Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Reducing the Pile of Shame - July update

Yes, I realize it's September.  Life has been interesting this year. For those following along, you may have noticed that I didn't do a post for June. There's a reason for that: I didn't play a single board game the entire month of June. As I said life has been interesting this year.

This series of threads are all about getting games off my piles of shame and new to me games. You can find the other posts under #ReducingThePile.

This post is about the new to me games I got played back in July 2017 including a short review of each.

Star Trek: Ascendancy  - I was really looking forward to this game. It looked like "Star Trek in a box." Did it live up to this hype? Maybe not, but it was still really good. The rules a quite fiddly though and I'm certain we messed some stuff up this game. It's also very asymmetric and a lot of this first game was figuring out exactly what you are supposed to do with each faction in the game. Overall I think that the game shows a lot of promise. I think I will really enjoy it given more plays. I must have liked it enough since I went online and bought the game mat after our play.

Millennium Blades - this is a game I wouldn't have touched with a 10 foot pole. A board game based on the CCG (collectible card game) tournament scene. I remember the CCG scene, it's something I've left behind and I'm not interested in getting back into. Why would I want a board game about that? But the reviews were pouring in and most were positive. Most of these positive reviews came from reviewers who dig heavier games. Reviewers who share some of my gaming tastes. So I picked it up. I was not disappointed. This is an excellent game. Very unique. It really does capture some of the feel of CCG collecting and tournaments. I really want to play more of this one but just haven't had time. It's got a bit of a learning curve that really makes me want to play it with people who know it rather than teach it repetitively which has been keeping me from bringing it to WGR events. 

Clank!: A Deck Building Adventure - Here's another one where there's a ton of hype. Game of the Year level of hype. And you know what? It's deserved.  This is a fantastic deck builder. It reminds me of the classic Games Workshop game Dungeonquest, except it's better in pretty much every way but theme. I don't even know exactly why it's so much fun. The balance of the cards or something. It's just more fun than similar fantasy deck builders like Thunderstone. This has become one of my most played games of the year since our first play in July. I played it last Saturday, twice. I can't seem to get enough. This was a game where after just one play my wife said: "Is there an expansion?" This is unheard of from her. Of course, I had to go buy the expansion. 

Indonesia - I have to thank the Heavy Cardboard Podcast for introducing me to Splotter Spellen a company that makes heavy brain burning games. My first 'splotter' was Food Chain Magnate a game I absolutely love, even though I don't get it to the table all that often (Heavy games are definitely not for everyone). Even when I bought Food Chain Magnate I had my eyes on Indonesia. Quite a few people are of the opinion that it's the best game from Splotter Spellen. I finally found a copy of the 2nd edition for a good price and picked it up and have gotten one play in. That play was good. I was expecting fantastic but it was good. The reason for that is the production quality of the game. The game has components that don't actually fit on the board. It also has a typo that has existed for three printings. This is highly disappointing. Even more so since the actual game play is great. Better than great. Really damn good. What's even odder is that this is the new 'deluxe' second edition. How do you mess up a production that much? All that said I still really dug this game. 

Honshu - again it was a podcast that got me looking at Honshu. I don't remember which one as multiple shows were talking about this rather fascinating card game. The cool bit in this game is that you build a city by playing cards onto the table under a very cool restriction. Each card placed has to cover up or be covered up by part of another card already in play. Added to that it's got a pretty solid auction based turn order system. This is a very cool filller game that does something new. Something that none of the other games in my collection do. That alone is enough of a selling point for me. My only concern with this one is replayability but they even addressed that by adding variable goal cards that I haven't even tried using yet. 

Terraforming Mars - I finally got to play Terraforming Mars. Technically I have played this once before, a friends copy, but we messed up the rules so badly that I don't even count it as a play. This one has been covered by pretty much every board game reviewer out there so I don't think I need to go into any detail here. I will just say that my wife and I both love this game. It has gotten played every WGR game night I've been at since getting the game. Many people I've taught it to have gone onto buying their own copies. Due to the fact that I'm almost always teaching the game, I still haven't even gotten to try the "corporate wars' cards, and I'm perfectly fine with that. We will get to them eventually. I'll be picking up the expansion maps for this one sometime soon. 

Key To The City London - I really dig Keyflower. I've not sat down and ranked all my games (yet) but I expect it's in my top 20 if not my top 10. I really like it. When I heard that Key to the City: London was an easier to teach a quicker version of Keyflower I had to pick it up. This game is exactly that, a simplified Keyflower. It's easier to teach, easier to play and easier to score and I'm not sure that's a good thing. While I had fun playing it I just kept thinking that I could be playing Keyflower. Actually, I should have been playing Keyflower. Don't get me wrong, this is a good game, but I can't see getting it to the table again. Keyflower isn't that complex. It's not that hard to teach. Anytime I get an urge to play that style of game I'm going to end up grabbing Keyflower and leaving Key to the City on my shelf. 

So that's it. 7 new to me games played in July. Not a bad month after the mess that was June. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 27 - Essential tools for gaming

Day 27 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Am I the only one that's starting to think these questions jumped the shark?

I only have one answer for this one: players. 

The only thing we need at the table to have a good game or even a great game is players. All the rest is optional. Sure you may have a better chance to have a good game with a good ruleset. Yes, you probably up the odds of an epic session of D&D if you set up a Dwarven Forge Dungeon and toss down a 1' tall Orcus miniature in the middle. But you don't need any of that. 

I once ran a game at the Windsor Gaming Society called: Pirates of THE Spanish Highlands. There was a group of gamers there, this was when Magic was a plague taking over all the local RPG tables. Even I had magic cards with me, but there were people there that didn't want to play magic. They wanted to play an RPG. So I made up a game on the spot. I came up with a really simple system and we made notes as we went so there was some form of consistency. It was over the top, it was ridiculous and it was in no way a good system, but to this day it was one of the most fun gaming experiences I've ever had. Ever. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - day 26 - useful resources from an RPG

Day 26 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I don't understand what this means. What kinds of resources?

Are we talking about supplementary products? If that's the case then my answer is the same as day 14, AD&D 2nd Edition. AD&D 2nd edition had so many awesome off shoot products that were awesome for improving your games.

Does resources mean the most useful resources through adventure modules? Then my answer is the same as Day 19, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. At least the Enemy Within Modules. Each of those started with a bunch of cool new rules and ways to make your game better. Usually taking up about half the book.

Maybe a mix of both?

If that's the case then I have to say Cyberpunk 2020. The reason I say this is due to the variety of the types of sourcebooks and modules that R. Talsorian Released.

There were books featuring awesome new gear; the Cromebooks. There was an amazing book that took the fictional city the game was set in and mapped it street by street; Night City. There was a book all about cyberpunk in space, with rules for things like space ships and zero-G fighting; Near Orbit. There was even a book that added mecha to the game; Maximum Metal. You want information about the Net? Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net. Heck, they even put out a book about how most GMs were running the game wrong and how to make your game better fit the design intent of the game; Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads.

Maybe this isn't exactly what the question was asking but I have to rate the variety of the Cyberpunk support material as some of the best out there for any game.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Dave Russell Memorial Geek and Gaming Auction - September 1st

A few weeks ago we lost one of our own. A fellow gamer passed on to whatever adventure lies next. This auction is in honor of Dave Russell and is in support a dream Dave shared with his mother, Moo and brother Jay. That dream is Geektropolis Cafe. A gathering spot for gamers

Funds raised will go towards opening Geektropolis, adding a handi-capable washroom and in support of the Russell family in this trying time.

Dave left behind a PILE, actually multiple PILES of action figures, anime figures, RPGs and board games. Dave worked at the well known Silver Snail comic book shop for years before moving to Windsor and pretty much 100% of what he made he spent at the store. He's got enough geeky stuff to fill a game store. We think Dave would have liked these to find homes with fellow gamers.

This will be a live auction. It is being hosted at the future home of Geektropolis Cafe at 1144 Wyandotte St. E. The former location of Harvey Lo's. The auction will be starting at 6pm and will go as long as it takes.

Geektropolis will be accepting cash and debit for this event.

Come out and help us celebrate Dave's love of gaming and raise some money to make his dream become a reality.

For more details and discussion please visit the facebook event page here:

Click on map for larger (readable) image:

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 25 - Giving thanks to your GM

Day 25 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What is the best way to thank your GM?

My Games Master Tip Box
Back when I first started GMing I used to give XP for Jolt Cola and "Spider Butter Bars" (Peanut Butter Oh Henry! which is called Oh Henry! Burre d'arachides in French which made us think spider butter). Though I think most of the time I got these 'rewards' more due to players looking for an advantage than as thanks.

When I first started running public events I would put out a Tip Box. I still have it. 100% of the money I got went to my gaming budget and I promised would be used to improve the game I was running. I used the money for miniatures, maps, paints, splat books etc. It's something I'm surprised more GMs don't do. A tip was an awesome way to say thanks for me running a game.

Close up of the Tip Box
Perhaps the best way to say thanks is by participating and sharing the load. Take notes, be prepared with a recap at the start of the game, offer to track initiative or monster hit points, help drawing maps, etc. Be involved and help the GM run a better game. Don't just sit back and passively wait to be entertained. Take part, be engaged. To me having everyone at the table laughing, engaged and having fun is the best reward. 

Then, of course, there's the obvious, the simple words "Thank's for running tonight" at the end of the game. Other good ones: "I had a good time", "great game", "fantastic prep tonight", etc. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 24 - PWYW publisher who should charge more.

Day 24 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Sorry, I can't answer this one. I thought about just not posting something today but then there would be a gap and people would wonder what happened. I've never, in my life bought a PWYW product, so I don't have an answer here. I don't even know off hand who sells PYWY products. I would have to go and start browsing DriveThruRPG just to figure that out.

That said there has been some very interesting discussion over on google plus about this topic. A lot of it coming from actual publishers talking about their experience with PWYW. The general consensus seems to be:

Do not use PWYW to make money. Use PWYW as a marketing tool. A way to find out who your potential buyers are and make an initial connection. Use it to drum up hype for other products. Use it to get your name out there. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 23 - Jaw dropping layout!

Day 23 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

My first thought this time was: I have no idea. Layout to me is something that should be invisible. I can think of a ton of RPGs with bad layout (most of my collection pre: 2000), but good layout, that should be something you don't notice. Something that just works. Now Jaw-Dropping? That took some time to think about.

I actually 'cheated' on this one. I went online to see what other people said. There were some good examples but nothing that stuck out to me or made me think Jaw-Dropping. So I went down to my gaming dungeon and started flipping through books. I considered Agone. A game I bought solely because of how beautiful it is. Looking at it now though it doesn't look all that special. Like early FASA books, there's just some really nice color templates in the middle, the rest of the book is good but nothing special.  I flipped through a half dozen other books I remember looking good back when I got them. Deliria, Earthdawn, Chill, and more.

Then I grabbed The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game Volume One Your Story and I knew I had my answer.

Not only does the book have fantastic art, a good font choice and an easy to read two column structure. It also has annotations, footnotes, post-it notes and even looks like someone took a highlighter to some sections. The book looks like it's been used and abused a bit, which perfectly fits the theme.

See this rulebook is representing an, in fiction, artifact. A character from The Dresdenverse (Billy) wrote this game and this book represents a copy of that game given to Harry Dresden. It's Billy's first draft of his game and in it, Harry has written notes, including one that notes that no one uses the term The Dresdenverse.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 22 - Which RPGs are the easiest for me to run?

Day 22 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

I just noticed something about this question after seeing many other people's responses online. The question says RPGs, not RPG. That really changes things. To me, this means the question is looking for a style or genre or something like that and not a specific rule system. My original answer was going to be Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, because I know that world and system like the back of my hand, but due to noticing that s after RPG I'm going to have to change my answer.

I'm going to have to go with generic fantasy RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons. Pathfinder. Middle Earth Roleplaying. I realize this is probably the easy way out but we are looking for the easiest to run. The reason I'm going with generic fantasy is that it's well known. Fantasy tropes are common place. It's going to be hard to find someone who isn't familiar with them.

You sit me down with a table of 6 strangers and I can get them involved and active in a fantasy setting in moments. Now-a-days fantasy tropes are so common that I would not have to worry about explaining the world the players were about to enter. Everyone sitting there is going to have an idea in their mind of what I'm talking about when I say "you see an elf" or "The orc charges." What's most fascinating about this to me is that everyone at that table is probably picturing something different, and that doesn't matter. Elf = ally good thing. Orc = bad thing trying to kill the characters.

I have shown up to the FLGS in the past and asked to run a game on the spot. I was able to start a game in moments using a generic fantasy setting. That particular moment I just made up a 5 room dungeon. First room had some goblins in it and was a straight up fight. The second room had a trap. The third room had some Gnolls that could be dealt with through fighting or talking or be snuck by. The fourth room had some treasure and something wondrous (a magic fountain). The last room had a boss. The FLGS happened to have some D&D pre-gens on hand so that's the basic rules I used. I didn't have stats for the bad guys. I didn't have a module telling me what that fountain did. I just made it all up as we were playing and it worked brilliantly. That day I know that at least 3 people entered our wonderful hobby and I was able to pull that off due to the cultural knowledge of general fantasy tropes that now exists. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Monday, 21 August 2017

#RPGaDAY - Day 21 - the RPG that I think does the most with the least

Day 21 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

There's a really obvious answer here to me: Og: The Roleplaying Game. I'm just going to quote the back of the book so you can see why this is the obvious answer:

No use big words play Og.

Role Play no many words.

Try talk people try do things no many words.

The world of role playing has just become easier with...

Og: The Role Playing Game.

This role playing system challenges players to a world of limited words. Just like real cavemen, you will be struggling to make others understand you. This humorous role playing system takes you into the future by taking you to the stone age.

Warning: Do not buy this game if you do not have a sense of humor. This free-style, role playing system is recommended for advanced gamers looking for something a little difFeREnT. Game requires two d10's and a handful of d6's."

There was even a second edition of Og that added one more word to the game: Verisimilitude.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

#RPGaDAY - Day 20 - Where do I get out-of-print RPGs?

Day 20 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

The best source is probably DriveThruRPG or RPGNow or DnDClassics or whatever you want to call that massive conglomeration of sites we call One Book Shelf. The thing is, that's not where I get mine out of print RPGs. I get mine from out of town game stores. One of my favourite things to do when on vacation is to go FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) hunting. 

Back in the day this meant either checking into the hotel and grabbing the phone book or if not staying over night actually finding a phone booth and browsing through the yellow pages. You kids these days have no idea how easy you have it with the internet :D Actually I kind of miss those days as there was a skill to it. Back in the day "Game Store" was not a category you usually found in the phone book. You had to get creative. Hobby Shop. Comic Book Shop, Hobby Store, Gaming Supplies, Gambling Supplies, Comics, Book Store, Model Shop, Train Store and HO Trains were just a few of the categories I would search for. 

It was very hit or miss. Sometimes you would find an awesome sounding "hobby shop" only to show up and find out all they sell is model kits. Or you would find a "gaming supply store" and find out that it's a place that rents poker tables for bachelor parties. That was all part of the fun though, and sometimes you would find a really cool place that you didn't know you were looking for. One example is AVF Hobbies in London Ontario. We went there looking for RPGs and board games but only found model kits. The thing is we found a ton of model kits. An insane amount of model kits. Wall to wall model kits in a shop larger than any local game store. They had very cool kits I didn't know existed and some classic kits I hadn't seen in years. Despite not knowing I wanted them I picked up some great AMT Star Wars snap kits. I also picked up some great pieces that I could use for scenery in miniature gaming.

The best times though were when we found legitimate hobby game stores. I love browsing a new game store. I love to see what they carry, why they carry it if they have gaming space, how they use their space and more. Most of all though I love finding one of two things. Either "new old stock" meaning stuff they have had on the shelf for years and years and just never sold, or a used games section. Most stores have one or the other if not both. It's here that I get my classic out-of-print RPG fix.

As an example, Imperial Hobbies in London Ontario to this day has a great selection of new old stock RPGs. They are usually covered with a thin layer of dust, but they are there, still marked with their original price stickers. I've seen Cyberpunk 2020, Harnworld, RuneQuest, Warhammer Historic, Palladium, TSR Marvel Super Heroes and more there. Another example also in London is L.A. Mood, which started off as a Comic shop but has grown to be more and more gaming over the years. You may not know it if you just stop into the store but they have a gaming area in the basement. Past all the tables are 50 or so long comic boxes. Most of these are classic sci-fi and geek magazines but you can always find about 10 boxes full of used RPG stuff that people have sold/given to the store. What these boxes have is random, and the condition of the books is sometimes not the best but the prices are dirt cheap. We're taking $5-$10 for hardcover rulebooks. 

SCORE! Mekton Empire new, on
the shelf for $8
These finds aren't just limited to London, or even Ontario or Canada. I spent a week working in Hebron Kentucky and managed to find an out of the way comic book store that had pretty much everything printed for Feng Shui sitting there on the shelf as new old stock. I managed to complete my collection that day. 

While it's really cool and awesome that I can just go online now and pretty much find and buy any old RPG I want, it's just not as much fun stumbling across a cache of classic RPG stuff at a game store. Being able to get the book I know I want right now Print on Demand is great, it doesn't match the discovery of a game I never knew I needed sitting right there on the shelf, as it has for 30 years at an out of town game store.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.