Category Archives: universe

Megagame: Invasion from Mars 03

Dateline 3127.110-104

General Buck’s advanced HQ on West Continent, Cydonia

The Martians have landed! They made a major landing with most of a GF division just outside OLYMPUS. My shuttle landing reinforcements for OLYMPUS diverted to ENSEMBLE as the nearest friendly location. A major assault on OLYMPUS took place with indiscriminate bombardment by the Martians, resulting in 4,000 civilian casualties, as well as wiping out my sea marine force (no reported survivors).

A third sea marine force successfully assaulted KUTCHI and displaced the enemy logistics base there. They took some casualties on the way in and two transport flyers were damaged also (but repairable).

Finnish Defence Forces Annual report 2002, p. 7
Image via Wikipedia

On the North coast the enemy armoured division trapped south of DEANVILLE has been all but destroyed. The infantry component has dispersed into the woods and is no longer a fighting force. The tank brigade has been reduced to a combat ineffective cadre. My two tank brigades are at about 50% strength but I have been allocated four more RMP, so have enough to re-build them.

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Megagame: Invasion from Mars 02

Dateline 3127.105-109

General Buck’s advanced HQ on West Continent, Cydonia

Operation VALKYRIE has been a major success! A successful seaborne assault by 3rd Tank Brigade has taken DEANVILLE cutting off the line of retreat of an enemy armoured division (although at a cost of 3,000 civilian casualties and ejecting an enemy infantry brigade West along the coast).

A simultaneous assault by the 1st & 2nd Tank Brigades from the front line to the North has reduced the enemy Division to less than half strength and prevented its escape.

Additionally an Airborne assault has taken place landing a sea marine force in both OLYMPUS and ENSEMBLE, threatening the enemy Air Logistics Base to the South of OLYMPUS.

The news is greeted with delight back home, and I have been awarded a medal. I also have four more RMP and reinforcements in the shape of an Infantry Brigade and the temporary loan of two shuttles to land them in OLYMPUS as soon as it can be arranged.

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Megagame: Invasion from Mars 01

Invasion from Mars is one of Megagame Makers megagames, designed by Jim Wallman and played in Anerley Town Hall in south London. The Invasion from Mars website has the game rules and the map as well as some background info on the downloads page.

I played the part of General Stanley Buck, a loyal and competent commander of the Democratic Republic of Cydonia’s Army Group West (AGW) (in reality about Corps strength, three two brigade armoured divisions plus air and sea components with appropriate logistics support). (details of some typical units)

At the game start AGW is already committed and has captured the Eastern end of the West Continent (link to map). This gives a firm jumping off point for the next phase of the offensive and the military balance shows that AGW slightly outnumbers the New Cydonia Colony (NCC) forces.

In my pre-game thinking I had decided to try an air and sea outflanking move, perhaps directed at the enemy Capital AGRIPPA (see map). One of the things that was clear though, was that the sea logistics base needed to be moved closer to the front to support operations beyond the current front line, it being at the maximum extent of the range from the current location.

Invasion from Mars

[3127.100 – 3127.104]

Operations in this period were intended to probe forwards while the logistics assets were moved forwards. Additionally some of the damaged units (two combat flyers and a tank brigade) were repaired using the available four RMP (Repair & Maintenance Points). The Operation on the Northern coast was called off as my tank brigade was outmatched by the armoured division it faced (a tank brigade, an infantry brigade and air support).

Original caption: CLOSE SUPPORT-- This is one ...
Image via Wikipedia

However the deployment of the enemy was clear and it appeared that the majority of forces were in the front line to defend against further advances. There was an infantry brigade in the Capital, another with the air logistics base and a third moving on the North coast towards DEANVILLE. The cities of OLYMPUS, ENSEMBLE and ALI were empty.


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Economics of New Colonies

I often play in Jim Wallman’s hard SF games set in the universe he’s created. I’ve been thinking about how new colonies get set up and the sort of funding they need.

There is a lot of infrastructure required to build a viable colony on a new system. Firstly you need to survey it to find a good spot with a reasonable confluence of resources, mining sites, farming space, fresh water, building land and a suitable area for your drop zone and spaceport. Once you’ve done that some cheap housing, utilities, early resource processing plants and factories for essentials have to be built. Once you get to that point you might just start exporting valuable things, although you’ll still need to import lots of essentials, not to mention more people.

I reckon that it is a minimum of two years to get to the point where the exports cover the costs of the imports. At that point the colony investors are probably starting to think about seeing a return on their investment. Using the macro campaign rules as a guide a two year subsistence colony has probably racked up about 200 million credits in debt. The tax take of local government is no more that enough to service the interest and provide some basic leadership and policing. The overall economy of the colony is probably only a little bigger than the debt, perhaps 300 million credits a year. There are probably about 150,000 colonists on the planet (maybe more if there are many dependents with the workers).

So in the normal course of things one would expect the economy to grow with migration and in due course the extra tax revenue would pay back the capital and also provide the additional services that the colony’s people required. There may even be pump priming investment in infrastructure to keep things moving. That said, the people might not come, or the govt could make poor decisions, or there could be some natural disaster. If the colony collapses what happens then? In total failures the banks / investors will just need to write off the debt, while perhaps keeping a nominal ownership of the assets left behind in case a subsequent colonisation effort wants to take over.

There might not be a total failure, in which case a restructuring of debt would be required. Although depending on the reasons there might be difficulty getting more money.

Another thing that could happen is a conflict with another colony in the same planet, especially when better developed worlds realise that they would be better off as a large single entity in gaining access to trade agreements with other interstellar groups.

What happens to state debt when another state takes it over?

In the case of a hostile takeover (either a war or a share buyout) there will be an expectation that the structural debt will be taken on by the new management. The banks will insist on this, and if the new management doesn’t agree then they will treat it the same was as defaulting on the loan payments.
Refusing to make payments against a loan has serious consequences and it is to be avoided. If times are difficult it is expected that the colony management will talk to the banks and/or investors to either extend the payback time or raise sufficient funds through other means to ensure that they continue to properly service debt in an agreed fashion.
Any colony that defaults can expect the following to happen:
  • no further lines of credit will be opened, so all capital expenditure will need to be paid for up front, also future interest rates will be higher to represent the increased risk of default
  • imports may not be possible, except perhaps at black market rates for items
  • prices on exports may be lower than expected (and indeed cargoes may be seized in lieu of debt interest and/or capital)
  • Enforcement action may be taken to seize colonial assets, especially movable ones (although a colony with strong armed forces may find this won’t happen)
  • Other colonies in the same system may come under pressure not to co-operate, similarly trade agreements may be suspended or even revoked.
  • In extreme cases an interim management may be installed, possibly by a major polity if the colony is sufficiently well off to have attracted attention.
  • Immigration is likely to slow down, and colonists are more likely to leave the colony



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What you missed at the January meeting of CLWG

The Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) January meeting (Sunday 9th January) was in Jim’s office near Holborn. This one had 14 members in attendance.

When I turned up there was a promotion board going on for one of the characters in our long-running Starship Marine campaign (details of the campaign and a history of the 130th Regiment). To make this more interesting for the players who were on the board (i.e. the interviewers) there were a couple of candidates for promotion, including one marine Captain who brought a bomb in with him to prove how easy they were to defuse. A nice piece of live role-play from Jerry (who improvised the bombs immediately beforehand.)

I was called upon to defuse the device which consisted of an ice-cream box with an anti-tilt device on it and a fuse inside which had to be unscrewed without disturbing the rest of the device. The fuse was a marker pen and the anti-tilt device was a post-it holding it onto the side of the box, if the box had been tilted or nudged then the pen would have fallen off the side of the box and set the device off. Similarly if I had pulled the pen off the back of the box it would also have set the device off.

We also had a tryout of a convoy destruction game intended for wargames shows which Michael Dollin and I are working on. This involves players attacking a convoy in successive waves of torpedo bombers, dive-bombers and perhaps also PT boats and high/medium-level bombers. We mainly tried out the torpedo and dive-bomber mechanisms. These appeared to work very well and played in around twice real time, so a full torpedo run took us around 5 minutes to do. We managed to do dive bomber attacks much faster, around one every minute or so.

The torpedo attacks were done in a conventional figure game way. You fly up with your torpedo bomber, getting shot at as you come in, and launch your torpedo on a likely track when you feel that you are close enough for it to count.

The dive-bombing was a bit different. We had two possible methods for this, but the one we tried most was a co-ordinate system (ripped off from Graham Hockley). As you start your descent you are shown a grid with a slowly moving ship on it (which was magnetic). You can also see your altimeter (a modified clock). When you have got as low as you want you say “Bombs gone” and the grid is turned round so that you can no longer see it. The ship keeps moving the same way it had before and when the altimeter gets to 0 (i.e. then the bombs hit) the umpire stops moving the ship. The player tells the umpire what co-ordinates he wanted the bomb to hit. The grid is then revealed (and with it the position of the ship) and the position of the bomb compared to the ship.

Hits to aircraft were delivered using playing cards. We would print the actual outcome onto cards to speed things up if we did it for a wargame show. The players don’t get told what the effect of a hit is unless it is obvious (or becomes so). This represents the fact that pilots often don’t know how badly damaged their aircraft is except where it affects the handling of the aircraft.

We also developed a bombsight to simulate level bombing. This used a small periscope attached to a wooden arm and a level to release the ‘bombs’ (pieces of chalk). The test target was a block of wood painted matt black so that the chalk marks would be obvious. We did find that the bombing was a too accurate, especially given that level bombing was notoriously inaccurate and the bombs being over-scale didn’t help much. It had a good feel though.

The other game that was run at the same time was called ‘Directory Enquiries‘ by John Rutherford and was a political role-playing game about the French foreign policy immediately after the revolution in 1789. I didn’t take part for the obvious reason that I was running the convoy tryout so can’t really comment on how well it went.

After that another tryout was run, this time as a feasibility for a megagame on WWI. It was “A Great War” from Brian Cameron (an associate member of the Warlords). It ran fairly well as a game but had some pauses in it, which gave Brian doubts about how well it might run as a megagame without more work on the design of the game. I wasn’t involved in this tryout because I was too busy playing a network game of Warcraft with Jim, excellent fun if you can get your hands on it. That was pretty much all of it, we finished up around six and headed for home.

CLWG December 1999

What you missed at the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) December 1999 meeting.

English: Wreckage of a Fairley Battle shot dow...
English: Wreckage of a Fairley Battle shot down by the Wehrmacht, France, on May 1940. Deutsch: Trümmer einer von der Wehrmacht im Mai 1940 in Frankreich abgeschossenen Fairley Battle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CLWG December 1999 meeting started from 12 at John Rutherford’s house and we played until after 9pm. Afterwards we chatted, with the aid of several bottles of wine, until almost midnight. In total we had 13 members at the meeting. It started with a fairly light-hearted game called ‘Battling Druids‘ which was originally designed by Trevor Farrant as a participation game for wargames shows for another club that he is a member of. This involves four 100mm models of druids, four fountains, a cloud with a lighting bolt, hordes of hedges, magic spells and a whole lot of fun.

A sergeant air-gunner mans his Vickers 'K' gun...
A sergeant air-gunner mans his Vickers ‘K’ gun from the rear cockpit of a Fairey Battle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next up was an RAF Aircrew RPG which I ran with the help of a couple of others. This involved the layers creating themselves characters, setting off in their Fairey Battles and hamming it up big style. Every stereotype was there, from the Australian bush pilot (who was a real-life Quantas Jumbo Jet pilot) to the terrible ex-public schoolboy who drove his Morgan nearly as fast as the aircraft. All the players ended up in enemy hands (what do you expect when you take a Fairey Battle to bomb a bridge in Maastricht?) They were separated, interrogated and then combined in a prison camp (except for the Aussie who broke out and ran for it like a man).

This led us nicely into our next game from Jerry, which was set in a POW camp near the Swiss border in the later part of 1944. It was based on one of the exercises that the regular army uses to test its potential officers reasoning ability. We split into two groups for this, and although both groups came up with reasonable plans neither of us managed to get the ‘DS solution’ which is what the army consider to be the correct answer. Admittedly the set problem does tie your hands a bit and railroads you towards a sub-optimal solution (at least in my view). This also ran alongside another session of the ‘Battling Druids’.

Next up was the club quiz, run by me. It came in two parts. The first part was where I asked people ten questions about their ideal game, its title, what it would feature, what it wouldn’t feature, where it was set, its subject and who the dream designer would be and a couple of other things too. The interval was filled by Chinese takeaway and some wine. After that I read out the answers to each of he questions and people had to guess who had written which answers. Given the rather silly nature of some answers (e.g. one of the games was titled something like “Manchurian Kung-Fu Space Marines vs. Psycho-Alien Death Nazis from Mars”, another called “Charles & Die” – about the English Civil War naturally) this was a highly amusing game where people were accused of all sorts of things.

After the club quiz things degenerated further into hilarity with a game of Starship Marine. The game was different from normal because each player had to write down what actions the player on their left did (which rotated round the table each turn). When you got the bit of paper telling you what had just happened you announced what you wanted your character to do next (and hopefully the person who was writing down what actually happens was listening to you). This game involved teddy bears, VR porn, scantily clad women, large alien robots, leaking steam, a system failure in a suit of powered armour, accidental grenade throwing and a host of other improbable and hilarious outcomes that wouldn’t normally have happened in one of our usual games using the rules.

All that happened after that was that we sat around and talked for an hour or so before deciding that we had to leave to get last buses/trains/etc home. In all it was a good session.

Serenity Station Post-Hunt Report

Post-Hunt Report.

As one of the two members of the Climbing Lodge With Gallantry (CLWG) hunting party in the Serenity Station Hunt I was impressed by the excellent hunt set-up. The combination of prey was most challenging and allowed for an excellent day out.

After entering the station and having a good look around I watched the initial human entry and fired a few rounds from extreme range [OOC – around 60 inches, perhaps more] at them as they disembarked. This caused them to disappear (I suspect that they have developed some sort of cloaking technology, although they did not use it when I encountered them later, so it cannot be much good.) This fire was ineffective because the humans were wearing reasonable, if crude, personal armour. The armour was breachable at close range, as my first kill testified.

I stalked a group of 10 prey and 2 machines while they moved from the docking bay, throuh my original position, to the centre of the station. As they moved past me I engaged one of the prey in close combat and killed it with ease. After taking the head as a trophy I abandoned the body and went looking for some real sport, the human being too easy a kill.

After a brief wander around the station I came across a gg’gvnt adult alone in a corridor. Not messing about I shot it from medium range & took the head, this too was rather easy, so I returned to corridor A where I could watch the entry of a lot more humans through the main docking bay.

I had some fun for a while sniping at the prey, and watching their bewilderment and not being able to see what was doing it. At about hte same time Pickles, my compatriot, was doing much the same from corridor C. I didn’t manage to hit anything because the prey was armoured. After a bit decided to go hunt some gg’vnt until the humans had made it a bit farther out of the entry area & were more spread out.

I sensed that there was a reasonable sized group of gg’gvnt adlts in area G. On entering area G, which had only one entrance/exit, I moved to despatch another lone gg’gvnt before taking on the group.

I first encountered the lone gg’gvnt adult as we both attempted to use a doorway at the same time. Giving it a quick shot at point blank range had little effect other than enraging it. A brief hand-to-hand combat ensued during which the gg’gvnt scratched me before I managed to finish it off with my spear. A good fight which nicely warmed me up for what was to follow…

As I took the head I noticed several gg’gvnt adults approaching, more than I could hope to take on at one time. I then carefully chose my ground so that I would be able to take them on without being overwhelmed. Moving into a doorway I sensed that there were about 12-15 gg’gvnt adults closing in on me, lambs to the slaughter!

They spread out to find me and as the first one came through my doorway I tried to shoot it but my weapon refused to fire. Getting out my spear I resolved to have a good look at the D.E.W. when I had dealt with the prey at hand. This weapon failure allowed the gg’vnt the opportunity to strike me & push me away from the door. I finished it off using my spear after receiving a few more scratches and giving some ground.

A large gathering of gg’gvnt adults had formed outside the door at this stage, all baying to get in. The death of the second adult didn’t seem to stop another one launching itself at me. As it charged in I slipped on the blood of it’s friend and it managed to gore me rather painfully. For it’s impudence I immediately killed it when I recovered my footing. I was no longer in a mood to play with these things.

My change in attitude, expressed in the violent death of the third gg’gvnt adult, seemed to transmit itself to the mass of gg’gvnt who took the opportunity to leave me alone. They obviously realised that I was too dangerous to take on. I took the two heads and went off to a place where I could look at my D.E.W. and from where I could shoot at some humans. Now that I was seriously wounded I reckoned that the humans might well be fair game.

I limped down to the medical bay on the station, which had a few gg’vnt eggs around as well as three machines that the humans had abandoned earlier. Inside the medical bay I tested by now-repaired D.E.W. by despatching a lone gg’gvnt adult, for which I also took the head. I then decided that I would go back & see where the humans had got to, and moved off down corridor J where I ran into a some humans rushing towards me, although it was apparent they hadn’t seen me as they were very surprised when I shot the lead figure, which was a machine I had mistaken for prey (I later took the head for novelty value – it being worthless otherwise).

This timely shot slowed the prey down and allowed me to lead them onto the gg’gvnt eggs. As I moved backwards down the corridor the prey carried on towards me, shooting wildly down the corridor. None of this wild fire came close to hitting me but it did destroy one of the human’s machines. (It shows just how indiscrimately destructive these humans are and why we need to avoid them finding out where our planets are.)

I shot two of the humans cleanly before they got close enough for the eggs to start going off. This confused them somewhat as they had apparently not seen this before and suffered badly for it. Four humans were hit by the ‘face-huggers’ and rather strangely they were then killed by their comrades, a strange phenomenon, especially since their comrade didn’t take the heads. I shot the remaining two prey and left their last machine where it was.

As I was finishing off this group of prey anothe rone the same size appeared from behind it, as did a third come down corridor I. Both these new groups tried to locate what had killed the first group, and came close to finding me, although I shot the two which I suspect detected me. The humans concentrated on destroying all the gg’vnt eggs that they could see by using their machines to crush them. They als employed a couple of radiation grenades which landed almost at my feet, although these didn’t appear to have any effect on my suit.

After a while most of the humans moved on up corridor K leaving behind the bodies of the prey I’d killed. As I started to move in to collect my trophies the humans put the fallen prey onto some machines which then trundled off up corridor J. Seeing this I broke cover & ran after them. As I opened the med-bay door a gg’gvnt seed pod got one of the humans which distracted thm a little from detecting me as I ran up the corridor.

Just behind me a horde of gg’gvnt adults burst out of the same door I had come out of and attacked the humans, allowing me to chase my trophies unmolested. The machines were moving faster than me so I was forced to shoot them to stop them getting away. I shot the first machine no trouble, but as I was closing on the prey a third machine started to pick up the trophies, so I destroyed it too.

At this point a large group of gg’vnt adults swept past me up the corridor and blocked my view of the second machine carrying the other trophies. When they passed I carried on to chase the second machine, which was getting away. As I rounded the corner it left my line of sight and I was unable to shoot it. I did however have to bash a fourth machine, which was attempting to recover the trophies, with my spear.

Realising that I wasn’t going to catch up with the second machine I cut my losses and took the two heads that the machines had been trying to get away from me, I also took the head of the human-like machine that I had shot earlier when I met the group in the corridor.

After that I reluctantly decided that it was time to leave Serenity Station. If I had been in perfect health I would have gladly carried on the hunt, but my wound was beginning to trouble me and had prevented me from being able to recover my trophies.

During the hunt I had killed: 1 SAS trooper (Hand-to hand); 2 human marines (both by D.E.W.); 1 human-like robot (D.E.W. but not for scoring purposes); and 5 gg’gvnt adults (2 by D.E.W. & 3 hand-to-hand)

. I had also been responsible for the deaths of 3 other marines by D.E.W. and 5 by luring them into gg’gvnt pod range. On top of this I destroyed 3 of the human trophy-stealing machines.

Not a bad day’s hunt.

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