After Action Reports

This blog will provide a record of all my airsoft game after action reports. These are reports written by me in guise of the various characters that I have played in Contact!; a Live Action Role-Playing game run out of a decommissioned cold war nuclear bunker.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Guns, Guns, Guns: Part 1 (Updated pictures)

The big attraction of Airsoft is that you can buy pretty realistic replicas of real guns, which you can shoot your friends with, and unlike real life, your friends remain your friends, rather than becoming your dead ex-friends.

Above is an old picture of what was my whole collection, but I've since sold on a couple, because of storage, financial, or lack of usage reasons.  I now have a new one in, an old one out policy.  Quite frankly, you can only use one rifle at a time and once you have your main squeeze, plus a spare, plus a special, and the equivalent in handguns, then you are pretty much good to go.

The M60 was not the first gun that I bought, but when I first started in airsoft it was the gun that I aspired to owning as it looked awesome, and at Contact! game site the 1200 round hopper meant one didn't have to carry magazines for ones gun.

The Mk 43 Mod 1 you see above started as a M60 E3 shorty from Top, which can be seen in the first photo. Back when I started playing airsoft the only manufacturer of M60s was Tops.  Nowadays of course you have a larger choice of M60s with superior mechanisms to the Tops bellows system.  Mechanically this gun has been very reliable, as I've never had any of the problems that others report having with the bellows failing.  There again, I play in a MilSim game and when I use the Pig tend to fire it in relatively short controlled bursts.

However, I will say that the first few years of ownership I was plagued with bits falling off the gun, and "fatigue" failure of pot metal parts.  Anyway, various metal external upgrades over the years have made it a pretty solid gun.  My M60 E3 first became a M60 E4, before morphing into the Mk 43 Mod 1 variant you now see here.  It weighs in at about 14lbs, without battery, which is kind of light in comparison to the real deal.  This gun desperately needs an internal upgrade to make its performance match its looks, as the Top internals means it only runs at 90 meters per second.  Oh yes, the ammo box houses a 4000mah NIMH battery pack, so the "Pig" will shoot quite a while before the battery drains.

Ah the TM Steyr AUG, my first airsoft AEG. This is a civilian model with a custom made scope riser made to bring the Eotech holosight up to my eyeline when wearing a paintball mask.  The SA80 three point sling was acquired through a surplus show and what can I say about but I loved this gun.  The reason I sold it on was all down to the magazines, which won't fit into standard STANAG pouches.

After I had been playing airsoft for a while I realised that for me having a comfortable rig was the most important part of the game.  Being able to spread the weight of the magazines, water and other kit over the body was more important than the gun.  This may not be such a factor for a fit young man, or fit older man, but for a middle-aged woman it was a big deal.

My second airsoft gun, bought to replace the AUG, and inspired by watching too many episodes of SG1 on TV.  This started as TM standard P90 that I then added an after market rail system too, as the built in sight is less than optimal for airsoft usage.  This was such an easy gun to line up and shoot, but like the AUG suffers from using non-standard magazines that are a bit of fiddle to change when running around being shot at, so it too had to go.  Loved it though.

Now this was an oddity I picked up second hand from a friend who also played in Contact!  It's a Maruzen shell loading airsoft shotgun.  It made a gorgeous sound when one racked it, and the shells being ejected just added to the thrill.  However, shells are easily lost unless one has a shell catcher, and power was poor.  It leaked gas like a sieve trying to hold air.  I stripped it down and rebuilt it too.

This is what you you find after what it has to be said is a rather tricky job.  The main gas leakage occurred at the the points where the hose main valve started (right hand lower corner).  Next it leaks where the hose goes into the main storage chamber, which is probably too small to hold enough useful gas, and finally the mechanism that fed the gas into the shell (that can hold one to six bbs) leaked too.  One really needed a lot of gas capacity, or good sealing to get the best out of this gun.  It could be done, but it required lubrication and to do this properly that meant stripping the gun down after each game.  I sold it onto another player who wanted it more as a good looking plinker.

Finally, my pistols. What we have here is two WA Beretta Cheetahs and a Maruzen Walther P99.  I actually started off with a WA Beretta Cougar, a 45 cal replica, but found it too large for my hands, hence the Cheetahs.   However, I now have two Walthers and only one Cheetah, because the latter is too small for a standard military holster, but the Walther is just lovely.  The second Walther has been heavily modified to take a laser, which I use for target practice and for refining my trigger pull technique, as the laser dot allows you to see how much the pistol is moving as you pull the trigger.  Good trigger pull is the secret to being able to hit a target and not miss.

That's all for now, but I will be back with part two, which will outline what other guns I've used, and my most recent acquisition my G&G F2000, which is lovely (like an AUG, but takes STANAG magazines).

Contact!: Kit & Stuff

This is a repost from my other blog done to start creating a body of posts that are all on one site.

So, when we go through the gate on a mission we all have to be wearing full-face safety masks.  These function as respirators in game terms.  Everybody wears some kind of military BDU.  The command team generally use American camo, while the UN Marines tend to use British camo.  NPC characters wear whatever they want, in whatever combination that they want, so as to represent their rag-tag catch-as-catch-can nature.  Mostly, that is, but I'm jumping ahead to the Plot!

The rules mandate the minimum amount of equipment that players have to carry to meet the safety rules and what you'll need, which adds up to is that a player must go out with a mask, water canteen, whistle, appropriate clothing, footwear and in-game med–kit consisting of three crepe bandages, each one of 4.5 meter in length.  The reasoning behind this is that field dressing should be laborious and offer a modicum of challenge to complete.  Having to wrap a 4.5 meter crepe bandage around someone, while being fired upon, is certainly that.

In addition, the bandages act as a marker of your wound status and this makes you keep your head down.  In the Contact! game hits are defined by location.  Shots to the limbs count as one hit.  Lower torso, all shots that hit below the waist, but not the legs count as two hits.   Upper torso and head shots count as three hits.  In most airsoft games a hit takes you out of the game acting as one-shot-one kill. 
There again is most airsoft games when you die it's a time out.

Contact! when you die you are just mostly dead.  I say mostly dead, because if your buddies can get to you and apply first aid, then medivac you back through the gate, then good old Dr. Stokes can patch you up using some dodgy recovered alien technology.  This again is another good reason to always stay with your buddy and watch out for each other.

On one night mission, one of our more gung-ho players went forward into the dark never to return, even though I have it on good authority that his buddy was told to get help and go to retrieve him.  Something to do with not wanting to wander around in the dark woods where there were a number of unaccounted for hostiles in wait.

So, given that most people also want to go out and fire guns, though we have a few players who go just for the role-playing aspect and have characters that don't carry guns, you need some more kit.

Webbing is the preferred choice for the
Contact! game, as it doesn't interfere with feeling the hits.  Though truth be told, when you have an adrenaline rush on it has to be said if you can't see it or hear a hit, then you are unlikely to feel one, unless it's somewhere tender.  Tender spots include inner thighs and hands.  If a player isn't taking their shots and falling over, while screaming, then tracking the rounds onto the face mask usually works.  Again, it's a rule that when hit players should scream out when hit.  It's an acknowledgment that you've taken a shot and it save you from excessive incoming fire.  Not usually an issue in most airsoft games, where high-capacity magazines are used, but in Contact! we use real capacity magazines with a number of limited rounds.  This restriction means that you have to carry a whole load of them around with you.  This may not sound like much, they only weigh a few ounces each, but they also need to be carried in pouches and it all adds up.

I for instance take up to seven magazines (six in the webbing and one spare in my hand) for my main weapons and a couple for my back-up pistol.

Picture this as a typical UNSGC grunt on an offworld reconnaissance mission.  He or she will be wearing BDUs and boots, with webbing and pouches to hold their main weapons magazines.  Add a holster and pistol with a spare magazine or two.  Canteen, in-game med–kit, mask, headgear, gloves,
torches and whistle.  Not to forget to mention essentials like the odd length of para-cord or two and walkie-talkie.  Those of us who are paranoid about being killed often wear helmets and flak-jackets, there being some dispensations on the severity of the hits taken under the rules when wearing this stuff.  Of course this all rather weighs you down a bit.

However, the result is that we do look like "real" soldiers out on a mission humping the equivalent of a combat load.  This certainly adds to the whole verisimilitude of the game experience.  It also gives one an understanding of what it is like to "grunt" your way through the countryside, while trying to kill enemy, before they kill you.

Oh yeah, next time guns...


Contact!: Back Story

This is a repost from my other blog done to start creating a body of posts that are all on one site.

Well as I've mentioned there are a whole bunch of influences to the Contact! game background.

In the background history of the Contact! universe a toroidal cavern under the Antarctic icecap was discovered in the 1930s by both the Americans and German Antarctic exploration groups.  The control of the site fell to the
German after Operation ice Palace, and they ran U-boats to Antarctica throughout the second world war.  Yes there are Nazis in the game!

After the war the permanent members of the UN Security Council initiated Operation Highjump to take control of what was to become Base 78 (78 because that is how many stargates were found under the ice), which was the code name for the Vostok Antarctic base (joint operations during the Cold War is justified as the reason for there not being WW3).

In addition to the above, another gate complex was found on the bottom of the Arctic Sea, which the Russians retrieved for their own use.   They place their retrieved gate in a purpose built secure site in the city of Pripyat, in the Ukraine.

However, despite all the Cold War tensions between the Americans and Russians about joint access through the gates, everything went pretty much tickety-boo until 1986 when strange things started to happen offworld.  Cue spooky X-Files music...

By this time numerous offworld intel bases, and several colonies had been established. Then some unknown group started attacking UNSGC assets in a campaign called Operation Clean Sweep (named after
retrieved enemy intel)The first Earth based gate lost to offworld enemy action was the Russian one at Pripyat, when the base self destruct was activated after hostile incursion occurred.  At the same time the UNSGC forces operating out of Vostok Base 78 found themselves facing hostiles that when killed would reanimate.

Sometimes these reanimators would go to the stargates and leave the planet; at other times they would get back up and carry on fighting. 
They were labeled reanimators in the intel reports. These reanimators were classified as falling into three types, which are imaginatively named type one, two & three (milsim you see!).  An yes there are Nazi reanimators in the game.

So the game started in 1996 with the players operating out of a site at Greenham Common, which stood in for Base 78.  This former military site was redeveloped, so after some alternatives were tried, Contact! was moved to its current site (a former nuclear regional command bunker called RGHQ 5.1).  In the character universe this was explained by the fall of Base 78 to hostile incursion and the detonation of the base self-destruct device.  This irradiated
the Antarctic base making it unusable, and then it was sealed shut with concrete for H&S reasons (stop reanimators from using the gates to get a foothold on Earth).  Fortunately, some of the stargates had been removed prior to this event and taken elsewhere.

We operate our game out of RGHQ-51 (called 51, because it was the 51st gate in the ring that was found).
  So, if you live in England and want to get involved in some live action role-playing using airsoft guns, you know where to come.

Contact! UNSGC RGHQ 51

Contact!: Airsoft LARP

This is a repost from my other blog done to start creating a body of posts that are all on one site.

Well this is only my second post on airsoft, which is mostly down to the fact that I've been too busy dealing with the treatment of my rheumatoid arthritis, and the side-effects of chemotherapy's effect on my Real Life(TM) to pay much heed to the game.  However, I've just bought a new (well second hand) gun and feel inspired once more.

I'm not going to reveal today what my new gun is, as it is still in the post on its way to me.  So what I want to do is talk more about the game I play and the scenarios that have entertained my interest in the game for nearly 10 years.

Contact! is as much an RPG as it is an airsoft game.  The two can go hand in hand, and for some people this is a good thing, and for others not so much.  The upsides are that there is always a good reason for being outside shooting your friends, as there is a story being told, which only unfolds at the pace of the players ability to root it out.  The downsides are that the story only unfolds at the pace the players find out stuff, and that the safety requirements for airsoft make face-to-face communication difficult for lots of people who are more use to traditional LARPs.

So like most LARPs you have to create a character to play in the game.  This can be difficult to do as one only really know what works in the game for you, after you have been playing for a while.  Dean who runs the game does allow the players considerable leeway to allow people to let their characters evolve.

So the first character I ended up inventing when I started playing Contact! was called "Doctor Morticia Ash".  She had a background in anthropology and biology, as I thought these would be good things to have for the game, and described how she had been working for a real science think tank called Starlabs, and made her someone who had been seconded to the Contact command.

The Contact! game has an organization called the United Nations Stargate Command or UNSGC. Immediately the Stargate film and TV series springs to mind.  While there are some loose similarities between them both, Contact! is more eclectic.  There are references to Dr. Who and UNIT, also to UFO and Shadow and overlying it all there is a strong conspiracy flavour reminiscent of the X–Files.  Add quite a few other influences on top, like Quatermass, Alien Colonial Marines and you get a uniquely new product.

For the purpose of the Contact! game, Stargate the TV series is a part of a disinformation programme.  In terms of what happens in the game, to what you see in the TV series, then Contact! is to Stargate, what the episode Wormhole X–treme was to Stargate.  The Contact! game is also very strongly a military simulation, or milsim airsoft game. That means that the rules are set up to limit the airsoft weapons so that players can't just spray & pray.  So no one is allowed to use high-capacity magazines.


Contact!: The Fight School

This is a repost from my other blog done to start creating a body of posts that are all on one site.

There is an element of what is often called the "silly hat brigade" in wargaming, which labels those people who turn up to conventions wearing military gear.  This can range from oversized persons wearing combats to those who are clearly re-enactors of some sort. You can tell the latter from the former, because re-enactors have everything right down to the last detail and will tell you how they did it too.  The term can also apply to those wargamers who wear hats to get into roles when playing games.  The first time I ever wore a "silly hat"was at a Conference of Wargamers event at Knuston Hall, which are run by the Wargames Development Group.  The Wargames Development Group's agenda, assuming their is a group agenda, is about pushing the boundaries of what we take for granted in wargaming.  I have enjoyed both of the conferences I have been to, but haven't been able to repeat the experience for a number of years due to issues around money and time.

Anyway, the use of silly hats in games, often cause die hard wargamers to squirm a bit, actually a lot in some cases, and one can end up reading rather disparaging humour pieces in the glossy wargame magazines about the subject.  Given the general opinion people have about wargamers that I find on the odd occasion when I speak about my hobbies to others, I feel this is a bit like throwing stones in glass houses.  You generally get more acceptance among role-players, who understand the whole idea of props and getting into role better.

At one end of the sill hat continuum you have players who use props to get into a fairly conventional game, so as to enhance the fun of the game.  At the other end you have people who play games that are driven by the props, and where the "game" is all about looking and acting the part.   These people are often called re-enactors if the emphasis is on the history, or live action role-players if the focus is on the character inter-reactions.  Me, I'm a episodic role-player.  I can get into a role for a while, but really can't maintain the obsessiveness of being a re-enactor as such.  Though I can pass for one at a push.  However, there is a wide degree of variance even at this level as the obsessives angst over the details, or not.  As they say YMMV!

Now me, I have played in a live action role-playing campaign for the last 10 years.  It is called Contact!  The games uses airsoft replicas to resolve conflict.  For those of you who are reading this and don't know what airsoft is, let me give you some background to it before going on any further.

You probably have heard about Paintball, well airsoft, called softair in the early days, is the Japanese answer to Paintball.  When Paintball first started they tried to import it into Japan.  The Japanese authorities tested the equipment out and found that if you replace the gel paint ball with a steel ball bearing rather interesting things happen when it is propelled at objects at around five foot pounds.  So they said no to paintball.  However, quite clearly the idea of running around and shooting at your friends is a lot of fun, so they came up with an alternative.

Instead of using half inch paint-balls, they scaled the projectile down to a 6mm plastic ball bearing instead, and reduced the energy the gun produces down to about one joule. All was then happy in the Land of the Rising Sun as a new generation of players started firing compressed air 6mm bbs at each other.  Then a company called Tokyo Marui produced the first Automatic Electric Gun.  The hobby went from being a quite specialised technical pastime to one that was more accessible to people as it made the guns easier to use, and required less support equipment like for instance air tanks.

Since the early nineties airsoft has become more mainstream, and like any hobby that acquires a big enough player base, has splintered into various groups who play for different reasons, which brings me back to silly hats.  Within airsoft their are those who walk onto the field with nothing but the minimum they need to play the game safely, but airsofting's roots lie in the realism of the guns, so the tendency is to wear some military gear, usually cammies and some web gear to carry stuff.  From here one can easily get sucked into milsim (military simulation) and having to have the right gear to represent some kind of special forces operative right up to the re-enactors who reproduce particular armies units.  Stuck in there somewhere is the live action role-playing brigade, who are using airsoft game mechanics, pain of being hit by a 6 mm bb, to resolve scenarios involving conflict and intrigue with a lot of milsim paraphanalia for good luck.

As Skinner & Badiel would say, that's me that is. Here are some links for your browsing edification:

Arniesairsoft. Big general purpose forum with a news front end.

Airsoft News Europe. A news site of all the latest breaking developments.

Contact! a lovingly hand crafted html site of labyrinthine proportions that has the background information, mission reports of the 10 year campaign that Dean Wayland runs out of decommissioned nuclear bunker in Essex, England that suffers a bit from his obsessive attention to detail, and a not always seeing the big picture.

From this the hobby spread out around the world. Initially as groups of gun enthusiasts who wanted copies of guns that they couldn't own because of the laws in their countries, or who wanted to shoot things and people without entering a contract to terminate their relationship with their friends, and end up staying for a long time in a government sponsored institution where new uses for soap would pass the time of day.