Monday, 21 November 2016

American Civil War artillery

I bought these figures ages ago but didn't do anything with them until recently. Even so, they ended up undercoated for a while before I finally got round to painting them. Anyway, now they are done.

They are, as usual Peter Pig 15mm figures and are for my Sharp Practice forces. Both the Federals and the Rebels have a single cannon and limber, with a crew of five gunners plus a Leader.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Some Syldavian and Bordurian buildings

These rather nice models are 15mm resin one from Hovels. They are from their Eastern Europe range.

First, there is a small church;

I did a bit of googling for images of churches in the Balkans and found lots of pictures of ones with green roofs. So, green it is.

Secondly, here is what Hovels describe as a "Regional Governors house" but which I think looks more like something owned by a well-off peasant farmer or maybe a local town burgomaster. I decided that some colour was what was required here to make this building stand out;

I wrote in a previous piece about Sir William Huntley-Palmer, "Sir William also writes of the customs and superstitions of the peasants of the southern marches of the province of Moltuja. He writes at length of the legend of a fearsome demonic sorcerer from the icy north known as Crna Tomascz or Black Thomas, who the peasants believe has the power to reanimate the recently-deceased and enslave them for his evil purposes. Sir William writes that  the peasants of this region, being superstitious and in much fear of  Crna Tomascz paint their window and door frames with blue paint, which they believe will ward off the demon. He records that “the people believe that Crna Tomascz knows when someone is close to death and will climb into the house and bewitch them so that once buried he can call forth the corpse from the grave”. He also writes that across the whole region many rural buildings have their roofs partially painted red, especially along the ridges and hips to prevent a demonic entity, which he says the peasants call a  “Noc Vitek”  (trans. Night Gaunt) from roosting there."

Seeing as there isn't really a great deal of difference between the people who inhabit Syldavia and Borduria, these buildings should work happily for both sides and will look good on the table.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

More about Sir William Huntley-Palmer

Excerpts from the never-published memoir “Journeying in Syldavia” by Sir William Huntley-Palmer, which is an account of the author’s time spent in the service of King Ottokar IX of that country.

“In the Spring of 1756, I found myself once more in Klow, the capital city of the Kingdom of Syldavia. I had found accommodation in an apartment in an old Klovene tower house in the mediaeval quarter of the city, the area being often referred to as Klovinus, which was the name of the original Roman city, not far from the ancient Cathedral or Basilica of St Budvar (occasionally but incorrectly referred to as St Vladimir). My landlord, Freiherr Stefan von Stiflipz was a senior officer in an infantry regiment. He claimed descent from the ancient Slav tribe of the Hvegi and said that the house had been the residence of Sidekar Krutusne, a famous warlord of the Hvegs in the 15th century, and who was one of the first members of the Order of the Black Pelican. The Pelican was carved above the entrance to the house, bearing in its beak a scroll emblazoned with the Latin phrase “hoc signo vinces nigrum onocrotalus”.

Von Stiflipz was a genial fellow, and we often shared a bottle or two of the excellent local wine over dinner of an evening, generally conversing in either German or, when my grasp of that language failed, in French, a tongue that was becoming widely spoken by the educated classes of the country. We discussed the history of Syldavia, with Von Stiflipz expounding at great length on the important role of the Hvegi tribes in the unification of the country and how Muscarius Hivegiorum (Muskar Hveghi or Muskar of the Hvegs) defeated the Turkic Khan of Istrovia (Roman Syldavia Inferior) and became King Muskar I.

A fairly frequent guest was Hauptmann Wilhelm Tischdecke, a young Captain of Jägers, previously serving in a Pandour regiment who had recently arranged a commission in the more fashionable Strelec Regiment of Jägers. There was much talk of sending troops to the south where there had recently been Ottoman incursions in the province of Zeta, to the north of Lake Skhoder, threatening both the provincial capital, Cetinjow and the important market town of Bjelogoritza, further up the River Zeta, near the confluence with its tributary, the Jetinuja River.

I was keen to travel south with any expeditionary force and Von Stiflipz was able to introduce me to  Rittmeister (that is captain) Marko Tvrdoglav of the Grünerwald Dragoon regiment, which had been mobilised for service in the South. Because of my previous service in Kerr’s Dragoons, the Rittmeister was happy to arrange permission for me to accompany his squadron as far as Cetinjow.

Within the month a small vanguard had been formed and sent south. This comprised two squadrons of the  Grünerwald Dragoons, one from the Eszakivaros Huzzars and an impromptu brigade formed from five companies of foot from the Motörkopf regiment, three companies of Lasko’s Pandours and Hauptmann Tischdecke’s  Jäger company.  I rode with Rittmeister Tvrdoglav’s Dragoons, accompanied by my manservant Domenico, a Venetian who claimed to be the illegitimate son of a member of the Morosini family. The remaining  troops would follow on within a few weeks, some by the same route that we had taken along the valley of the River Wladir, but others by sea, south along the coast from Dbrnouk to Rudva, a port to the southwest of Cetinjow. In total, the army was expected to consist of six battalions of Foot, three of Pandours, a dozen squadrons of various types of Horse and a number of troops of Artillery.”

Sir William writes at length of the landscape through which the small force passes. He complains that he was unable to visit the city of Istow (formerly Istrow, Roman Istriodunum) to view the Roman ruins but vows to return at a future date. (n.b. Huntley-Palmer visited Istow in 1759 and commissioned the painting “The Ruins of Istriodunum by Moonlight” which now hangs in the Staatliches Kunstmuseum ( Državni muzej umjetnosti) in Klow.

Sir William also writes of the customs and superstitions of the peasants of the southern marches of the province of Moltuja. He writes at length of the legend of a fearsome demonic sorcerer from the icy north known as Crna Tomascz or Black Thomas, who the peasants believe has the power to reanimate the recently-deceased and enslave them for his evil purposes. Sir William writes that  the peasants of this region, being superstitious and in much fear of  Crna Tomascz paint their window and door frames with blue paint, which they believe will ward off the demon. He records that “the people believe that Crna Tomascz knows when someone is close to death and will climb into the house and bewitch them so that once buried he can call forth the corpse from the grave”. He also writes that across the whole region many rural buildings have their roofs partially painted red, especially along the ridges and hips to prevent a demonic entity, which he says the peasants call a  “Noc Vitek”  (trans. Night Gaunt) from roosting there.

By the early Summer of 1756, H-P arrives in Cetinjow, which he describes as being “a city built on two hills, of  an antique appearance, dominated by a mediaeval citadel and encircled by walls of considerable height but which are in need of some repair. There are many fine buildings of some antiquity and numerous churches for followers of both the Latin and Greek Rites. There are also religious buildings for both Jews and Mussulmen and the city has a population in which one might discern divers peoples from the shores of the Mediterranean and the Levant, as well as the sturdy peasantry of Syldavia. On the streets one might hear the Venetian dialect one moment, followed by Greek, Magyar, Arabic, Turkish, the Syldavian Slavic tongue or the barbarous dialects of the mountains.

However, the troops are not to remain in the city for long and are soon on the move again, with the town of Bjelogoritza their final destination. While in Cetinjow, though, Sir William takes the opportunity to draw a detailed plan of the city and lists the major buildings, the state of the fortifications and the size and quality of the garrison. He records that “although the walls are tall and built of dressed stone, they are of such an age that they could not long withstand modern artillery, allowing a Forlorn Hope of steady troops to enter via the breach.” 

He is also scathing about the quality of the garrison of the city. He writes that “the city is garrisoned with two or three hundred militia men, who are slovenly and of poor quality, many appearing infirm. Their uniforms are of brown homespun of an old-fashioned cut and contrast poorly with the smart grey uniforms of the Motorköpf regiment and Captain Tischdecke‘s green-coated Jägers. There are also some locally-recruited Pandours of a barbarous and brigandlike appearance, who I believe are the sworn tribal enemies of  those of the Lasko Regiment who form part of our small brigade. Our Pandours are stout fellows, well-turned out and of an impressively warlike bearing but these others lack discipline, are prone to drunkenness, quarrel constantly and steal from the townspeople. I am sure that if the Turk had arrived before us, his Janissaries and Bashi-Bazooks would already be putting their feet up on the governor‘s dining table. There are no Horse at all, save for a few dozen of the Governor’s Gendarmerie, who are more suited to collecting Excise Monies than fighting and the only guns in the city’s bastions must have first seen service in the German Wars a century ago.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Back to painting after a long break

Well, it's been a fair old while but I have started painting again for my Sharp Practice projects. I've done some civilians for my ACW setting and a few wagons and other stuff for Syldavia and Borduria.

Fiest, here are some civilians for the ACW. These will come in handy for various scenarios. They are Peter Pig 15mm.

I think that the woman on the right with the shotgun and the rather flighty-looking woman next to her will be very useful.

In the next two pictures, all the minis are from Magister Militum. First, I have painted up an Engineering group that can be used for either side because they have removed their uniform coats, no doubt due to the heat. An Engineering Group in Sharp Practice should have six figures, but I've done seven because that is how they come from Magister Militum.

The third set of figures represent the supply trains of the armies. I have a water wagon that can be used for either side and two ammunition wagons; yellow for Syldavia and green for Borduria. I've also got two small mule trains that can be used for resupply, or as an objective in a scenario.

None of the figures are in military dress. I've assumed that they are either civilian contractors or local peasants pressed into service.

Friday, 16 September 2016


As I wrote in my background piece about my imagined star system, in addition to the various Human factions there are also alien (xeno) species who inhabit the system. 

One faction is the aggressive and militaristic H'Rin Brood Family of the Glorious Kra'Vak Dominate. These are represented by the excellent GZG Kra'vak figures and vehicles. 

As I wrote previously, the Kra'vak are a planetary-based species, living on many worlds spread across a number of systems but there are also roving fleets of Kra'vak clans who are constantly seeking out new systems to conquer. The H'Rin Brood Family are one of these armadas of freebooting spacefarers. Their forces are mobile and fast-moving, as befitting aggressive raiders. The H'Rin raiding parties generally contain three types of troops. These are known to the Humans as hastati, principes and triarii, organised into maniples of between 20 and 30 individuals. The hastati are younger Kra'vak who act as scouts, the principes are older veterans who fight as the main strike force and the triarii are heavily-armed elite troops who act as a reserve or as assault troops. Each raiding party will contain all three types, grouped into a cohort, which might be supported by auxilia, who can be from any number of allied species or who might be contracted mercenaries or even pirates and outlaws.

So here are the three basic types of H'Rin Kra'vak troops. First, two maniples or platoons of hastati scouts. Each platoon consists of two squads of 10 troopers with energy rifles and 2 heavy energy weapons, with a commander and a section of 4 troopers with support weapons and a section leader/FOO.

Next, the main strike force of principes, comprising experienced fighters. Each platoon (maniple) consists of two infantry squads of 10 troopers (8 with standard energy rifles and 2 with the heavier support versions), plus a support squad of 8, equipped with 4 rocket launchers and 4 sniper energy rifles.

Finally, there is a single maniple of 15 triarii, elite veterans in heavier armour and completely equipped with the powerful assault energy rifles.

 This unit is accompanied by the overall cohort leader.

I have also painted up a couple of anti-grav vehicles for this raiding party, a command and ECM vehicle and a powerful tank.

 Finally, I have painted up two units of auxiliaries to add some variety. First is a platoon of Xar Bug warriors. I really like these. They are suitably alien-looking and are equipped with a variety of projectile and energy weapons.

Last, but not least I have a unit of what I can only describe as most definitely being Not-Space Orks, not least because they are red. These are all GZG Alien Mercenaries with the exception of the two bike riders, who are from The Scene, where they are described as Wasteland Warriors. In my imaginary future, these are members of a race called the Orak, pirates, outlaws and mercenaries.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

More Sci Fi warriors

Here are some more of my GZG 15mm Q13 minis. These are Japanese Corporate Ashigaru troops who I am using to represent the forces of the Tansa Guild in my invented universe.

First, here is a company of infantry, consisting of three platoons and the company HQ.

Note that the third platoon has more portable missile launchers than the other two in each eight-man squad. This is designated as the  anti-vehicle platoon.

Next, here are the heavy troops in power armour. There are four squads, each with six troopers, two with heavy weapons.

Next is a squad of tripod-mounted autocannons, to provide some fire support. These have two hover APCs as transports. These aren't from GZG. I bought these vehicles from a stand at a show and modified them with some spare turrets.

Next, here are the dreaded Tech Ninja infiltration specialists, armed with power swords and laser pistols or projectile hand weapons. I've designed these to operate as squads of four. They are close combat experts and they are equipped with cloaking technology to help them in their missions.

Finally, there is a platoon of drones, with a drone operator. These are the recce element of the force.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Novotelluria - my Q13 universe back-story

I am a great believer in any imaginary wargames world having a consistent look and feel, as well as a back-story that ensures as much uniformity as possible. It doesn't matter whether this is some kind of imagined past, along the lines of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, a historical imagi-nations project, something relatively contemporary or a world set in the far future.

When it comes to the future, it is far too easy to have the kind of technology that turns people into super beings, but if you do that, why bother wargaming it? I prefer to see the future as an extrapolation of what might be possible, given realistic advances in technology, plus a few things that might actually make travel between stars possible. I am not particularly enamoured of Faster-Than-Light starships, but unless one has a way of getting around the galaxy, science fiction warfare becomes pretty much impossible. Therefore, I have embraced the concept of wormholes to get from A to B across the light years.

I first became interested in Sci Fi gaming again, previously having been a Warhammer 40K player a long time ago, after discovering Ground Zero Games 15mm minis via Wargaming Girl, the website of Tamsin P.

I have kept the GZG names for alien races, but I am reusing the GZG human figures to represent different human factions. So, here is the story of a single imaginary star system, where I have decided to base my Quadrant 13 games:

The Novotelluria System

The planet Novotelluria orbits the G-type main sequence yellow dwarf star UGC (Updated Gliese Catalogue) 8704. In the Catalogue it is known as UGC 8704c. The star is larger than Earth's Sun and somewhat hotter.

Locally, the star is known as Istanu and was first observed to have an exoplanetary system in 2047. Observations using the Hubble Successor Telescope identified three gas giants, one ice giant and five rocky planets in the system, with two of the rocky planets being Earth-comparable and within the Goldilocks Zone. In 2051, observations from the unmanned Mars orbital observatory, later corroborated by scientists based on the International Earth Orbital Station, identified that both planets had oxygen-rich atmospheres and that 8704c had liquid water at surface level. These were labelled UGC 8704c and UGC 8704d. The two innermost planets 8704a and 8704b, although rocky, were found to be too hot and unlikely to be able to sustain human life. Planet 8704e was classified as a super Earth but too cold to be habitable. The remaining planets were the gas giants 8704f, g and h (with g being classed as a super Jupiter) and 8704i, the outermost planet being observed to be an ice giant.

The Resource Wars

In the decades following the launch of the Hubble Successor Telescope in 2036, the number of potentially habitable worlds around suitable stars grew to around 50. At the same time multiple environmental problems on Earth and several localised resource wars were causing havoc across the planet and led to the collapse of several nations. The decline in reliance on petrochemicals and the growth in renewable energy contributed to the problems, with tensions in the Middle East growing as revenues declined. Proxy wars between the major powers, fought in the Middle East and North Africa caused further instability eventually leading to the Islamic Civil War of 2043-5, between Iran and the Saudi Caliphate. Following the destruction of Riyadh, Teheran, Damascus and Mecca in a series of nuclear strikes the war ended leaving most of the Middle East in ruins. The resulting Second Iranian Revolution overthrew the Theocracy and led to the creation of the People's Republic of Persia (PRP). 

The Caliphate collapsed and the resulting wave of local wars caused massive destruction, with millions perishing before the conflicts finally ended. The Arabian peninsula became a wasteland. Finally, international tensions led to a major war between the Russian Neo-Tsarist Federation and the Chinese/Japanese Co-operative Trade Alliance, which broke out in 2065. Three months later, following an exchange of nuclear weapons, Russia was brought to a state of political and economic collapse and the war ended with the surrender of the Russians and the break up of the Federation. However, the CJTA was also left in a weakened state and with its economy in ruins. By 2067, the civil strife in Russia and the Far East subsided, but most of Central Asia was devastated. It would take decades before these regions were brought back to life. The PRP became a federated state of the Indian Ocean Union. The CJTA eventually recovered and was later instrumental in developing the reconstruction effort aimed at rebuilding the Earth's infrastructure after the wars of the 22nd century.

The Colony Ark project

The major non-combatant powers, the European Federal State, the Pan-American Alliance and the Indian Ocean Union launched a programme of reconstruction and regeneration. The development of cheap and reliable nuclear fusion reactors helped to bring down the rise in global temperatures, stabilising the climate, and the building of the first space elevator in 2077 made the delivery of large payloads into space a genuine reality.

The invention of the Higgs Andersson Quantum (HAQ) drive in 2084 brought the possibility of faster space flight and within a decade there were settlements established on Mars, the Moon and, by the end of the century on Ceres, Ganymede and Europa. Automated mining and industrial facilities were established across the system and in 2106 the first experimental starship was built. In 2109 an unmanned ship was sent to Proxima Centauri. Within three years of this, the Colony Ark project was launched.

The aim of the project was to build 20 colony ships, each capable of carrying 250,000 humans in a state of suspended animation. There would be a total of ten missions, each consisting of two ships to be launched a decade apart, to the ten most suitable planets identified as being capable of sustaining human life.

The cost of this project was enormous and took much longer to achieve than was originally thought. The first five missions were launched approximately a year apart between 2150 and 2155. The second five missions were scheduled to commence in 2158. Meaningful contact with Earth would be impossible once the ships reached their destinations but, for economic and political reasons it was decided to postpone the second wave of ships until 20 years after the original launches. 

As things turned out, the second wave would be postponed for nearly half a century following the outbreak of an almost global war on Earth in 2168. One of the major causes was tension over the Colony Ark second phase and the selection policies for filling the ranks of colonists. The war, which would later become known as The Colony War, caused chaos and devastation, leading to around 25% of the Earth becoming almost completely uninhabitable. The outcome of the war was the creation of the Pragmatic Federation, later known as the Earth Federation, and the establishment of the Planetary Collegium to oversee the rebuilding of the devastation.

On Mars, which was untouched by the war, the Colony Ark B project was revived and the second wave of Arks was built. These were launched over a six year period beginning in 2208. Around 50% of the colonists came from Mars and the Moon with the remainder coming from the most heavily populated regions of Earth.

Following the launch of the last Ark mission, CA 10-B in 2214, the Ark ship project was closed.

There would be no further interplanetary missions for over two centuries the focus of both the Pragmatic Federation and the Martian Syndicalist Republic would be on regenerating the Earth, developing the colonies around the system and working to develop ships and propulsion systems that would allow a faster transit between the colonies and the home worlds. The aim would be to restore contact with the 10 CA systems, assuming that the missions had actually reached those stars and that colonies had been established. The creation of the Tansa Guild by an off-planet faction of the CJTA, based on Mars, was one of the first steps in this programme.

On Earth, the long process of rebuilding the shattered regions was continued, with much of the actual work of reclamation and rebuilding being carried out by off-world mega corporations and the Martian government It was during this period that the first global government arose from a new political consensus created around turning the Planetary Collegium into something with a wider and deeper existence.

The establishment of the Earth Federation did not bring an end to local political entities, but as all “states” acknowledged the primacy of the Federal Collegium this effectively brought an end to local wars. The prevailing political culture across the Earth is now one of non-ideological utilitarian co-existence.

Arrival in the UGC8704 system

The Novotelluria system was first settled by Colony Ark mission CA 6-A, launched in 2159 that took 127 years to reach the system. The first landings were made on UGC 8704c in 2286 (Earth calendar) and colonisation followed in several locations. Novotelluria has an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere and liquid water. The average temperature is higher that that of Earth.

UGC 8704d , now known locally as Nerthus, has one single large moon, known as Mani and is slightly smaller and colder than Novotelluria. Its year is 536 days long. Nerthus has some broadly similar biota to Novotelluria, plus some organisms evolved to live in extremely cold environments. 

The planet was first visited by an exploratory mission some 40 years later and autonomous robotic systems were left on the planet, but colonisation was left for the arrival of the planned later Colony Ark, CA 6-B, which was eventually launched 50 years after the original mission.

At the time of the initial landings, no sentient organisms found on UGC8704c but there were many primitive ones, including some large lifeforms. Among the most basic lifeforms found were many simple single-celled equivalents of bacteria and analogues of lichens, algae and colony organisms of varying sizes and degrees of complexity. Many simple tube-like and bag-like organisms were found in the mud layers of rivers and lakes. There was also a huge variety of worm-like invertebrates and many algae-like and seaweed-like plant analogues in the seas. Larger and more complex lifeforms included armoured and segmented arthropod analogues, of both land and aquatic forms, fish-like organisms, various flying organisms of sizes ranging from 1mm to over 1 metre in length, organisms resembling bushes and trees and a number of species that have no real equivalents on Earth. Many lifeforms have a hive organisation or live as colony organisms with specialised symbiotic variants.

A number of these organisms were identified as dangerous to humans or to Earth animals and plants, either as parasites or as predators. Life was never easy in the early stages of colonisation and there were several setbacks but eventually the original human colonies became well-established and new settlements were founded across the planet.

Fifty years after the arrival of the original 250,000 colonists the second colony ark ship arrived in system. This ship, CA 6-B went into orbit around Nerthus and in due course began to colonise the planet, based upon the data found by the previously established robotic probes.

During the first few centuries some terraforming took place, displacing many native lifeforms and making some parts of the surface of Novotelluria more Earth-like. Agricultural species were introduced and some of the less dry areas of the planet were converted into productive farmland. Terraforming operated at a slower pace on Nerthus.

Novotelluria is warmer than Earth and somewhat drier. A lot of water is stored in deep aquifers. Much of the planet is semi-arid and there are several desert areas around the equatorial regions. There are two major continents, three smaller landmasses and several island chains and archipelagos. The current population of Novo (as the planet is known locally) is around 550 million. Because of the surface temperature, many Novo buildings are constructed mainly below ground level, except in the larger cities, where a variety of different architectural styles can be found. The major energy sources on Novo are fusion power and solar capture.

Even today, there are parts of the surface of Novo that are either unexplored or in the process of being investigated, although there has been a network of mapping satellites operating for around 200 years.

The planet has two small moons, Artume and Losna. Neither have breathable atmospheres. There is an automated observatory and communications station on Losna. Artume is the home of three industrial settlements and a large mining complex, all belonging to the Istanu Mining Corporation (IMC). The Novotellurian year is 407 days long and is divided into ten 40 day months with a seven-day “year-end time”. There are orbital stations at the five Lagrange Points for the Novotellurian system.

Nerthus is approximately 25% terraformed. Agriculture is possible in biodomes or outdoors using genetically-modified crops. Apart from the temperate regions around the equator, the remainder of the planet consists of cold deserts, mountainous glacial regions and huge ice fields at the north and south poles. Despite the cold climate, Nerthus is volcanically active.

The population of Nerthus is around 420 million. Mani is also inhabited and has a population of around 4 million. Mani is not terraformed and the surface conditions are such that people need to wear environment suits to survive. Most people who live on Mani are employees of the IMC (Istanu Mining Corporation) and are engaged in mining and industrial production. There are six large geodesic cities and several small outlying communities on this moon. There are three Lagrange orbitals around Nerthus.

Most Nerthus cities and townships are partly subterranean, except around the equatorial belt, to conserve heat and energy souces include solar capture from orbital plants, fusion and geo-thermal extraction.

For the first couple of centuries, life was hard for the colonists, with no access to any technologies other than those which were available on the Ark ships. The original settlements on the planet were quite widely dispersed and some struggled to develop. One or two failed completely. Access to and control of resources led to conflict between different settlements as different factions began to form into political, economic and industrial entities. Eventually, though, things began to improve. For many people, though, life still revolved around their local settlements, many never travelled further than their local main population centres and few went off-planet at all, apart from those engaged in scientific missions or the maintenance of automated industrial installations.

After the two colony ark missions no further ships arrived from Earth for around three centuries. However, approximately 275 years ago, a ship arrived from Earth via a generated wormhole. This ship, operated by the Tansa Guild, but representing EarthFed contained 200 scientists and engineers. This is now known as the First Wormhole Event.

Subsequent EarthFed ships arrived bringing more scientific staff, traders and military personnel. Corporate ships also arrived equipped with automated high-tech industrial units and workers.

Since regaining contact with Earth the Istanu system has had the opportunity to acquire wormhole generating technology and other advances, such as nanotech and advanced genetic manipulation. The population of the system has subsequently grown due to emigration from the Earth system.

Spaceflight is possible around the system using either HAQ ships and slower but more numerous Ion Conversion Drive vessels or by ships powered by the EarthFed Quantum Matrix (QM) drive. In an ICD ship, a flight from Novotelluria to Nerthus takes 20 days, compared with six days in a HAQ ship. A QM voyage takes under 24 hours.

Although there are transit ships capable of reaching and returning from orbit, most of the movement between the planetary surface and space occurs via space elevators.

Extra-system flight would have been possible using HAQ technology but the nearest star system (UGC 9021) is 11 light years away. Using non-wormhole technology, it would have taken around 45 years to reach the system using a HAQ-powered vessel. However, wormhole generation allows for vessels to make the jump within a matter of hours and it has been visited several times in the last 50 years. UGC 9021 is a red dwarf system with several planets and a brown dwarf companion at the edge of the system. No signs of extant sentient native life have been identified in this system, but there are many life forms on the two planets in the system's Goldilocks zone and there is much archaeological evidence of an extinct sentient civilisation on the larger of the two habitable planets and also of visits from non-terrestrial sources. There are currently no plans to settle in this system but there are several scientific facilities in the system.

Human populations and politics

Over the centuries, the human populations of both planets have split into several political entities.

Novotelluria has two main political entities, the Western Condominium (WestCon), and the Northern Trade Alliance (NTA). Both claim to be the only true successor of the original colonial administration of Novo. Both WestCon and the NTA consider themselves to be democratic states but both are less democratic in reality than they proclaim. WestCon operates along state socialist lines and the NTA is an authoritarian quasi-monarchy.

There are also several smaller unaligned states and many independent colonies. There has been an on-off state of conflict between WestCon and the NTA since before the First Wormhole Event. Small scale warfare also occurs among the unaligned entities. There are also a number of corporate entities that operate as political units. The largest of these is the Istanu Mining Corporation. Due to the re-establishment of the link to Home System via wormhole technology, the Istanu system is now home to a growing Earth immigrant population, many of whom have created new settlements and political and economic units. These newer colonies are mainly part of a confederacy known as the Istanu EarthFed Exarchate (IFE).

The headquarters of the IMC is on Novo. It is the most powerful of the system's corporate states. The IMC and WestCon have been allied for the last 150 years.

Novo is also home to a major headquarters of the powerful but secretive Tansa Guild, which as we have already seen originated on Mars. This body is dedicated to exploration, research and intelligence gathering activities across the Istanu System and beyond. One of its stated roles is the discovery and study of sentient xeno species. Much of the Guild's work is scientific research and exploration but it also has a small but well-equipped security and military arm, the Defence Directorate. In addition there is a specialist group within the Guild, formally the Interventions Directorate but popularly known as the Tech Ninjas or Techno-Assassins. Members of this directorate are intelligence operatives and close combat and infiltration specialists who use a variety of weapons, including power swords and laser hand weapons. They are known to use personal field generators occasionally and it is believed that they have access to a range of classified biotech modifications and nanotech augmentations. Although local technology is rated T2, the Tansa Guild is rated as T2+ because of its access to these specialist technologies.

Nerthus is dominated by the Human Frontier Autarky (HFA). Again, there are also several smaller unaligned units. The HFA ideologically opposes any kind of political union with any Home System states or with EarthFed. The HFA believes that human colonies outside of the Home System should retain their independence and eventually break away from Earth. The Nerthine Hegemony is the other main political entity on Nerthus. The Hegemony is an authoritarian theocracy.

There are several colonies of Martian Syndicalist settlers on Nerthus.

There is also a large orbital EarthFed military station which is home to a fleet of combat and exploration ships and to a rapid reaction military force. The purpose of this force is to protect the system from major xeno incursions.

Since exploration of the galaxy has become possible via wormhole generation several xeno-species have been discovered. Some are friendly to a variety of degrees, but others are aggressive and expansionist.

EarthFed has a policy of non- intervention in local politics and remains neutral in any conflicts that occur within the system. To date, most of the local political entities have retained cordial relations with EarthFed and have economic, commercial and political relationships with local political units back on Earth itself or elsewhere in the Home System.

Elsewhere in the system, there is a large but unknown number of settlements, stations and outposts of varying size. These tend to be self-contained and independent. There are several Outer colonies that have been established by EarthFed mining corporations and by genetically adapted (GeneMod) humans from the outer colonies of the Earth system. The Istanu Mining Corporation also has a number of installations in the outer system.

Other sentient species

When humans first arrived in the Istanu system, they searched for signs of extra-terrestrial sentient life. There were no sentient lifeforms found on either Novo or Nerthus and it appeared that the system was devoid of intelligent non-human life.

However, around 100 years after the arrival of the second Ark a damaged alien ship was found in an eccentric orbit around Istanu. HFA ships were sent to intercept the vessel, which was a gutted wreck with no life on board. The ship was larger than any human ships apart from the colony arks and appeared to have been evacuated following some kind of catastrophic collision and general systemic collapse. The ship was placed in a stable orbit around Nerthus and scientific investigations were begun but the origin of the ship and the nature of its crew remained a mystery until after the arrival of the first EarthFed ships, although it was rumoured that HFA investigators tried without success to extract useful technology.

Shortly after this event, miners operating in the non-terraformed highlands of Novo found a number of buried and partially-buried archaeological sites that were more than 5000 years old. Although the remains of quite large structures were uncovered, no technologically-advanced artefacts were found, nor anything to indicate what kind of creatures inhabited the sites. These showed that at some point, there had been sentient lifeforms living on the planet. No biological remains have ever been uncovered and to date, even after quite extensive study, nothing has been found to indicate whether these lifeforms were native to the planet or were, like the Humans, colonists. The supposition is that, because of the lack of evidence for advanced technology, the lifeforms were indigenous but the origins and fate of these lifeforms is still unknown.

There were no further contacts until after the opening of the Earth/Istanu wormholes. It would appear that the action of creating wormholes was a trigger for investigation by other space-faring sentients. Approximately 175 years ago, contact was made with three separate sentient extraterrestrial species in Istanu local space. None were previously known to EarthFed.

The first species who arrived were a species initially known as the Bracc-olakk. This was a mining exploration mission consisting of a survey ship and three small combat-ready escorts which was detected by HFA sensory arrays on the outer system. Three HAQ defence ships were sent to intercept the intruders but the ships departed before contact could be made. The next Bracc-olakk incursion was in the form of a larger fleet of various vessels. Contact was made at this time without incident by EarthFed ships, including xenobiologists and language analysis experts. It was established that the Bracc were mainly interested in mining in the outer system and several outposts were established.

The Bracc are a clan-based civilisation of humanoid lifeforms with a tough exo-skeleton and an armoured carapace formed from complex carbon/nitrogen compounds. Their body chemistry is based upon carbon/oxygen chemistry like human life and their preferred habitats are similar to human ones, but they can tolerate a far wider range of temperatures. It is now known that the name ending -olakk signifies one of the three meta-clan confederacies of the Bracc species, the other two being the Bracc-boruz and the Bracc-agrim.

The current Bracc population of the system is estimated to be around 45-50 million, living in several clan groups, who are often mutually antagonistic. Relations are generally peaceful, although there has been some warfare between individual Bracc clans and humans. Bracc freebooters have been known to attack human settlements and ships and there are occasional incidents in the outer colonies. Occasionally Bracc serve as mercenaries in conflicts between the human factions, mainly for the outer colonies, although Bracc units have fought alongside NTA forces on occasions. There are several Bracc settlements on both Novo and Nerthus.

Technologically the Bracc are roughly at the same level as Humanity but they do not have AI level computing, relying on specialised bio-computers instead. However, they are more advanced in some areas. For example, they are more advanced than the humans of the Novo system in the use of anti-grav technology, although this is level of knowledge is matched by EarthFed. Larger Bracc ships have a wormhole generation capability using broadly-similar processes to the Human system. The Bracc do not use nanotech or biotech but through biological manipulation of their DNA-equivalent are able to produce specialised clones and genetically-distinct variations of their species. The Bracc commonly deploy large armoured battle suits as mobile support for their troops.

The Bracc are commonly called “Crusties” by all human factions.

The second contact with sentients occurred around three decades after the arrival of the Bracc. This was a species which was already known to the Bracc. Their name for them was translated as “Disconnected Things”. One ship made planet fall near Novo, communications were opened but the ship departed via some kind of unknown technology. Subsequently, similar ships have visited the system on several occasions but withdrawn whenever an attempt to open contact is made or if they are approached. Nothing is known about this species but, according to the Bracc, they are peaceful observers who never make contact or intervene.

The third contact was with another grouping which consists of more than one species, one that has launched many raids on human settlements in the outer system and also much larger incursions against both Novo and Nerthus. These xenos were originally known as the H'Rin, but it is now known that they are actually a faction of the much larger and more widespread Kra'vak Dominate. Their formal designation is the H'Rin Brood Family of the Glorious Kra'Vak Dominate. Both Novo and Nerthus maintains a state of permanent readiness against Kra'vak incursions.

The Kra'vak are a non-mammalian humanoid species but Kra'vak forces also contain fighters in a variety of other forms. The most common of these is an eight-limbed species known to the humans as Bugs, more properly called the Xar. Bugs have a very tough carapace, about as resistant to weapons as standard combat armour. Kra'vak raiding expeditions also sometimes contain groups of red-skinned humanoids known as the Orak, who are known to roam around many other systems where humans have settled. They are aggressive but not especially technologically advanced and are usually encountered as freebooters and pirates. Some Orak operate as mercenaries and fight with Human forces, others in the forces of non-human species who are prepared to pay. The origins of the Orak are unknown but they appear to be genetically-engineered lifeforms rather than evolved ones, possibly created by another, as yet unknown species. The Kra'vak sometimes also deploy bio-mechanical fighting units and various kinds of combat walkers, remotes and drones.

Because Kra'vak incursions are aimed at plundering and seizing slaves their forces tend to be mobile and fast-moving. Raiding parties generally contain three types of troops. These are known to the Humans as hastati, principes and triarii, organised into maniples of between 20 and 30 individuals. The hastati are younger Kra'vak who act as scouts, the principes are older veterans who fight as the main strike force and the triarii are heavily-armed elite troops who act as a reserve or as assault troops. Each raiding party will contain all three types, grouped into a cohort, which will be supported by auxilia, generally Xar fighters, and by various vehicles.

The Kra'vak are a planetary-based species, with Kra'vak worlds spread across a number of systems but there are also roving fleets of Kra'vak clans who are constantly seeking out new systems to conquer. Several Brood Families have at various times over the last six millennia left their home worlds and become spacefarers. These Families now exist as a loose confederation inhabiting a variety of habitat fleets that include ships, artificial asteroids and giant colony hulks, as well as permanent domains in a number of systems. They are spread across a large region of the local galactic zone. Over the millennia these Kra'vak explorers have encountered a number of other sentient species, some of whom have become members of the habitat fleet populations. Kra'vak habitat fleets contain a number of non-belligerent species as well as aggressive lifeforms. It is now known that the mystery wrecked ship orbiting Nerthus was an Kra'vak habitat ship that had been abandoned centuries before the first Humans reached the Istanu system following some kind of catastrophe.

The Bracc have been aware of the Kra'vak for many centuries and consider them to be a major threat. The Kra'vak also share a carbon/oxygen biochemistry with Humanity.

EarthFed forces have been deployed on many occasions against the Kra'vak when local forces were unable to contain an incursion.

Kra'vak technology is broadly at the same level as EarthFed, T3, but the Kra'vak are considered to be more advanced with regards to certain technologies, such as stealth, anti-grav and force fields. The Kra'vak have also mastered the use of energy weaponry to a high standard. Therefore they are classed as T3+.

There are other sentient species elsewhere in the loose grouping of systems that are linked to Earth via the wormhole network. Some are peaceful, some are allies and some are hostile. Some of these species occasionally visit the Istanu system.

The rest of the Istanu planetary system

UGC 8704a: the innermost and smallest planet, Soranus is a rocky and uninhabitable world. It has no atmosphere and is subject to occasional scouring by solar flares from Istanu. Automated deepspace probes have explored Soranus.

UGC 8704b: the second planet, Arinniti is another rocky and uninhabitable world. It has a thick carbon and sulphur dioxide atmosphere. It has an environment similar to that of Venus in the Earth's solar system. There have been several automated probes sent to Arinniti and these have returned much data about the conditions on the planet. Simple silicon-based organisms have been detected on Arinniti.

UGC 8704e: this icy super-Earth is called Fimbulvatr and is uninhabited by humans and permanently frozen. There have been several expeditions to the planet. Its atmosphere is predominantly nitrogen with some traces of argon and oxygen. Most of the planetary oxygen is combined with hydrogen as ice. Primitive ammonia-based lifeforms exist across the planet in a wide variety of habitats. None are sentient and most are unicellular. There is a very large permanent Bracc industrial colony on Fimbulvatr. There are several automated unmanned Human industrial facilities around the equator of the planet.

UGC 8704f (Nergal) is a Jupiter-like gas giant with several large and many small rocky moons. There are small and medium-sized communities living on some of the moons. These are mostly made up of miners and political exiles from the inner worlds, plus some Bracc. The largest moon, Khonsu, which has an oxygen atmosphere and liquid water is the home of a strict and exclusive religious sect known as the Order of the Chosen of the Outer Path which prohibits settlement by others on their world and which is in a state of permanent hostility towards the Bracc. It is rumoured that the IMC has links to the Praesidium of the Chosen, the ruling body of the Order. The Order has a small but well-equipped army of fanatical warrior monks. The Order is known to use genetic modifications and also possibly nanotech.

UGC 8704g (Ashur) is a super-Jupiter gas giant with hundreds of small rocky moons mixed in with a huge ring of space debris, ice and dust. There are many small communities scattered around the Ashur ring.

UGC 8704h (Sarruma) is a smaller gas giant with several small rocky moons. There are a few scattered outposts on the moons and some Bracc outposts too.

UGC 8704i (Anguta) is an ice giant with three large rocky moons. It takes 948 years to orbit Istanu. It currently takes nearly a year to reach Anguta in a HAQ ship and around five weeks using a QM drive. There are no permanent human habitations here but several Bracc ones. Anguta is a valuable source of propulsion mass and there are a number of orbital mining operations and associated habitats.

Outside the orbit of UGC 8704i is a huge area of space analogous to the Oort cloud. This is known as the Outer Zone. There are numerous Bracc settlements here and a number of GeneMod human ones. There is an extremely large cloaked Kra'vak habitat fleet orbiting in the far fringes of the Zone. This fleet operates a wormhole using an unknown technology. 


Local technology levels are still slightly behind those of Earth, being rated T2, but have increased quite rapidly since contact was re-established. EarthFed is rated T3. Quantum Matrix ships are increasingly common, which means that even the Outer Zone is within reasonable travelling times nowadays. HAQ and ICD ships are still widely used for most purposes, except where speed is considered essential.

Wormhole generation cannot be operated within three AUs of the star, so ships that wish to make the Jump need to do so from an orbit of around 500m km from Istanu. This is known as the Jump Horizon. There are four Wormhole Jump stations in permanent Lagrange Point orbit at this distance from the star. These stations are huge wormhole generators, linked to the EarthFed wormhole network that enable ships without their own generator to travel to pre-defined destination systems. WG-enabled ships can jump to wherever they wish, but still need to do so from outside of the Jump Horizon. The permanent EarthFed orbital military station is situated within the WG Jump Zone. There are also orbital stations in this region from Novo and Nerthus.

Military technology is pretty much standardised across the system. Powered battle armour, derived originally from heavy space suits and powered engineering suits for hazardous environments, is widely used by the larger powers. In Q13 terms, the technology levels vary between T2 and T3. Some pirate bands, colonial militias and lower ranking mercenary units are classed as T1+.

Weaponry is still largely projectile based but laser and plasma weapons are also available. However, these are still relatively rare and expensive to manufacture so projectile weapons are standard equipment. Suit-mounted micro-missile and micro-grenade systems are also widely used by power armoured units. Powered fists and powered auxiliary cutting blades can also be used by some power armoured and, occasionally, other troops. Power armour suits are often equipped with jump packs and can be worn in space, in extreme environments or even under water.

Semi-automatic rifles, often with explosive ammunition, are the standard weapon of most forces, with larger portable automatic weapons, grenade and missile launchers of varying size, larger automatic cannon and mortars providing heavier support. Heavy lasers and plasma weapons are also available. Gauss guns and rail guns of varying sizes from portable up to vehicle-mounted are also used to provide heavy support.

Most ground troops are equipped with personal armour of some kind. This combat armour provides protection against penetrative munitions, blast and lighter energy weapons but is not as strong as a suit of full power armour or powered hardsuits , which are a lighter variant of power armour.

Force field technology exists but generally requires large energy sources and is mainly limited to vehicles or to fixed locations. There are some small, lightweight portable personal force fields in existence, but these tend to be limited to use by valuable specialists.

Computer technology has advanced to a near-AI level and therefore mobile autonomous weaponry exists and is deployed by a number of armies. Autonomous drones are also deployed, but many drones and semi-autonomous weapons systems are controlled by remote operators, either human or computer.

Robotic security and military units also exist.

ECM and ECCM is common, as is specialist anti-AI digital warfare.

In addition to the defence forces of the main political units and those of the Tansa Guild, there are a number of forces attached to the larger industrial and trade corporations who operate in the system. Corporate forces can be quite well-equipped but are not as powerful as the forces of the major political factions, and are much smaller in size. They tend, though, to be more focused on security rather than offensive military action and their forces seldom deploy heavily armoured units or fighting vehicles. They do not usually deploy significant firepower, generally being restricted to small arms.

In addition, there are several professional mercenary companies who can be contracted as required. Some of these are employed as security by commercial corporations and others fight for whoever is paying the bill. Many of these mercenary companies operate using fairly low levels of technology but others have access to advanced weapons systems and other equipment.

There are also many bandit and pirate gangs in the Outer Zone, both human, xeno and a mixture of both.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

It's been a while .....................

....... since my last post, so here is something to keep the blog ticking over.

There are mitigating circumstances; I've been gardening a fair bit and I've been having PC problems, which eventually led to a complete hard disk crash, which necessitated a complete system rebuild and a load of data restores. Everything is all back to normal now, and I've even upgraded my operating system to the latest Kubuntu Linux release.

The moral of this story? Simple. Always take regular backups to an external device, and if you think that there is a problem, do a separate baseline backup of essential data to somewhere else as well.

So, what with all that, I've not been doing anything with my Sharp Practice ACW or imagi-nations projects. However, I think that it is about time I introduced my Quadrant 13 project to the world. Q13 is another excellent set of rules from TooFatLardies, and is basically I Ain't Been Shot Mum in the future, i.e. company-level wargaming.

I started this off at the back end of 2015 and made a fair amount of progress with my armies. Pretty much everything is from Ground Zero Games (GZG) 15mm ranges, but I do have some odds and ends from elsewhere.

Anyway, here are some pictures of some figures.

These are troopers in power armour from GZG's NSL range, but in my universe, they represent power-armoured heavy infantry from the Western Condominium (WestCon), one of the major factions on the planet Novotelluria. I have a back-story written for this, which I'll post another time.

Here are some more WestCon troops, again using GZG NSL miniatures. These are two platoons of basic infantry in light armour, plus a support platoon with man-portable plasma guns, heavy automatic weapons and laser rifles and a heavy weapons platoon, equipped with mortars, autocannons and tripod-mounted grenade launchers.

Finally, to round off the infantry, I have a company commander with a couple of forward observation officers.

Then, there are the more mobile aspects of the force. There are a variety of drones with a drone operator, a recce squad on turbo-fan hover bikes, an armoured command hover tank and another hover tank with multiple missile launchers, which could serve as air defence, as anti-personnel artillery or as a tank destroyer.

The camouflage scheme for the vehicles is based upon the Caunter scheme that was used by the British in the early stages of the North African Campaign in WW2.

I have a few unpainted odds and ends to add to this force, but as it stands it is already a pretty formidable prospect.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Some buildings for my Syldavia and Borduria project

Any well-dressed wargames table needs buildings and I want to make sure that my tiny Syldavians and Bordurians have plenty of features to fight over.

I looked around for a while before settling on the 15mm resin buildings from Hovels who not only have a nice range of specifically Eastern European buildings but are also competitively-priced. Of course, I do not have to stick to buildings that are Eastern European, and Hovels also have some nice half-timbered and other buildings that should suit the 18th century period perfectly. After all, as the late Terry Pratchett used to have his Discworld characters say "The world is my mollusc".

Anyway, I bought an entire Eastern European village pack, which contains a nice variety of houses, barns and a church.

I undercoated in mid-grey everything before going on holiday and I've now completed a few houses.

First up, here are four wooden peasant houses with thatched roofs.

I thought long and hard about a colour scheme for these and decided on a simple weathered wood look and old thatch. Wood turns grey as it weathers and thatch, which starts out straw-coloured fades to a variety of grey shades as it ages. There are lots of helpful images online which show this process.

These are nice little buildings and will be useful for small settlements and villages. The buildings I bought also include a couple of larger houses for the better-off sort of peasant, as well as a barn. I might give one of these buildings a new thatch roof, for colour contrast.

My other completed building is this one;

This is a much more substantial house, suitable for all kinds of scenarios and represents the kind of place where minor landowners, officials, merchants or members of the (small in Syldavian and Bordurian terms) bourgeoisie might live. Once again, the colour palette is quite simple, with an aged thatch roof and plain whitewashed walls.

My next building will probably be the church, which is a wooden one with a tiled roof and a typically eastern dome on the roof. This will be a nice piece to paint, I think and will give me the opportunity to do something a little bit more colourful.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

At last, the Bordurian cavalry arrives!

I finished these off last night. They were mostly complete, they just needed flocking and varnishing.

These are two groups of cavalry for my Sharp Practice Bordurians and are, once again Essex 15mm Prussians on Warbases movement trays.

First off, some fearsome Lancers from the Kashkaval Regiment. The lance is a traditional weapon for horsemen on the plains of Northern Borduria and there are three regiments of lancers in the Bordurian army. They all wear a traditional-style uniform. There is one group of eight lancers, plus two leaders and a trumpeter. In Sharp Practice, these are classed as Scouting Cavalry.

The trumpeter will probably serve as a Musician, according to the SP rules.

Next some more conventional types, a group of eight troopers, two leaders and a drummer from the Tchestikov Dragoons. I shall be using these as Impact Cavalry. Not sure what I'll do with the drummer, though.

Finally, I have painted up a few more infantry leaders.

The chap in white on the left will be a leader for a group or two of Freikorps Schtroumpf grenadiers when I get around to buying some. I've decided that Schtroumpf Grenadiers will have red turnbacks to indicate their elite status.

The one with his arms akimbo will be an engineering officer and I am sure that I'll find uses for the two on the right. I painted the guy with the sword as having red turnbacks, so he could end leading some infantry from a different regiment to the ones I've already painted.

That pretty much completes the first round of my Bordurians. So, with the Syldavians already done, all I've got left to do are a load of resin buildings from Hovels (I bought a complete Eastern European village set) and some ammunition and water wagons, six pack horses to form two mule trains and some labourers to serve as an engineering party (to be used by both sides), all from Magister Militum.

These are all going to have to wait for a while, though as I am off on two weeks holiday soon.