A place for me to share my pictures, reports and thoughts on all things Martian - in particular the excellent new miniature Wargame due out in December - All Quiet on the Martian Front.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Gentlemen, we are at war.

Yesterday, a bizarre communication was intercepted. It contained information on what is believed to be an advance of an invading army...

Sunday 29 September 2013

A Firm Pledge (finally!)

Things continue to progress  nicely for the Martian Front Kickstarter over at Alien Dungeon. Lots of new models are being sculpted and sprues designed. All the fantastic images courtesy of Alien Dungeon.

Martian Lobototon gunners

Martian Lobototon slashers
I'm liking the assembly videos too, although the Tripod strength test has to be the most entertaining!

Anyhow, as the Pledge Manager close tomorrow I thought I might share my final choices with you and some ideas I have of how to use them in future games, as well as enquiring as to what you chaps decided on eventually.

Having gone for Full Assault luckily most of the choices I had been considering were made for me in terms of the stretch goals. For example, at that level and above its a case of receiving an extra unit of Field Guns and 3 Hover Drones instead of having to choose one or the other.

The tricky bit came when I had to make decisions between additional American troops like the Baldwin Command tank, extra Roughriders and US Heavy Infantry or BEF forces like the Wicket Tank, Vickers crews and the Lloyd tank. As I'd opted to go for the substantial investment in Thunderchild II, the BEF Land Ironclad, I kind of wanted some BEF forces to round out the Contingent.

However, that would have meant missing out on the free US command tank option, the Heavy Infantry (which I really like the look of) and the Munitions tank (which I figured would be a fairly necessary piece of kit to keep my Field and Mobile Guns in action). On a more real world level, I also figured if I avoided these BEF freebies I'd also avoid the temptation of buying extra BEF stuff on top of the extra US kit I had my eye on!

The lovely flivver models had caught my eyes and I figured my Field Guns might want a tow should the Tripods get too close - Shoot and Scoot WW1 era style! I decided to squeeze a unit of these onto the end of my order.

 Then there were the Martians to consider. I figured thanks to the Full Assault options I had plenty of Assault and Scout Tripods, as well as loads of Drones and Lobototons (Re-animated Human slaves!). I was fairly torn over deciding on something big and nasty like a Dominator or Overseer to stand up to Thunderchild II, or going with a Scientist and a Harvester to give me more flexibility in putting more interesting scenarios together.

I figure two were better one and so went for the Scientist and Harvester - should make for some fun games!

Now I just have to wait for Christmas....

The Rout of Civilisation...

Isn't it typical.

You wait ages for a good game involving HG Wells inspired Martian Tripods invading Earth and two come along at once!

I'm sure you already know about All Quiet on the Martian Front and I've mentioned Fimm McCool's excellent looking boardgame on here as well.

Well now's your chance to get your grubby hands/tentacles on a copy as his Indiegogo campaign is under way - I particularly like the sound of the metal Tripod miniatures should targets be hit early.

I hope to be doing my bit once I've gathered funds together after my excesses with the Martian Front campaign!

Saturday 3 August 2013

Earth Under the Martians

More news on Fimm McCool's exciting Tripods board game - Final playtesting is due to go ahead at the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln this September. 

Check out the fantastic artwork for the box!

Here's looking forward to the kickstarter and launch in October.

Friday 2 August 2013

The Kraken Wakes

My last post got me thinking about some of the other SF I enjoyed as a kid. John Wyndham has always been a favourite - due in no small part to Day of the Triffids. However it is The Kraken Wakes that has my attention now - and its parallels with War of the Worlds.

The story is one of Alien invasion and attempted colonisation like War of the Worlds - this time our invaders make their landings in the deep ocean trenches of the world and literally fight to secure a beach head against humanity.

I don't know whether this a reference to Wells' story but the Alien craft are initially mistaken for Mars by our protagonists,

“Mars is looking pretty angry tonight, isn’t he? I hope it isn’t an omen,” she said.

I looked where she pointed at a red spot among myriads of white ones, and with some 
surprise. Mars does look red, of course, though I had never seen him look quite as red 
as that - but then, neither were the stars, as seen at home, quite as bright as they were 
here. Being practically in the tropics might account for it.

“Certainly a little inflamed,” I agreed.

We regarded the red point for some moments. Then Phyllis said, “That’s funny. It’s 
seems to be getting bigger.”

I explained that that was obviously an hallucination formed by staring at it. We went 
on staring, and it became quite indisputably bigger. Moreover:

“There’s another one. There can’t be two Marses,” said Phyllis.

And sure enough there was. A smaller red point, a little up from, and to the right of, 
the first. She added, “And another. To the left. See?”

She was right about that, too, and by this time the first one was glowing as the most 
noticeable thing in the sky.

The objects get nearer and crash into the sea,

We watched all three of them slowly getting brighter and also sinking lower in the 
sky until they were little above the horizon line, and reflecting in a pinkish pathway 
across the water toward us.

“Five now,” said Phyllis.

We’ve both been asked many times since to describe them, but perhaps we are not 
gifted with such a precise eye for detail as some others. What we said at the time, and 
what we still say, is that on this occasion there was no real shape visible. The center 
was solidly red, and a kind of fuzz round it was less so. The best suggestion I can 
make is that you imagine a brilliantly red light as seen in a fairly thick fog so that 
there is a strong halation, and you will have something of the effect.

Others besides ourselves were leaning over the rail, and in fairness I should perhaps 
mention that between them they appear to have seen cigar-shapes, cylinders, discs, 
ovoids, and, inevitably, saucers. We did not. What is more, we did not see eight, nine, 
or a dozen. We saw five.

The halation may or may not have been due to some kind of jet drive, but it did not 
indicate any great speed. The things grew in size quite slowly as they approached. 
There was time for people to go back into the saloon and fetch their friends out to see, 
so that presently a line of us leaned all along the rail, looking at them and guessing.
With no idea of scale we could have no judgment of their size or distance; all we 
could be sure of was that they were descending in a long glide which looked as if it 
would take them across our wake.

When the first one hit the water a great burst of steam shot up in a pink plume. Then, 
swiftly, there was a lower, wider spread of steam which had lost the pink tinge, and 
was simply a white cloud in the moonlight. It was beginning to thin out when the 
sound of it reached us in a searing hiss. The water round the spot bubbled and seethed 
and frothed. When the steam drew off, there was nothing to be seen there but a patch 
of turbulence, gradually subsiding.

Then the second of them came in, in just the same way, on almost the same spot. One 
after another all five of them touched down on the water with great whooshes and 
hissings of steam. Then the vapor cleared, showing only a few contiguous patches of 
troubled water.

As more and more of these fireballs descend a pattern becomes obvious - none land on any of the Earth's landmasses. Moreover, they appear to concentrate their landings in and around the deep water areas of the oceans. To cut a long story short the British and Americans send down Bathyspheres to investigate, only to have them destroyed by the aliens. After a nuclear device is exploded in the depths in retaliation, the aliens begin attacking the world's shipping lanes, throwing the world economy into turmoil.

There is worse yet - mysterious sea tanks roll up the beaches of most of the world's continents as the aliens begin harvesting people for some unexplained reason.

Running, or at least hurrying, figures were still scattering over the Square in all 
directions, but no more were emerging from the street. Those who had reached the far 
side turned back to look, hovering close to doorways or alleys into which they could 
jump swiftly if necessary. Half a dozen men with guns or rifles laid themselves down 
on the cobbles, their weapons all aimed at the mouth of the street. Everything was 
much quieter now. Except for a few sounds of sobbing, a tense, expectant silence held 
the whole scene. And then, in the background, one became aware of a grinding, 
scraping noise; not loud, but continuous.

The door of a small house close to the church opened. The priest, in a long black robe,
stepped out. A number of people nearby ran towards him, and then knelt around him. 
He stretched out both arms as though to encompass and guard them all.
The noise from the narrow street sounded like the heavy dragging of metal upon 

Three or four rifles fired suddenly, almost together. Our angle of view still stopped us 
from seeing what they fired at, but they let go a number of rounds each. Then the men 
jumped to their feet and ran further back, almost to the further side of the Square. 
There they turned around, and reloaded.

From the street came a noise of cracking timbers and falling bricks and glass.
Then we had our first sight of a “sea-tank.” A curve of dull, gray metal sliding into 
the Square, carrying away the lower corner of a housefront as it came.

Shots cracked at it from half a dozen different directions. The bullets splattered or 
thudded against it without effect. Slowly, heavily, with an air of inexorability, it came 
on, grinding and scraping across the cobbles. It was inclining slightly to its right, 
away from us and toward the church, carrying away more of the corner house, 
unaffected by the plaster, bricks and beams that fell on it and slithered down its sides.

The Sea Tanks themselves are rather enigmatic and part of why I like this book so much is the fact that what the aliens are, how they operate and what their intentions are are never discussed. There is simply no communication possible or desired between them and the humans.

Imagine an elongated egg which has been halved down its length and set flat side to 
the ground, with the pointed end foremost. Consider this egg to the between thirty and 
thirty-five feet long, of a drab, lusterless lead color, and you’ll have a fair picture of 
the “sea-tank” as we saw it pushing into the Square.

There was no way to see how it was propelled; there may have been rollers beneath, 
but it seemed, and sounded, simply to grate forward on its metal belly with plenty of 
noise, but none of machinery. It did not jerk to turn, as a tank does, but neither did it

The attack on Escondida, the Caribbean town where Mike and Phyllis are staying, has to be the most exciting bit of the novel and the alien's method of attack is certainly a novel and slightly horrifying one!

“Look!” said Phyllis suddenly. “This one is bulging.”

She was pointing at the nearest. The previously smooth fore-and-aft sweep of its top 
was now disfigured at the highest point by a small, domelike excrescence. It was 
lighter colored than the metal beneath; a kind of off-white, semiopaque substance 
which glittered under the floods. It grew as one watched it.

“They’re all doing it,” she added.

There was a single shot. The excrescence quivered, but went on swelling. It was 
growing faster now. It was no longer dome-shaped, but spherical, attached to the 
metal by a neck, inflating like a balloon, and swaying slightly as it distended.

“It’s going to pop, I’m sure it is,” Phyllis said, apprehensively.

“There’s another coming up further down its back,” I said. “ Two more, look.” The first excrescence did not pop. It was already some two foot six in diameter and 
still swelling fast. 

“It must pop soon,” she muttered.

But still it did not. It kept on expanding until it must have been all of five feet in 
diameter. Then it stopped growing. It looked like a huge, repulsive bladder. A tremor 
and a shake passed through it. It shuddered jellywise, became detached, and wobbled 
into the air with the uncertainty of an overblown bubble.
In a lurching, amoebic way it ascended for ten feet or so. There it vacillated, 
steadying into a more stable sphere. Then, suddenly, something happened to it. It did 
not explode. Nor was there any sound. Rather, it seemed to slit open, as if it had been 
burst into instantaneous bloom by a vast number of white cilia which rayed out in all 

These cilia are incredibly sticky and begin to retract, dragging anything back that they have caught.

Outside in the Square there was a pandemonium of shouting and screaming. I risked 
putting my head round the side of the window. The thing that had burst was no longer 
in the air. It was now a round body no more than a couple of feet in diameter 
surrounded by a radiation of cilia. It was drawing these back into itself with whatever 
they had caught, and the tension was keeping it a little off the ground. Some of the 
people it was pulling in were shouting and struggling, others were like inert bundles 
of clothes.

I saw poor Muriel Flynn among them. She was lying on her back, dragged across the 
cobbles by a tentacle caught in her red hair. She had been badly hurt by the fall when 
she was pulled out of her window, and was crying out with terror, too. Leslie dragged 
almost alongside her, but it looked as if the fall had mercifully broken his neck.

Over on the far side I saw a man rush forward and try to pull a screaming woman 
away, but when he touched the cilium that held her, his hand became fastened to it, 
too, and they were dragged along together. As I watched I thanked God I had grabbed 
Phyllis’s arm, and not the cilium itself in trying to free her.

As the circle contracted, the white cilia came closer to one another. The struggling 
people inevitably touched more of them and became more helplessly enmeshed than 
before. They struggled like flies on a flypaper. There was a relentless deliberation 
about it which made it seem horribly as though one watched through the eye of a 
slow-motion camera.

Then I noticed that another of the misshapen bubbles had wobbled into the air, and 
drew back hurriedly before it should burst.

Three more cilia whipped in through the window, lay for moment like white cords on 
the floor, and then began to draw back. When they had vanished across the sill I 
leaned over to look out of the window again. In several places about the Square there 
were converging knots of people struggling helplessly. The first and nearest had 
contracted until its victims were bound together in a tight ball out of which a few 
arms and legs still flailed wildly. Then, as I watched, the whole compact mass tilted 
over and began to roll away across the Square towards the street by which the seatanks had come.

The machines, or whatever the things were, still lay where they had stopped, looking 
like huge gray slugs, each engaged in producing several of its disgusting bubbles at 
different stages.

It seems the Sea Tanks aren't too difficult to destroy and once word gets around the countries that coastline soon organise an effective defence. The mysterious aliens scale back their attacks as it becomes apparent they are no longer netting sufficient humans.

The next phase of the alien plan is the melting of the ice caps. Simple and effective and there's not a damn thing the people of Earth can do about it - apart of some ineffective bombing by the Americans when the mists around the Antarctic clear.

There's a few nice touches here  - the UK Government decamp to Harrogate when London inevitably floods. Of course as the water rises, the rule of law breaks down and eventually the Government is overthrown by armed rebels. Mike and Phyllis are forced to escape a hostile London.

Eventually they receive news that the Japanese have devised a way of combating the "Bathies" as they are known. Using ultrasonics they have managed to clear some of the smaller deep sea trenches, throwing up a lot of organic jelly to the surface. And so we are we left with the Human race, reduced to a fifth of its pre-invasion population and facing an unalterably changed climate, but now with the means to strike back and vanquish the alien invaders.

So what has this got to do with Martians? Well not much on the face of it, apart from it being a story of alien invasion and colonisation. The Aliens appear to arrive in meteor like fireballs, which are somewhat similar to the arrival of the Martians at Horsell Common in their cylinder. As noted previously, the first fireball is mistaken for the planet Mars at first. According to Wikipedia the book was first published in the same year as the 1953 Movie version  of War of the Worlds - did Wyndham present it as a deliberately alternative version of the Invasion story?

The aliens themselves are utterly mysterious. Apart from some theories bandied about by the scientists that they may be from some high pressure world like Jupiter or Neptune and the lumps of jelly that float to the surface after the Japanese use their ultrasonic weapon, we get no information about them at all. They use organic "machines" in the form of the Sea Tanks rather than mechanical tripods.

However, they do capture human prey, although for what purpose we do not know. They alter Earth's climate like the Masters of John Christopher's Tripod series plan to - although whether this is a way of exterminating a large part of the Human population or a means of expanding their habitable zones on Earth, or perhaps even both is again unknown.

My main attraction to the story and, apart from it being a great read, would be to harvest ideas to give the Martians in All Quiet a truly mysterious and alien logic in their grand plans for Earth. Along with John Christopher's Tripod series, which contains some great description of the alien cities and their attitudes to the conquered humans, I reckon there's plenty of material to flesh out my Martians come December!

Sunday 23 June 2013

News from the Front sir!

Alien Dungeon have posted up some draft versions of possible organisation charts for US, BEF and Martian forces. I think they look rather good, although the best bit is the fact that they only represent an ideal. You can imagine harried commanders throwing together whatever units had survived the last Martian incursion to make up hastily formed battalions, ready for the next attack.

My forces are going to be mostly US army with a "little" contribution from the BEF in the form of Thunderchild II. I'd like to round out my BEF contingent with some infantry and tanks at some point but I reckon Flivvers, a Harvester Tripod and maybe a Scientist for certain scenarios I have in mind will be the priority once the pledge manager is sorted out.

Good to see the Martians operating in multiples of three!

Saturday 22 June 2013

The Tripods are coming!

I thought I'd continue my exploration into all things Martian by sharing some of the books I've come to associate with The War of The Worlds. These are novels mainly that I feel continue or give a contrasting take on the themes of that fantastic tale somehow.

First up is the Tripods trilogy by John Christopher - a favourite author of mine, especially for his Sword of the Spirits trilogy.

Its a while since I've read the three books and I'm holding off rereading them until I track down a replacement copy of the The Pool of Fire, which has mysteriously vanished from my book cases. Apparently there was a prequel written, When the Tripods came, which I wasn't aware of.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the trilogy, here's a brief summary -  it is set in a world conquered by the Masters and their Tripods. Human society has reverted to a medieval, agricultural level with little industry, other than that closely controlled by the aliens. Humans are controlled by the masters by being "capped" at the age of 14 - once their brain cases have stopped growing. The cap facilitates some kind of mind control where creativity and curiosity are suppressed, rendering humans docile and willing to serve the tripods.

An illustrated version of the story that was serialised in Boy's Life 1981-2 - another incarnation of the story revealed to me by the interwebz!

The White Mountains kicks off the trilogy with the story of Will, his cousin Henry and French teenager Jean Paul, nicknamed Beanpole. Will is 13 and due to be capped, although a meeting with the strange vagrant (Humans who's minds have been damaged by the capping process), Ozymandias precipitates a journey to find and join the Human Resistance hiding in the titular White Mountains.

The City of Gold and Lead sees Will, Beanpole and new friend, Fritz sent on a dangerous mission to infiltrate a Tripod city to learn what they can of the alien Masters. The aliens select new slaves to serve them through a sporting contest - the artificial gravity and toxic atmosphere inside their pressurised cities means that Humans don't last long in their service and so strong new candidates are often needed. A plan to terraform the Earth so its atmosphere is more like that of the Masters' home planet is discovered by Will and he must escape to get the news to the Resistance in the White Mountains.

The Pool of Fire sees the Resistance going on the offensive. Will and Fritz are sent out to the Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Middle East t start up new resistance cells amongst the uncapped young. The Resistance knows that alcohol has a strong soporific effect on the Masters having ambushed a Tripod. A coordinated attack using this knowledge is launched against the Tripod cities. The saga ends with the Tripod yoke being lifted from Humanity, but old nationalist tensions begin arising in the newly freed word and a peaceful future is left hanging in the balance as war between nations looms large on the horizon.

Comparisons with Wells' Martians are obvious but here is what John Christopher (real name Sam Ayoud)  has said about the inspiration behind his tripods,

It may be hard to believe this, but I’d forgotten Wells’ Tripods until after the book was taken. I then set out consciously to adopt a more logical approach. Wells’ Tripods had been used by ‘spider-like creatures’. I wondered (then – and like anyone who’s tried to make them work on film) how they actually progressed … and for that matter, why. If Wells’ Martians had been copying a body-image they would have used eight-legged crawlers (which would have also been more efficient). From the Tripods I developed the Masters and their triangulated city. I also thought of the stilt-men of the French marshes, and gave them a marshy steamy planet as their point of origin.

The BBC made a series in the 80's - I missed it first time around! 
Not sure where the spider reference comes from, but its clear that for all the similarities, Christopher's Alien Masters are very different to the Wellsian Martians.

Lots of great ideas for scenarios to pinch for All Quiet... from this exciting trilogy though. Firstly we get a great view of the  pressurised domes and pyramidal buildings that make up the Tripod cities - could the Founder Tripods be building something similar in Martian occupied America? A desperate, all or nothing assault by the US on a newly founded and discovered city could be fun - their objective to wreak as much havoc on the city while the Martians attempt to minimise the destruction.

I also like the idea of the Resistance - how long can the free nations hold out before they break down in the face of Martian aggression. What will come after Governments topple - how will Humanity continue the figt against their alien oppressors? Are their pockets of resistance in Martian held territory that need relieving - could they even be the base for desperate missions behind enemy lines?

We already have Slaver Tripods in All Quite... along with their Zombie troopers controlled by the helmet like devices attached to their heads. Might the Martian scientists be close to perfecting a way of transmitting a mind control wave? Another desperate mission to destroy the prototype Mind Control Array should ensure a tense game - especially with a turn limit before it is switched on...

Right then, off to ebay to find copies of The Pool of Fire and When the Tripods Came, as well as the DVD of the BBC series!