Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Battletech: Classic, Modern Classic or Alpha Strike. A comparative (and now complete) review

Sometime halfway the 90ies I came upon the boardgame Battletech by FASA. Having gotten some taste of Robotech this game of big robots stomping around and hurling laserbeams and missiles all over the place immediately caught my fancy.

I bought the 1992 edition, found other players (and a friend for life) and played it absolutely to bits. On the printed maps at first, on the tabletop in later years.

Over the years the interest waned, other games came along, my friend passed away and the Mechs gathered dust in their boxes. Until one day a friend of mine got caught with the Giant Stompy Robot Bug and began inquiring which rulesets would be suitable. Eventually we ended up with Batletech Alpha Strike (BTAS). Huh? What was that?

It turned out that during the 15+ years I had looked the other way Battletech had had quite an evolution. There were several new editions, IP transferred from collapsing FASA to a German company and then somehow back again to a new US company. There emerged a Quick Play Battletech that seems to have developed into BTAS. Same Mechs. A lot more of the same Mechs actually, as BTAS was supposed to be a Big Battle Ruleset! But different rules.

So I acquired them to look them in the eye up close and try them. It was a different beast indeed. Since I had trouble myself finding a coherent and clear review of the game compared to Classic Battetech I thought I would do at least someone a service by writing one myself.

I will not go into the enormous amount of fluff published, the video games, the spinoffs, the Unseen and other exotics, but will instead concentrate on the game mechanics of the two most dissimilar incarnations: CBT en BTAS.

Classic Battletech (1984-1992)

This game is, as games go, a venerable old gentleman. In the words of Wikipedia:

BattleTech is a wargaming and military science fiction franchise launched by FASA Corporation in 1984, acquired by WizKids in 2001, and owned since 2003 by Topps. The series began with FASA's debut of the board game BattleTech (originally named BattleDroids) by Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock III and has since grown to include numerous expansions to the original game, several board games, role playing games, video games, a collectible card game, a series of more than 100 novels, and an animated television series.

So CBT is 35 years old this year. Let's take the 3rd edition from way back in 1992 -or to be more precise; the 1995 Battletech Compendium that wrapped up all the rules-  as a good example of the Original Classic Battletech. It was quite similar to the original Battledroids game and gives a good impression of a boardgame from the 80ies/early 90ies.

CBT board- or tabletop game?
Officially CBT was a boardgame, played with miniatures on a hex map with terrain printed on it. The 1995 Compendium contained a tabletop conversion chapter that was quite straightforward. All distances, ranges and speeds were converted from hexes to 2" per hex. Terrain came in standardized height levels and of course was required to replace the printed maps.. Other than that, playing CBT on a tabletop was basically the same game as that played on the map. Only better-looking.

The mechanics
CBT is a turn-based game in which units move and fire alternately. The turn officially has several phases: Move, Reaction, Shooting, Combat (physical melee), Heat Phase and End Phase (things blow up and shut down and such). All are taken in the order of Initiative, determined by a D6 roll. The winner moves and fires last (although fire is supposed to be simultaneous and any consequences happen simultaneously as well).

CBT is a very layered game. The player can make a lot of choices, all with their respective pros and cons. For this you must know that all actions a Battlemech (one of those Big Stompy Robots) can take cause heat because of the energy use powered by the 'Mechs fusion reactor. Mechs can only vent so much heat in a turn and excess heat can have dire consequences. Damage suffered can enhance heat effects. Standing in water helps cooling down faster. So choices must be made wisely.

On top of that Mechs are equipped with a wide array of weapons for various ranges. Few weapons function well at all ranges. Ammo using weapons cause less heat than energy weapons for about the same damage, but of course ammo bins may explode when hit, which is usually enough to obliterate a Mech entirely.

Finally, speed is a factor. The faster you move, the harder it is to hit something with your weapons. But also it becomes harder to hit YOU. So maneuvering has an important function in the game.

Shooting is a complicated affair. You roll 2D6 against the pilot's Gun Skill (usually 4) plus your own movement plus your targets movement plus incidental cover plus the effects of range on the weapon you are firing. And all this for EACH weapon you want to fire.
For physical melee all this is repeated sans the range modifiers. You can ram, kick or punch your opponent or simply jump on top of him. Great fun all around.

Mechs have a complicated construction. They are built up around an interior construction (Internal Structure or IS) that carries all equipment, reactors, engines, weapons and other stuff and is covered in Armor from head to toe. A Mech has 8 Hit Locations at the front and another 3 on his torso at the back.

A CBT Mech diagram: this is only 1 Mech....

A Hit is then scored on the frontal, left, right or rear of the target and hits a randomy determined location. It might only cause loss of Armor, but once the Armor is breached, the IS suffers and the chance to score Critical Hits on bits of weapon, ammo or equipment appears. In turn this has all kinds of effects on the Mech's functioning.

This way Mechs can be gradually worn down or explode in a blast of ammo or fusion energy depending on the Critical hit effects.

After all that shooting excess heat needs to be determined, which influences speed and accuracy and might even shut down the reactor alltogether to cool down and only restart after that, leaving you an immobile 30 meters high target on the battlefield......

So CBT is not an easy game to either play or master. Lots of things have to be taken into account before deciding how to move and what to do with all those awesome guns and missiles.

To play CBT you need to cram A LOT of information into your head. The available equipment and weaponry has lots of intricate detail that separates it from the other weapons and equipment. Of the dozens and dozens of available Mech designs no two are the same or even comparable. Many are designed with a specific tactical purpose in mind. Lightning-fast 20-ton scout Mechs are no match for hulking 100-ton Assault Mechs in a toe-to-toe fight but when the goal of the mission is speed this might not help the 100-tonner much.....

But this is also why I love this game so much. The player constantly has to balance actions versus consequences to remain a difficult target to hit while hitting his own targets at the same time and still be able to keep functioning in the next turn. It is a very challenging game in that respect.

However, the criticism is easy to understand. CBT is difficult to learn and slow to master. It is a physically slow game. 2-Player clashes of 4 Mechs per side are about the maximum one can play in an evening and larger battles require at least a day of playing time. And that is not to everyone's liking in these hectic and rushed modern times (although we considered them hectic and rushed in 1992 as well, I remember....)

Battletech Alpha Strike (2013)

Published in 2013 BTAS catered to the critics that thought CBT was way too slow to be enjoyable and wanted lots of Mechs on the table without having to share an appartment for a week....

The designers decided to turn BTAS into a tabletop wargame instead of a boardgame. Like I explained above, this did not in itself matter much to the actual gameplay. It just looked better. Neither did the basic mechanics of CBT change much in BTAS. There were still turns, Initiative, Shoot and Combat phases et cetera.

But then BTAS made some daring choices to speed up the game. First all the separate weapons on a Mech were clustered together in three groups based on range. So a Mech would do 4 damage at Short Range, 3 at Medium Range and 0 at Long range for example. A salvo is now just one 2D6 roll. Weapons also do not have a specific location on a Mech anymore. All weapons fire forward and directly sideways. The rear 180 degrees has become a blind spot.

Second the Heat effects were dismissed, Mechs would now only heat up when the player willfully chose to Overheat while shooting (and do extra damage). Simply moving and firing did not have any Heat consequences anymore. Heat is virtually gone as a tactically relevant factor, unless specifically chosen to be one.

Third the separate hit locations were cancelled and replaced by one: the entire Mech. IS and Armor are still there, but scoring hits on IS now only causes a roll on the Critical Hit table to see what happened. No more rolls to see where you hit. Just cross off the damage.

Lastly the effects on the Mech's own speed were dismissed and the effects of the target's speed are now limited to three situations: Immobile (after a shutdown), Standing (practically) still and At Speed (for which only the available speed is relevant, not the actual one).

An BTAS Mech card: smaller than the CBT Critical Hit locations alone....

These four major changes enabled the game to move at least 3 to 4 times faster than CBT. Fielding Companies of 12 Mechs per player is now possible in an evening's game. Day-long games could now handle Battallion strength forces. Huge tables with dozens of Mechs appeared in games offering spectacular visual appeal!

And indeed BTAS is a very quick-playing game that is easy to learn and also a lot easier to master than CBT.

This is also the price for BTAS' speed. Players' choices are now limited to "Where do I move to get a shot in, preferably from some cover?" and "Do I overheat ?" Where Mechs in CBT usually took many turns to get destroyed in BTAS a Mech can be obliterated in one. Retreat is not an option anymore, because the loser is usually destroyed before he can even reach the edge of the table. Initiative advantage is all-powerful since it enables you to slip behind a opponent and fire at him with impunity.

Battletech A Game of Armored Combat (2019)

This is supposed to be the Modern Classic Battletech game. Published in 2019 here is the review of BTaGoAC (haha).

BT19 (as I shall call it in this review) has benefited greatly from modern layout and graphic design. It is a clear-written full colour softcover booklet of 48 pages. The book contains the rules for the boxed game in its entirety so far as Mechs are concerned, up to and including designing your own Mechs. .

Rules for vehicles, Aerospace units and infantry have to be found elsewhere (presumably in the Total War Compendium). This is consistent with CBT which also offered a Compendium fur the complete rules including CityTech, Aerotech and all kinds of innovative and experimental equipment and weapons.

The rules are virtually indistinguishable from CBT. There are a few minor differences.

  • The Reaction Phase is gone. Torso twisting (to move part of your field of fire into your, left, right or rear) has now been incorporated into the Combat Phase and the fire sequence. Funny thing is this is exactly how we used to play it as we did away with the Reaction Phase immediately. Obviously the redesigners felt the same. 
  • Movement dice (dice that indicate the Mech's movement modifier after moving) have found their way into the rules. This too is how we used them in the 1995 edition. 

I might have overlooked something, but even so, it is clear that BT19 is virtually the same game as CBT. So everything detailed above and below about CBT applies to BT19.

As I am quite fond of CBT I have little to complain about BT19. Still I feel that the opportunity could have been seized to simplify the Mech Data sheets. However, when people have been using them for 30 years, maybe I am just too demanding.....

Conclusions and comparisons

It has become clear to me that CBT and BTAS, although on the tabletop they may appear virtually the same to the naked eye, are two vastly different games.

BTAS is a low-treshold quick game that can be easily picked up and applied to lots of terrain and miniatures in relatively short amounts of time to produce a relatively straightforward game. It would put it a bit strongly to call it a beer-and-pretzel game but it comes close.

CBT on the other hand is a slow and complex game in comparison, does however offer many tactical dillemmas and choices and with that a much more challenging game.

In theory both rulesets could be used in the same Campaign to play engagements of various sizes. One needs to realize however that the casualty rate in BTAS is so high it might derail the Campaign altogether.

Of course fans and players have tried to upgrade BTAS' complexity and to slow down it less desirable consequences. The BTAS Companion book even offers official rules for this purpose. Ironically most rule adaptations hark back to the CBT rules, like re-introducing Target Speed Modifiers from CBT.

So know that CBT and BTAS are two very different games that offer very different kinds of enjoyment.

The answer to the question: "Should I play CBT or BTAS?" is not dependent on which game is better, but what you want to get out of it.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Prehistorics: Paleo Diet Review

Last Friday we played the first of the prehistoric rulesets. I chose Paleo Diet by Ganesha Games as the most promising.

Instead of picking one of the 10 scenarios provided in the PDF we played a generic mammoth hunt. Three groups of 3 hunters and a dog each (I watched the movie Alpha recently so the dog was a must) sneaking up to a herd of Mammoth.

One group would drive them towards the other two groups with fire. The other two groups would hen try to kill at least 2 of the giants.

Activation works per figure or per small group placed close apart. Roll 1, 2 or 3 dice and to Activate (and get as many Actions as successes rolled) and the failures give Actions to the beasts. The more failures, the more beasts get Actions. This mechanism is a staple phenomenon in games from Ganesha.

Another one is the pleasantly simple measuring system. Three measuring sticks (Short, Medium and Long) take care of all distance measuring for you.

Which action the beast takes is determined by its type, its surroundings (fire or hunters nearby for example) whether it is wounded and finally a D6 roll on the correct table. It might for example just move away from the hunters, roar to chase them away or even attack them!

Attacking is a simple affair. Roll a D6 and overcome the to hit number of the beast. A hit takes away a hit point or Bulk point. Once reduced to 0 Bulk the beast dies and joins the Paleo Diet.

It produced a quick and pleasant game where the mammoth were indeed driven towards the hunters. Killing mammoth however proved not without its risks as two hunters were trampled. 4 mammoth were killed nevertheless, so the hunt was bountiful!

The rules set in my case is a pleasant 58 page PDF acquired for $10 with cartoonesque illustrations and clear explanatory diagrams. It provides rules for prehistoric hunts, as the above would suggest. Hunters can be equipped with various weapons like spears, clubs, bows-and-arrows and stones.

Beasts and prey are grouped in types: giant grazers, herd grazers, apex predators, pack predators and individual critters.  Each type behaves differently when confronted with humans.

Things like fire, terrain effects and even a campaign mode are included in the game, so you can collect, buy, paint or build paleolithic terrain, hunters and wildlife to your heart's content.

This game will certainly be played again. Recommended!

Next one in the preview queue will most likely be Prehistoric Settlement by Steve Barber.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Prehistorics: new pictures

I thought I'd exert myself a little for some nice pictures of my progress in the prehistoric project.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Warlord slightly out of depth with Cruel Seas

A while ago Warlord Games released a game I had anticipated for a while: Cruel Seas. Instead of the numerous (well, if not numerous, at least present) existing modern naval warfare rulesets it would not deal with the Big Ships but with the small fast attack boats and their targets instead. 

A welcome change and a spectacular and favourite theme of mine, having read and re-read "De Engelandvaarders" by K. Norel in my youth; a chronicle of Dutch resistance fighters who fled to England in 1940 and enlisted in the Royal Navy to serve on MTBs among other missions.

Last week I played my first game. It turned out a typical Warlord product in both positive and negative aspects.

The Presentation
As we are customed to by now from Warlord the presentation of the game is splendid. The sturdy box contains all rules, dice, rulers, counters and even a largish paper playmat (both Mediterranean blue and Atlantic grey on separate sides) to play the game as well as 10 plastic ship models. There are even cardboard terrain pieces to represent coastline, a merchant ship (whole and wrecked) and a few German and British airplanes.

The rulebook is a durable A4 full-colour paperback containing the complete rules, complete fleetlists, some background, lovely full colour picture material to inspire your painting and a number of missions to play. As the game is supposed to cover all small ship actions of World War 2 the missions range from the English Channel to the Pacific, as do the fleet lists and background info. For the researchers amongst us an extensive reading list is presented. The box even has an index, which is a big plus as far as I am concerned.

The only thing missing here is a Quick Reference Sheet but that can be downloaded from the Warlord site.

The models

Warlord chose 1/300 scale to build the models in. The starter box comes with 6 Vosper MTBs and 4 S-Boats. Half of the ships are early war types, the other half the later war types like the S-100 Schnellboot and the Type 2 Vosper MTB. Later types tend to be faster, tougher and more heavily armed than earlier types.

The ships are plastic kits on sprue and are lovely. Assembly is easy and a breeze even with the rather sketchy instructions also included in the box. Warlord has announced several releases to expand on the game and the first Japanese, British, German, Italian,Soviet and US fleet packs will hit retail shortly (or have done so already). Fleet packs will also contain larger ships like gunboats, cutters, minesweepers and destroyers, all covered by the rules.

The only objection one can have against these models is that they are too big. Destroyers are over half a foot/10-15 cms and merchant freighters are even larger. A convoy in 1/300 scale will take up a lot of table space,, perhaps too much for any maneuvers to be possible. For that reason only I will most likely play this game in 1/600. But not without some heartache….

The Rules: what is good?
Already mentioned above the layout and presentation are excellent. Rules are systematically explained and illuminated by explanatory illustrations that clarify rules excellently. So what about the structure?

Initiative is determined in the familiar Bolt Action method by randomly picking coloured counters or dice from a bag. If your colour turns up, you may activate a ship. So activation is alternate. Actvation consists of movement, shooting and some miscellaneous actions of which Repair is the most interesting one, executed by the ship or plane of choice. Torpedoes move in the same activation as the ship that fired them.

Movement comes in three speeds: Slow, Combat and Full. All ships have these three speed categories irrespective of size or type. However, movement distances per speed band differ per ship type, merchants being slower than MTBs for example. A ship may make one turn per speed band moved. Large ships must make wider turns than medium or small ones. A ship may slow down or speed up one range band per turn. Handy rulers with turn angles are supplied with the game.

After moving ships may shoot. All weapons on a ship may fire on different targets. Firing is done by rolling a d10, adding or subtracting modifiers for range, visibility, speed of target and shooter and coming up with a 5 or less. A hit does a number of D6s damage (scrap hull squares) where 6es will indicate Critical Hits that may destroy essential ship systems like a rudder or specific weapons. Torpedoes may be dropped into the water in the Shooting phase as well. In a stroke of brilliance one ruler has the most common modifierst printed on its back. Splashes around the target ship from previous misses in that turn enhance the chance of it being hit. The game provides plastic splash counters.

All this results in a fast and easy to play game. But not one that, in my opimion, emulates fast attack boat combat particularly well. I think there are a number of problems. 

The Rules: what could be better?
The random Initiative method is a matter of taste. It defintely results in dynamic and surprising games. However bad luck may ruin the most clever plan. I would prefer alternate activation without the random factor. But I admit this is a matter of taste.

Turning circles do not work right and are the same width no matter how fast or slow your boat moves. This more or less cancels any effects of speed on turning which in my opnion should have been essential in a fast attack boat combat game. Tighter turning circles for slow moving ships would have been much more interestiung and really would not have been hard to implement. Besides that, all ships may make a turn when stationary, which makes large ships incredibly maneuverable. Finally, as one acccustomed to boats I get hung up on the fact that in CS ships turn around their stern, while in reality ships with steering rudders will turn around their bows unless they have bow screws.

The effect of splashes is very pronunced as any splash of a larger calibre miss increases the chance of a subsequent hit with 10%. In reality this effect did indeed come into play between capital warships but had no effect at all amongst the agile and fast moving small attack boats that left splashes behind very fast and mostly engaged in flat-trajectory fire anyway.  

Airplanes may attack boats but strangely enough may not strafe them, which was the most common form of airplane-to-ship attack.

Purists may also want to alter the effects of certain weapons and weapon layouts. However CS is a fast flowing game and should perhaps not be cluttered by too much detailed ruling. But the problems with turning circles, splashes and strafing attacks  should have been solved. Some excellent houserules to complement (and/or complete) this game with can be found at this link.

The rules also already know an extensive Errata list, which could have been somewhat prevented by better proof reading. It can be found here.

Cruel Seas is a beautifully executed and promising game that is enjoyable to play straight from the box. But it would have been a much better game having benefited from rules that emulate fast boats better and some more proof reading.

The choice for 1/300 scale will produce some stunning naval modelling but will run into its own limitations in larger scenarios as soon as the recommended 3x4 table is stuffed with ships actually too big to fit on it.  

Friday, December 28, 2018

Necromunda 2.0: what do we think about it? + 2 updates

In the time honoured tradition favoured by Games Workshop's marketing department GW has revived an old love of mine: Necromunda.

Now I played Necromunda to death around the turn of the century and collected and built gangs and terrain to my heart's content. I still revisit it occasionally and the game is one of my most prized and fondly remembered possessions.

So when a friend of mine asked me to try the rebooted version I was all for it. We played it a few times and I feel ready for a first review. In this review I will -just to be clear- compare this game  to Necromunda 1995 and I will assume you know that game already. If not, check here.

In terms of style and quality of game components GW leaves little to be desired, insofar their product is to your taste. One of the first things you need to know however is that, although the game is still sold in a ready-to-play box with two gangs, the definition of "ready" has changed somewhat. I will get to that.

The gangs included in the box are the familiar burly Goliaths (Bondage SM gay-bar body-builders with guns) and the all-female Eschers (heavily armed 1980ies punkrockmetal groupies).  But they have been completely redone and stylish minis they are!

The clunky 90ies Citadel metals have given way to stylish and elegant plastic miniatures in very dynamic poses.

The gangs include a Leader, a Heavy armed with a Chem Thrower (a 21st century Flamer that is) and a number of gangers armed with an assortmant of autoguns, lasguns, pistols and pointy things.

The boxed gangs do not include Juves, although the rules do.

The box also includes a Rulebook and a Gang book with Campaign rules. The Gang book onlydeals with the Eschers and Goliaths. This is new. If you want to play with other gangs, you will have to buy other books. (Crud...)

The box includes a number of board tiles that serve as an instant wargaming terrain tabletop (and have given rise to the misunderstanding that Necromunda 2.0 is a boardgame: it is not), a number of great looking doors, barricades and loot crates and of course the mandatory amount of dice, rulers, templates and counters.

This playing surface is also the limitation of play in this box. Gangers have not yet learned to climb, there is no elevated terrain and the Rulebook contains no rules for climbing (although curiously a skill for it).

Should you want to play in elevated terrain, you will have to buy another rulebook (Crud again...) and build or buy elevated terrain of course. Lucky me I kept everything.....

Gameplay is quite streamlined compared to the old game.

Major improvement is that gangers now move alternately, greatly enhancing the tactical possibilities over moving your entire gang at once (or at least before your opponent may move.

The Wound table has been replaced with a Wound die, The opposed To Hit vs Strength (or whatever) table has been replaced by 3 stats (Strength of Hit bigger, smaller or equal to Toughness) and things like Ballistic skills no longer need recalculating but are simply the stats you need to roll. The ammo roll is now a die rolled alongside the To Hit die and also indicates multiple hits for Rapid Fire weapons. Bolters still rock. Close Combat is somewhat simplified.

On the downside, Overwatch has been streamlined away as well as an Action (although it is still a Skill available to some gangs) which is a letdown and a loss for the game. It is however easily reinstated using the old rules. The Chemthrower has no comprehensible rules in the rulebook that we could find other than that it "hits automatically" when the template touches the target. What the effect of such a hit may be is left to your imagination. We made up that is is a Toxin Gas of which the effect is described somewhere. Apparently there are more types of ammo for a chemthrower but not (Crud) in this book. Maybe the next one?

As you might have surmised you will need a lot of money to buy a lot of books and a lot of leafing through all these books. Hopefully GW will release a Compendium sometime soon.

In the original game the gangs started basically identical. Only in Campaign play would they develop differently. The  new game offers ready-made gangs (and pre-printed cards with stats) to start with. These gangs already are different in that Goliaths have higher Toughness, higher Strength in Close Combat and no long range weapons and Eschers have lower Toughness, higher Speed and long range weapons.

Unfortunately this means that in the confined spaces of the presented scenarios which offer lots of cover the Eschers will ususally lose, as they cannot make use of long range fire and die more easily than their Goliath counterparts from close range fiire or close combat. So I do not recommend the use of the preprinted gangs. It is easy to use identical starting opponents however and they will develop differently when playing Campaigns.

The Campaign system is virtually identical to the old game insofar that it is present. Apparently part of that is in another book as well. I haven't checked.

A mixed bag.

I would immediately reintroduce Overwatch as this greatly improves the game and makes it more interesting. But in terms of game mechanics Necromunda 2.0 is mostly an improved game. Terrain and figures are fabulous and even better than in the old game. Game components look better as well.

The rules in the starting box are incomplete when you use the old game as a reference. They do not offer play on elevated terrain and rules for some weapons are missing. The preprinted gangs are unbalanced. Splitting up the game in a base set, an elevated terrain set and separate gang sets makes it hideously expensive. I would recommend waiting for the inevitable Compendium.

When you want to start with Necromunda now I would recommend it if your budget allows. Me, I am glad I own the old game.

The Necromunda Rulebook appears to have been released already. Unfortunately this does not include the Gang Lists, for which you still need a separate book. This will set you back a grand total of 65 GBP (or 85 Euros) for the complete ruleset alone, which is still quite hefty in my book.

GW also released another skirmish game under the name of Killteam. While the theme and visual design are completely different from Necromunda, the rulesets are actually quite similar. KT also works with small units on small tables, uses all the same stats and rules as Necromunda does with as main notable differences:
- In Killteam you move your entire team before or after your opponent may move his entire team.
- Shooting happens alternately per figure based on Initiative
- KT knows a charge reaction under the name of Overwatch which means you may shoot at someone charging you.

In this respect Killteam and Necromunda seem to be two slightly different variations on the old Necromunda ruleset.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas holidays: prehistorics and more stuff from long ago...

DeeZee mammoths next to a paleolithic hunter. The calf is a converted 20mm Carthaginian elephant made by Hat Miniatures. 

This aurochs actually started its life as a 54mm bull made by Lemax for their Christmas landscapes. Replacing the horns with longer curved greenstuff ones yielded a perfect 28mm aurochs.

And some more stuff from long ago in a galaxy far, far away....

And a nice Christmas present that my daughter discovered in a yard sale.