Monday, August 13, 2012

Lords of Waterdeep

Classified as a "European" style game by my friends, this game has been extraordinarily fun and quite enjoyable, if a bit complicated in learning how to play it.  The various aspects of this game have me wanting more games like it.  The game is very much a hybrid, providing the feel of a good combination of computer based MMO (quest completion and competing for limited resources) and tabletop RPG (making the decision on what, when and how to achieve goals).

The game starts with a combination of intrigue cards and quest cards, gives you a Lord of Waterdeep, a couple of agents and a money supply.  In the group pool of resources are gold, clerics, wizards, thieves and warriors.  On the board are more intrigue cards, quest cards, building cards, potential agent recruits and game control pieces.  Default locations on the board provide starting players with access to the various classes needed to complete quests and gain more gold.  Because only 1 building can be purchased each round, the selection of buildings (3 to choose from at any given time) can significantly affect your ability to complete quests.  As an aside, knowing which quest type your particular Lord wants can make a huge difference at the end of the game, so pay attention.

So far, there have been some obviously better quests/buildings/intrigue cards and some that seem to be after thought crap.  The difficulty in executing the quests varies and depending on how you approach it, can make a slow start erupt into a run-away winner.  

An important note, the execution order of each turn does seem to have a significant impact on play and determination of play by other players, so paying attention to the game is a must.  This is not a beer and pretzels game if you are trying to be competitive.  And while it can be complicated at first, getting to know and understand the little things about this game, make me like it even more.  But, because it has a fair bit of randomness, it does not benefit the regular player so much so that a new player cannot compete in their first game.

I highly enjoy this game, highly recommend this game and will consider purchasing this game upon my return from GenCon.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thunderstone Advanced - Towers of Ruin

Thunderstone Advanced has me torn.  Some aspects of this game I love, some irritate me and some just don't make a damn bit of sense.  There is a Facebook version of this game, but it is not the advanced version and is irritating in its own way.

Thunderstone gives the players an option of going to the village to acquire items (weapons, gear or villagers), heroes and spells or going to the dungeon to fight monsters.  In the dungeon, each "rank" of dungeon is progressively harder due to light levels, with rank 1 being -2 to attack, rank 2 being -4 and rank 3 being -6.  Fortunately, there are various light sources that can be used to counter these penalties.  This is significant as the monsters at each level are randomly pulled from the monster deck and thus you can get high/hard monsters at the "upper" ranks and low/easy monsters at the "lower" ranks, making them much more difficult.  In addition, most of the monsters now also have battle effects that can seriously affect the game.

Ok, some of the good - leveled heroes, no dice, lots of cards and options for deck development.  Fundamentally, this is just like other deck building game - a system of which I have become a huge fan.  The items can make a huge difference in how fast you make it into the dungeon, but can also be challenging due to becoming hero starved.

Some of the bad, one of the stated goals of this "advanced" version was to allow you into the dungeon faster - it has failed at this every time I've played it.  In the scenarios, the spells have been weak and at least one hero was pretty much useless, if not worse than the starting basic soldier (see picture above) you can get for free every round.

That said, some of the heroes are amazing and it is usually blatantly obvious that they are the best and go the fastest.  I mentioned "leveled heroes" earlier and I really, really like this aspect of the game.  You can level up your starting "basic heroes" to the purchased ones on the board and level the purchased ones up to more powerful versions using the experience gained from killing the monsters - that is fun and very useful.  The leveled up heroes eventually become worth victory points, so leveling at least some of them is usually a very good option.  Surprisingly, experience points (the little thunderstone shard pictured below) are not worth victory points, so holding on to them is useless - this is a point often lost on new players.

I cannot say I agree with most of the online evaluations giving this game a fairly high score (8+/10 in most cases).  I think they have tried too hard to refine it and actually made a slightly less fun version.  I cannot say that I would actually recommend spending money on this version, but if you already have, perhaps the expansions can redeem it, but I won't be purchasing them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Darksiders II

It is not often that one finds out a high school friend went on to become exactly what we all wanted to be in high school - a professional gamer.  This has just happened to me and I am truly excited to hype his game in my own small little way.  So, if you enjoy any kind of computer gaming (PC, console, whatever) check out Darksiders II from Vigil Games.  Now for the totally robbed screen shots from the website:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


This excites me in so many different ways.  I have loved Robotech since I first discovered anime in high school (some 20+ years ago).  It just kills me that American audiences cannot get the concept of adult cartoons.

The good news is that it would appear that miniature production has effectively been approved.  At the same time, the Robotech Battles: Macross rules may provide an insight into a new rpg or something related.  With GenCon coming next month, perhaps, and this is just a hope against hope, somebody will be able to say something about this development.

And really, who doesn't love 60-foot tall giant space aliens and the human build mecha to fight them?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

GenCon 2012

The flight is booked, the hotel is secured.  Now just got to go through the pages of events and get the tickets I want and decide on buying the pass early or waiting till I arrive.  I'm torn, last year I did will-call on tickets and stood in line for a good 2+ hours while there was basically nobody in line for just buying the tickets the day of.  Now I'm in a situation where I have to decide on trying to face will-call again or buying them once I get there.  My flight arrives around noon on Thursday the 16th meaning I'll probably have to stand in line either way, I'm just not sure which is going to be the better (shorter) choice.  Oh well, still a good amount of gaming at the best gaming event of the year.

Drop me a line if you are going to be there and let's see if we can't meet up for some dice throwing.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Modern Day Hunters (WoD meets FUDGE)

So the crew that I play DnDNext with wants more - more time to play, more play time, more action and more intensity.  In discussing the options, modern day and vampires kept coming to the front as things people wanted to experience, but actually playing a vampire wasn't exactly what they were wanting.  After some thought and more discussion, the idea of playing *semi* normal humans (Hunters) in a modern setting, the Underworld world, was pretty much agreed on.

Now, Underworld is pretty similar to WoD, but not quite as...depressing...and Hunters are pretty normal people, just...intense.  But, right now I'm not totally into running a stock WoD system (old or new), so I'm thinking of doing a bit of Fudge/WoD hybrid.  I think I'm gonna let the players pick their attributes and abilities, set them on a 5 scale, pick a *power* or two, set it on a 5 scale or just give it a specific ability, pick some merits and flaws (I have always really liked that aspect of WoD) and go.  I don't want to worry about having to go through the "low" level powers to get to something you want and I don't want to worry about spending 5 points here and 9 points there and 3 points someplace else.

Fortunately, the group I've been playing with is relatively new to gaming except for the DM, who has been running such a bastardized version of Swords and Sorcery meets 4th Ed that he has no room to question my desire for a hybrid rules set.  Plus, he's cool enough and comfortable enough with just letting things flow that he wouldn't complain anyway and will probably be a major help to resolving things at the table so that a judgement call is fair and balanced.

We're getting together at my place this coming week on the 4th of July to BBQ and watch some setting/genre movies so that people have some idea of what this world will look like.  We've got a full burn ban on, so no fireworks for most of the middle of the U.S., so might as well stay inside in the cool and watch some decent movies.

Happy 4th all!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Next on DnDNext

Well, we are several games into the DnDNext playtest and several issues are starting to show.

Most notably the lighting system seems...strained at times to apply effectively.  There also seems to be an abundance of usefulness to some of the class specific stuff that may be making said class (cleric) a bit overpowered (again).  Granted, I usually play clerics, so being overpowered doesn't bother me so much, but for a play test environment, it seems *off*.  Some of the rule changes related to surprise also seem a bit ineffective or possibly not fully implemented, so I hope the next round of updates will address this.

However, on the whole, I'm enjoying the change from feat based character development of 3rd ed and complete uselessness of characters outside of combat that was 4th ed.

Combat seems to be flowing smoothly (outside of surprise situations) and the whole advantage/disadvantage thing so far seems to be working and easy enough for inexperienced players to grasp while granting enough randomness to the outcome for experienced players to accept.

Ok, next round of play test rules, I'm ready for your release.

On a side note, it seems my SWTOR server is one of the ones that will be shutting down soon as character transfers to Jung Ma have started and there is almost nobody in fleet anymore.  So, if you play on Jung Ma, let me know so I can look you up once my guild has transferred over.


Friday, June 1, 2012

D&D Next

Disclaimer: I am not yet endorsing this version in any way.

Our group test played DnD Next this past Thursday.  We had been playing some mish-mash of Swords and Wizardry and 4th Ed (don't ask, I still haven't figured out how it worked).  Fortunately, the pre-gen characters with the play test fit our group almost exactly so there was very little adaptation needed to convert the current game over.

The biggest difference was the amount of abilities that were is some way magical that the various characters could do - most notably magical light sources.  This is great considering we are running around on either the plane of shadow or some reasonable facsimile.

Since we only get about 2 hours of game play, most of the game was tied up in puzzle solving, both in game (interactively talking doors - 2 that were in different hallways, not visible to each other, but aware of each other's presence) and the puzzle of the new rules-set.  So, we didn't get to have a combat, but seeing how the various classes function out of combat was just as, if not more, interesting considering out little functionality 4th Ed provided for out of combat activities.

It should be interesting to see how the next session goes, hopefully some swords will get swung and spells cast in an aggressive manner.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Agony of the wait

It seems I spend a lot of my life waiting for the rest of my life to happen. That's not to say that I don't do a lot - I lead a pretty active and full life and perhaps that's the reason I notice when I have to wait on things. Often the things I have to wait the longest - not necessarily in actual time - for are the things that seemed like a good or great idea when they got planned just never live up.

So, I got to thinking about making players wait for something - anything - in a game setting. I've decided that's just an asshole thing to do. I've seen people invited to a game and never get to throw a die during the session. I've made players wait for rewards or punishments for their characters, often to pointless or useless effect on the game experience.

Am I condoning instant gratification? HELL NO!!!!! Earning things over the duration is kinda one of the core concepts of gaming. However, I am starting to see the appeal of getting the things you want (not the things you NEED) quickly. Do you need a +5 sword - no, do you need the clues to get you to the next stage of the story - yes.

I'm typing this from my phone as I wait in the CNN Center in Atlanta for my vehicle to return to a drive-able state. So if there are typos and no interesting graphics, sorry.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rant on the wall of text

Yes, I know this is totally unrelated to gaming, but I've been busy with classwork and moving and taking care of my parents and other more personal stuff - deal.

Part of the aspect of my classes is to respond to online discussion forums.  Not a difficult thing to do and not a difficult thing to format properly, especially for people who are working on a Master's degree.  Or so I thought...

I would guess that at least half of the responses are walls of test, usually 15-20 lines long and 130-150 characters across.  There is usually punctuation and capitalization, but these people do not know how to hit a return key that helps organize their thoughts into coherent groupings.  I've seen and used the term "verbal diarrhea", but I don't think this qualifies, wall of text qualifies, but doesn't exactly convey the concept of so many ideas forced into one response block.

So I'm coining the term "wotwork" - Wall Of Text WithOut Return Key.  I'm not sure if it will catch on, but hey, maybe it will and I'll at least be sorta not famous.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mundane Random Encounter

Random encounters, the bane of uncoordinated groups, the pain of unprepared GMs.  Many a time has a randomly rolled encounter resulted in a major deviation from the intended goals/plot of a game - perhaps the discovery of an unknown dungeon or the death of an important PC, maybe the introduction of a future BBEG/GBBEG.  Whatever the reason, I've seen too many games fall apart because all random encounters were combat encounters.  -C over at Hack & Slash does a good job of including mundane random encounters in his games, but his games are very sandbox, so there isn't any loss of continuity.

I've been thinking a lot about how to have meaningful mundane random encounters - meeting a farmer, passing a caravan, walking up on a hunting camp.  Typically, these things can be an avenue for providing the players with information - useful or not. That said, I think it's time to take on a project to generate some useful tables that support this intention.

Any suggestions on what format/software/media would be best? I can see it being a very useful app and a functioning table at the same time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New Game Desires

I'm getting the urge to run a new game.  I'd like to do some sort of space-based game, similar in style/scope to Firefly/Serenity or Cowboy Bebop.  The only system that I've had much experience with for this type of game would be FUDGE, so if anybody has a recommendation for a good rules set that supports this style of play, please let me know.

On a similar and related note, I've been thinking about developing some sort of bastardized OWoD/Earthdawn system with attribute/ability combos affecting a sliding die scale, but I haven't had time to really figure it all out yet.  I want something that will generate interesting dice roll combinations and give players the ability to be creative in how they go about resolving an issue - when they have to resort to rolling dice, instead of rolling a die and looking at their character sheet to find the relevant number.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Running an incursion/invasion campaign

Several years ago Dragon magazine published a series about how to run a Gith invasion of the Prime Material Plane and some of the best games I've ever run or played in had some sort of invasion meta-plot.  But how does one go about effectively running this type of campaign.  The investment is considerable, the risk is great but the reward can be immeasurable.

First, decide what kind of invasion you want to deal with: land, water, dimensional, time, etc.  Next, you need your invading race, why they are invading and who/where specifically they are invading.  Then think about the duration of the invasion and what it's ultimate goal must be.  An invasion for no good reason just doesn't make sense and eventually, your players will catch on that there isn't a real "end-game".  Also consider what factors might change the success or failure - obviously if your players are the heroes, then stopping the invasion is the end, but what else might affect it?  Then consider the level ranges your players will be and what, if any, special gear/items/magic/abilities will be needed, wanted or overpowering.  By that I mean don't have a fire elemental invasion if your players are immune to fire.

So obviously you don't want to have your players completely dominated by the invasion, but you don't want them to easily stop it either.  You have two easy options.  The first is scaled encounters with mixed monsters and monsters with character levels.  Most everybody is doing this now, so it shouldn't be anything new, especially if you are running a 3.X, Pathfinder or 4.X edition game.  The second option is totally on the players to achieve - the ability and willingness to retreat.  Yes, your players need to be able to recognize when to run away so that they live to fight another day.  I have personally had very mixed results with this option, both as a player and as a DM.  The last party I DM'd for was split on retreating with a couple of party members running away and the rest staying and dying, it created some hard feelings and helped lead to a split in the group.  As a player, I never ran from a fight until I played Hackmaster, then we ran on a regular basis, yes, we lost honor and a little loyalty from our henchmen, but we lived and eventually succeeded.

Now you have your invasion type, your invading race, your target area and residents, the speed of the invasion, the goals of the invasion, the incidentals and hopefully a party willing to take on the risk of stopping an invasion, what's left?  Well executing it, adjusting it, changing it, reacting to it and enjoying it.  Just like any campaign, things will have to be modified, tossed out or added, but give it some time and attention and you will really enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anxiety of the New

For the better part of the last 15 years, I've had some sort of a steady gaming group around me. People came and went, group make-up changed, dynamics changed but for the most part, I was always there - part of the decision making team on who to bring in, who to let go, who to teach, who to encourage. Tomorrow night, the table gets flipped and I will be the outsider in an established group - considering my recent move, this is not unexpected.

There is a base anxiety for this change, but there is also concern of how my personality, my play style, my expectations, my experiences will affect an established group. Given the brief conversation I had with the GM, I think the group has a solid base, but with any modification to the status quo, there is cause for caution.

I said all of that to say this, I am extraordinarily excited about the prospect of gaming with a completely new group - people I didn't teach how to play, people who don't have the same "house rules", people who may not have or even know about "hot pizza", people that aren't part of my last 15 years in NWA.

NWA, I'll miss you but HS is my present and my future, and things seem to be looking on the bright side.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dual Wielding Insults - Hasbro

First, Wizards announces that they can't create a system that is worthy of replacing a previous edition and ask for players assistance.  Now, they have decided to go back to the well of goodness and kindly offer us a rehash of the original, I give you Dungeons and Dragon 1st Edition!!!!!

At least a portion goes to the Gygax Foundation, but I just have to wonder if Gygax would actually want them to so blatantly try to profit off of his hard work.  Sadly, if I can find these at one of my *local* shops, I will purchase them as mine have disappeared into the ether of multiple moves.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kingdom Rush - Tower Defense

Since I'm not actively playing in any tabletop games, I'm having to find other ways to get my dungeon crawl fix.  I've always liked tower defense games, they sort of feel like reverse dungeons.  Anyway, a friend recommended Kingdom Rush and I'm liking it pretty well.

The games are pretty straight forward with a set path and specific build locations - which I'm usually not as found of.  But, these are well located and force you to carefully consider what type of tower to place where and not all the locations must be used to have a successful map.

Tower Types:
The barracks provide troops you can use to block advancing mobs.
The mage tower is your standard magic damage tower that attacks both land and air.
The arrow tower is the fast firing, low physical damage tower that attacks both land and air.
The artillery tower is heavy physical AOE damage (initially, hint-hint) against land targets.

You also have at your disposal an AOE flame attack and the ability to summon two "helper" troops that are effectively armed farmers.

Depending on how well you complete a particular map, determines how many talent points you get to spend between levels.  The talent trees are interesting and call for some hard choices once the obvious selections have been made.

Each tower has several levels of upgrades, then a specialty choice (i.e. marksman or rangers for the arrow towers, mage or sorcerer for the magic tower).  Once you choose a specialty, then you get to pick from special powers made available from picking your specialty - yes, you can choose poorly.

The mob spawns are creative and various - goblins, orcs, wolves, wargs, spiders, bandits, demons, yetis just to name a few.  Just about all have something special or unique - high armor, fast speed, etc.  Some have special powers that augment other mobs, some heal other mobs and some have really interesting abilities that have surprising in-game effects (hint-hint).  There are creative spawn locations on certain maps and short-cuts that mobs will sometimes use to their advantage.  The pathing is interesting and if you don't have troops in just the right place, they are doomed against certain mobs or the mobs will bypass them - not sure if that's a programming flaw or working as intended.

On the whole, I give Kingdom Rush a 7/10 for Internet flash games overall and a 9/10 for the tower defense genre.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons Version 5

I've heard the rumors for awhile, but this is the first official information I've seen: D&D 5.

The article pretty much points out all that is wrong and broken in the gaming industry.  But, I don't think the author actually understands where the industry is today or how the players are dealing with the overall situation.

Might I also provide a link to signing up for being part of the play-test group.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic revisited

So I broke down and decided to give SWTOR a month to try to change my mind about it.  So far, I've gotten a bounty hunter (powertech) and sith warrior (marauder) up to a decent enough level to really evaluate them.  Look for me on The Twin Spears server - Plagueale, Anzuth, Justiciar or Amraam are my toon's names.

Sith Warrior (Marauder)
   Dual wielding light sabers looks awesome.  The acrobatic animations of the various attacks is awesome.  Only having to worry about damage output gear is a relief.  Being bad is so easy.  The second companion you get is a heal-bot (literally, a healing droid).

   The marauder is a paper tiger - you are wearing medium armor (at least its not light armor), but you are in immediate damage range for anything with AOE attacks.  The burst damage done is decent, but not exceptional compared to some of the other classes. The first companion you get spends all of her time stealing aggro from you and your in-combat heal is not that great and has a long cooldown.

    A marauder does damage, nothing else - no shield, no damage reduction,  no threat reducers (at least not yet), no regular healing.

   It is fun to just go on a killing binge.  Generally, I will go through 3-4 pulls before having to stop to heal (out of combat).  However, if you get a respawn, wandering mob or unexpected elite show up towards the end things can get really bad, really quick.

Bounty Hunter (Powertech)
    The armor (for the most part) looks very much like what you imagine Star Wars bounty hunter armor should look like.  The AOE, direct damage and crowd control skills perform admirably.  The companion (Mako) is great, providing some damage and a lot of healing.

    I don't have much bad to say about the Bounty Hunter class.  I've been playing with a real life friend who went mercenary and we compliment each other very effectively.  I think the only drawback is that that powertech lacks a really good ranged-burst damage attack to make for a truly effective pull.

    The headgear items are UGLY and seem  out of proportioned.  I'm not sure that the off-hand power generators are really worth much - they function as a shield, but unlike traditional game shields, you can't use them for additional attacks.

    If I stay with SWTOR, I will definately have a top level Bounty Hunter.

So what's next?  I'm not sure.  I'm taking the last of my master's classes over the next 4 months and that takes up a lot of time.  I may not have a job, but I may be having to spend a considerable amount of time with my parent's due to their deteriorating condition.  I just don't know if SWTOR has hooked me enough to keep me playing.

On a related note, this is a more tasty decision on the Light vs. Dark debate.