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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Hive, Queen and Country Contest

On my yahoo group I occasionally run disastrously boring contests that generate some moderate amount of disinterest and usually have a single entry when all is said and done. One was for a VSF invention, which Don won (garnering an excellent set of steampunk goggles my wife made), the next for a scenario for a miniatures battle which Alan won and which will be part off The Sword and The Hive rule book as the free scenario, since he was kind enough to allow publication (and since it was more than good enough to see publications!)

OK, here is my new contest:

Go to your bookshelves, a library, a book shop or other place with lots of books. RANDOMLY select three books from three widely separated areas (both physically separated and in terms of subject matter). Take core ideas events or characters from those three books and develop something related to VSF, Steampunk or Hive, Queen and Country in Particular. This can be a character concept, a piece of artwork, a costume, and invention, a scenario or a fictional story.

The rules
Say what three books they were and where you found them-All on this list are considered gentlemen and ladies so there is a certainty that books will not be “cherry picked” to lead to a pre identified idea.
Say what three ideas you are using and which books they came from
Entries must be in to me by October 15th. The winner will announced no later than December 1st.
No other rules.

We will post the entries on the yahoo group and on the web page and will have a voter poll to determine the winner

The Prize:
A signed copy of The Sword and The Hive
I will assemble, paint and base a bike of hive creatures for your gaming pleasure
I will work to include the work in the next published HQC product in some fashion.

Demo at Game Club HQ-thanks for inviting me!

As I mentioned I ran a demo game at Game Club in Fenton Missouri today. I had a number of players cycle through the event usually having two players on each side. The British had two companies of Royal Marine Light Infantry, one of British Army Infantry, all mounted in carriers. In support was a Royal Engineer fighting vehicle, three Mk I landships and a pair of Royal Artillery 5 inch howitzer carriers.

The Bugs had about a dozen Bikes of various shapes and sizes of nasty critters, but no flyers.

It was a meeting engagement on Dartmoor, so terrain needs were limited. A number of roads and hedges crisscrossed the table and a small village stood at the central crossroads.

Each side started at a table edge and had a mission to clear the area of enemy forces.

The hedges blocked line of site so long range artillery fire was prevented. The aliens resolutely marched across the table attempting to reach the British and bring them to melee. For their part the British forces had some early confusion and after initially attempting to race into contact with their enemy instead chose to form a battle line and let the invaders come to them. By the time they had finally decided upon this course of action it was nearly too late, with the enemy being extremely close. The Royal Engineers vehicle was quickly overrun and destroyed by Major Crabs and bombers. On the left flank the company of infantry was engaged in a melee with a unit of Media lancers and another of minor lancers.

By firing and retiring the British force was able to slowly back off the table, with the exception of the company in melee. British loses were otherwise light, while the aliens had several units entirely wiped out and suffered a disproportionate number of drone loses. By the end of the action four bikes had lost all their drones, one routed, one was torpid and two had run amok.

It seemed like folks had a pretty good time and the Game club event was pretty well attended.

As I observed the action I believe that several tactical hints would be valuable to players. First for the Bug player. Use terrain as much as possible to block your units from fire. When breaking cover have as many units as possible break at the same time, presenting a vast array of targets and preventing the British player from concentrating fire on any single unit. Position drones so that they may control multiple units if drone casualties are heavy. Screen high value units with minors, so that the British are forced to fire on the less threatening small fry and can’t get good shots on the large aliens until too late.

For the British get into position to start shooting early and shoot as often as is possible. Position heavy weapons so that they can fire early and often. Don’t mask your own fire by poor unit placement. Either get to terrain features usable as defensive positions or just get your firing lines set up and wait for the enemy. But the key for the British is shoot.

Game Club seems an excellent event. I was made welcome and their staff worked very hard to make sure that attendees are challenged by games and not by the event. I look forward to going back.


Playtest this weekend!

I’ll be at gameday in Fenton Missouri this Saturday playtesting The Sword and The Hive. It sounds like a good event and it will be interesting to see what folks make of this whole Bugs vs Brits thing. If things go well I’ll do a battle report. If they go badly I won’t :–)


How big is the Hive?

I wrote a short piece on how big individual Bugs get. How many of those are there? If you look under the Biology of the Hive tab you’ll see a screen shot of a program that calculates the size of teh Hive at any point in its life. If anyone would like a full copy of teh program please let me know.


A another new resource document

One of the really nice things about having a web site dedicated to this setting is that information that supports the background, that provides depth and texture, but wouldn’t really be valuable as part of a retail product can be made easily available. In the historical Documents section I’ve uploaded the Treat of Brussels from 1872. This fictional agreement describes the diplomatic events in the wake of the Russian claim to Lunar ownership. It spells out how the Great Powers will partition space and where they will compete and where they will cooperate. I wrote this a few years ago and am still very pleased with the result. I’m exceptionally please with how it looks on the web page. Feel free to look it over and leave some comments.

How the Bugs get Soooooo BIG!

On Earth few arthropods reach large sizes. The ability of Hive creatures to regularly exceed the weight of horses and even larger vertebrates has stunned scientists. If the rules of scale for engineering are true how can animals with external skeletons get so big?

Ever since giant insects became a stable of atomic horror movies in the 1950s scientists have been quick to show why arthropods can’t reach the size of a compact car. The reasoning is based on three issues: The cube/square law means that the external skeletons of arthropods would not be able to handle the disproportionately greater loads of vast size increases. Due to inefficient respiratory and circulatory systems large arthropods would be unable to effectively profuse oxygen throughout their internal tissues. Finally in vertebrates the internal skeleton grows with the rest of the body, external skeletons can’t do this. How does The Hive manage to evade biology and physical constraints and achieve the enormous sizes seen? Let us take these arguments one by one and see what strategies the organisms.

A question of strength:
The structure of arthropods basically consists of a number of hollow rigid tubes. The ability of a tube to withstand stress is based on the strength of the material, its thickness and the load and direction of the stress. As an arthropod gets larger the stress increases by the cube of the difference while the strength only increases by the square. If all things remain constant it seems obvious that large arthropods would collapse under their own weight. However, do all things need to remain the same? The answer is, of course, no. There are at several methods that can be used to support greater mass and associated forces. The most obvious method would be to increase the thickness of the tube walls, make the exoskeleton thicker. There are limits to this, since at some point the structure loses so much interior volume that it can no longer serve as a container for the muscles, nerves and liquids the animals needs to live. A second method would be for the modification of the simple tube into a stronger structure. One way to do this would be for the tube to be fluted increasing its strength greatly while still keeping its weight to a minimum. The basic structure can also be reinforced in other ways, just as flying buttresses keep a gothic cathedral from falling. Finally stronger materials can make up the walls of the tubes. Analysis indicates that chitin as it exists on earth is actually extremely strong and only slight stiffening would be needed to support the increased mass of the aliens.

Every beat of a heart:
Insects don’t separate their internal systems like mammals and other higher animals do. Their functions of respiration and oxygen transport are performed by a single system which doesn’t actively pump blood or draw in oxygen, but relies on interactions between individual molecules to disperse oxygen and energy throughout the animal. This is efficient for small systems but fails completely in larger animals. Of course the simple solution is for these animals to have complex and active respiratory and circulatory systems similar to those of mammals, or better yet birds. It is immediately obvious that such systems exist and can effectively perform the functions needed in large active animals.

Change is good:
Many arthropods are required to shed their skins as they age and grow. Each time they do so the new covering requires time to harden and also reduces the size since any internal supports cannot grow to match the new outer shell. However there is a method used by many types of insects that removes this as an issue. Those insects, such as beetles, butterflies, flies and wasps that undergo complete metamorphosis do not progress through a series of instars that are each slightly bigger and more adult than the one before but make the step from a larva to complete adult in a single complex biological operation. This pathway also seems to suit The Hive well.

So there you have it, how the big bugs got well. . . BIG.

More fiction

We finally got some of the tech issues worked through and posted additional fiction. The format isn’t perfect yet, but we’ll get that squared away, hopefully soon. There should also be additional information in the places to visit section as well as some more resources for Victorian role playing.