Invincible Series debut Friday

While my daughter said “this looks like it has a 2$ budget” from the trailer, she will be forced to watch at least the first episode of Invincible on Friday.

I passed the comic up at the comic store based on how…. lame the main character’s uniform is. It’s striking, but looks like Elastic Man with different colors. However I gave it a try and the comic is good, easy reading, especially after I’ve been on the Alan Moore stuff for so long that is both text and artistically dense as hell (mostly due to Kevin O’Neill–wow) and let’s see how the show follows suit. There is a BIG twist in the series that doesn’t suck at all, mostly because when the twist happens, that’s when the story really starts– If you find it slow at first, stick with it early on until, well, you will know.

There are some parts that get tedious, but when the fighting starts it gets good in the same vein as Savage Dragon (who is in the series as well). The super hero battles deliver on a level rarely seen in DC or Marvel stuff and because the characterization and development is so strong outside the fights, they don’t turn into just your standard early Image constant battle comics (see 90’s Cyber Force, Brigade, Youngblood, Supreme, WildCATS, Stormwatch… did I miss any?).

Onyx Path fixes Stunting in the Storyteller System!

I just finished reading the new Onyx Path Trinity Core rules and it looks like they fixed Stunts, albeit too late for Exalted 3.

Years ago I did a post about the really bad design of STUNTS in Exalted 2nd Edition, that was not improved by Exalted 3rd. This wasn’t a review of Exalted 3 as a whole, just a note that the way stunts were designed were a huge problem as it puts the onus on the player to come up with something cool, that may not happened due to the dice being rolled AFTER the description. In 2nd edition, stunts were tied to Mote-regeneration (the stuff that let’s you use your powers) and that turned out to be a very bad idea*. White Wolf was never known for their playtesting ability…

Feng Shui 2’s solution to stunts was the simple and best one– roll the dice, see what happens and if you roll high enough in the situation, then you get a stunt. In Mythras, the opposed combat rolls determine levels of success, which may allow special effects (which are fucking brutal). Lastly, the 13th Age Rogue has a power that gives them one stunt per battle, that ALWAYS happens regardless of the roll of the dice. I like this, but that’s probably because I play using a rogue in 13th Age!

The way it works in the new Trinity/AEON/Aberrant is you make a roll vs a difficulty and then spend your successes to overcome the difficulty first, next spend any excess for effects of your attack. Doing damage to your opponent is considered an effect, for example, as well as tripping, blinding, added dice for your next attack, disarming: all of it are purchased with successes– successes realized and explained AFTER the roll. So if you even up successes vs difficulty, you effectively succeeded, but you don’t have any additional successes for that success to have an effect.

What this avoids are players mulling over more than just their attack moves, but an over-blown description of their attack moves before the dice hit the table to show that it happened. You can declare a ‘medium attack to no specific location’ the same as D&D, but if the dice come up GREAT for you, that medium attack can become a dry gulch to the throat, disarm and knee to the nuts!

Added to this is the ability for characters to do multiple actions during their turn up to their Cunning stat– so punching a mook, grabbing his gun and shooting the kneecaps off a couple of other mooks is entirely possible. With the scaling rules, a character with a 3+ scale difference in skill vs his opponents simply DICTATES what occurs during their combat action. Love it.

I’m not super interested in Aeon (the sci fi game), but let’s see if Onyx Path can pull off D10 superheroes with Aberrant! There are a million superhero games out now, and most of them don’t even compare well to FASERIP, especially all of them made during the “RPG microlite” or FATE years that hand wave all powers into some generic die roll.

While this will likely be missing the hard-edge 90’s conspiracy and nihilism we’ve come to love from White Wolf, after reading the Trinity Core Rules, I bet system wise, it’s a winner.

*for the record: Excellency + Shadow over Water [or Seven Shadow Evasion] + Reflex Sidestep Technique + Leaping Dodge Method. This combo costs 10 XP to purchase, is friendly with Infinite Mastery, allows the character to perfectly defend against any attack, allows the nullification of unexpected attacks and allows the character to break most flurries. Invoke this combo for every single action in combat, using a 2-die stunt to restore the expended Willpower. Thank you Jon Chung: why were you not on the Exalted 3 playtesting team?

Gamehole Con is on!

The email just came out– Gamehole Con is on for Oct 21-24th! That means the Root Tournament is going to happen in 2021. Because it’s Madison and not a normal area of the state, we will probably have to sit around in masks, but just like not having the insane school closings that neighboring counties had as long as kids “wore” masks, I’ll take it.

Dates:

  • Housing Portal Opens – April 1st at noon CDT
  • Event Submissions Open – May 1st noon CDT
  • VIG Renewals Open – June 15th noon CDT
  • Main Registration Opens – July 1st noon CDT
  • VIG Event Registration Opens – August 15th noon CDT
  • General Event Registration Opens – September 1st noon CDT
  • Pre-registration and Event Submission Closes – October 1st
  • Gamehole Con! – Oct. 21st – Oct. 24th

Red Sonja #7

With the passing away of Frank Thorne, I pulled out Red Sonja #7 which I think is the only Red Sonja I own. I would have been to young to see this on the comic rack, so I must have picked it up in either a box grab situation (where older kids would let you grab a handful of comics from their box for 5$) or some other random set. I gave it a good read.

It was fantastic. It has Conan and Belit, as well as Red Sonja, of course, and they are after some sheet of paper that various sorcerers want for their own nefarious purposes. Sonja tricks Belit, Conan tricks Belit, Sonja tricks Conan–and they all get tricked by some priest. The art (Frank Thorne) is fantastic and the interstitial prose and dialog is just crazy good for a comic book of this era. Frank Thorne was an artist that we all noticed as kids, but of course never knew the name of. RIP.

I’m going to track down either a trade or more of the original Red Sonja comics– I gotta find out what happens!

Make Cards – Figma (also Mural)

‘How to’ on making (and more importantly, maintaining) playtest cards in Figma with Google Sheets:

I use paper note cards at first, but then the changes, ohhhh, the changes start to come in and they are very difficult to manage with pieces of paper after about the 3rd playtest or so. And… tiresome.

This allows you to use google sheets to maintain rules, numbers, text, etc and you can easily export to either print or electronic. Great stuff.

MURAL!

Every couple of years I get the hankering to design a game; games that will be playtested but never finished enough to bother publishing, and that’s just fine: publishing is the shitty part. I use MURAL at work a lot to help product development and used it this time for a brainstorm and to build out the basic game space, card typology, etc.. It worked AWESOME. Highly recommend it when you first start design or ideas for anything (even a novel where you have to thread stuff through from plots to character arcs, etc.). It ain’t free though like Figma.

Also for work, Mural was my absolute best friend last Spring when we were still stuck at home. It still helps now that I’m back in the office, but was absolutely fucking critical last year.

Root Kickstarter Tomorrow

The “Marauder” Expansion kicks out tomorrow. I’ll back it of course, but man, we have not played all that much this year– mostly due to some other very addictive games. Looks interesting for sure.

Based on twitter info from Leder games, this is going to have a two new main factions and a set of minor factions (like say Stellaris when you encounter single planet races). We’ll see if they can continue their run with this one of interesting designs for the factions. Root is hype for good reason, it’s a refreshing game of conflict among a sea of co-ops and design by the numbers point-salad games.

Executive Outcomes is back!

Remember this little game that you played HUNDREDS of hours on a tiny screen and made you get a CD drive for your computer?

Yes you do, it’s JAGGED ALLIANCE for me along with DOOM and Master of Orion, was the most influential pieces of media that I’ve ever consumed.

But this is not a post about Jagged Alliance. This is a post about what influenced this game from real life: Executive Outcomes. I was a history major in college, specifically due to my main Professor, Dr. Claude Sturgill, focused on low intensity conflict in American history. We studied Africa a bit as the West coast was having serious problems to put it lightly and while I was in school, Executive Outcomes, a mercenary company that spawned out of the dissolution of the South African Defense Force was heavily active. They work ONLY for legitimate governments and in their short time of activity, they settled two major disputes — until the UN forced those governments to stop using them and bring in UN ‘peacekeepers’ who got their asses handed to them and both countries went back into turmoil.

And now, after requests from African leaders, Executive Outcomes is back in business. It will be very interesting to see where they start operating first. “African solutions to African problems” to me says FUCK YOU to the UN who failed so badly in Angola and Sierra Leone (with catastrophic results) after EO was cut loose.

New website: https://www.executiveoutcomes.com/eo A good read (much better than the old one from the 90’s which was like 2 pages)

Journeyman Pictures film on EO:

https://www.journeyman.tv/film/6448/executive-outcomes

This is a deep rabbit hole to go down– I encourage you to read and weigh the issues as this is where matters become very grey and murky. While I definitely don’t think military contractors in general end up being the good guys– let’s see if EO is different.

….and time to bust out the Jagged Alliance!

Van Saar – test model WIP

I wanted to start the year as I mean to go on, and PAINT SOME SHIT. I’ve actually done quite a bit of painting recently trying to get my copy of The Others to a state where I can play a game with all painted minis, but this week, with (almost) no more Goliaths to paint, I started a test model for my Van Saar gang.

I started with a spare Eldar Guardian to test out the scheme and it turned out almost good enough to continue on to one of the Van Saar models from the excellent but very difficult to build GW kit. I have a bit of patience for painting, but NONE for putting shit together. Please help me.

I’m a very sloppy painter, so fantasy miniatures and grungy stuff (like Goliaths and Orlocks) are much easier for me. The Van Saar will take a lot of precise edge highlighting, which is not my strong suit.

Any way here’s the guardian:

And here is the progress on the Van Saar.

Base Colors
Just after doing the metal, lots left to do but hard parts are done.
Getting close to done.

The female heads in this kit have no hair, and it can look OK with just a pure bald head, but as I looked at it more, I just thought it looked lame with this color scheme as the skin color is not totally far from the high armor color, so I did a light grey wash over her tonsured scalp and there you go–looks a lot better. I’m going to get the Forgeworld Van Saar heads for the other females and other dudes. Those gals have hair!

She ended up looking a bit like Thug Rose (not that a Van Saar would ever smile).

Anyway, a start to the year of painting at least. If I can get these guys done by summer, it will be a miracle.

Best of 2020 – Board Games!

What came out this year that was great? Not much. 2018-to-now the majority of board game design has pretty thoroughly descended into extremely formulaic games with three specific traits in all: very little player interaction, a focus on engine building, with a point salad at the end (again, because if you knew who was winning, you would target them, and that’s a no no these days).

Root was a breath of fresh air last year in this rather fetid tide of same-gameness. Root showed to many people that you CAN and should have constant player conflict and this won’t hurt people’s feelings and most importantly, can be extremely fun. The body of my board game collection is held up by the spine of Cosmic Encounter, Dune, Shadowfist, Eclipse, Study in Emerald, Root and now the Pax games with everything else sort of filling in niche interests for me like euros (Brass) or co-ops / dungeon crawls (Massive Darkness). Almost all the games I like the most have direct player conflict and the potential for massive hamstringing, which is in direct opposition to the current trends in design. I’m hoping the success of Root will engender more designers to build COIN style games and gamers to take an interest in Cole Wherle, Phil Ecklund and the COIN series (and offshoots).

For many people this was a tough year to get gaming in face to face, but we managed it quite a bit later in the summer and especially Fall. Due to this, not quite as many games hit the table, especially anything new. Frankly having to learn new stuff this year felt tiresome with the infrequency we got to play– we went for the meat and potatoes this year: mostly shit we already knew how to play. I only played three new games this year, and one was a new version: Eclipse: Second Dawn, Godzilla: Tokyo Clash and Fort. Fort was not my type of game at all, and we only got one play in before I traded it, so game of 2020 that was released in 2020 is definitely Eclipse: Second Dawn... which is really just an update of a 2011 game after all.

Second Dawn is good, but it’s MUCH harsher than the first edition with serious players. You get one shot for the win now that it’s down to only 8 turns, and if you have a bad run of tiles, a really bad dice run in battles, there is no chance to come back into the game– you just can’t pivot to another strategy like in the old game. Some players will like this, others will not. I will definitely need to play Eclipse more before deciding on which of the versions is better. I hate to say it because I absolutely despised Twilight Imperium 3rd edition, but I have to give TI4 a try before calling Eclipse the reigning king of 4X space games. You know, ones that can actually hit the table instead of just sitting on a shelf because they are too complicated or system-heavy to actually play.

The game of 2019 was Root, and I really played the shit out of that last year and quite a few times this year as well, we shall see if lightning can strike twice with Leder games upcoming Oath game– which looks very…. strange.

This year the game I liked most to play was Pax Renaissance, and this isn’t even my favorite Pax game (which is Pax Porfiriana of course), it’s just the one that shows off what this type of tableau and conveyor market type of game can really do. Instead of just drawing cards or chits from a cup (a la Gangland, the Great Khan Game, King of the Tabletop), you can see what’s coming and control events to some extent. This is one of the best aspects of the Ecklund (pretty much everything) and Wallace games (Princes of the Renaissance, Study in Emerald) I love the most. Pax Pamir is a solid game, but because it uses points for victory, which is very strange compared to the other Pax games, it’s out of the running for the best Pax games– still really good though.

In light of 2020, I don’t think there will be much in 2021 that can compete with existing games, hopefully there will be some surprises. Kickstarter-wise I’m waiting on Oath, Bios Mesofauna, the new edition of Pax Renaissance, Pax Viking and what will probably be another mountain of boxes mistake: Bloodborne from CMON.

Game of 2021? Probably.