Review of “Hammer’s Slammers”

Slamming that Hammer

Well I felt it was time.  See, one of my passions in life is to read the books and works that helps to make something exist.  Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example.  In his famous Appendix N at the end of the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax listed a bunch of writers and works that were influential to the game, and as launching off points for campaigns.  And slowly and surely, I’ve been reading Appendix N stories and writers.  I enjoy reading pre-D&D writers that had an influence on that game. And I do this with a lot of stuff, from epic sagas from other cultures to forgotten gems that few appreciate.

And there’s where my decision to read Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake came from.  Published in 1979 and featuring an eponymous mercenary tank unit in the future of science fiction, it seems like a potentially interesting synergy with BattleTech.  The book is a collection of short stories, and thus easier to read for those that are involved with doing stuff.  So let’s read this thing!

So I want to explore the various synergies with BattleTech and this universe by David Drake. Let’s take a look at some of the things that resonate.

1).  The mercenary tank unit, known as Hammer’s Slammers, features a powerful variant of the tank that has been developed n the future with fusion engines, powerful armor, big weapons, and even anti-personnel pods that act as like mobile mines on the field.

2).  Only a handful of worlds in the galaxy can produce these top-of-the-line supertanks, and the technology just isn’t there for the most part. Weapons described as throwing light and electricity which is eerily similar to the descriptions of PPCs in the books. Only the most highly industrialized planets can even make these powerguns.

3).  The universe is set in the future, with thousands of planets settled, most with a low tech sort of lifestyle, and with the same strife, struggles, and issues as today, including religious, corporate, and government based divisions.  Oh, and there’s even a bonding agency that people who are hiring mercs pay, and than that agency, who oversees and makes sure contracts are kept, pays the mercs after they’ve kept their contract.  (Sound familiar?)

4).  There’s a sort of love and hate relationship with the mercenaries in this future universe.  Terra is the name for both home-planets of humans.  While on a naming kick, don’t forget names of mercenaries.  We have a ton of mercenary company’s named after a founder or the current CO and then possessive with something after that rhymes or is alliterative. (Examples include Able’s Aces or Jacob’s Juggernauts).

After I read the first short story, I have to confess that I was hard pressed to find anything that looked un-BattleTech.  Even hand pistols and rifles fired plastic carriages and such akin to Needlers.  If you had told me that this short story was a missing work from the early days of BattleTech that was recently uncovered, I’d believe you.  (Other than the fact that there are no BattleMechs and a few other differences).  Shoot, there’s even a Table of Organization and Equipment for the Regiment.

Speaking of which, there are certainly differences, like a previous race of aliens that existed thousands of years ago and left behind ruins.  Stuff like that.  But this sort of reads like a BattleTech ur-text.  I wonder if it was read and enjoyed by the folks that made it.  I’m not sure if we’ve ever been given an Appendix N for BattleTech, although we certainly know of some anime Mecha that influenced the early design of the game from Japan, but I wonder if Hammer’s Slammers isn’t one of those influences as well.

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16 thoughts on “Review of “Hammer’s Slammers”


    Hammers Slammers has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Powerguns using a copper matrix held in a plastic wafer feel just like a PPC. Fusion engines and clamshell PPG for soldiers both are used in Battletech.

    Wait till you read the story with the calliope air defense system. Also how would you like to be in your ” blower ” and suddenly get a link call where they slave your guns to drop incoming missiles and arty.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      I can’t remember the name of the story off hand, but the one where the new recruit is brought in, and what happens later, is a very good story to my mind.

  2. Runeslinger

    Try the Forever War by Joe Haldeman. You may find a similar sense of deja vu and ur-text discovery. This time more with setting conceits than the daily-use tech.

  3. LamontCranston

    I made a thread over on /r/battletech asking about influences and mentioned this. Did you see that and decide to track it down?

    I definitely think Dune is an influence in the pre-3050 Battletech that had a focus on warring houselords and scheming nobles.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author


      I sure didn’t. I have read other Drake stuff, like the Lord of the Isles, and saw he was more famous for this stuff so I decided to pick this up and try it out.

      I would be interested in an Appendix N from someone who helped design the game, like a Jordan Weissman. What are the books, short stories, films, games, anime, etc that are the main influences for it? I’d love that. And you might be right, Dune might be on that list.

  4. Scolopendra

    Anything in the Ruritanian romance genre would fit pretty well. /The Sword and the Dagger/ felt a _lot_ like /The Prisoner of Zenda/… IN SPAAAAACE.

  5. Will

    Yes, I think Hammers Slammers was definitely one of the hard-ish military sci-fi works that influenced Battletech. As you point out, if you replaced the blowers with mechs many of the stories could almost be Battletech stories. Anyway, it’s a great series of stories and I’d encourage you to keep reading.

    Also agree that Dune was a big influence on the Battletech we know and love; I don’t know if Dune was the first major ‘quasi-feudalism in space’ setting, but it’s definitely one of the better known ones.

  6. Waylon D. Swartz

    Plus, his other book about the “Slammer’s” is just as well written and captivating. It’s called “The Butchers Bill,” with one story in it touching on an “Ancient” race, and another having a sentient species (yet unable to communicate with the humans), very similar to Peter L. Rice’s BattleTech novel “Far Country.”

  7. Mechkrieger

    I’ve known this picture for years, as this was also used for the cover of the classic album “the upcoming terror” from the german thrash metal band “Assassin” (they are from my hometown of Düsseldorf). Really funny to find it here. The book sounds interessting. I will definitively read it. Thanks for the review.

    Link to the album:

    In case you like to listen to it:

  8. Rich Silk

    One of the big differences between Slammers Tech and Battletech is weapons ranges- hundreds of meters vs Kilometers. Also, you have Aliens vs Humans only. (Far Country doesn’t count!) Finally, some of the stuff the Slammers get away with would get a Battletech regiment disbanded or outlawed. (Jihad and Dark Age not withstanding)

    Having said that, one of my best friends recommended “Hammers Slammers”, and I loved it. Really spoke to this old Vet.

    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      I’m glad that it spoke to you!

      I think weapon ranges in BTech are a sufferance for the game. Real life ranges would be tons of maps long. Drake’s ranges more approximate what a real range on a futuristic weapon payload would look like, to my mind.

  9. Waylon D. Swartz

    Also, I’d be interested to know how much of an influence Battle’Tech had on Warhammer 40K’s equipment and gear, i.e., fully enclosed clam shell armor (Space Marines), walking monstrous war machines (Legio’s Titanicus), hovertanks (Space Marine Landspeeders; Eldar & Tau anti-grav vehicles), etc., etc….


    1. Abe Sargent Post author

      True, but I don’t know the 40k universe that much. It’s not really my thing. Others would be better prepared to answer that I;m sure.


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