Tag: board gaming
I’m actually a little surprised that I haven’t had a post tagged for Warhammer 40,000 in over a year. I’ve been tinkering with it here and there during 2011, and I played a handful of matches, but unfortunately I also slacked off greatly on my original plan of being able to play more often. See, I love to play the game. It’s the preparatory work that I really don’t much care for, and by preparatory I mean “painting”.
I am not terribly artistically gifted. I have a general sense for what colors look best together, and in terms of technical ability I can paint my miniatures up to be serviceable, if not gorgeous. I’m not looking to win the Golden Demon here, but at the same time I certainly would like to make it easier for me to see where I am on the board versus just having the bare gray plastic. I have no problem putting in the time, as I find building the models to be a lot of fun. I just realize that I can’t really paint on the level of the other players.
That’s part of it, but not entirely. Games Workshop hasn’t exactly been doing its players any huge favors lately, either, especially by clamping down on the rumor mill for when new products and codexes will be released. I have been waiting for about a year and a half now for the new Tau Empire codex to be announced, let alone released, and the continued and oppressive silence had made wanting to work on my Tau army a chore with no reward in sight– the old codex just doesn’t stack up very well against the more recently-updated threats like the Necrons or any random flavor of Space Marines, which discourages me from wanting to play them. And let’s not even get into how ridiculously overpowered Chaos Space Marines are; at Legions they’re the most commonly encountered army simply because they have any number of ways to rip apart everyone else.
I also still have a couple thousand points of Imperial Guard to paint up, and I’ve been sitting on an equal amount of unassembled Orks, on the theory that “well, once I get done painting the Guard, I can turn my attention back to the Orks.” Don’t get me wrong– I got into 40K primarily so that I could play the game. But there’s a lot more satisfaction for me in playing an army that I’ve fully painted up, even if it’s not perfect. I set forth a rule that I’m not going to buy more than I can paint, and that was at the beginning of 2011. I have bought incredibly little since then and have painted even less.
This past weekend, though, I finished up the last of the Tau (almost– I still haven’t put together drones, mostly because I don’t know how many I want to put together) and made some serious baseline progress on some of my Guardsmen. I’m also dedicating a couple of hours each weekend– likely Saturday morning– solely to painting, in addition to doing some painting when the mood strikes me during the week. I did a little one evening this week, too, just to wrap up what I wanted to do Sunday (when I fell asleep instead), and already I’m feeling more confident and far more motivated than I had before.
The first goal I want to set, really, is to have a 1000-point list for each of my factions painted and ready to play, to help me get over being stuck in a rut playing the same army over and over again. I have plans for that, and am slowly but surely grinding my way through to the next phase of readiness for it even though it’s likely to take a bit longer than I had initially anticipated. Still, this past week has shown that I can make progress on that, and that eventually, the rewards will be worth the trouble, particularly once Sixth Edition comes out later this year. As that release gets closer, I’ll talk more about it.
Shortly after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, Mike, Pez, Roger, Wade and I all got together to play a game called Attack!. At the time, it was described to me as “Risk, but better”: it introduced air and naval combat into the mix, and reduced some of the random nature (but not all). It was also an incredibly long game, such that after four hours, we were all too tired to continue as we had work in the morning. So, Pez pulled out his laptop and we “saved” the game– writing down who had what units where, who had controlled what, etc. etc. For the week or so until we were able to resume it, we were on the edges of our seats with anticipation. Setting up again was simple and fast, and we had a ball with “our” world.
Risk Legacy, which I mentioned yesterday, is taking a lot of criticism for its most obvious degree of distinction from other Risk variants: you destroy parts of the game set as you play matches. The game board gets marked up with stickers, cards can be altered in value, even the rules can and will change as time goes on. Where most folks focus on the fact that the game is “ruined” after that time, though, it occurs to me that after the fifteen game “setup” phase is done, you have a world all of your own to play in. Maybe it’s balanced. Maybe one player has a dramatic advantage over the others. Maybe in your game South America is a smoldering nuclear wasteland because Australia just thought it looked funny. Who knows.
Gaming– and I’m including video gaming in this, too– is starting to take note that people like to customize stuff, to really make it their own. You saw a little bit of this with Mass Effect, and how a choice made in the first game– Virmire, to say the least– can be carried over to trigger radical changes in the third. Funny how there’s a lot of resistance to this grand concept of having an ongoing narrative and personalized resequencing of events, when one would expect the response to be along the lines of “I liked the idea back when it was called ‘Dungeons and Dragons’”.
So tonight was pretty good, aside from the fact that we didn’t get to finish our game of Power Grid. I would have loved to have shocked everyone by coming out ahead.
Over this week, I’ll be telling the story of how I got my new car. I happen to think the tale is worth telling. If you’re just here for the video game and anime snarkiness, well, I suggest you tune in next Monday, when I hope to return to form on those fronts. But for now, please enjoy the six-part “Treks, Plans, and Auto Ordeals”. Posts for this week are on auto-pilot and should show up before or around noon.
…..okay, to tide you over, then, this little bit of news: I’ve slowly been getting back into Magic: The Gathering, and today I managed to score a relatively major coup in that I found an item that was the perfect confluence of my interests: the Jace vs. Chandra Duel Deck set… in Japanese, with the exclusive alternate artwork for the two planeswalker cards. It’s my firm intent to be able to play either of these decks by the end of the year. I know Magic, and I have a rudimentary grasp of kana and kanji. I also happen to know someone who knows both of these things. I’m sure she will also be interested in helping me with this challenge.
Good night, all.
Wednesday’s unpleasantness aside, I suppose I needed that time to relax. I did manage to reinstall my FIOS box, meaning I had access to both regular TV and a usable DVR… but no content recorded on it. I eventually went to bed at 7:30p after watching Jeopardy.
But anyway, there’s been a little bit going on in terms of games, both the video and tabletop persuasion. I picked up Blood Bowl Team Manager a week or so ago and have yet to give it a proper play through, but I’m hoping that if things progress the way I expect, that will change very soon. Beyond that, I’ve been involved in a couple of campaigns in various role playing games, ranging from Star Wars d20 to the indie and quirky Inspectres. That one came about from an online campaign I’ve been trying to get started, and the only reason it hasn’t started is because I’ve been too lazy/busy to send out the character creation rules. So, mark that as something I have to do tonight (yesterday by the time this post goes up).
As for video games… Well, money has been tight lately. Really, the Blood Bowl game was about the only real extravagance I allowed myself in October, and that was just on a lark. I want to eventually pick up the new Professor Layton game, and after playing the demo, Ace Combat may be my big purchase for November. Ultimately, though, I took a serious look at my backlog for the first time: I have over two hundred games that I have not completed, and only about a dozen of those are ones I’ve even started. Granted, I’m a collector, and having the games is just as important as playing them; at the same time, though, every game I’ve picked up, I’ve done so with the intent of playing it at some point. I took some time on Monday and compiled the list into a prioritized queue, giving me some amount of direction with it. First up on the list are a handful of games that are trivially easy to finish, namely Starfy, Prinny (I halted progress literally at the final boss about a year ago), and a run through Space Hulk on the PS1.
I may wind up taking a year or so off of buying games; there are a few things going on behind the scenes that will take up a fair amount of money, but really there’s just not that much coming out in the immediate future that really gets me going. There’s a bunch of games I’d like to have handy, but not in a compelling enough way to get me to pay full price for them– I can wait until they hit the bargain bin. That’s something that’s burned me badly in the past; a handful of games that I bought on launch day sat on my shelf collecting dust, getting marked down to greatest-hits prices or lower before I got around to firing them up. Granted, there are still some “political” purchases that I’ll want to make, to support a developer or series; and some games still get criminally small print runs, so buying on day one may be the only way to snag those titles. Even then, though, those titles are few and far between in the projected future, so I feel relatively comfortable not being on the bleeding edge for a while.
Besides, I’m having a hard time being home enough to play the games I do have.
So one of the things I’ve been doing, as part of my ongoing efforts to ruthlessly exterminate any and all free time I might have, is working on the Anime Heroes delve for the Tekkoshocon RPG room. This is sort of a big deal for me, as I tend to not really focus on combat in my own campaigns, but rather prefer to keep things on a more intellectual and RP-centric level. That doesn’t work so much when your players’ characters are modeled on Ash Ketchum, Toph Bei Fong, and Ichigo Kurosaki, three characters not exactly known for their inclination towards talking things through. So they have to fight it out, and I need to give them a decent shot at doing so.
To this end, I’ve been elbow-deep in the Dungeons and Dragons Compendium, which is a great resource for the average DM. There’s just a few hiccups, and that’s that, for the most part, there aren’t really a whole hell of a lot of variety of monsters available to players at Level 1. More immediately, getting data out of the compendium and into a workable sheet for use at the table is not exactly the easiest thing in the world, particularly if you need to adjust a monster’s level down a notch or two in order to make it a fair fight. (And yeah, there’s gonna be one encounter that just plain won’t be a fair fight, because what’s life without a little risk?) To date, I tried setting up an OpenOffice template for that purpose, arranging the carefully-constructed stat blocks and going from there.
The Cheshire Cat, in American McGee’s Alice, said: “There’s a nasty name for people who insist on doing things the hard way.” To that end, I snagged a couple of utilities that make life much, much easier.
That’s where the Pixlr Grabber add-on comes into play. Pixlr can specify a region of the browser window, and either save it to disk as a PNG or copy it to your clipboard. From there, you can paste it into your favorite word processor or page layout tool and arrange it as needed or desired. Make sure you do a test run to see how big/small the text needs to be.
Those should cut down a TON of the manual labor needed for me to get the encounters ready. At this point the hardest part is figuring out how to avoid sending my players against yet another kobold horde.
I’ll spare you all the boring minutae of how I’m handling the transition back into public transit, as they get a little squicky if you’re not into the thought of envisioning me naked. Honestly, I don’t blame you; I don’t even like to look at myself naked. Still, there’s something to be said for preparation beforehand, and that’s all I’ll say.
Let’s talk D&D, shall we? I picked up the last of the Essentials books this afternoon, and now I have a complete set of those. The DM kit and Monster Vault proved to be pretty valuable purchases in that if I want to start up a campaign amongst some friends, I can. That’s a pretty big if, but I’m getting sidetracked. The Essentials books seemed a little strange to me, because they’re shallow enough to be considered “starter” kits, but in-depth enough to warrant the thought that this was where 4th Edition was headed. WotC’s marketing of the books didn’t help that, either. For the longest time I resisted picking up the two “class” books, because I thought their content was more or less duplicating the three Player’s Handbooks I already own.
To a certain extent, it is, and then again, it’s also more constrictive. Each of the two class books– Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms– details the basics of a handful of the classes. Fallen Lands provides clerics, fighters, rogues and wizards, while Forgotten Kingdoms offers druids, paladins, rangers and warlocks. That’s where things get tricky, because of each of the classes offered, you’re provided a single buildout path. Your powers are mostly selected for you, your paragon path and epic destiny are also chosen, and it’s all very cut and dried. That’s great for a player just starting out, and each of the books offers a pretty good mix so that a new player can try something different without being overwhelmed, but overall the books aren’t as valuable for experienced players as the hardback Handbooks and (X) Power books. There’s also a handful of changes to the existing races and feats, and a crapton of ease-of-play charts and pointers. Most of the critical stuff in the books are available on the Insider service, and what’s not does sort of lend some value to the paperbound copies.
What I’ve found to be pretty damn worth the cost, though, are the other three core books: the Rules Compendium, the Dungeon Master’s Book, and the Monster Vault. Of these only the RC is available “standalone”; the other two are in the DM’s Kit and Monster Vault box, respectively. Honestly, though, those aren’t bad deals either. For me, one of the things preventing me from DMing effectively was a lack of miniatures or figures to place and block out encounters. Both of the boxes contain cardboard tokens for monsters and players, printed with nicely-detailed artwork. This is mostly because WotC discontinued the D&D Minis game, as (like me) nobody wanted to buy randomized miniatures if they really just wanted a dozen goblins for an encounter.
Right, the books. The RC is basically everything you need, at an absolute minimum, to play the game once you’ve got characters rolled up and a DM ready to go. It’s organized far better than the PHBs and DMG, everything is clear and concise without being terse… Think of it like this: if the Player’s Handbook is a boring ol’ human, then the Rules Compendium is an elf: just plain better, and it knows it. There’s some updated charts here for DCs and suchlike, which may be useful to some players, but for the clarifications and the ability to leave at least one or two hardcover books back on the shelf when you go to a game, it’s a steal at twice the price. Despite the fact that it’s not red, I can promise you you’re likely to find what you’re looking for in the book three times faster.
The DM’s book is less impressive in that it covers a lot of the fluff of the Points of Light setting, but it also goes into some of what makes a proper or thrilling adventure. DM guides and advice are a dime a dozen, but like the RC, the DM Book streamlines a lot of the tedious parts and makes it easier to quickly and efficiently find stuff. (A side note: it bothers me that there’s no real “Trap Manual”– basically, doing for traps, hazards, and dungeon features what the Monster Manual does for the flora and fauna of the world.) The DM’s Kit isn’t a bad deal, honestly, as it includes some dungeon tiles and a few handfuls of character and monster tokens as well as a short adventure to run. The main complaint I have with the DM’s Book, and this may just be a first-print issue or something, is that the cover isn’t made of the same paper or whatever as the other Essentials books. It looks and feels cheap and flimsy… but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Finally, the Monster Vault book is pretty much the Monster Manual, shrunk down and stripped of some of the cruft that served comparatively little purpose. While fewer monster illustrations sounds like a bad thing, the overall effect is that the illustrations now correspond to the tokens included in the kit, and there are in fact more monster listings for each monster type (so for example, under “Elf” there’s listings for Lv2 Scout, Lv2 Minion Hunter, Lv3 Guard, etc. etc. up to Lv13 Drow Arachnomancer). The standard amenities of list by level and so forth are included, but again the chief advantage is the compact size. Upon further inspection, the Monster Vault uses the same flimsy cover that the DM’s Book does, but it’s a thicker tome than the DMB, so it’s a bit harder to notice the cover’s cheapness.
So that brings me to the downside of the line, beyond the fact that two of the most useful elements are saddled with tokens that I realize not everyone might need or want. The Essentials line is bound in a softcover format, along the lines of a mass-market book. It’s roughly 10% or so larger than the standard manga page size (or roughly the same size as the oversized omnibus page size becoming more popular these days), and while it’s a very well-printed book, its binding… well, I just fear for the day when something happens to this book, and I fear that day may be unnecessarily soon. On the other hand, I defy you to find a nicer full-scale RPG manual for a Jackson; when the pages do start dropping out, it won’t be an arduous task to replace the thing entirely.
WotC’s been releasing more and more Dungeon Tiles sets and flogging their overpriced dice sets alongside the books, but overall between the Essentials, the new Red Box set (which, I kid you not, I saw at Target once, and when I went to get another copy later on, the clerks said they couldn’t keep it in stock), and just some general nice press here and there, I think they’re doing a damn good job of opening up the hobby to more and more mainstream people. It doesn’t hurt that the generation that’s taking the reins of the world now– mine– is on the whole more receptive to nerdery than peoples past, either. I’m really impressed with the concept behind the Essentials books, but I wish WotC had made it clearer on the “where do you go from here?” aspect.
So, who wants to talk about depressing game mechanics!
Because, don’t tell anybody I said this, buuuuut I may be playing around with an idea for a semi-homebrew role-playing one-shot that fuses the World of Darkness with Persona. It’s still way in the early “John’s just playing with the idea” phase, but given the flexibility of the nWoD’s Storytelling System, I think it could work.
I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, unless I spend more or less every non-working waking moment from here to the end of the year gaming, I won’t come anywhere near my stated goal of fifty game clears this year. In all honesty this has been a bad year in terms of gaming for me; not nearly as bad as last year, but then again I had sort of an excuse. This year I even made an effort to give myself extra gaming time, via the bus plan, and it still fell apart. So, don’t think for a moment that I hid a game clear notice or three from you over the course of September. I didn’t. Honest.
I’m also fairly confident that my plan to double-up my Gamerscore for the third year running is doomed to failure. Over five months I’ve only gained 900 points or so, meaning that in order to hit the double-up goal I need another 8500 in three months. Again, I’m not that broken up about it.
What have I been doing while I prepare to move? Well, reading a lot more RPG manuals. Even if I never get to play any of them, I’m still fascinated by the lore and the stories presented, and I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to start up a D&D campaign. I’d tried doing so once before, and while it started out well, I didn’t have the time or focus needed to both compose and playtest a whole campaign before the session. This time I’ll likely be using pre-made modules and letting the role-playing tell the story, rather than the locations.
I’ve also come across a couple of board games that interested me, namely Lords of Vegas and Founding Fathers. Vegas seems a little complex, but a lot of fun, while Founding Fathers was borne of seeing a couple others play it and my own interest in politics after the whole West Wing thing. Incan Gold was also reprinted recently, so I grabbed that, as well– it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s fast, too.
I’d packed away my consoles and games for them a long time ago; only the Wii and the 360 stayed active until last week. They’re both in storage right now, and so I only have the handhelds and the PC available should I desire video games. I’ve been tinkering with Team Fortress 2 off and on here the past few days, and Left 4 Dead 2 is downloading as we speak, but I’m also very happy with how Final Fantasy XIV has turned out. Not just that it runs well on my computer, which it does, but that it’s a great game in its own right. I’m sure other, older games have allowed crafting as a “main” career path through the game’s story, but I’m not sure how many of them basically made it so easy to actually raise your crafting skills without grinding zillions of monsters to buy expensive crafting materials. The levequest system basically provides you with materials and recipes needed, and you can repeat them as needed. More to the point, you actually get experience for doing so– not just skill points, but real honest-to-god XP. So it’s a great way to try something different without completely stalling advancement.
Oh, and the death penalty is no longer as draconian as it was in FF11; no experience loss or level-downs here. The end result is basically that exploration is encouraged, and mistakes are forgiven, instead of paranoia being rewarded and misfortune being punished. Come the change of the year I think I’ll be getting a PC to set up as a dedicated gaming box, instead of dual-booting Mahoro or the Stellvia.
Finally, just as an interesting aside, I may have a rather alarming personal project lined up for 2011: I might wind up strictly limiting the video game purchases, new and Reclamatory, to one or two a month for the year. Don’t hold me to it yet, and I’ll be laying out some very specific exceptions to this rule (chief among them Mega Man Legends 3 if you believe it’ll be out in ’11), but I think it’s worth taking a break on the collection front for a year and putting the resources towards a greater good. (Which reminds me that the rule would also limit me to a single miniature item per week, and a single battleforce box or other big-ticket box each month; paints and other consumable supplies wouldn’t count.) Again, just a thought.
Ciao, folks. Tomorrow’s entry may be late, just so you’re aware.
I was supposed to take part in a pretty interesting Guard vs. Orks mission tonight after work.
None of the Orks players showed up.
Kinda frustrated now.