Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sure, I’ll talk about Kickstarter

A regular thread that seems to show up on Boardgame Geek is folks’ experiences with Kickstarter. So I decided to take a look down memory lane/Kickstarter. 

The first Kickstarter project I backed was the black box edition of Glory to Rome, so I tend to think of myself as being late to the party as far as Kickstarter is concerned. Lets see... I did that back in 2011.


Okay. By some folks standards, I might qualify as an early adaptor.

Looking through my Kickstarter profile, I’ve backed about a hundred projects, most of them games. And more than seventy of them have been just at the Print and Play level. And it’s been more than five years since I backed anything for more than around twenty dollars.

You know, I know friends who have backed far less projects than I have and spent far, far more money. 

My move towards almost exclusively sticking to PnP has been for recreational, economic and practical reasons. I like making PnPs. It’s easier on the wallet and shelf space. And I think I’m more likely to actually get the product.

I know that there are literally thousands of games that have passed me by and I’m sure some of them are very good games. However, there are so many games in the world that I’m not never going to get to play them all.

And, while it might not actually be true, if a game is _that_ amazing, I’ll eventually be able to buy it in a store. No, that isn’t always the case but I do try and wait until any game is out for at least a year and survives the initial hype to think about buying it in general.

I have had a lot of fun with Kickstarter but I definitely approach it with a lot of caution. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Captain Sonar floored me

I went into Captain Sonar as a con event with these pieces of knowledge: you used dry erase markers, it took a lot of players and a lot of people really like it.

What I discovered was one of my best gaming experiences of 2018. Honestly, I don’t look back at years and try to mark down, say, five highlights but my introduction to Captain Sonar is one that will stay with me and I’ll bore friends about years to come.

In Captain Sonar, you are playing two crews of two submarines that are trying to blow each other into greasy clouds of smoke. On each team, there is a captain who plans the route and activates the systems, the first mate who charges the systems, the engineer who damages and repairs the systems and the radio operator who listens to other captain and desperately tries to figure out where the enemy sub is.

You know, there are other reviews that describe Captain Sonar in much better and greater detail and I haven’t even looked at them. I’m trying less to review the game than distill my experience of learning the game and playing it four times in a row.

Captain Sonar takes the theme and even some of the core mechanics of Battleship, a game I’ll begrudgingly say works, and turned into a harrowing, edge of your seat experience that is also an amazing experience in team work. Seriously, I won’t be surprised if Captain Sonar has been used as a corporate team building exercise.

Captain Sonar’s individual mechanics are pretty simple. Actually, even taken together, the mechanical side of the game is still simple. However, add in the real time aspect of the game, and those simple mechanics become a frantic, desperate scramble. I understand you can play it turn-based but that would kill so much of the fun.

Some of my friends would classify Captain Sonar as a party game and I can see that. With its very exact player-count, I think I would have to become some kind of youth group leader before I’d buy it. But boy would I play it again and I think it’s an experience any kind of gamer would really get something out of.

Friday, October 5, 2018

My RinCon 2018

In September, I went to what I realized was my fifth RinCon. (I don’t actually know when the convention started) And that’s not counting all the fundraising events I’ve been to, which are basically mini-conventions.

And RinCon keeps on delivering for me. The people who run it are all very friendly and seem to know what they’re doing. There’s plenty of free play area and I’m always able to put together a good schedule of events.

I had thought about trying to actually trying to write my entire experience in detail but, honestly, that’d be boring for everyone but me so I’ll just try and hit the highlights.

The best experience I had was learning Captain Sonar and then playing it four times in a row. I went in knowing it was a real-time game with dry erase markers. I found out it was a game of two submarines trying to blow each up with four players manning each submarine. It was an intense, really fun experience. With the requirement of eight players to really make it work, I’d never buy it but I’d definitely play it again. I might actually never pass up a game :D

I got a chance to play Echidna Shuffle, which I don’t think has actually been formally released. It’s a very simple Pick-Up-and-Deliver game for kids with incredibly cute components while there are a lot of neat design choices. I’m pretty sure adults who focus on blocking plays rather than deliver would stall the game out big time, although I’m not sure that’s a winning strategy unless your opponents rage quit. But I’m seriously thinking about getting the game for our son.

And the last game I played at RinCon was a three-player game of For Sale, a game I take to every event I go to anymore, and it came down to a three-way tie. The winner broke the tie by having one two-bit coin left from the first half. That was a great way to end my RinCon.

I got in eighteen separate plays over the day and a half I was at RinCon and I learned seven different games. I picked up a used copy of Turbo Taxi, which I think our son might have fun with, and won a copy of Dungeon Rush. I had a good time :)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The two sides of the Spider-Man story

Having a small child means never watching movies when they came out. Which, I got to say, is something I knew going in and, since we live in a world where giant flat screen HD TVs, I don’t care.

Spider-Man:Homecoming was a really fun movie and might beat out Spider-Man 2 for the best Spider-Man movie I’ve seen. It’s a real testament to the MCU that I also consider it a middle-of-the-pack movie in the series :D It’s fun and engaging but it’s no Thor:Ragnarok.

Spider-Man is one of my favorite heroes and for a very simple reason. He’s got all the normal people problems on top of the super hero problems. In fact, his Peter Parker issues are more stressful for him than his Spider-Man problems. Sometimes it gets too much and his life becomes a train wreck of misery that people hopefully can’t relate to.

That said, there are two other elements of Spider-Man that I like. One: he was the first really successful solo teen hero. He wasn’t a sidekick. He was a teen on his own, even supporting his geriatric aunt. Two: He is now one of the most experienced superheroes, having been everywhere and fought everyone while still able to joke about it. I like Spider-Man the teen and Spider-Man the seasoned expert.

And I understand why, for so many reasons, why every movie has Spider-Man the kid. First of all, it’s iconic. Second, it’s the starting point. Third, it makes him super relatable, particularly to a major target demographic. 

In the MCU, it makes even more sense since he was a later addition. And, while I understand why some people hate it because it flies in the face of Spider-Man the independent outsider, I really liked the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker.

Still, I would like to see a movie version of Spider-Man where he’s the voice of experience and the mentor. And I know that’s been done in cartoons and other media and will probably happen in Into the Spiderverse so I really am asking to get my paradox cake and eat it too.

Anyway, while I hated the Clone saga and _despise_ One More Day, I love Spider-Man and Homecoming did the character justice while respecting the medium of movies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why we don’t need narrative damage as a term

I recently read the term narrative damage. It was in a commentary by Griffin McElroy about the Suffering Game arc in the Adventure Zone. Part of his commentary was that narrative damage was still damage.

While I hadn’t heard the term narrative damage before, I knew exactly what it was. The argument in the commentary was that, after characters become high enough level and gain enough equipment in Dungeons and Dragons, they become hard to really hurt. I mean, death can be cured by spells.

However, losses within the framework of the story, those can be a hit a lot harder. In fact, since RPGs are collaborative story telling, they are the most important kind of damage. In some systems (like Fiasco), narrative damage is the only kind of damage. Really, narrative damage is just another word for conflict and consequences.

Truth to tell, every game master I’ve ever played under who was worth their salt used narrative damage. A GM I played with weekly for over ten years very reasonably felt that high level characters have global impact so their choices inevitably have political consequences. In his game, being a murder hobo was a bad idea and being a high level murder hobo made that character’s life a nightmare. 

One of my favorite GM’s likes characters to have detailed backstories and be strongly connected to their communities. Our choices and failures and successes has consequences literally at right at home. It was the complete opposite of being a murder hobo.

One player memorably created an orphan with no friends. He made himself as immune to narrative damage as he could be, creating a Batman character. Well, Batman without Alfred or Nightwing or any of the Robins and Batgirls or the Justice League, etc. And he had fun and did neat stuff but he ended up not being in the game as long and not having as much impact. He had no investment.

Because when we play RPGs, we are telling a story. And a story where nothing bad ever happens to the main characters is really boring. So many players I’ve played with have actively sought out narrative damage because it makes for a more interesting story. (Okay, I’ve done it too) The biggest murder hobo in that ten plus year campaign? He went looking for that trouble to keep things interesting. He was an instigator.

If I were to talk about narrative damage to almost every GM I’ve played any length of time and any campaign, they’d find the need for the term silly. Because, at the end of the day, that’s just story telling. It’s not an alternative to losing hit points or stat points. It’s just part of the conflict that is a story.

One of them flat out told me: You dont remember losing 25 hp. You remember losing your base and all your npc friends and family dying.

Unless a game is just a dungeon crawl or the equivalent, where all you do is go from one combat to the next combat, you are going to tell an actual story. And no matter if you call it narrative damage or plot twists or conflict, it’s going to be there.

Monday, October 1, 2018

My September PnP

Okay, in September, I crafted the Zed Deck, Muses and New World Colony, along with laminating one sheet Roll and Writes games Not Another One, Backyard Buddies and Six-Sided Stout.

That might not sound like too much but the Zed Deck and New World Colony are both 54-Card decks. I’ve mostly been crafting nine and eighteen card micro games so making a full deck of cards is a definite step up.

I actually hoped to do another full deck of cards with the Abandons but that will have to wait until October. Even so, I am not unhappy with the amount of crafting I got in in September.

I also have to admit that both Backyard Buddies (which is from last year’s GenCan’t Roll and Write contest) and Not Another One aren’t very good games. However, they will serve as ways to turn off my brain for a little bit and I’ve found that pretty handy at times.

In October, I want to start work8g on making sure that I have a Secret Santa package ready in case there’s another Mini PnP Santa this year. I already have some ideas for stuff I would want to include. Murderer’s Row would be a definite.

So, as the year starts winding down, I may not be doing as much PnP crafting as I did at the start but I’m still crafting and playing.