18 October 2011

Homebrew Spaceship Game Rules Finally Finished

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

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

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

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

11 October 2011

Dune CCG Solitaire Variant

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

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

10 October 2011

He Built a Crooked House

...And a straight one as well.

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

This will not do

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

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

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

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

Yetis and Cthulhu...My Mythos Adventure

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

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

02 October 2011

Thatched Roof Hut Tutorial (Alternate Method)

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

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

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

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

Roof press-mold

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

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

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

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

Looks OK now; will look great with paint I bet

Costs pennies