Saturday, January 28, 2017

Kitbashing some fantasy buildings using cheap dollar store toys

I've noticed that the dollar store has these really really cheap sword and shield toys for kids..

Something between $1.25-$4 for plastic crap for kids to play with..

Crap indeed, but something I can salvage for terrain building... at least for fantasy like Frostgrave.

I have a lot of styrofoam, so I decided to scratchbuild two buildings.

Building # 1 .. A Fantasy Gate

I was looking at this shield and was pondering what to do with it.. It only cost $1.25...

The face in the centre is the piece de resistance as it can be used to adorn a building and it was painted "good enough" already.. 

I thus cut it out carefully, as the plastic was sooo cheap and brittle, I risked breaking the face.


What if I made a circular door with it I asked myself...

I thus traced out a gate with it..

I hate priming by hand, but I dared not use spray paint on styrofoam..

I added some brown paint and gesso and made sure I etched in wagon ruts..

Afterwards, I felt I was missing something... so I decided to spice things up by adding some height so miniatures will overlook the enemy in future skirmish battles..

I cut out the horse head on one of the play swords and added it to the wall so the hilt wouldn't go to waste..

and voila.. finished the gate.. Good enough for tabletop play..

I made it look like the face rolls on and off to secure the walls..

Building # 2 .. A Ruined House

I built some walls first..

And then added, also from the dollar store, this large sticker that could look like tiles from a rich man's villa..

I broke the walls further and added tables, chairs, dresser and finished the ruined villa soon enough.. I didn't want to make it too crowded though, as I wanted minis to be able to move around in there.

I used the broken dragon emblem from one of the cheap shields.

I also cut out the hilt of one of the toy swords to look like a fallen pillar, and parts of the other shield as a fallen roof.

Well, that was fun.. I get a strange sort of satisfaction when I use cheap crap for better uses.


I cut out the dragon emblem of this shield, but I don't know what I will do with it.. a future WIP..

I also glued the toy bracelets together.. I guess it could be a Fantasy something or other but I haven't decided what yet.  It could be standalone I guess.


Awww... come on.. A wooden GM screen now?

I've said this before, but perhaps we are reaching the peak of tabletop gaming, as evidenced by the onslaught of ostentatious products to keep people in the hobby.. First, ostentatious dice, then catapulting dice, then self-rolling dice and now, for those RPGers, a wooden GM screen..

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The 3X game Through the Ages is an enjoyable but long "cube pusher"

My friend Jim bought over the holidays the recent edition of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization by the famous game designer Vlaada Chvatil, and so we decided to try it out.

Jim and I enjoy "civ" games, and we both spent many an hour playing Civ on the computer over the years, so this game is a no-brainer.

Through the Ages is not quite a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) as I don't think you can exterminate the other players, so I'll call it 3X for now.

However, the game is so abstract, that it is arguable if there is exploration or expansion, but we'll give it that.

This game is a 100% Euro.. I don't know why Europeans love pushing cubes around so much, but this game is cube-city.

It's a card-based tableau game. No map, per se.

We started off with a modest amount of cubes at the beginning..

and at the end, it was cubes all over the place..

In fact, that is all you do.. push cubes and draw cards. Cubes for resources (blue), cubes for people (yellow). You put yellow cubes to build troops, mines, farms, etc.. So that is the "exploitation" part..

Everything is abstract.. getting land (colonies), which are just called "territories." Historic territory, wealthy territory... You bid troops with your opponents to get them.

So that is kinda "exploration" and "expansion" I guess..

You build up and upgrade troops for abstract aggressive moves and war on the other.. At the end, I built  Modern Infantry upgraded from warriors, Cavalry from Knights, Rockets from Cannon, etc... 

Very abstract indeed, as I upgraded from muskets to get to modern infantry, without the need to upgrade first to rifleman, though it was expensive. To upgrade from spearman to modern infantry for instance, would cost me 5 resources per troop (7 minus 2), whereas for Jim, to upgrade from musket rifleman to modern infantry would only cost him 3 resources. Later on, when he got modern infantry, it would only cost him 2 resources per troop (7 minus 5) to upgrade to modern infantry.

You also upgrade your production over time.. Here for example, I improved my farming with Selective breeding, and my research using the scientific method from plain philosophy.

I later upgraded my mines to oil production  when I reached the modern age.

Anybody who played Sid Meier's Civ game will see all the familiar elements, including the effect of adapting different governments. My initial despotic form of government, for instance,  allows 4 general actions and 2 military actions per turn (represented by white and red cubes), is not as useful as my ending republican form of government, with its 7 general and 2 military actions per turn.

Sid Meier fans of course, will also recognize the effect of happiness on your people, which affects your food production. The game has an abstract concept of happiness that seems to work.. As you use more people, you better keep them happy, or else you have to divert resources.

Corruption and graft handled abstractly but well..  The more production you use, the more "sticky fingers" eating into it. In this example, I lose -2 resources per turn.

Other hallmarks of Civ are here.. leaders for instance. Here, Gandhi in the Third (modern) Age replaces my use of Sir Isaac Newton from the Second (or Renaissance) Age.

And of course, you build "wonders" which are very Civ-like. I built the Library of Alexandria in the ancient age to the internet in the modern age, for example, each giving different benefits..

Jim did a similar thing.. building the Pyramids and tried to build the Great Wall of China.

Incidentally, the game pays tribute to Sid Meier by making him a leader..

Advanced techniques, military, leaders, etc, all are given to us players in a running track, with stuff constantly falling off and coming in...

Scientific and cultural tracks are maintained for scoring purposes off to the side, with the player with the most cultural points at the end, winning.

We were just a two-player game, and it took up most of my 6 foot plastic table. A large footprint indeed, as you would expect in a civ game.

Scoring at the end was a long-drawn out affair. I don't know what boardgame geek is talking about, playing this in two hours. It was more like most of the afternoon and evening, as were learning to play.

As you can see then, lots of moving parts to keep track of, with a bit of a learning curve at the beginning.. However, once you get into it, you can see the charm of the game through the cards mixes and matches and can thus see multitudes of replay possibilities.

The game is abstract, and a bit cerebral, so you need smart and imaginative people to play this. It's not a beer and pretzel game.

I was taken aback at the beginning at the fiddleness of pushing all those cubes as I tend to be an Ameritrash player, and I didn't like some of the "gotcha" aspects that comes out of card play (I don't really like card games for that reason), but once you start playing, it all comes together beautifully.

Thumbs up!