Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Full Thrust Ergovore Crusader Warspheres

Revisiting the Ergovore Congress and its Crusader fleets with some more sublight combat ships, this time a dozen destroyer-sized warspheres.  See the original post here for background on the Congress of Ergovores and what their Crusade is all about:
These are built by the Thromm, one of "Saved" races that's been modified so they are no longer Eaters.  They were formerly a vegetarian amphibian race who fed mainly on their homeworld's equivalent to algae, but even that was too much for the ergovores.  The Thromm, faced with the prospect of fighting a war they couldn't hope to win, chose to allow the Congress to implant every member of their species with a symbiotic artificially-engineered life form that provides all their nutritional needs via photosynthesis.  The symbiote greatly reduces the Thromm's mobility and shortens their lifespan by about 10% but hey, better than having your whole civilization smashed and the survivors more or less permanently stuck in the stone age.   

One of the first Saved species, the Thromm are more trusted than most former Eaters and contribute significantly (if not entirely voluntarily) to the Crusade forces.  They aren't trusted with FTL technology, but their sublight vessels are seen throughout Congress space.  They generally have very low mobility but are durable and well-armed for their size.  Thromm warspheres are often brought along via jump tugs to provide orbital interdiction around worlds targeted by a Crusade fleet, or deployed as a defensive cordon around advanced logistics bases and support ship formations.
There are two similar variations of the basic warsphere design, cunningly designated the Type 1 (above) and Type 2 (below).  Overall performance in game terms is identical, although interior layouts are slightly different and the wallow pools on the Type 2 are much more comfortable than the ones on the Type 1. 

Thromm Warsphere (Type 1 & 2)
TMF 34
NPV 136 / CPV 114
Advanced Thrust 2
1 q
1 Fire Control q
1 Class 4 Beam Battery (All Arcs) q
Armor 1
Advanced Hull 9 (3/3/3) - 2 crew units, one every 5th box

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Full Thrust Tanker Convoy and Escorts

Today's gallery showcases a convoy of tanker starships and their escort vessels.
The merchant tankers are a fair cross-section of GZG's large range of civilian starship figs, some with minor customization produced by engine swaps and added cargo modules.

These heavy freighters are all fairly large ships, about the size of a battleship or battlecruiser miniature.

They generally come in four parts - the main hull, two symmetrical cargo bits, and a drive module.  The "modular freighter" kit's box and tank cargo modules (you can see one of the box version toward the rear of the ship in the lower left below) are also compatible with these sculpts.

The drives can be swapped around between these two different hull types easily and fit with some other sculpts as well, but the cargo pods are more specific to each hull.  You could fit them to something they're not meant for but it would require some actual conversion work.

The convoy escort is led by a UNSC Asteroid-class escort carrier, shown here with its small brood of fighters.

Like the freighters above, this ship comes in several modular parts - forward hull, aft hull (with the outriggers) and engine.

As far as I can tell, all the UNSC engine modules are cross compatible, and they appear to swap with the freighter engines as well.  So lots of potential variety there.

The escort is rounded out with a Shoya-class sensor picket for spotting pirate ambushes and a pair of Free Cal-Tex destroyers for some direct firepower.

I've always liked the Free Cal-Tex design aesthetic, and it's really a shame they've never gotten more sculpts.  I know they're a very minor power in the Tuffleyverse setting, but you'd think they could build something more than just a destroyer.  Well, there are fighters as well, but no carrier to haul them, so not as useful as they might be.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Full Thrust IJN Light Carrier Task Group and Mechafighters

Following up on yesterday's post, this is the rest of my current crop of IJN starships painted up.  About the right size to act as an escort formation for, say, an experimental superdreadnought you want to keep safe:
Or they make a nice independent light carrier task force instead:

Basically a Hiryu-class light carrier with its brood of mechafighters and some supporting warships.

This is the first time I've tackled painting the Katana Multi-Mode Configurable Fighter minis, which come as both fighter and mecha mode minis and can shift between the two during play for best effect.  Won't call them Veritechs, but they sure seem familiar, don't they?

They're not especially hard to paint (no worse than any of the tiny fighter figs are, anyway) but the mecha mode figs did present an interesting problem for me.

The models have insanely small contact points if you're going to try to glue them to the fighter "spider" bases standing up, and that worried me since it would leave them really fragile.  If they were for me that might have been acceptable, but since they were headed for ebay I wanted something sturdier. 

Fortunately the new metal spider stands (the old ones were metal) offered an alternative.  I took the mechs, glued them to five of the base pads and the center point back first, then used the remaining pad on the end of the arm as the "flight post" to attach to the hex base itself.  The result is all six mechs in a "floating in space" pose that I think looks pretty good.

Not the easiest job ever and the set up does block a lot of the rear detail, but they're much sturdier than a standing on the pads & arms position would have been.

The formation also includes a Samurai-class heavy cruiser for discouraging direct attacks on the carrier and a Shoya-class sensor picket for helping detect enemies and direct fighter strikes.

There's also a small squadron of the ubiquitous Soyokaze-class destroyers for added firepower and numbers.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Full Thrust IJN "Chairman Takahashi" Command Superdreadnought Experimental Refit

Command Dreadnought "Chairman Takahashi" Experimental Refit
The Xeno War exposed humanity to multiple alien races within a short time span, each of which had their own unique technological base.  While there was great interest in the combat capabilities of these new technologies, most research was devoted to countering there effects as best as possible.  Few human powers made any real attempt to reverse engineer and duplicate enemy weapons during the conflict, seeing their time and effort better spent in refining proven human equipment and tactics.  There were some exceptions to this, most notably the Incorporated Japanese Naval R&D Command. 

The Japanese R&D branch had always been unusually willing to experiment with new technologies, sometimes to the detriment of actual combat effectiveness as incompletely tested systems were installed on service ships for final trials by fire.  The Japanese corporate government was also one of the few human powers that had significant communications with any of the alien powers.  While the Kra'Vak were unapproachable and the Sa'Vasku nearly incomprehensible, the Phalons (or at least some factions within the Conglomerate) were perfectly willing to negotiate material and tech exchanges.  Their traders were remarkably cutthroat in their dealings, but Incorporated Japan was no stranger to those sort of business dealings themselves and overall both sides seemed to benefit roughly equally throughout the War.

The Phalons were particularly interested in human screen technology, and also traded for samples of various starship missile systems.  IJN R&D received engineering specs and some material samples of Phalon weaponry in exchange.  While some of the material proved to be useless for each side, human engineers working with Phalon advisors did manage to "crack" the principles of the plasma bolt launcher well enough to create their own somewhat comparable version.  The first Japanese bolt launcher prototypes were absurdly bulky and had more limitations than the original alien tech, but they were also quite powerful.  The sheer size of the system would have eliminated any possibility of field testing the weapon - until the command dreadnought "Chairman Takahashi" was crippled by K-Gun fire off of Centaurus and limped home to Sol for repairs.

With the entire front half of the ship mangled almost beyond recognition there was some debate about whether to even repair the vessel.  R&D seized the opportunity to put forward a plan to use the Takahashi as a testbed for their newly-developed alien wonder weapon, replacing the wreckage of the hyperspace distortion cannon and other systems with the third of the plasma bolt prototypes (the first two having exceeded their service life during extensive testing by this point).  The Logistics & Repairs Division of the IJN agreed, in part because it meant much of the cost of the bringing the ship back into service would wind up coming from the R&D budget rather than their own. 

The dreadnought was out of action for nearly a year, during which time R&D engineers made major alterations to the ship's original design.  It was discovered that the ship's screen system interfered with plasma bolt formation and guidance, and the few intact emitters were removed accordingly.  Most of the ship's secondary and tertiary weaponry had also been wrecked, and rather than replace them R&D used the souped-up power generators required by the bolt launcher to massively enhance the ship's primary beam turrets.  Twin pulse torpedoes were installed as well, in part because their mass and volume coincidentally fit well in void space left after the bolt launcher was installed and the scrap of the HDC was removed.  The main visual difference between the ship's pre- and post-refit design was the extended spinal tube required by the massive bolt launcher.

The modifications to the ship's power grid also required the removal of some backup safety systems, a reconfiguration of several main structural members, and general reduction in systems stability despite added surge buffers and backup capacitors.  The final form of the Takahashi was very much a "big gun" ship with rather weak defenses for its size and poor close-in weaponry that required a heavier escort than its previous incarnation.  R&D was very happy when after action reports started coming in showing that their plasma bolt launcher was, if not perfect, very useful for breaking up targets flying in tight formation.  They were markedly less happy when the ship disintegrated in a power core explosion three months later after stopping a half-dozen heavy K-Gun rounds during the Siege of Sol.  To date no sister ship to the Chairman Takahashi has been produced, but the plans remain on file and are revisited each time a new command dreadnought hull is approved for construction.

TMF 252
NPV 838 / CPV 1221
Thrust 4
q 2 q
4 Fire Controls
1 Area Defense Fire Control q
1 Class 5 Expermimental Plasma Bolt Launcher (F)
2 Pulse Torpedoes (front 120 degrees) qq
6 Class 3 Beam Batteries (F/FS/FP/AS/AP)
qq (F/FP/AP) qq (F/FS/AS) qq
Hull 65 (17/16/16/16) - 13 crew units, one every 5th box

The two pulse torpedoes use a 120 degree forward firing arc, which is technically a house rules but ought to be self explanatory.  Star Fleet Battles vets would instantly recognize it as being an FA arc, or Starmada fans would know it as an AB arc.

The Experimental Plasma Bolt Launcher represents the best efforts to date to duplicate Phalon plasma tech with human equipment.  It functions exactly like the Phalon version from Fleet Book 2 with the following restrictions: 

1) Its firing arc is front 60 degrees only.
2) The bolt marker it creates cannot be placed within 6 MU of the launching ship.
3) You cannot mount screens (even inactive screens) on a ship with an Experimental Plasma Bolt Launcher.

FWIW, the Phalons have it even worse with the screen tech they traded for.  Not only does it not work any better with their PBLs, it also interferes with pulser fire.  

Note the massive disparity between the NPV and CPV for this ships.  This showcases how extremely large hulls can become prohibitively expensive, putting a soft cap on the size of superships.  Under CPV this ship pays an extra 383 for its base hull.  A 300 Mass ship would pay an extra 600, at which point you're really going to struggle to get full value out of it if your opponent sticks to swarms of smaller ships.  At least the Takahashi has a nice area of effect weapon for that sort of thing.

Full Thrust Ergovore Crusader Squadron: New Aliens From An Old Traveller Campaign

Many, many years ago, back in the days when there was only one edition of the Traveller RPG, I played in a campaign where the GM had a unique take on the setting.  During the course of the game our group of brave (or at least well paid) space explorers suffered a misjump that left us in unknown territory on the far side of K'Kree space.  We quickly got involved with a new alien civilization that called itself the Congress of Ergovores, an alliance of species who shared one unusual trait.  All of the member races were ergovores of some kind, and had no biological need to ingest material from other living creatures.  Most were photosynthetic, some fed on hard radiation, some were weirder still (and probably not at all realistic) but all of them were united in not liking species that ate other life forms, no matter what.

They were pretty fair about things when they ran into "eater" species, a category which includes pretty much every canon Traveller race.  The Ergovores would offer to provide a technological solution to the unfortunate need to devour life, usually some form of artificial food synthesis.  If an eater race took them up on their offer all was good, although they were still never going to be offered full membership in the Congress unless they underwent radical genetic engineering to remake future generations into true ergovores.

If the newfound eaters refused to change their ways though, well, that's why the Ergovore Crusade exists.  They generally wouldn't commit outright genocide in the course of chastising a recalcitrant species, doing their level best to preserve enough of a population to avoid extinction.  No eater race was going to be allowed to go their own merry way though.  And the Congress had members who were about tech 16, and territory larger than the Imperium.

The K'Kree were the closest in-canon neighbors to the Ergovores' space, and by the time of our misjump first contact had already happened and had gone very badly indeed.  So the Crusade was coming for the Centaurs in full force, and we could all see they weren't going to stop with them when all of known space was chock full of wild eater races in need of correction.  Amusing as it was to see the K'Kree on the receiving end of dietary intolerance, the Congress was darned scary. 

Sadly, we never resolved the storyline due to mass graduation, but the idea has stuck with me for years.  Today, I'm doing an homage to that campaign (and Traveller's fondness for the battle rider/FTL tender idea) with a small Crusader scouting squadron built out of Gates of Antares bits.  I'm statting them up for Full Thrust so their performance won't precisely mirror what they were capable of in Traveller High Guard, but the overall feel and role of the ships is close enough.
There are several house rules used here, and some of them are iffy enough that I wouldn't use these ships competitively.  Better used for "scenario" games where perfect balance is less vital and point costs are mostly irrelevant.  The group also uses some less-seen official rules, specifically the FTL tug rules from FT and the semi-official graser and variable hull row rules from the UNSC playtest article.  Some ships also use 120 degree forward firing arcs, which should pretty self-explanatory even if they aren't technically supported by the FT rules.
Ergovore ships are extremely high-tech by any standard, and use 3-row hulls, advanced drives (per FB2), and graser weaponry.  All FTL-capable Congress ships have Advanced FTL as well, although they also use a lot of FTL tugs to move non-FTL combat ships around.
Advanced FTL
A ship with Advanced FTL that leaves the table under FTL always succeeds and never takes or causes damage in the process.  When entering the table via FTL, the ship never takes damage and never inflicts damage on friendly units (nearby enemies are fair game, though).  Its maximum scatter distance for entry is 1d6 MU (ie don't use the option to reroll and multiply on 6 results) if there are any friendly units already on the table at the start of the turn arrival was plotted.
If playing a strategic game, the ref (or players) should decide on some kind of bonus for Advanced FTL beyond these rules.  Longer range, faster recharge rates, ability to move through spatial terrain (eg dense nebulae) that might otherwise bar or slow FTL, etc.
Advanced FTL systems have the same mass as standard FTL but cost Mass x3 rather than Mass x2.  FTL tugs with Advanced FTL pay the same cost for their tug drive and they and their carried ships receive the same benefit.
Cooperative Effort-class Jump Tug
Roughly the mass of a conventional heavy cruiser, the Cooperative Effort class is one of the smaller jump tugs used by the Ergovore Crusade forces.  Slow, lightly armed and lightly defended, the ship relies on her parasite warships for protection.  Her normal combat load consists of a pair of cruiser-sized warships, although they sometimes use larger numbers of small ships or (rarely) a single capital ship with a maximum mass comparable to a human battleship.
TMF 84
NPV 343 / CPV 330
Advanced Thrust 2
q 1 q
Advanced FTL
Advanced FTL Tug Drive (Capacity 150 Mass)
1 Fire Control q
4 PDS qqqq
2 Class 1 Grasers (F/FP/FS) qq
Advanced Hull 23 (8/8/7) - 5 crew units, one every 5th box
Compelling Argument-class Lancer 

One of the more common mid-sized parasite warships used by the Crusade, the Compelling Argument is essentially a large flying canon.  The design can output staggering amounts of continuous beam fire which can be concentrated on a single target or swept across two as needed.  With no real secondary weaponry these ships prefer to stay at moderate to long ranges where keeping the enemy in their primary arc is easier, something made easier by their powerful grav drives.   

TMF 74
NPV 322 / CPV 303
Advanced Thrust 6
q 3 q
2 Fire Controls qq
2 Class 2 Grasers (front 120 degree arc) qq
Advanced Hull 22 (8/7/7) - 4 crew units, one every 6th box
Common Cause-class Strikeship 

One of the smallest FTL-capable warships in the Crusade fleet, the Common Cause class appears to be a high-mobility recon craft with a secondary combat role as a fast strikeship and mobile FTL jump beacon.  They are most often the first ships to be encountered in a system, and their remarkable drives make it difficult to intercept them when scouting.  If they do permit an enemy to close to potential combat range, they will almost invariably have backup waiting to jump in from hyperspace after the engagement begins.

TMF 33
NPV 109 / CPV 87
Advanced Thrust 8
q 4 q
Advanced FTL q
1 Fire Control q
2 Class 1 Grasers (F/FP/FS) qq
Advanced Hull 9 (3/3/3) - 2 crew units, one every 5th box
More Ergovore Crusade starships can be found in the follow-up article here:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Stargrunt Out Rim Coalition Infantry

Today's post showcases Ground Zero Games' Out Rim Coalition infantry figures, along with some hover APCs from Brigade Models.  The models are available unpainted here:
and here:

The Out Rim Coalition is one of the minor powers in the Stargrunt setting and hasn't had much in the way of official development.  We know they're fairly high-tech (hence the fancy sealed carapace armor on their infantry and having their own range of Full Thrust starships) and operate on the frontiers of human space but not much beyond that.
In my head canon the Coalition is a formal defensive alliance of a number of the larger outer colonies that formed with significant aid and support from the UNSC.  Their primary purpose is to ensure the safety of member worlds and the shipping routes connecting them.  This puts them at odds with the many renegades and pirates who operate in the frontier zones, as well as resulting in the occasional clash with various governmental forces who attempt to extend their reach into the area.  While they lack the numbers or power to oppose the Big Four effectively, smaller powers like the Islamic Federation, the Scandinavian Federation, the New Israeli Starfleet, and the PAU have all clashed with the ORC in the past.  Corporate Japan has also fought both with and against the ORC, and many mercenary groups have also seen action on the Rim either alongside the ORC or opposing them.

The UNSC is unquestionably the ORC's closest ally, as the Coalition's mere existence frees up a large number of UNSC assets for policing the Core and for exploration missions.  There is significant sharing of technology and military intelligence between the two, and UNSC "distant exploration" bases can be found throught the Rim on ORC member worlds.

Any frontier world can theoretically apply for ORC membership through the UN, but only "emancipated" colonies that are not recognized as still being part of an existing polity can generally make such applications.  Most such colonies are either multi-cultural settlements that were founded by multiple factions or by independent "exodus" organizations bent on leaving the Core cultures behind.  Even the Big Four have sometimes lost colonies to the ORC, although in most cases these were either failing and unprofitable holdings or ones whose strategic position had become untenable following one of the Solar Wars.   

ORC first class infantry is quite well equipped, with standard-issue carapace armor that includes full life support gear and a wide variety of sophisticated personal weaponry.  These suits and the training to use them maximize the versatility of the troops, allowing them to be deployed to all manner of planetary environments as well as being useful for "space marine" and microgravity operations.  Many ORC recruits come to the military from belter and spacefaring communities and already have a great deal of experience with vacuum ops, an advantage few other factions share.   

The bulk of ORC infantry is either assigned to their fleet in a marine role or on various orbital and deep space habitats.  They generally operate in squads of ten men with a mix of weaponry.  Planetary defenses on worlds with benign "shirtsleeve" environments are more often left to local Colonial Defense Force units and militia whose TOE varies wildly from place to place.

Few ORC infantry units have permanent ground transport assigned to them.  When required for groundside operations, they draw suitable vehicles (as well as their crews and techs) from local defensive forces or from central equipment reserves maintained at larger Coalition bases.  This sometimes leads to poor coordination between troops and their transports, although efforts at cross-training continue.

One of the more common of these "casual" transports is the Tassigny APC, a hover vehicle manufactured under license from the French company Sofema.  A relatively basic design that originally dates back to before the Second Solar War, the version in ORC service has been upgraded and modernized for the Xeno War era.  It remains an inexpensive and reliable vehicle with low (for a hover vehicle) maintenance requirements and good fuel efficiency.  

The Tassigny is also a fairly spacious design, although still pretty cramped with a full ten-man squad loaded along with whatever specialist gear required by their mission.  Like most hover vehicles they have good ground speed and fair agility compared to wheeled or tracked platforms, and have the power-to-weight ratio to cross calm water without difficulty.  On the other hand, they lack the versatility of a true grav vehicle and are obviously utterly useless on worlds without sufficiently dense atmospheres.  

They do have a very high visual profile that makes them rather obvious targets.  Hover vehicles in general tend to stand out on the battlefield due to dust plumes and acoustic signature, so their size isn't regarded as a major flaw.

More significant is their fairly light armor and lack of any anti-vehicular weaponry.  This relegates them to the traditional "battle taxi" APC role where their troops de-bus to fight independently as quickly as possible, preferably outside of combat.

Some variants of the Tassigny carry heavier weaponry and can serve as fire support vehicles or proper IFVs.  The added cost of such weapons makes them fairly uncommon and sometimes limits their troop carrying capacity.