ones upon a game

I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame

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The Index is a door to finding treasure in the dark...

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Over the past nearly three years, lots of articles, reviews, tips, images, etc. have appears on this blog... I was starting myself to get lost trying to find something!

So to remedy that I've created a new geeklist: Ones Upon A Game: Reviews, Mods, Images and Videos Index to refer to find the potentially helpful diamond in the rough.

I welcome you to subscribe to the list as a whole or just to games that are of interest to you... if such a thing is of interest to you.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 3:24 pm
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Digitally Painting Miniatures

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Welcome Geek Weekly Readers!

When making my counters for Silent Death: The Next Millennium Deluxe Edition (I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Silent Death!) I knew I was going to want ship images on them. While just technically the text would have been enough, this isn't wargaming in the 1980s anymore. I wanted bright, colorful, painted ships to distinguish the ship models.



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!!!
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Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:47 pm
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What'a Feeling... Bein's Believin' (don't worry, no flashing or dancing involved)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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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.

Argh!

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?

And from that Bible Books: Match was born.



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.
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Mon Oct 9, 2017 10:25 pm
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The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and other Persons

Kevin L. Kitchens
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A little over a year ago I released my "Hostage Cards" unofficial expansion for Hostage Negotiator by Van Ryder Games. It was met with more enthusiasm than I anticipated (thank you!). This deck of 27 characters gave a little more depth to the yellow meeples of that game and many felt increased the tension (some said too much!).

If you've not heard me harp on these before, you can read all about them and download the print and play PDF versions yourself if you like.

Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

With the current Kickstarter campaign for the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion underway (LINK: http://kck.st/2fuhTs3), it occurred to me that these cards could as well be used for other games. With the limited direct ties to Hostage Negotiator, I decided to sever that connection and make the cards a little more versatile and work with not only HN, but also for Flash Point: Fire Rescue and perhaps other games that use a hidden "victim" component.

So from this point forward "Hostage Cards" are now "Persons in Peril"



Obviously fire rescue isn't about hostages, nor are they "victims" if they are actually rescued, so "Persons in Peril" seemed like an appropriate fit. This deck includes the original 27 character cards as well as five "False Alarm" objects and two straight-from-casting-central cute animals (a dog and a cat). There are also 20 "blank" character cards for you to make your own persons in peril should you so desire. The entire 54 card deck features an all new back image as well.

The 54-card version is now available on The Gamecrafter (LINK: http://bit.ly/2uGANxU). As promised the original "Hostage Cards" will remain free PnP for those who only want it for Hostage Negotiator.

A reduced price 36-card version (same as the 54 but with 18 fewer of the blank cards -- there are only two) will be available in the next week or so. UPDATE: They're ready... https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/persons-in-peril-expans...



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Wed Aug 9, 2017 7:09 pm
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Incredible deal for Game Development Software

Kevin L. Kitchens
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GameMaker Pro + FOUR Export Modules for $15.

This is an AMAZING deal, IMO. I already own Construct2 which is a very good game development tool, but also with Unity and Xamarin at my disposal, I don't really need a new one. However, Construct2 and GameMaker are among the easiest for entry level, drag and drop (basic) and scripting (advanced) game development for PC/iOS/Android (you design for one, export for whatever).

The Studio version of GameMaker is free but can only run output on Windows machines.

But for the next two weeks (12 days or so left) as part of the Humble Bundle and benefiting Doctors Without Borders, YoYo Games Ltd is offering a nearly full Studio Master version of GameMaker (about an $800 value) for $15.

Also included is the source code for several commercially released titles so you can learn from those who have already succeeded.

While I know this sounds like an email from a Nigerian Prince, it really is the real deal. I've avoided buying GameCrafter in the past ONLY because of the lack of an upgrade path/discount from one version to the next. So these guys are normally tight with their discounts. The Studio Pro version is normally $149 and the export plugins start at $199. Each.

With this bundle you're getting:

* GameMaker Studio Pro license
* HTML5 Module (for browser based games)
* iOS Module
* Android Module
* Windows UWP Module (Windows 10 currents, with Windows Phone and Xbox soon)

Plus source code and executables for several games.

NOTE: The average was $15 (to get everything). It's now down to just over $12, making this even more of a no-brainer.

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at Game development, either creating a utility app for a board game or porting your favorite, this is a great entry-level opportunity.

GameMaker Features: LINK
Humble Bundle Deal: FULL DETAILS
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Wed Sep 7, 2016 7:20 pm
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Let's Get Digital, Digital. I Wanna Get Digital...

Kevin L. Kitchens
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I'm honored by all the wonderful and positive reception to my conversion of the Sid Sackson game Bowling Solitaire (detailed here: Getting Down in the Gutter and Converting a 47 Year Old Classic).

Firstly all of your kind comments and many downloads. Secondly it was one of the feature stories in the current issue of The Geek Weekly: Origins 2016 and Fun for Us at Home - The Geek weekly Issue #120 (great official BGG blog, you must subscribe, such fun!)

And now BGG user and game designer radchad has taken the images from my conversion and made a module for Tabletop Simulator.

Download: Bowling Solitaire for Tabletop Simulator



Pretty cool!

Scoring is handled manually just writing on the scorecard area with the pen tool. To reset for a new frame, you stack the counters on their respective start locations (with the correct number of balls on each stack) and then use the randomization function to shuffle things. If you're a regular user of TTS not yet full of BS (that is Bowling Solitaire), then you really should pick this up and give some props (and maybe geek gold) to radchad.

Finally, since I really need to learn mobile development for my career, I intend to make this a project for that very purpose. If I can get permissions from the Sackson estate, I'll release for iOS and Android at some point. Stay tuned.
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Mon Jun 20, 2016 1:50 pm
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Hostage Cards "Unboxing"

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Seems weird to do an unboxing of my own creation... but this is less about the quality of the expansion itself (it's awesome of course, lol), but about the revealed quality of the GameCrafter printing of it.

And here it is...



In all I think they turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. The alignment was just as I designed and the color was excellent!



They are not yet searchable in the store for a couple of more days, but you can find the cards here: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/hostage-cards-expansion if you don't want to print and play your own set.

The print and play will remain free of course: Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)
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Sun May 29, 2016 2:11 pm
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Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Hostage Negotiator from Van Ryder Games has been a very entertaining and popular solitaire game (as seen in the last several months of Top 10 tracking). However, to me, one thing seems missing. Hostages. We have meeples for the hostages, but the game never told you just who those hostages were. We know who the Abductors are. We know who the Negotiators are. Why not a little back story on the men and women behind the meeples.

This is a project I've been planning for several months and finally was inspired to get it done over the last several nights. So to that end, I present the "Hostage Cards" print and play expansion for Hostage Negotiator.



This Hostage Cards (unofficial) expansion is designed to add a little bit more realism to the game, by putting names, faces, and backstory to those you rescue -- or lose -- in your games of Hostage Negotiator. 27 different hostages are included to give some variety to your game (and since 27 is divisible by 9 cards per page, why not?).

I was not content to just use text, so I paid for 28 stock photos from online site Fotolia to bring these characters to life. I processed them to look more like painting/comic/artwork instead of raw photos (Hey Star Trek game makers, it can be easily done!). I tried to mix up the cards between men and woman, various races and ages, etc. Not for any PC reasons, but for a realistic potential mix.

I also attempted to breathe life into the characters in the small space that I allowed myself. You’ll find a little detail about them, a quote perhaps, and then an explanation of why they were in the crisis location. As each scenario can differ it was hard to do this without being specific. I hope you’ll forgive any inconsistencies that may occur between my explanation and the scenario location. Just go with it.

Using the Hostages
Using the Hostage Cards in a game of Hostage Negotiator is simple. Instead of placing the yellow hostage meeples on the player board at the start of the game, shuffle your deck and deal out (face down) a stack of yellow hostage cards equal to the number of meeples you would have placed. Set aside the rest of the cards.



When a hostage is rescued ( or killed ) reveal the top card of the hostage deck to learn which was affected and put it in the appropriate stack. If a terror card adds more hostages to the pool, then add that many more cards to the stack from the remainder of the starting deck you set aside.

You may find it easier to still use the meeples on the board itself and then draw a card when you move a meeple to either rescued or killed.

The instructions for the expansion include more information on how to use them and some variant options. I hope you will enjoy this addition to the Hostage Negotiator system.

Instructions
https://www.dropbox.com/s/u6dwlgcvuxqkjb2/Hostage%20Cards%20...

Cards PDF
https://www.dropbox.com/s/426hpk6pelgw90y/Hostage%20Cards%20...
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Fri May 20, 2016 5:57 pm
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Game Design and Prototyping Phases

Kevin L. Kitchens
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There is a very interesting thread in the BGG Board Game Design forum that inspired this post: The 3 Distinct Stages of Prototyping. I invite all of you designers to check it out and add your input there (and here of course ).

Mine designs start with ideas (as they all do I guess), but I try to flesh things out in my head first. I have a Notepad++ document for each game idea I have. As I commute, I think of new things and then when I'm home or at work I add them in. Either under a category (movement, combat, etc) or just as general notes. Then I can review them later and make corrections, categorize them, etc.

Regarding prototypes, I really hate repeating myself and redoing things. Let me repeat that, I really hate repeating myself and redoing things.

My first "design" that decided to implement was/is a dice and card word game. I used Photoshop and made all the cards manually. I had already planned them out in my notes file, but then set to work designing them. When Artscow had a sale I ordered a deck of them. They looked great. I'd already ordered blank dice and stickered them as my first prototype and inspiration piece.

Then I set it up to play the first time. And I was bored

Oops. But fortunately, it's only a rules related boredom, not components, so I didn't lose too much there. But I've not gotten it back out to revise yet because I was so frustrated. But I will. I think.

My current design is going to require tile placement to build a "map" to begin the game. I'd asked on here before (Game Design: Would you consider this too fiddly?) about placing 69 tiles vs. combined groups of tiles. I'm still on the fence. The poll swayed me to thinking I'd do 23 "triplets" of tiles, but I'm not convinced that will give me the variety I'm looking for or to make the game interesting. I see there are other games that have a tile setup before play begins, so I'm thinking 69 isn't too bad. The biggest problem is having the tiles shift around. But as they are currently 2 inch hexes, that shouldn't be too bad an issue.

I started building those tiles one by one in Photoshop totally knowing I'd come back and correct the art later. But as I mentioned before, I hate repeating myself (as I repeat that, lol). So about 37 tiles in, it kept bugging me what work would have to be done to make any changes to these tiles. Ugh.

Fortunately, I discovered the data merge functions for Photoshop. I'd already had a spread sheet for my tile data and now just had to adapt my master Photoshop template to be data driven from that spreadsheet. I tackled the learning curve in my side project for X-Wing (X-Wing as a Hex and Counter Wargame?) so setting it up for my tile data was a breeze. Now I can gen and regen my tiles in just a few minutes.

NOTE: If you're designing cards or counters with a lot of variety, you really should research this functionality. It works for all the Adobe suite too, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.

However, cutting all those hexes can be a pain each time I make a change and my design plan includes a preset layout map on paper anyway, so I simply created the map full size in Photoshop. I'd already designed it by hand on a piece of hex paper to get the the tile specs for the data. I combined all the data-built tile images (took less than 30 minutes) and then printed it out full scale on a couple of large sheets of paper and taped them together. The resulting map is about 21x18", well within the norms for a board game too.

Now I can move on to fleshing out the rules of the game with this inspiration piece. It won't have the variety of the random tile layout, but it will still allow me to play in one of the modes I intend to include. It will enable me to find issues with the tile distribution for example.

The game is a space-themed game for 1-4 players and even though the tiles will have a black-starfield background when final, for my prototype, I just printed on white to not only save ink, but also to give me room to markup the map with notes. I already had to update the data and regenerate the tiles after the first printing. But for replacements, I just printed the section I'd updated, cut those tiles and then taped them in place onto the map.

It's not perfect, but prototypes aren't supposed to be.
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Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:11 pm
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X-Wing as a Hex and Counter Wargame?

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Miniatures games are great and Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is actually one of the best. With the detailed ships and range/turn rulers, it's a blast to play. However, where many miniatures games fall short is the dependence on off-board stats for the units each mini represents. In some games, this can greatly increase to table footprint (Dust Tactics). X-Wing somewhat solves this with the pilot cards that attach to each base that show the stats right by the figure as in a wargame counter. Action and stress markers "ride along" with the ships and only damage and shields are typically tracked off-board.

But I have found myself actually wanting to replace the minis in other games like Star Wars: Imperial Assault with (gasp) cardboard standees for each character that would also carry with them some stat information. Just getting too spoiled with wargames I suppose. The side-board stats work fine with low miniature density or at least with small numbers of actual unit types -- like in Memoir '44 and Tide of Iron. I actually did replace the minis with blocks in Memoir '44 as some of you may recall (Memoir '44 - Blocks That Work Better Than Miniatures).

So back to X-Wing... this is really not so much about "improving" it directly as one of its popular variants "heX-Wing" (heX-Wing version 2016). heX-Wing takes away the turn and distance rulers and conforms it to a standard hex-map. The 36" square board becomes an 18x18 hex area and all the turns and moves have been adapted to accommodate a hex playing area. It's been very popular with some X-Wing players, though I'm sure not with all of course. I can see though where it might remove what to some is a pain point of the game and speed up play considerably.

Gameplay is still the same in terms of move selection with the dials and combat... just the calculations are more canned. One problem though is that to handle the size of the ships, you need a pretty large hex grid -- still roughly 3x3' square. Only one ship per hex too, so collisions are completely avoided.

So for the past several weeks, I've been looking at a way to make the footprint of heX-Wing even smaller and make it more of a wargame, still respecting the rules of regular X-Wing. To this end, I went through all the data for the game up to the new Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set set and created 1" counters for each pilot in the game except for capital ships. This is still very much a work in progress, but I thought I'd spill the beans and give a preview of the counters I'm designing.



I'd originally planned to leave the Pilot Skill rating off the counter, but based on the answers in this poll (Silly Poll for some, but relevant for me...), it still seemed that it was used by a decent number of players, though not the majority. These are cropped samples too, the final PDF will include some bleed and cut lines for those that wish to use them.

Of course the response here may actually prove there is no interest in this outside of my own game room.

Each pilot name is at the top with the ship name beneath. Keeping the same color scheme, you have pilot skill, attack, defense, shields and hull strength. In the lower center is the faction icon for each ship as well. I kept the same colors for the Alliance/Resistance and Imperial/First Order since these factions can be combined. The smaller number below the skill is simple the counter id code. On the right, of course, are the actions that can be selected.

For the non-unique pilots, I will be including four of each and they are differentiated with a white number in a black circle above the pilot skills. Smaller 5/8" counters have been designed with these same numbers that can be placed off board on the pilot card.

So the overall gain here is that if you're a fan of heX-wing, you can now play it on a much smaller hex map -- provided it can hold a 1" counter. You'll still need to own the game and the ships necessary for the proper number of dials and pilot cards. But it only seemed fitting that if you're gonna start playing X-Wing on a hex map like a wargame, then you should be using counters like a wargame.

You may notice the center section is empty. My hope is to get a basic ship image for each ship type and put in there. I've asked a few people who work on other related projects and am hoping the community will come through for those. I don't want to lift anyone else's work for this project. That's pretty much the only thing holding the final release of these counter sheets. If nothing comes to fruition soon, I'll probably alter the structure to make the ship type a little larger.

Anyway, would love to hear your feedback on this, especially as it pertains to heX-Wing. If you're not a fan of that variant, I don't think this will sway you and not really sure this would be the place to debate the merits of that system. For me, it's been a fun project learning some new techniques in Photoshop (data merge) that will help me with my own designs.

Thanks for reading!
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Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:42 am
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