Thursday, June 30, 2022

Jayne's Fighting Ships: Rim Fleets Part III - Abhuman, Xeno, and Merchant Ships

Continued from Part I - The Terran Empire and Part II - The Tartarus Navy

Space Elves

          The Tahtien Ihmiset, sometimes called the space elves, or simply the elves, pointies, or even poncies, thanks to the rather stiff and formal demeanor of their representatives among humans, are among the older space faring civilizations. Human contact has often been fraught, but the Tartarans seem to have struck some kind of peace with one or more of the Tahti tribes, so we will attempt to describe their capabilities to the extent we know them. Most are fairly similar, differing primarily in size. Their largest vessels, so vast they are sometimes called world craft, are comparable in size to all but the largest human sprawl cities. But their warships tend to range from galleon to roughly great galleon size. Most are powered by great photon collectors, sometimes incorrectly called sails. Their technology seems otherwise mostly comparable to Terran equipment, albeit generally lighter and quite finely crafted. Their primary weapons seem to be beam batteries of more or less standard capacities. They are also known to have torpedoes of different sorts, though their precise nature is unknown as so few of their ships have been captured intact, and none of the larger types. They have generally shown a preference for avoiding direct engagement save in those few cases where they appeared to be defending a site of some spiritual or religious importance to them, where they have proven devastatingly effective fighters.

Red Bee class great galleon

Mass: about 70 KTons
Armament: numerous beam batteries approximately equal to B and lesser classes, possibly torpedoes
Protection: energy screens and possibly armor
Powerplant: 3-4TG of impulse acceleration

          To call the Red Bees a class is a bit of a misnomer. Each ship's hull is built up in a manner closely approximating organic growth from an exceptionally durable material the elves are thought to find in warpspace itself. Their ships have proven to be fast, though their exact performance has ever been measured as none have been captured intact to date.

Starwind class galleon

Mass: about 35 KTons
Armament: beam batteries approximately equal to B and lesser classes, possibly torpedoes
Protection: energy screens
Powerplant: 3-4TG of impulse acceleration

          The Starwinds are generally similar to the Red Bees, save for their smaller size.

Dwarven Holds

          At least one squat freehold is known to inhabit the general area of the Tartarus Rim: that of the Burkhan Kaldun guild. Like most dwarven guilds their technical skill is quite advanced and their ships should be assumed to be very capable, roughly equivalent to the best Terran classes.

Chinghis Khagan class great galleon

Mass: more than 100 KTons
Armament: many B class batteries and possibly additional armaments
Protection: energy screens and probably armor
Powerplant: 2-3TG of impulse acceleration

          The Chinghis Khagan is an exceptionally large warship from what we can estimate. As such it probably isn't terribly fast, but it ought to be remarkably survivable, particularly if it is screened, as dwarven technology would suggest. There are rumors of larger and experimental weapons coming from nearby systems, and it's certainly large enough to carry even something as cumbersome as the fusion bombard, though there is no external evidence of such a weapon. The weapons appear to be mounted primarily in broadsides, but this is simply an analysis of photographic data.

Uriankhai class galleon

Mass: around 30 KTons
Armament: B and lesser class beam batteries, possibly torpedoes, possibly an axially mounted bombard or improved beam weapon.
Protection: energy screens and probably armor
Powerplant: 2-4TG of impulse acceleration

          The Uriankhai class follows similar lines to the Chinghis Khagan, but on a much smaller scale, being quite small for a galleon. Photography suggests it has some kind of axially mounted weapon, but its precise nature isn't known.

Sleipnir class galiot

Mass: around 20 KTons
Armament: probably C class beam batteries and local defences
Protection: unknown, but probably light
Powerplant: probably at least 4 TG of impulse acceleration

          The Slepnirs are the smallest dwarven warships encountered so far. It seems quite likely that they will be faster. No visual evidence can be found of anything beyond beam weapons, but this shouldn't be taken as definitive.

Merchant shipping

          For the sake of completeness we're endeavoring to present several typical examples of merchant ships. This list is not remotely exhaustive, but the ships discussed represent some of the most common types.

Vacuum type tanker

          The Deuterium Pressing Company of Proserpine is probably the largest gas mining concern in the Rim territories. They operate a fleet of fairly standard meta-stable metalized gas tankers to service their gas platforms. DePCoPro 2, seen below, is a fairly typical example. She has a registered mass of 84 KTons and can sustain 1TG of impulse for short periods.

Traveler class liner

          Small passenger liners are a more common sight along the north rim than in the more developed core and southern worlds closer to Terra. The example seen here RACT Enhance of the Rex-Avis Clan Line, is a fairly representative. She is registered to carry five hundred four passengers with a crew of fifty six on a mass of 41 KT. Because her design was sponsored by the territorial guard she can manage 4TG of acceleration, but would rarely if ever do so with passengers aboard. Such liners can also carry a considerable amount of mail and finished goods in their cargo holds.

Typical tramp spacer

          Tramp spacers make up the bulk of the commercial tonnage along the rim, and come in an array of shapes and sizes, ranging from 10KT or less up to about 30KT. Most aren't terribly fast, managing perhaps 2TG of acceleration at best, and usually less. They carry every conceivable cargo, but particularly supplies and equipment for more isolated ports that the major lines don't serve regularly.

Tenders and auxiliaries

          A number of different sorts of tenders and auxiliaries circulate the spacelanes of the northern galactic rim. Seen below is a deep-space buoy tender that has been converted to serve as a warpspace weather research vessel. Ships of the sort will generally have one or more shuttles and small boats they can launch and considerable stores for long missions. They're not usually more than about 30KT, and are frequently lighter. They rarely posses more than 2TG of acceleration.


          The largest merchant ships likely to be encountered are the bulk freighters, or bulkers that move minerals and foodstuffs from system to system. These might even mass as much as 200KT or more, though they are never terribly fast, as their bulk cargo requires more steady than speedy shipment. Such a vessel with even 2TG of acceleration would be exceptionally rare.

         This concludes our emergency crisis release on the ships of the Tartarus Rim. We would advise our subscribers to avoid the area for the foreseeable future.

Behind the curtain

          While Citadel miniatures still figure prominently here for the elves and the tanker, the remaining ships come from other suppliers. For the dwarven fleet I used Vanguard Miniatures offerings from the Helian League line. Most of the merchant ships are from RAFM's old Traveler line. (The only exceptions being the Citadel Goliath Factory Ship serving as a tanker and the Valliant Enterprises Atriedes class freighter at the very end serving as the bulker.

          I found the Vanguard examples to be a little challenging to paint, as the resin doesn't take paint terribly well at all. (A good soaping down and a spray on primer of the sort I almost never use might help.) That said, the end result is quite effective, and they fit the GW setting very well indeed. (I should think they would pair quite well with modern Battlefleet Gothic.) I'm ultimately pretty happy with them. My one wish is that there were more ships of middling sorts of sizes. They have lots of very big ships that can serve as super-battleships, and plenty of small ones to serve as small cruisers and destroyers, but nothing that pairs well with a typical larger cruiser or battleship. To put it in Space Fleet terms everything is much bigger than the Gothic or smaller than the Firestorm. Everything in the Helian League line I used is either smaller than two inches or larger than four, and that seemed about typical. It makes for a big gap. Not the world's biggest problem, but I wish there was more in the middle.

          The RAFM stuff is lovely, but a little hard to find these days, as it's long out of print. There might be a company making some of the same designs in resin, but I won't spend any time discussing their quality as I've not had the pleasure of painting any. (That said, I'm thrilled to hear someone else's reviews.)

          But I failed to review the Valliant Enterprises Miniatures in my last post, so I'll correct that oversight here. These were . . . interesting. Fiddly. They're honestly fairly attractive miniatures that look pretty good when you're done with them. They take paint well enough and they have plenty of relief making them look great without much more than a black basecoat, some blocked in color, and some hastily drybrushed highlights. The details feel familiar, like they're bashed together from pieces I feel I know somehow like drywall anchors or model train parts. But I play similar games myself and the result is quite effective, so I find that to be more feature than bug. (After all, Battlestar Galactica was made with tank hulls and Saturn Vs. And the same can be said of a lot of Star Wars models. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!) The castings were a little rough in places, requiring some straightening in the thinner spots and quite a bit of cleaning. But all in all nothing out of the ordinary. Assembly wasn't always obvious, but they do have instructions for a reason. If you like the look of these little spaceships I highly recommend them. The prices are quite reasonable. They seem like a pretty darn good little company and I'm glad to support them.

          That brings this chapter to an end. I hope you will join me as we return to story related posts, and hopefully even a battle in the very near future.

The Composer

Jayne's Fighting Ships: Rim Fleets Part II - The Tartarus Navy

          Estimates of Tartaran Navy ships are of necessity much more vague, as their systems and shipyards are remote and their organization is comparatively young. Their earliest naval vessels appear to be hastily improvised, often converted from bulk freighters. Other ships bear considerable resemblance to farboat designs from the dark ages; designs predating even the Reconquista. It is possible that the Tartarans have rediscovered a pre-Imperial Republican shipyard, as settlement reached the general area, though names have changed and records have been lost, so their precise locations are unknown inside Terran space. If so, these likely constitute the most capable ships in their fleet, and we will proceed by basing our estimates off what is known from the few surviving Imperial examples. Still other designs are entirely new, possibly showing influence from one or more of the known abhuman and xenogamous species in the area, with whom it is believed the Tartarans have contact.

Moab class cog of war
Mass: 40-60 KTons
Armament: likely several B class laser batteries, C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but might include light screens
Powerplant: probably civilian in type, not likely exceeding 1TG of impulse acceleration

          We will begin by discussing the limited number of known Tartaran capital ships. First among them is a ship apparently called TNS Moab, of which we received reports after the first Colores incident.

          Moab appears to be a large, converted bulk hauler. Reports indicate that she is rather slow. Her armament and precise size are unknown, leaving us to estimate from the few clear photographs in our possession. We are classing her as a Cog of War, since that seems to best meet her description. Some of the first warships in the reconstituted Terran Imperial Navy were simple cogs hastily converted from available freighters of the local systemic sort sometimes called "belters." She is sufficiently massive that she should be able to support the largest B class laser batteries and probably some degree of shielding, though perhaps not much more effective than a typical galiot and almost certainly not up the standards of a true war galleon or even a carrack. While she probably isn't a terribly effective front-line warship she might be most adequate for systemic defence or training. 

Proserpine class carrack

Mass: possibly 60KTons or more
Armament: possibly numerous B class laser batteries, C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but probably includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 2TG of impulse acceleration

          The Proserpine class gives the appearance of a purpose built warship of substantial size and capability. In many ways she closely resembles an ancient farboat. A few such vessels survived in Terran space into the early days of the empire, though none quite so large are known. We have less information on this class, and none of it is direct, but we feel we can still make some estimates based on comparable known designs. Without knowing the powerplant, we cannot say a speed for sure, but it's likely to be both faster and better protected thanks to being purpose built for the task. The white domes on comparable ships house sensor equipment of various sorts, so it seems likely the ship has a fairly substantial sensor suite, and probably also astronunciation capabilities, though without access to the Imperial NavAid beacon they may not be of much value. (The north galactic rim is largely beyond the range of the beacon in any case, thus giving navigators and local navigational aids much greater importance.) On a ship of such size the armament is doubtless substantial and the screening probably closely equal to Imperial equivalents. Proserpine and her sisters are quite probably very effective warships.

Hecate class great galleon
Mass: probably more than 30KTons
Armament: probably B and C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries and possibly torpedoes of some sort
Protection: unknown, but probably includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 2TG of impulse acceleration

          Even less is known of the Hecate. Discovery of her existence is quite recent, and we have exactly one rather grainy picture of a fleet exercise, seen at top. She mostly likely represents a one-off, similar to the Moab, but her design appears much more advanced. Her size, from what we can learn, appears to be consistent with a great galleon, but we have no real idea as to her armament or capabilities. We do know that she is capable of operation with the fleet, so 2 to 3TG of acceleration or doesn't seem unlikely. 

Nyx class caravel

Mass: probably about 25KTons
Armament: probably C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but probably includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 2-3TG of impulse acceleration

          The Nyx is another design dating back to pre-Imperial days. It is in many ways a smaller Proserpine, but executed on a smaller scale. The many bulbous protrusions suggest a heavier than typical sensor or communications array for a ship of this scale. As a purpose built warship it's probably faster than improvised vessels like Moab, but probably less capable than a modern design. Several can be seen here in the company of Moab and several Garland Sheppard class dhows in the vicinity of Starship Rock.

Czernobog class caravel and Garland Shepard class dhow

Mass: probably about 25KTons
Armament: possibly torpedoes, probably C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but mioght includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 3-4TG of impulse acceleration

Mass: probably about 15KTons
Armament: probably C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but probably light
Powerplant: probably early military in type, perhaps reaching 2TG of impulse acceleration and likely lacking warp transit capability

          The Czernobog and Shepard are further examples of what appear to be pre-imperial designs. The ships similar to Czernobog in Terran space are rather fast and well armed, but poorly protected. The Shepard class looks similar to early system defence escorts. The Tartaran examples appear to be new production, rather than rediscovered relics, making it likely they are produced with inferior materials and subsystems. Nevertheless, they may well be fairly capable ships for their size.

Chouteau and Vide Poche class galleons
Mass: probably about 30KTons
Armament: probably C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but probably includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 2-3TG of impulse acceleration

Mass: probably about 25KTons
Armament: probably C class laser batteries, and point defence batteries
Protection: unknown, but probably includes screens
Powerplant: probably early military in type, probably reaching 2-3TG of impulse acceleration

          Even less can be said for certain about the new-design galleons of the Tartaran navy. Their appearance is quite distinctive, but their massing overall doesn't seem out of keeping with the Imperium's own galleons, so we choose to class them as such. They appear to be purpose built warships of novel origin, and the best that we can guess is that their capabilities probably fall somewhere between that of a Comitatus class galleon and a Furious class great galleon. While these might be quite capable ships indeed their numbers aren't thought to be large, most probably not exceeding the three examples seen here escorting a TRS transport, which are believed to be Chouteau, Vide Poche, and Blanding.

          We will share more as we learn it. Part III details the abhumans, xenos, and merchant shipping found in the area.

. . . . . . .

Behind the curtain

          As before, most of these ships are older Citadel castings, but there are a few noteworthy exceptions. Chouteau, Vide Poche, and Blanding are Valiant Enterprises castings from their Stardate 3000 range. Moab is a home build, mostly comprising a Little Boy model I had sitting around. And Proserpine is a rare example of a C44 star cruiser. If the early Space Fleet ships appear as though they were made by completely different companies for entirely different games there's a reason for this. They were, of course, made by completely different companies for entirely different games. The more conventionally "spacey" looking ships came from a range that Citadel bought, originally comprising two competing factions in an earlier space game from a company called QT Models. The ballsier ships, like the targeting ships and C44 cruiser I used for Nyx and Proserpine were one side (the non-earth republic, I think it was), and the more conventional looking Thunderbolts, shield ships, and Stalwart escorts were the other. (The earth empire, I believe.) But the Rim fleet, being a bit ragtag, is maybe well served by the crazy disparities in ships. (Besides, the ships I'm using for the Imperials are pretty dramatically different too, even if they were all legit Citadel designs.)

          Anyway, thanks for coming along. More will come soon. And Saturday we should be gaming out our first contact, so look for updates to fly thick and furious. And to get more story driven, for that matter. Continued in part III.

The Composer

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, Fidelis, and Lictor. Fidelis belongs to the original design, but the remaining two represent the later Collegium 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 in part II, and possible Xeno allies, and merchant shipping to be found in the area in Part III.

. . . . . . .

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 playing the game. As always, thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy my little trip to the stars. And again, please do check out Parts II and III.

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