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!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Another Company for Alpha Strike - Stiltson's Company, 2/Addicks DMM, ca. Civil War Era

Stiltson’s Company, 2/Addicks DMM, ca. Civil War Era

Oliveria’s Light Strike Lance
Leftenant Jay Oliveria, Skill 3, Centurion CN9-D (Speed Demon SPA)
Staff Sergeant Joyce Tay, Skill 4, Wolverine WVR-7D
Sergeant Yee Hwang, Skill 5, Flea FLE-17 (Speed Demon SPA)
Sergeant Max Andreyev, Skill 4, Jenner JR7-D (Speed Demon SPA)

Stiltson’s Attack Lance
Hauptmann Rhonda Stiltson, Skill 3. Spider SDR-7M (Speed Demon SPA)
Master Sergeant Khalil Miller, Skill 3, Sentry SNT-04
Sergeant Anni Andrassen, Skill 5, Hornet HNT-151 (Speed Demon SPA)
Sergeant Jasmine Jansons, Skill 7, Valkyrie VLK-QD (Speed Demon SPA)

Dubois’s Scout Lance (Forward Observer SPA for all units, 3 units have Maneuvering Ace or Eagle Eyes)
Leftenant Harold Dubois, Skill 3, Watchman WTC-4M
Staff Sergeant Melody Russo, Skill 3, Ostsol OTL-5M
Sergeant Sumio Hoffmann, Skill 4, Locust LCT-3M
Sergeant Walker Salcedo, Skill 4, Javelin JVN-10P

Total Point cost for the company is 284. A link to download a set of Alpha Strike Cards for the company can be found here.

Bios of Company Mechwarriors

Leftenant Jay Oliveria: Leftenant Olivaria is a solid ‘Mechwarrior, a so-so officer, and a devout Methodist from Defiance. His religion makes him a severe, and by many accounts, glum man with a dour outlook on life, and a command style best described as “stern but fair”. He is very much a “by the book” officer, and will not stray out of line one iota, which makes him sometimes unpopular with his fellow junior officers as he is not a man who is given to rash risks. In fact, one could say for a Strike Lance leader, he is a bit too cautious, but his caution has saved the rest of his lance many times, as he has a good eye for an ambush.

His background is from a middle-class family on Mallory’s World, his father was a English Composition teacher at the high school level, his mother, a nurse practitioner at a local hospital. Oliveria was a standout graduate from the Conroe Training Battalion, and attended the PDZ OCS where he graduated towards the middle of his class in 3055.

Staff Sergeant Joyce Tay: Staff Sergeant Tay is at best, a mediocre NCO who only got promoted because she is an exceptional athlete who always wins intermural trophies for the 2nd Battalion. Her skills as a ‘Mechwarrior are average, and she probably would be best at a desk job somewhere, but Hauptmann Stiltson cannot manage to get rid of her, as her reputation as an arrogant pain in the ass proceeds her. She really does look down on everyone she meets, seeing them as her physical inferior, and it rubs the rest of the company the wrong way. At least she is an even-tempered person in combat, and willing to take a bit more risk than Leftenant Oliveria, even if she poorly qualified to weigh that risk properly.

What the rest of the company does not know is that her parents on Eldire IV were killed during a Kurita raid in 3041 when she was away on a class trip in high school. She has never forgiven herself, or the Combine, and is burning with a desire for revenge, and might take some stupid risks to get that revenge. She is a graduate of the Kilborne Academy, class of 3046, and ranked towards the middle of her class.

Sergeant Yee Hwang:  Sergeant Ye Hwang is a recent graduate from the Bell Training Battalion (class of ’59), and is very green, having graduated towards the bottom of her class. She is a likeable ‘Mechwarrior, and is popular in the company, even if her skills need a lot of work, and Leftenant Olivaria is doing what he can to assist in that endeavor, as well as calm her down in combat, as she does have a nasty habit of wading into a fight without much thought. She is a supporter of Katherine’s, as she believes Victor abandoned the FedCom to go “play soldier rather than do his job” and she thinks Katherine will do better in this regard.

Sergeant Hwang is from the world of Argyle, and her parents were both former infantrymen in the AFFS, having met during the War of ’39. She was born two years later and followed her parents into the infantry, serving with several March Militia commands. She has excelled in the rest of her military career until recently, capturing a pirate Flea single-handedly (the same one she pilots now).

Sergeant Max Andreyev: Sergeant Andreyev is a graduate of the Sarna Martial Academy, class of ’40, and is a native of Second Try. His loyalties were suspect as a former Liao citizen, with his family both having been infantrymen with the Second Try Home Guard, and both died in the defense of the world during the 4th War, Max wound up living with the family of a distant cousin on Chesterton. Thus, Max was posted far from home in a March Militia unit.

He is a meek fellow, not wanting to rock the boat any, as the DMI pretty much thinks he is a potential traitor, but probably would have made a better ‘Tech than a ‘Mechwarrior, as he enjoys tearing apart his old Jenner, captured from the DCMS in the 3rd Succession War. Somehow, he has managed to wring a lot of speed out of the old girl, and his dogged nature with things mechanical has gotten him noticed by Hauptmann Stiltson.

Max is cautious in battle, as he knows nobody is going to give him another ‘Mech if he loses this one, but he isn’t a coward, just smart about how and when he fights. In this, his style matches Leftenant Olivera’s.

Hauptmann Rhonda Stiltson: Hauptmann Stiltson is a well-known figure in the Addicks DMM, loved by some, loathed by others due to her cunning nature. She uses her people with as much concern as one shows a pawn on a chessboard, and displays a tactical brilliance that has made her one of the leading lights of the Addicks DMM. In short, she is a model AFFC officer. All of this probably would have earned her a transfer to a frontline unit, it if it wasn’t for the fact that she has turned down such transfers on multiple occasions. She realizes that such a transfer might come with a demotion to Leftenant, and she’s already been a lance leader once.

As it is, she continues to run, in her mind, one of the best light companies in the AFFC, and she has the results to prove it, as she has won multiple awards for excellence in training exercises, and has made that training work in spades in fights with both pirates, and the DCMS. Captain Stilltson likes where she is, and would not trade it for the world.

Hauptmann Stiltson was born in 3009 on Bryceland, her parents ran a small farm and their daughter had exceptional skill behind the controls of an AgroMech. It wasn’t long before she received a scholarship to the Robinson Battle Academy, where she excelled, graduating 3rd in her class in 3029, and then first in her OCS class in 3030. She missed the 4th War by months, but was in the thick of it in the ’39 War with the 17th Avalon Hussars. She won the FedSuns Star for conduct on An-Ting, leading her lance to cover the retreat of a MASH from the advance of the Ryuken.

In 3036, she was promoted to Captain, and sent to the Addicks DMM for what was supposed to be a TDY, but Stiltson settled on Addicks, marrying a local business consultant, and producing two children with him, both are currently serving in the AFFC. Further promotion has been slow, and at 53, it may not be long before Stiltson decides it is time to hang up her spurs. But there is one more war coming, and Stiltson doesn’t want to miss it.

Her Spider is distinctive with gold edging, and is a warning to enemies, that Stiltson and her company have arrived to wreak havoc.

Master Sergeant Khalil Miller: Master Sergeant Miller is a cautious, careful man, so much so, that he is not seen as one of the more effective NCOs in the battalion, he was sent to Stiltson’s Company on the principle that there was little damage he could do there. His promotions have come mostly based on inertia, and the fact that overall, he is a decent ‘Mechwarrior, even if he is an at best, average NCO. At the age of 55, he is thinking very hard about hanging up his spurs, as he realizes his time in the cockpit is slowly ending.

That said, he has been kept there mostly because of his solid loyalty to the Archon Princess on New Avalon, even in the face of the widespread dissatisfaction with her throughout the AFFC, but Miller has always been loyal to whomever occupies the throne, as he is fond of saying, “We salute the rank, not the person wearing it.” But Miller knows, there might be a time he may have to shoot people wearing the same uniform he does.

He is a solid, but overly cautious person in a fight, much to Stiltson’s frustration, and will often try to temper her more aggressive plans, some have made some not so charitable charges that in fact, Miller is little more than a coward. The truth is, he just wants to live to see his grandchildren grow up. The fire in the belly left him a long time ago. His pessimistic nature doubts that will happen, but he has a little bit of hope left that, perhaps, he might beat the odds.

Miller was born in 3007 on Exeter, to a family of accountants, the last thing they thought their only son would want to be was a ‘Mechwarrior, but his early aptitude surprised them, as well as the AFFS recruiter. Miller graduated the Robinson Battle Academy in 3023, and had a very solid record with the 1st Robinson Rangers. He was married (his wife has been deceased three years), with three children, until his oldest died in the Clan invasion with the 2nd New Ivaarsen Chasseurs on Anywhere in 3050. At that point, Miller requested a militia position, which was granted, and he joined Stiltson’s company as the new SNCO, which is a position he holds today. He is a broken man, hurt by the loss of his oldest son, and his wife. He is living simply for his grandchildren, and little else.

Sergeant Anni Andrassen: One of a pair of recent graduates from the Conroe Training Battalion (Class of ’61), Andrassen is very, very green, and her skills show it. Some in the company wonder aloud if she or her fellow ‘Mechwarrior, Jasmine Jansons, should have even been allowed to graduate. But, unlike Jansons, Andrassen shows some promise, and she has a good bit of common sense, her egotistical nature (“I’m a ‘Mechwarrior!”) has rubbed a lot of non- ‘Mechwarrior personnel the wrong way, but it is beginning to soften as she becomes more exposed to the “real” AFFC, and how it really works. As Master Sergeant Miller puts it “Andrassen will settle down, and fly right, she just needs a little time.” Whether she has that time is a very open question, in any event, Stiltson has both ‘Warriors in her lance where she can keep a close eye on them.

Andrassen was born in 3041 to a pair of AFFS vehicle crewmen in the Clovis DMM, both were a pair of devout Unifinished Book believers, and their daughter is the same, and for all of her egotism about being a ‘Mechwarrior, she still follows religiously the tenets of the Unifinished Book movement. She earned a slot with the Conroe Training Battalion because of her academic grades, and her score during the “skull cap” test. She did reasonably well as a cadet, graduating towards the middle of her class, but somehow thinking that she was now part of a “’Mechwarrior elite”. Ironically, it was this attitude that the training battalions were meant to stamp out.

Sergeant Jasmine Jansons: Sergeant Jansons is the embarrassment to a long standing Lyran military family from Skye. Generations of Jansons have served Skye well (and too often, wound up in the ranks of Free Skye), Jasmine, however, as a second child, and a daughter, was enough of a disappointment to her father, but her inability to become little more than a mediocre ‘Mechwarrior led to her father exiling her to the Robinson Battle Academy in Davion space. She was the class goat in the Class of ’61 and was assigned to the Addicks DMM on the virtue of her academic scores (which were top notch). Jansons is simply put, an inept fool behind the controls of her Valkyrie. 

Worse, a burning desire to prove herself to her father, and her nation’s monarch has made her bold to the point of reckless in combat. It’s a combination that might get her killed, and Stillson has decided that it’s best she ride herd on Jansons personally, so at least she survives her four-year enlistment, and she can be quietly mustered out before anything else happens.

(Note: The truth about Jansons is quite different. Her real name is Stephanie Goltz, and she is a LIC operative inserted into the Addicks DMM to ensure the unit remains loyal to Katherine. The rest of her past is fiction, though there was a Jansons family, but it was wiped out during the last Skye Rebellion in 3057. No one in Davion space, except perhaps a historian or an intelligence officer would know that, which makes it a pretty good cover. Her skill is really 4, but she will not reveal it unless the circumstances are dire).

Leftenant Harold Dubois: Leftenant Dubiois is a skilled ‘Mechwarrior and an excellent leader, were he not from a wealthy ‘Mechwarrior family with deep links to the Citizens for Davion Purity, and a cocky bastard to boot, he might be serving with a line regiment somewhere, but his attitude, along with his family’s questionable background, has exiled him to this backwater. To his credit, he has managed to make the best of it, and is an even-tempered, competent leader in combat, and his men tolerate his cockiness away from the cockpit as a result.

Dubois is a graduate of the Robinson Battle Academy, class of ’54, and has done well since graduation, earning a slot in a OCS class in ’56 and graduating towards the top of his OCS class. Promotion in a DMM comes slow, and he has been a Leftenant for 6 years. It’s been frustrating for Dubois, but his family’s background has stalled his career.

Staff Sergeant Melody Russo:  Only daughter of a wealthy family that owns a variety of interests throughout the Federated Suns, Melody has no interest in either becoming heir to the family business, nor being an officer, though she would be competent and well qualified to do both. Instead, she is happy enough piloting the company’s only heavy ‘Mech, and being a Lance SNCO. She likes the challenge of riding herd on Leftenant Dubois, although he is a solid enough Leftenant that she doesn’t have to do that very often.

The rest of the company likes Russo, with her only real vice is being a “foodie”. Any new restaurant in the company’s AO is like a siren song to Russo, and she is an avid fan of cooking shows, using the rest of the company as her gastronomical guinea pigs. To her credit, she is a very good cook and competition to be said guinea pigs is quite fierce, though it is said she passes the annual PT tests by thinner and thinner margins.

Russo graduated in the middle of her class in the Conroe Training Battalion, (class of ’30), she then served with the 22nd Avalon Hussars, until requesting transfer to the Addicks DMM to be closer to her parents. She has developed into a very fine NCO, one that is being consciously groomed for an NCO slot at either battalion or regimental HQ, but that won’t come for a few years at least. The only worry is that she is a bit reckless in a fight, and might get herself killed, but in this, Dubois does a good job of reigning her in.

Sergeant Sumio Hoffmann: Sergeant Hoffmann is a ‘Mechwarrior that is in it for the status. A stereotypical rich kid (and only child to boot), he is lazy to a fault and the bane of Staff Sergeant Russo’s existence, Hoffmann is in and out of all kinds of trouble, mostly of the wild parties and paternity suit kind. He’s been kicked out of three other units, including the Clovis DMM, and wound up here as kind of a “last chance” before an other than honorable discharge.

Hoffmann knows this and is determined to straighten out and fly right, or at least, what he thinks is straighten up and fly right. So far, his own efforts have done little but frustrate Staff Sergeant Russo. That said, he is a competent ‘Mechwarrior who is smart and even-tempered in a fight, all things said, he does well enough.

A graduate of the Sakahara Academy, class of ’59, he was something of a dubious legend, as his spoiled and lazy ways cut quite the swath through the academy and surrounding community. His graduation was seen as “good riddance.”

Sergeant Walker Salcedo: Sergeant Salcedo is an obnoxious fellow who thinks money equals some sort of moral superiority, and he is willing to do anything to get the kind of money he thinks would make him a good person. His appeals to the other members in the company to invest in his “get rich quick” schemes have managed to alienate just about everyone. He’s even been decked by Max Andreyev, which surprised everyone.

Salcedo is also a graduate of the Conroe Training Battalion, class of ’45, and his parents were both teachers on Exeter, who were surprised that their son aspired to be a ‘Mechwarrior. Salcedo is almost embarrassed of his origins, and his attempts to “kiss up” to the wealthier members of the company is another black mark against him as far as the rest of the company is concerned.

His combat style is bold, almost reckless, and is met with grudging admiration and concern, depending on who you ask.