Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Resolutions

Around this time last year, I made up a list of resolution to shoot for in the new year. Before launching a new set of resolutions for 2008, let's review 2007 first.
1. Get a girlfriend. Really start looking. A friend suggested going to discos and asking out pretty girls. Maybe when I have enough guts... (Failed)
2. Paint at least 4 more miniatures. (Failed)
3. Organise and hold 2 more official Classic Battletech events within the year. (Failed)
4. Start pushing for the formation of the NUS Choir alumni, or failing that, joining the Vocal Consort. Gotta start prioritizing my Sundays though. (Failed)
5. Work on my crosses with my left foot when playing on the left wing, so that I can at least hit them decently 50% of the time with a dribble from a dead stop. (Passed)
6. Run 2.4 km under 10 min. (Failed, though it was close...)
7. Run a half-marathon under 2 hours. (Failed, 2hr 20 min was my best timing)
8. Run a full marathon. (Passed)
9. Get an IPPT Gold. (Failed)
10. Post on my blog more often. (Passed)
Oh well. As for the new year, here're my plans.

1. Apply for further education. I'm gonna get my Masters!
2. Continue training for the IPPT Gold.
3. Organise 2 CBT events.
4. Churn out at least 10 chapters of Seekers next year.
5. Go for shooting range more often, and get all my shots within the black area of the target board for standing shoulder... unsupported.

That's it. Small bits, little bits. Just have to be true to myself, and everything will turn out fiiiiiineeeeeeee...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Population and Technology

About one thing that's great about the battletech forums is the regular amounts of brain fodder available that's tough to get in any other fandom.

The ongoing discussion on populations and technology levels is an excellent example. Simply put: what is the bare population required to sustain a certain level of technology? Can a population of say... 5 million, with no outside trade but with access to ample resources, maintain early 21st century technology, with all the computers, cellular networks, etc? How many people to sustain Bronze Age technology?,28546.0.html

A related link that is somewhat relevant to the discussion:

There are links in the above two pages, which provide further brain fodder.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Great Quote!

Once in a while the Battletech/Mechwarrior series produces a quote that is well... absolutely outstanding. The latest one is from "The Last Charge", and is uttered by quasi-villain Alaric Wolf:
"This is war. I assumed everyone was here to fight."

That book also featured the longest rant ever in the entire Battletech universe, which lasted for more than a page! And it was a meaningful rant, which makes it very ironic, coming from Anson Marik, who was exactly the kind of person he was ranting against.

On another note, I finally got around to reading Ender's Game, and I can see why it was so heralded for its time. It dealt with moral and psychological issues, as well as deception and choices. I won't give anything away, but the ending, when Ender starts coming to terms with what he'd done and becomes the first Speaker for the Dead, is especially poignant.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shooting and Crabs

Went for range today. Fired off 250 .22 rounds. Was pretty accurate too, except for the rounds which didn't explode properly, which accounted for stray shots, e.g. the single hole at the bottom of the target board. This was done at prone position, supported, 50 meters, with targeting scope. A far sight better(literally!) than the ole iron sights on the M16! The target board below was for my best sequence of ten rounds.
The target board is about the size of your computer screen. Which means I can make a head shot at 50 meters... provided the target is stationary, of course!
Trying out the standing shoulder, supported. I could place most rounds in the black area of the target board, but there were still strays now and then. Unsupported? Forget it!

After that, I tried out the handgun, also at 50 meters. No scope, iron sights. Just one thing I learnt: A lot of respect for those who shoot handguns at any distance beyond twenty meters with one hand...
Two hand grip. No stylo one-handers for me!

My family went to the crab restaurant in Ang Mo Kio tonight, and here is a picture of the claw of one of the crabs.
What a monster...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


刚从戏院回来. 今晚看了最新的华文动作历史片, "投名状". 战斗的场面非常真实, 描绘了中国在十九世纪的贫困与内乱. 为了生存, 要得到饭吃, 赵二虎带了他村里的兄弟做匪徒, 连太平军的粮草也敢抢. 他遇上朝廷将领庞青雲, 结拜兄弟, 一起斗太平天国, 而用在战斗中得到的奖励, 来给他们村里的人更好的生活.

戏里的动作和画面非常逼真, 也很残暴. 其实, 那时的战争, 就是如此. 对我来说, 印象最深的情景, 就是当赵二虎答应庞青雲做官兵的时候. 他说: "如果我们要做匪的话, 就要做最大的!" 到最侯, 三兄弟反目成仇, 都被杀害. 我原本不明白为什么朝廷要庞青雲死, 还派了刺客杀他. 后来才知道, 庞青云不是满洲人, 所以朝廷诀不会把江苏交给他管理.

那戏的名字是什么意思呢? 投名状不只是发毒誓结义兄弟, 还需要他们各人杀一人!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tech Manual Thoughts (for CBT players only!)

Well, got Tech Manual about three weeks back, and since then I've been busy going through all my re-designs and putting in the new stuff when appropriate. I never much liked fan re-designs that don't take the mech's original design specs and combat role into consideration. The best re-designs are those that still conform to the 'flava' of the mech, for lack of a better word.

So, going through the new equipment for battlemechs(ignoring the workmechs stuff), and how I used them:

Structural components
Compact engines - Urgh, compact engines take up much less space in the CT, but pay a 50% penalty in mass increase. Most of the time, it's impossible to find enough mass savings on older designs to put in a compact engine, and even if it was done, the CT still needs some more equipment to act as crit soakers. Very few of my re-designs have compact engines, though I did manage an Atlas with MMLs, max armor, compact engine and compact gyro. The quintessential zombie... like the Wobblie Archangel(the Celestials-series omnimechs demand a post of their own!).

Compact gyro - Ahah! Now this I can get! For a mere maximum of two tons penalty, you squeeze the gyro's crit slots to just two slots, which makes frustrating gyro hits(+3 to PSR) due to golden BBs(hit location roll of 2) less of a worry. Of course, you still to put in stuff to soak up crits, but most of the time, a double heat sink and a C3 slave unit would suffice. The very best structural addition to the construction game, IMO. I managed to put in compact gyros for many re-designs, and the results are generally very pleasing. Because of this, I can also make the weapon locations in few mechs match the artwork better. The best example of this would be the classic unseen Marauder.

XL gyro - Acts much like the XL engine, halving the weight of the gyro for an additional two crit slots in the CT, for a total of 6 gyro slots. Makes it very vulnerable to golden BBs, so I restricted it to ultra-fast light mechs that could use the weight savings to boost their armor or weaponry. The example for this would be the Davion Fireball. Putting an XL gyro in means that I can upgrade the guns to dual ER meds, a streak SRM 2, and even put in a C3 slave unit. All this for max armor and a movement rate of 11/17.

Heavy duty gyro - An interesting piece of equipment, but one that needs a hefty mass penalty to pay for. I don't think I used it at all, because I prefer the gyro NOT to get hit in the first place. A compact gyro is still better.

Small cockpit - For a +1 penalty to all PSR rolls, you get only 1 life support crit in the head and 1 ton free, which it's now possible to put weapons(and other equipment) with two crit slots in the head! An ER large laser in the head area... weird... I stay away from this one, because the +1 penalty to PSR is just too painful to ignore for 4/5 regular pilots on most designs. Of course, the Wobblies don't need to worry about this, since they have Vehicular Direct Neural Interface(VDNI) equipped elite Manei Domini Phantoms who can ignore the +1 penalty for their mechs with small cockpits. As a Wobblie, I'm very happy about this, but non Wobblies are very pissed at all the good stuff we're getting.

Improved jump jets - I'm kinda neutral to this. It's hard to get the extra mass and crit slots open for the IJJs, and in many cases, I find it's only possible by downgrading the engine, which violates my personal rule of re-designing - don't change the speed/engine ratings! Interesting things can be done with IJJs, but I think they belong more in the realm of custom jobs.
I tried it out on the Spider, reducing the base movement to 5/8, while using IJJs to keep the jump MP at 8. This freed up enough mass to max out the armor! Same for the Venom.
Still, I feel the reduction in walking/running MP is a tactical limitation. Imagine you can get behind the rear of an opponent, but because you don't have enough run MP, you have to jump there, which means a +3 which makes any attack roll much more difficult. So in the end, I stuck with the basic movement rates and engine ratings for all my mechs.

Light/heavy ferro-fibrous armor - For only 7 crits, it's now possible to up the armor a bit using LFF! I used this extensively, especially on many of my re-designs that I squeezed TSM in because they had crits free but couldn't use them all up, particularly in the 7-13 free slots range. But now, with LFF armor, I can take away the silly TSM and put LFF armor in. HFF armor is also an excellent option for mechs with FF armor and still 7 or more slots free, and beats out even clan FF armor! Nothing to dislike about these armors. My second fav component option
improvement in Tech Manual.

Weapons and equipment
Light autocannons - Lighter and takes up less crit slots than regular ACs, at the cost of shorter ranges and caliber restrictions(only LAC/2 and LAC/5 available). Not too bad, given that they can also use specialized AC ammunition. I do tend to use this quite a bit, especially on canon designs that rely on overly heavy ACs, such as the Rifleman and Jagermech. Switching their guns to LACs opens up a lot more options to upgrade their armor protection and heat dissipation.

Plasma weapons - The one thing I steered away from completely, because I can't bother to create it as a custom weapon in HMP. I can see their uses, but can't really find mechs to mount this new weapon yet. As anti-vehicle and anti-infantry hunters and medium range fighters, they'll probably be very good. Against TSM mechs, the plasma rifle is a killer. The clan version, the plasma cannon, is also very useful. Alas, I have stayed away from clan redesigns so far...

Heavy PPC - For increased weight, increased heat, and crit slots, you can swap out a PPC for the heavy version, which packs a whopping 15 points of damage. The most vicious new weapon for the Inner Sphere to appear in Tech Manual, and already a fast favorite of most designers. Their weight and heat requirements, however, mean that it's tough to get them onto designs with two or more PPCs. In the end, I only managed a few. The Awesome with 3 HPPCs is probably the most terrifying of the lot on paper, but with only 17 DHS, has to resort to a 3-2-2-2 firing pattern. IMO, the Guillotine with a compact gyro, HPPC, 2 MPLs, 2 ER meds, SRM2 pack, and a TC is the best mod I managed with heavy PPCs.

Light PPC - Halve the weight and space of the PPC, and you get the light PPC. Some like to think of it as just a longer ranged ER med laser, but I prefer not to, because of the minimum range. If anything else, the weapon it most closely resembles is the AC/5. Same range and damage, but the light PPC is vastly lighter for only 4 more points of heat. Essentially, Light PPC + 2 DHS > AC/5 with ammo. I didn't use this weapon much, because finding ways to swap out ER meds for LPPCs is just too difficult, and I prefer not to change ACs out for energy weapons at all if I could help it.

Snub nose PPC - Now, this is an extremely interesting weapon. The weapon brackets are weird, 0/9/13/15, with drastic damage dropoff from short to long range. The lack of a minimum range and the unprecedented range of the short range bracket means that this is a perfect weapon for infighting designs. I used it on the Wyvern, Ostsol, and Lancelot.

Multi missile launchers - These are, contrary to what a lot of people think, not replacements for LRMs. Changing LRM launchers out for MMLs on a 1 to 1 tube basis, I realized there was too much of a penalty in weight and crit space. Just look at the Wobblie Viking. They changed it from a dedicated fire support platform to a... whatever it is, I don't know. Sure, it's scary up close, but the smart player would stay away and pepper it with LRMs with his original Viking.
For SRMs, however, they're almost perfect, if not for the fact that the weight per tube for MMLs get worse and worse and the rack size gets bigger. An example of this would be the classic Javelin. Put in ES and DHS, and then swap out the SRM 6 packs with four MML 3s, with 3 tons of ammo.
Also, it was possible to make MMLs work for redesigns, especially those with both LRM and SRM launchers. A Thunderbolt, for example, had a LRM 15 and a SRM 2. I changed them out for two MML 7s with 3 tons of ammo. For the loss of 1 tube, I get a hefty short range punch and increased versatility with LRM and SRM ammunition. Another example, more extreme, is the Highlander, with 1 LRM 20 and 1 SRM 6. I changed them out for two MML 9 racks, with 4 tons of ammo. Scary stuff.

Machine gun array - Not much use for this, unfortunately. For two machine guns, it's dead weight. The MGA is, I think, useful only on mechs with 3 or more machine guns. Only one mech had enough machine guns to justify this piece of equipment - the Sentry. I'm not counting clan mechs, of which one would stand out for the MGA - the Piranha!

Hyper assault gauss - No comment on this, as I haven't got around to making redesigns for clan mechs yet. But they're certainly scary in a way that MRMs are not... 40 points of damage at range 24? Ouch.

My favorite re-design using Tech Manual rules has got to be the Wyvern. The Wyvern originally was like this. Large laser, 2 small lasers, LRM 10 with 1 ton ammo, SRM 6 with 1 ton ammo. Near max armor, 12 single heat sinks. CASE in both torsos.

Now look at the Comstar/Word of Blake version. Toaster worshipping has its advantages!
I did the following:
Replaced the single heat sinks with double heat sinks. For better heat dissipation.
Changed the gyro to a compact version. Better chances of avoiding gyro hits.
Swapped the armor to light ferro-fibrous weave.
Took one torso CASE out, put all ammo on one side.
Swapped the large laser for a Snub nose PPC. Increase in hitting power at close range.
Changed all missile racks for two MML 5s with 2 tons of ammo. Essentially replaces the LRM 10 and SRM 6 rack, with an increase in short range hitting power!
Upgraded both small lasers. Upgraded 1 to a ER med, and the other becomes a ER small.
Lastly, included the standard piece of equipment for all toaster mechs - the improved C3 module!
The Wyvern is now an even better city fighter than before, with enhanced capabilities in every aspect, while still retaining the flavor of the design. Also can act as a hold up spotter at medium-close ranges in open terrain.

Next up, a review of the Celestials, along with their Invictus and Dominus configurations featured so far.

Some updates...

It's the holidays, but strangely enough, I'm still working hard on my own stuff. Got things to write, minis to paint, mechs to re-design...

Finished the marathon last Sunday. At the end, I was essentially crawling. Time: 6+ hours... Maybe I can get it down to below 6 hours next year! Couldn't walk for the next few days, but I did it!

The next few days were spent busy writing. Haha, finally got two more chapters up for my adoring fans! One political chapter, and one combat chapter.

The rest of the holidays will be spent doing interval training, writing, gaming, and working on my admission for further studies.

There'll be a post up next on my thoughts on the new stuf I've gotten for Battletech.