I added the Petlienzotl Tech 13 Zhodani Rob0t to the Equipment Page awhile back (see Equipment.) I’ve finally gotten around to taking some pics of the 20 that I painted up.

The first is a close up of the “Champion” taken from an in game shot of their platoon advancing through a palm grove.

Petlienzotl Close Up

Petlienzotl Close Up

The figs are primed white, painted olive, then washed with a mix of GW Thraka Green and GW Badab Black, and dry brushed with a lighter green. Simple and hopefully effective.

Petlienzotl Squad Advancing

Petlienzotl Squad Advancing

Note that the 20 fig set comes with three different sculpts/poses. These could be handled as different pieces of equipment, but I am choosing to treat them as various production models of the same core robot.

Petlienzotl Squad Close Assaulted by Tech 6 Infantry

Petlienzotl Squad Close Assaulted by Tech 6 Infantry

It turns out that as Tech 13 infantry armored as if wearing Combat Armor and sporting Laser Rifles, these guys are tough to take on at range. Lower tech troops have to get up close to have any effect. These Tech 6 troops are using a Close Assault Tactic where the two on the right draw attention and fire while the two on the left run into close range with grenades. Some teams resorted to trying to grapple the monsters! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Next fight is a more even one against Tech 10 DIMOG Walkers and supporting resistance fighters in the jungle defending against the Zhodani invasion…

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This is an awesome picture from Traveller Art of a Zhodani Guardbot

Zhodani Guard Bot

Zhodani Guard Bot from Traveller Art

This picture is close to my mental image of a Zhodani Warbot — a grav robot that floats using its anti-gravity locomotion unit. How does that work?

First of all, the grav unit must generate enough “lift” to float the robot. That means an upward thrust capability or offsetting anti gravity force must exceed the weight of the robot in this case. Simple enough. The upward force creates the first part of the robot’s locomotion: lift.

The robot also needs to be able to move around. That requires a second force for a lateral thrust or push capability. (I’m leaving out for the moment where that force comes from but I plan to come back to that.)

So if the robot has lift and the robot has lateral thrust, it should be able to float like the one in the cool picture above.

I’ve been thinking lately about another problem which someone on the Striker newsgroup brought up. What happens when my floating robot gets hit by a character swinging a baseball bat? Or an ACR round? or a grenade blast? In other words, what happens when a sudden, unexpected force strikes my floating robot?

If the robot has only the two forces mentioned — lift and lateral thrust — then when someone hits it with a baseball bat that robot is going to move away from the bat in proportion to how much force is applied in to the bat. Or the ACR round or the grenade blast. The sudden, unexpected force striking the robot is going to make it move in a sudden and unexpected manner but one that depends on how much lateral “thrust” was applied against it.

That makes floating robots a very interesting tactical problem. What if this robot is operating with some infantry when hit? He might crash into an infantryman as a result of being it. He might lose his orientation and “tumble” into an unexpected position.

[Sidebar: I live and work in Washington DC where tourists often take a Segway tour of the sites. These “vehicles” maintain orientation by gyroscope so that usually they maintain an upright position. However on the occasion that the vehicle tips past a certain point, the force of the gyro slams the vehicle into a different (perpendicular) orientation that snaps the rider off it in a nasty way. I suspect that even gyroscopically stabilized grav bots might suffer from a similar tumble if struck suddenly in just the right direction.]

What about the surroundings? Does a floating grav bot next to a wall hit the wall when it suffers a hit itself? What happens when the guard bot is guarding a rare set of Ming vases? If hit does it crash into a vase?

I think you can see where this is going. Floaters have no “grip” against the ground and hence no inherent capacity to absorb or transfer the shock of the blow.

I’ve been pondering what that grip might be but I haven’t figured out anything yet. I have toyed with the possibility that perhaps the lateral thrust capability could be directed to offset the thrust from the incoming baseball bat. Good news on that solution is that one might prevent the bot from moving. Bad news is that the bot would need to absorb the force of two baseball bats in a head on collision. That might be a worse problem that the first strike.

That kind of mechanism assumes that the bots computer could respond to the incoming force quickly enough to offset it. My anti-lock brakes sense the braking forces in the wheel and adapt to the physics of the situation rapidly — but not as rapidly as an incoming .50 caliber round. Even given advanced computer technology, there might well be limitations on the rate of response.

What happens to the hypothetical thrust compensator when the bot is hit by multiple rounds from different directions? What happens when the incoming energy is greater than the bots lateral thrust capability? Perhaps this hypothesis is not easily workable.

I also considered the possibility that the bot might save its lateral thrust for collision avoidance. It might be better able to adapt to that situation within the mechanical limitations of its hardware and thrust capacity. Of course if the initial strike causes the bot to tumble into a bad orientation, that collision avoidance could be pretty tricky. And what about the  infantrymen operating in close proximity to it? How is he (or they) protected from collision with the floating bot?

The grip problem relates to transference of force. If a big rugby player straight dives at me  and I am facing him  perpendicular to his line of travel, he’ll knock me over since I have no way to absorb or transfer the force of impact. If I step one foot back so I am standing parallel to his line of travel, bend my knees and lean in the direction of the rugby player, I may be able to absorb the shock or transfer the incoming force through my legs into the ground. Now I have an effective grip on the ground which I can set against the incoming force. I might still get knocked down, but it takes more energy to do it when I have a grip.

I am making the case that the floating robot has no grip. Even if it could use some means of directed gravitational force, that force is unlikely to be able to transfer energy away from the strike. When hit, the bot is certainly going to have to move.

There might be an additional alternative response to being struck: spin. Tumble intentionally to dissipate the incoming force. I’ll have to think that one through, but that seems to work best in a bot that is designed to operate without any particular orientation being designed as best or most efficient. In a gun fight, a bot with a spinning defense might do a lot of defensive spinning which could harm its capacity for “normal” operations.

Grav bots are in trouble when they get hit. Even hits that don’t penetrate could stun or KO the bot. An undamaged bot that is defensively spinning could be “stunned” and lose its offensive action.

If I want my bot to stand up in a fight, it needs to have legs through which to transfer energy. It needs hips, knees, and ankles to absorb and transfer some of the energy away. A fighting bot needs to be a walker if the designer intends for it to take hits and keep fighting.

I think that Zhodani Warbots need to be walkers.

The grav bot depicted above is perfect for swift, silent manuever. It is perfect for pursuit, patrol, and observation but not primarily fighting.

Walkers fight. Floaters spy.

 

Have you all seen the XM25? You can check out the Wikipedia article here but in the meantime, here is a pic:

XM25 Punisher in action

XM25 Punisher in action

This little baby is a game changer. It employs a very simple concept: set the grenade I am firing to explode 1 meter beyond the cover that I am pointing at.  It uses a laser range finder and a fiendishly simple method of calculating distance — the number of rotations in its flight. Once the target is selected, the projectile is on its own and not subject to jamming or obscuration of the “painting” laser.

For the soldier faced with guerrilla enemies who use cover as a fighting advantage, the XM25 (or if for some reason this version doesn’t work out, its eventual improved successor) provides the means to negate the guerrilla’s big advantage.  Makes lots of sense for the US to develop such a weapon given its current deployments.

While one side has these and the other side doesn’t, it sure is a “tech level related advantage.” IMTU the modern US is Tech 8 and its army fights with a combination of Tech 8, 7 and 6 equipment so let’s call it Tech 8. Its enemies in Iraq tend to use Tech 7, 6, 5 equipment with the odd piece of Tech 8 equipment thrown in so let’s call it Tech 7.

What happens though when both sides have their own XM25 Punishers? That means no one gets the advantage of cover.

Well of course you have to bring your cover with you…and that sounds a lot like Combat Armor. I would expect to see rapid development of the body armor component of Combat armor soon. The power assisted capacity research is already funded and in progress (BLEEX for example is a proto-walker) as well as really smart armor like tanks and AFVs carry now (Wet Armor.)

In the meantime, I’ll treat a Traveller/AHL/Striker soldier with an XM25 as having a LAG that can ignore cover if it has a LOS over or past the cover. The airburst means no contact hits, but that frag attack is still pretty nasty.

And I am thinking of making the Combat Environment Suit Tech 9 instead of 10 and Combat Armor Tech 10 instead of 11.

I love cool toys. There are some exciting walker models produced in 15mm and, in principle, I’d love to add them to my Striker armory. Problem is do any of these babies actually make sense? Why would I deploy a walking vehicle when I could develop a tracked or wheeled vehicle for much cheaper?

Striker itself doesn’t accommodate walking vehicles but it is possible to crib the design elements from MegaTraveller and do a fusion-interp version. As I post my collection of vehicle stats, I’ll include the walkers that I have designed for fun. But I am talking about getting serious and actually buying some lead!

So then, how and why walkers? Do they even make sense?

When I think of walkers in sci fi cinema, five types come to mind (besides the fantastic Transformer types) :

  • All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) [Star Wars]
  • All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) [Star Wars]
  • Power Loader [Aliens]
  • Mitsubishi MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform or AMP Suit [Avatar]
  • Kenbishi Standard Light Weight Tank – Multi-Ped “Crab Tank” [Ghost in the Shell Anime]

I suspect there are more but those are the ones that spring to mind. Do these make sense for Striker/Traveller? I mean of course aside from the simple cool toys rationale. Would any government actually buy these with ever scarce military credits? Are they worth the bang for the buck? Do they make sense, as they say, IMTU?

First question — are they plausible? could they ever be built or be effective? The answer to that is a pretty quick “yes.” I found this video of a prototype timber cutting vehicle which uses six walker legs to navigate tight spaces and uneven, changing terrain. Check this out:  Timber Cutting Walker Video It seems that here at lowly tech 8+ we get walkers too!

In the process of searching for an answer to the plausibility question, I discovered that the designer of the AT-AT, the AT-ST and the Power Loader used the same concept drawings as inspiration for the three designs. You can read more at Cybernetic Zoo on my favorite walkers including picture of 1969 US Steel design.

US Steel Legged Cargo Vehicle 1969

US Steel Legged Cargo Vehicle 1969

So what are they for? It seems the best rationale for walkers is a vehicle capable of

  • bringing onto the battle field weapons heavier than an infantryman can carry
  • carrying its weapon into terrain too rough for wheeled or tracked vehicles
  • carrying its weapons in terrain too constricted for aircraft, hovercraft or grav vehicles to easily traverse
  • having a low crew requirement (preferably just one)

So let’s take a look at these different concepts:

AT-AT Walker — Visually, these are armored elephants. In fact the Battle on Hoth looks like the Battle of Pellenor Fields from the Return of the King(LOTR). The visual impact of the scene creates a lovely oooo-aaah in the audience (or at least it did when the movies first came out.) But what military purpose do they serve?

It seems that these are multi-gunned, multi-turreted heavily armored vehicles. A little digging on the web tells me that they were supposed to carry 5 speeder bikes and 40 Imperial troopers. They are armed with two blasters (not sure on the Traveller translation) and two laser cannons. So that makes them a sort of Super Infantry Fighting Vehicle capable of carrying a near-platoon into action in extremely bad terrain. With a crew of two and an understandable battlefield mission, the AT-AT might seem like a candidate if it weren’t for the fact that they are supposed to be somewhere between 15 and 22.5m tall. That is around 5 storied high. Unless I am planning on stepping 5m tall obstacles, I am just not seeing much utility in the height.

I’d give the AT-AT credit for being a possible if not likely design. In Striker terms, these would have a very big High hit DM that would make them very easy to hit. A suspension hit could topple the vehicle and I for one would not want to take a 5 story fall with 40 of my best friends when that monster falls over.  To make this vehicle work, one would have to build in lots of survivability features (like extensive “hard-kill” countermeasures) that would add to the cost and weight of the vehicle.

AT-ST Walker — These “chicken walkers” with reversed knee legs reminiscent of a rabbit or kangaroo seem more plausible to me. Again, they have a crew of two and are capable of traversing difficult terrain. They are armed with smallish laser cannons and some “concussion missiles.” They have no infantry carrying capacity and are intended for use in scouting. They are 8m tall.

One might compare them to a CFV, light tank, or even an armored car in terms of battlefield function. Their height gives them greater spotting range but, unlike a helicopter or grav vehicle performing a popup, that also means they can be seen and targetting from further away. In an combat environment where tactical missiles are common, these tall walkers are in danger. On the other hand, in a jungle/forest environment where the cover height is greater than 8m, they could have some advantages.

One wonders how their size might limit mobility in confined spaces, but they seem to do fine (at least mechanically) in the close forest of Endor.  I would worry about ground pressure since the weight of the legs seems to add to the overall weight without creating corresponding advantage. I know they had big feet but again if the feet are too big, it becomes more difficult to place them in very rough terrain.

Again, I would put these in the category of plausible but improbable.

Power Loader from Aliens — These walkers make sense to me totally. I should probably add the disclaimer that one of my first jobs was driving a fork lift truck inside a warehouse with very narrow aisles. There is definitely heavy stuff that needs lifting in small spaces and a wearable fork lift makes a lot of sense to me. I wouldn’t expect to see one at Ikea, but I might expect one on a colony world where terrain, weather and structural conditions (like a smooth concrete warehouse floor) can’t be controlled so much in advance. I don’t expect them to show up in downtown Imperial Tech 15 Town and it seems that the ubiquity of grav tech makes a Power Loader less useful beyond about tech 11-ish. In the 8-9-10 zone, these seems plausible, possible and potentially cost effective.

Power Loader from Aliens (toy)

Power Loader from Aliens (toy)

Mitsubishi MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform or AMP Suit [Avatar] — If you buy the idea of the power loader, then the AMP suit makes sense too. Basically, this is a power loader with a sealed environment cockpit and a more

anthropomorphic configuration. The Avatar wiki describes these as having advanced force feedback mechanisms so that the driver can interact through a whole body interface. Hands and feet are intended to mimic human ones and to provide a range of actions like the actions a human infantryman would be capable of doing. I assume this means digging, loading, unloading, weapon maintenance as well as gun toting.

AMP Suit from Avatar Wiki

AMP Suit from Avatar Wiki

Kenbishi Standard Light Weight Tank – Multi-Ped “Crab Tank” [Ghost in the Shell Anime]
I am a bit partial to this one…it is especially cool.

Kenbishi Standard Light Weight Tank - Ghost in the Shell Wiki

Kenbishi Standard Light Weight Tank - Ghost in the Shell Wiki

This one appears in the movie Ghost in the Shell. As it is depicted in the film it is armored and armed with two autocannon in the 2-4cm range. They are know as “think tanks” since they are run by an AI and are actually robots.  The hexapod leg structure would make them as stable as the Timber cutter in video above and the jointed legs decrease overall height to what appears to be about 4m or less.

The AI version is obviously at least tech level 13 but a non-AI manned version seems quite plausible before that point. In Striker terms this would still have a sizeable High Hit DM, but I could imagine a crouch posture that would reduce this vulnerability.

So what does all this mean? Is it time for toys yet? Yes, yes it is.

So in writing this post I convinced myself to purchase some of the most plausible walkers I have found on the market, the Federal Army DIMOG Mark 1 and Mark 2 Walkers from Khurasan Miniatures. Khurasan’s stuff looks good in person and not just on the website. I’ve ordered from them before and been very satisfied. It could be a little while before some painted pics appear on the website as the order is just in. For the time being, here are the pics from Khurasan’s web site:

DIMOG Mark 1 Walker

DIMOG Mark 1 Walker - Khurasan Miniatures

and it’s slightly more armored upgrade the Mark 2

DIMOG Mark 2 Walker

DIMOG Mark 2 Walker - Khurasan Miniatures

More on the stats and rationale in my next post!