Sunday, June 26, 2022

Jayne's Fighting Ships: Rim Fleets Part I: The Terran Empire

          In light of the rising tensions on the Tartarus Rim Jayne's Fighting Ships has taken the opportunity to publish a special addition to our regular galactic annual. It should be emphasized that our estimates are derived only from publicly available information. This is not intelligence adequate for war planning and we neither endorse nor encourage such endeavors. But since this is now become a matter of severe public interest we release our estimates widely so that those who have the ability to sway public policy might do so with full knowledge of the terrible cost that any misstep might demand.

          In light of the above preface we will proceed from the best known to the least. The Terran fleet is easily the largest and most potent in our galaxy at present, and possibly in the entire history of humanity. The backbone of the fleet comprises three classes produced in such large quantities as to be nearly universally known, even in the farthest reaches of space: The Furious class great galleons, Comitatus class galleons, and Serpens class galiots. These are the fastest and most efficient of Terra's many warships.

Furious class great galleon

Mass: 38Ktons, Cost: 282M TI Marks
Armament: bow torpedo, 2 B class laser batteries, C class laser battery, and 3 point defence batteries
Protection: 2 DesiLu type screen projectors and 19 armored cells
Powerplant: 4 Mars type JJAJ reactors paired to 14 chambers producing 152Ktons of thrust for 4TG of impulse power

          The Furious design is thought to have originated in the Mars yards in the centuries immediately following the Wars of the Solar Succession. Visible below are three examples: from left to right Cursus, Sacrosanctus, and Lictor. Sacrosanctus belongs to the original design, but the remaining two represent the later Fidelis subclass, which is distinguished by improved flag accommodations and a much enlarged astronunciation suite, sometimes even including one of the newer waveless sets.

           The greatest advantage of the ships is their tremendous speed. They are easily the fastest known capital ships, possessing a backbreaking 4TG of acceleration provided by four Mars type JJAJ reactors coupled to fourteen thrust chambers producing 152KTons of impulse energy. In spite of this exceptionally nimble performance, they boast two of the heaviest class B laser batteries, capable of bearing to each side of the ship, and a plasma torpedo tube firing through the bow. Additional armament includes a C class laser battery capable of tracking the fastest targets and thirty point defense beams mounted in three locally controlled batteries distributed around the ship. They are protected by two DesiLu type energy screen projectors of the most modern design. Compared to other capital ships they are quite light, weighing in at only 38,000 tons at standard load.

Comitatus class galleon and Serpens class galiot


Mass: 26Ktons, Cost: 190M TI Marks
Armament: bow torpedo, B class laser battery, C class laser battery, 2 point defence batteries
Protection: 1 DesiLu type screen projectors and 13 armored cells
Powerplant: 2 Mars type JJAJ reactors paired to 10 chambers producing 52Ktons of thrust for 4TG of impulse power


Mass: 14Ktons, Cost: 85M TI Marks
Armament: bow torpedo, C class laser battery, point defence battery
Protection: 7 armored cells
Powerplant: 1 Ceres type JJAJ reactors coupled to 9 chambers producing 21Ktons of thrust for 6TG of impulse power

          The Serpens and Comitatus classes are quite similar in general appearance, though much smaller. Seen above are Crotalus, Armentarius, and Fulvius sailing in line ahead. The Comitatus class is essentially a pocket Furious, possessing generally similar armament and performance, though on a smaller scale. The Serpens class, however, have an absolutely breathtaking 6TG of acceleration, which they are capable of providing for extended periods, necessitating specially trained crews. They are thought to be the smallest ships mounting a screen projector. Their small size allows the use of close formation flying permitting them to share energy screens. More than three projectors appears to provide no additional benefit, but three ships in close formation have protection equivalent to the largest capital ships.

Gladius class great galleon

Mass: 60Ktons, Cost: 357M TI Marks
Armament: bow X-ray cannon, 6 B class laser batteries, 2 C class laser batteries, 3 point defence batteries
Protection: 10 double armored and 10 standard armored cells
Powerplant: 3 Echo type JJBA reactors coupled to 14 chambers producing 120Ktons of thrust for 2TG of impulse power

          If the Furious class represents the backbone of the Terran fleet the Gladius class great galleons are its iron fist. Represented above by Periastron, these ironclad stalwarts of old predate the succession crisis. They stand out as the first modern galleons, and the oldest ships still in widespread use. In spite of this, they have some significant downsides. Their armament, while many times greater than their successors, gives a broadside only slightly heavier, thanks to less efficient earlier mounting schemes. (Though this does have the benefit of affording some degree of redundancy, albeit at an enormous expense in mass, and thus acceleration.) Second, their ancient hulls do not permit the use of energy screens, so they rely solely on their armored ceramite plates for a degree of protection. Instead of a bow tube they sport an enormous X-ray laser cannon with a range roughly twice that of the more typical B-class laser batteries, though on a very limited arc. The largest downside, however, is simply their anemic speed. In spite of a mass half again as great as the Furious, a Gladius can manage only 2TG of acceleration.

Imperator, Helene, and Typhon class carracks

Mass: 70Ktons, Cost: 558M TI Marks
Armament: 4 B class laser batteries, 3 area fleet batteries, 1 point defence battery
Protection: 35 armored cells, 3 DesiLus screen projectors
Powerplant: 3 Calisto type JJRP reactors coupled to 18 chambers producing 140Ktons of thrust for 2TG of impulse power


Mass: 38Ktons, Cost: 286M TI Marks
Armament: 3 B class laser batteries, 2 area fleet batteries, 1 point defence battery
Protection: 19 armored cells and 2 DesiLu screen projectors
Powerplant: 2 Calisto type JJRP reactors coupled to 15 chambers producing 76Ktons of thrust for 2TG of impulse power


Mass: 50Ktons, Cost: 361M TI Marks
Armament: fusion bombard, B class laser battery, C class laser battery
Protection: 25 standard armored cells and 2 DesiLu projectors
Powerplant: 3 Europa type JJRP reactors coupled to 15 chambers producing 100Ktons of thrust for 2TG of impulse power

           While the Gladius might be the oldest class still in wide use, even older vessels sometimes have a place in regular service. Above are three war carracks of three related, but distinct classes, from left to right Imperator, Polis, and Elysium. The Imperator is believed to be the lead ship of her class, though the records are no longer extant. She is said to date to the Reconquista and served as the Terran flagship in the battle of Jove during the second War of the Solar succession, where she was briefly captured by the rebellious third legion before being recaptured during the the siege of Terra. She is an enormous ship, currently massing some 70KT, possessed of tremendous firepower, with four full batteries of class B lasers capable of bearing to both broadsides. She is slow, having an older Calisto type JJRP reactor, but still capable of 2TG of acceleration. She is durable and well screened, with three DesiLu systems providing full coverage against all but the most concentrated of energy bursts. Despite her age, she is still a potent ship.

          IMS Polis is a Helene class carrack. These ships were the mainstay of the Terran fleet during the Reconquista and are still quite common, having served with distinction in every conflict since. They are generally quite similar to the Imperator class, albeit little more than half the mass. Finally Elysium belongs to the Typhon class. These ships are essentially a slightly heavier Helene trading most of their main battery for an enormous spinally mounted magnetic bombard which launches tactical fusion bombs to a predetermined distance in front of the ship. The ensuing ball of plasma consumes virtually everything in its path until it dissipates. While no longer common there are still a handful of these ancient carracks to be found. They are particularly devastating when used for orbital bombardment.

          This series will continue with a descriptions of the so called Tartarus Rim Republic, possible Xeno allies, and merchant shipping to be found in the area.

. . . . . . .

Behind the Curtain

          All the models you see in this edition are 1990s Citadel miniatures from their Space Fleet range. I've chosen to rename them to better fit the story I'm attempting to tell, but the capabilities are broadly in line with those internal to the original game, but converted over to use the first edition of Ground Zero Games fantastic Full Thrust rules. I treat the Ironclad's gun as a AA class battery, as described in More Thrust and the Dictator's as the wave gun from same. (Which is a particularly nasty weapon, I might add.) This is still a bit of a work in progress. I've not attempted to recreate Space Fleet's ramming rules, for instance. And as an exercise in asymmetric warfare ships unfamiliar to the Imperium might have capabilities exceeding what was found in 90s GW games. (It is, at least, a fair bet that Holy Terra's information on the Rim and her allies is incomplete.)
         Stick around and I should have more shortly. Ships are painted, photographs have been taken, and the ship sheets are ginned up and ready to use, so all that remains is writing some more prose. As always, thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy my little trip to the stars.

The Composer

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Making Space for Adventure: Part I, Building "The Grid"

Last fall my friend Jay Bobson convinced me to go all in on a kickstarter for some laser cut terrain. I was a little skeptical at first, for reasons I'll get to, but I'm glad I did. Jay was really excited about modular set called The Grid from a company called Raybox Games. There's quite a lot of similar systems available in other formats. You can cast them up from hyrdrocal, print them on card stock, or even 3D print them from STL files. (As a native of St. Louis I have to love that file extension.) I expect there's even other lasercut MDF offerings out there. But I'd always figured I'd just do it myself with cardstock and patience. Thing is . . . I never got around to it. So I'm glad Jay talked me into it. Even if the kickstarter isn't precisely what I had in mind, it's the bones to something really nice. It gives me a place to start, and it really would serve the purpose as is, with a bit of paint, for quite a lot of gamers at a price that's not at all unreasonable.

It's a pretty decent set: nine rooms and fifteen corridors of assorted shapes and sizes with sufficient doors and connectors to make it all work. And a few barricades and boxes as scatter terrain. You can punch them out of the cards and build them up with more or less no tools or glue required, though tools make the process easier and the fits better, and glue makes the final product more solid.

And you know what? That's fine. You can play a game with that. But it's not me. I want a little more in my table. Paint is an obvious start, but there's something just a tad dissatisfying to me about this . . .

That's right ladies and gents: it has half-height walls. Which they regard as a selling point, oddly. Maybe some folks like the greater easer of reaching across the walls to move their miniatures, but to me half-height walls aren't really that much more convincing than no-height walls. My tiny little actors (who are still very much in need of makeup) are obviously on a set no matter what angle you choose. Not only is the fourth wall broken . . . they're all broken. There's a floor and some somewhat practical doorways, but that's it. Not much more than the set to Rosalie Wildest's Our Station. I hope you like post-modernist theatre! (Oh, fine. I do. Honest. I swear. I actually do.)

Wait, this is a game you say? What? Nonsense! It's a story. And stories need proper sets!

So I began by adding simple cardstock constructions to complete the walls. And even without lighting, costumes, makeup, props, set dressing, or even paint I find the effect greatly improved. Not only can our tiny actors figure out their blocking, but the lighting designer and game-a-tographer can better see the sight lines and understand their roles.

The next step is to begin to dress the emerging set: make it look lived in. Add some gee-gaws and gribblies; a cable here and a letterbox there.

For this I took a dive into my bits box, of course. A growing array of broken headsets supply plenty of cable and interesting little cylindrical attachments that could be a communications junction, a power relay, or a CO2 scrubber. Curtis Fell of Ramshackle Games kindly provides an endless supply of extra bits with his shipments: structural elements and extra weapons or tools, for instance. Off cuts of sprue can provide quite interesting shapes to serve as buttons, speakers, or even a letterbox. (I think that was actually a leftover bit from a B-17 dorsal turret, but don't quote me on that.) And with that extra bit of detail I think we're really beginning to get somewhere! I can imagine our heroes exploring some mysterious space station, or derelict hulk floating forlorn in the void.

And that most important of all shots, the Kubrickian corridor shot, actually looks like a corridor. (Especially when you improvise a ceiling by stacking other tiles on top.)

This project obviously has a way to go yet, but I think it might be enough for a multi part series showing some "work in progress." I'll keep you posted as I get further in. As always, thanks for joining in on the ride.

The Composer

Sunday, January 2, 2022

2021 in Review or Where it All Went Sideways

It is that time of year when we look back on what happened as we swung around the local star. And I think the very best that can be said of my own hobbying was that it was a mixed bag. Gaming is a fairly social activity and I am a rather extroverted person, so the ongoing plague isolation did me no favors. And the fitful and at times perhaps foolhardy reopening of things meant I had to remember how to do those non-hobby endeavors too all of a sudden.

2021 got off to such a decent enough start, miniatures wise, but went sideways fast and heavy  and I never really quite got it back on track. I might have actually played more games than usual, but the modeling output was a record low. And I documented it unusually poorly. I managed to paint a handful of spacecraft early in the year and a few characters late. In the middle I got starts on a few other things, but they're not finished so we'll put them on 2022. First, here's the new toys:

1-4 were three Tartarus Rim cruisers and a merchant liner.

5-7 were pointy Terran Galleons.

8 was a mining survey ship.

9 was a big honking Tartarn battleship with balls.

10 and 11 were two kids who can hopefully stay mostly out of harm's way. . .

And 12 was a Kev Adams zombie compliments of Brian Kirkell of Upstream Games House.

And that's it. That's my year in miniatures. Wow was that a bummer of a year. I think that goes down as my most measly output in a decade. 

Add to that a whole three posts, one of which was a review of the previous year. But I did say more dice were rolled than usual, even if I didn't write about it. We started with several games of Full Thrust testing a home-built adaptation to GW's Space Fleet.

Midyear I managed to get out of my house and game with some fine folks a few hours away. Played unfamiliar games with other people's toys and the whole nine yards.

In the fall I played mostly pickup games of Pulp Alley with friends:

At the end, I even ran a little birthday party micro-convention of my own:

We might also have played a few games with the folks below. Obviously, this isn't a picture of one of them, just of the toys. But we did use them. :)

Honestly, in terms of rolling dice that wasn't too bad for me. Not perfect, but not bad. And as the old year fades in the rear view mirror I'm wrapping up the annual Oldhammer Forums miniature raffle. I think the gang is all here. Once I'm sure of that we'll pull a name out of the hat and send them to their lucky new owner. Which is always a good start to a new year. Someone gets an extra Christmas in January. :D

Happy new year, everyone! Here's to a more adventurous, but less dangerous and difficult 2022. Let's turn the difficulty setting back to casual and just have some fun! ;-)

The Composer