Saturday, December 12, 2015

Worker Placement Games

Last night was the Backer Party for the Loot & XP Board Game Cafe. It was a blast! I had so much fun hanging out with awesome people, playing great games, and even making some new friends and reconnecting with some that I haven't seen in years!

In addition to playing Sushi Go and The Red Dragon Inn, I also ended up playing a game called Alchemists. I may do a proper review of that game later, but I just wanted to share a few thoughts I had as a result of playing that game last night.

I described the game to a spectator as a worker placement game with elements of Clue and just a soupçon of Compounded. I stand by that description. The core element of the game is a deck of eight alchemical ingredients (including toads, mandrake root, and raven's claws), each with specific alchemical properties. The exact properties are randomised by an app on your phone, and you have to spend a large portion of the game combining ingredients to see what potions result from them, and then using that information to deduce the alchemical properties of the ingredients.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Empathy

I just finished reading an excellent article. It's about empathy: what it is, why it's important, how we came to have it, why it's declining in modern culture, how to cultivate it, and how it will improve your life.

It's kind of long, but I think it's well worth the read. The highlights:
  • Humans are empathic creatures. We evolved in a social environment, and we need that social interaction to feel happy and complete.
  • Empathy is declining. With the rise of technology, we are getting our social interaction more through our phones and computers than face-to-face, and this is reducing our ability to be empathic.
  • Empathy is important. The article suggests some ideas on how to improve your sense of empathy.
I won't rehash the whole article. You really should go read it. It has some videos embedded in it. They're good videos. Watch them too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Board Game Review: Scoville

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a very fun board game called Scoville. The point of the game is to grow, crossbreed, and harvest peppers, which are then combined in recipes. I really enjoyed it, so let's take a look at it now, shall we?

We start, as always, with the numbers:
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.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Ideal
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Overview of Shifters

It has been a very crazy couple of weeks. I haven't posted according to the schedule in some time. But at least I've got the beta playtest draught of Shifters ready to go. So this week, I thought I'd give you a quick overview of how the game works.

Characters have five primary attributes:
  • Strength: An overall measure of physical sturdiness, covering body mass, lifting and carrying capacity, health, endurance, damage capability, etc.
  • Agility: A rating of flexibility and co-ordination, which includes the basis for most physical skills and proficiency in weapon use and combat.
  • Reason: A description of general mental capacity, including logical thinking and rational cognition. It doesn't cover knowledge, though.
  • Psyche: This is the attribute that covers what you know (rather than the ability to use what you know in a logical manner). Also governs social ability.
  • Essence: This is the supernatural ability. It covers willpower, but also ability to use magic, psionics, and most superpowers, as well as resistance to these.
Each is rated from 2 to 10. The ratings are then subtracted from 12, to give you that attribute's target number (thus, if you had a Reason of 7, your Reason Target Number is 5). You purchase levels in attributes using Character Creation Points (CCPs), with each level in an attribute costing 5 CCPs. Normally, you start the game with 150 CCPs, but the GM may alter this depending on what sort of game he's running.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shifters Ready for Playtesting

I have mentioned here before that I am working on creating a new roleplaying game. It is finally ready for playtesting.

I have created a pdf of the beta-version rules set. I illustrated it myself, because I couldn't find anyone else to do it. Which means that the illustrations are crappy beyond belief. Some of them are photoshopped photographs, others are tracings of photographs done with pencil (some of which are finished in ink, others not). A couple of them are, in essence, completely brazenly stolen. I justify this theft with the fact that this is only a beta playtest version; if playtest goes well and results in a workable product, I will probably try to put this game on Kickstarter. If successful, one of the things I plan to include in the budget is paying for a professional illustrator (or possibly more than one). Every illustration I made will be discarded, the layout will be finalised and made more pleasant, and real actual honest-to-goodness illustrations will be included.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Board Game Review: The Lord of the Rings

Not surprisingly, many games have been created based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, my favourite is the co-operative board game by Reiner Knizia, in which players take on the roles of the hobbits in the fellowship and attempt to carry the One Ring to Mordor where they must drop it into the fires of Mt Doom. Very much like the story in the books, no? Perhaps that's part of why I like it so much!

Let's look at the numbers, shall we?
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.

Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 1½ hours

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Ranking of the Star Trek Films

I'm going to do something a little different this week. I spent a good chunk of this morning reading some articles about how other people rated the Star Trek films, and it got me thinking about how I would rank them.

I know it's not about gaming per se, but Star Trek is at least as nerdy as gaming, and besides, there have been more than one game (some of them roleplaying games, even) set in the Star Trek universe. Anyway, it's my blog, and I'll blog about what I want.

So here we go.

Before we get started, I want to give you a little background. I grew up on Star Trek. As a young boy, I loved looking up at the stars and thinking about the vast cosmos in which we lived. So naturally, any story set in outer space strongly appealed to me. I watched Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. I was a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy (although, apparently unlike other young male fans, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker instead of Darth Vader) ­– the new trilogy destroyed my love of the series so thoroughly that I no longer count myself a Star Wars fan at all; after I saw Episode II, I took a long hard look at the entire franchise and realised that the only thing about it that had kept me a fan was nostalgia – remembering the joy I had once gotten as a child from the films, but no longer had.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Social Bias in Role Playing Games

As I get older, I learn more about how modern society tends to have implicit social biases. Not everyone in a society holds these biases, and those that do don't always have the same biases. These can take the form of racism, sexism, anti-immigrant attitudes, homophobia, transphobia, religious bigotry, political bigotry, and many other forms besides.

It may seem silly to be talking about this on a gaming blog, but I believe that games can help shape attitudes, as well as vice versa. I remember noticing many years ago that almost all of the characters that were created for games in which I played were Caucasian, and the majority of them were male. Even before I'd noticed that, it had occurred to me that I didn't always have to play a character of the same gender as myself. I've played many female characters; some of these I count amongst my most enjoyable gaming experiences. Michelle, the Silent Strider Theurge from Werewolf: The Apocalypse, was one such character; another was Sarah Storm, the cyberpunk piskie from Changeling: The Dreaming. I've also tried to break out of my own ethnicity as well; Michelle was of Egyptian descent, and I recall at least one character that I created who was African American (I never actually got to play that character, sadly).

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Board Game Review: Sushi Go

Hello and welcome to another week of the Game Dork's rantings! It's time for another board game review, and this time around, we're going to do a card game called Sushi Go, by Gamewright Games. It's a fun little card game with an interesting mechanic! The object is to score the most points by picking the tastiest (and therefore most valuable) items from the conveyer belt at a sushi restaurant.

Let's start things off right:
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.

Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 30 minutes

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Lawsian Gamer Type Are You?

As I prepare the Changeling campaign I'm running for a couple of friends, I turn my thoughts (as I often do) to the player types I have in my group.

Those who've been following this blog for a long time now may remember that I posted, several years ago, a description of the different player types. I always like to get an idea of the types of players for whom I'm GMing, so I can try to tailor the story to their needs and desires.

As this particular group is still so new to gaming, I imagine it will be a month or two before I start asking these questions. But to that end, I've created a survey on Google Forms that they can take when I feel the time is right to ask them to think about these things.

And then it occurs to me that it might be interesting to know what gamer types I have reading this blog.

So, to that end, I present to you the Lawsian Gamer Types survey!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

External Resources

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about player aids. I've recently been able to start a Changeling game for a couple of friends, and I reworked an idea I'd used in the past. I think that will make an interesting topic for this week's entry.

Those of you who are experienced gamers may be familiar with a concept called "bluebooking." If this is a new idea to you, let me explain: some gaming groups began using blue books (small booklets of blank ruled paper, normally used in american universities for essay exams) to continue action of a game outside of a normal gaming session. If there were scenes that players wanted to play out in private, away from others in their gaming group, those scenes could be written out in blue books, which were cheap and easily available. GMs would then review those scenes and respond to them, if necessary, and could incorporate events of such private scenes into their game setting without other players being immediately aware of what was going on. Other types of scenes that could be acted out through bluebooking included scenes that occurred in a long lull in main action (i.e., if a couple of years of in-game time passed between gaming sessions, players could describe what their character was doing during that time), or if there was a scene that a player didn't feel comfortable roleplaying in front of other gamers, and so on.

This is just one example of an External Resource. External Resources are tools used outside of a normal gaming session to enhance stories being told.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Board Game Review: Colosseum

It's time for another board game review, and I've got a good one for you this week. We're going to look at the game Colosseum by Wolfgang Kramer and Markus Lübke, published by Days of Wonder and Edge Entertainment. Players own colosseums in ancient Rome, and are competing to put on the greatest show.

Let's start in the usual place, with the numbers:
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.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Nice
Average Length of Game Play: 2 Hours

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A brief overview of Changeling history (part 3)

In the last installment, we had just arrived at the point in which the sidhe had returned from Arcadia. At first, most of the kithain were overjoyed, as this seemed to signal a new Spring, a symbolic end of the hardships of the previous six hundred years, as Glamour began to return to Earth.

Their hopes were soon dashed, however, as the sidhe looked around themselves and said, 'Your rulers have returned. Bow down and serve us once more.'

Obviously, the commoner kith were none too pleased at this development. The sidhe had, after all, abandoned them to potential Undoing at the hands of Banality, only to return and demand fealty once more without even so much as a 'Good job in our absence.' Tensions mounted, until in most areas of Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, war broke out between the commoners and the sidhe. In some ways, this conflict was most severe in the Americas, where hostilities began with the Night of Iron Knives, otherwise known as the Beltaine Massacre. The sidhe had agreed to meet with the commoner leaders and forge a peace treaty. The leaders were instead betrayed, as the sidhe slew every one of them with Cold Iron, obliterating their faerie souls for all eternity.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A brief overview of Changeling history (part 2)

Last week, we looked at the earliest part of the history of the fae, from their genesis to the time that Banality sealed them off from the Dreaming. The sidhe had just abandoned the commoners to their fate, clogging the portals back to the Dreaming as the helpless commoner kith watched those portals collapsing.

Today, we will continue the history.

So the commoner kith found themselves trapped in an increasingly inhospitable world, without even the leadership of their traditional rulers to guide them. To be fair, a handful of sidhe did remain (most notably those of House Scathach -- pronounced SKOO-hah), but there was now a massive power vacuum. Some of the commoners tried to form new royalty, others looked to more progressive styles of government, and still others simply fell to chaos and petty infighting.

But the foremost problem was dealing with the threat of Banality. How to protect themselves from an energy which, merely by being exposed to it, could erase your very soul?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A brief overview of Changeling history (part 1)

I consider myself very fortunate at this time, because I have managed to get a group of players sufficiently interested in Changeling: The Dreaming to get a new game started. I will be meeting with them next week to walk them through the process of character creation, and I have developed the backstory for the major NPCs in preparation for creating the story we'll be exploring.

So I want to spend the next few entries describing the general history of the fae.

It all began in the Mythic Age, at the dawn of humanity, when the first humans dreamed, and those dreams became the first fae. Dreams of honour and virtue became the trolls; dreams of nobility, beauty, and finesse became the sidhe, dreams of cozy homes and humble craftsmen became the boggans. Dreams of travel and adventure became the eshu, whilst dreams of hedonism became satyrs and dreams of playful animals became the pooka. There were darker dreams as well; dreams of antisocial workaholics became the nockers, dreams of ravenous horror became the redcaps, and dreams of things that go scritch in the night became the sluagh.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Board Game Review: The Red Dragon Inn

I often talk about the heavy, thinky-thinky type games that I really enjoy playing. But, as I hope may be evident from some of the games I review on here, those aren't the ONLY types of games I like to play. Sometimes, it's a lot of fun to play a simple, light, fluffy type of game that's enjoyable because it's silly or funny. The Red Dragon Inn is one such game. Here are the numbers:
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.
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: Implicit and Inherent
Attractiveness: I'm torn between Average and Pretty...
Expected length of Game Play: Varies with number of players; usually about 15 minutes for two players, and add an extra 7 or 8 minutes for each additional player.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Importance of Stories

Over the last couple days, at my summer job, I was working on a project that involved this article on The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool in the Harvard Business Review. The general gist of the article:

Humans need stories. We live our lives through the stories we tell each other. It's been a part of our racial archetype since our ancestors were living in caves and drawing stories on the walls. People respond most strongly to stories that use Freytag's pyramid. Advertisers that use Freytag's pyramid as a structure for their advertisements have a greater return on investment than those who don't. So all companies should turn their advertisements into stories.

Setting aside my disgust at so shamelessly corrupting what may be the quintessential aspect of human existence for base monetary gain, I wish to talk (yet again) about the importance of telling stories. It's not just an enjoyable pastime; the article linked above mentions research that shows how the climax of a story triggers the release of cortisol in human neurological systems. This causes us to focus on the story, wanting to know what's going to happen next. Even if the story is completely predictable, and we have no reason to think that the hero won't save the day at the last minute, we still hang on every word.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Exciting news!

I'm on holiday at the moment, so this one's going to be a short one. But there is some exciting news, and I felt I just had to share.
Remember a couple months ago, when I was talking about board game cafes? I believe I said, 'I don't know how feasible this idea would be, but it's fun to dream!'

Well, it turns out I was not alone in wishing for this. A kickstarter just went live for a group wanting to open a board game cafe right here in my own current home town!

They've had a couple of board game events at the local public library, so I've been able to play with them. They seem like really nice people, and I'm very much looking forward to helping them get off the ground. I know I'll be pledging, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd head over to their Kickstarter page and pledge something too!

Sadly, most of their reward packages will only be of use to people who live in or near this city, but there are a couple that may appeal to anyone, regardless of location. I'm certain the fine folks behind Loot & XP will appreciate your support. And I know I will!

That's all for this week. I'll see you back here next time, and until then,

Game on!





Saturday, July 25, 2015

Board Game Review: Panic on Wall Street

I learned how to play another great game at the game club I attend. It's called Panic on Wall Street. It takes all the chaos of being a Wall Street stock broker and makes it an exciting game. Let's take a look, shall we? 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.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 4
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Average
Expected length of Game Play: 1 hour

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Player Aids

Once, many years ago, I participated in a game of Dungeons and Dragons set in an alternate history version of Middle Earth. I did this primarily at the request of the GM, who wanted an experienced gamer to assist the newbies, as they were having trouble progressing in the plot.

This was  a challenging situation, not only because I dislike D&D, but because after every session, when we received XP and levelled up, there was a protracted period of passing around the one copy of the Player's Guide so that players could choose new skills, acquire new feats, learn new spells, etc. It was a boring time, sat waiting for the book to get back round to me, as all the other players fought over who got to look at it next.

This inspired me to create a booklet that I could easily and cheaply photocopy which contained all the necessary information not only for spending experience, but also for walking the players through the character creation process, step by step. I'd hand this out to players during the chargen session, and let them go, and be nearby if anyone had any questions. Nobody had to wait for the book to get to them, because everyone had their own copy.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

'Where Do You Get Your Ideas?'

Many of the world's creative celebrities have spoken or written about occasions in which they get asked the question, 'Where do you get your ideas?'

Alan Moore (who, just on the off chance that you don't know, is the author of many of the world's greatest comics, including V for Vendetta and Watchmen), said, 'We imply that even to have voiced such a question places [a person] irretrievably in the same intellectual category as the common pencil-sharpener. ... I know it isn't nice. ...it's something that we have to do. The reason why we have to do it is pretty straightforward. Firstly, in the dismal and confused sludge of opinion and half-truth that make up all artistic theory and criticism, it is the only question worth asking. Secondly, we don’t know the answer and we’re scared that somebody will find out.'

Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side, says, 'I've always found the question interesting, because it seems to embody a belief that there exists some secret, tangible place of origin for cartoon ideas. Every time I hear it, I'm struck by this mental image where I see myself rummaging through my grandparents' attic and coming across some old, musty trunk. Inside, I find this equally old and elegant-looking book... embossed on the front cover in large, gold script is the title, Five Thousand and One Weird Cartoon Ideas. I’m afraid the real answer is much more mundane: I don't know where my ideas come from.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Board Game Review: Elysium

It's time once again for another board game review. This time, I'm going to talk about a game I played with the local gaming club: Elysium. You know how this starts:
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.

Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 4
Humour: None
Attractiveness: pretty
Expected length of Game Play: 75 minutes

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Player Agency

Very quickly before I begin: Asphodel has been funded! There's a little bit of time left if you want to get a copy of your own: if you haven't pledged already, you have until 10:51 AM CDT (which is 15:51 UTC (3:51 PM for those who don't use 24 hour time) on Sunday 14 June, 2015 to head over and throw some money at this awesome game.

Now on to the post.

We had Board Game Night last night at the Game Dork household. One of our guests brought his copy of Kill Dr. Lucky and we ended up playing it. Perhaps you'll remember I reviewed that game a few years ago. If you remember that, you probably also remember that I didn't care for the game.

The version we played last night was not the one produced by Cheapass Games. It was the Paizo Games edition, with proper cardboard pieces and lovely, full-colour artwork. There were some tweaks to the rules as well, which made it a little better than the version I played originally.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Asphodel under way!

I know I didn't post this last weekend, and if things keep on the way they have been, I fear I may not get to post again this coming weekend either.

I'm sorry. Summer has thus far been crazier than it should be. I promise I'll get to some more posting at some point in the future.

For now, though, I want to make sure everyone is aware that the Kickstarter is live for Asphodel. I guarantee, if you get a copy of the game, you'll love it. Do a guy a favour and head over to the Asphodel Kickstarter page and back it. There's just over a week left, and there's still aways to go!

Thanks so much! Until next time,

Game on!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Story versus Action

I was unable to post an entry last week. I apologise. It has been a crazy spring season. Although it's not technically summer yet, my 'summer season' began today, so I expect fewer obstacles for a while.

Today, I want to talk about an exchange I had on Tuesday. I was at the weekly meeting of the local board game club, when two young men walked into the building and said that they were hoping to get to attend, but would need to ensure that they had a ride home. I offered my services. So they stayed, and games were played by everyone present, and at the end of the night, I ferryed them to their residence.

As we were driving, we the conversation turned to role-playing games. They asked me if I had ever played Dungeons and Dragons. I informed them that yes, I had, but that I was not a fan of the game, because it emphasised hack-and-slash over storytelling. They attempted to defend their beloved game, saying the usual things like 'It's not the game that determines the story's structure, it's the GM,' and 'We've played in games that have great stories.'

Which is true, to an extent, but what they don't seem to notice is that the game's mechanics have a distinct effect on the types of stories being told. I've talked about this before, but only in passing.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Board Game Review: Eclipse

Before I start the actual post, I wanted to mention that this is not a review of the interstellar conquest game by Asmodee. Instead, this is about the two-player abstract strategy game from Gigamic Games.

That said, this post would normally not be a board game review. But this past week has been so ruddy busy and stressful, I simply don't have the time or the energy to think of anything more in depth right now. So I'm going to take the easy route and review another board game.

There's a booth at Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie Texas that sells board games and card games. I spent some time looking at their wares, and decided to pick up a simple little wooden game called Eclipse. Now I will review it for you. Starting with the numbers:
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.
Strategy: 6
Randomness: 0
Complexity: 0
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Expected Length of Gameplay: 20 minutes

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Board Game Review: Asphodel

Remember last week when I promised I would post a review of the game my friend has created and is playtesting? No? Well, I did. So now I will.

Asphodel is a strategic game of ghostly skirmishes. At the mouth of the river of the dead sits the spectral city of Asphodel, made up of the ghostly echoes of locations from the realm of the living. Places that may be many miles apart in the world of the Quick are jumbled together in the necropolis where we lay our scene. It is here that the various factions of the dead battle for the resources they need to move on and leave the afterlands for their eternal reward. You control one of these factions, and must manoeuvre your ghosts to strengthen your own position whilst undermining the efforts of the rival factions.

Welcome to the afterlife.

Although this game is still in prototype format, it works as well as any fully-produced game, so I will review it in the same manner. For starters, 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.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty (keep in mind this is a prototype I'm using; there's a very good chance that once the game is produced, this rating may increase to Ideal)
Expected Length of Gameplay: 45 minutes

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Board Game Review: Clans

I normally try to follow a pattern of two-weeks-of-random-topics-then-a-board-game-review, but I'm going to change it up a little bit this week and next; I'm going to do two board game reviews in a row.

This week, I'm going to review Clans. Next week, I'm going to review Asphodel. This is a game that a very good friend of mine has created, and last night, I got to playtest it for the first time. He gave me a protoype copy for myself, and I'm going to take this to the board game club I attend on Tuesdays to get other people to playtest it as well. After I've had a few good playtest sessions with it, I will write a review here.

But I want to wait until I've had a few chances to play through it before I do that, so I'm going to stick to my normal schedule for this week. That means that I'm going to review one of my favourite board games (and honestly, I can't believe I haven't reviewed it here before): Clans.

First, the numbers:
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.
Strategy: 5
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Useful
Expected Length of Gameplay: 30 - 45 minutes

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Your input needed for the direction of this blog

As I mentioned last week, I've been getting a fair amount of traffic from around the world. But one thing I've noticed is that, by far, the posts that are getting the most views are the Board Game Reviews. I've published 85 entries in this blog so far (this entry is number 86).

Entries Number of entries Percentage of total entries Number of views Percentage of views
Total Entries 85 100% 2201 100%
Board Game Reviews 19 22.4% 1647 74.8%
Other entries 66 77.6% 554 25.2%

Anyone can see that there is clearly a massive disparity there. Obviously, people are coming to my blog for the board game reviews (interesting note: so far, my review of Storming the Castle has the most views, with 358, followed by Anima: Shadow of Omega with 340, then Three Musketeers: The Queen's Pendants at 221). Not many people seem to care about my other entries (the largest page views on the non-Board Game Review entries are the ones I wrote about new GURPS divination spells (part 1 had 38 views, and part 2 had 121).

So my question for you good people is this: Should I stick to writing only board game reviews? Or do you think I should keep doing what I'm doing and let the traffic go where it will regardless of what I'm writing?

Please leave your response in the comment section below. I'm really looking forward to hearing what you lovely people have to say!

Until next week,

Game on!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mature themes

Don't be fooled by the title of this post. I'm not referring specifically to sexual topics. I'm going to be talking about anything that might be considered 'adult-oriented,' including violence, advanced social issues, and the like.

Before I go on, I want to mention something very quickly: I have noticed a continuation in the trend. My Board Game Review entries are still getting, by far, the most traffic. This week, the majority of my traffic seems to be coming from Russia. Fascinating...

Anyway, I'm going to talk about that more next week, but this week, I wanted to talk about something that I noticed whilst watching the latest episode of Wil Wheaton's Tabletop. The latest episode is about the game Five Tribes. The game is set in the world of 1,001 Arabian Nights, and so contains viziers, camels, palaces, assassins, djinns, and slaves.

Mr Wheaton started out the episode with a little speech, in which he points out that some people have an ethical objection to the concept of slavery being included in the game, and that the publishers chose to include it because, moral or not, it was part of the culture being depicted in the game, and they felt it was important to portray the setting accurately. But as Wil Wheaton personally objects to the concept of owning another human being, he was going to refer to the slave cards as 'assistants' throughout the game.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Board Game Review: Dominant Species

I recently got to play Dominant Species for the first time. I was introduced to this game by an old friend. As he said about it, 'This is a game I love to lose.' This game is very much intended for people whose idea of a good time is to think really really hard. So, of course, I loved it.

Let's see what we have in store for us, by starting first with the ratings (and of course my rating system):
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.
Strategy: 5
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 4
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Ideal
Expected Length of Game Play: 2 to 3 hours

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Golden Age

People are fond of pointing out the 'golden age' of things. There was the golden age of comics, the golden age of cinema, the golden age of television, the golden age of aviation, and so on. Normally, a golden age is identified in retrospect. People who study a particular topic look at the history and say, 'Look at the innovations that were made during this historical time period. Look at the great people who made a difference in that time. That was the golden age of [insert topic here].'

Rarely does one get to identify a golden age whilst it is occurring.

But that's exactly what is happening with board games right now.

I remember as a young boy in the 80s, reading Games Magazine. I enjoyed solving the puzzles, doing cryptograms and rebuses and other word games and visual puzzles. But there was a section in the middle of each issue that I always skipped: board game reviews. That seemed silly to me.

Back in the 80s, board games included staples such as Monopoly and Scrabble, as well as party games like ScruplesPictionaryTrivial Pursuit, and Balderdash. Those were your options. I was familiar with a few games from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, which populated my grandparents' cabinets: games like Life or Payday. All of these were fairly simplistic. They may have had an interesting theme, but there wasn't a lot of meat to the mechanics. Roll some dice, move a pawn, draw a card, follow the instructions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Board Game Cafe

I recently learned about Thirsty Meeples Board Game Cafe. This is a shop where you pay a cover charge (the Thirsty Meeples cover charge is £6.00 for three hours, £5.00 for children, with a discount of £1.50 if you order something from the food/drink menu). If they're slow, they'll let you stay beyond the three hour limit. You are then welcome to come into the shop and play any of the games they have available (over 2,000 titles, according to the website). It's not the sort of place you go when you want a meal; their food offerings are a handful of cakes, snacks, and sandwiches. They're there mostly for people who want to play board games.

Thirsty Meeples is far from the only one. Board game cafes are popping up all over the globe. There are some in New York, at least one in Beijing, another in Toronto, a few in Australia (Brisbane and Melbourne at least), even one in Malaysia. There doesn't appear to be one in the state in which I live, unfortunately; that might be good news though, as I'd probably bankrupt myself if there were one.

The staff have to be well versed in board games. They're responsible for helping people find the right game for their group, and ensuring that they know how to play. Of course, this sounds like a fantasy job to me; spending all day showing people how to play board games and getting paid for it would feel like it was too good to be true!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Board Game Review: Hanabi

I've been keeping an eye on my site traffic, and something I've noticed is that the entries that are getting the most views are my Board Game Reviews. Apparently, those entries are generating some international traffic, which I think is excellent! I've been getting visitors from India, Germany, Australia, even the Ukraine!

I'm a little disappointed that people don't seem to be reading the other entries as much. But I suppose I shouldn't look a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, should I?

So with that in mind, I think it's high time I wrote another board game review. Although to be fair, this one will really be a card game review, as the game I'm reviewing this week is played entirely with cards, aside from a handful of tokens. That's right, it's time to review Hanabi!

Let's look at the ratings, and the system:
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.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Expected Length of Game Play: 30 minutes

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Game In Progress

I've mentioned here before that I'm working on writing a roleplaying game. I think it's high time I talked about that.

I'm actually working on two games. They use the same system; I started writing Shifters and then realised that the system worked really well for an RPG set in the Tron universe. So I've begun adapting the rules for a game called The Grid.

I got the idea for Shifters when playing with a group that would cycle through GMs; one GM would run a game, then another GM would take over and run a different game. We played Changeling a lot, and one of the games was a crossover of Mage: The Ascension and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Several of the players in that group were new to gaming, and there was talk of introducing them to a lot of different RPGs. I found myself worrying about the fact that every time we switched to a new genre, we'd have to teach them a new system and spend time creating new characters. Even if we'd used a universal system like GURPS, we'd still have to make new characters every time we switched genres.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Co-operative Board Games

A couple of years ago, someone published an article over at cracked.com entitled '6 Board Games That Ruined It For Everyone.' The article describes six of the most well-known board games that suck (I don't necessarily agree with the author that they all suck; I still have a soft spot for Risk, although I will agree that that's better played as a solitaire game on the computer for the same reasons that the author lists for why it sucks). For each, it offers an alternative that does what the listed game tries to do, only better.

Three of the alternatives, I hadn't heard of. The other three are excellent choices. Even the three that are new to me sound like excellent choices. But there's something I think they should have mentioned in this article: co-operative board games.

In most board games, there's a single winner and the rest of the players lose. Some board games use teams, like Pictionary or The Resistance. But in co-operative board games, all the players win or lose together.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tabletop Role Playing Games

In 1971, Gary Gygax's game Chainmail (which he adapted from a rules system created by his friend Jeff Perren) was first published. This was a miniatures wargame, along the same lines as Warhammer 40,000 and Bolt Action. It had rules for mass combat, jousting, and single combat, and also contained a supplement that allowed you to include fantasy elements (magic, wizards, etc) in your war game.

Dave Arneson later took those rules and merged them with his own ideas for controlling a single warrior instead of an entire platoon. He showed this adaptation to Gygax, and the two of them created Dungeons and Dragons from it. Thus, the first roleplaying game was born.

The idea took off, and Gygax released another RPG two years later, Boot Hill. Variations on the original D&D soon sprang up, such as The Complete Warlock, by Robert Cowan, Dave Clark, Kenneth M. Dahl, and Nick Smith, and Tunnels and Trolls by Ken St. Andre. Bunnies and Burrows was an early attempt to push the boundaries of what was possible in an RPG, and as early as 1977, gamers had already started to adapt existing franchises with the introduction of the game Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Board Game Review: Puerto Rico

Last week, I mentioned some of the great games to which I've been introduced as a result of joining the local game club. One of them was Puerto Rico, which I would describe as sort of a cross between Citadels and Settlers of Catan. I think I'd like to do a review of that particular game. So here we go! First, 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.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Average
Expected Length of Game Play: 1 hour

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Game Clubs

So, you have a problem. You love to play games, but you don't have many people with whom to play. Maybe all your friends are too busy, or their schedules conflict with yours. Perhaps the people with whom you used to play have moved away, or no longer have a lot of interest in playing games. Maybe you've just arrived in a new city and don't know anyone yet. But whatever the reason, you're stuck at home wishing you could play games, but not having anyone to sit down at the table with you.

What do you do?

Well, your friendly neighbourhood Game Dork is here with a solution for you. The answer to your dilemma is simple: join a game club.

There are ridiculous numbers of game clubs. They're all over the place. I've learned of many in places I wouldn't have ever expected to find one. But I think you'll find that once you've joined a club, you'll make new friends, discover new games, and have the opportunity to scratch that gaming itch that's been bothering you for so long.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Miniatures

When I was very young, I watched a movie called E.T. I'm sure you've heard of it. I remember a brief scene in that film that involved some people sitting around a table with 3D models of tunnel walls, talking about arrows in the chest and undead creatures casting spells. For a long time, I thought that that was what Dungeons and Dragons was: an elaborate board game with a lot of parts.

When I grew older and finally learned about what D&D really was and how it worked, I realised that all of that stuff on the table wasn't necessary (for that matter, in my experience, most players don't mess with that level of paraphernalia; they just place figurines on 2D maps). Some players prefer that level of detail, but others are content with mere verbal descriptions.

As a Storyteller/Method Actor, I didn't feel a great need for miniatures. On occasion, when we got involved in an intense combat, it would be necessary to give players a somewhat more exacting description of where the characters were located in relation to each other, and to the items in the scenery (trees, buildings, cars, etc). Normally, I would just mark the places on a piece of paper. If it was available, I would be fancy by making use of a dry-erase board.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In the Spirit of Fun

I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade. I was drawn to the rich setting with great potential for character development. Once, I was playing a Salubri character. Salubri have access to a defensive power called Obeah. One of the abilities of this power is to erect a force field around the character, so that anyone not already within 25 feet cannot approach any closer than that distance.

At one point, my character finds herself in a small cavern with at least one hostile NPC. I state that I am looking all around me to ensure that there's no one within 25 feet. To emphasise the point, I turn my head to the left and the right.

I considered, at this point, stating outright that my character was looking in a full 360° arc, just to be sure the GM understood what I meant. But then I thought to myself, 'No, that won't be necessary. The GM is understanding enough to know what I mean. I'm not going to insult her intelligence, nor her ability to be a good GM, by stating the obvious.'

What a fool I was.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Board Game Review: Avalon

This week, I'm going to look at a game called The Resistance: Avalon. It shares some similarities with the popular party game Mafia (which I learned as Witch Hunt) that has been adapted to the game Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. It is, in essence, a variation of the game The Resistance, reworked to have a medieval theme.

We're going to take a look at this game, and as always, I provide ratings based on my system:
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.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Pretty
Expected Length of Game Play: 15 to 45 minutes

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Matching games to players

So you've got your group of friends together, and you're planning on spending a lovely evening playing one of your favourite games. You make sure everyone is ready, everyone understands the game, and you start in with the evening's session. But halfway through, you realise you're just not having that much fun. This game, which you normally so adore, just isn't fun for you tonight. What could be wrong?

Might it be that you've got the wrong mix of players?

Take my situation, for example. In looking over my games, I notice that I have a penchant for games that involve creativity in some way. I'm not overly fond of chess, but I adore chess variants (3 player chess, byzantine chess, infinity chess, spherical chess, etc). This is mostly because I love seeing what sort of different or unusual spin can be put on the main game. I also love games like Gloom, where half the fun of playing is in seeing what sort of outlandish stories can be told in the course of playing the cards. Fiasco is, of course, purely an exercise in creativity. I've always loved tabletop roleplaying games precisely because of the stories told through them; Changeling: the Dreaming is paramount amongst this category of game because it encourages and rewards creativity.

But over the years, I've noticed that there are some people who just don't fit with these sorts of games.