Dystopian Wars Faction Playtest: Mercenary Company (CdZ vs RC, 1000pts)

Last week I finally got in a solid playtest game for the Canons de Zibeline (Jack-O-Lantern Company) Mercenary Company.  To find this homebrew faction’s current force guide and rules, please scroll down to the NEXT post on this blog.

My good friend Seb was generous enough to sport the opposing side, using 1000 points of my Russian Coalition naval ships.  I commanded a flotilla of 1000 points of mercenaries, using the most up-to-date rules (again, see below for these).  We played a straight battle, with the prime objective being to see how the updated Mercs did against an official fleet.  Terrain was sparing.

This is less of a battle report and more of a photo gallery.  I’ve included some notes about the force’s performance at the end of the post.  Sorry upfront about the glare on the ocean board – these photos were just quick in-the-thick-of-rolling-dice shots.


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Turn 1

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We used this fake die as the turn counter.

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Turn one primarily saw maneuvering across the board, but there were some casualties.  Here is an early look at the “scrapyard:”

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Turn 2

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Watch out for that tectonic plate action in the middle of the ocean!

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This game ended up with a truly surprising number of ramming actions.  By the middle of turn 2, the center of the board was full of models from both sides.  The undeniable King of the Ram in this game was the Suvorov cruiser.  CdZPlaytestMay15 - 16 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 17

Here’s a truly amazing roll I had.  I believe this was from the corvettes firing on the RC gunships – and they scored a good number of hits!  I like to memorialize the little victories I get.

CdZPlaytestMay15 - 19 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 20Turn 3

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The entire battle might have hinged on this single boarding action, between the two flagships.  The CdZ Leviathan failed to even damage the indefatigable Borodino, and was subsequently destroyed.   CdZPlaytestMay15 - 24 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 25 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 26 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 27 CdZPlaytestMay - 23CdZPlaytestMay15 - 28 Turn 4

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Not much action for the few remaining CdZ forces on the table this turn…

Turn 5

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“Give ’em both barrels, Johnny.”

CdZPlaytestMay15 - 33 Turn 6

CdZPlaytestMay15 - 34The lone survivor!  These poor souls made it all the way to Turn 6, and even won the activation to go first.

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Alas, they did not survive the battle.

After Action

 Here is the scrapyard at the end of the battle:CdZPlaytestMay15 - 36 CdZPlaytestMay15 - 37

It was a bloody match!  There were lots of disorder checks throughout the entire game.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the performance of the CdZ in this game.  Although by the final turn the Russian victory was fairly lopsided, I think the mercs really held their own, especially in the beginning of the game.  Up until the failed flagship boarding action I think the game could have gone either way.  Some poor dice rolls and a few tactical errors on my end and the Russians won a resounding victory.

There were three major errors that I made in the mid and late game that had a major impact on the CdZ defeat.

-First, I forgot to use the Commodore’s ability to give all vessels the “Long Range Assault” MAR for a turn – and had I used it that turn, things might have gone very differently…Without it, several of my squadrons were just out of range of boarding.  Oops.

-Second, in the mid game I went right with a squadron of pocket cruisers when I should have gone left, and I targeted the enemy battleship when I should have shot up the nearby frigate squadron.  This was just tactical myopia on my part; after this particular activation, the Borodino was unscathed and the pocket cruisers in a poor position for the following turn. Oops…

-Third, flush with confidence after the corvettes rolled so incredibly against the gunship squadron, I ran them directly towards the Borodino and shot, boarded, and rammed over 2 turns with everything they had.  The result: all the corvettes were destroyed, and I don’t think the Borodino was even hit critically.  Instead, I should have kept my corvettes moving in the backfield, where their speed and 360° firing arc would make them real pests for the Russian Coalition mediums.  Oops!

Without these three mistakes, I think the end result would have been much closer (but maybe still a Russian win).  Seb, of course, did a solid job plowing into my forces and unleashing all those range band 1 and 2 guns the RC boast.  Still, lessons learned for the next battle!

Notes on the CdZ Rules Update

After this game I actually feel really pleased with the condition of the Jack-O-Lantern Company.  I really like that as a force some of their primary advantages are large squadron sizes (frigates are 2-5 and corvettes 3-6!) and more activations than your opponent.  To me, that fits with the mercenary/pirate operation – small ships, swarm tactics, boarding, no generators.  I really liked how the combat escorts functioned – as the guns of the flagship, essentially – and the pocket cruisers took more than their share of damage throughout the game.  I also loved lining up the super destroyers in a line astern formation to shell out hefty, hefty pain (at least, that is, until they got beaten up by many, many Russian naval rifles).

That said, there are some things I think that could be changed after this playtest to make the rules even stronger.

-First off, the Canons de Zibeline flagship – Le Leviathan – is a little too weak, especially as a boarding vessel and the only large of the fleet.  I think it is both not durable enough and not strong enough at assaulting.  The main changes I think I want to implement in order to remedy these shortcomings are adding the Experienced Engineers MAR and upgrading the crew type to Elite – it is the flagship of the entire flotilla, after all!  I am also considering adding 1 to the IR, the Security Posts (1) MAR, and/or 1 point to the AP.  With any of these changes – or all of them – I think it makes sense to bump the price up to 125 points for the ship.

-Another change I am considering is small but fluffy: reducing the cost of SAW Ace upgrades to 5 points (instead of 10).  I think a merc outfit would garner the interest of a lot of professional pilots, yeah?  This change may not even add up to anything, but would equally be unlikely to make the faction overpowered.  However, I could see it giving the CdZ a slight advantage when using dive bombers against enemy capitals – which would probably be a welcome boost in a force lacking in significant firepower.

-I am also working on rules to represent scout blimps, to give the CdZ some basic aerial presence.  But more on these another time!

I will also say that I think in the long run, Apollo class support carriers from Operational Assets will be a natural inclusion in the CdZ force, but I do not think I want to incorporate them directly into the force guide – I’d rather force the player to take them from the Operational Assets guide.

As always, I am interested in feedback and ideas for this force!  I am very glad to have them mostly painted and ready to play on the table.  Discussions about the force guide and fleet rules are ongoing on both ManBattleStations.com and the Spartan Games forum.

Thanks to Seb for the bloody nose he gave the CdZ, and for the time and thoughts on the rules so far!

NEW Rules for DW Mercenary Fleet – CdZ / JoLs

ManBattleStations.com is now hosting the PDF for my mercenary company fleet for Dystopian Wars.  You can check it out here:

Click to access canons-de-zibeline-v0.94-may52015.pdf

Let me know what you think.  Active discussions are going on about this force guide on both the Spartan Games forum and MBS.

How to Do Dystopian Wars Ships

Here’s a quick guide on how to get your Dystopian Wars ships (or other resin wargaming models) out of their boxes and blisters, assembled, painted, and ready to sink-and-be-sunk on the tabletops in your immediate vicinity!

STEP 0: Remove from packaging.

A sharpened edge might be required.

STEP 1: Remove flash and mold lines.  

I prefer to use an eXacto knife and a pair of hobby clippers for this stage, removing any excess resin or metal from the cast components.  Be sure not to inhale any of the detritus you create.


STEP 2: Wash the models.

This step is very important for removing the lubricant used to extricate the models from the mold.  I use warm (NOT hot) water and Dawn dish soap.  I let them sit for a moment before scrubbing them with my fingers and rinsing in lukewarm water.  It is important that the water not be too hot or it could deform the resin models.


STEP 3: Let dry.

Be patient!

STEP 4: Construction.

Using super glue, put any multi-part models together.  It is up to you if you would rather paint some part of the models (sub-assemblies) before the final gluing, but I personally like to glue everything together – even turrets, forever adhered one position – at this stage.  Note: following this step is a good time to set up your new models for thematic photos.

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STEP 5: Undercoat.

In weather that is not too cold and not too hot, and especially not too humid, spray paint your models outside.  I use a matte black spray primer.

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STEP 6: Get to painting.

The fun and/or most tedious step.  Paint those suckers!

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STEP 7: Seal ’em up.

These days, I am quick to seal my models with a matte finish.  I don’t want to doubt myself too long about whether the models are actually finished being painted or not!  Better to move on to the next project.  As with other sprays, avoid humidity when spraying.  Also, don’t forget to take pictures.


STEP 8: Play.

Get your new models on the table!

Dystopian Wars: Two Battles’ Pictures, including special scenario

This last Saturday I had Seb and Andy over for a day full of Dystopian Wars gaming.  Andy’s a pretty accomplished gamer – we calculated that he’s played approximately 50 games of DW since its release – and Seb and I were counting on him to take us through the changes in the 2.0 rules system.  To that end, we did a quick 2 turns of FSA vs Royal Australians – both Andy’s fleets, which he has not used in a while or at all – and got to see a good number of the major 2.0 changes (e.g., how linking works now with the “rounding up” set-up).  Andy’s Australians in particular looked great on my ocean gaming table.  IMG_4067 IMG_4066

We stopped after two turns because I had created a scenario that I really wanted to gamesmaster for the other two.  I rearranged the terrain and then gave each commander their secret mission briefing:

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These briefings also included suggested fleet lists I had made using my Russian Coalition forces and Andy’s Prussian navy.  They were, however, allowed to create new lists up to 800 points in value.  The Grand Coalition and Imperial Bond sides had differing objectives, as underlined in the briefing letters above.  However, unbeknownst to either player, there was a third briefing letter…


This letter, addressed to the leader of a combined Covenant-Mercenary naval force, was originally for a third player who couldn’t make the event.  Instead, the gamesmaster would take over the third faction.  The scenario called for their 400 points of Covenant and Jack-O-Lantern Company forces to come in from the side board edge of on Turn 3.  This aspect of the scenario was kept in secret until the time of their entrance arrived…

Here are some shots of the table and the two forces arrayed before deployment:

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All SAWs went down as Dive bombers (with no aces) by player discretion.  Deployment ended up as follows:

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Responding to each other’s placements, both commanders concentrated their forces on the northern half of the table.  It was sure to be a bloody battle…

First Turn

The Russian Coalition won initiative, and began by dive bombing the central fortress.  Prussian corvettes immediately pulled up alongside and unleashed search and rescue teams into the damaged structure.


The battle lines moved directly at one another.  The Prussian Emperor-class, sailing past derelict tankers, fired a fierce salvo at the Russian cruiser squadron, but failed to crack that heavy ablative armor.



That would soon change, however.  As medium squadrons on both sides activated and unleashed their might, the fight quickly became marked by fire, smoke, and blood.

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Second Turn IMG_4085

Passing disorder checks left and right, the two fleets continued to close on each other.  Lethal electrical broadsides from the Donnerfaust support cruisers wracked the Russian Tambovs, although not before they savaged the Königsburg battlecruiser.  Frigates clashed in a brutal tug-of-war of boarding actions as they duked it out between and amidst the burning wreckage of the White Navy’s mediums.


Vessel after vessel was left derelict, while others began to drift beneath the blue waves of the Pacific.  Meanwhile, the mighty Borodino drifted slowly towards the action, slowly but surely destroying the fortress on its way.  It even had the benefit of Sturginium Overload for two turns in a row!


This is where the game stood at the end of Turn 2:


By this point, with only the Emperor-class battleship on the Prussian side left to activate, both the Imperial Bond and the Grand Coalition admirals had successfully completed both of their objectives – and the third force had not even been revealed!  It was also growing late, and all three of us were pretty exhausted.  We decided to call the game at the end of Turn 2.



As we packed up the fleets and terrain, the two admirals and the gamesmaster discussed the scenario.  As it had been played, all objectives were completed by the Bond and Coalition forces, but they were wounded and bleeding.  Essentially the game would devolve into a slugging match between the two battleships – both completely unscarred at the beginning of Turn 3 – and a race to see who could re-arm and re-use their dive bombers the fastest would ensue.  By the time the third force entered, it would have been almost equal in points to the remaining Russian and Prussian forces combined.  Despite that, both battleships being at full strength would make the mercenaries and Covenanters hard pressed to destroy both and escape off-board.  Even so, it was certainly possible that all three sides would have completed all their objectives before Turn 4.

In hindsight, I think the following changes to the scenario would be warranted:

• The third force enters the board on Turn 2

• The third force reduced to 300-350 points, or the two main fleets increased to 900-1000 points each

• The fortress both harder to board and harder to destroy

• No tiny fliers, or only fighter squadrons allowed

• Consider deployment requirements (e.g., deployment must commence in size order, from large to small)

• Spell out additional, post-objectives victory conditions (probably by victory points)

I did love the secret mission briefings, though.  They were a simple but fun alteration to the game.

DZC Battle Report and DW Playtest Game (Pictures)


Seb and I got together and rehashed our DZC match up from last weekend, Scourge vs Resistance.  We did not end up with access to much terrain however…. so we made some out of Lego.  It worked ok!  It was a small game, using the same armies as the weekend before (700 points, level 2 commanders).  We chose not to use cards in this game.  

We made sure to spread the terrain around, placing objectives in two large structures and three medium in a fairly symmetrical pattern.  Seb’s FAT mat added a lot to the game once again, and is a good material for moving miniatures around.  This battle may have been a precursor to a reconquest campaign on the strategic world of Olympus Prime…

Olympus Prime: Factory World

Olympus Prime is the Cradle World richest in natural resources.  Prior to the Scourge invasion, it was expected to surpass Earth in space/naval construction.  Since the launch of the Reconquest, the Olympus system has been home to the fiercest fleet actions as both the UCM and the Scourge bring in more and more naval assets.  On the surface of the planet, no sizable UCM force has been able to land, but reports of PHR activity have been confirmed.  Contact with human resistance forces planetside has also been recorded, although little information has made its way to UCM command…

The Olympian Resistance

For the past century and a half, the Scourge have been busy exploiting the Olympus system’s immense mineral wealth.  When the EAA command structure collapsed during the initial invasion, Olympus prime was host to underground depots and storage facilities for the multitudinous EAA vehicles being produced on the factory planet.  Buried under the earth, these depots were largely untouched during the rapid defeat of the EAA military at the hands of the Scourge.  Weatherized and sealed, these complex, powerful military machines survived the drastic upheaval on the surface.

By the time of the first wave of the UCM’s Reconquest, Olympus Prime’s surviving human population was split into various tribes, warbands, and resistance societies across the planet’s surface cities, underground storage networks, and mountainous mines.  Although surviving the predations of the increasingly complacent Scourge, these resistance groups were not capable of truly defeating the Enemy in any substantial way.  However, this did not stop the most violent or martial of groups from trying.

The Triumvirate of Latver – really a petty autocracy led by the feared/loved “Viktor” – is one such military- (and revenge-) minded resistance force.  Displaying a strong preference for the preserved EAA weaponry over more easily maintained weaponized civilian vehicles, the “Triumvirate” has established a sizable military presence in the Latverean Depression – an area between Olympus Prime’s second city and a major EAA storage depot.  Perhaps emboldened by the discovery of the United Colonies of Mankind, Viktor seems to be escalating the assaults on any and all Scourge in the area near the Latverean Depression.  How (s)he would react to contact with the UCM, PHR, or Shaltari – potential enemies and potential allies all – is unknown.

One piece of intel about Viktor: (s)he seems to have a mild obsession with fresh coats of hand-painted camouflage.  This indulgence is possible undoubtedly because of the large stores of old EAA tri-tone passive-stealth countermeasure applique left in the thousands of gallons in Olympus’ storage depots.

The Previous Battle

In the last battle, a Triumvirate recon-in-force clashed with a similarly sized Scourge force, both expending significant ammunition before exiting the field.  This battle was fought in a relatively intact sector of the city, but ended without a clear victor.  Still, for the Triumvirate’s forces such battle experience is important for Viktor’s plans.





Locate and Exfiltrate the Objectives

In a nearby city sector, several square blocks of ruined industrial park surrounding an old monument, whispers of valuable electronic components abound.  Furthermore, Triumvirate scouts discovered a couple of dens of human survivors.  Not one to broker compromise, Viktor sent an identical recon-in-force to locate and retrieve all these objectives.  Unsurprisingly, a significant Scourge presence was also closing in.


In Deployment, the Scourge won the roll off and chose to deploy second.  First on the board were the Jackson Park Express, rolling up to a large objective-holding building near the table edge.  The squad of 20 Resistance Fighters kept driving down the board, intending to head to a second objective, while the smaller squad of 10 went directly to the large black factory.  


While the Scourge rushed to a large, cavernous rock formation to search for prey, the Triumvirate recon group’s command element was dropped in by Lifthawk.  Lines of fire for its powerful munitions included possibly Scourge air defense artillery and electronic component workshops (“Viktor requires no compromises!”).

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In a surprise move, the Scourge deployed a large number of the hated Prowlers on the western edge of the board.  Reacting swiftly, the Triumvirate Gun Wagons moved in onboard their Kraken hovercraft.  Dismounting with earnest, their veteran crews blew apart half of the Prowlers immediately.  While every true child of the Resistance loves destroying Prowlers, this did leave the rest of the force without much air defense.


Seizing on the overplayed hand, the Scourge brought in their main battle tanks to threaten the gun wagons.  Although backing up and causing more damage from their anti-aircraft guns, eventually the Gun Wagons were entirely wrecked.  The Kraken, however, would survive the entire battle.

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The M9 Hannibals deployed near the Alexander, while the Scourge ADA moved into the central square – prime real estate for their anti-aircraft weapons, but (luckily for the Resistance) blocked on one side by a large building.

In the second turn, the small Resistance squad got incredibly lucky, located the human survivors, and escaped off the board in their Jackson.  One victory point for the Resistance.  The larger squad raced toward the other large building, hoping to get their fighters inside and capable of threatening Scourge vehicles with their tube launchers.  


Before they could dismount, however, the Scourge Reapers swept around out of the square and dangerously close to the Jacksons and Alexander – but just out of range of the nearby Lifthawks.  In reaction, the Alexander unleashed the Maelstrom grenade launcher and destroyed two of the enemy ADA (although one survived the grenades, chain guns, and main gun assault).  Although caught in the large blast, the Maelstrom grenades did no damage to the Jackson Halftracks.



(During turns two and three,) On the other side of the large building the Hunter MBTs swept in and, alongside their transport, destroyed the Gun Wagons and damaged the Kraken.  However, their attack was blunted by the Lifthawks, Kraken, Gun Wagons (before they were completely melted), and only the Scourge commander survived.  A Lifthawk even managed to take out a Prowler with its nose-mounted heavy machine guns!



On turn 4, some drastic transport movement bunched the Scourge transports on the eastern side of the board, while their commander escaped the firing lanes of the Resistance armor.


A lone Prowler also survived, despite the pilot of the Kraken trying for turn after turn to smack it down with the 90mm cannon (on the final try, the Prowler was hit – but the Kraken rolled a ‘1’ to damage).


Resistance fighters streamed out of the Jacksons (which then scooted out of the way) and into the central large buildings.  They would then use their tube launchers to take out the Scourge commander (not before he killed four of them with falling masonry, however!).  Meanwhile, though, the Scourge infantry finally found their own objective and made it off the board.  One victory point to the Scourge.  Poor humans!




DropzoneLego24At this point, we called the game.  A lot of destruction had been caused – mostly against the Scourge, I admit – but no battlegroups had been totally removed, and each side had only one objective recovered.  Furthermore, neither side was in a position to go after any other objectives or even really damage the other side before the end of Turn 6.  


It was a fun, fast, and furious game.  I look forward to trying higher points levels!  I need another Lifthawk for sure, but I also feel some calling from the new Salakhan miniature…

After the Dropzone Commander game, we flipped the board over and played a full turn of Dystopian Wars (my first using the 2.0 ruleset!).  We ran out of time to continue, but it was clear in that first term that my Merc faction (the Jack-o-Lantern company / Canon de Zibilene) was overcosted.  We were played at 710 points per side, and the Russians bested the mercs in every way – number of ships, size of ships, range band 4 firepower… I’ll need to look at the points values again, and get more playtesting in!

DWJoLsRCtest1 DWJoLsRCtest2 DWJoLsRCtest3Still, it was fun to use the ocean board again, and roll a lot of dice.

Dystopian Wars Mercenaries: Homebrew Rules / Force Guide Download

I’ve shown you the ships – now check out the rules so far.  I drafted this Force Guide in the style of Spartan’s official ones.  I’m calling it version 0.85 – still needs playtesting, and maybe another “large” ship added.  Here is the download link:


I am very interested to know what you think.  Feel free to leave a comment below, or check out the related threads on the Spartan forums or on ManBattlestations.com!


Dystopian Wars Mercenary Fleet Picture Gallery

Introducing – at least in more detail – the Canons de Zibeline

JackOLanterns04This is my mercenary fleet so far, the so-called “Jack-O-Lantern” company.  These first eleven vessels represent the original incarnation of the company, which has since expanded to include additional warships (not yet painted).



The company so far consists of two combat escorts, three super destroyers, and six pocket cruisers.  I will put up my homebrew rules for these before long.


The ships come from a variety of sources, so I made sure to keep the color scheme very consistent.  Essentially: black spray primer, two coats of GW’s Blazing Orange on the hulls, Averland Sunset for the “roofs,” Chainmail for glacis and gun superstructures, Graveyard Earth for wood, Chaos Black for any armament, and then a heavy dose of Agrax Earthshade, followed up by some Krylon matte finish.





Here is some background for the Canons de Zibeline:

Founded by Enslow Walker in 1868 with only a single ship and an overstrength crew of volunteers, the Canons de Zibeline (C.d.Z.) mercenary company has thrived on the current world war.  By the summer of 1872 they boast several dozen ships available for hire.  Walker has garnered a growing fortune by a combination of security contracts, smuggling deals, legitimate trade, and even some piracy, albeit mostly of other non-state actors, careful not to offend too many potential clients.  “Commander” Walker maintains control over an exceptionally diverse force of guns-for-hire through business acumen, personal charisma, and, at times, ruthless violence.

Walker himself was born near Quebec in 1833, the son of a French-Canadian mother and a Scottish father.  By the age of 15 he was a full sailor, and became a veteran of ship to ship combat by the age of 19.  He founded the C.d.Z. at the age of 35, striking out on his own in the vast Pacific Ocean.  Creating a base of operations somewhere in the south Pacific, his mercenary company is available to hire.

The mercenaries were given the sobriquet “the Jack-O-Lantern company” by derisive Federated States naval officers, playing off the distinctive orange-yellow-black color scheme.  The company’s official name derives from their practice of painting all weaponry a sooty black, ordered by Walker for apocryphal reasons.

The hirable strength of the C.d.Z. consists of a variety of classes:

– Large capitol ships vary considerably in the C.d.Z., such as an Olympic class troop transport liner converted to a flotilla command vessel

-Pocket cruisers, Britannian-sourced armored barges customized with Empire of the Blazing Sun weaponry

-Super destroyers of an unknown origin, boasting twin turret load-outs

-Combat escorts, created from captured Chinese federation frigates

-Attack frigates, bought, rebuilt, and/or stolen from Danish manufacturers

-Scout corvettes, up-armored and up-gunned from civilian vessels

The C.d.Z. also has limited access to conventional aeroplanes, older generations of fighter and reconnaissance pattern produced in the Federated States of America.