Battletech links

I recently found a list of battletech related sites, but it’s a mixed bag of resources.

  • sarna.net – Best site (wiki) I’ve found for Battletech based information from mechs to history to the worlds.

Languages in games

In many RPGs language is a last consideration, if at all. However, the use of different languages in a game can dramatically influence the flavour of the world. Having barriers to easy communication can add new challenges for the players, can create ways of including or excluding players, and can open up secrets to the players.

Ordering food from the tavern or inn when you do not speak the tongue can give some comic role playing opportunities. Things like bartering the price on some new horses also points to cultural differences. For example, in the first Hobbit movie the Dwarves of Thorin’s company dislike the Elven food of Rivendale, which shows up the differences between to two cultures and how they interact with the wider world.

Another situation is when one or two players can talk among themselves, but exclude others. For example, again in the Hobbit, when Gandalf and Elrond speak in Elvish they excluded the Dwarves who react negatively. This again shows up cultural differences.

The final point about languages is when NPCs, or villains assume that the PCs do not understand them. For example in Monument Men, a US soldier is standing close by the captured German soldier and over hears their conversation, which leads to the gaining of additional information.

Overall, the use of multiple languages can add richness to your worlds, but it must be done with care, because it can create barriers that can divide the group and distract from what you want to achieve in the campaign. I’d always make sure that every group does have a common tongue that they share, like Common in D&D. It’s best used sparingly to enhance the drama, not to restrict it.

Adjusting Terrain for Miniatures Bases

Antenocite’s Workshop’s post on how big should doors be, covered the sizes for 18mm, 15mm, 10mm, and 6mm miniatures. I wanted to do the same for 25mm, 28mm & 30mm miniatures, but to include buildings, windows, and other common objects as well. Adapting Figure Scale from Wikipedia I’ve built a reference table, but as I noted in a previous post this is not exact.

Scale Figure Ht mm/foot
1:61 30 mm 5 mm/ft
1:64 28 mm 4.76 mm/ft
1:73.2 25 mm 4.16 mm/ft
1:76 25 mm (old) 4 mm/ft

Now the only problem is the base the miniature is on. it’s a standard 3 mm addition to all the heights, the door article explains the why. So I’ll be adding 3 mm to all the heights , below,

Wall height

Most rooms tend to have an 8 foot (2438.4 mm), 10 foot (3048 mm), or 12 foot (3657. mm) ceiling.

Scale 8 ft Ceiling 10 ft Ceiling 12 ft Ceiling
1:61 43 mm 53 mm 63 mm
1:64 41 mm 51 mm 60 mm
1:73.2 36 mm 45 mm 53 mm
1:76 35 mm 43 mm 51 mm

Door sizes

Looking at the standard 2040 mm high by 820 mm wide door, the numbers boil down to.

Scale Height Width
1:61 36 mm 13 mm
1:64 35 mm 13 mm
1:73.2 31 mm 11 mm
1:76 30 mm 11 mm

Windows

Windows tend to align with the top of the doors, so use the number above. The common height above ground is 3 feet (914.4 mm). The widths vary a great deal, with windows range from 19¼ in (488 mm) wide up to 69¾ in (1770 mm) wide.

Scale Height Width
1:61 18 mm 8 mm - 29 mm
1:64 17 mm 8 mm - 28 mm
1:73.2 15 mm 7 mm - 24 mm
1:76 15 mm 7 mm - 23 mm

Tables & Workbenches

Scale Height
1:61 14 mm - 23 mm
1:64 13 mm - 22 mm
1:73.2 12 mm - 19 mm
1:76 12 mm - 19 mm

Chairs

Scale Height
1:61 9 mm - 11 mm
1:64 8 mm - 11 mm
1:73.2 8 mm - 10 mm
1:76 8 mm - 10 mm

Above are common sizes for some other common wargames figures, but it’s not everything. For all of the tables of data, I’ve worked from modern Anthropometric and Ergonomic sources. Which is great of modern and near future terrain features. But when creating objects for medieval (or fantasy) you will need to consider historical references or to create the look right through educated guess work. And for Sci-fi, you will have to stick to the design principles by considering it’s function and form. (ie what it will be used for and how to make it look futuristic)

The principle is the calculate the scaled height of the object or feature and then add 3 mm for the miniature base to create the illusion of the correct scale. But do not add the 3 mm to the width of objects as it will distort the size when compared to the miniature.

Miniature Scale, Rescaling and design

What is scale and why is it important for miniatures? It seams like an obvious question, but with miniature gaming it is important to know the scale of what you are creating, how to best manipulate scale to your advantage and to know how much space the gaming table will take up.

With miniature gaming there are two numbers to consider, the scale and the figure height. The scale is the ratio the object is shrunk and the figure height is the approximate height of a 173 cm male (5′ 8” in the imperial system). Some of the common scales are 5 mm (1:300) or 6 mm (1:285) used for micro-armour games such as Battletech and Epic. Along with the 25 mm & 28 mm using in RPGS, like D&D or Pathfinder, and Wargames, like Warhammer40K, Warmachine, or Infinity.

However, this is where things can get complex. GW in their aim to make their minis more impressive made the 25 mm Heroic scale, which is slightly larger that 25 mm and then did the same with the 28 mm Heroic, has lead to some variations in scale. This has been common among miniature companies Even Wikipedia does not agree with it’s self with with 28 mm being 1:56 and 1:64.

There are two useful number to have when designing miniatures or terrain. The first is the figure height, which can be found by dividing the height of a average person (1730 mm) by the scale. And the second, is the scaled foot, which is found by dividing a foot (304.8 mm) by the scale.

Rescaling

It’s all about scale includes these two scale conversion charts (below), and covers why scale is important. In the end the only question should be does it look right and for 28mm anything between 1:56 up to 1:72 should be ok.

Converting between common miniature scales.

Converting between common miniature scales.

A simpler conversion chart with train and miniature scales.
A simpler conversion chart with train and miniature scales.

Designing to scale

Since we are designing miniatures and models for gaming. We need to look at Anthropometric, or the measurement of humans. There is a wealth of information in this field, although most of it is only useful in defining the common sizes of people or our miniatures. It’s the application of this idea, Ergonomics, that becomes very useful because it forms the foundations used in the design of products (industrial design), clothing design, houses (architecture), among any others design fields. So in a nut shell everything we use is designed for the human scale and changing scales by guess work can lead to time wasted on a modelling project.

it is also worth looking at the designs of the experts, such as Bauhaus, a German school of design founded in the 1920s that has influenced the modern world. The most well known item to come out of the school is the Bauhaus chair.

Of all the chairs to come out of the Bauhaus, this is the one that commonly comes to mind. Designed my Marcel Breuer, the Wasilly chair is a mix of steel and leather, using no more material than is absolutely needed, while providing maximum comfort. It's a design you'll still find in homes today.
The Bauhaus Chair

Scaling Vehicles

The next step up from everyday objects tend to be vehicle, and Antenociti’s Workshop covers the subject in such excellent design in If I base my figures how big should my vehicles be, that why would I try to do it here.

Also I’d be considering the rescaling tables above to hunt out die-cast kits for cars, and even scale model trains for terrain and buildings.

Scaling Building

Finally there are building, which are usually designed around people and sometimes vehicles. When working on architecture the placement of Windows & Door, and how big should they be.

And finally, if you add a base to your miniature is changes the look of everything.

 

The Process for Designing Terrain

How do you go about designing good miniature terrain to conduct battles on? Is there a process you can or should follow? When trying to answer these questions I tend to examine what others do and then apply it to my own design process.

Below is the design process that Battleboards.co.uk follows when creating their boards. The finished products are wonderful set pieces for miniature games, however, as I said earlier I’d prefer small tile-able terrain that is easily packed away. However, the design on paper, refine on computer, before committing to physical thing is a excellent fundamental practice.

I tend to start with sketches on paper, as I build up the idea. That way bad or ill considered ideas can be left, and any potential problems can be found before building a large expensive mistake.

It’s something I remember from Engineering, that for a $1000 product if you catch a defect after the sale stage it costs $2500 in product recall and such. But in the design stage it’s $0.03 

Design Considerations

So it pays well to deeply consider how to design anything, and in this case miniature terrain. They can be broadly split in to the two groups of form and function. Form or Aesthetics is the consideration of the look of an object, where Function is more focuses on it’s operation and use. A good place to start are Design elements and principles, and the Engineering Design Process.

There are a bunch of things you should think about before making or buying terrain. These questions should be focused on things like;

  • How you plan on using it?
  • What your budget it?
  • The time needed to make it or acquire the parts?
  • What scale of miniature is it designed for?
  • And others I can not think of at this point…

So for this project I’m setting out what I’m aiming for.

  1. Storage. Do to limited space I need to be able to easily store the parts
  2. Quality. I want have it look good and to make good stuff, because If I can help it, I don’t want to do it all again, or to spend time repairing it.
  3. Scale. I play Warmachine, Warhmmer40K, and Patherfinder/D&D amoung others. All of which tend to be 25-28mm scale.
  4. Variability. I like to be able to mix-up my terrain to suit the individual situation or scenario, because I get bored easily with the same tactical battle.

Designing Tiling Terrain

I’ve been reading Observations of the Fox’s posts about Hexagonal Geomorphs. I’ve looked in this direction before and have played games like Magic Realm (on Boardgamegeek), Battletech, and Star Fleet Battles. And I created a SFB Hex map a few year back, which is up on deviantArt. The Hex-map technique allows an easy simplification of the game map into discrete elements, while allowing more options than the square grid-map. However, with a shift in miniature war-gaming to the inch-based measuring system, using hexes just feels like old times, in both a good and a bad way.

Ultimate Table Top Terrain collection of Hexagonal Terrain does make me drool and shows a different way of using hexes. As large scale terrain pieces that interlock to allow the miniature battles to happen over them, without binding the game to the hex grid. It also allows the army to be set up on one hex for transport, and for the terrain to be (relativity) easily packeted away at the end of the game. Good for places where space is a premium.

So, here is a summary of Michael Wenman‘s series on Geomorphs and helps explore the idea of terrain design for miniature games;

It’s also worth examining ways of making interlocking Sci-Fi walls, which sit on flat cardboard floor tiles. This technique of using card pegs or wedges is one of the simplest I’ve seen. In my 3D Printed designs I’ve started with small pegs that clip into place, but found that they tended to break off, and I’ve moved onto a similar technique of using interlocking joints.

It is worth noting that what ever system you want to use that it fits you needs. For myself I will be looking for the following;

  • Multiple configurations to allow many scenarios to be created. Si I’ll be looking at pieces.
  • Can be easily packed away and transported. So it will most likely be 1 to 2 foot in size.

 

Ulthwé Wave Serpent

As stated before I’m fan of the Eldar (aka Elves IN SPACE!) Anyone who’s seen the original The Muppets TV series will know how it sounds, and for those that don’t there is youtube…

I like the idea of the Eldar as much as the visual look of the miniatures with their runes of power. However, I prefer to avoid the 40K game. The way the game is played in short shape battles with defined boarders and objectives does not suit an ancient race slowly dying out wondering the stars on their own craftworlds. Any species with a long history knows that, if you meet strength in opposition it will end in destruction. Any psychic beings worth their minds does not engage in direct conflict, but subtly redirect their opponents into their weapons, or into other monsters. Regardless of my thoughts on the game the miniatures look cool and the few I’ve painted look good.

Ulthwé Wave Serpent with Jetbike support

Ulthwé Wave Serpent with three Jetbike in toe.

Ulthwé Wave Serpent
Close up of the Ulthwé Wave Serpent looking at the engines and intakes.
Close up of a Ulthwé Wave Serpent
Close up of the Ulthwé Wave Serpent with a focus on the back hatch and engines.

Weather as a Weapon

This is where Powerful Wizards, Fanatical Priests and Mad Scientists come into their own, like Prospero in Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, these character archetypes are able to manipulate the weather like a weapon to drive other lesser creatures before them.

From Terry Pratchett’s man in copper armour shouting, “All gods are bastards”, to the proverbial Wizard throwing lighting from on high, or the thunder battle in the Misty Mountains of Middle Earth.

Weather can set up clear consequences in the environment for the players content with. Beyond the basic plot point that weather adds to an adventure.  It can create active dangers for the characters to face.

Weather as a matter of survival

Storms can create landslides or avalanches, especially when placed on an eroded hillside. Floods can drive people apart with the threat of drowning. Snow storms also create an immediate challenge to the character’s survival.

Each of the above ideas could be developed into a natural part of an adventure, by introducing the idea the players early on with some annoying rain that soaks their cloths. Expanded on with an afternoon storm allowing a challenging opponent to escape (Tracking rolls anyone?). The next day continues with more rain. And finally, a rooftop battle during that evening’s lighting storm.

Or for example you can take the scene in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke faces Darth Vader. Although Vader throws objects around using the Force, he could equally be using magic winds to bash his opponent with many flying objects.

Moving away from the rain & wet you can push the weather in the other direction with a heat wave, high winds, and other conditions conducive to raging fire.

It’s nice playing with the extremes of weather, but this can get repetitive in a campaign. So it is also best to use sparingly for maximum effect, and to keep it low key most of the time. A light rain can make the path or rocks slipper, or a hot day will tire fighters quickly (dehydration?). Finding a warm camp-site during a cold night.

Weather in Sci-Fi settings

In the future, the weather on the Earth is likely to be the same. Except for other planets or extreme modification due to cataclysmic events or climate change. For inspiration you can look at IFLScience’s Luminance beach

Beautiful Glowing Beaches Look Like Something From Another World
Beautiful Glowing Beaches Look Like Something From Another World

The corrosive, Acid Rain will create unsightly marks on cloth and can make quick work of unprotected metals. Surface elements like Methane seas turn a passive terrain feature into potentially explosive fun for the players to work around.

 

Stormblade Infantry Bases

I’m currently working on a set of Stormblade Infantry for the local Journeyman league I’m part of. Here’s a breakdown of the bases.

  1. A coat of Charred Brown (72.045)
  2. Lines of Leather Brown (72.040)
  3. A layer of Secret Weapon’s Brown Fine Ballast.
  4. Dots of Charred Brown, Leather Brown, or Tan (72.066) mixed 1:1 with water
Stormblade Infantry bases
Stormblade Infantry bases

More when I finish the Stormblades…