Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading, Prepping, and Playing

It's this blog's equivalent of a clip show!

I'm only half joking.

Here's what has kept me occupied through the end of 2011 and is likely to keep me going through the first part of 2012:

A co-worker bought a copy of Lu Zhan Jun Qi for me for Christmas. It reminds me strongly of Stratego. In a good way. The copy I received is as pictured on the page I linked, too.  It's gorgeous.

Asmodee gifted me with a copy of Eclipse.  It scratches that Twilight Imperium itch in about half the time. Not only that, but I like it quite a bit more than TI - the rules are clearer with less errata and no need for an expansion to fix its problems.

Tonight, I hope to introduce my usual Wednesday crowd to Quebec.  It was (for me) the Game of the Show at GenCon. I hope the Wednesday crowd takes to it as quickly.

Takenoko was in the same package as both Eclipse and Quebec. My first thought was, "Cute panda figure!" And then I had a chance to play. I like this game - it's cute-looking, but don't late that deceive you.  There is a surprising amount of game in the box.

I'm enjoying Mongoose's participation in the Bits and Mortar program. I've filled in my RuneQuest II (now Legend) PDF's, and have grabbed most of my Traveller PDFs, as well. I really only need the core book most of the time.

Speaking of Traveller, I grabbed Chthonian Stars. It makes me really want to run a Traveller game.

I have also taken advantage of Pelgrane Press' participation in the Bits & Mortar program.  I have most of the Gumshoe core books (lacking only Night's Black Agents), and so got those PDF's.  And finally had a chance to read through them and spend some time thinking about them. Wow. I knew Gumshoe was an awesome system, but on re-reading, it really shines. Most games have an "automatic success" threshold somewhere in the rulebook - Gumshoe basically says, "if it's essential to drive the story, then it's an automatic success.  Players can exert themselves for extra information if they want to."

I managed to acquire another PDF reader for the table, too. A customer gifted me with a Cydle M7.  It's less powerful than my Kindle Fire, but will work as a PDF reader. We plan to use it as a cookbook in the kitchen - its built-in stand makes it ideal for that purpose.

And Cubicle 7 continues to hold my interest. I now own all of Qin: The Warring States. Well, all of it that's available in English, that is. The next book is reportedly suffering from some translation issues - which is perfectly understandable from where I'm sitting. Of course, I've spent most of the last decade working with a French publisher on translations ...

I hear from people that I don't give FFG enough credit for their good games.  And it's true - I don't. Part of that is because I'm not buying any Games-Workshop licensed products. This removes the vast majority of FFG's output from my shopping list immediately. But I've played a few of them - and, for the most part, I do enjoy their board games.  In the next year, however, two of my most-anticipated games are coming from FFG, both of them reprints of a sort (and neither of them is Merchant of Venus).

Rex: Final Days of an Empire is FFG's rethemed reprint of the old Avalon Hill/Eon Dune board game. I have a copy already, but the reprint means I may be able to actually get it to the table.

They're also reprinting WizWar.  Again: I have a copy, but it never sees the table these days. Which is a shame, because it's fun.

And, finally, a reminder of my post from yesterday: Gaming at Phoenix Games in Mukilteo for New Year's Eve. We'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Eve

Got New Year's Eve plans, yet?

If not, you should consider joining us at Phoenix Games' annual Game (All) Night.

Kicking off Saturday at 5pm and wrapping up on Sunday when everyone goes home (Brian scheduled it for 2:30, but I've not gotten out of there before 8am).

It's $5 (or you can bring a dish for the potluck). The $5 goes towards basics like plates, cups, napkins, etc. So don't feel bad if you bring cash instead of food. The usual guideline for food is to bring enough for your group plus one. And we always need real food (that's not to say that chips and cookies are unwelcome, mind you).

Tomorrow: What I'm reading, prepping, and playing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Wishes

... and this is the post where I take a week away from discussing gaming to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday.  I don't care if you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, a birthday, the coming of the New Year, or any of the dozens and dozens of holidays which are celebrated this time of year: I hope this season is filled with joy and love and laughter for you.

I pray you are surrounded by family and/or friends who appreciate your company and enjoy your presence.

I hope you get to play that game you've been trying to get to the table. And I hope you win, even if your opponent is another of my readers.

Next week, I'll have a longer post covering what I've been reading, prepping, and playing - look for a batch of capsule reviews, and an overview of 2011. Maybe a few bits of info. on 2012 (if I can get permission to post them).

Thank you for reading - it's the best gift most of you can give me, and I very much appreciate it.

I'll see you next week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

GenCon 2012

At about this time every year, I start to stress out about GenCon.  I worry that I screwed something up the previous year and won't be invited back.  I worry that maybe they needed me at some point when I was eating lunch and couldn't find me, and so I'm done.

I worry because I haven't seen any new rules in a few months, so maybe they've found someone else who will cost them less money and do a better job ...

It's all completely ridiculous. I know.  I work hard for them, and they know it. Have known it for a good long while, in fact.

Even so, I was greatly reassured a few weeks back to get an e-mail from Asmodee.  They're sending me some games. And I've had a sneak peek at the GenCon 2012 plans.

I can't spill the beans, but I really want to.  All I can say is that 2012 will be one of the Best GenCons Ever for me.  I say "one of" because that first GenCon will be hard to top - not because it was particularly great, but because it was My First GenCon.

Either way, the e-mail has reminded me that GenCon is coming. And, even though GenCon is only a part of my schedule for a few weeks per year, there are people working year-round on it. I wonder if Asmodee didn't finish last year's convention only to start immediately working on this one.

In fact, I have a hunch that it's always in the back of people's minds in this industry. I'm sure that, as they decide what to publish when, they have the various conventions marked on their calendars.  "This game is a big box.  While we could release it at any point between July and October, it'd be a good release for GenCon."  Or Origins. Or Essen. Or whatever convention they choose to push.  Larger publishers can probably release games at multiple conventions - "If we release this game at Origins, that leaves us that game for GenCon and that other game at Essen."

All of which is a reminder to me. My work in the gaming industry is part-time and seasonal. I do the non-demo work a few months before games are released, and it's sporadic at best.  There is no way I could make a living at it. But there are people who do make a living in the industry. Some of them make a pretty decent living at it - and they can't afford to lose sight of little things like convention dates.

And - even more amazingly to me - the folks working to make GenCon entertaining and wonderful are a microcosm of the industry as whole, which is people working to entertain us in our homes on our own schedules.

It's really rather intimidating for me to think about - that's a lot of people trying to keep us entertained ...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Designers & Dragons

I first saw a blurb on Designers & Dragons on (which shouldn't be surprising, as Shannon Appelcline is one of the bigwigs there). Hmm, I thought, that could be interesting. But it's likely to be a long dry read.

Then I saw it on Amazon. Fifty bucks? Who would pay fifty bucks for a book of gaming history? But I wishlisted it - in part to keep track of its availability. See I have a large wishlist. Terrifyingly so, at times.

It's also available as a PDF from DriveThru. Yet again, the price put me off from buying it.

Then, a few weeks back, my good friend Wade showed up at my house for a planned day of hanging out. "Have you seen this?" He pulled the book out of the trunk of his car.

The first thing I had to say was, "Wow. That thing's a tome." Followed almost immediately by, "I see why it's fifty bucks!"

It's big. And it's beautiful. And, at that point, I knew I had to own it.

Wade graciously allowed me to flip through it for a few.

It's few weeks later, and I now own a copy.  This book reminds me of the Hero system's core book from the 5th Edition - the one everyone called FRED?  It's massive.

Rather than writing in a strictly chronological order, Appelcline wrote his history publisher-by-publisher. He separated them into a number of different eras, and then handled each era in roughly chronological order.

The entries are well-researched and filled with interesting information. And Appelcline's writing style is very approachable (with occasional bits of snark, where appropriate).

The real beauty of this book doens't become clear until you hit the end of an entry. You see, Appelcline didn't write this book to be read straight through.  You can if you want to, but you'll miss out on the ability to follow a single thread - Gary Gygax's career, for example. Game Publishers which Sue Their Fans. The Future Publisher(s) of RuneQuest.

It's a very different way to read the book, and it's oddly engrossing. My only complaint with this is minor - a page reference would be helpful for this thread-jumping.

I have caught a fair number of editing hiccups - wrong words, missing words, misspellings, and the like. It's a bit distracting at points, but doesn't detract hugely from the book itself.

It's clear Appelcline loves his hobby, and a lot of research went into this volume.

The book won't be for everyone. If you aren't a hardcore gamer, this book isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you know someone who is hardcore, then this would be an excellent gift, provided they don't already own it.