When Ants Attack!!! (For Tusk)

Introduction

3D Ant Attack Cover ArtMaybe it was global warming or chemical dumped in the desert.  Maybe ants taken into space were exposed to strange radiation escape and interbred with a wild colony.  Maybe it’s just a fluke of evolution.  Whatever it is the emergence of giant ants has forever changed the food chain and humans aren’t at the top any more.

My first encounter with giant ants was the computer game Ant Attack on the ZX Spectrum.  A bit of research shows that they are far less of a B-movie staple than many games’ bestiaries would suggest.   I’ve tracked down only three films featuring giant ants: Them! (1954), Phase IV (1974) and Empire of the Ants (1977) based on H.G. Wells story.

Science says they can’t happen.  I’m completely ignoring the real science that explains why giant ants are an impossibility because it’s boring if your interested have a quick google for the sites that tell you why thy just can’t happen.

The (Pseudo) Science Bit

Ants are social insects that form colonies containing a huge number of ants at different points in their life cycle and of a variety of casts.  Contrary to popular belief some nests have multiple queens.  Most colonies build nests.  Some are complex underground structures for example Leaf Cutter ants can build nests that are 2.5m to 4.5m deep and can cover an area 275m² to 420m².  Others nest in trees and some nomadic ants build temporary bivouacs using their own bodies.  Polyrhachis sokolova can swim and build nests under water in air filled pockets.  Some colonies build satellite colonies when they get to large.  Satellites usually consist of just workers and mature larvae, pupae, workers, winged queens and drones.

B-Movie ants take various forms.    There are four sizes of mutation that I shall for convenience refer to as Regular, Small, Medium, Large and XXXX-Large.  Regular are regular ants and vary from about 2mm to 25mm.  Small giant ants are around the size of a small dog or a large marrow.  Medium sized giant ants are around the size of a human.  Large giant ants are around the size of a car.  XXXX-Large ants, named due to the four-letter expletive they cause their victims to shout, are the size of a lorry or bigger.

A colony of ants includes a variety of ants of different types and at different points in their life cycle.  The three stages of an ant’s life cycle are:

  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Pupa
  • Adult

Regular ant eggs are oval and about 1mm long giant ants eggs are proportionally larger.  An egg containing a queen is considerably bigger than a regular egg.

Larva are worm like and dependant on adult ants for feeding.  They moult their skin many times as they increase their size.  After achieving a certain size they spin a silk like cocoon against a solid object and metamorphoses into their adult form.  The pupa emerges as an adult from the cocoon.  For most ants their life cycle lasts 6 to 10 weeks.  A queen can live up to 15 years and some workers up to 7 years.  Drones don’t live long after mating.  Winged queens and drones are usually produced by a colony that is three years to six years old.

Adult ants can be of one of three casts:

  • Workers are infertile female ants
  • Drones are fertile male ants
  • Queens are fertile female ants

Workers come in a variety of sizes usually classified as Minor, Median and Major although some types do not have a Median form.  Some Major ants also take on a specialist fighting form known as a Soldier with a larger head and mandibles. Honeypot ants have a special type of worker called Repletes that become immobile with oversized abdomens.  Repletes act as a living food store for a colony.  Minor ants tend the queen while Medians forage and Majors defend the colony.

After mating Queens fly to a site to establish a new nest, break off their wings and don’t fly again.  A queen may lay as many as 70,000 eggs during her life.

Ants communicate using pheromones.  They can leave a trail leading to a food source.  A crushed ant releases a pheromone that sends nearby ants into a frenzied attack. Some can use propaganda pheromones to confuse enemy ants.

The common methods of attack used by ants include biting, stinging and injecting chemicals.  Some ants also have trap-jaws that spring shut inflicting more potent injuries.  Giant ants may be able to spit acid or other chemicals at their foes.  The cause of their mutation may result in additional attacks.  Chemical mutants may have a particularly vicious corrosive spit.  Radioactive mutants may emit 500 rads of hard radiation to anyone within 10m of them.

All adult ants can walk.  Drones and Queens usually have wings allowing them to fly but Workers don’t although there is no reason a mutant giant ant shouldn’t be able to fly.  Some ants can form chains to bridge gaps, some can leap and the Polyrhachis sokolova can swim.  Many tree nesting ants can glide.

Giant ants usually have no special invulnerabilities although their hard carapace may act as armour.  The fungi Cordyceps infects ants and makes them behave erratically.  Bait insecticides are particularly effective at controlling a colonies numbers.  Other attacks such as insecticide gas, fire, explosions and fire may be effective against them.  Artificial pheromones may be an effective method of interfering with them.  If you’re an old Ant Attack fan ants of Medium and Large size may be vulnerable to being stunned by jumping on their backs.

Regular ants come in dark and earth tones including earth red, black pale tan and brown.  This colouration may provide the advantages of camouflage and concealment.  Mutant ants may of course be of many colours.

Living on a diet of carbohydrates and protein normal ants are omnivores that predators on small invertebrates.  Mutant ants will need to find significant amounts of food to support a colony.  They may strip an area of vegetation and hunt animals and people.  Protein is especially required for queens to make eggs. Even if they don’t attack people they may build colonies in locations that cause significant disruption to human activity leading to conflict for resources.

Size Egg Larvae and Pupa Worker     Repletes Drone Queen
      Minor Median Major      

Regular

(Small)

1mm 2mm 3mm 4mm 5mm 10mm 3mm 15mm

Regular

(Large)

5mm 10mm 15mm 20mm 25mm 50mm 15mm 75mm

Small

1cm 5cm 15cm 20cm 25cm 50mm 30cm 75cm
Medium 20cm 1m 1.5m 2m 2.5m 5m 2m 7.5m
Large 50cm 2.5m 3m 5m 7m 15m 5m 21m
XXXX-Large 1m 5m 15m 20m 25m 25m 20m 75m

Table 1: Ant Vital Statistics

The Tusk Bit

New Beasts

Here are a selection of ants for use in Tusk.  Regular sized ants represent a swarm of Regular sized ants and not a single ant.

When activating beasts roll for ants in the following order:

  1. Queens
  2. Drones
  3. Workers (Soldiers)
  4. Workers (Majors)
  5. Workers (Median)
  6. Workers (Minor)
  7. Larvae, Pupa and Repletes

Larvae, Pupa and Repletes

  Fire<7cm Close Cbt Dogs<2cm Missile Cbt Humans<12cm Humans>12cm
1 W S W S S S
2 F W W + W S S
3 F + F F W + S S
4 PF + F + F + F S S
5 PF + PF + PF F + W S
6 PF + PF + PF + PF + F S

S= Stationary.  Doesn’t move at all.

+ = Emit Pheromone

Workers

Add 1 to roll for Median.  Add 2 to roll for Major.  Add 3 to roll for Soldier.

  Fire<7cm Close Cbt Dogs<2cm Missile Cbt Humans<12cm Humans>12cm
1 PF + F + G PF G G
2 F F G F G G
3 F + W + G W + A + G
4 F A A W A G
5 W + A + A + A + A + G
6 W A A A A A
7 W + A + A + A + A + A +
8 W A A A A A

Drones

  Fire<7cm Close Cbt Dogs<2cm Missile Cbt Humans<12cm Humans>12cm
1 F + A + A + W + A + A
2 F A A W A P
3 W + A + L A + A + P
4 W A L A P L
5 L A + L L L L
6 L A L L L L

Queens

  Fire<7cm Close Cbt Dogs<2cm Missile Cbt Humans<12cm Humans>12cm
1 PF + A + A + L S S
2 PF + W + L L S S
3 F + F + W + W + S S
4 F + F + W + W + S S
5 W + PF + F + F + W S
6 W + PF + PF + F + F S

Movement

Eggs, Repletes and Pupa cannot move by themselves.

Size Larvae Worker Drones & Queen

(Wingless)

Drones & Queen

(Winged)

Regular

1cm 2cm 2cm 3cm

Small

1cm 3cm 3cm 4cm
Medium 2cm 4cm 4cm 6cm
Large 3cm 6cm 6cm 9cm
XXXX-Large 4cm 8cm 8cm 12cm

Swimming ants can all cross water at half the speed the move.  Other ants cannot cross water.

Leaping ants can double the distance they move on a roll of 5 or 6 on 1d6.

Worker ants that are gliding ants can move like a winged drone for one movement when going from a high place to a lower place such as falling over a cliff.

Each ant in a chain adds it’s based size to the length of the chain.  If a chain is long enough to span a gap then all the ants cross to the other side.

Kill On

Eggs, Larvae, Repletes and Pupa cannot kill.  Other types kill on a roll of the number in the table or more.

Size Worker     Drone Queen
  Minor Median Major    

Regular

12 12 12 12 12

Small

12 12 11 11 11
Medium 12 11 10 11 10
Large 11 10 9 10 9
XXXX-Large 10 9 9 9 8

Snap jaw, chemical injecting and stinging ants get +1 on the roll.

Spitting ants can spit a chemical that kills on a roll of 12 up to a distance of  4cm as an attack.

Pheremones

When an ant emits pheromones it affects all ants within 2.5cm of it.  Each ant in the area that hasn’t already acted may react to the pheromones.  On a roll of 3,4,5 or 6 on 1d6 they carry out the same action as the ant that emitted the pheromone.  If the roll was a 5 or 6 they also emit the same pheromone and may affect other ants.

When an ant is killed roll 1d6, on a roll of 4, 5 or 6 it releases an attack pheromone.

Genetic Engineering and other forms of Control

Their creator or an appropriately trained or equipped individual can control genetically engineered ants.  The control method will depend on the scenario but could include psychic powers, radio control, pheromones or any other weird science explanation you can come up with.  Controlled ants are like “Trained” beasts from Tusk II except for a few minor variations.

The cost of equipping or training a base to control ants varies with the range.

Range (cm) Cost per ant (points)
2 1/3
4 1/2
8 1
16 2
32 4

They use the same reaction table as the type of ant that they are but substitute the word Enemy for Human in the table.  An ant which is not being controlled rolls as normal on its reaction table.

Insect Repellent and Other Advances

Pheromone Bombs

Pheromone bombs are like gas bombs except that instead of knocking out ants they cause them to act as the pheromone they are programmed with dictates on a roll of 4, 5 or 6.  They are available in the following attractive scents:

  • PF
  • F
  • W
  • A
  • G/S (Graze for workers S for all other ants)

Pheromone science isn’t without its risks though; on a roll of 1 they have a random effect instead.

Roll Pheromone
1 A
2 A
3 W
4 F
5 PF
6 G/S

Flame Thrower

Each base costs 6 points.  It has a range of 10cm and kills on a roll of 6 on 1d6.  They move 4cm for 1AP.  A flamethrower that has attacked in a turn acts as a fire for beast reactions.  It starts fires like a flare pistol.

Napalm

A napalm round is like a bomb but it also causes a fire marker to be placed where it goes off.  Each bomb costs 3 points.

Petrol Bombs

A petrol bomb has the effects of a bomb in a 1cm square area.  It starts a fire like a flare pistol.  An Adventure can be equipped with them for an additional cost of 1 point.

Insecticide

Insecticide can be delivered either as bombs or as a spray from a plane.  If it is delivered as a bomb it costs 1 point per bomb to equip and effects a 2.5cm square area.  If it is delivered as a spray it covers a strip 2.5cm wide by 5cm long.  Equipping a plane with the spray costs 3 points for 2 uses of the spray.  Markers should be placed to indicate where it has been used.  Any ants in the area insecticide is deployed in are killed on a roll of 5 or 6.  Any ants crossing the area afterwards are killed on a roll of 6.

Bait Insecticide

Bait insecticide is delivered in the same way as regular insecticide.  It has no effect during play.  However after play if any ant that came into contact with it survived all surviving ants, even if it did not come into contact with the Bait Insecticide, are attacked by it and are killed on a roll of 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Insect Repellent

On a roll of 6 on 1d6 all insects within 2cm of a base with Insect Repellent will Withdraw.  It adds 1 to the point cost of the base.

Scenario Bites

Here are a few scenarios ideas featuring ants.

Ant Attack!!!

One boy.  One girl.  Lots of ants.

A girl is trapped in an ancient ruined town somewhere in the desert.  Hordes of ants stand between our hero and his girl.  Can he rescue her?

The play area consists of a city with a low wall.  Scattered around the city are buildings our hero can climb and the ants, inexplicably, can’t.  On the ground inside the city scatter ants.  Whenever an ant is killed a new one enters play 30cm from our hero in a random direction.

Use medium sized median worker ants for this scenario with no special abilities.

Our hero is like an Adventurer except he doesn’t have a bomb and can’t act as a firemaker.  He can throw one bomb each turn.

Special rule #1 for Ant Attack!!!: If the hero moves onto the top of an ant base during his turn the ant is stunned on a roll of 5 or 6 for 1d6 turns and cannot act while stunned.

Special rule #2 for Ant Attack!!!: The girl is scared.  To rescue her our hero must get close to her.  Once his base has touched her base she can move.  She follows his base staying in constant base to base contact.

Them or US!

Enraged by global warming aliens have raised an army of giant alien controlled leaf cutter ants.  They are invading the US from Canada!  Can the good old US of A stand against the red peril?

A secret flying ant attack during the state of the union wipes the president, cabinet, senate and house out.  The secretary for agriculture doesn’t have a best friend and can’t cope because this is a Bruckheimer movie and not an episode of The West Wing.  All hope for the good old US of A fall on the shoulders of one man: Arnold.  Yup he’s back and this time he’s the Governator!

The Empire Bites Back

Ants in the jungle fight with Victorian explorers.  P.T. Barnum has heard about them and wants one for his circus.  He’ll pay good money for an egg can a group of adventurers bring one back?

impworks © Copyright Mark Caldwell 1996 - 2019