Archive for October, 2012

Trying out Axles and Alloys

Over the weekend myself and a number of friends got together to give Axles and Alloys II a try. The get together was  a little impromptu so I had to throw some terrain together the night before, basically just some polystyrene covered with sand and quickly spray painted red/brown.

For the game itself I modified the rules slightly so we could use a bunch of micro machine cars (about n scale/15mm). Although it doesn’t quite have the impact on the table it did make the game much easier to transport. For using the micro machine cars I used the tried and true method of converting inchs to cm and it seemed to work out well with the rules still holding together very well. The board we played on was only about 45cm x 75 cm ( 1.5 x 2.5 feet) and it did get a little crowded with 7 players, but this just meant more mayhem. I wrote up some quick vehicle cards and for each game we shuffled and dealt the cards out so no-one had the same car twice.

We played a total of two games with basic race to the finish goal. The first game resulted in all player vehicles being out of commission by the end of the 5th turn, except one. This was mostly caused by the figure 8 track design and a rather cramped first turn which resulted in much ramming, weapons fire and collisions with terrain as skids and drifts were misjudged, also a lack of anyone using the brake pedal didn’t help 🙂 :

The above photo was taken just after the second turn at this point the Orange and Green cars driver had been killed after a wicked burst of MG fire from the rear by the blue car. The blue car had been savagely rammed by both the yellow 4×4 and orange and green car in the 1st turn. As you can see even though it was our first game a mountain of mines and spikes had already been dropped.

Similar time as the above shot but you can see the field was fairly well spread out the purple dragster in the middle went on to win the game.

This was near the end of the game, the yellow 4×4 slide into the towering rock cluster after I misjudged drift. The two blue cars ended up ramming each other and then getting out of control and colliding with each other a second time. We were unsure if this meant another ram but we played it that way and it destroyed both cars, one due to driver death. You can just see the purple dragster in the background heading of to win the race.

Final positions of everyone at the end of game 1, the lime green car on the right edge had tried a massive drift circle and had been planning to try and cut off, then ram to death the purple dragster but came unstuck on some rocks. This left the purple dragster as the last car alive.

For the second game we changed the board layout so it was a simple Horseshoe track with 1 lap to win. This seemed to help with 4 cars still surviving when one crossed the finish line.

Cars lined up at the blue start finish line for race 2. Three cars are obscured by the terrain in the lower left of the shot.

Just after the 1st turn with a few cars having moved for their second, two cars used the ramp suffering a little damage but it was a heap of fun for the players and to watch.

This was at the top turn, once again the purple dragster was in the lead. Just after the purple dragster passed around the turn, there were 2 head on collisions which knocked out a couple of cars. The purple dragster itself was rammed head on to try and knock it out and slow it down but unfortunately it didn’t quite work and the purple dragster once again went on to win.

As part of the setup one piece of terrain had a hole in it and we designated the leading edge a ramp, so a car could fly up the ramp and jump out the hole. The purple dragster did this but due to the ramming damage incurred and then hitting the ramp to fast was almost destroyed on landing. The dragster crossed the line with 2 damage box’s remaining.

Much fun was had by all over the two games and the rules themselves are written very well, we only had a couple of minor spots were we weren’t quiet sure what the rules should work, but we simply worked something out. Due to the success of the game I plan on mounting the micro machines to bases permanently and giving them a quick coat of paint. As a group we are more likely to do pickup one off games and so to randomize the vehicles a little more we may put in place some form of random weapon assignment mechanism. The only other minor change we might make is to double the weapon damage we found ramming was much more deadly than weapons and want to encourage weapon use a little more.

If your looking for a fun car game, which doesn’t take itself to seriously give Axles and Alloys II a try, for the price (free) I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Have Fun 🙂

GIMP – Importing Layered PDFs

I’m going to cover one way of importing multi-layered PDF’s into GIMP so that each layer in the PDF becomes a layer in GIMP. This method is not quick but is fairly easy requiring you to carry out the same activity multiple times. It does require the use of Inkscape to carry the conversion process. It does however retain the images in as close to original colour/quality state as possible without using commercial software. You may still experience problems fully replicating a 100% direct match as some layered PDF’s make use of the blending options available inside Adobe Indesign or other proprietary applications for each layer. This means at best we are guessing the blending options for some of these layers. The below instructions are specific to Windows machines if you’re running a Linux flavour the below should still work or should provide you with enough of a guide to get you on the right path.

I will mention that this is a very long blog post and I’ve spent the past 2 weeks trimming it down and can’t get it any smaller so for those who read the whole thing  sorry for the long read. To help out I’ve created a bit of jump index:

Modding and Bashing etiquette (Licensing/Copyright)

If your creating something for your own personal use that you’ll never share, no worries bash mod and print away no-one is going to mind. However if you want to share an item with the world (okay internet) remeber to check in with the artist before posting the file.  Whenever you’re dealing with someone else’s artwork always respect either there standing rules around mods and bashes or check personally with the company/artist in question.

For Example:

Fat Dragon Games policy on mods/bashes

WWG policy on mods/bashes

All my art (if you can call it that) is released under creative commons license meaning your free to mod and share whatever you make so long as it’s not a commercial venture, you credit myself in someway and you share the resulting work under a similar license. Some items I do release into the public domain which means anyone can use what they like and credit me or not.

If you do start to create your own papercraft items from scratch using your own hand built textures, your own photographed textures or public domain textures.  I would encourage you to make it very clear on each PDF what license you grant any future modders and bashes. I know myself I find it quiet frustrating when no license is apparent and I wish to make minor tweaks but don’t know if I can share the outcome and the artist is now unreachable. Sorry I’ll get off my soapbox now :).

Background and Comparison

For those curious as to why I’ve detailed this method first over some others I have 3 reasons I prefer this method:

  • We end up with an almost exact colour match of the component parts meaning mods will match existing terrain pieces more closely.
  • We end up with a highest quality image we can without adding image artifacts
  • You end up with your own copy of the “layered” PDF (okay now an XCF file) in GIMP so adding a new layer in the right order results in easier modding. Eg On a Lost Reich Mech I could add a new bullet hole layer above or below the dirt and grim layer to show old and new bullet holes.

I’ve put together a quick side by side comparison image of 2 different methods and the resulting output vs the original so you can see what I mean, example used is a segment from a Fat Dragon Games Capital City File (zoomed in about 800%) :

Left is original, Middle is this Method and Right is using a PDF printer. You will need to click and load the above separately to see the red halo around the PDF printer image

The difference above may seem minimal however my printer, prints the pdf version and original at different shades and then my eye can easily spot the different shading across a terrain piece. This is less important if the whole piece is affected (eg whole building) as opposed to say a new Custom tile or balcony addition to an existing building. Saying that even this method is not perfect and if the piece is especially complex\layer heavy you may struggle to get a perfect match.

Software Needed

You’ll need to download and install the latest version of Inkscape (0.48.2 when I wrote this), or as always you can just make use of the portable version and run it off a thumb drive. You’ll also need a copy of GIMP downloaded and installed, covered in a little more detail in my previous post.

Inkscape Extraction

To start off with pick the layered PDF you want to mod/bash, try not to pick a layered PDF with too many layers a good practice piece would be one of Fat Dragon Games layered PDFs from there newer sets.

I will say if you are planning on using the below on any of Dave Graffams buildings check he hasn’t released a PSD version before you go through the conversion process as this saves a significant amount of time and effort.

Launch Inkscape so it is open and ready to go, then go to File>>Open and select the PDF your interested in converting. You will be presented with this screen:

For me this screen is sometimes very slow to load and refresh so be patient with it and assume every click is registering. If you used a multiple Page PDF set the Page number to the page your interested in, in my case it’s only a single page so it is locked to page 1, move the “Precision of approximating gradient meshes” to very fine 246.0 and leave all other settings as they are and select “OK” – this can take some time and your computer may seem to lockup but give it chance to work and it should eventually return a result:

Yours wont have example file from lost Reich printed across it :). Available from Fat Dragon Games

Your PDF will now be opened in Inkscape with every layer from the PDF imported as an object in Inkscape. The layers will be imported without any Indesign blending options and all the layers will be visible so the image will look different to how it appears in the layered PDF:

I have noticed some differences with the way different artists layered PDF’s import into Inkscape, I think this is caused by the different adobe software being used and that layered PDF’s can be generated as either a tree or hierarchy structure. Below are some notes on what I’ve uncovered to date:

Fat Dragon Games (Tom Tullis) – Imports fairly normally with each layer as an object these tend to be grouped in one group. However each object has it’s own custom size requiring you to set a custom size on export to facilitate easy importing to GIMP and retain the relative X,Y location of the layers.

Dave Graffam – Imports in long nested groups of objects cutting or moving the objects out of these nested groups causes the image links to no longer function (or it does for me). All objects are the same size so making exporting easier, however often you are clicking into nested groups for some time to find the base level.

Okumarts Games – Nested like Daves but sized like Fat Dragon Games. It is possible to ungroup the layers and export them the same as Fat Dragon Games (follow Fat Dragon Guide and you should be okay)

Mine (UFO etc) – Is some sort of odd cross between the two. The objects are a fixed page size like Dave’s but they are not nested in nested groups and all sit at the top level like Tom’s under one group (follow Fat Dragon Guide and you should be okay).

If I uncover any further different types I’ll add them to the above in the future and expand the below section.

Fat Dragon Games et al Process:

Select the Imported group (click on it once), then go to menu item “Object” and select “Ungroup” (Shift-Ctrl-G). You should now have this:

In the red circled area above make note of the “X” coordinates, Y coordinates, W size and H size. In my case this is -7.5, 25, 765 and 990. Next we can start exporting the different layers first up deselect all layers either by clicking somewhere to left of the selected group or by going to Edit>>Deselect (right near the bottom).Next click on your images and the topmost image in the stack will be selected:

Now to start Exporting either go to File>>Export Bitmap or use Shift-Ctrl-E and the export dialogue will open. Select Custom along the top, then change x0, y0, width and height values to those you noted above. Select the browse button and select a location to save the image file to and the name. The name isn’t critical and if you don’t know what is on the layer selected simply call it “one” and the next “two” etc or some other logical naming pattern you prefer. Lastly tick on “Hide all except selected” and press “Export”:

You have just exported your first layer. Now onto the remaining 5 to 5000 this is fairly quick although repetitive. You can leave the export window sitting open. Open the object properties window Object>>Object Properties or Shift-Ctrl-O on the little window that opens tick Hide. Again leave this open. Next click on the middle of your images and the next object down will be selected. Simply Click on your export Window and name the png to something else and then hit export:

Repeat the above hide>>Click>>Name>>Export process until you are left with a blank white page:

You have now captured all the individual layers that make up that PDF. There is no need to save the inkscape file as you have the original PDF and really we didn’t add much value in inkscape but you can save it if you like. To unhide all the objects before saving it’s Object>>Unhide All. Now skip down to GIMP Reassembly.

Dave Graffam Process:

This is essentially the same as the above process but you don’t need to worry about setting a custom size before exporting you can basically export each layer at the stock size. The trick is making sure you click down deep enough into the groups such that your at the bottom of the group pile. I’ve tried ungrouping but this for me breaks the image link(s) and I end up in a mess with red image cant be found error links all over the place, so try de-grouping at your own risk.

Okay first up open your Export Dialogue (File>>Export Bitmap or use Shift-Ctrl-E) and Object Windows (Object>>Object Properties or Shift-Ctrl-O). Put these out of the way so you can see the image in the middle.

The key point to watch is the group dropdown (circled red above) basically keep clicking on the image in the same spot until the numbers stop changing, just click as quick as you can and watch that little window eventually you’ll see the name stop changing:

You can see above I started at #g2997 and ended a #g4113 (there were about 7 layers).

Now just export that Layer using Export bitmap Window. Select the browse button and select a location to save the image file to and the name. The name isn’t critical and if you don’t know what is on the layer selected simply call it “one” and the next “two” etc or some other logical naming pattern you prefer. Lastly tick on “Hide all except selected” and press “Export”. Once it is Exported use the Object properties Window to simply hide the layer:

Crates Exported and Hidden

Now to export the next images simply start clicking on a piece of the image until again the numbers stop changing in the group dropdown. Sometimes you can get away with a single click and export if you click on the same or just about the same spot you clicked on for the last object, I would however be very cautious doing this as it is easy to end up hiding and missing an option layer. I expanded the list in the below so you can see how deep I am:

Simply Repeat the Multi Click>>Export>>Hide process until the Page is empty. Dave usually has a ton of options so expect to being do this for some time.

You have now captured all the individual layers that make up the PDF. There is no need to save the inkscape file as you have the original PDF and really we didn’t add much value in inkscape but you can save it if you like. To unhide all the objects before saving it’s Object>>Unhide All. Now read on to GIMP Reassembly

GIMP Reassembly

So you now hopefully have a folder full of images for the particular PDF:

This next step is slightly easier if you are using dual monitors. Next open the original PDF in Adobe Reader and then open all your extracted layers in GIMP using File>>Open as Layers and make your way to your extracted image folder and then select all the extracted images and select open. You should now have something vaguely resembling this:

As you can see in the above the GIMP layer order does not currently match the layer order that appears in the PDF we basically need to make the GIMP layer order the same as the PDF layer order. You should be able to see all the layers in the Layers – Brushes Dock but if not this can be opened by going to Windows>>Dockable Dialogs>>Layers or Pressing Ctrl + L. Now its a simple matter of clicking on each of your imported Layers in the layer dialogue inside GIMP and moving it up and down to the correct location using the mouse. A quick tip I tend to work from the bottom up so I’ll hide all the layers except the very bottom one in Adobe reader and then hide all the layers in GIMP and show each one there until I find the matching layer and move it to the correct location:

In the above I’m finding the Stencils Layer

Now repeat the above moving layers up and down until the layer orders in Adobe and GIMP  match. Now don’t forget to save the file in GIMP at this point, it is also a good idea to shrink the canvas size down a little (see my previous post) to avoid the margin printing issue in GIMP.

All done, when you get used to the whole process you can do a whole 10 layered PDF in about 15mins

Now if you have a layer in GIMP which isn’t looking right when compared with the original you will need to change the blending mode for that layer in GIMP. Click on the layer (select it in GIMP) at the top of the layer panel you can see “Mode” click to the right of the word “Mode” on top of “normal” works well and you will presented with a bunch of blending options:

Unfortunately I can’t guide you to which one exactly to use but some good ones to try are “Overlay”, “Darken Only”, “Burn”, “Screen”, “Hard light” and “Soft Light”. You’ll need to try different layer modes until you either get lucky and get an exact match or close enough that your happy with the result. I have found with some of Dave’s models my best results have been achieved by turning a layer off completely, my best guess is this is due to slight incompatibilities between the software Dave uses (Photoshop) to generate the files and GIMP.

Hopefully you now have an exact duplicate of the original PDF or very close this means any additions or bashes you make using this file should be an almost exact colour and quality match to anything you have already printed. So why not have some fun and add something interesting to the file :

Hello Skorpion? – Big apology to Tom at Fat Dragon Games

Hopefully the above info is helpful to those who wish to create some changes to layered PDF’s while retaining the quality. As this post is already very long I’ll cover doing some simple additions and changes to a file in my next post.

Have Fun 🙂

Papercraft Build – Skorpion 3d Leg Mod (Lost Reich)

I’ve been building a few Lost Reich mechs released by Fat Dragon Games. This post will show the mod and some of the process I used to make 3d legs  for the Skorpion model. The model itself I like but the flat 2d legs although quick to build were not really doing it for me, so I decided to see if I could design some 3d legs to go with the model.

I had a number of design constraints as it was an existing model:

  • Retain the slip on and off cockpit design that Tom had built into the stock model
  • Keep the footprint of the model the same
  • Simple to build but strong (not sure I succeeded on this one)
  • Lastly keep the leg look the same (angles etc).

So I went through a few design iterations using Trimble sketchup (Yep Google sold the program). I pretty much got the legs themselves right on the first try but I tried to simplify the hip section down and just ended up using up time for no real benefit and going back to my initial idea, its very true what they say about first drafts. A screen grab from sketchup of three versions:

Sketchup models: Top row unused drafts, bottom final version

Once I’d settled on a design I went through my usual flattening process using flattery in sketchup and then exported the svg file. Then I used the existing leg textures and textured the various shapes. I did have to create a few panels for the back of the legs and the underside of the hips. Next I created the Craftrobo/Cameo cutfile and did a full size test build:

  First Test Build at Full 15mm Size

The legs themselves were quiet easy to build although a little repetitive as you need to build 4 of each part and then glue them together. I totally understand why Fat Dragon Games (FDG) released the stock model with flat legs as construction is much quicker, simpler and I would imagine much less intimidating for people who don’t normally build paper models but want to play Lost Reich:) . I posted a couple of pictures of the above up on the FDG forum and Tom gave the okay to share the file so I  assemble some instructions and tided up the main file a little. As part of assembling the instructions I added a new way of identifying parts a bit like Lego instructions where the particular segment your working on  is highlighted. I’ll probably add this method of identification to any instructions I do for new models in the future, plus I think it looks neat:

Instructions Highlight Examples: See Instructions below for others

The last little test I did was to build a half size version of the Skorpion with my leg design above. This was interesting to say the least but I managed to get one built, I did have to cut off a few glue tabs as they got to small and superglue was a must as holding the parts to wait for glue to set would have been difficult. You can see a side by side picture below of a full size Skorpion & half size Skorpion and one of the half size Skorpion on it’s own:

Z-Scale (1/210-ish )version and 15mm version
 Z-Scale (1/210-ish )version: Easy to see the trouble I had edging the legs at that size, yep toothpick gun barrel

I’ll post more about the z-scale version when I’ve built a few more mechs up at that scale.  I’ve uploaded all the files to the Fat Dragon Games forum (fan created models), so you’ll need to go there to download them. You will need a forum account to download the files:

Skorpion 3d Legs and Cut Files

Note One:  to use the above properly you’ll need either the Skorpion Mk II or the Skorpion from the starter set:

Skorpion Mk II

Lost Reich Starter

Note Two:  Not sure if anyone wants the blank leg geometry but here it is in a PDF ie no textures. Just to save headaches I’m releasing this piece into the public domain. If you use it I’d appreciate a mention but no obligation :).

Legs and Chassis (blank geometry)

Have fun with the legs and please use responsibly 🙂


Project Status


WWII Project First Release

80%


B-tech Buildings Five

20%


Design Victorian era City

15%


Something Different

5%


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Please Attribute to Sirrob01 with a link back to my blog

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