Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Category: CNC Milling

Salvage Work

I hope everyone had a great a great Thanksgiving if you were in the US. Hope your post holiday plans go well and good luck if you’re braving the crowds for Black Friday.

Even though my attempt at a base for Dropzone Commander buildings didn’t quite turn out, I saw potential in one of the tests and decided to move forward with it to help fine tune the prototype.

I pulled the stock from the CNC base and the inner milling looks like it was alright to work with.  Unfortunately, it was off in another area, the depth of the cut.

I had the stock size wrong and the bit didn’t cut all the way through the stock. Not a big deal but I’ll need to make that correction in the next version as I don’t want to burn a lot of time trimming these out. This is what I get for not using my calipers to correctly size the stock.

After cutting out the center bases and smoothing out the side, I was able to out the building model on the base and see just how off it was.

It turned out that the base was about 1mm too big all around.  I marked the new size and used a razor saw to cut it down to size.

After the cuts , I sanded the rough bits out to help keep the sides even and smooth then tested the building to make sure it fit and wasn’t too loose.

It ended up working well so I ran the measurements again with my calipers and fixed the dimensions on my CAD file. While I was in the file, I looked at the G-code, which is the code file that the CNC program uses to direct the milling operation, and saw why the operations where doing some weird things. It turns out I forgot to turn the homing setting off so the machine was try to zero out its position at the start and end of the project. Since I was too lazy to install my homing switch, the machine doesn’t know what to do with those instructions and just runs to ground.

With that cleared up, I reset the CAM operations to hopefully fix some of getting other errors I was seeing and not take so long. Soone I’ll be ready to try this set up again and crank out multiple copies for my set.


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.


More Revisions: Dropzone Commander Building Bases

For over a year now, I’ve been working on a way to put a rigid base under the cardstock Dropzone Commander buildings.  This would be used to keep them more square instead of bending and give them some weight so they don’t slide around as much.

I grabbed one of the smaller buildings in the ruinscape set and measured out the dimensions.  I used the measurements to cut out a four-sided base out of foamcore.  Before assembling the sides, I cut jagged edges in the side pieces to give the sense of a ruined structure.  These bases could then double as rigid support and rubble terrain for buildings that are removed by demo units.

The base was a little bland so I printed off building images from Hawk Wargames’ site and pasted them to the sides.

Next I trimmed off the excess.

And tested it to make sure it fit.

The result was what I was hoping for: stable, squared base; more weight to keep the buildings in position; and a pseudo-rubble terrain piece.

To really complete the base, I’d want to make the interior full of debris as well.  Unfortunately, this process was a bit labor intensive and only completes one building. For most games, we use from 12-16 buildings so all that foamcore cutting, printing, trimming, and assembly seemed a bit much.

At the last Dropzone Commander event, the event organizer had made building bases from his 3D printer.  While I don’t have a 3D printer, I liked the execution of his bases enough to try it myself on my CNC machine.  I have the prototype file ready in CAD so all I need to do if figure out the routing paths and get cuttin’.

Catacombs: An Experiment In 3D

Catacombs, the dexterity disc-flicking dungeon crawl game, is easily my favorite dexterity game out there.  I’m a big fan of dexterity games anyway but Catacombs has always struck me as the perfect balance between dexterity game and narrative story.

catacombs box cover from the publisher (on BGG)

I’ve had my 3rd edition copy for awhile now and I got it in my head to take the game layout, which is in a 2D layout with obstacles, to 3D.  This concept is one I’ve explored before but never with Catacombs proper.  With the CNC machine up and running, this gave me the best opportunity to try out some experiments.

One map in particular stood out in particular as the perfect starting point.  The Altar Chamber map (as I call it) looked like a great fit so I took some photos (the board is bigger than my scanner) and uploaded it to Illustrator.  In Illustrator, I traced the central altar piece and converted it to an .svg to import into my CAD program. From there, I tweaked the measurements and created the file for a test milling.

The test print came out very near perfect for the measurements.  The ramp was only roughed in (that’s why it has that stair-stepped look to it) and I plan on smoothing it out on a sander.

I then added the other side to the layout to complete the rough first step.  I sanded the ramps smooth to a sharp point then primed the two pieces dark grey and sealed them.  Finally, I went back to my initial photo image and printed, cut, and mounted it to the two pieces.

The effect came out very well.  The pieces still fit well after the layers of primer and sealant and even though my printer is inferior to the professional board image printers, it still came out well enough to not be distracting.

So the big question is, did it work? Well, no. Mechanically it doesn’t quite do it.  The ramps are about as smooth as I can make them but still catch the discs sometimes and rebounds them backwards.  A big issue is that the Catacombs discs are flat walled cylinders with pretty sharp corners.  This means they catch even the slighted unevenness and bounce back.  Crokinole and Pitch Car discs have bevel or rounded edges to them so it takes a lot of gap in the tiles or ramps to have them bounce bad.

I could bevel the bottom edges of my Catacombs pieces but I think that is overkill.  At the end of the day, I may just ditch the ramp concept altogether and variant a “jump” ability where you use a card as your ramp and flick up that to get to the higher levels of the terrain.  I was already going to introduce that concept for the ranged attacks so it might be easier to add a movement/melee shot option for it is as well.  In any case, I like the look and the feel of the piece and I’m glad to see my CNC performed within the necessary tolerances to produce this piece.

Just Milling About

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post but only because I’ve been head-down in a new project: learning CAD and CAM for milling on a CNC machine.

Way back at the beginning of the year, I was excited to have a brand new tool added to my pimping arsenal: a CNC Machine. The only issue was it was a kit I needed to build and I’m not so handy with building things this complex.

The project progressed in fits and starts until just a few weeks ago, I finally got everything all together and running.  I had to take a quick detour and clean out the garage and cobble together a quick workbench table to have room to run it all but I was able to knock that out in a weekend.

With everything prepped, I grabbed a template off BGG and set it up using a trial version of Fusion 360.  I have to say, the resources MillRight CNC have put together on their site is outstanding and the direct responses from them for questions I’ve sent have been amazing.  They really go above and beyond supporting their customers on what could easily be a nightmare project.

The my workspace ready and my machine up and running, I imported Flashhawk’s PitchCar mini-converter SVG and got to cutting to test it all out.

As you can see from the video, the machine definitely did its job.  The cut was nice and everything worked as it should.

Punching out the piece was easy and cleaning up the “tabs” that hold the piece in place while cutting will be easy.

Just one little issue…

So obviously there are some scaling issues but the test was successful and I’ve been working up several new concepts that I’m eager to complete.  The first step has been taken, now the real challenges begin.

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