Author Archives: Fishbreath

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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



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


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)


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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.)


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


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.


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.)


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.


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%.


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.

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.

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


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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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)


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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?

The Crossbox Studio: multiple mic podcast recording for $60 per person

If you’re a Crossbox Podcast listener, you may have noticed that we sound pretty good. Now, granted, our1 diction is poor, and we’re still figuring out the whole hosting thing. Our voices, however, come through loud and clear, with minimal noise. While we’re recording, we monitor our audio in real time. Some people will tell you quality podcast recording with features like that takes a big investment.

They’re wrong.

The Crossbox Studio is proof. We connect two USB microphones to one computer, then mix them together in post production for maximum quality and control.

In this article, I’ll show you how you can build our recording setup, starting with microphones and accessories, and moving on to software. Let’s dive in.


We’ll start with microphones. For high-quality recording, each host has to have a separate microphone. This is a huge help both during recording and editing; being able to edit each speaker individually provides a great deal more flexibility to whoever gets stuck with the task of editing2.

For The Crossbox Podcast, we use one Blue Snowball—too pricey to hit our goal—and one CAD Audio U37. As studio-style condenser microphones go, the U37 is extremely cheap. It comes in at a hair over $39, and the sound quality and sensitivity are superb. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Next, we need to mount the microphones in such a way as to minimize the transmission of vibrations to the microphone. This means that the microphone won’t capture the sounds typing on a laptop keyboard or touching the table. First off, we’ll need a microphone boom. This one clamps to the table. You don’t need anything fancier3. To hold the microphone, you’ll want a shock mount. Shock mounts suspend the microphone in a web of elastic cord, which isolates it from vibration.

If your environment is poorly acoustically controlled (that is, if you get other sounds leaking in, or if you have a noisy furnace, say), you ought to look into dynamic microphones. (The Crossbox may switch in the future.) These Behringer units are well-reviewed. If you get XLR microphones like these, you’ll also need XLR-to-USB converters.

Lastly, you’ll need a pop filter. Clamping onto the spring arm, the pop filter prevents your plosives and sibilants4 from coming through overly loud.

Let’s put it all together. Clamp the boom arm to the table. Attach the shock mount to the threaded end. Expand the shock mount by squeezing the arms together, and put the microphone in the middle. Clamp the pop filter onto the boom arm, and move it so that it’s between you and the microphone.

Congratulations! You’ve completed the hardware setup. Now, let’s talk recording.


Moving on, we’re going to follow a procedure I laid out in an earlier article. Using two USB microphones at once brings some added complexity to the table. If you want to read about why this is so, hit the link above for a deeper discussion. Here, we’re going to keep it simple and just talk about the solution.

First off, you’re going to need a decently quick laptop5. Memory isn’t important. What we want is raw processing power. The amount of processing power you have on tap determines how many individual microphones you can record from.

Next, you’re going to want a specialized operating system6. Go get the appropriately-named AV Linux. This article is written targeting AV Linux 2016.8.30. Later versions change the default audio setup, which may cause problems. Create a bootable USB stick containing the image—here’s a good how-to. Boot it and install it. If you don’t plan on using AV Linux for everyday tasks (I don’t), install it in a small partition. (As little as 20 gigabytes will do, with room to spare.) Later on, when recording, you can choose a directory for temporary files, which can be in your everyday partition7.

Let’s move on. Now we’re to the point where we can talk about recording tools. The Crossbox Podcast uses two separate tools in our process. First, we route our microphone inputs through Ardour. Ardour, a digital audio workstation program, is powerful enough to do the entire process on its own. That said, we only use it for plugins, and as a convenient way to adjust our microphone levels relative to one another. We then route the audio from Ardour to Audacity, which we use to record, make final adjustments, and add sound effects.

Setting up audio routing: JACK

Time for a quick refresher on audio in AV Linux. It starts with ALSA, the Linux hardware audio driver. AV Linux, along with many other audio-focused Linux distributions, uses JACK as its sound server. JACK focuses on low latency above all else, and AV Linux ships with a real-time kernel8 to help it along. The upshot is that two ALSA devices, like our USB microphones, can be connected to our computer, using JACK plugins to resample their input using the same clock to guarantee that they don’t go out of sync.

We’ll touch on how to set up and manage JACK later. For now, let’s briefly discuss the overall audio routing setup, in terms of the path the audio takes from the microphone to your hard drive.

First, we’re going to use some JACK utilities to set up JACK devices for each of our microphones. We’ll run audio from those JACK devices through Ardour for mixing, plugins, and volume control. Next, we’ll make a dummy JACK device which takes audio from Ardour and sends it through the ALSA loopback device on the input side. Finally, we’ll use Audacity to record audio from the ALSA loopback device output.

Setting up audio routing: microphone in

We’ll need a few scripts. (Or at least, we’ll want them to make our setup much more convenient.) Before that, we’ll need some information. First off, run the arecord -l command. You should see output sort of like this:

**** List of CAPTURE Hardware Devices ****
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 0: ALC295 Analog [ALC295 Analog]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

This tells me that my laptop currently has one recording device plugged in: card 0, device 0, the built-in microphone. With your USB microphones plugged in, you should see more lines starting with card and a number. For the example above, the address is hw:0,0; the first number is the card number, and the second is the device number.

For each microphone, create a file on your desktop and call it microphone<#>.sh, filling in some number for <#>9. In this file, paste the following script.

alsa_in -j name -d hw:1 -c 1 -p 512 &
echo $! > ~/

The first line tells Linux to execute the script with the bash shell.

The second line starts a JACK client based on an ALSA device. -j name gives the JACK device a human-readable name. (Use something memorable.) -d hw:1 tells JACK to create the JACK device based on the ALSA device hw:1. Fill in the appropriate device number. -c 1 tells JACK this is a mono device. Use -c 2 for stereo, if you have a stereo mic10. -p 512 controls buffer size for the microphone. 512 is a safe option. Don’t mess with it unless you know what you’re doing. The ampersand tells Linux to run the above program in the background.

The third line records the process ID for the microphone, so we can kill it later if need be. Change to use the name you used for -j name.

Setting up audio routing: final mix

Onward to the mix. If you look at the output to the aplay -l or arecord -l commands, you should see the ALSA Loopback devices.

card 0: Loopback [Loopback], device 0: Loopback PCM [Loopback PCM]
  Subdevices: 8/8
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
  Subdevice #1: subdevice #1
  Subdevice #2: subdevice #2
  Subdevice #3: subdevice #3
  Subdevice #4: subdevice #4
  Subdevice #5: subdevice #5
  Subdevice #6: subdevice #6
  Subdevice #7: subdevice #7
card 0: Loopback [Loopback], device 1: Loopback PCM [Loopback PCM]
  Subdevices: 8/8
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
  Subdevice #1: subdevice #1
  Subdevice #2: subdevice #2
  Subdevice #3: subdevice #3
  Subdevice #4: subdevice #4
  Subdevice #5: subdevice #5
  Subdevice #6: subdevice #6
  Subdevice #7: subdevice #7

Audio played out to a subdevice of playback device hw:Loopback,1 will be available as audio input on the corresponding subdevice of recording device hw:Loopback,0. That is, playing to hw:Loopback,1,0 will result in recordable input on hw:Loopback,0,0. We take advantage of this to record our final mix to Audacity. Make a script called

alsa_out -j loop -c 3 -d hw:Loopback,1,0 &
echo $! > ~/

The -c 3 option in the second line determines how many channels the loopback device will have. You need one loopback channel for each microphone channel you wish to record separately. Lastly, we’ll want a script to stop all of our audio devices. Make a new script called

kill `cat ~/`
kill `cat ~/`
kill `cat ~/`

Replace with the filenames from your microphone scripts. Running this script will stop the JACK ALSA clients, removing your devices.

Managing JACK with QJackCtl

By default, AVLinux starts QJackCtl at startup. It’s a little applet which will show up with the title ‘JACK Audio Connection Kit’. What you want to do is hit the Setup button to open the settings dialog, then change Frames/Period and Periods/Buffer to 256 and 2, respectively. That yields an audio latency of 10.7 milliseconds, which is close enough to real-time for podcasting work.

That’s all you need to do with QJackCtl. You should also, however, pay attention to the numbers listed, at system start, as 0 (0). Those numbers will increase if you experience buffer overruns, sometimes called xruns. These occur when JACK is unable to process audio quickly enough to keep up in real time. Try using 256/3 or even 512/2, increasing the values until you get no xruns. (A very small number may be acceptable, but note that xruns will generally be audible in audio output as skips or crackles.)

Ensure QJackCtl is running before starting Ardour. Also, connect your microphones and run your microphone scripts.

Mixing with Ardour

Ardour is a free, open-source digital audio workstation application. It is ridiculously full-featured, and could easily do everything needed for a podcast and more. Since we have an established workflow with Audacity as our final editing tool, we use Ardour as a mixing board. In the Crossbox studio, Ardour takes input from two (or more) microphones whose input arrives through JACK, evens out recording levels, and runs output to a single JACK device corresponding to the ALSA loopback device. We then record the ALSA loopback device, which has a separate channel for each microphone we’re recording11.

How do we set Ardour to do this? It turns out that it’s complicated. Start Ardour and make a new session. (Since we’re using Ardour as a mixing board rather than a recording tool, we’ll reuse this session every time we want to record something.) For each microphone, make a new track. (That’s Shift+Ctrl+N, or Tracks->Add a new track or bus.)

Once you’ve done that, select the ‘Mixer’ button on the top bar. You should see a column for each of your tracks. You can use these to adjust volumes individually; you can also apply plugins or filters to each one.

Open up the Audio Connections window (under the Window menu, or by hitting Alt-P). We’ll want to do three things here.

Connect microphones to tracks

On the left side of the Audio Connections window, select Other as the source. (All devices which use the alsa_in and alsa_out JACK devices show up in the Other tab.) On the bottom of the Audio Connections window, select Ardour Tracks as the destination.

Connect each microphone to its track by clicking on the cell where its row and column intersect. You’ll see a green dot show up. Now the microphones are connected to Ardour tracks, and we don’t need to worry about microphone hardware anymore.

Connect microphone tracks to loopback device

Select Ardour Tracks as the source and Other as the destination. Connect each microphone track to one channel of the loopback device. (If recording in stereo, each microphone track channel needs its own loopback channel. If recording in mono, connect the left and right channels from one microphone to one loopback channel.)

Audio from the microphone tracks will now be routed to the ALSA loopback device, where we can record it with Audacity.

Connect microphone tracks to Ardour monitor bus

Select Ardour Tracks as the source and Ardour Busses as the destination. Connect each microphone to the Master bus. (Whether recording in stereo or mono, connect the left channel of each track to the Master left channel, and the right channel of each track to the Master right channel.)

By default, Ardour connects the Master bus to the system audio output. When you connect your microphone tracks to the Master bus, you should be able to hear yourself in headphones attached to your headphone jack. If you’re connecting more than two microphones, you may need to get yourself an amplifier. This one seems nice enough. If you don’t have 1/4-inch headphones, you can use these converters.

Recording with Audacity

One more piece to the puzzle. Open Audacity. Select ALSA as the sound framework. Select the Loopback: PCM(hw:0,0) device. When recording, audio from one microphone should show up in each Audacity channel.

Adjusting hardware volumes

In AVLinux, you can use the applications Volti or Audio Mixer to provide a GUI to adjust hardware volumes. Volti is a tray volume control; right-click on it to get a view of the mixer. In either tool, to adjust the input volume of a microphone, select it (either in the dropdown or the tab bar) and adjust its mic level. To adjust the monitor output volume, adjust the output volume for your built-in soundcard. To adjust the recording output volume, adjust the volumes for the Loopback device.

Podcast recording shopping list

And that’s that. You now have all the information you need to replicate our studio setup. Please feel free to leave questions in the comments; I’m not much good at this sort of thing, but I may be able to point you to someone who can help you out. Below, I’ve included a shopping list for your perusal.

Buy one

Per person (non-microphone)

Per person (condensers)

Per person (XLR dynamic mics)

XLR connections are the industry standard for microphones. If you’re planning to expand to a true mixing board, you’re probably best off getting XLR mics so you don’t have to buy new ones when you make the switch. On the other hand, you’ll need an XLR-to-USB interface for each microphone to connect it to your computer, which pushes the price up somewhat.

Per person (USB dynamic mics)

If, like the Crossbox, you’re unlikely ever to proceed past two hosts with USB microphones, you should look into USB dynamic microphones. Like the USB condenser microphones above, they plug directly into a computer, doing the digitization internally. They are, however, less future-proof.

Cost breakdown

  • USB dynamic microphone: $30
  • Shock mount: $10
  • Mic boom: $9
  • Pop filter: $8
  • Total: $57

  1. Okay, my. 
  2. That’s me. 
  3. We, however, clamp our mic booms to spare chairs at our broadcast table. This means we can bump the table without jostling the mount, which makes for much cleaner recordings given our typical amount of movement. 
  4. P, B, T, S, Z, etc. 
  5. I realize this pushes the price well above $70 per person, but I figure it’s reasonable to assume you probably have a laptop of acceptable specifications. 
  6. Yes, it’s possible to do low-latency monitoring and USB microphone resampling/synchronization with Windows and ASIO, or your Linux distribution of choice with a low-latency kernel, but (at least in the latter case) why on earth would you want to? 
  7. If this paragraph made no sense to you, try this how-to guide. In the partitioning step, you may have to choose your current partition and select ‘resize’, shrinking it to make a little bit of room for AV Linux. 
  8. For the uninitiated, it means that JACK is always able to take CPU time whenever it needs it with no waiting. 
  9. Or, if you like, call it something else. Makes no difference to me. 
  10. The recommended CAD U37 is a mono mic, but has stereo output. We run it with mono input. 
  11. The astute reader will note that this may impose a limit on the number of simultaneous channels you can record. That reader, being more astute than me, could probably tell you how many channels that is. I figure it’s at least eight, since ALSA supports 7.1 output. If you need more than eight, you should probably look into recording directly in Ardour. 

The Opinionated Bastards: Nashira (Apr. 14, 3051)

Planetary Assault


The Opinionated Bastards load into actual battle DropShips this time, paid for by the Federated Commonwealth. Ordinarily, we’d mothball the mechs and get them back in order when we’re on-world, then pocket the difference in transit costs. For a planetary assault, however, we decide to leave everything in fighting trim. It helps that Nashira, our destination, is only two jumps away; travel still costs about 1.3 million C-bills.

The Draconis Combine defenders don’t oppose the landing, and the Bastards quickly set up a field base. Since this is a full-on planetary assault, we have some access to the Federated Commonwealth supply system, which means we can actually buy just about everything required to keep our mechs in factory shape.

Elsewhere in the Inner Sphere, the Clans haven’t made much further progress since last I checked. The attacks have come in waves before. Perhaps they’re consolidating for another push.


Kill Board(s)

No changes to report, except that I rearranged the killboard to actually correctly order pilots by kills. (Ties are broken by mech kills. I suppose I could further break ties by weight of mech kills, but that’s a lot of work.)

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (15, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (8, 3 mechs)
  3. Private “Carcer” Ngo (6, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  6. Private Cathrine “Severe” Payne (2, 2 mechs)
  7. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  8. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  10. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (2)
  11. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  12. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  13. Private Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)


It is now April 14, 3051.


On the journey over, former House Kurita mechwarrior Xue-Min Que joins us. Though a seasoned veteran, she currently lacks a mech.


Contract Status

Heavy Lance has a battle upcoming, a breakthrough attack against two mixed lances of Draconis Combine Mustered Militia, plus a reinforcing lance of vehicles. Medium Lance joins them for extra firepower.


We now have 12,808,564 C-bills in the bank. Monthly payout on this job is 2.834 million C-bills. Note that full battle loss compensation is a pretty sweet deal—as long as pilots don’t die, we’ll be well-placed financially to replace equipment losses.

Unit Market

Speaking of, now that we have a fourteenth pilot, we should look into a mech. The following mechs and vehicles are available on the unit market.


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)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Xue-Min Que

Action Items

  • Do we want to buy a mech?

Lastly, a final note: I’m closing on a house in less than a week and moving in less than two, so this is likely going to be the last update until mid-February.

Fishbreath Flies: DCS AV-8B NA Harrier Review

Let’s talk weird, floaty planes.

Floatiness (more technically, and henceforth, V/STOL, vertical/short takeoff and landing) has long been a desired trait in warplanes. As far back as the Convair XFY Pogo, a helicopter in airplane’s clothing, designers have seen the advantages in a plane that can land nearly anywhere. The Pogo, however, served to demonstrate some flaws with the plan: namely, that a hovering plane is hard to fly1.

The idea languished for a bit. Like all useful ideas, it didn’t stay down for long. The Harrier was born from this second wave of V/STOL aircraft; it was made possible by a stonking great engine.

The stonking great engine, the Bristol-Siddeley (and later Rolls-Royce) Pegasus, is a fascinating piece of equipment but probably a topic for another day. For now, suffice it to say that the thrust vectoring is built in, the compressor stages rotate in opposite directions to reduce gyroscopic effects, and the limiting factor for power—turbine blade temperature—can be temporarily exceeded by means of a water injection system2. Some sources will tell you the Harrier’s engine is mounted in the fuselage. This is misleading. In a very real sense, the engine is the fuselage, with a little bit of plating to cover it up. Look at a Harrier from the front. You’ll see half of the fan on either side.

Over the years, variants accumulated, as they do for successful airframes. The Americans bought in, and the AV-8 and Harrier GR. number lines separated slightly, in terms of avionics and equipment. As an American and, less importantly but more pertinently, a DCS-based flight simmer, I’m most concerned with the AV-8B, and most specifically, the DCS AV-8B Night Attack variant by Razbam.

The AV-8B entered service with the US Marine Corps in 1985, and was followed quickly by the Night Attack model in 1989. Both versions feature modern glass cockpits, but the Night Attack (N/A going forward) has a few intriguing extra features. Color MFDs, for one3; a color moving map page, too. The HUD is wider, and there’s a FLIR system in the nose. That about covers the built-in night attack capability. Later, it was properly wired for the LITENING pod; the IR-capable LITENING can cue the attack systems for more range than the Mk. I Eyeball (NVGs and FLIR out the HUD) permits.

Weapons-wise, the N/A Harrier4 carries nearly every ground-attack munition in the modern American inventory; dumb bombs, rockets, Mavericks, and guided bombs of every shape, size, and guidance technique make an appearance. So also does the AGM-122 Sidearm, a sadly-out-of-production weapon which mates an anti-radar seeker to a Sidewinder body. It’s a useful self-defense system for aircraft which can’t carry the HARM (like the Harrier), or aircraft whose primary mission is not SEAD.

How is it to fly? Well, it ranges from extremely peppy (loaded light) to rather piggish (with lots of stores hanging off of the wings). One of the obvious-in-hindsight traits of a VTOL aircraft is that it must, in at least some configurations, have an engine thrust greater than their weight5. I never thought of the Harrier as a particularly good performer, but my familiarization flights have certainly changed my mind. It reaches its top speed with surprising and gratifying alacrity with the throttles forward, and maneuvers like you’d expect from what is, when you get right down to it, a very small plane. Carrying a full load—31,000 pounds—the Harrier is much less exciting. Rolls become sluggish, as do all maneuvers; then again, it isn’t hard to understand why. The Harrier’s maximum rolling takeoff weight is about two and a half times its empty weight. No small, fun aircraft can survive that kind of load.

And now for the moment of truth: is it worth buying? Razbam have done an excellent job with the flight modeling, as far as I can tell. The Harrier performs believably, and landing vertically is as much a challenge as you might expect, especially if you’re trying to hit a point on the ground. Helicopter sim experience, like I have, is helpful but not a panacea. To some extent, the Harrier takes unique skills.

As seems to be the case for DCS planes in 2017 and 2018, the Harrier is currently unfinished. The basic flight modeling is there, as are dumb weapons, Mavericks, the built-in targeting systems, and a limited targeting pod implementation, but much remains to be done. Early access aircraft are here, I’m sad to say. If that doesn’t bother you terribly much (knowing that this is DCS, legendarily buggy, whose best-working releases tend to be the most recent releases), I’d say you can’t go wrong buying it. The Harrier is one of the best planes to date.

If, on the other hand, you want a full manual and a fully implemented plane, you should wait. The price goes up at release, but not by very much. If you want a dynamic campaign, well, you’re probably just going to have to wait. Bafflingly, a campaign engine is still not on the DCS radar, despite being an obvious killer app for the platform. The DCS world is growing faster and faster nowadays; the third parties can keep up the aircraft release pace, but eventually the number of planes available is going to exceed the capacity of mission designers to make interesting things to do with them. A campaign is, going forward, a must.

But I digress. The Harrier is a good module, and well worth the purchase if you’re interested in the plane even a little. Thumbs up from me.

  1. Especially one which lands on its tail. Flying into a vertical climb, then looking over your shoulder to locate your landing spot, is not a great design. 
  2. As all engine nerds will tell you, any engine is instantly made much cooler6 when water injection is added. 
  3. For night-vision compatibility, the color is primarily green. 
  4. And its sibling, the AV-8B Plus. The Plus ditches the late-70s Dual-Mode Tracker (read: 6x TV camera and laser spot tracker) in the nose, and replaces it with an old-time F/A-18C-era radar. It can sling AMRAAMs. 
  5. The F-35B is a curious counterexample. For a direct comparison, let’s look at aircraft sans payload plus 4,000 pounds of internal fuel. We’ll use maximum rated dry thrust, with some caveats7. Late-model AV-8B Harrier IIs have an empty weight of just under 14,000 pounds, for about 18,000 pounds with our fuel requirements. (4,000 pounds is somewhat over half of the Harrier’s fuel capacity.) The empty F-35B weighs in at more than twice as much, nearly 32,500lb empty and 36,500lb with fuel. The Harrier’s engine generates 23,500 pounds of thrust, but can only do so for a very short time. Knocking ten percent off for sustained power still leaves it north of 21,000 pounds; the remaining three thousand pounds between thrust and weight easily fits a pair each of Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, or a full fuel load. The F-35B engine, on the other hand, makes only 25,000 pounds dry. The lift fan makes up the difference in vertical flight modes. 
  6. I swear I didn’t notice this pun until after I wrote it. 
  7. The Harrier can’t sustain its maximum thrust rating for very long. There are lift thrust ratings at up to 120% nominal RPM, which the engine control unit won’t allow outside of VTOL configuration. Combat power is 111% nominal RPM. 

The Opinionated Bastards: Piedmont (Mar. 19, 3051)

Homeward Bound Again

The Opinionated Bastards pack up and head home from Propus, celebrating the New Year on the way through Sichuan. We’ve all survived 3050, and the company is in better shape now than when we started. 3051 looks bright.

You may recall that Propus was a long way from Piedmont. We keep an eye out for interesting contracts on the way home, but none present themselves.

Arriving on Piedmont, the mechanics get the mechs out of mothballs, training resumes, and the minor damage which accumulated on Propus is finally fixed. Woad‘s Grasshopper has its last jump jet back, and Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot once again has a large laser.

The techs put Double-Dog‘s new Thunderbolt into the repair bay, then spend some time digging through factory plans and archives. Veteran mech tech Kepano Endo finds something interesting in the public records of the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery…


Late in the Third Succession War, the Draconis Combine invaded Galtor III, led by the Bremond Draconis Mustered Militia. That unit’s commander, Mary Tallman, had a customized Thunderbolt TDR-5S, retaining the large laser but ditching all the other weapons in exchange for eight medium lasers, four in each side torso. The remaining weight and space was filled with heat sinks.


This seems like just the thing for money-conscious mercenaries such as ourselves. It takes a few weeks, but soon the


It is now March 19, 3051.


We have 9,559,943 C-bils in the bank. Training and other expenses run to about 145,000 C-bils per month.


Among others, Rook improves her gunnery to 1+. Her piloting remains at 3+.

The green pilots have all improved somewhat over the course of the last few months. Euchre and Woad are a mere few battles away from joining the ranks of the regulars, and Wojtek is only a little behind them.

Owing to her superb performance over the contract at Propus, Carcer Ngo has been promoted to Corporal.


Current lance rosters:

  • Heavy Lance (275t)
    • Captain Drake Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q
    • Lieutenant SG Rook Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K
    • Corporal Carcer Ngo, Crab CRB-20
    • Private Woad Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H
  • Medium Lance (190t)
    • Lieutenant JG Double Dog Dare, Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sergeant Milspec Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1
    • Private Ker-Ker Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein”
    • Private Severe Payne, Locust (Custom, 3 medium lasers)
  • Cadre Lance (275t)
    • Lieutenant SG Linebuster Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Private Hanzoku Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Private Euchre Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Private Wojtek Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Private Teddy Bear Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T Custom


As far as big-ticket items go, we have two spare large lasers, one spare PPC, one two-ton gyro, and one three-ton gyro. We have a little short of 60 tons of armor; we’d probably want more going forward.

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)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
  • All mechwarriors are currently claimed. As the unit grows, there will be more mechwarriors to claim.


It turns out that I will, in fact, be buying a house (or at least, it’s overwhelmingly likely that this will be the case). As such, I’ll have limited time to spend on BattleTech, what with the packing and things. I hope to stick to one post per week, but bear with me if the schedule slips. I’m not abandoning it or anything.

Action Items

Contracts Available

Contract time! Our options are…

  • The Federated Commonwealth wants us to participate in a Planetary Assault against the Draconis Combine. Though it may seem unwise to participate in an attack against the same government which controls our homeworld, such arrangements aren’t unheard of among mercenaries. There are rules to protect us. As far as the details go, we’d be traveling two jumps to Nashira. Command rights are liaison, which I believe means we would control the allied mech detailed to keep an eye on us. Transport costs are fully covered, we would get 60% salvage rights, and, most interestingly, we’d also get 100% battle loss compensation. The contract would last five months, ending in early September, and would net us approximately 17,525,000 C-bills.
  • The Draconis Combine wants to hire us for Garrison Duty on Darius, which is facing sporadic attacks from the Free Rasalhague Republic. I’m not sure how they find the time, given their current troubles with the Clan invasion, but such is life in the Inner Sphere. Darius is six jumps away. House command rights means we’d have to deal with a friendly AI unit. Transport costs are fully covered, salvage rights are 40%. We receive no battle loss compensation, but the Combine will cover 60% of our monthly operating costs. Garrison contracts always last a long time; this one is twenty-two months, ending in March of 3053. I believe we would have the option of taking side contracts during our garrison time; we’d also have access to good repair facilities and spare parts. Estimated profit over the nearly-two-years of time under contract is 52,650,000 C-bills.

We can also elect to take no contract and try again next month.

Long-Term Goals

  • Are we interested in hiring more pilots? As Rince Wind noted, a bigger table of organization and equipment yields fatter contracts, which translates to better equipment and bigger contracts. Another lance or two would also give us better depth, allowing us to stand up to longer contracts more readily even if we run our spare parts stock down.
    • If we are interested in expanding the company, I’ll keep an eye out for good pilots on the personnel market and hire at my discretion.

The Opinionated Bastards: Propus Part V (Dec. 1, 3050)

And we’re back!

The Action of November 21, 3050


Today’s terrain is wooded hills, a nice large map with room to maneuver.

Heavy Lance will deploy in the northeast corner, since the Flashman and Awesome aren’t due until Rounds 2 and 3.

Round 1

Private Ngo and Double Dog deploy in that northeast corner, behind some trees from the main body of the enemy. They begin to maneuver toward the enemy, still well out of range.

Round 2


Rook’s Flashman takes the field. The enemies are still out of range to the southwest.


Round 3

Drake arrives in the Awesome. He’s just barely out of range with his PPCs. The enemy, having initiative, manages to stay out of Ngo’s firing arc, too. Rook and Double Dog have shots, though; Double Dog cracks off a Large Laser shot at an enemy Pegasus, while Rook opens fire on an enemy light mech, a Raven.

Everyone misses everything, except for our brave ally in the Hermes; he cracks the Raven’s center torso.

Round 4


Drake can hit from here; he aims for a Pegasus hover tank. The remainder of Heavy Lance, taking cover behind a convenient hill, has a shot on the same tank. In the hopes of removing it from the field, we focus our fire on it.

Round 5


The friendly Hermes is suddenly in a bit of a jam. It seems likely it’s going to die now.

Heavy Lance is solidly in engagement range now. Drake has a solid shot at a Scimitar hovertank, and takes that in preference to a less-solid shot on the Raven. The remainder of Heavy Lance has a better shot on the Raven, and all three take it.

Drake immobilizes the Scimitar, which should make it easy prey going forward.

Round 6


The friendly Hermes is now dead.

Cadre Lance will arrive before the next round.

This round, we’ll be working on the nearby Pegasus scout tanks; they carry SRM-6s, or what past experience leads me to call ‘mech-bane’. Drake and Ngo will shoot for the nearer one, while Rook and Double Dog go for the further one.

Ngo pads her tally with a kill on the nearest Pegasus, while Rook adds to her lead with the kill on the other.

Round 7

Cadre Lance arrives, and with its high speed is already close to the fight.


Drake aims for the Scimitar he immobilized; at this range against a stationary target, he’s automatic, a leisurely kill.

Ngo and Rook look to kill the last Pegasus, while Double Dog aims for the Scimitar hover tank directly in front of him.

Cadre Lance fires at what they can, but they’re still largely out of range.

As expected, Drake scores with all three PPCs on the immobilized Scimitar, punching through its armor with the first, cutting deep into its internal structure with the second, and scoring the kill with the third.

Ngo immobilizes the Pegasus, but Rook, everyone’s favorite glory hog, gets the kill.

Round 8


The enemy reinforcements arrive. At this stage, we’ve already won per the battle requirements, but once again, we’re in a sufficiently good position that I decide to fight it out. Drake, hidden from enemy fire by woodland, shoots at the only enemies he has a line on, a pair of Vedette medium tanks. Rook and Double Dog team up on the Scimitar in front of them.

Cadre Lance is still mostly out of range.

Round 9

Finally, Cadre Lance is mostly close enough to shoot. They, along with Heavy Lance, mainly engage the Raven. Drake and Ngo take aim at a Vedette and the currently-immobilized Scimitar, respectively.

Ngo and Teddy Bear are the only two to hit anything; Ngo finishes off the Scimitar, while Teddy Bear inflicts light damage on the Raven.

Round 10

The battle is truly joined now; not much movement occurs.


Drake polishes off the Raven, Rook scores on a Vedette. Wojtek lands a 15-missile volley on a Bulldog medium tank, nearly destroying it; Milspec, however, lands the killshot, delivering the largest amount of damage I’ve seen yet.



At this point, the enemy is scattered and nearly destroyed. Double Dog finishes off a heavily-damaged Scimitar which limped away from the battle early. Rook (of course) gets the Hetzer. Lastly, Severe scores a critical hit on the enemy Wasp’s SRM ammo, knocking it out.

Salvage, Repairs, Injuries


Drake is moderately wounded, and his Awesome will need a good bit of armor. No mechs took internal damage, and no other pilots got hurt. An easy victory.

Only the Raven is available for salvage, mech-wise; we take that, because it has medium lasers and armor.

We ransom five prisoners for 60,000 C-bills, and make a few thousand more in battle loss compensation.

Kill Board(s)

Rook continues to trounce all comers.

Last Mission


All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (15, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (8, 3 mechs)
  3. Private Ngo (6, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  6. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  7. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  8. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  10. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  11. Private Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)
  12. Private Cathrine “Severe” Payne (2, 2 mechs)
  13. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (2)


It is now December 1, 3050.

Contract Status

After this month’s victories, the Capellan forces break and the contract is complete. Despite the general wimpiness of the Capellan armed forces, this was nevertheless a good test for the Opinionated Bastards. We fought at a very high tempo, and still managed to keep our unit in good fighting trim.


We have 11,361,817 C-bills in the bank. We’ll use a million or two to get home to Piedmont.

Unit Market

We purchased a Thunderbolt.


Woad gets his Grasshopper back, now that we have a replacement Thunderbolt for Double Dog. Lance tweaks to come.


Now that the contract is over, we arrange for the following spares from the Federated Commonwealth. (Their price is deducted from the finances note above.)

  • Three large lasers, one to replace the missing one on the Frankenstein Lancelot, and two to have in reserve.
  • One three-ton gyro.
  • One 70-ton jump jet to bring the Grasshopper up to a full complement.

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02 (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare, Grasshopper GHR-5H (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, n/a (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne, Locust Custom (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T (Knave)
  • The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. They’re listed with their current mech assignment. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
    • Pvt. Ngo, Crab CRB-20

Action Items

  • Should we refit the new Thunderbolt to remove the missile weapons, or leave it be? Note that refitting units to a non-standard configuration makes them difficult to maintain.