Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Alien Worlds - a Brief History

As Alien Worlds is now live at, I thought it might be nice to write a short post about how the game that started me off on this whole endeavour came about.
My son Daniel - who was only five at the time - and I found ourselves at home alone one rainy Saturday while my wife was out at work.  We had previously played a very basic game using his old Galactic Heroes figures.  If you've not seen them before, they look a bit like this:

photo courtesy of
The game we played was based on something I read on a forum somewhere, written by another Star Wars-loving dad.  From there, and to be honest I don't quite remember how it started, we graduated to the Star Wars Unleashed line of toys.

Star Wars Unleashed
Over a couple of weekends, we came up with a game using these toys and my old wargaming scenery that eventually evolved into Alien Worlds.  I knew that to keep Daniel interested, I had to keep it simple and fast.  I was playing a lot of Song of Blades and Heroes at the time, which is a very quick-moving game, and it was definitely an influence, although Alien Worlds (or The Star Wars Game as it was then) was faster still.
To maintain the interest level, we introduced different elements to the game.  Daniel and I took it in turns to come up with special abilities and new rules, some more practical than others.  We also sometimes used his other toys as the playing surface.  The Star Wars characters once had to fight their way to the top of an Early Learning Centre multi-storey car park, for example, and sometimes the Empire had a base made of Trio building blocks.  It certainly was a lot of fun.
We settled on the Alien Worlds standard of one hero, two special and three regular characters quite early on.  In those games, the Battle Droids and Stormtroopers were our regulars, Imperial Guards and Wookiees were our specials and the Jedi Knights were our heroes.  It was exclusively a Star Wars game, and it was our Star Wars game!
It occurred to me in early 2014 that I could publish the rules to our Star Wars game in Kindle format, as I had previously with a novel I'd written for National Novel Writing Month.  When I suggested to Daniel that we could sell our rules, he initially got upset because he thought  that would mean we wouldn't be able to play them ourselves.  After I explained to him what I actually meant - and in fairness it can't have been easy for his five-year-old brain to process - he started to come round to the idea and I think I finally convinced him when I said we could give the money we made from it to charity.  Naturally, I offered him the chance to choose a charity and he said "children with cancer".
So I googled that and CLIC Sargent came out top off the list.  I wrote the first version of the Alien Worlds rulebook and published it to Amazon in June 2014.  By the end of March this year (tying in with the end off the UK tax year) Alien Worlds had netted a modest £13.29 (about US$20).  Hardly enough to set the word on fire but I was frankly just glad to have a positive result.  I had paid about a fiver for the cover image and wasn't sure I'd even manage to recover that so being able to give even that tiny amount to charity felt great.
In the meantime, Laserblade was born, from a project that began life as Advanced Alien Worlds, and doubled our product portfolio!  As previously announced on our website, we will be donating 20% of this year's total profits to charity.  The dream is to be able to do this whole thing full-time one day, while continuing to support good causes.  That goal is a long way off but if we get there, it will have been thanks to a rainy day and a big box of Star Wars toys.
Neil Goodacre
Click here to see Alien Worlds on DriveThruRPG

Monday, 16 November 2015

Alien Worlds - now available from DriveThruRPG

Exciting stuff; Alien Worlds has been approved for sale through DriveThruRPG and is available in PDF format now!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Robo Ninja!

About a year ago, I bought this guy from a place called Northstar Models
I'm finally getting around to painting him so I thought I'd share my method for doing so with the good people of the internet.  Now, I am no expert, far from it, but I am generally happy with the results when I put brush to plastic, and I enjoy doing it.  This will not be so much a "how to" as a "how I do", but you might gain something from it.  Anyway, shall we crack on?
Step 1 - Prepare It!
This little guy was a multi-part job so putting him together was first on the list. Some models can be a real pain to assemble but putting old Robo Ninja here together was easy, just a bit of superglue and I was done.  Sometimes models have extra plastic around the edges.  This is caused by the moulding process and is called flash.  This model had a little, mostly along the sword, which I scraped off with a craft knife.  Gently does it when you're de-flashing as you don't want to accidentally carve off any details.
You can see that I also mounted Old Robo on a base.  This is a laser-cut, 50mm wide, 3mm depth MDF disk.  There are loads of folks on ebay selling these, in various sizes, shapes and depths so just about every scale and system is catered for.  With our friend  assembled and mounted, it was time to get to work with the paints.
Step 2 - Spray It!

The next job was getting him sprayed.  Spraying your model with a primer will help make sure that your paint sticks to the surface.  You can paint straight on to most surfaces, but the paint can chip easily if it doesn't have something to cling to so a primer layer is recommended.

I use Army Painter Matt White.  I know a lot of people prefer a black base layer, but I find white gives me brighter, clearer colours and helps me spot areas I haven't painted as the white shows through the cracks.  I use a disposable rubber glove to hold onto the model's base with one hand while I spray with the other and this helps me get into all the nooks and crannies.  If you don't have a glove then you can rest the model on a cardboard box or something but whatever you choose, be prepared for it get covered in paint.  The kitchen table is not generally advised.

Make sure you spray in a well-ventilated area and if you are doing prolonged spraying, wear a mask.  I always spray my models in the garden.  Sometimes I end up with white patches on the lawn.  I tell my wife it snowed...

Step 3 - Colour It!

Anyway, after the spray basecoat, it's time to get the paints out proper.  I didn't know where I was going to go with the guy but in the end, this was my palette:

Honestly, I spent years on-and-off trying to find a set of paints that suits me.  I've tried Humbrol enamels, Games Workshop's Citadel range and others that I can't even remember but for price and quality, the Army Painter can't be beaten.  I was honestly never quite satisfied with my results until I tried them.  That does kind of coincide with my first foray into 54mm scale but I have since revisited 25mm with the Army Painter and again, I'm a lot happier with my work.

When I'm painting, I squirt a little bit of the colour I need onto an old tile and give it a swish with a brush.  All of the paints are water-based so you can thin them out with a little of the wet stuff as and when required.  The bulk of the model, I did in Desert Yellow.  Yellows usually need a few coats to take effect and the trick is to apply several thin coats rather than one thick one.  If you splodge it all at once it'll take ages to dry and you risk losing the detail.  When I was finished, our Robo Ninja looked like this:

As well as the Desert Yellow, I used Gun Metal for the mechanical arm, feet and respirator, as well as any other metallic bits on show.  The exception is the sword, which was done with Shining Silver just to set it apart.  The lizard was done with Army Green and the sword handle and other bindings are Leather Brown.  I assumed this guy had to be a black belt, so that's I went with, along with a few other black embellishments.  I also added some touches of Weapon Bronze to the metal sections.  I find that contrast between a silver colour and a brass really makes a model stand out.  I actually thought he looked quite good at this stage, but I knew my work wasn't done.  He needed some depth!
Step 4 - Ink It!
Alongside their paints, the Army Painter gang also produce a range of inks which they call Quickshade.  As well as some colour-specific inks, they offer three neutral shades; Soft Tone, Strong Tone and Dark Tone.  I opted for Strong Tone (a dark brown) to shade the yellow outfit and Dark Tone (essentially black ink) for the metal and leather.  The great thing about using inks like this is that your painted model doesn't have to be perfect.  As the ink flows into the lines, joints and creases on your model, it draws a natural line between areas that will mask any ragged edges.

The shot on the left shows our man after his inking. The others show the basing process.

Step 5 - Base It!

The second-to-last step in the process is to finish the model's base.  In the middle picture, I've used sand to add texture to the MDF disk.  Simply apply a coat of PVA glue, dip the model in some sand and you're done.  Word of warning - do not attempt this while the  paint is wet.  You model will end up looking like Sandman!

Once the PVA glue has dried, I painted the base with Monster Brown paint.  Once that had dried, I gave the base a layer of Dark Tone ink.  It runs into the gaps between the grains of sand and gives the base a bit of depth.  I also edged the base with Matt Black then once all that was dry,  I splodged some more PVA glue on the base, a bit more haphazard this time, and sprinkled it with static grass.  See the third photo above.
Step 6 - Protect It!
The last step in the process is to give your model a coat of varnish.  There are several spray varnish products on the market and unlike the paints and inks, I can't really choose between them.  As with the paint, use your spray in a well-ventilated area.  You won't want to hold on to the model like before, so put it on a piece of cardboard or similar.  A coat of varnish does not have to get into all the nooks and crannies in the same way paint does.  Anyway, once your vanish is dry, your model is ready to do battle on the tabletop!

And that was our Ninja done and dusted.  Here he is with a friend from the Galaxy Laser Team:

The Robo Ninja matches the scale of his retro-styled chum perfectly.  They are going to look great on the table together!

So there we have it.  From start to finish was about three hours including drying time.  Not bad at all and this was a nice figure to paint.  I think looking back that I might have preferred to use Soft Tone for the fabric but the dark, comicbook lines have grown on me.
I do have issues with the price of the models from Northstar as they are a lot more expensive that the likes of Timmee or Tehnolog but they are designed as collectors' items as much as they are game pieces and the price is maybe worth it if you want some cool, unique characters to compliment your forces.

All told, I'm happy with it and I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs in Laserblade!

Want to try Laserblade for yourself?  Then download the PDF rules on