A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Battletech: The Novels, Oh So Many Novels!

Howdie.

So, over the past few months, I have been re-reading (or in the case for a handful, reading for the first time) the series of Battletech novels.  I have owned all of the pre-Dark Age novels, sometimes several times over.... so currently I am missing a few (like The Sword and the Dagger, which I did own, and read twice in the past).  However, I have most of them...
I read them in publication order, which is not exactly in chronological order.  I did read other things in between, as nearly 60 BT novels is hard to digest all at one time.  Lots of non-fiction, lots of historical, after every few BT books. 

Why did I do this?  I am not really sure.  A little immersion, a little bit of trying to create a firm picture of the Battletech-verse as depicted in the novels.  Maybe.  It is somewhat hard to do as there are inconsistencies related to the wide array of authors contributing to the series, and not always even contributions from the major authors.  And its a made up sci-fantasy setting with its own laws of how societies work.

Anyway.....

I tried to pick what I thought were the five worst novels in the series.  This is what I went with, your mileage may vary, and there were plenty of other stinkers lurking in the mix I could have grabbed too...



Ghost of Winter... don't buy it.  Its not just a bad BT novel, its just plain bad.  Star Lord... don't buy it, its pretty bad.  Freebirth... I should have liked, I enjoyed all of the other Thurston novels, this one is just kind of a silly (silly in an already silly genre) plot, and I could not really like it.  By Blood Betrayed, ok, not horrible, but representative of a number of other mid-series BT novels that kind of meander.  I found that several authors, even ones that did impressive earlier (and sometimes impressive later) work in the BT series, such as Stackpole, Charrete, Thursont, even Coleman, seem to have written mediocre novels in the middle.  This may in fact represent some editorial pressures, or factors related to the game side of the business that is not entirely the fault of the authors... I don't know.  Anyway, filling out the list is Far Country, which is not terrible for cheap sci-fantasy fiction, just that it is not really a BT novel in many ways.  The biggest is that it introduces a sentient alien race.  It used to be my #1 worst novel, but looks like a best seller compared to Ghost of Winter.

So what are my favorites?  This was much harder as many of them are representatives of linked books, min-series within the BT novels.
This list could change very easily, and I am going to cheat.  Decision at Thunder Rift, the first BT novel I read many many many years ago, and I still like it.  Nostalgia, or just setting up the typical BT overly complicated political betrayals for virtually every plot of every BT novel to follow... but I still like it.  Prince of Havoc... I like the Twilight of the Clans mini-series (yes, Freebirth is in that mini-series), I think this one caps it quite well.  Lethal Heritage, bringing us the Blood of Kerensky trilogy, and changing the BT universe a bit.  Falcon Guard, the cap of the Jade Phoenix trilogy... at one time I did not like this trilogy all that much, but found it to be more compelling this time around.  Threads of Ambition of the Capellan Solution binary.... probably Loren Coleman is my favorite author for BT novels (despite a couple that are so-so... again, those mid range books).  I could easily have included one of the Warrior trilogy, very good books for the BT universe.

Typical plot.... you show up, either the locals or more likely your boss betrays you, you lose someone close to you, fight against adversity, and overcome.  Main character is incredibly talented and able to outperform mere mortal peers. That is like 75% of the novels.  Still, fun to read if you like the background.

The Dying Time.... so basically Gressman is hired to write a book and kill off the entire Grey Death Legion.

Test of Vengeance... not a big hit with me, but interesting to have an Elemental focused novel.

Price of Glory... the most pivotal novel in the series as it impacts the BT-verse.  Loosing all of that lostech on the Inner Sphere.

Blood of Kerensky (yes, I liked this trilogy very much)... so in a very short period of time, a couple of centuries, you create a completely, I mean a completely, different society.  Hunh.

Anyway, taking a major pause before entering the Dark Age series.  Not sure about all of this, curious how the Jihad plays out.  I am sure to enjoy reading some of those, and sure to not enjoy some others.  We will see.

In the meanwhile, I will plan on reading a trio of non-fiction, nature-oriented books... A Walk in the Woods, The Wild (which I have read before), and River Monsters (book for Jeremy Wade's series).  More sunburn and mosquito bites, less man made lightning and betrayals.

Chalfant

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Battletech: Infantry, Armor, Plastech

Howdie.  I used some spare time to put together a combined arms package... in the course of this I encountered some problems related to infantry in Battletech, which I will discuss towards the end of this blog post.  First, I need to display the group I painted....
Its a fairly large group, representing a decade of collection (all of the vehicles were purchased at least ten years ago).

First are some tracked tanks, 2x Alacorn (nobody ignores triple mount gauss rifles) and 2x Patton/Rommel.... these are always interesting as they can be more than one thing... and, they have the distinction of being Battletech vehicles that actually look like tanks!
Then there are the hovertanks.... 2x Condor, 2x Drillson, and 2x J Edgar.  Now, for the Condor, because of the great lapse in time since I had opened the blisters, I lost one of the turrets.  I took a spare piece laying around and just glued that on top, hoping to 1) finish the miniature and 2) maybe make it look like the Davion version with 2x AC5s.  (shrugs shoulders)
Overall, I like how the vehicles turned out, I like some of my camo color choices, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I also painted a lance of Plastech miniatures in my mountain camo scheme.... Atlas, Trebuchet, Panther, and Hunchback.  Now, the old Plastech were a bargain in the day.... and some of the sculpts (in my opinion, the Locust and Atlas in particular) are good, where as some (in particular the HUGE Catapult) are not.  These do not paint up the same as metal figures, though as hard plastic are really better than the soft plastic sets that came out at different times.  Anyway, I have a bunch of these laying around from the late 90's, figures I could knock out these 4 quickly, and I was right.

Finally, the infantry.  This is a complete old pack of Kurita infantry.  The stands include a variety of weapons, I really did not know how to split them up.  AFTER I finished painting a few bases I realized I could have organized them better, but what the hell, these will work.  Basing... well, more on basing below.  I created 7 bases of 9 figures, and 3 bases of 7 figures.  Overall, I think they painted up quickly, turned out pretty decent.  Ironically, painting huge numbers of 6mm ancients helped make painting these a breeze.

OK, so now comes the infantry rules ponderings.... as I was organizing these, I realized it was not easy to determine how to base them.  Previously, I had no trouble basing 5 Elementals on a single base, because that works out great.  Infantry, however, in Battletech are organized into 28 man platoons (or 21 for jump infantry), and a platoon is treated as a single entity. 

I came across some pertinent musings on the Paint it Pink blog... I won't link to those, I am not sure of the etiquette of doing so, but essentially there were some very similar ideas being kicked around.  Paint it Pink went with small bases of 3 figures or so, creating going with a 1:1 representation.  I think I will also go with 1:1 representation, but (obviously) I decided on squad basings of 9 (or 7) figures.

On my Battlescape terrain, it is just possible to clump 3 bases together into a hex, though it could get a bit out of hand pretty quickly as they all drift across the hex lines... this method allows the rules to work as is, but also allows a proper 1:1 figure representation, and looks cool.... Paint it Pink pointed out that infantry are the only thing in Battletech not represented properly.

Now, this will not work on the hex maps, if you do not use Battlescape.  If you game miniatures without hexes at all, it would work perfectly as well, but on the maps..... you end up with a squad base in three adjoining hexes.  In this image you can see that, and also the way the game represents platoons, a single base/counter for the entire platoon in a single hex.  It just does not look right.
What I decided to go with, as reflected in how I based the miniatures, is an abstraction where one base is designated (and will have to be marked clearly somehow) as the platoon center.  This means all firing to and from the platoon, and movement, is based solely on this base, the other bases will be in adjacent hexes for visuals only.
In the above image, the forward central base is the "active" base.  This method has the ability to work with hex maps also.  And to continue the abstraction, you can remove a base when the platoon reaches 18 men, and another base when it reaches 9 men.

But why stop there?  It occurred to me that one way to give infantry a little extra oomph in games, and it is a very little extra, is that they fight as full bases regardless of casualties.  For example, the platoon would count as a full 28 men until it was reduced to 18 men... and a full 18 men until reduced to 9 men... and a full 9 men until completely eliminated. Its an idea I have not tried out yet.

Then again, at that point, why not let squads separate and fight independently?  A platoon becomes 3 separate bases of 9 man squads....

As much as I love the Battletech-verse, I admit there are glaring problems.  Number one for me has always been the ranges... I don't care about the excuses, it makes no sense to me, ha ha.  But the arrangement of movement and range makes the game work, so not much you can do about it, and you can squint your eyes and say its abstracted instead of literal (as in, this weapon only has a 450m range... what?!?@!?).

A different glaring problem is that question of infantry.  The armies are a few thousand men, and in game terms the infantry are potentially dangerous to mechs.... so why are the army numbers not more realistic?  I get the idea that most inhabited planets have low populations, so the armies would be small.  But there are worlds that are densely populated, meaning there should be millions of soldiers, not just a few thousand.  A world unable to field mechs would raise a million men armed (on the squad level) with readily producable anti-mech weapons.  Light, certainly, but effective en masse.

Well, I am starting to board the train to Loco City, so I better stop now.  I think I have decided on how to represent infantry in my games.... now all I have to do is convince my fellow gamers to let me try these ideas out.  SO I either have 2 regular platoons, 1 jump platoon, and 1 company command squad (per my ideas)... OR... I have 7 regular platoons and 3 jump platoons (per standard Battletech rules).

Either way, I can't wait to try them out.... and looking forward to seeing how well they do against some Clan Elementals (!!!!!!!!!).

Thanks for reading.

Chalfant

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Battletech: More Jade Falcons... Fast Paint!

Howdie.

I ha today off, so spent a couple of hours hastily painting some previously assembled, based, and primed mechs.

I had a group of 7 Clan mechs and they have now been painted to match my previous Jade Falcon force... included are a Night Gyr, Marauder IIC, Puma/Adder, Glass Spider,  Vulture/Mad Dog, Behemoth/Stone Rhino, and Warhammer IIC...


The Marauder IIC and Warhammer IIC were previously poorly painted in a metallic green by someone else (seen here  ), one small piece of the Maruader is missing.  I don't normally do a lot of repainting, since, I have so much unpainted  to worry about... but, in this case, I wanted a larger, consistent, group of mechs for my "Episilon" force.



Now, overall, these 7 mechs are a tad on heavy side, with only the Puma not being heavy or assault.  So, I think I need to work in a couple more light mechs to help offset the average weight.

Here is the entire expanded group, 18 mechs and 5 stands of Elementals...

So, not sure if I want to bring the force above 20 mechs or not.  I may add a Dasher and a Jenner IIC, both of which I have had for some time, but have not gotten around to painting.  Still not sure if these two should be assigned to my Smoke Jaguars, I would like to bring them up to at last 15 mechs. maybe 20.  We shall see.



Actually, we shall see when my sudden Battletech painting spree comes crashing down.... I guess I will have to ride it out until it does.  Thanks for reading.

Chalfant

Friday, December 22, 2017

Battletech: The Black Widow Company

Howdie.  Natasha Kerensky rides again.... as part of a project I painted the 12 mechs indicated in the old FASA scenario book, all of them 3020's designs pulled from the original set of 14.

Now, not wanting a grey hilight I chose to use a very dark but translucent blue to drybrush these miniatures.  What is interesting is that to the naked eye the blue is not there... but.... when under the flash of the camera, it shows up.  A curious effect, but the black looks pretty good overall.  I tried my hand at painting on representations for Wolf's Dragoons and the Black Widow Company, with less than spectacular results.  I just don't like using transfers.

This early shot shows that blue under the flash....
All of the mechs are original metal.  Most (I think 9 of them) came from a gaming friend's collection, and the plan is to use them in upcoming games against McKinnon's Raiders as per the scenario book.

Here is the entire company....

The command lance consisting of a Warhammer, Marauder, Crusader, and Griffin....

Here is the fire lance consisting of 2 Archers, a Wasp, and a Stinger....
And finally, here is the recon lance consisting of a Rifleman, a Phoenix Hawk, and 2 Stingers...

Overall, I think they turned out well.  When you paint all black mechs, it does seem to explain why its such a popular color... in some ways, its very easy, very forgiving.  But flat black never looks good as you can not note details very well, so getting some kind of hilight is key to the overall effect.   I remember a number of gamers with mechs painted for the Black Widow Company, I find it a bit funny that after all of these years its finally my turn to field Natasha in her trusty Warhammer.

Thanks for reading,
Chalfant

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Battletech: Lori Kalmar at Thunder Rift and More

Howdie.

Just some more painting progress.  I painted a few more miniatures for my mountain camo battalion, a pair of mechs for my white Comstar battalion, a pair of SRM carriers, a unique scheme Battlemaster, and a Locust painted to look like Lori Kalmar's Locust on the Decision at Thunder Rift cover.

Here is the assorted group...
Some closer views of the mountain camo, Archer, Rifleman, Griffin, Warhammer, and Catapult...

I tried to pay homage to that old cover.  Its a difficult explanation, but I received a number of old mechs from a gaming buddy who is no longer with us.  The Catapult, Warhammer, and Rifleman in the mountain camo were from him, as was the Locust.  I first intended to paint it to match the mountain camo too, but for some reason decided on Lori Kalmar at Thunder Rift, based on the original novel cover, instead.  Its unfortunate that this sort of washes out in the images, because it is actually quite sharp looking in real life, one of the cleanest paint jobs I have done on a Battlemech in a long time.  Hopefully some of that carries through.


Here are the remainder, a Battlemaster in unique colors (I think its always good to have a few individuals in the mix, instead of everyone in he same colors), with a Lancelot and Catapult in Comstar white.  Finally, there are a pair of SRM carriers, painted differently than my previous pair of "brown" ones.  These "green" ones are not quite as nice, but, they will work... and its good to have these available in two different colors.

Speaking of Catapults, here is a mix of different Catapults I have... newer metal ones, newer plastic one, real old real huge Plastech ones, and old "too tall" metal one.  I think maybe I like the newer metal ones the best, but its only the large Plastech ones I don't like at all.
OK, thanks for reading  Battletech apparently is a decades long project for me, its fun to paint a few once in a while, but maybe I should start thinking about an end game somewhere here.

At this time I am in the midst of re-reading the book series, and am currently at the beginning of the Fed-Com civil war (the only book in the pre-Mechwarrior book era I am missing is Sword and Dagger... used to have a copy which I sold 10 years ago, for better or for worse)... but I think I'd still like to game the Tukayyid proxy-for-Terra battles, and/or Exodus Road/annihilation of Smoke Jaguar Clan.

We shall see.

Chalfant








Sunday, December 3, 2017

Battletech: Trees for Battlescape

Howdie.  I have been working on small tree stands to work with Battlescape terrain for my Battletech games.  I started off with a mix of different (and inexpensive) small scale trees, using a hot glue gun to affix them to pennies and (for the larger trees) steel washers.  In some cases, I clumped 2 or 3 pennies together for a larger stand of multiple trees.  Included in this are some rightly colored ornamental trees... I thought putting a few out would make the woods more "alien", or at least more "festive"....



Afterwards, I affixed a mix of sand and white glue, something to give the stands more texture.  Also, this surface is more accepting of paint.  This also helps harden the stand.  Notice I have been using sheets of paper or plastic grocery bags as this process leaves a lot of little bits of residue.
After this was dry I painted the bases with a wash of dark brown paint thinned with water.  Once this dried, I applied a few different flock... starting with some earth blend turf, then different colors of foliage, making each stand more of a tiny vignette, hoping this helps sell the "woods" look.


The Battlescape terrain is a bit of work to set up, so i went with some sample shots just to demonstrate the finished look.  Appears some Inner Sphere types are tangling with Jade Falcons....  One last part I have not quite decided on is marking the woods hexes so that trees can be removed for the insertion of moving Mechs (like the Banshee in these images), and removed to be able to draw lines of sight (for just about every thing in these images).  I do have some battescape terrain sheets that you cut out, which are already marked, making this task very easy.  But I don't have a lot of that.  I think I will be using small pieces of felt which I can place in the middle of each hex, so that when a tree is removed, it will be easy to see which hex(es) it foes back on.



Of course, these trees, while on the smaller side, will still work with all larger scales of miniatures, either as full sized trees in 15mm, or understory thickets in 28mm.

Not sure when I will get to test these guys out in a game, but I will be sure to post about it when I do.

Thanks for reading, and remember, only you... and your Stalker... can prevent forest fires!

Chalfant

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Shootout: Miami Dade, April 11, 1986

Howdie.

From time to time, I set up tactical simulations of law enforcement gun fights.  We recently gamed the FBI shoot out in Miami Dade, which occurred on April 11, 1986, between 8 agents and 2 particularly dangerous individuals wanted for armed robbery and murder.  I have run this scenario in the club previously, but this time we used 1/6th scale figures... and, because they were available, 1/6th scale jeeps and kubelwagons filled in for cars.  Yes, they do look out of place, but they worked for their purpose, and after a bit everyone responded to them simply as terrain pieces anyway.  The son of one of our members actually made up specific representations of the two criminals, which came out quite accurate.  The scale created a unique gaming area as we had to use three carefully arranged 4' x 6' tables, and still had to position Hanlon and Mireles far off the table (which was done to allow Orrantia and Risner to arrive on the table).

The scenario starts at the point that Agent Manauzzi has forced Matix and Platt off the road and into a parking lot.  Agent McNeil has pulled into Manuazzi's car, with Agents Grogan and Dove taking a position behind the suspect vehicle.  Agents Hanlon and Mireles are some distance away, recovering from a spin out, and Agents Risner and Orrantia have yet to arrive.

Platt starts the game with a fusillade from his passenger side seat into Manauzzi's car...
Manauzzi is hit twice, the second round killing him outright.
After exchanging shots, and realizing he is outgunned, McNeil crawls into the back seat of his vehicle in a desperate attempt to retrieve - and then load - his 870 in the back seat.  He has already been slightly wounded.  Platt, then Matix, crawl through their car windows, trying to take cover behind the vehicles as they exchange fire with the converging agents.  A vengeful Platt takes notice of McNeil...
He charges towards McNeil's position, firing at point blank range.  Despite being previously wounded, McNeil is not hit (against all odds)... he returns fire with the single shell he had managed to load, but also misses, as Platt ducks down.
Matix puts fire down on Grogan and Dove.
A blast of birdshot strikes Grogan in the chest... though the wound is only moderate, it sends the agent sprawling.
In the background, Risner and Orrantia have arrived, and begin to fire on Platt prior to him ducking down.  Risner hits Platt in the upper torso, wounding him badly.  Matix has also been hit several times, including twice in the right arm and once in the head. Though no single wound is severe, the accumulated damage is taking its toll.  Hanlon and Mireles move up, Hanlon to put fire on Matix and support Grogan and Dove, and Mireles to support (rescue) the beleagured NcNeil.  Stressed players try to solve the riddle of downing their opponents without being downed themselves.

A wounded McNeil exits the rear passenger door, scrambling to put new shells into his 870, while Platt is crouched on the other side, his Mini-14 blazing.

Enraged from the chest wound, Platt pours fire into Orrantia and Risner.  Though Risner is missed, Orrantia is hit twice.  He is not dead, yet, but is critically wounded and slumps down, out of the fight (viewed in the distance), bleeding heavily.  At the same time Matix drops his empty 12 gauge, yanking his .357 from his shoulder hoster.  Grogan recovers from his sprawl, going to a crouch, closely supported by Hanlon.  He fires ineffectively at Matix.  Matix returns fire, hitting Grogan in the chest again, but this time with his .357. The shot is fatal, and Grogan falls in the parking lot.
Dove has also been hit, though the bullet travels through the structure of the car, robbing it of energy, resulting in a minor leg wound.
Platt, with nothing to lose, and suffering from multiple hits already, races around McNeil's car firing madly, again missing what should be easy shots... McNeil hastily returns fire, also somehow missing in the scramble, and his 870 goes empty again.  Mireles aggressively moves up, needing to get abreast of McNeil in order to not accidentally hit his fellow agent.  Mireles scores a single devastating hit with buckshot at point blank range to Platt's head.  Platt is killed instantly.
Once the Mini-14 has stopped, the agents suddenly have more freedom of movement, though they have taken considerable damage already.
Matix is still in the fight, and he is still dangerously determined.  With Platt neutralized, Risner runs forward to close the distance and clear his lane of fire, leaving the badly wounded Orrantia in their car.  Despite his own movement, and the partial cover Matix still has, Risner manages a single hit on Matix.  Matix is critically wounded and drops to the ground, alive but unconscious.

The fight is over.  Of the eight agents, 2 are dead, 1 is critically wounded, and 2 are lightly wounded.  Platt is dead.  His partner Matix is critically wounded, and unlikely to survive.


This scenario is extremely tense for the players.  They struggle with decisions about which actions to choose, as it seems like all choices are bad ones.  There were some oddities with dice rolling, Platt failing to hit McNeil 9 times at point blank range for any kind of significant damage went completely against the odds... but chalk it up to his erratic movement, and number of hits he had already received.  Mathematically Platt should have inflicted at least 4, possibly 5, more hits on McNeil, and even 1 or 2 would have certainly killed or incapacitated him.... but it didn't happen, because there are no guarantees.  Which is why we roll dice.

Matix held up well, pulling his own weight and was completely willing to continue the fight against the remaining 5 agents (two of whom were already wounded) after Platt was killed.  The agents were impeded by their inability to coordinate their actions (lack of communication was one feature of the historical event).  Here they managed to support one another as best they could, with mixed results.  McNeil being saved by Mireles is the best example of this working out for the agents.  Despite the apparent retreat of McNeil, the tactical concept was not incorrect, as he was trying to bring a more powerful (at least at short range) weapon into play.  Dove, Grogan, and Hanlon ganged up on Matix, assuming (correctly) that their combined fire would win out eventually... though it was Risner making his way past the dead Platt who was able to finally put Matix to sleep, and only after Grogan had sustained a fatal wound.

It is difficult in some ways to game this type of scenario, a modern one in which some of the actual participants are still living.  Still, it is very useful as a demonstration of a number of specific details of the historical event, and offers a spot light on the dramatic impact this day had on how law enforcement officers would be armed in the future.  It is also a tough game for the players, because the stakes are high and every decision could force them from the game.  I present this scenario with plenty of background information, and we have discussion on various aspects of the weapons, the men, the wounds, and the aftermath.