Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Star Fleet Battle Manual 3rd Edition Update 1

The past few months have seen progress on the 3rd edition. The ship record sheets compass cards, and the various markers for the game have been completed. Just before Christmas all the updates and changes where sent off in a packet to Lou Zocchi for his input and approval.

Because of copyright restrictions there not be any new ships in the published game, only the original ones: Heavy Cruiser, Destroyer, Scout, Tug, Dreadnought; R-type, K-type, and T-type ships. New records sheets and compass cards will be included for the various Tug configurations: with no cargo pods, one cargo pod, and two cargo pods, and just the cargo pod, as well as the battlepod from the optional rules. The compass cards for the Tug will make it easier to play - the original game had one compass card for all the variations; you placed little cut-outs of the cargo pods on top of it to show the changes. Also a record sheet for the K-type battlecruiser for a R-type ship.

The biggest changes have been with the non-Federation ships. The R-type has been undergoing the biggest changes: slight changes in the record sheet to include impulse engines which match references from the original series and blueprints, (plus it works better in the game), changes to the cloaking device and plasma weapon both for clarification in rules and playability. Changes to the T-type webbing rules, and slight modification to the K-type power totals.

Now comes the real work. Updating the rule book to match 30 years of changes as to how rulebooks read and look. Also the new rules will include lots of photos of play and examples of how the record sheets are filled out, (as per requests from conventions and emails.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Deluxe Liftoff! Game

(Note: Liftoff! is still available from its creator, Fritz Bronner. So please do not ask for my version of it. I own a copy of the original game and just made a deluxe version for my own personal use. No challenge to his copyright was intended.)

As I have said in some of my previous postings one of my favorite part of gaming is making a fancier version of an old game I have. Recently I was able to track down a new copy of the game Liftoff! from its creator, Fritz Bronner. (He still has unopened copies in his possession.) Originally published by Task Force Games  in 1989, it was crying out for an updated look. With its simple paper board, colored card stock playing cards, pad of record sheets, and lack of playing pieces I knew it would be an easy job to bring it into the 21st century of game playing.

Event Cards

I began with the playing cards. The original game use small ones printed on colored card stock with simple line drawings. In this day of home publishing and print-on-demand game design services I decided to go with full-color poker-sized playing cards printed on linen paper. It was fun finding images to illustrate each Event Card. The game is based on many actual historical events so I did my best to track down pictures from those events. In addition to the original cards I also included many of the optional ones I have found throughout the gaming community and a few I designed myself. Several of mine actually make slight changes in the rules by working as interrupt cards that you can hold on for later use: such as "Lighting" which is based on Apollo 12, "The Hatch Just Blew" based on Liberty Bell 7, and "Research Animal" which lets you fly a mission to improve the level of your various rockets, but not risk the penalty of a failed mission - or the glory of a successful one.

Astronaut Cards

Equipment Cards
 The Equipment and Astronaut Cards were easier; there are plenty of images of the actual astronauts and cosmonauts from that time period as well as the various pieces of actual equipment. At this point I have only made a two-player version of the game so I only used American and Soviet pieces. It will be a lot more difficult when I begin making the four-person version.  The cards are color coded by player, and the equipment by category: blue for spacecraft, red for rockets, white for satellites, and black for launch facilities.

Lego Playing pieces
Top row: Docking module, Orbital satellite, Interplanetary satellite, Lunar probe.
Middle: 1-stage, 2-stage, 3-stage, Megarocket, Kicker, Strap-on Boosters
Bottom: 1-person, 2-person, 3-person, 4-person, mini-shuttle, 2-man lander, 1-man lander.
 I wanted to use playing pieces. The original game does not use them, rather you make up your mission using your equipment cards and them moving the stack around the board. At first I thought about just using rocket shaped pawns, then I considered some of the small plastic spacecraft that you can find in tubes at various toys stores. What I really wanted though was to actually configure the piece to show what the mission was - single-stage, lunar module, docking , whatever. I briefly toyed with the idea of designing pieces on Shapeways, but time and money out weighted that thought. Then I remembered Legos. So I designed some basic pieces that could be interchanged and now I have playing pieces.

The board took the most work. When I make my versions of a game I usually like to make it larger - much larger. My standard size is 48"X28" - it is the size of the Plexiglas panel I use to cover it when playing. I also like big for the ease of reading the board. The center of the board is filled with the playing area for moving the pieces to the different mission steps in the Earth/Moon system. The paths are color-coded for Earth orbital, lunar, and interplanetary missions. The circles for each step is large enough to hold the Lego piece base. Several of the steps from the original game have been expanded  from a single space to multiple spaces to make it easier to play, and I added the lunar module test steps from some of the house optional rules. At the top of the board I placed a current safety level track. The original game use record sheets for this. I find using paper and pencil records awkward so I wanted a track that everyone could see at a glance. I used 1" wooden discs for the pieces, with pictures of the actual piece of equipment. The track itself is color-coded with the various starting and stopping numbers for each piece of equipment. To the left of the track is table with all the data that effects each piece - initial cost, bonuses, limits, and the images used on the track pieces. To the right of the track is year record track; I made tiles for each player to use for placing mission declarations. The bottom right corner has the mission steps for each type of mission as well as whether a pilot can make a save at a certain step, and the correct mission orders. The table for budget bonuses, sequence of play, and space for the event cards is also included.

The money that comes with the game is also very basic. I redesigned each denomination to have a portrait of five famous rocket scientist. I also gave them a more modern look than the original bills have.

Mission Manual containing
Advanced Failure charts

Inside of Manual
Finally I had a spiral bound book printed at Lulu modeled after the mission checklists carried aboard the Apollo spacecraft. The first few pages show how to make each Lego piece with the parts available. The majority of the book contains the Advanced Failure Charts. I reset these charts, added color to diferentiate the various sub-rolls for each failure, and added some historical pictures. The charts are much easier to read than the original ones.

So that is it. The entire project was a lot of work, but I think it was well worth it. Hopefully it Mr. Bronner ever decides to reprint Liftoff! it will look something like this.

2-Man Capsule, with a two-
stage rocket and boosters on pad,

3-Man Capsule and 2-Man
Lander on moon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Victory In the Pacific

Many years ago, when I was fairly new to gaming, I received Avalon Hill's Victory In the Pacific for Christmas. It quickly became a favorite with our gaming group. Over the years it still comes out. 

Recently as I was looking for a campaign system for Naval Thunder by Steel Dreadnought games I dug out VIP again. Looking on I was inspired to update the board and pieces since the original look has not aged well.

After redesigning the board (I scanned my original board, then recolored and sized it) I decided to attach fleet areas to each side. Even though the board is much larger than the original (48" X 28" versus 28 X 22) it can get crowded with pieces. So each side has three fleet areas to put groups of ships with corresponding markers.

I also made a battle board to move units to for conducting combat. Around the edge I placed space for putting units at are in the various ports.

The pieces are mounted on 1/8" wooden tiles. The large pieces are 1.25" square, and the smaller ones are 1" square. These are larger than the original, which makes reading them much easier. I found actual silhouettes of the ships and then re-scaled them so that they would all be sized appropriately to each other.

I made several new markers which were not in the original game. A Battle tile to place in the sea area that combat on the battle board is fighting. Resting on the Bottom markers, Night/Day Action tiles to indicate a players choice of battle, and In Port markers to show that ships are being kept on the battle board areas.

The Order of Appearance charts in the original rules can often be difficult to view, so I made colored ones with images of my new markers on them. The first turn sheet for the Allies has a diagram of Pearl Harbor just for fun.

I have been pleased with how it turned out. I makes a classic game even more fun.

You can download the various files here.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Strategy Camp 2012

This past July, I spent a week at Camp Wanake (a United Methodist Church camp near Canton, OH), as the director/counselor for a summer camp program know as Strategy Camp. A full decription of the camp and what happened can be found in my article, What I Did With My Summer Vacation in Knights of the Dinner Table #191.

Basically Startegy Camp is a week long camp for junior and senior high youth. It uses the small group style of camping; a family group of 4 to 8 campers, and one to two counselors, who live in a cabin, eat in the dinning hall, and do all their activities together. During the day we hiked, swam, had Bible study, cooked out some meal, did crafts, a other summer camp activities. From 7PM until around 1AM we played games. That's what made it Strategy Camp.

I was lucky to have five junior high age boys register for the camp. For a new event with age group this number was a good start. Often camps for jr and sr high schoolers are canceled do to lack of interest. I was doubly lucking in the maturity and intelligence of the boys. A camp like this was bound to attract smart kids, but this group was exceptional. They were also very polite and friendly which made playing games with them a lot of fun.

A quick look at the weeks schedule:
Sunday: Arrive at camp. Move into cabins. Group solves gaming knowledge quiz; the answers make gps coordinates for the Geocaching challenge to find their Home-In-the-Woods (the group's area for cookouts, Bible study and other outdoor activities.) Evening games - beginning with A Young Jedi's Guide to Gaming (a guidebook with Star Wars quotes tied to basic game playing.) Great Dalmuti, No Thanks, Formula De.

Monday: Crafts - chainmail dice bags (an ongoing craft for the week), pool party, supper cookout, vespers. Evening games - Cloud 9, TransAmerica, Nuclear Risk.

Tuesday: Crafts - painting miniatures, and chainmail, swim time. Evening games and pizza party - Bosworth, Say Anything, Qwirkle, Roborally, Pandemic.

Wednesday: Breakfast cookout, crafts - making terrain, chainmail, and painting minis. Evening games - Axis & Allies.
Thursday: Sleep in and continental breakfast, swim, crafts and challenge course, supper cookout. Evening games - Dragon Delta, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Rings, Munchkin.

Friday: Clean up cabin, finish crafts, parents program. Go home.

All in all a tiring, but fun week. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Updated Edition of Star Fleet Battle Manual

After almost 20 years Lou Zocchi's Star Fleet Battle Manual will be getting an update. First published in 1972 as the Star Trek Battle Manual (you can imagine how long that title lasted), then reissued in 1977, with an update and revised edition in 1993. Easily confused with the more widely know Star Fleet Battles (which Lou helped to get published), it has a much different feel - instead of playing on hex board you actually move the miniatures and shot by trying to hit the target with your weapons by estimating the angle and then stretching a sting to see if you hit.
I purchased my first copy in 1978 at a Star Trek convention in Cleveland, Ohio (I was in 8th grade and attending my first con). Many a Saturday afternoon was spent chasing Klingon (or K-Type in the game) vessels around the house with my friends.

About 20 years ago I began demoing the game for Lou at various conventions including Origins. Two years ago we had the first Star Fleet Battle Manual tournament. (I was amazed that after all the years the game had been around Lou had never had an official tournament.) Over the years I have made updates to the game: improved star ship logs, and of course the energy allocation/damage boards. Every year I have suggested that Lou update the game - reset the type (it is still in the original hand type format), add graphics, and update the rules to include the changes we have made over the last 20 years.

Finally, Lou has agreed to allow me to bring the game into the 21st century. The biggest obsticale was in dealing with his fears of online pirating. (Lou still refuses to use a computer.). After showing him the sites with pirated copies of his game that are already up, and convincing him that at least if the game is offered on RPGNow or other sites he will make some money, he agreed.

So be looking for a new copy of this old favorite in the next year.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Origins 2012

After taking last year off from running events at Origins I will be back this year. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

The event registration isn't up yet, so I can't post the numbers for my games; but here is my schedule:

Wiz-War 3D: Wednesday, May 30, 1:00 P.M.

Star Fleet Battle Manual: Wednesday, May 30, 4:00 P.M.

Star Fleet Battle Manual: Thursday, May 31, 10:00 A.M.

Temple of the Warriors - Savage Showdown: Saturday, June 2, 2:00 P.M.

Rocketeers To the Rescue - Savage Saturday Night: Saturday, June 2, 8:00 P.M.

Wiz-War 3D is an old favorite, using the classic rules and my deluxe boards. This will be the fourth year I taken this game to Origins.

Star Fleet Battle Manual is Lou Zocchi's original Star Trek miniature game. I've been running this for Lou since 1998. This will be the second time I've used my deluxe boards. Lou is again planning to be at Origins.

Temple of the Warriors is back. Based on the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I ran this three years ago using .45 Adventures system, but I've changed it over to Savage Showdown. I really enjoy the Savage Worlds system and since Pinnacle is so supportive of Origins as compared to Rat Trap Productions (which only does GenCon) I thought it was a nice idea to switch systems.

Rocketeers To the Rescue is my Savage Saturday Night adventure. I don't want to give to much away about the plot, but expect lots of pulp action, and plenty of my ammo counters with lots of brass on the table. Will it involve zeppelins? Most likely. Nazis? Almost certainly. Death traps? Mad scientist? What would a pulp adventure be without them?

Hope to see you there.