Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cultists of R'lyeh pt.7 - the Game Pieces, Portals, et Fini

Before we get to the game pieces, like the houses and roads, we have one more board piece to look at. Though not exactly a terrain tile, the island of Catan is surrounded by various ports where one can trade commodities. Likewise, the island of R'lyeh is surrounded by portals where one can transform one commodity into another.

The portals were a challenge in that there are a lot of them, all with the same design, which in my mind instantly said silicone mold and casting resin. I designed the portal to look like a stone ring surrounded by symbols, kind of reminiscent of a Stargate. I sculpted the original out of Sculpey. I rolled a large piece of Sculpey into a long snake, connected the ends into a ring and then flattened the top of the ring with a rolling pin. Then I sliced the flattened ring with a razor blade to make it look like there were a number of carved stones laid out in a circle. I used a screw driver and a bamboo skewer as tools to carve glyphs into the tops of each segment. I made a few random gouges in the clay with a razor to make the stones look cracked and worn. After it was baked, I mounted it to a piece of hardboard and sealed it with spray paint.
Then I used silicon RTV rubber to make a mold of the original. The first casting I made was a solid piece of urethane resin plastic. Once I saw how much resin it took, I started to panic. I had to cast nine of these things, and because they were pretty big (about six inches across) they took a lot of resin. Fortunately, I am a cheap bastard, and I know a lot of tricks to make resin stretch. First, I used a lot of filler. Normally I use powdered talc as a filler. This does weaken the plastic somewhat, but these were not load bearing pieces. Another cost saving measure is to do a slush cast. This builds up the piece in layers and makes the final piece hollow. It took about five or six times longer to finish these pieces than it would have, but I did save a lot of resin by adding a little resin at a time, brushing it around to coat the mold surface, waiting for it to dry, then repeating until I had a sufficient thickness built up to demold the piece. The last cost saving measure I took was to add play sand as an additional filler material on the inner slush castings (but not the initial coat, or it would have shown on the surface of the finished piece). This added a lot of bulk to each coat of resin. The biggest down sides to doing a slush casting, was the amount of extra time it took, and the final piece had no underside (it was a one piece mold) so there was no surface to apply the glue for fastening it down to the wooden base. I had to add a strong glue in a heavy bead along the inside bottom edge of the casting with the expectation that the glue would sag downward and touch the wooden base.
The wooden bases were cut on a band saw from the same MDF as the terrain tiles. I made them a different shape and slightly smaller, to differentiate them. Before gluing the resin rings down to the wooden bases, I painted the base where the inside of the ring would be. Each color represented a different commodity that could be traded at that portal, with white being a generic portal where all commodities could be traded. The colors corresponded with the colors of the terrain tiles.
Each portal was primed with black spray paint, sponge stippled, and dry brushed with grey acrylic paint. The stones were given a florescent red inlay in their glyphs. I was pretty rushed by the time I got to the portals, so my standard of quality began slipping. I only had a day or two left to finish the project. And I still had player pieces and game cards to make.

 The player pieces were problematic on a number of fronts. Again, I had to make a lot of them fairly quickly, so they had to be simple and cheap. I went through several design ideas before settling on one that would fit all my needs as well as my budgetary and time constraints. I had it in my head that I wanted to use the little plastic Cthulhu idols in the "Bag of Cthulhu" that I love so much. But scale was a concern. I needed to somehow make the small ones bigger, or the big ones smaller. I decided to put the smaller ones on a pedestal made from sliced pvc pipe to create "shrines" that would serve to replace the cities of Catan. I Also used pvc pipe slices to make the "altars" that would be analogous to the settlements in Catan.
Since pvc pipe is hollow, I needed to make it have a solid flat surface, so I poured a little plastic resin into each of the slices. I made sure to do this on a piece of hardboard covered with vinyl contact paper, as vinyl seems to be the one thing plastic resin won't stick to. Once dry, I just flipped them over, trimmed off any flash, and had a nice neat little altar top, ready for paint.
For the bases of the plastic Cthulhus I used a slightly smaller diameter pvc pipe and made thinner slices.
 Then I glued the small plastic idols on top of their bases, and they too were ready for paint.
For simplicity and time concerns, I used straight cut slices of MDF to serve as roads (or rather "tunnels" in my game variant vernacular").

Painting the pieces was also problematic. The raw MDF wanted to soak up the paint like a sponge. It was hard to get a finish that didn't look like spray painted MDF. If I had more time, I could have employed some sort of sealer, I suppose. The color scheme was a challenge as well. I needed to use colors that differed from those of the color coded terrain tiles. I had already used most of the useful primary colors for those, so I decided to go with metallic colors for the game pieces. Only one problem. There are four player sets and only three easily differentiated metallic colors- silver, gold and copper. For the third one, I chose a metallic cobalt blue (largely because I hadn't used blue yet, and I happened to have some metallic blue spray paint). Even still, since the player pieces didn't have any florescence to them, it would be hard to see them in the odd lighting of our game room. The gold and the copper ended up looking too much alike, so I had to change to a darker color of copper. I also added some verdigris patina to the edges of the copper to further differentiate it. The blue was rather dark, and I was afraid it would be lost entirely in the predominantly red lighting of our room, so I dry brushed the blue pieces with a little white, which would glow purple in the black lights.

I got the pieces to be easily differentiated from one another in normal lighting, though I didn't like the way they looked. They were blocky and poorly painted, at least compared to the terrain tiles. Once I got them into the red and UV lighting of the Rogue Cthulhu game room, they were a complete mess. They were hard to see, and difficult to tell apart. I had to put up a small white light above the game board just to make it playable. I didn't even take any final pics of the completed pieces, as they frankly didn't look worth the time to photograph. The pic above of them on the painting table is pretty much how they look, at least the gold ones. Clearly, the game pieces need to be overhauled before next year.

So, since you have all been so patient following along on this rather lengthy build, I decided to put the final wrap-up pics here instead of making them another post. Here are the game terrain tiles, sans portals, all laid out on the floor.
And here they are with portals. The portals are not properly arranged in these pics, as I was in a hurry, and didn't really know how to arrange them yet (I had only played the game twice by this point and in Catan, the ports are pre-fixed in position and do not need to be placed).
And here are a few pics of the game being played for the first time at Origins 2013.

 Thanks for following along. This was a fun and ambitious build for me. More than once I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I'm glad that I pushed myself to finish it. It was a very rewarding experience and I am very proud of the final product.

See also:
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.1- the Desolate Waste
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.2- the Pits of Despair
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.3- the Ravenous Cavern
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.4- the Cyclopean Ruins
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.5- the Sanguine Gorge
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.6- the Mountains of Madness
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.7- the Game Pieces, Portals, et Fini
Cultists of R'lyeh - After four years of wear and tear

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