Monday, February 28, 2011

Idle Hands...

Last week the models I ordered from Iron Wind Metals arrived.  They are part of their new scale of Classic Battletech models that are intended for Catalyst's Battletech Battle Force system.  It is to Battletech what Epic is to 40K; large scale engagements where one model represents an entire unit.  However, I think they look great as Classic Battletech models also. 

Here is a picture of the original Battletech model, the ever classic Atlas, next to its Battle Force equivalent.

These models will be available this summer in both Inner Sphere and Clan bundles.  The Battletech 25th anniversary boxed set will be coming to a retailer near you March 30th.  Look for your local CDT Agent to be hosting release parties and other events in a city near you.  Look me up if you live near Flint, MI.  I'll personally be running a few demos at Gamers Sanctuary, my local FLGS. 

Look for a step-by-step painting blog in the near future (What can I say?  These things have inspired me!)  It won't be long before the 1st Genyosha take the field to defend the honor of the Draconis Combine!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Is Entropy Based Warfare?

In the late 1990’s, Dr. Mark Herman, a military analyst and designer of military conflict simulations, developed a model for what he called Entropy-Based Warfare.  Here is a graphic representation of his theory.

For thousands of years, an army’s effectiveness was determined solely by its Lethality (represented in the yellow circle).  This quality represents an army’s ability to kill its foe, by far the easiest concept to grasp in warfare.  A force with a higher Lethality potential would be more likely to emerge victorious in a given scenario.
Technological advances of the modern military age brought about an increase in lethality and range which increased the size of battlefields and wars.  The concept of Disruption (represented in red) became more prevalent.  Making your enemy prepare for an attack that will never come, or making them think an attack will be coming from or directed towards one area, when in fact it will be from or towards another, are both examples of Disruption. 
The area where Lethality and Disruption overlap is called Critical Function Disruption.  By a very specific focus of Lethality, a target that critically affects an opponent’s ability to respond can be destroyed.  Destroying command and control units or disrupting supply and communication lines are examples of this.  Any of these will seriously hamper an enemy’s ability to wage war.
Entropy-Based Warfare adds a third parameter; Friction (shown in blue).  The concept of Friction accounts for the general wear and tear a combat unit experiences in the field.  Desertion, vehicle breakdown, taxing fuel and food supplies, morale problems, and many other related issues fit here. 
The green overlap between Lethality and Friction is known as Maintenance Attrition.  This covers a force’s inability to recover and repair damage from a battle.  The purple intersection is known as Disorganization.  This covers the damage done to a unit, mostly to morale and the well being of the soldiers involved, as it reacts to false threats and other deceptions. 
The central area is the focus of Entropy-Based Warfare.  It states that if you make your enemy move when and where you want them to, disrupt or destroy lines of command and communication so they begin to lose cohesion, and then hit your enemy’s forces hard enough to shock the enemy’s troops, they will crumble.  They won’t know why they are where they are or what to do and they will be facing an enemy for which they have no defense. 
Of course, the question you must now be asking yourself is “How can I use this strategy in my Wargaming?”  Tune in next time…

Herman, Mark. "Entropy-Based Warfare: Modeling the Revolution in Military Affairs." Joint Force Quarterly Autumn/Winter (1998-99): 85-90. Print.
Stackpole, Michael A. Grave Covenant: Twilight of the Clans II. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Roc, 1997. Print.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Once More Into the Breach...

Today I’d like to give you a little introduction to my primary Warhammer 40k army, the Void Hounds Space Marine Chapter. 

As one of the newer chapters created from the 25th founding, the Void Hounds have a short, but illustrious career.  Created from a subtle blending of Space Wolves, Ultramarine, and Grey Knight gene seeds, the Void Hounds primary purpose was to act as a watchdog unit for the Grey Knights.  A fleet based chapter, the Hounds mission is to scout the Eastern Fringe of Ultima Segmentum and its many warpstorms for any sign of a Chaos incursion.  As a result, they tend to be very mobile, relying heavily on its 10th company’s scouts to seek out any potential threat and warn the chapter of it. 

Once a threat has been discovered, the Void Hounds wage their version of Entropy-Based Warfare; they strike hard and fast to disrupt their enemy’s capability to wage war.  They destroy lines of communication, supply, and command with surgical drop pod strikes, deep striking 1st company Terminators, and guerilla attacks from the scouts.  Once their mission is accomplished, the hammers that are the battle companies engage the enemy in brutal all-out mechanized assault.  With their opponent’s ability to wage war crippled and their morale shaken, the Void Hounds are able to swiftly smash through their foe’s lines to victory. 
Unfortunately, through their constant patrolling of the eastern fringe, the Void Hounds were one of the first Chapters to encounter the truly alien mind of Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth.  The principles of Entropy-Bases Warfare had little effect on a force which can turn the very planet it invades into a veritable supply depot.  With the power of the Hive Mind behind it, Behemoth had no fear of the shock-and-awe tactics the void Hounds had favored for a millennium.  The chapter found itself on the brink of destruction, strategically regrouping deeper towards the galactic core to rebuild and refit.  As a result, the current roster of the chapter has been reduced to fewer than five complete companies.  However, their willingness to recruit across the Segmentum has allowed them to swell the ranks of the scout company to nearly three times the size of most chapters.  The remaining marines are battle hardened veterans.  Much of their armament has been appropriated from near by Chapters and is still undergoing retrofitting and repainting in Void Hounds colors (hence the varied color schemes in some elements of the force). 

The long serving Chapter Master, Anubis, barely survived the Tyranid attack.  Fortunately, the Techmarine armorers were able to inter his body into a Dreadnought sarcophagus.  He is frequently equipped as an Ironclad pattern Dreadnought and is deployed in a drop pod where the fighting is thickest.  Many of his closest advisors were also killed in battle and interred along with him, creating a rather large force of Dreadnoughts eager to avenge their “death”.

Their new Chapter Master, Commander Cerberus, is well known for his soft spoken voice, impressive knowledge ancient Earth literature and cultures, and brutal tactical efficiency.  He is a reluctant leader who prefers to lead by example rather than through fiery oratory.  He takes it upon himself to head where the fighting is thickest. 

Due to the chapter’s close relationship with the Grey Knights and their ongoing mission to fight the forces of Chaos at all costs, the marines of the Void Hounds tend to be more psychically active than most others and employ a larger than average number of Librarians in a command capacity.

The Administratum has recently determined the Void Hounds fit to resume their patrol of the Eastern Fringe.   With an enthusiastic battle cry harkening back to their Space Wolf genetics, the Void Hounds embarked into the depths of Ultima Segmentum armed with the harsh lessons taught by Hive Fleet Behemoth, eternally vigilant for the depredation of Chaos.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It’s Only a Model
Let’s face it; most of us play wargames because the models are so awesome looking.  I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my favorite models from different games.  I’m going to ignore how these models play in actual game situations for a later article.  These are a few models that for me embody the game or inspired me to play.
1.       Ral Partha Battlemaster.  This was the first model I ever used in a wargame.  I borrowed it from a friend who was teaching me how to play the game.  The idea of piloting an 85 ton war machine into battle was exhilarating to my young mind.  I remember having the Particle Projectile Cannon shot off my right arm and having to resort to pummeling an opponents Archer to scrap with the left.  From then on I was hooked.  I bought my own B-mer and the Medium Lance set (I have always favored maneuverability over firepower) a week later.  I have since lost my original, but I do own one a friend bought for his collection years later.  Unfortunately, the Battlemaster was one of the models Iron Wind Metals redesigned when they obtained the rights to Ral Partha’s old casts and the rights to produce Battletech minis.  I like the new one a lot, though.  You be the judge.
The Classic

                                The Redesign

2.      Games Workshop’s Space Marine Ironclad Dreadnought.  Nothing says Warhammer 40K to me like Dreadnoughts.  I use them nearly every game I play with my Marines.  They look awesome on the table, provide tactical flexibility, and can SERIOUSLY wreck the day of a squad of Khorne Berserkers.  The Ironclad, not only looks like an impressively massive hunk of machinery, it is a beast to bring down.  It also happens to be a fairly easy kit to put together, which is a plus in my book.

3.       Privateer Press Cygnar Ironclad.  Warmachine is the newest wargame I have dabbled in.  I only own a few models, but the biggest reason I chose to collect a Cygnar force was this guy.  Maybe it was my love for the Ironclad Dreadnought, or the Steam Punk vibe of the Warmachine universe, but I love the shear brutality of this model.  Warmachine is a very up-close-and-personal game.  Nothing shows that better than this Jack. 
Your turn.  What are the models that inspired you to play a game?  What are your favorites?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I Play Wargames

The question so many people ask me when they find out I am a wargamer is “Why?”  I think I confuse them.  Outwardly, I fit few of the typical gamer stereotypes; I wear a shirt and tie to work, I’m slightly overweight, but my clothes fit, I bathe regularly, use deodorant liberally, and I am married to a beautiful woman who has never played a wargame in her life.  I am a sports fanatic (especially for the Red Wings, Tigers and Wolverines), I play bass in a punk rock/metal cover band, I am comfortable in front of a crowd, and I am not afraid to speak to the fairer sex.  However, if you get to know me, you will begin to see the inner geek shining through.  I love science fiction and fantasy.  In fact, I have written a course on science fiction and fantasy literature and its impact as a literary genre.  I have read “The Art of War” for its insight into military tactics, not business.  I collect comic books, listen to Rush, can recite the Pirates of Penzance and the Music Man verbatim along with Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi.   I enjoy taking quizzes from MENSA.  I ardently feel that every lesson one can learn in life can be found in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Get the picture? 
I teach in the Michigan public school system, so, aside from the time I spend with my family and friends, I associate mostly with teachers and students.  Most people I work with aren’t that surprised when they first learn I am a gamer; it seems that it is a hobby fairly popular among teachers.  Several of them tell me that they either played as well or have husbands/brothers/friends that do.  However, my students usually are stunned.  They see a well-dressed, well groomed, very formal and literate educator in the halls.  They know I am a geek at heart, but the whole wargaming thing is another level of geekdom to them.  Most of them can’t understand what it actually means to be a wargamer.  The phrase “chess with guns” helps some, but others can’t seem to see beyond their own nose.  Most simply shrug, file it away, and think, “This guy likes to play with dolls?  Whatever.  When’s lunch?”  Perhaps it has something to do with a teenager’s need to stereotype everyone and a teacher’s training to do the opposite.
So, back to the question at hand; why wargames?  For me, there are three main reasons:
1.       The fluff.  I live for great science fiction and fantasy.  Some of the best can be found in wargaming.  One of the hallmarks of a great wargame is a fascinating back story for the universe.  The “Grim/Dark” future of Warhammer 40K is as rich as anything George Lucas has come up with (minus Jar Jar, I might add).  The early Battletech novels are still among my favorite reads of all time.  I frequently buy sourcebooks for armies or even games I don’t play just for the reading material.  If the fluff is no good, I'll pass.
2.       The models.  This is the thing that gets most young gamers.  Depending on the game system, a player can have dozens of different models at their disposal.  The look and detail of some of them is enough to pull in any young boy looking to replace his GI Joes with something cooler.  Look at a Space Marine Dreadnought or an Eldar Wraith Lord and tell me that doesn’t make you want to pick up some dice and throw the two of them in an arena together.  At heart, we are all just boys with toys. 
3.       The game itself.  Every kid inherently knows how to “play”, but they all do it in different ways.  I watch my four-year-old play with my hand-me-down action figures in ways I never thought of.  Wargaming allows you to “play” the same game with your friends.  What’s more, it gives you very definite rules to follow while still allowing the player to be creative within the scope of the game.  It stirs our innate competitive nature and fosters a sense of camaraderie at the same time.  Show me a Transformer that can do that!  It helps if the system is well written and easy to learn.
There are undoubtedly more, but these are the three that mean the most to me.  Each one of these has contributed to my evolution as a gamer.  I started playing Warhammer because I enjoyed reading my step-brother’s copy of Rogue Trader and Realms of Chaos, I started collecting Space Marines because I loved their look, and I eventually learned their rules for an actual game against my brother’s Eldar. 
Notice that I made no mention of the painting or modeling that goes hand in hand with so many wargames.  That is because they are part of the “hobby”, not necessarily part of the game.  It is very easy to play a wargame without having ever picked up a brush or a hobby saw.  I feel that most kids grow into the “hobby” aspects of the game.  They want to be players first, painters later.  I’ll cover my own evolution in that regard later.  In many ways, it is still happening.
What do you think?  What got you into gaming in the first place?  Did you follow this path or forge one of your own?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Welcome to Drop Pod Assault

Welcome to Drop Pod Assault; a blog devoted to the hobby of wargaming in general, but with a focus on Warhammer 40K and Classic Battletech.  My intent with this site, other than feeding my own ego, is to provide gamers with an alternative to the classic wargaming blog.  Consequently, this will not be a site devoted to building tournament style lists, Mathhammer, or competitive gaming.  While I do enjoy these styles of play, I feel that the soul of our hobby is best experienced through casual play with one's friends. 
I'm going to get this out right off the bat; I am not much of a painter.  The phrase “Table Top Quality” and I are mere acquaintances, unfortunately.  However, I am trying to redouble my efforts in this area.  Hopefully, I will occasionally be able to share my learning process with you.  I feel this is an area where most bloggers miss the point.  Some of the guys out there are incredible painters and modelers.  Unfortunately, most of us will never get to that level.  What they lack is the perspective of an amateur.  They’ve gotten so good that they have forgotten how hard it can be to make these little plastic and metal men look remotely acceptable.  I hope to inspire those of you like me to stick with it and constantly improve our skills.
However, while I am not much of a painter, I did work as a hobby terrain builder for several years.  Occasionally I will be sharing some of my ideas and work in that area as well.  I’ve also experimented recently with making buildings and other scenic pieces out of “found” objects.   Raise your hand if you remember the old Rogue Trader deodorant speeder!
 I am a teacher and writer in my everyday life.  Hopefully, both of these will crop up from time to time here.  Tactics and strategy articles will show up occasionally, but they will not be a major focus of this blog.  There are plenty of great sites for that.  Instead I would like to showcase the casual side of the hobby.  When I play, win or lose, I want to have fun.  I also want to make sure that everyone I play with enjoys the game as much as I do.  I will be including articles for beginning gamers.  Spreading the word about our beloved hobby is something I have been doing since childhood, and I have no intentions of slowing down now.  In fact, part of the reason for this blog is to share one of my favorite games of my childhood, Classic Battletech, with the blogosphere.  While it will be had to topple the juggernaut that is Warhammer, my hope is that Battletech can make the same kind of dent that that upstart (and very well done) Warmachine has.
Be sure to tune in regularly because I hope to post something new every day.  Feel free at anytime to make comments, suggestions, or criticisms.  My only request is that we keep it all civil.  I am a stickler for polite language, so any swearing will be frowned upon.  Call it the teacher in me.  Game on, chummers!