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Victims of the Webmind: A Killer Variant for Olympica

"you will be absorbed!"

By Walter O'Hara

copyright 1998, Walter O'Hara

Anyone who bothers to ask me will get an earful about why I enjoy the game Olympica (Metagaming, 1978).  Olympica (aka "Oly") adapts well to PBeM play, features a simple tactical situation of attacking a prepared position, and an easy to understand "capture the flag" victory condition.   Still... Oly suffers from a few problems in my oh-so-humble opinion.  For one thing, I think the game does not make sufficient use of the SF setting that designer Lynn Willis created for it.  The other, and more grievous problem with Oly is that the game favors the UN by a wide margin.  I've pulled off a few Webbie victories from time to time, but the balance seems skewed in favor of the UN player.  This seems natural, given the SF setting that Willis came up with.  The Webbies are light troops, unarmored, who practice a form of "group mind" takeover to turn them into automatons-- their strengths lay in their laser towers and the tunnel system that they have set up on Mars.   The UN, by contrast, has heavier troops, an "elite" light infantry and laser tanks. To receive 2-1 odds in an attack vs. 1 Webbie light infantry unit (and these are not the best odds by a long shot), the UN Player needs only to commit 2 infantry to an attack.  Flip that coin over, and the Webbies need to commit 3 Web Light Infantrymen units to get 2-1 odds on a single UN Heavy Infantry unit.  That's acceptable, I suppose, given the setting that Willis concocted... but it makes for a long slog as the Web player.

Hidden Initial Placement and the capability to regenerate reinforcements compensates for this inequality on the ground for the Web player, but only somewhat.  When reinforcements come into play, they are usually located too far away (on the East or West map edge) to do anything but run pell-mell towards the sound of the guns... usually too late to help. 

So, I was going to accept this skewed tactical situation with Zen-like calm, realizing that the Webbie's lot in life is perforce a hard one.  As I was reading the preamble to the rules the other night (hey, it's a long train ride, okay?), I noticed something interesting.  The Webbie milieu piece on the inside of the cover indicates that the Web is a near sentient, xenophobic, paranoid "group mind" that controls 2 million people-- not unlike the Borg Collective popularized by Star Trek.    Though the preamble doesn't explicitly state it, there appears to be a process of sublimating human will that accompanies becoming a Webbie.  Think of it in terms of becoming assimilated in Borg terms.  So that got me to thinking, what if becoming a Webbie can happen fairly quickly? In the same space of time, as, say, a human becoming "assimilated" into the Borg collective?   So that got me to thinking that maybe units on a battlefield can become "converted" to the Webbie cause, albeit under a certain set of conditions.  So, without further ado, here is the Victims of the Webmind Variant.

Introduction

Victims of the Webmind is a variant for the Metagaming title Olympica (copyright, Metagaming, Inc. 1978).  This variant is not officially sanctioned by Metagaming or its inheritors and is presented for the amusement of players only.   Victims of the Webmind explores the tactical situation of converting UN pieces to Webbie pieces on the battlefield, under certain conditions. 

What is needed to play

Players of this variant will need a standard Olympica game, plus the new counters displayed in the GIF file below.  It is advised that players print the counters in color to distinguish them from regular white UN counters.

Converted UN units for Olympica 

Fig. 1: Converted UN Countersheet

Save to your PC, Print in color and mount on cardstock

The game sequence of the standard Olympica game requires some alteration.   Here is the amended sequence.

Phase Description
I. Web Player Turn
A. Compulsion Phase Compel 1 UN unit to move up to three hexes
B. Tunnel Phase Place available tunnels as desired
C. Reinforcement Phase Enter up to 4 previously eliminated Web Inf. units
D. Movement Phase Move Units, Resolve Close Assaults, Check for Conversion
E. Ranged Combat Phase Resolve Ranged Attacks
F. DUST Removal Phase Remove DUST counters from Web Counters, Replace UN units eliminated in Close Assault that converted on board
II. UN Player Turn
Drop Phase Make Drops with available units
Movement Phase Move Units, resolve Close Assaults
Ranged Combat Phase Resolve Ranged Attacks
DUST Removal Phase Remove DUST counters, Deprogramming Attempt
Second Movement Phase Move Light Infantry another movement and resolve Close Assaults
III. Advance the Turn Marker.

Table 1: Advanced Play Sequence

In general, play Olympica as you would normally.  However, each time a Close Assault occurs, whether initiated by the UN or the Web player, and the UN loses the assault, the Web Player rolls for conversion of the losing unit.

CONVERSION PROCEDURE

There are three types of conversion in this variant: versus Infantry, versus Armor, and versus Lifters.  The BOAR cannot be converted.

Converting Infantry Units.  If the UN Player or Web player conducts a close assault involving UN Infantry (light or heavy), and the UN Player fails in the Assault (which is defined as getting a DE result only for our purposes), the Web Player has the option to attempt to convert the loser into a Web infantry unit instead of removing the UN unit from play.  The following prerequisites must be met in order for the attempt to be made:

Table 2: Infantry Conversion Modifiers

If the resulting roll is higher for the Web Player, the UN unit is converted.  If it is higher for the UN player, the unit is eliminated normally.

If a UN unit gets converted (use for both Tanks, Infantry and Lifters)

The UN Player's marker is removed from the board, and a light blue (implying a converted unit), is placed in any hex adjacent  to the Web unit that won the Close Assault.  The unit is place during the Dust Removal Phase.

The Converted piece now functions at the same strength and abilities as it did for the UN, only is now considered a Webbie unit.  There are some limitations to the new unit, however:

Converting Laser Tanks.  Close Assaulting Laser Tanks can be bad for your health, but there is a chance, albeit a slim one, that a web infantry unit can pull off converting a tank if the right conditions are met.

The procedure for Converting Tanks is similar to the infantry conversion process.  The first prerequisite condition, of course, is that a Web Light Inf. unit assaulted a UN Laser Tank and won.  For the purposes of this variant, however, "victory" in the case of close action vs. Laser Tanks should be interpreted as either a DE or EX condition, not just DE.   The tank must also meet the same prerequisites for conversion as infantry do, although the conversion roll is different:

Conversion Challenged Roll Procedure: The Laser Tank rolls 1d6 and adds 6 for the conversion attempt.  The Web unit rolls 1d6 and adds 4.  If the Tank wins, the unit is eliminated.  If the Infantry unit wins, the Tank becomes a Web unit.  If the Web Unit loses the Conversion attempt (above and beyond the Close Assault), then the Web Unit is also eliminated.

Converted Laser Tanks are subject to the same terrain restrictions (no cliffs, incline slows movement, etc.) that the UN Laser Tanks are. 

Converting Lifters.  Lifters are considered to have little if any crew.  If a Web Unit indulges in a Close Assault with a lifter and is victorious (under the standard definition of close assault, section 11.0 in the rule book), then there is no requirement for conversion.  The Web player rolls on the damage table (Table 3) to see if the Lifter is still intact.  If the Lifter survived Close Assault without significant damage, the Web Player removes the white UN Lifter counter and replaces it with a pale blue converted counter.  Note that this process is more properly entitled "Capturing Lifters for Web Use" rather than "Converting" them.

Damage Roll for Lifters
1-4 Minimal Damage, can be used by Capturing Player
5-6 Totalled by Close Combat

Table 3: Damage Roll for Lifters Table

Deprogramming Attempts

Once per game, per converted piece, the UN player may attempt to "snap 'em out of it," and deprogram the converted UN unit during his Dust Removal Phase.   To accomplish this, the UN player must have 1 active UN infantry unit adjacent to the converted unit (motionless, for the entire turn), and roll on the the Deprogramming Table:

Converted Unit UN Modifier Web Modifier
UN Laser Tanks -2 +1
UN Heavy Infantry -1 +1
UN Light Infantry -1 +1

Table 4: Deprogramming Modifiers

The UN player makes an opposed die roll, as before.   Both players roll 1d6 and add the modifiers listed in Table 4.  If the UN unit wins, the old white UN unit is placed back on the table as before (i.e., the unit resurrects in its old UN capacity).   If the Web unit wins, then the unit stays converted until the end of the game, or until the unit is eliminated, whichever occurs first.

Deprogramming Lifters is simply a matter of recapturing them in close assault and making the damage roll.

Conversion Fury and Attacking Old Comrades

Deprogrammed units feel a natural revulsion for having been under the spell of the web.   This phenomenon is called "conversion fury," and lasts 1 turn.  All UN units that have conversion fury may attack at double strength for the turn immediately following being reprogrammed.

In a similar vein, each UN unit feel a strong disinclination to fire on their old comrades, and suffer a firing penalty for shooting at Converted units until such time as those units shoot back.  UN units firing on converted units suffer a half fire strength penalty until fired upon by a converted unit.  Once combat has been engaged, any UN unit within the Zone of Control (surrounding six hexes) of a Web Unit that has fired upon a UN unit may now fire at normal strength.

Conclusion

I sincerely hope this Oly variant increases the depth of your play.  I find that it gives the Web player a bit more of an edge, but doesn't tip the scales too much his direction.  If your experience is different, please let me know about it.

Walt

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