Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quarterly Kickstarter Update

It's been three months or so since the last update, so here's where things stand, now:

Newly Arrived
Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide - The print copy of this arrived in February. I ... I think I'm done pre-ordering books from this publisher. I'll wait until they're available and will grab them from my FLGS.  Realistically, there is no reason they should be Kickstarting books.  The Hacker's Guide, BTW, is pretty good. But I'm a fan of the system.

Emperor's New Clothes - I'm done backing Game Salute projects. I was only into this for $5 or so, but I have friends who backed for more. This took way too long for what it was. Really. And they couldn't get their story straight, either. A few weeks ago, they commented that the delay was because the boxes were being printed, because they needed barcodes and logos and such. The point of the project was that these were going to be blank boxes and blank components, so including barcodes and logos made people very unhappy.  Of course, then they arrived, and they didn't have barcodes and logos. So there was an internal communications breakdown at Game Salute. And this seems to be typical of their projects.

Atlantis: The Second Age - By contrast with Game Salute: Any time Jerry puts a project up, I will back it if I can afford it. He always delivers in a timely manner, and the quality of the finished product is never disappointing.

Knight's Quest - I have to admit that I was disappointed by this one. It's basically an Uno variant with better art. The problem is that every card has a special ability. And not all of those cards (or abilities) are spelled out in the rulebook. And some of the rules are unclear, to boot.  All in all, it's a first product from a first-time publisher, and it shows.

Corporia - I really liked the concept of this one.  I still do, actually. I'm a sucker for Arthurian legends and games, though. The setting is a bit WoD-ish, with its "secret world" feel surrounding the magic of the setting, but it definitely goes in another direction.

Freshly Backed
I've slowed way down in my backing. And I'm backing fewer and fewer board games, too. I think Miskatonic School for Girls was the opening salvo in my broader disappointment with some of the mediocrity I've received. Thankfully, most of what I've received hasn't been bad. It's just been nothing special. In fact, I'm only backing board games that have sample rules available for me to check out in advance. I'll still get a few duds here and there, but this will keep the worst of them away. So I've only backed eight projects since the last time I posted an update.

Running Behind
These projects are late, but I'm not concerned (for the most part), because they have been keeping us more-or-less updated.

Dragon Kings - Due April 2014.

Tianxia - I have the PDF, but the print copy is a bit late.

Atlantis Geographica - I have the PDF, but the print copy is a bit late.

Tales From The Floating Vagabond - Lee spent some time in a coma. This delay is completely acceptable.

The Whispering Road - I think the two month target for shipping was overly optimistic - and I thought so when I backed, too. And he's kept us updated. So I'm not concerned.

Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine just gave us an ePub version of the rulebook.

Alas, Vegas - My lack of concern with this project boils down to I Trust James Wallis. He has always been a class act. When he wound Hogshead down, he paid off all his bills and helped his authors find other publishers.

This next batch is projects which are late, and I'm starting to worry a bit. I know I'm going to eventually get the stuff, but I'm afraid I'll have lost interest and/or excitement before they arrive.

Ortus - interestingly, there are multiple game projects with this name.  The one I backed is the board game, and he hit a bunch of stretch goals which have - to no surprise - slowed things down. I have a few concerns about the delays on this one, but nothing major.

Call of Cthulhu - It became clear during the campaign that Chaosium had no idea what they were doing with the campaign. So I knew this was going to run late.  It's been six months and ... no PDFs.  I'm glad I only backed for PDFs.

Tunnels & Trolls - They are doing an ... okay job of keeping us informed.  They could do better, but it'd mean periodic "nothing to report" updates, and I understand that a lot of people hate those.

The Morrow Project - I got my PDF (which is no longer for sale on DTRPG). And apparently hardcovers are shipping to backers and non-backers alike.  But they're having some sort of issue with the printer for the softcovers (like I requested).

I Give Up
These are projects about which I've just stopped caring. I'll get my stuff or I won't. And, when I do, I suspect I'll have a hard time being excited about it.

Powerchords - This is my longest-outstanding unfilled project.  It funded October 1, 2010. I know I like Phil Brucato's work, which is why I backed this. But I didn't expect four or more years of waiting. Or the pages and pages and pages of pointless updates. Or that he'd take time off and go write another game in the meantime.

Far West - This one is infamous. It really is.  Again - I like Gareth-Michael Skarka's work. I like his other games. But he needs to stop giving us release dates. Because it's always more work than he expects, I think. And other things keep popping up. I feel bad for the guy - he's even been hospitalized - but it's hard to be terribly empathetic when the hospital would have been a non-issue if the project had been anything even resembling on time.

Witch Girls Book of Shadows - Expected delivery October 2012. No updates since June of 2013.

Synnibarr - I knew when I backed it that this would be effectively throwing money away. Raven McCracken has a (well-deserved) reputation for eccentricity, and this project has not been a disappointment in that respect. Updates on Facebook instead of Kickstarter, odd punctuation and word choices. This has been a roller-coaster ride and a terrifying view of Raven's perspective. On everything.

The +5 Food of Eating Cookbook - I got my PDF. And it sounds like that's all I'm going to get. This is a less well-known post-funding collapse. And the project creator was fairly open about the collapse, too. Open and honest and - importantly - didn't shift blame or whine about it.  So the backers were not aggressive or angry about it. Most of us just shrugged and went on with our lives.

They Became Flesh - I'm only waiting for a set of dice on this one. There are backers out there who still don't have their books. And this shows up at conventions for sale all the time.  I'm not angry about this one, but I'm disappointed.

Top This! - Apparently due soon. They've been updating.  But is it too late for me to care?  Probably.

For a complete list of what my household has backed, you can check the complete list here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I spent this last weekend at NorWesCon. It's the Pacific Northwest's largest Science Fiction & Fantasy convention, and it usually pulls in just over 3000 people.  I've attended off-and-on since about 1991 or so.

Literary conventions like this are generally very different in tone from gaming conventions like GenCon - it's more than just a size thing.  While NorWes has a bunch of gaming panels, they tend to be a bit more generalized compared to the equivalent panels at GenCon - for example, I just got out of a Kickstarter panel which included a couple of RPG publishers, a novelist, and an artist.  At GenCon, that panel would probably have been split into multiple panels, with each one more focused.  There would have been "Kickstarting Board Games" and "Kickstarting Your RPG" and so on.

I love GenCon. And I enjoy NorWes. But I also spend a fair amount of NorWes sitting somewhere and reading - at GenCon, there is always something going on that I am interested in.  At NorWes, there are gaps in coverage, as it were.

Part of that is the setting.  NorWesCon has outgrown its hotel. In fact, it outgrew it a decade ago. But there's not really anywhere else for them to go, partly because of the culture of the convention itself. For example: Any new location would require 24/7 access to convention-goers. NorWes has events and TV rooms running all night. If I wanted to, I could go play laser tag at 3am.

The convention doesn't want to give up their all-night events - and I don't blame them. I really enjoyed the late-night activities when I was younger, and I have no desire to deprive younger con-goers of that same fun. But that closes access to a number of possible venues.

The hotel here is right on the public transit lines, and is less than a mile from the airport. This is very convenient for out-of-town guests and panelists. And is a definite point in the hotel's favor.

There are several other hotels nearby. This is also good for con-goers, because if the Doubletree is sold out (like it usually is), they can hurry to find a spot elsewhere.

There aren't enough panel rooms to grow right now. As it is, the convention is using every available room at all times during the day. So the number of scheduled panels and events hasn't changed significantly since I was much younger. The content of the panels has fluctuated over the years I've attended (and is actually a large part of why I took a few years off).  Unless the hotel grows (or the convention adds panels and events at another of the nearby hotels), the convention isn't going to grow by much.

The content of the panels has shifted over the years.  When I first started attending, it was very focused on literature. Books and magazines. Tips on how to get published. A few panels about art or the science behind the latest bestsellers. Over time, there were more and more "lifestyle" panels and fewer and fewer science fiction and fantasy panels. It, combined with the issues my wife and I had with the hotel (two bad experiences in two years was enough to sour us), meant it was time for us to walk away for a bit.

We're back this year.  The hotel still has issues, but I'm beginning it always will. And this year's hotel issues appear to be frustrating but non-critical. As opposed to the year the hotel double-charged us (they did eventually refund us). The parking is still terrible, but short of the hotel spending time to build its own parking garage instead of relying on a lot, it's not going to change.

Panel-wise, I attended more panels last weekend than I did in my previous two con attendances combined - there were more on-target panels and fewer lifestyle panels.

Let me talk - just for a moment - about those lifestyle panels. Because I will inevitably be asked about them.  They are panels about polyamory, BDSM, and other "alternative" lifestyles. Let me get this out first: I don't mind that these panels exist. I don't. I have dear friends who are into each of these various lifestyles.

They're not for me, but I won't judge you based on your membership in one of the various communities. What bothers me about these panels is that it seemed like there were more panels about BDSM and fetish art than there were about science fiction and fantasy. At a convention that was - ostensibly - all about science fiction and fantasy. I don't think the panels should be abolished - realistically, they tend to be run by adults and they are for people who are curious. And a convention should be a safe place to ask questions about this sort of thing. That it sometimes isn't is a question for another time and place ...

But the worm has turned.  There are more science fiction and fantasy and hard science and art and writing panels than there have been in previous years.  There are panels for filkers and cosplayers. There is a good diversity of panels again.  This is - to my mind - a good thing. There are still dozens of panels that don't interest me - but there should be.  I'm only part of the convention's target audience.

Next year, the Writer Guest of Honor is George R.R. Martin.  And the artists are Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.  So all of the growing pains they've been suffering the last decade will be exacerbated, because it's going to be a zoo.  I'm ... I'm almost looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Simple Joy of the Table

Last weekend, we got to play the Greenhill Campaign face-to-face.  It's a 4e Dungeons & Dragons game with several close friends.  We've been playing since 4e came out, and it's been nearly all played via Google Hangout + virtual tabletop.  We've done "Greenhill Live" a grand total of twice, now.

And it's always weirdly magical.

Gaming face-to-face is just different from gaming online. It doesn't matter if it's role-playing or boardgaming, either. I actually spend a fair amount of time on these days - mostly watching games, but occasionally playing. And it much prefer the direct human interaction. Which is strange, because I really don't like people all that much.

I've played via BoardGameArena with a Hangout in another window - and that helps a bit.  In large part because the people I game with tend to trash-talk a fair amount. Even when role-playing.

Maybe it's because the face-to-face interaction included food.  Like Maple Bacon chips. And steak sandwiches. And a fair amount of alcohol ...

A couple of our players are currently Canadian residents, too.  And they smuggled these particular surprises across the border for us, because they are awesome people.

Kinder Surprise, for those two or three of you who don't know, are chocolate eggs which include a capsule with toys.  And the toys are every bit as good as Cracker Jacks used to be. But, because the toy is surrounded with food, it's illegal to import these into the US.  In fact, they can apparently fine up to $2,500 per egg (according to Wikipedia). Because - as we all know, American Children are dumber than children anywhere else in the world.

The chocolate isn't terrible, but it has an inner lining of white chocolate that is pretty bad and makes the milk chocolate hard to get through.

But the toys make it worth eating the chocolate much of the time.

Game itself was fun.  We started around one and continued until almost 11pm, at which point I was crashing pretty hard.  We started the evening at 18th level, and bumped to 19th by the end of the night.  It's the first time I can remember taking a character from start to 19. I've played high-level characters before, but they were generated at those higher levels more often than not. And I don't know that any games I played as a kid lasted more than a very small handful of sessions.

Jim - our DM - has told us he has an end for the campaign in mind, and I'm always sad to see a game end (even if it's to create an opening for another game).

Our Dresden Files game is close to wrapping up, too. I have - at times - felt out-of-place in that game, but that's because I have a few Aspects that I need to cycle out, due to their not fitting the direction in which my character grew. I've learned a lot about my character in this game - which is an unexpected thing for me. I'm not used to my character steering me.

One of the highlights of that game has been the potluck nature of dinner. Someone will, on Friday or so, start a "food thread" for the weekend, and someone will claim one aspect of dinner - main dish, dessert, side dish.  Usually the Main Dish folks will state what they're bringing so that we don't get odd flavor clashes with the side dishes.  We've had some really good food with that group, too.

When I was younger, we'd make snack runs or order a pizza as a group.  Or split some of Mama Weas' Chili Dip.

There's something about the ritual of sharing food together than brings a group together.

Every year, on the Tuesday before GenCon, the Asmodee crew gets together for dinner and trivia.  After the show, we all go out for dinner together again. The Tuesday dinner allows us to reacquaint ourselves with these folks that some of us haven't seen since last year.  It also allows us to meet the new people.  The wrap-up dinner reminds us how much we like and appreciate these people we've just spent the last four days with.

It's odd to me that food and good gaming are so closely tied in my mind, but with very rare exceptions, food is often one of the first things ignored in games. I see "rations" listed, but no real details on day-to-day food in many many games and settings. I think that probably bears some thought ...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

TableTop Day

This last weekend was International TableTop Day. It's the second time they've done this - and the first time Steph and I were able to participate.

It happened to coincide with Phoenix Games' 10th Anniversary this year, too.  So instead of one day of celebration and fun, we got two days.

On Saturday, we woke up early, and headed North to play some games. Wednesday Game Night usually pulls 18-20 folks, so I expected about the same number there for TableTop Day.  I was in for quite a shock.

We arrived about an hour after the event started, and the place was already packed.  As I do when I head to the store, I headed up front and chatted with Brian for a few minutes before finding a game to play.

My copy of Ricochet Robots had arrived, so I popped it open and quickly found a couple of other players.  We made one critical rules mistake (we tried to get any robot to the target rather than just the matching bot), but it didn't impact the fun of the game.  I think that overall I like Mutant Meeples better than this one, but it's not a bad game by any stretch. And they are different enough that I'll leave room on my shelf for both.

Following that, we broke out our copy of Discworld: The Witches. It was fun, but I don't think this game will be a top-shelf game for me. I think that one small house rule will change that, but at the cost of making the game more random.  That one small house rule is this: The Player(s) with the most cackle counters is eliminated before scores are counted.  It makes managing the cackle counters more important and means that players will stop for tea more often than they do now. But it does make the game a bit more swingy.

Following that, there was a Ticket To Ride tournament going on, and I sat in for a round.  It's been too long since I played this game, and I did terribly.  But that's okay - it was still fun.

At this point, I wandered up to the front again, and Brian asked me if I knew anything about Concept.  As it's one of the games I worked on, I was able to answer pretty easily.  And it sold!  And then the new buyer wanted to take it for a spin.

Twist my arm about off, why don't you?  There are people and groups who won't like this one, but I really really like it and can't wait to get my own copy ...

We played two full games, juggling seating arrangements so we'd have different "teams" each time.

I won both games, largely because Stephanie and I understand one anothers' thought processes well enough that we can "draw" specifically for one another to guess.

The next day, we went back for more.  Played more Discworld: The Witches and took Tokaido for a spin.  This one -- remember how I can often tell if I'm going to like a game by reading the rulebook?  I freely admit I was wrong about Tokaido.  The rulebook made it sound ... meh. Realistically, there's only one decision to make each turn, and sometimes you can't even do that. But - in play - it felt like my decisions mattered.

The Sunday events continued until the evening, but Steph and I had our twice-montly Dresden Files RPG game to get to.

So it was a weekend packed full of gaming.  I met some new folks and played a ton of new-to-me games (and a few old favorites). All-in-all, it was a great time - not unlike a brief convention, really - and I'm looking forward to next year.

Thanks to Geek and Sundry for giving me an excuse to play more games!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Time for just a bit of blog housekeeping, along with a couple of questions that keep popping up.

The first housekeeping was simple: I mentioned it previously, but it's done now.  The Google Ads are gone.  They took up space and - realistically - I'm a small enough blog that I wasn't making money.

In fact, the only ads here now should be the DriveThruRPG ad to the right. And I put that there.

It's funny - I say above that I'm a small blog, but Kickstarter project creators keep e-mailing me. I suspect that it's partly due to my involvement with the Kicksnarker community over on G+. Either way, these e-mails take one of two forms. Either they want me to mention and link to their project to increase visibility or else they want to send me a copy so that I can play it and give them a blurb for their project.

I'm not interested. In fact, I don't even accept review copies of games these days. Because if I'm interested in a game, I much prefer giving money to my FLGS (Phoenix Games in Mukilteo, WA) for it. Obviously, this doesn't apply to games received because I worked on them or as payment for other services rendered. But I've found that writing a review because I am obligated to do so can be a drag. And I do love writing this blog every week.

And that bring something else up: The FLGS.

People keep asking me how I can be so big on supporting my FLGS when I am constantly posting links to Amazon or DriveThru.  It's simple, really:  I can't post links to your FLGS. There are too many of you who are spread out too far - and I don't know who all of you are.  It'd be nice if I could set it up so that my blog could access the inventory of all of your local game stores and personalize itself for you - but it's just not feasible. Maybe in the future

At least the Amazon links can tell you what a game looks like, which will make it easier to find at your local game store. And not everyone has a local game store. It sucks, but there are gamers who have to buy their games online.

Also: Don't forget International TableTop Day is this weekend!  Get out there and play some games!