Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Inspiring Cerebral Flatulence

I had been trying unsuccessfully to find some small plastic numbers to use for initiative markers for my Row Well and Live! galley rules. What I intend is to have tokens numbered 1 through whatever to be placed next to the ships in the initiative phase to mark the order or movement.

In the rules, the basic initiative value is a ship's current speed in knots, so that faster-moving ships will move before slower-moving ones. However, players can modify their initiative value with their ship's crew rating and command rating, which they can add or subtract (although poor crews with a negative value must only be subtracted).

I could have just printed out tokens created in Adobe Illustrator, but I wanted something that matched the bases for the ships and that would work best if the numbers were raised above the surface.

I went by Michael's, typically my go-to store for all things crafty, artsy, and fartsy that can be pressed into use for gaming. But Michael's doesn't have any such things as small plastic numbers and had no clue where I could find any. I searched online, but nothing came up.

Then last week, out of the blue, it hit me: clocks! People who want to make their own artsy clocks need numbers for the face. I went by Hobby Lobby, a sprawling new arrival in town selling much of what Michael's does—only less so or more so depending on what you want. I wandered through Hobby Lobby and, while randomly browsing an aisle, turned around to find exactly what I was looking for: 10mm tall press-on numbers for clocks. A single pack contained the numbers needed for two clock faces (1-12) and I bought two packs.

They come in multiple sizes, but the arabic numerals only come in one style (there was also roman, but as the ancients learned, the system is a bit limited and non-versatile).

I cut 3/4 inch squares from some 0.080 plastic sheet. Trimmed the corners to a rounded edge and sanded them down. Then I removed a number from the sprue and pressed it in place on the plastic. A single pack got me up to 20 with one left-over 2.

Using the second pack would only get me to 24 because I'd run out of 2s by then (and that's including the left-over 2 from the first pack). However, I think I'd be crazy to play these rules with even 20 ships. Row Well and Live! is intended for smaller numbers of ships and 20 just about stretches it.

The 6 and the 9 are the same number. Differentiating the two on a clock face is unnecessary and the people who make these numbers didn't imagine free-floating counters. I didn't do anything to distinguish between them, though I did think about it. I don't think the duplication will be a problem.

The plastic numbers are finished in faux gold (or is it faux brass?), which is not the look I want. Also, painting with acrylics on plastic is tricky. To get a better "tooth" for the paint, I sprayed them with Testor's dullcote (of which I now have an ample supply after expending a bit effort to get it).

I wasn't sure what color I wanted the numbers to be, but eventually decided on a natural mottled stone look. It would stand out from the water and look better than some solid color.

After I painted the numbers, I used the same color scheme and finish that I use on my ship bases: Vallejo turquoise with a lightened, thinned version daubed on. Followed by an application of heavy gloss gel medium.

More ships under way

The six penteres that I was working on are completed and nestled with their brethren in my Padron Imperials box. More ships came from Xyston and I've started the remaining ships that I had on hand: two hepteres, two triremes, and a single trihemiola. Completing the hepteres depended on the order coming from Xyston because it contains the bolt-shooters (oxybeles) and catapults (lithobolos) that I've mounted on their decks.

She drifted a dreary wreck

I also got a wrecked trireme from Phil Bardsley. He's begun his own oared navy with one ship so far. He also got one of the wrecks that Xyston offers, which he promptly gave to me. I finished it this weekend, so I'll have at least one wreck to place for now. I'll have to order more so I can account for maybe half the ships in play (eventually) being wrecks.

It was pretty easy to paint. I finished off the base (i.e., the watery bits) like the rest of my seascape bases. It's a nice one-piece model and serves an important function in the game, although with the water swirling about it, it's more reminiscent of The Wreck of the Hesperus than a rammed ship—only without "the form of a maiden fair lashed close to a drifting mast."

Rules play test

After adjusting for schedules, I'm still trying to get a play test of Row Well and Live! organized. I've committed to hosting a game at the Fix Bayonets! game day at Ft. Steilacoom in September. That may be the first time I play it, unless I can get something going on Labor Day weekend.


  1. That is a great idea, but maybe it might be `better looking` for people standing away off the table and throwing a gaze in, to actually leave / return them to a brighter colour like the original gold?

  2. I have more than enough numbers left over to make a second set using the gold numbers. It might actually be easier to do because I can paint the 3/4" square plastic chits before I apply the numbers and then daub on the gloss gel after that.

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