Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Gaming Year In Review

This year started for me with all-night gaming. On December 31, 2006 at around 8pm, I got together with some friends and we started to play games.

I made a few comical resolutions for 2007, and one serious one:

I would keep up with my games played. And I've managed (ask my wife how odd I've gotten about keeping track).

400+ plays this year - and I'm mildly surprised at which games I've played the most.

Ca$h'n Gun$ is in first with 28 plays, followed by Mr. Jack with 25 plays.

Dungeon Twister is in third with 23 plays. If you include the expansions, I've played DT 38 times this year.

The surprising thing for me is that I am constantly telling people that I don't play very many two-player games. But Mr. Jack and DT are both right there at the top of the list. I had only two plays with the 3/4 Player expansion for DT, so it was clearly two-player for the other 36 games.

My top five includes three two-player games.

My Top Five Played Games, BTW, are:
1. Ca$h'n Gun$
2. Mr. Jack
3. Dungeon Twister
4. No Thanks!

These are all games I enjoy - and these five games make up almost a quarter of the games I played this year. If you include the DT Expansions, they're just over a quarter of my games played.

By number of plays, that is - if you compare time spent playing, I suspect you'd see a difference.

A couple of games didn't hit my Top Ten Plays that deserve special call-outs - I'll try to do those later this year.

I'm tweaking my tracking next year, too. I started late this year, after seeing the suggestion online:
If I play an expansion that doesn't stand alone (Vexation, for example), I'll record 1 play for the main game and .1 for the expansion. For games like DT, however, the expansions stand alone and will be posted as a full play of the expansion. This should give me a better idea of what I play next year.

I won't be posting again until late next week at the soonest. Have a safe and fun New Year celebration.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What's Up With Diplomacy?

As many of you know, I live and work in the greater Seattle area, which is home to many board, card, and role-playing game publishers. Including Wizards of the Coast (WotC).

WotC is owned by Hasbro, as is Avalon Hill (AH).

In fact, AH is currently the board game division of WotC.

Yes, this is relevant.

I have several friends who work (or worked) for WotC. So do most of my friends - as a local gamer, it's almost impossible not to have friends who work for a local publisher.

Now, news spilled a few weeks ago that a new printing (or edition) of Diplomacy is being shopped to distributors. Since the game has been OOP for a few years, it's newsworthy.

2009 is the 50th Anniversary of Diplomacy. As the shirt says, it's been "Destroying Friendships Since 1959." A 2008 release would give the 50th Anniversary time to get rolling, so they could do some sort of celebration throughout 2009.

So here's where I get interested:
I asked a couple of my WotC friends about the upcoming reprint. My friends are usually fairly free with information - it has similarities to my arrangement with Asmodée: they trust me.

Everyone I've asked so far has clammed up or mentioned their Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

It kindles a little spark of interest - and perhaps some hope for a 50th Anniversary release. WotC, if you're listening, I'd love to have a copy of Colonial Diplomacy included ...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Brief Side Trip

Last Wednesday, we gave out our Game Night Christmas Gifts - a $10 Gift Certificate to Phoenix Games.

I don't think everyone there celebrates Christmas, but everyone there celebrates some gift-giving holiday in December. And no-one is offended at receiving a Christmas gift. Which is nice.

Every year, my wife and I discuss how much to give, and every year, we settle on $10 - we think it's the ideal amount to support the game store:

1) This year, we bought 12 gift certificates. That's $120 direct to the store.
2) Some members will lose the gift certificates. This turns the $10 for that person into pure profit. That said, however, if they mention it to Brian, he'll probably replace them - but he doesn't have to. And it's hard to get hugely upset over losing $10.
3) Very few games cost less than $10. This means that when people use the certificates, they wind up spending more money on top of the certificate. The more money which is spent at the game store, the better off the game store is.

Even though I had recently received a sizeable bonus this year, we didn't increase the amount we gave.

As I won't be back until the middle of the week, I'm going to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very merry Christmas (unless you don't celebrate Christmas, in which case I wish you a wonderful Winter Holiday of Choice - and this wish is retroactive if I've already missed your Winter Holiday).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miniatures Gaming - Oops!

I realized the other day that I overlooked discussing one significant factor on the other games I've covered:

"Wow, that looks cool! How do you play?"

It's not a barrier to entry, but it needs to be factored in the game's rating.

I did factor it into the final rating of the games I've done so far, but (while doing so) failed to discuss it.

For example:

I really like Battleground: Fantasy Warfare. It's a great game. It plays well, it has a low introductory cost, and it's just plain fun. But the cards aren't very eye-catching. I give it a C here.

A large part of what sucked me into War Machine was the appearance of the figures. This gives it an A.

Once I'm done going over these minis, I'll throw together a chart with the games and the various categories I've used in rating them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Here Come More Sporadic Updates

I've just changed jobs, which dramatically changes my schedule. Until I adapt to the new schedule, my updating here may not hit my one post per week goal.

Once I've adapted to the new schedule, of course, things should return to normal. Well, as normal as things get around here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some Minor Changes

My friend Wade suggested that I try FeedBurner if I wanted stats on my feed. Those of you reading via feed through LiveJournal shouldn't need to make changes - a support request has been opened to redirect the existing "user" for the feed.

I've also added Lijit search functionality to my sidebar - It's a better search than Technorati provides.

If you have problems with any of these, please e-mail me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Miniatures Games: Battleground: Fantasy Warfare

First of all, let me apologize for the long delay between posts. The holidays snuck up on me.

The second miniatures game I'm going to discuss at length is Battleground: Fantasy Warfare from Your Move Games.

The first time I saw this game was at GenCon 2006. I'll be honest: it failed to impress me. It was a game that couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Was it a board game? A card game?

See, this game doesn't use plastic or metal minis: the units are represented by cards with their stats printed on them. They're also treated so that you can use a dry-erase marker on them.

A few months later, one of my local friends (and a regular opponent of two-player games) was ordering a few decks, and offered to order one or two for me.

I remember thinking to myself, If it sucks, it's not like I've spent a lot. The price is pretty good..

My first decks were Orcs and Elves. We met one Wednesday evening at our local game store, and played. It was ... okay. I know we missed some rules,and had a few other questions. It was enough that I was willing to play more.

It was about a week before I noticed that my decks had different versions of the rulebook. The Elves had the newer rules (if I remember correctly).

So I played a few times with several other friend as well - and started to like it.

Reading through the newer book, it felt more polished - and better. Every new deck has a newer rulebook. The Lizardmen have the newest book so far, and it's really well polished.

So here's how it stacks up:

Assembly Time: A
There is no assembly necessary. None.

Painting Time: A
Again: No work necessary.

Gaming Buddies: B
Even if you don't have any local buddies who are into the game, two starters are pretty cheap so you can get your friends involved.

Tournament Level Cost: A
Each army has a starter box and an expansion box. That's it. There are a few army-building restrictions, but most people will have no problem with just the starter and expansion for their army.

A category I left off my last entry (which was silly) that need coverage:
Rules Difficulty: B-
This game has a fe rules issues, and could be clearer in points. Don't get me wrong: I love the game, but there are a few rules which could use clarification. Thankfully, the designer is very active on BoardGameGeek, so clarifications are easy to come by.

Overall, I give this one a B+. It's a good low-cost way to dip your toes into the miniatures gaming pool.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Miniatures Games: Warmachine

The first miniatures game I'm going to discuss is Warmachine by Privateer Press

Warmachine occupies a special place in my heart. as it is the miniatures game that brought me back into miniatures gaming after a long absence. Games Workshop had burned me with one too many rules revisions and game cancellations, so I was tired of miniatures wargaming.

I saw the Warmachine figures, and thought they were pretty cool. But cool figures weren't enough to drag me back into miniatures gaming.

I have friends who play - again, necessary. But not enough by itself.

Then I read a bit about the setting (which was published as a d20 setting). Again, it was cool - but a good setting isn't enough to get me into a miniatures game.

Then I read about the "No Army Books" concept - every book has units for every faction. This allows players to buy only one book, and have enough information to decide which faction fit their style best. In fact, their plan was to have each additional book split up the same way - each expansion book would boost every faction.

This was enough to get me interested.

Then, they pledged that every piece currently in print would always be tournament legal (and balanced enough for future play). In other words: No obsolescence, no power creep.

That was enough to make me consider the game. For $25, I had a rulebook. After reading it closely, I decided that it sounded worth trying. The rules were simple, clear, and straightforward. Including a stat card with all necessary information (and serving as a damage diagram for some units) was brilliant.

Another $40, and I had a starter box worth about 300 points. A bit more, and I had 200 more points (most tournaments at the time were around 500 points).

A playable (and competitive) tournament force for under $100 is good. When you consider the lack of obsolescence in the game, I consider it a win.

I haven't expanded my forces much past that original purchase. I've purchased a few pieces for their cool factor.

Here is how Warmachine stacks up with my barriers to entry:

1. Assembly Time: C
Warmachine uses all-metal figures. As such, most units require assembly. Some units need more than others.

2. Painting Time: B+
While there is a great deal of detail on most figures, it's not a frustrating amount of detail like you see in some games. This balanced has left a great deal of room for customization.

3. Gaming Buddies: B+
It's popular enough locally, I had no problems finding opponents (and tournaments).

4. Tournament Level Cost: B-
I had a low-level tournament force for under $100. If I want to play in larger tournaments, it won't be horrendously expensive.

Overall, I give it a solid B. The figures are cool, the rules are straightforward, and the game is fun without costing an arm and a leg.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Miniatures Gaming

As I'm sure you've noticed, I enjoy a wide variety of games, and I write about a fair number of them.

But I don't write very much about miniatures gaming. It's not because I don't like minis games - I do. Very much. I just don't play them very often, because of the time investment involved.

There are several elements of minis games that make them harder for me to play regularly:

The first element is the assembly time. Most miniatures games have pieces which are supplied unassembled. It may be as minor a thing as gluing one arm onto a figure - but when your army has numerous figures, the assembly time adds up.

The second element is the painting time. I love painting minis, but the amount of detail we're starting to see on them is astounding. And my skills ... well ... aren't. So it takes me a LONG time to paint figures.

The third element is finding someone else to play. With the number of minis games on the market, it can be difficult to find people who want to play the same games you do. Unless you play Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, or Games Workshop's flavor of the week.

The fourth element is the "Tournament Level" factor - "Official tournaments for our game will range between X and Y Points." Most starter boxes are less than half of X, so you need to do your research to learn what combinations will work. You'll often find that very few tournament armies include units from the starter box, increasing the cost of building the army.

There's a real movement in miniatures gaming right now to make the games more accessible by bypassing one or more of the above steps.

I'll be spending several posts over the next few weeks talking about some of the games which are out there right now, and my impressions of them.

Friday, November 09, 2007


My wife is amused at me - I'm starting to get into AT-43.

So far, I've bought the rules, three army books, and the Operation: Damocles starter.

I get to play tomorrow. For the first time. The rules look good, and I like the figures. Several friends of mine are raving fanatics.

I'll let you know how it turns out sometime next week, when I discuss miniatures gaming in a bit more detail.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Spanish-Language Board Game Sites

My French-speaking friends refer to TricTrac as being the French equivalent.

I know this is a long shot, but does anyone out there know of a Spanish-language equivalent to BoardGameGeek?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dungeon Twister: Fire and Water

This isn't my Multiple Uses post, sorry. It's a few muddled observations:

In Germany, they are (so far) following the English order of release for Dungeon Twister.

That is:
Base Set
Paladins and Dragons
3/4 Player Expansion
Forces of Darkness
Fire and Water

Now, I'm not positive about the German order of Mercenaries vs. Fire and Water, but I am sure about the US order to that point.

I just find it interesting that out of two "secondary" releases (meaning "Not in the original language of the game"), two of them have moved Fire and Water out of order.

Having played it a few times, I can very easily see why. It's a difficult, frustrating set. Once you grasp it, I'm told that it's amazing, but reaching that point has been (for me) very difficult. I enjoy the play, but something just hasn't clicked, yet.

I've seen play from people who have grasped it. It's wonderful and terrifying. I've also seen some amazing combinations of characters using some from this set.

It's an interesting set, with an average speed of 4.25 and an average strength of 1.625. That's 14.5% faster than the overall average and 30.7% weaker than the overall average.

But on their native maps, their speed is significantly reduced.

Were it not for their speed, I'd tag most of these characters as Specialists.

But I'll go over that in a few weeks, once I've had a chance to play the set through a few more times.

Monday, October 29, 2007

English Games of the 1500's

Google Analytics has informed me that my recent interview notes have caused a number of hits from people looking for games played during the 1500's in England.

Those of you who are looking for them, here are a couple of links which may help:

Rather than looking for the 1500's specifically, it may help to search for Renaissance-Era Games. Medieval games wouldn't be a bad search, either - Nine Men's Morris is still played today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Okay, not really. But Mayfair Games recently announced that they are requiring a 20% cap on discounts for their games.

Retailers who sell below that line will suffer "sanctions" and may be cut off from their supply. It'll hurt online retailers more than brick-and-mortar

Tom of Boards and Bits broke the news here. There's some good discussion mixed in with the ranting.

Here are my scattered thoughts:

It's not new to gaming. Games Workshop has done this for a while. They even go after eBay sellers.

It's legal - there was a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this that didn't change the law, it adjusted the interpretation of the law which put more more power in the hands of manufacturers.

This sort of price control has been going for a long while in other industries.

I currently work in car audio. Various manufacturers have "Authorized Retailers." If you buy product from a non-Authorized retailer, then you don't have warranty coverage. MTX Audio has a page all about it: MTX - Unauthorized Resellers.

In order to become an Authorized Retailer, you get to jump through all kinds of hoops and sign a number of contracts. One of these contracts concerns "MAP" - depending on who you talk to, MAP is "Manufacturer Authorized Pricing" or "Minimum Advertised Price."

This gives the car audio-buying public a choice: Buy a speaker without a warranty and hope it doesn't die, or more and get a warranty backed by the manufacturer.

And there are ways around it:

1) Buy Product X, and we'll throw in Product Y.
2) Here's a Coupon Code for X% off your entire order.
3) Free shipping for all orders over $X
4) Buy Product X, save $Y on Product Z

So why would Mayfair do this?

1) It supports the FLGS. Internet retail is hurting the FLGS. I've ranted about this before. This levels the playing field a bit.
2) They can. Mayfair is the US publisher for The Settlers of Catan, arguably the best-selling Eurogame of all time.
3) It won't hurt internet retailers as badly as people think it will, because it means higher profit margins on Mayfair items (and because of the numerous ways around it).

There was discussion a few months ago about game companies possibly doing something like this. A ICV2 interviewed a few industry insiders:
Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games
Joe Hauck of WizKids
Loren Greenwood of Wizards of the Coast

... and that's all I have time to say.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Formula Dé

Asmodée announced on their website that a new edition of Formula Dé was coming in 2008.

It led to this thread on BoardGameGeek. Three posts in, and people are already complaining.

Let me see if I understand this correctly:

Asmodée negotiates for months so that they can release Formula Dé - an OOP game for which there has been a great deal of demand. Their contract is for a single printing of the basic game.

To avoid giving the wrong impression or raising false hopes, they make sure the public knows that all they have the rights to do is this one final printing. No track reprints, just the game. One time.

It sells out in pre-order.

Meanwhile, they begin (or continue) negotiating with the designers of the game, hoping to be able to do more. Not just because there is a lot of demand for more, but because it's a great game.

When BoardGameNews quotes Christophe Arnoult, they're talking to the head of Asmodée US. He's not just a businessman, he's also a gamer. Yes, Asmodée is a business. Yes, they want to make money. At the same time, I know Christophe is excited at the chance to make this game available again just because he loves the game. I remember how excited he was at being able to put out the reprint earlier this year. He was also frustrated at not being able to reprint the tracks. Again - not because there is demand, but because they make a great game even better.

Am I biased? Yes. But Asmodée lives up to what I think is an ideal model in the gaming industry - a game company run by gamers, with gamers involved at every step along the way.

Getting annoyed or upset because they managed to pull off something more than they had originally anticipated is something I don't even have the words for.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Moon: Enroute

I just received an e-mail confirmation that my copy of Werewolves: New Moon will be en route very soon.

As someone who enjoys Werewolves of Miller's Hollow (with a good moderator), I'm looking forward to the expansion. The expanded play options will, I think, make this an exceptionally good choice for our group.

Friday, October 19, 2007


For those of you who are paying attention, Essen Spiel (or Spiel Essen, depending on who you talk to) started yesterday. It is the world's largest game-focused convention.

It makes GenCon look tiny.

And the focus is board and card games.

Someday, I will have an opportunity to go.

In the meantime, there is continuing coverage on BoardGameNews, and the usual random splat of updates at BoardGameGeek.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Update Schedule

I've been pretty good about updating twice a week for a while, now.

Things are about to get bumpy.

I'm in process of changing jobs to one with a longer commute and less internet access at my desk.

This cuts dramatically into the time I have to write up blog entries.

Because of this, my update schedule may get a bit odd until I get settled into the new routine.

It's still a month or so off, but I figured I'd give fair warning.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Writing For Pay - Interview is Now Up

As I'd mentioned previously, I was interviewed for Writing For Pay.

The interview is now up, as are The Show Notes.

Here are MY show notes (and clarifications):
1:20 - Wow. Do I really sound like that? Admittedly, I did have a cold at the time ...
2:04 - I chose a bad example in a few seconds here. The "Frequency" vs. "Availability" is not the best example I had. I just froze. "Scenery" vs. "Terrain" would have been a much better example. Also: "English games" should be "English-language games."
3:30 - I reference BGG.CON as being "a large convention" here. It's not large, but it is fairly influential. And I do want to go at some point. Very badly.
4:30 - I mention that the translation was "in-house," - I realized after the interview that, while some of it was in-house, not all of it was. Oops.
4:50 - Their translations have improved dramatically: Very true. They have a new group of translators who are also gamers, as well as being really neat people. I feel lucky that they still want my help. I love working with these guys.
5:27 - Wooly Bully was the first game to leap to mind. The translation for Wooly Bully is quite good. I could have chosen a better example.
5:40 - It's true. Some of their translators were non-gamers. I was shocked the first time I heard this. Their current translators are gamers.
5:55 - I believe this strongly: If it's a game product, involve gamers. By all means, run it past a non-gamer or two to check for clarity, but make sure you're not alienating gamers.
6:40 - Publishers bringing across European games include Asmodee, Rio Grande Games, and Z-Man games. There are (of couse) others.
7:35 - I love reading French games. I have a stack of French RPG books like you wouldn't believe. They were a gift from Christophe Arnoult after my first Origins. I'm still puzzling through them and considering running a game of C.O.P.S.
8:10 - Yep. Hell Dorado. I'm not comfortable discussing it too much, but I can acknowledge that I'm working on it. The official forums are here.
8:40 - It's the Thirty Years' War. I can't belive I blanked on this. And yes, it was the 1600's, not the 1500's.
9:20 - "We realized," meaning ... um ... I'm not sure. Although, in Hell Dorado, the Thirty Years' War is (if I recall correctly) paused. The "Westerners" faction includes both Catholics and Protestants.
9:50 - Items, Objects, Tokens, Markers, and Counters. Any errors on these in Dungeon Twister are my fault. Something I learned the hard way.
10:50 - I love the fact that I'm comfortable enough to contact Christophe Boelinger directly to ask for help. I was pretty incoherent the first time I met him. He put me at ease pretty quickly. I got an e-mail from Bruno Faidutti, once, and was incoherent for days.
11:20 - Werewolves of Miller's Hollow: New Moon is in Customs right now.
11:50 - We went back and forth and back and forth and wound up directly contacting the designer to find out what happens with the card in question. And then we figured out how to phrase it so as to avoid confusion.
12:30 - It's true: I'd love to help anyone with their games.
13:01 - Talking Game is a successful gaming blog. I'm just not all that influential. Yet. I'd love to have Tom Vasel's readership/listenership.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Okay, I've now had a chance to play Tannhäuser, and I don't know if I like it.

Derek put it pretty well: It's like they should have included a bit more with the base set, rather than spacing them across multiple expansions.

It's a decent game, and it has potential to be a great game - but nothing in the basic set grabs at that potential.

There are a few rules questions after a first play - there nearly always are.

I'll probably decide whether I like it or not after a few more plays.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Quick Brain Dump

I've finished the current batch of my editing project (for now), and ordered a French copy of Hell Dorado, so I should have enough time to provide a normal update, right?

Those of you who monitor my games played (and why don't all of you?) may spot some interesting things in there.

Or not.

Tomorrow, I get to play Tannhäuser for the first time. A lot of the reviews on the 'Geek have been negative because, "It wasn't what I was expecting." I've managed to refrain from pointing out that Fantasy Flight posted the rules on their website several months ago, so people should have had some idea of what they were getting themseles into.

Pizza Box Baseball is coming. I really enjoy Pizza Box Football, so I'm going to give it a shot, even though I don't like baseball.

... and that concludes this late-night brain dump. More focused posts to follow once I've had some rest.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


There is something magical about holding a prototype game in your hands.

Christophe Boelinger sent a couple of prototypes back with me after GenCon a few years ago, to see if my group would like them and provide feedback.

Last week, I received another prototype to try - this one from Asmodee. The game is going into production in France, and they wanted to know if it would appeal to the American audience.

The difference between this prototype and the ones from Christophe was that this one is already going into production in French. It's a prototype that was accepted, and will be available in its finished form at Essen.

I tested it with three different groups - one group provided more than three pages of feedback notes.

I learned a lot about game testing.

It was interesting to see how many people were uncomfortable with providing any negative feedback, even though I told them repeatedly that I wanted honest opinions, especially if they were negative. I also made sure that they knew I had no emotional investment in this game - it was all about seeing if they liked it and noting any suggestions.

When my games are ready, I'll be testing the games with the same three groups. All three had different comments - there was some overlap, but every group had different focus points.

If you played the game in question, thank you. If you didn't and would like to, I'll be bringing it to my regular game nights for a bit longer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How's Your Game Coming?

Something I love about being a gamer is the creative streak so often displayed by those around me. Nearly every gamer I know has some sort of creative endeavor underway - it's not always game-related, but it frequently is.

For example: In addition to this blog, I have one board game designed by myself that is nearly ready to prototype. Jointly with my wife, I've got an RPG setting and a card game underway. I've got a few other games in various states of completion.

When I find out about gamer side projects, I try to support them if I can. Here are a few efforts you may have missed that are worth checking out:

Todd Downing, the driving force behind Deep 7 writes screenplays, as well as acting and directing. His latest effort, Ordinary Angels, is now available.

Side note: I've very much enjoyed all of Deep 7's games. Their Red Dwarf RPG was particularly brilliant, and the two supplemental products (The AI Screen and the Series Sourcebook) were packed with usable ideas.

Meeple People have an extremely cool board-game focused store. They don't sell GAMES, but they sell shirts and stickers and meeples and ... let's just say it's a good thing I'm well aware of how much money I have.

GameInk just launched, as well. They make Gamer T-Shirts. Boardgamer T-Shirts, that is. And some of their launch designs are brilliant.

My buddy Wade has a podcast - Writing For Pay. He's already interviewed a couple of gamers and game-industry folks (and me, but I'll post about that when it goes up).

Do you know of any other side projects I shold be aware of?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I'm a bit late to the table, as it were, but GamerDad has apparently suffered a heart attack.

Let me be blunt: He needs surgery, and they need money to pay for it. There's a PayPal donation link up there - if you can afford to give, please do so.

I met GamerDad briefly at GenCon in 2006. We discussed Mission: Red Planet, which was supposed to have been released at the show (but wasn't due to delays in shipping). I'm not a regular reader of his blog, but I do visit from time to time. He's always impressed me with both his passion for gaming and ability to tolerate children (something I regularly struggle with).

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Next Few Days

My usual mid-week post may be a bit delayed - I received some files for review this evening.

Friday, September 14, 2007

RSS Feed

... and my RSS feed has gone insane, manically reposting posts from months ago that I haven't modified!

Those of you who read this blog via RSS feed, I'm sorry! I don't control it, nor do I fully understand it.

World View

Originally uploaded by GameThyme
I started using Google Analytics a few months ago, as I was curious as to who was visiting and how many hits I was getting.

It gives me some good information, sometimes. Like this image, showing the nations from which people have visited my blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Supporting Your Local Game Store Part II

So, I mentioned in my last post that I'd discuss the other two local game stores, as well as going over when I buy online.

The other two game stores locally aren't here anymore, first of all. One is under new ownership in a new location, and the other is gone. And no, I won't name either of them.

As I've matured, my taste in game stores has changed. The game store I used to support had a role-playing and miniatures focus, and it was constantly filled with miniatures gamers. I stopped shopping there when I transitioned to being more of a board gamer than a roleplayer. And when I realized that there were better ways to run a store.

It was the typical Gamer Hole style of game store. That is, there were piles and piles of games in no particular order. The store was cluttered, and the gamers there were the typical unsocialized style of gamer. The owner was more interested in playing games than in running the store, and made liberal use of his regulars for free labor, resulting in a counter which was frequently unattended. I once stood at the front for twenty minutes, waiting for help because I didn't know who was running the register. It was a classic example of monkeys running the zoo. My wife flat refused to set foot in the store after he second visit, as the atmosphere made her extremely uncomfortable - both in terms of the "It's a girl! What do we do?" factor and in terms of the Gamer Funk. Sadly, too many gamer stereotypes have a solid footing in reality.

I never even tried to take my wife into the second game store. I only visited it twice, and both times it was because a friend of mine had seen an out-of-print book I'd been looking for. It was the Gamer Hole taken to the extreme. Where the first store had stacks and stacks of games, this one had stacks and stacks for games mixed liberally with porn. You could be flipping through a stack of First Edition AD&D, and find three or four hardcore pornographic magazines mixed right into the middle of the stack. The aisles were extremely narrow - there wasn't even room to walk around other gamers without both of you holding your breath and trying hard not to touch. There were no windows, either, and the store was under-lit. Badly. I felt like bringing a flashlight with me every time I headed that way. And I took a long shower after visiting.

So if these are your local game stores, then - by all means - shop online.

I actually discussed ordering online with Brian from Phoenix yesterday, when I stopped by to play a game. It took a while to get through the game, because customers kept coming in, and they take priority (which is how a game store should be run).

But here are the circumstances under which when I'll buy online:

1) When it's an in-print game that Brian can't order in for some reason. I can think of two types of games covered by this: Self-published games such as Cobras in the Cockpit and games which are limited and exclusive in some way, such as Mordred. Funagain also used to have some exclusive games. Now that Funagain is working as a distributor as well as a retailer, Brian can get these games in. There are also games that Brian can't get because they're not distributed in the US.

2) When there is an online-only promo. Valley Games makes a special promotion available for each of their pre-orders. Brian could theoretically pre-order them for me, but the additiona effort involved more than offsets the benefit for him.

3) When a game is both out of print and not available though his distributors. Lots of games go out of print, but distributors will frequently still have the game in stock. I remember being able to order Fasa's Star Trek RPG for nearly five years after it went out of print. I loved that game.

In nearly all other circumstances, I'll purchase through Phoenix. GenCon for me is primarily a scouting run - I don't tend to spend a lot of money, there. I come back and ask Brian to order games that I saw that looked cool.

... and that's about all I have to say about that.

For now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Supporting Your Local Game Store

Those of you who know me in person already know that I'm really big on supporting my local game store, but not all of you know what I mean by that or why I'm so firm on it.

Now, I'm not going to tell you horror stories about online game stores - I've had nothing but positive experiences with Funagain or Thoughthammer when I have purchased from them. The man who runs Boards and Bits is active on BoardGameGeek, and I have heard nothing but good about his operation as well.

But I thought it'd be a good idea to explain why I take this stance, and what exceptions I make for it.

A good game store is the center of Gamer Society. It's where gamers go to meet gamers and interact with gamers. And, of course gaming takes place in some game stores, too. Game stores are also where you learn about new products - or old ones that may have been overlooked.

When I'm exploring a new area, one of the first things I do is try to find the local game stores - they'll give you a very good idea of what the gaming is like in the area - and I'm not just talking about what games are popular in the region.

Within fifteen minutes of my apartment, there used to be three game stores. One of them has closed, one has moved, and the other is the one I support.

The game store I support is Phoenix Games in Mukilteo, Washington. I'll discuss the full whys and wherefores at some future point. It's the game store locally that best fits my needs.

It's clean, wide open, and is inviting to all ages (and genders). What he doesn't stock, he's willing to special-order (if it's available). He has tables available for gaming. He's knowledgeable about games. And he can sell Fluxx without sneering (something I struggle with).

Online game stores don't generally do special orders. There are exceptions, it's true. But it's more difficult to arrange for a special order.

I don't have to pay shipping costs when dealing with Brian.

I've never seen an online game store that has tables I can use for gaming.

While I can get rules questions answered by the online game store folks, it's a lot faster to ask Brian.

Do I pay more by buying from Brian? Yes. Absolutely. But I think the added services more than make up for the extra money I pay.

Now, I'm not saying you should support game stores who make you uncomfortable. I'll use the other two game stores that used to be nearby as examples in a future post.

I'll also discuss when I choose to buy online rather than through my local game store.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Google Update

Google juggled their algorithm.

I'm not #1 anymore.

Not a surprise.

I did receive some good news this morning, but I'm not sure how much I can say in a public place such as this.


Collin David, a friend of mine who blogs for Collectors' Quest mentioned to me about a year ago that he'd be interested in interviewing me for that blog.

Scheduling proved problematic - not surprising, when you consider we're in different time zones and I don't get home until after 7pm Pacific time (where I reside).

Well, we finally got the interview together, and it's been posted on the Collectors' Quest Blog in two parts.

Part One
Part Two

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Originally uploaded by GameThyme
I've been the #1 or #2 hit on Yahoo! for the terms "Talking Game" and "Talking Games" for a while.

Yesterday, while browsing my Google Analytics results, I noticed that I'd had a Google hit for "Talking Game." It wasn't the first, but I check periodically to see how far down the list someone has to go to find me. It's previously been about fifteen pages of random links unrelated to me.

Yesterday, I was #1 on Google! I know it's a silly thing to be totally excited about, but I've barely been able to focus on anything else. I even went gaming last night and failed to win at anything, I was so distracted!

We'll see how long this lasts.

Thank you for reading my words and linking to me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

GenCon Post No. 3a: Clarifying What I Came Home With

I realized in my last post that I wasn't clear what it was I brought home with me.

Here's the full list of what I purchased at GenCon and what I ordered after seeing/hearing about it at GenCon:

Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game. I've played it three times, now. It's growing on me. Some scenarios are harder than others, but the game itself has maintained its Fun Level. I expect to play this one regularly for a while.

Torg: Revised and Expanded. I've always had a soft spot for Torg. I'm looking forward to 2E, even though I'm not a fan of the West End Games d6 System.

Battlestar Galactica: The Roleplaying Game, along with the quick-start guide. I also purchased the Demon Hunters quick-start and their DVD (which included a print and some temporary tattoos).

After seeing them or hearing about them at GenCon, I bought or ordered:
The Lizardmen for Battleground: Fantasy Warfare. I would have bought these anyhow, but GenCon made me aware that they were now available.

Dark Heresy (the Warhammer 40k RPG) has been ordered.

Shadow Nations has been ordered, as have a number of supplements for Apophis Consortium's OTHER game, Obsidian: Age of Judgement. These guys have really good e-mail customer support, which is something I need to talk about sometime.

Hopefully this clears up any question about what I spent my money on.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

GenCon 2007 Post No. 3: The Buzz and What I Came Home With

GenCon has traditionally been a big convention for releases. Publishers who could release early will frequently hold off until GenCon to release new product. Others will make big announcements at GenCon. Sometimes, you need to ask questions to get the news. Here's a quick overview of what I caught (which isn't even close to everything):

The BIG news this year was (and is) D&D 4E. Wizards did a great job keeping the news under wraps, and it caught a lot of people off guard. I expect I'll have more to say about this in the future, but for now just look around the internet. There's a LOT of buzz about this out there.

Fantasy Flight Games announced that they'd picked up the rights to a number of old Eon games, including Dune (Re-themed, because the Herbert Estate will not license the setting). FFG released Starcraft: The Board Game at GenCon, as well as Dust. Several of their small-box games were there as well, and they had demos of Tannhäuser.

As I mentioned a few posts back, it seems to be a good year for zombies and the apocalypse. Apophis Consortium released Shadow Nations (which I have ordered). There was a booth for Alpha/Omega: The Game (I may have the title wrong on that, but I have the URL correct). Eden Studios continues to sell All Flesh Must Be Eaten (which is a great game). Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game was a bit of a sleeper hit - prior to the show, it was basically an unknown. I bought it. It's fun. I do think they were partially aided by their booth location - right next to WotC.

I picked up Torg: Revised and Expanded from West End Games. They're hoping to have Torg Second Edition (using a modified D6 system) for GenCon next year.

Margaret Weis Productions had their Battlestar Galactica RPG available for purchase - I picked it up. It uses the same system as their Serenity RPG, which will also be used in their Supernatural game and in their Demon Hunters game. It's the same system Sovereign Stone used before it went d20. They also had some pre-release quick-start goodies for Demon Hunters. Having enjoyed the films, I had to pick these up.

The Lizardmen army for Battleground: Fantasy Warfare was released (and sold out) at GenCon. I missed it, but will get it at my local game store once it hits distribution.

On the Games Workshop Front (via some of their third-party/smaller publishers), Talisman was available to the first 50 people to reach the booth each day. I'm not sure if the Warhammer 40k RPG (Dark Heresy) was available or was just being demoed, but I'm certainly interested.

I haven't followed White Wolf for a while, but I couldn't miss the lines for their new version of Changeling.

And, finally, Mr. Jack saw its official US release. And sold like mad. It's a good game and I hope it continues to sell like mad.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

GenCon 2007 Post No. 2: What I Demoed

What I Demoed this year:

Going in, we knew The Plan - My wife was going to focus on Wicked Witches Way, and I was going to focus on Dungeon Twister.

As they say, however, no plan survives intact first contact with the enemy customers.

Games I ran demos for:
Dungeon Twister - Big surprise, there. I know. I love this game, but didn't get to play it as much this year - the other games in the booth were more popular, and our booth was CONSTANTLY packed.

Wicked Witches Way - My wife was theoretically in charge of demoing this one. It ended up working a bit differently, but we sold a fair number. A lot of people saw this as being "a kid's game." Stephanie set them straight pretty quickly on that front - while kids can play it, it's got enough depth to keep grownups occupied.

Wooly Bully - It's a simple tile-laying game with a few twists. I only got to demo this once this year, but it led to a sale. I like this game best with three, I think.

Mall of Horror - My wife spent a lot more time playing this than I did. It wasn't new for this year, but it'd been sold out at distributors for a while. It drew a constant audience and sold like crazy. I love this game.

Mission: Red Planet - This game was supposed to be at GenCon last year, but hadn't arrived from the publisher, yet. I enjoy this game, but after playing it at GenCon this year, I like it a bit less than I did before GenCon. It's not a bad game, I just looked forward to the other games more than I did this one.

Jungle Speed - The most dangerous game in the booth. Also a game that doesn't sell unless it gets demoed (and then it's difficult NOT to sell). We didn't have our usual demo table this year due to a mixup at the warehouse. Which is both good and bad - we really didn't have room for the demo table, due to the crowds who showed up for Mall of Horror and Ca$h 'n Gun$.

Mr. Jack - Asmodee is distributing but not publishing this. There has been a lot of demand for this game in the US, and it's easy to see why. My wife and I have had this game for six months, now, so we had a natural edge. I played more games of this than any other game at GenCon. And my enjoyment of it just grew as I played.

Age of Gods - There hasn't been much buzz on this one - we had the printer's proof at the booth. I played it two years ago with some friends, and very much enjoyed it. The game itself is very simple, but setup can be slow, and it's not the easiest game to explain. It's a bit too long to be able to demo effectively, but if you have the time, it's a lot of fun. I'll write more on this one once it's out and I have my copy.

Frontiers - I love miniatures games, but I don't always have the time to paint, and finding an opponent can be a real pain sometimes. Battleground: Fantasy Warfare has become one of my favorites, as I can carry six or seven armies in my pockets. And there's no painting necessary. Frontiers is a good intermediary step between Battleground and actual metal. The rules are simpler than Battleground, and the play feels more like a board game than a miniatures game.

Ave Caesar - I only played this a couple of times, but I'm starting to realize that there is a fair amount of depth hidden in this extremely simple package. Every time I demoed it, it led to a sale. I freely admit it: I disliked this game when I first played it. It was too simple and not competitive enough for me. But this GenCon, there were several instances where I was blocked out of the Caesar Lane, and so lost for not paying homage! Another time, I managed to have a hand of all sixes at the end, and so had to pass my turn until someone else passed me. I was two spaces from the finish line. I'll be writing an entire entry on Ave Caesar soon, I suspect.

Iliad - Our focus game from last year. I only played it two or three times this year, but each time was different. My wife has a better grasp of this than I do, so she regularly defeats me when we play. With two, it's ... okay. With three or more, it's a much better game. It has similarites to Condottiere, but there are some rather considerable differences as well.

Werewolves of Miller's Hollow - The late-night large group Convention Game. Seriously. The game holds (out of one box) 8-18 players, and is all about reading people effectively (and bluffing effectively). I'd love to play this game with a world-class Poker player sometime. We had one game of 28 people. It took two boxes and nearly two hours to complete. And everyone stuck around until the end. Even the dead. It came down to the final three, too.

Ca$h 'n Gun$ - This is one of my favorite filler games. It's fast and fun. The rules are simple enough that the basic game can be taught in about three minutes. The ease of demoing this game led to LOTS of sales. And four to six people in the middle of the booth pointing orange foam guns at one another drew constant crowds TO the booth. My only problem with this game is the minimum of four players.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

GenCon 2007 Post No. 1

GenCon is too big to cover in just one post. It just is.

A LOT of exhibitors reported this as their best GenCon ever. In my opinion, a large part of that was how they arranged the exhibit hall this year.

In past years, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) was more or less centrally located. This year, they were located back in a corner. This meant that they only had neighbors on two sides, which caused less traffic congestion throughout the entire hall and the "distracted by the WotC Booth" effect hit a smaller number of exhibitors.

They also set up a specific area in the exhibit hall for video and electronic games. This also aided congestion (although there was a constant crowd around Pirates of the Burning Sea and the Conan booths, because their models were there to be photographed with the public).

I saw more and more boardgamers this year. Part of that was due to where I was working, but I saw fewer RPG booths this year. The booths I did see all seemed to be post-apocalyptic RPG's. Zombies also seem to be having a boom year.

A friend of mine who works for Warehouse 23 (or, more accurately, e23) commented on the growing number of women at GenCon. It was noticable, even to me - and this was only my third GenCon. And the "gamer funk" aroma associated with GenCon in the past was also noticeably down. I wonder if these two are related ...

I also saw more minorities this year - the vast majority of people attending GenCon were still Caucasians, but I saw more color in the crowd this year. Which is a good thing.

In my later post(s), I'll discuss what I demoed, who I demoed with and who I met.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finally Home

I'm home, and I've got a lot to say about GenCon this year. But I'm totally exhausted, so it'll be a day or two before I can assemble my thoughts into a coherent whole.

Look for a post later this week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Layout Tweak

I've added the Technorati tag cloud at the bottom - just to see if it works. I tried it once before, and it hadn't worked. So if it doesn't work out, I'll end up just clearing it again.

Leaving for GenCon tomorrow, so don't expect any posts until I return next week.

I'll be keeping Twitter a bit more up-to-date, as it doesn't require an internet connection.

Monday, August 13, 2007

You Got Your Fandom In My Dungeon Twister!

I was asked the other day why I hadn't created lists of "custom" characters for use with DT - it's because I generally find that sort of thing silly. When Magic: The Gathering first hit, there were thousands of fan-created sets online, most of which were badly broken and nearly unplayable. With the advent of Heroscape, particularly Marvel Heroscape, people are doing the same thing again, in order to see their favorite character/setting/whatever in a playable form.

I also know that Chris has 20+ sets already mapped out in his head, so I won't run out of new and interesting characters - and I don't want to duplicate something he's already dreamed up.

Another problem is that Dungeon Twister doesn't lend itself as well to this sort of modification. Most Superheroes will be significantly more powerful than your average DT character - or else you need to ignore one or more of their powers to make them balanced. Can you imagine Superman as a DT character? You'd need to introduce Kryptonite as an item AND as a board element. And that's just for one character!

That said, however, my wife and I spent part of this weekend brainstorming. Just to see what we could come up with.

Please keep in mind: I am not laying claim to ownership or rights of any of these characters. I won't even pretend I have permission to use them. Nor are we suggesting these to Christophe Boelinger - he may come up with a character who duplicates one or more of these in some manner, but it will be his own idea, not mine. For all I know, he may already have used one or more of these special abilities in an upcoming set.

Obviously, these characters are not tournament legal.

Source: Marvel Comics
Movement 4, Strength 2
Special Abilities:
Wall-Crawling - All squares which are adjacent to a wall are treated as normal floor squares for Spider-Man.
Spider Sense - Spider-Man is +2 Strength when defending.

Source: The Princess Bride
Movement 2, Strength 2
Special Abilities:
Crowd-Fighter - Fezzik is +2 in combat for each adjacent opponent past the first.

Inigo Montoya
Source: The Princess Bride
Movement 3, Strength 1
Special Abilities:
Sword Master - Inigo Montoya gains +2 Strength when holding a sword, in addition to the +1 normally conferred by the weapon. This bonus applies both to attack and defense.

Source: Discworld
Movement 4, Strength 1
Special Abilities:
Wizzard - Rincewind may attempt to use Magical items. If he does so, flip a coin. If the coin is heads, the item is used normally. If tails, the item is removed from play.
Luggage - The Luggage may treat any square adjacent to Rincewind as though it is a normal floor square.

The Luggage
Source: Discworld
Movement: 3, Strength 5
Special Abilities:
Loyal - The Luggage may only attack characters who have attacked Rincewind.
Carrying Capacity - The Luggage may carry an unlimited number of items. It may not use or benefit from any item.
Property - The Luggage is worth 0 VP if it escapes the maze.


I could go on for a while.

Here's what I learned when doing this:
1) Chris has a tough job. It's not easy making characters who aren't 58/58 Invulnerable Monsters. It's also difficult keeping them balanced. I can't imagine creating eight unique characters PLUS objects PLUS rooms for more than a set or two at most. Much less coming up with the rules in the first place.
2) Special abilities are hard. You can't overload characters with abilities, but you can't short-change them, either. The "Decks" section here is teams people have created for use in DT. Not all of them are tournament legal, but it's still interesting to see which characters are getting use and which are not - based on their abilities and how they blend with the rest of the team.
3) The best fit for fan-created DT characters based on literature (or film or other fandom of choice) are those from a low-magic (or no-magic) setting. I can see potential for several Monty Python characters. Harry Potter, on the other hand, would be a pain to accurately model - there's just too much magic flying around in Harry's world.
4) Chris has a difficult job. I know this was point number one, but it was important enough that I thought it bears repeating. I don't envy him the hours of work he's put into DT, but I am a great deal more thankful (and aware) than I was a few weeks ago.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Game Snobbery

Last night, I had a chance to play Igor: The Mad Scientist's Lament. I was discussing it later with my wife, and I said, "It's a good filler, but gameplay could get pretty repetetive pretty quickly. I don't think I could play it more than two or three times in a month. It's just too light and there are too few strategic decisions to be made."

She used one of her standard responses, "Game snob."

I always argue with her that I'm not a snob. That I'll play nearly anything at least once.

But she does have a point:

I don't generally like light filler games. Party games are playable occasionally. There are three games that I've rated "1" on the 'Geek. Two of them are party games, and the other is a filler.

There are faster-playing games that I like better than these.

Here are a few filler games I enjoy:
Mamma Mia! - It's fairly quick and simple. My group enjoys it. I enjoy it. It takes less than an hour to play, even with the expansion (Sole Mio!) mixed in.

No Thanks! - It's very simple. And extremely cutthroat. My group gets particularly ruthless at this game.

Coloretto - It's quick and simple and cutthroat. There's a bit of push-your-luck to it, but there's a fair amount of screw-your-neighbor as well.

Mmm... Brains! - I'm a fan of Knizia's games. This is something I taught my co-workers to play in less than ten minutes, and we'd finished a game in 15.

Each of these games plays in less than half an hour, and they're small enough I can haul them with me anywhere. Each of them also includes genuine strategic decisions. There's a fair amount of luck in each of them, but you can make decisions w hich decrease the impact of that luck.

These are what I look for in a game. I'm not a fan of "roll-and-move" games unless there is choice or genuine strategy involved.

It may be snobbery, but I consider it a matter of preference.

Also? I love my wife, even if we don't always agree.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dungeon Twister Federation

Here's a question for you:

How many of you reading this have requested Judge status from Asmodee?

Anyone out there know how many of Asmodee's DT judges are in the US?

There is a list of 84 judges - I recognized only a handful of names (Michael Victorine among them - Mike, did YOU remember that you're a qualified judge?)

See, I've managed to fall in with a group who are trying to put together an international Dungeon Twister federation - something I wholly support.

And there's no central location for English speakers to go. The official site hasn't been updated in English for a while. Asmodee US has more games to promote than just DT.

So now I'm looking for some webspace. Possibly a domain. And some forum software.

I was also reminded: I can run tournaments as far South as Portland, without any problems at all. I need to do that.

I also need to convince my wife to register for the official forums AND request Judge status so SHE can run tournaments (and I can play).

Also need to convince Jim (in California) that he can run tournaments, too.

Lots to do.

GenCon is in just over a week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More DT Posts Coming

Someone sent me an email the other day, requesting strategy tips for Fire and Water, so I'll be playing some games tomorrow as a refresher.

IMHO, it's the most difficult of the expansions available for Dungeon Twister. It's got some really good characters who will see a lot of play in tournaments, but the difficulty of the rooms combined with the uniqueness of the characters makes for an extremely difficult set.

I may also be fairly quiet here over the next few weeks - I'm gearing up for GenCon. I do this by playing games. And studying rules so I can teach people to play games without making any significant mistakes (I'm human, so I do make mistakes - the goal is to make them as small as possible).

I take it very seriously, being a member of a demo team.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mamma Mia!, No Thanks!, and Mmm... Brains! - What I've been Playing

It's been a while since I ran through what I've been playing lately and what I thought of them:

I was recently introduced to Mamma Mia! by a friend of mine at her birthday party. I very much enjoyed it, and so picked it up. Despite the English rulebook leaving out a critical rule (you should pull toppings out if you're playing with less than five players), the game is a great deal of fun.

I was able to play it two-player last week - it was pretty flat (due to the missing rule), so each of us grabbed two colors, which made the game more interesting.

Selena (one of the regulars on Wednesdays) didn't play, but she watched. She noticed the designer's signature - "Is this by the same people who did Bohnanza?" I hadn't even noticed - it's got some definite commonalities, however.

I'm thinking about tracking down a copy of Sole Mio, a standalone expansion - I'm just not sure if the card quality will be the same (I have the Rio Grande version of Mamma Mia, and RGG hasn't released Sole Mio in English).

After hearing a fair amount of discussion on the Geek about No Thanks!, I figured I'd pick it up, as well. I was expecting a light filler - and I got that, but this game has a lethal edge to it. The rules are simple: Either pick the available card (and all tokens on the card) up, or play a token on the card. If you manage to have a run, it's worth the lowest card in the run. Low total wins.

It lends itself to situations where (in four player), you wind up paying an opponent a chip in order to take a card they wanted anyhow. When we played, Sammy picked up the "31" card and three chips, and dropped her score by 32 in the process (she had 30 and 32, and none of the rest of us were willing to take the hit). Brutal. Evil. Wonderful.

I've been a fan of Reiner Knizia's games for a while. They tend to be among my favorites. At the same time, I have not liked most of the games published by Twilight Creations. Mmm... Brains sat on my FLGS shelf for several weeks before I noticed Knizia's name on it. I bought it the same day. It's another light filler, but (again) tends towards the cutthroat.

I also picked up Vexation. I like it a lot. It takes two mediocre games with not a lot of strategy to them and gives them an edge. While I occasionally enjoy playing TransAmerica or TransEuropa, they're not very strategy-intensive. Vexation allows you to slow your opponents down by a turn or two, which usually makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I was chatting with one of our regular Wednesday Game Night attendees the other day, and it was revealed to me that she had never seen The Dark Crystal.

A quick question-and-answer period later, and I discovered that there were a significant number of films that she'd not seen. Films which I considered to be Geek Vocabulary Essentials, either because they are extremely quotable or else because one or more of their elements is repeated (or parodied) elsewhere in pop culture.

It led to a long discussion on Geek Vocabulary: We don't speak the same language as the rest of the English-speaking world. I'm not excluding non-English-speaking Geeks, here, either - they have different Pop Culture In-Jokes.

This specialized vocabulary is one of those things which makes it harder for non-Gamers to get into the hobby.

Remember All Your Base? Did you and your buddies ever have to try to explain it to a non-Gamer?

We get a fair number of people through the game store that are interested in gaming. They have read newspaper articles about these wonderful European import games, and they want to learn more. I do my best to try to tell them about the games, but it can be difficult - try explaining Mission: Red Planet, for example.

To one of you, I could easily say, "It's an Area Control game with a Simultaneous Action Selection mechanism which is very similar to that used in Citadels. There is a bit of resource management, but you can spend a turn to recycle your available resources by choosing the 'Recruiter' as your character for the turn."

I can't use that lingo with a non-Gamer. I'd lose them as soon as the words, "Area Control" left my mouth. Instead, I have to explain,"You are competing with other players to harvest resources on Mars. You have a set of specialists, and every turn you use the ability of one of these specialists, so that you can get more pieces into the various regions of Mars - only the player with the most pieces gets the points for that area." It's a longer description, and actually conveys less information. But it's more approachable to non-Gamers.

At a convention (as a Demo Team member), I need to be able to quickly feel out someone standing near the booth - I need to figure out their relative game experience, so that I'm not talking down to them. Or above their heads.

It's tricky - especially when there is an experienced 12-year-old with their non-Gamer parents asking me about a game.


And this is before I even start to discuss cultural humor (Wood for Sheep, anyone?).

In many ways, we've pulled ourselves out of the mainstream. Gaming is a Hobby Industry in part because we make it impenetrable to non-Gamers - not because we can't communicate with them, but because we don't realize they don't understand what we're saying. Because we've spoken the language for so long, we forget how different it is from standard English.

Something, I guess, that I need to keep my eyes on.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dungeon Twister Character Uses: Part IV: Mercenaries

Notice I didn't say "Multiple Uses" this time?

There are multiple uses for some of these characters, but I'm going to talk more about how to effectively use them.

I've played Mercenaries a lot the last few weeks, so that I could get a good handle on the characters and how they work.

This is a tough set.

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

Mercenaries Average Movement: 3.375
Mercenaries Average Strength: 3.123

Looking at the average, you can already see the point of this set. Please note that the Average Strength listed for Mercenaries is not adjusted for the special ability of the General.

This set contains one Runner, one Specialist and six Hitters.

The objects which are new to this set all enhance Strength - mostly when attacking. In fact, this set is balanced to give the attacker the edge over the defender.

Here's the character overview with a couple of tips for each character:

Angel of Darkness: As the fastest character in this set, she is your best retriever. Her flying ability only functions in half of the rooms in this set, but she can work very well as a runner in Free Choice play. My most regular opponent suggests giving her a Two-Handed Sword - it allows you to have a Flying attacker with a surprising amount of punch that your opponent may not be expecting.

Crossbowman: Ranged combat. Yum. It doesn't change the game hugely, but it does entertain me greatly. My preferred trick with the Crossbowman is to try to trap an enemy character in his line of sight and then force my opponent to waste combat cards while I take potshots at him. I spent four actions shooting at my opponent's Samurai, once. Since the Samurai and the Crossbowman have the same Strength, my opponent had to figure out if I was bluffing with my +0 or burning a card to wound the Samurai. It was a very good way to burn him out of cards.

Assassin: This is a character I use a lot in Free Choice. Any time you are assembling a Hit Squad, include an Assassin. The ability to kill rather than wounding is huge. She's at her best in Group Combat while adjacent to multiple foes. She pairs extremely well with the Weapon Master from Paladins and Dragons.

Berserker: I don't use her very well, but she's rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters. Her ability to throw two Combat Cards when she's attacking alone makes her an extremely good Dragonslayer. Especially when given a weapon to use. She can also be used to burn down your opponent's Combat Card stack - just attack alone and throw a +1 and a +0. This is risky, of course, as your opponent may throw something high enough to wound her. Even this, of course, burns one of your opponent's combat cards.

Gold Dragon: Too many people force their Gold Dragon to lug around its treasure, rather than giving it a weapon. A Gold Dragon with a Two-Handed sword has a base Strength (when attacking) of NINE! If you can get your General into the room, that becomes a TEN. A Ten will wound most characters at a +0, even if they throw their +6. If you're worried about losing your Dragon in combat, use him as a vulture and kill enemy wounded characters rather than attacking healthy characters.

General: The General is the most straightforward character in this (extremely straightforward) set. His allied characters gain +1 in Close Combat in the same room. It doesn't require Line of Sight, Adjacency, or any of the other limits which can be set. I tend to Phonebooth my OWN general when I find him in a room. True, he won't escape, but my opponent won't be killing him very easily, either. In Free Choice, he can either buff up your Runners (making them a credible threat in combat), or he can make your Hitters and Blockers even more effective.

Dwarf Troll-Slayer: His primary ability, it is worth mentioning, doesn't function in this set. It only works in Free Choice and Equal Forces play. The Troll Slayer is the counter to the Troll. It's that simple. Otherwise, he's a decent hitter.

Samurai: Before doing something risky, I count out my opponent's characters and movements: "If I run my Assassin forward, he can still reach me with his Dragon, but he won't have a spare AP to attack." The Samurai makes this more difficult, because I have to remember that he doesn't spend that AP to attack me. Give the Samurai a Two-Handed Sword, and I'll sometimes forget that he can choose not to use it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Forces of Darkness Errata and Clarifications

Last Update to this Page: 10/20/08

Forces of Darkness turned out pretty well, actually. One small errata, however, that will become more important later (when the Assassin enters play):

The Vampire only gets his Blood Counter when he eliminates a wounded character from play.

Cursed Objects: If an unwounded character moves through a space containing a wounded character and a Cursed Object, the unwounded character must pick up the cursed object and drop anything else they were carrying.

This set adds Token characters to the game for the first time - check the General Rules Clarifications page for information on Token characters.

When adding tiles over Darkness squares, you may look at the tile before placing it, but not before drawing it. You may also align the tile however you choose, provided it doesn't cover any non-Darkness squares. Once a tile is laid over a Darkness square, it's not considered a Darkness square anymore.

Undead characters may not suicide in the Sacred Tomb. The description of the Sacred Tomb specifically prevents their entering under their own power (they may be pushed in via the Ring of Repulsion or carried in by a friendly while wounded, however).

The Vampire, while in Bat form does not gain an additional Blood Token for eliminating a wounded character (I had to ask Chris about this one ... ).

A clarification on the Spectre: He may escape the maze without reincarnating, but he's worth 0 VP if he does so.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Weekly Updates

As I've said before: my goal is to update weekly. Lately, it's been twice weekly.

I'll not get my usual mid-week post up tomorrow - I'm on my way out the door right now to 24 hours straight of gaming.

I will, however, have some Mercenaries feedback this weekend.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Putting It All Together

I'll start by picking a strategy - I choose to go with the Run, so I want to focus on maneuverability. Four "strategy match" characters (in this case, Runners), two Blockers and two Specialists.

I choose the Thief, the Elf Scout, the Pickpocket and the Prophet as my strategy match characters - they all move 5 or more, and the Prophet has the added bonuses of being able to orient rooms before I reveal them AND being a Magic User. For my Blockers, I'll choose the Troll and the Weapon Master. I'd choose the Undead Dragon, but I'm concerned about running into the Hit strategy, and a dead Dragon is 2 VP. A dead Troll is only one.

For Specialists, I'll include a Mekanork on general principle and a Wizard.

This way, I have eight characters - four theme matches, two Blockers, and two Specialists to support my team. Using the Prophet and the Mekanork gives me a great deal of control over the maze. The Wizard can fly, which enhances my mobility. It also gives me a second Magic User, so I may consider including some Scrolls in my item mix.

The next thing I want is Items. My party is combat-weak, with an average combat value of Pathetic. But I've got two Magic Users.

Given that I'm pursuing the Run, I'll start with at least one Rope. I'm also going to grab a Key - there's no telling what sort of rooms my opponent is going to challenge me with. I think I'll also take an Elven Shield so I can bypass the Falling Rocks squares (if any) which show up in the maze. The Seven-League Boots will allow a character to fly for ten squares, and it fits well with my strategy thus far.

I have two Magic Users, so a Scroll or two wouldn't hurt. Plus, my opponent wouldn't be able to use them without a Magic User - I think the Scroll of Flight would be overkill, but the Scroll of Inversion and Scroll of Confusion both appeal to me.

My only worry is having some of my items falling into my opponent's hands.

Now, to rooms. At some point, I'll be taking photos of the rooms so that I can show them off.

I don't want to give my opponent the chance to animate or create anything that helps him against me. This removes most of the rooms from Créatures Sylvestres, as they have Trees. It eliminates a couple of rooms from Forces of Darkness, as they have Tombs.

I have two Magic Users - it might be worth grabbing the Library room (part of Pair 16) from Fire and Water. The drawback is that the Anti-Magic room which is paired with the Libraries can make my Magic Users (and the Scrolls and the Elven Shield and the Seven League Boots) useless for at least part of the time.

The other two sets of rooms I'm looking at have the Fountain of Youth in them - with no Cleric, I'd like to make sure I can heal if necessary. The rooms I'm looking at are Pair 22 from Mercenaries, and Pair 28 from À feu et à sang. Both rooms have the Fountain of Youth I want. Both Fountains are in difficult positions - Pair 22 has it surrounded by remotely-triggered traps, and Pair 28 has it surrounded by Water.

Both rooms in Pair 22 have the Ultra-Gravity Holes, so no Flying will function in them. They're also covered with Remote Traps that I may not have control over.

Pair 28 is newer, so my opponent may be less familiar with them. They also have Chasms, Water and Small Bridges (which won't impact me, as I have low-Strength characters).

Any of the three pairs will work for me - For this group, I'll choose 16 and 28.

... and, with that, I've assembled a tournament force.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Narrowing It Down II

Continued from my previous post.

Step 4: Choose Items Which Reinforce Your Team
Items can be used in two ways: they can enhance the strengths of your team, or they can reinforce the weaknesses of your team. They can also define your character's roles a bit more specifically. There are also utility items which should not be neglected.

An Elf Scout with a Potion of Speed won't be in the maze for much longer - the potion enhances his strength. A Thief with a Shield is the equal of an unequipped Warrior, because the Shield shores up her weakness. A Troll with a Two-Handed Sword is a Hitter. A Troll with an Elven Shield is a Blocker. A rope will help any character in nearly any room in the game.

Some character/item combinations are just silly, however - the Stone Elemental, for example, should never be given a weapon (unless it's to keep it out of your opponent's hands).

Choose items which make sense given your character selection and strategy.

And that leads us to the final step:
Step 5: Choose Rooms
In a Free Choice environment, you will be selecting two pairs of rooms to bring to the table. Again - choose rooms which make sense. If you have the Elf Scout, the Elf Enchantress and the Elf Archer, then pick some of the rooms from Créatures Sylvestres which feature the secret passages or trees. If you have more than one flying character, then don't choose any rooms with the "gouffre d'ultra-gravité" squares. If you have a Cleric, you won't need Fountain of Youth. My contrast, if you DON'T have a Cleric, you may find that need somewhat more pressing.

If you know your opponent, you may also be able to choose rooms specifically to frustrate him (or her). Many of the rooms from Fire and Water are ideal for this.

Just remember: if it's easy for you to pass through, it's probably easy for your opponent as well.

So let's put this all together and drag out a tournament force.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Narrowing It Down

As I mentioned in my last post, you have a lot of narrowing down to pick your team - especially if you hurried out and bought the French sets, rather than waiting for the English releases.

So how do you narrow it down to the eight characters, six objects and two pairs of rooms you need for Free Choice Tournament Play?

There are four steps I follow when setting my force up:

Step 1: Determine Your Strategy
Will you be using the Hit, the Run, or a balanced strategy? You need to decide this early, as your core strategy impacts the other decisions you will need to make.

If you can't decide on a strategy, play a couple of games with your friends - use the characters and items from one set and the rooms from another. Figure out if you get more points from escaping the maze or from killing your opponents, and build your strategy accordingly. I don't suggest using the Mercenaries set of characters for this, as it's set up primarily to support the Hit.

Step Two: Determine Your Balance
Regardless of what strategy you're going with, you'll probably want a character or two who can support a different strategy. When I'm going for the Run, I'll still tend to include a couple of Hitters. You also need to balance your offense and defense - will you be including Blockers? What Specialists or support do you need?

My usual mix is four strategy match characters, together with two Blockers, and two Specialists. If I know my opponent, I may juggle that a bit. Against the Run, I tend to add more Blockers, for example.

Step 3: Determine Your Strong Characters
I don't use my Wall-Walker very effectively. For me, she's a weak character. Because of this I will almost never include her in a free choice team. By contrast, my Mekanork is one of my stronger characters - I'll use him in almost every team I assemble.

Know who your strong and weak characters are. Build your team to your strengths. I know that this is something that should be plainly obvious, but far too many people overlook it in favor of cool-looking or cool-sounding characters that they can't use effectively.

There are two more steps but - once again - this post is getting a bit long. I'll post those two steps (Choosing Items and Choosing Rooms) later.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dungeon Twister: General Character Strategies

As I mentioned the other day, I'm not quite ready for a "Multiple Uses" post on Mercenaries. I'm sorry. As part of my busy weekend, I plan to play a few games of Dungeon Twister, ideally including some of my French expansions.

There are two basic strategies when playing Dungeon Twister - Hit and Run. Players can also go for a more balanced strategy with a mixture of the other two strategies.

A strategy based on the Hit will score victory points by pounding the opponent's characters into pulp. It's all about the combat - forcing your opponent to fight you to get out, twisting rooms to minimize escape paths, and forcing Group Combat as much as possible. It requires careful use of your Combat Cards and you need to be able to move so that your characters have the edge in combat. I've also seen Hit Squads assembled, where a small group of characters patrols the maze, double-teaming any opposing characters they happen to find.

A strategy based on the Run will score its points by escaping the maze. It's all about choosing characters who can get around over and across obstacles, and the objects to support them. It requires characters who can get away from your opponent's hitters, as well - you'll want to make sure that any combat you engage in is Group Combat with your side having the superior numbers.

To support these strategies, there are four types of characters:

Hitters: Hitters are characters who will either have a high Strength or whose special abilities support other Hitters in some way. Good examples of Hitters are the Dragons and the Golem. Another character I consider a Hitter is the General - even though his Strength is only a two, his special ability makes other Hitters more effective.

Blockers: While Hitters can double as Blockers, the best Blockers have a special ability that allows you to slow down opposing characters in some way. The Troll is an excellent Blocker, for example - they can knock the Troll down, but it'll just get back up again. Other key blockers include the Illusionist, the Courtesan, the Living Trap, and the Stone Elemental.

Runners: Runners are characters who can either get through obstacles or whose special abilities can enable others to get through obstacles. They also tend to be faster characters. The Thief is the first (and most obvious) runner. The Acrobat and the Elf Scout are both excellent runners, as are any Flying characters. The Druid's ability with the climbing vines puts him into the Runner category, as well.

Specialists: A specialist is a character whose abilities or stats don't put them in any of the other categories. Most Magic-Users, the Magophage, the Cleric and the Pickpocket are all examples of specialists.

It's possible for characters to fit into more than one category - the Troll, for example, can easily serve as a Hitter or as a Blocker.

It's also possible to use Hitters to support your Run strategy or Runners to support your Hit strategy - the Golem's ability to clear walls can make movement much faster and easier for your runners, for example. Runners can make excellent flankers to aid in Group Combat, as it's easier to get them into position.

Objects and nearby characters can also impact a character's classification. A Troll with a Sword is a Hitter. A Troll wearing Armor is probably a Blocker. A Warrior with an adjacent Cleric is probably a Blocker.

In Free Choice play, each player chooses eight characters, six objects and two pairs or rooms. This selection is your first strategic decision, and all three sets of decisions (characters, objects, and rooms) are tied together - if you're not bringing any Magic Users, then you won't need any Scrolls. Are you bringing a Cleric to trail your Hit Squad, or will you be relying on Fountains of Youth? If the latter, will you bring your own or hope that your opponent does?

If you have all the English releases so far, you have 24 different characters, 191 different items (plus duplicate ropes and keys), and 16 different pairs of rooms. In France, they have 48 different characters, 332 different items, and 32 different pairs of rooms.

So how do you narrow it down? This post is getting a bit long, so I'll go over that later this week.

1 This number includes the two-handed sword held by the Statue
2 This number includes the Grail from À Feu et à Sang (Likely English title: The Fire and the Blood)