31 December 2021

Scratchbuilt Celestial Bodies

In anticipation of further playtesting of my solo spaceship miniatures game, I built a new planet and moon.

The celestial terrain was easy to build: Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty over a helium balloon for both spheres.  I started the moon first and made gores on paper using some geometric shorthand.  I smoothed the gores over the balloon and then covered with a thin water-putty coat.  

The planet originally started as an experiment to see if I could make a sphere using only the balloon as a former with no underlying gores.  Although it used more water putty than the gore method, it worked better than expected and was easier to get a smoother surface.

I only needed to wait maybe four hours before I could deflate the balloons in each sphere.  I then reinforced the interior of each very thin shell with water putty sausages as longitudinal ribs.  Finally, I poured a very very generous amount of wood glue into each sphere and let it cure overnight.  The reinforcing worked well: I actually dropped the moon from a height of about two feet and it didn't even chip.
Vacation is nearly over and I did only a fraction of the gaming I wanted to do.  Roleplaying consumed most of my free time during the break, or rather prepping for roleplaying did.  I finally got to run the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (MSHAG), the SAGA system or "the one with the cards", for the first time in 22 years.  Even better, we're playing using my custom cards.  

The first RPG session was a blast but the second session was postponed after one of the two players cancelled, with the next session questionable due to the same player's new job.  Due to my impending school and work commitments, the Marvel game was supposed to be a three-shot event but now I'm wondering if we'll ever get past that first session.

I am amazed at how much time and effort it takes to do good Game Master prep (or maybe I over-prep).  And I lament all the other hobby time lost to the RPG prep, especially when it never gets used.  

So, we see a trend developing here... I said nearly these exact same words last year around the same time.  And like then, I'm planning to pivot away from RPGs and back to tabletop wargaming.  Wargaming solo works, for me at least, much better than solo RPGing, and with everybody's busy lives that seems to be the only version of Game Mastering I'll get. 

I'm not doing a year end retrospective or laying out my plans for the new year.  Frankly with my work and school schedule, free time will be depressingly scarce.  I will endeavor to post more frequently though.  2021 was my best year in a while and I'm hoping to make 2022 even more blog-prolific.

Just embarrassing...

I posted at the beginning of 2021 some rules I tried to self-enforce, to keep my gaming sustainable and focused.  One rule was: if it's an active project, it has to fit on the drafting table.  Well, we see the unintended consequences of slavishly following rules don't we.  As the picture to the right shows, I've continued to cram new project after new project onto the the table until the surface became unusable as a workspace.  I still like the general rule but I'm modifying to say: "i
f it's an active project, it has to fit on the drafting table and still leave enough room to work."

WIP Moon

WIP habitable planet


10 December 2021

Cotton Swabs and Staples: Cheap Flight Stands Redux

Chris from over at the Just Another Wargames Blog commented on my latest scratchbuild spaceship and asked me to expand on how I use cotton swab stems as flight rods and staples as the ship-to-flight rod interface.

I posted back in 2014 how I use Equate brand cotton swabs as flight stands for little 1/600 jets, after discovering that the stems of these swabs are thin hollow plastic tubes (and not paper).  That post also highlights my favorite part about the method: a piece of thick spaghetti inside the hollow stem not only strengthens the flight rod but allows one to make modular pieces for variable height flight stands.  Check it out!

As for the staples, they've been a, um, staple of my scratch building for years.  Staples are great because they're cheap, they're sturdy, they're steel (and hence magnetic), and they come in all sorts of sizes.  Best of all, staples come in long rows, with individual staples held together by an adhesive that keeps them together but is easy to break.

I've found that three "normal" office staples together are just a little wider than the inner diameter of the hollow cotton swab stem.  Since the tube is made of soft plastic, it deforms pretty easily, allowing the staples to fit snugly in the end of the tube.

I start off by using an old used hobby knife that's still relatively sharp but not fresh out of the box to separate the three staples from the rest of the row.  

Next I bend one end of the staple interface down to create the tab that goes into the cotton swab stem.  The other side of the staple-group stays straight to create a little shelf to glue the ship/airplane onto.  The picture to the right shows three staple interfaces I recently made for a group of spaceships on my workbench (ignore the pasta).  This shot shows my new technique, which is to not bend the staples all the way back; this gives a snugger fit when inserted in the flight rod.

The next picture shows a TU-22 Blinder with the staple flight rod interface attached.

The staple interface can be used for the base as well, as shown on this older spaceship base.  Here I simply cut a slit in a plastic bit (from food packaging) and glued the flat part of the staple interface to the inside.

 Recently I've started using these hemispheres for a cleaner look.  I'm constantly casting things with dental plaster and always have extra plaster left over.  Instead of wasting the plaster, I'll take a large ball burnisher and push several hemispherical divots into a piece of clean, smoothed polymer clay and make a handful of these little domes with the excess.  Next, a cavity gets drilled in the center and a piece of thick spaghetti is glued in for the flight rod to slide onto.

 And that's it: pretty simple.  The shot to the right shows everything sliding together.  Go make some miniatures!

Solo Spaceship Miniatures Game Playtest Draft

I've finished transcribing my latest attempt at a solo spaceship miniatures game from my playtest notes (circa March-April 2020) to a PDF.  Please feel free to download it and give it a try. Unlike many of my solo game creations this game doesn't require massive amounts of tokens and other props.  I couldn't completely eliminate on-table markers but managed to reduce the number considerably.

I've yet to write up the (super simple) rules for designing one's own ships.  In the interim I've included 60 sample ship designs in the rulebook so there's no real need to make your own.  
Includes ship counters if you don't have minis
Similar to Starfire (and previous incarnations of my solo rules), ship designs consist of lines of letters, so if you're unhappy with the (randomly computer-generated) sample designs, it's simple to just scrawl down six rows and five columns of letters of your choice and make the perfect ship.

Right now this is a living document.  The game contains all the basic rule mechanics to play but a reader will notice placeholders for incomplete illustrations, as well as omissions like the aforementioned ship "construction" rules, campaign rules, and other ideas I've had like multi-ship element rules.  Hopefully I'll find time to (most importantly) playtest those and add them.