#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

#SundaySummary – Family Obligations (mentions canvastemple.com @gmtgames @Hobiecat18 @compassgamesllc @FoundationDietz @Bublublock @ADragoons @gengelstein #wargame #boardgame #CepheusEngine #SquidGame)

Not much to report on in gaming this week due to family obligations.

Wargame

Imperial Campaigns #1: Boer War (Joseph Miranda, Canvas Temple Publishing via Kickstarter) is moving along nicely with the mounted maps unlocked just before the funding campaign expired.

GMT Games is charging for Mike Bertucelli’s Tank Duel Expansion #1: North Africa and Tank Duel: Tank Pack #1. I just need to update my credit card…

It took a few extra days but my hardcopy of the Compass Games catalog arrived. Several games are given “provisional” (my term) delivery dates which, alas, all are in 2022 (one actually doesn’t have even a provisional date—which is kinda worrisome). We’ll see how that works out! Now to mark the catalog up with already have, on order, and like to haves.

  • 74 major Titles in catalog
    • 6x Owned
    • 5x Pre-ordered
    • 6x Titles of Interest (3 available now)

I really need to be careful and not get too carried away with ordering from Compass right away. I already owe Mrs. RMN (aka “Family Accountant”) an explanation of why GMT Games and Canvas Temple Publishing are charging within days of each other. I also won a local auction for Sekigahara (GMT Games, 2011) that I’m picking up this weekend—only a week after Tapestry (Stonemaier Games, 2019) arrived…

Boardgame

Jim Dietz updated the shipping timeline for 1979: Revolution in Iran (Dan Bullock via Kickstarter) and it looks like this game may be the first of many COVID shipping-delayed games to (finally) arrive.

Speaking of Tapestry, I was able to get the game tabled this weekend. Bottom line: I like it! I think I see where many critics are coming from—I just disagree with them.

Role Playing Games

Cepheus Journal #8 is now out. Some adventure seeds for SPAAAACCCCEEE FFFFOOOORRRCCCEEE as well as Orbital 2100 from Zozer Games.

Game Design

Please take a moment to look at the well-done research article on Armchair Dragoons regarding “Nineteenth Century Military Wargames – H.G. Wells’ Little Wars as Kriegsspiel.”

For all you Squid Game fans out there make sure you check out Geoff Engelstein’s GameTek#9 newsletter this week featuring “The Game Design of Squid Game” (Warning- MAJOR Spoilers).

#RPG Thursday – #TravellerRPG in Foundation

Geeks on Twitter have commented that the new Apple TV series Foundation has more than a bit of a Traveller Role Playing Gamevibe to it.

I have to say I heartily agree, especially with the “most Traveller thing.” Which is funny in a way because if you ask me to point to what Traveller looks like I’m probably going to show you this—the Little Black Books of 1977-1980.

The (Classic) Traveller Little Black Books

Thumbing through the books I challenge you to find artwork. There is a single black and white drawing of a persons head on page 25 of Book 1 and nothing in Book 2 or Book 3. Even the box back only has a single, somewhat abstract, image of a soldier firing a weapon. The next picture is that of a “Mercenary Striker” in the front of Book 4 Mercenary. Even Book 5 High Guard has no images. Those iconic Traveller ships like the Free Trader (which I swear I saw in Foundation Season 1 Episode 1) don’t appear until Supplement 7 Traders and Gunboats in 1980.

For a while it looked like Traveller was going to be a Star Wars knockoff. Look at the box art for the 1981 wargame Invasion: Earth with what looks something like an Imperial Star Destroyer on the cover. Fortunately, Traveller never became a Star Wars or Star Trek RPG, both of which have their own distinctive and iconic visions.

Since the 1980’s, and especially with the rise of the internet, there has been moreTraveller RPG artwork. Much of it revolves around starships. In the early 1980’s it was black & white artwork in the pages of new supplements or adventures or the pages of The Journal of the Travellers’ Aide Society or Challenge magazine. Marc Miller’s Traveller (Traveller 4) used Chris Foss artwork with little success.

Another ship that looks like one found in Foundation?

The computer graphics artwork of Andrew Boulton, though primitive compared to today’s computer graphics, was “right” in the vibe it communicated.So sad he left us so early…

The modern work of Ian Stead has graced the pages of many Traveller products in recent years and more than a few feel he has captured the vibe of Traveller the best since those early days. But, like so much of that early art, it is almost exclusively focused on the ships.

Marc Miller himself has two more recent visions of Traveller. The first is expressed in Traveller 5 which is sparsely illustrated using mostly recycled artwork from previous editions. Then there is his book, Agent of the Imperium, which has no illustrations at all and cover art that is…questionable.

It’s in your head…

Such is the power of the Traveller RPG— the game creates in many minds a vast, sweeping vision with relatively sparse artwork. What I’m hearing is that Traveller RPG created, in many minds, the vision of a vast empire spanning from a long dynastic center to a very unsettled frontier. This despite a majority of artwork that is of ships—not imperial palaces or emperors or harsh frontiers.

What’s most incredible is that very “in-your-head” vision is being “found” onscreen in the Foundation TV series. Take note that starships are NOT a prominent feature of the first three episodes of Foundation; they appear but are very much “background” whereas Traveller RPG tends to put starships in front. Traveller RPG delivers a vision of an entire universe without the need for lots of artwork because it stimulates the mind. That many seem to find Traveller in Foundation is in reality incredible praise for the Marc Miller and his vision expressed in plain text over 40 years ago..

Sunday Summary – Go with the flow of #wargames & #boardgames? Finding Foundation and running blades in LA with @FreeLeaguePub // @FoundationDietz @stuarttonge @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @MultiManPub #roleplayinggames

Shipping woes…slowly ending?

Slowly, ever so slowly, it looks like the flow of wargame and boardgame pre-orders is starting to move again. Let’s review what I know about my incoming games.

At least two games I have on Kickstarter are moving forward and reported being a step closer to delivery. 1979: Revolution in Iran (Kickstarter) is supposed to arrive to Jim Dietz at Dietz Foundation for in early October for immediate turnaround to fulfillment. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Kickstarter) by designer Stuart Tonge opened the pledge manager this week. However, not all is coming up totally roses—AuZtralia Revenge of the Old Ones and TaZmania! (Kickstarter) reported that production started but they will miss the planned November delivery due to the draconian (my description) lockdowns in New Zealand.

I am hoping that GMT Games finds a way to get the four titles that are at “At the Printer- No Ship Date Yet” moving. The latest update from Gene tells me that Tank Duel Expansion 1: North Africa is in a container somewhere between China and California and will be charging early October. Hopefully this means that backlog will work off over the next few months. I look forward to a regular GMT P500 delivery schedule.

I might also be better informed if I watched the Compass Games Live / Town Hall on YouTube every week but it goes live at an inconvenient time for me to easily catch it. I have five titles on preorder form Compass and, as best I can tell, none are scheduled for delivery through the end of this year (deep sigh).

My lone Multi-Man Publishing title on preorder shows that the preorder goal was passed. I guess that means it is moving forward in production, but when that is remains a mystery to me.

Boardgame Profits

The big boardgame industry news this week is that Asmodee is looking for a buyer...and they want 2 BILLION Euros. This past year+ of COVID certainly has seen the boardgame industry do well, but with the current raw material shortages and shipping challenges is it truly sustainable at those high levels? I almost feel like the VC group that owns Asmodee is trying to take their money and run. Remember, one of the oldest adages in business is“Buyer beware.”

Foundation and Role Playing Games

I rarely watch TV these days, but I did indulge in the first two episodes of Apple TV’s new series, Foundation:

I thought about rereading the books before the series started but I am glad I didn’t as I am looking at the series with (sorta) fresh eyes and just taking it in. I am especially enthralled with the world-building. I read articles about how the producers were trying to establish a look for the series that is neither Star Wars or Star Trek (Warning: Minor spoilers at the link). If I was put on the spot, I would say that there are many elements of Marc Miller’s Third Imperium setting for the Traveller roleplaying game. Or maybe it’s better to say there are many classic space opera elements in the Third Imperium and Foundation is just catching up. I have to admit I also enjoy watching the series with the RockyMountainNavy Boys who have not read the books (I know, Bad Dad!). They are taking it in without any preconceived notions. So far they like it, which is high praise from the hardcore Stars Wars fans they are.

From Foundation to Blade Runner

What’s this? Hot on the heels of ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game, Free League has announced publication of Bladerunner: The Roleplaying Game in 2022.

Free League put up a website which gives a few details about the new Bladerunner RPG. From a game mechanism perspective it appears that Free League’s Year Zero Engine will be used like it was in ALIEN: The RPG but with some new wrinkles:

The core game and its line of expansions will push the boundaries of investigative gameplay in tabletop RPGs, giving players a range of tools to solve an array of cases far beyond retiring Replicants. Beyond the core casework, the RPG will both in setting and mechanics showcase key themes of Blade Runner – sci-fi action, corporate intrigue, existential character drama, and moral conflict – that challenge players to question your friends, empathize with your enemies, and explore the poisons and perseverance of hope and humanity during such inhumane times.

Bladerunner: The Roleplaying Game, The Game

Investigative RPG’s are an interesting subgenre of roleplaying games. Some game systems, like Gumshoe from Pelgrane Press, are designed from the ground up for investigations. Other systems rely on a form of “social combat” game mechanism to handle player vs. PC interactions. Indeed, The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin, 2019) has a separate mode of play called Social Encounters that covers investigations. It will be interesting to see how Free League adapts the Year Zero Engine to handle Bladerunner-style investigations.

Although I didn’t totally enjoy ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game I am nonetheless happy to see Free League lean into the 1980’s sci-fi IPs and turn them into RPGs. Philip K. Dick’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was the basis for the movie Bladerunner and is a very deep story. I hope the game does real justice to the IP.

#RPGThursday or a delayed #Wargame Wednesday? – Alien: The Roleplaying Game (@freeleaguepub, 2020) – as in “You’re all gonna die. Only question is how you check out.”

In a somewhat radical change of pace, I actually picked up a full deadtree version of a new roleplaying game. I was in my FLGS and ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game from Free League Publishing (2020) caught my eye and I purchased it.

Science fiction is my favorite genre for RPGs, but space horror isn’t exactly my thing, making this purchase of ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game a bit bewildering to me. Regardless, I am a bit of an RPG-mechanic explorer so I like to play RPGs almost as much for exploring the core mechanic as the setting. ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game uses Free League’s “Year Zero Engine” (YZE). This is my first exposure to the YZE, and actually my first deep-dive into ALIEN lore as I haven’t watched all the movies faithfully.

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game tries to sell itself as a somewhat low-complexity, moderately narrative game that focuses on the Xenomorphs as much as, if not more than, characters. The reality, as I see it, is that ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game would be better sold as ALIEN: The Roleplaying Skirmish Wargame.

“First assembly’s in fifteen, people. Shag it!” – Apone

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is a 394-page tome. The space-black background pages would be very expensive (and draining) to print on your own. The book doesn’t need to be this big; there are some pages where the art takes as much space as the text.

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game uses customized dice. Well, sorta. There are two die types required, both d6. A Base Die is a d6 with a special symbol in place of the 6. A Stress Die is differently colored from the Base Die and has that same special-use symbol in the 6 position as well as “Stress” on the 1 side. Honestly, you don’t need to buy the special dice (~$15 per set)—just use two different colors of d6 and remember which color is which die type.

“…Well, I can drive that loader. I have a Class-2 rating.” – Ripley

Character creation in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is actually simple. You start by choosing one of nine archetypes. Sure, they’re called Careers in the book but they’re treated as archetypes. Using a limited point-buy system, you assign Attributes (Strength/Agility/Wits/Empathy), Skills (there are only 12), and acquire Talents (pick one).

Player Characters in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game also need a Personal Agenda as well as Buddies and Rivals. Well, that is unless you are playing a Cinematic mode game (more on that later) where the Agenda is “predetermined by the scenario” (p. 31). If you are playing a Campaign mode game, there are “suggested” Personal Agendas listed with your career.

The end result of character generation in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is a (barely) two-dimensional character. The real RPG elements of a character, Talents and Personal Agenda, are either so flimsy or pre-defined as to be near-useless to a player. The only real advantage of the character generation system is that it is quick and uncomplicated—for reasons I think will soon become apparent.

Two can be found in chargen…

“My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are.” – Newt

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game revolves around three simple Themes: Space Horror, Sci-Fi Action, and a Sense of Wonder (p. 20). Take note of the order in which they are presented—it’s important.

Space Horror

To me, the movie ALIEN defines space horror in cinema. The movie captures the essence of a hopeless, helpless, unknown situation. ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game depends heavily on the lore of the ALIEN stories to create the game universe. You can physically see it in the book; dark pages, lots of Xenomorphs, plenty of death. Even the fiction is pitch-perfect. This is both a blessing and a curse; it is quite possible to have players that come to the table steeped in the lore, making it a challenge to the Game Mother to create a story as character knowledge and player metaknowledge may not be aligned.

Sci-Fi Action

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game can be played in one of two game modes. The primary mode is Cinematic. For this one really needs to think of each adventure like a sci-fi action movie, especially ALIENS. Here, the Year Zero Engine works well as it is light on skill checks but more detailed on combat and panic. The Game Mother guide advises that in this mode the Xenomorphs need to be front and center.

Cinematic play is the game mode used to simulate such stories, creating short, focused, and intense movie-like experiences that the PCs will be lucky to survive.

“Cinematic Play”, p. 215

Taken as a whole, the rules for ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game are very much akin to a set of skirmish wargame rules. The “Combat and Panic” chapter—the rules for combat—covers concepts like Stealth Mode (hidden movement), initiative, Slow & Fast Actions (all of which are combat related), ambushes, close combat, ranged combat, and damage. Combat is very deadly—player death is a very, very strong possibility (certainty?). Look no further than the d66 Critical Injuries table which not only has multiple ways to die (“Impaled Heart – FATAL – Your heart beats for the last time”) to healing time measured in days (assuming, of course, you can even get first aid).

A key element of the combat system in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is Stress & Panic. There are nine conditions that raise a Player Character’s Stress Level, as defined on p. 103:

  • You push a skill roll.
  • You fire a burst of full auto fire.
  • You suffer one or more points of damage.
  • You go without sleep, food, or water.
  • You perform a coup de grace.
  • A Scientist in your team fails to use the Analysis talent.
  • A member of your own crew attacks you.
  • A person nearby is revealed to be an android.
  • You encounter certain creatures or locations, as determined by the scenario or the GM.

In ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game, Stress can lead to Panic. Many times a Panic Action is mandated by the rules. This lack of player agency and forced narrative goes far towards creating a helpless, ultimately hopeless feeling.

Ship combat in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game uses a “bridge crew” approach to battles where the PCs are usually part of the action. It is interesting to note that in addition to all the ways a ship can be damaged, combat comes down again to the individual and their Stress Level and Panic. It’s quite possible that your PC could “Run to Safety” abandoning their bridge post.

Sense of Wonder

The third theme in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is a “Sense of Wonder.” To be frank, my “sense of wonder” when playing ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is, “I wonder how anything survives.” One would think that the second mode of play, Campaign Play, would be where the Sense of Wonder comes from. I started reading the rules for ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game expecting that this is where elements of the story in ALIENS: Prometheus would shine. The Game Mother guide advises in this mode to save the Xenos for something special, but the game system as a whole doesn’t really support that. I mean, the game doesn’t really hide this fact as even the fiction in the chapters usually start with a party and ends up with…nobody alive. Instead of Prometheus the rules give us something that is more Firefly meets ALIENS. i.e. instead of finding stories that can explore discovering alien and human origins we get space truckers and death.

The lack rules support for a true campaign of ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game may actually not be as big a loss as it sounds since there is little to be discovered in the game universe thanks to the extensive lore presented. This seems like a conscious decision by the writers, unlike Battlestar Galactica: The Role Playing Game (Maragret Weis Publishing, 2004) or The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin, 2019) and many other large franchise-based IP games that pick a starting point in the lore and let the players and GM build their player universe from there. Sure, you can do the same in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game, but given the extent of lore presented it’s much harder to exclude the metaknowledge.

“…and they’re gonna come in here AND THEY’RE GONNA GET US!” – Hudson

The problems of character survival in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game can be traced all the way back to character generation with those, frankly, shallow characters. It’s as though the writers knew that character lives are cheap and to invest too much time in creating them is a waste. Then there is the game engine, and the Stress rules which can be used to ensure success…but at the risk near-certainty of being helpless as a player.

Given the rate of deaths in ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game, I searched the Game Mother guide for advice on what to do when a player character dies in the middle of an adventure. I think it’s telling that when talking about the Epilogue to a scenario part of the advice reads, “EPILOGUE: A suggested sign-off message by one of the PCs, assuming anyone is still alive” [my emphasis]. Indeed, I can’t find anything in the Game Mother section talking about mid-scenario player death beyond in-your-face hints that it WILL happen.

Helpless, hopeless, loss of control. If those are the ALIEN franchise themes you enjoy the most then ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is certainly for you.

“That’s it, man. Game over, man.” – Hudson

At the end of the day I think ALIEN: THE Roleplaying Game is best suited for those one-shot adventures where player character backgrounds are less important. Oh heck, ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is really nothing more than a set of skirmish wargame rules with some roleplaying elements. The rate of death in this game is not quite like Paranoia (West End Games, 1982)…but if the Game Mother is not in a nice mood it certainly can be.


ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game is TM & © 2020 20th Century Fox Studios and Free League Publishing. All rights reserved.

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

Sunday Summary – From Reading Charlies to #wargame #roleplayinggames slamming ALIENS to #boardgame Tiny Epic Kingdoms with @ADragoons groundzerogames.net hammers-slammers.com @freeleaguepub @Gamelyn_Games dietzfoundation.org @SchilMil

Humbled

All great reads…

It appears that the article that I wrote for the Armchair Dragoons, “An Active Defense of Fifth Corps: The Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda, Central Front Series, Volume 1” is in a second round of voting for the 2020 Charles S Roberts Awards. Thanks to all who voted so far. Like I told Brant, the only way to be wrong is NOT to read all the articles.

Wargames Cross Over with Roleplaying Games

My published thoughts this last week focused on why Traveller: The Role Playing Game is the best way to “wargame” David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers universe. Comments about how RPGs are basically skirmish wargames will be addressed in a future Wargame Wednesday.

This weekend I did a deeper comparison of Hammer’s Slammers wargames by digging into how Striker II (GDW, 1993), Dirtside II (Ground Zero Games, 1993), and Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible (Pireme Publishing, 2010) stack up against each other. Look for these thoughts in Wargame Wednesday.

Roleplaying Games Cross Over with Wargames

I’ve been exploring Free League Publishing’s ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game this week. Thoughts coming in next week’s #RPGThursday. **Spoiler – A skirmish wargame**

Bored Enough for a Boardgame

Not really, but we finally got a boardgame to the table. On a weeknight no less. This summer I traded for Tiny Epic Kingdoms (Gamelyn Games, 2014) which is a really simple action-selection game. My Humans took on the Undead of RockyMountainNavy Jr. and the Dwarves of RockyMountainNavy T. Our first play took more than the 30 minutes advertised but was rather fun. RMN T took the win as often does by laying low and breaking away at the end. RMN Jr. gave it a thumbs up. I expect to see this one land on the table regularly as a quick weeknight after dinner adventure.

A Slow Ship From China

International shipping challenges continue to, uh, challenge the wargame/boardgame industry. Several of my Kickstarter projects updated with news this week. It’s mixed messaging.

#RPGThursday – Another perspective on Rolling Hot Like a Tanklord—or—Why the best Hammer’s Slammers game is NOT a Panzer Pusher #wargame but a retro 1970’s #RPG

Last week, in an answer to @TheGascon, I wrote about what my preferred rules for playing wargames in David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers universe are. That response was predicated on the assumption (unstated by Jim or myself) that we were both looking for the best wargame rules. While I stand by my conclusion in that article that Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible (Pireme Publishing, 2010) is best set of wargame rules for playing in the Slammerverse, the deeper truth is that Traveller: The Role Playing Game is actually my most preferred set of rules to use for Hammer’s Slammers. No, I’m not talking the combat systems in Book 4: Mercenary or Frank Chadwick’s Striker miniatures rules; I’m talking about the character generation and mercenary tickets found in Book 1: Characters and Combat and expanded upon in Book 4: Mercenary as well as later supplements like Mongoose Publishing’s Hammer’s Slammers (2009) and Spica Publishing’s Field Manual (2011).

Hammer’s Slammers minis rules

A Bitchin’ Sailor is a Happy Sailor

Why do I prefer a roleplaying game over wargame rules for Hammer’s Slammers? That’s because, to me, the core of a Slammer’s story written by David Drake is not the blowers or the combat cars or the powerguns. It’s the people. Look at the first line in the first story in The Complete Hammer’s Slammer: Volume 1, “Under the Hammer:”—“Think you’re going to like killing, boy?”

Nothing here about iridium-ceramic tanks or powerguns; just a very personal question. The story goes on to tell us about Rob Jenne and his first day in The Regiment. The day he meets Chero, or Sergeant-Commander Worzer. The day he also meets Worzer’s father, an ex-Slammer who is now a priest. The same day [spoiler alert] that Rob has to call artillery in directly on top of Worzer.

That’s Hammer’s Slammers.

Narrative in Wargames

These days, I often look for a wargame that not only teaches me a bit about the history of the conflict or battle but also creates a story along the way. Some wargames do this in surprising ways, like the naval simulation Harpoon (now in a 5th Edition from Admiralty Trilogy Games) which author Tom Clancy used to help write a chapter in his novel Red Storm Rising. Personally, I find wargame narratives good in a very Clancy-esque techno-thriller way; i.e. where the focus is the technology instead of the people. David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers stories are the inverse where the focus is on the character and not the tech. All of which is to say wargame rules, while able to recreate the technical conditions of a Hammer’s Slammers story, don’t quite capture the emotion.

Dance of the Vampires

A Cold Look at Rolling Hot

In my Wargame Wednesday Hammer’s Slammers article, I focused on the final battle in the novel Rolling Hot as my gauge of a good Hammer’s Slammers game. Let’s look at the description of the battle again:

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

That description is a good wargame scenario, but it only hints at the human factors. Let’s go back to the beginning of the story and meet the commander of Task Force Ranson. Here is how she is introduced to us readers:

Camp Progress was a Yokel—was a National Army—training and administrative center, while for the Slammers it served as a maintenance and replacement facility. In addition to those formal uses, the southern sector gave Hammer a place to post troops who were shoeing signs of having been on the sharp end a little too long.

People like Junebug Ranson, for instance, who’d frozen with her eyes wide open during a firefight that netted thirty-five Consies killed-in-action.

So Captain Ranson had been temporarily transferred to command the Slammers’ guard detachment at Camp Progress, a “company” of six combat cars. There’d been seventeen cars in her line company when it was up to strength; but she couldn’t remember a standard day in a war zone that they had been up to strength…

And anyway, Ranson knew as well as anybody else that she needed a rest before she got some of her people killed.

shoop

But she wasn’t going to rest here.

Rolling Hot, Chapter 1

How do you portray Junebug Ranson in a wargame? Sure, one can play with rules for training or morale. Personally I like how Dirtside II/Stargrunt II from Ground Zero Games use Quality Die for different training. I also really like the morale rules in a game like Panzer/MBT from GMT Games where advances aren’t automatic and crews more often than not bail out of tanks after the first enemy round clangs off the front. But none of that capture what is going on in Junebug’s head.

The only way to do so is to roleplay the character. Here is how the “Character Roster” entry for June ‘Junebug’ Ranson is presented in Mongoose Publishing’s Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook written for Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition:

Playing Ranson: At her best, Ranson is a very intellectual commander, breaking every problem down into the sort of question that might be posed at an officer’s exam. She is adept at using whatever resources she has, even when this puts her troops in a difficult position.

“Character Roster,” Hammer’s Slammers, p. 87

As cold an calculating Ranson sounds, she is not totally heartless:

“Speed’s essential, Hammer resumed. “You have authorization to combat-loss vehicles rather than slow down. The victory bonus’ll cover the cost of replacement.”

“I’ll be combat-losing crews, Colonel,” Ranson’s voice said. “But they’re replaceable too…”

Cooter gasped. Wylde grunted something that might have been either laughter or pain.

Hammer opened his mouth, then closed it with an audible clop. He opened it again and spoke with a lack of emotion as complete as the white, colorless fury of a sun’s heart. “You are not to take any unnecessary risks, Captain Ranson. It is necessary that you achieve your objective. You will accept such losses as are required to achieve your objective. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir,” said Ranson without inflection. “Oh, yes sir.”

Rolling Hot, Chapter 4

Traveller Mercenaries

The core rules for both every Traveller RPG edition, be it Classic or Mongoose or T4 or T5 has the Army and Marine career fields. Classic Traveller Book 4: Mercenary, like Mongoose Traveller Mercenary, expands those career fields into a more detailed character generation system. Both books also have another of those famous Traveller sub-games, in this case “Mercenary Tickets” which is a contract resolution system for mercenary units. Mongoose Traveller’s Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook provides a very detailed look at The Regiment (and other mercenary units) and has rules for continuing a career beyond the military into a mercenary unit. All of which helps a player to create and play a mercenary character like found in Hammer’s Slammers.

It also comes down to the situations a mercenary is in. While the final battle in Rolling Hot is certainly dramatic, such a large battle is the exception, not the rule. Here the front narrative from Spica Publishing’s Field Manual is more inspiring:

“Well, sergeant, what we have here is an Instellarms Forager scout car, six wheel drive, three man crew. On gunner, commander and a driver. They have a cover on the turret, hmmm…did you guys see anybody get in or out, troop or the like?” I shook my head as he scrutinized the vehicle as it ambled around the airfield.

“That thing doesn’t have the power for an energy weapon, and ordinarily has a troop compartment unless they mount something heavy. I think from the profile though…” He squinted into the glasses and concentrated. “Uh huh, there’s the designator, and the periscope…sarge, that’s a Hyperion Mark 18a2 rocket launcher…Obsolete, but it still packs a punch. Problem is, there is no telling what’s in it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, exasperated.

Rourke looked at me over the field glasses. “What it means is, the Hyperion launchers are a multi task weapons system, they’re designed to fire about a dozen different munitions, and I mean a lot of different stuff, AP, antitank, you name it.”

I could tell by his look just then that the same thought crossed both our minds.

“Let me guess, anti aircraft too, right?” He nodded at that.

“Sarge, if they deploy when the shuttle gets here…” Just then, we could hear the engines as the dropshuttle came into view, not three klicks out.

“Shit, boys, we gotta take the RV out, let’s hustle!” Rivalries forgotten, Rourke took team two as I moved in with team one…we had no more than three minutes to cross three hundred meters of field and blow away the RV before they nailed our shuttle and the platoon of men aboard.

No doubt about it, I thought as we moved onto the field…I need a raise.

“A Bad Thing in a Small Package,” Field Manual, p. 4

I’ll admit this is good fodder for a skirmish-scale wargame like Stargrunt II (GZG) or Tomorrow’s War (Osprey Publishing), but at the end of the day it’s characters and personal motivations that make it distinctive. For that, there is no substitute for the Traveller RPG.

Life’s a Forge

There are many character generation systems and I know that not everybody like Traveller’s career-path generation approach. Why not just buy a character? For me, the character generation sub-game in Traveller, with it’s legendary “die in character generation,” is way more inspiring. I really enjoy rolling up a character and seeing how they come into being. The character generation process is more informative (and formative) than any idea I might have going into the game. I actually play the game as I roll along. Let me show you how it works…

Joining the Slammers – My Way

Let me introduce Brant Wayhead, a young man just finishing high school on a low-technology world.

[For my example I am going to use Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition (MgT1e) as found in the Pocket Rulebook (Mongoose Publishing, 2008). This is not my current preferred Traveller rule set, that being Cepheus Engine as found in Independence Games The Clement Sector. I’m using MgT1e as it is “supposed” to work with the Mongoose Hammer’s Slammers, especially in terms of the skills list. In the interest of time I am also not going to use the advanced character generation system found in MgT1e Mercenary.]

The Universal Personality Profile for Brant is 7D7765 (Strength-Dexterity-Endurance-Intelligence-Education-Social Status). That “D” is hexadecimal for 13. This yield a +2 Die Modifier (DM) for all Dexterity-related actions and -1 DM for anything involving social graces. Brant hails from a Low-Technology world and comes out of school with Survival 0.

For his first term, Brant successfully joins the Army and is posted to a Cavalry (tank) unit. As this is his first term he acquires the basic Service Skills of Drive (Tracked) 0, Athletics (Coordination) 0, Gun Combat (Pistol) 0, Recon 0, and Heavy Weapons (Launchers) 0. Brant finds himself in the middle of a brutal ground war (Event 6) and successfully avoids injury and picks up skills in Gun Combat (Pistol) 1 and Leadership 1. Brant survives the war but fails to advance.

Still looking to make something of himself, Brant reenlists for a second term, again posted to the Cavalry. This time he learns to fly rotary wing aircraft (Flyer-Rotary 1). He finds himself in the middle of an Urban War (Event 4) and learns Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, and Recon 1. Not only does Brant survive this term, but he is also promoted to Rank 2.

It was during his second term that Brant met the Hammer’s Slammers. He decides to leave the Army and join the Slammers. On his way out of the Army he takes 10,000 Credits, a pistol, and is allowed to keep his Neural Comm implant.


Brant Waytread. Age 26. 7D7765. Two Terms Army (Cavalry). Rank 2. Homeworld – Low-Technology. Skills – Athletics (Coordination) 0, Driver (Tracked) 0, Gun Combat (Pistol) 1, Flyer (Rotary) 1, Heavy Weapons (Launcher) 0, Leadership 1, Melee (Knife) 0, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Survival 0. Possessions – 10,000Cr, Pistol, Neural Comm Implant.


[We now leave the Core Rulebook and move over the Mongoose Publishing’s Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook and the “Character Creation” chapter.]

Leveraging his two terms as a tanker in the Army, Brant successfully joins the Hammer’s Slammers as a Tank Driver. He picks up Driver (Hover) 0. Brant immediately makes an impact on The Regiment, distinguishing himself in battle (Event 12) and earning a battlefield commission to O1. Staying on with the Slammers for a second term (fourth overall), Brant is promoted to Tank Commander. The event roll this turn is “6 – Slammers Event Roll” which means I have to decide what era of Slammers history Brant is living in. I chose “Under the Hammer” and resolve Event 6 – “You befriend on of the other Slammers. Gain an Ally” as Brant is befriended by Danny Pritchard. The friendship may be professional as well as personal since Brant is promoted to O2.


Brant Waytread. Age 34. 7D7765. Two Terms Army (Cavalry)/Two Terms Hammer’s Slammers (Tanker) . Rank O2. Homeworld – Low-Technology. Skills – Athletics (Coordination) 0, Comms 1, Driver (Hover) 0, Driver (Tracked) 0, Flyer (Rotary) 1, Gun Combat (Pistol) 1, Heavy Weapons (Launcher) 0, Leadership 1, Melee (Knife) 0, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Survival 0. Processions – 10,000Cr, Pistol, Neural Comm Implant.


Brant is now 34 years old and his age is catching up with him (mandatory aging roll) but Brant keeps himself in shape and there is no effect. For the purposes of the game, I now move to “Chapter 10 – Conflict” in the Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook and see what the latest Slammers contract is.

The Pope Can’t Help You Now

This contract takes place on a planet (New Rome) that is 8,000 km diameter (.7g) with a Standard atmosphere but only 30% water covered. The hundreds of thousands of people on this world are all part of a company/central government. The law level is low (2) but the world has a Type B starport to go with its very hight technology level (TL11).

[Worlds are created using the standard world generation rules in the MgT1e Core Rulebook.]

While the core rules have a table for determining cultural influences, I decide to use the Cultural Influences table found in the sourcebook Chapter 10. I roll a 26 on the table which yields “Catholicism.” Hmm….

I decide that this planet is a Young Colony. Since this planet is young and ruled from offworld there is a -3 DM on the Seeds of Conflict table. The result tells me that this is a “Rebellion against parent world.” The parent faction, The Trade Federation, has a Faction Strength of 16 with advantages of Space control, Superior Equipment, and Planetary Capital. The rebels, who call themselves the Moderate Alliance and have a Faction Strength of 8, have the advantages of Familiar Terrain and Popular Support.

For The Contract, the Trade Federation wants to end the war quickly and hires Hammer’s Slammers (Elite Mercenary) to support its contract Regular, Green armed forces. The Moderate Alliance hires Ander’s Legion (Average Mercenary) to put some backbone in it’s Irregular, Militant forces.

Using Resolving the War, I roll to see how the first month of the war develops. Both sides must make a Conflict Check which is:

2d6+Faction Strength+Commander Tactics+Mercenary DMs+Mission Result DMs

Since this is the first month I gave the Slammers a +2 Commander Tactics DM. Rolling each faction gave the following results:

  • Trade Federation – 2+16+2+7*+0=27
  • Moderate Alliance – 7+8+0+2+0=17
  • * [The Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook lists a +9 DM for the Slammers but because The Regiment is in an earlier “Under the Hammer” era I rule by GM fiat that the modifier is +7 because, as events in “The Butcher’s Bill” show, there are times even Hammer got a bloody nose.]

The Trade Federation loses no Faction Power but the Moderate Alliance loses 5 bringing it down to 3. After both sides pay their mercenaries the Trade Federation is at Faction Strength 13 and the Moderate Alliance is now 2. However, the Moderate Alliance leverages its Popular Support to gain back a single Faction Strength, bringing it up to 3. Even so, it looks like the Moderate Alliance cannot last another month unless something spectacular happens.

I now move to a Mission Scenario. As each scenario takes place over a two-week period I decide there will be two played with the results feeding into the next Conflict Check.

[Looking to generate a mission, I fall back on MgT1e Mercenary and the “Mercenary Tickets” chapter. I randomly roll that the mission is a Cadre-Training mission. This makes sense as the mission is described as, “Cadre missions of this type tend to be ‘hands on’ training runs that let the mercenary unit help one side of the conflict learn how to survive and hopefully be victorious” (Mercenary, p. 47).]

This makes me interested in what sort of army the Trade Federation has. Here I lean on Striker Book 2, “Rule 73: Military Spending.” To determine the Gross National Product one must know the Tech Level of the planet (11 or 14,000Cr) and any trade characteristics (Non-Industrial x0.8). Using a d10 to determine that planet has ~700,000 people, the budget is 14,000 x 0.8 x 700,000 should be 7.84 Billion Cr. I decide that the planet, depending on its parent world has only spend 1/3 of “what they should” giving a budget of ~ 2.6 Billion Cr.

Not wanting to get bogged down in building an entire Army, I stop at this point and go back to Striker Book 1 and build a basic Conscript Infantry Company of 100 soldiers that are 55% Recruit, 25% Regular, 15% Veterans and 5% Elite (Book 1, “Rule 5: Force Composition”). As this is a Cadre-Training mission I decide that Brant is assigned three blowers that are supposed to teach the local conscripts how to work with and not fear the supertanks.

For scenario specifics, I decide that Brant is in charge of an understrength platoon of three M1A1 tanks. These are first-generation blowers and as such they are more lightly armored and carry a 15cm powergun as compared to the “standard” M2A1 with the 20 cm guns. The Trade Federation conscript (green) troops generally have Gun Combat (Rifle) 1, Athletics 1, and no other real skills. They are armed with Flechette Rifles (TL9) and wear Ballistic Vests (TL 8, Protection 5). The Moderate Alliance Irregulars also have Gun Combat (Rifle) 1 and Athletics 1 but are armed with Assault Rifles (TL7) and wear anything from Jack (Protection 1) to a Flak Jacket (Protection 4). They also have more than a few Buzzbombs and tank mines. The situation is an ambush as the Slammers tanks and Trade Federation infantry are on a training march…

Beyond Reason

“Reason Six to all Reason Elements. Halt and lager. Take 15..” Lieutenant Brant Waytread watched through his tank’s optics as the local conscript platoon that the three Hammer’s Slammers tanks were working with paused awkwardly, looking around at one another until the few regular or veteran leaders barked out commands that the recruits, seemingly reluctantly, followed. The infantry troops spread out, mostly seeking shelter from the midday heat instead of taking good defensive positions.

“If they want to cool off that much, can I just run them over? They’d really like the fans.” That was Sergeant Vern Gamt in Reason Two. He didn’t have much patience for locals, unless they were of the female persuasion.

“Cut the chatter,” called Brant. “We’re here to train them,” he said with as little enthusiasm that he felt.

An icon winked on his HUD. The orange square with a “2” next to it was behind him and a bit further out than the platoon perimeter was supposed to be. The AI, by displaying the “2,” was warning Brant that something was amiss. As the hair on the back of his neck started to stand up he shouted, “Reasons! Button Up!” at the same time he hit his panic bar to lower himself into the turret—and not a moment too soon as buzzbombs lanced out at Reason One. Almost too late, Brant remembered the Automatic Defense System—ADS—was turned off because of all the “friendly” infantry nearby.

There were actually three buzzbombs, all coming at the rear of Reason One. Two hit while the third bounced off ineffective. Brant hadn’t been strapped in tight and he bounced around the turret. His helmet saved him from smashing his head against the cupola edge, but the electronics in it blanked.

[Buzzbombs are found in the “Equipment” chapter on page 119 of the Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook. They have a range of “Rocket” and score 1d6x6 damage if hit. Two hit, both 36 points each. Neither can penetrate the (still) impressive 120 points of rear armor on a M1A1, though both automatically score an Armor hit reducing the rear armor to 118.]

Blinking hard, Brant activated his Neural Comms implant. “Reasons! Advance and circle back. Get out of the killing zone!” Before he even finished the order Reason One surged forward, which just served to throw Brant off-balance again. The bright white flash from outside his tank momentarily blinded him. He saw the friendly icon for Reason Three change from a green square to a red X.

[Since this was an ambush the rebels had planted their few tank mines in the field. Reason Three drove straight over two mines that detonated near-simultaneously—close enough I treated them as a single attack.. Tank mines are found on page 172 in the “Vehicle Combat” chapter of the Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook. Against a heavy vehicle they detonate on a roll of 4+ and score 12d6 hits each. The combined attack of 41+45=86 hits overwhelms the 66 belly armor and translates to a Triple Hit against the Power Plant using the Expanded Damage Rules on page 173. Technically the tank should only be disabled but I decide to give the rebels a not-in-the-rules luck roll that (incredibly) is snake-eyes and therefore rule the plasma bottle is penetrated and the tank destroyed.]

Dead. Like he would be in a few moments unless he acted quickly.

A few minutes later it was all over. Reason Three was a burnt husk; nobody got out. Both Brant’s tank and Reason Two had taken several buzzbomb hits. No enemy were found—they faded back into the woods as quickly as they appeared. About half the friendlies were missing too. Only a few of those that stuck around had fired their weapons, but those who did hadn’t aimed at anything. Brant was sure the few friendly KIA were the result of friendly fire.

“Colonel ain’t going to be happy,” Brant thought as he dialed up Central. It took a few minutes but finally the Duty Officer took his report. As his AI updated, Brant learned that his ambush was not the exception. Many Slammers and local units were ambushed around the same time.


The second Mission Scenario I decide to approach in a much more narrative manner. This is actually my preferred way of playing Traveller; as a kind of solo choose-your-own adventure. I look at the skill checks as decision points that influence the action. Truth be told, this is often how I GM sessions too—a loose idea of a plot and let the player actions fill in the details. Sometimes it goes like I expected; other times not. That’s what make it interesting!

Gamt’s Gauntlet

“So just where is Sergeant Gamt?” Lieutenant Brant Waytread’s didn’t often raise his voice, but when he did those around him knew it was not a good time.

Corporal Emclub, Sergeant Gamt’s driver in Reason Two, swallowed hard under her commander’s withering stare. She responded, “I, uh, don’t know, sir. He went out.”

“Out?” Brant barked. “It’s dropping in the pot all over and he just went out?”

“He went to see his girlfriend,” Emclub said as she looked down at the floor.

“Oh, his by-the-hour girlfriend, right?” Brant didn’t need this, his helmet comm was full of chatter from other Hammer elements that all were reporting the same thing; the Moderate Alliance was striking at Trade Federation units across the continent, but most importantly they were striking at garrison units in cities that before had been off-limits. There were no attacks in this backwater town where Brant and his two blowers were training local infantry…yet. Brant had walked through town the night before and he sensed something was brewing [Successful Streetwise skill check.]

“Mount up. You’ll drive but slave Reason Two’s guns to my AI.” He didn’t have to tell his crew to do the same for they were already in the tank waiting for their commander. Brant turned and went down the hall to barracks room of the local forces. He entered without knocking.

“I need a two squads right now to search the town,” he declared out loud.

Blank stares came back at him from a few frightened recruits. Nobody moved. “Where’s your officers?” Brant demanded.

“It’s the weekend. They’re at home.”

“Well, your friends in the Moderate Alliance didn’t take the weekend off.” You could literally hear the sarcasm dripping off Brant’s words. “We need to go.”

Nobody moved.

“Via!” Brant exclaimed. It’ about to drop in the pot! Get off your asses!”

[I decided this was a type of Rally action that would depend upon leadership and charisma. I decided that the lack of local officers was a Formidable task based on -2 DM for no officers present, -2 DM for lack of initiative, and -2 DM for the innate hatred the locals have for Slammer troops. I also ruled that Brant’s +1 Leadership was not in effect since the locals intensely disliked the Slammers. Even a die roll of 11 became only a 5 after the -6 difficulty modifier leaving an Effect of -3.]

From the back of the room somebody said, “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.” A few crossed themselves and bowed their heads.

“Newsflash, Father Book. The Mods don’t care about your Lord. I think today he’s foresaken you ,too.” Still, nobody moved.

“Via!” Brant repeated as he turned to leave the room.

[But what about that Effect -3? I decide that some of the local troops are secretly sympathetic to the rebels and will pass along a tip that the Slammers are coming. That Effect -3 will translate into a modifier for a surprise attack later on.]

.++++

Reason One and Two barreled through the gates to the compound and turned down the main drag of the town. “Do you know where to go?” asked his driver.

Brant had the hatch open but was lowered in the turret. “Gamt likes a place on the east side. Think it’s called Dolly’s.”

“Yeah, know it,” grunted his driver. “It’s expensive.”

“So I hear. It’s also in the old section of town with lots of brickwork buildings. Perfect ambush country. Keep your eyes open.”

The gunner seated beside Brant grimaced. ” We need some legs for this op.” Brant didn’t respond.

As they moved deeper into the east side the AI had difficulty tracking activity around them, On the display, the area covered around them kept getting smaller as even the advanced sensors on the tanks had difficulty penetrating the stone/brick buildings. Brant was on edge.

The first buzzbombs came at they prepared to pass through the gate that marked the entrance to the east quarter of town. Brant sensed as much as he saw the charges wired to the gate[Successful Recon check]. “Goose it, Reason! The gate’s wired!”

Reason One surged forward with Reason Two following close behind. The charges along the gate detonated but it fell just behind Reason Two [Attack roll 6=Fail]. Brant flipped the ADS to active…civilian casualties now be damned. The next few buzzbombs were swatted away harmlessly, but the streets were narrowing and the ADS would soon be ineffective.

The AI showed Dolly’s just a klick ahead. As Reason One and Two passed the last cross street the bright lance of a powergun shot out from a roof and connected with Reason Two. The bolt splashed off the turret.

[The powergun anti-tank cannon is found on page 118 of the Hammer’s Slammers sourcebook. Although it states that it is not useful against heavy vehicles, it still is worth a shot. Also, remember that Effect -3 from earlier? I decide that it doesn’t simply add to any surprise roll, but if a hit is scored it will add 3d6 damage to reflect the very short range and falling shot. It scores 9d6+6 Destructive damage which means the 34 hit points don’t penetrate the 132 side armor but it does reduce it by 9.]

“Hose the buildings.” [Brant, Significant Action/Coordinated Action. Leadership skill check. Die roll 10+ skill 1=Success with Effect +2] At the same time he worked to keep the data flowing between Reason One and Two. [Minor Action/Maintain Comms. Communications skill check. Die roll 9+ skill 1+ effect 2=Success with Effect +4.]

“Goosing it.” [Driver, Significant Action/Maneuver. Drive (Hover) skill check. Die roll 7+ skill 1 + effect 4 =Success with Effect +4.]

“Hosing the rooftops.” [Gunner using slaved tribarrel. Significant Action/Attack. Gunner (Turrets) skill check. Die roll 12+ skill 1 + effect 4 =Success with Effect +9.] Several rooftops collapse preventing at least 4 buzzbomb/anti-tank gun teams from attacking.

As Dolly’s came into sight the AI showed a green icon at the front door. That would be Gamt. Reason One slowed and passed the door while Reason Two came to a near stop to allow Gamt to board. Brant’s driver must have been watching his own AI feed because the tank accelerated as soon as Gamt was aboard his tank.

“Welcome, Sergeant. Glad you could join us,” Brant said.

Before Gamt could respond Brant was distracted. Reason One turned a corner and came face-to-face with a large barricade.

Brant shouted, “Goose and go. Fire!” [Coordinated Action (Leadership skill ). Die roll 7 + skill 1 = Success with no Effect.]

Reason One’s main gun shot at point-blank range at the barricade, but missed. [Attack Action (Gunner-Turrets). Die roll 3 + skill 1 = FAILURE with Effect -4.]

The 130 tons of Reason One hit the barricade, breaking through but slewing dangerously to the left as debris hung up on the tank. [Maneuver (Drive skill). Die roll 7 + skill 1 + effect -4 = FAILURE with Effect -4. Translate into two hits on the Front of Reason One. The Mine Net and Main Gun are hit.] Brant couldn’t do much as he was thrown around against his straps. Reason One finally straightened out.

“Uh, thanks for coming get me, L-T.” At least Gamt sounded a bit contrite.

Brant wasn’t in a generous mood. “Was she worth it?”

“Not really,” Gamt responded. “Matter of fact, she tried to kill me. I was lucky to have my pistol close by. Don’t worry, L-T, I’ll be keeping it zipped up for a while…”

Conflict Check-Out

In the next Conflict Check I rule that the multiple battlefield successes for the Moderate Alliance means the Trade Federation suffers a -2 DM for a Dismal Failure on the part of the Slammers. The next mission is a Partial Success (+0 DM) as the Slammers win but again civilian casualties work against them. Part of the reason the Trade Federation took casualties is that they decided to not let Hammer be in charge (no +2 for Commanders Tactics). The next Conflict Check is as follows:

  • Moderate Alliance – 9+3+0+2+0 = 14
  • Trade Federation – 4+13+0+7+(-2) = 18

A Conflict Difference of 4 on the Conflict Results Table says the Moderate Alliance loses 4 Faction Strength; it collapses while Ander’s Legion uses their Bond to leave quietly, and without full pay. The Trade Alliance falls to Faction Strength 12 before paying the Slammers reduces it to 9. The Trade Federation sends Hammer’s Slammers on their way, sure that they really didn’t need to hire expensive mercenaries to fight a rebellion that quickly collapsed. Colonel Hammer knows better; as he is given a cold send off at the Starport he feels in his bones that The Regiment will be back. This rebellion is not really over, just paused. The rebels tasted just a bit too much success on the battlefield to not come back in the future.

Brant takes heat for losing a blower but Captain Pritchard points out to higher command that many units were ambushed and the locals did little to support. He also is “counseled” about keeping better tabs on his troops. Brant retains his command of the tank platoon but is burning to remove what he sees as a stain on his reputation.

Every RPG is Narrative, right?

One criticism I often hear about the Original 2d6 Science Fiction Role Playing Game is that the “Roll 8+ on 2d6 for success” it that it is too simple. I hear complaints that the task system is too binary; success or failure. I vehemently disagree and point all those would-be detractors to the rules for Effect. Sure, the rules weren’t really codified until Mongoose Traveller but I can recall playing games in the early days (i.e. the early 1980’s) where we always asked what happened if you just missed a roll, or what happened if it was a blow out one way or another. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were already playing with Effect.

If the degree of success is important, then subtract 8 from the total of the dice roll plus Dice Modifiers. The margin of success is referred to as the Effect.

Mongoose Traveller Pocket Rulebook, p. 50

Effect can be used simply as a die modifier like in a chain of tasks rolls or it can be the key to opening narrative moments. That second use is what makes building a narrative simple—you don’t need a Big Damn Hero Die in Firefly (Cortex Prime) or a Drama Die in The Expanse using Green Ronin’s AGE or a Triumph/Despair roll in Star Wars Roleplaying (Genesys).

Building the narrative is what a Hammer’s Slammers story is really about. It’s not about the supertanks; it’s about the people. To play that you need a roleplaying game….


Feature image courtesy Beyond the Sprues.

Sunday Summary – A colorful Slammers week of #wargame and #TravellerRPG fun mentioning @ADragoons @gmtgames

Short update follows…

Wargame

I will have another article coming to Armchair Dragoons this week talking about Rand Game Associates 1975 wargame Hitlers Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge by Dave Isby. “What,” you say, “another Bulge game?”

Commands & Colors Samurai from GMT Games is scheduled to arrive Monday, UPS says.

Traveller RPG

While my Wargame Wednesday looked at Hammer’s Slammers and wargames, this week I’m turning my attention to RPGs and Hammer’s Slammers.

#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

Sunday Summary – Back to school, back to work, and back to #boardgame, #wargame, and maybe even #TravellerRPG #gamenights with @gmtgames @Academy_Games @IndependenceGa6

With Labor Day weekend just around the corner (at least for us ‘Mericans) it is officially the end of the summer season. This traditionally means back to school, back to work after summer laziness, and in the RockyMountainNavy household a return to tabletop gaming.

School

RockyMountainNavy Jr. is a high school senior this year. After being sidelined in online learning last year he is anxious to get back to school in-person and (more importantly) back to regularly seeing friends. He also has a driver’s license now which also means he has, perhaps inevitably, discovered that girls like coffee dates, ice cream, and movies. I have a sneaky suspicion that, given the choice between a family game night and, uh, “social engagements,” he will chose the later.

16 Candles

Work

The summer vacation season is coming to a close. Aside from vacation, I was already back to work 5-days a week. I suspect I will be just as busy between now and the Thanksgiving holiday. RockyMountainNavy T, my middle boy, is also gainfully employed (i.e full time—or more) as an Electrician’s Apprentice and his company which specializes in HVAC controllers (a COVID-era Upgrade of ChoiceTM for many buildings) has more work than staff. For both of us this means the occasional lite games in the evenings may become even more occasional.

Centralized HVAC Controller

Boardgame

The return to school and work also usually means a return to Family Game Nights. Given the, uh, “distractions” in RMN Jr’s life I am not sure I can totally count on him to be there for game nights. That said, there is a chance that we might have a multi-family game night at times with maybe as many as six-players. More likely, RMN T and myself will have Father vs. Son Game Nights…on weekends. One of the new-to-me games sitting on my shelf of shame that makes a good candidate for play is Space Empires 4X by designer Jim Krohn from GMT Games (2017 Third Printing).

Foundations Edge – Representative of Space Empires 4X?

Wargame

As always, wargames will be the core of my gaming time. Production and shipping delays mean that I will have time to work off my shelf of shame and get games to the table. I have plenty of Game of the Week titles waiting for me:

I am very interested in using Commands & Colors: Samurai, Strike of the Eagle, and even Space Empires 4X as possible games that RMN T and myself can play head-to-head on those Father vs. Son Game Nights.

There is also a possibility that new titles will trickle in although I am very unsure as to any timelines. I am positive that my uncertainty is nothing compared to the uncertainty that publishers have over the same issue. This past week, Gene from GMT Games dropped his monthly update that shows many of my titles are stuck. As Gene puts it:

Supply Chain and Shipping Slowdown. We haven’t made much progress from last month on the “P500 games shipping to us from the printer” front. Our printers are in the process of printing and boxing some of the 21 new products that are currently being printed. But the same global supply chain and shipping issues that are hampering businesses worldwide are hitting us, too. We THINK at this point that we will see three games shipped to us this month (to arrive in late September), but we can’t tell you dates with any certainty at this point.

Aug 2021 GMT Update

I guess this means I need to look at small, independent retailers to fill out existing-but-unowned titles in both my boardgame and wargame collections.

This is what I imagine my wargames look like waiting for shipping….

Traveller/Cepheus Engine Role Playing Game

This past week I also had a small, friendly interaction on Twitter with John Watts of Independence Games that served as a good reminder that the RMN Boys also asked for a return to some sort of RPG adventuring. I picked up a new ship book from Independence Games, the Brightwater-class Personal Yacht, that is yet another good adventure seed ship design. The real question is where do I fit an RPG campaign into the schedule?