Friday, November 21, 2014

Heroscape Marvel engraved thematic replacement dice

Toystorian Enterprises is running a Kickstarter for unpainted custom engraved dice, that ends in a bit over a week.

I dig custom dice like this, but have a lot of difficulty coming up with a reasonable cost for a small amount of dice. I am often stuck just hitting photoshop and making stickers to throw on indented dice, which is fine, but I enjoy the durability of engraved cubes.

I have a few other projects that I am using this service for, but I figured I would make some for my herscape game, since I only use Marvel Heroclix to play it.

There is a fair amount of fans doing custom character work for Heroscape using clix figs of all kinds, and I figured I would share my results as I am quite pleased with them and think I can help out not only the Heroscape community, but get a few other people into the Kickstarter as well since you won't have to do any work to order the dice if you like this style.

I decided to just make each die face different, while still keeping the faces relevant for the game thematically using the classic onomatopoeia explosion balloons and forcing the defensive verbs into like roles. 
Instead of the sixth face being blank as is typical on Heroscape dice, I threw in the "wha... huh?!" moment in there to illustrate those "duh" moments the blank die face could represent. Helps the theme, and it also helps balance the dice rolling out by removing some weight.
If it looks too busy and hard to discern what die face is what, using the normal color coding will greatly help what each die face is at a glance. I chose to illustrate this using the bone colored die option, as it appears to resemble an aged comic book page.
A dozen dice will run you $20 which includes shipping, and expected delivery is February of 2015 if you submit your dice plans promptly after the KS ends. All you will need beyond that is a set of paint pens, as is detailed in the Kickstarter page linked above.

You can also use these files to print your own dice or what have you, as I am releasing this as a share alike and attributable creative commons license.

You can download any needed files for the above project from this LINK.

Andrew at Toystorian Enterprises  liked them enough, that he sent me a couple sample pics to show how well they look once the designs are laser engraved onto the dice. Have a peek:

I was a bit concerned that the font may need to be adjusted in order to avoid the letters blending together like blobs. But after chatting further with him about it, he slapped some quich paint on a couple and I am no longer worried that adjustments will be neccessary. A very professional guy. Thanks Andrew.

Have Fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wiz-War Iron Wizard Hyper Deathmatch

Just make sure you either remove all irrelevant cards from the deck before the game (best option), or discard them and draw again when irrelevant cards are drawn.
Example of irrelevance is any magic card pertaining to treasure, like Heave Ho, Ward, etc. or cards like Rotate Sector.

Pick lock
Rotate sector

Fools gold

Create door

Pick lock

Heave Ho

Master key
Seal door
Pick lock
Rotate sector

Summon drake (cannot cast as a counter since there isn't treasure to protect, otherwise viable)
Treasure lust

Summon Boggart (is technically viable, but is worthless without treasures)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wiz-War streamlined magic deck

This is proposal for a reformed 85 card magic deck which incorporates cards from the Malefic Curses and Bestial Forces expansions. The goal is to remove card redundancy found in the schools, ensuring some uniqueness in the magic deck composition using the expanded pool available, as well as giving a more concentrated experience for those who are either beginning or infrequent players of Wiz-War, while still being fun for vets to play.

It mimics the "big book of spells" special rule in a way, yet is more deliberate and calculated in how and with what it is constructed.
80-90 cards seems to be a sweet spot where the deck is large enough that you aren't guaranteed to see every card in every game unless it runs long and the deck is reshuffled, but small enough to where variety is ensured between the 2-4 player scale, eliminating the major shortcoming of the "big book of spells" special rule, who has a more negative impact as expansions are released and the average odds of good distribution are reduced.

To facilitate this goal, with the help of trial and error, was to consider the criteria of what comprises the fundamental hook that makes Wiz-War a subjectively attractive and compelling game experience on an intrinsic and even extrinsic level.

  • The expectation of a covenant formed between players for light-hearted, mutually assured schadenfreude.
  • Static and dynamic game state manipulation at a highly interactive and creative level. (Modifying the board during the game and having a chance to respond to modifications made. From the creation and destruction of obstacles on the board, to attacking and countering in order to attempt to thwart opponents goals.)
  • Granting meaningful agency on a primary level where actions are immediately resolved, that consequently allows for quicker gameplay and less player frustration at what the random card draw has granted them as choices for their actions. As opposed to secondary or tertiary level where the agency relies on specific conditions arising before the action can be instituted. (An "Add" spell which relies on multiple energy cards in hand before the choice to use it becomes relevant, for example.)
  • Unique variety offered when redundancy is drastically reduced. This is made possible with the 2 noted expansions with the increased card pool and the interesting designs with them.

With these criteria in mind, the following justifications of choices are submitted for your consideration:

The historical magic deck ratio was roughly:
Neutral 45%
Numbers 25%
Counters 8%
Attack 22%

Yet, as we see in the link above regarding ratios, its not as simple as that. We can't just throw all straight damage cards into the attack category, we have to add something less boring. Half of the attack deck wwas comprised of spells that were PITA (pain in the ass) and screwed with your opponents in interesting and fun ways. Same goes for each other category as well.

The one major departure in FFG's 8th edition that we must address is how energy has changed. You get a lot more energy through hybrid magic/energy cards now. But unless it is random energy, it never goes above 3 and averages at about 2.5 on the whole. Since you cannot combine 2 energy cards without the aid of a third to power a fourth or boost speed, and it sacrifices a likely needed potential game effect, I feel that trade-off is fair. The energy amount is still high, but still reasonable. This is the main reason why I only added 10 energy in 85 cards. Because 20+ other cards are hybrids.

So the ratios now look a bit like this 8th edition deck proposal:
Neutral 49% (this counts for neutral, neutral/counter, and items combined)
Energy 12%
Counters 14%
Attack 25%

This may seem like a considerable boost to the counters category, but again, the ratios only tell half the story, inside we find more utility cards such as fools gold and ward, and others that thwart in interesting ways other than merely straight denial. Its still only 12 card, about only half of which have a direct denial approach. In line with how the deck classically worked.

This gave a good starting point in which to tweak the deck to test it out. Below is the culmination of those many games in the last several months, adding and removing cards as expansions are released.

Neutral: 31
Around the Corner (cantrip)
Astral Projection (mentalism)
Bone Armor (necromancy)
Boneyard (necromancy)
Booby Trap (conjuring)
Chaos Claws (chaos)
Create Door (conjuring)
x3 Create Wall (cantrip, conjuring, elemental)
x2 Destroy Wall (cantrip, elemental)
x2 Dispel (cantrip, conjuring)
Dust Cloud (conjuring)
Glue (conjuring)
Mad Dash (transformation)
x2 Meditate (mentalism)
Mist Body (elemental)
Nevermind (chaos)
Pass Through Wall (thaumaturgy)
Prismatic Mist (chaos)
Rosebush (conjuring)
Rotate Sector (cantrip)
Stone Block (elemental)
Stone Spikes (elemental)
Strength (transformation)
Thornbush (conjuring)
Treasure Lust (draconic)
Wallivore (transformation)

Neutral/Counter: 4 cards
Invisible (thaumaturgy)
Pain Link (mentalism)
Teleport (mentalism)
Wall of Fire (elemental)

Counter: 12 cards
Absorb Spell (mentalism)
Backlash (thaumaturgy)
Counter Curse (hexcraft)
Delay Death (necromancy)
Dispeleport (chaos)
Featherweight (transformation)
Fool's Gold (alchemy)
Full Shield (cantrip)
Magic Resistance (draconic)
Mercy of Quetzalcoatl (mythology)
Negate Neutral (cantrip)
Ward (conjuring)

Attack: 21 cards
Brain Burn (mentalism)
Chaos Shards (chaos)
Curse of Ice (hexcraft)
Embrace of Jorogumo (mythology)
Fireball (elemental)
Fire Darts (conjuring)
Globe of Pain (thaumaturgy)
Ka-Bong! (conjuring)
Lightning Bolt (elemental)
Medusa's Gaze (mythology
Mental Force (mentalism)
Mind Meld (chaos)
Prismatic Bolt (chaos)
Prismatic Storm (chaos)
Screaming Skull (necromancy)
Siren Song (mythology)
Swap (conjuring)
Terrify (hexcraft)
Thought Steal (mentalism)
Winged Strike (draconic)
Yoink! (Thaumaturgy)

Items: 7 cards
Handful of Tacks (conjuring)
Dagger (thaumaturgy)
Fire Cloak (elemental)
Null Powder (alchemy)
Powerstone (alchemy)
Universal Solvent (alchemy)
Wizardblade (thaumaturgy)

Energy: 10 cards
x4 "Four" (conjuring, elemental)
x2 "Five" ( conjuring, elemental)
"Six" (cantrip)
Random Energy:
x2 "D4+2" (chaos)
"D4+3" (chaos)

That sums it up. Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is that your group didn't find it enjoyable, but at least you explored another avenue to approach having fun. And that is never a bad thing. Let me know how it works out for your group, good or bad.

The rest of this article is just me blathering on about why certain card choices were made and other suggestions to tweak it. If that doesn't spark your interest, then consider this article complete.

Still here? Welcome to trying to follow my stream of concious as I attempt to vomit out coherent and complete thoughts.

The choices from the schools are fairly lopsided, with conjuring school having the strongest showing with 15 cards taken from it, with chaos school a close second at 12 and elemental school at third with 11. These three schools make up nearly half the deck.

Conjuring is essential in my opinion, predominantly because of the obstacles and a few other key spells within it.

Chaos' strong showing is mainly due to effects that are interesting tweaks on classic ideas. Choas also offers a bit more randomness in their effects and energy generation. Randomness in this form is not a bad way to implement design space, as it helps replay value for certain effects with the lack of predictability. For many, this just translates to more fun. I would even go so far as to say that the chaos school is the essence of the game, distilled into 24 cards.

Cantrips aren't completely used, as spells like pick lock were just too situational to warrant a spot in an 85 card deck. Space is too precious when swiss army knife utility spells like universal solvent work more readily for general purposes.

Cards which rely on specific situations are a double edged sword. Their inclusion needs to be minimal, and their effects need to be good enough. You dont want spells in hand that you feel have no purpose. It makes for a longer, unsatisfying game when you are carrying a card that equals dead weight. Hence spells like pick lock are out. Master key, if you really must be able to open opponents doors, is the key choice for inclusion. (No pun intended)

Bluffing, which is a fairly important player generated component of an experienced meta game, is also enhanced with the omission of such situational cards. The chances are greater that an opponent will likely have a relevant card to play in response. So bluffing works a lot better.

Cards which effect more than one wizard or creature or object as it is cast also seem to enhance the experience. It makes the game a bit quicker as well, and makes the interaction deeper. There are at least a half dozen cards in the deck which were eventually included because of this quality.

The attack cards I had some difficulty with "balancing" out. I wanted to include more interesting damage effects, but you can't have a wizard battle without a fireball or a lightning bolt. The more "asshole" cards were what gave me fits. Thought steal, mind meld, brain burn, etc. are fun, but reducing card advantage is almost as painful as losing a turn for some people, especially new players.

Counters were even more difficult to decide what cards get used, as it is a very tight supply. So after the energy was reduced because of hybrids, everything was boosted a few percent and counters were given the largest boost. Only to include interesting counters through evasion and reduction, as straight denial in cancellation is not the most fun and should be rare. Yet absolutely should exist.

Anything that reduces how effective treasure running is in the game will always be welcome in the deck though, without prejudice.

Here are a few supplemental deck ideas we've been using to take the basic 85 card deck to 100, with the addition of 15 card thematic "packs" that change the gameplay drastically.. The fundamental feel of the foundation deck is still there, but results will be greatly skewed as the percentages are not adhered to. These are merely for the sake of adding or reinforcing a specific theme that a group may enjoy.

It works much like adding and removing schools to the deck, yet are more focused in how they are utilized. Redundancy occurring only when absolutely required. These examples should be a decent starting point to create your own thematic supplements.

"Mechanic deck":
Eye of horus
Hermes sandals
Ilmarinens astrolabe
Thors hammer
Stone dead
Extra arms
Just a fun diversion by adding 10 more items, including the 4 powerful relics, and ways to deal with them or better utilize them. Using them reminds me of a character in Robert Aspirin's Myth books, by the name of Massha. She was a mechanic wizard. That is, her sole magical power came from her baubles, as she had no inherent talent herself.

"Spirit deck":
Primal scream
Feral strike
x2 spiritual infusion
x2 wrath of the ancestors
x2 spirit of the cat
x2 spirit of the raven
Summon totem spirit
Spirit of the serpent
Spirit of the bear
Spirit of the wolf
Spirit of the owl
I'm not particularly a fan of the totem school, as it is very combinatorial and reliant on feeding off of itself in order to function. But there is no denying it is powerful and still fun to play with on occasion. Its better than letting someone take sole control of the school using the specializations optional rule. Down that road lies power gaming madness.

"Creature deck":
x4 planar call
Summon minotaur
Summon boggart
Summon genie
Summon grendel
Summon drake
Wrath of quetzalcoatl
Flame breath
Tail slap
Fearsome bite
Spectral grasp
Gotta love the creatures. Very fun to play with and really changes the dynamic of the game. Like obstacles, but aggressive. Its a much better game with them included now. This is the default setting when we expand the deck.

"Junkyard deck":
Prismatic Mist
x2 Create Wall
Hex of Pain
Hex of Amnesia
Hex of Teleportation
Destroy Wall
Astral Projection
Mist Body

This deck supplement is as yet untried. Created under the presumption that if you like crap laying everywhere as obstacles and other effects that alter the board and allow you to treat the labyrinth as your personal toilet, then hopefully this may help quench that thirst. Sadly this will add redundancy to the deck, as there are very few unique obstacle creations in the game as it currently stands. But it's a good thematic opportunity to add Hexes. The fourth hex was omitted as it just stops wizards in their tracks, and felt to similar to wasting/losing a turn. I hope it is as fun as it looks on paper.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wiz-War Hirst Arts boards, molds, and casting in resin.

I remarked before about casting each Hirst Arts Wiz-War sector board out of a single 10.5"x10.5" tile of resin. But I'll go a bit more in depth regarding the work involved. I settled on mold #204 "large cracked floor tiles" for the floor spaces. It seems to match the rest of the Hirst Arts Wiz-War walls the best and looks properly “dungeon”. It will also give the board, once all separate sectors were assembled, a more homogenous look, rather than the hodge podge that is suggested on the Hirst Arts site.

The casting of the initial pieces from Hirst Arts Molds #88 & #204 in order to make my own molds for convenience, was a bit time consuming. Combined with some difficulty in casting parts in resin that weren't distorted by plating the mold with glass. If the pressure is even slightly excessive, then the wall bases distort, making each piece not fit in the floor groove on the floor tile.

Once I got enough undistorted parts to build the masters, then the next major hurdle was to assemble the board so that it was square and all spaces were even. This was a nightmare, and I dread to think about doing this for more than one board. By this point, I had 9 hours of time invested. I then filled all gaps and smoothed them out with rubber sculpting tools so that when pouring the molding rubber that there would be no gaps for it to pour into and ensure this was a single solid tile once cast. By this point, I had 25 hours invested.

 I build all my mold forms out of legos. They are strong and modular and machined with a high amount of precision so that mold boxes are square. and I like to cast my molds with the molds inside of the forms. This reduces or outright prevents the distortion I experienced using the Hirst Arts molds.

I like to fill the mold boxes to the point that they will stick out above the mold just a tiny bit, say, 1/8th of an inch. Enough room for compression from plating allowing give, but not enough for distortion to take hold in a meaningful way.

The walls likewise were given a new master mold so that 8 double post & 26 single post walls, single piece doors, treasure chests, could be cast in one single casting instead of 8 or so castings for each board with the Hirst arts mold. The white circle in the middle is a magic circle sculpted by Julie Guthrie to rep the home base square.

Here is a few examples of the board after being cast as a single tile in both Smooth-Cast 300 (white) and Smooth-Cast 325 (translucent). I wanted to fiddle with different resins to see which properties I like best.

I have decided that I will use Smooth-Cast 321, combined with Ure-Fil 3 resin filler and So-Strong black resin tint. This gives me an increased working time which is fairly critical. The filler creates a speckled stone appearance to the surface of the casting, and cuts cost a bit as a bonus. This resin choice is tan colored, so that after I add a bit of black tint and filler, the castings are a natural looking brown-hued speckled gray stone. If paint chips off accidentally, then the scuff likely wont be noticed. I'll remark more about the specifics of this in a later post.

That's essentially everything. By this point, I have 36 hours invested. (Molds made for doors, portals, walls/chests, magic circles, sector tile, and proofs cast to check for accuracy) Not too bad. All there is to do is simply paint the castings after minor cleanup of any excess resin, and it's playable. That painting though will likely take me about 100 hours since there are so many wall pieces to do. 
Although, it's playable out of the mold since the resin essentially looks like stone.  Add a black ink wash or rub dark shoe polish over the surfaces, a tiny bit of grey highlight if you feel adventurous, and you could have a very quick Wiz-War labyrinth to play with that looks more than decent.

Beyond the board itself, I wanted to replace any of the immovable object tokens with a three dimensional representation. It seems pointless to go through all this work on this project, merely to have a ton of card board laying on it. So I decided that where reasonable, they would get an upgrade. But only be the immovable objects, as there are not only too many carried objects to do this with, but their tokens rarely have an effect on the board, so their chits would suffice. The totems from the Bestial Forces expansion will have to either wait until I get good enough with 3d printing, or just stay as chits.

This includes things such as the portals as well. This was easily solved by taking a door and shaving off the hinges and handles so that the door is a flat surface that will allow a colored sticker to be affixed to each side to enhance the sense that these are warp portals.

Here is a list of the items and ideas for the immovable object tokens:
5 Created Walls (walls without posts)
2 Rosebushes (Green grill cleaner with red dots)
2 Thornbushes (Green grill cleaner)
1 Glue Pile (Green tinted caulking with plastic horse leg sticking out)
1 Dustcloud (3D card stock printout)
1 Wall of Fire (sculpted fire mounted on a 1x3 wizwar strip)
1 Created door (normal extra door)
1 Sealed Door (normal door with chains)
1 Stone Block (caulking stiffened sponge block)
4 Booby Traps (junkrobot heavy bear trap)
Malefic Curses:
1 Skull Servant (Privater Press Soul Marker)
2 Boneyard (tabletop-art bonefield)
10 Prismatic Mist (swirly sculpted tile)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wiz-War Random Labyrinth Generator for Hirst Arts boards

These cards are intended as a portable reference of boards from classic Wiz-War as well as the FFG edition, and as a way to randomly generate each board prior to play quickly, without need to figure out how to manipulate the single and double post walls for those who use Hirst Arts Wiz-War boards.

Card example:

These have been formatted to be printed by the Printer Studio printing services. Just upload them and complete your purchase. Or you can print them out yourself at home, though the bleed must be cut off.

The file can be downloaded from this LINK (10MB).

Wiz-War optional rules cards

Here are a set of optional rules cards for Wiz-War to keep on the table as reminders of which optional rules that have been chosen are in use during play.

There are also some popular fanmade optional rules included for you to use or not at your discretion.

Optional rules card example:
 Initiative card example:
These have been formatted to be printed by the Printer Studio printing services. Just upload them and complete your purchase. Or you can print them out yourself at home, though the bleed must be cut off.

The file can be downloaded from this LINK (35MB).

Wiz-War spellbook themed tuckboxes for sleeved cards

Tuckboxes to separate each school of magic from one another in a thematic fashion.
Contains tuckboxes for the base game, as well as the Malefic Curses and Bestial Forces expansions.

Time/Life books presents Archmage McGillicuddy's Encyclopaedia Magicae. Each codex is lovingly bound in only the finest leather made from the hide of cacodaemon conjured from the seventh circle of hades. The pages are made from sheets of moleskin parchment bleached under moonbeams, and hand lettered by our gnomish scribes using the ink of the kraken by the light of Saturn. The leaves are gilded with the gossamer of pixie wings and locked from prying eyes using glyphs of warding. As a finishing touch, a book mark made from the tongue of a basilisk is permanently affixed to the spine. For nothing says to your peers "I haz teh magikz" quite like a basilisk tongue wedged betwixt its pages. 

No mage worth their psaltes should be caught performing their arts without such grimoires of wizardy and legerdemain adorning their candlelit lectern. 

Our mystical operators are standing by their scying mirrors awaiting your commune. 

Don't delay, unfathomed mysteries await thee.

The file can be downloaded from this LINK.

For those of you who are new to papercrafting, here is a link to some helpful tutorial videos from the guys who make papercraft their business:
Worldworks Papercrafting Tutorials

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wiz-War project series prelude

Wiz-War is the kind of game where you feel like a kid again as you envision yourself as a wizard fighting in a deep underground 4D Escheresque hypercube labyrinth for the honor to be the next big cheese at the mages guild. Throwing spells at your rivals, using the creativity for clever magical plays that were once as easy as breathing to dream up and imagine when you were child. Free from years of conformity beating that wonderful creativity from your mind. You are also rewarded for that cleverness, both in your aggressiveness as well as your defensiveness.

Red Wizard: “I teleport you to this space of the maze and take control of your mind and then make you walk back and forth through that wall of fire while stepping on thumbs tacks scattered on the ground too!”
Green Wizard: “Nuh uh! I teleport away before you can target me. :p ”
Red Wizard: “Well, I just dispel your teleport.”
Green Wizard: “.... Fuuuuuck youuuu!”
Red Wizard: “That's 26 points of damage, which should just about kill you dead. And then some.”
Green: Wizard: “It would kill me if I didn't cast delay death like I am right now. Are you done playing around with your baby spells? Good. Now it's time to show you how a wizard can be a man...”
A fun game. A great game.

Games like this need more attention than what merely comes in the retail packaging.

And indeed this one gets the deluxe treatment with a new board by Hirstarts, some supplementary graphic design work for random labyrinth generation, as well as handy indicators on the table as to which special rule is being used, along with tuck boxes made to look like spellbooks to store the sleeved cards for each school of magic separately. It's been an ongoing project since February of 2012. Much of which was originally posted on BGG, but is better served on my own blog.

I didnt want to go through all the work to make 4-6 boards individually, so I spent extra time to make one board and fill in all the cracks with putty so I could use it as a master and make a mold of it to cast more boards in one single, easy step. It was very much worth the extra time, because I if sell a few boards to others, it makes it a lot less work for them as well.

The project is essentially completed, so I'll just separate each portion as it's own update.