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The Making of Skirmish at Apple Tree Farms

This article follows an email sent to me by our wonderful editor Jeff about the PDF I submitted for inclusion on Freelance Traveller; "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm".

The PDF was the culmination of my efforts at playing Snapshot scenarios on a model that my daughter had received as a present. I had enjoyed the whole process and thought that with a little additional effort I could put everything I had done into a file for other Travellers to enjoy. I had most of it in bits and pieces and it just needed to be rounded out into a working document. The effort to make it into a document was much more that I had anticipated, although the process was enjoyable in itself.

I finished and submitted the document to Freelance and was looking forward to its publication when I received an email from Jeff:

You've done a nice job here, and I certainly want to put this into Freelance Traveller. However, rather than merely putting up a no-useful-info page that links to the PDF, I had a thought, which I would like to submit for your consideration:

Could/Would you write an article discussing how you came up with the idea for doing this, how it made play easier/more enjoyable, what someone wanting to do this for themselves should look for, and so on? IOW, let's turn the PDF into an example of the end result of the process, rather than the focus of the article.

And having left it for a while I thought why not. I still have the original notes and my workings, why not do an article about "The Making of Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm"?

"Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm" came about when some friends of ours found, in their loft, a copy of the push out model by Usborne Publishing of Apple Tree Farm. Part of Usborne's Farm Yard Tales series with great illustrations by Stephen Cartwright that their kids had now outgrown and had never touched, so they gave it to my daughter. Now my daughter loves the tales at Apple Tree Farm, and I had spent many a night reading the various stories to her at bedtime. My wife took up the task of the main model builder while I looked on.

What changed was I came across the Traveller Paper Miniatures produced by Wayne Peters, they are now at http://www.crowstuff.co.uk/rpg/traveller_minis/traveller_minis.htm and they looked about the same size as the characters on the Apple Tree farm model. I hadn't done any wargaming before, and seeing how the model was going to be there anyway I thought I'd give it a try. An added incentive was that the male half of the couple who had given our daughter the model is a "gun nut" (used affectionately), and we had a couple of interesting conversations over a few beers down the pub about my plans for the gift. I'm British and I live in England, and having a "gun nut" as a friend is unusual. Firearms aren't freely available and it takes considerable effort, willpower, and expense to obtain a license to allow you to keep them, so our conversations not only about his hobby but also my plans for a "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm" was a little unusual and unexpected for the others in the pub, to say the least.

While Wayne's miniatures are fantastic and "Traveller" they didn't seem to fit right with Apple Tree Farm, so I went looking for some others across the Internet. I came across Patrick Crusiau's and just thought they were excellent. I printed some of them out and made them up to see if they would fit on the model, and they did. The scale was a little off, but I thought it should work ok. So I have the miniatures and the model is being built; I needed some rules. I'm a Traveller collector as well as a player so I have in my possession all the miniature rules I needed, I had just never used them. Striker, Striker II, Azhanti High Lightning (AHL), At Close Quarters (ACQ), Snapshot, as well as the standard rules additions. I reasoned I wanted to wargame, so discounted the standard rules, and I wasn't going to have support or vehicles so discounted both Strikers. AHL, ACQ, and Snapshot are all similar so I picked them up and started to read them as rules I was going to use, and not just as Traveller products as I had read them before. I'm new to wargaming so I just wanted something that was quick to learn and easy to use, and out of the three Snapshot fits the bill. It was designed for skirmishing in a limited area with Classic Traveller at its heart. Within about half an hour I've understood the rules, worked out how it would play, and was ready to give it a go. There are a few odd bits to work out first though. Snapshot uses squares for range, there's no grid on Apple Tree Farm, and the scale is wrong, one-half inch to 1.5 meters doesn't fit on the model.

My enjoyment levels at this time are really kicking in, why? Well I deal with computing, the computing industry, specifically networking, where you are constantly learning as ICT continually develops and changes every six month, it's what I find enjoyable about the job. I'm technical, which generally means I come from a problem solving background, and I play Traveller.

I work out the dimensions of Apple Tree Farm and then I start to think about adapting Snapshot to use the 25mm miniatures I have. I search the Internet for information about scale and read a couple of really good articles learning lots about it, all relatively new to me, and proceed to work out how far 1.5 meters in 25mm scale is. I'm learning, problem solving and playing Traveller; I'm as happy as a kid in a candy shop!

Having worked out that I will need to use a tape measure, and that working with 2cm for a 1.5m square is going to be far easer than working with 21mm per square, which is what the scale the conversion works out as, I think about who will be skirmishing. A normal Traveller PC party was the obvious answer, so looking through Patrick's miniatures I pick out some likely looking candidates. One of the Aliens even looks something like a Darrian holding a laser pistol.

I pick up Little Black Book 1 and start rolling, I already have the figures and I fit them to how a party might be made up. Rolling characters can be enjoyable in itself but I had a purpose, and I was specifically rolling to match my already picked characters. I could have chosen ones from Supplement 1 1001 Characters, or Supplement 4 Citizens of the Imperium, but rolling them up gave me more of a connection to the task at hand. I also generated a whole bunch of NPCs for future use in other projects when the results of the character generation didn't fit where I wanted them to go. This exercise also led me to pick up Alien Module 8 Darians to roll up a character for the Darrian miniature. So I roll a few Darrian's, and now I have a number of Darrian NPCs to go with a Darrian Navy Lieutenant for the party and the humans I rolled earlier.

My Darrian Navy Lieutenant is holding a laser pistol, or what looks like one to me anyway, but Snapshot and CT don't have them. This doesn't stop me as other versions of Traveller do. So looking at how Snapshot judges it's weaponry and how later versions of Traveller cover the laser pistol I create my own Snapshot table for the weapon, and make a reasonable stab at a Snapshot-compatible write up.

I'm almost ready to play but I need something for the party to do and something for them to shoot at, this is Snapshot after all, so again looking at Patrick's figures I pick the Sci-fi regulars with rifles and their Lieutenant. I go back to my NPCs I rolled up and pick the Army 1st termers I have and the first Army Lieutenant I come across, all of who died in their second term (what could be better?) and rolled up a couple more to make a squad. These guys don't need to be long term veterans as they only really need to be able to shoot at the party, and I don't want to make them too good otherwise the party wouldn't have a chance.

I have everything I need so I come up with a scenario "Collection" with some victory conditions, use a dice roll to randomly identify where the holo disk is (during play) and roll 2D to hit 11+ each round to see if the Army turn up (they come in on the 8th) and off we go.

It's during play that I come up with the questions about things like "what happens when you shoot through a wooden wall?", and with a PC in the house "what does the inside of the house look like?" ACQ has some great detail about the skirmish environment, and if it wasn't my first go at wargaming I may well have used it instead of Snapshot. I read it and find out about wood as cover and apply some thought to come up with the "Firing through Wooden Buildings" rule, and a quick and easy Microsoft Visio map of the inside of the house and we are away again.

The plan of the inside of the house gives me the idea for the "Safe House" scenario, and I again match Patrick's figures to the situation I have in mind. Roll up some more characters, Nobles and Others this time, and we are off again. This time I have a go with hand grenades, which is where those rules in the PDF come from.

The other two scenarios were made up so I could continue to play, finding another set of Army miniatures from Patrick for the opposition and using the same stats as I already had meant I spent no time at all before playing the different scenarios.

All in all I had a really good time. It turned into some most enjoyable sessions of solo Traveller play. I was playing Traveller and really enjoying myself. I was playing aspects of Traveller I hadn't considered before, created some great spin off material for the future, and I was developing what I had created all the time during the sessions.

It all ended when one of our cats decided to urinate on the model, meaning we had to bin Apple Tree Farm, much to the disappointment of my daughter and myself. We couldn't see the funny side, although my wife did for some reason.

I ended up with all this material I'd created and having had such a good time doing it I thought I'd share it with the community.

Creating the PDF was another enjoyable aspect of playing solo Traveller. I needed to place the scenarios somewhere, and CT just shouts the Spinward Marches, and where better in the Marches than Regina Subsector? I needed to put them were the TL matched the soldiers, TL5 to TL7 worked best for me, and on planets where the back story matched into what the scenario wanted to achieve. Reading library data from the Traveller Book and JTAS (on-line), Heya (TL5) has an active rebellion, Ruie (TL7) is extra-Imperial, ripe for espionage, and balkanised for border incidents, and Kinorb (TL5) fit the bill for "Set-up".

With the back story for the scenarios covered, I wrote some options to go with the scenarios (I haven't played the options) and laid them out as in Snapshot, added the rules, a scan or two from Apple Tree Farm and we had a document. With a front cover to match Snapshot and a small introduction and there we have it "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm". There is far more than the above that goes into making the document but I won't go into that.

Fancy a "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm"? Amazon has the cut out model from 46 pence, about US $1, last time I checked. It doesn't take that long to put it together (a few hours). You'll need a craft knife, a tape measure, a printer, some cardboard for the miniatures bases, some white glue (or equivalent), and the Snapshot rules. If you have young kids, like I have, you'll likely have most of this anyway. Everything is hyperlinked in the PDF.

So that's the making of "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm", I had great fun putting the whole thing together, it having started purely by chance really. I had great fun playing Snapshot, and I enjoyed creating the PDF. Writing this article has brought back the happy memories, in fact I might put something else together once I've finished this. I have a few ideas anyway.

If you have enjoyed reading this, or if you do indeed "Skirmish at Apple Tree Farm", please let me know via Freelance Traveller (use our Feedback form - ed.). If you just want to add the odd suggestion or scenario, please do. Ultimately I had a great time playing Traveller, I hope you do too, and if this article and PDF help you have a good time playing Traveller as well, then that just makes it even better.

Editor's Note: Freelance Traveller also has the PDF, both so that you can play the various scenarios or merely to see the end result and use it for inspiration; you can download it from here.