Shadow Planet: The Board Game

Another indy kickstarter I failed not to back. Based on a Graphic Novel (or maybe the other way around), this looks to be a similar game in theme to Stationfall as in: Space, Aliens, Paranoia, except this one is a deck builder. I got suckered in by the art, and then read more about the game and was impressed by what it is trying to do.

I’d like my character ability cancelled by Jenna Scott too.

While there’s a lot of the appearance of FOMO created around the CMON kickstarters, the recent purge of old Kickstarter exclusive content on Miniature market for SMOG, the Others, Hate (kickstarter only in the first place!) and other games means that no matter what is labelled ‘exclusive’ by CMON, it will always come out eventually, and sometimes at very reasonable prices.

The real FOMO is these little kickstarters from new companies that barely make their funding goals and if they don’t the games never come out. I remember an adventure game a few years ago with a really cool map/art that didn’t hit it’s goal, and was never heard from again.

Yes, you may be tempted by CMON, FF or various large publishing company’s kickstarters, but it can really pay off to check out what the small guys are doing (Dungeon Degenerates!), even if you get burned by some mediocre games from time to time (such as Murder at Devil Pines).

Virtua Fighter Rumors…

My son was talking shit this weekend about my Vanessa so we busted out VF5 Final Showdown on the Xbox360 and I stuffed that in his craw (granted he is getting good with Kage). We hadn’t played in almost a year, so he was quite embarrassed by the customized outfits he had made, one being a Santa Clause, “when he was a little kid.”

Rumor has it that there is either an E-sports focused port of VF5 Final Showdown or a VF Ultimate: i.e.: a reskin of the characters and graphics with no (or small) change to the gameplay to update it to modern consoles. While not Virtua Fighter 6, this would be GREAT news either way as the game still looks amazing and needless to say, still blows away everything out since.

StationFall

While my current stance on big publishers kickstarting games is— don’t back, I’ve been a sucker for some small or new publishers having their first go, as it should be. Making an exception with Ion Games (publishers of Pax, Greenland, Bios series games) is due to Matt Ecklund’s (and Phil Ecklund and Jim Gutt) Pax Porfiriana being astounding and becoming a new bell weather for what makes a good games. His last published game, Pax Transhumanity, is also an amazing design, and really grows on you the more you play. After listening to Phasing Player’s interviews with Matt on his games, I became stoked for his new game that just hit kickstarter: STATIONFALL.

This is a 1-9 player game that takes place on a collapsing space station where players have their own goals (not just the characters in the game). What this looks like to me is the Paranoia RPG in a board game– where people are trying to get characters back to base alive to tell the story about how X or Y other character wrecked the station/mission. All lies of course! Here is the BGG page.

There are so many… so damn many design-by-the-numbers worker placement engine building point salad games, anything that is in opposition to that gets my attention and should yours!

This is on Kickstarter now.

It is also immediately available on Table Top Simulator if you want to try it out.

Pax Viking – thoughts after first play

Ahhhhhhh the Pax series of games: complex, interactive, with inscrutable victory conditions and a cliff of a learning curve all inside tiny boxes with minimal components. With Pax Viking, now we have one that is not complex, and has (fairly) understandable victory conditions in a huge box! The question is: is this good? I think it is, as long as you set aside all thoughts of it being a Pax game or a Viking game.

I did not take any shots of the game so this one will have to do for now.

Our first go was with a whopping 5 players, and I think this is a bit too many for a first time out, not due to complexity, but due to the fact that no one knows what they are supposed to be doing and there’s quite a bit to unpack with the interactions.

You play as a Jarl who has a fleet of trading ships which are used to collect followers and open up areas on the map to trade with. This is not a viking/pillaging game regardless of what it says on the box: it’s a trading game.

Scoring (not necessarily the win conditions) is done via four tracks which indicate your Jarl’s influence over each of the four factions in the game: The Rus, the Swedes, the Jarls (warriors) and Religion. When you have majority control of one of these factions, you get a special action you can take that the other players can’t use.

Like all Pax games, Pax Viking has a market with 4 different types of cards: Gods (a type of follower), Patron (followers), Events (fuck you cards) and “Posts” which are places on the map that you can go and exploit/trade. As far as I can tell, posts represent opportunities on the map that only turn into actionable areas after you go there with your ships and open the opportunity up.

Turns consist of buying from the market, playing events, and moving your ships around the map or sitting them on a post to take the actions available there. The game reminded me a little bit of a rondel game (Great Western Trail) where you take actions at various spaces to build up resources for some other thing you are trying to do later. Unlike those games, you can move your ships around anywhere you want on the map. This makes planning a bit more difficult because there is no ‘on rails’ rondel you are following to force your choices.

Battles are super simple with no dice. If you have more ships, you remove one of the enemy ships and then push the rest out. No battle takes place with an even number of ships on both sides and you can never suffer losses as an attacker. It made me laugh as the act of killing is called “Parlay” in the game. ha!

Winning consists of fulfilling certain conditions before other players. There are 4 win conditions and these do not change–they stay static for the entire game an all four of them are open to be fulfilled from the outset. In contrast to the other Pax games, you do not beat the other players in some sort of contest after a comet/topple nor do you trigger the availability of a win condition that is now open to all players via an event. Instead, you race them to complete one of the conditions to win.

In thinking about this game and what it is mostly like– I would say certainly this is not like the other Pax games. The closest cousin to Pax Viking in my humble opinion is Merchant of Venus and Wasteland Express. If you like those two, you should definitely check out Pax Viking. It’s really not a traditional Viking game, it’s an ‘open up markets and trading game’ at it’s core. I’m interested to play this again with that in mind. When I squint my eyes a bit at this design I see a deep space trading game where you have two empires, a religion and some other faction that you are trying to succeed as a space trader in context of. That theme seems to fit this system a lot more than Vikings.

Rulebook is good. Graphic design is fair, components are good, Map looks good, though it’s tough to see all the rivers/access points sometimes. Character artwork is really boring and mundane, from the cover of the box to the pictures of the gods and the Jarl’s themselves. When you own TWO Viking games with art from the LEGENDARY Adrian Smith, it’s tough to stand against that favorably. When you are doing art representing a Norse god, it should not look just like any of the other normal characters in your game.

Next up for me from Ion Games is Bios Mesofauna– probably game of the year unless something comes out of the blue.

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.