Category Archives: Starship Troopers

Old Warriors Pass.

Take off your hat.  TAKE OFF YOUR DAMNED HAT and show some respect.

This week witnessed the passing of two legendary wrestling “heels”, namely William James Myers and Oreal Perras.  I’m sure you won’t recognize these names.  They harken back to another era, when the WWF was an entertainment empire that flirted with almost being respectable.. when wrestlers would appear in sitcoms, MTV videos, and low budget movies.  This was the 1980s Wrestling Entertainment explosion, and it was very much a big thing– commanding the television sets on Friday nights and filling arenas to capacity. I was never a huge fan of any of it– I wrestled in high school and had that snobbish holier than thou attitude about it.  Still, it was damned entertaining– with scripted feuds, special effects and exaggerated choreography.  I always respected the skill on display– if you could launch yourself from a turnbuckle every night and land without a concussion, make no mistake– you had skill.

So back to Myers and Perras.  You might have known them as George “The Animal” Steele and Ivan Koloff.  Both of these guys were professional bad guys (or “heels”) in the glory days of the WWF

George Steele

Ivan Koloff

Both of these men had a long career in the world of WWF Heels.  George Steele actually drifted into the sport sideways, after getting a master’s degree at Central Michigan University(!).  He drifted into wrestling (from coaching at the college level) in the Detroit area for sensible reasons.. to make a couple of extra bucks.  Originally he fought using a mask and calling himself The Student (left).  Eventually he was discovered by Bruno SanMartino who recruited him into the big leagues of wrestling entertainment.  George Steele developed his “incoherent brain damaged” brute persona mainly at Vince McMahon’s urging.  With his bald head, heavy features and literally inches of fur covering his lower body (the man was hairy!), George must have come off as the Missing Link.  The irony was that he was quite well spoken, very well educated (in science no less), and took pride in delivering well articulated promotional bits.  This irked McMahon, who interrupted his taping one night and told him “he looked like an animal, he should act like one!”  Steele, as a joke, drooled and gibbered into the camera shouting “ook ook ACK!”and scampering around like a mutant monstrosity.  McMahon, of course, loved it, and thus, George The Animal Steele was born.  He earned everlasting respect for playing another wrestler, Tor Johnson, as he appeared in the Ed Wood films in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD.

Ivan Koloff debuted in 1961 as “Red Mcnulty”, an allegedly Irish wrestler from Dublin who sported a beard and an eyepatch (left).   He wrestled primarily in the Canadian organizations until 1969, when he started for the World Wide Wrestling Federation, managed by Captain Lou Albano.  Koloff’s specialty appears to have been training and developing teams of thematic “heels”.. creating long lasting team called “THE RUSSIANS” with Vladimir Petrov and Nikita Koloff (his “nephew”), and often teaming with “The Iron Sheik”.    Since Russians were perennial bad guys in the Cold War era, the heel teams became quite popular and were around for a long time in wrestling’s glory days.

Wrestling isn’t all just crazy choreography and overblown ham acting at the microphone.  There’s a dark side to the “sport”.  I will always remember an interview Rowdy Roddy Piper (who died two years ago, at 61). gave about the drug abuse, constant pain and loneliness of professional wrestling.  You can see a little of it here:

Piper had broken most of the bones in his body (including his back) on multiple occasions. He played through the pain in situations that were downright dangerous. At age 49, he was back in the sport that he frankly detested, because he didn’t have a way of making a living– like so many of his colleagues, the sport had used him in the heyday, chewed him up and spat him out. In the last ten years, we have witnessed a startling amount of early deaths, murders and suicides by current and past wrestlers. I remember watching the entire interview with Roddy Piper on Sports Extra.. and my heart went out to the man. Pro wrestlers are like prostitutes. They use up their bodies and health for the vicarious pleasure of strangers until they can’t any more, and then they (usually) die.

I have to hand it to both Steele and Koloff– they had long and amazing careers in the WWF and successor organizations, and both of them managed to do something that wrestlers rarely do, life past 70.

RIP, George and Ivan. I hope the pain has finally gone away.


8 Red Shirts in Search of a Scalzi. REDSHIRTS reviewed

RedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine Luigi Pirandello is trying to write a Rashomon style plot set in the universe of a hack SF TV show– not Star Trek, that’s too obvious, but one of the really horrendously bad ones like Space Rangers (1993). And instead of focusing on the lead actors, he inexplicably creates POV characters out of all the extras standing around the bridge looking busy or the cannon fodder from “away teams”– once you wrap your mind around that scenario, you’re pretty much picking up on the vibe that is REDSHIRTS.

(VERY minor spoilers follow)

From the Adventurer's club blog.

John Scalzi’s new novel hits on all 8 cylinders. REDSHIRTS is a recursive, philosophical, fourth-wall breaking funfest that loosely surrounds the activities of a group of allegedly minor characters that are always conveniently in the background of major actions that formulate hack SF plot points. What happens when they start to compare notes about the casualty rates among red-shirted ensigns? What happens when they realize their reality (and more importantly, their personal fates) are inextricably linked to that of a crappy TV show redolent with bad writing and plot holes all the other tropes one would expect from a bad basic cable SF show? REDSHIRTS is a story told in three parts (or “Codas”) where the POV shifts from a particularly intelligent Redshirt who figures out the connection between the inexplicable number of deaths on his ship to a bad television show, to writer haunted by the spectre of the consequences of his bad writing, to a young man who is given a second chance by the intrusion of the show’s reality into our reality, to a woman who gets a glance at an alternative reality starring herself. All of the Codas are part of the same sequence of events framing the same central characters; what transpires in the first Coda effects them all in very different ways. As always, Scalzi demonstrates wonderful, adroit skill with the dialogue pen. His snarky dialogue is the best thing about this book– even in the oddest situations the characters seem natural, believable, and above all, funny.

REDSHIRTS is an outstanding idea and hugely creative, one of the most interesting works of SF (sort of SF?) to come along in a while, and wonderfully executed by Mr. Scalzi. Bravo, Sir.

View all my reviews

Two News Items, bad and indifferent

bullet rocket

Airfix in serious trouble

First, the bad news…

Sticky future for kitmaker Airfix
Iconic model-maker name Airfix faces an uncertain future following parent firm Humbrol’s entry into administration.

Since 1949, generations of children have struggled over plastic kit parts and tubes of glue.

In its heyday, Airfix specialised in planes, ships and tanks of World War II – among them favourites such as the Spitfire fighter and Lancaster bomber.

Thirty-one of 41 staff at the Hull firm have lost their jobs, with Grant Thornton of Leeds named administrators.

‘Capable of sale’

The firm had been hit by “severe cash flow pressures” and also a disruption in supplies from its principal manufacturer in France, Heller SA.

The appointed administrator, Keith Hinds, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that Airfix was an “iconic brand” which was “capable of onward sale and investment”.

Founded by Nicholas Kove in 1939
First model – Ferguson tractor – in 1949
Humbrol Oil founded in 1919
Airfix in receivership in 1981
Taken over by Humbrol in 1986

“The company’s been struggling for some time under the demise of general manufacturing and the lack of demand for some of its products,” he said.

That had caused losses to build up, with cash-flow difficulties following – only for further trouble to come as Heller, too, went into administration.

“That’s caused a blockage in supplies — the accumulation of all that has brought about the insolvency of the company, Humbrol,” said Mr Hinds.

‘Great shame’

Jeremy Brook, of the Airfix Collectors Club, said it was a sad day for those with fond memories of having sticky fingers as they struggled with often intricate kit arrangements.

“When you think of construction kits, you think of Airfix,” he said.

“All the schoolboys of the 50s, 60s and 70s remember them, being covered in glue and cutting your fingers as you assembled them.

“It’s a great shame if Airfix is going to languish or go completely.”

The Airfix range also included helicopters, cars, motorcycles, figures, trains, spaceships, sci-fi figures, and movie-related characters.

Last year it also announced it was launching a range of robot fighters from the 45th Century.

Humbrol is the principal trading business of the Hobby Products Group Ltd, which is also in administration.

The administrators said the group turnover was approximately £10m a year, and other brand names owned by the group include Plasticine, Supercast and Young Scientist.

Story from BBC NEWS

The article touches upon an important element of why this news story has such an impact on men my age. MOST middle class kids in America and Europe have some experience with Airfix kits and plastic soldiers. The ceiling to my room in Adak Alaska (a small room I shared with Jim and Pat) was festooned with Airfix model kits hanging by threads in fighting poses. I was particularly fond of WWI 1/72 scale kits, many of which are still around now.

Life is full of changes, some bad and some good. Nothing lasts forever. But the article touches that misty part of my memory, and many evenings spent with an exacto knife and glueing my fingers together, and that damned glue fogging the plastic windows of the plane kit.. it all comes flooding back like it was yesterday.

I even remember getting a SR71 Blackbird kit from my mom when I was sick with the mumps, to give me something to do while I was oonvelescing. I did a horrible job constructing it, but I was proud of it.

I hope Airfix stays around, in some fashion, so that another generation can glue their fingers together like we did when we were kids.

bullet rocket

Mongoose Publishing announces Prepainted Miniatures, Plans for Starship Troopers in 2007

This just was posted on the Mongoose Publishing forum. For those of you not in the know, they make the Starship Troopers game, among many other things, including roleplaying games.

Source: post by Matthew Sprange, Mongoose Publishing, on the MP forum.

AND IN 2007. . .
In January next year, we will be releasing a new miniatures game called Battlefield Evolution. Set 5-10 years from the present time, you will be able to command real-world units of soldiers and vehicles in pitched battle, using the very latest in weapons technology. There will be four armies from the very start, and the game will use a modified version of the existing Starship Troopers rules. We have been playtesting these rules for some time now, and they are very slick in function – the term bullet-proof has been used to describe them.

What will make Battlefield Evolution different from other miniatures games that are on sale now is that the models will not simply be pre-painted. They will be pre-painted to a level better than 90% of gamers can produce themselves – and that is no idle boast, as you can see from these pictures.

These two tanks, the Challenger 2 and the Abrams M1A2 are pre-production designs (the finals will be far, far more detailed), but the paintwork is to the standard you will be able to expect. Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing the final designs of the first armoured vehicles in the range, along with the infantry that march alongside them.

Added to this, we are aiming to price these extremely well-produced models for no more than the equivalent unpainted metal miniatures prices. I’ll rephrase that – what you pay for unpainted metal miniatures today will buy you expert-level pre-painted miniatures early next year.

We will be making more announcements with regards to Battlefield Evolution very soon. However, fans of Starship Troopers will be wondering where we are going for their game.

With a release date set for April next year, we will be releasing eight box sets for Starship Troopers – the Mobile Infantry Light Armour Squad, the Mobile Infantry Grizzly Exosuit Squad, Arachnid Warrior Bug Swarm (we are aiming to squeeze 12 bugs in this!), Tanker Bug, Skinnie Raiders, Skinnie Soldiers, Forth Fenos Fighting Machines and Forth Fenirs Command Fighting Machines.

Some models, those that we believe are of exemplary quality in design, are being used as the prototypes for the new range – these are the ones we can preview here, the Exosuits, Light Armour MI and Warrior Bugs. All others in the list above are in the process of being redesigned.

A funny story here. The factory producing these models played a little trick on us. The first batch of Warrior Bugs that came back to us included three models – two they had produced, and the original they had worked on, painted by our expert in-house painter, Adrian Walters.

We could not tell the difference. In fact, not even Adrian could tell the difference between his work and theirs!

Note: This is not a collectible game! Every box set will be labelled with it’s contents, and will feature a plastic window so you can see exactly what you are getting! In addition to this, the type of plastic used will be of wargaming quality –don’t expect to see guns that bend or models that feel like a child’s toy.

Each box set will contain a streamlined version of the rules, allowing people to start playing the moment they pick up the models – and this will not be a watered down ‘pint-size’ game, but one you can run serious tournaments with. The full-size rulebook, priced at $24.95 and available 2-3 months after the first box sets, will not contain radically different rules, but rather lean more towards new options and methods of play – for those who want the full Starship Troopers experience!

After the first eight box sets have been released, we will produce one box set every month thereafter for each army, meaning you will never have to wait long for something new and interesting to come along for your force. The models themselves will be based on existing designs where we feel we have excelled ourselves (such as with the Exosuits) and will be changed where we feel we can do a lot better, such as with some of the Skinnies.

So, why should you feel this is a good thing?

* With the instant accessibility to the game, due to both the rules and the high standard of pre-painted models, you will suddenly find you have a lot more opponents in your area.
* Four armies from the very start will ensure your local gaming club has enough choice for every gamer, and the release of a new unit every month thereafter will keep your opponents guessing! New armies (such as the dreaded Coven) will start appearing towards the end of 2007.
* Your comments on the existing rules have been collated and refined into an extremely slick set of mechanics that will provide everything you have been looking for with no ambiguity.
* All the Starship Troopers models you have in your collection thus far, without exception, will be fully compatible with the new wave of releases and, in many cases, veterans will have access to units far earlier than newcomers. The new models will be to the same scale as the existing models which mean you can add more units to your forces and have them fit in perfectly.
* As far as the rules are concerned, if you wish to stick with the existing rulebook rather than buy another, we will support you, releasing the relevant information on new units and armies for no cost. At all.
* That said, the new rules will be posted on our web site for free download, allowing you to review them before making an informed decision about which you will use. We hope you will join us with the new wave, but we will not force you.
* Roughly 90% of you will have access to great looking models at a price that has not been possible up to now. These will be models that you would be proud to have on display on your shelf.
* The remaining 10% will have the option of either adding further detail and highlights to the models, or simply repainting them entirely – the price of each set means you are not losing out by paying for the painting process.
* The existing models will still be available to you via your local hobby store or by mail order. While we expect the demand for these to drop away once people see the new models available, stores and distributors will always be able to stock any of the existing Starship Troopers miniatures for those of you who want to buy the traditional metal and plastic figures.
* The design process for these models has been well and truly hammered out, meaning there is no barrier to the release of certain models that have, up to now, encountered certain difficulties. When you see, for example, the TAC Fighter, Skyhook and Sprite Skimmer Bikes on the release schedule, you can be sure that will be the month they appear in the shops.
* If you really fancy a very strange game, Starship Troopers will be fully compatible with Battlefield Evolution so yes, your US Marines could find themselves facing a horde of Warrior Bugs – though we do not recommend it for the sane!

In short, we can sum up 2007 for Starship Troopers as;

Better game. Better models. Same great system.

Dunno what to make of the Starship Troopers game.. it’s a pleasant little bloody diversion, but it’s not something I’d spend a lot of time or money on because there’s just not a lot of variability in the system. It also appears to be designed for strictly two player at this juncture. Maybe some day. In any event I hope it does well.

The REAL matter of interst is Battlefield Evolution (which sounds quite intriguing to me) and the fact that they are using prepainted miniatures. I’m not crazy about moderns but I do like the marketing approach. Much is being made here and there on the internet of the “Pacific Rim job” the hobby is getting (using cheap Asian factories and painting mills). The first appearance of this was the Axis and Allies Miniatures. I’ve bought some. They’re alright, and that’s about all I can say about them.. poorly painted and not to scale, but they look okay from a distance with 15mm figures. The article above is clearly a committment to a much better set of models at affordable prices.

For me, the painting is an enjoyable element, but it is also a huge timesink. At my age, I just don’t have hours and hours to devote to this endeavor. So to spend money instead of time might be worth it. To spend even less money might be a real kick. I have no problems with prepainted figures, if the subject is something I like and they are reasonably priced.