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Arkham Horror» Forums » General

Subject: Arkham Horror Case/Mod/Partial Remake Project (absurdly long post full of pictures - make popcorn first) rss

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Travis Bish
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Alpharetta
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I've read that the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem.

First, it was a 3rd Edition Space Hulk with a full set of painted minis for a friend's Xmas present. The next year, I made a copy of ScottE's great Dune remake for another friend. This was followed by a little "me time" where I put together Dathkadan's fantastic Merchant of Venus remake for myself. After going all the way down the Print-and-Play rabbit hole over the last couple years, I found myself trying to come up with another idea.

"Let's remake Arkham Horror for our friend Troy’s birthday! Lots of opportunity to get creative there, right? Right?!"

Good lord. Arkham Horror? What was I thinking? On the one hand it's a great game that my friends and I have years of fond memories playing at many of our annual Cabin Gaming Weekends.

On the other hand, it's ARKHAM HORROR.

I enlisted a friend (I knew this one would be too much for one man) and we began brainstorming. We made some decisions early on about what we wanted to remake and what parts we were pleased with as is. Our primary goal was that we'd like to make the game more evocative for the players.

To be left alone
- boards
- cards
- some tokens (e.g. gate tokens)

To be remade or newly created
- character sheets
- Ancient One sheets
- doom track
- first player marker
- terror track marker
- gate seals (elder signs)
- monster bag
- a tray for the cards
- some kind of box/chest
- other tokens (e.g. stamina, sanity, money, loops)

We started in March of this year. After many stops and starts, here's where we ended up.

It all fits in this big wooden crate. It started out as a wooden file box that I found in an antique shop (like lots of this stuff). We pulled off all the old hardware and found some more suitable (including some serious chest handles - like me, this box is heavy for its size.). We used this etched copper plate from www.cthulhulives.org on the top. It’s a beautiful piece and really sets the stage that there’s some weirdness inside.


After you unlock the box and take off the big honkin’ lock (bought from a cosplay booth at GenCon), the box opens to show this.


The leather pouch attached to the lid holds the Ancient One Journal (more on that later) and is festooned with little fetishy items including a St. Christopher medal, a rattle, a scarab, some carved bone, and a critter tooth fired from clay. It’s crazy and jangly and elicits exactly the kind of response I wanted.

“This box belongs to a crazy person and I’m not certain that I should be opening it.”

Fit snugly into the box is…another box? This one has handles on top and four clasps.


This is the card tray that we made. It holds all the non-location cards. As a group, we’re fans of FFG’s Arkham Tools iOS app and use it during play, so the various location cards could be safely eliminated from this box. Some might argue that passing the iPad around the table reading location cards to each other is against the spirit of the rebuild. I concede that point but it was largely a logistical decision; those location cards take up a tremendous amount of room and add a lot of weight.

Thankfully, my friend had some woodworking tools and grew up in the Netherlands helping his dad with carpentry projects. He did all the fabrication work and I did the staining, finishing, and hardware. The vertical dividers are fixed, but the horizontal ones are not. We decided to line the channels with loop-side Velcro and put the hook-side Velcro on the horizontal dividers. This keeps the various decks from sliding around, let’s them lean at an easily-readable angle, but still allows for customization. What about those things on the far right? We’ll get to them…

We put the boards and instructions under the card tray.


Under that, we get to the pile of goodies.

In this picture, you can see how we cut the shelf stair-step style to secure the boards and the card tray on all sides. This worked great and was worth the additional time.

So what is all this stuff? I’m so glad you asked!



Monster bag! It’s made from leather scraps and a rabbit pelt and was the most difficult piece to actually construct. Stitching the leather was really hard work. It turns out that when you cut rabbit hide, the tiny rabbit-hair fibers don’t clump together like wool. Instead, they repel each other like static-charged rabbit fur. Like a gas, it expands to fill its container. In this case, that container is my home. Including my trachea. I now know that it is impossible to breathe rabbit fur. This is probably some kind of defense mechanism and would explain why rabbits have no known predators and sit at the top of the food chain.

Inside the bag are the monster tokens and another pouch that contains the clear plastic stands (during the game we like to put the monsters on the stands and then take turns making “rarr!” noises as we stomp them around the board).


This little wooden box holds all the monsters that aren’t normally in the monster bag (e.g. The Masks of Nyanlathocat).



I picked this up at the Georgia Renaissance Faire. At first I was put off by the cute pachydermatous pokemon on top (“Lord Ganesh – I CHOOSE YOU!”), but then I remembered that there was an elephantine Ancient One. Phew. Saved by Chaugnar Faugn.

Inside, I fit some pieces that would be used every game.

An onyx skull to use as a terror track marker


We talked a lot about how to handle the investigator markers. I briefly toyed with painting some mini’s for the task but ultimately went with some FFG mini’s. I picked a sampling of seven from the set so I had “old man”, “how does this camera work?”, “girl with poor fashion sense”, “two gun hobo”, “dog with handler”, “deaf woman”, and “please get out of my shot”.


This is our solution for the Doom Track. I picked up a Bag o’ Cthulhu from FFG and gave them a quick drybrush. As the Ancient One accumulates Doom Tokens, we place the little Cthulhu’s on the stand. Makes it easy for players across the table to see what the doom count is. Also, as the track fills up, it looks like they’re getting ready for a concert. You can almost picture them holding up tiny Zippos.


This black tin was a good size for the gate tokens. It’s nice how the delicate floral design counterpoints the bowel-loosening horrors that await when you witness the shrieking denizens of the City of the Great Race (aka “Talledega”).


Here’s a change purse that we’re storing the money in. I was able to get a great deal on some English pennies from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s from a local coin dealer. Between the color, the weight, and the sound they were a great choice. Each one is worth $1 in-game and there are 50 in the pouch.


I got this bag and the dice from www.q-workshop.com. I never liked their old black and green dice but these caught my eye. My friend pointed out how new and clean the bag was, so I worked to dirty it up a bit. After burying it in the yard for a month, it still wasn’t dirty enough. Then I soaked it in coffee for a couple weeks. Finally, I just took some red and brown ink and my airbrush to it. Now it’s so messed up it’s a little scary. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this thing looks like it was used as a sexual surrogate in a monkey house.


These are the gate seals. I made these from sealing wax and used a stamp with a little spiral in a star. It looked kind of like an Elder Sign actually, but also kind of like something that would show up on a love letter from Rainbow Brite. We were originally looking to make these the same size as a gate token, but remembered that the investigators had to be able to share a location with them. The wax dried hard (but not brittle) and peeled up easily from my painting table. There is a bunch because I wanted extras and I had the wax to spare.


Here are the sanity, stamina, and clue markers.

They’re the normal glass beads you see at craft stores. I used mod-podge to glue the punched paper circles to the bottom. As a finishing touch, I glued a circle of black paper underneath the design. For the clues, I used mostly newsprint, especially crosswords, puzzles, bridge hands, jumbles, and (oddly) movie listings. Sheet music also worked well.


This first player marker was one of the first parts I made. I wanted it to stand up vertically and be easy to see. That green light you see at the top isn’t just a reflection.

I wired the wooden candle holder to light up the crystal at the top with an LED. It’s from a waterproof electronic tealight I picked up from a craft store. Not only was it a two pack (so I could screw one up), but the LED is multi-colored. You can push the button over and over and get about 8 different colors including one setting that cycles through all of them. This is some serious Hogwarts shit. Lumos!


A little diary to track who played which investigator, which Ancient One we fought, and if we won. For example, “In a last stand that will stand the test of time alongside Thermopylae and the Alamo, Dexter Drake (expertly played by Travis) single-handedly defeated The Great Cthulhu in the final apocalyptic battle. His peerless heroism in the face of adversity should be an example to us all.”


What’s with the tarot deck? Well, we wanted a way to determine which Ancient One would be the adversary each game. I took all 21 major arcana plus four face cards from the suit of pentacles and created a little mini-deck. The rest I wrapped up in paper and won’t be used. The idea is that the players pick a card from the mini tarot deck and that card relates to one of the Ancient Ones. They can do a normal pick-a-card routine or even some kind of tarot reading. Whatever works.

“Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.”
Steven Wright
US Comedian and Actor (1955 - )


So how does the tarot card relate to the Ancient Ones? That brings us to the Journal.



From the beginning we thought it would be cool to have some kind of “Investigator Journal”. This turned out to be the most fun part of the project, but a lot of work.
I started with an unfinished leather book cover bought from the same Tandy Leather store that sold me the rabbit pelt, though how they killed and skinned it without asphyxiating is beyond me. I dyed the cover an awesome forest green and used a satin finish. Note to self – leather dye will dye your skin. It makes a kind of sense now that I come to think about it. Needless to say, for three days I had people come up to me asking if I had just done abdominal surgery on a leprechaun.

The actual book took a long time to put together. It ended up being 50 sheets folded in half. For those out there who dig book binding, I made 25 signatures of 2 folios each. My goal was to have each Ancient One featured on its own two-page spread. I want to make it clear at this point that none of this art is mine; all of it was pulled from google image search. I wish I had half the talent of these artists. All I did was use their art and jazz it up for the journal. Some, I watercolored. Others I used chalk pastels. Others, I accented with charcoal pencils. The rest I went at with pen and ink. That little number in the corner relates each one to its tarot card. Here’s a sampling.




What about the pages in-between? We wanted them to be filled with some kind of crazy writing as if the writer were driven mad by all the unfathomable evil he was writing about. I’m imagining John Doe’s journals from Seven. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do all the crazy writing myself. It’s a lot, and I’m not sufficiently insane. I didn’t have any luck finding a “lunatic ravings generator” online (though http://www.timecube.com/ would work in a pinch), but I did discover something almost as good. The discovery that saved my lovecraftian bacon was “asemic writing”. It’s a kind of artistic expression that’s basically writing without semantic content. It’s super-interesting and boy-howdy is it weird. I found a pile online and here are some that I used for the in-between pages.

I went back after it was all together and pasted in some prop newspaper articles, sheet music, maps, and pictures. All in all, it was a blast.

Similar to the tarot deck, we needed a way to choose investigators. My friend found a “Cim Bucket” for a dollar at a thrift store. This is a traditional fortune-telling tool originating in China.


The tube is opened and, while thinking of a question, shaken until a stick falls out. When it does, you read the number on it and refer to a piece of paper that contains an answer. The ones sold in the US evidently also have Arabic numerals and that, my friends, is solid gold. We took out all the sticks numbered higher than 49 (the number of investigators) and POOF…instant investigator-chooser!

Throw in a couple candles, some weird bottles and a ridiculous skull and we have a good family portrait.


Finally, we come to the investigators. The original investigator card looks like a stained dossier and honestly, it’s a great design. We wanted to improve on that.

We used an accordion file to store them all. There was no way it was going to fit in the box, so we didn’t try.


All the envelopes have an investigator name and a stamped number up in the corner. That number corresponds to the fortune-telling sticks. Also, to wear the envelopes a bit I threw them in the dryer with a couple of my girlfrend’s shoes. Three hours later, the envelopes are well worn and we are deaf from the endless banging of the shoes in the dryer. So what’s inside the envelopes?


Well, it depends. This example is Roland Banks, the federal agent. Inside every envelope is a character sheet, a page of backstory, a photo, any equipment they start with, and that character’s Personal Story cards. In addition, we added some “tchotchkes” for each investigator based on their job and history. Roland above got a Federal ID and a postcard for his sweetheart. The idea is like an actor having a physical object that they carry around while in character. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not role-playing Arkham Horror (we save our thee’s and thou’s for our regular Wednesday night D&D game).

We went crazy with these. I don’t want to ruin it for my friend, but here are a few choice items: a harmonica, a recipe, matchbooks, handkerchiefs, jewelry, additional photos, playing cards, a campaign button. As long as we had space, anything was fair game. If it was mentioned in the history, we looked for it. We even went so far as to try to “link” the investigators’ stories. For example, there is a photo of a happy couple that has been torn in half (as if in anger). Half the picture is in the Private Eye’s envelope, the other half is in the Dillettante’s. There’s a bunch of that kind of thing.



So this is what those wooden slats in the card tray are for. They replace the skill loops. Man, I hated those things. They got moved on accident all the time and it was impossible to remember where they had been. So we got around it with the new and improved SkillBar™. The cribbage pegs work great.

This is unquestionably the longest term personal project I’ve ever worked on. While most of it, like the Journal, was super-fun other parts were a bit of a slog. So at the end of the day, was it worth it?




You bet it was! Happy Birthday Troy!

Special Thanks to
Gertjan – My partner in crime. I know you feel like you didn’t do as much as you could but being able to bounce ideas off someone else was hugely valuable to me. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Marie – Sorry about the 2am woodworking in your driveway. It was your husband’s idea.
Katey – For putting up with far too long a period of far too much geekery. You never should’ve told me how much you knew about print production. I love you, sweetheart.
Dylan – For help mailing Troy the key from far away.
Dave – Drillmaster
All the artists on the Internet – You guys are incredible. And don’t worry; I won’t sell your stuff (without asking first).
Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson – You’ve made a game that we’ll continue to enjoy for years. Troy will leave this game to someone in his will. Chew on that.

Now then…what should I work on next?
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Jon Digman
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Strangely enough, I just made a bowl of popcorn.
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Scott Caldwell
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Nothing to say except my jaw was hitting the ground the whole time I read through this post. This is absolutely the coolest mod I have ever seen!
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Bruce Moffatt
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Awesome doesn't even begin to describe the work you put on this. A boardgame really became a family heirloom that will easily be passed down for generations!

Kudos to you for your efforts and the marvelous results. Thanks for sharing the journey with us!
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Austin Fleming
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This is the most beautiful and inventive thing I have seen in a very long time.

I so want this...cry
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Bob T
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You're the coolest person on Earth! Awesome!!
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Jon Phillips
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One does not simply surf into Mordor!
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I have seen lots of cool things posted here on BGG. This mod is way to the top of the list. Extra coolness points for the fact that you made it for someone else. Awesome stuff Travis!
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Damien
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Do you know that you wasted your time doing this because by calling him "Nyanlathocat", he's gonna crush your stuff with his feet. And eat you. laugh

Sounds great to be your friend! Good job!
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Wow--that is absofuckinglutely stunning--you've clearly been cursed into obsessive mode somehow.
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Christopher Ebert
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Wow. Very impressive. Great job! And very entertaining to read too.
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Scott Everts
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"Nobody gets me. I'm the wind, baby!" - Tom Servo
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Fantastic work! Wow, I just can't believe how much time that must of taken. I thought I went all out on my pimp jobs.
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Nick R
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So long and thanks for all the fish
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Absolutely awesome, I do not have the adjectives to fully do this justice but what an incredible gift.

Regards

Gnome
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Jon New
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What a superb "make"! Blue Peter presenters would be proud!
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Frank Franco
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Can I be your friend?
My birthday is in January.
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Nick R
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So long and thanks for all the fish
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thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup I think Astraljack's images deserve some thumbs, be generous folks. thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

Regards

Gnome
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MC Crispy
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Thanks for sharing: it is at the same time both an inspiration and a bar set so high that I am crushed!

I like the card tray a lot, I had been designing something similar to use as an insert into a clam-shell briefcase. The idea was to take an approach similar to that in deck-building games, where the decks are stored separately, we would then combine the decks in an at table play stand. I ran out of inspiration. Perhaps I'll pick it up again having seen what can be done.
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Daniel
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#YOLO!
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OMG!surprisesurprisesurprise

This is so full of WIN, I don't even know where to start.

Cthawesome modding job!goo
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Tim Thorp
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"Come on! Come on! Come and get it, baby! Come on! I don't got all day! Come on! Come on! Come on you bastard! Come on, you too! Oh, you want some of this? "
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How do you even have time to play the game? laugh

This achieves stratospheric levels of awesome! Oh, and note to self: I must find a Cim Bucket...
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Travis Bish
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We thought about building the card tray with a piano hinge on the back. It would've been nice, but it would also have taken up a ton of space on the table. Considering how much space the game already takes up, we decided to make the tray lid completely removable.

We almost lined the lid with felt to make a tray for dice rolling but the space issue was still a concern. Decided to skip and just put the lid in the box during play.
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Michael Bechard
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Man, you are some friend. Awesome work.
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Troy Bos
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As the recipient of this gift, I was floored when I started going through this chest of Lovecraftian delight. The pictures do not do justice to the amount of pure insanity reducing atmosphere this lends to the game.
My group and I will be attempting to save the world and avoid insanity for long time with this setup and it made for a memorable birthday.
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Joshua Speelman
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Words fail me. Brilliant...cry
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Linda Baldwin
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gulp (The green is partly envy.) Sadly, we have no emoticon for "I couldn't type this for 15 min. because I was retrieving my jaw from the ground."

That is nothing short of astonishing, especially to the utterly craft-deficient like me. Applause!
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Digger Cook
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astraljack wrote:
The leather pouch attached to the lid holds the Ancient One Journal (more on that later) and is festooned with little fetishy items including a St. Christopher medal, a rattle, a scarab, some carved bone, and a critter tooth fired from clay. It’s crazy and jangly and elicits exactly the kind of response I wanted.

“This box belongs to a crazy person and I’m not certain that I should be opening it.”


What an amazing project! Kudos! The post was so long I almost didn't read it, but I'm glad I did, it was hysterical.
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Tommy Garza
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How long til Gen Con?
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THAT IS AMAZING! Sorry for the caps. But it had to be done!
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