29 December 2011

Revised Spaceship Solo Game

I have over 1100 hits on my downloads page.  Now I realize that probably 1000 of those are Russian and eastern European spambots, but I have to think that someone out there has read my rules.  And to those one or two people who've actually downloaded and tried them out I must apologize for constantly rewriting things.    

The past few posts allude to a totally rewritten version of my solo spaceship game, Greater Space Battles.  By following the link above you can get this newest edition which features new, and in my opinion improved, rules.

  • The most significant change is that momentum is conserved.  All ships with speed greater than 0 move every turn, ensuring a faster playing game.  Ships move like the vessels in the old Atari game Space War, having to turn their tails "forward" in order to brake.  This makes for interesting maneuvering and helps eliminate the "wet-navy in space" feel.
  • Energy allocation is revised so that smaller ships aren't trashing the big ships as they did in my first few playtests of the old rules.  More importantly, crew experience plays into energy allocation, giving seasoned crews an edge for running a more efficient ship.
  • Various stream-lining, such as the elimination of the targeting phase.
  • Original art
Enjoy, and remember this can be played on a hex mat, so don't be put off by the wonky "movement discs"... with a hex mat you don't need them (you'll still need ships' readout discs of course).

28 December 2011

New Vessel Sighted Orbiting Durham IV

Last night I fashioned another putty spaceship.  This design features engine pods created separately and then glued on.

I'm really digging this design, despite the fact that with all the globular features I got a lot more air bubbles than usual.

The picture below shows the Vector/Readout Disc for this ship class, for use in my solo game Greater Space Battles.  Note the six numbers in white circles no longer define firing arcs but instead represent the ship's velocity.  Thus by positioning the disc in a certain way the player has a way to record any speed from 1 to 6, without the use of pen & paper or markers.  This rules change allows conservation of momentum.  The current Greater Space Battles rules on the downloads page do not reflect this change; the update is coming here!

Solo Space Campaign: Opening Battle

I've played about four different battles in order to playtest my newest solo game Greater Space Battles.  I feel like the rules are pretty much set now although vastly altered from the version posted on my downloads page.  Eventually I'll get the new and improved version (featuring momentum conservation) uploaded.

I'm quite happy with the rules.  In fact, during one evening last week I found myself staying up until 2AM finishing a game.  I haven't become that enthralled in a game since my high school days, nearly two decades ago.  With the ship-to-ship combat mechanics hammered out, the next step is to run a campaign.

The campaign features two opposing factions: the Hilherndon League and the Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry.  The rest of the fluff is at the end of the post, after the star map; first let's get on with the nuts-and-bolts...

I rolled three six-sided dice for each faction, generating the X, Y, and Z coordinates of their home system group.  The star map below shows the coordinates for each system as well as their Spheres of Influence.  Spheres of Influence, labeled SOI on the map, start at 1 for each and describe each faction's ability to project "hard", i.e. military power.  The goal of the campaign is for one faction to reduce the opposing faction's SOI to 0.

Factions raise their spheres of influence by resource acquisition, whether from exploring new systems, establishing and maintaining treaties with lesser kingdoms, or espionage.  All of this is beyond the scope of the solo campaign and is distilled into a simple die roll.  The die roll may face negative modifiers however, based on losses  incurred in space battles.  Up to six (randomly determined) space battles are fought between every SOI roll.  If a faction suffers significant losses in a battle it may (another random roll) receive a -1 modifier to the next SOI roll.  Therefore a faction may incur anywhere from a 0 to a -6 modifier to its SOI roll.  A modified d6 roll which is above a faction's current SOI results in an increase of 1 to its sphere of influence.  A modified roll which fails to exceed the current SOI results in the sphere of influence remaining the same.  A modified roll resulting in a negative number however decreases the sphere of influence by 1.

There will always be at least one battle between SOI rolls.  For the first battle of this campaign period I rolled the coordinates of Beta Murronus VI, the location of the encounter.  The coordinates(X: 4, Y: 3, Z: 3) mean the system is distance 5 (4.690) from the Hilherndon League and distance 4 (3.742) from The Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry.  Next I rolled three six sided dice and chose the lowest one to determine the Strategic Significance of the system.  The result was a 4 (a fairly important resource-laden system).  Despite this lucky roll (a 4, 4, and 6), I'm purposely trying to skew the results toward smaller values since it's the opening phase of the war.  At the middle phase I will roll three dice and choose the middle value to determine strategic significance.  At the end of the war I'll choose the highest of the three dice rolled.  Thus the battles should grow in size.  So what is the strategic significance score?  It simply shows the number of d6's summed to determine the size of a faction's task force/squadron.

Since the strategic significance is 4, normally I would roll 4d6 and add them together to get the total size of a faction's strike force.  First however, I had to modify the rolls to account for each faction's ability to project power that far away.  The Hilherndon League's sphere of influence of 1 minus the distance of 5 to the target system resulted in a (1 - 5 = -4) four dice penalty to the force size roll.  I therefore rolled 8d6 and discarded the four highest dice, only adding the scores of the four remaining dice.  The Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry's distance of 4 with a Sphere of Influence of only 1 resulted in 3 penalty dice; I rolled 7d6 and discarded the three highest dice, summing the remaining four.  Coincidentally both rolls summed to 8, so the two opposing spaceship forces are identical in size.  Due to the system's strategic significance (4), four dice will always be summed, yielding a fleet size of 4 to 24.  The meager spheres of influence of the opposing factions greatly skews the result to the low end of the spectrum.

My rules set groups ships into size classes, with 1 being the smallest hull and 5 the largest.  The dice roll described in the paragraph above indicates the total size of all the ships in the squadron.  In this case both forces have ships whose combined size totals 8.  I rolled a d6 for the Hilherndon League and got a 4, followed by another roll and other 4.  The League's force therefore consists of two size class 4 ships.  For the Vassalry's forces I rolled a 4, then a 6.  There are no size 6 ships so I rerolled and got a 1.  Since I had only enough size left for a class 1, 2, or 3 ship, I randomly determined between the three and got a 3.  So the Vassalry's fields a three ship force consisting of a size 4 heavy cruiser, a size 3 light cruiser, and a size 1 frigate.

That's it; the stage is set for the first battle of the campaign.  As you can see, this whole method is just an exercise in dice rolling.  I tried however, to create some kind of framework to the dice rolls, a framework that will change based upon the successes and failures of the opposing factions.  I think it will work.  If I remember correctly, Star Fleet Battles, and its successor Federation Commander, use five ascending size classes; this system could therefore support a solo campaign if you're using those rules to fight your battles.

Space Campaign, Period 1, Battle 1
The setting uses the feudalism-in-space trope as in Dune, and the role-playing game settings Traveller and SpaceMaster among others.  Faster-than-light travel exists, but starships require days if not weeks in order to make "probability jumps" to other systems.  More importantly superluminal communication does not exist.  Feudalism therefore makes the most sense to me.  I've taken it one step further: in my setting spaceships are hereditary, controlled by lords and manned by vassals.  These lords in turn pledge their support to even greater lords, who control the resources to make interstellar travel possible.  A typical greater lord would be one whose family has acquired a large fleet of sublight spaceships over the centuries, allowing the bloodline to monopolize a system's resources.  The "kingdom" of the typical greater lord consists not only of baronies on the habitable worlds of a system, but more importantly of the interstellar ships pledging their allegiance to him or her.  Alien intelligences have never been discovered in the thousand plus years of human exploration, however remains of civilizations have been.  People still report "lights in the sky" and the major religion revolves around the concept of unseen extraterrestrial benefactors.  Disagreements on key points fracture the religion; the major argument lies in the nature of the benefactors: simply highly evolved aliens, divine beings, machine intelligences, etc.  A sizable portion of the interstellar human population scoffs at the notion of any "benefactors".                   

23 December 2011

The Airing of Grievences

Happy Festivus all!

I cannot invite you all to my house for the Festivus dinner, but due to the miracle of the internet I can list the ways you've disappointed me this year:

Just kidding.  Happy Holidays to all, thanks for reading my dumb ideas and thinks especially to the other gaming bloggers for your inspiring work.

18 December 2011

New from the Orbital Shipyard

I primed up the water-putty ship miniature design I introduced two posts ago.  I also added a few details to the ship to give it some pep: an antennae cluster (made from angel hair pasta) and a little radiator fin.

The cold temperature of my garage made the gray primer come out thick, so I decided to make the coat very light to avoid obscuring any detail.  The miniature therefore has a few bare spots peeking through as the pictures show.

I have one of those annoying holiday-season work "fun" functions tomorrow, but hopefully I'll get a few hours of free time to paint this big bruiser up.

I also knocked out a new design for a smaller ship.  I like this one a lot, but I'm waiting until tomorrow to prime, after the garage warms up.

04 December 2011

Painted Scratchbuild Spaceship

Continuing a productive night, I painted a scratchbuild ship from my collection.  I made three metal casts of this ship back in the spring, but never got around to painting it.  I finally finished it and I realized paint makes all the difference.  I wasn't a big fan of this ship design when I first sculpted it, but after seeing it with just this mediocre paint job I'm loving it.

I like using the "magic wash" technique with illustration ink, but the last time I tried it on a ship it ended up leaving the vessel quite dark.  This time I therefore primed the ship with white instead of gray and then added lots and lots of white to my base color scheme (a purplish gray).  I painted the lower areas dark and added even more white and painted the higher areas.  I drybrushed with pure white and then added the insignia and orange markings.  I gave it all a light coat of Future and then added the wash when that coat of acrylic floor cleaner dried.  The wash was 4mL water, 1mL Future, 0.2mL violet illustration ink, and 0.2 mL nut brown ink.  The ink was brushed on and then most of it brushed off.  Even though I tried for the subtle approach by mopping most of the ink up with my brush, the ink still makes bold lines.

I find painting frustrating and thus rarely practice, keeping my skills mediocre.  At my skill level, I'm very pleased with this mini.  I'll slap some more black paint on the stand and base and hopefully get in a game of Greater Space Battles tomorrow.

03 December 2011

My Latest Scratchbuild Spaceship Design

Alright!  Last night I finished my final so except for clean-up on one lab, this semester is over.  I can get back to gaming and posts about gaming without feeling guilty.

All week long I slowly built up a master for a new spaceship miniature design.  I glued various sizes of spaghetti to some plastic coffee stirrers that were stuffed with Sculpey.  In the future I will use plastic sprue versus the coffee stirrers.

Last night I pressed this master into two blocks of Sculpey, making the top and bottom hull impressions.  I then detailed the impressions and poured in the water putty.  I then removed the bottom hull from the polymer clay and joined it to the top hull.  This morning I pulled the completed putty master out of the clay and trimmed it up.  The pictures below show the top looking to the stern, looking to the bow, and also the bottom looking to the bow.
Top, ship bow close-up
Top, ship stern close-up
The bottom: just as detailed

I tried something new this time, as shown in the second picture above.  I put a piece of looped wire into the putty when I poured the bottom hull.  This allowed me to suspend the completed putty master vertically inside a LEGO mold box, thus allowing me to pour the silicone rubber mold as one piece.  I will cut the rubber in half when it cures; this will still be a traditional two-piece mold, but in half the curing time.  I did screw up one thing though... I decided to leave the bottom of the mold box open and then I just set it on a piece of plastic.  I sealed the edges with sulfur-free clay, but it has since leaked a bit.  The picture below shows the mold box right after the rubber was poured in; the reader can see the rubber is about 5mm from the top.  As I'm writing this, rubber has leaked out all around the base and the top of the silicone is now about 15mm from the top of the box.  The putty master is not exposed however.  I will simply let the rubber cure and in a few hours pour enough in to top it back up.  In the future however I will just use more LEGOs to build a bottom to the box.  Why I didn't think of that this time I don't know.
Interstellar shipyard

27 November 2011

Scratchbuild Cast in Metal

I intended to make metal casts of the spaceship miniature I sculpted, before the Thanksgiving holiday.  Due to the cold however the RTV rubber I used for the mold was slow to cure.  I returned from an out-of-town holiday trip to find the rubber finally cured.  Lesson learned there: use a 34W or stronger bulb and a container (plastic coffee jug maybe) to trap the heat around the curing mold, speeding up the process.

I pulled the master out of the rubber mold and brushed graphite into the cavities, like I normally do.   I poured a few test casts after heating up the metal, and found the mold wouldn't fill.  I'd heard of this before, but this was the first time I'd experienced it in my home drop-casts.  All of my previous spaceship miniatures had minimal protrusions that might create potential air pockets, but this design differed.  The large dorsal pods created ample opportunity for air to get trapped.  A few deep cuts in the mold and viola, a finished and easy cast.

As the picture above shows, my process creates pretty rough edges, even with a lot of razor blade and metal file clean-up.  Still, I like these designs as they have lots of variation and little lines to catch the paint and ink.  And there's nothing like fielding miniatures that you made by your own hand.

The picture below shows the life cycle of this miniature, from cradle to gaming table.  The object on the top left is the first master, made of spaghetti and scrap polystyrene.  I press the first master into blocks of polymer clay and then detail the resulting impressions.  The detailed impressions get filled with water-putty and the two resulting halves are joined to form the second master.  The second master is the middle sculpt and was partially destroyed during the demolding process.  I make a mold of this second master and then use the mold for metal castings.  The metal castings are the ships that eventually get painted.
Mold with air paths
Teaser for other websites

22 November 2011

Greater Space Battles: Art & Ship Design

I drew and inked the picture below over the last two nights, intended for my solo game Greater Space Battles.  I'm not 100% in love with it, but for my second attempt ever at inking with steel nibs and brush in the comic book style, I'm moderately pleased.  I'm learning a ton about the process; for example, I figured out I was holding the nibbed pen like a pencil when I needed to decrease the angle to be more parallel with the paper.  A vast improvement in ink flow!  The picture below just seems to be lacking some dynamism.  I know what I was trying to do: I wanted to show a bright heavy contrast effect due to the energy blast between the ships and resulting explosion.  I just don't have the skills yet to capture that effect solely in black and white.  Maybe I will color the picture and see if that adds some vitality.
I've continued to playtest the game, just finishing turn 8.  The changes I recommended last post have helped immensely.  The contest is very close and feels very objective.  I'm normally opposed to lots of die rolls, but this game needs them.  The abundance of randomization makes it very hard to "pick a side".  It's more like managing the chaos, with just enough decision making to make it fun.

I neglected to mention ship design in the rules download.  Design your own ship by first picking a ship size.  Then choose the six letter sequence for each of the ship's five energy allocation schemes (A=Attack, D=Defense, M=Movement).  The schemes have no restrictions; if you want to design a ship with six "A"s in a row for three different energy channels, feel free.  Of course that ship may have a lot of firepower but it will have trouble defending itself or even moving.  After the five energy channels, choose the ship's firing arcs.  The number featured on the Vector/Readout Disc for each arc indicates the max energy that you can allocate to attacks in that arc during a turn.  The ship's size limits the sum of all the firing arc values.  The sum of all firing arc values of size 0 ships cannot exceed 4, the sum for size 1 ships cannot exceed 8.  The maximum value for size 2 ships is 12, 16 for size 3 and 20 for size 4.  Finally, name your ship and the design is complete.  Make up your own Vector/Readout Disc using the template on the downloads page and you are off.

21 November 2011

Solo Spaceship Wargame Playtest: Turn 7 AAR

... Alternate Title: This is Why We Playtest

I finished turns 6 and 7 of the playtest of my simple spaceship game Greater Space Battles.  The playtest paid some big dividends as it highlighted some design flaws.  I'll get to my fixes in a little bit; first I'll set up the scene.

As I mentioned last post, I had concerns regarding the weapons fire rules, but then I rolled a number of hits on four separate ships, including a critical hit on the SS Fifthia (see the first AAR post for the lineup of combatant ships).  I was starting to feel better about the rules mechanic but then, during the damage control phase, nearly all the ships repaired all their hits, including the Fifthia.  My doubts returned.  Basically the flaw in the rule is that since both the attack and defense rolls use a "take the highest die rolled" mechanic, as soon as a 6 is rolled by the defender, the attacker's shot becomes impossible.  Not a terrible rule, but something I could fix.  The following pictures of the turn 7 energy allocation phase highlight the bigger problem with my ruleset:
At the edge of the mysterious "gridded space" sector
Pennies show energy allocation
 As the pictures show, it's turn 7 and the ships are still on their respective sides of the boards!  Everyone is moving like molasses.  As I mentioned previously, I thought perhaps this was due to my own tactical reluctance.  After six turns of failed movement rolls however, I realized the rules hamstring the ships.  Again, the "roll many dice, take the highest" rule caused the problem.  I use this rule mechanic because I need it for energy allocation as it generates a maximum of 6, regardless of ship size.  I wanted the die rolls to be consistent so I decided to use this mechanic for shooting and moving.  After turn 6 I resolved to try a new method and saw immediate improvements.

For weapons fire the defender now uses the sum of all the dice rolled to get the defense score.  Likewise, the shooting vessel sums the dice scores rolled for attack.  Damage is as before: the amount the attack roll exceeds defense.  Easy.  In turn 7 this little change resulted in the poor little SS Raimo taking 7 hits, which resulted in all five energy allocation channels knocked out as well as a critical hit.  As brutal as that sounds, the damage control phase restored two energy schemes, and besides at close range space combat should be devastating.

Movement now uses a similar mechanic.  The moving ship rolls one die per energy token allocated, and sums the dice scores, then subtracts the ship size.  This is a huge change to the rules, as it allows ships to displace quite a bit.  As a result a target ship can jump from one firing arc to another quite easily, so it makes initiative even more important.

I've made the changes on the rules download; please feel free to download the newest version.  Thanks for looking.

19 November 2011

Scratchbuild Starship Trapped in Stasis

Last weekend I sculpted my first new starship design in a while.  I wasn't quite going for the Y-Wing fighter look which I can kind of see now; I was actually trying for an asymmetrical feel.

Anyway I was very pleased with how the water-putty master came out so I immediately pushed it halfway into some sulfur-free clay and poured the RTV silicone over it.  It's about 5 days later and the silicone is not fully cured, due probably to the cold.  I have it an appropriate distance from a 34W bulb; hopefully it cures fully in another 24 hours. 

The good news is the layer of rubber closest to the master is actually nearly fully cured, only the outer layer is still tacky.  The bad news is I tried a new method of making the mold and as you can see from the pictures below, the parting line is very very messy.  I hope I can salvage the mold and still produce some decent casts.  I'm planning to use the heat lamp on the second half of the mold, so with any luck we will see some casts next weekend.
Final water-putty master
Messy parting lines


18 November 2011

Solo Spaceship Game: AAR & Download!

I've been playtesting my new solo spaceship miniatures game by playing one or two turns a day.  I find that by playing solo games slow like this it keeps them fresh, as well as keeps me objective.

My last post detailed Turn 1 of the game.  I started taking pictures of Turn 2 and then my camera, which has been intermittent, went totally kaput.  So you'll just have to take my word for it...

In Turn 2 the Poroth, the only size 3 ship on the board, took another hit.  At the end of the turn the Poroth failed to repair any damage and was down to three available energy allocation schemes.  As demonstrated by its readout below, the Poroth's #3 energy scheme is the only one which features movement in the first and second priority positions.  Losing this option really slowed the big ship down.
An already slow ship loses its dash option

Finally after Turn 5 the Poroth fixed one of the two damaged energy channels, despite the fact it rolled two dice for damage control every turn.  Turn 5 also saw another ship, the Platero, finally take a hit.  One lesson learned from the playtest so far is that hitting targets is fairly difficult from long range.  I think this would get tedious continually rolling misses if you played turn after turn in one sitting, but playing one turn a day I don't mind.  I'm not changing the weapons fire rules because I think the lack of hits comes not from poor game mechanics but from my apprehension to close... it's starting on the 6th Turn and both factions are still only a third of the way away from their starting table edge.  I've been spending energy on blazing away ineffectually instead of steaming to a better firing position.

I'm still playing this game but I like the rules enough to name them and knock out a quick 5 page rule sheet.  It's on my downloads page so check it out.  I've decided to name it Greater Space Battles as an homage to Stewart Cowley's Great Space Battles, my favorite of the four Terran Trade Authority Handbooks.  In addition to the rules download, a powerpoint file is also located on the downloads page so you can make Vector/Readout Discs for your own ship designs.

I'm planning on doing a pen-and ink for the cover after finals are over in December.  If you download and play, I always appreciate constructive comments.

edit: I just finished the Weapons Fire Phase of Turn 6 and I take back all those words I said about ineffective shooting.  No less than four ships took hits, with the Platero taking three new hits including one critical hit!

14 November 2011

Solo Spaceship Game Playtest AAR: Turn 1

OK, so after months of work on a set of spaceship miniature rules I decided to dump them in favor of another set I came up with this weekend.  All that work getting formatting just right, making diagrams, and even creating custom artwork (as well as paying for a sweet-ass cover piece), and here I am playing something else.  I've just finished turn one of my first playtest game and I already know this new, as-yet unnamed game is more fun.  The solo-playability of the new rules is much better I think.

The last two posts on this blog I talked about how I'm using discs to facilitate 2D vector movement without a hex mat, and how I'm putting a ship's entire readout on the back of one disc each.  The picture below shows the ship readouts for all the vessels fighting in this playtest.  For fun and I.D. purposes let's call the top four the Ships from the Golden Galaxy; their opponents are the remaining three: the forces of the Dark Nebula.
 The number in the silver triangle indicates a ship's size (from 0 to 4).  The six numbers in the white circles show firepower capability in the appropriate arcs.  The green "readout" area shows each ship's name and five energy allocation schemes; the schemes limit how energy allocation tokens can be assigned (A for Attack, D for Defense, M for Move).  Finally, the orange circle marked "XP" is where I pencil in the Experience Bonus for each ship (0 to 4).  I left this blank because the bonus can change throughout a campaign as a ship's crew becomes more experienced (or loses a key crew member).

The next picture shows the set up.  I only used 60% or so of my board, as I have modeling projects going that need table space.  You can see the incomplete hex overlay on my space mat.  Each ship has its readout glued to a disc and as shown in the picture, each ship is starting with its velocity vector right off the nose.
DIY hex-mat... not my best idea
 The unnamed spaceship game uses initiative to maximize the solo experience.  Initiative is used in three different phases, so it's very important and I constantly had to recall the order the ships were acting in.  I created a little tool to help me out.  I took two of those fridge magnets you sometimes get with junk mail, the really thin ones.  I used one as like a tablet sheet and then cut up the other one into strips and painted over the advertisement.  I then wrote the names of all the ships on these little strips.  Then when I rolled initiative, I simply move the ship names around so it reads from top to bottom the order of who has to act first (most disadvantaged).  The following photo illustrates this technique, as well as shows the order for this first turn.
Magnetic initiative sheet
The next phase after initiative was the targeting phase.  The pic below shows the Ships of the Golden Galaxy after the targeting phase.  Everyone is shooting!  I use thick spaghetti coated with red and blue acrylic paint for my beam markers.  The colors distinguish the forces, just like in the movies.
After declaring targets (in initiative order), the next phase was energy allocation.  Dice were rolled and the Triggale had to cancel its attack (not enough power!) but everyone else had decent amount of energy.  Again, energy was allocated in initiative order.  This improves the solo-playability because even though I have to make the decisions for each side, the vessels acting later can "react" to what the others have already declared.

After the energy tokens were placed (no picture, sorry) the attacks were resolved.  The Poroth fired at the Ardoin and due to the extreme range, the target got 6 defense dice plus 1 for energy allocated for defense.  Despite rolling 7 dice, no 6's showed up so the Poroth actually had a chance.  Rolling only 3 dice the Golden Galaxy's biggest ship rolled one 6, meaning a hit, all the way across the board!  A single die was rolled for the Ardoin and its number 4 energy allocation scheme was crossed out.  The Dark Nebula forces replied by massing fire on the Poroth, which to a hit and crossed out its number 3 energy allocation scheme.  Blood on the first turn.

Beam markers and all associated Attack and Defense energy tokens were removed from the table and it was time for movement.  The following pictures illustrate the SS Fifthian's movement.  Die rolls indicated a movement of 4, so I placed 3 extra discs on the table, extending the ship's velocity vector to the appropriate length.  The first picture shows the Fifthian immediately after being moved.  The next picture shows the ship's readout disc being repositioned back to directly off the bow.  The other discs were then removed.
Movement of 4
Making sure the vector is pointing correctly
After movement all remaining tokens were gathered up and the two blasted ships made Damage Control rolls but neither managed to fix their systems.  The turn ended with the conclusion of the Damage Control rolls.

I know I haven't made a download of these new rules available, so most of the above text leaves the reader without a frame of reference.  The game will come, but I just wanted to get this AAR down while it's still fresh in the brain.  Or maybe I just want to avoid homework so I'm wasting time on this blog...

Stay tuned for turn two.


Ship's System Readout and Vector Indicator

I'm still trying to get the playtest of my newest ruleset started, but I got another new idea which derailed me.  Actually, this is directly related to the new rules, but I'm excited enough about it to share now.

I was placing the vector discs I mentioned last post on the table, next to their respective miniatures just as my play test was about to start.  I realized suddenly that the discs were big enough to act as a ship's system readout (SSD in some games, SDS in others).  My new rules are very very simple and generic, so one goal was to eliminate paper sheets all together.  I'll be using energy allocation tokens (pennies) as well as these vector discs so I didn't want to clutter up the table with all sorts of other markers.  So I made up actual paper sheets for each ship, but in a round shape and only 48mm in diameter.  The Ship Readout's size and shape allows it to be taped to the back of the vector disc.  An example Ship Readout is below.  You'll note there's no ship name... this will be painted on the edge of the disc.
Has everything needed for play
So what do all those strange letters mean?  It's an energy allocation scheme; each ship has five of them.  Damage is tracked by loss of these schemes.  I'll explain it all after I verify what mechanics work and which ones fall apart.

13 November 2011

Hexless Vector Movement

I've been buried in the world of flight test instrumentation, so my gaming rumination time has been suffering.  I've had enough of LabView and proto-boards for the night so I'm taking a break and getting back to my neglected blog.

So I finished my homebrew space miniatures game a few weeks ago and after all that work I think I'm not going to play it any longer.  My original goal was simplicity and even though War In Space is very simple, I've come up with an even easier game.  The newest one still needs playtesting but is truly a "beer-and-pretzels" game; if it got any more generic it would be called Backgammon.

The new game utilizes six sided dice only.  I love polyhedral dice, I really do, but during playtesting of War In Space one of the main annoyances was having to ensure I grabbed the proper types of dice for a ship during energy allocation.  The fact that those die types changed due to damage made it even easier to make mistakes and roll the wrong dice.  So last night I came up with this little d6 only game, and as soon as I finish typing this I'll go and playtest.

OK, on with the main point... I never finished painting the hex overlay on my vinyl home made space mat.  First I got distracted with some 10mm Ancients gaming, then of course school and work crushed any remaining opportunity or motivation.  Today however I came up with a new idea for hexless vector movement, which figures since I have a space mat with 40% of its surface covered with hexes.

The answer was in front of me all the time.  In the post regarding the conversion of my space mat, I described making little discs out of putty in order to help me make the hex pattern.  These discs are the answer I believe.  By placing one of these discs flush against the base of a spaceship miniature, a player can show the direction of ship's vector.  This requires marks on a round base but on a hex base the player can just push the disc flush with one of the hex sides.  For the magnitude of the vector, the player simply adds more discs in the appropriate direction, i.e. along a line extending from the flight stand rod through the center of that first disc.  I realize this sounds esoteric: the picture below illustrates:
Hexless (and ruler-less) vector movement
 In the picture above, the ship's velocity vector points to the right front 60 degrees right of the nose.  The snapshot shows the ship just before executing a move.  The ship's speed is 3 discs (each disc about the size of a 2 inch hex).  The controlling player would simply move the ship to the opposite end of this line of discs.  Two of the three discs would then be removed from the table and the remaining disc would be repositioned back to the front right 60 degree mark, to show the proper velocity vector.  Changing the direction of the velocity vector is easy to accomplish as well; simply move the disc from one hex side to an adjacent one.  My new game has specific rules on how to execute all these manuevers, but I'll leave that for the download.  Right now I just want to present the concept of hexless vector movement by using round markers.

As the above pictures show, the little putty discs can be decorated with acrylic paint in order to make them unobtrusive on the table.

Off to playtest, but here's an example of a ship readout from my new game... as you can see, very simple.

Beer-and-pretzels!  Still undecided on the firing arcs

18 October 2011

Homebrew Spaceship Game Rules Finally Finished

I stayed up waaaayyy too late last night, finishing my homebrew spaceship miniatures game, War In Space.  I've been excited to do an updated version ever since I purchased the rights to some cool artwork for the cover.  The cover (which is a separate file on my downloads page) features an illustration by artist Colin Hay, who painted many science fiction book covers in the 1970s, even having some of his works featured in the fabled Terran Trade Authority Handbooks!

I recently bought myself some Bristol board, nibbed pens, and a sable brush and tried my hand at inking a drawing; the final result is on page 1.  Wow, that's hard!  Just like they say in Chasing Amy, inking is far more than just tracingOnce the inked drawing was done, I scanned it into my computer and created the starfield background using Microsoft Powerpoint.  That's right, Powerpoint.  I spent heaps of money buying my girlfriend Adobe Illustrator as a gift earlier this year, but as I don't have a Mac and she does... time to improvise.  Well anyways, it was my very first inking attempt so be gentle.

This version of the game features a reworked version of my multi-player campaign rules, which now feature a 3D campaign map.  The gazetteer of interstellar distances (or more correctly flight time in game turns) was created using a spreadsheet to do all the simple but tedious math.  If anyone is interested I'll post the file to my downloads section.  Just roll three percentile dice for a star system's X, Y, and Z axes and input it into the spreadsheet and the flight times to the other 14 systems appears in the colored table.

Honestly my push to get this done was to just get it out of my mind.  My gaming consciousness has been taken over by 10mm mass combat recently, and I've been focusing on playtesting a new set of rules called Count the Dead.  I've enjoyed the few playtest sessions I've had with this spaceship game, but really the rules were a vehicle to get some of my scratchbuild starship miniatures on the board.  With 10mm gaming I've been using commercial figures and brother, what fun!  I hope I can share my free rules for this genre as well. 

11 October 2011

Dune CCG Solitaire Variant

I'm a huge fan of Frank Herbert's Dune universe and was ecstatic back in the 90s when Last Unicorn games released a collectible card game based on the first book (the only one worth reading in the series).  Unfortunately all my gaming friends found the game too complex and they were not wrong.  I feel the game captures the plots-within-plots intrigue of the book, but at the expense of simplicity.  Despite the game's great artwork, unless the players are emotionally invested in the Dune setting, like me, most will find the game too difficult to bother with.  So I ended up buying thousands of cards and never getting to play a single game.

All that being said, if you're a Dune fan this game's cancellation was a tragedy.  As I said it really captured the feel of the book.  I have therefore been working on a solitaire variant for some time.  Dune relies on player interaction much more than other CCGs, so a solo version proved difficult.  My results are on the downloads page.  Unlike my Illuminati: New World Order solo variant, which I've played with at least five times, these rules haven't been playtested.  Maybe I'll do that tonight...  If anyone else gives it a try, please let me know how it goes.

10 October 2011

He Built a Crooked House

...And a straight one as well.

A few weeks ago I presented a tutorial for making brick houses for 10mm and 15mm scales.  The project started out well, and I left you all waiting for me to add the roof and base.  I attempted to make a roof using the same techniques detailed in that post, namely pressing details into polymer clay and then pouring water-putty into the resulting impressions.  The result ended up being a failure.  I like the detail of the roof shingles, but the roof "slab" ended up being far too thick and attaching it to the house without gaps proved impossible.  The worst part was the cap; in order to make the crest of the roof look real I would have to use Milliput or some other epoxy.  The whole point of this exercise was frugality and simplicity so I didn't want to do that.  Instead I just started another house with a different roofing method in mind.
Seemed like a sound idea on paper...

This will not do

My second house turned out great.  The building uses the same techniques as before for the walls, but simple notched strips of thick paper (junk mail) laminated together make up the roof.  I based the walls on a scrap piece of plastic food packaging covered with a water-putty and sand mixture.  The polystyrene sheet had fiberglass wall repair tape attached to it first, giving the putty something to cling to.  This is how I do all my bases now.

I attached the roof using hot glue, then primed the whole thing black and painted with cheap acrylic paints.  The whole thing cost pennies due to the extensive use of scraps and cheap materials.  The time cost of course was higher but still not excessive, maybe four hours spread out over two weeks (a tiny bit after work each night).

The picture below features the finished house with some Old Glory 10mm Armored Gauls for scale.  I apologize for the unpainted miniatures, but I'm playtesting homebrew rules and can't wait for paint!  The picture also shows my very simple cottonball trees.
Do ancients games have objectives?

By the way, 10mm mass combat, where have you been all my gaming life?  I'm totally enamored with these little guys; guess the starships may take a back seat for a while.

Yetis and Cthulhu...My Mythos Adventure

When I first started this blog I focused more on collectible card games (CCGs) than on miniature wargaming.  I sung the praises of the old Lovecraftian game Mythos in a previous post, where I also pointed out one of that game's greatest features is the create-your-own-adventure card.  Later in that post I presented an adventure I made up incorporating Yetis into the Cthulhu Mythos (Clark Ashton Smith's idea, not mine).

I purchased a scanner today to help me transfer to the computer pen-and-ink drawings I'm doing for my homebrew rules.  I tested it out by scanning an old Mythos blank Adventure card and then sexed it up with formatting to look like a professional one.  I'll eventually put it on my downloads page, but any of you diehard Mythos fans out there can simply grab the picture below.  Enjoy!

02 October 2011

Thatched Roof Hut Tutorial (Alternate Method)

I little bit ago I developed a weird method of making thatched roof huts from water-putty.  While the method was cheap and some people lauded it, I had the nagging feeling it was too complex.  I've since come up with an easier method that yields better results.

Get some polymer clay (I use Sculpey) and knead it well.  Smash a small ball of the clay in between two smooth surfaces; I use two pieces of glass from small picture frames (cost $1.00 US at any dollar store).  The squished clay should form a nice round flat pancake, with a diameter much larger than the intended diameter of your roof, and a thickness of about 10mm.  If the pancake is wildly out-of-round, then use a compass to scribe a circle near the edges and trim off the excess, leaving a round piece of clay.

Take a tool and scribe lines from the center of the clay outward, radially.  I used a sharped chopstick, but in the future I will try a ball burnisher.  You're making a negative impression and the scribed lines will represent the sticks piled up to make the thatched roof.  After scribing a lot of lines, take a round, smooth object and press in the clay, making an impression.  I used a base from a figure.  Milk jug lids might be good for this as well.  When you press the object in the clay, you may smoosh some of your thatching lines away, so scribe some more back in.  Finally take a smaller round shape (I used a soda bottle cap) and press it in the center, making a third "tier" to your impression.  Again, scribe more thatching lines radially.

Cut a triangle out of the pancake and set this aside.  The pancake (which is the mold for the roof) can now be shaped into a cone.  The press-mold is shown below, the cracks are from removing the cast after the putty cured.

Roof press-mold

Curl up the edges of the triangle cut so the pancake becomes a cone.  Set the cone apex-down in a proper receptacle.  You can make a little stand out of Scupley or use the neck of a cut-up soda bottle.  Mix up some water-putty and pour it in the cone.  After 100 minutes, gently remove the clay and use a model knife to trim the edges so the roof is round.  Cut little notches in the edge to give it an irregular look, simulating the ends of the twigs and sticks in the thatching.

While the roof is curing for those 100 minutes, make the hut itself.  Roll a long cylinder of Sculpey and set it between the glass sheets, squishing it into a long flat strip.  Use a straight-edge to cut off the edges, making the strip nice and neat.  Find a smooth cylinder with an appropriate diameter to use as a model.  I used a candle but plastic containers of various sizes work too.  Measure the diameter of this shape; this will be the outer wall diameter of your hut.  Multiply by Pi to get the length of your Sculpey strip.  The width of the strip equals the wall height obviously.

Take a chopstick and sharpen it to a point.  Use a hobby knife to cut off the tip, leaving a little circle.  Use this as a clay tool, pressing little round shapes into the clay strip.  After pressing a few dozen circles in, cut more of the tip off the tool; you now have a clay stamp with a larger radius.  Press more circles into the clay, then modify your tool some more.  Continue until the clay is filled with circle impressions of various sizes.  The strip will act as a negative impression mold, and the casting will look like a round wall of flat-faced stones.

Press-mold for hut walls
Wrap the strip of clay around your shape (candle, toilet paper tube, whatever).  Make sure the edges of the strip do not touch; this is where the door will be.  Cut away some Sculpey if necessary.  Gently remove the shape from the inside, then place a block of clay into the door opening and into the middle of the mold.  Pour water-putty into the mold and after 100 minutes remove the walls.  Trim off any excess flash from the cast and then use a small amount of putty to bond the hut to the thatched roof.  Base, paint then game!

Looks OK now; will look great with paint I bet

Costs pennies