Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When The Fun Stops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Player Buy-In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Return To Old Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 07, 2014


I realized this morning that I hadn't scheduled a post to go live on Wednesday.  My wife had surgery on Wednesday morning, so my life has been pretty well focused on that.  I'll have a post for next week, unless things take an unexpected turn between now and then.

Before you ask: She pulled through okay and will be back to normal within a few weeks at the outside. Her doctor (and the nursing staff at the hospital) is surprised at how well she is doing. Realistically, I really didn't need to take time off of work to take care of her. That's how quickly she's recovering.

Either way: No post two days ago. Normal post expected for Wednesday morning.