Familiar rules [LotFP, Archive]

Find Familiar is not a spell per se. Rather, “researching the spell” represents the Mage gathering the lore and equipment required to bind an animal or spirit to their service. Nor is it cast, crudely, as a lure to the waiting fish of the void (for there are far too many sharks, and worse, in those Plasmic waters), but taken on as a spiritual journey and investment. Though most Magi would be loath to admit it, Familiars also provide companionship upon their lonely road to power; more importantly, they provide subservient and reliable companionship, an extension of themselves. Even Clerics will sometimes accept the aid of a friendly or at least allied servant of their Gods. Remember, though –  the price of service may differ in detail, but it is equally terrifying for the servants of Angels as of Demons..

As bound spirits, Familiars cannot be Dispelled, though they can be Turned and in some cases Banished. They are hedged out by appropriate warding magics.

Natural Familiars
Natural creatures are the easiest to bind, and the most common associates of Magi of all waters. They also excite less comment among the uncultured, should the Mage still be forced to hide their powers from the jealous and frightened. A Natural Familiar is created by binding a combination of the Mage’s own Plasmic energy and other latent power to the beast, and is always a draining and deeply unpleasant process for the Mage. Treat the entire process as Researching a 1st-level spell, with the final sacrifices and costs coming only after the ritual is complete. The wizard will be completely exhausted and require a full day of rest when the ritual is completed.
Any sacrifices made to create a Natural Familiar are permanent. Even after its death, barring exceptionally powerful healing magics or extensive and deeply unsavory spell research, the wizard’s gifts are not returned.

The animal gains the following benefits
• 1 HP for each permanent HP the Mage invests in it during the soul-binding rituals. Its natural life is also extended by 1 year for each HP so invested; the DM may also allow the caster to pledge some of his own life force (years of life, HP, stat points, etc.) to the Familiar at an appropriate ration for more HP/Life.
• It may use the Mage’s saving throws whenever applicable. Further, when in the Mage’s presence, any Magic Missiles or similar spells targeted at the familiar will normally strike the Mage instead.
• It may speak freely with the Mage in its own tongue, and be understood. If given a point in Languages, it may also converse in one Human language with others, and possibly even learn other languages depending on its Intelligence. A familiar with Intelligence 14 or more is literate, though writing may be somewhat difficult. All animals may furthermore speak with any others of their kind (cats with wildcats or lions, ferrets with martens and weasels, etc), but do not convey this ability to their masters without further research.
• Most other animals will treat with the Familiar deferently, or at least with appropriate condescension. It gains a permanent 1-point bonus on Reaction rolls from natural animals.
• At the DM’s option, the Magos may make a further appropriate sacrifice of Life Force, magic items, bound Plasms (spell slots) or other resources to grant the Familiar additional skills and abilities. For example, the Wizard with Spider Climb might sacrifice a spell slot to give his familiar the ability to walk on walls and ceilings.

The Mage benefits thusly:
• Speak with, and understand, his Familiar.
• The information and additional insight provided by their presence subtracts 10% from the cost of any magical research and item creation; the Familiar also acts as a “gopher” during the process, retrieving needed tools or bearing messages to those outside the laboratories as desired.
• A bonus point in a single appropriate skill possessed by his Familiar.

Finally, both the wizard and his familiar are marked out from others by their association with each other.
• During the Familiar’s creation, the player must choose one or more features that the Magus and Familiar share. This could include anything from birthmarks and sigils, to similar physical and behavioral features. Each time the caster and Familiar level up, add an additional characteristic to this list.
• They will have an identical plasmic aura to anyone using the Second Sight (Detect Magic, True Seeing, and similar spells or magic items).
• At higher levels, the Mage may perform additional research and rituals to give or share further power with their familiar. Common abilities bestowed include limited shape-shifting, seeing through the Familiar’s eyes at-will, use as a “plasmic battery”, greater facility in speech and new skills, or even human form and spellcasting ability. The process is half as expensive and time-consuming if the Mage knows a related spell (Speak Unto Beasts, for example, would facilitate learning the Speech of All Cats from one’s Familiar.)
• If using the DCC Corruption/Taint rules, or the Maleficar and similar classes, both the Mage and the Familiar may be marked more explicitly in any case where the Familiar is present and participating in the Mage’s spellcasting.

Developed more fully later; I’m poking at the stuff in England Upturn’d as I have time, but so far none of my players wants a Homunculus.

Other Supernatural Familiars
Imps, Gremlins, some lesser Undead, and other Plasmic beasties may desire to form pacts with the Magos; not all will become Familiars, however.  Treat normal pacted entities as a Retainer or Henchman for loyalty purposes, though they almost always require remunerations more.. esoteric than mere gold and specie. Likewise, their housing and feeding requirements are more exotic than most employees. Payments are usually given on Samhain or All Soul’s Eve and Walpurgisnacht as part of a larger ceremony.
Becoming a Familiar requires forging a direct link between the souls of the Plasmic entity and the Wizard. In addition to the sould-binding rituals, the DM and player should negotiate a contract for the creature’s service and enumerate its powers. Its loyalty is affected as a Henchman or other “demi-PC” character accompanying the party. Most will (again) have goals other than a simple share in the treasure the party collects – esoteric materials, information, or seemingly-insignificant acts at requested times. Failing to meet these requests will enrage and potentially even free the Familiar, but the party as a whole is under no more obligation to meet them than they would be any other Henchman’s demands.
In general, a Supernatural familiar will be in a more adversarial relationship with the wizard and his party, but also much more powerful than a plasmically-enhanced natural beast. Dismissing a contract without prejudice will usually return the life force the Mage invested, but good luck getting it back if you broke it. Familiars themselves cannot break the word of a contract but will, of course, twist it depending on their personal goals and general cussedness.

Common points of contracts include:
• Bonuses to Summoning spells and control rolls (especially in the service of the Familiar’s interests)
• Use of the Familiar’s powers at a negotiated price, or amplification of its powers through the sacrifice of spell levels/Stat points by the Magos. Familiars almost never allow themselves to be “used” freely, but will rarely pass up the chance for a little more profit..
• Many supernatural familiars will have knowledge of tongues other than the Magos’. They may wish to negotiate for its skill; woe betide the wizard who blindly trusts a servant of the Father of Lies, however.
• Access to a bonus spell, usually limited shapeshifting or illusion magics.
• Listed punishments for violating the minor terms of the agreement, usually taken as oaths. These will have >very< visible effects.

Model Review: 1:288 (6mm) Eastern Express Antonov AN-71 “Madcap” AWACS

The EE Antonov AN-71 is a fun, quick little build that will look fine as a gaming piece. Probably not the best overall choice for a “serious” micro-mini modeler, who will be screaming and flinging it out the window within minutes. 1:288/6mm scale makes it compatible with quite a few wargames, including Micro Armor, Fistful of TOWs, Battletech, and Robotech RPG Tactics. The limited historical deployment of this particular aircraft will hurt its utility for historical gamers, but other models in the series would likely serve them much better.
For Robotech Tactics modelers, the AN-71 is also an excellent base for an alternate version of the ES-11D “Cat’s Eye” recon – one of the guys on the Robotech Tactics Facebook group did up a conversion you can see here if you’re a group member.

First off – a little history. In 1984-ish, the Antonov company put together a bid for a new AWACS version of the AN-72 light transport airframe (NATO callsign “COALER”). It was intended to vector in ground-attack forces at the tactical level (taking the load off of the larger “MAINSTAY” and “MOSS”, which were busy handling strategic responses and combat air patrol), while taking advantage of the AN-72 airframe’s ability to make use of short, poor-quality runways and improvised airfields. While loosely equivalent to the role of an E2-C Hawkeye in USN service, the AN-71 was supposed to be a land-based design (the naval role was supposed to be taken by the Yakolev YAK-44, which never surfaced).  NATO assigned the bird the reporting name “MADCAP” after its first flight in 1985. Unfortunately, the USSR only ever made three AN-71 airframes before the economic collapses of 1986-88 killed the program. One of those three prototypes was shipped off to the Ukraine for their new Air and Space museum while they were in the process of seceding from the SSSR, which is why this particular model was originally Ukraininan.The Eastern Express company put out a series of models based on the Museum’s holdings, all nominally in 1:288 scale. Toko seems to have put out a version of the series as well, and you can find a box in the US from Imex (I got mine on the ‘bay for $4, so always check your supplier..)

The AN-71 herself is pretty unique – a STOL design that uses engine exhaust to increase lift over the wings. Unfortunately this design, while efficient, tends to be damned noisy for the poor saps inside the cargo bay, but hey. Whatcha gonna do? *(cancel it if you’re Boeing, of course. Keep using it for fifty-plus years if you’re a Russkie..)

Surviving AN-71 on display in the Ukraine

The Good: Simple, clean instructions. Good decals, although I have no need for them. Generally decent fit and polish on the kit.
The Bad: Lots and lots of flash on frame “A”. It cleaned up well after a quick pass with an emery board. Some gates on detail elements distorted the radome and tail. Shallow detail cuts had to be sharpened.
The Ugly: Does not include any parts to make closed landing gear bays. The engine mounting surfaces were poorly-designed, and the wing overall required a lot of work to mount.
Full model build/review under the cut. My apologies for the poor quality of a couple of the images -I plead being sick as hell and having a shit phone.


Sculpting again – Robotech Tactics

I was annoyed by the lack of Malcontent command chips, so I started sculpting my own this afternoon. So far, I’ve got about 20-30 minutes of work into it. I freehanded the base shape onto paper using a UEDF chip as a size comparison, sketched the design onto it loosely with a Micron .005, and then freehanded from that with my engraver (picked on up free from one of the Makerspace guys who was ditching it after getting a laser engraver).

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel - ~5m.

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel – ~5m.

Next, I mixed a tiny amount of Green Stuff and worked it onto the design.
Step three - 10 MinTook about 10 minutes so far. I’m pretty proud of the detail on the Valkyrie tail, especially since it’s less than 1mm tall.

Now I gotta wait until after my volunteering shift at the local film society to throw another layer of GS on there, but it’s already looking damned good. I’m probably gonna be in shape to drop rubber on these by the time I can afford to buy more. Eventual plan is to cast off a pair of masters, sand the backs down slightly, and then glue them together and install a thin rim instead of trying to do this thing double-sided. All told, should take me about an hour’s actual work to get a mold going, maybe another 40 minutes total to set up a full mass-production rig.
Not, of course, that I’d MP these. But Jesus, Palladium, it’d take a pro sculptor less than a fucking day to set this up and GHQ could be pumping them out by the thousands in less than a week. Hell, you already have masters for the UEDF and Zent chips, put them under some rubber and give us enough to actually play with…

Pirate conversions, and more Black Widow work (TotBWC, Battletech)

So, I’ve been much more productive these last couple of months than usual. Part of it’s getting on the right meds for a change, part of it’s completing the better part of a year’s worth of therapy for my ADHD. Now I’ve got time to work on something other than fixing my headspace, I’ve been working my ass off on my project backlogs. It hasn’t really made it onto the blog, since a lot of my projects have just been aimed at unfucking my house or otherwise not hobby-related, and I haven’t been in the mood to write for a while either. But now it’s too hot for carpentry, so back to the keyboard we go.

Right now I’m working on my massive post queue; I kept starting posts and then abandoning them to the ether after twenty minutes over the last year or so, and now I’m going back and finishing them – or adding on the stuff that I quit writing to do and never got done.

This is one of those posts – a selection of the ‘Mechs I converted/prepped/repaired in the course of three days back in June. I had to pull a couple back for QC (like the Bounty Hunter), but it was a lot of fun.

Overall production

Left to right, front to back:
Front row: SHD-2D “Vang” custom Shadow Hawk (This one is a little surprise for the mission “Leave No Survivors“; check below the break for the tech readout. It’s a beast), Stinger, Crusader, converted GRF-1S “Steiner”.
Second Row: Stinger, converted Wasp (left-handed, with a Recon Camera, two Vehicular Grenade Launchers, and a Small Laser replacing the missile system), an ICE Thunderbolt (modified from Steve’s design in 3063, see below the cut), a dressed-up Griffin with a Dougram Bushmaster’s linear gun, and a stock WHM-6R for the Santander Killers.
Third Row: two stock Wolverines, plus a Shadow Hawk converted to a Wolverine standard. See below for the parts breakdown. After that there’s another upgunned Griffin and a reposed and cut-down Stalker for the pirates (I’m using the stats for the lightened 80-tonner with it).

IMG_20160605_213303_957Detail pics:
Here’s some slightly better shots of the four who do me proudest.
SHD-2D “Vang”: Added another Dougram light Linear gun (the ML on the Shadow Hawk) from my gashapon collection, and put on a light SRM from the same source. The over-the-shoulder gun is the Large Laser I took from the Thunderbolt, mounted on a small part from a MW Clix mini. I recarved the area next to the head to remove the original grenade pack and plugged the SRM holes in its “collarbone”.

SHD-2 “NISE* Wolverine”: So, I’ve always disliked the way the Wolverine looks (heresy, I know. Shut up.). I scored a 3e plastic Shad on Ebay for $1 since the backpack gun was damaged and the laser had broken off. And I figured “Why the hell not? Someone’s gotta get a Command ‘Mech out of this, and pirates seem like the folks to do it”. First I rebarreled the arm laser with a bit of wire and some Green Stuff, then added a spare Command Destroid pack to the back in place of the AC. I mated the AC receiver to a barrel cut from scrap from a WH40 Basilisk fighting platform railing and a short magazine made from plasticard, then mounted it under the fore-arm. It’s hard to see, but there’s a small finger guard attached to the hand-grip. The missile rack is a carefully re-cut pair of SRMs from a JES-1 carrier. I also filed off the VGL mount on this one, but left the gap clear for the backpack SRM to shoot through.
This is going to be the leader for Recce lance of 2 Coy, Santander’s Killers.
*From the Gundam fandom. Refers to a “mocked up” or faked version of a ‘Mech using another’s chassis; the original NISE Gundam used a GM chassis.

TDR-6FX1: I like diesel Thuds. You like Diesel Thuds. We all like ’em. So this was an easy rebuild choice for another E-Bay rescue Thud. The shoulder mount is a pair of Dougram Linear guns, cut down and reinforced, with a Locust-like arm pod made from plasticard and a plastic rod. The arm got a Wolverine hand-gun from a WVR-6M conversion I did ages ago for a buyer, plus a shield from an MS-06F Zaku II that I had converted to a Zaku I. The smokestacks are made from sprues, and I sculpted a simple engine and heat sink into the back (as well as the laser pack space in the front). Given that these things are supposed to be like forty years old by the late Jihad, I busted her up a little bit too.

GRF-1S: This is a simple up-gunning, using components from a Roundfacer “Korchima Special” as well as a RRPGT Defender radome and some cord.First I cut away the shitter guns that come with the vinyl 3e minis, then carefully sawed in the detail on the legs and re-carved/sculpted the shoulder and side of the head. I added a small “reactor pack” on the back using a casting taken from a AAA battery, and wired it up to a recast Roundfacer gun. I tried a couple different components to dress up the other side of the pack, but the radome just seemed to fit so well. On the other side, I’ve mounted a smaller missile launcher, taken from a Dougram gashapon. Oddly, given how much time and effort I sunk into the others this one is still my favorite-looking.


The Future:

Painting to come once I finish allocating to the various forces in the book, though I already have homes for the Stalker, “NISE” Wolverine (both to the Killers), Thud (Canopian militia), Stingers, Vang’s SHD (Draconis March Militia), and Griffins (One each to the Donegal Guards, Killers, and Black Widows). On the shelf I’ve got some converted Archers, Pixies, the Bounty Hunter (3015), a few Valks, and the Dougram gashapon to fiddle with, plus a fuckton of vees.

Record sheets:
Below the cut, with some quick commentary on the design process and ideas behind them.

Airbase Toblerone: Part one (Battletech, Robotech Tactics)

As promised (two weeks ago -_-;;) here’s some WiP shots of the terrain I’ve been working on. I got a fire lit back under me while working in the local makerspace with one of the guys on some really basic foam-cork stuff, and started back up on one of my long-term stalled projects; a fully-fleshed out 6mm Drop Port and/or HPG station for Battletech and Robotech Tactics. The wall and command bunker entrance here come from that session.

Ha Shi Dao complex front

“But what’s the ‘Mech, Doc?” Come back tomorrow for more..

IMG_20160605_213655_604 They’re loosely based on the Hai Shi Dao defense emplacements from Steel Battalion (Christ I love that game), and depicted as shelled and partially knocked-out. The intact emplacement on the left in the bottom pic is going to be getting a twin-AC/10 emplacement later. I really wanted to get a kind of “churned and barraged” feel, so I referenced a couple paintings of WWI battlefields for the ground colors on the main emplacement. You can also see a partly-overgrown crater with bits of a tree in the foreground of the piece.

Airbase step 2

For the main buildings, I rooted out one of my old ERTL Space Shuttle kits for the EuroLab components and the  GPS satellite payloads (I’m converting the Shuttles themselves into mini-Leopards, but that’s another post) to make the Quonset huts and barracks. The Command Center is a fighting deck from a Warhammer 40k Basilisk that I’d converted to a direct-fire SP gun, along with a few resin scrap components and a Cardassian comm screen from an old Star Trek figure. All are mounted on 1/8″ foamcore. The beveling was done roughly with a sharp hobby knife.
The gate towers are each made from half a Toblerone package (which I’ve been wanting to do for ages), scrap from the “Storage Units” that I got from the Burn In Designs kickstarter as ‘Mech hangars, and bits from a trashed Mechwarrior DA figure I used for parts on an N-scale kitbash. The bay windows are simply cut from mini blisters. These are still waiting on internal floors for the third deck and some catwalks against the back wall, as well as armament for the towers. I’m focusing on the plastic buildings at the moment, so I can get as much as possible put away before doing any more heavy conversion lifting.

Airbase progress 10 Aug 2016Current status after base-coating.
I sealed the foamcore with PVA glue, then added sand and flocking with another couple coats of glue before spray-coating. No melting, so I must have done it well enough..
You may remember the turrets here from my casting tutorials (link to first post here). I’ve since converted a few of them to laser and missile turrets, as well as a massive mini-missile rack and a “mechaturm” based on the old German Panzerturms. The turret torso is from one of my own “Shortbow” custom FrankenMechs. The readout below is just for the “factory” option, since making a Franken proper is a massive pain in the ass.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit. Enough sinks to fight, ammo for days, and no armor to speak of. It’s perfect!


Remaining for this project: Doll up the Burn In Designs modules and the Toblerone Towers, prep the power center and fuel farm (I have the parts, just haven’t put them together) and make a blast shield for droppers.

Quick Robotech Tactics update

Palladium finally put up the paper minis they’ve been promising for literally over a year on Drivethru RPG.

There are still problems with the assembly instructions, but those are also now up for every unit in the game instead of just a couple.  I’m hoping to find the time to print a few up and see how they look in a few, but right now I’m more interested in another project. More on that in a bit.

General update (BT, LotFP, RL)

Been away for a while, and while I’ve been getting a lot done in meatspace I just haven’t had the right kind of energy or focus for extensive writing these last few moons (I’ve still posted a bit on tumblr and the LotFP G+ groups, just not enough material/fucks to hack at the KB here for a while) . Not to mention, I haven’t been getting much if any table time in (although that’s changing), so there really hasn’t been much to write about.
Oh, and my fourth wedding anniversary is tomorrow.
So.. general update time.


On the blog front:
Went back and fixed some broken links as well as doing minor edits to a couple of posts as playtesting shakes out. Notably, Camo Specs Online (the BT color reference site) went down and had to completely restructure, so I had to fix all those links. I bumped all my drafts to the top of the queue to see what’s salvageable.
I’m also going to be revising the sidebar links and adding a few new cool people to the list, as well as removing dead sites. If you happen to see something let me know.

Kickstarter updates:
Got my copies of World of the Lost, Towers Two, and England Upturn’d. All are amusing in their own ways. Reviews as can be arsed.

Robotech RPG Tactics continues to be a mass clusterfucking event, with Palladium now weeping crocodile tears about how hard it is to make new sprue layouts while promising us the same shit they have been since Wayne stopped talking last year. Kevin got hit by a truck and people were celebrating in the comments because at least the header on the Pallladium updates changed for a week. I need to get a few more items before continuing work on the build reviews for the Archer/Spartan, Warhammer/Tomahawk, and Longbow/Phalanx.

The Skyway Project buildings are fucking awesome.

Gameplay updates:
Got my friend A. into BattleTech, and we’ve done a couple of training fights now as well as dicking around watching ’70s and ’80s Real Robot anime. Much fun was had, and BATTLETECH occurred

Ran a picaresque game with Scenic Dunnsmouth for my folks on the 4th, using the characters from the Thanksgiving game as well as a couple new rolls. It got cut off right after a Big Reveal ™, but at a place that allows adding or subtracting characters as necessary. Play report shortly, along with house rules in use.

Meatspace projects: (project logs in line for several of these)
I’ve successfully sorted nearly 20 years’ worth of loose papers – including DM notes, half-finished projects, dead campaigns, and reference files. All of my gaming books are likewise sorted. I built new display shelves for my desk out of a deceased bookcase, and I’ve cut the panels for a chemical and paint storage rack as well.

One of my friends bought a folk-banjo at an artist’s garage sale, and I’m pretty sure I can do one. So I’ve salvaged most of the materials and gotten some tools together; just need strings and elements for the neck. I’ll be blogging my progress as it goes.

Finished one large piece of 6mm terrain. It’s a busted wall based on the shore defenses in Ha Shih Dao in the first missions of Steel Battalion. I also mounted and prepped a half-dozen California Base Turrets, along with a surprise FrankenMech Mechaturm, a massive wall, an assortment of bunkered buildings based on the ERTL Space Shuttle labs and sattelites, and some Quonset huts.

Painted and/or prepped a huge number of models for the Black Widow project. Photos coming this afternoon.

Bought a hardcopy of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and soft-copies of various BT books (IntOps, CampOps, RS:Industrials, CM:Mercs).

I’ve built up some post-apoc minis for This is Not a Test, and grabbed an assortment of terrain. I also organized and repaired/re-stored all my modular terrain systems. I have a shitload of terrain.

Finished another few props for the local theater folks, including a Kodak Brownie 1880’s model and a couple of books.

Joined the local makerspace, and I’m likely going to be teaching a class on scratch-making half-timbred buildings for Mordheim and the like. Watch this space for deets.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

For the Archive: Solaris Stable Tag Match (Battletech)

I was reminded of an old game mode I used to run years ago by a stray comment in /btg/ – Anon wanted to know what BV levels we preferred, and it came back in a flash.

The Stable Tag Match works best as a mid-season exhibition match or a semi-finals match if you’re doing a full-on AccountantTech Solaris season (and really, there’s no reason not to). It’s sort of a modified Grinder, but flashier, and it makes for a fun demo game. It’s also very much a make-or-break event for the smaller stables, where you have a chance to deal – or receive – crippling economic harm against the competition. I recommend playing it as a double-elimination tournament over a couple of weeks, but with small stables you can sometimes get away with running it as a full-day event.
There are also some other rules in here that I’ve used for most of my Solaris seasons, like the “Face/Heel” bonus purses (see Crowd Support).

First things first: you’ll need the April Fool’s joke product XTRO: Royal Fantasy. It reprints all the necessary material from the old Solaris VII boxed set for free, including the map-sheets. You can even print them off in double-size if you want to use Dark Age clix minis, which I’ve done in the past to kick up visual interest in the game. Alternately, you can try to hunt up the Solaris map pack, but that’s been out of print for a good while. The scenario was initially designed for the Steiner Coliseum, but I’ve also used it in the Reaches, the Jungle, and the Factory to good effect.

You’ll also need at least four tag-out markers. I’ve used bottlecaps (good beer makes for good Battletech), Blip markers, repainted Krazy Glue bottle protectors with an LED in the tip, and cardboard hex markers with the word “TAG” on them in large friendly letters.  You can also add 2-hex-wide doors, one per player (I used Space Hulk bulkheads) to the edges of the map, representing the entrances at the edges of the arena.

Hiring Duncan Fisher is advisable but probably prohibitively expensive.

Force Selection:
Matches may be ‘Mech-only, or mixed, at the option of the organizers. The points limit is the total fieldable BV of the smallest stable in the Season, or an arbitrary value between 2,000 and 5,000 BV.  If playing with Stables during a season, the smallest stable(s) use their entire available force. The other stables must field ‘Mechs or other combatants, to the nearest 250 points (NOTE: You can go over, but only if you don’t have any units with a BV lower than the overrun. This is to keep you from winding up 500+ points behind because you can’t quite squeeze in a Light).
For single matches, the forces chosen must all be under the points limit.

Special Rules:
Tagging Out: If a ‘Mech successfully lands a physical attack on one of the “TAG” markers, the ‘Mech is swapped out with another unit from the owning player’s stable at the beginning of the next turn. Vehicles, infantry, and battle armor need simply remain in the same hex through the physical phase. The new unit is swapped directly on the tabletop with the old one, being placed in the same hex but with any facing the player prefers.
Tag Markers count as one vehicle for stacking purposes. They may be inset into one of the walls in a cramped arena, such as Ishiyama, at which point non-Mech units need only spend the physical attacks phase adjacent to the marker to tag out in this case.

No Tag-backs: If the player has more than two usable units, a unit may not tag-out with the most recently-used unit.

Forced Withdrawal: A unit that has been subjected to Forced Withdrawal must retreat to a Tag Point; they may not retreat to their stable doors.

Destroyed and Surrendered Units: If a unit is destroyed, or surrenders on the field, the killing player gets one free Movement Phase. The player who lost the unit may then move its replacement onto the map from their Stable Door in the Movement Phase of the next turn.

Crowd Support: The usual rules for Crowd Support are in effect; players may not agree to ignore them for tag matches. In addition, track each player’s highest total support rating in each match. At the end of the tournament, the player who achieved the highest total score in any of the matches gets the “Viewer’s Choice” purse of 25,000 Cb per match in the tournament. You can also award Viewer’s Choice after each round in the tournament.
At the management’s option, in tournaments with more than two players you may also include a “Heel” award of 5-10,000 Cb for the player with the lowest Support Rating after each round or tournament.
Note that tagging out is NOT considered surrendering; in fact, the Crowd Support rating is increased by +1 on a successful tag, representing the crowd’s excitement to see a fresh warrior enter the battle.

Example: Emily has just finished a match in the Factory. Over the course of twenty turns, she scored mostly sixes and eights, but after a particularly spectacular kill in the twelfth round her total support rating went up to 14, before falling once again to average numbers. The GM notes down “Support: 14” next to her win on the ladder chart; this places her ahead of Mike, who got a 12 in a Jungle match in the previous round of the Tournament. Her lowest rating, a 5, doesn’t come close to Dennis’s low water mark of -3 (bad rolls, cockpit hits, and away crowds are unforgiving at times), so she’s still not in contention for the “heel” award. 

Optional Rule: If players successfully execute a “flashy” physical attack (DFA, Charge, pushing an opponent off the fourth floor of the Factory or cliff) they gain +2 Crowd Support instead of the usual +1.
Set Up:
The organizer places the Tag markers before the match begins. At least one should be in a concealed but difficult-to-reach location and one in a highly-visible spot; try to keep them roughly equidistant from each other. In the Steiner arena, you can also roll a d6 at the beginning of a round to see the squares in which Tag Points have popped up; there is a Tag Point on each of the related black numbers for the rest of the round. If combining this with pylons, rolling doubles means there are no tag points available, only pylons.
Place each of the Stable Door markers into two adjacent hexes on the edge of the map, spacing them out as far as possible. The Coliseum already has two stable doors; for three and four player matches, simply add two more on the far side of the map.

Each player writes down their chosen unit on a slip of paper, and then rolls initiative for the first turn. The chosen unit must enter the battlefield from the player’s Stable Doors. Play then proceeds as normal.
Stables have the option to surrender at any time after having one ‘Mech or vehicle destroyed, and must surrender if all their available units are currently subject to Forced Withdrawal. A Stable surrender is considered a loss for the round.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part III (It’s Destroid Time, With Your Friend, the Defender)

Finally, we get into the home stretch of my Wave I reviews. The Destroids are the models I bought the most of, for various battletech reasons.

Edit: Palladium Books has released updated assembly instructions for the Defender (and other units), which you can find on DrivethruRPG (here) for free.
Previous Posts: Part I, Part II
Next Posts:
I started a great photo-set with my sprues of Defenders months ago. I just burned out on dealing with the damned things when I started my first Phalanx. Wound up throwing the entire mess of Destroids into a box for a couple of months in sheer frustration. To be frank, I was getting pissed just looking at the models. That’s a very bad place to be as a reviewer, and a worse one as a hobbyist. So, yeah.

That’s really about half the review right there.
Generally speaking, the Destroid models are more poseable than the Valkyries or Glaug. There’s also no less Procrustean modeling, so you aren’t specifically forced to keep half the weapons in a fixed position. The joint layout makes magnetizing the arms and weapons very easy, which means you can even repose during a game if you want.
Unfortunately, they’ve also got insanely high part counts, with unsightly seams everywhere on most of the models. And, though the feet on the Defender, Tomahawk, and Phalanx are essentially identical, each sprue uses a slightly different and incompatible connection method for the ankle joint, reducing your posing options.

We’ll start off with the Defenders, because I actually have a full photoshoot prepped and ready to go (and I don’t want to keep this series on hold for the week (good Lord I was naive there) or more that prepping the other three will take)



Defender Sprue obverse

Click to embiggen for assembly notes

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Three of the four legs are missing at least one detail. Only one is complete. In addition, two of the legs have gates on top of surface detail. You’d think, with the amount of copy-pasting going on elsewhere, that the legs would at least be identical..

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four. Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four.
Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

The body is a five-part model. It has several ugly, prominent seams that must be cleaned or filled, and leave noticeable gaps in the finished model. The searchlights on my models were also miscast, with mold lines and underflow on all four side torsos.

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms. Torso searchlight miscasts.

The guns have extremely thin barrels, making extracting them without damage very difficult. Cut the bases of the gun first with clippers, then slowly cut off the barrels with a very sharp knife or saw. Preferably, add some padding behind them.
The connecting peg on the hips is wider than the hole in the torso, and must be carefully filed down to allow the model to mate properly.
The hip joint mounts on the legs force them into very specific angles, but can be easily (if carefully) modified to allow other positions.
There is no mounting point for a Command Destroid modification on the Defender, and the only position in which it “fits” interferes with both the arm placement and the radar sail. I have a functioning conversion that involves cutting down the piece into three parts and re-mounting them in the radar sail area.

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Once the parts are cut, you can mount the search radar on the side of one of the ammo bins, or up over the shoulder/gun area. I cut off the top of the right-hand bin and hard-mounted it to the torso, however, and I think it came out pretty well.
Flip around the comms package, and cut it to fit the normal radar sail mount. It won’t take too much effort, and it looks pretty good up there.

The finished product

The finished product

Good Points:
The hard, flexible plastic makes the slender guns and radar blade surprisingly resilient once they’re off the sprue. The Defender’s posing is much more flexible than most of the other models in the line. There are points of articulation at the arms, legs, radar, and torso angle – all tweakable with minimum effort.

Number of Components

Twenty. Body is six parts alone, the legs and arms are three each, and the hips are two-parters.

Assembly Time:
Prep cutting took 15 minutes, not counting the time required to pin and re-glue an o.7mm gun barrel. Torso and hips took about 8 minutes to green-stuff and align, including filing and prefits. Overall, the two models took about 40 minutes to assemble, plus 8 hours of Green Stuff drying time. With a sharp, very slender pair of diagonal cutters the pair would probably take ~30 minutes.


Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

International Tabletop Day BattleTech BatRep

Events at Sakuracon prevented the BT game I was hoping to get in last Saturday night. To compensate, we managed to get in a game at the last minute this Saturday for ITTD at Gabi’s in the new upstairs section. As a bonus, I managed to paint this Victor in a little over half an hour, while my opponent was stuck in traffic.

Yes, it's a Koffing. I'll finish the base tomorrow and get him sealed up to go with the rest of my pirates..


Deets below the break.


Update: Robotech RPG Tactics corrections

According to the email I got from Palladium, their omission of various cards (see link) from the boxed set was deliberate. They have, however, made those cards and the missing Malcontent and Artillery cards available on DrivethruRPG for free. They’ll also be putting them up on their website “soon”.

They’re also working to make the Orguss Destroids and fighters slightly more builder-friendly, which is promising on the “later units” front.

Quick personal update/USN Squadron Reference dump (Robotech Tactics, Battletech)

Spent all day yesterday and a good part of today painting up my entry into the most recent Iron Painter contest on the Battletech forums. The deadline is Dec. 1st, in case anyone out there is watching and wanting to play.
This weekend is the big Customer Appreciation sale at Olympic Cards and Comics, so I limped over there and grabbed assorted Christmas gifts for the folks (and magnets, as well..).

I’ve been toying with the idea of painting up my Valks as some of my old squadrons from CAG-9, partly to give me a reason to finish my cruise jacket and use up all my patches. Since I was combat-deployed during the time-frame of both the Global Wars and the First Robotech War, it stands to reason that some of the squadrons active in the era might have survived and folded into the UEDF. Plus, we know the Screwtops and the Top Hatters survived into the Robotech war by the markings on some of the Valkyries in background scenes. Hell, Skull Squadron is blatantly the Jolly Rogers.

Seriously Roy, get that thing on your back looked at.

As far as assigning them, I know the Golden Hawks are getting the VEF-1 squadron (that royal blue and gold screaming eagle looks amazing on a radome), and the Checkmates will be at least one of the Valk units (my main intercept squadron). I’m thinking, though, that some of the Attack squadrons should really be rocking Destroids, possibly one squadron per Destroid type. The Screwbirds would map well to Defenders or my Lancers, and the Black Knights would of course be rocking the Tomahawks. I know I’m going to have several units of Spartans and Phalanxes, so I may just set them up as the Blue Diamonds and Argonauts, and HS-8 as the Ghosts.

The Argo’s commander’s bird is damned sexy too. Tell me that wouldn’t look good on a Phalanx..

The other option, of course, is to use the funniest squadron names possible; the Fighting Redcocks (with whom I also deployed), the Red Rippers, the Puking Dogs..

Actually, this is a decent time to talk about squadron markings, in case you’ve ever been curious as to how they work. The Argo up there, for example, is marked “NH-200”, and belongs to squadron VFA-147.
The order of precedence is Air-wing/squadron/plane number. Each Air Wing has a 2-letter code, further broken down into “coast” (Atlantic = A, Pacific = N) and the wing’s unique letter. These are completely arbitrary, however, so all you need to know is that they don’t use the same letter twice. I’ll be using either “O” or “R” for “Orbital”.
The first number in the 3-digit designation is the squadron number in the Air Wing. Traditionally, the Intercept squadron(s) – the “fighters” – are squadrons 1– and 2–, the attack squadrons 3– and 4–, and the Electronic Attack and AWACS (Airborne warning and control) units get 5— and 6– respectively.
Thus, NG-400 is the leader of the 4th squadron in “Pacific Air Wing G”.
The Squadron’s call-numbers, meanwhile, tell you what kind of unit it is. So “VFA” means “Fixed-wing” (V) Fighter/Attack (FA) Squadron. “VAQ” is “Fixed-wing” (V), “Attack” (A), “Electronic” (Q), and so on.

So, how can you apply this to marking your units?
The Air Wing’s commander typically flies in 100 or 200, with his XO flying in the other of the two, or on his wing in 101/201. That’s where your VF-1S and/or VT-1D are most likely to be. Yes, it’s beyond me why they made the frigging Training variant a commander unit in RRPGTobotech, but whatever.
Destroid groups would likely have higher squadron numbers than Valkyries. I’m using “D” to re-designate them, so VFA-146 would become DA-146 if I loaded them into Spartans, while VMFA-314 (the “M” is for “Marines”) would become DMA-314.
The VEF-1A is technically a non-combat or support unit. Non-combat squadrons get numbered after the other, sexier ones get theirs, so something in the 6-7 range would be appropriate (2 Valk squadrons, plus 3-4 Destroid groups, and then the AWACS squadron).

Edit: Current marking scheme follows
UN Space Self Defense Force Veritech Combat Group 9, call number OH
Valkyrie units:
OH-1xx – VT-211 “Checkmates”  – VF-1R with VF-1D support
OH-2xx – VT-31, “Tomcatters” – VF-1A with VF-1S support
OH-3xx – VT-147 “Argonauts” – VF-1A with VF-1J support
OH-4xx – VT-146 “Blue Diamonds” – VF-1A with VF-1J support.
OH-5xx – VTAQ-138 “Yellowjackets”- VEF-1, no support. 5 aircraft.
OH-6xx – VAQ-112 “Golden Eagles” – Cats-Eye Recon, no support. 4 aircraft.
Destroid Units:
OH-7xx – DMA-314 “Black Knights” – Destroid Tomahawks and Spartans. Major William J. Smithson commanding.
OH-8xx – DS-22 – “Fighting Redcocks” – Destroid Defenders with Tomahawk support. “Ogre” Inman commanding
OH-9xx – DA-151 “Vigilantes” –  Destroid Phalanxes with Defender support.
Drone Units:
OH-0xx – UP-8 “Eightballers” – Ghost Drone Fighters with limited Lancer support.

(DS: Destroid Superiority/Anti-air)
(VTAQ: Veritech squadron, Spaceborne Early Warning/Electronic Attack)
(UP: Unmanned Patrol, wingless)
Units are split out by type now, which bumped up the VEF squadron.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part II (Problematic Models and their assembly, and Component Quality)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series
#1: Compatibility and Scaling
#3: Destroid Defender

In addition, Palladium addressed some of the concerns expressed in this post, including making some of the excluded cards and assembly instructions available on-line (though they’re still partially incorrect)
See the post here.

By way of preface, this was supposed to be a fluff post, and take maybe a couple hours to write while I worked up test models for the game, took pics of the sprues, and noted down the hard spots for a new modeller.

It’s been a sodding week, and I’m only covering the worst offenders so far; the Destroids are on hold until I can get some magnets.

The mini quality has been, hands-down, the most controversial part of the entire game to date. Is everything shit? No, not by any means.
But all three armies (Zentraedi, Malcontent, and UEDF) get the shaft on something. The Quel-Regult is by far the worst offender, with multiple parts that don’t fit, and a missing component (see below). The UEDF player, meanwhile, gets a bit screwed by having even more models to build than the Zen player – models which take almost three times as long to build out, and have significant problems of their own. The Malcontents? The boxed set doesn’t even contain any legal units for them.
And while some of the models are a bargain, the Zentraedi get hosed on a critical component of their army.

Full breakdown after the jump.

Review: Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave 1 Part I (Compatibility, Scaling)

This is the first post in a multi-part series
#2: Valks and Zentradi
#3: The Destroid Defender

So, I’ve mentioned my kickstarting in the past. The Robotech RPG Tactics (neé Robotech Tactics..) kickstarter was one of my first. I’ve been following this glorious clusterfuck since it was a guy on BlogSpot with a dream and a good sculpting hand. Well, a year and a half after funding (and almost three years since it’s inception) I have my models. Was it worth the wait?
The Short version:
The Good: Holy shit the detail on the models. Extra Valkyrie parts galore. A well-polished book with a tight and portable rules system I’ve already been hacking for a few months.
The Bad: The model sprues are un-labeled, and there are warped parts and missing assembly information. The partially-incomplete rulebook makes it difficult to build a force without shuffling through a massive brick of differently-sized cards, and several rules are ambiguous.
The Ugly: Deliberately bad poseability. Poorly thought-out gates on the sprues damage detail on some models, and require extremely careful prep work. Then there’s Palladium Books’ behavior.

This is the first part of a series; a quick preview, concerned with model scaling – since its the question I get most often, from every quarter. I’m also writing specific reviews of the rules and the model components; this will include build-ups of the Wave I mecha models, and a discussion of the quality and fit issues – of which I’m sure you’ve already heard.

The question everyone wants to know:
What’s that? “Doc, will the models work in [the major mecha game..]?”
Yes and no, it depends on what you want out of them. First:

The Bugs:
A properly built-up Super VF-1A or -1S will definitely pass as a PHX-1 or a Pixie LAM. Modding an extra gun-pod will make you a PHX-3-series, though it will require green-stuffing. A straight-up VF-1A or -1S without the FAST-pack will make a pretty good PHX-1K.  Based on the scale shots I’ve seen so far, Crusaders shouldn’t be an issue either once the Armored Valkyrie boxes come out sometime next year.
What they won’t do is get you the shorty Bugs – Wasps, Valkyries, or Stingers.

Family Tree

Clockwise from the top: Unseen Pewter CRD-3R, WizKids PHX-5L, 3e Plastic WSP-1A, 3e Plastic STG-3R, 3e Plastic PHX-1, and a RRPGT VF-1J in the center.

Hark - A Grognard

Gervalk VF-1J, with a dismasted Pixie. Arms taken from the Battloid-mode sprue. The pegs are mounted in different areas on each model, but can be used in either mode with a bit of time and green stuff.

The Heavies: (What everyone wanted anyway)
In general, the Destroids are more compact and detailed than the Unseen metals, and much better than the plastics. While mine are still on the sprues, CampaignAnon from /btg/ was kind enough to give me permission to post these pictures of his initial work. Phalanx and Spartan photos to follow once I’ve had the time for a build-up. I also have a lead Unseen Longbow coming in in a few weeks, which will help comparisons considerably. Notably, the Spartan box includes the parts necessary to make an ARC-3K (the variant with a pair of Large Lasers), while the Phalanx box has both the standard “Barrel” arms and the nuclear “Derringer” arms seen in the last few episodes of Macross/Robotech, perfect for representing an Arrow IV system – or Thunderbolts.

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

The Glaug is far too large for Z-scale. I’d call it a trifle small for N-scale, if WizKids had ever actually attempted anything like a consistent scale in their efforts. It almost fits in with that weird half-scale the HQ Loki and Thor from the 25th anniversary box had, but even then is in its own little niche. The Glaug sprue also contains a Quel-Regult (a scout/EWACS variant of the standard Battlepod) and a Quel-Gulnau (salvage/recovery unit), which means that the boxed set will be pointless for a BT player unless you want an N-Scale Ostscout for some reason.


The Breakdown
If you’re primarily interested in buying the models to represent otherwise un-obtainable units, the Destroid and Super Valkyrie “add-on” packs will likely be your best bet. The current MSRP is $33/box for either a box with 2 Defenders and 2 Tomahawks, or a box of 2 Spartans and 2 Phalanxes.
This is about half the price of the 3e Plastic Unseen on auction sites, and the added detail and friendlier material make them very much worth it – especially for the Phalanx/Longbow (which is very hard to find, and never saw a plastic release) and the Rifleman/Defender (the Plastech model is especially ugly and intractable). Before you cough up, however, I recommend reading the modelling review. These are still, effectively, 1:144 models shrunk to 1:285 scale, and require a great deal of effort and build time.

Legal note: all images and trademarks not owned by me are used without permission, for the Fair Use purposes of review and discussion. No challenge is intended by their use. I neither represent nor have personal ties to Harmony Gold, Palladium Books, FASA, or Catalyst Games, nor any other interested party. I am not a party to FASA vs. Harmony Gold. Thank you for your time.

TotBWC project update

Made a little more progress, now that I’ve got enough wherewithal to stay focused on one thing for more than 5 minutes. I’m still not even up to standing for more than 5 minutes, let alone the walk to Gabi’s from the bus stop, so live-fire tests at the LGS have been postponed (again..). Going to test out a couple scenarios with my brother while he’s here, though.

Here are the current revised force lists for the scenarios listed below (I’m still writing them up in the new scenario style, which will be coming up shortly. I hope.)
Scenarios with simple map/rule revisions:
“Leave No Survivors”
“Ghost Unit”
“Last Line of Defense”
(Hoff scenario IV)
(The remaining Hoff scenarios are getting repurposed into a Chaos Campaign tree)

“The Lady and the Tiger”
Special Rules: The weather is a Heavy Snowfall, increasing the difficulty of all piloting and gunnery rolls by 1. All ‘Mechs sink an additional point of heat. Starting on Turn 15, piloting skill rolls increase by 1, and all hexes cost +1 MP due to snow buildup; in addition, all units sink an additional point of heat each turn. All Water hexes are solid Ice. Forced Withdrawal is in effect.

Defender: The Black Widow Company (Total BV: Just shy of 16,000)
(Roll 1d6 on turn 4; on a 1-3, the Fire lance arrives: on a 4-6, the Scout lance. The remaining Lance arrives on Turn 7)
The Black Widow Command Lance must deploy within 4 hexes of the center of their Home Edge; all of their reinforcements enter from the opposite edge (flanking units returning to envelop the Killers).

Attacker: Santander’s Killers, Tregarth’s Company (Total BV: 11,726)
Command Lance: Cpt. Tregarth: Untouched WHM-6R*, Veteran Skills. TDR-5S (18 RT armor, 12 sinks, 7 CT(r) armor) (Veteran skills). WVR-6R (15 armor, LT). Warrior Larsen: GRF-1N (costs 2MP/hexside to turn)
Scout Lance: PHX-1 * (Double all movement heat, 5 HD armor, Veteran), STG-3R (gyro hit), STG-3R (Heat sinks reduced to 8), LCT-1V (heat sinks reduced to 6)
Fire Lance: VLK-QA* (Veteran, malfing Medium Laser), GRF-1N (10 LRM-10 ammo left, down to 10 sinks), SHD-2D (Gunnery 6 due to FCS damage), PNT-9R (all rear armor reduced to 2)
The Killers are in a search formation, struggling to overcome the blizzard, and all lance members must deploy within 2 hexes of their lance leader (marked with a * above). All lance leaders must be within 3 hexes of the center hex(es) of the map. Their Home Edge lies opposite to the Widow’s

Playtest notes:
I increased the delay on the reinforcements to give the Killers a little more of a chance; they wind up out-BV’d in the original scenario when half of the Widow’s Scout Lance walks onto the board, and basically outnumbered 2:1 by turn 5. It’s straight-up not enough time to even engage, let alone do any damage, for such a light force. With an objective of “kill everything, accept no substitutes”, it’s disgustingly unfair.
The overall Killers force was drastically increased; I like the paint scheme, so this is an excuse to make a company of pirates with a fairly reasonable force. I’m also going to do a personality model for the Death’s Head Raiders Victor mentioned in 3025.
I’ve run this one twice so far in its current incarnation. Still working on the map layout, but the Widow player can still win handily IF they use the weather to their advantage. While the Killers have more jumping units, the Widows have better gunnery on average and far more close-combat firepower. The cold weather at least partially compensates for the ratty ‘Mechs on the Killer’s side, and it is possible to inflict very serious damage on the Widows very quickly if they get sloppy. In particular, if Nasty K and MacLaren overheat too soon, they can be coursed and slaughtered before the Widow’s reinforcements arrive. The Killers’ player, however, must be extremely careful not to let his faster units string out and allow his defeat in detail. Finally, loading Infernos into the Shadow Hawk or Wolverine can allow some interesting tactics with Mud. Or the iced-over water hexes on the map…

“The Bounty Hunter”
Stillin the early testing stage; the assassination objectives make this one hilarious, but the Haseks had a dangerous BV advantage in the original scenario. On my first play-through, however, the Haseks literally lost 2 of their lights on turn 1 to breach checks and another to a failed PSR, badly unbalancing the scenario. I’m thinking of making some of the Hasek warriors have at least one Veteran skill, especially the Valk pilots hiding in the pools on his lawn – who will desperately need higher piloting skills with the way water works now compared to the BattleDroids rules. I may also down-weight some of the bodyguard lance.
This requires a custom map, which I’ll upload in its final form; this winds up being a clusterfuck pretty fast on the original 2×1 map. Especially with the walls and other elements restricting mobility.
TRO 3025 notes that the Haseks have “replaced all ‘Mechs in their Light and Fire lances” with Valkyries. With that in mind, the current test force:
The Bounty Hunter: MAD-BH’15 (Elite), SHD-2H, SHD-2H.  (6428 BV assuming elite/vet/vet)
Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers: (Duke Hasek’s personal Guard) [8,947 BV]
Command lance: MAD-3D or WHM-6D (The funnier option is the MAD, since it’s Michael’s personal ride), CRD-3D, RFL-3N, RFL-4D. [5737 BV, assuming 3/3 MAD-3D or WHM-6D – both have essentially identical BVs]
Second Lance: PHX-1, 3x VLK-QA (3,210 BV) or 4x VLK-QA [2892 BV]

This leaves “Lady Sings the Blues”, “Queen’s Gambit”, “Scavenger Hunt”, “Spider Trap”, “Dawn Patrol”, “Fog of War”, and “Lady’s Man”.

New tanks (Battletech).


I picked up a few new tanks and a fighter this weekend from the Value Village toy wall. I got one “YF-19” (the fake Stealth Fighter prototype that was making the rounds in the early ’90s), what I believe to be a pair of Korean Type -89 or -99 heavy tanks, and some kind of half-track (see pic).

At first I thought they were Armored Recovery Vehicles, missing a crane or something. After extensive research, however, they don’t match the profile of any engineering or construction vee I can find that was produced before 1989 (the copyright date: both they and the tanks are marked “KPT ’89”). Right now I’m thinking they might be tractors for a tactical ballistic missile Transporter/Erector/Launcher, but for some reason images of ?Chinese? tac-nuke TELs aren’t exactly in wide distribution.

I also posted an image of samples from my tank collection yesternight on Tumblr, and promised stats: Here’s the first batch, with links to the source design.

Left to right: LRM, APC, and Autocannon variants.  Visible to rear is a JRS "Native Dancer" light strike vehicle and a factory-fresh Type 54 EWAC hover-car

Left to right: LRM, APC, and Autocannon variants.
Visible to rear is a JRS “Native Dancer” light strike vehicle and a factory-fresh Type 54 EWAC hover-car

Bromley Corporation ARMC Instead
A light attack vehicle, with options for a missile turret, autocannon, or troop-carrying capacity. I’ve made it a 35-tonner, given its close resemblance to the existing Striker Light Tank.
Bromley, inc. is a long-term competitor of Qwikscell, though the limited production capacity of their single FWL-based factory has kept their products to a lower profile than those of the “Acme” of cheap tanks. The “Instead”, properly an armored car or Infantry Fighting Vehicle, is built on a strengthened APC chassis. While governmental support for the company has always been limited, their cheap, rugged products are popular among mercs in the “golden triangle” at the intersection of Steiner, Liao, and Marik space. Mercenaries in the know particularly appreciate the targeting systems on Bromley’s weapons carriers and light IFVs; their programming was specially adapted for long-range ballistic fire and anti-aircraft work, compensating for a gap many independent units struggle to fill.

Quirks: (all combat variants): Improved Targeting (long), AA Targeting, Poor Environmental Sealing, Hard to Pilot (high center of gravity), Easy to Maintain, Hard to Customize (any Energy weapons mounted suffer from Poor Targeting at all ranges)

(APC variants): Easy to maintain, Modular equipment (as modular weapons, but for the 8-ton space in the body of the vehicle.), Poor Environmental Sealing.

Age of War/Succession Wars (2.5 Variants):
After cannibalizing their rare fusion engines, the design had to be downgraded to late Age of War specifications; the armor was slashed, and cheaper weapons installed. The fast 2-man design is popular with mercenaries. Tougher than the Scorpion, faster than most Medium or Heavy ‘Mechs, and mounting long-ranged weapons that are cheap either to replace or reload, the “Instead” is frequently bought rather than some other, more expensive design. Thanks to the survival of Flak ammunition, both armored car variants have kept their well-deserved reputation as dependable backup anti-aircraft artillery.
(Note: the SW-era APC variant would already remove the 1-ton turret, 8 tons of turret weapons, and 1t of armor: at that point, it’s simpler just to use the 20t Heavy Wheeled APC stats)
SW-era Instead AC variant SW-era Instead LRM variant

Star League/Clan Invasion (5+ Variants):
The original design was quickly resurrected after Bromley Inc. gained access to the Helm core. Vehicular ferro-fibrous armor and upgraded versions of the standard weapons give the second-generation “Instead” significantly more bite and staying power, albeit by more than tripling the light tank’s cost. Some mercenary groups have removed the LRM-15’s Artemis systems in favor of more (and much cheaper) ammunition storage – or NARC and TAG-compatible munitions –  but the specialized targeting/tracking system has so far made their attempts to add in energy weapons fruitless. The APC variants quickly became more sophisticated, with their 8-ton modular bays filled with everything from  MASH units to command facilities and battle armor, all protected by 5 tons of ferro and the Instead’s trademark speed. To encourage escort, most mounted a paltry single machine gun.

Invasion-era Instead AC variantInvasion-era Instead LRM variantInvasion-era Instead LRM variant (merc)Invasion-era Instead LRM variant (mmg)

Not much to report today, still mucking through the early BT supplements cross-referencing shit with the newer books.
On the topic of replacing the ‘Mechs from earlier drafts, I’ve found that The Fox’s Teeth (the second “BT” supplement, also written for BattleDroids) got two interesting retcons with the Sword and Dragon book. Only 2 ‘Mechs were actually changed – the McKinnon hereditary command ‘Mech became a Black Knight instead of the old Marauder, and Dekker (the crazed Neo-Calvinist) got a Javelin with no mention of it replacing his old Wasp (every other replaced ‘Mech references the old organization). Yes, the force lists at the bottom of the pages still use the exact org chart from the older book for 3027, but it’s an interesting setup.

They also added hints for new scenarios in the old timeline; Sarah Lytton is rolling in a Commando her dad took down on Tancredi IV during a factory raid, and the opening fiction takes place during the birth of the FRR (or, in the Sabres’ case, shortly thereafter). Both scenarios look like they’d be interesting to play out on a tabletop, and give you some good meat to work with on balancing them.

The Fox’s Teethis also further along in the transition to “real” BattleTech. There’s still a few references to DroidWarriors or ‘Droids instead of ‘Mechs, and a few mentions of the “AutoCannon” instead of the A/C-5 (BD only had one cannon class, which.. well, makes a lot of the original eleven* make waaay more sense. That and the “all sinks need slots” rule from Battledroids, which left things like the Marauder much more critpadded, and meant that almost all the ‘Mechs could benefit from water). Several of the scenarios are still built with the same ten base ‘Mechs as TotBW, but the other Dougram ‘Mechs start showing up in the latter half of the book**.
*the Merlin was included as a sample, built under the construction rules but not actually canonized until the 3050s.
** The Thunderbolt (with the designation TND-4T; all of the designs have different model numbers in the book), BattleMaster (the first conventionally available Assault ‘Mech in the scenario packs, here labeled “BTM-6R”), Wolverine (here noted as “WLV-4E” or “WOV-4E” [Typos? In my FASA?..]), and the Crusher Joe – derived Locust (“LCS-2T”) all debut in the later scenarios of this book.

I’m also seeing evidence in the scenarios that someone on FASA’s staff had actually watched Taiyo no Kiba Dougram at this point; I need to verify that later, but it would be pretty exciting, since it would mean they had fansub access (or *shudder* script-and-raw) remarkably early on.

Now, I don’t plan on getting as insane with the other scenario books as I am with TotBW, but staging the Tancredi IV fight would give me an excuse to work on one of those infamous “Panther Companies” – I already have the ‘Mechs (2 -8Z, 8 -9R, 2 DRG-1N) and enough left over for another Kurita company. Plus the Fox’s Teeth use a standard camo scheme, so no loss for building their unit. Could even use some of them as the generic Davion OpFor in TotBW…

Reactor, Online… (Battletech, etc.)

Back online after the usual recovery/sanity period surrounding Sakuracon. We had a great year – it looks like we may actually hit our soft-cap next year – and my staff were as always pretty cool. Even got some game time in, along with the Gundam panel. I’ll have pics of S-con and ECCC later, along with commentary, but the posts are kinda stalled on my dashboard for now. Work is, as always, driving me slowly mad and ate the last week of the month; combine that with spring cleaning and you wind up with a month of dead blog. Sorry about the delay.

But enough about me, on to the content.

First off, a friend of mine had a birthday this week; he’s a big Seahawks fan, so I did him up a plastic Marauder in the 12th Donegal Guards’ colors, with a freehanded Seahawks logo.

Inn't she purty?

Inn’t she purty?

This is the first actual painting session I’ve managed to finish without cramping up or fucking up since I broke my hand last year. Now I need to get back on the stick..

Which is where the second part of this comes in. I’ve started work again on the Black Widows campaign I’ve been kicking around for months.

First step (yesterday and today) was finding the units, ‘Mechs, and planets used in each scenario, along with any special props and rules that might be required.

The next step, which should take about a week, will be updating the scenarios. See, Tales of the Black Widow Company isn’t actually a BattleTech book. It’s a BattleDroids supplement, crudely updated and shoveled out the door. Several things in it violate canon or construction rules (the Super Wasps and Griffin are infamous in this regard), and it was written using only ten standard ‘Mech designs throughout (plus two Mackies and the Supers). Hell, two of the units mentioned don’t even technically exist, nor do a couple of the planets. So.. yeah. I’m adding some iconic House ‘Mechs to each group (for example, swapping in Valkyries and Javelins for the Davion lights), altering others to give a slightly better balance, and swapping or enlarging the maps for a more tactical game (All of the scenarios use 1×2 or 2×1 setups of the original BattleDroids/BattleTech boxed set mapsheet with minor alterations).

Part of the ‘Mech cataloging process will be going through my collection and massaging the two to fit each other. Much as I love the Griffin, I don’t have twenty of them I can allocate to the pile (although the two booster boxes of Dougram gashapon I just picked up are certainly helping..), and adding in, say, a few Wolverines will certainly help matters.

After the cataloging comes the painting. Some are already painted (the Super Wasp, a couple generic Davion ‘Mechs), and I’ll be posting the WiP shots of the rest as I get into it.  88 total unpainted ‘Mechs at the moment, although with some list tweaks I can probably cut that down to ~80, and at least 10* different color schemes. I even get to paint the better part of a company of pirates (from the Santander Killers). If that doesn’t get me back on form, not sure what will..

For the edification and amusement of myself and my players, I’ll be playtesting my Random ‘Mech Quirks document as well (after the break, along with the unit breakdown).


Ahh, Nerves. (Miniatures)

I mentioned my broken hand earlier. It’s still giving me some trouble, but I’m back up to painting. Now I just need to get 3 months of dust off my brush and gear up for my Battlecry bucket. And that sexy, sexy MAC II.
I built a test lightbox today (although it’s pretty freaking ghetto at the moment..) and decided to test it with some of my old minis.

1-285 Archer-Spartan - Desert Camo - FrontWell.. maybe not perfect, but the top one was with a cell phone and the bottom one was with my now inexplicably-busted camera. In macro mode. DC ARC 21-400 Zaku II-J - Asian Theater - Front 1-400 Zaku II-J - Asian Theater - SideIMG_20130623_244433_156On the other hand, this shit is comparatively gorgeous. Now I need to fix my camera and start flocking a box bottom.

In other news, I’ve been working and binding books for a couple people on my Christmas list. I’m teaching myself to blind-stamp, which is rather a lot of fun. More on that as it develops.

Alpha Strike Battle Report

Hand still broken. Fun!

Nonetheless, my brother (ktforg, not one of the other 4..) was down from Seattle this week. We rolled up his character for the upcoming LotFP game, and I managed to get in another quickie test game of Alpha strike with him. Like a dumbass, I forgot to charge my phone before we left, so no pics of the game, although there are some of the materials. Forces were a Kurita Lance (Atlas -D, Dragon -1N, Panther -9R, Locust -1V) against the Steiner lace from a few posts back with a stock Marauder -3R swapped out for the Wolverine.

Dramatis Personae. Yes, the Butcher is still incomplete. *sigh*

He took the Elsies and had a slight points advantage along with more access to Overheaters, but I had the only jumper. Even with the 3025 tech, it made for an interesting game. It ended up only taking about 40 minutes, and came down to some pretty tight dice rolls in the end. First blood went to him, with the Commando gutting my Locust with a backshot even as I missed one on his Marauder. Leter, his Banshee ate an ammo crit on the first point of struc damage and the Marauder overheated heavily on a gamble of a shot that failed. Meanwhile, my Dragon hung on with only one point of Struc left far longer than it should have, and the Atlas was down to two struc itself, but in the end I managed to punch the MAD to death and he was staring down a cripped-up Atlas and a virgin Panther with just a crippled COM-1D Commando (a weapons and a fire-control crit), so we called it.

• Adding in forced retreat rules would have made this game a 10-minute tie. The Atlas, MAD, Banshee, and Dragon would all have had to retreat long before they were lost, and the Banshee might well have survived without the Dragon pecking at its ass for three turns. The rules would be very harsh on Lights and mediums, however, and I think I’d revise it to “Half of their original structure or less remaining”. I’m now certain I could run some of the more gonzo missions in the old BT mission books in an afternoon with no problem at all (I’d have to add in some way of reflecting the busted-ass ‘Mechs in some of the scenarios, like that one Irregular with the no-rear-armor Rifleman or the poor girl with the prematurely firing Griffin).
• That -1E Locust is a whore to actually kill once it finds some woods to play in. I needed 4 turns of continuous fire to kill it, and it finally died to a charge from the Atlas rather than weapons fire (since the additional cover modifier didn’t apply at that point).
• On that note, Light mechs’ semi-abusive evasion advantage can be at least partially negated by melee. Since most only have 2 0r 3 armor, a TSM Medium with jets would likely be able to catch them and wreck their collective faces.
• The custom cards I made worked excellently: you can fit and track an entire Lance on a single 3×5 card, which beats the Hell out of the official cards. I need three for a Company instead of 12.Alpha Strike Cards

I’m starting to like AS for this:
This is all I need to play a complete company-level game – a 5×8″ case and 3 3×5 cards, along with 12 paperclips.