#Wargame Library – Alternate History/FICINT for Wargamers (updated June 2022)

Excellent fodder for helping think about the “what if” in a wargame.

Ackerman, Elliot and Admiral James Stavridis, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, New York: Penguin Press, 2021. Another China war FICINT book in the mold of Ghost Fleet (below).

Bresnahan, Jim (Ed.), Refighting the Pacific War: An Alternative History of World War II, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011. Using a slightly different approach, each chapter describes a situation and then learned commentary by authors and historians follows.

Bywater, Hector C., The Great Pacific War: The History of the American-Japanese Campaign 0f 1931-1933, Bedford: Applewood Book, original copyright 1925. Often called, “The book that predicted Pearl Harbor,” the reality is much deeper and is tied to advocacy regarding the development of U.S. military warplans in the inter-war period. Obvious inspiration for many wargames like Great War at Sea: War War Plan Orange (Avalanche Press, 1998) or Plan Orange: Pacific War 1932 – 1935 by Mark Herman from RBM Studios (2016).

Clancy, Tom, Red Storm Rising, New York: G.P. Putnam Sons, 1986. Co-written in parts with Larry Bond, lead designer of the Harpoon-series of wargames (Admiralty Trilogy Group). This includes the famous “Dance of the Vampires” chapter that was developed using Harpoon.

Cowley, Robert (Ed.), The Collected What If? Eminent Historians Image What Might Have Been (Includes the complete texts of What If? and What If? 2), New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001. More than just military alternative history…

Deighton, Len, SS-GB, New York: Sterling, 1979 (2012 edition). Britain under Nazi German rule. Essential tie-in to most any Operation Sealion wargame.

Deighton, Len, Spy Story, St. Albans: Panther Books Ltd., 1974. Interesting because wargames are used as a major plot point. According to the book back of my copy:

“Patrick Armstrong is a tough, dedicated agent and war-games player. But in Armstrong’s violent, complex world, war-games are all too often played for real. Soon the chase (or is it escape?) is on. From the secretive computerized college of war studies in London via a bleak, sinister Scottish redoubt to the Arctic ice cap where nuclear submarines prowl ominously beneath frozen wastes, a lethal web of violence and doublecross is woven. And Europe’s whole future hangs by a deadly thread…”

The beginning of each chapter has excerpts from the “TACWARGAME” wargame rules or a Glossary or other “Notes for Wargamers” from the “Studies Centre, London.”

Dick, Philip K., The Man in the High Castle, New York: Vintage Books, 1962 (1992 edition). Nightmare Nazi German and Imperial Japan rule a conquered America.

Downing, David, The Moscow Option: An Alternative Second World War, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2001. Moscow falls in ’41…then what?

Hackett, General Sir John & Other Top-Ranking NATO Generals & Advisors, The Third World War: August 1985, New York: Berkley Books, 1979.Written as an act of policy advocacy, this book reignited the genre of speculative military fiction (and policy advocacy) that had laid dormant since Bywater’s Great Pacific War from over 50 years earlier.

Harris, Robert, Fatherland: A Novel, New York: Random House, 1992 A masterpiece of world-building fiction. There are parts where, with a little imagination, one can see the broad outlines of “post-war” conflict.

Macksey, Kenneth (Ed.), The Hitler Options: Alternate Decisions of World War II, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1995. Ten short stories; my favorite may be “The Jet Fighter Menace: 1943” written by the esteemed Dr. Alfred Price.

Showalter, Dennis E. & Harold C. Deutsch (Eds.), If the Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternate Scenarios of World War II, New York: MJF Books, 2010. Sixty means much shorter, lesser developed scenarios.

Singer, P.W. and August Cole, Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. The first in the new fictional intelligence (FICINT) genre of books picking up long after Hackett’s The Third World War.

Stieber, Whitley and James Kunetka, War Day: and the Journey Onward, New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1984. While at least one chapter may make a good Harpoon scenario, I found the post-World War III elements also intriguing for post-apocalyptic scenario design.

Tsouras, Peter G. (Ed), Cold War Hot: Alternate Decisions of the Cold War, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2003. Ten short stories from end of World War II thru the Cold War.

Tsouras, Peter G., Disaster at D-Day: The Germans Defeat the Allies, June 1944, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1994. One of the earliest Alternate History titles in the 1990’s.

Tsouras, Peter G., Gettysburg: An Alternate History, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1997. Unlike many other Tsouras books this is authored exclusively by Peter.

Tsouras, Peter G. (Ed.), Rising Sun Victorious: The Alternate History of How the Japanese Won the Pacific War, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Turtledove, Harry, S.M. Stirling, Mayr Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams, Worlds That Weren’t, New York: Penguin, 2003. Four novellas by master authors.


Feature image Red Storm Rising, TSR, 1989 (personal collection)courtesy

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#Wargame Library – Wargame-related Texts (updated June 2022)

Titles that are related to wargaming (not necessarily design) and often with a focus on the history of the profession/hobby.

Antal, John F., Armor Attacks: An Interactive Exercise in Small-Unit Tactics & Leadership, Novato: Presidio, 1991. A “choose your own adventure” approach to wargaming.

Appleget, Col. Jeff, USA (Ret.), Col. Robert Burks, USA (Ret.), and Fred Cameron, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020. Focuses on wargaming as part of the military planning process.

Curry, John, United States Naval War College Manual Wargaming (1969): Wargames at the Start of the Missile Era, The History of Wargaming Project http://www.wargaming.co, 2019. These were the rules used in wargames at the Naval War College in the late 1960’s; provides a “professional” set of rules to compare other games to.

Curry, John and Chris Carlson (ed), The United States Naval War College 1936 Wargame Rules: USN Wargaming Before WWII, Volume 1, The History of Wargaming Project http://www.wargaming.co, 2019. Another set of historical Naval War College rules; these are very similar to those used by the U.S. Navy before World War II that trained so many of the senior officers that fought that war.

Curry, John and Paddy Griffith, Paddy Griffith’s Wargaming Operation Sealion: The Game that Launched Academic Wargaming, The History of Wargame Project www. wargame.co, 2021.Explores Paddy Griffith’s 1974 Operation Sealion wargame for the British Army Staff College that attempted to use a wargame to seriously explore military history.

Friedman, Hal M., Blue Versus Orange: The U.S. Naval War College, Japan and the Old Enemy in the Pacific, 1945-1946, Newport: Naval War College Press, 2013. Focuses on wargaming at the Naval War College in the 1945-1946 academic year and the role it played in planning for a post-war Navy.

Harris, Christopher and Patricia Harris with Brian Mayer, Teaching the American Revolution Through Play, A middle-school teacher’s guide for using Academy Games’ 1775: Rebellion in the classroom (or homeschool).

Lockwood, Jonathan S., PhD and LtCol Donald J. Hanle (USAF), Wargaming and Intelligence Education: Joint Military Intelligence College Discussion Paper Number Six, Washington, D.C.: Joint Military Intelligence College, 1998. Short essays on the use of wargames in professional military education (PME).

Nofi, Albert A., To Train the Fleet for War: The U.S. Navy Fleet Problems, 1923-1940, Newport: Naval War College Press, 2010. Recounting of the Fleet Problems that leveraged wargaming at the Naval War College and how they prepared the U.S. Navy for war against Japan.

Parkin, Simon, A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II, New York: Little Brown & Co., 2020. Actually a book describing early Operations Research, it still is close enough for wargaming to be part of the family.

Peterson, Jon, The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020. Although focused on role-playing games, there is some good history here about how skirmish miniatures wargamers and role-playing games diverged.

Peterson, Jon, Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021. Another entry in MIT Press’ Game Histories series. Chronicles the story of Dungeons & Dragons without the hyperbole of the major characters, Gygax and Arneson. Fans of Chainmail and other skirmish miniatures games that helped birth D&D will find more morsels of interest here.

Prados, John, Pentagon Games: Wargames and the American Military (Includes three playable wargames), New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1987. Another “advocate” text for professional defense wargaming; of great interest is the three games included.

  • Pentagon: Monopoly in the Military—”Create your own defense budget and then protect it from bureaucratic politics inside the Pentagon”
  • The R&D Game: Congressional Chutes & Ladders—”Design new weapons systems and guide your project through to Congressional Approval”
  • Last Days of Saigon: Playing to Break Even—”Match wits with the joint chiefs as you plan the evacuation of U.S. troops from South Vietnam”

Only the last game is hex & counter, showing even in the 1980’s professional wargaming was looking at “serious” gaming using different gaming mechanisms.


Feature image courtesy Imperial War Museum

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Library – Highly Recommended Wargame Texts (updated June 2022)

Reading to further expand on the seminal texts.

Caffrey Jr., Matthew B., On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future, Newport: Naval War College Press (Naval War College Newport Papers 43), 2019. Part history and part advocate for wargames in defense planning. Matt Caffrey is one of the “Old Guard” (dare I say, Grognard) in wargaming and for many years ran the CONNECTIONS professional wargaming conferences.

Friedman, Norman, Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War, Friedman is a well respected naval historian who adds another perspective on how wargaming prepared the U.S. Navy for the Pacific conflict in World War II…and how there are lessons to be learned and applied even today.

Harrigan, Pat and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum (eds), Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. A wide-ranging collection of essays that cover the gamut of modern wargame issues and design. Part of MIT Press’ Game Histories series.

McHugh, Francis J., The United States Naval War College Fundamentals of War Gaming, 3rd Edition, March 1966 (Reprint), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Fundamentals…for professional wargamers.


Feature image courtesy https://www.militarynews.com/norfolk-navy-flagship/news/quarterdeck/naval-war-college-reenacts-jutland-war-game/article_0f668bba-5fbc-5b22-9c64-f8a9df65e33a.html

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SundaySummary – RockyMountainNavy’s recent military reading acquisitions #military #books #wargames

As much as I play wargames, I also try to keep up a good pace of reading. Here are some of my recent reading acquisitions.

Cumming, Anthony J., The Royal Navy and the Battle of Britain, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010. // Bought to compliment my learning of Paddy Griffith’s Wargaming Operations Sealion: The Game that Launched Academic Wargaming (John Curry, The History of Wargaming Project, 2021). Will also inform a future replay of Britain Stands Alone (Jim Werbaneth, GMT Games, 1994).

Photo by RMN

Dunnigan, James F., How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare for the Post-Cold War Era, New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1993 Third Edition. // Written by one of the Elders of Wargaming, this book supposedly provides much insight not into wargame design, but what topics Mr. Dunnigan thought was best suited for inclusion in a wargame about the post-Cold War era..

Dupuy, Colonel T.N., U.S. Army, Ret., The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc, 1980 Third Edition. // Colonel Dupuy is in many ways the greatest evangelist of Operations Research, a field of military study closely related to but not the same as wargaming. I have Colonel Dupuy’s much later 1993 book Future Wars: The World’s Most Dangerous Flashpoints but inThe Evolution of Weapons he delivers a historical perspective.

Fontanellaz, Adrien, Red Star Versus Rising Sun – Volume 1: The Conquest of Manchuria 1931-1938 (Asia@War Series No. 22), Warwick: Helion & Company, 2021. // Helion books are much like Osprey; a decent short summary of the topic usually build upon secondary sources with photos, maps, and color plates. Pre-World War II in Asia is an interest of mine; here is just a sampling of the topic. More of a guide to further reading.

Fontanellaz, Adrien, Red Star Versus Rising Sun – Volume 2: The Nomonhan Incident 1939 (Asia@War Series No. 27), Warwick: Helion & Company, 2021. // I am constantly fascinated with the Battle of Nomonhan; this is a decent summary again based primarily on secondary sources.

Photo by RMN

Friedman, B.A., On Operations: Operational Art and Military Disciplines, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021. // Argues that the military fascination with the Operational level of war is misguided; instead we should focus on Operational Art.

Photo by RMN

Schelling, Thomas C., Arms and Influence, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966. // My job has me going back to the roots of deterrence theory, which also conveniently fits with my interest in game theory and wargames.

Thorpe, George C., Pure Logistics, Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1986. // With the 2022 Russian invasion of the Ukraine the study of logistics is suddenly all-the-rage. Let’s see what was said 30 years ago…

Photo by RMN

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SciFiFriday – Elder Race by @aptshadow as #TravellerRPG and #dungeonsanddragons #ttrpg inspiration (h/t to @AndrewLiptak)

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clark

Arthur C. Clark’s famous quote comparing advanced technology to magic is the core of Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This novella makes an excellent Traveller and Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game crossover adventure.

Courtesy Tordotcom

Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way.

But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) with responsibilities (she tells herself). Although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it).

But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, and his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon…

Tordotcom

So starts a two-sided story. On one side is Lyn who has summoned a wizard to help defend her kingdom. On the other side is Nyr, an Earth Explorer Corps anthropologist, awakened from hibernation and with access to wondrous technology. One side told in fantasy, the other in science fiction.

Mysticism versus rationality.

Dungeons & Dragons versus Traveller

…the book works…

..so could a tabletop RPG adventure.


Shout out to Andrew Liptack at Transfer Orbit for the tip off on the book.

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SciFiFriday – Rediscovering @GerryAndersonTV Space: 1999 and thoughts of #TravellerRPG, #CepheusEngine, & other #TTRPG systems

This past Christmas, I gifted myself the new Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual (Post Breakaway Revised Edition) by Chris Thompson and Andrew Clements with illustrations by Chris Thompson. This nice coffee table book is published by Anderson Entertainment and is an “in-universe” book based on the 1970’s TV series Space: 1999.

I was but a wee lad, a bit less than 10 years old when Space: 1999 burst onto my TV screen (and it was a small screen, still black & white). Space: 1999 was cool—cool spaceships (Eagles forever!), cool uniforms, and cool science (not that it all made sense to young me). I took in the first season and remember being absolutely frightened out of my skin at the episode “Dragon’s Domain.”

Fan created trailer for “Dragon’s Domain”

I also remember being so confused at the second season of Space: 1999 with shapeshifting aliens and…well, better to forget that season.

So I did. Ever since then Space: 1999—Season 1 at least—continued to exist somewhere in my headspace. It helped that I had a few Space: 1999 toys like a die-cast Eagle and several models. In more recent years I “rediscovered” Space: 1999 and added UFO to the lore as well as the graphic novels. The RockyMountainNavy Boys helped me find new plastic models and kept my memories alive.

UFO Intro

Breaking Down the Breakaway Manual

It’s bigger on the inside (whoops, wrong British TV show…)

Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is a 272-page book formatted in a 9.5″x12″ hardcover. The cover illustration is a faintly lined Eagle Transporter that I wish was a bit easier to see. Inside, the Manual is organized into seven major sections (chapters):

  1. History and External Layout – I finally have a good description of of what my MPC Moonbase Alpha plastic model kit depicts
  2. Internal Layout – Covered in 73 pages (~25% of the Manual) this is a great mix of set photos and illustrations; many details I never noticed in the series
  3. Nuclear Waste – At first I was like, “huh?” but after reading I better understand why this essential story element gets the attention it does
  4. The Eagle Transporter – In many ways I love the Eagle Transporter over Star Wars vehicles and this chapter reminds me why (it also gives me details to help me paint up my other MPC model of the Eagle Transporter)
  5. Supplementary Craft – Much more here than I remembered; give me the Hawk Mk IX for the win!
  6. Uniforms & Equipment – What good sci-fi fan of the 1970’s didn’t have a jacket that looked a bit like one from Moonbase Alpha?
  7. Current Command Roster – Only later did I learn about how the production company, ITV, used international stars; I always though that Moonbase Alpha was simply “international” much like Star Trek was.

There are also two major Addendums covering “Alien Technology” and “Emergency Evacuation Operation Exodus.” Buried within individual chapters are other addendum boxes of relevant subjects.

[Warning – Spoilers Ahead] Sometime in the past decade I became aware of the connection between the TV universe of UFO and Space: 1999. I was really excited to see some connections in the Technical Operations Manual. What I appreciate the most about the connections is the secrecy; there are little references to UFO in the Manual like “the Straker Doctrine” but as a whole UFO is treated as, well, a secret. There are other nods too but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.

Generally speaking, my personal experience with “in-universe” background books based on pop culture intellectual property (IP) is mixed. In order to enjoy many IP-based productions I have to really, and I mean really, suspend my disbelief. Books like Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare (Jason Fry, Ballantine Books, 2012), which as a military veteran and wargamer I should have wholeheartedly embraced instead helped me realize that I am a science fiction fan that hems more towards “gritty” or “hard” sci-fi rather than “space fantasy” like Star Wars. All of which is a round-about way of saying the Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is much more “believable”—and enjoyable—than I expected.

Roleplaying Space: 1999

As I also play science fiction roleplaying games (RPG), “in-universe” books like this Technical Operations Manual serve as a great source of gaming inspiration. I have played the Traveller RPG (Marc Miller, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) since 1979 and science fiction RPGs are definitely my thing. As I look across my science fiction RPG collection, there are several different game systems that are candidates for use in a Space: 1999 RPG. Generally speaking, I look at each set of rules from the perspective of character generation, technology, and narrative support (story generation) when looking at how they might be used to create a Space: 1999 game.

Characters – When creating a character, most systems I am familiar with use careers. Moonbase Alpha is staffed by departments which might be a good starting point. The Manual tell us the different compartments are Command, Main Mission, Services, Flight, Technical, Medical, Science, and Security (pp 209-210). We also can see in the series the Space Commission (Politician?). If we expand our “canon” to include the 2012 Archaia Entertainment graphic novel Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe we also find other “careers” like the United Nations Coastguard using Eagle Transporters.

Courtesy goodreads.com

Technology – Space: 1999 is a near (alternate) future heavily grounded in technology we would recognize as our own. The major handwaves I see are nuclear fusion rocket engines, artificial gravity, and a hyper-light drive.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Although Space: 1999 the TV series was of the “adventure of the week” kind, different episodes covered many different genres and adventure types. A Space: 1999 RPG needs to be able to handle a wide range of story lines, from military to exploration to horror and more.

Cepheus Engine (Samardan Press, Zozer Games, Stellagama Publishing, 2016+)

The easiest approach to making a Space: 1999 setting might be to go to a near-cousin setting. Orbital 2100 by Paul Elliott from Zozer Games is a sublight, near future setting using the Cepheus Engine rules. Of course, Cepheus Engine itself comes in a few flavors (“Standard,” Light, and Quantum) but using the latest Cepheus Deluxe version as a starting point seems like a good place to jump from. Cepheus Deluxe has the advantage of being the rules set I am most familiar with, seeing how it traces it’s lineage all the way back to my first role roleplaying game, Traveller by Marc Milller from Game Designers’ Workshop (1977) which I first found in 1979.

Characters – No single rules set has the right combination of careers to represent Moonbase Alpha staff, but by synthesizing careers from Cepheus Deluxe, The Clement Sector Third Edition, and Hostile a fairly representative collection of careers and skill could be assembled.

Technology – Using Cepheus Deluxe, the “average” Tech Level (TL) is 8 to 9. To create the spacecraft of Space: 1999 will likely be a kludge of Cepheus Deluxe and Orbital: 2100 rules for sublight craft.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Cepheus Deluxe does not focus on a single genre of science fiction so it should be flexible enough to cover a diverse set of adventures.

Star Trek The Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983)

Going way back in my collection, I have the first edition FASA Star Trek Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983). Seeing how the characters in Star Trek are all academy grads (or at least Starfleet personnel) the similarities to the Space Commission Moonbase Alpha arrangements jump out.

Characters/TechnologyStar Trek assumes the characters are in the service after attending the academy and served prior terms to gain experience and rank. The various Departments in Star Trek map directly to Moonbase Alpha Departments though the skills will be different because of the different technology assumptions.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Like Space: 1999, episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series) were episodic. The game system is capable of handling most any genre, but is highly dependent on Game Master preparations.

The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Long forgotten, The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) is in many ways similar to Space: 1999. Overtly, both focus on characters on a “station” or “base.”

CharactersThe Babylon Project uses a concept-driven character generation system. Using the roster in the Manual, it’s possible to map most any character in terms of the Attributes/Skill/Characteristics which can be a good example of how to make a Moonbase Alpha character.

Technology/Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Technology takes a backseat in The Babylon Project. Instead, story comes to the front. Much like Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series to do a story arc, The Babylon Project gives advice on how to do the same for your adventures.

FATE Core (Evil Hat Publishing, 2013)

Another rules set that is a candidate for Space: 1999 is FATE Core from Evil Hat Productions (2013). FATE Core claims the game, “works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives” (emphasis in original). Character generation in FATE Core is not a lifepath or point buy system, but rather “concept” driven which I find a bit harder to imagine. The core mechanic, using FATE dice, is also more suited to “pulp” gaming than gritty or hard sci-fi. Technology is what you make of it.

GENESYS (Fantasy Flight Games, 2017)

A more recent game system that might be useful is Genesys: Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight Games (2017). Genesys powers FFG’s Star Wars Roleplaying Games series.

Characters – Character generation is a form of point-buy built around archetypes. The generic career list would have to be tailored, but there are many examples in the various Star Wars Roleplaying Game books to draw inspiration from.

Technology – Technology is again what you make of it. Unlike Cepheus Deluxe which tends to portray technology in “harder” sci-fi terms, in Genesys technology is there to aid the narrative.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Genesys is a highly narrative game system that again is suitable for many different genres of play.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin Publishing, 2019)

With some work, Green Ronin’s The Expanse Roleplaying Game (2019) may also be adapted.

Characters – The Professions list of The Expanse Roleplaying Game is not that far removed from Space: 1999.

Technology – Technology-wise the two settings are not all that far apart.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system uses a three different encounter types—Action, Exploration, and Social—for games that in some ways is very suitable for a Space: 1999 setting.

CORTEX Prime (Fandom Tabletop, 2021)

Another “generic” system that may prove useful is the CORTEX: Game Handbook (Fandom Tabletop, 2021). CORTEX comes in several flavors and different versions have powered the Serenity Role Playing Game (2005), Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (2007), Smallville Roleplaying Game (2010), Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game (2012), and Firefly Role-Playing Game (2014). The CORTEX Prime System described in the CORTEX: Game Handbook is highly modular and tailorable to genre and setting.

Characters – CORTEX Prime characters come with three Distinctions (Background, Personality, Role) and then a “Power Set.” Looking across the options, I feel a Power Set combining the Classic Attributes (Agility, Alertness, Intelligence, Strength, Vitality, Willpower) with “Roles” based on Department assignments may be a good starting point.

Technology – There are plenty of examples of how to define a piece of technology in the other CORTEX rule books.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – The different flavors of CORTEX can support different genres of adventure; CORTEX Prime attempts to synthesize those different play types under one rules set.

Which one should I work on first?


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#SundaySummary – Turkey Day 2021 with @ADragoons @hexsides @hollandspiele @HuzzahHobbies #CepheusEngine #TravellerRPG @USNIBooks @compassgamesllc @Toadkillerdog @gmtgames

Happy Thanksgiving!

The week was a bit slow in Casa RockyMountainNavy. This is the first holiday we celebrated in our “new” nuclear family configuration since Eldest RMN Boy is in Tech School for the U.S. Air Farce. It also follows three months with the Mother-in-Law in town and a simultaneous major health challenge for Mrs. RMN (not COVID…but while the vaccine might of protected it appears it brought on other health issues). So we have much to be thankful for. For my part, much of the Christmas shopping is also complete, at least as the major presents for each RMN Boy and especially Mrs. RMN go.

Wargaming

I took some down time this week to work on a First Impressions piece on The Battle of the Bulge (Avalon Hill, 1965). If I get the photos together you’ll see that later this week. I also was inspired by D-Day at Omaha Beach from Decision Games (Fourth Printing, 2020) to look at wargame maps and data. I need to work up some photos and run it by Brant at Armchair Dragoons to see if it meets his standards. Finally, I owe designer Brad Smith a deep apology since I volunteered to playtest Warsaw Pact Air Commander (coming in the future from Hollandspiele) but am very delinquent in sending him anything. I made an effort this week to change that.

Boardgaming

Huzzah Hobbies, my FLGS, had a 50% off sale this weekend. I didn’t make it up there but the RMN Boys did and sent me a photo of the shelves and asked for suggestions. We’ll see if anything shows up under the tree this Christmas.

Role Playing Games

I messed around a bit with Cepheus Deluxe, the latest version of Cepheus Engine from Stellagama Publishing and the modern take on the Traveller RPG.

Books

A long-forgotten backorder from Naval Institute Press arrived this week. Fighting the Fleet: Operational Art and Modern Fleet Combat argues that naval concepts are often diluted or lost when too much jointness is introduced. It also talks about the use of Operations Research, which I see as adjacent to wargaming. I need to finish this book and then use it to consider wargames like John Gorkowski’s South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region from Compass Games as well as the naval modules for any of Mitchell Land’s Next War series from GMT Games.

#SundaySummary – New arrivals need a Quartermaster General so not lost in Forgotten Waters while reading Game Wizards of North Korea (@AresGamesSrl @PlaidHatGames @compassgamesllc @docetist @TravellerNews #TravellerRPG @toadkillerdog @gmtgames)

Wargames

New ArrivalIan Brody’s Quartermaster General WW2 (Ares Games, Second Edition 2020). Described by some as “Card driven RISK” that’s an unfair characterization as the game is much more fun than it looks. This is also supposed to be a decent 3-player game playable in 2-hours or less making it a great candidate for the weekend Family Game Night. We already have Quartermaster General: Cold War (PSC Games, 2018) which we enjoy playing so we look forward to going back to the “classic” version.

Quartermaster General WW2. Photo by RMN

Boardgames

New ArrivalForgotten Waters (Plaid Hat Games, 2020). Another candidate for Weekend Family Game Night. Also my first foray into the “Crossroads System” as well as my first “app-assisted” boardgame. I traded for my copy of Pacific Tide: The United States versus Japan, 1941-45 (Compass Games, 2019). I like Pacific Tide, but Forgotten Waters will be played with both RMN Boys vice one at a time. That said, when it comes to cooperative games the RMN Boys prefer classic Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) and then the “Forbidden“-series (Forbidden Island and Forbidden Skies specifically) so we will see how unforgettable this one becomes.

Forgotten Waters. Photo by RMN

Role Playing Games

New ArrivalGame Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons by Jon Peterson (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021). This is definitely a hobby business history and NOT a history of D&D as a game. So all you Edition Wars fighters out there looking for Jon’s vote need to look elsewhere. I wish Jon would do the history of Marc Miller and Traveller someday. I know, not as dramatic but nonetheless of intense interest to a Traveller RPG fan like me.

Game Wizards. Photo by RMN

Professional Wargames

The Defense Intelligence Agency released the 2021 edition of North Korea Military Power: A Growing Regional and Global Threat. This product is a must-read for any professional wargamer that wants to include North Korea as a threat. Given that it’s unclassified and for public release, even commercial wargame designers like Mitchell Land can use it to update Next War: Korea (GMT Games).

Courtesy DIA

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday Summary – Red October #wargame in September thanks to @6xW_a, some #boardgame Santorini (@roxleygames, 2016), conned into Firefly for generations, running guns with @BaenBooks, and hoping a Hail Mary reads well thanks to @DragonCon

Wargame

Say what you want about the dumpster fire Twitter can be, the wargame community in the Twittersphere is awesome. Fellow gamer Nicola sent me a game that I coveted for a long time but never got around to acquiring. Now The Hunt for Red October (TSR, Inc., 1988) is sitting on my game table being dissected. First impression…a lite family wargame that Grognards (and Grognard spawn) can embrace.

The hunt has ended…or has it only started?

Boardgame

With RockyMountainNavy Jr. supporting his high school team, it was left for RockyMountainNavy T and myself to find entertainment for a short evening. So it was that Santorini (Roxley Games, 2016) landed on the table for several rounds. We usually play without the God Powers but this time added Simple Powers. We’re both not really sure what to make of it as the basic game is a great challenge while the God Powers seem…well, we’re unsure.

Books

I came across the DragonCon book awards for 2021 and several caught my attention. That of itself is pretty incredible because I have a distrust of the political motivations of many industry awards these days. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir won Best Science Fiction Novel so I decided to give it a shot. Other ones are Gun Runner by Larry Correia and John D. Brown which won Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel (yeah…fantasy NOT!) and Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon for Best Media Tie-In Novel.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Wednesday – Rolling Hot like a Tanklord in different Hammer’s Slammers games featuring #TravellerRPG and Game Designers’ Workshop, Metagaming, @mayfairgames, @MongoosePub, & www.hammers-slammers.com – all for @TheGascon

Thank Gascon

This Wargame Wednesday entry is courtesy of @TheGascon who sent me down this rabbit hole from Twitter by simply asking me which Hammer’s Slammers rules I prefer. In my typical way, the answer is not simple and to understand my thinking we need to look at several decades of wargaming history. Come along as I dig into a bit of my gaming past (and present) to show you my Hammer’s Slammers wargaming evolution from the early 1980’s to today.

Incoming—@TheGascon turns the BlogZ Hot

Rolling Hot

When I think of Hammer’s Slammers stories and wargames, the final battle in the novel Rolling Hot immediately comes to mind. Here, a severely understrength Task Force Ranson consisting at this point of a single hovertank and a handful of combat cars faces a (slightly) understrength local armored battalion. To me, a Hammer’s Slammers wargame needs to be able to recreate this battle—not necessarily the exact outcome but definitely the situation. Here is that situation as laid out so dramatically in the book:

Blue Three’s sensors had greater range and precision by an order of magnitude than those crammed into the combat cars, but the cars could process the data passed to them by the larger vehicle. The sidebar on Ranson’s multi-function display listed call signs, isolated in cross-talk overheard by the superb electronics of the tank pretending to be in Kawana while it waited on Chin Peng Rise north of the tiny hamlet.

There were twenty-five individual call signs. The AI broke them down as three companies consisting of three platoons—but no more than four tanks in any platoon (five would have been full strength). Some platoons were postulated from a single call sign.

Not all the Yokel tanks would indulge in the loose chatter that laid them out for Task Force Ranson like a roast for the carving; but most of them would, most of them were surely identified. The red cross-hatching that overlay the relief map in the main field of the display was the AI’s best estimate thus far of the the armored battalion’s disposition.

Blue Three was the frame of the trap and the bait within it; but the five combat cars of the west and east elements were the spring-loaded jaws that would snap the rat’s neck.

And this rat, Yokel or Consie, was lying. It was clear that the leading elements of First of the 4th were already deploying onto the southern slope of Sugar Knob, half a kilometer from the store and shanties of Kawana rather than ten kays their commander claimed.

In the next few seconds, the commander of the armored battalion would decide whether he wanted to meet allied mercenaries—or light the fuse that would certainly detonate in a battle more destructive than any citizen of Prosperity could imagine. He was being tested….

The two sharp green beads of Lieutenant Cooter’s element settled into position.

She heard a whisper in the southern sky. Incoming.

Rolling Hot, Chapter 12

Now let’s look back on the history of my Hammer’s Slammers wargames, or at least those titles I use to play out Hammer’s Slammers battles, and see how they did.


Rolling Hot, (c) 1986 by David Drake

Rolling Hot

“But Loyal to His Own”

I discovered David Drakes Hammer’s Slammers paperback book not long after it was published, likely around 1980 or the year after it entered print. This was around the same time I discovered the (now) Classic Traveller role playing game from Game Designers’ Workshop. In early 1980 I found the three Little Black Books in my first FLGS, Fascination Corner, in south Denver. I’m not sure which came first, Classic Traveller Book 4: Mercenary or Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, but the two books are forever linked in my mind.

From a wargaming perspective, Mercenary is an interesting collection of rules. There are actually three rules for combat resolution given in the book: The Traveller Combat System taken from LBB Book 1: Characters and Combat, the Abstract System which is just like the name says, and a Free-Form System which is undefined. As much as I seem to remember differently the truth is that looking back at the Tech Level advancements in Mercenary they don’t even discuss hovertanks. At Tech Level 9 military vehicles transition from track-laying/wheeled to grav—ground effect is never discussed. Back then I passed on buying Striker, a set of 15mm miniatures rules, that also had the Classic Traveller vehicle design system. If I had Striker I “think” I would have tried to design the Regiment. Regardless, the lack of Striker meant I used the Abstract System in Mercenary but never truly had a force specifically-built based on the Slammers’ universe.

The closest I came to a wargame with hovertanks in these early days actual was Steve Jackson’s Ogre/G.E.V. microgames from Metagaming. I say “close” because, like Mercenary, Hammer’s Slammers was inspiration for play but not closely simulated on the tabletop. Another set of Metagaming titles, Helltank and Helltank Destroyer, actually came a bit closer but, like Ogre/G.E.V., were just not quite Hammer-like to be honestly called a Hammer’s Slammers wargame.


Classic Traveller Role Playing Game (i.e. “The Little Black Books”), (c) 1977 Game Designers’ Workshop

The Little Black Books of Classic Traveller

Book 4: Mercenary, (c) 1978 Game Designers’ Workshop

Striker, designed by Frank Chadwick, (c) 1981 Game Designers’ Workshop

Ogre, designed by Steve Jackson, (c) 1977 Metagaming

G.E.V., designed by Steve Jackson, (c) 1978 Metagaming

Helltank, designed by Phillip S. Kosnett, (c) 1981 Metagaming

Helltank Destroyer, designed by Phillip S. Kosnett, (c) 1982 Metagaming


“Supertanks”

The first “proper” Hammer’s Slammers wargame I owned was the namesake Hammer’s Slammers from Mayfair Games published in 1984. I am sure I got this one not long after it was published. Described by some as “PanzerBlitz in Spaaaace” this simple wargame with it’s interlocking modular map and asymmetric array of forces gives one a taste of the Hammer’s Slammers universe. Looking back on the game nearly 40 years later I still see a great simple wargame that, when played by savvy players and with attention to scenario design, is not always a walkover for The Regiment like some BoardGameGeek comments imply. Although published before Rolling Hot, this Hammer’s Slammers wargame can be used to recreate the signature battle if one is wiling to design the light tanks of the First of the 4th.


Hammers Slammer’s, designed by Jim Griffin, H. N. Voss, Neil Zimmerer, (c) 1984 Mayfair Games

Mayfair Games Hammer’s SlammersPanzerBlitz in Spaaaace?

“Night March”

For a while it looked like my Hammer’s Slammers wargaming was going dark. In the 1990’s I was getting my military career started and science-fiction games fell to the wayside as I focused more on “modern” simulations. That said, three games did enter my collection that I (longingly) yearned to use for a Hammer’s Slammers game. Although Striker II by Frank Chadwick entered my collection, once again I lacked the Traveller: The New Era vehicle design system book so I could not design Regiment vehicles.

It was during this same period that two other rule sets entered my collection, both from Ground Zero Games in the U.K. Dirtside II and Stargrunt II, designed by Jon Tuffley and others, challenged my thinking about what wargame rules could be. Up until this point in my wargaming life, Frank Chadwick and Game Designers’ Workshop defined miniatures gaming for me. In particular, I viewed Frank’s Command Decision (World War II) and Combined Arms (Modern) rules, which Striker II was built upon, as the pinnacle of miniatures rules. I respected (prided?) the “realism” in the rules and how these games were almost hex & counter wargames on a miniatures tabletop. On the other hand, Dirtside II and Stargrunt II challenged my viewpoint by giving me a set of miniatures rules that were easy to learn and used “design for effect” instead of “realism.” I also had never thought to use anything other than a d6, d10, or d100 in a wargame. Now, instead of looking up which exact weapon was used on a table in the back of a book, I was rolling a d4, d8, or maybe even a d12 Quality Die for units. It totally changed my thinking as to what a set of wargame rules could be. The vehicle design rules in Dirtside II also gave me a chance to design a hovertank, something I had not been able to do up to this point with other rule sets. In particular Dirtside II, with its vehicle design system, made recreating the Rolling Hot battle quite easy.


Striker II, designed by Frank Chadwick, (c) 1993 Game Designers’ Workshop

Dirtside II, designed by Jon Tuffley & Mike Elliot, (c) 1993 Ground Zero Games

Dirtside II from Ground Zero Games

Stargrunt II, designed by Jon Tuffley, Mike Elliot, and Steve Bease, (c) 1996 Ground Zero Games


“Hangman”

The early 2000’s was a bad time for my wargaming hobby. Many issues conspired against me and the result was a lack of personal emphasis on wargaming. Instead, I leaned more into role playing games since, generally speaking, it took less space (and money) to buy a book than to buy a wagame. During this time, I rediscovered my passion for Traveller RPG with Mongoose Traveller (MgT). I loved MgT (at least the first edition) because it was basically an updated take on Classic Traveller. Starting with the core rules in 2008, the MgT line immediately added Book 1: Mercenary. Then there was a very exciting development….

In 2009, Mongoose Publishing printed a sourcebook for MgT titled Hammer’s Slammers. The book showed much promise as it was written with the support of David Drake himself. This book, featuring extensive background, showed me just how disconnected I had become from the Slammers universe and helped reenergize my interest in the series. As a wargame, however, the Mongoose Publishing Hammer’s Slammers was grossly lacking.

A decade ago I wrote on this blog my thoughts of the MgT Hammer’s Slammers. Alas, the years have not changed my thinking:

The Verdict: Let’s be clear about a bias first; I love the Hammer’s Slammers series of books and stories. More than anything else David Drake has defined for me what I think of when I hear the term “military science-fiction.”

This book is a true labor of love and worth the price for the background alone. Finally, in one place you have the entire history of the Slammers together; all the people and places, event and equipment. But how does it translate as an RPG?

Unfortunately, I feel that Mongoose fails to live up to the expectations here. Especially the boast on the back cover that claims, “With all vehicles created using the Traveller Vehicle Creation System, this book is guaranteed to be fully compatible with every other Traveller book, allowing you to mix and match supplements as you desire!”

So in no particular order, here are some thoughts on the book:

– What is up with the cover soldier? The outfit is nothing like I imagine a Hammer’s Slammers trooper to be like; blinking lights and the like and doesn’t even match the armor depicted on page 120 which is that used by the Slammers

– A “Mercenary Roster” is provided on page 21 comparing notable mercenary units; each is assigned a rating but ratings are never explained (ahh, on page 180 when making a Mercenary Contract the quality of a unit is used for a DM; quality similar to but not shown the same way as the ratings on page 21)

– Joining the Slammers can be direct or through The Connections Rule from the Core Book; you can also join the Slammers after finishing a military career as per the Core Rulebook or other supplement

– Who did the maps?  They are HORRIBLE—gridded squares with cartoonish graphics don’t fit this high tech military setting; easily the worst part of the book

– The characters are great but again the kit doesn’t match what is provided elsewhere

– Errors abound when cross-referencing items; is the Protection for Light Ceramic Combat Shell (or is is called Clamshell, Light) 10 or 12?

– Tank Powerguns are really powerful; like they should be in this setting

– It is impossible to make any of the supertanks using the Vehicle Creation System found in Supplement 6: Military Vehicles; so much for “guaranteed to be fully compatible”

– Vehicle Combat introduces new range and hit systems; one should backfit this to the Core Rules

In sum, Hammer’s Slammers provides great background but it is not seamless in its integration with existing Traveller books and supplements. Putting them together can be done in places (character generation) but not in others (vehicle creation).

“Got Your Powergun?” Feb 11, 2011

From a wargaming perspective, the combat system in MgT Hammer’s Slammers built upon the core combat rules in MgT. That is, they retained the focus on “vehicles as characters” and a very tactical (skirmish?) level of combat. One could conceivably roleplay a member of the Regiment but to fight took much more effort and much interpolation in the rules. At the end of the day, MgT was a near-total failure as a rules set for Hammer’s Slammers-style combat. From the perspective of Rolling Hot, MgT Hammer’s Slammers could certainly recreate the personalities but, even though all the equipment was there, recreating the battle in a playable manner was near-impossible.


Book 1: Mercenary, (c) 2008 Mongoose Publishing

Hammer’s Slammers, (c) 2009 Mongoose Publishing

Mongoose Traveller Hammer’s Slammers

“The Tank Lords”

At nearly the same time Mongoose Publishing was giving us Hammer’s Slammers for Mongoose Traveller, another British publisher was also working with David Drake to give us a set of miniatures wargame rules very tightly focused on the Hammerverse. The Hammer’s Slammers Handbook, written by John Lambshead & John Treadaway, provided background, vehicle design and technical specifications, as well as, “an easy play gaming system.” The many shared graphics between the Handbook and MgT Hammer’s Slammers shows how closely linked the two products are. Which makes me wonder—why didn’t Mongoose use the Handbook and its combat system like GDW did with Frank Chadwick’s Striker 30 years earlier?

In 2010, John Treadaway and John Lambshead published the ultimate version of the Handbook. Now called Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible, what started as a 50-page, digest-sized softcover Handbook grew into a hardcover, full-color 203 page book that proclaimed to be the “Ultimate, all-in-one rules system for tabletop gaming plus technical specifications, vehicle designs, timeline & background materials for the Slammers Universe.”

Like Dirtside II/Stargrunt II published two decades earlier, both the Handbook and The Crucible are tabletop miniatures rules that emphasize “design effect” over strict “realism.” As the introduction to the combat rules state:

These rules allow wargamers to re-fight the battles of the Slammers Armoured Regiment on a one to one scale, i.e. where one model equals one vehicle or one infantryman. Turning modern armoured warfare into a game, of necessity, involves a great deal of compromise. Thus the aim has been to recreate the spirit of the fast moving armoured engagements so brilliantly described by David Drake and so emphasis here is put on command and training rather than technology. Also, a simple ‘clean’ game system is employed so that the game flows quickly; infantry warfare in particular is abstracted. The rules focus on recreating an armoured skirmish game, as opposed to an infantry skirmish game with a few vehicles in support.

“Fighting with the Slammers: Introduction,” Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible, p. 106

Finally, over twenty years after Rolling Hot was published, there is a set of wargame rules that can be used to faithfully recreate the battle situation. Resolving that battle also won’t break your sanity.


Hammer’s Slammers Handbook, (c) 2004 Pireme Publishing Ltd.

Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible, (c) 2010 Pireme Publishing Ltd.

The Ultimate—Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible

“Caught in the Crossfire”

Although Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible is certainly the final word in my collection on a wargame for the Slammerverse, it did not enter my collection until very recently. In the meantime, I experimented with another set of rules. Between the time I was battling with MgT Hammer’s Slammers and now, I tried Tomorrow’s War (Second Edition) from Osprey Publishing. I had high hopes for Tomorrow’s War as it was based on the (somewhat) acclaimed Force on Force rules. Alas, Tomorrow’s War took exactly the opposite design approach from The Crucible. Unlike The Crucible which focuses on armored combat (very Slammer-like), Tomorrow’s War focuses on infantry combat first with a set of vehicular rules that feel are very “bolted on.” To be fair, all the elements of a good Hammer’s Slammers battle are in the rules, but the infantry-first focus leaves certain elements—like vehicular combat—lacking. One can recreate Rolling Hot using Tomorrow’s War but it doesn’t play out as smoothly as The Handbook or The Crucible allows.


Tomorrow’s War (Second Edition), designed by Shawn Carpenter, Robby Carpenter, (c) 2011 Osprey Publishing

Tomorrow’s War = Infantry First

“Standing Down”

At the end of the day, this Grognard is very comfortable stating that Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible really is the “ultimate” set of wargame rules. I like the rules enough that I am looking to invest in a line of 6mm miniatures to use for tabletop battles. Better yet, if @TheGascon makes a Tabletop Simulator (TTS) module for The Crucible, it may be enough for me to overstress my old laptop and play online….



Hammer’s Slammers works referenced:

  • “But Loyal to His Own” (c) 1975 by David Drake. Originally published in Galaxy, November 1974
  • “Supertanks” (c) 1979 by David Drake. Originally published in Hammer’s Slammers
  • “Night March” (c) 1997 by David Drake. Originally published in The Tank Lords
  • “Hangman” (c) 1979 by David Drake. Originally published in Hammer’s Slammers
  • “The Tank Lords” (c) 1986 by David Drake. Originally published in Far Frontiers, Vol. 6
  • “Caught in the Crossfire” (c) 1978 by David Drake, Originally published in Chrysalis 2
  • “Standing Down” (c) 1979 by David Drake. Originally published in Hammer’s Slammers