Thursday, 28 January 2021

Empress Marava in Mozilla Hubs - v1


About 10 years or more ago I built a full scale model of an Empress Marava class Far Trader in the Second Life virtual world (see image below). Whilst SL is still a great place it doesn't have the traction and mindshare of some of the more recent Social Virtual Worlds, and crucially you can't really use a VR headset with it. 

Empress Marava bridge in Second Life

So I've started on a project to try building Traveller environments in Mozilla Hubs, which seems to offer the best combination of capabilities and accessibilities of the current crop of worlds. Vitally  it used WebXR - so everything runs in your 2D browser and is accessible from an ordinary URL, and in a VR headset you just point the browser at the URL to get in - no software to download and install. In fact I started this project using the custom WebXR framework I developed for my 3D Traveller Map, but then realised that for something that doesn't need scripting Hubs was a better bet as multi-user, avatar design and terrain follow movement all came out the box.

You can access the Empress Marava at:

You don't need any account or sign in. Click on Join Room, and you'' be given a random name (which you can change) and a choice of (very blocky) avatars. It wil ask you for microphone permissions as you'll be able to see and chat with anyone else in there (see them gaming possibilities...). Setting up private spaces is an option I'll talk about in another post.

You start on the bridge. If this is your first time in Hubs there's a quick tutorial on movement. It's basically WASD or cursor keys to move, hold left-button and drag to move around.

Now this build is VERY rough. It was a "disposable prototype" just to see what is possible. Even as it is it's still TWICE the recommended size of a Hubs space, so performance may be laggy. Not all exterior walls are in place, so you can walk out into space! There is also no "outside". Just walk through the doors (they don't slide open!), and there are just some random bits of furniture. I've left the deck plan on so you get some idea of where you are. The model is probably about 2x "real" size, but that makes VR movement easier.

This is the cargo deck:

And here's the Owners Quarters:

You should notice a background hum, and this gets louder as you move towards the engine room I've only done the main deck, not the upper deck.

I should note that the build only took a few hours and needed no special 3D skills - the Hubs "Spoke" editor is also free and on-line and accessed through your browser - you only need to create an account. of course the whole build and build process could all be made a lot slicker and better looking of course - I just used their basic architectural blocks and textures. And one nice feature is that you can allow others to "remix" a build, so if I enabled it anyone else could pick up the Marava and customise it to their own needs.

Now on the starboard side of the ship is the big cargo airlock. You can spot it by the image of the planet in the window.

Now if you click on the image Hubs will load up a new space - in this case a Mars like desert world.

Now feel free to wander round (and adventure) on this world. If you want to get back to the ship just head back the rocks you started by and click on the ship bridge image.

So my next plans are:

  • Do a v2 build with customised "starship" walls and the second deck
  • Build out a suite of different planetary surfaces

I hope you can see all the adventure (and even STEM education) possibilities that this sort of easy access 3D/VR environment opens up. I'd love to hear how you get on and your thoughts about how the Traveller community might be able to use this sort of platform in the future.

Perhaps I'll meet you on the Marava some day!

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

1985 Company MegaTest - Seven Days to the Rhine


Next up is Seven Days to the Rhine (7DTTR) by Great Escape Games and the Cold War partner to their Iron Cross WW2 set. I'd heard good things about Iron Cross, but was then a bit disappointed (4/10) when I played it last year. Would 7DDTR fair better?


44 page soft-back, staple bound so lies flat. 2 page QRS on back pages and a set of Tactical Advantage cards. Similar mix of pics to Battlegroup:NORTHAG but no annoying punch holes. Pretty sensibly laid out.


As for the last game, meeting engagement with the Russians aiming for (Semmenstedt) whilst NATO was sweeping the area clear of enemy. Same Reinforced Company Group as before.

How It Played

The British got moving first and fast, pushing down to Remilingen and a wide R flank against Semmenstedt. Similar Chieftain vs T64B duels as before, but this time the Russians were fairing a lot better. The Brits played a Tactical Advantage card to get another Chieftain on but that was promptly brewed by a BMP. The Soviets called up a Hind and the last Chieftain bit the dust. A pesky Milan team had to be cleared by the BMPs but then it became a bit of a turkey shoot for the T64Bs. In Semmenstedt both sides had occupied a block of flats each and it became a slow game of attrition, but the British soon tripped the 2/3rd losses trigger from the T64B activity and it was game over - a Soviet win.

Rules Impression

I must admit it played a lot better than the Iron Cross game - don't know if I was reading the rules better, or it was more suited to a more armour heavy game. I really liked the activation model, lots more choice, but I didn't have the "pile it on" problem I had last time. Tempted to limit each unit to two activations just to be safe, but otherwise certainly prefer it to Battlegroup:NORTHAG. Combat seemed a bit one dimensional with not much differentiation between kit - even something like an AGL. The AP+D10>AV mechanism worked pretty well and was easier than the 2D lookup table for B:N. Reaction rolls were OK and broadly replaced spotting. Infantry firing was very basic though and no concept of suppression. There was also NO HE or indirect fire (apart from a simple initial bombardment). 


A lot better game than the Iron Cross one - weird , will have to go back and try that again. The activation model is really nice, and actually using that with B:N would make a good game, and maybe some other hybridisation - or use both learnings to improve ContactWaitOut (my own set). Lack of HE and poor infantry firing and weapon definition is a downer though. Overall 7/10 - well up on 4/10!

Friday, 15 January 2021

1985 Company MegaTest - Battlegroup NORTHAG


I had the Battlegroup NORTHAG rules on pre-order last year and finally got them on the table just after Christmas as I was also painting up a 10mm Coy level force to fight them with. I've not played any of the other Battlegroup rules. I'd also picked up Seven Days to the Rhine earlier in 2020, and then I've had Team Yankee/Iron Maiden for ages, so I felt the start of the Company Mega Test coming on. The plan is to do it in two phases this time, 1985/ColdWar for Phase 1, and then a break and then WW2/Normandy for Phase 2 with a different set of rules (IABSM etc).


110 page softback, well laid out, rip-out QRS and counters at the back, nice pics but not too many. Could have done without the faux punch-holes! Wont lie flat as perfect bound. Having wpn data separate from ORBAT data was a bit annoying.


I used my MechWar pre-gaming to set the game up, WARPAC had to take and hold a town (Semmenstedt) whilst NATO was sweeping the area clear of enemy. NATO just managed to get to the town moments ahead of the Soviets so it became a meeting engagement, with the town in the  middle/bottom of the table. Both sides had a reinforced Company Group with Tank Troop assigned, plus extra support weapons and a FOO/MFC. ground scale was estimated from the rules as about 1"= 5/10m, and I treated one 4cm hex as 1".

NATO arrives bottom left, Soviet's on far side, target town on right

How It Played

NATO got the benefit of initiative rolls and sneaked a Scimitar into the town ahead of the BRDMs and the lead BMPs. Chieftains moved into Remilingen (village in middle) and well placed to pick of the advancing Soviet armour. T64B's and Chieftains duelled away, keeping the British from reinforcing Semmenstedt and letting a BMP platoon move in from the extreme right. The Russians consolidated their hold on Semmenstedt, pushing one Pl into the woods beyond, and another Pl bravely up the road towards Remilingen! With the Chieftains blocking the exploitation the Russians pulled the Gunship counter and sent a Hind in against the NATO armour - and one Chieftain bit the dust - leaving only one.

Russian losses had been building up though and some of their BR draw were high - with the result that they reached their breakpoint first. They had Semmenstedt but NATO had Remilingen and the other two objects were also split - so on NORTHAG terms NATO won, just, but in strategic terms WARPAC held their objective and NATO hadn't achieved theirs.

Rules Impressions

Can't say I'm a great fan pure pure IGO-UGO. The Action allocation seemed very generous and I started playing the random allocation but even them wasn't really stretched. The core movement/firing rules worked well - I really liked the way that you could only use suppression against infantry. The indirect fire was also good, rolling for comms, then for the spotting round and then for fire for effect. The table scale (4cm hex = 10m) meant that deviations were big but so was the danger zone. The BR chit system was wonderful - of course playing solo I knew both sides but in a PvP game would add a nice touch of uncertainty. Some of the points and BR values were a bit off though - with a British FV432 platoon being better rated than a BMP platoon.


Really nice set. Might tweak the activation system but otherwise very playable. Overall 8/10.

Monday, 4 January 2021

2020 Review - 2021 Plans


Needless to say COVID had a pretty big impact on my gaming for the year - however a lot was rescued from the ashes.

I had no face-to-face games in 2020, although Nick and I managed a Bolt Action game on Tabletop Simulator and to refight part of Waterloo over Zoom/Jitsi. I also played a number of games at VCOW (and am looking forward to February's VCOW2021), and loads of solo games.

The biggest single change was that for the first time in my life I have a dedicated wargames room (well doubling as my home/office) big enough for an 8' x 6' table as standard - and the ability to push to 10' and maybe even 12'. That means I can leave games up (although that wouldn't have been an issue this year!) and potentially even have 2 games going at once (although time just doesn't allow that).

In terms of my planner, this is what I managed:

Dec: 🎨10mm WW2*, 🎲BAOR Mega*
Jan: 🎨Cara*, 🔪Cropredy Bridge *
Feb: 🎨ED*/Cara*, 🎲WW2 Pl MegaTest *
Mar: 🎨WOTR*, 🎲WW2 Pl MegaTest *
Apr: 🎨🎲ACP164*, 🎲WW2PMT*
May: 🎲WOTR* , 🎲WW2PMT*,🎨NapGen*
Jun: 🎨1987*, 🎨NapRus*, 🎲ACP*
Jul/Aug: 🎨NapRus*, 🎨ACPDead*, 🧱
Sep: 🎨BAOR*, 🎲Moongrunts(BARC*/SG*/MW&BG*)
Oct: 🎨BAOR*,🔪OcanaX2**,🎲NATOBC*
Nov: 🎨WARPAC*, 🎲Waterloo*
Dec: 🎨 ECW@, 🎲1987x2 @>>

🎨 = paint figures
🔪 = historic refight
🎲 = other wargame
🧱 = 1:1painting!
* = done
@ = ongoing
@> = finishing

This year (2020) I didn't plan the whole 12 months but just the next 3 at a time, pulling stuff of a backlog. The backlog at the end of 2020 was looking like:

🎨 Nap: 2mm, Rus@
🔪 Nap: Wagram; FdO,Albuera
🎨 ECW: Last(3)?
🔪 ECW:  MarstMoor(37k), 2nd Newbury
🔪 WOTR: 1stSA,Blore Heath, Ludford Bridge
🎨 WW2: 10mm Coys
🎨 BAOR: Urban Terrain, Warrior/BTR60 Coys?
🎲 BAOR: 10mm CWO, NATO-FC, SPI, ScenBk
🎨 Mod: 28mm US/Sov,
🎲Mod: 28mm skirmish>>
🎨 SF: Albedo civilians/ILR Assault
🎲 SF: Albedo campaign@

So I suppose I got the core done, but not the cream.

I'm sticking with the same approach for 2021, starting with the backlog pretty much as was at the end of 2020 and not adding anything really in to it. The first 3-4 months look like:

Jan:  🎨ECW@, 🎨NapRus, 🎲1987x2
Feb: 🎨WOTR, 🎲ECWx2
Mar: 🎨WW2, 🎲WOTR (DOK?)
Apr: 🎲WW2CoyMega?

And hopefully by the summer (Indian?) we can start to get some face-to-face gaming in as Nick, Adrian and I really want to do Waterloo 60 before it turns into Waterloo 61!