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.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Strike Legion Accessory Pack

Battlefield Condition Markers
One of the my favorite parts of gaming is adding extras to a game. Not usually rules, but features that make the game easier to play, or more visually appealing.

I have been playing Strike Legion by Legionnaire Games for the past several years. It has a good solid set of rules for ground combat in a scale that I enjoy. Plus it has plenty of optional rules to customize it to your hearts content.

As you can see in my previous post I play it on a 2D+ battlefield. I have also add a number of extras to my game.

Electronic Warfare Record

One of the first additions I made were the battlefield condition markers. The game does come with these, but they are simply chits that you cut out and place next to a unit. I found these difficult to pick up so I made ones that I could slide into plastic game bases.

The electronic warfare chits can also be awkward to use. I made a sheet of cards that are designed to be printed out on the backside of the unit cards before you cut them out. Now I just record the values of DEW/OEW rather than moving chits around the battlefield with each units. I still place the chits next to the units at times; usually after it has moved and just the defensive number.

To-Hit Wheel

The To-Hit wheel has been a real help. Simply set the dial to the vehicle's signature, increase the number by the targets defensive number and modifiers, and decrease the number by the attacker's offensive number. The window then shows the to-hit numbers needed for different weapon ranges. It is designed to max out.

The Tactical Nuke marker is just for fun. Yes you can purchase acrylic ones, but this looks just as cool on the board and is a lot cheaper.

Tactical Nuke
The action cards are just a quick reference for new players to help them remember their choice of actions.

The file containing all of these can be found here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2D+ Battleboards for Strike Legion

One of my gaming project this past winter was to build a set of modular battleboards to use with Strike Legion by Legionnaire Games. What I wanted was a set of boards similar to the maps I used to play on for Renegade Legion: Centurion by FASA. I originally planned to use these for teaching miniature gaming at the Strategy Camp I ran this past summer, but there wasn't enough time to play it during the week.

The idea was to have boards which gave the feel of miniature terrain, but would be easier to travel with. I wanted something that could be used to teach the use of elevation and cover, but more visually dynamic than just a map.

I used HeavyMetal Map to generate maps based on the Renegade Legion maps. These were excellent in their modular design and size. Each board is 2'X3' and printed without the hexes so they work well for miniatures. They are mounted on 1/4" MDF board for durability and are not to heavy for transport. Each level of elevation was cut out and mounted on an other layer of MDF. The maps are also laminated. The trees are made from model railroad lichen that has been soaked in a glue mixture. These can be moved for placement of miniatures, but add a nice visual effect.

Since I design this terrain with teaching new gamers in mind I use cardboard chits for the units, though I could just as easily use 6mm miniatures. I also made the brewed up markers out of paper (using the explosion markers from the Battle Pack from World Works Games).
To make it easier for the kids I also made a set of action cards so they could remember what actions are available and how they work. Plus cardboard condition markers like overwatch and immobilized.  A To-Hit wheel lets them quickly figure the die roll needed to each target as well as different ranges. And just for the fun of it I made a paper tactical nuke marker.


All in all they turned out well and I hope to use them for next year.

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.
KoDT 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 registar 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 intellegence 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 - begining 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. It is planned for 2013. Contact me if you know any junior thru senior higher who might be interested.

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.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strategy Camp - July 22-27, 2012

Well my gaming summer has begun. Origins was great: all of my events were sold out, which was nice - it's always good to have full games. Thanks to all of you that played in my events, I hope everyone had fun.

Tomorrow I travel up to Hudson, Ohio for AnCon. I'll be running my Temple of the Warriors and Rocketeers to the Rescue. It is the first time that I've attended this convention. We'll see how it goes.

Yesterday I got the news that there are enough campers signed up for Strategy Camp to make it happen, so now I'm busily putting the final touches on the plans for directing/counseling the camp.  What is Strategy Camp you ask? It is a week long summer camp for junior to senior high youth (grades 7 - 12), held at Camp Wanake, near Canton, Ohio.  A typical summer camp by day, but the evenings are a little bit different. (The days of the traditional summer camp that I grew up with are long gone - now each camp has a theme.)

 Camp begins on Sunday afternoon and ends on Friday evening. As a teen camp the day begins between 9:00 and 10:00 A.M. with a brunch, and is filled with a variety of activities including Bible study (Camp Wanake is a United Methodist Church camp) and small group discussions, as well as those chosen by the group. These activities can include:

  • Swimming
  • Hikes, both long and short
  • Canoeing and fishing
  • Cook outs
  • Crafts - (appropriately game themes - chainmail, mini painting, and terrain building.)
  • Climbing—an indoor rock wall, ropes course and a 60’ climbing tower
Camping at Wanake is experienced in small family groups of 10 -12 campers with two counselors. Family groups live, play, study, eat, and pray together, as well as enjoy all their themed experiences. At Strategy Camp campers will sleep in traditional cabins and take most of their meals in the dinning hall. 

So what makes Strategy Camp different from the other summer camps? Games of course. Beginning around 7:00 in the evening, when most of the camp is getting ready for bed, the group will gather in the retreat center for four or five hours of gaming. And snacks!

Strategy games, family games, party games, card games, Eurogames, and conflict games. From the speed and craziness of Fluxx, to a week-long session of Advanced Civilization and everything in between. Are you a master strategist at Axis & Allies? Undefeated in Settlers of Catan? How are you at Munchkin or Apples To Apples? Ever tried Ticket To Ride or Lord of the Rings? We will have something for everyone so come and learn a new game. Or bring your favorite game from home to share.

Plus we will have classes and discussions on game play, strategy and even miniature painting and scenery construction. 
I am excited that this camp will be happening. It is always questionalble whether a teen camp will have draw enough interest to occur - this age group has so many other ways they can spend their summer (jobs, sports camps, band) that we often need to cancel them do to lack of attendance.
There is still spots available if you, or a youth you know is interested. The dates ar July 22-27, 2012 at Camp Wanake, Beach City, Ohio. The Cost is $319, and the event #30745. More information about the camp with registration link can be found at Camp Wanke. A flyer for the camp is also available at my website.

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.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Colonial Battlefleet - Oversized Ships:Part 2

After the formulas for the ship designs had been decoded it was time to start actually start making the ships. Since I only wanted to make larger ships than were possible in the game system and not actually change the rules (yes, I know making really large ships does change the rules, but I mean "really" change the rules), I stayed with a few key points.

First I would limit armor to a factor of 10. The weapons in the game are not designed to work against armor higher than that so going above 10 would make for unbeatable ships. Second, the number of hard points would remain limited to six. This is a key game design and would really harm play. Of course the number of weapons possible at a hard point would still increase as the ship size increases.

So here are my first two designs for over sized ships: the Kronos Titanstar, and the Pandemonium Super Heavy Battlestar.

Kronos: Role = Defender, Size = 7, Mass = 1769, Hull = 146, Delta = 1, FC = 3, P Def = 5, Armor = 10, Sec Frc = 14, Flak Batteries = 7, HP1: Heavy Railguns (6) F/P/S, HP2: Bombardment Missiles (6) Ammo=12, HP3: Railgun (4) F/P/A, HP4: Leopard MK3 (7), HP5: Railgun (4) F/S/A, HP6: Leopard MK3 (7)

Pandemonium: Role = Battlecarrier, Size = 6, Mass = 1277, Hull = 113, Delta = 1, FC = 4, P Def = 3, Sec Frc = 12, Flak Batteries = 6, HP1: Railgun (6) F, HP2: Mag Cannon (4) S, HP3: Mag Cannon (4) P, HP4: Leopard MK3 (6), HP5: Leopard MK3 (6), HP6: Tiger Gunship (6)

Thanks to Hanger 18 for making such fun minis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Colonial Battlefleet - Oversized Ships: Part 1

As you can see from some of my previous posts I really enjoy the Colonial Battlefleet rules by Steel Dreadnought Games; especially the Man Versus Machine expansion. The only problem I have with it is the ceiling on ship designs.

It isn't really a problem. The game is designed to prevent unbalance designs and play, as well as the power creep that happens in many game systems. The difficulty is purely one of aesthetics - as I have been collecting ships for my fleet I have been purchasing larger and large models. The Titanstars and super heavy battlestars look really cool. Now I could simply stay within the game rules and design my ships to fit the system, but it just doesn't look right.

The design for the Galactica has a game mass of 723/1000, a hull size of 85/100 and is size 4. The design for the Pegasus has a game mass of 884/1000, a hull size of 94/100 and is a size 5. These work perfectly fine. They are great designs. But look at the image of Hanger 18's Titanstar Kronus in comparison; the Galactica is only slightly longer than the Kronus' hanger bay. If I stay withing the design limits of the game it can have a maximum mass of 1000, a hull of 100 and a size 5.

True, these large ships are certainly not cannon to the Battlestar Galactica universe, and might even break the spirit of that universe. But science fiction gamers have never been able to resist really big ships - and just look at what is out there in fan fiction and the minis being made by Ravenstar and Hanger 18 to name a few.
When I began collecting my fleet I wanted the ships to use designs that matched their size in comparison to each other. So I weighed each one on my scientific balance (the advantages of being a physicist with a home lab - useful equipment), and then set up a graph with where their mass fell in comparison to game mass. (I used the Parthenon/Pegasus and the Acropolis/Galactica to set my baseline.) As I purchased new minis I was able to find their game size by weighing them and checking the graph.

Of course the weight of a resin miniature isn't a real comparison - in reality a smaller ship could out weigh a larger vessel - hanger bays would probably take up less mass than engines for instance. But it seems to work - the designs match how the minis look in comparison to each other.

Until I purchased Hanger 18's Pandamonium and Kronus. These minis are huge in relation to the rest of my fleet; falling well outside the ranges in the rules.

So I took the data from the ship design rules, determined the formulas that were used for the different design aspects and built my ships to match the rest of the fleet. Do these designs break the system? Probably not. The critical formulas for Delta/Points and Armor/Points are both quadratic so as the size of the ships go up the expense really climbs. Smaller ships which work with the system as given are more cost effective, and can actually bring more fighters and weapons to the table at a lower cost. Plus most scenarios won't work well with really large ships. But it's fun for field these.