Kelv's Random Collection

A random collection of my contributions to the world.

Poker Chips for Board Gaming

Posted by kelvSYC on 1-15-2018

I’ve been wondering if I could replace my stacks and stacks of Monopoly money with poker chips.  Now, there are some games that are probably better off with poker chips than paper money – but despite their ubiquity, custom poker chips of reasonable quality in custom quantities (not reasonable multiples of 25, say) are expensive.  Most of that is probably because of the fact that poker chips vary in composition of quality and intended use: a poker chip set for a general home casino probably has different needs compared to board gaming.  I’ve been persuaded by many a poker chip customizer to not really pursue, for example, ceramic poker chips for board gaming, because the specific demands of ceramic poker chips are likely excessive for board gaming purposes.  (To be specific, ceramic chips are at the “casino ideal” weight of 10 grams, and have the greatest amount of customization available, but can cost up to $1.50 a chip.)

It’s hard to really say what is the perfect weight for a poker chip suitable for board gaming really is.  Mass market poker chip manufacturers basically consist of a “clay composite” that may contain a metal slug at its core, included for the sole purpose of making it heavier. (Some allege it’s for structural integrity as well, since production quality may vary and the composition of the “clay composite” is unknown.) Because of this, the common chip can be anywhere between 11.5 grams to 14 grams. On the flip side, they are cheap: Amazon lists a pack of 100 blank 11.5 gram chips suitable for stickering for $10.  Buyers are generally advised to go for “feel” rather than precision: a gram is not a lot of weight, and there can be lots of variances simply because home use cares less about it.  (In contrast, when a casino uses 10 gram chips, every single chip is precisely 10 grams.  With “feel”, a set only needs to feel like 10 grams, even if every single chip weights more.)

One of the few board games for which purpose-built poker chips are being designed for is the new edition of Brass (shout out to Roxley Games, who hail from my hometown), which uses 14 gram chips for which the iron slug is a distinct feature, to reflect the industrial revolution theme.  Having said that, Brass itself comes with very few chips, and the chips can be bought separately in larger quantities. (As a Kickstarter backer of Brass, I have committed enough funds to get, as a reward, enough chips to make a 400 chip set. That was not a cheap Kickstarter commitment, though.)

If you do need the 10 gram precision, however, GameKnight sells its GemChips line of ceramic chips, in pre-built and custom quantities.  These are non-denominational ceramic chips, and so while “casino quality” (but without the necessary precision), they are also expensive (again, loose chips are $1 a chip, compared to a blank 11.5 or 14 gram “composite” chip that you can get for 50 cents a chip or so.).  GameKnight, from time to time, will put up Kickstarter campaigns to fund additional production runs of ceramic chips, possibly with different designs.  The savings are small but significant (about 90 cents per chip as of the last campaign), but the general Kickstarter “backer beware” warning applies (there is also the fact that these are one-offs).

If standard 40mm poker chips are too large, some places do offer 7g 22mm chips (which are thicker than regular poker chips by a few mm) that can be stickered with half-inch circular labels.  At roughly 12 cents a chip (based on $3 for a roll of 25 chips), they are affordable, but because of the fact that they are smaller, there are no widely-used storage solutions for them. There is an enterprising Etsy seller who offers customized 3D printed storage solutions for these smaller chips, though given that the size and weight of smaller chips are not standardized (as opposed to regular 40mm chips), your mileage may vary.

These should not be confused with interlocking “mini poker chips”, which are the same size but thinner (and only weigh 2g), which is basically the chips that come with Axis & Allies for unit quantity, or the generic tokens used in an LCR set.

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Quick Guide Update

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-28-2017

Merry belated Christmas, everyone.  Apparently, there was a lump of coal in the stocking, because of me experimenting with a new PDF publisher.  The publisher didn’t actually include any of the soft-linked images (most images are soft-linked so that I don’t bloat my word processing file), so I had to republish the Guide using then older, proven PDF publisher that retains the images but lacks modern conveniences (like a PDF table of contents).  This is because the publisher is meant for print and not electronic consumption.

In any event, if you didn’t get the images, you should redownload the Guide (the link should still be the same).

More on the behind the scenes stuff after the break.

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Catan Scenario and Variant Guide 2017-1

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-22-2017

It’s been six years since the last version of the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide has been released to the general public, and it’s time to push it out to the world.  You can get it by following the links on the official home page of the Guide.

At 465 pages, it is over 50% longer than the previous version, and it contains six years of updates, including the recently-released Legend of the Sea Robbers scenario combination rules posted on the Catan website.

It’s been a long time since I started working on the project, and it has finally reached its end. A project that started from a failed Kickstarter campaign that I had backed (long story for another time) has had its resolution.  In my personal journey, I had gone through two jobs, a significant number of personal and professional connections, and a beta testing process that, in retrospect, didn’t receive the feedback that I had been hoping for.

As for the future? 2018-1 is the tentative title for the next revision, but don’t be surprised if it takes me another six years to compile everything…

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 14

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-18-2017

With the release of the Legend of the Sea Robbers update, which adds “Catan for Two”, Cities & Knights, and the ill-advised name “Spices for Catan” (it’s also the name of an Explorers & Pirates scenario) for the standalone variant, I basically have everything needed to complete 2017-1, unless Catan Studios decides to throw another curveball and releases Hawaii before I finish the Guide.  I’m hopefully set to give you all a nice Christmas treat (thank goodness for a short work week), so consider it advance notice for a Christmas present in your stocking, if you are a fan.

More on what this means in the Guide after the break.

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Diary: My Obsession with the 1483 Series

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-9-2017

For this week’s update, I’m going to peel back my collection, and show you what is arguably the worst game that I have, and why I continue to have it and even try to enhance it.

During the craze of cashing in on the popularity of Axis & Allies, the Michigan-based company Guild of Blades Publishing Group had published a series of games that used mechanics similar to that of Axis & Allies, but tried to also change it thematically to suit different historical eras and added complexity for the sake of realism. One of their games, which I had found in an FLGS early into my days collecting board games, is Europe 1483, the first game in the 1483 series.

So why is the game that bad? The premise of the 1483 series is that it is a “massively multiplayer board game”, with support for at least 16 players for Europe 1483 alone and almost 100 players with the full set of expansions (which covered the whole world – fortunately, no single release of the 1483 series actually had whole world support).  Aside from the fact that it’s difficult to gather that many players, the micromanagement aspects (each player had to manage its diplomatic relations with other players, and a sizable contingent of neutral nations), and the hyper-locality of gameplay (players had to take turns one nation at a time, even if players located on opposite sides of the game board, with no realistic expectations of interacting with each other, could take their turns simultaneously) made the game a long slog. This is in addition to the heavy defender’s advantage in combat (make more notable in that the Guild of Blades combat system, unlike Axis & Allies, uses ten-sided dice) and the fact that there are no real clear objectives beyond a loose “benchmarking system” (which disincentivizes the major world powers of the time in favor of medium-sized nations where the benchmarks were a more challenging but more realizable objectives) makes it that bad of a game.

More on that game after the break.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 13

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-3-2017

The final version of 2017-1 is coming along OK.  For those of you who are in the beta program, the final version is adding in most of the Stobie variants under various sections, and I’ve tried to make it so that the building cost references not break across pages.  I’ve also reduced the sizes of some Catan Geographies maps, but still, my draft is still five pages longer than the public beta.

Part of what makes the inclusion of Stobie’s content, which was all featured on the old University of Catan website, is that it’s not a coherent scenario or variant, and, because it was on the old University of Catan website, is really old (as in, almost 20 years old – likely predating C&K). It had a few interesting ideas (hex drafting), but a few real stinkers (equal probability number tokens, 20-point 3-player games, etc.). Another one of the things that I had to overcome was the nonstandard terminology (can you guess what “pick-a-card” or “unexposed army” was?), and the fact that some of their options were mutually exclusive.

I’m hoping that I will be able to release 2017-1 final within 3 weeks (ie. In time for Christmas), but I’m not willing to commit to a “drop dead date” at this point.  Still, for those of you not in the beta program (still open to signups), you just might need to wait a bit more.

Additional development notes after the break.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 12

Posted by kelvSYC on 11-23-2017

It’s the Thanksgiving long weekend in America (well it is a five-day weekend for me anyways), and so I’ve decided to put some time into making the final version of 2017-1.  I haven’t had a lot of feedback with regards to the first beta version – either because 450 pages is a lot to chew through, or (more cynically) people are more into the fact that there is any kind of a new release.

I’ve also noticed that the English language community is more averse to officially-provided material, and seemingly more content with 1) house rules, 2) homemade boards (almost to the point of intellectual property infringement – Catan Studios generally allow the creation of one homemade set for personal use only if you already own a copy, and people do share photos of their homemade creations all the time – however, there are people who try to sell their work, which Catan Studios is known to aggressively pursue), 3) rule interpretations, and 4) strategy discussions on the base game (and maybe C&K). This is often in sharp contrast to the hearsay that I get from, say, siedeln.de, which is more scenario-focused.  (Again, not being a German speaker, and the siedeln.de community being notoriously hostile to non-German speakers, I don’t know if this is actually true.)

All in all, aside from probably a very dedicated group, there is much less of an incentive to keep the Guide current compared to six years ago, when I had stopped all work on R14.  (Part of the reason why I stopped work then was that I didn’t actually have access to my board game collection.) Call it apathy, but it does seem that the final version of 2017-1 could be the last version for the foreseeable future.  (I can’t even bring up the Live project that was announced on this very blog – I’m just not that interested in it anymore.)

Still, if you are interested in proofreading and copyediting the Guide, the door is still open, and will be for another bit.  Please give me your email contact in the comments section below, and you can enroll in the beta program.

As usual, more development notes after the break.

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Diary: Guide to Miscellany – Update 1

Posted by kelvSYC on 11-4-2017

Now that the Scenario and Variant Guide is in a place where I can take a step back, it’s probably a good time to get some work done on updating that other Guide I keep around on my blog.  Yes, a new revision to the Catan Card Game and Rivals for Catan Guide to Miscellany is under development.  It’s going to be completely rewritten from the ground up, and it will probably be more than 50% longer than the one before it – and that’s because I’m probably going to, for the first time, include an actual rules summary.

If you’re here for the Scenario and Variant Guide updates, you can still sign up to become a proofreader (head to that blog post for more), but right now I don’t have anything to add on that front as I await feedback before releasing a second beta.

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Catan Scenario and Variant Guide 2017-1 Beta 1

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-29-2017

It’s been six years since the last version of the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide, but now the next version is now in beta testing.  Beta testing is on an invite-only basis, as I’ve been mentioning in the updates.

At this time, I’m still not ready to make a general release of 2017-1.  As a beta tester, you would be responsible for proofreading and trying to find errors or other things that are not mentioned in the rules.  The release of the final version will be contingent on the feedback that I have received and the amount of changes considered necessary.

As usual, the beta version of the Guide is available on the Guide’s own page; however, the PDF file is encrypted, and beta testers should have the keys needed to open and read the file.  If you are a beta tester, and you do not have a key, please reply to this post, and I will try to get the keys to you as soon as I can.

Beta versions are provided on an as-is basis, and is provided under a do-not-distribute provision.  (The final version will not be an encrypted file.). I do reserve the right to take down beta versions of the Guide, either because of unauthorized distribution or (more likely) because the final version will be ready for release.

Beta tester signups are still open – simply send me an email, and if you are approved, you will get the keys as stated above.

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Diary: Scenario Guide – Update 11

Posted by kelvSYC on 10-28-2017

Now that the English version of Legend of the Sea Robbers is in my hands, it honestly didn’t take too long to add the four scenarios to the Guide.  I’m probably going to release a beta fairly soon – the only real missing portion that I have to add is a section on the base game chapter about 7-point no development card games.  (Also, there is probably a few Bonus Section stuff I have to fix, but since I only offer Bonus Section rules as-is, it’s not a high priority)

I’m hoping that I can release the Guide before the English version of Catan Scenarios: Hawaii is released (the first Catan Geographies line scenario to require Seafarers!).  Partly because it’s an Essen release which would delay the 2017-1 version to 2018, and partly because it’s likely going to be a bit of work (like Rickshaw Run, it has full components).

The development of the Guide is definitely in its home stretch at this point.  If you want to be a beta tester, then don’t forget to sign up.  I’ve had a few people expressing interest at this point, but so far all of these are from people I’ve encountered in my personal life.

And don’t forget, after the break there are some fun tidbits!

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