Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Interview Hawk Wargames David J. Lewis

Hawk Wargames is run by its lead designer David J. Lewis

Hawk make a sci-fi wargame called ‘Dropship Commander’ at the 10mm scale. I became interested in it when I saw their remarkable sculpts.

As regular readers may know, I believe that creating little sculptures that are;

1. Playing pieces in a game.

2. Meant to represent and communicate entire cultures.

3. Meant to look like weapons.

4. To be beautiful, or ‘cool’ (which is what teenage boys and Americans say when they mean ‘beautiful’ but are scare of looking gay.)

5. For a mass audience and market (or more mass than any other kind of sculpture anyway.)

6. To be ‘used’ (painted, assembled, modified, picked up, touched, moved around)

places a huge series of overlapping pressures on the design. If a designer can solve all of these problems in an interesting way, they can create something very special indeed. I think Lewis has done this.

I had a huge number of questions for Mr Lewis, so many, in fact, he didn't have time for them all. But he was able to answer five.

Lets start with the dropships themselves. These carry your little tanks into battle and move them around. All the dropships are designed so that if you magnteise them you can actually stack the wee tanks up inside them.

The UCM albatross in particular, loaded it must look like a giant brick of force and mass, unloaded it looks more, predatory? elegant? Like an animal standing on its legs, or like an insect with long legs hovering in the air The leg aspect is mimicked by the tank-holding bits and the flying limbs.

 This is the UCm condor, so you can see what they look like loaded.

Scourge Despoiler

Scourge Harbringer.

PHR Posieden

This is where the designs really sing I think, with the dropships and their interaction with the smaller craft that go inside them.

Elegant empty space-encompassing forms, which you then fill up or as chunks of mass.

1. The Dropships give an entirely different aspect when loaded. They are also fairly unique in terms of war mini’s and in terms of sculpture, unique interacting parts that work alone and assembled as part of something larger.

Was there anything in particular that inspired you or lead you in this direction?

Lewis - It was mainly a case of having the idea for the game (designed around dropships and air mobility) and then designing the models to suit this concept. I looked at a lot of sources for the initial design stages but one of the key driving forces behind the configuration of the models was controlling the cost and size of the dropships. They needed to be efficient and compact and around the same cost or cheaper than their cargo most of the time (especially for the larger dropships). With most games, the few dropships that do exist cost many times more than their cargo and are very large, making it impractical to have large numbers of them.

It feels like Lewis has made CAD-Art. I hope that’s not an insult. Other people have been using computer aided design to imitate or make efficient the things they already did with their hands. He has treated it as a canvas. 

This is the Underside of the tank.  You never see it in combat.

 Everything here could, in theory, be made and designed by hand, but I don't think anyone would have ever designed like this by hand.

2. You use enormous detail at smallest scale and your models are truly three-dimensional. They look interesting from any possible angle and have interesting elements on every surface. How do you do this?

Lewis - I spend a very long time on each design! I never rush anything I work on and I work long hours. Ultimately, you get out what you put in both in terms of design and content creation. I guess I'm also lucky in that I can visualise what the finished model will look like from the 2D concept stage onwards - this is something that is hard to learn but can be improved upon and sharpened with effort and practice.

I was very interested in the UCM standard tanks the first time I saw them. I kind of regard the sci-fi tank as almost-untrotten ground as it seems there is a great deal that could eb done with them that is not. (GW is still in WW1, Forgeworld has moved onto WW2)

The extended limbs mean the tanks project force in an entirely different way than normal tanks. A normal tank is a bit more like a rhino, some thick heavy aggressive beast, these feel more like hunters, they have a mantis aspect

3. The asymmetry and back bent limbs on the human tanks are really neat design choices that knit together the army. Where did you get the idea and at what stage did you decide on it as such a powerful identifying factor for that army?

Lewis -  I decided on this particular design feature quite early in the UCM's design development. In this case, the design came from a detailed study of the concepts that modern militaries are exploring for future armoured vehicles combined with a certain logic and the implied presence of better materials, energy sources etc in the future (i.e - if we have X, what would we be able to built that's superior to today?) With better control and automation we can have a tank with one crew member and If he/she lies prone we can have a lower profile hull (almost always a good thing for low vulnerability). If we had the tech to build an articulated turret then the weapon could be raised over scenery while not exposing the hull and also allowing the tank to be highly compact for dropship carriage.

With the second of his alien races, the Shaltari, he has really cut loose.  For pure beauty these are some of my favourites.

These are 10mm models, a little larger than a big coin.

The bigger something is the more likely it is to have those articulated ‘leaves’ or vanes. Which I imagine to be slowly moving in real life. This means the largest Shaltari machines feel ‘lighter’ less massy, like they are gently floating. 

4. In form the Shaltari walkers have those articulated mobile heads with sensing pods as black ellipses like the infantry faces. Shaltari warstriders have different arrangements, giving the illusion of constant movement and a sense of speed. Why did you decide on such an extreme amount of articulation for the Shaltari compared to the other factions?

Lewis - With the Shaltari Warstriders, I looked at the amount of movement that may be required for a towering tripod walker. Ideally, you'd need a lot of flexibility to achieve a dynamic movement that could cope with a wide range of scenery. Also, pure aesthetic considerations came to the fore here and a certain shape presented itself during the concept generation phase. With the Warstriders, I went for a configuration that could allow almost any leg movement, giving a feel of poise and almost life-like movements on the battlefield.

Lewis is very good at creating force identity. The feeling that a group of disperate models that all do different things all come from the same culture. 

Scourge have that eye configuration, those flexing tube weapons and those vents arranged like pores or mouths. The flares at the end of some Scourge craft, like leaves or tentacles. The destroyer infantry have the same ribbing as the ships. Scourge hunters have the double line of eyes,  the troops have the three eyes.

PHR have the dots. Eyeless faces. Blank, long drawn out armour shapes. They have armour on the front but that ribbing on the back. The walkers and the infantry share these qualities. 

The Hades Walker seems like the most perfect expression of the PHR culture, like whatever it wants to be is pressing through the human covering.

Shaltari craft have that strange semi-hexagonal pattern with the balls, the linked circle designs, that’s just decoration.

guys like to have a little Dawn on each vehicle

And of course, the repeating sunray designs on the tails of the tanks, those vernal ‘leaves’ on the gates and some large machines. 

5. The way you have linked all these tiny elements of design. The shapes, ‘decorations’ and the character of each race, is really good. Perhaps exceptionally good. Can you tell me anything about your design process for this?

Lewis - Detailing is obviously something I spend a lot of time on and take very seriously. Well over half of the development hours of a new model is spent detailing (sometimes as much as 80%). It's all too tempting just to repeat detail sections arbitrarily, almost adding 'artificial' detail as a texture. I try to avoid this most of the time, as it feels somehow 'false' and detracts from realism. Most of my best detailing work revolves around functional elements (e.g. how would this joint work/ where would the panels be separated for easy maintenance/ where would cooling need to be placed?). When there are real reasons for the detail, it looks far more deliberate. The Shaltari are partly an exception to this, as their technology is so advanced as to be unfathomable to us. However, I use certain design rules for their detail elements, sticking to them to add a sense of almost definable purpose to their outlandish technology.

Check out the Hawk site if you are interested. (You may also wish to take a look at the 10mm scenery. Lewis has created his own mini architectural style called 'sci-deco', 

he has also put a huge amount of thought to the stuff you find on top of buildings, vents etc

 because, of course, thats what you see in a wargame. The vent of the top is ore important than anything inside becasue you will never see the inside.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Derro Review Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

In this blizzard of images and sound a friendly electrical German tries to help the Prime American Conspiracy remove treasonous elements. The plan is opposed by the Captain America and therefore fails. All elements become treasonous. The Prime American Conspiracy is destroyed. The Captain America remains.

The Captain America is Johnathan Storm, Johnathan Storm is the actor ‘Evans’. Nicholas Fury is the Man of Snakes, the Man of Snakes is many men. Who is ‘Evans?’ Are the snakes a sign of ‘Hydra’? Numerous ‘Hydra’ personal infest airborne craft. The Man of Snakes opposes them, or seems to.

Scarlett Johansen is charming, as always.

The Captain America is stronger and faster than any Human Thing and has killed many thousands of Human Things. It retains the sympathy of still-useful Humans by pretending not to understand popular culture.

A theoretical conversation might proceed this way;

Still-Useful Human - “The Captain America, it has recently occurred to me that you are a mass murderer and have escaped the bonds of mortality and any moral responsibility for your previous actions. This seems non-optimal to me.”

The Captain America – “Sounds heavy, like that Beatles album, what was it called. ‘Paint it Black?’”

Still-Useful Human – “Oh ‘Steve’, your innocent yet entirely understandable misapprehension of popular culture has caused me to temporarily forget that you can crush my skull in your bare hands because you are not a human being.”

Throughout the presentation of this seeming reality the Captain America refuses to disclose any information, saying either that it has been asked not to, or that it lacks any information to disclose. At the same time, it mocks other elements for not readily disclosing information to it. By the presentations end, all information is disclosed, the Captain America reveals none itself.

The Captain Americas primary opposing element and chief instrument of the Primary American Conspiracy is the ‘Winter Soldier’. Its apparent superiority to The Captain America is an illusion. In reality the Captain America has fully subverted this element before the events depicted even began. In a previous existence or parallel reality the Captain America ensures that its most Useful Human is placed in position to become ‘The Winter Soldier’. This being done, the Captain America simply waits for the inevitable decay of inferior American mind-control techniques. The Winter Soldier element ultimately neutralises itself. When the Captain America presents apparent vulnerability the Winter Soldier element is fully subverted and, in fact, risks its own life to protect the Captain America by executing a downward leap to avoid the effects of Newtonian physics.

The most significant ability of the Captain America seems to be its ability to transit between realities by leaping in a downward direction. When circumstances become non-optimal and a rational assessment of odds would indicate an almost-certain death, the Captain America leaps downwards. First from a helicopter, then from a building, a bridge, a flying machine, and in numerous other circumstances.

On completing this downward movement, the Captain America suffers no ill-effects, but rather, executes a series of apparently-incoherent and disconnected movements that nevertheless result in its avoidance of any physical harm and the achievement of its immediate goals.

The Captain America is only rarely seen to move upwards. It is continually falling, though it rarely climbs.  Its main direction is always down. On a few occasions the Captain America joins machines in the air. These machines inevitably fall to the earth.

At all times those occupying underground spaces hold the advantage. Nicholas Fury escapes in a pipe leading directly to the Captain America’s bedroom. He is then placed in a secret cave. The friendly electrical German occupies the deepest possible position. When this position is threatened the Captain America escapes with Scarlett Johansen to a still-deeper area in avoidance of a bomb.

Even after its total destruction of all opposing and restraining factors and its obvious position as most powerful element, the Captain America is not suspected by any elements. As its power grows, belief in its innocence deepens. This is the lesson of Captain America 2, The Winter Soldier. The hero conspiracy is the most powerful conspiracy of all.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

More glyphs of the Knotsmen

(Your personality has been revoked/
you are no longer assumed to have continuity of thought.)

"Request Agreement/
(Your ideas are surrounded,

(An attempt to deny is an admision of guilt.)

(We prevail/
The debt/
Balancing by force/
give me the fucking money.)

(Iredeemable contract/
unrecoverable debt/
they died without dependants/
the surface world)


 (A sword you own that has cut you before/
a military command)

(Collateral damage/
civilian casualties.)

"possibly not"
(The spell before it is cast/
the unspoken line/
the knowledge that you are in the moment just before you incur a debt.)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Vornheim Streetfight

Joey wanted this; "Contest rules for a bare-knuckled Warlords of Vornheim variant (ie NO EQUIPMENT) that makes level differences less of an advantage for higher level pc's without ignoring level completely. Rules can be either diegetic (set by an in game authority), a B/X or LotFP hack, a mix of the two, or whatever you think is best.?"

So it has to be fast, because it’s a fistfight. And it has to be rigorous enough. But, it can't have a list of actual moves like that one Jeff was using a while ago, because that means looking things up and looking things up takes time.

So how about this;


Two people only.

No eye-gouging.

Human standard limbs only, no spikes etc.

No armour, no equipment, no magic equipment. Tattoos and whatever disabled for the duration of the fight.

Thieves get climb, backstab bonus and damage if opponent can't see the limb they are striking with. Plus all other skills if they can find a way to use them.

Magic-Users and Clerics get spells but if a spell does any HP damage they are disqualified. Summoning living things is also out.

Killing other PC gets you nothing. (Except with exceptionally evil crowd, see below.)

DM may have optional concussion and limb-breakage chart for zero HP.


One round is ONE SECOND.

Each round both players roll a d20 at the same time.

This is the ONLY die they will roll this round, no others may be rolled, this counts for everything that happens in that second.

The player with the lowest d20 roll chooses their action first. 

If they try to do damage in any way the roll counts as an attack roll against AC.

A standard blow against AC does d4 damage.

In special circumstances (ie lying in floor, woozy, head unguarded) the DM may raise this to a d6 or allow it to explode, possibly more than once. This should be RARE.

If they try to do anything that is not directly damaging then it’s a roll-under stat.

Almost anything can be allowed if it makes sense and can be done in one second with their exact body positions.

You have around ten words to describe what you are doing so if someone* bangs on like an idiot about physics or some kung-fu film they saw once then the DM may award fee extra actions to the other guy.

So if you are a weaker player and roll low you can shout BLOCK and, if you roll under the right stat, deflect damage. You may be pushed back or suffer non-harm effects if the attack roll exceeds your AC by 5 or more, or is a crit. But you will not take HP damage.


Get you kung-fu bullshit and bonuses to damage like in a normal game but still cannot inflict HP damage through a normal block.


So much stuff you can do with stats, just remember exactly what the bodies are doing in 3d space. That, and the one-second round should narrow the options enough to tell you what to roll.

Nothing I can come up with here is going to be better than what you come up with on your own.


Whoever can give the most reasonable, most coherent, least bullshitty and shortest explanation of what their body and limbs are doing in 3d space will be favoured by the DM in case of a dispute.


Zero hp is knocked out. Anyone can pull a Rocky and come back with a successful CON roll. They get hp = the amount they rolled under.

(If they do it in a dramatic and cool enough way.)

The other fighter can stop this if they have a move free and if they are a dick.

If there is a damage and concussion table then every knockout is a roll on that.


This all happens in a FLAILSNAILS game world and it has consequences. Nothing happens in some bullshit 'fightspace'. It is a specific place and a specific time.

The World-owner is the ref and DM.

Weaker player can request home turf or special environment if challenged.

3d environments will favour thieves.

DM has final say over setting, should be like Street Fighter, anywhere in game world. Big crowd. Possible scenery at thier discretion.

Non-fighting PC's in the crowd can try shennanigans but see below, they get one action every six rounds of fighting.



Winner gets XP = (opponent level x 100)

If a lower level character wins they can time this again by the diff between levels.

So if Lvl7 Malice beats Lvl7 Nack, Malice gets 700xp.

If Lvl1 Diraq beats Lvl7 Malice he gets 700 x 6. 4200 xp.


DM plays the bookie or NPC to set odds in-game.

You can bet ANYTHING the NPC in question thinks is reasonable. A million in gold, hand of a princess, your left hand, your child's life, anything.


Monks keep all their extra kung-fu shit.

Monks fighting non-monks will be carefully watched by their temples and their behaviour monitored. They are expected to behave extra-honourably if good and win super-easily if bad. Like, without taking a mark.

The DM will tell you what your temple expects and if you fuck it up you may get nothing even inf you win.


Street Fights are watched much more closely than normal D&D fights and the reputation you earn in them spreads fast and sticks hard.

If you show flair and elan, even if you lose, you can win the crowds respect. Of course this depends on the crowd and the culture.

Generally if some skinny little nerd goes toe to toe with a tough fighter and takes their licks without being a baby about it then they can get a name in the crowd culture, respect and pats on the back in bars and a bonus to rolls in the future.

If some scumbag plays the heel, throws sand in their opponents face, doesn't give them a chance to get back up, or behaves in a way not respected by the crowd, they quickly get a reputation as a shitbag.

Unless the crowd is evil like in the chaos wastes or somewhere, in which case they may respect cruelty.

Most 'savage' races are more honourable than sadistic but some are not, and some are just crazy.

*Naming no names Zach Marx Weber and Joey Lindsey

Sunday, 13 April 2014


So about five days ago I decided to try writing the worlds first story in duelling second person perspective. Spent ages on it, kind of fucked up the trick but its not bad (probably, I think.)

Plus, the interesting parts of Veins are pretty much done in blogable format. Plenty of working out and stuff but nothing I could put up here.

So this leaves me with an issue. Not sure what to blog. There's always 'whatever you're thinking' posts but I don't really have a project of stuff  I can put up here at the moment.

Multiple projects awaiting decisions or 'layout'.

And apparently I have entered one of those semi-dead zones where I have no mind of my own but all the parts are working.

I kind of need to make something that will make some money. Fiction? (RPG,s will never make any money.)

So I'm open to idea's.

What would you like to see?

Saturday, 12 April 2014


An iron gong sounded, setting up a wave of expectation in the crowd. Everyone looked in the direction of the egwugwu house. Gome, gome, geom, gome went the gong, and a powerful flute blew a high-pitched blast. Then came the voices of the egwugwu, guttural and awesome. The wave struck the women and children and there was a backward stampede. But it was momentary. They were already far enough where they stood and there was room for running away if any of the egwugwu should go towards them.

The drum sounded again and the flute blew. The egwugwu house was now a pandemonium of quavering voices: Aru oyim de de de de dei! filled the air as the spirits of the ancestors, just emerged from the earth, greeted themselves in their esoteric language. The egwugwu house into which they emerged faced the forest, away from the crowd, who only saw its back with the many-coloured patterns and drawings done by specially chosen women at regular intervals. These women never saw the inside of the hut. No woman ever did. They scrubbed and painted the outside walls under the supervision of men. If they imagined what was inside, they kept their imagination to themselves. No woman ever asked questions about the most powerful and the most secret cult in the clan.

Aru oyim de de de dei! flew around the dark, closed hut like tongues of fire. The ancestral spirits of the clan were abroad. The metal gong beat continuously now and the flute, shrill and powerful, floated on the chaos.

And then the egwugwu appeared. The women and children sent up a great shout and took to their heels. It was instinctive. A women fled as soon as an egwugwu came in sight. And when, as on that day, nine of the greatest masked spirits in the clan came out together it was a terrifying spectacle. Even Mgbafo took to her heels and had to be restrained by her brothers.

Each of the nine egwugwu represented a village of the clan. Their leader was called Evil Forest. Smoke poured out of his head.

The nine villages of Umuofia had grown out of the nine sons of the first father of the clan. Evil Forest represented the village of Umeru, or the children of Eru, who was the eldest of the nine sons.

Umufia kwenu!’ shouted the leader egwugwu, pushing the air with his raffia arms. The elders of the clan replied, ‘Yao!’

‘Umofia kwenu!’


‘Umofia kwenu!’


Evil Forest then thrust the pointed end of his rattling staff into the earth. And it began to shake and rattle, like something agitating with metallic life. He took the first of the empty stools and the eight other egwugwu began to sit in order of seniority after him.

Okonkwo’s wives,  and perhaps other women as well, might have notices that the second egwugwu had the springy walk of Okonkwo. And they might also have noticed that Okonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row of egwugwu. But if they thought these things they kept them within themselves. The egwugwu with the springy walk was one of the dead fathers of the clan. He looked terrible with the smoked raffia body, a huge wooden face painted white except for the round hollow eyes and the charred teeth that were as big as a mans fingers. On his head were two powerful horns.

When all the egwugwu had sat down and the sound of the many tiny bells and rattles on their bodies had subsided, Evil Forest addressed the two groups of people facing them.

‘Uzowulu’s body, I salute you,’ he said. Spirits always addressed humans as ‘bodies’. Uzowulu bent down and touched the earth with his right hand as a sign of submission.

‘Our father, my hand has touched the ground,’ he said.

‘Uzowulu’s body do you know me?’ asked the spirit.

‘How can I know you, father? You are beyond our knowledge.’

Evil Forest then turned to the other group and addressed the eldest of the three brothers.

‘The body of Odukwe, I greet you,’ he said, and Odukwe bent down and touched the earth. The hearing then began.

From Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe