Aden Subatai stood before the Admiral’s door, hands clenched behind his back.
To either side, marines dressed in half battle-armour stood sentinel, their
mirrored faceplates revealing nothing. A light blinked from red to green and
the door slid open with a soft, metallic rasp. Glancing at the marines, Aden
The Admiral sat behind a polished ebony
desk that dominated the small stateroom. He gestured to an empty seat.
‘Commander Subatai, it is rare that any of
my ship captains request a physical meeting. I trust that everything is well
with your command?’
Aden met the Admiral’s gaze as he took his
‘Yes, sir. The Falcata has weathered the journey well, and crew morale is high.’
‘Good. Then what brings you across?’
‘It’s Helos, sir,’ replied Aden.
‘Helos,’ repeated the Admiral with a
frown. He tapped lightly on the top of his desk, and a holographic image of a
planet sprang to life between the two men. The image rotated slowly, showing a
grey-green world, key data displayed around it.
‘A dead world,’ said the Admiral. ‘Overrun
with bugs. Scheduled for atmospheric burn-off in three months.’
‘With respect, sir, before the invasion, Helos
had a population of nearly 7 billion. Our data estimates that even in a worst
case scenario, there could be as many as 7,000 people still alive…’
‘Commander. How many planets have we lost
in this war?’ This time, Aden said nothing. ‘In three months, the casualty rate
will be 100%. I can’t divert this fleet in order to save a few lives that mean
nothing to the war effort.’
‘Of course not, sir. But one ship. A fast
ship, like the Falcata, could divert
to Helos, pick up as many survivors as could be found, and then rendezvous with
the fleet before it has completed its refit.’
The Admiral sat back slightly in his chair
and looked up at the planet. ‘Commander, there are nearly 30 billion bugs down
there. I cannot order men to go into battle against those kind of odds.’
‘Sir, the people still on Helos must be
living in a nightmare. Desperate. Under siege. Likely starving. They know that
no help is coming. They know they have been abandoned.’
The Admiral winced at Aden’s choice of
words. ‘Let me give them one last hope, sir.’
Admiral tapped his desk again, and the image of Helos disappeared. He looked
directly into the eyes of his commander.
‘Volunteers only. One hundred men, if you
can find them. I’ll send a fast transport with you to carry any survivors you
find. And you will be back with the fleet at the end of three months.’
‘You’ve got a lot of work to do,
By the end of the day, Commander Subatai
had received more than 3,000 requests from soldiers and marines to join the
mission that was already being called Operation Last Train.
What is Operation Last Train?
Operation Last Train is a game, an
excuse, and a chance to translate wargaming into some real-world good. Let’s
start with the excuse.
I love science-fiction soldier miniatures and
need only the slightest excuse to buy them. I’m not one for painting armies,
however. It just seems like such a shame, with the huge variety of
science-fiction soldiers available, including numerous conversion bits, to
paint up a hundred or more soldiers all essentially wearing the same uniform. I
would rather collect my soldiers individually and feel free to customize and
equip them in any manner I choose. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well with
most missions that science-fiction troopers would be assigned. So, I came up
with Operation Last Train, a mission carried
out solely by volunteers drawn from numerous different regiments, each with its
own uniform, equipment, and traditions. This is my excuse to make and collect
all the soldiers I want, and not worry about why they are all thrown together
for one mission.
Of course, if I’m going to play with these
figures, I need a game. For that reason, I have designed a very simple set of
rules, in which you build up your roster of volunteers, select a small handful
for each drop, and then play out the mission on the tabletop. Because usually only
six men are needed for each drop, I can thankfully start playing as I am
assembling my forces, and don’t have to wait until I’ve painted all 100
volunteers! I have designed the game so that it can be played either solo or
cooperatively with two people, but it wouldn’t be hard to expand the number of
players if desired.
This is going to be an ‘iron man’-style
miniatures game. Once a figure is killed during a drop, it is out and cannot be
used again. It will be immortalized in my hall of heroes (and can, of course,
be used in other games), but this is a desperate mission and the casualties
Wargaming is a strange hobby. We have fun
recreating on the tabletop something that in reality is horrific, terrible, and
tragic. I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with this – in fact, I
believe that my studies into military history that have gone along with my
wargaming have made me more conscious of the true cost and horror of war. On
occasion, however, I am made to feel a bit guilty about the hobby and its
connection to death and cruelty. So, I decided that I would use my hobby to
support the people that are doing their best to end, or at least mitigate,
those horrors. For that reason, I am asking everyone who downloads, reads, and
enjoys these rules to please donate £3 / $5 (the cost of a nice cup of coffee)
to Save the Children via my JustGiving page here. You can download these rules in an easy-to-read PDF document here. And get a copy of the Roster Sheet here. Information of the work by Save the Children can be found here.
Furthermore, whenever I play a game of Operation Last Train, I plan to donate 10 cents for each civilian my
band of heroes saves from the doomed planet. That way, my little toy heroes are
really helping to do some good. I admit that it is a bit silly to connect the
actions of toy soldiers on a table to helping to save and improve the lives of children
in the real world, but, as living in Britain has taught me, doing silly things
in aid of a good cause is a noble endeavour.
Operation Last Train is a personal
project, and I plan to have fun and donate a little money whatever happens, but
if anyone wants to join me, I wouldn’t mind the company. Just remember, this
mission is for volunteers only. (I have also set up a FaceBook page where
anyone who wants can join in, show off some figures, talk drops, and see if we
can raise a little money).
So, go ahead and download the rules if you
want. At the moment, it only contains one scenario, but I will be posting more here on the blog as and when I write them!