April 20, 2024

#UnboxingDay! ~ Remembering David Drake with Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible

RockyMountainNavy, 18 January 2024 ~ #UnboxingDay

My favorite science fiction author, David Allen Drake, passed away on December 10, 2023. David Drake is best known for his Hammer’s Slammers military science fiction books. Drake was drafted into the army in 1970 and assigned to the 11th Cavalry Regiment (a.k.a. the Blackhorse1) where he spent the war in Vietnam and Cambodia. After his enlistment Drake finished law school but also turned to writing to help him deal with his army experiences. As his obituary tells, “The stories [in Hammer’s Slammers] were more important to me as self-therapy than they were as the start of a career.” Wargaming is a therapy I use to cope with Real Life and to honor Mr. Drake’s memory I pulled out my copy of Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible to play.

Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible is a set of miniatures wargame rules published by Pireme Publishing, Ltd. in the UK in 2010. The book—approved by David Drake—was written by John Treadaway & John Lambshead. The cover proclaims The Crucible is the “Ultimate, all-in-one rules system for tabletop gaming plus technical specifications, vehicle designs, timeline & background material for the Slammers Universe.”

IMG 5281
Crucible cover (photo by RMN)

click images to enlarge

The cover tagline is important; The Crucible is more than just a set of miniatures rules for wargaming. The front page inside the book has a better subtitle that properly recognizes that The Crucible is both “Technical Handbook and Tabletop Gaming rules.”


IMG 5291
Front matter (photo by RMN)


That is so true for Hammer’s Slammer: The Crucible is as much a sourcebook for the Slammers Universe as it is a set of miniatures rules for wargaming. The first 77 of the 202 pages in the book are dedicated to the background of the Slammers Universe which covers not only the Hammer’s Slammers mercenary regiment but many other mercenary companies and regular troops. While much of the text is drawn from the Hammer’s Slammers books there is lots of incredible artwork and plenty of finished miniatures to also see.


IMG 5292
Hammer’s Slammers (photo by RMN)


IMG 5293
Other mercenary companies (photo by RMN)


The miniatures rules in Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible are written for 28, 15, or 6mm. Models are individual vehicles or infantry. The actual rules for The Crucible are easy to learn and quick-playing with a focus on action over rules complexity. The core game rules are explained in 20 short pages


IMG 5288
“Fighting with the Slammers” (photo by RMN)


IMG 5294
Sample table setup (photo by RMN)


IMG 5295
Tactical Unit – TU – cards for fighting (photo by RMN)


IMG 5296
Optional but not complicated rules (photo by RMN)


In addition to being a sourcebook for the background and timeline of the Slammers Universe along with a set of miniatures rules, The Crucible is also a painting guide to miniatures.


IMG 5289
Priming examples (photo by RMN)


Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible is a complete game with lot of force and vehicle options. The end of the rule book has the Main Playsheets and many Tactical Unit (TU) cards. Between what is in the book and online at the ongoing Hammer’s Slammers wargame official website one could play any of nearly 50 different military or mercenary organizations.


IMG 5290
Many, many TU cards to use (photo by RMN)


I am going to have to take a look at Tabletop Simulator to see if there are Hammer’s Slammers army units to use. Maybe we could get Jim Owczarski interested in this game? While a Tabletop Simulator game would be nice, In some ways it would also be a shame because the book and miniatures are really too beautiful to be reduced to mere pixels.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible includes a short story introduction written by David Drake himself. “Dancing to the Drumbeat” is a short story that introduces the scenario “Judgement Day.” In the pantheon of Slammers stories it doesn’t really stand out but it is nonetheless part of the lore. With ten books in the Slammers series the stories from Mr. Drake will doubtlessly live on. With Hammer’s Slammers: The Crucible you can add your own stories to the Slammers Universe too.


IMG 5282
Belongs on a real tabletop (photo by RMN)


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed a look under our hoods!  You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
You can find our regiment’s social media on MastodonFacebook, Twitter, YouTube, BlueSky, and even Threads, if we could ever get an auto-post to it.
(We have an Instagram page and it’s really just a placeholder & redirect to our articles.)
You can support The Armchair Dragoons through our Patreon, also, and find us at a variety of conventions and other events.
Feel free to talk back to us either in our discussion forum, or in the comments below.

Want to contribute to next month’s #UnboxingDay? Drop us a line in the #UnboxingDay thread in the forum and let us know

The Armchair Dragoons with glee,
Unbox games for all to see.
With dice and cardboard so neat,
They strategize, can’t be beat,
In their world of tabletop glee!


  1. ed note: Allons!

Tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: