Thursday, February 20, 2014

Online Gaming Aids

One thing I have been a fan of lately is utilizing and taking advantage of all of the wonderful and snazzy software, programs, and cheat sheets that people are creating to make our games easier to play. Without a doubt, the latest incarnation of Warhammer 40k has become so layered with rules that trying to play a game without taking notes, or using markers has become cumbersome. On the whole, I tend to support my local game store and buy gaming supplements where possible such as psychic/magic cards but many times GW only makes a limited run on these items and once they are gone you are out of luck. This is especially true for army/race specific magic cards from Games Workshop. I only play Orcs n’ Goblins and Warriors of Chaos, which utilize magic lores other than what is in the main rulebook. So what is a gamer to do in cases where he or she does not want to hunt down a limited run item on ebay or spend hours shuffling through books to make lists or even make a nice looking battle report? Glad you asked because I want to show you a few programs that are free to use or download and have made my gaming experience so much easier. 

The first program that I want to review is the Magic Set Editor. This is a free piece of software that you can download to your computer. At first, this may sound weird as I play  Warhammer Fantasy and 40k, not Magic. But this software allows you to create and print out cards customizable cards for just about any gaming system. At first I was going to use them to create magic cards for my Orcs n’ Goblins but I was thinking why limit yourself to just using this for Psychic or Battle Magic cards. So I used the program to create Warlord Trait cards as well. How many times have you rolled your warlord trait at the start of a game but forgot about it in later turns because you forgot what it was or what it did. Now you can create a set of cards for the main rulebook traits and/or army specific traits. You can also create cards for mysterious terrain markers or even vehicle damage results as well to help you remember these things throughout your game. 

Installing the program was pretty easy and once I dived into it I was able to create a set of cards within an hour of opening the program. One of the nice features about this software is that it gives you a variety of card templates to pick from, so you can pick a MtG themed template or one of the Vanguard templates. You can pick different background colors and patterns as well. This is pretty cool as I was able to pick a blue background in an artifact style for my Tzeentch themed cards and a green background in a hybrid style for my nurgle cards. The templates have numerous areas where you can type in the titles, warp charges/casting costs, descriptions, etc… on the card so that you do not need to reference a book at all.

Screen Shot of the card editor.

Once you have added the card info then you can drop in some artwork to spice up the look and feel of the card. In this case I simply googled some 40k artwork and dropped it in the card background area… easy and done. The editor does give you some abilities to size the artwork but if you have a program like photoshop, GiMP, or Paint, then you can crop, scale, or resize your image  in those programs first before you drop it into the card template. For the most part I simply kept the images as is and selected the most interesting area. 

After creating your cards the program allows you to save the cards as a set, this is a pretty cool feature as it allows you to go back and update the cards as needed without having to recreate the entire card. You have the option of printing the cards out from your printer or you can save them as a PDF file and take them to a print shop to print them out on  a heavy paperstock to last longer. I plan on printing mine on standard paper and then laminating  the cards later or you can simply put them in a card sleeve. The cards are formatted to print out in a standard playing card dimension, so while they may be a bit smaller than the GW psychic/Magic cards they will fit into any standard card sleeve.

Overall, I highly recommend this software for it’s ease of use and a great looking final project.

The Unofficial Squadron Builder

The next program I want to talk about is for the X-Wing game. Let’s face it, who here reading this article has not been guilty of building army lists instead of doing their work during the work day.
Well, the nice thing about this program as that you do not need to install it on your computer or device, it simply runs off of the website. The program is very user friendly and starts right off the bat by letting you chose your force. Then along the left column it lists each ship and the pilots available, along with their point costs. Once you click on the pilot or ship it then displays the ships stats along with any options or upgrades available to that ship. The nice thing about this is that it contains all of the upgrades for every ship produced so far plus all of the upgrades coming out for ships not yet released. I like this feature a lot, since I can never remember what each ability or upgrade does or what set it came in. 

One click shows you all stats and abilities
List of upgrades available

When starting your list you can designate the point level at which you are playing and if at any point you exceed the list limit it changes the total point value to red, letting you know you have exceeded the limit. Once you have done creating your list you can either print it out or save it. Now, the only way you can save it is by registering with your Facebook account. So for most people, this shouldn’t be an issue. This way you can work on a list at one location, save it, and re-open it and work on it from another location. When you are ready to print out your list it gives you a couple of options to show either the basic information without the upgrades or you can print it out with all upgrades showing. The printout is nice, clean and with a large font that uses the same color codes as the cards to having that list as a reference is a bonus. 

Sample Printout

Overall, I highly recommend this site to any X-Winger out there who likes to build lists. It has an easy to use interface and the printed list is an awesome asset.
The next two pieces of software I’ll run through briefly but I currently do not have them installed on my PC. (They were on my older PC, which has since died). 

Battlescribe is a free to use program that you can download onto your PC. It allows you to construct lists for 40k and Fantasy. However, the data files are not included with the main program so you will need to search for them and download them from another site. Once you do that it is pretty easy to setup and run. I like the layout of the controls on the screen and you can see all of the upgrades available for your units. When I last used battlescribe it was before the latest barrage of codexes and data slates so I am not sure how this all works on the program. My only real issue with this program was how the information was printed. The format was a little lengthy and there was no way for me to edit or cut off what I did not want to print. Maybe that has changed over the past 6-8 months but otherwise it is a nice and free way to build army lists other than using ArmyBuilder.

The last program that I want to highlight is Battle Chronicler
This is a neat program that allows you to create maps for your battle reports using textured background images and terrain pieces to mirror your table. You can create unique colors and squad designations for your units and then show their movements with pointers and arrows. As I type this article I have yet to build an actual report but I have spent a few hours playing with the program and have found it easy to use and learn. Hopefully I’ll take advantage of the program in the near future and write up a battle report for you all to see.

Feel free to check out any of the above programs and hopefully they will help you as much as they have helped me. If possible, make a small donation to these guys and gals help make these programs possible.

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