Posted in Miniatures Design, Rules Design

How a (tiny) Flying Saucer Flies

Anti-gravity Acrylic Rods are the Real Secret Free-Energy Device!

You know what really gets up my wargaming nose? What really sticks in my miniature-building craw? Flightpegs!

Yes, I said flightpegs! Those little, skinny plastic sticks that are supposed to keep ‘flying’ models eternally suspended above the Earth, balanced over a circle or square of plastic on the bottom that keeps the model from tottering over on its monopole mounting.

But do they? Reliably and without fear of gravity’s destructive influence? Do they never topple over, casting beautiful miniatures to their destruction? Do they never break, usually somewhere near where they’re glued into the model, thereby inflicting hours of re-drilling and re-mounting upon the frustrated modeller? Like Hell!

Clearly, the flightpeg was to blame.

And that constantly frustrating aspect of ‘flying’ miniatures was what drove me to find an alternative solution. How to get the flying discs of Saucer War One in the air, keep them there, and on a mounting that didn’t rely on a single, skinny, breaking, balancing pole?

That was when I remembered the method used by a friend of mine many years ago to keep his 1/300 scale aircraft high above his earth table. (That’s a sand table, but with clean soil as the sculpting material, rather than sand. Makes for great, muddy battlefields.) With sculpted hills, valleys, and trenches, liberally sprinkled with tiny villages and forests, it was impossible for a conventionally-mounted miniature aircraft to stay upright as it prowled the skies, looking for tiny tanks to bomb.

The solution? My friend mounted his aircraft on a simple wire tripod. With three legs on the ground, it was virtually impossible for an aircraft to tip over, even while thundering down a thickly-wooded mountainside. And of course, because each of its three wires had a diminutive contact area on the table surface, it never damaged any miniature real estate.

So, this is how I envision the way the 1/200 scale miniatures of Saucer War One will achieve the magical, gravity-defying act of ‘flight’:

Each model rests on three identical, 2mm diameter pegs. Ideally, the pegs will be friction-tight so they can be removed for transport if desired.

I should probably point out a couple of things about the illustration above: Firstly, why the tiny trees, relative to the size of the saucer? That’s because I imagine the 3D scenery used in Saucer War One will be several scales smaller than the saucers. Perhaps 1/600 or 1/700 scale. This gives a forced-perspective sense of the saucers flying high above the ground, and allows multiple towns, villages, missile bases, etc, to be placed on the table without things getting too crowded.

Oh, and a note for boardgamers who are recoiling from their screens, horrified at the thought of all the crafty modelling and super-glued fingers this scenery stuff might involve: Saucer War One will include easy, flat, card Scenery Shapes that do the same job, requiring no trips to the Casualty department of your local hospital.


Pole to Pole

Monopole flightstands do have a real advantage in tabletop warfare; They provide a convenient, constant reference point to make accurate measurements from. That was something the tripod concept lacked… from where do you measure? I had to do some thinking for a while, but eventually I realised the tripod offered a new way to measure movement, weapon ranges, and move / fire arcs. Let me show you what I mean:

Here we see an ANTIC NS-99 ‘Silverhound’ Beta-type saucer viewed from above. (The ‘nose’ of the Silverhound is ‘up’ in this view.) The 3 Pegs are shown at the points that they touch the ground. See how they form a triangle? (Yes, I hear you cry “Obviously!” but stay with me, folks.) Each side of the triangle makes a movement / firing arc: Front; Left; Right.

It also provides a ‘blind spot’ called the Tailing Arc at the rear, which saucers don’t actually have, but is a disadvantage suffered by more conventional aircraft in Saucer War One. (I added it here just for the sake of being comprehensive.)

Why don’t saucers have this Tailing Arc? That will become clear in time, but essentially, because saucers can fly forwards, sideways and backwards equally well, they do not have the restrictions that winged fighters or bombers endure. They don’t really have a ‘tail’ as such.

The triangle formed between the Pegs is the saucer’s Safe Zone. So, what the heck is that? ‘That’ and all else will become clear (I hope), as we go through the steps in a Maneuver.

Let’s see the way we plot out a saucer’s movement using Maneuver Discs.


Maneuver Discs — The Keys to the Saucer

This is a Maneuver Disc. It is 89mm (3.5″) across, and by placing them edge-to-edge along the flightpath of a saucer we can plot its course during its game turn. Each consecutive Disc must be placed against the preceding Disc’s Exit Point. The Centreline is used with the Safe Zone to determine if a Maneuver is legal, or too dangerous. (You’ll see this in a moment.)

So, what’s with the Entry Arcs at the bottom? Each Saucer is one of three Types:
Alpha (the biggest, baddest saucers);
Beta (‘middleweight’ all-rounders), or
Gamma (spunky, little fighters).

Alphas are tough and pack a punch, but they lack maneuverability. They must use the narrow Alpha Entry Arc. Betas are a better blend of capability and maneuverability, and they use the mid-width Beta Entry Arc. Gammas are the hot-shot, crazy flyers of Saucer War One, and get to use the big Gamma Entry Arc when they perform a Maneuver.

(Each Type of saucer can also use the Entry Arcs of their less-maneuverable cousins, so a Beta saucer uses both the Beta and Alpha Entry Arcs, for example.)

Still with me? Okay, let’s see how the Maneuver Discs and Tripod Pegs work together to move a saucer.


Come Fly with Me

When a saucer or anything else in Saucer War One wants to do something, it must use a Pulse to get it done. A Pulse is a combined unit of ability, made up of its energy systems, aerodynamics, handling, etc. The more potent a saucer is, the more Pulses it has. I won’t discuss Pulses further in this post; all we need to know is that each Pulse that is ‘spent’ on performing a Maneuver entitles a Player to place one Maneuver Disc for their saucer.

The first Disc that is placed is called the Entry Maneuver Disc, and it is placed like this:

The edge of the Entry Maneuver Disc must touch at least 2 Pegs of the saucer, inside the Entry Arc that matches the saucer’s Type. As long as neither Peg is outside the Entry Arc, the Player can rotate the Maneuver Disc however they like. Now we can place more Discs!

Get the idea? As long as the Maneuver Discs can form an unbroken ‘chain’, edge-to-edge, the maneuver is legal, and the saucer can be moved to the end, completing the Maneuver. But what happens when it reaches the end?

This is where the interaction between the Maneuver Disc’s Centerline and the saucer’s Safe Zone comes in. The Saucer ends its Maneuver with its trailing Peg touching the edge of the Exit Maneuver Disc at its Exit Point. The Saucer can pivot on the trailing peg as its Player wishes, left or right, but, the pivot must leave the Centerline pointing inside the saucer’s Safe Zone.

This is because for all their uncanny maneuverability, even flying saucers have their limits before g-forces threaten to break them apart. ANTIC pilots are reminded of this with the saying: “Point it in the green, Dean!”

Of course, that’s the ‘in-game’ explanation for this restriction. In truth, this is to prevent any tripod-mounted unit in the game from performing bootlegger turns at the end of each maneuver, which would negate a major skill aspect of the game. There’s got to be a certain amount of judgement at play, both to help players remain engaged with what’s happening on the table, and to ensure occasional misjudgements with the missed firing opportunities, mid-air collisions, and other mirth they provoke!

Yes, you can veer drunkenly across the sky in your saucer! The real advantage a saucer has over any other unit in Saucer War One is its ability to place the Entry Maneuver Disc against any two Pegs. This gives them unrivalled maneuverability that will turn any jet fighter-jockey green with envy. Conventional aircraft must always place their Entry Maneuver Disc against the left and right Pegs (in the Front Arc), no matter what.


Well, that’s how my frustration with the minor real-world problem of flight pegs led me to the design solution of the tripod pegs, which in turn led me to the Maneuver Disc. Funny how inspiration sometimes comes from the necessity of change, born from things we really shouldn’t get so worked up over.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my design process. If you have (or even if you have not!) please feel invited to comment, or even email me. I’m always happy to hear what others think of my mad solutions.

See you next time!

Author:

The man who is Miniature Martin. A maker of games, models and other things to please lovers of sci-fi, alternate worlds, and the strange beings and machines that you find there. Join me at miniaturemartin.com for adventures into the realms beyond the Alternoscope!

2 thoughts on “How a (tiny) Flying Saucer Flies

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