Thursday, 6 May 2021

Space Imps

 Last few vehicles have been printed, so I now have all the vehicles for the Astrodani force.

In the image above we have; 

  • 7 x Infantry Transports (2 units of 3, plus a command)
  • 3 x Tanks
  • 3 x Rocket Artillery
  • 2 x Anti-Aircraft
Battle tanks

Rocket artillery
So the next step is getting these guys painted up. After that it's some infantry to disembark from the transports. I've decided on the models (the Soriog from Khurasan, pictured below), but don't want to order them until I'm home (still in New Zealand right now). I've also written up some background fluff for the force...

The Astrodani

The enigmatic Astrodani are one of the few high-tech alien species humanity has encountered. They are often refered to as Space Imps, both due to their appearance and their chaotic, unpredictable behaviour. In one encounter an Astrodani force might suddenly appear and save a human colony from a Malroid attack. The next week they might just as suddenly make a targeted strike destroying three buildings from the same colony.

Biologically the Astrodani are greyish-brown skinned humanoids, with feline looking faces, short, soft fur covering most of their bodies, and two foot long tails ending in a distinct point. Their technology is significantly more advanced than Terra - roughly on par with the Serpents, but not as advanced as the Malroids or the Citadel. 

The Astrodani's random, often seemingly pointless actions are explained by their religion. They worship an ancient supercomputer built by an extinct alien civilization. Known as The Basilisk, the Astrodani obey any instruction this machine gives them without question. It is not known if there is some deep purpose behind its instruction that cannot be comprehended by mere human-level intellects... or if it is simply malfunctioning in some way.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Forming up the Astrodani

With the first prototype 3D printed Croft vehicles coming out well, my brother Vaughan ran another batch. So now 9 mostly complete vehicles, plus a couple of turrets and some odds-and-ends parts. 

We've produced turrets for four vehicle types - an infantry fighting vehicle, an AA-vehicle, a MLRS, and a tank.


Anti-Aircraft Vehicle


Battle tank

Minor confession, I haven't necessarily used the correct parts for each variant. For example, originally we printed 8 of the AA tanks, which was more than required. So I put a small wing and missile launcher on 6 of these turrets to make 6 of what I'm calling an IFV. Likewise I don't know if the turrets I glued the MLRS launchers and tank main cannon to are the ones they're supposed to have... I just know they come out looking OK to me, and I'll use that combination for any more we print.

A Change of Pace - DBA

Last night I went round to a friends place, and was able to play my first in-person wargame in a long while. The game we picked was DBA, a 15mm ancients game. The armies we were using were Ben's, and it was me using Galatians versus Ben with (I believe) the Kappadokians. 

Initial deployment, Galatians lower half of image

Galatian warband

Kappadokians warband

DBA is a nice elegant system. The rules are fairly simple, while still having a good level of tactical depth. And having small army sizes (12 elements per side) and small playing area (60cm x 60cm) just makes it so much more convenient to play than many other games. 

For my deployment I put my cavalry and chariots to the center and center-left, my naked footsloggers on the right, and my single unit of heavy blade center and slightly back as my reserve. This roughly mirrored how Ben had deployed, with his knights and cavalry facing my mounted troops, and his psiloi holding the difficult ground opposite my infantry. 

Not having a clue what I was doing, I just decided to go for it, and first turn made an all out charge with most of my force. 

Next turn Ben's knights charged into my chariots. The scythed chariot died early, but over the next couple of turns our mounted units jostled for position. To my right the foot troops faced off against the psiloi, but once I learned they couldn't really do much too them they just kind of mulled around in front of the hill. 

Eventually after a few turns of maneuvering (aided by Ben advising the DBA newbie on how the maneuver and Zone of Control rules worked) I had Ben's knight general surrounded. One moderately lucky combat resolution later and he was dead. A turn or two later I mopped up another cavalry stand, and that was game to me. 

So, a fun game. DBA is something I've looked at before, and I like the fact that the small armies make it relatively low investment to get into. If I do assemble an army or two, I'd most likely look at early Bronze Age forces - maybe Middle Kingdom Egyptians and Babylonians, somewhere around that era.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Experimenting with the 3rd Dimension

Today I had my first hands-on play around with 3D printing. And first impression, it's a cool technology, the end products are excellent, and I can definitely see myself making more use of it in future. 

The 3D printer in question is an Ender 3 owned by my brother. I've ordered 3D printed models before, but had never actually seen any printed and I wasn't really familiar with the details and practicalities of how it works. It turned out to be quite simple. 

The subjects we were printing were the Croft range from DRS  - very Eldar-esque grav-tanks. Like most of DRS's ranges the basic vehicle is available in a number of variants, from troop transports, to tanks, to AA. My brother set it up for me and here are the first couple we printed (both the AA variant); 

The raw material this printer works with comes as a spool of plastic filament 1.75mm thick. The printer can be set up to get the file by directly connecting to a PC, or (as in this case) loading it onto an SD memory card. It took around 4-5 hours to print each of these vehicles. Which for reference are around 6cm / 2.5inches long, and use 50g of plastic. 

So yeah, definite fan and convert to 3D printing, and I can see myself using this more in future. 

One comment I will make is that 3D printing is potentially a very economically disruptive technology. These models for instance, DRS sells complete printed minis for £16, which is about the norm for 15mm vehicles. However they also sell the .stl template to print them for only £8 (this includes all the variants), and it takes only around £1 worth of plastic to print each vehicle. I'm planning on producing around 10-14 of these things to form a company sized unit, so rather than £160-200 it's only going to cost me around £20 (of which DRS only gets £8). Obviously that won't justify DRS's time and effort in creating the .stl file, so it's not a sustainable business model. 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Next Projects

With my 5 initial Sierra Foxtrot armies completed I'm now deciding what I want to do for my next project. Since I'm still enthused by 15mm sci-fi at the moment I'll probably stick with that. Options could include starting one or more new SF armies, adding new units to the existing SF armies, or expanding/improving my terrain. 

And the likely winner is... all of the above.


Red Desert

The first project I'm thinking of working on is some desert terrain. I'll like to have a full 6 x 4 table worth, with the inspirations being the US southwest, some Martian tables I've seen people do, and World of Warcraft zones like the Badlands or Durotar. 

Lake Mead
Marble Canyon

After watching a few YouTube tutorials, the technique I think I'll trial is to use textured paint in a suitable color. I'll see what pre-made commercial products are available, but I've made my own in the past so I may end up doing this again. I'll apply this all over my three 2' x 4' base-boards. Then I'll make some hills/rocky outcrops. For these the plan is to use the same 3/4" inch polystyrene I used for my summer-grass terrain, but rather than flock I'll texture them using some mix of spackle and/or textured paint. Will have to experiment with this and see what looks good. 


To go with the desert terrain I want to expand my 15mm buildings and roads. My initial collection was purchased for use with Team Yankee. While they fit in fine for sci-fi games, I'd like to add some more explicitly sci-fi terrain as well. GameCraft Miniatures has a selection of sci-fi buildings, so I may pick up some of these. 

New Armies and Expansions

Apart from terrain I also have a few ideas for new armies and expansions for existing armies. I've decided the Gila recon ATVs will go with the Zhaleed Empire force, and I'll grab some Comanches for the Southern Commonwealth when they become available. The Commonwealth also needs a mech, and the Crookback mech (probably won't use that name for the unit) ordered through Alternative Armies is the leading candidate.

If I end up placing an order from Alternative Armies, I'll likely pick up a platoon or two of the Vasseth strike vehicle as a fast attack unit for the Serpents.

In addition to expanding the existing armies, I have a few ideas for new forces to add. The Southeast Asian Union would be similar to the Southern Commonwealth in being a relatively conventional tank/APC human force, using models mainly from Khurasan's Nova Respublik range. The Astrodani would be a "space elves" alien force, with ideas taken from the likes of the Eldar from 40K, Protoss from Starcraft, and Minbari from Babylon 5. The models would be from a range of sources, but the infantry units would be a mix of Khurasan Soriogs and Dragoons.

But the next new army in line is the Thrainites - Space Dwarves. The models are from Khurasan Miniatures, and I've ordered enough to make up a mechanized infantry company. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Sierra Foxtrot - History and Backstory

 Last week I flew home to New Zealand for a month long return visit. But sadly, half that month will spent trapped in a hotel room - the government requires a compulsory two-week quarantine for anybody arriving in the country. 

Stuck in a room with no models or painting supplies (too bulky to pack) and only a few books to read, I've instead starting fleshing out the backstory of my Sierra Foxtrot universe...


By the middle of the 21st century, human civilization was in something of a golden age. Advances in technology had largely eliminated poverty, even in the developing nations. While the great powers still argued over a range of issues, these were in no immediate danger of spilling into open war. Even smaller local conflicts and ethnic strife were on the decline. And science continued to advanced. In particular quantum mechanical research into the structure of spacetime would produce a breakthrough that would change human civilization forever.

Discovery of the Doorways

The mathematical foundations of Structure Theory (the study of the structure of spacetime itself) were conceived in the first half of the 21st century, but it was not until the 2060s that the first significant experimental results confirmed these ideas. By the 2080s the field was solidly established, and a range of practical applications had been proposed. One area held particularly tantalizing promise. The equations suggested that, in the right circumstances, two locations in everyday spacetime could be connected by a shared set of hyper-dimensions. Thus if an object could alter its position in these hyper-dimensions in the right way it could instantly travel between these two distant points.

Unfortunately this phenomenon would not allow free teleportation between any arbitrary locations; it would only work between very specific locations where the structure of spacetime had the required properties. The Global-Spacetime-Structure-Survey (GS3) orbital mission revealed three such locations on Earth, locations that would later become known as the doorways. One was in Western Australia, several hundred miles north of Perth. One was in Southeast Asia, spanning the border between northern Thailand and Laos. And the third was in the central Pacific Ocean, five hundred miles northwest of Hawaii.

In 2086 the Endeavour probe became the first human artifact to visit another star system. The probe made three return trips through the Western Australian Door, and was soon joined in its explorations by Endeavour II and Saahasee. After several months of exploration and study it was deemed safe for a human exploration party to go through, and in March 2087 the first team of the Scott Expedition went through.

The First Expansion

The next fifty years were a period of exploration and discovery. As predicted by structure theory, each doorway was part of a fixed pair connecting two worlds. Most worlds had two or three doorways. Some had only a single door, making them a "dead-end" in the network. And a few had four or more, making them nexus points for travel.

As knowledge of the newly discovered worlds grew, exploration gave way to settlement and exploitation. With a population of just over 10 billion Earth was crowded. While technology could keep people fed and housed, many longed for open spaces, freedom, and perceived opportunity. Under careful United Nations supervision dozens of colonies were established on other worlds. Colonies were not permitted on worlds with indigenous intelligent life, and strict rules were enforced to limit the impact on native biospheres. A complicated allotment system was established, with parcels of land being variously allocated to UN member states, sold at auction, or granted to ethnic, religious, or ideological interest groups via UN agencies. By the 2140s Earth was at the center of a small interstellar empire. Three dozen major colonies had been established, and around two hundred worlds had been visited. However the new frontier was also proving a source of conflict at home.

The physical locations of the doorways on Earth created focal points for travel and trade; to reach the vast new frontier one first had to travel to one of the three doorways. However due to geography and politics, not all nations had equal access to the doors. China's early attempts to gain effective control of the Southeast Asian Door were thwarted when all its Asian neighbors came together in a united front. Russia seethed over what they saw as unjustified US dominance of the Central Pacific Door. And the nations of Europe felt left out, geographically distant from any of the doors and at risk of being left behind.

The First Nuclear War and The Closure

The events of the First Nuclear War are unclear and disputed. Nobody knows who launched first and what the chain of escalation was. But by the time it ended (a mere three days after it began) hundreds of cities had been destroyed and billions of people killed. In the aftermath a nuclear winter resulted in significantly reduced crop yields worldwide. EMP bursts had caused serious damage to electronics and computer networks, even to countries not involved in hostilities. The majority of satellites in orbit were destroyed. The global economy collapsed, with international trade dropping to zero overnight. Many regions fell into anarchy, and even in places were the government survived famine and hardship were widespread.

But perhaps the most surprising result of the war was the Closure - all three of the Earth doorways abruptly ceased to work, rendering travel to other worlds impossible.

To this day the cause of the Closure remains a mystery. The obvious explanation is that the nuclear explosions from the war disrupted them somehow... but nothing in current structure theory can explain how that would happen. Once satellites were finally able to be placed in orbit again the spacetime around the doors was studied, and seemed to be unchanged from before the war. But regardless of the how and why, the fact remained - Earth and its colonies had been cut off from each other.

For the next two hundred years Earth rebuilt its shattered civilization, and the colony worlds adapted to their sudden independence. The more fortunate colonies had been established long enough to have at least some degree of industry. Less fortunate worlds still relied on imports from Earth, and many of these collapsed. The colonies could still travel through parts of the doorway network (albeit having to detour around the now inaccessible Earth), and some trade between worlds was established.

The Second Expansion

Nearly two hundred years after they suddenly closed the Earth doorways just as suddenly re-opened. Hyperdrive equipped vehicles had mostly been re-purposed after the Closure, but a few had been left in the doorway zones and set to automatically keep trying, just in case. In 2335 these vehicles unexpectedly transitioned, proving that the doorways were open once again. Once the initial surprise faded, the nations of Earth began to prepare to venture out into the galaxy again. Old colonial records, planetary surveys, and maps were unearthed, although it was known these would be two centuries out of date.

The next year produced a series of surprised and astounded encounters. The nations of Earth (or Terra, as the colonies universally called it) learned of the Zhaleed Empire, Citadel Republic, Thrainites and other surviving colonies. The colonies likewise learned of what had transpired on Terra and the global geopolitical situation. Relations were initially non-hostile, but formal, with all sides uncertain how things would unfold. Gradually diplomatic relations were established, and the re-united nations starting discussing how they would co-exist.

The Snake War

The reunion between Terra and its former colonies occurred against the backdrop of a major interplanetary struggle - the Goshuran Conflict, later also known as The Snake War. The Zhaleed Empire and its allies were engaged in ferocious fighting again an alien species known as the Serpents. While they were (barely) holding their own, they were suffering tremendous loses in doing do. After analyzing the situation, the Southern Commonwealth offered its support, and began to mobilize its forces.

The Commonwealth's motives in supporting the Empire were threefold. First, coming to their aid in war would provide an excellent beginning to a strong relationship between the two nations. Secondly, the Serpents forward positions were only a few doorways away from the Western Australian Door. While not an imminent threat, it was deemed prudent to push them as far back as possible. Lastly, during the course of the campaign they could establish forward bases on other worlds, giving them a greater presence in the galaxy after the fighting ended.

The entry of Commonwealth forces into the war decisively turned the tide. The Serpents rapidly pulled back to their pre-conflict border, and sued for peace. The Commonwealth and Zhaleed Empire signed a mutual-defense treaty, both pledging to support the other should the Serpents invade again.

Recent Events

For the next twenty years after the re-opening the galaxy was relatively quiet. Alliances and trade deals were formed and broken, and a few minor to moderate skirmishes and conflicts arose, but no major wars were fought. Then five years ago, the Rung-Xanh colony on the outskirts of explored space was wiped out. There were no survivors, and no trace of the attacks - only rubble. Then a second colony suffered the same fate, then a third.

In the aftermath of these attacks governments started to bolster their defenses on outer-rim worlds. Then in 2356 humanity had its first recorded engagement with this new enemy - the Malroid Swarm. At the Battle of the Gordon Flat a joint Southern Commonwealth/Zhaleed Empire force engaged the swarm. While the human force was driven back, they managed to hold long enough for a significant portion of the colonists to evacuate. And they gained vital data on this new enemy, its units, and its terrifying capabilities.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Sierra Foxtrot Phase One Complete

The latest batch of models I had on order have arrived - three more Wolf-Mechs, a few Gila recon buggies for the Southern Commonwealth force, and a Gorilla-Mech. 

The three wolf-mechs were painted yesterday. With these and the transport shuttles for the fusiliers done, the Citadel army is now fully complete. 

For the fusilier unit I'm undecided how I want to handle their transports. While the shuttles clearly must levitate, they could be either a floating grav-skimmer just a few feet off the ground, or a fully airborne vehicle with mobility similar to a helicopter. In the former case they'd be treated as a ground unit, just with high-speed and the Amphibious rule. In the later they'd use the Helicopter rules (or something similar). Obviously makes a big difference in how the army would play, so I'll have to mull over this a bit. Might even playtest both versions, and see which one works better. 

The three new wolf-mechs are finished, giving me seven in total (including the Black Wolf). 

So, with the wolf-knight force complete that means my initial five Sierra Foxtrot armies are almost fully done. The last unit I have to do is the Gila recon ATVs for the Commonwealth. 

Truth be told, these models weren't actually my first choice for the SC recon vehicles. I was initially wanting the Comanche, but as this was out of stock I grabbed the Gila instead. If the Comanche comes back into stock I may buy a couple of those later, and repaint the Gila's as recon for the Zhaleed Empire force.

The last item in my most recent order was a Gorilla Mech. 

This was purchased out of curiosity as a sample - I really like both the Scorpion and Wolf Mech models, so based on that I figured the Gorilla was worth looking at. But having assembled it I can't say the model appeals, and I don't see it being part of a future army. Oh well, it never hurts to try something new.