30 April 2012

Hot Glue Molding and Scratchbuild Micro-Armor

Last post I introduced my new rules for sci-fi tank combat and mentioned scratchbuilding some fighting vehicles for the playtest.  I got started today and by utilizing some new techniques, namely molding with hot glue and casting with plumber's epoxy, I was able to finish the first model in a single day.  Fast yes, but as you can see by the pictures below, very crude.  Still, I'm posting here in tutorial form so others can make their own judgements without having to spend the time and materials themselves.

Crude, but obviously a tank

First I made impressions in Sculpey polymer clay of the left and right tracks and wheels, the main hull, and the turret.  This is the true sculpting part and I can't offer too much advice here without sounding esoteric...you just have to visualize what the positive image will look like while making these negative impressions.  After the impressions were complete I put barriers around the impressions and filled the whole area with water-putty, creating a bas-relief-like slab with the tank's components jutting out.  This is exactly how I make my spaceships now.

Tracks and wheels



Blurry shot of putty masters

The putty cured and I removed the slabs from the polymer clay.  Normally at this point I make a mold of the raised part using naphtha-thinned silicone caulk.  Tonight however I decided to mold with hot-glue.  I neglected to get any pictures of my molds, but they were moderately detailed though nothing like silicone.  The huge benefit from hot-glue molding however is the short preparation time: 10-15 minutes for the glue to cool versus the 24 hour cure time of silicone.

Since I could tell the molds didn't have the detail I wanted, I decided to continue experimenting, this time with casting material.  Keeping with the theme of speed I mixed up plumber's epoxy and pushed it into the glue molds.  Plumber's epoxy may be grainy, but it cures rock-hard in 5 to 15 minutes.  When the parts cured I pulled them from the molds.  Due to my lack of mold release on the putty masters, the hot-glue molds had putty in them, obscuring some detail.  Still the parts obviously represented a tank, so I assembled them (with more putty) and added the gun barrel.  With a paint job and about a meter distance from the observer I don't think it would look too bad.

Although the model above is extremely crude, I'm pleased.  I know that the tank's details look poor because of the molding and casting materials, and I know from my spaceship building that the silicone-resin combination, in contrast, preserves very sharp details.  And although the blurry picture of the masters doesn't show it, the putty sculpts are nice and sharp.  I've never made ground vehicles before, only spaceships, but the techniques carried over nicely.  So hopefully I'll find some time in my schedule to make another master (I want bigger tracks), make a proper silicone mold, and cast in resin.    

Atomic Armor! Solo Tank Game

I just returned from a business trip that's kept me away from the gaming table/model workshop for weeks.  I couldn't wait to get back so I could continue playtesting my new 15mm solo skirmish rules: Our Space Age Army.  While I was away however I was wracking my brain, wondering if I could somehow modify my rules for a sword-and-sorcery skirmish game.  Well, I never cracked that nut, but instead unexpectedly came up with a set of rules for tank warfare.  Don't you hate when that happens?

My newest game rests on the downloads page and is called Our Space Age Army: Atomic Armor.  It's not strictly a tank game; the rules should model most combined arms nicely.  I designed it around a tank company, consisting of three to five platoons of three to five fighting vehicles each.  I'll probably base two tanks together and make the tank section the basic game unit.

The game essentially follows the same philosophy as my skirmish game: that is using tokens to represent initiative gained by a unit.  What makes this game different is there are four, not three, types of Initiative tokens.  The player rolls randomly for 1 to 6 tokens, but the result is heavily skewed to the low end (1 or 2 tokens per unit).  The more Command and Control tokens a unit has however the more the random roll skews towards the higher end.  And a unit may use other units' C&C tokens as well.  This forces the player to decide not only how much energy the tank crew invests in receiving orders, but also how to group his forces.

I've yet to playtest this game, but will make some C&C tokens and crude tanks tomorrow and give it a go.  The posted rules fit on one page and while complete enough to play are totally devoid of any fluff.  The rules also imply a lot of things without spelling them out, such as the fact their are three different sizes for units and that structures can be attacked.  After I playtest these I'll post some more rules I'm thinking about, such as how leaders can transfer C&C tokens and how structures get demolished.

06 April 2012

15mm Sci-Fi Squinch Dome WIP

One thing I love about spaceship miniature gaming is how simple the playing area is.  A few spheres or hemispheres to represent stars and planets and your vessels are all you need generally.  Games that represent land combat require a lot more in terms of terrain and figures and so I usually find myself sticking to the starships.

I just came up with a set of solo infantry skirmish rules last week however and after a very fun playtest I'm ready to put the spacecraft away for a little while and get in some troop action.  I've ordered some of GZG's Phalon troops as well as more of their armed Heavy Vac-Suited figures to oppose the Phalon.  While I wait for the miniatures to arrive I've decided to make some buildings.

Domes just seem a natural for science fiction settings.  I saved some styrofoam cups from the garbage and chopped off the lips to make the building sides.  I cut two of these lips in half and arranged three of these in order to create a triangular footprint.  I started the squinches (the part joining the apexes of the triangles to the domed roof) by spanning the open space with scotch-tape, sticky side up.  Then I laid pieces of fiberglass wall repair fabric on the tape.  The picture below shows what I'm talking about; please disregard the pink hue to the photos, my camera is about to die.

Framework for squinches
 With the tape and fabric in place I mixed up some water-putty and spread it on the fabric.  I kept a basin of water available to clean-up and shape the putty.  After this first layer of putty cured I placed a pre-made dome on top of the structure.  I constructed the dome the night before using water-putty as detailed in this old post.  A second water-putty layer went on, to attach the dome.  The picture below shows this second layer; as you can see a third layer will be required to create the smooth transition between dome roof and sides.

Frugality manifest on the game table

  When the third layer cures I'll add the walls under those arches.  I'm thinking something very comic book techno-babble looking.  Here's some wall examples:

Cost of materials was very low, and the time commitment not as high as some of my other putty-based terrain projects.  I'm thinking I can make three or four of these before my forces arrive and get painted.

02 April 2012

Our Space Age Army (Solo Skirmish) Movement Errata

I posted my latest solo effort, a post-WWII to far future infantry skirmish game called Our Space Age Army, to the downloads page this weekend. I've been having a blast playtesting and am 90% pleased with the rules, but there was just one thing nagging me.

The Defense token mechanic is supposed to represent the troopers either getting their heads down and trying to avoid getting shot, or else bravely risking fire to dash around the battlefield or return fire themselves.  The Defense token rules work fine keeping units from getting hit, but I feel they should somehow alter movement as well.  They of course do, since the more Defense tokens a unit has the less it can have of the other two actions.  Unfortunately since only one Move token is required to attempt a move, this leads to the odd situation where a unit with 5 Defense tokens manages to roll well and move as far as another unit with no Defense tokens.  This makes little sense because I imagine a unit with high Defense tokens would be low-crawling.

In order to address this I'm going to try a slightly modified movement mechanic tonight.  First, start with a base move increment of 8cm.  Subtract 1cm for every Defense action token the moving unit possesses.  Subtract another 1cm if the terrain is Difficult; subtract 2cm if it's Very Difficult.  That yields a base move increment of 1cm to 8cm, depending on Defense (it's hard to sprint when you're hunkering down) and terrain.  Then roll the Movement Multiplier as before, which gives a number from 1 to 6 to multiply by the base increment.  The multiplier shows the effect of the load carried by the soldier, especially that due to armor.  I will probably adjust the Movement Multiplier chart a little so there aren't figures routinely moving 30cm+.  It still of course costs one Move token for a unit to even make an attempt.

Off to make resin action tokens, terrain, and playtest the new movement rules!

Edit- After only a few activations I realized this new movement method works and, to me, just makes more sense.  I've altered the base document on the download page to reflect the new mechanics.