31 December 2012

Scratchbuild Future Tank Platoon... Finished

OK, well the title of this post might be a bit premature.  I would like to individually base these tanks, and I plan to use decals to add insignia to them a little more pep.  So the platoon is not yet finished, but I'm finished documenting this project.

I'm pleased with how the miniatures turned out and how the ink wash brings out the panel lines.  I also learned a lot from the process.  Some important lessons were: make the undercarriage first, cut the main gun barrels all at the same time instead of cutting one and gluing it (which led to wonky, mismatched barrel-lengths).

31mm (hull) length

So the question arises: what rule-set do I use these with?  I sold off my print version of Dirtside II years ago, but have the free download.  I love Stargrunt II with its different die types and I know DSII shares these, but I can't get past the chit-pull for damage system.

I've looked at Future War Commander, but I think the scale of this system is too large.  I want each miniature to represent an individual tank.

I'm about to embark on a year-long gaming and scratchbuilding hiatus, making this question academic, but after the hobby-drought is over I plan on hitting the game table with a vengeance.  So what system (besides homebrew) should I use for 1/300 tank battles?

29 December 2012

Sci-Fi Micro-Armor Platoon WIP Update

I'm getting closer to actually finishing a scratchbuild project; namely, my futuristic tank platoon.

Yesterday I attached the undercarriages, and glued on wheels, which were discs punched from a styrene sheet with the Missus' hole punch.  Last night I attached the main guns (using angel hair pasta and epoxy) to each tank turret, then primed all pieces white.

Tonight I will hopefully have some time to paint each tank hull and turret and glue everything together.  Until then, here's some shots of the primed pieces of one tank (turret not glued, just sitting on the hull).
Starting to look like tanks...

I had a question from reader yojimbo regarding what I mean by impression mold.  I wasn't being entirely clear to the non-moldmaking public, so below is a picture of the impression molds used to make the turrets and one hull of these tanks.  Sometimes (like with these tanks) I just press the Super-Sculpey shapes into the clay to form the impression but other times on "bigger" projects, like an 80mm spaceship, I'll push a piece of polystyrene scrap into the clay first.  The scrap plastic is used just to make the initial impression, and is cut in the outline of the ship.  Then I'll use the Super-Sculpey stamps to detail the inner walls of the depression.  Final note, the mold clay is not polymer clay (like the stamps) but Plastalina modeling clay.

Impression molds, post-casting

Hope this helps!

27 December 2012

Sci-fi Micro-Armor Platoon WIP

I'm using techniques I developed for making miniature spaceships to create 1/300 scale future fighting vehicles.  The pictures below show the work in progress; so far I have the hulls and turrets of a four-tank platoon complete.
Not the most uniform resin cure...

...too much humidity perhaps?
Super close-up

Still very rough at this stage.  I need to file/sand edges, add the tracks on the bottom, add the main gun, then paint and glue all the components.  Generally I'm pleased with how it's turning out.

Edit: here's some pics of the progress and the method.  The first shot below shows the simple undercarriage for three of the four tanks right out of the oven.  They're constructed of Sculpey, Super-Sculpey and the wheels will be styrene discs.  The next two shots show my Super-Sculpey slabs with the panel lines scribed in.  I pressed these into a slab of modeling clay and filled the resulting depression with resin.  I repeated this three times to create four tanks total for a platoon.

Super-Sculpey stamps

Turret on left, hull on right

I think in the future I will make only one undercarriage, which I will mold with 10:1 RTV silicone.  Then I can use the same tracks for a myriad of different fighting vehicles, and save myself a bunch of work.

23 December 2012

Dead CCG Solitaire: More Galactic Empires

It's a Festivus miracle!

I recently posted a sealed booster solitaire variant of the old Galactic Empires CCG and got some great feedback on the rules.  Additionally I actually took the rare step of playtesting the variant myself, at least for a few rounds.  It turned out OK, but I've been thinking of ways to make it better.

Now, posted on my downloads page, is the newest solitaire variant for Galactic Empires.  Unlike the last set of rules, these ones don't need sealed boosters but instead require a small bit of deck construction (but still easier than for multi-player game).  I think this game's an improvement because unlike the first set of rules, instead of sitting around waiting for enemy ships to maybe stumble across your Sector HQ, you actually build a fleet to attack any of four rival HQs.  In the new version you play an empire just entering a sector of space bordered by four hostile powers who have all established HQs there.  The mission is to discover any uncharted worlds (Terrain) which can provide enough resources to allow the player's empire to gain a foothold in the sector.

If you give it a try, please let me know how it works.  I've yet to try it myself...

17 December 2012

Song of Tracks and Turrets (SBH solo variant)

So I purchased the cool little fantasy skirmish game Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH) a while ago, but have yet to play it.  It seems like a great system and with a little tweaking other people have used it well for solo gaming.  I intend to add my tweaks as well, and then use the basic game engine to model some tank platoon on tank platoon futuristic violence.

Why tank battles?  Well, basically because building 6mm terrain is so much easier than 15mm.  Also, tanks are much easier to sculpt than figures and I want to use some of my scratchbuilds in combat.  Before I can do any of that however, I need to get back to those rules tweaks.

Some solitaire rules I've seen have the player controlling his side and an AI logic controlling the enemy side.  I've tried these types of setups and have never really enjoyed myself.  Instead, I prefer to play each side as objectively and logically as possible against each other.  Still, one side will usually have a neat miniature or cool paint job and I'll be tempted, at least subconsciously, to favor that side.  To help me play it straight I include various randomizers and other ways to simulate the fog of war, such as card activation, chit-draws, etc.  Here's my modification to the Song of Blades and Heroes engine that I plan to implement with my tank games.  If the playtesting works then perhaps I'll try a real SBH game with the modification, despite my dearth of fantasy figures.

Using this modification requires 3 six-sided dice of different colors, and 2 different colored ten-sided dice which match the color of a d6 each.  For example I use a white d6, an orange d6 and green d6; and a green d10 and orange d10.  Additionally, the modification requires a standard deck of playing cards with the Jokers included.

Each unit has a command track consisting of a row of four boxes, each box either blank or featuring a different card suit.  The name is a bit of a misnomer, as the track really reflects the activating miniature's ability to gather and process battlefield information and, more importantly, communicate that information to other members of the unit.  Thus, it should really be called the "commo track", since communications equipment and not the competence of the platoon leader really drives the situational awareness of the unit.

If a unit has only basic communication equipment with no jamming protection and negligible if any sensors, its command track starts blank.  If the unit has well-maintained, contemporary commo gear with anti-jam capability and networked sensors, then it starts with one box on its command track filled with a card suit (it doesn't matter which suit).  If the unit possesses truly revolutionary situational awareness gear, then the command track starts with two of the boxes filled with two different card suits.

The platoon leader's ability to process all this incoming information and then transmit easily understood orders also influences which actions the units take.  If the platoon leader is particularly inept, or extremely inexperienced, remove one playing card suit from the command track (minimum of four blank boxes obviously).  If the leader is trained and not exceptionally talented or experienced but not a hindrance, the command track remains unchanged.  Finally, if the leader has a talent for command or years of combat experience, add a third suit to the track.  Thus, after considering both communications gear and leadership ability, command tracks can have anywhere from zero to three playing card suits displayed.

During the start of the solo game, designate the default aggressiveness of each side on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most risky and 1 the most conservative.  At the start of each turn, choose a miniature to activate and then draw a card from the top of a shuffled deck.  If the suit on the drawn card matches any suit on the activating model's command track, then the miniature has a clear picture of what's happening on all parts of the battlefield.  This allows the solo player to act as a "100 foot general" and choose how many activations the figure will attempt.  Roll the appropriate number of d6 against Quality and take any activations earned as in SBH and most of its variants.

If the suit on the drawn card does not match any on the command track of the miniature's unit, then the figure possesses a skewed picture of what's really going on, either through poor or misinterpreted communication, or just general lack of information.  The model decides its own number of activation attempts, based on its situational awareness.  The number on the card indicates the activating miniature's aggressiveness, with face cards using the default aggressiveness declared at game start.  Roll all five dice, the 3d6 and 2d10 together.  Treat the aggressiveness number on the card (we'll call it X here) as the beginning of the following sentence: "X+ rolled on a d10 results in the discard of the matching color d6".  Remove the appropriate dice from the table and then compare any remaining d6s against the unit's Quality, as per normal SBH.  So the higher the aggressiveness of the figure (as dictated by the card), the more likely all three dice will be used in an activation attempt.  Repeat the process with the next miniature, either on the same side or opposing side depending on turnovers, placing markers to record which models have attempted activation.  The turn ends when all miniatures have rolled for activation, but the card deck is not reshuffled (see below).

The first Joker draw results in all three d6 being rolled for activation, but initiative is not turned over, regardless of the number of failures.  Set this Joker aside from the normal discard pile as a reminder.  A second Joker draw results in an immediate end of the turn and reshuffling of the card deck.  So, first Joker: good; second Joker: bad.

If SBH, Mutants and Deathray Guns or Flying Lead players out there have any interest in my solitaire variant, please try it out and let me know how it works.    

15 December 2012

30,794 Views and a Liebster!

...well, maybe not a major award, but I still feel honored that JF over at Solo Nexus nominated my blog as a Liebster Blog.  If you're unfamiliar, it's an initiative to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers.  This blog, with only 37 followers, certainly qualifies.  And if 30794 page views seems like a weird number to celebrate, I figure since maybe 10% to 15% of my hits come from Russian spambots, I don't really know when I hit a true milestone anyways.  Sposibo comrades.

So the rules for the Liebster Award are as follows: I display the award here and provide a link to the blog which nominated me.  Then I nominate five blogs which I enjoy, all of which have less than 200 followers.  JF's Solo Nexus is my go-to site for ideas on solo-gaming, but since he nominated me it frees me up to highlight another cool blog.  Here are my five (which possibly may already have been nominated since they rock):

Super Galactic Dreadnought - The blog that inspired me to start my own blog.  Desert Scribe's passion for space battle games rivals any I've seen and it shows in the attention to detail on his blog.

M C Monkey Dew's Miniature Games - Although sparse in posts recently, his miniature painting and especially his scenarios are inspiring.

Save Vs. Dragon - His devotion to the d30 may be his hallmark, but I appreciate his quality pen and ink drawings which he cranks out at amazing speeds.

The Warlock's Home Brew - A beautiful looking blog with 199 followers, so it's still eligible.  A lot of great play-aids found here, as well as great roleplaying ideas in general.

Platoon Forward - Before I ran across Joe's posts on TMP, I didn't even know solo-gaming existed.

Please check these blogs out; and thanks again to JF for the kind words and nomination.

03 December 2012

Dead CCG Solitaire: The Galactic Empires Five Booster Challenge

I knocked out a quick little solitaire rules variant for the old Galactic Empires collectable card game; the three-page rules sheet resides on my Downloads page.

The basic premise is that the solo player starts with one ship and a playing area of 64 cards, representing different coordinates in the sector being explored.  Most of the cards start face-down, with the object of the game being to move one's ship around exploring, flipping up these cards in the process.  Some may end up being terrain, which will give more resources to power additional ships, which are also hidden face-down.  Of course, many of the face-down cards represent the dangers of space, like Hazard and Monster cards.  And even worse, ships from other empires randomly roam the playing area, and may destroy the solo player's valuable terrain, his ships or his Sector HQ, resulting in a player loss.

I have yet to play test this, but already have a few ideas to make it smoother by using additional boosters.

If you have a few old GE boosters lying around (boxes are plentiful on eBay), give it a try.

01 December 2012

DIY Missiles for Space Battle Gaming

The price for being unpainted...missile death
I spent some of the day making missile stands for my newest spaceship miniatures game, Able Spaceman.  In principle they are super simple to make, but in between chores and other weekend pursuits it took a little time.

Basically I took a round toothpick and used a wood rasp to file a flat part on one side, a few millimeters in length and maybe 10mm from one end.  I then cut just past the flat portion, forming the main missile body.

Next I poked a hole in the flat end of the missile body using a needle, then used my hobby knife to excavate the hole a little.  I cut the other tip off the same toothpick, dipped it in CA glue and jammed it in the hole on the back of the missile body, forming the exhaust nozzle.

I cut a small rhombus out of scrap polystyrene to form the fins and their associated wing box (I know there's no need for fins in space; call them radiators or antennae or something...).  I mounted this with CA glue directly on top of the flight stand which was already attached to the base (a washer).  I then added a dab of CA glue on top of the fins and pushed the missile body down on it, the flat portion resting neatly on the platform made by the fins.  Some basic coats of paint finished it up.  I think I'll add some red markings on the fins to jazz them up, but overall I'm very happy.

Missiles are fire-and-forget in my new rules and the custom base shown in the picture above facilitates that.  The speed track shows the current speed, which is marked off after the missile moves, allowing players to keep track of fuel as well.  After marking off the "6", the missile runs out of fuel and is eliminated.  The big empty space after the speed track is where the target ship's name is written, eliminating the need for tracking on any paper "ships system display" or similar sheets.  Finally, there's a space for the Lock-On quality of the missile's guidance when launched.  The player must fly the missile to the target and the Lock-On quality influences certain dice rolls required for the seeking weapon to successfully maneuver.  Clear plastic covers the missile stand base, allowing me to write all this information down with a permanent marker during play, cleaning it later with alcohol for future use.