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This game ran at Williamsburg Muster on 04 FEB

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Caught Between the Scylla and Charybdis

So, we're running a scifi game at the Williamsburg Muster using Defiance Games' Alien War rules. It will be a small team (smaller than squad level) king-of-the-hill rolling-entry scenario. That is, the objective is to take and hold a piece of high ground and as teams are eliminated, fresh teams will enter play. We will have a couple of highly skilled instructors on hand, so if people walk up after the initial explanation, they should be able to watch and learn a little, then step in for a while when someone's team goes out.

So, now we need a suitable piece of terrain with high ground, a good mix of open ground and cover, and a reasonable scifi theme. I decided on a space station (Scylla) teetering on the edge of a black hole (Charybdis). The objective is to get to the central hub, jack in your computers and dowload sensor data to figure out why this is happening (and, more importantly, how you can exploit it for your own faction). You can read the full description at ODMS' Williamsburg Muster site, linked above.

Now, we just need a cool space station. Specifically, an exterior one so we can crawl around on the ouside, duck around corners, make a sneaky flank under cover then go "over the top" and other such mix-it-up maneuvers. But I didn't want a square building, or a tiered building. I wanted something that looks like the ISS and gives you that hanging in space feel. Enter coffee cans and Rust-Oleum Magnetic Primer .

Judge Dredd looks pretty good hanging up there in this first prototype. I just cut the can in half, primed with magnetic, and put Dredd on a base made with a scrapbooking 1" circular hole punch and a magnetic bumper sticker. The problem is, he looks good in this picture, but he doesn't stick everywhere on the can. Basically, since the base is flat, but the surface is curved, (i.e., the base and surface only connect at a tangent point), there isn't enough contact on most places to hold a figure in place.

I was quite happy that I didn't start with places where it woudn't stick, as I probably would have given up and looked for a different idea. And actually, I did give up. But, in stepped my wife with the suggestion that since I need a flat surface, couldn't I just wrap the thing in a hexagonal or octagonal prism? hmmm....

After some quick calculations, not only did I realize you can do it. But if you take a 6" diameter and cut it in half, then try to circumscribe a half an ocatagonal prism around it, the total size of the peice you need to make the prism is about 11". That means that I can readily buy cardboard sheets in a standard size (8 1/2" x 11") to fold around my supports.

And, there we go. This idea works fine. Dredd can stand at any point on the flat surfaces. And, he can't stand on or near the angles, which gives us an easy way to tell which "section" he is in for playing.

With the prototype successful, now it is time to move into full rate production. Here you can see an 8 1/2" x 11" thin card insert folded and cut to size. I will use the extra piece as an overhang, to hide the seams between pieces. Another easy part of this is since we are making an octagon, we only have to fold the sheets in half, then fold in half again. No measuring to get four equal sections.

Now it's time to prime them up. Here you can see 22 assembled pieces with magnetic primer on them. This was about 1 1/2 hours of work, all told (assembly, not figuring it out, which took a few hours and a lot of head scratching and futzing with pieces) -- one complete soccer match on ESPN 3 -- to cut, glue, and prime.

Now I need some space. No, not metaphysical space. A backdrop of space with a black hole on it. I had a nice large piece of black felt lying around, so I started hitting it with white paint. For the black hole, I cut out a round template, and laid it down to paint around giving me the big empty space in the center. For the various nebulae and galaxies, I just started in the center with white paint, and drug outwards until the paint petered out. The stars are done with a paint pen and a lot of random jotting, trying to vary the pressure.

It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but after the paint dried, I did go back over several of them with red, blue, and yellow Sharpie. I found it very hard to get a decent picture, and this one still doesn't show all the detail and color variance. It's certainly not up to the standard of Eric Hotz' work (of which i have a few), but it is passable. Especially since it will be mostly hidden by the space station (I hate putting terrain on Eric's mats, cause they look so awesome just sprawled out there) As I type this, I realize that I could have probably comissioned one from him with a big black hole on it ... dang.

So here you get to see the whole thing put together. I went with a sliver and white alternating paint scheme, and tried to "weather" it appropriately for space. You can also see the prominent golden central hub, which will be the high ground to gain and hold. Since I have two weeks, I will add some markings and make a few gew-gaws (hatches, radar dishes, etc.) to spice it up. Fortunately, I can just base those on magnets, too, leaving the main pieces very flexible and very modular.

Those are some AT-43 Therians and HaloClix repaints that I based on magnets just to make sure the whole thing still works and for playtesting the units and rules (Combat:Alien War has a frequent (1 in 6 turns) "Uh-Oh!" event table that is intended to be customized for different forces and situations. So I worked through a custom Uh-Oh table appropriate for the environment and scenario) and to check that the timing works out (we will reasonably be able to let people play for several turns, but then rotate teams in over a four-hour slot).

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