The liberation of Alma continues. Clearing each sector of baddies is almost routine; the stiffest resistance is offered by the staff of this chemical weapons testing plant, who prove so recalcitrant I have Jim give them a taste of their own medicine by blanketing the courtyard in mustard gas. The enemy makes a couple of half-hearted attempts to take advantage of my combat squad being tied up by attacking Drassen and Chitzena, but the huge militia armies I’ve built up have no problem squashing them flat.
Balls. The counterattack comes before I’ve had any time to train up a decent militia force in Alma, so the mercs are forced to fall back to the south to regroup, ceding the northwest quarter of Alma to the queen while they rest and heal up. Then they counter-counter attack. At first this works wonderfully as the first platoon of soldiers blunders straight into the scopes of my two snipers, Cate and Jen!, and they are dispatched with little fuss. I start to worry at this point that I might have broken the back of the game a little too early and that the remainder of the tactical battles are going to be one-sided routs. Turned out I needn’t have bothered. Reinforcements turn up to bolster the second attacking platoon, and even worse…
…they have the good sense to attack during a rainstorm that cuts visibility down to nothing. That’s my biggest advantage – long-range sniper support – completely gone, which means the enemy soldiers can get right up close where the sheer weight of automatic fire they can bring to bear will start to become a real problem.
The ensuing firefight is incredibly close and nasty; the mercs can’t see the bad guys so they have to shoot at where I think the bullets are coming from, but this doesn’t stop the enemy from closing and inflicting some very heavy damage. C-Dave takes bad hits and Jim gets wounded trying to drag him out of the fray. Still, I seem to be holding my own, and it looks like I might get through this fight okay.
And then some prick with a silenced SMG manages to sneak through the forest to the south and kills Janek stone cold dead with a single short burst of accurate fire. Bugger. (That bloody scrap of blue behind the tree is Janek’s corpse.)
The remainder of the battle doesn’t go much better; both sides start throwing around breaklights to try and get some goddamn visibility and I have to get the invalid Josh to pitch in before they overwhelm my backline. Everyone on the front line gets banged up horribly, with my only combat-effective troops being the ones who would usually provide fire support: Cate and Jen! on the sniper rifles and Jen with a heavy machine gun. They can’t possibly fight on their own, so it looks like I’m not going anywhere for a couple of days.
Alas, poor Janek. May choirs of angels sing thee to thy rest. At least I won’t have to pay your extortionate wages any more, I guess, and it at least reminds me to invest in some better armour so that this sort of thing is less likely to happen in the future.
It doesn’t look like the Queen’s forces have any intention of giving me time to recuperate; barely twelve hours after the first fiasco they send in another force of soldiers and attack the mine. Fortunately for me, I can call on every single militia soldier currently in Alma to defend it.
Unfortunately for me, this doesn’t seem to matter a damn. The mine goes down, and support for my cause in Alma collapses to nothing meaning I can no longer train militia there. Swift action is called for; since only seven badly-wounded enemy soldiers survived that disaster I figure that by sending in everyone who can both walk and carry a gun I have a pretty good chance of taking it back, but this plan hits a tiny snag.
My intelligence estimate on likely enemy strength turns out to be way off. I decide that discretion is the better part of valour, pop smoke, and scamper off the edge of the map before that huge red juggernaut flattens my strike team.
A few days later the mercs have recovered enough to crush all remaining enemy forces and Alma is once again under their control, but the population have lost faith in them and refuse to provide any cannon fodd- I mean, brave volunteers for the militia ranks, which means I’m going to lose it again as soon as the merc squad moves on to a location. I need some victories, and I need them quickly.
Which means I’m going to Cambria far sooner than I anticipated. Hey ho.