Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fleet Captains Customization

When I first played Star Trek Fleet Captains, I was impressed with the gameplay, but I felt it needed more.  My cousin was thinking the same thing because he said something to the effect of "wouldn't it be awesome to have a wood board for the game."  So I took that and ran with it.  I started thinking of how to make things work, and I decided that a wood was easier to work with than plastic.  I didn't want to do an edge or a barrier like Catan, I wanted a board.  My first instinct was to take a board and drill/cut hexagons into the board, but hexagons are hard to work with, and I didn't have any tool to do that job.

So with help from a friend and her dad who works with wood a fair bit, we came up with a fairly elegant solution.  We decided to lay out a triangular grid to make hexagons, and then use pieces of wood as a boarder.  As you can see on the left, it's not 100% perfect, but the hexagons work well.  On the right, you can see how the tiles fit on the board, there's plenty of room to get a finger in to flip or remove them.  The main board works for the two player game, while the sideboards are for a 4 player game.  I added the blue and red paint on top to mark the command posts so players don't have to fiddle with the layout as much.  It also makes for faster set-up.

As the board work was going on, I took a few days to paint some of the miniatures.  For comparison, unpainted ones are on the left.  I won't claim that my painting skills are perfect, or even all that good, but I'm fairly pleased with how things turned out.  I can give more details for how I did everything, but I'll just give a basic rundown here.  I used simple Acrylic paints that you can find in any hobby store.  The key is using the same brand of paints on any given ship.  For the Federation ships, I started with a grey base coat, simply painting the whole ship.  I let that dry, then depending on look, I added a grey-black or grey-white mix to get a shade I liked better.  Then I added detail work, such as blue on the nacelles, some red for impulse engines, and some deflector work as well as running lights and phaser lines where I thought it would look good.  For the Klingon ships, I had 3 different shades of green, so I decided to divide the fleet in three shades.  This works since some houses in the empire would have their own paint scheme.  I then added some touches of red for torpedo launches and some phaser arrays, but nothing over-the-top there.  The whole painting project took me 3 days, which was 1-4 hours  each day.

If I had it to do over, I probably could have had it done in 6 hours total including dry time.  I also had a few snafus with two figures coming off their bases, so that took some time to glue and then overnight set-up which slowed me down.
Another part of the customization was finding these little craft storage boxes to organize all the tokens and bits that come with the game.  I went with Blue for the federation, and Pinkish for the Klingons.  If/when the Romulans come along, they get green, but for now it helps divvy up the storage and makes things easier to find.

Here's the takeaway for this whole project.

  • It's a lot of hard work, but a great reward.
  • Painting Miniatures to a reasonable level isn't all that hard if you take the time, have patience, and work carefully.
  • Touch-ups are necessary
  • Woodworking gets expensive, but is also easy to work with.
  • Friends and parents make things a lot easier
Here's what I had to purchase to make this whole thing happen
  • Acrylic Paints
    • Black, Blue, Grey, White, Red, Orange, Green x3(but you can get away with 1)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Glue
  • Wooden Dowels (~20 feet worth)
  • Wood Boards (x2)
  • Pack of Craft Storage Boxes
  • Black Spraypaint for the board
  • Wooden Disks for the feet
  • Piece of Felt for the feet
  • 2 dice which work well for the game - blue and black for the feds, green and red for the klingons.
Other things I used that some people might not have available
  • Tool to cut the wooden dowels
  • Power/Table saw to cut the boards
  • Measuring tape
  • Yardstick
  • Protractors
All in all, it ran me about $60 and three weekends of work, so it's not a simple project, but I think it's well worth it.  I hope you'll agree with me that it is as well.

I owe a huge thanks to Rose, who helped me figure out the hexagon grid, and who helped cut the dowels, sand them, and glue them to the board.  Also thanks to my dad who helped me cut the boards to the right size.

I've learned a lot about woodworking, and I doubt this will be my last attempt.
I've also learned a fair bit about miniatures painting, so if you like my style, let me know and I might be willing to do some work for you.

If you are a registered member on Boardgamegeek, please give my work a thumbs up on this article
It's a contest to show-off good work in customizing games.
If you aren't a member on BGG, you should be.


  1. Looks awesome. Where do place my order?

    1. If you're serious, we can talk about an order

  2. Awesome. Don't think I will ever be getting Fleet Captains, but it looks like an awesome game, and I love the customization. Great work.

  3. You should enter you pics into this 'contest' on bgg.