31 May 2011

More Spaceship Drop-casts

Tonight I cast another spaceship; my original sculpt shown below.  Although I don't like this ship design as well as the first one I cast, the final product turned out better.  I learned a lot from that first casting experience, particularly in mold design, and by applying those lessons I got a much better miniature this second time around.  The only defects I can find in the metal copies are from errors in the water-putty master itself; no deformation or air bubbles on the metal miniatures, even on the first cast in a cold mold!  Pictured below is one of my metal casts next to a commercially available spaceship miniature.  I won't name the game company that produces this miniature, but it may be in my opinion the lamest miniature in the history of wargaming.  The commercial mini came as one of 24 ships in a set that cost me about US$80.00, or about US$3.33 a figure.  That's a reasonable price for well-sculpted, exciting miniatures with lots of detail (which there were in the aforementioned set), but for a simple cylinder with two tiny featureless engine pods?  No, I feel cheated.  So I decided to get my money's worth and threw the commercial miniature into my ladle.  It melted just fine but the liquid metal turned a funny purple color... I don't know if it reacted with the remnants of the metal I normally use (Dunken Company's Model Metal) or if I simply overheated it.  Either way I poured the melted commercial figure into my mold and got an extra copy of my scratchbuild, so it all worked out.  In all I cast three copies.  Now I'm off to trim flash and base, prime and paint.

Water-putty prototype sculpt

Top: cast of my scratchbuild; bottom: oooo, a cylinder, whoopee

SDS for my game War In Space

26 May 2011

Solo Full Thrust Campaign System

Let me preface this by saying I don't play Full Thrust.  I do however realize that it's one of the most popular of all the space miniature games.  I therefore offer this solo "campaign" system.  Unlike my multi-player campaign system which is a full up board game, this solo system basically just sets up the battles.  All the political maneuvering, interstellar exploration, resource development, etc. is ignored as beyond the scope of the game.  This very simple system does however model a war of attrition very nicely.

Start off with two decks of playing cards (Jokers included) with different colored backs.  The decks represent two warring factions.  Shuffle the cards thoroughly.  Draw from the top of one deck, turning over cards until you reach a face card.  Note: If the first card drawn is a joker or face card, simply continue drawing.  If it happens again, keep drawing.  The key rule to remember is only stop drawing when a face card follows an Ace through 10.  Repeat with the second deck.  The two piles of face up cards represent two space forces meeting for battle.  For each pile add up the value of the cards (Aces count as 1, face cards and jokers as 0).  The total value of the cards multiplied by 4 equals the Mass available to that respective taskforce.  Note also how many suits are represented in each pile (Jokers each count as their own discreet, unique suit, thus there are six suits available).  Individual ships in the taskforce may have a maximum Points Value of 75 for every suit represented.  Note that the cards determine only Mass and Point Value parameters; the actual number of ships does not correlate to the number of cards.  For example: from Faction One's deck you draw an Ace of Clubs, 3 of Hearts, 10 of Clubs, a Joker and a Jack of Hearts, the last card causing you to cease drawing.  You have a total card value of (1+3+10+0+0)=14 so you have 56 Mass available for Faction One.  Also, three different suits are represented (Clubs, Hearts, Joker).  Thus any number of ships can be in the taskforce, as long as the Mass of all the vessels totals no more than 56 and no single ship has a Points Value that exceeds (75x3)=225.

Determine the ships available and fight the battle using normal Full Thrust rules.  Victory conditions should be determined before the fight, but generally will be simply forcing the enemy from the playing field either by causing his ships to flee or totally destroying them.  If the card draws result in two very disparate forces, feel free to create a scenario which allows the weaker force a chance at victory.  Do not level the playing field too much however; war is not fair.

After determining the victor, discard the winning faction's face card.  Set discarded cards aside in separate piles; these cards will not return to play.  Collect up the remaining face up cards and reshuffle them into the deck.  Repeat the entire process.  As the game continues, the forces should be larger and larger, with more and more capital ships appearing.  As one faction wins more engagements, it will lose more face cards from its deck, allowing it to draw more and more cards when building a force.  This nicely models a war of attrition where one side gains a crucial advantage and then slowly grinds down the other, choking the enemy's access to resources while expanding their own.  The campaign ends either from player boredom or when one faction has discarded all of its face cards.


War In Space (Pt 6): Movement

This one's not so long... how to move in War In Space.

Movement Phase:  Ships move forward a number of 5cm increments equal to their current speed.  Ships may also attempt to turn during this movement.  Energy may be spent to accelerate or decelerate, and to increase the chance of a successful turn.
A ship may increase or decrease its current speed by 1 by spending energy points equal to the ship’s Size Class.  There is no limit to a ship’s acceleration or deceleration except energy available.  It is easier to keep track of speed changes by simply announcing them during the energy allocation phase versus the movement phase.  As soon as the dice are rolled and energy is allocated to movement, spend the appropriate amount and announce the speed change.  Then simply replace the ship’s speed counter with a new one reflecting the updated value.  At the beginning of the movement phase the ship’s speed will be correct.

A ship may attempt a normal 60° turn right or left by making a die roll.  Size Class determines the die type as indicated on Table 1.  If the die score rolled exceeds the ship’s speed, the turn is successful.  If the die score is equal to or less than the ship’s speed, the turn fails.  Regardless, after any turn attempt a ship must immediately move forward one 5cm increment.  Thus a ship not able to move any farther forward due to its current speed is ineligible to turn.  Also it should be obvious a ship can make a number of turn attempts equal to its speed.  Turns require no energy, but energy may be spent to increase the chance of executing one.  Ships receive a bonus of 1 to their turn die score by spending energy points equal to the ship’s Size Class.  Bonuses are cumulative and as with acceleration and deceleration, there is no limit to a ship’s turn bonuses except energy available.  As with speed changes, it is easier to keep track of turn bonuses by simply announcing them the during energy allocation phase versus the movement phase.  As soon as the dice are rolled and energy is allocated to movement, spend the appropriate amount and announce the turn bonus.  Then simply place the appropriate turn bonus marker on the table and wait until after the weapons fire phase to resolve the movement.

Ships may attempt hard turns of 120° or 180° at the risk of engine damage.  Simply roll two or three turn dice, for 120° and 180° turns respectively, of the appropriate type.  Turn bonuses apply to all dice rolled, but the scores on all turn dice must indicate a successful turn.  If any  die score (plus applicable bonus) does not exceed the ship’s speed, the hard turn fails.  A failed hard turn results in 1 Engine System box marked out.

Order of ship movement depends on experience level.  The player with the most ships moves his least experienced ship first.  If both sides have equal ships, the ship with the lowest experience level moves first.  Players then alternate moving one ship, the order being lowest experience to highest.  In the event that two or more ships are eligible to move next due to a tie in experience levels, the order is determined by speed; slowest to fastest (among those ships only).  If two or more ships have both the same experience level and same speed, movement order among these ships is determined by size: largest to smallest.  If two or more ships share experience level, speed and size determine order randomly.  Continue until all ships have moved.

Next post: Damage Control!

War In Space (Pt 5): Weapons Fire

I apologize for the length of this one, but I didn't want to split up the weapons fire rules.  Without further ado:

Weapons Fire Phase: Weapons fire is simultaneous, but in order for the game to flow smoother, certain situations should be resolved first.  All ships have 360° firing arcs.

Seeking weapons move like starships, but because they do damage their movement must be resolved during the weapons fire phase.  Seeking weapons can themselves be targeted however, further influencing the weapons fire resolution order.  Table 3 lists the order weapons fire should be resolved each turn.  Note that all effects of weapons fire are simultaneous, regardless of the order of resolution.  Therefore a ship that is totally destroyed may still resolve its attacks and potentially damage its targets.  Seeking weapons destroyed prior to reaching their targets are considered shot down prior to detonation.  In this special case, damage is not simultaneous.

Energy allocated for Attacks can be used for any of three different types of Attack actions: firing beam weapons, charging heavy beam weapons, and firing seeking weapons.

Beam weapons are the most common ship-to-ship weapons.  Determine a firing ship’s Attack score by adding the amount of energy dedicated to the direct fire Attack action and the Attack bonus (or penalty) for the hex-side being fired through, as indicated on the SDS.  The Attack score is then reduced, first by range effect, then by the target’s Defense score.  To determine the range effect, place the meter-long measuring stick over the firing model and extend it to the target.  The end with the largest band should be lined up over the center of the firing model.  Determine which range band the target is in.  The largest band (the one touching the shooter) is Range Band 1, the next one Range Band 2, etc.  Targets which lie farther than the range stick reaches are considered in Range Band 7.  Multiply the target’s range band by its Signature.  The result is the target’s range effect, which is subtracted from the Attack score.  Example: shooting at a Size Class 2 ship (Signature 4) at range band 4 would reduce the Attack score by 16, before subtracting any Defense actions!  If, after subtracting range effects, the Attack score is still greater than 0, subtract the energy the defender allocated to Defense actions.  If the Attack score still exceeds 0, the target is damaged.  For each point of Attack score remaining, the defending player marks off one box on his SDS.  The defender must mark off the system with the most unmarked boxes; if multiple systems have equal amounts of boxes, the defender chooses.

Attackers may fire at multiple targets by playing face cards of the appropriate suit during Energy Allocation.  Instead of combining the two highest dice scores, the attacker can dedicate each die to a separate target.  During the targeting phase, the attacker declares his two targets and also indicates which of the two shots will receive the higher die score.  I use a longer beam weapon marker to designate this.  If an attacker plays a joker he may fire at up to three separate targets.  Again, the attacker must designate these targets as well as the priority of energy dice during the targeting phase.

A single ship may be targeted by multiple attackers, including seeking weapons.  Reduce the Attack score of each attacker firing beam weapons by the appropriate range effect.  These individually adjusted Attack scores are then totaled.  This sum plus any damage from detonating seeking weapons is the damage inflicted on the defender.  The defending ship may still reduce this total by expending energy.  For example, a destroyer and frigate, ranges 2 and 3 respectively, fire on the same heavy cruiser (signature 2).  Additionally a nuclear missile guiding toward the heavy cruiser detonates (see seeking weapon rules below).  After modifiers, the destroyer and frigate have attack scores of 8 and 5 respectively.  Range effects reduce the destroyer’s attack to 4 and the frigate’s to -1.  The damage from the destroyer is added to the missile’s damage of 5, for a total of 9 (the frigate’s damage is ignored as it is less than 0).  The heavy cruiser allocates 7 energy for Defense, reducing the total damage to 2.

In addition to firing beam weapons, ships may spend energy to charge heavy beam weapons, giving a more powerful attack on the subsequent turn.  For every 2 point of energy spent charging, a 1 point Attack score bonus is granted to one firing arc.  Place a counter indicating the amount of bonus next to the appropriate firing arc (I place the counter directly on the ship’s base on the arc).  A number of restrictions limit heavy weapons use.  Not only must be the charging energy be dedicated to only one firing arc, but that arc must normally have a bonus, as depicted on the SDS.  For example, the ship in Figure 1 can only charge heavy weapons in one of the front three arcs.  Second, the heavy weapons must be fired on the next turn and cannot be held.  If the weapons are not fired, the counter is removed at the end of the next turn and lost.  Finally, no ship may have a damage bonus greater than its Size Class.  Firing heavy beam weapons on the next turn follows the exact same procedure as firing beam weapons above, with the addition of the Attack score bonus.
Firing seeking weapons requires energy expenditure, just like beam weapons, however this energy is used to acquire a lock on the target ship.  Determine the Attack score as before, adding the energy dedicated to the attack with the firing arc bonus or penalty (do not add any heavy weapon fire bonus).  Reduce the Attack score by the range effect as before, but do not ignore negative numbers.  Most importantly, do not apply any Defense actions from the target.  The resulting reduced Attack score is considered the lock-on quality and is used as a direct modifier on the seeking weapon’s turn die roll.  For example: a cruiser fires a missile and rolls dice, allocating a 4 to Attack.  A +3 firing arc bonus raises the Attack score to 7 but the target, a destroyer (signature 3), is at range band 3.  The modified Attack score is therefore a -2.  If this were a beam weapon the attack would be ignored, but since this is a missile, the cruiser’s player continues the attack.  When resolving a seeking weapon attack on a spaceship, move the weapon using standard movement rules.  Seeking weapons start touching the base of the launching vessel, facing out from the center of the ship’s base on the appropriate firing arc.  Seeking weapons accelerate 3 every turn.  Seeking weapons use a d12 as a turn die, adding their lock-on quality modifier to the roll.  If the weapon gets within 25mm of the target vessel, the weapons explodes doing 5 points of damage.  If other ships are within the 25mm range of the weapon, these ships are not damaged.  Seeking weapon damage is added to any other damage the target vessel receives in that turn and therefore is reduced by the target’s Defense action.  After 5 turns a seeking weapon runs out of fuel and must be removed from the game.  Seeking weapons may be targeted by other weapons (beam or seeking) but because of their tiny size have a signature of 10.  Seeking weapons cannot perform any Defense actions and are destroyed if they take 1 point of damage or more.  A seeking weapon that is destroyed cannot detonate and cause damage.
Players whse ships are damaged not only mark off Systems boxes, but must determine if the attack caused a critical hit.  Roll a single die, the type determined by the damaged ship’s Size Class as depicted on Table 4.  If the die score exceeds the number of damage suffered during the turn, the ship avoids any critical hits.  If the die roll fails to exceed the damage, then the ship suffers a critical hit.  The player controlling the target ship must then choose one playing card rank symbol on the Ship’s Design Parameters area of the SDS and mark it out.  The ship may no longer play energy allocation cards of that suit. 

A ship receiving enough damage to mark off all its Systems boxes is removed from play (after resolving its own weapons fire of course).  If the removed ship received more damage than remaining unmarked boxes, roll the target ship’s size die.  The difference between the damage inflicted in the final attack and the remaining boxes is called Excess Damage.  If the die score exceeds the excess damage, the ship and its crew survives.  Otherwise the ship explodes, killing everyone on board.  Example: A frigate with only 1 remaining System box can only mount a pathetic 2 point Defense and is hit by a cruiser’s macro-beam for 4 damage.  Crossing off the final box and noting an excess damage of 3, the frigate’s player rolls a 2 on a d6 and sulks as the vessel erupts in a glorious fireball.

War In Space (Pt 4): Energy Allocation

This post deals with the most important part of the War In Space system: energy allocation!

Energy Allocation Phase: Each player looks through the cards drawn for each ship and chooses one to represent how each starship captain intends to allocate his vessel’s energy.  Place the selected card on top of the other drawn cards and then place the entire stack face down on the SDS, moving on to the next ship.  When all players have selected a single Energy Allocation Card for each ship, they simultaneously reveal all selected cards.  If any player reveals a Joker, he must declare how it will be used (see below).

After all cards are revealed, players then roll dice and allocate energy according to the rules below.  Place energy counters of the appropriate color and amount for weapons fire, defense, and tight turn bonuses around each ship.  Since Energy Allocation is done via orders, players may roll dice and assign markers in any order and simultaneously.  Players roll three dice per ship to determine the actual energy generated and allocate the Energy Points, according to their cards, to perform the three basic ship action types: Movement, Attack, and Defense.  Additionally, ships may also allocate energy to a special Damage Control action.  Each die rolled corresponds to one of the ship systems listed on the SDS.  The number of currently unmarked boxes in a system’s column determines the die type, as shown in Table 2 below.  Battle damage reduces a ship’s energy output and utilization.  The player controlling the undamaged starship whose SDS is shown in Figure 1 would roll a d10, another d10 and a d8 when generating energy for actions.  The dice are allocated according to the card just revealed.  Energy Points are always allocated in whole die increments, i.e. although different dice may be allocated to different actions, Energy Points indicated on a single die may not be spilt. 

Ship design plays an important factor in how the energy dice are allocated.  If the Energy Allocation Card is an Ace through 10, then the highest die score is allocated to the Primary Action Type, the next highest score to the Secondary Action Type, and the last die score to the remaining action type.  The SDS lists which Action types are Primary and Secondary, based on the suit of the Energy Allocation Card played.  For example, if the ship in Figure 1 played a 9 of diamonds during Energy Allocation, the highest die rolled would be dedicated to Attack actions, the next highest die would be used for Defense actions, and the remaining die would be spent on movement. 

If a face card is played, then the captain decides to sacrifice an action in order to divert energy to another area (“Divert engine power to the forward shields, NOW!”).  In this case, the sum of the highest two dice scores is used for the Primary Action Type and the remaining die score is used for the Secondary Action Type.  The remaining Action Type receives no energy.   Jokers can be used one of two ways, announced when revealed.  First, a Joker may be used to allow a ship to seize initiative when revealing Energy Allocation cards.  If a Joker is revealed and the card’s player declares “initiative”, that player may analyze all the other cards revealed and then choose another from that ship’s drawn cards in response.  The second way to utilize a Joker is to announce Movement, Attack or Defense when the Joker is revealed.  The sum of all three dice is allocated to the declared action; the other two actions receive 0 Energy Points.

War In Space (Pt 3): Set Up and Turns

SET-UP: Set up forces/terrain and assign starting speed markers per scenario, GM (if any) guidance, or player agreement.  I usually just have all ships start at speed 3.  Alternatively, starting speed can be determined by rolling one Turn Die (Table 1) per ship.  Each player should have their own deck of standard playing cards with the two Jokers included.  Shuffle the decks thoroughly and have the player to the right cut.
THE TURN SEQUENCE: Each turn starts with the Draw Phase, followed by the Targeting phase, the Energy Allocation Phase, the Weapons Fire Phase, the Movement Phase, the Damage Control Phase and concludes with the Clean-Up Phase.
Draw Phase: Although players have an omniscient view of the battlefield, starship captains do not.  The commander of each vessel must issue his orders based on the limited tactical picture painted by sensors scanning vast sectors of interstellar space.  This fog and friction of space war is simulated by limiting the number of cards each player can use to issue orders.  Each player has a standard deck of cards (with Jokers) from which they draw a number of cards per ship based on each ship’s respective experience.  Cards are drawn for each ship individually: ships may not share cards.  Each ship gets two cards for each experience level.  Thus an Untested crew would get two cards and a Legendary ship gets 10.  Players look through the drawn cards to see what options each ship has this turn, but do not have to decide what card to use yet.  Place drawn cards face down on their respective SDS.
Targeting Phase: The player controlling the ship with the least experienced crew must declare that ship’s target(s), if any, first.  If all opponents each have ships with equally low experience levels, the player with the most ships goes first.  If all players are tied in both experience levels and numbers of craft, simply roll dice to determine who goes first.  Players then alternate declaring targets.  A player’s lower experience ships must declare targets before his higher experience ships.  When a ship declares a target, place a beam weapon or seeking weapon marker, as appropriate, on the ship’s hex-side facing the target.  I use thick spaghetti painted with bright red, blue, and green acrylic paint and broken into various lengths for my beam weapon markers.  Each side gets different colored spaghetti making it easy to discriminate who is shooting at whom.  If a player decides to forgo shooting (in order for example to charge a heavy weapon), he does not have to declare why; he simply declares “pass” for that ship.

Next: Energy Allocation!

War In Space (Pt 2): The Ship Design Sheet

SDS: The Ship Design Sheet summarizes all the aspects that define a ship type.  (See Figure 1)

Figure 1 Sample Ship Design Sheet (SDS)

  1. Name: Blank so the player can write the individual ship name.  Published ship designs will have the ship type already filled out.
  2. XP: Experience Points.  The top of the SDS features a scale indicating number of XP earned by the ship’s crew.  Above the scale are letters corresponding to four of the five experience levels: Green, Regular, Veteran, Legendary.  Ship’s crews with 0 XP are the lowest experience level: Untested.
  3. Size Class and Signature: A ship’s Size Class determines many factors in the game and is valued from 1 to 5.  Signature, used in targeting, is also 1 to 5, but inversely proportional to Size Class.  Table 1 below depicts how to determine Size Class and Signature.                                            
  4. Systems: Three columns of five boxes each represent the three essential elements of every ship design: Engines, Crew, and Sub-Systems.  The left side of the System boxes features pictures of each polyhedral die type, each die corresponding to a row of boxes.  A ship’s design determines how many boxes the vessel has in each of the three elements.  If a ship has less than the maximum five boxes in any design element, the boxes toward the top of the SDS will be marked out first.  The total number of unmarked Systems boxes (from all three elements) determines a ship’s Size Class, Signature and Turn Die (Table 1).  All ships will have at least one box in each element.  A simple outline of the ship lies to the right of the ship Systems boxes.
  5. Heavy Weapons: Lists any heavy weapons or special systems carried by the ship.
  6. Ship Design Parameters: Each SDS features all four playing card rank symbols, with the Energy Allocation priorities listed over the appropriate suit.  The symbols are also used to record ship limitations following a critical hit.
  7. Firing Arcs: A hexagon represents the ship’s six facing sides, with any applicable attack modifiers listed on each side.

War In Space (Pt 1)

I've been developing a set of homebrew space combat miniatures rules for a year now.  Playtesting began in earnest six months ago and I am now comfortable enough with the game to transfer it from my notebook to this blog.  I designed this game for myself.  Therefore it has things I've always enjoyed or wanted to see in other space games (fog and friction, cinematic play, energy allocation) and avoids things I didn't ("real" vector movement, overly-complex ship design, aliens with cosmetic blemishes on their foreheads).  The game also features compromises, but compromises I was comfortable with.  In short it may not be the perfect space game out there, but it's the perfect game for me.  I'm posting because maybe someone out there shares my tastes in spaceship gaming and will appreciate another free game system.   

War In Space uses written orders in the form of standard playing cards.  The cards represent how a starship captain intends to allocate his vessel’s energy.  A dice roll determines whether sufficient energy gets produced and correctly distributed to meet the commander’s intent.  Damage from enemy attacks changes the type of dice rolled, reducing the average amount of energy produced, and may even prohibit certain cards from being played.
Scale: Fairly abstract.  In addition to scratchbuilt ships, I occasionally use ADB SFB miniatures, but any starship scale works.  The game is designed for models to represent individual capital ships.  Planets, stars, asteroids and such can be represented on the table, but obviously are not to scale.  I use a 1.5m by 2.25m piece of black vinyl (with appropriate painted star background) as my playing surface.

Scope: War in Space is a game of interstellar ship-to-ship combat, inspired by the “World War I U-boat” style featured in shows like Star Trek.  The game supports small engagements, roughly 2-10 vessels per side, depending on ship crew experience.  Rules for space fighters attacking larger vessels don’t exist, but you can play fighter v. fighter battles using the basic rules.  

Materials Needed:
•    Miniatures
•    Terrain (playing mat/surface)
•    Scenics (if desired)
•    Polyhedral dice
•    Standard playing card decks for each player
•    Ship Design Sheets (SDS)
•    48” wooden dowel
•    Numbered markers
•    Small cylindrical markers

The following polyhedral dice are the minimum required: three 4-sided, three 6-sided, three 8-sided, three 10-sided, and three 12-sided.  I recommend five of each type.
Cut the dowel rod down to 1 meter; retain the smaller piece.  The larger of the two dowels is the range stick.  Mark six bands on the range stick, with the separations at 5cm, 10cm, 20cm, 35cm, and 60cm.  The smaller dowel can be used as a movement stick.  Mark four bands on the movement stick, with the separations 5cm apart (one band will be smaller; ignore it like the unmarked part of a ruler or cut off this excess).
I use polymer clay to quickly make small white plastic discs which I then label with a marker.  I mark about 30-40 of them with various numbers in black ink, to represent speed.  I mark another 30-40 or so with numbers in red to represent energy for weapon charging and firing.  I mark another 30-40 or so with numbers in green to represent energy for defense.  Finally, I mark another 10-15 or so with numbers in black and a small curved arrow symbol to represent energy for tight turns.  Mark both sides with different numbers and you double your number of available counters.

Next up: the Ship Design Sheet.  Stay tuned...

25 May 2011

MYTHOS Adventure Card

The greatest collectible card game (CCG) ever created is, for me, MYTHOS by Chaosium.  Mythos used a storytelling mechanic that was entirely different than any of the boring "I attack you, you attack me" games that pervaded the 90s CCG glut.  The constantly changing location card made you really feel like you were traveling along with your Investigator.  The mark of a truly great CCG in my opinion is solo-playability: if the game mechanics are solid then it should support a solitaire variant.  Mythos takes this one step further by actually publishing an official solitaire variant that is a hoot and not far removed from the normal rules.  Thus more than a decade after Chaosium stopped producing this gem, I still enjoy it immensely.

The inventive story-telling mechanic I alluded to earlier involves players completing "Adventure" cards, which list other cards.  The cards listed must have been played (in any order) and together they create a surprisingly faithful Lovecraftian tale.  Chaosium even packaged "Create Your Own Adventure" cards in their boosters, allowing players to come up with stories of their own, or even create cards to cover favorite Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos story which didn't have an "official" version (At the Mountains of Madness comes to mind).  Below is one of my custom Adventure cards.  Well, the text anyways.  I need to get access to a scanner to get the Create Your Own Adventure card format, and then I will make it pretty and official looking.

The Abominable Snowman

"I was the only survivor of The Expedition" begins the Professor.  You remember his lecture on The Book of Eibon (Hyperborean or Atlantean) at the British Museum two years ago, before the ill-fated Himalayan trip.  "I alone escaped the Blizzard", he says from his Huntingdon Sanitarium bed, "taking shelter in a in a mountain cave where I found the passage to black N'Kai, saw the Formless Spawn, and learned the Yetis' secret... they are the children of Tsathoggua!"

+10/+3 Sanity 

24 May 2011


I live in rural America and my girlfriend and others close to me don't share my interest in gaming.  I'm a big fan of collectible card games (well, not the sad marketing ploy that was the "collectible" part), in particular ones from the 90's CCG heyday.  Needless to say in addition to my locale, being a fan of dead CCGs doesn't help me find gaming-mates.  So I've come up with solitaire versions of my favorite games, including Illuminati: New World Order by Steve Jackson Games.  I originally posted my INWO solitaire rules last October, but had so many revisions after playtest that those first rules are nothing like I play now.  Here finally is my revised version.  Long post ahead... 

INWOSOLO is a solitaire variant of Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati: New World Order (INWO) card game. The following description assumes familiarity with the game, and uses the World Domination Handbook Version 1.1 (March 1995) as the base reference. All official rules changes, errata, and clarifications, found on the Steve Jackson Games website are also in effect.

INWOSOLO attempts to replicate the multiplayer INWO experience for one player and consequently preserves as many of the normal rules as possible. Unless otherwise noted or obvious, all rules for play remain the same as multiplayer INWO.

As a multiplayer game progresses, each player nears their own victory conditions as their respective power structures grow. Although they each have more Power available, their power structures are becoming ever larger and hence more vulnerable. As such, cooperation decreases and attacks on rivals increase as each player focuses on preserving their own victory chances. INWOSOLO introduces the Intrigue Score to simulate this multiplayer atmosphere. The turn sequence section below details how the Intrigue Score affects play. The rules assume the Intrigue Score is tracked on a 10-sided die, but tokens (distinct from Action tokens) may also be used.

Object of the Game

Victory conditions remain the same for INWOSOLO. You must meet either the basic goal of 11 Groups, the special goal of your Illuminati, or satisfy the conditions of a Goal card before a rival declares victory (as determined by the Intrigue Score; see below). The game also ends if you are reduced to zero Groups in your Power structure other than your Illuminati.

Beginning the Game

(1) Follow all the "Beginning the Game" instructions in the World Domination Handbook, starting by constructing a normal INWO deck of any size and continuing all the way to drawing your Group hand. The rules were playtested using decks of approximately 45 cards. INWOSOLO assumes you won the die roll to determine who goes first: this die roll is unnecessary.

(2) Construct and shuffle a Rival Plot Deck representing the fiendish plans of all your rival Illuminati. The Rival Plot Deck is exactly twice as large as your own Plot Deck, counting your Illuminati card. The Rival Plot Deck shall include one rival Illuminati card for every 10 cards or fraction thereof of its required deck size. Tips on Rival Plot Deck construction follow the Basic Rules.

(3) Construct and shuffle a Rival Group Deck representing the Groups and Resources of your rivals' Power structures. The Rival Group Deck is exactly the same size as the Rival Plot Deck.

(4) If you included a Group in the Rival Group Deck which duplicates your own lead Group, reveal from the top of the Rival Group Deck a number of cards equal to the number of rival Illuminati. If any of the cards revealed and your lead are the same, you must pick an alternate lead. Draw one more card off the top of the Rival Group Deck if it contains a copy of your alternate lead. Continue until the lead and the revealed rival Groups do not match.

(5) Set the Intrigue Score at 0 (I use an old-school d10 with a 0-9 marked on it).  You are now ready to play the first turn.


INWOSOLO uses a two turn sequence: first the Player Turn (your turn) and then the Rival Illuminati Turn. The sequence repeats until the game ends.  At the beginning of each and every of the seven phases of the Player Turn, roll two dice before doing anything else.  If the sum of these dice scores is less than or equal to the number of groups you control then a Rival Plot is triggered (see below).  If a group you control counts double for victory conditions, then it counts double for this as well.  Also, if a group counts double towards victory conditions due to an exposed Goal card, it counts double for this as well.  As you approach victory, the rival Illuminati groups become nervous and direct more and more of their attention (and plots) against you. 

Player Turn Sequence

1. to 4. Phases 1 through are identical to normal INWO: draw your plot card and group card, make your automatic takeover, and place your action tokens.  Don't forget however, to roll to trigger a Rival Plot.

5. Roll to trigger Rival Plots as in every phase.  Perform actions in phase 5 as per normal INWO, but before any such actions draw a number of cards from the Rival Group Deck equal to the Intrigue Score.  None of these groups have Action Tokens (yet).  The cards reveal parts of rival Power structures left vulnerable and thus potential targets for attack. If any rival card is a Resource, leave it in play face-up.

After considering the rival Groups, make any actions. Actions can include attacking a rival Power structure (targeting a card just revealed), attacking to control a Group from your hand, or any other action allowed in normal INWO.  On the very first turn of the game the Intrigue Score starts at 0, thus there should be no Rival Groups to attack. 

6. Roll to see if a Rival Plot is triggered.  Free moves as per INWO, including victory declaration.

7. Roll to see if a Rival Plot is triggered.  If you successfully attacked a rival power structure in Phase 5, roll to reduce the Intrigue Score (see below).

Rival Illuminati Turn Sequence

1. Add 1 to the Intrigue Score.

2. Add one action token to any rival groups and resources which require tokens and do not currently have any.

3. Determine the number of groups controlled by the most powerful Rival.  Roll a single die. If the sum of the die score and the Intrigue Score equals 11 or more, a rival Illuminati has achieved their goal and you lose.  If the sum does not equal 11 or more, the game continues. Proceed to the next phase.

4. Roll two dice.  If the sum of the dice scores is less than or equal the number of groups you control (towards victory conditions as above), then a rival Illuminati attacks your Power structure!  Reveal the top card from the Rival Plot Deck and Rival Group Deck and resolve the attack.  The Rival Group card just flipped is the attacking group; the other groups will aid if able.

5. Discard any Rival Plot cards and Rival Groups still in play, except Goal and New World Order cards.

Plot Cards

All INWO rules apply normally for your Plot cards. Rival Plots function differently. As noted, a die roll triggers play of Rival Plot cards. Since the rival Power structures are an abstract representation in INWOSOLO and not on the game table, any Rival Plot card is assumed to have all action token requirements met by the appropriate Group(s). Rival Plot cards must still be legal however; if a Plot card can only be played on the owning player's turn (the Rival Illuminati Turn in this case), then it cannot be played during the Player Turn. Any revealed Rival Plot cards which are illegal are simply discarded. A Rival Plot card is resolved immediately if applicable. Instants, Disasters, Assassinations, and Plots that target another player's card decks and card hands are all examples of Rival Plot cards that are resolved immediately.

If a Rival Plot card is legal but cannot be immediately resolved (+10 Bonus cards are a great example, as are Alignment changers), it remains in play until the beginning of the next Player Turn when it is discarded excepting New World Order and Goals as noted below.  Cards which remain in play throughout the turn will be used at an appropriate time.  For example, a +10 Bonus plot is meaningless when revealed but if a Rival Group later attacks your power structure, the Rival Plot suddenly becomes very useful for your enemies. 

Three Rival Plot cards function very different and deserve special attention: Illuminati, Goal and New World Order cards.

Illuminati Cards- An Illuminati card played from the Rival Plot Deck betrays a rival Illuminati's direct influence.  As soon as an Illuminati card comes into play it gains an action token (unlike Rival Groups).   The Illuminati card remains in play until it uses its action or the beginning of the next Player Turn, whichever comes first. The Illuminati's Global Power is used in the first attack after it is revealed, aiding either the defender (if you are attacking) or the attacker (if you are defending). After aiding one attack, the Illuminati's action token is considered spent and the card is discarded.

Goal Cards- If a Goal card is revealed, leave it in the play area next to the Rival Group Deck like a Resource. The Goal card is NOT exposed by this play; you must play an appropriate Plot or special Group ability to expose it. Successful attacks against any Rival Group which helps satisfy the Goal Card helps reduce the Intrigue Score (see below).

New World Order cards- Remain in play until removed by another NWO of the same color or a Plot, exactly as in INWO.

Group Cards

Your Groups function exactly as in INWO but Rival Groups, like Rival Plots, require special rules.  Rival Groups will use their special abilities on the appropriate turn to have the most detrimental effect on you, but must still follow normal INWO rules regarding Action Tokens; Rival Groups cannot both use special abilities and make attacks or lend Power (unless of course the special ability is free).  Rival Resources, whenever revealed, remain in play until removed by some Plot or special ability, as in INWO.


Attacks to Control and Destroy follow all the normal rules of INWO including alignment bonuses/penalties, closeness bonuses, and legality for aiding the attackers and defenders. Again, because rival Power structures exist only in abstract, INWOSOLO requires a few additional rules to determine the closeness bonus as well as Power defending against and aiding attacks.

Interfering Power

     Interfering Power is a bonus added to the Power or Resistance of an attacking or defending Group, as appropriate.  Interfering Power represents the struggle amongst all the rival Illuminati, some of whom are aiding you (for their own reasons) and others who oppose you.  Compute Interfering Power by rolling a single die and adding the resulting die score to the Intrigue Score (Rival Illuminati are less and less inclined to help you as both you and they near victory).

Illuminati Closeness Bonus
     During attacks on Rival power structures, use the following procedure to compute a Group's defense bonus due to its proximity to its Illuminati.  Roll two dice.  If the sum of the dice scores exceeds the Intrigue Score, the target Rival Group gets a +5 closeness bonus and the dice are rolled again.  If the sum of these new dice scores again exceeds the Intrigue Score, the target Rival Group gets an additional +5 closeness bonus.  If the first dice roll fails to exceed the Intrigue Score, the closeness bonus is 0 (the longer the game, the larger and more vulnerable the Power structures get). 

Attacks to Control from Your Group Hand
Compute the Power of all the Groups you plan to use in the attack.  Compute Interfering Power and add it to the target's resistance. Finally, if any of the Rival Group revealed at the beginning of phase 5 can legally aid the target (usually via special abilities), add their bonuses as appropriate. Don't forget to add any bonuses due to Rival Plot cards in play and any Rival Resources (remove tokens as necessary). Results of Attacks to Control from your own Group hand are per INWO.

Attacks to Control or Destroy Rival Groups

If you decide to target any of the Rival Groups revealed in phase 5 of your turn, compute the Power of all the Groups you plan to use in the attack.  Compute Interfering Power and the target's Closeness Bonus; add to the target's Power or Resistance as appropriate.  Rival Groups will use any free special abilities to thwart your attack and rival Illuminati cards will spend their action token to add their Global Power to the target's Power or Resistance.

Rival Attacks to Control or Destroy Your Groups
Compute Interfering Power and add to the Rival Group's Power.  Any Rival Groups eligible to aid will do so.  Apply any bonuses due to Rival Plot cards in play and any Rival Resources (remove tokens as necessary). If an Attack to Control versus your Power structure is successful, add the target Group and any puppets to the Rival Group Deck discard pile. Successful Attacks to Destroy your Groups have the same effects as normal INWO.


If you play a Plot or use a special ability which makes your Attack Privileged the results of the Privilege depend on your target. If Attacking your Group hand no one else can lend Power, therefore do not add any Power to your target's resistance! If you are attacking a Rival Power structure your privilege prevents other Illuminati from aiding your target; do not roll the single die and add it to the target's Power or resistance. You must still add the Intrigue Score as well as any closeness bonus.

If a Rival's attack becomes Privileged, the attack proceeds as above, but compute Interfering Power by rolling two dice instead of one and adding their sum to the Intrigue Score.

The Intrigue Score

The Intrigue Score represents not really the slow march of time but your rivals' progress toward world domination, as well as their awareness of your progress. The game can be lost with a simple die roll once the Intrigue Score reaches 5!  Since the Intrigue Score advances by 1 each turn, your inevitable defeat can only be avoided by using raw Power to slow its advance, just as you use Actions to counter your opponents in multi-player INWO.

Reducing the Intrigue Score
Two ways exist to reduce the Intrigue Score: successful attacks versus rival power structures or thwarting Illuminated Goals. 

If you successfully attack a Rival Power structure, roll a single die.  If the Group you successfully attacked counted double for a Rival's Special Goal or a face-up Goal card, roll two dice.  If the score on any die rolled is less than or equal to the Power of the targeted group, reduce the Intrigue Score by 1.  Total all the Powers of any group and its puppets if captured in an Attack to Control.  Also, add 1 to the Power for every +5 closeness bonus (rival Illuminati will typically keep their most valuable groups closer).    Example: You just Destroyed Count Dracula via an Instant Attack.  The Count had a Power Corrupts Plot linked to him making him Criminal, and the Criminal Overlords Goal card is in play for the Rival.  His closeness bonus was +5.  Since Dracula counted double towards the Criminal Overlords Goal, you roll two dice and get a 3 and a 6.  The Count's Power is 2, but due to the closeness bonus it is considered 3.  At least one of your dice was less than or equal to Dracula's Power, so you reduce the Intrigue Score by 1.  If both the dice were 3 or less you'd still only reduce the Intrigue Score by 1; your chances are increased, not the effect.

If you take out a Plot particularly vital to a rival's plans, you significantly reduce their chances for victory (and thus reduce the Intrigue Score). Any time you remove from play a face-up Rival Goal card (for example you expose it via a special ability and then use the "Foiled!" Plot to discard it), you may immediately reduce the Intrigue Score by 1. 

"What if my one of my rivals is the Servants of Cthulhu?"- If Cthulhu is one of your rivals and you cause a Group to return to play after being Destroyed, reduce the Intrigue Score by 1.

"What if my one of my rivals is the Bermuda Triangle?"- If the Triangle is one of your rivals and one of your Attacks (or Plots) results in the loss of a Rival Group, roll a single die. If the die score is less than or equal to the number of Alignments that Group possesses, reduce the Intrigue Score by an additional 1.

Other INWOSOLO Peculiarities

Deck Searches

Any Plot card (or special ability) that allows you to search another player's deck or hand works differently in INWO SOLO.

     If you play a Plot or use an ability allowing you to search a Group or Plot deck, you may search the Rival Group Deck or Rival Plot Deck respectively.

     If you play a card allowing the search of a Plot hand, roll a single die to determine the rival hand size. Remove that many cards from the top of the Rival Plot Deck and treat those cards as you would another player's hand in normal INWO. Any face-up Rival Goal cards are considered part of the rival hand. If you have to select cards from an opponent's hand without looking and face-up Rival Goals are in play, use a random die roll to fairly determine if the Goal is indeed the card you would have chosen. You may never steal a rival Illuminati card revealed from a hand or deck search, but you may expose and discard it through an appropriate combination of Plots and/or special abilites.

If you play a card allowing the search of a Group hand, roll two dice; the sum determines the rival hand size. Remove that many cards from the top of the Rival Group Deck and treat those cards as you would another player's hand in normal INWO.

"...for every..." Bonuses

For Rival Groups that have bonuses or abilities based on the number of a certain type of other Groups available (such as "Add 2 to this Group's Power and Global Power for every media Personality in your power structure"), use the following procedure to determine how many of these other Groups exist.  Roll one die.  Subtract this die score from the Intrigue Score.  Results less than zero are treated as zero.  For example: on a Rival Illuminati Turn (Intrigue Score 4), you suffer an attack on your power structure led by Hollywood.  You roll a single die to determine how many media Personalities exist in the Rival power structure and get a 2.  Subtracting this from the Intrigue Score of 4, you get a total of 2 media Personalities, boosting Hollywood's Power to 6!  If you had rolled a 6, Hollywood would have no media Personalities to boost its Power.

Deck Exhaustion

If either Rival Plot Deck or Rival Group Deck becomes exhausted, simply reshuffle all the cards in the respective discard pile and continue play. Also, after all the rival Illuminati have been revealed and discarded, immediately reshuffle the discards and the rest of the Rival Plot Deck and continue play (you can never hide from the Illuminati!).

Remember to place Destroyed rival Groups in a separate pile; these Groups may not return to play via a simple reshuffle. As in INWO only the combination of duplicate cards and relevant Plots can bring Destroyed Groups back.

Alignment Adders/Changers
Plots like "Assertiveness Training" which can add or change alignments can be used against rival Groups, but the target's closeness to its Illuminati increases the Power required. Determine the target's closeness bonus using the same procedure as when Attacking a rival Power structure.


If the UFOs are played off the top of the Rival Plot deck, discard it after the second attack it takes part in or phase 5 of the Rival Illuminati Turn, whichever comes first.


Rival Plot Decks should include a lot of cards that will directly affect your plans.  Thus it should include a lot of Instant Attacks.  Some cards that you'd typically put in a normal INWO deck (+10 bonus cards are a good example) still function nicely against you in the Rival Plot Deck.  Other cards (like Crop Circles) have no real function in the Rival Plot Deck and thus should be left out.  Make the Rival Plot Deck nasty and it will be a lot more satisfying if you win.

Rival Group Decks should have a  number of general themes as well.  You don't have to put as much time into its construction as you do your own deck, but if Rival Groups have shared alignments it will make the game more challenging and, again, more satisfying.

If the game is too hard or too easy, adjust the ratio of Illuminati cards in the Rival Plot Deck.  Adding even one extra Illuminati card really puts the hurt on your plans.

That's it.  Unlike most of my wonky ideas, I've actually play-tested this.  Half a dozen times at least.  I will let you be the judges, but I really think this captures the feel of multi-player INWO.  Let me know what you think.

23 May 2011

Two-Part Mold (Pt 2): Spaceships Are Made of Metal!

I poured the second half of the two-part silicone mold for this ship during the weekend.  After 44 hours of curing (I couldn't wait the last four) I pulled the LEGO box apart and separated the two halves.  I coated the insides of the mold with graphite as I learned to do on this informative blog post.  I clamped the mold back together between two pieces of wood supplied with the starter casting kit from the Dunken Company.  Then I heated up some metal and started pouring, knowing my first few casts would suck as the mold warmed up.

drop casting in lead

Initially I was frustrated not just by the cold mold but by hot lead shooting out the bottom and sides.  I was trying to keep the clamping pressure to a minimum, but this caused leaks.  I went ahead and clamped at full strength and got a pretty decent cast.  For my very first two-part mold and lead drop cast I'm very pleased with the results.  I really hate to say this because of all the extra steps but the metal miniatures look great next to my water-putty ships.  These are pretty crude drop casts, with rough surfaces and some deformations, but there's just something about a metal miniature.  I guess it has to do with growing up gaming with lead figs.

Pretty happy with this one
Top: water-putty; Bottom: metal (obviously)

I predict the biggest advantage of the metal ships (besides durability) will be in the ease of painting.  I'm off to prime the two casts I made to see if this is true.

Ringed Gas Giant

A few weeks ago I promised to make a ringed planet for table-top space games.  I mixed up the putty as I said I would, but then proceeded to really screw up the paint job... so I decided to start over and in the meantime got distracted with mold making, rules writing and non-gaming life.  This weekend I finally finished the ringed planet project.

I started (again) by making a hemisphere out of Durham's water-putty, like I do with all my planets.  I then carved two slots in either side of the half-globe in order to later insert the ring.

Slots for the ring

I cut irregular strips of paper and taped them onto the planet and sprayed the whole thing black with cheap Walmart primer.  After it dried I removed the strips and then sprayed the planet with more cheap Walmart paint, this time red.  The black showed through this second coat, giving the planet a banded appearance.  

Paper masking attached
Creating the banded effect

Someone brought a huge store bought cookie plate to a recent work BBQ and I saved the clear plastic lid from the garbage.  I cut the lid up into the shape pictured below.  Not pictured is the plastic window screen stapled to the central "leg" of the ring.  The ring is made of PETE plastic which adheres to nothing, so the stapled window screen allowed me to secure it to the main planet body with putty.

I used a lot of putty to secure the ring and then fill in the slots I had cut earlier in the hemisphere.  That was the hardest part of the whole operation.  Finally, I used good old cheapo Walmart acrylic paints (sparingly) to paint little cloud wisps on the planet.  I uses yellow acrylic to paint the ring.

Spaceships in orbit fire at each other
Another angle

Thanks for looking!

22 May 2011

Campaign Rules

Long post ahead...

Departing momentarily from scratchbuilding, I'd like to share my campaign rules.  My rules are almost like a board game, complete with victory conditions.  I use a deck of cards per player to simulate a faction's resources, therefore modeling exploration, technological research, and development albiet at a very abstract level.  The cool thing about this system is that it allows players to hide their ships at the strategic level, only revealing specific hulls when the battle begins.  The rules are designed specifically around my homebrew War In Space game, but with a few simple modifications it could be used with almost any system.  Also, my campaign assumes a non-FTL technology level, therefore it is set in a single solar system.  Again the rules can be used with little modification to model an interstellar conflict.   The following rules explanation assumes two players.

Materials needed:

  • Playing surface (I recommend 1.5m x 2.5m table)
  • Two decks of playing cards (Jokers included)
  • Two different types of tokens (I use poker chips and pennies)
Set up: Players should sit opposite each other on the long ends of the table.  Draw a number of ellipses as depicted in Figure 1 below.  The number of ellipses (representing the individual orbits of a solar system's outer planets) is agreed upon by the players.  The inner ellipse represents all the inner planets and has two playing areas on it in front of each player.  This is where the players start.  Each other ellipse has only one designated playing area.  Players agree upon a single suit and draw all three face cards of that suit from their decks, placing them face-up on the table on the inner ellipse.  Players shuffle their respective decks thoroughly.

Object of the game:  The first player to reach 100 resource points wins.  Players may make up alternate victory conditions.

Play: The game has four phases per turn
  1. Development Phase
  2. Resource Phase
  3. Transit Phase
    1. Transit/Arrival Subphase
    2. Departure Subphase
  4. Deployment Phase
Development Phase: Players with all three face cards of the same suit in a single system may draw one card from the top of their deck.  The drawing player may look at the card and then place it face-down on the table in the appropriate system.  Players alternate drawing resource cards for each eligible orbit.

Resource Phase: Players collect 1 resource point for every face card they own that is currently face-up on the board.  EXCEPTION: players may not collect resource points for any orbit where the opponent has fleet cards (Ace through 10 and Joker) played face-up.  I use three colors of poker chips to represent 1, 5 and 10 resource point denominations.

Transit Phase: Players alternate moving cards between orbits.  Accomplish all transits (and subsequent arrivals) first, then all departures.  Of course, on the first turn there will be no transiting cards, thus I will explain departures first.  Take one or more cards and place sideways and face-down on the destination orbit.  Place a number of transit counters on top of the cards (I use pennies).  The number of transit counters is equal to the distance between orbits (or the sum thereof if skipping an intermediate orbit).  The distance from the inner ellipse to the first outer orbit is 1.  The distance between this first outer orbit and the next is 2.  The next distance is 3 and so on.  Therefore to transit from the inner planets to the outermost orbit in Figure 1 would require (1+2+3)=6 transit tokens.  At the beginning of each transit phase, remove one transit token from every transiting group.  If the last token is removed, the cards are left face-down but turned 90 degrees back to a normal orientation indicating arrival.

Deployment Phase: Face-down cards are eligible to be deployed only if they are not in transit.  It costs 1 resource point to deploy any card, regardless of value.  There are two card types: face cards representing "soft power" (i.e exploration, arbitration, diplomacy), and non face cards representing "hard power" (space fleets).  The card types have different deployment restrictions.  Face cards must be of the same suit of any other face-card already in play in that orbit (representing scarcity of a limited resource).  Obviously if no face cards have yet been played at a particular orbit, a player may deploy a face card of any suit.  Also, players may not play face cards on any orbit where the opponent has fleet cards played face-up.  Playing a face card represents exploring a planet and its moons, finding valuable resources, and establishing treaties and contracts to exploit those resources.  Deploying any other card (Ace to 10, Joker) means a faction applies military power, either just sabre-rattling or full-out warfare.  When deploying a fleet card the player must declare either "attack" or "blockade".  Players alternate deploying cards, one at a time.  If a player deploys additional fleet cards to an orbit, all the cards played perform the last action declared.  For example: a player pays 1 resource token and deploys a 3 of Diamonds announcing "attack".  His opponent deploys a 10 of Clubs and declares "attack".  Hoping to de-escalate and prevent an actual engagement, Player 1 then deploys a second card, a 4 of Spades and declares "blockade".  Both of his cards, the 3 and the 4, now are blockading rather than attacking.  In addition to attack and blockade, players may declare "retreat" and flip fleet cards that were already played face-down.  Retreating does not cost any resource tokens.  Since all fleet at a particular planet take on the action of the last fleet card played there, any declaration of "retreat" results in all those fleet cards being flipped.  Players unable or unwilling to deploy further cards may announce "pass".  Once two passes have occurred, the Deployment Phase ends.  If players both have face-up fleet cards in the same orbit, they must determine if there will be any engagements and if so, resolve these battles before the next campaign turn.

Engagements: If either players' fleet cards at a planet has announced "attack" a battle will occur.  If both players announced "blockade" at the same orbit then no fighting occurs, but since enemy fleet cards are face-up, no one will get resource tokens from that orbit.  Obviously if all of a player's cards retreat at a certain planet there can be no fight.

Fighting the Battle: In War In Space, all ships have from 3 to 15 systems boxes, and ships fall into a Size Class from 1 (smallest) to 5.  Assuming these rules, the following describes how to determine your actual taskforces which show up to fight.  Add the numeric value of all the fleet cards in play at a planet (Jokers have a value of 0).  This is the total number of systems boxes of all the ships in the taskforce.  Count the number of different suits among the in-play fleet cards.  This is the maximum Size Class available; any or all of the ships in the force may be this Size Class or smaller.  Jokers are considered to each have their own discreet suit, which allows the fielding of Size Class 5 ships.  Example: Player One attacks with a force of five cards, a 2 and 3 of Clubs, a 7 of Hearts and a 9 and 10 of Diamonds.  The total value is 31 and there are three suits showing.  He then decides to field a destroyer (Size Class 3, 8 systems boxes), two frigates (Size Class 2, 5 systems boxes), a light frigate (Size Class 2, 4 systems boxes), and three war skiffs (Size Class 1, 3 systems boxes each).  The number of cards has no correlation with the number of miniatures that show up on the table.  Other games may use this system as well.  For example, if you are playing a rules-system that uses a Points Value system, you can simply make 1 point of card value equal to some increment of Points Value.  Let's say you are playing Star Fleet Battles.  It's been about 20 years but if I recall I think SFB has five ships sizes, so the Size Class concept requires no modification.  You could then simply state that each point of card value is worth 50 points.  Using the above example in this SFB context, Player One would have 1550 points available and could not choose any ships larger than Size 3 (I think that's a good amount of points... I don't remember).  I've never played Full Thrust but my understanding is it has a points system, so it would be an easy conversion.

Results of the Battle: The defeated player must flip his fleet face down and both players must discard (i.e. remove from play forever) cards whose value equals the amount of systems boxes (or points) destroyed.  Lets use the above example: Player One's heavy destroyer takes 5 points of damage, and both his frigates and one of his war skiffs are destroyed, causing him to flee the battlefield with his remaining ships.  Back on the campaign table he flips all of his fleet cards at that planet face-down, and then chooses 18 points (5 systems boxes on the heavy DD, 5 systems boxes each on the frigates and 3 for the skiff) worth of cards to discard.  He discards the 9 and 10 of Diamonds, the minimum cards he must to meet the requirement.  Also he inflicted 23 points of damage on his opponent so although he retreated, Player Two has a lot of cards to discard.  This may be the hardest part of my rules to convert to another starship combat system.  Players must discard cards due to damage however, in order to reflect the enormous cost of repairs and new construction.

Figure 1 Campaign Game

The above Figure shows the table set up and a game in play.  Concepts illustrated are
  1. The inner ellipse, which is the starting point for both players.  Also shown are the three face cards played at the set up, ensuring each player can build new units.
  2. The orange player has a face card in play at the first outer planet.  He is receiving an extra resource token each turn due to this.  He also has a few cards face down here to defend his mining settlement... but what are they?  Are they all high value cards of different suits, allowing him to repel all but the largest attack, or are they all face cards and Aces, pretending to be a large force?
  3. The purple player has a number of cards in transit to the second outer planet.  It will be three turns before he can deploy any of these cards.
 I will explore further options to these rules, like spending resource tokens to cut transit times, and attacking opponents' colonies, requiring them to discard face cards.                                   

21 May 2011

Mondo Cheap Basing

I mounted my newest spaceship sculpt on a flight-stand in order to prime and paint it and while doing so realized I have yet to share my basing technique.  Like all my techniques, it focuses on being super-cheap yet still functional as well as hopefully looking comparable to commercially available options.

Custom flight-stand

To create the base pictured here I simply press a spherical object of appropriate size into a block of Sculpy.  In this case my object was a plastic 1 tablespoon measuring spoon.  I set a cylindrical piece of plastic scrap in the bottom of the depression.  I then pour water-putty into the depression made by the spoon.  I will usually have one or two of these base molds set up and when I'm mixing up water-putty for one of my other projects, I pour the inevitable extra putty into these molds.  After half a dozen or so spaceship projects I have plenty of extra bases now.  After 100 minutes or so the putty is set enough to remove from the Sculpy mold.  Remove the cylindrical plastic scrap with some tweezers; you now have a small impression on the top of the base in which you can insert a flight stand rod.  Speaking of which, I simply glue three pieces of thick spaghetti together for the flight rod.  The  CA glue ensures plenty of strength and will not warp the spaghetti; even better is the height of the flight stand can be different for every ship.

Sculpy mold for flight-stand base

Too much camera flash!
Balanced ship design

I've been including Ship Design Sheets (SDS) for some of my ship sculpts in these posts.  The SDS are used in my homebrew game War In Space.  The game is a simple affair that's not even 10 pages of text, made for me by me, but if you're interested in a free rules set please feel free to contact me and I will send you a PDF. 


20 May 2011

Two-Part Mold (pt 1) and a New Favorite

While I'm happy with my new one-sided mold technique, I've been eager to try to cast in lead.  The disadvantages (expense of metal, expense of extra silicone, exposure to molten metal, ease of use of water-putty) far outweigh the advantages (durability, painting) but I'd still like to try lead casting just to see if I can do it.  I sculpted a new spaceship that I'm so enamored with, I figured I'd go ahead and sacrifice some extra silicone to make a two-part mold.

I like this sculpt; hopefully I can reproduce it in metal

The ship is already buried under curing silicone, so tonight I sculpted a similar design to illustrate the process.  I start with a press mold in Sculpy as before, but this time I encase the polymer clay in a LEGO box. 

Not my favorite design..

I pour water-putty into the box and let it set for 100 minutes or so.  I carefully remove the LEGO box and I'm left with the top hull of a spaceship with attached channel for hot lead (far right) and keys to line up the two silicone mold halves.  I put the LEGO box back together around this cast and get ready to pour the first half of the rubber mold.  And I'm off to mix silicone.


18 May 2011

Full Scale Production

About a year ago I bought some Alumilite Hi-Strength 3 RTV silicone from my local Hobby Lobby.  Various work and life commitments got in the way and I never got a chance to make any molds with it.  Things at work have finally calmed down enough that I can get some hobby time in, so I decided to try out the rubber.  Kudos to Alumilite; I've heard that most of these silicones only have a 6 month shelf-life but after sitting a year (sealed) in my closet the stuff is working great.

From top: mold, first cast, master sculpt

Above is a picture of the master, the mold, and the first cast.  I sculpted the spaceship master using the press-pour method I've detailed before, but this time poured it with an integral flat base, like a bas-relief.  I then set the master on some sulfur-free modeling clay and built a small box around it using scrap polystyrene.  I mixed up the silicone, using an old gunpowder scale to ensure accurate measurements of the catalyst to rubber ratio.  I mixed the silicone in a vacuum bottle from a small kit designed for bleeding brake-lines in cars.  I hooked up the hand pump and evacuated as much air from the bottle I could, therefore forcing most of the trapped gas from the curing silicone.  I poured the silicone into the box, allowing it to flow around the master.

Mold box and curing silicone

I set the whole thing on top of my clothes dryer and threw in one pillow, then turned the dryer on for 20 minutes.  The single pillow caused enough imbalance to agitate the silicone and shake loose any remaining air bubbles.  I let the silicone cure for 48 hours then removed it from the box and separated the master and the mold.  I poured more water-putty into the mold and took a previously made bottom hull section and carefully placed it on the putty in the mold.  Durham's water-putty loves one thing more than anything else: more water-putty.  The putty in the mold and the bottom hull section fused into one monolithic mass.

A piece of an old sculpt provides a convincing lower hull

After about 90 minutes I removed the cast from the mold.  A near perfect replica (of the top section at least).  I'm not a huge fan of this ship design, but really I knocked out the sculpt quickly... I wanted a proof-of-concept ship I wouldn't mind losing in case of mold failure.  Maybe I'll throw some wings and engine nacelles on it or something, to give it some pep.

War In Space SDS... very attack-centric design

08 May 2011

Another New Spaceship Sculpt

I took the day mixing up putty to make a ringed planet, as promised in yesterday's post... but with all that time sitting around waiting for putty to set, I couldn't resist making a new spaceship sculpt.  I wanted to test out a new basing design, so I said what the heck.
Freshly completed sculpt
Primed and ready for a crappy paintjob

Ship Design Sheet (SDS) for this ship for my homebrew rules War In Space

07 May 2011

Scratchbuilt Moon

I scratch-built a moon today and thought I'd share how.  First, I started with a smooth, thin hemisphere made from Durham's water-putty constructed using the technique found in this previous post.  After building the hemisphere, I added mountain ranges as detailed in yesterday's post.  With the mountains done, now it's time to turn it into a lunar surface by adding craters.  I use two-part epoxy putty designed for modeling to make craters.  I use all different types in my model/miniature bulding: Milliput, Kneadatite, Pro-Create, etc.  The craters on the moon pictured here were made with Pro-Create, but only because that what was sitting on my workbench; any modeling epoxy will do.   Mix up small balls of putty, about the size of BBs and stick these to your hemisphere.  Wet the tip of your finger and smooth the putty to get rid of fingerprint patterns.  Stretch the edges of the putty to it blends smoothly into the surface of the planet.  The majority of the putty will be located in the center of the feature, as pictured here.

Finished craters and one in-progress

Obtain some sort of spherical object with a size commensurate with the size of the putty;  I used plastic beads for the two largest craters and ball burnishers for all the others.   Wet the object and press it into the center of the mass of putty and pull it out quickly.  The tackiness of the putty should pull it into a nice looking crater.  Easy.  Repeat as much as you can stand it.  For very large craters you'll need to dig a reservoir out of the surface so the putty has something to push into.  If not, the craters just don't look right.  You can see a reservoir dug out on the left side of the picture above.

After the craters are done and the epoxy has set, spray the whole thing with gray paint (Walmart, US$0.98).  Dry brush with colors of your choice; I used five parts white to one part brown.  Incidentally, I normally would have saved painting until the very end, despite these pictures showing the moon with a gray coat during construction.

Next up: a ringed planet!