Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Month: December 2016

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone’s holiday is going well.  2016 was a lot of fun. Thank you for reading and commenting and I look forward to bringing you more pimped content in 2017.  Happy Holidays!

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Showcase: Assault on Hoth: The Empire Strikes Back

I’d had my eye on the old West End game, Assault on Hoth: The Empire Strikes Back, for a long time but I’m never a fan of chits and standees. So I decided to recreate a version like quite a few other BGGers and upgrade the components.

I finished this project earlier this year after working on it off and on for over a year but since Rogue One is hitting the theaters this weekend, these bad boys have been obsessively on my mind:

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Rogue One, by the way, is fantastic.  It was like watching all my favorite minis games get a big budget action movie.  Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Armada, X-wing, and Imperial Assault could all be combined into an Epic Battle of Scariff as the movie combined all three theaters of war seamlessly into one epic narrative.

Anyway, back to Hoth: I started out with the excellent resources on the Assault on Hoth boardgamegeek page, including BennyBroka revised map and revised card deck.

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I had the decks printed from Artscow and the map as a matte poster print from Printer studio. I later laminated the poster at Office Depot.

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After that, I started collecting minis. With Star Wars so prevalent again, the toy market is flush with new items like the resurgence of Micro Machines. I picked up the 5 AT-ATs needed from various Micro Machines sets.

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The tiny AT-STs came from these weird cube “playset” games called “box busters.”

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The small Airspeeders are from Mel Miniatures‘ Shapeways account. I looked all over for these but just couldn’t find anything in the right size but luckily Mel Miniatures had them in Fantasy Flight’s Armada scale.

I couldn’t find any trooper options in a scale I wanted (preferably 6mm for this game like I did in OGRE) so I went with making tokens.

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The Shield Generator and cannons again came from the “box busters” series.

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Finally, I was able to pick up a set of dice from BGG user Orph and they turned out fantastic.

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Everything rolls up into a cylinder mailing tube and I’m really happy with how everything turned out.

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Now that Rogue One killing it in theaters, maybe some publisher will give us some new All Terrain combat vehicle action. Until then, I have Assault on Hoth to relive my favorite battle of the Star Wars franchise.

Mustaches, version 2.0

I had a lot of fun making my first batch of Flick em Up! mustaches but I was not 100% happy with how they turned out as the process of cutting them from labels made the cut outs imprecise and limited what styles I could actually use.  I thought about using decals but the starter kits for those are around $20 and I wasn’t that unhappy with my results.

I shelved the concept until recently when a friend pointed me to this Instructable regarding Clear Stickers by user AndelDOA. This “hack” seemed really easy and very cheap.  Being this close to Christmas, almost everyone should have everything you need on hand: Packing tape, a spoon (or burnishing tool), bowl for water, scissors, and your print out on regular printer paper from a laser jet or xerox machine.  That last item is the key to the whole trick so if you don’t have access to a laser printer, you should be able to go to a local print store and get a print out for maybe a dollar.

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First, I took the packing tape, cut a small piece to cover some of the images that I wanted to test and started burnishing them with a spoon.  Burnishing is usually a process used for metals and wood but the concept can be applied to a lot of papercrafts as well.  In this application, you are using a flat, smooth tool to press the packing tape into the printed page so that the adhesive quality of the tape binds to the ink (or toner in this case).  I used a spoon initially but the metal is a little too rough and seemed to scratch the tape. I’d recommend a wooden tool if you were going to do a lot of burnishing otherwise your finger should work for small quick applications.

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Next I cut the image out to size.  This actually didn’t go so well as the piece was too small to really complete the next few steps: soak the piece in water for 3+ minutes and rub the wet paper material off.

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As it will become clear later, I was a little too aggressive in the rubbing process (even using my fingernail to scrape some of the excess off) and it distorted the image quality.

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Even with the distortion, I felt like the concept had merit so I tried again.

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This time I cut a piece with enough extra space that I could hold it while rubbing only the area I need.  After letting the new piece soak in the water for another 3-5 minutes, I found the best way to get the paper off was to just gently rub the area back and forth with very little pressure. Eventually the paper backing with “pill up” and start to roll off.  Wet your finger/thumb occasionally to clean them and keep gently rubbing until all the white paper is off. The toner ink will remain on the packing tape and then you can set it aside to dry.

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Once the packing tape is dry (for this size sticker it only took a few minutes in the dry winter air), the adhesive quality will return and it will function just like a sticker.  Cut it to size and place it on the model. Due to the size, I found an X-acto blade worked well to help line up the final placement.

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In these comparisons of the two final versions, the “clear sticker” technique is a more consistent shape and has no annoying “whiting” around the edges. It does have the shiny sticker look and you can see the faint edging of the sticker borders but with the cowboy hat and play distance, you can’t see that at all.

These differences might be too slight from a distance so one could argue that there isn’t enough of a difference to warrant redoing the existing mustaches. The main use of this technique, however, is to produce stylized images that I simply couldn’t cut out manually from my previous label method.

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Like the “Kilmer” mustache here.  I tried several times to cut this version out but it never worked.  With this technique, it is simple and really cheap.

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Holiday and Earp, together at last

This technique worked very well and now I’m already thinking about what other games I can apply this to.  Custom PitchCar discs, maybe?

Variety as Life Spices

While I love pimping out games, my first foray into altering board games came from the mechanical design side of the hobby.  Cutting my teeth as a young lad on such classic titles as HeroQuest and Battle Masters, it wasn’t long before the little wheels in my head started turning as I yearned to dive deeper into those gaming worlds.

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my yellowed copy of one of the first variants I attempted – an expansion module to HeroQuest

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25+ years later and my handwriting still hasn’t gotten much better

After all this time, I still have a compelling need to create my own variants for my favorite games.  It’s hard to say which side pushes harder, the desire to improve the functionality and aesthetic appeal of a game or the fun in varying the rules to better suit where I want the game design to go.  Since pimping out a game requires little collaboration, I tend to do it more as I am free to mod and pimp at my leisure but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still jot down notes and variants for most of my games. I don’t think I know how to pimp games without also wanting to create a more personal set of rules.

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Looking back through these notes and files, I realized I’ve amassed quite a little collection of variants and so I created a new page on the blog to put them at easy reach.  Like most things, this will be a work-in-progress and updated when I can.  I’ll try to add links or download options for those curious to see these variants in more detail but for now, I want to highlight a particularly obsessive variant I’ve been working on.

It’s no secret I’ve been really getting into Flick ’em Up! by Pretzel Games recently.  At Gen Con, I was able to try out a curious and ultimately fantastic new game by Filip Neduk of Czech Games Edition, called Adrenaline. Adrenaline is a fun resource control game set as old school first-person shooter (FPS) video game where the resource is damage dealt to your enemies.  It has some of the best theme-implemented mechanics I’ve seen for a board game attempting anything like this genre and I was sold almost immediately.

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prototype play at Gen Con 2016

Unfortunately, it was released at Spiel in Essen, Germany last month and hasn’t made the trek over the pond quite yet. Even though I definitely want to add this game to my collection, I couldn’t stop thinking about combining all the great damage and scoring mechanics of the game with the dexterity and almost FPS nature of Flick ’em Up! So a couple weekends back, I prototyped enough components to try out this Frankenstein-ian creation and was happy to see that it actually worked quite well.

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At a quick glance, it still looks basically like Flick ’em Up!- open table layout with three-dimensional Flick ’em Up! pieces scattered around to make a more dynamic playing area.  However, if you look carefully (at the table, not my friend’s impressive liquor display), you’ll notice I added some cards representing the different weapons the cowboys can acquire and the player board, where most of the new rules interaction comes into play.

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Looking at the new player board, it is basically a carbon copy of the player board in Adrenaline, but rethemed to fit Flick ’em Up’s setting.

The board tracks damage from your opponents, points given when you die, action options, and keeps your resources close by.  The points are now represented thematically by money (courtesy of 7 Wonders) and instead of skulls representing kills, I have little tombstones.  Even when messing around with new mechanics, I can’t help but try a little pimping as well.

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While I spent a lot of time getting the look of the player boards to a quality we could enjoy, I knew the biggest mechanical hurdle was getting the weapons right.  From experience, I knew these custom weapons would take a lot more effort and will undergo a lot of iterations to test and get right since they will be the biggest marriage between the two systems.

Adrenaline has 21 unique weapons in its game and since the concept of what each weapon does is largely abstract and only defined by how and who all it can hurt, there is a lot of freedom in the variety of each card. Since the way you deal damage in this variant is largely based on the dexterity flicking component of Flick ’em Up!, the weapon powers had to be grounded more in what options were physically available.  Luckily, Flick ’em Up! contains a lot of varied options in weapons and effects so I settled on nine unique weapons.  I actually like the more limited weapons pool as it helps the balance a bit from both a testing side (less variables to test and correct) and a gameplay side as a powerful weapon won’t be unique and others will have access to the same option if it proves too potent.

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The test game we ran worked pretty well and I was pleased that the concept worked fully and was enjoyed by the players.  The variant isn’t quite ready yet as the pacing was a little slower than I liked so I’ll go back to the drawing board on the weapon concepts and see what I can do increase the tempo of the game. Then I’ll test again until the game feels more in-line with expectations. After that, I’ll finalize the art for the weapon cards and finish up a general rules document.  Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to host the variant at one of the upcoming game conventions next year.

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