Sunday, May 22, 2022

Stargrave: Sentrabot Rules Fix & Kitbashes

 Sentrabots are one of more unusual randomly appearing NPCs with rules very much like Tamix Phage from the Dead or Alive solo rules, but greatly toned down with shorter range on the reactive snap fire trick and minimal melee capability as well as being much less durable.  Unfortunately, their mechanics don't work at all well with the standard AI chart, making them something of a joke to deal with instead of at least a mild threat.

Accordingly, when using them I recommend using the following AI behavior for these things rather than the default one on pg.65 of the core book:

1.  Is the Sentrabot in combat?
Yes:  The Sentrabot uses its first action to fight, choosing the enemy with the lowest Health if facing multiple targets.  If it wins the fight it will push the enemy back.  If it is no longer in combat after this go to step 2, otherwise its activation ends.
No:  Go to Step 2.

2.  Is there a crew member in line of sight?
Yes:  The Sentrabot will use all its available actions to move either toward or away from the closest visible enemy figure until it is as close to 8" away as possible, taking the most direct path it can and climbing if necessary.
No:  Go to Step 3.

3.  Target Point or Random Movement
Follow the rules on pg.66, using the Step 2 above rather than the one in the rulebook if called for, but stopping when it reaches 8" distance from a target point.

Following this AI program will lead to Sentrabots trying to stay at a "safe" 8" distance from whatever the nearest visible threat is so it can keep using Surprise Shot rule as long as possible, even backing off from melee if it's lucky enough to win a fight.  Won't happen often, but these things are quirky enough that giving them slightly different behavior will make them more memorable than most NPCs.

If you find this makes Sentrabots too impactful on the game, I'd suggest modifying them so that they treat ALL non-Sentrabot figures on the table as enemy, whether they're part of a player crew or not, and are similarly treated as crew (and therefore enemies) by other NPC figures, whether they're creatures or pirates like those poor troopers pictured above.

Could make a neat scenario (perhaps as a co-op game) out of trying to clear a bunch of Sentrabots (using their improved AI) from an area, perhaps with reinforcements coming in over time or support from a Warbot.

This trio of Sentrabots were kitbashed from bits box parts, some of them dating back over twenty years.  Knew I'd find a use for those spare legs from I-Kore eventually.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Full Thrust: End of An Era, Painted the Last of My GZG Ships

 Full Thrust was released thirty years ago in 1992, and I've spent the majority of that time (and my life) playing the game and loving it.  I've long since lost track of the exact number but it's likely that I've painted over a thousand Ground Zero Games starship minis, some for me, some for other people.  For decades now I've placed regular orders for their figures, either directly or (back in the day) through Geo-Hex, and it used to be a tradition to put together group orders with nearby friends a few times a year to help save on shipping costs.

Sadly, life changes have made that impossible for several years now and it seems unlikely that I'll ever be resuming the practice.  It's quite possible I'll never order from GZG again as things stand right now.  The models in this post are the very last starship minis I had left unpainted - or pieces of starships in the case of the spacewreck kitbash - and finally painting them up has felt like the end of an era for me.  

Thought I'd dust off this unused blog to share my goodbyes with the surprising number of people who still look at the old posts here.  You can see all of my Full Thrust posts here, most of which feature GZG minis in one way or another.

This rusted, obscenely stained and intolerably smelly excuse for a starship is a J. Peasmold-class waste recycling ship.  Officially she doesn't have a name, just an alpha-numeric designation, but her crew call the SRR-817P the Pirate's Booby Prize.  Other crews stuck in convoy with her have different, less polite nicknames for her.

Stinky or not, she's a nice model, very solid and with some real heft to her.  Comes seven pieces if I remember correctly - a large single hull, two dorsal tanks, two lateral tank arrays, and two engine modules.  This one's had custom built engines put one in place of the usual metal ones, which are identical to the ones on the salvage ship below.  She's just under 100mm long and mounted on a 50mm base with a metal flight post.

She's also the very last starship Jon gave me as part of his holiday sale deals, where you got a random-ish grab bag of free minis thrown in with your December order based on how much stuff you'd actually paid for.  It was always an exceptionally generous offer and gave you a little surprise to look forward to when you got your package.

This little fellow is a Phoenix-class passenger spaceplane.  Neat little single piece casting, mounted on a 25mm base.

Would make a nice mini for a scenario where you're trying to get a VIP on or off a planet in the face of some light opposition - maybe some kind of run past orbital defense satellites or fighter squadrons? 


Lady Christina salvage/repair ship.  Believe it was an eight-piece model - main hull, prow, two sets of grappling arms, two dorsal utility modules, and two engines.  This has been converted a bit through the addition of an atmosphere-capable lander vessel (a GZG drome from the 15mm Stargrunt range) docked near the right bow.  The hull's also had a new hole bored for the metal flight post that's closer to the center of gravity, and an extra sensor ball (from the bits box) glued over the original hole.  A fairly large ship, about 100mm in length and mounted on a 50mm base.  

Can't very well have a salvage ship without something to salvage, and I wanted to use up teh last few fragment of ships I had on hand.  The bits used in this kitbash come from the modular heavy freighter kit, supplemented by some plastic tubing and cut styrene, all of which was suitably distressed.  There's a wire core at the center of the plastic, making the model good and sturdy.

And here we have a salvage op in progress.  My headcanon says the hauler SS Voorheesville was attacked by commerce raiders, suffering a hit that breached the two of the three fuel pods she was carrying.  The emergency ejection systems jettisoned all three pods and saved her from the worst of the resulting explosion, but the ship's inertial compensators failed under full thrust.  This killed the crew and resulted in a massive structural failure before the ship-keeping pseudo-AI could cut the engines.  

With her spine broken she isn't worth attempting to repair, but the drive module and remaining cargo load will be worth salvaging.  There's still some debate about whether recovering the operational avionics and computers of the command module is worth the effort.  Death by grav-comp failure is called "getting pasted" by spacer crews for a reason, and the salvage teams aren't keen on scrubbing up the resulting mess for some fairly basic civilian electronics. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Full Thrust New Anglian Coalition Gallery

Still more GZG miniatures as I continue to work through the Full Thrust fleets.  This time we're showcasing some of the Full Thrust NAC ships, both newer sculpts and a few of the older ones.  These were mostly painted back in 2013 and most but not all of the ships are here - no heavier capital ships, for example.  The unpainted new sculpt figs are available on the GZG web store here:

A more recent commission job with a mix of both old and new sculpts.



Friday, January 24, 2020

Starship Gallery: Noble Armada Kugan Warships

Some rarely-seen ships from the A Call To Arms: Noble Armada Kurgan range, which came out toward the later part of the game's existence.  Regrettably, I never managed to get the heavier ships in the range, so we're stuck with images from the lighter elements of the fleet.  The game is long dead at this point, and unlike ACTA Babylon 5 it doesn't seem to have a lingering fan base, but I'm still going to waste time talking about the way these ships worked in ACTA NA.  Feel free to skip the commentary and just look at the pictures if that's not of interest.

Top Row:  Yildugh Destroyer, Khabir Light Carrier, another Destroyer
Middle Row:  Three Qawwas Frigates
Bottom Row:  A lone Mujahidin Raider

The Kurgan rules appeared in the Fleets of the Fading Suns book.  They're one of the setting's "barbarian" powers from beyond the region of space dominated by the Empire with the grudging cooperation of the Church of the Pancreator, the Guilds, and the Noble Houses.  This is pretty amusing from the Kurgan point of view, since they regard themselves as being at least as advanced as the Empire, and certainly they see their society and religion as being obviously superior.

Same ships, rear angle view

The Kurgan fleet has many similarities to the forces of the Al-Malik Noble House, in that they rely exclusively on weaponry that bypasses shields due to the Slow trait.  The Kurgan do mount a fair number of rockets and some missiles and torpedoes, but not as many as the Al-Malik do.  Instead, their ships also carry a weapon called the heat blaster.  These are also widely used by the Church (for burning heretics, predictably) and are otherwise something of a rare technology in most of Imperial Space.

Left side view

Heat blasters are a bit shorter ranged than the standard blasters are (15/20/30 for light/medium/heavy) and do less damage at the low end of the scale (1/2/3).  They lack the Burn-Out trait but gain Slow, so rather than knocking down shields briefly they simply bypass them and hit the hull directly.  They also gain the Inaccurate trait when firing at a ship with active shields, and the fleet has almost no way to knock down shields (pretty much just crit effects) so they almost always suffer from a -1 to hit.  If a Heat Blaster scores any crits at all, you also increase the Crew crit location track by one.  So, they struggle to hit reliably but all the damage goes to hull, and any crits roast crew on top of their other effects.  Depending on how their crit rolls go, they may be extremely deadly, but general damage output is behind the very similar Al-Malik (at least barring a heavy point defense laser environment, which is rare).  This is exacerbated by the lack of any Kurgan ships with the Scout trait, something the Al-Malik make excellent use of.

Right side view

Aside from the heat blasters, the Kurgan also have some other quirks.  Their ships, class for class, have more starting hull than other fleets.  The exact amount varies but averages between 20-25% extra.  This makes them quite tough, although it's overkill in some cases.  Their dreadnought has 90 hull rather than the more normal 75, but by the time you get anywhere near that you'll be nearly wrecked by critical effects in most cases.  Still a definite plus for them, though.

Top Row:  Khabir Light Carrier, Yildugh Destroyer, another Light Carrier
Bottow Row:  Damaged Sheerkhur Galliot, three Qawwas frigates, intact Galliot

Their ships also run a bit heavy on troops, rivaling the Hazat fleet on some ships.  They have access to both Elite and "Grimson" (power armor Marauders) troops as upgrades, putting them ahead of many Noble Houses in that regard.  Speeds are middling-high, with many ships moving 12 and none below 8, with average agility for their class.  Their boarding game can certainly be quite a threat, especially with the lighter, faster ships operating in packs.

Rear view

Another noteworthy feature is their carrier and attack craft selection.  Their Khabir light carrier is fairly average for its type, but has the vital Command +1 trait.  They also have the huge Arigaba carrier with 16 craft capacity, although its guns are light for its (cruiser) size and it still only has Command +1.  Unusually, their Kublai dreadnought also has a small 4 craft attack wing, although they're primarily a gun platform and lack the Command trait.  Expect to see at least one carrier in a Kurgan fleet, especially since the Fleets book made everyone's carriers actually worth taking.

Left side view

The fleet also has a weird mix of attack craft.  They have three  types to choose from.  One is a specialist interceptor with a +2 dogfight mod, something rivaled only by the Al-Malik fleet.  They also have an actual multi-role fighter/bomber, something no other force can claim.  These carry a single microtorp for attacking ships while retaining a high speed, good defenses, and a +1 dogfight mod, which is huge for an offensive craft.  Finally, they have a "suicide fighter" (something they share with the loons of the Church fleet) that is a one-shot flying bomb that dies when it attacks, but combines a raft of weapon traits:  Accurate, Devastating +1, Guided, Multihit d6, One-Shot, and Slow.  They can only attack once and then they're removed whether they hit or miss and they have a horrid -2 dogfight mod and mediocre defenses, but if they connect they're serious bad news.

Right side view 

The fleet has a base tactics score of +1, and can buy psychic crews for a small discount.  Nowhere near as powerful as theurgy or the Vuldrok-only rune powers, but still good for some tricks.  Notably, occult powers are the only way the fleet can get access to the Scout trait anywhere - so expect that to get countered every single time.  Their ships are uniformly a bit cheaper than you'd expect for their class as well, so it's not uncommon to be outnumbered or outclassed a bit when facing them.  Their main weaknesses are their generally short weapon ranges and extremely erratic damage output, which is definitely behind the Noble House forces most of the time.  That can change real quick if they do manage to get a psychic Scout going, so watch out for that.  

Another group, same as the first

Standout classes for me are:  
The Yildugh destroyer, which is fast, very tough and has 10 troops, but has an awful weapons load - more than made up for by the 150 point cost, which is a large bargain.  Most Noble House destroyers saw a price increase to 200-220 points in the fleets book, making that discount even more significant.
The Qawwas frigate, only 90 points and almost as well armed as an Al-Malik frigate, with a huge 8 troops on board and speed 12 to boot.  Easily a rival to the excellent Hazat frigate, albeit not quite as good at shooting.
The Kublai dreadnought is a cheap dreadnought for 550 points, leaving you some extra to load offensive fighters and/or better troops.  Rather than wasting space on a heavy meson cannon it carries three torpedo turrets, cranking out 9 AD per turn and giving the fleet one ship that can really reach out and accurately smack something hard, and it mounts significant heat blaster broadsides as well.

Still the same

Is the fleet balanced?  Maybe.  Didn't get to play them much before the game died.  They look okay on paper, and are nicely different from any of the original fleets.  Mongoose was never noted for good playtesting and point balancing in this game, though.  Suppose I'll never know, sadly.

Finally done

But at least the minis are pretty.  Maybe Ral Partha Europe will get the molds sorted out and back in production someday.  They'd look nice flying in Full Thrust or Starmada games.