Doctor Who Project: Planet of the Spiders

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Never mind the dratted coffee. What about the spiders?

Though much of Doctor Who‘s eleventh season feels somewhat rote, ticking off the boxes and moving the plots along, never let it be said that the production team skimps on finales. For the Third Doctor’s final story, “Planet of the Spiders” (Story Production Code ZZZ), Robert Sloman, who scripted, in whole or in part, three prior season-ending stories (“The Daemons,” “The Time Monster,” and “The Green Death“) ably assumes the writing duties. While the Doctor’s co-stars here mostly take the form of dodgy arachnoid puppets (and their human puppets), Sloman nevertheless delivers another character-driven piece, focusing on meditation, the Doctor’s greed, and the, ah, transmigration of souls.

The Wheel of Becoming. And also spiders.

The titular arachnoids have conquered the titular planet via exposure to the mind-enhancing Metebelian crystals first introduced in Sloman’s last tale. Though tempting to suggest that the spider’s planet, Metebelis 3 (mentioned as far back as “Carnival of Monsters“), and the blue crystals found there were deliberately planted as plot seeds a year prior, more likely the crystal served as a convenient hook for the story on offer here. (Indeed, the implication that the Doctor was aware of the crystals’ ability to amplify intelligence and thus chose to give one to Jo Grant as a wedding present does not bear contemplation.)

The one last perfect crystal of power

By elaborate narrative happenstance, Jo sends the crystal back from the Amazon, where she and Professor Jones are mushroom hunting, to the Doctor at the very moment that the Metebelian spiders, far in the future, have found a gateway through time and space to contemporary Earth that has been opened by power-hungry novice meditators in a Tibetan lamasery recently opened near UNIT HQ. It’s just one of those coincidences. The Great One, eldest and most powerful of the eight-legs (as they prefer to be called), requires the perfect crystal to complete a powerful crystalline web-circuit that will give her the ability to shape the universe. In his confrontation with the Great One, the Doctor must confront fear, as well as the knowledge that he has brought all of this upon the universe—and upon himself.

(Fair warning: pictures of animatronic spiders, plus a non-animatronic hovercraft, after the break.)
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Table for One: Revolt in the East (SPI/S&T) After-Action Report Part Two

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Revolt in the East (SPI/Strategy & Tactics 56, 1976)
Standard Scenario After-Action Report
Part Two: Turns Seven through Twelve

Overview

Please see Part One of the Revolt in the East AAR for a detailed breakdown of the first half of the scenario.

The Soviet Union currently holds fifteen of the twenty-one victory cities, leaving six for the Warsaw Pact/NATO side. With only a simple majority needed for victory, the WP/NATO side has quite a bit of work to do, but their faster unit replacement rate should help even the odds a bit. The map currently favors the WP/NATO side as well, with the Soviets spread out all over; if the Soviets can consolidate these disparate forces, however, they should be able to hold their current gains.

(Combat results are EX—Exchange; DE—Defender Eliminated; DR—Defender Retreat; AR—Attacker Retreat. Phases with no significant action omitted.)

Turn 7

WP/NATO Reinforcement Phase:

A well-armed West German corps re-enters after absorbing replacement troops and materiel.

WP/NATO Movement Phase:

With all Soviet troops evicted from East Germany, NATO forces may spread out as they wish. The Turks and Greeks stream into Bulgaria, in an odd reversal of the Balkan wars at the beginning of the century, and fortify Sofia and Plovdiv. The considerable mass of troops in East Germany heads south and east, hoping to secure Poland up to the Vistula and Czechoslovakia down to the Danube. Overextending could be costly, as Soviet armies destroyed the last several turns have been reconstituting themselves, albeit more slowly than their NATO counterparts.

Revolt in the East, Turn 7, NATO Breakout from East Germany

WP/NATO Combat Phase:

The rampage of the Boleslav Army comes to a close, as five NATO corps, supported by the largest air armada yet seen in this conflict, surrounds the battle-tested warriors. [25 attack strength against 3 defense strength for max 7:1 odds. Combat dr=4 for DE.] The US 7th Corps has the honor of marching into a liberated Prague.
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Doctor Who Project: The Monster of Peladon

Doctor Who Project: The Monster of Peladon
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Didn’t I tell you about my first visit to Peladon?

While monsters and villains have often made encore showings on Doctor Who, the series’ first return to a particular planet—well, one not named Earth or Skaro, at any rate—only comes in Brian Hayles’ “The Monster of Peladon” (Story Production Code YYY), reprising his “The Curse of Peladon” from Season Nine. Hayles took more than just a setting, though; he also carried over the essential plot of his earlier tale, right down to an alien scheme co-opting old Aggedor, the god-beast worshipped by the Peladonians, to acquire the feudal society’s minerals.

Behold, Aggedor!

The original story stands out mostly for Hayles’ ingenious decision to recast his fearsome Ice Warriors as upstanding, honor-bound members of the galactic Federation, causing much consternation on the part of the Third Doctor, who has all his frankly shoddy detective work undone by their sudden bout of pacifism. Here, the Martian menaces aren’t on hand to help vouch for the Doctor after he re-appears on Peladon some fifty years after his first visit. Luckily for the Doctor, who once again is accused of rank blasphemy for entering the Temple of Aggedor (using the same secret tunnels and doors from five decades prior), the lovable mono-eyed green hexapod Alpha Centauri does show up just in time to recognize his old friend.

Vega Nexos, Alpha Centauri, and Earth-y Eckersley

Along with Alpha Centauri (who hails from, um, Alpha Centauri) are the Earth engineer Eckersley and the Vegan mining specialist Vega Nexos, all overseeing the exploitation of Peladon’s precious trisilicate deposits; the mineral, used extensively in Federation technology, must be procured in great quantities to assist the Federation’s war effort against the fearsome foes of Galaxy Five (not to be confused with those from Galaxy Four). The constant, and deadly, reappearance of the “spirit” of Aggedor riles up the miners, who, no better treated now than fifty years prior, rebel against Federation influence.

Where before the young king of Peladon fought against the influence of his High Priest, who was being tricked by a Federation envoy into driving away the Federation—the better to allow the envoy’s own planet, Arcturus, to claim Peladon’s rock-bound riches—here, the young queen of Peladon fights against the influence of her Chancellor, who is being tricked by a Federation envoy into attacking the rebelling miners—the better to allow the envoy to traitorously sell the trisilicate to Galaxy Five.

But just to spice things up ever so slightly (and to fill out six long episodes), the traitor this time turns out to be…oh, you’ve probably already guessed.

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Table for One: Revolt in the East (SPI/S&T) After-Action Report Part One

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Revolt in the East (SPI/Strategy & Tactics 56, 1976)
Standard Scenario After-Action Report
Part One: Turns One through Six

Overview

The Standard Scenario in SPI’s Revolt in the East lasts for twelve turns, each of a week’s duration. The entire map is in play.

Victory is premised on control of cities in Warsaw Pact nations, as well as those in otherwise neutral countries (Albania, Austria, Yugoslavia) that are invaded during the course of the game. With twenty-one cities in the Warsaw Pact countries, draws are impossible barring neutral invasion; a simple majority wins. Control does not require lines of communication.

Initial Thoughts

For the Warsaw Pact/NATO player, the key seems to be in tying down Soviet units. With incredibly sticky Zones of Control, a single WP or NATO corps can tie down as many Soviet armies as can be moved adjacent to; though the Soviet units will certainly retaliate, since ZoCs cannot be exited, they’ve been held up for a crucial turn. An edge in airpower will also allow NATO forces to punch above their weight. Additionally, keeping cities garrisoned where possible will increase the chances of the Soviets needing to take more than one turn of combat to suppress the city—only Defender Eliminated (DE) results will suppress a city, so a single odds column shift on the CRT can make a huge difference.

For the Soviet player, speed is of the essence. Revolts need to be put down decisively to keep the number of cities in revolt low; the longer NATO intervention, keyed to a die roll linked to cities in revolt, can be delayed, the better the chance of victory. Defeat in detail should be the order of the day. The airborne units need to be reserved for cutting off NATO unit supply lines; throwing them away taking a city should be avoided unless they’re needed to tip an odds column to the next higher level.

(Combat results are EX—Exchange; DE—Defender Eliminated; DR—Defender Retreat; AR—Attacker Retreat. Phases with no significant action omitted.)

Turn 1

Revolt Phase:

Revolt in the East, Turn 1, Poland revolts

Poland revolts. Possessed with the most formidable of the Warsaw Pact armies, and with the most cities to control, Poland represents a difficult challenge right off the bat for the Soviets.

WP/NATO Movement Phase:

NATO units remain immobile until East Germany falls into revolt and intervention has been triggered. So for now, the Poles are on their own. The Polish 4th Army, on the Oder, prepares to attack the adjacent Soviet 5th Army, while all other Polish units move to fortify cities.

WP/NATO Combat Phase:

In a blow for freedom, the Polish 4th Army attacks Soviet 4th Army. [Attack strength of 5 against defense strength of 5 for 1:1 odds. Combat dr=6 for AR.] The Poles retreat towards Wrocław, beaten but unbowed.
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Table for One: Revolt in the East (SPI/S&T) Review

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Many a wargame exists on hypothetical NATO/Warsaw Pact conflicts after the Second World War. Fewer still exist—possibly just one—on a joint NATO and Warsaw Pact conflict against the Soviet Union in that same time period.

Using the freedom afforded by the need to stick a complete game in a magazine every two months, SPI delivered a decidedly fresh take on the Cold War in James F. Dunnigan’s Revolt in the East, postulating a potential NATO intervention in an uprising spreading throughout disaffected Warsaw Pact member nations. Simple in design and streamlined in execution, Revolt in the East manages to provide an engaging game on a decidedly undergamed topic, even if the constraints of the basic SPI game “chassis” get occasionally in the way.

Overview

Revolt in the East: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970s
Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI), 1976
Strategy & Tactics 56
Designed by James F. Dunnigan

Revolt in the East, Cover image

Revolt in the East saw life as a “folio” sized game included in one of SPI’s house magazines, Strategy & Tactics, Issue 56 (May/June 1976). Coming in at an even hundred half-inch mounted counters, matte printed on the front only, and with a simple four-panel matte printed map measuring 22″ x 16″, the folio format severely limited the design space available—and probably helped drive many game development decisions. Other than lacking sufficient informational/mnemonic markers for tracking which Warsaw Pact cities are in revolt, however, the game doesn’t seem to have suffered from the physical restraints imposed upon it.

The counters feature typical Redmond Simonsen discipline, using generic “army man” figures for ground combat units (each representing an army or corps) and top-down aircraft silhouettes (F-4 for NATO, MiG-25 for the Soviet Union). Specific unit designations are provided, with the only other numbers on the counter a combat strength and, for air and airborne units, a range. The color registration on my copy leaves a fair bit to be desired, with about an sixteenth of an inch of offset color on several of the Warsaw Pact and Neutral nation counters. (I suppose it’s too late to write to SPI for replacements…)

Revolt in the East,  Situation in Bulgaria

The accompanying article on the game in Strategy & Tactics goes into detail about the locations of the various units in play, but in practice, the game does set too great a store on which unit sets up in which hex so long as it has the proper nationality and combat strength.

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Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Game) After-Action Report Part Three

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End of Empire (Compass Games, 2014)
American Revolutionary War Campaign Report (1775 Start)
Part Three: Turns Thirteen through Seventeen (Spring 1777 to Winter I 1777)

Overview

Please see Part One and Part Two of the Campaign Report for a detailed breakdown of Turns One through Six and Turns Seven through Twelve, respectively, in my playthrough of the American Revolutionary War campaign in Compass GamesEnd of Empire.

The British start in control of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with the remaining colonies faithful to the American flag. Howe’s forces in and around New York City remain quite formidable, though they are harried by Washington at every turn.

The Americans have eliminated only 7 of the 20 British Regular steps needed to convince the French to intervene. The attritional strategy thus far has not brought about sufficient losses, but the Americans can see little way forward otherwise. Washington’s considerable army seems more like a fire brigade than a spearhead, having to blunt British conflagrations wherever they spark into being. There are too many ports to guard against naval predations, and the fear remains that the British will scoop up enough of them to shake the fledgling economy, sending the fragile American army home, unpaid and demoralized. But if the Americans can weather the storm, surely they will gain the initiative, as British losses can but mount.

(Leader ratings given as combat modifier/rank/initiative. Combat results are attacker losses/defender losses. Phases with no significant actions are omitted.)


Turn 13 (Spring, 1777)

Naval Phase:

The British fleet sails north along the coast, taking position in the Gulf of Maine.

Reinforcements:

Howe [1/5/4] sees seven regiments of Loyalist and Provincial troops raised in New York City, with citizens in Georgia and South Carolina also rallying to the crown.

Their enthusiasm cannot match that of the Americans, however, who bring seven regiments into being in Philadelphia alone, with five appearing in Boston and a score more throughout the colonies. Also entering, a namesake of, if not match for, Howe in Howe (Am) [0/14/3].

End of Empire, Turn 13, Howe vs. Howe

End of Empire, Turn 13, Howe vs. Howe

The Spring recruitments refill the ranks of both American and Loyalist/Provincial troops, with supplies captured from Nova Scotia in 1776 going to re-arm the 1st New Jersey Regiment, whose homes are invested by Riedesel [1/12/2]. Ominously, though, British conquests prevent the replacement of thirteen regiments, a hefty sum indeed.

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