Saturday 27 October 2012

Red Queen

The room was bare and dark. I sat on a folding steel chair at a plain table steel table, and it was cold enough that I found myself shivering. I remembered being captured by Renfred Tor and his men had captured the dropship that was to take him to Luthien where I was to report the success of operation Dragon and be rewarded with more opportunities to serve the Coordinator.

The door to the room opened and a tall man dressed in an off the shelf business suit entered the room. “Ohayo gozaimasu Captain Miura Yorunabi san. Or should I say Proctor Sinvalie of House Mailai? How about Mr Thomas Jones of the Free World League? My, my you do get around.” The man chuckled. “You may call me John.”

“I am Tai-I Yorunabi Miura of the Draconis Combine Military Service, my serial number is 848163-2980-8. I am a prisoner, and under the articles of war that is all I will tell you.”

“Miura san, may I call you Miura?”

“I care not what you call me, I will tell you nothing.”

“Muira, what war are you talking about?” John said while sitting down.

“The war that exists between House Kurita and House Steiner” I replied.

“Oh, you mean that war…” John leant back in his chair as if considering the import of the answer.

“Do not take me for a fool John, but I know you must be an agent of LOKI. We both know that the War of Succession still rages on, even as we speak.”

Ah, yes the Third Succession War. The one that ended five years ago when the Archon sent out a peace proposal to all the other leaders of the great houses.” John paused, “As far as the Lyran Commonwealth is concerned the war is over. I suggest to you that your war is over.”

“Just because your Archon has declared peace, doesn’t mean that the war is over.”

“Would you like some tea, Muira san? I could do with a drink myself, and as a student of all things Japanese I understand that tea has a certain solemnity about it for your people.” John signalled with his hand and a few minutes later another man entered the room with a tray with cups and a pot of tea.

“What game is this?” I said.

“No game Muira san. Just a nice cup of tea.”

He poured two cups and took one, taking a sip. “See, not poisoned, no tricks here.”

“How do I know you haven’t taken an antidote to any poison that is in the tea?”

“Muira san, if I wanted you dead, you would already be dead.” He looked at me and smiled.

I took the tea, it was plain, but I found myself thirsty, and drank it.

“See, drinking that wasn’t so hard after all. A cup of tea, a nice chat and then you can go.” The man who called himself John smiled at me.

“You are going to let me go without questioning me?” I said, not believing what I’d heard.

“Yes. No tricks, we already know every thing that we need to know. This isn’t an interrogation, because we have already interrogated you. You can’t remember, because we don’t want you to remember. Every thing about the operation Code Dragon, your mission to investigate Duke Ricol, the money making schemes that you were running on the side with House Malai. We know it all.”

“What do you want of me?”

“Ah, now that is a good question? I think you know that we know everything about you. Things that if they were known by your bosses would shorten your opportunities for any future career prospects.” John said looking at me, judging me, and waiting for my answer.

“What if I say no?”

“You won’t, we already know you won’t. You may look all Japanese, and act like one, but we also know that you didn’t take your own life when you could’ve. We found the poison tooth, which you could’ve used at anytime. You didn’t, therefore we are certain that you will take us up on our offer to work for us.”

I pretended to mull over what John had said. I could see that if I wanted to live that I had little choice in the matter. However, later, things might change. “If I say yes to your offer, how does this work?”

“You leave, and we will be in contact when needed via a Comstar message from our House Malia agent.”

“That’s it?” I said.

“One thing Muira san. You cross us, and Subhash Indrahar will have a copy of our interrogation transcript to read. You understand what that would mean, don’t you?”

I certainly did, I would be dead before I knew I was dead. “It seems I have had an offer made to me, which in all politeness I cannot refuse.”

John smiled at me, “Good, I’m glad that is settled, you may leave, and have a nice day.”

I stood up and left the room. My life my own, for what it was worth?

The man who called himself John looked at the fat ISF Captain leave. The chances that they would get anything useful from turning one of ISFs own agents was slim, but it cost LOKI nothing to try. The worst that could happen would be that Yorunabi would be killed, which given what he knew about the man would still be a win for humanity.

NB: This was written for a BattleTech Universe Forum writing competition that was cancelled, and the story above is part of what I submitted. This story was driven by me wanting to know what happens in the parts of Decision at Thunder Rift by William Keith that occurred off stage. Stylistically the conversation changes character perspective, which probably needs to be re-written.

Anyway, the big battle is tomorrow, so this story fragment is to give you all something to read until such time as I get around to writing up the report next week.

Sunday 21 October 2012

BattleTech 3.0: Epiphany Update

Previously on Paint it Pink I did a post called BattleTech 3.0: Epiphany that laid out some ideas that are worth repeating when it comes to making a fast play variant of the game.

This update is driven by the recent Catalyst games Battlechat with Herb Beas, the Line Developer for BattleTech, where he made it know that in 2015 there will be a new box set with quicker play rules for small actions. Now whether this will be combined arms games was not clarified during the Battlechat, but I can't see how it would be unreasonable to assume that the rules wouldn't allow for for this.

Anyway, no point speculating too much on what was a very sparse, one-liner.

More important I need to update my campaign groups experience from the number of games we have been playing over the last couple of years where we have fielded what are quite large numbers of model and played games to a full resolution within three to fours hours over an afternoon. As a reminder you can find all the Operation Sandbox Mummerset Campaign reports here.

Reviewing the Guidelines
1. For board games keep movement as cost per hex, but double the firing range. 
No, we didn't stick to that. Instead we had one movement point equal two inches, and ranges of weapons were based on the same metric.
2. For movement now all units just count the number of hexes (board-game), or inches moved (tabletop), and add a free facing change at the end of the turn only. 
We never played the quickplay on hex maps, as I've always set the game up on my terrain boards, but otherwise yes this worked.
3. Roll one pair of 2D6 (change to 4D6 and discard two results) for combat to calculate whether or not all the weapons that the unit has hit or miss. 
No, this didn't work out, because it was skewing results in the short term with either all hits, or all misses being generated. Instead ended up I colour coding all the weapons on the players record sheets and gave them matching pairs of dice to use.
4. Roll one pair of 2D6 ( change to 4D6 and discard two results) for all the missile weapons fired to get an average of number of missiles hit.
Didn't work out, and instead we used the simpler mechanic of using dice with the number of faces equal to the number of missile e.g.: use a D4 for and SRM4 etc., half a D10 for a D5 for an LRM5 and so on.
5. Ammo explosions are calculated as the value of one round of the ammo cooking off when they explode. However, after applying the internal damage, roll again on 2D6 (the usual roll of plus eight) to see if more critical damage is done to the mech (if the ammo bay is hit again, this too will explode one round and so on). 
This worked pretty much as expected.
6. Ferro-fibrous armour, endo-steel count and empty slots count as valid locations for an internal hit and need not be re-rolled.
Still out for the count. What we do is roll a D12 for the internal locations to save all the time having to re-roll D6s for results that are invalid.
7. Head hits do not automatically kill the pilot, instead the auto-pilot is assumed to eject the pilot, unless of course there is no ejection system or auto-eject is turned off for some reason. Pilots only die from wounds received. 
No problems.
8. Initiative to be governed by using cards, which will randomise what moves when during a turn.
Of all the things we did, this was the one that really changed the dynamic of the game by removing the optimum move search, as players realised that there was no longer an optimum move, as one had to make the most of the tactical situation as it was handed to you.
9. Introductory Rules to be used as the jump off point with the minimum amount or rules from other books as necessary.
Definitely the thing that drives quicker games.

Monday 15 October 2012

SELWG 2012: Crystal Palace

Well another year and another SELWG, and as usual another nice day out for me, Trever and Oliver. Of course I forgot to take a camera, but I'm not going to let that get in the way of mentioning a few games and products in passing.

Lets me start with the easy stuff, what I bought. I bought one pot of Earth colour paint and two packets of GZGs not Fatties to go with the not Scopedogs. Talked to Jon and Mel about the conversions I did, and the feedback that I got. As a result Jon is going to consider doing weapon packs, or he is going to ask me to send him my conversions for casting. So watch this space, as they say. No doubt his interest in doing said project would increase with being sent emails from people who would want these done.

Trevor and Oliver played in the Climb Mount Nittaka' run by the Staines Wargames Club. this was a WW2 Japanese airstrike against USN Pacific fleet assets, which they enjoyed, and the game got first in show for best participation game. They then went onto to play South East Essex Military Society's game The Restless Dead, which you can all guess was a zombie game that had lots of kids playing it, and all having a whale of a time while doing so.

I spent sometime schmoozing around the show, looking at new products, and being taken aback by how many new SF rulesets and ranges were out there. Speaking of which brings me to Gruntz. First disclaimer, I quite like Gruntz, and I'm predisposed to like the game as I have been following it for several years.

So, I got to play my first game of Grunts at SELWG. Yay! Boy does it play fast and furious. Robin umpired the game, which was a good thing as I was completely at sea with the stat sheets, and game mechanics having not read the rules in a very long time indeed. Jonathon was my opposition who I guess had played before, or who had a better understanding of the rules than me. He was playing defender with a couple of APCs, infantry and two heavy weapons teams. I was the attacker with a squad of infantry, three small mechs and a large mech.

Jonathon then proceeded to own me by destroying my units one after another, while I failed to roll the numbers I needed on the dice to return the favour. It looked really bad for me, but I very cheekily snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by occupy the base, and asked if this made me the winner? Robin said yes, I had achieved the objective and so I won, getting a GZG prize for doing so, in fact the big prize for the day. I felt quite guilty about this, as Jonathon clearly bested me on the combat side of things, and had the  game gone on another couple of turns would have assaulted his way back onto the base.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

VOTOMS in 6mm


Been painting and finished off my GZG Hound Dogs. Five basic poses and weapon variants for each squad.

Cruel enlargements as follows:

I'm tempted to now add the red, green and blue lens colours to each before I varnish these.  The bigger ones I have are turning out harder to paint than I thought, as I can't quite get the green to look right.

Yes, I did go away and paint on the lens on these after seeing the pictures on here without this detail I thought the models looked bare. Of course they looked perfectly fine, but enlarging pictures just shows up all the deficits in one's painting. Be kind these are incredibly tiny models. Remember they are standing on one penny bases.

Sunday 7 October 2012


You may have noticed that I went back added a tag to my OGRE Universe short story, though really only a snippet of a story, titled Fragments. This post is to explain why I did that?

I've realised that I write a lot.

A couple of blogs alone run to many thousands of words. Enough for a novel even. In my misbegotten past I've written professionally. First off for Miniature Wargames with a review of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, then later for Games Master International magasine as a scenario writer, a reviewer, then columnist; and I would have become a staff writer too, if it hadn't gone bust. I've also written for FASA, contributing to TRO: 3055; writing the Clan second line mechs and refits (all except the Jenner are mine). Not to forget MekTek, a fanzine, and of course the benighted OHMU WarMachine.

So a bit of a history of writing stuff.

I'm writing again for a wargames magasine and hope to have a review published in the next issue. So all is well, but it has made me think back over my writing, and I realise I want to write stories. I have several shorts, and unfinished parts of novels all on my hard-drive.

So I've decided that I need to practice more, and writing fragments is where I'm going to post snippets of stories I've written here for you all to throw brickbats at. If you don't like "fan" fiction then you'll know to skip that particular blog post.

Finally, these are not going to come very often, just because really. Also, if the writing feels it is getting serious, then I'm likely to spin the story stuff off.

Friday 5 October 2012

VOTOMS in 10mm

These are Takara F/144 micro scale VOTOMS. Oh these are even lovelier than the GZG Hound Dogs. I got quite a large haul of these recently, sixteen boxes of these beauties in fact. These are an inveterate modifier's dream, as they come in lots of tiny-teeny pieces, which saves cutting them up and all. I can see that this may not have been their best selling point when they were first released though. When was that? Back in 2006, which means that I was quite lucky to find these on eBay. The chances of getting more is slim in the short term. In the long term, things come to those who wait.

The models are in a soft plastic, like most gashapons in fact, and as a result they bend a bit. The trick is to put some wire into them, which stiffens them up considerably. Once glued together they then become remarkably rigid. So here is a  shot with two 10mm MechWarrior infantry, a  GZG Hound Dog, and a BattleTech Atlas for size comparison.

I want to go back and tweak some of the models a bit more. Adding at least one bazooka rocket launcher weapon to one of the Scopedogs. Then modifying a couple of the rifles into snub guns too, along with making variants versions of the missile launchers. I also have three more of the blue Rabidly Dog mechs to make, and one more Blood Sucker mech ( the one with the red antennae) to make up. I've also got one Tortoise and three Diving Beetles along with assorted vehicles and accessories to play with too.

Furthermore, acquiring these has made me want to start playing OHMU Warmachine, a game that I wrote, but that I never thought I would want to start playing again.

However, these little mechs are just perfect for OHMU, and I've been inspired to peruse the old second edition files I have. OHMU was always written to be used with the miniatures that one could get hold of, as even back in the day, I didn't imagine ever marketing a range of specific OHMU miniatures. Not unsurprisingly, we got a lot of feedback saying that the game sucked because we hadn't market any miniatures for the game. Yes, we did draw up concept art, but that was for inspiration, and more of an aspirational thing for how the mecha of the world of OHMU looked.

Live and learn.

Anyway, I've also had a rules writer's epiphany and a moment of clarity about how to re-write OHMU Warmachine that came fully formed into my head. I'm trying to fight the urge to get over excited, and too involved in a project that will suck away all my time for very little reward though.

OHMU Warmachine didn't sell well, got reviews that said it was a mediocre to poor game, and generally the project dragged me down into the pit of despair that led to me losing interest in my hobby. Oh, and here is a nice conceit for all you VOTOMS fans.


Wednesday 3 October 2012

Scale 2: More About Scale

The trouble with using a ground scale smaller than the figure scale is that  models will be bigger than the terrain features. This is especially true of buildings that are in scale with the vehicles, because what appears by linear measurement to be quite large area often ends up as just enough room to fit three small buildings. Hardly the town it is supposed to represent?

Put another way, a village scales up as having multi level hovels!

On the other hand buildings to the same scale as the terrain will be dwarfed by the vehicles, and the problem is made worse in games like BattleTech, because the mechs already dwarf buildings as a matter of course. Then there is the problems of representing roads, rivers and woods when ground scale to figure scale generated distortion. At the end of the day it can all look ludicrous, and undermine the purpose of having the miniatures and terrain in the first place, which is of course to make playing the game easier and things look more realistic.
Let us consider the problems in detail and go back to our hypothetical 6' x 4' wargaming table. At 1/300 ground scale it is the equivalent to an area of 18 x 12 hexes, whereas a similar hex mapboard equivalent in 1/900th scale would be an area of 2' x 1.5'. Therefore a six by four table is similar to using four Battletech map boards at 1/900 ground scale, but only one map board at 1/300.

Now if we took the Atlas, with its auto-cannon 20, and placed it on the table at 1/900 ground scale the range of its weapon is 30 centimeters, but if you were to use 1/300th,  then the range would leap up to 90 centimeters. At the larger scale the Atlas would dominate the whole table with its 180 centimeters (six foot) diameter of fire, which would mean that the emphasis of the game had changed. The area to move in is such that all the combat is now taking place at very close range from the start, and this leaves no room for manoeuvre.

This would cast a different light upon the the types of mechs it would be advantageous to field and change the nature of the game.

However, using the 1/900th scale also has its problems. Since the ground scale is so much smaller than the model one, there are going to difficulties when fighting in and around towns, for reasons stated earlier. Also, our table has now become much larger which is not necessarily the advantage it first appears to be.

This is because play testing has shown that there is a relationship between the size of an area to weapon ranges at the sort of model densities which are fielded. Battletech slows down considerably when you get much above a dozen models on the board. The use of 1/900th scale on a six by four table means that the game will literally eat a dozen models, and you'll wonder where they've all gone. Most of the action will take place in the centre with everything milling around each other.

Monday 1 October 2012

VOTOMS in 6mm

I've been re-watching all my VOTOMS anime over the last week or so, and above is the opening scene from the Pailsen FIles, and what can I say? What's not to like? Tell me you weren't humming along by the end of this? Even if you are not a fan of giant robots, surely the scene of hundreds of them marching was impressive?

I'm afraid this lead to one of those bright and shiny distracting moments that happen to us all. One minute working on painting miniatures for OGRE/GEV, then the next minute I'm browsing the internet for VOTOMS and ordering some Hound Dogs miniatures (loosely inspired by Scope Dogs from VOTOMS) from GZG.

Aren't they cute? More VOTOMs stuff to come later.

Oh just in case you want to listen to the full version of the opening song from VOTOMS The Pailsen FIles, here it is:

Needless to say really, but I'll say it anyway, I've now find myself inexorably drawn towards another giant stompy robot game, Dream Pod 9s Heavy Gear. Oh boy.