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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Colt Express - How I fit all the expansions in one box!

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
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I love Colt Express. I'm not even sure why I love it so much! Wait, I know why - its fun!

Well, I've continued to acquire anything and everything that goes along with Colt Express:
* Colt Express: Horses & Stagecoach
* Colt Express: Marshal & Prisoners
* Colt Express: The Time Travel Car
* Colt Express: Cursed Loot
* Train Station
* The Rock Promo
* Original cardboard loot and landscape pieces (plus some random plastic green flamingos that got added to the game at a convention a couple of years ago)
* Upgraded Meeple Source wood tokens - people, landscape pieces, horses, and all loot (recently got all the loot and landscape pieces)
* 3D Printed meeples (Twinples) https://www.trictrac.net/actus/twinples-colt-express (got these before the Meeple Source wood ones were available)
* Plus all the cards from all the expansions (at least a couple hundred cards)

I also have the large rubber playmat but there's no way that's going in the box (its rolled up and on a shelf), but that's fine!

So, all of what I had used to fit into the box if carefully arranged, up until I got the Marshall and Prisoners expansion for Christmas. I didn't want to remove the existing insert if I could help it as I love the artwork, but I knew it was a problem and it definitely doesn't all fit with the original insert.

Sadly, I decided I had to take it out, but then discovered -- tons of space! After playing around with arrangements I found a way to get it all in, including a small plastic plano type box I got at the Dollar Tree for $1 (duh)! It holds the wood loot pieces and keeps the various types separate and will make setup easier.

However, I *did* re-purpose the insert by creating a couple of dividers to make the spacing more obvious and protect things from banging around too much, and also lined the inside of the box to keep the art there and give it the original insert feel. Its not 'perfect' but looks really nice overall.

Anyhow, I could go on and on, but the best way to see what I came up with is to just look at the pictures....

All the stuff, and showing my main trick - putting the cards into the trains! Sort of an integrated deck box!


Add more train cars and also the loot bit box:


Utilizing the same trick of cards in the train cars. Then, added the engine, prisoner car, stagecoach and time machine car:


I previously had set aside the core base cards to put underneath the train station for support (otherwise it sits unevenly).
Note I removed the station stand pieces and set them next to it:



Also, I earlier forgot to add the original meeples and horses (in baggies) inside two of the train cars (another of my tricks from packing the original insert):


All the rest of the bits added around the train station. Then The Rock and player boards on top:


And finally all the rules and setup printout sheets:


A closer peek inside the box:



It was a bit of work to get it all in there, but now I can take everything with me in one box (just the way I like it!)

Next steps will be to add a sheet that shows how everything fits in the box for future reference, and maybe some stickers or a sheet for how the bits fit back into the bit box.


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Wed Jan 3, 2018 1:00 pm
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - To Trash or Not to Trash Inserts PLUS My New Obsession with Foam Core Inserts

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
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Lately, my family has been re-visting Carcassonne quite a bit - my parents picked up a copy last year and have been playing it off and on along with Carcassonne: The Castle a little.

When playing at our house, when we pull it out I'm surprised how much stuff we have crammed in there. In addition to the base game we have the River, the River II, Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, The Catapult, The Princess & the Dragon, The King & the Scout and, I think, one other mini expansion. ALSO, very early on I also added more sets of meeples from http://www.meeplepeople.com - I think we have 10 different color options including Pink, Macaroni (i.e. cheese colored orange), naked (natural wood), brown, purple, and white. Each has the giant meeple, builder, pig and a few extras of the regular meeples.

Its a challenge getting all that in the box, but somehow it fits. However, its a big mass of baggies, mini cardboard boxes (that come with a couple of the small expansions) and various other bits.

In the past I've posted a lot about my storage solutions using a variety of plastic boxes, plano boxes, baggies, etc. But I don't think a plano will solve this problem and plastic boxes for everything start taking up too much space. The baggies let me smoosh them in.

Take a look at this mess:


This gives me angst. A LOT of angst. (And NO I'm not buying the whole thing again as the Big Box version)

After all my previous work on how to more efficiently use the inside space of my game boxes, for some reason I never thought about creating an actual WHOLE NEW INSERT for a game.

Recently I've taken to reading the geek lists that show home-grown insert solutions using foam core (aka foam board). I'm somewhat familiar with foam core as we used it extensively when I studied Architecture in college to build models, but it never occurred to me to use it in my game boxes.

My initial interest was with Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar as I was obsessed with it and even painted my gears in a lot of detail.



Someone came up with a neat storage solution supporting the gear/board pieces to minimize warping/damage when stored:
Homemade insert to keep the boards secure



That got me looking around and since then I've been following a couple of lists of certain gamers that have created multiple foam inserts for their games.

In my poking around I discovered there sure are a lot of geeklists about game inserts in general...

Game inserts that are awesome:
Games that got the inserts and storage trays right.
Best Inserts
Putting it all together: the best box inserts EVER!
Don't throw that insert out!
Games with good inserts
Naked & Exposed - The Great List of Box Inserts (well, this one is somewhere in-between)

Game inserts that suck:
Inserts, huh, yeah! What are they good for?! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!
Games with Problematic and/or Useless Inserts [Please Add]
Worst box inserts
Horrible Box Inserts
A few games that I threw out the insert to and why
Games with bad inserts
The Awful Generic Plastic Insert

Interestingly, some games are on both the Good AND the Bad inserts lists. Go figure.

Game inserts custom made using foam core:
My DIY Foam Core Box Insert Projects
28green's Collection of Foam Board Inserts
Walsfeo's Box Inserts & Storage Solutions.
O Foam Core, how do I love thee
Photojenic's Collection of Amateur Foam Board Inserts.
Modding Game Storage
My Foamcore Inserts
Foam core insert modifications

When I first got into gaming I kept everything religiously. The inserts. The extra papers/advertising. EVERYTHING. Well, I usually tossed recycled (I'm from Oregon you know) the cardboard sprues after punching the pieces out, but other than that, nothing left the box.

After a time, I started to realize that was ridiculous for many games. There are a few games I keep the inserts for because they look nice, are reasonably functional, or are part of an expensive/valuable game. It literally used to made me feel sick/sad for tossing the inserts, but after I got over my initial fears, it became easier and easier.

When I first started gaming, baggies were my primary method of storing bits and cards. I bought them by the hundreds (thousands?) from http://www.boardsandbits.com. Then, adding plastic boxes, planos, etc, became the norm.

Here's a pretty nifty foam core insert from 28green's list for Lords of Waterdeep that I really like:


Now, I'm fascinated with foam core and the possibilities. I'm on the verge of being obsessed. In fact, I recently bought a pack of foam core boards off of Amazon for a decent price. I also found a great mat cutter for a reasonable price as well - not for foam core initially, but I came to realize later it will cut the foam core very nicely.

NOW, I just need to get working on it. Along with all my other gazillion projects.........

What will be first? Probably Tzolkin. Maybe Carcassonne. Looking through the lists I mentioned previously it made me realize how many games I have that are in desperate need of help. DESPERATE. NEED. OF. HELP.

Oh, here's another...
Keyflower (and, the expansion is on the way - shipped today! - so need to figure out how to cram it all into one box if I can!):



So here's my initial list of possible projects:
Tzolkin (required for protecting the gears)
Kingdom Builder (required because finding the right tiles each time is annoying)
Keyflower (I struggle getting this in the box and sorting/setting up each time is a bit of a pain with baggies)
Lords of Waterdeep (original insert is neat...but annoying)
Big City (mine didn't come with the plastic inserts and is a pain to set up every time)
Wasabi (There are currently a LOT of baggies I'd like to get rid of)
Micro Mutants (It's a pain to get out the right pieces every time)
Taluva (This is a tough one as I 'like' the insert and the game has value, but I store it vertically and the tiles always scatter when on the shelf)
Oregon (The tiles need some help, but not a huge issue yet...)
Carcassonne (TOO MANY BITS!!)
Dungeon Petz (ALSO TOO MANY BITS!!)
Civilization (Just because...)

Ok, so I'm off to go obsess about my first project...

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Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:00 am
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Tzolk'in Gear Pimping - A survey of what others have done (Part 2 - the Insanity Continues)

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
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I posted back in December all of the creative Tzolk'in Gear Pimping going on. If you missed it see: THE CREATIVE GAMER - Tzolk'in Gear Pimping - A survey of what others have done

This is a continuation of that post - I kept adding on to the other one but then it got out of hand. Also, I doubt I will do another follow-up as 1) This could keep going on forever, especially as more and more copies hit gamers' tables and I don't think I want to keep doing this over and over. And, 2) I FINALLY got my gears painted and ink washed in the past couple of weeks so I'm done painting (well.........I might apply one more ink wash, but that story is for another day) so looking at these all in more detail is nice but not necessary for inspiration anymore BUT, they deserve to be seen and I LOVE seeing them collected all together as a group - an art show of sorts I guess.

Anyhow, I'm just going to jump right in because this is going to take a while.



Exhibit 22:
danielm
Romania
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Heavy on the black with some red and a little yellow. The outer gears are all painted with stone-like look to them. The outer ones are along the lines of what I've done except with a stone-like look at least showing through a bit.



Exhibit 23:
Patrick Nickell
United States
Bothell
WA
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Yet MORE black. LOTS of black here. Funny, this one almost looks like velvet or raised fuzzy velvet on a black background. The black definitely stands out from the board doesn't it?






Exhibit 24:
Barry Goldstein
United States
Culver City
California
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Mr. Goldstein certainly likes GOLD doesn't he? Frankly, I like the gold look too - the gold paints really sparkle in the light in person that a still photo or even video can't do justice showing. For me, this might be a little too much gold though...




Exhibit 25:
Jestin Jund
United States
Sioux Falls
South Dakota
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Jestin's AWESOME wife painted this terrific looking gear! He better have given her some good back and feet rubs after completing this - I know mine took quite a while hunched over and could have used the same after. Jestin posted a detailed comment on the image below with a general description of how his gear was painted. I like the color choices and details that were highlighted - its a good balance. Would like to see the inked outer gears as well with everything together on the board!






Exhibit 26:
Slush
United States
Keller
Texas
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Interesting - this is the only image mudslapper has ever uploaded to BGG! I really like the aged look of this gear - simple but effective.



Exhibit 27:
Angel
Spain
Madrid
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Well, this isn't the gears but some other fabulous pimping I just had to point out. macklau already had my attention with his amazing gear paint job (one of my favorites) and really went all out creating a custom storage box with decorations, AND custom player pieces. FANTASTICALLY INSANE WORK ANGEL!!! (now I know what my next project is going to be............................well, maybe not)






Exhibit 28:
Kadian O'Reilly
Ireland
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Speaking of GOLD from earlier, this has some terrific looking gold as well. Simple in color scheme but triumphant in appearance.






Exhibit 29:
Ben Chan
Canada
Markham
Ontario
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Purple? I love purple, but not sure for these gears. According to the comments Instagram did a number on the color......hmmmmmmm.




Exhibit 30:
Mikael Vintermark
Sweden
Göteborg
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Actually, Nekau's friend painted these. I'm liking the natural look quite a bit! Although adding grass as he mentioned in the comments might be overkill....




Exhibit 31:
David Short
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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This is another with the color-matched outer gears which is the general direction I wanted to go on mine.





Exhibit 32:
Michael Perez
United States
Glendora
California
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Funny, this one has some similarities to my paint job except mine is more in the gray range and this is more in the reddish range and more consistently the same color across all gears. Nice mottled coloring on this one. Wow, this is another user with only 1 image (this) posted to BGG! Quite some inspiration coming from all around the geek for this game!



Exhibit 33:
Curt Parr
United States
La Farge
Wisconsin
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Kurt, your avatar keeps staring at me! What! What did I do?! Well, I'm staring at the colors - the blue and red look metallic to me - not sure if its the lighting or what, but I'm kinda mesmerized by it.






Exhibit 34:
Dan Edelen
United States
Mount Orab
Ohio
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edelen used Gold and Silver paint pens on the details. Why didn't *I* think of that! shake The brown stone wash look on this one is SPECTACULAR!!




Exhibit 35:
Jeffrey Speer
United States
Fargo
North Dakota
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Kaworu17 says he spent the weekend with his friend painting this one. The stone look on the main gear is really nice looking!



Exhibit 36:
Marc-Andre Delalay
Australia
Sydney
New South Wales
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A nice first effort for a beginner painter! Yes, EVERYONE seems to be inspired to take up painting just for this game!



Exhibit 37:
Peter Gorniak
Canada
Vancouver
British Columbia
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Another nice straight-forward design. I've really been liking the brown-range look of these and some of the other gears. I like the turquoise color to contrast on this one.






Exhibit 38:
Ken Dilloo
United States
Bothell
Washington
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Really nice detailed work on this one. When you are painting the middle gear and realized just HOW MUCH detail there is, it is both overwhelming and yet puts you into a trance sort of mode when painting as you imagine what each element is and what part it must play in a larger story around the calendar. Very very interesting to dive deep into the detail - a depth you miss unless you really spend some time with it.

(bigloo33: I'm glad you abandoned the painted sticker - I was worried about that approach so I scanned mine and then colorized on the computer. If you want my scan I can send it to you - although the simple gold center works fine as well....)





Exhibit 39:
timothée licitri
France
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I *really* like the paint scheme and color choices on this one. If you have some time, click through to the picture and look at the largest resolution version - the painted detail is EXQUISITE! I also love the lunar cycles shown around the outside of the gear - best use of the flat spots I've seen!

Would really like to see a shot of this on the board with all the other gears!!



Exhibit 40:
Star Fix
United States
Marlborough
Massachusetts
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Well actually,
Michael Salzman
United States
Massachusetts
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did the paint on this as a commissioned work. The color choices are excellent and the detail work is very nice. The mini in the center of the main gear is a great touch and matches the rest of the work as well.






Exhibit 41:
Björn Fink
Germany
Münster
Nordrhein-Westfalen
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Hey, another one that looks somewhat similar to mine!



Exhibit 42:
Kirk Bauer
United States
Smyrna
Georgia
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Nice naturally looking gears. Color choices for the worker spots are great as well!



Exhibit 43:
Cory Yates
United States
Pekin
Illinois
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This is a very brightly colored set. Nice detail work done by a first time painter, too! Painting the sticker came out pretty decent also!





Exhibit 44:
The AirBear
Germany
Frankfurt
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This one is different as The_AirBear used a special speckle colored spray paint to apply after a gray base coat. Give them an interesting granite look. The detail work in the central gear is excellent!




Exhibit 45:
Matthew Fisk
United States
Spanish Fork
Utah
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This one has an different dark-brown color which makes the gold and silver highlights really stand out.





Wow! 45 different custom painted gear designs posted to BGG (well, ok 44 as one was game piece pimping). And, every gear had its own look and flavor. And some looked vastly different than all the others. There are just so many different directions you can take this.

But, I DID finally get my gears painted. And I'm very happy with them. I got a lot of good compliments about the work on them at the local convention a couple of weeks ago. There's a little more tweaking I could do, but I'm pretty much done with them at this point. Well, except that one last go at inking it again.......I think it needs a bit more to highlight the colors and look a little cleaner.

What do you think so far though?



This isn't the best picture as its hard to see the shininess of the gold and silver paint. I might also need some final touch-ups to a couple of areas that ended up a bit lighter than expect and then try to take a better picture of it before I officially post my pic. Its allllmooooost there....


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Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:15 am
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Tzolk'in Gear Pimping - A survey of what others have done

-matt s.
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Eugene
Oregon
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I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Tzolk'in, the game I'm most obsessed with from Essen 2012. I've played twice and now am ready to play some more.

In the weeks since its release I've seen several creative types painting and washing the gears in their copy of the games to help bring out the details to the amazing artwork on it. The central wheel has a tremendous amount of detail that is very hard to see unless you do something to highlight it and make it stand out.





Now, I have painted oil paintings and done other artwork before, but I've never painted any miniatures, etc, for games, so I'm quite excited by the prospect of pimping out my game by painting the gears! I've started to do some research into what others have done and also started to look up painting techniques that I might want to try.

Being that I'm new at this (although I do partake in other artistic endeavors) I figure I want to go for something relatively simple. My idea (for now) is to go with a simple wash and then maybe apply some detail paints to bring out certain features of the wheel. I don't want this to be a huge/crazy project (although I'm very detail oriented so I will still probably fall into the trap of it being at least a medium sized project). I don't want to take a super long time, but I also don't want it to look like crap either.

Anyhow, this list is a look at all of the cool and interesting ideas other gamers have had in pimping out their gears and my comments on what I like (and maybe a bit of what I don't like)...



Exhibit 1:
Scott Ferrier
United States
Salem
Massachusetts
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I like that the gears blend in and have a similar feel to the board. I also like how the worker spots are a darker color to bring out where they can be placed. The extra bit of color on a couple of elements on the main gear is a nice touch as well.



Exhibit 2:
Mario Markiefka
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The black gears are definitely striking! I love the overall look and how the details stand out nicely against the dark background.



Exhibit 3:
Manuel Vila Rodríguez
Spain
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas
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This is one of a couple that made all of the smaller gears a matching color to the board area they represent - something I've been considering for mine as well. I really like the detailing on the main gear and the shiny gold highlights are terrific!



Exhibit 4:
Renaut Stephane
United Kingdom
Horsham
West Sussex
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I like the simplicity of this one - a nice solid color, not too dark, but not too light that it completely blends in. The slightly mottled look with certain elements highlighted is great. It looks like something that has been sitting in the jungle for a long while.



Exhibit 5:
This was posted by one of the game designers, but according to the comments I think Paul Grogan actually did the painting...?
daniele tascini
Italy
Macerata
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Paul Grogan
United Kingdom
Cullompton
Devon
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I love how the details are brought out with the darker background. The gray stone look is very nice and yet simple as well. I wish there were more pictures to see how it looks on the board.



Exhibit 6:
André Nordstrand
Norway
Stavanger
Rogaland
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The depth of color on this one is excellent - really brings out the texture. Again, gold highlights here are terrific. Also wish there was there was a pic of this one on the board.



Exhibit 7:
David Berry
United Kingdom
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The ink wash on the main disk looks nice and you can see the design showing through but is still a bit subtle at the same time. The color is a good choice as it matches parts of the board.



Exhibit 8:
Chris MacLennan
United Kingdom
Reading
Berkshire
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This has an interesting wooden look to the outer gears although I think I'd like to steer more towards either stone look or just something that looks aged/highlighted. The main gear (when viewed at higher resolution) really shows the details with a very simple one-step wash job.



Exhibit 9:
Patrick Draad
Netherlands
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I really like this different take of green and blue giving it a sort of mottled jungle look. This one also takes the colored smaller gears to the extreme which I like although I'd probably want to tone mine down a bit if I go that direction.



Exhibit 10:
Alkis Moraitis
Australia
Sydney Olympic Park
NSW
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This is an interesting take using red on the main gear only and just in the center disc area to highlight the design. I really like how well it shows the design and doesn't go too crazy with color (other than the bright color choice - not complaining though as my favorite color is red!)



Exhibit 11:
Angel
Spain
Madrid
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This is one of my favorites just because of all the detailed painting and colors involved. It is certainly the most complex and it really looks great. Again, I love the gold highlights here - they just seem to go with the look of the art really well. The two different colors of blue is nice although very bold. I'm not sure I would want to go that bold or put in that much work, but I certainly wouldn't complain if mine looked as great as this when done!



Exhibit 12:

(Not sure if Mouseketeer actually painted this, but listing as the person who posted the pic at least)
Ann Th.
Belgium
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This is a good example of the stone look - it is subtle but looks great on the board as it contrasts with it well but also doesn't overwhelm it.



Exhibit 13:
Michael Kröhnert
Germany
Aachen
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This is a really nicely done wash - it really brings out the details but does it very subtly. The white and black highlights on the outer elements look good too. A very nice, simple amount of work but looks great at the same time. This is probably closer to what my ideas aspires to, but ultimately I will probably end up doing a bit more with some of the other elements I've seen elsewhere.



Exhibit 14:
Evan Dunn
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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This is the ultimate minimalist pimping - just highlighting the numbers and nothing else. I think I'll definitely want a bit more than this (I think the arrows should have been done as well), but it does show how even a small amount of work can help enhance certain elements.



Exhibit 15:
Kai Teo
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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I like how different details were brought out on this one than on other ones. Its funny what will catch each person's eye. The stone look again looks great here and the details really pop with the white and yellowish, copper and bronze colors.



Exhibit 16:
Mark O'Reilly
United Kingdom
Chester
Cheshire
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Another one with a gold/bronze look - this one is heavy on the shininess with some red to highlight. Also notice the colored outer gears as well - I really like the shade of blue on the Chichen Itza gear.




Exhibit 17:
Eduardo Cruz
Portugal
Arcozelo - Vila Nova de Gaia
Porto
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I like the details on this one. The all black (or is that very dark blue?) is a nice contrast to the color.




Exhibit 18:
Brian McCarty
United States
La Crescent
Minnesota
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This one is very gray with a wash but only in the center. The wash looks ok but I think it needed to cover the whole gear.




Exhibit 19:
N/A


Another all black one with highlighted details. I like the blue arrows and the brown highlighting on the two figures on the wheel. I'm becoming a non-fan though of bright highlighting on the central odd-shaped feature. Bringing it out is interesting to a point, but not too much as there are other more interesting features on the gear I think.



Exhibit 20:
The Dave
United States
Ogden
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whattheproblemis describes how he did it in the comments of the photo. Just basic acrylic paint for the colors, then rubbed an antiquing color to give it a darker look.




Exhibit 21:
Ben Chan
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Markham
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Just basic gold spray paint does the trick on this one. Looks pretty good just by itself, although I think I still want a bit more color/detail on mine than just a simple solid color.





Well, I will keep adding to this list as more and more designs come forth. However, as more designs are put out by users the harder it is for me to decide what *I* want to do. I think here's what I want to do:

* Brownish or Grayish wash/base to give it a stone or earthen look.
* Gold highlights on the raised design in many areas.
* Some red highlights of certain details.
* White or yellow highlights on the gear teeth details.
* Scan, color on my computer, then print out the central gear sticker to match whatever my design ends up looking like.

The central sticker is something that was only addressed a couple of times: by monolovia on Exhibit 3 (detailed painted or colored) and alkis21 on Exhibit 10 (lightly tinted) and macklau on Exhibit 11 (detailed painted)

I've had in my mind to color it on the computer which will give me some control and flexibility (and opportunity to fix it if I mess up)

Anyhow, that's the plan for now. Hopefully I have some time in the near future to work on this, perhaps on my time over the holidays. I've REALLY been wanting to play my copy but want to get this painting project done first and it as been languishing after everything else I need to do....

EDIT: 31-DEC-2012 - ADDED Exhibit 17 + commentary
EDIT: 02-JAN-2013 - ADDED Exhibits 18 & 19 + commentary
EDIT: 04-JAN-2013 - ADDED Exhibits 20 & 21 + commentary - just about every day there's a new pic!

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Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:00 pm
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Game Bit Storage Obsession - Planos, Gift card tins, and Boxes within Boxes (Roads & Boats, Factory Fun vs Factory Fun)

-matt s.
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Well, since I'm on a game bit storage kick after writing about my new Dominion storage setup recently, I decided to pull out the pics I took a few weeks ago and show what I've done for Roads & Boats and for Factory Fun.

I'm always looking for interesting storage boxes for bits, especially if I can get them inexpensively.

Last year I was able to purchase a copy (finally!) of Roads & Boats along with the & cetera expansion from a friend who was looking to sell it and an auction buyer balked after winning. I offered to buy it and it soon became mine.

He had a really nice largish Plano for storing the bits from the base game, but some of the bits were doubled up where I wanted them separated, plus the expansion was unpunched and it seemed I was going to need more efficient storage that was going to fit in the box and be handy for game play at the same time (and meet my OCD game bit storage needs)

I decided to break out the expansion to take a look at it (the chits and tiles all came unpunched in a largish baggie along with the new rules) and took some pics before I started punching. As I was looking through everything, I noticed that one of the boards was mis-printed (i.e. mis-aligned).


Misaligned copy

Gah! I fired off a note to Splotter Spellen and, much to my surprise, received new bits sheets a couple of weeks later! Wow!


Replacement copy

Anyhow, before I started actually punching I made a visit to a couple of hardware stores - Jerry's which is local to Eugene/Springfield area where I live here in Oregon, and Home Depot. At each store I found a somewhat limited variety of Plano type boxes (not actually Plano brand) but they were pretty darn cheap - only $2 to $3 each depending on size (maybe one larger slightly more expensive). I wasn't sure what was going to fit most efficiently into the R&B box so I chose a few of the really cheap smaller ones and a couple of the slightly larger ones figuring whatever I didn't use would still be useful for other games.

----Ok, before I go on I just have to make a bit of an aside - I REALLY enjoy going shopping at hardware stores, craft stores, office supply stores, art supply stores, etc. I love looking at all the interesting tools, gadgets, storage items, rulers, different papers, pens & markers, etc.....I'm in heaven when I go to these stores. I love the smells. I love the shiny things. I love the possibilities that everything suggests. I can spend hours just looking at everything. Of course, I have to limit myself going or else I'll come home with way more stuff than I really need, but those types of stores are very exciting to me----

My goal in getting boxes was to maximize the space usage in the game box, have as many separate compartments as possible for all the different types of chits and pieces, and ultimately make it easy to set up and tear down when actually playing the game. 100 baggies was NOT going to cut it here, and mixing of different bit types wasn't going to work either.

Here are the different sized boxes I picked up:


It's funny, as big as the R&B box is, it really takes some work to get everything crammed in there, especially with the expansion. At least its more or less an appropriate size for the game! And no funky insert or anything....

Anyhow, here's a comparison of the box size in relation to a more standard sized box:


Walnut Grove shown here is approx 12.5in x 8.75in x 2.8in (roughly same size as Thurn & Taxis, Taluva, or Finca) and R&B is over twice as big at 20in x 12.5in x 2.6in. It doesn't fit very well on my game shelves with everything else so I'm always struggling to find a proper location to store it. Someday I'm going to build new storage shelves and I think I'll have to build a special shelf just to store this game....

So, I tried out several of the different compartment boxes that I'd picked up and ultimately decided on 4 of the thinner, smaller boxes (they were actual Plano brand, too) each having 9 compartments (more were possible in them, but I didn't want the spaces to be too small to get chits out of). This gave me 36 compartments to work with, plus if I organized it right I figured it would be easier to get the different boxes spread around the table to where they would work most effectively during a game.

I decided that three of those boxes would contain the components for the base game and 1 would contain the additional components for the expansion - this would allow the expansion stuff to just be left in the box out of the way if we weren't using it and there would be no confusion. Ideally, a few more compartment spaces would be nice for the expansion because there are several different types of luxury goods, but the compromise seemed reasonable since they are all very similar.

Here's the detailed breakdown...


This box contains all of the player Wonder bricks, the neutral Wonder bricks, the geese and the paper.


This box contains all of the resources/goods like clay, bricks, coal, fuel, trunks, ore, gold, etc.


This box contains all of the base producers combined by type.


This box contains all of the &Cetera components, both resources/goods as well as the producers.


So, that took care of all the chits. But there were still the player pieces, the mines and the tiles.

Well, the tiles were easy as all of the base tiles and some of the expansion tiles fit into a neat row along the short end of the box without requiring a special insert, baggie or band. However, a few tiles still didn't quite fit in the one row, so I kept the special expansion tiles separate and bagged them in varying stack heights to stick where I could fit them in.



The plastic overlay sheet for the tiles fits along the long side of the box (and obviously dictated the overall length of the box). Unfortunately, the plastic is kind of a pain to use (due to it being curled up and having to tape it down to the table, and still you have issues keeping it flat, PLUS it's actually a little too small for the bigger maps) so I store it in the box permanently and ended up buying an inexpensive poster frame from Michael's when they were 50% off and use the plexiglass from that instead.

For the player pieces, I used some round metal tins I purchased at Albertson's after Christmas for $0.25 each! These tins were actually gift card tins with the inserts removed. I discovered a couple of years ago that if you look closely you can find these tins cheap when they go on sale and they make great game bit boxes. It's easy to overlook them but usually they are found near the checkout counters of a variety of stores and often come in rectangular shapes and all sorts of different designs. For instance, I found some nice rectangular ones with leaf patterns on them that I used in American Megafauna.



Here are some examples of different tin styles:


The ones I found for R&B are round and have a snowflake design on them. Ok, doesn't QUITE fit the theme, but it's nice looking so I'm happy with them. Of course, you can buy tins with weird designs then just print out nice stickers and apply. This will be more or less successful depending on if the design is flat (good for stickering) or is 'embossed' to follow the picture (like they are with these snowflakes). I like the snowflakes and stickers would look kind of crummy on the raised design anyhow.



Anyhow, the wooden player pieces (including the extra expansion pieces), wooden disks, wooden wall sticks, the cardboard home tile, plus the glass beads all fit fairly comfortably in the boxes. Then, when you you are playing, you can take the lid and put the most used/active pieces in the lid and use that to hold them ready for action. AND, the tins are nice and thin - thick enough for the pieces to fit in, but thin enough to be able to stack them up on top of the compartment boxes inside the box and still fit within the height of the box.



With the expansion there are a total of 6 sets of player pieces. Unfortunately, I only bought 4 tins (at $0.25 I should have known to buy more when they were so cheap - lesson learned) because I didn't actually know what I was going to use them for at the time. For the other 2 sets, I pulled out two of my plastic hinged boxes which also hold the full set of pieces nicely, AND, they fit properly into the box along with the other components with the space I had left around the chit boxes.

Finally, the wooden Mines all fit comfortably into a long jewelry box (also purchased on the cheap from Michael's) which fit nicely into the narrow gap between the Plano type boxes and the rolled up plastic sheet and it left just the right size gap for the mine baggies rolled up and tucked in beside it. Also, the gap was just right to squeeze in the technology boards and pen as well.



Well here's how everything fits neatly into the box. There's even room for all of my player aids and rules summary cards along with the original rules. It's a bit of a puzzle to get it all back in, but it fits nice and snug. I'm thinking of taking a picture and including it in the box so I don't have to figure it all out again each time I play.







------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ok, this one will be quicker. Hopefully....

Factory Fun. I decided that the insert for the new Z-Man version wasn't going to cut it for me. Too much work getting the pieces in and out, plus it doesn't stack on it's side well as everything goes all over.

Well, I found this nifty box set at Michael's:


It has really nice little boxes of different size inside a larger box.

With my 40% off coupon it was around $6. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could get all the FF pieces into this box set.

Wow, look, it all fits!




Well, almost.....


Well, almost, almost....doesn't QUITE fit back into the box despite it being rather tall...the player boards are just a BIT too thick, and I can't fit them side-by-side with the box set





You can see the lid just doesn't quite fit:


Ah well, the boxes themselves fit in nicely - just wish the set would have fit in directly.



Speaking of FF, here's my original version, showing how everything is crammed in there. Putting it all back in is like playing FF all over again! This is a really nice, small sized game box and, honestly, the original version is still my favorite version - I just like the cut-out pipes because they feel like REAL pipes, plus I love the hand-drawn artwork - which seems odd for such an industrial/precision suggesting game. Ah, nostalgia





Ok, one VERY VERY last thing to show you: the clear discs are sometimes hard to see on your machines when you're playing, so I found these nice industrial looking 3/8" (2mm) antique brass rings to use instead...

Original clear disc:


New brass ring:


In case you're wondering, I bought them off of ebay from a company in China. Later, I spotted some similarly sized aluminum chain-mail links at Michael's that come in a variety of colors. I've thought about buying some, but I'm not yet sure if the brightly colored rings will be worth the extra expense, plus the metal rings I have present a nice industrial look....


Well, those are my latest game storage ideas. Of course, I wouldn't normally put this amount of storage work in for just any game, but these are games I love and don't mind spending the extra time and expense to make the games that much more enjoyable for me when I bring them to the table.

So long and have fun hunting for your OWN storage ideas. If you find anything particularly interesting or useful, feel free to post them here!



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Thu May 31, 2012 10:31 am
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Game Bit Storage Obsession - Dominion re-organized, PLUS PNP game storage idea

-matt s.
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So, you may have seen my other posts in the past about game bit storage and my obsession with finding the right storage for the right game.

Here's a recap if you're interested (WARNING: These links go to older BGG blog posts which ultimately link to my off-site blog. Not everyone likes this and I have since stopped doing that. But if you don't like that sort of thing, please ignore these links - I may move the post entirely here some day but for now don't have the time. Sorry):
* THE CREATIVE GAMER - Game Bit Storage Obsession (aka Are You OCD Like Me?) - Part 1/3
* THE CREATIVE GAMER - Game Bit Storage Obsession (aka Are You OCD Like Me?) - Part 2/3
* THE CREATIVE GAMER - Game Bit Storage Obsession (aka Are You OCD Like Me?) - Part 3/3

The Part 3 post has some details about how I had my Dominion cards stored. Note that I am NOT heavily obsessed with Dominion, BUT, because my family really enjoys playing it (and I certainly enjoy it, just not all the time), I want to be able to tote ALL the cards around when I want them without having to carry all SEVEN of the expansion boxes and have to open each one up to find what I want.

If you didn't/don't want to follow the post, here's a recap:
* I purchased old Trivial Pursuit games from thrift stores and used the card box bottoms to store the cards in.
* I wasn't completely happy with the existing dividers on BGG so I created my own (although I admit I borrowed a bit from some of the other I saw):
Tasajara's Dominion Base dividers (vertical) - Includes Rules and Clarifications on Dividers
* I placed the cards in the boxes and put the boxes into a photo box I purchased on sale at Michael's craft store.

This was the result:



This was before Hinterlands came out. So, prior to that, EVERYTHING fit in there including all player boards and Intrigue set of money and VP cards, plus promos up to then.

When that last expansion came out I ran out of room so had to pull the extra cards, the Prosperity player boards and a few other things (even the randomizers I think)

I was thinking about it recently and it was kind of bugging me that I had to split things up - OCD was setting in. And, I know there are 2 more expansions planned (supposedly the last - plus a couple of Promos I'm guessing). That cardboard photo box was running out of space fast, plus I'm always worried carrying the thing around that it's going to rip open or something due to the weight of all the cards.

So, I was at Michael's with a coupon that gave me $5 off a $25 purchase. And, most of their 'storage' merchandise was on sale for 40% off. That alone was beckoning me to check out what was available. I spent a lot of time wandering the store looking at the various storage options and my various needs:
* Small bead storage boxes that I like to use for bit storage.
* Scrap-booking boxes that I've been considering for storing Heroscape stuff.
* Photo box storage - looking for a larger version of a photo box like what I already had, but not finding what I wanted for Dominion (they have bigger, but not tall enough)

Then when wandering through another area of the photo storage section, I noticed the plastic storage cases. I'd seen them before but nothing ever really stood out to me as being useful for games (or they were too pricey to be worth it)

But then it struck me - the larger photo storage cases were about the same height and width (well, 1/2 the box) as the cardboard storage box I was using for Dominion already. Hmmmmm, could I make a plastic one work? Would it hold everything? Would it be too big? Would it be too bulky to lug around?

So, let me describe what I was looking at in a bit more detail: It's a larger case that holds 16 smaller plastic cases in slots inside it. The 16 cases were each about 1" thick and slightly larger than a 4x6 photograph (of course!). I got one of the cardboard boxes and compared volume - seemed to be about the same size - slightly larger due to the slots and the need to accommodate the size of the small storage boxes.

Even better, here's a pic of the case:



I hemmed and hawed about getting it. Partly because the darned thing was $40.00 normal price and even with the 40% off sale it made it $24.00. Then I realized that you can buy the small cases inside for $1.99 each which made those alone worth $32.00. I figured worse case I could return the whole thing if it didn't work out. So I got it, along with another small set of plastic bead boxes and got $5 off the entire total with the coupon.

Here's the label in case you're interested in finding it yourself:



(NOTE: I found the same case later on Amazon here)

When I got it home I started transferring the cards into the case. If you remember I put the cards into Trivial Pursuit card boxes inside the other photo box. When I put these boxes with the cards in, they fit perfectly! In fact, the fins that are in the case to separate the smaller cases from each other were just the right size to grip the card boxes and hold them in place. Nice!



After getting the 4 boxes in I started searching for all the cards that previously hadn't been able to fit including the Intrigue set of money and VP cards and the randomizer cards. I realized I needed at least 2 more boxes (which there was more than enough room for) - time for another trip to the local Goodwill!

I decided to use 4 of the small cases to hold some of the other bits and the various player boards from Prosperity and Seaside, plus the randomizer cards:



The next day I found a Trivial Pursuit Baby Boomer expansion (which contains 2 card boxes) for $0.99 from Goodwill. I decided to put both sets of VP and Money cards into one box by themselves to keep them separate from the rest of the Kingdom cards. They fit really tight, not leaving as much room as I would normally want to be able to pull cards out, but its not really a problem since I can grab them from the sides and searching for what I need isn't going to be an issue here.

Here's a shot with everything in there, including the small cases with the player boards and bits, etc. As you can see, there is one empty box that should be enough room for 2 more expansions - hopefully it's enough room:




I even like how the side of the box is shorter than the older box as it makes it easier to read the dividers and get to the cards:



I'm happy to have it all in one place now with enough room to grow. Worst, uh, case, is I can take 2 of the small cases out, put in one more card box and still probably fit it all in.

AND, the Dominion cover labels I created for the first photo box should fit nicely onto this box as well so that will probably be my next task.

Note that the manuals still don't really fit in, although I could probably fold them in half and put them across the 4 cards boxes, but because I have all the card details and rules clarifications on the card dividers, it's one thing I'm willing to leave out.

Here's how the case looks with everything in it ready for travel:




I'm a tad concerned that the box latch looks like half of the handle and, if someone didn't know what they were doing when picking it up, there might be a BIG messy problem as a result. I'll just make sure no one else EVER touches it

Here's a size comparison with the original photo box, the new box, and 4 of the 7 expansion boxes (I seem to have destroyed/mis-placed the other 3, but you get the idea):



Yes, the case is somewhat large, and it's heavy when you are trying to move it around, but I think ultimately it's going to work out well.

Finally, for those that have concerns about the cards spilling everywhere when carrying the case, notice that as long as the card boxes are full, the cards shouldn't ever fall out and wander around the box:


(upside down!)




Ok, that might be enough for one post, but I still have 12 of the small picture cases left over. What to do with them?

Well, I found a couple of interesting uses.

A set of 14 Crokinole disks fit in nicely:



I have several sets and they were previously stored in a mish-mash of various containers. Ah, much better now:



I started thinking about what else could go in the boxes. I remembered I had a Print-and-Play version of Inspector Moss: House Arrest stored in a box for another game that I hadn't had a chance to re-label yet. Perhaps one of these small cases would work well.

Ta-da! Perfect fit:


Before


After

I still need a label though....

I don't do a lot of PnP stuff, but I imagine getting one of these cases and putting one game each into one of the small cases would make a really nice storage system for a bunch of games. I love the idea that the boxes all being clear would make it easy to find the game you're looking for.

Note that 2 decks of cards fit very nicely into the small cases and still have room for some dice and/or bits and even a rules sheet, so there's lots of possibilities here.

For instance, I can put my Decktet card deck ordered from Artscow along with some dice, cubes and some sets of rules all in a nice portable case (sorry, no pic but you get the idea)

Well, not sure if you like this idea or not, but I was pretty excited about it! Note that cost may be prohibitive depending on your needs, but seeing as how the small cases are usually $2 buying the larger set for less per isn't too bad of a deal. Also, buying them as one-off might be useful as well, especially if you can get some coupons.

Phew! That was a long post. Longer than usual (and I usually write long stuff, even when I try for something shorter).

I haven't written anything in a while...I've been thinking a lot about writing something, different things, but it hasn't been clicking for me lately. I guess this storage box gave me something I really wanted to write about

Thanks for stopping by - let me know what you think about this box and if it's something you might use for storing Dominion or Thunderstone or PnP stuff, or any other ideas you have.




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Mon May 21, 2012 12:05 pm
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - What happens when you mix a Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby and Chess? (Warning, graphic pictures inside)

-matt s.
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First off I'm going to say - sorry to disappoint, no blood or gore or King chess pieces embedded into someone's eyeball.

BUT if you stick with me for a short while, you'll see what I mean about graphic.

So, my son is in Cub Scouts. Every year they have a Pine Wood Derby where they get a block of wood, carve it into some sort of vehicle, nail some plastic wheels to it, then fling it down a track racing against other cars to see who is fastest and gets to go home with a trophy.


The Track

And, its really nice because our Pack has a 'sibling' category and an 'adult' (aka full grown kid) race for bragging rights so everyone gets to be involved if they want!

In addition to being able to get pins for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in their Dens, they also can win a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place trophy overall for the Pack. There is also a series of categories that all participants and spectators get to vote on including 'Most Creative', 'Most Detail', 'Best Woodworking', and 'Best in Show' among others. The great thing is that the vote counting committee makes sure everyone wins a certificate (although Best in Show gets a special trophy)

In the past we have done traditional cars. And everyone else seemed to be doing crazy stuff like a Nintendo DS (complete with hinge and screen), a piano, a fishing boat, the Star Ship Enterprise, and even a tank with 8 wheels!

So, this year we decided to think a little more 'outside the box'. Well, my son's was probably the most 'outside the box'. His goal was actually to be the most creative so he wanted to do a sea serpent - this is the result:

Side View


Another View About to Race!

For my daughter, hers was more 'inside the box' - well, inside the cat box as you can see (warning, this is graphic!):

View showing the cat face (that's a pic of her kitten, Skeeter)


A better 'poop' shot Kitty Box about to race!

She likes to tell how those are real cat poops in the box. Oh, they are! Real styrofoam packing peanuts painted cat poop color

Finally, mine was more somewhere between 'inside' and 'outside' the box - 'inside' the game box taking it 'outside' for a spin:

The Chess Racer!


Another view About to race....

Well, it turns out that everyone voted my daughters as 'Funniest' car and my son ended up winning 2nd place in his Den as well as 'Best in Show' from the voting (sorry, don't have a pic yet of the trophy).

And what about mine? It finished dead last among the adults shake. And I learned an important lesson - Chess and Pine Wood Derby Racing don't mix (warning another graphic pic!):


AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Noooooooooooooooo! Not a decimated chess game! The horror!


As it's that time of year, I'd love to hear about other people's experiences with Cub Scouting and how Pine Wood Derby racing goes for your Pack!



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Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:00 pm
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Carving SnakeKitty from Dungeon Petz on my Halloween Pumpkin

-matt s.
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Every year at Halloween my family goes to the pumpkin patch and takes a horse drawn or tractor drawn hay ride out to the patch to pick a fresh pumpkin. It's a fun tradition that we will continue as long as the kids enjoy it (and maybe even as long as the kids DON'T enjoy it)

Here are some pics from Lone Pine Farms in Junction City, OR:

While waiting in the long line for the horse-drawn cart (most popular) the kids checked out the Goat Walk and sent them a little feed via the pully system (pic on the right):


The Goat Walk (sort of a hamster trail for goats)

Then we went to the patch and picked out some pumpkins:

My son greeting the horses and the traditional family pic


Searching the fields for the perfect pumpkin, my wife and daughter


The next day I washed all the pumpkins and we got started carving. First we carved open the tops and scooped them out.


Carving open and scooping out the pumpkins

My son decided to do an image he found in a design book we have that has the headless horseman. My daughter went for a simpler design of a cat (surprise, surprise - she loves cats). She also ended up doing some 'scary eyes'

This is the results of their own carvings:

Emily's scary eyes and scary cat, Jacob's headless horseman

So, my idea came to me pretty quickly - I had just been showing my kids the game Dungeon Petz the previous evening and we had looked through all the various Petz you could breed. The most natural choice for me was the SnakeKitty because my daugher loves cats, my son loves snakes, and I love games


SnakeKitty

It seemed like a fun and Halloween-y carving project with some interesting challenge as well.

First, I grabbed the tools I would need. We've purchased several pumpkin carving kits in the past and have a number of tools available. Here's what I chose out of our kit:


The tools are:
(Across the bottom of the image)
* Large carving saw - for carving large areas, primarily for cutting open the top.
* Drill - used for drilling starting holes or opening up small areas.
* 'Poker' - this has a line of sharp pokers on a curve. You use this to poke a series of holes to mark the design on the pumpkin.
* Washable pen - this is sometimes used to highlight parts of a design that are hard to see while carving.
* 3 different detaile saws - Different sized saws for doing larger cuts and then detailed cuts.
* Peeler/Carver - Used to scrape/peel off the skin, also used for carving out details and cleaning up edges.

(Across the top)
* Scraper - Used to scrape out the seeds inside and also can be used to thin down the walls to make them more translucent and/or easier to carve if they are too thick. No more mangled spoons!
* 2 different LED Pumpkin lights - The one on the left does a yellow glowing/flickering effect like you'd get with a candle, the other does a multi-colored display rotating through different colors. We also have a white strobe light version not pictured.

Next I cropped the SnakeKitty image, then printed it to a full sized sheet so I could tape it to my pumpkin, then started 'tracing' the parts of the image I wanted to carve using the 'poker'.

If you look at the image below where the picture of SnakeKitty is taped to the pumpkin you can see a bunch of small holes where I used the poker to trace the design onto the pumpkin. This makes it fast, easy and 'permanent'.

Image taped to the pumpkin, then a shot of the pumpkin surface where you can see the holes poked into it.

Now, I will say that there was a lot of thought process involved in this step - you have to make good decisions about where you want to carve through, what needs to remain attached, and what areas you might want to carve away/sculpt. Last year I my carving was mostly carved through with some details carved into the surface. This year I wanted to do a bit more of the carving/sculpting and this image lent itself to that.

So, now that I had the design traced I focused on the 'carving through' areas. The thing I've learned from previous designs and looking at other designs is if you have an 'object' in the middle then it helps to have a 'frame' around it so that you can get that great glowing effect with some depth added. BUT, you also have to look for key points that the design can attach to the frame so that it stays connected to the base pumpkin - you don't want too many bits hanging out by themselves and obviously you can't cut all the way around the object or you'll just have a big hole.

Here's where I decided to make the cuts through to give the frame but still keep it connected:

The initial mapping out of negative space, and beginning to carve away the sculpted/thinner areas

You can see where I kept the 'whiskers' attached for support but also cut away enough to get the light to come through. I liked the idea of the eyes glowing and also initially intended the fangs to glow as well. Later, I switched this around and made the fangs solid. My focus was on keeping the face dark and close to the front, then try to show the furry/winding body more in the background and 'glowing'. This was accomplished (I hoped) by carving away the surface of the pumpkin.

While it looked good in light, in darkness the lantern light just didn't show through enough to 'glow' because the walls were too thick. I tried thinning them from the back side using the scraper but it was slow going and I was concerned about the whole design popping out of the pumpkin (i.e. I should have thinned the walls BEFORE carving)

So, I turned to actually carving out a layer of the middle areas to make it thinner. I don't have any pics of the process but here's the final result:

SnakeKitty carving complete, and comparison with glowing version

You can see how the middle areas are now set back - this was due to carving out those areas. I used the saws to slice into the depth and pull out most of the material, then used the 'peeler' to carve away the rest. I also used it to carve texture into the surface in the lower portion - note that doing that is NOT easy to do and difficult to get much fine detail on.

You will also note that I have changed the fang design here to be positive space instead of negative space (i.e. black/shadowed instead of glowing)

Well, that's the process. There are some details I glossed over, but not much really - the key is envisioning how the design will work, then determining where you can cut through to get a good design and what you can leave for interesting shadowing effects.

If you have any interesting carvings you've done recently I'd love to see them.

Now, go play a spooky game for Halloween! (wish I had Dungeon Petz to try out!)


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Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:14 pm
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Making Ticket to Ride: Northern Egypt (Part 2 / 2)

-matt s.
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Earlier this week I posted about designing TtR: Northern Egypt for the TtR $10,000 design contest. This is the continued story....

------------------------------------------------------
So, this is the version I left off with during my last post about the TtR:NE map:



This is the map that was printed out in a large format and got some testing in. In conjunction with this map I create a ticket template, printed out sheets of 9 of these, then started penciling in a variety of ticket routes with appropriate values and bonus locations.

So, I have to put in an admission here for those that may be wondering - yes, this map got some play testing, but honestly, it was not a lot. There wasn't a ton of time before the April 15th deadline. I would have loved to play a lot more but I probably didn't work hard enough to rally more testers. That being said, I spent a lot of time evaluating the map and taking cues from existing maps.

Still, initial tests of this map showed a couple of things:
1) Playing 2-player worked really well - the map was VERY tight and interesting.
2) The tickets with bonuses were interesting to play - it forced you to re-think whether you wanted to go for the bonus or not and possibly how to chain the tickets differently to get those bonuses.
3) The biggest issue was it was obvious the map was NOT going to accommodate 4 or 5 players, and possibly not even 3 players - it needed more double-routes and links between cities where they didn't exist now.
4) Some of the tickets were either over-valued or under-valued and needed some adjustments.
5) I forgot to include a score track (not a big deal for a first pass, but kind of obvious)
6) The middle of the map felt a little too tight.
7) The Suez canal multiple routes on the side were confusing, especially since we weren't actually using them in the game.

Overall, I was actually surprised at how well it played! I was really afraid it was going to totally suck.

One thing that was really interesting was I knew I was getting behind in tickets and points, so I decided to go for the long Giza Mines link to get some points. I was 1 card away when the game ended so I was very close to getting it. The 57 points for that link would have put me close to winning, if not over for the win (yes, I was THAT far behind - my excuse is that I was distracted just 'watching' the game in action for one of it's first trial runs)

Something else that was obvious was that it could take a while to move across the middle of the maps as there were a LOT of 1 space links.

So, the first things to clean up were:
1) Expand the map to include more links.
2) Lengthen some of the links to have more spaces.
3) Double up more of the links.
4) Open up the middle of the map a bit more.
5) Add a score track!

The first order of business was adding the score track. This was necessary to further define the boundaries of where cities and links could sit on the map.

Rectangles seemed 'natural' at first since the other maps use them, but it didn't seem to fit the theme well. Hence, I came up with the use of pyramids (triangles) instead. And, I applied a brick texture to give them a pyramid feel. It's not the best texture but it worked for my purposes here:





Then, I needed to adjust the existing links to pull them away from the score track a bit. I also started to open up the middle, expand in some areas and trim in other areas. Notice I also got rid of the multiple Suez Canal links and made it a single long route.

All these adjustments were initially done just by moving the cities around to simplify the process. You can see this in the next image where the cities all look out of place.



Next, it's time to re-create the links between the adjusted cities. Something I had run into putting the map together initially was all of the routes were manually constructed and aligned, segment by segment. This was ok for tweaking after initial placement, but revamping the map in this way made it a problem.

So, I figured out you can create your own brushes in Xara and apply them to lines. Thus, I made new 'brushes', one for each color of links, plus gray for the wild links and a special multi-colored brush for the line.

Then, I started a new layer for the new set of links and started sketching them in as simple lines. Next, I applied the appropriate colored brushes to each line and adjusted them to fit. The great thing about this was that I could stretch or shrink the length of the lines to get more or less links! Here's the middle of that initial conversion process:



And here it's starting to take shape. You'll notice that many of the dead ends have been eliminated. This gives multiple ways into a particular city creating competition for them. Combine this with the right balance of tickets and it should create tension without making players feel like they're completely stuck trying to get somewhere. Obviously at some point, if you wait too long, you WILL be stuck, but you need the option of having at least one alternate/backup plan.



It was fun to start bending the lines to make them fit and give it a more organic feel rather than just a bunch of straight lines going everywhere. And with the new brushes applied to the lines, it made it SO much easier to manipulate them in this way and experiment a bit more to get the right look.



Here we have a couple of tweaks including changes to some of the link colors for better color distribution.



And some more tweaking of colors and position. Something I was trying to achieve was making sure there was enough of each color and an appropriate distribution of link lengths for each as well. Also, I wanted to balance the long links going to the Giza mines with other links that used the same colors. Thus, you have to make the decision to use those colors to complete your tickets OR take a risk and go for the extra points. What will you choose to do?



The version above is what ended up being the last version I created before submitting it to the TtR contest. We got a couple plays of this version in before it had to be rushed off.

One thing my Mom suggested was for an additional link across the middle between Tanta and Al Hayatim to give at least one more possible option to move across the middle of the map. Of course I had to accommodate my mommy

Also, during one play with some more heavy-duty gamer friends (who find TtR a bit light I think), Robert showed how the game could potentially be broken (typical Robert ). He immediately went first for the Suez Canal garnering 37 points. THEN, he proceeded to get the longer Giza Mines link netting him another 58 points, thus giving him 95 points fairly early in the game while the rest of us were scratching out small points. Little by little we gained on him.

By the end of the game he ended up losing by maybe 5 points as Lorna had completed several tickets, most with bonuses. Robert had a difficult time with his tickets and only completed one of two of his starting tickets. This was because they were a bit longer and the rest of us had tied up the board while he focused on the longer links.

I was pleased to see that his wasn't necessarily a winning strategy. However, it was a bit demoralizing to the rest of the players AND it was perhaps a bit too dangerous/over-powered.

Thus, I later decided to reduce the point values from following the usual scoring pattern down to 27 and 39 respectively (still a good chunk of points, though). Unfortunately, I didn't do this on the map sent in to the contest and probably should have....



Also, I found that the unusual names (to American eyes at least) were difficult for people to interpret with the font I was using. I really like the look of it, but it's difficult even for ME to read the names. So, I changed the city names to use a more standard looking font (no, it's NOT Comic Sans! Or Helvetica!) You can see this on the map above as well.

So, that's the progression of the map.

Now, as to the tickets, I'll give you a quick rundown: I liked the idea of having the map on the ticket and showing exactly WHERE the cities were on the map. None of the versions of TtR tickets have made me completely happy - there is always some level of confusion as to WHERE on the map you need to look for the cities.

This was particularly important with these tickets because not only do you have the two normal endpoint cities, you also have the BONUS city as well, and you need to be able to easily distinguish between them.

So, once I had the final map completed, I could use a copy of it to make the tickets match. I decided to standardize the location of the end point and bonus city names on the tickets, then highlight each city on the ticket and draw an arrow to each to make it perfectly clear.

Here's the progression to the final ticket design:


Initial base design


Adding color and highlights


Increased font sizes and eliminated confusing/unnecessary labeling


More labeling cleanup - final version


Another example of the final design


Back of the ticket



Phew! That was a bit of work just writing it all up. Luckily I saved copies of everything as I progressed so I had a good record of the progress.

That's a technique I learned many years ago when I started doing computer drafting and has carried through everything I do on the computer...saving FREQUENTLY and using SAVE AS judiciously. There's nothing like spending 2 hours on something and making a ton of progress and then losing it all because of some computer glitch.


Well, there's one more small chapter to this story. First, I uploaded the map to Zazzle and have made it available there

And, the tickets are available on Artscow.

For Zazzle, sometimes they have percent off discounts which will save you a bit if you look for those sales.

For Artscow, if create an account with them ahead of time, they regularly send coupons to get custom decks for cheap with free shipping - that's the ideal way to get a deck if you don't mind waiting. Note that this is a FULL deck, but you actually are getting 2 sets of tickets. If you want the other half to be something else just remove the duplicates and add in whatever other cards you want...of course you'll have the same ticket back so you could change that to something generic if you wanted.

Here's the map mounted in a 22.5"x34" poster frame:


and a pic with some trains on it:


This shows a prototype and final ticket:


And the back of the final ticket (unfortunately I didn't zoom in close enough - I've fixed this in the Artscow card project):


Well, that's the end of this journey. Hope you enjoyed it! I know I had fun putting it all together.

You can also just thumb this blog entry (and any I've posted in July) to be entered into a drawing at the end of July where I'm giving away a copy of this map and a set of tickets.
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Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:48 am
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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Making Ticket to Ride: Northern Egypt (Part 1)

-matt s.
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Before I get into the subject at hand, I would like to point you to an auction that my friend Chris put together. Four of us are getting together for a gaming weekend next week and leading up to it we're having a 'combined shipping' auction. The auction link is: CLOSED 4-in-1 Auction (175+ games) - ends Jul 26th Please take a look around and see if you like anything.

--------------------------------------------------
So, you may or may not have heard about the $10,000 Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride design contest earlier this year, but I did mention briefly in a previous blog post that my wife and I both immediately had some ideas for possible entries when we first heard about it back in February.

My idea centered around a 'toy' train idea where the routes would take you around a house between various rooms and even into and around the backyard. A couple of things appealed to me about this idea: 1) it was family friendly, 2) I thought maybe it could be scaled for more or less players by using just inside vs. outside vs. Combined: 3) it could be done with several boards or as a series with different types of homes around the world, each having culture specific details, etc.

My wife's idea was an interesting twist on the basic game - each destination ticket, in addition to having the regular point value for connecting the 2 cities, would also have a BONUS city and related point value. If, in addition to connecting the two regular cities, you also connect the BONUS city into the network (i.e. all 3 cities are somehow connected), you get the additional bonus points.

I really liked both of these ideas when we first thought of them.

Well, time went by and we didn't do anything about it. No research. No design. I didn't even really read the entry form in detail more than once. I felt like we were kind of letting it slip by us.

Finally, around April 1st I started thinking about it again - I knew the deadline (April 15th) was coming up fast. I really liked my wife's idea. Actually, I liked my idea, too, but hers was fundamentally better in terms of introducing something DIFFERENT and yet still being the same game. It actually added a new dimension with a simple change. I subsequently mentioned it to some friends who have helped playtest it and the idea got them excited about it, too.

So, the next order of business was the location and map. She initially had an idea for a couple of possible map locations, one of them being Egypt. So, I started doing research on it. It turned out that Egypt is actually very rich in railroad history. I suppose perhaps many places have some level of railroad history, but this area seemed to really have some interesting background. In addition, I found a map of sorts that showed many actual city/station locations for a railroad system! It made a great basis for a somewhat historically accurate map.

The other important thing was a certain density of cities for her idea to work well. This location had exactly what I was looking for to exploit her idea to the fullest.

After discovering all of this, my interest suddenly went off the charts! It was time to start designing...

First, I started with my graphics program of choice: Xara Extreme 4 (or just Xara). This is an older version of a vector based program I've been using for years and haven't bothered to upgrade in the last couple of go rounds (looking at the new features on their website I just might consider)

It is a program I love because it's relatively simple yet still powerful, flexible and has a good range of options. It is primarily a vector based drawing program but it has some terrific shading, shadowing, and transparency capabilities. In addition, you can bring in pictures (jpg, gif, etc) and integrate them with what you are working on, or use them as textures, etc. It also has layering, multiple levels of undo, object grouping, an object alignment tool, and a host of other features.

Anyhow, I've used it consistently for a variety of projects over the years and it has done pretty much everything I've asked of it outside of actual photo manipulations, enough so I haven't bothered looking for anything else to replace it.

So, for this project I started with a virtual sheet of paper the size of a standard TtR board (approximately 21"x31"). Sorry, the image is a bit 'light' looking but if you look carefully you can see the general shape of the board squares.



Then, I underlayed a screen capture I took of the online map that I found of Egypt showing real existing train lines. Now, initially I was hoping to do a full-map of Egypt. However, the southern part of Egypt just didn't have enough interesting things going on. But, in the area of the Nile River basin, there was a LOT going on. This seemed to be fertile enough ground to build this map on.

Next, I started mapping out the routes between them using rectangles of similar size to an actual TtR board.



The map image I put on one layer and the tracks on another so that I could turn on/off one or the other as needed. The use of layers became more and more important as I went on due to the variety of different objects required for generating the map.



Next I started to emphasize the links and cities and pushed the map to the back. Two ideas that you can see some emphasis on is the Suez canal link on the far right (linking Suez and Port Said directly). Notice the multiple 'lanes' - my initial idea for this was an 'advanced' option that allowed each player to have their own separate track. When completing any other link on the board, an extra card could be played to add one train to the Suez canal on their track. I didn't have this idea fully developed but liked the option to have 'more options' for an advanced version.

Also notice on the far left a long link to the Giza Mines; it's significantly shorter than the actual line, but is intended to simulate it at least. I really like the long link on Nordic Countries and was sort of taking advantage of that city and actual rail link to create a similar feature. My idea here was to NOT make it part of any tickets but make the points significant to make it a possible risk worth taking, or possibly even as a catch-up mechanism for people that are in a tough spot.



The cities started getting labelled and the routes were created to try to get some balance in their lengths. The city names on the underlay map seemed to be either older names and/or official Egyptian names for the cities. I did some searches on Google maps and used the names I found there. I love the interesting sounding names - Zagazig, Obeed, Qasabi, Dumyat. You can see I also started fitting in some double routes in various locations. This doubling up of links became the theme over time as I progressed through the map making...

My initial idea was to try to keep the links strictly to the realistic links and see how that ended up coming about, but that also had to change to properly accommodate the board as an actual game board.



One interesting fact about the real Egypt rail line is the ability to purchase different levels of tickets depending on how fast you want to get through. The cheapest tickets require many stops between start and destination. More expensive tickets take you more directly to your destinations. To simulate this a bit, I included several places where, to get between two cities, you can take a bunch of short links between each city, or you can take a longer more direct link. This isn't a 'perfect' simulation of this, but I liked the idea and it seemed to make for interesting routing in certain areas, especially around the Cairo area.

Next up was to mark the cities. I make a simple shaded circle/button and set about defining where each specific city was located.



Now, I wanted to clean up the map a bit so I started graphically defining the outline of Egypt. I traced the outer edges and shaded it a bit to give it a touch of depth.



Then, I pushed the back behind the board grid and gave it a bit of color...



...and cleaned up the track links a bit...



...and the rest of the board (including adding the Nile River)...



Now, it's time to start coloring the links. Of course, I started with red (since it's my favorite color). I initially had some problems managing the links - the main reason being that EVERY SINGLE RECTANGLE on EVERY link has to be managed separately. That's a LOT of adjustment when I want to move stuff around. A major pain really. But, I will come up with a solution soon. For now....it's a bit of a grind adding the color and making adjustments. But, I'm starting to like the look of it now.



I should stop here for a second....I KNOW I shouldn't be focusing too much on 'how it looks' BUT, I can't help it. It's the perfectionist in me wanting to make it look as good as possible regardless. Ultimately, I know we're going to enter this in the TtR Design contest, and I know that submitting the actual map isn't required, but *I* want something nice and presentable. Ah well, I'm having fun with it at least!

So, more color gets added. A lot actually. I did some counting of numbers of tracks on the original TtR board to get a feel for how many links of each different length and each different color and try to go for similar proportions.



I decided the font needed to change to something more fitting to the theme. The plain brown background didn't seem quite right either. So, I found an interesting, decorative font and applied a texture to the map and did a bit of other tweaking.



You'll also note that I added the point chart. Notice the 8, 9 and 11 train links! Those are HUGE points. As you will find out in the next post, the points may have been a bit TOO HUGE!

Well, that's it for now. Up next is showing what the initial tickets look like and reports on some play-testing.

Oh, one more thing - if you thumb this post - and come back to thumb ANY BLOG post of mine this month (July) I will be giving away something special/game related at the end of July (I'm trying something new to see if I can encourage readers to let me know if they read my posts here on BGG or not since 'hits' are not actually available on BGG) - the prize will be a copy of the final version of Ticket to Ride: Northern Egypt + cards that was submitted to the TtR design contest. Yes, it's official, the prize this month WILL be the final version of this map + tickets. Don't forget to check out all my posts for this month! Good luck!

BONUS: For reading this far, if you thumb the header part of the auction geeklist: CLOSED 4-in-1 Auction (175+ games) - ends Jul 26th those thumbs will count as entries for the free item drawing as well. Thanks for stopping by!
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Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:44 am
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