When I met my wife (well, soon to be wife at that point) nearly 30 years ago, she introduced me to the cool art form known as counted cross-stitch. I'd never seen such a thing and we'd sit watching movies (from Blockbuster Video of course!) and she'd be working on different projects. Eventually I took an interest and asked her to show me how to do it. I saw it as a variation on computer graphics, where images are reduced to a pixelated format and when you're done, you have a neat piece of art to hang on the wall.
So she did and working on projects, going to craft stores, and keeping our floss box (soon to be boxes) organized was simply part of our time together. Along with working on recipient specific gifts, my tastes went toward the realistic with castles being a favorite. Sometime around 1997 I started stitching "Lichtenstein Castle" from "Medieval Castles" by Jeanette Crews Designs (1989). I got quite a way through it and then it sat unfinished. For some reason the desire returned and I picked it up again late in 2017 and I completed the castle in November!
The real Lichtenstein Castle and my 20 year completed version.
But the bug was back now and I needed a new project. However, this was no longer the 80s and 90s. Back then stores were full of tools, materials, and more importantly books and booklets of different patterns. From the kitsch to the cool, you could pretty much find anything you wanted. But not now. You can buy patterns from ebay or etsy sure... but it was actually harder to find a project I'd be interested in.
Then I remembered I'd acquired a program called "PC Stitch" (http://www.pcstitch.com/) that lets you make your own patterns from photos. So I'd make my own... but of what?
Taking inspiration from an official sized cross-stitch Monopoly board my wife and I had worked on together, I started thinking something board game related and then, of course, it hit me... Why not the single best game ever (or at least the best wargame ever)... Combat Commander: Europe!!!
Different images of the cover art
I began the process of trying to find a good clean image of the box art (there are several variations). Taking a photo would be more difficult to control the lighting on and I wanted it to be very close in color to the original. As I mentioned before, cross-stitch is essentially pixelizing the image, so I would need to first reduce the image to be the same size as the final cross-stitch. Using 14-count fabric (14 squares per inch), I wanted the final art to be 10x10, so 140x140 pixels. Not the greatest digital resolution to be sure!
I settled on my version of the box, which has the foremost leader and the squad of five soldiers, the front one with his arm raised. I used my scanner to get the main image then went to Photoshop to clean things up.
1. Scanned image (square crop) 2. Edited to remove some of the black around Europe as well the tan background (which would be the fabric color). 3. Final 140 pixel-wide version, indexed color and no text for importing to PC-Stitch 4. PC-Stitch Final Pattern
Indexing the color on the image helps keep the sections of color distinct (like the real box). The PC-Stitch conversion wanted to blend all the transitions from one color to another, creating an unmanageable floss count (floss = the thread used to create the picture). As seen in the third picture, I also had to remove the text from the image... There was just no way the real text would reduce to anything legible. Fortunately PC-Stitch had some fonts that while not perfect matches, would suffice, so I was able to add the text back to the final image. There was still some cleanup to do before I was ready to print the final pattern (like putting the whites back into the leader's eyes), but soon I was ready to stitch...
1. The first stitches. Originally teased here (What Is It? What's It Going to Be?) and actually guessed by russ! 2. The work in progress. 3. Last stitches are done!!! 4. Final project with pattern.
I started this one in December of 2017 and finished it on May 17, 2018. A much better productivity rate than my previous project! When it was completed I turned to my expert wife to help me prepare it for framing. I'd already bought a 12.5" square record album frame, but we needed to get the fabric ready for mounting beforehand.
1. First a bath in Dawn to remove finger oils and dirt. 2. Drying out before final trimming. 3. The back of the project. 4. The expert getting the mounting ready. 5. Archer, the supervisor. 6. My first plan for the mat is taken from Map 1. But it looked a little too garish against the project. 7. So I went with a more traditional mounting.
One of the first things I do when unboxing a game is to get it organized... so off to the cutter to make a storage tray for the counters and tokens in Renegade from Victory Point Games
A two-module unit was all this one needed, but to jazz it up a little bit, I went with three colors. Blue and Grey for the box (with alternated dividers) and a black lid with the label being the box cover of the game.
The first is the ability to specify the link text that appears directly linking each geeklist item in the index of items. For uses outside of auctions "Auction Item" is not an intuitive choice. And rather than having to manual edit them post generation, you can specify it in advance.
Also added the ability to use alternate name for items as well as excluding items that have sold, part of a bundle, or just exempt for whatever reason.
To exclude an item simply drop %SOLD% or %EXCLUDE% into the item description. These will not be considered when you regenerate the list (to update auction posts, etc...)
To add an alternate name add %NAME% followed by whatever name you want to call the item. The entire rest of the line will be used, so make sure you put it on a line by itself. This can be good for specifying bundles or misc items not in the BGG database.
I've long admired when folks manually look up the representative image for each item in their GeekBay Auctions and produce a nice image array to head their post. And then to add to that, they add links to all the games in their auctions as well as a link to the actual auction item.
Whew! A lot of work!
I'm already doing geeklist processing for the Aggregator family of sites... So why not take the same logic to create a quick engine to generate the posting code from an auction geeklist!
Simply enter the geeklist id you want to process and click 'generate'. The code reads it in (if valid), sorts the items alphabetically, and then produces BGG editor code for the images and then a list of each game as well as a link to the auction item directly. While geeklists can be sorted in a few ways on the site, the API returns in the order items were added... so alphabetical made the most sense.
Cut and paste this generated code (in full or in part) into your BGG announcement or forum post and voila!
As I said, the primarly purpose is for auctions, but really any geeklist you want to create perhaps a header index to is fair game. You would need to change references to auction with something else, but that's a simple search and replace away.
A link is included in each generation to promote the tool, but I don't require it be kept in there or anything. You wanna be a jerk, go ahead (kidding!)
Similar to my storage for Combat Commander: Europe, I created "Force Boxes" for Great War Commander to hold each nations counters as well as a table tray for holding the game markers. I went ahead and did tuck boxes as well using the same template from CCE years ago...
As noted before, these are based on the GMT tray "well" (or compartment) size, but since they are from folded cardstock vs. molded plastic they take up much less room (in all dimensions) and they are modular (in this case only the game marker one is), so you can use 1-4 together to make a single tray. The nation boxes are a custom 2x3 (6 "well") unit I made for just this sort of thing. I use a plastiband on each to insure the lid stays closed, but in all a pretty decent solution that fits well in the box too!
But these modular trays aren't just for wargaming of course... So to solve the storage concerns with Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats, I created a full modular tray (4 sections) to hold the game counters and tokens without having to bag and rebag to fit inside the buildings.
All good things got to come to an end The thrills have to fade Before they come 'round again
All good times, all good friends All good things got to come to an end ~ Jackson Browne
I am writing this post to share that effective immediately I am "cancelling" suspending my blog and YouTube channel "ones upon a game".
While I appreciate greatly all the support my readers and viewers have given me over these several years, as with all projects there comes a time to reconcile costs and benefit. While running "ones upon a game" has not cost much in terms of money, it has cost in time, energy, and effort. Unfortunately in the final analysis I don't see where the total expense justifies the results.
This is not a sudden decision, and I've debated with myself on it and kept the channels going on life support for nearly a year now.
I have other projects that have been neglected for this passion of mine, but the time has come to let those children get a little attention from me as well. And so with bittersweet head and heart, I will cease production of new videos and new blog content and simply revert to being a "civilian" and regular gamer. I won't be going anywhere or leaving BGG certainly, you'll probably see me around forums and game pages.
All content on the channel and blog will remain for posterity, so video links and posts etc. will remain intact.
SUMMARY In all, I think both of the solo Automa work great and provide a very tough competitor at even the "normal" level. I cannot imagine playing them on the hard challenge (but will someday!).
I do believe that these options DO make Great Western Trail a must buy, even if only for solo play. The Automa run smooth and with little management and allow you to concentrate on playing the game. And the game is that good. One of the best worker placement games there is. Alexander Pfister has created a masterpiece.
Space has always been a premium in my office/gameroom. With the limited shelves already full to capacity, I started stacking games on a nice window seat between the two cabinets (cross-stacked as necessary to prevent dishing!). I've looked at hard storage options and they either had too small of compartments or were too expensive or large (like IKEA shelving) for my needs.
With the stealth of the NSA, Google and Alexa seemed to share my findings to the web and suddenly Amazon recommended me these shelves. Assembled from plastic, metal tubing, and a plastic-like fabric, these shelves assembled like Tinkertoys, but were durable and strong (13.5lb load-bearing for each cube, 100lb load-bearing for overall items). Each compartment was over 13x12" as well, large enough for most common box sizes. At $21 a set, I ordered two to better organize my window seat storage.
Though designed to be set up in a 3-2-1 arrangement, other buyers reported you could also build them as a 3x2 tower (a 2x3 shorter layout is also possible). This is exactly what I would need to fit the space. Assembly was quick and easy. As I built them with less of a base than recommended, I scavenged the leftover bits to connect the two units together along the two shelf tops, reinforcing both shelves.
I'm quite pleased with how it all turned out and now when I need to get a game, I don't have to play Tower of Hanoi to extract the one on the bottom.
If organization is your problem and you cannot find a good solution, you might check out these units as well.