Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Year's Eve

This year, if you don't already have New Year's Eve plans and you're going to be in the greater Seattle area, you may want to consider joining us at Phoenix Games for our annual New Year's Eve celebration.

I'm not sure what time it all kicks off, but I'll be there after my annual anniversary dinner with my wife (generally around 8:00). I also (as of this writing) don't know how much it'll cost.

Once I have that information, I'll update this post with that information.

If you have questions, contact the store directly either via their Facebook page or by using a telephone.  Or by stopping by to spend some money and chat with Brian.

But it's going to be a ton of fun. People. Food. Games.

It's a kid-safe and alcohol-free environment. And the games will continue until the week hours of the morning.

In a related note, I'll be taking the next few weeks mostly away from the blog. I'll probably throw some holiday greetings up next week and some New Year's greetings up the following week - but I'm preparing to play some games.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In The Car

I own a lot of games. Probably too many, but you didn't hear that from me. But I rarely game in my home. Most of my gaming is done on Wednesday evenings at Phoenix Games in Mukilteo.

Now, Brian has a good library of demo games and store copies on-site. And the Wednesday crew is allowed to (and does) make use of that library. But Brian rarely has (for example) expansions as part of his library. So players who want to play (for example) 7 Wonders with the Leaders expansion need to bring their own copy.

No-one has an infinite trunk in their car. So I'll never have room for every game I want to play at all times in the car.  It just doesn't work like that. I can fit about thirty games the size of Ticket To Ride in the car. And a mixed bag of other-sized games.

So I have to prioritize and arrange the car.

My number one most important priority for games in the car is "Do I know or suspect that folks in the group will enjoy the game?"  Because if I bring a game that no-one likes, I've wasted space in the car and some of our limited gaming time. There are games in the car that I'm not a fan of, but other folks I game really like.

New games have priority. Playing games at Game Night helps Brian sell more copies of those games. But I have to be careful not to pass the point of, "I don't need to buy it. Eric has a copy," with some of these games.

Games that can hold more players tend to get higher priority, too. I don't play many two-player games on Wednesdays, and those that I do play tend to be fairly fast-playing.

Beyond that, it's "What else can I fit?"

I have games from GenCon that haven't hit the table on Wednesdays yet. Like Madame Ching. It's not a bad game. There are just games we want to play more often.

Lately, the group has wanted to play Fist of Dragonstones.  I got it to the table the week after Alex went back to France (sorry, my friend). And I remembered after the first game why it stopped hitting the table.

It's not because it's a bad game (because it really isn't). It's not because it's un-fun (because it isn't). It's because I'm so very bad at it. So. Bad. In the last three weeks, I've played it four times and scored zero points.

In general, I'm okay with losing at games. I have no problem not winning. But when I can't even get on the board, I get frustrated and look for other games to play.

The group likes it, though, so it'll stay in the car for now.

Friday, December 05, 2014


This post is more about people and friends than it is about gaming, because that's where my head is right now. 

One of the things I love about gaming is the people. Which is odd, because (in general) I really hate people. Through gaming, I've met some really amazing people.

But sometimes, you just need to go to war.

One of the really awesome people I've met in the last few years is Jason Paul McCartan, who is the man behind Infinibadger Press (buy his stuff! It's awesome!).  For about a year, now, the Badger and I have been engaged in a ruthless #PonyWar. I don't remember how the war began, but we've been sending My Little Pony-related things as gifts to one another.

Because neither of us is Bronies.

It started small - Stephanie and I sent him Dr. Whooves. Because he's a massive Whovian, so he wouldn't be able to outright destroy it. It was a success! A hit was scored!

From there, it's escalated. Slowly but surely. Bit by bit.  He sent us a plush MLP figure. We sent him a comic book. And a Dr. Whooves T-Shirt.

But this year, I decided I wanted to win this war.

So remember that link to Infinibadger Press up there? Scroll down a bit and look to the left. You can see their logo. It's a pretty simple logo.

So I don't know if I've mentioned Greyed Out dice bags before here or not. If I haven't, then it's a massive oversight. It's run by another of the awesome people I've met through gaming. And he makes really good dice bags. And does custom work, including silk-screening.

So I commissioned a custom dice bag. And it turned out looking pretty damn sharp, too:

Photo by Michael Althauser for Greyed Out Productions
But I had to ... twist it a bit:
Photo by Michael Althauser for Greyed Out Productions

That's right: It's lined with My Little Pony fabric.  And it's reversible (not that I can see the Badger reversing it any time soon ... ).  And it turned out more spectacular than I had anticipated thanks largely to Greyed Out's good eye for color (I just told him I wanted the Infinibadger Logo on it and MLP fabric as a lining).

And it went exactly according to plan. I even asked the Badger to record video of the gift opening. And he did. You can tell the point at which he spotted the lining, too.

He is already plotting his revenge. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Through a perfect storm, I somehow managed not to have a post up this morning.

I'm not walking away, I just haven't been in front of a computer (other than at work) for more than a few minutes at a stretch for a few weeks.

I'll have this week's post up no later than Saturday afternoon.  Promise. :-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When The Fun Stops

Something I'm learning more and more:  When you work on a thing - even a fun thing - it runs the risk of Not Being Fun Anymore. And, when that happens, you need to just walk away. Not necessarily forever - just until the thing is fun again.

That L5R Generational rules set I'd been working on?  I got stuck. I couldn't get a good set of random event tables together.  It felt like I was beating my head into a brick wall trying to produce it.

No-one is relying on me to finish this. I haven't been paid to produce it. So - at this point - it's safe for me to walk away for a while.  And I did.

Two nights ago, I woke my wife up to bounce an idea off of her that I think will work.

Walking away for a few months was all I needed to do.

But it's not always appropriate to walk away. For example, when Asmodee asks me for help with a project, they're on a deadline. I don't have the option to walk away. People are relying on me.

There was one project I remember from a few years ago that had four or five of us on Skype or Hangout until two or three in the morning Pacific time (so five or six in the morning where the rest of the team was). Because people were relying on us.

Writing this blog is fun. It's been fun for as long as I've been writing it.  There have been a few stretches where I'd wake up and dread having to say something - but those have been few and far between.

A few weeks back, the DCI revoked the Rookie of the Year award. The week after that, Days of Wonder had to change the winner of the Ticket to Ride World Championship before it was declared.  Because of alleged cheating.

Did these guys cheat? I don't know.  But in both cases, I can almost guarantee you they weren't having fun anymore.

I think that's probably the fundamental rule for me about games and gaming: When you stop having fun, walk away from that game. Find another one.

I guess that's one reason I'm so much more of a boardgamer than a roleplayer these days. Board games require a commitment of a few hours.  Roleplaying games require so much more time - and they're socially awkward to bow out of mid-game.

I can't remember the last time I bowed out of playing a game due to not having fun, though. So it may be a moot point.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Player Buy-In

I own a lot of games. A crazy amount, really. And far too many of these games will not see play from my shelf anytime in the forseeable future because of my players.

That makes it sound like I dislike my group - and I don't. I have been blessed with a really good group of players. But only for some games.

I'm not currently running any games. I'm playing 13th Age and Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition). These are both games where player buy-in is minor. The responsibility of the player for these games boils down to Show up. Roll some dice. There's not a ton of record-keeping or other work involved.

The first session involves a bunch of work for character generation, but that's about it paperwork-wise.

At the other end of the spectrum is Pendragon, where every session or two, every player needs to spend some time rolling dice for their character's lands and family. It's a lot of paperwork, and to make it work, you need to have players who are willing to put in the extra effort. It runs better if they are both interested and willing, but you can make it work with just willing players.

Pendragon is one of the best games that I don't often have the opportunity to play.  Ars Magica is another. And, if anything, ArM has a tougher buy-in requirement. At the first session, players first make their characters. Then they make companion characters. Then they build their Covenant (up to and including determining specific books for the Covenant library).

And then, every few sessions, you need to track your character's aging/advancement and what you've done for the Covenant. In fact, roughly 1/4 of the time, you'll play a Companion rather than your Magus.

It's one reason I'm still plugging away at that Generational L5R thing I mentioned a few months back - I have a player who is an L5R nut. He loves the setting, and will sit through crazy amounts of bookkeeping to be able to play there. So if I can get that working, it might make Ars Magica an easier sell down the road.

Somewhere in the middle is Burning Wheel, which is ... odd. Because players need to keep track of their successful rolls and their failed rolls, because advancement requires a certain degree of both. And it takes time to learn BW - players who aren't willing to spend the time will find it unrewarding. But players who grab the various system nuances find it hugely rewarding.

But it got me thinking a bit about player buy-in.  What does it take to draw a player into a game?

For me, +Wade Rockett running a game is enough. I'd even play an RPG that uses Fluxx for its resolution system if he were to run it.

The D&D game we're in is another one where the buy-in for me is "the chance to occasionally see my friends in person." Which reminds me - I need to write a post about Gaming As An Introvert sometime.

In other news this week, Fantasy Flight Games is merging into Asmodee. Wow. There's a ton of idle speculation out there about what exactly this will mean for all involved. Me? I'm excited. And - like I said in September when Asmodee bought Days of Wonder - I trust Asmodee. They've spent ten years building that trust. So I'm looking forward to seeing what this merger does for us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Return To Old Friends

Following a convention, there are often months straight where I play nothing that isn't new. And then things settle back into their usual routine and the old favorites start to creep back out. It's not that the Hot New Games are bad or anything like that - far from it - it's a regular rotation.

Last time I was at Game Night, I played Seasons for the first time in far too long. Even though it was new to the rest of the table, for me it was settling back in with an old friend. The fact that it'd been set aside for so long made it new, fresh, and exciting to me.  And sometimes you need to do that.

Then, a few days ago, I went to Board Game Arena and played Sobek. Again, it was a return to an old favorite that I don't play often enough.

Tonight, assuming I remember, I'll have The Great Khan Game in my car. It's a game I haven't played in twenty years - but it's a Tom Wham game, which means it's fun. Probably.

I recently replaced my copy - I'd owned it when it was still new, and played it a bunch. I remember it being fun, but I've found that my tastes have changed over the years.  Either way, it went out of print and skyrocketed in price.  A few weeks back, I found a copy on BoardGameGeek for half of what even the "missing pieces" folks on Amazon are selling it for.  I confirmed with the seller that it was complete, and placed the order.  And - sure enough - it's complete. And not completely punched, either.

Tonight, I'll also get to see Alex again.  Alex is someone I've known for nearly a decade - we met at my second (and last-so-far) Origins, where he helped Christophe Boelinger and I run the Asmodee booth.  After the show ended, he taught me a game that he really liked that he was 100% sure I'd never seen before. And he was right.

It was a little game that had been produced in a limited edition, and it was called Shadows Over Whitechapel.  And I loved it.  I thought it was amazing.  So when, a few years later, it was re-released with a new title in a new edition, I was completely ecstatic.  And Alex bought a copy for Steph and I as a gift, too. At a convention where he had the designer and artist autograph it for us.

In fact, it, its expansions and spin-offs are among my favorite two-player games.  The new title that I mentioned, by the way, is Mr. Jack. And Asmodee now distributes it in North America.

So it's going to be a good week at Game Night.  Not that there is ever a bad week at Game Night.

And one final note for this week:  I only have one Kickstarter project currently active. It's (as of this writing) almost at goal. The project creator fulfilled his previous project on time and it was good.

So, if you're a roleplayer who's got a couple of bucks to spend, check out Riders. If it interests you, please back. Because it's soooo cloooose to hitting goal.