Designing a New Module

I have designed a board game which is a fairly simple collection of components - a board with a hex grid; counters representing military formations; a deck of action cards that need to be dealt to players, played and reshuffled during the game; some terrain tiles which need to be fixed to the board (immovable during play) and some game markers to record counter statuses.

Would I be best to start from scratch, or find a game of similar low complexity but with the main componentry of my game and revise that to fit my needs?

I’ve had a little experience with module editing but am no kind of expert. Are there some tutorial videos I could watch?

Any help would be gratefully received.

It probably depends somewhat on your personality which way is best. Personally when I’m in “learning mode” I’d rather start with something that’s quasi-working, and try to move it in the direction I want – you get the benefit of seeing how someone else got things working, and can move a step at a time, rather than having each new thing be a plunge into the dark. BUT you will accumulate more “cruft” this way - stuff that’s designed “slightly wrong” for your application but was the easiest way forward from what was already there. So particularly if you’re pretty experienced at module design already, then “starting clean” will give you a cleaner final result.

Thanks for the response. I sort of thought along the same lines and have started with an existing module. Foolishly, I chose Twilight Struggle and have a mass of “cruft”. I’m gradually getting rid of it and beginning to see the wood instead of just the trees. Still, I have bits of TS remaining and am worried about losing vital parts when I dispose of them.

I’m nowhere near that experienced with module design and am very much feeling my way. If you have a module suggestion for me to work on that is less complex than TS, I’d be very grateful. I’m also getting the occasional warning that Vassal has complained about what I’m doing and may not store my new project properly under a different tile name.

I’m particularly uncertain of how to deal with the action cards - e.g. setting up a start deck and discard pile. I know how to get the right pics on the cards and how to manipulate them for flipping & masking. But there seems to be something called a “card prototype” that is defying my understanding. Also, getting hexagonal terrain tiles of the right size and without a pretty (but unwanted) square white surround is proving stubborn! I’ve made .PNG files, set the background to transparent but still the white surround persists.

I shall get there in the end, I believe but the journey is proving challenging :wink:

Yes, Twilight Struggle would make a challenging starting point, especially for how many custom-coded Java classes it contains. It would be hard to know what’s safe to jettison.

Prototypes are merely groups of traits that are given a name, and then by giving that prototype name to other pieces you are effectively giving all the traits contained in that prototype at once.

What would you suggest as a better starting point than TS? I promise I won’t be upset if I have problems with your choice :slight_smile:. Thanks for the clarification of the prototype question. It sounds very time-saving and I’ll look into it more closely as I gain confidence.

One further question: can I copy parts of one module into another - I see a copy option on the donor pop-up menu but the paste option is greyed out in the recipient module.

There is no easy way to copy components of one module to another. It can be done by hand-editing the buildfile (an XML document), but from how you’ve described your level of ease with editing, I would not presently recommend trying that.

Ah, that’s a blow. Still, never mind, onwards & upwards. I wish I knew of a relatively simple module with a card deck that could be drawn from and any unwanted/used cards discarded - it would cut through the complications of Twilight Struggle’s complex system.

Maybe have a look at Stalin’s War, might fit the bill.

You can also have a different module “open in a different editor window” just to be looking at how stuff is done and trying out similar things in your own module.

As ever, rapid, useful and effective replies from you guys. I’m going to try all you’ve suggested. I have made some good progress on everything I’ve done but the cards are proving the choke point. Off to Stalin’s War to see if that makes for an easier passage. Thanks, everyone.

When I’ve made some decent progress, would someone be willing to look at what I’ve done and pass some comments?

One final question this evening: Do I have to include an “Images” folder for you and would I have to provide that if/when I publish?

  1. As you create the module the images are automatically sucked up into the vmod, so no need to provide an images folder.

  2. I’ll have a go at explaining prototypes.

You have 50 cards that all have 10 traits: 5 in common and 5 unique to the card.
That means inserting 500 traits, yeech.
Instead you define a prototype "common"which consists of the 5 in common traits.
Then in each card you insert the prototype “common” trait plus the 5 unique.
That means you only have insert a total of 5 + 50 + 250 = 305 traits, ja? Yeech.

So its a real timesaver, especially when you decide you need to change something. And different piece types can all still draw a common prototype, say Armour, Mech & SPG all drawing upon the (say) tracked movement prototype.

Got it, Martinov! It certainly is a time saver and I’ll put it into the experimentation forthwith. Thanks.

Now another question. I want to attach a national flag to each counter. I’m doing this using a Layer property but the flag won’t rotate with the counter and I’d like it to stay in the same position with relation to the counter - is that possible?

I tried “Stalin’s War” but it seemed to use a separate Map Board for cards and there were several decks of cards in use at any one time during the game, so the module editing panel was pretty confusing. It also seemed to have the Deck in the wrong map hierarchy and I couldn’t work out how to replicate that.

I appreciate your assistance but I don’t have the necessary experience to use it to best advantage. I think I need a tutorial on Card Decks! Anyway, thank you for trying to help.

This is likely a result of the ordering of your Rotate trait and Layer trait. Whichever one is above the other when viewing all the traits of your piece, change the ordering of these two.

A fundamental piece of editing knowledge is that traits resolve from bottom to top as you view them in the list of traits assigned to the piece. I.e., a trait can only affect other traits above it in the list. This gem is squirreled away on page 40 of the quite superb Module Designer’s Guide.

Hi Joel:

Just to keep you posted, I found your video tutorial on Card Decks (it was No.8 and I didn’t get that far when I last visited the tutorials) and that resolved things for me. I can now set up a deck and the players can draw cards from the deck. My next task is to set up player hands and allow the players to draw from 1 to 8 cards at the start of each turn so that the cards go into their hand and can be played to the discard pile from there.

I’ve managed to set up player hands and have them show up on the menu bar. What I can’t yet see how to do is the above final task. So it’s back to your tutorial to see if it lifts the curtain once again.

As luck would have it, my need to have the little flag rotate with the counter has gone (change in the counter design) but your tip looks like it might be gold dust for the future. I’ve learned a fair bit of what I’ve done from the, as you say, superb MDG. The big problem for me is knowing where to look for the specific bit of knowledge I need. :wink:


You’re not the first person to do it, but I think you are confusing me for Joel Toppen. I have never done any video tutorials. In fairness, there are a preponderance of Joels in VASSAL world:

Joel U: VASSAL developer
Joel T: makes many GMT game modules, did YouTube tutorial series
Joel K: me, dabbler, made a handful of modules, replies on forum a fair amount, knows enough to be dangerous

LOL! I get the same problem, being a “Mike”. Sorry about the confusion. I know enough to be frustrated most of the time. I’ve tried searching the manual but I don’t know the right question to ask.

Are you able to offer any assistance on how to set up the Player Hand facility I’m after? I want the player to be able to choose a number of cards to take from the action card deck and put into his hand, then play cards from his hand which then go into the discard pile.