Author Archives: Fishbreath

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.

Hardware

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.

Software

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.

#!/bin/bash
alsa_in -j name -d hw:1 -c 1 -p 512 &
echo $! > ~/.name.pid

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 name.pid 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 loopback.sh.

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

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 stopdevices.sh.

kill `cat ~/.name.pid`
kill `cat ~/.name.pid`
kill `cat ~/.loop.pid`

Replace .name.pid 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

traveling

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.

situation

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)

Status

It is now April 14, 3051.

Recruitment

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

que

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.

Finances

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.

units

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…

endo

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.

thunderbolt

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

Status

It is now March 19, 3051.

Finances

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

Training

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.

Organization

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

Spares

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.

Schedule

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

001-map

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

002-deployed

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

003-out-of-range

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

004-drake-in-range

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

005-jam

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

006-round6

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.

007-automatic

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

008-reinforcements

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.

009-raven

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.

damage

Cleanup

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

salvage

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

killboard

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)

Status

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.

Finances

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.

Organization

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

Spares

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.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Soapbox

See subject. We hope you’ve enjoyed the content we’ve managed to provide for you in 2017, and hope you’ll stick with us into 2018 and beyond. We have at least one project of a humorous nature we’d like to get out early on next year, so keep checking back for that, for the podcast, and for more of the insightful and incisive commentary we always aim to deliver.

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 24 – Thanksgiving in December

This is, in fact, our November episode, despite the fact that it is currently December; we recorded it on the 29th, and I’ve been busy, or possibly lazy. Regardless, listen to us talk about engines of three sorts: tank, rocket, and game.

Further reading
Binary Engineering
AVDS-1790
Opposed-piston engines
Rocketry reading
Dawn of the Tiberium Age
Supreme Commander
Guns of Icarus Alliance

Continue reading

The Opinionated Bastards: Propus Part IV (Nov. 21, 3050)

The Action of November 6, 3050

It’s going to be a brawl, and it’s going to be a brawl almost out of the gate. The map was originally 15×35; that seemed a bit cramped, so I used my reroll to change the map size. Now it’s 15 hexes by 25. Oops.

On the plus side, it’s a very hilly map with a lot of forest, which means, given initiative (which I never have, and which always seems weighted against the force with fewer units in any case), we can use the trees to protect ourselves.

Medium Lance will deploy near the edge and stay close to it, so that they can retreat in case of emergency.

Round 1

Since, once again, it’s a Scout deployment, units deploy by speed; onlyEuchre andHanzoku (in the Trebuchet and the jump-capable Guillotine) arrive in the first round.

round-1
Pictured: basically every mech currently deployed. Happily, almost everyone misses. As usual, the allied Wasp is getting plastered.

Round 2

round-2

Ker-Ker and Double Dog arrive. This is literally the worst kind of fight.

As seems to be tradition, Ker-Ker takes a pounding from the enemy, and fails to keep her mech on its feet.

The melee phase makes things even worse. Three of our four mechs end up on the ground.

Round 3

Everyone manages to get up. Euchre moves to protect the flank, while the heavier mechs take aim at a Vindicator and a Wolverine.

Ker-Ker, still focused by the enemy, loses a leg to weapons fire from a Wasp behind her. Her mech falls and won’t be getting up, but at least she’s not wounded or unconscious. The Lancelot still has both its arms, so she can prop herself up and shoot, too. Euchre plants a solid kick on the Wasp that did it and destroys its leg in return.

Round 4

Ker-Ker takes light damage, which isn’t bad, all things considered. Since, for once, she’s merely prone rather than prone and immobilized, she’s actually a harder target for mechs more than one hex away than she would be were she standing.

Euchre bags the Wasp which knocked Ker-Ker‘s mech down, while Double Dog kicks the Stinger next to him in the torso, knocking it out.

Round 5

The Wolverine jumps next to Ker-Ker, no doubt intending to attempt to kick her downed mech. The rest of Heavy Lance angles to keep that from happening.

round-5

The Lancelot takes heavier damage this time, including a hit or two to the head. The damage knocks Ker-Ker out, so now she’s in serious danger. Again.

Round 6

The good news is that everyone seems to be leaving Ker-Ker alone this round. The bad news is that, in attempting to protect her, we’re pretty poorly positioned. The good news is, Cadre Lance arrives in two rounds. The bad news is, I’m not sure Ker-Ker will survive that long even if nobody’s shooting at her this time.

The brunt of the enemy fire is aimed at Euchre, but catastrophe! It’s the Thunderbolt taking a lucky critical hit through the armor. (Fun fact: through-armor crits should happen a little less than 3% of the time. It’s happened twice in three turns here, though I didn’t mention the first one, since it was less terrible in outcome.)

round-6

The allied Wasp proves its worth for once, destroying its opposite number.

Round 7

This time, we focus on one of the enemy Vindicators. Next round, Cadre Lance arrives; the round after, Heavy Lance takes the field to wrap this one up.

round-7

The FedCom Wasp falls again, after taking heavy damage from the Vindicator facing it. We knock out the nearer Vindicator’s PPC, which renders it more or less harmless. It’s also taken heavy center torso damage, and another round of focus fire should fell it.

Round 8*

Cadre Lance arrives. The better elements thereof take the field to the north of the battle, while Wojtek and Severe deploy to the south. They’ll work as a team, with Severe spotting for Wojtek‘s LRMs.

round-8

Ker-Ker wakes up, somehow still not dead.

Teddy Bear scores his first mech kill, knocking out the Wolverine menacing Ker-Ker with a hit to the ammo reserves. Which is a shame, because other attacks decapitate it; we could have taken the chassis if it hadn’t blown up.

Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot is going to take quite a lot of repairing agin.

Round 9

As Heavy Lance takes the field, the enemy quite wisely begins to retreat. We’ll see what we can do to take them down.

round-9

It’s Hanzoku in the Guillotine who gets the kill on the Vindicator nearest us, his first as an Opinionated Bastard. Rook, hitting a ridiculous cross-map shot on a damaged Wasp, further cements her place atop the killboard.

Rounds 10+

With only two enemy mechs left, we move to cleanup. Rook bags the Wolverine, while Severe notches her first kill on the enemy Firestarter.

Salvage, Repairs, Injuries

The Thunderbolt is a total loss, so thoroughly destroyed by the ammunition explosion that there’s nothing left to salvage. The Frankenstein Lancelot is crippled, but we have enough spare parts to get it back into service. Everything else is undamaged. Ker-Ker is the only pilot to be wounded; she has a concussion again, along with a number of lesser injuries.

We can’t take any actual salvage because we’re still over our percentage.

We receive battle loss compensation to the tune of 600,000 C-bills, then add 70,000 more in ransom payments for enemy prisoners.

Kill Board(s)

Rook‘s lead grows. Notably, all the current Opinionated Bastards now have at least one kill.

Last Mission

(Turns out I forgot to take a picture. Oops.)

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (11, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (6, 2 mechs)
  3. Private Ngo (5, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (3, 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 (1, 1 mech)
  13. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (1)

Status

It is now November 20, 3050.

Contract Status

The Capellan forces are beginning to look worn down as our string of victories takes its toll on them. There’s another mission scheduled for tomorrow, a probe against a medium vehicle lance and a mixed mech-and-vehicle light lance, with a second medium vehicle lance in reserve. Heavy Lance and Cadre Lance are currently detailed to the mission, with Cadre Lance arriving late as reinforcements.

Finances

We currently have 5.856 million C-bills in the bank.

Unit Market

market

There are a few options to replace the lost Thunderbolt, including another Thunderbolt. Action item below for should-we-buy-something.

Organization

Double Dog, left without a mech, takes Woad‘s slot in the Grasshopper for the upcoming mission. (Sorry, Woad. It’s not that you’re a bad pilot, it’s that the other guy’s a better one.)

Repairs

We’re in good shape. Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot is missing a large laser, and the Grasshopper is still down a jump jet.

Spares

We’re out of large lasers, which is a significant blow, especially given Ker-Ker‘s tendency to get our Lancelots blown up. We are, of course, still out of three-ton gyroscopes, but in good shape otherwise.

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, Thunderbolt TDR-5S (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H (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

  • We’re down a mech. Should we buy a new one?
  • For Culise, about Rook:
    • Rook now has enough experience to buy a Weapons Specialist trait for large lasers, which will further improve her enemy-shredding ability in the Flashman, but tie her down to mechs with large lasers. Should she buy that trait, or save for improved piloting/gunnery down the line?
  • Any requests for changes to deployment or strategy for the next battle?

The Opinionated Bastards: Two Fights (Nov. 6, 3050)

Last Time’s Action Items

  • We purchased the Guillotine, assigning it to Private Hanzoku Yuksel. After a long moment with his shattered Locust, he gives the techs the okay to start salvage operations.
    001-guillotine
  • The Cadre Lance deploys alongside Heavy Lance.

The Action of October 27, 3050

The Capellan forces arrayed against us are lightweight, as is typical for Capellans. (If I’d known they were such pushovers, I would have recommended tackling them a lot more strongly!)

002-enemies1

The only things on the list to be concerned about are the Hetzer (with its AC/20) and the Vindicator, which mounts a PPC.

The battle commences in heavy fog. That has two effects: movement will be much slower, and accurate shooting will be somewhat harder. The terrain is heavy urban; there are no open areas on the map, and most combat is going to take place along streets.

Round 1

Since Heavy Lance is deployed with the Scout duty, they arrive on the battlefield fastest mechs first. Only Private Ngo’s Crab is fast enough to make it on the first round. Rook and Double Dog will arrive in the second round. Drake and the Awesome will turn up in the third. We deploy on the north edge of the map; the enemy deploys in the center.

003-1round1map

Ngo starts off on a side street, out of view of the enemy; the liaison, in a Wasp, tangles with the /Capellan Phoenix Hawk and takes heavy damage.

004-1round1wasp

Round 2

The Flashman and Thunderbolt show up, deployed somewhat to Ngo’s west. They take an aggressive tack, moving toward the Phoenix Hawk and firing on it.

005-1round2deploy

Rook hits with most of her weapons, while Double Dog does a lot of missing. He hits with one medium laser, though, which is enough to pierce the Phoenix Hawk’s center torso armor.

Ngo exchanges ineffectual fire with the enemies on her side of the map.

Round 3

Drake deploys behind Ngo. As expected, the enemy gets out of his line of sight, except for one poor, unfortunate Hetzer assault gun a full 18 hexes away. He’ll take that shot.

On the other side of the map, Rook and Double Dog continue to hammer the Phoenix Hawk.

Alarms go off in the latter’s cockpit as the two heavies’ shots hit home. It’s very nearly dead.

006-1round3phx

At maximum range, Drake hits with two of his three PPCs. Putting him in the Awesome is basically cheating. If he can see it, he can hit it; if he can hit it, he can kill it.

Round 4

The Phoenix Hawk dodges behind Double Dog, but Rook still has a clear shot. Drake is set to take some fire, as enemy vehicles roll out into the street to engage his mech, but he can handle it.

007-1round4east

Drake and Rook tie for first blood. Drake bags a Packrat patrol vehicle, while Rook gets the Phoenix Hawk. Ngo kicks the Vindicator.

Round 5

Drake, who can’t back up owing to the heavy fog, remains stationary, aiming for the Vindicator. (It’s inside his PPCs’ minimum range, but he’s a good enough gunner to manage the to-hit penalty.)

On the other side of the map, Rook and Double Dog slowly make their way over to the rest of the fighting.

Drake takes moderate damage, but manages to stay vertical. The Vindicator does not. Ngo kicks it again for good measure.

Round 6

Drake moves up, hoping to kick the Vindicator into submission.

No need. The Vindicator pilot, while attempting to stand, falls down, and…

008-1round6vindicator

I’ll take it! Ngo, who did the last damage to the mech, gets credit for the kill.

Drake has a shot on the LRM Scorpion hassling the other members of the Heavy Lance, so he takes it. Rook and Double Dog still can’t shoot at anything. Ngo can, but she’s very unlikely to hit.

Round 7

Cadre Lance takes the field! They’re staying mostly out of the way, though Linebuster leads the way.

009-1round7cadre

Once again, buildings block Drake‘s line of fire. The LRM Scorpion he tagged last round is about to die a brutal death, though. Rook gets credit for the kill. Woad scores a hit, too.

Rounds 8-12

Cleanup at this point. We have a tremendous advantage in firepower and survivability.

Cadre Lance gets to fire its weapons in anger; merely showing up for battle is better for a pilot’s skill than a good bit of training.

Drake finishes off the Hetzer he was shooting at earlier. Ngo bags a Scorpion, and Linebuster gets credit for two vehicles.

Damage

None to speak of; the enemy didn’t make it through anyone’s armor. Nobody was injured, either.

The Action of October 28, 3050

… and before we can do much more than replace damaged armor, there’s another battle.

This one’s objective is hide and seek: kill half the enemy while losing less than a third of the Opinionated Bastards’ deployed force. Or, as I fully expect to do again, destroy the enemy utterly.

The enemy forces this time are a bit heavier than before. Almost everything on the field has something to be cautious of: an AC/10 on the Po tank, PPCs on the Vindicators, AC/20s on the Hetzers, and a large laser on the Grasshopper. Once again, Heavy Lance and Cadre Lance deploy.

011-2enemies

The map is quite small, a 15×25-hex affair with a lot of variation in height. That helps balance out the numbers disadvantage; we can use the terrain to take cover.

Round 1

Again, it’s a scouting deployment, so Ngo deploys first. She’s at the northeast corner of the map. The allied FedCom mech, a Commando, deploys near the center of the eastern map border.

Ngo takes hits from four of the five AC/2s mounted on the AC/2 carrier, and more damage than that from one of the Vindicator’s PPCs. Combined with a few LRMs, that’s enough to knock her mech over, but not before she scores a critical hit on the AC/2 carrier, killing its crew. First blood comes early.

Round 2

Rook and Double Dog deploy on the southeastern corner of the map, and open fire on one of the Vindicators with moderate success. Ngo stumbles, but manages to stand, and moves quickly to join her comrades to her south.

012-2round2deploy

Round 3

Drake takes the field. The entirety of Heavy Lance fires on the enemy Grasshopper; Drake hits with all three PPCs. The enemy mech falls.

Round 4

There’s very little movement going on. The Opinionated Bastards have a good position, screened in part by the hill, and the enemies don’t want to get any closer, either. Everyone focuses on the Grasshopper again; it’s the biggest threat and the easiest to hit. It falls down a second time.

013-2round4grasshopper

Round 5

The Grasshopper stands again and jumps closer, into medium laser range. *Drake and Rook will take another crack at him, while the other units split their fire to start working on the Vindicator next door.

Drake takes a hit to his gyro through the armor, and one of the Hetzers scores on his right arm with an AC/20, damaging one of his PPCs.

The Grasshopper pilot ejects after taking some engine, gyro, and actuator hits. That’s excellent news. We didn’t shoot out its core or destroy its limbs. If we can get it as salvage, we can probably save it.

Round 6

The next most dangerous targets are the Hetzers and the Vindicators, so that’s where we aim next.

Rook takes out the first Hetzer, with assists from Drake and Ngo.

Round 7

Cadre Lance arrives. Most everyone stays behind our protective hilltop, although the whole formation slides slightly southwest. The remaining Hetzer has one of the better gunners left on the Capellan side, so we’ll aim for him first.

014-2round7cadre

Severe, moving to fire on one of the Vindicators, takes severe damage, and loses control of her mech. It falls. That’s no good. On the other hand, it’s also behind a hill, so by falling, it’s now out of the line of fire.

Rook scores another kill, this time on the Hetzer.

Round 8

The enemy is below half strength, which means we win; I’m going to take a bit more time to blow stuff up, because it’s going well and, and the more that’s dead, the more likely we are to get a crack at that Grasshopper.

Drake loses his right arm to enemy fire, but that’s okay. We can patch him up. We have the parts.

Rook notches yet another kill, this time taking down the Locust south of our force. Double Dog gets in on the action, destroying the Po heavy tank with a hit to the ammunition store.

Round 9-11

Cleanup goes well; all we have left are the two Vindicators, which are looking rather worse for the wear. Rook takes a hit to the gyro, but is otherwise okay. Newcomers to the killboard Woad and Euchre each account for one of the Vindicators. Congratulations!

After-Action Reports

Salvage

016-2salvage

We score the Grasshopper! (We also took a Phoenix Hawk in the first battle.) The Grasshopper can be repaired; the Phoenix Hawk is only worth its weight in parts. That puts us at a little north of 40% salvage instead of the negotiated 30%, so we’ll have to tread lightly on the next mission or two.

In terms of income, we make 175,000 C-bills on prisoner ransom and about 50,000 on battle loss compensation.

Damage

015-2damage

Nothing is out of commission. Heavy Lance needs some repairs. The Awesome’s gyro turns out to be a total loss, but one of the spares we have fits. (I’m still not at all sure how to figure out which of the four different kinds of gyro a given mech requires.)

Nothing else to report on the damage front, except that we can’t fully repair the Grasshopper—one of its jump jets was destroyed, and we can’t order a new one on this contract.

Despite the damage to our mechs, none of our pilots were wounded.

Training

017-training

Ngo is now a Veteran, with 4+ piloting/3+ gunnery. Her new trait, Some Like It Hot, allows her to ignore the -1 to-hit penalty for mild overheating, which is useful. The Crab generates a lot of heat.

Ker-Ker also trained to 4+/4+. Woad and Euchre are both 5+/5+ now, which is still technically Green. Next time they raise a mech skill, though, they’ll be Regulars.

Changing Mech Assignments

018-mech-assignments

Mech assignments and organization shift a bit, since I had to throw together an undamaged lance to deploy following the mission above.

Woad steps into the Grasshopper and joins Rook, Drake, and Ngo in Heavy Lance. Medium Lance is now Double Dog in the Thunderbolt, Ker-Ker in the Frankenstein Lancelot, Hanzoku in the Guillotine, and Euchre in the TBT-5S.

Linebuster is still in charge of the rookies in Cadre Lance, whose ranks now include Wojtek, taking Woad‘s previous ride, the TBT-5N.

Kill Board(s)

Rook leaps out to a commanding lead, followed by Drake and the still-unclaimed Private Ngo.

Recon Raid

recon raid killboard

Hide and Seek

hide and seek killboard

All-Time Leaders

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

Status

It is now November 5, 3050. I stopped here because there’s yet another battle planned for tomorrow, another Hide and Seek. See below for more information.

Finances

Our current balance is 5.225 million C-bills.

Spares

We’re out of spare large lasers, and we only have gyros in the two-ton size at present. Owing to combat in orbit, no resupply is possible this month.

Next Mission

The next mission sees us facing an interesting force: no vehicles whatsoever, but two full lances of mechs. The expected Capellan force is primarily light mechs, with some Vindicators and a Wolverine expected. Medium Lance was deployed and therefore must face the enemy first. Given the current distribution of pilots, I’m tempted to bring both Cadre Lance and Heavy Lance along for this deployment. Both will take a while to arrive on the field, since none of our lances are what you’d call fast, but I’m uncomfortable leaving Heavy Lance to face twice its number alone.

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, Thunderbolt TDR-5S (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H (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)
  • 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. Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T
    • Pvt. Ngo, Crab CRB-20

Action Items

  • For this next mission, should we deploy everything, or only reinforce Medium Lance with Heavy Lance?