Archive for the ‘RPG/Board Games’ Category

Legendary …

October 20, 2014

I haven’t talked about board games in a while, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not playing them. I’m still playing and mostly modding Arkham Horror in PBF, and have just finished a Fury of Dracula game in PBF. Unfortunately, Battlestar Galactica games are moving pretty slowly, so I haven’t played one of those in a long time. But as it turns out, I’m not limited to playing games PBF. I’ve been playing “Legendary”, which is a Marvel-based deck-building game.

The essential theme in the original seems to be that you’re one of a number of SHIELD organizers or agents or officers, and you’re out to prevent some kind of villain plot. At the beginning of the game, you select a Mastermind, and then some villain groups for that villain to command, and then some heroes that you’ll have access to during the game. Each hero has nine cards that represent various actions or abilities, but that mainly boil down to two main types: attack strength and recruitment strength. Many of them also — or only — have special abilities that allow you to draw cards or do other things, or interact with other cards.

You start with a hand of SHIELD troopers and SHIELD agents. The former give you 1 attack strength, and the latter give you recruitment strength. Attack strength’s use is obvious: you use it to defeat the Mastermind and the villains that are spawned every turn. Recruitment strength is how you get abilities; five hero cards are laid out, and each have a cost that you need to pay to add it to your deck. You pay that cost with recruitment.

If you manage to defeat the Mastermind 4 times before the Mastermind fulfills their victory conditions, you win. As a team. And then the player with the highest amount of points is the overall winner.

Because this is mostly a fully co-operative game, you can play it solo, which is how I’ve been playing it. It captures the theme of the characters pretty well, and is relatively easy to set-up and tear down, and doesn’t take a long time to play. Thus, it’s been a go-to game for me when I sit down to play games. So much so that I’ve bought the expansions, and the Legendary: Villains and Legendary: Alien Encounters (where you play in the Alien universe) games, which are all compatible. So if you’ve ever wanted to see how the X-Men, say, would do against Aliens, this is your chance.

It’s done pretty well, and much better than the DC equivalent. If you like deck building games, it’s one of the simplest to play and understand out there, and is a lot of fun.

The Girl of Your Dreams …

July 8, 2012

The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

I’m now stuck a little short of half-way, and The Old Republic is dominating my time. I do want to finish the game, though, so I might end up making an effort at it.

Although, I also just bought the second game, Skyrim and Saint’s Row the Third …

Running the Show …

October 3, 2011

So, I didn’t blog yesterday, mostly because I spent a lot of time working on two PBF board games that I inherited when the existing mod went away. I’ve moderated before, so I’m not a complete rookie at this, but for board games moderation is generally really important and also an awful lot of work. The main job of a moderator in a PBF board game is to maintain the hidden information so that the players can play as if they had a bunch of hidden cards in front of them that they can’t access until the time is right. For games that have this, it’s really important to not have the players do that themselves since they’ll always have the temptation to peek, and it would also encourage cheating. So the main role of the moderator is to basically keep a sometimes large list of information that the players can’t see until the time is right, and dole that information out as appropriate.

Keeping track of large amounts of information and making sure that you update everything so that you know what’s going on can take a lot of time, of course. And you, of course, don’t get to play in any way since you have privileged information. So it’s a lot of work for fairly limited gain.

What I’ve found — and this was the same when I played a Cylon Leader in a BSG PBF — is that when I’m not busy it’s not that bad. You can get involved in following the story of the game and working on adding flavour text and it’s fun. But when you’re busy, you don’t have the time to get involved. You just log in, move things along, update things, and log out. That’s not as much fun. Add to it that in many cases players are asking for you to do extra things and it starts to look like a lot of work for little actual gain. Which might be why moderators are often in demand for games.

That being said, on the other side of the coin as a player I understand how important moderators are, and so I do try to offload things from them when I can and allow them to tweak a game for how they feel comfortable doing it. But board game moderators are like DMs, only more so. Both are there to make it so that the players can have fun, but moderators aren’t players themselves, while DMs at least generally get to engage themselves in the game by having it be their world that the players are playing in. I think that the best moderators are those that can manage to find some fun — say, in trying to predict moves or watching gleefully for upcoming issues — in being in the privileged position of knowing everything or running everything. I’m not quite there yet.

The Next Post …

August 23, 2011

So, after I make a post, WordPress often suggests some topics for my next post, some of which can be fairly funny (unintentionally). Like this one, which is mild:

Are there any skills you’ve picked up in the last year?

Well, I just picked up Fight and Lore … oh, wait, I guess you didn’t mean in Arkham Horror. Never mind then [grin].

Playing by the post …

August 3, 2011

So, most of my RPG or board gaming is done PbF (Play by Forum), mostly because my schedule is always odd enough that it’s hard for me to arrange days to play and I don’t have a lot of people to play games with in person. Right now, I’m playing three board games on the Board Game Geek forums (Battlestar Galactica, Arkham Asylum, and Android). I just finished GM’ing an Amber RPG game on Giants in the Playground (home of the quite well-done Order of the Stick webcomic). And now I’m looking for what to do next.

One of the nice things about playing on a forum or by post is that you can take the time to do your IC stuff really well. I’ve had a tendency to add tons of IC text to the board games that don’t support it directly, and that works out even more so in RPGs, as long as you aren’t rushed to provide your input. You can get more time to think and act IC. It also fits busy schedules better since you can post and then go away for a while, and come back when you aren’t busy. I tended to let a long time — sometimes too long — go between posts in the Amber game, but as long as the players and GM are comitted to keeping it going and all stick with roughly the same schedule — ie one player doesn’t run ahead of all the others and leaves them out because they post more — it can work really well.

It does have a downside, though, in that it seems that PbF and PbP games just out and die more often. If you get dedicated players, they can go quite well, but if you don’t you just end up losing players and GMs until the game dies.

I started with a PbP game that worked really well, and only one other game I was in other than the one I ran actually survived any length of time. All the others eventually died, even some that I really, really wanted to play (like a Mutants and Masterminds game based on the Persona series). I, lamentably, killed a Ravenloft game with a dispute with the DM that would probably have finished. Another game I’m in now is on life support, but I’m looking to get out of it since even though I like my character — an ex-pat of Karen Koenig from Shadow Hearts: Covenant — I don’t like the game.

Interestingly, the board games rarely die. The Android game almost did due to the moderator and one player leaving without a word, but we found people to take over and move on. I modded a BSG game that had a player ditch, but we found a replacement and moved on (although it would have died if we hadn’t).

I think that the game deaths are due to the casual nature of it, meaning that people can join too many games and become overcommitted and can forget about the game. This doesn’t happen as often with the board games because they generally move faster. Also, if the GM is committed and has a decent idea the game will last, but if they aren’t committed it will certainly die.

GM’ing an RPG is more fun than modding a board game, as you have more work modding and get less fun things out of it since you aren’t seeing your idea come to fruition. But mods generally stay because they committed strongly to it to start, and have to take on less to do it properly.

Right now, I’m not thinking of modding but am thinking of GM’ing again. I’d like to do something that hacks in Suikoden or Persona into Mutants and Masterminds … if I can figure out how to do it and can think of a story.

Breaking the ice …

May 23, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about a board game here, so today I’d like to talk about a game that I bought just the other day:  NHL Icebreaker.  Basically, this is a small little NHL hockey simulator that turns out to be surprisingly fun.

The mechanism is quite simply.  You get a deck of cards just like a regular deck of cards, with all the suits and values represented, from Aces to Jokers.  The cards also have special features.  At the top is listed a direction and a number of steps, which is used to determine how far you’ve moved the puck by skating or passing it.  Below that there’s a “Shooting” section that has a team listed beside it that’s filled with flavour text about how you’ve scored a goal, and below that is a goaltending section that also has a team beside it and is also filled with flavour text, this time about how you’ve saved a goal.  Below that is an “Icebreaker” action that’s a special action that can range from you taking a penalty (lose a card and have a faceoff) to your opponent taking an action to your moving directly into the shooting zone.

So, how do players compete?  Well, each player is given a hand of cards from this deck, just like in a normal card game.  Then, they play cards mostly one at a time against each other.  The highest card wins, and the puck moves based on the skate/pass directions at the top of the card.  The goal is to move the puck into the “shooting zone” of your opponent, and then the next play determines the results of the shot on goal, whether that is a save or a goal.  When a hand runs out — and at some other times — the hand is redrawn, and when the deck runs out, that’s the end of one period.  Just like in hockey, you play three periods and potentially overtime and a shootout.

There are some special squares and circumstances, however:

- Beige/goldenish squares are called “Icebreakers”.  If the puck stops here after a movement, the next card is drawn from the deck and its Icebreaker text is applied.

- There are four breakaway squares around centre ice.  Stopping in one of these squares means that you move directly to the shooting zone.

- Each player chooses a team to represent them.  If the card you play in the shooting zone has your team written beside the appropriate action, it trumps all cards and you automatically “win” that round, either getting a goal or making a save.  In case of a tie, highest card still wins.

I played it with the solo version yesterday, playing as the Ottawa Senators against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and won 6 – 3.  In the solo version, the player only draws two cards and can’t refresh their hand until they’ve played both.  Each round is the player playing a card and then drawing the top card from the deck to be the card of their opponent.  Everything else works the same.

The game was remarkably fun, and quick.  It took me no longer than an hour to play, and there was a fair bit of up-and-down play in the game.  It was a close game until the third period when I went on a run and blew the game wide open.  The only issue is that penalties don’t matter much in this version; you can’t actually penalize the game opponent and the player doesn’t hold enough cards for it to usually matter.  The other thing I did that might not be in the rules is that when you have a path that moves diagonally and it hits the boards — ie it can’t move sideways anymore — I played it that the puck basically gets stuck along the boards and you aren’t moving anymore.

The game was very inexpensive but is quite a bit of fun.  I’m glad I bought it and it might actually get some play, especially since its solo version allows for a bit of strategy while allowing it to be played solo.

‘Rica, I’m Comin’ Home …

January 27, 2011

So, one of my hobbies has been writing song parodies, so I thought I’d start putting some of my old ones up here, and any new ones that I put together.

I came up with this one while playing the Battlestar Galactica board game by PBF.  I like to get into character when playing that game, and for a time I played as Gaius Baltar and really got into it.  In the game I wrote this for, I was actually a hidden Cylon, and used this as my send-off when they finally executed me and sent me to that goo bath in the sky.  A literal goo bath in the sky, if you know the series:

Times have changed and times are strange
Here I come but I ain’t the same
‘Rica, I’m comin home
Times gone by, seems to me
They could have been better friends to me
‘Rica, I’m comin home

They took me in and they drove me out
But you have me hypnotized, yeah
Lost and found and turned around
By the fire in your eyes

You made me cry, you told me lies
But I can’t bear to stay behind
‘Rica, I’m comin home
It could be right, it could be wrong
But hurts so bad it’s been so long
‘Rica, I’m comin home

Selfish ones now they’re all alone
The rise before the fall, yeah
But I’m gonna make them soldier on
They’re just gonna get it all

I’ve seen your face a hundred times
Everyday we’ve been apart
I don’t care about the sunshine, yeah
‘Cause ‘Rica, ‘Rica, I’m comin home
I’m comin home
I’m comin home

They took me in and they drove me out
But you have me hypnotized, yeah
Lost and found and turned around
By the fire in your eyes

I’ve seen your face a thousand times
Everyday we’ve been apart
I don’t care about the sunshine, yeah
‘Cause ‘Rica, ‘Rica, I’m comin home
I’m comin home
I’m comin home

Gaming soundtracks are my life …

April 12, 2010

So, I’m sitting here waiting for a compile and listening to my CD player.  What I have in it right now is the soundtrack to Mana Khemia: Fall of Alchemy.  I haven’t even played the game yet (and haven’t even taken it out of the wrapping) but I have the soundtrack CD and have been listening to it.  And right now I’m just thinking about how great it and other soundtrack CDs are for listening to in the background while doing other things.

I guess this shouldn’t be surprising.  After all, the music was originally composed to run in the background of a game.  But what’s great about soundtracks is not just that it slides into the background neatly, but that there’s enough variety to keep you from getting bored and usually one or two standout tracks that draw your attention and give you a neat mental break.

Right now, in my CD player at home I have the board game soundtrack to “A Touch of Evil” and “Last Night on Earth” (I like the former much better, but they’re a lot alike) as well as a soundtrack CD for Final Fantasy and a collection of songs from the anime .hack.  Here I’m listening to Mana Khemia and have the Persona soundtracks on standby.

I pre-ordered the latest Silent Hill game to get the soundtrack (but don’t like it that much).

Anyone else have any soundtracks they really like?

Monopoly: A Bad Game?

April 8, 2010

David Morgan-Mar at one of my favourite webcomics has a rather impressive rant about Monopoly:

http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/2623.html

———————

“Monopoly does not survive in the present day because it’s a good game. There are tons of much better games out there. Games that have been designed with principles of play and good game design, that have been developed over the decades since Monopoly was released. Monopoly may have been state-of-the-art when it was invented, but games have evolved a lot since then. Pretty much any modern game with a modicum of thought behind it has better gameplay, player interaction, decision-making, game balance, theme integration, playing time, pace of action, and basic down-to-earth fun than Monopoly.

The reason Monopoly maintains dominant market status is purely due to marketing and inertia. Hasbro continues to market it like the cash cow it is, not because it’s a good game, but because it’s a cash cow. And parents buy it for their kids because when they go looking for a game they see a few unrecognisable titles on the shelves and they see dozens of boxes of Monopoly, and they go, “Hey! I know that! I’ll get that!” They forget how miserable an experience it is to actually sit down and play the game. Retailers stock it because it sells, and it sells because retailers keep stocking it.

Department stores and generic toy stores don’t bother stocking many game titles, so they pick the biggest sellers and most recognised names – which usually means games that were designed 50 or more years ago. To find modern games – better designed games, since yes, we have learnt a lot about how to design a fun game in 50 years – you need to go to specialty game stores that stock your roleplaying games and stuff. These are stores that most people never go into, and if they do, they look around bewildered at the 300 game titles they’ve never heard of, give up on trying to pick something new, and ask where the Monopoly sets are.

I’ve literally seen this happen in a game store. And I’ve seen the owner, eager to serve a new customer, go from bright and keen to help, to dejected and slumped a second later.

Look, sure, if you get a group of people who genuinely like Monopoly and set them going, they might actually have a good time. But you get a typical family together and set them playing Monopoly, the typical outcome consists of: complaining about bad dice rolls, someone getting upset because they’re obviously losing, someone getting bored, someone accusing someone of cheating, arguments about rules, someone losing interest but having to keep playing because “you can’t quit now!”, somebody getting bankrupted and going into a sulk, everyone who’s been knocked out sitting around complaining or going off and doing something else, and eventually one player obviously going to lose and the other obviously going to win, but the actual victory takes another hour or more to play out to the bitter end. By the time it’s over, the family has been fractured, half of them are off doing something else, and someone’s had their feelings hurt. Believe it or not, this is not indicative of a well designed game!

A well-designed game has rules simple enough for everyone to follow without arguments, keeps everyone engaged to the end, and encourages positive rather than negative social interaction. Such games exist. Why are they not mainstream? Why do parents everywhere not play them with their kids?

Because Monopoly is marketed so aggressively, and because so many people are poisoned against the idea that games can actually be fun by their experiences with Monopoly.”

——————————————–

There’s actually more of this, but this pretty much captures what I want to refer to (this is the end of the rant, actually).

Now, I remember playing Monopoly as a kid, and my brother always beating me.  I also remember playing it later with my brother and his then fiance.  I’m not a huge fan of Monopoly, and my brother and I always ended up in a fight when we played it (except that time we played with his fiance, oddly enough).  But it seems to me that Monopoly has a quality that I haven’t really seen in too many board games: it’s simple enough for young kids, complicated enough that older kids can do things without being bored out of their minds, turns move quickly enough so that each player doesn’t have to wait too long for their turn, and supports a flexible number of players.

And, to me, this is what makes Monopoly an ideal family game.  There were other board games I had as a kid, and we played some of them, but Monopoly was about the only game (well, maybe “Game of Life” and “Poleconomy” count) that we’d both play.  While Monopoly may not be a great game, it seems to me that it has a lot of qualities that make it an ideal family game.

But I’m willing to be corrected on this.  Anyone have any examples of a good family game that’s easy but with some depth and that allows a flexible amount of players where the gameplay doesn’t greatly change?


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