11 November 2015

Spaghetti Spaceships (Ezjobaal Class Strike Cruiser)

I hope to continue playtesting the complete overhaul of my solo tabletop space miniatures game Greater Space Battles.  If the games prove fun, I plan to write up all the changed rules over the holidays.

In anticipation of this playtesting, I've made some more scratch builds using the "assembly-line" method highlighted in a previous post.  The construction features pasta and CA glue as the primary building material with plastic bits added.  Total work time was maybe 3 hours with some Netflix distraction.

I tried a new technique that I am very pleased with…spray paint.  Of course, I've always used gray spray primer but then proceeded to brush-paint with acrylic craft paints.  Painting by brush always left my spaceship miniatures looking terrible.  The uniformity of the spray paint really appeals to me, even though I will dry-brush these to highlight the details.  If it turns out well I'll share those pics too.

Didn't prime the lead ship… it shows

Needs dry-brushing and a painted base

05 November 2015

Create Your Own CCG

My explorations into using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) for gaming has given me more ideas.  Specifically, I realized that VBA can be used to very quickly create a complete deck of virtual cards for a homemade collectible (or as I prefer, customizable) card game (CCG).  Heck, it could be used to create ready-to-print sheets for actual hands-on play.

So to create your own CCG you need a great idea for a game and a solid set of rules.  I can't help you there.  The great thing about this technique however is that if your rules need adjustment, you can recreate an entirely new virtual deck with a single click.

Assuming you have your game and rules, now you need some artwork.  Nope, can't help you there either.

Alright, now that you have your rules and art, we can talk about how to make your own virtual (or real) CCG.

Enter all of the card information in an Excel Spreadsheet.  Ensure that one column of information designates the card-type of each individual card.  Here's an example of a post-apocalyptic Gamma World-type game I'm working on.

Cards can be changed at whim

The next thing to do is create card templates using Shapes.  You can do this directly in the Excel workbook.  Use Shapes instead of Text Boxes to position the writing on the cards.  Ensure that you name each individual Shape.  For example, in the picture below the template on the far left is named "Ruin Template" as it corresponds to the "Ruin" card type.  The top silver shape on that card template has its own name "Ruin Field 1", and the text area on the bottom of the card is named "Ruin Field 2".  All the shapes for one card template are grouped under the template name.

Example templates; a real game would have 8+

After one template is made (and all parts named appropriately) for each card type, then a macro is written to make the deck.  I won't bore anyone with the code here but I'll explain the general procedure.

The macro starts at the top of the card list and uses the card type written there to select the "Field" Shapes on the respective template.  The text in the shape is then overwritten with the data from the spreadsheet.  The process is repeated for each text field.  If there is artwork, the macro can get the art from a file, position it on the card template and adjust the order of the template's layers so that the art sits over the background but beneath the text (not shown here).  Next the macro copies the template, with all the current card's information filled in, and pastes it in a different area of the sheet as a picture (.jpg).  The macro names the picture with the name of the card, then pastes a second copy below, shrinks it, and names that pic as "card-name thumbnail".  The macro then loops to the next card on the spreadsheet list and does it all over again.  The template is still a collection of shapes, each of which retains the appropriate name so the same process can be used for the next card.   

It would take hours to type these out…a macro made them in 30 seconds

Once the cards are created any changes required after playtesting can be made right on the spreadsheet. Then, with the click of a button all the cards, with changes, are redrawn.  

Speaking of playtesting, once you have a virtual deck of all your cards, you can write other macros to emulate the actual game environment such as shuffling and dealing.  I've done this already for commercially produced CCGs; see my previous post and downloads page for an example.

07 September 2015

CCG Emulation: On the Edge

I just finished a Play-by-Forum contest of Atlas Games' old On the Edge (OtE) card game over on BoardGameGeek (BGG).  The game got me inspired to continue working on CCG emulation using VBA for Excel.

The file I discuss here is available on my downloads page.  Of course, you'll still need access to OtE cards to get the details of individual cards and play but the file allows quick building of a card deck and a handy way to visualize where the cards are on the board.

OK, so when the file is opened, go to the "Table" sheet and you'll see it indeed looks like a game table. The buttons in the bottom-left corner are active.

At this point you have to option to do an OMNI League (i.e. sealed starter) "purchase.  Click the button that says "OMNI Starter".  Pushing this button starts a macro that gives you 60 cards with the rarity distribution based on an actual OtE Starter Pack.  The macro lets you know when it is done (next pic); it takes about a minute for it to sort through the "cut-sheet" and select the cards.

If you want to thin down your OMNI deck, go to the sheet labeled "Cards".  This sheet was adapted from one which was originally designed for collection management.  You can sort by all manner of traits and other characteristics.  You'll notice that the previous macro populated the "Quantity" column for you.  Filter out the blanks in the quantities column to eliminate cards that are not available (next pic).  Then change the quantities of those that are available to reflect the OMNI deck you want to play.

You can skip the "OMNI Starter" button and go right to the "Cards" sheet in order to build a custom killer deck.  In order to build a deck, you simply type in the third column the number of copies of a particular card that will go into your deck.  So if you want four Resounding Bells in your deck, type "4" in column C next to Resounding Bell.  Note that cards from all expansions are available.

Regardless if you choose to play a sealed starter or make a killer deck, when you are ready to play (quantities filled out) go back to the "Table" sheet.  Press the "Shuffle and Draw 10" button and the program will do just that, drawing rounded rectangle shapes individually labeled with your card names. You move these around the table however you please.  If you need to draw a card, press the "Draw One" button to do so.  When you are out of cards, the program tells you.

When you are done playing, simply hit "reset" and everything is set back to start.  Don't erase any of the card shapes on your own: it will screw up the macros.

That's where the program stands for now.  I will work on it sometime in the future and add "Booster Buys" so you can limit your cards to maybe one Starter and a few boosters from the different expansions.

My ultimate goal is to create a "card summary" area on the table where it will show the Power, Pull, Cost, Special Abilities, Etc. of the selected card.  The macro is super simple to write; the pain is just getting all the Power, Pull, and Cost numbers for each card into the "Card" reference sheet.

21 August 2015

Virtual Gaming with Microsoft Excel

Originally posted over on the Two Hour Wargames Forums:

I have a handful of THW products but except for Friday Night Fights I've never had a chance to play; just too many things going on in life to spare the time to paint figures and make/set-up terrain.

I really wanted to try RRTK however so I started setting up a virtual tabletop on Powerpoint. That stalled when I bought FNG and decided to use Excel instead.

Why use Excel? With a rudimentary knowledge of VBA coding (which is my level...) one can set up macros to help run the game environment. The picture below will help me explain.

Each of the green round tokens and the red PEF triangles represent units and are actually Microsoft Office Shapes. They're easily moved all around the "board". When you click on one and then click the shiny "Select" button it runs a macro. The select macro cross-references the Shape's name to a roster table (on another sheet). This referencing then fills in the unit info, so you have all the figure's stats right in front of you.

Since a figure's status will change, you can click the "Status" button to bring up a list of conditions. Then simply pick from this list and select the new condition (from Carry On to Out of the Fight for example). The status macro will then overwrite the old condition with the new one for the figure on the roster. Since it's captured on the roster, the info is available on future turns.

The dice rolling buttons are self-explanatory. My favorite macro is the ruler function. The player just grabs the black arrow pointer and places it wherever it is needed, adjusting the length appropriately. Then when the "Range" button is pressed, it displays the correct range. The playing area is scaled to represent a 36x48 inch table.

This will never replace actual miniatures for me but it does give a convenient way to explore the rules and play the games. I played five FNG missions in just two hours! Which, by the way, is a great game. 

20 July 2015

Spaghetti Spaceship Assembly-Line

I spent a good deal of time and brainpower trying to replicate individual copies of my spaghetti scratchbuilds using traditional mold and cast methods.  Then I realized I was going about it all wrong.  Why not just create multiple copies simultaneously with meticulous measuring?

I tried it this weekend and am generally pleased with the assembly-line approach.  The ship design itself is just OK.  I like certain aspects about it but I ended up getting lazy and not adding enough detail.  Too many longitudinal lines and not enough lateral ones like the last ship.

Now if I can just figure out how to paint these things.

Pasta and CA glue; sprayed with primer
Raw pasta

Worst paint job ever

20 June 2015

CCG Emulation using Excel VBA

I'm stuck in a hotel room for three weeks on a business trip.  During the week the pace is so busy there's barely any time to think but on the weekend there's nothing to do.  My two options are either killing my brain with TV or trying to learn something.  I chose the latter and decided to teach myself Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), as employed by Microsoft Excel.

Excel and collectable card games (CCGs) go together like peanut-butter and jelly.  CCGs typically contain hundreds of cards each featuring a relatively large amount of information, making the sorting and filtering capabilities of a good spreadsheet program perfect for collection management and deck-building.   I've just started to tackle macro-writing and exploring the rest of VBA for unrelated work efforts; I'm quickly realizing how powerful VBA is.  And what better way to harness the power of Excel VBA than to try to create a CCG Emulator.

The Quest for the Grail CCG from 1995 is one of my favorites, especially since solitaire play is very clean with little changes to the multi-player rules.  QftG therefore seemed like a perfect choice for my experiment.

The project is still a long way from finished but I've made pretty good progress.  So far I've written code that allows the user to do a virtual "buy" of up to a box of 10 Starter packs and up to a box of 36 booster packs.

From there the program sorts the cards into the eight different general types (Combat Tactics, Companions, Domains, Events, Experience, Rewards, Spells, Warriors) that the player builds a deck from.

Once the cards for the deck are selected, the program shuffles not only those cards but all of the available Quest cards.  In Quest for the Grail the Quest cards represent obstacles to be overcome and reside in a separate deck.  The program creates this separate deck for the player.

That's as far as I've got.  Next will be to code the actual turn-by-turn play, which should be fairly easy.  Basically I'll write a new Userform that will pop up and give access to the appropriate number of cards and keep the rest hidden.

Here's a few pictures with explanations of what happens behind the scenes:

The starting page just has one button.  I'll throw some art from the game in the background once I get everything else coded.  When the button is pressed it brings up the next user data-entry form.

This form allows the player to do a virtual buy of Starter and Booster packs.  The cards are randomly generated from the lists on the "Common" "Uncommon" and "Rare" worksheets, with the frequency of the rarity of the cards based on the actual distribution of the real starters and boosters.  The program enters these values in a single column, then assigns the appropriate card type based on a lookup function.  It then sorts the cards and displays them on the next form.

This form has a lot going on.  First the multi-page box on the left features a page for each of the player card-types; each page includes two list boxes.  When the form initializes the right list box on each page is empty.  The left box shows all the available cards of a respective type; once the player chooses a card to add to the deck the chosen cards are moved to the right list.  When the right list of each card type is populated, the player clicks the "Build Your Deck and Shuffle" button and the program does just that.  The other thing this form does is allow a card preview.  If the player selects one (and only one) card in the left list box on the active page and then clicks the "Preview Card" button, the text boxes in the middle and on bottom of the page are populated with the card information.  I plan on scanning my entire card collection and then coding it so that when previewing a card the actual picture will appear in the gray box on the right.

I've a lot more work to do on this, but it's been fun.  Is it more trouble then it's worth?  Yes probably.  It is way easier to just shuffle some real cards and play.  There are a few advantages to VBA emulation however.

CCG emulation through VBA allows a player to virtually "purchase" far more cards than he could ever afford.  Also, it allows the player access to every card in the game.  No more desperately searching for an Ultra-Rare.

The final advantage, which I am most excited about, is that one could use card game emulation through VBA to do play testing of home-brew games before spending a significant amount of time on the playing pieces.  Instead of spending hours and hours laying out the graphics for self-published cards only to find that the game doesn't work, one could use VBA with just the minimal information needed for the game and check the rules.

25 May 2015

Spaghetti Starships WIP Update 25 May 15

I'm continuing to refine my pasta-based technique for spaceship miniatures.  I've learned to turn them out faster as well as discovered some interesting new pasta shapes that look even more artificial.  I've also figured out an easy and consistent basing technique using these little plastic discs found in food packaging.

Out of all the techniques presented on this blog, the spaghetti technique seems to yield ships with the most appropriate appearance of scale.  I've therefore decided to focus my efforts on making fleets of these little guys.  Unfortunately my attempts at making a mold of a previous pasta-vessel failed; since these ships are so inexpensive and easy however, I will just make each one a unique design.

The one thing I'm still working on is painting them.  While gray looks great, I do want some more variation.  I'm continuing to experiment with inks but for my next ship I might follow Desert Scribe's techniques and dry brush over black primer.

Materials: pasta and cotton swab stems

45 mm long

10 May 2015

Happiness is Scratchbuilding (Spaceships)

Work has kept me on the road through all of April, leaving me little time to satisfy my creative urge.  I've barely had time to check other people's blogs, let alone finish the series of posts on my 1/600 solo jet game.

I finally got a weekend with two full days uninterrupted by any trips to or from the airport.  Instead of continuing any of the dozen or so projects I've started but not finished (giant monster sculpt, boxer sculpt, Marvel Super Heroes RPG cards…the list goes on) I went back to the security of the familiar.  I made another scratch build spaceship!

I went back to my roots and made this one out of spaghetti, as well as toothpicks, very thin sheet styrene, and some other materials for the domes.  Unlike any of my old spaghetti ships however, I will not use this one for impression molds.  I like it so much, I plan to make an Alumilite RTV rubber mold of the ship directly and then cast copies in resin.  The pictures here show the master primed; I plan to let it sit for 24 hours to make sure the primer is really dry and an effective barrier between the spaghetti and RTV rubber.

59mm long

Bow is left in picture; stern is right

11 April 2015

Solo 1/600 Jet Combat Pt. 4: Movement

Solo 1/600 Jet Combat Pt. 4: Movement

Movement in my homebrew solo jet game Our Space Age Air Force is pretty straightforward.  The order of movement is NOT the same order as established in the Initiative Phase and used during the Energy Management Phase.  Now that each fighter jet has its Altitude and Speed values determined, the order for actual movement depends on Altitude.

The jet with the lowest Altitude must move first and its entire movement is completed before proceeding to the next lowest fighter.  If two or more jets share the same Altitude value then determine first which table-edge indicates direction to the sun.  The jet farthest "down-sun" i.e. looking into the sun (farthest from the sun table-edge) must go first.  If multiple jets at the same Altitude are equally down-sun or the dogfight is at night, resolve ties with a die roll.

A jet must move a number of hexes equal to its speed value.  Fighter jets normally move into the hex directly off their noses but turns may also be attempted.  To attempt a turn roll 3d6 and discard two of the dice.  The dice discarded depends on the fighter's Maneuverability value (described in the first post).  Low Maneuverability fighters must discard the two dice with the highest scores.  Medium Maneuverability fighters must discard the die with the highest value and the die with the lowest value, leaving only the middle value die.  High Maneuverability fighters discard the two dice with the lowest scores.  The remaining die score, whatever the fighter's maneuverability, is compared to its Speed.  If the die value exceeds the Speed, the jet miniature may be rotated one hex-side (60 degrees) clockwise or counterclockwise.  If the turn roll fails to exceed the jet's Speed, the fighter's nose remains pointing at its initial hex-side.

If a jet pilot chose any Hard Turns during the Energy Management Phase, a bonus is applied directly to the roll.  The magnitude of the bonus may be +1 to +3, depending on just how many dice the solo player decides to sacrifice during the Energy Factor roll (see last post).  Note that this bonus is applied to every turn roll during the respective jet's Movement Phase.

Regardless of whether the turn roll is successful or not, the miniature must be moved forward one hex after each turn attempt.  Therefore a jet only has a number of turn attempts equal to its Speed.  Aerobatic maneuvers provide an exception to this rule allowing jets to turn two or three hex-sides before proceeding forward; aerobatics are covered in a future post.

And that's all there is to the Movement Phase.  The turn rolls may seem like a lot of dice rolling but I've found it leads to suspenseful solo play.

03 April 2015

Solo 1/600 Jet Game Pt. 3: Energy Management

Wow, work has been busy recently, leaving me no time for leisure.  Well, a little but that time goes to the wife, dog, and sculpting.  Subsequently these posts about my solitaire jet game have been lagging.

OK, so after the Initiative order has been determined (see last post), it's time to make decisions that will affect how each fighter uses its potential and kinetic energy.

Starting with the lowest Initiative fighter jet, decide how many Hard Maneuvers it will perform during the later Movement Phase.  The maximum number of Hard Maneuvers is 3, and the minimum is 0.  Three different Hard Maneuvers exist: Hard Turn, Jink, and Aim.  Looking at the unit cards in the first post, notice that there are boxes to check off.  I use this method to remember which Hard Maneuvers were selected.  Also note that there are three boxes labeled "Turn" for the Hard Turn maneuver.  A fighter can only choose to either Jink or not Jink, to Aim or not Aim, but Hard Turn can be selected up to three times with cumulative effects.  Hard Turn reflects the aggressiveness of turning for all banks this game-turn and provides a bonus during the Movement Phase; the number of Hard Turn maneuvers chosen indicates the size of the bonus and not the number of turns that will be performed later.  The Hard Maneuvers limit however is still three total.  Therefore, a jet pilot can choose for example to perform Hard Turn x2 plus Aim, for a total of three maneuvers.  Most of the time however less than three or even no Hard Maneuvers are selected.  Why?  Hard Maneuvers bleed speed, and speed is life.  The Energy Roll takes this into account as well as providing a random factor for solo play.

Once the lowest Initiative fighter decides on its Hard Maneuvers (if any), the solo player then makes an Energy Roll for that aircraft.  The roll consists of anywhere from 3 to 5 six-sided dice.  The "normal" Energy Roll is 5d6, but one die is lost for every Hard Maneuver chosen.  Thus if an aircraft decided to Jink and Hard Turn (x1), it is performing two Hard Maneuvers and gets only 3d6 for its Energy Roll.  After the dice are rolled, two dice are always discarded due to altitude effects.  The two dice discarded due to altitude effects depends on the aircraft's starting Altitude.  If the fighter is at Altitude 1 through 3, the two dice with the lowest scores are discarded.  A fighter at Altitude 4 through 6 discards the highest die and the lowest die.  Finally, a fighter at Altitude 6 through 9 discards the highest two dice.

After discarding dice due to altitude effects, the remaining dice are considered.  For each die with a score above the fighter's Energy Factor (1 through 5), the aircraft Speed is increased by 1.  Speed increases earned via this dice roll reflect a positive change in both kinetic and potential energy; therefore  any Speed increase due to this roll may (temporarily) take the aircraft speed above the aircraft's maximum.

Afterburners: An aircraft using afterburner adds 1 to the value of each die score, increasing the chance for acceleration.  Additionally, the aircraft gains a bonus 1 Speed increase.  For example, an SU-9 at Altitude 4 ignites its afterburner whilst simultaneously using a Hard Turn.  The single Hard Turn results in only 4d6 rolled.  The values are 1, 3, 4, 4.  One "4" and the "1" are discarded due to altitude effects, leaving values of 3 and 4.  Neither of these scores exceed the SU-9's Energy Factor of 4, so normally the Speed increase due to the Energy Roll would be 0.  The afterburner however results in adjusted dice scores of 4 and 5, one of which exceeds the fighter's energy factor.  This, plus the bonus +1 Speed, means the SU-9 is allowed to increase Speed by 2.  Of course this is at the tremendous fuel cost inherent with afterburning engines (more on that later).

After noting any increases in Speed due to the Energy Roll, subtract 1 Speed for drag effects.  No aircraft can ever avoid drag effects.

Next, decide if the fighter is climbing or diving and adjust speed accordingly.  Altitude changes of 1 level result in Speeds decreasing or increasing by 1 for climbs and descents respectively.  Descents of 2 Altitude levels increase Speed by 3, whilst climbs of 2 Altitude levels decrease Speed by 3.  Finally, if and aircraft dives or climbs 3 Altitude levels it gains or loses 6 Speed respectively.

Finally, after setting the fighter's new Altitude level, adjust the Speed downward to the aircraft's maximum if it is currently exceeding the limit.

Any aircraft ending the Energy Management phase with a Speed of 0 has Stalled (later post).

Speed Brakes: Any aircraft may "pop speed brakes".  This allows the solo player to choose NOT to take some or all of the Speed increase due to the energy roll or diving.

Once the new Speed and Altitude of the lowest Initiative fighter are recorded, repeat the entire process for each aircraft, working from low Initiative to High.

13 March 2015

Solo 1/600 Jet Combat: Initiative

Here's Post #2 in a series that introduces my home-brew jet combat tabletop game, designed for solo-play.  The posts will unfortunately come in slowly due to my work commitments.

Airspeed and Altitude:

Altitude and Airspeed are abstracted in OSAAF to ranges from 0 to 9.  As shown in the pictures from this old post, I use home-made polymer cubes to record the current Altitude and Airspeed of each aircraft.  Any aircraft with an Altitude of 0 has crashed and is destroyed; therefore the red cube represents Altitude.  Although the numbers are abstract, I imagine about a speed of 6 represents Mach 1.  Good starting speeds and altitudes are 3 and 3.


After initial set-up is complete and the opposing jets are on the board with Altitude and Airspeed set, it's time to play.  Since it's a solo-game, the very first thing to accomplish on every turn is determining the order of decision-making.  This is not however the order of decision-execution (i.e. moving/shooting), just the order of making certain energy management decisions (how hard will I bank, do I care more about speed or nose-pointing accuracy, etc.)

The aircraft cards I introduced last post were designed to be drawn as chits for initiative.  During play test however I've found simply rolling to determine order works fine.

Once the order is established randomly, then the energy management decisions are made.  It's a simple process but it's the core of the game and I haven't had my coffee yet… so that's for next post.

07 March 2015

Solo Jet 1/600 Wargame: Our Space Age Air Force

A while ago I promised Chris over at Just Another Wargames Blog that I'd share my home-brew rules for solo 1/600 scale jet combat.

Unlike most of my rules, this home-brew system exists not as a nice downloadable document but resides only as scribblings in my notebook.  And also uncharacteristic of my rules, this set really works!  At least for me that is; I've had a lot of fun over my three or four play test experiences.

So eventually I'll write up the game in document, but until then I'll use this blog to introduce pieces at a time.

OUR SPACE AGE AIR FORCE (Solo Wargame for 1/600 scale Jet Combat) Post 1

Materials needed:

  • 1/600 (or other scale) jet miniatures
  • A minimum of 5 six-sided dice
  • A hex mat
  • Aircraft notecards (one per aircraft, details below)
  • Markers for Altitude and Airspeed (I use small polymer clay cubes)

Aircraft Characteristics:

Aircraft designs in Our Space Age Air Force (OSAAF) have only a small number of characteristics.  In addition to Fuel Capacity and weapons load-out, each design features only three other "game mechanic" characteristics: Energy Factor, Maneuverability, and Maximum Speed.

-Energy Factor: Arguably the most important important characteristic is an aircraft design's ability to gain and keep specific excess energy (called Ps "pee sub-ess").  Energy factor is driven not only by engine design, but the overall aerodynamics of the fighter as well.  Five Energy Factor classes exist, in ascending order from 1 (the best) to 5 (the worst).

-Maneuverability: Three Maneuverability classes exist in OSAAF: Low, Medium, and High.  The majority of all fighter aircraft are Medium with only rare examples in the Low and High classes.

-Maximum Speed: Maximum Speed is the highest level flight speed in hexes per turn that a given design may attain.

-Fuel Capacity: Indicates the game turn on which the aircraft must exit the table on a friendly edge or be considered lost.  Fuel Capacity can decrease with afterburner use and is adjusted for all aircraft (non-afterburning and afterburning) with a dice roll for extra drama.

-Weapons Load-out: Indicates not only the type of weapons available, but the number of individual attack rolls that may be made for each type.

Aircraft Notecards:

Each aircraft requires some sort of notecard to record not only the above characteristics, but turn-by-turn decisions.  The pictures below illustrate the cards I use.  Initially these were intended as chits for random Initiative draw, but play test soon revealed that a simple dice roll would suffice for order determination.

The above card shows the SU-9 has an Energy Factor of 4 (circled first number), Medium Maneuverability, and a Maximum Speed of 8 hexes.  It also carries four semi-active radar homing missiles, but no gun.  Next to its Fuel Capacity number it has a number of blank boxes, indicating it has afterburner capability.

The French Mystere above has a similar Energy Factor and Maneuverability, but is slower and lacks afterburner.  While this particular version carries no missiles, it does feature air-to-air rockets.

Note the Fuel Capacity numbers on both cards.  Playtesting revealed these numbers are way too low and I've since doubled their values (not shown here).  Also note the "plus sign" next to the number, which reminds the solo player to roll an additional 2d6 during set-up increasing the fuel further.

The right sides of the above cards feature action tracks.  This is the topic of the next post, where I'll get into actually playing the game.

24 February 2015

Outsourced Custom Space Hex Mat

4' x 4' vinyl; 1.5'' hexes; US$35.00 

If you've read this blog you know I've made a couple of attempts at hand-painting a hex pattern on my DIY space mat.  I'm not admitting to being a quitter, but let's just say I took an extended tactical pause on both of those attempts.

In the meantime I used a custom vinyl banner company to make me a hex mat for 1/600 scale jet combat.  Since that turned out so well, I decided to employ the same company (Build-A-Sign) to make me a space mat.

As before I took an internet image (NASA public domain) and put it in Powerpoint on a custom 48 inch by 48 inch slide.  Powerpoint's built-in shapes allowed me to create the hex overlay; I colored the hexes blue and set the transparency at 85% (I think).  Since the NASA image was humongous, it had enough dpi to survive the blowing up to 4 foot square with minimal blurring.  Unlike my air combat mat which has 1 inch hexes, the hexes here are 1.5 inch each.

What I really like about the mat (besides the $35.00 price tag), is how subdued the hex pattern is.  The pattern shows up much easier in the picture above than in person.  Close-up at the game table the hexes are visible enough to allow game-play, but from across the room the mat looks like an expanse of deep space.

I've retooled my game Greater Space Battles and hope to get some play testing in on this new mat.  If work allows...    

23 February 2015

Hand Carved Spaceships

…Or "Spaceships in my Backyard"

I've always thought spaceships should have curves to them.  The ships that really inspire me are those from the science fiction book cover illustrations of the 70s.  Unfortunately most of the miniature ships I make are blocky, due to the limitations of the construction methods.

All of the bad weather has left a bunch of fallen branches in our yard, including some nice straight tulip poplar pieces.  I've read poplar is good for carving so I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try.

I've certainly not produced a work of art, but I'm strangely drawn to this ship design.  It's spartan in detail, but as I've noted on this blog before, the panel lines my other ships display are totally inappropriate for the scales they supposedly represent.

The true measure of the design will be apparent after I mold the wooden master and cast replicas in pewter or resin.  Obviously in order to make it look like a 300 meter long star-voyaging vessel and not a whittled toy, I'll need to get the surface extremely smooth.  I've used 120 grit sandpaper and got the ship feeling buttery smooth, but the woodgrain is still very apparent, as the picture below shows.  My previous experiments with wood revealed however that three coats of wood glue should make a shiny, plastic-like shell that I can sand down even smoother.

I'm ordering some Alumilite HSIII silicone in order to eventually make those molds.  I've found 10:1 RTV silicone to be temperamental in the cold months however, so while I wait for Spring to come I'll have a little time to carve a squadron or two.

~50mm long

25 January 2015

Spaceship or Spaghetti?

Spaceship or spaghetti?  Depends on your imagination I guess…

03 January 2015

Friday Night Fights Boxer Sculpt WIP Complete

I'm finished with my first boxer for use with Two Hour Wargames' Friday Night Fights game.  Overall I'm happy.  The figure has some definite proportion issues, an unrealistic pose and a lot of surface roughness which, coupled with a brown ink wash makes him look like The Thing (Ben Grimm not John Carpenter).  Still, I can claim I finally finished a project!

In addition to the satisfaction of finally finishing something, I learned a lot from this sculpt.  I am now applying this experience to my next boxer effort, already in progress.  Hopefully I learn from my mistakes and if I'm happy enough with the second fighter I will mold him for future castings.

The first two pictures show the completed figure with shoes and trunks.  I elected not to waste time adding hair.

I made the mistake of priming the boxer gray which forced my to use multiple coats of flesh tone.  While I was painting the flesh I dropped the fighter, breaking off his arms.

I felt sick, but luckily was able to hold the arms in place with CA glue (pic 3) and then get rid of the cracks with Milliput Super-Fine (pic 4).  Unfortunately, the shoulders just don't look the same as they did prior to the break.