Wednesday, 5 October 2011

GURPS Transhuman Space: High Frontier ***** #sfrpg

Finally got hold of the High Frontier supplement for the GURPS Transhuman Space RPG. This is still one of the best "realistic" imaginings of a near-future solar system - probably circa 2150 or even 2200 given current rates. It's certainly on a par with Paul McAuley's Quiet War series.

One thing that also struck me about recent SF I've read:

- Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonland is all about future India
- Quiet War is about a dominant Brazil in space
- Transhuman Space is all about a dominant China in space.

In other words it looks like the BRICs countries will inherit and dominate our SF future.

***Imported from old blog***

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

BlogPress Test

Just trying out BlogPress for posting to my blog.

And editing it

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Birmingham,United Kingdom

***Imported from old blog***

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thoughts on 2mm Napoleonics


A while ago Nick started thinking about us doing 2mm Napoleonics, so we bought a couple of test packs to get a feel for what 2mm wargaming might be like. Nick's idea was to use our standard 1mm:1m ground ratio (i.e. 1:1000) with 2mm figures (c. 1:900) so that we had near unity on ground to figure scales, and even 1 figure = 1 man. This was to get away from the 1:1000 vs 1:72 of typical 20mm gaming (giving an "error" factor of around 11). The idea then went on the back burner but as part of my "summer of no 20mm Napoleonics" I decided to have a look at it again.

To me any set of figures and scale decisions is a compromise between five main factors: the level of game you want (eg Army level vs fireteam skirmish), cost and time of buying and painting an army, the convenience of playing (eg how long to set up/tear down), the "accuracy" of the rules and experience, and just whether things feel right.

With 2mm it strikes me that there are three main ways of playing a game:

- The Battalion Base

This appears to be what most 2mm gamers do (or some even do brigade bases). Each 24-30 figure block (about 13mm by 3mm) represents a battalion. Now we know that battalion frontages in line are about 240m, say 260m for easy maths), so this means 13mm = 260m which gives a ground scale of about 1:20,000. This is almost at 1:25000 map scale, and indeed I found if I put 2mm blocks on some battle maps then they were almost the right size. The error factors is hug though - 20+ (i.e. 1:900 vs 1:20,000). Most battalion base rules also don't bother to show line or column, and certainly at Waterloo with understrength units most battalions would be mere fragments of bases, and with 200+ crowded onto a space smaller than an A3 sheet of paper a real nightmare to move or measure.

- The Platoon Base

This was Nick's original idea, a base = a platoon, so the 24 or 30 figures on the base are 1:1 with the men in the platoon. And with 1mm=1m and 2mm figures we have almost no scale error). If we take a French Company with c.120 soldiers then in 3 ranks we'd need 40 in the front line with a frontage of 40m, or 4cm in scale - just about do'able with a 2mm base (10 figure frontage = 13mm). The downside of the platoon approach though are:
- You need a lot of bases, 4 per company, 24 per battalion, at 10p each give £2.40 a battalion - about the same as 20mm, so its going to cost a lot of cash and time to build a big army
- You need a lot or area and set-up time - the same area as 20mm
- Whilst the scaling IS right, it just doesn't look right, very small figures with a huge amount of space around them

- The Company Base

This strikes me now as the best compromise. If each base = 1 company, then a 40m frontage for a company = 13mm for a base (using 10 file bases), giving a ground scale of about 1mm=3m, i.e. 1:3000, and so an error factor of only 3. (rises to 4 if we use 10mm, 8 file bases). Six bases for a French battalion means you can show line and column easily, and the figure to man scale is about 1:4 (30 figures vs 120 men). So a battalion is line will cover 8cm, and musket range is about 5cm - which looks right on the table.

In terms of battlefield size, at 1:3 the greater Waterloo battlefield becomes about 1.6m x 1.3m (about 6 of my 600x600 terrain bases), and the main part of the battlefield only 1.2m x 0.6m (just 2 bases), and so easily fitable on most tables.

Unit wise, the French had 100 battalions at Waterloo - just 600 bases, at 10p each = £60. For cavalry its 6 bases per Regiment (1.5 per Sqn), times 34 regiments and @ 15p each gives about £30. So you could have the whole British and French armies for a shade under £200.

(and actually with Battalion basing you only need about 150 bases a side so about £40 gets you both armies so you might just as well have that as well - assuming you don't double role).

So yes, I think 2mm Napoleonic might be worth a go, particularly at Company basing. Now I just need to find some decent rules!

***Imported from old blog***

Sunday, 22 May 2011

28mm Space Marine gets a bit lost


One of my 28mm Space Marines sneaks a recce with his patrol whilst I set up the table for a Force on Force WW2 game.

***Imported from old blog***

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Battle of Middleton Common #ecw #wargame

Having finished up my English Civil War army ( 132 figures/3300 men a side) I thought I ought to give them an outing on the war-games table. Having checked out the ECW rules on the freewargamerules website I decided that Pike and Shot by John Armatys looked the neatest. The feature I really liked was that units suffered "counters" for any adverse event, and that the counters reduced not only their combat effectiveness, but also their mobility - lovely images of units becoming more and more sluggish as the game evolved. The aspect I least liked was that firing and melee were done in variable sized figure groups - depending on type of troops/encounter and counters held. Having been raised on Quarrie I'm a great believer in the figures vs modified die roll combat table.


The game setting was not particularly imaginative - but this was the age of linear warfare. The two sides were drawn up lengthways along the 3ft x 6ft dining table, with no more objective than to destroy the opposition. Both sides had 2 pike and musket blocks in the centre, with one in reserve, and cavalry units (3 each) split between the two wings plus a reserve. In addition the Roundheads had a unit of dragoons, and the Royalists a rabble of local peasantry.

centre line

First turn saw all units advance to contact. In turn 2 the Roundhead's Cuirassiers charged into the Royalist cavalry on the Roundhead right flank. Both rolled as Nervous (which would become a feature if the Roundhead experience). The cuirassiers won the first round.


On the Roundhead left flank the NMA Lobsters had charged up the Royalist horse and let rip with their pistols, but there were no casualties. By the third turn melees were happening across the front. The NMA horse on the left lost to the Royalists, the Blue Royalist infantry bested the first NMA battalion, and the Royalists Grey Regiment beat the Parliamentarian Russets. The Russets were rolled as nervous (as were most of the NMA!) and broke. The Cuirassiers on the right flank won again against the Royalist cavalry, but the refused to break. It was at this point that it dawned on me with these rules that every Melee here was effectively going to be a fight to the death, and the winner was as likely to exit the game giving chase as the loser was.

On the fourth turn the rabble who'd been advancing through a wood towards the Dragoons who'd secured a small farmhouse and suffered little from musketry finally tried to charge the Dragoon but failed their morale check. The Royalist cavalry won the second round of melee on the left flank, the cuirassiers finally broke the Royalist horse on the right flank, and the NMA won the second round of Melee against the Royalist Blues. The Royalists Greys reformed, and the Roundhead CinC managed to rally the fleeing Russets.


Turn five saw things turn more in the Roundheads favour. On their right flank the cavalry was routing (pursued uncontrollably by the Cuirassier), and the rabble was pulling back. On the left flank the Royalist cavalry was finally broken. In the centre though the NMA were finally broken by the Blues. Turn 6 saw the table begin to clear with Royalsit cavalry on both flanks routing off the table. In the centre the NMA continued to rout, the CinC failing to rally them (nice "rousing speech") rules though. The dragoons pursued the mob up towards the Royalist artillery ( all artillery being particularly ineffective all game). Turn 7 saw the Royalist reserve cavalry and infantry begin to move forward on the centre-left, and the Dragoons finally rout the rabble by musketry. Turn 8 the rallied NMA Horse from the left flank had though rallied, and charged the Blues in the flank whilst the Roundhead Orange Regiment charged them in the front. Needless to say it was carnage with the Roundheads scoring 6 counters and 1 figure, the Royalists only 1 counter.

Turn 9 the NMA horse gave chase to the fleeing Blues. The Royalists Whites in the centre finally decided to charge the Orange regiment which had putting a desultory musketry fire inoto them but failed the morale test. The Royalists Greys had more luck, charging the reforming Russets and winning 1:0. In turn 10 the Dragoons mounted up having seen off the rabble, while the NMA horse charged the Royalist Mounted Gentlemen, but lost 1:2 and broke!


The Whites failed to charge again, whilst the Orange poured more fire into them. The Russets turned the tide against the Greys, winning 3:2 and inflicting 3 figure casualties, causing the Greys to break.


Next turn the Dragoons charged the first of the Royalists guns on the ridge behind the battlefield and routed it for no loss.


The Royalist Gentlemen returned the favour charging and routing the forward NMA gun. Whites and Orange continued their firefight, the Whites almost breaking.


Turn 12 saw the second Royalist gun lost to an NMA charge on the left flank, and the Gentlemen charge the second NMA battalion - but lose 0:2. Turn 13 saw the melee and one firefight continue and in turn 14 the tide finally turned decisively in the NMAs favour as Horse broke the Gentlemen and the Orange finally broke the Whites by fire - the Whites only hanging on as long as they did due to the presence of their CinC.

With Turn 15 we were finally into the end game. The NMA horse pursuing the Gentlemen careered into the Royalist reserve, the Green Regiment, winning 1:0, the Orange Regiment pursued the fleeing Whites and the reformed Russets advanced on the flank/rear of the Greens - the sole Royalist unit left under command.


The melee lasted into the next round, NMA Horse and Russets against the Whites, and in turn 17 the Greens finally broke, and the Parliamentarians were left in command of the field.

Thoughts -

Just goes to show you should never have preconceptions about rule mechanics. The counter system in the end didn't have the effect I anticipated - since one a unit was in combat and taking counters it was almost inevitable it would stay in combat til it broke or followed up - in both cases counters didn't then have an effect. The group system on the other hand worked pretty well. What really surprised me was how few figure casualties there were - barely a dozen, which just doesn't tally with reality. The fact that melees resulted in one side fleeing and the other side pursuing off table is probably reasonable for cavalry - but not for infantry (you're not going to chase someone far if you've got to carry a 15ft pike! The whole push-of-pike thing wasn't a separate feature of the rules - I knew that - and still want to add it - although the overall effect of the melees was probably about right.

So I think next time I play I think I'll make the following modifications:

  • Abandon the counters and just count counter damage as figures - less die roll and less paperwork
  • Adjust the experience assignment to 2D so there are far fewer nervous units
  • Stop infantry pursuits after 2 turns, and enhance the chance of rallying after 1
  • Allow units that pursue off table to return after something like 6+D6 turns
  • Tweak melee to better reflect push-of-pike
  • Keep the grouping system!

***Imported from old blog***

Sunday, 10 April 2011

WalkMap: Upper Dove Valley

Thought I might start mapping/blogging the walks I do, particularly around the cottage.

Here's the first one.


View Walk - Upper Dove Valley #1 in a larger map

***Imported from old blog***

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Traveller Empress Marava complete in #opensim - and whole sim rezzing

Finally completed my Empress Marava (not Minerva!) Far Trader build in OpenSim. The Far Trader is one of the work-horses of the Traveller role-playing game.


The really neat thing is not so much the spacecraft (which I could go on detailing for ages) but what can happen outside it.

So you start on a barren planet:


You close the loading ramp on the empty landscape and head for the bridge.


You then head off into space. A touch of a button on the pilots console de-rezzes the world and rezzes the starscape in a 256m diameter sphere (ought to work on a suitable brown-out transition for take-off and landing). So the view out the window changes but more importantly if you don your EVA suit and walk out the airlock you now find:


(need to do a nice jump transition too!)

Then you head down to the starport. Again a touch of a button derezzes the stars and rezzes a whole spaceport ready for you.




I'll work up a few other environments but you get the drift. Quite apart from the role-playing side of this it also begins to make a nice vehicle for STEM based education.

Full image set at

***Imported from old blog***

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Next Ship To ...

For ages I've been after a nice algorithm for predicting traffic from one Traveller world to another. Most Traveller tables are based around the players owning a ship and wanting to pick up passengers and freight, not a player looking to hitch a ride. So finally worked out one which was nice and simple whilst walking on Foel Goch today, and coded most of it up on the iPad using JsAnywhere in a cafe in Corwen. Will tart the UI up later once the other Companion modules are done.

Go to Next Ship To...

***Imported from old blog***

Friday, 4 March 2011

Empress Minerva in OpenSim #opensim #gdwtraveller


OK, with my new found Traveller enthusiasm I've brought my in-progress work on an Empress Minerva Far Trader across from Second Life to OpenSim. Now just in he process of re-texturing it and then complete the build. What I really want to then do is see how I can use it as the hub of Traveller adventuring in OpenSim - for instance changing the cockpit view to represent travel through space, and rezzing new environments when you land - all with the spaceship staying still!


***Imported from old blog***

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

MicroTraveller #gdwtraveller

Traveller thoughts been all over the place as I've started to re-engage. First thought was a revival of idea for making a more realistic Traveller - 3D space maps, realistic solar systems, AI etc, but its just too big a jump (although its a "powered by Traveller" setting I might do some time, and for my latest work on 3D star maps see

I then thought of finishing my Port2Jump application, but thought it too big (although I may soon get back to it), and moving my Minerva model to OpenSim will be a big job (although watching Dune I'm drawn to the idea of just creating some environment sims in OpenSim).

So I finally hit upon the idea of creating a Referee's Screen on the web that I could use from the iPad. Had a great time over the last few days pulling bits together from IMTU rules and MT (my favourite OTU rules) and Snapshot/AHL. What's now dawned on me though is that what I really want is microTraveller - a version of the Traveller rules that's so simple and easy to use that not only will they fit on a few screens of the iPad but I can actually play it more or less from memory (the task system of course being key here). The other part to the Referee's Screen/Companion is of course the software, automating all those parts of the rules that are needed that are just too complex to remember for data reasons (eg encounter tables etc), so that you can create encounters, map a world, jump to orbit etc just in a single mouse-click. So that's the aim, lets see where it goes to.

***Imported from old blog***

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Traveller Referees Companion - #gdwtraveller

The time just isn't there to do an app like Port2Jump at the moment (and my Empress Minerva model in SL is half built and awaiting transfer to OpenSim. So thought I might try something simpler - turning the iPad into a C21 Referees Screen. Browser based first.

***Imported from old blog***

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Plans for 2011

With the iPad to hand there really is no excuse for not updating this blog more often! (scratch that - using the Movable Type screens on an iPad are a real pain)

Back in September I put together a list of 5 big projects to occupy my spare time (such as it is) alongside growing Daden. They were:

  • Creating environment spaces on OpenSim - with no more limits on number of sims then nice spacious builds in an SL like space are possible
  • Working more on Halo's AI - I'm disappointed that 2 years after the Machine Intelligence competition I've spent hardly any time pushing Halo forward. Particular areas of interest are increasing her situatedness in SL, making more use of semantic triples, and working on the next generation chat engine
  • Widening the scope of my wargaming, and in particular finishing off my MechWar and Napoleonic rules
  • Doing something with my Future History ideas - wiki, novel, book?
  • Growing a second "pocket money" income stream - possibly around selling PDF copies of rules or my old Traveller writings

So 3 months later where am I?

  • OpenSim - go off to a good start with porting the Tranquility Base sim we did in SL to OpenSim, and started work on a Mars base. Then an afternoon out to Packwood House had me start on a model of that C17 building and its grounds. That then got overtaken by events but I did work out how to get island/continent outlines into OpenSim, and am currently looking at terrain data import. Hopefully progress Packwood House, Mars and the terrain import over the next few months.
  • Halo's AI - Read a load about adjacency pairs and spruced up some of Halo's open smalltalk stubs. Working slowly through some semantic triples databases and just started a triples editor to make the whole triples thing easier. Still not as much time on this as I'd like.
  • Wargaming - into the closing stretch of the ECW army, photo's coming, and then can concentrate on rules set. Also found the Napoleon200 project - and will hopefully get my first game in March, and the Wargame Developments Group and their annual Conference of Wargamers which I'll hopefully get to.
  • Future History ideas - bottom of the pile, no progress
  • Second Stream - real progress. Had been playing around with some ideas to solve an on-going problem I have related to one of the above when I not only found a workable solution, but also a real business opportunity. Teamed up with my mate Nick (the last joint venture we had was a short-wave fanzine in school!) and we're now working to develop the project - codenamed C60 for now (and nothing to do with home-taping).

I'll try and post on developments on each of these as they happen.


***Imported from old blog***