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Preparing for my first X-Wing Tournament, Part 1

X-Wing Store Championship 2015 Prize Support

Late last year I signed up for my very first X-Wing Tournament, which is one of the Store Championships and it takes place in February at Entoyment in Poole, Dorset. As this is my very first X-Wing Tournament and actually my first real tournament of any kind other than a few MtG ones as a kid, I thought it’d be interesting to document how I’m going about preparing.

The first thing is that I know I’d like to come in the top 4. This is primarily because I would like to win the plastic Focus tokens that form part of the prize support supplied by FFG. I don’t really care about coming first because this is a proper Store Championship and it feeds into the Regional, National and World Championships and since I probably won’t be going to Regionals even if I win I think it’s unfair for me to take that win (and the 1st round bye that is afforded the winner of a Store Championship) away from someone who could potentially go further overall than I intend to. That’s not to say I won’t be playing to win though and if i end up in the final i certainly won’t be throwing the game.

Now, despite wanting to come top 4, I am under no illusion that this will happen. There is a good chance that some serious players will show up to the event and I’ve only played a very small group of people in the past, so my experience is limited. I don’t think that I’m bad at the game, by any means, but I also don’t think I’m excellent. I’m also pretty new to the game, having only invested in it in the latter half of 2014. To a degree I’ve been playing since it was released, as some friends bought in early on, but I didn’t play all that often before I picked up my own force.

So, onto the all imported question, list choice.

The first step is pretty easy, I’ll be taking Rebels, simply because I only own Rebels and I don’t want to have to borrow ships off someone else or use ships that I’m unfamiliar with. So, what to take? For ease of reference I’ll list what have so you can see what I’m working with-

1 x Corvette

1 x Rebel Transport

5 x X-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Transport Pilots)

5 x Z95 Headhunters

3 x A-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Aces)

3 x B-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Aces)

3 x E-Wings

2 x Y-Wings

1 x HWK-290

2 x YT-2400

1 x YT-1300

As you can see, I have more or less everything for Rebels but I don’t have cards that only specifically come with Imperial Expansions, cards such as Predator so I am somewhat limited in what I can use.  The Tournament is a standard 100 point list with the requirement that all Pilots and Upgrades used are represented by the appropriate cards. Also, as it’s a standard tournament that throws both of the Huge ships out of contention (not that I’d use either in competition even if I could). The tournament rules can be found over on the FAQ page.

As you may know from this post, I have recently been running a Rebel Swarm (A-Z) list against my friends and so, initially, considered whether I should take this. In addition I played around with other combinations, mostly tried and tested ones as I want to do well, and ended up with a few options-

  • Duel YT’s, likely a YT-2400 and a YT-1300
  • Tri YT’s, 2 YT-2400’s and a YT-1300
  • A-Z Swarm (3 A-Wings and 3 Z95 Headhunters)
  • YT-2400 and Wingman (Some variant of the Super Dash set up)
  • YT-1300 and Wingman (some variant of the Fat Han set-up)
  • XXBB (2 X-Wings and 2 B-Wings)

Six lists is a few too many to try and contend with and certainly too many to try and refine before the Tournament in roughly six weeks’ time.  I doubt I’ll be able to play more than a couple of games per week and so I need to start narrowing it down to the top 2 or 3 lists to work with.

Next time I’ll discuss how I’ll narrow down my choices, give more specific force lists and go into some detail as to how I’m refining the lists to give me something that I can comfortably fly.

Should a DM ever Fudge their Dice Rolls?

NO! At least that’ll be the answer you hear most  often and it’s probably the answer I’d give you 99% of the time but I think that there is a little more to it than there would initially appear to be. Just in case anyone thinks I’m only talking about D&D here, because I say DM, rest assured that DM is just my preferred title for the roll, from many years of running D&D, and this article can just as easily apply to GM’s, Keepers, Marshalls, Referees or anyone else that takes on the mantle of running the game.

It’s kind of easy to rush and answer no and depending on which side of the screen you generally reside the reason why is probably different. For Players it can seem galling that a DM is fudging the dice, after all it means one of two things and neither can be good, either the DM is making sure that you have been hit, suffer more damage etc. or that you are no longer in charge of your character’s destiny. For DM’s fudging a dice can seem unfair to players as their character’s aren’t really defeating that dragon and haven’t earned their victory or it can be argued that fudging a dice makes the game ‘unrealistic’.

Those opinions are all valid, in their own context, but I think all of them mean that someone has lost sight of the entire point of getting together and roleplaying in the first place, which is to have fun and no-one is having fun if luck appears to be against them and ultimately that’s all a dice roll is, luck.

Fudging Dice, all 1's

So a little history lesson. When D&D was in it’s infancy, even before it was actually a game and it was just a bunch of guys meeting up to play, the DM/Player relationship was very adversarial and the game was much less forgiving. The whole point was for the players to build characters and parties and to discuss and implement tactics in order to make their way through a dungeon and collect treasure, therefore earning XP and increasing in power. D&D was created by historical wargamers and so the dynamic was a very confrontational and tactical one and under these circumstances there were only really two ways a DM could cheat, either to change the meticulously planned adventure to make sure the players did/didn’t face a particular challenge, or to fudge a dice roll.

Changing what was in a dungeon once the players made their way in or fudging a dice roll were cardinal sins in early D&D because it meant that the players couldn’t rely on themselves and the other players and that they were basically at the mercy of DM’s whims. I can understand this because there is a valid argument that if a DM constantly fudges the dice then the players are little more than voice actors in the DM’s own little story. How can you feel the satisfaction of clearing a dungeon and saving a town if your own choices don’t really matter?

Conversely though, many DM’s will argue that roleplaying is about the back and forth dynamic between DM and player and that it is the specific playing of a character role that makes the game. Therefore relying on the fickle dice gods to support the most interesting or the anticipated course of action is doomed to failure. Again, I can understand this because all too often a player can be asked to roll a dice, with only the slimmest margin for failure, and you can all but guarantee that the dice will come up a 1, just ask my Numenera group….

For a DM having the game derailed by bad dice can be massively frustrating because many DM’s, myself included, often put in hours of work to prepare an adventure. If a few bad dice rolls make all that for naught, then the temptation to fudge the dice so that the story can proceed the way you want it to can be strong indeed.

So which argument is right? Is fudging a dice roll a cardinal sin or perfectly acceptable? Well in this, as in many things, there are not absolute black and whites, just areas of grey, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I think that newer DM’s  tend towards letting the dice fall how they may. This is often because people new to the hobby tend to hold closer to the rules than those with a wealth of experience under their belt (not always, but generally in my experience). Newer groups in general tend to more closely resemble those early D&D sessions in that the dynamic between the two sides of the DM screen can seem like an adversarial one. I’d say that this is also the case for younger players and for those who migrate from wargames or computer games as those people are more likely to be competitive or be more accustomed to there being a definitive way to win or complete the game.

On the flip side I find that DM’s with more experience tend to be a little more lax with the rules and dice than their newer counterparts and older players, or those with less free time, prefer a little more latitude in playing. Older players often don’t want to have to plan meticulously when entering a dungeon, often that will closely resemble the activities that they undertake in their day job (and who wants to do that in their free time?).

Personally I used to subscribe to the former methodology, in letting the dice fall as they may and the players reaping the rewards or accepting the consequences of their actions. The problem I have found is, as mentioned above, many of my players don’t have a lot of free time and constantly failing because of bad luck can be massively disheartening. This can highlight another issue with dice and for this I’ll specifically use D&D as an example. Simply put, very few people who are skilled at something, as characters are supposed to be, will fail a task 1 in 20 times. In the case of D&D this isn’t just failing because the roll of a 1 can mean failing catastrophically and this just isn’t realistic. Sure you can houserule the game so that players don’t roll if the task is sufficiently simple for them but what if they are making potions or poisons? Surely the inherent risk in such activities warrants a chance of failure every time, but 1 in 20?

Despite not having complete faith in the traditional ‘fudging is cheating’ point of view, I can’t bring myself completely to the other side either. Characters should have strengths and weaknesses and these may or may not be strengths and weaknesses or areas of knowledge for the player so you can’t rely on roleplaying alone to determine the outcome of encounters. There should be an inherent risk to sending your character into the dungeon and your fate shouldn’t just be determined by whatever is convenient or best for the plot. Some of the most memorable moments I’ve had as a player are when the dice have fell in my favour, like 7 out of 8 attacks rolling natural 20’s or getting a head shot on the main enemy on the first action after his boxed text monologue. If everything moved along at the speed of plot then these situations would never have happened.

I don’t want to play along in someone else interactive story, I want to feel that my character has the chance to make a difference in the world because of my choices for their actions and not because the DM’s story allows it. With that said, I don’t want my level 10 fighter to be killed by a couple of goblins with some exceptional luck, regardless of how funny it sounds in my head.  I want somewhere in the middle and that’s where I find myself falling on the spectrum nowadays, about halfway between to fudge and not to fudge.

That’s not meant to sound like a cop out, it’s my genuine feelings on the matter but it can be better summed up in the following way-

It is acceptable to fudge the dice if it is to the benefit of the players.

Some DM’s will argue that ‘or the game’ should be added to that statement and if your agreed upon play style emphasises the story above all then that’s fine, but I’d ask why those DM’s are asking the players to roll dice for those actions in the first place, if their failure will derail the story? Surely those activities should just be summed up with a description and not carry the chance of failure in the first place?  To me the only time to fudge a dice roll is when a series of highly unlikely events have conspired to cause a player to die or the story to be derailed, not just a single dice roll, in other words it should be the last resort.

The role of DM is one of trust because, regardless of whether you fudge dice or you do not, the players need to be able to have faith that you are being honest with them. If you can’t trust your DM not to cheat in their favour then any competitive aspect is null and void and lighter play is just destroyed because the DM clearly wants to make the game competitive and, worse, will cheat to make sure they win. Regardless of which camp you fall into cheating as the DM is the very worst thing you can do. The DM is God in a roleplay game and can always win if they want to, the trick is not abusing that power and makin sure that everyone has fun.

The Rebel Swarm

A few weeks back I decided that I wanted to try something a little different. After tiring of flying Fat Han, or Fat Chewie, XXBB or any other random thrown together list I wanted to see if I could make a 100 point force that was competitive enough to hold its own against most of the perceived ‘Top Tier’ lists coming out of Wave 5, but that wasn’t a power force in its own right. I wanted something that people wouldn’t dread facing but that would give me a chance against Phantoms and Fat Han lists and that was fun and different to most other Rebel Forces out there.

This lead me to contemplate whether a Rebel Swarm list was possible and viable. I already had a bunch of Z95’s and Rebel Aces had recently been released so I had a way to make A-Wings that little bit cheaper and squeeze a few more points into my force. So I started with the idea of ‘how many ships can I get in 100 points’. Now the immediate answer is 8, 8 Z95’s but I neither owned that many nor saw the benefit in flying 8 of them, plus I like a little variety in my list. So, after some playing around I ended up with this-

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 15 Points

  • Chardaan Refit

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 15 Points

  • Chardaan Refit

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 15 Points

  • Chardaan Refit

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Total– 93 Points

7 Ship Rebel Swarm

 This gave me a little room to season the list with some Missiles on the Z95’s with which to add some punch. Initially I added a single set of Cluster Missiles and a single set of Ion Pulse Missiles to bring the list up to an even 100 points. The intention was that this would help a little against closely packed TIE Swarms and allow me to, hopefully, get a Phantom in a position for me to draw multiple beads on it or to slow down a large ship.

Game one came against quite a challenge, Fat Han. I was curious to see how the Rebel Swarm would fair in this first outing but knowing that Han suffers against Swarm lists and having run Han myself, I was confident that I knew how to beat it. In the end it wasn’t even a particularly even battle as my Rebel Swarm, now renamed my A-Z List, murdered Han and his escort to the loss of just two ships. After this first outing I was flying high on the success and decided to try my luck against the devious Imperials next time out.

My second game was against an Interceptor and Defender list which was fairly easily trounced by the force, which was a pleasant surprise for me but I hit a roadblock in game 3 against Interceptors and a Phantom. The force, in this incarnation, can hurt and kill a TIE Interceptor but struggles massively to crack the armour of a Phantom despite being able to get a couple of ships in arc each turn. It was back to the drawing board to see if I could think of a way of taking down a Phantom or at least making the battle a little less one sided.

I considered what to do next for a while. Seven points isn’t much to play with and there are only so many types of Missiles available with none offering me much of a chance against the Phantom. After a little deliberation I decided that dropping a Z95 from the list, making it a 6 ship swarm, made the most sense and offered me a few more much needed points with which to alter the list. The trouble I ran into here is that, even with an extra 12 points to spend, there isn’t much a Z95 can be equipped with that will really up its chances against a Phantom and so I took another look at the A-Wings.

The first thing I did was to drop the Chardaan refits on the A-Wings. There were only in place to save a few points and by losing a Z95 I could afford to strip them out. This meant that my A-Wings could now mount Missiles and the most obvious choice was the Proton rockets. On a Z95 a Proton Rocket isn’t really worth the points because it has a low agility and isn’t particularly fast or maneuverable.  However the fact that an A-Wing is agility 3 means that a Proton Rocket is a 5 Dice attack and an A-Wing is fast and maneuverable enough to be able to get into Range 1 and make use of it, at least that’s the theory.  I also added Munitions Failsafes to the A-Wings so that I didn’t waste the Rockets on a bad roll and end my chances of killing the pesky Phantoms.

So now the list looks like this-

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 17 Points

  • Proton Rockets- 3 Points
  • Munitions Failsafe- 1 Point

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 17 Points

  • Proton Rockets- 3 Points
  • Munitions Failsafe- 1 Point

A-Wing Prototype Pilot- 17 Points

  • Proton Rockets- 3 Points
  • Munitions Failsafe- 1 Point

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Z-95 Bandit Squadron Pilot- 12 Points

Total- 99 Points

6 Ship Rebel Swarm

I have tested this list just the once so far, against an Interceptor and Doomshuttle (Vader in a Omicron Pilot Shuttle) list and it was pretty successful, wiping out the enemy fairly handily. I look forward to try the list against a Phantom and also a Decimator. I think I stand a chance in both cases, probably more so against the Decimator, depending on it’s support, because I can theoretically kill a Decimator in a single turn if the dice gods smile on me.

I’ll provide an update after I’ve played a few more games with the list and tested it against a few more opponents but in the meantime I welcome any suggestions as to ways of improving the force.

 

Owning the TPK

So, a couple of days ago a friend who runs a D&D campaign contacted me and asked if I had any modules or adventures set in the land of the dead, Hell or the like. Now immediately my mind jumped to two places, Ghostwalk, a little used 3rd ed expansion that lets you play, unsurprisingly, as a ghost (comment below if you’d like to see a review of it) and, of course, to Planescape. What setting is better to use when you need to set an adventure in a character’s personal idea of Hell than the setting that actually has Hell in it (with the way better name of Baator)? This of course led me to wonder why, after all most of my players, as this friend has been on occasion, tend to shy away from the Planes (after a disastrous 4th ed jaunt there), and it turns out that, much like every one of us who has DM’d a game for any length of time, he’d suffered a TPK in his own game.

For those new to roleplaying a TPK is that most dreaded of DMing situations, it’s when something has gone wrong and, for one reason or another the party all die, you suffer a Total Party Kill. TPKs can happen for any number of reasons, bad dice rolling for the players, good dice rolling for the DM (whether a DM should ever fudge the dice is a debate for another day), an encounter gone wrong, bad planning, you are playing Shadowrun or the DM simply wants to.

I’ll start with the last point as it’s by far the easiest to address. The DM should never intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it, NEVER. If you are playing with a DM who just kills your party for the sake of it, call them on it and if they still do it, then stop playing with them. There are many reasons a DM might do it, to punish the party, because they are bored and want to end the game, or because they want to ‘win’ but none of these are a good enough excuse. If the players have done something to annoy you, call them on it but don’t abuse the power of being a DM. If you are bored with the game, tell the players, take a break, or round up the campaign quickly and if you want to ‘win’ then play a wargame because roleplay is about cooperative storytelling (unless you are playing hardcore basic D&D). I repeat, you should NEVER intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it.

That said, TPKs can and do happen, entirely by accident. This is what happened to my friend and it’s happened to me on numerous occasions. For me, most recently, it happened in Shadowrun after the players misjudged a very difficult encounter. The dice were against them and this led to them being ambushed and taken down, to a character. When this kind of accidental TPK happens it’s disheartening for the whole table, the players are angry at the DM and feel powerless and the DM is embarrassed and dismayed that it happened and that all their hard work and best laid plans have been for naught.

All this leads me to the point of this article, which is making TPKs work for you. It took me a good number of years to come to this realisation and more TPKs than I’m entirely comfortable with and so if I help just one other DM out and save them and their players from the scourge of the TPK, then my work is done.

The best thing you can do is see a TPK as an opportunity, another twist in the story that builds the legends of the characters. If you handle it the right way then the players won’t walk away from the table angry and upset, they’ll remember the session for being momentous and tell stories about it for years to come. It takes a little work to pull this off the right way but it’s worth the effort to keep your campaign alive and your group engaged in the story you are trying to tell.

The easiest way to own a TPK is to plan for it in advance. I know this sounds a little weird and smacks of intentionally causing the TPK, but as with all aspects of DMing, the key is preparation. As I’ve said, a TPK should be viewed as another plot twist and so by planning ahead for this possibility you can react to it quickly and make sure that a session doesn’t end early and on a somber note. It’s far better to end a game telling the party that they wake up, stripped to their loincloths in a dank dungeon lit by flickering light, with a masked jailer looming over them, than “everyone needs a new character for next week”.

When planning a campaign you should always have an encounter in mind for what will happen if a TPK happens. This just needs to be a very basic framework, something along the lines of being captured by the enemy, waking up as a ghost, waking up as a spirit in heaven/hell/limbo or becoming undead, whatever best fits your campaign and, most importantly, whatever you are most comfortable with.

The easiest and most generic is probably being captured as this fits the most settings and games, in Shadowrun it can be captured by Mitsuhama or the Ancients, in Deadlands it could be imprisoned on the Rock by Reverend Grimme, in Dark Heresy it could be captured and prepared for sacrifice to Nurgle and in Edge of the Empire the Hutts could have taken your party prisoner and plan on selling them as slaves! This is probably the most common ‘get out’ in TV, films and literature as well, just think how many times you have read a book and the hero has been beaten and captured only to have to effect an escape from prison. It’s often this defeat that makes a character reevaluate and come back stronger later and it adds depth to the story.

The point to take away from this is that planning for what happens if a TPK occurs puts you in control, it lets you keep the action moving and prevents all your hard work from disappearing in a few bad dice rolls. A basic framework gives you an idea of what you will do if the worst happens and then every level, or few sessions you can update the plan to fit the story. This just means making sure you have a couple of basic encounters planned and the power level is roughly appropriate as the detail can be filled in between sessions after the TPK has occurred. Once you have this ready then you never have to be left at a loss if the worst happens.

Now I know I said that a DM should never intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it and I mean it, but if you are comfortable with everything so far then you can turn the TPK into an interesting tool to add further depth to your campaign. We already know that a TPK can and will cause a severe emotional reaction in your players, and it should because that means they are invested in their characters and in the game, but what if you use that to your advantage? You could have the party think they have the key to killing Verrex the Necromancer only to have him surprise with a powerful item that disintegrates them instantly. Then, just as the players are about to howl in outrage, you describe their souls as waking up some miles away, hand out some XP and pull out Ghostwalk. All of a sudden the horror of a TPK gives way to intrigue and new tools to finally take down that pesky Necromancer and save the land of Generica forever. It can be a risky move but timed right it can make a campaign.

In the case of my friend I offered a little advice as to how I’d handle the situation, I said that I’d have their souls wake up, unarmed and unarmored somewhere in the Lower Planes, being prodded by a spear being wielded by a Baatezu before being dragged to a slave wagon. I’d let that sink in, maybe play the horror of it up a bit and then give them a chance to escape and grab some weapons, perhaps a Tanaari ambush. Then I’d let them explore a bit, learn where they are and eventually let them learn of a portal home. I’d then throw in a twist; to get to the portal, as well as get their mortal forms and equipment back, they’d need to make a deal with a Yugoloth, perhaps an Altraloth like Anthraxus or Bubonix. Of course as they need multiple favours they’d need to make multiple deals which invariably would be to owe the Yugoloth a few services, to be named later. Once the party was home I’d have have those favours to use later when I wanted to complicate things for the players. This way the TPK turns into multiple adventures for the players and becomes an exciting plot twist and not a campaign ending nightmare.

As I’ve hopefully conveyed, with a little bit of planning anyone can stop their game being derailed by a few unfortunate events. Forward thinking can turn the worst situation a DM can face into a great opportunity to mix things up for the players, maybe let them earn a few abilities that would otherwise be out of reach and to make a few new friends or enemies to complicate things later. Planning ahead put you back in control and lets you own the TPK.

Asteroids – a space scenery building guide

Ok, so one of the first things I wanted to do, after my very first game of X-Wing was build some full 3D asteroids. X-Wing is a great game, one that takes place in a 3D environment and as awesome as the ships look (and they are pretty much the best pre-paints I’ve personally seen) they look a little flat on a board with the asteroid tokens from the core box scattered around.

At this point I need to give full credit to Marcalla on A Few Maneuvers- Asteroid Building Guide since his post provided the inspiration and basis for how I went about doing it.

Now I’m based in the UK and I find it very hard to find guides for projects like this that use UK product names and UK Stores as suggestions for materials to use and where to buy them. I’ve decided to buck that trend and, as much as possible, I’ll detail the local names of materials and provide links to the stores I purchased them from.

Finally I should highlight that I’m not a particularly skilled modeler or painter, I won’t be winning any Golden Demon or Crystal Brush awards, and so the guide is going to be simple enough for anyone to follow and make their own pretty awesome looking set of asteroids for X-Wing or any other space combat miniatures game.

Without further ado, the guide-

Asteroid Tokens

First of all you need to create tokens to sit flat on your board so you know when your ships base is overlapping it and when your movement template puts your flight path through the asteroids area. These need to be the exact same size and shape as the official tokens so as ensure that the game is fair and balanced. For this stage you will need-

  • Your X-Wing Asteroid Tokens
  • Some thin Cardboard (I used the box that my Sky router came in)
  • A pencil
  • A pair of scissors or a very sharp modelling knife
  • Some black paint of spray paint (Pound or discount stores are a great place to get cans of black spray, look for an isle that has car maintenance equipment)

This stage is very easy and only takes half an hour or so start to finish. First of all trace around your existing X-Wing Asteroid Tokens, on the thin Cardboard, using the pencil. Try to be as careful as possible so that the final asteroid base tokens will be as close to the same size and shape of the official tokens as possible. It should be noted that any tokens that you make will not be allowed in official tournaments.

Next, using the scissors or if you are skilled enough the sharp modelling knife, cut out the token, using the traced lines as a guide. Again try to be as careful and exact as possible so as to ensure that the final tokens look as close to the size and shape of the originals as possible.

At this point your tokens should look something like this-

Asteroid Tokens

Next you need to spray the tokens (both sides). I sprayed mine black because my board is black and I don’t want them stealing focus from the asteroids-

Painted Asteroid Tokens

That’s this stage done. You could do more, by adding stars to the tokens or you could go utterly over the top and add decoration like sonar hits.

Asteroids

This is when you actually start work on the Asteroids proper. Before you start you are going to need a few things-

Roofing Foam- I got mine from B&Q for £5.68 and specifically it is Celotex Roof Insulation (L) 1200 (W) 450 (T) 50mm. This piece is enough to make dozens of asteroids so you can share with your friends if you like.
Flying bases- I got mine from Ebay and paid £3.50 for 25 of them so just do a search for Flying bases on that site.
A sharp craft or Stanley Knife
Black Spray paint- See above.
6 wooden kebab skewers or something similar- I got mine from Asda during the summer for BBQ’s and paid around £1 for about 100.
2-3 gray paints, each a slightly lighter shade than the last- see below for more information but I just used Games Workshops Eshin Gray, Dawnstone.
1 white paint, I used Games Workshop’s Ceramite White.
A large drybrush and general painting materials

Step 1

Cut a strip of foam from the sheet, roughly 3 inches wide, and then cut the strip into blocks, roughly 3 inches wide so that you end up with half a dozen or so 3″x3″ blocks of foam. In actuality I ended up with 8 or 9 blocks. You don’t need to be particularly exact so don’t worry if your blocks are perfect or equal in size. Each block should look roughly like this-

Asteroid Build, cut foam block 1ck Asteroid Build, cut foam block 2

Step 2

Peel the card/shiny covering off each side of the blocks you have just cut. This should come off fairly easily but you can use a knife to assist you. Again, don’t worry about being too exact, you are about to start hacking the block up anyway.

Once you have removed the covering start ripping chunks off the block with your fingers like this-

Asteroid Build, plucking foam

Dig into the block and try to use all of your fingers and your thumb as each will form a different size and shape mark on the asteroid. Keep ripping and sculpting in this way until you reach a shape and look you are happy with. I will say that the sound that the foam makes when you pull it apart is utterly horrific and I couldn’t do it without loud music through headphones so if the sound of polystyrene or nails on a chalk board bothers you then be careful as chances are this sound will haunt your dreams! Once you have done this the block should start to look something closer to an asteroid-

Asteroid Build, fully plucked block

Step 3

Take you wooden kebab skewer and push the sharp end into the sculpted asteroid. This hole will be where you are going to later fix the base so make sure that you set the asteroid at an angle you are happy with and that it will not overbalance later. Use different and creative angles and try to envision the finished asteroid tumbling through space.

This skewer will allow you to hold the asteroid at arms length while you spray it and give you the ability to spray the whole asteroid easily. Once the asteroid is sprayed it should look like this-

Asteroid Build, sprayed base coat

You can easily spray all of your sculpted asteroids in one go and just plant the other ends of the skewers in a plant pot or, if you want, another chunk of the roofing foam.

Step 4

Once the sprayed asteroids have dried then it’s simply a case of building up layers of colours to give the appearance of rock, you won’t be painting blocks of colour here, it’s all about drybrushing. In case you don’t know, drybrushing is a the process of using a flat tipped brush with minimal amounts of paint on it to apply paint to the raised areas of an object. Very simply put you should water your paint down a little and, after dipping your brush into it, then brush most of the paint off on a piece of kitchen roll or toilet roll until almost no paint remains on the brush.When brushing do so roughly and concentrate on getting paint on all the raised areas rather than onto the flat surfaces.

You should start with your darkest paint and gradually work your way up to the lightest applying less and less paint either time.  I’d suggest leaving the kebab skewers in place at this stage as it makes the asteroids easier to manipulate while drybrushing. With the paints I used the order was-

Eshin Grey-

Asteroid Build- Eshin Grey

Eshin Grey/Dawnstone 50/50 mix-

Asteroid Build- Eshin Grey:Dawnstone mix

Dawnstone-

Asteroid Build- Dawnstone

Dawnstone/Ceramite White 50/50 mix-

Asteroid Build- Dawnstone:Ceramite White mix

Ceramite White-

Asteroid Build- Ceramite White

It doesn’t take long to apply a single coat to one asteroid, perhaps a couple of minutes because you don’t need to be particularly careful, beyond making sure that there isn’t too much paint on your brush, and by the time you have finished a coat on the last asteroid the first should be dry enough to start the next. It took me maybe an hour and a half to fully paint 6 asteroids. As you can see each separate layer doesn’t look like it adds much, especially in the first stages but it’s the process of adding all the layers that adds up the the overall effect.

Step 5

After you have finished drybrushing the layers and you have obtained an effect you are happy with it’s time to mount the asteroids on the flying stands. First remove the kebab skewers carefully, as you don’t want to stretch the holes or cause damage to your pretty new asteroid, then, if you haven’t already, assemble the flying stands. It’s up to you how permanent you want the completed asteroid to be but since I have the storage space I decided to  glue the flying stands into the asteroids by just applying a small blob of superglue to the tip of the stand before carefully pushing it into the hole left by the kebab skewer.

After inserting the flying stand you are done and hopefully your completed asteroids, with tokens should look something like this-

Asteroid Build- Completed Asteroids Asteroid Build- Asteroids with X-Wing

That’s it, it’s a nice, simple and quick process that yields pretty awesome results. If you have any questions or comments then just let me know.