Several years ago I created tray dividers for Academy Games, Inc.Conflict of Heroes series. These were cut and fold paper dividers that kept the numbered counters neatly organized in sets of 5 so they were not only easier to find, but when some were removed for play, they kept the rest of the counters from falling over in the tray.
Then the other day it occurred to me that these could actually be more sturdy if they were 3D printed, so remeasuring and using various tools, I created just such a model for both the small and the large "wells" in the Conflict of Heroes awesome game trays.
Brook City, the latest release from Blacklist Games and designers Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler, is another great game using their "Modular Deck System". Combining decks for the various parts of the game, in this "case" the cops, the criminals, and the current case (four short of the "7 C's of History"), produces a host of combinations and increases replayability. It's a fun, unique system (bearing only the most superficial similarity to Sentinels of the Multiverse, to which it's erroneously compared).
However, unlike their previous Street Masters (a nostalgic martial arts romp using the same MDS), Brook City is just a tad bit overproduced. The Kickstarter promised and delivered minis galore! Minis for the cops. Minis for each car and vehicle. Minis for each crime boss and his/her henchfolk. Lots and lots and lots of plastic in the game. There is also a large roughly 3x2' board to sit on the table, Card areas for each cop, a card row to be maintained for each criminal, as well as one for the case. A lot of space, especially for the solo player.
In addition, the minis in question violate my two rules for effective use of miniatures. First that they be a 1:1 ratio (not scale) so that one miniature is one entity in the game. A character, a vehicle, etc. Here the game commits a minor infraction as for the most part the minis do represent a single character, except for the criminal's goons where they abstractly represent where a crime is taking place that the cops have to deal with through interaction.
The second rule of minis is scale. All miniatures in a game should be of the same scale to each other. Here the characters are not to scale to the map and certainly not to scale of the vehicles. While some may still find the eye candy appealing, it truly kills any immersion factor.
So far all the minis included (which drove up the price of the game), they are essentially just pawns and could even effectively be cubes. The miniatures for any given criminal and thugs are interchangeable with the others. They are simply placeholders (and a waste of materials really). Each cop can only use a single vehicle at a time, so while it's cute to have the various cars and motorbikes represented, it adds nothing to the actual gameplay.
Halfway through my first game, as this stark truth set in, I decided to fix it and make the game take up less space than it needed. Nothing to affect the actual game play (which is still excellent), but make the game easier to manage and keep 100% of the fun.
First off the board. Since a high resolution image of the board was not available, I resorted to photography and photoshop. I took photos of the board in six segments and then stitched them together with the help of Photoshop's align function. The photos didn't do the text of the locations justice, so I re-added that text so it would scale correctly and took the liberty of making the "street" and "river" areas a little more clear with some overlaid lines in black and blue. That done, I adjusted for skew and endup with a roughly 18x12 board which I printed out and resumed my game in progress with colored cubes for the minis and dice for the vehicles. The transition was seamless.
Switching to prototype mid-game
After finishing that game -- VICTORY! -- I knew I needed to make some tweaks to the prototype. I planned to make the board in two pieces and then connect them for folding into the main box. This would result in a resize to about 11.5" tall. I then realized that I could fit the entire game now into the smaller stretch goals box, so I made the board into three sections which would total about 10.67x16.5" when put together. I printed each section on legal sized cardstock, rough cut and glued to mat board from Hobby Lobby and then gave each piece a finish cut to size.
Creating the new (and improved) smaller board
Additionally I knew that I could do a little better than cubes and dice, so I set to work in 3D printing land, putting my new Ender 3 Pro to the task.
I love the cones in Lord of the Rings and used that as my starting point for custom pawns. For the cops, I added a shield to the top. For the crime boss, I went with an inverted cone on top to create sort of an hourglass figure. The goons were hexes set atop the cone (to be the nuts and bolts of the operation). For the vehicles, I created my own "car" through the carving of abstract shapes.
Printing the new pawns on the Ender 3 Pro
Not all the items on the board are miniatures in the full-size game, some are tokens that go in board spaces. Since my spaces were now reduced to about 1/2" I would need replacements. For the "asset" tokens I used the briefcase idea on the tokens and created a simple representation for that. The current lead token, I used one of the goon pawns in a different color. Finally for the "clues" that appear in the game I created two options. For when the clue is on the board in a location, I split the cone down the middle to hold the clue marker on the board. However that still might get in the way, so the pawns themselves can simply serve are the marker and the token state be maintained off board. In at least one case, the clue moves around on the board with a vehicle. So matching cars in the same color would serve for that.
Cops, criminals, clues and assets.
I painted all the new pawns to coordinate with their respective purposes. Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue for the cops with a gold metallic shield. Each also has a car in the same color. Green pawns with Silver briefcases for the Assets. The boss was black with a red "Sauron-esque" band around the center and the henchfolk were likewise black as was the vehicle they might be using. The lead pawn was painted a light brown to match it's cork-board token, and the clues and their cars were painted to match their token color as well.
The new pawns in use on the smaller board.
All the now extraneous components can store in the main game box and the real meat of the game can be kept in the smaller box and less shelf space.
I'm sure I missed some opportunities and needs as I've not played every case yet. For example, I suppose a few small boats would be better than the car "vehicle" pawn riding the waves... but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme. Don't have the Velocity expansion where wrecks can dot the board either. I can always create new playing pieces if it really seems to be warranted (or use substitutes), but for now being able to set the game up in a smaller footprint, more manageable for a solo gamer is a oversized win in my book.
Recently I received my Kickstarter fulfillment copy of the collector's edition of Mountaineers by Massif Games, LLC. After first doing the requisite unboxing, I set it up to play. But unfortunately there were/are some issues with the 3D mountain and the turntable. A great idea for a game, but just a little awkward.
First off is the turntable itself. It's designed to be held in place to the main board via one of those two part grommet/connector devices that work great in many of Fantasy Flight Games like the dials in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game or the threat tracker in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Whereas those items are designed to stay together once assembled, the turntable and board will not fold back up with the pin in place, necessitating removal (so don't press it too hard when putting it together!). Also each half of the connector is small, so it's hard to get it in place and then remove your hand before it drops through. Doable, but difficult.
The board really only needs a spindle, not a full connector. The turntable is not picked up during the game. So taking a clue from some others, I designed and 3D printed a new spindle that is about one inch tall and just sits easily under the main board. The post comes up through the board and then you can place the turntable over it. The weight of the turntable and normal (no table flipping!) gameplay easily keeps it on the post.
Not necessary, but I opted to add a large washer (this was actually from some light fixture and the piece was stashed in our tool box) between the board and turntable to give a little easier turning.
The spindle is available for free on Thingiverse and you can print yourself or order one printed.
Another problem though is the moutainside pieces. The tabs that go into the notches on the board are just a bit too shallow. They have to be because the turntable "rides" along the main board itself. So unfortunately as your placing pitons and moving climbers, you run the very real and very often risk of upsetting the board itself.
I had seen another user make a large triangle device to go over the mountain (for 1-4 players) and lock them in, but for me this didn't solve the issue of the board flexing inward during play. I had originally envisioned a complex replacement turntable with a spindle and arms and .... scrap that. This fellow's solution was a good first step, so I moved in that direction.
My solution simply involves cutting some pieces of craft of fun foam. I had a piece of black 5mm foam (found at Hobby Lobby or other craft stores) laying around and cut 1/4" strips from that. These I cut into 3" "cleats" and glued them to the turntable with the mountain assembled and in place. I used purple glue stick (which dries clear) and you have to be more patient as the foam takes a little longer to let the adhesive work. Once the outer perimeter was glued into place, I removed one panel and put cleats inside flush against the other two sides and then swapped out the third panel to get complete the inside bracing.
I turned the whole turntable over and put weight on it to make sure the glue cured and adhered well.
Now the panels are braced from any wiggly movement popping them out of the slots during rotation or gameplay. I had planned to go ahead and do the square 5-6 player mountain slots as well, but I had issues just getting that to even assemble normally. Since I would rarely play non-solo or above four players, I just left it for now and will explore that later.
About two and a half years ago I got the 3D printing bug, especially as it related to creative application to boardgaming. My review then of the Micro 3D by M3D (Boardgaming, 3D Printing, and the Micro 3D - a Ones Upon a Game Review) only whet (not 'wet') my appetite in this field of crafting. But the limitations and frustrations of 3D printing back then had me move onto other things, hoping to return when the technology was a little more matured.
That time is now.
Ender 3 Pro - all set up and ready to go!
Inspired by this thread (Adventures in 3D printing) I was drawn back into the filament's web and acquired an Ender 3 Pro machine during a recent sale. After assembly of the machine (not very hard at all) and some requisite software upgrades -- for safety and features -- I am now back in the 3D printing game for game related 3D printing.
Sure the technology still has its limitations and frustrations. But less so than before. And with the Ender 3 online community, help is not very far away. Be sure to check out the thread above for some cool gaming ideas and subscribe here too and see what might extrude from this blog.
First requisite test print -- little dog file included with Ender 3
Lithophane Print of the "World's Greatest Boardgame" cover.
The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund (JVMF) Auction is well underway and well on its way to another great year.
So far, it's up to $22,860 raised in bids, but is open for items and bidding through April 6, 2019.
You don't need to be a publisher or designer either to help with this project (read more here: Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction 2019 (CLOSED)). Anyone can offer games, accessories or pretty much whatever (within reason!) for bids. You ship the item to the winner and the winner pays the JVMF. A feel good win for everyone.
Also in the monthly "Games For Geekgold" contest, I'm offering up my M3D Micro 3d Printer (as reviewed here: Boardgaming, 3D Printing, and the Micro 3D - a Ones Upon a Game Review). As little as 1GG gets you an entry to win with of course more GG = more entries. As of right now, three winners will be chosen. One for the printer and two more will receive all their bid GG back + 750GG bonus. So if you're interested in starting on the 3D printing journey, then swing on over and take a chance.
Was and am not a hater of the other board game based on the Fallout IP, but when I saw the new Fallout: Wasteland Warfare published by Modiphius Entertainment included solo AI rules, my interest was piqued and I placed my order. Finally cracked it open yesterday the first thing I noticed was there are LOTS OF LITTLE COUNTERS. Wow... Tiny little things that make 1/2" wargame counters seem a blessing (and I hate 1/2" wargame counters!).
After punching (and peeling them as they sadly weren't cleanly punched), I organized them into little piles to determine how best to organize them. Of course this meant I would make a four-module tray using my GMT compatible tray system along with custom printed lid with the game cover art.
Always need terrain in miniatures games and I'm fine with using household items or blocks, etc. to create obstacles. But thanks to this thread (Compatible terrain for under $10 for the newcomer), I purchased some ready to print scenery from Drive-Thru-RPG. However, as these are set to 28mm scale and FWW is 32mm, I opened the PDF pages in Photoshop, scaled by 114%, then cherry picked the pieces I wanted (buildings 1-2) and re-laid them out on to a new document (to maximize components per page). Printed these on 110# white cardstock, scored, and cut them out. Assembly was easy enough, even for big fingers.
Took the base/ground images and scaled to be a full page and printed on 1/2-sheet mailing labels. Stuck each label to a piece of thick coated chipboard, then cut them out with a utility knife. Next I arranged the buildings onto the four bases so they could be placed on the gameboard in clusters.
They aren't the bees knees when it comes to terrain pieces, but a step up from egg cartons for sure. And these days maybe cheaper.
The barriers and barrels were files available (or used to be) for free on Shapeways. These appear to be identical to ones being sold by Miniature Market (legally, don't get me wrong), but perhaps theirs are better printed.
Back in October 2014 or so (on my previous account), I showed my custom slavecatcher pawns for Freedom: The Underground Railroad by Academy Games, Inc.. I made these by taking pawns from an old wooden chess set, painting the body "Gunmetal Gray" and then painting the round ball on top the color to match each of the slavecatcher colors.
This was the final result...
I offered these up in the latest Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction (link) and am happy to say they sold for an amazing $25! Thank you!
These I designed from scratch using Microsoft 3D Builder software included with Windows 10. I wanted to make the pedestal sort of like the column of a government building, so I created a tube and carved out sections from a rectangular block. Then on top of each I placed the proper geometric shape to match the shapes of each in the game.
After the printing was complete, I again painted the bases in the metallic gunmetal gray color, but only let that fill the inner niches of the columns. I painted the outsides of the columns with a metallic copper (for the money they made). Then of course each geometric was painted its corresponding color in the game itself.
While many of you may have the wooden blocks in the correct shape and color, those of us with the later edition only get cardboard counters to use. So this simple upgrade makes it easier to find the pawns and visualize their movement as you try to sneak your charges past them.
So to make this post more than just boasting, you too can get a set of these either for printing yourself or to ordering from a 3D printing service. As they are fairly small, printing should not cost too much. Then just paint them yourself (or order them in the proper colors).
Ordering them directly through Thingiverse will cost you just under $15 for the set in the USA (estimated to my address). Each pawn is about $0.55 and then "Includes $5 handling fee and $6.80 shipping". I make nothing from the sale of these, those are their charges only.
Hope you find these useful if you do decide to order them or print them yourself. Would love to see your results in game!
Ever since I learned that dice towers were actually a thing (and not just the name of the premier boardgaming podcast), I've developed a fascination with them. Sure they sell them in some really cool designs and styles, but I wanted, nay needed, to create my own.
But in my head I had another idea. The standard opposing angles seemed so common, I wanted something different. As I mentioned in my Micro 3D printer review (Boardgaming, 3D Printing, and the Micro 3D - a Ones Upon a Game Review) I had come up with a design for printing. The first version came out really well, but I had some tweaks I was working on for a v2.0... when the printer died.
The initial 3D design was a 5-piece cylindrical model. The base layer held the exit ramp. The top layer was a funnelled chute to direct the dice to the center drop hole. Inspired by the old Plinko game (from carnivals and The Price is Right), the middle three layers were criss-crossed rods stacked in a +x+ pattern so the dice would hit one each layer and truly tumble before exiting the ramp. The improvements slated for the second version were wedge shaped rods and a wider exit ramp. But then the printer, as I mentioned, died on me (hopefully going to get this fixed under warranty and be back in business soon!).
Components for my first 3D printed dice tower attempt: base, baffle layers, drop chute. Then painted, dry fitted, and final assembly.
Not to let the lack of technology outdo me, I went back to the handcrafted route. My first plan was to do a cylindrical tube with criss-crossed dowels and started down that path... but then spied this case at Hobby Lobby and it inspired me to go a different route. Using craft wood and the same Plinko style rods (arrayed differently), I sought to construct a portable dice tower complete with fold out dice tray.
The woodworking design, various stages of sadness.
Unfortunately my skills and tools were not up to the challenge and while I ended up with a working dice tower, it will remain far from the vision I originally targeted. The frustration I was feeling at the time I realized the prototype was "good but not good enough" led me to make the video below. In it I go in much more detail on my process and demonstrate all three models as well. Hopefully the creative among you might find some value in the ideas and be able to take something from it and make something really cool (would love to see the results!)
Introduction: Ever since I created my race car miniatures for Thunder Alley (Send in the Clones - DIY Thunder Alley Miniatures - Part I), I've thought about different ways to go about creating them that might be easier. I was shocked (shocked I say!) that the online 3D printing services didn't have an existing model for a standard NASCAR stock car. I figured I'd have to get a 3D model and print it myself. But on what? I decided to explore the world of home 3D printing, not just for Thunder Alley, but to add to my arsenal for game modifications and improvements in general. Enter the good folks at M3D who kindly sent me one of their Micro 3D printers to try out.
In this article, I'll simply be reviewing the Micro 3D itself. But like my Silhouette Cameo paper cutter, expect to see more articles in future detailing its use: both my trial and error in 3D object creation and printing as well as a many successful mods and blings that I have (and will) created.
What Comes In the Box? There are two packages containing the M3D printer currently available for sale. The Standard Edition prices out at $349 and includes the printer, power and USB cable. It also comes with a 3-month warranty. For this review, I was using the $449 Retail Version which comes in a retail box and includes the printer, power and cord as well as upping the warranty period to a full year. A single spool of PLA filament is also thrown in. Software to run the printer is available via download from the printm3d.com site.
The Micro 3D itself is a sleek compact cube (under 8 inches each side) that is available in a variety of colors (some with a small upcharge).
Setup: Setting up the Micro 3D is really as simple as placing it on your desk or table, plugging in the power and the USB to your computer (Mac or PC -- full hardware specifications). I am using it with my Windows 10 laptop. Install the software and follow the brief quick setup steps one the included sheet (calibration is a must) and you're off!
Use: Essentially 3D prints are created by the quick melting and cooling of plastic filament. The two main types are ABS and PLA and the Micro 3D is designed to use 1.75mm PLA. The print head moves on a track back and forth and left and right (X-Y axes) and then up and down via a threaded rods in the four corners. As it moves it melts the filament thread at over 400 degrees and "prints" this melted filament where your model should be solid. The filament is formulated to cool at room temperature, so it sets in place very quickly.
I have been thrilled to explore the world of 3D printing with the Micro 3D printer
But how does the printer know where to put filament and where not to? When you download a model (and this could be anything from a miniature, to a widget, to a meeple), you're downloading a blueprint of that object. These come in many different types, but the most common for 3D printing is the .STL file (STereoLithography). The Micro 3D software uses what's called a "slicer" tool (in this case the Cura slicer) to take the 3D blueprint and cut the model into (you guessed it) slices from bottom to top. Each of these slicers is a layer that will be "printed" one on top of the other by the printer. The thickness of each slice is an option you can set when printing from Low Quality (350 microns or 0.0137795 inches) to expert (50 microns or 0.0019685 inches). Think of this as the resolution of the model, similar to dpi on a regular paper printer. The slicer software also creates the commands that tell the print head where to move, print, move, print, move print, etc. on that layer.
As each layer is printed, the model builds up on the print-bed in 3D until it's complete. It's actually a very ingenious technology and one that's getting better and more user friendly as time goes by.
When you see a 3D printed object, you might think that it's completely solid like a resin cast miniature. But more often that's not the case. Another factor for printing is called "in-fill" and affects the parts of the model you cannot see. You can scale this from only printing the exterior as thin walls or go to 100%. The more you fill, the more filament is used (and the longer the print will take). Most of the time in-fill is not necessary as the PLA is pretty durable.
On the Micro 3D, filament is fed into the print head in one of two ways. First M3D sells special sized spools of PLA that fit under the print-bed and feed up through a cloth covered channel. This allows the spool to be tucked away, but also makes changing spools between colors more of a chore (and prevents more advanced techniques such as changing colors mid-print for a two-toned look). Some users have indicated problems with the internal feeder system, though I had no issues at all when using it. Each of these special spools "contains 250 feet or approximately 1/2 lb (225g) of plastic."
As I burned (get it) through most of my initial supply of filament, I started looking for more and found a standard spool of filament comes in a 1kg or 2.2 pound spool. Excellent quality filament in these larger sizes can be found online for about $20-25 each. These contain about 1,080 linear feet of filament, so you'll get a large number of prints before you run out. The filament from these spools is fed into the machine via an external port into the same print-head (note you can only feed via one port at a time, external or internal). Since I switched to using the external port, I would not consider using the internal port again -- again not for any problems I had, just convenience. But these external sources leave a problem of unspooling the filament. As I'm new to the 3D printing world, I had to discover much of this the hard way. Of course, being a male, I have to discover everything the hard way anyway. Initially I just let the spool turn in its shipping box, but that quickly proved to be a bad solution as the spool didn't turn and the print-head had to tug too much. No worries, I'll just unroll some of the filament in advance. Bad idea. This stuff has been coiled on a spool for some time, suddenly let free it twisted and kinked itself into some pretty nasty tangles! It's on a spool for a reason and it needs to unspool in a controlled way.
My next solution was to take a small stool and turn it upside down on my desk. I set the spool onto one of the legs and fed the line through a squeeze clamp to control the angle into the printer. I'm pleased to say that this worked, for the most part... but still added a lot of drag on the print-head. This led to many troubles with my prints that I didn't realize until later it was the cause of.
Finally, I took the time to research a better solution. Fortunately someone devised one that is made possible courtesy of 3D printing! Using printed clips and some pieces of 1/2" wooden dowel, I was able to make a very sturdy spool holder that mounts right on top of the printer and the filament spools nice and easy right where it needs to go. (Thingiverse Link).
So with software, printer, proper spooling filament and some models in hand (and a lot of trial and error), making my own 3D prints with the Micro 3D has become an obsessive hobby.
Overall Impressions: Since I received the Micro 3D I've done a LOT of printing with it. Not all of it good. But like any tool at all good results or bad results are the result of your taking the time to use it properly. It all though I have to say I've been very happy with the Micro 3D. I have a friend with a more advanced (and more expensive) MakerBot and I showed him some of my prints and he was genuinely impressed by the quality. That relieved me because I was a little disappointed, but that was because I wasn't fully sure what I was going to get entering into this hobby.
3D printing is not resin casting, so prints are not going to be super smooth. Many modelers create objects using colored filament and leave them at that. I was looking to create miniatures with great detail that I could paint. However, the layering of the prints produces clear lines going up the vertical sides of your prints. There are steps you can take to get rid of those lines (sanding, filing, vapor smoothing), but getting rid of them runs the risk of losing detail as well. I plan to explore some of these techniques as I continue to make use of the Micro 3D to enhance games and my table. I'm particularly proud of the dice tower I've actually designed, modelled in 3D, and printed, but that will come later. I am learning though to work within the limitations of the technology and not be as OCD about how things look.
...being a male, I have to discover everything the hard way
Another item I'll explore in the future is a printed solution for the Thunder Alley cars. So far, while I've found a working model, I've not found one that will print in a way that makes me happy. But again stay tuned for that.
As for the Micro 3D, it's been a champ. And durable. While I was still using the spool on a stool method, I tried to adjust the location of the spool to make it turn more freely. I left the machine printing while I was out for the day and when I came back the line had snagged on the stool, the Micro 3D had walked itself across my desk and off onto the floor! Fortunately the USB came unplugged, so the software was no longer sending print commands. But the two foot drop onto the hard floor didn't damage it at all. A quick recalibration and it was back to work.
Also important to remember about 3D Printing as a whole. It's SLOW. Very slow. At first, you want to see results, so you'll reduce objects in size and resolution to get them out more quickly. But you'll soon come to accept the truth that patience is a virtue. Fortunately once a print begins, apart from leaving your computer on and connected, you can pretty much ignore it. The Micro 3D is very silent, so I've had it running by my desk while working. It does its thing and I do mine. I'll leave it running overnight, while I'm out, etc. just to let prints have the time they need. Some complex prints CAN take over 24 hours depending on the size, infill, and resolution. The longest I did was 12, with more being in the 4-6 hour range. And in spite of the heating element going to 400+ degrees, the Micro 3D is very cool to the touch -- only the print-head should be avoided while it's running.
If you do print at the lower micron end of the scale (Expert), you can get fairly smooth prints. Maybe. As the layers are thinner, the heat from the currently printing layer can actually re-melt the layer beneath, causing fine details to lose clarity. After much testing and discussion with other users, I've found that for most prints, the Medium quality setting (250 micron layers) and in-fill setting of "Hollow Thick Walls)" has proven to be a success with the Micro 3D.
There are a few "wishlist" items that I found I wanted though while using the Micro 3D. While it's limited to 4x4x4" volume for printing, I definitely would like to see a larger print-bed for bigger prints. I also wish I didn't have to keep my computer connected to the printer while it was printing, so some form of printer memory or SD-card printing would be an excellent addition. Finally in order to successfully use ABS for printing, you need a heated print-bed to keep the base warm (not required for PLA, but ABS has some different uses and advantages). The Micro 3D simply has a plastic bed with a sheet of "BuildTak" on it for adhesion.
Fortunately, before I could get this review written, M3D has already announced the Kickstarter (LINK) of the M3D Pro which includes these features and more, including faster print speeds and and even finer resolution of 25 microns. I cannot wait to try this newer and clearly more improved version!
I have been thrilled to explore the world of 3D printing with the Micro 3D printer and am looking forward to sharing various creations designed especially for our boardgaming hobby. If you've heard about 3D printing and wanted to dive in, but the price tag of the higher-end units have kept you away, then you should certainly take a look at what the Micro 3D from M3D has to offer. I'm sure, like me, you'll find you use it for all sorts of projects, both gaming and non-gaming related. And once you start to create you own objects and seeing them come to life on the Micro 3D, you'll be hooked.