Mar 26 2017
Grab your beard and your axe, it’s time to get to work in the cool, deep depths of a glittering mine. These three gems of tabletop games will make you feel like you’re a dwarf scowling in the dark, dangerous mines of Moria–or one of Snow White’s friends happily heading to work, depending on the ages of the players you’re enjoying the day with.
Spend your Tabletop Day mining for victory as you dig into these game treasures.
The dwarf king has died, and only the dwarf who collects the most treasure from the mine’s depths can claim the throne. In this updated version of the press-your-luck dice game, roll the dice to win gems and score big. To get started, players draw objective cards with gem combinations to score bonus points at the end of the game. Then it’s time pick a clan and roll the dice.
Your dice roll combination wins the matching gem; for example, four of a kind when called scores you a diamond, or two pairs of matching dice wins an emerald. Each gem type that you dig up from the mine has its own victory point value and special ability. You can choose to keep each gem you unearth, or take a gamble and use its ability to score even more shiny loot. Push your luck and pull those gems, and you might sit on the dwarven throne.
2-6 Players, Ages 10+
Created by two kids and their father one rainy afternoon, DragonStone Mine! is a light family strategy game. Build towers with the DragonStones, precious gems found in the deep dwarven mines, and be the first to finish all six towers on the game board. But the powers of the DragonStones can be used against you as other players race to finish their own towers first.
On a player’s turn they will “mine” gems by drawing them from the bag. Follow the color rules based on the gems retrieved, such rubies always being placed on another player’s tower or drawing an additional gem when you pick a sapphire. Points are tallied at the end of the game for towers completed, extra gems, and gem patterns on the towers.
2-4 Players, Ages 5+
You and your fellow dwarves have five days to explore a recently discovered mine. Each day, the dwarves can sell their mined treasures, and the highest final tally on the last day determines who will own the mine. Can you push your luck and outsmart your dwarven competitors to win it all?
On each turn, draw crystals from the bag to mine them. Collect multiples of one color or one of each to make the most money when you sell at the end of the round. But be careful: If you draw two obsidian out of the bag, you’re kicked out of the mine for that round. If you choose to sell your sparkly loot instead of mining, you can save the money or spend it on action cards for a future turn. Mine, buy and sell, and play your cards right to say, “That mine is mine!”
3-5 Players, Ages 14+
Do you know another gaming gem? Tell us about it in the comments.
Featured Image: Passport Game Studios
Other Images: Disney, Grey Gnome Games, Legion Supplies, Passport Game Studios
Mar 26 2017
Perhaps my personal favorite genre is the negotiation game. It’s all about wheeling and dealing as you try to put your own fortune ahead of your opponents’. But you can’t do it just by lucky rolls and smooth strategy. You need to convince your adversaries to give you what you want. All while they do the same to you. It makes for a grand time and exciting experiences with every play. If you’re interested in this genre, here’s a sample menu for your International Tabletop Day celebration.
Appetizer – Bohnanza
The players take on the role of bean farmers in order to sell the greatest harvest. Yes, bean farming. In Bohnanza, you can plant everything from black-eyed beans and green beans to wax beans and stink beans. The more you plant, the greater the reward when you eventually harvest them.
The trick, though, is that you can only plant two kinds of beans at a time. If you have to plant a third type, then you are forced to uproot one of your earlier fields. Plus, you have to play cards from your hand in order. In order to avoid uprooting plants, players are constantly negotiating and trading with one another. Sometimes you really want to get another bean so you can plant it for more points. Other times, you just need to get rid of something so you won’t have to plant it. Every turn is a flurry of activity as deals are negotiated, usurped, and eventually struck.
Bohnanza is on the lighter side and is a great way to whet the pallet. It also does something that all good negotiation games do: it encourages you to trade. Sometimes a good game can provide a less than spectacular session because a player is uncomfortable putting their suggestions out there. This title mitigates that because if you don’t say something, you’ll end up uprooting your crops early.
Main Course – Genoa
With the appetizer out of the way, it’s time to delve into something a little more meaty. And that’s Genoa (or, in older editions, Traders of Genoa). Here, everything is negotiable. As the players secure contracts to grab goods or special actions, they can trade anything and everything to do so. That includes not only money and the goods themselves, but also the contracts and even ownership of various buildings.
Each turn, one player controls the merchant. He rolls the dice to place the merchant and then decides where it will go and which actions will be taken. The other players then offer that player coins, goods, or empty promises to ensure the merchant moves where they want it. The merchant player is king and his justice is swift. But then, on the next turn, someone else becomes the merchant. So if you abuse your power when you have it, you’ll be left in the cold on every other turn.
In this way, Genoa gives everyone control. Each player has the chance to be in control and can use that power however they see fit. No one is entirely without recourse. Plus, because the merchant player makes all the decisions, it encourages the other players to negotiate with him or her. They’ll need to bargain in order to get what they want. Otherwise, they may never make it to that pub to get the items they need.
Dessert – Intrigue
With the night winding down, it’s time to bring out Intrigue. This game puts negotiation on the razor’s edge. It isn’t just about striking a deal, because the deals that are made are often broken in spectacular fashion. Instead, it’s about reading the incentives of the other players and making your offers accordingly.
Each player is a philanthropist looking to hire various scholars to work in his manor. You also have a slate of scholars you’d like to send to the other player’s manors where they will work and then send home their income. When two scholars arrive for the same job, though, the manor-holder decides who stays and who is banished. Banishment pays very little.
What’s more, when two scholars are sent to the same place, all deals are conducted in turn order. So if I have two doctors vying for a position, I’ll first negotiation with one player. He pays me 20 to keep his scholar. I accept the money. Then I negotiate with the second player. He pays me 30 to keep his scholar and kick out the first guy’s. I accept the money. Only once I have the money in hand do I decide who to kick out. As you can see, betrayal and mistrust rule the day in this game. That’s why its best to save Intrigue for dessert. You may hate your friends by the end of it.
Do you have any negotiation games planned for Tabletop Day? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image Credits: Rio Grande Games, Filosofia, and Mayfair Games
Featured Image Credit: Filosofia
Mar 25 2017
Chickapig was game created by Brian Calhoun with the help of a little-known musician and Calhoun’s good friend, Dave Matthews. It has no real story to it; the goal is just that you want to get all six of your chickapigs to their goal on the other side. The game is very much like chess or chinese checkers but with cute hybrid farm animals, cows, poop, hay, and daisies. It’s seriously very simple, very adorable, and very fun. It only has up to four players but that easily makes it the right amount of strategic for everyone involved.
Now, the goal is to move the chickapigs across to the gate that matches their color (red, green, blue, and yellow). The first player to get all six of their chickapigs into their gate wins the game. But first, you have to determine who starts gameplay and Chickapig makes that easy so that players don’t have call the “house rules” card: it’s the player with the highest roll and it moves clockwise from there. The person going first then rolls the die to determine how many moves you will get. This is the one thing that wasn’t completely clear when I initially read the instructions but one move is counted when you move either a chickapig, cow, or hay bale ONE space either vertically or horizontally and never diagonally. The second you move any of these one space then it will count as a move; thus, moving any two of these one space will count as a total of two moves and so on. The reason that is important is because the chickapigs don’t stop moving until they encounter a chickapig, cow, hay bale, the side of a gate (goal), or the edge of the game board. You have to plan strategically as to where you place everything to get your chickapig in your goal.
Since rolling a one or a two would be a little inconvenient and have the gameplay grow boring and/or repetitive, Chickapig does something a little different. Rolling a one means that you get to move the cow and place it anywhere on the board. Rolling a two means that you get a daisy card. The first time a player rolls a one, it removes the cow fence from the board, and the cow becomes a movable piece for all players. Every time a player rolls a one and places the cow anywhere on the board, it leaves a poop tile. Poop is bad. It doesn’t stop chickapigs but it does make the player draw a poop card. Poop cards literally never help you. They only hurt. They always give you up and they always run around and desert you. While playing the game, my mother (the only person I play test games with, apparently) drew one and it made her miss two full turns. Once you’ve drawn it, you must use it immediately and then it goes back into the deck. When a player rolls a two on the die, they get a daisy card. Assuming that no one is allergic to flowers then these are always good but you can only have one at a time and you can’t use it on the turn that you drew it. I managed to keep rolling this and getting out of a lot of trouble but mostly I avoided the consequences of poops (and I still lost the game).
The last important thing to know about the game is that the instructions deem it illegal to completely block another player’s gate. You can make it harder on them and you can block one half of it but you can never completely stop them from getting in and scoring. I found this to be a really nice rule because it could easily have gotten very frustrating never being able to get to your gate and not being able to move your opponent’s pieces. Then a small added bonus is an hourglass if you want to time people when they are moving. If they run out of time, the next player gets to go. It’s not a necessary element to the game but it can help smooth things along in a four person game.
I, personally, really loved the game. The pieces and artwork are simplistic but cute and engaging; it really brings you into a world where chickapigs exist and everything is as simple as poop and daisies. Furthermore, it’s easy to teach people and it’s good for all ages to play. I would even liken it to the popular family game, Sorry, in many ways. The game is also fun, engaging, and no match takes too long; for my mother and me, we managed to finish it in about 30-45 minutes. I give this game a four and a half chickapigs out of five (more than enough to leave a family satisfied).
Is this a game you would want to check out? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credits: Blythe Wiedemann
Mar 25 2017
It takes a group awhile to click on a new system. Some people catch on quick, but there’s that one player that is still staring at their character sheet in confusion six months in. A lot of GMs stick to one game to keep the sessions flowing, while others just tough out telling players the same thing every week until they learn the new system.
Savage Worlds is the best of both worlds: a solid base set of rules and a ton of games that use them. Savage Worlds Deluxe introduces you to the fast and flexible system.
All players (also known as Wild Cards) start out with a d4 in all their attributes. This is a point buy system so terrible dice luck in character creation doesn’t affect you. The better you are at something, the higher die type it gets. Skills are the same in that if you want to be an expert archer, buy your shooting skill all the way to a d12. Edges and Hindrances give you and your GM backstory to play with and your character some personality.
When you make a roll, it’s your skill or trait plus a d6, keep the higher result. Maxed out the die? Keep rolling and adding it to the total. Yes, you can get double digits on a d4; I’ve seen it happen.
The thing I love about this system is initiative. Everyone is dealt a card from the deck. Order of play goes from Aces to Two and you get dealt new cards for the next round. There are some Edges that allow you to exchange bad cards for another draw from the deck. If you pull the Joker, you get to go whenever you want and get a boost to your rolls for that round.
Your dice hate you tonight? Spend a Benny to reroll. Bennies are your extra bit of luck. You start each session with three, but your GM can award them for good role playing or anything else, including playing your Hindrances well.
All versions of Savage Worlds use the same basics with each system adding its own flavor. With all the different flavors available, may I suggest some books and movies to give you inspiration for your game? Here are a few of my favorites:
Things that go bump in the night aren’t just the overactive imaginations of little kids. Set in Pinebox, TX where things aren’t always what they seem. These will bring more horror to the table. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural TV shows. Just any Urban Fantasy book would also work (Dresden Files by Jim Butcher or Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs are my top choices).
Everyone loves a good pirate adventure. Get yourself a boat and a crew to sail the high seas. 50 Fathoms has more of a magic spin while Pirates of the Spanish Main is just straight piracy. You’ll want to watch some Errol Flynn movies or Pirates of the Caribbean to get in the mood. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson wouldn’t go amiss here either.
Necessary Evil & Super Powers Companion
These are going to expand on the superpowers introduced in the main book and give you ideas if you want a gadget powered superhero. Necessary Evil is geared more to playing villains. Inspiration should include Suicide Squad or any super hero movie from the last decade, unless you want your game to be cheesy and then you want Adam West Batman. Comic books are the thing to read for ideas on characters to make.
It’s time to go to the wild west. Only this isn’t your daddy’s western. Magic and mundane mix in this take on the old west. Grab your sixshooter and go hunt some monsters. Just about any Western or Westworld will get you rolling. Louis L’amour mixed with some H.P. Lovecraft for the creepy aspects.
Hell on Earth Reloaded
Someone had the great idea to make weapons with nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and ghost rock. Welcome to a post-apocalyptic wasteland that was the result. Magic mixes with toxic powers. Survive if you can in this desolate wasteland. Go watch the Mad Max movies or Tank Girl.
Set in the Deadlands world in the 1930s. This is your pulpy, dark era. Try surviving a corrupt government while fending off the things that lurk in the shadows. Make your own hard boiled private eye or crazy inventor. You’re going to want to go with some old fashioned pulp novels for this setting. Dick Tracy? Good choice.
Fans of the series by Palladium books will love a spin in this multi-genre game. Every universe you could think of is connected through a rift on the Earth. This is your blender of games. Want to play a cyberpunk while your buddy plays a gunslinger from the wild west? You can do it. The sky’s the limit on this one. Choose your own adventure on what mix of inspiration you want.
These aren’t the only games that use the Savage World engine. Other games include: Lankhmar, Rippers, Space 1889, Last Parsec, Savage World of Solomon Kane, Sixth Gun, and all of the Weird Wars. Hope this gives you some ideas to use to start utilizing Savage Worlds in your group. It’s a little overwhelming to start up a new game, but having one that can do just about everything is a great way to keep your sessions fresh and moving along. Enjoy the multi-tool that is Savage Worlds.
Do you agree or have other ideas for inspiration? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Mar 24 2017
A lot can happen in a minute. A racing heart can beat more than a hundred times. And Netflix’s first teaser for its upcoming adaptation of Death Note can actually reveal much with just a handful of fleeting glimpses.
This is the latest incarnation of a pop horror phenom that started as a manga and quickly spread to adaptations in anime, film, novels, video games, live-action TV, and even a stage musical. Though the setting has been shifted to Seattle, diehard fans will recognize a lot of key details showing where this will be a faithful adaptation, and where it will follow its own dark muses.
First, here’s a Reader’s Die-gest recap of the story. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun. It’s Death Note!).
Out of boredom, a demon quite literally drops a cursed notebook into the life of a high schooler named Light. Whoever writes a name into the tome can specify the date, time, and circumstances of that person’s demise. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t take long for such dreadful power to go to this kid’s head. Styling himself a modern day deity, “Kira,” Light starts magically executing a swath of criminals whom he perceives as having evaded just punishment. His targets quickly expand, though, to include anybody who may discover the secret of his alter ego or simply get in his way.
This rash of killings soon attracts the attention of a broad cross-section of society. Criminals come to fear a “death god.” Regular, law-abiding folk come to worship him. Various copycats imitate his vigilantism. World-class sleuths pursue him. And the demon who gifted the Death Note to Light even starts tagging along to simply see what happens next.
Nat Wolff leads this adaptation. One significant quality differentiating his “Light Turner” from the Light Yagami of the anime is that he at least seems to be a brooder even before he acquires the Death Note. A big part of the character’s dichotomy was that, by all outward appearances, he was a popular kid without any demons–inner or otherwise. Nobody would expect him to be commanding gangsters to kill themselves and then scrawl a message for Kira in their own blood (as seen above). Fans of the show even jumped on a meme that rather undeniably likened him to Zac Efron.
In the vein of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, there was a fascinating sociopathy on display. This serial killer could keep his deadly tactics to the confines of his bedroom, then just shut the Death Note whenever he felt like and go smile with his friends in the sunshine. A shade of that dichotomy might still be here, but this Light does look pretty grim all the time.
Of course, while we’re making Bat-comparisons, the character who more directly resembles the caped crusader is, of course, the monogrammic master detective L. In this version, he’s portrayed by Keith Stanfield and he’s got a more Mr. Robot-esque sense of style.
While Kira’s vigilante campaign baffles the police on an almost existential level–how can you identify a suspect who isn’t even physically present at any killings?-L has such a brilliance for pattern recognition, he can actually find suspects in an impossible case. Watching these two masterminds match wits is a joy in any iteration.
The trailer also features a quick look at Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton, a version of Light’s biggest admirer, Misa Misa. The kills also seem to have more of a Final Destination style of macabre ingenuity, too. And, of course, Willem Dafoe appears at the very end as the demon Ryuk, a role he was pretty much born to play.
Are you excited? Intrigued? Repulsed? How does this compare to the Death Note anime?
Image Credits: Netflix
Mar 24 2017
There are a ton of awesome games out there, with new ones coming every year. Heck, every major convention seems to spawn a host of innovative titles. It can be challenging or impossible to play everything that seems exciting. But International Tabletop Day is a great opportunity to try things you haven’t before. There’s lots of reasons great games may seem out of reach, but ITTD fixes a ton of those.
GAMES THAT NEED A BIGGER GROUP
Many gamers meet in homes and shops. Depending on your setup, you might be happy whenever three or four show up for game night. And if that’s the case, some games seem totally outside your reach. Captain Sonar is a brilliant title, but you really need six or eight for the best experience. Two competing teams pilot submarines in a deepwater assault. On each side, you have different roles like Captain, First Mate, and Engineer. They take care of their own assignments to be attack ready. And the Radio Operator listens in on the other team to try to figure out where they are.
Captain Sonar is a fabulous game that works beautifully – but only when you have enough players. It may be playable (theoretically) with less, but it loses something. On Tabletop Day, though, you can head to any friendly local game store and find a ton of like-minded people ready to start gaming. It should be much less difficult to try out this unique title.
Secret Hitler pushes into the social deduction genre with Liberals and Fascists. The Fascists know each other, as well as the secret Hitler. Their goal is to either pass six fasicst laws or elect Hitler chancellor after three fascist laws have passed. Meanwhile, the Liberals are trying to enact five liberal laws without seeing interference from the unknown but active fascists.
The result is a great deduction game without player elimination. Plus, everyone has a bit of cover because it is possible for luck of the draw to result in a fascist law. That said, you need at least five players and the more you have the better. So ITTD again provides a great opportunity to try out something new.
GAMES WITH A HIGH PRICE TAG
Every year, there are some amazing games that come with apps, minis, and super creative systems. But, unfortunately, they sometimes also come with huge price tags. But on ITTD, you’re likely to find someone with the new hotness looking for a group. Or, even better, a local game story giving away a free sample by letting you play one of those high price games to tantalize you into buying it.
A great example is Mechs vs. Minions. This cooperative game features two to four players piloting mechs in an onslaught against huge numbers of marauding minions. Players have to work together to handle the huge numbers of enemies. But you can’t just move at will. Instead, it uses programmatic movement that forces careful planning and anticipation of what is likely to happen next. But with a $75 price tag, it may be daunting to purchase up front. But if you get a chance to play it first, and realize you love it, getting it might make more sense.
Another great example is Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition. Mansions brings a horror genre RPG to the world of board gaming. Best yet, it is fully cooperative without the need for an “Overlord” or GM. You also get a free app that not only skillfully handles a lot of the hidden information, but also does a great job of using sound and atmosphere to really convey the setting. But with a $100 MSRP, it might not be an immediate purchase for anyone in your group. On ITTD, though, you’re much more likely to get to try it without plunking down your money first.
The hottest trend in gaming right now is the Legacy style game. Where the choices you make in one play session become permanent additions or changes to the game from then on out. Crazy awesome! But they come with a huge logistic difficulty: they are ideal only when you have a dedicated group willing to play 15-20 sessions or more of the same title. That’s not always easy. One or two sessions might be played with enthusiasm, but then something else shiny comes out and you never get to the awesome ending of Pandemic Legacy.
And this can be especially true for the newest Legacy games like Gloomhaven or Seafall. Both games require multiple plays before you even start unlocking some of the core systems of the game. And on a week to week basis, that can be difficult. But if you have a whole day set aside for gaming – like, say, ITTD – then you have the perfect opportunity to burn through several sessions in one sitting. You may not be able to get through the entire Legacy campaign, but you can certainly charge deep enough in to get to the really intriguing stuff. And that might mean it’s easier to continue on with it on regular game nights. ITTD nicely minimizes the logistical difficulties inherent to Legacy games.
Are there specific games or types of games you’re looking forward to playing on ITTD? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image Credits: Asmodee Games, Riot Games, and Cephalofair Games
Featured Image Credit: Cephalofair Games
Mar 24 2017
“How is he this good?” Taliesin Jaffe referring to Travis Willingham, “Daring Days“
Week after week, fans are treated to amazing role-playing from the entire cast of Critical Role.
Role-playing in your own group can be daunting, but you can look at the consistently incredible portrayal of Grog Strongjaw for tips for getting started embracing your character’s personality—with advice straight from Travis Willingham himself.
Slight spoilers for Critical Role follow.
When you’re just getting into a character, it might be tempting to weigh every word and consider your options furiously to craft the “perfect” response when something happens in the game. But more often than not, your gut reaction to how your character would act in any given situation will be the most true to that character. And Grog is all about gut reactions.
“[Critical Role] is just like getting to play pretend and having an excuse to do that,” said Travis in an interview last summer at San Diego Comic-Con. “For me, I just show up every week, and it’s literally the first and/or second thing that pops into my head in any situation. And that’s what comes out.”
Listen to and play off your group
Never forget that you’re not alone–your fellow players are crafting your character’s story as much as you are. Avoid the temptation to zone out when they’re interacting with the DM, as you might learn something about their character that you can play off at a later time.
You also don’t always have to give a big speech or make a grand gesture to when a moment happens between your character and another. In a recent episode of Talks Machina (“Talking Critical Role – Episode 89”), Travis recalled an interaction with Liam O’Brien that paid off later.
“I as a player was beyond moved by [Liam/Vax] coming down into the workshop and just saying it straight to my face,” said Travis. “I had no reaction. I’m always one to crack a joke or do some word play or something… I didn’t have a reaction because I didn’t want to spoil it. I thought it should be left it at that.”
Embrace your character’s weakness
When creating a character’s personality, it’s easy to overlook the character’s actual stats. The cast of Critical Role, however, are very aware of their characters’ flaws–beyond just the numbers.
In Talks Machina episode “Talking Critical Role – Episode 89,” Travis mentioned that when he and Sam Riegel discussed character creation recently, Sam put into a words a philosophy that makes Grog who he is. Develop a character with a weakness and play the weakness, Sam said, and it’s an approach Travis has used with Grog since the beginning.
“We like the cracks, we like the dirty, broken [characters],” said Travis. “When I got that [INT] 6, I was like, ‘That’s all I need to know [about Grog].’
“If you do like RP and you have a group that loves it, lean into that low stat, because that’s where I think the funny comes from, and, sort of, the endearing parts of the character.”
What tips do you give new role-players? Share them in the comments.
Featured Image: Jesse Larsen
Mar 24 2017
In memory of Bernie Wrightson, 1948-2017
This week on The Wednesday Club, hosts Amy Dallen, Taliesin Jaffe, and Matt Key talked about their favorite horror comics in a tribute to the incredible artist Bernie Wrightson. Wrightson’s work on books like Swamp Thing and Frankenstein made a lasting impression on the hosts. “His fingerprints are on every book I love of the genre,” said Taliesin.
Here are just a few of our intrepid hosts’ favorite comics of the horror genre, all guaranteed to make you sleep with the lights on tonight.
Swamp Thing made his debut in House of Secrets #92. Amy shared the character’s history, both fictional and real-life, with a memorable anecdote about the title of the book. “In the process of working on it, he kept calling it ‘that swamp thing I’m working on,’ and that’s literally how they got the name,” said Amy.
Swamp Thing is the story of Alec Holland, a scientist working on a government project so secret they decided to relocate him. “So they put him in this barn in the middle of the swamp in Louisiana,” Amy said. “Unfortunately, some bad dudes found Dr. Alec Holland and his wife, Dr. Linda Holland, and things immediately went very, very wrong.”
Dark Genesis collects House of Secrets #92 and the first ten issues of Swamp Thing Volume 1.
(Vertigo Comics, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson)
The reins of Swamp Thing were later handed over to Alan Moore for his own memorable run. “The Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing with Stephen Bissette and John Totleben changed comics forever,” Amy said, and Taliesin agreed.
“It’s such an interesting take,” said Taliesin. “It changes the character forever, in a great way. It changes his relationship with his wife. This was the run that introduced a little character called John Constantine.”
(Vertigo Comics, Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben)
Another Alan Moore book, From Hell, is among Taliesin’s favorites. This imagining of Jack the Ripper’s life pieced together historical details to make the era and setting as accurate and plausible as possible. “It was a painstakingly researched piece of historical fiction,” said Taliesin, “but then added on this psychedelic serial killer vibe to it. There’s no mystery as to who Jack the Ripper is. You find out in Chapter 2.
“It’s interesting, it’s dark, it’s weird, it’s sad, and it doesn’t make you feel good.”
(Top Shelf Productions, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell)
This hard-to-find book (not to be confused with the current Oni Press title of the same name) is a un-hosted horror anthology with a Heavy Metal vibe. “This is one of the first horror books that I read and it had a huge impact on me,” said Taliesin. “The book had so much character.”
One story he recalled in particular told the tale of twelve people who pay exorbitant prices to eat a meal that will give them the greatest pleasure of their lives–and then kill them. “It’s so dark,” Taliesin said. “It’s so great.”
(DC Comics, Del Close, John Ostrander, Various Artists)
This horrific tale from Dark Horse Comics is one of Matt’s favorite of the genre. Harrow County follows Emmy, the reincarnation of a witch who lives in a village. “She leaves the village frustrated one day, and winds up being kind of followed by a dead boy’s skin,” said Matt. “And he becomes her best friend—just the skin—and it gets a little bit deeper.”
With a depiction of ghosts unlike any other, Matt was drawn to the series within just the first few issues. “It’s so creepy,” he said. “I love it.”
(Dark Horse Comics, Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook)
In addition to books from American masters like Wrightson, Amy, Taliesin, and Matt talked about a range of manga that left them just as wonderfully disturbed. Rumiko Takahashi, best known for Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, also penned a series of horror stories. “She did a series of little horror stories that are terrifying, really good and really scary and really sad,” said Taliesin. “It’s called Rumic World and published by Viz.”
Other standout manga titles mentioned by the hosts included Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, Berserk, Attack on Titan, and Gegege no Kitarou.
Amy, Taliesin, and Matt obviously love horror comics, and touched on several other titles including Wrightson’s Frankenstein, The Sandman: Seasons of Mist, Fatale, Locke & Key, Kid Eternity, Hellboy, and more.
Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel every Wednesday afternoon to catch the next amazing episode of The Wednesday Club. Next week the hosts chat about all things DC Comics.
What is your favorite horror comic? Tell us about it in the comments (but don’t scare us too much, okay?).
Images: Geek & Sundry,
Mar 24 2017
In case you missed it, last week, HBO took to Facebook Live to have a little fun announcing when Game of Thrones season seven will finally air by having fans type words that melted a large chunk of ice with the hidden date inside.
After about 10 minutes, the feed cut out because of technical difficulties but came back to finally reveal that the show will air on July 16, 2017, meaning that we’re all a few months away from seeing what our favorite characters are up to, who will finally take the Iron Throne, and who will be murdered in the weirdest of ways. If that doesn’t get you excited already, this new trailer should do the trick.
So what are we supposed to do until then, though? Well, if you haven’t already, we suggest gathering a bunch of friends and battling it out for the Iron Throne yourself in Game of Thrones Risk, which is also on sale right now on Amazon.
The game features all of the normal things associated with Risk. You have armies, a map, and some cards, which you will use strategically to obtain global domination by thwarting your enemies and making alliances. However, instead of using real countries, you can act as one of the houses of Westeros. Want to be a Stark? You can! A Tyrell? Sure. A Lannister? Yup–wait, are you sure? Either way, the pieces look pretty awesome.
Then, there’s the map, which features both Westeros and Essos, meaning that you could attempt to act out the story so far or even predict what battles will come up next season. Here’s Westeros:
The only trouble is that Westeros and Essos are on two separate maps. So you couldn’t, for example, position the Targaryen army on the coast of Essos and invade Westeros or vice versa unless you seriously mix up the rules. What you can do, though, is reenact the Battle of Winterfell or sack King’s Landing, taking whatever side you want. You could even rule above The Wall and make some wildling–or, Free Folk if you want to be polite about it–friends. Here’s a look at Essos:
On Essos, you could pretend you’re Daenerys and fight to gather an army massive enough to take back the Iron Throne like your crazed brother always wanted. Or maybe experiment with what would have happened if the kingdoms of Westeros sailed the Narrow Sea and took the fight to Daenerys’ doorstep.
The real takeaway here is that Risk is the perfect medium to get your blood pumping for Game of Thrones because if you really think about it, Risk embodies the core concept of the book and television series. You make alliances–some false, some honest–fight for land, amass huge armies, and strive for your place in the history books. If you add a bit of imagination to the whole ordeal, you could set up a nice campaign by roleplaying your way through the plotlines to see if your decisions end up lining up with the actual story.
You should be able to pick up the game at any quality game retailer
What house would you represent and what how would you plan to earn the Iron Throne? Tell us in the comments below.
Image Credits: Hasbro
Mar 24 2017
As I have mentioned before, the Warhammer 40K universe is one of the largest, most persistent science fiction universes in existence. While the universe is expansive, Games Workshop made the decision back in 2004 to freeze the timeline of the universe. This meant that stories could take place but that nothing major could happen that would impact the universe as a whole.
Well, 2016 marked the end of this freeze and we are seeing some incredibly cool and impactful changes happening in the 41st Millennium. Here is a list of highlights from the Wrath of Magnus and Gathering Storm source books of the continuing and now-evolving lore of the universe.
MAGNUS IS BACK AND HE IS ANGRY
How long can you hold a grudge? Is it for 10,000 years?
Magnus the Red ascended to Demonhood and has spent the last 10,000 years on a demon world just planning his revenge on the Space Wolves. Gathering the remains of his legion and all of the followers of Tzeentch, he personally leads an attack on Fenris; homeworld of the Space Wolves chapter.
While the attack is not nearly as successful as the one committed against Prospero in the early days of the Horus Heresy, all of the ice on Fenris is melted, it is irreversibly tainted by Chaos and the Space Wolves suffer massive losses.
ABADDON FINALLY DESTROYS CADIA
Abaddon the Despoiler has been trying to burn the galaxy with his black crusades for thousands of years. The presence of Cadia at the mouth of the Cadian gate has thwarted him countless times. Well, you know what they say, “Fool me 13 times, shame on you. Fool me 14 times, shame on me.”
Abaddon’s goal in the attack on Cadia was to destroy it with a ground war and finally destroy the Cadian Pylons – ancient alien artifacts which were holding the expansion of the Eye of Terror in check. In this goal, he was successful.
THE ELDAR MAKE A NEW GOD, SORT OF
Ynnead is the Eldar God of Death. The Eldar have long believed that when the last Eldar dies, there will be enough power in the spirit circuits to create Ynnead, who will destroy Slaanesh. Yvraine is an Eldar who was in a battle to the death with Lelith Hesperax (a terrible place to be). Like all before her, she lost and was slain by Lelith. But Ynnead wasn’t done with her. Marking her as an emissary, Ynnead brought Yvraine back to life.
Now A LOT of things happen between this part and the end but I’m going to skip through to the juicy stuff. Check out The Gathering Storm: Fracture of Biel-Tan for all the hijinks I’m skipping.
Yvraine sacrifices the central spirit stone of the Biel-Tan Craftworld and in so doing, creates an Avatar of Ynnead. Good news, an Avatar of an Eldar God is incredibly powerful. Bad news, sacrificing the central spirit stone basically kills the Craftworld.
ROBOUTE GUILLIMAN IS BACK
Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines has been in stasis for 10,000 years – since being fatally wounded by the Demon Primarch Fulgrim.
Thanks to the assistance of the Eldar (including the above-mentioned followers of Ynnead) and a crafty tech-priest, they were able to heal and armour Guilliman.
Similar to the above, check out The Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch for a whole lot of details that I’m skipping but Guilliman travels the Webway to Luna, fights and defeats Magnus and eventually heads to the Golden Throne to visit the Emperor. Emerging from the Emperor’s chambers, Roboute Guilliman declared himself Lord Commander of the Imperium and begins re-militarizing the Imperium on a scope not seen since the Great Crusade.
That’s a (very) brief highlight of what’s happening in the 40K universe and I for one, can’t wait to see what else is coming. What new Primarchs will return? What other galactic events are going to shake up the universe? Will the Emperor die and be reborn as the Star Child? Whatever may come, I’ll be there geeking out about it.
What do you want to see happen in the 41st Millennium? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Games Workshop & Forge World
Mar 23 2017
Rising Sun by CoolMiniOrNot on Kickstarter is rising in popularity and people are going nuts for the up and coming board game. Recently, they uploaded a full series of gameplay videos to their Kickstarter page and showed off just how the game mechanics should work and it’s freaking amazing.
First, the artwork to the game is incredibly intricate and gorgeous. Each figure is crafted to fit the style of each of the five clans (koi, dragonfly, bonsai, lotus, and turtle) and no two oni figures look the same. The oni are also significantly larger than the human-sized pieces and it adds to how ominous those figures are when in play on the board. I mean seriously, look at this scale:
Now, I realize that aesthetic only goes so far; there are many games with great designs but the games themselves aren’t actually enjoyable. But, upon watching the gameplay video, this game seems to be highly strategic but also highly engaging. Rising Sun allows for varying strategies and a lot of table talk. It can be played with anywhere from 3 to 5 players and each player picks a different clan with a different ability; for example, the Turtle clan gains mobile strongholds but the Dragonfly clan can fly to anywhere on the board.
The game is played in four seasons and it ends when winter comes around. Every season has a Political Phase and War Phase. The Political Phase focuses on political mandates and political alliances; during this phase, players are encouraged to form and/or betray alliances to gain different benefits. During the War Phase, players duke it out on the board for different territories. Allied clans do not fight each other during the War phase. This allows plays to talk, plan, and decide if they want to play more honorable or less honorable and there is no wrong way to play the game. In the video, one player makes it to second place with high honor in spite of her betrayal and the player who won had the least honor the whole game but never betrayed anyone.
This brings me to another mechanic that ended up being incredibly fascinating was that Honor was a tangible way to gain points and keep yourself in the lead. Having less Honor meant access to nightmarish oni but being more honorable meant gaining better and more interesting political mandates. Like I’ve said prior, there is no right or wrong way to use or lose your Honor.
Overall, the game reminds of games like Risk or Civilization; it is all about total domination either through diplomacy or war and it’s incredibly intricate in its varying strategies. I would say that Rising Sun seems to have a lot of replayability and you would never play it the same way twice, which is nice for a game of this style. It also never seems to grow repetitive, which is something that people often complain about with a game like Risk; with the encouraged table talk, it kept itself engaging and interesting to see what the outcome would be. I’m definitely excited for this game and cannot wait to get my hands on it and try it out.
Be sure to check out Rising Sun’s Kickstarter and see for yourself how awesome it is.
What do you think of this game? Are you excited to try it out? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credits: CoolMiniOrNot (Overlays by Blythe Wiedemann)
Mar 23 2017
After four years in development and a highly successful Kickstarter, the Song of Swords tabletop RPG has launched! RPG players looking to run and play campaigns based on historical realism, highly tactical combat, fierce and dangerous magic, and where characters live with the constant peril of death, should immediately get into the Song of Swords RPG.
The Song of Swords RPG combines our 15th century historical reality with variable low, high, or epic fantasy levels to create the exact type of campaign you want to play in. It further sets itself apart from standard RPG fare by having a progression system based on your character’s goals (not XP), using a d10 dice pool (and only using d10s), and by not having hit points for characters and creatures.
With its’ solid historically-based setting, SoS could easily be set in some area during our real life past, such as the medieval era. However, the game does have its own realm, called the Tattered Realm. The main continent, Vosca, is home to the regions of Alandi, Clachland, Dace, Gali, Illegon, Karthack, Kaselreich, Svitgard, and Thanemarch. Within and throughout these regions, players will encounter multiple gameplay layers, including familiar and unfamiliar historical and fantasy elements, and even some dark Lovecraftian aspects.
The races making up those regions of Vosca include such classics as humans, dwarves, and goblins. SoS also includes elves, known as the Din, who exist in three sub-races (Ohanedin, Burdinadin, and Zells), each with their own “Focus”, the link to their immortality.
SoS’s magic system consists of three schools: Pyromancy, Sorcery, and Thaumaturgy. Pyromancers handle the arcane arts of flame and life, sorcerers harness natural and innate magical energies, and thaumaturgists tap into otherworldly forces to shape reality to their will. However, magic users in SoS and rare, and magic is not as abundant as in other RPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons.
The fundamental and dominant force in SoS is its gritty, tactical melee combat system. The developers spent hundreds of hours on this aspect alone, as evidenced by page after page of item and stat charts and tables for weapons, armor, proficiencies, maneuvers, talents, and wounds. Here’s a prime indicator of just how deep and lethal the combat system is: there’s an entire chapter section for “Prosthetics”, which includes your basic ‘peg leg’ attachments, and on up to ones powered by the heat of your character’s body. And without using magic!
I must admit that my first thought at seeing the Song of Swords name was that someone had finally made an RPG based on the “SWORDS” books by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Fred Saberhagen. Alas, seems I’ll have to continue waiting for that one. But after researching this SoS, I am both highly impressed and eagerly looking forward to seeing the game fully published, and hopefully getting to play it. As a lifelong martial artist, soldier, and military historian, SoS seems as if it was tailor-made for me, and gamers like me.
Of course, you should check out SoS for yourself, and see if it’s of interest to you. Start with the Song of Swords official website, where you’ll find descriptions on combat, lore, the world of the Tattered Realm and its regions, and the playable races. Be sure to click into the Blog section for a deeper look into SoS world and character lore.
The SoS Kickstarter page has a lot of detail about what the published game will look like, including the manuals, the NPC Army Deck, adventure modules, and the beautiful art found throughout all those.
The Tim Kearney half of the Tabletop Terrors RPG team (sans his brother James) recorded an interview with the SoS dev team (Opaque Industries), which includes Zachary Irwin, Taylor Davis, and James Lacombe. During the 46-minute “Song of Swords is Rad” video, the dev team discuss SoS in detail, covering the extensive combat system, and describing the roleplaying, magic, lore, and historical realism in the game.
Song of Swords currently has a scheduled release date of Feb 2018. But, if you don’t want to wait until then to start playing, then download the free Song of Swords beta rules and get started right away. Note that the beta rules do not include the magic system, but does have everything else needed to get into this outstanding RPG.
Are you looking for a historically-based, deeply tactical, and combat-intensive RPG such as Song of Swords? Are you currently playing Song of Swords or other such RPG? Share your tales with us in the Comments section below!
Image Credits: Opaque Industries
Mar 23 2017
Update from Brian:
I want to thank each and every person who summoned the courage and took the time to make and send us these videos. Viewing them as they came in was a daily roller coaster ride of emotions, one that ended with me crying into a bucket of cheese balls for many nights in a row. As I watched and listened to your stories, I felt a mutual appreciation as a fan of Critical Role, but also the overwhelming love and positivity that surround each of you, traits that have been branded on this community since its inception. Way way back in time before there was a Talks Machina every week, I wanted to put this video together. I’ve done my best to keep in the shadows, but a few of you know I’ve been around for many years, and I’ve had occasion to meet many of you at Comic Con or other meet-ups. I’ve heard stories, read letters Ashley brought home, and read countless Tweets, Reddit posts, etc. I’ve seen some of the impact from this show, and I wanted to “signal boost” your stories to the rest of this community. Bottom line: this stuff gets me in the places, it reminds me of the good in the world and the sense of humor you have, and I wanted everyone else to feel that same love.
So thank you for being kind, and for knowing this wasn’t about giving everyone an ego-stroke, but about giving you a voice.
One note to anyone that sent in a video but didn’t see it in the montage: As you can imagine we received a ton of videos. Unfortunately, many of them were not usable due to format issues, audio/video issues, or we flat out didn’t receive or weren’t able to download it. We tried not to put too much strain on our post team here, and they did an incredible job putting these two videos together, but I apologize if your video didn’t make it into the cut. I promise you there wasn’t a single video we watched and said “That one isn’t good enough for this”, except for the one Glenn sent in.
All that being said, this is the first of many opportunities you’ll have to send in videos and be a part of a fun segment like this, so don’t worry!
Recently, we asked fans of Critical Role, Critters, to tell us “What Critical Role Means to Me” in under one minute. The responses we received we awe-inspiring, moving, and really pulls at the heartstrings.
Each Critter spent one minute, and occasionally had to start over multiple times because they couldn’t say it all in just a minute, to extol joy, excitement, inspiration, and thankfulness overall for these “relatable nerdy-ass voice actors” who let us into their lives one night per week.
Each week, Critters from all over the world stay up late to watch the live feed simply because of the live, imaginative forms of storytelling. They deal with sleepless nights and exhausted days just to be able to finish watching the adventure with the cast. They set alarms to be awake in time to watch the live feed from another country.
These devoted Critters love the show so much because, as one Critter explains, “What I see on screen is the exact same game I play with my friends, except I get to experience this one game with tens of thousands of other people.”
Critical Role is an inspiration to men and women. As one female Critter explains she is inspired by “three badass women doing badass stuff every week.” Another is inspired because she doesn’t feel limited by her age to be her nerdy self. One man has used his skills creating the artwork for the Critical Role merch to parlay that into a Graphic Design degree and career. Another man has been able to introduce D&D into the curriculum for his patients dealing with depression. Many Critters proclaim their achievements from DMing their first campaign and starting a regular group D&D game, to simply being able to ask the Critical Role cast a question at a Con, overcoming a fear of public speaking.
To many Critical Role fans, this show gives them a sense of belonging and brings out the creative side in everyone.“It was a light in the darkness for me.” says one Critter. “It gave me hope.” says another. These inspiring stories prove that when you have drive and passion for something as strategic and fun as Dungeons & Dragons, even the smallest amount of despair can be quashed with a single roll of the dice.
Thank you, Critical Role. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Feature Image Credit: Critical Role
Video Credit: Geek & Sundry
Mar 23 2017
At a bar, Claude is drunk. However, he begins to wake up, yet speaks with a voice that is not his own. It is the voice of Dr. Samuel and he has a message…
FOREVERVERSE Wednesday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. 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?
Mar 23 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. Sometimes it helps to include Twitter handle of your favorite cast member. You can also send your picture to email@example.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.
Featured Image Credit: Art By @LinnetBlue bluelinnet.tumblr
Mar 23 2017
We’ve talked before once or twice about some of the best expansions in board gaming. They take a beloved title – one that has been survived repeat play and been cherished – and put new life and challenge into it. Here are a few more than really take the best of a title and push it further.
Alchemists: King’s Golem
Alchemists is a brilliant game that takes worker placement (or action selection) and melds it seamlessly with a deduction puzzle. Players mix ingredients into various potions and from the results try to divine the hidden alchemical signatures. It’s a wonderful blend that pushes the players toward discovery – even by drinking their own concoctions if need be. But the first expansion, The King’s Golem, takes the process to a whole new level. Now, you not only get a new way to publish theories, but you also have a new puzzle – awakening the golem.
The King’s Golem adds four semi-independent modules. Two of them increase variety by changing the turn order track or providing different starting resources. But the other two greatly expand the decision space. The Royal Encyclopedia allows you to publish new theories about an aspect – rather than about an alchemical directly. And the titular Golem has you using precious turns to discover how to animate it. Sure its eyes glow or its ears smoke. But what does that mean?
The expansion increases the turn order pressure, makes the experience more brain-meltingly enjoyable, and enlarges both the depth and breadth of play.
Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh
In Istanbul, you walk through the eponymous market trying to buy and trade for rubies. You zip from warehouse to warehouse and dealer to dealer, even making stops at the Post Office or the prison. At each place, you have to either drop off or pick up apprentices – which means you have to plan your route efficiently. Planning your route as you traverse the stalls is an enjoyable challenge. You have to circle back just enough to keep moving forward. And because the first to five rubies wins, it has a distinctive race feeling.
But an enjoyable game becomes a fantastic one with the addition of its first expansion: Mocha and Baksheesh. The expansion breaks the base game’s duality between goods and coins. In the base game, goods turned into coins and vice versa and either could be used to get gems. But the expansion introduces coffee. The new resource really fleshes out the game and provides a tripartite means of acquiring gems.
Now, players can explore whole new strategies. It’s very freeing to have a third avenue for obtaining rubies and it can result in some sneaky maneuvering to grab a fifth gem unexpectedly. This expansion takes a good game and makes it great.
Pandemic: On the Brink
When I first got Pandemic, my wife and I played it repeatedly. I remember in one of our first sessions we played seven times in a row before we finally got a win. But like many avid fans, after a time, we started to learn the best strategies and when to avoid risks. Because it’s a cooperative title, it can be more accessible to casual gamers. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have much granularity when adjusting the difficulty. Although you can add in another Epidemic, it’s a crude metric.
But On the Brink completes the entire Pandemic experience. For one thing, you get the Virulent Epidemics. Not only do they reshuffle the infection cards, but they also designate one color the virulent disease. It becomes more difficult to treat or even pops back up after eradication. You also get the mutation – purple cubes – that can make finding the cures that much harder. Between the number of epidemics, the virulent strain variant, and the mutation, you are much more able to tailor the difficulty level of Pandemic to your group’s taste.
And for those who want to add a layer of competitiveness, it even introduces a bioterrorist variant. One player goes around spreading disease secretly while the others not only have to find the cure, but apprehend the evil-doer.
Core Worlds: Galactic Orders
Core Worlds is one of the best deck builders on the market. And that’s partly because it’s not based on merely building a deck. Instead, that’s just one major mechanism among many including resource management and careful planning. It’s a solid title where you slowly acquire power – first from the outer realms, and then inwardly toward the more advanced core worlds.
The first expansion, though, Galactic Orders totally shifted the paradigm of play. It makes use of small icons that were meaningless in the base game. Now, you get special tokens when playing those cards that can be used for special powers. This upends the strategy entirely. Sometimes you’ll take a card because it helps you conquer worlds, but other times it becomes attractive merely because of the symbol it provides. It changes the calculus and creates a more dynamic, engaging experience.
More than that, it takes a couple of overpowered strategies from the base game and tweaks the rest of the system to bring other strategies more in line. In fact, it powers up the whole thing rather than trying to bring down the offenders.
Have you experienced any of the awesome expansions above? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image Credits: Czech Games Edition, Alderac Entertainment Group, Z-Man Games, and Stronghold Games
Featured Image Credit: Z-Man games
Mar 22 2017
Almost 18 years ago, the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 aired on Syfy, back when it was still called The Sci-Fi Channel. But no TV show ever truly dies forever, and next month, MST3K will officially live again with a new cast, new writers, and a lot of terrible movies that exist to be mocked!
Netflix has debuted a new trailer for MST3K, which reveals that the new series will actually have an origin episode for the reluctant host, Jonah Heston, as played by our colleague from The Nerdist Podcast, Jonah Ray! But we’re also excited to see Geek & Sundry founder, Felicia Day as Kinga Forrester, the new mad scientist who wants to resurrect her family’s greatest creation: the Satellite of Love. Joining Day as Kinga’s sidekick is fan-favorite comedian Patton Oswalt as TV’s Son of TV’s Frank. That’s right, it’s a new generation of Mads! Additionally, the trailer also gives us the first taste of Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn as the new voices of Crow and Tom Servo, respectively.
MST3K‘s road back included a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that launched in late 2015. By the time the campaign was over, the new season of MST3K had raised $5,764,229, and the planned 12-episode run was expanded to 14 episodes, including a Christmas special. Unless you really know your terrible movies, the new trailer didn’t offer up many hints about which titles to expect. However, the gloriously low tech and even cheesy special effects have clearly been retained, even in an era where they could have easily been replaced by flawless CGI. Part of the charm of MST3K has always been its imperfect touches, and it’s nice to see that is still true in the latest incarnation of the show.
Are you excited about the return of MST3K? Which movies do you want to see the show tackle this season? Let us know in the comment section below!
Image Credit: Netflix
Mar 22 2017
If games can achieve the status of art, then as Indiana said, Gloomhaven belongs in a museum. This is a masterful design that offers an altogether new experience. It presents a horizon that stretches beyond fathomable scope. It rides upon the wind of innovation and it pulls you down into its depths like a fever dream you never want to forget.
Hype and excitement come naturally to Gloomhaven. The box itself is bristling with content and you feel like you’ve just mugged old St. Nick. The physical presence and immensity of the product have helped propel this game nearly as much as the mechanisms. This would be more of a problem if the game didn’t deserve the excitement.
I discussed the broad touches of the design in my overview article, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper. I came, I saw, and I’m still craving more.
Gloomhaven is all about the journey and its arc. The narrative itself has many ups and downs—including a somewhat weak start–but what’s remarkable is that the experience of assimilating its mechanisms follows a very deliberate path. The core card system is initially a struggle. By forcing the tempo onto the players and presenting it as an obstacle that must be beaten into submission, the design offers a compelling challenge but it also initially feels punitive. The first few sessions will feel as though you are fighting the current. It’s as if the game itself is restricting your prowess and desires you hold back. Figuring out that key component of timing can be rough. Toss in a wild Inox or Stone Golem who wants to crush your windpipe and that conflict of internal and external pressure can be overwhelming.
But like any difficult task, it gets easier. You progress to the point where that tempo and the beating clock of card management is no longer an enemy. You pull off massive combos and unlock damage potential that seemed preposterous only a few sessions prior. The opaque nature of that phantom timer yields to satisfaction and empowerment. It’s remarkable and fantastic.
The interwoven systems of heroic card play, enemy AI decks, and attack modifier cards all form a marvelous ecosystem. When everything is humming along the game presents interesting tactical puzzles and fulfilling outcomes. There are times, however, when the processes are stretched to their limit. When playing the odd scenario featuring multiple enemies the system begins to bend and can feel as though it’s going to break. You have a handful of envelopes tracking multiple types of enemies’ health and you’re constantly reshuffling the individual creature activation decks as well as the shared attack modifier cards. It becomes a chore as the fun seeps out of the environment and it feels as though you’re engaged in a tactical accounting simulation. The game inherently lacks the speed of your typical dungeon crawler and large battles emphasize this weakness. Luckily they’re pretty rare.
That aspect of uncomfortably abutting its boundaries persists in the legacy elements of the game. Once you progress far enough along you will reach a point where the world map is full of stickers. Each marks a location where you may travel and engage in a scenario. Some will have their tiny check-boxes marked, showing that you’ve completed them. Many won’t.
When it comes time to scan the map and decide upon a course of action, your options may be obfuscated and the effort involved larger than desired. Some of the locations you won’t be able to tackle because of pre-requisites you haven’t obtained or because you’ve chosen a path in the narrative that has locked certain options out of your grasp. Unless you take copious notes the only way to figure this out is by looking up the specific scenarios in the large book. Some of the stickers in the city of Gloomhaven also blend in with the artwork unfortunately and further muddy things.
The pains and limitations of the game are overshadowed, not only by that enormous box, but also by the sheer comfort imparted. While challenge is a key component of the boots on the ground play, this release boasts one of the most impressive positive feedback loops I’ve seen. A key philosophy consists of the paths presented continually resulting in positive reinforcement. Gloomhaven knows what it’s doing and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
Personal goals influence the journey and provide the destination
This is seen in the culmination of story arcs opening up new whole sections of the world. Success yields physically manipulating the board by placing stickers, an activity that once delighted all of us as small children. You’re given clear character and battles goals for incremental achievement. When your character accomplishes their personal quest and retires, you even unlock a new character envelope. Besides the obvious benefit of accessing new content, this provides a generational feel to play that offers weight to the story. That narrative path is grounded and emphasized by retaining focus.
All of this in concert is seriously powerful stuff. It feels as though the act of play is digging through that massive treasure chest box and unearthing fortune and glory. This synergy of narrative character action to physical thematic behavior is magnificent. I want to compare that massive cardboard lid to a can of Pringles, but that would only minimize the achievement. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that this may not be a perfect game, but the experience is something that will grow and evolve with you over time. The notion that the content may outlast your commitment to this existence is frankly absurd, but Gloomhaven revels in the absurd.
Have you played Gloomhaven? Do you enjoy legacy games? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credits: Charlie Theel
Image Credits: Charlie Theel, Cephalofair Games
Mar 22 2017
With my 8-year-old daughter, it’s safe to say that I have watched a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Not to mention all of the MLP comics we’ve read as bedtime stories. Our shared fandom bonds us. Another shared geeky passion between her and I is roleplaying. D&D sessions are so ubiquitous in our household as my daughter grew up that my kid eventually asked to play with us. While we’ve done it rather successfully, that success requires some accommodations, modifications, and handling of the more complex rules. That’s probably why I’m genuinely excited to run through Tails of Equestria as a family. By the looks of it, it promises a lore she’s deeply connected with and a rule structure she can more comfortably handle.
My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria is a tabletop RPG designed for 2 – 6 players, ages 8+. One of the players takes on the role of GM while the others play as PCs (pony characters). It has been confirmed that players can only choose from the classes Earth Pony, Unicorn or Pegasus. Sorry folks, there can be no new Alicorns.
The core rulebook has recently released and there is quite a bit there for fans of MLP. One of the coolest things included in the game is a full map of Equestria, drawn in the same style as any map found in a D&D sourcebook. I think my favourite detail so far is that character sheets have a space where you get to draw and colour your pony character. The idea of figuring out my character’s cutie mark is remarkably alluring.
One interesting thing about Tails of Equestria is the fact that the lead designer is Alessio Cavatore, of Games Workshop and Kings of War fame. During an interview, when asked how he went from these incredibly mature, dark settings to something like MLP, he responded simply, “I have a daughter.” Playtesting for Tails of Equestria involved the toughest group of play testers I could ever imagine; Alessio’s 6-year-old daughter and her friends, all of whom are huge MLP fans.
The core rulebook contains all of the information you need for character creation, play (including a “scuffles” section to outline combat) and a full adventure titled “The Pet Predicament”. Being a roleplaying game, the GM is free to craft unique adventures set in the land of Equestria or to follow along with the adventures as they are released. The sequel to “The Pet Predicament” is up for pre-order now and is The Curse of the Statuettes. In typical MLP fashion, the next adventure is quite meta. The premise is that ponies are mysteriously being cursed and turned into collectible figures, like the ones for sale right now at your nearest toy store.
My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria looks like a brilliant game that introduces younger kids to the fundamentals of roleplaying, while set in an incredibly vibrant world. No word yet on whether I can equip my pony with a party cannon, but I’m crossing my fingers.
What would you name your MLP pony character? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Hasbro & Ninja Division
ESCAPE! – The Magic School With Matt Mercer, Marisha Ray, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, and Christopher Sabat
Mar 22 2017
Do you have what it takes to ESCAPE!? Join Janet Varney as she sends a team of adventurers into rooms filled with mystery, false clues, and plenty of puzzles. Each celebrity team will then have just 30 minutes to make their way out. There will be puzzles to solve and things to find. Teams get one free hint, but each one after that will cost them 2 minutes. Will they get stumped by a clever clue or make it just in the nick of time? There’s only one way to find out. Watch this week’s episode and see if they can ESCAPE!
Matt Mercer, Marisha Ray, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, and Christopher Sabat find the chamber of the evil wizard, but forget to keep the door ajar as it snaps shut behind them. Potions line every wall. Spells are scattered on the floor. Unsolved runes decorate the back corner. Will our team pull it all together to escape the chamber or will their chances go up in a puff of smoke? Find out what happens on this episode of Escape!
Check out ESCAPE! every other Wednesday on Geek & Sundry or head over to ALPHA to catch even more episodes.
Mar 22 2017
Announced on March 12th, the D&D Beyond (DDB) digital toolset is being created by a partnership between Wizards of the Coast and Curse, a global multimedia and tech company specializing in products for gamers. With the DDB Phase 1 rollout, D&D DMs and players have quick access to the D&D rules provided in the System Reference Document 5.1 in a digital, searchable, and clean-looking format.
The DDB is broken down into Compendium, Spells, Items, Monsters, and Forum sections, all freely available to everyone. The Compendium houses all the D&D basic rules, including combat, spells, equipment, ability scores, and more. Each topic is held in its own little box section, with links to quickly and easily get the info you need. There’s not yet a (global) search function on this page, but according to DDB Staff Forum Moderator BadEye, this function is scheduled to be added before the formal launch.
The Spells section has currently 16 pages of spells listed, and easily searchable by class, name, level, casting time, and a host of other filters. The individual spells are listed in a bar format, where casting time, duration, range/area, attack/save, and damage/effect can be quickly seen. Clicking on an individual spell opens up a more detailed spell description. Each spell also has a View Spell Page button that takes you a page with its own unique URL, handy for linking to and sharing.
The Items section holds listings for magic items, sectioned similarly to the Spells page. There are direct links to armor, potions, scrolls, weapons, and other items, and multiple filters for the search function. The quick read bar format here shows name, type, attunement, and notes, and each individual item also has a View Item Button that takes you to the item’s unique URL page.
The Monsters page is similar to the previous two, with direct links to monster type across the top, and various filters and quick read stats beneath those. Detailed descriptions can be accessed by clicking on the creatures window, and each also has a View Monster Page button.
The Forum section is where you can read and post about all things D&D. There are sections for DDB (including news and announcements and beta feedback categories), general D&D discussions, and a class-specific section.
So that’s just a quick walkthrough of what DDB Phase 1 offers. I got in right when it was made available online, and poked around in it most of launch day. By reading forum and social media posts, and in chatting with fellow D&D players, the general consensus seems to be highly positive for this phase, and I concur.
I didn’t see the DDB site go down all day due to an influx of traffic all day, as I was expecting. That in itself is impressive. And I’m happy with the overall look and feel of the site, with its’ minimalist and clean UI and easy access to everything D&D. Well, almost everything.
The first spell I searched for was Hunger of Hadar, and, lo, it’s missing from the list. In fact, Arms of Hadar is also missing. Which makes me wonder what the DDB devs have against Hadar’s spells that they would be glaringly missing from the spells list? I jest, of course, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be added in soon.
There was also an amount of contention from people about having to login with Twitch credentials, and I was among them. This was addressed in a forum post by DDB Staff Forum Moderator Molster, who stated that Curse is part of Twitch, and all Curse sites will be switching to Twitch logins. Understandable, for sure, but still no reason not to have other more popular login options available, such as Google + and Twitter. I do have a Twitch channel, and was able to login without a problem, but it isn’t connected to what I do with D&D, in the way that my Google + and Twitter are. Hopefully this error will be corrected in the near future, as well.
Aside from those gripes, I like what DDB is, and the potential of what it’ll be when phases 2 and 3 roll out. Still no official word on when that will be, nor is their official word on if there will be a pay subscription model initiated. I’m also eager for word on what if anything will be done with Dungeons & Dragons Insider, the digital toolset for D&D4E, which was subscription-based. And does WOTC/Curse have any plans to fold our Wizards Accounts into here? I have no doubts those questions will be answered in due time. Meanwhile, I’ll be happily using DDB in all my D&D sessions, and sounding off about my experience with it on the DDB forums. See you there!
What do you think about D&D Beyond Phase 1? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast & Curse (Screenshots by Jim Moreno)
Mar 22 2017
When we think about representation in superhero fiction, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But even in the ’90s, the producers of the original Power Rangers series featured an ethnically diverse cast, and that’s a tradition that has continued through the show’s subsequent incarnations in later seasons. The problem is that the original Power Rangers were pretty boring characters when they weren’t in costume. They each had superficial characteristics, but they were largely undefined and one-dimensional. And these were supposed to be the “teenagers with attitude” that Zordon requested?
This week, the Power Rangers are getting a major reboot in a new movie. One of the things that director Dean Israelite and the film’s creative team have focused on was giving the new Rangers more believable and relatable personalities in their latest iterations. They have also taken that idea a step further by making two key changes. In this version, Becky G’s Trini is a lesbian, while RJ Cyler’s Billy, “is on the Autism Spectrum.” That may not seem like much on the surface, but it’s a big moment for the genre.
Both Marvel and DC have featured LGTBQ characters and heroes of both genders, but not on the big screen. DC recently revealed that Wonder Woman is bisexual, but that depiction has yet to be shown in Gal Gadot’s current Amazon heroine. Likewise, Marvel has outed Iceman as a gay man, but he was previously portrayed as straight in the X-Men films. Trini gets to be the trailblazer. The Yellow Ranger will be the first openly gay superheroine in a big budget superhero movie. Trini doesn’t just have a token part, she is one of the five leading characters. More impressively, her sexuality doesn’t appear to be a gimmick for the film. It’s simply a part of who she is.
It has to be noted that the original Blue Ranger was played by actor David Yost, who is openly gay. According to Yost, he was treated badly on the set of the original show because of his sexuality; which led to his decision to leave the series behind. That’s a shameful moment in the history of the franchise, and it would have been a worthy tribute to Yost if Billy had turned out to be gay in the movie. However, we fully expect that Becky G will make the most of the opportunity to give Trini added dimensions.
As for Billy, he will also be a forerunner. There are very few superheroes who are depicted as neuro-atypical, if any, in the Marvel and DC’s comic book universes. There have been Autistic characters, but they’ve been supporting players at best. The new Blue Ranger has the chance to prove that he can be more than just a background player. He can be a hero in his own right. Autism doesn’t have to be his defining characteristic. Billy’s strength has always been his mind, and we believe that to be true in this movie as well.
Why does it all matter? Because representation is extremely valuable for people who have been historically marginalized or cast aside. It’s something that can be easily overlooked by people who don’t have to deal with that in their daily lives. But there really is something cathartic about seeing someone like yourself onscreen as they overcome their personal problems and save the day. Superhero stories are often escapist tales or power fantasies. Power Rangers has the potential to show LGTBQ and Autistic fans that they aren’t going to be excluded from this fantasy. Instead, they’re going to be a part of it, as equals. And that makes all of the difference in the world.
Are you excited to see Power Rangers break new ground with its heroes? Let us know in the comment section below!
Image Credits: Lionsgate
Mar 21 2017
Auction games are often more cutthroat than the most vicious dudes-on-a-map style title. They can make you curse your friends in ways that no “take that” game can match. And International Tabletop Day is the perfect time to get in tune with your inner auctioneer. Best yet, auction games come in everything from quick, light titles to massive brain burners. Here’s a great menu for ITTD.
Appetizer: For Sale
It’s best to start off with something light. Something easy to learn and with a history of being a crowd pleaser. And that something is For Sale. In this title, up to six players compete to corner the housing market. Each round, one property per player is dealt to the table. Then you bid on those properties. After they have all been acquired, it’s time to get paid. Payments of different amounts are dealt to the table and the players use their properties to get money. At the end of the game, the one with the most money wins.
What makes For Sale so much more interesting than other light games is the way the bidding works. Rather than sell each property one at a time, you simply put out a bid. Then the next person has to either bid higher or pass. If they pass, they get the worst property on the table. If they bid, then it’s the next person’s turn. In this way, you never want to be the first to pass – but it also may not be worth it to pay too much for the top property.
It also encourages you to bid up the prices. If you pass and there are still properties out there, you get half your money back. Only the player with the highest bid has to pay full price. This means that you can usually up the ante a little – especially if the player to your left feels the need to win a larger property.
The whole thing takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes and then you’ll be ready for the main course.
Main Course: Ra
And when it comes to auction games, there is nothing better than Ra. Or perhaps Priests of Ra which is the same exact game with a slightly different scoring system. What makes Ra unique is that you don’t bid with money or points, you bid with position.
Ra uses a set of chips from 1 to 16 and each player gets three. The “1” chip is placed in the center. One at a time, tiles are drawn from a bag and placed for bid. On their turn, a player can start the auction and you bid with your chips. Highest bid gets all of the tiles. But they also get the “1” that was sitting in the middle. And that will be one of their three chips next round. The chip they used goes to the middle. So the winner of the next auction will get that chip. And so on.
The result is an amazing game that strips away a linear bidding structure and makes players focus on what’s really important – your position. After all, having 100 coins only matters if that means you have more than your opponent. And as the tiles come out, different combinations can result in different scoring opportunities. This means that players will value the lot differently and can result in some very tricky maneuvering.
Ra has everything you need in an auction game. Deep play, strong competition, and a focus on positioning.
Dessert: Modern Art
With the main course over, it’s time to turn to perhaps the purest auction game available today, Modern Art. Each round, the players get a hand of cards of paintings from various artists. On a turn, the players play one to the table and it gets auctioned off. Importantly, the winner doesn’t pay the money to the bank, they pay it to the player who auctioned the card. At the end of each round, owners of paintings are paid money based on how many paintings of each artist were sold at auction.
Modern Art is fabulous because the economy and demand are entirely player created. In some games, Karl Gitter might be the hottest artist whose paintings command a premium. In other games, he barely registers on the market. And knowing what cards could come to market (the ones in your hand) can help to inform you how best to bid.
But the fact that you are paying your bid to the other players changes the whole dynamic. It is often more profitable to sell a card than to keep it in your hand. And with its free-flowing auction style, you can try to bid up the other players and force them to pay more for their auctions than they otherwise might.
Because everything is self-contained and there are few complicated rules, it marks a perfect end to your auctioning day.
Do you plan on playing any auction games on Tabletop Day? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image Credits: Eagle-Gryphon Games, Rio Grande Games, and Mayfair Games
Featured Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games
Mar 21 2017
Ten years after its initial release, and hot on the heels of Nintendo’s HD remake of this first Wii-era Zelda adventure, the “Akira Himekawa” manga team finally sinks their teeth deep into Twilight Princess. The creative duo–sharing a pen name, and only otherwise known as “A. Honda” and “S. Nagano”–has of course been reinterpreting almost every entry in the storied game franchise. They’ve crafted manga adaptations of Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, and Oracle of Seasons among numerous others. And there’s an intriguing reason why it’s taken this long for a comics version of Zelda‘s biggest seller by them, or anybody else.
According to an author’s note, a comic version of Princess was actually in development for a children’s magazine around the game’s original release. However, it was scuttled due to concerns about “ratings.” The specific wording in VIZ’s handsome translation leaves the particulars to interpretation, but if it was in fact a matter of age-appropriateness, then that fits with the more mature themes at play in this volume.
Himekawa’s take at rendering the shadow kingdom’s macabre menagerie of quirky demons with a kind of mischievous glee, to be sure. However, the depiction of human foibles and feet of clay is where the book really earns its Teen+ rating. Link isn’t a blank cipher for gamers to project themselves into. We meet a reluctant hero who’s so traumatized by a past tragedy, he’s reluctant to simply pick up a sword, even if that refusal offends his community. When a call to adventure comes, Link doesn’t just turn away from it, he pointedly scolds the curious and eager village youths encouraging him to venture forth.
In a powerfully tragic twist, the catalyst for action comes when Link spurns a young fan, inadvertently inspiring the kid to dash into dangers he’s woefully unprepared for. This Link longs to keep living in a bubble, all-too-aware the fragile peace he’s found as a humble farmhand could break at any moment.
The fan-favorite title character, Midna, appears at the front and back of this volume. A prologue shows her fall from grace after an epic betrayal by the palace vizier Zant quite literally plunges her kingdom into darkness. Palace staffers are transformed into statuesque monsters, while Midna is made to live up to her “Twilight Princess” sobriquet in more direct fashion. By the time she reappears, coming to Link’s aide after he’s been rather brutally “disarmed,” the reader’s left with plenty of tantalizing questions about what happened to Midna, and what other intrigue has been bubbling under the surface.
Also, it’s a relief that such plot questions only ever arise within the parameters of the book itself. If you’re a Zelda fan who hasn’t explored every entry in the Hyrule Historia, this manga doesn’t require you to have played Twilight Princess. Or any Zelda game, for that matter. Long-time fans, however, will have a delightful opportunity to not only revisit the game’s narrative, but also delve deeper into its plot than either iteration of the Wii could really allow for.
Have you enjoyed Himekawa’s other Zelda manga books? Are you intrigued about their take on Twilight Princess? Share all your hopes, wishes, and maybe even some fears in the comments.
Image Credits: TM & © 2017 Nintendo. ZELDA NO DENSETSU TWILIGHT PRINCESS © 2016 Akira HIMEKAWA/SHOGAKUKAN