Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pop-o-matic Dice Roller for RPG (and making it more random)

Hi everyone :)

After our fun time "rebuilding" a dice-rolling tray using an old game we found in a thrift store, we've been thinking about other fun things we can create to have fun in our Battle Gaming sessions.

Here's a write-up of one recent idea....

Some of us may have seen the game Trouble.  It's the one where the d6 (classic die) is under a plastic bubble in the middle of the game board.  And, rather than having a chance to lose that die (you can't -- it's under the plastic), you push down on the bubble - there is a pop - and you release and the die is rolled.

It's the apply named "Pop-o-Matic" die roller!

Here's an example of the "Trouble" game we found -- with the Pop-o-Matic in the center.

Well, we got to thinking that it might be pretty fun to rebuild one of those using some other dice.  Or, maybe just cut that one out of the game board with our little band-saw and use it as is.

Then, we got to reading on line.  (We figured, of course we aren't the only ones to have thought of this - and how has it gone for other people?)


And, that's when we discovered that there are randomness concerns with the Pop-o-matic.  Mr. Jason Knight spells it out nicely in his blog post.

The bottom line issue is that if the d6 is starting with a 6 showing - it is not fully random which way it will be the next time.  Sort of like, because the die is trapped in the plastic bubble it's a bit more likely to come back down with the 6 still facing up.  And, a little bit less likely to flip over and come back down withe the 1 showing.  (The other four sides have a probability which is somewhere in the middle between these.)

Here's a link to Mr. Jason Knight's blog post:

The front page of Mr. Knight's post.


Well, we certainly didn't want to go to the trouble of making something which wasn't very random.  So, what to do.  An idea struck - use smaller dice!!

At first we were thinking to use some of our really-really-small d6's which we've accumulated over time.

But, then at a great swap meet at our Mountain View Game Kastle, we found a super-sale on little vials of very small RPG dice.

They seemed just about perfect.  So, we bought a few.  :)

Here's a look at our vials of little RPG dice!

Then, with our plan in place, we went ahead an cut out the Pop-o-Matics from the Trouble game board.  (We actually had gotten two for just a dollar or two - so we had one to spare in case we messed up.)

Here is our Pop-o-Matic after cutting one out of the Trouble game-board.

We trimmed up the Pop-o-Matic very carefully with the band-saw.  Then, we loaded it with our replacement for the d6.  It was a little bit tricky to hold the metal spring piece in place with the plastic bubble and get it all lined up - but we did manage :)

Our Pop-o-Matic with glue drying....

And, here we are gluing it back together.  As we've posted before - we used epoxy to make sure our rebuilt Pop-o-Matic wouldn't break apart.

Here's a link to our blog-post about the higher fracture toughness of epoxy - compared to super-glue:

And, with that, we have our finished product.  As you'll see below, we couldn't really decide which of the little vial of dice to put inside -- so we put in all of them.

And, that's pretty cool!  You swirl the Pop-o-Matic around (to create a random initial state in honor of Mr. Jason Knight) and then Pop! the dice - and you have a full set of random results!!

Here's a photo of our finished Pop-o-Matic :)

And, here's a link to our super-short video of us testing it out....

A super-short video of us testing out our Pop-o-Matic!

What next?  Maybe build another one with some other colors of little dice?  (We chose the purple ones we had because of the very nice color contrast.)  Or, maybe make one with very little d6's -- but five or six of them -- so that you have one Pop-o-Matic for games which have multiple d6's to roll.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Superglue accelerator (carefully) - and not so much epoxy

Hi everyone,

A quick blog post with updates on our feelings regarding Super glue vs. Epoxy -- now that we have discovered the existence of Super Glue Accelerators!

A few weeks ago, while playing our Starfinder Campaign - and working on the crazy idea of merging in Battletech 'mech fighting rules we got to talking about the table about glues - and bemoaning the reality (as we understood it) that only epoxy dealt well with metal models the likes of which you often need to use with Battletech.  Then, Mr. T. (one of our friends and Starfinder player) chimed in that we should consider using a super glue accelerator.  Don't recall what he suggested - something like "Zip It".

We were absolutely intrigued.  Is this the secret so many utilize to make superglue workable for them?  Is this what we have been missing?

Our superglue accelerator and super glue side-by-side with the old trusty epoxy bottles

Because, quite honestly, most of our experiences with superglue had been poor.  Either we couldn't get it to set; or we glued our fingers together; or what we did glue fell and broke into many pieces.

So, we asked more.  "Be careful you don't burn yourself, though!" cautioned Mr. T.  He went on to explain that the heat of reaction between the superglue and the accelerator released quite a bit of heat and that you could really burn your fingers.  He indicated that he had done so many times over the years.

Well, we had to try this out!  Asking at Game Kastle in Mountain View we learned that they had two such products on the shelf.  We picked out "Insta-Set" and headed home to try the stuff with one of our Battletech models (metal, of course).

First Experience

To try out the Insta-Set we figured we had better be careful!
  1. We used it as a two person operation.  One of us put down the super glue; the other of us did the holding of the parts; then person one set down the super glue and sprayed on the accelerator.  (So, the two were never close to each other.)
  2. We wore gloves.  (We were worried about the "blistering hot" comments we had gotten when we bought the Insta-Set.)
  3. We were prepared for really hot.  Used our needle nose pliers for some of the early piece holding.

The bottle of Insta-Set uses a pump-spray action.  It was a little tricky to manage in all angles.  The liquid is quite volatile.  The stain you see on our paper back we used to catch over-spray was gone within 15 minutes.

And, maybe those were quite good precautions.  First of all - we did learn just how hot the reaction can make things (quite hot - very easy to understand the burning risk!!)  Secondly - at one point a little bit of glue got onto a glove - and the spray hit that - and WOW! quite a hot feeling to the fingers inside of the glove.  The good news is that the hot, curing glue was not stuck to the fingers - and we were able to quickly rip the glove off and get the heat away from our skin!!!

[PS:  We also read some online forum posts with discussion of whether or not the accelerator materials are flammable.  One person reported nearly burning off their eyebrows testing this out with a lighter!  No need to repeat that experiment, we'd guess!!]

But, when all was said and done - it really, really worked.  We whipped a metal model of a Clan 'mech together in something like 5 or 10 minutes.  And, that my friends would have taken us hours or days or curing time with epoxy.

Our new and old trusty glue options with Battletech 'mechs in the background

Here are the two 'mechs we built up in 15-20 minutes.  Much, much faster than we could have done with epoxy alone.

We built up another 'mech - a Stalker - which we had as bits - and then did a few tests to see how well the super glue bonds were holding together.  Not too bad!  The model was pretty sturdy!

Our Battletech models posing with the super glue and accelerator

So, we certainly learned that the accelerator is truly useful product - though with hazards and requiring very careful use.

What's our net judgement?
  1. This stuff is great for working with metal models.  And, we're guessing it's not bad at all with resin either.
  2. Be careful - wear gloves.
  3. Be careful - store separately.  [We don't like thinking about what would happen if a bottle of one mixed with a bottle of the other.]
  4. If you do have a long time for curing and want something more sturdy - use epoxy :)
So, you may wonder why after all of that we'd vote for epoxy when it is convenient.  Well, it all comes down to *fracture toughness*.

Our feeling is that even with the accelerator (which does cure the super glue) you still end up with a material which is more brittle - has lower fracture toughness - than the polymer you end up with joining your parts when you use epoxy glues.

Here's a nice article talking in a bit more detail about the differences.  In their words, "Super Glue sets quickly and has a very low shearing strength while epoxy sets slowly and has good shear strength."

A set of curves for fracture toughness of materials.  Metals are up in the upper right.  Things like glass are toward the bottom.  We figure epoxy sits higher on a set of curves like this than super glue.

And, if you don't mind indulging the paint job which one of us (who is not so great at painting) managed, please check out our Ghazkull Thrakka.

Read more: Here's our original blog posting where we struggled with resin, model glue and superglue

We gave up trying model glue (wrong for resin, we learned!!) and super glue (we couldn't manage it) and put him together with epoxy.  And, yes, if you look hard at his joints, you find some globs of the stuff, which, while Orky do detract from the model's appearance.

Here is our Ghazghkull Thraka model.  Assembled with epoxy!

So, maybe what we'll do in the future is use a hybrid ??  Put metal and resin model together carefully with super glue and accelerator.  And, then add some epoxy where we feel the joint might be whacked if the model falls on the floor.  (And, yes, if anyone is wondering, our Ghazghkull has survived many drops from table to floor.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Taking the Dakka Chugga to Warhammer World

Hi everyone,

A few months back we had a chance to make our first visit to Warhammer World.  And, we had taken our trusty Battle Gaming One Ork and Space Marine along to take a few photos.

[Here is a link to our post about "how to get there."]

But, we thought it would really be fun (if we were to visit again) to take our Ork Train to Warhammer World -- so that (at the very least) we could take some photos of the Ork Train on the very cool scenery there.

Taking the Dakka Chugga to Warhammer World

Well, as it would happen, we worked it out that we would take our family vacation in London this year -- so this June we did have another chance to visit Warhammer World.  This left us with  questions to work out:  What to take along; and how to pack it.

Of course we wanted to take our entire Ork Train (as we had done when we went to Las Vegas Open).  But... we had pretty nearly filled the car getting the Ork Train to Las Vegas -- that wouldn't work out for a trip by airplane.

So, we worked out priorities -- What to take along:

- Fork and Spork wanted to go along -- and they are relatively small -- so they were in.

- The Dakka Chugga (our tyranid body powered Ork steam engine) was our first Ork Train element -- so we wanted to take it along for certain.
- We wanted to take Da Pain Train (our Eldar-looted locomotive).  But, it is a bit fragile (as we had learned by the amount of glue work required after the LVO trip).  So, we decided it should stay at home.
- So, in terms of priorities, we decided that the next fun thing to take would be our Ork-Gangster passenger car -- along with the Nobs with their magnet boots.

How to pack?

A while back we took the Dakka Chugga to play against Matt at  That was a plane trip to Buffalo, then to Niagara Falls -- and then a drive to the Canadian side of the falls to reach Miniwargaming.  We took along all of Fork and Spork's Orks -- plus the Dakka Chugga.  But, at that time we didn't have all of the other cars.  So, we checked the Orks in checked baggage!!  But, we didn't feel good about doing that again this time -- especially since a full trans-Atlantic flight would include a lot more turbulence and jiggling of our 40K models.  (Here's a link to our past adventures getting to

So, we were determined to carry the Ork Train on board.  Luckily, we found a small carry-on bag which we could use to protect the Dakka Chugga pretty well.  We put the locomotive (which weighs the most) at the bottom -- with lots of bubble wrap -- and a towel wrapped around it.  We put the Tenda and the Ork Loota and Burna  car on top of that.  And, we placed Fork and Spork inside bubble wrap inside a hard plastic case on top off all of them.

The arrival in London went fine.  We were worried that our Orks might face some sort of immigration questioning (haha), but all went fine.

Here's the Dakka Chugga Ork Steam Engine and Tender safely in London

And, here are Fork (left) and Spork (center).  Some repair work to do on Spork's squig!

And, the Gansta-style Lootas and Burnas car made it safe and sound as well :)

Getting the Ork Train to Warhammer World once we were in London wasn't so bad.  We simply packed it back up into that roll-on bag and away we went on the train to Nottingham!

Then, when we arrived, what a treat.  There were a number of large new terrain pieces at Warhammer World!

After admiring them, we set up a few photos when players weren't using some of the cool layouts.  :)

We had a chance to have quite a few fun conversations.  Met people from lots of different places.  Great fun!

Here is the Dakka Chugga at Warhammer World!  We liked this photo because you catch the fortress background in the photo!

We really liked this terrain piece - took photos with the Ork Train in lots of precarious positions!

The Dakka Chugga posing :)

Fork and Spork supervising the progress of the Ork Train on the battlefield!

The Ork Train charging forward :)

More fun snaps with the Dakka Chugga!

And, one more....

We do fully confess to making some purchases.  Here the Ork Train stops at Forge World to make loot a few models for future expansions :)

Fork and Spork steam the Ork Train into the Forge World shop.  Looking for squigs and necron parts for looting....

And, of course, had to have lunch at Bugman's!

We enjoy lunch at Bugman's at Warhammer World with the Ork Train

The trip home?  Well, pretty much reverse course and do it all over again.  Went just fine.

Reflections on how to do it differently?  Well....  It sure would have been fun to take track and a power supply and have the Ork Train running under it's own power at Warhammer World.  ....Maybe next time!

Plus, next time, shouldn't we have the full train?  It'd be a pretty big suitcase - but would be lots of fun.

(Oh yeah, and maybe it's time for Fork and Spork to have bases which aren't bright green ??)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Clean up the beach - make cool terrain!!

Hi everyone,

Here's our *Process Flow* of steps for taking Ocean Plastic from the beach to create Tabletop Gaming terrain!

Here's an interesting (and fun?) or at the very least positive idea for those of us who like the beach and like table top games!!

The beach on the Eastern Shore or Oahu.  Lots of plastic washed up onto the beach after days, weeks, months or years in the Pacific Ocean.

1) Go to the beach (when you can - or ask a friend who is going)
2) Collect beach plastic (which doesn't belong there anyway)
3) Make terrain and bases out of the weathered plastic pieces

Over the recent holiday we had the chance to visit Hawaiian island Oahu.  It was lots of fun.  But, sadly there was a lot more trash-plastic on the beach than when one of us was a bit younger and we visited the same location.  Realization for us that the concerns about ocean plastic are very real.

Here's a pile of several of the pieces of plastic we hauled to the trash can.  Some had been in the water a long time - others much less time.

What to do?  Well, we thought we'd do our share and put plastic in the trash can.  We may have filled a trash can up over our several days there.  And, the good news is that the stretch of beach we worked on did seem to stay a bit cleaner -- meaning the more plastic didn't wash up again over night.  So, it does seem possible to attack the problem.

Here are several of the plastic pieces we saved and brought home.  The water created fascinating textures.  This is what got us thinking about using them for modeling.

And, while we were at it, interesting discovery.  Time in salt water does amazing things to plastic!!  Need plastic which looks like cobblestones or ancient concrete?  You're all set -- just get some beach plastic.

Not sure, but we think this was a piece of a shoe....

We ended up using some to make Sci-fi looking bases for some of our Starfinder Minis.  And, thinking of lots of uses for Ork structures and terrain for 40K.

This piece is more weird - very orange inside.  We wondered if it might have been part of a ball because of its curvature??  We liked how it looked a lot like cracked stone.

We also shared some with our good friend Mr. S at Game Kastle -- knowing that he is a big fan of finding materials which naturally create the textures of real-life for his super detailed models :)

Here are some pieces which must have spent some time at depth.  Think the blue piece was the bottom of a bottle.

We even found a six sided die on the beach.  No idea how long this guy was in the water.  The little dots are pretty worn down.  But, after some scrubbing we could sort of see which side was 6 and which side was 4....

What was that role?  I think we got a 6!!

Caution:  some of the plastic you find is really brittle.  While this might not be great for modeling with, we figure this is some of the most important to pick up and put into the trash so that it doesn't break up into little micro plastic pieces which (as we understand) can really mess up fish and birds.

We've cut a piece of the Ocean Plastic *Shoe* out for mounting on a base.

We put the mini band-saw to work and cut some pieces to mount on square miniature bases.

Here's the miniature we mounted on our shoe plastic :)

We mounted our Starfinder Android mini on the piece of shoe plastic.  The granularity of the pattern on the Ocean Plastic seems perfect to us for the scale of the miniature.  Make it look like the android is standing on a very old concrete surface. 

Here is our Starfinder mystic miniature mounted on the reclaimed Ocean Plastic

And, we mouted our Starfinder mystic on the ball plastic.  Makes it look very much like a rocky alien surface.

All in all -- lots of fun.  Beach gets cleaner, we get weird plastic pieces for models :)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Starship models for Starfinder RPG

Hi everyone,

We've really been enjoying our Starfinder Campaign - been playing pretty much every Sunday now for about eight weeks.

One struggle, though has been finding models for things -- especially Starships.  We're really hoping that there are some nice models released by Paizo or other companies.  But, since there aren't any released yet, have been working on finding solutions.

Recently there was a great post on the Starfinder RPG Facebook group -- a brilliant suggestion to take a look on Amazon for:

US Toy Mini Space Ship Cruisers Vehicle (Lot of 72), Assorted Color

...for under $10!!

 Here is our little bag of "Space Cruisers" from Amazon

Well, after a week or so, ours arrived :)

Here are the little *rubbery* models fresh out of the bag.  Some Amazon reviews mentioned a strong plastic smell.  We didn't notice that.

And, sure enough what a lot of nice little spaceship models!!!

What you get....
  • Some 70+ little models which are just the right size for use on the Starfinder hex flip map
  • They come in three colors - not great - but not horrid
  • There are about 20 or so different ship models - which is a pretty great variety!
  • They are "rubbery".  Not sure if they were meant as erasers - but they certainly do bend easily
 We sorted ours out by type.  Seems like 20 different types of space ships.

We were able to paint them....  First tried our super-shiny gold paint (thought it would be cool to have a gold colored spaceship).  No-go.  That rubbed off the surface of the little rubbery models.  Then tried our "Army Painter" primer (tried grey first).  No issues - these colors worked fine.  We painted some white, some grey and some brown.

Army Painter primer worked well (cans on the left).  Our other fun paint (which is very shiny gold) didn't work - smeared off.  You can see our white, grey and brown models along with the original blue, silver and bronze rubber.

This looked good going on -- by smeared right off.  Painting with Army Painter primer first did the trick tough.

After we added some details and weathering, they looked pretty nice.  By the way - when it comes to weathering, we found the bottle below "Weathering Mix" for $8 online (we searched Model Railroading Websites).  Much lower cost than little tiny bottles for the same price you can find from miniature painting companies....

 Our $8 bottle of "Weathering Mix"

Working on adding some details to our models....

Before and after adding details to the models....

Checking our models for scale on the Starfinder Flip-Mat.  Pretty good fit :)

And, so, pretty happy, overall.  Not sure whether we'll create bases for them - or just use them flat on the mat.  Since they are a little bit rubber, it's actually not bad to have them right on the mat where they don't slip around....

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Creating Starfinder RPG maps from actual maps

Hi everyone,

Have had a bunch of things going on lately - and time to share updates on those!

One item - we've been enjoying playing Starfinder!

We have more to say about how and why we've been enjoying the game - but a quick write-up on one things we've been up to....  And, that's creating *maps* for our Starfinder sessions.

A challenge (early on) with Starfinder is that there aren't very many modules released yet.  And, even if there is an old adventure module to use (from D&D or Pathfinder or something like that) - the maps might not be quite what we need.

So....  We've been taking actual maps - from Google Maps - and then converting them for game use.

It works out pretty well!

(As a quick Spoiler Alert - we've been playing a Pathfinder - Starfinder hybrid.  A top secret wormhole has connected the Starfinder space station home base for the party with a fantasy (pre-gun-powder) world setting.  So, we're eager to make maps which match.  That being said, the same tricks here would work to make higher tech looking maps for a 100% Starfinder campaign.)

1) We picked an area with interesting geography (we actually picked the LA basin -- and in this example, showing what things looked like when we used an area around Pasadena).

 Here's our map with all of the roads and signs turned on.

2) Then, we went into Google Maps and with the options, turned off roads and signs.

Here's how the map looks when we turned those off.  (Or course you can still see in the satellite image where the major roads are -- but this is cool because we can use these for our RPG road locations).

3) Then, we grabbed a screen-shot of the Google maps.

4) With that finished, it was tablet time.  We used our iPad to and Pencil to draw over the top of the map - tracing the features we thought were useful.  We used the app "Procreate".  Here's how things ended up.

Here's how our drawing turned out.  We had looked a bit at JRR Tolkien's maps and noticed that he drew little mountains and shaded them.  So, we tried to do the same thing....

Some thoughts for improving....

- We could certainly have a layer of hex's or grids in the iPad app and have those as part of the map
- We could also use icons instead of our hand-drawn things if a more crisp image was important

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spork and Fork's 40K Ork Tie Fighter - Progress Report

We're thinking it's a pretty common question -- "What happened to Darth Vader after Episode 4?"  And, from what we read, the answer is that he managed to fly to a nearby space station.
Darth Vader's TIE fighter spins out of control after crash with his wing-man....

The next question isn't answered very well -- "What happened to Darth Vader's TIE Advanced after the space station team jettisoned it as trash??"

Here's what really happened :)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Spork and Fork's trusty Ork Hulk the Da Runcible of Ruin burst from the warp.

The Warbosses found themselves in the midst of a huge pile of debris....  

[Why?  It must be that the intensely Waaaagh-warfare filled warp energy had drawn them across space and time to a location near Yavin.] 

Fork:  "Doze squishy 'umies been fightin' 'ere!!"
Spork:  "Yeah!  And, look ats all of duh great dakka we cud loot from dem!!!   Waaaaagh!!!"

And, so, we have started to build a model of the Ork-looted TIE Advanced :)

Key points of the project:
  • Project costs have been low.  We got the TIE Advanced for $3 at a thrift shop

Here is our humble TIE Advanced as purchased from the thrift store.  No cockpit hatch; no Darth Vader miniature....
  • Decision have been challenging.  There are so many options of what to add (or subtract) from a TIE fighter.
We decided to add Ork flyer wings to the TIE fighter.  This gave us a place to mount more dakka -- with swing-mounted guns (looted from Imperial forces).
  • Wires and hoses.  We are certainly going to use Mr. S's advice from Game Kastle -- and use real things to represent real things.  Going to have hoses and wires all over when we are finished.
  • What to call it?  We still have no idea.
  • Adding metal.  Why?  So that Orks and Grots with magnet boots can stand all over the place on it.
The Orks use a lot of metal -- not that funny carbon fiber stuff -- to patch up the TIE fighter.  This also gives spots for the Ork Nobs with magnet boots to stand :)
  • It needs real engines.  Orks have no idea what makes a TIE fighter move.  They need things which are more burny and shooty.
Fork and Spork's Ork Mek got the power plant hatch open on the TIE Advanced -- and decided to keep it propped open so that they could tap in to this to power the systems they were adding to the fighter....

 The Mek added thrusters from a Space Marine speeder to the back of the TIE.  An exhaust pipe was also added -- 'cause there will be a lot more smoke coming from the TIE fighter now

The Orks added more good stuff to the bottom - this is one of the places where we'll add hoses and wires :)
  • Other Star Wars models to loot?  Who knows what else is in that field of debris ??  And, well, we already have an X-wing and a Snow-speeder on the Ork-Mek-Chopping-Block!!