End of Month, Start Anew

Last week, I had the fun of my first consultancy moment. Just me and a client wanting to know a bit about likely trade issues in a non-EU domain. I considered it went well, but I’ll only know more if I get any feedback with the payment. But it was certainly a pleasant alternative to the way I used to do my old workstuff.

I also now have new IT in the homestead, and it’s great using new powerful kit properly set up to how I had it back in my old office. And there’s a new A3 printer/copier sitting alongside the desk, ready to use for all the gaming and mapping ideas I’ve had.

And so hopefully, with all that set-up sorted, plus some building work completed on the house, and other issues resolved, I now have the clear-path ahead to do more of what I want. The re-enactment season is closed too, after a great year with a handful of events we really enjoyed, so it will be great to pack all that stuff away until spring.

First up, I want to get back to the Martians I plan to complete for the Space 1889 project with TMWWBK rules. As I said before, there’s plenty of Elves of various designs awaiting some conversion work.  It will be good practice for getting back into figure-painting. I have a few other units I want completed, but those I intend to entrust to one of the best painters I know. And then there’s that table-cloth idea for a pseudo-Martian surface, and some various terrain items to go on it.

Once that project gets back underway, I need to finish reading some recent book acquisitions that are all about the Italian Wars, Renaissance military aspects, and other era-related material. Hopefully then I’d have re-discovered my own painting techniques and abilities in order to do a decent job on some of the Renaissance 28mm I have also amassed from various purchases.

Meantime, to satiate actual gaming fixes, I now have plenty of fantasy 28mm to be able to put on a variety of encounters using the Dragon Rampant rules. DR remains for my personal choice as the best and quickest ‘go-to‘ set in order to have a game laid out and underway with the minimum amount of fuss and time spent. It might all have a pseudo-LotR flavour to it, but that just saves me time from generating background content and context.

So a new phase to move towards. Looking forward to it too.

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More Martian Miniatures

So not only have I re-discovered nearly all the items I spent the last fifteen years squirreling away for the Space 1889 project, I’ve now obtained yet more stuff.

Last year, at one of the wargame shows in Northern England, I acquired 3 of Ainsty’s naval gun carriages. I decided then these would be perfect for Heavy Guns taken off some Canal Martian Screw Galley or War Kite for land service – just in mimicry of the Royal Naval practice to put naval ordnance on to field carriages for Bluejackets to contribute to the British land campaigns.

I’ve also picked up more Grenadier UK Wood Elves and High Elves thanks to Forlorn Hope Games. I’ve always thought these would make useful Hill Martians and Canal Martians. Next phase here is to get some practice in converting some to be armed with muskets. That’s some modelling and scratch-building work I’ve not done for a long time.

And I also took advantage of one of Black Tree Designs periodic sales and picked up some Anglo-Zulu War bits for the British but more elves from their fantasy range to also convert into armed Canal Martians.

Finally, the older stuff I had is now based up and awaits a decent coat of varnish. And I’ll brush it on – using some Winsor & Newton matt acrylic varnish. Still not quite ready to pray-and-spray just yet.

So the project gathers momentum. More info and pix soon.

 

Wargaming priorities

So decided my quickest and easiest ‘win’ to get something achieved and onto the tabletop will be my Elven-Martians for Space 1889. I have about 50 figures almost completed, just needing some basing detail and some protective varnish. Plus, there’s some odds here and there that shouldn’t be too hard to get painted up to augment those items.

And, the bonus here is that re-staring painting again, I can do so with something pseudo-historical so it’s not ultra important if my painting takes a while to get back up to a reasonable standard, and in itself will be good practice for painting techniques when I do get the historical projects back out.

 

Space 1889: Martian Forces

As I’ve been passing the last few days mainly on my laptop, as work on the house revolves around me, with the sorting out of household, pension and employment affairs, I’ve been browsing and re-visiting a few blogs that inspire me. Amongst those are fellow fans of GW’s Space 1889 – especially those who have taken that old genre into wargaming.

Many moons ago – well over a decade ago now – I hit upon the idea of using old Grenadier UK Elves (28mm) as proxies for Martians, as acquiring RAFM figures was expensive and time-consuming. I had also dabbled with another make – I forget the name now – but I always came back to the old Grenadier UK stuff. I purchased odd bits found at bring-&-buys at wargame shows, blister packs scoured from bargain boxes and buckets, and the occasional win on EBay. The intention was always to have enough to tabletop combat encounters within RPG sessions and end up with enough for battles using ‘Soldier’s Companion‘ rules.

It seems I wasn’t the only one to appreciate Grenadier UK’s work. Hence, I find myself now getting more and more inspired by others, who’ve sourced ‘alternates’ to provide additional forces for the Martians. Some orders have been placed, the existing stuff that’s been painted has been found and basing touch-ups are planned, and I even have some ideas on sorting out some conversion work – e.g., Dark Elf crossbowmen will be re-armed with muskets and muzzle-loading rifles.

The ambition is to ensure I have enough to start trialing some British/Human vs. Martian City States tabletop encounters using the ‘MWWBK‘ rules too. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘Soldier’s Companion‘ book is a great resource, but I find the rules are too slow and slightly cumbersome for what I want. The fact that I have so much finished or on the point of almost complete provides me the nudge to get this project rolled forward to a new milestone as well.

In addition to that, after the success in making a green base cloth from the fleece fabric I acquired in Carlisle Market, I intend to do the same with a brown lump of fleece I got for working up a Martian surface. This will involve spray painting with lighter ochre and yellow hues, and adding some scatter and flock, and I’m hoping I’ll create something suitable with the ideas I have. This should then be adequate to use for one-off games, simpler to set-up and easier to design a wide variety of terrain layouts.

And then there’s the attraction of adding aerial assets – gunboats and sky galleons and skiffs – something I’ve not been involved with before, but keen to explore further.

This might just get expensive.

 

Proposed menu for Brew-Up

A mix of boardgames and wargames will be the fare for whoever braves the journey to the Wall.

Certainly for wargaming, I want to delve into two of Mr Mersey’s titles – ‘Dragon Rampant‘ and ‘The Men Who Would Be Kings‘.

DR can be used in whatever setting, even for something made up on the fly. It’s useful as you  can mix up forces from some company’s ‘codex’ with something completely historical as it’s opposition. And half the fun is the construction of the Warband and in providing it some sort of back-story. We’ve used Dark Elves against Border Reivers before – and my Reivers won (bless the gods for the wonder that is blackpowder!). Then again, I suspect that we may have been playing the Start-Turn and Activations slightly wrong (Ooops!)

TMWWBK is also another I’m keen to trial with the chaps, as this actually has great potential for the VSF stuff we do, especially any Space 1889 actions. Again, it’s a perfect toolkit of rules that allows you so much potential to adapt them to give the games you want, that can then fit into the campaign setting we already have established. I’ve been steadily collecting, adapting and painting (OK, that last one – others have been painting) allsorts of Elvish forces that I can then use for the Canal Martian forces of the Oenotrian Empire and others for the Hill Martians of the Steppes. I now have quite a few, but it’s a bit of a jumble, as I really need to sort them out into proper units – to set out some of the Bands and Companies of the native enemies of the Humans who’ve come to play out the Great Game on Mars.

As for the boardgaming – well, we are spoilt for choice admittedly, but the ones I think we’ll get onto the tabletop include Classic Warlord, Fury of Dracula (3rd Edition), perhaps one of the COIN games from GMT, and some of the old classics I have too. In fact, there’s so many that are good options, I can leave having to list them for now.

And it means the DoMA (Department of Messing About) gets it’s first proper playing session. While the room out back is not quite finished – two walls still need to be lined inside properly and then a good re-painting and some carpet – it’s been interesting to set up the tables and trugs to see the potential layout. It’s a good space, plenty of spare area around a central flat surface, and the daylight fluoro-tubes certainly improve the lighting too. I’ve even experimented on one of my gametable cloths, a very cheap lump of green fleece – hanging it in the garage while I spray adhesive mounting glue and then shake green flock of various shades all over. The shaker was simple improvisation – an empty Pringles tube with holes pierced in the lid. Load up with a few spoons of flock, spray glue and shake. And the reliable hairspray sprayed last to provide some way of fixing it all. We shall see how it works but it was a fun and cheap exercise to dabble with.

Just some last bits of printing, and then some rules reading tonight to crib up on what’s possible, and then all set to begin tomorrow evening. Been good to get back into the mood too.

Finally, below there’s an overhead snap of the Graustark/Axphain game I set up a few months back. Apologies it’s a bit fuzzy, it was a quick point-&-click on my mobile.

This was a dabble with the TMWWBK rules, showing some of the terrain I’ve made or acquired – and also shows what the greencloth used to look like. That should remind me to take plenty of pix for the games played over this weekend.

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‘Mudd’s Martian Canals & Waterways’

‘Martian Canals & Waterways & the Native Vessels Upon Them’ – Captain William Mudd RN

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There is a wondrous beauty in the straight waterlines of this red planet. As meltwater flows from the planet’s polar caps, so you see the tidal surging, high and low, of the vast broad canals carved out of the surface by long forgotten masters. To have such power to score these lines is a marvel in itself. Today these waterways are the trading lifeblood for much of the heavier cargoes between the City States, and indeed if you are not blessed with the access to the waterways, with your docks, mills, bridges, viaducts, channels, ponds, acquifiers, weirs, gantries, promenades and embankments, many of those remote cities have settled into dust.

Syrtis Major and the Colony are blessed with well-maintained canals and waterways that have seen the city flourish, even more so now that we have brought the designs and formulaes of our Imperial trade and commerce. Fortunes are to be made upon these routes, many have relocated from the Empire on Earth to develop the trade routes on Mars.

And dear reader, think not of Birmingham canals with their tidy towpaths. These waterways are often two, three or even four or five miles wide.

The Martian watercraft, of which there is a breath-taking variety and number, are quaint contraptions from a bygone age back on Earth. Many are sail-craft, very much akin to the ‘dhows’ and ‘junks’ you would encounter from the Gulf of Aden eastwards to the South China Seas. Some are trading boats, fishermen, luggers, haulers, and some are even family residences. Many have some form of defensive armament, ranging from ballistae and catapults to small lightweight muzzle-loading cannon. All manner of cargo are carried from city to city, and to all the settlements along the well-irrigated and planted banks between the great residences.

Often you see the mightiest Martian vessels, the nobility’s own craft, quite literally you could call these vessels floating palaces. Some of these great rafts and barges will cruise for months upon end, touring the canals on some great parade, to demonstrate the wealth and rank of their owning clans and families. Some of these are transport hulks too, great freighters gliding silent in the Martian breezes, laden with goods of all forms and descriptions. While the skies still have much of the fast traffic, unfettered by the flow and direction of canals, the waterways still carry much of the everyday common trade.

The Martians have substantial naval vessels on the waterways as well. Many follow the similar design principles found on their aerial vessels. So that wind power from sails is still used for many boats, but so too will you find that the ‘handcrank’ has been connected to short stubby paddles. Great reserves of manpower from the lower Martian classes of the City dwellers provide the muscle needed. And of course, those same crew can easily be armed with all manner of weaponry. Frighteningly fierce boarding actions can erupt between hostile opposing clans. The Martian warships are an imposing presence in sight and sound, and thankfully the accounts of blatant piracy involving these vessels are very few.

Generally the Martian watercraft are simple straightforward designs, often locally built and fashioned from the wood resources not used for aerial vessels. Some are competently designed and built, some look more patched-up and ramshackle. Many of the smaller vessels are quite old, twenty to fifty years of service being a steady average life. With a minimal amount of marine life to worry about to degrade the vessels, much of the hazards to contend with are windstorms and tidal surges.

It is still most convenient to refer to the sections and components of any vessel – our own or the Martians – in the best terminology we have employed for the last few centuries.

While more humans employ and explore the benefits of the aerial ways, the canals and waterways will continue to prove to be the crucial arteries of this planet. For it is still Nature’s way that water – the life-giving liquid for humanity and Martiankind alike – remains the single most important asset in these lands.

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‘Taken from an early issue of the renowned Parhoon Gazette, this copy of Captain Mudd’s article is available from the library of the Traveller’s Club, Parhoon.’


This is a sample of some of the background material I have drafted for our Space 1889 campaigns. It means the players can collect an informative folder of details and extras, always useful for future reference. I have a lot scribbled down in notebooks that either needs scanning or transcribing. Another set of tasks for the ‘to-do‘ list.

 

 

Space 1889 Game Notes & Basic Information – Part 1

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1.0 Attributes, Skills and Tasks

1.1 Attributes still range from 1 (low) to 6 (high) as in the original rules. It’s also important to remember that no Skill linked to a specific Attribute can ever exceed the Attribute score. It can however equal it.

E.g., With Strength 4, then Fisticuffs, Throwing, and any Close Combat or Trimsman skill cannot exceed 4.

1.2 Skills are always linked to a governing Attribute. No Skill exists on its own, outside of the Attribute format. For any Task test the Skill used takes precedence, with the Attribute providing just a simple bonus to the Skills dice score.

1.3 Tasks range in increasing Difficulty levels, and remain exactly as they are listed in the original Space 1889 rules. The target number for the Difficulty rating has to be equalled or exceeded in any Task test. Referee will state the Difficulty level for the Task, characters then make their attempts.

Task Difficulty Levels
Difficulty Rating Target Level
Easy Target 4
Moderate Target 8
Difficult Target 12
Formidable Target 16
Impossible Target 20

 

2.0 Task Attempts Method

2.1 This does differ from the original rules. Once a Referee announces what sort of Task is at hand, characters can attempt to achieve that Task with the pertinent skills, backed up by their Attributes. If the character has no relevant skill, there may be an opportunity to use the Attribute alone, depending on circumstance and the Referee’s discretion.

2.2 Once the Task Difficulty is announced, the character has a number of D6 equal to their current score in that skill.

E.g., for a Swimming Task, and the character has Swimming 2, then use 2d6.

Then the governing Attribute is included too, but only as a positive bonus modifier to apply to the total score achieved on the skill dice.

E.g., for the Swimming example above, the character has Endurance of 3 (Endurance being the governing Attribute for Swimming).

This then creates the necessary details for the Task Attempt and its Target Level. (The character’s abilities are especially useful to then enter into the Rolz online dice-resolution system.)

E.g., Continuing with the Swimming Task Attempt – it is a Moderate Task (Target = 8) – the character has Swimming 2 under Endurance 3, providing a 2d6 +3 for the Task Attempt.

2.3 Dice are rolled and the score is modified by the Attribute, to then see whether the final result means the Task Attempt has been successful or not.

E.g., the 2d6 are rolled, scoring ‘2’ and ‘3’, for a total dice score of ‘5’. With the Attribute of ‘+3’ then added on the final result is ‘8’ – the character has just passed the Swimming Task.

2.4 Any dice roll that scores all ‘1’s is an automatic failure, and the Referee has the discretion to apply additional penalties or problems. In contrast to that, if all the dice rolled score ‘6’s, then this is an overwhelming success, and the Referee may decide to reward the character, there or later on.


Link for the Rolz site: https://rolz.org/