Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Opinionated Bastards: Nashira Part III (May 15, 3051)

Another battle kicks off.

The Action of April 26, 3051

Drake, ever the tactical genius in addition to his other fine qualities as a leader, manages to draw the Draconis Combine forces out of the city in which they had established defensive positions as the tornado passes by. We’re now engaging the enemy in a valley at dawn, with moderate snowfall covering the battlefield.

minimap

The terrain slopes downhill from west to east, and is dotted by patches of forest. That may be handy for lighter units in the later phases of the battle; woods can screen a small, fast mech from enemy fire with a bit of luck.

Round 1

We deploy on the north edge of the map, along with our FedCom liaison, today a pilot in a Phoenix Hawk. The enemy deploys in the center.

Woad and the Phoenix Hawk deploy to the northwest corner of the map, where they can navigate the rough terrain with jump jets to perhaps flank the enemy. Drake, Rook, and Carcer start in the middle of the north edge, ready to open fire as soon as the enemy shows itself.

The enemy is two mixed lances, two mechs and six vehicles, with an expected mixed lance of reinforcements arriving later. The two mechs on the field right now are Dragons, a fast, low-profile heavy mech. The enemy seems confident in their skill, moving them forward, along with two of the four Vedettes they brought to the field.

Predictably, the enemy targets Drake. Once again, the AI has proven itself to be much better than me at using cover and sightlines; most of our weaponry is impossible to bring to bear.

None of the Bastards besides Drake hit anything; Drake nails a Vedette with two PPCs to the right side and nearly destroys it. He takes a hit from an AC/2 and an AC/5 in return.

Round 2

positioning

Drake manages to get himself in such a position that he can only shoot at the Vedette he damaged on the previous turn. This isn’t bad, per se, and might even net him a kill. On the other hand, Rook is shooting at it too.

The rest of Heavy Lance has lined up pretty neatly on the enemy Dragons, and will be prosecuting that advantage for all it’s worth.

Rook takes five hits from the AC/2 carrier in the distance, which is hardly anything to worry about, especially since all the shells impact her mech’s arms and legs. Nothing really important in there anyway. She and Drake both hit the Vedette, but don’t manage to eliminate it.

Woad and Carcer take aim at the two Dragons, but can’t combine for more than a low-percentage medium laser hit from Woad’s Grasshopper.

Round 3

round 3

Heavy Lance has a pretty solid line going, occupying the forest here and benefiting from its defensive bonuses.

Drake has nothing to shoot at, again, but the Vedette he’s been whittling away at. Rook has the Vedette right in front of her to take a crack at; she’s joined by Carcer. Woad and the Phoenix Hawk fire on the nearer Dragon.

Drake gets his kill, while Rook does not, though she damages her Vedette’s track.

Woad gets a pair of medium lasers onto the nearer Grasshopper, taking an AC/5 shot in response.

Round 4

r4

One of the Dragons moves around behind Woad, who is happy to about-face and take a crack at him. The Phoenix Hawk is able to get enough of a twist on to join the fun.

Drake, Rook, and Carcer all take aim for some of the nearby Vedettes, angling to reduce the enemy tonnage on the field.

Drake puts three PPC shots onto one Vedette, while Rook dispatches another. Woad, the Phoenix Hawk, and the Dragons trade fire ineffectually, but Woad plants a solid kick on the Dragon.

Round 5

005

Finally, Heavy Lance is decently positioned. Woad and the Phoenix Hawk each have a solid shot on a Dragon, while the Awesome, the Crab, and the Flashman can begin to deal with the tanks further away.

Drake will take a crack at the AC/2 carrier in the distance, while Rook dispatches the Vedette in front of her. Both score.

Woad scores some decent damage on the Dragon in front of him, and also manages to land a kick. So does the Phoenix Hawk.

Drake takes several hits from the enemy Manticore heavy tank, and at the end of the round, his left torso armor is gone.

Round 6

The AC/2 carrier and the Vedette destroyed, the enemy Manticore heavy tank now looms largest (besides the mechs, of course).

The enemy’s reinforcements, a light lance comprising a Locust, an Ostscout, and two hover tanks, arrives.

Drake and Rook both have clear shots at the enemy Manticore, though both are running a bit hot this turn. Rook fires her large lasers; Drake chances another three-PPC volley. Carcer can manage a good shot, too, and does so.

Round 7

006

Medium Lance takes the field, and with enemies to spare and not far out of range, at that. Some kills for our second line, perhaps?

A confused movement phase sees Rook facing off against the Manticore at short range, firing every weapon she can bring to bear. Drake leaves two of his PPCs unfired so he can sink some heat.

Woad and Carcer have a Dragon caught between them.

Medium Lance has split in two. Severe and her repaired Locust and Milspec and his Phoenix Hawk proceed down the west edge of the map, while Ker-Ker and Double Dog advance up the middle.

Between her weapons and her Flashman’s foot, Rook destroys the Manticore. Woad and Carcer both shoot at and kick the Dragon between them; Carcer’s kick knocks out its leg.

Round 8

The downed Dragon attempts to stand and fails. Woad keeps his eye on it to finish it off, while Carcer heads south to help Rook with the three mechs now near her. (A Dragon, and the two lights from the enemy reinforcements.)

Milspec gets his weapons into action for the first time, though he misses; Drake scores three hits on the enemy Dragon, and Rook adds a large laser hit.

Woad fails to finish his Dragon, and will attempt to complete the job with a kick.

Rook, in melee range of several enemy mechs, elects to dodge this round instead of hit back. An uncharacteristic lack of aggression.

Round 9

007

The enemy reinforcements seem to be falling back. Drake and Rook push forward through the center of the map, flanked to the west by elements of both Medium and Heavy lances. Milspec and Severe are in position to eliminate the final Vedette, while Woad continues to wear away at the northern Dragon.

The allied Phoenix Hawk jump jets over a lake and will take a few shots at the southern Dragon.

Round 10

Not much happens on the prior turn; the big guns were out of action. Woad still hasn’t killed his Dragon, but this is probably the turn. Severe and Milspec work on the Vedette, while the enemy Ostscout approaches.

Drake, Carcer, Rook, and the allied Phoenix Hawk all shoot at the southern Dragon. Double Dog and Ker-Ker are closing in, nearly in effective range. So far, they’ve been moving into position too quickly to stop and shoot.

Milspec scores the unlikeliest kill of the day.

kill

While waiting to kick the Vedette that Milspec just killed, Severe might well have scored us another mech to salvage.

headshot

Cleanup

The enemy appears to be in full retreat now. We’ll mop up what we can. (For all our battlefield success, nobody is going to call the Bastards a fast lance.)

Woad gets his kill after all; he just had to aim for a different Dragon. He scores with a kick which blows up the Dragon’s AC/5 ammo supplies. Rook wings a hover tank, but Carcer gets the kill with a hit to its fuel tank. Ker-Ker scores a kill on a Locust; kicking it from one elevation level up, she hits it in the head. The whole weight of the Lancelot behind the blow, the poor Locust has no chance.

Two enemy units retreat: the Ostscout and a J. Edgar hover tank.

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

The Awesome and Severe’s Locust are mildly damaged, and Severe herself took a knock when the enemy Locust knocked her over. Otherwise, the company is in good health.

We salvage the Dragon DRG-5N Severe headshotted, as well as a Vedette to bring us up to 60% salvage.

Battle loss compensation comes to about 60,000 C-bills, and we ransom prisoners for 120,000 more.

Kill Board(s)

Severe may not be all that high up the kill board, but she is currently the giant-slayer of the bunch. All of her kills are mechs, and in that category she’s second only to Rook. Who, incidentally, has now scored 20 kills. Drake gets two, though, to stay at just above half of Rook’s total.

Last Battle

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (20, 5 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (11, 3 mechs)
  3. Private “Carcer” Ngo (9, 3 mechs)
  4. Private “Woad” Kohler (7, 3 mechs)
  5. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  6. Private “Severe” Payne (4, 4 mechs)
  7. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  8. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  9. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (3)
  10. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  11. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  12. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  13. Private “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now May 15, 3051.

Contract Status

No battles on the calendar right now; the Bastards get a bit of a break.

At the end of April, the FedCom forces gift us a civilian-use Commando (with a primitive cockpit, limited armor, and a large laser). In addition, we picked up a Dragon this month. At present, we have 18 mechs, though not all of them are worth bringing to the battlefield.

Finances

We have 9,426,500 C-bills in the bank.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the unit market to spend it on, besides maybe a pair of Hunchback HBK-4Gs.

Recruitment

Another mech pilot comes up on the recruiting market: Abdul-Hafiz Popalzi, of the Free Rasalhague Republic. He’s a 4+/4+ regular to boot. He joins the company.

popalzi

Training

Wojtek is the only remaining Green-rank pilot; Hernandez and Euchre are now regulars, too.

Organization

Adding the two misfit heavies to Cadre Lance, with Hernandez and the newcomer Popalzi driving, yields a second heavyweight lance. At present, Medium Lance and Bear’s Bruisers (if we’re sticking with that) are both medium-weight lances.

Repairs and Refits

Everything’s in tip-top shape, although the Dragon and Rifleman designs are still questionable.

Our technical teams are a little under-strength compared to our mech strength now. We’ll have to see to that.

Spares

We had to use a few more actuators and a spare torso or two to patch up the Dragon.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec)
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
    • Cpl. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind)
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz Popalzi
    • Recruit Gwenael Hernandez

Action Items

  • There are mechwarriors for claim.
  • Several refit questions open now: both the Dragon and the Rifleman could do with some changes.

Handicapping the FFG(X) Contenders

Big Navy announced the finalists for the FFG(X) program a few days ago. Let’s have a look.

In the interest of spicing things up a bit, I’ve assigned some moneyline odds to each competitor.

FFG(X): buying 2012’s frigate in 2020

The Navy ended up a little behind the eight ball after its insistence on buying the all-but-useless Littoral Combat Ship, which we’ve trashed on several occasions1. Rather than build a frigate as the Perry class was running out of lifespan, they built a weird fast corvette with no striking power and found themselves paying $700 million a pop for effectively useless ships.

FFG(X) is a stopgap measure to take care of the actual business of naval combat while the LCS contractors get their collective acts together, in which the Navy will spend $20 billion to buy twenty actual, effective combat ships.

LCS variants: Less Crappy Ships

The two contractors for the LCS have each assembled a bid using their LCS as a base for a real fighting ship. Both have unrefueled ranges of less than 4,500 nautical miles.

Austal Frigate: -300

Austal’s entry is based off of their trimaran Independence-class, a design I like aesthetically and for a few practical reasons (that giant flight deck among them). The Austal Frigate cuts a few feet off of the flight deck to add a stern platform to hold twin- or quad-pack Harpoon launchers (or other SSM launchers), as well as a towed sonar. Earlier Austal Frigate proposals put the VLS in the superstructure, on either side of the main mast, but someone must have realized what a terrible idea that was in practice; in the final proposal, one VLS 8-pack is forward of the superstructure, and one is at the aft end of the flight deck.

I was going to gripe about how 16 VLS cells seemed a little light, but it appears that’s the fit most of these frigates have, sadly. At least the ESSM can be quad-packed; 32 ESSM and 8 fancy Standard Missiles is an acceptable combat load, I guess.

Freedom Frigate: -400

The Freedom Frigate is the LockMart-brand LCS frigate, with very little to differentiate it from the Austal Frigate beyond its more conventional design. Same armament: 16 Mk. 41 VLS cells and a gun. Similar aviation capacity, although it has a smaller hangar. (Both only ship one MH-60 in normal circumstances, though.) I think the basic Freedom-class has less to recommend it than the basic Independence-class, which is why I give them a lesser chance here.

Not-invented-here options

Various European navies have interesting frigate choices. Two of them made it to the final round.

FREMM: -1000

As much as I like the FREMM, I don’t think it’s a very likely choice for the US Navy. The VLS system is wrong, and I have no idea how easy it is to plug a Mk. 41 system into the Sylver A43 hole in the FREMMs.

Too, it also depends on the FREMM version. The French FREMM is well-kitted for anti-air and anti-surface-unit warfare, with 32 VLS cells in all, Exocet launchers, and even support for land-attack missiles in the larger 16 VLS cells. It only has one helicopter, and only the anti-submarine versions carry a towed sonar.

The Italian FREMM has a faster cruise speed, a faster top speed, two helicopters, an improved radar, two guns, and (in the anti-submarine fit) anti-submarine missiles, but it has fewer cruise missiles and is only fit with 16 Sylver A43 VLS cells.

Both have long range, north of 6,000 nautical miles. Both are expensive, between 600 and 700 million euro per unit.

Keeping in mind the various incompatibilities which would have to be addressed, and the fact that the ship is built by ‘Fincantieri Marine Group’ no matter how much they claim they’re from Wisconsin, I think the FREMM is one of the less likely options.

F100: -450

The F100/Álvaro de Bazán class of Spanish frigates came as a bit of a surprise to me; I hadn’t heard much about them, but clearly I should have been paying closer attention.

The F100 is an Aegis frigate. Yes, you heard me right; besides the related Fridtjof Nansen class, they’re the only frigate-size ships to carry the Aegis setup. Fittingly, the Spaniards did not skimp on missiles. The F100 carries a full 48 cells of Mk. 41 VLS, for a standard combat load of 64 ESSMs and 32 SM-2s.

Its anti-ship capability is a bit more suspect, at only eight Harpoons, but those are in deck launchers and easily retrofit should the Navy come up with an actual decent sea attack missile.

It carries decent anti-submarine weapons and a torpedo decoy, along with a single helicopter, but does presently lack a towed array, a missing feature which could come back to haunt General Dynamics. I don’t know if it would be an easy retrofit, but it’s certainly something the Navy would want addressed.

Beyond that, though, the F100 strikes me as the blindingly obvious choice from the final competitors. There’s zero reason to complain about its anti-air fit, and its anti-ship fit is no worse than most of the other competitors. (Eight Harpoons seems to be enough for the Navy.) A helicopter is more important for modern anti-submarine warfare than a towed array, and one presumes that the F100 could probably ship one if it comes to that, given that a variable depth sonar and a towed array are on the requirements list and General Dynamics still entered the F100. It has 4,500 nautical miles of range, and doesn’t cost any more than the other options on the list.

Why do I not make it the favorite among the options, then? Because the Navy has already plowed a ton of money into the LCS, so they aren’t canceling it, and if they buy a non-LCS-based frigate, then they have to pay both to buy the new frigate and eventually turn the LCS into one. I expect political concerns to hamper the European designs, despite the fact that both the F100 and the FREMM are objectively better in every useful dimension than either LCS or LCS frigate conversion.

The Coast Guard rides again

But wait! There’s a dark horse contender.

Legend-class/National Security Cutter: -2500

While the Legend-class cutters are the right size, have superb range (it’s reduced to 8,000 nautical miles for the bid), and, as Coast Guard cutters, have tons of internal room for weapons and whatnot, selecting a cutter as a base for a frigate design would require the Navy not only to admit the Coast Guard exists, but also to admit that the Coast Guard built a better ship than they did. Not going to happen.

Program canceled or delayed beyond the point of usefulness: +250

I’m not a pessimist by nature, but this really does seem like the most likely outcome to me.


  1. It’s one of our favorite punching bags. If we’re missing a segment for the podcast, I’ve been known to say, “Have we beaten up on the LCS lately?” 

The 2017 Many Words Press Audience Report

It’s that time of year again, which is to say, it’s no longer the previous year, that time when I like to dig into site statistics and come up with some interesting insights for you, the reader.

Total Visitors and Views

Since Google Analytics wasn’t running for the full year (I believe I turned it on again in February), these numbers come straight from the built-in WordPress stats system. It more or less lines up with Google’s numbers for the part of the year where they overlap, so I believe them to be accurate. (Or, at the very least, wrong in the same way all the stats in this article will be.)

VisitorsViews
Soapbox1328720034
Main14422819
Softworks8541518
Total1558324371

In 2017, traffic to the Soapbox doubled compared to 2016; the other two sites held steady.

The Soapbox

As usual, the Soapbox takes the clear victory for both visitors and views.

Popular Posts

All-Time

The most popular few posts of 2017 were published in 2016 or earlier. Parvusimperator’s Battle Royale review of the P320, the PPQ, and the VP9 has been enduringly popular for us, mainly because it got great search engine play. In fact, in 2017, Battle Royale accounted for about 6,600 views at the Soapbox, between a quarter and a third of the views for the year. We tried to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with an M9/P320 comparison, but that ground was too heavily trod for us to make anything of it. We do have some plans for a future post in the same genre, but I won’t spoil them.

The second and third most popular posts also belong to parvusimperator: the Resurrected Weapons entry for 50mm Supershot and his Colt 6920 review.

Posted This Year

More interesting, I think, is the list of most popular posts published in 2017. After all, that’s most likely the year you started reading in, going by our growth from 2016 to 2017.

  1. Movie and Firearms Review: John Wick Chapter 2
    This sort of post is our bread and butter: a fresh take on a niche subject.

  2. The EDC X9 Is Stupid
    Clickbaity, but effective.

  3. Fishbreath Flies: DCS AJS 37 Viggen Review
    I made it into the top ten! I was a little surprised.

  4. How-To: Two USB Mics, One Computer, JACK, and Audacity
    One of a very few guides on how to connect two USB microphones to one computer, this guide was the forerunner to a more detailed how-to I posted earlier this year. Hopefully that one appears on this list next year.

  5. S&W M&P 2.0
    An article from our SHOT 2017 coverage. We’ve had very little of that this year, which may handicap us somewhat. We were also handicapped last year by not actually being present at SHOT. On our list for 2018 is to continue to develop our supply of firearms-related content so that we can get parvusimperator a 2019 SHOT Show press badge.

  6. Glock Trigger Pull Mods
    Parvusimperator’s roundup of things to do to make your Glock less terrible in the trigger did deservedly well.

  7. New VP Pistols from HK
    We aren’t ordinarily a news site, focusing more on the opinion and commentary side of things, but we sometimes make exceptions for news of particular interest to us. Parvusimperator’s a big fan of the VP line, and I confess they have their charms, so we ran with it.

  8. Fishbreath Plays: Starsector 0.8 Kind-Of-Review
    I always try to write up big Starsector updates, because when it hits 1.0, it’s going to be one of the very best space sandboxes of the decade. People seem to like hearing about it.

  9. Wilson Combat’s New EDC X9
    I’m very proud of this one, and of parvusimperator’s work on it. We scooped the major firearms blogs by twelve hours.

  10. Hudson H9 Range Report
    Another SHOT show post, parvusimperator picked up the impressions off of some of his shooting forum buddies.

Traffic Acquisition

The Soapbox, like most websites, gets the overwhelming majority of its traffic from Google searches. 81% of our sessions come from Google. The next 13% are direct traffic.

The other 6% are spread across the lesser search engines, social links, and forum posts. We get the very occasional hit from some hnefatafl websites.

Demographics

97% of the Soapbox’s users are male. The 25-34 demographic is the most popular, although our prime age range is 25-44. (After that, 45-54 comes next, followed by 18-24, then 55+.)

64% of Soapbox sessions in 2017 came from Americans. The UK, Canada, and Australia come in in places two through four, and Romania sits in fifth. (Romania slipped behind Australia very late in the year; we saw a few binges from Australia in the stats late in the year.)

Technology

Curiously, the Soapbox sees more mobile (that is, phone and tablet) views than views from desktops, by about a 60-40 ratio. 55% of our mobile visitors are Apple users; the rest are on Android devices.

Chrome, however, is more popular than Safari, which suggests that a strong majority of desktop users use Chrome. (Sadly, my favored Firefox represents only 7% of our hits.)

Many Words Main

The fiction arm of Many Words Press is dramatically less popular, but it’s my pet project, so I’m going to talk about it in a little depth.

Popular Posts

As expected from a site with ongoing content, the front page is the most popular part of the site by a large margin, followed by the Archives page and the e-books-for-sale page.

Traffic Acquisition

In contrast to the Soapbox, only 5% of the visitors to Many Words Main came from Google searches. Direct traffic was the most common method of arrival, and referrals from various sources came next.

For all the effort I’ve put in getting listed on various web fiction aggregators, we see very little traffic from them.

Demographics

Unfortunately, Many Words Main has no information on demographics; Google can’t tease out information which can’t be linked back to one or several users.

The location information is also less exciting: the US and Canada make up the top 65% of views. China, a bit unusual, comes in at 6%. Every other location on the planet is below 3%.

Technology

Fascinatingly, despite being more e-book-like, Many Words Main is viewed 75-25 on desktops. Apple devices also make up a mere 40% of the mobile views.

Other Sites

Not much to mention here, besides that the most popular Softworks product is our Out of the Park Baseball schedule generator. Even though it’s imperfect—highly so—it’s the only product of its nature with any recent updates, and therefore pretty frequently downloaded.

That’s all I have. Thanks for reading this post, and for your views in 2017. We have big plans for the future, and we’re glad you’re along for the ride.

EXTRA: Trouble at SilencerCo?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting to bring you this Extra Edition. Today we’re going to get business-y and talk a little bit about problems at SilencerCo. As you may have gathered if you don’t already know, they make suppressors.

A lot of this is speculation, because SilencerCo is not publicly traded, so there are no financial statements to read. But here’s what we know:

  • They haven’t had a big, mass-appeal product for a while now. The last one I recall was the Omega.
  • Their most recent product launches are pretty niche market. One of them, the Maxim 9 integrally suppressed pistol, was definitely an R&D-heavy project.
  • Between people waiting to receive silencers that they panic-bought during the Obama administration and people waiting to hear a decisive yes/no vote on the Hearing Protection Act, the silencer market is pretty down right now.
  • SilencerCo has had a rocky relationship with Silencer Shop lately, and Silencer Shop is one of the biggest silencer retailers in the US, and certainly among the easiest to buy from.

All of the above combine to really hurt cash-flow. They desperately need a rebound product and marketing help, both of which require money. SilencerCo has been going through a few rounds of layoffs. Which might just be reorganization.

Currently, there are rumors floating around that the top three executives have been voted out by the creditors at a shareholders’ meeting. And that is starting to get troublesome. It definitely looks like trouble is coming to a head over in West Valley City.

I hope SilencerCo can pull it out, but it doesn’t look good. We’ll see how it turns out.

The Opinionated Bastards: Nashira Part II (Apr. 25, 3051)

It’s good to be back in the saddle.

The Action of 16 April, 3051

The Opinionated Bastards are deployed on the right flank of the FedCom front line, and have been tasked with breaking through the Draconis Combine defenses at a weak point in a mountain pass. Opposition is expected to be light to moderate; there are a few heavy mechs deployed with a number of vehicles in support. The weather is snowy, and the terrain is predictably rugged.

rugged
That cliff is eleven levels from top to bottom. That’s a lot.

Heavy Lance is first on the scene, and deploys to the east side of the map. That’ll let us skirt around the peak pictured above to the east; it’ll provide cover and a height advantage, and there are patches of pine forest nearby into which our mechs can duck.

The Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth chip in a Hunchback HBK-4G, a nice step up from our usual allies. Not only that, but it’s under our direct command.

Round 1

mobile

Heavy Lance moves forward. The enemy has deployed in between the peak I showed you in the picture above and the next one further north, with one medium tank a hair to the south. With adroit positioning, several of our mechs have the enemy in range and in their firing arcs. We’ll take some PPC and large laser shots to see if we can’t start to even the odds.

firstshots
This picture shows a peak to the south-southwest of the one in the battlefield description.

Only Drake scores hits; two PPCs strike the enemy tank in the side, knocking its track off. It’s now immobile, and a much easier target for everyone else. A solid opening to the battle.

Round 2

Woad moves further up along the edge of the Bastards’ assigned sector. His Grasshopper’s jump jets made the transit much easier.

Rook stays put; she can’t cross the lake in one turn, and moving into the water ahead of her takes the immobilized Bulldog out of her line of fire.

Drake walks slowly forward, aiming now for the Rifleman facing him from the south flank of the peak ahead. He’s already immobilized the Bulldog; the others can take care of it from here.

In what is now a predictable outcome, Rook notches the kill on the Bulldog with a precisely-aimed large laser shot.

Round 3

There’s nothing for it this time. Rook gingerly moves her Flashman into the lake, taking her out of action for the round.

The remainder of Heavy Lance will aim to get some fire on the nearer of two enemy Riflemen. Drake scores a hit, as does Carcer.

Round 4

positioning

More jockeying for position. Heavy Lance has a big advantage over the enemy in terms of long-range firepower, so unless they show interest in getting closer, we’ll keep pounding away at them from a distance.

Speaking of which, the Mustered Militia advances with a Hermes. Heavy Lance is still occupied with the Rifleman somewhat more distant.

Drake scores two hits on three shots, knocking the Rifleman down, but not before it scores with an AC/5 on the allied Hunchback.

Round 5

Heavy Lance slowly draws closer to the enemy, hampered by the rough ground but still moving in. The Rifleman remains the priority target.

firstkill

Though Drake fires three PPCs, it’s Carcer who scores the most important hit. The two criticals to the Rifleman’s center torso destroy its gyro. Tally another kill for Carcer, whose performance in the Crab is nothing short of spectacular.

carcer

The Draconis Combine pilot ejects, given that the Rifleman is now entirely immobile. Structurally, it’s in good shape. We may be able to take it as salvage at the end of the battle.

Round 6

With the enemy Rifleman down, Heavy Lance continues its slow advance and sets its sights on another enemy Bulldog on the south flank of the central peak.

southflank

Carcer, taking advantage of the brief lull to enter the lake directly ahead of her, nevertheless finds herself with a target: the enemy Hermes, attempting to flank Heavy Lance to the west. She lines up a shot with her large lasers. Since her mech is in depth-1 water, she can even fire both without building up any excess heat.

She scores a hit, but it’s the allied Hunchback who does the lion’s share of the work. With an AC/20 shot, its pilot blows off the Hermes’ left arm and heavily damages its internals.

hunchback

Round 7

medium lance

Medium Lance deploys! They’ll move up the western edge of our sector and outflank the enemy there.

Heavy Lance continues its advance, while Medium Lance races ahead. Milspec and Severe, in the Phoenix Hawk and Locust, charge ahead, while the two slower heavy mechs hang back.

For the first time this battle, Woad brings the full firepower of his Grasshopper to bear, targeting the Bulldog. The rest of Heavy Lance joins him.

He misses with all his weapons, but Drake steps in and polishes off the Bulldog with a pair of PPC hits.

Round 8

The faster elements of Heavy Lance (Woad and Carcer) move forward to target the second enemy Rifleman. Drake is in range, too, so he lines up on it. Rook, moving through another glacial lake, can’t get the Rifleman in her sights.

woad

Medium Lance continues its advance on the west side of the map, targeting the enemy light mechs. Further north, four Draconis Combine vehicles deploy as reinforcements.

Drake, Woad, and Carcer deal heavy damage to the enemy Rifleman.

Round 9

Again, Heavy Lance aims for the second Rifleman, while Medium Lance is foiled in its light mech hunt by the enemy’s crafty use of terrain.

Heavy Lance scores several hits, but not enough to destroy the Rifleman. It does fall, however, and it’s looking decidedly less healthy now. Medium Lance continues its push to the west.

damaged-rifleman

Round 10-11

The snow starts to accumulate.

Severe gets herself into a bit of a pickle; she has a good shot on the enemy Hermes, but a J. Edgar hovertank has lined up to shoot into her rear armor.

Medium Lance generally is better placed now, on the peak of the southernmost mountain in our sector, and three of them have shots on the enemy Hermes.

Heavy Lance continues its punishing of the enemy Rifleman.

Severe gets the kill on the Hermes, and Woad scores the last hit on the Rifleman. Severe takes moderate damage from the hovertank, but evades any serious hits.

Round 12

The enemy hovertank maneuvers but stays in the same hex in the end. Severe steps forward a hex to stand on top of it.

Heavy Lance is now badly out of position. It’ll take Drake a long time to get back in the fight, but the other mechs are a little more sprightly, and should be in firing positions soon.

Severe and Milspec end up being the only Bastards in any position to take a shot, and do so. Severe kicks off one of the hovertank’s tracks; since she took another hit in the process, she’ll scarper for the moment.

Round 13

Not a ton going on right now; the Bastards are moving up to get into range, while the enemy is maneuvering to respond.

It’s the allied Hunchback which gets the kill on the immobilized J. Edgar tank.

Round 14

Sparser updates from here on out. Severe attempts to move into the water, and ends up falling, which ends up letting water into her mech’s structure. Not good. Hopefully she’ll be able to make her way out of the lake before she takes any further damage.

Drake and Carcer continue to move along the eastern side of the map, hoping to flank the enemy reinforcements.

Again, the Hunchback proves its worth, immobilizing an enemy Vedette.

Round 15

Severe manages to get out from underwater, though her Locust loses an arm in the process. Drake now can bring his PPCs to bear again, though not on all the enemies. The firepower from the Awesome will be a welcome addition as the Bastards wrap this one up.

Woad destroys the immobilized Vedette with a barrage of laser fire.

Round 16

Fatigue begins to set in for your intrepid correspondent.

The enemy is down to four vehicles and a light mech, which shouldn’t pose too much of an obstacle from here on out, especially with the Awesome back in play. I’m going to call it cleanup from here on out.

Cleanup

jumpjets
The rugged terrain means that jumpjet-equipped mechs, like Milspec‘s Phoenix Hawk and Woad‘s Grasshopper, are vastly more mobile than the rest of their lances.

Woad scores a third kill on a wheeled scout tank and a fourth on the Goblin medium tank, while Drake damages the last enemy mech—a Wasp—and Rook knocks out its gyro. Carcer destroys a light tank. Milspec kicks the engine out of a Vedette, and Woad notches his fifth kill today with a hit to its fuel tank. Ace in a day!

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

Milspec‘s Phoenix Hawk took a number of hits, but nothing which made it through the armor, while Severe‘s Locust has some moderate internal damage we’ll have to see to. No pilots took any hits.

It’s a bountiful day for salvage. We take both the crippled Rifleman and the Wasp, as well as a second Rifleman which is only good for spare parts. That puts us 6% above our 60% salvage share, but we can make that up in later battles, and getting two potentially-operational mechs seemed like the right move to me.

We make about 50,000 C-bills in battle loss compensation, and ransom six prisoners for 120,000 more. One prisoner decides to defect to our company. Welcome, Recruit Gwenael Hernandez.

hernandez

Kill Board(s)

Woad moves from 12th to 4th on the strength of a magical five-kill performance. Rook has scored nearly twice the kills of her next challenger.

Last Battle

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (17, 5 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (9, 3 mechs)
  3. Private “Carcer” Ngo (8, 3 mechs)
  4. Private “Woad” Kohler (6, 2 mechs)
  5. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  6. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  7. Private “Severe” Payne (3, 3 mechs)
  8. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  9. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  10. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  11. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (2)
  12. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  13. Private “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now April 25, 3051.

Contract Status

We have a battle ahead, another attempt to break through House Kurita’s lines, scheduled for tomorrow. Heavy Lance is ready to deploy. We’ll discuss reinforcements a little later.

Finances

We have 7,080,500 C-bills in the bank. Thanks to battle loss compensation and a well-developed spares stock, we actually made money on the battle.

Training

Woad has enough experience to bump both his piloting and his gunnery. He’s graduated from green to a 4+/4+ regular. Severe is at the same level; both are a mere hop, skip, and jump from veteran status. (By which I mean about 20 xp.)

Organization

Wizard‘s Guillotine has arrived, but lacking a place in the TO&E to slot her in, I put her in a new fourth Reserve lance for now. Recruit Hernandez hops into the captured Wasp and joins Cadre Lance.

I end up shuffling some mechs around. Heavy Lance remains as previously constituted (Drake, Rook, Carcer, Woad), and Medium Lance stays the same too (Double Dog in the Tallman Thunderbolt, Milspec, Ker-Ker in the Frankenstein Lancelot, and Severe‘s Locust).

Cadre Lance and Reserve Lance, however, see some changes. Cadre Lance is now much more focused on training: Linebuster is the only veteran, with three green pilots (Euchre, Wojtek, and the newcomer Hernandez) under his wing. I may see about rotating Linebuster into one of the primary combat lances to get him some more fighting experience. It would most likely be a pilot swap; Linebuster would hop into someone else’s mech for a few months while the other pilot borrows his Lancelot.

In Reserve Lance, Wizard is the most talented pilot but Teddy Bear is the senior Bastard; he gets a promotion to Corporal and leadership of the lance. Rounding out the lance is Hanzoku. It’s fairly punchy as medium lances go; the two Guillotines provide a solid backbone. Pity about the Vulcan, though.

Medium Lance is a 190-ton medium lance; Cadre and Reserve Lances are both 180-ton medium lances.

Repairs and Refits

As of April 25, all our mechs are in fighting trim, including the salvaged Rifleman and Wasp. The written-off Rifleman we nevertheless salvaged yielded a decent number of parts, although nothing big-name.

If you’re keeping track (and I grant that’s pretty hard, given the paucity of information on mech assignments), you may have noticed that the Rifleman we captured is not currently in the lineup. This is for several reasons:

  1. It’s not a great loadout. Two AC/5s and two large lasers won’t do us very much good. There are several available refit kits that swap PPCs in for the AC/5s, which might be nice.
  2. It’s also very lightly armored. Carcer‘s Crab, both Trebuchets, and Milspec‘s Phoenix Hawk all have armor as good as or better than it despite being medium mechs, and although our gunners are well above average, it still fell apart quickly under concentrated fire. I’d prefer to address that before we send it into battle, especially since it currently has ammunition stored in the center torso.

Spares

Our stocks are shrinking a bit. We have one three-ton gyro and one PPC, along with three large lasers, as far as big-ticket items go. There are also a hair over 46.5 tons of armor at our field warehouse. (That’s 747 points.) At present, we can’t readily lay our hands on PPCs, but the Federated Commonwealth supply lines have our back for everything else.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec)
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
    • Cpl. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind)
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Recruit Gwenael Hernandez

Action Items

  • There’s a mechwarrior available for claim.
  • The upcoming mission is in pitch-black conditions with an F1-F3 tornado predicted. Since we don’t have any vehicles and the enemy does, the tornado might tilt things in our favor. On the other hand, shooting in pitch darkness is difficult to say the least. If we delay the attack for better lighting, we’ll also miss the tornado and probably fight against more even odds. Should we delay, or attack as planned?
  • Should we stick with the proven Heavy Lance-Medium Lance combo, or deploy a different lance in support?
  • Should we refit the Rifleman? If so, how?
  • Should we shuffle lance assignments?

What’s In a Bradley?

Let’s take a look at what’s in a Bradley, courtesy of Hunnicut’s excellent work on the vehicle. Some of the information below is a little old (it’s from back when the M60 was the US Army’s squad support weapon), so I’ll make estimates for more modern systems as appropriate.

–Equipment for Vehicle Subsystems–

  • Fuel: 175 gal.
  • Engine oil: 26 qt.
  • Ready 25mm rounds: 300
  • Stowed 25mm rounds: 600
  • Ready 7.62mm rounds: 800
  • Stowed 7.62mm rounds: 1,4001
  • Ready TOW missiles: 2 missiles
  • Stowed TOW missiles: 5 missiles (Or 3 TOW missiles + 2 Javelin missiles, see below)

–Equipment for Dismounts–

  • Stowed 7.62mm rounds: 2,2002
  • Stowed 5.56mm rounds: 5,3203
  • Stowed AT4 Rockets: 3 rockets
  • Stowed ATGMs: 0 or 2 Javelin missiles

Curiously, in the tables in Hunnicutt’s book, both AT4 and M72 LAWs are listed as carried. In the text he mentions that AT4s were carried instead of LAWs and stowage was altered accordingly. I’ve gone with the latter here. We can also see that the Bradley is absolutely loaded with ammo.


  1. In Hunnicut’s table, ammo for the coax M240C is noted separately from the ammo for the M60 that’s to be deployed with the squad. I have preserved the distinction here (See also note 2) 
  2. These might also be used in the coax gun, since they’re still linked 7.62x51mm. Alternatively, this space should hold about 3,300 rounds of 5.56mm belted ammo for M249s, which is the current squad automatic weapon of the US Army. 
  3. Originally these were separated out for the M239 Firing port weapon and the infantry’s M16s, but the M239s didn’t work very well, and later versions of the Bradley plated over the firing ports. In any case, the M16 and M239 use the same magazines, so I haven’t split the ammo out here like Hunicutt does. 

What Does a Puma Carry?

Here’s a list of stuff that a Puma carries, at least according to Tankograd’s wonderfully photo-laden book on the vehicle.

–Equipment for Vehicle Subsystems–

  • Fuel: 900 L
  • Ready 30mm ammo: 200 rounds
  • Stowed 30mm ammo: 161 rounds (in seven-round boxes)
  • Ready 5.56mm ammo: 1,000 rounds
  • Stowed 5.56mm ammo: 1,000 rounds
  • Ready ATGM: 2 missiles
  • Stowed ATGM: 0 missiles
  • Grenade Launcher, Ready Rounds: 12 76mm Grenades -OR- 24 40mm grenades

–Equipment for Dismounts–

  • Stowed 5.56mm ammo for dismounts: 1,500 rounds
  • Stowed 40mm grenades: 36 rounds
  • Stowed frag grenades: 30 grenades
  • Stowed smoke grenades: 7 grenades
  • Stowed signal rounds: 20 rounds
  • Stowed rockets: 4 Panzerfaust 3 rockets and 2 launchers
  • Stowed Water, 1.5 L bottles: 32 bottles

The Tankograd volume doesn’t make mention of how much of the 5.56mm ammo stowed for the dismounts is in magazines and how much is linked for the dismounts’ MG4. 1,500 rounds doesn’t seem like all that much for six men, but perhaps the Germans trust their supply. It’s nice that Tankograd notes how much water the Puma usually carries.

Resurrected Weapons: XM307

Here’s yet another attempt to replace the Mk. 19 GPMG and/or the venerable M2 HMG. The XM307 was part of the same program that gave us the XM29 OICW, and later the XM25 once the OICW failed. The program itself emerged from a 1980s study saying that weapons development had reached a plateau, and that the next breakthrough would come with the integration of airburst-fused high explosives into the US Army’s weapons. They had tried to schedule a breakthrough in the late 1960s with SPIW. They failed. Now, a new generation of engineers would try their hand.

The XM307, or Advanced Crew Served Weapon (ACSW), had the same airburst principles as the XM25 and XM29. The gunner would use an integrated fire control system to get the range to target with a laser rangefinder, set an airburst distance, and then shoot rounds at the target. Except now with automatic fire. Let’s look at a quick size comparison chart:

XM307M2Mk. 19
length52.2″65.1″43.1″
barrel length25.1″45.0″16.25″
weight50 lbs.83.78 lbs.77.6 lbs.

It’s definitely lighter. Plus, it’ll bring a flatter trajectory than the 40mm grenades of the Mk. 19, so it should be easier to score hits with. Those are pluses. And, the M2 doesn’t pack an explosive punch. All good things so far for the XM307. So let’s talk lethality.

From autocannons, we know that autocannon ammunition makers don’t think a 25mm autocannon shell holds enough explosives to make an airburst fuse option worthwhile. We know there are lots of deployed 25mm systems, so there’s plenty of incentive to try. Big market, but nobody’s bothered. This isn’t a perfect comparison, of course. Sizes may vary, but if there’s a difference, the autocannon has the bigger projectile. A 40mm Bofors fires a much bigger round than the 40mm Mk. 19. Still, it’s cause for concern.

More concern comes from the test deployment of the XM25. In Afghanistan, while there are plenty of accounts of airburst rounds scaring Taliban fighters away, there are no accounts of it actually killing anyone. And this should be its best chance for success: taliban fighters don’t wear any kind of protective gear. None. If it can’t get kills there, what about when it encounters troops wearing actual modern armor? At least the Mk. 19 has a long history of being effective against unarmored opponents. It starts somewhere. Also note that lots of comparisons with 40mm grenades make a comparison between 25mm Airburst HE-Frag and 40mm HEDP, which is going to be less effective in the pure-antipersonnel role than 40mm HE/HE-Frag.

Now, the XM307 has automatic fire capability, and a belt feed, unlike the XM25. We’re not limited to a one round for one round comparison, which means we’re going to get into “stowed kills” type computations. Clearly, the XM307 holds more grenades in a box than the Mk. 19, so we can try to come up with some notion of relative effectiveness. Or we could, if we had a lot of ammo and a proving ground. Unfortunately I don’t, and I don’t know if the US Army tried this computation. The XM307 was cancelled in 2007.

Another obvious option is to integrate the airburst fusing and targeting system into existing 40x53mm grenade systems. So you’d still have the option of using existing grenades that work, plus you wouldn’t have to develop an entirely new round and ammo system. Someone at DoD actually thought of this, and the Mk. 47 was born. It’s lighter than the Mk. 19, fires the same 40x53mm grenades, and is equipped with a targeting system to set the fuses of airburst grenades. In US Service, that would be the Mk. 285. It’s in limited use in the US Military, and has seen export success with Israel and Australia. So let’s go with that, because it’s way less cost and risk.

Verdict: Funding Denied by the Borgundy War Department Ordnance Procurement Board

Resurrected Weapons: The LWMMG

Around 2010, General Dynamics independently1 developed what they called the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun. This weapon was designed to fill the “capability gap” between the M240/MAG-58 GPMG, chambered for 7.62x51mm and the M2 Heavy machine gun, chambered for 12.7x99mm. The idea was to be able to “overmatch” enemy PKMs in a weapon that was still man-portable like an M240.

The cartridge chosen was the .338 Norma Magnum2. This cartridge was designed to fire the excellent 300 grain HPBT .338 projectiles from rifles that had actions too short to accept the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. It was chosen for this application for its excellent ballistic performance at range, to really allow the LWMMG to stretch it’s legs.

Clearly, the .338 Norma Magnum has a lot more recoil energy than the 7.62x51mm round used in the M240. But General Dynamics wanted to maintain portability, and their goal was to maintain the “footprint” of the M240. So it couldn’t be too much heavier or larger. To accomplish this, General Dynamics used the same recoil system they had developed for the XM806. Having the barrel, gas system, and bolt recoil together meant they could distribute recoil forces easier, and not have to use as much weapon mass to do so. The LWMMG ended up being able to use the same tripods as the M240, and is three pounds lighter than the US Army standard M240B. Later versions of the LWMMG cut two more pounds off the weight.

The US Military opted not to procure the weapon, and I don’t really blame them. While the weapon is about the same weight as the current GPMG, the ammo is heavier, round-for-round. And, frankly, the extra range over 7.62×51 is usually wasted, because of line of sight considerations or target discrimination considerations. If you are in PKM range, he is in M240 range. Or range of vehicle weapons. Or mortar range. There are lots of other ways to deal with that sort of opponent. And you’d be adding another round type and spares type to the logistics trail. The use of other weapon systems is an even better idea if the enemy comes with modern body armor.

Let’s get some numbers on the ammo weight side, since this ends up being pretty significant. We’ll look at the weight of 100 linked rounds of 7.62×51, .338 Norma Magnum, and .50 BMG. 100 rounds isn’t a basic load, but it’s a nice round number to work with. Your basic load/vehicle load will probably be some multiple of that.

  • 7.62x51mm NATO — 6.625 lbs.
  • .338 Norma Magnum — 12 lbs.
  • 12.7x99mm BMG — 29 lbs.

Can it replace other weapons? I wouldn’t use it to replace existing 7.62x51mm GPMGs, because of ammo considerations and because that range is really not needed in general. It’s wasted on the regular infantry and the training and optics available to them, plus it’s almost twice as heavy. The .338 Norma Magnum round is also entirely too powerful for a semiautomatic or select-fire Marksman’s rifle, so 7.62x51mm would stay in the inventory. The LWMMG also isn’t going to replace the M2, because you’re giving up some range and a lot of soft target terminal performance with the smaller, lighter round. To be fair, General Dynamics never proposed it as such. It’s a marvelous technical solution in search of a problem. Cool, but I’d rather spend the money on other things.

Verdict: Funding Denied by the Borgundy War Department Army Ordnance Board


  1. I.e. without a solicitation or RFP from the DoD 
  2. Not to be confused with .338 Lapua Magnum, which is a bit longer.