Spectre Operations: Extraction in Feruz Abad!

Our first real game of Spectre, and our “first” impressions! In short, bloody and quick.

A quiet street in Feruz Abad, Northern Takistan. This would be the stage for a clash between Russian Spetsnaz and Canadian Light Infantry.

Almost 2 years ago, myself and Ty played a quick demo of Spectre Operations first edition at his place. We were in a rush, and the game was…confusing to say the least. We hadn’t had time to fully digest the rules, and our terrain setup was nowhere near suitable for a game that requires dense, realistic terrain. It didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, but neither did it wow me.

Fast forward to this weekend. We wanted to play a game of something with fully painted models to feature on our respective blogs, but while Very British Civil War was our original plan, we had no terrain for it yet and we want to give that setting the justice it deserves. Instead, on a lark, I suggested Spectre Operations as Ty had a smorgasbord of Blacksite Studio “War Zone Arabia” terrain and lot of special forces models. Ty liked the idea, and with the addition of some roof shingles cut down into roads, we quickly made a fairly decent looking table.

The scenario we made up called for Russian Spetsnaz to extract an HVT from a building in the centre of the table, and then use his Gaz Tigr(a Russian light vehicle roughly equivalent to a Humvee) to make a quick getaway. My Canadian foot patrol would be in the area on the same objective. He had 6 elite operators to my 10 professional soldiers. This would prove problematic.

The Target Building…
…with HVT inside!
My Canadians moving onto the table. I play a lot of 40k, and this led to me keeping very tight cohesion. I would regret this.
At the top of the table you can see his Russian units preparing to enter the board from the north, with his Gaz just off table to be called in when needed for a pickup.
One group of Spetsnaz at their entry location. The other picture of the other team turned out very poorly.
And the table from Ty’s point of view.

The game started off pretty alright. I advanced the Canadians at a sprint right up the road, as the Gaz hadn’t arrived and the Russians didn’t have a shot yet. Ty moved up from his northwest deployment area and reached the target building in 2 turns, ready to enter.

Russian forces reach the target building in record time. The two models on the left moved in, while the last remained outside to watch for hostiles.
The Canadians meanwhile advanced up the road, with one fireteam staying on it while the other moved left past the prayer tower.
My close cohesion would be problematic here.

This is where things started to go badly wrong for the Canadians. I was very concerned about keeping cohesion, so my models were fairly close together…

Ty had on one of his models a pump-action grenade launcher! I knew these would be strong as I had read up on them on the unofficial Facebook group. But holy cow did it pack a wallop. He placed a grenade right in the middle of the left fireteam and BOOM!

This guy, with his pump-action grenade launcher, would reap a terrible tally.
And BOOM! 3 Canadians fall immediately, reducing my firepower by a great deal.
Followed up next turn by another grenade launcher shot, to devastating effect.

Two grenade launcher shots later and almost my entire force was dead or bleeding out. This was very, very bad. My Sergeant and Medic were still alive, and quickly moved away from the scary Russian man and his boomstick.

It was at this point that Ty suggested we get lunch. While we were out, he had a good idea to allow me to roll for reinforcements. While these would be unpainted models(to my shame) it would at least let me try and level the playing field.

The Sergeant and his medic move up the right side of the table behind some shrubs(we decided as these are 15mm shrubs that they would be tall enough to count as cover).
On a 4+ a second Canadian squad arrives. They proved fairly ineffective, but they at least didn’t suffer near total losses now that I knew to spread out far more!

It was at this point that Ty had begun to extract the HVT. Having climbed the stairs and taking the HVT into custody, he began to move the Gaz up to pickup his team, with the Spetsnaz taking overwatch positions, but not yet taking the action to overwatch, having moved to get there.

My Canadians finally got some much needed revenge at this point.

A Spetsnaz operator takes up position inside the target building, covering the garage entrance.
While the Spetsnaz storm the target building.
On a building across the street, the Spetsnaz prepare to engage down the road.
And in position.
Another shot of the Spetsnaz in the target building’s garage.
HVT recovered, the Gaz moves in for a pickup.
A sneaky Spetsnaz moves from the roof across the street and quickly into a building, but misses his shot at my Canadians in the open!

It was at this point that a small miracle happened for my Canadians. I won initiative. I was able to shoot back at the Spetsnaz who had fired on my Sergeant, and I downed the Russian.

His other Spetsnaz in the garage moved to kill my sergeant in close combat, encountering the Medic first. In the ensuing melee, my medic was killed. My Sergeant moved behind a truck to get better cover, but was also killed by the blood-crazed Russian maniac on a melee binge.

Knife fight! The medic lost…
And the Sergeant died the next turn.
Fire goes up and down the road. I lose one model…
And so does Ty.

The HVT was moved into the Gaz, and the Spetsnaz began to retreat.

His forces had lost 2 Spetsnaz so far, but his damage to me was far greater. I didn’t want to make it easy for him.

His remaining Spetsnaz Operator on the roof disengages, and moves to get picked up.

But, by now, it was too late for the Canadians to make a difference. the Spetsnaz move into the Gaz, and make a quick getaway. I did attempt to fire a LAW at the outgoing Gaz(which would have killed the HVT, but I was getting bloodthirsty myself). I missed however, and they made good their escape.

Later suckers! The Gaz Tigr books it back across Takistani asphalt and off the table.

It was a fun learning game, and I learned to not bunch up nearly as much. 40k muscle memory cost me a lot of lives, and I’m sure the news would murder the poor Canadian commander who sent the patrol in. It was a black day for the Canadian forces.

We learned a valuable lesson that the points system is a guideline for helping to make a scenario, and doesn’t always lead to balanced games. The Elites are just that much better then the lower tiers that they often keep up the initiative and shoot before my Professionals(who are no slouch themselves…), which leads to heavy casualties. The addition of the additional squad could have made a difference, or the addition of a vehicle(Come on payday! I Daddy needs a LAV III!) might have also tipped the balance.

We did play another game, after hiding in the house for a bit due to a tornado warning in the area. This game was much closer, but unfortunately I took no photos as I was so focused. We also added hilariously the “Baba Yaga” rules for John Wick, which Ty has a model for. Mr. Wick silently killed an entire house of models, but the Spetsnaz faired much worse as my Canadians were able to steal initiative enough to force casualties as the Spetsnaz moved to take the compound. The addition of a Russian sniper team was fun, and I definitely want one of my own.

It’s hard to see, but there is a lot of rain coming down. This kept us in Wargaming Shed for a while.

In short, I am very impressed by the Second Edition of Spectre Operations. It takes some nuance to create good asymmetric scenarios that are still fun for both parties to play, and the points don’t work on their own to properly “balance” the game. But the layout and wording of the rules is far superior; after a night studying the game I was able to play with very few errors!

Our next gaming day is in a couple weeks, and Ty and myself want to do some more traditionally insurgent style scenarios, such as searching for Takistani militia weapon caches while avoiding ambushes and IEDS. The game system is perfect for that sort of warfare. I’m considering looking into Force on Force for more platoon on platoon modern warfare for Ukrainian vs Russian fighting, but otherwise Spectre will remain our “go to” for modern, asymmetric warfare.

While this was going on, Ty also had a request for my 3D printers; he had purchased an STL pack of “modern” Japanese Ground Self Defense Force miniatures. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to support them properly on the first try, but I got very lucky. He left that day with 18 of them! They look really fun, and we will be using them for Japanese forces in Takistan, where they are meant solely for humanitarian relief, but will shoot back if ambushed while on the job. Lets take a peek at a few of them!

The first 6! They actually look pretty good, modern miniatures can be difficult to print due to the small nature of their firearms and can be rather delicate.
The squad leader, calling for help from Coalition forces in the area. This is a really cool pose!
This was dumb, I should have known the other foot needed to be on the base as well for this pose to work. Oh well, everyone needs a derpy model from time to time!
These models are armed with the older Howa Type 89 rifles and are equipped with older pattern web gear and helmets. I suspect these were made with fans of the anime GATE in mind, as they perfectly replicate that shows depiction of the JGSDF.
The models are quite detailed! I am impressed at their quality.
Another brilliant pose. This will look great taking cover behind a truck!
And the Minimi machine gun provides some firepower for those sticky situations!

I also printed him a sniper and two rifle-grenadiers, which in total leaves him with 18 JGSDF soldiers. Ty’s contemplating painting them with blue helmets. Let me know what you think of that idea and I’ll forward it to him!

https://www.cgtrader.com/3d-model-collections/jsdf-full-pack

The rainstorm kept us inside the shed most of the day. It was a great day of wargaming fun! I should be able to get another Spectre “battle report” in the next couple of weeks! Lots of painting to get done in the meantime; If I need more professional forces I might as well finish my Canadians!

But that is all I have for you today. Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and stay frosty. Bravo Six, Going Dark.

Conflict Dossier: Takistan

I talk about myself and Ty’s chosen Spectre Operations setting, the country of Takistan!

The country of Takistan has a long and troubled history. Located next to Russia, yet never officially a part of it, this country must always watch its borders.

When Ty got me into Spectre Operations, it was met with a mixed response from me. It’s a slick, well written game with loads of rules for almost every conceivable situation when might encounter on a modern battlefield. But I’m a classic old Grognard, preferring my games set further in the past or in a fictional setting.

Ty was relentless though, and a after a few days binging on some modern war-movies I was sold. He got the rulebook, which we are currently sharing, and a smattering of elite, special forces types and Russian regular army. I on the other hand went with a horde of Afghani’s and some Iraqi style insurgents. This was years ago at this point, and we got distracted by a lot of other games.

It was simply chance when looking for a game to play this weekend, that Spectre got a chance again. We have a good amount of pre-painted Middle East terrain from Black Site Studios, and I had started painting some Canadian infantry for my Zona Alfa projects. I suggested we play it since we had almost everything ready. Ty is working on getting his ‘Deniable Ops’ Russians completed for the weekend. We should be able to feature a fully written and fully painted Battle Report for this weekend!

Now in terms of setting, we could have easily done Afghanistan, Iraq, or one of many other real Middle Eastern locations. But then we would be hamstringed by what is actually happening there, and using their real life history. I suggested a fictional location, using ArmA(a great PC military sim series) and adapting their fictional country of Takistan.

Takistan, what a mess.

Takistan is great since it’s an Afghanistan influenced country with some serious Iraqi flair the further south you get. It has the best of both worlds in terms of wargaming. We aren’t using the game’s depiction as gospel, but rather using the geography and history to tell our own story. We are setting our game in 2022, after Covid-19 has receded and countries are left picking up the pieces.

Takistan in 2022 has been occupied by NATO forces for almost 10 years, and the local insurrection has not gone the way it has in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having learned their mistakes elsewhere, the occupying forces have instead opted for a ‘firm but gentle’ hand in keeping the peace. The Monarchy has been reinstated with the addition of a democratic parliament beneath him. Since this government was popular, the insurgency is manageable and is mainly split between radical islamists and hardline tribals who refuse to acknowledge the official Government. Funding for both groups has dwindled as has recruitment, as Covid-19 vaccine hubs and an accompanying cease-fire to halt the spread has lessened tensions quite a bit.

A Canadian officer, an IDAP worker, and a Village elder try to organize relief supplies, as well as set up a precautionary vaccination centre.

Still, the NATO controlled zones must watch for IEDS, ambushes, and suicide bombers. Many nations maintain troop levels, happy that this was has not developed into a quagmire much like Iraq and Afghanistan has. Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and more have troops ranging from Canada’s and the US’s rather large commitments to smaller elite forces or medical aid. The UK administers the southern oil-fields, a particularly valuable area to maintain control over. Canada, Germany, France, and a host of smaller nations help administer the North. The Chernarus(another fictional country) border is administered by the US. Finally, a large northern region was annexed by the Russians during the old regimes fall, but were prevented from advancing further by the appearance of western troops. This northern border is now a dangerous powder keg, with NATO forces being deployed to guard it.

The rest of the country is administered by the Takistani National Army, who have been heavily trained by the NATO forces involved. While not the best soldiers around, they have maintained good control of the country, with only a few missteps. They do have a problem with local insurgents infiltrating their ranks, and absconding with gear or causing chaos internally, but more stringent requirements to join have helped matters.

A rather relaxed patrol of Takistani National Army walk along a road in Zargabad, the capital.
A relic from a different war, this insurgent has posed for a photograph beside a MI-17 shot down by his grandfather during the 80’s Soviet Invasion.
Canadian soldiers clear a compound with confirmed insurgent presence.
Canadian soldiers patrol near an IDAP relief supply truck. This patrols in the capital are known for being relaxed, easy duty due to low insurgent presence.
Canadian soldiers pose for a Newspaper photo going back home.

Takistan is actually not that dangerous, and most countries are reducing their combat presence. This has been noticed by the Russians, who have had attacks launched from their occupied territories by soldiers in unmarked gear. While Russia denies all official involvement, it is clear that these attacks are not insurgent in nature. Tensions begin to rise again, and the Green Sea Region prays for peace, but prepares for war.

I am really quite excited for this game! I enjoyed my brief trial game of Spectre, and with a setting locked in we can expand with terrain and figures to really go nuts. I have a lot of Afghani tribal infantry I can repurpose as Takistani hillmen, and some Iraqi looking types for urban Insurgents. I would like to grab some Takistani National Army, which could be easily represented by Afghan National Army models, or really any generic middle eastern models!

My Canadians are slowing getting done, and I got 5 more painted today! While bases for Zona Alfa, they should fare just fine for Spectre. I will be grabbing an LAV-III on payday for them to ride in. Lets take a peek at what I got done!

The group shot! Lots of Canadian goodness.
A C7 with underbarrel grenade launcher. This will be quite handy when fighting Elite level enemies.
Another C7 Rifleman, with his rifle low and keeping an eye out for threats.
A NCO looking feller. This pose is fantastic. A lot of natural looking poses on offer here.
A C7 rifleman, looking ahead.
A C9 Saw gunner will be useful for some suppressing fire.
And the guys I got done yesterday for convenience! I’ll paint up 6 more tomorrow!

These Canadians will be fighting a force of Russian Special Forces on an HVT retrieval mission, the first instance of Russian on NATO violence in our new campaign. Of course, the Russians aren’t wearing flags or anything to identify them as Russians, so it’ll be a fun little narrative thing to write up once we are done.

My buddy Ty over at Hussars and Handgrenades will be posting his Russian forces tomorrow, or I will heckle him a second time. So feel free to go see his models! I’m amazed at how good his camo is, so it’ll be worth your time.

But anyways, that is all I have for you today. Feel free to join me tomorrow as I crack on with more Canadian infantry! Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your head on a swivel eh!

Tenacious and Versatile: 28mm Modern Canadian Infantry for Zona Alfa and Beyond!

Canadian troops in my Zone? It’s more likely then you think!

Digital camo is hard to paint and hard to photograph!

I’ve talked at length before about doing a Canadian Zona Alfa campaign, but the first step in actually doing so is to paint some models. I’ve been holding off on these Canadian soldiers I got a while back, but today seemed as good a day as any to knock them out. A note; these are from Full Battle Rattle Miniatures, here in Canada! Great models with the notable exception of their front sight posts, which are very fragile…and have not survived storage or being mailed to me. It is my only gripe with the models.

I’ve done them in Multi-Terrain Cadpat, a new camo pattern being rolled out this year. It means they are far less green then the old Cadpat.

These soldiers will be doing multiple jobs. Chiefly, they are for my Canadian Zone based around the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Tiverton, not far from me at all, where they will be the primary neutral faction, trying to keep the peace in the Zone.

Canadian Comedy 'Letterkenny' To Become Hulu Original – Deadline
I don’t need to make Letterkenny jokes. My friends and I live in Letterkenny land.

Secondly, they can serve in my Chernobyl based adventures, based on some real life ideas and some fictional extensions of said ideas. Currently, Canada is training the Ukrainian military as part of Operation Unifier. I’ve extrapolated an idea based on if the Zone from STALKER was real; If Canadian troops were deployed on training duty, it would make sense in turn for the Ukrainians to train us in Zone warfare. As such, small teams of Canadian soldiers serve as patrols, which also allows the Ukrainians in this timeline to move more forces to the contested Donbass region. These ‘Canadian Stalkers’ are the first of their kind, at least officially, and will serve in the Canadian Zone as veterans because of this.

More on Operation Unifier here!

Lastly, in a topic I have yet to do on this blog, is Spectre Operations. Spectre Operations is a modern, and very realistic, 28mm wargame. No pick-up games here, as every mission is a scenario. These Canadians can easily fight in that arena too, although they are on slightly too big bases to be a perfect match. They will be a good match for the literal 50+ Taliban models I own.

Lets have a look at them!

The section leader, armed with a C8 carbine. Unfortunately the model is missing it’s front sight post.
While the face is blurry, the camo is easier to see here. Doing digital camo at 28mm is more about giving the impression of it, not doing it wholesale. They don’t look half bad!
The sapper with his “anomaly detector”…yeah its a minesweeper. But, it works!
and a brighter picture of his camo. Its a subtle effect, and it was further dulled by a wash. Pictures really fail to show it properly.
The C6 gunner. The Zones many beasties means the high-caliber zip of 7.62 NATO is much appreciated.
The camo was actually fairly easy to paint…it just photographs incredibly poorly.
The radioman, calling in a sitrep. This model was the hardest to photograph, and it shows.
Still, its a great pose! Adds a lot of character to this patrol.

All in all, another solid evenings work. I have a job that starts on the 28th of June that will seriously cut into my hobby time, so I’m getting as much done before then as I can.

I have lots more of these Canadian soldiers in my ‘to do’ pile, and with how easy I found the camo to paint I can probably get quite a few done. I don’t actually need all that many for the Canadian Zone project, but having more then you need hurts nothing but your wallet. Might be time to pick up that LAV III that Full Battle Rattle makes to cart these guys around.

For Spectre Operations I have a lot of ‘Opfor’ that need painting. As those models aren’t useful for much else then modern wargaming, I’ll have to consider my time carefully before I start on them…but my buddy Ty does have a large set of Middle Eastern terrain to fight over, so there is that.

For now, and for real this time, that is all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed this! Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and stay frosty eh!

A Return to Chernobyl: Zona Alfa returns to the Blog!

“I think I am quite ready for another Zone Excursion!”

Gasmask filters, a worn but trusty MP5, and a reliable camera. All of these are useful to document the Zone.

It’ has been far too long since I last talked about Zona Alfa. It is a game I really enjoy playing, but other games came in and stole its attention. This, combined with the simple logistics of forgetting all your Zona Alfa stuff in a Clubhouse located an hour away from you…when you don’t drive, made it difficult to work on stuff for it.

While I was away from the Zona Alfa hobby, a book dropped called Kontraband: More Salvage and Survival. This is an update by Patrick Todoroff, the author of Zona Alfa, but published outside of Osprey. It’s focus on co-op and solo play was very intriguing. As my Clubhouse tended to play Zona Alfa very cooperatively anyway(none of us wanted to break the truce and start a blood feud) this was very much right up our alley.

It focuses as well on the Deep Zone, an area of the Exclusion Zone closer to the centre, where the best loot, and most danger, lurk. For people playing in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone(where the author heavily implies is the ‘canon’ zone), we are talking Pripyat and the Reactor area. You get much better gear, better trained men/women to send in, and more wounds. In return you have much more dangerous Zone Hostiles, permadeath, and most intriguingly, you must live off the land, as you are too far from the Stalls to purchase equipment.

The author states that this is a toolkit, and I will probably tweak it with my friends to create our own unique Zone experience, but the basic adjustments to the rules are excellent. I don’t do much Solo-play, but once my gaming shed is ready I will certainly give it a go!

Of course, my Zone Rats crew is ready to go…but I wanted to enter the Stalker 7 Facebook page contest for a new crew, and was inspired by that to crank out some more Lead Adventure miniatures. I chose this time some heavily armed and well protected Military looking types. As a fan of the STALKER games, they really reminded me of Duty, a faction that sees itself as ‘fighting’ the Zone, killing dangerous mutants, bandits, etc. Clad in black uniforms with red accents, they cut a mean figure.

Lets see what I did!

The finished Crew standing in front of an abandoned Ukrainian army BRDM. These are really detailed, chunky, metal sculpts. They were a blast to paint, and really come to life with some colour. Sadly these sculpts are next to impossible to find now.
The bases really bring some “Zone Life” into the otherwise rather drab models.
The crew prepare to engage a vicious beast from the Deep Zone. Showcased well here is the deep detail that takes a wash really nicely.

These three photos I used for my contest entry, so naturally they are a bit fancier then my usual painting table pictures. But I will show off a few from there as well!

In more harsh painting light! The crew took half a day to paint, but weren’t particularly hard to do.
The leader, a Scientist named “Genius” Glushko. I wasn’t originally going to bring him, but he’s got such a cool pose…Glushko is a new member to Duty, coming from the Ukrainian science group in the Zone. His job is both to act as guide and to collect data on Anomalies to find a way to counter them. Doesn’t play well with others.
“Spare” Andropov is a young, confident Stalker. He’s made a name for himself quickly, and Duty snatched him up from the Free Stalkers rather quickly. While he could have traded his old AKM for something newer, he prefers the old dinosaur as it has been reliable and has saved his life many times.
“British” Cunningham is unusual for being a foreign Stalker. Ex-British Army, he ventured to the Zone to make money and to avoid a boring peacetime military. He speaks very good Russian, and has been accepted by Duty since he clearly knows his trade.
“Brutus” Makeyev is sometimes known less for his physique and more for his utter lack of peripheral vision. He wears both a Gas-Mask and a Altyn helmet, both known for restrictive vision. Still, he likes the protection offered by both, and somehow functions pretty well. His tricked out AK-74 is the envy of many in Duty.

I’m keen to try a game of Kontraband, with all its shiny new rules. I have some cool Zone Hostiles I’m working on.

Also on the docket for later is the first additions to my Canadian Zone idea. I have primed a few Full Battle Rattle Miniatures 28mm Modern Canadians, and will be attempting to replicate loosely the new Multi-Terrain Cadpat camouflage now being issued on a trial basis.

One of the Canadian Military Stalkers. Sadly, the delicate front sight has broken off. I don’t know how to fix that without just replacing the whole weapon.
Another Canadian Army Stalker, this time with a C6 GPMG. This is a cool, stoic pose.
A signals trooper is reporting a Mutant sighting to Cordon Command.
This Minesweeper will be repurposed as an Anomaly Detector.

Right, cause this looks doable in 28mm…

I have worked out some of the main factions for that Zone:

The Great Lakes Smugglers: Americans that supply arms to the Canadian Zone, often over the lakes as they aren’t patrolled as well since the Zone became active. They are heavily armed, but mainly seek profit, not territory.

The Canadian Cordon Task Force: A Canadian military task force that includes local Reservists and Active Service soldiers, who do tours of duty manning the Cordon wall and also delve into the Zone occasionally on Government business. Poorly funded, they however do have previous Zone experience, as some of them aided the Ukrainian Army Cordon Force, when the Canadian military was training their army. Military Stalkers may be rare, but they are professional. Unlike the Ukrainian Zone, licensed Stalkers are allowed to delve into the Bruce Nuclear Zone, so often they won’t shoot on site.

The Mercenaries: Hired by various international firms, now that the Canadian Zone is confirmed to have artifacts with health related benefits. The Mercenaries are mostly their legally, having legal Stalker status given by the Federal government. They can vary from professionals there to do a job, to amoral guns for hire, simply there for the thrill.

The Left Behinders: A group of locals that have refused to leave, and have established a local government to function. Most hire out their services as guides for Mercs and Government forces, but few simply go about their business like nothing has happened.

The Christian Front: A group of religious zealots who believe the end times are upon them, and fight almost everyone with equal vigor. Dangerous, but don’t have the numbers or weapons to pose a threat as a whole, just to smaller groups of stalkers.

The Bruce Power Security Force: Once one of Canada’s best equipped police forces, the Bruce Power Security Force have been mysteriously brainwashed during the “Blip”. Extremely dangerous, and cannot be reasoned with. They guard the power plant with fanatical intent.

File:Bruce Nuclear Generating Station From Plane.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
There is a lot of Zone that can be done here, speaking as a local.

In terms of Zone Hostiles, I have two that must show up guaranteed. The first is the vicious Rad-Coon, mutant, radioactive raccoons that travel in large packs. Hyper intelligent, they pose a serious threat if not taken seriously.

The next one is the Zone Bear: mutant Black or Brown bears with horrible skin conditions. While normal bears still exist in the Zone, these Zone Bears have a greater resistance to pain, and can be hard to put down.

In any event, that is all I have for today. Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your Bear detector close, and your AK closer!

Zona Alfa June 2021 Contest Entry-Andrew Turner

As requested by the Kiev District Chief, I have obtained photographs of the Deep Zone STALKER team known as the “Grey Devils”. They appear to align with the greater Zone faction, DUTY, who seek to purge the zone of dangerous fauna and sometimes, dangerous people.

Led by the scientist Sergei “Genius” Glushko, here armed with an MP7, the team also includes “Spare” Andropov, with his wooden-stocked AKM, “British” Cunningham with his modern M4, and “Brutus” Makeyev, with his distinct helmet and tricked-out AK-74. This analyst advises caution…

“Thou art not yet dead, My Father”: The French & Indian War in 28mm!

The war that made North America…

Muskets and Tomahawks is an interesting ruleset, and one I am keen to try out!

The French & Indian War is something I studied as a child in Canada, where we call it by it’s European name of the Seven Years War. We study it primarily as a theatre of the wider conflict, and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is where I was told Canada starts to develop it’s unique character, apart from French and British influence.

Battle of the Plains of Abraham - Wikipedia
This battle still fires up passions in modern Canada. Reenactments have almost never taken place, with violence threatened!

The Americans learn this war in an entirely different context, a frontier war that leads to the American Revolution, with the colonial grievances of the Provincial troops leading to great distress, and later, rebellion.

Washington the soldier.jpg
The Battle of the Monongahela was a catastrophic defeat for the Anglo-American forces. General Braddock drastically underestimated his indigenous foes, and paid dearly for it. Also, Washington was there! An interesting note.

The truth is of course, somewhere in the middle. The political situation in New France and the 13 Colonies, and the indigenous peoples stuck in the middle, is incredibly interesting. It is a war where the relatively generous peace, often spoken of as the first Canadian compromise between French settlers and English colonists….would cause anger and resentment in the American colonies, who wished for greater concessions. The indigenous nations, of course, had their own aims and ambitions, and fought for the Europeans mainly out of treaty agreements, but in their own way. Of course, such things are beyond the scope of a wargaming blog, so lets get to the nitty-gritty.

The frontier fighting is great wargaming fodder, a combination of the traditional blackpowder line-fighting, and skirmishing warfare common to the New World, where such tactics don’t work as well. It is a war of raids, counter-raids, sieges, and larger set-piece battles in the European fashion. It really has a bit of everything for any historical wargaming.

Muskets and Tomahawks is a skirmish game, and is particularly excellent for the smaller raiding actions. I’ve yet to play a game, but its small scale and particular suitability for North American warfare is very appealing. Ty of Hussars & Handgrenades was convinced to try the setting after some appeals to his love of blackpowder warfare, and he set about collecting a force of French. That left me to collect the British and American Colonials, and luckily while not the most popular period to wargame it is very well covered! I was spoiled for choice, and in the end went with Warlord Games/Conquest Games miniatures, as those could be ordered through my local store. Any way to help your local store in these trying times should be taken!

This was all done in November and December, and left on the back burner for quite a while. Other games took my interest. But Ty started to work through his backlog of Canadian Militia and French Regulars, so of course I needed to play catch-up. While I had the British done previously, the indigenous allies and Provincial troops still laid in their boxes.

I tackled that today. After some scrubbing and some gluing, which took about an hour and a bit, I had a nice large amount of troops ready! Far too many for Muskets and Tomahawks alone, but I can easily play Sharp Practice or various other larger scale rulesets now!

Scrub, scrub, and some more scrubbing!

I was pleasantly surprised by how clean most of the figures were, with a minimum of flash. I had heard horror stories of how bad the molds were, but honestly I had no trouble.

Lets start by having a look at the Indigenous models!

These are great sculpts, with none of the caricature features I was dreading.
A warrior moves up, musket and axe in hand. These will probably be fielded as Mohawk warrior.
I’m getting a very Last of the Mohicans feel from this model.
These poses are dynamic, and luckily I’m not trying to force them in rank and file blocks. They will be fielding skirmishing, like the ought to!
Another brilliantly stoic sculpt.
Plenty of warriors shooting their muskets. Too often I see too many bows, but the indigenous had truly embraced the modern technology of the day. To deadly effect.

Next up I did some frontier settlers! These are really great characterful sculpts. Lots of uses for these, from defending homesteads to fighting on the walls of Fort William Henry.

A rather large family, ready to defend their homesteads.
My favourite of the bunch, a settler’s wife laden with loaded muskets. Grabbing a new one is faster then reloading!
A younger settler runs to cover.

I also bought a box labeled Rogers Rangers. A famous(or infamous?) French & Indian War ranger unit, these fellows are sculpted skirmishing, and will be a good foil to Ty’s French irregulars. I will field them as generics, but will paint up Roger as he is meant to, so I can field them as Rogers Rangers if I have to.

Not pictured is a tame wolf, but the party of Rangers will be deadly in their chosen arena of fighting.
Roger himself is will sculpted, and is a great pose.
Lots of shooting poses are included. While the French and their indigenous allies are far better at guerilla fighting, the Rangers evened the odds for the British.
A great character here! He could well lead a ranger contingent on his own.
This sinister looking fellow is wielding a knife!

To go with my British regulars, I also picked up a box of Provincial infantry. These units of American regulars were not as well trained or disciplined, but could fight as the indigenous did if allowed. At Monongahela they weren’t allowed to, and suffered for it.

A rather stoic firing line, and on squares to allow them to fight in rank.
And the command section!
The firing poses are well done, and capture the fashion of the Provincial regiments well.
This standard bearer is really nice. I’m glad they included brass rod for the flags, not everyone does that!
A great looking officer, with a wicked moldline down his face…will fix later.
A bored looking drummer.

Now, since this is my first post about the French & Indian War, I thought I’d show off my primed British. I’m agonizing over what regiment to paint them as, and I have 2 boxes worth! So plenty of Redcoats. In reality they would be fighting in cut-down tunics and caps, but for wargaming I want the flashier uniforms.

Roughly half of my British regular force. The drummers will be primed once I know what the facing colour on the uniform is, as they will wear it on their uniform as their primary colour!
I’m heard some complaints about these models looking “out of drill”. While probably true, they ooze period charm and I’m therefore okay with using them!
The firing poses are great…I just wish they had more of them in the box!
A sergeant with a spontoon, looking particularly like a halberd in this case! Later, Sergeants would carry muskets like their men.
Both Ensigns with the flags! They look a bit old for their rank…
The much more professional British drummer, in his much fancier uniform.
And of course, a junior British officer. In Muskets and Tomahawks I probably will be fine with just one or two!

Finally, I got a pack of some interesting French & Indian War personalities. The pack included Colonel Munro, General Wolfe, and Lieutenant Colonel George Washington! The latter two are of particular interest to me. Wolfe as a famous figure in Canadian history, and George Washington was pivotal to the beginning of the French & Indian War, well before the Revolution.

Colonel Munro, a key figure at the Siege of Fort William Henry. Opposite Montcalm, a fantastic French General, and his indigenous allies, he lost the battle. Reinforcements never arrived, and a massacre took place afterwards that is now infamous, a result of both the French and British underestimating and not understanding the indigenous grievances against the British.
George Washington is a man who needs little introduction. His service in the French and Indian War is infamous for kick-starting the whole damned thing. He later accompanied General Braddock to the Monongahela and led the forces left away from the loss there.
General Wolfe, any Canadian should know who this man is, and if they hate him or love him is usually down to the language divide. He won the Battle of the Plains of Abraham with a surprise cliff-side flank, and a lethal volley that destroyed the French. Montcalm, his opposite, and Wolfe himself both died there, and both became martyrs to their causes. He was famous for carrying a Musket himself, and was actually quite a frail and fussy man.

The French & Indian War is a war that greatly affected the fortunes of North America, and was the root cause of the American Revolution and Canadian politics right up to the present day. The peace terms allowed the French settlers to keep their faith and language, a compromise still respected to this day. Really, it is the indigenous who came out of it the worst; the British were not kind to their allies. And yet, it was not enough for the American Colonists, promised lands further inland, and the taxes levied to pay the British war costs, well, lets just say the United States exists for a reason.

Wargaming a historical topic can be a difficult thing, especially in Canada were the indigenous have been so poorly treated over the years. More then a few people have expressed that this is a period that must be handled carefully…and I intend to showcase both the good and the bad, as that is the historical record. The indigenous allies I particularly want to get right.

For further research, I heartily recommend The War that Made America by the PBS in the US. It is on YouTube currently, and is very fair to every side involved. It even features the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which I didn’t expect to see.

Anyways, that is all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed this! Once I feel less nervous about painting the fancy British uniforms, I will have more for you. For now, Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your powder dry!

*Edit: A friend of mine who works on a Reservation helped me change up some of the vocabulary and historical details to get this correct, so I have changed some minor elements in this post.

Native has been replaced with Indigenous, which is the term they are asking we use going forward. As well, Tribes have been replaced by Nations, as a lot of these Indigenous peoples were organized into large nation-states, and had advanced forms of governance, which is something I knew but used poorly. Finally, while the Indigenous peoples fought differently and for different reasons, they were honouring their treaty’s with the European powers and this was something they took very seriously, to the point that enlistments in WW1 and WW2 among the indigenous peoples were really high, as they still felt the obligation was there.

I really want to get this right, so I’m glad he helped me get the verbiage correct for future posts.

Sensors Online: A Quick Peek at the Battletech Beginner Game, and Inner Sphere Battle Lance!

For the price, it’s hard to complain!

Yeah, I’m covering it after A Game of Armored Combat…it’s a bit backwards but that is what shipping does sometimes!

The journey to have all the released Inner Sphere mechs is almost complete! While I missed the limited release Black Knight ‘Clanbuster’ they did recently (and with it selling out in 62 minutes, I imagine I’m not alone!) I now have all the newer plastic lance packs and boxed set mechs, for the time being.

I’ll admit, I’m not the target audience here. I’ve played a decent amount of Battletech by this point. But it is currently the only way to obtain a Griffin mech, so c’est la vie. I will be passing off the rest of the contents of the box to a friend, for him to teach other people the basics of Battletech!

That being said, lets have a look at what comes in the box!

I did remove the dice already, but this is what awaits you when you open the lid!

It’s a good first impression. With a short-story about Colby’s Commandos as well, which rather nicely is part one of the story included in the bigger A Game of Armored Combat box. It does help to fill in some details, and is a bit of a good tease to buy the next box. Front and center are the two included mechs, a Griffin as previously mentioned, and a Wolverine, identical to the one included in the larger box.

It’s a decent enough story, nothing too crazy.

Once you remove the plastic tray, you next see the included, high quality(if truncated…) record sheets for the two plastic mechs, and some other mechs.

These are really nice, and I would love to see these done as full record sheets, something that the Kickstarter apparently has, or had, but couldn’t do in the end.

Really nice! But I wish they were the full thing. Still, to teach beginners, I like what they have done.

Next up are some Pilot cards, to add some spice to your games. These are well done, and have some really interesting characters on them! While I can’t see myself using them, I’m really happy they are included.

These are really cool, and add a lot of flavour to the universe just briefly glimpsed thus far in the box.

After that is the Quick Start Rules, that will get you and a friend going pretty quickly. As a teaching tool to help new players, it tells you just enough to get a feel for the game, but lacks Heat Management, Internal Damage, and Critical Slots. I feel that while it is a good tool to teach beginners, including the rest would have been a good idea. That being said, the bigger A Game of Armored Combat box does include such aspects, and is marketed here as the next logical buy…which would be great if one could ever find it on shelves!

A bit basic, and teaching a much simplified version of the game, but serviceable.

Another good addition is the brief primer on the universe. I love additions like this, that add context to your games, and help newbies learn the lore quickly.

Welcome to the universe, new guys! Where pilots are cheap, mechs are expensive, and government is feudal.

You also get a fold-out paper mat to play on, and some punch out terrain and mechs. This is nice, to be able to play with mechs not in the box and get a feel for them before moving to the next box to get them in plastic.

The punch-out terrain is nice to add some variety, but I would have liked to see some buildings and bunkers included as well.

These are pretty high quality, but paper is paper so be careful. I had my sheets from the bigger box laminated, which is an option should you know someone with a bigger laminator.
Some punch-out mechs and terrain! An interesting inclusion.

Finally, and this dates my box a little, is an advertisement for Iron Wind Metals, and some nice coupon deals that would have been great had they still been valid. That being said, the doofy looking older sculpts will turn off new players, so I’m glad this is no longer included. Anyone not new to my blog knows I love me some metal miniatures….but these ones are very dated looking, and while the newer Iron Wind Metals releases use the new plastics as a base, too many are stuck in the 80’s and 90’s and are expected to be used. I cannot wait for the plastic lance packs to become more common, as they are much more beginner friendly, and won’t turn off newer players by there sheer ugliness.

Not even the ‘good deals’ are enough to get me past those ugly Inner Sphere sculpts. The Clan stuff doesn’t look bad here, but with the Clan Invasion box I’d skip these entirely.

Notable by there absence is the lack of any Alpha Strike cards, which is curious as that seems like a much more beginner friendly alternative game. These cards are included in the A Game of Armored Combat box, but sadly are left out here.

Now, for the main show, the plastic mechs! The Wolverine is the same as the A Game of Armored Combat’s version, but the Griffin is all new. Both are great sculpts with lots of detail.

The Wolverine! A nice brawling mech, that can take some serious punishment. While I really like the Unseen art of this mech, this plastic redesign is pretty good too.
The Wolverine has an ugly attachment on its foot to attach more securely to the base, something I find wholly unneeded given the durability of the mechs.
However, it is easily removed with clippers and file.
The Griffin! Again, I prefer the Unseen art (if not the model…) of this mech, but this redesign is a lot more faithful to that original then the Wolverine is. The bubble canopy for the cockpit remains, which is nice.
The rear detail is nice and well-defined as well!

Now onto the other purchase that I got in today, the Inner Sphere Battle Lance. A companion to both the beginner boxes and the Command Lance, the Battle Lance features some great looking plastic mechs.

Some more plastic mechs for my ‘Official’ Company. These are a really nice addition to my forces, adding some options for force construction!
Out of the plastic!
My Phoenix Hawk was ‘broken’ in the packaging, but it seemed to be just a case of not enough glue.
And is easily fixed! This is a great model, and I look forward to trying it out!
The Wasp is a mech I don’t actually know too much about. But its fast looking, something I could use in my Lances.
The Warhammer is an imposing Heavy mech, with dual PPCs for some long range hurt, and a host of other, smaller weapons for everything else.
And the Rifleman makes four! A great mech, originally designed for Anti-Aircraft. But as a long range support tool it is a must have. Another nice addition to my lance.

A great set, which has some real all-rounders. The only thing it lacks is an Assault Mech, with there being two Heavies, and a Light and a Medium. This will fill in the gaps in my ‘Official’ Lances.

Also included are some Pilot cards, which again add some great options for force building, and are full of flavour.

Some really interesting folks on these cards.

And also some Alpha Strike cards! While I don’t play Alpha Strike, I’m glad they are included here. I made the mistake of comparing Alpha Strike to Warhammer 40k last time. While they are both 3D games not played on a hex-map, Alpha Strike otherwise is an entirely different beast. My group doesn’t play Alpha Strike at all, as the complexity of the board game in all its hilarious ways is what drew us to play, so I doubt I’ll get a game of Alpha Strike in anytime soon, so I can’t tell you what it’s like.

Really neat, if a bit unneeded in my specific case. But it is nice that you get cards for two games in this box.

A final note, and probably the best part, is just how cheap both of these sets are. I paid $21 Canadian for the Beginner Box, and $25.99 Canadian for the Battle Lance. The Beginner Box comes with a lot of good content for that price, and is great for impulse buys. Any game that can give you a lot of fun for little over 20 bucks is a great buy. And the Battle Lance is ready to go; since most games are Lance on Lance fights, one could grab a Lance pack and play almost right away after getting the Record Sheets from somewhere.

All the Inner Sphere goodness hasn’t cost me too dear, and compared to 40k is incredibly cheap(although that isn’t saying much). I have a Company’s worth and more of official mechs for my ‘Official Company’, and I doubt I’m going to use all of them at once. And it sets me up really well to teach the game to some new players, of which both Ty of Hussars & Handgrenades and my friend Chris have recently shown a great deal of interest.

Battletech can be an intimidating game to get into, but the Beginner Box and A Game of Armored Combat both show that it doesn’t have to be. Catalyst have done a good job here of making the game accessible to newcomers, and I’m keen to get more people playing! Once Catalyst can sort out their stock issues, I’ll be really happy.

But, that is all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this look at the Beginner Box and Battle Lance, and I’ll have some more Battletech for you in the near future. For now, Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your heat low and your damage high!

Not even Justice, I want to get Truth! Dougram 3D Prints for Battletech and Beyond!

Fang of the Sun Dougram has given us many things, one of them being awesome Mecha designs!

Dougram Lance(+1) is go!

So firstly, I must apologize. I said I wouldn’t do 3D Printed Battletech on the blog, but this is a special case. Firstly, I own all but one of these Mechs in plastic, and they are either in my possession or on the way, so I don’t feel overly bad about these guys. I’ve still supported Catalyst Game Labs. And two, I was not motivated to print these designs because of Battletech specifically, rather the Anime the team at FASA licensed some of the designs from.

I’m not actually the biggest Anime fan. I watch a hell of a lot of Slice of Life stuff, that being mostly mindless brain bleach for when I need to get my mind off something, but mostly I tend to get turned off the melodramatic plots that so plague some of the more serious offerings.

An exception to this is Mecha anime. Whereas western Mecha productions tend to be cartoons aimed at kids, like Transformers, or an excuse for some amazing action, like Pacific Rim, the Japanese have taken an altogether different tack.

The Japanese tend to aim their Mecha shows at children and young adults as well, but they aren’t afraid to tell much more adult storylines. Gundam is actually a pretty brutal premise after all, and my first anime was Gundam Seed, which while very melodramatic, didn’t shy away from incredibly violent deaths and adult themes like genocide and extinction. However, Gundam tells very grand stories, about grand heroes.

The original, that launched an industry!
What I watched in High School. Appropriate, considering the plot was full of teenage drama.

I prefer, overall, more down to earth stories. It was recommended to me a while ago to try out Gundam 08th MS Team, a short-run offshoot that focused on the ground war. It is best described as Mobile Suit: Vietnam, with Romeo and Juliet added. While also excellent, and I highly recommend it, it still has the ‘super-weapon’ plot of many other Gundam shows. It did scratch my itch for realistic Mecha anime for a while however.

This is a fantastic Gundam series…but it remains Gundam, so expect all the pitfalls that entails.

That was until earlier this week, while on a Battletech lore binge, I discovered one of it’s influences, an anime called Fang of the Sun Dougram. While I knew Battletech pulled much of their early mech designs from the show, I didn’t know just how realistic the tale it told was. As Tv Tropes puts it, “unlike Mobile Suit Gundam, Dougram doesn’t threaten the characters with superweapons which might end civilization at a stroke; it threatens them with politics and economics instead, which, over enough time, will have the same effect.

Down to earth Mecha fans rejoice, for the perfect show for us does exist!

That was very interesting to me. And I’m glad I gave it a chance! While I have yet to complete it, it tells a very strong story of how independence movements and revolutions end; not in battle, but at the negotiation table. And it helps that the action is very much a ground war. Gone are Mobile Suits flying in the air in dogfights, these ‘Combat Armor’ Mecha fight slow, plodding fights on the ground, where the most you have is jump-jets to maneuver vertically. Ground vehicles and infantry kill Combat Armor regularly, and the hero mecha, the Dougram, is simply better armoured and adapted for the local environment, and were it not for the skill of the pilot, Crinn, it would be just as easily destroyed.

A good example of how the show has down to earth fights! Very Battletech already!

Now, how does that lead into Battletech Tabletop? Well, while I was waiting for my plastic Mechs to arrive from Quebec, I found online some amazing Dougram Mecha in 6mm. While designed for use in Battletech, and equipped accordingly, they take their inspiration from the original source material. These designs were called the Unseen, because of all the legal trouble FASA had when it turned out the place they licensed the designs from may not have had the legal right to do so in the first place. To avoid any further litigation, these designs were shelved until redesigned much later.

What Thunderhead Studios has done is re-invent these older designs, and brought them up to a modern standard. While definitely old school, they are as crisply defined as a 3D printer can do, and look frankly amazing. I was completely smitten as soon as I started printing them! While I was a bit of a muppet removing the supports, and leaving an awful lot of damage on the models, most will be able to be fixed later. For now, let’s take a look at them!

First up, the Soltic H8 “Roundfacer”, or in Battletech, the Griffin. This is the Earth Federation’s standard Combat Armor, and sees use right until the end of hostilities. A beautifully crisp print, and probably the easiest one to print to boot!
The big bubble cockpit is my favourite feature, as is the main armament. A simple Mech, for when you don’t need the elite.
Next up is the Abitate T-10C “Blockhead”, or Wolverine for Battletech fans. This is the Earth Federations other mainline Combat Armor, once they get field-tested enough.
The only Battletech specific thing on this model is the removal of the pretty goofy chin machine guns in the Anime, being replaced by a medium laser. The rest is an extremely faithful reproduction!
The Autocannon is beautifully crisp, and the side-mounted handle is present, but stowed.
Next up is the Soltic H-102 “Bushman”, the only Combat Armor not to have a Battletech equivalent. Meant for mountainous terrain, this unit is lightly equipped and agile. Head mounted missiles and a mag-cannon give it some offensive punch. This print was a good example of why you should clean your FEP, as my printer had gunk on it that severely affected the bottom parts of the legs. I had to take a file and knife to clean it up, and it wasn’t a perfectly done job.
Next up is the famous Hero combat armor, the Dougram itself! In Battletech this is the Shadowhawk, a relatively common design. But in the Anime, the Dougram is a one-off prototype, specially made for the Deloyer environment. Amphibious, equipped with jump jets, and armed with a fearsome array of weapons, this is a combat armor that can really do the work!
This pose is great, a callback to the anime, where Dougram has to pull down the Linear Rifle from his back to fire it. Beautifully captured by the designer, this was a joy to print.
The fearsome Linear Rifle is but an AC/5 in Battletech, but is more akin to a Gauss Rifle in the Anime.
I have saved my favourite for last. This is the Hasty F4X “Ironfoot”, a combat armor originally fielded by the Earth Federation but became a mainstay of the Deloyer rebellion when an entire Army Group switches sides. In Battletech this is the Thunderbolt, but the designer saw fit to include the Dougram specific version, which is what I printed here.
Armed with powerful missiles, a linear rifle, and machine-guns, this is a well rounded Combat Armor. This one is also ‘flipping the bird’, which amuses me because I’m secretly a five year old.
This print actually has some missed supports, but they printed regardless, if poorly. Luckily they were all minor parts, and easily missed. Still, I have fixed the supports for it going forward if I want more of them.

All in all, a solid day’s worth of printing. I really enjoyed doing these, and I really want to get some paint to spray them all up. I used up my Grey, Russian Uniform, and Red spray cans, which leaves some German Field Grey and Silver. I’m probably going to hold out for another can of green coloured spray paint, as I want these guys to have a very down to earth, military paint scheme.

My 3D printing might have to take a hiatus soon, as my resin stocks are running low, and there is no stock available of Elegoo Grey resin available. I might switch to Phrozen Aqua Green, which has the advantage of being calibrated for my printer already. We shall see!

Anyways, that is all I have for you fine folks today. I’ll try and get these, and my official mechs, painted as soon as possible. Then I can show them off!

Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your heat low!

A Most Gentlemanly Vice: Pipe Smoking like a Hobbit!

“Longbottom Leaf! The finest weed in the Southfarthing.”

A fine gift of Baccy on my Birthday, enjoyed with good company!

I’ve been an avid Pipe-smoker since I was but 23. After a rough exit from College, where I had to give up on a promising chance at a career I would have loved due to a medical emergency. I was forlorn, bitter, and very disappointed in myself. My anxiety was at an all time high, to the point where I couldn’t walk around outside without the sheer panic making me go back inside again. It was a dark time.

But, I decided I needed a new hobby. Something fun, a vice that wasn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. I found a local tobacconist, just a mere 45 minutes walk away. And something inside me, definitely inspired by Tolkien, wanted to get a Pipe. It took everything I had to make that walk, but I got there.

Look at what you’ve done old man! Still, the Good Professor steered me into a great hobby, so I can’t be too mad.

A gruff gentleman, probably in his late 50s, was running this small hole in the wall tobacco shop. I asked “Do you have any Tobacco pipes?” He replied, “I don’t sell bongs here.” I asked again “I want a tobacco pipe, a wood one.” He replied. “You can’t smoke weed out of those either.” On my final legs, I said “I want a tobacco pipe. To smoke Tobacco out of it.”. His eyes finally lit up!

“My boy, I haven’t had a customer ask for one of those in 10 years, and certainly not someone so young. My apologies. Here, I have one pipe left.” It was an old Lorenzo pipe. I bought it, and armed with some Colts tobacco, a tamp tool, and some matches…I started a hobby that in many ways pre-dates my renewed interest in Tabletop Wargaming.

Of and on for the next six years, it became a part of my identity. When my peers at Canada’s Wonderland’s Special Maintenance Department would smoke Exports, DuMauriers, and the occasional cigarillo, out came the pipe. When a senior Security Guard would pull out his fancy cigars, out came me with my pipe to smoke with him and outdo his pretentiousness with my, weapons grade pretentiousness.

The pipe was put aside when I began to date someone who was anti-smoking, and I was able to cut a deal where I could smoke very infrequently only at events and parties. The pipe outlasted her. When I moved from the city to the country, it came along.

My friend Ty smoked Cigars though, and the pipe was but on the back burner. We enjoyed many fine Cuban cigars on the beach, in better times. But before long, out came the pipe. Before a friends wedding, we stopped and grabbed supplies. Fancy cigars, and a fresh tin of Dunhill Ready Rubbed. This was in 2020, before the pandemic. We had plans of a beautiful spring and summer of wargaming and smoking. This never got to happen.

Covid put a damper on that, and I barely got to see my friend in-between lockdowns, quarantines, shutdowns, etc. Until this last weekend, where being vaccinated allowed for small outdoor gatherings. My Birthday weekend, in fact. I had burned through all my Ready Rubbed between weekly smoking, my friends wedding, etc.

My friend had brought a kingly gift; I had done research into Tolkien’s favourite tobacco blend, Capstan Original Flake(blue), and he had grabbed me a tin of it. I had bought him his first real tobacco pipe last year but he wanted to wait until I could give it to him personally to smoke it.

Capstan Original Flake - Pipes and Cigars
Tolkien’s Favorite out of all the myriad of tobacco he smoked.

And so began my birthday weekend, full of smoking, sushi, burgers, and good cheer!

Two friends, long apart. Together again, to kill our lungs.
Happy with my gift to him, Ty smokes his new pipe!
I had never seen tobacco cut like this before…but I now drastically prefer it.
Ty still had some of his Cigars left….but by the end of the day we both declared Pipe Smoking had won the day.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. So he left back for the city, promising to come visit as soon as able to do this again.

Having found the Capstan a fine smoke, I’m going to go looking for a few more tins. Being in a contemplative mood about my age, and working through that in a healthy way for my mind, I began to smoke on my deck or back porch. Taking in nature, listening to Howard Shore’s Shire theme as I just sit back, relax, and let everything melt away.

Taking in the sights of rural Ontario, right on the coast of Lake Huron. I’ll get some pictures by the bridge later!
And in my backyard, a lovely, lived in space.

Then I went a bit silly with the Prisma filters and took some fancy pictures.

It’s a pretty photo edit of a pretty place!

It’s been a great weekend, and a lovely introduction to my 30s.

There will be some more Wargaming content coming soon, focused primarily on VBCW and Battletech! So stay tuned for that.

But for now, I must go. Happy War-gaming where-ever you are, and have a beautiful week!

All Systems Nominal: Battletech Tabletop!

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Mech Record Sheet!

I got a nice treat on my Birthday today when this stuff arrived early!

Battletech. It’s a 37 year old game of incredible depth, great backstory, and a great way to waste an evening in mindless(or calculated…) Mech warfare in the 31st Century.

I didn’t expect to like this game. I’m usually a fan of simpler rulesets, and the Mech record sheets look very, very imposing. But, around late summer of last year, I was coaxed into a game.

I had an immense amount of fun, but I didn’t pull the trigger fully. I got a few mechs here and there, but only got to play a few times. I enjoyed every game, but the sheer depth of the background lore was imposing…yet very appealing. I got distracted by other games.

It was during the third lockdown that I finally got bit by the Battletech bug, and it bit hard. Helped by the Youtube channel, BlackPantsLegion, and their Tex Talks Battletech series(which I cannot recommend enough, they are better then most documentaries, at least their later videos!), I dove deep into the lore. And there I drowned in it.

A fancy screenshot I edited with Prisma from MechWarrior 5. A Marauder from a friendly Lance is viewed through the fog from the cockpit of a Catapult.

It is a truly deep universe, and with 37 years of worldbuilding and few if any retcons have made for excellent study material. Every mech, and there are hundreds of them, have a lot of backstory, production history, variants etc. And that is before getting into the history of Mankind prior to the 31st Century, with warfare on a scale never seen before rendering a lot of technology from Man’s golden age lost. Warfare has taken on a sporadic, feudal appearance, with smaller armies fighting since they simply don’t have the resources for the big wars anymore. The Great Houses, the Successor States to Star League, fighting over its corpse like vultures. It makes for fascinating reading….

Another Prisma Screenshot! The Videogames are truly a great gateway drug into the Universe.

And an excellent backdrop for a really, really fun game. While very complex, the core gameplay itself isn’t all that difficult to master. It’s all the bananas situations you get yourself into, like what happens if my Mech falls off a cliff into another Mech, which happened because a Mech pushed you off in the first place! Or jumping onto another Mech, called a Death from Above attack. Melee is not only possible, but some Mechs are designed for it from the outset! Long range missiles can be directed by spotter mechs. And that is before you add infantry, tanks, aircraft, and a myriad of other combined arms forces into the mix!

May be an image of 1 person and map
My friend K.R Smith and I play some Battletech!

Now I had jumped in originally with Battletech: Total Warfare, and learned how to play from that massive and unwieldy tome of a rulebook. So it is not like I’m entirely new on how to play. But a couple things to note here. While Catalyst Game Labs has said they don’t care what happens in peoples homes regarding 3D printed mechs, and that is what I cut my teeth playing the game with, I decided to support the company beyond just buying the books, and grabbed the starter box, A Game of Armored Combat. This was a difficult box to get, as they are out of stock almost everywhere. I eventually found a copy at a French-Only online store out of Quebec, and using the power of Google Translate, it was soon on its way, along with one of the new Lance Packs, the Inner Sphere Command Lance.

This gives me 12 of the new, redesigned plastic sculpts to play with. And while the detail is a little soft in places for my liking, and some components are warped(this is easily fixed with hot water, to my knowledge.) I am very happy with them! Lets have a look!

Oh, you tricky little bastard, I finally found ya! Lets take a peek inside!
Open the box, and we see 6 Mechs, and a short story about Colby’s Commandos. No idea who those guys are, but I’ll read it later.
Hmmm, I do love me Military Sci-Fi…
A Primer, which is good to get to know the Universe. Nice addition! Not everything needs to be rules, after-all?
The rulebook. While not the comprehensive rules for the full game of Battletech, it is enough to play most of the experience, at least that part that is Mech focused.
The booklet of Mech record sheets! These are meant to be photocopied, and not written on directly! These are also the full sheets; the separate Beginner box has nicer, but less useful quick sheets.
More mechs! They look imposing. They really aren’t…and you don’t want to be doing this record keeping the hard way!
A very handy reference card. This is in fairly thick gauge cardboard, which is good, since for a while outdoor games are all I’m getting!
This is a cardboard punch-out sheet that includes 8 standee copys of the included mechs, if one wants to play a game with a friend with no mechs. The terrain here allows you to modify the included paper mats with new terrain features.
The double-sided paper hex-mats. These allow you to play on either Grasslands or Desert terrain. My friends have very nice neoprene maps, but these will offer a different experience. I might get them laminated.
A neat addition to this box-set and the Lance Packs, these unique pilot cards allow for some interesting MechWarriors with special abilities to mix-up play a bit.
Now for something I don’t see myself using. These are cards for the Alpha Strike game, which is basically 40k but Battletech. Not that its bad, but it’s not what I’m interested in.

The other set I got, the Inner Sphere Command Lance, is a newer product. The detail is a bit sharper, and in fact it was that Marauder redesign that got me to reconsider the official models. It is just that good! Lets have a look at those as well!

Fairly uninspiring packaging. Included are some Alpha Strike cards and Unique Pilot Cards.
While the AC/5 Barrel needs some help from Pfizer, the detail on the Mech as a whole is sharp. I’ll clean up the mold lines and straighten the barrel, then paint it…which I am excited to do.

Now, I have a copy of the Beginner Box on the way, mainly just to grab the Griffin Mech only included in that box. I also have an Inner Sphere Battle Lance on the way, but that order was delayed, and is apparently getting shipped later since it wasn’t in stock. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get it, since the Lance Packs are very difficult to find in Canada, at least in terms of ‘In Stock’.

I’m going to think about how to paint these Mechs. There is a lot of Mercenary Companies, House Regiments, and various other ways to paint them up, so I have some decisions to do. The Northwind Highlanders and Davion Brigade of Guards are both very interesting…

But that is all I have for today. I have a birthday to celebrate, after all! Happy War-gaming where-ever you are, and I hope you have a great day!