Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hitting the Table: Bolide

I'm not a sports guy. Like really really not a sports guy. I follow football (the American kind), but not actively. I don't really follow any other sports. There are days I couldn't even tell you what sports are currently in season.

Because I just don't care.

But I'm a sucker for sports-themed games.

Even when that sport isn't football.

I generally assume the Game Night crowd(s) are also sports-neutral folks. And - other than football - I'm usually correct.  But not always.

Side note: What is it about geeks and football? Is it because it's the sport that has the most visible strategic elements? Baseball has strategy - beyond "When on offense, hit the ball very hard. Run very fast." Soccer and hockey both have (surprisingly similar) strategies, as well.

I don't follow it, but I do enjoy watching Formula One racing. And there are a handful of excellent F1-themed games, too. Like Formula D, for example. Or Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix.

Or Bolide.

Bolide came out in 2005, and I ordered it from Phoenix pretty much as soon as I saw it existed. I struggled through the (awful) rulebook, and I did what I do: I brought it to game night.

We played it a few times, liked it okay, and put it away. Because the rule book was (and is) so bad that there were game elements we couldn't figure out. Like how to make a pit stop.

In a game about racing, rules for pit stops are critical to the strategy of the game. Since we couldn't figure the rules out, we missed out on a chunk of the available strategy, which made the game less-good.

A few weeks ago, I was in the garage, and I spotted my copy of the game.  I wonder if anyone ever fixed the rules, I thought to myself. Because I'll bet it has potential. I also wonder if I could figure the rules out. After all, I've spent the last decade, now, figuring out how to interpret translated rules text. A huge advantage over the 2005 me.

I still couldn't figure the rules for pit stops out, but someone on Boardgamegeek re-wrote the rules and made them available for download. And they are a huge improvement.

It got me itching to play again, so I packed it into the car, and we brought it to Game Night.

I'd expected to get two or three people interested.  I hadn't expected to have a seven-player race on my hands. We decided to play a simple game - one lap, so no pitting, no fuel concerns, and no tires. Just a simple "learn to play" lap.

And it was a ton of fun.

Bolide is an inertia-driven game.  Each player has two pieces - a car-shaped piece and an inertia marker pawn.  Each turn, your car must be placed within two spaces of the inertia pawn.  Then your pawn is moved based on how your car moved.  So if your car moved three spaces forward from its start space, then the pawn is placed three spaces ahead of the car.  If your car moved two forward and one to the left, then the pawn is placed two forward and one to the left.

It leads to a field that looks like this:


In this photo, you can see that the yellow car is moving straight ahead, as is the green car. All of the other cars are starting to pull to the inside to make the curve. And most everyone is moving too fast.  In fact, if I remember correctly, Red and Yellow both had to use one of their (limited) sharp braking maneuvers to survive the turn.  Because it's possible shoot off the edge of the track.

It's not a fantastic game, but it's a fun game. And it's challenging. And it's a bit of a competitive math problem, because you're trying to find your ideal position for each turn on the track. There is a best line for every starting position, and some of these best line cross over or intercept one another.

When we played a few weeks ago, Green won. Green had started in seventh place, but planned his turns well. How far back was Green?


You can see Green's pawn to the far left of this image from the curve before the Grande Bagarre pictured in the first image.  Green's car is even further back.

Something that's worth noting, here: the game is played not in the spaces on the board, but on the intersections. You can see that clearly in the second photo.  Blue and White are both very limited in where they can go from their current spots (and, if I remember correctly, one or both of them had to brake sharply a turn or two after this shot was taken).

I'm giving serious thought to trying to start a league.  I own six tracks for the game, and one game every two months with a prize at the end could be a ton of fun. And it's let me break out all the rules - four kinds of tires, built for speed vs better brakes, a full tank of gas vs half a tank (with a required pit) ...

But a one-lap race with inexperienced players took about two hours.  So time is a definite factor.

Hrm.  I need to think on this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last Week

I missed posting last week. I'm not sure if you noticed - I sure did.

My update schedule going to be a bit spotty this summer.

I'm embroiled in a couple of major projects that are taking far more time than I want to give to them. But it's time that takes me away from writing and photography. And gaming.

I had to look at my priorities and figure out what was important - it's not the first time I've done this, and it won't be the last.

But this blog - much as I love writing it - is lower than some of the things that I need to get done. Especially as many of these things are temporary.

I'm going to try to build up a backlog of posts in my spare time, but I can't promise a post every week this summer.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the FLGS to which I give most of my gaming dollar may be closing. I don't know if I was clear enough that it may not be closing, too. There is a possible buyer in the picture, and I think he'd do a good job of it. But it'd still be a change.

I have a lot of thoughts about the FLGS and its role in the gaming community. Too many to throw down in a short post, and when I do get them down and organized, it's likely to ramble quite a bit off-topic and then back on as I tend to do.

Either way, my lovely and talented wife saw how hard I was taking even the potential loss of my local store, and took steps to help.

Last weekend, we went to Fantasium's Beer & Board Games. To check it out.

Fantasium is the closest game store to us geographically. We currently drive for about an hour to get to Phoenix (and it's well worth the drive and we won't be stopping as long as there is a Phoenix to support, thankyouverymuch). Fantasium is about ten minutes from the house. If that.

Fantasium, BTW, is where we get our graphic novel fix. They get that chunk of our comic book dollar not eaten by Comixology (and, if there were a way to give them a share of our Comixology dollar, we'd love to do that, too - shelf space is tight and gets a bit tighter with every book we buy).

Fantasium has open board gaming most of the afternoon on Saturdays, but at 7pm, they close down briefly and start charging a $5 cover. And it's 21+. That $5 cover gets you one serving of alcoholic beverage (they have a selection of ciders and hard root beers, not just beer). They have popcorn available for a small charge, too.

I'm a sucker for freshly-popped popcorn.

There were about a dozen folks there, and I watched people move from one table to another and introduce themselves between games. That's a good sign. I heard people at other tables teaching the rest of their table how to play some of the games, too.  That's another good sign.

They run until midnight - we left well before that point, but we had a good time (aided in no small part by the presence of friends who we brought with us).  The store has a small library of available games (including some good ones like Deus and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullzfyre), and some folks brought in their own games that they were hoping to play.

Even if Phoenix stays open, I plan to attend Fantasium's gathering as often as possible. Because more community interaction is not a bad thing. More engagement with my people (gamers) is not a bad thing.

And, if the worst happens and Phoenix closes, it's nice to have another quality option available.

Next time, I'm going to talk about a couple of games that have hit the table lately. Or just one of them. I'm not sure, yet. I guess we'll find out together.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Hero Forge

A few years ago, I saw a Kickstarter project that I didn't back. It was an attempt at creating 28mm miniatures that could be customized to be your character, and then 3D printing them.

I thought it was a cool idea, but I just didn't believe it would be workable. And I was wrong.

Not too long after the Kickstarter ended, they launched their website - You use their site to design your mini from their menu of parts. Then you tell them which material you want it printed in, and they generate an .stl file and send it to Shapeways for printing and fulfillment.

In September, I ordered a couple of figures to check it out.  More accurately, I ordered the same figure in two different materials. And I liked what I got.  Then, in April, they made another material available (briefly).

The strong plastic is about $15, the high-detail is around $25, and the gray is around $27. Before shipping.

Here is what the figure looks like on their website:

So now I have the same figure in three different materials from the five available. Note: Orders for Gray Plastic are currently suspended due to the crazy delays they are experiencing. I haven't ordered steel or bronze (and - honestly - am unlikely to do so).

It looks like this:

IMGP0598 (2)
High-Detail Plastic, Strong Plastic, Gray Plastic - in that order.

And I rather like it.

Notice, for example, that my figure is left-handed? Try to find a left-handed figure from Ral Partha or Games Workshop or Iron Wind or anyone, really.  It's crazy-hard to do because it's something that just does not occur to them.

I was impressed enough with the high-detail at the time to order figures for the players in the three games I'm currently involved with. That's a total, now, of 22 figures that we've ordered.  20 of them were high-detail plastic.

... and then the dropsies started.

See, that high-detail plastic?  It's brittle.  Like crazy-brittle. As in "drop it from two inches above the table and watch it break." Almost half of the high-detail figures we have ordered have broken. Once they re-release the gray plastic, we're going to be replacing the high-detail figures we bought, one and two at a time.  Breaking and then re-gluing does make them stronger. But when your Ranger is dropped on the floor and you can't find his bow to re-glue it ...

Their materials page lists three stats for each material. Durability, Detail, and Paintability. And I'm not 100% sure I agree with their listed numbers.

Durability, they give the high-detail plastic a one (out of five).  That is not inaccurate. Not even a little.

The strong plastic and the gray plastic have the same durability rating, and I can vouch for the surprising durability of the strong plastic - I accidentally set my (full) Risk Legacy box on top of the strong plastic figure a few weeks ago with zero damage.

Detail, they give the strong plastic a one. And - again - I can't disagree with this number.


Look how coarse that figure is.  It'd be good for mooks, but it's not a good look for PCs.

But go back to that pic with the three figures.  They rate the gray plastic as being higher-detail than the high-detail plastic.  And it might be, but I suspect that it's a trick of visibility, because the high-detail plastic is translucent. Light shines through it.


But the black plastic?  This pic is a hair over-exposed, and the figure hasn't been washed, yet. Much less primed. But wow.


All in all, though, I'm very satisfied.

It's worth noting that 3D printing minis is suddenly A Thing. Hero Forge has some competition.

For example, DriveThruRPG has a selection of 3D printer files now, for example. But they're not custom. And I lack the skills to customize them (but there are people who don't lack those skills).  Just download the file and send that to Shapeways for printing ... it's a bit cheaper than Hero Forge's setup (but, again, isn't nearly as easy to customize).

If you're thinking about ordering from Hero Forge, I will strongly recommend that you wait until the gray plastic becomes available again, though. Totally worth the extra $2. They currently estimate several weeks before they can re-launch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've deleted and re-written this post about six times, now, and I think that I'm going to just stick with what I have, even if it's not my best work and could probably use about four more editorial passes. Because it should not take more than a month to write a single post.

So be forewarned; This post is less-focused than most. This post is rambly and ranty. This post is only peripherally about games.

This post was triggered by several things:
  1. The whole Hugo Puppies situation that will not go away and die.
  2. The announcement of the Origins Awards short list for this year.
  3. The announcement of the Spiel des Jahres nominees for the year.
I recently realized that awards have no value of their own. The only value an award on a box has is the value that the viewer assigns to it,and that value can change over time.

Because awards - in and of themselves - nearly always suffer from fundamental flaws.

Here is what I think people forget about with awards:

Good and Fun are not the same thing.

Seriously. It (realistically) looks something like this:

If you can't see it clearly, the vertical axis is "Good" at the top and "Not Good" at the bottom.  The horizontal axis is "Not Fun" at the left and "Fun" at the right.

Your ideal award winners are both Good and Fun:

It doesn't matter if you're talking about movies or books or games.  You know what's not on this axis?

Sales. Popularity.

So let's shift to movies. Have you seen The Fast and the Furious or any of its sequels?  Those movies are a ton of fun. But they're not going to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Nor are they trying to do so.

This, by the way, is why the Hugo Controversy is such a big deal to me. I read a ton of Military SF. I read a ton of bad books that are fun to read. And, yes, I read a ton of really good books, too.

This is how I characterized the 2015 Hugo Situation on Facebook a few months back:
The difference is that the Rabid Puppies - unlike the Oscar voters - have mistakenly assumed that Fun = Good.  At least they did last year.  This year, they're just trolls. But at least they're honest about it this year. At least Chuck Tingle's counter-trolling has been worth watching.

And - for the record - I really really did not enjoy The Three-Body Problem. If I remember correctly, it was below "No Award" on my ballot (because I won't vote for books I don't enjoy).

I think that the Puppies' tactics with regard to the Hugos have damaged the value of the 2015 and 2016 award, but I don't think the awards themselves are now write-offs. Otherwise, I wouldn't still be involved with the process.

Eventually Vox Day will get bored. Or his followers will realize that they're spending $50 each every couple of years to no effect. And the rules are changing to reduce the impact of slate voting, so eventually that $50 will be a complete waste of money that won't even pay off the lols they are hoping for.

It looks like EPH won't be the magic bullet we had hoped for in that respect. But EPH + 4/6 (which also passed last year) together are better than the current system, and will keep slates - ANY slates - from being able to completely dominate all of the categories. But with the low number of nominations in some categories, slates will still be effective.

That is: without active involvement from fandom, it won't do any good. If people give up on the Hugos, they surrender to the slates. 

And it's worth noting that these are anti-slate measures, not anti-Puppy measures.  This year, it's the Rabid Puppies. Next year, it might be the Romance Writers of America who decide that they want a Hugo for one of their writers (the World Science Fiction Society constitution says that science fiction and fantasy works are eligible, but doesn't define either term so far as I can tell).

So for now, at least, the Hugos are (for me) a lesson in involvement. In order to keep the Hugos from sinking, I'm voting and keeping my friends as informed as I can. Some of my friends have registered to vote, too. And I'm harassing them - not "Vote this way!" but "Vote! Even if I disagree with your vote!"

I have more rant stored up, but if you made it this far, you've probably already wasted twenty or so minutes reading my ranting and rambling, so I'll save it for social media.

Next week? Games. We will discuss games. I'm not sure which ones, yet, because it depends on whether certain things have shipped and/or arrived, yet. So we'll see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Last Week vs This Week

So last week, I posted about how I'm not okay with not going to gaming conventions this year. Within a day, I had three offers and referrals from friends for companies that need demo teams at GenCon or Origins or [Convention Name Here]. And a part-time job offer from a publisher.

Prior to that, I'd had offers to demo from two other publishers who'd learned I wasn't going to be in the Asmodee booth this year and they wanted to recruit me.

It's good to feel wanted, so thank you. All of you.

Realistically, the fact that I'm uncomfortable missing convention(s) this year, means I probably need to miss conventions this year. I need to decompress a bit.

Right now, if I took a Word Association Test of some sort and "Convention" was the word, my answer would be "Work." And that just isn't right.

It's fun work, yes, but it's still work.

I've never attended GenCon. I've demoed there for more than a decade, now, and I have never been to a single panel. I've never attended a meetup or played an RPG there. There is a whole world of fun that I've never seen.

So some time away will do me some good.

Ideally, Steph and I want to attend one or more gaming conventions in 2017. No demos, no setup, no work. Just go to the show, visit with folks, spend money, play games. You know: be with my people.

My posting here should be back to normal next week. I'm sorry I've been more self-focused than game-focused for the last couple of weeks, because I know that you come here to read about games and gaming.

And thank you for that, by the way.  Coming here and reading what I have to say. It means a lot to me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rough Week

I haven't gotten any work done on the posts that are in my queue this week.  I'm still kinda reeling from a bit of a one-two punch.

See, I realized this week that I'm not going to any gaming conventions anytime in the near future. And I'd thought I was okay with that, but I realized that I'm really not. Gamers are my people.

Yes, I've got a couple of really good groups going right now. The Wednesday Board Game Night continues to chug along, our 13th Age group is a blast, the Legend of the Five Rings group seems to be having fun. Even our Dungeons and Dragons (4e) group is chugging along.

There are several dozen gamers in those groups that I interact with on a regular basis. Gaming is my primary social outlet, and that ... long-term, I don't think it's enough.

So Steph and I chatted.  We're going to try to get to conventions in the future. On our own dime, because we love seeing the people and just drinking in the convention atmosphere. And being surrounded by our people.

We'll be at MidAmeriCon II (WorldCon) this summer. SF/F fandom is very much Steph's people.  Especially when there is a literary bent to the crowd.  SF/F Fandom are my people, too, but they're not as mine as gamers. So we're going to make an effort to attend more SF/F conventions, too.  And there are gamers at the cons, so I'll be able to get some of that social outlet time that I so rarely crave ...

The "two" punch this week was when Brian, who owns the FLGS that gets my money, announced that he is leaving the company. We all knew it was coming eventually, but I think we all hoped it'd be just a bit further out, time-wise. And I don't blame him for leaving - he's been apart from his wife for five years to keep the store going.

The store might be able to stay open. Maybe. But no-one knows for sure. So as of the end of July, I may need to find a new FLGS. Living where I do, there are some great ones around, but building a relationship with a store owner takes time. Even if Phoenix stays open, I still won't have the same relationship with the new owner(s) as I do with Brian.

So this week has been both strange and rough, and I'm already desperate for some gaming.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

TableTop Day

Last Saturday was Geek & Sundry's International TableTop Day!

Did you know that?  Based on the communities I'm a member of in a bunch of places, you probably didn't. I knew. My FLGS owner knew. The Wednesday games crowd knew (even if most of them just learned on Wednesday).

I don't know why word didn't spread as well this year. We only had about a dozen folks turn up. It was up from last year, but waaaay down from two years ago.

I arrived late, but I still had a great time.

We played Room 25 and Mascarade and Hyperborea (although we got a ton of rules wrong on that last one).  I really enjoy all three games.

Hyperborea was a bit of a stark reminder to me that I need to review rulebooks regularly so I'm better-able to teach and/or play them, because we got so many rules incorrect. But it was still fun, and we may play again tonight.

I walked out with a handful of promos for games I own.

I hope your local TableTop Day went well and you had a good time.