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.