The Tourney Scene

So I’ve never hidden the fact that I really, REALLY hate tournaments in tabletop games.  With a blinding passion.  It keeps me up at night.  It forces good games into “metas” that leech the fun out of the game.  In my area, Warmachine / Hordes tourneys dominate the scene so much that finding a good casual game takes herculean efforts.  Recently I’ve noticed X-Wing has become rather toxic at times.  Fortunately it hasn’t taken hold in my local area but some of the things you see online.  Well.  Let’s look at this:

TO THE DEATH!

The short version is that there’s a lot of situations at X-Wing tournaments where an intentional draw is to the advantage of both players, and tournament mechanics combined with how FFG has enforced certain wordings has encouraged it.

The short, short version is that people are being rewarded to not play the game.

Now I don’t like games getting to the point where people play ultra competitive, soul crushing lists that don’t bring much fun to the game.  Where they rules lawyer every point bringing in every observer to haggle over the tenth of an inch long after the fun has been sucked away, beaten, dissected, dried up, turned to ash and blown away.  Even by that standard this is farcical.  People can gain an advantage by NOT PLAYING and this hasn’t even been responded to?

I play games for enjoyment.  The only FFG tourney I attended I ended up taking home cards.  After edging out a win in one match and getting WHOMPED in the second.  And I’m fine with that.  I love showing up on nights and playing a couple casual games where people are trying out fun and interesting lists.  Right now even with tourneys all over X-Wing is in a decent place meta-wise.  The new wave has shaken things up and while regionals are up, as well as a charity tourney this weekend, people are flying some interesting stuff.

This isn’t affecting me directly.    I can avoid the LGS on tourney prep nights and during tourneys.  I like playing a couple games a month and weekly play is on tap here, but just knowing this mindset exists is deeply disturbing, and hearing that FFG has even condoned it (hopefully only as a mistake) also disturbs me.

Strangely, the game that seems least affected by all this is 40k.  I know that there is a tourney scene, but you see more leagues than tourneys, partially due to the epically long games that any GW product can generate.  40k and Games Workshop in general is in pretty poor condition, but hey, they don’t have to worry about ugly tourney scenes.  Which is nice.

To wrap up this messy post; tourneys can take a fun game and turn it into a competitive mess.  X-Wing has pretty good meta management, but letting this intentional draw foolishness go on really damages the brand.

Jumping Around a Bit

So while I work out some transitions, here’s a scene with a bit more oomph to it.

Lieutenant Upham called us together.  22 of us, crewing 10 trucks with a handful of the best yokels filling the empty seats.  Still less than 30 of us total.  The trucks were lined up in two chalks, herringboned out on either side of the road.  Even though half the sun was over the horizon, even over the waist high shrubbery that seemed to have replaced grass in this weird climate, the yokel brigade was still struggling to get out of bed.

I focused in on the Lieutenant.  We had already gone over the briefing last night, and nothing had changed since the yokels went to bed, but you never knew if you’d missed something.  The plan was simple.  Drive our armored trucks up the road, pause at the village and provide support while the yokels grabbed the village.  Then we’d sweep around and skirmish forward to grab a crossroads that would let the rest of the division get assembled.  The route was straightforward, recon was nonexistent.  I would ride in Sergeant Mikkelson’s truck.  Last in line.  We ran with a light autocannon in the turret, as well as recovery gear.  We needed that to fill our primary job of dealing with casualties.  Our patrol rolled out as the first Yokel troops started to form up on the road.  We left them coughing on a cloud of dust as we started the 5 miles to the village.  We raced the first mile in a couple of minutes, but the hills forced us to slow down.  An hour later we were still barely coming in sight of the village and the first vehicle had barely started down the last hill when the guns opened up.

A deluge of fire plastered us from the ridge running perpendicular to us south of the village.  Our guns opened up but stacked up on the road and driving straight at them we had a hard time getting more than two sets of guns firing, and at this range we’d be lucky to hit the ground let alone the guns.  Shells fountained the dirt around us.  Upham called out the only orders he could and we raced forward, the Flaks engines pushing the massive bulk of bolted on armor and weapons into a lumbering, brain-rattling drive.  I put my foot in, eyes on the screens linked to the cameras on either side of the truck.  Rotating through the views trying to divine through the clouds of dust, flame, dirt and smoke whether I needed to brake, turn, or just plow forward.  One of the Flaks took a direct hit.  With the sound of an axe splitting a bucket the shell punched through the armor over the bed, then the concussive blast of the charge tearing the back half apart, the vehicle rolled forward, engine undamaged, before rolling off into the bushes.

“Left! left! left!” Mikkelsen called, taking us opposite the damaged truck.  I’d been moving my hands to turn right and quickly corrected, smoothly pulling the truck over unmasking our cannon to take the gunline under fire.  The heavy chook-chook-chook of the autocannon spitting tracers downrange into the flaming muzzle blasts reassured me even as a shell hit close enough to rattle shrapnel off our armor.  We were only a few hundred yards away and as we deployed into line abreast our guns quickly silenced the artillery.  12 guns had been emplaced in scraped out shelters, most of the crews in yokel uniform scattering down the opposite slope of the ridge even as Upham’s truck rolled over the first gun, heavy machine guns blazing down the hill.

“Keep the skeer on ’em!” Upham yelled as our trucks crested the ridge.  We pulled behind our line, leaving them to it as Eyallo moved into the back, getting the tow hooks ready.  We pulled in front of the damaged Flak, Eyallo managed to hook up without even getting out, almost like we designed the system with that in mind, and we hauled it to what had been the command post for the guns.

Upham called out over the platoon push just as we reached the laager, “1 through 4 plus 7 rush the town, the rest of us will go ’round west of town and catch them as they flee, looks like it’s only yokels here and god knows when the infantry will catch up”

“Shit.  L-T wants to win the damn war his own self.  Eyallo unhook that Flak,” he paused to push a button “order of march, 1, 7, 4, 2, 3.  Crags keep that grenade launcher pointed up the upper windows, rest of us watch ground floor, don’t give ’em a chance to aim, just level ’em if you see movement.  Get moving, GO GO GO” he yelled as 1 rolled out as soon as he heard the order.  I was already gassing it and Eyallo barely had time to scramble back to the passenger seat while Mikkelsen reloaded the cannon’s cumbersome clips.  The village was barely a quarter mile away and we took it at a run, the troops in it were facing East, and we were coming in from the south where, only minutes before, friendly artillery had been holding the line.  We hit them before they’d even come up with a plan to deal with the new threat and caught another battery of guns limbered up in the town square.  As soon as we opened fire the garrison of the village lit out for greener pastures.  Most of them never got there, unless you count Elysium.

We still lost another truck.  Tail end charlie got it.  One of the guns managed to get off the limber, and the gun captain, a grizzled old bastard, probably a former merc, had popped a shaped charged shell off, it had buzzed right down the line, missing every truck until it smashed square against the driver’s door on the number 3 truck.  The shaped charge went off, spalling and molten metal rattling around inside the crew cab turning it into a horror of burnt, bleeding dead meat.  The Flak seemingly stunned by the demise of its crew, shuddered to a halt.  Before it stopped the gun captain exploded as 2 trucks heavy machine guns turned him and his crew into pink mist.

We pushed on past the town, meeting up with the rest of the patrol.  Upham’s crews were trading shots with the last guns of the hostile Yokel’s artillery battalion.  We didn’t dare cross the three miles to them, and with two broke trucks and damage to the others starting to pass from “inconvenient” to “dangerous” we decided to hook up the damaged trucks and fall back on the advancing friendly brigade.  We didn’t hook up too fast.  By the timeline the Yokels should already be assaulting the village and we expected them to show over the crest of the ridge east of town any minute now, but once we were hooked up we moved out.

The drive back was odd.  Upham was in the lead, we were second, barely any dust screening our view.  No sounds of gunfire ahead, but no communications with the yokels.  We drove faster than we had on the drive out, even towing two trucks and with a couple others hammered by shells to where their alignment barely let them drive straight.  Barely a mile from where we’d started we ran into the Yokels.  A Major flagged us down, manning a checkpoint on the road with almost two platoons of troops behind sandbags, with heavy weapons, a radio, and trailers with the smell of fresh food conveniently at hand.

“Brigadier Moltz decided to halt the march.  The troops are tired from yesterday and he though marching through the hills and then fighting a battle would be too much to ask for, especially with the sounds of the fighting we heard!”

Upham said nothing.  3 dead, 2 wounded, and a wounded yokel in return for two thirds of a battalion of guns and a shattered couple of yokel battalions and our own guys give it up for a siesta.  I looked back to see Eyallo turning from dark brown to nearly purple.

“Easy, E.  Long as they pay us we fight the war for ’em.  Help me patch up Red and Sonny back there in 8 and get the Yokel turned over to these yahoos.  God help him.”

Something Different: Getting Dirty

I grew to hate the flak in a hurry.  Do you know how many lubrication points a vehicle that size has?  How many potential leaks, cracks, whines, creaks and bumps that you need to check for?  After a while I started to wonder how this vehicle had such an awesome reputation.  It’s a rare vehicle that looks good when you’ve been staring at it from below for 6 hours trying to figure out where the hydraulic fluid is coming from.  That was after only two days.

The ship was leaving the next day.  Nearly forty of us going to various companies, even three to the Vedettes.  The roughhousing had stopped, between the threats and the humiliation of the first group, and the larger numbers of people the idiots kept their peace.  That and being so damn tired all the time.  I watched my back but honestly it seemed like a wasted effort.  We’d learned how to move in our gear, how to safely carry weapons, not that they gave us weapons, simply heavy rubber mock ups, but if you flashed the muzzle over anyone they made you do push ups until you were too tired to lift the muzzle high enough to “flag” someone anyway.  I figured it was a good idea even if it resulted in me spending an hour holding a 6 pound weapon at arms length for an hour for my own mistake.  Try it sometime.

We were all in our racks for the grav deck test.  Apparently running around if the thing spikes to 4g leaves a bit of a mark.  Naturally after a two hour buildup and lying flat on our backs, still as a corpse for another hour, we felt absolutely nothing and went on about our day.  The training shifted in those last hours.  We spent most of the time in the classroom learning the laws of land warfare.  The actual codes were simple.  The implications were not.  Some things they drilled into us over and over and over and over.

“Do not surrender to yokels.  Ever.  Always surrender to mercs.  Mercs follow the rules.  Yokels have their own and they do not like us.  Especially the ones that didn’t hire us.  Your fellow mercenaries, even the ones on the other side, have a vested interest in making sure the rules are followed.  They will ensure that in the event of your situation becoming untenable, that you are repatriated to your comrades based on the conditions of your bond.  For most of you that’s return as close to immediately as makes no difference, some of you that means being sent to a neutral world, like New Paris where you can arrange to return to your unit.  It never means a bullet in the back of the neck.”

“Never?”  One of the skinny kids in the back.  A farm kid from a company farm who had heard a lot of lines and farmed a lot of food he’d never get to eat.

“It did happen once.  Marko Rubaric’s Retaliators lived up to their name.  During a prolonged siege they captured several members of other companies.  When they couldn’t lift the siege they executed them.  Publicly.  The Bonding corporation immediately voided their contract, their bond, and all their escrows, and used most of that money to bring in the big boys.  Marko, all of his officers and about 2/3 of his men were killed and the few survivors are still doing hard labor.  The only ones that avoided any punishment were off planet support staff, and even they were barred from mercenary employment.  Planets that mistreat mercs often run into trouble, and usually their own mercs abandon them, but fire someone up over a flag or a cross or who knows what and they get stupid.  Stick to money people, and don’t trust anyone who ain’t another merc.”

We learned the esoterica of laws on some of these planets.  On Levant I wouldn’t be able to drive.  On Masada the men couldn’t shave unless gas attacks were believed imminent.  Many of these laws got ignored as impractical but what it meant was that when we weren’t fighting, we were mostly in our own enclaves, especially on worlds settled by people fleeing what they saw as persecution.  We learned how to search and secure detainees.  We learned a lot of first aid and survival skills.  We learned, we learned, we learned.  Somewhere in this mess the ship lifted and headed to New Crimea.  We all crowded the tiny observation bubble when it came time to jump.  The ship thrust out to the small point in space that let it violate the laws of physics, then the impression of a wave of bluish-violet light swept over the outside of the ship, and we were in the New Crimean system.

New Crimea started as something unusual.  A mix of ethnicities, Tartars, Ukranians, Chechens, Belorussians, Armenians, pretty much everyone but the Slavs, who were busy killing the ethnically unpure, had managed to get the UN to ship them out to a world that wasn’t too awful.  Over the course of a decade nearly 3 million people were shipped to New Crimea, and they took advantage of their skills with the land to do the one thing New Crimea seemed capable of doing.  Growing a shit ton of food.  Most planets struggled to be self-sufficient.  New Crimea was exporting food before the last of the “original” colonists shuffled off the ship.  Of course the biggest buyer of their food was inevitably, Russia.  The same slavs who wanted to give them only a swift death now were selling them whatever they wanted, and most of what they wanted was implements of death and destruction themselves, never wanting to be in the boat they were in to give up their homes in the first place.

Now New Crimea has plenty of food and lots of guns, Earth begins its final slide into barbarity as Russia cannot feed its people and the US politicians can no longer lie to enough people to keep order.  The outer planets, mostly colonized with the annoying minorities that the great powers couldn’t stand had lost their entire support system.  So they all banded together and worked to ensure that everyone had enough to survive, if not thrive.

Alternatively a couple of the fastest thinkers started hiring “Surplus Population” as mercenaries, arming them, and sending them to planets with valuable resources, not so much minerals or farmland, but factories capable of building technology, or even ships.  New Crimea was one of these planets.  Soon they realized the real money wasn’t in employing mercenaries, but in arming them, supplying them, and providing them with financial services, including escrows to make sure they got paid, and didn’t cheat their employers.  Now there was a whole subcontinent more or less set aside for mercenary training, arming, shipping, and all the myriad support services that kept them happily shooting, somewhere else.

We landed and shuffled off, one duffle bag on our back, one on our front and one awkwardly perched on top of the one on our back.  We were corralled through a pathway to a gauntlet of NCOs in myriad uniforms.  A slightly overweight corporal with a 5 o’clock shadow in the uniform of the Vedettes beckoned me over and helped me toss my bags onto a small 4×4.  Grabbing the others from our ship he told the driver of the 4×4 where to take our bags and took us back on the ship to get our trucks.

Quick Update

So my old keyboard was throwing tantrums.  Some of the keys were doubling or not entering inputs at all, I cleaned it with air, I removed the keys and cleaned the contacts, nothing worked.  SO I splurged, spent some birfday monies and got me a sexy new Blackwidow Chroma keyboard.

TOMORROW you get this weeks story update.  MONDAY or TUESDAY you get next weeks.  SOMETIME next week you get my thoughts spurred by an interesting conversation with my dad (a longtime attorney) on how much fun it would be to pick a non lawyer/judge for the open supreme court seat.

Something Different – There’s Plenty of Space, up in Space!

The ship wasn’t anything to be proud of.  A simple tramp freighter of a design that had proved almost completely un-economical.  Originally, spheres had dominated designs, it offered the best volume to surface area ratio.  Then some wag had remembered that these spheres had to bludgeon through atmosphere and someone else pointed out that most cargo traveled in shipping containers that just didn’t fit into spheres very well and suddenly there’s dozens of ships selling cheap because they are barely worth operating.

SMS Pinafore was one of these obsolescent ships.  A mostly broken down hauler of miscellaneous bits of cargo that didn’t require much speed or delicate handling.  Perfect for fresh mercenary recruits on their way to their units.  Once I walked up the ramp, duffle slung from my shoulder, I was greeted at the hatch with a grunt and an outstretched hand.  I reached to shake hands and the man laughed.

“Right missy, look I just need your order chip to see who is nursemaiding you for this run.”  He offered his hand again.  I handed him the chip, he swiped it with his datapad “Right, you’re in B group.  In the hatch, straight down the hall, last door on the left then last door on the right.  When you realize you’re lost look for anyone in a green jumpsuit and tell them you’re in B group, right off you go!” he chirped out the last with some cheer, and slumped back against the frame of the hatch.

I walked down the hall, the low ceiling and wide corridor making me uneasy as I paced its length.  I felt sure I must have walked out the far side of the ship by the time I turned left, and the right turn was almost immediate.  “B Group?”  I ventured to the back of the man at the desk by the door.

“Steel on target missy, orders?”  He held out his hand as he turned, a solid slab of a man, built like a retaining wall, with a face behind a mustache so well groomed I wondered if he took it off at night to preserve it.  He smiled to himself, humming a martial ditty as he swiped my orders.  “The Vedettes!  Damn good outfit.  I’ve seen them on many a field, they’ll do right by you I expect.  Hmmm….. let’s see, coveralls, utility kit, ‘tronics kit give your scores, field gear, and looks like you’re down for extra cold weather training?  Oh right, damn Finns.  Take this to the shop at the back, check everything before you sign for it then find yourself a rack.  I’d give you the tour but I can’t find my legs right now.  Damn pranksters” He swiveled his chair around so I could see the stumps of his legs.  “They think I won’t get them back.”  His smile turned to that of a hunting cat and I took a few steps back before mumbling my thanks.  I walked across the bay, the back wall curved down and to the left, apparently my group was in the edge of the sphere.  A bored looking heavyset woman looked up as I walked to her cage.  I handed her the form the man at the desk had handed me.

“Waitrightheremissy.”  She didn’t move, then breathed in deeply  “I’llgetcherstuffforya”  She waited again then shuffled off, wheezing.  I looked around the bay.  A double line of bunks sheltered under the curve of the wall, fans hung from the ceiling, and back towards the central corridor a partition blocked off most of the area, not a permanent bulkhead.  I squinted at the doors, able to make out “Latrine” on one, “Classroom” on another, but the last I couldn’t quite make out.  A hacking cough turned me around to see the woman swing a heavy plastic basket onto the counter.

“Dufflebag.  Check”  She opened the bag and handed it to me.

“Coveralls, 4.  Check” She shoved the four garments in the bag.

“Boots, 2 pair.  Check”  She clomped the boots on the counter, then waited for me to dump them in the bag.  She sighed as I placed them on the ground next to me.

“Utility belt.  Check”

“Electroncs kit.  Check”

Wet Weather gear, cold weather gear, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, underwear, liners, covers, cleaning kits, mess kits, it seemed the basket was bottomless, and the slow diction and action of the woman made it seem like twice as much.  Grandad had warned me about this moment.  I checked everything again before signing.  Half of what I’d been given was worn down, torn, or missing pieces.  The electronics kit was so damaged it wasn’t worth the bag she’d handed me.  She glared daggers at me for every piece I asked her to replace, and she shuffled off to the back to replace the items I’d rejected even more slowly.  The whine of electronics announced the powered chair of the man at the desk.  “Christ, Mary and their little dog she tried to fleece you blind.  Oye, you’d better get it right this time!  The goal isn’t to try to kill these people before they even get to their companies you damned skinflint!”

He insisted on checking everything I was issued, including the things that I’d accepted.  I spent the next hour waiting on the two to argue out their differences.  Lucy and Jeremiah went at it hammer and tongs while I sat back and folded acceptable items for storage.  Eventually I had everything on the list and a few things that weren’t but the other two showed no signs of stopping their argument, so I edged back and to the side.  I locked my bags in a footlocker bolted to the floor, then headed to the latrine.  The other door was labelled “Range” and had an array of locks and clipboards on it.

The Latrine was a large and public affair, toilets, urinals and showers all clustered around the complicated pumps and filters needed to recycle water and keep it flowing.  I washed up and came out to see a group of three at the counter, two men and a woman, all skinny, grubby looking kids.  They looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t put names to them.  They took bunks as far from mine as possible and played cards together, glancing at me as I read on my pad.  Lucy and Jeremiah kept to themselves and around 9, without a word, walked out and turned off the lights.  I read for a bit longer before getting up to use the latrine, checking my things in the footlocker and going to sleep.

I woke up to a loud crash and a cry of pain.  In an instant I was up and behind my bunk.  The two boys had trapped on a line I’d strung up at the base of my bunk.  The room was pitch black, and the two were tangled up in each other and on the line.  I slipped around the bunk and waited for them to start moving, I swept my leg hard at ankle height and took them down again, before throwing myself down on them with elbows and fists riding my advantage ruthlessly.  I’d learned long ago that depending on the kindness of others was nice but that pain taught more permanent lessons.  I dragged them across the floor, using the pad as a flashlight, and tied them to their bunks with my line.

At four in the morning a new voice shattered the darkness.

“SCUUUUUUUM!”

The lights came on with the kind of intensity usually seen in close orbits of the sun, shouts, grunts and a scream echoed from the other side of the room.  I stood up as straight as I could.

“WHAT IN THE NAME OF CAESAR’S LEGIONS ACHING SOULS IS GOING ON HERE?”  He bellowed at the two boys tied to their beds.  “WHAT KIND OF FREAKY SHIT ARE YOU BOYS INTO?”  He yelled looking down on the bruised and beaten faces still tied to their beds.  “YOU HAVE EXACTLY ONE MINUTE TO GET OUT UP AND AT ATTENTION FUCKNUCKLES!”

He turned his attention to the girl and I “And you ladies!  There’s green tape on the floor marking out a route.  You have 30 seconds to get into fatigues and start running that tape.  10 laps.  MOVE!”  The girl was out the door 10 seconds before me.  The boys were still struggling.  I hadn’t made it easy for them to escape.  The route wound around the ship like a snake, up and down ladders, with arrows indicating the direction of travel.  I figured it was about half a klick, I was well into my fourth lap, and well behind the girl, before I saw the boys.  They were staggering a bit, with rope marks on their arms.  They avoided my glance as I passed them in the halls.

After the run the man that woke us up was lounging in his chair at the desk.  “Fair time, fair time.  Wash up, breakfast is in the galley.  Back across the main hall, first door on your right once you get across.  We start at 0630 so move!”

The boys didn’t make it to breakfast.  We sat in a classroom where they munched on a couple biscuits the instructor?  Drill Sergeant?  Asshole?  had brought them.

“Now I don’t know what happened last night.  I don’t care what happened last night.  If anything like it happens again I’m throwing all of you out the nearest hatch in whatever you are wearing whether we’re here or in hyperspace, capiche?”

We nodded.  He sighed and hung his head.  “Yes?  No?  Fuck you?”

“yes…” we mumbled.  He sighed again but let it go.

“This ain’t like the movies.  You’re all on contracts and have bonds posted.  You can walk away at any time and only forfeit your bond.  Yes you will get screamed at and it will be hard and if you are endangering anyone you can and will be summarily shot, but in general you will be treated a lot better than the soldiers you see in the vids.  You will also be expected to do more than you ever expected.  Every bedroll, tent, cot, meal, and drink of water comes from somewhere.  Every bullet, band aid and bean has to be carried out there.  And paid for.  You will do more with less than even the rudest colony world could prepare you for and that starts with training.  Sometimes you get to your unit and the first thing you do is get in a convoy and drive down a hot road through ambushes and bombs to link up with your unit.  You have to know enough to live long enough to get there, so every unit pools together some resources to train folks on the way, with retreads like myself, Jeremiah, and even Lucy to chivvy you along.  Today we set up your gear, and integrate a few latecomers.  This evening you meet your new best friends.

The next few hours were spent assembling the gear we’d been issued.  Then helping the 8 new folks, 6 guys and three more girls, with all their gear.  It all had to go together in identical assemblies, and we added first aid gear, and empty magazines to it.  The reason we put it all together the same?  If you find a body and need his first aid kit, you need to know where to look.  We ate a hurried lunch as we finished the task of assembling our kit, then threw on packs and belts and raced downstairs.

“The Fleming and Karkov 8-wheel 8-ton truck.  Affectionately known as the Flak 88.  Story goes that for every tank, plane, truck and man destroyed by the old Flak, this one has saved 10.  It’s a heavy utility vehicle, that serves as a command post, a recovery vehicle, a scout vehicle, a forward observer, a prime mover for field guns, a fuel or water truck, and even a supply vehicle.  The crew cab seats 5, driver, TC, gunner and two specialists, usually 1 on commo one doing whatever, and the back can carry up to 50 people, or more if you don’t like them, a fighting compartment for up to 5 more weapons, 8 tons of cargo, a mobile command center, a 5,000 gallon tank of water or gas, or a generator big enough to jump start this ship.  Every unit in the galaxy uses it and so, before you leave this ship, you will learn how to use every piece of equipment to maintain and operate this beast”

 

 

Swiss Watches make Poor Broadswords

So back in WWII the allies and the Axis had very differing philosophies on how to equip their Armies.  The allies tended to prefer simpler, more mobile designs that were sufficient to their needs, whereas the Axis built the most advanced weapon they could manage.  This mostly applied to the Germans but the Italians and Japanese both had weapons, planes, and especially warships that were… overengineered.  Let’s look at tanks though, specifically the Tiger vs. the Sherman and T-34.  The Tiger was the terror of WWII.  A heavy tank with superb firepower and very tough armor it had as much of a psychological impact as a physical one on the battlefield, but it came at a price.

The Sherman and T-34 were humbler, more workmanlike vehicles but they did the job, and they stayed on the job.  They fit into the support structure, and while they had their quirks, they didn’t tax the rear echelons or impair the units they were supporting with low operational rates.  Their guns were sufficient for the job, and their armor generally kept them in the field.

The Tiger had problems.  Even a normal Tiger required more spares, mechanics and fuel than a Panzer IV, and the Tiger II battalions needed almost enough trucks to support a conventional panzer division.  While this alone didn’t do much to defeat Nazi Germany, it didn’t help.  Combined with other “wonder weapon” programs like the Me 262, the supersized artillery, and the Porsche family of tanks, it certainly didn’t help the resource starved Reich.

But all this is old news.  The Good Guys won, the Bad Guys lost.  Surely no nation would be so silly as to repeat those mistakes, and devote their national treasure to building useless, vain super-project weapons again.  Especially during peace!

Well you’d be wrong.  Not only are we building aircraft that we can ill afford, but they are the wrong aircraft, spread over too many missions they can do almost none of them well, mostly not as well as the aircraft they are replacing, and many requirements are simply unfulfilled.  Added to that are fresh fleets of supercarriers, and one of which outnumbers every other supercarrier on the planet.  Then there’s the tanks we build surplus to the needs, wants, or capabilities of our Army to maintain, the transport aircraft or the sad and sorry state of our field artillery and army aviation assets, which lack the training and doctrine to do their job, and in the case of our aviation assets seem to be deficient in even basic levels of training based on the number of accidents lately.

Helicopters fall out of the sky with alarming regularity, and the artillery uses tactics and doctrine that may work well in limited operations in Iraq but would doom even the soldiers facing the decrepit North Korean army to a thorough pasting at the hands of better organized and doctrinally superior artillery Divisions  We don’t go higher than a fires brigade, and our fire units, batteries and battalionnns, are smaller to boot. By organizing larger units of artillery into larger artillery units the “Soviet” model sacrifices some flexibility to gain crushing advantages in firepower and gives artillery officers more prestige by offering them the chance to proceed into higher commands, pushing more and better officers into this branch.

We have devolved into an acquisition-oriented military which places the expensive and difficult to block weapons and support structure (bases, supply and maintenance contracts, and or course the weapons themselves) ahead of the good of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who will be using them.  We protect the military budget with patriotism and wrap it in a flag, not noticing that training, safety, and soldier care are being cut to the bone while we buy more and more expensive and worthless weapons without regard for those who will be asked to use them.

We have built a military armed with the fanciest Swiss watches, and now that we cannot give it infinite funds we are keeping the fancy watches and not bothering to train our men in how to use them.  I hope they never have to.  If they do I hope we have enough to replace the ones that break, and the people broken by the failings of their tools.

Something Different – Departures

First off – I will come up with a title.  At some point.  I plan on running this for three or four months if I can keep it interesting.  Please make suggestions in the comments!

I woke up to the smell of fried eggs and potatoes.  Grandad made it for us every day we were out there.  Everything smelled great and tasted better.  I rolled out of bed and bounded down the stairs pulling on my robe.  Grandad grunted his greeting without even turning from the stove.  A small box was on the table, one I’d seen before in his workshop out back, but had never really looked in.

I poured coffee for both of us, pouring in the cream and sugar liberally.  I sat in the big chair next to grandad’s, pulling my knees up under my chin.  Grandad turned and scooped a generous helping of eggs and potatoes onto my plate, giving himself another large portion.

“Eat hearty, could be a long day and ships rations aren’t likely to taste this good”

“You’re assuming I’m even going”

He looked at me “It’s a little early for Bullshit.  But not for hard truth.  Let’s stick to that.”  He pushed the box over to me with his mug.  I looked in.  It looked like the normal detritus one finds in a parts shop.  An old belt with a bulky buckle, like a flip off seat belt almost.  A sealed envelope.  With an old fashioned wax seal, the inevitable piece of string, a rolled up bag strapped closed.  I poked around, and found a data stick underneath the letter.  I looked at grandad who had eaten most of his food and stared at the rest with eyes focused miles away.

“It’s… interesting.”

“Eat your food.  I’ll explain most of it.”  He grabbed the rolled up bag and untied the knot.  It unrolled revealing a bizarre collection of small tools, some from a dentists kit, some electronics cleaning tools, as well as a couple of small bottles.  “Keep your weapon and ammunition clean at all times.  Get inside it and clean it.  Check it every time you pick it up.  If your ammo has been sitting in the mags for a couple days, pull it out and clean it.  A misfeed can be ammo as much as the action.”  He grabbed the belt.  Poking and twisting it popped the cover off the buckle.

“If you ever surrender, and you will, surrender to mercs.  Indigs will probably kill you out of hand and will damn sure be slow to honor your bond and get you back to your unit.  You need to be doubly careful being a woman.”  He looked at me fore a second.  I knew what he was implying, and he knew it but he couldn’t send me off not telling me.  He pulled out a glistening, metallic coil.  It glittered subtly in the well lit kitchen;  “This little beauty is a diamond saw.  Will go right through cuffs and works as a brutal little garrote.  It’s been used and I’d rather it be used again if you find yourself where I was.  The data stick has some information regarding planets I’ve been on and people I know.  Some of them are friendly enough.  Helpful like even.  Some of them are to be avoided if you can.  The letter is for Virgil.  Give it to him when you report to the unit.  It’s got some things he should know about you and some of the other folks we used to know.  Now finish your eggs, it’s a long drive to town”

I looked down to find most of my food gone.  The rest I shoveled down.  Grandad already had a duffle bag packed for me.  The ubiquitous green bag mercs and soldiers carried since time before time it seemed.  The top sat open and I put the re-rolled bag in, ran upstairs to grab the sturdy outfit I had picked out, buckled on my new belt and my comfortable boots.  I came back down and grandad tossed me a battered old hat.  “It’s called a Ushanka.  Warm as hell ad pretty comfortable.  Last I heard Virgil’s was on Uusi Helsinki, and damned if the Finns didn’t find a colder place to live than they started.”

The truck rolled easily over the graveled roads around grandad’s house, although the racket precluded any conversation.  Further from his house the road gave way to tracks, just a path, or barely a suggestion of a path between grandad’s power farm and the colony.  Mostly a pair or tracks worn down beneath the transmission lines.  The hour long drive gave me time to think.  Very likely I was leaving today and who knew if and when I’d come back.  Rocks rattled off the bottom of the truck and thoughts rattled through my head.  Finally we turned onto the hardball road on the edge of Spaceport.

“I think the only thing louder than the rocks was the gears grinding in that thick skull of yours.”

“There’s a bit to think about grandad.”

“Aye, there is.  But do your thinking now.  Once you’re in the field it’s time to do.”

We passed the gate into Mr. Neuheisel’s establishment.  A nice enough front with a decent house and a dilapidated barracks building adjacent to it.  A large spherical container ship sat behind the compound, exhaling steam onto the poured tarmac.  Grandad parked the truck out front and grabbed the duffle, helping me sling it over my shoulder.  “I’ll have a word with Neuheisel, but you’re being watched from here on out.  If people don’t think you need help, they won’t try to make you need it, if you take my meaning.”

I nodded, brain whirring but not fully processing anything.  This was it.  We walked into Neuheisel’s.  A nondescript office, with plain but comfortable chairs, several terminals, and badges from half the mercenary outfits in the sector.  “Neuheisel!” Grandad bellowed.  “Get out here, unless peace has broken out for good!”

“Not likely Mr. Dunnett, not likely ‘tall” he said, coming out of the back room.  “And Miss Dunnett as well I see.  Good to see you, our newest Vedette, eh?  Well let’s get the paperwork out of the way”

He flopped into a chair and pulled out an electronic pad, a few strokes and he neatly reversed it.  I slid into the chair “Yes sir” I said, my voice firm, but slow.  I read carefully, while Grandad asked for news of the wars.  Things had been quiet for a while but everyone expected it to change, and soon.  All the companies were hiring, but no one knew where the flame of war would catch on.

“Like a forest fire after a dry season, it’s always worse when it’s dry and there hasn’t been a good burn for a while.”  Neuheisel intoned.  “And how’s the miss doing with her paperwork?”

I thumbed the last few signatures in.  “Done sir!”  I said turning the pad back with a flourish that nearly spilled it onto the ground.  Neuheisel managed an awkward catch.  He paged through to check everything.  “Good, good, Mr. Dunnett are you fronting the bond?”

“I am”

“Well then, send it around whenever.  I don’t imagine your granddaughter will need it, will you Recruit Dunnett?”  And with that I was a Vedette and ready for my ship.

soon I’ll hit my GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL

So one of the important things to have in any sort of a game is a goal.  In World of Tanks my goal since November has been a 1k WN8 by my birthday.  Right now It’s at 992 and I might hit it this weekend instead of next.  GG me.  So what to set for my next goal?  I’m considering a couple of options.  It depends on how much control I want to have over my success really.

Two Tier 10s this year – Attainability 10, reward 7, effort 8.  Lots of grinding here, but I’m relatively close to the T110E5, the IS-7 and the AMX 50B, all of which are reputed to be very fun.

1200 WN8 by New Years – Attainability 7, reward 6, effort 9.  I’ll have to play better on average and play a LOT to get there.  Still it would bump me up another tier in WN8, which would be quite an achievement where I’m at in the game right now.

Get Digital.Flash.Fire to a viable place – Attainability 3, Reward 10, effort 10.  This one I feel like I have the least control over, yet it requires the most work.  To get it successful we have to have that breakout moment, that breakout video, or new channel that brings in new people, it also requires not only consistent play in WoT, but also in other games to draw in interest from new communities and to keep things fresh.  It also requires good cooperation with Matt, who is a great friend, and always will be, but has been known to lose faith in projects over time.  All of these are mutually supporting goals, which is nice, so I don’t necessarily have to choose one, but I must say I am leaning towards some tier 10s as my first priority.

I also want to do more work here on the blog.  The biggest thing will be the story series continuing on Mondays.  Depending on the reception I may turn it into a larger project even.  It is a fun series to work on and I look forward to continuing it.

I did a bad thing

Like many people, I play games for fun.  I play them to relax, I play them to separate from my humdrum existence and experience something outside the dull routine.  Much of my day consist of being yelled at by little old ladies who cannot do the simple arithmetic required to balance their checkbooks.

Playing games, whether it’s EvE, Lotro, FF, or tonks, allows me to escape.  It allows me to do something fun, that isn’t being yelled at by idiots.  Which resulted in me going off a bit this weekend.

One gentlemen decided to start ripping into me when I wasn’t doing enough to carry the team while I was playing Artillery.  Let me get this out of the way right now, I hate artillery, I hate playing it, I hate getting hammered by it, I think it needs to be totally redone if not removed, but I love getting female crew members so I’m stuck with it.  I had actually done a bit of damage and gotten a kill, however I accidentally hit a friendly, finishing him off.  Now arty is nastily inaccurate, and these things happen.  I immediately apologized and the guy was totally cool with it.  But the asshats started whining in chat, one in particular had been crying the whole match about people not doing enough to support him, or drawing fire to his position or who knows what else.

So I deliberately shot him.  Finishing him off.  Not the best thing I could have done, but frankly, I play this game for fun.  Shitting up chat and whining about your team not doing enough doesn’t win games.  I tend to do one of three things.  Not talk at all (90% of the time), encourage people and try to positively draw them out (9.99%) or rage and wreck.  (0.01%).  Sunday I hit that 0.01%.  I blasted that guy.  And I’d do it again.

Something Different – Part 1

I never knew why grandad looked up at the stars.  It seemed a weird thing for him to do.  I mean.  He went to the stars.  He spent two dozen years or more in one mercenary company or another.  And yet every time we went out to the country where his rambling old ranch house stood, he would be out there every night.  Staring at the stars.

One summer.  After I finished school, I went out there alone.  I asked Da for the keys to the truck.  Told him I wanted to visit grandad.  He looked at me for a long minute, then went to the drawer, fished out the keys and handed them to me without a word.  I took them gravely and, three or four hours later, I drove past the last of the windmills on his power farm to find him out back.  Staring at the stars.

“Hoi, grandad” I said, waving as I walked down the path to the fence he perched on.

“Hoi yersself” he said.  Looking up, scanning back and forth.

I leaned on the fence near him, trying to look at the same stars as him, trying to see what he was looking at.  After a while the night sky seemed to fade from a deep black to a blue as my eyes adjusted.  The stars seemed clearer.  I still couldn’t see what he was looking at.

“Grandad, What do you look for at night anyway?”

“What did you talk to Mr. Neuheisel about in town yesterday?”

I coughed as panic grabbed my chest.

“Oh come now missy, you don’t think grandad keeps up with the recruiter?  I’m old but you don’t get old by being stupid, come on.  Tell your grandad”

I looked down for a second.  The grass waved at me in the night breeze.  The nearest light might have been from the now forgotten stars.  He knew.

“Well, I got my test scores back, I wanted to know what he thought of them”

“Naturally.  Every little girls first stop is at the local merc meat finder’s shop to see how they scored”

I shuddered.  This wasn’t how I saw this trip going at all.

“Grandad…”

“Calm yourself.  I’m not blaming you.  It’s only natural after all.  Lord knows it’s the first place I headed.”

“He called you?”

Grandad laughed, there was even some humor in it.  “Damn right he did.  Course he knows if he puts one of my kin on a ship without talkin’ to me…”

“Oh grandad, he wouldn’t do that”

“The hell he wouldn’t.  Bastard gets a piece of every ass he puts in a seat, yours same as anyone’s.  Don’t you forget it either.  Minute you step onto one of those ships the only person gives a damn about you… is you”

I looked over at him.  His head was held higher, his shoulders back, his jaw set.  I thought for a minute, then I asked him “What did he tell you?”

He looked over at me now, a glint in his eye.  “Second smart thing you’ve said tonight.  He told me a list of the outfits you matched up with.”

“Did he tell you that I could go to Condor Legion?”

“Yeah.  And I told him you wouldn’t.”

I almost fell over.  “But… you were in Condor?”

“Aye.  And I left.  I told him to hold a post in Virgil’s Vedettes.”

I wrinkled my nose.  I’d heard the name but when I saw the size and rating I didn’t bother looking up anything else.  The Vedettes were a battalion sized unit, less than 800 men, they usually handled support contracts for the big outfits.  Convoy escort, garrison duty, the kind of stuff that made working in da’s electronics shop look exciting.

“But, Why?”

“Virgil and me go way back.  He trains his people, he invests in them.  You may not save a world, but you’ll learn things that’ll save your hide.  Virgil makes half his money when the big companies buy out the contracts of his people so they can replace their losses with well trained, competent troops.”

“And he’ll keep me out of trouble.”

His teeth shined in the dark “And he’ll keep you out of some trouble, granddaughter of mine.”

I looked up again.  “So… what are you seeing up there?”

“Back to your first smart question.  Well, you’ll learn soon enough, I may as well tell you.  I’m looking at the stars I buried friends at.  Thirty or more suns I’ve fertilized the soil with the body of a friend.  I hope something useful comes of it.  Come on in, we’ll get you a good breakfast then I’ll drive you back to Neuheisel’s in the morning.  If you ask nicely I’ll even take the truck back to your old man’s.”

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