Gamers Gonna Game

It’s that time of year again when the Games Workshop releases their financials and the community explodes with rumours that they’re going under, that Hasbro will buy them out, that they’re woefully out of touch and they can basically go fuck themselves.

I freely admit to being guilty of this to some degree in the past. I’m the first to admit that I gripe about the pricing model either on The Shell Case or on Of Dice & Men (I promise there’ll be another episode up soon!) with some regularity. And I stand by those comments. The models are expensive. But you know what? I still play their games and I still pay their prices so who’s the bigger mug?

Reading Twitter today I was quite shocked by some of the comments that wargamers were making. Whilst I’m sure similar comments were made 6 months ago and the 6 months before that and so on, I’ve just never noticed until now.

For a hobby that is as inclusive as ours I’m bummed out to see so many people are willing the company to fail. People that moved to Warmachine or other game systems as an act of protest or to spite the Games Workshop – as if the Games Workshop knows each and every one of us and gives a shit what we do, say or think – berate for playing Games Workshop games and celebrate every penny lost in profit as a personal victory. And before I get pelted with angry comments I have to point out that no company genuinely gives a shit what we do, say or think. Not truly. If they did the XBox One would be free and delivered on a velvet pillow by the glamour model of my choice (don’t pretend I’m the only one who made the suggestion on the forums).encourage

I play Games Workshop games. I play the games they discontinued too and whilst I really wish they hadn’t canned Battlefleet Gothic and Mordheim, I understand why they did. But as I say, my understanding, my compliance or even consent is not required. Just my acceptance because there’s sod all I can do about it. Because I’ll live a longer happier life if I do. And not because they’ll send the Black Ships for me otherwise.

But I also play other games. I love Mantic’s Dreadball. Although they’ve been in a case for a while , I really enjoy Dystopian Wars and Firestorm Armada. I love X-Wing. And Studio McVey’s Sedition Wars, and lots more games beside. Whilst I’m not a fan of the Warmachine fluff or the sculpting style I can appreciate the quality of the game. And I know I ‘bash on it’ during episodes of Of Dice & Men, but it is all in jest. I honestly don’t give a monkeys what games people play. All I care about is everyone having fun.

Games nights with The Chaps – good and dear friends all – are a bevy of game systems and that’s cool because the key ingredient is we’re having a giggle. Good games, good models, good mates and good banter. What more could you possibly want. Apart from maybe the aforementioned glamour model to serve light refreshments. But you can’t win them all.

The point is this, before arguments break out – and I’ve seen it happen – just let it go. I urge all to stop sabre rattling. To stop clamouring for a company’s demise when that company not only represents a lot of enjoyment but people’s livelihoods as well. It is callous to forget that there are folk, just like you and I, doing a job there. A select few make the decisions that impact on us and whether or not we agree with those decisions, the majority shouldn’t be punished. Yes people are entitled to and should have opinions and yes they should be discussed but let’s remember the object of the exercise is not to win at all costs, or to be nasty or snide or bitter or resentful for some imagined slight. We have zero rights. Zero say. You’re a director or a board member you have as much entitlement to piss and moan as you have to tell me what colour socks to wear.

DontBeADickYes it’s frustrating that prices go up. Yes Games Workshop have us over a barrel and yes they know it. But the reality is this: play their games or don’t. Pay their prices or don’t. Just don’t be a dick about it.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Some of you may be aware that I have been on sabbatical/hiatus/break/time out whatever you want to call it. I have been taking some personal time or rather dealing with real life which generally happens when you’re trying to finish a high level diploma, buy a house, look after a 1-year-old have a heavily pregnant wife and have the workload from hell in your day job. All this meant I have to stop doing what I like doing…go on Phil make a comment…[I don't know what you mean? - Ed.] Now he’s got that out of his system…

With all that going on I took a break from hobby writing and doing to finish the one thing I had some sort of control over my Diploma which is now all but done hooray. So I thought I would celebrate with a quick “Mat’s Hobby update”.

What have I been up to? Well I have in the last few months streamlined my hobby collection, found a treasure trove of old school miniatures, started getting into Warhamster, and jump armies around a bit. So as you can tell I’ve not been idle on the hobby front despite the work load.

Streamlining how on earth did you do that Mat?

Honestly by being ruthless and realistic, I bought a lot at Salute as Phil and Lee can testify to. Much of this has now been sold. However much I friggin love the Death Guard (Heresy Era) and however much I want to do a loyalist army my tastes are just too rich and although I dearly love them, my Deathshroud were the first for the chop. Although I’ve not actually sold them yet. I just can’t seem to let them go. But I will… Closely followed by my Tau… Yes, yes I know how I went on about being gay for the little blue dudes but by the time I’d put together about 2,000 points worth I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve kept my Pathfinders as I want to create a kill team with them but more on that later. Dystopian Wars was next to go having not played it or painted it and honestly I couldn’t ever see it getting any time on my table (saying that I’m loving some of the new stuff).

So still hanging on in there is my Sorylian fleet, I’m in two minds about it having not played the game yet having a clear idea of what I want to do are playing conflict with my thought process, so they are safe for now.

And oh the treasure trove of old school stuff, my god there were miniatures and paints in there from nearly 30 years ago, including old Squats, Rogue Trader Robots/Dreadnoughts, Inquisitors, Chaos champions, a butt load of Epic, Imperial Guard, a few land raiders, some Elder. Honestly it is immense! I am slowly working my way through it all cleaning it up and systematically selling it off through eBay to pay for more hobby bits.

I never really had much interest in Warhamster but I have found myself looking at it more and more. I think its stemmed from Mordheim and my want to build a beastman warband which got me looking at a Beastman army, and then Lizardmen. But eventually I settled on Skaven… let me explain I like the Beastmen but my god do they get their arses kicked and are actually difficult to play. I love the Lizardmen but the idea of painting them daunted me so I ended up with Skaven. But I’m not going to do the normal 5 warp lightning canons and 100 plague monks (I hate the plague monks) like you often see. I’m going Clan Mors affiliated with Clan Moulder and I actually have the rule book and some models (no army book yet mind, well not in hard format). But I’m looking forward to this and have a plan on writing a few articles on building a themed Rat army that’s not going to get people groaning when you take to the gaming table, and making sure you keep it within the theme and fluff.
So finally the Tau have been replaced with Necrons again I’m planning on theming the army so as not to make it bloody stupid, but this is going to be a slow burn as I really got it hot for the rats.

Other than all this in my time out ahem… I have continued to grow my X-Wing Imperial fleet and can now field a Bomber an interceptor oh and a couple of defenders. I will attempt to write-up on these in the next week or so, and I am really looking forward to seeing what they add to the game and if I can finally take it to Han Solo and stick it in him good…

So that was my down time… might give you an idea of what I’m like when I’m not on a break, especially as I haven’t mentioned my growing Dreadball collection and current obsession with Zombicide which I’m not allowed to buy until I either play or get rid of Sedition wars. But on the plus side the Wife said she’d play Zombicide with me.

Anyway this is me signing off and happy to be back in the saddle even if it is only with one foot in the stirrup at the moment.

-Mat

Dystopian Wars Russian Coalition – A Review

rc-naval-battle-group-gallery

As it’s been a while since I looked at something from Spartan I thought I’d take a look at the Russian Coalition starter set because, well, I think they look ace. And ace they are. Weirdly, for me, the tiny flyers are a stand out favourite. They’re just a very cool looking plane. Equally the rest of the ships  ooze that perfect balance of steampunk technology and the bludgeoning, relentless design aesthetic we’ve come to expect from anything Russian. So the hulls are very sleek and sharp but with ablative armour welded all over the place and the crudity of heavy industry evident along its flanks guns, bridge and engine room with dirty great smoke stacks, ugly piping, corrugated steel roofs and boilers on the outside. It’s a fantastic contrast which is carried through to the gun turrets which are much the same.

You’ll also notice that the frigates are round. Based on the poorly designed and ill-fated Popovkas the design is amusingly similar which rather suggests it would have the same catastrophic tendency to catch fire, spin itself around when firing its guns or otherwise just be a bloody nightmare to move or keep afloat. They’re very much a Marmite model and if I’m honest, I kind of like it. Unlike the bombers which look like, if I’m brutally honest, a steampunk fleshlight. And I suppose Sputnik. You can add your own jokes there.

Like other Spartan models the detail is very good and cast well, although not quite to their usual standards as I had a couple of tiny flyers that were miscast. Still usable but still. The larger ships had a bit of flash here and there but it was nothing to worry about and those models that require assembly all go together seamlessly. Which is nice.

As with all the non-core fleets, the starter set comes with a booklet containing a bit of background and the fleet list. I’ve always been a bit sceptical about Spartan’s ability to write fluff. It’s always felt a bit all over the placed and cobbled together because their focus has always been the models. The Russian background however was rather well done. It set the scene well, and read much like a Codex or Army Book. High praise indeed. Well almost. Just as it was getting good they decided to spoon feed us why Russia was at war with certain nations which thoroughly ruined the flow and feel of the background. But as it was at the end it could have been much worse.

But what of the ships themselves? Well, at first glance they look horrid. They’re not not horrid mind, but they’re not the unstoppable vessels of slaughter one might assume. Their guns throw out a lot of dice but only in range bands 1 & 2 but the sheer weight of fire will mean that if anything is unlucky enough to get caught will be tin foil and match wood before you can say ‘by Jove!’. The obvious response would be to soften them up at range or hammer them with torpedoes or rockets. Well no. Because the other thing the Russians have is special rules and generators ups the arse. Pages of the blessed things. It rather highlights the limitation of the mechanic if this many special rules are needed to make the faction different.

The Russians get generators to inhibit missile attacks, generators to inhibit torpedo attacks and, just to be cheeky, a generator that allows you to mimic the effects of another generator nearby. Oh and they have a glacier generator just coz. Throw in ablative armour that raises its damage rating to be the same as its critical rating until it sustains that first level of damage and Russian ships are unpleasantly tough nuts to crack using the obvious tactics of keep your distance and chip away at them, because it just won’t work. Which is rather bad news for the FSA.

They are, however, slow and not quite as tough would first appear. They have lower than average critical ratings and utterly shite ack and concussion charges. Againt, the obvious tactic of chipping away with rockets and torpedoes would have rather limited success considering the generators but they’d get absolutely battered by a strong air force. I can also see fleets like the Covenant and French making life unpleasant for them with particle cannons and thermal lances, providing they can get close enough, but their respective generators should give them a degree of protection and the redoubtable special rule for the French would help further still.

Equally their chunky broadsides and fairly decent fire arcs means that outflanking isn’t so straight forward either. However, if a Prussian flotilla were to bide its time and draw the Russians in they could easily get behind them and be able to harass them with impunity. And that’s where the Russians are vulnerable if they don’t keep their formations. The gung-ho, all guns blazing, approach won’t work despite their incredibly short-range.

The Russians are a nasty fleet, especially for the points. They’re hard to hurt and hard to handle when they close to range. They do, however, have easily exploitable weaknesses if your opponent knows their fleet and compared to other fleets they are horribly under armed. Only the weight of shots they can chuck out evens it up, although the ablative armour is perhaps over egging the pudding somewhat. But equally there are ways round that too.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how the Russians play. I honestly expected them to be a crude, cheap, and explosively violent fleet but actually it’s very considered that attempts to provoke its enemies. Then it becomes explosively violent. Interestingly I can see the Russians being good for beginners because they are, essentially, straight forward to use, but an experienced gamer would also enjoy the challenge they represent, particularly when it comes to all the rules.

The Russian Coalition starter fleet is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

Shell Case Shorts 12 – Winner 2

The second winner of Shell Case Shorts 12 has written a superb story set in the Dystopian Wars universe but with a far more…domestic twist to it. Enjoy…

The Circus – by Al Phillips

The crack of the gunshot made people scream and scatter in every direction, women scooping up their children and running for the nearest place of safety as the report of the pistol echoed all around the buildings of the Strand. The bullet impacted squarely in the back of the fleeing Prussian spy, pitching him face first on to the cobbled frost covered street with a thud as loyal subjects to the Crown scattering in every direction.

Special Investigator Barclay Pensworth holstered his service revolver his breathing heavy and fogging in the winter air. Pulling his jacket closed, he approached the man lying in an expanding pool of blood, cursing himself for going for the kill shot rather than wounding him. Dead men can’t talk. Wounded men do, especially once the interrogators get hold of them. And the interrogators he knew weren’t the kind of men to let a little blood and a bullet hole put them off.

Crouching down Pensworth rolled the dying agent on to his back. The man, in his thirties, in a cheap tweed suit and messy curled hair took a swing for him but in his weakened state Pensworth batted the fist aside easily enough and pinned the spy down, knee rested firmly on his chest.

‘What was your mission?’ He asked in faultless Prussian. The man didn’t have long left and the analysts back at the Circus had already confirmed his identity, wasting time asking him about it would only benefit the Prussian’s plans, not his.

The agent started to laugh but it degenerated into a hacking, choking cough as blood began to fill his lungs.  ‘We spend half our time looking over our shoulders,’ the agent gurgled in perfectly pronounced English. ‘Convinced that Special Branch is about to spring a trap and kill us all.’ More coughing and blood boiled up out of the agent’s throat and joined the spreading pool beneath him. ‘But you don’t know anything. You think we’re just interested in stealing documents and fucking your secretaries for secrets.’ The spy shook bodily and his face drained of colour, his eyes taking on a glassy look.

Pensworth had seen it a dozen times before and started to stand. The agents hand shot out and pulled him down, bloody hands smearing his shirt with gore.

‘Dies ist nur der Anfang…’ He said before his breath gave out and his body went limp.

Barclay Pensworth stood, his face set with a grim distaste as Clement Barrington arrived on the scene, panting, hands on his knees and sweat seeping through his jacket.

‘What did he say?’ Barrington gasped.

‘This is just the beginning.’

***

Pensworth sat at his desk at the Internal Securities Department, 12 Millbank, London, staring at the coroner’s photo of the dead Prussian spy. The man’s last words were still ringing in his ears as all around him teams of analysts and researchers scrutinised documents, listened to wire taps and deciphered messages from every corner of the Britannian Empire and beyond for some shred of an indication of what the many enemies of Britannia were plotting.

Pensworth knew that there were dozens of spies operating in England alone. Everyone of them hell-bent on learning anything they could about the Britannian war effort and feeding it back to their superiors. Pensworth and his fellow Special Investigators knew this because the Crown had sent hundreds of its own agents around the world to do exactly the same thing. But unlike the thuggish tactics of the Yanks or the sadistic streak of the Prussians, the Internal Securities Department had a remarkable success rate when it came to turning those enemy agents to the will of her Majesty’s war effort.

Setting the photo aside he opened the file that had been hastily compiled as the pieces of the puzzle concerning the Prussian spy’s duplicity had fallen into place. Nothing jumped out at him. Pensworth had learned the man’s real name was Moritz Schweiger, not James Kendal as his impressively convincing counterfeit documents stated. Schweiger it seemed had built a quite unremarkable cover which, from experience, was the best kind.

He had led an unremarkable life as a waiter in some of London’s nicer restaurants, always paid his rent on time, had friends which he visited regularly and even donated money to the Royal War Orphans Trust. He was even seeing a rather pretty young thing, judging by her picture, who was the daughter of the mining magnate Lord Gerald John Richardson the fifth. A veteran of the Crimean and personal friend to Prince Albert, after he was discharged from service he had made his fortune in mining raw materials and after Albert’s death had stayed in close contact with her Majesty.

The funny thing was, Pensworth thought, it wasn’t his connection with the Lord, and therefore her Majesty, that had set alarm bells ringing but Mister Kendal’s parents. The family had, apparently, repatriated from Hong Kong eighteen months ago yet his parents were nowhere to be seen and their beloved son was slumming it waiting tables. Furthermore he would make a phone call every Sunday, regular as clockwork to a West London phone number and, according to the wire taps, spoke to his father. Yet despite the apparent closeness he never once went to visit them or them him which didn’t sit right for parents that would pay hundreds of pounds to transport him from the other side of the world. Pensworth’s instructor when he joined the ISD had always told him; the devil is in the details.

Flicking through the dossier he knew this to be true more than ever with Schweiger. Both the address he had phoned and Schweiger’s home had already been searched. Both locations had turned up very little other than enough transmission and cipher equipment to keep the boys in Technical happy for weeks. Regardless there was nothing to indicate a wider plot beyond the usual espionage and clandestine activities.

Pensworth’s superiors had told him to close the case and move onto a suspected Russian spy network operating out of a Gentlemen’s Club in Soho. The Russians weren’t subtle; it was an easy collar and could wait. Besides these things always went down the same way and he didn’t relish the thought of a protracted gun battle.

But more than that, the dying man’s last words still nagged at him. He took out the photo of the dead man and stared at it once more. He looked past the peaceful expression, the pool of blood, the overly white tooth that contained cyanide that the agent didn’t get the chance to use. He relaxed his eyes and let the entire image sink into his mind.

He blinked as he noticed for the first time a familiar lapel badge pinned to Schweiger’s jacket. He yanked open the top draw of his desk, his hand snaking in amongst the files, half eaten bags of boiled sweets, the cigar tin that contained his last Cohiba as his hand closed around the handle of the looking-glass something heavy slammed into the desk draw, trapping his arm. He yelped in pain and surprise yanking his arm free.

Looking up irritated he saw that the something heavy was Clement.

‘Sorry about that old boy,’ He beamed taking a bite from a sandwich. He leaned over his partner’s shoulder. ‘I thought the Ringmaster had already told you to put Gerry to bed.’

‘He did Clem, but something doesn’t sit well with me.’ He poked the photo. ‘What do you make of that?’ Indicating the lapel badge.

Clem leaned closer, the smell of tuna ripe on his breath. His small eyes, surrounded by a flushed and podgy face, squinted.

‘Looks like the membership badge for the Beefsteak Club on Irving Street.’

‘How on Earth do you know that?’ Pensworth asked. Clement smiled and turned his jacket lining outwards so his partner could see the small round badge.

‘Because I’m a member Barclay old boy.’

‘So how does a waiter, earning three shillings and nine pence per week afford a club membership?’ Clement shrugged as he pushed the rest of the sandwich into his mouth. Pensworth shook his head at his partner. ‘Well grab your coat fatty, we’re going to find out.’

***

The Beefsteak Club was like most of the other up market Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: wood panelling on every wall, tall back leather chairs, thick cigar smoke and burlesque shows three times a day. Had Barclay Pensworth’s mother still been alive she would have been mortified that her eldest son was in such an establishment.

He and Clement walked through the club, noticing fellow members of Special Branch, her Majesty’s crown court and seventeen members of parliament all enjoying the show. Pensworth ignored them all; he wasn’t interested in how the political elite got their jollies, so long as they didn’t break the law in doing it.

It didn’t take long for them to attract the attention of the maitre’d who hurriedly intercepted the pair as the systematically and deliberately opened the door to every private room in the club. By the time the tall, wiry and weasel faced man with slicked over hair caught up with the pair and hurried them into his office they had walked in on four private dances, seven card games or various types, two illicit acts that Pensworth would be referring to the local constabulary and what looked like the shadow education minister lashed face down to a bench and having his bottom whipped by a women clad in a peculiar leather get up. Pensworth didn’t understand it himself but was smart enough to let it lie. Political currency was valuable in his line of work.

‘What can I do for you gentlemen,’ Fussed the maître’d after both men showed him their identification. Pensworth leaned against the oak desk. Like every other room in the club it looked as though a small woodland had been felled to deck out the office. Even the red leather, riveted desk chair was the same cut as those the rich and the fat currently wallowed in. Pensworth nodded at Clement Barrington who dutifully pulled out the photo of Schreiger taken at the scene of his death and handed it to the man.

‘Do you know him?’ Pensworth asked, reaching into his jacket and pulling a pencil and small notepad from his jacket pocket. The man opposite him stared at the photo before handing it back, nodding. ‘That is Mister Kendal, a regular here.’ The man’s tone was disapproving.

‘You didn’t like him?’ Pensworth probed. The maître’d shook his head.

‘He was a common sort, a waiter for a footman if I were to guess. It’s the shoes you see.’ The man cast his eyes down at Pensworth’s own scuffed Policeman specials before continuing. ‘But we had to suffer him as he was a member by another man’s graces.’

Before Pensworth could ask further questions the man continued. ‘And he certainly made use of those good graces. He ran up bar bills into the hundreds attempting to brown nose his way in with our more exclusive members. I even caught him harassing Lord Livingstone Melbrooks-‘

‘Wait,’ Pensworth cut in, ‘Lord Melbrooks as in the new ambassador to the Covenant of Antarctica?’

‘The very same.’ Said the maître‘d.

Suddenly a bad feeling settled in to Barclay Pensworth’s stomach, heavy and brooding.

‘Clem, call the Circus, get as many men as they can spare over to Lord Melbrooks’ residence on Upper Grosvenor, I’ll start the carriage.’ Pensworth darted from the office the door slamming behind him.

The maître’d dropped to his chair startled. Clement smiled down at him.

‘Don’t worry old boy,’

***

The carriage growled and chugged its way through the streets as fast as Pensworth could make it go. Unlike the newer combustion engines now available, Pensworth still used a steam-driven model. It was far better of long distances but perambulating through the cobbled streets of London it was a hateful device and made the 2 mile journey all the more intense for fear the contraption would simply breakdown.

By the time the pair pulled up outside the Lord’s home the sun was starting to set and lights were coming on all down Upper Grosvenor Street. The Melbrook’s residence was shrouded in darkness. Both men disembarked from the carriage, the boiler whistling and clucked as the furnace was turned down to idling, and drew their weapons.

‘Where are the others?’ Pensworth asked. Barrington shrugged. He’d produced a bag of humbugs from somewhere and was cheerfully and noisily sucking on one.

‘They said they were on their way.’ He mumbled.

‘Well we can’t wait.’ Pensworth bounded up the stone stairs of the grand abode and without breaking stride kicked the door in. The black lacquered door splintered from the impact sending splinters of wood in all directions. Before Barrington could stuff his humbugs into his pocket his partner was through the door and sweeping his gun side to side for targets. By the time he’d joined him, Pensworth had already skulked his way through the impressive living room and was now stood in front of the hanging corpse of Lord Melbrooks, in the main dining room.

Pensworth holstered his gun with a curse and surveyed the scene. The body had been there for a couple of days judging by its stiffness and stink. There was a chair over turned below the Lord’s feet and the room itself was largely untouched, the table still set for dinner. Walking back into the main hallway Barrington was the first to break the silence.

‘Looks like the old bugger topped himself.’

Pensworth shook his head. The hallway rug wasn’t straight, something unheard of in a home such as this. Folding the carpet back he could see the parquet flooring was scraped and scuffed.

‘Look,’ He said pointing at the floor. ‘There was a scuffle.’ He turned and walked slowly back into the dining room scanning the floor for more clues. He crouched down next to a drinks table and picked something up.

‘What is it?’ Clement Barrington asked.

‘A small sliver of what I suspect was a crystal decanter. I’d say the Lord put up quite the fight. Little wonder, he was career military and boxed for his regiment.’ Setting the sliver down he moved to a small blood spot. ‘Someone took a nasty sock to the mouth.’

He heard Barrington sigh behind him. ‘How do you know all this?’ He asked.

‘Research, Clem, old chap. When Melbrooks was announced as the next ambassador to the Covenant the Circus did a full work up on him to make sure he wasn’t going to sell all our secrets for his very own snow fortress.’

‘Don’t they all live underground?’

Pensworth rolled his eyes as he pulled himself upright and dusted down his trousers. ‘Come on Clem, we need to report this and make the Foreign Minister he’s going to need a new ambassador.’

Then the window and everything around him exploded. The air was filled with noise, shattered glass and bursting wood. Both men dropped to the ground as the dining room and the hanging corpse of Lord Melbrooks was torn to pieces.

Pensworth and Barrington crawled out of the room, glass and splinters raining down on them from above as the fusillade from outside continued. Making it into the hallway Pensworth risked a glance out of the side window. Three men, nondescript suits, all armed with auto repeating rifles. Military hardware.

Pensworth edged round the shattered door and took aim at the nearest shooter, slowly pulling back the firing hammer with a practised hand. He was about to fire when a hand grabbed him by the collar and yanked him backwards. He span instinctively reversing the grip on his pistol ready to use it as a club on his attacker but it was Barrington pale-faced, his hands held up defensively.

‘What are you doing?’ Pensworth growled, ‘I had a clear shot.’

‘At the first one, yes. But what about the other two? That door affords you no protection old boy, they would have cut you to pieces.’

Pensworth scowled but knew his partner was right. The shooting had stopped and Pensworth spied the shooters jumping into a auto-carriage and sped away. ‘After them!’ He shouted, running down the steps, reaching his own conveyance only to find that the shooters had been thorough and riddled the boiler with holes.

A thought surfaced in his mind but before it could formulate a crumpled bag of humbugs was thrust under his nose. ‘Want one old boy?’ Barrington beamed at him.

***

The following morning Pensworth stood in his best suit and smartest shoes, and ram rod straight as the foreign secretary, Lord Cornelius Blackwood, read his report. It wasn’t much and it was inconclusive at best. Pensworth was unable to pursue the gunmen and so was yet to determine who they worked for or how they knew he and Barrington were there. Only the weaponry was identifiable as a Lee-Enfield Auto-Repeater ARLEIV a British made weapon and one found as a support weapon in every squad, in every regiment bearing the Britannic flag.

Blackwood turned over the last page and folded the report closed.

‘An interesting work of fiction Mister Pensworth.’ Said Blackwood leaning back against his overstuffed chair and steepling his fingers.

‘Pardon me my Lord?’

‘All this nonsense about Lord Melbrooks being found hung.’ He said waving a dismissive hand at the report. ‘A load of poppycock.’

‘My Lord, I saw the body with my own eyes.’

‘Then tell me,’ Blackwood stood and stared out of his window of the Houses of Parliament, staring down at the dirty waters of the Thames, ‘How is it that Lord Melbrooks departed these shores for Antarctica three days ago.’

‘What?’ Pensworth’s surprise overrode his sense of propriety. ‘That’s impossible.’

‘Impossible or not, when plod finally arrived at Melbrooks address all they found were bullet holes and bloody great mess. If you weren’t a Special Investigator I’d have you charged with breaking and entering and criminal damage.’

‘I don’t understand, my lord. Melbrooks is dead and I believe a Prussian spy is behind it.’

‘Enough,’ Blackwood raged. ‘That couldn’t have been Melbrook.’

‘I know what I saw!’

‘You forget you place Investigator! That couldn’t have been Melbrook because the damn blasted fool arrived in Antarctica yesterday and subsequently provoked the Covenant in to declaring war on the Kingdom of Britannia. His body washed to shore on the Falkland Islands this morning.’

Pensworth mind was reeling. Nothing was making any sense.

‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I have Lord Richardson waiting for me in the other room.’

‘Richardson?!’ Blackwood’s irritation was almost tangible at Pensworth’s lack of respect.

‘Yes, Investigator, now we’re at war with the Covenant as well as every other damn fool nation we’re going to need raw materials like never before.’

Pensworth felt numb as he was ushered out of Blackwood’s office.

What did it all mean? Melbrook, Richardson, Schweiger, what did they all have in common?

***

Clement Barrington sat in one of the private rooms of the Beefsteak Club on Irving Street and waited for the showgirl. He liked the burlesque shows as much as the next man but he found it all got a bit awkward when the show got to its racier parts. He’s much rather looking at ladies in a state of undress be a private experience. He reached for the scotch he couldn’t afford and took a long and lingering sip.

The door latch clicked behind him and he smiled. Rose was his favourite, and not just because she offered extras. The door closed and he adjusted, making himself comfortable.

‘Come on Rose my dear, don’t keep me waiting.’

‘I’m afraid Rose will be a while longer. Old boy.’

Barrington froze as he heard the familiar click of a gun cocking.

‘Barclay,’ Barrington said slowly, ‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m doing my job Clem.’ Barrington felt Pensworth move closer but he stayed behind him. ‘Or do you prefer Udo Herzog?’

Barrington let out a sigh.

‘Bravo Barclay old boy, you finally figured it out.’

‘I understand the Prussians wanting to provoke a war between the Covenant and Britannia, we were the only power left that they had remotely cordial relations with, but I don’t understand what Richardson has to do with all this.’

Barrington rose and turned to face his partner.

‘You presume too grand a plan Barclay old boy. Richardson came to us. Gave us the means to infiltrate the Circus. Even offered up his daughter to help maintain Schweiger’s cover.’

‘But why?’ But Pensworth already knew the answer as he said it.

‘Money. Richardson wants to be the exclusive provider or raw materials to the Britannic war effort and a war on another front, especially one as seaborne as the Covenant would hundreds of new warships.’

‘All this over money?’ Pensworth spat taking a step closer to his former friend.

‘Don’t be nieve Barclay. This war will burn out eventually and when it does Richardson will be the only man left standing with any credibility left. And the fortune to silence anyone who knows different.’

Pensworth nodded. He had pieced it altogether after his meeting with Lord Blackwood. He’d subtly investigated Lord Richardson’s holdings and finances and noticed not only aggressive expansion in mines but steel production. He’s also identified Richardson as Schweiger’s benefactor at the club. And for one other.

‘Just answer me this one last question Clem.’

Barrington shrugged, finishing off his scotch with practised ease.

‘Why did you kill the maître‘d?’Barrington smiled. It was a cruel smile Pensworth had never seen on the man before.

‘He gave me up. He didn’t realise it, of course, but as soon as he mentioned Schweiger and the ambassador I knew it would only be a matter of time. I knew my own movements in the club would eventually come to light.’

‘And the gunman outside Melbrook’s house?’

‘Necessary. I had to silence you but when the bullets started flying and they hadn’t killed you in the opening volley I found myself unable to do the job myself. We’ve been through a lot you and I these last two years.’

Pensworth nodded. ‘We have.’ He smiled at Barrington. ‘Which is what makes this so hard.’

The shot was swallowed up by the burlesque music and bellowed laughter of dozens of drunk and happy businessmen. Barrington’s body wouldn’t be found for another three hours by which time Rose had been paid off to say that he’d attempted to rape her and an unknown patron, hearing he screams for help, had shot him in her defence. The constabulary were currently unaware of the shooter’s whereabouts.

The following day the papers ran a headline story about mining magnate Lord Gerald John Richardson the fifth being tragically killed in an automotive accident whilst travelling to his country residence. He had been planning on spending time with her daughter following the shooting of her gentleman friend by muggers barely two days before.

Eye witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a gunshot before the auto-carriage lost control and collided with an oncoming lorry but they were unconfirmed.

Lord Richardson’s business holdings were currently frozen by the treasury while a will is found. However, due to the looming threat of war with the Covenant, sources close to the PM suggest that the assets may be nationalised until the crisis of war is over.

Pensworth folded the paper and tucked it under his arm tossing coins on to the news stand before joining the rest of the commuters on their way to work.

The Future of Spartan

This Christmas I was very lucky to get a huge Terran Alliance fleet for Firestorm Armada from my folks, and some Covenant cruisers to make my fleet for Dystopian Wars even bigger. As I sat filing, trimming and gluing last night something dawned on me. I don’t understand my Spartan hobby any more. Or at least the direction in which it’s going.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand the rules – although I do (barely) – or what I need for my fleets – the big shit – but Spartan Games are churning out so much stuff at the moment I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at. One of my main reasons for getting a Terran fleet is to tie in with games of Firestorm Invasion. Except that no one plays it. Because nothing has come out. I’d have got into Dystopian Legions if the models were cheaper and the entire faction ranges were available but instead we have to wait for the decent stuff and even then, without a proper rule book, I wouldn’t know what to get anyway.

It’s all so frustratingly half arsed.

One of my biggest issues with the Spartan rule books, aside from the confusing lay out, was the lack of scenarios and campaign rules. It doesn’t give you anywhere to go in terms of playing games unless you fancy coming up with scenarios on your own. But without a basic scenario to work off it means gamers are going to find it harder than normal to get the balance right.

Spartan Games have started to address this gripe with campaign books that also, according to the blurb about Storm of Steel, incorporate significant rule changes. So now not only do we have to spend money on something that should have been in the rule book in the first place, but now have multiple books just to play the game at all. And I’m not entirely clear why there’s a sudden emphasis on armoured units when the land based element of Dystopian Legions is already armoured units. Plus the game was meant to be combined arms…

And there’s new fluff too!

It strikes me that Spartan Games are doing exactly what Games Workshop did all those years ago: which is publish compendium after anthology after expansion so you needed three or four books just to play the fecking game. And if someone doesn’t have all the books you’re forced to revert back to the original rules, so it’s fair.

I’m all for expanding the universes of Spartan’s IP. In fact, I really think it’s needed especially on the background front, I just don’t understand why they’re doing it with expansions – other than the commercially motivated reason – as those that don’t want or can’t afford the extra books lose out.

Throw in the scattergun approach to releases and I just don’t know where to start or, more to the point, what to do next.

Something I’ve never understood about other wargaming companies, not specifically Spartan Games – is the reluctance to follow Games Workshop’s approach to writing and structuring games and releases. There is a very good reason they’re the behemoth they are and it’s not just because they charge the most money. Rule book. Army book. Core release one faction at a time. And more than just a starter set as it doesn’t give gamers anywhere to go.

It’s an immensely frustrating position to be in as a gamer. And it’s another barrier to playing the games. Confusing core rules and then a whopping £40 for two books that improve and clarify the book you’ve already spent £20 on. And at the end of it all you still don’t have the whole picture on exactly who’s who and what’s what! It’s mental. I so desperately want to take charge of the studio and can the supplements and sort the rule books out. Re-release the lot so they make sense, the fluff is rich and coherent and campaign rules are actually included. And put an end to the random extra units and the endless supplements to use them. All the factions have their own book or the rules have the lot all crammed in at a GW comparable cost.

I do love Spartan, their games and models. This isn’t a bashing, hating, rant. I just feel like they’re going in too many directions without doing any one game to the best of their ability. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Of Dice & Men – Episode 2

It’s here, episode 2! Now with 200% more content!ODAM

In episode 2 of Of Dice & Men the team talk about their hobby, wargaming blogs that have caught their eye and the importance of background in the building and playing of a game, and does poor fluff mean poor army lists?

We also learn that Jason’s mental, Adam is a deviant, Nate is in a sulk and Phil goes off on a rant. Again.

Of Dice & Men Episode 2

Dystopian Legions – A Review

Well spit spot and a stiff upper lip, the plucky Brits are rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in. No, I haven’t had a stroke, I’ve just finally got my hands on the Britannian starter set for Dystopian Legions by Spartan Games and it’s all very exciting.

So, what do you get in the box? Well aside from a very generously proportioned quick start rule book, some card, dice and counters you also get 14 blokes including some line infantry, a chap that looks suspiciously like Lord Flasheart from Blackadder and the completely and utterly fantastic Sky Hussars.

First of all I have to address the elephant in the room. These models aren’t 25mm. Not even close. I have no idea why it was billed as a 25mm game when the models are 30mm. A line infantrymen stands as tall as a Space Marine. In fairness, I have no problem with this at all. I like the bigger scale. The models are more substantial and that extra 5mm can mean a lot of extra detail. However, it just seems daft to have called it a 25mm game when very early on it would have been apparent it wasn’t.

Something that came as a surprise was the fact that the models are metal. Considering Spartan is a company that cut its teeth and made its hay with resin, and with the spiralling cost of metal, it doesn’t seem all that logical to me. Especially as the casting quality on a couple of the line infantry wasn’t to the usual standard I know Spartan reach. It wasn’t catastrophic and it’s all fixable with a file and bit of time but it’s just a bit of a disappointment. The models themselves, however, are superb with bags of character and once painted will look gorgeous on the board. I must admit my Brits will be the green jackets.

The line infantry are actually a really nice blend of history and the steam punk science fiction. The armour is obvious but not overly sexed up to make it too obvious. The rifles, again, are subtly sci-fi which emphasises the industrial crudity with which the Britannians approach the business of war. All the while being terribly nice chaps and keeping ones uniform clean and neatly pressed.

Lord Flasheart aka Captain Gilbert ‘Bertie’ Smethington II leads the force and is every bit the blustery grinning noblemen that has become so iconic of the Imperial Britain.

It’s a cool model and is terribly British. However, my one gripe and this applies to other character models I’ve seen is that they border on the comical. They’re just that little bit too exaggerated. Too comic book. Too cheesy. And they stick out against the rest of the faction but not in a good way. They, for me, don’t fit in the superbly crafted steampunk world we’ve come to enjoy with Dystopain Wars. Don’t even get me started on Scattergun Sam for the FSA.

However much of the damage is made up by the completely brilliant Sky Hussars.

I got to see these models back in September and they are just inspired. This is Spartan getting the steampunk influences exactly right. The plumes of smoke are such a cool touch and although between those and the Hussars being single cast bodies the room for variation is limited they still look fantastic. Because the plumes are resin and the rest of the model is lovely heavy metal I think it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll fall over. A lot. So save yourself some heart ache and weight the base.

In total honesty, I’ve seen a lot of models over the last 23 years and these have to be some of my favourites. It’s a perfect synergy between the militaristic simplicity of the Hussars combined with the ‘ray gun’ like weapons and the billowing clouds of smoke shooting from the rocket packs telling a story of just how experimental the technology is. They are superb.

But what of the rules? Well, in a nutshell, they’re essentially the same as Firestorm Invasion, as I expected. This isn’t a bad thing as I really liked the mechanic. Like all other Spartan games the game works with alternate activations allowing for a more organic gaming experience than other more traditional turn based wargames. I like both systems but mechanic Spartan use for Dystopian Legions works best with alternating activations.

However, like F:I, it uses a deck of cards to determine the order in which you activate your units. This can obviously go horribly wrong but it’s actually an ace rule that forces you to play your opponents hand which adds a real element of risk to the proceedings. It’s ever so slightly like playing poker. With models. Which I think is what’s been missing from poker this entire time.

Statline are similar to that of F:I and Dystopian Wars in so much as models have a fixed set of statistics that represent their battle prowess as well as the number of dice they roll in a fight. And like Firestorm Invasion it uses the coloured exploding dice mechanic. Allow me to explain. If you’re rolling black dice a roll of a 6 is a single hit. If you’re rolling blue dice a roll of a 6 counts as two hits. If you’re rolling red dice a roll of a 6 counts as 2 hits and you get to roll again. An evolved mechanic from the one we know and love and one I can see being rolled out as the full second editions of their other core games come out. It’s straight forward enough and can be augmented up or down depending on certain factors such as range.

Models have Injury Rating which is akin to DR if Dystopian Wars, and a Kill Rating which is essentially a critical hit that causes instant death. If I’m honest it seems slightly unnecessary as few models have a KR and it’s tough to justify for the ones who do considering they usually have greater Life Points which are essentially wounds. An armour save seems to be an easier way round it but I suspect that it was as much to keep it similar to the other Spartan systems as anything else.

There’s also force building in Dystopian Legions which not only makes sense but is done in such a way to ensure that you take balanced forces that vaguely represent the forces of the 1800’s. Which I like a lot. It’s also needed as the percentage limits in Dystopian Wars is far too open to abuse and had Spartan done the same with Legions it would have just been everyone buying tanks and big armoured dudes.

The rules are a big improvement on Dystopian Wars, being written in phases rather than leaping about the place. Diagrams match up with their explanations too. There are still a few rules that I don’t get, like formations. As far as I can tell having your unit in one formation or another has no bearing on the game what-so-ever other than being in Line formation makes you a sitting duck for anything that goes boom. So why would you bother? There’s the usual heavy-handedness with the bold button which makes paragraphs harder to read, and some sections are over explained but over all its easy enough to read.

The book itself is very nicely put together with lots of lovely photography and is comparable in approach to the quick play book you get with the 4ok boxset. The thing that’ll make punter buy the main Dystopian Legions rule book is if it includes not only bags and bags of fluff, which is the one thing I think Spartan really need to get nailed down, and full faction lists.

For both a model and gaming perspective I think Dystopian Legions is superb. The mechanic is solid and easy to pick up. The models are completely brilliant, slight casting defects aside, and each range boasts some real gems. As more models become available I can see Dystopian Legions from being a big hit.

Dystopian Legions is available from Firestorm Games, the starter sets priced from £36.00

Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet Reinforcements

As promised, here’s the background for the new additions to the Covenant of Antarctica 5th Fleet which I first chronicled here.

The Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement is the only part of Covenant society that operates with any kind of secrecy in what is an otherwise open and Utopian society. Founded in 1865 whose founders, combined with the knowledge in the great repository,  were fascinated with science fictions writings by the likes of Jules Verne who played around with notions of multi-dimensionalism and the accepted natural order of the world.

Within the year the first Dimensional Transmogrification Emitter was built and tested with mixed results. Professors Pendleton and Kline having pioneered the field of time and space manipulation had attempted to teleport a bowl of fruit 6 metres, from one side of the laboratory to the other. They, instead, teleported the bowl of fruit 6 hours into the future, the bowl reappearing right where it had disappeared in shower of tachyons as Pendleton and Kline stood arguing over who had made the fatal miscalculation.

Further experiments were met with similar results with very little being achieved in way of instantaneous transportation – the military application of which would have granted the Covenant and insurmountable tactical advantage. Despite months of testing and the destruction of their original lab (and the surrounding facility) the professors were forced to admit defeat. Instead they focussed their energies on the areas that had met with some success. Specifically the ability to impact upon the flow of time on an object or objects.

Pendleton and Kline discovered they were able to project and sustain temporal distortion fields that would alter the flow of time, allowing objects to seemingly speed up or slow down depending on the polarity of the field. In essence a time dilation field, as they would become known, could alter the flow of time around an object to allow it to skip ahead or slow down to a stand still.

By the time Jules Verne himself had fled to Antarctica to pursue his life as a writer free from persecution in his native France the art of time dilation had been all but perfected. When Pendleton and Kline heard that Verne was the Covenant’s latest refugee they immediately descended on the writer with bottle of brandy. It was during this raucous, alcohol fuelled, meeting that a break through was made. Verne proposed that the problem was they were trying to move mass through space rather than trying to move space to allow the object to pass through it.

The resulting experiments resulted in success, albeit limited. The power output required to bend the fabric of space was tremendous and meant that the generators were few in number and excessively large for a relatively short-range. It forever laid to rest the hopes of Pendleton and Kline for an effective transportation system beyond supplies being moved more effectively across the Empire of Ice. Militarily Time Dilation Generators could be deployed to allow units to be rapidly redeployed as needed as well as afford nearby ships or armour protection from incoming fire. Although temperamental to the point of fatal, their potential gains were enough for the Antarctica generals to petition the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement to allow them to deploy the time dilation orbs in theatre of war.

The Department recognised the advantage the generators would provide and so designed an articulated chassis to house the generators for field operations. However, the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement, which had grown to a staff of hundreds with Pendleton and Kline at its head, shrewdly refused to allow themselves to co-opted into the Covenant military. To this day this has meant that a commanding officer wishing to use a time dilation orb must petition the department in writing who may refuse or recall their assets at any time.

The additions of the CATDO Jules Verne and Thomas Kuhn to the 5th Fleet was as much a surprise to Commodore Stone as it was to his command staff as he had put in his request to the Department of Time Manipulation and Displacement when he was first given command. Something bordering on tradition, most fleet commanders requested a time dilation orb as a matter of course.

So it is with much rancour from Stone’s detractors in fleet command that he was assigned to by the mysterious department. Completely autonomous from the admiralty they were powerless to prevent it and going against the whims of the Department and the last ranking officer to decry them to the Covenant council found himself commander of a fishing scow.

Stone is yet to use the Verne or the Kuhn to their fullest potential, the tactics required forcing a commander to think in 4 dimensions rather than the standard 3 but already he is realising the potential of catapulting his battleships forwards to deliver a hammer blow before teleporting them back to the safety of the line.

To serve aboard a time dilation orb requires the utmost bravery. Aside from being a primary target for the Covenant’s enemies, rending the laws of space and time is a risky affair. Any time a glitch causes a vessel to be trapped in space/time the potential disaster on board a time dilation orb is immense. Crews are fortunate if a catastrophic malfunctions results in the destruction of the orb. If they are unlucky they can be catapulted through space and materialise inside bulkheads, generators or even gun barrels of nearby ships or teleported to unknown point in time never to be seen again.

When the 5th fleet returned to the New Halley docks for repair and resupply, following a successful campaign in the North Pacific against the Russian menace, they found, on the South Halley Aerodrome, the Daedalus Class Apollo and the imposing and revered Epicurus Class Sky Lord commanded by Wing Commander Francois Audet, being repainted in the distinctive 5th fleet colours. An imposing and dour man, Audet was a ruthless fighter pilot in his youth and an intractable and deadly sky captain since fleeing France at the head of an entire air division, every man under his command defecting to the Covenant cause.

Audet’s decision to defect was for no love of the Covenant’s way of life. Indeed he finds much of its reckless need for discovery distasteful but not as distasteful as the what the Republique of France had become since Prussian oppression had set in. Sent to bomb civilian targets in Poland Audet instead took his airman South leaving France behind them. Although he knows his decision to be the righteous course of action he carries the burden of condemning those under his command to a lifetime exiled from their families, never able to return home to the country they loved and served.

To add further insult to injury, Audet and his airman are enemies of the French state with great bounties on their heads making the French military fight all the harder whenever he or the other defectors are identified in theatre.

Whereas Stone relishes the opportunity to bring the fight to his former nation, Audet regrets every French life he is forced to take in his duty as a commanding officer and a Wing Commander of the Covenant of Antarctica. This simple ideological difference was enough to make Audet distrust Stone and wary of his growing renowned within the Covenant. It was no accident that Audet and Captain Emile Rodin and their sky ships were assigned to Stone’s command and beyond professional courtesy the two men disliked each other immediately and in the short time serving as part of the 5th Fleet both Audet and Rodin have clashed with Stone on several occasion, usually over his overly aggressive tactics.

Indeed Stone seems quite intent on the destruction of the Apollo and the Sky Lord thrusting them into the thickest fighting but in reality his acute understanding of Covenant technology and the superlative tactics couple with the command ability of his sky captains means that his air elements always win the day, albeit bloodied enough that they much rely on the rest of the fleet to tend to their wounds.

How long this flimsy and fractured relationship will last can only be guessed at but for now, at least, Audet and his airmen are helping win the 5th fleet greater victories and ironically Stone the fame that Audet so deeply detests.

Dystopian Legions News

Yes, that’s right, another DL preview post. But in my defence there’s a lot going on in Spartan towers at the moment.

For a start  the quickplay rules are now available to download. Click here to get them.

In other news there’s some more Kingdom of Britannia previews…

“It was a bit of a sticky wicket. The Suns had us on the ropes. If we broke, the road to Burma was open. But then we heard the bugles. The men of the 15th dropped into the enemy ranks behind a great sheet of flame and steam and scattered the Suns like wheat chaff in a gale. I knew then that we were saved.”

Sergeant Roger Coker, 6th Cumberland, describing the intervention of the 15th Hussars at the Second Battle of Taiping

Horse-mounted cavalry has all but vanished from the Britannian army’s order of battle since the flood of technology from the Covenant of Antarctica began to change the world in the late 1850s.

The cavalry regiments, however, did not disappear but instead radically altered their training regimes and equipment. Like the more heavily-armed garrison troops of the Land, Air and Naval Armadas, they are equipped with the sturdy Sturgicite-fuelled Brunel-Fosdyke Rocket Assisted Transit personal flying machine – nicknamed the ‘Ratpack’.

Britannia’s Hussar Regiments retain their role as daring, fast-moving assault troops. Many a hard-pressed regular platoon has had reason to thank a timely intervention by a Sky Hussar squadron at the key moment.

They are nicknamed ‘Flaming Angels’ by the Britannian press, thanks to their main armament – Ricardo MkII Flamebelchers, pistol-sized weapons capable of spewing great sheets of fire over opponents and sending them scrambling away in blind panic. These weapons are relatively new, being issued alongside more conventional arms and giving the Sky Hussars an exceptional edge in the shock assaults they favour.

The Sky Hussars have a much more glamorous reputation than the line infantry, second only to the pilots of the Air Armada’s fighter squadrons. Much of this stems from the risks that they are required to take in the execution of their duties. Their battlefield role is that much more rigorous, often involving fighting at perilously close quarters.

Hussar specialists, like the regular infantry, carry Ricardo flamethrowers to give them the edge over superior numbers of enemy troops. The combination of these weapons and the standard Flamebelchers make Hussar assaults even more terrifying for those on the receiving end of them, as well as acting as a great morale boost for other Britannian soldiers.

The Hussar squadrons prefer not to get involved in grinding combats of attrition if they can avoid it, specialising in fast and hard strikes at key points in the enemy line, before jetting back out of reach of retaliation and regrouping for their next assault.

Tactical Use:
The Sky Hussars can be a little tricky to use right, but once you know how to get the most from them they are a game-winning asset for any Britannian Commander.

Sky Hussars can put out a great deal of damage at close range, going to close quarters and burning the enemy down at point blank range. If it is totally essential, they can draw their sabres and go in with the old cold steel.

However, this comes at a cost in terms of protection. Sky Hussars go into battle in nothing more than their perfectly tailored uniforms and a pair of good riding boots. They most definitely cannot take as much punishment as they can dish out!

But to compensate, the Sky Hussars have their ‘Ratpacks‘, gifting them with the power to move like lightning across the table. Their skill makes them difficult to hit with gunfire at range.

When paired up with a Line Infantry Section, Sky Hussars excel. Let the Line Infantry whittle the enemy down as they move forward, then let loose the Hussars to send whatever remains of them to oblivion.

Alternatively, they can advance with the line and play their Special Game CardFirestorm, at the opportune moment. This will flush the enemy out of hiding just in time for the entire line to open up on them. This tactic can make for a fearsome outflanking gambit against a defended position.

“Fall back now? No, no, no! Look at them…on the verge of shattering like glass, I tell you! To me, lads! Let’s show ‘em how Britannians fight! Hurrah!”

Although the bulk of Britannia’s aerial strength falls under the remit of the Aerial Armada and the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, the Kingdom’s regular army retains its own small integral aerial force, known as the Royal Flying Corps. Although they only operate conventional aeroplanes, as opposed to the great Sturginium Age flying engines of the Air Armada, the RFC is proud of its traditions.

These date back to Wellington’s great victory over the Prussians at Waterloo, when Royal Flying Corps’ pilots, manning perilously fragile Masaulle V biplanes contributed to the defeat of Emperor Heinrich Otto’s armies.

RFC officers are often attached to Britannian infantry formations. As well as being pilots and liaising with local air support, they are also fully-trained infantry officers in their own right.

Captain Gilbert ‘Bertie’ Smethington II, Distinguished Flying Cross, is undoubtedly the most famous of the RFC’s officer class. The scion of a noted aristocratic family – his father, Lieutenant-General Baronet Gilbert Smethington I, served with the army in southern Africa – Bertie saw action in the Far East before being transferred back to Britannia to take part in the Kingdom’s offensive operations against the Prussian Empire.

Brash, loud and flamboyant, Smethington’s presence is always welcomed by infantry units on the ground, despite – or sometimes because of – his propensity to rub regular infantry officers up the wrong way. His mere presence can inspire ordinary troops to great feats of courage in battle no matter the odds. Apart from his undoubted charisma, the Captain is also noted for having a lucky streak that often seems to land him, and those he leads, on their feet.

Captain Smethington favours a customised automatic pistol as his personal arm, a piece of extraordinary quality and effectiveness made by the prestigious Egg gunmaking house in London. However, ‘Bertie’s Blazer’ as it has become known to troops serving alongside him, has far more significance to Gilbert than just its effectiveness as a weapon.

Bertie acquired the pistol from Captain Ian ‘Spinner’ Spencer, a long time friend and colleague of his from their days of service in India. Spinner lost his life during the first Blazing Sun attack on Burma, when the scout aircraft that he and Bertie were flying was shot down by enemy fighter aeroplanes.

Both men survived the landing, deep behind enemy lines, but despite hauling the badly wounded Spinner more than ten miles along with him, Bertie was unable to save his old friend’s life. Spinner’s last act was to bequeath his pistol to Gilbert, who eventually found his way back to the Britannian stronghold at Georgetown after a gruelling two-week hike. Bertie privately believes the weapon to be the source of his good luck, and has carried it into battle in honour of Spinner ever since.

Tactical Use:
Captain ‘Bertie’ Smethington the Second DFC may not be the best shot or a boxing champ, but somehow he always appears to end up on top. Though he has fairly average stats for an officer of his rank, he is incredibly Lucky!

Smethington has a finite Pool of Luck Points that must last him the entire game. These can be spent at any time to re-roll dice – every commander’s dream come true when it comes to passing a vital Command Test, pulling off a key Ranged Attack or winning a Duel!

Although this makes the Captain very effective, remember that even Bertie’s good fortune has its limits – good management of your Luck Points is essential. Captain Smethington II is also a very competent leader. He provides plenty of Command Points to the Force’s Pool, and can be relied upon to keep your force in line with his unique Britannian Bulldog Command Ability, using his natural charisma to anchor the forces around him.

Finally, Bertie has his Special Game Card – Come on Chaps!”. This card allows any Sections near to ‘Smeth’ to make a special additional move at any time, perfect for escaping a dastardly Prussian charge!

Even More Dystopian Legions Previews

How much can I get for a kidney? 30 years old, reasonably good condition…

“Prussian infantry advancing on the left? Splendid! I thought we wouldn’t get a chance to thrash them before sundown.”

-First Lieutenant Arthur Wickes, 28th Regiment of Foot (Suffolk), Her Majesty’s Army of Flanders

The officer corps of Britannian regiments has traditionally been drawn from the nation’s upper class. Many old Britannian families have a long and honourable tradition of military service.

Britannian field officers are mostly still seen as a breed apart by the troops under their command. What comes as a surprise to outside observers is that this often serves to strengthen the bond between commissioned officers and the regular soldiers.

Britannian officers, aware of their reputation, go to great lengths to remain absolutely unflappable even in the face of the worst tribulations. As far as they are concerned, a panicking commander is of no use to anyone. In turn, the regular troops harbour great respect for their leaders that stems from more than mere status.

Trained in prestigious military colleges such as Sandhurst, Britannian officers command with a combination of easy confidence and unshakeable self-belief. Junior officers in particular, the lieutenants and captains are also noted for leading from the front, never hesitating to put themselves in the line of fire if their presence is needed.

However, as the war progresses a new breed of officer is beginning to appear in the Britannian army, especially the newer regiments. These men, hard-bitten veterans, have been ‘raised from the ranks’.

At first, this was a controversial move. Some of the more traditional Britannian generals feared that the troops would not hold leaders who came from their own ‘sort’ in the same kind of respect as officers drawn from upper classes.

However, for the most part, these fears have not been borne out. Although they might lack some of the awe in which their upper-class peers are held by the soldiery, these rougher-edged leaders make up for it with sheer grit and battle experience. A slight lack of etiquette in the mess is now seen by even the stuffiest of military traditionalists as a fair price to pay for battles won for Queen and country!

Tactical Use:
The Kingdom of Britannia is famous for the quality of its officers, and their Lieutenants are no exception. In combat the main value of a Lieutenant is to influence their men with their powerful Command Abilities,Focus Fire and On My Mark.

The Focus Fire Command Ability represents an officer co-ordinating the musketry of a nearby Section, making them much more likely to hit their targets. This ability is incredibly important to any Ranged Attack-heavy Britannian force.

The On My Mark Command Ability is a rather different tool, allowing a Section to react immediately if they come under attack from enemy fire. Beyond the obvious advantage of being able to hit back before having your firepower reduced by the incoming attack, this ability can have a terrible psychological effect on your opponent. Would you really want to fire on a section if you well know that you’ll be taking more punishment back in return?

A Britannian Lieutenant can do more than just shout orders. A lifestyle involving shooting, fencing and horse riding means every officer is fighting fit and handy with a sabre and a pistol. Additionally, most officers buy their own weapons before heading out on campaign, meaning Britannian commanders can rely on a good deal of personal firepower.

A common choice for officers heading out at the moment is the powerful Windshear Ray Projector, a weapon able to shred a man or machine in moments. This allows the Lieutenant to pack a surprisingly powerful punch at point-blank range – perfect for finishing off any dazed stragglers who escaped the wrath of rifle and flamethrower!

“Every shot needs to count, my lads. Can’t go wasting Her Majesty’s ammunition now, can we?”

-Sergeant Albert Trieves, 33rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Berkshires)

For centuries, the armies of Britannia have relied on a solid core of well-trained, professional Riflemen. Since the unification of the British Isles as the Kingdom of Britannia, its red-coated soldiers have fought on nearly every continent, and their battles have taken them to the very ends of the earth.

From tiny islands in bleak oceanic fastnesses to the searing deserts of Africa and the dense jungles of South Asia, Britannia’s soldiers have marched to battle in the name of monarch and country. Through all of this, the Britannians have maintained a reputation for battle skill and resolution that far outweighed their relatively small numbers.

Prime among these attributes is their sheer stubbornness and will to win. Many times Queen Victoria’s forces have emerged from campaigns in triumph through their sheer unwillingness to accept defeat. Dogged endurance has seen even small expeditionary forces overwhelm many foes that should have beaten them.

The modern Britannian army is one of the most heavily mechanised forces in the world o, but large numbers of foot soldiers still form its beating heart. These days they are almost always furnished with specialist support weaponry and armoured units. However, there is still a tradition of rigorous – sometimes harsh – training that turns out hardy and resolute soldiers. This has ensured that Britannia’s infantry are still a formidable power in the field in their own right.

Although supported by soldiers from all over Britannia’s vast imperial territories, the core of the Kingdom’s forces are the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish regiments of the home army. The majority of them are well-trained professionals in the tradition of Wellington’s armies of the Prussian Wars. Often tied into twenty-five years or more of service, many are skilled veterans of battles all over the world to protect and expand Queen Victoria’s empire.

However the outbreak of the World War, especially the London Raid, has seen vast numbers of volunteers sign up for military service. Nicknamed ‘Short-Shrifters’ by the old professionals, what these new soldiers lack in experience they more than make up for in energy and patriotic fervour.

Rigorous musketry drill has always been the hallmark of Britannian regiments. Even now, all regular soldiers still use breach-loaders rather than repeating rifles, but thanks to their training they are able to put up walls of fire so ferocious that enemy troops assume they have additional machine-guns in support.

Although never quite as numerous as the conscript armies of other great nations, Britannia’s ‘thin red lines of heroes’, held firm by the bellowing exhortations of their sergeants are more than capable of holding their own against any opponent.

The Britannians have a well-earned reputation for fighting on in the face of even the most impossible odds. This attitude is exemplified by actions such as the 3rd Northamptonshire Rifles, who defended the Falkland Islands almost to the last unwounded man against Blazing Sun forces who outnumbered them more than ten to one.

Just recently, Britannian regiments have been issued with the fearsome Mk III Ricardo portable flamethrower. These specialists use the fiery fury of their weapons to keep the enemy away from their comrades in the firing line, allowing the riflemen to keep up their deadly torrents of lead as long as possible. On the attack, they are even more formidable, burning enemy troops out of fortified positions as the riflemen advance in line.

Tactical Use:
A Britannian Line Infantry Section has a clear-cut and simple job; to take up a secure position, preferably in cover and then hurl volley after volley of shots into the enemy ranks.

Line Infantry Riflemen simply cannot be matched at range by any of the mainstay Sections of the other Great Powers. The Martini-Metford rifle and its users’ marksmanship skills means that a section of Redcoats can fire accurately out to a distance from which most enemy small arms cannot respond.

The Britannian Line Infantry will never be lacking for able leadership either, as each Section may include a Sergeant for no additional cost. This gives them limited ability to function independently.

Furthermore, if a Section benefits from the Focus Fire Command Ability of the Britannian Lieutenant an opposing section in open ground could feasibly be wiped out by a single volley. If the Line Infantry use their “Volley Fire Present – Fire!” Game Card, you can expect to see the enemy stop dead in their tracks, unable to draw any closer.

Although your Riflemen are vulnerable if you get them involved in a Melee, a Britannian Line Infantry Section needn’t worry if the enemy draws near – a hosing from the Specialist’s Flamethrower will soon send them packing!