Again, info from the main Hawk Wargames site but nice to have. The factions!
Faction specific posts will be searchable through the categories on the main Podcast homepage
Forged in desperation, united by adversity and resurgent in power, the UCM exists for a single purpose - to wrest mankind's lost strongholds from the clutches of the Scourge. A collection of diverse and remote frontier worlds, the UCM is a restless cultural melting pot, bubbling with a righteous desire for vengeance.
One and a half centuries after the Scourge captured Earth and the Cradle Worlds, the UCM has expanded beyond all recognition. The greatest military force in the history of humanity has been assembled; a vast armada recently unleashed against enemies old and new.
The UCM consists of a series of former frontier planets, once peopled only by desperadoes, ne'er do wells and enterprising characters, eager to forge new lives and seek fortunes. These worlds were not chosen for their beauty or amenity, but rather for their considerable mineral wealth.
The course of their development was irrevocably altered in the chaotic aftermath of the Scourge invasion, when scores of fleeing refugees descended on these obscure backwaters. A measure of the enterprising and hardy character of the original inhabitants influenced this massive influx of new blood, creating a new and dynamic civilisation.
Today, the colonies have become the industrial powerhouses they were originally intended to be, churning out the mighty war machine required to take on the Scourge. Their extensive natural resources have proven crucial to mankind's spectacular recovery from total defeat. The estimated population of the UCM has recently exceeded 20 billion souls.
Despite its democratic underpinnings, the UCM is essentially a military state. This has arisen not through tyranny, but rather through necessity. Many senior army and fleet offices come automatically with Senate and even High Council seats. Most civilian politicians recognise the need for defence issues to supersede all other concerns and are firmly behind the Reconquest. The UCM has essentially been in a state of war since its very foundation.
Most UCM citizens live austere and often harsh lives, human toil being the lifeblood of the Reconquest. Most accept this with stoic determination, and hope one day to see the lush Cradle Worlds and even Earth itself with their own eyes. These distant jewels have a place in the heart of many who once listened in awe to their grandparents' tales of great cities, lush gardens and lives of leisure. All understand that a free future can only be theirs through annihilating the Scourge.
On the Offensive
Central UCM military strategy calls for efficient, lighting fast planetary assault from space. Almost all UCM materiel has been designed with this fundamental tenet in mind, from the heaviest dropship to the humble assault rifle. All UCM constructs are lightweight, efficient, utilitarian and cost effective, facilitating en-mass deployment.
Modern UCM armoured vehicles are a far cry from the ungainly, lumbering contraptions of the 20th century. They are necessarily lightweight, and are protected by advanced composite armour, active countermeasures, low signatures and sheer weight of numbers.
UCM vehicles are distinctly utilitarian in appearance, with harsh lines and compact forms. A common theme in UCM tank design is an extremely low profile. This allows for maximum efficiency in transit, and presents a more difficult target to the enemy. Part of this design necessitates cramped crew compartments, where drivers often lay prone inside their machines.
The UCM's industrial powerhouse churns out armour at a staggering rate, aided by the colonies' epic reserves of raw material. Armed with the potent weaponry, the UCM's armoured hordes are poised to deliver crushing vengeance to the Scourge, and all others who stand in their way.
- The Scourge.
The Scourge are foul, neuro-parasitic lifeforms which can utterly dominate an unfortunate host, bending its life to its will. They thrive on the conquest and absorption of other races, their very mode of existence as potent a threat as their formidable battlefield technology. They are the galaxy's ultimate predators.
Their breathtaking assimilation of the central planets, including Earth itself, has made them the primary threat to the very existence of mankind. Their methods of killing on the battlefield are abhorrent to witness, but violent death at the hand of their potent plasma weaponry can be as nothing compared to the dread of being taken alive.
Outside a host, a Scourge isn't much to look upon, sickening though they undoubtedly are. Scourge adults are wispy, boneless, soft bodied creatures, frail in the extreme. Indeed, its fetid body is hard to identify amongst the myriad swirling tendrils of its extremities.
A Scourge can survive for its full lifespan without a host. It has been postulated that the Scourge evolved independently from hosts and only presented neuro-parasitic abilities late in their development. Once beyond the larval stage, in fact, it becomes impossible for a Scourge to take a host at all, and it must henceforth live as a pathetic, fragile creature for the remainder of its foul existence. It was a drive for physical improvement which ultimately led the Scourge to find strength in the bodies of other races.
Pure Scourge are obviously utterly unsuited for the open battlefield. Indeed, in gravity beyond 0.5G a Scourge cannot even move outside a liquid. Pure Scourge are however commonly found on the battlefield in control of vehicles, confirmed by studies of Scourge wrecks. Inside their unsettling and insectile war machines were found pockets of a black, tar like nutrient soup, floating inside which were pure Scourge. It seems that if larvae are not provided with a host in time, Scourge find strength in a manufactured chassis. The disturbingly predatory, organic qualities of the movements of scourge vehicles can be explained by this unholy communion of Scourge and construct, a process which is understood to be permanent.
Taking a Host
To live with any degree of potency, a Scourge must take a carbon-based host early in its life. How this is done remains a mystery to UCM scientists, since no man has ever seen the process and lived to tell the tale. Those few to have escaped Scourge 'breeding hives' speak of the unendurable screams and the agony of the victims, a torment understood to last for months in some cases.
Externally, captured hosts retain their normal physical characteristics in the early stages of possession. Internally however, the Scourge will have fully developed into a web of gelatinous fibres, bound to the nervous system of the host.
In a fairly short time, external symptoms become obvious. A heightened thirst, coupled with a constant sweat is the first noticeable sign of possession. Curiously, hosts lose the ability to produce colour pigment, and over time became more and more pale, the eyes eventually turning a sickly red. Their thirst and propensity to sweat also heightens with time, eventually reaching a stage where they routinely drink the blood of the fallen, comrades and enemies alike.
The Scourge prolongs the life of the host but ultimately ages itself, although it can live for several centuries. When the Scourge eventually begins to die, the host becomes increasingly erratic, as the Scourge's iron grip on its nervous system deteriorates. Eventually, the Scourge dies, closely followed by the host, wracked with apparent insanity and pain.
Usurpers by Nature
The Scourge appear to be exploiting captured planets to the full, running all human industrial centres 24 hours a day, and often augmenting and expanding them with their own, sinisterly organic looking structures. Areas of little use to the Scourge, such as the once thriving entertainment and cultural centres have been left to rot, leading to eerie vistas of beautiful buildings reclaimed by nature.
It has been suggested that the Scourge may be able to make use of a measure of the hosts memories, an insidious and ominous prospect explaining their continued use of human structures and systems. Indeed, this can be seen as a highly efficient mode of conquest, since a ready-made environment exists amongst the host's former cities. In this way, the Scourge not only absorb the bodies, but also the technology, knowledge and power base of their vanquished prey. As the Scourge conquer, they only become more potent as the Galaxy's apex predator.
The Scourge are masters of planetary invasion. Their entire fighting system is geared towards this single minded goal. Their dropships are strictly one-way transports, deploying from low orbit in freefall and only capable of sustained powered flight at relatively low altitudes. Sinister grav-tanks can deploy from these peculiar, vertically configured craft in seconds, reaching the combat zone faster than those all other races, save the Shaltari. Their weapons are short ranged, but spectacularly destructive. Their entire ethos demands lighting speed, intense shock and merciless aggression. The Scourge do not know retreat, they either conquer, or die trying.
A tiny portion of humanity turned its back on mankind in the waning days of the last Golden Age. Over one and a half centuries later, the PHR has emerged from the shadows as an unrecognisable civilisation, its people irrevocably changed. They are no longer simple human beings, they are post-humans - cyborgs.
A society no more than three billion strong, the PHR is a nation of elites, each individual more than a match for several lesser mortals. With remarkable speed, they have made technological advancements surpassing those of the UCM. Since its fiery birth, the PHR has been guided by the enigmatic White Sphere, a mysterious object of immense power. It is treated by the people of the PHR with a reverence bordering on worship.
Birth and the White Sphere
The PHR was born through division, fire and death. Shortly before the Scourge invasion, a mysterious object of obviously alien origin fell into the atmosphere of Earth. It delivered a bleak warning of impending doom to humanity.
Heeding the warning provided by the White Sphere, a tide of convinced souls known as the Abandonists left Earth and the Cradle worlds to their prophesised fate. In order to make good their escape, they chose to fire upon the fleet sent to stop them. This provided a chance for the majority of their armada to jump into the unknown darkness of space. Their faith in The Warning spared them the horrors of the Scourge invasion, and resulted in the seeding of a new society.
Today, the Sphere occupies a revered and crucial position in the Republic, determining much of its policies. It is almost certain that a good measure of the PHR's evident technological superiority can be attributed to the Sphere's apparently benevolent influence. The Republic has morphed from a desperate collection of mutineers and refugees into an unrecognisable society in less than 170 years, a feat only accomplishable with considerable aid. The question of motive is obvious, but theories here are too wild to justify putting down in record. For now, the White Sphere remains the greatest enigma to trouble the UCM.
The fate of those who escaped remained utterly unknown until the eve of the UCM's ambitious Reconquest campaign. A strange and unlooked for ship suddenly appeared over Aurum (site of the UCM seat of power), containing a delegation from the self declared Post-Human Republic. This mystifyingly changed yet humanlike group, entered an audience with the UCM High Council, and avowed their nature as descendants of the Abandonist movement.
What knowledge UCM has acquired in the brief time since the PHR's emergence is incomplete at best, and more often pure conjecture. Most has been gleaned through frosty diplomatic relations and interrogations. In these few short months, the UCM acquired a number of prisoners and bodies for autopsy, since armed conflict has already erupted between the two factions.
From the earliest encounters with citizens of the Republic, their 'changed' nature was instantly noticeable. While clearly human, their appearance, speech, movements and mannerisms were somehow uncanny and certainly disquieting. Their claim to being more than simply human was never in doubt from the moment it was voiced.
Early research indicates extensive use of cybernetic prosthetics and modification, both for the purposes of injury repair and for improved physical performance. These artificial additions vary from simple bone and limb replacements to incomprehensibly advanced bio-artificial melding of living tissue and fabricated nanostructures.
However repugnant this sounds, subjects appear at the height of physical perfection, despite the aforementioned gnawing feelings of 'difference' engendered to all who look upon them. Most UCM citizens who have witnessed them in person regard them as abhorrent and unnatural, a virtually distinct species to their own.
The population of the PHR is tiny compared to that of the UCM. In order to be effective as a fighting force, the PHR concentrates on maximising the survivability and lethality of every unit. With superior technology and artificial enhancements at its disposal, the Republic has proven highly successful at this aim.
Since the PHR seemingly has no short term desire to recapture Earth and the Cradle worlds, it has no need of a vast military machine such as that of the UCM. Without this necessity, the Republic has been able to focus on providing a matchless quality of training and equipment to its few troops.
In many respects, PHR vehicles are very similar to those of the UCM. Both groups share common heritage, although PHR armoured units have evolved quite differently to their counterparts. Technological advancements and higher build quality generally make them superior in most respects. Well armed, they are often outnumbered, but seldom outgunned.
The most obvious difference is the presence of the imposing battle walkers, coupled with a cleaner, more developed aesthetic. The Republic still makes use of traditional treaded vehicles however, and shares broadly similar troop delivery and extraction methods, supported by a series of dropships.
PHR vehicles make use of an extensive array of optical and electromagnetic systems to provide the crew with detailed situational awareness, their most distinctive physical feature being prominent EM scanning domes. Most units feature no windows whatsoever, relying entirely on these systems for vision. All PHR vehicles with a living pilot are equipped with neural connections to an isolated onboard AI. This provides tactical assistance in combat, including targeting and threat analysis, further enhancing the effectiveness of the pilot-machine union.
The Shaltari are an ancient and highly developed species. Their technology is advanced to a level of sophistication rivalled only by its potency. They have traversed the stars for millennia, learned myriad truths, and have fought countless wars. Through their knowledge, the Shaltari transcend even death itself, and can endure indefinitely, perceiving the ebb and flow of time like no other race.
In battle, the Shaltari are fearsome adversaries. Their swiftness is unmatched, their firepower unequalled, their bravery undeniable. The beauty of their constructs bellies their true nature; engines of death, honed to lethal perfection long before humanity learned to throw stones. They are peerless masters of technology.
Shaltari are diminutive in stature, standing a little over four feet high. They are roughly humanoid, although disproportionately long-limbed. They are covered from head to foot in long, thick spines, the colour of which can be changed at will. Waves of complex patterns can be broadcast at bewildering speed, a trait which has been likened to cuttlefish on Earth. Despite this, individuals do present a 'dominant' colour for the majority of the time, believed to be linked to complex psychological conditions.
Shaltari have large, ovoid eyes. Unlike human eyes, these appear opaque and lack pupils. Despite this, their vision is broadly equivalent to that of humans. A Shaltari has no discernable nose or ears, although a small mouth is visible, lined with short, sharp teeth.
The Enduring Consciousness
The natural life of a Shaltari is believed to exceed three centuries. Like all known lifeforms, biological mortality eventually sets in, bringing old age and death. This loss of education, expertise and experience was mourned deeply by the early Shaltari, a race which has always valued knowledge above all things. This sense of futile loss was eventually banished by their most important technological innovation - consciousness transfer.
Near mortal death, this advanced process allows the psyche and memories of the subject to be transferred into another physical body. Brain-dead 'shell' bodies are grown especially for this purpose, allowing the consciousness of the individual to endure beyond natural demise. This simple summary represents the limits of human understanding of this revered and enigmatic process.
In this manner, some Shaltari have 'lived' for millennia, progressing though dozens of bodies. These 'Elders' have vast levels of experience at their disposal, knowledge which enabled the Shaltari to expand technologically beyond the scope of all other known races.
In current times, the most common way for a Shaltari to meet death is in battle. To the human psyche, it would seem logical that participation in war would be desperately avoided by such a race. This could not be further from the truth, due to the central tenet in Shaltari culture - Warrior Veneration.
While the Shaltari value knowledge above all else, they respect martial endeavour beyond all other undertakings. The Shaltari have had to fight for their existence countless times over millennia as starfarers. As such, their veneration for warriors has reached a zenith unequalled by the younger races.
This deep reverence has resulted in a dominant warlike subculture within Shaltari society. This is a clear two-tier structure where those who have never seen battle cannot even be bestowed with a name. The Shaltari believe that this basic level of respect can only be achieved by fighting for the race. This attitude has extended to dealings with humans, where Shaltari ambassadors refuse to speak to or address by name those without military experience.
Over time, the Shaltari have come to embrace the concept of strength through diversity, struggle and competition. Since they are accustomed to being the most advanced and powerful race in their spheres of influence, the only logical source for such contest has been with each other.
Throughout the ages, differences of opinion and various cultural nuances have developed between disparate groups, resulting in clear divisions within Shaltari society. These divisions are appreciated and indeed lauded by all Shaltari as a driving force for development, invention and improvement against stagnation.
Humans have come to refer to these distinct blocks as 'Tribes', a simple term used by early Shaltari ambassadors. Tribes were assigned designations corresponding to early indigenous Earth nations and cultures, a practice continued by the UCM (United Colonies of Mankind). These are normally allocated randomly and do not indicate any similarity between the Tribe and its original namesake. Ancient names such as Apache, Inuit, Amazon and Inca are in common usage once again, although now with very different connotations.
Shaltari vehicles are highly distinctive, and justly famous for their geometric complexity and exquisite splendour. Many have likened their appearance to jewellery, although this masks their true nature as beautifully engineered killing machines. It is understood by UCM scientists that practically every apparently ornamental feature has a real function, the nature of which is normally a complete enigma.
A central pillar of Shaltari battlefield technology and strategy is teleportation. This allows for troops to be deployed, rerouted and extracted in a matter of seconds, without needlessly putting lives at risk during transit. Their tactical manoeuvres are therefore quite unlike those of any other known race, making them slippery and formidable adversaries.
Shaltari gunnery is rightly feared, their weapons being the most advanced yet encountered by mankind. A wide array of lethal devices can bring shattering firepower to bear from afar. Only the very strongest armour can hope to withstand such overwhelming force.
The Resistance is a complex, characterful and disparate assortment of human survivors on the Cradle Worlds and Earth itself, currently occupied by the dreaded alien Scourge. The very existence of the Resistance has shaped UCM military planning for its Reconquest, which became a war of liberation rather than simply a war of revenge as soon as they were discovered. Indeed, the Resistance alone are responsible for a reconquest being possible at all, as they were able to activate and maintain foldspace nodes on all but one of the Cradle Worlds, allowing UCM invasion fleets to jump to their locations accurately. Theirs is a tale of loss, grit and determination to survive in the face of insurmountable odds.
We have already seen how the Resistance on Eden Prime evolved from a cowering group of shell-shocked survivors into a viable (if fragmented) fighting force. The example of Eden Prime can be considered as a general model for the progression of Resistance societies across all the Cradle Worlds and Earth itself. However, the most noticeable aspect that separates the Resistance from all other combatants is their diversity.
Years of Isolation
There is no single Resistance society, government plan or mindset. Resistance groups have existed more or less independently of others operating on the same planet and certainly of those offworld. Each society has evolved over 160 years independently, often in very different circumstances, in different terrain and with different fortunes. The Resistance have no fleet and no easy way of communicating beyond their immediate realms. While messages can be conveyed in person, it is extremely risky for them to use long range wireless coms as the Scourge can easily intercept them. There is no fixed size or military structure to any Resistance group either and the true number of living human beings subjugated by the Scourge remains unknown.
Until recently, most Resistance bands have barely deserved their title. Without any real hope of besting an enemy with overwhelming technological and numerical superiority, their existence has been one of survival first, empty gestures second. They have often been at war with each other more frequently than with the Scourge due to squabbles over territory, supplies and sometimes down to the egomania of the most tyrannical of warlords. Raids against the real enemy have usually only occurred when certain materiel has been desperately needed or, on occasion, when they felt they could deal a massive amount of damage disproportionate to their strength.
As UCM scouts and subsequently armies have begun to arrive on the Cradle Worlds the situation is changing rapidly. Resistance societies are at last becoming aware that there is a massive, cohesive human civilisation out there that is actually capable of mounting full scale planetary invasions against their hated oppressors. Many have stepped up their efforts to strike back and are at last committing their most precious assets to the fight for freedom. Most have been all too willing to assist their potential liberators with every ounce of strength they can muster. As with all things concerning the Resistance, this situation is far from consistent...
‘Allies’ and ‘Ferals’
Although the terms are grossly inadequate for describing the myriad variations and mindsets of Resistance societies, the UCM has created two broad categories for humans at liberty from the Scourge; Allied and Feral.
Allied societies are defined as those willing or eager to assist the UCM in its efforts for Reconquest. Although still highly divergent, these groups do behave in a vaguely similar way. Most have normally civilised, reasonably sophisticated and often enlightened attitudes to government and the rule of law. These groups vary in size from tiny bands simply glad to see a powerful liberator to large and well governed enclaves which had been hoping for the existence of a society in the stars capable of reversing man’s past failings. It is usually these groups that have maintained the foldspace nodes and are natural allies to any that come to their aid after so many years of planning, hoping and waiting.
Some groups, however, are subjugated by the sort of despots normally associated with Ferals, although these are usually shrewd enough to realise what the future will hold once the UCM arrive in force. The UCM’s current policy is to work with these kinds of leaders in peace if they cooperate, however distasteful that may be, as their subjects are often visited with more misery than even the Scourge can bring. However, rumours of a secret directive to remove all dictatorial leaders once victory is accomplished are spreading, which makes such individuals even less likely to work with the UCM.
So called ‘Ferals’ are even more divergent, so much so that sometimes the word is a poor choice to describe them. Nevertheless, the UCM has defined all groups that refuse to cooperate or are actively hostile towards them as Ferals. These societies are usually totalitarian in nature, often controlled by a single, merciless individual. They vary from well organised subterranean dystopian societies where oppression and fear are enforced with ruthless efficiency to literal savages, occasionally driven over the edge of insanity by their plight. The latter are especially feared by UCM ground troops as instances of cannibalism and human sacrifice have been widely reported.
State censors have even been required to step in and silence such talk on occasion - it’s devastating for morale when you’ve been trained to fight Scourge only to be viciously slaughtered by those you‘re trying to free. Feral warlords often take on grandiose monikers out of all proportion to their power – apparently, the title of King has even been used for the first time in over 300 years of human history. Such individuals are loath to relinquish their lofty positions of power, vice and adoration in exchange for ‘liberation’. Even some enlightened societies are opposed to UCM intervention, and see them as just another unwelcome conqueror, almost as foreign to them as the Scourge.
Enemies and Allies
Due to their wide divergence, it’s easy to understand how political alliances involving Resistance groups and other races are as complex and varied as their societies. Each individual group approaches things differently, and while some will work actively with the Shaltari, for example, others may have good reason to want to exterminate every member of that cunning race they encounter. Indeed, Resistance-Shaltari alliances are the most complex and varied of all relations, since both groups are divergent in nature and often unpredictable. It’s almost not worth delving into this issue further, as almost every possible political alliance or enmity exists between the Shaltari and Resistance somewhere across the Cradle Worlds.
By contrast, the only interplay that is easily understood and features very few complexities is their feeling towards the Scourge. The vast majority of occupied humans hate their oppressors on principle and without exception. The only real point of difference is how they deal with their respective situations. Some Resistance groups will make every effort to avoid confrontation or contact with any Scourge groups. They feel they have survived by staying silent and unseen and intend to continue with this strategy. Other societies (and those far more likely to appear on battlefields) are currently exploiting the opportunities afforded by the Reconquest to finally revenge themselves on the alien invaders.
The interaction between the Resistance and the PHR is the most concerning and least understood of all their diplomatic relations. Agents of the Republic have been sighted in audiences with several Resistance leaders across multiple Cradle Worlds. Even more worryingly, it seems that the PHR prefer to make contact with the most tyrannical and egotistical warlords they can find. Whether this is because the PHR respect their power, or more likely they feel these individuals are more easily manipulated by their brand of diplomacy, remains to be seen. In any case, it certainly seems that the carefully orchestrated, premeditated betrayal against UCM expeditionary forces in the Asguard system was the work of the Republic. The UCM also has proof that at least one feral leader on Eden Prime, the infamous Salakahn, is in league with the PHR. This may explain why he has been such a thorn in the side of colonial forces from the first day of the invasion, although what either party hopes to gain in the long term remains a mystery.
Technology of the Resistance
Resistance technology is so variable as to be impossible to describe fully. Every Resistance society is unique and certainly no two armies are alike. This is largely a result of over 160 years of isolation from other groups, and of the wildly different fortunes and situations each society had to deal with. Some faced problems unique to them, although almost all had to deal with the reality of occupation by a deadly and unquestionably superior alien foe.
As a result, it’s best to discuss the technologies employed by the Resistance in general terms intended to cover the most common themes. The most important distinction to make is that most Resistance armies have a two-tier tech and quality system that is unique to them.
Firstly, their armies usually contain a number of ex-military vehicles and weapons. These are by now usually over 160 years old and sometimes much older than that. As a result, they have needed repairs and modifications over the years making no two vehicles (even of the same pattern) exactly alike. Pre-war technology is not necessarily inferior to UCM machinery, although normally far more expensive and time consuming to produce, designed for very different circumstances and smaller production runs.
These precious and irreplaceable assets have been used sparingly by Resistance commanders who previously committed them to battle only when the situation was dire. Recently, they have started to see more action as the Reconquest gathers pace, with a general sense that the time is nigh to do or die.
Secondly, Resistance armies contain an eclectic mixture of repurposed and modified civilian vehicles, tools and systems. Such ramshackle and second-tier units are normally considered expendable, although their crews usually aren’t. Unlike the precious military assets, these scavenged makeweights are far easier to replace than trained crew. They are even more diverse than their military counterparts since there were thousands of pre-war manufacturers, catering for the myriad needs of hundreds of different markets on multiple planets.
As time advances, this picture has blurred further, as military tech gets added to civilian vehicles while civilian tech augments military vehicles. In general terms though, it’s easiest to think of the Resistance along these lines. However, if there is one constant among the Resistance, it’s that there will always be an exception to every category, rule and term that the UCM attempts to label them with.