I’ve been going over the archives having a look for interesting things in preparation for our next BE game - which I hope will be at least Low Index.
I’ve had a good read over the Fleets in the Iron Empires thread, and it was quite educational until it slid into Traveller.
I’ve been thinking about the space-borne militaries of the Iron Empires, and how it works with a weird technocratic-feudal system on top of it.
Stuff We Know Already
This mostly comes from the game, the graphic novels are not explicit about structure since the action tends to focus on the ground for all of those currently published (but there are more coming, right Chris?! :)).
We know that:
- efficiency is not a priority; not when compared to privilege and protection of that privilege
- the Pilotry is an elite that is either restricted to those with privilege or to rare cases of extreme competence (at least for the Hammer, Magnates can by themselves a commission into the Court’s Anvil)
- Lord-Pilots of the Hammer do not own their own vessels. (they are not part of the list of people that can buy military starships)
- distortion drives, and the reactors to power them, are important artefacts; they are hard to maintain and extremely hard to assemble (one Iron Empires LP has Fusion Dynamics, and there are notes that tell us that humanity has lost at lot of the subtle applications of this technology)
- distortion drives are important tools for maneuver in conflict situations (they allow for almost untrumpable “bug out” capabilities)
Okay, what has this got to do with battleriders then?
Well, I don’t think the “battlerider” model is too problematic for the Iron Empires, really.
I think that while operating fleets of carriers with very small, non-HEx-capable, attack craft is problematic for the reasons that Chris points out in the “Fleets…” thread - the cost of manufacture (and probably of training…). I think I could add to this the fact that what sort of noble elite wants to effectively commit suicide by going to war in the equivalent of an origami crane. Let’s leave that to over-educated communards who meet the obligations of their charter by flying in planetary defence squadrons! The need for nobles to pilot serious vessels acts to increase the minimum useful size of warships in much the same way that the technical and economic difficulties of fusion reactor maintenance does.
However, feudal warfare does give us a model for one elite, superbly-equipped, combatant who is supported by his lessers: the knightly lance. If you imagine the “parent” (in this instance a powerful BCD-enhanced HEx-capable Hammer warship) as the knight, then the detaching “riders” (less capable standard HEx-capable warships) are the retinue of sergeants and men-at-arms and pages that follow the knight. This allows the Hammer Lord in the central “parent” vessel control over his vassals, while providing improved strategic mobility.
Retaining some HEx-capability is important for the “riders” since HEx is used to move away from trouble rapidly (and perhaps to perform surprise “crash-emergence” attacks on enemy warships stationed orbitally). Re-connecting to the parent ship is not really an option if someone turns up looking for a fight quickly. Independent HEx-capabilities also allow the “riders” to operate semi-independently to improve interdiction radius (even Hammer Patrol Craft have the capacity to evaporate civilian craft with their ordnance).
I imagine this model is probably an ideal, and that it is not always able to be realised in the dirty universe that is the Iron Empires; however on those worlds with sufficient high index infrastructure (or Kerrn technical colonies) and respect for Imperial Methods Forged Lords may “encourage” (through Ordinances?) their subordinate Hammer Lords to provide themselves with BCD-capable retinues. After all if the muster is called at a certain place and a certain time is it the fault of him who fails to arrive - or is it the fault of his panoply?