Zeppelin Warfare

Attack Of The Zeppelins appears to be a Channel4 production and is offered in the UK, but I can’t see that from here :( However, it is on the National Geographic Channel (for the US?) and SBSOnDemand for Australia.

Design and Construction

All the Zeppelins were build using Aluminium frames because of the relative lightness when compared with iron or steel. This makes the ability to refine Aluminium a necessary precursor technology to enable lighter than air flight.

Zeppelin gas bags were made from cow’s intestines, which are relatively gas tight, loosing a little more than the modern 10-15 cubic meters per day. Typically, a zeppelin would have multiple gas-bags, so that if one failed the others could still keep the airship afloat.

During WW1, the volume of cow’s intestines needed stopped the eating of the national dish, the bratwurst. Rain on skins, would increase the weight of the Zeppelin and reduce it’s ceiling altitude.

At an altitude at 21,000 ft. the effects on the human body! are quite pronounced. The example they give in the program show that the lack of oxygen reduce muscular strength and cognitive function. (ie the presenter had problems standing and spelling words)

The Germans used sub-cloudcar, to guide the zeppelin it to the target. An operator would sit below the cloud layer and radio up directions to the hidden Zeppelin. They were loaded two types of unguided bombs high explosive and Incendiary.

Counter-measures

To counter the Zeppelin threat the British used Sound Mirrors placed along the coast. The sound mirror was a concert structure that captures and directs sound waves to a listener, who would then direct the Flak guns. However, this proved ineffective as the gun would have to match angle and distance to score a hit.

Then the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) tried using the BE2c aircraft with a Lewis machine gun to attack the airships from below. The machine gun was too weak leaving just small holes from which the gas would leak out, but at such a slow rate that the airships could still continue with their mission.

A flaming bullet was developed for the machine gun to ignite the Hydrogen gas in the balloon. The incendiary bullets made from Phosphorous, but this did not explode the Hydrogen because there was not enough Oxygen to cause a fire.

Explosive bullets made with nitro glycogen were designed to blow holes in the Zeppelin skin. These were alternated with the incendiary bullets in the machine guns, but it still required concentrated fire (A technique pioneered by Leaf Robinson) to cause the fire to down a Zeppelin.

Additional Sources of Information

Osprey’s London 1914–17 The Zeppelin Menace provides a great over view of the Zeppelin attacks on London. Osprey has other Zeppelin related books, but I have not read them yet. The Zeppelin Base Raids – Germany 1914 and Zeppelins: German Airships 1900–40.

Birth of bioware

Jewelry That Harvests Energy From Your Veins. It’s very Cyberpunk, although it was know as bioware. In Cyberspace, it was the expensive power system for most of your implants. And I don’t remember Shadowrun talking about it, but it’s hard to tell from all the Elves and Dragons running around in the future.

It’s interesting and kind of cool to see the technology we are developing emerge from the games I’ve played. It’s added to the list along with;

  • the cyber eye created at Berkeley, well an external camera wired into the visual cortex, and
  • the neural-switch invented elsewhere.

Oxygen stripper

The science behind this weapon is a crystal that absorbs Oxygen (See Science DailyIFLScience or PopSci) for release later. The fact “A bucket full (10 litres) of the material is enough to suck up all the oxygen in a room.” is not much use on the surface of a planet, but in confined spaces like airlocks, or small rooms where it will take some find for the oxygen (O2) to return to breathable levels it has some potential. The other important thing about this substance it that it will release the O2 when there is a lack of oxygen or when heated.

One option is for the long term storage of O2 on spaceships, or for oxygen scrubbers that strip out the oxygen of the carbon dioxide (CO2.) to enable better life support systems. With heat releasing the oxygen when needed. A similar system could be create for deep sea exploration to remove the O2 from the water for use in the submarine.

Another option is a 2 kg aerosol canister can release this in a powdered form as a knock-out weapon for boarding actions on spaceships. Although the clean up would be difficult with the substance getting everywhere. A better idea maybe a trap, where the canister is opened the characters enter the room.

This will result in Hypoxia to the body and brain (Cerebral hypoxia). According to Wikipedia the list of symptoms for hypoxic hypoxia are: Cyanosis, Headache, Decreased reaction time, Impaired judgment time, Euphoria, Visual impairment, Drowsiness, Lightheaded or dizzy sensation, Tingling in fingers and toes, & Numbness. All of which can be experienced by mountain climbers and other people who are about 10,000 feet.

Battletech links

I recently found a list of battletech related sites, but it’s a mixed bag of resources.

  • sarna.net – Best site (wiki) I’ve found for Battletech based information from mechs to history to the worlds.

Languages in games

In many RPGs language is a last consideration, if at all. However, the use of different languages in a game can dramatically influence the flavour of the world. Having barriers to easy communication can add new challenges for the players, can create ways of including or excluding players, and can open up secrets to the players.

Ordering food from the tavern or inn when you do not speak the tongue can give some comic role playing opportunities. Things like bartering the price on some new horses also points to cultural differences. For example, in the first Hobbit movie the Dwarves of Thorin’s company dislike the Elven food of Rivendale, which shows up the differences between to two cultures and how they interact with the wider world.

Another situation is when one or two players can talk among themselves, but exclude others. For example, again in the Hobbit, when Gandalf and Elrond speak in Elvish they excluded the Dwarves who react negatively. This again shows up cultural differences.

The final point about languages is when NPCs, or villains assume that the PCs do not understand them. For example in Monument Men, a US soldier is standing close by the captured German soldier and over hears their conversation, which leads to the gaining of additional information.

Overall, the use of multiple languages can add richness to your worlds, but it must be done with care, because it can create barriers that can divide the group and distract from what you want to achieve in the campaign. I’d always make sure that every group does have a common tongue that they share, like Common in D&D. It’s best used sparingly to enhance the drama, not to restrict it.

Adjusting Terrain for Miniatures Bases

Antenocite’s Workshop’s post on how big should doors be, covered the sizes for 18mm, 15mm, 10mm, and 6mm miniatures. I wanted to do the same for 25mm, 28mm & 30mm miniatures, but to include buildings, windows, and other common objects as well. Adapting Figure Scale from Wikipedia I’ve built a reference table, but as I noted in a previous post this is not exact.

Scale Figure Ht mm/foot
1:61 30 mm 5 mm/ft
1:64 28 mm 4.76 mm/ft
1:73.2 25 mm 4.16 mm/ft
1:76 25 mm (old) 4 mm/ft

Now the only problem is the base the miniature is on. it’s a standard 3 mm addition to all the heights, the door article explains the why. So I’ll be adding 3 mm to all the heights , below,

Wall height

Most rooms tend to have an 8 foot (2438.4 mm), 10 foot (3048 mm), or 12 foot (3657. mm) ceiling.

Scale 8 ft Ceiling 10 ft Ceiling 12 ft Ceiling
1:61 43 mm 53 mm 63 mm
1:64 41 mm 51 mm 60 mm
1:73.2 36 mm 45 mm 53 mm
1:76 35 mm 43 mm 51 mm

Door sizes

Looking at the standard 2040 mm high by 820 mm wide door, the numbers boil down to.

Scale Height Width
1:61 36 mm 13 mm
1:64 35 mm 13 mm
1:73.2 31 mm 11 mm
1:76 30 mm 11 mm

Windows

Windows tend to align with the top of the doors, so use the number above. The common height above ground is 3 feet (914.4 mm). The widths vary a great deal, with windows range from 19¼ in (488 mm) wide up to 69¾ in (1770 mm) wide.

Scale Height Width
1:61 18 mm 8 mm - 29 mm
1:64 17 mm 8 mm - 28 mm
1:73.2 15 mm 7 mm - 24 mm
1:76 15 mm 7 mm - 23 mm

Tables & Workbenches

Scale Height
1:61 14 mm - 23 mm
1:64 13 mm - 22 mm
1:73.2 12 mm - 19 mm
1:76 12 mm - 19 mm

Chairs

Scale Height
1:61 9 mm - 11 mm
1:64 8 mm - 11 mm
1:73.2 8 mm - 10 mm
1:76 8 mm - 10 mm

Above are common sizes for some other common wargames figures, but it’s not everything. For all of the tables of data, I’ve worked from modern Anthropometric and Ergonomic sources. Which is great of modern and near future terrain features. But when creating objects for medieval (or fantasy) you will need to consider historical references or to create the look right through educated guess work. And for Sci-fi, you will have to stick to the design principles by considering it’s function and form. (ie what it will be used for and how to make it look futuristic)

The principle is the calculate the scaled height of the object or feature and then add 3 mm for the miniature base to create the illusion of the correct scale. But do not add the 3 mm to the width of objects as it will distort the size when compared to the miniature.

Miniature Scale, Rescaling and design

What is scale and why is it important for miniatures? It seams like an obvious question, but with miniature gaming it is important to know the scale of what you are creating, how to best manipulate scale to your advantage and to know how much space the gaming table will take up.

With miniature gaming there are two numbers to consider, the scale and the figure height. The scale is the ratio the object is shrunk and the figure height is the approximate height of a 173 cm male (5′ 8” in the imperial system). Some of the common scales are 5 mm (1:300) or 6 mm (1:285) used for micro-armour games such as Battletech and Epic. Along with the 25 mm & 28 mm using in RPGS, like D&D or Pathfinder, and Wargames, like Warhammer40K, Warmachine, or Infinity.

However, this is where things can get complex. GW in their aim to make their minis more impressive made the 25 mm Heroic scale, which is slightly larger that 25 mm and then did the same with the 28 mm Heroic, has lead to some variations in scale. This has been common among miniature companies Even Wikipedia does not agree with it’s self with with 28 mm being 1:56 and 1:64.

There are two useful number to have when designing miniatures or terrain. The first is the figure height, which can be found by dividing the height of a average person (1730 mm) by the scale. And the second, is the scaled foot, which is found by dividing a foot (304.8 mm) by the scale.

Rescaling

It’s all about scale includes these two scale conversion charts (below), and covers why scale is important. In the end the only question should be does it look right and for 28mm anything between 1:56 up to 1:72 should be ok.

Converting between common miniature scales.

Converting between common miniature scales.

A simpler conversion chart with train and miniature scales.
A simpler conversion chart with train and miniature scales.

Designing to scale

Since we are designing miniatures and models for gaming. We need to look at Anthropometric, or the measurement of humans. There is a wealth of information in this field, although most of it is only useful in defining the common sizes of people or our miniatures. It’s the application of this idea, Ergonomics, that becomes very useful because it forms the foundations used in the design of products (industrial design), clothing design, houses (architecture), among any others design fields. So in a nut shell everything we use is designed for the human scale and changing scales by guess work can lead to time wasted on a modelling project.

it is also worth looking at the designs of the experts, such as Bauhaus, a German school of design founded in the 1920s that has influenced the modern world. The most well known item to come out of the school is the Bauhaus chair.

Of all the chairs to come out of the Bauhaus, this is the one that commonly comes to mind. Designed my Marcel Breuer, the Wasilly chair is a mix of steel and leather, using no more material than is absolutely needed, while providing maximum comfort. It's a design you'll still find in homes today.
The Bauhaus Chair

Scaling Vehicles

The next step up from everyday objects tend to be vehicle, and Antenociti’s Workshop covers the subject in such excellent design in If I base my figures how big should my vehicles be, that why would I try to do it here.

Also I’d be considering the rescaling tables above to hunt out die-cast kits for cars, and even scale model trains for terrain and buildings.

Scaling Building

Finally there are building, which are usually designed around people and sometimes vehicles. When working on architecture the placement of Windows & Door, and how big should they be.

And finally, if you add a base to your miniature is changes the look of everything.

 

The Process for Designing Terrain

How do you go about designing good miniature terrain to conduct battles on? Is there a process you can or should follow? When trying to answer these questions I tend to examine what others do and then apply it to my own design process.

Below is the design process that Battleboards.co.uk follows when creating their boards. The finished products are wonderful set pieces for miniature games, however, as I said earlier I’d prefer small tile-able terrain that is easily packed away. However, the design on paper, refine on computer, before committing to physical thing is a excellent fundamental practice.

I tend to start with sketches on paper, as I build up the idea. That way bad or ill considered ideas can be left, and any potential problems can be found before building a large expensive mistake.

It’s something I remember from Engineering, that for a $1000 product if you catch a defect after the sale stage it costs $2500 in product recall and such. But in the design stage it’s $0.03 

Design Considerations

So it pays well to deeply consider how to design anything, and in this case miniature terrain. They can be broadly split in to the two groups of form and function. Form or Aesthetics is the consideration of the look of an object, where Function is more focuses on it’s operation and use. A good place to start are Design elements and principles, and the Engineering Design Process.

There are a bunch of things you should think about before making or buying terrain. These questions should be focused on things like;

  • How you plan on using it?
  • What your budget it?
  • The time needed to make it or acquire the parts?
  • What scale of miniature is it designed for?
  • And others I can not think of at this point…

So for this project I’m setting out what I’m aiming for.

  1. Storage. Do to limited space I need to be able to easily store the parts
  2. Quality. I want have it look good and to make good stuff, because If I can help it, I don’t want to do it all again, or to spend time repairing it.
  3. Scale. I play Warmachine, Warhmmer40K, and Patherfinder/D&D amoung others. All of which tend to be 25-28mm scale.
  4. Variability. I like to be able to mix-up my terrain to suit the individual situation or scenario, because I get bored easily with the same tactical battle.