RockyMountainNavy, 19 May 2022 For us navalist Grognards, the war in the Ukraine has been feast or famine. Well, mostly famine. Aside from the sinking of the Russian Federation Navy ship Moskva, the war at sea has been light on action. Fortunately, as a wargamer you can look at alternate happenings, and what better way…#UnboxingDay – Ukraine War at Sea with Harpoon V from The Admiralty Trilogy Group) — Armchair Dragoons
Last week, NBC News Meet the Press reported on a wargame run by the Center for New American Security (CNAS), a D.C.-based think tank, on a 2027 war with China. A description of the game along with an 11-minute version of the broadcast is available here, and a longer 27 minute version is below. Note that the short video is not just a slice of the longer one; both have original content that is worth watching.
To say this was an interesting little show is an understatement; it is rare that we see this much “wargame” in the media. Sure, what we saw is looks more like a BOGSAT* but the various articles do tell us there was some adjudication happening. Here are some observations I have (minor spoilers if you care):
- The lure of the Fait Accompli. Like Russia in the Ukraine, the decision to go to war was based on a “hope” for a quick victory…but when that doesn’t happen it becomes a slog that neither side is ready for.
- Both sides were quick to climb the escalation ladder. I found this a bit interesting because in some of the literature I have read “elite players”—like the Congressional or ex-Executive Branch or retired military types playing here—tend to not escalate like a bunch of high-school kids might.
- The wargame was less about the kinetic war and more about the decisions and implications made during the war. For professional wargamers this is a long-given but it is good to see it come through in this presentation.
- When a wargame focuses on decisions it brings out more useful observations. I think all too often policy makers either don’t want to to are discouraged from playing a “war game” because they don’t see themselves (or are told by others) they don’t have the military expereince to play “war”; but it is their policy insights that are needed to make vital adjustments to the future and we can see that “lightbulb of learning” happening here.
- The nuclear genie is closer to getting loose than one thinks. How casual was the discussion on limited nuclear use even after (conventional) strikes of the U.S. homeland?
- Wargames are models, subject to bias in design and execution. In much the same way this wargame didn’t reach the radar of NBC News by accident; so who is advocating here and for with what agenda?
- A five-hour wargame. This is what happens when you are more focused on decisions and less on force-on-force modeling and simulation.
There are many more games over at The Gaming Lab at CNAS. More than a few have publications or videos behind them. Worth checking out.
*BOGSAT – Bunch of Guys/Gals Sitting Around a Table
Feature image -“The war game adjudication team tracks progress with a map of the Taiwan strait and a mock-up of Chinese and Taiwanese forces, on “Meet the Press Reports” in Washington on April 25. William B. Plowman / NBC “
This weekend I added to my digital Harpoon V (Admiralty Trilogy Group) wargame collection by purchasing Russia’ s Aircraft: Soviet & Russian Military Aircraft 1955-2020. At the same time I bought the latest issue of The Naval SITREP (#62, April 2022) which has a featured article, “Ships and Aircraft of the Ukrainian Navy and Air Force.” Now I can rerun my Moskva sinking scenario with the benefit of several plays (aka “rules learning sessions”) and validated game data.
While I have already studied the sinking of the Moskva using Harpoon V, the only other real naval engagement has been a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 UAV versus a Russian Raptor patrol boat (PB).
Like the video shows, in Harpoon V this battle is very quick to finish. The Harpoon V rules note:
Small craft, size class F and G, are tougher, ton for ton, and cannot be sunk by successive turns of fire that add up to their total damage point rating. They have to roll for critical hits for damage effects, but their point total is not reduced after each hit like larger craft. If the damage they receive in a single turn is twice their damage point rating, they are sunk.14.1 Applying Damage
So…a Bayraktar TB2 dropping a single GAM-L hits and scores 14 damage points. The Raptor PB has a damage rating of…6.2.
One less Raptor…
Look for the full “unboxing” video of Russia’s Aircraft, The Naval SITREP #62, and Russia’s Navy at the Armchair Dragoons on Thursday, May 19.
RockyMountainNavy, 4 May 2022 I recently read an article by Justin Bronk of the Royal Services Institute titled, “Getting Serious About SEAD: …A Grognard Perspective of the Ukraine Air War
The last few weeks the sinking of the guided missile cruiser RFN Moskva has taken up alot of my wargaming bandwidth. The event afforded me a deep look into Harpoon 5 by Larry Bond & Chris Carlson from the Admiralty Trilogy Group. This week I decided to go from sea to land and pulled out MBT by James Day from GMT Games (2016).
MBT: The Game of tank-to-tank combat on a tactical level in 1987 Germany is solidly part of the “Cold War goes hot” genre of wargames. Which means it comes close, but not quite all the way, to replicating ground combat in today’s Ukraine War. Although MBT may not be the most modern “fit” for today, it still is a great game at discovering lessons of armored combat.
Wither the Tank?
One very common theme we hear from pundits and mainstream media is a constant harping that the Ukrainian use of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) has sealed the fate of armored vehicles on the battlefield. Sam Cranny-Evans and Dr Sidharth Kaushal from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI.org) looked at this thinking in a recent article titled, “Technical Reflections on Russia’s Armoured Fighting Vehicles” (April 27, 2022). In the article they tell us the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on lessons learned for armored combat in the Ukraine. Playing MBT helps to see these lessons on the gaming table in front of us.
Most of Russia’s tanks are well protected to the front. The frontal armour of the slope at the front of the hull, known as the glacis, typically combines high hardness steels with composites or materials like fibre glass that are known to be challenging for weapons like the RPG-7. The angle of the armour – 68 degrees – increases its line-of-sight thickness to 547 mm for some of the earliest T-72 designs – it may be more for others. The turret armour on Russian tanks is also relatively capable to the front of the tank. The ‘cheeks’ of the cast turret are hollow, allowing additional advanced armours to be inserted that significantly extend protection against some types of threat.
This is what MBT models best. Playing a game of MBT with its precise hit locations and penetration versus armor model is what the hardcore Grognard in me loves.
MBT is—by design—a wargame that recreates the (past potential) battlefields of Europe at the height of the Cold War. The game—again by design—is optimized to simulate those massed Soviet thrusts or defensive stands. In many ways MBT is built around the U.S. Air-Land Battle Doctrine and the competing Soviet Army of that day. Both focused on combined arms. From the past two months of fighting in the Ukraine, the reformed Russian Army, though equipped with more modern equipment, appears to have lost the ability to execute combined arms operations. While MBT has many of the rules that can be used to simulate the new war we see today, what it doesn’t simulate is the poor decisions in the Russian operational art of this war.
While stabilisation of the main armament has been improved and its recoil mechanisms balanced to reduce impact upon the vehicle during firing, most Russian tanks appear to lack the quality of stabilisation that most Western tanks carry.
A second element of this problem is the mission system fit of Russian tanks. The sights and fire control computers are generally less modern than their peers.
Russian designs are also very cramped, and few Western tank operators would want to operate a main battle tank with a crew of three – which is standard for all Soviet designs from the T-64 onwards.
The first two factors are generally reflected in MBT as stabilization and sights are taken into account in the combat model. The last point does not directly appear to be modeled, but may play a part in overall determination of Force Grade and Morale.
While MBT has a good detailed model of platform versus platform, what it doesn’t capture very well are all the human factors in battle. Some are here, like Grade or Morale or even Tank Fright, but at the end of the day the real human factor in MBT is the players. To recreate the war in the Ukraine would require MBT players to make decisions that they might not be inclined to make.
Soviet-era tank design, starting with the T-64 and continuing with the T-72, T-80 and T-90 families – albeit with some minor differences – introduced an automatic ammunition handling system which sits beneath the turret of the tank.
This is a problem for Soviet designs because the ammunition carousel sits in the hull, which is very well protected to the front by the glacis, but less well protected to the sides. If the side or roof of the tank can be penetrated, the projectile stands a chance of hitting the tank’s ammunition, causing it to ‘cook off’. This is where the charges and explosive projectiles catch fire – a fire which quickly spreads because of a lack of firewalls between the munitions. If enough of the ammunition catches fire and detonates, it will often result in an explosion that throws the turret a considerable distance and the death of the entire crew.
Suffice it to say that the damage model in MBT is built upon what today might be seen as a “charitable” view of Russian armored survivability against modern ATGMs.
Further, in MBT ATGMs (found in Advanced Game Rule 18.104.22.168) are of the 1980’s. What is missing in MBT are rules for modern top- attack ATGMs like the FGM-148 Javelin.
Command & Control
The third and final point is the need to consider of Russian tactics and doctrine, which typically emphasise combined arms operations with a view to creating opportunities for artillery and close air support to deliver overwhelming force onto an opponent. Mission command – the delegation of authority and creativity to the lowest levels – rarely features in Russian training. This means that armoured formations operating independently from their supporting arms are probably doing something that they are not trained to do.
I strongly believe that if you want to play MBT and really understand modern combat, you MUST use the rules for Grade (5.8), Command Range (22.214.171.124.2), and Command Span (7.43). These rules, along with Morale (and especially Optional Rule 7.1 Morale) are essential to getting past the simple “force-on-force” wargame that so many gamers seem to relish in. Of course, MBT does not have Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) in it either, but by using these rules you can get a bit closer to understanding the challenges the BTG commander has in combat. The more I think about it, the more I realize that MBT might actually be too granular a model to use to explore the effectiveness of a BTG in combat. Instead of a very tactical game like MBT it might be more useful to use a platoon-scale system, like Frank Chadwick’s Assault series from GDW in the 1980′s but updated for today. Maybe even a version of Less Than 60 Miles from Thin Red Line Games could be used…but I note that this game might be best used to depict only a single axis of advance and not the whole campaign. In case you haven’t noticed, Ukraine is a HUGE place!
Back to the Future
The demise of the tank has been talked about for almost 50 years now, especially in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli Wars of the 1960’s and early 1970’s that were the first to feature mass use of ATGMs. So strong was the sentiment that it even crossed over into science fiction:
Tanks were born in the muck and wire of World War One. Less than sixty years later, there were many who believed that technology had made the behemoths as obsolete as horse cavalry. Individual infantrymen of 1970 carried missiles whose warheads burned through the armor of any tank. Slightly larger missiles ranged kilometers to blast with pinpoint accuracy vehicles costing a thousand times as much. Similar weaponry was mounted on helicopters which skimmed battlefields in the nape of the earth, protected by terrain irregularities. At the last instant the birds could pop up to rip tanks with their missiles. The future of armored vehicles looked bleak and brief.“Supertanks,” Hammers’s Slammers, 1979
Of course, the answer in Hammer’s Slammers was the supertank. While I am saddened that similar combat vehicles are not on the near-horizon for us, I am confident that there will be a response. Probably not from Russia, but from someone. More importantly, along the path towards that new technology will very likely be a wargame. It might be similar to MBT, but depicting not the past but a bold new future.
That’s a wargame I can’t wait for.
My last TTRPG Challenge post was on the Serenity Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis, 2005). Although that game comes first chronologically, Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game was actually my first Cortex-system RPG. It was also my first “IP” game since The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) from a decade earlier.
To date, most of my science fiction RPGs could probably be best described as space opera focused with a healthy dose of starships and high tech gadgetry. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica TV series certainly has starships and gadgets, but the focus is very much on the human story. Indeed, the trivia says that actor Edward James Olmos, who played Commander William Adama in the reimagined series, had a clause in his contract that no strange aliens or monsters would appear so that the story stayed focused on the human drama.
Creating a character in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is actually very straight forward. Indeed, in many ways it is not that much more complicated than my beloved Classic Traveller or Traveller 4 which is probably why I embraced the system so readily. Oh, there are major differences; the first being the dice pool mechanic. In many ways I was a bog-standard d6 gamer, so having to suddenly use d2, d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 was a bit of a shift. The other major shift was Plot Points, a meta-game currency that players can use to influence (control?) the storyline. The closest I had previously come to Plot Points was the Luck game mechanic in Star Trek: The Role Playing Game and James Bond 007. The other major adjustment in my thinking was “ships as characters,” which I discussed in the Serenity Role Playing Game.
The Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game also made me think about the “math” behind the game mechanics of RPGs. Most of my RPGs to date used either 2d6 or d%. I was very comfortable with “figuring the odds with those dice. Here though, you had a target number and often were mixing different die types together. If our Target Number is seven (7), what are the odds of rolling 7 or greater with a d8+d6? In many ways the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game created for me an interest in RPG mechanisms as I yearned to learn more about the “models” underlying the games.
Reporting for Duty
Creating a character in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a simple seven-step process:
- Set Staring Level: Determines the number of Attribute/Skill/Trait Points to spend
- Concept: General personality
- Buy Attributes: These are the character’s innate abilities
- Buy Traits: Assets…and Complications
- Buy Skills: Purchased in the form of “dice”
- Calculate Derived Attributes: Simple calculations
- Finishing Touches: Gear and other details
Unlike so many of my TTRPG before, character generation in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a point-buy system. The nice part here is that the system has little incentive to min-max, in part because of the Assets and Complications. Taken in conjunction with the Plot Point game mechanism, I barely realized that the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game was very nearly my first “narrative” RPG. That is, this was the first game where players had the ability to control the narrative through creative use of their Assets and Complications and Plot Points.
But before we get too far along on that idea, let me introduce Thomas “Puke” Dogg, a Viper pilot aboard the Battlestar Galactica.
Thomas “Puke” Dogg
Starting Level – Puke is a Veteran starting with 48 Attribute Points, 68 Skill Points, and 4 Trait Points.
Concept: Puke is a Viper pilot that suffered from a bout of spatial disorientation in flight school that led to him “losing his lunch” during a flight with a very senior instructor. Thus, “Puke” was born.
Buy Attributes: Attributes come in two flavors; Physical and Mental. Attribute Points are used to purchase different die levels at 1-to-1 cost.
- Agility (Physical) – d12
- Strength (Physical) – d8
- Vitality (Physical) – d6
- Alertness (Mental) – d8
- Intelligence (Mental) – d8
- Willpower (Mental) – d6
In keeping with the “Puke” story, our Viper pilot has far above average Agility, but lesser Vitality and Willpower.
Buy Traits: Traits can be positive (Assets) or negative (Complications).
- Assets: Dogfighter d4; Split-Second Timing d4
- Complications: Illness d4. The occasional weak stomach is actually something more serious…but who wants to see the Flight Doc when there is another Cylon raid inbound?
Buy Skills: Skills are bought in General and Specialty levels.
- Athletics d6
- Covert d6 (Sleight of Hand d8)
- Discipline d6 (Concentration d8)
- Guns d6 (Pistols d8)
- Heavy Weapons d6 (Autocannons d8)
- Knowledge d6 (History d8)
- Perception d6 (Tactics d8)
- Pilot d6 (Viper d10)
- Technical Engineering (Skilled only) d4
Calculate Derived Attributes:
- Initiative (Agility + Alertness) = 20
- Life Points (Vitality + Willpower) = 12
Finishing Touches: Puke is a Lieutenant.
Launch the Alert Viper!
Another aspect of the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game that I had to adjust to was a very character-centric approach to combat. So often in my RPG games to date, starship combat was a mini-wargame. Heck, the Star Trek: Roleplaying Game or The Babylon Project or Traveler: 2300 came with an entire set of wargame rules for ship combat. However, vehicle combat is the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a bit abstract. As the text box “A Matter of Drama” in the Vehicle Combat rules section (p. 152) states:
…For the players, the most important part of any combat comes from the point-of-view of their characters.
In short, this is the Battlestar Galactica Roleplaying Game, not a miniatures wargame. Viper combat should be run on a personal level, with rolls made to attack or dodge incoming raider autocannons. It plays out very similarly to combat on a personal level.
The only time a roll is needed is when something dramatic is about to happen, when there’s a real question to be resolved.“A Matter of Drama,” p. 152
In many ways, this character point-of-view approach to combat (or any encounter) in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is not that far removed from the original Little Black Books of the Traveller Roleplaying Game. This is probably why this game clicked so well with me.
In the Cortex system, one doesn’t just roll a d6, but many other die types too. The Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game opened up a whole new world to me based on the Cortex game engine. Indeed, the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game and the Serenity Role Playing Game were the start of what I term my “Game Engine” era of RPGs where Cortex, FATE, a new Traveller, and what would eventually become known as Genesys would become the preponderance of my games. Alas, there were other games in there too; some titles might even seem a little mousy to some…
Feature image courtesy wallpaperup.com
There are reports floating around the internet making the interesting claim that a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was operating in the area the night the RFN Moskva was sunk. The implication is that the U.S. Navy P-8 fed targeting data to the Ukrainian Navy Neptune coastal defense anti-ship missile battery and therefore contributed to the sinking of the cruiser.
On April 13th, a P-8 Poseidon with a hex code of AE681B was spotted leaving the U.S. Airbase at Sigonella in Sicily, Italy, and was then detected over the Mediterranean at 1:32 pm local Kyiv time.
FlightRadar24 data then showed the P-8 flying over the Balkans and Bulgaria, after which it flew over the Romanian coast in the Black Sea in the afternoon. The last known position of the aircraft was Valea Nucarilor, Romania which is about 12 miles from the Ukrainian border, at 3:27 pm, about 100 miles from the location where the Moskva was found after allegedly being hit.
It had begun descending from an altitude of around 29,000 feet down to 11,900 feet just before dropping off FlightRadar24 tracking and disappearing.
It disappeared for about 2 hours and 56 minutes before appearing again at 6:23 pm, where it was seen flying towards the Black Sea coast above Casimcea in Romania, around 37 miles from the position it had been before it disappeared.
It is standard procedure for an aircraft to turn off its transponder or the device that broadcasts its location before entering any kind of conflict zone.
Around 19 minutes later the aircraft disappeared from the radar once again and then reappeared after 42 minutes near Abrud, in Romania at 7:24 pm. After that, it traveled back to Sigonella.
The Moskva was first reported to have been hit at 8:42 pm after a Facebook post that came from a Ukrainian who had links to the military, and then at 10:31 pm, the Ukrainian governor of Odesa confirmed that a strike had been carried out on the vessel.oslint.org, April 21,2022
Using the wargame Harpoon 5 (Admiralty Trilogy Group, 2021) lets see what we can learn. For this exploration we will need to dig deep into two particular rules sections; 5.0 Detection and 6.0 Fire Control.
In Harpoon 5, detection takes place in the Detection Phase of the Tactical Turn Sequence (2.3.3). Assuming the P-8 was using it’s surface search radar in the active mode after descending to 11,900 ft (3,627 m or Medium Altitude), taking the Radar Line of Sight table (part of rule 5.2.8 Radar Line of Sight) we cross-reference a P-8 flying at Medium Altitude and a Medium-size surface target to get a detection range of 170 nm; Moskva was very likely detected by the P-8 (and Moskva very likely also detected the P-8 in return).
The implication in the story is that the P-8 passed targeting data. In Harpoon 5, data is passed during the Detection Phase when players, “exchange visual, radar, sonar, Electronic Support (ES), data links, and other sensor information.” Once Moskva was detected, the P-8 would have to pass a fire control solution (see 6.3 Fire Control Solutions) to the Neptune battery to enable an attack. Per rule 6.3.1 Fire Control Solution Quality, there are four levels of quality; Good, Fair, Poor, and No Attack. Building a fire control solution is a combination of time (longer time in contact the better), contact speed, the generation (age) of the Combat System (aircraft are always a modifier of 0), and the generation of the weapon being used in the strike. Equally important is the Tactical Data Link being used to “pass” the solution. Given the amount of time the P-8 allegedly spent near Moskva—hours—the quality of the fire control solution would very likely be the best possible—Good.
In Harpoon 5, like in real life, how does the P-8 get that Good fire control solution to the Neptune battery? Did it use a Real Time or Near Real Time tactical data link? Although there are plenty of reports the U.S. is sharing intelligence with Ukraine*, there is no clear evidence that tactical data links are being used. A more plausible scenario is that U.S. and NATO intelligence is being collated and passed to Kyiv. At best, and assuming the P-8 was directly in contact with Ukrainian forces (a big assumption), we have to go to rule 6.3.10 Sharing Contact Information Without TDLs which states:
Contact data can be manually shared by radio (voice or teletype) or even cell phones, however, the process is slow, with a higher risk of errors, and has little tactical use other than reporting the presence of a contact in the area.6.3.10
Even if the fire control solution was passed in real (or near) time to the Ukrainians, it was good at ~6:23 pm when the P-8 reappeared in the flight tracking application. This was maybe as long as two hours before Moskva was struck. There is no way in Harpoon 5 to keep a “good” fire control solution when not in contact. After two hours, the fire control solution from the P-8 by-the-rules was of No Attack quality.
If the Ukrainian Neptune battery commander in Harpoon 5 had only the general information (“No Attack” quality fire control solution) provided by the P-8, the commander is forced to use a Bearing Only Launch (BOL) following rule 6.3.6 of the same name. BOL attacks in turn are executed using rule 8.4.2 Bearing Only Launch (BOL) Attacks. The commander must pick a launch azimuth and a range for the seeker head to activate and start looking. The fire control solution quality is automatically Poor (interestingly, an improvement over the No Attack starting condition). As in any surface missile attack, when the seeker head opens the player must make a Placement Roll (6.3.8 Rolling for Weapon Placement) to see if the seeker finds its intended target. The chances of an anti-ship cruise missile using a BOL and finding its intended target when the seeker activates is 30%.
How could the Neptune battery commander improve his odds using the rules in Harpoon 5? It’s quite possible he used his organic sensors. The Neptune ASCM is part of a weapons complex that includes the missile, the launcher, command and control, and sensors. The sensor intended for the Neptune system is called Mineral-U. The Mineral-U is an interesting system, known in Harpoon 5 as a Targeting Radar (SS-T):
Targeting radars (SS-T) are a type of surface-search radar used by the Soviet Union/Russia. They not only function as a surface search radar optimized to use the surface duct to extend their range over the horizon, but can serve as extremely precise ES [Electronic Support] sensors….They can use the radar duct to extend their range.5.2.4 Shipboard Radar Types
Although one could argue about the lack of Russian air superiority, the Neptune battery commander might not want to “go active” and try to get an Active RF [Radio Frequency] fire control solution. To radiate the Mineral-U radar is to invite an attack. Alternatively, it is possible to work towards a Passive RF fire control solution using rule 6.3.2 Radio-Frequency (RF) Fire Control Solution. To achieve a Good solution for the Neptune means tracking Moskva for at least 15 minutes (5 Tactical Turns); a risk but one well worth it? With a Good quality fire control solution the Placement Roll is 90%—a vast improvement over the 30% chance with a BOL Poor quality solution.
This little exploration using Harpoon 5 shows us that, while it is technically possible the P-8 “tracked” Moskva, even if that data was somehow passed to the Ukrainians it was more likely used for (at best) general situational awareness and not for targeting. To achieve the greatest chance for success, the Ukrainian Neptune battery commander more likely used organic sensors to Find, Fix, Track, and Target Moskva to enable the Neptune missiles to Engage. Harpoon 5 gives us a tool to Assess strike success.
* UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 26, NBC News published a story that talked about the degree of intelligence sharing between the United States and Ukraine:
Ukrainian forces have used specific coordinates shared by the U.S. to direct fire on Russian positions and aircraft, current and former officials tell NBC News.
As Russia launched its invasion, the U.S. gave Ukrainian forces detailed intelligence about exactly when and where Russian missiles and bombs were intended to strike, prompting Ukraine to move air defenses and aircraft out of harm’s way, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.
That near real-time intelligence-sharing also paved the way for Ukraine to shoot down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops in the early days of the war, the officials say, helping repel a Russian assault on a key airport near Kyiv.
“There has been a lot of real-time intelligence shared in terms of things that could be used for specific targeting of Russian forces,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the situation. The information includes commercial satellite images “but also a lot of other intelligence about, for example, where certain types of Russian units are active.”
Ukrainian forces have used specific coordinates shared by the U.S. to direct fire on Russian positions and aircraft, current and former officials tell NBC News.
While the phrase “real-time intelligence” is liberally sprinkled throughout the article, and some of the reporting implies extremely timely exchange of intelligence, the association of the P-8 and the Moskva sinking is not discussed. The fact remains that even if the P-8 passed target-quality intelligence “in real-time,” the data was “aged” by at least two hours before any Neptune strike. The Harpoon 5 -derived situation still stands as a very plausible explanation of the likely events at the time of the sinking.
North Korea is celebrating another anniversary of some event that means something important to them but for the free world means we get to see a military parade with lots of missiles and other lethal toys for Kim Jong Un.
Well you know what, Rocket Man? I have missile trucks too.
Mine carries two missiles and is a smaller three-axle vehicle. It gets the job done. It came from China, like so many of yours might have too.
The difference is mine are environmentally friendly, not destructive of it.
Seriously, this was a fun build. I took it into the office and spent part of lunchtime building it. All the wood pieces punched out cleanly with little-to-no sanding required. I assembled mine without glue except for one part which was weak. Finished model is a bit over 5″ long. Sits on my office desk and is a great conversation starter.
Feature image courtesy Business Insider
I made an (audio) appearance on Mentioned in Dispatches Season 8 Episode 12 “Crowdfunding” with Regimental Commander Brant and Napoleonic colorguard Jim. Please take a listen and leave your thoughts either at the Armchair Dragoons forums or here.
In the podcast I mentioned that I have 20 items either in Kickstarter, on GMT Games P500, or on preorder (mostly with Compass Games). Already in the short time since we recorded (just days before posting) there has been movement on more than a few items:
- Red Storm: Baltic Approaches (GMT Games) – P500 since April 2020 (24 months); per April 19, 2022 newsletter, “At Sea – No Arrival Date Yet”
- Reality Shift (Academy Games) – Kickstarter December 2020 with estimated delivery May 2021 (11 months delay); per April 21, 2022 update the games are on ship expected to arrive New York on May 17, 2022 with fulfillment to start immediately thereafter
- Stuka Joe’s CDG Solo System(GMT Games) – P500 since January 2021 (15 months); per April 19, 2022 newsletter, “At Sea – No Arrival Date Yet”
- Root: The Marauder Expansion / Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 (Leder Games) – Kickstarter March 2021 with estimated Delivery January 2022 (3 month delay); per March 28, 2022 update on shipping, “Updated start date: first week of April / Updated end date: mid to late June” NO SHIPPING NOTICE RECEIVED TO DATE…
- 2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games) – Kickstarter July 2021 with estimated delivery December 2021 (4 month delay); per April 22, 2022 update from designer Stuart Tonge:
- “OK… US & Canadian backers – unfortunately, there is a delay. I only found out yesterday night so this is fresh news but shipping is likely to be 6 weeks late. That would be early May for the games to ship, with an additional 2-3 weeks for Canadian deliveries on top of this. I will not make excuses for the responsible company – they’ve let me down. But I also won’t reveal them, as that would serve no purpose. Please accept my apologies for the delay.”
In the podcast I repeatedly mentioned that communications is the key to my happiness with a crowdfunding or pre-order campaign. Jim Dietz of The Dietz Foundation ran a most excellent Kickstarter campaign for Supercharged and 1979 Revolution in Iran. The major reason I am happy is that he always communicated—good or bad!
While I am an anxious to get 2 Minutes to Midnight into my hands, Stuart Tonge’s explanation is perfectly acceptable and very welcome. It also shows that a bit of humility and honesty are extremely valuable in a relationship. While I wait for my game, I do so with great respect for the efforts Stuart is making.
Feature image courtesy pexels free photos
In 2002 I was stationed overseas with the U.S. military. If you have ever been stationed in the military overseas you will know all about the American Forces Radio & Television Service, or AFRTS (pronounced “A-FARTS”). What you will very likely remember is that AFRTS had no real commercials; instead you got “public service” and command messages.
What you also didn’t get was the latest television shows, which is why I didn’t get around to watching the 2002 season of the TV series Firefly until after I returned stateside in mid-2004. By 2005 I discovered the movie Serenity and the Firefly TV series and eventually even a new RPG, the Serenity Role Playing Game from Margaret Weis Productions (2005)
Technically speaking, I didn’t actually discover the Serenity RPG until 2007 when I got the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis Productions, 2007) and then went hunting for the older game. But in this 2022 CharGen Challenge I’m working my way through titles chronologically by publication date which is why this game is here.
The books for Serenity are beautiful, full color hardbacks that are lavishly illustrated with extensive use of the intellectual property. They were then, and still today, bloody expensive. But between those covers I discovered a RPG game engine that reinvigorated my RPG mojo after a decade of darkness.
Serenity was written by Jamie Chambers and uses a game engine that eventually came to be call Cortex. Unlike many of the RPGs I played before, Serenity uses a dice pool system. The fact I needed to buy d2, d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 to play was enjoyable. Characters were easy for me to understand as they have Attributes and Skills. Finally, a game that doesn’t have Classes or Feats or Talents!
While I had grown very comfortable over the decades with a lifepath character generation system of random tables and the like, Serenity uses a point-buy approach. Yes, this demanded a change in my attitude, but here it seemed so natural. I will admit that the first time I came across Traits, Assets, and Complications it was a bit tough to understand, but again the whole package was put forward in such an enjoyable and understandable way I just went with it.
Little did I realize it at the time, but with Serenity I was moving into a more narrative style of RPG play. Nowhere was this more evident than with Plot Points—a form of currency used in-game to “buy” a bonus or create a short-term, expiring “reward” for players. The other part major change Serenity showed me was the concept of “ships as characters.”
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Up until this point in my tabletop role-playing game experience, vehicles—be they ships or aircraft or ground vehicles or whatever—were always thought of and described simply as equipment. That is, they had a very mechanical description for they were really nothing more than tools for characters to use. Going a bit further, given the wargame heritage of designer Frank Chadwick it’s not surprising that vehicles in the Traveller Roleplaying Game were described in wargame terms. The listing for any ship in Traveller is little different than one finds in Janes’ Defense journals.
Not so for Serenity. While ships are given some encyclopedic entries (Dimensions, Tonnage, Crew, etc.) the in-game statistics mirror characters with Agility, Strength, Vitality, Alertness, Intelligence, Intuition, Willpower, Initiative, and Life. Ships even had SKILLS! Add to that the different traits and complications and every ship could be given a personality. Which really does make sense and is totally in keeping with the sci-fi roots of the game. Enterprise (Star Trek), Eagle 1, Space: 1999) the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars) , Galactica (Battlestar Galactica), and Serenity (Firefly) all are more character than setting in each of those franchises.
In the Serenity Role Playing Game building a ship is like building a character. You start with a Concept, determine Ship Attributes, figure out some Specifications, and then assign Ship Traits, Ship Skill, and so on.
Concept: Small(?) courier ship to move (few passengers) and (some) cargo between planets. Usually owned by corporations or governments but few operate “freelance” in the verse.
- Agility d6 “Average Maneuverability”
- Strength d4 “100-1,000 tons / Small Transport”
- Vitality d8 “Requires low maintenance”
- Alertness d4 “Basic, typical needs for privately-owned vessel”
- Intelligence d4 “Substandard; can handle mundane flight details”
- Willpower d4 “Basic; automatically seal bulkheads at critical sections, backups for the most critical systems”
Specifications (Dimensions, Tonnage, Speed Class, Fuel Capacity, Crew Quarters)
- Dimensions: 118′ x 74′ x 30′ (Wedge)
- Tonnage: 875 tons
- Speed Class: 4/6
- Fuel Capacity: d4 “12 tons in a 60 ton tank”
- Crew Quarters: 4x Staterooms (Rooms 9 tons, Common 23
Ship Traits: The Asset “Cortex Specter” which means few record exist (seems appropriate for a ship delivery “off-the-record” materials).