Hello again, everyone! Today, I thought I’d share some new artwork from the Saucer War One Invasion ’52 sourcebook which will be released with the actual game when it becomes a physical reality. (Stay tuned to find out just when that should be.) Let me reveal the blueprints of the NS-97 Silvercat!
This was ANTIC’s primary fighter in the opening days of Saucer War One. Rushed into service just in time to thwart the Noordican attempt to land on Washington DC in July, 1952, it was lightly armed and slow compared to the incredible machines thrown into the fray towards the war’s end. Nevertheless, the Silvercat was well liked by its pilots, and many of CAPER RED’s aces scored their first kills in this agile craft, defending the skies of North America.
When it becomes a 1/200 scale miniature, the Silvercat will be 53mm in diameter. It will have the option to carry an armament of either four 30mm cannons, or twenty air-to-air rockets.
Credit where Credit is Due
The Silvercat is very heavily based on a real lenticular aircraft design from 1950. Or more accurately, on a model of that design, which was a concept by this man – Nick Stasinos (in bowtie).
Stasinos was a graduate of a college programme run by Northrop Aviation — the people who built iconic American aircraft such as the P-61 Black Widow, the F-5 Freedom Fighter, and more recently, the suspiciously alien-looking B2 Spirit stealth bomber.
Clearly influenced by the sudden and dramatic rise in flying disc sightings since 1947, in 1950 Stasinos designed and built this neat study model of his NS-97 fighter. Sadly, it seems Jack Northrop wasn’t that impressed, because the NS-97 was never taken further than this. (Or was it…?)
Sadly, Nick Stasinos left behind a promising career in aeronautics for the life of an insurance salesman. Or maybe he actually went to work for JAPE — ANTIC’s R & D department — and the insurance gig was merely the cover he was given by the agents of PRANK to conceal his part in the war to protect the Earth?
You’ll have to wait for the Invasion ’52 sourcebook to discover the incredible truth of this and other secrets of the war we never knew!
Trigger Cards and why there are no dice in Saucer War One
Hello, Miniaturists! Welcome back for another game design-related article, as we navigate through the process of bringing Saucer War One to reality. Today, I’m revealing the Trigger Card, which provides the mechanism for random events. Let’s take a look.
In terms of the ‘look’ of the cards, I’m trying for a ‘nose art pin-up’ feel, but with a retro sci-fi vibe. The illustrations are not mine; they are the work of the talented Dan Morton, (part of his Stellar Queens folio), and are there entirely as ‘placeholder’ art, until I commission some bespoke artworks. But, they give you a feel for what I’m aiming at.
Incidentally, if anyone has a website for Mr. Morton, I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a link in the comments; I’d intended to provide a link in this article, but no site can I find.
I’ll talk more about the artwork later, but right now, let’s break down the symbols on a Trigger Card…
Each Trigger Card displays a Randomizer Number from 1 – 12 in three places. (That’s just to make it easier to read the number regardless of the card’s orientation.) This is used in the same way as a normal twelve-sided dice (D12) and most commonly tells us if a Crew Check has passed or failed.
The Grav Shield Result tells you if your Saucer’s Grav Shield bounced an incoming Hit, or if the Hit got through the Shield, inflicting Damage.
The Damage Result tells us how many Pulses a Saucer loses as a result of taking Damage. The number is sometimes replaced with a Critical Hit Symbol, which is bad for whoever is on the receiving end, as Critical Hits inflict special effects such as disabling a Weapon, bashing the Crew around, or making you explode, scattering you as debris all over a ranch in New Mexico. (What, again??)
“So why not just include a D12 in the game? Wouldn’t that cover all these random elements, aided by a written table or three?” I hear you growl.
Fair question! Read on, and things will become clear.
Fractions for Factions
Trigger Cards come in decks of 36 cards, with each deck customised for each faction; Hence the changes in colours and Faction Icons. This is not merely for appearances’ sake. The proportions of certain results change from Faction to Faction, reflecting their different technologies and doctrines.
For example, the Noordicans have the best Grav Shields, so their Trigger Deck has a higher number of ‘bounce’ results than the Grav Shield Results of the other Factions.
Similarly, there are features on some Faction’s Saucers that just don’t appear on those of their rivals, so those features need only appear as Critical Hits on that Faction’s Cards.
In other words, customising a Deck to its Faction elegantly avoids many of the ‘special rules’ that are such a feature of wargames which utilise one dice type as their randomiser. It also allows a lot more finesse when fine-tuning results to achieve factional balance, without the need to add more rules to ‘beef up’ or ‘nerf’ a faction which becomes too powerful.
And, if players agree, they can swap certain cards in and out of the Decks, customising results to their tastes! Does your gaming group like to see Saucers exploding in droves? Add more lethal Critical Hit Cards! Using Saucer War One for combat in a RPG, but don’t want to kill your characters too easily? Take out the Crew Hit results. The possibilities are endless.
Yes Cheesecake but no Beefcake?
Now that we’ve looked under the hood of the Trigger Cards, let’s take another look at the bodywork.
When I went Googling for images of sci-fi pin-up art, I knew I wouldn’t find much material in the masculine form. Pin-ups are overwhelmingly female in subject, and sadly, often demeaning.
This may be perfectly fine from an historical perspective. Much of the past was a sexist place, the 1950’s doubly so.
But for the men and women fighting side-by-side in Saucer War One, there’s no room for such nonsense!
ANTIC in particular has a deliberate policy of ignoring a pilot’s sex during selection; either you’re good enough, or you’re not, genitals notwithstanding.
The Mondreich can hardly pick and choose, up there on the Moon, and besides, they’re ruled by a mysterious woman with remarkably long hair…
The Noordicans have been through the population-shrinking horror of nuclear war, and have no time to debate the roles of the sexes. For the denizens of Venus, the grains in the hourglass are running out…
This is a little closer to what I have in mind; a character who can appear sexy, dynamic and in control of her situation, unlike the Fay Dunaway stand-in below.
So, I liked the idea of adding beefcake to my cards, alongside the cheesecake. But there’s an acute lack of good-looking beaus in goldfish bowl helmets from this era. Most of them are portrayed wearing very unsexy rubber diving suits. Who the heck was their tailor?
So, I seem to have a quest in the future, to find an artist who can create a balance of male and female pin-ups, each equally appealing and dynamic. If you can think of someone, I would love to get their details!
I’m also thinking it might be neat to offer a Kickstarter stretch goal that enables a backer to become immortalised in a card. Do you think that might be a fun option?
That’s all for today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the mechanics and philosophy of Saucer War One. Next time, we will move onto the Weapons with which the Saucers blast each other out of contention!
A treat for you all today – here’s a nice 3-view illustration of a stalwart of the Noordican’s sky-fleet: the Biga Gamma-Type Scout Saucer.
10.6m (35ft) in diameter with a crew of three, the Biga is the smallest of the ‘sky chariots’ inherited by the Noordicans from the Annunaki after their alien ‘gods’ fled from Venus and Earth 16,000 years ago. It is a very limited, short-ranged design that is dependant upon the giant Great Galley motherships for interplanetary travel. Usually armed with only a single Gravgun chamber which can fire through either of two emitters, the Biga is not exactly a terror of the skies. Its compact ‘turret’-style cabin is equipped with basic flight controls and average sensors.
Yet in spite of these limitations, the Biga is the most successful of all Annunaki saucers. Possibly built in the millions during the multi-millennia reign of the Annunaki, the Biga is durable, dependable, and perfectly capable of matching just about anything that ANTIC can build of the same size. Even with an average pilot at its helm, a Biga can run rings around anything larger than itself, and outdistance anything else.
Sadly, Bigas have developed an undeserved reputation as unsafe and unstable craft because they seem to have a propensity for crashing all over the Earth. In fact, since 1936, it is estimated that no less that 41 Bigas have come down in forests, smacked into mountains, or scattered themselves all over New Mexican ranches. In truth, these incidents were almost always because of the inexperience of their pilots, or an encounter with some unexpected Earthling technology that blew a Biga’s ancient fuses.
Biga’s have become infamous for their role in the Noordican campaign to return to Earth, and the often disastrous mistakes made along the way. It was a Biga that was naively handed over to the Nazi Thule Society, and was retro-engineered into the Haunebu saucer programme. A Biga crashed outside the town of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, its gravity field inverting and compressing its crew into small, deformed corpses.
And most notoriously, it was a Biga that delivered Orthon, commander of the Earth Expedition, to Desert Center, California, in 1952. There, Orthon met one George Adamski, and started the Contactee Movement which led to riots, massed marches, and nearly succeeded in overthrowing several governments in the early 50’s.
What’s that? You never heard of any of this stuff? You think it’s all just a pile of debunkable looniness? Good. That means ANTIC has done its job really well…
More 3-views to follow soon, including ANTIC’s super-secret Silverhound fighter-saucer, and the Mondreich’s huge Maria class Koenigsuntertasse battle-saucer!
Why Visual Identity is Essential in a Game’s Storyline
Since the dawn of eyeballs, Humans have relied on symbols, icons and logos to quickly and positively recognise the meaning of a thing. We see this all around us, every day; the use of a crucifix to identify a Christian place of worship; a blue, white and red roundel proclaiming an aircraft as belonging to Britain’s Royal Air Force, and huge, curved, yellow ‘M’s that tell us “Caution: Unwanted kilos ahead!”
Wargamers are particularly aware of the important role that identity plays in their appreciation of their tiny warriors. The look of an army is just as significant as how it performs on the table. That’s why they labour for hours, covering fingers, furniture, and occasionally models with paint, decals and varnish. Even the most die-hard, tournament-centric, power-gamer will usually concede that a well-painted force, upon which much attention and detail has been lavished, is a thing of beauty, and something its creator can justly take pride in.
But how can identity apply in a game about flying saucers? Do saucers even have identity?
Every Club needs a Badge
Back in the days when knights in full armour hammered each other with sword and mace, there was a great need to distinguish foe from friend on the battlefield. When your visibility is limited by an armoured visor, or because you’re reeling from the anvil chorus being played on your noggin, you have to be able to identify the good guys from the baddies — fast!
To achieve this, knights and their followers took to wearing some form of identifying mark, and a clear combination of colours that left no doubt of their allegiance. This was known as a ‘livery’ and it formed the foundation for European heraldry. We continue this tradition to this day, in both military markings and sport team strips.
Are you a fan of a team sport? If you are, you’ll instantly know what I’m aiming at here. If you’re dedicated to your favourite club, you’ll immediately know their badge or motif. Manchester United have their ‘Red Devil’, for example, and it is very distinctive. The Greenbay Packers have that big ‘G”, and fans who wear cheese hats. The Toronto Bluejays have — well, a bluejay. You get the idea.
Saucer War One kicks off in 1952 with three rival forces vying for supremacy. Two of them — The Venusian Noordcans and the Moon-conquering Mondreich — use saucers that are very similar, so they need their own ‘liveries’ to identify them from each other.
Part of their identity comes from their colour schemes. The Noordicans, in keeping with their ancient origins, maintain the gold, silver and bronze embellishments with which the Annunaki decorated their Sky Chariots. The Mondreich use the unique ‘splinter’ style camouflage patterns of the Luftwaffe. (You just know you’re going to want to paint those!)
But, wargamers are a very individual bunch. I can be certain that someone, somewhere, will want to paint their Noordican collection in sinister, jet black, or their Mondreich fleet as the My Little Pony Space Empire.
(Seeing pictures now, ain’t you? But hey, who am I to suppress creativity?)
So, how to link these many saucers in many schemes to a common identity? That’s where the factions’ symbols — their logos, if you will — come in.
Here’s the symbols of the three initial factions of Saucer War One. I’ll elaborate the rationales behind the choices of the first two in a future post, but for the moment, let’s focus on what proved the trickiest of the three to design: That of the Mondreich.
To Nazi or Not to Nazi?
Without saying too much (because spoilers), creating the Mondreich as a faction for Saucer War One was a real challenge. That might surprise those of you with an interest in Ufology or alternate history. ‘Nazis in space’ is a pretty well established sci-fi trope nowadays, after the many ‘revelations’ of German wunderwaffe flying saucers that were supposedly developed in World War Two.
But it wasn’t the background story of how the Germans got their saucers, or into space that was the pachyderm in the room. It was the Nazis. No matter how we might like to think of them as zany bad guys in Hugo Boss greatcoats and leather, let’s get serious for a moment: The Nazis are the people who plunged Europe into the most terrible conflict in human history, murdering millions in their insane quest for racial ‘supremacy’. While no ideology was entirely innocent during the dark days of 1939—1945, a great deal of the burden of guilt is rightly dropped on the shoulders of National Socialism.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer my Nazis dead. So, I made the decision to keep Nazi symbolism out of the Mondreich’s identity*.
That pretty much left me with the Balkenkreuz — the national marking used by German forces throughout World War Two — as a base for the Mondreich symbol. That allowed me to keep a connection to that conflict, but turn my back on the Nazis, and get away from them. (Had to. They smell funny…)
So, I worked up some concepts, and then shared them with a number of Facebook wargaming groups for feedback:
One of the things many people commented on was the ‘Islamic’ vibe they felt was apparent in #3. (Although the crescent in middle east iconography actually dates back to the Byzantine Empire.) I had no desire to offend anyone’s religious sensitivities for the sake of a game, so changes were needed.
Thanks to the great feedback I received from dozens of people, I was able to whittle and hone the designs down to these:
Aside from comments about #1 being a rivet, and #2 looking like a German condom (ahem…) the reaction to these designs was encouragingly positive. People recognised the symbolism of the Moon with the Earth rising in the background, the balkenkreuz superimposed over the Moon upon its ‘dark’ side.
But a final pass was warranted, to make sure I had it right:
I kept the ‘rivet’ because I could imagine the first Mondreich saucer groundcrews quickly making this minimum effort modification as they struggle to keep their charges in the air in the early days of Saucer War One.
The other variations provide two options (always nice to have options!) for modellers when I release decal sheets for the Mondreich kits.
As I said, I received a lot of useful feedback from many people during the process of designing these symbols. But no design is ever completely finished, because it changes with each interpretation applied by fresh eyes. So, if you feel so inclined, do let me know what you think of the designs, in the comments below.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!
*Just who the Mondreich really are, is a secret I’ll keep for now… stay tuned for future developments!