Thursday, June 15, 2017

Origins: The Trip

Our Epic Journey So Far

The Plan:
Leave Seattle around 1:30 pm.
1.5 hour layover in Chicago
Arrive Ohio around 11:45 pm.

Seems reasonable on the face of it. I mean ... getting people around is what airlines do, right?

We arrived at the airport shortly after 11 am. SeaTac airport is one of our favorites, and not just because it's home.  The drawback is that their security lines are not very efficient.

We got through in plenty of time, however, and were soon seated at our gate, waiting for time to board.

The first leg went without any problems. Landed in Chicago on time, checked the location of our next leg, and headed to the gate.

When we arrived, there was a mob of folks already there. Waiting for an earlier flight to Indianapolis that was already late.  That was a bit of a red flag, but out of our control.

Someone is going to pop up and tell me, "United sucks! They do this all the time!" And they'll be right, but here's the thing:

EVERY US-based airline sucks. It's all a matter of who sucks worse this week. Seriously. Airlines lose dogs, smash guitars, fly to the wrong airport, put children on the wrong flights, and serve as fashion police ALL THE TIME.  There is no good option when choosing an internal flight in the US.

Either way: The Indianapolis flight had a crew, but no airplane. A short while later, they delayed our flight. WE had an airplane, but no crew. Why they didn't just steal our plane for the Indianapolis flight, I do not know. And will probably never know. But they didn't.

Long story short: They ended up cancelling both flights, after stringing us along for several hours.

And they cancelled both at the same time.

And didn't warn their customer service desk that two flights full of angry people were inbound.

Steph found a brochure that told us not to expect any sort of vouchers. No hotel, no taxi, no food.  Nothing.  Thankfully, however, they DID give us vouchers. Taxi. Hotel. Food.

The hotel was the Schaumberg Renaissance. It was ... weird. In some ways, it was crazy-swanky and classy. But in others, it was kinda redneck. Like putting a television in the bathroom mirror.

I'm allergic to down. It's not a life-threatening allergy (yet), but it's annoying. I break out in this itchy little rash that can take days to pass.  And the Renaissance didn't have any feather-free rooms available AND their housekeeping was gone for the day. So we asked where the feathers were, and Steph stripped them from the bed while I showered.

With no blankets, I slept poorly. It's damn near impossible to turn off hotel air conditioning these days, so it was cold.

Oh - the bed was an oversized twin bed. Which makes sense for a convention center.

Our replacement flight was scheduled for 2:45 on Wednesday. We were there in plenty of time, grabbed a bite to eat at the airport, and ... our flight was delayed. First the plane was late, and then the weather.

Then we boarded, taxiied out to the tarmac, and ... waited for three hours while the weather changed several times.

There are a TON of FAA regulations about time. Once you're on the tarmac, after three hours, they have to feed you.

The Chicago to Columbus flight is a little one-hour flight. I don't think they even loaded food for it. So, before that three-hour timer was hit, we were brought back to the gate and deplaned.

Another FAA timer is crew time. It's like long-haul truckers - you can't be working for more than a certain number of hours per day/week. It's a safety thing that actually DOES make sense.

We hit our crew's max time, so needed a new crew. And one wasn't available immediately.

At this point, the passengers were divided into three groups: People who were tired/resigned/apathetic towards the delays, people who were angry about the delays, and people who found the whole situation hilarious. Me? I fit all three categories at various times during the wait.

Apparently, the FAA can grant variances/waivers for the "overtime" on the crew. United got these for our entire flight crew, and we left Chicago shortly after 8 pm.  For our 2:45 pm flight.

After that, we got off the plane, and found our luggage waiting for us. The Badger (a friend who we hadn't met in person) picked us up (after having made MULTIPLE trips to the airport over the course of the last few days), and we got to the hotel, checked in, and crashed.

Now we're headed to the convention center, where we will FINALLY start to enjoy the show.

I hope.

Origins Giveaway: Rory's Story Cubes

To celebrate being at Origins, I figured I'd give something away.

This link is to an Amazon Giveaway.  One lucky winner will get the basic set of Rory's Story Cubes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The giveaway is open to US residents aged 18 or older, and is being handled by the Amazon Giveaways program, so I have no control over eligibility.

Good luck - and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Origins

Just a reminder: I'm at Origins this week, so no normal post.

I may post updates from the show, however. And I'm back on Instagram, so expect a few images to appear there, too.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

One Good Day

I don't know if y'all know this, but I do play video games, too. Not as often as I play board games these days, but often enough that I spend money on the occasional Season Pass or other game.

And yes, I am allowed to use y'all in a non-ironic manner.

Here's the thing, though.  In my circle of friends, I have a reputation for being good at board games. We've done mixed tournaments (meaning "more than one game involved") and I always do well. Not because I win a lot of games, but because other players score high at some games and low at others - I tend to take second or third at everything.

Now everyone has their preferred styles of game. I'm not especially discriminating: I love auction games. I love dexterity games. I love trick-taking and ladder games. I love worker placement. I love hidden information and asymmetric play.

But I'm not good at everything I like. I'm terrible at dexterity games.  Among the worst, even. It's the one category of game at which I am virtually guaranteed to wind up near the bottom of the standings.

Now let me swing this back around to video games:

The vast majority of what I play is First-Person Shooters. I love FPS games. I play a few sports games from time-to-time. Once in a while, I can be talked into a fighting game. On my computer, I enjoy real-time strategy. But when I'm in front of a console, I'm nearly always playing an FPS game.

I love the hardcore crunchy player-tweakable games, too. You know, where you pair X gun with Y scope and Z ammo and your loadout includes this accessory and that accessory ...

Right now, that means Battlefield 1. It's not as adjustable as Battlefield: Hardline was (and is), but it's a definite step up from Star Wars Battlefront (which I wanted to love, and just ... didn't). I unabashedly love this game, and I have wasted entire weekends sitting in front of my PS4 playing it.

But I'm not very good at it.  Allow me to demonstrate how bad I am:


As they say: A picture is worth 1,000 words. Those numbers are bad. Because, although I love FPS games, I'm bad at them. I play for fun.

That said, sometimes I have a good day.

I nearly always play support-type roles. In Battlefield 1, that means Support or Medic. And I'm usually decent at anything that doesn't involve pulling a trigger.  You see those 1700 kills?  803 of them are with a mortar. And I'm a terrible sniper.

So with their first DLC pack, they introduced weapons that could only be unlocked by meeting certain criteria. Some of those are the kind of thing I can brute force. "30 Kills with ," for example. If I play a thousand games and get one kill every thirty games, I'll eventually get that 30 kills.  Some of them, however, are more difficult.  "5 Headshots In One Round with ."

Ugh.  That's ... that's more difficult. See that "ACCURACY            0.15" up there in the image?  Yeah. Headshots with a sniper rifle might be out of my reach.

But then I was playing while talking to my wife, and I got one. Probably my first sniper headshot since the days of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. And I had an unfair advantage with that one (I had a large HDTV when most players were still playing standard-def).  "Did you see that!?" I asked her.

And then I got another. And another.  In fact, I got all five.

It was a good reminder:

Even if you're bad at something, sometimes you will still have a good day. Once in a while, the dice will fall your way and you will succeed at something you'd thought beyond your reach.

It makes me want to play more Ice Cool. Because maybe I'll have a good day at that.

Next week, I don't think I'm going to have a normal post - I have one written, but I'm going to delay it until after the show. I'll be at Origins, so I may do some of what I usually do at GenCon, where I post daily updates of how the day went/what I did.  I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Change Is Inevitable (And Not Always Bad)

Remember a few weeks ago when I was talking about giving Games Workshop another chance after more than a decade away?

I took the plunge. I managed to snag a copy of Shadow War: Armageddon from a local game store (not just the rulebook, either - the boxed game), and picked up some minis to use. And some assembly supplies (glue, for one).

When did Games Workshop go all plastic?

I also bought a few 40k novels, because I was curious what the lore was. And I'm enjoying them. This series is printed like YA books - largeish print, an undersized hardcover.

I also sent a couple of queries to GW's customer service, and received prompt (and polite) replies.

All in all, it looks like there has been some significant turnover at GW, and it sounds like their anti-fan policies are either changed or not being enforced anymore.  I am 100% in favor of this.

So ... yeah. I'm back in the GW customer fold, as it were.

Time to warm up the 3D printer - I have terrain to print!

I also dug out all of my miniatures painting supplies.  I've been bitten by that bug but good. Again.


I figured I'd start simple, with the Kaosball teams. They're relatively simple figures, and I'm not bothering to prime them. It makes them an excellent step forward. And ... wow have my skills atrophied.  But that's okay.  That's part of why I wanted to do this.

I'm also not going to take this all too seriously. Because I look at the RPG.net monthly painting thread, and I just cringe.  Because these guys are sooo gooood.

But the fact that I'm not that good is oddly freeing at the same time. Because it means I can go nuts with bizarro experimentation. Like interference colors. I think that this will look awesome on some of my Necrons.  Those of you who don't know what it is - it's paint that changes color depending on your perspective relative to the light.  The linked paint is purple and green, but they also make a green/blue and a green/orange.

I also don't feel bad about using $2 craft paint for much of my work. I've had good results with it in the past, and I expect to get good results with it again.  The only time I'll always choose miniature paint over craft paint is for metallic paints.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I also bought into Guild Ball, via the two-player starter that they make. It's a really good game.  Tons of fun.  We're going to be buying more teams for it. And more players for our current teams.

So ... yeah.  My gaming is in transition right now. I'm not playing fewer board games, but I'm playing more miniatures games.  So expect periodic updates on how that's going here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

News Snippets

One of the disadvantages of my weekly posting pattern is that I very rarely get to scoop folks - even when I have news early. And that's okay - I'm not doing this to make money or boost my personal fame.  I'm a small corner of the internet that tries to have good information.

Nothing here is something I knew in advance, but I think that these are notable happenings that you should be aware of:

Rory's Story Cubes have been sold to the Asmodee group.

Not The Creativity Hub (the company that currently produces the cubes), not their team. Just the brand. Honestly, knowing as many folks at Asmodee as I do, the game is in good hands.  Especially as:
Over the next few years, we (Rory, myself and The Creativity Hub team) will work with Asmodee to help with the brand philosophy and product development of Rory’s Story Cubes.
 AlphaGo defeated the #1 Go player in the world.

It's only the first of three games, and AlphaGo only won by half a point, but this is as significant as Deep Blue defeating Kasparov a while back.  There will be another game tomorrow and then one this weekend.

I once saw Go described as a game with rules "so simple that they feel like a force of nature." At the same time, there is a depth of strategy to the game that I cannot even begin to fathom.

The AlphaGo team will be live-streaming on their page, and I hope to watch.

I have to wonder how long before we see similar matchups for other games - Shogi, for example.

The 2017 Spiel des Jahres nominees have been announced.

The link is in German, but you should have no trouble figuring out which games are nominated.

This year, I've only played two of the games on the final list - Ice Cool (on the Kinderspiel list) and Terraforming Mars (from the Kennerspiel list).  Both games are excellent and worth grabbing.  I've also played two games on the "recommended list," both of them are on the Kennerspiel list: Captain Sonar and The Grizzled.  Great games, and well worth your time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rory's Story Cubes: The RPG

You all remember what a fan I am of Rory's Story Cubes, right?


That made me happy. Because I'm always looking for more ways to use the Cubes. Because they really are a fantastic tool.

Well, the project is a Kickstarter, and it has launched!

I'm watching the videos right now - which is unusual for me. I don't often watch Kickstarter videos. 

The game as-written is a GM-less episodic storygame. Honestly, it looks like playing the rules included with the Story Cubes themselves, only with a bit more guidance to steer play.

It won't be to everyone's taste, but it looks fascinating to me.

Watching the videos, I suspect that my author friends (and there are a ton of them) will appreciate this, too. It can be used for scenario design for any RPG, or as a writing aid for novels (or short stories).

I may have mentioned it before, but here's how I'm using the Story Cubes in my Legend of the Five Rings game, by the way:

At the start of each session, every player draws one cube randomly from a bag and then rolls it.  At any point during the game, they can spend that die for a story-based benefit or for a Free Raise on a roll.

A similar tweak can be applied to just about any RPG. Spend the cube for a bonus on a roll or for a story-related benefit in a situation where dice aren't necessarily going to be rolled.


For example: Here is a random mix of nine dice (screencapped from the StoryCubes app). To the left, in green, there is a Trap symbol.  In a D&D game, I'd let a player spend that for a bonus (+1 or +2) when setting an ambush. Or, if the party is ambushed, maybe that player could spend the bonus to avoid being caught flat-footed due to surprise.  The party Thief could use that die to boost their role to search for traps - or another PC could spend it for a one-time chance to search for traps. In games with in-depth debate/social combat systems, you could spend the same die to set a verbal trap for someone ...

And that's just one face of one die. And is just fantasy-flavored. Imagine these dice for a super-hero game.

Seriously: These things are awesome and you should totally be using them for everything.  And this Kickstarter is a pretty inexpensive way to get in.  For £20, you get a set of cubes and the RPG. That's about $25 US. Since the cubes themselves are around $15, that's $10 for the RPG. I call that a "screaming deal."