26 March 2014

Arts and (Space)Crafts- Is That an Academy Pilot or is That Larry?

It's a relatively rare occurrence (about 10 times out of 273 posts or so) that I manage to push the dominating, only-child, control freak side of my brain into a corner and publish stuff that other people have written on here. There's actually a semi-nebulous/ semi-applicable good reason for that besides my own personal idiosyncrasies, but that's a loooong story that's best told in person and not in writing that could possibly invoke litigation from nefarious other parties. 

It's not often that I make an exception to that rule, but occasionally, I get something in the ol' Gmail inbox that just really impresses me and I'm compelled, nay forced, to do just that for the good of the X-Wing community. 

This article is one of those kinds of articles. Take it away Doug!

Is that TIE fighter #2 or is it Larry?
by Doug Hildebrand

There is a small problem with flying Wedge Antilles in a tournament. If you fly against another Rebel player, he is probably flying Wedge also. Everyone loves him. He is like that prom queen passing out candy to orphans – there’s nothing to not like. The last tournament I played in I faced one opponent who had nearly the exact four pilot list as I brought – Wedge with Swarm Tactics, Garven Dreis (I had an R2 Astromech on Garven Dreis to keep him green, and he skipped it to come in at 99pts for initiative), and two Rookies (and FFG doesn’t have the contract for Clone Wars). Telling who is who would normally be a pain in the neck (and three feet lower). We didn’t have that problem at all, and I am going to tell you why.

Typically, you pull out those little tombstones with the numbers on them and start sorting through them to find a matching pair so you can use the white sides and he can use the black sides, swearing ensues as none of the numbers match, and I need a third to mark the Rookie cards to align with the ones on the ships…. So Black Rookie #1 and Black Rookie #2 (why it gotta be black rookie, man?- Clint) are fighting against White Rookie #27 and White Rookie #13 (oh, my bad) and White Wedge #5 is facing off against Black Wedge #8. Doesn’t really have a cinematic feel to it, now does it? The Star Wars universe is rich with loads of characters and names from the books and movies; it seems a shame to call the pilots #6 and #9. My thought was to give my pilots more character and make it easier to recognize not just mine from my opponent but who I am referring to during game play.

Drawing inspiration from the Attack Wing pilot tombstones, I devised my own. That is the only thing I like about Attack Wing, the pilot tombstones; the rest is not in the same league as X-Wing. Not getting on that soap box today, so let’s just park that thought for now. The Attack Wing generic pilots (the ones with no abilities and a pilot skill of one) come with each ship, yet they have different pictures on each of the tombstones. I liked that. So, I made my own for my X-Wing ships. It is an extremely easy process that requires no real computer skill what-so-ever. You don’t even need high powered editing programs like Photoshop. I did it with PowerPoint. Here’s how you do it in ten quick and easy steps, because eleven would be too hard:

Step 1: Scan the tokens you want. I did a single tombstone and a Target Lock icon (didn’t mention the Target Locks yet, just go with it). These will be used for size reference.

Step 2: Find some images you want to use as your pilots. There is a host of Rebel and Imperial pilot pictures out on the internet, but don’t let that limit your imagination. You can use family photos, and not worry about copyright infringement. You can make your mother-in-law into Dark Curse. You know you want to.

Step 3: Use the Shape Menu to select the tombstone figure and create one on the page. Rotate it 90 degrees so it is round end up and resize it until it covers the scanned one neatly. You can get rid of the scanned one now, as it will not be used.

Step 4: Right click the tombstone and open the Format Picture window. Select fill at the top of the list and you should see this:

Select the radio button for “Picture or texture fill”, click on the “File” button, select the image you want to use, and before you close the window uncheck the “Rotate with shape” box. The image is now inside the tombstone. You may need to crop some images to fit in the shape better as PowerPoint doesn’t crop the image to place it in the shape; it stretches whichever side doesn’t fill all the way. Play with it a bit and get it to your liking and you are set for the first pilot icon. Highlight the new tombstone and CTRL-D yourself a few more copies and you have your first one done. I do six tombstone images – enough for three double sided tokens.

Step 5: Take the same image and import it. Size it so it fits over the center of the Target Lock token. I changed the border to circular and minimized the line width because I liked the way it looked for some and for others I used the fade edge – your choice. CTRL-D that to make a second image; enough to cover both sides of one token. Yes, only one Target Lock token. Explanation to follow.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat for as many pilots as you want for your fleet. For speed, copy the whole set you just did and change the image with the whole set highlighted. It will do all six in one shot. Saves a lot of time.

Step 7: Print out on regular paper. Nothing special needed.

Step 8: Cut them out. I size them up to the tokens to ensure that I don’t have anything hanging over the edge. That just looks sloppy if they need to be trimmed.

Step 9: Glue them on to the tokens you already have. I used standard white glue on my first set and then tried a special glue stick for paper (prevents wrinkles). I like the white glue better as it is easier to control where it goes. It’s your choice.

Step 10: Assign to your ships as necessary. I do it for named pilots also. It saves confusion when you fight the clone Vader and allows me to track which named character is which when I have more than one named pilot on the board – I need my glasses to read the type on the base, but not to see the images on the tombstones.

Shields up, if you got’em. Now the hero of the match isn’t Rookie #17, it is Moe Howard or whoever becomes an ace that evening. Now you can come home and say “Honey, your mother was a beast today. She was killing them all day long. And Timmy, I was disappointed in your performance. You need to step it up.” Or “Beyonce was amazing all night long. Gonna have to do that more often”. You know you want to be able to say that, every man does.

I have some images from the movies that I used. Luke is an easy one to spot (not on the example below). But Garven and Wedge aren’t always recognizable to some of the unwashed masses. I keep them set apart. The page below shows what I used for my tournament set (I printed an extra target lock in case I messed up cutting it out). Garven got the skull icon and I had a male and female rookie. John Cleese was my second option for Garven

Wait a damn minute….. what about the Target Lock, and why only one? You know how when everything gets all hot and heavy and ships are mixing it up and you have tokens all over the board? Vader has two people with Target Locks on him, he has one on someone else, he take a focus and an evade icon and that is just your first ship? Tokens and stuff are everywhere. You move him and you can’t determine if this “B” Target Lock is mine or yours or if it was on this guy or that and more swearing ensues. You have to remember that Academy TIE #25 is using Target Lock “R” because that is so intuitively obvious. Now you only have to put one token down on the ship that is being target locked and the picture matches the pilot tombstone that is already on the base of the one about to deliver some hurt. Less crap on the board and less confusion as to what goes where and who it belongs to.

Another suggestion for a quick and simple solution (that isn’t enough for an article) is to paint your bases. For my ships, Wedge always has a red base, Luke is white, Dreis is green, Empire is gray. This gives me a quick reference and definitely makes mine look different from my opponent’s bases. As for the legality in play, FFG directly addresses this in the tournament rules saying that:

“Players are welcome and encouraged to personalize their squads according to the following rules. The TO is the final authority on any component’s eligibility in the tournament……. Ship models may be painted as desired as long as the alteration are not offensive and do not adversely affect another players’ experience….. Ship bases cannot be modified to alter their size or shape”.

So, if you are using Darth Hefner and his swarm of Miss January through Miss June you need to keep it family friendly where the sexiest thing you see is a smile.

If you have an questions about copyright issues for an image the answer on this page does help clarify (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/copyright-fair-use-and-how-it-works-for-online-images/) or if you want a resource for free images (http://www.techsoup.org/support/articles-and-how-tos/finding-and-using-images-from-the-web). This would mean that Darth Hefner’s swarm of lovely ladies is copyright protected and would not be prudent to try and use on a website or for profit in any shape way or form. Use of the images for personal use (i.e. gameplay at home or your FLGS) hits the grayest of gray areas out there. It can be compared to recording a TV show on a DVR or VCR for personal use. It is considered legal, but never has been challenged with an absolute decision. The best answer on legality I got was “I don’t know. No one does really”. I could DVR a football game and watch it at home with no problem, but if I showed in a bar to entertain patrons I would need to get permission. Bottom line is that copyright laws, fair use laws, public domain and the digital age have not kept in step. The whole concept of sharing a recording has gone from having a few friends over to watch the game at your house to sharing with a few thousand “friends” over the internet. From my non-lawyer perspective I deduce that since I am not receiving any gain from the use of the images and no one is losing out on potential profit from use in private gaming, it would be ok. Selling or distributing the images on a large scale would not. If a trained lawyer has any insight, it would be nice to hear (I don’t want to play Gingerbread Man with this).

Got lost in the legal ramifications, but don’t want to condone piracy. This is meant as a way for you to personalize your ships and get some extra fun out of your gaming experience. The icons can be interchangeable if you wish. If you use an image of Wedge Antilles, I would suggest only using it on him. The generic pilots can be used on just about anything Rebel ship. The female pilot above can start out as a Rookie and later become a Red Squadron pilot. The non-Star Wars images can be used interchangeably between Rebel and Empire.

See what I mean? I swear, when I read this I felt like Denis Leary talking about the guy who invented whippets- I don't know where Doug works, but he oughta be working for the space program. 

Brilliant stuff, Doug! Thanks again for letting me post it on here!

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