Tri-Star League S3E1

So throughout this pandemic, a few clever people have been setting up online Dreadball events. The Tri-Star League is run by Sam Lowrie, and I had such a blast in the second season with my Neo-bot team that I finally managed to finish painting them!

Since the pandemic continues and face-to-face gaming gets harder I jumped at the chance to join the third season of the league – this time bringing my Zee team.

The first game was against Joachim’s Judwan team, the Long Arms. I took the Home player position and managed to score three points in the first rush – one intrepid monkey evading and weaving between the defenders. More monkeys swarmed onto the pitch and the Judwan failed to Feint the Zee out of the way to clear a bonus strike.

Third rush, the monkeys stole that ball but didn’t count their actions properly – they sat up in the sidelines. The Judwan responded by mobbing that player but leaving the ball where it was.

One daring Zee punched a Judwan in the back (with assistance) and actually knocked them out for three turns! Lots of lovely experience points. On the other side of the pitch, the ball-carrier evaded two Judwan masterfully, getting to the three-point line, and missing. With coaching dice. And two re-rolls. But the ball was as far from the Home goals as it could be. The Judwan responded by setting up a perfect passing chain, which got the ball all the way to the potential point-scorer who… dropped it. Even on re-rolls.

The shot-misser redeemed themselves by punching a defender and not only turning them around (as expected) but also knocking them prone! This left the 4-pt hex undefended, ready for another Zee (with help from a card) to sprint to the bonus hex and throw all of their coaching dice into it… A score! Surprising landslide win for an undeveloped Zee team in only turn 7!

Two lucky Zees got advancements – Extended Interference and Skill. So that’s a target on at least one back. I bought an eleventh clone with the winnings and hopefully in the next game will get a player more able to push defenders out of the way. I don’t think it will be as easy as the Judwan in the future…

Thanks Joachim, that was a great game!

Bristol Dominion Campaign Round Six

Big Boned Billy’s Revenge defended against the Feminasties again, in a small area of the Underhive tunnels. Due to prior injuries only 4 of the Escher were available to fight against 6 of the most tooled-up Delaques. Unfortunately, Billy’s plan of distributing potent drinks around the Underhive led the poor Feminasties to believe they were just seeing double rather than being horribly outnumbered.

It started out well with Whatsisname (relatively new Delaque ganger) going out of action (earning 2xp learning a lesson about standing in the open) as the Eschers jumped through tunnels surprisingly well. Then the Escher leader and champion being serially pinned prevented them from charging the shrinking circle of trenchcoats, while Gramps poured shotgun shells into the ladies to keep them on the floor.

On the other side of the tile, Billy himself was bogged down in combat with the Escher champion who took out Whatsisname – although he managed to take her out without assistance, ending in a trip to the Feminasties hired Doc (and an eye injury).

The Feminasties spread fire around, managing to put flesh wounds on a number of Delaques and keeping the champion Penny seriously injured for the remainder of the fight.

Wyatt charged another champion, using his Stiletto Blade to remove her from the Underhive – thankfully only into Recovery rather than anything major.

At this point the Feminasties lost their bottle and began to run while the Delaques calmly followed, looking to clear up the mess.

In the after-party, Billy found a flying blue rat pet and some of the Delaques finally bought some better armour.

Bristol Dominion Campaign Round Four

With downtime out of the way, it was time for the next round! I was matched against Matt’s Genestealer Cult gang ‘The Rusted Maw’ and they were attacking my Old Ruins territory.

We rolled up the Marauders scenario, and the cult’s special mission was Mayhem (take my gang out of action then leave the board). I stayed back until I had some reinforcements and then started surrounding the horrible monsters.

The Rusted Maw had really, really rotten luck. After having their drinks spiked at the local Delaque Drinking Hole, they were unable to hit much and when they did failed to wound. They ran out of ammo and couldn’t reload. The only good luck that they had was when Shake’s heavy flamer missed by a millimetre and failed to do anything more than give a light tan to a cult ganger.


By the end of the game, 5 cultists had been taken out of action and only one had exited the board, having completed their mission. Three of the kills were credited to Gramps – Gramps was one of my downtime purchases, a Champion with a shotgun from the old lead Delaque box. Well now I have to clean the old basecoat off and get around to painting him properly, if he’s going to perform that well in the future!

Bristol Dominion Campaign Round Three

Big Boned Billy’s Revenge fought against the Feminasties, an Escher gang, in their third scheduled game of the campaign.

Unfortunately I’m writing this some time after the battle, so details will be sketchy. Oliver had a much better position and flanked the Revenge – who were mostly stuck behind a single barricade across a wide open space!

In general, the Revenge held their own in close combat but after one rotten turn of recovery rolls took out a number of them it pivoted from ‘we can still do this’ to ‘where has everyone gone?’ Billy and Penny were the only fighters left and bottled out knowing that they were probably the only fighters out of recovery. Oliver won the Sludge Sea territory from this straight-up Tunnel Fight.

The wrap-up was a mixed bag. There were actually three fighters available for another game, but the ganger taken to the Rogue Docs for an extortionate 100creds ended up dying anyway, of complications! Such is life (and the end of it) in the Underhive.

I needn’t have worried so much about recovery; the past week has been ‘Downtime’ where all fighters come out of recovery and get a bunch of credits to spend. The house masters have also given Billy’s Revenge some extra credits to keep him going for the second phase of the campaign!

Looking ahead, in the next campaign I will not be buying a heavy weapon again. They’re too expensive, and I would do better with more well-equipped fighters. I’ve heard that Forge World will be doing a Delaque weapons set soon so I will have a lot more options for the gang. The only thing that a heavy flamer has been good for so far is terrorising enemy gangers. If I do pick a heavy weapon, something more dangerous will be on the list… I will also probably skip the Long Rifle. It’s of limited utility in the Zone Mortalis games, although I love the model.

Bristol Dominion Campaign Round Two (Bonus)

The campaign allows for two games each round – your fixed game, and another optional one. This way a player can’t race ahead just for having loads of spare time while also giving a little boost to those gangs that need it.

Having only three fighters able to take part after the last game, Al (our Arbitrator) offered to play me at a Shoot-Out since that would get a lot of my gang out of recovery in time for the next round.

Shoot-out works much the same as it did in old Necromunda, but integrated with all the reputation rules, etc. Big Boned Billy’s Revenge now sits at 10 reputation having risen after every game – never falling back.

Al also cooked up a fantastic story. He’d just played against the Rusted Maw, a Genestealer Cult gang with his Goliaths. The two fighters selected for the Shoot-out were a Champion who had been in recovery for that game and a hired gun (Escher). The Champion had been ‘recovering’ trying to impress Hot Shot Liz at a drinking hole that had recently come under new management (wink wink), explaining their suboptimal performance in the Shoot-out (thank you, Delaque territory bonus!)

The Revenge had Billy and Shake (the heavy-flamer Champion), pacing towards the Goliath and his mercenary friend. The Delaques kept their cool, but Shake was unable to get a shot with his flamer before he was taken out of action in combat – taking a Spinal Injury and missing the next game.

Billy on the other hand finished up both attackers without trouble, boosting the Revenge’s reputation still further and taking control of some Old Ruins for bonus income. Rare trade came up well and they replaced one of the earlier casualties (giving him the abandoned long rifle) and adding a sword to Lawrence, the wannabe gunslinger who hadn’t read the rules on pistols in combat before playing…

Now most of the gang is out of recovery, I’ll be looking for ways to make some credits and build back up to strength. Some of the fighters are starting to gain advances too – Dot Junior (the Juve) is training for a future in close combat.

Bristol Dominion Round Two

My second game was against the Escher gang, the Toxtown Terrors. We were playing for the Needle Ways in a Tunnel Fight, and it looked promising for Big Boned Billy’s Revenge as they went up against the already bloodied and bruised Terrors.

The Revenge started out sneaky, spiking the drinks of two-thirds of the gang, leaving only the Juves alone. This contributed to the rather slow start – neither gang being able to land a hit and (on the rare occasions that they did) failing to wound.

Eventually stray shots started to hurt, as Shake (the Revenge’s Champion Arsonist with a heavy flamer) got hit in the back by a teammate and after too many rounds of no action, suddenly damage started flying on both sides.

The Revenge got complacent though, and didn’t realise that the Terrors had already won the scenario… they stuck in until the tunnels were empty and only then counted the cost. Three fighters were critically injured, and only Penny could afford to see the Docs. Jacob and Wilson died of their injuries later. Arnold and Irving took Grievous Injuries, while Lawrence was humiliated (-1 Leadership and Cool). Only Dot Junior, Shake and Billy himself were fit and healthy after the game. Dot Junior managed to take a champion out of action, and scored extra experience from Billy’s Mentor ability – now he has enough for some advancements, I think I’ll improve his Weapon Skill in order to groom him towards close combat prowess.

I think I’m going to try and squeeze in a bonus game this round, to try and keep it easy and get some of the fighters out of recovery before the next round!

Bristol Dominion Round One

The new Necromunda is fantastic, and I’ve been getting back into painting my old Delaque gang with some additions from the Heresy Miniatures ‘sci-fi trenchcoat gang’. They look a lot like extras from the Blade films, especially with the bat shaped belt-buckles. Like a very off-brand Dark Knight.

Al Weeks has set up a Dominion campaign in Bristol and since I like campaigns and want to play more, it seemed like a great idea to get into it and get some use out of that Necromunda box!

Since I couldn’t find my old gang list to update and convert to the new rules (damn thing has been around nearly 20 years and now it goes missing?) I started from scratch with the idea that Big Boned Billy (the heavy of the original gang) has struck out on his own. He lost his heavy stubber (not available in the new list) at some point, and I figure that is why he’s so mad and has called the gang ‘Big Boned Billy’s Revenge’. A couple of old characters came along too – Shake, who used to be a juve and is now a champion with a heavy flamer and Dot Junior, a new juve presumably some relative of Dot (a juve-turned-ganger in the original gang).

The Revenge’s first game was a Bushwhack against the Midnight Hand (another Delaque gang) in the tunnels beneath a Drinking Hole. I’d just observed the Midnight Hand getting mashed by Matt’s Genecults (despite the lights being out, playing to the Hand’s advantage) and they were still licking their wounds when the Revenge came upon them. Shake snuck around the back and toasted their leader who succumbed to the flames later – but not before taking out Lawrence (a ganger who thought he could take the burning Delaque).

Billy and Dot Junior ganged up on a champion, gaining Dot some valuable experience. Billy took a bunch of flesh wounds and almost went out of action, but stayed in and recklessly engaged another ganger. Billy had three attempts to use his Mentor ability and flubbed all of them. Billy needs to work on his communication.

The gang bottled out even though the only Hand fighter left was engaged by three of the Revenge, but it counted as a victory because of the number of enemy fighters taken out in the Bushwhack.

In the aftermath, none of my injured fighters had any lasting injuries but some of the Hand went into recovery. With the profits of the skirmish the gang bought stiletto knives for several members (who felt under-equipped when the melee begun) and I’m looking at saving up for a new juve.

I didn’t have time for a second game in this round but hopefully I’ll have time to squeeze one in next time. It’s definitely fired me up to get the rest of my models painted, and I’m working on some scenery from a Mantic Ruined City set.

Books I’ve read in 2018

I liked keeping track of my reading last year, so I’ve done the same this year. I’m trying to stick with my ‘no re-reads’ rule – especially since I got some new books at the end of the year for this one!

How to be Human

This was mentioned on the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast, and it sounded like such a great idea (plus whenever people see me reading it I can say “well it’s about time I learnt…”) I put it on my Christmas list. Even better, it wasn’t too far into the book that it referenced Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature, which I read last year.

On Tyranny

A surprisingly short book. As I started it, I noticed my confirmation bias as it seemed to be talking about Brexit and Trump. As it went on, it was aimed more and more at ‘the president’ without naming him directly and will either end up being the book everyone should have listened to or a paranoid thrashing, imagining Nazi resurgences everywhere. It’s a 50/50 really.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

A very moving story. I’ve read a few non-fiction books so I needed something made-up to cleanse my palette. I liked how the reveals happened slowly, and drew me in. It all seemed so understandable and relatable, right up to a moment just near the end. But I still recommend the book, it’s very good.

Five Go Parenting

I’ve never read a Famous Five book. I don’t think I’ve even read an Enid Blyton book. This is one of the modern ‘sequels’ to the Famous Five series. It might have been more enjoyable if I had any previous investment in the characters, they all seemed rather thin, like caricatures. Still, it was short and light fun to go after something surprisingly heavy like Harold  Fry.

Moby Dick

It’s a classic, and you’ve got to try the classics. I found some chapters pretty funny, certainly funnier than the whole thing appears. For example, the only time after getting on the boat that Ishmael (the narrator) talks about his own actions is when he falls asleep on watch. Other than that, he describes whales and whaling in excruciating detail, and references his ‘by this time considerable experience’ of whaling. About one year into his first voyage. But I’m yet to be convinced that the story is really about Ahab’s obsession with the White Whale, since that barely surfaces throughout the book until the final confrontation. More, I think it might be about Ishmael’s obsession with whaling. Every opportunity the narrator is talking about whaling in practice, philosophy, history, and how sailors are better than anyone and whalers are the best sailors of all. It was surprisingly easy to read for 19th Century literature.

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game

This was fun, a nice little analysis on a Star Trek culture that hadn’t really been explored in the series. I picked it up as I love DS9, but I was a bit disappointed that the bulk of the story involved one DS9 character on an adventure somewhere else. The station and the characters weren’t there, and it was more part of a bigger story (the Typhon Pact) that brushes against familiar characters. I think I’d still like to try more Typhon Pact stories, I liked the wider ideas in it, but I will also be looking out for more DS9 stories that actually take place there.

The Long Earth

This scratched my itch for Terry Pratchett stories, and got around the ‘no old books’ requirement I’ve had. It’s an impressive idea, and reminded me very slightly of Sliders from way back when. I wasn’t so sure of the reincarnated-android-airship thing, in some ways it felt like it was throwing all of the sci-fi ideas into a small pot and trying to cram so much in when really a few single ideas could be explored in so much more detail, but that was just coming from my assumption that it would be a classic “here’s an idea, let’s explore it” rather than “here’s an idea, now let’s tell an amazing story in that place”. I did like the exploration of the impact of the Long Earth idea too, there’s definitely a lot to unpack there. And like all my favourite sci-fi, it’s not so much about the story in the book as all the stories it makes possible in your head after reading it. What happens in the frontier towns? What happens with easy spaceflight in the Gap? Is it possible to build a spacecraft in Gap-minus-1, step it into the Gap, fly it into ‘orbit’ and then start stepping back to Datum for free launch? What about the Elves, and Trolls? Are there more hominids? The focus is on the USA and purely going West – what’s happening East? What’s happening in other countries? So many questions! I was very happy to find out that the series it is in is 5 books, rather than just the 3 I saw in the library. Slightly less happy to find out the next one is The Long War, but I’m sure it’ll impress me.

The Long War

Alright, so this one felt incomplete to me. I’m starting to see (from the future!) that these books are more in the style of the old Asimov-era sci-fi, much more about the worlds and ideas than the characters and with long chapters of exposition. Although the characters themselves are wonderful, and real, too.

Part of why it felt incomplete is that there were a few plotlines that didn’t meet. It sets up Roberta Golding well for later in the series, but that doesn’t really intersect with the ‘War’ plot. Another reason is that the War plot didn’t seem to go anywhere until the very end, where it didn’t happen at all. While reading, I was dreading how little was left of the book and how badly the War might be written but I loved the actual ‘execution’. War would be difficult in the Long Earth, if one side chose not to turn up.

Well, I’m signed up for the long haul now.

The Long Mars

Now that I’m used to the style, I’m really enjoying this series. Again, this book had two plots and it feels like the sensationalist plot (Mars!) was actually less important to the series as a whole than the B-plot (The Next). Although The Next could also be a C-plot, that only started when the B-plot (Maggie Kaufmann’s journey) ended. I would have happily read a book entirely about Kauffman’s journey, and the mini-adventures that they had, and checking in on each of the interesting worlds that they’ve found. I love world-building, and world-building an infinite number of worlds that are easy to reach? That’s great.

I could also have gone for a book entirely about stepping on Mars. It seemed more fantastic, but that’s partly because Wallis Linsay is a git who won’t stop and explain or investigate outside of his one fixed goal. Fire-breathing sand-whales on dry Martian oceans? Amazing! But he won’t stop to check. Sapient, intelligent life on Mars? Also amazing! At least he made first contact, even if he was short-sighted and single-minded about it all.

The Long Utopia

This felt like the Long War – a completely disconnected invasion storyline that only really sets up a couple of points for the next book. Some of those points could probably have been done instead with a couple of chapters of more Comber legends. Like the War, the Utopia was the B plot (also like War not being a War, Utopia is not Utopia as we usually imagine it) – and would have been much more interesting if delved into, although it’s a bit harder to make meaningful, characterful story about. It’s more of a world-building thing, over long periods of time, and since the whole series takes place in a single lifetime it would be difficult to fully explore the societal shift of the Utopia properly. It happens in the background, in secondary effects. I think it worked for that.

The Long Cosmos

The finale! At last! This felt more complete and directed than some of the other books, and every couple of chapters was a call-back to something that happened in an earlier book, and now feeds slightly into the final story.

It ends like some of the most interesting parts of the previous books, the explorations and samplings of strange new worlds, but none of these worlds had the interest of the alternate Earths or Mars. Maybe because it’s been done so much already, and so many strange Earths have been discovered, or maybe because the implication that the planet was ‘called’ to join a new Long Galaxy of worlds was only just brushed upon without exploring who called, or how other Earth species (Kobolds, Trolls, Elves) might be exploring the call themselves. Like a lot of times in the series, it invites a lot of potential futures and scenarios for the reader to imagine. In a sense, that’s what the Long Earth is for: to imagine other places, other things, and other strangeness.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

This was weird. I don’t think I’ve read a lot of horror like this book. It’s quite introspective and invites introspection. What do you remember of childhood? Would you re-examine it now? What have you forgotten about your childhood? A lot of times I’ve found myself realising something that was everyday has only just come to light again – like eating little apple pies almost every day for over ten years, then noticing that I’d not even thought about them for a very, very long time. People change.

In a completely unrelated, and cold, analytical sense the same can be said about history – things that are too normal aren’t written down and aren’t remembered when they slip out of normalcy. We have no idea what was normal three hundred years ago and chances are the most commonplace things in a society could be completely lost to us – practices and customs don’t leave traces behind, after all.

Every Day is an Atheist Holiday

I’m a big Penn Jillette fan, and I bought this to get it signed when we saw the Penn & Teller show in London last year.

This book is basically a collection of essays, many of which I’ve heard the stories before on the Penn’s Sunday School podcast. Some had a bit more detail, or a bit less, some were completely new. The linking factor is ‘there is joy and wonder in every day, you don’t need religious holidays’. I like the sentiment but I would have preferred a little more discussion around how the Jillette family deals with cultural behemoths like Christmas. That’s not really the point of the book though, just me whining. It’s not to say “here’s how to survive religious festivals as an atheist” but instead “here’s why we don’t need them”.