Monday, December 29, 2008

Formula D New Tracks Preview

A quick update to my previous Formula D post:

Asmodee France has posted images of the new tracks.

Sebring is primarily a speed track - with some very short one-stop curves.

Chicago East Park is ... brutal. Intersections, a jump, and long stretches where there are only two lanes make this a particularly interesting track. These are the tricks to which I alluded in my previous post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game Store In Trouble

Earlier today, I received this e-mail from Brian, who runs Phoenix Games (My FLGS of choice):
I apologize in advance if you receive this email more than once. Some of you may be on multiple email lists and I may not have caught all of the duplicates.

This is not your usual email from Phoenix Games. This one's a little different and was not easy to write. However, over the last few days I have been reminded that this store is not "my store" anymore. It truly has become "your store" as well. So, pride aside, this is a plea for your assistance. I need your help.

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning, you know there have been many challenges that we’ve been able to overcome and survive over the years. Never has the fate of this local game store felt like it was as uncertain as it does as of this writing.

The economic downturn left fewer shoppers coming in on a regular basis, but it has still been manageable. However, this recent deluge of snowstorms on what are supposed to be the busiest shopping weeks have kept nearly everyone away, rapidly depleting reserve funds and preventing the collection of the income necessary to finance Phoenix Games through the slow months of the first quarter.

This revenue likely will not be recovered and quite simply, the fate of Phoenix Games is dependent on this email.

My plea is simple-

If you venture out to do some last minute holiday shopping, please keep us in mind. We’d love to see you and your patronage will significantly help. Plus, a new game is a wonderful way to spend a day with family and friends over this winter break.

If you’re not venturing out at all, may we suggest calling us and placing an order over the phone? We’ll include free shipping on orders over $100. We’ve also got plenty of gift certificates that we can mail out same day. The US Postal Service can have each of these options delivered next day all around Puget Sound.

Please consider helping to keep us around just a little while longer.

We still have many contributions to make to this community and many new ideas to implement like our new board game rental section which is now available. With a little bit of help from you right now, we can still do it.

For your patronage past, present and future, thank you.

Special Holiday Hours
Tuesday 10:00am- 10:00pm
Wednesday 10:00am- 7:00pm
Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm
Sunday 12:00-8:00pm
Monday through Friday 11:00-9:00pm


J. Brian Cobos
Phoenix Games
11811 Mukilteo Speedway, #110
Mukilteo, WA 98275
(425) 353-5584

Business Hours
Mon-Sat 12:00p- 9:00p
Sun 2:00p- 8:00p

Get tournament and event schedules, product release updates and more at:
Sadly, I don't think this problem is atypical. And it's probably not limited to game stores. And, unfortunately, Phoenix Games isn't likely the only game store being impacted by the weather.

It seems like the entire country is currently having a particularly harsh winter. Here in the Seattle area, we have had a long stretch of snow - normally, it sticks around for one to two days before going away. And snow in Seattle is especially bad - it tends to hover around freezing, so the snow will thaw and re-freeze as ice and thaw and re-freeze. It leads to sheets of ice on the roads with an infrastructure designed to handle rain.

I suspect that a number of local businesses are struggling, but I don't have the same level of personal investment in the other businesses that I do in Phoenix.

In addition to the hours above, I'll be hosting our weekly Game Night on Friday. It'll be my first chance to spend Christmas Money and I plan to spend some. I don't think I'll be able to afford much, but every nickel helps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Formula D

I've now played Formula D a few times, and have even had the chance to try the street racing.

As you may not know, I was a fan of Formula Dé, and I own several of the tracks.

Because of this, I was initially skeptical when Asmodee told me that they were doing a new edition and were changing the rules somewhat. I knew it would sell, because Formula Dé had been out of print long enough that it was commanding disturbingly high eBay prices - even with their one-shot reprint of a few years ago. What I was uneasy with were rules changes. When they mentioned adding illegal street racing to the mix, I was concerned. I didn't see how to make it feel different from the basic Formula One racing, so I didn't see any added value to it.

I'm very glad to be proven wrong. The improved components are nice, and I really like the street racing. The differing abilities of the drivers are nice, and make for a very interesting race. Admittedly, not all abilities are created equal - and some of them are dramatically less useful with fewer players. The addition of Nitro and the different repair rules give it a different feel, as well.

And it's worth noting that the included track has three different special rules. The next street track (which I've seen) also has a few new tricks up its sleeve.

I hope all future releases include at least one street track, as it brings a lot to the game that I had not expected.

We'll be playing again on the day after Christmas. And probably again over New Year's Eve.

Next year, I will be tracking my games played online as well as in person, so expect that I'll show more plays of Neuroshima Hex, The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Wits and Wagers in my Games Played.

If I don't post again before then, I wish a very merry Christmas to those of you who are reading this.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How To Lose at Dungeon Twister

Game One
Originally uploaded by GameThyme
This image is only a few turns into a Matched Forces game. I've used my Combat +4 and Combat +5 cards, and my General fell to my opponent's Assassin.

I'm in Yellow.

This is an Equal Forces game, as you can see. Here are the teams, items, and room pairs:
Weapon Master

Scroll of Inversion
Ring of Teleportation
Ring of Weakness
Dragon Slayer


It is (by far) my favorite style of play, but I'm not very good at it. And there are some characters in here that I very much enjoy using.

In fact, I have an excellent grasp of the theory of DT strategy, but I'm not so good at putting that theory into practice. I still have questions, however. For example: Why did my opponent choose the Dragon Slayer when there are no dragons in play? Was it to deny me access to a potentially useful item? Or was it just to confuse me?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I know I'm past due for an update - I got a bit caught up in the latest iteration of my quick reference file.

I'm making a list of rooms and what terrain is in those rooms. It's taking more time than I had expected - it's not easy to count wall tiles in some of those rooms!

It's also forcing me to create some new terminology - "Overlay Terrain," for example. See, Mist appears over both floor spaces and rift spaces. in order to be 100% accurate and useful, I'd need to have separate columns for both Mist (Floor) and Mist (Rift). That's more work than I'm willing to do. So I just mentally tagged Mist as "Overlay Terrain" and counted the floor spaces under mist as floor spaces and then counted the mist separately. It's easier, less mind-numbing, and will be about as useful when I'm done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Death Wears White

Death Wears White
Originally uploaded by GameThyme
I've done a few of the How to Host A Murder parties in the past, and was (to be honest) disappointed with them. So I didn't expect to like Death Wears White. In fact, I crinched when I heard that Asmodee was releasing a Murdery Mystery Party Game.

Then the box arrived, and it was packed.

The thing in the box that piqued my interest the most was a page of postage-stamp sized markers labled "Action Point."


Action Points? In a Murder Mystery Party Game? How does that work?

Well, it turns out that this is nothing like the How To Host A Murder games. Shall we start at the top?

One: The murderer knows that they are the murderer, as opposed to learning it at the end of the last round, after a number of rounds in which every single other player is made a Red Herring through use of clever wording.

Two: No rounds. Each player receives a character packet containing their character information - ideally, the organizer will hand it out a few weeks in advance, because each character also has some things they have to bring with (one character, for example, is supposed to bring a gun).

Three: Along with the "No Rounds" thing, it's worth noting: All of the evidence and clues contained in the box are in play from the beginning - just spend the AP. It's also worth noting that "I search the body" is 1 AP. But you can also search specific parts of the body, if you think there might be a clue or a hint there. The organizer has this information available, and may also have physical clues to give you (order forms, packing lists, letters, medical files ... ). All you have to do is ask the right questions.

Four: Action Points. While each character has information they are required to disclose (if asked), you won't always know what to ask. Action Points are a representation of effort expended to sneak off or just to search an area (or a person). Players choose where to spend their resources - and they can work together and pool their resources.

Five: The names are not puns. I know that this is a non-critical thing - and at least one of the names is still a joke, but it's a lot more subtle than a pun. The pun names really annoyed me in the "How To Host ... " series.

Now, it's not perfect. One character's pamphlet, for example, lists the wrong twin brother as having a tattoo. Players should show up in costume - and others have props that they need. One character, for example, needs a gun. Another should look 9 months pregnant.

I also made a few mistakes in play - there were clues I should have followed-up on, a few things that were right in front of me that I didn't check on. I also treated the two gunmen as NPC's, not realizing that they were also characters.

But I had a good time, and I'd do it again. I'm told there is another Murdery Mystery Party game in the works from Asmodee - I look forward to seeing how full of stuff it winds up being.

(Oh: One mini-gripe about the GeekMod process on Boardgamegeek. In general, it works very well. When trying to upload photos for this one, however, I was repeatedly declined with the comment "Image is irrelevant to subject matter," and another comment of, "If these are people playing the game, where is the game?" If you're GeekModding, please look at the game if there is a question of relevance.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dungeon Twister Characters: Multiple Uses Part V, Fire & Water

I'm going to preface this with the same warning I used last few times: What I'm about to say is my analysis. There are players who are better than I who will disagree with every word I type. There are also players who can regularly trounce me who will agree with every word I type. Your mileage may vary.

This is my fifth entry on Set-By-Set Dungeon Twister Character Strategy, and will cover Fire and Water.

Base Set Average Movement: 3.62
Base Set Average Strength: 2.00

Fire and Water Average Movement: 4.25
Fire and Water Average Strength: 1.62

As you can see, F&W has a signifiantly higher average speed than the base set, and the average strength is down dramatically. This is the fastest set in the game, being 13% higher than average. It's also the weakest in combat, at only about 68% as strong as the overall average. These numbers, by the way, do not include terrain bonuses to Strength (the two Elementals in this set have such bonuses).

Were it not for the speed, I would argue that this set was almost all Specialists. As it is, I see seven Runners (most of whom can also serve as Specialists, one can double as a Hitter) and one Specialist. There are some very powerful characters in the set, even if you don't dig too deeply.

The new items in the set are game-changing, especially the Ring of Repulsion. You'll see what I mean after a play or two.

Magophage: Were it not for the speed of the character, I'd mark the Magophage as one of the more unusual Specialists in the game. His ability has necessitated a list of what is magic and what is not in the game, and is fundamentally game-changing. With clever placement, you can use him as a shield for friendly characters. Explanation of this actually requires an image:
Magophage as Shield
The Acrobat doesn't have to worry about the Scroll of Confusion, as he is in the Magophage's null-magic area. It's also worth noting that the Magophage's placement denies healing to the Prophet, should he become wounded.

In fact, the Magophage is all about denial. I tend to park him near a Fountain of Youth if my opponent doesn't have a Cleric to deny the use of the Fountain to my opponents.

Acrobat: Next to the Thief, the Acrobat is the best mover in the game. In a set lacking in Hitters, the Acrobat can be fairly easily moved into flanking position to trigger Group Combat. The Acrobat is also excellent at item (and wounded character) retrieval.

Barbarian: The set's sole Hitter - and an effective one. He can't use any magic items, but - let's be honest - that's not a huge loss, especially when he gets +1 Strength versus Magic Users. In Free Choice play, the Barbarian is an excellent fast-moving Hitter.

Fire Elemental and Water Elemental: There are three rooms in this set which contain Lava spaces and three which contain Water spaces. In tournament-legal play, there are seven rooms containing Lava and seven containing Water. Two of those seven contain both. That's out of 72 tournament-legal rooms. There is also room pair P2, which has lava spaces. The Water Elemental is slightly weaker than the Fire Elemental, however - the Fire Elemental can carry wounded characters in its native element. Beyond that, they're too weak to be good Hitters - in their (sparse) native element, they're decent hitters, but not phenomenal. In fact, I rarely use these characters in Free Choice unless I'm being cruel to my opponent and choosing rooms containing their element. I say that it's cruel because (with one or two exceptions) these seven rooms per element are nasty. Keep in mind, however that these two characters are still only mediocre in a fight.

Courtesan: Remember waaay back when I started this series? How I mentioned that I tended to use my Troll more or less as a Living Wall? The Courtesan is better at this than the Troll. A lot better. There is no better Living Wall than the Courtesan. She's the best Blocker in the game.

Prophet: He's a decent Runner, with Speed 5, but the Prophet should nearly always be on your starting line if you choose to use him. The ability to align an unrevealed room in the direction of your choice cannot be emphasized enough. Remember how I love the Mechanork? Paired with the Prophet, he's nearly twice as effective - it means that rooms will start to your opponent's disadvantage. Then the Mechanork can keep them that way. In Free Choice, they're a powerful combo. The ability of the Prophet to use Scrolls and other Magic-User Only items is icing on the cake.

Telekineticist: Another item-retrieval specialist. She can also function as an anti-retrieval specialist - she can move items to more difficult locations to keep them out of your opponent's hands. In fact, she is a better choice for this than many characters for two reasons:
1) She can easily move hard-to-reach items to even harder-to-reach locations.
2) She can deny items to your opponent without having to actually reach the object in question. She also doesn't have to be near the opposing characters, keeping her relatively safe.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good-Bye, WizKids

While I haven't always agreed with their decisions, I'm still sad to see WizKids go.

They gave me Tsuro and Oshi, two excellent games.

My wife gained a lot of her gaming confidence playing Pirates of the Spanish Main.

For these reasons, they will be missed in our household.

We (my wife and I) wish the best for any WizKids folk who are suddenly finding themselves in the job market.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


It's going to be a busy few weeks of gaming!

I've had it since just before GenCon, but I'm going to get a chance to play Death Wears White, the first of (hopefully) a series of murder party games. The friend who is hosting said it was "How To Host A Murder done right." I've looked over my character - and it certainly looks like fun.

Releasing this month:
Formula D - one of my group's favorites. I approve of the changes made, and am looking forward to this being available.

Dungeon Twister: Fire and Water in English. I have my "Multiple Uses" post for the characters partially-written, because I know you're all waiting for it.

Ghost Stories - a co-op game that is reportedly harder than Pandemic.

The Z-Man games edition of Neuroshima Hex is supposed to be coming this month. It should be compatible with my copy of the Doomsday Machine and Babel 13 (which I pre-ordered direct from Portal). I'm hoping the US release will mean I won't be the only person logged onto the online version in the evenings, like I am currently. Also? If anyone wants to play sometime, just meet me there. I'm not there as much as I'd like to be, but I do spend some time there.

Giants was released at Essen. The game looks really good, and I expect it to be a lot of fun as well.

Things I'm Working On:
Dungeon Twister Characters: Multiple Uses post for Fire & Water

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game Masters

2008 Halloween Game
Originally uploaded by GameThyme
After reading through myGenCon haul, I'm beginning to suspect that the Game Master (GM) is an endangered species. Most of the Indie RPG's I purchased either share the GM duties or else do away with the GM entirely. It's very interesting to read.

And a startling realization. Every role-playing game I've purchased and played for twenty years has had a stark division between GM and Player. It was a line that was not crossed. Our GM's didn't tend to apprentice non-GM's, s it was a matter of Learn By Doing, which led to some (admittedly) bad games. I'd have killed for something along the lines of Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering back then. (FYI: Robin's Laws seems to have gone out of print, but is still available as a .pdf). In fact, I have half a dozen books designed to help GM's step up their game.

In the old days, we'd sometimes find someone with The Knack. The best GM I've ever had chose to run Rifts games.

Yes, that Rifts. You need to be almost perfect to be able to run Rifts, due to the sheer number of munchkins it attracts. But I'll talk about Rifts another time.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Rifts is Piledrivers and Powerbombs, which suggests rotating the GM duties among all players. Somewhere else on that spectrum is Polaris, where each player takes a specific portion of the GM duties based on seating position. So the player to your left has one responsibility, the player to your right has another, and the player across from you has another set of responsibilities.

Even Dungeons and Dragons (in 4th Edition) has a section in the Dungeon Master's Guide on playing without a GM. Whether that's due to the game looking towards a GM-less future or because it's now more board game than role-playing game is a debate or another time.

I don't think the office of DM is going away - but I do think we're due for a shakeup. Play Unsafe looks ready to help players step up their game.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Learning New Games

Learning new games is not always the easiest thing to do. As my group's primary Explainer, however, it's important for me to be able to learn them quickly - and well.

Here's how I've learned to learn games:

Step 1: Read The Rules
I know. It seems too basic. But there have been times when I learned a game from a friend and found out years later that I'd been playing it wrong. A good example of this is Monopoly. When's the last time you read the rules?
BUYING PROPERTY… Whenever you land on an unowned property you may buy that property from the Bank at its printed price. You receive the Title Deed card showing ownership; place it face up in front of you.

If you do not wish to buy the property, the Banker sells it at auction to the highest bidder. The buyer pays the Bank the amount of the bid in cash and receives the Title Deed card for that property. Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid. Bidding may start at any price.
Anyone remember that rule? It dramatically changes play, and makes the game interesting. Certainly more than just another roll-and-move.

When reading the rules, make sure you have the components out and in front of you so you can reference them - usually the rulebook will have one or two images of some of the components, but they may not be the best possible representatives.

Step 2: Play Some Practice Turns
Since you have the components out already, play a few turns with yourself. This will help you figure out how a round feels. It won't help you figure out the rhythm of the game, as that requires actual opponents - but you'll be able to get an idea. It'll also highlight areas where members of your group are likely to have questions.

Step 3: Find A Guinea Pig
If you're going to be playing the game, you'll eventually need to teach others. Start small, with someone you know.

When I'm learning a new game, I'll often ask my wife if she wants to give it a shot. If she's not available, there are several others I'll talk to. Sometimes, I'll bring a new game to Game Night and look for a straggler. "I notice you're not in a game. Want to help me figure this one out?"

Step 3a: Screw At Least One Rule Up
It's not a deliberate thing, but, when teaching a new game, I always overlook one critical rule. The first three times we played Power Grid, we limited people to buying into only one city per turn. It made for an exceptionally boring game. I almost didn't give it another shot.

When you do find a missed rule, by the way, you have a few options:
1: Start Over
If it's a rule that would significantly alter the game and completely change the strategy, this is sometimes a good idea. Most of the time, however, I tend to suggest the other two options.

2: Correct The Rule At The End Of The Round
This is risky - If a player's strategy is built on the rules working a certain (wrong) way, correcting at end of round can screw over a small number of players while giving others a significant advantage. In games where each round involves a board reset, however, this is a viable option. Poker, for example - each hand has almost no connection to the preceding hand.

3: Finish the Current Game With The Wrong Rule
This is what I prefer for fairly short games. Fess up - "Oops! Looks like I was wrong. You only need ONE Flood, no matter how many Nile Tiles you have. Shall we finish like this and fix it next time?"
Step 4: Play Again
The more you play a game, the better the grasp you'll have on the rules. I try to play two full games in an evening (time permitting) when learning a new game. Two games in an evening is enough to cement the rules faily well in my mind.

By following these four steps, I've managed to learn a number of games well enough to be able to teach them without referencing a rulebook. Knowing a lot of games can also help teach people other games - you can reference one game when teaching another. "Remember how, in Ticket To Ride, you can't use other people's trains? Transamerica is the opposite of that." A broad knowledge base is helpful when you're part of a demo team for this exact reason.

Finally: A boardgaming post! :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Originally uploaded by GameThyme
I said it a few years ago, and I'll say it again: Role-Players can learn a lot from professional wrestling.

I've been quiet here the last week or two - I haven't forgotten about this blog, nor have I been ignoring it. I've been doing some revision work, playing some 4E, and reading my GenCon purchases.

Last night, my wife and I took a break to go watch WWE Raw live at Key Arena here in Seattle.

I'm working on posts about 4E, Indie RPG's, and (of course) Asmodee Goodness (I just got all three Hero: Immortal King boxes, and I'm looking forward to writing about them).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RPG Character Sheets

I don't know if you've paid a lot of attention, but there was quite the kerfuffle lately over Wizards of the Coast's D&D Character sheets packet, as it costs about $1 per sheet.

Now, you can also download the official sheets. If you like them.

I don't. For D&D sheets, I'll usually go to Mad Irishman Productions. In fact, I like most of the Mad Irishman's sheets.

To be honest, I very rarely like "official" sheets for any game. has a huge variety of official and unofficial character sheets for thousands of games. When I have an odd game idea or a game blend, I'll occasionally put together a sheet for it - I did a Stargate: SG-1 game using the Synergy system (the system used for Blue Planet V2). RPGSheets hosted it until a fairly recent server crash.

I really feel for the sheet designers - it's not easy fitting enough information for some games onto one or two pieces of paper. It's a tricky balance deciding how many skill spaces to put onto a sheet or how much room for equipment. It's one reason a well-designed sheet is such a thing of beauty.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dungeon Twister Reference File

Some of you know that I have a Dungeon Twister reference file I've been keeping with all of the characters, items, and terrain pieces from all of the sets released so far (in both French AND English).

With the help of two French DT fanatics (Fabrice Wells and 'Krazlafas), I have information on promo figures, as well.

I held off on uploading it to BoardGameGeek for a good long while. I decided recently to go ahead and upload it.

You can find the file here. Please let me know if you have any questions - there are details lacking in the file due to space concerns.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Box Inserts

So I got Tomb at GenCon. I opened it today to read the rules and chck out the components, and found a rookie mistake on AEG's part:

The box insert is designed to hold the components for shipping, and will not hold them nearly as well once the components have been punched.

There are slots for the cards, and a well. Which is nice. But there is a groove in the box insert to hold the cardstock sheets which contain the unpunched character standups. This groove is smaller than the boards are, so the boards won't fit into the groove.

This means that, once I've punched the counters out, I need to save the empty skeletons so that the cards don't fly everywhere when the box is moved from Point A to Point B. I'm not sure if the well provided will hold the character stand-ups when punched, either. The included cloth bag is nice, but won't hold the cards in place.

Why don't I just put the characters back into the skeletons and put it way that way? Because you put all of the characters into the cloth bag at the beginning of the game. And there are 84 different characters.

I said it's a rookie mistake, but more experienced companies have made very similar errors - Asmodee changed the insert for the English-language version of Mission: Red Planet to much the same effect: It doesn't hold the components once they are punched out and ready for play. I'm still not sure why the insert there was so radically different from the French version - it would have needed tweaking for the square board, it's true, but not a complete redesign.

I've now read through most of my GenCon haul, too. Partial reviews/overviews and discussion are coming.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Formula D

I've now had a chance to read the rules to Formula D (the new edition of Formula Dé).

I had a chance to glance through the pre-production prototype at GenCon, while I was showing it off to Mark Kinney of All Games Considered. He emerged excited, and so did I.

Now that I've read the rules, I'm even more excited. I like Formula Dé. I think it's a great game. I think I'll like Formula D even more. They managed to make a great game even better, without losing any of what I liked about it.

I can't talk about it, yet, but once it's out, watch for some chatter here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Do I Read and

I get a lot of my news from two main sources.

This is a good example of why I read Of late, they've branched a bit from their original focus to include op-ed pieces and columnists, but there is a lot of good information to be had.

I also read Purple Pawn for its useful content. Purple Pawn covers not only the hardcore boardgames, but also talks about chess, checkers, role-playing games, and more mainstream games. This article, for example, contains info I hadn't seen elsewhere.

Between the two sites, I have more information at my disposal than any single human being needs.

Of course, there are a few other news sites I browse, but none of them have the depth and breadth of these two.

Friday, August 22, 2008

GenCon Haul

I had a sizeable GenCon haul this year - that is, products I brought home with me from various vendors and others.

This post doesn't have any actual content. It's just a list of my haul, along with links where I could find them.

Board Games
Frontiers (More copies)
Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game
Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords (And the expansion)

Role-Playing Game Books
Sorcerer and Sword
The Sorcerer's Soul
Sex and Sorcery

Piledrivers & Powerbombs
WWE: Know Your Role
Legend of the Burning Sands RPG
Serenity Adventures
Cortex System Book

The Esoterrorists
Fear Itself
The Book of Unremitting Horror
Mutant City Blues
Trail of Cthulhu
Grey Ranks
(Diana Jones award winner this year, along with the Open Design project)
The Arsenal of Heaven
(Sorry, I couldn't find any links for this - I bought it at the Indie Press Revolution booth)
Tunnels and Trolls v. 7.5
Colonial Gothic
Colonial Gothic: Secrets

Dogs in the Vineyard
The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach
The Roach Returns!

War and XP (Order of the Stick book)
La Voyageuse (Promo Helldorado mini)
Things We Think About Games
Looking for Group Volume 1
Asmodee Squad T-Shirt (Blue) x4
Asmodee Squad T-Shirt (Orange) x4

A Shoggoth On The Roof (Cast Album)
Darkest of the Hillside Thickets: "The Shadow Out Of Tim" and "Great Old Ones"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Werewolf Incident

It's been a few days, and I've had a chance to cool down, so let's talk about what happened the other night at GenCon that had me so angry.

For the last three years, now, we've played a pick-up game of Werewolves of Miller's Hollow in the same location. We do this after the dealer's room is closed, so my wife and I are on our own time - we have Asmodee demo copies, but we usually have several other games with us (both Asmodee and non-Asmodee games both). In past years, we've played Werewolves for a few hours and then wandered off to play other games.

Where we play winds up looking something like this:

GenCon 2008

Let me explain Werewolves a bit, for those few of you who aren't familiar. Every player is given a role card to keep secret. The basic three characters are Villagers, Werewolves and Seers. The Werewolves kill one non-Werewolf per night. The Villagers then try to determine who the werewolves are by lynching one person per day. The Seer is on the side of the Villagers, and can clear or convict one person per night. The game requires about eight people to be any fun, but can go up to 30+ without losing any of its fun. Provided, of course, that you have a good moderator. Thomas, who moderates our games for us, is among the best.

There are multiple versions of the game on the market, and some have other characters available. The two best-known versions are the Asmodee Editions version (which we use, not because we demo for them, but because it is in our opinions clearly better than the other editions - see below) and the Looney Labs version. I'm not alone in this opinion, either.

To support my "better" assertion, here are three side-by-side comparisons of cards. These were all scanned at the same resolution. I just pulled the images into Publisher, saved as a .jpg, and then opened another program to crop the images to their current size.



Seer/Fortune Teller
Fortune Teller/Seer

On Friday, we were into our fifth game (I usually bow out after a few of them so I can take pictures and answer questions from passers-by), when Thomas was interrupted by a GenCon Staffer, who informed us that we were blocking traffic and needed to stop immediately and go elsewhere. Those of us who still wanted to play were welcome to go join "the 'official' Looney Labs games going on upstairs."

As stated above: We don't like the Looney Labs version, Are You A Werewolf? And it's not just the images - they won't play with more than fifteen players, for example. And the larger games give more time for the villagers to develop their strategy.

And blocking traffic?

See this?

GenCon 2008

Does that look blocked to you? That photo, BTW, is straight from camera to computer to internet. No photo manipulation. I didn't even adjust color balance. It's also of the interrupted game.

We play where we do because it won't block traffic. Admittedly, it's not a designated open gaming area, but groups larger than ours often claim the area during the day to just sit and chat. Or stand and chat. The next day, it was nearly impassable due to someone's R2D2 model rolling around.

Several players in the group protested - some of them angrily. The GenCon staffer responded quite rudely and belligerently. Disproportionately so.

For the record, the group included several GenCon volunteers. People who are well aware of the rules, and are good about following them. They were shocked at the shutdown - and then at how belligerent the staffer became.

We ended up moving to an area that was designated as an open gaming area, but our game was cut down to about 10 players. And the open area required the use of a table, which made the game ... less. It's worth noting, by the way, that we passed several Werewolf games on the way to the open gaming area. None of them were in a designated open area. Several of them were blocking the hallways to a greater extent than we were. I didn't check what versions of the game were being played - we were moving, and I didn't want to stop and check something that might further frustrate or annoy me.

There were all sorts of theories bandied about by the remaining players - I don't know what triggered the shutdown. It may have been a complaint from someone or it may have been something the staffer thought he'd do on his own.

The next night, we started in the open game area.

We're not sure about next year - even though it was unofficial, it felt targeted to enough players that I felt it necessary to make sure that Christophe knew what had happened.

Let me emphasize this: I don't blame Looney Labs for this. They make a number of games, several of which I think are phenomenal. I particularly like the Icehouse pieces/toolbox. I will admit to disliking (strongly) Fluxx in most of its iterations - but even I can accept that it's a brilliant discussion of what exactly a game is. But that's another discussion for another time.

Friday, August 15, 2008


We had an ... incident while playing Werewolves of Miller's Hollow this evening. I'll probably have a full post on it later (once I've cooled down a bit), but for the moment I am simply going to express frustration and annoyance with what went down and how.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dangerous Places

As I'm sure you're all aware by now, I'm gearing up to go to GenCon in just over a week.

I've already downloaded the exhibitor room floor plan (Warning: PDF Link). And I'm starting to color it up.

See, there are a few booths where, if I'm not careful, I'll spend my entire paycheck. Adding to the concern is the fact that I get paid (via direct deposit) while I'm there.

The most dangerous booth for me this year? Booth #1939. Indie Press Revolution.

I own a few of their games, and I have been extremely impressed. They are among the most intriguing and best-written RPG's on my shelf.

And they have new stuff for GenCon.

Where I'll be.

With money.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I'm sorry I've been quiet lately - it'll probably be another week or two before I can return to normal posting here.

There have been a few events which have occurred in both my home and day job lives, and so I haven't been able to focus nearly as well as I would like on writing this blog. I know I have a handful of regular readers as well as a Google-given smattering of irregular readers, and I don't want to let any of you down by churning out sub-par posts.

Based on my Google Analytics results (and my Flickr stats), I know what the next few posts will be (including on lengthy article on the D&D 4E GSL, as promised), but there will be a delay in getting those posts up.

I promise I'll be back before GenCon, and I plan to post multiple times from GenCon (I now have a laptop which is coming with me).

Thank you for reading, and I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The 4E GSL

In my last post, I mentioned 4E, and discussed it a bit. I'm not sure I'll be hanging up 3.x, yet.

See, they finally released the GSL, which is the new d20 License. And it bears almost no similarities to the old d20 STL and the OGL.

I'll have more to say this weekend, but for now let me point out that ENWorld has an entire forum which is dedicated to discussion of the GSL, and there's some very good information in there.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

4E Is Upon Us: First Impressions

I picked up my 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons books on Friday, and had just enough time to get through the combat section and a few other bits before Worldwide D&D Day.

It's a good thing, too.

Reading the adventure, D&D Day should have been at least a week after the launch of 4E. It didn't tell DM's how to figure initiative, for starters.

Some of the characters had abilities that referenced abilities that weren't explained well. The Dwarf fighter, for example, had an ability that allowed an ally to "shift" two spaces. Having read the PHB, I knew that shifting was movement that didn't provoke an Opportunity Attack (which are much clearer than they were in 3E). Had I not read the book, I'd never have known this.

The DM's minis pack was (for the second year in a row) short one mini (this year, it was an Animated Statue).

The Wizard had Skill Training (Stealth), but Stealth didn't appear anywhere else on the character sheet. It should have shown Stealth +7.

Here are a few impressions on the system itself, however (based ONLY on the Player's Handbook and a glance at the Monster Manual):

1) Magic Items have been drastically depowered. The majority of effects are character powers, now, rather than Feats or Spells. This means that players with a stingy GM will be almost as powerful as players with a generous DM. It's a good thing, IMHO.

2) Skills remind me quite strongly of 2E AD&D's Non-Weapon Proficiencies. All skills can be used untrained, and skill training gives you a flat +5 to that skill.

3) Multiclassing took a huge step backwards. As in, "There isn't any, anymore." There are "Multiclass Feats" that allow you to take one ability (and sometimes a skill) from another class, but that's it.

4) Hit Dice are gone. Every class gets a set number of HP (plus Con bonus) per level.

5) Base Attack Bonus is now the same for everyone. BAB is half of your level plus your attribute mod, plus your proficiency bonus. The advantage that fighters have in combat is largely due to the fact that they'll have higher combat-related attributes than non-fighters. Well, that and the class Powers.

6) Weapons no longer have non-Proficiency penalties. Instead, they have proficiency bonuses. Most are a +2, but a few are +3.

6) AC won't change much from low to high level. Since Base Attack Bonus goes up by 1 every two levels (excluding increases due to attribute improvement), it doesn't need to change much. Higher level monsters have more hit points and better powers (much like PC's) to compensate for the relative flatness of AC and BAB.

7) The new class powers system means that third party support will have to step up. Seriously. Each class will take a lot of work to balance against every other class. It also makes me unsure why they still have Feats - why not make them universal Powers with "Permanent" as their duration?

8) They still call it the d20 system, but it's a new logo. At its core, it's still the same as 3E - d20 + stat modifier + other modifiers. "Other Modifiers" includes half of your level, skill training, and situational modifiers as appropriate.

All in all, I make it three steps forward, two steps back. It's definately progress, and it looks like they did a good job of simplifying things for the DM. I may even break out my DM's hat for this one.

Friday, June 06, 2008

More To Come

I'll be putting a longer post up this weekend about the end of Wizards of the Coast's support for d20 and compatible products and the launch of 4E, but I just wanted to put up a quick note:

I just got flight confirmation for GenCon. I'll be flying out of Seattle on the 12th of August and returning on Monday the 18th.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Most Dangerous Game

No, not hunting people.

Jungle Speed. I've never seen a game which so completely changes people.

My wife is a beautiful woman. She's not a very competitive person when gaming - that's not to say she isn't a skilled competitor. She's just not very trash-talking or in-your-face.

But get Jungle Speed out, and this happens:

Jungle Speed

If you look at the cards played, you can see that this is an "All-Grab" card. Two players have just barely started to move, and two are already fighting over the totem. One of the two blurs struggling over the totem is my wife.

The game's impact is such that we require all players to remove all jewelry from their hands before playing. And we can't play in the presence of children.

My wife isn't the only person impacted by the game, either. My good friend Dawn doesn't swear. She has a son and works as a newspaper editor (and freelance edits for WotC), so she is very aware of her language choices. She's very particular about the language she allows to escape her mouth.

Now, my Wednesday night game night is held at a game store which is open to the public. We sometimes have small children about, so we're pretty particular about our language as well.

The last time we played Jungle Speed, Dawn caught herself swearing. A lot. It doesn't help that I'd included the expansion.

There are a few games designed to cause pain or suffering, such as Shocking Roulette, Really Wild Bug Eating Party, Quelf and Nautilus (have you tried it?) but they hold no interest for me.

I have games which have cut me, games which have fallen on my toes, and games which have caused me to injure myself in other ways (Curses nearly always causes a strain). But Jungle Speed is the only game which I have played which nearly always draws blood or causes bruises. It's the only game I own which has put holes in walls and dented ceilings.

And I just keep coming back for more ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned that WotC didn't have any big GenCon announcements?

I was wrong.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why You Should Go To KublaCon!

I'm guessing that a fair number of you have never heard of KublaCon.

Here's why it's worth the trip, even though it's a fairly small Con:

1) It's a small con. This means more face time with the special guests. There are some good ones this year, too, including Guido Teuber.
2) Their annual Game Design Contest. Even if you're not participating (their deadline for submissions was last week), it's still worth checking out.
3) The chance to play Senji before anyone else in North America. It won't be available for sale, but will be available for demoing.
4) Kubla pins.

I was asked if I could make it this year, but my boss has that weekend off, so I wasn't able to get the time off for myself. My wife attended last year, and had a great time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Laying Blame

As most of you know, I'm pretty active over on BoardGameGeek. I'm not one of their most active or recognizable members, it's true - but if you've had a rules question on an Asmodée game, I'm frequently the one to answer.

It means that I see a lot of complaining about how far behind the French our Dungeon Twister releases are. People point fingers at Asmodée more often than not.

I'd like to point a few things out, however, and suggest another possible villain to this picture.

When Dungeon Twister was first released in English, there were four French sets that we lacked. That is, we were four sets behind. Looking now, there are ... four French sets that we lack. Asmodée has kept pace with the French releases - we have neither gained nor lost ground.

The American audience is different from the French audience. When I'm demoing expansions at conventions, the first question most players have is "Are these pieces available for multiplayer?" In France, the multiplayer expansions are reportedly the slowest-moving expansions. The difference is extreme enough that we may not get Fire and Blood in its current form - Asmodée is talking about an "Ultimate 3/4 Player" set that will include red and green characters from all of the English sets released thus far. That means we will have multiplayer for some characters before the French do!

And, finally, the new villain:
The American release of Dungeon Twister was delayed for a year or so, because Asmodée (France) licensed the rights to a North American release to Upper Deck, who then failed to publish. Most of you probably didn't know that - I don't think I'm even supposed to know about it. When UDE eventually dropped the project, Asmodée decided to go forward. Since they started from scratch, it set the original English release back by at least a year.

Dungeon Twister was the one of the first games that was not yet available in English to crack the BoardGameGeek's Top 100 games - it was far from the last, however.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

GenCon Bankruptcy Update

Well, okay. It's not a full update - it's just more information.

Living Dice did some digging and got a copy of the bankruptcy filing that GenCon made. It's an interesting post that is well worth reading. It also bears mentioning that most of the debts appear to be related to the Star Wars Celebration. Some of it may be from GenCon SoCal, but I can't tell for sure with the information provided.

It's also possible that the biggest debt (to The George E. Fern Company) may include GenCon Indy, as George Fern provides convention services for them. Yes, the reason given is decor for Star Wars Celebration IV, but it seems like a lot of money for decoration. I could be wrong, however as I honestly don't know how much it costs to put on a convention.

It's also worth pointing out that Hidden City Games, the last creditor on the list on Page 6, is owned and operated by Peter Adkison.

Even if you don't speak legalese, the file itself is worth downloading and reading. There are some very interesting things in there that may impact GenCon this year - and have probably already made an impact. For example, how many of you noticed that Wizards of the Coast dont have any big GenCon releases scheduled? In fact, D&D 4E isn't releasing at a convention at all - a significant break from the norm for them.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Gaming Soundtracks

I was listening to the soundtrack to Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game the other day. It's a beautiful soundtrack, and I love its sound.

It just doesn't sound like a B-movie horror soundtrack to me. It sounds like the kind of music I listen to while playing Engel or In Nomine.

As a role-player, I've been listening to soundtrack music for a very long time, with mixed results.

One GM used the score from Dune (I admit that I used Dune when I ran Blue Planet). It hung in the background without being too distracting.

One GM had a 200-disc CD changer, and it was all cued up. When we were heading into battle, he'd push three buttons, and the music would immediately let us know what we were in for.

One of my World of Darkness GM's had a soundtrack to describe the game to new players - he'd loan you the mix tape two weeks before you started play. It was supposed to give you an idea of what the world was like. He had one song for each Vampire Clan, one song for each of the other World of Darkness factions - and it gave you an idea of what to expect from them when you met them in-game.

There haven't been a lot of soundtracks released specifically for gaming - it's difficult to do, as every game feels different.

Midnight Syndicate has put out a batch of game-oriented CD's that work. They're listenable. But they don't describe my games very well. And that's the problem with most of the game soundtracks that have been released: They describe the artist's games, not your own.

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets did an album for Call of Cthulhu d20 that I liked - but it wasn't very good as a game soundtrack, as it got in the way, and didn't fit non-Modern games.

Here are a couple of pointers to help you come up with a soundtrack for your game:

1) Don't choose music that will clash with the game. German Death Metal works just fine for a post-apocalyptic setting, but probably won't go well with your Golden Age of Piracy games. One GM I remember used the Conan soundtrack for his homebrewed Victorian Steampunk game.

2) Don't spend too much time nailing down "the perfect battle theme," and the like. Your music should describe the setting as a whole, not just situations PC's are likely to encounter.

3) Speaking of situations, you should assume that music will play at the wrong time. Will your "Zombies Attack" song destroy the feel of the King's Palace when the PC's are visiting? "Ride of the Valkyries" is not good music for the Netrunner's hacking attempt, but it works just fine when the Rigger is trying to clear a barricade.

4) Try to keep it to a single CD. The GM with the 200-disc changer sometimes spent more time looking for the right disc than he did running the game. It was frustrating more often than it worked. If you're using an iPod or similar, try setting up a playlist of ten to fifteen songs.

5) Avoid trying to change songs to give clues. If the PC's know a battle is coming, that's one thing, but you don't want to warn them that they're about to walk into an Orc ambush. Or that the Chancellor is secretly working for the Guild.

6) Your music should reflect how you think your world sounds to YOU. Not everyone will agree with you - I thought that Dune and Blue Planet shared a number of thematic elements, so I used the soundtrack as background music and totally confused my players.

7) Don't use music to cover up holes in your GMing or to create emotion that isn't already there. Music shouldn't be a crutch. If your players are climbing the Eternal Mountain of the Five Winds with the Horn of Truth to bring the Gods back, there should be enough depth there already. If you and your players have told the story well, you don't need the music to provide goosebumps.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lesson Learned

We played Battleground: Fantasy Warfare at Game Night last Wednesday. We played 3 on 3 with 2000 points per player.

I posted a session report here.

Lesson learned, however: It's a great game, but will eat your entire evening if you're playing 3 on 3 with 2000 points per player. And it's not quite as much fun with six simultaneous players. I hope to actually host/run a tournament at some point in the not-too-distant future.

I hope to play more tonight, but there are also some other games on my plate for this evening. Pizza Box Baseball looks to be a lot of fun, and I know the group enjoys Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game.

I'll be hosting a Dungeon Twister tournament at the store this weekend (On Sunday). I'll be teaching people to play starting around noon, and will start the tournament one-ish. Let me know if you're interested or have any questions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm Not Kid-Friendly

I'm just not a very kid-friendly person. I lack the patience necessary.

For the last few weeks, we've had some young'uns showing up for my regular Wednesday gathering. Not astoundingly young - just young enough that I doubt the wisdom of their being out after 9:00pm without a parent or guardian present.

I guess it speaks volumes for how well Brian has established Phoenix Games as a Safe Place.

Last week, I was not mentally prepared for kids, and so my attitude was not as good as it should have been. In my defense, it'd been an unusually stressful day of work which included evacuating the building due to a gas leak.

Fine, I thought, I have to play games with kids, but I don't have to make it any fun!. So we played TransEuropa, which is a very underrated game. But I changed the rules - we played until all but one player shot off the track. It made the game d-r-a-g. And the kids lost interest pretty quickly.

Then we played Lord of the Rings, which the younger kid had been foaming at the mouth for a chance to play. The Fellowship was dead in three turns (Frodo met Sauron on the corruption track). The older brother lost interest when we didn't have enough players to add a Sauron player, as he wanted to be Sauron.

Don't get me wrong: These kids are reasonably well-behaved. In a chat with Brian last weekend, I realized that they were there to play games - something that even some of the grown-ups who show up at Game Night don't always realize is the goal. In this respect, they are the ideal of the Game Night participant. Even if they're a bit obsessed with Lord of the Rings and Nexus Ops.

Tonight, we're playing Battleground: Fantasy Warfare. I've had several requests from a number of the regulars (some of whom have purchased decks). I've got enough cards to cover at least eight players - and I'm not the only attendee who owns the game. (If you're a member of the Wednesday group, you can find the latest version of the rules here)

It's not a game I think these kids could handle. I can't let them just run loose in the store, so I'll probably wind up playing games with children while Battleground is played on another table.

I know that some of you who read this have children. Any suggestions for games that I can play that won't bore me to death that they can handle? Their ages range from ... um ... eight to twelve, I think.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's Coming?

I never know for sure what's going to make it into print in English and what isn't, but here's what I've seen in English that I feel safe discussing:

Sharur: Evolutions didn't make the cut. I first saw this one more than five years ago and, while I enjoyed it, my group had a lukewarm to cool response. This response appears to have been fairly typical.

Rattlesnake City didn't make the cut (although the English rules are available on the publisher's website). I'm not sure if Asmodee was going to publish in English or just distribute. Either way, the game was ... okay. I'm a bit of a game snob, so take that with whatever amount of salt you feel you need.

Renaissance has disappeared from Asmodee's website. This means that it may not make the cut, which disappoints me. I very much enjoy the game. I may have to dig it out tonight, in fact.

Asmodee US is showing Ca$h'n Gun$: Yakuzas as a new release, so it may be available already. This adds throwing stars and knives to the game, as well as including the card for the shotgun (but not the shotgun itself).

Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala have teamed up once again to bring us Senji. I've seen the translation on this, and it looks like a lot of fun. Asmodee US is claiming a summer release, so I expect this will be a GenCon launch - I have been wrong before, of course. Either way, it's a solid game with multiple paths to victory. There's some preview information up on the Asmodee US website.

Death Wears White (A "How To Host A Mystery" type of game) is reportedly enroute.

Don't give up on Hell Dorado. It's coming. I'm craving this one after having run demos for it at GenCon a few years ago.

Three Hero: Immortal King games are enroute. The Infernal Forge, The Lair of the Lich, and The Den of Dementia (Don't hold me to those translations as the final English titles). All three are non-collectable two-player card games. You can mix and match components - One player has a party of adventurers, the other is the dungeon the adventurers are exploring. The game is a great deal of fun, and I can't wait to play it with my English-speaking friends.

The new edition of Formula De is still in progress. I don't have much to say on this other than that I've liked the tweaks I've seen so far.

Of course, I'm craving Dungeon Twister: Fire and Water. Most people find this to be the most difficult of the expansions released for the game. I understand their argument. I really like the expansion, and will be playing it more soon (I'm hosting a DT tournament on the 27th). I hope to have a "Multiple Use" post up at about the same time people start looking for strategy advice.

There's only one other game I've seen the English for - I don't want to be the one to spill the beans on this one, however, so I'll let it slide for now.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

In the groups with which I game, I tend to be everyone's target of choice. As Jay said last night, "Never trust the guy who knows all the rules."

This means that, in many games, I find myself fighting against alliances. Even in games where this sort of thing is tricky to handle (like Formula De).

Because of this, I've been trying to find good cooperative games to play with my groups. Or games where team-ups are extremely difficult to pull off.

Thankfully, there are a fair number of decent cooperative games out there:

Shadows Over Camelot is a decent game, but I find myself liking it less and less the more I play. I think part of it is because the game has been solved. There are other threads on the 'Geek with solutions, as well. Either way, there are a few ways to play in which the game (and traitor, if any) will lose to the players every single time. In other words: Why play? I hate saying that about any game, as I really love to play games.

From there, we went to Arkham Horror. I thought it was ... okay. There wasn't really any player interaction and the random factor of the game was really high. And there was a lot of downtime between turns. But it goes up to eight players. The end will either be nailbiting and tense or a total snooze. I enjoy the game, but it's low on my list of games I'm likely to play.

We also played The Lord of the Rings. There was not a lot of player interaction on the board, but there was also a lot of discussion. "If you move along the hiding track, then Katie won't be able to get her Sun token. We can't afford to have her gain much more corruption." It's a fully cooperative game, with no traitor. There's a high random factor, but it keeps the replay value up rather than making the game feel chaotic. I really like this one - even with the Sauron expansion, which changes the game so that there is one adversary vs. the Fellowship players. With Sauron, it can handle up to six players. It's also very challenging. In six years, we've beat the game a total of ... um ... once. Last night was the fastest loss I've ever seen - The hobbits kept triggering events. One of the Bree events moves Sauron a number of spaces equal to the number of Hiding spaces that haven't been used, yet. For this group, that was seven spaces. And they had no way to prevent it, having used their event blockers earlier in the game.

A few weeks ago, Brian brought Pandemic to Game Night. Pandemic hit the spot: It was a fully co-operative game that was fast-playing and featured a high degree of player interaction. The rules are simple and accessable. It has a fairly high random factor, but it has the same effect as Lord of the Rings: It keeps gameplay from getting stale. Lest you rely entirely on my word: Not everyone has enjoyed it. Oh - and I haven't beat it, yet, either.

I know there are other cooperative games out there, and I'm looking for some good ones. Anyone care to suggest any?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

And ... We're Back!

I had company last week, followed by a visit to NorWesCon. My internet connection was temporarily down over the weekend, as well.

But all of these situations have returned to normal, and I will be resuming my normal posting schedule this week.

This Saturday, if all goes well, you can expect some actual content! :)

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dungeon Twister: Mercenaries Errata and Clarifications

This entry (which I will be bookmarking on the main page) will contain Errata and Clarifications for Dungeon Twister: Mercenaries

Last Update: January 27, 2011

Columns: Columns are 3D obstacles which block both movement and line of sight (and line of sight attacks).

The Samurai may still use his free attack after you have spent your last action.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I was quiet last week, and I'll be quiet again this week as well - I should return to normal activity next week.

Unless something significant happens, and then I'll pop up with something to say.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Good-Bye, Gary Gygax

We lost a giant, today.

Gary Gygax, Game Designer, Gamer and all-around nice guy died earlier today.

The internet is full of informative posts right now. provided their usual irreverence.

I rather suspect that he'd appreciate the irreverence.

Safe journey, Mr. Gygax.

Thank you for the games.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mah Jong

I had an opportunity to play Mah Jong last night with my wife and a couple of friends.

I've got a fairly nice Mah Jong set that a friend brought from China when he visited a few weeks ago.

In all honesty, I'd expected (based on everything I'd been reading) that the game would be a lot more like Rummy. In fact, a fair number of people sneered at me when I mentioned that I had a copy. "It's just like Rummy, only with tiles," they'd explain.

Actually, it isn't. There are some similarities - both are set-building games where you can utilize discards from other players. But the differences outweigh them. For example, players never get skipped in Rummy. All sets are worth points in Rummy - and all hands are scored in Rummy.

Yes, you could theoretically play Mah Jong with cards, but it'd lack ... a lot. It's a very tactile game, from building the Wall to breaking it to actual play.

We used the rules from this book. The book, by the way, is 1/3 rules, 1/3 variants, 1/3 strategy guide.

We had a great time, and will be playing again. In fact, we've scheduled a regular Mah Jong day, because it was so fun.

I need to play it a bit more before I can explain the game here, so I'll be bringing it with me to my regular Wednesday gathering. Hopefully, I'll be able to drum up some interest.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Games Played Lately

I've played a couple of games lately that leave me craving more. Container and Mordred.


Container is one part economics lesson, one part game. Each player has a card which tells them the value of goods on their home island. On your turn, you can produce goods in your factory, buy goods from other player's factories to fill your warehouses, build more factories or warehouses, or move your boat. Your boat allows you to buy from other players' warehouses and to sell goods to other players (via auction) at the central island.

You can't buy from yourself except at the central island - but you don't bid in the auction. You can either accept the highest bid (and take an equivalent amount from the bank as well) or you can pay the highest bid to the bank and keep the goods.

It's very interesting - the first time we played, we all built up as quickly as we could. Within a few turns, all players were out of money and sinking fast.

Lessons learned:
Don't expand right away - it takes too much money out of the game too quickly.
Don't take out loans to support expansion - the interest is a killer.
Refusing the largest bid is rarely a good idea - again, it takes money out of the game (and your pocket), when you could add that much money into circulation.
Shipments to the central island should start small - there's not enough money in the game to make shipments of more than 2 containers worthwhile until later in the game. Start with lots of small shipments.

The second time we played, we didn't take out any loans - we were too afraid. Boatloads of goods were small, and sold for (in hindsight) far too little.

Lessons learned:
Pay more for goods - I'm not suggesting that you bid 3 for something that's only worth 2, but you should bid closer to the actual value of the goods (at least early in the game). It brings money into the game. If you bid high, others will bid high (and will have the money to do so).

The third time we played, it clicked pretty well. I don't know that I necessarily learned any lessons, but I definately enjoyed myself.

It's a solid game, but you may need to play a few practice turns with beginners before starting over so that they understand how easy it is to go bankrupt in this game.

Rules-wise, it's low complexity - but the overall complexity of the game is higher than that, as you need to balance supply and demand (and adjust your pricing accordingly).

I'll recommend this as a good medium-complexity game.


In Mordred, players take the role of King Arthur's Knights bringing the light of Civilization to the nation of Wales. Every turn, you roll two dice on a chart to determine your income. You can choose which line to roll on, but the more money you make, the more likely you are to gain corruption. You can then spend that money building cities and towns, fortresses and castles. And attacking Mordred.

The more corrupt you become, the more Mordred is able to expand his forces into Wales.

The game ends when either someone hits the end of the corruption track, Mordred's last piece is placed on the board, or a player starts their turn without one of the four types of structures they are capable of building (meaning they're all on the board).

There are two possible outcomes at the end of the game:
1) Mordred wins. If, when the game ends, Mordred's pieces outnumber the players' pieces, he wins. In this case, the player who was least corrupted by Mordred wins the game.
2) Arthur wins. If Mordred doesn't win, then the players convert the items they built into victory points. Highest total wins.

It's interesting - early in the game, it's tempting to roll on the High Corruption, High Money track so that you can build, build, build. However, your building may not outweigh Mordred's expansion in this case. If you roll on the low-risk, low-money chart, however, you won't be able to build in signifcant numbers.

There's no direct attacking of other players in this game - the active player decides the direction in which Mordred expands, and can use Mordred to take down players who don't build defensively.

It's also very hard to get rid of corruption once it is obtained. You have to spend money and roll well while adjacent to Mordred. If you win, that Mordred piece is then removed, which means your available targets has dropped by one.

It's a good game - I don't know that it's great, but I've enjoyed playing and re-playing it, and will recommend it as a quick-playing low-complexity game.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

GenCon Files for Chapter 11

For those who hadn't heard, GenCon LLC announced on Friday that they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

For those of you who aren't in the US, here is some detailed info. on what Chapter 11 Bankruptcy means.

Peter Adkinson has stated on the Gencon forums that the reason they are filing for Chapter 11 is to keep them going while they work out payments to everyone they owe.

You need to log in to see his post, so here's the full text:

Today Gen Con is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.

Essentially what happened is that we lost a lot of money this year running a licensed non-Gen Con event. We owe several companies money from this show and it’s going to take time to pay them off. To protect ourselves from the more aggressive companies we have been forced to seek protection from the courts.

While this is certainly an unfortunate development it will not impact our ability to operate Gen Con Indy, nor should it affect our licensed Gen Con events in the UK, Paris, and Australia.

The way a Chapter 11 works is that we negotiate a long-term payment plan with our creditors with the assistance of the US judicial system. The courts will closely oversee our business affairs to make sure we are running the company prudently and that we have a reasonable plan to pay everyone off. Which we do. The courts also protect us from aggressive creditors so that we can continue operating.

Gen Con LLC will get through this strong at the other end. Our fundamental revenue generating asset is our Indianapolis show, Gen Con Indy. This show is profitable enough to cover our direct costs, our overhead, and have some funds left over to pay off the debts from the licensed show. It will take some time, but this is one of those situations that the Chapter 11 filing was designed for, to help good companies get through a rough situation. Everyone will eventually get paid and business will return to normal. In the meantime, Gen Con Indy carries forward without interruption. Heck, if the airline companies can do it, why not us!

I’ve learned some hard lessons about the event business over the last few years. After trying to get Gen Con So Cal to work, and then losing money on this non-Gen Con event, I’ve learned how difficult it is to run a “big show” and make money. It’s a highly speculative affair where you’re never quite sure until the show’s over whether you made money or lost, mainly because you just don’t know how many people are going to come and for how long.

So, going forward our organization is going to focus on what we do best: managing Gen Con Indy, a healthy, vibrant show that has been growing nicely ever since moving to Indianapolis.

Here is a link to the press release we are issuing today describing this filing:

As you can probably guess, there’s not a lot I can say about this publicly, due to it being a sensitive legal matter and all. I’m traveling this coming week to New York Toy Fair, so my access with be spotty, but I’ll be sure and check in at least once a day to field questions best I can.

Peter D. Adkison
CEO, Gen Con LLC

Saturday, February 16, 2008

BGG Header

BGG Header
Originally uploaded by GameThyme
One of the things I really like about Flickr is the ability to add "notes" to my photos.

I have more detailed posts coming on this, but if you click on this photo, it'll take you to an image of the header bar on the 'Geek with some notes added.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stat Comparisons for DT

This may help players who are wondering about Dungeon Twister set vs set play - it is how the average Strength and Movement values compare, both to the basic set and the overall average.

Keep in mind, however: This table does not factor in the character special abilities for calculating set vs. set balance, and some character special abilities are only useful with certain items, terrain, or other characters in play.

It's also worth mentioning that not all sets are available in English, yet.

I'm sorry for the odd gap - the table formatting seems to disagree with Blogger.

SPD1 is the average speed of the set compared to the overall average of all sets.
SPD2 is the average speed of the set compared to the base set's average.
STR1 is the average strength of the set compared to the overall average of all sets.
STR2 is the average strength of the set compared to the base set's average.


Edit 2/9: Oops. Somehow left P&D and F&W off the list ...

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Is it too early to start getting excited about GenCon this year?

My wife and I have already made our hotel reservations - we'll be demoing for Asmodee again. This year, I'll be bringing my camera and taking pictures with it. Last year, I didn't take nearly enough photos.

I helped demo a prototype to a publisher last night. It helps that the publisher in question is a friend of mine - he passed, but offered to take the game to The Gathing of Friends, which is huge. It means that he liked the game quite a bit, even though it doesn't fit his needs.

Beyond that, life is busy. Very busy right now - thus the more sporadic than normal update schedule. I've got a couple of posts almost ready to go and will publish them as soon as I put the last bits of polish on them.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


This week has been a whirlwind of suck at work - I'll try to get a post up this weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2008

HellDorado, Age of Gods

Hell Dorado is creeping closer and closer to its English release.

The official rules are now available in English. This file doesn't include background, setting, or any units. But it's a sign that the game has advanced.

And you can get the unit stats on the basic HellDorado site. You just need to do a bit of work to figure out what is what.

I'm really excited about this. Ever since I helped run demos at GenCon '06, I've looked forward to this one.

I'll do a more in-depth post on the game when it gets a bit closer to its English release.

In other news, my copy of Age of the Gods is now on its way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BoardGameGeek for Beginners, Part One

Originally uploaded by GameThyme
I know I reference BoardGameGeek (BGG) an awful lot, here. It'sbecause it's the single best boardgaming resource on the web. No question, no contest.

Unfortunately, it's not always very user-friendly.

I learned this after recommending the site to Ron, who games with us on Wednesday evenings. He came back the following week, and asked for help because he'd struggled with the site.

I figured it'd only take a few seconds to show him, but there's a lot to cover on the site.

And I sincerely doubt that Ron is the only person out there who has struggled with it. So I'm going to be (in and around other entries here) working on a series of entries to help you learn to navigate parts of BGG. "In and around other entries" means that my goal is one entry per month on using BGG. I may do more, but I may occasionally miss a week.

To start with, I figured I'd just post an image of the front page as it appears with me logged in.

My next BGG post will cover some of what you see in this image.

Just watch for the BGG for Beginners tag.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


For the last few months, I've had the opportunity to play a friend's prototype game. It's a lot of fun - and I'm learning a lot about what's involved in playtesting a game. I have a lot more sympathy for the team at Wizards of the Coast that has to decide what's balanced and what isn't for their Magic: The Gathering collectable card game.

My friend's game has significantly fewer abilities to balance, and already there have been long discussions on timing issues and the interaction between abilities.

With each revision of the rules, some elements get simpler and the game itself becomes more elegant.

It helps that it's a really fun game. He's thinking about entering it into the Seventh Annual Game Design Contest at KublaCon.

I also have a friend who is a publisher who asked me (totally out of the blue) if I knew of any game projects worth publishing.

I've previously discussed some of the magic of holding a prototype in your hands. And I've played some mediocre prototypes. This isn't one of them. I think that, if a publisher gives it a shot, it'll likely make it a good long ways. Even if it's not eventually published, it'll mark my friend as a designer to watch.

I don't want to say too much about the game itself, because I don't want to endanger its chances of publication in any way. But I'll keep you in the loop on its progress.