I’ve finally finished some play aids for the ‘Mordheim’ miniatures gaming project. Here is the outer case in all its glory:
Because the gaming event was abroad and I was flying there, I wanted to keep the play aids compact. This led me to read a bit about ‘micro games’. A rather nebulous term, but it often applies to small-form-factor (SFF) games. These were all the rage in the early 80s thanks, in part, to examples made by companies like Dwarfstar Games. They were popular partly because they were very inexpensive to manufacture and were sold cheaply. And partly because with names like Barbarian Prince why wouldn’t a 13 year old boy want them? They often contained a flimsy booklet, some card chits and sometimes a map all shipped in a small polythene bag or a single-tuck-end box. Of course the genre continues today with lots of SFF games on the market, but its those early ones that capture my attention.
It’s the barbarians. Probably.
And they were small. Really small. But with this SFF inspiration, what form was my play aid pack going to take?
My hunt for a format fortuitously coincided with my delving into Dungeonsynth (often abbreviated as DS or BMDS, meaning ‘black metal dungeon synth’, not to be confused by BDSM…) This is a musical genre born in the early 90s experiencing a resurgence at the moment thanks to platforms like Bandcamp. I’m not going to go into details here (it really deserves its own post) other than to say that much of the music is sold on cassettes. Yes, you read that right. And it has its own ‘look’ which is inspired a lot by Games Workshop’s vintage illustrations. So you get some really amazing cassettes replete with awesome lo-fi fantasy artwork on the J-cards.
So, I thought, could I get my play aids to fit into a tape case? Hell yes I could. Here’s how:
I designed and 3D sculpted an insert which would sit in a cassette case and hold a few cards, three dice and some tokens. A friend very kindly 3D printed this for me. And by golly! It worked pretty well. The tape case just required the spindle pins sawing off and the insert slips happily into the case to hold all the components (with the addition of a plasticard back).
But what were all the components going to look like? I was keen not to just do a ‘cookie cutter’ BMDS design. While this might be cute, it would also, I felt, be a bit literal and pedestrian. Of course we already had the black-metal-inspired Mordhehim MMXIX logo so this would play a part. And I wanted to do some worldbuilding to enrich the background of my time travelling gang of convicts. I settled on a dose of dystopian post-war Modernism / Swiss style graphic design. I’ll go more into the reasoning behind this and how it ties into their world in a future post. But one of the advantages is that its very legible on these rather tiny cards.
I’m pretty chuffed with this little package and I might end up doing more tape cases for future games. I really like the idea of having a stack of tape boxes, each case with its own artwork and logos. And one will definitely have to feature barbarians.