Monday, November 7, 2011

Putting the 'Funk' in 'Perfunctory'

Got kind of slammed in the run-up to vacation, and the blog suffered for it. Didn't get an intended post done about my last HG game against Britt, or about playing a bit of Space Hulk with Keith and some full-rules Battletech with Brandon and Tyler. I'll get those pics up later this week. In the meantime, here's some photo recon from a "Sleepwalker" (35th SRA Combined Arms Regiment) Command Jager on detached duty:

standing in front of some kind of HAPF hypnotraining center

nervously awaiting exfiltration from the Western Frontierland Protectorate

this bizarre CEF mock-up of a place called 'Canada' feels strangely like home

Friday, October 14, 2011

Battletech Quick-Strike: the Andurien Secession, Planet Drozan, 3030

Drozan is one of the Capellan Confederation's vital agricultural worlds. Its large arable plains produce enough crops to provide 5% of the entire Confederation's needs. The farms are managed by large automated cultivation and processing plants that run continuously. It is this high degree of automation that makes Drozan so bountiful. These farms are supplemented by large aquaculture installations which provide more foodstuffs for the Confederation.

Given its importance and agricultural output, it's no surprise that the Confederation has established research centers devoted to food synthesis on the world. Prior to the Fourth Succession War the Strategios also stationed a battalion of Warrior House troops on the world, rotating the unit so enemy intelligence agencies couldn't get a good view of the defenders. In addition, Drozan features a large base that houses motorized and jump infantry units.
-Planetary data courtesy

Drozan was one of the first worlds the Magistracy of Canopus attempted to seize from the Capellan Confederation during the Andurien Secession, with the task of taking the world falling to the First Canopian Light Horse. Although the initial landing went virtually unopposed, one of the first signs of serious Capellan resistance was when units of Warrior House Dai Da Chi ambushed two lances of the Canopian invaders in the middle of one of the planet's ubiquitous automated grain processing plants.

As the one portion of the Light Horse moved past the grain fermenting bunkers, they made contact with the Liao defenders moving out from a large, forested hill. Meanwhile, the other Light Horse elements took cover on a ridgeline and among the power generators and control facilities for the processing plant.

The two forces quickly came to grips, with unexpectedly bloody results among the lighter scout mechs (NB: this is because until round three we forgot to apply the defense mods for mech speed, durr), with casualties mounting quickly on both sides of the skirmish.

Here, a badly damaged Spider of Warrior House Dai Da Chi uses its great speed to escape the growing furball on the eastern flank, planning to ambush one of the invaders as the fight continues.

Across the plant, and on the very doorstep of the administration complex, a Canopian Cicada and a Liao Jenner take each other down with a short-range fusillade.

Back on the eastern side, the two sides are trading fire. The Canopian Hunchback, despite suffering two Fire Control hits, is still a significant threat, landing several hits. The pair of Liao Vindicators are trading fire with their Canopian counterpart, while one of the three Liao Jenners has found a perfect sniper's nest in the wooded hilltop. The Canopian Trebuchet, dubbed "Trash-bucket" by the Liao commander, is lining up on that Jenner with its back to the meters-thick duracrete of Grain Digester #5.

Near the admin/power complex, a second Liao Jenner has been lost, reducing the combatants to a basically unhurt Liao Hunchback variant, a Canopian JagerMech in good shape, and a badly battered Canopian Hermes II hiding behind a tokomak reactor. (NB: this particular reactor also holds our turn marker!)

The Canopian Hermes, unwisely falling back to the fermentation bunkers, is ambushed by the lurking Liao Spider, who in turn gets finished off by a point-blank autocannon salvo from the heavily damaged Hunchback. At the same time, the Canopian Vindicator has flushed the final Liao Jenner out of its blind, where the "Trash-bucket" finishes it off.

One of the twin Liao Vindicators is destroyed, and things look bad for the defenders of Drozan, with only two mechs remaining. But the invaders have been badly hammered, and are losing momentum. Despite surrounding the lone Vindicator, the Canopians are unable to bring it to heel:

and the Liao Vindy manages to finally down the Canopian Hunch. At the same time, the Liao Hunch has won its running battle with the JagerMech and is advancing on the weakened and overheating Light Horse.

At this point, engine hits and a poor understanding of heat managment have led the Canopian Vindy to decide to cool off before suffering a mandatory shutdown; however, the imminent shutdown would probably have been a better fate than the easy shot his decision gave to the Liao Vindy who gunned down the motionless invader. The sole Canopian survivor, the "Trash-bucket," missed its shot on the Liao Hunch and took severe armor damage from return fire.

The "Trash-bucket" tried to fall back towards friendly lines, but it was too late; the two surviving Liao mechs were not going to let one of the invaders retreat unpunished.

This portion of Drozan was safe from the invaders, for now.

So how was it? Quick-strike is faster than the normal Battletech rules, to be sure. But Keith (my opponent) and I both miss the decisions that you get in the regular rules that are abstracted out by Quick-Strike - things like running out of ammo, or the decision to move all out for the defense bonus but losing weapon accuracy by doing so (or the flip side, moving slow to increase your chances of hitting, but being easier to hit yourself). I think the glory of Quick-Strike is in introducing new players, or running a big convention game in a non-ridiculous amount of time. I'm actually biting off more than I can chew and have offered to run a large Quick-Strike game at MACE, the local game convention coming up in November, and I think for something like that it'll be perfect. But Keith and I both discussed it, and for our own gaming, we both would prefer the detail of Classic Battletech.

EDIT TO ADD: as mentioned in the comments below, here's some better-quality pics from my good friend (for [REDACTED] years now) Chris Norwood, of fame! WARNING: these are taken with a much better camera than my cellphone, so the brutal details of my crappy paintjob will come through if you view them full-size. You have been warned, etc

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Heavy Gear: Esperance Front, TN 30 Summer 1950

The early hours of the second CEF invasion of Terra Nova saw a hundred tiny unnamed battles, as forward elements of the invasion forces encountered the scattered defenders, frantically converging towards the CEF drop sites. One such encounter took place as CEF Korps V and VI pushed from their initial drop zones towards Port Oasis, capital of the Southern Republic. The SRA deployed all available forces to meet this thrust while awaiting landfleet reinforcements.

Typical of the units thrown at this threat was the 35th SRA Combined Arms Regiment, "Les Somnambules" (The Sleepwalkers), a mixed unit of infantry, light gears and tanks. The first CEF forces the Sleepwalkers faced were a scouting element, composed of fast HC-3 hover cars and the mysterious new FLAIL infantry units. SRA command wanted intel on these units, and getting that info back to Port Oasis was a priority - Recon (FLAILs) and Survive (GP Cadre) objectives for me. The CEF, on the other hand, primarily wanted to smash the faster elements of their opponent's force and push forward with their hover vehicles to blaze the trail to Port Oasis - Survive (HC-3s) and Wipe them out (GP Cadre) objectives for Brandon.

Despite early reports of the speed of the new CEF hover vehicles, the command tank of the Sleepwalkers was, appropriately enough, caught napping. Concentrating their laser cannon on the tank, the Earthers made short work of the Hun, leaving the SRA without a leader until the Sous-sergent of the GP Cadre stepped into the breach.

Meanwhile, as one of the hovercars fell back towards the southern end of the valley (taking a few parting shots from the laser cannon of the surviving Hun), the Sleepwalker gear cadre was tentatively coming to grips with the strange new infantry units. Field gun fire called in by the Iguana gear seconded to the tank cadre was effective against them, fairly quickly wiping out two of the four squads in the field. Unfortunately, this only marked the field gun battery as a priority target for the remaining hovercar...

The two FLAIL squads that were still active moved forward to the large ziggurat in the center of the valley, exchanging fire with the GP cadre. While the SRA's gear pilots were phenomemally lucky in avoiding their fire (NB: there was a period here where I was only rolling sixes on the few occasions where I didn't roll boxcars, which count as a seven in HG), unfortunately it was virtually impossible for the generalist gears to damage the FLAILs. All the Sleepwalkers could do was to continue getting as much sensor data on these strange new infantry units as possible, scanning each squad at least once.

By this time, the hovercar that had just silenced the Field Gun Battery (NB: which like an idiot I forgot to get pics of) had used its ELINT suite to determine which Gear was now acting leader, and proceeded to light it up with laser fire. Having done this, it traded shots with another Jager gear, damaging it heavily, before speeding out of harm's way.

Leaderless, the SRA began to flounder, and the 'Sidewinder' heavy trooper gear of the cadre unwisely attempted to engage the FLAILs rather than retreating to buy time. The outcome was inevitable:

At the end of the engagment, both sides had accomplished part of what they had set out to do - the CEF's hover scouts continued in their push for Port Oasis (Survive, 2VPs for Brandon) but failed to eliminate their chosen targets (Wipe Them Out, 0VPs). Meanwhile, the 35th had secured some of the first useable data on the new FLAIL walkers (Recon, 2VPs for me) but had sustained unsupportable casualties in doing so (Survive, 0VPs for me). As we were both PL3, this meant a true tie, although I think the clear moral victory has to go to Brandon, for killing my Army Commander on turn 2 as well as hammering half my GP Cadre into slag, only for the cost of a few brain-in-a-jar FLAILs.

EDIT: today Brandon actually reminded me that it was a 3-3 tie, as he got one point for killing/critically damaging half or more of my GP cadre, and that I got one point for keeping at least one of them alive! A strange quirk that arises when you and your opponent's randomly determined squads for counterpoint goals like Survive and Wipe Them Out align like that!

I'm continuing to love Heavy Gear. The mission selection matrix is very simple (although we did discuss how nice a pre-game setup worksheet would be, mostly to cut down on page-flipping) and yet gives you some very interesting goals to accomplish, which can interact with the goals of the opponent in neat ways that make for, in my opinion, much more compelling gaming than simply smashing your toy soldiers into your buddy's toy soldiers making 'pew pew' noises. It was a lot of fun getting to see Brandon's list in action, which taught me a new respect both for the tough FLAILs as well as for my own Field Guns!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

WFPA Training Exercise: 100km west of Fort James, TN1943

27 Spring 1943
The marauding Rovers in the Eastern Desert begin to
move North, into the WFP. Still rattled from severe
losses during the war, the WFPA has difficulty protecting
the League’s far-flung rural homesteads, and many are
sacked or forced to fend for themselves.

-timeline entry from Return to Cat's Eye

In response to these encroachments, WFPA command initiated a series of training exercises, set to rotate through several areas thought to be especially prone to future raids. The hope was that these maneuvers would fulfill multiple goals simultaneously - reassuring nervous homesteaders, sabre-rattling to cow the Rovers, and familiarizing WFPA units with terrain they might be fighting over before too long.

One such exercise is presented here. Designated OPERATION: BARLEYCORN, near dusk on 14 Summer 1943 an aggressor unit from [REDACTED] simulated a raid on a small irrigation/hydroelectricity center west of Fort James. A mixed Gear/infantry detachment of the 44th Western Combined Arms Regiment ("Skyfallers") (me) was assigned to represent the kind of rapid-reaction force that might be deployed in response to such a raid. While the Skyfallers approached from the east, simulating deployment from the Gamma maglev line, [REDACTED] (Britt) units were tasked with maneuvering past them back into the open, as WFPA General Staff thought this would be the typical post-raid posture for a Rover band ('Escape' objective for Britt).

Here we see the 'Jump' Dragoon element of the Skyfallers, who deployed on the ground instead of airdropping, in order to secure the southernmost mesa ('Hold' objective for me). Black and Yellow teams of [REDACTED] are moving forward to scout the second mesa, believing the rapid reaction forces are organizing their assault from this area ('Scout' objective for Britt). Already, members of the Dragoon squad are moving forward, trying to get solid ELINT on the black unit, a task meant to simulate the need to positively identify Rover band affiliation for accurate future reprisals ('Recon' objective for me).

Next we can see [REDACTED] taking a defensive posture behind several of the pump houses and generator buildings in the hydroelectric plant, while two Skyfaller Strike Cheetahs move up along the canal to begin their ELINT collection, covered by a Jaguar gear carrying a Snub Cannon with the Block 40 upgrades of the Dedicated Tankhunter Initiative. Unbeknownst to the Skyfallers, the Hunters of [REDACTED] Yellow approaching them are also carrying Snub Cannons, although theirs are the older, unaccurized models expected to be seen in a lower-tech force like Badlands Rovers (they are also heavily field armored, another feature of some Rover bands).

At this point, the Skyfallers infantry platoon parachuted onto the battlefield. Unfortunately, erratic evasive maneuvers programmed for their VTOL to represent dodging AA fire (I rolled THREE SETS OF SNAKE-EYES in four scatter rolls for their deployment) led to a very bad drop pattern for the infantry, exposing them to withering simulated rocket fire in the next several minutes. Squads One and Two were ruled utterly dead after the initial exchange, and Three and Four also suffered heavy casualties (losing one and two fireteams each), mitigated only by the sparse cover of the canalside metabanana groves. One Gear from Aggressor Black has been hit by the Skyfaller Jaguar's Snub Cannon, but the legendary resilience of the Hunter gave a simulated result of only light damage (note the yellow chip near the black gear).

Meanwhile, Aggressor Yellow began rolling forward, preparing to slip around the northern ridgeline while punishing the exposed members of the Skyfaller force; as seen here, despite their older model Snub Cannons, the forward element of Aggressor Yellow has managed to hit the Skyfaller Jaguar, and it takes light damage itself (again, the yellow chip, this time on the brown gear). Also, as the engagement has continued, several members of Aggressor Black have been electronically interrogated; the other two Skyfaller Jaguars have used this info to indirectly fire their rockets at the ID'd Gears, but with little to no results.

Further exchanges of fire between the dueling snub cannons do slight damage to an up-armored Aggressor Yellow Hunter, but soon thereafter its return fire is ruled to have totally destroyed the Skyfaller Jag. Also, a simulated artillery strike has damaged one of the Strike Cheetahs, which tries to retreat behind the line of mesas. Infantry Squad Four has finally been ruled dead as well, having accomplished nothing with a few desultory anti-gear rifle shots. Squad Three has been similarly toothless, landing a few hits with their simunitions, but nothing the umpires ruled effective.

The umpire staff called a halt to the exercise at this point; while the [REDACTED] Aggressor units did much more damage - neutralizing a platoon of paratroop infantry as well as getting a simulated kill on an elite Jaguar gear, they were unable to maneuver past the Skyfallers or successfully scout their assigned point. Meanwhile, the Dragoons held their assigned point and managed to gather ELINT on all members of Aggressor Black. Staff ruled the rapid-reaction force concept provisionally successful, although there have been serious discussions at the regimental level about the efficacy of airdropped infantry when armed as lightly as the Skyfaller elements were in this exercise. [REDACTED]'s commander has been invited to comment on their participation in this exercise as well.
This was my second game against Britt with Heavy Gear's new 'Field Manual' rules updates, and while I got the win I feel like I kind of snaked him on my choices of objectives. We also played on a longer table than recommended, and I'm still not sure we're using enough terrain. Still, both of us had a blast, and I feel a lot more comfortable with the rules themselves. Britt and I also got a real feeling for how much the objective system changes the nature of the game; in particular, Britt said he has a totally different concept about how his planned army will actually work on the table now.

Meanwhile, although I started as a Southern player, I gotta admit I really like the Northern gears more and more every time I get them on the table, and I've developed a real soft spot in my heart for my little WFPA dudes. Now to finish up the other 500TV of the planned list, a Northern analog of the Southern MP cadres, my Fort Somewhere-or-other Piper Polizei.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Sweet delicious candy!

Here's hoping some detail work and a good wash will make them look a little less like the world's most depressing children's vitamins.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Humidity be damned: primerfest 2011

Not sure it was the best idea, but when the humidity dipped down to 60% here this afternoon (positively arid for central NC in fall) I sprang into action.

Army Painter Dragon Red
(Battletech, Kuritan 2nd Sword of Light; OGRE, 1st Polish Lancers):

Army Painter Demon Yellow
(Heavy Gear, Eastern Sun Emirates Honor Guard and Footmen; OGRE, Vatican Guard

Battlefront/Flames of War War Paint British Armour
(Heavy Gear, ESE-aligned Badlander clan; OGRE, undetermined Combine unit)

Army Painter Ultramarine Blue
(OGRE, Royal Navy)

So it worked out fairly well, all things considered. Bullet points (bet you a dollar I can't actually get this into a bullet-pointed list):
  • War Paint, as usual, is freaking fantastic. I am redoing army paint schemes in my head in a frantic effort to use these as much as possible.
  • Army Painter is good, but the brighter colors I guess make it a bit trickier?
  • the red went on surprisingly well, the real champ of the day (not counting War Paint)
  • the yellow had a few problems; some weird strings of paint I had to knock down with a fingernail, a bit of a bumpy finish in places, problems getting into very tight spaces on the Heavy Gear minis but worked like a charm on the flatter surfaces of the Ogres
  • the only real disappointment is the Army Painter Ultramarine Blue. I've used it already as the color primer on my Heavy Gear MILICIA MP Cadre, and I had similar problems today - powdery coverage that rubs off at a touch.

Here's a few close-ups of the problems with the yellow:

Still, here's hoping a bit of touch-up paint and an eventual wash knocks these problem spots down.

PS: hey! I think the bullet-points worked!

EDIT: well, the close-up pics of the yellow guys were so underexposed and blurry that the problems don't show up. Maybe I just need to bring a dry ice machine every time I plan on fielding them....