Here's a couple of quick pictures from the event. I'll post more once I get a chance to work on them. The first is a Type 59 Tank, a Chinese copy of the Russian
And a Sherman 76mm
Foremost amongst the pile of old games are a collection of Talensoft Battleground wargames. I bought these when I still had a computer that ran Windows 95 and haven't played them in years. I tried reloading one of the games on my laptop with its Vista OS and needless to say it didn't respond well. While this is a great pity its also an opportunity for me to get out and buy a more up to date version of the game.
Battleground Gettysburg (originally released in 1995) was my first purchase in the series and was one of my favorite games for a long time. I had a trial copy that I think came on a magazine CD and liked it so much I went out and bought the full version - the only time I've ever done this.
One scenario I played time and time again was Picketts Charge. I got slaughtered pretty much every time I played the Confederates but being a computer game I could go back to the beginning and try again, changing my strategy based on earlier games. I'd like to play this with miniatures one day, just to see if I learned anything from my virtual training ground.
The first thing the GM needs to do is determine the size of the impactor as this will effect the scale of the disaster and shape the after-effects. A solid metal Meteorite for example would likely remain largely intact until impact but would expend all its energy excavating the target point. If this were over the sea huge Tsunamis would be formed and if over land continent blotting dust cloud's created.
A comet may leave less of an impact crater but would expend more energy in the Atmosphere creating huge shock-waves and atmospheric disturbance. Recent scientific studies have shown that much of earth's water and organic molecules may have been deposited here by comet impacts early in the life of the planet.
Asteroid's used to be thought of a huge chunks of rock, and some may be just that, remnants of ancient planetary collisions. However many asteroids are probably loose collections of boulders and dirt held together by their own weak gravity. This does not mean that they would not pose a serious threat of one were to strike the Earth's atmosphere. An Asteroid would likely break up as it approached our planet and be torn apart by the tidal effect of our own gravity. But this could mean that instead of a single cataclysmic impact the planet would be bombarded by smaller, but no less deadly, impacts over several hours or days. In July 1994 scientists observed the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 break up in just this way before slamming into Jupiter in over 20 separate impacts.
Even if the incoming object was not large this does not mean it could not be deadly. A small asteroid (30-200 feet across) for instance would slow down rapidly upon hitting our atmosphere. The compressed air in front of the incoming object would be heated to incredible temperatures and the pressure exerted on the meteor would heat it up. This pressure can build until it breaks the meteor into smaller parts which would themselves heat and break... in effect the whole rock would explode. Just such an event occurred in 1908 over Tunguska in Siberia. The rock that entered the atmosphere was about 150 feet across and when it exploded it dumped energy equivalent of 20 million tons of TNT (100 Hiroshima's) into the atmosphere. The resulting airburst flattened and scorched hundreds of square miles of woodland. Had this occurred over a major city the loss of life would have been unimaginable.
Physical effects of an Impact
A 1km stony asteroid striking the atmosphere would explode with the equivalent of 100,000 megatons of TNT. This would create a crater 24km wide and would burn all combustible material within a 150km radius almost instantly. A few seconds later the shock wave would create 500km/h winds to a radius of 130km destroying buildings and ripping up trees. Trees would still be flattened and many building structurally damaged up to a radius of 300km. Anything left standing would likely be shaken to the ground by an earthquake that could measure up to 8 on the Richter scale. Regional climactic changes brought on by dust and soot would cause a localised 'nuclear winter' and increase acid rain, resulting in crop failures for several seasons on a continent wide scale.
A larger impactor, such as a 5km wide asteroid would create global problems. The initial impact would explode with the equivalent of 10 Million megatons of TNT leaving a crater 10km wide. Fires would be started up to 600km from the impact and buildings damaged by the blast up to 1100km away. Earthquakes would be felt across the whole world and the effect of dust and ash would plunge the world into darkness for months. Most plants would die and it would take decades for significant recovery resulting in major global extinctions and massive population decline for all species. Ironically after the global nuclear winter there might follow a period of rapid global warming as billions of tons of vaporised CO2 send the global climate into hyper drive. (Source: Earth Impact Effects Program)
Effects on a Fantasy Setting
Modern society may be better able to survive a huge impact although the long term effects might have drastic consequences on the economy and ecology of a technologically developed civilisation. A pre industrial society however would likely suffer extreme upheaval and social breakdown. On a medieval society - with little or no social support systems in place - the consequences of a large impact would be truly cataclysmic.
Given the poor construction of most buildings during this time period it is likely that many would collapse either as a direct result of the blast or in the subsequent earthquakes. Some better constructed wooden buildings may survive if they are outside the thermal radiation zone. However with pretty much everything else around them in ruins the chances of city wide fires would be very likely. A large enough impact (such as the 5km asteroid described above) could wreak havoc across the whole globe. Outside the cities life would not be much better as crops failed, livestock starved and everything succumbed to thick choking dust.
Under such circumstances any semblance of government would quickly become meaningless and civilisation would become brutal and primitive. The existing rules of society would quickly break down and for a time at least anarchy would reign. Slowly as the survivors gathered together 'natural law' - simple, brutal and harsh - would develop and become the standard.
However fantasy setting has one thing that the real world does not - Magic. It's possible that Mage's and clerics would quickly rise to high status in ravaged society as their skills might mean the difference between life and death for a small tribe. The other alternative - in a low magic setting where Mage's were few to start with - is that they become highly sought after commodities, bought and sold by local warlords. Clerics in particular might be highly prized. Imagine what a cache of antibiotics and other drugs would mean to a small group post apocalyptic survivors from the modern world. It would give them an edge, a chance for survival, that their ancient ancestors lacked. Although both groups might be on parity in terms of resources the residual technology (in this case medicine) would give modern survivors a much greater lifespan and a chance to rebuild. Such would also be the case to survivors of a fantasy society possessing a cleric/healer or a Mage.
One possible side effect of a cataclysm like this would be the rise of religions and cults not previously tolerated. In my campaign world the cult of the Manifester's grew out of a cataclysm brought on by magic. They eschewed all magic and were responsible for many public acts of violence against Mage's. Another alternative would be cults that blamed particular groups of society for the disaster. Logic does not have to be part of the reasoning of these cults, all that is required is that the target of blame is different in some way. All kinds of weird and wonderful cults might spring up, and of course in a world where evil scheming devils are a fact of life, there are a lot of powerful beings who would not pass up the opportunity to become the focus of these bizarre cults.
Whether you place your PC's in the midst of an unfolding cataclysm or use it as the backdrop to the culture they grew up in the possibilities are literally endless.
|From Muckleburgh Collection|
Evil GM: I think there were lots of 'goofy' items everyone had... Someone on your blog has already touched on the iron spikes we used to hold open or shut doors. In reality, how useful would they really have been. I'm not sure how deeply you could really hammer an iron spike into the ground, especially a rock floor, certainly I suspect you couldn't really hammer it in far enough in a few seconds to actually jam a door shut. A blow powerful enough to bust open a locked door or one barred with a hunk of wood is not going to be thwarted by a small metal stick hammered half an inch or so into the ground.
BigLee: I always thought of it as wedging a door shut or forcing hinges or locks out of shape thereby making them unworkable. This of course assumes the PC has the time to carry out this act of vandalism. Unfortunately this theory is undermined by the fact that in practice these iron spikes would be 'removed' as soon as the PC's were ready to pass through the door again!
Evil GM: Another item still on the equipment list, but frankly daft is the old 50ft hemp rope. Not saying the rope itself is daft, it's a very useful piece of kit with a variety of uses. It just bothers me as it's so unwieldy. 4e lists it's weight at 10lb - which frankly seems a little light to me. How strong is a ten foot section of rope that only weighs as much as a bag of sugar? Enough to support a hulking 6'6" warrior, built like a brick outhouse and wearing 100lb+ of metal armour and shield, weapons and supplies? Personally I think hemp rope should be significantly heavier and far more awkward to carry than the weight would suggest.
BigLee: I never had a problem (as a player or GM) with the Hemp Rope because it was such a useful item. I always felt its utility both as a tool and as a roleplaying aide outweighed the fact that its description was a little unrealistic. The silk rope however always bothered me. I have no real idea what the comparative load capacity's of hemp or silk rope are but the idea of a fully armed warrior dangling from a flimsy silk rope always made me laugh. Silk ropes are for Ninjas and characters in Chinese martial arts movies!
Evil GM: Then there were the items that were obviously designed to avoid worrying about the detail - climbers kit, thieves tool, disguise kit. Just packages of stuff to make the rules work. The "Climbers Kit" that contains crampons, an ice pick and other unspecified things that help your fighter climb more difficult rock faces. Or the "Disguise Kit" containing makeup, wigs and false teeth so the Bard can disguise himself as the kings bodyguard!
Now I'm not saying the various tools and kits are a bad idea - I personally don't want to have to become an expert on rock climbing to have my Fighter scale the castle walls, but it does show how the game has always been happy to turn a blind eye to realism in the interests of playability.
BigLee: I think the worst example of this sort of simplification is the "Thieves Tools" which brings together a whole range of specialist (and probably illegal) equipment into a convenient and unspecified package. These are the tools of a master criminal not an Airfix kit! I'm all for making rules easier to use but sometimes I think a player needs some detail on his character sheet to stimulate ideas.
Evil GM: Another omission from 4e equipment lists (and one I'm not too concerned about) is the wizards material components. Components could be used to create tension as the wizard started running low on certain materials. It certainly increased tactical thinking - I still recall one first edition DnD wizard taking clippings from everything we met in case it turned out to be a component of a higher level spell - but most of the time I found tracking every component just became a chore. They (WoTC) started getting around this with kits - I recall a material component bag that had all common (ie valueless) components in. I think dropping them altogether is, in playability terms, a sensible step.
BigLee: Ah yes, Material Components, I'd almost forgotten them. Or maybe I blotted them from my mind to protect myself from the memory! The irony is I always thought that including material components was such a good idea, or at least it seemed like that until I had to play a wizard. Keeping track of components was a pain in the proverbial and made playing a Wizard a chore, taking all the fun out of casting a fireball. I think this was a concept that worked better on paper than in a game. It should have added another layer of arcane mysticism to the class but instead it turned magic into something mundane that could be achieved with the right combination of ingredients and words.
Each new edition of the game has evolved the game and brought with it a different focus from that which went before. Some equipment has been 'lost' from the official lists because of this changing focus and the changing rules. But nothing is truly lost unless the players want it to be. Who cares if Material Components are no longer in the rules or reflected in the equipment lists. Add them to your PC's character sheet and build their description into your roleplaying. The same goes for any detail you put on your character sheet, from obscure equipment to elaborate backstories or personality quirks. Ultimately, what you get out of the game depends on you put in.
I don't know what other manufacturers kits are like but I've found every Battlefront tank to be very fiddly to build. Some of the parts (like hatch doors on the body of the tank) are cast in metal and need to be added to the tank body. Personally I can't see the point of this as they could easily be incorporated into the resin chassis with no loss of detail. Adding the hatches is a simple task but seems like a pointless waste of time to me.
The other downside is Super-glue. I've mentioned several times before my ability to stick myself together and this was occasion was no different. I stuck myself to the model, to the painting table and the glue tube itself. This latter event was rather painful as separating myself from the tube required the loss of several layers of skin. Never let it be said I don't suffer for my art.
I have nearly finished gluing the models together and will then fill some small gaps with modelling putty before undercoating. I'm determined to get this project finished quickly, preferably before I got to Tankfest at Bovington in two weeks. But knowing my predilection for delay and distraction I somehow doubt I'll achieve my self imposed deadline.
|From The Big Picture|
The book starts from the Authors perspective. John Keegan was a young boy during the war years and his father worked for the school board as an inspector. When all the children were evacuated the family moved with them and Johns father continued his job in the relative peace of the English countryside. John was sheltered by this move (and by his parents desire to protect their son) from really feeling there was a war on at all. But one evening in June 1944 he became witness to the opening moves of the greatest invasion in history.
"... the sky over our house began to fill with the sound of aircraft, which swelled until it overflowed the darkness from edge to edge. Its first tremors had taken my parents into the garden, and as the roar grew I followed and stood between them awestruck at the constellation of red, green and yellow lights which rode across the heavens and streamed southwards towards the sea. It seemed as if every aircraft in the world was in flight, as wave followed wave without intermission...."
The idea of a seaborne invasion of Fortress Europe was considered at an early stage in the US's involvement in the war. Initial proposals were for attempted landings as early as 1942/3 but were resisted primarily by Churchill and his generals who feared a result similar to the Dieppe Disaster in 1942. Important lessons were learned from this debacle and future invasion plans paid much more attention to all-arms cooperation. By Jun 6th 1944 a range of specialist forces and equipment (landing craft, gliders, paratroopers, naval artillery support and close air support) gave the allies a chance for victory that was not simply available to invasion planners in 1942 or 1943.
One of the great successes of the D-Day landings for instance, was the use of airborne troops to take and hold important objectives vital to the creation of an invasion foothold. Dropped behind the Atlantic Wall - and the vast fields of mines that Rommel had laid down - these troops would be surrounded, out gunned and outnumbered from the moment they landed. But the confusion they sowed amongst the German defenders , and the quality of the soldiers themselves, meant that most of their objectives were met. This despite the fact that many paratroopers were dropped too low, too fast and often outside their allotted landing zone.
Although, inevitably, the focus of this book is on D-Day itself it also looks beyond D+1 through to actions like Goodwood, Epsom and Cobra and the breakout. The story of the whole Normandy campaign is laid out and at the end comes an assessment of its success. In terms of military defeats inflicted upon Germany the Normandy campaign must rank as one of the greatest.
Like many works on D-Day and the Normandy Campaign it consists of hundreds of individual stories that are held together within the overall narrative of the campaign. As such it is not, and never could be, a completely accurate picture of this important battle. Where this book does succeed however is in capturing the flavor of the action. The reader is never bogged down in statistics and the individual stories of heroism and sacrifice remind us that ultimately the battle for Normandy was won by small groups of soldiers, one field at a time and one village at a time.
Here's some pictures from when I was putting the squads together and basing them.
I've modeled and painted these as Lehr Gepanzerte Panzergrenediers which means each squad has two MG teams of four Grenadiers plus one tank hunter team of two Grenadiers. The SdKfz 251/1 half-tracks can move 12" across clear terrain, or 24" at the double which means they can keep pace with the tanks. Mobility and Firepower are the great strength of this unit and are well suited to taking and holding forward objectives or exploiting enemy weaknesses.
I think they will complement my growing Tank Company with some much needed infantry support. While I was searching for information on this type of unit I found this excellent guide to using Panzergrenediers in FOW on the Paths to Glory site.
I'm not sure what my next project will be, although I should try and do some more Americans. I'm waiting on a delivery of some Sherman M1A (76mm). If I get them soon I may do them next.
|From The Big Picture|
In many respects a side mission is the opposite of a MacGuffin (an object, idea or objective that drives the plot) because it's main purpose is to slow things down, divert or distract the PC's and lead them away from the shortest route to their objective.
There are several reasons why a side quest might be called for. As GM its a great way to plant seeds for later story development. The GM might not know this when he's writing the mini adventure but any event might be recycled later on in the story. If he does his job well the players will marvel at his forward planning and foreshadowing prowess without ever realising he's making it up on the fly.
Its also a useful way to get the PC's experienced enough to tackle the challenges they will face later in the campaign. I used this technique in my own D&D campaign because I knew what level I wanted my players to be at when they got to the climax of the story arc and needed to give them a chance to earn vital experience points and acquire magical items.
A side adventure may also be the result of the GM's idea box overflowing. Maybe he's had a good idea for an encounter but can't see how to insert it into the campaign. The solution is to create a little detour that sets up the encounter without disrupting the internal logic of the main story arc.
Sometimes however a side adventure is just there to throw a spanner in the works and upset the status-quo. If that is the GM's reasoning then players should beware, because all the rules can be broken. This is the GM at his most dangerous and reckless. This is when PC's fall , never to rise again (except with the help of a resurrection spell and an associated side quest to acquire it!). This sort of side quest should come with a health warning.
So tonight our PC's embark upon a seemingly random mission to clear an area of undead infestation. The official reward for this act of bravery is the opening of the route ahead which will enable us to complete our main quest to recover the Crown of Nobility. In reality the rewards may be more complex and subtle than that and the dangers infinitely more deadly than any of us can appreciate.
"Audley End was offered to the government during the Dunkirk evacuation but the offer was declined due to the lack of facilities at the house. It was later requisitioned in March 1941. It was initially used as a camp by a small number of units before being turned over to the Special Operations Executive. The SOE initially used the house as a general holding camp before using it for the Polish branch of the SOE. A memorial to the 108 Poles who died in the service stands in the main drive." (Source : Wikipedia)
The story of the mansion's wartime employment has been compiled in the book "Station 43: Audley End House and SOE's Polish Section" by Ian Valentine (Sutton Publishing Company, 2004). Between 1941 & 1945 SOE trained 527 agents at Audley End for missions in Nazi occupied Poland. The 108 Poles who perished on their missions are commemorated in a small memorial on the main drive of the house.