23 September 2011

10mm Brick House Tutorial

In my review of TSR's Battlesystem, I lamented my task saturation and lack of free time.  So instead of consolidating and finishing projects, I started a new one.

My research into Battlesystem led to an interest in fantasy mass combat gaming, and I decided to plunge into it with a purchase of Old Glory 10mm historicals.  I plan on mixing figures from various eras to get that 1970s-80s anachronistic fantasy flavor.  While I await the arrival of the miniatures however, I figured I'd make some terrain starting with a brick house.



First pour Durham's Rock-Hard Water-Putty into Lego molds set onto a block of smooth Sculpey polymer clay, forming four square and smooth pillars.  Take the pillars and carve lines into them to make them look like large stones set on each other.  The pillars form the corners of the building.  Mark out a nice rectangle for the side walls on the block of Sculpey.  Note: I use two small pieces of glass from 5x8 inch picture frames to mash my polymer clay between.  It ensures a nice smooth pancake of clay to work on.

Take your brick texture tool and go to town.  The tool is simply a chopstick with a small rectangle carved  into one end.  Push the rectangular brick shapes one by one into the Sculpey, making a negative brick pattern.  The process is not tedious; I finished this side wall (see below) in maybe 3 minutes maximum.  With a complete pattern push two of the corner pillars into the clay.



Knead up some extra Sculpey and use it to make masks at the edges of your side walls.  As you can see, the masking is important as it allows you to to define the shape of the walls, including the pitch of the eaves.


Mix up some putty (3:1 powder to water ratio) and pour it in the middle.  Gently tilt the glass back and forth to ensure the putty flows into all cracks.  Wet water putty bonds tenaciously to dry putty, so the corner pillars will fuse with the new wall.  Give it a minimum of 100 minutes cure time, but I poured mine at bedtime and let it cure through the night and all the next day while I was at work.  Peel the Sculpey away gently; side wall is done!  Repeat for an identically sized second side wall, using the remaining two pillars.


Knead and smooth out some more Sculpey (reuse the clay you've been using) and make a brick pattern for the back wall, which is longer than the sides.  Mash the two side walls into the clay so they stand perpendicular to the surface (see below).  Make some clay masks to keep the putty inside, then mix up the Durham's and pour.  The two side walls will fuse to the new back wall.  Realize however that the new wall is longer and more fragile, so immediately after pouring the putty, gently set a bit of plastic window screen into the setting putty to provide tensile strength.  After 100 minutes of curing, I place self-adhesive fiberglass wall repair fabric at the 90 degree interior bends.  Slather some putty on these corners with the fabric and let it cure 6 hours or so.  Then the whole mass (shaped like a letter C) can be removed from the Sculpey without cracking.

I did the front wall first but it still illustrates the method


Finally, mark out the fourth wall in the clay (you may be able to use the previous pattern if you were careful).  Doors and windows are cool but hard to explain.  Mash out a tiny piece of Sculpey so it is super thin, flat and smooth.  Use various tools to then make the negative pattern for window panes, door knobs, heavy iron hinges, etc.  Cut the edges off the Sculpey pattern so it is the proper size and shape.  Gently set this piece of clay where you want the door/window to be.  Use your brick tool to mash down the frame around the opening.  Place the incomplete house into the proper place on the Sculpey negative and make Sculpey masks for the wall edges.  Pour the putty in and reinforce it just like you did the opposite wall.  When it cures, use a hobby knife to gently scoop out the polymer clay from the door and window recesses.  You'll be left with a couple of nicely detailed openings.



Next we'll make the roof and base.  The method costs pennies and is very easy.  The drawback is all the cure time for the putty.  I started work on this 5 days ago, but only put about 10 minutes of work a night on it.  This method is perfect for starship corridors and super high-tech Kirby-esque buildings.  

19 September 2011

Battlesystem (TSR) Review

I just secured the rights to some artwork for my War In Space game.  I'm excited, but that means I need to rewrite, edit, and expand the current download version to make it worthy of the cool cover it will have.  And I still need to finish adding a hex grid to my space mat so I can finish playtesting.   I want to finish some interior art as well, which is ambitious since I've never inked anything in my life.  Oh, and not to mention inspections at my full time job and a number of LabView programs that need to be written and labs wired up for grad school.  So what the hell am I doing talking about Battlesystem (2nd edition) by TSR??

I saw a Battlesystem board get added over on The Miniatures Page (TMP) forums and after wading through all the complaints about obsolete games, I finally learned enough about the game to intrigue me.  I found a near mint copy on eBay for less than 8 bones (including shipping)!  I've not played the game, but here is my first impression.

The game looks very simple, which is a good thing.  Although the book clocks in at 128 pages, the basic rules required to play your first game are complete by the first third.  The intermediate and advanced rules add some neat stuff like monsters and magic, but really none of these extra concepts count as all that "advanced".  All the rules are very tidy but not simplistic.  A good portion of the pages get eaten up by scenarios and painting guides so the book is not as daunting as it seems.

A conversion system exist in the appendix to allow AD&D (1st and 2nd) characters and monsters to appear on the game table during mass combat: a super cool feature. 

The cover shows Lando Calrissian being choked out by some guy with a skullet, but the interior art is typical late 80s TSR paintings, which I always loved.  Most of the interior images are photos of actual miniatures which I find helpful.



My problems with the system are minor.  The rules has players count the number of figures for attacks, and the game is designed for 25mm figures.  So, that means a lot of lead to purchase, base and paint.  I suppose it would be very easy to adapt it to small scales like 10mm or 6mm however, and I may do that.  Another complaint I have is the inconsistent dice rolling methods.  For example, to roll to attack it's a simple die roll, with higher scores yielding better results.  Easy.  And a roll for armor save is also a simple roll high (above Armor Rating), also easy.  Morale however is roll equal to or under and uses 2d10... and even worse the lowest roll wins initiative.  Why?  In my opinion it's just more to remember instead of making everything "roll high".  Which brings me to my last complaint.  It appears that there's a ton (I count 13) of different triggers for morale rolls, not counting special rolls like charge initiation.  I've never played but it seems like a lot to remember.

All in all my complaints are very minor.  As an AD&D product I expected a lot of weird tables and nonsensical, ultra-specific rules.  All those things are awesome in RPGs; the kooky rules are part of  what makes playing old school AD&D so fun.  In a wargame I expect a streamlined system however, and Battlesystem surprised me by delivering.  If you are interested in historical or fantasy massed combat, check Battlesystem 2nd edition out.

17 September 2011

Homemade (Hex) Space Mat

...Alternate title: "My Aching Back"

A year ago I went to the local fabric store and made a great find.  The clearance bin held all sorts of upholstery vinyl for cheap.  I got 5 yards of black vinyl for $3.00/yard (US).  The surface takes acrylic paint wonderfully, yet dirt wipes clean off it.  It also has a sort of rubberized backing that makes it nice and heavy, very durable.

  I loaded some cheap Walmart white acrylic paint on an old toothbrush and pulled the bristles back, flicking paint all over the mat and creating a convincing star field.  I hand painted planets and stars with the results shown below, and for $7.50 I had an awesome space mat.

Space Mat
My homebrew War In Space rules uses rulers, but I want to try hex-based rules.  So even though I'm proud of my space mat and loathe to ruin it, I decided to paint some hexes on it.  First I needed some guides.

I noticed the bottoms of Dixie cups are 49mm across, and since I designed my game for 5cm increments this is near-perfect.  So I grabbed a bunch of cups and filled the little recess in the bottom with water-putty.

My poor girlfriend puts up with this weirdness

 After 20 or so hours of setting, I squeezed the cups gently and pulled out 19 discs with perfectly smooth bottoms and identical diameters: essential if I wanted to use circle packing to generate a hex pattern.

Use this technique for round bases of any type
 I packed the discs together flush against one edge of the space mat and then mixed up some true navy blue, crimson and white acrylic paint.  I took a sharpened chopstick and dabbed the tip into my paint well, then made all sorts of tiny dots in the spaces between the circles.  The pictures below make the hex pattern seem very bright.  The brightness is an artifact of the camera flash; actually the hex pattern is fairly subdued.  The hexes can be counted from a meter or so away, but do not cover up the star field too much.

Cheap but tedious
 The problem with this method is that I'm still not finished.  I'm probably less than a quarter of the way done and I've been at it for hours.  The inaugural battle of my solo space campaign, which playtests my hex variant rules, will have to wait.  There's a great post on SGN that shows a cost comparison for commercial space mats.  The cheapest runs about $0.0125 per square inch and the average price about double that at $0.025.  At 54 by 90 inches with a total cost of less than $12.00, my mat is incredibly cheap compared to the commercial versions.  Of course, I'll need the money I save for medical care; my poor back aches from bending over the table while I paint dots and move discs.

And for no reason other than I love this design, here's an old unpainted ship I built back in May.  My first set of pictures sucked.  Today however, I had some good sunlight for photos and wanted to show what this baby truly looks like in some natural light.  I think I'll experiment with using this gray primer as the "base" coat and just paint little highlights like insignia and portholes on the ship.




14 September 2011

Scratchbuilding, War In Space and the Terran Trade Authority

Many folks my age grew up with the Star Wars trilogy hitting the theaters while we were toddlers or just starting school.  So of course we were all fascinated by Lucas' fictional universe.  I was the kid who brought all the SW toys to show-and-tell.  Fast forward three decades and I've graduated with an undergraduate degree in Astronautics; my childhood passion for space never died.  My love for Star Wars did die however; it was just a passing fad for me.  My true childhood space inspiration was Stewart Cowley's Terran Trade Authority (TTA) books.

Mr. Cowley created a very loose narrative to provide context for and link a number of unrelated science-fiction illustrations.  The illustrations (the proper term since many were airbrush ink works) mostly followed the Chris Foss style and were originally commissioned as book covers for sci-fi novels.  Cowley built up a fictitious (and sometimes contradictory) universe over the four books.

I used to check those books out routinely from the library, until some jerk stole them (I will find you).  I would just sit and stare at those wonderful pictures of spaceships.  I knew from that point I wanted to build machines like that.

I don't blueprint my little scratchbuild gaming spaceships; I just mash things into Sculpey and use the resulting impression as a mold.  Several people have remarked that the casts that emerge from those molds look a lot like "1970s science fiction book cover art".  I don't ape the art from the TTA books, but I know it's a huge subconscious influence and I'm glad it shows.

As an aside it turns out the TTA books inspired a lot of followers, so much so that in 2005 the books were re-released and used as a RPG setting (I just found this out an hour ago; thanks Wikipedia).  Apparently the new books had a lot of 3D computer renderings.  Lame.  That's just wrong... glad I have the original books.  Am I the only person on the face of the earth who despises computer art?  Am I the only one who thinks the shadows are all wrong and it looks fake, even today?  OK, this post is long enough, on with the point... 

So I was prowling the internet and ended up finding the portfolio of one of the artists featured in the TTA books.  Since the TTA books used recycled art, I guess it's more appropriate to say I found the portfolio of an artist who painted a lot of 1970's science fiction book covers.  Even better it's the artist who did most of my favorite pieces!  On a whim I wrote him an email and asked if I could commission a piece of art for my War In Space game (which is generic and not set in the TTA universe).  He explained in a friendly email that he doesn't do sci-fi art anymore, but when I suggested licensing he sent me some legal paperwork.  I need to figure this all out and read the document, but I can't believe there may be a (slim) chance my stupid little game may have a cover from my favorite artist!  Wow!  I really want to keep my game a free download, so I may end up funding this with no hope of recovering the cost.  Oh well.... it would be worth it, for the aesthetics sake.

Has anyone else paid for art for one of their homebrew projects, knowing they'd never sell it?

Solo Space Campaign Set-up 1

OK, I'm two days from getting back to my table and scratchbuilding stuff, so I'll kick this campaign off and document it to illustrate my method.

I just shuffled two decks very thoroughly and drew a Queen of Diamonds and 6 of Clubs from the red deck (I'll call them Side A for now until I flesh this setting out).  A crappy low draw.  I could take a Size Class 2 ship due to the two suits, but at the Obsolete technology level only ship designs with 4 Systems boxes are available.  I could do that but it would waste two boxes, so I decide Side A gets two Size Class 1 ships (3 Systems boxes each).  Side B (blue deck) draws a King of Diamonds and 8 of Clubs.  Weird!  Almost identical draw.  So I assign two frigates to Side B (4 Systems boxes each).

I thought this would be a quick redraw but since these forces are so closely matched (difference of only 2 Systems boxes), the odds on my Mythic Fate Chart don't change at all.  So I ask "will this encounter have an impact on the war?" with the odds of a "Yes" at "Has to be".  Chaos Rank of 5 means a 95 for a "Yes"... I roll a 94.  Holy crap these are some weird draws and dice rolls!  So this tiny little skirmish actually has an impact on the war.  Perhaps this is some diplomatic incident that touches off the war?  When I get back I'll grab some miniatures and fight it out.

The smaller ships aren't as fun to sculpt, but this actually works out perfect.  I hope to have my space mat modified with hexes before the weekend is out and this little four ship fight will be a quick test of the hex-based variant of my rules.  Stay tuned for the battle report.

13 September 2011

Solo Space Campaign with Mythic GME

I imagine the solo wargame crowd being pretty small, and the subset using the Mythic GME even smaller.  And those who've actually read my game War In Space... well that's a miniscule number.  So to all but a select few (probably just me), this post will read pretty esoteric.  Like a non-gamer wandering into a D&D conversation and trying to decipher THAC0, hit dice, and save vs. rods.

Anyway, I plan on combining my solo campaign rules with the Mythic GME to run a space war.  I'll flip playing cards as my rules describe, generating two opposing space forces.  Then I'll ask the question: "will this encounter have a significant impact on the war?" and roll on the Mythic Fate Chart.

As per Mythic rules, four results exist: "Exceptional No", "No", "Yes", and "Exceptional Yes".  "Exceptional No" means the encounter has absolutely no impact on the war; I won't bother fighting it out.  Instead, I'll flip more cards and generate another two forces, repeating the process.

If the Mythic result is "No" the battle has a negligible impact on the war, but if the cards reveal an interesting mix of ships I may just fight it out.  Regardless of which side wins, neither card deck will change as a result of the battle. More likely if I get a "No" result I won't fight the battle but I'll randomly generate a few dictionary words and come up with the seeds to a role-playing adventure involving the space battle (even if only peripherally).  That's what a "No" on the Mythic Fate Chart will indicate for me: idea seeds that either serve as an "anthology" type RPG, or as set-ups to later wargame scenarios.  For example, I roll up a "No" result but then roll "teetotaler" and "question-mark" from the dictionary.  I wrack my brain and decide maybe a certain taskforce commander prohibits the junior officers in his formation from drinking booze, but perhaps one of his patrol boat captains, a lieutenant, is running a lucrative alcohol smuggling operation.  The lieutenant's operation brings his little ship in contact with a supposed "enemy" ship on a regular basis; liquor pays much better than fighting.  There's a lot of ideas to springboard off of there; the wayward Lt. is a secret intelligence agent (straight RPG adventure), or the smugglers get caught during a shore leave, causing a shoot-out with authorities (set-up for next scenario). 

A "Yes" to the question posed above means I'll fight the battle normally, and the winning force gets to lose a face card from their deck, as detailed in my campaign rules.  Lose a card?  What the hell am I talking about?  Download and read it!  I'll usually use the dictionary method above not for an RPG adventure, but to set up a scenario for the actual battle.

An "Exceptional Yes" indicates a potential turning point in the war: a sinking of the Bismark, a Coral Sea, a Midway, etc.  I'll fight the battle but in this case the winner will get to discard two face cards: a decided advantage in the overall campaign.  Maybe I'll integrate it into a ground miniature game, like a space D-Day.

OK, so how will I decide the odds for the Mythic Fate Chart?  I'll assume the odds of a "Yes" answer to the question "will this encounter have a significant impact on the war?" are "Has to be" if the forces are equal.  My logic is that for the big, pivotal events of a war, the opposing sides will try to bring all their resources to bear and generally will field similar forces.  So I'll take the difference in the sizes of forces (in terms of Systems boxes) and use this to reduce the odds of a "Yes".  For a difference of every 4 Systems boxes, I will drop the odds of a "Yes" one level.  Example: I draw a small force for Side A which totals 14 Systems boxes, and a larger one for Side B with 47 boxes.  The difference of 33 boxes drops the odds eight levels, all the way down to "Very Unlikely" that the encounter matters to the war.  If I still roll a "Yes" in this case, well I'll just have to come up with a solid scenario to make the battle worth playing despite the disparity.

The final element of the Mythic Fate Chart, the Chaos Rank, starts at 5 for the first card draw of the campaign.  When a numerically inferior force wins an engagement, the Chaos Rank increases 1.  When a numerically superior force wins, the Chaos Rank drops 1.  Otherwise, the Chaos Rank will remain where it is. 

I'll track certain ships' crews, build a star map and slowly build a little RPG universe set during a space war while getting in some good miniatures battles in the meantime.  Hurray for Mythic!  Despite my initial trepidation I'm falling in love with this system.
           

11 September 2011

Illuminati: New World Order Solitaire Download

My solitaire variant for Steve Jackson Games' awesome CCG Illuminati: New World Order is available on the downloads page.

Get it and use the tabloids and fast-food companies to trick the Congressional Wives into destroying NATO!  World Domination is fun, even solo.

09 September 2011

War In Space Hex-based Combat

Following up from the previous post, I'm exploring a hex-based version of my free spaceship miniatures rules.  The alternate rules dispense with the measuring stick required in the no-hex version.  Simply count hexes from shooter to target and cross reference the table below to determine the range effect.  Use the range effect to resolve weapons fire per the combat rules in the ruleset.

Note, ships can fire at targets farther than 19 hexes away, I just thought the chances of such engagements were too remote to bother with making a row for each range.  The null set symbol on the chart below indicates an impossible shot; I've included all the ranges where shooting at a certain size becomes an impossibility.  The pattern for intermediate ranges not depicted should be easy to spot.  For Signature 1 targets (the big boys), simply add 1 to the Range Effect for each hex past the last interval depicted; for example shooting at a Signature 1 ship at 22 hexes is Range Effect 8 (three more than that at 19).  The other Range Effects are simple multiples, depending on the target Signature.

That's it.  No real changes.  I do hate having to constantly reference charts however.  So I'm planning to make a huge version of this table spread out across four pages of 11"x17" paper, which I will paste together and mount on the wall as a 22"x34" reference chart.  Then I'll just have to look across my small hobby-room to resolve fires.  I'll drop a copy on my downloads page when I make it.

Happy spaceship gaming!

War In Space Hex-based Movement

I dropped the War In Space ruleset on my downloads page the other day, but without some "alternate" rules kicking around in my head.  Adapting the game to a hex-grid system is the biggest and most obvious optional rule.  I love my vinyl mat with no hexes on it.  It looks so good, and hey, isn't aesthetics one of the joys of miniature gaming?  Also, I designed my game for no-hex play because I hate referencing charts; by using measuring sticks and eschewing hexes I eliminate cross-referencing charts.  The problem with hex-less playing however is slower play, as opponents have to constantly reach and measure.  In the interest of speedy play, I'm therefore very interested in hex-based War In Space.  It also affords the opportunity to use a 2D vector system where vessels move like the spaceships in the Atari Asteroids game, with velocity vector and ship heading independent.  A note of warning: while more "realistic" than the airplane-like movement rules in the download, this hex-based system is not playtested.  I think it will work fine, but I can't guarantee it (yet).

Movement Phase:  A ship begins the game with a speed counter placed in any adjacent hex (regardless of ship facing).  The counter displays the ship's current speed, as well as indicating the next hex the ship will occupy.  Thus, the speed counter is actually a (two-dimensional) velocity vector indicator.  Ships move a number of hexes equal to their current speed (I plan on using 5cm hexes, measured from face-to-face).  Ships may also attempt to change their velocity vectors and facing during this movement.  Energy may be spent to accelerate or decelerate, and to increase the chance of a successful maneuver.   
 
Changing the magnitude of the ship's velocity vector happens first during the movement phase.  A ship may increase or decrease its current speed by 1 by spending energy points equal to the ship’s Size Class.  For example a massive Size Class 5 dreadnought may increase its speed from 1 to 5, but would have to allocate 20 energy.  In addition to available energy limitations, ships face further speed change restrictions based on the orientation of the velocity vector.  The following figure and associated table indicate the speed change limitation based on where a ship's speed counter lies, with respect to the ship's facing.  The limitations reflect the massive thrust component from a spaceship's main drive.



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 to change the direction of its velocity vector after changing the vector's magnitude.  A player rolls three dice when attempting a velocity vector change.  If the player also wants to change the ship's facing, the player simply sacrifices one die roll for each 60° facing change desired.  Thus speed limits vector changes but not facing changes.  Size Class determines the die type as indicated on Table 1.  For each die score rolled which exceeds the ship’s speed, the player may move the speed counter one adjacent hex clockwise or counter-clockwise around the ship.  The player repositions the speed counter as appropriate, executes any change to the ship's facing, and then finally moves the ship one hex in the direction of the speed counter.  The speed counter gets displaced, "pushed" ahead of the ship.  The entire process gets repeated until the ship moves a total number of hexes equal to its speed.

Changes to vector direction and facing require no energy, but energy may be spent to increase the chance of success.  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.

The following example and associated figure illustrate this process.  A pursuit cruiser (Size Class 4), allocates 9 energy to movement.  The ship ended the previous turn with a speed of 4.  The controlling player plans to maneuver and during energy allocation decides to increase his chances by decelerating.  Consulting the figure above he determines he can decelerate a maximum of 2, based on the ship's thrust vector pointing starboard-fore (is that a word?).  The player spends four points of energy to decelerate from 4 to 3, and then spends four points to give a +1 turn bonus; the final energy point is wasted.  The player then replaces his ship's speed counter with a new one labeled "3" and also places a +1 turn bonus marker next to the miniature.  The player starts the movement phase rolling dice for a maneuver attempt.  Acceleration and deceleration precedes any maneuvers and the player satisfied this requirement and sped up game-play by adjusted his ship's speed during energy allocation.  The player declares a 60° facing change and therefore rolls two maneuver dice versus three.  He rolls a 2 and 4 on his d6's, adding the turn bonus to get a 3 and 5.  Only one die score exceeds the speed, so the player can only move the speed counter one hex.  The player moves the speed counter from the starboard-fore adjacent hex to the starboard-aft hex.  He changes the ship's facing one hex-side to the right and then moves the ship one hex towards the speed counter (and moves the counter).  Since he has two more hexes to move, the player has two more chances to maneuver.     

Hexes and spaceship gaming... like peanut butter & jelly



Order of ship movement depends on experience level, just like in the download version of the War In Space rules.

A hex-based system requires (minimal) changes to the combat system as well; the following post details that.



      

08 September 2011

War In Space Free Ruleset

Insomnia sucks.  I have to be up in three hours and I'm wide awake.  Tomorrow is going to be a bad day, but you can benefit from my misery... go to my downloads page and get my spaceship miniatures game War In Space for free.

It's got no cover, no table of contents, no index and no art.  It's free however, and I have a good time with it; maybe you will too.

Enjoy!

07 September 2011

War In Space (Pt 8): Ship Design

I wrote War In Space as a scatchbuilder, for other scratchbuilders.  The ruleset therefore includes a simple ship construction system, allowing players to fly any ship they find or make a miniature for.

Use the blank Ship Design Sheet (SDS) for custom vessels.  After naming the new ship type, decide on its Size Class (1-5).  Table 1 indicates the Signature of the new ship type, as well as its Turn Die; both of these characteristics depend on Size Class.  Next decide the technology level of the ship: Obsolete, Current or Advanced.  The campaign rules included in the final downloadable rulebook include a method for progressing through the technology levels as the space war escalates.  Table 5 below indicates the number of Systems boxes that defines a ship type, based on Size Class and Technology Level.  Assign boxes among the three Systems on the SDS.  The total number of boxes equals the number indicated on Table 5.  Allocate a minimum of one System box to each system; limit the maximum number of boxes assigned to any individual system to five.  Mark out the boxes not assigned to the ship's Systems, starting at the top of the SDS.  Example: A player decides to make an Intercept Destroyer ship type (SDS below; another post describes how to sculpt it).  The player's custom Size Class 3 ship type uses Current technology; thus, according to Table 5, the Intercept Destroyer has eight total Systems boxes.  The player envisions the Intercept Destroyer as vessel built around a colossal laser and therefore assigns four boxes to Sub-Systems while giving Engines and Crew only two boxes each.  The player marks out the appropriate unusable boxes for each System, beginning on the d12 row and moving down.  As the SDS shows, an undamaged Intercept Destroyer rolls two six-sided dice and one ten-sided die for Energy Allocation.  The player also records the new ship's Size Class and corresponding Signature at the appropriate spot on the SDS.   
Example SDS

Next, define the Ship Design Parameters for the new class of vessel.  The blank SDS has a "(P)" and "(S)" placed over each card rank symbol.  Write one of the three basic action types: "Attack", "Defend", or "Move" next to the "(P)" on the Diamond symbol; this is the ship's primary action type when a Diamond card is played.  Write one of the other two basic action types next to the "(S)" on the Diamond symbol; this is the ship's secondary action type when a Diamond card is played.  Repeat the process for the other three suits.  Example: The player designed the Intercept Destroyer above as essentially a flying laser cannon.  As such, the player decides to make "Attack" the primary action type on three of four card ranks!  An Intercept Destroyer has a very good chance of allocating its best die to Attack actions, even if commanded by a very inexperienced captain.  Of course, this makes the ship a kind of one-trick-pony.  Ships featuring more varied design parameters prove more useful, but only in the hands of seasoned commanders.   

Give the ship a heavy weapon or two featuring some evocative name.  As of now, War In Space does not feature faction-specific weapons with special rules that might unbalance the game.  Heavy weapons listed on the SDS therefore only provide "flavor".  Feel free to make up your own special weapons however.

Finally, determine the firing arc modifiers of the new ship class.  Write a bonus or penalty on each of the six sides of the hexagon on the SDS (omitting modifiers of 0 obviously).  Neither the total of all six modifiers nor any individual firing arc bonus may exceed the ship's Size Class.  Example: Since the Intercept Destroyer above carries the fearsome Ultra-Laser, the creating player assigns a +3 bonus to the forward firing arc, the maximum allowed for a Size Class 3 ship.  The player also assigns a +1 attack bonus to the forward starboard and forward port arcs.  The player finally assigns a -2 penalty to the aft arc ensuring the total of all modifiers equals 3, the maximum value.