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Into the Borderlands, Episode 3

Our campaign journal continues.

14th day of Highsun

Report by Xavier of Rauvin Cross, forwarded to Zhentarim section 21

Begin report

I, Xavier of Rauvin Cross, followed the firbolg and his companions to Everlund as instructed.  Working with the Harpers of Moongleam Tower, the group eliminated the Cult of Zariel cell led by Harlan Mesk.  During the semi-official fete following the return of the kidnapped Everlundians I was able to steal a small notebook that the firbolg had left unattended in his bag under a table at Danivarr’s House.   Many of the pages were torn out, others were covered in blood.  Only one page was legible.  I have included it with this missive.  My source inside Moongleam Tower informs me that the band is now investigating a link between the Cult of Zariel and  the Arcane Brotherhood.  Furthermore, the group has begin researching means of traveling to the City of Brass.  I know not what intelligence has prompted this latest path of inquiry.  I am now returning to Silverymoon to await further instructions.

 

 

Credits:

Lines 1-5 of Spleodrach’s ramblings from William Blake, The Sick Rose

Bloodsplatter watermark image from Sagacious on Deviantart

Into the Borderlands, Episode 2

Our campaign journal of Into the Borderlands continues.  The first episode is here.  The following brief summary combines multiple sessions.

The 28th day of Summertide, The Keep on the Borderlands

Salutations Genrok of Silverwood, Autumnreaver of the Emerald Enclave and protector of the Iron Yew, may Nature’s blessing be upon you.  Necessity demands that I employ a griffon rider to speed this missive to you (I shall submit the appropriate remittance voucher through the bursar’s office when time allows).

A Cult of Zariel, the comely but deadly ruler of Avernus, has taken hold in the Borderlands and risks fouling the region–like a spilled barrel of lantern oil spoils a well.  I am marching hard to Everlund in the company of my companions: Urxikas the tiefling paladin, Torbrek the half-elf monk, and Risrin the drow warlock.  We should arrive in Everlund 8 days after this letter.  We will proceed to Danivarr’s House to secure lodgings–please leave a message there informing me where I can meet you when I arrive.  I now relate was has transpired.

Weeks of scouring the caves had left us scarred and depleted of resources.  In addition to kobolds and goblins, we fought bugears, hobgoblins, an ogre, and a minotaur.  Some of our group relished these fierce combats, but they did not bring us closer to understanding what or who bound these creatures to the Caves of Chaos, or if there was–as I suspected–a traitor in the Keep.  Our investigation was also delayed by Torbrek’s insistence on spending a ten day obtaining a land grant from Castellan Mirthmillen and a writ of custodial martial training to establish a monastery-orphanage.  This is a noble endeavor, and I contributed by clearing land and then seeding an apple orchard, but it did not further our quest to discover the evil at the root of the Caves of Chaos.

A bowl of rice will prepare this young orphan for a day of rigorous martial training.

Our presence in the Keep also created demands as the residents constantly beseeched us for aid (a poor reflection of Mirthmillen’s ability to satisfy his duty of care!).   We investigated the swamp south of the Goblinwater river and discovered that an adolescent black dragon had taken residence in a ruined ship.  Tobrek’s longbow sang that day and Urxikas’s sword arm was strong.  The wyrm Varonyx perished under our onslaught.  We also solved the riddle of the Tomb of Dromond and defeated the necromancer of Lance Rock (n.b., we subsequently had to deal with a corpse flower here–instruct all Emerald Enclave agents to burn the bodies of necromancers).

When we finally were able to return to the Caves of Chaos we proceeded with caution.  I remembered Thref’s wise counsel: “roots can be for tea or for tripping on–care decides.”  Risrin was engaged with investigations in the Keep so we reverted to my strategy of constructing a blind to observe the Caves of Chaos.  A young goblin ranger named Grashook who had forsaken his kin’s ethos aided our quest.   Later that night we saw three cultists entering a heretofore undiscovered cave.  We girded ourselves for battle and entered the cave.

A mouth to one of the Caves of Chaos

This cave was full of cultists and undead.  Silvanus favored us, for my spike growth spell proved more than a match for the shambling hordes.  The cultists fell under the swords of Grashook, Urxikas, and Torbrek.  We penetrated the inner sanctum and confronted a devil emissary named Binlarga and a high priest.  We indulged in a parley with Binlarga (the priest’s tongue had been cut out as some form or ritual self-mortification).  The devil spawn offered us all officer commissions and command postings to devil armies engaged in the Blood War in Avernus.  I watched Urxikas carefully–ready to strike him down if he wavered.  My doubt was misplaced.  Neither Urxikas nor Torbrek were tempted by the devil’s offer.  In a fit of rage and violence it attacked.  Our swords and magic triumphed.  The destruction of Zariel’s emissary caused the evil magic of the Caves of Chaos to disappear.  The unnatural binding of the humanoid tribes broke and they fought each other and fled into the Nether Mountains.

We returned to the Keep and informed Mirthmillen of our victory.  Later we captured his advisor Marovak fleeing into the night.  He confessed to being an agent of the cult and after a brief roadside trial I humanely executed him–thereby releasing his soul to serve in the front lines of Zariel’s legions.  I fear that the cult of Zariel has agents in Everlund.  Castellan Mirthmillen advised that we seek an audience with Krowen Valharrow in Moongleam Tower.  Please arrange letters of introduction for my companions and I so that we may seek out Krowen when we arrive.  The balance of nature in the Borderlands remains on a knife edge.  No matter how deep they penetrate, we must eradicate the roots of this cult.

I remain your faithful servant,

Spleodrach

 

Image credits

“Child Eating Rice with Chopsticks,” by Isabella Lucy Bird [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Cave mouth,” by Thomas Quine [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Review: Zvezda M3 Lee

The M3 Lee is a fine tank.  Well, the Russian soldiers that used it may have had a different opinion of it: “Riveted freak,” “three-storey overgrown,” “grave for six.”  But our concern here is Zvezda’s 1/100 scale M3 Lee used in Flames of War.

An M3 Lee crewman see a bright future ahead

An M3 Lee crewman sees a bright future ahead

History

The United States developed the M3 in 1940.  At the time U.S. Army doctrine used tanks primarily as infantry support weapons.  However, after the fall of France it become clear that the anti-armour capabilities of the M3 would need to be improved.  Designers adopted a 75mm gun but they didn’t have a turret that would take a gun that large.  Thus was born the hull-mounted mediocrity you see here.  The M4 Sherman, incidentally, is basically a Lee chassis with a turret to take a 75mm.

The sponson mount of the 75mm prevented the tank from firing in a hull-down position and even small calibre anti-tank rounds could penetrate the Lee’s expansive flat surfaces.  To make matters worse, the gasoline-powered aircraft engine easily caught fire.  Nevertheless, during the crucial year of 1942 the M3 played an important role.  It was an important counter to panzers in Africa and the Lee contributed to the British victory at Gazala.  The following year over a hundred Lees fought at the Battle of Kursk.  However, by then superior tanks were widely available.

kursklees

In Flames of War

The stat line of the M3 Lee in a U.S. force is as follows:

statline

The stabilisers and the two guns produce a fierce amount of fire power.  The armor is unremarkable, but in MW facing a far amount of AT9 the Lee will have a fighting chance.

The M3 can be used in British, U.S. and Soviet forces.  It is primarily a Mid-War tank, but it can have some utility in a Late-War Soviet list.  Let’s see how the Lee looks in a few different lists.  The first list is one Bill Willcox sent us:

ustank

This list is not for the reckless.  You’ll need to use terrain and all that smoke to your advantage.    Harmon is a great character, and the M10s will make any Panther player cautious.  The list is vulnerable to AT gun spam, and I’d hate to run into any British or Italian infantry lists that have multiple gun and artillery platoons.  Nevertheless, this is a fast, fun list.

The British, of course, used the Lee in Africa.  They swapped out the turret for a different one and called it the Grant.  The Zvezda kit does not have the Grant turret so if you use your Lees in the following list you may incur sour looks from rivet counters.  Some sources indicate that British troops saw the Grant as an improvement over their Crusader tanks.  However, this says more about what a dreadful tank the Crusader was rather than the merits of the Grant.  In any case, you can run a decent Lee list with the British:

uKleelist

The Grant uses the short 75mm (AT9) and loses the cupola MG.  It retains smoke and instead of stabilisers it has the semi-indirect fire rule.

The problem with both of the above lists is that the Lees are trained and front armor 5.  They say the best armor is being hard to hit and those small trained Lee platoons could melt away quickly under enemy fire.

Now for two soviet lists.  The first one, well, it will do fine against infantry but you may struggle against tanks:

sovietleelist1

Unfortunately the M3 Lee in this list is armed with the short 75mm so it is AT9.  Yes, this means the best AT in the list is either AT9 or the I-153’s rockets.  Nevertheless, you have an impregnable unit of KV tanks to move resolutely forward and two agile units of tanks to run the flanks.

Perhaps a more well-rounded list using the Lee is the regular Tankovy:

sovietleelist2

The list will do well against opposing tank lists and Mariya’s two 2+ swings in assault are potentially decisive.  The SU85 unit is static and fragile, so you might consider swapping it out for either a unit of light tanks or some artillery (heavy mortars or katyushas) .

What about Late War?  Well this is an interesting list:

Lwleeds

Thirty-five points for a trained Lee is perfectly reasonable in Late War.  The two units of cat-killers provide ample anti-tank assets and either the Lees or the T34s can handle anything if they get side armor shots.

Verdict

Our five-star rating system is an aggregate based on price, utility of the model in various lists and periods, and hobbying-model kit characteristics.  We award the Lee four stars.

starsstarsstarsstars

Although the Lee is certainly not at the top of every player’s list, it is a great model to add to your collection if you are looking to play some interesting historical lists (e.g., a Kursk list).  It will be a rare sight on the table, but we like the Lee.  It is one of Zvezda’s better 1/100 kits in terms of details and the price is right—the U.S. tank list above is easily put together using a combination of Zvezda, PSC, and Battlefront kits.

The European Team Championship in Athens this year is Mid-War and the Lee is being fielded by many tankovy players.   Roll on M3 Lee!

ragingLee

 

Public domain image credits:

https://www.loc.gov/resource/fsac.1a35202/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grant_M3A3_u_Kurska_%C4%8Dervenec_1943.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M3_Lee#/media/File:M3grantmini.jpg

 

 

Warheads Episode 23

We take a brief interlude in the latest research on the Eastern Front before moving on to Irish tournament reports, Mid-War ramblings, Team Yankee, Trafalgar and other games. Brian informs us of the horrors of a American childhood during the Cold War and we congratulate Baz on his continued survival. On that note, Floody remains deceased. Enjoy!

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 22

We resume our 2016 broadcasting utilizing new technology.  We have higher expectations for this new equipment than Hitler had for the Panther at Kursk.  Significantly, it appears that the transition to Brian’s technological management, and access the Glenroyal’s Wifi, has resulted in same day podcast publishing.

In this broadcast we muse about the recent MW update, discuss an imminent Late War tournament, and conclude with a morale parable concerning hubris.  Along the way we are outed as RPG players.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 21

Welcome to an On The Road episode. We take a day trip to the Flames of War tournament at Nordicon in Queen’s University Belfast. Reputations are made and shattered over the course of a day of gaming. Thanks for listening.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 20

The hosts break their long silence to bring you Episode 20. Excuses rain from their lips like water over a fall, there is a heroic effort to deliver a tournament report under trying conditions, we run through our hopes for Nordicon and potential Mid-War lists and conclude with a discussion of Battlefront’s new Cold War offering, Not Red Storm Rising. We also praise a less-popular WW2 tank and a very special plane.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 19

Welcome listener,

This is our ETC after-action episode detailing our trumphant progression to not-first place. We discuss our games, strengths and weaknesses of the ETC, Brian damns entire nations on flimsy pretexts as the rest of us embrace an era of peace, love and international cooperation. And congrats, again, to the Yankee imperialists on their 2015 win!

Check out this episode!

Live from the ETC in Prague

We are coming at you with a podcast from an abattoir in Prague on the eve of the ETC.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 18

Welcome to Episode 18 of the Warheads podcast.

We report briefly on the last two Irish Flames of War tournaments and the eternal binary struggle between Good and Evil. The meat of the episode focuses on the European Team Championship including imbittered self-justification from our list-designers, vicious national stereotyping of our opponents, dire predictions about slow play and some list analysis. For those interested, all lists can be found here: http://sirehermann.wix.com/barbus-in-game

We go completely off-topic at the end, discussing the joys of Prague, the importance of goodwill towards all and defenestration.

Check out this episode!

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