Sunday, August 23, 2009

Zellbrigen... or just plain stupid? You decide!


Well, we have the finished Crinos ready to go. I shot an email off to Lee Madison about the remaining vehicles he has to do, but have not heard from him yet. Also finished is the new Cobra BattleMech, something I think you will all like. It puts a very nice look to this oft-overlooked Medium. Payments for this, the Crinos and the completed Fox will go out next Friday.

There have been a few proofs turned in and it looks like we are nearly through with them. I have been at a loss for things to do in the writing department, so it’s off to the images. I took a look at what we had and began comparing it to the writeups. Immediately it became apparent that we did not have all of Vlad’s images in hi-rez format, so I went back to the family computer to download what I could from saved emails. I got two pieces which had somehow been overlooked, but as for the Sabra III and the Bu-20a, all I have are the original low-rez images he put together. These came from late 2007, before it was apparent from the printed looks of TRO:3062 that we would need better quality scans to get clean prints.

Oh well. Vlad probably does not even have the originals on hand anymore, but I will email him and ask for them anyway.

While looking at the Bu-20a (an ammunition carrier for the Sabra III), I did some trimming of the writeup and realized that the Sabra III could shoot through an entire nine tons of ammunition in about ten minutes! Even taking battlefield tactics and movement into account, I realized it would take require far more time to load and unload the ammo than to actually shoot it off. So I bumped the Bu-20a from 20 tons to 30 tons and added more cargo space. It now carries fourteen tons of ammo. Changing a design this late in the project is almost unheard of, but required very little in the way of writeup alteration. Furthermore, the carrier moves a bit faster now. Gotta keep those twin Long Toms fed!

Turning from that task, I looked into the art again and immediately spotted something which had nagged at me even back in the summer of 2007 – the hi-rez scans that Vlad sent me were often accompanied by enormous quantities of what I call ‘screen artifacts’. These are randomly distributed blue to grayish pixels which might be left over from the inking process, or even a result of the scan itself. They muddy the look of the art and totally defeat the whole purpose of hi-rez scans.

Doubleclick on the picture at the top of this column and you will see the difference. I cleaned this one up a lot, then placed half of it side-by-side with the original art. It is very time-consuming to clean these images – my laptop only has so much memory, and I can clean about eight areas before I have to save and reboot the software. The result is quite good; unfortunately, I will have to go through all of Vlad’s scans to remove at least the worst of the artifacts around the outside of the image.

On another note, I have been noodling around the Internet, taking a look at BattleTech in general. It seems to pop up a lot, and yes, folks are understandably enthusiastic about it. But one comment, coming from Catalyst Games, made me smile. I believe they were talking about the ‘resurgence of interest and popularity of the BattleTech game and associated products’. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that naturally they would say that!

The reality, of course, is quite different.

I don’t know what circles you readers move in, but I have been a roleplayer and gamer since 1979 and to this very day, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I work alongside who have even heard of the game. Suffice to say, while there are occasional discussions in my office about Star Wars and the various versions of video, movie, toy and gaming products, there are NO conversations about BattleTech. And you get a lot of strange looks if you mention it. ‘Giant stompy robots’ is where you begin with most of these folks, and they usually don’t want to hear any more. I have never been able to talk about this TRO to anyone I have worked with, because there is simply too much background to update before I can even begin talking about my own writing.

Hell, I can't even talk to my own wife about it!

Maybe my experiences are unique. Maybe not. I get the feeling that if BattleTech is experiencing a resurgence of any sort, it’s only impressive compared to its performance in the past – in the gaming community. Perhaps that is what Catalyst Games is talking about. However… I think it is telling that my son never talks about BattleTech with his friends – they know nothing about it, only the Mechwarrior games, and damned little about those. Make no mistake, folks. If we attracted ten percent in a year of the money and attention that is given daily to collecting and speculating on sports cards, BattleTech could be considered to be ‘resurging’. Right now you will not find it mentioned anywhere but on gaming sites and blogs; it is most definitely not in the public eye.

Finally, we had a game yesterday. Over in Redmond at the Games and Gizmos store. It was split into two separate encounters – I played in one, my son in the other. My game went well for us – we were up against a lot of hidden battle armor, LRM carriers and big tanks, supplemented with artillery. Damned Wobbies. My fellow players and I held our BattleMechs back and sent our hovercraft and VTOLs into the fray. We lost a lot of our vehicles but suffered only a freak gyro hit to our Warhammer (who disobeyed orders and deserved what he got). Our worthy opponent was nearly wiped out by the massed rush and was forced from the field.

I love tandem charges. I hate the Tactical Operations vehicle field of fire.

My son, on the other hand, got by with very little damage, but the Wolves-in-Exile force which accompanied him and his fellow players was wiped out to a man. Four light Clan ‘Mechs should have been useful, even against an opponent whose cybernetic pilots enjoyed huge targeting advantages. The Manei Domini are nothing to screw with, it’s true, but letting them send in a single ‘Mech with C3i and then taking a pounding from their already-ridiculously accurate gunners? It was suicide. We did not lose any other ‘Mechs, to my knowledge, but if ever a game was handled badly, that was it.

I heard the player running the Clanners clung to zellbrigen all the way through, despite the WOB opponents breaking it time and again. That's just silly - and it cost us. The Clanners should have been a screening advance to a two-pronged attack. Yes, they would have gone down. But the only way to offset C3i and freakishly low Gunnery skills is to get in the other guy’s grill as soon as you can. And that means ‘charge’.

Or you can stay back where it’s ‘safe’, like our guys did, and let them pick you to pieces. I know where my money would go.

We’re going to continue this battle in about a month and a half. That sort of misjudgment won’t happen again if I have anything to say about it.



Mike said...

An easy way to clean up those type of artifacts (which is pencil led rubbed in BTW. Scanners are unforgiving with that.)Open PS and change the image to black and white. Then go to Image-Adjustments-exposure and turn up exposure a little bit and turn down offset some. Sometimes you will have to mess with the gamma as well.

Hey, if you want to send them to me and I will take care of ti for you.


Karyudo said...

I've seen people play Battletech on Youtube...

I have to agree though. I hear people online say they hate Dark Age, but that game I actually played with real people. I enjoyed being able to play that several times a week for actual little trophy pieces.

I like the depth of the Battletech setting. As much as I like the look of this extremely detailed and slow Jihad period they're doing, I would rarely ever have anyone to play so there's no point to buying any of it. I've never even really used what I do have.

Guess you can be glad you don't need 10 pages to stat-track each mech like some other unnameable FASA properties.

Steven Satak said...

FASA hasn't been around for a while. Are you thinking of the current producers of BattleTech, Catalyst Games/

As for the tracking sheets, yeah, if you run a machine that overheats with a dirty look and uses lots of different types of ammo, sure, it's a bit of a pain to track. But I've only ever used one sheet to track a 'Mech or vehicle, so I am not sure what 'property' you are referring to.


Karyudo said...

No I wasn't thinking of Catalyst, or Battletech specifically. Starfleet Battles was the game I was referring too. It literally makes Battletech look like the Clix game to me.

After seeing the quick-start rules for Battletech though, it really looks like a mech record sheet has a lot of wasted space on it. I did like how the Clix game made playing skirmishes easier enough that it drew in a crowd I could play. Though I tried the Solaris rules for the Clix game with some friends and...yeah that was a long game. I'm not sure anyone I live near could handle Battletech. Might give it a try though...

EastwoodDC said...

Zellbrigen is stupid, but it can be interesting if done properly. My group played through the entire Twycross scenario pack a few years ago and had a great time with it.
Zellbrigen can work as a scenario "objective", but for one player to just arbitrarily decide to limit themselves in this way is just a bad idea.

Doug said...

I can't help with the picture, but I am waiting to see it transform :).

I can relate to not a lot of people knowing about your main hobby. CBT is my game, my main hobby is road bicycle racing...

Here are some pictures I took the last two weekends at Ada and Grand Rapids:

(no pictures of me, I was the one with the camera)

Getting people to understand and talk about bike racing is next to impossible.

At least I do work with folks that have gamed AD&D in the past, and I think we got one guy looking into getting into the new Pathfinder from Paizo (at least he got the big new main book).

Smiling Bandit said...

actually there's quite a resurgance of Battletech here in Indianapolis. Granted I own the original box set with the plastic pieces of the Unseen. but recently alot of my friends and even my gf have become interested... So much so that they are wanting me to host a Battletech RPG which I've never done before... even though I have about $500 worth of sourcebooks from the 90's. Then there's the crate of battletech novels I have in storage.. haha...

We even had a battletech boardgame last week with me in 4 mechs against my gf, my ex gf(who is also my roommate), and two other guys... At GENCON my gf got completely hooked on Battletech. We even tied for 1st place on the sunday morning Grinder getting a $15 & $10 gift certificate for Catalyst. Ugh... can't believe I left my bag at the convention.. we bought a couple new sourcebooks and I didn't even realize they were missing for 5 days. Atleast I still have the 25 Years of Battletech Art book.

Jameel said...

What they're referring to is the resurgence of interest in Battletech after the turmoil and constant rape that the Battletech IPs have suffered since leaving FASA. WizKids destroyed the credibility of the franchise for a lot of people and now that Catalyst has repeatedly succeeded at making us happy again, people are starting to play again.

Jameel said...

I never stopped playing but Catalyst did inspire me to finish the two BT books I'm currently working on (even though they're set in the beginning of the Dark Age period) now that they're treating it with respect. And Weisman returning to the picture does a lot to kindle spirits, the new game looks like it's going to be amazing.
Also to be honest with you, the only reason people played Dark Age rather than CBT is because it was exponentially easier, cheaper, and more accessible. A lot of people don't even know where their old 'mechs are.

Chgowiz said...

Wow, an honest to goodness Battletech blog! I am very happy to find them out here! I've been looking for Mechwarrior RPG blogs for awhile and nada - but very happy to find someone talking about Battletech. Now to read your backposts and find out why you're so involved in BT art... looks fascinating!

Steven Satak said...

Thanks for reading, old timer. Hey, wait... you are probably my age.


Chgowiz said...

Ha! Probably. My "childhood" games as a 16 year old were D&D and Traveller, then when I went into the service at 19, I discovered Battletech.

Right now, I'm getting back into Battletech and Mechwarrior RPG after about a 25 year hiatus. I've been doing mostly homebrew and "old-school" D&D, but now I have my eyes set on some interesting BT/MW mashups. I'm running a game at WinterWar 2010 that will be boardgame/RPG with a horror sci-fi scenario. I've got a microMechwarrior ruleset in development.

Steven Satak said...

Have you taken a look at Strategic Operations, the newest BattleTech rule book? Have a look. I believe they use large scale rules called Battleforce to work big engagements in a manageable fashion.

Chgowiz said...

@Steve - I have not. I was looking for something that would allow me to quickly gen a character and run an RPG combined with the boardgame. I'm more thinking of smaller engagements than large. Here's the link to what I've got so far: microMechwarrior.

Steven Satak said...

Well, some go with pre-generated characters. To be honest, that is probably the best use of your time at a convention. Generating characters using a compressed utility is also good, but BattleTech is already quite time-intensive, and you would have to switch back and forth quite a bit.

Mechwarrior deals with what happens below the thirty-meter limit, and BattleTech takes place above that limit.

Chgowiz said...

@Steve - yup, that's the plan, but I'm a tinkerer by heart and after previewing the 402 page behemoth that is Time of War beta, I just had to go with something very light and simple. What I'm hoping to do is make BT/MW quick and snappy with fewer charts/tables and more GM rulings and players coming up with stuff outta their butts. That's how I love to play D&D and hopefully can do the same with MW. We'll see.

Steven Satak said...

Well, I must admit I am a die-hard fan of AD&D 2nd Edition - really, is there anything more you need to run a game? With all the optional supplements, the only thing that isn't covered is the extensive use of miniatures. Like they invented the damn things for 4th edition.

But we played in the mid-1980s when minis for this style of gaming had been around for decades already - and I noted with chagrin that I was the only one who had any to use in the game. Every other AD&D game I have seen does not use miniatures.

Yeah, the TOW is huge, as befits an all-inclusive stab at revamping Mechwarrior RPG. Good for them. And you are right, a stripped down version is all you need. We did the same thing with certain aspects of AD&D 2nd edition back in the day, as the game could be clunky, especially in combat.

Chgowiz said...

@Steve - I go further back for my D&D - I play a "clone" of Original 1974 D&D called Swords & Wizardry and I play AD&D 1st Edition using original books and some of the newer materials - there's been a renaissance in old-school D&D of late. That's probably why my first instinct on ToW/MW was to spin it down to a microsize set of rules - it's how I'm used to running games.

And I do use miniatures for marching order and for set battles where it's needed or cool.

Steven Satak said...

Ha! You should try Hackmaster, then. The designers based it on the purchased rights to AD&D 1st Edition. It really brings out the flavor of the game as it was really played back then.

As for old schoolin', I cut my teeth on a mishmash of RuneQuest, Empire of the Petal Throne and some Arduin tossed in for flavor. We finally tossed RuneQuest combat rules as too lethal and too cumbersome, but there were a couple of members who were unhappy with the change. Their game of choice was Chivalry and Sorcery, and I recall one of them boring me to tears with a huge fatigue points table he'd lovingly concocted for our Friday night game.

Needless to say, even in 1979 this was a bit much and the GM gave it a (polite) thumbs-down.

As for other games, I still treasure my copy of White Dwarf #1. It is a far cry from the stuff you see Games Workshop churn out these days. Makes you wonder if anything has really improved after thirty years of publishing. They seem to be making the same mistakes.

Doug said...

Either of you give Pathfinder a try?

I gave up D&D 4th Ed after just a few games, seemed to much like a first person shooter computer game, just doing it on a table top.

But I will never forget my first days playing AD&D 2nd Ed in the mid 1990s, I think I am a bit younger then you folks... no D&D 1st Ed for me...

Steven Satak said...

Sorry, but the days when I had time to explore new RPGs is long gone. It ended when my son was born.

As you can tell from my profile, I have several hobbies already which languish while I do this TRO - writing as a hobby started in 1992 and has exploded over the past few years into something which takes up nearly all my spare hours. I paused in 2007 to build that dropship for the Catalyst Games GenCon table, but started right in on this TRO shortly afterwards.

So other than reviewing newer games so I can at least hold an opinion on them, I don't roleplay anymore :( I had a shot at a regular 2nd Edition game back in 2005, but botched it (the players were munchkins and did not take well to my 'interference' as I helped the GM whip their candy asses).

Chgowiz said...

@Steven - I've not played Hack, either the old version or the new 5th edition (Basic rules were just released). I seem to have stopped with OD&D/Holmes Basic (blue book)/AD&D 1e. I guess I just had too much fun with those. I haven't had a chance to play Arduin or EPT, although GaryCon2 in Lake Geneva this March 2010 might afford me that opportunity.

I may get a chance to play Chainmail and OD&D with some of the guys who were there at the beginning at that con. That, and a cool game of Circus Maximus, should be fun to watch!

@Doug - I'm not partial to the 3E or 4E D&D experience. I admire Paizo for their chutzpah for continuing 3.5 D&D, it's just not the game for me.

@Steve - I'm writing a D&D module for Swords & Wizardry game right now. The microMechwarrior was just an aside to make something work for the upcoming WinterWar con game and perhaps a small campaign arc based on my BT/horror ideas.