Boardly Go… and Take Up Less Space

The Final Frontier.

Table Space.
The Priceless Frontier.

File this under the more moderately helpful ideas. For me it works great as it makes the footprint of Star Trek: Frontiers a bit less and gives me a good spot to hold the Dummy AI player’s deck.

The provided tracker board is a bit large...
The provided tracker board is a bit large…

Seemed to me the Experience and Reputation board was just a little oversized for its function. Especially for solo play. Plus the OCD in me didn’t care for the inconsistent sizes of the spaces of the Experience track and the downright odd shape of the reputation track.

At first I designed this so each spot was the perfect size for the faction tokens. But in the end that reduced the board only about 2 inches in height and only slightly in width. Not a worthwhile reduction.

So I scrapped the idea.

For about four hours.

Then after a quick slingshot around the sun (no whales were harmed in the making of this sideboard), I revisited the project. Why did it need to host the faction tokens as markers? Especially for solo. So with a few quick calculations and a Photoshop resize step later, voila! A more compact 8×5″ (ish) side board that is the perfect size for using a cube on each track. Of added convenience is that this printed on a 1/2 sheet mailing label and thus I didn’t need to go outside to use spray adhesive to stick it to a mounting board. Colored the edges with a blue dry erase marker and all ready to go.

New smaller board leaves much more room on the table.
Cubes can be used in lieu of the faction markers.

Again, your mileage may vary if the board is right for you. Should work fine with multiplayer as well with cubes of different colors.


We’ve Got to Have Some Storage on the New Frontier

Getting it all in the box…

Been too long since I played the excellent Star Trek: Frontiers and not at all since acquiring the Star Trek: Frontiers – The Return of Khan expansion.

Read my Review of Star Trek: Frontiers

But as I was getting it all set up and incorporating the Khan expansion updates and upgrades, I realized better organization was in order. It’s also been too long since I had #FunWithFoamCore, so set off to building a replacement insert. While the plastic trays are nice enough, you cannot combine the components and as usual, they take up more space than necessary. Would love to see how many straws we could recover from the amount of plastic in these oversized organizers.

Continue reading “We’ve Got to Have Some Storage on the New Frontier”

Make Room for Undertow!

With the Kickstarter for Too Many Bones: Undertow well funded and well into the stretch goal pool, it was time to become serious about storage space for my existing Too Many Bones and expansions.

As you may have seen, I’ve already solved the space issue with each Gearloc’s dice set (Too Many Bones. Too Little Space.) — now for sale on the BGG Marketplace! (shameless plug). But I also wanted to find a way to not only store the TMB materials, but fit the Undertow components as well. To that end I decided to (gasp!) chunk the trays designed by Chip Theory Games and create my own insert to hold it all (hopefully!)

First step in any insert is of course the base or floor. You CAN just do walls and use the box bottom itself, but that results in a flimsy construction. Sure you lose 5mm of height in the box, but the stability it worth the price. The box is square at 358mm, so I cut the floor from a single piece of foam core (black looks better than white). Another tip is to always measure in millimeters. It’s easier to be more accurate and you don’t have to worry about fractions of inches. This left about 81mm of clearance to the top of the box bottom, so I cut four strips at 81x358mm and assembled the walls (two of which would need to be trimmed another 10mm or so where they butt up to the two other walls). I secure these with white glue and dressmaker’s pins (SHARP!). Some like to remove them when the glue sets, but I always leave them in. They are cheap enough to buy and they act like rebar to help the structural integrity.

Dry fit into the box just to check…

After a dry fit in the box, it was time to start divvying up the space. Largest need of course would be the area to hold the battle mat, Gearloc mats, reference sheets, and rulebook. I laid these down in the new box and marked when walls should go to define that space. With the foam core eating up 5mm each wall, I had to get as close as I could to leave space in the other areas.

As I would no longer be using the trays to hold Gearloc dice, I repurposed two of those to hold the other dice in the game. I put the Attack and Defense dice in one and the rest in the other. Since the lids for those double as dice holders as well, I could still put Gearloc dice in the lids during gameplay. However, the remaining areas were not going to be large enough to hold those, so they would need to sit atop the stack of mats and reference cards in the main section.

My dice boxes easily fit into the area to the right of the main section. In fact, I can easily fit 14(!) of them in that section. With Undertow bringing the count to 10, there is still room for either four more or other materials.

The four section solution.

I subdivided the back section into a small compartment to hold cards and a longer section for all the chips. Unfortunately that idea did not pan out. After creating a bottom layer for extra chips, the plan was a removable top layer to hold six stacks of chips. That layer would double as an on-table chip tray. But after getting the first layer completely built and installed (without glue at least), it became evident a second layer of chips would not fit heightwise!

So another solution would need to be found. So I slept on it. And then I brought a knife to a foam fight!

I determined how much space I would need for a single layer of chips to span the whole box (eight stacks) and the cut down the back section to accommodate it. This left me a 30mm bottom layer (just perfect to still hold all the cards). Now I just had to construct the chip holders (again).

I’d originally planned to make two four-stack chip trays from foamcore that would nestle into the open slot. However, I decided that it might work better to use 2mm chipboard and give me a little more space. Also these might prove a little more sturdy if folded vs. pinned and glued since the chips are so weighty. So I designed and cut a template (purple below) and traced to chipboard which I cut by hand. I scored the fold lines and started to assemble. After the first was complete I realized that they would work better as four two-stack holders as the weight distributed better. Also the chipboard doesn’t fold “neatly” even when scored, so the non-scored side frays just a bit. For the chip areas it was on the backside, so no biggie but for the wall between the two trays it got a bit ugly. So I cut the template in two and made two separate trays and surgically separated the first one. For each I made a sturdy cardstock divider to separate the two rows as well.

The end result was four trays that sit in the back section and hold about 25 chips in each, giving a total capacity of 200 chips. These can be lifted out and used on the table as needed.

So now to bring it all together. I added a “lifter” into the bottom of the main section to help, well, lift the items out of the depths and make them easier to grab. This was simply a piece of vinyl-leather material I glued down to the bottom (just on about the last three inches or so). The mats, etc. sit on top of this and then by pulling on the lifter, it raises them up slightly.

As I mentioned the Gearloc dice boxes fit into the right section, the cards in the back and the four chip trays on top of that.

But there was one thing left. The base game comes with clear cover to sit across the bottom tray. This sports the CTG name and has a finger hole for easy lifting. I decided to take that cover and trim it down so it would fit atop the books etc. in my main section. Now it can provide an extra layer of protection for the mats with the clear dice trays sitting on top of them.

TMB + Three expansions with room for more!

In all I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. The chipboard might have been able to be a little thinner, but it would not have given me an extra row of chips, so it is what it is. I have some extra space in the chip trays, but may still have to get creative when Undertow is released. The Tyrant, Gearloc, and Lane chips could easily be stored in separate bags under the chips or in the Gearloc section. This would leave room for the new baddie chips to come. There should be plenty of room for the three new mats, though I suppose I won’t be able to fit 14 there should the need arise. But for now with the known coming content, I think this offers a workable solution to keep everything in a single box. I hate tossing the nice trays from CTG, but that’s how the bone breaks, I suppose.

BONUS! The foam from the base game that contained the dice trays can be reused to cut stoppers for the chip trays (to keep them from sliding around).

Too Many Bones. Too Little Space.

Gearloc Box Template: HERE

First off let me be clear, the packaging of Too Many Bones is pretty darn good. Chip Theory Games has produced a perfect blend of function and storage that should be the role model to all game publishers (well, maybe not Academy Games, Inc., they do a great job too).

Each Gearloc (the characters in the game), comes with a tray to hold their 21 dice. The clear plastic trays not only store the dice in the box, but they go straight to the table to keep the dice organized before players add them to the character mat for in-game use. The lids for the trays double as additional table trays as well. It’s a very ingenious design.


There are currently seven characters available with three more coming in the Too Many Bones: Undertow “standalone” expansion. Even with doubling up characters two to a tray (and removing the initiative dice to a separate container), five of those trays will be hard to combine into the main game box (along with all the other chips, mats, and player cards).

So to reduce the amount of storage required in the box (and make room for expansion content), I created these “Gearloc Dice Boxes” to hold each character separate. Each box is designed to easily hold a character’s 21 dice in three rows of seven and includes a snug lid. They take up less than half the space of current trays and are suitable to go straight from the box to the table. I still plan to keep the provided dice storage trays for on-table use, but with more content on the way, making more room in the box can never hurt.

I chose to cut mine on color coordinated cardstock (with black divider inserts), but also made labels with each character’s name, image, and a matching color ring in case you want to use basic white. The files are available here:

Gearloc Box Template: HERE

Each box template prints on a single sheet of cardstock. Cut the solid lines, score the dotted lines. You get three divider sections from a single sheet, so a little paper savings there. I use the same techniques I’ve used for creating other boxes, so this video  will help if you cannot figure out the basic assembly.

Make no bones about it, these boxes are superior to the TMB ones in only one way — they take less space. The included ones are excellent and if you have no issues with storing the game, then by all means, you should keep on as is. However, if you’re looking for a way to fit more in less space, I hope you like this solution.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and other Persons

A little over a year ago I released my “Hostage Cards” unofficial expansion for Hostage Negotiator by Van Ryder Games. It was met with more enthusiasm than I anticipated (thank you!). This deck of 27 characters gave a little more depth to the yellow meeples of that game and many felt increased the tension (some said too much!).

If you’ve not heard me harp on these before, you can read all about them and download the print and play PDF versions yourself if you like.

Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

With the current Kickstarter campaign for the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion underway (LINK:, it occurred to me that these cards could as well be used for other games. With the limited direct ties to Hostage Negotiator, I decided to sever that connection and make the cards a little more versatile and work with not only HN, but also for Flash Point: Fire Rescue and perhaps other games that use a hidden “victim” component.

So from this point forward “Hostage Cards” are now “Persons in Peril”

Obviously fire rescue isn’t about hostages, nor are they “victims” if they are actually rescued, so “Persons in Peril” seemed like an appropriate fit. This deck includes the original 27 character cards as well as five “False Alarm” objects and two straight-from-casting-central cute animals (a dog and a cat). There are also 20 “blank” character cards for you to make your own persons in peril should you so desire. The entire 54 card deck features an all new back image as well.

The 54-card version is now available on The Gamecrafter (LINK: As promised the original “Hostage Cards” will remain free PnP for those who only want it for Hostage Negotiator.

A reduced price 36-card version (same as the 54 but with 18 fewer of the blank cards — there are only two) will be available in the next week or so. UPDATE: They’re ready……

I’m in a Mechs-ican Rodeo

a ones upon a game review


Pre-Play Thoughts

Not sure I’d ever heard anything about this one before I played it. There certainly was no hype at all surrounding Mechs vs. Minions.

The box is a beast. It could literally be the foundation of your gaming collection.  Or your house.

Seriously, I normally avoid hype because that usually follows garbage that appeals to the masses and isn’t truly satisfying to play (out of kindness I won’t name games here). I’d never heard of League of Legends (and still know very little about it), however I looked up some solo feedback on MvM. In spite of it’s quasi-fantasy theme, it was about technology instead of magic, so it was in my wheelhouse and I grabbed a (gently and barely used) copy before the second wave.

Review Spoiler Alert: The hype was right in this case!

Continue reading “I’m in a Mechs-ican Rodeo”

Come on and Just Roll Through It, Baby

a ones upon a game review
Pre-Play Thoughts

I had only played Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization itself a time or two on and had learned about this smaller dice game from the other solo gamers. I downloaded the iOS implementation and attempted it a couple of times but was a bit lost on what it is I was supposed to be doing (sadly, the iOS port seems to be gone from the AppStore now). Usually playing the game physically makes things clearer so I was willing to give the real version a try.

Continue reading “Come on and Just Roll Through It, Baby”

Nothing Compares 2U

Pre-Play Thoughts:
I have the luxury of having barely any knowledge of the other game on which Star Trek: Frontiers is based. The fantasy theme was a barrier to entry for me as with few exceptions do I find that to be appealing in the least. I enjoy a medieval setting, just not the baggage of magic that usually comes with it. I had heard that the system was quite good and very popular, especially among solo gamers… So when I learned they were releasing this “theme upgraded” version in a science-fiction setting, I was very interested. So as the title of this review suggests, it will be with minimal comparison to “that other game”.

My initial component gripe was the ubiquitous still images from the Star Trek television and movie franchises.

Continue reading “Nothing Compares 2U”

Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

Hostage Negotiator from Van Ryder Games has been a very entertaining and popular solitaire game (as seen in the last several months of Top 10 tracking). However, to me, one thing seems missing. Hostages. We have meeples for the hostages, but the game never told you just who those hostages were. We know who the Abductors are. We know who the Negotiators are. Why not a little back story on the men and women behind the meeples.

This is a project I’ve been planning for several months and finally was inspired to get it done over the last several nights. So to that end, I present the “Hostage Cards” print and play expansion for Hostage Negotiator.

This Hostage Cards (unofficial) expansion is designed to add a little bit more realism to the game, by putting names, faces, and backstory to those you rescue — or lose — in your games of Hostage Negotiator. 27 different hostages are included to give some variety to your game (and since 27 is divisible by 9 cards per page, why not?).

I was not content to just use text, so I paid for 28 stock photos from online site Fotolia to bring these characters to life. I processed them to look more like painting/comic/artwork instead of raw photos (Hey Star Trek game makers, it can be easily done!). I tried to mix up the cards between men and woman, various races and ages, etc. Not for any PC reasons, but for a realistic potential mix.

I also attempted to breathe life into the characters in the small space that I allowed myself. You’ll find a little detail about them, a quote perhaps, and then an explanation of why they were in the crisis location. As each scenario can differ it was hard to do this without being specific. I hope you’ll forgive any inconsistencies that may occur between my explanation and the scenario location. Just go with it.

Using the Hostages
Using the Hostage Cards in a game of Hostage Negotiator is simple. Instead of placing the yellow hostage meeples on the player board at the start of the game, shuffle your deck and deal out (face down) a stack of yellow hostage cards equal to the number of meeples you would have placed. Set aside the rest of the cards.

When a hostage is rescued ( or killed 🙁 ) reveal the top card of the hostage deck to learn which was affected and put it in the appropriate stack. If a terror card adds more hostages to the pool, then add that many more cards to the stack from the remainder of the starting deck you set aside.

You may find it easier to still use the meeples on the board itself and then draw a card when you move a meeple to either rescued or killed.

The instructions for the expansion include more information on how to use them and some variant options. I hope you will enjoy this addition to the Hostage Negotiator system.


Cards PDF…

Gaming is Social, Games Need Not Be – The Cons of Solitaire Gaming

Despite all the benefits of solitaire gaming, it’s certainly not without its problems. Problems that are unique to most solo gamers and especially those of us for which gaming alone is nearly 100% of the experience. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint in any way, shape, or form. Just an observation.

Inspired by this discussion on BGG, Fighting the funk, I decided to proceed with this post that I’d been “cooking” for some time.

First off, with respect the to the title. Gaming is social, games need not be. A lot of people malign the solo gamer because for them, games are “a social activity.” But they have this wrong. Gaming is the social activity, playing the actual game doesn’t have to be. It can be and certainly is for some party-type games that require a large number of people to even be played. But the game is just the catalyst to bring people together. The social interaction is the thing being sought after.

For the solo gamer, the social interaction is still there. We use BGG and other sites and social media platforms to establish a connection with other people, who, like us, normally play alone. This isn’t in most cases some pathetic “40 year old guy still living in his parent’s basement” stereotypical lifeline to humanity. It’s just a venue to share and discuss. Through forums, guilds, Twitter, Reddit and more, we can “test for echo” and see that there are other people out there with the same aligned interests. We can share our plays, our wins, our losses, our questions, our opinions. And let’s face it, for the most part all gamers use this same avenue for discussion. Game night is for playing not a Roman forum.

So while we will not or cannot get together with other people to play a game… most of the time it’s by choice or lifestyle situation.

And that’s fine.

But again, there are still problems that non-Solo gamers don’t have.

Sharing. To maintain that connection, we probably share a little more than others online. BGG monthly Solitaire Games on Your Table Geeklist where many share what they are currently playing along with mini reviews and results. It’s a dangerous list to follow as it makes you want to acquire more games.

Acquiring more games. In a regular game group, only one member needs to own a game. Jane buys a copy of this one, Dick buys a copy of that one, Spot runs away with the dice, etc… When together they can share their copies and experience the game. If a solo player wants to play it, they have to buy a copy (unless you live in one of those rare places you can borrow a game). Take note game publishers. You sell more copies with a solo game, just by improving the ratio of games to buyers.  But we don’t stop at games designed to be played solo. We will play two player games (mainly wargames in this regard) and play both sides. We’ll also play co-op games, taking on multiple roles. And then unsated as we are, we seek out: solo variants (dum dum dah!) of which there are many great ones that keep to the spirit of the core game and some that take the components and make a whole new game — is Patience Solitaire REALLY a variant of Poker???

Regardless, this can lead to an overwhelming collection of games. And I literally mean overwhelming. Doesn’t matter the number of games, it can be small or large. But if it’s more than you can possibly hope to play in a reasonable amount of time, it can be a problem. Studies have been done that show too many choices lead to difficulty making decisions (Survey Choices – How Much is Too Much?). We see it in many games with analysis paralysis. Fewer choices make the decision process easier and less guilt ridden.

Guilt. Why do I own so many games? I’ll never play them all enough. I’m currently playing a great game called Stonewall’s Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain and I’m just about finished the last turn. It’s a chit-pull game, so while I am playing both sides, it’s not hard to manage as a solo player (Designers take note: Chit pulls are AWESOME). However, it’s going on two weeks now on my table. Three weekends. It’s fun, but as I’m surrounded by the many other games I want to play/try. I feel this pressure to finish this one, box it up, and get to something else. And then I feel I’m betraying the current experience. But my time is limited and I want to give proper attention to all the other stuff I like too.

And then I get so frustrated. Insert head explosion here.

Fortunately for the “Funk” post above, I realize it’s not just me. And it’s cyclical in nature. Again the social aspect of solitaire gaming has paid off.

I’m not alone.

Neither are you.

The end result of all this though, for me, is going to be a dedicated attempt to not acquire anything new (or used, close THAT loophole!) for awhile. Some preorders are still on the way, so it’s not like I won’t be getting anything “new” per se. But really, when is enough enough?

A collection thinning is probably due as well. But I’ll procrastinate about that later. Now I’ve got to choose: Churchill? Zombicide? Thunder Alley? Star Wars: Imperial Assault?