Archive for the ‘Battle Masters’ Category

Battle Masters: First Unit and Box Failure

Progress continues very slowly on my mini Battle Masters game.  As I’ve said before, I’m in no rush with this one, so I’m not afraid to scrap anything that I decide isn’t good enough.  But first, some good news, the first unit is complete:

Men-at-Arms of Altdorf

Men-at-Arms of Altdorf

I’m pretty happy with the final result here.  As you can see, I’ve decided on a red and yellow theme for the Imperial army.  This model was assembled and based then painted as a whole.  I’m still not convinced I want to do it this way — the other option being to paint the models individually, then mount and base them.  Though that has its own problems.  This one worked fairly well, so I’ll probably stick with this method until it becomes an issue, then swear at myself for mounting models that are impossible to reach with a brush.

The flag was made by simply printing it out on my inkjet printer, then glueing it in place to the metal rod used for a pole.  The flag was then given several coats of gloss to shine it up and give it some stiffness.  My sole reason for including a flag was to have the number of dice on the unit somewhere, and I figured the unit icon that is used for placement in the rulebook would be nice to include.

IMG_20150919_220529And now on to the less good news.  I completed the interior of my first unit box, which you can see here with all the imperial units placed, plus some dice and a few cardboard hexes from my copy of Battle Lore as stand-ins for cannon tokens (actual cannon tokens I expect to be much smaller).  It may not be obvious from the picture, but the right column of cubbies is narrower than the rest.  This was done intentionally, as the box was not wide enough to admit three columns of forward facing units.  I figured I could place the right-most column side facing since the box is so deep.  Unfortunately, I failed to allow for the thickness of the felt, and thus the units in the left two columns also don’t fit forward facing.  This works OK for the imperial units as you can see here, but simply won’t due for the chaos army, which numbers 15 total units.  There are simply not enough cubbies.  My plan had been that since many would be forward facing, I could make an insert to use up the depth of the box and thus have a few cubbies that were essentially storing two units each.  Obviously, this will not work.

So it’s back to the drawing board.  Ultimately I think my problem here is the boxes I chose.  The interior of these boxes are very deep, much deeper than I require, but don’t have enough surface area.  I need wider, flatter boxes.  So back to Michael’s I went, and discovered the box I wanted was not there.  So I bought all the kinds of boxes they had, and then ordered the box I wanted on Amazon.  Here are some images of all the boxes collected together.  The current box is the left-most on first picture, and on the bottom of the stack in the second:

IMG_20150925_070247 IMG_20150925_070315

Newly acquired from Michael’s we have the box with rounded sides, and the box that is in the shape of a book.  The latter is cute and ultimately the largest of all the boxes.  Plenty of room in this one, but I’m not terribly fond of its closure, which is a pretty weak magnet.  I imagine that going pretty quickly, and models spilling about inside the main box and getting all banged up, so it’s right out.

The box with the rounded edges isn’t bad.  It’s shorter, but wider than the original.  The interior of the original was 7.875″ x 4.75″, while the interior of the rounded-edge box is about 6.125″ x 6.25″.  It will work, but will require using the side-facing method I used above to fit all the units of the chaos army, with very little space left over for other stuff.  Keep in mind that the chaos army box must also contain the ogre cards, while the imperial army box must include the cannon markers, and if possible I’d love to include a set of dice in each box.

So that leaves the classic cigar box, the one that was missing from Michael’s collection and I had to order online.  It’s in the middle bottom in picture 1, and second from the top of the stack in picture 2.  It has a very generous 8.125″ square interior, plenty of space to put all my models forward facing.  The depth is very shallow though, and thus there is not room for the chaos army’s ogre cards to fit in a vertical stack.  Still, it’s my favorite of the group — I’d really prefer the presentation of all the models facing out of the box when it’s first opened up.  Perhaps I can mount a pocket of some kind into the lid for storing the ogre cards of the chaos box.

This means for the boxes it’s back to square 1 – cutting out new dividers, felting them, and gluing it all together.  I also did a little research online about felt.  The craft felt is OK, but it’s shedding a bit more than I hoped.  I understand pool tables use a much higher quality wool cloth, which still has some fuzziness to it.  Perhaps I can buy scraps of that somewhere?  Or maybe it’s worth a trip to a fabric store to see what other options I can find.  Of course, the main purpose of the felt is to offer a little extra padding for the models when the box is moved about, so I may be willing to deal with the shedding of the craft felt if nothing else is available that offers the same amount of cushion.

Battle Masters: Army Boxes

With my model base size fixed at 1″ x 1.5″, from there I can determine that an individual hex should be about 2″ wide, and thus the full board will be about 2′ x 2′.  This is small enough to fit nicely on a table top, but it’s still big enough that storage becomes a tricky question.  At minimum, I think I’m going to have to build it as a bi-fold board monopoly style and then find a box large enough to fit it in.  Or perhaps I will build a custom box with the board built into it, sort of like a chess box where you open it up and flip it over to make the board.

IMG_20150913_131929So last weekend I went over to Michael’s to see if they had anything that might serve as box for my game.  They did not.  They did have some nice unfinished boxes like the one pictured here, all of which were far too small to fit the contents of my game.  But as I mentally pictured a 1′ x 2′ box large enough to fit the board, I realized the units would be swimming in all that space.  What could I do to contain them inside the larger box?  So, I bought a couple of these smaller unfinished boxes to use as army boxes.  I’ll make one for the empire army and one for the chaos army, each just large enough to contain all the unit models, plus maybe some extras like the ogre cards, cannon markers, and maybe some dice.  I like the idea of each player picking his side and taking the appropriate box.  Maybe I could even fit a copy of the rulebook in each box.
IMG_20150913_123617Alongside the boxes I bought some pieces of basswood to build dividers.  I used my trusty scroll saw to cut up some pieces wine-box style to make little cubbies inside the box for each unit.  Man, I forgot how much I like working with that scroll saw.  What a neat tool.

Actually, before the cutting began I did a lot of measuring.  The interiors of those boxes are somewhat awkward size, and it took some effort to figure out how to divide it up to fit all the units.
IMG_20150913_131914I managed to make something that will work just fine for the empire army, but the chaos army is a bit larger (14 units over the empire’s 11), which is causing me some difficulty.  Especially as I have yet to even figure out what models to use for all the units.  I’m sure I can make it work, but it may require some kind of layering technique, where a tray of some kind such that I can take advantage of the depth of the box.  Or maybe I’ll just take another trip back to Michael’s and see if I can find a wider but shallower box.  I’m committed to taking my time with this project, so I’m not against scrapping any part of it along the way.


Here’s the finished interior with all the empire units placed inside.  Most of those units are temporary, just fun-tacked unpainted models onto a bit of foam core so I could experiment.  As you can see I had to turn the left-column sideways to fit all the units.  It’s pretty tight but everything fits, and the slot at the top could be used for the cannon markers and dice.  I also kind of want to felt line the whole thing to minimize damage of shifting models.  I’ve started some experiments along that line, I’ll have more pictures to post of that when it gets further along.

I’m thinking for the exterior of the box I’d like to put a nice large graphic of the army’s symbol on the front.  The chaos symbol is pretty easy to find, it appears people like that as a tattoo design, but the empire symbol is more difficult.  I’ve found a couple but the resolution is all pretty low, and I’d like something I can print out at a good 6″ square to decoupage onto the top of the box.  If anyone has anything that might be appropriate, please do let me know.

Ultimately I really should start painting the models, but that feels like the easy part, so I’m holding off for now.  I think once I have a plan for the various pieces I can take my time enjoying the construction of each, but the first phase really has to be experimentation on how exactly to build each part.

The board itself, and the box to hold the entire thing, is still quite an open question.

Battle Masters: Assembling the Forces

Scaling my custom Battle Masters game started from the bottom up.  I knew I wanted to use my 10 mm Pendraken miniatures, which I’ve been obsessed with ever since I purchased my first set several years ago.  I had plenty of left-over medieval men miniatures, and only had to order a few extras and a special cannon model to complete the imperial forces.  I ordered two different cannons, as they are cheap and hard to tell what they will really look like until they’re in your hands.  I purchased the mid-medieval bombard and the renaissance heavy gun, the latter of which is really perfect, even including the crew models.

units_mountedI’m doing more planning with this project than any similar one I’ve done in the past, and really taking my time making choices about how I’ll put stuff together.  So once I had the models, the next step was to figure out basing.  First I used foam core just to figure out what size I wanted the bases, testing cavalry, infantry, and artillery models to fit.  I ended with a 1″ x 1.5″ base being just about right.  Next I played with materials: balsa wood, bass wood backed with sheet magnet, and MDF.  As much as I like the magnet one for having a smooth rubbery bottom and the added benefit that if the container is ferrous the model can be better immobilized during storage (something I do with a lot of my 28 mm figs), the MDF had the best feel.  The thickness and weight really felt the best for moving the unit around on the board.  On the right you can see my imperial lord knights on the original foam core test base, a unit of crossbowmen on MDF, and finally a unit of men-at-arms based on MDF which was then textured and primed.  I’ve also added a pole for a flag, which I want to use for displaying the unit’s symbol and dice value.  The next step for this unit will be to paint it and find out if it was a mistake to base them prior to painting.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach them all fine and paint the entire unit in one pass, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done the first test unit.

The chaos army presents some more problems in filling in the models.  I have plenty of orcs and goblins, though to my eye the orcs look like goblins and the goblins like orcs.  I ordered some beastmen which look great.  I also purchased some wolf riders, but again to my backwards eye the riders look like orcs instead of goblins.  I’m not sure if I should care about that or not, but it slightly bothers me.  I have some goblin archers which I think with a little putty mohawk will be fine for chaos archers.  The chaos warriors and knights have been a problem, as there’s nothing in Pendraken’s like that’s quite right.  I just discovered this indiegogo project for 10mm “Evil Men” which are really perfect, but sadly I’ve missed the boat on that.  I’ve sent the organizer an email to see if there’s any way I can purchase some models.

ogresAnd that leaves the ogre.  I have a few ideas here, but none are perfect.  In the line on the right you can see the right-most model is the original Battle Masters ogre.  To his left is an original Battle Masters man-at-arms for scale.  To the left of him is a very interesting model, which I will speak about in a bit.  Continuing to the left is Pendraken’s giant model that game with my original dungeon set, and then finally my unit of men-at-arms for the final scale.

Even Pendraken’s giant seems a bit too large relative to the men.  The orignal man-at-arms comes up to the original ogre’s chest.  These guys barely hit the giant’s waste.  And it’s even worse for the model in the middle.  What the heck is that model?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Remember how I described back in ’92 attending GenCon where this game was first released, and they were handing out free copies of the rule book?  Well, they were handing something else out at the booth at that time – two little plastic figures, a knight and an ogre.  I have no idea what the point of these hand-outs where.  Their scale was oddly small, a bit too small for standard 28 mm stuff, like what’s included in Battle Masters.  Maybe they were just proof of concept for these plastic some-assembly-required models?  (Note, the ogre there comes in five pieces: body front, body back, head, and two arms.)

I long ago lost the knight, he was kind of crappy anyway (a two-part model, his sword and shield were one solid piece that plugged into the front of the main body).  This ogre though has stuck around in my collection, and I’ve never had a use for him.  For a long time he was just a kind of silly mascot model in my Battle Masters box, left there perhaps to remind me of his origin.

I cant’ deny there’s a certain feeling of kismet to using that model in my custom reduced-scale version of the game.  Still, sadly, he’s way too big.  He’s clearly more in the giant range than the ogre range.  I’m thinking of maybe ordering some of Pendraken’s trolls, as they look like they might be the right scale.  Perhaps though I’ll wait and see how the rest of the units come together.  Maybe if I have to order some stuff from Pendraken to hack together some chaos knights, I’ll toss some trolls into the order just to make the comparison.

Battle Masters

In the early 90’s, Games Workshop teamed up with Milton Bradley to create a couple games using GW’s IP but stripping it of their branding and making the whole thing a bit more approachable to the novice.  The results were the hugely popular Hero Quest and Battle Masters, the former a dungeon crawl style board game and the latter a simplified version of a classic tabletop miniatures wargame.  Hugely popular is perhaps a bit subjective, I have no data to back that up, other than the fact that everyone I talk to has heard of these games, and they seem to continue to have cult followings on the internet.

I remember attending the GenCon when Battle Masters was released.  I don’t remember at all who ran the booth demoing it, whether it was branded GW or MB, but I do remember the three huge tables set up such that anyone could stop by and play a game (but maybe had to wait their turn depending on the time of day).  I know having demo tables like this is a common place practice at GenCon these days, but back then it was kind of unique, and I think remains so in the fact that it was pretty much unguided.  The tables were there, and if you felt like playing, you had to figure it out.

This was made easier by the fact that at the booth itself someone was handing out free copies of the instruction booklet to anyone that came by.  This combo strikes me as brilliant marketing.  I took a booklet back to my room, read it over, and by the next morning was at the tables waiting my turn to play.  I was so taken by the game that I actually bought a copy and brought it home with me.  This was no small feat given that A) I was pretty young at the time, and probably didn’t have a huge amount of spending money to blow on games, and B) I had come via plane and had to bring this enormous thing home with me.  It contains over 100 30 mm plastic models and a 5′ square vinyl mat instead of a board.  The box itself is the second largest game box in my closet to this day, beat out only by the Kickstarter edition of Ogre.

IMG_20150907_093711So not too long ago Jenn informed me of an estate sale someone had told her about where there were a bunch of games.  We went, and sure enough there were some really pristine copies of both Hero Quest and Battle Masters there.  Now, I already own both these games, and even though the collector in me marveled at their condition, I held back and instead bought a couple of old Avalon Hill games I didn’t own.  I’m a game player first and a collector second, but sometimes I have to fight the demons within to enforce that mentality.

And then wouldn’t you know it, those two games went unsold, and through the friend of a friend channels I was asked if I would like them both at half price.  Sigh.  Of course I bought them.  On the left here you can see my original 1992 copy at the bottom, thoroughly well played and beaten, and above it my new estate sale copy.  Yes, I admit it, I’m an addict.

The problem with this game is also one of its big attention grabbing selling points — it’s really huge.  I mean, I’ve never owned a table big enough for this game, and have thus always played it on the floor.  It’s fun, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass to drag out and set up.  So now I have two copies sitting in the closet with little chance of ever being casually brought out and played.  What’s the answer to this?  Why, a third copy of course.

As I was standing in my gaming / crafting room thinking what a shame it is that I haven’t down any miniature painting or other such stuff in over 2 years, the idea struck me to build a custom shrunk down copy of this game I love so much.  I have a ton of 10 mm fantasy miniatures that were my latest painting passion.  It seems counter-intuitive, but I find them easier to paint than the larger 30 mm models, simply because there’s really not very much detail you can even bother with.  So what if I rebuilt the units using 10 mm guys on little hand-made stands about 1.5″ x 1″, and expand from there, how big would the board be?  The answer is about 2′ square, certainly small enough to fit on my dining room table.

I still have a lot of details to figure out (how will I create the board, what about a box to hold everything, etc), but I’ve started in on the project.  I have no idea how long it will take me, and honestly I don’t much care.  Far too often with projects like this I have my eye so fixed on the end result that I don’t really get to enjoy the process of creating it.  This time, I’m trying to reverse that.  I mean, once the thing is done, what have I really gained?  A third copy of a game I rarely get to play.

So, expect to see more posts in the future as I start to put this thing together.  The units are the easy part, I’ve already got models laid out and have started cutting up some MDF to make bases.  I have a couple ideas on the board itself, but I’m not committed to anything yet, and I’m waiting on some materials to arrive to do some experiments.  Now, to go paint some minis!