Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Category: Tools/Products (Page 1 of 3)

Finishing My PitchCar Connector Track

I cranked up the CNC machine this weekend for the first time in a few months.  Back in the summer, I was really in a groove with the machine and things seemed to go well.  Having not messed with anything for a while, it seems that familiarity has left and I need to retrain myself a bit.

I was going to start up on my Dropzone Commander building bases project but before I get that underway, I needed to finish off one last pending project: my Pitchcar regular-to-mini converter.

I’ve been working on this project for awhile, even starting before I thought about getting a CNC machine.  For all my effort though, I only had one working prototype and since Pitchcar tracks make a loop, I had a way to convert down to the mini-sized tracks but didn’t have another piece to convert back up.

This project ended up being a bit more complicated than I anticipated. I initially thought I could use or modify an existing file but that ended up being more trouble than it was worth.  I was beginning to feel like the tolerances needed to make these puzzle pieces fit correctly would be beyond me but little by little, I made progress.

My crude hand cut attempt at the top of the picture was before I thought of getting a CNC machine.  In many ways, this project led me to seek out a CNC machine and so it was good to get back to this and see if my latest version worked.  I got bold at first and was cutting full pieces but soon realized that I needed to conserve material so then I went to just fixing the specific puzzle connector that I needed.  The second piece from the bottom was the first successful piece (though it wasn’t perfect and needed a little sanding to completely fit).  The changes I made manually to that penultimate piece made the final modifications in the file for the last piece.

Right before my hiatus, I set up the latest file based on the working prototype and some tweaks I needed to make. Then I had the machine all set up and ready to start but had to leave and then never made it back to start the milling.  I didn’t want to tear that all down to start my DZC project (finish what you start!) so I would make sure I could test out this latest attempt and see what happens.

All-in-all, the piece worked out great.  It fit perfect and the modifications meant for no post-processing to finalize the piece.  Well almost.  This piece is complicated for another reason as well.  Not only did I need to match the puzzle-piece connector of the regular-sized track and the mini-sized (which turned out to not be as simple as scaling down the connector), but the two track pieces are not the same height.

It’s very slight but there is a noticeable difference between the regular and mini-sided track pieces.  This being a dexterity flicking game, even this small height difference can catch the sliding discs and ricochet them backwards, ruining a shot.  Now I had to work the puzzle connectors and work out a method of planing the piece at a sleight angle so that it was shorter on the mini side than the regular side.  Since the track pieces aren’t the same size as any stock piece I can find, I knew I’d have to plane the pieces a little bit but I didn’t count on having to plane it at an angle.

After messing with measurements over and over, I was able to shim up to the correct size and create the connectors.  A quick little map set and I can call this project done.  I can now combine both of my Pitchcar sets to make for some interesting options.  Having these connectors correct and planing of the piece sizes locked in, I can really start making some wacky pieces now.  The last little addition will be to cut the red wall guides into the piece so I can add walls when I want.

 

Building the Future

I talked about getting a CNC Machine a while back and detailed my start at putting it together.  I have made a lot of progress since then and will catch you up.

I had already built the Y-axis that will serve as the main bed for all the machining.  Now it is time to build the Z-axis plate that will hold the router/spindle and have the machine rise up and down.

The front side then holds the router clamp.

I forgot some bolts so I had to run out to Ace Hardware and grab some extras to attach the router clamp.

Next, we have the X-axis plate.  This will attach to the Z-axis plate and both will travel on rails across the top of the machine.

I attached the Z-axis motor and the Z-axis plate to the X-axis plate.  Then can the hardest part of the whole project, threading the Z-axis belt in between both plates and around the various pulleys and motor drives.

Next, we have the axis plates set on the horizontal rail and the the sides of the machine.

At this point, it’s really starting to take shape.

And with this, the machine is complete.  I still have a ways to go with setting up the electronic components but the motors are all set up and the chip board is attached.  The belts were particularly tricky as they kept tracking up and off the pulleys but after a few conversations with the Millwright team, we figured it out by cutting some aluminum shims out and re-aligning the pulleys to square things up.  Yay for soda cans to use as cheap aluminum shims.

A friend has an old laptop he’s letting me borrow so when that is ready, I’ll start setting up the programming side of the machine and we’ll be ready to start actually cutting projects soon!

CNC Progress

This week, I was able to start my CNC machine project.  It’s slow going as I’ve never had to assemble anything this complex and so I’m taking my time.  I could have opted for the pre-built version but reading up on the kit a bit more, several users noted that it was good to build it yourself so that if things go wrong in the future, you’ll have an idea of what the problem might be.  I’m not sure if that will really work for me but the building process itself is pretty cool.

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So here we have all the kit pieces laid out on my new workbench I made a couple of weeks back.  The large device at the back of the table is my photo enlarger, which was the real purpose of this room- to build up my darkroom again, but I found that I broke a key piece of the enlarger so I have to source out a replacement.  In the meantime, the room will also serve as my pimping workroom, or “The Lab,” as I call it.

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The kids were away so I actually moved everything upstairs and worked at the kitchen table, catching up on the latest Walking Dead episodes from the mid-season break. The picture above are “V-wheels” that were a bitch to press together (my thumb is still sore).  Eventually, I opted for two sets of pliers to get those bearings in the plastic wheels.

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Next I put the V-wheels in the Y-axis plates. These plates will hold the main board “table” of the machine.

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And they attach on these rails that connect the front and back of the base of the machine.

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The base then attaches to the Y-axis plates and also gain some T-nuts and another guide plate.

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And here we are.  This is about one-third through the assembly instructions.  Next is assembling the X-axis and Z-axis components and putting the motors and belts on.  Then finally is the final assembly.  After that comes the electronics and setting up the software and everything else.

In gaming news, I stumbled on this interesting little preview:

image from BGG, from the game publisher

image from BGG, from the game publisher

This is Gang Rush Breakout from CMON and Ankama. Those of you that have followed me for awhile might notice the game looks similar to a classic game that I’ve been nuts on pimping: Thunder Road.  While this game (from the brief publisher descriptions) doesn’t seem like it has a lot in common with Thunder Road mechanically, it does have a pretty cool look to it and I’m looking forward to hearing more about this game.

It is due to release in April, shockingly without a Kickstarter but since Ankama seems to be driving the publishing aspect of the game, maybe that is just the way they do things.  Ankama is responsible for Krosmaster Arena, which also avoided using Kickstarter.  I’ll likely wait to play this at Gen Con before I really commit to picking it up but I have some high hopes for it.

Speaking of Gen Con, I got the notice that they are opening up the event applications in a few weeks so I better get on this.  Last year I missed the early deadline and my events didn’t make it into the general admission until after the main event signup date.  I’m going to make sure my events get in on time this year to see if that helps the attendance any.

I’m planning on running my Loopin’ Chewie Tournament again as it was a lot of fun and though there weren’t many in attendance, they all seemed to have a good time.  I will likely run one more event as well but I’m not sure which it will be.  I could do Thunder Road again or I’ve been thinking about running a PitchCar variant of mine.  I’m also stupidly into Mantic’s Walking Dead: All Out War and had a blast running a custom event at CabinCon so might try something like that.  Decisions, decisions.  Only have a few weeks to figure it out. Maybe I’ll flip a coin.

Storage Wars

I picked up some pluck foam the other day so that I could finally properly store my Dropzone Commander minis and it got me thinking of game storage solutions and where we are in the industry.

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Pluck foam is a pretty common way to store miniatures and protect them during travel.  It is pretty inexpensive for foam and is infinitely customizable because the entire middle section is scored into tiny squares.  These squares can then be cut and pulled out in the rough shape of your model. As you can see from the image above, I’ve already started cutting the foam out to fit my Dropzone models and I have some more models and accessories laid out to help plan the layout for the rest of the box.

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After a bit more cutting and pulling, I was able to finish out the main models. During this process, I like to maximize the space so I create some thin walls separating the models.  This makes the walls somewhat fragile so I take some white glue and tack down the walls to keep things more stable.

I used pluck foam to also store my pimped out copy of Thunder Road, showing that foam storage solutions aren’t just for table top minis games

storage-thunder

Pluck foam isn’t the only option to store minis. Staying with the advantages that foam provides (soft protection, light weight, and great customization), you can spend a bit more and work with custom foam cutting companies like Battle Foam to pick up really nice foam trays that are specifically cut for your models.

storage-descent

I like to keep my game boxes and companies like Battle Foam tend to want to sell you their bags as well but recently, these companies are catering to the board game market and offering custom foam trays that fit the game contents and the box they come in.  Above, I have an example of a foam tray set for the Fantasy Flight game, Descent: Journeys in the Dark.  Even though I don’t have these minis painted (maybe someday…), the storage trays work well to keep the minis and the cards/components separated. This helps in set up and tear down time and protects the minis from getting bent up or possibly broken.

Specific storage trays for a game are great but Battle Foam also offers the ability to customize the tray and even your specific model shape through their custom tray app on their site.  I’ve used this several times with great results for my X-wing Miniatures Game collection.  Most notably, I’ve used it for my custom Millennium Falcon carrying case.

falcon ex4

This option is likely the most expensive foam option available but the results are great if you have a highly customized project you want to protect.

Foam isn’t the only option out there, of course.  Recently, new ground has been made in laser cutting and these manufacturers are getting into the game.  Companies like Broken Token are now making full storage solutions for board games by producing custom cut boxes and organizers made of 1/8″ or 1/4″ birch wood.

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image from Broken Token website

While I don’t have any of these products specifically, I have some friends who swear by them. The advantage these laser cut organizers have is their rigidity and size configurations, which allow the designers to set up organized trays that can be simply pulled out of the box and set up next to the board for instant game set up.

Like the custom foam options, these laser cut organizers can be some of the most expensive options out in the market today, sometimes costing as much as the game itself.

Another alternative is to create tray organizers similar to the laser cut options by cutting all the material out using foamcore.

storage-tann-foamcore

image from BGG user Maxime Verrette

Boardgamegeek user Maxime Verrette created the intricate example above with foam core for his Tannhauser game.  It is likely the cheapest option out there and has all the benefits of the pricey laser cut options with the exception that it takes a lot of careful work.

In my last example, I cheap out completely and pick up one of the favorite options for boardgamers: Plano organizers (typically for fishing tackle boxes).  This option has been around for years and is one of the favorites because it is cheap, easily accessible, and very durable.

storage-tann

my time/cost effective Tannhauser storage solution

Since the Plano boxes come in a variety of sizes and configurations, you can usually find a box that will work for the game you are trying to organize.  These storage boxes can also be customized but you’ll likely need something more powerful, like a dremel, to carve out the plastic or cut out the walls you need to fit the larger pieces you intend to store.  Combine this option with plastic baggies and you have an extremely budget-conscious storage and organizing solution.

As you can see, when storing your prized gaming components, there are a variety of options.  Each of these options have pros and cons and it’ll be up to you to decide what works best for the game you are hoping to protect and store.

New Dropzone Commander: Reconquest Phase 2

The latest Dropzone Commander book, Reconquest Phase 2, came out a couple weeks back and I was able to get my copy the other night.  In celebration, a group of friends threw down a four player, 1000 pt army mash up.  Brian hosted and put together the scenario “Survey and Control.”

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Survey and Control ready for action

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Brian’s great looking UCM

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Lifthawks fly into action

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The battle heats up surrounding the big red tower.

We were rusty so we weren’t able to complete the full game but it was looking really tight so it would have been interesting to see how the final rounds would play out.  Not many new units were on the board since we’re still assembling and painting but I was able to throw in my newest additions to my Resistance family.

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my grey Kraken

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The Battle Buses are not that new as I’ve featured them in my Gen Con prep posts but the Kraken transport is a new one and this game marked the first time I was able to put the full unit into action.  It was a little slow for the large 6′ x 4′ map and I used the infantry inside for intel gathering but it was nice to see how I should field them.

One interesting thing that came out of last night’s game was Brian’s recommendation to have the rulebooks cut and spiral bound.  After flipping back and forth through the (now) three different rulebooks, having them spiral bound and able to lay flat made a lot of sense.  Today I decided to try it out and had FedEx Office cut the binding.  I was about to just have them separately bind each book but then I started to think about some alternatives.

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I thought I could just have all three bound into one massive book but the size seemed too unwieldy.  Then I hit upon the idea that I should split the pages into two books, one with all the rules and units, and the other one with all the fluff and story. I couldn’t burn an hour at the FedEx Office store assembling my books so I took them home and started working from there. In the process, I started to realize that I could also rearrange the contents a bit to help organize things better.  It would have been easiest to just rip the fluff out and then put the book information together and call it done but it wasn’t that much more work to actually pull all the relevant sections together from each book and keep them together as coherent chapters.

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dzc_bookopen

This turned out very well as I now have all the rules across all three books in the same place, all the scenarios in one section, all the units, etc.  This makes the material a lot easier to find.  The indices and contents were of minimal value in the original books (sad when publishers don’t realize the value of strong indices) so that was no major loss and the organization here is much easier anyway.  I’ll still likely add tabs to call out the important divisions or frequently referenced rules but for now, this was a great little rulebook pimp.

Flick em Up!

All this binding reminded me that I wanted to do something with Flick em Up! as well.  This great dexterity game comes with a rule book and scenario book and has 2 expansions, each with their own rules/scenario book.  The books are multi-lingual (containing multiple languages in one single document) which makes them quite thick.

feu_thick

Since space is a premium in the game box, I decided to rip out the other languages in the document and have them rebound to only contain the English content.  This made the final manuals about a third the size of the originals.  The spiral binding hampers the size reduction but I’m sure I can position the manuals so that the spiral is on a side that has room for it.  The reduction of the bulk of the middle area of manual is the real gain.

feu_thin

Most game manuals I have don’t need this kind of treatment as most game manuals are Saddle Stitched and will lie flat as needed.  Miniature game manuals are usually too large/thick for that binding technique so the next option is Perfect Binding which groups the pages into sections, uses an adhesive to keep them together, and then wraps it all with a thicker/heavier print around the content as a cover.  It’s a strong binding option but the manuals won’t lay flat, making it annoying to keep references open.  Flick em Up has this style as well, likely because the higher page count due to the multi-lingual approach.

Since the option for the consumer to cut and spiral bind these manual is cheap and easy (assuming you have access to a print shop), I don’t see a reason to not do this for most games that have Perfect Binding manuals. Also, if interested, you can learn more about different binding options from this great UK binding site: Student Bookbinding

I’ll leave you with my next fun little painting job, my Resistance “Prime.”

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wip – inspiration

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wip- Prime is coming together

Roll out!

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