Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cold Steam Empires - Flight stands


This is the third in a series for crafting assets for the VSF genre.  In this particular post I will show how I crafted flight stands. These flight stands prop my "aeronef" (flying battleship) proxies above the field of battle to provide an illusion that they are hovering upon the table.


Here's what you'll need.
  1. Hot glue gun with hot glue gun sticks. Maybe a dozen or two.
  2. Zinc washers 1.25-inch
  3. Zinc washers 0.625-inch
  4. Neodymium (rare earth) magnets 10mm. You can order a variety from here:
  5. Wood blocks with pre-drilled holes. These can also be beadery blocks. The holes are for the dowels.
  6. Dowels. These must fit the holes.
  7. Snap-lock fastener bushings.
  8. Bird-nose pliers for clipping stuff.
Ignore the coasters at the left and the woodsies disc near the middle; those are for the cloud stands. =) The package with the black label contains pre-drilled blocks with holes and comes with dowels that fit loosely into those holes.  The zinc discs are to be used as weight bases, and the snap-lock fasteners at the right are to mount the magnets.

The first step is to glue the blocks to the zinc discs using the hot-glue gun. These ones shown are recycled from an earlier project, that's why they are painted black. Anyways; notice that I draw the glue around the base in random directions for texture.

Here I have about 24 bases for my flight stands. You can see how the block with the dowel shows the loose fit. Let's correct that.

To make the dowels fit more snug, just add some hot glue. Create a puddle with the hot glue and dip the dowel and rotate its tip. Here at the top is untreated, and the bottom one is with the glue.

Make enough for your needs. These dowels are 3-inches long, but you'll probably want to vary them. The idea is to have the dowels be exchangeable; they'll not be permanently glued into the holes in the blocks.

Here's all of the dowels fitted into their blocks. Again, these dowels are removable. My thinking is that maybe in some situations I want things to be higher or lower to the table.

Taking my bird-nose pliers, I crop all of the dowels to about 1.5-inches or maybe a little longer. It's not a precision cut because it will be masked later by the snap-lock fasteners.

OK. Here are the rare-earth magnets. I got these from my local Home Depot hardware store. These particular ones have a hole at their centers which nicely fit the the dowels. Make sure you neodymium magnets instead of the cheaper black "refrigerator" magnets you may normally find at a craft shop or convenience store because those don't really have a strong magnetic field.

The neodymium magnets are very strong. I have to separate them from all magnetic surfaces or else they'll jump together. Here I use my mat-knife to slice one single disc from that tower of magnets near the top of this image.

Here's what the bushing looks like upon the magnet. Notice that the fastener has a hole.

Add hot-glue into the inside of the bushing and push the dowel through. Add the magnet to the end. Because these particular magnets have a hole, I just make it flush to the end.

You can see here that I have enough for a small squadron. All that remains is to spray paint them.

Here's one of the flight stands nearly complete. It could do with some dry brushing to bring out some details. At the right is the reverse side of my proxy figurine. I glued the smaller 5/8-inch washer to the bottom. I imagine that if I were to use a real VSF sky battleship figurine that I'd need to do something similar.

This from later in the week. Time to get painting; I'll be doing some dry-brushing.

Pick a nice blue and pick up some paint. Lay it solely at the base using the flat-side of the brush so as to allow some of the lighter blue color between the glued texture to peek through.

Here's what they look like with the coat of blue laid down.

When the blue paint is dry to the touch, find some white paint. What happens next is that I do some "dry-brushing" by take a minimal amount of white paint and use the flat-side of the brush again. This time I pull the white from the box towards to lip of the base. I also dry-brush the edges of the box ... I dunno why. Looks good to me. =)

Here's what everything looks like when finished and against a dark background.

And here is my aeronef on its flight stand! Ta Da!

Here's the pay-off. This is a close-in view. I actually have a total of 22 clouds upon their stands and two squadrons of 4 aeronefs in play. The missing two are out of frame.  Here is a zoomed-out view of the battlefield.  I really like the combined otherness and familiarity of the setup. This is before I finished the darker paint treatment to the bases of the cloud stands and the flight stands.

Here's the battlefield with all of bases (flight stands and cloud stands) painted with the darker blue. You may notice that I have some of the cloud stands stacked two tall, and that some of the flight stands are taller than the others.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cold Steam Empires - Cloud Stands


In this post, I'll show how I created flight stands for my clouds. I created these clouds for a play-test of Eric Farrington's "Castles in the Sky". The idea of having clouds available as blocking terrain, as a sort of "sky tree" is very interesting to me.


Any how, here's what you'll need:
  1. Hot glue gun with hot glue gun sticks. Maybe a dozen or two.
  2. Primer spray paint. White.
  3. Flat color spray paint. Sky Blue.
  4. Poker chips. Probably white.
  5. Some wood discs, about 1.5-inch across.
  6. Large circular coasters. Mine are 4-inches across and made of cardboard.
  7. 2-inch (plus or minus) PVC pipe connectors, the kind used for building lawn sprinkler systems.
These are my clouds. I built them in the last post.

Glue the PVC connector pipe to the coasters. Ignore that weird thing at the top left, that's for the next post. =)

Poker chips. Cheap plastic version.

Glue the poker chips to the tops of the PVC pipe. Here you might notice that I added texture to the bases of each cloud stand; this will be important later to create the effect of ocean waves.

After spray painting the stands in white primer base coat followed by a blue main coast, all of the cloud stands are done. Here's what the clouds look like upon their stands.

And here's what they look like upon the battlefield at this stage.  My yellowish lighting in my dining room washes out the colors. The clouds are not glued to the stands and merely sit squarely upon the poker-chip bases. This is a good place to stop, but I'll go a little further with the painting (below).

Here's my current inventory. Bunches of cloud stands. I'll be adding more paint.

I draw using the flat of a wide paint brush my blue across the base. I try to draw the paint from the center to the edges of the base. I'll also trim the edges of the base with blue.

Here's a bunch of the bases with blue paint against them all drying.

Once the blue paint dries, I dry-brush white using the flat of the brush across the blue. The white picks up the high areas of the texture bumps which I created earlier when I place the hot-glue gun glue. Looks like waves! I also trim the edge of the base to add a nice white line.

Here's most of the cloud stands finished.

All of the cloud stands are finished now. I've got enough variety in sizes that I can stack some of them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cold Steam Empires - Some Clouds


And here's where I show what I've been up to.

Recently I joined a small forum for game designers at Delta Vector so that I can get and give feedback on various game designs. The games presented in the forum cover a number of topics in regards to game mechanics and also cover a multitude of genres. One of the game genres is "aeronefs" where World War I is fought with flying battleships. This is a subset of VSF or "Victorian Sci-fi".

VSF is of interest to me because I've been working on the genre document for MEST 2.0 and also I've been trying out the strategic campaign design.  So why not also cover a board game dealing with flying battleships while I'm at it? Since I've already got Cold Steam Empires as a work-in-progress, I thought this would be a great way to establish a more solid understanding of how that board game should be designed.

And so now, as I've been working on getting proper assets into place; I've got some pictures for my progress on building clouds for these sorts of VSF battlefields.


Here's my progress. Stuff you'll need:

  1. Hot glue gun with hot glue gun sticks. Maybe a dozen or two.
  2. Poker chips. White. Maybe a dozen.
  3. Bags of cotton balls. Probably 2 to 4 bags.
  4. Maybe some white cardboard. I use cold pressed board.
  5. Maybe some old DVD or CDs. These are 5.25-inch in diameter. White label them.
  6. Matt knife. For desperation.
  7. Scissors. Yep.

Most of my supplies and tools.

Drawing out weird shapes. Note; try to limit concave shapes as they are hard to cut.

Cutting stuff out.

Gluing cotton balls.

Crumple a piece of white paper for the CD/DVDs in order to fill out some of the volume.

Glue down the crumpled paper and start filling in the gaps with cotton balls.

Here's what the 5-inch disc looks like now with everything in place. Also, the cloud at the top left is made by gluing the cotton balls atop a crescent-shaped piece of white cardboard.

My pretty pretty battlefield with just some clouds. The smaller clouds are upon the poker chips. The larger are upon the cardboard.

Next Time
In my next post I'll show you how I created stands for these clouds.

Monday, December 5, 2016

More about the Zombie Apocalypse


Here's more information on the Survival Horror genre document.  See the earlier blog post regarding
the campaign structure for more information on how this stuff fits in.

Mutant Zombies

There's a lot of freedom here because there are lots of zombie tropes to pull from. This is the initial list which I'm sure will change once I get more into the design of the setting. The basic concept is that beyond the Shambler, Walker, and Runner, there are more advanced zombie types to be discovered once the campaign progresses and the Survivors begin to encounter the weaponized military zombies.

Zombie Archetypes

Each of the zombie archetypes are meant to have variants so there could be a Superior King Zombie or a Great Exploder Zombie.

Shambler  0   =   0   =   4   1   1   2   3  [Shamble]. Fear.
Walker    1   =   0   =   4   1   1   2   3  Fear.
Runner    1   =   1   -   5   2   1   3   3  Sprint.Evasive. Fear 2.
Doggy     1   =   2   =   4   1   1   3   2  Sprint 2. Detect. Bite. Chase. Fear 2.
Tank      2   =   0   =   4   4   3   2   4  [Shamble]. Claws. Fear 2.
Spitter   0   1   2   =   4   1   1   3   3  Spit. Detect. Fear 3.
King      2   =   3   0   7   3   3   3   3  Tactics. Bite. Claws. Transfix 5.
Witch     3   =   2   0   6   2   2   4   2  Shriek 2. Bite. Chase. Transfix 3.
Exploder  0   =   0   =   4   2   4   2   4  [Shamble]. Bomb 2.

Specific Zombie Traits
All of these are fairly rough and need more play-testing. These particular ones are specific to each zombie archetype:
  • [Shamble]. See [Slow!] May not use Agility.
  • Bomb X. Spend 1 AP. Remove this model and perform Range Combat Attack from its location. AoE 2+X Impact 3+X. Damage X+XW
  • Poison X. Upon successful Hit Test, roll X Modifier dice; the target receives a Poison token for each success.  Each Poison token will cause a “Hindrance” penalty which is -1 Modifier die for every Test the character performs, except for the Damage Test. At the start of a character’s Initiative if it is Poisoned, count the number of Poisoned tokens upon it.  It must perform an Unopposed FOR Test at -1 Base die per Poison token. Upon fail, it receives a Delay token as Stun for each pair of '1' generated.
  • Shriek X.  See [Noisy X] Spend 1 AP to generate Noise; free of cost if within Cohesion of target.
  • Spit X.  See Poison. Spend 1 AP to perform a -1 Modifier die Range Combat Attack.  Impact X. Damage X+1 Poison Damage.
  • Transfix X. See Fear X. For every Fear token target receives by this character, it also receives 1 Delay token if it is in base-contact with this model. Targets not in base-contact receive 1 Delay token per 2 Fear tokens instead.
General Zombie Traits
All of these are fairly rough and need more play-testing. All zombies will have the Mob and Horror traits assigned to them by default;
  • AI:Zombie. Uses the Zombie AI rules.
  • Horror. See Fear. This model has total Fear equal to its Fear level plus 1, 2, 3, or 4 if it has at least 1, 2, 4, or 8 models with the Horror trait within Cohesion.

Zombie AI

Zombies have poor vision and rely upon a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. They otherwise are mindless and with very poor reflexes and fighting capabilities.

Here's the Zombie AI sequence for zombies with less than zero INT:
  1. Zombies must move as part of a Group Action if possible.
  2. Zombie facing is important but only to help track current direction of movement.  Zombies when first encountered as a result of a trigger will all face the same direction towards the source of a noise trigger.  Zombies that have been surprised face in various directions. 
  3. When a zombie is moved, it will continue in the direction of its current facing until it bumps into a wall.  Zombies can move through each other if facing the same general direction, otherwise they'll stop.  Zombies which bump into a wall will reface using Biased Scatter away from the wall.
  4. Whenever a Firearm or [Noisy] trait is triggered, any Free zombies will immediately reposition MOV x 1” towards the source of the trigger.  Identify such trigger locations with a Trigger marker which is to be removed as soon as it is within 4” of a zombie.  If a Trigger marker is placed, any previous Trigger markers that are not within 4” of a zombie is removed on a D6=4+.
  5. Unless Zombies are within 4” of an Opposing model they will continue their current direction of movement towards the last Trigger marker.
  6. If Wind rules are used; being within Wind Factor x 4” downwind of a zombie allows that zombie to behave as though it were an intelligent model when activated it can move directly towards any Opposing model.

Resource Management

Players are expected to manage their Assembly Roster as well as their Resource Inventory.

Resource Inventory

A key feature of survival genres is resource management. Players must make hard decisions on acquiring, keeping, consuming, and trading resources. There are some really technical ways of doing this and many computer games handle this stuff very well to a great level of detail. MEST is a boardgame with some narrative aspects, and doesn't want to be a role-playing game, and so it won't do thing with the crunchy details. What it will do is a trade-off between verisimilitude and playability.

Types of Resources
Most of the resource types will not be a concern for management until the later campaigns by which time the player Assemblies presumably have grown into the dozens and the Interim Time has increased into Weeks or Months.
  • Ammo. Lack increases Out-of-Ammo results to 1-2 on each ROF die. A surplus is akin to Ammo trait.
  • Food. Lack forces characters to use Initiative Points to perform Push.
  • Hygiene.  I think this will make things interesting and will affect the rate dysentery and infection for Post-mortem checks. 
  • Medicine. Lack and surplus alters the Post-mortem die rolls.
  • Rarities. These luxury items have an appeal to certain types of characters that will be encountered. If found upon the battlefield, these behave as caches and will Trigger certain Behavior Profiles.
  • Tools. Heavy stuff, but not cumbersome. This affects die rolls to fix equipment, vehicles, weapons.
  • Water. This should always be in short supply and is a burden to transport. There's always the tap water ... do you trust it? A lack forces characters to receive the [Slow] trait. Severe lack will affect Post-mortem die rolls involving surgery.
  • Weapons, Armor, Equipment.  MEST is a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) system. So this won't be so bad. Weapons and Armor will be by their type; Light/Medium/Heavy Armor and Melee/Thrown/Firearms. Other things will be named and need to be tracked such as "The Cure" or "Passcard".
Rate of Consumption
All resources are rated in person-weeks or as bonus ratings if they are such things as Rarities or Tools. A lack is below half that rate, and a surplus exists at double that rate.

Transporting Resources
The Physicality of a character is the higher of a character's STR and SIZ. How much can be transported is equal to a character's Physicality.

Assembly Management

Another critical feature to convey the sense of scarcity, turmoil, and despair is character management. During the course of the campaign arc, the Survivor player will get to decide who gets to live, to die, or to become zombie bait.

Assembly Rosters

Each character will be named and tracked across several Missions, and have the potential to grow between Missions as they earn Experience Points [ XP ]. However, because the Interim Time is very small, and the likely-hood of death (erm, "Elimination") is very high; a lightweight Champion Roster is used instead of the Champion Record Sheet. Players can always opt to use the latter if necessary and will probably do so once the last leg of the campaign arc is begun.

During the course of the campaign other survivors will be encountered. Each will be a Variant Common Archetype and will be assigned a Behavior Profile keyword (see below) and a Role keyword. After the encounter or the mission is resolved, Survivor players will be given the opportunity to recruit new members into their Assemblies.

Some would serve as mules to carry resources, and others would be recruited because they'd bring in new skills or have keyword terms associated with them which might help in later Missions. For example, a keyword could be Military Scientist which would unlock a door in a later mission into a military research facility. Another keyword could be Los Lobos which provide a negotiation bonus when trying to get past a "Los Lobos" gang-controlled board area in yet a different mission.

Behavior Profiles

Whenever a survivor character is first encountered, it will be identified with a Good, Neutral, or Bad keyword indicating a sense of its general behavior during game play.  There actually are specific Behavior keywords for these characters, but they'll not be known until the characters is triggered (see below).

These behaviors should create interesting emergent game-play. On the one hand it makes things interesting, and on the other hand the will players lose a little bit of control. 

At some point during game--play while deployed to a Mission, or during a Post-mortem after a Mission is resolved, something will cause a trigger and characters will then express a specific Behavior keyword. These new keywords are assigned at random and certain Roles will have a higher occurrence of certain Behaviors over others.

Good Behaviors
Characters with these keywords tend to benefit the group as a whole.
  1. Enthusiastic - Provides bonuses to Post-mortem checks if had been deployed to Mission.
  2. Clerical - Provides bonuses to Supplies check. Specifically negates Sociopath.
  3. Wise - Negates two Bad Behavior keywords during Post-mortem.
  4. Friendly - Negates two Bad Behavior keywords during Mission when also deployed.
  5. Endearing - Trigger any Protective behavior if they are within Visibility. Bonus to Exploration checks.
  6. Protective - Rush nearest Zombie (if present) or move to base-contact with Endearing. Bonus to Exploration checks.
Neutral Behaviors
Characters with these keywords tend to not do anything more than what is stated.
  1. Talkative - Noise is generated. 
  2. Hunter - Attempt to be nearest in position to attack nearest Zombie from a safe or ideal location.
  3. Hoarder - If Alone** with cache, exit the board with contents.
  4. Drifter - If Alone**, exit the board.
  5. Suicidal - Rush nearest Zombie if Alone**
  6. Clueless - Must always be deployed within Cohesion of non-Whiner.
Bad Behaviors
Characters with these keywords will affect Group Morale and will also affect Post-mortem checks. 
  1. Coward - If Threatened*, Disengage if necessary and move towards nearest Cover.
  2. Shrieker - If Threatened*, behave as though with [Loud] disability. Acquire Fear token if Ordered.
  3. Killer - If Alone** with another model, attack it immediately.
  4. Sociopath - Prone to destroy Supplies or banish another member for reasons.
  5. Argumentative - Whenever within Cohesion of a Friendly model and while neither is Threatened*, check to see if they'll become either Talkative or Killer.
  6. Sycophant - When deployed, will cause -1 Modifier Initiative Test.
  * Threatened is if zombies are within 1 Turn of combat (normally a 4 MU movement).  
** Alone is when no other friendly models within Visibility and LOS.

Behavior Board
This is where all players list their characters which have Behavior Profiles assigned to them as a reminder.  
  1. When a behavior is triggered place a token for that character on it as a reminder.  
  2. Characters with multiple triggers place one token for a randomly selected behavior.  
  3. Remove tokens from the board if the conditions for concluding the behavior are met or when the character is not In-Play.

Group Morale

This starts at 10 which is the highest value, and will drop as supplies run short and as Members of the Assembly are Eliminated. At the start of each Mission a die roll is performed against the Group Morale and if the check fails, the Assembly will experience one or more levels of Dread during the Mission. Dread will cause Morale Tests and Initiative Tests for the Assembly to become penalized with -1 Modifier die each level.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Musings on Serial Campaigns during the Zombie Apocalypse


This is a concept inspired by a conversation with a friend quite some time ago. It's still in the ideation phase.

The idea is to have a campaign structure that would enable pick-up games and introduce certain thematic concepts such as resource management. This becomes the basis for Serial Campaign game structures, of which Exploration Campaigns are a sub-type.

This campaign structure can be adapted to any setting that can benefit negotiating terrain and making decisions about growing a troupe [ Assembly ] and hoarding equipment. So, it should fit pretty well with the Survival Horror genre.

Zombies are ever popular and they are a perfect fit for this genre. A zombie apocalypse is the typical implementation of what will be described here. The working title, using our naming standard, is currently "Of Zombie Hordes and Riot Gear".


The genre's default setting is a hybrid of Dawn of the Dead plus 28 Days Later plus Resident Evil. Basically the campaign should have a long-term arc with some aggressive zombies, and some crazy military sci-fi aspects.

Each game session is played across battlefield which is at least two or three board lengths each 48 x 48 MU. The idea here is that the players control Assemblies of Survivors and these are always migrating. Within the campaign, they'll be migrating from city to city looking for supplies, recruits, and in general trying to locate a safer place to finally put up a sheltered enclave to retire. In game terms, each city becomes a short campaign within a larger arc of several campaigns which then lead to a grand finale battle.

More Detail
The setting has a small campaign arc with 4 campaigns each being of variable length. These campaigns end when a specific Mission within each is completed to success.
  1. First Week. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 day. 5-8 Missions. Most of the action takes place within a single City and the idea is to get to safety. The Survivors will encounter standard Zombies, Militia, Law Enforcement, Opportunists, Military, Stragglers, Thugs and a few other types. 
  2. First Month. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 Week. 3-5 Missions. The Survivors have established a base of operations in a township near their starting city. Here they'll start making forays for supplies and then start encountering modified Zombies and augmented Military.
  3. First Quarter. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 Months. 2-4 Missions. The Survivors have learned of a military base along the coast that has been recruiting survivors and has promised food, shelter, and medicine. On the way through the wilderness they'll encounter Militia and Opportunists. Zombies are a rare sight but quite different and frightening.
  4. First Year. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 3 Months. 3-5 Missions. The Survivors have a credible network of contacts up and down the coast. Missions will be fought between hordes of controlled Zombies and their Weapons Research Council controllers. The Military will support the WRC, and many ex-Military will have filled the ranks of the local Militia groups.
Risky Decisions
Within each city, what the Survivor player encounters will be driven by needs as well as by chance. Maybe the player decides to go on a supply run for food or ammo, or maybe the player want to take a short-cut to a safe-haven, or maybe go looking for vehicles or recruits.  Going into the deeper parts of the city an Assembly will find more zombies but also more supplies. Go out further into the wilderness, and there will be fewer zombies but also fewer supplies.

City Zone Effects
The City Zone in which a Survivor Assembly finds itself will affect what it may encounter during each Mission.

CZ   Zone            Zombies  Supplies  Recruits  Survivor
1    City              +4        +5       -3         +4
2+   Town              +3        +3       -2         +2
4+   Outskirts         +2        +2       -1         +1
6+   Rural             +1        +0       -1         +0
8+   Wilderness        +0        -3       +0         +0

The chart is fairly rough but the idea is that the chance to encounter Zombies, to find Supplies, and locate Survivors is higher in the City and less in the Wilderness. The inverse is true for Recruits; there's more in the Wilderness and fewer in the City. These would be skewed towards Militia groups and other Survivors.


Geomorphic blueprints for typical layouts are available in the Layout Matrix which assist quick configuration of each board upon the battlefield.  Here's a link to the Layout Matrix which elaborates on what follows below.

So when a board is exited it will be quick to reconfigure a board for the next section. As a player's Assembly leaves one board, it is cleared and reconfigured to show the next layout. The models are then placed again at their owner's friendly edge.

The first 3 City Zones in the Layout Matrix


The most terrain encountered within this genre will be roads, buildings, and trees.  When the Campaign begins, the Survivors are in City Zone 2; the Main City. This zone has mostly buildings and few trees.
  1. Players note their current City Zone somewhere for each Turn of the campaign. 
  2. Then, when a new Mission is started, the Survivor player rolls and scores the successes for 2 Modifier dice, adding 1.  This is how long the Battlefield for the Mission will be; how many boards in length before the Mission ends.
  3. The layout for the board begins with a single die roll; shown in the images above in a black circle.  Layouts are are 2 by 2 sections, each 24 x 24 MU. 
  4. Grove icons show how many Groves to place in that section of the board. The standard is 8 individual trees to a single grove icon.  
  5. If a black rectangle appears; it is a single building. Urban and City City Zones have lots of buildings. The standard here is that 1 Large building is worth 2 Medium buildings or 4 Small buildings. It works both ways. If the layout shows 8 Small buildings; those can be replaced with just 2 Large buildings.
  6. Decorative terrain elements such as non-functional vehicles, billboard signs, and street-lights are optional. They are not necessary for game-play but sure make the game-play area look very nice.


Mechanically, buildings are meant to channel movement of the Survivor Assembly down constricted areas of the battlefield. In additional what a building looks like and what it represents can be different things from Mission to Mission. What does matter is that most buildings should be traversable; at least the bottom floor to allow for the placement of rooms, doors, and perhaps caches and traps. The more buildings there are, the greater the chance for finding supplies or recruits.


To put pressure upon the players, each mission begins during the day and there are 12 hours during Summer of light but 6 hours during Winter.  So the start-time may vary according to the season and can be set by the Survivor player, but defaults to sunrise or 6:00 AM.

In game-time is must also be tracked between the boards of each Mission. Traveling between boards consumes 1 to 6 multiples of 15 minutes depending on foot, on horse-back or bicycle, or if traveling by vehicle.  During game-play it will also be possible to get lost which consumes another 1-3 hours and randomizes the appearance of the next City Zone. All of this presumes the normal behavior during travel is caution.

Days will pass between early Campaigns, and then weeks will pass in the later campaigns. This represents the amount of cunning and safety the Survivor Assembly have gained.  However, during all of this passage of time, supplies will always be a critical factor. Lastly, there will be random events which can occur "off-board" that are intended to randomly benefit or penalize the Survivor Assembly.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Progress on the VSF Campaign Map


Here's the latest design for the Victorian Sci-fi Campaign Map. It has changed somewhat from the last time I showcased it a few years ago.

The Actual Map

Here's what I currently have for the "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" campaign setting.  This is a Region Map type of representation so that positions upon it are of high importance. The area shown is Central Europe

Campaign map for "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" setting within the Cold Steam Empires genre.

Tour of Changes

  1. I moved the year to 1876 because that's the year following historically where lots of machinations in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Serbia started bunches of turmoil. Well, that and, reasons.
  2. There are 10 nations represented, each is a Faction with their own sub-Factions. The nations in order of capabilities, for this early part of the war are; Prussia, Britain, Austria, France, Italy. Then follows the minor powers for this map; Serbia, Belgium, Nederlands, Poland, and then Switzerland. I didn't include Russia or the remainder of the Ottoman Empire, nor Spain for this campaign. Those I think will fit in better with the Network Map campaign type since they're pretty big. I'll draft something up for that later which can cover the expanded war which will also involve the Mars, Moon, and Venus expeditions.
  3. I've matched up the VIPs to the Resource Asset types. For example; Organizer VIPs provide the same benefits as the Recruits Asset, and Merchant VIPs provide the same benefits as the Wealth Asset. This helps me simplify the rules a little and actually gives me more freedom in creating variations upon them so they'll be easier to balance.
  4. I removed the "Negotations" column of the Travel Table. I think that will do better as a rules entry instead of being on the map to clutter it.
  5. I've moved the calendar which had been on the side to a separate play-aide. It will match the layout I presented for the Mythos Network Map. This also allows me to extend the range of dates cleanly without requiring that I print a new map each time.
  6. I added a lot more waypoint nodes on the map. So there's something like 400 positions so that I could have more travel occur across it daily. I'll try another version with fewer locations as well. Maybe I'll just identify the capital cities and the areas around them. There's a balance in there somewhere which causes the campaign go from a way to string battles together to a full-fledged board game.


The PDF in the link above is meant for an 11"x17" US Tabloid format to use as a pin-board. The idea of a pin-board is that the pins will store the state information of the campaign between battles. And the pins allow the players to track movement as well. Of course, such a pin-board will look a lot more impressive as a poster-print issued from a large-format printer. Here's one of my later drafts at 36" x 24" posted near the corner of my den.

36" x 24" test print of VSF Campaign map.

And here's what the game looks like during play-testing. I have Prussia with blue-pins and Britain with red-pins. The map and aides are from an earlier set of print-outs and are mounted upon two layers of foam-core. I'm currently at Turn 2. Across the years I think I've tried this thing about five times and it still needs some work.

Play-test in progress

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musings on Network Campaigns

I've been working on the "Of Cultists and Unspeakable Horrors" genre document which is a setting within the MEST :: Mythos genre. IIRC, it is the first setting that Aggro and myself played using his "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" setting nearly six years ago. That's where I started in this hobby.


Include here is a link to my Google Drive with what I've got thus far for the campaign book. The instructions on page i and page ii identify the basic flow of how to use the campaign book. This post continues from the Character Progression entry from last week.

There are several Campaign structures available to MEST. Each structure type has its advantages and disadvantages and as a result they should be applied according to the genre or setting. For example, the Mythos campaign use the Network Campaign structure. Here are the various structure types. In all the versions, the idea of character progression exists, but it is a feature attached to the campaign rules itself and not core. This means that the campaign rules could be used without the need to use the Champions rules.
  • Free-form Campaigns. This is standard and is what most tabletop skirmish miniatures game resort to; its completely ad hoc. Play a Mission. Play another Mission. No prior Mission affects the current Mission. This is the simplest campaign structure with zero cognitive load; it's a "no-brainer".
  • Exploration Campaigns. This is for the Zombies / Survivalist genre. I'll create another blog entry showing what I've got going thus far and link it back from here. It's really just a bunch of linked Missions like the Free-form Campaigns. But, it will have a layer of instructions for inventory control and time management in order to create tension. A variation of this would be what I'd use for the Dungeon of Death genre book; a bunch of dungeon bashing Missions connected by visits to Ye Olde Shoppe for supplies. Maybe also for Retropocalypse but where it could Vault explorations instead of, like, dungeons. It would be a tribute to the Fallout Shelter game.
  • Influence Campaigns. This is the next in line for complexity. Imagine that a series of Missions as fought in Free-form Campaigns has the additional rule that whichever Faction was the Winner in the prior Mission receives a bonus in the current Mission. That's what Influence is, and the bonus is known as Elan. Influence Campaigns are a bit more varied and use a network graph displaying Locations with Connection lines going between them. Winning at one Location will provide an award at any other Location connected by those lines. 
  • Network Campaigns. This is a step above the Influence Campaigns because it introduces different types of Locations and Connections. Each Location may also identify via icons for Resources, and bonuses for specific Factions which are fighting the Mission there.  Some Locations will have Gates that require that some other Location or icon be fought first. Winning the Mission at the Location awards the Resources which provide long-term benefits. As before, having a Controlled Location will award Elan to be spent at the connected Locations fought. With this arrangement of features, the Influence Campaigns lend to creating a sort of unfolding storyline.
  • Map Campaigns. This is for the Victorian Sci-fi stuff. It is a deeper work-in-progress; trying to simplify. I've been working on this for quite a while now and I think that visually it looks really awesome but the added features though nice make this more of a strategy game. High cognitive load but lots of flexibility. Ideal for regimented play for 2-5 players.

Features of Network Campaigns

As mentioned before, for the Mythos campaign in the "Of Cultists and Unspeakable Horrors" setting, I'm building out the instruction set for Network Campaigns. There are 5 campaigns identified within the campaign book.

The General features of the campaign are as follows:
  1. Each campaign has a variable number of Missions from 3-6 and one that is 5-9. 
  2. The players decide how they'll pursue each Mission within the campaigns. 
  3. Basically the Campaign Attacker (there's an Campaign Initiative phase I don't identify here) picks a Location to Resolve. The Mission is fought at the place.
  4. Except for the first Mission, each Mission has an Interim Period of 0-2 Weeks on the calendar since the last Mission in the Campaign. This is decided by vote from the players.
  5. The Week decides such factors as Moon Phase, Weather, Wind, and Bonuses.
  6. Each Location may have Resources that provide benefits to a player during the resolution of a Mission. Some Resources will unlock Strategic benefits.
  7. Some Locations are Gated; they require that other Locations first become Resolved by fighting a Mission.
  8. Presumably, Champions which acquire Strategic Skills will affect how each Location or each Week provides benefits to a player during game-play.
Campaign Network
Here's what a campaign looks like. This is the first one labeled "The Confrontation at Henley Woods". It allows for 3 to 7 Missions within the campaign.

The Confrontation at Henley Woods. Campaign.

Quick Network Tour
The routine is as follows; actual definitions are within the draft of the document.
  1. At the start of the Campaign Turn, players decide who the Campaign Attacker is by rolling dice. There can be modifiers for this coming from what are known as Campaign Skills, and also from Resources (see below).
  2. The Campaign Attacker then picks a Location - one of the named elements on the diagram above - and decides to have a Mission there. 
  3. The small squares can't be picked yet because they are Dependent Locations which require whatever they are attached to be resolved first.  
  4. It can't be "Bonney Shores" because the red outline prevents it from being accessed until all connected Locations are first resolved.
  5. Therefore it will have to be the Location named "Henley Woods" for now. Once "Henley Woods" is Resolved, the Dependent Locations become available.
  6. Notice the (?) question mark on "Bonney Shores". This means that at least one of the Dependent Locations must first be resolved before access to the "Bonney Shores" location is allowed.
  7. Notice the Faction icons. The players of these Factions will receive a bonus of +1 Elan when fighting a Mission there. Elan does wonderful stuff and I'm still adjusting its flexibility. 
  8. Notice the Resource icons; they are small, black and white. The one shaped like a skull is Lore and the masked one is Totem. The plus-sign is Medical and the yin-yang is Strategy. These provide different kinds of bonuses during the Campaign Turn, during a Mission, and during the Postmortem phase (new for Campaigns; injury, death, rescue).
  9. Notice the Terrain icons. Both "Bonney Shores" and "Henley Woods" have 2 Groves and 1 Rock Formation for every 12" x 12" section of the battlefield. "Bonney Shores" has a shore-line, while "Henley Woods" instead has a causeway; either a road, river, or railroad tracks.
This is a key feature of all of the campaign structures, especially for the Network Campaign types. With all five campaigns resolved, the total duration from start to finish is about 52 weeks or one entire year. 

This here is the start of the year and shows what players may encounter for environment and bonuses during the course of the "The Confrontation at Henley Woods" campaign. This takes place in the 1921 AD in the New England area from January 9th until February 22nd at the latest.

Calendar for "The Confrontation at Henley Woods".

Quick Calendar Tour
The calendar is used as follows; actual definitions are within the draft of the document.
  1. Except for the first Mission of each Campaign, and the last Week of each Campaign; each player secretly votes to have an Interim Time of 0 or 1 Weeks. Votes are revealed and a the total must be 1-2 weeks; any 0 becomes 1 Week.
  2. Players then write in the Mission number at the bottom of the Calendar as a reminder. 
  3. Notice the bottom row labeled "Bonus". You can see some strategy here in picking the Interim Time. The Agency and Amateur factions within this setting may want to pick January 17th or 30th because there are no bonuses here. Where as the Cultists factions may want to pick January 9th or February 7th.
  4. Notice the Moon phases. Each week has one of the phases. This allows Cultist factions to perhaps pick those weeks that have the best chance for Night Missions because many of the Mythos creatures will have the Night-vision trait. Everybody else will need to carry lanterns and torches for lighting.
  5. Notice the Weather. Its Snow for the majority of the weeks in January and February. There some Overcast skies on January 30th and February 15th.
  6. Notice the Wind. This is only critical if Smoke or Gas grenades are used. Really windy with a +3 Wind level on January 9th. It can be seen that February 15th has Mud in effect and +2 Wind. Later in the year, it can be seen on March 16th there is Heavy Fog.

To Do

There's always a lot to do. It takes a lot of effort and lots of time to craft this stuff.
  1. Each Campaign has one Finale Location which identifies a Scenario. These are Mission descriptions specific to the Campaign and should be clever and thematic. I need to write them.
  2. The pages i and ii of the draft document are just summary pages. I'll write the general campaign rules into the Campaign Rules section of the MEST book. Then I'll extract them into the genre book.
  3. I need to spec out Recruitment Lists and finish the Faction rules. Almost ready.