Big Day for Gaming

Today was a big day for the nerd gaming with Free RPG day which included a new Runequest quickstart, new DCC adventure, the intentionally controversial Vaginas are Magic from lotfp and while I’m not a Pathfinder fan, there was a quickstart for STARFINDER, a new space game from Paizo.

In addition to the RPG goodness, it was the official release of the new version of Warhammer 40,000 in it’s 8th edition.

The 40K book looks incredible, as you would expect from 2017 GW. I had a short talk with Dan about the rules and they look good–it does not seem like they age of sigmared that shit up as was feared. I’m looking forward to breaking out my 1987 beakies and having a go at some point.

The Free RPG stuff Matt and I grabbed up was a trove of goodness. Swords Against Owlbears for 13th Age looks boss, the new Runequest adventure is SOLID Glorantha, though I wasn’t able to make heads or tails of the magic system after a short perusal. The DCC adventure is cool, but what’s best is that the quickstart has the character creation rules in a module format! So I won’t need to lug around the big book all the time nor pass it around the table to get all sorts of greasy hands all over it and spilled beer/bong water.

Finally there is Vagina’s are Magic. While it’s silly and fun, the important bit is the update to the LotFP magic system. It’s similar to the playtest packet that came out awhile back in that no spells have levels. In addition, spellcasters can keep casting spells but have a danger with every cast over their level each day to have a miscast, which can be horrible as you would expect from LotFP. While the spells in the book are cool, what has to happen now is that ALL the other spells in the game will need a miscast chart appended to each one. This will make the LotFP book nearly double in size with 1 page for each spell in the game (much like DCC). VAM may be just testing the water before going that far with the magic descriptions for the core lotfp spells. Looking forward to trying this out.

For me, I got a chance to run Feng Shui 2 (with a new adventure I wrote that will get posted to the blog eventually) and today I got to play FASERIP after a gap of about 30 years!

Dad’s guide to the Pokemon CCG

This game has been around a long time and has survived as a CCG for nearly as long as MTG.    I’ve played it with the kids and it’s actually a fine game but there are traps when buying cards/playing. I’m not going to go into kids scamming cards off each other in kindergarten and grades above, that’s the subject of another post (i.e.: how did my 6  year old get about 60$ worth of EX foils when he had a couple packs of cards to start?).  What I am going to go over is how to save money and have fun with the game while your kids are interested in it (likely age 5-9 or so). While this is potentially a CCG money pit, Pokemon is not a video game or some iOS bullshit, even though it is still an indoor thing for kids, so it should be encouraged over other indoor activities just like pen and paper RPG’s should be.

First, there is a LOT of stuff in the big box stores that kids will want you to buy for them. They will ask for a “TIN” which is a tin box with some cards in it.  They will ask for trainer boxes which are bigger boxes with cards in them.  They will ask you for EX and MEGA EX pokemon cards they see in the store. Expect it, but don’t buckle.

This is because the way kids play in school is to slap down the best pokemon they have and compare it’s damage to another pokemon’s health and call it a day.  The big EX’s and GX’s have large numbers on them (some of them at least) so the kids want those.  They also look cool, foil, distorted hyper anime art, etc.  This is fine and if your kids want to keep doing that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but that means they will only want a few cards (all EX’s) and there’s no point in buying packs — those are VERY rare in the packs.  Buy them singles they want for as cheap as you can and you’re done.

However, if your kids want to actually play the game, there is more to it.  If you’ve played any CCG or even deck builder, it’s pretty simple:

  • decks are 60 cards exactly.
  • You have to attach energy cards to pokemon to get them to fire off their damage powers. These are also uncommon in random packs.
  • You play to 6 points (represented by prize cards). Each point is acquired by destroying enemy pokemon.
  • One pokemon is ‘active’ as in it can attack and up to 6 others are ‘benched.’ Normally only the active pokemon can be attacked or attack.
  • You have to flip a damn coin a LOT during the games.  Little kids can’t physically do this, so use a six sided die instead.

Now, there are a lot of buying options and I flat out recommend not buying Tins, not buying boosters, not buying the “theme” decks and not buying trainer boxes unless your kids get super hardcore and even then, maybe buy singles.  The decks you can build and play using the cards from any one of these sources will suck to play and not be fun for anyone.  I wasted some money there (probably about 30$ all told) before I realized this looking at tournament decks online.  Their composition was VERY different from the Theme deck I have…and very different from what comes in the packs you get.

Instead of all the various stuff on the shelves at Target or Walmart, you want to buy the Battle Arena decks.  These are usually two decks in a pyramid type box that are full on ready to play out of the box.  These is pricey right out of the gate (about 30$), but in contrast to the boring Theme decks or random card packs, each one is tuned up with an economic and combat engine centered around a single EX type pokemon (each deck has two of these cards) that work very well and are fun in play.  While nothing to the level of tournament decks, the Battle Arena decks emulate their structure and solve the critical problem with the “theme’ decks and tins and boosters in that they have WAY too many pokemon compared to other cards.  Perusing actual decks, you need only about 12 pokemon in a 60 card deck, about 12 energy cards to fuel them and the rest are the cards the kids just throw on the ground when they get them out of a pack: Trainer cards.  Trainers are the gasoline that fuels a deck: extra card draws, denial, flipping pokemon from the bench to the active area, moving energy around — all the critical stuff you need to do to make the attacking pokemon effective and the deck efficient.

We have the (above) Keldeo vs Reyquaza deck and it’s a solid competition between them.  There are two other battle arena decks out there (another one coming in a few months) so your kids will have something to select among what looks cool.  While it won’t be easy, it’s possible to switch out the EX and pokemon of specific types with another GX and other pokemons, leaving the trainers in place to support the deck.  If your punk kids have SPECIFIC GX’s they want to run, this may be the only way.

It will take a bit for your kids to grok the combo/engine in each of the battle arena decks, but when they do, they will know how to set it up and then later, how to block the other punk kid’s combos if possible. This leads to a lot of exploration of depth that would take months or years of just playing with stuff out of the tins or theme decks.  Most importantly, it will make you as the parent NOT BORED instead of terribly BORED with the game.  They still may just slap pokemon down on the table when they are at school, but at home you will have fun with the real deal.

Lastly, sleeve the cards.   While this may seem lame to the kids, it helps them shuffle and handle the cards and it keeps what could be a 30-50$ card from being destroyed and driven into the mud on the playground, or lost and spilled upon under a car seat (both of which I’ve seen first hand).

That said, you may have a kid or kids that just do not like the game when actually played for real, but still want the cards to look at.   This is OK too, but due to their desire for ALL GX/EX foils, can get very expensive.

Weekend links and Gloomhaven impressions

This was a busy ass week, but I got a game in of Gloomhaven which is… interesting.   It’s definitely not a game I would want to own or try to get people to play (or read the rules) but it was pretty fun.  Gloomhaven is a mash up of Kingdom Death and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition with all the cards-as-actions and tons of counters for everything;  except instead of an RPG, all adventures are pre-codefied in maps that unlock as you play.  Classes unlock as you play as well which is interesting.   While I don’t think it’s especially good after the first play, it’s still worth giving a good college try.

Comparing it to another similar, recent game: The Others, it’s the opposite in that the basic Gloomhaven gameplay is clunky and card driven, while the Others is very smooth and streamlined.  However, the Others has zero as a campaign mode and is replayable only in that you can play through different missions with different hero teams.  The lack of a Campaign mode in The Others really hurts the game, while the campaign mode in Gloomhaven makes a rather lackluster miniatures combat game much more exciting to play.

Anyway, here’s some other interesting stuff from the interweb tubes this week:

New 8th ed 40K FAQ.  I love some of the questions (and answers): basically people are asking if they are planning on AOS’ing 40k.  Seems not.

Freemium ios games are the worst of the worst trash mobile gaming has to offer, but there are exceptions.

An AWESOME rundown of the launch of the original Warhammer 40K.  I read this and then started re-reading it right away.

And another GW-based post about 1989.  That was when I was totally into the Warhammer stuff full bore (as full bore as a highschool kid could be) and it lasted until 1993 or so when we started playing too much Jyhad and MTG (and still a lot of talisman).

 

Ruminations on the Talisman Bounty Hunter

I did a long write up on the fallen from grace Monk years ago, focusing on the fact that with the new version of Talisman, where your characters can easily gain Craft by sending in trophies, the Monk would either be the most powerful character in the game or, as he is now, one of the worst and just how difficult it must have been to design him so he retained his original flavor but wasn’t totally broken.  Basically he got nerfed so bad no one would ever select him if given a choice, as there are few characters worse than the monk these days.

However, I’ve been really pleased with the FF Talisman design team’s designs. I think Fantasy Flight were AMAZING shepherds of this very difficult brand and game since many of us are utter fanatics and I, for one, had a tough time letting go of 2nd edition.  Fate has won me over, gaining craft from trophies has won me over (not totally…) and even dealing with the Balkanization of players with all the boards is OK if you don’t play with all the boards.

One of the designs I want to discuss is the new Bounty Hunter from the City Expansion; despite the fact that he looks like a gladiator. I’ve been in one game vs him and feel that he is a very strong character, but one that does some things absolutely new to Talisman that especially effect experienced players.

First let’s talk about trophies in 4th edition.  Since your Craft and Strength stacks are extremely vulnerable in the game to Spells and some adventure card effects, it’s best to not have a stack of either until you absolutely need it.  Tactically, this means turning in trophies at the very, very, very last moment to gain the Craft or Strength from them–right before a roll vs a monster where you absolutely need it.  Also, psychologically, the other players are looking at your stacks of chips (you are using poker chips right?) to see how close you are to going for the win.  If they don’t see a stack, they will assume you are weak and fiddle around rather than attacking you or going for the win themselves.  This is crucial, and the designers know this.  It takes a bit of play to know when to turn in your trophy stacks, but the basic concept is simple– don’t walk around with a large stack of craft or strength unless you have to. Turn in trophies as a surprise when attacked or attacking another character FTW!

While the Bounty Hunter seems only slightly annoying to new players,  advanced players quake in fear in that he attacks your trophy stack rather than your Strength and Craft stacks because they will be sitting on as many as possible for as long as possible.  With him on the table you can’t be holding onto a huge pile of trophies because there is always the chance that he will drop on in and help himself to them.  This means players in a game with the bounty hunter will be spending their trophies ASAP, leaving their stacks of craft and strength vulnerable to spells and other effects.  The Bounty Hunter is a very meta-esque card that also can work for noobs that don’t even hoard trophies to protect their (future) stat increases.

The Bounty Hunters other special effects are gold when he wins battles which with the addition of the City board, actually helps rather than gold accumulating uselessly late game.   Note that he also wins stand offs against monsters and other characters, in combat and psychic combat, so his first goal in a game is to get the Full Plate armor.  We don’t play quite enough to determine tiers for characters in 4e like we did in 2e, but I feel the Bounty Hunter is way up there, especially if he can get some sort of mobility control to start grabbing those trophies.

Good iphone game: Kingdoms: New Lands

Pretty much every iphone game is shit; total garbage that should never be bothered with at all. However, with every rule, there are exceptions and while incredibly rare– like one per year, it is possible for there to be a few good iphone games. Dreamquest, SmartGo, Ascension, King of Dragon Pass are the main three, as for the rest I make the mistake of buying and installing, one by one they step down into the darkness before the footlamps, destined for a night that is eternal and without name.

That said, Kingdoms: New Lands is pretty great! I finally finished the game last week and even went back to try stuff on various islands for fun. The game is essentially a real time tower defense where you build a town/castle and then try to survive attacks from trolls until you can rebuild your boat and get the fuck off the island you are on before a troll steals your crown. You do this solely by riding around on a horse distributing and collecting gold. You can run your horse, walk your horse, stop for your horse to eat, pick up gold, disburse gold and that’s it! You cannot attack, you can’t shoot a bow, you can’t talk to anyone in the game. Walk, Run, eat, collect, disperse.

One thing the game does is not tell you how or what to do at all. What are the cabins in the woods? What do the different horses do? Why are the trolls attacking and what do they do? I’m going to keep this recommendation very short as to not spoil anything. You can build various stuff and interact with the stuff on the islands in different ways: shrines, trees, horses, portals, etc. Advice: don’t go off at night. Get catapults quick.

Aesthetically the game is fantastic, rendered in a beautifully pixilated side scrolling world with an elegance that approaches Dungeon of The Endless.  The weather effects, change of day, change of seasons (!?) and changes  in light as you run through the woods are worth the purchase of the game alone. While containing some specific elements always, such as a dock and a cliff portal for trolls, each island is somewhat randomly generated.

I was fairly enthralled by this until I was able to finally finish it, and I bet you will be too.