Making a 1:64 Scale track — Part 1 — Laying out the track

July 14th, 2017

I have posted recently about playing Speed Circuit (past) and Championship Formula Racing (present) on large-scale tracks that were painted on bed sheets. Some folks on the CFR forums at BoardGameGeek  (BGG) have asked me to show the process, so here goes. Disclaimer: Since I am in the United States of America, I use inches, feet, etc, and also relate car speeds as miles per hour. If you are in a metric system country, you will of course want to adjust the measurements for your system.

Select a Track Diagram

First, you will need a diagram of the track you want to make. I recently designed the Belle Isle (Detroit) track that is used by IndyCars. I did find that track had already been designed by someone else (I downloaded it from the Files section at BGG), but I didn’t like the design. Some of the straightaway sections were too long in that other design, so cars could use a high top speed in the game to go 200 mph or so. Watching the video of actual IndyCars racing on the Belle Isle track, I never saw any car get much above 160 mph at any time. That other track design also ignored some of the corners in the corners 7 through 11 sequence, and also treated corner 14 as just another straightaway space.

I first obtained the real Belle Isle track outline diagram from online. I used Wikipedia as a source, but there are alternate sources for tracks that you could use if you were designing your own track.

The Belle Isle track layout from Wikipedia.

The Belle Isle track layout from Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the diagram incorrectly calls one of the streets “Lotter Way” when it should properly be “Loiter Way.”

I then imported that track diagram into image editing software (I use Acorn from Flying Meat Software). I then erased everything except the actual track outline, scaled it to fit a poster board size space of 22″ x 28″ (in case I want to print out a board-game size map of that track). Then I changed the track color to red so it wouldn’t interfere with other colored spaces I would create. I created spaces that were 1″ long for a board-game size track, then placed them around the track for the straight parts of the track. I then “fudged” in the corner spaces. I then assigned corner speeds based on watching race video, and added cornering arrows. Here is the track with the original red outline, and gray spaces added:

Belle Isle original track in red, with gray spaces for the board game track.

Belle Isle original track in red, with gray spaces for the board game track.

Acorn is a layer-based program like Photoshop, so you can make layers visible or invisible, change which layer is on top, etc, so that made the above process relatively easy.

Next was to print the track the size of a poster board, and then I ran some solo races on it using the CFR rules and cars of different configuration. I did make a few changes to the initial playtest track, so the “playtest 2” track above is how I finalized the spaces and corners. Except, I’m not sure about the speed of the final slight right-hand bend at the upper left of the track, just after the entrance to the pits. I have 140 mph marked on it for now, but may change it to 160 mph after I get some other folks to playtest it.

Poster board size Belle Isle track.

Poster board size Belle Isle track.

You may already have a track diagram, so you won’t need to perform the above steps. In that case, you will start here:

Gather Items Needed to Build Your Track

Gather items you will need to build a large track.

Track building items laid out on the table.

Track building items laid out on the table.

  • A large table ( I use a ping-pong table that is 5′ x 9′ in size — you will probably need something larger than a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood, as some tracks are larger than 4′ x 8′). You could also use a large area of the floor, if you are younger than me, and have good knees!
  • Track template pieces. I used to use poster board to create various sizes of straightaways (either two-lane or three-lane wide), but now I find it’s easier and cheaper to just print paper on my laser printer. I create spaces for straights that are 3″ long by 1.75″ wide, as that size space fits my 1:64 scale race cars well. If you make the spaces much smaller than that, cars will be too tightly spaced together if they are crowded into the same area of the track. If the spaces are too large, you might not be able to fit the finished track onto a reasonable table size. I also used to just “fudge” in the corners after laying out the straight pieces, but now I also print out some generic corner pieces. I found some generic track sections online, and printed them at different scales until I got the right size. I also tested the printed corner pieces to ensure my 1:64 scale cars would fit in the spaces on those corner pieces.
Older green poster-board track template pieces in the foreground.

Older green poster-board track template pieces in the foreground.

  • A pair of scissors for cutting the track templates.
  • Carpenter’s style tape measure.
  • A straight edge of some sort to help with marking straight lines. I use an old steel ruler from an old combination square.
  • A pencil to mark the basic outline of the track once you have completed the layout.
  • A black marker (like a Sharpie), used to go over the penciled outline of the track.
  • Clear cellophane tape. Use the tape to tack small track sections together to build assemblies, so there are not as many loose pieces to move around when you make track adjustments.
  • Masking tape. Used to mask the track so you only paint the track.
  • Miscellaneous newspapers, pieces of cardboard, etc. Use these to actually mask areas of the sheet that you don’t want to paint.
  • A can of flat black spray paint. You could also brush flat black paint onto the sheet, but I find spraying is easier, and doesn’t bleed-through the sheet as much as brush painting.
  • Different colored paint markers. I use black (preferably flat black), red, white, and yellow paint markers. Get oil based paint markers, as they won’t wash out if you ever have to wash your track. These markers are used to paint the lines for the spaces on the track, cornering speeds & arrows, and the red-and-white lines along the edge of the track to denote which side of the track is the inside to the next corner.
  • A flat bed sheet. Wait to buy the sheet until after you determine how big the track will be.

Laying Out the Track

Cut out the various straight and curved template pieces.

Cutting out paper straight-section templates.

Cutting out paper straight-section templates.

Then, tape together straight sections to make longer pieces. Do this so you won’t have as many pieces of paper to move around. For the Belle Isle track, I needed straight sections of various spaces long, such as 12 spaces long, 5 spaces long, etc.

Taping straight templates to make longer straightaways.

Taping straight templates to make longer straightaways.

After you have cut out and taped your various templates, place the various lengths of straight sections about where they should go. Use the track diagram as a guide. I also wrote the number of straight spaces in each area directly on that track diagram, so I wasn’t always re-counting the straightaways.

Placing the straight sections of the track.

The straight sections of track have been placed in their approximate positions.

In the above picture, the straight pieces are roughly where they should go. Don’t worry about exactness, as you will have to make adjustments. Then add the corner pieces, and try to “close the loop” of the track by making adjustments as needed.

Curves have been added to the track.

Curves have been added to the track.

In my example above, you can see that the track will actually fit on the table. Yay!

A view of the other side of the track.

A view of the other side of the track.

The next step is to measure the longest distance of the track’s length and width, and write down the numbers.

Measuring the track dimensions.

Measuring the track dimensions.

For my Belle Isle track, I found the rough layout was about 4′ wide and 7’6″ long, so the finished track should be able to be played on a 4′ x 8′ table size. This is now the time to purchase the flat bed sheet. I was able to purchase a flat sheet that is 66″ x 96″, or 5’6″ x 8’0″, for about $5 (US). For you metric folk, that sheet is 168cm x 244cm. Of course, before you can use the sheet, you will need to wash it, as the sheets are usually packed very densely, and the wrinkles will make it difficult to paint the track later. Also throw the sheet in the dryer (if you have one) after washing to “pre-shrink” it.

Continued in Part 2 – Marking the track on the sheet.

Also see Part 3 – Painting the track.

Championship Formula Racing at Imperium Games, July 7, 2017

July 9th, 2017

We had our most recent demo race of Championship Formula Racing at Imperium Games in Wixom, Michigan, on Friday, July 7.  (Imperium Games was up until recently known as Flat Land Games. It had a recent change of ownership.) We once again used one of the magnificent large-scale tracks made by Richard White many years ago.

Spa-Francorchamps track (1981-2003 configuration)

Spa-Francorchamps track (1981-2003 configuration)

I lined up my available 1:64 scale IndyCars for drivers to use as Jack Beckman had not yet shown up with his many Formula One cars. Traffic was exceptionally bad on I-96 west of I-275. I tried to get to Imperium Games by 5:00 pm, but I didn’t arrive until around 5:45 pm. The Imperium Games staff were very helpful in converting one of the lower miniatures tables by removing the edge rail from one side of the table, and providing a plywood extension under the part of the track in the upper right of the above picture. In other words, the Spa track is wider than a 4 foot x 8 foot table — it needs about a 5 foot by 8 foot table.

Not too long after I set up the track, Jim Landis arrived, followed by Jim Robinson and Greg Lim. Jack Beckman got to the track around 6:45 pm. We got rolling a little past 7:00 pm.

Starting positions in Championship Formula Racing are handled on a “bid” basis. Each driver bids some of his starting Wear or Skill chits, with each Wear counting as one and each Skill counts as 1/2. Jim Robinson and I each bid 1.5 (1 Wear and 1 Skill each), Jack Beckman bid only 0.5 (a single Skill chit), and Jim Landis and Greg Lim each bid nothing. So then Jim Robinson and me had to roll dice for starting position, with Jim getting the pole, and I started on the front row next to him. Jack was 3rd, and Jim Landis and Greg diced for starting 4th and 5th.

The Spa race is on. Cars are just past the first turn.

The Spa race is on. Cars are just past the first turn. L-to-R: Jack Beckman, Garry Kaluzny, Jim Landis, Jim Robinson (Greg Lim Photo).

We got about a half-lap into our 3 lap race, when a sixth driver, Chris Mogle,  showed up. We paused the race so he could build his car’s specifications, then we placed him on the track just behind the 5th place car. We also deducted 3 Wear from Chris, as that is how much Wear the 5th place car had used up to that point in the race.

I had finally convinced the other drivers to use the Tire and Pit Stop rules for CFR. We also specified that each car would have to use both hard and soft tires at some point during the race. I started on hard tires, but switched to soft tires at the end of the first lap when I pulled into the pits. To my surprise, all five other cars also pulled into the pits.

Basically, if you use the pit stop rules in CFR, your car starts with less wear than it would have available if you weren’t using the pit rules. For example, I put +1 build point into my Wear when I set up my car. Without using the pit stop rules, I would have received 7 Wear per lap. Since we were racing 3 laps, that means I would have started with 21 Wear for the race, and once it was used up it could not be replenished. However, with the pit rules, I only received 4 Wear per lap, meaning I only started with 12 Wear. However, when you pit, you come out of the pits with your full complement of Wear. I was planning on pitting twice in the 3 laps, so I would theoretically have 12 + 12 + 12 = 36 Wear to use, instead of just the 21 Wear I would have had if we had not used the pit rules. Now, to balance all that, when you pit your car is stationary for two turns, so you would lose track position to other cars that stayed out on the track.

So, after burning through 10 Wear on my first lap (also having used one Wear in bidding for starting position), I pitted, but so did everyone else. Some drivers had not burned all of their starting Wear, so when they “topped off” their Wear, they effectively lost a couple/few Wear.

After pit stops, the cars are back on the track, starting their 2nd lap (of 3) on the Spa track.

After pit stops, the cars are back on the track, starting their 2nd lap (of 3) on the Spa track.

So, shortly after starting the 2nd lap, I failed a Deceleration dice roll, which reduced my car’s Deceleration from 40 mph to 20 mph. This wasn’t a huge handicap on the Spa track, as there are only a couple of places where you really need to decelerate by more than 20 mph, and when I needed to decelerate by 40 mph I could spend a Wear to slow down.

A close up of cars at the La Source hairpin turn at Spa-Francorchamps.

A close up of cars at the La Source hairpin turn at Spa-Francorchamps.

At the end of the 2nd lap, five of the six cars pitted again, and surprisingly, I was still in the lead. I held the lead all the way until the end. Then, on the next to last turn, I finished my move one space short of the finish line, but moving at 120 mph. For my next turn, I need to reduce my speed to 60 mph to avoid entering the slow hairpin turn which was only three spaces past the finish line. However, since I was out of Wear, I couldn’t use any Wear to slow down more than my damaged 20 mph Deceleration. I could only add a single dice roll to try to decelerate by a total of 40 mph. That would have left my car traveling at 80 mph, which would put me into the corner after the finish line. Since I didn’t have any Wear, I could only have entered that corner at 60 mph without crashing, and I would have had to take a Chance dice roll if I entered the corner at 60 mph. So, my car crashed, and according to the rules, if your car crashes after crossing the finish line, it is considered to have NOT finished the race!

That meant that Jack Beckman took the win, as he had been in 2nd place, very close behind my car. I believe Jim Robinson was 2nd, and Jim Landis was 3rd (or was it the other way around?), and Chris Mogle was 4th, and Greg Lim was 5th. I (Garry Kaluzny) was 6th, although I would not have received any points if we had been racing for points.

However, after we had all packed up the game components, and I was headed home, I realized that I totally forgot about “late braking”! I could have used a Deceleration dice roll to get down to 80 mph (from 120 mph), and then after I moved at least one space on the track, I could have used late braking to scrub off another 20 mph by taking another Deceleration roll. I also had a -1 and a -3 Skill markers, which I could have exchanged the -3 Skill marker for three -1 Skill markers, meaning I could have made both Deceleration rolls with -2 Skill applied, meaning I would have only failed either roll if I rolled a 12 on 2d6. Of course, if I had failed either of those Deceleration rolls, my car would also have been out of the race, but each roll had a 35 in 36 chance of succeeding.

It just goes to show that even us “experienced” Speed Circuit/CFR drivers can fail an internal “brain” roll and forget about applying a rule when it is vitally needed!

Jack and I were hoping to run a demo race of CFR at the Metro Detroit Gamers’ MichiCon at Oakland University in August, but that game con, tentatively scheduled for August 4-5, is not happening for certain. So, if MichiCon does not take place on August 4-5, I will probably have more CFR demo races in Canton and Wayne on August 5. And then we will probably have our final demo race at Guild of Blades on Friday, August 11. We then hope to start racing for points on Friday, September 8.

Check out our CFR-Detroit web page.

Posted by Garry Kaluzny

Championship Formula Racing demo races, July 1, 2017

July 2nd, 2017

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, I ran four more demo races of Championship Formula Racing, trying to attract more regular racers for our upcoming season of races (that should begin in September). I ran two races at the monthly first Saturday boardgame Meetup group at the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan, then later in the day I ran two more races at the Warriors 3 game store in Wayne, Michigan.

I got to the Canton library just before they opened the meeting room for us boardgamers at noon. Meeting me there were Greg Lim and Jim Robinson. We quickly set up four folding tables together so we could place one of our large scale race tracks on that group of tables. I had just borrowed four more large tracks from Richard White on Thursday, two nights previous.

For our first race, we had eight racers, and we raced on the Monza, Italy track. This large track is based on the mid-1980s Monza track from Avalon Hill’s Accessory Pack tracks from that era. It has not been modified for the newer Monza changes. But we all race on the same track, n’est-ce pas?

Racing on the Monza, Italy track at the Canton Public Library.

Racing on the Monza, Italy track at the Canton Public Library. (Greg Lim photo)

After we completed the first race at Monza, I asked folks if they wanted to race the 2nd race on a different track, but they wanted to race the Monza track again. One of the drivers from the first race dropped out, as he wanted to play some other board games at the library, but we added two other drivers, so the 2nd race had nine drivers. That was the most drivers we have had (so far) for our demo races.

The last lap of the 2nd Monza race at the Canton library.

The last lap of the 2nd Monza race at the Canton library. Brian Robinson (center, in the gray t-shirt) comtemplates how he can win the race from his then 2nd place on the track.

Brian Robinson won that 2nd Monza race. Brian is relatively new to the Speed Circuit/Championship Formula Racing type games, but he is driving like an old pro. I told him at the end of the evening after the last race at Warriors 3 that I no longer considered him a rookie, but an “old pro” driver.

After that 2nd race at the Canton library, Greg and Jim and I went to a local fast food place for some dinner. (If you’re going to drive “fast” in racing games, you should eat “fast” food, eh?) Then we got to the Warriors 3 game store in Wayne, Michigan, in plenty of time to arrange four folding tables together to make room to set up another large track. I set up the Silverstone, England track.

The Silverstone, England track.

The Silverstone, England track.

While we were setting up the 1:64 scale race cars on the track while we were waiting for some other racers to arrive, a three-year old boy, Thomas, came over to our table. He was determined to play with our 1:64 scale cars! We first moved the cars from one side of the table to the other, but then Thomas tried to climb on top of the table to get to the cars. I was afraid of Thomas falling off the table and injuring himself. Finally, though, Thomas’ father called him away from us. The father was playing in a different game in a different area of the same large gaming room. Anyway, we were relieved, as our 1:64 scale cars are definitely not toys, and would not survive without damage from being handled by a three-year-old!

Racing on the Silverstone track.

Racing on the Silverstone track. Garry Kaluzny in the red shirt at left. (Greg Lim photo)

It should be noted that our race on the Silverstone track was also based on the mid-1980s configuration of that real-life track. In CFR game terms, I built my car to have 60 mph Acceleration and Deceleration, and a 180 mph Top Speed. You can pretty much drive either 120 mph or 180 mph every turn on this track configuration. Centered in the picture above is Ian, a young guy visiting the Detroit area from his home in Kentucky. Although he had never played CFR (nor Speed Circuit), he pretty quickly grasped the strategy to use. His downfall was taking too many early chances on cornering, and a spinout dropped him back in the race. If he wouldn’t have spun, though, he would have been a tough competitor.

After the Silverstone race was complete, we had time to race once more. We switched to the Monaco track for that last race of the evening. We had the same six drivers from the Silverstone race competing.

Half a lap left to race on the Monte Carlo track at Monaco.

Half a lap left to race on the Monte Carlo track at Monaco.

Ian took the early lead from the pole position, although I was hot on his heels from my front row position. The first time at the Casino/Station/Loews hairpin turn, I got the inside position from Ian, meaning I got to move first the next turn, so I took over the lead.

Jack stands to move the cars, while Garry tries to stay ahead of Brian's car on the last lap at Monaco.

Jack stands to move the cars, while Garry tries to stay ahead of Brian’s car on the last lap at Monaco. (Greg Lim photo)

On the last lap, I had to hold back Brian’s car. With about a half-lap left to race, I had only 3 Wear remaining, while Brian had 7 Wear. At the finish line, Brian pulled alongside my car, but I nipped him by a nose at the end. Whew! I had to make two cornering Chance dice rolls late in the race, using my two -3 Skill chits.

Although the day was long, I believe everyone had fun racing in the different races. We added another six names to our CFR email list. We now have about 30 names on the list, but not all of them will race in our upcoming season. Some folks, such as Brian, have been using the frequent demo races to gain a lot of experience in racing CFR. When the season starts in September, I expect some close competition!

We will have another demo race on July 7, 2017, at Imperium Games in Wixom. Imperium Games used to be Flat Land Games, but they had a recent change of ownership. That demo race will start at 7:00 pm, and will be a 3-lap race. All of the demo races on July 1 were only 2-lap races, as they were intended to be used for teaching the game mechanics. Shorter races mean you can run more races in a day, plus if someone were to crash out of a race, they wouldn’t have to wait as long to get back into the next race. Surprisingly, though, every racer (including me!) finished every race, in spite of multiple chances being taken by rolling dice!

Check our CFR-Detroit web page for more info about upcoming Championship Formula Racing races in the Detroit, Michigan, metro area.

Posted by Garry

Detroit Grand Prix at RIW Hobbies, June 9, 2017

June 10th, 2017

On June 9, eight aficionados of the new Championship Formula Racing game gathered at RIW Hobbies & Games in Livonia, Michigan, to race the downtown Detroit Grand Prix. I just finished painting the track a couple of days before the race. We (actually, Richard White) used to have a large scale downtown Detroit track, but it was stolen from him at a game con a number of years ago.

Detroit Grand Prix track

Detroit (downtown) Grand Prix track, painted on a flat bedsheet.

Actually, there were seven of us ready to race, we had bid for starting positions and had lined up on the grid, and then Russ Herschler finally showed up at the last minute, so he got to start in the 8th (last) starting position on the grid. Jack Beckman and I had given some new folks to the game some instruction, and helped them configure their car specifications before we bid for starting position.

Detroit Grand Prix

The racers are ready to start the Detroit Grand Prix.

Detroit GP starting grid

An overhead view of the starting grid.

Jack Beckman had bid an enormous amount of Wear and Skill markers (mostly Skill), and so he had the pole position. Jack also brought his various 1:64 scale Formula One car collection, and most of us chose “vintage” 1960s-era F1 cars to race with. I used a green and yellow mid-1960s Lotus-Ford, while Jack went with a front-engined Ferrari roadster. Here’s a picture of Jack’s red Ferrari leading the race:

Detroit Grand Prix

Jack’s red Ferrari leads into the turn onto Atwater St, just before entering the Goodyear Tunnel. Richard’s car collection are all parked to the left of the track.

Unfortunately for Jack, his car was the first to run out of Wear, and he eventually crashed out of the race. Surprisingly, he was the only car to not finish the race. When the race was over, Jim Robinson took the checkered flag, Richard White was 2nd, and Garry Kaluzny was 3rd. It was a good race to help teach the rules, and even Richard White, who had a lot of previous experience playing Advanced Speed Circuit, learned the differences in rules between Advanced Speed Circuit and Championship Formula Racing.

Detroit GP finishing order

The finishing order of the Detroit Grand Prix. Jim Robinson’s car is at the left.

It was also cool to see Richard White’s Formula One car collection again.

Richard White's 1:64 scale F1 cars.

Richard White’s 1:64 scale F1 cars.

Richard’s collection is all the more remarkable because his cars were all hand-modified and hand-painted from stock Hot Wheels cars, back in the 1980s when you couldn’t buy “collectible” cars anywhere, much less over the Internet (as there was no Internet then).

We will have more Championship Formula Racing demo races on Saturday, July 1 at the Canton Public Library and at Warriors 3 in Wayne, Michigan, and on Friday, July 7 at Imperium Games (formerly Flat Land Games) in Wixom, Michigan. Come on out and join us!

Championship Formula Racing/Speed Circuit

June 9th, 2017

I was first exposed to the Avalon Hill version of Speed Circuit in the late 1970s, at a Metro Detroit Gamers MichiCon game convention. Someone (I can’t remember who) had made a very large scale track and used 1:64 scale cars. There were a number of us playing that game that day, but I don’t remember anything else about that race.

Speed Circuit large-scale track

Speed Circuit played on a hand-made large-scale track at MichiCon, circa 1978.

I then bought the Avalon Hill version of Speed Circuit, but couldn’t find any other folks to play it with. It seems none of my gaming friends were interested in auto racing games. About that same time, I played USAC Auto Racing at local MDG game cons. I believe it was Don Walker who made a large scale Indy 500 track and used painted Mattel Hot Wheels cars. Don stopped running those events, so then I built a large scale Indy 500 track and bought and painted some Hot Wheels cars, and ran USAC Auto Racing at cons a couple of more times.

Then in early 1984, I took the regular sized board game of Speed Circuit to the Michigan Gaming Center in Ferndale, Michigan (it was on Woodward, just north of Nine Mile Rd.), one day. Interestingly, several other folks wanted to play it. After we got done racing, somebody suggested that we should make it a regular game. Then we proposed a series of races, like the real-life Formula One race series. We posted a flyer at the Michigan Gaming Center that looked sort of like this:

Speed Circuit flyer from 1985.

Speed Circuit flyer from 1985.

A number of other guys then contacted me, and after having another demo race, we started our 15-race season on March 16, 1984, racing the Brazilian Grand Prix around the Jacarepagua track. Tom Kane took the first pole position, and was leading the entire race, only to have Tony Ploucha pass him at the last corner, and then Tony won the race! I managed to finish 3rd after qualifying 11th (out of 13 racers), mostly due to retirements of other drivers.

That first Speed Circuit season in 1984 was won by Ray Eifler with 67 points (we used the 9-6-4-3-2-1 scoring system at that time). Richard White was 2nd with 62 points for the season, and Steve Zack was 3rd with 35 points. Race winners were Ray Eifler (5 victories), Richard White (2 victories), Andy Balent, Mark Hesskamp, Tom Kane, Tony Ploucha, Jim Robinson, Jeff Schwartz, Don Woodward, and Steve Zack. I managed to finish in 9th place with 19 points. We had a total of 26 different drivers during that season, and we averaged 12.8 drivers per race. The most drivers at a race was 17, at both Italy and Brands Hatch, and the fewest was 8, at Detroit.

At that time, we were using the various Avalon Hill Accessory Pack tracks, in standard board-game size. We were also using the plastic cars from USAC Auto Racing that I had painted like the real Formula One cars of the mid-1980s.

Avalon Hill's Silverstone track.

Avalon Hill’s Silverstone, England, track from Accessory Pack I.

Starting in 1985, I had to make some tracks that were not available from Avalon Hill. In particular, I made the downtown Detroit, Michigan track:

Detroit Grand Prix track.

Playing Speed Circuit on the 1983-1988 version of the downtown Detroit Grand Prix track.

Avalon Hill had a Detroit Grand Prix track you could buy, but it was of the 1982 course that had the hairpin turn at East Jefferson going into Chrysler Drive. The west end of the track wasn’t totally accurate, either, for either 1982 or for years 1983-1988. I got data for tracks from Road & Track magazine, but then I started buying the Autocourse books, which had much more detail about the races.

Autocourse 1983.

Autocourse 1983.

It was also evident that playing on small tracks made it hard for everyone to sit around the table and be able to see which of the miniscule cars was theirs. So, we started making large-scale tracks on bedsheets, using 1:64 scale Hot Wheels cars. Richard White made most of the large tracks, and also made most of the cars. I helped cut off a few sidepods and wings, but Richard did a magnificent job of molding new sidepods, engine cowlings, and made new wings. He then painted the cars to look like the real Formula One Ferraris, McLarens, etc. Richard even painted the driver’s helmets to look like the helmets of the real-life drivers. This was back in the era when you couldn’t buy “collectible” cars that were molded and painted like the real cars.

So then we eventually started playing on the large-scale tracks, with the larger cars, and it was much easier to have a large number of folks sit around the table and see the track and where their car was on the track.

Suzuka, Japan, track.

Large scale Suzuka, Japan, track.

Alas, I can’t find any pictures of our old Speed Circuit races using the large tracks, so the above picture is of one of the large-scale tracks that was made in our Speed Circuit days. We are using that track with Championship Formula Racing, though. You can see some of the CFR driver and speed cards on the table.

Championship Formula Racing

I ran the Speed Circuit campaign from 1984 until 1991. The Detroit-area campaign continued on without me for a few more years, then sort of faded away. Then, when I was GMing the Gutshot game at MDG’s WinterCon 2017, I met Jack Beckman. He was playing a Formula One style game with someone else, and as I am interested in auto racing board games, I started talking with Jack. He told me that a new game had just been published, Championship Formula Racing (henceforth known as CFR) from Jolly Roger Games, and that I should check it out as it was just like Speed Circuit (SC). Of course, when we played SC, we extended the rules and called our version of the game Advanced Speed Circuit (ASC). I downloaded the CFR rules, and while reading them, I thought, “these are almost exactly our old ASC rules!”

Championship Formula Racing.

Championship Formula Racing.

I exchanged some emails with the creator of CFR, Douglas Schulz, and he said he was given a copy of some “advanced” Speed Circuit rules from someone in the Baltimore area in the late 1980s. I believe they were a copy of our Detroit area ASC rules, as I had given copies to some folks in the Baltimore area when I attended an Origins game con there in the late-1980s.

There are a few differences between ASC and CFR. For one thing, CFR uses a simplified qualifying procedure where you “bid” some of your Wear and Skill markers; the higher bidders starting in front of the lower bidders. Also, we had used an attribute called “-2 DRM” and CFR uses “Skill” markers, where you can pre-designate using Skill to modify dice rolls. In our ASC days, we had actual qualifying sessions that were somewhat time consuming, but ensured that the better (or luckier!) drivers would start in the front.

CFR also uses different (optional) rules for pit stops than we did. In CFR, you just move your car off the track and into the pits, whereas in ASC you had to drive down pit lane and into your numbered pit stall. Probably the most interesting rule in CFR are the hard tires/soft tires rule (which is used with the optional pit stops). If using the pit stop rules, your car will only start with about 40% to 60% of the Wear it would have received if you weren’t using the pit stop rules. If you are on hard tires, your car will regain a few Wear every time it completes a lap. But the coolest thing (for us maniac drivers) are the soft tires. Soft tires will enable you to use Wear for some things that you would have had to roll dice for. In particular, if you are on soft tires and are 60 mph over the speed limit in a corner, you can use 3 Wears instead of having to use 2 Wears and roll a Chance (to see if you might spin out or crash).

Doug has also designed a number of tracks, especially newer tracks that didn’t exist in Speed Circuit’s heyday, and they are available as 8.5″ x 11″ printouts (downloadable from the Lucid Phoenix web page). I believe that Doug has given too many tracks “three-wide” sections of track (and the Monte Carlo track that comes with the board game of CFR is way overly simplified), but all-in-all, Doug has produced a lot of good stuff for folks who want to race cars in a table-top board game! I believe Doug’s philosophy is to produce playable games, whereas our dedicated ASC group were more into an accurate simulation of tracks.

CFR Nurburgring track.

CFR Nurburgring track.

We have a web page for our new local races using the CFR rules. Anyone who wants to race with us in the Metro Detroit, Michigan area, is welcome to attend our races. We have a demo race on Friday, June 9th, 2017, at 7:00 pm, at RIW Hobbies & Games in Livonia, Michigan. We plan on having races in several different game stores in the metro Detroit area, to even out the traveling miles and times for folks. This is so west-siders won’t always have to drive to the east side of town, or vice versa.

–Posted by Garry

Playing Gutshot at MDG’s Wintercon – Part II (aka “Carnage Asada”)

February 15th, 2017

After I got done playing in the Siege of Budapest game near 7:00 pm on February 11, it was time to set up the wild west minis game I was running, “Gutshot.” I laid out a sand-colored piece of felt, then placed some cardstock buildings on the felt. BTW, the Gutshot rules are from Hawgleg Publishing, some folks from down Texas way. There are many wild west style “skirmish” rules out there for using with miniature figures, but Gutshot makes for a fast playing game at gamecons. There aren’t a lot of modifiers to figure out, so with a minimum of time spent teaching the basic game, players can be blazing away at each other right away!

Game Marshall Garry at Whitewash City

Game Marshall Garry at Whitewash City

I built the buildings out of cardstock, using the Whitewash City buildings that were designed by Eric Hotz. After downloading and assembling the free Imperial Saloon, I purchased the entire “Mother Lode” of buildings  which was a PDF file with more than 40 large buildings plus a number of smaller buildings and other accessories you could print. Although the buildings are supposed to be for 30mm scale minis, the stock buildings seemed small, so I enlarged them to 125% of their original size, then they seemed better proportioned to the western minis I used. So far I have built: Bank, Cafe, Imperial Saloon, J.H. McFarland Blacksmith, Livery & Feed Stable, McSweeny Dry Goods, Medical Building (doctor & dentist), Pioneer Hotel, Sheriff’s Office & Jail, Small Building Set 1 (bath house, small log cabin, two small sheds, and two privys). I also built a few watering troughs, some corral fencing, and couple of piles of lumber and a couple of wooden crates.

Whitewash City Sheriff's Office

Close up of the Whitewash City Sheriff’s Office

While the Whitewash City buildings are meant to be printed on cardstock, then cut out, folded, and glued together, I also added balsa/bassword/poplar wood as reinforcements for the corners and bottom edges. I also added some roof supports for large roofs, like with the Livery Stable building. While the Whitewash City buildings are not meant to have removable roofs, there are floor plans you can print of the interiors, and you can lift the entire building off its floor plan. I also glued the floor plans to foam-core board to keep them from warping, plus they won’t get bumped out of position as easily as if they were plain cardstock.

I also purchased a number of western miniature (mostly 25mm & 28mm) figures online from Noble Knight Games. Before Christmas 2016, Noble Knight had a sale on a whole passel of used, already painted, western minis, so I bought more than 50 minis. Being already painted saved me some time putting everything together. I also found some horses in about the right sizes from places such as Michaels crafts and Toys-R-Us, and they filled up the corral. I also made some hay bales from the “pluck foam” I plucked out of the foam carrying trays for the miniature figures.

OK, so I only had three players show up to play, P.J., Cory, and a youngster named Bryce. The premise of the game was that four Mexican banditos came to town to rob the bank. The Banditos were controlled by Cory, and the Banditos were named Juan, Squelch, Jueves, and Eral. P.J. represented the law in town, controlling sherriff Kathleen and her deputies Hoss and P.J. Bryce only wanted to play a single character, so he controlled the bounty hunter Bat, who sported twin six-shooters.

Shootout at Whitewash City

Shootout at Whitewash City

So, the Banditos strolled right down main street of Whitewash City, heading towards the bank. As they passed the Sheriff’s Office (the building at the far left of the above picture), deputy Hoss fell in behind the banditos. Bounty Hunter Bat, who had been talking with the proprietor of the Livery Stable at the other end of town (off the right side of the above picture), recognized one of the banditos as being wanted. Bat then ran to intercept the banditos before they reached the bank. At the same time, sheriff Kathleen and deputy P.J. came out of the sheriff’s office and also followed the bad-looking hombres in the street.

Bat came right up to the man he wanted to claim the bounty on, then Bat pulled out both his pistols and demanded the man (Juan) surrender). Juan put his hands in the air, but kept saying, “Why you want me? I am just going about my business, and not bothering anybody!” But then the other banditos pulled their pistols, as did the lawmen and lawwoman, and the shootout was on! When the hot lead stopped flying, all of the “White Hats” (Bat, Hoss, Kathleen, and P.J.) lay dead in the middle of the dusty street, as did three of the banditos (Juan, Jueves, and Eral). Only Squelch survived the shootout, but he was badly wounded. (The townsfolk had no trouble capturing Squelch, then hanged him with some vigilante justice.)

Dead minis in the streets of Whitewash City

Dead minis in the streets of Whitewash City

Just when the first character was wounded, I asked the players if they wanted to play the game “gory, or non-gory.” As I had expected, they all answered “gory!” so I started placing the “blood splatter” markers (the yellow markers in the street) at locations where characters were wounded.

I hope to run Gutshot again at the next MDG con in the summer of 2017. I hope to build more buildings, and hope to get more players for the game.

Main Street at Whitewash City

Main Street at Whitewash City – Yuh have to admit, cardstock buildings look pretty durn good, don’t they?

So, why did I decide to run a wild west shoot-’em-up game? About 10 years ago, probably the last time I attended a local gamecon, some other feller was running a similar game. He had a western looking town with 20 or 30 buildings in it (I believe they were actual wooden buildings, not cardstock), and the premise of his game was that 8 different gangs (each with four outlaws) all arrived in town at the same time with the idea of robbing the bank! Needless to say, there were multiple crossfires and dead bodies everywhere. I had a hoot of a time playing in that game, and always wanted to duplicate the experience. Well, now I can run my own games.

Metro Detroit Gamers’ Wintercon 2017 Report – Part 1

February 15th, 2017

I used to go to the local “GameCons” sponsored by the Metro Detroit Gamers (MDG) all of the time, although I haven’t been to one in about 10 years. So, I decided to go back to the local MDG’s Wintercon 2017 which was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, on February 11, 2017. I got to see some folks there I haven’t seen in years, I played in a miniatures game, and then was the GM (Game Marshall) of a wild west style minis game, Gutshot.

I wanted to get to the con early in the morning to play in the railroading game “Empire Builder,” but after having to get up early all during the week for my day job, and then volunteering at the Redford Theatre in Detroit on Friday evening, I was too whipped to get up early on Saturday. I did finally get to the con around noon, though.

I had planned on playing in an Age of Sail minis game, “Up Yer Six, Mate!” at 2:00 pm, but I was the only player who was there to play that game, so that GM (Game Master) decided not to run that game. I then moved over one table to where GM Vic Hiris was setting up a large castle (it was about 6 feet long by about 4 feet wide). He was running a minis game called “Siege of Budapest,” referring to the Mongols besieging Budapest in the early 1400s (not the later siege of Budapest from 1945). I was one of four Mongol commanders who were trying to take the castle.

Vic Hiris' castle used for "Siege of Budapest"

Vic Hiris’ castle used for “Siege of Budapest”

I had a blast playing the game! Vic has developed his own home-brew rules that make the playing fast and furious. We had our Korean archers try to pick off as many of the defending archers on the ramparts as we could, then we moved some spearmen up with scaling ladders to try to storm the castle. We also had some foot soldiers move up a battering ram to the drawbridge, as well as move up a siege tower to get our attacking troops on top of the wall. In all, our strategy worked fairly well, as we had pretty much disposed of any archers who could have fired arrows against us.

The Mongols storm the castle!

The Mongols storm the castle!

Some of our attacking Mongols who got to the top of the wall battled for control of the tower above the drawbridge, and eventually our attackers took control and were able to lower the drawbridge and raise the inner portcullis without us having to batter them down; however, we ran out of time for the game near 7:00 pm, and so we didn’t get to see whether or not the defenders could have survived our assault.

I understand that Mr. Hiris will be running another castle siege game at an upcoming Pro or Con in Livonia, Michigan. I plan on playing in that game, as it will no doubt also be a lot of fun!

Stanley Dural, Jr., dead at age 68

October 2nd, 2016

The world of zydeco music lost another legend on September 24, 2016. Stanley Dural, Jr., better known as Buckwheat Zydeco, passed away on that day from lung cancer.

Christa at Accordion Americana has a post about his passing on her excellent blog. There are also several Buckwheat Zydeco videos at that link.

I am fortunate to have seen Mr. Dural in concert several times, although I could never get him to play “Zydeco Boogaloo” at those concerts!

This reminds me of the old joke about two Cajun musicians, although, since Mr. Dural never wanted anyone to refer to his music as “Cajun” music, we will change the joke to zydeco musicians.

There were two brothers who played zydeco music. They both wondered about the afterlife, so they made a deal. Whichever one of them passed away first would try to return to earth to let the other brother know what Heaven was like. Sure, enough, about a year later, the older brother died. The younger brother continued playing zydeco music on earth. Then, after another year, suddenly the deceased brother appears to his younger brother!

The younger brother said, “Tonnere mes chiens! Frere, tell me ’bout what Heaven is like!” The older brother replied, “Oh, cher, Heaven is great! They got great zydeco dances every night, and lots of famous musicians to play those dances! For example, last week they had dances played by Boozoo Chavis, John Delafose, and Beau Jocque. For tonight’s dance, they got Buckwheat Zydeco playin’.

The younger brother said, “Tell me more!” The older brother hesitated, then said, “Well, you are booked to play tomorrow night’s dance!”

 

The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 4

August 23rd, 2016

Day #2-29 (Fireday, 9th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): After battling the evil creature and then finding the Pendant of Winstone in a chamber that adjoined the evil creature’s bedchamber, Lightstep lit the two candles on the altar in that adjoining chamber, and said some prayers. Lightstep then carefully wrapped the Pendant and the chalice in cloth and placed them in his backpack. Gwenette asked him if he was going to take the candlesticks, but Lightstep said to leave them to burn down. By now, Clayton had poked his head into that room (through the 4’ high door), and hearing that exchange of words, said, “I think you should take the candles and candlesticks with us. If they will be needed for whatever ceremony is needed to use that pendant, well, we don’t want to have to come back for them!” Lightstep pondered that statement for a moment, then agreed that he should take the candlesticks also. Since Lightstep’s pack was sort of full, he gave the candlesticks to the halfling thief Falafela, to carry in her backpack.

There now ensued a lively discussion of how to leave the dungeon. Vox couldn’t stand on his feet without assistance, and especially needed help with walking. The party were also going to have to retrieve the body of Tureg, the dwarf, who had fallen in combat vs. some skeletons in the burial chamber of Reedus, and the party was also going to have to return the bones of Koban Hairfoot to his burial chamber in the level above the party’s current level. Some of the party thought of using the bed to carry Tureg’s body, but that idea went by the wayside as the bed was sort of heavy all by itself, and since it had held the body of the evil creature that had attacked them, they really didn’t want any part of the bed. They also considered breaking the doors off the wardrobe and using them as an improvised litter, but decided that the doors didn’t look sturdy enough. So finally they decided to use the table as a litter, after first breaking off its four legs. Fortunately the tabletop was not too heavy.

The party then left the bedchamber. Clayton led the way with a torch (and his sword drawn in case of any more attacks), then came Opalent and Gwenette, who were helping the energy-drained human fighter Vox the Just to walk. Then came Lightstep and Douag carrying the table with the bones of Koban Hairfoot upon it, Lightstep in the lead. Lightstep rested the table on the top of his backpack to help with carrying it, as he was only 3’1” tall (Douag was an even 4’ tall). Vandin Lakesplitter (dwarven fighter) and Falafela brought up the rear, Falafela carrying a torch. Vandin was very seriously wounded, and was doing all he could to just walk by himself.

After leaving the chamber, the party turned left after 10 feet, then turned right after another 10 feet, then passed through the shattered door to Reedus’ burial chamber. They needed to retrieve Tureg’s body from the black obsidian coffin of Reedus that they had left Tureg in, to keep his body safe from any vermin. When Clayton moved the lid off the coffin, he exclaimed, “Tureg’s arms are not in the same position that I left them! I left his arms crossed over his stomach, and now his hands are up by his head!” Clayton then checked for a pulse, and detected a faint beating of Tureg’s heart! Vandin then prodded Tureg with the butt-end of his war hammer, and shouted at Tureg to try to wake him up. Tureg gave out a slight, very quiet moan, and moved his head ever so slightly. That proved to everyone that he was indeed still alive!

The party then loaded Tureg onto the table along with Koban, and proceeded out the near door of the chamber, marching in the same order as noted above. They turned right at the main hallway, went about 40 feet, turned left, went another 90 feet or so, passing by the room on their left that they had earlier inspected that had three skeletons on the floor as well as a toppled podium and a burned book. They had no time for any more inspections now, though. After proceeding down a long hallway of 110 to 120 feet, they reached the right turn at the stairs to the upper level.

At this point, the stairs were narrower than the hallway, and in any event, the door they had to pass through at the top of the stairs was too narrow to carry anyone on the table, so the party had to shuttle people and bodies up the stairs one-by-one. Clayton led the way with the torch, then Opalent and Gwenette both helped Vox up the stairs. Then Opalent and Gwenette went back downstairs to bring up the table, turning it on end to get it through the door under the small waterfall. Then Lightstep and Douag carried up Tureg, and then Koban’s remains, and finally Vandin and Falafela ascended the stairs. The party left the door to the lower level open, to make it easier for anyone else to find the stairway down.

After leaving the “waterfall” room, the party turned right (having no choice in the decision as to which way to go), traveled about 40 feet, then made a quick left-right jog, then went another 40 feet, passing over the iron grate in the floor. They then turned left into the crypt room of Koban Hairfoot, about 30 minutes after leaving the tomb room of Reedus. They were sort of surprised to see the glass case that had covered Koban was still intact. Clayton said, “I guess Koban was able to lift the glass enough to slip himself out of the bottom to join us!” The party then reverently replaced the remains of Koban Hairfoot under his glass case, including his broken mace. Lightstep then said more prayers over Koban.

After leaving Koban, it only took another few minutes to reach the stairs to the surface. At about this time, the party’s two torches were flickering and were close to extinguishing themselves, so they lit a new torch, but only one torch (provided by Opalent). Clayton reckoned it must be getting close to midnight by now. “OK,” said Clayton, “we need to figure out how to get past that cyclops on the surface!” Nobody had a solid plan, although several ideas were tossed out to the group. Someone said, “Maybe we should see if the cyclops is still up there in the mausoleum?” They all agreed that it needed to be someone with infravision, so that left out the humans Clayton, Gwenette, or Vox (not to mention that Vox was too weak to ascend the stairs by himself). So, believing the halfling thief Falafela to have the best infravision, it was decided to have her take a peek, after others opened the lid of the tomb. The party had, of course, wisely decided to close the lid to the false coffin above when they descended into the dungeon. They had worked a lever at the bottom of the stairs to close the lid, and Opalent had wedged her dagger in the latch mechanism to keep it from possibly locking them in.

Falafela said, “Shine the torch up the stairs so I can see where Opalent’s dagger is at, then take the torch back down the hallway so no light shines up the stairs. Then have someone open the lid about a foot or so. Clayton and the others then retreated about 60 feet back up the hallway while leaving the legless tabletop with Tureg upon it close to the bottom of the stairs. When Falafela was in position with her hand upon the dagger, she whispered towards the bottom of the stairs, “OK, open the lid!” Vandin and Opalent worked the lever, and when the lid was opened about a foot, Falafela looked into the above-ground mausoleum. She saw the cyclops! He was sleeping in the far corner to the left of Falafela’s position. Falafela whispered down the stairs, “close the lid again,” and while Opalent and Vandin worked the lever to close the lid, Falafela stuck the dagger back in the latch to keep the latch from engaging. Then Falafela crept back down the stairs.

Falafela motioned Opalent and Vandin back down the hall to where the others were waiting with the torch. “Yes,” said Falafela, “the cyclops is sleeping in the mausoleum, about 40’ feet away in the left corner. He is sleeping on his left side, facing away from us. There now ensued much more discussion about how to get past the cyclops. Occasionally, someone had to remind everyone to not all try to talk at once, and to keep their voices quiet so as to not alert the cyclops to their presence.

Day #2-30 (Spiritday, 10th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): At some time during the discussion about how to get past the cyclops, midnight passed. One of the ideas was to lift the lid and shoot arrows at the cyclops, but that plan was nixed as the only competent bowman was Clayton, and he, being human, lacked infravision. It was also feared that shooting arrows might amount to only pinpricks to the cyclops, and might enrage him so that he would just hide behind one of the marble columns in the mausoleum or perhaps wait just outside the door to the exterior, making it impossible to ever leave. It was also suggested that someone from the party could sneak out of the dungeon and blind the cyclops by plunging a sword into the cyclops’ eye. But then a voice said, “But who will be the ‘someone’?” Nobody volunteered to be that “someone”! A dissenting voice, perhaps Opalent or Falafela, said, “Isn’t it sort of cruel to maim that cyclops? After all, he hasn’t caused any harm to any of us.” Someone quietly stated, “At least not yet!” A consensus was reached that trying to blind the cyclops also wouldn’t work, because he could just crawl out of the door and wait for the party to try to leave.

Another idea that was presented was to put together a mock skeleton from bones in the dungeon, and set them on fire after opening the lid, and try to scare the cyclops away. The plan went so far as having Falafela, Opalent, and Douag go back down the hallway (with the torch) to one of the barracks rooms off the side of the hallway and gather up a set of bones, including a rib cage and a skull. The other party members were not exactly thrilled to be left sitting in the dark during the short time the bones were being gathered. Of course, Lightstep didn’t care one way or another as to the discussion, as he had fallen asleep. But then as folks were getting ready to tie the bones to Opalent’s 10-foot pole, someone said, “You know, if this doesn’t scare away the cyclops, then he’s just going to be waiting for us!” So, this plan was discarded along with the other plans that had been discussed.

Clayton stated, “It’s too bad we didn’t think to arrange any way to signal Flenda and Jorgio, so they could arrange another diversion to draw the cyclops away from the mausoleum so we could make a break for it. Of course, how could we signal them without the cyclops knowing it? I suppose we could lift the lid a little and I could shoot a flaming arrow through the door to the outside, but what if the bowstring awoke the cyclops? Another problem we have is that we need to get the cyclops far enough away so that we can drag our wounded into the woods to our left, which will be about 150 yards away. One thing we have going for us is that it is another moonless night, so the darkness can hide us somewhat once we all get outside. I wonder how much starlight there is, and what the cloud cover is? Hmmmm….”

It didn’t take too much more discussion to decide that someone would have to sneak past the sleeping cyclops and then try to contact Flenda and Jorgio, whom, it was presumed, were still watching the mausoleum from somewhere outside. It was Flenda and Jorgio who had made an excellent diversion to draw the cyclops away from the mausoleum so that the rest of the party could find a way into the dungeon beneath the mausoleum. Falafela was selected for the hazardous duty of sneaking past the cyclops, as, after all, she was the group’s “thief” and so should be the best at sneaking about in the dark. But before she left, the party finalized the rest of their plan. The plan was for Falafela, once she found Flenda and Jorgio, to have them come down and stir up the cyclops’ goat herd. They would make coyote howls and try to get the goats to moving about and making noise. When the party inside the mausoleum heard the coyote yells, they were to try to wake up the cyclops enough so that he would go outside to investigate. Then, when one person from the party in the mausoleum noticed the cyclops was far enough away, they would hurriedly usher everyone else up the stairs, then go outside and make for the woods to their left as fast as they could go.

Finally, when all was set, Douag and Clayton worked the lever to raise the lid enough for Falafela to exit the coffin-stairs. Falafela very carefully and quietly put forth first one leg, and then the other, onto the floor of the mausoleum. She hesitated for a second to ensure the cyclops hadn’t changed position, then she hurriedly tiptoed towards the door to the outside. When she had safely made it to the outside, she briefly paused for a deep breath, relieved to be free of the stale air in the dungeon beneath the mausoleum. Opalent stayed at the head of the stairs to watch the cyclops, and to let the rest of the party know when the cyclops departed.

Falafela quickly made her way to the southwest, across the clearing that surrounded the mausoleum. She headed for the bluff upon which Flenda and Jorgio had lit their signal fire to attract the cyclops the previous late afternoon. Fortunately, although there was no moonlight, there was only about 10% cloud cover, so there was enough starlight to navigate by. When Falafela was atop the bluff, she started whispering, “Flenda! Jorgio! Where are you?” When that didn’t attract her companions, she picked up two rocks and started banging them together in a rhythmic manner. Tap tap tap! Tap tap tap! went the rocks as Falafela moved about the bluff, listening intently after each series of taps. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Jorgio spoke out from the darkness, “Stop banging those rocks together!” After a quick exchange of hellos with Falafela, Jorgio went off into the darkness to fetch Flenda.

When Jorgio and Flenda rejoined Falafela atop the bluff, Falafela explained the group’s plan. She said they needed to create a disturbance among the cyclops’ herd of goats in order to wake him up and have him leave the mausoleum to see what was molesting his goats. They would also have to draw him to the bluff, or at least far enough away from the mausoleum so that the rest of the party would be able to reach the safety of the woods on the far side of the mausoleum. Flenda said, “I can make excellent coyote calls!” Jorgio chimed in with, “I think we should also light a fire. Even if the cyclops doesn’t pursue us far enough, if he sees another fire he’ll have to come and investigate it.” Presciently, Flenda and Jorgio had gathered more wood for another fire, after the cyclops had extinguished their previous bonfire the previous afternoon.

While Jorgio was kindling the new fire, Falafela explained the party’s plan to meet along the north bank of the stream, about a hundred yards into the woods on the other, eastern side of the mausoleum. When the fire was burning strong enough, the trio descended the bluff and re-entered the clearing. They carefully stole their way towards the sleeping cyclops in the mausoleum, and when about 50 yards from there, they started prodding goats with their feet or with sticks. That served to get some goats on their feet and bleating a little. Then Flenda let out with the most wondrous and horrific imitation of a coyote howl that either Falafela or Jorgio had ever heard! Suddenly, most of the goat herd was awake and ready to flee! The three adventurers started shooing the goats towards the bluff to the west, Flenda in the rear and Falafela and Jorgio on the flanks, to keep the goats moving in the desired direction. Flenda occasionally let out with another blood-curdling howl, and spurred the goats to moving faster and to making more noise.

All this while, about 30 minutes worth, Opalent had maintained her vigil over the sleeping cyclops. Opalent could hear the commotion outside, but the cyclops was still sound asleep. Not particularly desirous of going over and kicking the cyclops in the back to wake him, Opalent used one of the bones the party had gathered for a possible decoy, and threw it at the recumbent cyclops. The cyclops merely shrugged it off and continued his slumber. Opalent went down the stairs to get another, bigger bone. She also ordered the lid be raised all the way to give her room for more arm swing for more velocity for the next throw. Although Opalent had to throw the bone to the side of the marble column that was between her and the cyclops, she made an excellent throw that firmly struck the cyclops right in the middle of his back. The cyclops brought his right arm around to scratch his back where the bone had hit him. Then the cyclops suddenly woke up! He sat up, then turned and looked right at where Opalent had thrown the bone from the pseudo coffin! But Opalent had quickly retreated down the stairs to the level below and so was not seen.

After a few seconds of trying to clear his head and trying to figure out what had touched him, the cyclops finally heard the commotion outside with his goat herd. He gathered up his huge eight-foot long club and crawled outside. Opalent heard the cyclops crawl out the door, then she arose to the top of the stairs again. Opalent then climbed out of the coffin and crossed the floor to the door to the outside. She could see the cyclops marching across the clearing towards the right, directly away from the mausoleum. When the cyclops was at least 50 yards away, Opalent hurried back to the stairs and whispered as loud as she could, “Let’s go now! The cyclops is moving away!” Gwenette then helped Vox most of the way up the stairs, and then Opalent joined in to help him climb out of the coffin-stairs. Then Gwenette went back down the stairs and helped carry the table to the surface, then went back to help with Tureg. Somebody did have the good sense to wake Lightstep, else he might have been left behind. The party left the burning torch at the bottom of the stairs, and didn’t take time to close the lid to the coffin they had just emerged from.

Then the party loaded the unconscious Tureg on the tabletop, and were able to easily carry it horizontally through the wide door of the mausoleum to the outside. The party then turned left and moved out for the woods. While they were moving as fast as they could, it was only at the pace of a brisk walk. They bunched up into a tight group, and moved so as to put the mausoleum building between them and the cyclops, should that giant creature decide to look back. Everyone could breathe a sigh of relief when they all finally reached the woods. Clayton quickly took a head count to ensure everyone was present and accounted for. Then, as they were about 50 yards north of the stream, they angled their way into the woods towards the stream. There was much stumbling about in the woods, as nobody dared light a torch where the cyclops could see it.

They finally made it to the stream, and then proceeded a few more paces to the east until Clayton reckoned they had made it about 100 yards into the woods. As could be expected, it was pitch dark in the woods with the leafy canopy blocking out all starlight from above. Clayton ordered the group to stay put while he reconnoitered back towards the clearing. A few moments later, he reappeared and said, “We are about 100 yards inside the woods. The cyclops should not be able to see us here. As long as we don’t make any loud noise we should be OK. We’ll just have to wait for the others to join us. Try to get some rest, I will watch our back trail.”

After being pursued by the cyclops across the clearing, Falafela, Jorgio, and Flenda gained the relative safety of the bluff. They moved past the bonfire and struck out into the woods. They crossed to the south bank of the stream in order to get farther into the woods, and then they moved to their left, keeping the stream to their left. They did have to find a way down the cliff to the side of the waterfall, but then they found the traveling wasn’t too bad if they stayed just inside the fringe of the woods on the opposite side of the stream from the cyclops. As they made their way through the woods, nobody spoke unless it was to ensure their companions were still with them, and that they weren’t straying too far from the stream.

After about 90 minutes of hard travel through the dark woods, the trio reached the others. After crossing the stream, and getting wet and a bit chilled in the 50-something degree air, everyone was back together. Clayton spoke and said, “We should be safe to light a couple of torches now, else it will be nearly impossible to travel through the forest at night. We will have to alternate who is carrying Tureg and who is helping Vox to walk. And Vandin, are you able to walk yourself?” Vandin grunted that he would be able to manage carrying his own weight. Opalent and Douag were the first torchbearers, Falafela supplying Opalent with a torch. Clayton reckoned it was probably about 1:30 in the morning when they set out.

After a very hard forced march of three miles, always keeping the stream within earshot on their right, they finally reached the main trail. It had taken about 6 hours to cover 3 miles. That was about twice the time it had taken them to cover that same territory the day before, except during the previous day they were in the daylight and were not encumbered with wounded members of their party. At the intersection of the stream and the trail, they all rested for 30 minutes and ate some of their jerky and hardtack. The eight conscious party members ate a total of 4 days worth of those “iron” rations, then refilled their waterskins before resuming their march around 8 am. At least they didn’t need torches any more, as enough light was filtering through from above so that they could see the trail. It did seem like it was overcast above the trees, though.

The party followed the winding trail for another three miles, leaving the stream far behind them. Finally, when some party members were just about at the limit of their endurance, they emerged from the woods. To their relief, they did see the woodcutting party from Karnack’s castle, along with the 5 cavalrymen as their escort. The woodcutters had almost given up hope of seeing the party emerge from the woods, and had just loaded their two wagons with cut firewood. The wagons were quickly unloaded, and then the party members clambered aboard, trying to use whatever they could for padding for their more seriously wounded members of Tureg, Vox, and Vandin. On the way back to Karnack’s castle, most of the party fell asleep and so didn’t feel the jolts when the unsprung wagons hit bumps in the trail.

Eventually, the party all made it back to Karnack’s castle where they were helped to their bedchambers. The wounded members Tureg, Vandin, Vox, and Douag were given excellent aid and had their wounds washed and bandaged by several women at the castle who specialized in healing wounds. Word was sent to Karnack that the party had success in finding the Pendant of Winstone, and then the party all fell fast asleep. Lightstep did make sure that the scroll he had found with a drawing of the Pendant upon it was forwarded to Karnack, so Karnack could make an early start in trying to decipher what its strange runes said.

Using Miniature Figures

July 24th, 2016

While fantasy role-playing games (FRGs) can be played merely by saying what everyone in the party is doing, most groups end up using some kind of miniature figures to mark the location of the character in certain situations. When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons way back in 1979, players just gave verbal descriptions of where their character was located, especially in battles. Then we started using Legos and Lincoln Logs to mark the location of rooms and hallways, and used any kind of markers that were handy, such as coins, bottle caps, dice, etc, to mark where different characters and monsters were located.

Then I discovered “Zargonian Creatures,” which were 2-dimensional cardboard standup figures that slipped into plastic bases. When punched out of their cardboard frame, each (standard-sized) figure is 1.5 inches tall and 0.75 inch wide. You can find some of the Zargonian sets on eBay, but about the only place I found that still has stock on the original sets is Noble Knight Games.

Zargonian Creature Set 1-Dwarves-reduced quality

Zargonian Creatures (Dwarves).

However, when I stopped playing D&D in 1982, I loaned all of my Zargonian figures to a friend, and never asked for them back. Then, when I got back into playing D&D recently, I tried to track down that old friend, only to sadly find out he had died about 4 years before I tried to contact him. I was trying to contact him for 2 reasons, one, to try to get those Zargonian figures back, and two, to try to enlist him in the new D&D campaign, as he was a good D&D player. But neither of those was now an option.

Well, I still had several sets of plastic bases from the Zargonians, so I started using various cardstock figures that I could print on my color laser printer. These figures could be folded over and glued, and then inserted into the Zargonian bases. I found that most two-thickness cardstock was not thick enough to stay firmly stuck in the plastic bases, though, so added a few more layers of cardstock at the bottom of the figures so they would stay attached to the bases when you picked them up by the figure. There are plenty of places online to find various printable cardboard figures. Two of my favorite places to get cardboard figures are the Darios figures at Dark City Games, which are free, and the paid Cardboard Heroes from Steve Jackson Games.

Darios Adventurers

Darios Adventurers.

 

Cardboard Heroes

Steve Jackson Games Cardboard Heroes (sample).

The Darios and Steve Jackson figures also have some advantages over the old Zargonians in that they are two-sided, and you can tell a character’s front from its back. The Zargonians were just blank cardboard on their backs and so it was hard to tell which figure was which. The newer figures also have much more detail in their drawing, which is probably partly because the printing technology is better today.

There are various places you can buy plastic or wood bases for the cardboard figures online, also. The cardstock figures are good, too, for when you need a lot of some particular type of character or creature as you can print off extra sheets.

But recently I got into using some metal miniatures. I somehow or other accumulated about 5 or 6 metal (25mm or 28mm) miniatures over the years. I believe I accumulated them when helping the Metro Detroit Gamers clean up the venues at the end of their game conventions, finding them left behind on the floor. (I also own exactly one card (the Forest) for Magic: The Gathering, having also found that card on the floor while cleaning after a game con.) But I got the chance to buy about 40 or 50 old metal miniatures recently for only $10. They are mostly old Grenadier minis, but one set was from Ral Partha (although the figures were all intermixed). So then I borrowed my sister’s acrylic craft paints and started painting away. Fortunately, I am an old model builder from way back, although I haven’t painted anything for years, especially not anything as small as these figures.

I did read up on some mini painting techniques at the excellent web site at http://www.how-to-paint-miniatures.com/. I did wash the figures thoroughly, even had to remove some old paint using 91% isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush (using an old aluminum pie pan). Of course I wore a latex examination glove to keep my skin oils off the minis. I then glued the minis to wooden bases, then painted each figure and its base with white acrylic primer, then after the primer was dry started painting. I kept using an exam glove on the hand that was holding the figure I was painting.

Painting table

Dining room table, used as a painting table.

 

Partially painted miniature figures

Partially painted miniature figures.

We then finally started using the metal minis in our D&D campaign on July 24, but only for the main characters. For NPCs and monsters we’re still using the cardstock figures. Here’s a picture taken by one of our players on their cellphone of the metal minis all bunched up. There are a couple of the cardstock figures in the background.

Metal minis (photo by PF Anderson).

Metal minis (photo by PF Anderson).

The three figures in the front are (from L-to-R), Opalent, Lightstep, and Vandin. Lightstep is not yet finished. I haven’t yet painted his eyes, nor some of the trim on his clothing and accessories.

Anyway, painting the minis is fun, although it can take a lot of time. I can only paint for about 30 minutes at a time, then my neck gets sore from being bent over. I have to use an Optivisor in order to see close enough to paint, and have to sometimes hold the figure and the brush close to my body to prevent wobbly painting. That’s what bothers my neck, as I have to lower my chin to my chest in order to focus with the Optivisor. When I was building models in my 20s, I had 20/13 vision (better than 20/20). I used to scoff, hah! who would need magnifying lenses! But when I hit my mid-40s, I suddenly noticed I had presbyopia and I needed reading glasses. I also found I needed stronger magnification in order to see fine details. I probably should buy a desktop lamp with a large magnifying lens, then I might not have to bend my neck so much.

— The Dungeon Master