Starguard by Dave Bezio
Starguard is the oldest Science fiction skirmish game out there. It’s been around since 1974, and has a full line of old school 25mm miniatures that have been being produced since then.
I’ve been eyeing up this game for many years. When first I saw it I instantly fell in love with the charming miniatures. They gave me that sort of warm fuzzy feeling. I’ve never been a “dark future” type of guy, and the Warhammer 40K (and the million style clones) have never really appealed to me.
Unfortunately, most people don’t feel the same. Every time I showed the website to other people they just wouldn’t buy into it. As anyone knows, having a mini game you want to play without another person (or 3) who is just as willing to invest of their time and money into the hobby isn’t much fun.
Not to mention that the game themselves are rather expensive for what you get ($30 for the core rules, 70 pages of loose-leaf, and another $50 for the supplements). Not only that, but the generally lack of thorough reviews and tidbits I have found lead me to believe that the rules have many little errors and holes that need to be fixed to play accurately (despite being in their 5th edition). Of course, this is typical of any old school miniature game (and when I say “old school” this is the real deal!).
So, for years I stared lovingly at Starguard and hoped for the day to come…
So, about a week ago I decided to play some Mutants and Death Ray guns. I finally found an excuse to get some Starguard miniatures (more specifically the Dreenoi, which I really love the mini figures of). I ordered the starter pack (oh, it’s worth mentioning that Starguard miniatures are dirt cheap, a little more than $1 a figure on the average). I got the miniatures and was really impressed with the way they looked, and again desperately wanted to play this game.
Yesterday I was at my old friend Steve’s house (my oldest friendship, going back 27 years to 8th grade, and very near to the beginning of my role playing hobby) to play Battlelore. I got to talking about games I was thinking about investing in. On a whim I showed him the Starguard site…and he fell in love with the miniatures as I had!! He felt the same attraction to the old school charm and liked the way the miniatures looked like the artwork we grew up with (he called them the Erol Otus of miniatures).
Finally, someone as crazy motivated as me to play Starguard with! (Not sure what force he will bring to the table yet).
Yesterday I ordered the rulebook (and the giant robot and vehicle supplements) and every stinking Dreenoi miniature they make! Just for the record, this cost me about $125 for the rules and a metric butt-load of miniatures. (While the rules are expensive, this is a fairly cheap mega-buy-in to a miniature game…considering I purchased about 10 times more miniatures than I need to start playing the game…but they are all so cool, and I really will enjoy painting them if nothing else).
So yeah, I’m pretty excited…and yes, grubman is at it again! I’ve got rules to read (when they get here) and I’ll give everyone a taste and some information when I absorb them (there isn’t a whole lot of solid information on this game on the web, and there probably should be). I’ve also got a table to build, and a bunch of miniatures to paint. Nothing makes this process more fun than sharing online (other than actually playing the game). Hopefully it’ll be interesting and fun, and informative…and if someone else gets interested in Starguard, at least they will be able to find this article to tell them something about it.
Off to start painting my Dreenoi starter set and decide what type of table I’m going to build. I’m thinking of an alien landscape for the first game.
I can't tell you much until I get the rules. I know (well, I think) Earthlings have colonized several worlds. There they met several alien races, some friendly, some not so much...then all hell broke out.
The reason I was attracted to is (other than the minis) is the fact that it's old school (you can't get much more old school than the first of its kind). It's more Space Opera, instead of the "dark" or realistic Sci Fi skirmish games that seem to be the other popular choices, and it seems like there is a lot of stuff there to tinker with...just like I like my games.
As far as the rules, from the little I've heard they are serviceable, and even fun (percentile based) but a bit disorganized and rough around the edges. This might be a turn off to some, but I'm sure any die-hard wargamer should be able to figure them out.
Well, I'm no Eavy-Metal painter, so you'll have to form your own opinion on my paint job. I like how my own stuff comes out, and that's what really matters. Speed is sort of my claim to fame. I like a lot of dry-brushing and washes.
I decided I want to go with a green color scheme for my hive. I also decided I’m going to do a purple based alien table for my first battle. I decided to go ahead and take pictures after each step. It’s kind of cool to see how the miniature progresses.
1. I decided to use US nickels for the bases. I was going to use 1” plastic ones, but they looked a bit too big for these 25mm figs. I decided that ¾ inch washers would work better, but, they turned out to be $.13 apiece. The nickels are thicker and cost, well, $.05. I’m happy with the choice, and in the long run it’s pretty cheap for bases.
2. Primed and ready to go!
3. First step, a nice base coat of a dull, dark green
4. A simple drybrush of a moderate green
5. Another drybrush of a more startling green finishes off the base of the mini.
6. A little yellow on the ribcage and antenna finish off the body. The huge bug eyes were pretty easy to paint, red with a simple yellow dot.
7. A quick wash of stain/polyurethane to give the grooves some depth and shadow. Also some sand glued on the base. These two things will take the longest to dry…supposed to be overnight, but I want to see how this comes out so I cheated and used the hairdryer.
8. There is that purple base! I can’t wait to do the terrain, it’s going to be WILD. A base coat of black on the weapon and jet pack finish off this step.
9. A drybrush of silver on the weapon and jet pack, and some drybrushing on the base
10. I debated a long time on this, but finally decided to add a little gold to the weapon and jetpack. I knew this would give the mini a slight “steampunk” Victorian look…but I decided to do it anyway, just to make the minis “unique”. A little bit of multi-colored static grass on the base finish off the fig.
The finished product! Two coats of a matte finish take the gloss out of the wash and protect the miniature for play (hopefully a lot of play!).
Well, I really like the result. I’m glad I got it right on the first try. The whole thing didn’t take long (maybe an hour, with most of that being dry-time) and painting up the figures in a mass should be fairly painless.
And the gang’s all here! Well, those are all the minis I have to paint until my mega-order comes in. That’s just as well, because it will give me time to work on the tabletop and terrain. Hopefully I’ll have a decent play surface ready to go when the rules get here, so I can read rules in the day, and paint some minis at night.
I just got my mega order in the mail, that means the rules, and one pack of every Dreenoi available.
Now I have 2 new things to add to this article...first, a review of the Starguard rules as I read them, and second, more miniatures to start painting.
...although I do plan on getting a little more terrain done before I start on miniatures again (or perhaps I'll bob back and forth).
On a side note, there was a slight problem with my order. I got a copy of Hostile Contact instead of Warbots and Death Machines. I emailed John about it...so we'll also get to see how Reviresco's customer service stacks up when they make a mistake.
...and about an hour after I wrote my eMail John responded. He apologized for the mix up and said he'll send the Warbots and Death Machines books out ASAP and to keep the Hostile Contact book as a freebie.
So customer service gets 2 thumbs up.
The Starguard Review
Part One: Appearance and first impression
With the Starguard rule book in my hand I anxiously start my as-I-read-it review. I absorb rules a bit at a time, so this review will be ongoing as I read it (and get the chance to write about it). Keep in mind this has nothing to do with actual play of the rules, just my observations and opinions as I read it for the first time. Hopefully this will provide enough information on how the game works so a reader can decide if this is a game he/she is interested in getting into.
Again, I'm reviewing as I read, so, please don't ask me any questions other than about stuff I've already read or , to be honest, I'm not going to have a clue!
Before I start the review proper, this first bit simply has to do with my first impression as I flip through the rulebook, how it looks, and what you are getting for your $30.
What you are getting when you order the Starguard rules is a black binder with a slip-in color cover and 72 loose-leaf pages with 3 holes punched in each. The paper is good quality printer paper. The pages themselves look as if they are printed on a laser or ink-jet printer (rather than photo copied or printed). My copy looks like a grey (rather than black) and just a bit blurry, almost as if the 'quick-print' option was chosen when printing it up or the printer was running out of ink. It's readable and won't be a major problem but I do wish it was a bit crisper.
The interior is 2 column and probably a 10 point font. What I'm very pleased about is that it is loaded with old-school art! I was afraid the game was going to be void of art, and I'm a very visual person. While the content of a game might be very good, I find it hard to trudge through dry rules without any visual stimulation for inspiration and to break up the monotony. There is an illustration on almost every page and this should help in the future when hunting for rules during play.
As far as quality, well, $30 is a bit steep for the actual physical product, especially when you can often get a full colour hardcover game book for the same price (or a little more). However, I'll judge the game based on its playability, not presentation. After all, what is more valuable, a full coloured fancy book for a game you never play or some photocopied sheets of a game that gives you hours and hours of play and fun?
So, as far as my first impression go I like what I see (mostly because I was actually expecting less). The low quality printing is a little disappointing, but the old school illustrations make me WANT to play this game (which is very important to me). The physical product (binder and loose-leaf pages) might be disappointing if you aren't aware of what you are paying for but now you know.
I know (via the yahoo group) that the author is debating a 6th edition of the game (although, this would seem a long way off). Whether he does a 6th edition, or whether he just cleans up the 5th edition, Mr. McEwan should really consider getting it printed (possibly even distributed through) Lulu. At no initial cost, the production quality would be about 100 times greater. His profit margin would most likely be smaller, but, I think the impact it would make on quantity of sales would be well worth the exchange, and, after all, the rules lead to the miniature line, and that is where the real money is.
Summary of first impression: Real nice looking old school content with lots of cool illustrations in a straightforward readable package if you can handle forking out $30 for a $3 binder and 70 computer printed pages.
Part Two: Background and Races
Where to start? I’ve gotten through the first 32 pages of the Starguard book. I’ve learned something about myself during this time…I’m spoiled by modern game sensibilities. The last game I learned was Battlelore, which just may very well be one of the best written rules sets on the market. Not only is it clearly and concisely written, but the rules easily cover every stipulation that might come up in play and teach you the game very painlessly. Most “modern” miniature game books contain certain elements. First a little fluff or fiction about the setting to set the mood (usually detailed more as needed), followed by the core rules to give you an understanding of how the basic game functions, then the detailed rules that build on the core, then the point system/army list, and finally some details about playing the game or some scenarios. All this with plenty of examples and simple explanations.
Well the Starguard rules stay true to its “oldschool” reputation, and as I read the first 32 pages ran through a spectrum of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I got bored, I got excited, and then I cried again.
After 32 pages, I’m no closer to knowing anything about how the game plays than I did when I cracked open the book. The book starts right off by “describing” each of the alien (and human) races in turn. These follow no standard format, and the information for each race varies from detailed, to vague, to fairly nonexistent. Sometimes races are described by bits of fiction, sometimes by dry bits of battle history, and sometimes in a more traditional explanatory way. Every now and then an actual game rule is presented (and this will probably be hard to find when I actually need it)The whole thing is rather patchwork and I would guess that, as the 5 editions of the game were written, new parts were simply added in where the author felt they were appropriate, rather than rewriting the whole game.
It’s very hard to comment on this part of the rules as a whole, because of its randomness. There are titbits of humour that made me chuckle (like the description of sand crites, a small bug that crawls up in the Ralnais ass causing itching and diarrhea) and other bits that made me roll my eyes (the Ralnai like to watch old earth Three Stooges tapes (ugh, I hate that type of stuff)), and some bits that made me cringe because of their stupidity (The Dreenoi are pretty cool, being described as an ancient biological weapon, until the author states that they intercepted some religious transitions and now think that the Drenoi are God).
The Ralnai are given several pages describing them physically and mentally, their social habits, sexual reproduction, and emotional states…But, the Orillas (introduced by a bit of fiction that doesn’t really tell us anything about the race itself) are described so briefly that we only know that they are big strong high-gravity guys who have a bit of a Gorilla resemblance. We get a lot of detail on what the Dreenoi are (although they do never tell what color they are…so my green paint job should be fine) and why they function like they do, but all we know about the Ameron are that they are “a group of persecuted religious dissidents”, despite a droning dull two page history lesson about their rebellion. The Nektons are described by a series of stories that tell us more about the Ralnai than the Nektons themselves, and Fabians tell you nothing other than they are humans who have different color and style uniforms than other humans.
Some are described in a more traditional and useful manner, sticking to the things you need and want to know about them. The Eli, for instance, are covered in ½ a page, but it is a clear concise description that tells me a lot more than the section on Amerons, that are described in 2 full pages.
Each Race is followed by a little chart usually called their T.O. (Tactical Organization? Maybe?) or C.O., or something else. It is obviously some type of unit organization chart, but it, and how to use it, are never described anywhere, and I’m still left confused as to its function. I’m guessing it’s a company, with multiple platoons, and then each squad detailed…don’t really know and I wonder if it’ll ever be described for idiots like me.
I could go on, but you get the point.
So at the end of 32 pages I take a look back and think about what I’ve learned:
The good is that I do have a feel of the tone of the Starguard universe. I also have a good feel for some of the races, and at least acknowledgment of the others (although here was so much unimportant information presented, it’s a bit hard to remember the actual important information).
The bad is that I still have no idea how to play the game, how these races organize their forces for battles, or if any of the details mentioned (other than the odd rule here and there) actually have any affect on the game or if they are just provided for fun (for example, the Nautiloids “can move with considerable agility over most types of terrain. They do, however tend to dry out rather rapidly.” ?? is that going to have a game effect or is it just some random fun fact?).
So I’m enjoying the read for the most part. I’m still hoping there is a playable game (that I can figure out) coming up in the following pages, but, if not I’ll just have to start on that Song of Blades & Heroes conversion. One thing is certain to me already; this game NEEDS a 6th edition badly if it wants to be taken seriously by today’s gamers. Old school and retro are cool and have a certain charm, but that only goes so far when you are dealing with a game that is still in production. I would feel much better about eh game if I spent $30 on a dead hard to find game on eBay instead of $30 on a living breathing game that’s had 34 years, and 5 editions, to be rewritten and edited.
Man…things aren’t looking good for Starguard! I’m having trouble making heads or tails out of these rules (or appreciating the ones I do understand). I figured that whatever I didn’t understand wouldn’t be a problem because my friend Steve will certainly understand. Even in the old days Steve was able to interpret and understand games that made my eyes bleed.
So while I’ve been optimistic about the rules to this game, I’ve been fearful the more I read. Then tonight I got this (below) email from Steve. I gave him a call, and we talked about the game for some time. In the end I said, “rather than rewrite Starguard (which is what he suggested) so we can actually play it, read Mutants & Death Ray Guns and/or Song of Blades & Heroes, and see if you rather use those rules to do a conversion (or just play M&DRG)”.
So I’m not sure if we’ll actually be playing Starguard or not. But don’t shed a tear for me. If we play M&DRG I’ll be just as happy. I have no problem with my investment in Dreenoi miniatures because I love them and love painting miniatures, and I’ll use them for M&DRG and for my Traveller RPG games either way.
As far as all the terrain…I love building terrain, and having a mission made it that much more fun. Trust me, even if we don’t give the actual Starguard rules a try, I’ll use this terrain for M&DRG and for several conventions coming up. So, it’s not like the time and effort will go to waste or anything….and don’t stop reading this article, because the table is almost finished, Starguard or not.
“Foolishly, I have read the "rules".
Watching a match for two minutes would tell me more than I could ever learn reading that...that...spotty list of suggestions.
I know that it has fans and forums and whatnot...and I know we could make anything go,...but sheesh...take a page to explain everything and you can still prattle on and explain things poorly and people would have a clear idea instead of half a clue.
The list of things to be ignored to play this game:
1. The Maximum Damage Rule mentioned only on page 34. Apparently it applies to lasers but we have been spared the actual rule.
2. Movement and facing are in essence not covered. (There is a number 4 on page 49 in the MOVMENT section but this precedes a list of abbreviations for all actions including combat.)..they are assumed. Facing is apparently automatic. Notable exception for tracked vehicles only.
3. Jet packs, Grav-sleds, Jet belts and Grav-paks apparently allow complete and total maneuverability despite having and
acceleration/deceleration rate (Grav-sleds are mentioned in the
after-thoughts as having poor braking and steering so one would think turning could be a problem - but not worth mentioning in the rules....).
4. Terrellians are hard to kill. Only they aren't...it takes one
5. Movement apparently has first and second segments. Melee happens between them. Melee also happens anytime. (See Hand To Hand)
6. Covering fire takes place halfway through the movement phase or at the most advantageous point.
7. Troops apparently lie prone without any benefit.
8. There are essentially no line of sight rules except firing blind or
with a sensor - unless it's -15%(small window) or -50% (view slit). (I thought blind fire was -40%)
9. Multi-barrel guns on autofire get a d6 roll for each barrel for
number of hits. (I don't recall seeing any.)
10. All autofire weapons get +10% to hit except lasers which have that factored in?
11. Actual inches moved need to be tracked for combat reasons. Energy needs to be tracked for some things.
12. Each unit seems to get two actions each turn one for movement and one for combat...or two for combat but not melee...or one for movement and something free or one for movement something free and melee?? Or you can just reload. A weapon that takes one turn to reload takes 2 actions while one that takes two turns to reload can reload in three actions (but wait a minute? doesn't that mean they can fire again in the second turn?....)
We can totally play this game.
We just need to write it first.
Either everyone has all these extra rules - and they make more sense - or I just don't have all the right assumptions.
A lot of this is very minor - an index card for a weapon or a vehicle with a couple of actual rules would fix almost everything.
Explosives are [edited by Dave]. Damage value systems in games with one-hit rules are also kind of [edited again].
We will play this game.
It just needs fixing.”
Starguard not dead!
Well, an interesting turn of events! My friend Steve is more like me than I knew. Seems when he gets focused he just keeps going. This is his latest letter:
"I want to try and fix Starguard.
I know you'll think I'm nuts.
The game really pisses me off something fierce.
I understand that my attempts may prove fruitless...but so much of what is wrong is just crap presentation and laziness...
I've already started...so save your breath.
I am trying to straighten out the mess of info and turn it into some recognisable stats. My goal is to keep as much of the game as possible without being forced to interpret or add/correct.
If I do come out the other side of this thing with better playability
I hope that you will be willing to give it a go."
So, I’m not sure that we’ll actually be playing Starguard as much as a homebrew Sci Fi game…or maybe we’ll end up playing Starguard as it is supposed to be played? In any case, we’ll be playing something with those minis. I'm looking at several other rule systems (top suggestions are 5150, but I'm not to sure about that one, and No Limits, which looks really good...but I haven't read them yet).
I've checked out some of those rules systems. Some have things that interest me, some have things (sometimes minor) that turn me off. For example, Stargrunt, which seems to be the second most popular sci fi mini game after 40K always gets props for being "realistic"...which is something I don't really desire in my Sci Fi mini games. I want fast and cinematic). 5150 sounded good at first, but, I certainly don't like the idea of a game that "runs itself", as I like feeling like I'm in control of my victories and failures.
Guess I'm looking for something fairly standard, not a lot of artsy fartsy new ways of doing things, just solid and simple rules...but with style and feel. SoB&H is a great Fantasy Skirmish game (possibly the best out there right now) and a Sci Fi version would be great...but, I would want it to cover technology, weapons, heavy weapons, vehicles, and all that other stuff with a bit more level of detail than SoB&H. I don't want my Sci Fi game to feel the same as my Fantasy game. Core mechanics are fine,, but it should definitely have a different feel when playing it.
The Sci Fi genre is going to give me more room to use "junk" and toys as fodder for terrain. I'm really going to try for an alien feel to the terrain. Most of the pics I see are still on standard earth-like planets. That's part of the reason I'm going to go with a purple base, to try and make everything look "different"...of course, it might just end up hurting your eyes!
Well, I don’t know how it is for other people, but, for me, the first thing I do when I get ready to build terrain is look for free shit I can turn into something.
My wife just purchased a new paper shredder. Can you believe she was going to throw away the packing material without consulting me first! Luckily I saw her hauling this to the recyclables when I yelled, “NOOOOOO!” and rescued it.
Good lord, this was almost too easy! Trim it, base the thing on a piece of cardboard, add a few doors and windows (with an old used USPS envelope), give the whole thing a loving paint job, and instant alien building, outpost, laboratory…or whatever!
Fortunately for me, I picked up the material to build a gaming surface today, so this lonely piece of terrain will soon have a place to sit.
Time has been tight the last couple days, but I got my play surface done, and am happy with how it came out.
I decided to let fate determine how I build the surface. I had a lot of ideas (both tried and true and some new ones) but just went to Fleet Farm browsing. I looked at wood, foam, and about anything that might be good for something.
I was happy to find some sheets of white Styrofoam already cut into 4’ x 14.5” (3/4” thick). Not sure what these are used for, perhaps filling in those plastic window shutters? While Blue or pink Styrofoam is good for a lot of things, I figured white would work better for this because it is more porous. Since I wasn’t going to flock the tiles, I figured this would give the surface a different dimension. ¾” thick is generally a bit thin, but, I was looking to conserve as much space as possible, so these were just the ticket. At $.71 cents a sheet I purchased 8 (4 for the tabletop for a surface area about 4’ x 5’…big enough for my first skirmishes and easily expandable at a later date when my battles get larger). I had a $25 gift card for Fleet Farm…so it was all free.
Whenever I work with Styrofoam (tiles or entire tables) I always put masking tape on the border. Not only does this firm up the whole thing, but, it protects the edges and corners from breaks and chips. It also looks a lot neater and cleaner.
I purchased a pint of latex paint from Wal-mart for the project (about $6). I painted up the tiles, and sprinkled on some sand while the paint was still wet. Let it dry overnight and then gave it another coat of paint. Needless to say, my wife wasn’t real happy about all the purple crap laying all over the living room and kitchen…but she still loves me.
Once the paint was dry I was able to do some drybrushing and splattering with a lighter purple, and then did some spotting with the multi coloured static grass I’m using for all the terrain (to help unify the entire thing). I’d like to seal the whole thing with some spray finish because the surface is going to see a lot of “wear”, but one of the downfalls of white Styrofoam and those pores I told you about, is that even after it is painted, aerosol spray will still get into those pores and melt the thing from the inside out. So, no spray sealer. It’ll probably be fine for many years anyway, I’m just a bit compulsive when it comes to stuff like this, and knowing it’s not sealed will bother me to no end!
[cccrkl] master, we’ve landed on the planet [cccrkl]
[zzzzzzt] GOOD! WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? [zzzzzt]
[ccccrkl] …er……not much! [cccrkl]
Continuing my journey to be a cheap-ass terrain builder, I search through junk I already have around the house and pulled out the last of these Jurassic looking trees I got from a neighbor who was throwing them out. Not sure what they came from, but their cartoony looking features have kept me from using them for much else. A trip to the dollar store yielded these Easter party favor Frisbees (6 to a pack, I picked up 4 packs), and a jar of stones (because all the real stones are under 5 feet of snow hereabouts! Total cost $2.00.
A little bit of Elmer’s glue to affix the trees to the primed base (I also scored the base, so the glue would stick better), some sand, a few pebbles collected from outside earlier in the year (I used to use kitty litter, but we recently switched to an expensive fine-grain clumping kind…because it smells so nice) and we have some trees.
Once again, a loving paint job, some wild colors, and a few odds and ends to finish it off…and we have a forest worthy of an alien planet.
[shhhhck] Um, sir, there is something strange about these trees! [shhhhhhck]
Believe it or not, I'm not being totally random with the colors. A random array of bright colors would not only be too much, but also ugly. You need some base colors, and even some balancing "realism" to pull the thing off. I figure there is something in the soil and water that causes the purple tint. Some of that is absorbed by the plants and such...but the composition of the rocks are pretty much normal. The grey tree bark makes the trees look like they could be possible, and not just weird.
I don’t want to be bright and wild just to be bright and wild, I’m actually trying to create something that looks goofy…but looks like it might actually exist on an alien world.
...at least that's what I'm trying to do.
So….I had this vision in my mind of this really cool looking totally alien plant, a giant bird eating plant that attracts it’s prey through a mixture of color, scent, and mild hypnotic sonic waves. Of course, the plant eats birds on the purple planet because they are abundant…however, it isn’t above a tender morsel of something else every now and then.
Cool huh? Well, building terrain is always trial and error. I’m not sure if I’m in love with how this turned out, and not sure if it’ll have a place on my table. But we’ll see how it looks when everything else is in place.
This one was build out of modelling magic, a foamy sculpting substance mainly for kids. I love the stuff for terrain. It’s easy to work with and super light. At about $2.50 a package, it’s pretty cheap too. The flower and leaf bits come from some plastic flowers I picked up at Joann’s on sale ($1.49 for this one). A few toothpicks finish it off.
[kzzzzk]…blblblblb…master, it’s sooooo beutifull..blblblblblb….[kzzzzzk]
[zzt] WAIT, DID YOU SAY RED WITH YELLOW SPOTS? GET AWAY FROM IT NOW!!! [zzt]
[kzzzzk]…blblblblb…but why master, it’s so YEEEEEEEEGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!--------------------------[kzzzzzzt]
One of the things I knew I needed was some “broken” terrain. When I saw these glass shards in the craft store I got an idea for some REALLY broken terrain. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by creating some difficult ground, and some obstacles/cover.
Using some more of those Frisbee bases, and one I made from some pieces of plastic I found (taped and glued together), some more of that Modelling Magic, and that bag of glass (one of the more expensive things I purchased for the terrain at $3.50…on sale), I quickly put the terrain together.
Once again, a loving coat of paint and I quickly had more terrain to add to the table. The blue glass is really an interesting contrast to the rest of the table and makes the piece seem a bit odd…something that makes it look more alien IMHO. (For the record, the humans in the picture below aren’t Starguard, they are EM4 plastics I used to experiment with “the dip”).
As the Dreenoi advanced on our base they had no idea that we had taken up a defensive position behind the reflec crystals of the purple planet. When we sprung our ambush the stupid bugs were more than eager to return fire. Unfortunately for them they had never seen reflec crystals before, and several of their laser shots reflected right back at them, doubling the death toll.
Here is another quick and cheap piece of terrain. While at the dollar store I saw a bunch of these cemetery vases (for putting plastic flowers in and then sticking them next to gravestones). But I thought it looked like something more majestic, and decided to make it into a war monument.
I simply cut some nicks and cracks into it and pasted on a cardboard sign I cut out of a frozen wonton box. I mixed a bit of sand in with my paint, and then did some quick drybrushing,,,and tadah! $1 terrain.
“blblblblbl Zeke, you’re the one with the huge cranium…what does it say?”
“blblblblblb…I think it’s a monument to the Dreenoi! It says ‘To all who died at the hands of the Dreenoi during the invasion’”
Yes, I know it’s dull…but it had to be done. I had to build some foliage and plants, on various sized bases, to decorate the battlefield and make it feel more alive. Most of this stuff will block line of site and provide light cover when you are actually “inside” the terrain feature.
I wanted an alien look, but I wanted to avoid aquarium plants so it wouldn’t look like, well, an aquarium. I purchased a bunch of plastic plants from the craft store (they were 30% off, but I still spent about $15, one of the most expensive steps so far…for the least dramatic results). I assembled them using the same techniques I have for everything else…and wouldn’t you know it…they STILL look kind of like aquarium plants!
Another thing I added to the mix is these Moss Rocks I found while looking at the plastic flowers. They just looked cool (as-is) to me and are instant terrain that looks alien and fit in with the terrain you normally see on the table top (they are covered in static grass). They are normally about $10, but on sale for $7. So, at a little over $20 this was a pretty “expensive” step considering most of the stuff I do costs next to nothing…but it was necessary, and certainly isn’t ugly (IMHO).
They are really light, I'm guessing Paper Mache (or however you spell it) would work best. Maybe some small balloons, and then pop them right before the paper dries and sort of punch in some areas to make it look like rocks. (just my opinion)
I found another piece of that packing material that I made my first building with at work the other day. It’s smaller and less dramatic, but, I painted it up the same way and it makes a nice little troop barracks.
Next I build the kind of terrain I like the best…that which I make out free stuff I find in the garbage. What does some Styrofoam cups, a few water bottle caps (yeah, we mark out water bottle caps so we can reuse them…wait till my wife finds out hers are gone), some straws, some plastic ties, the top of an empty wine bottle, and a couple nuts and washers have in common?
Answer: Glue them all together and you have a moisture vapourator and water purifier for your base!
[click] …Yeah, Brack, I’ve been on patrol all day …no, I’m not sleeping, I’m as alert as can be …hell now there are no Dreenoi around …yeah, another fricking bughunt from the commander, what an idiot! ...yeah, see you at the mess…out…[click]
Well, OK, I’ve got the last bits of terrain for the initial table…the hills! Normally these types of hills look a little cheesy…but for my alien world they look just right. I made some of them 4 tier because they look even more “alien” that way.
I like how they came out. I used the standard technique; cutting them out with a Styrofoam cutter, gluing them together, and painting them (paint with sand mixed in. A little drybrushing and some static grass finished up the look.
So….the table is ready! Exactly two weeks after I decided to build an alien world for a Starguard game, I’m finished! Ta da!
The table looks spectacular in person, but, the picture doesn’t really do it justice.
Needless to say it can always use more and different terrain, but, this is more than enough to stage a first battle (no matter what system we end up using).
This was certainly a lot of fun to build and I thank everyone for reading along, offering motivating praise and useful advice and opinions.
Matakishi's Tea House: Making terrain, painting miniatures, playing games, having fun. All content ©2017 PRD Ward