Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taking the TRO a bit further...

Federated Commonwealth Machete MCT-3

Welcome to another blog update.

We’ve been making progress on the art front with several different pieces in the works.

- Jeffrey Aggusoekarno has finished the Federated Commonwealth’s Machete. There’s going to be some background added, but you can see from the image at the top of this blog post that it’s a very good piece. Dorian and Helen “BattleQueen” Sherratt have thoroughly playtested this machine and are quite pleased with it. Several lances of the Machete formed the ‘escort’ for the Sounders that wreaked such havoc on a pair of Blakist Vincent Mk42 corvettes. I don’t believe I have posted the post-game report for that, and with good reason – the game ran some twenty turns and the report is very long!

- The Draconis Combine has a tank, the BARS (Bulldog Autocannon Remote System), that has been sitting idle art-wise for a long time. Lee Madison finally came up for air and agreed to take another commission – as you can see, his rough sketch is quite promising, especially when you compare it to the original art.

Old BARS art....

Lee Madison's preliminary sketch

- We have a new artist (Chris) working on an interior plate featuring the Sounder aerospace fighter. It will be a snapshot of the encounter with the WoB WarShips. This is a piece to replace ‘The Game’, as that art is more suited for the Infantry Primer (our next project). As you can see from the sample below, Chris knows his stuff:

- Karl Olsen is currently plugging away on backgrounds. I think he may be tinkering with a redesign for the Diomedes as well. He wanted to redo the Hammerhead, but I think that one, while it probably could use a re-draw, is fine as a visual design. I want a tank that looks like a locomotive!

- Stephen Huda has begun the commission on the Leopard VTOL for the Outworlds Alliance. The rough draft is below:

Stephen Huda's Draft of the Leopard VTOL

- I received a wonderful gift from my brother Jay last week – a new laptop computer, a very powerful Toshiba with a dual-core processor and lots of memory. After loading all the software and updating my essential BT data, I am now using it to produce and modify the TRO work. My son thinks I am crazy, though. I purchased a used Dell keyboard and a new mouse to plug into the fancy computer!

There is a method to my madness – you probably know by now that I smoke a cigar and drink coffee while working out in the garage. The old laptop was equipped with a floppy drive (yes, that old) and after four years, shows dirt and wear from the exposure to my twin habits.

However, the Dell keyboard, in addition to having the tactile feedback I depend on, is separate from the computer itself and thus gets all the ashes and accidental spills which would spell disaster were they to fall on the computer itself. The mouse is there for much the same reason – I am accustomed to it and it keeps my activity away from the like-new surface of the laptop.

Thanks, Jay!

- Dorian has completed work on the Werefox line of miniatures. As you can see from the recognition chart, the Charlemagne has the most imposing Small Laser of Doom you’ll ever see:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Just kidding. It is an ER Large Laser of Doom. Still honking big, but hey, maybe it will make a good club for some desperate MechWarrior!

Here are the price quotes for the Werefox line. Don’t be put off by the initial cost – it’s actually a deal because you are getting two tankies!

AAV-I - $15.50
AAV-II - $14.50
Charlemagne - $17.00
D'Artagnan - $16.50
Martel - $16.00
Petain - $15.50

Here is the cover for the instruction PDF, which you can download as needed when making a Werefox purchase:

- I am currently working on the writeups – no, nothing has been changed, but I am cutting out the stats on the second page of each and putting it on its own page. The reason behind this is so that, after I have finished editing the stats for TRO format, we can just cut and drop them into the PDF. A bit of work with that (bold face and italics, mostly) in CS3 and we’re set to drop in the art. I have finished all the BattleMechs and am into the second House on the vehicles.

The really cool thing about this new computer? I can now run CS3 on it! Instead of saddling Bill with all the drudge work of formatting, I can just gather up the files with the text dropped in and transfer them to my computer, where I can make the changes as needed. Then I gather them up again and give them back to Bill for art and layout tweaks. The text portion has been the time-consuming part, and as stated earlier, I am front-loading as much of it as possible so Bill won’t have to hunt and peck to get it to look right. Bonus! I get to make last-second changes directly to the CS3 master files, rather then bugging Bill over changing a single word here or there.

- Bill has now got all the Draconis Combine writeups, ready to drop in. A piece of art here and there is still ‘under construction’, but we have placeholders. Bill will be down at Silverdale’s Avalon Games to conduct gaming sessions on Friday, the 24th of June. I will not be able to make it at 6pm due to work commitments, but will probably drop in at 9pm after I get off. Sorry, Bill.


Dorian and Helen, in addition to making up all these wonderful miniatures, have been steadily playtesting some of the designs. One tank they used was the Stingray.

(Yes, this is the miniature for the Stingray)

The game went as follows:

The Stingray Playtest

Okay. The game. Helen controlled the Stingrays for the majority of the game so the way they were used was a little different from my style of playing, but they did, as I said before, perform well. I can't give you a blow by blow with them as we didn't really take notes today.

For the sake of comparison I'll make my remarks based on the 3058 upgrade version of the LRM carrier.

Our deployment for the Stingrays was determined to allow strategic movement to an area behind a Level 3 hill where they remained without moving after turn 2. Their ERMLs were never fired through the course of the game, though that is no reason to sacrifice them as it is a vital short range defense measure should they become engaged by any form of stealth or flanking unit. However, a possible option would be to replace them with SPLs (Helen's opinion). Tactically speaking, there is no reason to replace them with MLs as they don't require additional heatsinks to be installed.

Our designated spotters consisted of a pair of OW-3X and a pair of VRB-38-O (see attached) both fast flankers with good mid to short range punch. While we had a couple of TAG equipped vehicles, these four 'Mechs were the heavy lifters for spotting. These guys have a proven track record as spotters for Arrow IV units so they're a natural choice for us to use. (if this bit goes on the blog, please let folks know they can buy the OW-3X in the store and the VRB-38-O is going to be available soon)

Our main tactic in using them was to let my RAC equipped units breach armour then have the Stingrays use their critical seeking LRMs inflict the knockout blow on assault class 'Mechs such as the Archangel (there's a trend here - can you see it? We don't like Archangels) or the Seraph and take Battle Armour down before they could swarm attack our Assault 'Mechs. The tactic worked well, eliminating most of the Djinn Pete and Neil deployed before they could close in on our Assaults. By concentrating our fire on them as we closed on the complex we managed to eliminate 4 squads by turn 5 leaving just 1 squad left but at half strength. They proved no threat and were easily dispatched in a barrage of ERML fire from our three Precentors.

Raining on the WoB Parade

With the immediate Battle Armour threat eliminated Helen turned her attention towards dealing with those bloody Celestials. My uncanny luck with RACs from our Typhoons, Mastodons and Precentors, which were working together, shredded the armour on a Seraph and an Archangel. This left gaping holes in various locations, most notably the centre torso of the Archangel. The Archangel decided it wanted to blow up after the Stingrays hammered it with 8 flights of LRMs on turn 6 causing no less than 4 critical engine hits - which would have breached the reactor had it not passed the emergency shut down roll! (Do you use that rule? It's a lesson on not keeping your XL engine units grouped tight, let me tell you!)

With a Archangel down on turn 6 the Seraph followed suit on turn 7 along with a Preta that had taken heavy damage from the pair of VRB-38-Os that same turn.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Turn 8 saw us complete our objective and uncover the location where the WoB were holding Devlin Stone. This turned the game from an attack to a rapid retreat so Neil and Pete started to throw everything at us (including the kitchen sink). Our OW-3Xs bravely held back to give the Stingrays targeting data to cover our retreat and both fell by the end of the game. Turn 8 had the two Stingrays cripple a second Archangel by blowing its left leg clear away at the hip, leaving it easy pickings and a swift foot to the face from Helen's Highlander II-C.

With our retreat underway the Stingrays unleashed fire on the pursuing units marked out by our OW-3Xs while our forces took opportunity fire where permitted. Our pair of Mastodons proved how dangerous a pair of RAC-5s and SRM4s in the turret can be. A Malak suffered a missile death thanks to the Stingrays on turn 9.

While the Stingrays proved effective on turn 10 they didn't kill any units. But it's worth noting as Helen rolled a wonderful series of 6s against a practically undamaged Gregori and executed a perfect Highlander Burial taking it out and leaving a pair of stunned WoB players :D

Turn 11 saw our units reach our table edge and end the game. The firing phase saw our last OW-3X fall under the weapons of the toaster huggers - but not before allowing the Stingrays to finish off a Legacy and a Lightray, thanks once again in part to the Mastodons and Typhoons.

The Aftermath

Okay, there's a rundown and the kill tally is as follows-

4 squads of Djinn BattleArmour
1 Archangel
1 Legacy
1 Lightray
1 Malak
1 Preta
1 Seraph

Judgment Rendered

A pretty good showing all told, they're good for taking units out but lack the punch for destroying units on their own like the Sounder and Machete. Are they better than a LRM carrier? Honestly, we think ‘yes’. Sure, they cost a tad more, (118 BV I think) but statistically, four LRM 10s will hit more often than 3 LRM 20s and the lasers give you more peace of mind than an iC3 will when you're facing fast flankers.

Of course the downside to Artemis is the fact it can't be used with special munitions such as swarm and incendiary, so it'd be considered wasted tonnage if a player used those options, but that's for the individual player to choose based upon scenario and mission objectives. There are a couple of scenarios I can envision where that trade-off could be worth the wasted tonnage. It's no real issue to deploy a Stingray with 36 rounds of standard LRM ammo and 1 ton of Swarm or Incendiary if a player feels it would be of benefit.

Over all I think about 60-70 percent of the missile flights hit their mark with roughly 7 missiles per launcher hitting, So on average you're looking at about 50-70% effective firing. The Artemis IV really helps with its +2 to the cluster hits table. Had we used more Stingrays the tactics we used would have been different - we'd have had the punch to tackle undamaged units and take them out and would have used them as such. Think a medieval rain of arrows, only with LRMs.

Is it better than a Quiang Ton? Honestly no idea, as we've never used that machine, but running the numbers I'd say yes for the same reason I listed as it being better than a LRM carrier, simple law of averages. You've more chance of hitting with 4 launchers than 3 launchers regardless of the number of missiles they fire. Of course it becomes a different game if they do hit, a 15 flight will hit with more missiles than a 10 flight most of the time. But regardless, you've got to actually make the hit roll first and more launchers give a player the edge.

The Quiang Ton’s AMS is a nice touch. Its secondary Streaks are a tricky one, though - you know my thoughts on them already. Frankly, I'd rather take lasers for defense weapons, as they won't blow up in your face.

Dorian (with input from Helen)

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, June 06, 2011

An Early Post: MUL is Now Complete!



Our last update was a few weeks ago. Normally I would wait another two weeks, as the art gets paid off and there’s some actual progress to report. Things have been moving along, however.

- Jeffrey Agussoekarno has been assigned the new aerospace fighter for the Federated Commonwealth. He is back to work on it – below is the third draft of the new design:


- The ‘Mechs are all finally finished. Whew!

- We are currently down to about $66 owed to Paul Skowronek for his editing duties. He is working on the Sounder and will be digging into that new aerospace fighter as soon as I get the second draft back from Geoffrey.

- Karl Olson has finished the Stingray support tank and it is at the top of this blog post. He has reworked the Bengal and here is the inked version:


- I am also going to ask Karl to work on the background for the following: Diomedes, Roland and Hammerhead II. His work on the Bu-20a Ammunition Carrier speaks for itself:

Bu-20a Ammunition Carrier

- Eric Ou has finished modifying his pro bono work. I don’t think he has the time to accept any further commissions, but he has earned the rest! I modified the writeup for the Sher Khan to better reflect the image’s apparent warload. I think it actually makes more sense now – especially as I have taken an interest in using infantry in the game.

- I am asking Stephen Huda to take another commission – the Leopard VTOL for the Outworlds Alliance. I need to pay him that final $35, though.

- Pursuant to the new organization of the material in the TRO, I have gone through and redone the Page Count, which specifies what goes where and on which page. The final page count is 254. There is a good reason for this sudden inflation of the TRO….

- … we have added an eight-page Master Unit List for the TRO itself! This consumed several evenings of work and covers every machine featured in the TRO, as well as any variants mentioned in the writeups (‘fluff’). The format is similar to the company works as regards the abbreviations for political factions and vehicle types. We also note where other factions have access to the machine in question.

Master Unit List Introduction

Sample Master Unit List (click to enlarge)

- Bill is looking at the images for the Werefox miniatures as of today. He can find no issues with them, so I will pass on them and Dorian can get to work.

- Dorian is about to resume work on the Sound miniature – can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

Local Game Group Begins....

Bill is working on the TRO layout – no, really! He is also starting another gaming group in the Bremerton/Silverdale area, to be held at local shops like Discordia and Avalon Comics and Games. If you are in the area and are interested in playing BattleTech, Axis and Allies, Risk and any other ‘wargame’, please get in touch with me. We would like to pull eight steady players together to have a good time in a structured environment (hey, mission tracks… who knew?).

One of the interesting features of the BattleTech game is that while everyone will start with 10,000 BV of units, what you will play depends on who shows up. For example, if five players show up, four will take their mercenary forces into battle while the fifth plays OpFor with the GameMaster (Bill). In a 15,000 BV scenario, each merc player would contribute 3500 BV of his forces, while the GM and his OpFor will field 15,000 points of whatever is called for by the track.

If only three players show up in this example, each would contribute 5000 points of merc forces against Bill’s troops. You would earn points for your performance as OpFor the same as if you were performing as a member of the mercs. No one loses opportunities for advancement, and everyone gets to play in a balanced game progressing along a story arc.

It’s an interesting proposition and I am eager to give it a try.

Thanks for stopping by.