I skipped a January scifi release, since I simply ran out of time, between commissions, panto, and sickness; but this month, we have have five models: the Vampire APC and its derivatives at 144.
(Photo of Rep 2 prototype)
The Vampire family of vehicles was first introduced nearly eighty years ago, in 2265. It was the breakout product of NorthStar Engineering. The Vampire arrived on the scene at exactly the right moment for the small independent company. Several of the major powers were looking into an inexpensive, reliable vehicle for transport personnel over surface distances – a larger scale battle-taxi. The Vampire fitted the requirements perfectly. Gaining several large scale contracts, NorthStar capitalised on the success of the Vampire with clever marketing and lucrative manufacturing licences. Within a decade, the Vampire was widely distributed among ground forces from all manner of powers, from major to minor and even several nonhuman customers. It is estimated that as many as forty thousand were produced by NorthStar alone over the fifty years the Vampire remained in full production at the company.
The Vampire's success lay in more than just its marketing. The APCs' low price tag, modular component construction and ease of maintenance made it quickly extremely popular. The original Vampire was tracked, but within six years of the first Vampire rolling off the production line, NorthStar has created a grav conversion kit. Clever and ingenuitive engineering allowed the grav version of the Vampire to replace the tracks with grav-sponsons and run smoothly without the need for a significantly larger power pack. While the conversion kit perforce made the Vampire more expensive and the grav variants never reached the same numbers of distribution, it was still highly popular.
The Vampire's modularity has contributed significantly to its longevity. As a vehicle intended more for low-intensity or rear-guard operations, comparatively fewer have been lost in combat over the decades and especially in the hands of minor powers, a given Vampire may have seen decades or service and refits.
The Vampire's primary role is simply that of a battle-taxi, to transport troops to and from the battlefield, or in convoy on the surface. The Vampire's emphasis was placed on troop and crew survivability. To that end, the Vampire's engine (and later power core) is front mounted, behind an armoured access hatch and sealed from the crew and passengers by an internal heavy wall. The generous size of the engine compartment means the power plant can be replaced and upgraded easily.
Primary access is via the twin rear doors. The driver (right) and commander (left) have hatches above their stations (allowing a more expedient exit in case the vehicle needs to be abandoned), and there are four additional roof hatches in the main troop compartment.
The troop compartment is spacious enough to comfortably house sixteen passengers (e.g. two squads of infantry), powered infantry or even cargo. Six vision blocks provide the passengers with some visibility.
The stock Vampire is unarmed. However, many armies and militia experimented with upgrades – smoke dischargers and pintle-mounted assault weapons being one of the more common varieties.
The most notable current large user of the Vampire is the Tarrainian Federation, which manufactures them under licence. The TarFed Vampires are close to the original design, with only incremental changes. The majority of TarFed Vampires are tracked, with a smattering of gravitic version, concentrated in priority uses, such as CASEVAC.
The Aotrs also makes use of the Vampire, but not of the original stock vehicle.
(Photo of hybrid: Rep 2 hull, WSF turret)
Contrary to a popular galacnet theory, the Aotrs adoption of popular Vampire APC was not due to the thematically-appropriate name ro the Undead(which is entirely coincidental).
The Aotrs took the basic grav Vampire design and made significant changes. They striped out and replaced the power core and upgraded internal systems and added a turret, transforming the vehicle into an IFV, the Vampire Lord. The Vampire Lord sacrificed half the space for the infantry carried – down to a comfortable eight (a dozen at a push) – to install the quad pulse-fire coldbeam cannon turret mounted on the roof.
The Vampire Horde is a variant of the Vampire Lord that replaces the coldbeam turret with a salvo launcher for the Horde semi-guided warhead system, giving application for use in strike, anti-tank, anti-personnel and anti-aircraft roles. The Vampire Horde Doom is a further variant that has no infantry capacity, but instead has additional ammunition space. It is used in supplementary AA and Anti-Tank roles, though they have been successfully used to support missile patrol boats in naval engagements on soft targets.
For nearly two decades, the Vampire Lord was the Aotrs' primary APC. The hull was not suited for upgrade with shields and it eventually began to fall out of usage. It has now been replaced by the Fallen Soul in the transport role.
The Vampire Horde currently sees the most usage of the Vampire variants; despite the inability of the vehicle to mount shields, in an AA or support role this was not considered as critical. Most Vampire Lords are currently regulated to support or second-line roles. However, the Vampire's tale does not end there. Work was beginning on extending the design's life by adding a dedicated AA tracking suite to both Lord and Horde and them and turning them into a proper company AA vehicles, a role they were already starting to fill.
But within the last six months, a brand-new innovative technique has been developed, allowing a shield grid matrix to be quite literally painted on to the hull. Advances in power plant technology allow a further upgrade to the power course to handle the additional load of shields. The new shield matrix is being pioneered on the Vampire Lord and Horde, but is expected to be applied to other unshielded Aotrs vehicles like the Distant Thunder and Reign of Anger.
The Vampire Lord and Horde's new coat of paint will once again bring the vehicle into the front line, as a light IFV for special operations and an AA vehicle. Nor is this just a figurative statement; the new matrix is coloured so as to replace the Vampire Lord's original mist-grey colouration with the current rust-and-gold livery.
Vampire Lord (with raised turret)
(Photo of Rep 2 prototype)
This version has the guns raised instead of horizontal.
(Photo of hybrid: Rep 2 hull, WSF turret)
(Note: There is, in theory, a version of the Horde with the turret lowered that I could do if there was demand for it.)
The Vampire has a bit of history actually. It was one of the first cardboard fold-flat vehicles UshCha designed, oh, some fifteen plus years ago for when he played 25mm and Stargrunt II (before he wrote Maneuvre Group). I cribbed the design for the Aotrs and added turrets (also fold-flat!)
When I first started 3D CAD, the Vampire was an early experiment. When we got the Replicator, the Vampire was actually one of the first models we tested it on. It then languished for some time until I needed to to the TarFed ground force relatively quickly. As they are a minor power who gets most of their stuff (like many smaller nations nations) on import, it made sense to use the Vampire. While I was at it, it was daft not to resurrect the Aotrs versions as well!
As I've still got commissions and such to do, you can expect to see more of both TarFed and Aotrs ground forces coming in the next month or two; my aim for this year is to try and get the Aotrs ground army "finished" – that is, to finish translating he majority of the scratch-built/converted/etc vehicles I have at 25mm to 144.
I have a few starship designs on the table, but that will require me getting some free time, but that may creep out in between.
As a final bonus (and a bit of a teaser!), when I was painting the TarFeds, I experimented with trying a camouflage pattern with their colour scheme. (The colour scheme is the one I'd already used on their starfleet.) I tried a couple of variants, and while the resulting pattern was alright, after much debate among me and my compatriots (and some unbiased opinions from my nongamer sisters), I decided that the camouflage pattern did the job rather too well. It obscured all the details, which from a commercial perspective (as I don't have even distantly the space to have display and wargame versions of my models!) and from my own pride-at-detail standpoint, I decided that wasn't the right choice. It was an interesting experiment though: here's a glimpse of what might have been (pictured along with a couple of (pieces of) other TarFed armour!
Shapeways, Aotrs Shipyards