Friday, May 17, 2019

Rhino Conservation

In my quest to build a local military for the Tartarus Rim I found myself shopping the used tank market and acquired these two Jim Dandies. Both fairly low mileage. Probably no major battles, just a border skirmish or two. The first previously belonged to an Orkish band, if the dealer is to be believed. This one was in basic black and had all the original fittings, save for the headlights. Maybe orks don't fight at night. Or maybe \they understand that lights just attract fire and so they prefer to use passive sensors. Either way, local doctrine required at least one light be mounted for emergencies, so we'd have to come up with that somewhere, but otherwise evict the freebooters, change the locks, slap on a new coat of paint, and this sucker was ready for a new life.

(Photo courtesy of eBay used tank dealer game-sgt.)

The second is a rescue dog. (All the best dogs are rescues!) It had a few more miles and had clearly seen some action, but the tracks were good and the headlights worked. In fact, it had two. That's one problem solved! It didn't have all the fancy fittings, but the exhaust pipes hadn't rusted out, which was nice. Of cousre, it had a UK style right hand drive, which just wouldn't do, and someone had welded the top in place, so that would require fixing. But in general, this was modable. Fixable. Good material.

(Photo courtesy of eBay's ratman3022.)

The Cerous-Rhino was easier. With the headlight liberated from the wolf tank, a few sealed openings, and a fresh coat of paint the green wagon became a nice cozy pinky pusher.

Not too shabby if I do say so myself! Bringing the mighty wind back from the wolf time was a little more work, but it too was achievable. Below you can see it with the markings rubbed out, the drive moved to the left as it should be (and thus the boss man's perch moved to the right), and the top removed for repairs. To get all the hatches to work the rotating structure needed a little push aft and some shaving to port and starboard.

Here you can see how the new command perch works. The commander who will occupy the catbird seat can be seen to left above, also trimmed down considerably. There's really not much detail, since you won't be able to see much. The perch is the dorsal turret off a B-17, I believe it was. (Though B-24 and 25 models use the same or similar parts. The positions are similar enough looking in reality that I'd not be a bit surprised if they were all produced to the same plan.) Beyond that, I painted the interior a nice zinc-chromate color, so that if you see it, it will at least be green.

Once sealed back up she received a coat of paint, a unit ID, and some appropriate custom art.

Anyway, long story short, it was fun painting with the big brush for a little while.

Friday, May 10, 2019

An Exorcise in Caution Part II: To Dance With the Devil

Previously on An Exorcise in Caution, Lucas Warmbier, the ancient scion of the Burkhan Kaldun dwarven engineer's guild, was tasked with studying Terran equipment and tactics under the guise of a joint exercise without letting the Terrans learn too much in turn. We find Lucas sitting in his sidecar and watching the parade from the starport.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Lucas thought to himself and jotted down a few notes as he watched the troops roll onto the field. His task was ostensibly to serve as "blue team" defending the shuttleport against an alien incursion from "red team." With the one twist that "red team" was, in fact, a mixed company of Terran marines and army troopers. No matter how this came out, it ought to be interesting and educational, and the weather was lovely, so . . . Lucas was ready. If the other fellow would march his men up the hill Lucas would march his down again and see where that left everyone when all the smoke bombs and flashing lights cleared up.

The basic plan fell into the broad category called "Let the Wookie Win" by fans of old earth theatre. Hopefully in this case, since it was a contest of strength, it wouldn't prove too difficult to make that convincing.The real question was to see how strong the big hairy monster from humanity's ancient past really was, and whether that monster had half the tactical acumen to match its ancestor's be damned strength. Still, it paid to at least try to deploy well. Immediately outside the spaceport gate was a replica castle with enough mass and care to be genuinely useful. To approach the spaceport gates, which were themselves fortified with modern plascrete, the would be attacker would inevitably need to pass quite close to the castle. So Lucas put a strong force both within and without the fortress. To the east, on his right flank, he deployed the Bradislav brothers (a quartet of enormously tall ogres), a mobile rocket launcher, and a squadron of Burkhan Kaldun's finest petrocavalry, including the younger Ganbaatar. 

The left he anchored with Moab's most veteran lifers, a squad of Burkhan Kaldun's most experienced, a small artillery battery, and a mobile reserve mounted in an APC.

Outside the castle that dominated the center Warmbier arrayed his hearthgard and a scout walker as further mobile reserve.

The fortress itself was defended by two squads from the Logansport 1st, one mounted on the battlements and at the firing slits below and a second held in reserve in the bailey, where they could easily deploy to either flank, should reinforcements be required.

And finally it was time to test the theory. Gaius Josephus had arrived with his troops in tow and they were indeed marching down the hill. The referees set off the first smoke pots and declared the opening salvos to have missed.

But the fighting was fast and thick. Before the dwarves could even bring it to bear their microwave cannon emplacement was declared disabled with suitable pyrotechnics for punctuation.

Luke's defenders finally gained a measure of retribution when the howitzers and SAWs began to score hits on the heavy suits.

On the right the mobile artillery was jusdged to have scored against further vac troopers.

But the cavalry charge was disrupted and one of Burkhan Kaldun's own vac suits was obliged to play the role of casualty.

Just as the mobile arty was itself removed from play the ogre brothers made a valiant charge at the Terran left.

At the end of the day the referees called the exercise a draw, but Warmbier was fairly certain Josephus had convincingly gotten the best of him. Those Terran Marines really were fairly fear inspiring units, particularly the chaps in the heaviest turtle suits and the gent wearing the walking tank. The pocket panzer was a force to be reckoned with, much more dangerous than a scout walker, even if there was a superficial resemblance. There was just no arguing with force shields without something along the lines of a microwave gun or a plasma projector; something with a good chance of overpowering them. They'd have to ask Captain de Bayamon for more intel. In any case, no matter the outcome, Luke hoped he and the other Rim officials had learned enough if push ever came to shove.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Meanwhile behind the curtain . . .

Jay Bobson and his brightly colorful Star Marines played the role of the Terrans. I, of course, played the Rim defenders. We mostly used Rogue Trader, but with a few tweaks. Since I was defending, I deployed first, and Jay reacted to that. His goal was to capture and hold the entrance to the spaceport. The graphic below gives an approximate view of the battlefield. The top is a low ridegeline with a rocky promontory at its center. on the right a road angles through the low spot in the ridge and down past the castle. The barrier walls at left guard the entrance to the starport, with the resort world's signature castle beside it. Some scattered woods and a few coral walls from a farmer's pasture land provide a bit of cover.

The one significant change we made was a turn sequence modification inspired by Bolt Action: we used a card draw to determine who would go next. Jay had red cards and I black for each of our units. Also included was one joker. Shuffle the deck and draw. Whatever comes up determines who can activate. The joker ends the turn and whoever has not already moved simply does nothing.

In theory this means you want to move your important units early, but I think we had too many cards. Not only did we include them for squads, but also for personalities in the cases where they moved separately. This meant there were lots of cards in the deck, so the joker wasn't particularly likely to come up in any particular draw. This dulled the "whammy" aspect of each draw and made the turns run longer.

For next time I think a better system would be to have every personality a member of a squad. If squad and personality satisfy unit cohesion rules, you may activate them together. If they are acting independently perhaps it should be one or the other. No reason you couldn't use a future card to activate the other part, but that would automatically mean you won't be moving everything, even if the joker comes up dead last. This creates a natural cost to detached operations. (The same could probably work for any detached element.) Sure, you can do more subtle stuff, but the more complex chain of command will slow you down. I think I can live with that. And with fewer cards the odds of the joker coming up increases dramatically. Winner winner!

Which brings up another thought: we both used snipers. Snipers could be the one exception to a couple of rules. They should probably be the only units allowed to target individual person-sized models. And they could perhaps all act on a single activation phase, unit cohesion or not. After all, snipers always act independently. That's just what they do. But one card should probably still suffice for all of them.

Anyway, I think we both had a good time, though long games and hard concrete floors aren't the friendliest on the tootsies. And obviously this will all work better as we get our stride back and settle on some major combat rules that satisfy both of us. In the end, I'd love to maybe shepherd a campaign through the distant stars, so we do need to find good rules.

As always, thank you for reading along. I hope you enjoyed the yarn as much as I.

The Composer

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Miniature Rescue

So a while back I picked up a few assorted Citadel Imperial Guard to flesh out my Logansport 1st. Some of that was easy.

But some of it required significant work. The medic below, for instance, had no face.

 And I'm suffering from a severe shortage of IG arms, soon to be corrected, thanks to a fantastic oldhamerer named VonKortez who blogs over at Vanhaa Vasarointia, but in the meantime some sculpting was required.

I won't say that these are particularly elegant jobs, but they painted up okay. I'd consider the miniatures rescued. Project successful.

In addition to this, I also finally got my living ancestor and a couple of Olley armored space dwarves done. These aren't rescues. Not a thing wrong with them. In fact, everything about them is pretty much just right. :)

These are some of the later "not Squats" sci-fi dwarves Bob Olley sculpted for David Gravens of Fantastic Miniatures, but . . . Olley is Olley. They look pretty flash alongside the old Egginators.

And since there were extra arms you can even mix and match with the classics. You get different weapons options, new models, the whole ball of wax. Good deal! Darn crying shame Gravens seems to have closed up shop. But you can find them every now and then on the bay if you keep your eyes open.

Anyway, that's about all for this update. Thank you for joining me, and have fun painting and gaming!

The Composer

An Exorcise in Caution Part I: Etude Tableau

Lucas Warmbier wished he hadn't forgotten his pipe as he fidgeted and stared at the sky on the ride. His escort, the elder Ganbaatar brother Galbadrakh, was a fine cyclist and machinist, but not much of a conversationalist. Far too stoic. But they were nearly at the castle and the air was warm and the day clear and cloudless. Soon he would learn what Colorado, the esteemed Rex-Avis matriarch, had up her sleeve this time.

And quick as that there they were. With Rex-Avis were her constant companion Sir Stanley Ursaline-Drakemore and the minuscule Kitty Luong, which meant Walker was about somewhere, and probably other's of Colorado's household. And of course Captain Temur was there as well, which implied this was bigger than just a trade meeting between the Burkhan Kaldun Prime guild and the Rex-Avis clan. It was beginning to look as though this might involve half the rim.

"Lucas!" Colorado chirped. "So glad to see you! I have news from the Proconsul himself."

Ganbaatar rumbled at that. "Comodus? He's involved in this?"

"Indeed. It's largely his idea. His and Lord Whye's. And they've entrusted us with carrying it out."

At this Luke's interest was piqued. "Oh? What does he have  in mind?"

"Some months back," Colorado began, "we found ourselves on the wrong side of some agents in the employ of the Imperial Inquisition. They stole some very promising technology from our trade mission to the Kingdom of Colores."

"I heard a bit about that," Lucas replied. "But you retrieved it without further incident, correct?"

At this Sir Stanley interjected: "Not . . . exactly. We were able to secure it, but there was quite assuredly an incident. We manged to keep it controlled, and spun the worst of it in such a way the Terrans couldn't pin it directly to us. At least not easily. But there were probably suspicions. And lately they've been sending far too many embassies and trade missions for comfort. Most recently, they sent a Legate named Gaius Josephus."

"Oh?" said Captain Temur, looking up a touch startled.

"We're afraid much of it is spying in advance of a military expedition. Or possibly even a full scale re-invasion," Sir Stanley finished.

"To that end," continued Colorado "we must learn as much about their current military capacity as we can, even if we cannot afford to spend the sorts of resources Terra can. So Lord Whye suggested that we call for a joint exercise in the name of preparing for possible alien incursion."

"From whom?" Temur asked.

"Oh, possibly the gobs. Or maybe the gators," Colorado responded.

"But we've got peace with the gobbos for now!" Temur said in surprise.

"The Terrans don't know that," Sir Stanley interjected. "Nor do they particularly need to. And the centauroid gators could be a real threat. Where they go the hexapods usually seem to follow." 

"The hexxies do seem to scare the pants off the Terrans, now that you mention it," Temur answered.

"So the idea is we present them with sufficient flashy distraction that they look towards that instead of straight at us. And while we're preparing alongside them we're carefully studying what they can do." Colorado seemed quite pleased with herself at this.

"If we can study them during an exercise you can be damned sure they can study us too," Lucas responded.

"So we have to make sure we don't let them see everything. Let them win." Colorado said flatly. "But don't let them know you let them win."

Everyone blinked a bit at this. "We don't have to tell them everything. No need to demonstrate the full alliance, for instance. We're not inviting the Crimson Dragons for the moment. As an example."

"So you want us to act. And to let them win," Ganbaatar said.

"Precisely," Colorado replied. "In the end, it's a game. No one dies. We all go home. And we all learn something. We just flash the lights right so the audience sees what we want them to see. And we make darn sure we're paying careful attention and looking in the right spot, else they pull the trick on us. Agreed?"

Lucas pondered this for a moment. "I can't speak for all the Lords, but you can count on our hearth, at least. I'll take the proposition back to Burkhan Kaldun and see where it goes."

"Very good," Colorado replied. "Can you deploy a trustworthy unit here in the next few weeks?"

"Absolutely," Ganbaatar answered. "We have my best company aboard the Chingis Khagan in orbit right now."

"That will do nicely," Sir Stanley said quietly. He was fairly certain Ganbaatar referred to a unit from the infamous "Flaming" Burkhan Kaldun Fifth. "Captain Temur has orders to bring the Logansport First. Between the two of you there should be enough hands to accomplish the task. But keep the important details close to the vest. There's too much riding on this."

Barely a day later elements of the Logansport 1st regiment were landing in the spaceport, debarking into the fine spring weather, and marching to join their short, but stout cousins from Burkhan Kaldun. This should be interesting, Luke Warmbier thought to himself as he sat and watched.

So that's why Sgt. Angad Powell was on Thalia! Suddenly all that motion in A Soldier's View of Paradise makes more sense. Stay tuned for the exciting next episode, An Exorcise in Caution Part II: Smoke and Mirrors.

As always, thank you for reading along.

The Composer