Sunday, 11 March 2012

100th Post

Mega Trade Part 2 – my previous post – was actually a bit of a mile-stone article in the life of this blog. It was the Big ‘C Note’, the ‘One Tonner’, the 100th Post.

This, on one hand, goes to show just how silly stats and post numbers are, as some of my posts are barely worth the cost of the electrons that gave their all for them. On the other hand, it does indicate that I have been able to maintain some sort of consistency, or persistence, of posting over the last 26 months or so, and that I’m still enjoying writing about Traveller and model making and painting.

My computer suffered a terminal Windows boot meltdown a couple of weeks ago which has been a major pain in the fundamental posterior orifice. Since then I have had to fight for processor time with my daughter on her machine. Fortunately, as my old machine had been getting a little erratic, I had bought a Terabyte external drive and shifted all my pictures, music and general files, including my website, gaming and blog files, over to it some months ago. So, when Windows finally broke, the only really important files I lost access to were my business emails, and my contact list, which included the logon for my website. This makes updating it a little difficult.

“Bother”, as the Great Sage, Winney the Pooh, said.

Anyway, enough pity party.

Cover of Blasters and BulkheadsI’ve just finished painting a pack of Twanax Horde from Blue Moon Manufacturing, as well as a couple of packs of Ground Zero Games Hammer’s Slammers figures, and a starship captain from Khurasan Miniatures. What these figures have in common, apart from being fun to paint, is a slight pulpish air about them. This is rather fortuitous as I’ve just finished reading my new copy of Blasters and Bulkheads.

While B&B has a very strong Star Wars vibe about, it does claim to be a more generic Pulp/Space Opera Science Fiction Skirmish game, and I can see that you could play out Van Vogt’s Lensmen-based games or even Dominic Flandry scenarios or adventures from Andre Norton’s stories. B&B has one of the better quick-play psionic combat systems I’ve read, and I like the way that the focus is on characters, with minions or henchmen coming along for the ride as mobile scenery. I’m really looking forward to playing B&B, and seeing if I can poach some ideas for 5150: New Beginnings – which has a much better solo play aspect.

Twanax Horde by Blue Moon Manufacturing and GZG UNSC MarineGetting back to the figures – the Twanax are basically Yetis, and while I painted them up in shades of brown, I’m now thinking that I need to get a second pack to paint up in greys and whites as Abominable Snowmen, for my GZG Scan Fed figures and for the Snow Troopers/Pulp-guys-that-get-eaten-by-The-Thing that Khurasan Jon is talking about releasing in a couple of months.

Hammer's Slammers Infantry from Ground Zero GamesThe Slammers figures from Ground Zero Games are quite fun in a retro sort of way. I thought of them as being light troops or dragoons and bought enough skimmers to have two ground squads and a squad mounted on the little one-man grav bikes. After dithering over how to paint them, I went with a grey splotch camouflage over Olive Green – a fairly conventional paint job. While they lack the body armour we tend to associate with modern soldiers, Hammer's Slammers Skimmer troopersthe detail on the figures suggests that they wear some sort of harness. I’m seriously thinking of getting another couple of packs to paint up in a more pulpy dress uniform style as palace guard. Mixing the visor-up with the visor-down packs works for me, though the visor down with more solemn uniform colours could make them look more ‘faceless’ and ‘oppressive regime’ type troopers. Either way, they are very nice figures.

Khurasan Space Captain and GZG UNSC marineThe starship captain from Khurasan Miniatures is part of the DPLS spaceship crew pack (TTC-2501). He always seems to be painted up in the style of Han Solo, which made me think Lando Calrissian, and this is what I attempted.

So, in the midst of the computer frustrations, I have managed to complete some figures that I'm very happy with.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mega Trade 2

ESU Fleet Carrier from Ground Zero GamesI’ve always worked under the assumption that merchant ships run on a two week cycle – one week in Jump Space, two days inbound from the Jump Zone to port, three days to unload and load, and two days outbound to the Jump Zone. This means approximately two Jumps per month, less the two weeks a year the ship is in dock for annual maintenance, or 25 Jumps per year.

Ship: Karuthara
Class: Daiishaluur
Type: Megahauler
Architect: David Billinghurst
Tech Level: 12

USP AH-L431343-090000-60000-0 MCr 11,348.91620 KTons
Bat Bear 1 A Crew: 144
Bat 1 A TL: 12

Cargo: 7,402.000 Passengers: 150 Low: 100 Fuel: 6,600.000 EP: 600.000 Agility: 1 Shipboard Security Detail: 20 Craft: 5 x 200T Mechamaarii Lighter
Fuel Treatment: On Board Fuel Purification

Architects Fee: MCr 108.603 Cost in Quantity: MCr 9,176.865

Ship: Masasanaii
Class: High Veenoir
Type: Megahauler
Architect: David Billinghurst
Tech Level: 15

USPAH-L431343-090000-70000-0MCr 7,493.110 20 KTons
Bat Bear1 ACrew: 132
Bat1 ATL: 15

Cargo: 8,749.000 Passengers: 150 Low: 100 Fuel: 6,600.000 EP: 600.000 Agility: 1 Shipboard Security Detail: 20 Craft: 5 x 200T Calurmajurii Lighter
Fuel Treatment: On Board Fuel Purification

Architects Fee: MCr 72.542 Cost in Quantity: MCr 6,042.272

Having constructed my 20,000 ton megahaulers, the TL12 Daiishaluur and the TL15 High Veenoir, I needed to look at their running costs to determine whether freighters of this size were viable. To establish running costs, I hauled out LBB Book 2 Starships and began to crank up the numbers. As Book 2 says, “There are five basic expenses (in addition to the bank payment, if necessary) associated with starship operation:Fuel ..., Life Support ..., Routine Maintenance ..., Crew Salaries ..., and Berthing Costs ...”

The five lighters each megahauler carries are equipped with fuel scoops and processors and can scoop hydrogen from gas giants to refuel the unstreamlined haulers. Alternatively, the megahaulers can load unrefined fuel at the local highport and run it through their on-board fuel processors while the lighters handle passengers, cargo or freight.

Daiishaluur TL12High Veenoir TL15
Fuel Tankage: 6,600 tonsFuel Tankage: 6,600 tons
Lighter Fuel Tankage: 6 tons x 5 = 30Lighter Fuel Tankage: 6 tons x 5 = 30
Cost: Cr 100 x 6,630 = Cr 663,000 Cost: Cr 100 x 6,630 = Cr 663,000

Life Support:
Each stateroom involves an overhead of Cr 2,000 per Jump while each low berth costs Cr 100.

Daiishaluur TL12High Veenoir TL15
294 Staterooms, 100 Low Berths282 Staterooms, 100 Low Berths
(17 Staterooms, 10 Low Berths) x 5(13 Staterooms, 10 Low Berths) x 5
294 + 17 x 5 = 379 Staterooms282 + 13 x 5 = 347 Staterooms
Cost: 379 x 2,000 = Cr 758,000Cost: 347 x 2,000 = Cr 694,000
100 + 50 = 150 low berths100 + 50 = 150 low berths
Cost: 150 x 100 = Cr 15,000Cost: 150 x 100 = Cr 15,000
Total Life Support: Cr 773,000 per JumpTotal Life Support: Cr 709,000 per Jump

Routine Maintenance:
Annual routine maintenance takes two weeks and costs 0.1% of the cash price of the ship.

Daiishaluur TL12High Veenoir TL15
MCr 8,688.205MCr 5,803.352
Lighters (x5)Lighters (x5)
MCr 390.93MCr 238.92
Total Cost: MCr 9,079.135Total Cost: MCr 6042.272
MCr 9,079.135 x 0.1% = MCr 9.079 p.a.MCr 6042.272 x 0.1% = MCr 6.042 p.a.
Or Cr 363,160 per two weeksOr Cr 241,680 per two weeks

Crew Salaries:
The Daiishaluur has a crew of 17 Officers, 127 Ratings: 11 Command, 30 Engineering, 12 Gunnery, 31 Flight (Flight Control Officer, a service person for each Mechamaarii Class Lighter, plus each Lighter has a crew of: Pilot, Engineer, Steward, Medic, Gunner), 40 Services, 20 Security.

The High Veenoir has a crew of 16 Officers, 116 Ratings: 11 Command, 18 Engineering, 12 Gunnery, 31 Flight (Flight Control Officer, a service person for each Calurmajurii Class Lighter, plus each Lighter has a crew of: Pilot, Engineer, Steward, Medic, Gunner), 40 Services, 20 Security.

Daiishaluur TL12High Veenoir TL15
Commanding Officer @ Cr 7,200Commanding Officer @ Cr 7,200
Executive Officer @ Cr 6,600Executive Officer @ Cr 6,600
Computer Officer @ Cr 4,500Computer Officer @ Cr 4,500
Navigation Officer @ Cr 5,500Navigation Officer @ Cr 5,500
Navigation Officer @ Cr 5,000Navigation Officer @ Cr 5,000
Medical Officer @ Cr 2,400 Medical Officer @ Cr 2,400
Communications Officer @ Cr 4,000Communications Officer @ Cr 4,000
4 x Ratings @ Cr 450 = Cr 1,8004 x Ratings @ Cr 450 = Cr 1,800
Chief Engineer @ Cr 4,800Chief Engineer @ Cr 4,800
Second Engineer @ Cr 4,400Second Engineer @ Cr 4,400
28 x Engineers @ Cr 4,000 = Cr 112,00016 x Engineers @ Cr 4,000 = Cr 64,000
Chief Gunnery Officer @ Cr 1,200Chief Gunnery Officer @ Cr 1,200
2 x Petty Officers @ Cr 1,100 = Cr 2,2002 x Petty Officers @ Cr 1,100 = Cr 2,200
9 x Gunners @ Cr 1,000 = Cr 9,0009 x Gunners @ Cr 1,000 = Cr 9,000
Flight Control Officer @ Cr 5,000Flight Control Officer @ Cr 5,000
5 x Pilots @ Cr 6,000 = Cr 30,0005 x Pilots @ Cr 6,000 = Cr 30,000
5 x Engineers @ Cr 4,000 = Cr 20,0005 x Engineers @ Cr 4,000 = Cr 20,000
5 x Stewards @ Cr 3,000 = Cr 15,0005 x Stewards @ Cr 3,000 = Cr 15,000
5 x Medics @ Cr 2,000 = Cr 10,0005 x Medics @ Cr 2,000 = Cr 10,000
5 x Gunners @ Cr 1,000 = Cr 5,0005 x Gunners @ Cr 1,000 = Cr 5,000
5 x Lighter Maintenance @ Cr 450 = Cr 2,2505 x Lighter Maintenance @ Cr 450 = Cr 2,250
40 x service Crew @ Cr 450 = Cr 18,00040 x Service Crew @ Cr450 = Cr 18,000
20 x Security Crew @ Cr 450 = Cr 9,00020 x Security Crew @ Cr 450 = Cr 9,000
Total: Cr 284,850 per monthTotal: Cr 236, 850 per month

Berthing Costs:
Typically, berthing fees are Cr 100 for the first six days, and then Cr 100 per day thereafter. In the case of a vessel such as a megahauler, this more likely represents a fee charged by Local Traffic Control to keep space clear around the megahauler and its Lighters.

Purchase Payments:
After deducting the 20% downpayment to commence the build, standard payments of 1/240th of the purchase price per month for 480 months are normally required on a starship purchase. It is possible that part of this outlay would come off the corporate tax bill if the purchasing megacorp’s accountants are earning their fees.

Daiishaluur TL12 purchase cost:High Veenoir TL15 purchase cost:
MCr 8,688.205 MCr 5,803.352
Lighters (x5)Lighters (x5)
MCr 390.93 MCr 238.92
Total Cost: MCr 9,079.135Total Cost: MCr 6042.272
Less 20% deposit = MCr 7263.308/240Less 20% deposit = MCr 4833.818/240
= MCr 30.264 per month= MCr 20.14 per month

Fortnightly Fees:
Having generated all these numbers, it’s time to pull them all together. It is easiest to work around the two-week standard Jump cycle and this is what I have done.

Daiishaluur TL12:High Veenoir TL15:
Cost: Cr 100 x 6,630 = Cr 663,000Cost: Cr 100 x 6,630 = Cr 663,000
Life Support:Life Support:
Total Life Support: Cr 773,000 per JumpTotal Life Support: Cr 709,000 per Jump
Cr 363,160 per two weeksCr 241,680 per two weeks
Crew Salaries:Crew Salaries:
Total: Cr 142,425 per fortnightTotal: Cr 118,425 per fortnight
Bank Payments:Bank Payments:
MCr 15.132 per fortnightMCr 10.07 per fortnight
Total: Cr 17,073,585 per fortnightTotal: Cr 11,802,105 per fortnight

Potential Revenue
Daiishaluur TL12:High Veenoir TL15:
50 High Passengers @ Cr10,000 = Cr500,00050 High Passengers @ Cr10,000 = Cr500,000
100 Middle Passengers @Cr8,000 = Cr800,000100 Middle Passengers @Cr8,000 = Cr800,000
100 Low Passengers @ Cr1,000 = Cr100,000100 Low Passengers @ Cr1,000 = Cr100,000
7,402 Tons Cargo @ Cr1,000 = Cr7,402,0008,749 Tons Cargo @ Cr1,000 = Cr8,749,000
Total: Cr8,802,000Total: Cr10,149,000

Potential Revenue from Lighters
25 High Passengers @ Cr10,000 = Cr250,00025 High Passengers @ Cr10,000 = Cr250,000
25 Middle Passengers @Cr8,000 = Cr200,00025 Middle Passengers @Cr8,000 = Cr200,000
50 Low Passengers @ Cr1,000 = Cr50,00050 Low Passengers @ Cr1,000 = Cr50,000
360 Tons Cargo @ Cr1,000 = CrCr360,000475 Tons Cargo @ Cr1,000 = Cr475,000
Total: Cr860,000Total: Cr975,000
Total Potental Revenue:Total Potental Revenue:

As we can see, if financed in the traditional manner the Megahauler loses money. The deal killer in the leveraged model is the fortnightly payments required to service the loan to buy the ship.

At TL12, without the bank payments, the Daiishaluur Class costs Cr 142,425 per fortnight to run and generates Cr 8,802,000 from passengers and freight (assuming a full load of both). If the Daiishaluur jumps with its Lighters fully loaded as well, it could generate up to Cr 9,662,000. This equates to a profit of between Cr 8,659,575 and Cr 9,519,575 per jump – even if the ship is only half full and its Lighters are empty, it will generate Cr 4,258,575 over expenses. At TL15, the High Veenoir costs Cr 118,425 per fortnight to run and generates between Cr 10,149,000 and Cr 11,124,000 – let’s say Cr 4,956,075 over expenses with a half-empty ship and empty Lighters.

For a corporation or Megacorporation wishing to run Megahaulers, there are two possible funding options – increase the initial downpayment above the standard 20% to reduce the fortnightly payments, or secure a Subsidised Merchant contract at either Subsector or Sector level with Imperial authorities. In the latter case, the government picks up the bank loan for the ship for the forty year loan period and splits the profits with the corporation, while the corporation effectively ends up with a forty-year management contract running the ship before taking full possession at the contract’s termination.

Now, this seems a bit like money for jam for the corporation, except that the Subsidised Merchant contract is usually to provide a service on a particular route which leaves little lee-way for speculative trading or shifting routes to chase the trade. Furthermore, the Subsidised Merchant becomes part of the Navy Fleet Auxilary and can be called up for military service with little warning, even after the initial contract expires. Though, having secured Navy-surplus centralized Fire Control systems during the initial design process, the building corporation must have had Subsidised Merchant contracts firmly in their sights.

Having said that, I can easily see corporations, such as A.K.I. Interstellar’s Heavy Transport Division, running a dozen, or more, High Veenoir Class Megahaulers on the the Bryak – Anar route alone. This would ensure a ship movement at each port every couple of days. And even with this amount of shipping constantly on the move, there would be plenty of freight for all the myriad of smaller merchantmen, tramp traders, and adventurers struggling with their payments.