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Mercenary Ticket – Hammer & Anvil

This article originally appeared in issue #004 of the downloadable PDF magazine. It was inadvertently pulled out of our archives and edited into this form in the December 2014 issue without acknowledgement of the prior printing.

Singer (D553774-6 Na 17) is a small, relatively backward non-Imperial world in District 268 of the Spinward Marches. Habitation on the parched world is concentrated around the aptly named Sickle Sea that sweeps north-to-south across two-thirds of the planet. Over the centuries, Singer had developed a balkanized planetary map with over a dozen nations centred on the bays and peninsulas of the Sickle Sea and the various lakes to the west. Two major powers, Crella and Malmi Kolma, currently contest control of the world with smaller nations involved in shifting alliances and competition.

Harzeg, one of the smaller nations aligned with Malmi Kolma, has been sponsoring a guerrilla force that is waging an insurgency war in neighbouring Nejd (itself aligned with Crella). The insurgents are relying on safe havens in Harzeg, notably in the mountain-rimmed Totterdell Valley, a finger of Harzegian territory that extends into Nejd.

The rulers of Nejd have had enough of the endless insurgency and seek to terminate it permanently with a lightning strike on the Totterdell Valley. Their plan is to deploy a mercenary commando force to seize Fort Vendarth, which guards the entrance to the pass through the mountains at the end of the Valley most distant from Nejd. With the route out of the valley blocked, main force Nejdian units will then advance up the valley, crushing insurgent and regular Harzegian units in their path, until they reach Fort Vendarth and declare victory.

The rulers of Nejd (with financial assistance from Crella) are advertising for a reinforced platoon/company strength light infantry commando force to execute the Fort Vendarth operation. They offer triple standard salaries for the estimated one week operation, with a MCr2.5 success-only bonus. Transport to Singer for personnel and man-portable weapons will be provided. Nejdian helicopters will transport the commando unit into the valley at the start of the operation. Nejdian and Crellan aircraft should maintain air superiority over the Totterdell Valley for the duration of the operation.

Referee’s Information

Fort Vendarth is situated in the foothills of the Sligo Mountains about 50km from the Harzeg-Nejd border. The fort is located on a bluff overlooking the highway as it begins to wind up into the pass through the mountains. The fort itself is a classic square adobe brick walled compound with towers at each of the four corners and a wooden main gate. There are several small buildings and three bunkers inside the walls of the fort, one bunker aligned so as to cover the gate. Outside the fort, a shallow (and dry) moat has been dug with barbed wire strung along its edge. A wooden bridge crosses the moat, carrying a dirt road that winds down from the fort to the highway. 300 metres away (and 100m below in elevation) a checkpoint has been constructed beside the highway, with sandbagged entrenchments.

The fort is held by a ragtag force of Harzegian paramilitaries and insurgents of about platoon strength (30-50 personnel). They have light machine guns emplaced in each of the bunkers inside the fort. The watch towers of the fort are equipped with powerful white-light searchlights and automatic rifles. The occupants, however, are not expecting trouble and are fairly lazy about security. Surprise should not be a problem if the mercenaries plan correctly.

The surrounding terrain is scrub in the typical Singer pattern, with barren rocky soil and thorn bushes. Low, stunted trees are few and far between.

On arrival on Singer, the mercenaries will be briefed that Nejd can only spare three large helicopters to fly them into Harzeg. Moreover, because the helicopters are a precious asset for the small Nejdian defence force, the mercenaries are only allowed to risk one helicopter in the assault on the fort itself. The other two helicopters are restricted to dropping off the mercenaries some kilometres away from the fort. Fortunately, Crella has supplied night vision goggles for the aircrew, and so they are ready for a night insertion if the mercenaries choose this option.

The mission will consist of two parts: the initial assault on the fort; and subsequently holding it against retreating Harzegian troops and insurgents until relief arrives from Nejd. Once the fort is taken by the mercenaries, a sweep of the compound will uncover a cache of Skyhawk anti-aircraft missiles. As the Nejdian helicopter crews become aware of this, they will pull out, citing the risk to their valuable machines. The mercenaries will be on their own.

The referee should roll 3D6 each day for the rate of advance in kilometres of the relief force (noting that they have to cover 50km to reach the fort, although they will be able to offer artillery support sooner). Initially, traffic on the highway will be routine (the referee could employ the standard encounter tables from the edition of Traveller being used). Once the Nejdian offensive gets well underway, and word filters out that the fort has fallen to the mercenaries, things will become more hostile, with the referee beginning to gradually increase the pressure on the mercenaries through more military units retreating up the highway towards the mountain pass.

The referee should try to balance the capability of the retreating forces to that of the mercenaries so as to create tension but not immediately overwhelm them. Harzegian troops are equipped to only TL6, and the insurgents will be less well-equipped if anything. Artillery and armoured vehicles should be limited (Nejdian air strikes will target them). Remember that they are a retreating army, fleeing ahead of the surprise Nejdian offensive. The pressure on the mercenaries should gradually increase (perhaps combined with worries about dwindling ammunition stocks) until a climax just before the Nejdian relief force arrives.