Cirsova to Serialize Wild Stars 6: Orphan of the Shadowy Moons in 2022

Cirsova Publishing has just acquired the serial rights to Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars 6: Orphan of the Shadowy Moons!

We will be serializing this story in 4 parts throughout 2022.

The origins of the Ancient Warrior will finally be revealed, as will the mystery of his obsession with Phaedra! Be looking forward to swashbuckling adventure and Jet-Ski Barbarians in this classic 70s Sword & Planet adventure that will be seeing the light of day for the first time next year!

Get caught up on the classic Wild Stars adventures all in one go with the Wild Stars Omnibus, and be sure to read Wild Stars 5: The Artomique Paradigm being serialized now in Cirsova! [Part 1 of 3 | Part 2 of 3].

Don’t forget! Cirsova’s reading period for 2022 will begin August 1st and run through August 7th.

Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius Review

Recently an online friend who knew I enjoyed wargames and weeb shit recommended Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius to me.

It’s an interesting hybrid of Visual Novel waifu game and turn-based tactical. It’s space opera with mechs, except your mech pilots are basically a growing harem.

Funnily enough, the wargame portion of Sunrider is brutally hard. Mechanically, it’s ultra-lite compared to a game like Power Dolls, though it uses the similar combination of action points that are used to move and perform attacks. Each mech has its strengths and weaknesses and utility which will determine how you should use them in your strategy.

Since all missions are in space, with the exception of a mission where sharing a hex with an asteroid reduces your chance of being hit, there’s no effect of the map on strategies. Variances in the missions are more based on when and where enemy reinforcement come from. Early missions with fewer mechs and enemy “bosses” may be a bit more interesting and flexible than the later large fleet battles. The later fights often tend to be “pick a flank, try to crush it, sweep up or down on the other side, then deal with reinforcements as they come.”

The cutscenes of the attacks get old fast, and it would have been nice to be able to disable them more easily; turning on “skip mode” does it, but it can only be toggled in the battle if a character has a line of story dialogue come up during the fight. Still, it’s fun and scratches an itch for turn-based mech space combat.

The Visual Novel portion of the game is a mixed bag. On the face of it, I actually really like the story, but Sunrider uses post-Eva and 21st century waifu tropes for most its characters; I would definitely prefer the “tough dames” of the older real-robot mech genre or at least the mil-sf aesthetic that Power DOLLS went for. But it’s personal taste…

Unfortunately, Sunrider is an episodic game, and Mask of Arcadius only contains the first two episodes. While Liberation Day updates the actual gameplay of the battles in a pretty satisfactory way, it makes the VN aspect of Mask of Arcadius something of a shaggy dog story. [You fill out a questionnaire of your choices when you start LD; which is nice that you can do that, at least, since my End-of-Game save file wouldn’t import correctly].

I’ve found a doc with the under-the-hood effect that your choices make, but they don’t appear to have much bearing on how things actually play out story-wise in Mask of Arcadius. None of the character paths had been set yet, and one character path ends up being fixed for story purposes in Liberation Day [to the groaning of many fans].

Now, because this is a waifu game, it’s only fair that I rank the characters from dumpster to Best Girl.

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Claude is a trash tier waifu, who’s “UwU command me captain” shtick is old from the moment it shows up. She’s the worst the game has to offer in this regard, unless you’re really into that sort of thing.

Her utility mech has a few nice features, such as the gravity gun, which is good if you can use it to draw an enemy mech between Asaga and Icari. The deflector shield projection is useful, of course, and the shotgun is helpful to finish off any enemies your better combat units have left near dead, but it’s not enough to make me not hate Claude.

ChigaraChigaramech
The Shinobu. Chigara’s Asaga’s best friend and one of the first pilots you get. She’s supposed to be a brilliant mechanic, and from a gameplay standpoint, this bears out nicely, as she’s the one actually doing the upgrades to your units that you purchase. Except she’s a loli with crippling self-doubt always hoping for validation from the main character, which makes her pretty obnoxious. But miles ahead of Claude.

She’s a forced romance route for story reasons in Liberation Day, which many fans grumble about.

Her mech is a support mech. One of the first mechs you get, its repair capabilities, disable attack, and deflector shield generation make it invaluable.

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Cosette

Cosette is a yandere loli space pirate.

Toxic chemicals from the mining colony she’s from stunted her growth and, combined with her horrible and traumatic childhood and adolescence, made her completely crazy.

Not my thing at all, but she makes for an interesting villain.

Giving all of the characters numbered flight suits is pretty spoilerific, so I’m assuming you can get Cosette at some point.

[update: you can get Cosette in Liberation Day, but I opted to just kill her instead.]

Asaga
The genki girl. Also, the Mario. Asaga is the first pilot you get along with Chigara. She’s bubbly and funny. She’s a major driver of the story [spoilers: she is actually a runaway space princess]. Like her mech, she could be a lot worse, but she could also be better.

Liberation Day makes her a bit more complex [maybe even somewhat villainous? Dunno, I haven’t finished it.] She literally starts going insane with jealousy over Chigara as the romance-on-rails between Chi and the captain plays out.

Asaga-1

Black Jack is an all-purpose mech. Battleship grade laser cannon, pulse beams, and assault rifle. As more Pact enemies get deflector shields mid-game (or when those damned Pact support mechs show up), Black Jack loses a lot of its punch and gets reduced to drawing fire and trying to pick off nearby targets that have had their armor weakened by stronger units

Sola300px-Sola_portrait
Teh Rei. Not an archetype I generally like, but somehow they make it work here.

She’s found in cryo-stasis in a ghost-fleet and supposedly was a mech pilot for an ancient space empire thousands of years ago.

She’s a royal bastard (literally), whose mother was tragically betrayed and forced into exile by a noble of the imperial court, making her very distantly related to Asaga.

Unfortunately, her mech is kind of boring. The Seraphim’s cannon takes up all [or almost all, if you’ve upgraded it] of the mech’s energy points to use. Still, it’s nice having one reliable big-damage, good accuracy, long range attack per turn.

Icari
IcarimechThe tsundere. Icari’s a mercenary you start out at odds with but who becomes your third pilot. She’s a bit of a ‘by any means necessary’ type, which puts her on your bad side on a fairly difficult early escort mission [by her logic, if a bunch of innocents get killed, it’ll accelerate one faction’s entry into the war and bring about a quicker resolution].

Icari ranks high because I like her design and her mech is actually really fun to use [provided it doesn’t get killed on the first enemy turn]. The Phoenix is a fast close-combat mech with a special ability to avoid attacks of opportunity when moving adjacent to enemy units. Its melee attack can make short work of enemy mechs, and her machine guns are good at finishing off damaged enemies, but the Phoenix has very low armor and is generally poor against ships. Phoenix is good for reducing enemy economy of action on turn one, but has a bad habit of getting shot down. The Phoenix is a big reason why I rank her over Sola.

Ava300px-Ava_portrait
The Sunrider’s first officer and the protagonist’s childhood friend. She’s up there for awhile as Best Girl [at least until Kryska shows up], because she’s one of the few characters who acts like she has some common sense and professionalism.

Her character could easily transplant to a more serious SF story [or maybe it’s just that the bottom ranked characters feel out of place in what actually is a more or less serious SF story].

Kryska barely takes the lead because Ava’s air of professionalism sometimes dips into the mopey as she tries to be the “one sane person” in a crew of obnoxious VN tropes. Spoilers: If I factor in Liberation Day, where she has an eye-patch and Kryska gets turned into a grabass, she may reclaim top-slot.

Kryska
KryskamechI was initially disinclined to like Kryska because it’s made painfully obvious up front that she’s a spy planted by the Alliance to gather data on your ship and your crew. But she has her shit together, is a professional pilot, and her mech shows up really right when you need it. She has kind of a blue-oni/red-oni thing going on with Icari, who gives her crap for being up-tight and unfeminine. Kryska and Ava are in a class of their own, though. [Liberation Day looks like it may play her up as a lesbian stereotype, unfortunately.]

Kryska’s mech is a heavy fire support mech [the Guncannon/Guntank]. At a time where Asaga’s mech is becoming much less effective against everything, it’s nice to have an extra heavy cannon to punch through capital ships’ armor. Downside is that it’s very slow, but that big damage is everything mid-to-late-game.

Overall, Sunrider is pretty niche… I think it really requires the right combination of patient-but-desperate-for-new-content wargamer and weeb to enjoy. Wargamers might find the wargame aspect weak and the VN portion cringey, while VN fans might find the wargame aspect too difficult and frustrating.

More than anything, it made me wish that it was better, either mechanically or aesthetically, but it also made me thankful that someone out there was at least trying. Still, I liked it enough to pick up Liberation Day to see how it all pans out between the Alliance and the PACT.

Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius is free on Steam and Gog.

What are the Wild Stars?

[We will begin taking pre-orders for Wild Stars III on Friday! Be sure to keep an eye out for it when we reveal the cover by Tim Lim!]

Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars have a history in print going back nearly 35 years. In the Wild Stars, the stakes are high and the scale is grandiose. Aeons ago, a godlike being led an exodus to stars—the Wild Stars. Unbeknownst to those who remained on earth, mankind flourished in space, but it also found new dangers and new enemies:

The Brothan, a race of vile wolf-like creatures, war against the Wild Stars and hope to deliver a fatal blow against Earth itself.

The Artomique, warlords from a parallel universe, ally themselves with the Brothan and infiltrate Earth, acting as arms-dealers and mercenaries to destabilize the globe.

There’s also a giant megalodon space shark that eats space ships.

The Wild Stars is epic science fiction in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs and E.E. Doc Smith.

The original Wild Stars comics (1984/1988) told the stories of Erlik, an immortal son of the Ancient Warrior, and his conflict with his power-hungry nephew Carthage, and of Carlton MacKanaly, who is selected by the Wild Stars to act as Earth’s representative—the First Marker.

Wild Stars 1 and 2

In 2002, Michael teamed up with Frank Brunner, Tom Smith, David Brewer, and Dave Simons to expand the story of the Wild Stars in a limited comic series. This prequel/sequel run was combined with the original Wild Stars comics as Wild Stars: The Book of Circles. The title refers to the fact that the story is so multi-layered you can read it a second time and see another level of the story not immediately evident on the first read. Michael has talked to people who have read it as many as five times, and he could still show them things they missed.

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In Wild Stars II, the Artomiques sought revenge for the destruction of their world and attempted to recover a lost time travel device to recreate their alternate reality in ours. The traitor Carthage and his Brothan cohorts kidnapped the First Marker’s daughter and escaped into time. The epic battles across space and time against vampiric dragons, Nazi zombies, titanic space sharks, and worse threaten to tear the universe apart.

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Michael’s new novel, Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon, picks up where II left off, in the future history aftermath of the Brothan/Artomique war, but can be read as a standalone story in the Wild Stars universe.

I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Michael Tierney to put out this new story. Cirsova is all about high-octane action sci-fi adventure, and Wild Stars delivers. It is cool beyond belief to have a chance to publish this. Getting to work with cover artist Tim Lim and interior artist Mark Wheatley is icing on the cake.

Cirsova Publishing will be teaming with Little Rocket Publications to offer an exclusive Kickstarter-only edition of Wild Stars III. We will also be making a lot of the old Wild Stars material available to old fans and new without the resale and auction up-mark (the record listing for a “new” copy of Book of Circles is $615 dollars; Wild Stars Portfolio One currently lists for over $100 on eBay). You will not want to miss it!

Short Reviews – Moon of Danger, by Albert de Pina

Moon of Danger by Albert de Pina appeared in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3. No 7).  Note that I incorrectly labelled Mo-Sanshon! as being in the Spring issue.  To avoid further confusion, I will be including the specific volume and issue numbers for future Planet Stories short reviews.

Albert de Pina’s novelette is by far the best written of the stories I’ve read in this issue so far; though some of the hallmarks of deadline writing can be seen in “Moon of Danger” (accidental or intentional repetition of adjectives close to one another, rushes through certain sections and flat characterizations), overall it’s a tightly written and evenly-paced story.  Frankly, I’m surprised Fox’s story was on the cover and not this one.

Moon of Danger has all of the hallmarks of classic early post-war space-opera: chemical and atomic weapons, dangerous radioactive materials and threats of large-scale devastation wrought by high-tech warfare.  Mars has been ravaged by a radio-active biological agent that can quickly corrode metal; the last of the Martians have decided to pack it in, hop on the refugee ship and head for Earth before the last “Ionization Towers” give out.  The Martian effort is threatened by an Earth faction, including a mutinous Fleet Commander, who’d rather blow the Martians out of space than risk letting the spore plague reach Earth.  In an early twist, it’s revealed that the plague was unleashed on Mars by the denizens of Phobos, thought long dead for hundreds of years, in retaliation for the genocidal wars between the planet and its moon.  The ruler of the Phobians doesn’t care that those wars happened centuries before he or the current Martian Queen were born, he will use the looming Earth civil war over the Martian refugee crisis to force full recognition of Phobos as a prime federation world or else unleash his plague on all the other worlds.

Phobos has been hollowed out, and a powerful reverse-gravity generator has been installed at its core.  So, in one of the coolest “George Lucas almost certainly read this” moments in sci-fi I’ve come across, the heroes end up flying two linked ships towards the core of Phobos, delink from the ship full of atomic bombs, and before the bomb-ship hits the grav generator, ride the gravity wave toward the moon’s surface before the plant, Phobos and all the Phobians are blown to hell.  That part was even better than when the hero had to keep killing drug-addict Phobians with his bare hands while working in the slave fields cultivating bio-weapon spores!

It’s crazy just how little I can find out about de Pina; there are only about a dozen stories to his name.  I’m hoping that out of the dozen issues of Planet Stories I now have that there are a few more by him.  If anyone has any info on this guy, let me know!  Sorry, I tried my best to find either a scan or transcript of this one, but it looks like you’re going to actually find a copy of the 1947 March-May issue if you want to read it.  The awesome page & a half illustration showing Ric (the hero), Tal (a Martian scientist) and Praana (Queen of Mars) fighting their way through a crowd of Phobian slave-workers who are rioting because the rulers have been sitting on a huge stockpile of drugs sadly is also unavailable online.

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In other news, in the last 24 hours, I may have convinced at least two people to check out Leigh Brackett!