Generals KIA

The subject of generals killed in action post-1900 holds a bizarre and somewhat morbid interest for me. It’s a period where personal presence on the battlefield was theoretically less important thanks to the use of the telephone and later radio. It’s also a period where fighting formations became exponentially more powerful.

Not surprisingly, the World War II Eastern Front takes the cake. Although there were exceptions, American general officer casualties were surprisingly low-they were comparable in both World War II and Vietnam despite the lower casualties of the latter war.

For a later period hypothetical WWIII/high intensity peer war, I have a tentative list of dead generals that mainly includes air/missile strikes (including a corps commander and some of his high-end staff taken out by a hit on their badly sited HQ). Besides those and maybe a few shot-down ones, there’s an example I made of the commander of an airborne division killed by a tank raid on a forward helicopter base he’s visiting.

Earlier, I have considerably higher casualties among general officers. This is because there’s often more divisions and because worse C3 means the generals have to be at the front more often.

 

Grand Colonels And Naming Conventions

So, for one of my innumerable exercises, I created a military rank called “Grand Colonel”. Much as how “Lt. Colonel” is a step down from “colonel”,  “Grand Colonel” is a step above. While some research did find that some countries do use the rank senior colonel, it doesn’t quite match my use of it.

My “Grand Colonels” command divisions, putting them in the same spot as a major general. I still haven’t come up with a better name for higher-rank generals that doesn’t use the exact term. Maybe I’d fall back on it, or use something like ‘corpsmaster’. However, I imagined how weird and different the term “major general” might sound if across the English speaking world, we were used to going from colonel to grand colonel.

Or forget colonels altogether. Since “Colonel” comes from the Italian word for “column”, someone commanding a similarly sized unit could get a vastly different name. I don’t have the linguistic skill to say what it would be without resorting to a robotic-sounding compound name, but still. Language development is full of weird quirks that get accepted as being totally normal. They’re interesting to study.

I once saw a conlang rank of “sub-general”-is it between colonel and general, or is it something equivalent to Lieutenant General? Could two countries with the same language family have one ‘sub-general as the former’ and one as the latter? Why not?

(Also,  while the officers are fairly consistent, I have the enlisted ranks in the same organization have a weird sort of craftsman like rank, with ‘private’ becoming ‘novice’ and higher enlisted ranks becoming ‘apprentices’ and ‘stewards’. So a sergeant major becomes a ‘Grand Steward’, linking it back to the ‘Grand _____’ precedent established by the grand colonel.)

Rivet Counting Addiction

Help, my rivet counting addiction has been triggered yet again. The culprit this time is the Micromark Army Lists, a very large list of orders of battle that range from the historical to the purely theoretical, from the musket age to the present. On Wargamevault (great site), they’re cheap, and I’ve been snapping them up en masse.

Weird how my cautious mentality gives way. I’ll waffle and hesitate over a cheap e-book, but have been wolfing down these dry lists like crazy. I’ve tried to get novel ones, but there have been a few duds I probably should have seen coming (You mean an unreformed ex-Soviet republic is going to organize its military on gasp-Soviet lines [that I already know a lot about]? .) In spite of that, the novel ones have been pretty informative…

Which is a big problem. I’m worried I’ll get too bogged down in rivet-counting minutia. In my Command scens, I’ve never been shy about brushing aside a specific unit’s availability by giving it a fictional name, and I’ve become even more inclined since writing that post. In other words, I might make a fictional aircraft carrier too.

But somehow I’m struggling mightily to translate that pragmatism to prose fiction.  But I’m still trying, and I still have hope I can use the informative quality of stuff like the lists to my advantage while not turning into either an infodump fest (“oooh, X has two battalions of ___ per division, unlike Y who only has one, improving its firepower but also hurting it logistically….) or just stalling out.

There is such a thing as too much research, after all, especially if it’s misdirected research.

 

More supervillains

So, I took my drawing “””skills””” and made more supervillains that have been in my mind.

Ok. Two of these are major, and one is a placeholder of sorts. I’ll let you guess who is what. One guess only. More seriously,

  • Fir (pseudo-German for “four”, I did find an early 1900s pan-Germanic conlang that had it as four, so that works) is the final member of the Dead Hand. I put off drawing him for so long because I knew exactly what he looked like but didn’t have the drawing skills. Fir is, to be honest, an homage to the Kaiser Knuckle General, who is himself a rip-off of M. Bison from Street Fighter. So I guess it’s a rip-off of a rip-off, down to the powers? Fir came in fully formed, fighting in a pseudo-WWI and wearing a uniform to match (I wanted a field style one to distinguish him from the General’s ornate one.) Ok, he looks like a first graders attempt to draw Charles de Gaulle.
  • The Razor. The helmet makes him look worse. I imagined a ski mask under a barred helmet, like this or this. The Razor has a backstory. See, he started off as a minion supervillain a long time ago whose power was——–ready——he had a knife. That was it. Now he’s a sort of Charles Atlas genius combined with a walking arsenal of guns and knives who serves as the initial villain of an outline I’ve written.
  • Finally, the man in a ghille suit smoking a pipe. There was going to be an evil military commander there with a MacArthur style pipe smoke, but I both lacked the skill and didn’t yet have a clear theme. So I added a camo helmet, a scribbled-on ghille suit, and kept the pipe. Maybe he’ll become a more prominent character. I dunno.

 

It’s weird

It’s weird that I can rattle off a huge number of books I found bad, but when, in a conversation, it came to recommending ones I legitimately enjoyed, I had to struggle a bit.

Maybe I could recommend books I found enjoyably bad or mediocre to see if others liked them unreservedly?

No Casual Mode This Time

So, here’s the thorniest question the FE Battalion faces. What to do with casualties.

Using an old public domain military spreadsheet, I calculated a force of the same size and planned equipment as the battalion would be deploying to fight a defensive engagement. They smash their opponent, a larger yet foolhardy force attacking with far worse skill and equipment. The opponent is crushed (becoming combat-ineffective after only one day), they lose only four dead and some more wounded, most of whom can be saved.

Under normal circumstances,  the replacements would be easy.  But since the battalion’s cast involves a fixed number that can never grow higher, even lopsided victories like this turn into phyric ones. Thankfully, I can use the power of plot to regenerate the battalion between battles-after all, for obvious mechanical reasons, FE:Heroes has no permadeath whatsoever.

Fire Emblem Heroes-My Thoughts

So, I beat the story mode of Fire Emblem Heroes on normal.

Now to give my thoughts on the game. See, for what it is, a free to play mobile hype-building game, it works well. To complain about the simplified gameplay, much less the business model, seems unfair. And to a degree I’m not the game’s target audience. (Not that I’m not a Fire Emblem fan, quite the contrary. I’m just somewhat wary of free to play games)

Now for what my biggest legitimate complaint against the game is. What little there is of the plot. I can understand an excuse plot “summon the heroes to fight the heroes summoned by someone else”. But the game moves just beyond the sweet spot of essentially no plot at all into a repetitive “Sorry I’m contracted to fight you-OW!-Ok I’m not!” mode, and just enough dangling threads to be annoying without being mysterious.

Plus the ludonarrative dissonance is incredible. The story needs to be bare bones in order to accommodate whatever heroes the player gets in the random summoning system. Fair enough. This leads to stuff like one hero slashing apart his own son. Without the slightest comment. It’s a little off-putting.

That being said, the game is still enjoyable, and it’s spurred along my persistent Fire Emblem Battalion concept. Not only is the hero summoning a good reinforcement to whatever excuse plot I come up with for how they all end up in the same place, but the voice acting and detailed drawings humanizes many of the previously dull characters. This means it’s going to be harder to just say “throw the dull ones onto the casualty lists”.

It’s bad form to have that sort of effect anyway. I’ve seen stuff where you have developed characters you know will live and undeveloped ones you know will be killed off. So I guess, thanks to the game for for pushing me in the right direction 😀

 

Love/Hate Superheroes

I love superheroes. But I generally don’t like the big two superhero comics.

The movies (which are of course, the real deal with superheroes today), I have only polite neglect of. It’s not considering them bad, just not interested. The comics, on the other hand, are inherently limited by their very nature. As talented as individual authors can be, it’s just a Sisyphean task when you’re dealing with a never-ending soap opera with no closure and no limitations. Made worse by the constant super-events where they promise everything will change. Uh-huh.

The economics of it are also pretty interesting-the movies have to be smooth-edged to as big a target audience as possible, while the actual comics are niche and thus disproportionately vulnerable to fringe pressure. There are of course exceptions to both sides, but it leads to the ‘barbel effect’ of pushing to both extremes.

My family is a big superhero family (and a Marvel one, I might add), and I have bought and read comics pretty extensively, so it’s not like I absolutely hate them beyond reason. It’s just-there’s inherent structural problems.

Which is why I’ll admit to liking the stories that embrace the inherent silliness and don’t try to be more than 60s Batman-level fun more than the ones that try to make a silk purse out of the limited, constrained mess.

 

Command Community Pack Commentary

The latest Command Community Pack has been released, with a whopping 29 new scenarios available in it.

I made two of them, Brazil Abroad and Human Limitation, and figured I’d give a “director’s commentary”.

  • Brazil Abroad was both logistically limited power production, and a slow-paced, sustained ops air campaign, something I feel has been underutilized in Command. I wanted to give the player limited resources and a wide array of freedom when pursuing a target, which in practice meant a LOT of targets.
  • Human Limitation is a concept I’ve been interested in for a while, even before I got Command. Not just of Gaddafi’s African adventures leading him to Rhodesia, but the basic min-max concept of lots of equipment and little skill vs. the exact opposite.

What will I make next? I’m considering a Circle Trigon scen or doing what I’ve long scoffed at, making a pull-out-all-the-stops classic WWIII.

The Generals Repelled The Fandom Attack

I’ve spent years, almost since I started both playing the game and expanding my military reading material, trying to come up with a more “grounded” take on the game Command and Conquer Generals.

Constantly rolling a boulder up a hill would be more pleasant.

The game is nothing then an early 2000s pop culture view of the military. That’s why F-117s are more stealthy in-game than F-22s (they’re distinctive looking, ok?), the ramshackle terrorist force is made with just enough leeway to avoid a backlash while still meeting the villain of the week quotient, and Iowa battleships fight alongside beam cannons. China is the second faction because Russia was still picking itself up, and you get the idea.

Ok, so the real conflicts in Syria and Libya have featured conventional wars with ramshackle technical contraptions, so in hindsight it’s slightly better. Fair enough. But battles ranging from the pyramids to the Pacific, with the US able to traipse around as it pleases in Iran and even Russia (!), and geography being a dubious afterthought. Yeah, it still has some way to go.

The cancelled Generals sequel, to its credit, did try to turn the GLA into a more diverse and less blatant world populist uprising, but that still leaves everything else.

Sometimes settings just aren’t salvageable, and aren’t even fun to try and salvage. Generals is another setting with no foundation.