Sunday, April 24, 2011

BT Ranges

I forgot to mention this, but I've been thinking lately about how BT plays and think I may have found an extremely easy way to make the game more "realistic" and play more like a wargame, and less like, well, an MMA tournament.

Next game you play, try multiplying all weapon ranges by 4 to 6.  Just the ranges, movement is no different, terrain still modifies to hit in the same way, but your AC/20 now has a range of 12/24/36.  The net effect of this change is making the battles less likely to turn into a wrestling match, where the battle lines are totally intertwined, and making it more realistic in that the forces have 2 sides of the battlefield.  If you want to flank, you have to do it not in 1 turn because you won initiative, but as a multi-turn maneuver.  This would reduce the effect of winning initiative, and increase the usefulness of units based on their ranges.  For example now LRMs can fire 80" or more, easily across most map boards.  You still need to see your target, but it can make them more effective.  I'm not sure how BV would affect this, but I'd be interested to hear any experiences you had trying this.  Also, multiplying ranges x4 with 1/300 miniatures would actually be "real scale" based on the minis :)


First of all I'd like to apologize to the few of ya'll who watch for a lack of updates.  I post often on the cbt forums but for some reason don't on here.

Anyway, as for what I've been working on.  

I am buying a house here in Dallas.  I used to live in Wylie (a suburb of Dallas) and my drive to work was about 30 miles, taking anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes depending on traffic.  It sucked, hard, even with a carpool lane the best I could do was 45 minutes.  You only live once, and spending my time in traffic wasn't something I wanted to do with my life.  So we sold our house, and got an apartment about 8 minutes from work (the wife and I work very close, so its great).  But apartment life kinda sucks, and our awesome dog really loved her yard, so we are buying a new (well an old remodeled) house in Dallas proper for about the same cost.  So this has been sucking up quite a bit of time, inspections, dealing with the bank, and getting estimates for additional work we want done.  The end is far from over, we close at the end of May but still have to move and get a few weeks of work done.  This, as well as my wife getting hurt at work and needing another week of my time really cut into my hobbies.

But I haven't been totally idle.  I will be creating a battletech database for all the equipment, and have a few people who have volunteered to make sure all the data was correct and consistent.  This is the first step in a long line of computer based battletech stuff in the future, but a *very* important step.  This database will have all 2000 or so pieces of equipment in the BTU, and all their individual attributes created so there will be no inconsistencies in things being created using this list.  Right now, there are lots of rules that either conflict with each other, or ignore each other.  With humans they often just assume what is missing, without even seeing a conflict, but computers can't do that.  This list is the #1 thing preventing a good mech/vehicle/etc designer from being out there.  Megamek, Skunkworks, and HMP all suffer serious limitations or inconsistencies due to this data not being accurate.  

Once the database is finished, I can write builder applications for, well, *everything*, including maps and maps with building complexes on them (interlinked buildings on 1 or more maps, calculating power and supply requirements and such).  Even though I'm saying this is a database, it won't be in SQL/MySQL/Oracle/etc, as I am trying to keep it simple for everybody.  Unfortunately unless I get permissions from the folks at CGL, I won't be able to make this public, as half of the tech manual and total ops will be useless if you have access to this data, and once I make the builders TM at least is completely useless.  I wanted to get this done last weekend, but I got busy with other things, and it looks like this weekend won't be much different.  I have to do it on a weekend so I can stay focused for a large chunk of time.

During the week, in my hour or so here and there I took some old code I wrote in directx that used top-down sprites for the Warhammer 40K VASSAL project.  I fixed a few things to make it all work, and was going to see about making a game where you played 40K units, starting at a scout marine and working up to chapter master, against near constant (breaks for promotions) waves of various Xeno's (mostly Tyranids, but some other stuff in there later).  The game will be pretty simple, mindless, and I think pretty fun.  I'm sure games workshop will send me a cease and desist letter over it, but I welcome being sued for IP, if I'm not impacting their revenue stream I have a hard time thinking they can take money from me (I could be wrong, only time will tell).  The game will be 100% moddable as well, so you can replace space marines with BT elementals, starships, Heavy Gears, Imperial Guard, Mechs (using megamek icons), or whatever you can think of.  I may get bored with it and not go back to it for months though, like I've done in the past with it :)

I recently purchased all the stuff for the game Strike Legion (Legionnaire Games) and was pretty happy with it.  They have a system where you can build pretty much anything in 1:300 scale, with pretty cool detail.  The units have a few stats, like move/mobility, signature, EW, shields, defense, armor for turret/hull front/side/rear, and point value.  Damage is variable.  The game scales up to planetary invasions even, much like Epic/40K.  Basically, if you love 1/300 scale games its a great game system, all PDFs, reasonably priced, and really worth it.

I also bought the latest addition to the Starmada set and the Star Fleet Battles version of the same game (  The Starmada series is a great game for starship combat, being very versatile and easy to play.  The latest addon allows large fleets, and the SFB version lets you play in the star trek universe easily and quickly.

Anyway, more updates soon, I'll try to update this sucker at least once a week.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I started wargaming a bit over 20 years ago, playing micro armor at Wheeler AFB in Hawaii.  The post had some vacant buildings, and let us use one.  We had tons of space, and played mostly WW2 microarmor, but at some point or another played all forms of games.  There initially was a lot of roleplayers, but they started taking over, so one day they kicked them all out, as well as all children under 18.  I was allowed to hide under the table, as I was the only minor there who never played RPGs, and preferred the wargames.

A year or so later I played cititech during lunch at high school, and fell in love.  Soon after I played Ogre, and a few other miniature based games and even SFB.  I have always been military oriented, served 7 years in the infantry before my body gave up, but still cherish everything military (except the actual killing, which I think is the absolute failure of intelligence/brainpower).

So that is my background, and may help people understand where I'm comming from.

I love the BT universe, its vast but not *too* vast (traveller).  The military units are manageable, the amount of units comprehendable, and the rules have grown to scale from a lowly grunt on the field to planetary invasions (and beyond, once IO comes out).  So basically to me, it is just a scalable wargame in a fictional universe (historical can get boring after years).  Apparently very few people see it that way.  To me a 5K vs 5K battle is just stupid, as equal fights so rarely happen in warfare, ESPECIALLY when there is no clear objective.  It just goes against the reason for fighting, unless your in an arena.  I also know in the universe that mechs aren't ubiquitous, and in fact are outnumbered at least 4:1 by tanks, and probably well over 10:1 in infantry, yet somehow, mechs are the predominant units in every battle I've seen lately.

So I've come to the following conclusion.  

There are 3 kinds of BT players.  One kind, which probably represents the largest portion of players, are IMO the "Games Workshop Clones".  These folk love the game, probably can tell you the name of *every* mech and what it has on it, are *very* defensive when somebody questions the way they play, yet always want to play quick one-off equal force games.  They almost always choose only mechs, and tend to avoid anything realistically representing the universe.  They love optional engine explosions and gauss rifles, and avoid rules like forced withdrawl or moral.  These people think BT is only a "beer and pretzels" game, in complete denial of the thousands of pages printed that counter that.  These folk hate any detail in the universe at all, except more mech sheets.

The second kind are the opposite, much like me, where the only fun games are ones where balanced forces don't exist.  Ones where you *need* to worry about having only 5 shots for an AC20.  Ones where they would rather have something *more* behind their missions than simply "kill thy enemy".  Often they love lots of detail, and want to track various logistics.  They embrace combined arms and play the game like a simulation, not like 40K (which is fun for what it is).  

And the last kind are the 2nd most popular, the ones inbetween, usually moving more towards the first kind, but liking some detail.  The warchest system is more than sufficient for them campaign wise, but they are happy playing equal arena battles.  They would probably enjoy a campaign, if they could find the time, but are just as happy with a pickup game.

I am totally ok with any kind of players, but I hate the argument that details in the universe prevent *anything* from happening.  For example, if only a single AS7-D Atlas was ever built, there is nothing stopping those folks from taking 4 into battle, yet they argue against seeing hard numbers.  My biggest beef is they are so loud spoken when it comes to "NO DETAILS!", but having a billion details wouldn't change the way they play at all, as those folk don't even play the game as the BT universe presents it.

If TPTB published the numbers of every mech that existed, in every year, and the salvage status of each of those every year, it wouldn't stop me or anybody or that matter, from taking any design they wanted in any salvage state in one of the silly 5k vs 5k arena games.  Yet if that detail existed, the more data oriented of us could produce vast amount of cool things like random unit generators or force generators with ease.

I love detail, and adding detail to a universe can't do anything but improve it.

And as for missions, people please, have a freaking goal, don't always have 1:1 forces, and use combined arms!  If your not, your ignoring thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pages of text that writers have been spitting out for 27 years.

/end rant | / off soapboax

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I actually played for a change!

Been a while, sorry about that.  Had some real life stuff come up.  We were going to buy this nice big new house here in Dallas, but once I started looking over the contract I noticed this thing called "Binding Mandatory Arbitration".  This basically means if you buy a house in Texas, and many other states, you give up the right to sue.  This sucks, it means when I blow $400K on a house, and in 3 years the foundation breaks in half from shoddy workmanship, I have to use an arbitrator and can't get a lawyer to sue the builder.  This is *very* bad, and basically you give up your 7th amendment rights.  Its unethical in *every* way, and until everybody realizes that and demands the home builders change, the companies will continue to screw us :(

On to better news.  Actually played a few small 1:1 BT games today, enjoyed it.  The event was a little intro game celebrating the release of the boxed set and Charlie Tango ran it.  We ended up having quite a bit of good discussions after the gaming ended, and a few things were mentioned about the history of CGL/FASA/etc that I didn't know, and helped me understand a few things about CGL now.  I kind of doubt I'll ever be "cool" enough for TPTB to accept me as one of their lieutenants, but I'm going to continue with my projects anyway, and just hope that Interstellar Operations blows me away :)

As for what I've been up to lately.... its been all over, but here is a breakdown:
  • I have been entering in all the planets and who owns them from all the maps in all the new handbooks.  The maps are great, but we don't have a list of planets/owners/coordinates to make our own maps.  So I'm doing this.  Give me a short time after the Kurita book comes out to parse all the data and such, but I'll have *all* the planets on all those maps, and their coordinates.
  • I blew $1K of my own money hiring a contractor to help me out with planet generation (accurate to 10km/pixel) and regional terrain generators (10km chunks, accurate to 10m) so I can map out planets of all types, at all scales, with relatively small amounts of drive space (64mb or so per world, uncompressed).  This will help me with what I have wanted to do since I started playing so many years ago.  That is the ability to conquer the inner sphere, one soldier at a time, on my computer, hopefully against other humans somewhere else or at least decent AI.
  • Played Crysis 2, installed it and it was in the background running for a week until I finished it.  Not a bad game, not a great game, kinda boring to me but there were a few neat parts.
  • Spent a bit of extra time at work creating a central server database, that has a list of all our servers, various attributes and properties, and will soon become the core of all of our monitoring and system information.  There are simply no applications on the market, at any price, that have the versatility that needs.
  • Had a bunch of conversations on the forums about infantry being broken.  The overall consensus seems to be just to have Hard and Soft attack values, which requires recalculating all the weapon stats.  Good news is I have entered in all the weapons in a worksheet so I'll have that list soon.  While I still think infantry needs to be at the squad level, if one could accept the platoon actually is across all adjacent hexes, and never allow any 2 platoons within 2 hexes of each other I think I can accept it.
I'm off to finish inputting system data for the maps, hopefully I can finish tonight with what has been published, can go onto the infantry thing (which I may write up and create a PDF out of), and then on to learn some orbital mechanics.