Monday, July 17, 2017

Part 3 of My Awesome Historicon Adventure

As mentioned in Part 2, there was a lot to see and do at Historicon. Of interest to Classic Battletech heads, there was the usual Grinder and Grand Melee events, as well as some other games in the program I didn't see and there was quite a few items for sale in the Iron Winds booth (Now run by the guys from B&V Traders!) I spoke to the guys at some length and picked up some things from them namely a nicely painted Huron Warrior and an unpainted Pheonix Hawk LAM....and some decals. Now if I could just get a 2nd Sword of Light Sheet, as I now have the Kentares flags...

I did see a lot of painted CBT for sale also at the Stan Johansen booth, and in the flea market, but I didn't think their prices were as competitive as B & V Traders, and of interest, and I almost forgot, I picked up a pair of laser levels from Army Painter, and Dwin Craig thoughtfully got me a ziploc bag FILLED with D12s. No more worrying about enough D12s for Alpha Strike!

This blog always seems to have the short end of the convention reports, and that is a shame, I will endeavor to have more to report here.

But, I want to take the time to give a shout out to a lot of folks. First, Mike Byrne. Thank you for the ride, the company, and a little insight into life in the artillery. Very insightful stuff indeed, and when you're stuck in traffic for two hours...

I want to thank Mike Pierce, Mike Demana, Miles (I wish I remembered your last name), Dennis Wang, Pete Panzeri, and anyone else I have not mentioned for running games at Historicon 2017. Without you, there is no con, and thanks for giving me and my fiancé a weekend of fun!

I want to thank my fiance, Anne. She puts up with me, my hobby, and more importantly, my eccentric friends. We're getting married in October, and again, she makes me proud she chose me. I just hope she feels the same way.

Some parting comments about the con, I again found the venue to be well lit, clean, and easy to get around. There were plenty of games, and most of them were well-attended, as this photo attests from Friday:

I am of two minds on the move to the Host next year, on the one hand, perhaps it's what we need to do to deal with the falling numbers, on the other hand? This venue, except for the noise issues, a darn sight better than the Host. I have my opinions...I am sure you have yours.

So, that's it for Historicon for this year...on to FALL IN!!!

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Birthday Game - Or, Alpha Strike, To the Bitter End!

Well, my birthday game has come and gone, and it was quite the game. I ran a small event for four people and had a blast doing it...literally. There was carnage to be had, and a friend got to run some 'Mechs for the first time ever (he'd bought them on eBay years ago, and they just hadn't had a chance to come out and play).

Not to mention, the Geo-Hex came out to play too! It was nine kinds of gaming awesome last Saturday! And Dwin brought his base...which has figured in more than a few of our games...and it's always seemed to become a focal point of any fighting.

So, with myself, Dwin, Glen, and Dave (Glen and Dave both being beginners) we set out to run Alpha Strike

So, the scenario was simple, capture the base by Turn 12 (Yeah, we lost track of what turn it was rather quickly), didn't matter, neither the Lyrans, painted by yours truly, backed up by some of my Robinson Rangers, nor Dwin's Kuritans were backing off.

A few notes, we do some house rules for our games:

  • We use D12, we find it's a flatter probability curve, and it makes for a faster game, and we have one die per each point of damage dealt out by the unit. In other words, if your unit does 2 points of damage at medium range, then you roll 2 D12 to hit.
  • We also have morale rolls for a unit having suffered internal damage. If a unit manages to survive to the end of the turn, then said unit rolls a D6 against it's skill, if it rolls higher than it's skill rating, the unit sticks around, if not, it must withdraw off of it's home board edge.

All pretty simple enough, and thus, on to the game!

The faster Combine units got into the base first, and I had decided on a three pronged advance...poor Dave marched his first set of units right into the guns of Glen's assault lance...this did not end well for Dave's Axeman, who promptly died under the Kuritan guns right away. After that, his Warhammer got chewed up and he made for cover as fast as he could.

My Assault lance was next, losing a Banshee within two turns, and a Battlemaster not long after that, but the Hauptmann hung in there for long enough to reach the base. I then had my scout lance try to distract the balance of the Combine lights..which did we killed a Black Hawk-KU and shot the hell out of a Pheonix Hawk (who would later die under the guns of an Atlas). 

The fighting soon devolved around the base, and soon 'Mechs on both sides began to fall left and right, but the last Robinson Rangers Zeus failed it's morale roll, and withdrew, leaving the two surviving 'Mechs of the Combine force (out of 12) to "celebrate" their victory..not that it was probably much to celebrate.

I want to thank everyone for coming, and for my fiance Anne, who put out quite the spread for us, it was amazing and yes, Dwin, more cover for everyone next time!

As for the Geo-Hex, which is back and in it's first game? I think it did well, it's a bit fragile at times, but most of the damage incurred is nothing a little white glue, flock, and paint won't fix. I did see a lot of loose flock in the box, and I suspect I will have to send away to the manufacturer for more rescue flock at some biggie.

The last of the Lyrans and the Combine duke it out for the base, by the end, only the Highlander and the Black Hawk-KU, along with the Zeus will survive.

A closeup of the fighting around the base.

The Warhammer, who probably had no business surviving as long as it did.

Another shot of the fighting around the base, with the remains of the Banshee and the Battlemaster burning in the background.

The Black Hawk-KU meets its end at the hands of the Wasp, who proved to be quite the survivor, until it died taking on the Highlander
Death of the Phoenix Hawk, as the Atlas pours fire into it

First blood for the Lyrans, as the Lynx from their Assault Lance dies under the guns of two FedCom lances. The Hatamoto-Suna is playing a light 'Mech, the Kubo or something like that..memory does not serve to remember the exact name,

The remains of the Lyran Assault lance breach the base.

KABOOM! There goes the Banshee!

Elements of the Lyran Scout Lance advance into the woods on the FedCom right

The rogue's gallery of Kuritan light 'Mechs, Only one, the red Black Hawk-KU, would survive to the game's end

Two of the Lyran lances (The Assault and Scout Lances) advance on Turn 1

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Writing Battletech Fanfiction - A View From the Trenches!

As some of you know, I am a budding professional writer. Partly, it's my day job, (I am a technical writer), and partly? It's my passion. Battletech is well, great fodder for fanfiction. The veritable "what ifs" alone make for some great story material.

I wanted to use a story I am currently writing, Clover Spear - The Story of the War of '56 as a way of showing both the joys and the pitfalls of fanfic writing, especially for Battletech. There's a lot of good here, and some bad. But am I enjoying myself? You bet.

So, first the good. Fanfic is a great way to keep your writing talons sharp, as well as your imagination. Your chosen subject matter is your canvas, and you're not limited by canon, but by whatever your mind can conceive,

Let's use my story, I wanted to see what the result of the following premise would be? "What might have happened had Hanse Davion had survived his heart attack back in 3052?" Well, for starters, I do not think he would have let the Clans just set up shop on his borders. And with Hanse Davion, when he is unhappy, he is rarely unhappy alone for long. But I didn't want this to be "Hanse Davion saves the universe again!!" No, I wanted Victor to shine, and I wanted Katherine not to be a "ponytail twirling villain" like she was reduced to in the canon universe. And yeah, I wanted Omi to live....

So, what to do, what to do? Well, you're seeing the results.

But some points as I continue to write.

1. Have a plan: Having a plan to guide your writing is always a good thing, especially for a stream-of-consciousness writer like me. That doesn't mean you let the plan straight-jacket you. If you think of something good (especially if it makes you cackle with glee), and/or a reader has a great suggestion? Use it. Give credit where credit is due, but use it. But always have an idea where you are going with this. I have two spreadsheets, soon to be four, tracking the troop movements for this thing. Combat resolution is, if it sounds about right, do it. Some may not like that, but this is a story, not a wargame. Just don't be munchy about it.

2. Deal out the Pain as Even as You Can: Battletech is war, and war is a risky, risky enterprise. Battles are lost and won based on the slimmest of margins, and so are wars. You can do a lot, even kill factions, but the fact is..make sure there is enough around to keep it an interesting universe, so more often than not, make sure everyone gets their fair share of loss.

3. Keep Writing: I admit it, every review, every site visit, and discussion thread on Spacebattles and is a fix for the writing drug. We fanfic guys don't get paid to do what we do, we do it for the love of what we do, so reviews are our payday. Many of us do it to see "Are we really that good, or are we kidding ourselves." I have had the question answered, and yes Virginia, I am a pretty damn good writer. But don't abandon your readers, even if you have to take time off, make sure when you come back, you come back with a vengeance.

4. Start Small, and Do Your Homework: Make your beginning micro, and build out macro. Make sure the steps you are about to take are ones you can build a good writing foundation for. If it's on a shaky foundation, it will be reflected in your prose. Moreover, do your homework. There is plenty of material out there for Battletech, even on the internet. If you have to make something up? Make sure it's at least plausible vis a vis your research. This leads into a related point....

5. Respect Your Readers Suspension of Disbelief: Your readers come to be entertained and have fun with your writing. They aren't asking you to be Hemmingway or Ringo, just good enough they can have fun reading it for a while. So respect the use of their time. Don't write a plot bunny you know sounds weak or just plain bad to you just because "it's in the plan" or "you have to, the story won't flow." If you think it sucks, then the reader will too, I promise you. Like on Broadway, give the audience what they want...but leave them wanting more. Do that and you will have them coming back for more of your work.

So, that's the best advice I have out there. I will keep writing my stuff, because it's fun and keeps the writing muscles sharp. I do hope you keep reading it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

It's tough finding active Battletech blogs out there!

It just is.

I don't know why this is, but it seems that as games go, Battletech isn't one that inspires people to blog about it for very long. Scrapyard Armory being the singular exception, and it hasn't been updated since the beginning of this year?

So why the heck is this?

I have my theories:

1. The game's release schedule isn't very active, or very stable right now. I know what the upcoming pages on the CBT site say, but then we see a beta for the Battletech Master Rules, part deux, a cover painting for ilClan, but has Alpha Strike been forsaken? Depends on whom you talk to.

2. The feeling that many at CGL don't have as much love for Battletech as they do Shadowrun. I had one person in the know (whose identity I will never reveal, so do not even ask) tell me that Battletech was seen as a loss leader, as compared to Shadowrun and that there was some enmity between the two teams.

3. Do we the fans bear some responsibility? I am an old grognard whom at 11 years old was eagerly leafing through his copies of the 4th Succession War atlas and just going "wow". We got spoiled under FASA in the 3025 years. We did. The Clan years were good too. But something happened around the mid to late 90s as the game moved into the 3057-8 era. The quality of the writing declined on the sourcebook side, this continued for a while, until Fanpro came along. Was the Jihad the best executed idea? No. But Battletech is a game that must evolve, and Fanpro, for better or worse was stuck with the Jihad and the changes Clicky-Tech wrought. They did the best with what they had.

And how did a lot of fans react? "If you don't love 3025, hippie, then get the hell out of CBT." A lot of fans, I hate to say it, did just that. Can we blame them?

So, we are left with a game in limbo. A game that like a shark, must keep swimming forward to survive. If we do not swim forward, we will die.

I for one, do not want Battletech to die again. I don't want us to just be some new hot property for a computer game (which does look good by the way). I want us to live and breathe again. We must do this, for the sake of the game.

How do we do that? I have my opinions, which I plan to keep to myself. This isn't the place for that. This is food for thought put out to you, the reader. So, tell me readers. How do we move forward, how do we get our game back on top again?

Because I am damn tired of looking up from the bottom.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Leadership for Battletech Line, and what we'd like to see!

As some are aware, Classic Battletech has some new people at the helm. This is good as the game has been, for better or worse, stalled creatively for some time. There has been few new releases (The first two books of the Combat Manual series, and Campaign Operations, as well as 1st Succession War come to mind), it has been dribs and drabs when it comes to new printed product.

Then there is the issue of certain newseen sculpts being pulled from the marketplace for reasons unknown. This is, of course, leading to rumors of everything from "HG's lawyers are suing" to "Someone at CGL Legal thought they needed to have further work done to make sure we don't get sued."

All of this has combined to leave a big communication gap between us the players, and CGL. Yes, there are the forums, and the facebook pages, but when I can't get a simple email about getting a replacement part for a Uziel filled from Iron Wind Metals filled in a timely fashion (Going on two weeks guys, and no response.), then there is a humongous problem.

So what would we like to see out of the new leadership?

  • We'd like the new products to get some forward motion, or at least, if there is forward motion, tell us that? Us Alpha Strike players are especially keen as we have seen the plastic lance box sets cut from $20 to $10  and then raised to $15? We'd like some honest talk about the future of Alpha Strike. And, some honest talk about the future of CBT in general.
  • We'd love to see this wishlist filled?
    • A introductory set with plastic Newseens, or Clan 'Mechs?
    • An Alpha Strike boxset?
    • A new design suite, perhaps app compatible and able to do conversions across all levels of CBT (Alpha Strike, Classic Battletech, Battleforce, ISIF, etc.)?
  • I know that the policy is "we don't do release schedules" because it is hard to meet them in the industry, but some idea as to when we can expect a product, approximately, at least in PDF would be awesome?
  • Better customer service from both Iron Wind (which I am aware is an independent company) and the CGL web store. I have personally heard too many horror stories first hand about waiting for product, waiting for response to emails, etc.

I don't think my ideas are too wacked out, and I'd like to hear from you, the audience? What would you like to see from our new overlords? Let's see what the fanbase needs, wants, and desires?

UPDATE: Brent Evans got back to the fans on the Customer Service front:

Hello everyone - I've been able to get a handle on all the cases from my original announcement, so I'm expanding my call out to everyone to make sure no one falls through the cracks.  

As the new Line Developer for BattleTech I'm taking the lead on helping anyone with outstanding Customer Service issues in need of getting their orders fulfilled through the Catalyst web store.  This includes any outstanding orders placed through the old web store as well.  I don't want anyone left behind.  

It was no secret that our old webstore was faltering pretty hard by the time we were able to get the new one built from the ground up, and despite the web-team's best efforts - we've been correcting gremlins every since it went live in November.  We've got a massive product list so there were bound to be glitches, but we are committed to making sure no one falls through the cracks.

And I'm willing to put products where my mouth is to prove it.

So if you have an old issue or product that you ordered, paid for, and for some reason are still waiting for delivery after 60 days or more - please email me directly so I can get it resolved for you.  If you placed an order for a PDF product that never arrived, the link didn't work, or it downloaded the wrong product - please email me directly.  If you've been emailing to the Customer Service address for months and not getting a resolution - just email me directly.  I will send a PDF product of your choice free of charge for every order like these that you send me.  

Thank you for helping us make sure every fan gets their gaming needs fulfilled.  I appreciate your collective assistance.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Part 3 of the Williamsburg Muster Report

This will be the shortest piece, as there wasn't a whole lot of Battletech going on, I managed to make some purchases, some unseen Wasps and Stingers, as well as a Fire Lance plastic Mech pack from BV Traders and a Kurita House Book as well as a pack of Saladins from The Dragon's Hoard. I talked with Mike Varney from BV about what we thought the future of Classic Battletech was..and found out that he will be the new official Iron Wind agent at cons! Congrats to Mike and the crew!

My opinion on CBT is simple. Brent Evans and Ray Arrista needs to get new product moving, not just PDFs and they need to come clean on what is going on with the Wasp and Valkyrie sculpts. I know, I know, there might be some proprietary issues. I get it. But at least make some sort of statement. Mike told me there was at least one major distributor that told him "Battletech is dead". This isn't good for the future of the game, and I for one, am not happy to be hearing things like this.

Finally, it was Memorial Day - and in memory of all of America's fallen, I wore this the entire con. I encourage more of us wargamers to do so. We game for recreation what may be one of the worst days in someone's life. It would do us well to remember that.

So, all in all, it was a good con, and I will keep the blogging coming. Here is hoping you guys keep reading!

UPDATE: I just realized this was our 10th post! I will keep on writing as you keep on reading!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Discussion of Electronic Resources for Alpha Strike, and What We Need Out There!

Hi all,
 This is another article to take a break from unending company writups (as much as I enjoy doing them, they aren't all this website it about!) . Today, I wanted to do a writeup of all the electronic aids such as spreadsheets, programs and websites that can help the new, or experienced Alpha Strike player out.

  Some of them are well-known in the community, such as the Master Unit List, while some, well, let's discuss them, shall we?

  Master Unit List

Photo and IP by Catalyst Game Labs
  The Master Unit List is something that grew out of a fairly unwieldy sheet you had to print out back in the stone age, to the high powered thing it is today. All it needs now in my opinion, is an Android/iPhone app. It really is the one stop shop for many of your Alpha Strike needs, from the AS Builder, to the multiple search options one can use in force building. I have yet to discover a way to add unit and pilot SPAs to the cards, but I suspect it's a feature I just don't know how to use.

  It's all seamless, well maintained, and the Custom Card Builder is an awesome touch that adds just that "bit of class" to the whole thing, and with the cut and paste of a link to a bit of artwork, you can put just about any pic into an Alpha Strike card. I did it for my custom Alpha Strike card pages. 

  If I could add anything to the wish list, other than an iPhone/Android app? I'd want the random skill builder to port over better to the Alpha Strike side. But that said, it's still a solid tool and essential to anyone who plays Alpha Strike. I'd also like the ability to group the cards into lances, and maybe even have the benefits of the type of lance added to each card if applied?

   But all in all, it's a good tool indeed, one that is really essential to play Alpha Strike.

Battletech to Alpha Strike Excel Sheet

 This simple sheet takes a lot of the guesswork out of doing design conversions, and gives you an output that you can plug into the Custom Card Builder on the Master Unit List website. The interface is simple, solid and if you have used Excel in the past (who hasn't?), then this should be a no-brainer.

  I guess my only disappointment here is a small one. I wish it calculated point values for you. It's a little frustrating to try to do it by hand out of the book, and my own Excel-fu is not strong enough to add that as a feature myself to this program. 

  All in all, beggars can't be choosers, and this excel sheet really does fit the bill nicely.

Army Builder Roster Software

Picture and IP are by Lone Wolf Productions
  Army Builder is to, put it simply, a very powerful tool. It has a bit of a learning curve, but it's not steep and once you do get the hang of it, you will be putting together rosters in minutes. I love this tool because the rosters are very customizable, and they have all the rules for all the special characteristics ON THE ROSTER. No more having to go through the rulebook to figure out how to use the MHQ ability, for example. This alone makes the program worth it for folks who are serious Alpha Strike players.

  They even have an app where you can view rosters for free, which allows you to take your rosters on the go. Pretty useful in my opinion. I have been reliably informed that the program even prints the Alpha Strike cards, but I have not tried that feature yet. If someone could inform me as to how that works out, I'd appreciate it.

  My only complaint is that I wish the interface was a bit smoother, and that more skills were covered, but the later is a moving target, and as such, is difficult to keep current.

  What else is out there? And what do we need?

  In conclusion, there is more out there, I am sure..I tried to download and test Battletech Engineer's custom card maker, but all of his links on his blog are dead. If someone could let me know why that is, I would appreciate it.

  I am also sure I have missed tools out there, so if you know of any, reply below in the comments section with a link to the tool and I will go check it out and add it here.

 As for what do we need, a dedicated points tabulation system for custom designs would be very welcome, MUL does a great job for established designs when you assign skills, but something that did that for customs? That would be a war-winner, so to speak.

 Are there ideas for electronic aids you would like to see, or know of one out there we haven't covered? Chime in in the comments section!