Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017: What I'm Looking Forward To

It's still crazy-early in the year - and many of the things I'm going to list here are already out in some areas (including mine), I just haven't played them, yet.

But here are a few things I'm really looking forward to playing this year:

Room 25 Ultimate - Room 25 is one of my favorite games. Especially when paired with Season 2, which adds a lot to play without significantly increasing the complexity of the game.  Room 25 Ultimate is the base game and the Season 2 expansion in one box. The rules have been laid out slightly differently, and there are some very minor rules tweaks (that improve the game by quite a bit), but I will be bringing this to every game gathering I'm involved with. Because I want to play it more.

Room 25: Escape Room - As if a re-release of the base game and expansion in one box wasn't enough, there is a new expansion coming with new rooms and new modes of play. This one should be available in May, according to a comment from the publisher on BoardGameGeek.

Cyclades: Monuments - Cyclades will always be a special game for me. I first played a prototype of the game a year before its release. The base game was the first time my wife and I both worked together on an English translation. And it's a really good game, which always helps. The Hades expansion drastically reduced the "stockpile money and then cycle creatures with Zeus until you get Pegasus so you can win the game" strategy that dominated play with just the base game. The Titans expansion made for a radically different style of play. This looks like it'll shake things up in a different way. It makes deciding which buildings to construct more important.

Barony: Sorcery - Barony is a game that I worked on a few years ago. It's a good game that is more challenging than its rules would suggest. It's simple to play - you only have six available actions, and so you're fairly constrained in what you can do. Sorcery adds a fifth player and a few more action types. Even if you strip the magic option, that fifth player has potential to radically shake the strategy for this game up. I love this game with four, in large part because of how challenging the strategy becomes. I can't wait to see what it's like with five.

Deus: Egypt - Deus was a pleasant surprise a few years ago. We showed up at GenCon and ... there it was. It was fairly simple to learn, and the strategy was not hard to puzzle out. A very good entry to tableau-building games.  Deus: Egypt is a new set of cards to add to the base game. Or, rather, to exchange with cards from the base game. They are more complex than the base game cards, but not drastically so. EDIT: Between writing this and its going live, I had the opportunity to play this expansion, and it's as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Inis - Inis is a big-box Matagot game. And it's already available and/or in stock in most areas. I just don't have my copy yet, but Matagot seems to do really good big box games. See also Giants, Cyclades, and Kemet. This is area control with a Celtic flavor.

Captain Sonar - This was the most-talked-about game at GenCon and Essen last year. It's an eight-player strategy game that is unique. Matagot managed to find a style of game that is completely unlike anything else on the market. I've seen a few reviews of this that weren't glowing, but most have been very positive. It's a team game where your goal is to find and sink the enemy submarine before they do the same to you. Every player has a different role to fill. The captain tells the ship where to go, the Engineer tries to keep it running. The radio operator listens to the other team.  It's a bit chaotic, honestly, but chaotic and bad are two different things.

Hyperborea: Light & Shadow - This should come as no surprise to anyone who's gamed with me in person.  Hyperborea is a fantastic bag-builder and a personal favorite. A lot of people compared it to Orleans when both came out the same year, but have played both, I can attest that they are very different games. This expansion adds two new colors of cube to the game, as well as throwing in artifacts and some additional racial powers. Unfortunately, it's unclear if this will get wider release - the initial print run sold well at Essen, and then the remaining copies were sent to Uplay.it - an Italian game retailer. Currently, they are the only way to get a copy, and it's very expensive for what it is (I received my copy last week, so I speak from a position of experience here). It was around $50 for black cubes, white cubes, replacement red cubes, and three sheets of die-cut cardboard.

... huh.  Most of what I'm looking forward to is expansions. Again. Almost like I really enjoy the games I play and just want a bit more variety occasionally to keep them fresh.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Holidays

So.  This is 2017.

I hope the end of your 2016 went well. If you celebrate holidays, I hope they were pleasantly spent with friends and/or family.

Mine went well. I gave my copy of PitchCar Mini to my nephews, because it hadn't hit the table since 2009. They love it. I got to play a few games with them, too. It was a ton of fun and reminded me why I enjoy that game so much.

We also bought Looping Louie for them. Because fun is fun.

I received Shogun.  The Big Box edition. I've really enjoyed Shogun for a while.  The Big Box includes the expansion.

For New Year's Eve, we went to Fantasium. I'm slowly getting to know the crew of regulars there, and it was the first time they've done a NYE thing. We played Ice Cool and Patchwork. Patchwork was the last game I played in 2016.

We had a great time, and I'm looking forward to next year's event.

I also received a package containing a couple of games, and I'm told there is another package due soon. I have a few guesses what's in that second package, but I'll let you know when it arrives.

... and a friend came over and we burned some 2016 calendars.  It was oddly cathartic.

I have not played my First Game Of 2017, yet.  I deliberately chose to save that for game night tonight. Because the best games are shared with those you are close to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday Wishes

There will be no post this week or next - I hope you and yours have a fantastic holiday (or holidays). I know I will.

I'll see you all early next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looking To The Future

I have seen the future of gaming, and have started moving into that future.

I have acquired a 3D printer.

It started a while ago, when I saw that DriveThruRPG now has a selection of 3D Printer Files.

Huh, I thought to myself, Apparently that's popular enough to sustain itself. I wonder how long before I start seeing more of it.

As time went by, I saw more and more things added to that selection. Miniatures. Dungeon walls/floors. A good variety of really clever things, actually.

Then I learned that a friend from HS is very active in the 3D Printing scene.

Huh, I thought to myself, I'll bet I could get Joel to help if I had questions.

Time passed, and I kept an eye on this market.  Then, on Black Friday, Amazon had the Monoprice Maker Select at a really low price.  So I jumped on it, because this is apparently a good "starter" printer so people can figure out if/how much they like the process of printing.

So I set the printer up and did what you do: I started printing.  The SD card that was included had four "sample" things to print, and then I hit Thingiverse, where I spent a ton of time, looking at what I could do.

I learned from the test prints, however, that this is not a fast hobby. One of the test prints is a little elephant figure. It's about two inches tall, and took about two hours to print.

Following that, I grabbed Benchy.  Benchy is a boat that people use to tweak and adjust their settings. It's a boat that serves as a diagnostic tool, which appeals to me.  I really like that idea.

This is the most important thing I've learned, however:

This hobby is not yet ready for prime time.  It's close, but there are so many configuration and adjustment tweaks necessary to get your prints just right that it's almost frustratingly slow. Because there are a ton of possible problems.

My bed adhesion issues?

Step 1: Adjust the temperature of my print bed to see if that fixed it.
Step 2: Re-level my bed.
Step 3: Change the thickness of my first layer.
Step 4: Slow down the print head.
Step 5: Speed up the print head.
Step 6: Change the temperature of the extruder.
Step 7: Change the extrusion rate.

The process here is make a change, and print a test. Each test took two hours (although you can stop it early if you're still having issues). Even fixing the bed adhesion issue led to more tweaking, however, as other issues kept cropping up.

I've had a couple of failed prints, too, where things just ... didn't print right.  It's especially awful when those happen several hours into a long print.

But I do think that better (and more user-friendly) home units are coming. I think the speed and stability of this technology will increase over time.

There are already a handful of games available exclusively as 3D-printed files.  Like this one, for example. While you could use cardboard chits and paper tiles with the provided rules that's not what the designer intended.

I've joined the hobby at the tail end of the "early adopter" phase. I strongly believe that within the next three years, we'll have faster/cheaper/easier home units available. Within the next decade, they'll be ubiquitous.

I have a lot to learn, still, but I'm really enjoying the studies. Enough that I am considering getting a better printer

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Lunchtime Games

Not long ago. our housemate mentioned that he was looking for good "lunchtime" games that he can play with non-gamers. My first instinct was to grab No Thanks! - it's one of my favorite filler games. It takes about two minutes to learn to play and five minutes to get through.

Here's a short list of good "lunchtime" games that you can play with non-gamers.

No Thanks! - as above. Fast to learn, fast to play. 3-5 players.

Age of War  - I've found that calling this game "Strategy Yahtzee" gets the essentials across for most players. Players roll dice trying to get the correct dice combinations to claim cards from the table - including cards controlled by other players! If you can get all of the cards of a single set (all the red cards, all the blue cards, etc.), you lock those cards so that opponents can't steal them and score bonus points. The game ends when all cards have been claimed. If it takes an hour, you're doing it wrong or rolling very poorly. 2-6 players.

We Didn't Playtest This At All - This is the game that Fluxx should be.  Fast. Random. Chaotic. And predictable in run time (short). The game lasts until only one player hasn't been eliminated - if it lasts six turns, it's an unusually long game. It also takes about a minute to learn to play.  2+ players (seriously, we've played it with 30 - but most players didn't get a turn ... ).  There are also a number of expansions that kick the randomness up a few more notches without slowing the game way down.

Rise of Augustus - Much like Age of War, I can just tell people, "It's strategy BINGO" and go from there. It's a bit more complex than some of the others on this list - call it "5-10 minutes of learning time." And be prepared for occasional questions during its 30 minute play time. 2-6 players.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

RPGs As Resource Management Exercises

I realized in discussion on Google Plus about Perception rolls that these days, I'm really much more of a boardgamer than I am a roleplayer. And that shows through in my play and my thoughts about play.

Lately, I've seen RPGs are being a resource management exercise.

Bear with me, here.

Players (PCs) have limited resources. Spell slots and hit points are the most obvious resources that most games feature, but there are others. Potions. Magic items. Abilities with "refresh" frequencies. Story Points. Time.

The goal as a player is to maximize these resources. Save the Daily Powers for the Big Bad. Use the little stuff on the mooks. Work as a team.

The goal as a GM is to make the resources feel thin, whether they are or not.  "Okay, guys. Your goal is to reach the top of the hill and kill the Death Priest.  He's standing over the entrance to a Goblin Warren, and every

Now this isn't a campaign.  The GM didn't completely tip his hand, either: the GM didn't say, "When you reach the top, you'll learn that the Death Priest is the Mayor of Safeholm, and he's taken Sir Truehart's squire, Jacob the Awkward, as a hostage." These are things the PCs will learn when they reach the top of the hill.  This is one session's encounter(s).

Some games are more explicit than others about their resource management. Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition was quite explicit about it. Players had "At-Will" abilities that they could use every round, "Encounter" abilities that they could use once per combat encounter, and "Daily" powers that they could use ... once per day.  They also had points that they could accrue to spend for extra actions.  GUMSHOE system games let players spend points on rolls - and those points don't refresh as much as you want them to.

Other systems are more subtle. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, it's the list at the beginning. Spell slots and hit points. Some magic items had limited charges. Potions were single-use. Spellcasters who wanted to create magic items had to sacrifice XP to do so.

Character advancement is a form of resource, too. Where you choose to spend your XP has a direct impact on what resources you have available. When you level up in 2E, sometimes you would gain skills (both Weapon Proficiencies and Non-Weapon Proficiencies).

I wonder how many designers see the games in this way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Game Night

The last few weeks, we've only had my wife and myself at Game Night. Or just Wade and Steph and myself. And it's good - don't get me wrong - there are a number of fantastic two-and-three-player games in my library. But it's still rough.

I'd forgotten about this stage of starting a regular game group. The stage where sometimes it's just you.

It's ... not easy. Honestly, it's sometimes downright discouraging.

But I learned a long time ago to stick with it. The line from Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come," does apply here.  It does work. Eventually, they will show up to play games.

There comes a point where people who have been telling you, "I'll make it sometime," actually do make it.  Sometimes they're sporadic. Sometimes they stick with it. Enough "sometimes," and they find that they are regulars.

Boardgaming - for me - is a source of personal stability. If I don't play at least one game in a week, I'm not right for a bit. And I can do some of that gaming on Saturdays at Fantasium - unless something else is going on. Saturdays are when we play 13th Age and Legend of the Five Rings and sometimes some Dungeons and Dragons - but roleplaying doesn't give me that same focus.

Thankfully, there are people around who are willing to play games with me - even if it's just a quick game of 7 Wonders: Duel (which is, by the way, fantastic).

But there are so many games I want to play with more players. Street Kings is playable with three, but it looks like its sweet spot is 4-5. In fact, three is a weird number when it comes to board games, because there aren't a lot of really good games that handle three players well.  Haggis. Blokus Trigon.

It's given me renewed appreciation for the presence of a good game store - and sharpened the pain of losing a good one.