Friday, 24 September 2010

FASAnomics


Good old FASA economics lies at the heart of BattleTech, though some of you who might be reading this will probably go huh? FASAnomics describes the phenomena in the BattleTech game where the economic implications of game background decisions really don't make a lot of sense. However, I would have to say that since the game is based on giant battling stompy robots that make no real world sense, it is really the equivalent of quibbling over how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

So why even talk about such a pointless thing?

First to kind of tell everyone that it is pointless, because believe you me, on the CBT forum these issues are discussed all the time. Mind you everything is repeatedly discussed to the point that one begins to lose the will to live. Furthermore, people never hesitate to tell you everything they believe with the full force of righteous belief delivered from high. I wonder how the CGL crew really stop themselves from screaming sometimes? There again what is the bottom line here? Money. You can only make money by selling product, and to do that you have to keep and expand your customer base. Want to know how to make a small fortune in gaming? Start with a large one. So perhaps the screaming is all about the horror of losing money?

All joking aside, we also have the dual problem of CGL trying to square the circle. In this case reconcile the contradictions implicit within the universe, while at the same time not adding things to the BattleTech universe that is seen to be a retcon (retroactive continuity). Retcons really annoys the fan base, but it does look like the tail is wagging the dog at times, as can be seen in these threads.

Amount of Churn & Burn among mech Designs?

Master Unit List.

Does this all sounds a bit like tilting at windmills? One of my contributions to these threads was that of all things the Jihad provides the best agent for an invisible retcon. Saves a lot of work really. Standard answer, it got nuked. The end.

However, I'm reminded about the time when the story "Crisis on Infinite Earths" by DC was released. It was a multiple issue comic book plot-line that attempted to reconcile the timeline and alternate Earth stories, while at the same time removing inconsistencies and confusion. I understand from my friend Rob Hansen that since Crisis on Infinite Earths was published that DC have needed to repeat the process over again on two further occasions. Only going to show the futility of such an exercise in the first place; something largely driven by the fact that it is a shared universe with lots of different writers all contributing their unique vision to it. OTOH it sold a lot of comics, which makes money for everyone. Well everyone apart from the readers, but their contract is to pay for stuff and be entertained.

Sounds a bit like BattleTech, but instead of various versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman et al, we have various novels with different authors who stress different aspects of the giant stompy robot action.

This started from the time the very first novels were published. IMHO William Keith's version of the Inner Sphere is notably darker than Michael Stackpole's. The current Dark Age line has the further problem of different writers writing about the same character in a follow-on novel. For example, the first time we meets Anastasia Kerensky she is a sexy high maintenance risk taker and excellent mech pilot. Several novels down the line she now is portrayed sans-sexuality as a harridan, who is frustrated at every point either by the men around her, or by one of the two blond protagonists both called Tara that thwart her "evil" plans. Link.

Another name given to the phenomenon of story discontinuity on the CBT forums "is that the character took the stupid pills". It is what you get when you have writers who are interested in their own vision, and their own character archetype having to write about established characters written by other writers. So in one book the leader of one house is shown to be a genius, yet the story unfolds to show that he or she has got it so wrong that they are really more stupid than a very stupid thing. Making a character look stupid is a bad thing to do to another authors creation. Got to have a common vision of the universe for this to work, and that means people do things because they believe it is the right thing to do. IMNSHO best to leave the other writers character alone, or only obliquely mention them in passing, rather than showing the reader your version. YMMV on that opinion.

Coming back to the whole future history of the BattleTech Universe, the thing is that I can go and read a history book and get one perspective and some data. Later on another history book will come along and give another perspective and perhaps new data. Afterwards there is a synthesis of both perspectives that shows error in both the data sets. This is fine with historical facts. However, the BattleTech universe is fictional, and there are no historical facts, just fiction. While we live in a world where the last major world war had villains who wore black, and who did monstrous things, but if you are writing a story as fiction people are going to say that this is a tired old trope. Link here.

So on one hand you can retcon anything, just because you can, but OTOH why even bother? I mean, at the end of the day BattleTech is just a game. The simplest non-retcon retcon that can be done is to just say that the figures are wrong, because the in character source got them wrong. Have source books with facts as seen from one perspective, but the novels should not be seen as reliable canon, as they are they are character points-of-view. At the moment novels are a canon source of data, whereas I would see them as "in-universe" self serving hagiographies.

Take the problem that the population numbers too high. Simple answer, ComStar made a computational error in their census. Still too high? The House Lords were subject to errors from poor accounting practices. The real figures? No one knows since all the computer records have been lost in the wars.

Perhaps it's time for a post Jihad census story? It would make the basis for a good novel. No really. The plot would be about the characters finding out that population levels have been falling for centuries, but everyone high up has just assumed that the figures they were working with were right, and that evidence to the contrary was a glitch. People on the ground never had the time to worry about the consequences due to having to face the fact that property values dropping from mech invasions, and the Jihad. It would be a dark tale that would put the consequences of three centuries of war at the heart of the story again.

I can dream...
   

Monday, 20 September 2010

Recon 09.20.10 AAR


Dan, otherwise known as Monkey Doctor on the CBT forums came around for a game at my place. We set up the terrain board through the simple expediency of laying down one tile of our choice, starting at opposite corners, which made for an interesting challenge in and of itself. Placing certain tiles required that one thought about the next adjacent tile and the need to match up with it. At the end of placing 15 tiles we rotated a couple around so that we got the maximum use of the terrain feature on the tile. We were using one inch equals one hex for the game, and therefore the table was the equivalent to a 30 x 50 hex map.

The Scenario Recon in Force

The primary objective was to get one mech over to the others sides baseline, and roll 8 or better on 2D6, to successfully observe the enemy rear line. We then said that the objective from this was to withdraw all your mechs off the board. Victory points based on the mech battle value (on hindsight not the best choice).A draw was any result within 10% of each others scores, a marginal win at 50% or better, and a total victory if the result was more than 100% more than your opponent. All pilots were standard pilot 5, gunnery 4 skill.

Initial Deployment of Forces 



You can see the deployment of all the mechs in the above picture. Nearest mech on the table, this side, are my lance.

Starting with a Wolverine WVR-9XP, which was a custom 3132 level 3 Clan tech mech worth 2508 bv (move 5-8-5, armour 182 points). Loadout 1 x ER-PPC, 2 x ER SLs, 1 x Streak SRM6, 2 x ER MLs all wrapped up nicely with a target computer.

Next along was a custom 3025 Inner Sphere level 1 Battlemaster BLR-1PJ worth 1779 bv (move 3-5-3, armour 248 points). Loadout 2 x LLs, 6 x MLs, and 1 x SRM6.

Next was a custom 3025 Inner Sphere level 1 Thunderbolt TDR-5PL worth 1326 bv (move 4-6-0, armour 208 points). Loadout 1 x LL, 2 x SLs, 1 x SRM2, 3 x MLs, and 4 x LRM5s.

Finally on this side, was a Spider SDR-7K2 Inner Sphere level 2 3132 era mech worth 886 bv (move 8-12-7, armour 90 points). Loadout 1 x ER LL.

Opposing me were Dan's mechs. Starting with the nearest which was a Inner Sphere level 2 Valkyrie VLF-QD1 3062 era mech worth 878 bv (move 5-8-5, armour 96 points). Loadout 1 x ER ML, and 1 x LRM10 with Artemis IV. Represented by a Wasp proxy miniature.

Next was an Inner Sphere level 2 Enforcer ENF-5D, 3050 era mech worth 1308 bv (move 5-8-5, armour 161 points). Loadout 1 x LB10X, 1 x ER LL, and 1 x SL. Specified mixed cluster and standard ammo.

Next along was Inner Sphere level X Warhammer WHR-9S 3067 era mech worth 1653 bv (move 4-6-0, armour 208 points). Loadout 2 x ER PPC, 2 x ER ML, and 1 x Steak SRM6.

Finally, Dan's Inner Sphere level 2 Pillager PLG-3Z 3058 era mech worth 2697 bv (move 3-5-3, armour 307 points). Loadout 2 x GR, 2 x ER ML, and a Guardian ECM. Represented by an Awesome proxy miniature.

First Objective


The above picture (probably turn 3) shows my Spider (hard to see but at the top, roughly in the middle of the frame), having made it to Dan's deployment zone, and I've successfully rolled 8+ on 2D6. The problem for me, at this point, is my left flank where Dan's Pillager and Warhammer were in firing range of both my Battlemaster & Thunderbolt, and if I turned around and ran for it I was going to lose both mechs. On my right flank my Wolverine was facing the Enforcer & Valkyrie, and I really want to stop him getting either mech to my side on the board to make their recon rolls.

First Mech Down


On the right hand side of the above picture you can see that Dan's Valkyrie has been destroyed. He had lost initiative this turn so was at a disadvantage. He ran past my Wolverine and hoped that his speed, and the threat from his Enforcer, would be enough for me concentrate on it. I ignored the Enforcer, and blew the Valkyrie away in one combat round.

On the left hand side of the picture you can see my Thunderbolt, which was being fired on by the Pillager and being hit by 15 points of gauss rifle goodness in the right torso. This would motivate me to move the Thunderbolt for the next five/six turns to do a "run Forrest run" manoeuvre. My Battlemaster has closed the range on the Warhammer, as I really needed to spam him with my six medium lasers to stand any chance against him, and I had pretty much reconciled myself to losing the Battlemaster, as it was too slow to get off the table.

Second Mech Down


In the turn prior to this one, I had said to Dan that my objective was to get all my mechs off the table, and that perhaps we could both agree to withdraw. My Spider had withdrawn off table, due to having lost its only weapon, and having served its function of dam fast nuisance mech. Also, because discretion is definitely the better part of valour. However, Dan chose to carry on, as he feared I would rip his mechs to shreds if he turned to leave.

So, by the time of the above picture, Dan's Enforcer had led my Wolverine a merry chase across the board and I had been unable to stop him from making a successful recon roll, in spite of him having to take an extra turn to do so due to repeatedly firing and failing to finish him off. This meant that it was now down to the damage points we could inflict on each other, for either of us to have a chance of getting anything better than a draw, thus making the likelihood of a victory very uncertain.

My Thunderbolt by this time (having pretty much run all the way across the board) had turned around to face the Pillager. After previously reaching the hill (on its right rear side in the picture), where I had able to use the terrain to block line-of-site, and turn to face the Pillager without being shot at with no modifiers. I was then able to advance the mech to the cliff face you see it at here. My intention at this time was to climb over the hill and get the hell out of Dodge. I had lost count of how many gauss rifles rounds had just missed me as Dan's Pillager had shot at the Thunderbolt every turn bar one by this point. Lucky for me, dam unlucky for Dan. By this point in the game the Thunderbolt had earned the nickname "Forrest", as it seemed rather apt.

Finally during this turn, I got a rear shot on the Enforcer from my Wolverine, at the same time as my Thunderbolt laid some large laser love, and LRM salvo on it, which finished it off, so they claimed a joint kill.

Meanwhile the Warhammer and Battlemaster had been slugging it out. First with the Warhammer coming down the hill, then retreating back up the hill, while I followed him up for some close combat kicking goodness. We both did Alpha strikes at one point, which left me slightly hot, so my Battlemaster jumped behind the Warhammer as it was my only viable option for an effective move. After turning to face me Dan Alpha striked the Warhammer again, whereas I took the chance on surviving and only returned fire with some of my medium lasers and the SRM2, getting a critical hit on the Warhammer's hip actuator to add to its misery. As you can at this point the Warhammer had fallen over due to shutting down after his Alpha strike.

Third Mech Down


The shutdown Warhammer was easy meat for the Battlemaster, which used medium laser spam and the SRM2 to "crit" it to death. I also started to take advantage of the opportunity to cool down whilst doing this. Dan's Pillager had manoeuvered to prevent my Thunderbolt from having an easy shot at it, and took the opportunity to send loads of love down range at the Wolverine, for two turns, missing with all but one gauss rifle round, which hit my left torso. Dan called the Wolverine "lucky", which then became its nickname.

Fourth Mech Down


As you can see here, my Battlemaster had spent two turns running down the hill while the Wolverine and Thunderbolt poured the love onto the Pillager. "Lucky" my Wolverine was shot at again by Dan's Pillager, which had missed again. Whereas the return shot from "Lucky" hit the head of the pillager for wince inducing 15 points of, oops headlessness ventilation.

Damage Report

All Dan's mechs destroyed.

My Spider took 44 points of damage, which include 2 points of internal center torso damage. It also had one engine hit, and one hit on the ER large laser. A suggestion that it be nicknamed "Colander" was resisted. "Forrest" the Thunderbolt took 15 points of damage to the right torso. Meanwhile "Lucky" the Wolverine took a total of 38 points of damage across the torso's and right arm. Finally, my Battlemaster 134 points of armour damage, and 19 points of internal structure damage (left & right torso's). Proving yet again that a Battlemaster just has that certain je ne sais quoi?

Learning Points

Don't use assaults and heavies for a recon in force mission. Battle value seems to work okay. You must have well defined retreat options in pick up games. Due to the victory points for mechs being based on their battle value, it actually made sense to stay and duke it out. Had the the victory points been based on their tonnage, then there would have been less incentive to kill mechs. Hell, maybe no victory points for killing mechs might have been better still? Just points for achieving the scenario goal, and for retreating mechs off board, might have been better?

Summary

Unfortunately I lost count of the number of turns we got through in the six hours that the game took to play. We were having fun, it seemed to go at a reasonable pace to me, but if I had to guess then it lasted around 14/15 turns, which seems low on retrospect to me, but this is nearly two and a half turns an hour with eight mechs on the table. So not too bad. Towards the end I had certainly slowed down a bit, but I never felt that the game was slow as such.

Anyway, my first game of BattleTech in about 20 months, as it was for Dan too. We were both a bit rusty with the rules, but we are both keen to run a campaign, as neither of us likes pick up games where there is no incentive to conserve forces. The miniatures on the terrain worked really well too and seems to makes for a more relaxed game, as you can't count hexes, you need to be laid back about the odd half inch, and firing arcs are not so easy to judge etc.

I hope you enjoyed this After Action Report? See you all on the bounce.
   

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Pan European 7th Demi Brigade Légion Etrangère

  

Like most of my stuff, I've had these a long time, having bought the original Pan European vehicle miniatures when they first released in 1992. I bought a shed load, as too many miniatures is not a concept that I readily understand!

Unfortunately, the bad news is that I have not painted all of them yet, the good news is that I still have a shoe box full of blisters of Pan European vehicles to paint in the future. Yay!

A part of me want to go and strip my North American Combine Ogres and paint them in this green camo to match, while repainting my Pan European Ogres in yellow, because then my yellow force would be French Foreign Legion etc, etc. However, life is too short, and quite frankly I don't give that much of a dam about matching in universe concepts with what happens on my gaming table.

After all the main reason for modelling and playing SF games, for me, is that I can use my own imagination and please myself, without being tied down to any manufacturers, or games company universe. If I wanted to do that, I would do historical stuff. Then I had that dumb is clever light bulb moment, why repaint when I can just relabel the units, and hey presto these are now my 7th Demi Brigade Légion Etrangère force.

NB: Since posting this I've renamed this force 7ème Brigade Blindée, just in case you're reading this and are confused by the two names.
 

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Pan European OGREs


  

Time for a couple of pictures of my OGRE/GEV Pan European OPFOR. Now back in 1992 when I was actively gaming OGRE/GEV there were no Pan European Ogres to be had, so I made my own, the first you see above.

Both of these OGREs are home brew conversions I made. Originally, the OGRE above was made as a Mk3, but when Ral-Partha produced the official Mk3, I started using this as a Pan European Ninja. The Ogre below was meant to be a Mk5, but after the official Mk5 became readily available, I imagined this was a Pan European Doppelsoldner .


I like my stuff to be quite battered looking, in an artistic way, and I have developed a system of weathering models that replicates real world process i.e. crud and grime applied, which is then washed, or worn off. This is all applied to the model after it has been first gloss varnished and then had a coat of matt varnish.

Now some of you may well realise that varnish is just varnish and wonder why use gloss and matt? Surely two coats of matt would be good enough? You would be right. However, in my experience it is easier to tell if you have fully coated the model when spraying gloss varnish, because any parts you miss will look matt, and vice-versa. So the alternates coats of varnish assure me that the finish is properly protected.

After the weathering I then use a fibre-glass metal polishing pen, available from good DIY stores that cater for light engineering etc. Google is your friend. Using the fibre-glass pen I gently polish off all the excess weathering. If the model starts to look glossy while you are doing this, stop, as it means you've polished off the protective coating. However, even if you do over do it, and remove all the paint, the result will still look okay. In fact it will look like freshly worn metal.

After I have cleaned up the model to my satisfaction I then varnish the model again to seal the finish and protect the model when being handled.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Gleefully Gloating


Sometimes eBay can be a wonderful thing. Today is one of those days, though truth be told it was a few days ago that I scored big time by winning a 20 year worth collection of BattleTech books etc. I'm not going to link here to the eBay link as it will be eliminated at some point, and this blog serves as a more permanent place. However, I will list what I scored for the record, with particularly juicy items in bold italic.

Miscellaneous:
Five binders full of printed mech and vehicle record sheets.
One black Kurita stylised jumpsuitBattleTech comics issues 0 though 4, including a Gold Edition
BattleForce (North America) Quarterly; Vol1/1-4, Vol2/1-3 + 2 BattleForce Manuals.

BattleTech Camo Specs book.
Nova Combat Book game, 6 booklets.
McKinnon’s Raiders campaign module for BattleTech. Re-bound
Clan force campaign module for BattleForce. Re-bound
Six BattleTech cover posters, including 10th anniversary print, and Kuritan Recruitment Poster!
Geo-Hex 4’ X 6’ green effect gaming mat

Boxed Games:
BattleTech.
CityTech.
AeroTech.
BattleSpace.
BattleForce.
Solaris VII.
BattleTroops – unboxed.
ClansTroops – unboxed.
The Succession Wars.
BattleForce 2: Reinforcements.

FASA Books:
Tales of the Black Widow Company BattleTech Campaign module
The Fox's Teeth: Exploits of McKinnon's raiders BattleTech Campaign module
MechWarrior First Edition BattleTech Role Playing Game
The Galtor Campaign BattleTech Campaign module
Cranston Snord's Irregulars BattleTech Campaign module
Mercenary's Handbook BattleTech Sourcebook
Gray Death Legion BattleTech Campaign module
House Kurita - The Draconis Combine Sourcebook
House Steiner - The Lyran Commonwealth Sourcebook
House Marik - The Free Worlds League Sourcebook
House Davion - The Federated Suns Sourcebook
House Liao - The Capellan Confederation Sourcebook
Battletech Manual - The Rules of Warfare
Sorenson's Sabres Battletech Campaign module
Star League Sourcebook
Wolf's Dragoons BattleTech/BattleForce/MechWarrior module
N.A.I.S The Fourth Succession War Military Atlas Volume 1: August 3028 - January 3029
N.A.I.S The Fourth Succession War Military Atlas Volume 2: January 3029 - 3030
20 Year Update BattleTech Sourcebook
MechWarrior Second Edition BattleTech Role Playing Game
Wolf Clan BattleTech Sourcebook
Rhonda's Irregulars BattleTech Campaign module
Jade Falcon BattleTech Sourcebook
Invading Clans A BattleTech Sourcebook
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume one Light Mechs
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume two Medium Mechs
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume three Heavy Mechs
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume four Assault Mechs
Rolling Thunder BattleTech Campaign module
The Kell Hounds BattleTech Campaign module
The Battle for Twycross BattleTech Campaign module
The Fourth Succession War Scenarios Volume one: BattleTech Campaign module
ComStar BattleTech Sourcebook
More Tales of the Black Widow Company BattleTech Campaign module
Objective Raids A BattleTech sourcebook
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume five Vehicles
BattleTech Record Sheets: Volume six 3055 Mechs
McCarron's Armoured Cavalry BattleTech Campaign module
Mercenary's Handbook 3055 BattleTech Sourcebook
MechWarrior Companion
Intelligence Operations Handbook BattleTech/MechWarrior Sourcebook
Days of Hero's (The continuing adventures of the GDL) BattleTech Campaign module
Luthien BattleTech Campaign module
Explorer Corps BattleTech/BattleSpace/MechWarrior Sourcebook
The Fall of Terra BattleTech Campaign module
Tukayyid BattleTech Campaign module
The Black Thorns A BattleTech scenario pack/BattleTech Campaign module
1st Somerset Strikers (The Animated Series) BattleTech/MechWarrior Campaign module
Chaos March BattleTech Sourcebook
The Falcon and The Wolf BattleTech Campaign module
The Periphery BattleTech/MechWarrior Sourcebook
The Battle of Coventry BattleTech Campaign module
BattleTech Record Sheets: 3055
BattleTech Record Sheets: 3025
BattleTech Record Sheets: 3050
First Strike BattleTech Campaign module
BattleTech Field Manual - Draconis Combine
BattleTech Field Manual - Free worlds League
BattleTech Field Manual - Mercenaries
Northwind Highlanders BattleTech/BattleSpace Campaign module
The Dragon Roars BattleTech Campaign module
Battlepack: Fourth Succession War BattleTech Campaign module
BattleTech Field Manual - Crusader Clans
BattleTech Record Sheets: 3060
The Clans Warriors of Kerensky BattleTech Sourcebook
Twilight of the Clans BattleTech Campaign module
BattleTech Field Manual - Warden Clans
Shattered Sphere BattleTech Sourcebook
Operation Stiletto BattleTech Campaign module
MechWarrior Third Edition BattleTech Role Playing Game
BattleTech Field Manual - Lyran Alliance
Operation Flashpoint BattleTech Campaign module
BattleTech Field Manual - Periphery
BattleTech Record Sheets: Upgrades
BattleTech Field Manual - COMSTAR
BattleTech Technical Readout 3025
The Spider & The Wolf comic/BattleTech/MechWarrior game module
BattleTech Technical Readout 3026 (Vehicles and Personal Equipment)
Shrapnel - Fragments from the Inner Sphere
BattleTech Technical Readout: 2750
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3050
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3055 (Revised Edition
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3055
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3057 Dropships, Jumpships & Warships
BattleTech Technical Readout: 3058
BattleTech Tactical Handbook

FanPro Books:
Classic BattleTech Technical Readout: 3067
BattleTech Record Sheets: 3067
Classic BattleTech FedCom Civil War Campaign Module
Classic BattleTech Technical Readout: 3060
Classic Battletech Technical Readout: Project Phoenix
BattleTech Reinforcements: Battlemech Record Sheets: 3025

The only reason there are not more highlighted items is that I already had things like the Tales of the Black Widow Company and Grey Death Legion already. However, I did some better condition copies of some items too, which was very nice.

Going away to gloat a bit more now, and fondle my Star League sourcebook.

  

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