The Road Through the Woods
by Doug Cowie

Some important people in suits, comfortably situated in New Brussels, had decided that a certain faction leader must die.

A directive was passed down the line, money changed hands, and a man a thousand kilometres away, who felt himself safe learned that he was not.

Five mercenaries are trying to get home. Their insertion near to the target was a no-expenses-spared operation. The return trip is more mundane. They walk.

The Mercs arrive in the vicinity of the dangerous part of the woods and have a look round.

Their objective is a very secure (in fact impregnable) refuge situated in the wilds about 20 k east of the Combat Zone. From there they can be easily exfiltrated.

Unfortunately, the refuge is situated in a very scary wood, infested with various gangs.

At one time, these may have been described as savages, scavengers or bikers, but living in the wild has removed any such distinctions.

A Savage leaps out of hiding an opens up on the scout with an SMG at close range. The scout is killed.They are now simply tribes, constantly at war with each other. But when outsiders appear in the woods, these tribes join forces to combat the common foe, and only then fight over the spoils.

The mercenaries have to pass through this area. They know they are in badlands and they are ready for trouble. Unfortunately for them, their understanding of the word “trouble” is about to be seriously redefined.

Two more Mercs race to the aid of the scout, but too late. But they soon have problems of their own as more Savages emerge from cover and open fire.

The Game Set-up

I find some of the games I play disappointing and the reason is often the lack of an interesting scenario or, indeed, any scenario other than “Last Man Standing Wins”.

Rather than becoming stalled in a fire fight, the Mercs race up the path to the village and eventual safety, ignoring the Savages who are thus able to get round the rear of the Mercs. It’s not looking good!

As the Mercs gain the edge of the village, terrifying Berserkers appear in front of them as well as more Savages. The Mercs deal with a Savage directly ahead of them and storm into the village. In the far distance can be seen the door to the refuge that is their objective.

So last night, I had a group of 5 mercenaries returning from a mission behind enemy lines. They had to make their way along the table to safety. Most of the table was covered by woods with a small village in the middle. Lurking in the woods were unknown quantities of savages.

More Berserkers emerge from hiding and, for the first time, dangerous looking Bikers can be seen closing in on the Mercs.To make it interesting, the 5 mercs were in full view - the woods have eyes - but the 15 gang members were not. Instead, I had 45 numbered counters spread round the woods, only 15 of which represented characters, the rest were dummies.

There were 3 separate gangs, each gang having different coloured markers.

The fight in the village is at close-quarters. It’s to the death! The Berserkers are in a killing fenzy.

Fearsome close-quarter weapons are being used by the Berserkers in addition to the deadly firepower of the Savages and Bikers.

So, there was a “Savage” gang with blue markers, a “Berserker” gang with yellow markers and a “Biker” gang with red markers. The mercs had no idea what they were up against in terms of numbers, quality or type. They had to go cautiously but not so cautiously that they would be trapped.

They had to spend time on recce, finding out which counters were dummies. They had to scout with other team members covering them on Opportunity Fire.

  • Visibility in the woods was limited to 100mm except for one small patch of very close wood in which visibility was only 50mm.
  • Figures outside a wood could not see into the wood. Therefore figures on the edge of woods were invisible to any outside it.
  • All figures in the woods received a soft cover bonus against shooting hits (but not in close combat) regardless of whether they were actually behind a tree model or not.

A Merc falls victim to a hideous stone dagger.The Game

The mercs entered on a path through the woods which led into an open, rocky area. They took cover behind large boulders then one moved up the path to recce.

Things went wrong right from the start with the lead scout being ambushed and killed. The rest of the mercs managed to get as far as the clearing in front of the village before being overwhelmed by a mixture of Savages, Berserkers and Bikers.


The mercs only managed to get half way to their objective before being wiped out. This doesn’t represent a very satisfactorily balanced scenario.

The hidden deployment aspect worked well and provided a tense game for the merc player.

However, the mercs were just too weak – they died too easily. I think it would work better if they’d been Heroes.

All hope is gone for the Mercs as enemies close in from all directions.

Next time?

I would like to try something similar with the mercs as Heroes. That would give them more survivability.

I’m quite tempted to try it in the style of an rpg. The mercs would be played as normal (but would all be Heroes) whilst the opposition would be controlled by a “Games Master” rather than a standard player.

This would do away with the need to have counters, speeding up the game and making it visually tidier.

On the downside, the merc player has to be able to accept that the person controlling the opposition is neutral whilst the Games Master must be capable of genuinely remaining neutral whilst he is controlling the opposition. I don’t think these requirements are impossible to realise and I look forward to giving this method a try.