But how? The artwork in the books is sketchy at best (see what I did there?) and of course copyrighted material. Since the game was 22 years old I didn't know if I'd be able to secure proper permission to use those and quite frankly, I wasn't optimistic at how they'd actually turn out.
So I turned to my other skill as a photographer and decided I'd photograph the actual miniatures from the game and then use tricks for colorizing old photographs to digitally paint the miniatures.
First I set up a green screen of sorts with a green piece of cardstock, poking a hold in the center and then threading one of the game's flight posts through the hole. Using a 70mm fixed length macro lens (photo nerd!) I set the camera on a tripod and focused on each ship from a top-down perspective. The lighting remained the same for each ship as did the focus distance, so the scale of larger ships to smaller ships would also remain the same. I took two shots of each ship (just in case) as well as a set of torpedoes and missiles.
Ship photograph, lifted from green-screen background and converted to greyscale.
Next off to Photoshop (with a quick stop in Lightroom for cropping and a little processing). Since I had green-screened each ship, it was a simple matter to remove the ship from its background and only have the ship image. Next I added a greyscale filter to remove all hint of color and only keep the tones and highlights and shadows. This would allow me to add color without it being tainted by color cast from the lighting.
The first step of adding the main ship color was easy. CTRL-click on the isolated ship layer to select just the ship. Then I added a solid color layer to the image with the color choice I wanted. Since the ship shape was already selected, the layer mask already restricts the color to that area. Finally changing the blend mode from "Normal" to "Overlay" and voila (or "walla" to those who mishear things), the shades of grey becomes shades of the chosen color and all the ship detail comes through.
Adding the main ship color.
Repeating this process for the other targeted areas of the ship is just as easy. Select an area, add a new color layer (though on these successive layers I set to "Color" blend mode vs. "Overlay") and you're now painting. The opacity of each layer remains 100% as the blend mode takes care of rendering the combinations of color. One thing I did different was on the canopy of each ship. For that when I selected the area, I did use that selection on the layer mask of the main ship color to black out (or hide) the body color from the canopy. Whereas the other areas of the ship might be "really" be decals or paint over the base color, the canopy would not have been painted over.
The cool thing is that the lighting from the photo still allows the texture and detail and highlights to come through on the "painted" model.
When all my layers were complete and I liked the scheme of the ship, I then flattened all the visible layers into a single new layer (CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-E). I have a plugin called Topaz Simplify (http://www.topazlabs.com/simplify) and it features an oil painting setting that produces a nice smooth look to images... simplifying their colors as the name suggests. I applied this to the merged image to create a painterly effect. However, it's a little drastic on its own and some of the details get lost in doing so. So the next step is to set the oil painting layer to a 50% opacity. This blends that layer into the photographic layers below to create a visual combination of art and detail that looks quite nice (IMO).
The "painted" photograph (left), the "Oil Painting" filter alone (center) and the final merged version (right).
Finally CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-E again to permanently combine everything into a single layer and the digital miniature painting is complete.
My final paint jobs...
When I'd completed all the ships, I combined those final 12 ship layers into a single Photoshop file to make sure they were all centered and stacked and then exported each image (with a transparent background) to its own PNG (portable network graphics) file and referenced each ship image in the data file spreadsheet used to construct the counters.
Another cool thing about this technique is that you can change the color if you want or make different paint schemes. Simply by changing the color of the solid color layer you can make the ship blue or purple or red, etc...
While this worked great for top-down wargame counters, the same process could be used to "paint" boardgame miniatures from the front and produce standees instead of using the in-game miniatures. Perhaps instead of painting all those stormtroopers in Star Wars: Imperial Assault!!!
The game arrived and like most, went directly to the "to be played" (aka "Shelf of Shame") pile where First-In-Last-Out is typically the motto. Until last week. Then I got it out and started examining the contents. The bad news was that some of the ships did not survive their 22 year old journey to my door. Tips of stands were broken, some ships were super glued in place. One of the more fragile designs was in two pieces ("Monster Wrecks In Spaaaaaace!").
But the good news was that there were actually nearly TWO sets of ships (normally there are four each of twelve designs) in the box. So separating the wheat from the chaff, there was still an almost complete set of intact ships as well as more than enough stands and even sprues of unpunched missiles and torpedoes.
However, as I set up the map to play the first tutorial scenario, I realized what a table hog this would be. Well, perhaps not a "hog" but a very large pig. The paper maps were 2x3' each and could be setup in 4x3' or 6x2' depending on the scenario. Twelve square feet no matter what. The ships and stands were also a little fragile, which gave me pause. I thought of running on a single map, but quickly realized the movement range of the ships would be nothing on a single 2x3' area and I'd quickly run off the edge. I would also need a means of marking ship "A" from ship "B" (similar to the numbered tokens in X-Wing).
So to that end, I decided I'd "upgrade" the game and make counters to use instead of the miniatures and create my own smaller map.
The map was easiest. In Photoshop I made a a hex grid of 1" tall hexes (vs. the 1.5" ones on the included maps). I made sure I had the same number of hexes in the playfield as the original (24x18). Not wanting a simple black background, I snagged a couple of NASA nebula images and a starfield pattern and layered those behind the grid (so that each fell within it's own "1/2" map) since the two halves can be joined on long or short edges.
The two map sections.
Over the past year or two, I've become pretty adept at using Photoshop and data to generate cards, counters, etc. Once you get the hang of it it's pretty simply really. And saves a ton of time!
Having just used this technique to create the cards for my Bible Books: Match project it was the obvious solution to make the counters.
Fortunately, since they are replacing miniatures and each ship can have different values based on pilot skills, the counters did not need much information, so I designed them minimalistic with only a ship name, ship image, and squadron identifier (A-D in two sets, white and gold). I made these 3/4" in size (to fit the hex map).
For the missiles and torpedoes, I did the same technique but went with a 5/8" slightly smaller size and added the optional speed rule value to each level of torpedo.
An Excel spreadsheet cannot create graphics, so I had to create the ship images myself using a mixture of photography and digital painting in Photoshop (more on that process: Digitally Painting Miniatures).
The 12 Ship Designs
In Printing, Everyone Can Hear You Scream!
Printing the map though turned out to be a much larger (pun!) problem than I imagined. I have a large format printer that will do up to 13x19 A3+ prints. My plan was to print each 24x15.5" map in two 12x15.5" sections and then piece them together. Simple right?
Nope... I turned on the printer to be informed that I needed to replace three of the ink tanks. No biggie, I'd preordered some extra ink and loaded them up. But then the printer insisted the "Grey" tank was not inserted in the right slot. So I double and triple and quadruple checked (OCD is YAY!) and sure enough it WAS correctly inserted. But the third party ink tank did not have the correct chip programmed so the printer would not proceed with anything!
Then I remembered by regular Canon 5400 printer can print up to legal sized paper, so after some digital slicing of each map image into four 7.75x15" pieces and physical slicing of my 13x19" paper into 8.5x13" pieces (legal is 8.5x14") I was able to get the map sections to print.
Point, Counterpoint. Counterpoint. Counterpoint.
First up, I wanted these to have a very nice finish to them, so I assumed (wrongly I now know) that photo paper would be the best to print them. But photo paper is meant to show photos well, not the fine detail of lettering. The highest quality setting actually produces the worst results for fine details of such small images. But I finally got something to look somewhat decent and simply dismissed my printer as unable to produce 3/4" counters with any level of sharpness.
I'd once seen a video on using peel and stick floor tile to create single-sided counters for games. Normally I make double sided ones, but this would be the perfect application of this method. Or so I thought.
I got a nice thickness tile from Home Depot and while the counter sheet stuck cleanly as expected... cutting the counters out proved to be quite the chore. I think this method works better with thinner vinyl tiles not the thicker, more sturdy ones. To cut them out, I had to score the lines twice using a metal ruler, then "snap" them backwards, then slice again to separate the strip from the sheet. This snapping did not always produce the cleanest of edges and I was not happy with how they turned out.
Using peel and stick tile for backing. Note the cork removed from the back of my metal ruler (that's sticky!)
So with bad printing and bad counters I was resolved to just be content with using them myself and never sharing with anyone. (and as wordy as this post is, I'm sure some of you wish I'd stuck to that!).
But the next morning I was determined to try again.
And I did. This time I would forgo the option in my printer to print as a photo and just print as a document on photo paper. Perhaps the printer is doing something different in photo mode. Nope. Turns out the photo paper is the issue for not holding the fine detail.
So next I tried the document setting on cardstock. YES! Much finer detail (I should have known this, but I wanted that sheen of the photo paper!). So while it was sharp and reasonably bright, the colors on the ships just didn't "pop" as I wanted them to. Drat, drat, double drat. But I'd make do and add some clear coat finish to them and maybe brighten them up.
I decoupaged them to a sheet of thick chipboard and then to add a layer of protection and the aforementioned brightness, I covered them with another coat of gloss Mod Podge. Not too bright. Inkjet ink is water based. Mod Podge is water based. Smear central.
Tough. I'm using them anyway.
Couldn't let that stand. I finally remembered I had some "brochure paper" I'd picked up many years ago at an estate sale. When I say "some" I mean one sheet. Printed the counters again on this and NICE! Crisp edges, bright colors. This was the solution. Third time's the charm.
Not wanting to get smeared again in my media, this time I planned ahead and sprayed them with a coat of Krylon acrylic. Unfortunately it was a Satin finish and that killed all the brightness, but fortunately not the color.
So finally after all this comedy of errors, I have a set of 96 nicely mounted ship counters to play Silent Death with. The missile/torpedo counters are still from the smeared cardstock batch, but so be it (I'm sure I'll fix it all later). And after two basic missions, I have to say this game is a gem. There is a lot to love in it. A lot seemed to be adopted for X-Wing as well, including the pilots firing in skill order, etc.
The cool thing is that you don't need to find and buy the boxed edition and pay an arm and a leg for it. You can buy the $9.00 rulebook PDF currently at DriveThruRPG (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/156598/Silent-Death-The-...), add your own miniatures (or counters), and hex map and some dice and you're good to go.
I'll get these countersheets and maps made available soon and add the links.
First when there's nothing But a slow glowing dream That your fear seems to hide Deep inside your mind
Many, many years ago... (seriously, like 15 or so) I came up with an idea for a PC/Web based game called "Bible Books". Its purpose was to help kids, adults, anyone to memorize the order of the books of the Bible (hence the name). I struggled with the right toolsets, etc to be easy to use and functional and managed to procrastinate long enough for Apple to invent the iPad (you're welcome) and development tools to become more developer friendly. I started using a tool called Construct2 to make my dream a reality and got pretty far along on it... the procrastinated more and more tying up all the loose ends. As a programmer by trade, Construct2 kept me boxed in and while I found ways to creatively work within the limitations, I was starting to get frustrated. Then recently the compilation tools I was using decided to stop working with iOS. The program would run, but not completely or correctly.
Getting this post out of the weeds, I decided I would need to start over (somewhat) with Unity and my real world skillset and end up with a better, more stable codebase. Unity was where I wanted to be anyway and since it became more readily available, it was probably good thing to be derailed anyway.
One of my real world activities is teaching in our AWANA program at church. This year it turns out we'll be covering -- you guessed it -- the books of the Bible as part of our curriculum. I showed our commander (the AWANA leader) my game on PC and she thought it was great and hoped I'd finish it by a December deadline. Given everything above though, it became apparent that was not going to happen. But what a missed opportunity too!
Then one early morning as I drove to work, I had a flash of inspiration. One of the "other projects" I'd put on my backlog for digital was a game like the old Concentration game (without the underlying rebus). But since I had the artwork already for the first game, why not combine the two ideas into Memoryesque card game, but more educational?
Like "Memory", you shuffle and deal face down a set of cards and then players (or teams) alternate to find matching pairs. However, this one has a twist. To match a pair, you have to find the book of the Bible that goes either before or after it (as noted by the "?"). You can even play solo and try to match all the books in the shortest amount of time.
The game comes with 110 cards for the different combinations of books with a before or after book. I also wrote a program that generated 32 different sets of cards (grouped by icons of the same symbol and color) to insure that you'd not end up with the same book used twice in a set (matching before AND after for example).
So what's cool is that within two weeks of the idea, I had a professionally printed and boxed copy in hand (http://tinyurl.com/BibleBooksMatch). I demonstrated to several of the AWANA leaders and they felt it was a great solution and we're going to use a version of this in a December gathering to have a friendly class competition.
Hopefully this will appeal to Christian parents, grandparents, teachers, homeschoolers, etc...
But as a long time member of BGG, what's also cool (to me and me alone I'm sure) is seeing my first game here on the site and my name joining the ranks of "Game Designers" and "Game Artists". No, this is not a deep strategy game by any means and it's nothing earth shattering. The art and design is nothing major. But it's a work of the heart and I'm thrilled to see it here on the site.
So that's it, just a bit of gushing that I wanted to share publicly. Hopefully more will be coming soon (especially the digital apps), but I do have other more broad appeal designs that might eventually see the light of day -- now the the first domino has fallen.
Before I got back into boardgaming, I kept foamcore and poster board around for photography backgrounds and bases, etc... Since then I've learned to make box inserts when the need arose.
But the other day as I was staring at all my bottles of craft paint (excellent for miniature painting of course!), I was starting to get lost trying to find a particular color when I needed it. I wrote the names of the colors on the tops with a Sharpie, but it still was a bit of a paint pain.
I looked on Amazon to see if they made some sort of storage for these.
And they do.
And they are astronomically priced. The best one I saw was nearly $60!!!
But wow I have all this foam core... perhaps I could build a better one?
And I think I did too.
Instead of making a slot for each bottle, I made cubbies that would hold six or four bottles. This allowed me to stagger the vertical supports to not only glue and pin them easily, but gave it extra stability too.
I made it to accommodate 100 bottles and was worried I would still not have enough room, but turns out I don't quite have 100...yet.
The box overall is about 85mm (including the back panel) deep and 390mm square (give or take 10mm). All from foam core I already had lying around. But had I bought the supplies it was one sheet of white for the inner box. One sheet of patterned decorative foam for the outer panels and a scrap from another sheet of black. So in all about $10 in materials depending on sales.
Still think I need to write the specific color names on the bottom of the bottles now, but I get the added benefit of a color preview this way.
So got a roll back before summer painting my miniatures for Star Wars: Imperial Assault (Imperial Assault Minis -- Updated Photos) but then vacation, a wedding, a farewell to a very dear furbaby, and other things just got in the way of continuing. Primed and ready to go, they just sat there. But I'm happy to say I was able to get back into the swing of things recently and have a new batch to share.
Still using the wonderful Ceramcoat paints thinned with floor acrylic. Cannot beat the quality and value of these things. However, during the Amazon Prime Days sale, I picked up a set of very cool Army Painter Quick Shade bottles to try some different shading possibilities and pleased to say they work great. I'd have never attempted to put 'blood' on the Wampa using paint, but the red stain just brought it out perfectly. Same with the lizard dudes. I used a green wash on their skin only to bring out the detail. The Quick Shades are like a gel, so they go where you want them only and stay put. Definitely worth a look.
(NOTE: Watch my unboxing videos for Target for Today [link] and Wing and a Prayer [link])
I've been playing with A Wing and a Prayer lately and finding that I'm really enjoying its procedural and thematic take on the genre. However, as good as the new productions and printings have been from Lock 'n Load, sometimes bigger is not better. While I appreciate their desire to provide materials with larger print for those with weaker eyesight, the resulting charts and tables can be a bit unwieldy to be functional.
The game provided Squadron Briefing and Formation Cards
To that end I present a few modified game elements to hopefully make your experience a little more enjoyable.
First the Squadron Card I've created is the same size (8.5x11") as the one provided in the game. But I laid it out to be landscape in format and this has two definite advantages. First there is more room for the Ready/Not Ready plane sections (you can easily fit 12 or more planes in each box). Secondly the VP trackers are in a single line of 10 boxes vs two columns of five each.
The bigger reduction of game footprint comes from my reduced size Formation Card. The original is an 11x17 beast that wastes a lot of space and with the map already large and impressive, keeping your planes in flight closer at hand is a huge plus. I made this one 8.5x11" as well and provided all the same spots as the game provided board, only more compact.
My reduced and revised versions of the cards. The Formation Card has been improved since this photo for more room for Interceptors
These two boards fit easily on the same side of the board (on the right as I show in the photo, but left is fine too).
Another inconvenience is the use of oversized tables and charts throughout the game. Wing and a Prayer does a great job of keeping chart lookups to a minimum, but those charts can certainly get in the way. I've scanned all the reference charts for single player, including the rule summaries for Air Combat and resized them to fit on letter sized paper or cardstock.
Reduced and reorganized charts and reference cards.
I chose to print pairs of charts double sided, trimmed, then laminated them, so now I have three normal sized reference cards to use rather than a mixture of sizes and shapes.
Publisher David Heath has graciously granted me permission to share these files with the gaming community and I hope you find them of value as you are "Bombing the Reich"!!!
In my recent unboxing video (LINK), of Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo I noted the dice on the cards which could be used in lieu of die rolls, but worried about the distribution being even. So I decided to check it after recently sleeving the cards.
First the card breakdown.
Of the deck of 55 cards (referring to the symbols along the bottom of the card):
12 Offense-only. 12 Defense-only.
This leaves 31 other cards which when added to one of the set of 12 produces an "in-game" deck of 43 cards. Which of course is not evenly divisible by 6 sides of a die (6x7 = 42). So there is at least one off on the distribution.
The other 31 cards breakdown as follows:
14 with no additional effect (bottom blank) 3 force a reshuffle of the deck (when the card is completed) 14 produce a potential random event (on a die roll before the card is processed for the AEO).
For the die-roll breakdowns (upper right corner)
Attack Cards (12) 2 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 3 | 2
Defense Cards (12) 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2
Of these two decks, the Defense cards have the expected distribution whereas the attack cards have one extra 5 and one less 2.
Other Cards (31) 5 | 6 | 5 | 5 | 5 | 5
While the other cards have a number not divisible evenly by 6 (one extra), that one extra card carries the "2" missing from the attack deck, though it would be an extra "2" on defense and a extra "5" on attack.
I'm not sure if this distribution of die rolls was intentional or an oversight. (UPDATE:Per Lock 'n Load Publishing, LLC., this was a deliberate design choice based on playtesting feedback). With the attack/defense decks being 12 cards it would seem reasonable that the distribution would be two of each value. With the remaining 31 cards not being divisible evenly, then the distribution would of course be one off no matter what.
Perhaps there is an advantage to the defense deck having one extra low (but not lowest) die and the attack having one extra high (but not highest)?
Personally I prefer die rolls anyway and not burning through the deck to generate the random numbers. It works great in games like Combat Commander: Europe as it's integral to the game and the timing mechanism. But here in Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo, it doesn't really add anything to the game to use up those cards (other effects aren't triggered when they appear on a die-roll draw for example), so for me I will just continue to roll physical dice for both myself and the AEO. YMMV.
Clarification: "Breakdown" does not imply a breakdown in the game or the AEO in general, just this is a breakdown of the cards
Since I finished (finally) my design for the modular counter/component storage boxes, I decided to put them to the test and refit my Combat Commander: Europe collection. CC:E complete has seven different factions: American, British, French, Germans, Italian, Russian, and Partisans. Before this I had them all stored in three GMT trays (with a fourth for markers, etc. to be on the table during games).
Counters all neatly stored in GMT Trays
Rather than simply make cardboard full tray replacements, I took advantage of the modular nature and built custom "Force Boxes" for each faction specifically. This ended up being two-module boxes, essentially a 1/2 GMT tray each for the Americans, Russians, Germans, and British.
Two-Module trays for the larger force factions
The smaller forces, Italians, French, and Partisans, would not require a full two modules of 10 wells, but a single module of 5 wells was not enough to hold the units and their weapons. I considered just keeping those forces in their own box and the weapons for all three factions combined in a separate box. However, because my goal was to be able to pull out a single box for each side in a battle, that just nagged at me to have the additional box just for their weapons.
After some overnight deliberations, I came up with a better solution. A smaller, 2x3 six-well tray to accommodate these smaller forces. The tray and dividers all cut from a single piece of cardstock and the lid can be printed two to a page. So you can make two of these complete from three pieces.
The 2x3 (6 well) Tray
I opted to go with a black, 60# cardstock for the trays and then color coordinated 110# stock for the lids. I designed labels to mark each of the boxes (file pending moderator approval on BGG) as well. So just like that I reduced my four GMT Trays of CC:E to one game-ready tray and individual and smaller force boxes for each faction. They take up less table space and are more convenient for players (or player) to select their units.
The whole kit and kaboodle
And of course these trays aren't just for wargames, but for anywhere you'd use a GMT tray or even bags to sort and store components. With the suggested addition of customized well size, I added single-wall dividers so you can subdivide as you see fit. Make each module 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4 in size. Or any combination therein. These would be great for sorting and storing each player's starting components for games like Russian Railroads for example, or other games where you want to save time on setup.
Allegedly there is a total solar eclipse that will be viewable in a large swath of the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017.
I had planned to take photos (safely) during the event, but after a few test shots today, I just don't think my gear and filters are up to task. So I'll just enjoy it like most people. Besides, it will be the most photographed event in quite some time. And NASA and other science agencies will do a much better job than most of us could.
Just remember to NOT look directly at the sun. Make a pinhole device from a shoebox or look at the dappled light on the ground through leaves. I'm not sure I'd risk "eclipse" glasses picked up at a local store either, but that's just me. And keep your PETS inside as well. They are curious and if they look up to see why it's getting dark, they could very easily suffer the same blindness!
Finally, for those of you "in the know" about the realities of such things, here's some beta footage from Monday's big event. Looks like they might be getting things ready for release not a moment too soon!