the tools to get any job done.
The Forces: Zhodani
Zhodani troopers have a very different approach to battle. While they wear (very distinctive) Combat Armour, theirs is of a lighter build. While an Imperial Marine might be able to shrug off more attacks, a Zhodani trooper is a lot faster and more agile than his enemy (in general, they get more AP than Imperials and can turn in tight corridors easier). Whole units can wrong-foot and flank an Imperial Marine force, striking from positions rapidly gained before their enemies even know they are there.
In addition to this, the Zhodani have a very powerful weapon at their disposal – Psionics. With a mere thought, a Zhodani trooper can telepathically distract an opponent, force them to commit to an action they might not otherwise choose, telekinetically hurl an Imperial Marine across a room, or build a psychic shield around themselves. One particularly favoured trick of powerful Zhodani psions is to use Clairvoyance to scout out a location behind an Imperial unit, and then Teleport behind them to launch a devastating (and unexpected) attack.
And those Psishield helmets the Imperial Officers love so much? They only work against telepathic powers…
Every Zhodani squad leader and noble is a psion with access to these powers, and the Zhodani player can upgrade every other Zhodani trooper to be a psion, if that is so wished…
So, the Zhodani are fearsome opponents – but they have one more thing in their armoury…
The Zhodani military uses Warbots in many roles, and boarding actions are not least among them. The type of Warbot used on board a ship is very heavily armoured, capable of snipping the head off an Imperial Marine with its claws, or using its Laser Rifle to mow enemies down. However, many Zhodani nobles prefer to mount Flamethrowers on their Warbots – shorter ranged and it is tougher to get through Combat Armour… but entire rooms can be immolated instantly.
Just Zhodani and Imperials?
The Traveller universe is huge and we could put all sorts of things into Vanguard. However, we want to keep the focus of this game ‘tight’ without the requirement to make multiple purchases to build ever larger forces – we want everything you need to play the game in the box set.
However, this being a Kickstarter project, we could not resist putting in a couple of stretch goals that will give you a bit of variation.
If all goes well in the Kickstarter project, we will add first the Aslan, and then the Vargr!
The Aslan are honour-bound warriors whose thirst for territory drives them ever onwards to expand. They will think nothing of boarding a heavily armed ship to prove their right to lead. As a force, the Aslan have lighter armour than the Imperials and Zhodani (though their leaders have access to something very heavy) but they are very, very strong, and love nothing more than to slay an enemy ‘honourably’ with the Dewclaws.
For their part, the wolf-like Vargr have to be a lot sneakier than most – this force will represent pirates or corsairs trying their luck against a disabled warship. They are the fastest of all the forces but must concentrate on defeating enemies one at a time with pack tactics…
Both players will gain Strategy Cards throughout the boarding action, though the player who develops the greater momentum on the ship will have greater access to them.
Strategy Cards represent ploys and events that take place beyond the scope of the squads in the set of corridors represented by the gameboards, but which can nonetheless greatly affect a mission.
For example, the defending player might choose to switch off the artifical gravity in a section of the ship in order to disorientate the boarders or rapidly Vent Atmosphere to expose everyone to the void (and yes, models can be lost as they are sucked out into space!). The attacker might target an area of the hull with his own ship, equip his forces with Stun Grenades, or engage in Electronic Warfare to disrupt the defender’s own strategy.
Exploring the Universe
One thing we want to achieve with miniatures games like this is explore an area of the Traveller universe that, up to now, has not had much attention. Within Vanguard, you will find a great deal of information on the regiments of the Imperial Marines and Zhodani, including equipment, organisation and unit markings (the latter of which will, of course, be of great benefit when you paint your models!). Marc Miller, the creator of Traveller, has weighed in here and given us some great material for his favourite regiments, which have been included in the rulebook.
We have even persuaded fan-favourite Martin Dougherty to not only flesh out the regiments presented in Vanguard, but to write a brand new short story that presents the chaotic environment of a boarding action from the Imperial perspective.
Join us in the Vanguard
We sincerely hope you will join us in this Kickstarter project to bring to life the first new Traveller miniatures game for a long time. In return, we will provide you with a game that you can play over and again without repetition, charting the fate of a warship in the Fifth Frontier War. You will be able to explore the forces used in this conflict, and have a range of superb 28mm miniatures to represent them on the table top.
Join us in the Vanguard – we think you will enjoy it here!