Monday, August 29, 2011

End: The DJ Promo

Fellow gamer and friend End: The DJ is up for "Best International DJ" at The Cyber Culture Music Award.  Spare a few moments and drop a vote for him.

On a side, note, classes have started back for the fall and I'm taking 2 masters classes this term, so please forgive me if there aren't as many updates as were occurring over the summer.  Once October gets here, I should have more time to spend on gaming.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Arcanis - Review

Arcanis from Paradigm Concepts is a bit of fresh air in the tabletop RPG market.

It's not as rules heavy as D&D 3.5/Pathfinder and not as infantile as D&D 4th Ed.  It brings back some mechanics from early rpgs like speed factor of actions affecting when you go next and gives some interesting color to the bland longsword/mace/longbow weapon selections.  It also includes fire-arms as a standard weapon option, though I still contend that the 875' range on a flintlock pistol is a bit silly.

But what makes it better than most other rpg off-shoots is it effectively does away with character classes!  You wanna be a gun-shooting thief, ok, you wanna be a mace wielding mage, no problem.  These mechanics throw the tried-and-true method of protect the mage, and standard tank/healer/dps/cc 4-man parties out the window.

Pedro Barrenechea ran our demo and we got to see some of the more intricate mechanics, but our space was limited and not exactly favorable for an extended game session, so I will hold final judgement on the game until I've had a chance to play a full game-session.
The one point they kept coming back to was that they don't ever want to release a 2nd edition that invalidates the original game.  Seems they got burned by Hasbro/WotC with the release of 4th ed.  A most honorable notion, yet I cannot help but be cynical to decisions made when hungry versus decisions made while greedy.

They did have several tools to make turn tracking easier, the dial below is simple and helpful.  The image at the top of the blog has 6 tracking dials, a master tracking dial and is make from white-board material, so you can write/erase it easily.  Handy, but dangerous if you are using a wet-erase miniatures mat and dry erase markers at the same table.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rune Age - Review

Rune Age - the next in a line of non-ccg, psuedo deck building games from Fantasy Flight Games.  We got the opportunity to demo it at GenCon.

The set-up is simple, pick one of the 4 races - Elves, Human, Beastmen, Undead to play, collect some coins, collect some troops, buy/win a stronghold, take over a neutral city or two and defeat the BBG/other player/or whatever other *win* condition exists - there are 4 preset games in the core box.

There are effectively 2 resources, coin and influence - neither is particularly large in the core set, but I suspect it will inflate like all games.

The dynamics of each race is unique but opposed by one of the other races.  The Undead pulls many of their troops from the discard pile while the Humans pull a lot of their power from the active deck.  The Beastmen get tougher when they have taken a little damage while the Elves seem to drop like flies, but pop right back up the next round.

Once you are ready to take on a "boss" level mob, you get to roll a die and hopefully you get a null, otherwise you lose  1-2 units and probably lose the fight.  It's simple, elegant in a way and irritating as all hell to be that close but fail.

The game we played was a demo that took about 2 hours and we didn't actually complete the game, but were getting very close.  I suspect once the rules are known and understood, a game can be completed in close to an hour.  I liked the game and I look forward to playing it again, but I'm hoping that we aren't seeing a situation where the market is being flooded with these types of games.

A big thanks to Matt Slowiak for overseeing our game and answering our inane (to him) questions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leviathans fan fic

Here's hoping I can get a little recognition for writing some fan fic for the new Leviathans game from Catalyst.

USS Flag

Hentai Cafe or "How we're all doomed"

GenCon 2011 had one event I had never attended before - the Hentai Cafe.  I was young, I was inexperienced, I was curious - BULLSHIT, I wanted to see some anime porn, /sigh, I knew better

What I didn't want to see was a bunch of guys leaping on chairs, screaming "pick me, pick me, pick me".  Why were they screaming this, well because instead of the original soundtrack for the selected scene, the MC would *sometimes* pick appropriately gendered individuals from the audience to voice-over the scene: 2 girls & 1 guy, 1 guy & 1 girl, 2 girls.  It was entertaining for about 45 minutes, then it became much more about observing the audience than the hentai.

Dude, you were watching the audience (about a 4-1 male to female ratio)?  Well, yeah, cause 45 minutes of anime porn is all I could really handle.  Ok, so what was interesting about the audience?  I'm glad you asked.  For starters, hentai is freaky stuff, aliens, demons, bondage, slavery, etc. in the form of cartoon characters - yes, I know it's anime, general readers may not be as familiar.  What's really freaky is when members of the audience says, "what the fuck?"  If you have to ask that question at a hentai show, you don't need to be at a hentai show.  Why's that?  Well for one, you should know to expect freaky shit.  The other reason is you've probably never had an adult relationship in which you trusted your partner (and in the process tried some freaky shit on each other), excepting of course uber-religious couples (why were you at the hentai event in the first place?).  Second, the countdown: 5-4-3-2-1-FUCK!!! is just sad and possibly a little misguided depending on the hentai.

On a positive note, the MC was great.  He was personable, funny, self-deprecating and generally seemed to be having a good time, even when he had "to piss like a race-horse."

So why are you saying we're doomed?  Because we even have things like this.  Look at all the *great* societies in history - Rome, Greece, Egypt.  Almost from the moment they started having enough "free-time" to come up with shit like this, their society came crashing down - granted it may take 100 years+ but in the scheme of things, that's not that long.  What are you saying?  I don't know, I'm still working on that.

When it comes to gaming geeks, you are generally dealing with some of the most creative, intelligent, socially-inept people on the planet.  On the Thursday GenCon opened, I would have put the combined intellect and problem solving skills of the people in the Indy Con Center against just about any other single building on the planet: NASA, JPL, the Pentagon, Microsoft HQ, Google HQ, Oracle HQ, you name it, I'll take the GenCon attendees.  Now to just figure out a way to focus all that potential into playing catch-up for the 800 years of progress the Dark Ages cost us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

WarMage Battlegrounds - Review

What do I want to play?  Hmm, I've only got about a 1/2 hour, I know: WarMage from Burst Online Entertainment.  Why would I want to play that?  Why wouldn't you want to play it is a better question?  It's free, it loads in a browser, you can play against people or the AI, you have upgrade options, customizable formations, multiple races, GenCon2011 (hint), you can limit the time to take a turn, player ranking system and you can always just quit if you need to.

So what's bad about it, well, so far I've played it on my home machine, which is old and underpowered, and the game was pretty choppy.  It was playable, but not exactly enjoyable.  My work machine is a different story - yes, I use my work computer for non-work related activities sometime, but it's newer and more powerful and I needed a comparison.  Also, it crashed out of IE 9 on one of my early games where I had burned the Dragon Scroll.  Finally, there is stuff to buy, with real money, but who really wants to do that - oh, just about everybody these days.

Supposedly, the ranking system is dynamic and a high ranked player doesn't get much for beating a low ranked player and a low ranked player might actually increase from playing a much higher ranked opponent.

The graphics are basic, like most browser based games, but good enough to easily distinguish between units, the units are distinct enough to really appreciate a kill on the opposing side or hurt on your side.  There are a ton of maps and I might recommend that they open source that feature for the fans to make some contributions.

I haven't spent enough time in the lobby areas to see what the idle chat is like, so I cannot speak on the other players, but I can say that any time I was in the lobby was time I wasn't playing the game, which I want to do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nerd/Geek Rage

GenCon was a relatively mellow event considering the many thousands of folks attending.  However, I did get to see one really good Nerd Rage event that I think exemplifies all that is geeks being social.  Please allow me to set the scene:

A quiet movie room, the movies are running a little behind, about 10 minutes.  It is 12:10 am and the final movie was supposed to start at midnight - a classic D-grade horror flick Mother's Day.  The current show is a series of horror shorts, each 5-10 minutes.  The final one comes on: The Meat Eater, it's, umm over quickly enough and the Gencon employee goes to switch out the movies. 

A voice from the back of the room: "Hey, what are you doing?"  Well, obviously the movies are being changed out, cause the last movie has gone to credits.  Up from the seat comes the view, "I asked what you are doing?"  Nate chimes in: "putting in Mother's Day," he is ignored.  Now the bruiser (not, not really but he is rather large, maybe 6'2" and sporting a dedicated nerd's body, so probably 285+lbs) is demanding to know if the movie belongs to the employee - no dumbass, it doesn't she's just doing her job.  At this point, we are all informed that there are important plot points in the credits - and here I thought the important plot point was that the movie was over.  The berating goes on for a good 5 minutes, but now includes several GenCon employees - of course this is after midnight, so the supervisor has long since gone home.  We've also clearly established that the physical copy of these horror shorts does not belong to any of the employees, who are simply doing their job and that the showings are already behind schedule.

Whatever dude, Mother's Day was much funnier and more interesting that the 7-minute horror short that just finished, no matter how many plot points were revealed in the credits (I've had 10 second dreams that had more plot points).

On the flip side of nerd rage is nerd pity.  A *nice* GenCon staffer begins talking.  This takes the form of being told that my bag, that is sitting at the side of my chair, pinned between a window, my chair and Jason's chair, though not actually touching my chair and with a very small path available to get to it, is too far away and that I need to move it closer because somebody might steal it.  Ok, I'm at a convention with 20-25-30k people, if I leave a bag on a table or even in a chair, I could see somebody grabbing it.  But seriously, the guy sitting at the table next to us, with his shoes off and feet in his chair really needed to put his shoes on - cause you never know what people bring in from the street - /facepalm.  One of the best quotes of the week comes from him, "how long do I have to put my shoes on?"

The next day, I see the same staffer telling a man in a wheelchair to move to the side of the hallway so that he didn't get run over - you know the dangers of stampeding nerds.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Leviathans - Review

Yes, oh yes, this is fun.  Not in a "let's just play a game and have fun" manner, and not in a "spend hours customizing, planning and executing strategy" manner.  This is fun in a let's combine pretty much every aspect of table-top games: miniatures (pre-painted), customizable paint jobs, hex-grids, movement rules, battleships, elevation (3D combat), rockets/torpedoes, hit points, localized damage, variable damage, rolling dice, miss chance, repair ability, effective unit scaling, FLYING SHIPS, etc.

Leviathans is all of the above.

Yup, flying ships.  It would seem that Tesla figured out how to use his coil system to create anti-gravity and the navies of the world took that technology and "flew" with it.  The Wright brothers never bothered with Kitty Hawk in this time-line.

What it isn't is cheap.  $80 for the base game, English vs. French, several destroyers, couple cruisers and a battleship for each side.  $40 for each *faction* expansion - Prussian, Russian, Italian, American, Austro-Hungarians (corrected from Chinese), Japanese are already planned.  I can also see an opportunity to include a Merc/Pirate faction.  At least you don't have to worry about terrain.

I tried to hate this game - mainly because I hate spending money.  I can't, I didn't and I'm totally hooked.  The minis are well done, the ships are well balanced, the logic on most of it is sound.  However, I fully expect errata to be made very quickly, specifically, taking damage to your steering should not make turning easier - but that could have been a simple -/+ typo.  Also, the target die is a standard 6-sider, everything else is a 12-sider except they aren't 1-12, but 1-4, 1-6, 1-8, 1-10 and 1-12.

"How did you make that work?"  
"We totally loaded them to roll certain ways."  
"Oh, ok."

Think I'll stick with rolling standard dice.

The cards are attractive, dry-erase friendly and easy to read once you've played through a game:

I can see many interesting game variations - defend a crippled ship, defend a specific location, add flak effects, add command ship effects, victory points, etc.  This game really has the potential to be a great hook for folks who enjoy mini games to get back into them for not really a whole lot of start-up money.  It is also something that a game shop could demo quickly and easily without a lot of set-up.

Catalyst Game Labs has done very well with this one.

GenCon 2011 - Reflections on "the Best 4 Days in Gaming"

Generally speaking, I try to buy stuff in a manner that is most efficient, that often means buying early/planning ahead.  That's what I did this time, it didn't work out well:
Above is a picture of the hallway soon after I got in line.

Now we're 2 hours into the line.

Here's that hallway under normal conditions.

We got there at 8:15ish, and it still took me the better part of 2.5 hours to get through the line.  I cannot imagine what those who were outside on the sidewalk experienced in trying to get their will-call tickets.  Oh well, live and learn.

In the meantime, why are there generic tickets and then specific event tickets - obviously because you can control the number of participants in any activity.  However, just as it does at the local county fair, it functions to create a disconnect between the expenditure of money and the cost of things - who cares that it costs 2-3-4 tickets, but I sure as hell wouldn't pay $8 dollars for something - shit, I just did.  For future reference, plan exactly what you want to participate in, buy those tickets, then get a handful of generic tickets to do stuff like the BattleTech VR Pods or the random pick-up demo game/discussion panel.

So what was fun and interesting you ask?  Well, the BattleTech Pods were fun, and I would have liked to have gotten in again, an hour wait wasn't in the cards.

Giant dice were:

Not into giant dice, how about a *life-size* troll?  I'm 5'10" and came to just above the tip of his nose.

Not into monsters, how about Mechs?

Still not doing it for ya? Then you'll just have to read the next entry with some pics of the various tabletop games.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Challenge of the dice

I've never really paid a lot of attention to non-dice based games. But I got to experience the joy of just such a creation last night. The honor of which goes to The Game of Thrones boardgame - yes, I know I'm way behind the curve on this one, never having read the books or played the game before now. But that said, the sheer number of games at GenCon that are not dice based leads me to think that I will have to explore this concept more closely.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Exhibition Hall day one

Let me be clear, the exhibition (vendor) hall is huge - probably 200 yards to a side with 15 or so rows - huge. We spent easily 2 hours walking it yesterday and didn't play test any demos and only got to the halfway point. Granted we did spend a few minutes talking to Larry Elmore while getting him to sign some prints.

I'm surprised at how much Dr. Who stuff is here - I guess steampunk is back in a big way. There are at least 5 leather shops on the vendor floor and a couple more steampunk attire locales.

As a note of reference, vendors please man your booths with people who can speak English in an effective manner. Also, fanboys for your product are great, however, they do not make great employees or demonstrators.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 1 - Fini

We arrived at the convention center about 8:15 and found a nearby parking meter that was, in the short-term, better than the $20/day cost of the garage. In we walked. First was the pre-ordered and delivered badges with 2 people in line. Next was the purchase day-of section with about 10 people in line. Then came HELL, officially known as will-call. The obvious line was about 30 people, then the less obvious line separated by the concourse, then the 300 yard line to the opposite side of the building, and the curling end of about 20 yards back towards the main part of the building - What have I done to myself?

1 hour and 40 minutes later I crossed the concourse, the line now mirrored itself, then curled outside for an unknown distance - I didn't care how long it was at that point. Then the first really good thing happened, "if your name is between A and Dj, move to the will call sign and get your badge." I have my badge, time to call and find out where everybody is - crap, they are now in line for tickets - where? WAIT, now I have to get fucking tickets too?

Well, another 30 minutes in line and I have 10 generic tickets - BattleTech VR simulator here we come. "Hey Paul, you don't have your goody bag.". "What goodie bag and where's Nate?". Another 20 minutes in line and I have a free copy of Rift, a Magic booster deck and a ton of coupons for free shit. Battletech time you say? Nope, time to head to the hotel for check-in - Argh!!!!

Will-call: Bad call

So yeah, worst decision so far was to participate in will-call. Early delivery had 1 person in line, purchase tickets the day of had 10 people in line, will-call has, from my position in line about 500-1000 people ahead of me, more than that now behind me. Apparently Blogger doesn't like to upload iPhone pics so expect them later.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GenCon Bound

Leaving for GenCon.  Check in often for updates from Indy.