Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sci-Fi: Ray Guns, Grenades, and Close Combat in Space

Sci-Fi: Ray Guns, Grenades, and Close Combat in Space


Let’s face it , folks. I have been exposed to outer space stuff for almost 60 years. There were children’s shows and reruns of space movies to get us started. Saturday morning kids’ shows played reruns of old Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials. The Air Force had its high-altitude balloons and X15s scratching the edge of space. Then came NASA and Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Moon. Forbidden Planet and The Twilight Zone used SciFi to ask the deeper questions. Lost in Space amused us. The new type series like Star Trek and Space 1999 enthralled us. Along came the Space Shuttle, and then Star Wars, Stargate, the Martian Chronicles and topping the list, Farscape.

Toy-wise ,we came a long way too.  From the clunky spacemen of Archer and Ajax in the 1950s to MPC’s “Mercury” astronauts, it began. Next came the figures based on TV shows and moves, from the Thunderbirds of ITC TV to Imperial Stormtroopers and Klingon soldiers.

There is the challenge - to make a space game that can accommodate almost any space toy figure in the last 60 years. One game that did it well is Laserblade by Echidna Games, Laserblade accommodates small skirmish action for three to perhaps ten or twelve pieces. It focuses on individuals.  OMOG differs, being a squad-level game that emphasizes a small unit.

Space Weapons

The Ray Gun of science fiction originated in people’s fascination with X-rays and radioactive waves.  In the 1920s, science was discovering more about radiation and waves. Fantastic possibilities were discussed as to the future benefits of Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays. Being a science-savvy lot, science fiction writers seized on these ideas. They concocted a variety of ray guns, disrupters and disintegrators. This was a few decades before lasers, by the way.

Ray guns and their lot are energy weapons. They emit a wave of energy at their targets. The immediate problem is containing the energy so it does not dissipate.  The energy must be focused. Other measures have to be invented so that the wave or ray is not dissipated by the atmosphere or conditions like clouds, dust, humidity, etc. These are among the reasons why long range laser weapons are only now becoming possible. Science has found ways to focus the ray and minimize dissipation.

The only hand-held energy weapons in general use today are stun guns, cattle prods and Tasers.  All discharge electrical energy and all require contact with the target. A stun gun and cattle prod has to have its electrical nodes pressed against an opponent. A Taser fires thin wires with a small barb to attach to the target, after which an electrical charge is sent through them. The smallest lasers are laser pointers, and the green ones can pop a balloon if fired at it long enough at close range. That is, if they do not run out of energy first.

Small lasers do not pack much power. Powerful lasers need plenty of energy. A person using one would have to wear a bulky battery packs, and even then it would only be good for two or three bursts. Obviously, part of the science is to devise a more compact power supply. Power supplies are already getting smaller so it is only a matter of decades before science creates one that could fit into a man-carried weapon.

The use of energy weapons would be practical, once focusing the beam and powering it are perfected. The necessities of space make them more practical than projectile weapons. In low-gravity and weightless conditions, a weapon with even the slightest recoil can unbalance and even topple the shooter. Projectile weapons, be they powered like our bullets or if their bullets are small rockets, will have some degree of recoil. In low gravity, even the almost-imperceptible recoil of an M16 could dislodge a person. The other problem is in thin-atmosphere and no-atmosphere conditions. Most projectile weapons require some sort of ignition. In space, the ammo or weapon would have to contain the oxygen necessary for ignition. Energy weapons have no recoil and require no air supply. They would work in high gravity, low gravity and no gravity. Gravity would not affect their range, either. A high-gravity situation would alter the path and range of a projectile.

Liquid-squirting weapons would also be at a disadvantage, since they have a “recoil” of their own. Anyone who has fired a man-carried flamethrower knows the push they feel as the jet of liquid flame squirts forth.

Would a small energy weapon have the range and power of a larger one?  After all, one might argue, they are only firing waves of some sort of radiation. The answer is a resounding NO.  A major aspect of an energy weapon is to contain and focus the energy. The smaller weapon could contain and control a lesser amount of energy than a larger one. Compare a pistol-sized weapon to one the size of a rifle. The pistol contains and controls less, and so the ray it emits is weaker and dissipates at a much closer range than that of a larger weapon.  The larger weapon can contain and control more energy, allowing each shot to have more power and greater range.

Heat would be a factor.  One of the problems of automatic weapons is their tendency to get hot after firing for awhile. The larger the barrel and weapon itself, the more it can withstand heat. Indeed, heat would be a bigger problem in energy weapons. Not-yet-invented materials might help dampen some of the heat.  Nonetheless, better dampening would require more material, more technology, and thus a larger weapon. The heat that could be dissipated in something the size of a pistol would have to be much less than that of a rifle. A smaller weapon would be unlikely to sustain as much shooting. A pistol might be limited to single shots like a semi-automatic weapon. The same may apply to a rifle firing more powerful rounds.  A larger rifle might be needed to fire bursts or a longer sustained shot.

Rays could vary.  Some would obviously be destructive, harming materials and damaging the body. Others may or may not break materials, but could adversely affect bodily functions, either permanently or temporarily. A “stun” weapon is likely. Knowing how radiation has adversely affected people, from Madame Curie to the more current disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, a harmful ray is likely.  It would not have to damage materials to affect the body. The Neutron Bomb comes to mind as an example. This may be the alternative to chemical warfare in the future. Of course, it is already covered by various treaties. However, those treaties would not apply in space against aliens. I imagine that these rays would be a technological equivalent to “Dim Mak”, the delayed-reaction ancient Chinese “death touch.”

There can be no “cold ray,” as cold is a slowing of molecules. For a ray or wave to move, the molecules would necessarily have to be accelerated.

The only projectiles useful in space would be rockets. The problem would be the back blast. The Bazooka remedied it partly by letting the back blast escape from he rear of the launcher. While small projectiles fired from pistols and rifles would be impractical, larger launchers might have their place. Rockets move by the energy they emit in flight. They would have to be large enough to carry their own oxygen. Large rockets meant to reach space have been doing this for over 70 years. Perhaps smaller rockets would have to do the same, Then again, perhaps the future will see a different propulsion system that needs no oxygen to work in a vacuum.

The idea of smart munitions and guided bullets sounds fascinating, but they will have their limits. I believe shooters will still be required to aim, to some degree.

Certain old weapons would still be around, with improvements. Hand grenades would be around. Along with the explosive, concussion, fragmentation and white phosphorous (incendiary) grenades there might be different radiation and energy burst weapons. Some may even have a small time and / or impact detonator. A futuristic “smart” grenade could also be set for a burst or for blasting through an obstacle. One version is drawn from the old Archer (now Glencoe) spacemen. He holds a finned grenade. A weapon like this would be thrown toward the target. A few feet after leaving the thrower’s hand, it would ignite a small rocket motor and proceed to target.  Perhaps there might even be limited guidance to target, but that is unlikely in a weapon so small and cheap.  Guidance systems are better reserved for weapons aimed at larger targets.

Those physics classes paid off! They have certainly given insight into the future possibilities of weaponry for this planet and beyond.


Close Combat in Space.

In the Star Trek: the Next Generation movie “First Contact,” Captain Picard and Worff are on the outside of the starship. They wear space suits. Their goal is to defeat several Borg tampering with the ship.  Somewhere along the line, Picard mentions remembering their anti-gravity hand-to-hand combat lessons.

My mind went back to the old Gemini space mission and some of the special tools they had to invent for work in weightless space. They had to make a special hammer.  If an astronaut was using a hammer and cocked back his arm to swing, that motion would propel him  backward., For every move there is a counter-move, according to Newton’s Third Law of Physics.

Another example was from an old ninja manual from the 70s.  It showed a few special techniques for fighting in water. Though not exactly weightless, many of the same principles apply to a buoyant individual.

(You an find the Ninja book here: http://www.thortrains.net/downloads/oldninjabook.pdf )

Close combat training was also mentioned in Robert Heinlein’s brilliant book, “Starship Troopers”. There the fighting happened in places with gravity. I do not remember if low-gravity combat was discussed in the book.

Human unarmed and close combat systems were developed on our won planet where there is gravity. They apply the physics of gravity.  This is obvious with Judo, Aiki and Chin Na, which use various throws and takedowns to defeat an opponent. The same dependance on gravity exists in Boxing, Karate, Chinese Boxing (Kung Fu) and arts using hand held weapons. Some leverage has to be gained in order to power a strike, trip or trap. Even a leaping punch, kick or thrust still requires thrusting one’s feet against the ground. Do that in low-gravity of weightless environments and you may find yourself headed for planetary orbit!

The same goes for primitive projectile weapons. Thrown weapons, arrows and slings all require drawing back.  The pilum-thrower draws back his arm.  The archer draws back his firing arm, and the slinger spins his sling and cocks his arm back before shooting. These could all be problematic in a low or no gravity environment. Add the fact that it would also affect trajectories and the like.  This would also occur in low or no atmosphere. All would be lurched back by drawing their weapon and forward by launching it in the usual way, if it happened where gravity was lacking.

For fighting within gravity, the annals of close combat are voluminous. There are many systems for hand-held weapons, striking and grappling. While the Asian fighting arts have enjoyed some popularity, older systems from Europe and elsewhere have left such traces as manuals, guidebooks, literature and art. Indeed, one can this very day see the methods used for Medieval polearms, Renaissance fencing and Ancient Egyptian wrestling.
What would a hand-to-hand system be like in the future? Let us clear up a distinction between martial arts and hand to hand combat. A martial artist is someone who dedicates himself to the study of close combat systems.  He works to perfect his skill.. Most martial artists are actually sportsmen.

Hand to hand combat is a collection of fighting techniques intended for defeating an opponent. It is neither a sport nor an art. One might more correctly describe many of the hand-to-hand systems as self defense. However, more than few are also offensive. Hand to hand combat is taught to those who are not going to devote their lives to the study of martial arts. It is taught to soldiers, police, and corrections officers. A self-defense version is taught to civilians.

The kind of hand-to-hand taught to space personnel would likely include unarmed techniques and others using hand -held weapons. Modern troops learn striking and grappling, as well as the combat knife, club or baton, and rifle with bayonet. Troops improvise weapons from entrenching tools, pioneer gear, etc. I had learned the riot baton as well as bayonet. In the early 70s, baton was taught to a few combat arms units on each post. They were to back up the military police in repelling anti-war protesters.

A low and no gravity system would have to avoid maneuvers that unbalance the fighter. Cocking one’s arm to strike would be omitted. Leaping kicks would also be eschewed, as these would likely send the kicker flying backward. The most likely methods would be grappling: holds, locks and chokes.

A problem emerges in just what holds to use on aliens whose physiology makes it difficult. Imagine a being with an arm more like the prehensile tail of a monkey than that of
a human. And consider a creature with almost no neck, which would be nearly impervious to chokes. The armies of the future might have to develop techniques for fighting adversaries with tentacles, extra arms, or one or more robotic limbs.

Soldiers would be taught to use a knife or stick to enhance grappling.

An important aspect of modern close combat is the use of weak spots and pressure points. Hand to hand fighters are taught to strike vulnerable places such as the throat, base of the skull, collarbones, kidneys, groin and joints. Certain holds put pressure to the throat, neck , limbs, spine and joints. Aliens species may have different weak spots. Some could be “double-jointed” and rather impervious to joint locks. Others may have evolved thicker, more muscular necks that resist strangles and chokes. Some may have evolved a bone structure over the throat or nape of the neck. All this certainly adds new elements to the development of close combat for space. You can be sure that potential alien adversaries would be teaching their troops how to defeat out weak points, just as we would teach ours to attacks theirs.

System developed by other species would reflect their strengths and weaknesses.  At one end would be a lighter, supple species who would capitalize on agility and speed. The other end would be a heavier, slower, bulkier species who would focus on power and strength. Think of a lighter, faster type of King Fu like White Crane opposed to Sambo Wrestling. Each species would naturally builds its system on its own abilities.

I do not think hand-help weapons would change all that much. A few might be issued as weapons, but most would be weapons of opportunity. The standards would be combat knives, short swords / machetes, bayonets / lances and sticks.  A fighter might make do with whatever is at hand, hence axes, impromptu clubs, etc. Someone with good hand-to-hand training could do serious damage with anything he picked up. There may even be specialized hand-to-hand weapons in some species, such as tentacle choppers, antennae loppers and the like.

There would be one other aspect to hand-to-hand combat. The way one fights in normal attire different from how one can fight when encumbered with extra clothing, a space suit or some type of armor. A person would have to be trained to fight in those circumstances. He would also need special techniques, as the presence of a suit would make some methods impractical, if not impossible. There is also the problem of fighting a suited or armored opponent. Again, methods to be used by an unencumbered fighter would be different from those used by one who is wearing armor or a space suit.

Now comes the problem of fighting alien species in their space gear and body armor. Indeed, hand-to-hand combat will be a very intriguing thing under those circumstances. We have an Earthly precedent which can give us a little idea of what is to come. The methods used by frogmen when fighting other divers include cutting air hoses, turning off regulators, unseating masks, and so on. I am sure that there would be a set of close combat techniques for interfering with an adversary’s protective suit and breathing apparatus.

Man to man combat in space and against aliens is going to face very different conditions than what we have encountered on Earth. Be it an individual gunslinger, military squad to hand-to-hand fighter, conditions such as gravity, weightlessness, toxic are and the vacuum of space will affect how one fights.

(This is part of the original thought experiment. I thought our serious sci-fi fans and battle gamers might enjoy it. The idea here is not to provide answer, but to provoke thought on the subject. This all started over devising space game skirmish rules and it quickly snowballed. The experiment has gone past military concerns and now totals about 50 pages.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Solving The Problems of Science Fiction Skirmish Games

 The problem of Space Skirmish games

There are solutions!


Most games of man-to-man space combat are part of larger game systems. Some are within the realm of one science fiction story or series. Others are so-called “universal” systems like GURPS that are part of complex and nerdy role playing games.  A simple battle game which used characters from a variety of sci-fi might seem impossible.

Let us look at characters from popula r science fiction series who engage in battle. They all have several things in common. They can engage the enemy by weapons that shoot, various bombs and boobytraps, or weapons that are used in hand-to-hand combat.  A character may confront an enemy by shooting him, blowing him up, or fighting with hand-held striking weapons.

Aside from a few weird weapons that might appear occasionally, it was really quite standard. There was not much difference in performance from the early pistol-sized Federation Phasers, Klingon Pistol, Han Solo’s Blaster and the pistols favored by Farscape’s John Crichton. The same goes for larger man-carried weapons. Larger blasters shaped like rifles or submachine guns can fire longer, further, and do more damage. Fire a blaster pistol in a hallway and there is not much damage to structures. Fire some of the larger weapons and you get a big hole in the wall. That applied whether it was an Imperial Stormtrooper’s big blaster or a Marine’s heavy rifle in “Space: Above and Beyond.”

Most of the adversaries in science fiction, especially the stories that make it to movies and television, are hominid in shape. Two arms, two legs, a head on the torso, etc. Height is within the 4 to 7 foot range, with a few extremes either way. There are not many special abilities between these science fiction species. They may have special talents, such as the Mind Meld, but such are not germane to space battle games. Those talents are best relegated to role playing games. One would be hard put to use a Mind Meld in the middle of a phaser fight. So it is that most SciFi species are pretty evenly matched. Because of greater strength, a Vulcan may get a bonus in hand-to-hand combat. A Nebari like Farscape’s Chiana may get a bonus for speed and agility, but would get a deficit when it came to absorbing damage. Dargo of the same series might get a bonus for close combat because of his size and warrior status. These are small and very specialized differences. They could easily be accounted for in a set of battle-game rules.

So far as I have seen, most of the characters from science fiction live within certain limits. They have physical bounds that are on a par with humans. A few differences may seem more telling, such as the Chigs of “Space: Above and Beyond” needing a different atmosphere than us. Most differences are in customs, appearance and temperament. If we look at our favorite SciFi series, we see that the aliens are just weird people with strange customs and bizarre physical features. Compare the Peacekeepers of Farscape with Star Wars’ Rebels and Stormtroopers or Star Trek’s Klingons, Cardassians and Ferengi.

While the usual ray pistols and rifles exist, what of other munitions? I suspect there will be grenades of various types, both hand thrown and launched. These may be propelled by some sort of bazooka or other launcher. There may even be a grenade that, when thrown, sets off a rocket and propels itself. Grenades will explode conventionally, be they fragmentary, concussion or incendiary. Other types may emit radioactive waves or other energy.

Hand-held weapons still require folks to get close and swing or thrust or slash away. Combat spacemen may do the equivalent of fix bayonets or swing an entrenching tool.  The fancy light sabers look wild and exotic, but in the end they still rely on good, old fashioned swordsmanship. A fighter with a solid weapon may have to duck rather than block a light saber. He is still in the fight and his light-wielding adversary is in as much danger of getting hit as he is.

The way to handle the similarities and differences varies. Lazerblade, a small skirmish game for science fiction miniatures, uses its own point system. There are a standard number of points per figure. A player can use additional points to add abilities, armor, weapons, etc. The system is versatile enough to accommodate most science fiction characters. Recently, on the Lazerblade blog, Neil announced two new rules: Hive Mind and Acid Splash. These were inspired by the Alien series of movies. He figured the appropriate points for an Alien of that type. Acid Splash is drawn from the way they explode into a splash of caustic stuff when killed with sufficient force. That is a pretty versatile system that can cover most characters and adapt to new ones.

Another way is to adapt the character-making system of a pair of old board games, Melee and Wizard. The original game was for ancient, medieval and fantasy characters. We can use a similar system for space weapons and gear. Melee merely covered physical attributes. Wizard added Intelligence. The game gave a player 32 points to spread between Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, with the caveat that each had to be a minimum of 8 points. Strength determined what weapons could be wielded and how much armor could be worn, plus the amount of damage a character could withstand. Dexterity was agility, his speed and ability to maneuver and make changes. In Wizard, Intelligence determined what spells a character could learn and how much he could resist certain ploys by his opponents. In a space game, intelligence might reflect on what equipment a man could use and how well he could figure out problems.

Melee and Wizard focused on individual characters. The system could be extended to cover character types, say a human Starship Trooper squad composed of regular soldiers, an officer and a heavy weapons team. Thus, using points, a player could construct a squad using troops with certain already-known point values. Points would not be for individual characters, but character types in one’s force.

I am currently working on several OMOG supplements, among them one for Space games. That has been an off-and-on project for about a year now.(Others in the works are Ancient and Samurai supplements to OMOK and a Colonial supplement for OMOG 19C) Using the OMOG movement system with additions for space, it will be a squad-level game for 9 to 15 soldiers per side, I am also considering a space game based on the Melee / Wizard type point systems. The problem with the OMOG supplement would be trying to devise a point system.

The OMOG space supplement is intended to work with Star Trek (Original Series, Next Generation, DS9 and Enterprise), Star Wars, Space 1999, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Starship Troopers, Space Above and Beyond, Alien, Firefly, Farscape and others. The challenge is to be inclusive without over-complicating things.


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One way of dealing with abilities and such is a numbering system. This is based on various abilities a specific character may have. The system can be adjusted to account for the many different characters one may find in science fiction stories. There are things like agility, speed, strength, hand-to-hand combat skill, aimed weapons skill, etc.

The first coherent system like that was something I encountered almost 40 years ago. Back then, a small company called Metagaming had released small board-type games. The games fit in a small, clear plastic pouch and usually included a rule book, small dice, cardboard punch-out game counters and a printed heavy paper playing field. The whole package could fit in a #10 envelope. I tried a game of theirs entitled “Melee”. It was a simple, fast and easy game where players created characters. Metagaming created a few games that a person could use Melee to play alone. One was “Death Test.” It had a rule book and playing field plus extra counters. Another was a “search for the Grail” game. You needed Melee or Wizard to play either.

Melee started with developing your character. You started with 24 points and had to allot them to Dexterity and Strength. Neither aspect could be less than 8 points. Strength determined what weapon your player could yield and how much armor your character had. Armor protected, but it also impeded Dexterity. With Melee, you could create fantastic or historical characters. The other related game, Wizard, used the same system with an extra item.  A player of Wizard started with 32 points to be allotted between Dexterity, Strength and Intelligence.  The aspect of Intelligence determined which spells a player could learn.

One might suppose that according to Melee, the average human would be 12 and 12. A Nebari may have a Dexterity of 14 and a strength of 10, whereas A Luxan might have just the opposite: Strength 14, Dexterity 10.


http://bluwiki.com/go/Tft-melee

http://bluwiki.com/go/Tft-wizard


Point systems dealing with each individual’s characteristics work best in games with nine or fewer characters per side. Four to six is a happy medium. This is because the player has to remember all of his character’s abilities in order to devise a winning strategy. While it is good to have a minimum number of points per character, the rest of the point allotment can be doled out as desired. Points can also assure a fair game. For instance, a game could be determined to have 100 points and five players per side. If the rules demanded that the minimum points per character were five, then there would be forty free points to allot as one desired. The excellent Space skirmish game Laserblade uses this type system.

All of this is speculation. The actual development of the OMOG Space supplement is still in the works. Unlike Laserblade, the emphasis is on a squad type action with 8 to 15 figures. Rather than a team composed of individuals with various abilities, OMOG will be geared to a type of soldier / warrior fighting a small-unit action.


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Why would the size of futuristic personal weapons affect the potential damage they can do? It is really a matter of physics. A hand-held weapon, be it a palm-sized pocket phaser like the original Star Trek to a heavy blaster rifle, is limited. The amount of energy it can carry, contain and withstand varies with size. A small phaser would be able to carry a much smaller power supply than a large rifle. Also, a weapon has to be able to contain the power and expend it with minimal wear on itself. A pocket phaser would not be able to handle much without burning itself out and possibly injuring the operator. A heavy rifle could dissipate heat, contain the power and focus a stronger beam.

Anyone who has handled a machine gun knows how hot the barrel can get, especially with sustained fire. This is why machine guns, from light to heavy, have thicker barrels. Various methods were used to keep barrels cool. Even handguns can get hot. Pistols heat up quickly when fired rapidly. The barrels of rifles get warm after enough shots are fired in rapid succession.  Therefore, it stands to reason that energy weapons would have the same problem. The bigger the weapon and the stronger its blast, the more heat it would generate. A smaller, weaker weapon would generate less heat. So it is that the more powerful the weapon, the more heat it must contain.

Of course, large energy weapons would need to have cooling / power managing systems built into them. Energy weapons generate more heat than conventional firearms. Again, the larger the device, the larger the system. A rifle-sized ray gun could handle a blast that would put a hole through a metal door. A pistol sized gun could not carry nor handle that much energy.

Even with the more compact power supplies, miniaturized energy-handling systems plus superior heat-resisting and heat-dissipating materials, size will still matter.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Tim Mee versus Toy Story Soldiers

 
Tim Mee Bucket of Army Men and Toy Story Bucket O Soldiers
By the time I resumed interest in plastic toy soldiers, Tim Mee’s toy soldier bucket had pretty much come and gone. I had seen them on store shelves. I was pleased to see army men figure in the Toy Stories movies.
I bought one of the Toy Story buckets a few years ago. I learned that my bucket was the latest version. There was an earlier one with soldiers in seven poses that were toyish copies of the Tim Mee M16 GIs. The set I bought had 72 figures plus two paratroopers. The regular soldiers were in ten poses. They looked a bit crisper than figures from the earlier Toy Story set (I do not have the earlier set and only saw pictures in a video).
 
 
The figures’ sculpting was alright and they look like toys. The color is close to Kelly green. However, they are not quite as crisp, nor as authentic as the Tim Mee figures. The weapons have less detail and some of the poses are weird.
Tan Tim-Mee compared to Toy Story Figures
Of course, the difference between these sets of figures is a matter of intent. Tim Mee’s sculptors were making a good, realistic set of modern (at the time) soldiers. The movie toy makers were trying to replicate what was in the movie rather than produce authentic miniatures. .
Tim Mee in tan and olive drab comapred to lighter green Toy Story soldiers
For play value, I favor the Tim Mee bucket. 48 soldiers in green and tan (two armies), a tank, two jets, terrain piece, flags and stickers as opposed to Toy Story with 72 figures all in green with two paratroopers and no vehicles or planes. Tim Mee has a better variety of poses, too.
Tim Mee Soldiers in tan comapred to green Toy Story troops
The Toy Story figures have some good poses. Sculpting is good. There are five rifle poses, two officers ( one is saluting, as in the movie), a minesweeper, mortar man and bazooka man. The paratroopers are two different rifle poses with the cord attacked to a ring on the helmet. The field jacket looks more like a tunic. Under other circumstances, this group of soldiers may have sold like other plastic army men. Of course, this set was specially made to go with a movie. It is doubtful they will ever be sold in bags at the discount store.
Compare the awkward Toy Story prone rifleman with the Tim Mee soldeir in proper pose
 
This brings us back to something I mentioned back in July. The Tim Mee M16 / Vietnam toy soldiers are the most enduring and widespread set of toy soldiers ever made. Collectors like to speak of Marx’s many soldiers, but no set of Marx figures has endured in such abundance as the Tim Mee soldiers. Most of Marx’s figures are recasts sold to the hobby market since about 1982. Tim Mee soldiers are still found on store shelves. The M16 / Vietnam soldier set has been copied, clones, recopied, re-posed, and sold in every format from buckets and bags to playsets. They have been molded in almost every color possible.
 
No wonder these classic toy soldiers served as the inspiration for characters in the Toy Story movies.
Tim Mee’s M48 tank is perhaps the largest, most widely available toy tank made to accompany army men. It appeared around the time of the M16 soldiers. As toys go, it is a good model of the M48A2 Medium Tank with a 90mm gun. This tank has been copied and cloned. I have seen them in several shades of green, from olive drab to hunter green. These tanks have also been made in grey, tan, and mustard yellow. No other set of soldiers and no other toy army vehicles have endured as long and been produced in such great numbers as the Tim Mee M16 / Vietnam soldiers and the Tim Mee M48 tank. The tanks made by Marx, Ideal, Payton and others are either no longer in production or are sold as recasts to the hobby market.
The Tim Mee M48
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review Tim Mee Bucket of Army Men and Shadow Ops Strikeforce

Here is a review of two Tim Mee products:
 
Bucket of Army men
 
By 1970, I made the transition from bags of toy soldiers to hobby figures. Bags of Tim Mee and Lido figures gave way to the boxes of Airfix and plastic and metal kit figures. I only got to plastic bag soldiers as a hobby at the end of the 1990s. That started as a joke over the venerable Tim Mee M16 army men, which led to a website. From there, I had a new hobby. That is why many later sets of toy figures went unnoticed by me. This "Soldier Bucket" is one of them. I had the soldiers and tanks in bags, but never had them by the bucket with a mountain and jets.
I had also missed the Tim Mee Galaxy Laser Team and later Western figures, among others. I was only acquainted with them recently.
The Tim Mee Soldier Bucket was originally offered in the early 1990s. There were two versions. One had two tanks, soldiers and two jets. The other had soldiers, two jets and a plastic mountain.
Jeff at Victory Buy has reissued the Tim Mee Toy Soldier Bucket. The current set has 48 of the Tim Mee M16 figures, two jets (F14 and F15), the classic Tim Mee M48 tank, a mountain and flags and stickers. As I understand it, Jeff consulted with Kent Sprecherko of Toy Soldier HQ on some details of this reissued set. He also needed three manufacturers to get all the elements of the set.
The Toy Story movies based their Army Men on the original Tim Mee soldier buckets and the M16 type troops. In fact, the Toy Story franchise offered its own Bucket O Soldiers. The first included figures that were crude attempts to copy the Tim Mee troops. The latest one has all new figures, though most are based on the Tim Mee originals. Neither has the realism and crisp detail of Tim Mee.’s M16 Army Men. Tim Mee is still the better product.
The Tim Mee Bucket of Army Men includes enough different elements to keep the kids happy. This would make a nice gift for the little toy soldier fans.
When I was a boy, I was used to buying soldiers by the bag, with an occasional play set as a gift. The Tim Mee Bucket Of Army Men brings elements of a playset in a delightful way.
For more information on these great Tim Mee soldiers, check out an earlier review: http://thortrains.blogspot.com/2015/07/review-tim-mee-brand-m16-vietnam-army.html
 
Shadow Ops Black Helicopter StrikeForce by Tim Mee
What with legends of the black helicopters and shadow operations in the war against terrorists, the Tim Mee Shadow Ops Black Helicopter StrikeForce is a toy whose time has come. Molded in black plastic, it is an exciting little set for the black ops buff. The set comes with two good-sized plastic helicopters. One looks like the Ranger chopper the Army had. The other is probably inspired by the Apache attack `copter. The fuselage is almost 10 inches long. They are big. That’s good because they go well with the handful of figures included in the set.
The figures are a set of men with various police-type weapons in the old style police motorcycle helmets. There are two with pistol, one with a launcher, one with rifle, a man in police hat with a megaphone, and a standing radioman holding a shotgun. Detail is good and the figures are robust, about 60mm scale. As I understand it, these were a SWAT set Tim Mee made in limited numbers in the 1970s. For those too young to remember, SWAT was a new phenomenon in the 1970s. They looked different than the armored, helmeted, assault-rifle teams of today. For this reason, the Tim Mee figures are perfect as Shadow Ops types. They could be used as special agents, spies or police special units.
One of those anomalies is the weaponry. Three officers are holding revolvers. The rifleman has a sniper rifle that looks like a hunting rifle rather than a modern weapon. One holds a pump shotgun; one is firing what looks like a grenade launcher. This is the old tear gas launcher. The motorcycle type helmets were also used as tactical helmets until the 1990s. Police departments used revolvers well into the 1980s, replacing them with automatics because of the increasing firepower wielded by criminals. At one time, ti was rare for a policeman to use an automatic pistol. A revolver was considered more reliable and had adequate firepower for facing criminals of the time.
Tim Mee’s longevity and place in the toy market was due to its ability to make great figures and accessories. Their vehicles were always good and kept getting better, as did their figures. These helicopters are a good example. they are sturdy, sized right and look good. Like their M16 soldiers, the SWAT figures are well-detailed and sculpted in animated poses.
 
The Tim Mee Helicopters would make nice flat car loads for O scale, with a little modification. The Tim Mee M48 also makes a nice flat car load. A little paint work and a few minor details makes a realistic and light load.
You can get all of these toys here:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Classic Wargame Rules Free

Here is a page with downloadable copies of old Wargames Research Group rules. These are on the WRG website and are offered by the publishers free. There is also the history of the Wargames research group. Includes the older Ancients rules, World War II, and Horse and Musket eras. The re are also downloads of their popular DBA ancients rules. Find them here:
Some of these rule sets are long out of print.
 
 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World

I just finished reading Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World. 3000 BC - 500 ad Equipment, Combat Skills and Tactics. It was very informative and a pleasure to read. I did not have to flip back and forth to other references and such, which is often a problem with this type of book. The material was presented with the reader in mind. The excellent text was supported with copious illustrations.
 
Good examples were chosen to reflect the different types of warfare in this era. The reader can easily follow the evolution of warfare from the most ancient times to the end of the Roman Empire. The book took on this vast subject in sections: Infantry, Cavalry, Command and Control, Siege Warfare and Naval Warfare. The various types of troops and maneuvers were discussed, as were advances and changes in battle techniques. Readers get more than an overview, yet are spared mind-numbing minutiae.
 
Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World covers the tactical and strategic levels of combat. If you want to get a feel for warfare in the Ancient era from start to finish, this book will do it for you. You may also find it a good starting point from which to look more deeply into specific conflicts and nations.
 
There is very little on individual fighting techniques.
 
I have a few of these books, but only had time to read one other in this series. Fighting Techniques of the Colonial Era covered warfare from the time of the American Revolution into the early 20th Century. It was also very readable, dealing with everything from Colonial revolutions to warfare in exotic places. The places included North and South America, Asia and Africa. A great variety, indeed, but fascinating.
 
I recommend both books, if only for their readability. I still have two to read: Fighting Techniques of the Oriental World and Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World.
 
Next book in the slot: Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry. This book has been waiting on the shelf for a while. I hope to get a different viewpoint of Ancient Warfare.
 
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My first uniform book for the Ancient times is Weapons and Warriors 3000Bc to 1500 AD by Niels Saxtorph. I bought it almost 40 years ago. Like many of the old Blandford uniform books, it gives a pretty good look at the various armies of the era. Granted, there are a few small errors, such as the Viking chief in horned helmet. However, it is overall a very interesting work with great illustrations. (The Dark Ages 600 to 1066 by Ian Heath is another good one, though it covers the end of the Roman Empire to the Battle of Hastings. I bought it about the same time.)
 
Another good overview of uniforms is Arms and Uniforms vol I - Ancient Egypt to the 18th Century by L & F Funcken. In fact, many of its drawings look to have been improved and used in Saxtorph’s work. The coverage of the Ancient era is excellent. (They goofed on the Vikings, by the way. Obviously, I have a lot of books on Vikings.)
 
One that arrived recently is An Illustrated Encyclopedia of The Uniforms of the Roman World. It is one of several of the Encyclopedia of Uniforms series. The series itself is a mixed bag, and the "Encyclopedia" part is not quite accurate. The Roman book covers from the time of Horatio at the Gates to the later years of the Byzantine Empire. The illustrations are beautiful, though purists claim that there are a few inaccuracies. For those interested in the appearances of troops, armies and enemies of the Roman era, this is a good resource.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Classic Hand-to-Hand Combat

Here is a reprint of an article illustrating some of the hand-to-hand combat that was developed in World war II. W.E. Fairbairn put together a set of simple, basic techniques for the Home Guard. He also taught these to the OSS at Fort Richie, PA. The combat tricks in this old article are effective and have stood the test of time. If you use them you do so at your own risk.
 
 
COMMANDO COMBAT
Reprinted from the Ordnance Soldier’s Guide, published by the Ordnance Replacement Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, circa 1943, 1944
 
Although this is a war or machines, It is also a war of men. Hand-to-hand combat is an ever-present possibility. To help you take care of yourself In an emergency, we have condensed some excerpts from "Get Tough", a book written by Major W. E. Fair bairn of the British Army and published by D. Appleton-Century Company of New York. The methods of fighting shown here aren't pretty, but they're efficient. Just remember that you'll have to use the same tactics that your enemy uses - only you'll have to be better
 
First, you should learn that a blow struck with the edge of the hand is much mere deadly than a blow from a clenched fist. Always strike with the little-finger edge of the hand, using a chopping action from the elbow (Fig. I). You may swing vertically or side-ways, aiming for such points as the side or back of the wrist; the midpoint of the forearm; the biceps; the sides or back of the neck; the point just below the Adam's Apple, or the kidneys. Practice this blow by striking your own hand. (Fig. 2.)
 
In this fighting style, the counterpart of an uppercut is a Jab to the chin, delivered with the heel of the hand (Fig. 4). Wait until you're close to your opponent, and then drive your hand to his chin, with your fingers extended so as to reach his eyes (Fig.5). Again, you can practice on your own hand. The chin jab is most effective when combined with the dirtiest trick of fighting — a knee to the groin. Put the weight of your body on one leg, bend the knee of the other leg slightly, and drive your knee into your opponent's crotch. (Fig. 7.)
 
 
To overcome an enemy sentry, approach your opponent from behind and swing your left forearm against his throat, bearing on the Adam's Apple. At the same time, place your right elbow on his right shoulder, and place your right palm on the back of his head. Grasp your right biceps with your, loft hand and apply pressure. This will strangle him.(Fig. 9.)
 
Should he attempt resistance, change the position of your right hand so that the edge of your hard bears on the back of his head. A sharp pressure will then break his neck. (Fig. 10.)
 
In case you should become a prisoner, here's one way you can escape, using an ordinary penny matchbox as a weapon. Assume that you're sitting beside your captor, with a gun in your ribs. Grasp the box in your far hand, holding it as shown. (Fig. 11.) Quickly turn toward your opponent, sweeping the gun away with the near arm. Swing the clenched fist holding the match box so that it strikes your opponent behind the ear. Keep the arm straight, and make the movement as quickly as possible. (Fig. 12.) This usually results in a knockout blow.
 
To break a front strangle hold, (Fig. 13), grasp your opponent's right elbow with your left hand. With your right hand, reach across his arms and seize his right wrist. (Fig. 14.) Bear down on his left arm and swing his other arm toward your right side. (Fig, l5.) At the same time turn your body rapidly to the right. Finish up with an edge-of-the-hand blow to his right elbow. (Fig. 16.)
 
 
If he still shows signs of a fight, finish him off with the "Bronco Kick" This consists of a flying jump at your opponent. When jumping, bend your knees, (Fig.17), then when your feet are approximately eight inches above your opponent's body, straighten your legs, drive your heels into him and kill him. (Fig. 18.)
 
 
Copyright, 1942 by W.E. Fairbairn
 
This brief article was included in a small, mimeographed manual issued during World War II to Ordnance Personnel, circa 1943-1944. The manual included a variety of one and two page lessons on basic soldiering and ordnance work. Here is a link to the complete manual:
 
 
*****
Below are two additional techniques devised by Fairbairn.
 
 
Here is another choke defense. The soldier hits the extended arm in the crook of the elbow, and follows with a knee to the groin and an elbow to the face or chop to the neck. This is from a Danish manual that copied Fairbairn’s pictures. This could also be used against a push or grab.
 


The knee kick is simple. It is a thrust to the opponent’s knee. If he is still standing after the kick, scrape your boot down his shin and stomp his instep. Follow with a knee lift or chin jab. This picture is from Army Field Manual 21-150 Combatives, 1971 edition.
 
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Some friends and I started looking into military systems of close combat back in the 1970s. Reprints of many of the old books became available thanks to companies like Desert Publications and Paladin Press. I also had a copy of FM 21-150 "Combatives" 1971 edition. I had learned that style of bayonet fighting and the riot baton in the Army. I later took a course with a former Marine who taught the system Dermot O’Neill taught in Shanghai.
 
The military techniques worked well enough. I used them several times in altercations. Though I was not always unscathed myself, I had the upper hand and was able to either dump the adversary or get out of trouble.
 
If you want to be an all-around kick-ass brawler, then take up a fighting sport or martial art. Expect to devote years to training and conditioning. Those who want to be neighborhood tough guys can start saving for bail money, medical bills, fines and legal fees. If you want to be able to handle a scuffle if it emerges, the military systems work well enough. A few sessions of training and occasional practice will suffice.
 
Fairbairn’s system is simple and easy to learn. It will not make you an MMA class fighter, but it will give you the means to defend yourself.
 
You may have wondered why Fairbairn does not teach a stance. In his method, a fighter went right into action. He used no stances.(Miyamoto Musashi, the 17th century Japanese Sword master who won 60 duels, said that a stance, or "attitude" is defensive. He urged moving aggressively, negating the need for a stance. I know from my own experience that a stance only warns the opponent that you are ready to fight.) There are no fancy kicks or complex throws. Fancy tricks are useless in a real fight.
 
(Back in the 80s, I was in a diner picking up containers of coffee. Through the window, I saw a plainclothes cop and his partner hassling some fellow on the street. The cop decided to show off. He whipped a couple of flashy kicks in the air. They might have flown in a dojo, but on the street in leather shoes they were awkward and the man fell on his ass. He hit the ground hard. He successfully hurt someone: himself. The fellow they tried to hassle walked away laughing while the cop’s partner radioed for medics. Fancy tricks are for the dojo, not the street.)
 
 
I have to caution readers that the methods taught by Fairbairn (and O’Neill, Styers, Applegate and Biddle) were meant to be used against a dangerous enemy. They can do serious harm to a person. Try them at your own risk. For instance, the choke / strangle taught by Fairbairn can do a lot of harm. Another nasty one is in FM-21-150, 1971 edition, in the Basic section. I have used both chokes and they will subdue an adversary like few other techniques. They can also kill or do permanent damage. Whatever you do with this information is entirely your responsibility. You have been warned.
 
 
Another piece of advice. Do not go showing off your new hand-to-hand skills at the local gin mill. At the best, you come off as a fool. At the worst, you catch a beating from someone who is a better fighter than you. Don’t think you are suddenly a super fighter, either. These lessons are for emergencies and they work best when they are a surprise.
 
 
I remember a fellow named Orville (or something like that) who had been a paratrooper. He was taught the later version of the O’Neill method in the late 1960s. The only hand strikes taught were chops and finger stabs. This fool was in a bar and overheard someone say he had studied karate. Orville kept goading the man to show his stance. The fellow finally reneged, probably just to get the clown to leave him alone. He did a stance that used closed fists. Orville thought martial arts only used the open hand, based on a few hours of instruction in Army Basic training. He accused the man of being a phoney and decided to teach him a lesson. Orville is the one who learned a lesson that day. The man he challenged had at least enough karate training to dump the ex-paratrooper.
 
 
A very wise man told me one of the best pieces of advice ever given: Don’t be stupid. Those words definitely apply here.
 
He who looks for trouble will eventually find more than he can handle.
 
 
You can find links to Applegate’s Kill or Get Killed and O’Neill’s later system here:
 
 
Here are two books worth reading:
 
 
Get Tough, also sold as All In Fighting
 
 
W.E. Fairbairn was commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police. He developed a hand to hand combat system for his officers. Fairbairn had degrees in Judo and Chinese Boxing. Later, he refined it for instruction to the Home Guard and military. The techniques in Get Tough, several of which were given in the above article, are easy to learn and easy to use. Get Tough and All in Fighting also include stick and knife techniques. The latter has additional info on bayonet and rifle shooting.
 
 
Charles Nelson Self-Defense: Great little system based on what O’Neill originally taught in Shanghai. I took lessons from Nelson many years ago. I still have my original copy of his "red book".
 
 
I assume no responsibility for your use of these techniques. You use them at your own risk. They are dangerous and can cause serious harm. This material is presented for information only.
 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

OMOG and Our Other Games

OMOG and Other Games all at Once!
 
Here are two places from which you can download OMOG and our other toy soldier games
 
Jersey Shore Battle Games - easy games for kids and newcomers
Originally designed to play in the sand at the beach!
Operation Sandtrap War 2 to Present
Sandtrap Showdown Wild West and Civil War Game
Castle Cracker Medieval and Ancient game
Sandarticus Roman-era supplement to Castle Cracker
Muskets and Sandpiles revolutionary War and Alamo Game
Planetary Sand and Supplement for Space Games
Treasure of Sandheap Pirate Adventure game
Tanegashima Sandman rules for Samural Games
Sahara Sandstorm Foreign Legion and Colonial Era Game
OMOG - One Man One Gun Skirmish Games
OMOG Advanced 20th & 21st Century
OMOG 19C 19th century 1850-1900
OMOG Muskets 7101 - 1849
OMOK - One man One Knight Medieval Game
OMOG Oldstyle - Little Wars type game
This site also has other rules for Medieval, Franco-Prussian War, 20th century and Toy Soldier games.
      
Here is another place from which you can download OMOG and our other toy soldier games
Metalsmashing Medieval Wargame
Bucket O’ Muzzleblast Horse & Musket era Wargame
Hans und Panzer WW2 Armor / infantry Wargame
Hans und Panzer Afrika Korps Armor / infantry Wargame
Tankplank - armor-infantry wargame
Tankplank Advanced supplement (with Tankette Waltz)
OMOG - One Man One Gun Skirmish Games
OMOG Advanced 20th & 21st Century
OMOG 19C 19th century 1850-1900
OMOG Muskets 7101 - 1849
OMOK - One man One Knight Medieval Game
OMOG Oldstyle - Little Wars type game

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bucket O’ Muzzleblast - Miniature Wargame for 18th and 19th Century Battles

 
Among toy soldier collectors and wargamers, the era from 1740 to 1871 holds great fascination. More miniatures and game rules are sold for that era than for any other. Indeed, several of the most interesting conflicts in human history happened at that time. These include the Seven Years War, American Revolution, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War and the American Civil War,
Back in 2005, I had the idea of making small, easy to learn wargames that we fun and fast paced. Bucket O’ Muzzleblast evolved from several old sets of wargame rules including one by Bob Bard for the Battle of Gettysburg. The goal was to make a set that could fit everything from that era conveniently and have a good degree of realism and playability.
The other factor is adaptability. Players can adjust the rules for specific things that apply to their articular armies of conflicts. Bucket O’ Muzzleblast is easily altered to fit those specifics. It can also serve as a basis from which to develop more complex games.
Bucket O’ Muzzleblast does not require much. You need two armies of at least 20 pieces each and dice and a ruler. The artillery stick is easy to make with things found around the home or office.
Unlike our OMOG Games, Bucket O’Muzzleblast is not a skirmish game. This is a battle game where troops represent larger forces. Also, unless you have a lot of room, it is best used with smaller figures. The best would be 15mm to 30mm figures, metal or plastic. You can build an army cheaply and quickly with plastic figures. There are plastic 20mm and 25mm figures from almost any conflict from the 7 Years War to the Franco-Prussian War. They make infantry, artillery and cavalry for most armies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Useful Resource for Metal Casters / Home Casters

 
For those who like to cast their own soldiers, we have a group on FaceBook. This is a place to discuss casting with metals and other substances, show your work, share tips & ideas, get help, find resources, etc.  Here is the link:
 
 
I also have a small site that explains home casting with metal. I am hoping to expand it in the near future:
 
 
 
Happy soldiering!
 
Regards,
 
Thor