Category: Rambling

I bought my dream dice

Goblin-Brain-DiceYou’d think after all these years of slowly adding to a dice collection I’d have everything I need. Then again those people likely can’t relate to this meme:

Anyway a couple years ago I bought some Gamescience precision dice. They were…alright. Ink quality was a bit poor, having to hand file/sand the sprue bit off felt like it defeated the purpose, and they felt way too light to roll and easy to chip/damage. I’ve also dabbled in casino dice, but as some people know, their sharp edges don’t roll much and are truly meant to be thrown on a craps table, not rolling 3+ of them in your hand at once for a game.

THEN I learned about precision backgammon dice. These dice are milled/cut from a cube, instead of tumbled into shape (which results in imperfections). They also have flat faces instead of indented pips. And they’re a standard 16mm size. Oh and the weight is terrific. So after much consideration (because they are pricey) I picked up some from a Canadian based Advanced Squad Leader website:


I couldn’t be happier, and can’t wait to use them for Fickle RPG, Distant Adventures, and whatever boardgames I need.

My “Fishing Day” web game

My “Fishing Day” web game

Hard to get any in-person games with Covid, so I made another fun web game (originally for my kids, but great for all ages). The idea is pretty simple, you get a beautifully generated map (with tons of little touches) and can fish for 10 bait a day, trying to catch what you can. The reel the fish in you have to do a “quick time event” minigame, such as pressing the correct keys in order, or doing a simple math problem. You can change the difficulty to suit your individual skill. There are over 130 fish you can catch, plus they sometimes dynamically recolor to add even more variety. Birds peacefully fly overhead, rain and snow can fall, and you get an exciting new map after every night. Scores persist between sessions in the same browser, so see how high you can get!

Here’s a few screenshots showing the variety that awaits you:

My “Treasure Hunt” web game

What started as a silly little side project to teach my kids about programming has turned into something quite fun and polished. This is my Treasure Hunt game, and you might want to check it out. The idea is a monster (tons of random ones that come up) is attacking your town, and you need to collect coins to bribe them and scare them away. There are useful Powerups you can trigger at the right time, and also hazardous tentacles that slow you if you touch them. The maps are all random and I really like how they look, and there are even some rare surprises that can come up in the generation.

I’d love feedback and any comments!

Thinking about Battletech

Ah Battletech. What a classic. I got the 4th edition starter box when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, then a few minis, and played a bunch with friends. I took a long, long hiatus on the game (long enough that I even FORGOT I had the starter box if you can believe that), and ended up picking up a duplicate second copy maybe 5-6 years later, played for another ~3-5 years, then moved onto other things. During that time we tried campaigns, we used an old program called “Design Depot” to make piles and piles of custom Mechs (step 1: max armor, step 2: put in XL engine, step 3: load up on weapons), and had a pretty darn fun time with the game. Later on I played Mech Attack, which uses a damage template system similar to the old old Renegade Legion (another FASA product). And even later after that me and my semi-original Battletech gaming group considered what our own custom version of the game would look like.

Because here’s the thing with Battletech…the rules are solid and simple to pick up. Roll 2D6 to hit, 2D6 for location, damage is flat (unless a missile system), you manage your heat, and you whittle down the enemy. BUT I have two big problems with the system though, that emerged over time and with repeated plays of all different types. The first is a 1vs1 type Mech vs Mech match up, especially with Assault tonnage, is really boring and not very tactical or interesting. Basically comes down to a roll off of shooting, damaging, crossing out boxes, and hoping for some good internal criticals. A huge part of this is a basic Assault mech has 3 movement, on a paper map that is traditionally about 18 hexes by 15 hexes. And changing 1 facing costs 1 movement. So you can imagine the glacial snail battle that emerges. We literally ended battles by standing beside each other and just rolling to hit until someone exploded.
So then you think “oh I’ll play Lance vs Lance (4 mechs per side) instead!” Except the game scales terribly as you’re shuffling sheets and micromanaging a lot of (kind of) dull information.
There just isn’t a happy middle ground. Which makes me sad because I have a lot of Battletech minis and fond memories of the game, and would love to be excited to play it again, but I kind of know what awaits. In hindsight, or maybe for future plays (if ever), I think having a scenario and different deployment/setup would help, as would using comparable designs from an early, non-crazy year like 3025 or 3050. But I’ve been singing the second part of that sentence for a long time now, as I ended up really disliking our super optimized, kinda samey custom designs, whereas I like the official designs that had flaws and failings you had to work around (like a real war machine).

Reworking Battletech

So what does all this mean? Well, I took a quick brainstorm this weekend and rough pass at some reworked rules. I tried simplifying each Mech sheet so that it could fit 4 to a page, and designing rules around a Lance vs Lance. Which meant a simplified to-hit system (instead of counting up a bunch of modifiers each time), and simplifying the internal slot structure of the Mechs. Then I tried a super duper rough playtest. And after some notes and messing around I decided Battletech done that way just feels like Dinosaur Cowboys but with hit locations and heat. Maybe it’s my own shortcomings, but I was already imagining porting over the different deployment types from Dinosaur Cowboys, after I basically setup my 4 Mechs half a dozen hexes from the edge of the paper map. Sure I could inject more interesting tactical decisions compared to actual Battletech, like having a simple reaction system (where you the defender can move, return fire, or hunker down), and I could get the location tracking to a single roll as part of the to-hit, but really it would just be a skirmish game but with Mechs instead of soldiers (or cowboys 🙂 ). And then I kind of lost steam at the idea of making that, because it felt like retread ground.

I was thinking that the fun part of Battletech, besides the pile of existing designs, is how there are parts where you feel like you’re managing a big stompy robot. So THEN I was thinking what about if I went the complete opposite direction, and instead of trimming the rules to work for 4vs4, I made them MUCH more interesting for 1vs1. Think of a game like FTL: Faster Than Light (a truly amazing, well designed, genre defining game). In that the developers considered having ship movement in space, but it didn’t add much. What if the movement in Battletech doesn’t actually add much? Especially in a 1vs1 situation. What about if the real game could be managing the power, heat, routing of damaged subsystems, targetting and firing, stabilizing, etc. of the Mech? Pushing the Mech to it’s limits, squeezing every ounce of performance from it like a true veteran pilot would. Almost like how Fickle RPG turned the actual act of dice resolution into a (for lack of a better term) minigame. All of which could have the interesting, meaningful decisions I so crave from a game.

Instead of trying to make a simple paper map with basic terrain and slow movement into some kind of super cool tactical simulator, maybe the focus should be on the Mech itself. How to do all that AND make it fun is the question, of course. But one I want to spend some time trying to answer.

My gut instinct would be a dice placement game like One Deck Dungeon or the computer game Dicey Dungeons (or Sagrada to a certain extent). Lots of space on a big record sheet for that kind of thing, and starting your turn by rolling a slew of D6s then messing around with them would be cool. Or a bag builder like Dice Masters or even a Yahtzee style roll-and-do-stuff like Dice Throne.

Quick dice system for roll-and-move racing games

I had ordered a simple kids game called Cars Risky Raceway and it arrived over the weekend so we were playing it. The game uses basic roll-and-move (well, spin-and-move) to get around the board. Which is a perfectly fine mechanic for teaching kids (like my middle son) the basics of games. But for my oldest daughter it gets a bit boring. The track itself is terrific with nice bridges and a good amount of squares:

So after some thinking I threw together a quick dice system that works with the game, or any similar roll-and-move games as a drop-in replacement for the ~5+ year old kids. The idea is to simulate the speed and rush of racing by trying to quickly match dice. And since adults are naturally faster at it there is a built in handicap for kids to keep it challenging.

Roll 4D6 of one color and 2D6 (we called them the “kid dice”) of another color. We used dice with pips/dots instead of written numbers.

We used a dice cup for this so the dice stay together (and we could roll them and count down from 3 before removing the cup for even MORE racing feel).

Reveal the dice and both players try to find any matches. ONLY the kids can match with the “kid dice”. For each individual matching dice you call out and grab, you get to move 1 square. If both players shout the same match at the same time, just re-roll.

For example we roll 3, 3, 4, 6 and 1, 6. The adult sees a match on 3s and calls that out before the kid can, but the kid calls their own match on 6s. Both players move 2 squares. They roll again getting 1, 2, 4, 5 and 2, 2. The poor adult has no available matches while the kid gleefully yells out 2s and gets to move 3 squares (for three 2s).

The “kid dice” handicap can be changed as needed, such as giving them more dice. We also have some colored dice from Monza (which is a great kids game on it’s own) so we also tried matching with colors, which I found my kids were able to do faster than D6s. And of course we expanded the system with Nitro Boosts and stuff, but those are simple enough to theme to what you want.

Neato Picture
Also a cool retrofuturism picture of “glowing roads” that’s ever so vaguely related to racing games, I guess?

Netrunner wallpaper

I’ve been playing a bunch of Netrunner lately and recently ordered some more cards (which is exciting since the game is out of print). I found this great wallpaper with art of the Runner named Maxx from the Day Job card.

Otherwise Nanowrimo went pretty well…I started strong, then got a bit sick with a long drawn out cold for a week in the middle of the month so I didn’t write much, and then sort of never got back to it unfortunately. Still did ~11,000 words or so and might write a bit here and there if I have time in Dec. Keeping it pretty mellow on the designing front at the moment but might get back to Glowquest next.

Click for the full massive 3675×2175 size

The best $1 I ever spent

Picked this miniature up at my local game store in their $1 bin. What an absolute gem of a find. I love these charming, somewhat-ugly and somewhat-awkward miniatures (I mean look at how long his arm is!). I also really like the old beak style medieval helmets, AND shields, AND flails. So it’s perfect. Going to be hard to not just paint him realistic metallic colors with a bright shield, but I’m trying to think of a way to make him pop on the game board.

Given my rate of painting he should be done by the year ~2025.