Review of Black Powder Red Earth 28mm Miniatures Game

My local game store, Your Hobby Place in Fredericksburg, VA, had a demo of this game during the weekend and I was fortunate enough to get to see the game in action. I had picked up the rules a few weeks earlier but, as always, there’s a difference between reading rules and throwing the dice. 

Black Powder Red Earth is based on the popular comic series about a failed African state and a proxy war being fought there in the near future between China and the US. I found the background material in the book a little too complicated for my personal taste. The rules do include a short comic book which was amazing and was what I turned to for my fluff. 

The game is amazingly simple. There’s really nine pages of rules for play. It’s a 2D10 system to make an attack and, if you unit allows, save (survive the attack).  The game plays in 20 minutes.  What does that mean?  Death is quick and brutal in this game.  In one turn of play, we had half of the minis on the board wiped out. 

Black Powder and Red Earth is a tactical skirmish game at its core.  The maps are, for the most part, built up urban environments.  Range becomes less of an issue in the game, because almost everything is in range. What matters the most is line of sight.

The fighting consisted of first contact and slaughter – in that order.
Phase Line Set Up

The game is one where you activate units and force units to respond to your actions. Our demo person said that this was a lot like squad leader in that regard, and he was right. 

There are cards that come into play.  Some are situational – they influence one action.  Some are one-shot devastating actions – like a drone strike; where other cards influence the entire action or the battlespace.   

There are some nuances to the game that are deceptively deadly. How they handle grenades is great.  You mark where you want the grenade to land – then in a later phase, determine where the grenade actually lands and applies the damage.  In doing it this way, you can actually end up in situations where your grenade can do more damage to your team than the enemy. 

One player told me the suicide vests can sympathetically detonate – so if you set one off, it can trigger a nearby one, and so on. 

There’s zero paperwork with the game.  There are no wounds.  You either end up dead or not.  There’s no reloading either, so you don’t have to track that. This is all about body-stacking.

The game was designed by people with real-world expertise in similar military operations.  I was even told that some of the maps mirror those used in actual military training facilities – which is pretty awesome. 

The miniatures are made in the US and, while pricy are worth it. The level of detail is amazing. I saw mins where the trigger guards were actually cast and visible – they are that minute.  While you could play with any modern minis, I have a lot of respect for what these folks have done with their minis. 

I love the speed of play and the vicious nature of the game.  We played on the map of the new Phase Line set which is a larger playing area. 

If you are looking for a good and easy modern warfare game, Black Powder Red Earth 28mm is a great entry vehicle.  I’m surprised that it isn’t getting a bigger uptake.  Another big selling point, all of their product is sourced here in the USA.  They sell starter sets and I wish I had gone with that option rather than just buying the rules.  You really need the grenade template and the cards too.  Regardless, the game is solid, fast, and incredibly deadly. 

Review of The Expanse Role Playing Game

A great series, a great RPG that is worthy of it.

Green Ronin does a great job at producing RPG’s and their adaptation of the highly successful Expanse series is no exception.  I personally feel a little late to the game – I’ve only finished four of the novels and have watched two of the seasons of the series on Amazon at this point.  Still, it is more than enough to jump in for a fast review of the RPG. 

This game is set between the first two books of the series. Do you need to read the books or watch the series to play it?  No, but it REALLY helps.  In fact a lot of the writing makes that assumption. Taking on this game without reading the books or watching the series might be difficult. 

The game has some neat mechanics.  The boldest is to end the concept of hit points, replacing it with something called Fortune. It’s a little complicated, but fortune allows you some modification of the die rolls and you need to retain a bank of it for when things go sideways – which they can in this game. This is augmented by your character’s Condition (example: fatigue or injured) which makes this more of a narrative role playing game than a murder-hobo-athon.

Churn is a neat tool for gamemasters too. There is a pool for characters that can be increased and decreased based on die roles in the game.  At certain trigger points, the churn can introduce setbacks and complications for the characters.  I will admit, it took me a few minutes to wrap my head around this but it is a neat concept, if you have a good gamemaster running your session.   

This is a RPG with a level of sophistication with it. The Expanse universe is more of a hard-core sci fi experience and the game captures this.  Space travel is explained, which reminded me of an attempt to simplify some of the complexities of the physics of space travel so that it is playable.  The writers did an admirable job of giving me a physics lecture that didn’t feel like a physics lecture…though I must admit, this was some of the more complicated parts of the game to fully understand. 

One thing I love about this game is the level of organization and layout.  Game companies rarely get credit for good layout, but it is critical.  This is an area where Green Ronin sings. 

The artwork is both stunningly brilliant and consistent.  I always struggle with game products that have a wide variety of art styles in a book. My personal preference is to have on style throughout a product – but that is a personal preference.

This book opens with a short story by James S.A. Corey which helps set the tone. So even if you don’t want to play, if you enjoy the books – this is a treat.

If you like the series (books or shows) then this is product worth picking up.  While there is a learning curve with the innovative mechanics, it is well worth the effort. 

Update as of 31 January 2022 – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

The Battle of the Fargo Washes I love the pew-pew from the Enfield.

With the release of No Substitute for Victory over the weekend, I have added to the BattleTech pantheon a list of names used for places and people in the universe. 

No Substitute for Victory is a story of great characters testing their wills, both on and off of the battlefield. Both sides are right, yet both are wrong. They push each other to the brink of endurance and beyond. There are plenty of twists and turns to the story. Wills are tested throughout. Hopefully even the most vocal Jade Falcon hater will likely find themselves rooting for Hasara and Guice.   

This list demonstrates exactly how much I openly embrace the fantastic fan community that drives BattleTech. I’m a fan myself.  Even before we had paid-canon characters, I was including fans in my fiction, letting them slug it out on distant planets.  

I want to do a special callout in this list to Paul “Cono” Galatis.  I was reached out to by a member of his family who told me that he was a BattleTech fan who had passed away and they wondered if I could somehow commemorate him.  A special ‘Seyla!’ to him and his loved ones as he plays a pretty neat role in this book.   

So here are the fans I had the honor to include in this latest saga.  Heroes all! 

No Substitute for Victory

(KS)  Thomas Lee Anderson – Fuguzawaz

(KS)  Michael Cohen – Vandervecken

(KS)  Jones Devlin

(KS)  Ashley D. Nichols – Jarrad Hill

Patrick Hendrix Arellano

James Coil

Andrew Firebaugh

Paul “Cono” Galatis

Wolf Gerhäusser

Greg Hartford

Andrew Hasara

Michael Holland

Mike Lombardi

Andrew Marlow

Marco Mollison

Tristan “Scott” Montieth

Kevin Navia

J.Paul Okerlund

George Precious

Chris Richardson

Samantha Rife

James Rucker

Nolan Tomlinson

Karen Winstanley

Robb Wyer


(KS) Dennis Busse for Kerek Helmer

(KS) Chris Fernandez for Slynkers Mercer

(KS) Jason Gollogly for Tyrilla Heller

(KS) Matt Kudrick for Matthew Nash

(KS) Leif Lann for Anjij Nuyriev

Christopher Barghausen

Daniel Corrigan

Ian Morgan Coutt

Mario Garzolini

Brent Kynell

Jeff Rietman

Stanislav Shimuk

Hour of the Wolf

(KS) Robin Apel

(KS) William (Will) Arnold

(KS) Ian Butler—Brigadier Graham Badinov

(KS) Andreas Büttner—Druss Ward

(KS) Colby Cram

(KS) Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq.

(KS) Craig Evans—Pharaoh

(KS) Kevin Markley

(KS) Eris Griffon

(KS) Raymond Guethler

(KS) Justin Hall

(KS) John Healy—Physician Hobgood

(KS) Spencer Huff—Khalus Pryde

(KS) Aleksey Kopysov—Kaor

(KS) Chris Kornfeld

(KS) Aaron Krull

(KS) Andrew Krull

(KS) Jason Mayberry – Kai Nihari

(KS) Brendan (Bren) Mayhugh

(KS) Jason Mischke—Stroud

(KS) Daniel Nichols—Janus

(KS) Matthias Pfaff—Amanda McKenna

(KS) Shawn Rains—Colton Mcleod

(KS) Marvin Sims—Marv Roshak

(KS) Aaron Tarr—Star Colonel Kalidessa Kerensky

(KS) Jakapan Thunpithayakul

(KS) Christopher Toh—Merlin Buhallin

(KS) John Traver—Jack Traver

(KS) Jathniel Velazquez—Jathniel Kerensky

(KS) John Watson

(KS) Michael Mahoney—Sorsha

(KS) Lyle Wojciechowski—Star Colonel Havi Bekker

David Abzug

David Baker

Agustin Sierio Barj

Matthew Behrens

Ted Burger

Billy J. Caldwell

Kim Chapman

John “Fratricide” Craig

Paco Cubillo

Amy Delaney

Benno deJong

Stephen Dukes

David DuJordan

Adolfo Fernandez

William Fife

Noran Ghall

Oliver Haake

Thomas Heath

James “Tanker” Herring

Dirk “Derek” Kobler

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Jeff Lamm

Chew Hwee Leong

Joshua Adam Lonbom

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Dean Manning

John McNary

Jared Micks

Ed Miller

Joe Mooney

Rolf Peter

Max Prohaska

Andrew Quay

Krzysztof Strato Raczyński

Keith Richmond

Jamie Rife

Andrew Roy

Sebastian Schröder

Rowland Seckinger III

Volkmar Seifert

David Skinner

Jeremy Spurlock

Travis Sumpter

Lonnie Tapscott

Paul Tomaszewski

Cory Vigdal

Josh Waltz

Powers Wartman

Ben Weingart

Shawn “Gorilla” Willett

Ludvig Yabar

Sharizal Zarie

The Burdens of Honor

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas of the Draconis Combine.

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte, Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Mason Kortz, Roman Tseng, Ghost Bear Warrior

Eric Stockard, Christine Rosenfeld, ComStar ROM

Seth James, Malik Feff, ISF Agent

Lawrence Greenwood

Children of Kerensky

David Abzug

Agustin Sierio Barj

Elmer Lee Bechdoldt

Dennis Busse, for Kerek

Dr. Randolph P. Checkers, Esq. (Yo Tex!)

Michael “Brent-Killer” Ciaravella

Xander Cosgrave

Olaf Dittmar

David “Dunny” Dunlap

James Doughty, for TacShadow

Adolfo Fernandez

Jason Gambrel

Adam Grimm

Oliver Haake

Claire Harpham

Hannes Hinterberger

Michael Hofacker

Jerry Hornick

Spencer Huff, for Khalus Pryde

Rylan Thane Ingram

Franz Jelinek

Ka’u Johnston-Kitazawa

Artem Kostyukov

Josh Koziura

Jean-Jacques Labbé

James Lee, for Jamie Hazen

Larry Leslie II

Kevin Markley

Marco Mazzoni

Tackett McClenny

Thomas “Dreacon” Miller

Todd More, for (Mike) Wallace

Shane Overstreet

Stephen Parac

Stephan “Warbear” Peter

Juergen Schneidemesser

Rowland Seckinger III

Jeremy Spurlock

Rob Watkins

Sharizal Zarie

The Bonds of Battle

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

Adam Bear, (Kaningamu), contributed by Gregory Adam Cunningham, formerly of the Draconis Combine, now bondsman to Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

William James Hamblin, Chu-i Biru Hamblin of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Kashira Jack ‘Reverend’ Benner, Sonkei-suru Benner of the Draconis Combine

Rock of the Republic

Eric Kraaier

Jean-Jacques Labbé

Ed Miller

Stanislav Shimuk

Travis Sumpter

Jakapan Thunpithayakul

Jonathan Warrington

The Flames of Idlewind (Shrapnel #1)

Marc de Villasante Lahoz

Euan James

Ronald Ledwon

Daniel Leskov

Matthias Pfaff

Benjamin Tang

Divided We Fall

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

Redemption and Malice

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

No Substitute for Victory Releases

Yes, that is a Jade Falcon JagerMech on the cover. It will be explained in the book.    

I understand that the novel is out in Kindle format, as such, this is intended as a non-spoiler post. Link to Amazon. Onto the usual questions:  No, I don’t know when the audio book will be coming out.  Yes, a print copy will be available. Frankly, I found out Thursday evening that the book was about to pop.  Remember, I’m just a writer. 

The first draft of the book was done in June of 2021 which seems like a lifetime ago. A lot things happened from the time I asked to write the book until it was on the slate to come out.  Originally the novel was set on Alkaid but a decision was made to move it to the A Place system. I knew instantly that I had to come up with a better name for A Place because it sounded like an Abbot and Costello joke. “You fought on a battle, where was it?”  “A Place” “I know it was fought in a place, but where was it fought?” “I told you, A Place.”  You get it. So I settled on Jangso, Korean for a place as a name for the planet in the A Place system. Side note:  Now you can see why no one ever covered this planet in fiction before.

Changing the location sounds easy, but it introduced a number of significant character impacts not to mention geography challenges and some twists to the story. I would complain, but this is pretty common for the BattleTech universe, so you learn to adapt. It allowed Ray to tie it in with Tamar Rising, which I wanted to make sure I fully supported. So the book got rewritten.     

No Substitute for Victory is not a universe altering novel. It is a story about interesting characters and the challenging times and circumstances that shape them. We have, for the last three years, lived in challenging times that have transformed a lot of us – so I think people will be able to relate with the characters in this story.   

The idea for this novel began around the time of the first draft of Hour of the Wolf.  It grew more after the writer’s summit in Seattle.  It evolved out of the thought that both Clans, Jade Falcon and Wolf, were fighting all-in on Terra to determine which would be the ilClan. That stripped their Empire and occupation zone, leaving much of it wide open. In a universe of war, conflict is inevitable.  It forced a single question… 

“What happens to those left behind…the ones that didn’t go to Terra?” 

At the writer’s summit we bounced around a lot of thoughts, but there was no one-solution-fits-all. John, my editor, suggested I tackle this in a story format. In the case, I focused on the Jade Falcons.  Who might be left behind in the occupation zone? Solahma—old warriors, and sibko fledglings that were not ready for battle…and an array of the lower castes. From a military perspective; old and young warriors. That alone provides a lot of fertile ground for a writer to work with in terms of character development.   

To me, the characters were all-important. I wanted characters that were going to pop with the readers. The best BattleTech stories are about great characters.  Otherwise they are simply tales of “Mechs slugging it out in battle. Hasara is such a character. He goes on a journey that is remarkable, and it is one that changes him.  Tough times make for strong leaders, and that is something you will see evolve, I hope, with his character. Freebie Easter Egg – you can check out the new Tamar Rising sourcebook and see Hasara’s bio and image.

Guice is another wonderful Jade Falcon character whose allegiance shifts during her arc in the book. As many of you know, I have long supported strong female characters in the BattleTech universe. Guice suffers a disability and how she deals with that is an interesting aspect as to who she is.  As someone who is ‘more seasoned’ i.e. older, I bonded with her and with Hasara fairly fast. I understood what it meant to be in your later years and seeking a refined purpose in life.   

This story covers a lot of ground time-wise.  I wanted the characters to not traditional fight a fast and furious Clan trial, but rather a prolonged campaign.  We rarely see that with Clan warriors and how they react to that I think does a lot to their characters. 

I have always believed that people see what they want to see in the factions of BattleTech. A lot of fans have formed opinions of the Jade Falcons (thanks to Malvina and the Mongol Doctrine) and I wanted to challenge some of those. This book is more a tribute to what the Jade Falcons can be rather than how many perceive them. NSfV (because we always use acronyms for novels) is set in the ilClan era, so we are treading on new ground for the all of the Clans, especially the Falcons. Those who didn’t go are operating in the dark as to what happened on Terra. They are alone, isolated, with enemies everywhere.  It makes them interesting and the challenges they face daunting. It makes for good stories.

I also like telling a story where the lines between the good and bad guys are blurred. The Lyrans in this novel help with that blurring. There are times you, as the reader, will hopefully challenge who you are rooting for.

This is not a novel about a battle for a planet. It is a test of wills of the main characters. Resolve and determination set the tone for these characters and the story.  

I also wanted something that would make a fun campaign for players too. As such, Catalyst agreed to include a map of Jangso’s Gren Continent where the action takes place. Those inclined to slug it out, there is everything you need in this novel to set up minis and begin the fighting.  

There are some juicy Easter Eggs in here as well, including one I would classify as, “a whopper.”  I promise you that some readers are going to flip back to the early chapters and reread some of them when they hit it.  For longtime fans of BattleTech lore, they likely will catch it quickly. More on this after fans have read it and realize the implications. Events on Jangso will set other events in motion…which is all I’m going to say about that.

In some future blog posts, I’ll fill in the details of some of the changes that were made along the way and address some of the surprises you’ll find buried in the pages.

My decision to not attend Gen Con this year

Gen Con 2021 – the main gaming hall. Two years earlier you wouldn’t have been able to find an empty chair and here would have been a lot more tables and seats.

I have been a faithful attendee at Gen Con for years, going back to the Milwaukee years. When I went, I did so for a few reasons.  As a writer in the industry, it was a chance to get face time with editors, fellow writers, line managers, etc. to talk about the coming year’s products and what I should be focusing on.  I also attended to shop for the new releases.  Then there was the gaming itself. For me, it was a chance to sit down and try new games, play some BattleTech or other games I like.  Finally it was an opportunity to mix and mingle with some fans. I loved playing Master’s and Minions with the fans.

In recent years, I brought my grandson with me to Gen Con because he likes gaming as well.  Usually we look forward to the trip to Indy every summer.  Gen Con has been something I have always enjoyed attending together. 

I went last year during COVID and the experience was less-than-satisfactory. Many big game companies passed on attending.  Many usual events we had come to rely on simply weren’t offered at all. The events list was reduced dramatically, and the few games I wanted to play filled up instantly.  The restrictions on the gaming halls were overbearing in some instances.  Because maps had to be wiped down, plastic was over a lot of them which led to some issues. Demos in booths were limited if not eliminated, and those that were done were struggles to balance playing versus social distancing mandates. Many companies simply didn’t try at all.

Then of course there was the ‘thrill’ of wearing a mask on premises.  Gaming, by its very nature, is a social affair.  Part of it is seeing the face of your allies during victories and you foes when you beat them.  This was taken away with the masks. It was replaced with muffled voices that you couldn’t hear.  On top of that, were the mask police, the self-appointed gamers who pointed out when you were not social distancing to their standards, or pointing out that your mask had slipped down. I pulled my mask away one time for a literal second, just to get a gasp of air, and you would have thought I had committed a war crime.

This year Gen Con announced that it would be masked event.  I cringed when I read it. I can go to my local game stores and play without a mask and nobody even flinches.  The people that want to wear masks can.  I’m triple vaccinated and I am comfortable not wearing a mask.  Why can I play in a game store without a mask but if I travel across the country to Indianapolis to play, I need to wear one?

I fully understand Gen Con having to make this announcement now, with a spike in COVID. They have to create the illusion of safety for everyone, but that doesn’t mean I have to play along with this and attend.  Yes, they may change the rules by August – but by then the hotels and events will likely be filled.  Registration is at the end of this month, so a decision had to be made.  On top of this, we have no idea which game companies will be there, or if the same overbearing rules will apply to gaming sessions.  I sat down with my grandson and we talked about it.  He agreed, he didn’t want to attend if he had to wear a mask either. We decided to pass

Then I saw that Gen Con was going to put your personal pronouns on the name badges.  I rolled my eyes at this one.  After the Gaming Goat incident last year when they physically removed one game company owner over an alleged piece of artwork frog holding up a racist sign (No, I’m not making this up) and the attack two years earlier on Jeremy Hambly; it was clear that Gen Con was pandering to a specific audience of gamers.  The last thing I needed was to have someone turn their badge around so I could call them by what they wanted or risk them having a hissy fit over not using the right language.  In short, Gen Con shouldn’t get involved with politics or ideologies, period.  While this personal pronoun stuff didn’t factor into my decision this year, it makes me cringe. 

My take on Gen Con’s mask policies is that they are not necessary.  If you are afraid of COVID, you always have the option of wearing a mask…just don’t tell me I have to wear one.  If you are scared of catching COVID, don’t attend. Why should everyone’s gaming fun be ruined because you are frightened or at risk?  If you can’t get vaccinated due to medical conditions, going to an event with tens of thousands of people might not be the thing for you.   

I will still spend the same amount on gaming this year, but I will do it in my local game store or on company web sites, rather than spend it at Gen Con.  I will play games either at home or at the game store of my choice, where I can have the fun the way it was meant to be enjoyed – face to face.  

I hope Gen Con returns to normal.  I hope that the big companies come back.  I hope they eventually foster an open and fun gaming experience for ALL attendees. Until then, I have plenty to keep me busy at home writing.    

Introduction to Creative Juggernaut’s Terrain Hexes

An Urbie on a moon

I have to admit, this one is on me.  Here’s the background. We were considering doing a new mini for CGL and were struggling with the poses.  I had been watching the fan forums on Facebook and someone had been commenting about how he just never could get the hang of the bases and was complimenting others on their base creations. I threw out the idea of having one or two custom terrain bases that fans could attach the mini to rather than the dull flat base in lieu of extra arms or legs.  It seemed like something that would be kind of cool.

That got me wondering – how many fans had similar frustrations?  So I asked around and found that for many folks, the issue was time. They wanted good bases, but they took a lot of time.  They had to buy bases, then some green stuff, do the molding…wait for it to set. Paint, flock, detail…it was taking some fans almost as much time as they spent getting their mini’s ready for battle.    

The short version – we didn’t end up doing the ‘Mech in question, but didn’t let the terrain base idea slip by.  Our goal was simple – make some cool looking terrain bases that required very little effort for the casual gamer to prep and use.  Brent, Kevin, Eric and I started batting around the idea of a line of hex bases, compatible with BattleTech, that would take little time to prepare and looked good.  Brent and his son took on the job of the initial batch, based loosely on the map sets for BattleTech, Badlands and Lunar.  I think one of mine actually made it to production – I’m not sure.  We wanted a good random mix of these bases in each bag. 

A random sample of painted Lunar bases
A random set of Badlands bases

For me, this was all about how much time it took to prepare the hexes.  So in these examples, what I am going to show you is a bare minimum effort and provide you with rough timing. 

Prep for the bases is pretty simple. There is a spur and some very minor flash.  I was able to use trimmers to cut the spur and a simple file to prepare the base.  Total time, assuming you are careful when you trim the mold spur, less than a minute per hex.  Now, if your mini needs a flat spot for a footpad, you will need to take a file and make one, but in my examples – I didn’t.

This spur was the biggest and it was easy to clip through. Brent has informed me that the new process means even less spurs to none!

I spray painted them flat black – just a few seconds per base.  I like black borders on the hexagonal sides and this fit well into my evil plan.  

Next up, dry-brushing. I was tempted to fire up the air brush, but with the black as a base, I thought that dry-brushing would give me the desired contrast.  Also, my goal was to do this in the fastest way possible, rather than the most detailed.  I spent about 45 seconds, on average, per hex.  I went with a dull light brown for the Badlands and an off-white for the Lunar bases.  I honestly felt that I was spending more time cleaning my brush than I was painting. 

For these images I grabbed my trusty crimson UrbanMech and just set him on some bases so you can see how it looks.  The result…I spent, at tops, two and a half minutes per base to prep and paint them.  Yes, I could have glued down some scrub brush on the Badlands hexes – but I felt it wasn’t necessary for this demonstration. This was intended to show even the most unskilled painter how easy and fast these can be deployed to your gaming battlefield.

“Look at me mom, I’m in the Badlands!”

I personally love the Lunar bases because I can see these being changed with little effort into battlefield craters rather than meteor strikes. 

We sell these exclusively through Aries Games & Miniatures.

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.

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!