Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

And as Tiny Tim observed, "God bless us, every one!" I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

Monday 17 December 2012

No star system will dare oppose the Federation now

I received a few more recently released models from Mongoose the other day, two Ramius-class Battle Frigates (dangerous, heavily-armed little Federation ships), and the new Mars-class Battleship and Gettysburg-class Heavy Command Cruiser (a further modification of my beloved Constitution-class). I am very happy to report that they went together without any hassle at all. Why, I didn't even end up applying GS as a back-up glue. I did knock the starboard pylon off the Gettysburg, but in all honesty that was sheer butterfingers. They are very nice to put together. They also arrived within two days, which was great! In terms of background, of fluff, if you will, the Gettysburg appears to come from a computer game, while the Mars is a hypothetical design never constructed in the SFU. I think. The important thing is that it's bloody huge! The folk at the Mongoose forum had promised to produce their stats by the "end of the week", which was, technically, Saturday night, but I rather suspected they meant Sunday night, anyway, so no harm done.Having just peered at the forum, they seem to be a bit busy. Ah, well, if they're shipping hundreds of things just before Christmas, it's understandable. I am looking forward to popping it down on the table and then throwing a squadron of other ships at it! Here are the four ships, plus a resin Constitution.

Friday 14 December 2012

We have been adopted

I was up early every day the other week, of which more anon. When I went out to defrost my car I found a cat. This cat has been visiting us for ages, perhaps years, to collect some of the food we leave out, and has been so ubiquitous of late that Mum buys him cat food of a Saturday, doling some out to him daily. We originally started leaving out food to attract the local badgers, but over the years it has got ridiculously out of hand, and there are not just badgers, but cats, foxes, waddlings of ducks, and even the occasional hedgehog (who ate quite contentedly beside the badger). On this occasion the cat was asleep. The day before, Mum had put an old duvet outside, ready to take it to the tip, and the cat was wrapped up in it, all snug, or snugger than if the feline had no duvet at all. Every morning I went out he or she was there, and we inevitably did not have the heart to throw away the duvet. A little after two this morning, I popped out to my car to fetch some things, and there, snuggled up in the duvet was the cat, sound asleep until this great lunking human came clomping around and shining torchlight at the back of an innocent feline head.

There's no question of the little chap coming inside. That is not because we are secretly diabolical villains or so terrified of cat hairs on furniture that we would let someone freeze. The problem is that Mum's asthma does not generally respond well to cats (or dogs, chickens and several other pets), so if we let the cat in, we force Mum out. That might be a bit excessive at this chilly time of year. We do have a slight surplus of hot water bottles, and my brother has been armouring the rabbit's and guinea pigs' homes against the cold with these apotropaic devices. I hope you all are enjoying the approach of Christmas or whatever seasonal festivity cheers you!

Wednesday 5 December 2012

A bit of a campaign

Having leafed through the ACTA: SF rulebook, and rather liked the look of the campaign segment, I've been playing a few battles, some against myself, and so far one with my brother against me. The Federation have done well, and the Klingons terribly. The first game I attempted to use the Klingons as horse-archer types, which rather failed, as I mucked up my deployment. In the end, half the Klingon ships were destroyed, and the Federation (who were actually outnumbered!) lost nary a craft. The surviving Klingons improved their Crew Quality, and the Federation didn't. One can imagine the Klingons, who have just seen their force gutted, suddenly seeing the point of every man having his duty down pat, while the Federation force was probably a bit complacent after such a victory. USS Hornblower did pick up some improved shields. The second battle was a bit of a bust, as I was playing against myself, and got a bit out of my depth, trying to solo-play with far too many ships. I think I decided to call it a day after two or three turns.

The third battle my brother joined me, and I handed him the Federation fleet. We played the Assassination scenario, which called for me to destroy one of his ships. He had a Burke-class, two Ramius-class, and the last, the target, an Ortega-class. Things went well for me at first, and I smashed up USS Hornblower with my D7, D5 and E4, but I got complacent, and my brother got a couple of very fluky Photon and Drone shots in on the D7, the Dilithium Chamber of which proceeded to blow up the ship! In one turn the battle went from looking as though I would achieve a stonking victory to one where he was clearly in the lead. Try as I might, I couldn't claw it back after that point, and I could not kill off the Ortega by the end of the turn-limit. So victory was deservedly his! Next time the Empire will demand better!

We're now planning a bigger battle, with the Feds fielding eight ships: a Lexington, a Wolverine, that same Ortega (fully repaired), one of the Ramiuses (which has a Lucky Crew upgrade), and four Burkes (one with Long-Ranged Targeters for his Photons). I'm in two minds about the Klingons. I'm definitely taking 2 D7s, 2 D5s (one with Precise Gunners for its Disruptors) and that E4 from the last game (my best crew is on that ship, and it picked up an extra Attack Die for its Drone system), but I am torn between taking 3 F5s or 2 D6s. The smaller ships mean I am fielding as many ships as the Feds, and they can suffer more punishment but the D6s have got better long-range striking power. While the striking power argument is a powerful one, the scenario is Space Superiority, and so the victory conditions hinge on having lots of ships to spread out across the table, for which the cheap and cheerful F5s are perfect. Well, by the time you read this I shall have decided!

Monday 3 December 2012

The Embrace of Charybdis

We had a brief game of Star Fleet involving three Battlecruisers on either side, a table full of terrain, with a Black Hole sucking everything to the centre of the table.In the first turn the Federation won the Initiative,but both sides had nothing in range or arc, so we just swooped toward one another. The Black Hole sucked everything to the middle of the table The second turn saw my brother realise he had misdeployed, as I was able to bring all three of my ships to bear against USS Kirov, shielding two of them from the rest of his force thanks to the asteroid field. The Klingon C7 Red suffered Level 1 Critical hits to Weapons and her Dilithium Chamber, while Kirov suffered a Level 1 Critical to her Impulse Drive. In the End Phase everything on the table got sucked further toward the Black Hole, and the Red managed to repair the Critical Hit to her Weapons system. The third turn was the last. In an attempt to redeploy, Niall tried for a very minor High Energy Turn for the Kirov, which failed, leaving her exposed to the concentrated firepower of all three Klingon ships. She did not survive. Something of a space oddity occurred, as the dust cloud which had been hiding one of my warships touched the Black Hole and vanished, while my ship lay further away, and so didn't. Come the end of the turn, a planet, dust clouds and an asteroid field had all been sucked into the Black Hole, but more importantly, the Klingons were still in good fighting shape, while a third of the Federation fleet was gone. So we shook hands and called it a day.

These equal points affairs are getting a bit samey, so I think next time we might do an imbalanced fight. Another thing I have noticed is that I am drawing up bad fleet lists. They are bad in the sense that when a fleet concentrates fire on a single ship, it generally renders the rest of the battle badly imbalanced. Next time, if we don't have an imbalanced fight, we might have a go at using a large number of small ships: four Burke Frigates and two Callahan Cutters would be equal in points to two Klingon E4s and four F5s, so it would be unlikely that the loss of a single ship would drastically alter the nature of the battle. I am still not quite sure what the technique should be when fighting against Klingons with the Federation. On the one hand, going at them head on allows the use of Photons, which are potentially devastating, but on the other hand, Fed ships are generally less capable of turning, so I should expect to find Klingons glued to my ships' tails. Presumably the way to resolve that is by having ships turn repeatedly, so some ship always has an arc on the enemy. Anyway, for now here are the photos of this latest battle.

Friday 30 November 2012

Huge fleets fill the skies!

Right, I have been building up to this with all these shots of a few ships at a time, and finally we have reached the apex of it all. Here are the maximum sizes of my three fleets. The Romulans and Klingons share a few ships, mind you. The Romulans allowing for Klingon largesse, can muster 4 KF5R Frigates, a Battle Hawk, a SkyHawk, a War Eagle Cruiser, 4 KR Heavy Cruisers, a King Eagle Cruiser, 3 KRC Command Cruisers, a Condor Dreadnought and one or two KC9R Dreadnoughts (in universe they only ever had the one), for 3,500-3,900 points in total. Not too shabby a score, I'd say. The Klingons, if they greedily hoard their ships to themselves, can muster 2 E4 Light Frigates, 4 F5 Frigates, 4 D6 Cruisers, 2 D5 War Cruisers, 3 D7 Battlecruisers, 1 D5W New Heavy Cruiser, 1 FD7 Fast Cruiser, 3 C7 Heavy Battlecruisers, and 2 C8 Dreadnought, mustering just shy of 4,000 points. The Federation, grandest of them all, at a little shy of 5,000 points, has 2 Callahan Police Cutters, 4 Burke Frigates, 2 Ramius Battle Frigates, 1 Ortega New Destroyer, 3 Texas Light Cruisers, 1 Kearsage New Light Cruiser, 3 Constitution Heavy Cruisers, 1 Lexington Command Cruiser, 1 Wolverine Fast Cruiser, 1 Prometheus Strike Cruiser, 1 Chicago New Heavy Cruiser, 1 Manta Ray New Fast Cruiser, 4 Kirov Battlecruisers, and 3 Federation Dreadnoughts. The Romulans may increase substantially, if I decide to get their fleet box at some point, and the Federation and Klingons will see small increases as I acquire some new releases. Doesn't that new Gettysburg-class look pretty? Anyway, here is what they all look like arrayed to defend a world.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Frigates and Cruisers

These are the last ships from the fleet boxes I got for my birthday: a pair of F5 Frigates, a pair of D5 War Cruisers and a D5W New Heavy Cruiser (which is an evolution of the D5s with a third warp engine and some stat increases). All the ships bar the D5W, which is unique in my collection at present, have some coloured marker to distinguish them from their fellows. Red, blue, green and silver have proved sufficient thus far, and the fleet is already so large that I can barely imagine deploying it all en bloc. The wee F5s are a firm favourite of mine now: cheap and effective. I might end up getting some more of them, and having to come up with some more colours to denote them. It has the potential to get a bit Captain Scarlet!

Monday 26 November 2012

Battle of Polemos III

My brother and I decided to play the scenario Explore A Strange New World again, this time with a different array of forces, and on opposing sides. He took defensive side with the Federation: USS Lexington was his flagship, and three Constitution-class Heavy Cruisers, Enterprise, Constitution (marked with a pink D4) and Hood (marked with a ruby D8). On the Klingon side I attacked with four D6 Cruisers and two E4 Light Frigates. The Federation fleet, with a Command ship, Lexington, had the same opportunity for activation as the Klingons, but the superior numbers of the scurvy Klingons meant they had the opportunity to force the Federation ships into unfavourable manoeuvres, especially given that every Klingon ship was far better at turning than any of the Federation ones. I had a vague plan for once. I popped the E4s on the left flank, intending to use them as a distraction, while the D6s would scan the planet to fulfil the victory conditions. My brother's plan was to divide his forces with a weak left and a strong right, and envelop me when I reached the planet, catching me in a deadly crossfire. One of our plans worked out.

The first turn saw the Federation win the Initiative roll. All the Klingon ships ordered All Power to Engines! While every Federation ship launched a suicide shuttle. This was that I did last time we played this scenario, but I quite forgot to move them into range, and a blob of shuttles hung uselessly in orbit while the warships duked it out. That didn't happen this time. The second turn saw a Klingon Initiative victory, with some long range Disruptor fire at Enterprise from the D6s, while the E4s blasted a pair of shuttles. By the third turn my Klingons had reached the planet. I kept one E4 in close, and sent the other on a wide flanking manoeuvre, hoping it would provide a distraction for Lexington on my brother's right flank. USS Hood circled the planet, hitting the forward shields of D6 Silver (silver stripes, you see), damaging her hull and shields. Enterprise found herself outmanoeuvred by the Klingon D6s, and was eliminated with massed firepower. A few remaining shots hit USS Hood, the Lexington, and another couple of shuttles. In the End Phase Klingon Labs acquired three quarters of the information points they needed to about the planet. It looked as though the Emperor would be well pleased by this mission.

Turn 4 saw the Federation again take the Initiative, Hood reloading her photon torpedoes, while Lexington and Constitution boosted their shields. I elected to distract the Federation from attacking the main body of my fleet, and swung the slightly damaged D6 Silver around the planet as a decoy, and E4 Green to perform the same duty. Both were lost, but they did the job. In the End Phase the remaining Klingon ships managed to boost knowledge of the planet 20% higher than required, so all they needed to do was stay alive one more turn to win. In turn 5 the Klingons won the Initiative, and all bar the remaining E4 ordered Maximum Warp Now! This would see them depart in the End Phase, and the game end in victory for the Klingons. Every Federation ship boosted shield power again, the captains wary of suffering Enterprise's fate. A fierce gunnery battle ensued, resulting in the crippling of D6 Pale Grey, but by the end of the turn no Klingon ships had been destroyed, allowing them all to escape.

We shook hands, and I realised that I should have been recording Information Points for each ship, not for the fleet as a whole. D'oh! Still, we had a good game, and it was interesting to compare the  different fighting and movement styles of the two fleets. Federation ships tend to have weaponry that has boundaries at 0 and 180 and 90 and 270 degrees, whereas Klingons use 45 and 225 and 135 and 315 degrees as their boundaries. This is a bit of a change to get used to, and my first attempts with Klingons, trying to fly them the same way as Federation ships, didn't go well, as their flank and rear weaponry tended not to find a target. This time I was able to deploy ships so that they could bring to bear weapons on ships in different arcs, and I have a cinematic image of how the Klingons should operate en masse in my head. They barrel toward the enemy, reliant on heavy forward shielding to protect them, blasting away with all guns. Once past the enemy they use superior agility to turn and get on their enemies' tails, using their flank weaponry as they make the necessary turns. We should see that soon.

Saturday 24 November 2012

The swift and the masterful

Today's lot is an FD7 Fast Cruiser, and a pair of D7 Battlecruisers. The former struck me as rather odd-looking at first, as its bridge is quite unlike other Klingon cruiser bridge designs, resembling more a back-to-front F5 Frigate bridge. However, its elongated warp nacelles and general appearance have rather grown on me. It really does seem like a fast ship. The D7s are solid warships, worth about as much in points as the Federation's Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser, and with an optional upgrade that turns them into very vicious command ships. These models will do double-duty, as they can also serve as Romulan KRC Command Cruisers. It is rather a neat facet of the rules - intentional or no - that the Romulans have four different Klingon hull designs: the F5 Frigate, the D6 Cruiser, the D7 Battlecruiser, and the C8 Dreadnought, allowing gamers who want to play film Klingons (i.e. with cloaking devices) to do so, at the expense of losing Disruptors for Plasma Torpedoes. Apologies for the seemingly glaring highlights in these photographs. I cannot seem to work out a happy compromise between photographs which are too dark and those which are rather bleached by the flash.

Thursday 22 November 2012

David and Goliath

The largest Klingon ships today: a C8 Dreadnought and a pair of C7 Heavy Battlecruisers, and then to round things off a dozen shuttles. These heavy ships won't see a lot of use, but my brother and I have had a couple of occasions when we would have been glad of more Suicide Shuttles. They only move slowly, but a swarm of them can be pretty nasty. Moreover, the concept is rather amusing-cum-baffling. Do they really represent Kamikaze pilots or are they really being controlled from the mothership, or does the pilot pop himself into a tiny escape pod just before impact? I lean toward the remote-control option, but I really don't have a handle on the comprehensive background of the Star Fleet universe. I am reliant on lovely old episodes of ST:TOS, and it would be a rare instance then when Kirk would allow an ensign to ram himself and some tubs of antimatter into an enemy!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Little Ships

Today's entries are a pair of Texas-class Light Cruisers, and a pair of Callahan-class Police Cutters. Both of these immediately struck me as odd as they don't conform to the standard saucer section design of Federation ships. Indeed, the Callahans both evoke Flash Gordon rocket ships to my mind - which is doubtless as intentional as calling a Police Cutter a Callahan. They are diminutive little things, which wouldn't last long in a fight with big ships, unless they were persistently ignored in favour of bigger things. I am not sure that in just a duo they would be too handy, but I can see a quartet of them sneaking about unnoticed in a large fleet game and making a distracting racket behind the enemy fleet's battleline. The Texas-class Cruisers don't really strike my imagination as ships. They seem solid, workmanlike little things, which is doubtless the idea. Again, in a squadron of several like ships they could be pretty handy. As I already owned one, this pair brings me up to a little trio which is probably the ideal size of force for such ships in larger battles. Apologies for the absence of a rear shot of the Texases, but bizarrely I could not manage - with a camera on a tripod and the models on a flat surface - to get a shot that wasn't blurred! That's it for today, folks, and tomorrow look forward to some Klingons for a change.

Monday 19 November 2012

Big Ships

A few photographs today of the largest ships currently available to the Federation (though the Mars-class Battleship should be out soon), one Federation-class Dreadnought and two Kirov-class Battlecruisers. Names for these are up in the air, as I will probably go with whatever is on the sheet of transfers. The Dreadnought is a very powerful ship, bedecked with all sorts of weapon emplacements, and because of the odd structure of Mongoose's boxes, I now have three of them! I think each fleet in the Federation runs to one of these as a flagship, so I can theoretically represent half the Federation's Dreadnought force! As I've mentioned before, historical naval actions seem a good place to go looking for inspiration, so expect some multi-Dreadnought action in the future. In the immediate future, however, expect some ships from the other end of the scales of technology and size tomorrow.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Treasure Hunting

As Christmas approaches, our thoughts turn to presents for our loved ones. A friend of mine in America has a small online business selling her own handmade jewelry. It's rather pretty, and as I have seen from my stats that I have many American readers, I thought I would mention this to you folks. Why not take a look and see if there's anything that catches your fancy? Here's one of her pieces, a necklace and pair of earrings.

Friday 16 November 2012

Star Fleet: some Klingons complete

I fancied the idea of using all my Constitutions together, as they really epitomise Star Trek for me, and because it's easier to keep the books on four identical ships (well, the Lexington is slightly different, but not too much). So I then needed to get a force of equivalent points ready for the Klingons. The Lexington and three Constitutions will be facing off against four D6s and 2 E4s. As I already had a pair of D6s (one Klingon and one Romulan), I realised I needed to start marking them or I'd lose track. So various ships are sporting small patches of different colours. I shall temporarily have to do something similar with the Federation ships, as I have decided to recoat some areas to facilitate transfers. This'll be the largest game my brother and I have played thus far, as I think we're starting to get a grip on the rules at last. Here's what I have painted up, two D6s, two E4s and a lone F5 that wandered in by mistake. As well as those fellas, I was poking about in some old boxes, and turned up a TIE Interceptor model from yonks ago, which seems to be the selfsame scale as the X-Wing miniatures game. In short, if I pick up the Interceptor expansion pack come Christmas time, then I'll have two Squint models. Good news!

Thursday 15 November 2012

The Incredible Truths of Tomorrow!

This is more of a general status update than a post in which I wave a tattered or fresh banner, demanding your attention. Half a dozen planetoids are awaiting a spot of paint, and consideration of my recent pictures has me repainting eleven Mongoose Star Fleet models to my current standards. I shudder to think what this might mean in a year's time. I am toying with a return to Warhammer Historical's Great War rules in the next month or two, as I feel my Rosbifs and Jerries haven't really been used to their full potential. I feel an urge both to prepare them for 2014 and to acquire some 15mm or 6mm miniatures in order to have a go at Great War Spearhead. Is there a wargamer who has no thought of the 2014 centenary in his or her head? Aye, there are starships before me, wee cavalrymen to my right, and wee infantrymen above my head, not to mention a score or so of cavalrymen in a drawer to my right. Well, I hope you're all doing well today, anyway!

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Star Fleet: You're flying INTO an asteroid field?! Terrain tutorial

A bit of a marker today. This will be post #400, so I realised I had better mark it with something special! So here's a terrain article for you. The asteroid fields of ACTA: Star Fleet game are just like those in The Empire Strikes Back: fly into one and you're liable to get smacked by a hunk of something. So following on from my terrain tutorial on constructing wee moons from Christmas decorations, here is another article. You'll need the following items: a big hunk of polystyrene foam, sand, PVA glue, balsa wood, some filler, water, paintbrushes, paints, wooden barbecue skewers, suitable basing materials and a hot glue gun. Start off by tearing the polystyrene into lumps. Remember this will be a messy business! Next cut some skewers to appropriate lengths, and stab them into the lumps of polystyrene. I advise gluing them in place. After that mix up some filler, sand, water and PVA glue, and daub it all over the the lumps of polystyrene. The filler is very useful, as dilute PVA on its own simply runs off large bits of the polystyrene. Depending what you will leave the polystyrene on, you might want to leave one side bare, and cover it when the rest of the mixture has dried.

Once everything has dried, you will probably find a few bare spots. Apply sand and PVA to these, and when everything has dried, secure the sand with a dilute coat of PVA. As before, it would probably be a good idea to leave one part dry (-ish) so that it won't get stuck to whatever you are leaving the asteroids on to dry. Once everything has dried, Get some black paint and apply it all over the asteroids. Since they have barbecue skewers sticking out of them, you can use these as handles. Normally, I would suggest spraypaint, but this will melt polystyrene, so if you have left any gaps at all, you could end up with asteroids with intriguing internal crevices.

Once you have undercoated the asteroids black, then you just have to drybrush them with whatever colours you like: reds and oranges will nicely represent an iron-rich asteroid, greys and tans will work for the stonier kinds. If you want to liven them up a bit, you could add a splash of a pure metallic colour, gold or silver, representing a particularly thick vein of some element such as iridium or gold. Next paint the cocktail skewers completely black, and, with the hot glue gun, secure some pieces of balsa wood to the bases. I advise you not to pack the asteroids too closely, lest you inadvertently make a terrain piece that is beautiful yet impractical. Remember that you will be moving models onto these asteroid fields! Next paint the bases black, and then drive the skewers into the balsa wood bases, gluing them in place. Once you have touched up any details, you will have a great collection of asteroids for your sci-fi space gaming.

I made these primarily with Star Fleet in mind, but expect to see them in a forthcoming game of X-Wing, too! Needless to say, you'll need a box to keep all this stuff in, and happily one came from Wayland, bearing the Klingon and Federation fleets and the X-Wing game. Ah, isn't recycling wonderful? Here follow the pictures, and at the foot the box and a shot of all the game-ready terrain, with USS Enterprise for scale. The section of the table on which the asteroids, dust clouds, moons and planets sit is about 4' by 4'. So here are the pics.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Star Fleet: The sky full of Klingons

The Feds are coming along nicely. I have finished off the Strike Cruiser, the Fast Cruiser and the two Heavy Cruisers, and the two Ramius Destroyers and the Burke Frigates. Note that none bear markings, as I will be picking up a sheet of decals next time I order from Mongoose, and then redoing my already-named ships. I have two Callahans, a pair of Battlecruisers, and a dozen shuttles close to completion. The new Dreadnought is undercoated, but that's it. The Klingons are coming on nicely, although I decided to redo the small ships from the other day: those white spots were just annoying me. Without further ado, here are the finished Fed ships and the PIP Klingons. Aside from individual models, this will probably constitute the majority of my purchases for these fleets. But who knows what the future may hold?

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