Sunday, August 18, 2019

Cheap Testors acrylic paint sets

I am a big fan of the weird surplus you can find at American Science and Surplus. I occasionally browse through their site just to see what they have available, and I usually find something useful each time. At the moment, they have great dropper bottles, quartz points, and some cool gears for all of you steampunk fans. On my latest shopping spree, I found a pair of Testors acrylic paint sets. At two dollars each, I figured they were worth the price of the glue alone, so I got one of each.

Each of the sets includes a brush, a tube of non-toxic plastic cement, and six small pots of acrylic paint.

Testors Military Colors and Hobby Colors paint sets
The brushes are the normal Testors brushes with the thick plastic bristles. I have never found a worthwhile use or reason for these to exist, so they went in the trash as soon as I opened the packages.

The glue is one of my regular glues for plastic models, and a couple extra tubes is always welcome.

The Hobby Colors paint set includes small pots of Testors 4633 Stop Light Red, 4624 Turn Signal Amber, 4768 Flat Black, 4629 Engine Red, 4695 Gloss Black, and 4678 Silver. The Military Colors paint set includes pots of 4757 Neutral Gray, 4728 Olive Drab, 4768 Flat Black, 4709, Dark Tan, 4752 Gunship Gray, and 4618 Silver. Between the sets, there are ten or eleven different paints, depending on whether the silver is the same or different.

Each pot is about half an inch in diameter and about half an inch deep. (Someone that has a better math background can probably estimate the volume.) The pots have lids that hinge to 90 degrees when opened. You'll probably want to capture the paint off the lid with a wide brush if you don't want drips.

Open paint pot
Three pots are contained in a strip, and each set has two of the strips connected together. This connectivity is a gimmick, but I like it. You can lock a bunch of these together or pull them apart. Either way, you can easily work with them on a paint table without them getting in the way or getting lost. Each strip is roughly 1-1/4" x 4". Having three in each strip with some plastic framing around each makes them a lot more stable than other sample pots.

I tested the flat black on a mini that was hanging around on my paint table. The paint is really thin and has the normal odor that Testors paint has. It is water soluble, and you'll want to rinse and dry your brush regularly when you use it. Otherwise, be prepared to spend a few minutes with some brush soap after each painting session.

The paint had thin coverage. It had fair adhesion with the first coat. A second coat improved bith the adhesion and coverage, so that may be an issue with how the paint works with the primer.

In all, the paint is somewhat useful, and I'll add it into the mix of other paints I use. The strips are definitely getting cleaned and saved once I use the paint. I can easily see using these as traveling paint pots in the future.

Overall, these sets are easily worth the cost if you're getting something else from AS&S. Otherwise, the shipping is expensive.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bookbinding resources

A few people on MeWe were discussing repairing and rebinding old gaming books and materials. I mentioned some of that work that I've done in the past, so I was asked to give some of the sources I used to get started.

I'm going to start with some caveats. First, I am definitely not a professional binder. I do it in my spare time to either repair books in my collection, to combine ratty copies of books into big omnibus volumes, to bind copies of things I have in PDF but not physical form, or to make notebooks and sketchbooks.

Second, many of the online resources I had bookmarked have vanished. Not too surprising, given the transience of things online. Still, if you find something you really like and will likely need to reference in the future, the best bet is to download it or print it. It won't necessarily be there when you get back.

Third, there are a LOT more resources available. I haven't bookmarked them because I often do a new search whenever I'm trying to do something new. These are the references I have gone back to repeatedly or ones that I was able to find with some dedicated searching.

Before anything else, go read this blog post with tips for beginning book binders. I wish this had existed and I had read it before I started binding. It would have saved me some headache and heartache along the way. I definitely just bookmarked it to come back to and print later.

The first thing I researched for my use was repairing the binding and spine on a book. The following sites helped immensely with that and other repair tasks. The first deals specifically with the binding. The second was produced by Dartmouth University Library and covers all manner of book repairs.

How to Repair a Book's Binding
A Simple Book Repair Manual

After doing a few repairs, I stepped up to single sheet binding. I used this to bind a few things I had from graduate school. I also used it to bind my omnibus of the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Deities and Demigods, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II. The first link is one that I've had stored in my bookmarks. The other link I had for case binding is gone, but the second link here is as good or better than what I started with.

Single Sheet Bookbinding
iBookbinding Case Binding Tutorial

Next I started looking at different binding types. The first link below talks about a few different binding styles without getting into too much depth. There are a variety of different stitching, boarding, and decorating styles that binders use. My favorite is spineless or coverless Coptic binding. It produces a nice decorative spine with just the pages, especially if you use a contrasting thread. It's also fairly simple to do once you get the hang of it.

Self-Publishing Basics: 5 Book Binding Styles Illustrated
Coptic Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial
Create a Stunning Combination Coptic Long-stitch Archival Book

Finally, here are a few companies that I have looked at for equipment and supplies. You can get most of the simpler equipment from a craft or art supply store. I recommend getting a sturdy bone folder, a paper awl, a good set of needles, and a sharp pair of scissors. Only use the scissors and needles for binding. Paper is notorious for dulling scissors, so make sure you keep your thread scissors away from paper unless you have a scissor sharpener.

For larger equipment, you will either need to buy it or build it. The first link is to a site that shows a simple bookbinding jig. The second is to a set of plans and instructions for building a lying press, punching cradle, and sewing frame. I've been using a cradle made from these plans for a few years now. The third is to a company that makes bookbinding equipment. I haven't purchased any of their equipment, but it looks good on the site. Caveat emptor.

How to Build a DIY Bookbinding Jig
Making Simple Bookbinding Equipment
Affordable Binding Equipment

Finally, here are a few resources for materials. I have used Hollander's for most of my materials. I buy tape and things I need quickly from Art Supply Warehouse, because it's close to home. The link is to a search for "bookbinding" on their site. Hollinger Metal Edge has a good selection of general bookbinding supplies, including some archival-quality products if you really need to preserve what you're binding. The link is to their "Book and Document Repair" section. You might want to take a look at the "Book Jacket Covers..." and "Book, Document, and Paper Storage" sections as well. There are plenty of other companies, especially for fancy papers to use as endpapers and cloth to use for covers. Experiment and let me know what really works for you.

Art Supply Warehouse
Hollinger Metal Edge – archival products

If people are interested, I can try to dig up the pictures I took while I was making the AD&D Omnibus. Drop me a comment and let me know if I should post them.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Dungeons and Dragons paints

I was poking around on Amazon earlier, looking at a couple of things that have been hanging out on my wish list, when I noticed something in my recommended items. Apparently, there is a licensed line of paints under the Dungeons and Dragons brand. I was only able to find them in two sets, but they grabbed my interest right away.

The sets are made by Army Painter. They both include a selection of paints in dropper bottles and an exclusive miniature. The Adventurer's set includes a starter brush as well.

The Dungeons and Dragons Official Paint Line Adventurer's Paint Set includes eight colors, a silver metallic, and a brush-on primer. The exclusive miniature is Minsc and Boo. If you've ever played Baldur's Gate, I guarantee reading that last sentence had you hearing one of Minsc's battle cries in your head (if you didn't just blurt it out loud like I did). It's a nice gimmick for all of us oldsters.

The Dungeons and Dragon Official Paint Line Monsters Paint Set includes an additional 36 paints: 28 regular colors, 3 metallics, 3 washes, and 2 effects paints. The miniature is a great owlbear.

The Adventurer's set is designed as an introductory set to get people into painting and introduce them to the paint line and the Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures figures. It's a decent set. It is pretty much a restickered Army Painter Starter Set with a miniature added. For those that made it this far and have been considering the Army Painter Starter Set, this set is about $5 cheaper in the US.

The Monsters set is a good expansion for the price, and gives a lot more flexibility in colors. None of the paints in the Monster Set duplicate ones in the Adventurer's set. At the moment, only a few individual paints are available from the Army Painter site, but I expect the range to be sold in multiple sets and individually soon. There is a brush set already available and an Underdark set that includes paints exclusive to the D&D line coming in September. You can see the whole line on the Army Painter website.

If I didn't already have a wall of paints, I would get both of these sets. I may still pick them up to add to my collection. I like Army Painter's paints. They tend to have rich pigmentation and good consistency. They are a pain to mix when you first get them, and I encourage thinning them quite a bit if you are a layer painter.

Luke at Luke's APS has a couple of videos about the paint. The first video talks about adding agitators and properly mixing the paints. I've found some of his comments in this video with all of the dropper bottle paints I've used. I don't use a mechanical shaker for my paints, but I do definitely use agitators in all of them. The second video talks about mixing with a stick, decanting a bit of the paints, adding glass beads instead of metal, and thinning the paint a bit with a medium and distilled water.

If anyone has these sets, or any suggestions for working with Army Painter paints, drop me a comment.

Note that all of the links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you go to Amazon through those links, I get a bit to buy more things to test. It's not much, but it helps.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I'm still here

It's been a while since I posted, so here's a little update on what I've been doing. I've run a few more sessions of my Labyrinth Lord game. I need to get the play reports for those up here. The last session was several weeks ago. Two of the players needed to take a break, and I've been dealing with poor health. So we've had a hiatus.

In the meantime, I've been working quite a bit on world building, starting with a rather large campaign map. That's yet another thing I need to post here.

I got my rather large reward package for the Reaper Bones IV Kickstarter. That has prompted me to consider doing an inventory of all my unpainted minis to make a plan for painting them. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to climb the lead and plastic mountain yet, but I considered it. Instead I'll probably just make a giant pile of minis and grab whatever I can and paint it.

I've had a few other rewards roll in as well. I back quite a few projects, and a lot of them have been completing recently. Again, I need to do some reading and reviews.

I'm still reading a few blog posts a day and trying to catch up on posts on my groups on MeWe. You can find me there at least a couple times a day. If I missed anything especially cool, let me know. I always read things where I'm tagged.

Finally, I want to give a big shout out to Froth of the Thought Eater blog and podcast. He gave me a big nod in his Hump Day Blog-o-Rama at the end of March. Of course, it took me a while to catch up and give it a listen. I ended up sticking around to listen to several more episodes of his podcast. He's got some great things going in the cast and his blog. I'm sorry I hadn't found it and given it a good listen before.

If the gods and my health favor, I'll get a couple more posts up soon. Until then, keep rolling.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Galaxy Magazine

Last week, I was home sick dealing with a case of walking pneumonia. In between trying to sleep and trying to cough enough to clear my lungs, I was lucky to be home to receive a few very large packages.

A couple were Kickstarter rewards. Two of the larger ones, though, contained quite a few issues of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine from the 1950s and 1960s.

A few years ago, I was able to buy about twenty mixed pulp mags for around a dollar each. Most of those happened to be Galaxy, so I started doing some reading, both in and about the magazine.

Galaxy turns out to be one of the longer-running science fiction pulp magazines. They started publishing later than a lot of the other science fiction pulps, but had continuous printing from October 1950 until 1979. The magazine ran monthly until 1959, then bi-monthly until 1968. From then until 1978 it was published at an often-shifting rate, sometimes monthly for a stretch, often bi-monthly, and in the end quarterly. The final issue of the original series was published in 1980 as Volume 40, Number 1. There was a brief attempt to revive the title in 1994, with a short bi-monthly run that lasted from January 1994 to March 1995.

The quality of Galaxy was consistently fairly high judging by the issues I have. They apparently paid a bit more than other science fiction magazines, so they were able to attract some great writers, including Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. Bradbury published his first version of Fahrenheit 451, "The Fireman" in the magazine. For all of the Appendix N readers, they also published stories by L. Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber, and Jack Vance.

Until this week, I had 13 issues in my collection. Fortunately that included the first three issues from 1950. With some judicious eBay buys, I have managed to fill out my physical collection with quite a few other years of the magazine. So far I have all of the issues from 1959, 1963-68, and 1970. I have a smattering of issues between 1951 and 1958, and none from after 1970. I am waiting for all of the issues from 1961 and 1969 to be delivered. Looking at the quality of the contents alongside the costs of most issues on eBay and elsewhere, I am looking to collect the entire run, including the issues from 1994-95. If anyone has issues they are willing to part with for a reasonable price, drop me a line. I may be interested in taking them off your hands.

I intend to read through them in pieces and work on some things with them here. First, I plan to post some reviews of individual stories or issues. Second, as I read, I'm taking some notes that will eventually tie in with my Appendix N project. Those stories that I find particularly inspiring, I'll add to the list. Third, before anything gets added to the list, I am going to work out some gameable material from it and post it here.

If you want to read along or just check out Galaxy, issues are available in electronic form (along with quite a few other pulp magazines) at the Internet Archive. []

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Fantasy Trip Kickstarter "I Want It All" Rewards Unboxing

This week I got the first part of the rewards for backing the Kickstarter for The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition. Apparently I was one of the backers that had their add-ons shipped separately, but there is more than enough to keep me busy with The Fantasy Trip. So here's a little unboxing to show what came with the "I Want It All" pledge level.

I'm going to warn you up front - THIS IS A VERY LONG POST WITH A LOT OF PICTURES! You can navigate by headings if you're looking for a particular part or reward. If you want the tldr, The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition is packed with a TON of gaming material and well worth the cover price. Now, on with the details.

The shipping box itself is marked as 64 x 36 x 15 cm, weighing 6.8 kg. For all of us that are stuck with US measurements, that works out to 25.25" x 14.25" x 6" inches, weighing in at just shy of 15 pounds.

End of the shipping box

I took a picture with my 12" steel ruler on top of it, so you can see the overall size. This thing is a beast!

Top of the shipping box with a 12" ruler for scale

The side is nicely labeled, so if you want to store everything in the shipping carton, you can still see the label without opening the box. Given the amount of material in this box and recently released or Kickstarted for The Fantasy Trip, I think this is a nice touch.

Nice labeling on the shipping box side

The box is well-packed. Another nice touch that Steve Jackson Games does with all of their big Kickstarter rewards packages is put a thin sheet of cardboard on the top and bottom of the box. This helps protect the materials from stray cuts with a box knife as you cut open the tape on the box. I really appreciate this kind of attention to detail and attention to people that are collectors.

Shipping box open, showing protective cardboard sheet

Underneath the cardboard we get into the meat of the package. Two folders are on top, the Legacy Edition box is packed in on the left, the In the Labyrinth hardcover is on top on the right. The storage box, with the exclusive pocket-sized Melee & Wizard, is under a piece of packing cardboard under In the Labyrinth. The playmats are tucked under another piece of packing cardboard along one long side of the box. Everything is extremely snug in there.

The game contents packed in the shipping box

Here are the packed contents out of the shipping box. The two mats are rolled together.

The game contents out of the shipping box

The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition

The main box for the game is 13.75" x 11" x 5.25" inches. The box has some good art, information about the game contents, and an ad for the game website.

Cover of The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition main box

A friendly neighborhood octopus wizard with his lovely skeleton minions

Box side showing the contents of the game

Box side with a couple of nice maps and info about the website

Box side talking about the included adventures

Box back with some more art

I like the art for the box. The adventurers don't look like superheroes, but they're holding their own in the fight on the cover. The wizard from the cover is on the back in a different pose, and the party from the front is in the art on the back. Octopi feature in a couple of the pics, as that was one of the quirks of the original system. Who doesn't like rampaging land-bound cephalopods?

Opening the box without tearing it takes time. There is a pretty good vacuum because of the size of it, but the weight of the contents will pull the box open if you wait for it. Inside the box lid is a die-drop table for making random labyrinths. The sides of the bottom half of the game box are covered with black and white art showing adventurers exploring, fighting a variety of enemies, and even getting caught in a falling rock trap.

My favorite of these pieces has to be the classic dragon getting blasted by the wizard while breathing fire at a fighter bracing behind his shield. Bog standard for every fantasy game, really. Still, the black background, the heavy shading, and the simplicity and nostalgia all resonate with me. (And it reminds me a bit of the Willingham drawing on the cover page in the Moldvay Basic D&D book.)

Inner box art of dragon breathing fire at warrior while wizard fires a spell from her staff

Inner box art with three frames showing a warrior building a fire, another warrior fighting a tiger, and a third showing a warrior firing a bow from the back of a pegasus

"Read This First!" and unpacking the big box

Next up is the "Read This First!" This is one of the best examples of these. It's a checklist of how to get into the game a step at a time. It breaks down a little of the mechanics you can expect along the way. It also encourages you to find other players, but also recommends the included solo adventures.

Front of "Read This First!" sheet

The back of the sheet lists the contents in the box and a few websites that can be useful or offer support. There are a lot of components here, so I can see where it would be easy to get overwhelmed.

Back of "Read This First!" sheet

At this point, I should make a little aside. I am not a game collector in the sense that I want all of my games to remain pristine. I punch things out as cleanly as I can and trim any fluff from counters and pieces. For some of my wargames, I've clipped the corners when they were large enough. For most, though, I just use them, so they develop some wear. I expect these components to get used, so I'm not giving everything the white glove and velvet table treatment as I go through everything.

Okay, back to the unboxing!

Under the "Read This First" page are the three main boxes of the game and a set of dice. The Melee, Wizard, and Death Test boxes each measure 8" x 5" x 1" inches. Each of the games is individually shrink wrapped.

Melee, Wizard, and Death Test boxes and dice

The dice are in their own little plastic bag. Each die is 15 mm, and there is one each of the pearlescent blue and red. These are the bonus dice for the Kickstarter. Melee and Wizard also have dice of their own that match these. The picture doesn't really do them justice; they have a nice sheen to them in natural light.

Red and blue pearlescent dice

Next in the box is some packing cardboard to level against the cards and pads.

Cards, pads, and packing cardboard

Underneath the cards and packing cardboard are the larger components:

The custom player folio,

Custom player folio


Maps pack

GM Screen,

GM Screen

Reference booklet and character sheet,

Reference booklet

Tollenkar's Lair adventure,

Tollenkar's Lair adventure

In the Labyrinth softcover rulebook, and

In the Labyrinth softcover rulebook

Megahexes box (exclusive to first printing).

Megahexes box

All of these came out of the box easily except the megahexes box. It's designed to be lifted by the two holes in the top, but it is very snug. Hopefully it will loosen a bit with use.

Here are all of the components from the main box. They more than cover my table!

Legacy Edition components laid out


Melee is the base game for all of the rest of The Fantasy Trip. It comes in its own box, decorated with a Roman-style fighter on the front and back. The inner box has advertisements for the Space Gamer bundle, Cardboard Heroes, Ogre, and The Fantasy Trip website.

Melee box front

Melee box back

Inside the box are three more red dice, a small bag for storing the counters, a 24-page, 4" x 6.75"  rulebook, a folded map, and a bag with four counter sheets.

Melee contents

The game map is 12" x 22.5". It's printed with purple ink on white paper, and the playing area of the map has a subtle shading to it. The map flattened easily when I unfolded it, and refolded easily as well. Simple, classic component.

There are four counter sheets included in Melee. They depict a fair variety of warriors, weapons and shields, animals, gargoyles, and giants. There are a dozen prone tokens on the sheets as well. The art for these was redrawn for this edition of the game. The counters are crisp and look like they will punch fairly easily.

Some of the warriors on the counter sheets

I noticed one interesting bit on the bag with the counter sheets. The bag is stickered to show that this is a 1st edition, 1st printing of the counters. Some of the other components have similar stickers. This isn't anything I'm really concerned about, but it might be useful for true collectors.

Sticker showing 1st Edition, 1st Printing

The rulebook has readable print, about the same size as the text in a standard paperback book. The first page is the title, credit and copyrights and trademarks, and a table of contents. The book has eleven small, decorative drawings and the same number of example drawings. There are a few filler pieces - crossed spears with a shield, for instance. Some of the art is very dynamic and uses the space in the book well. There is not a bit of wasted space here.

Interior art spanning two pages

Everything packed back into the box well, and there is a small amount of extra space to allow for the punched counters in their bag to be thicker than the pristine counter sheets.


The Wizard box is the same size and layout as Melee. The front cover shows the same wizard from the cover of the main box, the inner box has the same advertisements, and the back has the description of the game and components with another different picture of our female wizard.

Front cover of Wizard box

Back cover of Wizard box

Inside the box are a 24-page rulebook, an 8-page "Wizard Reference Pages" booklet, a 19" x 23" game map, three pearlescent blue dice, four counter sheets, and a plastic bag to hold the punched counters.

Wizard components

The rulebook and reference booklet are the same size as the rulebook in Melee and use the same size print. It contains four decorative drawings and four example drawings. The reference booklet has spell tables, Dex adjustments, and information about monsters and beasts. It has two tiny pieces of art, one of which fills some otherwise blank space in a table. Once again, not a bit of wasted space!

The game map folded out and back well. It laid flat on the table with minimal pressure. The game mat will just fit in the box folded as it is originally.

The counter sheets for Wizard were also redrawn for this edition. The counters include many different wizards, a few monsters (including a couple of dragons), and lots of spell effect counters. The bag for the counters is stickered for 1st Edition, 1st Printing.

Part of one of the Wizard counter sheets

Again, everything repacked well with enough space for the punched counters in their bag to take some extra space, along with the dice from this set and the extra die from the Kickstarter.

Death Test

Death Test and Death Test 2 are two classic adventures for The Fantasy Trip that use the rules from Melee and Wizard. In the Legacy Edition, they are packaged together in a box the same size as Melee and Wizard. The box is laid out the same as well - front cover art, ads on the sides of the inner box, and descriptive text and components on the back.

Death Test front cover

Death Test back cover

The box contains a 24-page book for Death Test and a 48-page book for Death Test 2, three counter sheets (again marked 1st/1st), and a bag for the counters.

Death Test components

The books are the same size as the rulebooks for Melee and Wizard. They each have a color cover printed on the same paper as the interior pages. The covers each have a reference table on the back and blank interiors. The text is the same as the other books.

There are three counter sheets that depict a variety of characters, monsters, and items for the adventure. These counters, combined with the ones from Melee and Wizard provide a good set of basic counters for running quite a few games. And they include my favorite - armed octopi!

Sample of counter sheets from Death Test

Everything from Death Test easily fits back in its box.

Softcover In the Labyrinth

The full rulebook for The Fantasy Trip is next. In the Labyrinth expands Melee and Wizard to a much bigger roleplaying game. It keeps the tactical elements of the smaller games and adds on additional character types, creatures, weapons and equipment, spells, and so on. It also presents a world where you can place the characters and adventures.

The softcover book is US Letter-sized (8.5" x 11"), with 176 black-and-white pages and a glossy color cover. It has tight signatures and an average-looking glue binding. It will be interesting to see how well it holds up during repeated play. You can see a slight crease in the cover in the picture below from opening it to check out the pages and binding.

The print in the book is similar to the other books produced by Steve Jackson Games. It is crisp and readable, without a lot of decorative fonts. Thereare a table of contents and an index. The title page, contents, and credits take three pages. The index takes three as well. The other 170 pages are game material. In the Labyrinth, both hardbound and softcover, are the only Letter-sized component in my Legacy Edition box that does not have their own plastic wrapper.

Front cover of softcover In the Labyrinth

Sample page of In the Labyrinth

Tollenkar's Lair

Tollenkar's Lair is an adventure designed for In the Labyrinth. The adventure is a 24-page, black-and-white, Letter-sized book with a glossy color cover. The main adventure is saddle stitched. Separate but included in the same sleeve is an 11" x 17" color map sheet. Half of the sheet is the actual map, and the other half is the key and some rule cues to use for specific things in the labyrinth. The text in the adventure is slightly larger than the text in the rulebook, which will probably be very useful at the table. The plastic bag for the book is labeled as 2nd Edition, 1st Printing.

Tollenkar's Lair adventure and map sheet

Reference Booklet

The reference booklet is a series of forms that can be useful for the game. It is Letter sized, 12 pages, black and white, and saddle stitched. There is a note in the booklet that any of the forms can be copied for personal use but not resold.

The book includes the following:

  • a character record sheet on one page,
  • two GM Character Records on a page,
  • a full page of 1/4" hexes,
  • a page split vertically with 1/3" hexes on half and a Notes section next to it,
  • three pages of weapon and equipment charts,
  • a page that lists combat options, facing, and engaged and disengaged rules,
  • a page of Melee and Wizard character sheets,
  • a labyrinth design page with half a page of 1/4" hexes and areas for Rooms, History, and Campaign Notes,
  • a labyrinth room design page with half a page of 1/2" hexes and room for notes, and
  • a town design page with half a page of 1/4" hexes and room for notes about residents, shops and services, recent history, and campaign notes.

Sample pages in the reference booklet

This booklet is one of the most useful books of its type I have seen in a game. I am probably going to use some of these for keeping track of things for my Labyrinth Lord game as well as The Fantasy Trip.

Color Poster Map

One of the first-printing exclusives was packaged with the reference booklet. The color poster map is an 11" x 17" page, printed on both sides in color. Each side shows a six-level labyrinth that is not described. Both use different colors to indicate the levels. One is numbered and one is not. These are included so a GM can design a labyrinth without having to generate their own map.

Small section of keyed poster map

The colors and printing on the maps are clear and crisp. The paper is somewhat lightweight, but probably won't see a ton of folding and unfolding. The paper is folded, not creased, which should also increase its durability as long as you don't press a hard crease into the middle.

GM Screen

The GM Screen is hard as nails! It's a four-panel, Letter-sized, landscape-oriented, heavyweight screen. Two of the player-facing panels have the fan-favorite octopus wizard and octopus gate paintings. The other two player-facing panels have information on Options a character may execute, the turn sequence, and a color map of Southern Elyntia.

The GM-facing panels have two small black and white drawings, but are otherwise filled with information for running the game smoothly. The Options panel is reproduced on this side. Two panels cover rules and modifiers for combat. The fourth panel covers contests, time and distance, recovery rules, and map scales.

GM-facing side of the GM Screen with a 12" ruler for scale

I have never used a landscape-oriented GM screen while running a game. Seeing this one set up and the amount of room behind it, I might have to give it a run if I can find the space. It definitely lets you spread out while still being able to see over the screen.

Hex Tiles

The hex tiles come in six 10" x 12" sheets. They are fairly heavyweight and well-printed. All of the hex sheets are coated so they can be used with wet-erase or dry-erase markers or grease pencils. The "What's in This Box" page recommends testing the markers on an edge first and cleaning the tiles as soon as you are done using them. Remember, no Sharpies!

Part of the plain side of a hex sheet

On the back of each tile is a variant you can use that has some fantastic art by Dyson Logos. For the few people that are not aware of his website, go check it out. I'll wait. The art on the hexes includes hex lines that are drawn to suggest cracks in the surface rather than hard lines. The tiles also have specific items, like chests, trap doors, holes, and grates, or specific obstacles, like pools, rubble, or a fissure. I have to admit that this art is one of the things that swayed me to invest in the Kickstarter.

Part of a Dyson Logos-decorated hex sheet


We're at the final part of the regular big box! There are two 17" x 22" full-color maps included in the box. One map shows the village of Bendwyn. The other shows Southern Elyntia. These are obviously designed for use in campaigns with The Fantasy Trip rules, but they are fantastic fantasy maps in their own right. The hexes on both maps are a little less than half an inch and a little more than a centimeter when measured from face to face.

Part of the regional map of southern Elyntia

The maps smooth very well, but they are creased heavier than some of the other items in the box. I could see them splitting along a seam eventually with heavy use. One easy way to avoid this would be to laminate the maps, but then you have to contend with carrying them separate from the rest of the game. I may laminate them and keep them in a tube with the neoprene playmats.

So that's the end of the regular components. Obviously, there is a ton of material and years worth of gaming in this box. All of the components are top-notch, definitely comparable to other Steve Jackson Games products recently.

If you were a fan of the Melee and Wizard pocket box games and The Fantasy Trip back in the day, it is well worth it to check out this updated version. If you want to check out a different style of fantasy roleplaying game than D&D, check it out. Finally, if you are interested in a different type of tactical fantasy combat, the system is well worth a look for that as well.

First Printing Exclusives

Now that we've looked at the main components in the general release, I want to take a look at some of the components exclusive to the first printing. I was originally thinking I would go through them as they're listed on the "What's In the Box" sheet, but I'm going to skip around a bit so I can repack the box. After all, I still have the other Kickstarter rewards to talk about!

I already talked about the extra dice, one red and one blue, that are a bonus in the first release. I tucked those away in the Melee and Wizard boxes respectively.

Megahexes Box

I mentioned the megahexes box as I was unpacking the big box. This storage box is sized to just fit in the bottom of the Legacy Edition box. It is a thin corrugated cardboard box. It has a tabbed flap flor closing it and keeping it closed. The top is decorated with the title and a pair of seven-hex tiles. The bottom of the box is decorated with some examples of the Dyson Logos art from the tiles. The top of the box has a pair of holes to make it easier to get out of the bottom of the big box. Here's another picture of the box if you don't want to jump to the top and back.

Megahexes box

The box itself is pretty nondescript, other than the art on the front. This feels like it should be a standard component, and not a bonus for the first printing. Everyone is going to have hexes to keep in order, and most of us would prefer to keep them in a box rather than let them rattle around in the big box. I can see a small market for the companies that produce custom foam inserts to create one for organizing and storing the hexes in either this box or the bottom of the Legacy Edition box. I may even try to hack one together for myself.

Dragon Counter

It seems strange to call something that covers fourteen hexes a counter, but it is. "The Fantasy Trip: 14 Hex Dragon" is exactly what it says on the tin. The art is great, and it has the customary skulls and crossbones on the back for marking out that you actually killed it. I am anxious to see if anyone legitimately sees those skulls and bones in a game, though,

Part of the 14 Hex Dragon

Custom Player Folio

The custom player folio is an expandable paper folder with a self-closing tab on the front. It is printed with a reddish scale pattern. There is a large off-white label area surrounded by a brass-colored border printed on the front.

Custom player folio

This is fairly nondescript. Personally, I would have liked something with more The Fantasy Trip branding or character. I will use this to keep all of the loose papers from the set and some of the other things I print from the website in order. For now, that means the large maps and the reference sheets.

Character Sheets and Cards

The rest of the first-printing exclusives are sheets and cards. There are three, 50-sheet character pads for Melee and three for Wizard. The Melee sheets are 2.5" x 3.5", basically playing-card sized. The Wizard sheets are 5" x 3.5", so just larger than an index card. These are the same sheets that are in the reference sheets, but this saves having to copy a bunch of them.

These will definitely come in handy for play, but I have one gripe. The Melee sheets will store handily in a card storage box. I wish the Wizard sheets were half an inch shorter so that they would store in an index card box. I can always photocopy them a bit smaller to get the right dimensions, but I wish I had a sheet where I didn't have to. Again, another project.

There are 26 cards included as first-print exclusives. The cards are all 2.5" x 3.5" and coated (like the hex tiles) to work with wet-erase or dry-erase markers or grease pens. Again, no Sharpies or other permanent markers! Eight of the cards are blank Melee fighter cards. Sixteen of them are sample fighter cards. There is one "Fighter Card Instructions" card, and one treasure generation card.

Treasure card, Instructions card, fighter card, blank fighter card

The cards are a great addition to get people playing right away. I can see myself using them to introduce players to the game. The cards fit nicely with the other components in my Melee box, so that's where they will live for now.

That's the big box! A ton of gaming in there. The regular retail price for it is $119.95 in the US. I imagine you can get a bargain if you check some of the discounts at the various game stores.

"I Want It All" rewards

Beside the big box, the rest of the "I Want It All" rewards are a pretty small stack, but some really cool products.

In the Labyrinth hardcover

I like hardcover rpg books. They have a little more weight, so they don't tend to get knocked around the table. They are a little heavier in the hand, so they present a different and, to me, more comfortable reading experience. And they're typically bound better, so they hold up better to play over time. [I know there are a few classic examples of terrible game hardcover bindings, but most are much better than the paper alternative.]

The In the Labyrinth hardcover rulebook is just slightly larger than the softcover. Looking in the middle of one of the signatures, it's easy to see that the book is sewn, rather than glued. There are seven interior stitches per signature, and they are tight throughout the book. The cover art is the same as the softcover and wraps well, including centering the title on the spine. The barcode panel indicates the edition and printing of the book, in this case 2nd Edition, 1st Printing. One strange thing I noticed is that the hardcover has glossy endpapers. It doesn't really affect anything, but it seemed odd.

Center of hardcover signature showing stitches in binding

Pocket Folders

Next up is one of my favorite things from this Kickstarter, similar to other Kickstarters I've pledged. I love gaming pocket folders! I love them even more when they are functional.

There were two pocket folders in the "I Want It All" box. The first shows the cover of the boxed set and In the Labyrinth rulebook on the front. The back has the List of Options for use during the game. The interior has two pockets, divided in the middle, with pictures of various counters from the game on the flaps.

Pocket folder with cover art exterior

Cover art pocket folder interior

The second folder has the Octopus gate art from the big box on the front, the Weapon and Equipment tables on the back, and rules for Contests and Success roles on the flaps inside.

Octopus gate folder exterior

Octopus gate folder interior

The folders are slightly heavier weight than a lot of printed folders, so they should stand up to some use. The utility of them is amazing. Having the most common things referenced in game printed, portable, and durable is fantastic!

So far, everything still fits in the Legacy Edition box. I stowed the cards and the Melee character sheet pads in the Melee box. The Wizard character sheets are in the Death Test box for now, since they wouldn't quite fit in the Wizard box. Everything else is stacked between the small box games and the hex storage box. I did a little Tetris, but I managed to make it all fit.

Legacy Edition repacked with 1st-print exclusives, hardcover rulebook, and pocket folders

Premium Mats

I knew I had no chance to fit two of the reward items in the box. The premium mats are printed on cloth and backed with neoprene. (Think really thin mouse pad if you're not familiar with neoprene mats.) The Melee mat is 14.25" x 24", and the Wizard mat is 24" x 24". Both mats were drawn by Dyson Logos, and the art is fantastic. The mats have good color saturation and look likely to hold up to quite a lot of gaming in the future.

Premium Melee neoprene mat

Premium Wizard neoprene mat

The Fantasy Trip Storage Box

I managed to fit everything but the big mats into the Legacy Edition box, but I really didn't need to. One of the rewards is a storage box to hold all of the extra things for The Fantasy Trip in one place. The box is 11" x 11" x 3.5". It loses about a quarter inch in internal space side to side because of the folding of the box walls and about an eighth top to bottom from the walls. It has locking tabs on the lid, so it will hold closed pretty well without tape or magnets. The top shows the Steve Jackson Games and The Fantasy Trip logos. The bottom has a hex sheet and a cute A-Z list of things to potentially put in the box. The sides show The Fantasy Trip logo and the Steve Jackson Games pyramid with an eye.

Storage box top

Storage box bottom

The box is easily large enough for minigame boxes, tiles, and so on, but not quite large enough for the books. It will fit printed sheets, but expect a bit of waving of the sheets. I think it will be helpful down the line, especially if there are a lot more tiles and counters released for the game, but I wish it were just that extra half inch bigger.

When it shipped, it had a bit of cardboard packing, specifically to hold the last reward.

The Fantasy Trip Melee & Wizard Minigame

The minigame is a revisioning of the classic 1970s version of Melee and Wizard, packaged in a redesigned plastic pocket box. This is a nostalgia piece and a "what if?" The original versions of the two games were released in pocket boxes made of pretty flimsy cardboard. Metagaming released many games in the same format.

Steve Jackson did the minigame format one better by introducing the plastic pocket box. The original was a hard black plastic clamshell. It had enough room for a simple instruction book, a game map, a small counter sheet or two (depending on the thickness of the counters), and a die. I was a big fan of the old pocket box games, so this part of the Kickstarter really got me.

The new pocket box is made from heavy duty plastic and measures 7.25" x 4.375" x 1.25", or about the size of a thick paperback book. The pocket box in the 80s was thinner, so this box will hold a bit more than a classic box. The cover of the box shows a fighter and a wizard fighting a monster right outside of a magical portal. The back of the box is a wall of text description of both games and the contents of the box.

Melee & Wizard pocket box front

Melee & Wizard pocket box back

I have to note here that the pocket box was difficult to open. The top really held closed on mine. The top is held in place with teeth that fit into dimples on the side of the lid. Eventually I was able to work it open, but I am going to have to open and close it several times before it will open easily, if it ever does. I think it might have been a better design to move these a little farther away from the corners so they're not as hard to open.

I am also a little worried about the hinge if I open and close it too much. The hinges on the original pocket boxes were notorious for being one of the weakest parts of the design, and the same holds true here. If you want to double the life of the pocket box hinges, leave the box open while you play the game and only close it when you pack everything at the end of the game. Now that I've complained enough about a design that I actually really love, let's move on.

Inside the box, you have the rules and enough components to play a good game. There are four sheets of counters, a play mat for each game, the Melee rulebook, the Wizard rulebook, the Wizard Reference Pages, three small dice, and a small bag for the counters.

Melee & Wizard pocket box components

The counters are smaller versions of the redrawn counters in the Legacy Edition. Obviously, there are not as many counters included in the pocket box as in the main game. That's to be expected given the form factor and the price. There are still plenty of counters to play, though, and it would be very easy to create your own additional counters if you need them.

The mats are the same as the Legacy Edition as well, just smaller to accommodate the smaller counters.

The books are all the same as in the new editions. Rather than reprint a forty-odd-year-old rulebook, this set includes the updated rules. That means no arguing or back and forth on which rules to use. Same books, same rules, peace at the gaming table.

The dice are nothing to write home about. They are classic 12mm white six-sided dice.

Finally, the small bag for the counters is really small, and definitely not big enough to hold more than a few counters. Traditionally, we just let the counters bang around in the pocket box. If you have little plastic bags, though, you can save yourself a lot of wear on the tokens and make things potentially much easier to find when you're playing.

Sorted counters for Melee & Wizard pocket box game


As I was editing this post, my add-ons arrived! Very good job by Steve Jackson Games to recognize an early shipping error and correct it as quickly as possible.

For the Kickstarter rewards, I added a Car Wars bundle along with a few things for The Fantasy Trip. I missed the previous Car Wars Kickstarters, so this was an easy way to catch up there. For The Fantasy Trip, I added an additional megahex set and storage box (with an additional 14-hex dragon), an extra copy of the Melee & Wizard minigame, and additional counter sets for Melee, Wizard, and Death Test.

The additional material meant a little more repacking, but I was still able to fit everything but the pocket game into the big Legacy Edition box! I didn't take pictures of the repacking, because I ran out of daylight and have really bad light everywhere but on my very full miniature painting table. If you want pictures, I'll take some and post them when I have some daylight hours to work with. In the meantime, here's a rundown on how I fit it all in.

I started with one of the Megahexes storage boxes. I punched all the megahexes and the 14-hex dragons and arranged them tightly in the storage box. I put the cards in an open corner of the box in a small plastic bag. I opened both sets of character sheet pads and spread them over the top of the hexes to hold them in place, closed the box, and put it in the bottom of the Legacy Edition box.

The custom folio (with the reference sheets and maps inside), the GM Screen, the Tollenkar's Lair adventure, the In the Labyrinth softcover rulebook, and the pocket folders went into the second Megahexes storage box. I tucked that box into the Legacy Edition box as well.

Next, I punched and sorted all of the counters for Melee, Wizard, and Death Test. Even with double the counters, I was able to fit all of the components of each game into its box. Eventually, I'll probably get a couple of counter trays to sort everything into, but I want to keep each set discrete for now. With these sorted, I put the Melee, Wizard, and Death Test boxes on top of the Megahexes boxes in the same arrangement they were in originally.

I put the "Read This First!" page on top of the three small boxes. Finally, I put the In the Labyrinth hardcover on top, closed the Legacy Edition box, and put the big box back into the shipping box.

I left the pocket box Melee & Wizard out so I can work through them in small scale before I start tackling the big rulebook.

I still have a lot more to add to the box. I have all the rewards from The Fantasy Trip Adventures and Hexagram zine Kickstarters coming. The material that has been released on the website, material that Dyson has created,  and more will all go in the box eventually. There are already plenty of things out there to add. I'm looking forward to adding it!