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!

Let me know what you think! Feel free to take the survey! If you want to know the results, leave your request in the comments below, and I'll respond with your stats. I can either leave them in a response to your comment (in which case everyone can see them), or I can email you directly (just let me know which you prefer, and provide me with an appropriate email address if necessary).

Short and sweet this week, but I think it's a worthwhile topic! I look forward to hearing back from you! Until next week,

Game on!

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.

Several years ago, I created a Yahoo! group for my gaming group. We could discuss our game in a forum, upload and share files that were of use to them, and so on.

My new Changeling group is brand new to this hobby. They're experienced video gamers, but I discovered that they'd never even played Dungeons and Dragons. I hosted an introductory one-shot Changeling session for some players in my game club, and I invited two of these friends to join. They had such a good time, that they not only began asking me to continue running a game for them, they told two of their other friends, who also became interested in trying it out.

As such, I'm working very hard to make sure that they're able to enjoy themselves as much as possible. One thing that I know can be overwhelming for new players is understanding and remembering so much new information ("What does Chicanery Art do again?" "Oh yeah, I forgot I had that ability!" "What do you mean, 'telepathy doesn't work on a computer?'") So I wanted to create a site where they could find this information easily.

This time around, since all players already had Google accounts, I chose to use Google Sites and Google Groups for this resource. I created a main page, which linked to a 'useful files' page, a 'character notes' page, and a forum. 'Useful Files' includes several maps, chargen pdfs, and similar files available for viewing or downloading. 'Character Notes' has a complete description of each level of Arts that each character possesses, as well as their Legacies, Merits, and Flaws, and if they have a chimerical companion, that companion's Redes and Banes as well. This allows them to easily re-read and remember what they can do. 'Forum' allows players to discuss previous game sessions (including summaries of in-game events from previous sessions), as well as talking about what they like or don't like about our game thus far, offer suggestions, etc.

This is just one example of External Resources. I'm sure that many other people have come up with even more ideas. If you have any suggestions for External Resources, please share it with me in my comment section below!

That's all for this week. I will see you again here in a week's time. Until then,

Game on!

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: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Nice
Average Length of Game Play: 2 Hours

There are so many pieces involved in playing this game, it can take a while to set up. The board serves as a pretty, but ultimately excessively large, organisation area in which many of the pieces are organised. But the bulk of the pieces are placed in front of the players themselves, or in storage to one side, with no organisers at all.

The board consists of three main parts: the score track around the outer edge, the nobles' track, which follows a rectangular path just inside the score track, and the marketplace, which is the where five sets of three tiles are placed in the centre of the board. The game takes place in five rounds of five phases each.

In the first phase, players take turns making a single purchase. They can purchase an expansion to their colosseums (each player starts out with two end pieces placed at specific points along the nobles' track, and can add up to two central pieces to their colosseums during this phase), a season ticket section (which is good for 5 bonus points each round), an emperor's loge (which grants bonuses to how you move the nobles in phase 4), or a new event programme (more on these in a moment).

In the second phase, players take turns bidding on tiles in the marketplace. Each tile represents a component of a show that they may put on in their colosseum. They include things like gladiators, comedians, musicians, priests, chariots, horses, lions, scenery, cages, and torches. A player bids on a set of three tiles, and then other players have the option of attempting to outbid that player. Ultimately, each player must buy a single set of tiles. The sets are replenished before each player's turn at bidding, but if a player gets outbid on his turn, the sets are not replenished until the next player's turn begins.

In the third phase, each player gets an opportunity to try to trade asset tiles with other players.

Ultimately, it leads to the fourth (and most important) phase: putting on a show. Each player starts the game with two small event programmes. During the fourth phase, each player has the opportunity to put on a show using the asset tiles required for their event programme. For example, a player may put on the 'Cavalry of Spartacus' show, which requires three gladiator tiles and three horse tiles. If the player has all six of these tiles, the event is worth 12 points. There is a chart at the bottom of the event tile that displays how many points the show is worth if you don't have all the tiles (for example, if you're missing one of the tiles for Cavalry of Spartacus, regardless of which tile it is, the show is only worth 10 points. If you're missing two tiles, it's worth eight points. And so on.

Before you put on your show, though, you roll a die. The dice are numbered as follows:  I-III, II, III, IV, V, or VI (yes, the dice have Roman numerals printed on them. This can be hard to read, especially when a IV or VI come up, as it's easy to mistake one for the other, and this is one reason I gave the game a 'Nice' rating under 'Attractiveness'). You move one of the nobles clockwise along the noble track that many spaces (if you get the I-III, you get to choose whether to move a noble 1, 2, or 3 spaces). If you have an emperor's loge on your colosseum, you get to roll two dice, and either move one noble the combined total, or use one die for one noble and the other die for another. There are three consuls on the track, two senators, and an emperor. If you have a noble in your colosseum when you score, you get bonus points (three points for each consul, five points for each senator, and seven points if you have the emperor).

After moving the nobles, you score your event. The base score is shown on the event programme, plus bonuses for nobles, and other additional points (+5 for each season ticket section you have in your colosseum, +3 for each podium [podiums are awarded in phase 5], +5 for each event you've already put on, and +4 for each star performer [the player with the most -- minimum three -- of each kind of living event tiles: gladiators, lions, horses, comedians, etc.; non-living tiles like scenery and torches don't have star performer bonuses. So the player with the most gladiators gets the gladiator star performer tile, the one with the most lions gets the lion star performer, and so on]. Emperor tokens, which are normally awarded if you get a noble to land on certain marked spaces on the noble track, can be redeemed for three additional points as well).

The important thing about this game is that points are not cumulative. You get points equal to the highest-scoring show you've put on. Thus, if you perform a show for 20 points in round one, and a show for 40 points in round 2, then your current score is not 60, but 40. If you perform a show worth fewer points in a round than you had in a previous round, then your score does not change. It stays at the value it was at previously.

But that doesn't mean it's not important to score points in each round; you get money for each show you put on. However many points you score in a round, you get an equivalent amount of money in Roman Coins. These may be used to make purchases in Phase 1 as well as bid on tiles in Phase 2, and can also be used during the trading in Phase 3.

The first event programmes you have in the game are the 'small' events. You can eventually buy 'medium' programmes, which require you to have expanded your colosseum by at least one space, and 'large' programmes, which require a full four-space colosseum. The larger the event, the more tiles it requires, and the more points it's worth.

Finally, in phase 5 (which is skipped in the final round, as it's not necessary), players must discard one of the tiles used in their event. Also, the player with the most points earns a podium to add to his colosseum, and the player with the fewest points gets to steal an asset tile from the player with the most.

I really like this game. It's a lot of fun, and it involves more than just strategy. You must carefully balance which tiles you have and what tiles you expect to be able to acquire later with what event programmes are available. You also need to be able to negotiate trades, bluff players during bidding, and balance the events you're putting on now with the ones you expect to put on later. My one complaint is that some aspects of the game are poorly designed. There's a lot of wasted space on the board, as beautiful as it is, that could have been better utilised in organising the many pieces that each player possesses. In front of me, I may have as many as twenty asset tiles, a pile of coins, a few star performer tokens, emperor tokens, and up to five event programmes. These can be hard to organise, and it would have been nice to provide players with small boards that make this task easier.

But that's a small concern. I will usually not turn down a chance to play it. And that's all I have for this week. Until next time,

Game on!

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.

The beginning of conflict wasn't so violent in other parts of the world, though the conflict itself was harsher. In the British Isles, the sidhe won a decisive but brutal victory, and returned to rulership. The Iberian peninsula suffered a similar fate. The Scandanavian commoners, on the other hand, chose to hand the crown back to the sidhe willingly; perhaps they had had their fill of self-rulership and were only too pleased to return to the traditional system of governance. In North America and (more slowly) Australia, the sidhe won the war, but then met with the commoners and agreed upon a compromise: the sidhe would resume their traditional positions of monarchical leadership, but their rule would be tempered by the existence of a Parliament of Dreams which could override the king. Furthermore, positions of leadership would be opened to non-sidhe changelings for the first time. In fact, with all of North America unified into the Kingdom of Concordia ruled by David Ardry, the continent was subdivided into several lesser kingdoms (Apples in the New England area through New York and Pennsylvania, Willows in the South, White Sands in Florida, Grass in the midwest, Burning Sun in the Southwest, Pacifica on the west coast and Hawai'i, Northern Ice covering Canada and Alaska, and all of Central America as the Feathered Serpent), the Kingdom of the Feathered Serpent was ruled by a troll monarch.

The Galatian Confederation was the oddball amongst the conflicts. The commoners in Eastern Europe all the way to Germany united to defeat the sidhe invaders. After their success, they formed the Galatian Confederation, a commoner paradise. There are very few sidhe here at all; most of them fled to France, which became the Kingdom of Neustria, a traditional monarchy in the style that had existed before the Shattering (the collapsing of the portals into the Dreaming). In fact, because of the influx of sidhe from Galatia and the commoners fleeing the harsh treatment of the sidhe, Neustria's changeling population is 90% sidhe.

For several years afterwards, there was peace and prosperity amongst the kithain. There were political intrigues, conspiracies and secret societies, and no shortage of adventures, but most were content. Things began to unravel in 1997 though, when David Ardry went missing shortly after his wedding to Faerilth ap Eiluned. Concordia began to unravel as many competing factions vied for the newly-vacant throne. Eventually, the sidhe Danwyn ap Gwydion ascended to the throne, and began warning the kithin of the return of the Fomorians.

His rulership did not have the auspacious beginning that he might have hoped. The kithain of California rebelled, and eventually won their independence. They formed the Golden Confederate Republic, a democratic state free from the monarchy of the rest of North America. Many of the existing sub-kings fell or disappeared, and Danwyn had to replace them.

Then more global omens began. Originally, only eight of the thirteen noble houses of the sidhe had returned from Arcadia (not counting those Scathach sidhe who'd remained on Earth after the Shattering). But after the secession of the Golden Confederate Republic, the reamining five houses appeared. Shortly after that, new kith began to appear from the deep recesses of the Dreaming. Although the Fomorians have not arrived yet, these omens along with prophecies from noted seers indicate that it is coming. It is only a matter of time.

Thus ends the history of the fae (thus far).

I should note, at this point, that some of what has been included in this history is of my own devising. Some of the events in the recent history (such as the creation of the Golden Confederate Republic and the ascension of Danywn ap Gwydion) are the result of games that I have GMed, and so were influenced by gamers in my games. Others, such as the existence of Dark Glamour and a Dark Dreaming, are of my own devising based on my personal philosophies on the nature of the game's setting.

But, even with that in mind, I hope that you have enjoyed reading this history of Changeling: the Dreaming. I will see you here again next week! Until then,

Game on!