Thursday 29 September 2022

Epic & Battletech

This week I picked up the starter box for Classic Battletech, mainly because I had the sudden urge to paint some lumbering mechs. 

Now I've painted them and about an hour before I posted this I bought 8 more Mechs because I'm hooked. 

Rough and ready table-quality style as always. It's the only style I can do!

But before I talk about Battletech I'm afraid I have to talk about Games Workshop. 

Buckle up, it's another one of those posts where I reminisce about my childhood discovery of tabletop games.

I came into Games Workshop games at an interesting time in their history. Like the last days of the Wild West. 

The focus was clearly on Warhammer 40k and Fantasy Battles, but in the catalogues I'd see adverts for relics from the past. Man o'War, Space Hulk, Blood Bowl. Weird stuff that would tease me from catalogue pages, but remain trapped in the past. 

But this Epic game was still being talked about a little in White Dwarf. 

No wait, was it two games? There were two boxed sets you could buy. One presumably about Titans, one about Space Marines. 

Now I'll confess that as a 10-year old with my head in the clouds, I didn't fully understand the concept of these games being a different scale. At first I wondered if these tanks were just as big as 40k tanks but... photographed from far away.

No, I don't know what I was thinking either, but it would have made for a very heavy box. 

At 6mm scale it covered everything from squads of tiny soldiers up to the famously huge Titans, with a heap of interesting stuff in between. This was before my prized Eldar really had many vehicle miniatures at 40k scale, so it was neat to see a full fleet of grav-tanks and war machines in their style. Dumb stuff like the squat land train and ork battlewagons with claws and death rollers obviously appealed to me. 

Because I was still making my first forays into 28mm I think I put Epic aside in my head. I certainly didn't feel confident enough at painting to tackle those tiny little troopers. Maybe something to come back to in a few years. 

But soon it would be gone. 

Over the next few years GW's rules would get tidied up a lot and the settings given a more straight-faced delivery. 28mm scale would also claim dominance. Of course there was the heavily promoted, streamlined last-hurrah, Epic 40,000 but that seemed to appear and vanish before I could even give it any attention.

Sometimes I'd think about it, though, or dip into the surviving Epic community online.  

Now, it's a running joke among wargamers that as you get older you move to increasingly tiny scales, but after my recent dips into 10mm scale fantasy I've finally taken the plunge into 6mm, but not through Epic. 

I was always aware of Battletech, but it never caught my eye. I knew the Mechwarrior PC games and I knew it was an old, complicated wargame. I became interested when I heard there was a new(ish) rules-lite version of their game called Alpha Strike which let you field a handful of mechs with some infantry and vehicles on the side. Perhaps I could finally scratch that Epic itch. 

But the new Alpha Strike starter set seems to be delayed, so I grit my teeth and bought the Classic Battletech Starter, expecting to hate this lumbering dinosaur of a system from the 80s, but at least get a nice set of Mechs from it.

Imagine my surprise when I actually sort of fell in love with it.

Caveat! I've only tested this out myself to get a handle on the rules, so this might all change when I have to subject another person to this monstrosity. 

The setting really hasn't grabbed me yet. I've tried, and I respect its groundedness, but I just haven't found any part of it that sparks my imagination yet. The mechs are cool, of course, but again they feel firmly rooted in the reality of this setting. These aren't the wild hyper-specific designs of Into the Breach and Lancer. It's much more like reading about WW2 tanks. Variations within a relatively narrow band of designs. When I grab a random mech it's very likely to be a humanoid with a big gun or two and some missiles or lasers scattered over its other bodyparts. Maybe it jumps.   

Again, this isn't a bad thing. It gives the universe a very specific feel, as if it could be real history. I suspect the big appeal of the setting is in some of the personal stories and political intrigue, which I haven't really tapped into yet.

So if I don't really care about the setting and I think the Mech designs are mostly just okay then what did grab a hold of me? 

You know I like simple rules, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy crunch, and most of the crunch in this game feels like good crunch.

Yeah there are clunky bits where two rolls could have been condensed to one, and there's a lot of memory demanded of players from turn to turn, but let's put that aside.

I love the process of adding up all the little numbers that make up the Target Number for your attack. 

I love the detail of chipping away at each little bit of the mech. I love that SRM and LRMs have special missile cluster rules that are slightly different to each other. 

I love the little dice you put next to your mech to show how fast it's moving and how it's moving, both of which affect attacks.

I haven't tried them out in too much detail yet but I think I even love the whole Heat system.  

If all this were happening in a 40k game with dozens of miniatures on each side? I'd hate it through and through. If I had to play this against a fully competitive opponent, arguing over every little rule that I'm misremembering, I think it would be unbearable. But the idea of approaching it as a more narrative game, maybe one or two mechs per player, is sticking in my brain for sure. 

After doing a little more research I've picked up the Beginner Box, which has a slightly trimmed version of the rules, and hope to give it a try as soon as I can before braving the full rules of the main box.

Not the Standard Rules found in the Total Warfare tome of course. That's a little scary for me just yet, even if I really want to bring some infantry and vehicles to the table. Mechs become a lot more interesting when you have them towering over some more mundane units for scale. 

And, of course, all this has driven me to tinker with my own little mech system. Something with more detail that Alpha Strike's ultra-lean units but more fast-moving than Classic Battletech.

Perhaps I'll share that another time. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Thursday 22 September 2022

Shame and Hatred

A sidestep from game content today. 

A year ago I wrote about the experience so far of working full-time on games. Everything in that post still applies, but with another year under my belt I thought a little more self-reflection could be interesting. 

I've now been working on games full-time for two and a half years, with six years or so before that somewhat earnestly making games in my spare time. It's been a good year, so I'm pretty confident saying that I can keep doing this for now.

I hold up Honesty and Authenticity as standards I expect from myself and from others. In short, I think people should tell the truth and be themselves wherever possible. 

So let me live by those values and bare my shame and hatred for all to see. 

SHAME - The Backburner

I keep most of my work notes on a Trello board. Among others there's a list of Live Ideas and the Backburner.


Now it's easy to imagine Backburner as a euphemism for Bin but it's really not. Maybe one or two of them are getting close to rubbish, but the rest all have ideas that I revisit now and then. 

They vary from highly fleshed out (Blighters, Space & Solitude) to barely more than a vague idea (BACK ON THE MENU, Battle for Bastion). 

It would be easy to look at this list, add up the hours I've spent thinking about them, writing, rewriting, testing, and cost it up as a business loss. I've certainly felt that way at times.

But I no longer fear it. The backburner serves a purpose. Ideas can be repurposed, mechanics stolen, and some projects may rise to the Live Projects board again. 

The Doomed started as GRIMLITE, which I never expected to be played by anybody but me, and pretty soon I'll have some news on the exciting future of that game.

The backburner is not a thing of shame. It is a thing of pride. 

HATRED - Twitter

I hate it. 

I hate the type of conversation that it encourages. I hate the way it makes people perform, people who don't perform that way elsewhere. I hate that it makes me think about people I shouldn't be giving headspace to. I hate that it feels like it's become the online hub of RPGs. 

Most of all I hate that I hate it. I know others feel the same, but it also feels like the problems above have a direct wire into my brain. I should be able to rise above them, but I can't. 

If I just had a personal account I'd be long gone, but doing so would be a business decision now, so I'm still there, or rather Bastionland Press is still there. 

I unfollowed everybody a while back, so I essentially have no timeline to scroll through. This helped. 

There are a handful of people I enjoy keeping up with, so I manually visit their timelines now and then, like how I used to know the phone numbers of my best friends. 

Unfortunately there are other people my brain won't let me forget, so I sometimes find myself checking in on them. Are they posting something terrible? Are they arguing with somebody about something ridiculous? Are they just yelling out for attention? I don't know why I can't ignore them, but I said this post was about honesty didn't I?

At least I'm good at not publicly engaging with that side of things.

There are good elements. The vast majority of times I get tagged it's something worthwhile, so I still look at my notifications and reply or retweet as appropriate. DMs are a handy way of contacting somebody new for a podcast or collaboration. Occasionally I forget myself and post some dumb thing and I get some funny replies. It can be fun. 

I just wish the good stuff was happening somewhere different to the bad stuff. The stuff I don't want to be associated with. The stuff I don't want to feel like I'm legitimising by staying there. 

Of course there are alternatives. You're reading this post on one of them (Patreon or Blogger). For conversation and link-sharing I love Discord, though I've limited myself to just five essential servers. 

Last week I started a mailing list. I whisper to myself that if my email subscribers outnumber my twitter followers then I'll delete the latter, but I won't. Maybe mothball it, but I fear the damage is done. The problems I have with twitter won't be solved by me leaving it, but I do hope I can continue the non-total transition to other platforms. 

This one won't be shaken off as easily as my shame. It's here to stay. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Thursday 15 September 2022

Universal Hex Profile

Earlier this year I wrote about my first dip into Traveller, but I didn't get onto talking about the Universal World Profiles and Universal Personality Profiles.

In short, it's a code you learn so that you can see B785457-C and know that it means: good shipyard, 7000 mile radius, dense atmosphere, 50% water, tens of thousands of people, feudal technocracy, shotguns permitted, and average imperial tech level. 

I worked through the process on this stream and said that I'd love to mess with the system to try a simpler approach. 

Which I did! But then I neglected to post it here, so let's dig back into it with a few tweaks. 

This works for planets or regions, but I'm applying it to Hexes here because they're at the forefront of my mind right now. 


Roll 5d6, drop the highest, then read the remaining dice as: 

Topography: Verticality of terrain.
Water: Wetness.
Ecology: Non-human life.
Infrastructure: Buildings, road, other human stuff. 

1=1: Trace
2=2: Some
3=3: Lots
4=N: Null, actively none, perhaps by design
5=H: Hazardous, not through lack or excess but the nature of the thing
6=S: Super, off the scale. Think big then go bigger. 

So 1-3 represent your "normal" levels, with 4-6 representing more exceptional results. If your brain works like mine you can tell yourself that, if using a d6 with pips, the results for 4, 5, and 6 kinda look like N, H, and S respectively if you imagine a load of lines and really want it to work. 

If you want fewer exceptional results then add more dice to the pool, but only keep the four lowest. Likewise, if you want more wackiness then just roll 4d6 straight. 


12HN: Flat planes with winding rivers and lakes, nasty predators, totally forbidden to enter.  

3N21: Utterly dry mountains, herds of goats, a few trails and the odd hut serving as a vital water supply.  

21SS: Hills, damp ground but no bodies of water, overrun with fungus, huge industry being built to harvest them.

H3NH: Quicksand-like bog, all wildlife wiped out by its toxicity, jealously guarded by hostile inhabitants. 

If we go back to the planetary idea then I guess present-day Earth is 2333


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Friday 9 September 2022

The Bastionland Presser

Better late than never, I'm building a mailing list where people can keep up to date with everything happening at Bastionland Press.

Expect an irregular digest of my normal stuff with a little extra now and then.

Go and sign up at

EDIT: I messed up the url but it should work now!

Thursday 8 September 2022


Psst, I'm not actually here right now, so it's just a short one this week.

When I sit down to play an RPG, I'm usually happiest when the following things are present:

  • Solving problems with tactical infinity
  • Exploring an interesting world
  • Seeing a story emerge as a result of our own actions

Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland were designed with these in mind. Mythic Bastionland has some key differences, but I still want to keep those three things in focus.

One of the thorny issues at the moment is how the idea of the players being Knights interacts with that first point about encouraging creative problem solving. 


The desperate treasure hunters of ITO and EB might start with some novel equipment, but their success usually relies on that tactical infinity I mentioned earlier. Coming up with a scheme to survive the dangerous world despite their limitations.

Do heroic knights need to indulge in such trickery? 

The characters of Mythic Bastionland are framed as being more competent. They're knights after all. They have  a cool knight-name, a steed, and the people of the realm are often glad to see them ride into town. 

They even have special combat Feats they can perform! It's easy to see how they can be read as heroes right from the off. 

Yet you start with no Glory. Your rank is Petty Knight, considered unworthy to lead a warband or have a place in court. You don't have a sword, and you likely don't have proper armour. Even at peak performance you won't become Noble, worthy of a holding, for an entire year. 

I want them to feel a different to the failed professionals of Electric Bastionland, but I still want them to feel vulnerable, and rely on clever problem solving as much as martial power. I want them to do great things, but I also want them to fail. 

Projecting the right presentation of Knights throughout their career is something I'd like to work on in future revisions of the playtest. At the moment it's not quite there, and can create some strange moments.

Strange moments can be good, and create memorable decision points for the players, but they shouldn't be swimming in cognitive dissonance the whole time. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Thursday 1 September 2022

Primacy of Action

In Mythic Bastionland I talk about the Primacy of Action.


Even when using the rules for travel, exploration, and combat, remember this, the most important thing

No rule or system within the game should devalue the Actions the players take.

Remember the core of giving players information, honouring their choices, and describing the impact of their actions.

This has some similarity to the Fiction First concept found in many games. I'll avoid trying to define that one too closely, as others can't seem to agree fully.

I'd probably apply this to all of my games, but I wanted to stress the point in Mythic Bastionland because there's a much larger focus on procedures. These are meant to be tools to allow the GM to emulate a living world, not a rigid programming code to a clockwork nightmare outside of the players' control.

I almost called it Primacy of Past, as I want the group all know that previous established facts get priority over the usual procedures of play, but really even present Actions should carry certain weight above the mechanical processes. 

The players always have choice, but they must live with their actions, for better or worse. 

Normally the group is considered to have Supplies. While travelling they might get a result that says "today's supplies are the last", so the following day they have no supplies. 

It might seem obvious, but player action can deplete supplies before this roll calls for it. That roll is a tool to account for the passive consumption of supplies in a level of (low) detail that I feel is appropriate for this game. Let's say they meet another travelling group of knights in the woods and offer to cook them up a feast and share a camp. The GM might say "you can do that, but you'll leave yourself low on supplies, tomorrow will be the last". As this all came out of player action, this feels fair. 

So a few days later the group are out of food.  A typical way to resolve this is using a Task to Forage, which might require a roll depending on their situation. Instead they encounter an Omen that describes a lush orchard filled with delicious fruit. If they press into the orchard then of course they can fill up on supplies here without needing a roll, or even performing a Task at all. It's right there, assuming nobody minds you taking it...

When it's a call between protecting the impact of player action, and protecting the authority of the game rules, I'd choose the former wherever possible. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.