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Subject: A five-month wood-free over-size DathKadan build for MoV rss

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Chris Holm
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A few years ago, some friends of mine came home from the Gathering of Friends with pictures. There was a mysterious space game in there which I could not identify for the life of me. It looked brand new with awesome artwork, so I knew in my heart of gamery hearts that It Must Be Mine.

The game turned out to be Merchant of Venus, featuring DathKadan's artwork, out of print for more than 20 years.

Fast forward to this year. As I waited and waited, and waited, for the deal on my New Mexico house to close, one of my projects became using some of my disposable income to build my own MoV copy. I finished this month, five months after starting.



Top priorities were to give the build as high-tech a look as I could, to avoid wood and glue and ink wherever possible, and to wind up with a convention-worthy end product.

edit:grammar
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Chris Holm
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Part 1. The Ships
Some really nice player pawns were going to be needed. Looking for souped-up cargo ships, I searched through many miniature catalogs and settled upon a six-pack of Sorylian Frigates, from Firestorm Armada. Objectively, my figure-painting skills were not going to be sufficient, so I contracted with PaintedFigs.com to have these ships painted up in the six colors of the original Merchant of Venus game (which I'd obtained last winter). This worked out very well, even though painting just six miniatures is a little smaller than their usual order size. I am quite pleased with the job they did.

I already had plenty of leftover GW flight stands, both standard-size and large, from my Twilight Imperium build. I fitted the standard bases to the ships, only to discover that these models are too back-heavy to be supported that way. As a stop-gap, I switched to the large bases and decided to be satisfied.

As a better fix, wolfzell has already suggested getting some custom tokens from Litko, which seems like an awfully inpired idea. (Thanks!) I'll use my handy Dremel tool and a [very] few droplets of superglue once they arrive, and it will be Good.
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Chris Holm
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Part 2. The Tokens
Back to February. I was kinda worried about the tokens. Wood just didn't strike me as spaceworthy for some reason, but glueing all those sticker onto plastic tokens or chips was going to get quite pricey. It would have been prone to irrevocable error too. Then in a nearby thread, wolfzell made an insightful remark, suggesting coin holders. Huzzah! Still a little pricey, but it sure sounded like this might be a glue-free solution. I went online an purchased five hundred nickel-sized holders (AirTite Direct-Fit), plus a few dozen quarter-holders and halfdollar-holders. I had the token faces laser-printed, then began scouring hardware stores for cool washers that I could use in the holders. I soon discovered that actual nickels, quarters, and half-dollars were not only ideally-sized but also less expensive. I tried it out with coins, and it worked beautifully.

These Direct-Fit holders are friction-fitted, so zero glue is needed for assembly. This means that any token can be disassembled with a determined fingernail and recycled, should some imperfection be found.



I punched out each token face with a 7/8in hole punch. Looking back on things, I should have just scissored them all out -- the hole punch did not save me that much time, and was not worth the less-consistent results. Each token-face (including the purplish borders) are just broad enough to cover the faces of nickels, quarters, and half-dollars, with a tiny little amount of wrap-over as the coin gets pressed down into its holder.

The holders are transparent. I soon discovered that with the rear-faces of the tokens, their white backs are incredibly visible through the token's front. To remedy this, I took a single black crayon (half a crayon is all it took for the four hundred-plus tokens) and colored in that white ring on the rear of each rear-face. Unless one knows what flaw to look for, the results are quite nice indeed.
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Chris Holm
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Part 3. The Board
Early on, I decided that I did not wish to slice up DathKadan's beautiful artwork, for the purposes of turning it into a foldable mounted board. Plus, the art was scaled for 21mm tokens, not the 31mm-sized tokens that I now had hundreds of. I needed a bigger version.

Walmart could not make one big enough, and local print shops needed to charge a very large sum to do it. Finally, I settled on Fed Ex Office, and wound up with a map that I really like.



If I ever re-do the board, I will go with the glossy laminate instead of the matte, to better match the other bits (all glossy).

To protect and carry it, I made a meter-square portfolio out of an old TV-sized cardboard box. I don't have to roll my board up or fold it.

One side effect of the larger map is that the culture tokens no longer fill the system-circles to a suitable degree. So I fashioned some circle-fillers out of fifteen colors of stick-on foamboard mounted on thin black plastic backing. I can't wait to see these in action.

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Chris Holm
United States
Rio Rancho
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Part 4. The Shipboards, and other secondary boards
Since I was already frequenting Fed Ex, I made use of their laminators to make up the Event boards, the Market boards, the Relic references, and the Shipboards. I laser-printed each, inserted some blue-colored paper as background and border, and laminated away (using a higher temperature than normal).

I made 24 double-sided Shipboards, giving all six players access to their own collection of eight ship designs. Practice here made perfect; I didn't waste more than one or two boards getting the hang of this.



The three Market boards came out very well also. The store gives its customers access to their industrial-strength straight-cutters, which not only saved me a lot of scissoring but also resulted in crisp, straight, sharp-cornered boards all around. I couldn't be happier with how these turned out.
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Chris Holm
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Part 5. The storage solution
I needed a way to store all these tokens, without turning their sorting into a nightmare. I poked around Albuquerque for a month, then struck upon the idea of using aluminum-sided poker chip cases. The ones I chose were quite inexpensive, being available at places like Target or Walmart.



Each box has several token bays. I made laminated bay inserts for each, to speed up the inventory and storing of the game.



Using foamcore, dark leather hinges, and plastic cement, I added a center divider to each box, separating each box into a lower and upper deck. By complete serendipity, the Shipboards just barely fit into the upper bays, with enough room left to store the money decks, drawbags, and other boards.



Finally, I needed a nice box to store all the boxes. Enter a suitably-colored collapsible box, which I found at my local big-box hardware store.
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Chris Holm
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Rio Rancho
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Part 6. The Money and the Rules
This was easy. I ordered three MoV money decks from Artscow, along with the single-book version of the Rulebook. Instructions for doing this are found in many other easy-to-follow threads here at BGG. (Thank you, fellow Geeks!)
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Chris Holm
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Part 7. The Dice
Clearly, each player would require color-coded dice. I scoured the web looking for cool dice. For the Whynom, I already had some very keen purple dice (if you look closely, you'll see that one die is darker than the others -- such is life). I ordered in five grey Bunko dice for the Eeepeep, and they turned out to be silvery rather than grey -- which is even better than I'd hoped. The Dell needed some Chessex Lustrous Gold w/ Silver pips, even though they're hard to read from 2m away. Finally, I ordered in some Koplow Glow-in-the-Dark dice in Nik green, Human blue, and Qossuth red. They say that in space, no-one can hear you scream, but at least now they can read your dice out in the black!




These dice fit nicely into the Boxes, amongst the tokens for their races. For Events, I already had some very readable non-pipped dice on hand. I expect the two dice will be passed from player to active player during game play.

Some information is important to figure out with a quick glance. Furthermore, due to the large size of the board, some players would be seated nearly light-seconds apart. To aid identification, I threw in some Icehouse pieces, color-coded to each player-race.
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Chris Holm
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Rio Rancho
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Part 8. The Cup
Some time ago, my dear sister-in-law made for me a large blue tile-bag for Reef Encounter; when I could find no bag equal to it, I appropriated it for Merchant of Venus.

From a FLGS, I picked up a fiery dice bag to use for the Rastur tokens, as befits their marauding nature.
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Chris Holm
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Conclusion. For Now.
Unless one counts paper as "wood", I succeeded at avoiding wooden bits.

There are a few droplets of glue in each flight stand. I used rubber cement on the boxes' interior hinges, and spray-on adhesive to stick the MoV logos onto each Box. But unless one counts laminate as "glue", I almost completely avoided using any sticky stuff on the game itself.

All the printing was done on a laser printer; no water-based ink was used in this entire build.

I plan to play this game for the first time next weekend. On Halloween weekend, this build will be played at RioGrandeWars.org, the yearly Albuquerque gaming convention. RGW will be the first true test of this build's success.



Though this build lasted from February to July, the actual labor amounted to maybe sixty hours in total. I can assure folks that the effort is worthwhile.

I hope this build inspires folks to pursue their own Do-It-Yourself dreams.

-Chris
"Islander"
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Scott Everts
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Merchant of Venus » Forums » General
Re: A five-month wood-free over-size DathKadan build for MoV
Very, very impressive! This is one of the most astounding builds of any game I've ever seen! Congratulations!

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Michael Ledlow
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I would say this is the Cadillac of game builds. You, sir, have impressive organizational skills. You wouldn't happen to be a project manager, would you? pmi.org?

I love the coin holder idea. I wanted to go this route but was inhibited by cost. The coin holders are really awesome!

And, making the ship cards double-sided: most excellent. I don't know why I didn't think of this.

Great job! This game, along with Dathkadan's artwork, certainly deserves the time, effort, and attention to detail you have given it. Impressive! I would love to have a chance to play a game with you in the future.

Tell me about the blue pyramid in this photo. I'm curious...

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Slev Sleddeddan
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Victoria Park
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frailn wrote:
Tell me about the blue pyramid in this photo. I'm curious...


I can identify that as an Icehouse piece. What it's doing here I can't help with.

Fabulous build though. Looks awesome!
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Mathieu Perreault-Dorion
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This is mighty impressive.
Somewhere in heaven, geeky angels are crying tears of joy.
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Carlos Saldanha
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This is so sick!!

How much did you spend in total for making one of these?? I would totally buy this version over the original!!
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Will
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oDESGOSTO wrote:
This is so sick!!

How much did you spend in total for making one of these?? I would totally buy this version over the original!!

Couple/few hundred would be my guess. Looks like a very nice high end build both in quality and cost.
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Scott Everts
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Yeah, high quality home builds of games are quite expensive & time consuming. As I remember it cost me about $100 to build my Kwanchai Ogre build. My Dune Express build was somewhere between $40-50.

I'm working on a Avalon Hill Dune build with all my own art and it's going to cost me at least $200 to build.

This one is considerably more. I'd be surprised if it was less than $300.

I love the coin holders! That is brilliant. I'm going to steal (borrow) that idea someday too!
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Robert Cannon
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Outstanding!! You are a true inspiritation. I would love to see the costs of each of your options. I doubt I build this with all of the top of the line choices you made, but some of them might be afforable.
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Damo
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This build is just amazing. It looks perfect.
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Chris Holm
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frailn wrote:
Tell me about the blue pyramid in this photo. I'm curious...
Sure. The icehouse pyramids' sole purpose now is to visually re-reinforce each player's color. Twelve colors come in the Xeno pack and the Rainbow pack of Icehouses, which I'd picked up to use as ship tokens in the original 1988 Avalon Hill version. Now these six pyramids have found a better home, here.

oDESGOSTO wrote:
How much did you spend..?
Cost containment was not one of the primary objectives. Considering that I expect to get a couple decades' use out of this game, I will get great return out of this spend.

Of these eight parts, Part Two cost the most, both in terms of money and time. I ended up spending big parts of six weekends on just the token assembly. But those six weekends were a complete blast, so it's kinda off-base to call it time "spent". D.I.Y. projects tend to be their own reward
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ScottE wrote:
Yeah, high quality home builds of games are quite expensive & time consuming... This one is considerably more. I'd be surprised if it was less than $300...
ScottE, you would indeed be unsurprised at the build's total

robcannonsoftware wrote:
..but some of them might be affordable.

That is certainly true. If anybody wants to pursue something like this on their own, feel free to PM me and I will be happy to provide you particulars.

Thank you all for the thumbs. I'm glad to see so many people getting a kick out of this laugh
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Will
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ScottE wrote:
I'm working on a Avalon Hill Dune build with all my own art and it's going to cost me at least $200 to build.

Will it be possible for others to use that art?
Or is it going to be a 100% unique set?
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Scott Everts
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Yargo wrote:
ScottE wrote:
I'm working on a Avalon Hill Dune build with all my own art and it's going to cost me at least $200 to build.
Will it be possible for others to use that art?
Or is it going to be a 100% unique set?
I'll be sharing the art once I get it done. I just had to slow down since work has been really crazy the past month. There's a thread over on the Dune page if you want to follow my progress- Scott's Dune Build project.

But don't want to hijack this thread discussing my project. This one is focused on this wonderful MoV build!
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Will
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ScottE wrote:
Yargo wrote:
ScottE wrote:
I'm working on a Avalon Hill Dune build with all my own art and it's going to cost me at least $200 to build.
Will it be possible for others to use that art?
Or is it going to be a 100% unique set?
I'll be sharing the art once I get it done. I just had to slow down since work has been really crazy the past month. There's a thread over on the Dune page if you want to follow my progress- Scott's Dune Build project.

But don't want to hijack this thread discussing my project. This one is focused on this wonderful MoV build!


I appreciate you mentioning it. I'm also interested in doing a build of Dune as well as MoV. They are both long out of print games that seem to be well worth the effort to make a copy (I have not played dune yet but I'd like to). Anyway, I subscribed to the thrad you linked
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Klaus Knechtskern
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Really impressive! Must have ;-)
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Dan Gillette
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This is truly a work of art. I love the use of the coin holders, unfortunately I am not so in love with their price. To do a complete build with the expansions you'd be looking at about $600 just for the coin holders alone!

I've never even played this game and you have me drooling over this.zombie
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