Review of BattleTech Tamar Rising

Elementals are so crunchy

I’m just now getting through my pile of goodies from Gen Con.  One of the gems I got a copy of was the new BattleTech sourcebook, Tamar Rising.  I will try and keep the spoilers to a minimum, but a few are bound to sneak through. 

First off, let’s talk the physical quality of the book.  It is a hard cover – which is the new trend for Catalyst with their sourcebooks and one I hope they continue.  The cover art is great, but I was really pleased with the interior artwork.  Glossy pages are a plus but the big standout was the inclusion of a map with transit times included.

This is the story of what happens when 95% of a faction, in this case, the Jade Falcons, pack up and take off on a sightseeing tour of Terra.  It leaves a huge political and military gap, with many worlds either lightly defended, or left abandoned.  Given that this is the BattleTech universe, I think we all know where this is going…war! 

Having been part of the writer’s summit where we talked about this, I was sincerely pleased with how the writer’s took a few kernels of ideas and ran with them.  The stories here are fantastic.  By and large my favorite parts was the development of Duke Vedet Brewer.  I got to write about this character in Fire at Will, and after that, for a short time, he became Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth. He is one of the few people to rise to power, lose it, and live, in the BattleTech universe.  What I love is that his character has gone from obscurity to a character you really start to respect.

The reason I jumped down this particular rabbit hole is that it is indicative of the high quality of writing in this sourcebook.  Sometimes sourcebooks seem forced, as if the authors are trying to cram in a lot of little details that mean very little to players.  Tamar Rising doesn’t do that.  It gives a great foundation for this region of space in the ilClan era. More importantly, the juicy details the authors have squeezed into the book that are playable…which is what is important. Some of the things, such as the Personalities Section, are important because they will show up in future BattleTech fiction.  I really enjoyed this book.  I hope that the Federated Suns and Draconis Combine front gets a similar treatment.

The Tukayyid Salvage Bits Bags at Gen Con and Beyond

Our company, Creative Juggernaut, has been busy leading up to Gen Con. First, we produced hundreds of Stormcrow Tukayyid variants and shipped those to Catalyst for them to sell on their site.  Second, we produced a batch of Black Knight Tukayyid variants and got those off as well. For Gen Con itself, we assembled Tukayyid Salvage Bit Bags, (around 700) as a convention release. 

We jokingly called these “dime bags” in-house.  They are parts and pieces of ‘Mechs that were unfit for release to the public.  Some parts are partial casts, some are deformed in some manner, others have air bubbles (which look like damage).  Our company believes in being green and rather than send these off to the landfill, we packaged them for resale. Each bag is the same size as the Black Knight and Stormcrow, but are crammed with random parts.  The parts are from these two ‘Mechs, as well as some prototypes we did for a Marauder IIC, an UrbanMech, and a Crusader…but mostly Black Knight and Stormcrow parts and pieces. 

So what good are they?  These bits can be used on bases as battlefield debris for your ‘Mechs to be standing on or next to.  The bits can be used to make fallen ‘Mech objective markers for Alpha Strike games.  My personal use of these is for when a BattleMech is destroyed in a game.  Rather than tip over a model I have worked hard to assemble and paint (risking damage), you can use these parts to mark dead enemies and comrades on the field/map. 

I met one person that bought a few bags in hopes of getting enough to assemble a battle damaged Black Knight. No guarantees on such efforts, since the parts are randomly stuffed in the bags.  I appreciated his ingenuity and creativity. 

We didn’t announce these would be available at Gen Con because you never know until the last minute if they are going to be suitable for sale, etc.  As it was, Brent loaded up a piece of luggage with Tukayyid Salvage Bits and lugged them personally to Gen Con.  Things were so last minute, I don’t even have a photo of the bags right now. 

Eventually, once the dust settles from convention season, these will go up for sale on the Catalyst Game Labs website – along with the Stormcrows and Black Knights.  And yes, we are going to produce more ‘Mechs.  No, we cannot solve international shipping prices nor are we selling these directly – you have to order them from Catalyst.  Catalyst sets the sales price on these.  There is no way to preview them online, so there’s no picking and choosing – you get a random bag stuffed with random parts. 

We will do some social media posts when we know when they are for sale; but that is handled by Catalyst and there is no guarantee that we will gets a heads up.  I would recommend watching their web site since you now know that they have stock of our products. 

So what it next?  I’m sworn to secrecy, but there are some big things coming from Creative Juggernaut…BIG things. 

Summary of Gen Con 2021 – Thursday and Friday

The ‘crowd’ to get in to the main floor on Thursday. This is five minutes before the door opening. Way smaller than in previous years.

It was my intent to do my usual three-day Gen Con experience, but with a paired down convention, we decided to bail after two days. We simply had done all of the things we had planned. The following is a mix of personal experience vs. overall impression. 

So how was it?

It was okay. COVID definitely knocked down the convention’s hit points badly.  Everyone wore masks and socially distanced where practical.  Let me say this, you can’t have a convention and social distancing. Gaming, by its very nature, is a social experience.  People spread out fairly well on Thursday to get into the main hall, less so on Friday.  Aisles were congested at times but for the most part, people didn’t deliberately bunch up – but it does happen.  Some booths had lines.  Anyone thinking there was going to be strict social distancing at Gen Con was delusional.  The people whining online about it being a ‘super-spreader’ event were likely jealous they weren’t there and wanted to try and shame people that did go. This year’s ‘con-crud’ will likely be labeled as COVID this year, so prepare for that. 

I was hoping the experience would be like rolling the clock back 10 years to when Gen Con was 35k people or so.  It wasn’t.  There were far too few events for the number of attendees and the infrastructure (food-wise) was strained. 

Key things I noticed:

The crowds were smaller, as was the number of vendors in the main hall.  Gone were the big bags filled with games.  People were buying stuff, but with some of the big vendors not there (Fantasy Flight, Paizo, etc.) you didn’t see massive promotional bags that much.  Having said that, people were plopping down cash, which is good for the industry.  Some booths had decent lines to get in, at least on Thursday.  By Friday, more people were in the gaming area rather than the main hall.  Thursdays folks try to get in and purchase the new products first and foremost. 

The number of events was dramatically cut.  They were cleaning the few mini events down between rounds, to the point where I saw clear plastic sheets covering some of the maps.  Sanitary?  Maybe.  The events that were there, sold out fast.  I got into a game at Ares (Sails of Glory) because a guy bailed, but there were not a lot of events to get into in the first place.  No Masters and Minions tournament this year, not a lot for kids (we took my grandson with us).

The food situation was sad. Thank God for the food trucks.  They came through.  Restaurant-wise, downtown Indy has been devastated by COVID.  It was carry-out only at Steak and Shake.  I’m not a huge fan of their food, but for a lot of folks, going there is a tradition.  We were in two restaurants that were out of some food due to supply chain issues.  PF Chang’s was out of white rice – for example, Thursday night.  Many restaurants were simply closed, permanently.  Others only stayed open until 6pm due to staffing challenges.  You have to have places to eat for a big convention.  Again, the food trucks saved this aspect of Gen Con but if the weather had been bad or the crowd larger, it could have been a big issue.  

This was not the Steak and Shake experience many were looking for.

Some vendors bailed at the last minute – so there were weird gaps on the show floor.  It actually was a blessing so you could step out of the aisle to make calls or adjust your purchases.  It wasn’t helped that Gen Con kicked out one vendor, slapping up “No Harassment” signs on all of the doors.  I won’t go into the controversy, but it was ridiculous to have a convention exclude a vendor while preaching inclusiveness. This was a year that they should have embraced all vendors that wanted to come.

The booth demos were down dramatically.  I live for these because it’s a chance to test play games.  Steve Jackson was doing them but most places scaled them back dramatically or did away with them entirely.  That was disappointing and I think it may hurt their sales.  It was understandable given the restrictions.  My grandson loves wrestling and was looking for a game.  SRG games did do demos and they were fantastic; lots of crowd engagement, characters dressing the parts, etc.  They invited us to their tournament too, threw in some freebies for my grandson, etc.  The guys running the Supershow game demos deserve an award for making the con for my family. Result – we plunked down a good chunk of money with them and my grandson is running around wearing one of their hats.   

There were some convention exclusives, but they were limited.  Catalyst had a ‘megamap’ (rename suggestion was Jumbo-Honking Map) and they had Creative Juggernaut Bit Bags (our salvage parts) which were selling strong. The maps were incredible, large, and quite heavy.  Other companies like SRG had convention exclusive cards, which were great too. 

The art area was much thinner.  I spoke with a few vendors there and they were selling well, so the cash was flowing. 

Costumes were few and far between this year. 

Miniature games were dramatically cut.  One thing I look forward to is walking through the game hall and marveling at the mini game terrains and set up.  This year it was almost non-existent.  Even the big Camospecs diorama was not present – there weren’t enough staff to cover it.  This visual experience at Gen Con was sadly missing. 

Friday – the main gaming area

It was hard to find people when you can’t see their faces because of masks and their badges were flipped backwards half of the time.  I did get to meet a lot of fans, sign stuff, have some fun conversations. Likewise there were some fans I simply couldn’t find in the crowd because, well, we all were dressed the same and wearing masks. 

Thursday afternoon, the open gaming area is quite open.

One benefit to the reduced crowds was that you could get into Paint and Take with no line.  It was repositioned in the gaming area and we got in mid-day on Thursday.  That’s a little disturbing too.  Usually you have to wait for a while to get in.  Games Workshop donated paints and minis this year, limiting you to choose between one of two minis.  Still, they were pretty awesome and actually did some coaching/selling of the contrast paints for newbies, which was brilliant on their part.   

Paint and Take – Friday at 10am. Lots of empty seats

I checked out the indy press scene and saw a lot of new products. None really captured my attention other than having some intriguing or bizarre premises.

Some vendors simply were representing companies. I wanted to pick up one game that I can get for $135 online.  In my FLGS, it is $145.  At Gen Con, where I thought I would pick it up, it was $178.  Sorry, the business is going to go to my friendly local game store guys. 

This was my first time getting a hotel downtown, which was fantastic.  I did have a creepy encounter with a guy following me back to my hotel after drinking with some of the Catalyst guys. I could tell this guy was not a convention goer.  It took me back to the Gen Con Milwaukee years in that respect.  Overall, I can’t complain.  I honestly didn’t expect much this year.  I did manage to squeeze into a few games (thank you generic tickets and no-shows) and came home with a backpack of reading and gaming material for months.  I can’t help but wonder if vendors that didn’t come this year will bother next year.  I also wonder if downtown Indy will recover enough to support a convention as big as a normal Gen Con.

Breaking in the Game Room – Desperate Measures

Drew, double checking the rules for our first game – which was a lopsided affair in favor of the Republic of the Sphere.

I had over one of the WolfNet gang, Drew Bethards, to inaugurate my game room.  I would have liked to open it up for a group of players, but with the whole, ‘crazy person threatening my life’ thing, I needed to be careful about who comes over. 

We played three games of the same scenario of Alpha Strike, each time refining it a little more.  We were playing the Desperate Measures scenario from the ilClan Sourcebook.  I hadn’t gotten a copy yet (I’m assured it is in the mail) but Drew had and we fought the battle of the Republic’s Old Guard against the Falcon Guard. 

We played it as Alpha Strike and we both felt that it would have been much better in Classic BattleTech.  I really wanted to play Alpha Strike because the pacing is better, especially since I was running nine Republic ‘Mechs.  We had to tweak the rules, breaking the attackers up into waves of three that had to roll an 8+ to enter the map.  When you come on at 3-1 odds right off the bat, it was devastating.  We also elongated the map to make it more of a distance slug for the attackers. We also allowed two of the Falcons to shield Malvina Hazen who was unconscious during the entire set of three games (thank Kerensky!)

The improved version – the initial rush down the field to the ring of debris protecting Malvina

It oddly worked close to fiction in the final game, with my ‘Mechs slowed down by the debris field, and piling up on top of each other to make mounds of debris.  I did kill Malvina before she could wake up, so it wasn’t purely historical.  No, I will not rewrite the novel to fit the game play. 

The pile of dead ‘Mechs in the middle kept growing, both in width and height

The bottom line is that with any printed scenario, you need to be willing to balance it so that both players have fun – which is what we did. 

We had a lot of fun talking BattleTech stuff as well as Creative Juggernaut.  Some of the debris you see on the map are half-molded Urbies we made.  Yes, the kids at Creative Juggernaut are working hard on the minis and the upcoming salvage bags, as well as some surprises in the coming months. 

Best of all, the game room is officially broken in! We had fun, talked gaming, and rocked out some miniature carnage. 

A Request to the Fans Mentioned in Divided We Fall

It’s show time!

I just received word from the Supreme Editor that they are getting ready to start the audiobooks leading up to Hour of the Wolf.  First up, is Divided We Fall

As you know, I use a lot of backers and fans in my fiction. We need to hammer out the pronunciation of some of your names for the voice talent.  How this ended up on my desk…I have no idea. But hey, I’m happy to try and get the clarity.

The ones we need pronunciations on are as follows:

  • Ervikar Vilkas – Backer (Eric Glocker)
  • Jazion Weiser – Backer (Jason Weiser)
  • Seibert – Backer (Keven Seibert)
  • Koniczek – Backer (Kristopher Tyson Koniczek)
  • Lubben’s – Backer (John Lubben)
  • Kaempen – Backer (Alex Kaempen)
  • Noorloos – Backer (Roderick Van Noorloos)
  • Pelcham – Backer (William C. Pelcham)
  • Cintron – Backer (Felipe Cintron)

If you are on the list, we need to know how your character’s name should be pronounced.  This needs to be done by 24 July 2021.  Please provide your response in the comments below – easy-peasy.  After the 24th, the voice person will do their best to get it right. 

Spoiler Free Review of Jason Schmetzer’s Blood Will Tell

Even the cover art rocks

BattleTech fans love their House Liao jokes and for many years, much of that was well earned. Mad Max and Romano Liao both made the faction easy to be a punching bag and a source of memes. For many years, if not decades, Loren Coleman has been one of the few writers that can easily tackle House Liao with the dignity they deserve. The Capellans are a BattleTech faction that are tricky to write. It’s not just the politics that makes it difficult, it is a very unique and closed culture. There are language nuances as well.   

Then came Jason Schmetzer with Blood Will Tell. Well Loren is no longer alone in the mastery of House Liao’s quirkiness and resolve.  Schmetzer is in the house!

I won’t ruin the story for you.  This is set just before the ilClan era and focuses on the Chancellor’s daughter, Danai Liao-Centrella.  For the first time in many ages, House Liao is ruled by a solid leader, Daoshen.  Danai has been a wonderful character for being feet on the ground, a warrior, piloting a legendary Centurion.

This story is Danai’s emergence as an in-depth character.  She chaffs at the demands of court and the Confederation.  She wants to fight the enemies of her realm. More is expected of her than fighting a war against what is left of the Republic of the Sphere. 

Jason masterfully presents some great characters, supporting and otherwise.  His development of Danai and the crafting of her character arc is done humbly and with the utmost respect to the franchise. Jason is further solidifying himself as a top-notch BattleTech author with this novel. This is not faint praise, but genuine admiration. 

I loved this book.  There was one point where I was stunned.  What was more shocking was that for the first time in years, I found myself actually rooting for the Capellan Confederation. I can’t wait for his next book!  

My Game Room and Table

Welcome aboard the SLS Michigan.

When we built our new home, I had always envisioned a special game room and table – one that would somehow capture my diverse gaming background.  Moreover, I wanted the game room to be an experience for my players/visitors; the kind of place they wanted to come and play at.  The game room would open to the lower patio, what we have come to call ‘The Biergarten.’  That way, during good weather, we could take our breaks (or games) outside, and drink some beer.

I’m all about the gaming experience. 

The door was part of the design of our house from day one.  A normal door to the game room would not suffice. I wanted an industrial “blast door” between my office and game room.  I was going to use a door from a cargo container but those doors are narrow and tall, taller than the ceiling.  Cutting it to fit was going to be problematic. Ultimately our carpenter simulated the effect for us. 

The decals on the door I got from several online sources – the big ones from Fathead which does custom printed ones.  The door leading to the back of the basement (our airlock) needed a wrap as well, which was only $30 on Amazon.  I was going to get their “Armory” one, a rack of weapons, but I was worried if my neighbor looked in he would think I’m a little too in favor of gun rights…as if there is such a thing.  My favorite is the “Wolverines!” one on the back of the door near the floor. I got that on eBay because, well, Wolverines!  That and I was writing my upcoming novel, Blue Dawn.    

The lightsaber is purely for defensive purposes. The handle on the door was my first welding project.
The back of the blast door. Never forgive…never forget. Also, the airlock door wrap

A great deal of time was spent in setting the stage for the game room. It went through a lot of iterations. It took a while for me to settle on a theme – namely a ship in orbit.  A designer friend of ours, Erika Bonnell suggested a floor to ceiling mural for the far wall and I ran with it.  She is a genius. I found several wall murals on Etsy and picked one that I liked.  Then came the floor.  I was shooting for the effect of visitors standing on a glass floor of a ship in orbit.  I went with the blues because it was neat and blended with the mural. It is an epoxy floor covering and it changes with light and angles which is incredibly cool. 

I was partial to industrial furniture so I started to look at the pricing of that stuff, and it was incredible.  I sketched out the design I wanted and just for the steel frame, companies were bidding $2995 and up, significantly up.  And those estimates didn’t including shipping, the epoxy, etc.  That was nuts.  Not only that, I wanted some other industrial furniture for the office and game room down the road. I decided that if I was going to get what I wanted, I was going to have to build it. So, in the middle of COVID, during the peak of summer, I decided to take a welding course. I was going to make this happen on my own.

Table size had to be tackled.  I wanted around a four by eight foot table. That was big enough for some good size mini battles as well as some of my more ‘monster’ board games.  Go big or go home.   

I knew I wanted to do some sort of epoxy pour over some neat gaming relics I had, so the design of the table used angle iron on the edges to support the table edge surface.   

I have never done metal work in my life, but I knew what I wanted to build, I had a vision of the end product. There were no plans, just a view I had. It was hot, sometimes frustrating, and very rewarding. Welding is plain fun.  My first personal project was to make the handle for the game room blast door.  The real challenge I had to overcome on that and the table was welding different thicknesses of steel. We didn’t do a lot of that in class, so I had to figure it out. Sometimes I burned through, but that was all part of the learning curve. My grinder and I became very close by the end of the project.   

I ordered a plasma cutter and a welder from Eastwood. My instructor recommended them as reliable and easy to use.  He was right. Eastwood’s products are fantastic to work with.  Of course, I needed a welding table and cart too.  You might be thinking, “Hey, this is all going to cost you more than if you paid someone to do it.”  Actually, I saved money, a LOT of money, even with the material and equipment costs, mostly because I was doing the work myself. And now I can make other stuff (including a miniatures storage cabinet.)

I never used a plasma cutter in my life, but Eastwood’s videos and others on YouTube were a big help.  I came up with a template for the side rails, ordered up some steel, and got to work. I cut the side rails and was pleased with the look.  There was a lot of trial and error, but eventually I got the hang of large scale cutting.  In retrospect, I should have probably started on a smaller furniture piece.    

Industrial furniture is about shapes and textures.  I wanted rivets along the edge. You can’t just buy rivet tops, so I ordered 58 carriage bolts steel (not galvanized).  I needed to grind down the raised parts of the bolts, so I put them in a drill and used it to spin them while I used a grinding wheel.  Then I had to cut them off, and drill a LOT of holes in the side rails for them.  Each had to be welded into place, hopefully enough so they wouldn’t leak when the epoxy pour took place. The table has imperfections, which is common with industrial furniture. The ones that remain, I left intentionally.

The assembled short side rails
So many rivits

Assembling all of the sides and legs was a challenge as my wife was out of town and alignment needed to be exact.  I performed a few minor engineering miracles, propping things up, and got the table welded together.  I welded in braces but the heat of the welding pulled the side rails inward.  No one else would have noticed, but I did.  So I cut them out, added some additional metal, and re-welded them. Then came the removal of a lot of mill-scale, no small task. Everything got coated with two coats of flat lacquer.  Skilled welders will see my bad welds and acknowledge that some were decent. 

I made the Star League logo out of foam.

With one inch angle iron for the edges, I went with a quarter inch piece of plywood for the base.  In retrospect, I should have used something heavier, but it would have limited what I used on the table top for the epoxy pour in terms of depth.  I struggled for what to do with the wood surface.  One night the film Alien came on the TV and I saw the tracker grid. That was perfect.  To simulate this, I used a bright green sprayed on the surface, then pinstripe taped.  I then painted over it with gloss black.  The result is that the grid looks like it is lit up from underneath.

Before pinstriping
After

I did toy with installing LED’s but with the epoxy pour, if there was an issue, replacement would have been a nightmare. And while I tackled welding, electrician work may be a bit beyond me.   I opted for simplicity and function. 

I glued and used caulking to seal the tabletop into place. I caulked the hell out of the rivet holes out of fear that the epoxy would leak if I missed a spot. Epoxy finds holes and cracks instinctively.  Thankfully, I had no real issues with leaking.   

Cyndi, my wife, helped me pick what to put on the table and where to place the items.  I have a lot of BattleTech artifacts that I have gathered over the years.  Everything was glued into place, the artwork was Modge-Podged down.  Cyndi suggested putting some artifacts together, like all of my Dragoons relics. 

The epoxy surface is highly reflective, but you can see the 7th Kommando patch in there

Thus began the pouring.  I never poured epoxy before. It is easy to do, but challenging to do three gallons at a time.  You have to pop air bubbles with a heat gun every few hours or so.

There was an ever-so-slight dip in the middle of the table.  The epoxy tended to settle there the most and contracted as it set with each layer.  The result was that the middle of the table was getting thicker, despite the steel cross supports under the table.  So we propped up the center of the table with books and boxes and poured more, almost double what I had originally planned. We had some weird wrinkling on the top layer of one pour, so I had to sand that down, which generated a LOT of fine dust, which required considerable cleaning before the next pour.  In the end it all worked out. I do see some weird haze deep down in a few small spots deep down that I can’t figure out – they weren’t there until well after the pouring had hardened. 

Some of the patches got strangely dark after the pour, but if you hit them with a light, they look fine.  I can’t explain that.  I almost put a map of the Inner Sphere down in lieu of the Vulture, but I thought visitors would enjoy the OmniMech more. The paper material on the blueprint was cheap, and despite the sealer, got some soaked-through splotches that oddly seem to work.  Cyndi put a coffee stain and burned the edges of the Vulture poster which came out fine.  There are bits of games that I have played over the years, making the table very personal. Honestly I think it still looks great.  Thanks to Robert Ash, Matt Behrens, Andrew Krull, and Ronald Baker and other fans for some of the stuff that went into the table surface.

I ended up assembling a center support leg to make sure the table’s weight didn’t crack under the weight.

My favorite parts of the table?  I love the Leviathan’s destroyer out in the middle of the table.  I really love writing for Leviathans and this was a homage to that.  There’s a couple of BattleMech minis out there too that were fun to paint then permanently entomb.  Of course, the Black Watch badge is cool because, well, it’s the Goddamned Black Watch!  Some old school SPI dice are there too, just for grins. I have a Gray Death die and one from the Northwind Highlanders. 

Some Star Trek Attack Wing and Alpha Strike love.

On the wall is some BattleTech art, including an Anthony Scoggins’s signed print from Forever Faithful, some original concept sketches from the cover of Impetus of War, and a print of my favorite tank (Fratricide) from an upcoming sourcebook. Chill out CGL, I took the photo far enough away to not ruin the surprise. I’m going to be adding some art from An Eagle Among Falcons as well because it is the coolest Elemental art I have seen in a long time.   

About the chair – I’ve had it for over two decades.  It is a B-52 ejection seat (downward firing).  I have used it as a writing chair for years.  Parts of some of the novels I wrote were done from that seat, a wonderful stand-in for a BattleMech ejection seat.   Now it has a home where it fits in. 

Admit it, you want to sit in it.

I ended up pretty pleased with the end result. Not bad for my second welding project ever.  I learned a lot about designing furniture that will come in useful in the future.  More importantly, I have a custom table that looks exactly like I wanted it to, that I built. 

Eastwood makes some magnetic shop holders, including this cup holder which works out perfect as a drink caddy at the table.

The game room is really an extension of my office, in fact I am taken some podcasts and conference calls from there for the whole vibe.  I have my Rhonda Snord piece hanging in the main office area https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2019/10/24/battletech-nose-art-project/ , so you can say I am immersed in creativity and inspiration. 

I hope you enjoyed this little arts and crafts project. I have a lot of welding projects lined up including a new base for the ejection seat.

Black Knight Variant Mini Coming Soon!

“Please accept this sword as evidence I want you Clan-butt dead…” Adept Rufus Faust, Battle of Tukayyid

Our game company, Creative Juggernaut, has been working closely with Catalyst Game Labs on a number of high-end miniatures of variant BattleMechs. The first two, the Tukayyid Stormcrow and Black Knight have been in production for a while.  While work continues on the Stormcrow, we thought it would be a nice to show you that the Black Knight being shipped to Catalyst. In other words, it will be for sale soon.  

Mystery shipper (okay, it’s Brent) dropping off the shipment of Black Knights

These are not preassembled minis and they come with some variant parts, giving you some opportunities to pose the minis differently.  They come in little ziplock baggies and are plastic resin so they are easy to modify, for those of you so inclined.

Proof that Brent was not carrying an empty prop-box.

The minis will be available on the Catalyst Game Labs online store. When?  We can’t say for sure, but as you can see, they have not only been shipped, but received at the warehouse…so this is finally happening! We encourage you to check the CGL store every so often and watch for their social media announcements if you are interested in these. 

So, this is happening…

So what is next?  Obviously we need to finish up the Stormcrow, which is darned close to being done.  We aren’t allowed to officially say what additional minis are in production, but based on the positive feedback we’ve seen online there are others that are being prepped for casting right now.  Brent has even cooked up a surprise or two. 

Thanks for your support and patience.  We believe it will be worth it. 

What Am I Working On (May 2021)?

Fairly accurate summary don’t you think?

The best part of retiring from the corporate world is that I have time to write and game. The writing pipeline is pretty packed…and there’s a lot of stuff in the works.  Someone this weekend asked me what I had coming out and I had to sit back and list it all. 

I do not know when any of this is coming out.  I am just a mercenary author.  Asking just frustrates both of us. A lot of times I find out when you guys do. It’s not an issue, just reality.   

So for you fans out there, here’s a tease of stuff to come:  

Completed (Which is a writer’s way of saying – ‘Written and possibly done, depending on editorial.’)

BattleTech

I have written an ilClan-era story involving some of the characters from Hour of the Wolf.  That is in the hands of the Shrapnel editor. It is a bit different, no ‘Mech combat but a story of some of the characters I created in Hour.  It gives readers a cool glimpse into the events after the fall of Terra that is pretty interesting.

I have completed a bit of fiction about a certain mercenary unit that has a reputation for collecting artifacts.  Alright, it’s Snord’s Irregulars! I have also drafted a Turning Points piece to tie into it.  It has been a while, and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit this unit in the new era. Lots of twists and turns with this one.

I did a little fiction piece on Solaris VII set during the Clan Wolf occupation. 

I have a short story written for the Honor and Glory series…some Jade Falcon goodness. It is called An Eagle Among Falcons.  John, the editor, came up with the title and it is perfect.  It is an Elemental piece, which is different. I sometimes think we don’t give Elementals enough exposure in fiction.  I recently saw the artwork for the cover of it and it is stunning. 

First draft of No Substitute for Victory has been submitted – a post ilClan era novel with the Jade Falcons.  I really like these characters and the story. It begs to answer the question, “What if you were left behind when the rest of your Clan went to Terra?”   

Land & Sea

For our new venture, Creative Juggernaut, I have three novels done and through edit.  My partner, Brent Evans, is coordinating artwork, especially the covers. These will be launched via Kickstarter later this year if all goes well.  Juggernaut has done really well with delivering on our Kickstarters in the past. I have to say, these books rock in establishing the Land & Sea setting.  The first one, Splashdown, is set 24 years or so in the future.  These are pure military sci-fi in a new universe that is captivating and cool. And since you know I’m a gamer, you can assume game product will follow the fiction.

Leviathans

I have written some fiction for Leviathan’s that hasn’t been published yet, called Skies of Steel and Fields of Red. I am a sucker for good alternate history and the Leviathan’s universe is all about that. It is fun to play with some historical figures and some exciting new characters. 

Blue Dawn

Coming late-July, my first political thriller, Blue Dawn.  This is an alternate history, set five years from now, with direct ties to current events. It is an exciting book, with an ensemble cast and a great series of storylines wrapped around the start of a second American Civil War.  Politics, intrigue, and a myriad of twists and turns will make this a captivating read.

In Process

For BattleTech, I have two story submissions including one a full length Clan novel, that are out for review. I think these are going to be fantastic once we get a few little details hammered out.

I am working on the sequel to Blue Dawn.  The working title is, A Most Uncivil War.  The book is about 25% done. I’m carrying some of the characters forward and introducing some new ones.   

I am writing some short fiction for Land & Sea in my spare time.

I am working on a bit of mercenary fiction about a unit I have written about for decades.  It’s a fun little romp with Joshua Snord with the working title Reputation is Everything.  Yes, there are three things of Snord’s Irregulars coming!  This is due in July.

My daughter and I are researching a true crime book as well. It is a case here in Virginia and it is fascinating – a double murder.  COVID slowed things down but I anticipate doing some work on that this fall, after Gen Con. 

On top of all of this, I have some RPG campaigns I’m kicking off soon, including a really neat MechWarrior Destiny thing.

So there you have it – a lot of fiction in multiple universes, and some non-fiction murder and mayhem.

A Year Ago Today – Divided We Fall Dropped

Some Dominator Love

Wow, has it been a year?  I saw this pop up in my Facebook feed and I honestly thought it was a mistake. 

I have been honored in my long BattleTech career to write about the Eridani Light Horse, Snord’s Irregulars, and a host of other merc units.  Divided was my first chance to write about a sacred cow of sorts, Wolf’s Dragoons.  Just mentioning them conjures up memories for fans of Wolves on the Border, Wolf Pack, and other fantastic pieces. Anyone attempting to tackle them is always going to be compared to the epics that have come before.  My goal was to not write a better story than Bob’s classics, but write the right story for the Dragoons as we inched into the ilClan era. There were things the story had to accomplish in order for Hour of the Wolf to happen as we had planned, but it was never about hitting all of the bullet points of accomplishment…it was about characters and plot.    

It was not your typical fare either.  This was about something very different, getting the Dragoons to fight for Clan Wolf on Terra. It was as much a story of that plot point as it was the tale of Marotta Kerensky.  Marotta is tragic, as we see later in Hour of the Wolf.  He has become as much a victim of Alaric as the Dragoons are.  I like to believe that his story arc is far from over.  Divided We Fall merely introduced him. I have been toying with doing another Dragoons story, but I am holding that in check (I have other committed BattleTech products I’m working on.) 

The antagonist in Divided is the only people worth taking on the Dragoons…other Dragoons. That was complex to write about as an author.  There were no bad guys, only characters that were taking actions they thought were right and just.  You may not have enjoyed it, but I liked the simplicity of the antagonist in generating the conflict. 

We (attendees of the writer’s summit) all knew we were going where angels fear to tread with the Dragoons.  Those units that went to Terra would suffer incredible losses both physically and psychologically.  Divided elevated some of those characters for readers. Hopefully we will see more of them.

So tonight I will tip my glass to Marotta, Debacle, and the other Black Wolves.  Seyla, y’all!