Category: Gaming

Armada Reborn: The Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser

Armada Reborn: The Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser

A continuation of the Star Wars: Armada Reborn series.

To see how I convert a lore ship into a card, see the conversion post.

Today, we talk about the Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser. I gave some information in the Immobilizer 418 article, but for context:

Tied very closely in lore to the Immobilizer 418 (even from its single appearance), the Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser is essentially the warfare variant of its gravity-well projecting brother. For about the same points we can create a drastically different ship with a different role – I think this time we’ll go for something like a picket ship that could bring a bit more utility than the Arquitens without stepping on the Victory‘s toes.

Role in Lore

The Vindicator line was meant to replace the aging Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers from the days of the Galactic Republic – specifically, it was supposed to be a standard multi-role cruiser, capable of escorting other ships or operating alone.

It seems that after the fall of the Empire, a few of these were operated by pirate outfits, so we know it has to be able to stand on its own… The trick is if we can make it do so while complimenting other ships.

The Vision

We need a Swiss Army knife of a ship that can slot in wherever there are spare points (there are never spare points). We can do that relatively easily, but we need it to stand out as a true utility ship AND it needs to have the same basic chassis as the Immobilizer 418… Which means it’s time to buckle in, everybody – we’re going to have some variants.

Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser

The default, off-the-line loadout of the ship. This is going to be geared towards the key to Imperial success – overwhelming firepower with very little regard to loss-of-life. We’re going to make a glass cannon, capable of laying down enough fire to keep Rebel heads down while the cavalry comes.

Hull: 5
Command: 2
Squadron: 1
Engineering: 3
Anti-Starfighter: 2 blue
Shields (Front, Side, Back): 3/2/1
Defense Tokens: Brace, Redirect, Contain
Movement Chart

Speed 1Speed 2Speed 3Speed 4
x = can’t do it, | = one click on the navigation tool, – = straight on the navigation tool

Weapon Batteries:

ArcRed DiceBlue DiceBlack Dice

Upgrade Slots: Captain, Weapons Team, Turbolasers, Ion Cannon, Title
Point Cost: 65 points

The concept behind this ship is a clear “shoot first, ask questions later” policy. With three red dice and blue dice on its three attack arcs and both a Turbolaser and Ion Cannon slot, you could outfit it for sniping (like a CR90 on steroids):

Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser (65 pts)

  • Gunnery Teams (7 pts)
  • Linked Turbolaser Towers (7 pts)
  • Leading Shots (6 pts)

For 85 points (excluding a commander and title), by spending a Concentrate Fire token you can get two shots out of your front or a front and side arc, throwing 6 red dice and 3 to 4 blue dice, with a reroll on the entire pool or a single red dice reroll. If we look at the average dice performance including rerolls (removing a blue for the reroll), two shots out the front look like:

((.92 x 3) + .87) x 2

That’s 3.66 damage per attack, 7.32 damage output per round. Let’s compare that to a Victory II without upgrades for the same cost that somehow managed to double-arc.

(.75 x 3) + (.75 x 3) = 4.5 (Front Attack)
(.75 x 2) + (.75 x 1) = 2.25 (Side Attack)

For a grand total of 6.75 average damage per round. While we’ve got a ship with minimal defenses, the fact it can outpunch a (naked) VSDII says a lot. For the finishing touch, it’s faster and more nimble, which might help it stay in the fight a little longer.

Vindicator-class Light Carrier

Now that we’ve switched it to a carrier, it’s not so heavy anymore. In the lore these could pack up to 72 starfighters, so let’s turn this variant into a squadron pusher.

Hull: 5
Command: 2
Squadron: 4
Engineering: 3
Anti-Starfighter: 1 blue
Shields (Front, Side, Back): 3/2/1
Defense Tokens: Brace, Redirect, Contain
Movement Chart

Speed 1Speed 2Speed 3Speed 4
x = can’t do it, | = one click on the navigation tool, – = straight on the navigation tool

Weapon Batteries:

ArcRed DiceBlue DiceBlack Dice

Upgrade Slots: Captain, Gunnery Team, Offensive Retrofit 1, Offensive Retrofit 2, Fleet Command, Title
Point Cost: 70 points

What we’ve got is essentially a bigger, slightly different Quasar. Comparing the two, for 16 points more we’ve added a shield point and swapped two blue die for reds in the front – now the mothership can get a helpful shot off, too. It’s a little less maneuverable at Speed 1, but does have the extra Contain token. In place of one hull point we’ve increased Squadron to 4 and brought Engineering to 3 (to compensate for less armor). Finally its gained a Fleet Command, which is a natural slot for All Fighters, Follow Me!.

All in all, some tradeoffs which make it less resilient and a bit more expensive, but a great addition to a Sloane Swarm fleet. If you play it right, this ship can push five squadrons and even speed them up a little, getting your TIEs in range earlier. It’s also a cheaper way to bring a Fleet Command, since the next step up is a 112 point Cymoon.


I’m finally getting around to adding bases you can print and put under the ship – download links are at the bottom of the page.

Download & Play

Here are the image packs that include the front and back of each build, as well as the design for the medium ship base. Print and play it well – I want to hear how it fares.

Armada Reborn: The Immobilizer 418 (and Friends)

Armada Reborn: The Immobilizer 418 (and Friends)

Part 2 of the Star Wars: Armada Reborn series.

Today we’ve got a bit of a doozy – we’ll start talking about the other winner of the Onil Creations first painting contest and their ship. The ship that they chose was the Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser. This one is going to need a bit of explanation.

First and foremost, if they submitted the Vindicator, why are we covering the Immobilizer 418 Cruiser? For that, we have to get into the nerd lore again.

Within Star Wars (Legends) lore, the Vindicator-class and the Immobilizer 418 cruisers shared the same basic frame. This is similar to how the Imperial-class Star Destroyer shared the same frame with the Interdictor-class Star Destroyer. This second fact isn’t reflected in Star Wars: Armada, as the Interdictor in the game is a medium-based ship vs. the large-based ship ISD. It’s also severely under-gunned for what it is, but we can forgive that for game design – after all, the Interdictors are kind of odd in Armada, and don’t function the way they would in-universe.

So, if we want to accurately scale to the Vindicator, we should first take the Armada-official Interdictor and scale it down to its 418 sibling. This is the step in-between the start and the end goal, but it’s where I start throwing a bunch of fun numbers around. Let’s dive in.

Comparing the Interdictor-class Star Destroyer and the Immobilizer 418

The first thing we can do is a good old fashioned table.

SpecificationInterdictor SDImmobilizer 418
Length1600 meters600 meters
Acceleration2300 G1210 G
Shielding4800 SBD2240 SBD
Hull2272 RU960 RU
Heavy Turbolasers150
Quad Laser Cannons020 (10 fore, 5 each side)
Ion Cannons150
Tractor Beams20
Gravity Well Projectors44

As I mentioned before, the Interdictor-class Star Destroyer was built from an Imperial I-class Star Destroyer. Thus, acceleration and shielding has been taken from that where available, using information from the very comprehensive Star Wars D6 ship listings, the Saga Edition d20 listings, and other sources such as game data.

Now, we need to translate those changes into an Armada ship. We’ll go with the only useful Interdictor – the Interdictor Suppression Refit. (Go ahead, argue with me. The only reason to bring an Interdictor is the Experimental Retrofit slot, so otherwise you’re paying for a crappy ISD.

How I plan to convert stats

Originally I was going to put a big long section here – instead, I’ve decided to make the conversion guide its own post. See how I approach a lore-heavy ship into an Armada-friendly ship here.

The Baseline Ship

Alright, if you went through the conversion document then you have a fantastic attention span, and I commend you. If you’re still with me, then let’s talk about the Interdictor Suppresion Refit, an official card.

Hull: 9
Command: 2
Squadron: 2
Engineering: 5
Anti-Starfighter: 1 blue
Shields (Front, Side, Back): 3/2/2
Defense Tokens: Brace, Redirect, Contain, Contain
Movement Chart

Speed 1Speed 2Speed 3Speed 4
If it has an X, the ship can’t do it. Each I is one click of the navigation tool at that speed.

Weapon Batteries:

ArcRed DiceBlue DiceBlack Dice

Upgrade Slots: Captain, Support Team, Offensive Retrofit, Experimental Retrofit 1, Experimental Retrofit 2, Ion Cannons, Title
Point Cost: 90

Examining the Stats

So, with all of that in mind you get… Kind of a weird ship. If you consider each component individually then on paper you absolutely get your money’s worth out of it. With a consistent (if not too exciting) attack pool, it doesn’t matter as much which arc you’re shooting from, you’ve got standard maneuverability, and your Engineering (the least used of the three stats) is the best in the game. You have a thick hull but weak shields, and a defense token pool to reflect that.

What makes this ship shine is, of course, its upgrade slots. As the only ship able to use the Experimental Retrofit cards (there’s only four, and you don’t see two of them played much) it has the edge there, and the Support Team/Offensive Retrofit/Ion Cannons allow for some nice combos.

However, this will never be a ship killer. The average damage for its three main arcs is a total of 3, before the defender uses any redirect tokens. It can do a number on shields if it has an Ion Cannon upgrade, but you need to be within blue range of your target for that, which is less than ideal. This will lose vs. a Rebel Providence-class Carrier (at 95 points) or even an Assault Frigate Mark II B (at 72 points), because it will be taking fire before it can even get within range, and its shields are easy to crack. Fighters can get through it, and despite its appearance, its lack of good defense tokens means it can be an easy target.

How is it used? In interesting and really clever ways. I’ve seen Interdictors loaded to be a damage sponge, using the engineering value to constantly move around and regenerate shields. I’ve seen it as a force multiplier for Imperial Star Destroyers, and I’ve even seen it used as a fighter pusher (I know, I was impressed). It’s clear it has more utility than meets the eye, and that mentality is what I want to bring down to the 418 and the Vindicator.

Converting the Interdictor

Size, Speed, & Maneuverability

By the official numbers, the Interdictor-class Star Destroyer should be a large base ship, so ignoring that oversight we will need to make the Immobilizer 418 a medium base. This feels right, as small ships are consistently 400 meters or less, but looks odd since it’s going to be the same size as its big brother.

It’s got a standard navigation chart, only really hurt by topping out at Speed 2. You can put an Engine Tech on there to make it essentially speed 3, but it’s not too sustainable to keep it full throttle because you’ll need your tokens elsewhere. Since this is a much smaller ship, I think we can say its engines will do some work for us – I would add a Speed 3, with the first notch straight but the second and third allowing a click.

Command, Squadron, and Engineering

The Immobilizer 418 is just a smaller version of its big brother, so not much would change. A medium ship should have a Command value of 2, so we’ll keep that. It actually has more starfighters than the Interdictor Star Destroyer, so I guess we’ll keep Squadrons at 2 as well. It simply can’t have the same lineup, though, so Engineering we will bring back to the more reasonable-for-its-size value of 3.


It’s honestly hard to bring the shields down further – however, since this ship isn’t supposed to be fighting on its own, I think a reasonable case can be made for 3 front, 2 sides, and 1 rear. I was considering a 2 all-around, but with a lower Engineering value it’s not going to be manipulated quite as much.

As for tokens, I think all we need to do here is drop one of the existing Contains so we’re still left with a Brace, Redirect, and Contain. That feels good for a medium ship, so moving on.

The hull is going to take a significant downgrade – I would bring it to a 5. That’s not much, but any more feels wrong for what boils down to a support ship. Honestly, I would have wanted to bring it to a 4, but with a CR90 having the same hull we would have an issue.


For its main battery, we have an interesting choice. Per the lore, the 418 doesn’t have any Ion Cannons or missiles, just some quad laser cannons. We could cut its dice in half to make it just a really bad shooter, or we could convert those to fewer red dice since they’re weaker turbolasers. I think I would land somewhere along this:

ArcRed DiceBlue DiceBlack Dice

We’ve reduced its utility since it can’t reach out and fire with a red dice, and we’ve lowered the dice count significantly. However, we’ve given it blue dice, which are the most consistent. 24 quad laser cannons are going to hit, so it felt right there.

Note that I actually upped its Anti-Starfighter dice. The same principle applies – since these are quad laser cannons and not turbolaser cannons, they’re smaller and faster guns, so they will hit more consistently.


This one is easier. We need to reduce the main reason you would bring an Interdictor at all – cut one of the Experimental Retrofits. The ship also seems small enough to not need a Support team and there are no ion cannons, so what we’re left with is: Captain, Offensive Retrofit, Experimental Retrofit, Title. It’s sparse, but you’re bringing this for the Experimental Retrofit. Anything else is trying to use a screwdriver to pull nails – there are better tools for the job.

So, what do we get for all that cutting?

The Immobilizer 418 Cruiser

Hull: 5
Command: 2
Squadron: 2
Engineering: 3
Anti-Starfighter: 2 blue
Shields (Front, Side, Back): 3/2/1
Defense Tokens: Brace, Redirect, Contain
Movement Chart

Speed 1Speed 2Speed 3Speed 4
x = can’t do it, each | is one click on the navigation tool, each – is a straight on the navigation tool.

Weapon Batteries

ArcRed DiceBlue DiceBlack Dice

Upgrade Slots: Captain, Offensive Retrofit, Experimental Retrofit, Title
Point Cost: 65 points

Overall, I think this is a decent utility ship. You aren’t going to get much firepower out of it, but you could certainly take advantage of the Experimental Retrofit slot and the Offensive Retrofit together – pushing three squadrons is a solid benefit while you’re acting as a force multiplier for an Imperial-class escort.

This is a ship where I could use some suggestions – first as feedback on the utility of the chassis from other player’s perspectives and second as to a fair price for it. We know it would need to be under 90 so it doesn’t cost more than its better version, and the sorta-close-in-a-different-way Quasar Fire I is 54 points, so we have that range to play with.

Eventually it would be nice to come up with some sort of formula to roughly calculate what cost should be, but with the existing prices (particularly with starfighters) I don’t think such a thing exists.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so share them below, and buckle in for the Vindicator.

Converting Star Wars Ships into Star Wars: Armada

This was originally going to go into the Immobilizer 418 article, but considering it’s long and number heavy, I decided it needed to stand on its own.

Below, we will see my criteria for converting a ship from Star Wars lore into one that can play with Star Wars: Armada. Keep in mind that some of these ships might suck and some of them might beat out official ships on efficiency – that’s just the way it works, and balancing a ship with the dozens that are out now is a whole lot for one person. The good news is we can change point values and stats if you’re helping with the “Armada Reborn” effort, right?

Since the numbers aren’t very easily converted (at all), there’s going to have to be a lot of ballpark guesses and approximations. Ships can go through different rounds and have values changed, so anyone who gets the chance to do some testing on this would be greatly appreciated.

Speed and Maneuverability

The two main contributing factors to this will be Length and Acceleration. Acceleration would be the bigger contributor, but length will have a heavier impact on turning radius (hi, Super Star Destroyer!).

Command, Squadron, and Engineering


Command will be impacted by the required crew as well as the ship base size. Numbers are truly all over the place with required crew, but in general, a Large base would max out at 4, a Medium max out at 3, and a small max out at 2. There can be exceptions, but we need a rough baseline.


Squadrons are a little easier – we can look at that ship’s possible starfighter complement. The numbers vary here too, but in the Star Wars lore a fighter squadron was about twelve fighters. While I would like to say we take in-lore fighters/12 = Squadron, that doesn’t work once we get to larger ships. It does work for a lot of other ships, though, with examples below:

  • CR-90 – Had no fighters. 1 is the minimum we can put here, so 1 Squadron value it is.
  • Nebulon-B – Small ship that held two squadrons. 2 Squadron value.
  • Quasar Fire – Had 48 starfighters, plus some transports. 4 Squadron value.

Things get weird when we start to hit large ships. A Victory I only carried 24 fighters plus a ground force, but they have 3 Squadron. An Imperial I carried 72 fighters, which would be a value of 6 Squadron. So, unless we have a large, dedicated carrier like a Venator, we will max out at 4 Squadron points.

What about flotillas, you say? What about ships with no starfighter complement? Those get a maximum of 2 on the card. In rare occasions we see a 1 printed on the card (such as the Onager-class Testbed, Arquitens-class Light Cruiser, CR90’s and Hammerheads, etc.), but unless it’s an exceptionally small ship, a ship geared towards a single purpose (like a superlaser), or would have no ships in lore, we can leave it at two.

The Long Story Short: We need to mostly guess based off of lore here. These values are the values printed on the card, not the maximum with upgrades.

  • 1 Squadron = Ships that wouldn’t have a fighter escort or wouldn’t be designed to coordinate with fighters. This is the baseline for most small ships.
  • 2 Squadron = Ships that could or would have a light escort force. While the fighters could pose a threat, they would be more of a deterrent than the main offensive attack. This is the baseline for medium ships.
  • 3 Squadron = Ships that would certainly have a fighter complement. The fighters would be enough to be a notable threat, providing around 40-50% of the damage output from the fighters and ship itself. This is the baseline for large ships.
  • 4 Squadron = Ships that use their fighters as standard procedure. The fighters are deadly on their own, and work well with the laser fire from the carrier. This is the baseline for Huge ships.
  • 5 Squadron = Ships that really do one thing well – deploy swarms of fighters to take down large opponents.
  • 6 Squadron = Well now you’re just getting ridiculous. You know one thing and one thing only – droppin’ fighters. That or you have a 19 kilometer monster ship and can carry whatever you want.


Generally, most ships have a 2 or 3 Engineering. We need to think about the ship’s role when working this in – if the ship is highly technical in nature (like the Interdictor), then it makes sense they would have more engineers. If it has a lot of systems like a large-base MC80, they would also have more.

  • 2 Engineering = Small Base
  • 3 Engineering = Medium Base/Large Base
  • 4 Engineering = Large Base
  • 5+ Engineering = A really good reason why you have so many engineers.

The rulebreaker here is the Interdictor, which is a medium ship with 5 Engineering points. Really, it should have been a large base.



This will be primarily pulled from other sources and compared to ships around its same point cost or use. I truly hate how some ships have a great front shield then garbage sides (MC80 Liberty-classes, I’m looking at you), so I usually won’t make a three point shield difference unless there is a lore reason, like terrible game design engineering.

  • A small base ship will very rarely have a shield value above 4 – they will stay comfortably in the 2s with the occasional 3 to help out. Some ships will see 1s, depending on their use and original role.
  • A medium base ship will see 3s more often, and occasionally a 4. In weak arcs (like the back of any big Imperial ship) it can drop down to 1.
  • A large base ship should almost always have a 4 front shield and 3 side shields as a minimum. There will be exceptions, as usual, but an arc shouldn’t really go below 2 unless it’s an Onager, because I don’t think the Imperial Design Department ever planned on showing the Rebellion the tail end of one of those monsters.
  • A huge base ship should never have less than a 2 printed, and only on the rear arc. We only have one ship to go off of, but for a ship that can fit in a standard 400 point game, 3 is the average with a 6 front. For a ship priced to 600+ games, 5 is your standard and 6 is your front, with a 3 rear minimum.

Defense Tokens

We know a pretty regular set of tokens from the ships we’ve seen.

  • Small ships will almost always have an Evade and Redirect. The third token slot could be anything from a Brace for the slower ships to a second Evade for the nimble ones – this is flexible.
    • Floatillas are a special kind of small ship, representing a group of small ships like transports. They are the only ship that should have Scatter, and should probably have an Evade as well.
  • Medium ships are in the same boat (hah), but with a more standard set of an Evade, a Brade, and a Redirect. A few are different – it’s situational, and I think lore comes into play here.
  • Large ships should always have a Brace and Redirect, and usually have a Contain. The newer ships have a Salvo token and those mean ISDs have two redirects, so again, it’s very much situational.
  • Huge ships should have a bit of everything except Evade and Scatter. They can do what they want.

Giving value to each token is hard, because it depends on what ship it’s on. If I had to rank them, it would probably be something like:

  1. Brace – You cut the incoming damage in half, regardless of range. That’s hard to downplay.
  2. Evade – Made a little more useful in Armada 1.5, Evade can get you out of a bit of damage. It’s much less useful on a large ship, but still a nice-to-have.
  3. Redirect – You don’t get to reduce the damage, but you can spread it to other shield areas. Usually you only get a couple of redirects off per big ship, and if you’re taking fire from a lot of smaller ships you’ll be in trouble.
  4. Salvo – You get a free shot back if you have the right range. Your shot may not be too impressive, but it might make your opponent burn a defense token or even take a critical hit if you’re lucky. The only reason it’s lower is because it’s rare, and most return fire is a small dice pool you can’t do much with.
  5. Contain – You can ignore critical effects. It’s nice and all, but I don’t really feel these have ever “saved” me much at all, just helped a ship limp along a bit further.
  6. Scatter – It’s only on fighters and flotillas. If it could go on anything then this is going up to the very top of the list – flat out ignoring an attack is awesome. Unfortunately, most ships can’t disassemble to let a missile pass by then re-assemble without spacing the crew, and that’s a lot of paperwork for HR.


Before We Begin: Let’s talk about dice colors.

A ship can have red, blue, or black dice. I’ve heard often that they (approximately) represent turbolasers, ion cannons, and missiles (respectively), which usually tracks in terms of blue dice crits activating Ion Cannons and black dice crits activating Ordinance. This isn’t always a hard and fast rule, though, because if we hold a ship up next to its lore it rarely aligns. I’ll certainly keep this in mind, but won’t be held to it – I’ll be looking at the ship’s role in battle instead. We also want to keep in mind consistency and what the intended weapons were – for example, laser cannons are lighter versions of turbolasers, so wouldn’t necessarily go out to red range. Additionally, a black dice ship might have torpedoes, OR it might have a bunch of Rebels firing shotguns out of the window. We never know.

Dice Averages

Thanks to the fine people at and their math which I really don’t want to double check, we have averages to expect for each dice in our nice chart below. All averages are for a single roll unless otherwise stated. We won’t re-roll fighters, because don’t do that.

Metric (vs. a ship)Red DieBlue DieBlack Die
Average Damage.75.751
Odds to Hit62.5%75%75%
Maximum Damage212
Average Damage (with a re-roll).92.871.25
Metric (vs. a squadron)Red DieBlue DieBlack Die
Average Damage.5.5.75
Odds to Hit37.5%50%75%
Maximum Damage212

We will keep those values in mind and try to find the average damage for each arc, keeping that as a guide for the number and type of dice.

For more regarding dice colors and strategy (and just some good Armada content), check out their blog:


The standard for this is 1 blue for anything smaller than a large, and then two dice with either a mix of blue or black for large. Occasionally you have a ship with red dice, which should definitely be occasional – imagine how fast a two-dice red flak monster could rip through TIE fighters, and at range.
To determine this, we need to look at what weapons and role the ship had in lore then go from there.

Firing Arcs

There’s a whole lot of guessing here, too. Luckily we do have some great source books from the Saga Edition tabletop RPG (D20) and the D6 predecessor, so if all else fails we can take a look at that. Additionally, we’ll need to think about how the ship was supposed to be fielded (Imperials liked superior firepower out of the front arc, but the Arquitens is a definite broadsider) and some common sense.
Since this is such a wildcard I can’t even really summarize it. This is going to be a bigger experiment, and we’ll probably need to pull in average damage.

I’m always open to suggestions, so any feedback is welcome and I’ll modify accordingly.

An Apocalypse Project – Fallout Bottle Caps

An Apocalypse Project – Fallout Bottle Caps

Today we’ll take a quick look at a side-project that’s been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now: making prop replicas of bottle caps from the Fallout video game series.

In all of these, I have created the bottle caps using in-game art where available, otherwise by using designs made from scratch. I do sell these to collectors and cosplayers, so if you want to buy some, reach out!

The Search for the Blackest Black Acrylic Paint

The Search for the Blackest Black Acrylic Paint

Recently (over the past almost two years) I’ve been getting into painting miniatures. The miniatures are almost always game pieces – be it figures from the Fallout board game, ships in Star Wars: Armada, or World War II Bolt Action platoons. I’ll probably be writing more about my learning curve so not everybody has to make the same mistakes and silly purchases that I did, but for now, I want to talk about something that people take for granted: black.

Yep, black – you know, the shade that we see everywhere. My phone is back, my shirt is black, my notebook, some of the two cats I have, black is a color that fits on any model or painting. It can help add texture and depth, give a cool look on a starship, or just make a nice black belt for a soldier to really bring the outfit together. However, those things aren’t ACTUALLY black – they’re very dark shades of grey. There’s a distinction to make here, and that is that black is the absence of light. It’s a void. It’s something that is incredibly difficult to replicate, especially in paint or media… And that may be why when I came across an article on Vantablack, I was intrigued. Vantablack is the darkest material people can create (as of writing it may have been recently dethroned, I don’t know). Using Vantablack creates a void-like appearance because barely any light is reflected back to the viewer – it truly is the absence of light.

The problem with Vantablack is twofold – first, it’s something that pretty much needs to be applied in a specialized lab, and second, the exclusive use of it for artistic purposes is owned by some dude, who is pretty smug about it. Like the rest of miniature painters everywhere, I just used my regular blacks and got along just fine, until I came across an ad promoting a paint that was the darkest on the market. That’s where I first saw Culture Hustle’s Black 2.0 (I’m not an affiliate, I’m not getting paid, or getting free stuff, or anything like that). I had a few projects in mind for scenery and miniatures where a true void effect would look pretty neat, so I bought a bottle, waited a bit, and then painted something up.

The results were… Okay. The pictures that are used on the site show Black 2.0 in its absolute best scenarios – to the eye, though, it looked not much different than my regular black. I will say that it was much easier to get a solid black with 2.0, but was it worth it over my Citadel paints? Not so much.

Then, of course, came Black 3.0. It was marketed as being even darker, and if you used 2.0 as a base layer then coated 3.0 on top, you’d have the blackest black that black has ever been! (It sounded fishy, I know). Again, I decided “What the hell?” and bought a bottle. This time, we’re on to something.

Black 3.0 truly is the blackest paint I own (still not getting paid). One of the models I wanted to paint was a TIE Phantom from X-Wing, the miniature game from Fantasy Flight. TIE Phantoms are supposed to be able to cloak themselves to be invisible to the naked eye, and since they’d be deployed in space… Well, a black void paint just fits. Here is the current Work-in-Progress model, where I have only painted black.



The effect is the ship going into the void (cloaking). This model is the factory paint, then the black is a base coat of Black 2.0 and a single layer of Black 3.0. The eye is better than a camera, so while it’s not a complete void, it’s an effect that’s hard to describe – if it were over a black background, it would blend seamlessly. Only by holding a bright light next to it can you start to see the texturing on the wings, and under no play circumstance would that happen.

So, being happy with my choice so far, I was curious about how this new Black 2.0+3.0 combination stacked up to the other blacks in my box(es) of paint. For that, I made a little sample swatch for everyone!


In the swatch, you can see:

  • Liquitex Basics Mars Black
  • Citadel Abbadon Black base
  • Black 2.0
  • Black 3.0
  • Black 2.0 for the first coat, 3.0 for the second

None of the paints have been thinned, and they had dried for about 10 minutes when the picture was taken. It was on white cardstock, and it was lit by a very bright daylight-balanced source about a foot away.

Again, this is something that is hard to capture with a camera, but here are some observations:

  • On its own, the cheap Liquitex Basics Mars Black would have been pretty darn black. There is a bit of shine and gloss to it, though, so keep that in mind.
  • Citadel’s Abbadon Black is going to be great for most uses. Really, this is the realistic black that you see day-to-day, like a non-gloss phone case or a black outfit.
  • Black 2.0 was very matte. Of course, it was darker than Liquitex and Citadel, and I’d have thought it would be as black as black can be.
  • Black 3.0 on its own shows very little difference between 2.0. It seemed like maybe it was darker, but if I had to pick it out from its predecessor I would probably fail.
  • Black 2.0 undercoat with 3.0 topcoat truly is like a void. It’s bizarre. You hold it up to a lamp, three inches away, and it’s STILL BLACK. It’s like a borderline optical illusion.

I wanted to see what I could do here, so I loaded up Photoshop and added some exposure filters to the chart. See the results below (and click on it for a larger version).


With exposure pretty much blown out, now we can definitely see some differences.

tl;dr – How do I get the blackest black acrylic paint?

In my testing, you would want to use the Culture Hustle Black 2.0 as your base coat (after primer), let it dry for a good day, then put 3.0 overtop. You’ll get an extremely unique effect that will draw attention and trick the eye. I would not suggest this replace your usual black since it looks almost unnaturally dark, but it sure is something to see.

Hopefully, this helps fellow miniature painters in their shopping – what we have is a truly dark acrylic, so while the marketing is strong with 2.0/3.0, there is actually some value to it.

Paints used:

On Hostility in Gaming – How One Bad Apple Ruins the Bunch

On Hostility in Gaming – How One Bad Apple Ruins the Bunch

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘lone wolf’ gamer. Although I do love some cooperative experiences and games, I typically stick to a game’s story or only engage in co-op with a friend I actually know. On the rare occasions I do go out in the wide world of online multiplayer, it’s with a solo approach – I’ll do as much as I can on my own, and only reach out when necessary.

Recently I’ve picked up playing the fan-made revival of the 2003 LucasArts/SOE MMORPG, Star Wars: Galaxies (formally known as “SWGEmu“). Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) is one of my all-time favorite games – a total sandbox experience, it broke the mold with a revolutionary Profession and Skill system that allowed endless combinations and builds. Instead of relying on your Warrior for tanking and Mage for DPS, you had a huge variety to choose from that allowed you to play solo or in teams – I’ll almost certainly write about it later, so I’ll skip the details. It’s totally freeform, which is formula for success to the game’s major playerbase – adults.

This was always the draw of Galaxies and most of the online games I play – the maturity of your average player. Of course there were trolls and troublemakers, but recently I’ve come across a special kind of idiot – one of the worst types… Bad enough that I wanted to vent about the problem that I know plagues online gaming and what ultimately drove me away from games that rely on multiplayer in the first place.

A fair warning to readers: This is a long entry. I began intending to write about a very specific type of personality, but instead it grew to tackle a larger issue in gaming – unfiltered writing has a tendency to do that.

Cooperation in Star Wars Galaxies – Some Context

For some additional context, cooperation is essential in Star Wars: Galaxies. While most MMOs rely on high-end drops from difficult enemies, SWG did it entirely differently. Characters could avoid combat altogether and instead become crafters – using components like metal and polymers collected by other players or harvesters, they craft the best gear. Drops from enemies are usually sub-par at best, so it’s important to understand that while you can “solo” the game, there’s always an underlying player cooperation. Aside from simply buying and trading, the best way to advance is to find a group of like-minded players and join a guild.

Guilds are the primary form of player association in most MMOs, and inevitably, they have a set structure with typically a single figurehead, the guild leader. Some games are very restrictive – a guild leader can never be ‘impeached’, and some games are more freeform where it’s more of an oligarchy approach – Galaxies has three tiers in their setup, the Leader, Officers, and Members (with available titles and responsibilities for individuals, if desired). It was the best guilds that used this system – by giving officers control and shifting the weight off of a single person, the guild could more easily run and grow.

To run a successful guild, it required maturity and cooperation – there were so many moving parts, that a level of trust in your fellow guild members was not just encouraged, but required. You could vote on new leadership if the existing proved incompetent, and players had a say in keeping their leadership on track… But what happens when those checks and balances are removed?

A Case Study in Doing it Wrong

I had the misfortune to find out exactly what happens after joining “RvR” – a guild on the central Basilisk server. RvR at first appeared as a giant, prosperous guild with a major city positioned in a great location for character leveling and mission running. There was activity in their central hub, and you couldn’t help but see the guild tag on players across the game. There had to be something that they were doing right – I joined the first chance I got, and almost immediately, I saw the first sign that should have shot up warning flares.

Rough Recruitment

In the city there was a sign on who to contact to join the guild – two players named PlayerX and PlayerY (obviously not their actual player names, though the guild IS real). I reached out to both and found PlayerX online – he said he was preoccupied, but would email me information about the guild so I could see if it was a good fit. I went about my business, and approximately an hour later I see not one, but two messages in my character’s inbox. The first was the standard recruitment propaganda – services, information, you name it. The second was also from PlayerX, and was much less friendly.

In the 30 minutes since his first email, PlayerX had apparently gone on a rampage – I found a long rant about “lack of maturity” and “disrespect”, with threats that I wouldn’t be welcome in the guild. Knowing a troll when I see one (and also noting that PlayerX had gone offline), I instead reached out to PlayerY, the actual guild leader, to sign up. I logged off for the night, and the next day had a discovery – PlayerX and PlayerY were, in fact, the same person. Graciously, he had decided to let me in the guild – I remember thinking it couldn’t be all bad, and that there was likely some sort of language barrier that made him come off as abrasive. I joined, plopped down some houses, and again, went about my business.

“My Way or the Highway” – Opinions Not Allowed

Things seemed okay for the next day or so – while I noticed that the GuildChat channel was surprisingly quiet for the number of players online, it appeared that the setup was more complex than I knew – somehow, the guild ran three cities clumped closely together, creating a nice hub on a formerly remote world. There were regular services to reduce the time it took to prepare for an outing, and a decent mall nearby. While running around town, a player approached me, seeing the “RvR” tag, and asked for more information. I gave PlayerX a pass on our first encounter and relayed the good parts of the guild, simultaneously mentioning in GuildChat that there was someone in the city who wanted to join. The few responses I got said that there wasn’t anyone online who could sign him up, as we only had a handful of officers – way under the normal ratio. I mentioned it was too bad, asked why we didn’t have more officers, and told the new player he’d have to try again another time.

A few minutes later, the shit had hit the fan, and the angry PlayerX appeared online. Again ranting in (what I believed to be) a second-language English, he flipped a lid about my comment, mentioning how they do have officers, and that I was being disrespectful. Again that word came up, and it was clear that PlayerX had never heard that respect was earned, not assumed – someone had a complex, and that someone was on my case. In a bewildering conversation I wish I’d recorded, threats of ‘blacklisting’ my character came out, and any respect had been lost. The Guild Leader and mayor of the area was a joke – during the semi-public debate, several players messaged me assurances that it had happened to them, and that the rule of thumb was you were either a suck-up or you never spoke in chat.

The thought kept coming to mind until finally, I asked one of my ‘supporters’ – how was PlayerX still Guild Leader if this was typical behavior? I should have known before I got the answer – PlayerX, PlayerY, and all of the other guild officers were actually just characters ran by the same person. Abusing multiple accounts and character creation limits (which hey, if a SWGEmu CSR is reading this, take a look into RvR leadership!), PlayerX had established a 100% dominance of the guild. The current situation stood like so:

  1. The Guild Leader voting system was broken. While typically officers ran in opposition to a bad leader, there IS no opposition for this one – indefinite control. Clever, though no effort was made to hide the fact, so I’ll take a point away from intellect.
  2. The city mayoral voting system was broken. Housing within city limits was (and usually is) a requirement for joining, but again cities are typically allowed to vote out poor mayors – not so. Instead, instant eviction occurred should someone run opposition, eliminating you from the race.
  3. Lastly and most importantly, out of the thirty or so estimated characters online in the guild at the time, not a single one felt comfortable responding to the Guild Leader’s wild behavior, knowing to do so would be removal from the guild and potential loss of equipment and hard-earned gear (during the housing eviction). Entire savings were tied up in the city bank and storage – if your character was banned from the bank, you were, in short, screwed.
  4. If I’d spent more time in the guild before the discovery, merchants and valuables may have been placed in more vulnerable areas and money spent to establish a place there – luckily, I hadn’t, and my extraction was much smoother than long-term residents.

I held my temper, as adults tend to do. I realized it was NOT a language barrier that I’d experienced, but instead a kid doing his best not to leetspeak and sound important… So I slowly began the long transition of moving my equipment and savings out of RvR controlled areas. I mentioned to the new player I had almost condemned that he should keep looking (to which he wholeheartedly agreed), and let PlayerX/PlayerY blow off his steam, watching as he began to shut out my access to the guild services.

I pointed out that he’d thrown nothing short of a tantrum, and was being obnoxious. Knowing he couldn’t give me the boot without reinforcing the point (or maybe he actually believed he taught me a lesson), PlayerX reinstated the rights he had begun to take away. The storm had subsided for a time – long enough at least for me to secure my stuff and haul out in secret, though I stayed publicly thanks to the friendly folks who had reached out. I also had another reason: curiosity.

I wanted to see how far the rabbit hole went (which it turned out to be pretty far), but that’s a different story. To keep it simple, the “mature” guild had been taken over by a misogynist, angry, and very hostile teen with delusions of grandeur, and as a result, dozens of players were stuck with a reduced, unpleasant experience.

The Mentality That Destroys Gaming

One could point out that there are measures in-game to prevent this that have been abused, so it should be corrected. One could also say that the game mechanics are at fault for allowing such a monopoly, but that wouldn’t be entirely true – there are safeguards, but they were bypassed. Instead of talking about mechanics and the specific situation above, I wanted to write about the real core problem at the heart of online gaming – hostility.

You can search the web for countless cases of gaming gone wrong, and let me be clear – in no way do I believe gaming creates this behavior. The troublemakers and idiots as previously mentioned exist outside of the online world – video games merely give them a way to act anonymously. Let’s take a quick checklist of a few games where the multiplayer aspect ruins the experience:

  • Any shooter like Halo and of course the Call of Duty series are almost synonymous with hostility. Try it – boot up your Xbox, pop in a shooter, and turn on the headset. Start a timer from when you start playing to when you get your first racial slur – it won’t take more than a couple minutes. Extra points if you’re brave enough to do this as a woman.
  • EVE Online, a game that I do enjoy, actually thrives on this behavior. Although those players don’t typically make it too far, there are stories that hit major media outlets that cover those few assholes that do.
  • Diablo 3, and the Blizzard community, in general, is crippled by this. I know a couple that could probably tell you horror stories from customer support – things that would probably stop you from ever picking up a game again.
  • To save us both time, Cracked wrote a series of articles solely covering a wide range of video game douchebaggery (as they call it), which take a funny glance at times when, in reality, a lot of players were probably turned off from their hobby for good.

In the cases above and hundreds more, players are the reason that online gaming can be so unpleasant. For some reason, the innate competition that video games offer bring out the worst of us – and it’s a true shame because this behavior and stigma is what fuels the enormous amount of negative press on the industry.

I don’t really know if there’s a solution to this – I would have liked to propose the end-all fix that removes assholes from what should be an enjoyable pastime for everyone, but that probably doesn’t exist. Until the anonymity is removed, there really is no penalty for the bad apples – one day when all accounts are linked to a central DNA-based username or futuristic Bio-ID I’m sure people will have to answer for their actions, but to be honest, that’s an environment I wouldn’t want to play in.

The Start of the Discussion

I’ve said my piece, and some readers may think it’s whiny. Certainly, there are a lot of players that accept the above as fact and simply say “deal with it” – to a level, I agree. We do have to deal with it, but should we?

In today’s world, we only get limited time to do what we love or to unwind for a while. If gaming is your outlet, should you have to constantly deal with a barrage of abuse and harassment? Of course not. You can’t behave that way on the golf course or in yoga class, so why should a player who is actively involved in (and in some cases rewarded for) ruining other people’s experience online be accepted?

The short of it is that gaming today is a fragile creature. You can argue with the sheer number of sales and the growing digital age that surrounds us, but I counter that gaming is not what it was a few years ago, and won’t be what it is in the next few years. Mobile has taken over. MMOs are on a downward spiral. Even the yearly blockbusters have taken sales hits, and more often than not you’ll hear about the success of an indie, single-player game than the roaring support of an AAA multiplayer title.

How do we ensure that the multiplayer we grew to love sitting on a friend’s couch doesn’t cease to exist? How do we change the mentality of gamers, old and new, to embrace civility and the “live and let live” mantra? CAN it be fixed? Is this truly an issue, or is it simply being overblown? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so feel free to leave your thoughts below… I’ll try not to troll you too much. 🙂

Lifeline – A Game in Review

Lifeline – A Game in Review

Note: This post was originally hosted on my professional blog on July 11, 2015. It has since been relocated here.

Lifeline – An Interactive Fiction Mobile Game

Last weekend I found myself in a very long-feeling car trip. With a disinterest in reading or doodling, I decided to browse the Google Play store for a fun little distraction to take up the next couple of hours – it was then I stumbled on Lifeline ($0.99 – App Store | Google Play), a text-based RPG for both iOS and Android.

What kind of game is it?

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, don’t feel bad – text-based RPGs have been long and dead for quite a while now, at least on mainstream gaming. The best analogy would be a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you’re thrown into the shoes of a character and ultimately make the decisions that determine their fate. It’s a very basic predecessor for the huge blockbuster RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and so on.

Time doesn’t typically hold well for these games. Often they’re confusing for players unfamiliar with the system, and they’re relentlessly punishing – turning left down a passage could lead you to riches, and turning right straight to ruin. Back to the start. I was feeling a little nostalgic, so on seeing so many positive reviews for Lifeline, I decided to splurge and pay the minimal cost for the app.

What is Lifeline?

Lifeline, surprisingly, was something totally different compared to what I’d expected. Most text-based RPGs can be played out at your own pace – assuming there’s a save slot, you can take as much or as little time as you’d like and play through in one sitting.

This is not the case with this quirky little game. Instead, Lifeline uses a drastically different gameplay hook. The second I fired up the game, here’s what I saw:

The opening dialogue for the game.

Instead of the typical intro of “You find yourself in a forest…”, I was getting what was the equivalent of frantic text messages from a strange person in distress. Interesting! After a brief set of messages I was given one of two answers to choose from – I would select, and almost immediately you’d see waiting dots, and within a few seconds a brief, humanlike reply from the other line. This time, you weren’t the hero – you were talking to the hero. A nice twist!

You quickly come to find that the protagonist, a young science student named Taylor, is the sole survivor from a spaceship wreck on an uncharted planet. As if that weren’t bad enough, the hostile environment and stress seems to have thrown the character entirely off balance – suddenly, he’s asking YOU to make life or death decisions for him, and it’s up to you to take the reigns.

The story follows Taylor through the next few days on his voyage across the planet in hopes of finding something, anything, he could use to find his way home.

Lifeline Gameplay

Like I mentioned before, Lifeline touts itself as a text-based adventure where you choose the outcome. The interesting hitch about it is that it happens in real-time… You heard me – real time. Tell your character to work on opening a door? You’ll get an affirmative, and no further communication for the duration of his exercise. Tell him to go to sleep? You better be ready to wait six to eight hours – he won’t text, and you can’t even ping him for a status update. It’s an interesting twist – on the offhand you’ll peek at your phone throughout the day to see if you’d lead your little friend into a deathtrap or if he’d made it through that narrow canyon. Occasionally, something unexpected will happen and you’ll receive a flurry of frantic questions – should I push on or look for rations?

I hadn’t seen a dynamic like this before, so I almost instantly recommended it to a friend.

To clarify, although you get messages periodically, you aren’t forced to answer within a certain timespan. Taylor will wait for you, so this wouldn’t ever interrupt meetings or make you lose progress because you went to a movie. Good foresight by the developer.

Two Playthroughs In – My Opinion of Lifeline

Now that we’ve gotten mechanics out of the way, let’s talk about what I feel to be the notable points of the game.

Character Development

Among the rave reviews in the Google Play store, so many people said they felt a ‘deep connection’ to the character. To this, I say baloney.

The character is in an almost constant state of whining and complaining. While the state is totally understandable given the circumstances, the writing has the complexity of a fifteen year old’s best imitation at a panicked adult – with little to no depth or real character development, there are few things to get attached to.

At nearly every opportunity, he ridicules or disagrees with your answers to his questions. The only time he seems to react positively is when you tell him to do nothing – wait, go to sleep, hide out for a while… For a person in extreme situations, the character himself has zero desire to get himself out of the bad situation he’s in.

The (Illusion of) Choice

Typically, you’ll get a series of quick texts and updates, and then a question for advice. It will usually be something like “Check out the room” or “Move to the hallway”. When you choose the option, you’ll naturally get a complaint, but Taylor will do the actions…

… And then immediately turn around and do the other thing anyway. There are a few ways the game accomplishes this, here are a few examples I’ve seen countless times:

  • You tell Taylor to investigate Path A. He does so, finds nothing, and goes down Path B.
  • Taylor finds something of no significance at Path A. He might note that it’s cold in the room or something is broken, but there’s no opportunity to interact. Now, you’re given the option to go to Path B or Path C. Don’t get excited, though – Path C ultimately puts you back a few steps… You exit the ship and have to re-enter, choosing the same options until you get to the original A/B choice.
  • You flat out die. This is of course a regular thing in text-based adventures, but the difference between a good and a bad one is that the good might give you a chance to recover. Maybe you have an item you picked up earlier that you spend to scrape by – not so in Lifeline. You simply die, and can choose to restart from the beginning of any specific day. More repetitive choices.
  • The choices don’t matter. Go left, go right – oh look, it turns out they both ended up at the same destination!

This, to me, destroys the sense of an actual game. People will argue day and night what makes a game a game. There are some games that have no story and are purely what you make it – a la Minecraft. Others are entirely story, and you’re more along for the ride – Gone Home could be considered in this vein. I’m typically in the camp that a game requires some sort of player choice or skill – Gone Home redeems itself by forcing the player to actually explore and think on their own – you have no such option in Lifeline.

The decay of the pacing gimmick

Novel at first, having to wait 30 minutes to get through a repeated action is certainly not entertaining. Even worse – sometimes you wait four hours to have a “character building” conversation with Taylor, mostly where he complains, walks a bit, makes a fourth-wall breaking joke in an attempt to parody the sci-fi genre, and continues on his way.

On the other hand, sometimes the options won’t stop coming. They’ll be trivial things – a (paraphrased) example conversation:

  • Taylor: Should I check it out?
  • Player: Yes.
  • Taylor: Are you sure? It’s pretty scary in there.
  • Player: Yes, check it out.
  • Taylor: Okay… Hold on.
  • Taylor: I’m in, but it’s dark. Should I look around or go back outside?
  • Player: Check out the hallway.
  • Taylor: I only have a single glowstick left, are you sure?
  • Player: Yes.
  • Taylor: Okay, but this is just like a horror movie, and I don’t like it.
  • Taylor: Well, I didn’t see anything, so I headed back outside.


A Judgement call on Lifeline

The simple answer is that Lifeline is worth about what you pay for it – $0.99. Although it had the tools at hand to be a really interesting and dynamic story, the poor writing behind it turns it to more of a chore than a game. I stay hopeful that the developer (3 Minute Games) will see through a lot of the undeserved praise and learn from the first release – with the engine they’ve built, they could potentially make a very intriguing sequel or successor. At least their site is built on WordPress – that’s a good sign. 🙂

If you’ve got a buck to kill and a low tolerance for excitement, then by all means this is the game for you. For a player with any sort of experience in choice-based games or story-driven gameplay, just ignore the hype and let this one go by.

Positive Points Negative Points
  • An attempt to revitalize an old genre is always interesting.
  • The certainly unique interface is something I haven’t seen before – texting to a hero is a novel concept.
  • The real-time aspect is definitely cool, as it makes the game feel a little more immersive.
  • The ‘choice’ in the ‘choose your adventure’ aspect doesn’t really exist.
  • The Protagonist, Taylor, is a wholly unlikable character. At no point did he redeem himself.
  • Due to poor design, the game time is padded out in that you have to retrace your steps when you get an instant-lose option.
  • The “timed response” gimmick, while initially interesting, loses its novelty after the first day or so.
  • Eventually, the lack of story makes it feel more like you’re dealing with an acquaintance that won’t go away instead of helping a survivor get through a crisis.