Saturday, September 23, 2017

PinkFae Archive #2: Reasons Why We Play Games

We continue our reposting of my PinkFae articles with this item, which was originally posted on 9 January, 2016.

--Beans-- What'cha doin'? --Chuck-- Just playing some video games. Trying to unwind after a long, crappy, day at work. --Beans-- So what's the point of this one? --Chuck-- It's a role-playing game, so mostly I run around performing menial tasks for petty reward. It's a tough grind, but if you work hard enough, eventually you face off against some really tough bosses. --Beans-- And THIS is how you unwind from your crappy job? --Chuck-- You'd think the irony would have occurred to me by now.
Why do we play games? Sure, we all have our reasons. For some, it's about spending time with people they love. Other people see it as an exercise in creativity, or practising various mental skills (or, let's be honest, physical skills; not all games are played around a table or in front of a television set).

For me, there are many reasons: some games are enjoyable because they indulge a particular love I have (dare I say, a fetish?), such as the original Balderdash, which caters to my lexophilia. Other games force me to think, and I love to give my brain some exercise on occasion; Dominant Species and Clans are two excellent examples of these types of games. Some games are fun for me because they facilitate social interaction that I otherwise find difficult to attain (The Resistance: Avalon falls in this category). Others appeal to my love of a certain fandom, such as Star Trek: Road Trip or Firefly: The Game). As a Storyteller, I also tend to be drawn to games that facilitate the telling of stories (thus my love of tabletop roleplaying games like Changeling: the Dreaming, as well as Fiasco and Gloom).

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sandbox Gaming

I recently read an article about Sandbox Gaming. In case you're not familiar with that term, it comes from video game designs, in which players are given free reign to go where they want and do what they please. This is in contrast to the linear structure of most early video games.

At first glance, you might think that traditional tabletop roleplaying games are a perfect example of sandbox gaming. Whereas a computer game only has so many possible actions programmed into it, so many objectives for players to try to attain, in tabletop RPGs, players can do whatever they want. They don't need the game to have been preprogrammed to allow them to go to certain places or offer them certain options. They have a GM who can improvise to accommodate anything the may think to do. They don't need to wait for a programmer to make something available; the GM can do it for them on the fly.

However, the article in question isn't about sandbox games in that sense. Instead, the author describes whether or not the players are given objectives, or must decide on objectives for themselves. In other words, does the GM tell them, 'You have been hired by the ruler of the Shallukar Empire to find and deliver to her the Canopic Chest of Solitude,' or does the GM say, 'You are standing in the main plaza of the capital of the Shallukar Empire. What do you do?'

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Board Game Review: Blood Rage

I've been able to play Blood Rage twice now, and I enjoyed it both times, so the time has come for me to write a review of it. Guess what? We start with the ratings.
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.
Strategy: 5
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 2 Hours
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: High
  Conflict: High
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: High

Saturday, September 2, 2017

PinkFae Archive #1: Lawsian Gamer Types

As I mentioned previously, the PinkFae site is essentially defunct. This makes me very sad, not just because it was a pretty neat site that had the potential to offer a lot in the way of a gaming blog, but because it had about a year worth of articles that I had written. I was quite proud of and pleased with those articles, and it would be a shame if they just vanished.

So starting today, I'm going to intersperse my normal articles with reprints of the ones I wrote for PinkFae. We start, today, with an article entitled 'Lawsian Gamer Types,' which was originally published on 3 Januay 2016.

Robin Laws, an older gentleman with short grey hair, a thin goatee and moustache, and black glasses, wearing a colourful shirt, speaking into a microphone.Robin Laws, an experienced author of roleplaying books, has written an invaluable tool for GMs. It's invaluable for all gamers, although it was targeted at the GM. In it, he includes a great deal of advice on how to make your games as enjoyable as possible for all participants. It's not the stuff you'd normally find in the 'For the Game Master' section of the core rulebook or supplements like the Dungeons Master's Guide. It's more fundamental information, such as campaign design (are you running a dungeon crawl, a set-piece story, a branching story, an episodic story, etc?), suggestions on how to be spontaneous (have a list of appropriate names for when you need to ad-lib an NPC, have a box of index cards with stats for random NPCs that the players may encounter, etc), how to deal with different player types (what emotional kick is each player looking to get from the game, and how can you deliver it to them?).

One of the most important issues that he addresses in this book is the topic of Gamer Types.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

One-shot, Short Term, Long Term: Campaign Length

I find myself rereading some of my Order of the Stick books again. Because, well, it's such a great story. There are five volumes of printed comics, plus two prequel books and a bonus book of strips that ran in the ill-fated Dragon Magazine and other assorted sundries. In addition, there are (at the time of this writing) 147 online strips that haven't yet been collected into printed volumes. Once it gets to the end of the current story arc, that will be volume 6. I predict there will likely by 7 total volumes, with a small chance that the total may end up at 8.

In Volume 3 of the printed books (War and XPs), author Rich Burlew wrote in his prologue that he used Babylon 5 as a model for how to write an epic-length story. He mentions the way that little bits of at-the-time seemingly irrelevant details that turned out to be super important bits of foreshadowing in the series' final episode. He refers to that show extensively as a guide for how to map out a long-term story.

On the other end of the spectrum, I will be running a one-shot tabletop RPG tomorrow. I expect it to last a few hours. In those handfuls of hourglass sand, there will be a complete story, with all the necessary elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Board Game Review: Kingdom Builder

A close-up view of a game after it has ended. There are four sections of the game board, each placed together to form the play area. Each one is made up of a grid of hexagonal spaces, coloured to represent grasslands, forests, flowers, canyons, mountains, lakes, and deserts, with a fancy space representing a city. On most of the non-water spaces is a wooden house token in one of five colours: blue, white, black, red, and orange.

I've been able to play this game a few times now, and though at first I didn't think much of it, my second play through caused me to realise that it's actually a really good game. It has all of the best elements of a good game that I described in my article on good games. There's no player elimination, it has a lot of player agency, it's relatively simple, it ends decisively, it allows for upsets, and best of all, it's fun to lose. So let's take a look at it.

We start with the numbers, just like always.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Expanding my Corner

I have decided that it's time to start trying to grow my little media empire (ha!). This decision was motivated by several factors. One of these factors is the fact that PinkFae appears to be defunct. This makes me sad, but such is life. More importantly, there is the fact that only the first two to four paragraphs of the six most recent articles are accessible at all. I don't want all that writing to be lost, so I'm seriously considering reposting those articles here.

Furthermore, I had an idea some years back. I've been active in my local chapter of PFLAG for some time, and one day, I was wearing a PFLAG shirt which featured some rainbow-coloured stick figures. A friend saw that and told me, 'For a second, I thought those were meeples, and I was about to ask where I could get a shirt like that.' Well, such an idea can't go unexplored! So I threw together a design and tried to get some organisations to use the idea.

Well, nobody would. So I decided, 'screw it, I'm going to do it myself.' So I've created a more advanced Game Dork brand, and have created a store on cafepress where I am selling shirts with these designs.