Storypost | 2020.07.26

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 sniping
Monopod build

Monopod head assembly insert carbon fiber

Still waiting on the lens, I've made headway on the monopod. I won't cut the main pole until I know how high the lens sits, but I assembled the stem piece.

Monopod build for telephoto lens

While the carbon pole and ferrule were manufactured to go together, I'm using a railing flange to connect horizontal and vertical. The flange inner diameter is a bit larger than the outer diameter of the ferrule - I could have probably purchased the right dimensions originally, but I think this will work. Naturally, any play between any pieces is unacceptable.

Monopod head assembly telephoto lens carbon fiber

Using plumbing pipe wrap, I created a press-fit lower connection, then shimmed the gap between the pieces with thin plastic and dumped epoxy into the gap. The epoxy isn't meant to bond, but rather fill the area and hold the plastic pieces in place. The real work is being done by a couple 3/8" bolts with lock washers.

Telephoto monopod head safety pins

Sliding the flange/ferrule portion into the carbon tube, I drilled holes for the lock pins that will hold the mount in place as long as I want the lens attached to the monopod. I have to clean up the drill areas a bit. Also: masonry drill bits for carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber block sheet

The flange will bolt into a rigid carbon block which will hold the standard lens mount screw.
Covid gaming

Civilization VI multiplayer

After Axis and X-Wing, Jon, Rob, and I tried a Civ 6 online game. Our 10am start time was pushed to 5pm and we eventually started the game about ninety minutes after that. A duel board size was plenty big for the three of us and two city-states.

Rob fumbled with his early empire, I did okay but stunted my civ's growth by mismanaging barbarian hordes. Jon probably had a spreadsheet with his first 500 turns planned out.

Jon tried unsuccessfully to take a city-state, then pivoted to my outermost city, thinking he could pull off a sneak attack. When he realized I was on to him, he went back and finally had the technology to conquer the city-state. Rob did some dishes.

When Jon came back at my exposed city, I had just one niter resource that was on a remote island. This ended up being critical, as Rob had no niter access. Even with gunpowder tech, I could only build musketmen in my capitol and only when Jon's knights weren't pillaging my niter mine. That was it, he rolled through a couple of my cities.

With very thin continents and the Venetian Arsenal (ship BOGO), my only hope was a flotilla of bombards on his advancing cannon. Unfotunately, until very late, Rob couldn't figure out how to agree to open borders and let my ships out of our shared bay. To his credit, Rob did eventually declare war on Jon, albeit with arrows against artillery.

I'm not sure if it was the 12am, the attrition, or the completely reasonable alliance, but Jon decided to call it there. I'm still impressed that he managed to build up and partially lose a huge attacking army while still maintaining a tech edge.

Birthday photos, the usual.

Surfing memes SUP hate
TUP party

I previously said that bond offers looked pretty dismal - not that it mattered since my expectation was to hold them until maturity. Well, I had some better results.

I bought few TUP(perware) bonds, hoping they could rebound from legal troubles (with shareholders iirc) on the back of very competitive oil prices. With 50 cents on the dollar bonds that would pay out in a year, I guess it makes sense that someone decided to offer 80 cents on the dollar. I figured I'd take the gains.

And I pulled an offer for 18% gains on Bed Bath & Beyond bonds. With a 3.75% yield and 2024 maturity, these aren't quite as attractive, but still pulled a decent market value.
Media room fin

Restoration Hardware curtains

The RH curtains took their sweet time, but they got here. The photo is overexposed, with the curtains drawn the media room gets more light bouncing down the stairs. And so I don't have to wait til nightfall to play...
The Last of Us Pt. II review Pt. II

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 creep ferris wheel

First, no spoilers

Picking up where I left off, the core gameplay has largely remained the same, with variety provided by unlocks (weapons, skills) and new enemies. The beautiful/horrific, detailed environments have not failed to deliver an immersive experience.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 boat overpasses

The boat is kind of neat, and I'm happy to have finally used the scope I crafted as my first mod.

thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie boat thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie boat rapids thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie
thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie sneak stealth kill ferns
thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie hostage knife thumbnail The Last of Us 2 TLOU2 Ellie parking garage view

Now, can we talk about... (plot spoilers)

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 Ellie flashback

First up, Ellie knowing about Joel's choice came as a bit of a surprise. It made me briefly wonder how this fits in with all of the flashbacks, but I decided it'd be best to trust the storytellers.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 WLF stadium

To quote my earlier reaction:

MeMe But you play for a few minutes as the villain. Like why?

And now it looks like there's a substantial portion of the game that's played as Abby. This is something I simply cannot get into. I'm not sure how the writers expect you to watch clips of Joel get beaten to death in front of Ellie and then somehow want to follow her story.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 Abby swim

I mean, I have a pretty good idea based on the flashbacks; we're supposed to be manipulated into thinking Abby isn't so bad.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 inciting decision flashback Abby

Yeah. Joel killed Abby's dad as he was trying to murder a child. Okay, I buy the anger. I'm not sure I buy the crusade to Jackson - dragging a team across a zombie-infested wasteland to get revenge for justifiable homicide. There may be yet more reveals, but slowly beating Joel to death with a golf club is simply beyond explanation or redemption.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 zebra barbed wire

The storytelling has moved to drawing heavy-handed parallels between Ellie and Abby. Zebra = giraffe.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 aquarium whales

Whale = dinosaur. I get it, Abby and Ellie are two sides of the same coin (which Abby collects!). They aren't though. Ellie's quest for revenge is reciprocal, Abby's was asymmetric. Jackson is (ostensibly) civilized, WLF has its own Gitmo. And now I have to watch Abby run around joke about her roomie's romantic misadventures. For a good chunk of the game. If the writers are going to convince me that Abby is okay (or that Ellie is equally bad), I'd rather that happened before the part where I have to keep her from getting killed.

The Last of Us Pt II TLOU2 sunset

But, you know, the battle for Seattle is actually kind of interesting. I really wish I didn't constantly want to run Abby into the nearest clicker, because I'd like to see what happens when the ruthless militants try to eliminate the whistling cultists. Perhaps we learn that the real monster is man.

So while I appreciate that the game is fun/frightening to play and that the story is interesting, I really wish they'd chosen one of the following:

Storypost | 2020.07.17

Weimaraner hot dog tongs barbecue dog eat dog world

July is here, that means 80-degree days/70-degree nights, bbq, and crowded beaches - despite the whole pandemic situation.

Barbecue hot link bacon wrapped Bonhomme Richard fire deep v lol Cheese Venissimo Schlossberger Big Johns Cajun La Jolla Shores Scripps

Positives: bacon-wrapped hot dogs, monthly cheese delivery. Negatives: zonies at Scripps, amphibious assualt vessels.

The nice weather does make me want to get one of these, though.

"All I know is some people keep asking me for career help and review feedback..."
Ongoing projects

Carbon fiber rod

The last item on the media room renovation is curtains. At long last I ordered a set from RH to replace the Ikea junk (er, 10-year interim solution), but wasn't super-excited about the curtain rod options. The natural choice was, of course, carbon fiber. It's a man cave after all.

With a little searching I found Rock West Composites and some Dragon one that was less up-front with their pricing. A unidirectional carbon tube came in under the RH pricing and since it's non-extendable is better looking and better for not snagging curtain rings.

ErikErik Ha! Think of the acceleration gains with that strength-to-weight ratio.

Watching Dune organizing screws

I've steadily built up a collection of unorganized bolts over the past decade. With the recent murder room improvements, it made sense to pick up some steel drawers. So evenings are now Netflix and bolt sort. I started with the pretty terrible Dune movie (the one with Sting).

Graphics processing programming downsampling

In support of my uber-nerdy X-Wing miniatures post, I wrote some graphics code to downsample images to 640x480 and ye-olde VGA color. There wasn't much code, you just have to mask off the low order bits for each channel to get the desired color depth.
Covid meta

Covid 19 coronavirus memes licking rats medieval plague doctor

Covidland has taken a turn for the worse. Not only are we getting that second wave promised by July 4 celebrations, but people are starting to politically entrench. It's kind of like the opposite of 9/11, which sounds weirdly optimistic.

Covid 19 coronavirus conspiracy masks

Somehow, masks have become more or less only issue that people talk about in the news and social media. On the one hand, you have people who think their civil liberties include not wearing certain articles of clothing in public. On the other hand, you have the mask police who fixate on that issue alone, thinking that shouting at people without visible masks is peak morality. The true path is definitely not in the middle, but rather observing the dichotomy and pretending to be better than them.

Covid coronavirus Florida wtf 5G

As the memes get more and more serious, I try to focus on the nutjobs. A guy's gotta have hobbies.

Coronavirus meme first case conspiracy satire chemtrails FEMA

... even going so far as to create some OC.

Meme Goya incident Presidential branding Idiocracy

Meme market fundamentals covid economy money printer go brrr Wile E Coyote

Seems like the market ran off the cliff a few months ago but hasn't looked down.

Unemployment statistics 2020

I'm definitely not an economist, but it's hard to imagine any situation where tanking GDP, employment, and consumer activity don't lead to at least a correction.

Cruise stock volatility kang kangaroo gang RCL NCLH CCL

Maybe work from home daytrading will keep financial services strong (except for Wells Fargo, of course) and they can prop up the economy. #Kanggang

Still, was pretty happy about my first ITM position - which was of course a call. Three Twitter contracts on the expectation of a pre-election pump (seemed to happen in '16). The stock surged almost immediately (not related to elections) so I sold the calls and took the gains. I felt like a genius when Twitter then gave admin access to sim swappers who scammed some people and prompted a service outage. But of course in this economy it meant TWTR would be up a few percent by week's end, probably because Elon's account was one of the ones used for the crypto scam.

SNE did pretty well too; I expected a pump in the lead up to PS5 (especially with 'rona), but cashed out early. On the other hand, my bear moves that expect a rug pull haven't yet worked out. It's all fun budget though, I've moved enough into bonds that I'm getting a decent chunk of the mortgage payment from bond divvies.
Socially-distant photography

Patagonia interview Todd Glazer surf photography

Gage linked me to an video Q&A that (I think) his local Patagonia was putting on with surf photographer Todd Glaser. It was a neat stream with some good technique insights and talk about pro surfing personalities.

I was a bit concerned when I jumped in and saw an image of an awesome lip turn where the camera was focused at infinity (well past the subject). He even went so far as to make the verboten statement that he often uses a narrow aperture so "more things are in focus". But then he moved on to some insane shots from Chopes and stylish small wave photos and I was quickly convinced that he's legit.

Digital camouflage lens coat

For reasons unrelated to being hyped from a cool photography talk, I did some ebaying for the gear items that I've always had an eye on. I happened upon some listings for telephotos, and here's what my research yielded:
Nikon 500mm f4
500mm f/4 vs 500mm f/5.6.

I decided to test how motivated one seller was, given the unemployment numbers and lack of people traveling or generally going outside. My $300 underbid was rejected, but not right away. Oh well. Having no other attractive options (and not wanting to bid the asking price out of pride), I was about to call it, but found one of those generic electronics houses on the east coast selling new-in-box for just a bit more than the used-but-perfect prices.

I'm - of course - wary of internet retailers, but third party reviews looked good and I'm pretty confident my financial institution will go to bat for me if the need arises.
Monopod build

Monopod build for telephoto lens

Regardless of the final disposition of the telephoto, it seemed a good enough reason to look into monopods. And what is a monopod but a curtain rod with a camera stuck on the end? Like a curtain rod, they most often telescope, but in the case of both, in use they're always the same length.

Simplify and add lightness.
- Colin Chapman
- Michael Scott

That is, other than transport and weird situations where you're shooting from a chair, you're pretty much always using the monopod at a fixed length - especially in the case of a super telephoto. Since 90% of my tele-shooting would be local and there's a substantial benefit from minimal moving parts, I thought I could come up with something at least as good as a commercial product.

At its core, it's a single tube that I expect to be about 60", depending on the final height of the lens mount. Fortuitously that meant a 78" tube could be chopped into a standing monopod and a sitting or prone monopod. BOGO.

Monopod feet

The 1.406" OD pipe (see above curtain rod) should fit nicely in a 1.5" ID standard pipe foot with a bunch of epoxy. In a sense, the foot isn't necessary, but it'll protect the pipe and maybe make swiveling a bit smoother. Since I expect to do some shooting from the shallows, having a nonmetal monopod base is good.

Monopod build flange boat railing

The single dynamic part of the design is the release mechanism - it has to be not-onerous but also support heavy, expensive equipment. I ordered a carbon fiber block to affix to the Nikon lens mount with the standard hardware. Using a marine-grade rail flange and an interior pipe from Rock West, the mount portion will slide snugly into the main monopod pipe.

Monopod build safety pins

The ferrule should ensure a stable fit, secured by two safety pins.

Monopod build safety clamp

Having not shot with a tele or monopod before, I'm fearful of accidents (one of the ebay listings showed a dented lens with "mint optics"). With a ORV light clamp, I think I can leash the monopod to a nerdy photographer vest.

Hopefully the lens thing works out and I can go shoot some surfing from the shore/jetty. Warm water also means I'm due for another nightsurf session.

... before I just used an Ikelite strobe and sometimes a flash-triggered SB800.
What if you wanted to use something larger? Rob
I know getting in the water with high voltage and homemade waterproofing sounds like a bad idea.
But hear me out.
What if you could do like a really good homemade waterproofing?

I made a sub editor info video. I must be really bored.
Thats it, except, Bash Brothers!

Storypost | 2020.07.03

The album isn't new or anything, just decided to use the art.

This is a bummer, let's talk about Nike, Fedex, and Pepsi demanding that Washington change the name of its football team.

Washington ______________?
Turd Boogers Gage
That would be more fitting Cal
In the past I've heard Warriors, Hogs, Braves, Redtails
What's all those animals? Indigenous DC wildlife?
Only the Hogs are indigenous, everything else was imported
How about Rebels hahaha Gage
Our rival high school was the rebels Cal
I mean, their fight song did used to say "fight for old Dixie" so prob some people would be happy with rebels
I'm a fan of Redtails
But that means it won't happen
This is a chance to win mascot roshambo.
You guys are in a div with Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys?
What kills all those?
Technically the bullets do.
Good point Cal
I mean, I like the Bullets, but I'm secretly hoping the Wiz go back some day
Do kidney stones count?
Sharknados Gage
Hi. It's not 2006.
Washington COVID-1776
Washington 2020, we're gonna f up your everything.
Keeping sane

Covid coronavirus zonies in Mission Beach

July 4th weekend has arrived and most of SoCal is on lockdown. Just not us. So everyone's here. Angelinos, Inland Imperials, Zonies - everyone.

I have a few welcome out-of-state visitors, but the next few days will be all about the pool and man cave.

Maybe some a.m. sessions. Derrick and I did a windy afternoon paddle out that we cut short to sponge with the girls.

Kang gang kangaroo market volatility

The kangaroo market is in effect, but I haven't done much trading.

I gained a little empirical info on bonds. Going in, I bought bonds expecting to collect dividends and then get the principal at maturity. Some of my purchases quickly gained value based on etrade's "last sale" figure. This got me curious, since cashing out for the 10% gain some of them showed wouldn't be a bad month's work. I hit the button to solicit offers and within hours got quotes for $2-3 above my purchase price (per share or whatever) where the last sale showed about $10. That's too low-ball for me. I can wait.
Bounty of Blood

I just finished the new Borderlands DLC with J; Bounty of Blood.

Borderlands 3 Rose bank

I really dig the style: a mash up between a western and Japanese art/architecture. The story features heavy narration that captures the style and tropes of westerns pretty well.

Borderlands 3 Vestige load screen

That font is awesome. Relative to other content, the style on this one is fairly low-key, but feels more like a new experience than a reskin of the core game.

Borderlands 3 jump pads splat

The DLC introduces new mechanics that are unlocked throughout the story:
Nothing revolutionary, but a good variation on the standard BL gameplay.

Borderlands 3 riding to ruin green nuke

We blasted through the story in a couple of sittings - pretty much on par with what DLCs have been and should be. The narration makes it dense enough to feel substantive, the plot is unambitious - these are a welcome change from the core game and previous DLC. The high country vibe and lack of tie-ins with the rest of the BL3 plot/universe make the DLC feel more like the first game.

Borderlands 3 memeing again they said theyd stop More Than Okay Boomer

After apologizing for memeing too heavily in BL2, Gearbox are back at it.

Borderlands 3 Jurassic Park reference

Naturally, where a western might have horses and cows, Bounty of Blood has lizard creatures. All the western tropes receive an adaptation - miracle tonics, cattle rustlers, cowboy wisdom, posses - as well as some other well-placed references. If this one isn't obvious, check the image url.

thumbnail Borderlands 3 Off the Rails Bellik Primis thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood Lucivore Rex The Name of the Law thumbnail Borderlands 3 Takedown of the Guardian Breach exploding planet
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood Blastplains load screen
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood DLC catalog thumbnail Borderlands 3 McSmugger Bounty of Blood
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood Saurdew Valley milk
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood The Ruiner thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood The Meatman Prophecy Vestige thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood Blastplains vehicle
thumbnail Borderlands 3 Bounty of Blood Smugging Saddles McSmugger poster

The lolbaters are back to exploring Europa by submarine.

After trying a few subs, we were fairly happy with the Mauser IV. It has a rail gun, shuttle, lots of storage, and a decent layout. Still, I thought the design could be improved on.

Submarine editor

Barotrauma submarine editor wiring cable tracks

I fired up the editor, not sure what to expect. It's a bit unrefined, but it's not hard to become proficient. While the game/editor is about building something in a sandbox, a lot of the visual aspects of the sub don't actually matter. E.g. compartments ("hulls") aren't defined by walls and floors, but rather by meta information you provide.

There are a lot of undocumented rules, shortcuts, and best practices. These videos covered them pretty well. While it's tedious to wire the core and ballast pumps to the con, it's neat to see how open-ended that makes designs.

Barotrauma submarine editor shell layout

Sub design appealed to the lego kid in me, so I dove in (so to speak).

Barotrauma submarine editor minisub

Inevitably you quickly start making 'assemblies'. Every design component is as primitive as can be - e.g. a storage locker has a space for an emergency light bar and nothing inside. So it's a huge time saver to affix said light and fill the locker with supplies appropriate for the part of the ship (dive, medical, engineering, etc.). No doubt the Steam workshop has a lot of these available - either explicitly or via loading up someone else's sub.

Beyond simple shortcuts, what really gets the creative juices flowing is making the sub smart. That is, the game is a struggle against enemies and the elements, so there's massive opportunity for to give the crew a fighting chance through technology. In it's simplest form, this could be placing junction boxes near each other so the mechanic doesn't have to run all over the ship to keep the electricity flowing.

Barotrauma submarine editor capacitors

But in addition to combining physical stuff, Barotrauma supports Computer Engineering 101-style wiring. That is, doors have 'toggle_state', 'set_state', and 'state_out' breakouts that you can wire to buttons, motion sensors, flashing lights. Also available are integrated circuit primitives that allow things like logic to ensure airlock doors are in opposite states. With just a few more gates, you can have some pretty neat designs.

Batteries and supercapacitors don't need to pull 100% charge rate all the time, so with some logic and the 'set_charge' and 'charge_%' pins you can progressively back off the charging. Using a relay, you can ensure batteries don't discharge while your power core is operational.

Barotrauma submarine editor wiring breakouts

My motion-triggered doors require manual activation if the water detector on the other side thinks you might get a faceful of Europan h2o.

Barotrauma submarine editor synced lights

A coilgun is nice, but when you sync two searchlights to it, tracking mudraptors is a much easier job. Divers also appreciate the extra light.

Barotrauma submarine design proximity discharge shock coil

Manually triggering discharge coils typically requires visual confirmation of enemies and for the captain to be at the con. I wired up my zappers to trigger on proximity detection. This is particularly useful for those mudraptors that appear out of nowhere while in transit. The proximity sensor has an off switch for when divers might be nearby, although it's more fun to leave them enabled.

Integrating the physical and the electrical, a bilge chamber can be used to make airlock travel much faster. When the diver is ready to re-enter the sub, the airlock drains to the bilge and the interior door can open almost immediately.

thumbnail Barotrauma submarine minisub diver swimming flooded thumbnail Barotrauma submarine docking wreckage thumbnail Barotrauma submarine combat guns thumbnail Barotrauma submarine wreckage diver
thumbnail Barotrauma submarine docking outpost

Divinity Original Sin 2 Arx Harbor Leviathan poorly parked boats

Divinity is on pause while we do some shlooting, but I'm eager to get back.

Divinity Original Sin 2 Magister Crusade Divinity Original Sin 2 Forktongue ssserve the God King Fane Divinity Original Sin 2 combat Divinity Original Sin 2 Malady ship

Storypost | 2020.07.01

X Wing miniatures TIE Advanced TIE Defender

Having wrapped up our remote Axis and Allies game, I invited Rob and Jon to play some remote X-Wing miniatures. It started with me creating some builds to choose from and quickly spiraled out of control...

I'll work out an ai faction. I'll figure out squad selection that's interactive but doesn't require any meticulous remote reading of cards. Any general requests other than having a forgiving chunk of space?
I dont remember it enough to give criteria Jon
I'm gonna level with you, the only option is lots of lore or a massive amount of lore.
I'm a lore whore Rob
Lore is special pilot/ship abilities? I'm for it. Jon
No, lore is the video/tabletop gaming term to describe the minutiae of the game's universe that has absolutely no effect on gameplay (though often gameplay elements are rationalized through lore). It's for nerds, rules lawyers, and people making fun of them. I'll give you an example...

And so it begins

Anyway, the rest of this is a wall of text and images that is, at best, something Rob, Jon, and I can look back on and chuckle. The only things that might be useful for general consumption:
Time to switch to larp mode wherein I'll use text boxes to capture our correspondence.

Basically I wanted to give you guys some control over your squads but without any binder flipping. There will be six rounds (A B B A A B), the person drafting that round will choose A or B, e.g.

A: Imperials get Vader/TIE Advanced (score = 50); Alliance gets Luke/X-Wing (score = 50)

B: Imperials get No name/TIE Fighter (score = 25); Alliance gets Porkins/Y-Wing (score = 25)

So whoever picks in a given round is choosing for both themself and their opponent. It can be whatever suits their build or it can be to keep someone out of their opponent's hands. There won't be any imbalance; for each option the units are of equal power (game mechanic to ensure balance). Note that if someone were to select B above, A doesn't drop down to the next round, it's gone forever.

If that didn't make sense, don't worry about it, it'll be clear once we hit the first round. But before that...

% rng.execute()

Rob decides if he wants to choose his pick position (A or B) or if he wants to choose his faction (Imperial or Alliance). Rob, please choose, Jon please follow up with your selection.


Faction selection

In retrospect I'm not sure I would've made the same decision. But the fact is that I wanted to get off my planet, and working as a bartender to save up to buy a ship of my own was gonna take me another five or ten years. Everyone thinks their planet is a hive of scum and villainy. Mine was just boring. And there weren't that many humans or human analogs, so the dating apps on my comlink were trash. So when the hot recruiter made me an non-binding offer to take a shuttle up to the new destroyer in our system to take a non-binding (she stressed that I would totally be allowed to come home) aptitude test I agreed. I probably would've still agreed if I wasn't bent out of shape by a hang over and the lack of coffee on my planet. She said there was coffee on the destroyer. It wasn't until much later that I learned that was a favorite trick of the Imperials, interrupting the coffee supply before recruiting a planet. I'm not even mad.

On our way up I realized why they didn't just run the tests on the planet. Seeing a destroyer in person is incredible. It was enough to get me to take my eyes off the recruiter's ass. The Imperials really know how to make a flattering uniform.

The test said I could be a pilot. I knew right then I wasn't going home. I called the bar, told them I quit, and told the recruiter I was ready for my "signing bonus."

She laughed in my face.

[Rob chooses Imperial]

I didn't go out thinking there would be any trouble. The fact is, the trouble found me. A crowd had gathered in the city and I went over to see what had happened. Apparently, those Imperial "Peacekeepers" had been just the opposite. They had ruthlessly attacked unarmed protesters in the streets claiming they were just keeping the Imperial order. As more armored goons came toward the crowd with their blast shields down, the crowd started to chant, "Bothan Lives Matter". Chaos ensued, but the people beat back the Imperialist oppressors. We managed to barricade them out of a small part of our city. It was a small victory, but the Emperor threatened to remove the city's magistrate and send in the storm troopers - the ones that are only supposed to be used for intergalactic fighting. No longer was I just a bystander, now I was a Rebel.

[Jon chooses first pick]

Round 1 [Alliance]

You step onto the Nar Shaddaa docking platform and inhale the putrid, recycled air. "Let's get this over with." Somehow this galactic hub of gray enterprise feels more inhospitable than thousands of goons blockading your hometown, forcing you to stay indoors for months on end and even drink your own urine. You look at the name of the pilots' bar scrawled on your forearm by your wookiee compatriot, "The Fourth Wall". You turn to ask the nearest protocol droid for directions, only to be met with a mechanical "echuta!".

After hours of searching you finally arrive at The Fourth Wall and, despite the inhospitable crowd, pass through unhindered. You gaze around the stools and booths, suddenly aware of the murderous glances cast in your direction. Some look away, but two seem receptive to your inquiry.

"Garven Dreis", he introduces himself. "I like to get into the fight and mix things up. My trusty R2 unit and I can do some damage if we're positioned correctly, and we can help out our wingmen." He doesn't look like he'll come cheap; back home you could probably hire two pilots for his fees.

"I rookie pilot. I fly two-v wing in space." You're not sure if he learned Basic as a second language or if he's just particularly inebriated this morning. Maybe both. You order and choke down a Corellian Speeder Bomb just to take the edge off. Sometimes the strategic decision is an economic one, surely this pilot could at least try to ram his enemies.

[Jon recruits Garven Dreis]

Round 2 [Imperial]

"So was this a promotion or demotion?" you ask the familiar face at the perpetually-empty Nar Shaddaa Imperial Recruitment office.

"More credits run through here in a day than a month on Coruscant. We don't get a lot of volunteers from dung farms," she nods at you derisively, "but there's plenty going on behind this little storefront."

"That's exactly why I'm here. I need-"

She hushes you and motions you into a back room. "Yes, I can tell from your unflattering uniform that you were either posted to scrap hauling or black ops. Since you weren't immediately spaced when you arrived, I'm guessing the latter. What do you need?"

"Well, how about that drink you promised me back at Holochron Video?"

"Do you know how many brainless idiots I promise drinks to? I'm dating way above your rank."

Looks like she isn't one to slum it. "Well I hope Lieutenant Boyfriend doesn't have any problems with his post." Down to business, "I need a few names - local pilots with high marks in aptitude but trouble with the background check."

"There are easier places to find a mirror." She works a nearby terminal for a moment and hands you a holo with just two names. "Washouts from the bomber recruitment program. They're both good, but specialize in different munitions. I don't recommend recruiting both; last I saw they were in a knife fight over who would get to date me."

"The things I do for coffee," you mutter as you head down to the undercity.

On my down to the undercity I pinged the Holonet for a good bar. The reviews for the first place recommended their signature drink, something called a Wookie Nipple. I went to the second place. There I tipped conspicuously well and asked the bartender where they liked to drink, left, and went to that bar. I messaged the pilots, had them meet me at Gonk's. Both of them seemed like they'd be able to handle the flying, but the Gamma washout drank cheap whiskey. I hired the Scimitar.

Round 3 [Imperial]

The Gamorrean grunts as you confidently stride past him, into the city's third-finest bounty auction house. These scum know who pays the most. You've found your bombers but your fighter contingent isn't up to Imperial doctrine. You look at the advertisements and chuckle at their pseudonyms. "Backstabber". "Night Beast". Are these actual pilots or younglings playing sims?

Your train of thought is interrupted as you hear a voice behind you, "You looking for a pilot?" You turn and see a Kalgashi introduce himself, "They call me Night Beast, my wingman goes by 'Lancelot'. 30 sorties, never taken a hit." Lancelot seems surprised, Night Beast corrects himself, "Well, I've never taken a shot. This isn't my first wingman, but you needn't bother yourself with that detail."

You're not sure what to say as suddenly, brushing past the two, a Gossam shakes your hand, "Anyone can flee laser fire, what you need is Backstabber to eliminate your prey." He seems to be referring to himself. You seem to be faced with a tactical choice.

Seeing as I've never heard of a Kalgashi, I recognize the incongruity of a weak Jedi mind trick.

"Backstabber, huh? Kind of a dumb name when you're looking for a job" I say.

"Yeah, well I wasn't going to let that Rodian take my spot in the Top Laser Cannon program. I'll do anything, whatever it takes to win" the Gossam replies.

"Would you drink fresh bantha milk?"

"Almost anything"

I could still feel the twist of a Jedi in my brain, but luckily the narco-spice I'd hit that morning to deal with my wretched hangover made it so I didn't have much of a mind to trick. Fucking Gonk droidtenders.

Round 4 [Alliance]

You pass a pilot-sized human with the stiff walk of an Imperial. "Did I see him in the bar, and again in the slums" you ask yourself. You brush off the feeling as you enter the sim aracade.

A crowd has gathered beneath a large screen as two simulation A-wings are locked in an epic dogfight. You turn to the bookie and see 24:22 odds favoring Jake Farrell over Gemmer Sojan. Your nose wrinkles involuntarily as you smell death. Turning, you see dark purple blood leaking from one of the sim booths. The action on the big screen tells you it was neither of the gaming aces. You quickly pick up on their preferred maneuvers; Farrell tries for the difficult task of taking the attacking position behind his rival A-wing. Sojan, on the other hand, appears to prefer missile strikes while deftly avoiding his opponent's laser fire.

You see Farrell swing around behind Sojan, trying to line up an attack as Sojan dives toward the debris of a Nebulon frigate. "Take the shot!" You glance at a nearby Lannick clutching credit chits in one hand and bookmaker slips in the other.

[Jon recruits Gemmer]

Round 5 [Alliance]

Another day, another scavenger hunt. The Alliance informant at the den of iniquity had given you another lead to follow up on - in the standard fashion of hand drawn letters on your arm. Clandestine operations really aren't as sophisticated as they're made out to be.

At least this tip included a district name to go with the business name, you glance at your arm, "[UR] Revan". Yep, this is the UR block, and... there's Revan Mining Corp. "Corp" may only be a technical designation, the place looks like a pod repair shop. And smells the same.

You look around the shop as the screen behind the desk shows clips of modified B-wings blasting asteroids apart, text crawls by in numerous languages, "You point, we shoot!" It doesn't require a very keen eye to see spice bursting from some of the asteroids in the advertisement. You probably shouldn't have expected anything different given your chain of referrals.

A man strides out from the back room, "Welcome to Revan Mining, my name is Keyan."

[Jon recruits Keyan]

Round 6 [Imperial]

"The things I do for coffee," you mutter as you squeeze through the maintenance hatch and onto a catwalk suspended hundreds of feet above an enormous wastewater cistern. You need just one more recruit for your dark forces and on the universal praise of your current team, the best choice left in the city is, well, an exterminator. While his job includes deftly maneuvering a parasite extermination drone through the tight conduits of Nar Shaddaa's vital systems, he clearly performance the manual portions of the job as well.

"Hullo, what brings you all the way down here?" A grimy man in overalls extends an even grimier hand as he emerges from a steaming vent. "Sign said I'd be back in the office tomorrow."

You decide not to mention that the disappearance of his competition - Tarn Mison - forced you to take immediate action. "I'm looking for a pilot. The job is... dangerous."

He doesn't bat an eye, "Is the money good?"

"Well I don't know what you make here..."


At least there was an easy part.

He continues, "I'll need a few days in the sim, what do you want me to train on?"

[Rob recruits Tempest Squadron TIE Advanced]

Draft recap

X Wing miniatures scenario draft Empire

These handy graphics were useful for identifying each unit as well as helping with friend/foe maneuvers.

X Wing miniatures scenario draft sheet Alliance

Another phase, another lore. I sent simple briefings to each player containing to-scale squares that could be used to help determine starting formations. I also provided a visual guide for movement - seemingly the hardest part of remote play.

TIE fighter mission briefing X-Wing mission briefing Admiral Ackbar X-Wing miniatures movement templates Y-Wing TIE Interceptor

Rob started in formation, pointed toward the center of the map. Jon had a mind to split his forces and flank his enemies.
The battle

Round 1

X Wing miniatures B Wing A Wing X Wing pixelated

Plot twist! After moves were decided, I introduced the scenarioization: our Imperial and Alliance squadrons drop out of hyperspace to find bounty hunters chasing smugglers. Each neutral faction contacts the newcomers over lore comms:

I left the AI rules of engagement secret to the players, but they were:

At best, they could be aggroed, at the worst, they're just cross traffic.

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
Rob pushed for the center of the map, possibly tipping his next moves by barrel rolling his formation toward the Alliance A-Wings. With no collisions or other mishaps, he kept all seven cannons trained in the same direction, most within range of Howlrunner's buff.

Jon "Jon Gruden" Ritchie opened by sending his A-Wings out to the right, X-Wings out to the left, and his heavy hitters slowly down the middle. Would he have stuck to this plan if intelligence had made him aware of the nearby craft?

No shots were fired by players this round, however in the activation phase Jon took target locks on both a smuggler and a bounty hunter. The Z-95s did a whole lot of nothing against the E-Wings

1 5 straight
2 5 straight
1 5 straight
3 5 straight
4 4 straight
2 3 straight
3 4 straight
4 5 straight
5 5 straight
6 5 straight
5 4 straight
6 2 straight
7 5 straight

Round 2

X Wing miniatures A Wings

Per AI rules, the bounty hunters did not take too kindly to Jon's target locks.

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
Rob decided to ignore the neutrals and try to finish the isolated A-Wings in one go. He maneuvered all of his adjusted-formation TIEs directly for the Alliance interceptors, taking actions that match their offensive strength.

Jon veered his A-Wings aggressively toward the TIEs, possibly expecting to catch their flank as they - in his mind - might move to engage his main forces. Note Jon claimed a retcon on the positioning of his A-Wings; he wanted the lower skill pilot on the inside. Rob gracefully allowed it.

The range 2-3 exchange between seven TIEs and two angry A-Wings resulted in the loss of each side's lowest-skill pilot. Each red shirt required a missile to take down.

On the other side of the map, Jon took a couple pot shots at the bounty hunter Firespray.

1 3 bank left
2 3 bank left
1 3 bank left
3 3 bank left
4 3 bank left
2 1 straight
3 2 turn right
4 3 bank left
5 3 bank left
6 3 bank left
5 2 bank right
6 1 straight
7 3 bank left

Round 3

X Wing miniatures HWK

Jon attempted to feel the neutral factions out with some radio banter:

@bounty hunters: You bathe!?!

@smugglers: That should get his attention! Head right at those Imperials. Well take out the FireSpray and you can hit those TIEs at point-blank range. ANTIFA. ANTIFA. ANTIFA.

They replied:

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
Conflicted about whether to continue his attack on the A-Wings (now singular) or turn to cover his flank, Rob decided on the latter. Using a combination of 2-turns and 3-turns, he steered into Jon's approach as well as the neutral cross traffic. This may have actually worked in Rob's favor, as his TIE Advanced caused a five-ship pileup that deprived Jon of two actions.

With his remaining A-Wing exposed, X-Wings steaming the wrong direction, and heavy hitters in danger of being the next target, Jon was in a bind. His Y-Wing needed range to use its munitions and his B-Wing needed to be in the fray to use its autocannon. Neither was looking particularly likely, so he turned into the storm, hoping for the best.

In retrospect, if Jon still had his skill-1 A-Wing, he could have steered it into the turning TIE ball and wreaked havoc on Rob's formation, actions, and ability to close the gap to Jon's less agile ships. What's more, the hopeless bounty hunters again played blocker and caught the X-Wings before they could complete their maneuvers.

By design and possibly by default, Rob focused fire on the teed up Y-Wing. It was both low on agility and carrying a load of unused munitions. Jon's hope was for it to survive long enough to fire back (with pilot skill 2). It did accomplish this, but was left only with a range 1 shot on the nearby TIE Defender since its torpedoes were range 2-3 and it didn't have a target lock on anything that far out.

Fortune favored Rob in this round; Jon's unavoidable autoblaster rolled blanks against the range 1 TIE Advanced. Jon did manage some damage against it with his X-Wings.

2 3 turn right
3 3 turn right
4 3 turn right
2 1 bank right
3 4 straight
4 5 k-turn
5 2 turn right
6 2 turn right
5 3 turn right
6 3 bank right
7 2 turn right

Round 4

X Wing miniatures B Wing TIE Interceptor Firespray

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
I don't think Rob considered pressing his advantage with small moves, he instead opted for k-turns and veering out of the path of the oncoming rebels. His positioning and initiative left him in good shape to execute uninterrupted k-turns and set himself up to strike his opponents from behind. He sent his rearguard bomber and fighter toward the only daylight within reach, meaning they would be temporarily out of the battle. Was it an attempt to bait the Alliance forces into a bomb? Sadly, no.

Jon's options were limited based on the traffic jam in front of him and accidentally sending his initial maneuvers over unencrypted public comms. He could see the k-turns coming, but could do nothing about them, aside from potentially barrel rolling his B-Wing if it avoided another collision. It did not avoid another collision. Jon's A-Wing cleared its stress and turned back into the fray, but was too far out to do much damage rolling 2 attack dice versus 3 defense.

Jon immediately gave himself a glimmer of hope by oneshotting Backstabber with his autoturret. The Imperial forces with targets in arc focused on the shielded but low-agility B-Wing and managed to wear it down to one hull point.

The neutrals remained neutral, content to exchange fire as the smugglers slowly moved toward the hyperspace nav relay.

2 4 k-turn
3 4 k-turn
4 3 turn right
3 2 bank right
4 2 turn right
5 4 k-turn
6 5 k-turn
5 1 straight
6 1 straight
7 3 turn right

Round 5

X Wing miniatures TIE Advanced TIE Defender X Wing

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
Rob's formation flying was finally coming apart after surviving a pass through cross traffic. His ordnance-laden bomber and force-multiplying Howlrunner were headed in the wrong direction and needed to k-turn. Rob's Interceptor/Defender/Advanced combination still packed a punch and were conveniently behind most of Jon's remaining fighters.

Jon was determined to get a final parting shot with his autoturret - that meant keeping his B-Wing alive through Howlrunner's attack. Tarn needed to turn back into the fight, Jon elected to k-turn and focus on the nearer cluster of ties. With the benefit of pilot skill/late movement, Jon elected to let Garven remain behind the TIEs off his starboard. Finally, Jon sent his A-Wing after the outbound bomber and Howlrunner, performing a boost to try to get into +1 attack range.

Keyan survived Howlrunner's attack, but completely missed the Kir Kanos. Dice simply were not in Jon's favor. They even mocked him by letting his attacks on Rob's TIE Advanced take it down to a single hull point. The already-damaged A-Wing took a critical hit and would be rolling with less agility for a while.

Elsewhere, the bounty hunters finally destroyed the HWK smuggler, but hadn't done much to the agile E-Wings.

2 2 straight
3 2 straight
4 4 k-turn
3 4 k-turn
4 3 bank right
6 2 straight
5 1 bank right
6 1 straight
7 4 k-turn

Round 6

X Wing miniatures

Summary ID Unit Maneuver
The battle was Rob's to lose, but he looked like he was giving it a solid effort with his first moves - crashing his Advanced and Defender into his own Interceptor even though they were the first units to move, all with the goal of executing a k-turn. As expected, this turned out quite well for him. In keeping with his tactical doctrine, Rob executed k-turns on everyone departing combat and slowed incoming units to have targets in arc as long as possible.

Jon needed a last-ditch swing of luck combined with maneuvers to keep his wounded fighters out of TIE arcs. Rob's circle of death could have only been escaped at the cost of having offensive shots, so Jon elected to stay on target.

When Jon failed to score the final hit on Rob's T/A with two attacks, he knew he had a date with an Imperial interrogator drone, so he gave in to his fate.

2 4 k-turn
3 4 k-turn
4 1 straight
3 4 straight
4 2 turn left
6 5 k-turn
5 4 k-turn
7 2 straight
Some pngs I used for mapping

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