Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Micro-level Combat: Gaming in 100:1 /Drone Wars

This is not 1:100 scale (aka ~15mm Flames of War) but the reverse - miniatures are dramatically LARGER than the unis they represent.  I.e. the actual real world units are tint, almost invisible to the naked eye.

I've thought about 1:1 gaming (using both insects au naturale and also human-controlled insect "drones" with guns attached) and have purchased a few hundred plastic ants or ant colony wars, but at the moment I am rather lazily waiting for this videogame to go on sale.  I did explore the dinos I mentioned in the post, and am the proud owner of an extensive plastic dinosaur army (both pillaged from my son's sandpit, and bought from junk shops in bulk). But my psychic-knights-on-dinos (and the rules I am developing for them) are meat for another post.

No, the current musing is about drone/miniature vehicle warfighting.  I've been eyeing off normal toy drones lately (which have advanced amazingly in tech while dropping in price) especially the ones you steer in FPV (using goggles you "see"what the drone sees, kinda "flying"the drone from the cockpit so to speak.

You can see the potential of drone dogfights.

Drone dogfights would make a pretty cool wargame.  (Also, a pretty cool videogame as well - I wish someone would make one). There are already drones with sensors where you can "shoot down" your friends' drone, so to escalate to real weapons doesn't seem to much of a leap.

Now using drones in "current"size (say your average drone about the size of a pizza box) would make for interesting and unique combat. The ability to make violent maneuvers at G-forces far exceeding a human pilot, and the stunning agility would put it apart from the usual dogfight genre.  Add in "lag" and EMP weapons (or jamming) and it gets yet more unique.  Furthermore, the ability to evade detection ("nap of the earth" is literally a foot off the deck) and fly into structures/launch ambushes.

Micro drones are not new, and have been around for a while, especially as a recon unit.

Drone swarms are also becoming (a somewhat terrifying) reality.

But what if we project even further into the future? Perhaps where drone-on-drone combat has become the primary means of warfare.  Duels between drone swarms fighting though buildings at high speed, using unique weapons (including EMPs) would be like supersonic helicopter combat, mixed with sudden ambushes, like Descent on steroids. 

As a wargame, you could play as a pilot of many drones. You could have some sort of resource pool of tokens representing your "attention" which you could distribute among individual or groups of drones, who would otherwise act automomously. Kinda like a Warcaster in Warmachine boosting his warjacks.

The ability to create unique weapons (and tactics - suiciding your drone to take out key opponents would be an option) and unique environments. 

Drones could even be aquatic. Which could have its own hazards - your super high tech drone swarm could get gulped by a trout....

But what if we go smaller?  I'm not original here, I like the Eylau Sequence (one of the coolest wargame settings no one has ever heard of) and their micro-tanks (though the rules are too gluggy and the minis a little expensive to an Aussie).  Their MGVs are 20:1 drones. 

Microscopic? In the Scott Westerfled book Risen Empire there is a scene about drone combat.  The drones are the size of dust motes. They have pincer claws and explosives and can "go silent" using thermals to navigate a room and land in a glass of water (which magnifies their listening/detection systems).

Imagine microscopic squidder drones headed up your nasal cavity and burrowing into your brain - yikes!

Models require imagination....  My cheap EM4 spaceships (which have lately seen service as supersonic submarine fighters and MTB-like strike fighters, Descent fighters as well as hovertanks ) may now see service as drones.  Probably painting out the canopies would give a more "drone" feel. I swear they have been the most cheap (~50c) and versatile minis I own. For value/usefulness, they can't be beat.

Heck you could even use an actual 1:48 model of a drone... a target drone.... The sky is the limit with  sci fi and your imagination....

 I think I could probably use quite a few spaceship models that are scale-agnostic,and of course there are the cool MGVs. For the hipsters, there's always scratch-building your own; deoderant cans, end caps, disposable razors, and LEGO and hydroponics piping + various weapon bits from everything from 40K to 1:48 WW2 boxes can result in some amazing stuff. (google "scratch built spaceships" and you will be amazed). 

Anyways, I think there is fertile ground for sci fi drone wars.  You could have drone swarms, antonymous vs piloted, unique tactics and weapons, and have games ranging from 1:1 duels to 100 vs 100 swarms.  Stealth, dogfights, kamikaze attacks, and dogfights in the kitchen. You can change the scale from pizza box to dust mote.  Heck, spider-bot drones the size of literal spiders...  Or hovertanks that skim centimetres off the ground....

In a wargaming sense, you could use magic mechanics to simulate management/processing power of AI, as well as layers of EW including jamming, ECM and EMPs. Perhaps they can be coated in thermal camo or float silently to attack like dust motes.  Drone combat can be a fun wargaming area which can be taken in any direction you want it to....

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Subterranean War

Watching the Netflix's Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War piqued my interest in the tunnel systems of Vietnam, and inspired musings on "underground warfare" in general.

Besides Vietnam, I know a bit about WW1 fortifications, and the tunnels in Okinawa, but I haven't really studied much about underground warfare.  I know currently caves in Afghanistan seem to be used a bit, and of course sieges/mining/counter-mining in the ancient/medieval world. From memory, North Korea has complex tunnels including ways to rapidly shuttle troops to forward areas, and even underground runways. Hezbollah and Syria/Libya have tunnel systems. In WW2, I recall fighting in the Odessa Catacombs.

I enjoy reading about abandoned underground Cold War bases and doomsday hideouts and complex underground facilities like the ill-fated Maginot Line.

I've seen a few US documents where they government is exploring subterranean/tunnel fighting technology, as ISIS and North Korea for example, can negate many US advantages by moving underground.

The subterranean world is an untapped domain.

So... what underground warfare might look like for wargaming?

I'm concerned that while modelling it might be fun, trench warfare and tunnel-rat style warfare might be a bit dull in the sense that maneuver is limited. Detection and reaction mechanics would probably be key here. Booby traps and mines that insta-wipe an entire force are not so fun... The fields of fire are narrow and the chokepoints are many.  Reduced lighting means night-fighting rules would apply. I'm travelling into "what if" territory....

Well, sci fi has rich ground. Google "underground base" and 99% of hits will refer to Greys, reptilian aliens and government conspiracies. Scenarios pretty much write themselves.  I'd imagine any small-skirmish rules (aka 40K Kill Team or Infinity or Black Ops) could be fun. Think small scale (squads and fire teams) of men-in-black hunting down reptiloids beneath Antarctic bases.

As I type this, I'm eyeing off my Secrets of the Third Reich weird-war-two Nazi mech suits; Nazis and underground bunker complexes seem to go together. Toss in some mad scientists and perhaps ravening undead, and fun could be had.

At the far end of the spectrum is the Hollow Earth/Lost World - where the underground spaces are vast - whole islands or continent-sized spaces; perhaps inhabited by dinosaurs and lost tribes.  Or aliens. Or giant apes. Or all of the above.

Define your world

I think the thing that stands out to me is "how cramped is your underground?" - ranging from a battle in a single waist-high tunnel to giant underground cities to a complete "Hollow Earth."

I'm thinking that subterranean warfare could be used conveniently prune and focus warfare to suit your interest.   Let's assume big caves (Sarawak chamber is 600 x 435 x 115m) - this would mean infantry- only battles, probably squad/platoon sized, with some maneuver.

But what about really big caves? Say hundreds of metres high, and kilometres wide?

You could design your underground world to answer questions like:

What would modern warfare be like without artillery, airpower and helicopters?  I've always liked small AFVs like Scorpions, Wiesels, and ASUs. You might even be able to remove MBTs as they would be too expensive to risk in confined spaces. Small, compact vehicles (the sort that support airborne units).

It would be fun to answer questions like: if a nuclear war forced us underground in the 1960s, what would military tech look like today?  Or - what future weapons and equipment would form the focus of future underground warfare, in say ~20 years?

Small AFVs might be relevant in a subterranean setting...

You can make an interesting setting

In a future where the Earth's surface is unfit for habitation, the nations have moved below ground. Fungus farms and bioengineered animals provide food, and nations fight using small strike teams utilizing high tech drones including spider gun-bots.  You get the idea....  ....underground as a genre has not seen much use.