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Geek and Sundry

RPG Buyer’s Guide: Fantastic Roleplaying Games They’ll Love

Nov 22 2017

This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

The health of Dungeons & Dragons is often tied to the health of the tabletop RPG hobby. With a very successful edition out right now, the high tide of 5th edition is raising many other boats. D&D has its place on this list, of course, but I’m also happy to put some amazing games on this list for people who want to explore other games that came out this year in a variety of genres from dark fantasy to utopian sci-fi. Any one of these games would put a smile on my face if I got it as a present (if I didn’t have a copy already).

Blades In The Dark

Blades in the Dark (1)

John Harper’s Blades in the Dark offers everyone a chance to pull off masterful heists in the gloomy industrial fantasy of Doksvol. Fans of Dishonoured, Fallen London and The Lies of Lock Lamora will see a lot to love hiding in the shadows of this game. The setting is evocative, with talk of ghost bottles and lighting rails powered by demon leviathan blood, and the mechanics cut heists down to sinewy, hungry bone. Players are encouraged to use resources to flashback in a scene to show how they planned for a complication ahead of time, rather than spend three hours planning a job that goes up in flames in the first five minutes. The GM also has plenty of resources to determine the consequences of the job as the various factions of the city react to the new crew on the street.

MSRP: $30 — Evil Hat Productions

City of Mist

City of Mist (1)

This game starts out with two familiar elements: an urban fantasy setting and a game Powered by the Apocalypse. It quickly diverges from those ideas by offering a setting that mixes mystery, magic and the mundane. Players are Rifts that are regular people somehow connected to a legendary power. They may be a schoolteacher or a hard-bitten cop, but somewhere inside exists the intelligence of Sherlock Holmes or power of Thor. The characters must explore their powers while also maintaining a link to their regular lives. Too much magic and they become an avatar forgetting their humanity completely. Too much mundane and the character goes back to sleep for a while, perhaps forever. This noir-tinged tale offers gorgeous artwork and a take on modern day monsters that let players write their own twist on mythology during play.

MSRP: $24.90 — Son of Oak Game Studio

(Editor’s Note: The PDF is available now. Hard copies are scheduled for a January 2018 release.)

Pugmire

Pugmire

Eddy Webb’s elevator pitch of Pugmire as “Dungeons & Dragons with dogs” is punchy, but there’s so much more to the game. Webb walks a fine line between acknowledging how some players might find it funny to pretend to be a dog while earnestly setting up a solid fantasy world in the style of The Secret of NIMH and Redwall. Characters in Pugmire get up to the same things that adventurers do like swordfights and exploration, but they do it long after Man has disappeared without any obvious hints as to where humans may have gone. This game runs on a streamlined 5e engine, which makes it an excellent gift for someone already familiar with D&D looking to try something a little different, or for kids (and adults) who looooooooooooove their dogs.

If you want to get a feel for the game, check out our the Pugmire campaign played on ForeverVerse

MSRP: $50 — Onyx Path

Starfinder

StarfinderMashing up science-fiction and fantasy in tabletop games has been around for a while, but Paizo found untold success this year in bringing goblins into space with the Starfinder core rulebook. The tome adjusted the sturdy Pathfinder rules to fit a wider galaxy and Paizo already has plenty of support in the pipeline, including adventure paths and map packs. Starfinder exists in a space (pun intended) with enough changes to entice new players while still being useful to long-time fans. In a year where Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok are proving to be as popular as the next Star Wars movie, now might be the time to try some science fantasy at your tabletop.

MRP: $60 — Paizo

Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventures RPG

Speaking of giant sci-fi franchises returning, Star Trek returned very strongly thanks to the official prequel Star Trek: Discovery and the unofficial homage The Orville. My friends remain split on which show is the better heir to the crown, but they all agree that Star Trek Adventures offers a great licensed RPG. The game focuses on the Drives of characters rather than their strength or combat damage. Successful rolls let character gain momentum to use for when the chips are down and that warp core need to be back online, now, dammit. Modiphius also dropped jaws across the world with the massive Borg Cube Collectors Edition, which is now making its way to happy Trekkies around the galaxy. If you like Star Trek, this is one of the best ways to get aboard a Starfleet vessel to make your own adventures.

Looking to see the game in action? Join Shield of Tomorrow where a talented cast goes on weekly adventures using the system!

MSRP: $60 — Modiphius

Tales From The Loop

Tales from the Loop

Last year, Stranger Things tore through the summer doldrums like a psychic bolt hurled by Eleven herself. It reawakened an interest in the “kids on bikes” genre of adventures. The Kickstarter for Tales from the Loop came out soon thereafter, promising a quick and easy way to have adventures that shifted from the unusual mysteries of a town located near a high-tech research facility to the mundane lives of kids in the 80s with ease. The book delivered all that and more, with a simple system, gorgeous art that grabs the imagination, and a mini-campaign in the book that’s become a hallmark of Free League’s excellent designs.

MSRP: $60 — Modiphius

Dungeon & Dragons: Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons had a very strong start to 2017 thanks to this adventure. It offers a jungle trek searching for a lost temple, adding a dash of Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park in addition to the usual puzzles and battles. Any adventure that offers PCs a chance to be their hard-earned gold on dinosaur races is pretty dang awesome. This offers a deep dive into Skyrim style sandbox play, where the main quests, while important aren’t usually the ones generating memorable moments for the players. Players could get lost in Chult’s jungles and temples for months if they want to explore every last single, solitary place on the map.
You know it’s a big deal when Chris Perkins, D&D’s lead story designer and reknown DM says people are going to die, it’s a heck of an adventure.
Price: $50 — Wizards of the Coast

What RPGs will you be gifting your friends and yourself this year? Tell us in the comments!

If you love RPGs, be sure to tune into Geek & Sundry’s Twitch and Alpha where talented casts play RPG games on shows like Critical Role, ForeverVerse, and Shield of Tomorrow.

Want more great gift recommendations?

Image Credits: Rob Wieland

Editor’s note: copies of the games were provided by the publishers.

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, where he is currently reviewing classic Star Wars RPG adventures. His Twitter is here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

A (Practical) Geeky Holiday Buyers Guide for 2017

Nov 22 2017

Who says collectibles can’t be practical, too? Storing loose change and trimming pesky whiskers doesn’t always have to be so mundane. As you consider what to buy for friends, family, and maybe even the occasional enemy this holiday season, think about how bedtime could even be more exciting for one of them with a nightlight from a galaxy far away. The items on this list alternatively add a bit of adventure, whimsy, or spookiness to the day-to-day, and all of them make for both unusual, and sensible, gifts.

Check out the gallery below for our gift recommendations!

Want more great gift recommendations?

Featured Image Credit: Fox

Image Credits: DC Comics, Lucasfilm, Nintendo, Fox, HBO

The Story Of ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’ (And Why You Should Binge It)

Nov 21 2017

Every Monday at 7:00 PM PT, a talented crew roleplays their way through the galaxy to fulfill a mission: to boldly go where no one has gone before. Follow the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.

The holidays are a time for binges. Everyone eats massive meals to celebrate before heading out into the cold winter (or the even colder Internet) to seek out good deals for gifts. The strange combination of odd days off and worsening weather also offers some solid time in front of a screen. Star Trek fans have a lot of choices between all of the series available to them, from the original classic to the newer Discovery. Times like this are a great opportunity to check out a series that’s often overlooked when scrolling through streaming options.  Star Trek: The Animated Series (as it is now known) kept the fires burning for the franchise during the dark times between the original series and the films of the early 80s.

While Paramount owned Star Trek at the time of production, the series aired on NBC. The network kept on receiving impassioned fan mail after it canceled the original show. It also saw the success of the original show in syndication, and, after it ran the numbers of the show’s ratings through a new system that broke those ratings down into demographics,  NBC realized that Star Trek’s viewership was high with the audience that advertisers wanted to reach. It contacted creator Gene Roddenberry about bringing back the show, but they were too late; Paramount had demolished and gotten rid of the original props and sets a few months before contact. The network decided that it would be cheaper to commission an animated series rather than rebuild the sets.

M'Ress_and_Arex_share_lunch

One of the other cost-cutting measures was an attempt to only hire back a few members of the cast. NBC originally wanted to hire five cast members—William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett—with James Doohan and Majel Barrett working double duty as Sulu and Uhura. Leonard Nimoy backed up his fellow crewmembers by refusing to join the show if all the original cast members weren’t hired back to do their own voices. A compromise was eventually reached with everyone save Walter Koenig brought back aboard the Enterprise. The animated show also allowed more opportunities for exotic aliens to become part of the crew. M’Ress, voiced by Majel Barret, was a Caitian engineering officer who also often substituted for Uhurua at communications. Arex, voiced by James Doohan, took Chekov’s place at the navigation console from time to time.

Walter Koening wasn’t completely locked out of Star Trek The Animated Series. He wrote the script for the epsiode “The Infinite Vulcan” becoming the first original crew member to contribute in that fashion to the franchise. His episode features a (literal) big bad guy who is a clone of a Eugenics Wars scientist that keys off of the background of Khan. Many of the episodes key off of moments from the original series that either callback or are direct sequels to those stories. Harry Mudd shows up to vex the crew again, and Spock uses The Guardian of Forever to encounter his younger self. Each of these episodes was 24 minutes long, allowing for all the heart, storytelling, weird effects and earnest dialogue of the predecessor series in half the time. The show ran for two seasons from 1973 to 1974 for 22 episodes.

Spock_2,_Keniclius_5,_and_Enterprise_crew

Whether or not Star Trek The Animated Series is still part of the canon is a matter open up for debate. When Roddenberry took stronger control of Star Trek after Star Trek: The Next Generation was in production, much of the elements from media outside the movies and series were put off-limits for the writers to use. Some elements made it back in before the cut-off; this show features a holographic rec room that seems like an earlier version of the holodeck. Slowly but surely after Roddenberry’s passing, other pieces of the animated series made their way into official stories, like mentions of Edosian flowers, Robert April as the first captain of the Enterprise and Spock’s younger self facing bullies retold in the opening minutes of the Star Trek reboot. The release of the series on Blu-Ray and DVD is considered by many to be a tacit admission of the show returning to an official status. Regardless of that status, it’s a great way to get a solid original series feel in half the time, a place for Star Trek Adventures GMs to find inspiration, or a palate cleanser between all the other streaming catchup fans are doing in the upcoming weeks.

Geek and Sundry has its own talented crew, exploring the vastness of the Star Trek universe on our RPG show Shield of Tomorrow. Join them every Monday at 7:00 PM PT on Twitch and Alpha.

Want more Star Trek goodness?

Image Credits: Paramount

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, where he is currently reviewing classic Star Wars RPG adventures. His Twitter is here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

Make the Holidays Your Favored Terrain With These Critical Role Podcasts

Nov 21 2017

Critical Role is Geek & Sundry’s live Dungeons & Dragons show, featuring Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his troupe of fellow voice actors. Catch them every Thursday night at 7:00 PM PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha.

“Vacations are my favored terrain.” – Taryon Darrington

It’s that time of the year again, where we find ourselves sitting for hours inside a cramped car or jammed into an airplane seat to get home for the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be a miserable time, thanks to the familiar, soothing voices of some of your favorite voice actors.

Whether it’s the official podcast so you can catch up on those episodes you missed or fan podcasts you haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, these Critical Role podcasts can help pass the time and make your holiday travel a little more bearable. Or, once you get where you’re going, give you something to listen to when you escape your chatty family and curl up in a quiet corner for a while.

Mild spoilers for Critical Role follow.

Official Critical Role Podcast

CR-podcast-radio
Did you join the party late and miss some adventures? You’ve probably downloaded and enjoyed the official Critical Role podcast by now, but if not, there’s no better time. Catch up on episodes you missed or listen to your old favorites while you’re on the road. Vox Machina and friends make any drive or flight more enjoyable.

Episodes are also available on iTunes and Google Play.

Fan Podcasts

Although most of the shows on this list have taken a hiatus now that Vox Machina’s adventures have ended, these fan-produced podcasts can easily be paired with the episodes you’re catching up on over the holiday break.

  • Arcana Philosophical – Self-described as “the Critical Role Insight-check podcast,” Arcana Philosophical host Reuben Bresler weighs in regularly on Vox Machina’s thoughts and motivations.
  • Critical Re-Roll – While the podcast is currently on hiatus, you can listen to episode breakdowns and thoughts from a rotating group of hosts and guest hosts in past installments.
  • Critical Thinking – “Three writers, gamers, and film/TV buffs take the time to re-watch and discuss” Critical Role, says this podcast’s description, making them the perfect companions for your own return to Vox Machina’s adventures.
  • Gilmore’s Glorious Gossip – This YouTube-based podcast may not be downloadable, but it’s fun listening to the Critical Role analysis once you’ve reached a destination with wifi. You’ll also see fan art you might have missed.

The Cast Stops By Other Podcasts

Dragon Talk
Did you plow through all those podcasts and forget to save something for the trip home? We’ve got you covered! As a bonus, here are three podcasts featuring some of the cast from Critical Role. They stop by Wizards of the Coast and Speakin’ Geek to chat about the show, their careers as voice actors, and more.

What are your favorite Critical Role podcasts? Tell us in the comments!

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Featured Image: Elm

Photo: Kelly Knox, Dragon Talk Image: Wizards of the Coast

Escape the Meteor Apocalypse in ‘Abandon Planet’

Nov 21 2017

If you want to keep up with the coolest games in tabletop, look no further than our tabletop game show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott every Wednesday at 4 pm PT on Twitch and Alpha.  This week Becca and company are taking a Thankgiving break, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at a great game to play with the family: Abandon Planet.

Ah, it’s a beautiful evening. The stars are out. Merriment abounds. Friends sit down to play a peaceful game of…OH MY GOD METEORS ARE FALLING FROM THE SKY AND YOU NEED TO GET OUT NOW! NOW! NOW! That’s right. It’s the meteor apocalypse and even though we’re all friends here, someone has to perish on the planet while someone else blasts off in their rocket to safer skies. But, who among us will survive, and who will get to Abandon Planet?

New from designer Don Eskridge (The Resistance), Orange Machine Games makes a splash with their debut game that invites 4-8 players to engage in a lively battle for resources.

In this game, you must team up with one of your allies and collect items from different parts of the planet until you have enough to build a rocket and launch into space. You cannot do it alone, and you can only leave with one ally. It’s a race to collect resources and vie for loyalty. But in this game, resources trump friendship.

abandon_planet_hero_shot

Phase 1: Get Ready

This first phase is kind of like Poker meets Russian Roulette… in space.  The Leader for the round learns where the meteor will strike next. But you don’t know what kind of leader this is. Will they betray you by telling you the wrong location? Will they be honest and save the lives of both their allies and enemies? Or will they remain silent, and leave it up to fate? That all depends on the leader holding the meteor card and their agenda.

But hey, this rocket isn’t going to build itself. So players still need to decide where they’re going to fly for their resources. Once players decide what path they’re going to take, they place their pathway cards face down. Because they don’t have to tell anyone what their plans are unless they dang well please! And here’s where human nature is revealed. Will everyone work together and coordinate so they avoid fighting for resources, or will it start to get nasty?rockets_path_cards

Phase 2: Fly Out

Grab the popcorn because in this phase you get to find out who is lying. Players reveal their pathway cards and fly to that tile to get their resources. That seems simple enough. Unless Jenny was lying to you about going to 4 to collect tools and she’s really going to tile 2 EVEN THOUGH YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING THERE. Jenny is such a jerk. So now you two duke it out and see who gets that resource. Whoever wins will get the resource and everything else in the loser’s loading bay. Ouch.

This isn’t the only “Take That” moment that can happen. Players can also use special meteorite tokens to change their pathways or change the turn order, allowing them to be on the offense instead of the defense of a takeover. Or, you know, everyone could just be chill and actually go where they say they’re going. That’s entirely possible-ish.

Once everyone has landed on their tiles, and won their loot, the Leader reveals (drumroll please) the location of the meteor! Yeah, Jenny said she was going to 4 because she’s the Leader and she wanted to fool everyone into thinking that 4 was a safe place. But it wasn’t. So a whole lot of people got hit by meteors and lost everything in their loading bay. (Jenny is not popular right now.)

The resource tile that was struck by the meteor is whisked away and an aftermath tile is laid down in it’s place, giving players one more chance to scavenge that part of the world. But the next time that spot is hit, that tile is obliterated and the world is a little closer to meeting its doom.

aftermath_tiles

Phase 3: Fly Back

After all the excitement/watching part of the planet get destroyed, players fly back to home base. At this moment, if you and a fellow ally have enough resources to build your rocket, you can blow this popsicle stand!

The game ends when one or more teams Abandon the Planet, or when there is only one pathway left on earth. If there’s only one pathway, there aren’t enough resources and everyone dies in a storm of fire and fury. Oh, and you’ll also lose if everyone abandons the planet at the same time because your rockets will all crash into each other right after launch. So seriously, someone has to stay behind. If that doesn’t light some fire under your bottom, amirite?

But if no teams are ready to abandon the planet, and there are enough pathways to continue, then you can go ahead and move your resources from the loading bay to your inventory, trade items, business as usual, etc.

reference_sheet

For such an intense and dark theme, Abandon Planet is a great, big mound of light and backstabby fun. It becomes clear early on that an ally is only an ally when they are useful. With that precedent set, it’s difficult to hold a grudge when getting knocked off your resource tile, or getting tricked into landing on a meteor. It’s an every-man-for-himself kind of situation, which becomes easy to embrace once resources start becoming scarce.

But of course, it will play differently depending on the personalities around the table. Though the opportunity for deception is built into the game, it’s not required or even necessary. In fact, it’s possible to have an entirely cooperative game. Rainbows and sunshine can prevail until the end… when someone actually has to be left behind.

The game is great for both new and veteran players. As with many semi-cooperative games, this game ensures that no player a is victim to being pushed around the board. And with conversation being encouraged, the environment is a welcoming one for players who are learning the ropes. There are enough elements to make for a fun fight but not too many so as to overwhelm players.  For instance, meteorites can give players even more opportunities to deceive, trick or attack but one is never required to use them. The game also provides plenty of reference guides in case anyone needs a little help.

Abandon Planet is a certainly a lot of fun for a group of friends who aren’t afraid of a little “take that” in their game night. After all, Orange Machine Game’s slogan is “We make the games that let you betray your friends.” It’s all in good fun, and inevitable high fives will ensue.

What are your space-themed games? Let us know in comments! To keep up with all the games you should be playing, as well as learn how to play them, look no further than our tabletop game show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott every Wednesday at 4 pm PT on Twitch and Alpha.

Want more tabletop game goodness?

Image Credits: Orange Machine Games

Critical Role Celebrity Playlist: Scanlan’s Playlist by Sam Riegel

Nov 20 2017

In case you haven’t joined the Critter community yet, Critical Role is our Dungeons & Dragons RPG show where a group of geeky voice actors roleplay fantastic and memorable stories. Though they’ve wrapped up their current adventure, the world lives on in the Critical Role sourcebook, our Chronicles of Exandria art book, the Vox Machina comic book, and in song through character playlists, like this one.

How can we simply not adore Scanlan Shorthalt? He was always good for a jaunty tune or a quick laugh (and usually both together), but his good nature hid a thoughtfulness and fondness for his friends in Vox Machina. Don’t let the jokes and innuendo fool you: there’s a heart of gold in that there gnome.

Sam Riegel, who played Scanlan on his journey, created a playlist for the beloved character and has provided insight with each song selection below.

(You’re The) Devil In Disguise – Elvis Presley

Scanlan loved his time as the “Meat Man,” but was relieved to return to Vox Machina. His criminal alter ego was a heavy mask to wear.

Ducky Boy – Jurassic 5

An homage to Lionel “Chod” Gayheart, the best duck/employee/friend a mid-level crime lord has ever known.

I Used to Love Him – Lauryn Hill & Mary J. Blige

One night, Scanlan fell in love with Percy. Then, just like that, the love was gone. He may never understand why.

Library Magic – The Head and the Heart

The adventure in Ioun’s vast library was the bard’s ultimate test…

Raise the Knowledge – Gogol Bordello

… Luckily, music was the key to unlocking the knowledge of a god.

Third Eye – Florence + the Machine

And, all of a sudden, Scanlan could see the world in a brand new light.

Blue Angel – Roy Orbison

Come on, Planetars are pretty much the coolest beings ever. Right?

My Evil Twin – They Might Be Giants

Heading into the final battle against Vecna, Scanlan needed help. So he turned to the one person he admired most – himself.

Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

Oops. Scanlan #2 was made of ice. Oh well.

I Put a Spell on You – Nina Simone

Mr. Shorthalt never really trusted his own power, never believed he was valuable to his allies… that is, until it really mattered.

I Wish You Peace – Eagles

The wish Scanlan wanted to make will go un-wished. But he’ll never stop wishing for Vax’s eternal happiness.

The Book Of Love – The Magnetic Fields

In the end, Scanlan’s story is a love story. And it’s the best book he’s ever written.

You Are The Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne

Pike. It was always Pike… Always.

Chapel of Love – The Dixie Cups (from Full Metal Jacket Soundtrack)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present… Mr. and Mrs. Scanlan Trickfoot.

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Featured Image Credit: Wesley Griffith @justwesley

Board Game Buyer’s Guide: Lux Games Over $100

Nov 20 2017

This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

With the holidays quickly racing towards us like an avalanche, it’s time to start building your wish lists. You or someone you know have been really good this year right? Well then, grab a hammer and smash your piggy bank as we’ve found some amazing games that might be a bit pricey, but are sure to impress and delight whomsoever you gift them to.

Scythe

scythe

The Great War is over. Europa has fallen and the disgraced leaders are looking to restore their honor by leading their people to take back what they once lost. Stonemaier Games’ 1920’s alternate-history game, Scythe, is not quite what it seems at first. What looks like a complex war game fought with giant mechs, is actually a streamlined area-control game that lets you choose your own paths to victory.

The base game allows for 1-5 Players, but by adding the Invaders from Afar expansion brings the player count up to 7. Invaders also adds 2 new factions with their own powers and strategies. Scythe has one other expansion so far called The Wind Gambit, which introduces 2 new mechanics airships and resolutions. Resolutions are cards that will change the rules of the game each time you play and Airships give players more mobility.

The entire bundle of the base game plus expansions comes to $135 and makes a great gift for anyone looking for a really slick area-control game.

MSRP (Core Box): $80.00 – Stonemaier Games

Gloomhaven

gloomhaven

Gloomhaven is a whopper of a legacy-style, dungeon-crawler game. Designer Isaac Childres has created a unique dark fantasy world where players need to cooperate to survive. In our review of the game, G&S contributor Charlie Theel notes: “The world of Gloomhaven is not your typical fantasy fare. Here, we have wild frontier countryside on the edge of the world inhabited by a range of oddities. You can play a rock humanoid world-beater similar to the Thing from Fantastic Four, or even a mage who has crystals jutting out of her skin and can manipulate the environment at her whim. You will run across goat-men, golems, and little squirrel-rat hybrids that deserve to be stomped out despite inherent cuteness. You will delve into strange caverns with otherworldly effects and nasty surprises. That sense of wonder is front and center as you cling to little bits of lore and try to decipher pieces of the whole.”

The game is played over several adventures; unlocking new dungeons and story paths as you make decisions that will affect your game similar to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. Similar to a roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons, you’ll be helping craft a communal story with characters which will advance as they gain experience and new equipment.

If you have a roleplayer looking to expand their horizons with board games, consider giving them the gift of Gloomhaven.

MSRP: $120.00 – Cephalofair Games

Mansions of Madness 2E

mansions

Have a horror fan who deserves a fun treat? Fantasy Flight’s Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition is a challenging co-op that’s sure to have you on the edge of your seat. Players are tasked with investigating mysteries set in the Cthulhu Mythos. As they explore the creepy mansion tiles will be revealed by the accompanying app, which makes for a more immersive experience as you can’t anticipate what will be around the next corner. This version is a huge improvement over the original Mansions of Madness as the app also replaces the game master role (which originally controlled all of the evils in the house) allowing every player to be part of the group.

Mansions of Madness Second Edition is one of our 2016 Best Board Games of the Year picks. According to G&S contributor Rob Wieland: “Mansions of Madness Second Edition is an excellent addition to the line because it skillfully walks the line between board game and RPG.” Grab the base game along with its expansions to make for a perfect bundle gift for your dearest investigator.

MSRP (Core Box): $99.95  – Fantasy flight Games

Warhammer 40k Dark Imperium

Warhammer

Looking for a gargantuan game packed full of minis? Why not pick up what we deemed “The Best Boxed Set Games Workshop Has Ever Produced” Dark Imperium is set in the Warhammer 40k universe where mankind fights against hordes of hostile aliens.

This boxed set comes with everything you need to play Warhammer 40k including 53 detailed Citadel miniatures, the unabridged hardback Warhammer 40k book, two supplemental books of rules and story, dice, a ruler, and plastic bases for all of the minis. Charlie Theel highly recommends the game saying: “The new 40k is all about flow and velocity as blows are exchanged and bodies collect. It plays with renewed speed and feels fresh and delightful amid a sea of competition. Fun is of primary importance and fun it is.”

Dark Imperium is perfect for the gamer who is looking to dive into minature-based wargaming.

MSRP: $190.00  – Games Workshop

Blood Rage

Blood Rage

In CMON’s 4 player card-drafting/area control/worker placement hybrid game, Blood Rage, Ragnarok has arrived and Vikingviking clan is out to earn as much glory as they can in order to earn their place in Valhalla. There are many ways to secure a victory including pillaging, battling, fulfilling quests, building up your clan, and even dying in a glorious way.

We’ve previously voted Blood Rage as one of the best board games of 2015 and in our feature we put it this way: “What makes Blood Rage special is how you can adapt your clan to deal with the different situations that arise. You adjust as the game progresses and it’s this ever-shifting strategy that is so engaging. Drafting your gifts at the beginning of each age gives you a chance to rework your strategy and build on what you already have, or see what everyone else is taking.”

Blood Rage comes with a ton of beautifully sculpted minis and has a bunch of expansions that add more minis, new rules, and even room for a fifth player. If you love bombastic viking adventures that will make you want to quaff spirits and cheer your victories, then grab the whole set for $149.96.

MSRP: $79.00  –  CMON

These are just a few of the amazing games with a high price tag out on the market right now. What big ticket games are going on your Christmas list? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned in for more curated lists, including the best games of 2017 and the most hotly anticipated games of 2018. If you want to stay on top of the best and newest of tabletop gaming, be sure to also tune in our weekly show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott on Twitch and Alpha.

WANT MORE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GAMES LISTED?

Feature Image Credit: Jessica Fisher
Image Credits: Jessica Fisher, Charlie Theel, Ruel Gaviola, Raf Cordero

Editor’s note: some games were provided to Geek & Sundry by the publisher.

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Jessica Fisher writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter @miniktty.

Critical Role One-Shot: Once Upon A Fairytale Cruise

Nov 20 2017

As we count down the weeks to the new Critical Role campaign, our players are having a little fun with their own one-shots. Last week, Marisha Ray took over the DM chair to play Honey Heist – a one-page roleplaying game where players play criminal bears who have two stats, criminal and bear, and their only goal is to raid HoneyCon 2017.

This week, Sam Rigel took the DM chair (in his words, “for the second time ever”) to sail with a talented cast comprised of Amy Vorpahl (the Queen of Hearts), Stefanie Woodburn (Goldilocks), Yuri Lowenthal (The Hatter), Noelle Stevensen (Peter Pan), Molly Ostertag (Wendy Darling), and H. Michael Croner (Scarecrow) on a fairytale singles cruise for love and a storybook happy ending.

Though the adventures of Vox Machina have ended, don’t worry: Critical Role isn’t going anywhere. The new campaign kicks off in early 2018, but until then, we have a collection of creative one-shots for you to enjoy while you wait, every Thursday on Alpha and Twitch at 7pm PT.

Thanks to Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II for sponsoring this episode of Critical Role! Star Wars ™ Battlefront ™ II is available now – check out http://bit.ly/CRStarWars to learn more. 

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3 Tips For GMs To Tackle The Sticky Situation of Alignment and Morality

Nov 20 2017

GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we covered keeping pace and tempo, and this week we are tackling the finer points of alignment.

In the time-honored tradition of placing characters into boxes, alignment is one of those topics that gamers just love to cast at anything they see. Captain America is lawful good, but based on more recent storylines, that might be up for debate. Jason Charles Miller (GM of Starter Kit) goes on to talk about playing some old 1980 Basic D&D rules set where there were only three alignments—Lawful, Evil, and Chaotic. Get caught up on the episode below and how classic D&D handled alignment.

This episode Satine really nails what it means to be a character and makes a solid point to just ignore alignment entirely like they do on Maze Arcana. To aid in putting the nail in the alignment coffin, here are more ways to twist and bend a staple of D&D.

Let Your Players Be Evil

This is something I really want to shout to every GM out there that is still running the classic alignment system. Let your players play evil. Seriously, just do it and stop with one of the most debated topics at any D&D character creation session. Evil characters are always bound to be more interesting. Let the entire group do it if you want and have a field day with more compelling characters generated from a single tagline on a sheet than a mountain of back stories.

Just because you allow evil characters doesn’t mean you need to have player vs player at the table either. It’s all about how you as a GM set their goals and missions. The Zhentarim are a fine political mercenary faction, they just want to get paid, even if they have to work right next to the Order of the Gauntlet. Having characters in a party across the full alignment spectrum will only increase character development and roleplay at the table.

People who are going to abuse evil characters for a negative play-experiences are the same people who will destroy lawful good or make their true neutral characters needlessly obtuse. So storytellers, take a GM tip to heart — let your friends be evil.

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Eschew Alignment Completely

As Satine has done in her Maze Arcana game, simply tossing alignment out the window is one of the easiest house rules you can do in D&D. Thanks to the way roleplaying has evolved, characters aren’t portrayed in most games as walking stacks of hit points with a single moral guideline. The worlds we play in are often filled with moral grays. Real people, do not fit into a single box described by a matrix of 9 different possibilities. We ebb and flow often by the situation presented to us at hand.

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If you are going to do a no-alignment game, it can be helpful to do one thing as a storyteller though — give your factions alignments. While individual people are complex entities, armies and companies often are not. Organizations are either abiding by the law, or they aren’t, hopping in and out of various nations with their own agenda. While the people who make up them can be complex and shades of gray, a larger society or culture can be iconically defined.

See How Other Games Handle Alignment

Out of all the games that exist, D&D, Pathfinder, and its other clones are the few who use a strict alignment system. But with countless other games out there, it’s no wonder that alignment in D&D is often on the chopping block. Other systems have developed far better ways to handle such things.

Star Wars keeps things easy with Light and Darkside. Vampire: The Masquerade has long used humanity, paths of morality, and even Nature and Demeanor across many game lines. Nature is what the character really is on the inside, like a teacher, or a bully, and demeanor is the mask you present to the world; like a teacher who acts like a bully, or a bully who acts like a teacher.

Even further, Legend of the Five Rings keeps characters bound to a rigid path of Honor and plays off the moral choice that sometimes collides with Western culture, and the beliefs of Shorido.

Morality mechanics aren’t often tied to their home system, and each one brings something different to light, so shop around! It’s okay to mix and match between systems to craft the game everyone wants to play.

Alright… let’s open up those floodgates and have you guys tell us your alignment horror stories. What are the best and worst game stories around alignment that you’ve got? Tell us in the comments below!

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Featured Image by: Dark Deals by Hugo Cardenas  (Takayuuki.deviantart.comYoutube)
Image Credits: Geek & Sundry

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

Board Game Buyer’s Guide: The Best Family Games Around

Nov 17 2017

This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

There’s no better way to spend quality time with family and friends than by bringing board games to your holiday shindig. While most homes have well-worn copies of Monopoly or Clue, you can up your family party game by introducing everybody to modern games that are easier to learn, deliver more fun, and flat-out look cooler than the dust-covered titles that threaten to turn your holiday into a snoozefest.

Here are a few family games that will turn any holiday get-together into a memorable game night.

Potion Explosion

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No matter where you bring this game, it’s guaranteed to cause your family and friends to do double takes when they see that dispenser full of colorful marbles. They’ll be spellbound by the wizardry you and your opponents perform as you try to get the right combination of marbles to complete your potions.

It’s easy to get new players into the action, too, since they’ll likely be familiar with games such as Bejeweled and Candy Crush. Potion Explosion uses a similar mechanism where players take a marble and receive any resulting marbles of the same color that collide with each other. They then use these marbles to fill up their potion boards. First one to complete a pre-determined number of sets of potions wins.

From pouring marbles into the dispenser to hearing the click-clack of the marbles as you figure out your most optimal moves, Potion Explosion is more satisfying than its digital counterparts and will get even the most hardcore smartphone addicts to try some analog gaming.

MSRP: $49.99 – CMON

Evolution

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Learning about Charles Darwin’s theory has never been more a fun or engaging. Bring Evolution to the table and players will experience a real sense of accomplishment as their species survive and thrive during a game.

Players start with one species and using a card drafting system, improve their animals with new traits such as horns or hard shells that will stave off predators. Or, they can go from the hunted to the hunter with traits like pack hunting and ambush to feast on their opponents. At the end of each round, they’ll gather around the watering hole trying to find enough food to make it through another day. Any species whose population hits zero goes extinct; not to worry, though, since a player can begin a new species in the next round.

With a huge deck of animal traits and a lot of take-that action, Evolution is never dull and, of course, it’s a survival of the fittest.

MRSP: $39.99 – North Star Games

Codenames: Disney Family Edition

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This is the family-friendly version of Vlaada Chavtil’s game that took the board gaming community by storm a few years ago. Teams try to guess hidden words based on Disney pictures with clues provided by their spymasters. The pictures are laid out in a 5×4 grid and, like the original Codenames, spymasters give a one-word clue paired with a number corresponding to the number of answers related to that clue. So, “Animal 2” could refer to Simba and the Cheshire Cat cards, but wait … isn’t Maid Marian technically an animal, too?

More advanced players can flip the pictures to their opposite sides, where words are used as answers, just like in the original game. But if you’re buying this game because it’s Disney, then you’re playing with the picture sides so you can appreciate all of the fine art from classic and modern Disney films as well as the Pixar movies.

Unlike the original game, there’s no assassin; however, the advanced game contains the “game over” option that works the same way. So, if your teammate selections the black X answer, then the game is over. No need to explain to Junior what “assassin” means when he chooses Tigger and causes you to lose the game.

MSRP: $24.95 – USAopoly

Zoo Ball

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Most holiday gatherings feature the requisite sports games playing on the TV in the background. Even if you don’t have – or care to have – a fantasy football team to obsess over or a favorite basketball team to root for, you can find some common ground with your sports-ball-loving family and friends with Zoo Ball.

Two to four players face off in this dexterity game of flicking discs across the playing field. Each player has three defenders and one scorer; you can flick one to three of your defenders or your one scorer. If you manage to flick your scorer into your opponent’s goal then you score a point and all discs are reset. First to three goals wins.

Zoo Ball might not get your opponents to start a fantasy Zoo Ball league, but it will get your party to the table and inspire lots of laughter and trash talk, just like any good sports ball competition should do.

MSRP: $30 – Osprey Publishing

Loony Quest

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The drawing mechanism in classics like Pictionary, Telestrations, and Cranium is always a big hit at soirees, but some people are intimidated by games that expose their lack of drawing skills. Thankfully, Loony Quest puts those fears to rest by having players draw to complete specific goals. There are no points for aesthetics or artistic talent here; you’re only trying to finish the round’s task as quickly as possible.

Players each get a transparent sheet and an erasable marker to try to complete each level of the Loony Quest world. It’s like a video game adapted into analog form, with your erasable marker as the controller.

The first stage will have you drawing a line from start to finish without hitting any of the bad guys. Easy, right? Well, drawing on a blank transparency is much more difficult than it sounds. After 30 seconds you’ll put your pens down and place your sheet on top of the challenge sheet. If you’ve completed the task you’ll get victory points, but if your line touches bad guys you’ll lose points. There are also power-ups that help you and bombs that hinder you.

Clocking it at a more-than-reasonable 20 minutes of gameplay, even the attention-span-challenged will love going on a Loony Quest.

MSRP: $29.99 – Asmodee

Ticket to Ride

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Now considered a classic of modern board gaming, Ticket to Ride continues to bring new players to the hobby. It’s still my favorite to teach to people who’ve never played anything beyond Monopoly, due to its simple turn structure, top-notch components, and perfect amount of playing time.

Lay out that gorgeous map of the United States and after everybody’s chosen their trains, they’ll be ready to connect various routes based on the destination tickets in their hands. Players either pick up train cards or lay down their trains based on the train cards they’ve collected. There’s an elegance to the game that’s appealing to all audiences and there are a ton of expansions available that keep the game from getting stale, with new maps and mechanisms offering new challenges.

MSRP: $49.99 – Days of Wonder

You can pick up these games at quality game retailers. What are your favorite family games? Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned in for more curated lists, including the best games of 2017 and the most hotly anticipated games of 2018. If you want to stay on top of the best and newest of tabletop gaming, be sure to also tune in our weekly show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott on Twitch and Alpha.

Want more G&S recommended family board games?

 

Image credits: Ruel Gaviola, Raf Cordero, Charlie Theel

Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for iSlaytheDragon.com and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.

Why New D&D Players Will Love ‘Xanathar’s Guide To Everything’

Nov 17 2017

You gotta start somewhere, so why not start now? Starter Kit delivers you to the world of roleplaying games in a fun and easy-to-digest manner! Join host Jason Charles Miller and special guests each week to help build up your Starter Kit and begin your own adventure!

One of the big advantages to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for new players is how Wizards of the Coast has kept the buy-in cost low. RPGs often get a reputation for requiring a stack of books to play, but this edition has kept the original Player’s Handbook as the main way for players to make a character. That’s one of the many reasons why Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has been hotly anticipated by players and Dungeon Masters. Let’s take a look at the things new players will want to check out when they pick up a copy in the next few weeks.

New Player Options

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This is the big attraction for players to own the book. Each of the 12 classes gets new archetype options that expand what players can do with a class and offer more stories to tell. Many of the subclasses mix in a little bit from other classes. A few class options offer paths that resonate with fans of fantasy elements outside of the Tolkien-style European default, such as the Samurai fighter or the Drunken Master monk. These options open up all sorts of fun and interesting concepts for new players, but the slow roll of releases keeps the choices manageable for players still just starting out.

What are our favorites of the bunch? Glad you asked:

  • Barbarian: All of the paths give characters a little something extra when the barbarian rages. Our favorite is the Path of the Ancestral Guardian. It gives the barbarian a hunter’s mark effect mechanically with a pretty sweet flavor effect; the marked target is surrounded by the barbarians ancestor spirits who attack and harass the target until it goes down or the barbarian calls them off.
  • Bard:  One of the most hotly anticipated subclass is the Glamour Bard, and the book pays it off well. This bard spends Bardic Leadership dice to channel its inner Bowie for leadership effect that grant temporary hit points and extra movement. This bard gets an ability that can charm an entire crowd rather than just one charm person spell, and has a great capstone 14 level that requires enemies to make Charisma check to even attempt to hurt the Glamour bard.
  • Cleric: The Grave Domain cleric is the master of keeping the dead in their domain and the living in ours. They can sniff out undead at very low levels and at 6th level, they can turn a critical hit into a normal hit (the hit still happens but double damage and any other effect triggered by a critical do not). This cleric can do some mean things to the bad guys, removing the idea that all healers are precious angels.
  • Druid: The Circle of the Shepherd is a great choice for players who love pets. It makes any creatures summoned stronger and it can even summon a patronus spectral protector when things get rough.
  • Fighter: Fans of Green Arrow will love the Arcane Archer, who gives the Fighter not just a dedicated ranged class but also some cool effects for specially enchanted arrows. No boxing glove arrow, sadly, but that will probably be up on Dungeon Master’s Guild in no time.
  • Monk: We have some first-hand experience playing the Way of the Drunken Master. It’s mobility and hit redirection make it great for players who want to hit every monster on the field at least once, and its flavor justifies hanging out in all those taverns just a bit longer.
  • Paladin: The Oath of Conquest is probably as close as this edition is going to get to an “evil” paladin for a while, but its fear-based abilities and extra damage to uncooperative targets give this class some interesting concepts to play.
  • Ranger: The Horizon Walker is the most intriguing entry here, not just for its abilities that give it cool abilities that allow for teleportation and other motion. It also is a pretty direct indicator of interaction with other planes. They wouldn’t include this class without a new Planescape being on the horizon…would they?
  • Sorceror: Storm Sorcery may be one of the reprinted classes from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, but its still a great thematic fit with the chaotic nature of the class. With its limited flight and lightning cantrip abilities, it’s also a chance to play the X-Men‘s Storm in D&D, which is basically awesome.
  • Warlock: The Hexblade is for those folks who want to take the Pact of the Blade to the next level. Its curse allows you to single out an opponent to get bonuses against them and to regain hitpoints when they die. Combo that up with a hunter’s mark and that gives big bad guys a very bad day.
  • Wizard: The War Mage is the only option included in this book, but its a blend of existing schools rather than something brand new. This option makes wizards a bit more feasible on the front lines, thanks to an arcane deflection ability that increases AC and saving throws after the fact.

This is Your Life

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Backgrounds in Fifth Edition offer a good place to start talking about the history of characters, but coming up with a full background for a character can be a little intimidating for someone that’s never done it before. Xanathar’s Guide has a few class-specific elements that can help like tables for a bard’s worst performance or the vice a rogue likes to indulge in in between adventures. It also has a big section full of tables that determine important character details like siblings, upbringing and other points that can help sketch a character backstory during play. There’s a running gag that all D&D characters are orphans that were born, grew up and became adventurers, but with this section, characters get a skeleton of a backstory to help shade how they react in play.

Many, Many Names

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Ask many players, one of the hardest parts of making a character is giving them a good name. Character names are one of the ways to evoke a Dungeons & Dragons setting. But not everyone is great at coming up with names. If one player names their character Cassandralla Divinius and another names their character Roguey McStaberson, that’s going to cause some discord at the table. There are several charts in the back of the book that offer random choices divided between names from different races and names from historical sources. Checking out a name on a website can be useful, but having a list of names, not just for a character but for friends, enemies and others, is a great thing to have in hand just starting out.

New to RPGs? We got you. Catch our show, Starter Kit with Jason Charles Miller and friends. The show is full of tips for new D&D players, and is available exclusively on Alpha with new episodes going live every Thursday!

Images Credits: Wizards of the Coast

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, where he is currently reviewing classic Star Wars RPG adventures. His Twitter is here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

Sagas Of Sundry Playlist: The Sounds of Dread And Madness

Nov 17 2017

Sagas of Sundry is our horror-themed RPG show, available exclusively on Alpha. Every Friday, a new episode of this thriller goes live as Game Master Ivan van Norman puts a talented cast through trials, where every character will walk away significantly changed, if they walk away at all.

Game Master Ivan van Norman knows how to set a scene. With his storytelling skills, he’s put together a playlist that captures the atmosphere, story, and characters of his tales from Sagas of Sundry in for both season one, Dread, and season two, Madness.

Join him on this musical journey with the playlist below.

Warning: some song commentary contains spoilers.

O Death – Ralph Stanley
Opening Hymn of Sagas of Sundry

The Haunted Place – Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price
Dedication to Mr. Wren

Am I Demon – Danzig
Ode to the Storyteller

A Mansion in Darkness – King Diamond
Every Song on a King Diamond Album tells a story – it’s one of my original inspiring artists for using unconventional storytelling mediums.

Castlevania – Foxhunt
Warmup – Let’s get the blood moving.. before the adventure begins!

Songs of Sagas of Sundry: Dread

Dread

Sagas of Sundry: Dread Theme

Go Tell Aunt Rhody (Resident Evil Soundtrack) – Michael Levine & Jordan Reyne
An ode to Darby

Naissance – Aegri Somnia
Walking the Interior of the Treece House

No Feelings – Sex Pistols
Ode to Kayden

Vitesse d’évasion – Aegri Somnia
Ode to the Goatman

Tears in the Rain – The Weeknd
Ode to Sat

Ingwar – Wardruna
Ode to the Shamans People

Open Arms – Journey
Ode to Raina

Somebody that I used to know – Goyte, Kimbra
Ode to Tanner

EarthSpirit – Paleowolf
Exploring the Caverns

There are no Innocents – Trevor Morris
Agatha – is coming…

To Know, Water – Austin Wintory
A welcome rest – the end of the story

Songs of Sagas of Sundry: Madness

Sagas of Sundry: Madness

Sagas of Sundry: Madness Theme

Illusion – VRV Nation
Dedication to Selina

Pale Palace – Musica Cthulhiana
Ode to Emmet and the Tower in the Purple Sky

First Confluence – Austin Wintory
An Ode to the Desert Wasteland

Ghostly Voices – Ultimate Horror Sounds
Dedication to the Watcher

Black Door – The Black Keys
Ode to Jude

Carry Me Away – Rootkit
Fighting the things that are hidden in the darkness watching… waiting…

Wandering Star – Portishead
An Ode to Fenley

Teardrop – Massive Attack
An Ode to Abigail

What Lies Unseen – Marcene Przybylowicz
Is what happened real? – the End of the Story

Apotheosis – Austin Wintory
To those who were went through it all, and to those fallen. We love you.

Aftercare Song

Them – King Diamond
Good-bye. Sweet Dreams.

Want more Sagas of Sundry?

Featured Image Credit: Kendra Wells @kendrawcandraw

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Ultimate Bendis

Nov 17 2017

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Amy Dallen, Matt Key, and Taliesin Jaffe were joined by guest Phil LaMarr to talk about the prolific and influential comics writer Brian Michael Bendis.

Brian Michael Bendis has been a Marvel mainstay for over 15 years as the writer behind the creation of characters like Jessica Jones, Daisy Johnson, Maria Hill, and Miles Morales. It was recently announced that he’ll be moving over to DC Comics to write for them exclusively, and fans are anxiously waiting to see how the DC universe will change in his hands.

“It’s one of those interesting moments where a huge shift is about to happen on a fundamental level in comics,” said Taliesin.

While the hosts didn’t want to speculate too much what Bendis’s involvement with the characters of DC Comics might bring, they took a look at his landmark Marvel work to get a small hint of what the future may hold for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the DC universe.

Take a look at the gallery below for specific recommendations from this week’s episode.

Taliesin, Phil, Matt, and Amy also chatted briefly about titles like Jinx, Powers, House of M, The New AvengersIronheart, and more, but when a creator has such an incredible body of work as Brian Michael Bendis does, there’s just not enough time to talk about them all.

Get More Wednesday Club!

Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha every Wednesday night to catch the next spectacular episode of The Wednesday Club.

All Images: Marvel Comics

Board Game Buyer’s Guide: The Expansions That Keep on Giving

Nov 16 2017

This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

Expansions are a wonderful thing. They allow us to look at a game we love from an entirely new angle. They improve designs we’re mellow on and ignite a newfound appreciation. One of the best aspects is that they’re universally cheap. This makes for a fantastic gift as they clock in at an affordable rate and you can already have a line on their interest in the game or series. No Robbie, we’re not emptying our 401K’s to get you a copy of Kingdom Death: Monster. What about the latest faction for Star Trek: Ascendancy? Is Santa’s beard gray?

Star Trek: Ascendancy – Cardassian and Ferengi Expansions

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Good thing Robbie has taste. Ascendancy already rocked our intergalactic socksdoes the Federation have standard issue footwear? — and more variety is just what McCoy ordered. The main element you’re adding to play is the amplified dynamic of four or five player games. This is the absolute best way to experience this unbridled epic, as long as you can afford to ignore any societal obligations for the better part of a day.

Beyond that outstanding value-add, the new factions presented are definitely interesting. The Ferengi are the prime cut, offering an entirely new playstyle of wheeling and dealing with trade agreements being offered more readily than torpedo barrages. Their desire to intermingle on shared sectors and mostly be ignored in their day-to-day accounting is evocative of their presence on the show and they’re a treat to field.

The Cardassians may not be quite as exciting but they’re still an appreciated addition. They slot in nicely alongside the Klingons as a faction obsessed with domination. Their trick is the need to put the boot to their populaces and keep their nose to the grindstone in order to exact production. Militarily they rely on smaller fighter groups that are very deadly and strike with precision.

Whether you pick up both or just the Ferengi one of the two races, you’re certainly kicking your Ascendancy experience into full warp ahead.

MSRP: $35 each – Gale Force Nine

Dark Moon – Shadow Corporation

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Dark Moon is a pretty stellar hidden traitor affair that mimics the arc of the Battlestar Galactica board game with a much smaller time commitment. It does so while shedding the Cylon vestiges and donning a veneer that closely resembles John Carpenter’s The Thing. What’s not to love?

Well the singular issue with the base game was occasionally infected players revealed too early within the framework of the game’s pacing. This could lead to a dull second half with some of the magic burnt out from the experience like McCready setting a mutant dog alight. Enter Shadow Corporation.

Extending beyond the John Carpenter influence, Shadow Corporation brings along a new theme that mirrors another iconic horror film – Aliens. Dark Moon’s Weyland-Yutani stand-in, Noguchi Mosaki, has sent an escape shuttle to the surface. Player’s can now issue votes to clear characters for evacuation and then can issue a final vote to launch and end the game. The trick is that if even one infected player has made it aboard then the whole jig is up.

This huge twist not only provides large incentive for the infected players to remain hidden throughout the length of play, but it also injects renewed fervor in the underlying tension of the game. The stakes feel higher since the arc of the game forks in an interesting way and it provides a compelling modification to an already solid experience.

MSRP: $29.95 – Stronghold Games

Arkham Horror LCG – The Dunwich Cycle

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When the Arkham Horror card game launched, its main trait and ultimate promise was its potential to tell unique and interesting stories with little square slices of cardboard. The Dunwich Cycle is the fulfillment on that promise.

Each of the included scenarios is a self-contained story that’s nice and tidy while still feeding into a larger dynamic arc. The card system cleverly plays with your expectation to emulate the story by utilizing clever tricks and unforeseen consequences.

The additional characters are icing on the non-euclidean cake (it’s a thing, like Red Velvet meets Boston Cream Pie). The strategies and options for deck-building open up allowing you to place a more personal stamp on each of your unique builds. The card pool has ballooned to a nice state and the game feels very comfortable in its current model.

MSRP: $14.95 – $29.95- Fantasy Flight Games

Captain Sonar – Upgrade One

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This may be a small and sleek expansion, but it has it where it counts. Captain Sonar is one of the best releases of 2016 and the game certainly doesn’t need more maps or new rules. That doesn’t mean we won’t scoop them up like a $50 bill lying on the curb.

The new maps are a treat. Each adds some unique special rules such as stations that fully charge your weapons or reconnaissance system. One has players flying along jet-streams and propelling you at high speed. They’re all a touch more complicated than those found in the base game but add an additional layer of enjoyment.

The other half of this release is the new weapon systems. Each captain chooses a special upgrade in secret before play begins. You can deploy a hacking utility that shuts down your opponent’s systems, or maybe fire off a Kraken missile all the way across the map. They’re all a bit ludicrous which means they’re damn fun. This one’s a no-brainer for fans of Captain Sonar.

MSRP: $24.99- Asmodee

 

Terraforming Mars – Hellas & Elysium

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For all the Elon Musk wannabes out there, here is your next frontier. Terraforming Mars has blown up the galactic stage with awards out the wazoo. Capitalizing on its monumental success comes in the form of this solid expansion offering two new boards to shake up the experience.

The two new play areas offer similar experiences to the base game with a couple of key differences. The most notable shift is in the inclusion of an entirely new set of milestones on each. Each awards accomplishments relevant to their particular map. This works to cement the personality of each and establish their groundwork.

Primarily consisting of a “more stuff” expansion, Hellas & Elysium does its job admirably and comes through on its promise. While these changes may not be Mars shattering, they’re certainly appreciated and work to inject new life into a game that’s still burning hot on the charts.

MSRP: $19.95 – Stronghold Games

You can pick up these games at quality game retailers. What expansions are on your to-buy list? Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned in for more curated lists, including the best games of 2017 and the most hotly anticipated games of 2018. If you want to stay on top of the best and newest of tabletop gaming, be sure to also tune in our weekly show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott on Twitch and Alpha.

Want more board games & RPGs?

Cover Image Credit: Ruel Gaviola

Image Credits:  Charlie Theel, Ruel Gaviola

Editor’s note: Copies of included games were provided by the publisher.

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Miniature Market’s The Review Corner, and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter @CharlieTheel

Catch Up on New Episodes of the CRITICAL ROLE Podcast

Nov 16 2017

Well met, fellow Critters! The wait is over and there are now FIFTEEN new episodes to fill that D20-shaped hole in your life. Episodes 56-70 are here – with action, surprises, and few special guests rolling the dice with your favorite band of adventurers. Take Critical Role with you no matter where you go!

Head over to iTunesGoogle, or the Geek & Sundry Website to find all of these new episodes waiting for you: 

Episode 71 – Vorugal
Episode 72 – The Elephant in the Room
Episode 73 – The Coming Storm
Episode 74 – Path of Brass
Episode 75 – Where the Cards Fall
Episode 76 – Brawl in the Arches
Episode 77 – Clash at Daxio
Episode 78 – The Siege of Emon
Episode 79 – Thordak
Episode 80 – Raishan
Episode 81 – What Lies Beneath the Surface
Episode 82 – Deadly Echoes
Episode 83 – The Deceiver’s Stand
Episode 84 – Loose Ends
Episode 85 – A Bard’s Lament

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ForeverVerse: Episode 37 – Back to Basic Finale With Jason Charles Miller

Nov 16 2017

On ForeverVerse, Ivan Van Norman guides players through various RPGs. Every few weeks, the characters are sucked through a portal, drifting into a new universe (switching the game to a new RPG). Will our characters ever make it home? 

On this episode of ForeverVerse, Jason Charles Miller is your Game Master! This is his last week as the GM of Back to Basic, the gang’s old school D&D campaign.

Don’t miss all previous episodes of ForeverVerse on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and Alpha.


Love the tunes you hear at the beginning of the show? Take them with you! The Deadly Grind has released all of the songs you know from the ForeverVerse series and more. Check them out on iTunes to start downloading now!

Critical Role Fan Art Gallery: Art of the Heist

Nov 16 2017

Every picture in this gallery is hand-picked by the Critical Role cast. How does one get their prints in front of Matt Mercer and the rest of the cast? You can throw it on Twitter and direct your drawings at #CriticalRole & #CriticalRoleFanArt. Sometimes it helps to include Twitter handle of your favorite cast member. You can also send your picture to critrole@gmail.com. Make sure you include your name or Twitter handle with the art. You can also head down to our forum page to post it as well for others to see and admire your talents.

Go forth and start fighting against that negative space. Keep your brushes and pencil at your side at all times. Maybe one day soon, you will see your own masterpiece on the wall.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

Featured Image Credit: Kristine Wie – @Wien_Rose

Game Master Tips with Satine Phoenix – Psychology at the Table with George Rockwell

Nov 16 2017

Welcome back to another exciting episode of Game Master Tips! Our Game Master extraordinaire, Satine Phoenix, shares with you some of her tips for creating amazing adventures, dealing with difficult parties, or what it takes to sit behind the GM screen. Even if you are a first-time storyteller or a veteran of the field, Satine can help you to become a better Game Master at the table.

This season, Satine brings in some of the best minds to craft an adventure to the show to tackle the topic of the day. In the latest episode of GM Tips, Satine and writer, teacher, and host of the Nerd Salon George Rockwell discuss how Game Masters can use psychology to help their players overcome issues — both in the game and in real life.

Check out GM Tips with Satine Phoenix every Thursday at 8AM PT, or watch it two days early on Alpha! You can also find more tips by checking out previous episodes and seasons right here on Geek & Sundry.

Board Game Buyer’s Guide: Great $20 (Or Less) Games For Gifting

Nov 15 2017

This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

These days there’s no shortage of great board games out there. Huge boxes filled with colorful pieces, beautiful miniatures, table-spanning boards…and they all seem to cost a fortune! So what about those of us who are gaming on a budget? Well even though big, expensive titles are all the rage these days, there are still some excellent games that fit into small boxes and won’t empty your bank account. If you’re looking for some great gifts this holiday season, but need to keep it under $20 each, these five games have got you covered.

Zany Penguins

Zany Penguins

Zany Penguins marries a fairly simple drafting and set collecting game with a unique scoring system. Each round you’ll draw two cards depicting colorful numbered penguins in one of five different locations. You’ll pass one to each player on your right and left, they’ll do the same, and then each player plays one card. There are a few card abilities for the low scoring cards, but so far, it seems like every other set collection game, right?

Well, the twist comes at the end where none of the cards you’ve played earn you any points. Instead, if you’ve played the most of one of the five locations, you can score each matching card that is still in your hand, meaning you have to balance which high point cards you play versus which ones you hold onto. This little wrinkle takes a modest game and rises it up to something truly special.

MSRP: $14.99 – Asmodee/Bombyx

Star Realms

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It’s easy to misjudge Star Realms when you first look at it. A small box of cards with an odd picture of a spaceship and the humble words “Deckbuilding Game” written on the front. But White Wizard Games made two excellent decisions when designing Star Realms. First, whereas most deckbuilders maintain a healthy distance between the decisions of each player, Star Realms puts its two players in a head-to-head battle where almost every card played will directly affect your opponent.

Second, they took every component that might have been a piece of plastic, wood, or cardboard and made it a card. Your ships? Cards. Your hit points? Cards. The damage, healing, and money you earn? It’s all on the cards, baby! Everything is cards, which keeps the box small and the price low. On top of all that, the game provides layers of strategy to sink your teeth into and enough expansions, which are only a few bucks each, to keep you coming back to it for a long time.

MSRP: $14.99 – White Wizard Games

Sushi Go

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Sushi Go might be the best introduction to drafting games there is. The premise is simple: draw a hand of cards, hold on to one and give the rest to the next player. When everyone has done this, reveal the card you kept and repeat until you are out of cards. Each card depicts a different kind of sushi which can earn you points in several different ways. Do this for three rounds and tally up the score.

What makes Sushi Go great is how perfectly balanced it is. The cards that earn you the most points are also the riskiest to go for. The safest choices are the least valuable, but will always get you something. There’s no guaranteed winning strategy as the cards you draw will be different each round. And even if you make a big mistake and lose it all, the game is quick enough that as soon as you’re done, you’ll want to give it another shot. Plus, just look at how cute that artwork is!

MSRP: $12.99 – Gamewright

Happy Salmon

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Happy Salmon is definitely the most frantic game on this list, and probably one of the most high-energy games you’ll find. Like most of these titles, the gameplay is simple but the execution is what brings it to life. Each player will have a deck of twelve cards, with three copies of four types. You will simultaneously draw a card and announce what you have, hoping another player has drawn the same card. If you have a match, you’ll perform an action determined by the card: a high five, a fist bump, a happy salmon (a kind of hand/arm slap that resembles fish tails), or you’ll switch places. After performing the action, you throw the card down and draw the next one. The first player to discard all of their cards wins the round, and keep in mind this is all happening at the same time, so you’ll be furiously searching for a partner to fish-tail slap while the people around you yell “high-five!” and “switcheroo!” If you’re looking for a game that will liven up the evening, Happy Salmon will help you do just that.

MSRP: $14.99 – North Star Games

OK Play

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Unlike the other games on this list, OK Play doesn’t have a single card. It also might be one of the simplest games in the world to teach. Each turn you’ll take a tile and place it next to another player’s tile, trying to get five tiles in a row, either orthogonally or diagonally. You’ll most likely run out of tiles before this happens, so at that point you start re-positioning your tiles one at a time. At this point, the mental geometry of what you need to do starts to take shape. You need to block other players, sometimes working together with your opponents to do so, while simultaneously setting up your own victories down the line. Like I said, very easy to learn, but it leaves plenty of room for clever strategy and sneaky, out-of-nowhere victories.

MSRP: $14.99 – Big Potato

If you know of any great games under $20, why not save a fellow Geek some money and let us know about it in the comments!

Stay tuned in for more curated lists, including the best games of 2017 and the most hotly anticipated games of 2018. If you want to stay on top of the best and newest of tabletop gaming, be sure to also tune in our weekly show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott on Twitch and Alpha.

WANT MORE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GAMES LISTED?

Image Credits: Shea Parker, Ruel Gaviola, Teri Litorco

As well as writing for Geek and Sundry, Shea teaches board games on his YouTube channel RTFM. You can also talk to/follow/stalk him on Twitter @Sheasayswords

 

‘Weave’ Blends Tarot With Technology For Accessible, Innovative Roleplaying

Nov 15 2017

Roleplaying, for many of us, is something near and dear to our hearts. It’s why Weave is such an intriguing RPG system to us. It is blending technology with beautiful components to create immersive story-driven experiences. The innovative format is also extremely accessible to players and storytellers no matter how experienced (or not) they are. Instead of being bogged down by rulebooks, handbooks, and supplements while trying to navigate an overwhelming character sheet, Weave promises that players can create a character in seven minutes and get playing in fifteen minutes. That is something that opens the world of RPGs up to anyone who wants to play them, and that’s exciting.

Weave 1 (1)

Weave is the latest game from Monocle Society. Early on, the game’s graphic designer Brianna Johnson was brought in after her time working with software designer Kyle Kinkade. He met Brianna when they worked together on Goldieblox and the Movie Machine, which earned Best of 2014 for the App Store for Kid’s apps. Brianna has been a designer and creative director in the tech industry for the past 10 years. She helped with physical design at Apple, then moved over to Goldieblox, which focuses on STEM engineering toys for girls. As she put it: “Weave has been a passion project for me, really. This was my first time, as a professional, to have been trusted with such complete and unprecedented creative control over a project, freedom that allowed me to produce exactly the type of role-playing game I myself would buy. And, that’s exactly what I did.”

Brianna didn’t have a background in RPGs, and in designing the tarot-inspired cards for Weave, she created the look of Weave without previous expectations of how an RPG should look. Her modern sensibilities have given Weave a unique style onto its own.

Weave 2

She described the style to be fresh and different from all other existing tabletop RPGs. “It had to be fantastical, fun, and sophisticated in order to fit the broad target user-base for Weave. I drew inspiration from the boldness of late 70’s and early 80’s-era graphics and gave them the refined angularity of Art Deco. A sort of Milton Glaser meets Apple, if you will.”

Kyle Kinkade, is an experienced mobile game designer and developer since the launch of the app store, worked closely with Brianna to make the app work seamlessly with the physical cards.  In bringing his technology experience to the table, and blending storytelling through the components with the free Weave app, he and his team at Monocle Society were able to architect a way to drive the gameplay in a way that was mechanically minimal while still being compelling and challenging for players. As he told us, “The core ruleset is designed to be as accessible as possible to introduce as many people as possible to the concept of RPGs.”

What does character creation look like? Players select 4 story cards and scan the cards with the Weave app. The app then generates a character to fit within the ethos of the playset. It ensures every character is unique and fits nicely into the world of the game playsets. The app also stores games, characters, and progress online.

Weave 3

Weave will have four story settings (playsets) upon release, all of which look really exciting and accessible:

  • Xorte/IO: A cyberpunk adventure from the distant future
  • DRGN: A modern take on classic fantasy RPG settings
  • Solar Age: A space adventure in the style of 1950s pulp science fiction
  • Gloomies: Every 80s kids movie trope shoved into a small town

The physical box will never go stale, because the rules and playsets live in the app. Monocle Society, publishers of Weave, is already planning more releases to ensure that the game stays fresh.  For example, in December they plan on releasing another playset: Clique, a high school drama in the style of John Hughes’ movies or Mean Girls. They look at the game as a living system meaning that they’ll continue to evolve features and gameplay consistently with quarterly releases. Future plans for the game include a playset creator for players and writers to create playsets to share with their friends, and even submit them to Weave‘s storefront for sale for others to enjoy.

If you’re looking for an accessible, immersive, and innovative roleplaying experience, this is the game for you.

Pre-order the physical components on the Monocle Society’s website. If you’re attending PAX Unplugged, be sure to try the game out for yourself at booth #548.

Image Credits: Monocle Society

This is a sponsored post.

Join Whitney Moore in the Apocalyptic Future with Thrashtopia!

Nov 15 2017

Coming to you live from her super secret post-apocalyptic bunker, Whitney Moore has a special message from the future: Welcome to Thrashtopia!!

Thrashtopia-Whitney-01

Thrashtopia is the only show in the wasteland that has Whitney Moore, weird technology, advanced A.I. friendships, incredible sound effects, very special or very scary guests, heavy metal, cool art, your past coming back to haunt you, apocalyptic educational videos, and a bunch of other fun stuff!

Hosted by Whitney Moore and her pal BunkerBot (Jason Charles Miller), Thrashtopia is not just a dystopian variety show, it might also help you survive the Cyberwars of the future… So be sure to take notes.

Thrashtopia-Logo-01

Tune in every Wednesday exclusively on Alpha for surprise guests, weird inventions, and a preview of what life is like in the bunker. Don’t have Alpha yet? Sign up now and get a 30-day free trial!

Old vs. New: The Changes To ‘Legend of the Five Rings’

Nov 15 2017

Game the Game is Geek & Sundry’s tabletop board game show that airs every Wednesday starting at 4PM PT on Twitch and Alpha. Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing “Legend of the Five Rings LCG.” Be sure to check out her How to Play video before tuning in.

Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) has been a long time staple in the card playing community, having been around since 1995. The game centers around a fictional land called Rokugan, which feels very much like feudal Japan. There are seven Great Clans at war with each other. Every clan has their own flavor: Scorpion are the sneaky underhand of the Emperor while the Lion are the military might.

The game universe has evolved over time. Players could affect the overall storyline of the game by winning tournaments and earn their name on a card if their actions influenced its creation. It was not uncommon to see players dressed in kimonos matching their clan’s colors. The story drove the card game, which in turn drove the story and altered future supplements of the roleplaying game.

When the news broke that Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), the original publisher of L5R sold the property to Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) in 2015, a lot of fans waited with baited breath. How different would the new Living Card game (LCG) be from the old Collectible Card Game (CCG)?

For new players, this is a great time to get into the game if you were hesitant due to the amount you’d need to spend to catch up. The rules are well laid out and there is a tutorial in the box set. For longtime players who are nervous about getting back into the game, here are some of the updates the game received.

Two decks

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This was one of the main worries with the update: would FFG keep the two deck system? This was always an integral part of the game, and it was kept in the new game. The only change that was made was the name change of the Fate deck to Conflict deck.

Provinces and Strongholds

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FFG kept the four province layout, but added a new mechanic to play: each of your provinces holds a province card that tells its strength instead of that being determined by your stronghold. Your stronghold also has a province card because it to must be broken for your opponent to win the game.

Dynasty Phase

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The buying of your personalities has been moved to the beginning of the round. This is because personalities without fate on them are discarded at the end of the round. You now need to decide if you want to spend your all fate on a big guy that will go away at the end of the round or buy a couple of smaller guys, drop a point or two of fate on them, and keep them around for a few more rounds.

Turns vs. Rounds

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In most card games, each player takes a full turn before play moves on to the other player. In the new version, the game is broken into rounds where both players take actions. The first player plays a character from their provinces, triggers card abilities, or passes. Then the other player does the same.  This leads to a lot of social deduction. Do you pass early to gain the extra fate point or do you snag another personality to ward off an attack?

Gold vs. Fate

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Gold has been replaced with fate, so you no longer have to balance gold producing holdings with personalities in your Dynasty deck. So long Copper Mine! Your Stronghold determines how much fate you acquire at the beginning of the round. While it is limiting, there are a couple of ways to gain a bit more: passing first on buying personalities and using an elemental conflict that hasn’t been played in awhile.

Combat

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The draw phase is where you secretly choose how many cards you want to draw on your honor dial. After revealing, the player with the higher honor dial gives the lower player the difference between their dials. Then you draw the number of cards you chose.

The attacker chooses what elemental type their conflict will be and what type (Military or Political). They then pick where they will be attacking. Defending player declares defenders and both play cards out of their hands to influence the conflict.  If the attacker wins, they get to resolve if they broke the province and gain the element’s effects. Then it’s the other player’s turn to attack.

Losing vs Breaking Provinces

The worst part of losing provinces was the loss of the possible card that went with it.  In the previous version of the game, it tipped the scale in the favor of the player that scored the first major victory. FFG corrected that power imbalance by turning the province card 180 degrees but allowing dynasty cards to continue to be laid there. If a face-up card is still on a broken province, it is discarded at the end of the round.

While the rules have changed to accommodate new ways to play like political combat, the game still feels like the Rokugan we’ve come to know and love. FFG is keeping the tradition of tournaments driving future storyline events and posting new fiction on their site if you want to dive headfirst into the world of L5R.

Interested in learning how to play? Join host Becca Scott every Wednesday as she breaks out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing “Legend of the Five Rings LCG” starting at 4 PM PT – catch the show live every Wednesday on Twitch and Alpha

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Image Credit: Dawn Dalton

A Guide to Star Trek’s Mirror Universe Episodes

Nov 14 2017

Every Monday at 7:00 PM PT, a talented crew roleplays their way through the galaxy to fulfill a mission: to boldly go where no one has gone before. Follow the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.

The universe of Star Trek is full of hope, optimism and the idea that humanity is basically good. These general themes have allowed various parts of the franchise to glimpse into another version of the setting full of pain, betrayal and evil facial hair. Star Trek may not have invented the evil reflection style character, but Spock’s goatee in the first Mirror Universe episode is certainly one of the reasons the trope is called the Beard of EvilShield of Tomorrow, our Star Trek RPG show, recently took a trip into this universe, but nearly every version of Star Trek had made a stop there, either on film or in the comics and novels. Here’s a look at the episodes that helped define this fascinating alternate reality.

The Original Series

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The first glimpse comes in the appropriately titled “Mirror, Mirror, which gives the dark version of Star Trek its name. Kirk, Bones, Uhura and Scotty beam up from tense negotiations with a delegation for a planet full of dilithium crystals to find themselves about an Enterprise that’s different. An ion storm caused the quartet to beam aboard and alternate Enterprise…while their evil counterparts came to the original ship. Kirk navigates a universe where Starfleet officers advance through treachery and violence, trying to recreate the accident that brought them over, while trying to keep the Mirror Universe Spock from destroying the aliens below. The original series had a few episodes where the crew played evil or strange versions of themselves, but the intrigue and parallels between characters are strong in this initial outing.

Deep Space Nine

DS9mirror

This series dirtied up the squeaky clean image of Starfleet with shifting alliances and moral questions with no clear answers. The show visited the Mirror Universe several times, starting with a trip through the wormhole in the second season episode “Crossover” where Bashir and Nerys discover that the mirror universe Kirk was influenced so much by the time he spent in the prime universe that he changed the Terran Empire just enough for it to fall to an alliance of Klingons and Cardassians. In the third season, Sisko is kidnapped by the Terran Rebels of the Mirror Universe to save the life of his counterpart’s wife in “Through The Looking Glass.” The fourth season brought “Shattered Mirror” to the airwaves, where Jake Sisko is used to lure Benjamin Sisko back to the Mirror Universe to help the rebels build a version of the Defiant and defeat a Klingon fleet led by Mirror Universe Worf. “Resurrection” in the fifth season centers around the relationship between Kira Nerys and the Mirror Universe’s Bareil Antos as a cover for the theft of the Orb from the prime universe to the Mirror Universe. The last trip, “The Emperor’s New Cloak”, offers a sixth season heist episode featuring Quark, the Ferengi, and a cloaking device that might just win the war for the rebels.

Enterprise

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The opening of the Enterprise episodes that take place inside the Mirror Universe open with a literal bang that highlights where their universe may have diverged from the one fans know. Zephram Cochrane blasts the Vulcan that he makes first contact with a shotgun and tells his fellow earthlings to loot the alien ship. In A Mirror, Darkly” is different from previous episodes in two ways: it’s a linked episode and the only one that doesn’t feature characters crossing over from the prime universe. What does crossover is the USS Defiant, last seen in the Tholian Web episode from the original series. The ISS Enterprise (the Mirror Universe counterpart of the USS Enterprise) is destroyed during the episode, but the battle over who controls the technologically advanced Defiant pushes the Mirror Universe crew in some unexpected directions.

Each of these episodes offers a chance to tell stories outside of the usual continuity with actors having fun playing different versions of familiar characters. Star Trek has a love of time travel, but these alternate universe episodes allow for not just the ability to revisit characters that have been killed off, but also show how the actions of the heroes can affect a universe full of darkness. Ultimately, the Mirror Universe is there to reflect just how good the main characters are and how they can make more than one reality a better place.

Geek and Sundry has its own talented crew, exploring the vastness of the Star Trek universe on our RPG show Shield of Tomorrow. Join them every Monday at 7:00 PM PT on Twitch and Alpha.

Image Credits: CBS

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, where he is currently reviewing classic Star Wars RPG adventures. His Twitter is here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

Critters Gift Buyer’s Guide: Ho-Ho-How Do You Want to Do This?

Nov 14 2017

Critical Role is Geek & Sundry’s live Dungeons & Dragons show, featuring Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his troupe of fellow voice actors. Catch them every Thursday night at 7:00 PM PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to treat your friends (and yourself!) to some Critical Role themed goodies. Get a jump on your holiday shopping before Winter’s Crest is officially here to make sure your gifts arrive in time.

Critter Buyers Guide

Here are a few gift ideas from the Geek & Sundry store and from fans inspired by everyone’s favorite group of nerdy-ass voice actors that will make you the hero of the holidays.

Take a look at the gallery below for gift suggestions.

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Featured Image: Claire O’Reilly

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