Archives for December 2008

Action Report – Christmas in Boston 2008

This is mega late – as you can see I’ve been writing but with my time constraints most of my posts have ended up as drafts with the later intention of finalizing them. I’m only about 2 months late on this one…

It is ungodly early as I sit here with coffee thinking about the forced march from Nashville into Yankeedom up North of Boston. I hear it will warm up a bit there today for us and not be sub-zero like it was this past week in Massachusetts. That is good solace. Winter in Tennessee is like a good pop-star: looks pretty for a day and then goes away on world tour. Winter in New England… that is another thing my dear reader. They got dumped on with >>2 feet (0.6m) of snow that even today’s planned high of 40F (4.44C) won’t melt it away.

Tonight will be the usual multi-course ethnic meal involving spagetti, lobster and about 2 metric tons of appetizers/deserts/other edibiles. Italians don’t kid around with Christmas. Then there will be the toys… while the kids are acting like the UN Food Relief truck just showed up, I’ll be calmly thinking about all the gifts the family “got” me. Ok, they handed me cash and I smartly spent it! Included under my tree this year are:

Lt. Dragomira, 1x RPG Kolossus team, 2x Nakovalny (to go with the one I already have), 2x Nakovalny Sierp (again to fill out the 1 I already have), 1x Baal Golgoth (absolutely beautiful), Operation Damoclese campaign book and the much better than expected Operation Frostbite. So this is a very merry AT-43 Christmas already!

With that I hope that everyone reading this list has a happy holiday season and that all your wars are on the tabletop. I for one think that 2008 could have gone better but I am very much looking forward to 2009. With a wrecked economy, high unemployment, my own needed back surgery – it can only go up from here! I’ll do my part to make things better. Always remember that no matter how bad the economy gets – friendship’s value is never diminished.

1B7331 – clever reader comes up with a new angle

Tonight I was contacted by the very clever and talented Deric Stowell who suggested the number on the vehicle is hexadecimal code. He plugged it into a browser and saw the result was green, perhaps the color of the car. I did the same but used photo editing software and saw it was actually more of a forest green. Still, that would have been a funny joke if it had been the hex representation of the color of the Ford Fordor.
This attack angle led me to look up the ascii chart for wisdom… none – unless one of you knows what [esc] [%] [s] means!
I also looked up IB7331 (note the letter I instead of a 1) which is a flight from Cordoba so Santiago… 1B733i and iB733i both turned up nothing. While the flight seems interesting we know logically that correlation does not mean causation – there seems to be nothing to tie this back to the film series.
So while it is an interesting attack so far it seems to be a dead end. However, many thanks go to Derrick for this clever new approach to the problem.

AT-43 – Building a Karman Army

I’ve started to look at my collection of Karman troops. I don’t have any vehicles yet but I have around 50 infantry troops. I had hoped that this would be enough to field a 2000 point Libra Army… wow was I in for sticker shock.

I collected the Karmans the same way I collect other things – I like the look so I buy them. Well little did I know how incredibly expensive the Karman infantry is. I put together two 2000 point lists with 500 pts in reserve. This has been one of the most difficult Armies to work with! The problem is that the units are really expensive. A full size Yeti squad is 680 points. Gracious. Thankfully Rackham came out with the concept of fielding teams or this list would not have been possible. Karmans seem to be destined for games with 3000 and 4000 points per side.

Here is what I took. My command squad consists of 8 Wendigos with 2 Drum Gun special weapons and Venerable Cornelius. This is my main anti-infantry squad – and should be able to lay down 40 (count ’em!) dice at accuracy 5 and penetration 6. With the Concentrate Fire! ability they get to re-roll missed damage rolls. Ouchie.

My Fast Attack option (oops wrong game!) are my Yetis. These are apes in power suits that fly on jet packs and pack decent guns. Yeah, you should be afraid. They also have rocket launchers which have a modest anti-tank capability. They certainly can take on Type III infantry in heavy power armor but they will find it hard going against Type II and especially Type III AFVs.

My dedicated Anti-Vehicle team are 2 Kaptar ZZ-Guns – 6 accuarcy and 2 shots each with a reroll. The penetration of 15 means most heavily armored vehicles will fear it. Even Defense 18 vehicles will be penetrated on a 5 or 6.

Finally I round my army out with K-Warriors and their Mortar Guns. The Armor of 11 should let them survive a little while. The mortars should prove pretty handy against infantry and Type I striders. Since they are infantry they will not be targeted by lock-shot weapons. They have armor similar in thickness to the UNA type I striders so it will take some pretty dedicated attacks to really take them out.

Overall I would say my main weakness is against vehicles here. The ZZ-Guns are useful BUT not well protected. It will require thinking very carefully how they deploy. Once they are lost I am down to desperation measures when taking on vehicles. That pretty much means I will have lost all possible initiative until the enemy vehicles are destroyed.

This army has excellent mobility right up there with the Therians. Any Army with jump troops can grab objectives quickly. Thankfully my jump troops can handle infantry and vehicles to a certain degree.

The surviveablity of this army is good considering two of the units have medics and Libra armies can bring back 1 soldier of the unit per medic that was lost. This will make the medics priority targets for snipers and dirty tricks so the key will be to keep them in cohesion but as well out of sight as is possible for an 8′ tall power armored ape!

There are a lot of power grips in this army – while these are really last chance weapons against vehicles it is a comfort knowing they are there. Also, when dealing with melee heavy troops, the 7 melee strength will really come in handy.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this army plays out. I think I will definitely want to get some vehicles and try a 3000 point game in the future.

Keanu-Barada-Necktie: New Day The Earth Stood Still movie delivers

*** Spoiler Alert: This review will contain spoilers. The non-Spoiler summary is: Good film, an honest adaptation of the 1951 film to the reality of 2008. Worth your movie dollar. ***

*** edited – stupid mistakes and awkward wording fixed – addendum added ***

A friend once discussed with me the concept of a remake. While the trend for many years was to milk a popular franchise and remake classics in a hope to milk their good name for profits – the better strategy, my friend opined, was to remake clunkers with promise. the idea is that the classics are already loved and your film will always be compared to them. Clunkers with promise however leave you free to be more expressive and if you outshine them your film will be forever remembered. I’ve always felt that The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of those movies. The original is a cult classic but it does not hold up to modern standards at all. There are plenty of classics that came from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that are still enjoyable to watch today. However, TDTEST 1951 is not one of them. The only thing that really stood the test of time was the look and menace of GORT. However, looking back, even that Iconic robot looks a bit silly as if he is wearing diapers. Still, he is clearly one of the most identifiable robots in film.

The original is an amazing window into the mindset of 1951 with a science fiction theme. It was meant to be a statement on the not-so Cold War (in 1951 the world was trying to figure out the crisis in Korea – which oddly today we are still trying to figure out.) In 1951 women had their place, kids were good and innocent and well adjusted, commies were all bad and America was the place to go if you wanted to speak to the world, or so they thought. The United Nations was established just 6 years prior but even in 1951 there was not universal representation of Mankind there. The Iconic UN HQ building in New York had just been completed, probably during the filming of the movie and was not iconic yet!

Interestingly enough, while the UN wasn’t relevant to speak to mankind in 1951, here in 2008 it has again become irrelevant – so much of our diplomacy has been outside the bounds of the UN. The UN is, in my opinion, actually pretty much the cause of many of the problems we have in the world today stemming from bad decisions and, in the last 10 years, corruption.

In 2008 Klaatu comes to Earth seeking to speak before it’s representatives. His ship lands in Central Park, Manhattan. He is seeking the UN. The movie doesn’t make it clear if he intended to walk or catch a cab, but pretty much no one in the audience is surprised to find out he got shot in the park at night! Yeah, we all frickin’ heart NYC.

A major point of departure between the two films are the characterizations of the two other lead roles – Helen Benson is now DR. Helen Benson (exo-microbiology) and her husband’s son Jacob (nee Bobby). This pair are mixed race which in 2008 isn’t worth commenting on excepts for the fact that in 1951 it would have been an amazing concept that would have struck at the national divide on race back then. 57 years later we don’t think anything of it. Another departure is that while the female character isn’t strong and full of bravado, she is smart and respected for that, she is compassionate and she takes risks in spite of her fear.

Another departure is that of the reason Klaatu and Gort come calling. In the 1951 version, Klaatu is like your favorite science teacher who sees your grades are slipping and has come to try and help you get those grades up so you don’t have to retake the class over the summer. The 2008 version is more like the Head Master who is sick and tired of your antics and already has the paper written up for your expulsion. This change in attitude gives the new Klaatu a very menacing feel and gives added urgency in resolving the problem. In 1951 Klaatu comes bearing gifts and an urgent need to speak some sense into our minds. In 2008 he brings no gifts saying, wisely, our troubles won’t be solved by technology. In 1951 Klaatu was worried about nuclear war. We seem to have that one under control. So in 2008 Klaatu is concerned about our environment. Now – this is probably the most political point made in the movie. Global Warming cause primarily by Man is a belief held by many. I’m skeptical of this for many reasons but there is no doubt that the things we are doing (burning fossil fuels for energy) do add to global warming. What is not clear is the science saying we are heading for global disaster nor is the science clear on exactly how to reverse the trend of a warming planet. The “cap and trade” system for carbon credits was crafted, in part, by Kenneth Lay of Enron fame and the whole concept was devised by Maurice Strong who has stated he is a socialist by ideology and a capitalist by methodology… So as far as I am concerned the whole Global Warming thing may be an issue but there are people out there looking to make a buck off of it. The point of bringing up my own beliefs that many of you won’t share is that I have mixed feelings about the statement the movie is making. We do have pollution and we do land use methods that are destructive. However I am not convinced that we are in crisis – so for me the message of the movie was a bit muted. However the suspension of disbelief can begin here. I’ll just assume the Space UN knows more about the fragility of ecosystems. In the movie Klaatu states that planets capable of sustaining complex life are few and far between – which probably is true! This does make a great case for why we should be concerned about the environment from the standpoint of our galaxy – it gives the Earth much greater importance. So that is what got me through what Klaatu was saying – we can’t destroy the ecosphere and hope to inhabit other worlds. Our ecosphere is rare enough to be valuable to the entire Galaxy.

GORT remains the same, for the most part. He is much bigger in this film and a bit more modern looking. I saw a fan picture comparing him to Talos, the giant man of Bronze who protected Europa via Crete. The new GORT kicks ass. He isn’t the slow moving GORT of 1951 that would take centuries to exterminate mankind. No, this one is much, much deadlier. The scenes with GORT are pretty kick ass. They had fun with him and so the audience gets to enjoy him too. I won’t ruin the fun but watch the film and you’ll know what I mean.

The final departure is the way in which Klaatu goes out. In the 1951 film he gets gunned downed like a punk and has to have his new girl friend stop the crazy robot. In 2008 he has to be persuaded the Earth needs saving because the decision to destroy it has already been made. When he makes that decision it requires his own self sacrifice. In 2008 the day the Earth stood still wasn’t a demonstration of his power to frighten us into change; it marked the moment we were spared with a chance to make things right.

Critics of the new film label it “preachy”. Did they SEE the first film? How can a film about someone coming to punish mankind not sound preachy? Get past it – it is part of the formula here and not some flaw you could correct. Seriously, a wishy washy Klaatu would have been a HUGE mistake.

Critics have pointed out that Keanu’s acting is emotionless. That isn’t exactly true – first off he is an alien. Second – Keanu is exactly the weepy hunk that breaks down looking at sunsets. That said his mission is one of dire consequences so his two main emotions are seriousness and anger. It is compassion that moves him in the end. This last scene would be perhaps a bit more powerful if he as an actor would have shown a more human side to Klaatu. I am not really a good critic of acting – but Keanu’s character is different than the characters from his other films. For many reasons people either love or hate that about him. He clearly has enough fans to get his films made.

The Day the Earth Stood Still made $31 million this weekend. Not a runaway block buster but not a bad showing either. It was in 1st place by more than 2:1. I’m not sure what will replace it for top spot next week but Will Smith will be debuting so I’d give that odds on as being the favorite next week. Bruce Campbell, in a daring move, has gone up against Mr. Smith with his film “My Name is Bruce” which I would very much like to see!

*** Addendum ***
Ok some things that bothered me in the film but aren’t important. The military uses sidewinders on GORT. What? Sidewinders have been upgraded for ages. In fact the first prototypes were launched in 1951. No, you read that right – at the time the first movie came out! Why not drop SDMs on that robot? How about a hellfire (what a predator class UCAV typically carries anyhow?) Sidewinders are air-to-air missiles. Anyway – clearly no one with any military experience was consulted in the writing of the script.

One blogger commented that John Cleese is the only credible actor in the whole movie and he dilivers his lines as if he is trying to “to awake some extremely well hidden acting potential in [Reeves].” Hilarious. Again I am not one to comment on good or bad acting. I can tell you what I don’t like. I didn’t really care one way or the other about Reeves acting in this film. I thought he was well cast.

The same blogger also says he loves the original. Really? I mean the kid is beyond corny and goofy – today it would be comedy to portray a kid like that. Patricia Neel was hired because she had a great set of tits and could scream well. Michael Rennie gives an equally corny and fake feeling job of acting. The newsman wearing the hat on TV… I don’t even know where to begin with that one. The whole, “we enslaved ourselves to a robot race and they are pretty much going to kick your ass if you don’t act all peaceful” is as good an invitation as Mankind needs to build the biggest fricking A-bombs possible, put them on space ships and go a conquering other planets! Seriously – the older film is fun to watch but mainly because it is so unitentionally funny and not because it is great film making. Ahhhh…. and now I’ve ranted again. Sigh. I am known for my long out of my mind rants and this is one of them. Best to stop now.

Go see the movie and decide for yourself.

AT-43 AAR – Mission 4 Skirmish

Well, this blog has proven to have at least one use – a local AT-43 player I’d not yet met found me through it. We had a fun game today – which I really needed. I’ve been having bad back problems and have been cooped up for days. Thankfully today I felt well enough in the afternoon to get out.

He brought UNA and I brought my Therians along with my brand new Baal! I quickly rushed together a company just prior to the game. I had the Baal as my follow on choice. The rest was infantry and 1 Heckat. My thought was I would be able to capture some of the control points and have enough RP to bring that bad boy on. Well, It was a nice thought.

The Skirmish mission is very tough. There are 8 deployment zones and minor cover on a 60cm x 120cm map. Basically the game involves on turn 1 units appearing in the deployment zones, receiving overwatch fire if they move and shooting. Since the range is quite close this is a very deadly game indeed. In fact for us it lasted 2 turns. I lost horribly. My able opponent captured the two control points and had enough RP (reserve points) to call in his full reserve on the next turn. My reserve consisted of my Baal which was 1/3rd of my points! ouch! So it never left the lift platform to come and fight.

I was a bit rusty on the rules but I recently did a re-organization. I put all my cards into trading card sleeve protector sheets and put those in a three ring binder. This handy binder also had room for a dry erase marker and protective sleeves for my striders, a regular pen, a collimated laser (produces a line not a dot!), the rule book, the Damoclese campaign book, 4 codexes and finally the cheat sheet with whose help I still managed to muck things up with. I am blaming the medicine I am on! 😉

I spent a few hours this week repairing things that were broke. The most interesting and sadly necessary repair concerned rifles missing from my Karman’s after they were dropped en masse. My substitute? Tau Pulse Carbines! Painted up they work just right!

Tiamat lost one of her arms… again for the millionth time. I put on stickier glue this time. Super glue just wasn’t cutting it.

I fixed over a dozen Karmen’s who lost things like neck rings, arms, pauldrons, guns and one which basically broke into all of it’s component pieces!

I should also mention I got a ton of stuff during the FFG 67% off sale. I got a ton of Red Block stuff (Nakos with gauss and mortar to give me two units of 3 each!) I got RPG Kollosus, the Therian Baal (type V strider of doom) and the two campaigns. Frostbite did not seem worth the $60 retail but at $20 it was a steal. My price threshold on that one was around $30. I’ve gotten tons of AT-43 at around 50% off so that is why. My latest purchases put about $300 worth of stuff in my hands for $100. I am letting family use these purchases as gifts to me! I’ve found this works out best around Christmas. Leave it up to them and I’ll end up with 1/32 scale German WWII tanks. (This has already happened!)

Anyway, it was nice to get out and game again. My next game hopefully will be playtesting the finalized first mission of MAW (see my previous blog post)

More ideas on MOUT game

I’ve gotten some great feedback privately on the MOUT game. I’ve been trying to come up with a new name for it. Today while in a waiting room I mulled it over. I’ve suggested in the last couple of days just calling it “The War” and removing any reference to actual units and politics. I would retain the tactical issues and the issues of ROE and cultural differences. I would incorporate the concepts of soft power, intelligence gathering, community policing along with COIN (Counter Insurgency). Mixing MOUT with COIN concepts is clearly a win. So the new name I am suggesting is simply “Modern Asymmetric Warfare.” This will further the generalization of the concept. I have other ideas on this as well.

One of the criticisms I got came from an Army officer who didn’t like some of the missions as stated. He especially didn’t like Article 15. However he had some great suggestions for changes. In the Article 15 one the unit would eventually discover the allegations against the Captain were false. However I can see how without that spoiler it would seem like I was pushing a negative and unfair picture of things – especially if this was a simulation of the US in either Iraq or Afghanistan. So I plan on changing that mission up – still maintaining paranoid fear but recasting it. Which leads me to the next interesting change…

Forces will be described as Blue, Red, Green or Tan. Blue are your guys or strong allies. Red are unmitigated foes. Green are allies you might not always trust. Tan are enemies you’d like to convert to friends. This covers the range pretty well. It divorces the game from actual combats around the world and, more importantly, the politics surrounding them. This leaves us with the tactical situation and the issues I find important.

In Asymmetrical warfare you have two very different approaches. The developed, high-tech side has an interest in progressing civilization and perhaps the status quo. They use technology to a great degree in how they fight. They have advanced combat skills and discipline. They have a high regard for life and a strong interest in observing International Law and fighting Just War. Opposed to this is a generally low-tech foe who is certainly not happy with the status quo. They want change and will attempt to achieve it at any cost, even if they must go against law and ethics. They use low-tech counters to thwart the high tech advantage of their foe. They have a low regard for life and limb. They tend to break contact when possible – choosing to attack in ambush only.

I’ve set about designing this game with the players being the high-tech, developed, law abiding side. I remain firmly committed to this and now I want to make it clear that this is the only option I’ll consider in what I publish. I don’t see the point or the challenge in attempting to simulate an opponent who is interested in law and order while the players act as the asymmetric opponents. The real challenge is acting ethically even when your opponent does not.

That said I am still very much interested in creating a game with mission objectives but not victory conditions. Each mission can end in many ways. The challenges you will face will differ. I want the end result to be discussion about what happened and what insight were gained more than just a tally of the dead and score at the end.

I’ll publish a revised list of scenarios later on. I will also rewrite the introduction to strongly advocate the ideals above. This project is really coming into focus now. I hope that it will change in many ways the way in which we approach gaming. I don’t know if my way is the best way of gaming sensitive topics but I do hope that it generates good and thoughtful discussion.

A couple of years ago I had a discussion about a scenario you just could not run. It involved diplomats leading groups of Chinese into the Safety Zone of Nanking. The whole subject was just not useful for gaming because of the notorious atrocities committed in real life in that city. Those diplomats had a tough problem dodging Japanese patrols trying to save as many people as they could – and it was a noble effort. However the politics have made it impossible to even consider examining that potential scenario. However if you divorce a game from the real life inspiration – make it just a game about avoiding patrols – well that can be done. Using the exact same setup but not calling the place Nanking and not calling the opponent the Japanese you have made unplayable playable.

Pretty soon the first scenario will be done and ready for play testing. I have several play testers available now. I am hoping that with the fantastic feedback I got and the great enthusiasm people are showing this project we will soon have something out there for public consumption.