Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Art, New Music and the TRO Update..


I would like to report a lot of things happening, but there hasn’t been that much going on this last week. However, we have made some progress on important stuff:

- Have not heard from Eric for a week at least. Our original layout man, James Devlin, has been silent as well, despite my sending a lot of stuff his way.

- Terrance Wong is working on colorizing and has already trotted out some nice preliminary work. We are probably going to lighten up the Battlemaster a bit, though.

- Paul Skowronek returned six writeups to me with quite a few notes attached. I have already completed the changes on five of them, with the last one to be done as the week wears on. Six down, one hundred and one to go. Seriously, I don’t think he will stick with us for that long – he is a very busy guy and to be honest, this sort of work can get boring pretty fast. But I will take whatever I can get.

Try to understand – Geoff and I thought these were ready to publish. But they’re not, and it shows only when Paul does his editing thing. I can’t see it until he points it out. I will bring one to this blog to illustrate what I mean. Meanwhile, I have sent another six to eight pieces to him, from the Capellan vehicles section.

- Ian Stead is working on the Tomahawk, though I have nothing to show for it just yet.

- Karl Olson has completed work on the San-Ku-Chu, which is really nice and is our blog post header for this week.

- Daniel Cherng is in Utah - he works on the Katana when he can.

- Chris Duke is working on the Panzerfaust and making progress. He has already made the changes I asked for, and is presently working on a black and white version.

- I have already commissioned, received and paid for the White Knight, but the more I look at it, the less happy I am with the overall quality of the work. Now you know I would normally go running to Eric for a quick fix, but he is working on an aero and a VTOL for me and is sick of BattleMechs. Even so, I might beg him to redo the White Knight. The ‘Mech is good – prdarkfox did a good job with the basic design – but it’s just a bit too stiff and uneven for me.


I posted some new music in the player this week. I am trying to stay away from the most recent stuff; if you want to listen to it, you can turn on the radio. Otherwise you’d be hearing Justin Beiber and Jaden Smith. I put some electronica from a band whose lead singer just up and killed himself. Charming, I know. But the tune is kinda catchy.

Another piece of electronica is by Daft Punk and sounds pretty ginchy. It’s called ‘The Prime Time of Your Life’. However, the video that goes with it is probably the creepiest thing this degraded planet has ever seen. I still get chills thinking about it. Thus, I thoughtfully provide you a link to it below. Be careful who watches it; it involves skeletons and while there is not a drop of blood in it, this video is definitely not for the young and impressionable.
I have a link here so you can go see for yourself, but remember: you were warned.

The Evolution of the San-Ku-Chu

(Click on the images to get a better look… hit the back button to return to this page)

Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Mystery Man Reappears... along with some progress

Welcome back!

I would like to report a lot of things happening, but there hasn’t been that much going on this last week. However, we have made some progress on important stuff:

- Eric and I have been going over what the layout should look like. I was originally shooting for an older look and feel, but dropped that when I saw the company’s TRO:3075 about a year ago. The TRO:3085 looks about the same, so we are going to follow that format (for general looks, anyway).

- After a very long absence, our original layout man has responded to my emails. I cautiously included him in the work at hand, mostly because I do not know why he dropped out and do not know if it will happen again. He’s working on some pieces for layout consumption.

- I sent six black-and-white pieces to Terrance Wong for colorizing. They will cost a total of $78, which is something I can handle, but not just yet. More on that later.

- Geoffrey Butler has completed five re-writes of various Notables sections and polished another writeup that was curiously stilted. He is about to begin working on two more in a few days.

Unfortunately, there have been no updates on:

- Ian Stead, who should be working on the Tomahawk.

- Paul Skowronek, who has three writeups in hand.

- Chris Seymour is probably up for the Nemera commission, but I am not passing it over to him until I have paid off his previous work on the Montgomery II. It will be a few weeks, unfortunately.

- Karl Olson’s work on the San-Ku-Chu, which presumably is quite a ways along.

- Daniel Cherng’s tweaks on the Katana.

- Chris Duke’s progress on the Panzerfaust. I made a few suggestions for changes, but so far no response.

I will be pinging these guys tomorrow – hopefully there will be a response by the time this hits the blog.


I bailed on the game. I had issues at home that required my full attention and so I begged off going with my buddy Bill. He understood. To be honest, it was hot as hell out there (mid-90s), the field was just as clogged with underbrush as before, and this time some kids brought their souped up guns – we’re talking about guns chrono-ing in the mid-400s for pellet speed.

Then those kids began shooting folks at close range, unloading at full auto from fifteen feet away. You can break the skin and draw blood at that range. They nearly did with Bill, who took something like seven shots, four to the face, before they stopped shooting him. He still has the welts. Man, he was pissed. It’s an unregulated field but I have a feeling that will change soon if they want us to continue playing there.

Broken Car!

I mentioned earlier that I was going to have to slow the commission schedule down a bit. Here is why: after 280,000 miles, my Cavalier’s transmission began singing its death song. This is my work car, mind you. It started out about six weeks back as a low whine that gradually grew rougher and louder. I took it in to a mechanic and he concurred. This is one reason why I have been avoiding the long trips to South Seattle lately for the monthly game – I was afraid I would be stranded on I-5.

After some hurried research, I located a replacement transmission at Eastside Auto Wrecking – 2000 Cavalier, automatic, 4 speed, 2.2L engine. There are a number of trannies that were used that year, and I was very lucky they had mine on hand. Only $246. No telling how many miles it has on it, but it can’t be any worse than the one I have now, and is probably much better. [It is. Mine was starting to shed bits of metal and the fluid was an ominous color when the technician took it out. The replacement transmission has clear bright fluid and no leaks – and went in like a charm].

I talked to the mechanic (who has a good rep) and he said he would do the job for $300, plus $50 for seals, etc. I went for the swap because a rebuild would cost over $2000, something I don’t have at the moment.

We were blessed again – my wife got an advance on her paycheck to cover what we did not have in savings. Thank God - no borrowing from the Man at 32% interest. I picked my car up this evening in better condition than I left it, but I am strapped for cash until the end of the month.

As you can see from the image below, it’s basic math:

I could continue to hand out commissions, but I already own folks about $280 as it is for existing pieces and works already in progress. Which leads us to basic math again:

Although it does have a rather nice dieselpunk feel to it, I am sure no one wants to see a cross between the Kalinin K-7 and a battleship in our TRO. So please, be patient while we recover from this temporary setback.

And yes, the swap went smoothly and my little car is in fighting trim again.

Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Changes in the TRO:3063 Blog...

Hey hey!

Our updates have been progressively later and later with all the work slowing down. It is slowing down because (a) there are only a few pieces left to finish, (b) because we are working on the writing, which is not something I usually post to catch your eye and (c) paying the artists off is not only slow, but makes for dull reading. I really don’t want to make a blog entry without showing some progress so I hang on a few days until I can get confirmation.

From here on in, we will be posting approximately every ten days. I will provide content for those of you who like such natterings as I provide – for the other twenty two people following this blog, I will strive to keep events rolling.

To wit:

- Ian Stead is back from vacation and working on the Tomahawk tank.

- I have sent Paul three writeups. No word from him yet. Busy guy - but we should have something back within the next few days.

- Eric and I have been talking. So far I have been waiting on his work schedule, but plan to send him what we have generated for the layout ideas so far. No word one way or the other from Josh – we are trying to get whatever he’s accomplished from him so we can carry on, but I am not holding things up on his account. He has other problems. :-/

- I intend to ask Chris Seymour if he will accept the Nemera commission. He just finished the Montgomery II and did a very good job. I have to pay him for the Monty first, though!

- Karl Olson has made some serious advances on the San-Ku-Chu, a Capellan troop carrier. As you can see from the images, there has been some back and forth on the way to a good illustration. He even came up with an alternate action pose! I will have it finished, colorized and added to the color plates we already have.

Click on the image for a closer look.

- Speaking of color plates, I have reached a tentative agreement with Terrance Wong (ThePlasticOne over at the Company forums) to colorize some of the pieces we already have in black and white. I have already seen the Scorpion II and the Jenner X in color by another artist – pending an agreement with him, we should see those inside as well. The cost is $13 a piece and I am looking at six pieces minimum, so if you were thinking about hitting that PayPal button, now would be a good time.

- Daniel Cherng has contacted me on the Katana; he will be doing some tweaks in the next few days.

- David Eugene (daveCrypt) and Mike Sullivan (thedarkbanditking) are no longer with us – the first wants a bit too much money for his excellent work, and the other cannot produce anything after all due to employment and home issues.

- Chris Duke is hard at work on another tank, the Panzerfaust. We’ve hammered out the details, based on the writing and previous work, and I should have something to show you by the next blog update.


The game is coming up… we’ll see how the weather looks for next weekend. Hope it is clear, but not too sunny. The last game was a hot one. John has reluctantly agreed to go again. It is funny how I bought the M-14 to accompany him when he went off to play with his M-4 Barret. Now I have to encourage him to go with me!


I participated in a game this Saturday with my good friend Chris Snider. The game objective was interesting, all my friends were there and I was honest with my dice rolls. What more could a fellow ask for?

Rather than go over the game blow by blow, turn by turn, I will note some of the highlights and some odd things I noticed:

- First off, the game started on time! I did not get there until 1330, but it began at noon sharp.

- I was fashionably late because I thought things would start no earlier than 1300. But when I got there, it was Word of Blake and Kali Liao’s Thugees against the flower of the Inner Sphere and the boys were already mixing it up. Well, okay, we had WOB nutjobs and maniac killers versus a bunch of Capellans aided by their neighbors. There were reinforcements coming in on specific turns – Five and Eight, I believe – and I arrived just as they began Turn Four, with those crazy cyborg Blakists and gauss-rifle mad White Tigers ripping everyone on ‘my’ side a new asshole.

- Turn Five, I accepted a lance of Canopian (Magistracy of Canopus) ‘Mechs; three of the four had jump jets and the fourth was fast as hell. Now as some of you know, the Magistracy is a society where women have the upper hand – think of Amazons without the distaste for men. It’s a society where the byword is “It’s good to be Queen”. I nicknamed my four ‘The Grrls’ and got to work.

First turn I ran them in a porcupine ball up the table and opened up on the biggest ‘Mech I could see, a Blakist Seraph (‘Giraffe’) standing on a Level Two hill and using C3 to beat the crap out of my fellow units. The Grrls fired as a unit, pasting the Giraffe with a Heavy PPC and a few other shots and serving notice that the party had officially started.

- I took the other lance leaders aside and asked about their plan. There really wasn’t one, so we concocted something and got to work. Still in the porcupine ball, I ran The Grrls up the left side of the maps and the others began swinging to the right. Meanwhile, that Blakist Giraffe got off that hill in a hell of a rush, not eager to face my ball of feminine heavy metal headed his way with his name all over it.

And that was one of the points I made with my compadres – the battle was only partly decided by the weapons fired and the speed of the machines and the terrain. The rest, the lion’s share, would be decided by our tactics and overall strategy because it wasn’t our ‘Mechs against theirs so much as it was our players against theirs. And we had the advantage of experience. What counted wasn’t what weapons you shot, but where you were.

- The Grrls shot at an Ostroc on the sixth and seventh Turns, got into position on that vacated hill and took the Giraffe out on Turn Eight. On the same Turn, the White Tigers betrayed the Word of Blake and began shooting everything in sight. About that time our side took out one of their Gauss-zillas (a Cerebrus) and beat the hell out of their Thunderbolt. Only a scuffed Pillager left to their forces, but the Tiger player was game, I will give him that.

- Turn Nine The Grrls piled on a Word of Blake Raijin II, doing damage. They’d moved off the hill and were headed for the opposite map edge to make their exit. They were still in a porcupine ball and amazingly enough, not a mark on any of them!

- Turn Ten was the final turn, and The Grrls moved closer to the map edge as they took on another Raijin, destroying its big gun and hammering the snot out of it. It shot back for the only damage The Grrls would take in that game – ten points to the left torso of the Eyleuka.

What I Observed…

While I enjoyed the game, it was apparent that even with Chris officiating and doing nothing else, ten players was just too much to go very fast. Four turns in an hour and a half sounds good, right? But I was there from 1330 until 2215, when the game ended – nearly ten hours – and we only managed another six turns. I had been hoping for a turn an hour and while Chris rode everyone’s ass, it was of little use.

I think the biggest mistake Chris made was to hand control of six machines to a player who has trouble handling two. It slowed things down horribly, though it could have been worse. This player ran most of his machines off on a wild goose chase (literally) that worked better than I thought it would. I even told the player what we were doing and he still kept right on chasing. We used two very light damaged ‘Mechs as bait to tie down four fresh machines for five turns. Not bad, considering they could have been – should have been - backshooting all my compadres. But the best part was that they were all on that player’s side of the table and he was focusing them all on one mission. It kept things simple for him.

Unfortunately for the Blakists, he was also running two hovertanks with an LRM-15 each. Rather than position them and start pasting our forces with long range fire, this guy ran them right up into the middle of a huge furball. The two tanks were burning before they’d fired three shots.

My own side began to show fatigue – some of the guys didn’t have their firing solutions ready when called on, despite having plenty of time to do so. As for my Grrls and me?

With my numbers always ready, I took less than a minute to fire all the guns. Every turn. And with an hour (or more!) to consider each collective move, I knew exactly where I was going and took about two minutes or less to move all four units and put their markers down. Most times less. Every turn. I wish more players would follow that example, but what’re ya gonna do? I concentrated an entire lance’s movement and fire towards a single target each turn and hoped volume of fire would offset lousy numbers. If you weren’t standing still or had a pilot with VDNI, it was usually nines or more to hit anything that wasn’t immobile.

No special munitions, mostly direct fire weapons, no weather conditions, clear goals and a really sweet initiative setup – by lance, not individual unit – made the game go faster than I expected, but there were thirty two units on the table and what else could one expect? I stuck it out, though. Chris did the best he could, the best anyone could, and really put a lot of work in this. It showed. I hope he runs smaller games in the future, so we can wrap it up in six hours or less. But the organization was heaps better than it has been in the past.

I will be playing OpFor with Chris from now on, as I like a challenge and being one of the ‘bad guys’ appeals to me. Maybe I will be able to bring out the best in my friend’s play not by setting the example, but pasting them one when they make a mistake.

Dissing the Lowly IndustrialMech…

I probably waxed eloquent enough in the last blog, especially down in the comments section, on what I think of AgroMechs and their ilk in the old game of MechWarrior:Dark Age (MW:DA). I like them, I really do. Back when the game was just starting out, you could field an AgroMech Mod A and do reasonably well. That changed pretty quickly when all the new rules and expansions appeared. MW:DA was also sold like a collectible card game and that meant that some - indeed, many - of the boosters had common and uncommon machines in them which were not very good even by the standards of the early game.

I once wrote some fiction that involved a ForestryMech in a flashback. The year was 3115. It seemed like a good way for a country boy to get his start in a field where BattleMechs had not been in common use for fifty years. So I began a follow-up tale, one where the young boy encountered in the first story was now nearing eighteen and wondering what to do with his life – and especially his skill at working a ‘Mech. It isn’t as common an ability as you might think. And it isn’t very useful outside that narrow field.

The story (still under construction) takes place on a planet at the edge of the Periphery. It has pretty girls, pirates and several encounters where a ‘weaponized’ ForestryMech (a big one, used on redwoods and other first-growth forests) takes on tanks and troops, a small BattleMech and eventually, the pirates themselves. There are other machines there - mostly VTOLs, tanks and troop carriers. The ForestryMech, along with another like it, work together to stop the pirate raid. The pirate’s goal is a hidden cache of ‘Mech weapons and parts which have not been in production for decades – and, of course, the town’s young women.

The story is outlined (about twenty thousand words so far) and I am working on it between bouts with the TRO. No telling if anyone will want to read it, but hey, our hero has two girls with their sights on him and I think the setting is believable and entertaining.

The point is the whole thing began with me trying to write a scenario around a ForestryMech just to see if such a thing could be done in the regular BattleTech setting. It can be done, but it’s anyone’s guess whether or not folks will want to play it.

Painting Up Armies

While I was overseas and missing my son, I decided to take the MW:DA miniatures we’d accumulated while in Perth and create several ‘armies’ which I could use to play with my son when I got home. Many delightful hours passed while I painted those miniatures in four basic color schemes – red, blue, green and yellow. The Yellow army was reserved for my son and we cobbled together rules which mixed a bit of BattleTech with many of the rules used in MW:DA.

When I was done painting, I still had another three months to go. So I began arranging the armies in set battle scenes, taking pictures of them and then adding text which described the action. I collected these ‘battles’ into black-and-white booklets that were several pages long and mailed them to my son, who enjoyed them very much.

I have no hard feelings for the IndustrialMech. Below are some pics of ‘Mechs from the Yellow army. We still have all the armies, but it has been many years since John and I played a game with them. His desire to do such things faded over the years, but I still have my memories.

Click on the image for a closer look.

Some Advice…

One word of advice for you BattleTech players out there – the best way, the only sure-fire tactic that will negate an opponent’s advantage when he’s using C3 - is NOT ECM (though it is nice).

What is it?

Simple: close with him until you are up in his grill and then kick him in the nuts – hard. The same goes for an opponent with better gunnery skills. At close range, you and he both need, as my son would say, ‘freakishly low numbers’ to hit the other guy and at that point, it doesn’t matter if he needs a three and you need a four. Low numbers are low numbers. It’s infighting skills, short-range blasting and healthy kicks that will get the job done.

Come to think of it, that’s how I deal with Clanners, too.

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Progress in Art and Ranting...


More good work to report:

- Ian Stead is working on the Tomahawk tank, a cheap design with an internal combustion engine and a big gun; intended for garrisons and militias in the outlying provinces. He has had some computer issues but has resolved them. After taking a vacation next week, he should be back on the job.

- I have sent Paul three more writeups. He will take them on as time permits. Apparently I just keep sending them until he’s had enough. Hey, works for me.

- Our alternate layout man (Eric) has responded. It is my sad duty to announce that Josh will not be able to perform the layout tasks due to illness. He simply has too many other things to think about and his situation is not really improving. I have asked Adam Jury for a lead on a fellow who could perform the task – as some of you may know, Adam originally worked for Catalyst Game Labs as their layout artist. I haven’t a hope in hell of hiring the man – he does this for a living, after all - but perhaps he can steer me in the right direction.

- Chris Seymour’s Mongomery II is complete – some of you might already have caught a glimpse of it on the forums or over at deviantArt.

Here is the evolution of this design's artwork:

- Karl Olson has completed the Panzer X – look below for the final version.

He is now at work on the San-Ku-Chu, a moderately armed Capellan troop carrier.

- I have pinged Mike Sullivan, who originally promised something by the weekend. No mention of anything so far – I have assigned him the Urugan atmospheric fighter as he has a proven track record of really nice aircraft. [Update: Mike has begged off this one due to other commitments - I am currently fishing for other artists as you read this.]

- Daniel Cherng has done a wonderful Katana; there were a few issues I would like to clear up, but if it is in final form (and I hope not), then I may have to work the writeup instead.

- David Eugene (daveCrypt) has rejected the changes I requested as part of the Nemera commission for a price of $30. He does great work but wants $200 and this is well out of my range financially. I will be shopping this commission out to another artist in the meanwhile. Too rich for my budget.

- The artist (Chris Duke) who was to do the Urugan has been switched over to do another tank, the Panzerfaust. I have seen his work and it is suitable for this particular commission. A pity I have no room for starships, because he does a very good job on them as well!

- Eric Ou has completed the Isometrus, featured at the top of this blog entry and probably the last piece we will get from him. He is very close to going back to school again. Some of you may have spotted his work in the official TRO:3085 which just hit the streets. Well, the internet, anyway, as it is only in PDF format for now.


I got my Glock AEP back from the repair shop on Friday. The technician does not know what is wrong with it, but he replaced several broken gaskets and lubed the gun; it appears to work fine in full auto, so I guess it will have to do for now. We are scheduled for another woodsy combat on the 14th of August, same location as last time. Maybe this time I will be able to work with my friend Bill instead of finding him in my sights over and over. He has a lot to teach me, and his G-36K is working again

Catalyst Games

August 9th approaches. What more can I say? Let’s see what happens. [What happens is that the sneaky bastards get it pushed back some more, to October 12th. Let's hope it was the prosecution and not the defense which requested that...]

The TRO:3085 is okay. Very big (bigger than our TRO:3063 by seventy pages, in fact), covers a lot of ground, but as it is a jump of ten years from the previous major TRO (3075) I expected no less. This is the first time I have seen a TRO appear that is ahead of the current events in the game (we are in the year 3078, I think). A lot of art is by David White (yay!) and a couple of pieces are by Eric Ou (double yay!) and of course, there are pieces by Alex Iglesias (dude!).

This jump is accompanied by a rumor (I have no exact source) that when the Jihad winds down, the… wonderful people at CGL are going to jump past Devlin Stone’s ‘peace’ and land in the 3130s. I think it’s because they just can’t make a good story around IndustrialMechs, and that may very well be the reason. It would have been nice if they’d published a Record Sheet Annex for the TRO:3085, however. Eh, maybe they will save that for GenCon. [Actually, it appears they did publish the record sheets for this TRO in a separate PDF. Good move, guys!]


I know why I dropped MechWarrior:Dark age. I became aware of it only in 2002, mind you. Never could figure out what the hell we were supposed to do with the AgroMechs, even the upgunned versions.

Then I realized these were the equivalent of common cards in Magic: The Gathering and not all of them were going to be good.

That is when I fell away from the game. I can understand dedicating a piece of laminated paper to the mundane purpose of representing a crappy card no one will ever use. But the idea that someone would design a miniature, someone else would manufacture it and still someone else - probably a pretty overworked Chinese girl - would sit there and burn her eyes out slapping paint on it....

Then another guy or gal would assemble the parts and package them. Then it would get to the Yew-nited States where a guy could exercise his God-given right to free trade and plunk down his ten bucks - open the box - and promptly throw that miniature into a landfill because, in the game he plays, it's junk.

I am no tree hugger but really - what a freaking waste from beginning to end. Really torqued me off when I thought about it. No offense to you guys who liked the game, but I am glad it's dead.

I can live with conspicuous consumption - it's mindless consumption I can't stand.

Back to the TRO:3085!

Is it me or does the Heavy PPC seem to be the new gauss rifle?

There are some good machines, some so-so designs and the usual clunkers. The art overall is pretty good – like our TRO, they have the good, the bad and the unmentionable. I think Matthew Plog really tried on this one, and it shows, but the man needs to work on another way to do shading. It spoiled a lot of otherwise-standout pieces. At least he isn’t doing ‘organic’ and ‘blisters’ so much. Brent Evans… his art leaves me feeling ‘meh’ all the way. Hey, at least he got published. He’s pretty good at running a stable of artists from what I have heard.

Here is hoping the artists and writers see a paycheck. They earned it.

Thanks for stopping by.