Thursday, 27 October 2016

Kickstarter #9

Back from the Dead

Yes, I am aware I said I would start doing this stuff more often and I haven't.  Yes I know that building a community for my site involves regular content updates.  No, I have not got any more words to express my regret at not doing this site.  However, Life.  You know, the real life bit which stops you doing anything else, not because you don't want to deal with life and that it isn't fun, but it generally does mean you don't have time for anything else.

I'm going to make sure this is a bumper edition of the Kickstarter review.  I'm going to try and show you six things that have appeared recently and need a mention.  Plus, as an added bonus, I'll be, for the first time, promoting something I have played and is now on Kickstarter (and needs your support!).  So, getting right into it...

The Edge: Dawnfall - Awaken Realms 

So the guys that made Neuroshima Hex (which I am told is an outstanding game by the way), have developed a new 2-4 player, hex based game of miniature tactics and combat.  Now, normally, my excuse for finding something interesting is pretty much that it looks good, or that its nostalgic, or silly.  Well, The Edge definitely jumps into category 1 without any real issues at all.  It also fits in, for me, with category 2 as well, because Hex based tactical games always remind me of Battletech and Crimson Skies (sorry can't help that).

Now, clearly, when you go through the page you will notice that the models are... well quite frankly lovely.  There are a hell of a lot of models, and rather interestingly it looks like you get absolutely everything for each faction in the faction boxes.  Of course if you want the whole game then you will need a battlebox, which has the playing mat, and two factions worth of stuff, plus the few odds and ends you need for playing the game.  Personally I have no idea which of these I would get, because all the models look amazing.

One of the best things here though is that a bit of a ways down the page you will also find all of the background books free for download.  This isn't just a miniatures board game with nothing but rules.  they have set up a full story and background book to go with the game.  I'm impressed with the level of detail that they have gone into for a tactical boardgame.  At some point I'm waiting to see if they will release this as an open table top game as well... I mean the models are clearly good enough.

It is here if you want a look.

Dark Skies: 1942 - Resin Horse Games

Speaking of Crimsons Skies, finally I get to welcome in the coming of a spiritual protege of one of those games that shaped a lot of my experiences when I was younger.  Dark Skies definitely falls into the category of "alternative history" aircraft combat games, and I have to say I quite like the look of it.  Oh, and for the eagle eyed among you, yes there is somewhat a flavour of Lovecraft about this game.

in 1942, towards the end of WW2, the Eldritch gods finally awaken.  In time honoured human tradition, instead of banding together to solve our problems the war carries on, and now everyone is fighting everyone else.. and Cthulhu.  I mean what could go wrong.  Aircraft design has taken an odd little turn, and each side is building giat flying battleships to try and deal with the new monsters of the air as well.

Firstly, I do like the idea of alternative design aircraft.  Crimson Skies did this, in part, by using experimental aircraft designs from WW2, and I have a feeling that Dark Skies has done the same as well.  The flying fortresses are.. somewhat like the ones in Dystopian Wars, I have to say, but there are very few ways in which you can design giant flying battleships so I'm ok with this.  Lastly though, the flying Cthulhu model that you can bring into the game if you want the Eldritch touch.. that is rather wonderful in its own rights.

It is just here if you want a look.
Deep Madness - Diemension Games

By happen chance all of these games a linking together today.  I move from Aircraft and Cthulhu to Cyberpunk and Cthulhu.  Deep Madness brings in the idea of the standard Lovecraftian game (investigators finding and then deal with the Eldritch Horrors of the world), but puts it into a futuristic style game where players play against the board to complete missions before they all get eaten by the horrible creatures of an infested facility.

So as the game progresses, sections of the board are flipped over to add additional locations for the monsters to spawn from.  A selection of cards outline either the players abilities or the monsters actions, and turn order alternates between the two forces (player 1 -> monster 1 -> player 2 etc).  Players can find items to improve their abilities or give them more firepower, and over time the players try and complete a number of objectives.  The book comes with a number of scenarios (board layout and mission objectives) and there certainly seems to be a lot of depth in the game system.

Some of this reminds me of Zombicide.  I don't think that is a bad thing.  Especially not when part of what reminds me of that game is the quality of the game components which will be available with the game, and the sheer number of expansion components that they are offering.

This is here if you want a look.

Nightlancer - Adversity Games

Managed to get through another link up here, just drop the Cthulhu (say sorry first or he won't be happy) and we go into Cyberpunk overload here.

Now I have reviewed this game already, and I'm still psyched that I got to play this.  I'm going to start with a really simple statement about this game. IT IS GOOD!  I don't think I can make this clearer.  I've been very lucky to get to play this already and I really really want this to succeed, so please go back this right NOW!

Ok, so now you have done that let me explain a little bit.  If you have ever played (and liked, even a little) Cyberpunk RPG or Shadowrun, or SLA, then this is basically the Card game version of those games.  The clearest reflection it makes is with Cyberpunk RPG rather than anything else, but there are aspects that anyone who likes Dark Future type RPGs will be able to make.  It also only took a game or two to really get to grips with the basics of the game, and considering how much you get with it thats quite an impressive feat.  This card game is packed (with cards), and they have really stepped up the quality of those with the final designs.

Now clearly I'm trying to get people to buy this, and yes partly that is because there will be money coming out of my account (actually not my account, but my new partners), and she will also be getting a card made in her image if you do.  So that will be interesting, seeing if people can find the card that matches.  Also, she went for this kickstarter because she helped me playtest the game, and we almost ended up both getting it by accident.  Seriously its a good game!

It is here.  Please go back it!

Moonstone - Goblin King Games

I couldn't keep the chain up forever, so the best way to deal with that is to bring in something really cool, really kind of silly and yet still has some lovely models.

Now I realise a lot of people are put off by wargames because people take them too seriously.  The models become these odd incarnations of quality and importance that a lot of people don't get.  Well Moonstone certainly has some very hefty quality, and certainly I can see people attributing personalities and importance, but when you are (clearly?) basing your game around a visual style reminiscent of the Labyrinth, I'm kind of hoping it can also bring in a selection of people who haven't gone near gaming before.

Moonstone looks cute, in a good way cute.  I love the little models, the slightly puppety look of the figures, like someone hired Jim Henderson to do the design work throughout.  Also you only appear to need 3 models on each side to get started and that is going to be a massive boost towards getting people to play the game.  Stretch goals are wide and varied, and have already brought in the two fairy faction boxes which look really good.  I actually believe if I weren't currently trying to save my money to get my car MOT'd then I would already be buying everything this game had to offer.

It is right here, and I think it is worth a go if you can.

Medici: The Card Game - Grail Games

So this last one is on here, partly as a big thumbs up for bringing back an old game in a new form, but also because I actually do think there is a massive risk in bringing back classic games in the form of a card game.

I bring this up because of The Settlers of Catan Card game.  Designed for 2 players to get through a facsimile of a full game of Catan, the truth of the matter was that there was only a passing nod to the original game and not enough (in my opinion) of the flavour people expected.  The daft thing is, if they had made that card game and not called it Catan, then behind was actually a really well worked game.  There is always a fear when you name something based on an old classic.

From what I have seen they have tried to get things to look and feel like the original game, and it has been designed by the original designer of Medici.  Therefore, I can only hope that it holds up to the original in some way.  It has been designed for 2-6 players, so will have a bit more of the feel of the original as well.  Also for about £17 you get a copy of the game as part of the Kickstarter, and additional levels open up forthcoming expansion packs.  Its certainly intriguing, especially if you have played the original game.

Have a look here.

Back for good?

I'm not promising anything at all, but hopefully I can fit in some more bits and pieces soon.  There is a lot of this Real life stuff going on and I'm definitely enjoying it at the same time as making sure it all gets done, so bare with me, and hopefully I can come up with something else to talk about soon.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Curious Pastimes - Renewal 2016

In these lands of Siberian, these hot and humid lands.....

So as I mentioned before, there has been a short delay in writing on the blog because I was going to be away at Curious Pastimes for the entirity of the weekend.  Well, after recovery on Wednesday (down in Thetford with the guys from the Battlehammer) and going back to work yesterday, I finally think I can get thoughts on to the paper... fine, down onto the screen... and actually give people a bit of a fallout/review of what went on.

Except for one small issue, I pretty much managed to by pass all of the plot for the entire weekend.  I have absolutely no idea how I managed it, but not once did I get involved in the World Plot or any of the my groups (the A'Kesh) faction plot.  I must have been in the middle of some sort of plot void for all 4 days of the event.  Now partially this is down to what I do as part of this fantastic game world, but before I get into the specifics of Renewal itself, I think I should impart some general background in terms of what I know about CP and what this LARP is actually like.  I've been there for 8 years now (CP is 20 years old so I've not even got half of a full understanding of what is going on), and I've sampled the game as both a player, and for the last 3 years as a volunteer faction ref within the Mercenaries.  So, lets basically tackle this in a bit of detail.

LARP

So, the real basics for people who don't know.  LARP stands for Live Action Roleplaying, and basically if you take the idea of almost any fantasy book, get real people to play the characters, then get them to wear the correct costume and actually got and have all the fights and conversations in real life out in a field somewhere... well you won't really be close at all to what it is all about but you'll get close to the idea.  Common jokes in the community are things like calling it "Cross Country Am-Dram" or "Full contact Cowboys and Indians".  The simple thing is it is really hard to explain, but there are aspects of standard RPGs, Cosplay, Medieval Reenactment and camp fire story telling mixed together.  Frankly, there isn't really anything better than LARP for allowing you to abandon real life for a bit and go and do/be something else for a while.

And there in lies the key.  LARP isn't about ignoring real life, LARPers in general are from massively dirverse backgrounds and have massively different approaches and outlooks on life.  It's about putting it down somewhere safe, that you know you will be back to later and it'll be exactly how you left it, but in the time you are away from it you can just let loose and not have to worry for a while.

Curious Pastimes

So in terms of LARPs there are quite a few varieties; local club, national system and fest spring to mind, but there are more.  CP falls into the Fest variety, and basically to fulfil that mark, most fest systems meet up may be 3 or 4 times a year, but support a site of at least a few hundred people all involved in the game, and a cast and crew dedicated to rolling out NPC charatcers and delivering the story and the plot to as many people as possible over the weekend.  In addition to this, most fest systems tend to pull out some immense battles (with half the player base getting into more generic kit and being the bad guys for the day, and then swapping over for the second battle later on).  In addition, every now and then a Faction will "go on manuevers" and do a couple of encounters during the day for people to play around with.  At least a few systems discard some or all of this in order to include Player vs Player combat (normally the battles are then faction vs faction), or allow the players to generate their own plot rather than supporting an ongoing story from within the crew.

CP goes with the Crew system, with player vs monster battles, and monster slots.  It also has some of the riches plot going in any system I have had a chance to be involved with.  The Game Team (the "reffed" members of the crew), as well as the faction commands for each faction, work heavily to write, check and the supply plotlines to the players with the vague hope that everyone will engage with the plot and not try to stear it off a cliff, into a river and through a volcano... invariably adjustments need to be made regularly.

I've been fortunate enough to play in 3 factions since I joined in 2008, starting with what was then known simply as the Vipers, moving over to the Lions and then being one of the original hangers on to the A'Kesh when they started in 2012.  I've not changed character since, which also includes keeping the poor sap alive somehow, and its been one hell of a ride.  The "World" plot has moved through from a war against Terror itself (the physical manifestation of it, plus all his mates), and we are now looking at a return to war with the Fae families having fallen out with each other over whether mortals should be allowed to live, and if they really should have a single king or not.  Fae are, for want of a better term, Bel.. sorry.

Renewal 2016

Every year, Renewal runs out as the flagship event for CP.  Help near Gerrards Cross, around 800+ people decend on to the site, beginning Thursday (for those that want a social night before the event).. now some people are there before this time to do the work of making a scout campsite look like some part of a fantasy world, but the vast majority start appearing on the Thursday.  By 7pm Friday night we are all in, and off we go.  Time in called.  I enter the mind of Sul, a disgruntled former warrior, a man who has tried to lead his people in war for 3 years, struggled and failed, and due to injury has been forced to change his skills to those of a Ritualist to try and help people that way.  Of course, all characters are based on what you think you can play and what you think you can do.  Sul started out as a warrior character and then my back started going into spasms last year and it was over to being the ritualist.  His personality has always been that he has been a bit of a "nearly man" back home, but now in the world of the factions, he has had the chance to take what he desires and prove how good he is (having fluffed the warrior bit a little as I'm not a good figther, being a ritualist has kind of given me the chance to achieve both parts of Sul's plan).

So the first thing I did when time in was called.. well it was straight up to the ritual circle to do a ritual 1 hour in.. and thus a lot of running around, getting the necessarily people to help me (leads need contributers), and then telling them what to do in my first ritual for the weekend.

Rituals are, for the most part, a condensed roleplay dramatisation, put on the for the masses (or lack there of in a lot of cases.. something which is a bit of a shame to be honest).  Rituals are performed in a circle (sometimes called the "Circle of Look at Me" - one of the Game Ref's used to do a lot of rituals as a player and is known as look at me!), marked by a ref, and allow you do do a miraid of "mostly permenant" effects on items, other people, or in the world in general.  Used mostly as a method of empowering (read this as recharging) magic items, most Factions have dedicated individuals who use a lot of their time getting the rituals right.  The Mercs have had it harder, as Mercs don't tend to work together.  The idea of a ritual team that works together constantly and doesn't have other things to do all the time.. thats a novelty.  Hence the running around before rituals.

Either way we managed our Friday ritual and then 20 minutes later, with more cat herding we hit our second ritual as well.  Both our Friday rituals done, and a bit of dealing to get some other things done more easily the next day.  I broke for the night feeling pretty good with myself (after all rituals can and do fail, so 2/2 completed it a nice feeling).  It was at this point that I could now roll down my sleves and get into the plot.  Except, now the Mercs were on Monster duty.  Wrangling up food, and then up to the Ref hut to be confronted with 100 Merc players all ready to give a good showing of themselves.  I do love reffing with the Mercs when we gather up these numbers for Monstering.  We got to mess around with the ritual circle (its like I can't leave, and Saturday will prove that).  Monster slots are 2 hours long, and post the ritual I completely forget what I then went an did.  I can not remember a damn thing about the rest of the night (and there was no alcohol involved).

Saturday, up at 9 and off I went into the Merc camp.  In a strange way it was quite a nice morning.  I had little to do til midday, where there was an hour long ritual lesson being set.  This is something I love about CP, the Game Team put a massive amount of effort into helping the players develop and learn how the game works and what they can do.  The Academy of War is a player lead (Game supported) organisation that can let players learn new skills and abilities (something that you are normally capped to one of per year with a maximum of 7 (10 with bonuses)).  The college is more of a magical debating and research group, run by both Game and Players in tandem.  There are Blacksmith guilds, Surgeon Guild etc etc, all there to help progress fields within the game, and Ritual School is a new one started this year, support by the lovely Zara (special mention here, because Zara has kept pushing my Ritual game since I started last year).  We hit the hour long ritual school, and decided to play about with a special ritual to get us all thinking, and immediately afterwards my props and contributers arrived to do our ritual.. which had 2 more items in it than I expected.  I was meant to just be renewing 1.. I had a play for 1.. fine.  a rewrite of a ritual in 10 minutes and bosh 3/3.

Right, lunch, because I've been playing now for 3 hours and not had anything to eat yet.  Mhorish are my current choice for sustenance.  They supply 3 meals every day, and supply a ticket based system where you can buy in to the whole weekend if you so desire.  The price is massively discounted, so unless you are just topping up a self catered menu or want to shop around for food then getting the tickets is so worthwhile.

I've still not encountered a single item of World or Kesh plot.  I'm so busy thinking about the ritual I have coming up that I basically spend the next hour or so with a ref radio on and not listening to anyone else.  This one is the biggy, the one I've been dreading and looking forward to all weekend.  I'm going to make a banner, a really good banner, for a Mercanary group called the Black company.  To be honest I've messed them about a bit.  I was supposed to start this at event 1, but as people know I flaked out of the event.  Event 2 was no better, and at the Event 3 (I actually made it this time) I had no experience of the group of contributers nor they of me, that I cut the ritual down and only did the first part of what was needed (normally parts 1 and 2 can be done together, to then tackle the big part 3 on its own).  So.. for my next trick I'll do part 2, and part 3, at the same time.

I don't really remember the next 10 minutes plus of ritualing.  I remember we had to fight our way back to the ritual circle because it got monstered again right before we started.  Damn monsters.  I remember carrying the banner around while we fought and ran around from fear effect (which amused me a the time seeing as the banner was going to be able to let the Black Company resist that kind of stuff).  I remember getting back and demanding the circle let me enter so that I could clean up the mess the monsters had left behind.  After that.. its a bit of a blur.  I know my directions weren't completely followed from the original plan, but it was close enough that it didn't matter and I could wing it.  I know that it went well.  I know the Black Compnay that weren't pulled into the circle with me were singing.  There was a lot of screaming going on.  It was fun.  There was an honour guard for me (well probably the banner) when I finished and left the circle.  I know we got a complete success.  I was pretty happy and 4/4 was good.

For the life of me, what the hell did we actually do?  I mean, yes I still have the bullet point idea in my head, but I'm in that damn circle and I never get to see what we do, how it looks.  Slender Pictures if you happened to record this ritual (or any of my rituals) please can I watch them, just send me the clips privately because I actually want to watch one for a change!

Anyway, banner made.. its a good banner.  There is a level up from Complete success which I've not hit yet, but the actual ability of the banner might have made it hard enough as it is.  So a complete will do me.

Saturday rattled through, I'm pretty sure I slept, ate, and somehow missed all interaction with plot.  I very very rarely miss interaction with plot.  Hell at event 3 I was actively trying to avoid it as I had helped out a little by writing some of the local flavour plot and I somehow managed to get all the way through to the last day when two ladies managed to bump into me and verbatum my plot sheet back at me (well done by the way). The big thing that caught me on the Saturday was the end of the Moredhel.

Curious Pastimes has had some really long running groups, and the Moredhel were one of the longest.  It is such a shame that this group has now seen its time end, especially as one of my close friends was one of the people that had been with them for such a long time.  The Moredhel existed when I started in 2008, and some characters haven't changed in that time.  Sul has been involved with one of these characters since we joined the factions (she liked my shiny scale armour!) and so seeing her leave was going to be difficult.  The Kesh (thankfully) aren't prone to greiving, so instead I got to play angry and grumpy at how the Gods need to be put into their place (because their leaving plot was that their gods insisted they leave).  This is not, necessarily, the best way to then have to handle more rituals.

We managed to be more work on our spear (and I even used one of those cliche endings for my rituals.. "thats a story for another time").  5/5 and just one more to do for the whole weekend.  What I wasn't expecting was to see 3 ritual markers come down for this one.. thats not normal.  I actually don't fully know why everyone was there, but I didn't mind.  We had a plot ritual to do, something that needed to be sorted out for the Kesh story to keep moving onwards.  Its rituals like this where you get to play a little bit.  They can still go wrong, the plot changing drastically in one direction or another because of what happens, but plot rituals are more roleplay orientated, its about trying to cast your hand over a story, move the pieces slightly and see where they end up.  Its not like renewals where people can have a physical item stop working, there is more of an expectation when people want you to renew things.  Plot rituals, they are a lot more fun.

One of the nicest things about working with the group of people I did over the weekend was how much I trust people to just go to town.  I don't like my rituals being completely free reign, there is always a set of bullet points for each ritual that I will mentally rattle down and let people know about.  What people say in each section is completely up to them, and its amazing how well the Kesh ritualists and those of the Teutonians that I have worked with pick up on que and run with it.  The same happened in the last ritual.  It just worked, flowed correctly and had everything we needed.  I'm going to try and build more effects and props into my rituals, but knowing that the people I game with can just roll with it is also exceptionally helpful.

6/6 done... and after that?  Well as it happens nothing.  I was done for the weekend.

Ritual running is one of those things that dominates the weekend.  May people that do it call it Cat Herding on an epic level, and it really can be.  Do you have your plan? Are all the contributers there? Do you have any props or items you might need? What about the actual item or person you are working on? Right time to head off?  Oh, and by any chance does anyone have the money... damn it.  Once you have done all of the rituals for the weekend you then collapse a little, its all over, and then the nagging happens, the circle of "look at me" starts calling, you want to just jump in and to a few more, some that don't really matter (well not to you anyway).

I spend Sunday going for food, sleeping, watching a few rituals, and completely missing plot.. again.  There was a bit of fall out from the Moredhel leaving, and CP's first big battle of the weekend.  As the Akesh were playing and I'm a flaky ritualist with no combat skills or magic at all, the general rule of the Akesh is I don't go near the battle field.  That actually came about, In Real Life, because of my back pain.  Sadly, even though that is clearer than it has been, its not a limitation on the character due to being paper thin and without enough power to make him worthwhile on the field (I have plans next year).  There is something helpful about being able to grab lunch and sleep in this time, but the rest of the day kind of dispersed in a blur.  One of my characters original family members, one of the people who helped build the original family idea (something that two of us had kind of stumbled upon due to a single LARP weapon we picked up at an open day at DarkBlade) was gone.  To make matters worse he was the last of the original two handed hammer weilders (2 died, 2 left, and me... no longer able to use them).  Officially the original Tyanites are now all gone.. its a very odd feeling and I kind of struggled to register it for the rest of the day.

The long weekend comes to a close with Monday, a mad dash early morning for me so that I can get myself ready to Battle Ref.  This is where, as a volunteer, I really get to see the hard work that goes on.  The level of planning, the attempts that the Game team take to make sure everything is going to be safe, fun and at the same time seem chaotic and terrifying for the playing factions.  In addition, I also have the somewhat entertaining idea of dealing with a faction of players that I normally don't deal with.  Now, I'll admit right now, I am not confident with battle reffing.. yet!  That is a key thing, even after a couple of years those battles are something you can only learn to handle by being there and doing it (you don't buddy up very often with big battles because they need everyone available to do a job), you will only ever see everything that can happen on a battle field once every now and then.  Crushes don't always happen, not near you anyway, so to know what one looks like and how to handle it can be a steep learning curve.  Knowing when to stand back and observe or get in to the line and watch.. each thing adds a layer of complixity.  However, that is what you are there to do, so the only option is get stuck in.  There are plenty more people who know more than me, so if they say something I try to do it, add it to the list in my head as something to watch for and then get going.  Being a volunteer is an interesting job.

There are moments in big battles where you realise how epic these games can become.  A huge number of players (not all 800, but a lot of them), storming across the battlefield.  A prime example of this was the start.  The Monsters had a plan to skirmish and hold the entrace way to the battlefield, once a breach had been made.  Instead, the Black Company as a whole charged through the breach, no slow advance, this was a headways sprint at the enemy, and the Monsters scattered, there was no way they would have been able to hold and they reacted, no like automatons set up to be smashed aside, but as real living, breathing, scared troups.  Watching the Lions weep over their dead at the end of the fight was possibly the best, brief, outline of how a collective of people can form and care for one another regardless of the fact that it is not real life, isn't serious in any way shape or form, and yet the loss and heartbreak of such things can be well played and heartfelt all at the same time.

That personal touch

In trying to stop this being a trumped up display of my own ritualing successes and nothing else, what is important to point out is just how well Curious Pastimes gets the idea of trying to get everyone to stop and believe in the world in which they play in.  I've lost count of how many different people some of the crew play, how many different characters they have to have a handle on.  The organisation of the crew, both overall and their individual control, is amazing and it is what allows people to get so emersed.  On top of that, a plethora of event crew make sure the players have everything they need, are cared for in cases of injury, and are safe on the site.  Everything which has to work in a real life sense is handled seamlessly, and this means that the game world can just keep going without concern.  On top of that, the volunteer refs that I have the  pleasure of working with work their socks (IC and OC) off.  It is a joy to be part of this team, and while there is always a balancing act between the reffing and the still being a player, there is nothing better than seeing refs get caught out by something they weren't expecting a player to do, or that random comment on the radio which they have to keep straight face for.

As noted before, then there is plot.  So much plot.  I don't know for certain, but this is something that seems to be unique in CP.  Certainly the explanation I have had from people who play other systems, is that CP the plot is there to find or to have "forced" on you, while other systems its up to the players to make the plot or hunt down the small number of things which are affecting the whole world.  To write all of this plot, there is only a small dedicated team (or set of teams, a faction will have their own little team of writers and then the world has its own little one as well).  To keep things going with just small groups of people is quite amazing.  The number of people I have seen who are saying the first thing they have done since getting home is starting to write or having meetings over next years plot.  It is seriously impressive that there are people in this system that are determined to make sure the players have fun and have something to do at every gathering.  To each of these people I raise my digital hat.

I can't deny that I was on the brink of stopping LARP recently.  Some of you may have already read my post on social anxiety and what it did to my first event this year.  I also know that personal life got in the way of quite a lot of my friends, and people who are important to me, from enjoying this event as well.  However, I think there has been enough for me to want to come back and experience the world of Curious Pastimes again next year.  Heck I've got a Banquet coming up soon which I really will have a lot of fun with.  The winter can feel like a very long and drawn out period of time before the next major event, but with hope I can make a few of the faction events and monster to my hearts content.

If you are interested, then have a look for Curious Pastimes on Facebook, there are a lot of different groups (the Unofficial page being a good start point) and have a look at all the things that go on there.  Hopefully I will have some photos on here soon too from some of the photographers that prowl the battlefield and the camps over the weekend (I just have to ask them nicely).

Monday, 22 August 2016

Kickstarter #8

A Dystopian Celebrity

So it’s a bit later than I planned, but here is the next post on this somewhat haphazard blog of mine.  I hope you have kept yourself distracted with the rather good podcasts and youTube channels in my absence.  As with my normal posts on Kickstarter, I’m going to go through a few of the interesting projects that are out there at the moment.  Certainly, in at least one instance this week, I’ve got myself all in a fluster over one of the options here.  I’m pretty sure that people who knew me from back in my University days will understand why (considering it was a game we talked about a lot in the past).  Once more, I’ve not play tested or looked at these things before, so this is completely cold in terms of a review of the Kickstarters and what they offer (as well as a little bit of person buzz as well).

SLA Industries – Daruma Productions

So SLA Industries...  Let’s just say that seeing SLA come back in any format is something just a little bit special.  This was, back in 1999 when I got to Sheffield Uni, one of those games that myself and my collections of friends somewhat obsessed over.  Now, it wasn’t something I ever actually got a chance to play until quite a few years later, but at the time we used to chase around eBay in the vague hope of finding a copy of the rules or the various source books in order to make sure we had everything we needed to play this game.

To be honest, my little RPG group were fairly obsessed with Cyberpunk/Dystopian future type games.  SLA certainly fits that bill, but it comes at the genre with its own rather interesting twist.  Unlike games like Cyberpunk and Shadowrun, characters weren’t part of the shady underworld (dealing in jobs that no one else would do).  In SLA you were a celebrity, if you wanted to be.  You got more money having sponsorship deals and selling TV rights to your missions than you might have earned from the job itself.  Well that was one of the options anyway.  It was a bit daft, having whole moments of trying to become popular and get more money from fans etc to keep you going in the field.  At times it could be really daft, but actually it worked out quite well.

Daruma Productions and Nightfall Games are brining SLA back as a Skirmish level wargame, and I have to say I’m pretty excited by this.  I first saw/heard about this from Straw and Parker over on the Battlehammer channel, and I think it is fair to say that they are also pretty excited about this as well.  The miniatures do look really nice, they have certainly looked at getting the style from the original RPG out into miniatures form.

Now initially when I looked at this, it seemed like this was only for the rules and the faction cards (which I assume are useful), and I was wondering why there weren’t any models in the options.  It seems like Daruma have decided to have the models build in over time with the stretch goals, some of which will be purchasable and some which will come in automatically as they are unlocked.  I don’t mind that too much at all, because it gives you the option of having all the stats you want and not having to purchase additional boxes of models in order to have a game (after all, there are quite a lot of models out there which will make fairly good proxies for this sort of thing.  The models then become a bonus, and as noted before, they do look like they are rather good.

If this can capture any of the RPGs original feel and style than I will be quite impressed.  From what I can tell, it seems to be doing quite well at that.  I’ll probably put a bit of money on this myself.

Eschaton – Archon Games

Ok, so after fanboying a bit, it’s now time to have a look at something which has popped out because of the concept of the game.   Eschaton looks really interesting for this very reason.  I mean, it’s difficult not to have a look at a Deckbuilding card game based on the idea of building a cult to take on the world.  Now, before anyone says anything, this is the sort of fantasy cult you read of in books, with the pitchforks and the torches, living somewhere which is equally fantastical and NOT REAL.  Though I’m pretty convinced some of those games exist as well out there.

Anyway, Eschaton has gone for a really dark and moody scheme.  There are quite a few images of the cards on the Kickstarter page, and they look like old fashioned block colour sketches you sometimes get in RPG books (especially those in to old White Wolf Vampire books and the like).  The basic premise appears to be that everyone starts with a default cult deck, and then slowly build up your deck over time (as with any other deckbuilder game).

The difference seems to be that you then use your new, more defined deck to start claiming territories on a map, rather than just gathering points cards or trying to knock your opponents out of the game.  This seems to be a somewhat different approach at tackling the same problem, how to get someone to win based on the concept of a rotating set of cards and options.  I kind of like the more visual concept towards this problem.  I always got a little annoyed with things like Dominion, as ultimately you might feel like you are doing quite well, til that count up moment at the end when someone ends up actually being miles ahead.  Now, seeing someone is miles ahead can be disheartening, but it also means you know who to go after and can start planning their downfall.  That might actually make things more interesting for some people.

Anyway, Eschalon is here... go have a look

Exquisite Beasts – Turtle Dream Games LTD

You might have noticed that a lot of the board games I look at are based on them having a bit of a quirky style or an odd premise in terms of the “story” of the game.  Exquisite Beasts definitely falls into this category.  In addition to that though, this Kickstarter also have a bit of an interesting set of pledge levels.  So first off, I’m going to look at what it actually is.

In Exquisite Beasts, each player plays as a Mad Scientist.  For a while now you have all ruled over the city of Pleasantville, perched in your magnificent castle, doing what Mad Scientists do.  Well, the citizens are a little bored of this situation now, and a mob is forming.  The only option is to build yourself a monster out of the various pieces of ancient creatures lying around, hope that it is a stormy night, and then go out and deal with the mob.  While you are at it, perhaps you can knock down a few of your opponents castles in the process.

This is a multi-phase game.  Firstly you see if it is a stormy night so that you can animate your new creation (unless you already have one out and about in the streets that is).  Then the mob grows in strength, getting a bit more powerful.  Finally you send out your minions to collect pieces, you fight, and deal with any damage being done.  It really does sound like a very silly little game and I really like the look of it too.  The art is definitely suitable for the sort of game they are looking at, with a slightly comic book/cartoon type vibe to it.

Now the Pledge levels definitely seem interesting.  35 Euro gets you the game, but you can also pledge less than that to get a Print and play package instead.  Now, this isn’t the sort of thing I would look at (I like proper prints of games), but it is only 10 Euro to get that, which is a massive saving if you can do decent prints yourself.  100 or 150 Euros allow you to get your own “image” in the game, either as one of the mob or, at the higher level, one of the Mad Scientists that will be included.  Now I don’t have that sort of money, but there is certainly some temptation to be “in” a game in that sort of fashion.

This definitely looks like a lot of fun.  For me, I have to work out if I can afford this on top of SLA industries.  Either way, I recommend having a look at this here.

Real life gaming calls

So, there we have it.  I will likely get another something out next week.  If I’m sensible about it, I’ll remember to write something about Curious Pastimes.  CP is a Fest style LARP which I have been going to since 2008.  This weekend is the flagship event for the year (called Renewal) and as such spans out over the entire Back Holiday weekend, involves two massive fights, and generally includes some of the best rounded plot I have experienced since I started poking my head at LARP systems.

Anyway, enjoy one and all.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Keeping the mind

The People out there to listen to or watch

So generally speaking people in the wargaming community are pretty open folks, and there is a lot of getting on with one another and witty sarcasm and the like.  As part of that, knowing people who are somewhat famed in the community also comes with an interesting sort of twitch, which I get when going to tournaments.  You see, you hear people talking, and you know the voices from hearing them chirping out your phone or via youTube, but you don’t actually know these people in any way shape or form.  One of the advantages of only doing a Blog, no one knows what I sound like.

However, this post is my chance to actually direct you to some of the people I listen to, or watch, as part of my general hobby time (or at work via Podcasts, as it’s generally accepted in an IT office).  I’ve tried to break these down, firstly into Podcasts and then YouTube, and as part of that I’ve also outlined the game, or games, that are discussed on those shows.  These are, for the most part, people I actually know, but still a few of these I’ve not met in real life, and it’s always a little odd when I see/hear them in real life.

Podcasts 

Malifools 2nd Edition – Malifaux
Malifools was the first podcast I started listening to last year when I was getting into Malifaux.  They went on a bit of a break recently, byt Malifools 2nd Edition (MF2E) is back and I’m rather glad.  Mike, Joel, Matt and Lee have been going over some of the new things in Malifaux, and their general feelings on the game as it stands.

Breach Boys – Malifaux
Sadly on a bit of a break at the moment, but Leigh and Ross have a somewhat different approach to Podcasting.  Certainly a touch more of the “childish” humour and adult language level, but the duo break down games they have played, what they think of the community, and their approach to gaming and the hobby.

Mc’Fauxish – Malifaux
Breach Boys Ross goes on a more family friendly wander through his gaming life, and the episodes I have had the chance to listen to are based around his tournament experience.  Ross and his opponents break down the game they have just played, and what choices they made.  A good listen, as it brings some insight into the way people approach tournament games.

Before We Begin – Malifaux
Dan sets out to find some of the well-known players in the US (and some of our UK locals) and then basically drops them into an arena to see who gets out.  Setting the opponents the task of picking crews to play against one another over the Malifaux Vassal mod, Dan gets the players to explain their choices for his listeners.

Who Cares Who Wins – Guild Ball (and Bushido?)
Chris and Steve, with a decidedly adult humour approach to talking about Guild Ball.  Mixed with plenty of Guild Ball related thoughts and considerations (Once you get past the first 45 minutes), and remember if Mat Hart is on an episode you are bound to get a spoiler for the upcoming season.  Recently joined by Chris (yes another one), who is quite heavily into his Bushido stuff, and there has been a special edition WCWW on that game as well.

Other mentions (these are podcasts I have, but either aren’t specifically about the games, aren’t ones I listen to a lot, or are relatively new, so I know less about them) –

Breachside Broadcast (the stories from the books read out like an audiobook)
Double Dodge
Guild Ball Tonight
Tabled

YouTube

The Battlehammer – Guild Ball, Zombicide, Frostgrave, Wrath of Kings, Gaslands, and more
Straw and Parker off their own take on a wide range of games, alongside their own “eclectic” use of the English language, gaming songs, and innuendos.  Straw and Parker take you through their own games, bring in gaming celebrities, and take you on road trips around the various Guild Ball Tournaments.  Just don’t mention that damn Wizard.

Who Cares Who Wins – Bushido (and Guild Ball?)
Chris (the second one, the new guy) goes through his games of Bushido (normally played against Lee) and also shows progress on painting, terrain/board building and also breaks down the rules of the game.  Also contains a couple of videos where Chris (the original (the best?)) and Steve play a bit of Guild Ball.

Hot Gates Gaming – Guild Ball and The Hobbit
I’m not really into The Hobbit game (partly through my antipathy towards Games Workshop), but James does have quite a few games of Guild Ball for people to watch as well.  He takes a single team and then plays them against all the Guilds in the game, giving people a look at what he hopes he can do and how each game progresses.

More to look at and see

These are my current crop of associated Podcasts and YouTube channels that I frequent and subscribe to, and if you are interested in any of the games I play then I recommend each and every one of the above.  If your world is more Games Workshop centric than I would point you towards Miniwargaming.com and their YouTube channel, as it is one of the most active war gaming channels out there.  For boardgames I think the only place to go really is The Dice Tower.

I’m still trying to work out what I want to do in these fields, certainly I’d like to get more Bushido content out there some day, as it is one of the systems that I don’t think features enough on Podcasts or on youTube.  I quite fancy the idea of doing a general Podcast which covers a range of games.  In the end though, I need a working PC and a few people to talk to and record to get that off the ground.  One day, one day.  Til then, and even afterwards, I think you should all go and listen to/watch the people I have mentioned above.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Kickstarter #7

I'm at a loss

So its time for another Kickstarter post, but this week I'm at a loss.  I normally try to find four Kickstarters I like the look of, but this week I've only found one.  Nothing really jumped out at me, nothing grabbed my attention enough, and ultimately what I've found is something that (if I could afford enough of them) would plausibly solve the issue of board game storage creep.  As some people might know I've got a lot of games and little storage space.  Anyway, lets at least have a look at this Kickstarter, and I will explain why I like the look of it, but also a few things I think could count against it, or could be improved.

BitBox - Game-Ovations - LLC

There have always been attempts made to help gamers to store and improve their boardgame collection capacity.  Initially the vast majority of these storage options were designed to optomise the way the original game boxes are used.  The general introduction of Box organisers (either laser cut mdf, plasticard or foam board) has allowed people to make setting up and storing pieces in the box a lot easier.

In general this is great, games like Eclipse are a pain for bringing out on the table and setting up, so the box organisers also improve the set up time as you don't have to dig everything out.

The issue, of course, is you still have to get all the boxes themselves stored somewhere, and that is not always easy.  My personal storage unit isn't big enough now for all the games I own, and logically this means I need even more storage somewhere in the house (not actually easy when space is a premium in some houses, such as mine).  So internal organisers are good, but collections are still limited by the boxes themselves.

BitBox allows you to compress everything even more, by eliminating the need for the box, and putting all your games into a specially designed set of file boxes.  The benefit here is clear, more games fit into a smaller space.

The design idea is nothing new, I'm sure I have seen the concept before, but BitBox seems to have a clearer ideal than most.  The boxes and organisation seems to have been thought through, and you certainly get a lot for your money.  $30 will get you one of the storage units, but the idea is that will then fit 10-16 games (I'd be needing 5 of them based on that estimate).  Plus you can get a carry case variant, so that you can move your games around to play with other people.  That in itself makes things very interesting.  Of course there is something to say for buying these things one at a time when you start collecting, thus spreading the cost, something I wouldn't necessarily be able to do.

Now, I personally like this Kickstarter because of the size and depth of these boxes.  Clearly you could make these yourself from existing file boxes, if you wanted to spend that time.  However, these boxes are well laid out, you know for a fact that they have enough space in them for the boards as well as the pieces (something some of these boxes fail to do, meaning boards and rules end up loose elsewhere).  You can't quite split everything up as you could with box organisers, but at least there is that.

There are issues with the idea though.  Transferring trays over to the travel case may take longer (if you have to move boards between boxes for instance, if the boards aren't already in the same tray then you'll have to work that all out each time).  In the original game boxes that won't be the case.  They have got around the issue of knowing what is in each BitBox by having labelled outsides, which I like, but I also like seeing all the official boxes and art work crammed into my cupboard, and I know (because I have this as well) people would be loathed to give up those official boxes, so there is the need for storage just for them (though a watertight store in the loft might do).  The thing is the box art can also be the thing to tempt new players into doing something while they visit.

Finally though, and I do hope I can link Game-Ovations into this post, I really want to be able to have an envelope type thing to put the game boards into before I put them in the game tray.  That way I don't have to dig through all the folded up boards in each tray to find the right ones.  An extra set of cardboard slips that the boards go into would be ever so helpful, especially if they hand the outside label option as well.  Now I'll admit some games have a lot of space requirements for the boards (such as zombicide) but I still thing even using 2-3 of these slips for big games would be easier than lots of game boards being loose and mixed together.

Even with all those downsides I still like the look of this.  Also one of the pledge levels is just outstanding (if miles and miles off my budget at $2000).  Pay that much, and Game-Ovations will fly to your house, with an "unlimited" number of boxes, to sit and go through organising your entire collection for you.  Sometimes, the height of laziness can be ever so appealing.  That said though, I do think that is a unique and rather cool little pledge level.

There aren't really any stretch goals here, but the produce itself isn't really "expandable" in that way anyway.  There is the option of buying extra trays and boxes of course, but I think buying the packages in the set pledge levels is more than enough.  The question of course, is the downside of "losing" the box outweighed by the space saving.

Finally, for those outside the US (the vast majority of my readers), there is quite a postage price on top of the item.  Its $30 to the UK for instance.  I assume this is due to the bulk rather than the weight, but it is a shame.  I'm hoping these sorts of things get over here for retail once the kickstarter is done, at which point some of the postage will be consumed by the retailers rather than having to fall flat on the customer.. sadly we won't know if these even end up being locally sold til a lot later on.

Anyway.  The Kickstarter is right here if you do want to look.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A bit of Nostalgia #6


AEG’s little masterpiece

I was going to cheat this week, because I was going to put two different RPGs into my Nostalgia post.  Now I did have good reason for this, because both games were heavily based on the same gaming system.  In the same way as White Wolf had a single core rule set, that they then hung a decent background and a few special powers off of (please note, I know they still have the single core rule set, but they seem to have forgotten the decent background part in the more modern games they have released), AEG created the Roll and Keep system and then hung two very good settings and a couple of special rules onto.  Through this they released Legend of the five Rings (l5R) and 7th Sea.

I’m still even now debating which one of these two I’m going to look at.  They are both fantastic and I was going to do both at the same time, but I think they deserve their own little section in the Nostalgia wings of BGG.  So, this blog is going to be about…. 7th Sea.

Why?  Why I hear (absolutely none of) you cry?

Well, because it’s probably the least well known of the two.  L5R has a massive following behind it, a really heavily detailed CCG, new version of the RPG that are constantly being released, and thus still quite a popular following.  7th Sea on the other hand is only just seeing a second edition come out, but someone else, and via Kickstarter, and I never really understood why.  The core mechanic is the same, the special rules are actually more fun and certainly more cinematic than L5R, and the setting is… well it’s a fantastical version of Europe, something people might actually know a bit about and  be able to join in with.  L5R, being oriental in nature, always suffered from the guy who knew a bit about the culture and so would dick around including references in the games that no one else would really know about (and yes, I was that guy).

So let’s go with the same outline as I have done before.  Background, System and then Playing experience.

Background

Set on the World of Theah, 7th Sea is heavily influenced by 17th century Europe.  The topographical view of the game is pretty much the same as Europe, though most of the nations are slightly different is shape and the political nature of each state is also slightly different.  In addition the world still has a strong tie to magical arts, and there are a few other bits and pieces kicking around as well which make things every so blatantly different to the real world.  Now, it was entirely possible to play the game based on the idea that you were all just adventurers mixing with the local flavours of Theah, but I think it is fair to say that the real draw of 7th Sea was that every was just a little bit Errol Flynn in nature, and a lot of people went with the idea of being Mercanaries for hire, or even better, a small Pirating band.

The Nations you picked for your character also have a big effect.  From which magic you could take (if you were so inclined) to the languages you knew, and most importantly which Swordsmaster schools you could learn from.  The Sword schools really were a big part of the game, in fact most people didn’t really play with the magic too much, because the stuff you got to do as a swordsmaster was just so much fun.  Either way, a small breakdown of the nations is worthwhile.

Avalon – Basically the UK, but in this case rather than England having forced Ireland and Scotland into a British style, the three nations (Avalon, Innismore and the Highland Marches) are drawn together in treaty.  Queen Elaine rules the country and Fey are very prevalent, especially for those in Innismore.  Magic is called Glamour and is about disguise and trickery.  The main sword style involves a short sword and buckler (and is basically quite Saxony in style, with a lot of cheap dirty tricks rather than honourable duelling).  Avalon isn’t liked much because it just broke away from the Vaticine Church.

Castille – Spain, right in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition.  Castille is home of the Vaticine Church and is a highly vealot nation.  Mix into that a bit of Zoro, with El Vago a desperado fighting against the rule of the Church and the strangle hold of certain well off nobles who have paid said church a lot of money to own land etc.  Magic is outlawed here, but they have a sword school which uses a Rapier and a lot of dancing to keep people distracted.

Eisen – Germany, still somewhat in a bad shape after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.  In this case Eisen is basically a loose collection of five Noble estates, and the land itself is more or less mud and craters after the wars that occurred over a thirty year period when the country really did go to hell.  They do have a rather lucrative metal here though, and that is more or less what has kept the nation going.  They do have magic (if I recall correctly it’s somewhat elemental based), but the main thing they have is a sword school dedicated to the old idea of lots of armour, and a really big sword.  The school basically uses the idea of soaking up damage to get up close and personal, and using your gauntlets to bash people to the ground so you can stab them.

Montaigne – France, just slightly before the Revolution, so you have an Emperor and a rather over the top sense of self privilege.  Montaigne used to rule quite a lot of territory, but with a general degradation they have stopped being the same power house they used to be, and the peasants are starting to move towards revolting.  They have the power to rip holes in reality so that they can create portals (as a note, these casters use a dagger to literally cut a hole in reality, which bleeds as they do it).  The sword school is based on rapier and insults.  Once you have annoyed your opponent enough they make a mistake, you can then go in for the kill.

Ussura – Russia, around the time of the Boyers with the reformations of Catherine the Great on the horizon.  This very cold and wintery country is just on the edge of modernisation, but some people really don’t like it.  Especially those that have a serious case of wanting to keep to the spiritual ways of the people.  There is no sword school here, but there is a Magic type, with the ability to connect to spirit animals and shape shift into the various (and rather dangerous) animals of Ussura.

Vendal – Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, the time line for these is in the historical renaissance of their culture.  Basically this was a time period where the area rapidly swapped to a mercantile set of nations, but in the real world they didn’t forget their heritage.  Well in Theah it’s very difficult for them to forget because the Vestenmannavnjar (Vikings) still exist, and really aren’t impressed with their trading neighbours.  The Magic school and Sword school are both from the Viking side, with Rune magic (wards and protection spells) going hand in hand with a “sword” school about getting really angry if you get hit and taking that anger out on people’s faces… preferably with an Axe in fact.

Vodacce – A collective term used in the game in the place of the Merchant States of Italy.  Though this isn’t the pretty and nice Italy we think of now.  Instead each of the Merchant States works together mostly because they play a great game against each other in the background, and partly because the magic of the nation is only held by woman, and that magic is the ability to manipulate and change Fate.  The Sword school is equally devious, with practitioners learning how to fight with their off hand, so that firstly people are confused with things being the wrong way around (remember in this day and age everyone is Right hand dominant, even if they aren’t), and secondly so when you use the dagger in your right hand you can actually use it to attack rather than just defend.

Now, as I said most games work on the idea that you play a character from one of these nations, and to gather everyone together most games worked on the idea that you had then discarded your ties to your nation for one reason or another.  After this, the game then works through the basic mantra of coming up with weird and wacky things to do.

The system

So, as I said before this uses AEGs roll and keep system.  It sounds more complicated than it is.

Generally, like many games, you had stats and skills, which you have bought at character creation.  In combining the numbers of a stat and a skill you would work out how many 10 sided dice you could roll in an activity.  For instance, if you wanted to hit someone you add together your Finesse and Attack (sword school) skill.  However, after rolling you only get to “keep” a number of dice equal to your stat.  Once you have worked out which ones to keep (normally the highest, not always) you would add them together to give you a total.

This pretty much worked for every single type of check in the game.  Damage would involve adding your Brawn to an initial value for the weapon (a rapier might be a 1k1 weapon, a two handed sword might be a 1k3 weapon etc).  Health was worked out as being a threshold amount you could take from a damage hit before you took a wound, and being wounded a number of times would knock you out.  In a rather interesting way there was also a social “combat” side of the game where you could actually put someone down in a public social situation to the extent that you basically ended their public standing and they had to slink away under your insults.  It was, to be honest, quite rare for groups to play the social side of the game, certainly a lot less often than in L5R where the game practically dripped in the political game play.

I also said that both L5R and 7th Sea added something different to the basic rule set.  7th Sea, in my opinion, had the best addition of the two… Drama dice.

Every player had a number of Drama dice for their character.  In a specific situation a player could choose to add drama dice to a role, in essence increasing not only the amount you could roll, but also the amount you could keep.  Drama was the big thing though.  Choosing to use the dice when it truly really mattered was fine, and you might get the dice back if the GM was nice.  More importantly though, even the most mundane action could be made “dramatic” by the way you tried to do it.  Walking down stairs to stab a guy might be important, but it you instead decide to jump from the balcony, grab the chandler above the bar to swing over the head of the rabble, landing just in front of the bad guy, tip your hat and then run him through… well in that case the GM can give you “free” extra dice to roll and keep, just because it is such a cinematic thing to do.  Of course, if you keep doing it, keep over dramatizing what you do, then the GM can do the reverse, because your character is just being an idiot if they always try to overdo everything.  It was all about kicking the right time to do the big things.

Game Play

On this account I do not know much, I managed to play one game of 7th Sea (over the course of only a few sessions), but I really liked the game, and I have always been looking to run a game for people.  Most of my experience of the Roll and Keep system is from L5R, and what I can tell you from that side of things is that the system flows really nicely.

I’ve always wondered why L5R was more loved than 7th Sea and honestly I have only come up with a couple of reasons.  Firstly people see Oriental stories as being more fantastical than the 17th Century European setting.  Partly this is because I think people somewhat riled against a setting which is a little too close to home, something they know a little bit about.  The second things I think people didn’t like was the fact that if people mostly played pirates why isn’t the setting somewhere out in the Caribbean, “I mean, that’s where all the pirating stuff happened right”… well no, but I do see your point a little bit.  Europe is a big old expanse of land, and the game wants you to move towards doing the pirate side of things, so why set it over here where there is less… well, sea.

Never the less, this is a good game, and people could easily build the “Spanish Main” into their world and probably do quite well with it.  Personally that is what I would likely do and really get into the Errol Flynn daring and dashing cinematic pirate movie... though if anyone happens to make a character called Jack, and isn’t a monkey, I might have to just push them overboard immediately.

7th Sea was, by all accounts a good game.  I just wish I had had the chance to play it more.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Kickstarter #6

Oh crap! My childhood returns

Very quick intro here because I want to jump straight away to a really big Big BIG kickstarter.  So, here is my kickstarter review, with its whimsical look at four of the current gaming kickstarters out there.  Once again, I do not have a copy of these things to play, these are basically my reviews of the kickstarter themselves, though serious one of these I would honestly die for (I wish I had the money for this I really do).  So without further a due, I'm opening up my brain and allowing an old friend to start messing with my head again

System Shock - Nightdive Studios

Sweet mother of mercy, please please please someone, anyone, I throw myself in front of you and beg for this game.  Actually, System Shock itself wasn't something I played, but System Shock 2... and just the thought that this Kickstarter going live could possibly mean SS2 comes out at some point as well.  I mean honestly, there are very few things in this world that could possibly drag me away from the computer if that were to ever happen.

Now, it possibly comes as a surprise to people that I, Mr "can't watch a scary movie even at home" would be obsessed with a Sci-Fi horror game.  However, please bare this in mind, System Shock was and still is a centenary game.  One of those that comes along once in a lifetime and spawns its own genre of gaming.  Deus Ex, Bioshock, A lot of the Aliens games (certainly Isolation) all come from System Shock.  I can (and probably should) put together a nostalgia post about System Shock 2.  Around 2002 I played it for the first time when the multiplayer mod came out.  In 2006 I trawled eBay and forked out £50 for this game.  It was release in 1999, and even seven years later it was worth having.  It still sits pretty at the top of my favourite PC games list.  Shodan is, and always will be, one of the best PC game villains of all time and I am so happy to see she is back.

So back to the Kickstarter.  With the recent run of remastered games, I jumped when I saw this.  The video intro is a little corny, but well worth the watch, and as you would expect the stretch goals are about multiplatform and additional content in the game.  What really makes this kickstarter is that you can already see they are most of the way through production.  Graphic shots, game play, music scores, all done.  So this Kickstarter is basically to refine the game and then get it out to people.  Instant win, and dear lord you will not regret it if this is anything even close to the original.

8 days left, $30 for a digital copy of the game.  Go look at it now and get yourself an absolute masterpiece of a game in next gen clothing.

Battle of Britain - PSC Games

So how do you move on from such a massive remake.  How about with another absolutely corking remake of another classic.

Now, I've never been lucky enough to play the original Battle of Britain board game, but from everything I have ever heard or seen on the original it really does warrant the title of classic.  I'm sure from the title you can guess what the game is about, but in a nutshell it really is the opportunity to recreate and rerun one of the most important parts of British history.

Now, with the correct hat on (ie not the one gushing over the fact that people keep remaking classic games that are impossible to get hold of in the original form), I'm going to look over the kickstarter.  First and foremost, the video will tell you far far more than I can on this simple blog.  It seems that the Plastic Soldier Company is basically releasing the original game, with refined rules for sections where they were a little weaker, and then adding some really nice 3d sculpts of the aircraft in as well, just to spoil people.  This kickstarter is well past all of its current stretch goals and the variety of miniature you are going to get (at a cut down RRP) really does look very very tempting.

Look over it here for more information.

Vampire Hunters - Dark Gate Games

Ok so something new, Vampire Hunters looks like a really good game.  You'd be forgiven for thinking this is just a Vampire version of Zombiecide, but on looking (and listening) a little more you will quickly notice that this has a lot more going into it, and there are some really nicely themed mechanics to get the distinct feel of the game well out into the open.

A few things that I picked up on really quickly though, the Minis are really really nice.  I mean really nice.  Someone has put a lot of effort into working out what this game is going to look like and feel like through those minis.  In addition it really does look like the rest of the pieces that have gone into the game have been thought through in detail, from the customisation in the game board (the bit that will make you think of zombiecide), to all of the cards, the art work and the general widgets that come with the game.  For a start, the hour counter is really very pretty, and the mechanic they have for it is pretty interesting.

Now, once you watch the game play video you really do get the idea that this is a very different game.  The Vampire activate based on cards, but after each player.. during the day anyway.  At night the order is reversed (and so are the vampire cards, making them harder during the day).  There are logical ways to play the game in a campaign as well, with points being usable to upgrade the characters between games.  This is something I've never really been happy about with Zombiecide's campaign play, because everything resets.  So I really think this is a good move.  And hey, if you die during a game you can always flip the character over and be a vampire for a while....

It does look rather tasty, so go have a look here.

Darkness Sabotage - Dethrone Games

Sometimes I just like to indulge in some truely gorgeous miniatures board games, and this one hits the nail right on the head.  While the wheat and chaff enemy models in Darkness Sabotage are simple, some of the boss models are just stunning.  I mean one of the ones shown in a picture of the board game is just unbelievable in scale.

So this possibly joins up three genres that most people would look sideways at and never put together.  But Dethrone Games have gone for a Space Pirates vs Demons board game, and what they have come up with is just... well eye catching is not doing it justice.

Again, it looks like the board is modular in design, giving you plenty of options in terms of games.  The art work on the kickstarter page is something else.  And serious I have to come back to those models, I mean blimey they are something else.

This looks like a truely immense cooperative game, with a variety of different scenarios to go with the game.  Some of which look really good.  Dice based mechanics for combat, a bunch of cards for your pirates to "steal" or set off on board the ship you have found.  I still can't register how good these models are either.

Go have a nose here.

The wrap up

Four things, all of which I want to have, and that is quite a rarity.  If I had the capacity to have them all I would, but I just don't.  I hope some of you find a few things you like here though and go and support these kickstarters.



Real life, the bane of all gamers

Whoops!

Yes, I know, I’ve been ignoring the blog for a few weeks.  After reviewing my first prototype game you surely can give me a bit of slack?  No?  Right, well screw you guys!

Ok, in all seriousness, real life gets in the way sometimes.  I find myself in a position that people generally don’t ever envisage, which is of someone who has become solely responsible for himself after some time of not being.  That done, all paperwork signed.  I’m not going to say I like it, because I don’t, it is not something that I ever wanted, but there it is, and I have a bit more to have to do than I thought I did to get myself in order and get my life going in the direction I want (and hope) it might go now.  So, yeah, I’ve been a bit busy, and therefore neglected my blog.

In addition to that, I’ve somewhat been caught up in a PC game.  Well as often as I can, because my PC is also being pathetic, Radeon don’t seem to like making Windows 10 drivers, and my graphics card is a little outdated and prone to crashing everything and anything it can get its hands on.  However, when I can play, I’ve been playing Overwatch.  I really really like Overwatch.  I’m not going to review it though.  I think there are plenty of websites and video game youtubers out there to already show you what it is all like.   So go have a look.

It does tie in to a few other things though.  So, because I like Overwatch, a lot (I hope this is becoming clearer), I’ve been watching all the youtube videos (made by people such as Muslek and Flik) and have been thinking over if I want to do some videos myself.  Now, I have actually done a couple.  I did an unboxing of the phase 2 CMON Black Plague kickstarter, I also did a short review of a Feldher bag that I’m using for my Guild Ball models, and if  you want to look for me on youtube I am around, but I’ve not really put the time and effort into it that I would like.  I’ve considered doing gaming videos (board games, guild ball/malifaux/Bushido, video games), but generally I think there are enough people out there that do them.  Well may be not the wargaming, Guildball Informer having gone into the mist more or less leaves those Battlehammer chaps, and Hot Gates Gaming, to cover that game.  Some bloke called Chris Hay does Bushido stuff, and Malifaux is.. well there are a lot of games out there, but most aren’t just straight battle report videos.  Anyway, there are people out there doing those things, and I don’t want to step on toes.  Straw and Parker, from the Battlehammer, are amazing guys (genuinely) and I personally know I couldn’t match what they do long term (for a start I don’t have the duo dynamic they have together, though don’t ask which one is the sidekick).  Hot Gates Gaming works because of the enthusiasm expressed through the camera, and those that know me know it takes a lot to get me to be enthusiastic (well at least to express it, beyond one of my goofy smiles).  Anyway, I don’t have the money to get the boards and the terrain, let alone the camera to record with.  If I can’t afford that, then can I really do videos?

So the other option out there these days is Podcasts.  A Big Grumpy Gamer podcast sounds like a laugh, but do I really do something like that on my own?  What would I do it about?  I mean, I don’t generally stay on topic at the best of times on here.  I do love Podcasts though, TotesMcAwesome from the Battlehammer was going to look at doing one, and that really piqued my interest again in the format.  That, and I’m rather fortunate to know McPigish and Bucky from the Breach Boys Podcast (though I sadly have not seen them of late because I’m too damn busy!).  I still want to work out what on earth to do the Podcast on if I do one.  Well, I say that, but if you listen to most podcasts they are a rambling path of random conversations mixed in with a bit of wargaming.  This is more or less my life, though there is a bit more boardgaming or computer gaming in there, dependent on the people I’m with.  So maybe this is something I could do, though again, I don’t really have the dynamic duo mix, or even a group to record with.  I do think Podcasts about gaming work better when there are more people involved in them (even if the herding of cats issue does rear its ugly head from time to time).

I’ll have to see if Mr McAwesome still wants to do some sound checks perhaps…

This blog is not dead though, I’ve been ignoring it as it laments on the bottom of people’s least likely to follow list (it’s not actually doing badly to be honest, considering I work on the good graces of others to share it.  So to those that have shared what I write thank you), but it really isn’t dead.  I’m quite impressed with myself for vaguely remembering to come back to it from time to time.  My hobby time is limited right now though (have I mentioned I’m rather busy and playing a lot of Overwatch?), but I want to get a few more games of Guild Ball in, learn how to play Bushido, meet some more people and generally mess about.  If anyone happens to fancy a meet up (I can drive, but if you aren’t busy I’m in the Sheffield area!) then please either find me on Facebook, Twitter or even leave a comment here.  I’m pretty sure I can sort out some sort of time.

Anyway, there is more to come, honest.  I’ll even be doing a Kickstarter review again… possibly even tonight... now that would be something.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Nightlancer review - A little case in the Cyberwar

Nightlancer – Adversity Games

You find me at an interesting point in my “career” as a blog writer. Sat, looking at me across my gaming table (its a completely fictitious term, the truth is its really my dining room table) is a copy of a very very new game. In fact its so new that it isn't even out yet, heck its not even in production yet. What I have in front of me is a copy of Nightlancer, a game which is going to be hitting Kickstater in the next few months. So the initial thing to say here is, considering my blog has been going for all of three months, thank you ever so much to Adversity Games for considering me as a reviewer.

That aside, what we are going to do right now is look into this game in as much detail as I can muster. There is a lot to say as well about it. Quite frankly considering this game is in prototype mode there really is a lot of well rounded ideas in the box, and you can likely guess that my overall judgment on this game is going to be very positive. I'm somewhat loathed that I have to send this copy off to the next reviewer if I am honest. I'm going to, within this review, go through the background of the game, the overall turn mechanics and then a kind of hightlights and lowlights section (for what its worth the lowlights really are few and far between).

Now, I'm going to add a small comment from Adversity Games here, the game was in prototype phase so the graphical content of the game is going to be worked over before it hits kickstater. The box art gives you an idea of what they are aiming for, and if that is the case then anyone who has played Cyberpunk 2020 than you will have a pretty good idea of what the art work is going to be like. The whole game has that genre at its very heart, and certainly you can tell that they really are looking at condensing the feel of that RPG into a semi-cooperative/competitive game. That last part being quite important so read down later if you want to see what I mean.

Background

So the background.. set in 2099 the world is in the grips of geopolitical turmoil and dystopian disasters. Humanity begins to use cybertechnology and narcotics to basically try to forget the rubbish of the world, and become more than human. While this is opposed by some groups, the rich use these vices to “transcend” the state of being human. Do it too quickly though you might find yourself less than human. These techshocked individuals form raging bands and police control slips, further dividing the rich and poor, as slums become insecure zones. You play a Nightlancer, someone willing to take on dark jobs and use even darker cybertech or weaponary to give you the chance of affording a way out of the slums.

So, this is definitely a staple of roleplay game communities, with several games reaching into this post-human, dystopian ideal, but I've not seen many board/card games that delve into it. Sure there is Shadowrun out there and the recently funded Oligarchy card game, but it hasn't been a major genre outside of RPGs. While this means it certainly triggers a certain amount of comparison with RPGs, Nightlancer certainly doesn't suffer under its Grandad's shadow.

Gameplay

Predominantly Nightlancer is a character progression style card game. There are a lot of decks to look after, and this can be quite daunting at first. Certainly there is a reasonably large set up time, but there are two very handy organisation boards to make sure everything can be set out easily enough. Going though them then, there is the Blackmarket deck (for cyberwear, weapons and other items that you can buy), the Contacts deck (which you get at least two of each turn and can affect skill rolls, or grant more of the other cards), the Agendas deck (which you can use to gain points, or some of them allow you to maintain your ideals), the Skills deck (which you get a number of each time you finish a mission, and can buy one of if you want, adding permanent boosts to your skill values), the Missions decks (Low and High difficulty), and the Events deck (which tell you how many missions of each type to use each turn, and then sets an immediate challenge to all or some players). In the first game looking at all of this was a bit of a headache, but actually each deck has very specific times when they are used, and following the board around can be done by which deck you are using each time.

At the start of the game you set the various decks up, and then turn over an Event card (you get 8 in total, 4 early events and 4 late events). Using that card you then turn over the correct missions, open up the black market cards for the turn and hand out contacts. Then you take the event test, which is normally a skill test. Picking a missions to do then finishes off the prep stage of the game. The Street phase allows you to buy points, complete an agenda, take out a loan, or buy a single card from the black market. We only did one of these things, so working out if we wanted something to complete your mission was also a bit of a risk reward as you can't do anything else.  However, in light of a conversation this morning with Adversity Games, you actually get to keep going around (in turn order) til everyone has passed, and I think this is definitely a far better idea, as it makes the loan mechanic far more appealing, and obviously the option of completing more than one agenda and still buying items is really handy.  In the end trying to figure out if you should be using the money you have to get the points you need at the end of the game, or pick up those nice Cyberclaws so you have a better chance at a fight you know will be on your mission can be vital, and not being limited to one or the other will certainly help.

The mission phase resolves around taking at least three tests to try and get to the end. I've deliberately skipped a bit of the Prep phase hear because it'll be easier to explain now. When you pick your missions you do it in the current turn order, and being the first person on a mission makes you the primary person in the first team. People can offer to join you, and if you accept then you basically get someone along who will make the same tests as you, and between you the highest result is then used to see if you pass. Of course you can say no, at which point they can do the same mission in the second team slot. Should you both get to test number 3 then you have to fight each other to see who actually gets the chance to try and complete the mission. Losing a gun fight is really harsh, as you lose all life and a point of ideal (if you have zero health you aren't out, but if you have zero ideal you can't win the game). Lastly, if you have the right contact card you can lock out the second team space on a mission, making it yours and no one elses to run through. This is where the semi-cooperative/competitive thing really shows up in detail.

The tests for each mission basically fall into either standard challenges or combat challenges. Each of the characters has base skill levels and these can be boosted by items or skills. Now there is a lot to go through with those, but skills are always on, cyberweapons are also permanent, but you can only use one weapon in any one test, so you'll need to decide if the cyberweapon is the one you want each time. “Normal” items are limited, firstly by a carry limit of three, but some missions you need to be sneaky or quiet (so that big old sniper rifle has to stay at home). Add up your points, roll the dice and see if you beat the number. If so move on to the next test. If not, you might find yourself shaken (unable to carry on, but also safe from the next event), just outright failing, being followed by the police, or in an outright gunfight (and as we know from above, loosing a gunfight is pretty serious). Standard challenges can also have special “flavours”, which require additional cards in order to even be able to pick that option, whereas Combat challenges automatically cost health.

The game lasts 8 rounds, and each time you work through the same steps. You can choose to miss picking a mission, which you do need to do because it reduces your heat (how interested the police are in you) and lets you fully heal up. After the game ends you work out your score, based on the points you have gain during the game from cards or buying points. Then you also add points for the money you have stored up, the ideals you have left, and lose points for any loans or heat you still have. Highest score wins.

Highlights

Firstly, this is a really well put together game idea. There is just enough of a strategic edge to it without it being overawing, the cards have enough different options on them that you don't feel each one has limited uses, and there are plenty of strategies to winning each game.

It didn't take too long to work out how to play it. We missed a few rules each play through, and honest they make a big difference to the game, but they didn't stop the game being playable, so it is quite forgiving if you forget things

There are a lot of these semi-cooperative games that fall over because the competitive side is an afterthought at the end of the game. There are plenty of ways in Nightlancer to really make things harder for other players and keep it competitive.

Even with it being a prototype there was enough in the box to keep track of everything, and I do love any game that gives you a clear organisation method.

Going back to the background, this is a pretty unique genre for board games, and it doesn't stumble in terms of keeping the background in the look and feel of the game.

One of people in the first group I played it with said its not a game they would turn down playing again, and they aren't anywhere near as involved in the board gaming world.

Lowlights

I personally think there were a lot of symbols to have to remember. Now I personally think there are a lot of ways to deal with this, and certainly I think a lot of this will be solved with the move from prototype to production.

Lastly, the amount that goes out onto the table might well put off a group that has no gaming experience at all. This wouldn't fall into my gateway games list.

Overall

I really really like this game, and I will likely be putting money on the kickstarter when it comes out. I really felt that after playing this a couple of times I well on the way to working out exactly how the game worked, and we didn't really have to pick up the rulebook that often when we played it the second time around. I am looking forward to how the design moves forward. It also fits a very good gap in my games list, as I don't have many “light” strategy games where there are many options for winning and also a direct set of confrontation options. The fact that it can stand alone, not just as a game in my collection, but also side by side with the roleplay games that also fit this genre. I can see me showing this game to people who know, and play, a lot of other games. I really can see some of my normal gaming group really enjoying this game, and certainly there will be avenues they will open up that we didn't see a lot of over the weekend (certainly someone I know will really like playing the negative effect of cards on their opponents, which we did little of in the games we played). It has that scope for people to play it in different ways and each option will be viable to get the win.

There were a couple of hiccups because we missed rules, I do, however, think a lot of that will be the normal rush through of the rules, and some aspects of the rulebook needing a little reworking.  I'd also be quite interested in the event cards having a long term effect over the missions as well, just to add even more re-playability to the game (not that there isn't already a lot of that anyway)

This is a solid 7.5/10 game, but also one that might well go further up the scale the more it is played and the more options you get to see. Each game also doesn't go through all of the mission cards and there are more than eight of the event cards in the box, so there is definitely a lot of re-playability anyway.

The Important bits

The Nightlancer game has a facebook page which can be found at http://www.facebook.com/NightlancerGame

The images used on this page are from the Nightlancer page itself (as you will see)

Adversity Games themselves can also be found on the following pages 

It is well worth a look around the various pages, and I have added links throughout this post for Nightlancer itself so curiosity should have got the better of you by now surely.