October 6, 2011
Distant thunder echos across the hills, boding ill for those within the mountain valley. They look up uneasily, hands resting on weapons, preparing for the worst. A moment passes, and their fear rises into view above the peak, a dozen of it’s kin following it down. Armored men ride strange mechanisms of hovering machines towards the camp. Those below rush to action. And then two giant pale cubes descend from the heavens, tumbling through the sky, to crash to the earth below.
I pick up the dice and examine the result, and then look up across the table to my brother. “Two sixes,” I say. He nods, turning to examine his cards laid out in a deck, examining one. He then points at the lead vehicle on the stack of books, saying “Looks like my hovertank triggers the mines then. Let me roll for damage.” I look back down to my miniature figurines in the cardboard camp, plotting my next move.
The battlefield that shall soon be strewn with broken men and machines is nothing more than our kitchen table, bearing the load of makeshift terrain. The dictionary signifies a hill in between the camp and the enemy, and I stretch a ruler across the space, moving my forces forward to it’s small cover, small plastic weapons melded to their tiny hands held at the ready. I nudge the hollow weight of my only tank into position in a copse of model trees, their wire branches heavy with clay leaves. The enemy is in sight, but not in range of the tank’s immobile turret. I estimate the angles towards the cover that my brother is likely to disembark at, and then nod to him. “Your turn.” He looks back to the result of the dice, and then moves to destroy his hovercraft.
The lead craft’s fuel cells detonate, still going forward, as my mine explodes underneath it. The engines cut out, sending it from it’s perch three feet above the ground to skip twice against the rocky earth, tumbling forward, the men aboard leaping off. They disappear into the brush as the hovercraft tears itself apart. My brother lifts the model off the table, setting it aside, and then moves the next in line forward to recover the men who bailed from the wreck as the other vehicles fly past. Gaining speed, the rightmost flank comes into range of my hidden tank. I check the distance again and then roll the dice. Unlucky. The shot glances off the flanking vehicle’s ablative armor, and response fire blazes chaff into the trees, unable to find the attacker. The rightmost hovercraft glides to a halt behind a rocky outcropping- made of batteries- armored soldiers dismounting and running for the cover of the sparse bushes. My turn again.
I pause and consider the closing enemy forces. My brother watches as well. The warriors are static figures in posed positions with only dice to find their targets. A group of my forces wait hidden near the rocks, within a stone’s throw of the disembarked men. They rise. Dice fall. Response fire tears through the ranks, and the survivors of the exchange dodge into cover, as the troops finally clash. Energy blazes across the field, imagined rifles of science fiction lore spelling doom for my forces as the deadly light finds targets, and I must remove half the squad from the battle to set aside again.
My main force waits, still behind the hill, as my brother’s tanks glide forward towards the camp. Snipers on the top lean into their guns, picking off mounted troops, yet the pilots within are unexposed. Shells from the vehicles’ turrets pepper the hill, attempting to find their targets. Luck holds sway over the tides of fortune, as my riflemen hastily get away from the threat. My troops wait, the air tense, as the sounds of battle rumble.
The enemy finally crests the hill, the remaining tanks coming over the rise. My brother grins in anticipation of victory. The scarse cover that my troops have at the bottom of the hill is exposed as they open fire. Almost twenty minutes pass as we resolve the individual results of the numbers. Rockets tear into the undersides of the vehicles, wreckage going across the hill as we remove miniature after miniature from the battlefield as the result of overwhelming firepower. Shots from the tanks blast through the ranks. A retreat is called, and the troopers run disorderly back towards the camp, firing as they go. The shredded remains of two of the four tanks would cover the descending slope, smoke would rise, as the models disappear from the dictionary’s cover.
The battle is a rout, my troopers disappearing in ever-increasing numbers as they fall to artillery fire and the cardboard camp crumples around them. My tank is cornered in the trees and dances with three of the hovercraft, taking two others with it as shells find their mark behind it’s worn armor. Armored enemies swarm through the camp, and the day is won by the invaders, yet my unit’s commander flees with a few all-terrain scout units from under the enemy’s guns and out of the valley with the intelligence that the camp fell to defend. My objective is secured, and the enemy outwitted, as us two tacticians examine each other across the table. I put a hand forward. He takes it. “Good game,” we say together, grinning, as we shake. This is just one of a series of battles that we intend to play, on an alien world in a fantasy setting that I have created. I pack the miniatures and models of the factions away, clearing the table again.
That's Darth, by the way. And we've never actually played a game like this, I made it up. But the teacher may or may not enjoy this topic- she considers herself a 'fine southern lady', and got into this tutor position through bumping the last one out by talking to management about her allowing a student to write about- wait for it- "lesbians and dapper gentlemen!"