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Dirtside II conversions for Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (by Karl Johnson)


I’ve always wanted to game actions between the Mobile Infantry and the Bugs on a tabletop with minis (the AH board game is good, but dated - and is, after all, only a board game). After (finally) getting a copy of DSII, I found that, with a few modifications, this is the perfect game format for those battles of classic SF literature (the scale is perfect - Stargrunt II is a little too small in scope to capture the mobility and/or size of the battles).

NOTE: These rules have absolutely nothing in common with the _MOTION PICTURE_ released in 1997 erroneously entitled ‘Starship Troopers’.

Part 1 - The Mobile Infantry

Part 2 - The Bugs

Part 3 - Scenario Parameters

A Note on Forces

Part 1 - The Mobile Infantry

Each combat unit will have five elements that comprise one squad; each element represents one trooper in one of two types of powered armor suit:


A. Combat Suit - four per squad:

Armor 3; 1 x HEL/2, 1 x DFFG/2, Superior Fire Control, Enhanced GMS/L, 1 x APSW, 1 x APFC, 1 x Enhanced PDS, Enhanced ECM, FGP powerpack (BPV=234).

B. Command Suit - one per squad:

Armor 3; 1 x HEL/2, Superior Fire Control, Superior GMS/L, 1 x APSW, 1 x APFC, 1 x Superior PDS, Superior ECM, Command/Communications system, FGP powerpack (BPV=365).


Special Rules on Suits:

1. All MI suits have an effective signature of one (even though they are costed/built as larger vehicles; no costs were paid for the inherent level 2 or 3 stealth).

2. All MI suits move as if they were Powered Armor troops, but with a basic speed of 10 (costed at 40% of BVP).

3. All weapons are considered to have a Restricted Traverse Turret firing arc (weapons were allocated space as if FM).


Using the MI in Combat:

1. All MI units will be either Regular or Veteran, and start all Combat Drops as Confident.

2. Confidence Level effects are as for dismounted infantry.

3. When the scenario is defined as a Combat Drop, use the Drop Troops rule on p. 48, but drop one marker for each element, not each unit (drop 5 same-colored markers for each unit into one general area, using a different color for each unit). If a unit suffers casualties from the drop, make an immediate confidence test (threat level +1). Engineers may enter play via Drop; their vehicles may not.

4. Unit Integrity distance is 4" between elements.

5. All MI suits have Nuclear Battlefield Capability (NBC), and side/rear armor factors are not reduced by one.

6. When the scenario is defined as a Bug Hunt, one Command Suit for each three in play may have its GMS/L replaced with a special Tactical Nuke pack that contains two nukes, and increases the BPV of the element by 1,000 points. These nukes are fired as if from artillery, and have a Beaten Zone of: Inner - 1.5"; Middle - 4"; Outer - 6". No MI troopers need take a confidence test when these weapons are used.

7. Any Command Suit may act as a spotter for Artillery (Tac Nukes) or Ortillery.

8. The MI player may also use Combat Engineer (infantry) units; these are costed normally (50 points each element) and may (only) be used for Demolitions and Firefighting duties.They are considered Powered Armor Troops for movement and hit purposes, and can be transported by a basic troop transport:

Size 2, armor 2, 1 x APSW, 1 x Basic PDS, HMT power, Fast GEV (BPV=59).

9. MI Powered Armor Suits are treated in all other respects as vehicles.

Part 2 - The Bugs

The Bugs come in three basic varieties (with some variations), and each element represents one bug. Bug units will contain at least five but no more than 20 elements.



Worker Bugs have no fire combat abilities whatsoever; they are used by the Brains (see later section) as decoys (and/or to impede the MI’s movement) since they are nearly indistinguishable from the Warrior Bugs (until those happen to fire...). At least 60% but no more than 80% of the elements in a Bug unit will be workers (BPV=15).



Warrior Bugs come in two types - Armed or Unarmed. 20%-40% of the elements in a Bug unit will be Warriors (of any type):

Unarmed: Not really unarmed, but not as well armed as their compatriots. Each Unarmed Warrior element acts an Infantry team armed with only an IAVRS with a maximum range of 8" (not 4"), and may Close Assault non-Suited MI’s (e.g., regular infantry teams) as if they were Assault teams (BPV=40).

Armed: Each Armed Warrior element has 1 x HEL/3, Enhanced Fire Control, FGP, 1 x APSW (BPV=152).



Brain Bugs are special single-element command units that are unarmed, immobile, and capable of commanding from four to six units (see special Brain rules) (BPV=250).


Special Rules for Worker and Warrior Bugs:

1. Armor Value of 2; Vehicle Signature of 2; movement abilities as Line Infantry with a Basic Movement of 8". Unit Integrity distance for all Bug units is 2". Armor Factor is not reduced for side/rear shots. Treated as Vehicles in all other respects.

2. Bug units are never required to take Confidence tests (and, consequently, need no Confidence Level marker).

3. The actual type of Bug represented by a model need not be revealed until it undertakes an action that would distinguish it from a different type of Bug.


Special Rules for Worker Bugs:

1. Any worker Bug coming into contact with an MI Suit or Infantry Team forces the contacted element to move as if it were moving in restricted terrain for its entire movement. Any Warrior element targeting a unit that has been so contacted may fire as if it had a Superior Fire Control at that enemy element only for the duration of the contact.

2. Worker bugs are allowed to Tunnel at the rate of 1/2" per turn per element tunneling; all Worker elements of a unit must tunnel in the same direction (but not all need be used to tunnel). See the Bug Hole and Tunnel rules for more information.


Special Rules for Brain Bugs:

1. Every on-board Bug unit will be under the direct control of one Brain (assign units to Brains prior to beginning play), and each Brain may be assigned at least four but no more than six units to control.

2. Brains are immobile, but may be transported by a Worker Bug at the Worker’s normal movement rate.

3. In all but Bug Hunt and Counterassault scenarios, Brains may be set up off-map (and thus immune to casualties/losses). On-map Brains are always marked with an Objective Marker; the marker is worth double points to the MI player if the Brain is Captured.

4. Brains may be captured by the MI player by moving into contact with the Brain and the player stating that he is transporting the Brain. The Brain Bug is Captured by having the transporting Suit element move off the friendly board edge.

5. In scenarios with more than one Brain on-map, the Bug player may fire on a Brain he deems is in risk of being (or has been) captured; the Bug player receives no Objective points from a killed Brain.

6. The MI player receives normal Objective points for killing a Brain (not just taking its position).

7. Each turn, a Brain may direct the fire of one unit under its control; all elements in the unit fire as if they had a Superior Fire Control for that turn’s activation only.

8. Should a Brain Bug be killed or successfully Captured, all units under its command are transferred to another Brain’s command. If this puts the number of units it controls in excess of 6, all units under its command must take a Reaction Test when they wish to move or initiate a Close Assault (only).

9. Should all Brain Bugs be killed or Captured, all Bug elements operate as if they were damaged (they are not marked as being damaged; they just function that way) and have their Fire Control reduced to Basic.


Bug Tunnels

In all scenarios, the Bugs begin with a number of tunnels (situation and force dependent) that may interconnect, and each Tunnel will have its own exit (Bug Hole).

1. Bug Holes

Bug holes are tunnel exits that are open up to ground level; up to 15 elements (Bugs, MI, or infantry) may move into/out of a Bug Hole in a single turn. No element may attack through a Bug Hole; each element must be inside a Bug Hole to attack elements in the hole, and no unit inside a Bug Hole may attack an element that is outside the hole.

Four Worker Bugs may create a new hole (in a fresh tunnel, or between existing tunnels) as their action during their unit’s activation; Engineer teams may close a Bug Hole by Demolishing it; Nukes also close a Bug Hole if the hole is in the Inner Zone of the detonation.

Each Bug Hole is recorded on a separate piece of paper before play begins, and is placed on the board only when an enemy element passes within 5" of its position, or elements of a Bug unit exit the hole in the LOS of an MI element/unit. All Bug Holes that begin on the board are marked with an Objective marker; the value of the marker is recorded on the same piece of paper and revealed only when an MI element first enters the Hole (thus, the only way to capture the Objective marker is to "go under" for it...).

When placed on the board, Bug Holes are represented by a 1" diameter circle. The suggested ratio for Bug holes is one for each two Bug units in play.

2. Tunnels

Bug holes are connected by underground Tunnels. Pre-game tunnels may be connected from one Bug Hole to up to two other holes. Tunnels are always in straight lines between the holes. Movement for Bug units in Tunnels is always considered Easy terrain; for human units, it is Difficult terrain. The Bug player should (out of sight of his opponent, before play begins) record the actual distance between each connected Bug Hole (to verify any movement made through the tunnels).

New tunnels may be dug during play by Worker elements as previously stated. Each tunnel must be dug in a straight line form the point where it last left off (no curves in the tunnels). Workers used to dig may not create a new Hole during the same activation and must be placed adjacent to the new hole on the board if in the LOS of any enemy unit.

The MI player must be informed when a Bug Tunnel is being dug within 10" of an MI unit; he need not be informed of the actual ‘hearing’ unit, but the general area must be revealed. Record the progress of new tunnels on the tunnel map.

New Bug Holes may only be created either along tunnels between existing Holes or at the end of a new tunnel section. Bug Holes may be created under an enemy unit; any element winding up in the new hole is considered to be in contact with a Worker Bug and inside the tunnel.

Up to four Bug elements and two human elements may engage in combat while inside a tunnel, and all such interaction is resolved as if the units were in Urban Areas.

All Bug units that begin play must be assigned to be inside a particular tunnel prior to starting play. No more that two units may begin the game inside any one tunnel section; up to four units may occupy a tunnel section anytime thereafter.

In any Bug Hunt or Counterattack scenario, the MI player wins immediately upon closing all of the original pre-game Bug Holes.

Should a nuke be detonated in a Tunnel, the entire section length of tunnel is destroyed, all connected Bug Holes are closed, and any element inside a Tunnel section or closed Hole is destroyed.

Part 3 - Scenario Parameters

Meeting Engagements: Set up as per normal rules, but the Bug player may extend Tunnels and Holes in his Rear Area. MI units may enter as Drop Troops. Roll a d8; on a 1-4, the MI units must Drop.


Attack/Defense Battles: Set up normally; if the Bug player is the attacker, he starts play with no on-map Bug Holes. His Tunnels may extend up to 9" in from his Base Line, however. If the MI player is the attacker, he may, at his option, Drop.


Bug Hunt: The MI is the scenario attacker, and enters play from his base line normally. In addition to normal victory considerations, any captured Brain Bug is worth double point value. Bug Tunnels/Holes may be set up anywhere in his Rear Area or the Main Battle Area, and all Brain Bugs must set up on the board (in Tunnels) and may not be voluntarily exited from the map by the Bug player. The Bug player is also allotted one Tac Nuke as an emplaced mine for each two Brains in play; the mine is detonated at the owning player’s discretion and uses a Brain Bug’s available activation for the turn. Record the nuke’s placement on the Bug set-up sheet.


Counterattack: The Bug player is the scenario attacker and sets up as per the above rules for attack/defense battles; he may also assign one Worker element per Brain in play to carry a Tac Nuke (similar to those carried in Command Suits); this may be detonated as above (note that they would have no reservations about setting off a nuke that would kill their own...). The nuke is lost if the worker carrying it is killed. No tac nuke mines may be used by the Bug player.

A Note on Forces:

An MI squad (four Trooper Suits and a Command Suit) is worth 1301 points; A bug unit of 20 elements (12 Workers and 8 Armed Warriors, the maximum allowable configuration) is worth 1396 points, plus a minimum of one Brain at 250 Points.

MI forces are organized with three squads per section and two sections per platoon.

There is no known organization for the Bugs (which doesn’t really matter - kill ‘em anyway!).

For figures, I’ve been using the Ral Partha Battletech Clan Elementals as MI Suits (and CMD infantry for Engineers);

up to this point, Bugs have been represented by painted (black) ball-bearings (if anyone knows of something that’ll work better, I’d like to hear about it...).

Players having the time (and budget) may want to set up tunnels using layers of Geo-Hex (or the new Cavernscape series) as a sub-level underneath the ground level tiles. This will take some extra time to set up and play the game, but it’s a cool idea.

P.S. I may add stats/rules for the MI Scout Suit at some point in time should anyone actually care; this would also entail a modification of the Command Suit, as I combined some aspects of both suits for convenience.

Players may also want to experiment with larger forces for either side; if you check the novel, the MI squad and company sizes have been tinkered with in these rules (as compared to the book) for play balance purposes. A ratio of 1 MI to 5-7 bugs works fairly well when using the larger ‘historical’ MI organization.

Any ideas and/or suggestions for improvement are most welcome. Send to kj@primenet.com