Farewell your worshipfulness…

leia
“We love you Carrie…”  “I know.”

We all a bit saddened at the death of Carrie Fisher.  Since she had her cardiac incident a few days ago, I had some self-reflection about why her and her character has endured.

Until Star Wars (no number is needed) Fisher was relatively unknown.  Yes, pundits will spout her credits, but to be honest, none of us had seen her face until Star Wars.  The fact she played the role so well with so little experience catapulted her into our collective memory and hearts.

She played a princess that didn’t fit the mold.  Up until that time we had the sugarcoated vision of princesses that Disney had been churning out for decades. Sure, we had Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) but in the end it was her figure that drew us in.  Fisher’s Leia character was a tough, take-charge woman who was as comfortable in diplomatic settings as she was wielding a blaster.  She was a role model without shoving it in your face like so many “stars” try to do today.  A huge part of the appeal of Star Wars is her character and the fact that she did not fit the stereotype of a princess in distress.

Even the other characters like Han Solo, which should have overshadowed hers, were stymied at her audacity and biting lines.  Yes, that was the product of great writing and directing, but in the end it was Carrie Fisher.

Her character fell in love with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks and she made it work.  One of the best moments we had in Rogue One was seeing her there, once more, buns in hair, on the screen again.

And that slave girl costume from Return of the Jedi…well, that was another image we proudly carry thanks to her.

Was she a stunning actress with depth?  Probably not.  She didn’t have to be.  One of my favorite moments recently with her was on Big Bang Theory when James Earl Jones and Sheldon rang her doorbell and ran.  There was something so cool in that one short segment that made even the most stiff and cynical critic grin broadly.

carrie-fisher
“It’s not funny James!”  “Then why am I laughing?”  

When we saw her in The Force Awakens, we saw that time had stripped some of the veneer off of Fisher but not off of the character she played.  While the years had changed her looks, the spirit was still there and that was all her – all the actress.

She was still our one and only Princess.  She had a father with issues, deep issues.  Yes, she kissed her brother – but we moved past that.  She is gone, and for those of us who proudly refer to ourselves as geeks, we have lost our only true royalty.  Her legacy is one of memory for us.  She will always be in our minds wearing white, hair in buns, blaster at the ready.

For me, like so many, the reflections are personal.  I proudly bear the fond memories of working at the Battle Creek Auto Drive-In for 10 weeks while Star Wars showed every night 1.5 times – to the point when we could do all of the actors parts while we did our jobs.  It never once got old or corny.  I took my children to see the digitally remastered films when they released in theaters, and my grandson to see the new films when they came out.  Carrie Fisher is, for most of us, generational.  Her image is iconic around the globe, which is why we care.

For her to have taken a part in Star Wars was risky…a risk we are all better for her doing.  In her own words, “You came here in that?  You’re braver than I thought!”

Farewell your worshipfulness.  The Force is with you…you are now, truly, one with the Force…

 

Review of Into the Guns – America Rising – by William Dietz

into-the-guns_high-res

I am a sucker for novels that deal with the end of the United States and how that would be horrible.  I was in for the John Birmingham’s After America series, though I found myself wanting.  He did a great job of character creation and all – but I struggled with it near the end.

So when I spotted Into the Guns by William C. Dietz, I jumped at it.  Perhaps now I would get some of that satisfaction I felt missing.  I came away liking the book, but felt I was still missing something.

The premise is simple.  In 2018 a meteor shower destroys Washington DC.  War breaks out because everyone assumes it was some sort of an attack.  The results are a fragmented United States stripped of its Federal Government (stop cheering!) and hilarity ensues.

I liked the kickoff premise more than the reality.  Birmingham seemed to factor in a lot of real-world stuff in After America.  Dietz focuses on the characters.  The sole survivor of the cabinet (ala Designated Survivor) paddles his way north from Mexico only to be taken prisoner by a New Confederacy that is setting on most the shattered nation’s oil reserves. The military finds itself splinted into a small bands that fight for survival, trying to retake military bases and protect local citizens.

I won’t shatter the overarching plot for you here – please go and read the book.  Suffice it to say, there is a good strong plot, even if parts if it seem a little forced.  My gripe is that the New Confederacy card is one played out in Alternate History and Sci Fi far too often. Yes, it’s a minor thing – but I would have liked something different…personal choice here.

Dietz shines less with story and more with characterization in this book.  While I can sit here and nit-pick it apart, I won’t.  Look, you have to suspend belief here.  This is less a post-apocalyptic survivors book than it is a gritty military fiction book.  This is where Dietz plays well on his home field and provide readers with some very cool battle scenes.

I give this book four out of five stars.  It is the first time I’ve read the author’s work and I find myself compelled to read more – so it must have been pretty decent.

Review of Fallout by Harry Turtledove

fallout

I’m going to try and keep this a spoiler-free review of this novel, so it will be relatively short.  In his first novel in this series, Bombs Away, Turtledove laid an intriguing twist…what if we had used nuclear weapons in the Korean War? How could that have played out?

The answer is a world where B-29’s drop bombs fresh from the factory.  This is not Wargames version of global thermonuclear war…it is slow, grinding, ponderous and painful. It is a bomber war.

In book two, Fallout, we see the results of this war lumbering forward.  There is no quick victory here for the characters.  As with all Turtledove novels I’ve read, he’s got multiple story lines and perspectives in play.  The nature of the war shifts in Fallout, bringing rise to the use of nukes on the battlefields.  Several of the story line characters are on those fields of war and experience first-hand the kind of war we only speculated as children.

Both sides start to break out their WWII surplus tanks and weapons to replace losses.  I know some readers found that far-fetched but in reality, up through the 1960’s, the Soviets maintained a large stockpile of T34/85’s from WWII, just for such an eventuality.  I learned that in my research for my own military history book, The Fires of October.

Personally, I would have enjoyed more battle scenes.  There are some story lines I found myself drawn to.  The woman sent off to the gulags is an angle that is proving interesting and is something of a departure for typical Turtledove characters.  I also love the cliffhanger moments with the English woman who owned a bar in Bombs Away.  I came away from the book thinking about how cursed some people are to having bad things happen to them.

The politics of the war and the rise of Joe McCarthy get some reader-time, but don’t seem to add much to the novel.  I wish that had been explored more as a source of tension.  Then again, knowing Turtledove, he could be holding back an “October Surprise” for us fans.

The book does have a big escalation moment near the end – which I won’t spoil.  It was good – damned good.  It could have been more – but it was still pretty awesome.

People love to take shots at Harry Turtledove’s work, as one of the fathers of contemporary alternate history.  Going after his style, his repetition, his character arcs, etc., is almost cliché at this point.  I won’t go there.  People like to take shots at the people at the top of their game – there’s something very American about it.  I won’t.  I’m enjoying the series.

If you liked Bombs Away, you’ll find Fallout as a good solid novel.  Four out of five stars in my opinion.

 

Non-Spoiler Review of Star Trek Beyond

Just a wee scratch
Yeah – that’s not going to buff out…

Disclaimer – I’m a Treker…always have been, always will be.  This new film is the third in the rebooted Star Trek universe and I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed.

The movie finds the crew of the USS Enterprise in the middle of their five year mission and feeling the loneliness in the vastness of deep space.  Some relationships are strained.  Others are more solid than ever. You get a sense that these characters have been through a lot together – beyond the films.

The plot is solid.  This is not about starship combat – it is about loyalty, commitment, and honor.  The writing is almost perfect.  Bones and Spock have some wonderful one-liners between the two of them.  There was a lot of different pairing that takes place in this film that we haven’t seen before in a Star Trek film.  That made it neat and fun to watch.

I was not a big fan of the action/fighting scenes.  The way some were filmed I lost track of who was hitting whom because of camera angles and jostling.  It is a very minor nit to what is a top-notch film.

What I really like is this film stands on its own. It is not a sequel as much as a continuation of the story.  They incorporated the death of Leonard Nimoy perfectly, making it a key plot point in the film.  There’s even a homage to the original series of movies here with a single photo that says more than any dialogue in the movie.

I particularly liked the fact we saw an NX class starship here – albeit a precursor to TV’s Enterprise series.   I know a lot of people hated Enterprise, but I have come to like it quite a bit and this nod to that era was well done.

We got a new character, Jaylah, who was awesome as well.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see Dr. Marcus still with the crew – nor did we learn her fate.  Again, such a minor nit that it hardly is worth mentioning.

All of the internet hype about Sulu being “Openly gay” in the film was, for the most part, inconsequential.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the hype I probably would have missed it entirely.  The internet breeds cynicism.  It turned out to be a big non-moment in the film.  Stupid internet trolls…

Overall, I give Star Trek Beyond a solid five stars.  A great film for a hot summer weekend.

Clan Wolverine News!

CAT36044_Betrayal of Ideals Full Cover POD copy.pdf
Seyla! 

Just posting that headline I can almost hear the audible groans and resounding cheers.  I am pleased to announce that the novel, Betrayal of Ideals, will be available in BOTH print and ebook form for GenCon this year.  For many of you this is a new BattleTech novel which may or may not be exciting.  It is for me so allow me to bask in it.  

Over the years I get at least two emails a month asking if this saga, the true story of Clan Wolverine’s downfall, would ever be in book form.  Originally e-published on BattleCorps, this book has never been in print before.

I proposed this idea to John Helfers, the BattleTech editor last year at GenCon.  We both conspired to see this come to life along with some fans who kept prodding.  John hit me out of the blue a few weeks ago with an editorial pass of the manuscript and I realized that there was more we could do.  I wanted to provide some new material to the book so that the readers from BattleCorps would have an incentive to take another look at this important book.  So I crafted two new chapters, at the beginning and end of the book – leveraging some of the newer source material from the Operation Klondike Sourcebook.  The results is a very cool and robust book.  The Klondike sourcebook is one of those things I wish I had available when the story was originally written.  Great stuff!  John told me it was okay to pop the news.  

Sidebar:  I had to take a break from working on my current all-new BattleTech novel to pull this off – time well spent I might add.  Yes, that’s right, another BattleTech novel (all new) is in the works.    

When I originally wrote the book it was the subject of Internet Trolls claiming I had retconned the history of the Wolverines.  Not true!  It has been said that history is written by the victors and what we know about the Not-Named Clan came from sources that were party to their destruction.  They revered Nicholas Kerensky as infallible.  The Wolverines were the boogeymen of Clan history, an evil that had to be eradicated.  Mass murderers driven crazy with power. 

I came at it from a different angle.  What if everything printed thus far was only one side of the story?  What if the reality was something else?  What if Nicholas Kerensky was an egocentric madman who allowed the Wolverines to be set up to keep the rest of his people united?  (I know, this is sacrilege to Clan fanboys).  What if the early days of the Clans were more politics and petty jealousy than honor?  That is what Betrayal digs into. 

For the record, Nicholas had a bit of a screw loose, we pointed to that in the sourcebooks.  I mean he used the Monguls as a model for his new society iconized with animal totems.  It’s either visionary or the acts of a nut-job.  

I’m not implying that the Clans are not great.  As with any successful culture, they rarely live up to the image they like to project.  Yes, there are stalwarts who live up to those high-and-mighty ideals, but often they are not the dominant voices that are echoed through history.  I wanted to explore that with Betrayal of Ideals

I make no apologies for this book.  Personally, I think it is one of my better efforts.  The internet trolls will wail in false agony at this canon, which only makes me smile. 

This is an epic tale of a proud warrior culture painted unjustly as demons, who were brutally hunted down by their own people. It was a strange book to write since we all know essentially how this story ends (essentially).  I wanted to include some elements that would be a treat for BattleTech readers/players.  So, some new ‘Mechs were needed…and the SLS McKenna’s Pride (just because).  There had to be a flight from Clan Space because we all know the Minnesota Tribe has some connection to the Wolverines – right?  The Wolverines are fighting the ultimate lost cause and the readers know that from the very start of the book.  That means this had to be a grand story. 

Some of the scenes are chocked full of symbolism and that was all very deliberate. I really wanted to explore those early years of the Clans in a dangerous and formative period of their history.  With all enemies defeated, it was only natural for them to turn on themselves.  

The characters were an ensemble cast.  The story could not easily be told from one character’s perspective.  I wanted to make sure that the full ramifications of the Clans turning against the Wolverines were made clear to the reader.  One of my favorite scenes (and there are many) is with the Ghost Bears near the end of the book.  It was something that had impact all the way into the Jihad era.  There had to be a cost to the Clans for cutting off one of their own limbs.  I personally like the main characters and the turmoil I was forced to put them through. 

The new epilogue – well, that is something that I think people will be buzzing about for a while.  He he he. 

One of the big advocates of this book was Brent Evens at Catalyst.  Brent went out and got a new artist to do a cover for the book that I absolutely love.  The Wolverine banner in the background in flames – perfect. 

For those of you that read the story on BattleCorps, there’s some new stuff here – so check it out.  For those of you that never read it, saddle-up.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.  WOLVERINES!!!! (think Patrick Swayze or Charlie Sheen) 

Non-Spoiler Review of Ghostbusters

Jillian
Reminds me of my help desk days…

With all due respect (none) for the internet trolls that panned this movie based on its first trailer, I actually enjoyed the new Ghostbusters.  It is not a sequel but a reboot of this franchise, and yes, they have laid the foundation in the post-trailer credits for a sequel.

The film is good – not great.  The strengths – Kate McKinnon as the mad-scientist engineer of the group, Jillian Holtzmann.  Yes, it’s the Egon role, but she brings us a new quirky character that made me laugh several times in the film.  When she licks her guns before shooting – priceless – a move I intend to lift at GenCon when I’m role playing next month.

The special effects are awesome.  My wife and I saw it in 3D and this is one of those rare films where 3D works well.  The special effects aside, the film has a solid plot.  It’s not a rehash of Ghostbuster’s films, but breathes fresh life into it.

The cameo’s make the film.  Even the fleeting homage to Harold Ramis is well-done, tasteful, and not overpowering in the film.  Everything was done respectfully, as it should be.   Even the Ghostbuster’s iconic firehouse manages to stir emotions with the viewers.  It’s like when you see the USS Enterprise in Star Trek – it is a character all on its own.

My only complaint was that Chris Hemsworth as comedy relief was okay (lukewarm at best), but not great.  Put on the wig and pick up Mjolnir Chris – you are a perfect Thor.  Trying to fill the Annie Potts/Rick Moranis roles is not your thing.  Please, go get your hammer.

Comparisons to the original 1984 film are almost impossible to avoid, but I will.  This film stands on its own.  The writing was solid – as was the acting and character development.  Now that we have cleared the hurdle of the film being its own entity, we can move forward with sequels.

I rate this a solid 4.5 out of five stars.  Funny, good pacing, a rollicking fun romp through your memoires of the original film.   A total protonic reversal on the cynical internet trolls!

#Ghostbusters

Review of Captain America – The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger by Matt Forbeck

Cap
Eat Vibranium 

I’m a big fan of Captain America, I have the entire collection on DVD-ROM and have read them (no minor task mind you) so when I saw that DK was publishing a definitive guide to Cap, I put it immediately on my wish list.  Even better, it was written by Matt Forbeck, a fellow gaming author and comrade in arms.

DK has published some awesome books covering comic books. Their encyclopedias for DC and Marvel are must-haves if you are running a superhero RPG or are just a fan.  This book falls in the same category, concentrating on Captain America starting with the WWII era books up to the present.  I hope that DK is planning more of these hero-cetric books having read this one cover-to-cover.

The very early material interested me the most – the pre-Marvel days when Captain America was punching out Adolph Hitler. There was some material there I was not familiar with (these early works are not in my collection).  Matt did an awesome job of bringing this forward for a new generation.

As you read this book you come to grips that Captain America, Bucky, and Red Skull have been rebooted more times than the James Bond franchise.  A lot of people have picked up the shield over the years and I had forgotten that until I dove into this book.  Forbeck does an outstanding job of walking you through all of the incarnations of this fantastic hero.  I love the summery write-ups of key issues as well.

From a writer’s perspective, I have to applaud Matt’s work here.  For those of you that have never written a book like this, with lead articles and a number of sidebars, it is a lot of logistical work.  Been there – done that.  Forbeck’s prose is tight and there’s a lot of consistency here which I’ll attribute to him (though I’m sure his editor played a role).  Writing a tome like this is not an easy undertaking and keeping it organized had to be a big chore.  Of course we all benefited from it.

I purchased it as a hard copy book so my grandson Trenton could enjoy it.  He took two nights of reading time to flip through every richly illustrated page.  It passed his muster and mine from a reading perspective.  There’s a lot of material here and the stories are all very interesting.  We get all of Cap’s allies and enemies detailed out, as well as how they have morphed over the decades.

I give this five out of five stars if you are a Cap fan.  If not, this will get you up to speed pretty quick.  Pick it up and enjoy!

Doc Savage

Doc Savage
Coming to a screen soon!

When I was in high school a classmate, Scott English, got me to read a Doc Savage paperback and I became hooked.  The books, reprinted in the 1970’s-80’s were reprints of the pulp magazine stories from the 1930’s – yet oddly they seemed to be entertaining to me.  The books were fast and easy to consume and noir settings and cast of characters made them really stand out.

If you don’t know who Doc Savage is; I’m not surprised.  The character was a super-human character that came into being in 1933.  Clark Savage Jr. was the pinnacle of human development, with a brilliant mind and a team of comrades that followed him on world-saving adventures.  The mix of characters that he had with him included an archeologist, a chemist, an electrical engineer, a lawyer, and a construction engineer – all exciting and expanding fields in the 1930’s.  Doc’s team were not some cardboard group of characters.  Some of them didn’t get along with each other (Ham and Monk sparred verbally often – with Monk have a pet pig named after “Ham” Brooks). Thomas “Long Tom” Roberts was an electrical engineer that was the equivalent of a tech-geek today.  They stood out on their own, yet were better when working together.

Savage and his “Fabulous Five” thwarted bad guys that were somewhere between old-school Lex Luthor and Scooby-Doo adversaries.  The evil plans were insidious yet believable in context.  There were fantastic sci-fi technology weapons and tools intertwined into the books, many of which were precursors to technology that would eventually be developed in the real world.  The books were thin paperbacks because they were reprinted pulp stories, really they were novellas in length.

I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Doc Savage (Clark) bore a lot of resemblance to Superman who also emerged later in 1933.  They had above average strength.  Savage had a Fortress of Solitude long before the Man of Steel.  Where Superman was alone, what made Doc Savage work was that he had a team – a Justice League before there was a Justice League.  One must wonder how much of Clark Kent was lifted from Clark Savage Jr.

Doc lived on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, at the time the tallest building in the world.  He used an autogyro, a zeppelin, and a Batmobile-like car to get around.  He was fabulously wealthy and had a hot cousin, Pat Savage, who also became part of the mix of characters.  Doc was a pulp superhero before all of that existed.

There were a ton of books, pulp magazines, radio shows, comic books, and even a movie made about Doc Savage in 1975 that is best left forgotten.  A new Doc Savage comic books is out now too, so the legend continues.

Ironically, Lester Dent (under the name Kenneth Robeson), who penned most of the stories about Doc and his team considered his work anything but enduring.  For him it was just something he made money at.  Oddly enough, his was some of the only pulp fiction to continue on in book format reprinted decades later.

I saw this week that Dwayne Johnson has been cast to play Doc Savage in an upcoming film adaptation of the Man of Bronze (Doc’s nickname thanks to his George Hamilton tan).  I have to say I’m a little bit excited.  Doc Savage consumed a chunk of my allowance as a kid.  Yes, the stories were as formulaic as a Dukes of Hazzard episode, but there was always a twist or two that caught you off guard.  What made the books work was the mix of distinct characters which Lester Dent combined and shuffled to make for unique adventures.   Doc Savage is part Indiana Jones, part superhero, and a touch of pre-war nostalgia all wrapped in one neat bundle.

In fairness, I haven’t gone back to the books to see if the stories still captivate me the way they did back in my youth.  A part of me doesn’t want to know.  I have the memories and that is enough for me.

I have always been surprised that no one published a Doc Savage RPG.  The wealth of source material out there would make it a natural.

I know the naysayers out there will blast the project before the ink is dry on the script.  Most will decry that Doc doesn’t have a place in our fast-paced world – that he is too cartoony for us to enjoy.  The one thing the internet has done is made us a nation of bitter cynics who delight in tearing things apart even if we haven’t seen it.  I have no illusions that Dwayne Johnson is some academy award winning actor – but that doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t capture some the essence of the character.  I know one thing, I will be going to catch the film when it opens and I am sure it will conjure up some fantastic memories.

When I heard the movie was coming, the first thing I said was, “I’ll be superamalgamated,” one of Doc’s team (William Harper “Johnny” Littlejohn’s) favorite sayings.  Yeah, I’m geeky and I’m comfortable with that.  Bring your A Game Dwayne Johnson, those of us that like Doc Savage are expecting a lot.

Progress on my new BattleTech novel

Exodus Road
A trip down memory lane (note, this is not a hint about the new book…or is it, quineg?) 

I started two weeks ago on a NEW BattleTech novel and it is starting to gain momentum.  It hit the 16k word count out of at least 90k for the entire book.  Not bad given that I do my writing at night (after my day job) and on weekend.  I stress “new” because a lot of my older novels are going back into reprint under the BattleTech Legends banner.  (And yes, I have convinced myself that the “Legends” refers to us authors, not the stories.)

This wasn’t the first story I proposed.  The editor and I worked out a cool idea at GenCon last year for a neat book set in the Jihad (the WHOLE Jihad).  That idea didn’t get shot down, but it was clearly going to take a lot to rework the storyline.  As such my editor, John Helfers, asked “do you have any other ideas?”

Yes, yes I did.  A whopper.  One that crossed multiple eras and tied together some loose ends in the BattleTech universe.  One that had some powerful and neat characters to boot.

First and foremost was getting the story approved and tweaked.  I got feedback from the good folks at Catalyst about some incredibly minor changes – which I either accepted or adjusted to make work.  With the story in hand, you would think that this is simply a matter of sitting down to write it – right?  I mean, I’ve written 11-ish BattleTech novels, heavy on the “ish,” so it should be old hat for me. *

Wrong.

BattleTech novel writing is complex.  This is like writing a doctoral thesis.  There are time you almost want to put in the footnotes.  There is a LOT of material out there in the BattleTech universe that I have to factor in.  I’ve been keeping up (boy that Jihad dragged on) but now, after years of being away from BattleTech, I need to write a book that most of the fans out there will devour.  I’m not saying that I’m rusty, but if you don’t do something for a long time, it can take a while to get back in the saddle again.

You have to remember, I’m a fan of BattleTech as well as being an author.

To do that, I have to re-read no less than six books, some of which I wrote.  BattleTech fans are fact-checkers with attitudes, so I needed to get things lined up properly in my own head.  I had to crawl back into the belly of the beast and relearn BattleTech again.  I broke out the rules books and did some research to make sure that, for the most part, I adhered to the game functions.  I admit I do fudge some of the battle scenes now and then because the fiction gives you a lot more freedom than the rules offer.

It has been a long time since I sat down and read one of my own books.  You would think all of that stuff would still be stored in my brain in active memory.  Wrong.  First off, some of these books were written almost two decades ago (some much sooner).  Second, I write a lot of stuff, so the things that are in my memory get a little fuzzy.

Some things I learned, my writing style has changed over time.  I think it’s better, but that’s not for me to say – that’s for the readers.  I embraced some of my old characters again with new perceptions about them. The new novel will be told through the eyes of two primary characters (and one other minor one) that I needed to develop character arcs for – the larger uber-story of the journey of these characters.   Since these characters will be familiar to readers already I think it’s important to see them evolve and change.

This book also covers a lot of territory time-wise.  So it’s not just a matter of boning up on the Clans, I have to also rekindle the memories of The Dark Age.

Perhaps the most challenging is dovetailing all of this into existing canon and novels.  I like to think I’ve pulled that off.  There are some scenes where quite literally, I recreated the scene out of a Mike Stackpole or Tom Gressman novel, but from another character’s point of view.

I just finished a big battle chapter which was a lot of fun.  Clan combat nuances and language can be tricky, not to mention combat Trials.  I’m also dealing with some Clans that haven’t gotten a lot of fiction exposure in the past, which means I’m digging through old source material to make sure I get their feel right.

The best news – I’ve been asked to start thinking about the cover art.  In the past, I was asked to submit a couple of possible chapters and the art director went off and the magic somehow happened and I was surprised as hell when the book came out.  Catalyst is actually asking for my input on the cover.  While my artistic skill is rated at zero (stick people are complicated for me) I’m actually excited to work with the Art Director Brent Evans on coming up with an awesome cover.  (Brent and I know each other VERY well, but we rarely do BattleTech stuff together.)

Oh, I should have included that I am including a few select players names in the book.  I’m kind of doing that at random.  The characters are not based on these individuals.  I wanted to give some of the fanboys out there a chance to be IN a BattleTech novel.  Hopefully they will help spread the word once it is out.

So, that’s the update.  A sea of planetary maps, a barrage of “quiaffs?” and the smell of ozone from a near miss of a particle projection cannon…just a typical day writing in the bunker.   You know what they say, “No Guts – No Galaxy.”

* I performed the extensive re-write of Star Lord back in the day.  Don’t ask…

Review of Horizon Wars Miniatures Rules

Horizon Wars
The cover is more cool than the rules

Osprey Games went from being an almost unknown spinoff of a famous military history publisher to being a presence in the gaming industry, seemingly overnight.  Horizon Wars is their newest set of rules and I had to pick up a copy.  I’m a junkie for military miniature gaming and was hopeful, having already purchased Tomorrow’s War ruleset a year or so ago.

Horizon Wars is designed for 2mm-10mm platoon to battalion size engagements.  While some pseudo-future background material is provided, the rules are designed to be generic in nature, a ruleset that you can take and customize for your own futuristic worlds and wars.

It’s a hardcover book, 120 pages, with some illustrations and photographs of miniatures.  The physical quality of the game is solid, though some of the miniatures and terrain are quite plain looking.  I would have expected something with a little more pizazz for the cost.

You get rules covering a mix of vehicles, aircraft, infantry, and Mechs.  The key mechanic of the game is that Range is the core of the target roll.  So if your range of an element (Infantry, tanks, Mechs) is 10 inches away, then that becomes the target roll that is modified against.  The defender (in the “Incoming” phase) rolls a unit’s specific number of Defense die.  Those rolls that match the incoming attack are considered removed.  The rest hit and do damage.  The mechanic is simple to master and different, which is a plus.

The game has rules for aircraft; a rather beefy section of the rules which seems like it would really bog down play in all fairness.  It is really hard to have near-future aircraft engage on the battlefield when, in the real-world, they can strike from miles away.  No matter what rules you play, it is awkward combining aircraft and ground combat without a little bit of abstraction.

Being a BattleTech fan and author, I gyrated to the Mech rules.  If you are looking for a replacement to BattleTech here – don’t.  Stick with Alpha Strike.  In Horizon Wars ‘Mechs have additional capabilities, but for all intents and purposes act just like tanks and infantry on the battlefield. Yes, they have some capabilities defined as Weapons Upgrades, but otherwise they are just like every other ground-pounder in the game system.

That is actually one of the failings of the rules.  Different units really are pretty generic.  Yes, there are traits applicable to infantry, but for the most part, it feels like each unit is pretty much like the other in terms of ground battles. You don’t get a “feel” for Mechs being anything special, nor do you get a taste for the differences between ground tanks and hovertanks.

The comparison to Alpha Strike from Catalyst Games Labs is fair.  Horizon Wars reaches to be that kind of rounded system, but fails.  Its unique combat roll mechanic is different but not enough to compel you to run out and get this game.  Its real strength is that it hits a niche in terms of game scale that lacks a lot of good rules.  In that, Horizon Wars is a viable candidate as long as players are willing to take these rules and tweak them.

I give this a three out of five stars rating.   I wasn’t dazzled…not yet.