Monday, December 31, 2012


Happy New Year!

Finally, I've finished my Grav APCs from GZG. These will form part of a TL 14 Lift Infantry unit - just which unit, I'm still giving some thought.

The only modification I've made is to remove the GZG plasma gun, and replace it with the dash-mounted blaster from the Star Wars Micro Machine Gian Speeder. 

It looks more like what I imagine a medium plasma gun should look like...Ω

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Release the Smelly Horsies of War...

Inspired as I was by Dylan's quintessential post concerning the K'Kree over at War is Hell, I dragged out my old 15mm Martian Metals miniatures, as well as my GURPS Traveller Aliens module 2.

While reading the booklet (which deals with the Aslan as well as the K'Kree) I was struck by the use of saucer shapes in the fighting vehicles of the Two Thousand Worlds.

I had been pondering over what to use as a crewed AFV (as opposed to the drone vehicles the Centaurs employ) when I realised...I HAD a K'Kree saucer, I just didn't know it.

This is the design which Solomani humans refer to as the "Flying Dart Board" and is an older, though still serviceable design.  I would suggest it can be used up to around circa 1105 I.R.  GURPS Aliens 2 suggests that the K'Kree retain tracks on their grav vehicles for conservative esthetics, which is nice but hardly compulsory.

Pictured above with a human ATV (15mm Old Crow tracked Glaive). I will need to mount an energy weapon like a plasma or fusion gun, and some point-defense remote turrets.

 An added bonus is the saucer top is removable, giving access to what will be the turret interior.

That's a tight squeeze for K'Kree.The interior walls will need projections of open prairie to keep the crew from going mad with claustrophobia.  Such an odd species, but fun to game.

Many readers will by now have twigged the model - the UFO from the Roy Thinnes series "The Invaders" by Monogram.  This simple kit is costing dear on eBay, easily in excess of  USD $50 or UK £35.  While I'd like a second saucer for additional fire support, I'll wait and see if I can find it for somewhat less....Ω

Monday, December 24, 2012

RAGNAROK - Crunchy SciFi Gaming Goodness

The latest issue of Ragnarok - the magazine of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Wargamers Society - arrived earlier this week, and it is full of the crunchy goodness I have come to expect.

There is a multi-player fantasy battle scenario,
A Dirtside II scenario,
A Star Trek starship miniatures scenario,
Something on Cordwainer Smith that is beyond my understanding, and therefore Brilliant,
Traveller ships for Full Thrust,

and much, much more.

And it's all yours for the price of a pdf.

Hie thee hence and see for yourself.

Merry Christmas! ...Ω

Monday, November 26, 2012

StarGrunt Traveller - The Zhodani Attack

Here's an older set of photos from a Friday Pals game using StarGrunt II in the Traveller universe. This was a simple scenario played on the Cargo Deck of Doom. Zhodani Marines are attempting to take over an Imperial freighter, while the Imperial Navy and small Marine detachment resist.

Zhodani troops in Classic Grey

Denizen Ventaurans were used for the Zhodani, supported by RAFM Traveller New Era warbots. The Imperial crew were GZG Security and UNSC Marines. The terrain was a combo of Century XXXI cardstock barricades, used as a raised walkway, with two of the Dwarven Forge Sci-Fi Expansion Set, plus scattered bitz from Grendel, Mystic Moldwyrks, and GZG.

 The single biggest innovation for this scrum was adding the warbots. SGII doesn't really address the issue of robots, so we gave them d12 armour and 2 hit points - thus it took two "kills" to take out a bot.  Until the second "kill"  result, the bot would operate with damaged/reduced systems.  This made them pretty dangerous.

Warbot with one kill and one wound
One of the few things the PBN had going for them was the Mighty Slug Pistol - able to fire AP and HE rounds, with a 1.5" burst radius, the navy was able to suppress the Zho Marines - but not the warbots.

Green Naval crewmen go to ground...
 While the Zhodani used weren't representative of the dreaded Consular Guard, we did want to represent some psionics, so we gave the Zhoes a bonus on their reactivation and rally rolls, to reflect the officers' telepathic ability.  This allowed them to keep up their attack when they otherwise would have failed - this is balanced by rating them "regulars" instead of "veterans", to reflect the conscript nature of Consular forces.

Lone Zho marine rallies telepathically...
 The result was the dirty-stinking-Zhos pushing the Imperials out of the cargo hold, allowing them to consolidate and bring up reinforcements - the fate of the ship still hangs in the balance.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interstellar Wars: The Defense of Alpha Centauri B

In preparing an article for an upcoming Ragnarok, I decided to compare Future War Commander with Jon Tuffley’s Dirtside II. Before doing so, it was necessary to re-acquaint myself with the DSII rules, as while we play StarGrunt II fairly regularly, we hadn’t played DSII since the late 90’s.  Bearing in mind that DSII will be twenty years old in 2013, the Friday Night Pals went with a simple scenario, based on a situation well known to anyone who has played GDW’s IMPERIUM – a planetary invasion.

Since we were playing using 15mm miniatures, we increased some of the distances, like command grouping (extending from 3” to 5”) while leaving other ranges unchanged (movement, firing ranges). The Usual Suspects were playing: Rob C., DJ and Kenzie, with yours truly refereeing the game.

Scenario: The Third Interstellar War is not going well for the Terran Confederation. The Imperium has sent the defeated remnants of the ConFed fleet back to the Sol System where they are scrambling to defend Earth. The confident and haughty Vilani have decided to pause in the Alpha Centauri system to reduce that system to obedience. The Terran 8th Interstellar Division is supporting the Alpha Centauri B Planetary Defense Force, with orders to fight to the last Infantry Anti-Vehicle Rocket.

Using counters from GDW’s Imperium game, I randomly drew what would be a standard-sized garrison of a Terran world in your garden-variety Imperium game – a “2” strength army plus PDF battery.  Each strength point would equal 1000 Dirtside points. To make things manageable, I reduced the points to 2000 attacking 1000.   The Vilani would be attacking at 2-1 odds.

The PDF anti-space missile battery was set up on a mid-sized hill, with an administrative building/barracks adjoining. Four squads of Terran infantry were dug in amongst the silos, supported by light APCs, while a half-troop of light tanks, anchored to the admin building, held the right flank.  On the Terran left, a GMS/L team held the high ground. A separate mortar battery held the high ground to the rear.

Terran Positions - Minis by GZG and Force XXI
The Imperials had a platoon of line infantry – eight squads of infantry on four heavy GEV APCs, plus a Fire Support/Point Defense GEV AIFV, all commanded from a GEV TOC.

Turn 1 – the Imperials advanced and their infantry de-bussed and set up their light RAM mortar.  Terran missiles flew fast and furious as Terran mortar shells began to rain down.  The Imperial Point Defense vehicle was able to stop most of the incoming fire (good shooting, Kenzie) and bad rolls on DJ’s part stopped the rest.

Imperials Advance - minis by GZG and Stan Johansen

Turn 2 – Encouraged by the poor Terran showing, the Imperials advanced.  A squad of Imp infantry that wandered out from under the protective point-defense umbrella were hit with mortar fire and wiped out. Random fire also took out their Imperial APC, as the dreaded “boom” chit made it’s first (but as you will shortly read, not it’s last) appearance.

First Blood to Terra!

Turn 3 - The Terran tanks gained two kills on the nearest Imperial APCs (two more “boom” hits). The PD AIFV now switched to it’s Fire Support role in an attempt to knock out a tank, but failed to hit. 

Fire Support AFV vs. two Light Tanks - "that trick never works..."

Turn 4 – the Imperials were now doubtful of their success, and I was inclined to agree, but I also asked them to game out an infantry assault on the defended positions around the missile silos, which they gamely did. Four squads of Imperial infantry stormed up the slope (losing a squad in the process) and chased the Terrans out of the position.  Even if they had carried the position, the Terrans were in control of the rest of the objectives, and we all agreed it was a Terran win.

Infantry Assault

Post Game Thoughts:

After years of playing StarGrunt II, going back to Dirtside II is very similar to the proverbial walk known memory lane.  One can see how the DSII system will be refined in SGII, and despite it’s age, DSII still makes for a fast, fun game.

First APC goes "BOOM"

We had misinterpreted the F~ chits, and instead of applying them to the firing unit (you press the fire pedal and nothing happens) we were adding them to the target’s woes.  Live and learn.

The Point Defense/Fire Support vehicle is a mixed blessing - it works great knocking down mortar rounds and missiles - especially from the lower tech earthlings.  When it switches to direct fire mode, that safety umbrella is lost, and it's not too good as a tank killer.  One must time this carefully. I love it.

A rematch is planned, either with the original group or with the Ratrap Hill Mob in Maplewood. Ω

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Power Projection: Fleet Action at Dushaam

The Friday Night Pals met to play a session of the Traveller/Full Thrust hybrid, Power Projection: Fleet. Set in the Sol Sector, during the 3rd Interstellar War between the Terran Confederation and the 1st Imperium, the scenario saw an Imperial fleet sent to bombard a ConFed facility on the contested planet Dushaam.  Two ConFed cruiser squadrons were tasked with preventing this and also to drive the Vilani fleet from the system. Rob C. and DJ were tasked to play the earthlings, while Kenzie and myself played the Imps.

The scenario was generated using the PP:F Scenario Generator. 
Fleet elements were pointed at about 200 points per side – the Terrans having a slight advantage, which seemed fair, considering that the Imperials had been savaging them in previous games.

To design ships in PP, I use the MegaTraveller design sequences. Once the ship is run through the sequence, it is then converted to Power Projection.  All of the ships, except the Terran Light Cruisers, were based on units from the GDW board game “Imperium”, converted to MegTrav, then converted to Power Projection.

The Terran light cruisers were based on a GURPs Interstellar Wars design (thus were missile-heavy and defenses light), and were then adjusted to fit into the MegTrav design sequence.

The two Terran squadrons each consisted of a single 9,000 dton cruiser, with two 5,000 dton light cruisers in support.

The Imperials had two dedicated squadrons; a squadron of three 9,900 dton cruisers, and a squadron of two 12,200 dton dreadnoughts.

The Imperium enjoyed a Tech Level advantage of TL11 to the Terran TL10.  At these tech levels, there are no nuclear dampers nor meson guns. The primary weapons are the 100-ton nuclear missile bay for thumpage and the 100-ton particle accelerator bay for “detailed work”. Spinal mounts, of which none were represented, are all particle accelerators.

The Game:

Turn 1 saw the Imperials enter at speed 4.  They were slowed down by their dreadnoughts, which have Maneuvre 2 drives (hurrah for TL 11).  The Terrans accelerated from speed 8 to speed 12(!).  Nukes were launched.

Turn 2: Began with a mis-communication amongst the Imperials, who pivoted in two opposing directions. Chalk it up to myself and Kenzie not having played much on the same side before. 

Turn 3: The Imperial cruisers attempted a breakthrough, accelerating to speeds 11 and 12. The lead cruiser was going to make a feigned run for the planet, while the trailing cruisers pivoted 180° to lend support to the distressed dreadnoughts.

The lead Imperial cruiser took a moderate thumping from missiles, and lost her fuel tanks (four sixes on the systems check).  She would be carried from the fighting by momentum.

DJ's ConFed squadron passed through the Imperial battleline, got on the other side of the DNs, and pivoted 180° to catch them a close range.

Turn 4: The Imperial cruiser with the shattered fuel tanks fired high-intensity missile vollies as it hurtled away.  DJ's cruisers were trading close-range shots with the Imperial DNs.  Two Terran CLs blew up, and then the unthinkable - an Imperial DN heeled over and exploded.

Rob's Terran squadron had been supporting DJ's, and had been bumped and bruised, but was still fightable.  DJ's remaining cruiser was down to the last hit row. The surviing Imperial DN was down to the last hit BOX.

We called a marginal Terran victory, though we should have diced for initiative, for although the Imperial cruisers could have defeated Rob's remaining squadron, the DN firing would have finished off DJ's cruiser.  At the end of the day, the Imperials would probably not have had sufficient missile power to complete the bombardment.


New House Adjustments to the rules

Initiative defaults to an IGOUGO system.
When a side wins initiative, a single ship resolves fire and damage. Then the other side resolves a single ship’s fire and damage. This includes System Checks. Rinse and repeat. This prevents an entire squadron from getting wiped out by massed fire, at the expense of slowing down play a bit.  A chit is put down to show ships have fired for the turn.

Point Defense Fire against missiles affects an entire “attack”, not a single missile.  An attack is defined as a volley against a ship by another ship - hence, a single stick of 8 nuclear missiles have their attacks degraded by a single laser battery operating in point defense.  Note that if a single ship is firing two types of missiles, that is two “sticks” and the defender will need two PD laser batteries to affect both.  This is also in line with High Guard's mechanics, and allows some tactical flexibility in missile load-outs on the part of the aggressor.

This last also speeds up play a bit, as all the modifiers affect all the missiles in a stick, making throwing a handful of  eight-or-so dice at a time possible.

Post Game Thoughts:

Communications is Key.
The botched pivot on turn 2 was a key factor in the disappointing Imperial showing. The idea was to concentrate on DJ's squadron, cripple it, and then continue advancing the cruiser elements on the planet.  My cruisers became detached from Kenzie’s DNs, and I was unable to lend him much-needed fire support –the result was the loss of two Dreadnoughts. My captain can look forward to leading a vanguard Forlorn Hope in the next big fleet action, you can rely on it.

The Terrans cannot Stand Off.
Terran Confederation ships tend to be lighter and faster than their Imperial counterparts, and must use their speed to offset Imperial firepower. This isn't easy in a vector-movement system.

In the previous playtest, the Terrans hung back and were being wiped out by the end of turn 2.  In addition to correcting some pointing errors on my part, I sent DJ over to the ConFed side for the replay, knowing he would off-set some of Rob's inherent caution. Pairing Rob (who sticks to the plan) with an aggressive player (who attacks to defend) made for a good showing on the Terran ConFed's part. 

Well done, lads. Ω

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Viliani Imperial Reconaissance Troop

Recce/recon units simply fascinate me.  I'm not sure if it's the mission (get out there and be shot at) or the fragile nature of the units.  I do know that, given a choice, I'll happily take the reconnaissance group in a wargame.

Which brings me to my Imperial Recce troop - poor buggers. In my Traveller universe, the First Imperium is stingy as far as vehicles go.  Infantry is the poor relation - 12,000 worlds yields a lot of blaster-fodder, but tanks cost money; to build and to transport.

Still needs a gunner...

So, for efficiency's sake, most Imperial vehicles do the work of two - either transporting two squads/sections or performing double functions.

The recon troops also act as artillery spotters.  Since they're attached to the artillery, they can also carry the company mortars, which means they are responsible for placing them, with crew, as well as recovering them. And they get to look for the enemy.

Difficult to do well?  Of course, but that's life in the Gisadia Ziru Sirka.

Some readers might remember these from a previous post - except that now I've added dedicated drivers and carried troops. Miniatures are GZG Japanese Corporates, the drivers are a conversion (since there's no telling when Jon T. will get back to this particular line) with the head and shoulders of the Japanese troops atop GZG generic vehicle drivers.  The hover-vans are old Force XXI 15mm  - the Vilani like big vehicles.  Force XXI hasn't come back into production, sadly.

I love the Force XXI aesthetic, and greatly miss not being able to add to my Force XXI collection. I do wish these would come back into production...Ω

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ravenstar Grav Tank - The Aslan are Coming...

Late last month, Chris at Ravenstar Studios posted a picture of his new 15mm LandCore Mercury Fast Attack Grav Tank on The Miniatures Page.  Some of the posters who replied didn't much like it, citing not enough guns and disliking it's smooth, teardrop, fluted design.

I think it's marvelous!

Shown with RAFM Aslan and GZG New Anglian Confederation for size comparison.

For years, I've been looking for something to use as an Aslan AFV, and this fits the bill, nicely. It's a pity that when it comes to "alien" designs there is such a dearth of available miniatures out there. Chris seems intent on correcting this.

Casting is nice and clean, with no bubbles in the resin. The model comes in four parts - hull, turret, main gun and a small aft propulsion panel. All are in resin, so the main gun is a bit fragile and prone to breaking.  Concerned buyers might like to recommend to Chris that this last piece might be better cast in white metal.

Shown on a 1" grid

Size - the brute is enormous. The turret hatch, with modification, would easily accept a 25mm mini. It will serve as a main battle tank in 15mm and as a light fire support sled in 25mm.  While I was really looking for something in a support sled size, I will happily amend my upcoming scenario to accommodate a larger MBT.

It's just that awesome.

Show with GZG V15-20A for size comparison.

There is only a single main gun - which suits me fine. In Traveller, energy weapons are often of the "Rapid Pulse" variety, and if memory serves correctly, in a Striker II game, this tank's main gun would be able to engage between two to five targets in a turn.  For close in support, there are four small hemispheres that will work as point defense and sensors.

It took Ravenstar about two weeks to send the mini, which is fine in my book. There was an extra mini added to the order - looks like an enclosed air/raft.  Of that, more later.

To order from Ravenstar - visit his blog.

Rumour has it that Chris is preparing to release an APC model - I am hopeful that it will compliment this nicely...Ω

Monday, July 30, 2012

Star Wars - Destiny on Dantooine

The Rebel Positions and Blockhouse
This was a scenario I created using StarGrunt II for GZG-ECC back in 2006, so it's a bit old.  It's based on the premise that Princess Leia was gambling when she disclosed the location of the Rebel Base to Governor Tarkin; "They're on Dantooine."

Later dialogue reveals that Imperial scout ships had reached Dantooine, had found the remains of a rebel base, but estimated it had been deserted for some time. What if the Empire had units closer to Dantooine? What if the Empire had moved a bit faster? Perhaps they might have caught the rebels on Dantooine as they did on Hoth....

Warning - some of the piccies are a trifle blurry. Chalk it up to adrenaline.

The SitRep: An Imperial light scout force has arrived at Dantooine while the rebels are preparing to evacuate the planet. Because it is a light force, only four squads of Stormtrooper, a half-lance of Scout troopers, and a pair of AT-STs are all the Empire has to capture the rebel base.
Rebel Positions

The rebels are defending with four half squads of Dantooine Commandos ("Defending Dantooine from the Empire since 8:00 AM") with two Atgar P-Towers and two anti-infantry Dish TV guns.

 Regretably, I can't tell you how the scenario ended - both sides seemed to enjoy themselves, and there was opportunity aplenty for each side to put the wack down on some minis.  As per usual for a Star Wars game, I have a time limit on the Imperial victory objective, the rebels having only to avoid defeat and live to fight in another sequel.

 Miniatures are predominantly old 25mm West End Games Star Wars line, with Grendel Gun Towers, supplemented by some converted WotC Dish Guns. Scout Walkers are from the Galoob Action Fleet line. The larger walker is an old I-Core/Void Tiger APC.

Perhaps I will run this again at Fall In! or Cold Wars...the nice thing about running Star Wars games at conventions is you don't often get the die-hard serious gamers who throw their dice (or minis!) when their Imperial Garde fails to rout some Dutch-Belgian militia (not that I've ever had that happen...- Ω -

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Ground Zero Con ECC 2006

This picture is in response to a discussion on The Miniatures Page concerning the useability of the old I*Core Void Tiger APC in the Star Wars mileau...res ipse loquitur...but now I've found some old pictures to share.

More anon...

Mary Tamm Dies

It's been a terrible year or so for Classic Doctor Who fans - Mary Tamm has gone.

She was the lovely, cool, droll Time Lady Romanadvoratralunda who was teamed with Tom Baker for the 1978-79 season of Doctor Who.

She was only 62, and had been battling cancer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vilani Numbers

Collins on TMP made a wise observation - in miniature modeling, having the numbers for a military unit, especially an alien one, is often more important than having the script (only I will be regretting these words when I finish up my Aslan AFVs...)

A few years ago, I was working on a 1st Imperium army, and needed Vilani numbers.  At the time, there were no images, so I cribbed the numbers from Traveller Adventure 1 - Annic Nova and planned to use them for decals on my Imperial Armour.

The Annic Nova is a ship of non-standard, alien design that the players of Adventure 1 are sent to investigate. One of the discoveries is that the name "Annic Nova" stenciled on the strange nacelles is actually a serial number, in the style of that pictured above.

Looking at the Vilani Font, one will immediately see a similarity, suggesting that these numbers, if not Vilani, are at least Vilani-inspired.

(NB: I can't tell you what I wrote there - it was four years ago.  There's a very good chance it is in Bilandish, or it might be a reminder to drink your Ovaltine...)

Traveller pedants insist that the two *cannot* be related, as the Vilani, as core members of the Third Imperium, would hardly be unknown to player characters.  Others counter that a similar reaction might be had if your average salvage driver saw the Greek alphabet.  I think that the Vilani came later in the minds of the Traveller creators, and they adopted a neat numeric style to fit them.

- Ω -

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Forgotten Photos - Tears for Arusage

Here are some pics from TravellerCon 2010 which I previously neglected to upload, probably because the scenario didn't play as well as I'd hoped. This was based on an adventure from the defunct QuickLinks Interactive module: Merc Heaven.

The setup: It's the Imperial Year 996, and the Solomani Rim War is in full swing. In a remote backwater sector of the Gateway, the Sollies are working to destabilise an Imperial client state on the planet Arusage. The Imperial Navy hires mercenaries to shore up the Vilani-cultured client state.

The fighting revolves around an abandoned Vilani nuclear base, except that when the Vilani withdrew, they forgot to bring the nukes. The Solomani-backed Condor Republic has over run the region and the Imperial mercs must prevent them from carrying off the nukes.

The Vilani Base - Blocky but Functional
The Imperial mercs were operating well behind enemy lines, and according to the pre-game intro, had walked in from a drop-off point about 10 kilometres away.  In addition to their Advanced Combat Rifles, they had only light support weapons - a mortar and a 20mm LAG. They would have to work fast, find the nukes and some transport and then get out, because the area was teeming with Legion patrols.

The mercs had access to an air strike, which would shift the victory margin one step in the Legion's favour - pilots don't like getting shot down behind enemy lines.

The Condor Legion had local reinforcements, mainly in the form of Air/Raft Recon units and the odd APC carried section.

Nuclear Missile Silo

The Condor Legion platoons dismount...and are immediately suppressed. Welcome to StarGrunt II...

The tech level gap was negligible, TL9 Legion to TL10 Mercs. Numbers were also about even - with a platoon each.  It would be a pounding match.

The Mercs recover an abandoned APC, and are engaged by Condor Air Recon

The Condor commander decided to ignore the single mortar that the Imperials deployed, much to his subsequent regret.

The Condors are well and truly Borked...the orange markers indicate Suppression.

The Legion eventually got two nukes on an APC and ran for the border.  The Mercs called in the airstrike, which destroyed the APC about four inches from the table edge.

Tie Game...


Post Game Thoughts.

Imperial Merc Commanders...Pondering
You can see that neither side of players is particularly enjoying themselves. This is in part due to my converting the scenario so that it is so balanced as to be a stalemate. Not much fun, that...

Another issue was the use of dummy counters.  I think they add a great "Fog of War" effect, but some players don't like not knowing what they're dealing with. 

The Condor Legion commanders at left.  Contrast with the players at the table to the rear.

Mark Klambo is not looking his normal, ebullient self...
Guy in the middle is contemplating "using the tooth..."

(I think I had just snapped an answer at Mark, as he has something of that "what a b!tch" look about him...sorry old boy...and get your elbows off the table)

The final realisation is that, verbum sapientii,  not all elements that make for a fun RPG scenario will transfer to the miniatures table.  The big "gotcha" in the module is, after landing behind enemy lines, avoiding enemy patrols, and infiltrating the base, the players are met with the sight of the Condor Legion loading nukes into their vehicles.  The "Just In Time" hook doesn't work so well for a miniature game, because there's no way to build up the same tense atmosphere an RPG can.

Viewing these pics and looking over my notes, I'll have to give this scenario another go - perhaps with the Friday Pals Brigade, who boast a number of former military vets, and a suitable tweaking...or not... Ω