Geek and Sundry

 

Geek and Sundry

Age of Sigmar’s New Starter Set, Soul Wars, Fulfills Its Promise

Jun 18 2018

For months now, rumors of a second edition of Warhammer Age of Sigmar have swirled in the whisper networks of the wargaming internet. All sorts of stuff was supposedly on the cards, from minor tweaks to a full rework of the system. Or so “they” said.

The new edition is finally out on June 30th. We got our hands on Age of Sigmar – Soul Wars, the new starter set, and can put the wondering to bed. It is, in short, good. If you want longer, it is goooooooooddddddd.

To say that Soul Wars is impressive doesn’t do it justice. Lugging around the crammed full, glossy black-green box felt like effort in a way even last year’s Dark Imperium set for Warhammer 40,000 didn’t. There was also something mysterious about its heft and style; Age of Sigmar is not a known quantity, at least not in the sense 40k is and has been. A new edition of 40k was always going to hew closely to its past, because (importantly) it has a past, 30 years of it. Age of Sigmar, by contrast, hasn’t been around long and even in the short three years of its lifespan it’s evolved. It’s not that Age of Sigmar is more vibrant, but its place in the wargaming universe is less defined.

That ill-defined place extends to Age of Sigmar’s past, too. The game has moved from uneasy successor to Warhammer Fantasy Battle to a firm rethinking of how the game works which differs significantly from the “no points, bring what you want, pretend to ride a horse and get bonuses” approach at release. It’s a game which struggled for identity, found it, and is now, with its second edition, in the full flush of adulthood.

Box

Oh God, What’s in the Box?

It’s rare that you run into a $160 purchase which feels like a bargain. This is one of those times. For that price you get two solid, brand new armies: the Sacrosanct Chamber of the Stormcast Eternals (think spellslinging ghost knights) and the Nighthaunt (think more traditional, ephemeral spirits). The miniatures are stunning, and that’s not a description used lightly. I’ve been cool on the Stormcast Eternals, as they represent a strain of high fantasy which isn’t usually to my tastes, but I found myself ready to put together at least an allied force for my future Idoneth Deepkin army as I assembled them. The simple edition of robes and movement to the bulky Stormcast look clicks in a big way.

Nice as they are, they pale in comparison to the Nighthaunt, which are some of the best miniatures I’ve ever seen Games Workshop release. They look like they float, with ragged robes, clanking chains, and protruding bones granting a high fantasy aesthetic right at home with the superheroic Stormcast, while simultaneously harking back to traditional folkloric ideas of what the restless spirits of the dead look like. Best of all, they have a sense of motion I don’t know anything else in Games Workshop’s catalog possesses. They’re a little more fragile than most—in order to convey motion, some of them perch on thin strands of plastic “robe”—but aren’t nearly as fragile as you might fear from preview photos. Just be careful and things will be fine.

Nighthaunt

One extra bit about the miniatures which beggars belief is that they’re all push fit. Which is fine with the Stormcast, but unbelievable with the more delicate Nighthaunt. And it all works pretty much perfectly; outside a few miniatures which I dabbed a little plastic glue on, assembly was glue-free and easy to handle.

The box also includes a new core book for the game. It’s huge: 311 glossy, full-color pages of exactly the type of high production value you’d expect from Games Workshop. The included rules are still simple and to the point; very nearly all of the changes have been summarized neatly by Games Workshop on its Warhammer Community website, a very welcome fact for those (like me) who tend to gloss over changes to systems which they’ve memorized. Seriously, outside of a change to how breaking unit cohesion works, it’s all there and very little of it is controversial.

With the rules still slim, most of the book is devoted to the background of the Age of Sigmar universe. This, too, is a welcome change. Despite the novels and campaign books, the Mortal Realms haven’t really felt cohesive in the same way 40k does. Some of that is the weight of years, but an awful lot of that is that Age of Sigmar has struggled with what sort of world it wants to be. That’s not the case anymore; you get the expected faction backgrounds, but you also get extensive history of individual realms, including long-awaited for maps. The game world feels like a living, breathing place with a swirl activity away from named characters and Old World holdovers, and the change in emphasis from the hoary old Order vs Chaos conflict to Order vs Death changes the default tone. It’s a welcome shift.

A Sense of Place

The sense of place in Soul Wars is the best part of it, and the most welcome. For a game world which touted the importance of its setting, right down to the strange physics of an inherently magical universe, games of Age of Sigmar could’ve taken place anywhere. No longer. Each of the Mortal Realms now has rules associated with it which shade your games. Set your battle in the fire realm of Aqshy? Smoke might obscure your vision or moving too fast saps your strength. What about the realm of light, Hysh? The battlefield might dazzle the eyes or allow speeds approaching teleportation.

Aqshy

Magic, too, is tied to place. Every realm has a special spell any wizards in your army knows (or several, if you purchase the Malign Sorcery supplement, which will also be released on June 30th). In the aforementioned examples, battles in Aqshy grant a fireball spell, while Hysh offers a protection spell.

These mechanics tie to the expanded background. The Mortal Realms are a place all their own, where people live and die. You could always read something to that effect, or imagine it, but the emphasis on place in the rules means you feel it in your games. This is exactly what a good set of rules should do: show you what the fiction tells you.

Maturity

The best summation of Age of Sigmar – Soul Wars is that it is a game marked by maturity of writing, aesthetics, thought, and rules design. There will undoubtedly be some hiccups with the new rules, especially when things hit the ruthless tournament scene, but at no point in two full reads of the new core book did I think something was flung into the rules without thought about how it would play or why it was needed. The game’s background is cohesive, fun, and colorful. The miniatures are gorgeous, and the sculpting crew deserve a raise. You won’t fully comprehend what an achievement thee Nighthaunt are until they’re in your hands.

I’ve been hotly anticipating Soul Wars. It exceeds every expectation and then some, clear proof that Games Workshop’s new golden age shows no sign of abating.

Do you play Age of Sigmar? Tell us about it in the comments (or better yet, share photos of your factions with us on Twitter and Facebook)!

More Warhammer Goodness!

Image Credits: Games Workshop

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: The Sandman

Jun 18 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Taliesin Jaffe, Matt Key, and Amy Dallen were joined by Anthony Carboni to talk about Neil Gaiman’s unforgettable series The Sandman.

The Sandman is part of the DC Universe, with a few familiar faces popping up in unexpected ways here and there. But that’s not the reason why you should pick up this incredible, life-changing book.

“In the over-arcing DC universe,” explained Taliesin, “which has superheroes, gods, monsters, and all levels of creation, there exists a series of anthropomorphic personifications of basic primal elements that stand above all. These are the first beings that were ever willed into existence. They are older than the universe, and there will still be one of them left when the universe ends.”

Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, and Delirium are just some of these beings.

“They are the Endless. They are a family, and they are dysfunctional,” continued Taliesin. Dream is trapped on Earth, and the story begins there.

“No other book paints as strong a portrait of hope as the one in which Despair is literally a character,” said Amy.

Take a look at the gallery below for specific recommendations from the episode.

The hosts also mentioned a few related works, like the Death solo title, and the original and relaunched Prez series. Sandman is also returning to Vertigo with the launch of the Sandman Universe this summer.

THE DAILY WEDNESDAY

Did you know The Wednesday Club has their own letters column with questions and comments from viewers? Send in your thoughts, comic recommendations, questions, and more to Matt, Amy, and Taliesin at thewednesdayclub@geekandsundry.com and you might just see yourself on the next episode.

Please mark your message “OK to read on air” so the hosts know what you’re comfortable with sharing.

COMIXOLOGY ORIGINALS

The Wednesday Club is proud to announce the sponsorship of comiXology Originals! ComiXology’s new digital series highlight talented creators and their unique books, and you can read them for free if you have comiXology Unlimited. This week the hosts highlighted Superfreaks by Elsa Charretier, Pierrick Colinet, and Margaux Saltel.

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“It’s a story about all the adult superheroes vanishing,” said Taliesin, “and the teen sidekicks kind of figure out what’s happening. But no one’s really excited about a bunch of teen sidekicks running around trying to solve mysteries and save the world.”

GET MORE COMIC GOODNESS!

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

Featured Image: Vertigo

 

WATCH: Critical Role – Have Bird, Will Travel (Campaign 2, Episode 23)

Jun 18 2018

After finishing up some loose ends in the Labenda Swamp, the Mighty Nein head to the town of Huperdook…

If you’re new to Critical Role, each week a group of talented voice actors embarks on a D&D adventure. Players Marisha RayTaliesin JaffeLiam O’BrienLaura BaileySam RiegelAshley Johnson, and Travis Willingham jump into the world created by fellow voice actor and GM Matt Mercer. (Check out this primer for newcomers to the show. You’ll be cursing Gil with the rest of us soon enough!)

Episode Music Credits:

Battle Bards
Midnight Syndicate 
Platemail Games
Kevin McLeod
Pillars of Eternity – Obsidian Entertainment
World of Warcraft – Blizzard Entertainment
Elder Scrolls Series – Bethesda Entertainment
The Witcher Series – CD Projekt Red
Shadow of Mordor Series
And a huge thank you for all of our community music contributions!

Thanks to D&D Beyond for being a long time partner of Critical Role! Pre-orders are currently available for upcoming supplements Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, so be sure to check them out!

If you’re looking to catch the action live, join us every Thursday on Alpha and Twitch at 7 PM PT. If you’re not already subscribed to Alpha, you can get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

The Set of Talks Machina Holds Secrets and Stories

Jun 18 2018

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.

There’s something about the Talks Machina set that feels like home. With its comfy chairs, odds and ends sent in to the cast by crafty fans, and Trinket waiting to give big bear hugs, the set is as warm and welcoming as the Critical Role cast themselves.

New items are added regularly, but the original set decoration had a very Vox Machina beginning. “My favorite item is the large barrel that sits on the ground as a stand, actually,” says host Brian W. Foster. “Due to a number of circumstances, we only had two days before we launched Talks to get the set together. We had a builder/painter for the walls and shelves, but the rest was up to us.

“Almost the whole cast got up early on a Sunday and spent hours in the heat roaming the amazing rows of the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena, looking for treasures. Armed with master negotiator Laura Bailey, we wheeled and dealed a lot of the stuff you see there now. That barrel we got for probably 1/4 of the asking price, thanks to Laura completely charisma bargaining with the vendor.

“We lugged the day’s haul back to the cars, super excited about the show, and making the set a unique collection of memories and moments from Critical Role.”

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Here are more fun facts about the items currently on display on the Talks Machina set that you might not have noticed while you were busy being dazzled by Brian and his guests for the week—and you might find out a secret or two in the list below.

Slight spoilers for Critical Role follow.

Did You Know?

  • The labeled glass bottles of mysterious ingredients are from the Critical Role episode of Escape!.
  • The red fez worn by Sam Riegel in the Honey Heist one-shot is hiding on a shelf.
  • The large stuffed Trinket was sent in for Critmas by a generous fan in 2015, and he made his stream debut in the first campaign’s Episode 30. (The cast was a little concerned that there was a corpse in the shipping box before they opened it.)
  • The Pike Trickfoot oil and gold leaf painting was created by Mike Hendrickson. “I love the Pike portrait that’s always behind Brian’s shoulder,” Talks Machina Segment Producer Dani Carr says. “Like Ashley is always there like, ‘Babe…'”

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  • Frumpkin was knitted and sent to Liam O’Brien by Scarves for Caleb.
  • Dani and Talks Machina Producer Max James both count the imposing Vecna miniature as their favorite item on set. Dani remembers when it first arrived at Geek & Sundry. “Matt [Mercer] brought it in waaaay before the final boss fight,” she says, “and was like, ‘Dani, PLEASE HIDE THIS!’ So I hid it for ages in one of the offices.”
  • There is a VHS copy of the movie Wild Things somewhere on the set.
  • The plush Jester doll that calls the sofa home was handmade by a Critter. Read more about Jen Herrera’s incredible, adorable work.
  • The map of Emon on the wall was created by Matt Mercer himself in a city builder program and Photoshop, pre-stream. It’s missing Vox Machina’s Greyskull Keep, as he made it before the Keep was constructed.  (You can even download it.)

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As you can guess, most of the items on the Talks Machina set have come from generous and creative Critters. While the P.O. Box for Critmas gifts is no longer widely available, objects are still being added and moved around the set week after week. One of the latest additions, a Fjord bust sent in by a crafty fan, seems a little shifty…

wait-what

Seriously, though, many thanks to Eugene Bell for the incredible Fjord sculpture!

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

  • Tune into our official aftershow, Talks Machina, live on Alpha and Twitch, Tuesdays at 7pm PT.
  • Follow the Critical Role crew on Twitter for news about events and signings.
  • Don’t miss new episodes of Critical Role live on Alpha and Twitch, Thursdays at 7pm PT!

Photos: Kelly Knox

GIF Image Credit: ArseQueef

Crusader Kings Brings A Game Full of Thrones From The Laptop To the Tabletop

Jun 18 2018

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we’re taking a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is Crusader Kings, a tabletop adaptation of the critically acclaimed computer strategy game. The Kickstarter has exceeded their $57,000 funding goal as of this writing and is currently nearing $400K in funding.

Over the past few years, Paradox Interactive has made a name for itself as the premiere publisher of heavy, just-one-more-turn-what-do-you-mean-its-three-in-the-morning style computer strategy games. The company signaled a move into the tabletop space when it acquired White Wolf properties from fellow video developer CCP Games. It announced a new edition of Vampire: The Masquerade coming out this summer distributed by RPG powerhouse Modiphius. Then they announced they were adapting some of their massive strategy games as board games while simultaneously launching a Kickstarter for the first; the medieval intrigue and warfare of their Crusader Kings games.

crusader kings shot

What makes Paradox Interactive’s games stand out is their sense of narrative. Wars in Crusader Kings II are not declared on countries, they are declared on rulers. Each noble has a complex web of relationships with other princes and baronesses. Players taking actions send shockwaves through these webs and the consequences might not play out for years to come after the war is long over and all the crowns involved are long dead.

If this game sounds familiar to fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, it should. The time period covered is the same historical era that inspired Martin’s complex tale of betrayal and battle. (There’s even a fan mod for the game that replaces Europe with Westeros that fans of both love. The Crusader Kings games require people management and domain management while offering a variety of options, from giving out fake titles to stroke egos to hiring assassins to kill rivals and then using the death as an excuse to invade and protect their children until they come of ruling age.

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How, then, do the designers hope to translate a massive game like this to the tabletop? One of the most innovative mechanics involves passing traits down a royal line. In the computer game, children take traits from both parents that affects how they rule and changes their relationship. These traits are placed in a draw bag in the tabletop game as the royal line adds more members through birth and marriage. These traits are divided into two categories; positive ones like Kind or Brave and negative ones like Angry or Cruel. Many actions require a draw out of the bag of a positive trait to be successful. Some specific actions have critical traits that can count as a success even if they are negative; a Cruel regent is more likely to succeed at murdering a fellow noble in cold blood.

This means careful marriage and selection of traits for you heirs is important, as the game plays out over three generations. Players aren’t just playing characters; they play out those character’s children, and their children. There are three ways to win the game in the basic scenario; sweep your enemies off the board through conquest, send your best and brightest heirs on a crusade and hope they survive to the end, or last three generations and total up the most victory points.

The Kickstarter is fairly simple. One level gets the base game while the other includes bonus miniatures unlocked to represent advantages of each kingdom. Stretch goals unlocked to benefit all backers include a larger game board (for more plastic warriors to battle), additional game scenarios and an AI for solo and two-player modes for those days when the whole clan can’t get together to scheme. The change to get bonus plastic ends when the Kickstarter wraps on June 19th, so if you want to play the game and take the throne, you need to gather your resources before then.

What Kickstarter games have you backed recently? Tell us about them in the comments!

More Board Game Goodness!

 

Images Credits: Paradox Interactive/Free League

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

Pitchstorm Is The Party Game That Shows Us How We Got Sharknado

Jun 15 2018

It’s the time of year when epic summer blockbusters are coming at us fast and furiously, that while boasting bombastic effects and have ultimately safe premises that take us on a journey for 2 hours but tell us nothing about ourselves or show us nothing new. Every once in awhile, however, a movie comes out that is totally off the wall, and whose premises are as ridiculous as they are fun.

In Pitchstormpublished by Skybound Games, you get to experience the joys of pitching those kinds of movies. Off-the-wall, preposterous movies that are so silly they just might work. These are the movies whose charm lies in the fact that someone, somewheredecided they were a good idea. 

It’s a true party game that can accommodate 3-12 players, and driven by three kinds of cards: character, plot, and executive notes. The mechanics are simple enough, though the gameplay is slightly different depending on the number of players. For games on the smaller side, games are played as each player flying solo. In larger games, teams are built up as pairs. Check out Becca’s How to Play video for the details on how the game plays:

There’s fun to be had in taking tired tropes and breathing new life in them. A straightforward premise – a safe set of characters with a safe plot that builds a safe story that speaks to a tried-and-true audience, for example, might look something like this:

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Those beats are familiar enough, for sure. But let’s admit it: they’re also somewhat boring, and something we’ve seen. It can be weaved into a funny, zany story, for sure, but let’s be honest: it’s been done.

what-about-bob-feature

The magic of the game is often found with the executive notes. When the executive player starts hearing this kind of pitch, and one of the joys you get to experience is throwing crazy curveballs that force players to, in real-time, incorporate new twists. They’re forced to rise to the challenge and make a case for novelty and entertainment. Players get a laugh, get lauded for creative approaches by other players, and maybe even recognized with a win that round.

pitchstorm 3 (1)

Maybe a quick-witted player might find a way to twist the pitch into something both more outrageous but also more familiar, finding a way to turn What about Bob?  into Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, focusing on a whiny Luke complaining about the water and the food (but thankfully not the sand). If you’re that player, well done.

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The real magic, however, comes with outrageous characters and incongruent plots, twisted into something even zanier with an executive note. Take, for example, this:

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Stitching these concepts together is going to be a heck of a ride, and however it goes down, it’ll be an entertaining yarn to spin.

And that’s kind of the point of Pitchstorm. The game, while it does have conditions for scoring and winning, isn’t actually about that. What’s remarkable about this kind of party game is that it isn’t about showing how terrible a person you are, or how twisted a sense of humor you can have but rather how creative, funny, and witty you can be. You get a really strong sense of that when you watch Becca and her guests play it on Game the Game: everyone is having a great time, and the outcome doesn’t matter as much as much as watching everyone just embrace the curveballs and roll with the punches.

Playing this game is like experiencing an episode of Whose Line Is it Anyways? starring you and your friends – the points don’t matter, but you get lots of laughs along the way. It’s improvisational, and there’s something collaborative and creative about the experience that is made even better when played with 6+ players. You accept outrageous premises as reality, you serve the story, and your ultimate goal is to entertain those around you.

One of the best parts of light and accessible party games is that it gives people a structure and a reason to just be silly together. At the heart of a great game is a great play experience, with play being the operative word. Pitchstorm offers a great structure for playfulness, laughs, and judgment-free fun in the same way that zany, silly, off-the-wall movies are lighthearted fun.  And we’re all for that.

Pitchstorm is currently funding on Kickstarter, having quickly surpassed its goal of $5K. You can fund the project yourself and secure a copy for $25 by backing the project, though you only have until July 13th to get in on the Kickstarter. 

Image credits: Teri Litorco, Disney/Lucasfilms, Touchstone

This post is sponsored by Skybound Games.

Warhammer Underworld: Shadespire’s Final Expansions – Demon Dogs and Battle Birds

Jun 15 2018

It’s been over a year since Games Workshop introduced us to Warhammer Underworlds: ShadespireIf you’re one of our regular readers, you’ve probably noticed that we haven’t stopped playing it and raving about it since we got our grubby hands on it. I’ve torn into every expansion as they’ve arrived and it’s even revitalized my painting hobby.

Just a few weeks ago the last two expansions were released. Magore’s Fiends are a bloodthirsty band of Khorne worshipers featuring a leader who has a mouth in his stomach (yes he can bite with it) and Riptooth, a flesh hound who can dart across the board and tear into your enemies. The Farstriders are another band of Stormcast Eternals, this time sporting boltstorm pistols that can bury you under a barrage of ranged fire.

Magore’s Fiends

The Shadespire core set includes a band of Khorne worshiping Bloodreavers. They’re pretty violent (though squishy). I also thought they were pretty brutal and bloody, given that they inspire when multiple fighters die even if those fighters are on their team. Enter Magore and his crew. These are the heavily armored version of the Bloodreavers and what they give up in speed they gain in brutality. Magore’s axe is actually made of teeth and – once upgraded – his stomach is its own weapon that heals you when you attack with it. It’s pretty great. It isn’t just Magore however. His fellow fighters have the aptly named Gorefists that provide a free attack when an opponent fails to attack successfully.

That said, the real star of this expansion is Riptooth. This half-demon half-dog creature can bound across the map and rip into anyone who stands in his way. He’s also got some fun upgrades that allow you to leverage that combat prowess tactically. I’m a fan of Shake About. A successful attack normally allows you to push an enemy 1-hex away from you. It’s useful for avoiding counter attacks and other tactical considerations, but Riptooth’s special upgrade lets him toss an enemy in any direction. This is useful for setting up follow attacks with the other Fiends. It’s also hard to understand just how fast this perilous pup is. This expansion is great for anyone who wants to put aggressive pressure on their opponent for the whole game.

Riptooth

The Farstriders

If getting up close and personal isn’t your style, then you need to check out the Farstriders. Clad in resplendent gold armor, these Stormcast come bearing ranged weapons known as Boltstorm Pistols. A few of the other clans have access to distance attacks, but nothing compares to these three. Each of them has a range-3 pistol and their captain, Sanson Farstrider, also has a trusty Aetherwing by his side. Once inspired, his aquiline pet boasts the longest range in the game with the ability to deal bonus damage on a critical hit. Tooled up, this warband can dish out a punishing amount of damage without ever getting near the more brutish opponents.

Eternal 1

It isn’t all aggression with these three however. Their range allows them to sit back on objectives and defend themselves, pushing enemies out of charge range or knocking them off of objectives from afar. Not having to get close to deal damage means they can save their limited move actions for getting where they want to be without sacrificing the ability to take out enemy fighters. For my playstyle, they’re the most unique of all the warbands and I’m loving dancing them around the table.

The End?

We’ve known since the release of Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire that there would be at least 8 warbands. This paired release seems to bring the game’s collection to a conclusion. All the warbands teased in the rulebook have arrived, and – based on card numbering – have all the cards in the set. And yet…GW has teased cards from something upcoming. We don’t have many details. It could be more warbands, a new core set, or even a whole new game set in another part of the Age of Sigmar universe. We’re certainly looking forward to hearing more.

However, for now, we’re perfectly content to keep fighting over this city of glass and bone. Shadespire remains the stellar game of tactical supremacy promised at release. Each warband has multiple styles of play and has seen success at high-level tournaments, and they’ve all carved out their own identity. Some love the Skaven for their sneaky ability to appear all over the board and control objectives. Others love to load their leader up and stab people to death. Many players have built decks creative in the ways they attempt to wipe their opponents out, while some are content to play defensively and dominate objectives. With one exception (already fixed via FAQ), strategies are as varied as the players conceiving them and balanced to boot. That is not always the case with competitive games.

Shadespire FI

Games Workshop has got quite the gem on their hands with this game. The 12-action system packs tension into every decision, and the ploy deck rewards clever fighters for decisions made before the game starts. Contrary to what many expect out of dice-based combat, most games feel determined by player skill and not random chance. Sure, there are the times your opponent rolls 4 crits (like what happened to me this weekend), but far more often are the times you sit back and smile at a plan well-executed, or congratulate an opponent on a game well played.

I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next, but not too far forward. My battles in the Mirrored City have not come to an end quite yet.

Want to hear more about miniature gaming?

Image Credits: 

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.

First Look: These White Cards from M:tG’s Core Set 2019 Will Raise Your Skill

Jun 15 2018

Interested in Magic: The Gathering? Be sure to tune in every Wednesday here on Geek & Sundry for new episodes of Spellslingers, where host Day[9] plays epic battles of Magic: The Gathering against fantastic guests!

Wizards of the Coast is mounting a two-pronged assault on the notion that Magic: The Gathering is only for the so-called “spike” player: the expert, the hardcore, the professional. First, the company brought back the once-a-year “core” sets, which are entry-level expansions with fewer rules-entangled cards, in the form of Core Set 2019.

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Five Decks for Five Colors

Second, Wizards has expanded on the idea of including a couple of introductory Planeswalker Decks alongside the usual booster boxes. This time around, there are five Core Set 2019 Planeswalker Decks, one for each color of Magic. Each is designed to pick up and play out of the box and each offers a fun experience versus any other Planeswalker Deck. These decks help you learn the rules of Magic, improve your skill and let you play with the cool, iconic Planeswalkers, the superheroes of the Magic: The Gathering universe. Plus, the decks include a Core Set 2019 booster pack, and the Planeswalker is premium foil.

The white Ajani, Wise Counselor deck, in particular, is built around Ajani Goldmane, the Leonin wayward son who’s the stalwart healer, protector and fierce warrior among the Planeswalkers.

Ajani, Wise Counselor

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Ajani, Wise Counselor costs three colorless mana and two white mana, for a total of five mana. He begins with five loyalty, and can add two loyalty to gain you one life for each creature you control. You can remove three loyalty to give all your creatures +2 power and +2 toughness until end of turn. Or, after you’ve built up some loyalty, you can remove nine loyalty to put a number of +1/+1 counters on a creature equal to your life total.

Court Cleric

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One of Ajani’s helpers in the deck is the Court Cleric, a Bant healer who tutored Ajani in healing, exactly when he needed it the most. She costs a mere 1 white mana, has 1 power and 1 toughness, and gains +1/+1 when you control Ajani. Plus, she has Lifelink, which gains you life when she deals damage.

This speaks to a lifegain theme in the white deck, which will help it hold its own against the more aggressive nature of some of the other decks.

Interview with the Core Set 2019 Associate Brand Manager

We got the opportunity to speak with Chris Tulach, the Associate Brand Manager for Core Set 2019, about some of the goals and objectives for this set and these Planeswalker Decks in particular.

Steve Horton (Geek & Sundry): So what were the overall goals for these Planeswalker Decks and the white deck in specific?

Chris Tulach (Wizards of the Coast): We wanted to ensure that new players had the easiest learning curve possible through our products. After starting their Magic learning journey with a Welcome Deck, they can now select the same color Planeswalker Deck for their next step. This continuity of experience is important to ensure players are able to quickly gain proficiency in the game, and move on to more advanced concepts. Each Planeswalker Deck represents a core gameplay experience for its respective color. For example, the white deck, featuring Ajani, loves to summon an army of smaller creatures to break through the enemy’s defenses and claim victory.

SH: How do they fit into the big picture as far as Core Set 2019 being more of an entry-level set?

CT: I covered this a bit already, but the entire product mix for Core Set 2019 is designed around providing the best onboarding experience we’ve yet crafted for a Core set. This was the first large Magic set designed with an emphasis on new players first. The Welcome Decks, Planeswalker Decks, and Deck Builder’s Toolkit products had priority during design, and then the rest of the cards that would excite veteran players were designed to complement what was already built. But it’s not just for new players; it’s for everyone. There’s plenty of great cards here to love, no matter how experienced you are with the game.

SH: How will playing these decks versus each other help new players transition into a prerelease and/or Standard?

CT: You’re going to see the color themes from the Planeswalker Decks reinforced in the booster packs when you play in a Core Set 2019 limited environment, like a Prerelease or Draft Weekend. After you’ve had an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the color through the deck, you’ll probably want to explore other colors too. Players that feel like they’re ready can dive right into cracking boosters, or they can get a great intro to each color by picking up another Planeswalker Deck. In addition, they can form the foundation of a Standard deck which you can supplement with boosters from this set, or the last few as well.

Play with the Decks Early

If you happen to be attending Grand Prix Vegas starting June 15, you’ll be able to play with the Ajani deck and the other Core Set 2019 Planeswalker Decks, weeks before the general public!

Otherwise, you can also buy these decks at the Core Set 2019 Open House, June 30 and July 1 at a friendly local game shop near you. It’s a great event for new players to show up, play against other players with free intro decks or purchased Planeswalker decks, socialize, and get a free promo card for participating. You can even play in a casual Standard tournament with your Planeswalker deck or your constructed Standard deck.

If you can’t make the Grand Prix or the Open House, these decks go on sale July 14.

Are you excited for the new Core Set 2019 Planeswalker decks? Tell us which ones and why in the comments below!

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Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast

WATCH: Shield of Tomorrow – The Way Is Shut – Part 3 (Episode 21)

Jun 15 2018

Shield of Tomorrow is our Star Trek Adventures RPG show. GM’ed by Eric Campbell, the talented cast comprised of Sam de Leve, Amy Dallen, Hector Navarro, and Bonnie Gordon embark on weekly adventures aboard the USS Sally Ride.

On this episode: in the depths of an asteroid field, Captain Martinez receives a special visitor.

Want to catch the show live? Tune in every Friday at 4:00 PM PT and follow the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Twitch and Alpha. You can also catch the aftershow, Behind The Shieldon Alpha immediately after Shield of Tomorrow. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Sign up now for a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

Want more Shield of Tomorrow goodness?

LISTEN: Critical Role Podcast – Lost Treasures (Campaign 2, Episode 22)

Jun 14 2018

For those of you who prefer to consume Critical Role in podcast form, or for those who may have missed it, the newest episode of Critical Role, Lost Treasures, is now available for download.

The Mighty Nein delve into the waters below the safehouse in an attempt to finish their first task for the Gentleman…

If you’re new to Critical Role, each week a group of talented voice actors embarks on a D&D adventure. Players Marisha RayTaliesin JaffeLiam O’BrienLaura BaileySam RiegelAshley Johnson, and Travis Willingham jump into the world created by fellow voice actor and GM Matt Mercer.

Episode Music Credits:

Battle Bards
Midnight Syndicate 
Platemail Games
Kevin McLeod
Pillars of Eternity – Obsidian Entertainment
World of Warcraft – Blizzard Entertainment
Elder Scrolls Series – Bethesda Entertainment
The Witcher Series – CD Projekt Red
Shadow of Mordor Series
And a huge thank you for all of our community music contributions!

Thanks to D&D Beyond for being a long time partner of Critical Role! Pre-orders are currently available for upcoming supplements Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, so be sure to check them out!

If you’re looking to catch the action live, join us every Thursday on Alpha and Twitch at 7 PM PT. If you’re not already subscribed to Alpha, you can get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

  • Want a super fast summary of each episode of Critical Role? Look no further than Critical Recap!
  • Show your love of Vox Machina with Critical Role dice, apparel, prints, and more!
  • Tune into our official after show, Talks Machina, live on Alpha and Twitch, Tuesdays at 7pm PT.
  • Follow the Critical Role crew on Twitter for news about events and signings.
  • And don’t miss new episodes of Critical Role LIVE on Alpha and Twitch, Thursdays at 7pm PT!

GM Lessons from Phoenix: Dawn Command – Handling Immortal Player Characters

Jun 14 2018

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 to help build up your Starter Kit and begin your own adventure!

Death is often one of the biggest challenges in a tabletop RPG. Most RPGs design complex systems like hit points of plot points to represent the tension of a difficult situation. Losing a character can bring the energy of a game down. A lot of time and effort went into developing the character and now most of that energy is gone. The characters of Phoenix: Dawn Command are different. Death is welcomed by a Phoenix because it gives them a chance to return to the Crucible and emerge with a more powerful form. By the time a Phoenix has hit their seventh and final transformation, they wield the powers of a god. What challenges exist for them to conquer if the #1 consequence in most RPGs is taken off the table? Let’s look at a few ideas the Marshal can use to keep conflicts dramatic.

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Moral Quandaries

With great power comes great responsibility. This central theme of Spider-Man comics also applies to godlike beings. A Phoenix is meant to be a good character battling against the ultimate evil Dread, but there are a lot of grey areas to explore in stories. What about an Imperial soldier unwilling to submit to the wisdom of the Phoenix in defense of unarmed civilians? What about a shape-shifting member of the Dread claiming to be a hero long returned? There’s still ample opportunity for epic butt-kicking, but the middle of the story full of intrigue can draw out juicy roleplaying as the Wing discusses their options.

Endanger Mortals

The Wing may die and be reborn, but plenty of mortals in the world are not. Players have connections to the mortal world like lovers, friends and mentors that are vulnerable. This tactic is best used with discretion to keep players from not investing any emotion in allies and friends. Keep an eye on what characters plays enjoy encountering and use those characters to complicate battle scenes. Innocents caught in the crossfire or battles that might destroy a favorite location will cause the Wing to use their powers more carefully, which often means not hitting with their full force all the time.

Play To Their Weaknesses

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Each type of Phoenix is built to a particular play style very well. Sometimes, switching up the task a Phoenix must accomplish in a story can teach them something about their characters. Not being able to use their full strength once in a while makes the player considers other solutions that help define their character. A Devout Phoenix forced to follow rather than lead could learn something about the subtleties of power. Storylines like these can also rely on a strength but in a different way. A Durant Phoenix used to withstanding waves of arrows might have to show her strength instead to help a grieving husband bury his wife on their farmstead claimed by the Dread.

Lasting Consequences

Although the Phoenix are reborn into new forms with new powers, the world around them is not. Villains may return with new scars and new grudges. A freshly minted soldier might be a battle scarred veteran by the end of the campaign. Players love callbacks to earlier moments in their story and sometimes, showing how early mistakes play out into later troubles fit the mythic style of this game perfectly.

Have you played an immortal character in your RPGs? Share your tips with tackling this challenge in the comments! And be sure to tune into Starter Kit to learn to get into Phoenix Dawn Command yourself – you can catch the show exclusively on ProjectAlpha.com.

More RPG Goodness!

Images Credits: Twogether Press

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

GALLERY: Critical Role Fan Art – Growing Pains

Jun 14 2018

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.

What dangers lurk in the mists of Labenda Swamp? And will these challenges bring the Mighty Nein even closer together, or drive them apart?

Check out the gallery below!

SUBMIT YOUR ART

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 Mighty Nein? Your best chances are to throw it on Twitter and direct your drawings at #CriticalRole and #CriticalRoleFanArt. (Sometimes it helps to include the Twitter handle of your favorite cast member).

You can also send your picture to critrole@gmail.com. Make sure you include your name, website, or Twitter handle with the art.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

Featured Image Art by Max Beech

WATCH: Game the Game – Pitchstorm By Skybound Games (Playthrough)

Jun 14 2018

Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best boardgames the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! 

Studio representatives (also known as guests) Xander Jeanneret, Alejandra Cejudo, Omar Najam, and B. Dave Walters join host Becca Scott for Pitchstorm by Skybound Games! In this competition for the silver screen you’ve gotta pitch a movie to the studio execs. Who will get their movies made and who will fumble their pitch?

Check out Pitchstorm on Kickstarter: http://bit.ly/Pitchstorm

This video is sponsored by Skybound Games.

WATCH: Critical Recap – Lost Treasures Recapped in 4 Minutes 25 Seconds

Jun 14 2018

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.

OG Critter and Talks Machina Segment Producer Dani Carr recaps the enthralling events of Critical Role, Episode 22: “Lost Treasures“!

Be sure to check back every Thursday here on GeekandSundry.com for the newest episode of Critical Recap!

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

Stars Without Number is a Sandbox RPG Gaming Masterpiece

Jun 13 2018

There is a lot of emphasis (rightly) in roleplaying games on tailoring a story to your group. It’s a tradition which imagines RPGs as a stage-play, with the gamemaster as director and screenwriter. It’s drama of a traditional sort, a collaborative series of weekly dramatic improv sessions written on the fly. And this is a really, really good approach to gaming, one which is the most widespread in the 21st century.

But there’s another tradition, the sandbox, where the world is created in minutest detail and the players are thrown into that world. They must conform to it, not the other way around. The possibilities become more tactile and harsher. These are games of resource and system, of landscape and distance. We get sniffs of this tradition in material like Tomb of Annihilation, but it’s not dominant.

The masterpiece of sandbox gaming released in late 2017, late enough that it was hours from being 2018. Stars Without Number Revised Edition, a snazzy update of a nearly decade-old work by its author, Kevin Crawford (Sine Nomine Publishing), is like a shot across the bow of what we think of as sandbox gaming. It’s both deeply traditional and wildly new. It should be reckoned with as one of the best games of the year.

SWN

Hexes, the Final Frontier

Stars Without Number (or simply SWN) is a science fiction game about space exploration. Campaigns take place in a sector of space in a galaxy which has fallen from the heights of empire. It’s a familiar trope of the type of splendor amongst the ruins sci-fi Crawford takes his cues from and, honestly, the background of what came before isn’t important.

What is important, and what the bulk of the book’s 321 pages deals with, is creating the space sector your campaign is set in. No two are alike, and this is where the sandbox comes in. Through a series of tags and charts, you fill a hex map with details. Lots of details. You get histories, alien species, technology levels, biomes, planets… SWN smooths over the tedium of sandbox creation, as delightful as that tedium might sometimes be.

The genius of SWN—and it’s a genius which runs through all of Crawford’s games—is that it’s all written in such a way that the potential stories and dramatic chokepoints become immediately apparent. You turn your players loose in this unique, intimidating structure and watch as they stumble upon the challenges which are uniquely your table’s to confront. It’s close to magic.

If this sounds at all interesting to you, there’s a nifty third party sector generator you can play with to see the system in action, and an older, unrelated one which spits out the aliens, factions, and other stuff from SWN‘s first edition.  Neither is perfect, but they’ll give you a glimpse into how sector creation works. There’s also a free pdf version of SWN if you’re already on board for a full read through.

SWN Alley

Roll 3d6

At its core, SWN is immediately recognizable. The basic chassis of the game is from the OSR: old school D&D mechanics from the earliest days of that game. You have four classes, with psionics standing in for magic. You level up and there are skills; you’ve seen this before.

It’s very simple, though the ability to play AI beings (robots, androids, etc) complicates it a bit. The simplicity of the minute-to-minute play is deliberate. It allows the complexity to be moved from combat and skill tests to sector exploration and creation. It also means an awful lot of people can just jump in and play from scratch, which was always the best bit of the OGL.

This shouldn’t be sniffed at, because the book comes packed with advice and extras, both of which are a direct offshoot of the core rules’ simplicity. For instance, transhuman campaigns aren’t the default assumption in SWN, but there’s a meaty subchapter on how to integrate them mechanically and thematically if you’re into it. That doesn’t happen with a brand new ruleset which shoots for a baseline complexity.

Set Course For Genius

This revised edition is big and there’s no fat in its pages. It is simply more than the standard edition: more tutorials on sandbox campaigning, more random generation options, more art, more options. It’s also extremely versatile; none of the sector generation stuff (or adventure generation, or character backgrounds, or factions, or…) is tied to the SWN system, meaning you can port it into whatever game you want. Somewhere, the charts in SWN are being used with minimal work in a really killer Star Trek Adventures campaign.

SWN is one of those games for which the author has thought extremely deeply about what tabletop gaming even means at all. This is not at all to denigrate any game designer, but once in a while you find a designer who peers deeply into the ways we play, what they mean, and the mechanical boundaries we set up. Gygax, Stafford, Baker, Morningstar. And Kevin Crawford, with Stars Without Number Revised Edition as his masterwork.

What’s your favorite modern sandbox experience? And do you like the gritty feel of a fantasy hexcrawl or the soaring skies of a sci-fi sector romp? Tell us below!

More RPG Goodness!

Image Credits: Stars Without Number Revised Edition

Playing Magic: The Gathering: How and Where to Get Started

Jun 13 2018

Interested in Magic: The Gathering? Check out our show Spellslingers where host Day[9] plays epic battles of Magic: The Gathering against fantastic guests each week here on Geek & Sundry!

One of the most daunting tasks is finding other people to play with or a place to play a game that you love. Thankfully, if you’re looking to get into Magic: The Gathering you don’t need luck to find somewhere to play. Magic has been around for 25 years and is all over the world. If you’ve got a local store, there’s an exceptionally good chance that people are there playing Magic.

The hardest challenge for me was finding a format in Magic that I absolutely loved. (It turned out I loved far too many.) Here are some of the easiest ways to start playing Magic at a store near you – your best bet will be to check out Friday Night Magic, or FnM, but stores run events all of the time. (If you’re not sure, you can find a store nearest you with the Wizards of the Coast Store Locator.)

Prerelease and Sealed Events

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Prerelease events are the first kind of event I recommend for anyone wanting to get into the game. Mindfully, these events only happen before a new set is about to come out so timing can be an issue, so keep on the lookout for general Sealed events. I loved hosting Prerelease events, because, like video game stores, you’ll often get a midnight release with all kinds of ancillary, fun events happening around the slinging of cards to really immerse you.

A Sealed event means you’ll receive six booster packs from which you can build your deck. Lately, Wizards has provided these six booster packs plus some kind of promotional booster and a 20 sided die to track your life total which really adds to the value. Beyond that, the store usually provides basic lands so that you don’t have to. From there, unlike Standardyou only need to build a 40 card deck instead of 60. The provided boosters and provided basic lands are all you have to build with. You can’t trade with other players and you can’t add cards from your own collection, but it does put players on a more even field.  What’s sometimes cool, however, is that if you have more than 4 of a card you like then you can absolutely play it (unlike standard deck formats). Be a rebel!

Drafts

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I was often told that my store was an outlier because we would draft every FnM. Drafting, like Sealed, requires you to build a 40 card deck once you have your cards, but you acquire your cards differently. In Sealed, you’ve got what you’ve got. Drafting, however, requires a bit more finesse.

In a Draft, you’ll sit down with some number of other players rounding out your table between six to ten people. Each of you will open a booster pack, take out those tip/token cards and the basic land and evaluate what you have before you. Then, after assessing your card options you’d pick the 1 you wanted most for whatever reason: value, card strength, cool art, whatever.

Once you selected your card, you’d pass the remaining cards on to the person next to you (left or right depending on the drafting round) and you’d pick up a new hand of cards. You’ll repeat this process for every single card in that booster pack and you’ll perform the overall selection of cards 3 times. Afterward, you’ll have about 45 selected cards to build from.

Just like in Sealed, if you draft more than 4 of a card you can totally play them all (crafty players may do that on purpose and to surprise opponents). I firmly believe drafting will help ramp up your skill as an overall Magic player. It teaches you card evaluation, deck construction, and builds familiarity with the cards. You’ll definitely love having big, strong cards, but it’s important to never underestimate the power of a solid common rarity card.

Standard

PlaneswalkerIntros

Chances are when you’re out in the world doing whatever you might be doing that you’ll be able to find someone with a Standard deck to play against. Standard is likely the most played and easiest format to get into. If you play Sealed and Drafts then you’ll likely already be playing the newest sets anyway which will make stepping into Standard even easier! Standard deck construction only uses a number of the most recent sets which can be found on the Magic: The Gathering website. There also might be cards that have been banned and simply cannot be played. The good news, however, is if a card has been printed again and is in Standard rotation, then you’re good to use any older copies of that card you might like!

While Standard rotates, older sets will become unavailable to the format while new cards come in. This often results in new combinations, neat innovations, and a pulse with which you can be sure things will change. With that, Standard follows basic deck construction of at least 60 cards, a 15 card sideboard, and no more than 4 copies of a card outside of basic lands. Once you’ve got that together, you’re ready to throw down. Wizards of the Coast also provide preconstructed decks for Standard that you can pick up and begin playing right away.

Modern

PathToExilePromo

For players who have played longer, Modern is a format that gives you access to even more cards than Standard. As cards rotate out of Standard, they often fall into Modern if they don’t end up banned. Deck construction for Modern works the exact same way as Standard, but you can use cards dating all the way back to the Eighth Edition Core set. This is a space where you can build all kinds of weird decks that just weren’t possible due to the collection of mechanics now available to you. Of course, if you’re just diving in this will require a bit more financial investment to get the cards you want to build that sweet, new deck brew.

Commander

CommanderPreCon

This is my absolutely favorite format for a few reasons: It’s goofy, is about social interactions, and follows totally different deck construction rules. Commander is a format where you have a legendary creature that determines your entire deck construction. They sit in a unique position to shape the entire fate of your deck.

First, your legendary creature’s color identity (all colored costs on the card) determine what cards can be used for your deck. If you’ve got a green, blue, black commander then you can’t have any red or white cards in your deck. Next, you build a 99 card deck around that creature that can’t have any more than ONE copy of a given card aside from basic lands. That Commander creature stays outside of the deck and can be played any time you’d normally be able to play it. If it dies, gets exiled or whatever, you can bring it back into play it again with a scaling, increased cost.

Commander is a great place to build themed decks, use those gigantic creatures you can’t play in standard, or even built elaborate combinations that completely flip how the game is played. Finally, Commander is also designed for multiplayer as opposed to the 1v1 nature of the other formats. It’s a great time to make deals and stab your friends in the back to win. Recently, Wizards of the Coast is also creating preconstructed Commander decks so you don’t have to worry about building your own to get started.

What Else Is There?

While I focused on the easier ways to get into Magic, there are a few things worth noting. Not everyone has access to a local store or a friend group to play and that’s cool. If you’re looking to get into the game, there is also Magic: The Gathering Online that has these options available to it. There are also even deeper formats known as Vintage and Legacy, but they can be really expensive to get into because they use cards that date back to Magic‘s start.

Let us know in the comments what formats you love! And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for a new episode of Spellslingers, available here on Geek & Sundry and on Alpha.

More Magic: The Gathering Goodness!

Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast

 

Hands-On Overview: Drop It Brings Tetris to Your Tabletop

Jun 13 2018

Love board games? So do we! Join host Becca Scott here on Geek & Sundry for Game the Game, where she breaks out the best games in tabletop and plays them with fantastic guests.

Drop It by Thames and Kosmos is an odd one because I didn’t expect much from it. The concept sounds fine, sure. You drop geometric shapes down a plastic pane in a low-fi rendition of Tetris meets Connect 4. No, that’s not me yawning.

DropItPromoShot

Then I saw the thing setup and my head tilted, eyes agog. It certainly doesn’t lack visual identity.

So I played it. “Hmm. Kinda neat.”

Then I played it again. “Oh. Strategy. Huh.”

And again. “Wow. There’s something here.”

You know how it goes.

Drop It is an odd duck in that it’s a dexterity game with very little physical skill. You see, you’re dropping pieces down a plastic chute. I don’t know about you, but my grandma and my four-year-old can drop a thing about as well as I can. Spending years flicking, tossing, and sliding pieces all about the table ain’t gonna help you drop a wooden shape.

This game doesn’t rely on a soft touch or accurate stroke. You’re managing a collection of circles, triangles, and parallelograms. You choose one to drop on your turn and score points based on the region it settles in – the higher vertically the more points you’ll score. This is immediately clever because it creates incentive for precise plays to land atop other pieces, as well as providing escalating tension and a catchup mechanism as late-game scoring is more impactful.

The trick, and where this game really develops a degree of strategic weight, is that your piece scores zero points if it ends up touching the same shape or a member of the same color. This means you need to avoid your own piece, as well as any player’s piece of the same form.

Decision points focus on where to drop your shape and how to avoid those traps. Additional oomph is gained by offering some circular embellishments on the plastic frame which provide bonus points if your piece is overlapping; another target to provide nuance to your vector is a solid addition. This also offers expanded scoring ranges and allows for the width of player points to expand a bit and grow more chaotic and interesting.


The beauty of this design is that it’s one part strategic placement and one part sheer chaos. Pieces will bounce and scatter off each other when colliding. Sometimes the larger shapes will push through a couple of smaller ones and land in surprising locations. Attempting to predict the wily physics of the landing and whether it will stick is the hot zone for fun. It offers those hilarious dexterity game moments where things tumble in a way you can’t predict and someone totally blows their move, yet it retains an overall sense of strategy and thought.

It’s all about risk assessment and seizing opportunities. Once some of the depth sinks into your skin, you’ll realize that the shape you select is extremely important as well. Not simply for the current move, but it has a direct impact on the latter portion of the game. There’s a similar feel to hand management in card games where you need to hold back the proper selections to provide options down the line. If you find yourself with only circles in the final sequence you may struggle, particularly if another player or two acted similarly. Clever play and keeping an eye around the corner is rewarded.

DropIt Scoreboard
The rules are pretty simple and easily internalized by kids and adults alike. The only pit-trap to keep an eye out for is the section of the rulebook explaining the edge restrictions. When setting up the vertical chute you place a selection of cardboard frames inside the contraption. These offer penalties on certain shapes and colors, cancelling out your points if you’re touching the edge of the frame with the pictured no-no. Due to translation issues, the English rulebook can be slightly misleading as some players interpret the text to mean you get no points if that piece is in the entire scoring area. This would make the game heavily punishing and is indeed, not the case.

Drop It is pretty damn slick. I’ve shared laughs and high-fives with a group of players split by an age range of 60 years. Nearly anyone will enjoy the combination of strategy and amusing physics. To top it off, it succeeds even at a player count of two and rewards a longer examination and repeated play.

What are your favorite dexterity games? Let us know in the comments!  And be sure to join host Becca Scott on Game the Game every Thursday here on Geek & Sundry to watch the best boardgames played with fantastic guests!

More board game goodness!

Image Credits: Charlie Theel, Thames and Kosmos

Editor’s note: A sample of the game was provided by the publisher

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Tabletop Gaming, Player Elimination, and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter @CharlieTheel

WATCH: Day[9] & Clare Grant Play Magic: The Gathering – Spellslingers (Season 4, Episode 2)

Jun 13 2018

Welcome to Spellslingers, a show based on the phenomenally popular card game, Magic: The Gathering. Presented by Sean Plott of Day9TV, prepare to experience fun-filled, fast-talking and adrenaline-paced battles that highlight the latest MTG cards.

In this episode, Sean “Day[9]” Plott plays Magic: The Gathering with Team Unicorn co-founder Clare Grant.

Want to try it Magic for the first time? Got a friend you want to introduce to it? Magic Open House is a special event aimed at new players, taking place June 30 and July 1 at local game stores near you! Learn more at http://magic.wizards.com/openhouse!

Spellslingers is sponsored by Wizards of the Coast.

WATCH: Wednesday Club One-Shot – How Would You Conquer the World with SCIENCE?

Jun 13 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. Hosts Taliesin, Amy, and Matt discuss comics history, trends and mythology – offering a deep-dive into the illustrated world that’s suitable for newbies and seasoned readers alike.

Unbeknownst to the outside world, the dark denizens of The Wednesday Club have convened to scheme! How will Tyrannical Taliesin Jaffe, Malicious Matt Key, and Acrimonious Amy Dallen twist the noble name of science, and to what end!?

Be sure to join The Wednesday Club Live every Wednesdays at 7pm PT on Alpha or Twitch. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? New members get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com!

Basically, Talks Machina’s New Regular Guest Is the Cutest, Basically

Jun 12 2018

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.

If you’ve been tuning into Talks Machina recently, you may have noticed a familiar but fluffy blue face now calling the set’s sofa home.

The soft doll was created by Critter Jen Herrera, AKA Noxx & Bobbin Workshop, and it was deemed the first piece of Mighty Nein memorabilia on the Talks set back in March. Jen started a binge marathon of Critical Role in early 2017 when she started playing Dungeons & Dragons.

“I wanted to see other people playing the game and decided to give the stream a go,” she says. “I was immediately hooked and at the same time set too high a standard for myself as a player! But I fell in love with the characters and spent the whole summer catching up to live episodes.
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Jen had been making plush for years, since 2012, so making Critical Role plush dolls was a natural blend of two of her favorite things—although Jester presented a new challenge.

“Through years of practice and dedication, I now make plush creations full-time,” she says. “Humanoid plush like Jester are actually a relatively new thing for me that I was eager to try out.”

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The process begins with patterns, starting with two or three patterns to test proportions. “I then design digital embroidery files to fit the pieces, like I did for Jester’s face,” she says, “and embroider using my embroidery machine.”

Once the embroidery machine finishes, it’s time to sew all the pieces together and stuff the doll.

“I patterned her clothes and hair afterward and eventually hand-sewed all the parts together,” says Jen. “The dress has airbrushed details to capture the gradients and markings on Jester’s original artwork.”

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Putting together the plush can take up to two weeks, but it’s obviously a labor of love for Jen.

“I just think Jester is so delightful,” she says. “Despite being a huge fan of half-orcs, I decided Jester needed to be plushed first (sorry Fjord), just because she’s so captivating. She has a lovely design visually, and Laura Bailey really brings and energy to the character that makes you an instant fan of her. From episode 1 I was obsessed with that leetle blue tiefling!”

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Featured Photo: Kelly Knox

All Other Photos: Jen Herrera

What Can We Expect in LAST OF US 2 From The Trailers

Jun 12 2018

Each week on Twitch and Alpha, hosts Erika Ishii and Trisha Hershberger talk video games with special industry guests, insightful coverage and a ton of audience interaction on our show Game Engine. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday starting at 4 PM PT to learn about what’s new and cool in the world of video games.

Chilling is how I would describe what I’ve seen of this latest chapter in the Last of Us series. Sony has released two new trailers for Last of Us 2 the sequel to the blockbuster, post-apocalyptic horror game by Naughty Dog Studios and between the two videos, this next game looks to be darker and more merciless than the last.

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The original game followed the seemingly hopeless story of Joel and Ellie, two survivors in a world overrun by mutant cordyceps that turned humans into zombie-like creatures (If you’ve never heard of cordyceps before, they are a real and terrifying fungus that infects insects and will give you nightmares for weeks). Last of Us managed to combine spine-tingling horror with a heart-wrenching story that earned it widespread critical acclaim, so it’s thrilling to hear that the next game will be debuting this week at E3, one of the largest events showcasing computer and video games and related products. In anticipation for all the announcements that will be made at E3 lets take a look at what the Last of Us 2 trailers have to say. 

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The first video gives us a look at a slightly older and battle-worn Ellie. She sings a pained version of Shawn James’s Through The Valley over the bodies of men we can assume she has executed (she is literally dripping with their blood). Though the tableau depicts the aftermath of ruthless violence, it also has an air of sadness. It seems as if Ellie is saying goodbye to her innocence while Joel looks on visibly shaken by her. In this moment Ellie is dedicating herself to a new path: Cold-blooded revenge. Against who? Well we don’t know yet, but, whoever they may be, they are in a lot of trouble.

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The second trailer, released at Paris Games Week, might give an explanation as to why. In it a woman is hung from a tree and interrogated by what appears to be members of a cult. Brandishing a knife at the woman’s stomach, the leader proclaims: “They are nested with sin”; perhaps indicating the woman is pregnant. If we take this scene as having happened in the past, we could be looking at Ellie’s mother, Anna. The video goes on to introduce another woman being dragged in and things get very brutal from there. This all seems to be a case of in-fighting between fractured members of the cult and if the theory that this is Ellie’s mom is to believed then this could be the start of the faction known as the Fireflies, the militia group we meet in the first Last of Us game who is hellbent on curing the cordyceps brain infection.

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So it looks like we might be diving deep into Ellie’s past in Last of Us 2, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered such as who is Ellie angry at, what role will Joel play in all of this, and most importantly, when will we get our hands on the game? We’ll have to make sure to keep an eye on the E3 livestream’s to find out.

What theories do you have about Last of Us 2? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hailing from New York, Jessica Fisher is a writer, artist, and all around geek. In addition to Geek & Sundry, she writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter as @miniktty.

Image Credits: Sony

Dream Askew/Dream Apart Offer Two Indie RPGs For The Price of One

Jun 12 2018

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we’re taking a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is Dream Askew/Dream Apart, a pair of indie games RPGs focusing on outsiders. The Kickstarter has exceeded their $11K funding goal as of this writing with $47K in backer funding.

Many tabletop RPGs are about outsiders, be they space crew struggling to get by, mythical creatures secretly living in the modern world, or even adventurers who decide to plunder tombs instead of getting respectable jobs as shepherds or bartenders. There’s a lot of great indie games that focus on outsider stories, two of which are currently raising funds to be published via Kickstarter. Avery Alder, the creator of Monsterhearts, has chosen Dream Askew as her new project, which focuses on how a queer community handles the apocalypse. She’s partnered with Benjamin Rosenbaum to also create Dream Apart, a game about isolated Jewish villages in a fantasy-flavored Eastern Europe. Both games, using the same system, are being published together via this Kickstarter.

“I first released a prototype version of Dream Askew in 2013,” said Avery Alder, “and the next year Benjamin contacted me about using the game engine for his own game of fantastical shtetl life. The games developed in dialogue with one another. Their themes and expressions informed one another. And so this isn’t just a Kickstarter for two different games. It’s a Kickstarter for a book that teaches players how to play these games, presents them both, and also explores how readers can design their own game of belonging outside belonging.”

The game uses a simple system that flows without dice and without a Dungeon Master. Each character role comes with its own set of moves. Some are strong moves, some are weak. Strong moves can only be made when a player has a narrative token which can only be gotten when a player has made a weak move. Strong moves generally pull the narrative into the character’s favor; weak moves make life more complicated.

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Dream Askew and Dream Apart both invite players to co-create the community that the story revolves around,” Alder continued, “by filling out a community worksheet together. It’s a collaborative, conversational process. For Dream Askew, players choose 3-5 apocalyptic visuals that define the landscape and structure of the queer enclave, as well as 3 ideological or social positions that are in conflict in the community. For Dream Apart, players choose blessings and curses. Filling out the community worksheet starts with circling choices from lists, but leads into sketching a map and tossing ideas back and forth.”

This Kickstarter offers the usual mix of digital and stretch goals for backers. Alder has learned a lot from running Kickstarters for Monsterhearts.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to keep as much energy as possible focused on the actual project,” said Alder. “When I ran the Kickstarter for the first edition of Monsterhearts, I was excited to offer all the perks, bells, and whistles that I’d seen on other campaigns. There were postcards for each of the character types, glossy posters, custom-designed content, handmade one-of-a-kind zines, and more. It brought in extra money, but it derailed me from the real goal: publishing a great game. I don’t want a part-time job designing and distributing postcards! And so with this Kickstarter, we’ve kept everything streamlined and focused. There are some high-tier rewards and stretch goals, because those are exciting, but we’ve kept them limited to things that we can offer without pulling energy away from the development and publication of the actual games. Because that’s what matters.”

Dream Askew/Dream Apart will be on Kickstarter until June 17th. Fans of focused, diceless roleplaying should definitely check it out.

What Kickstarter RPGs are you backing? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Images Credits: Avery Alder

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

WATCH: How to Play – Pitchstorm by Skybound Games

Jun 12 2018

Each week, Game the Game host Becca Scott breaks out the hottest, newest, and best board games and shows us how to play them! 

Make a deal and get your movie made in Pitchstorm by Skybound Games! Take on the role of a director and compete for the silver screen. Be the one to have the most projects greenlit by the studio execs to win!

Want the game for yourself? You can back Pitchstorm on Kickstarter to secure your copy today!

This video is sponsored by Skybound Games.

GMs: Breathe Fresh Life Into Your Cities With These Tips

Jun 11 2018

GM Tips Our series to help Storytellers and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we’ve brought life to monsters, and so this week we will discuss creating more cosmopolitan cities.

Just where are your characters going to buy a frying pan made out of mithril? Can you imagine the players’ reaction to strolling a museum filled with stuffed creatures they killed? Cities in campaigns are major hubs of commerce and often the central point of the entire campaign. It’s where characters shop for items, spend their downtime actions, and sometimes it’s the entire campaign setting itself.

With a little tweaking, cities can become the central place for character concepts and entire stories themselves. Often times, we fall trap to the eurocentric backdrop in fantasy settings, or even in sci-fi or futuristic, wash everything with the same shade of color. The truth in real life is cities are filled with countless cultures and backgrounds, and these storyteller tips are designed to showcase some of these in your current campaigns. I also highly recommend watching Matt Colville’s YouTube series on world building: it’s amazing and offers some fantastic advice on towns.

Adamantine Waffle Irons

Okay, not every group of adventurers is going to be so obsessed with the importance of breakfast foods as my group is, but there is a lesson to be had in the quest to obtain indescribable kitchen goods—cities have odd shops. Not just one or two of them either, but entire streets lined with small nitch and craft shops and custom boutiques and they always have. Merchants from far away and foreign cultures set up shops, locals complain about immigrants, new foods are introduced, violence and street crime grows, and taxes are levied.

Make an excel spreadsheet and fill it with store names and one or two niche items. From tourist snow globes to spell scrolls that generate temporary tomatoes to throw at performers. Create branding for a handful of shops and you can even reuse them from city to city. Brooke-and-Talbot’s adventuring supply and tobacco emporium is a staple in my games. If you create one specially crafted NPC shop for a small town, and franchise it, by the time you get to a city you’ll have everything already done for you so no extra work is created.

Construction Ruins Everyone’s Day

Neverwinter Nights

 

When was the last time you walked in a major city that wasn’t under construction? Often times in describing cities, storytellers describe all the buildings looking a similar way in a finished state. It’s not hard to fall into this trap because almost every piece of fantasy art ever depicts the pristine conditions of ancient cities. The genre of Cyberpunk is often the reverse of this, with guttered cities, and skyscrapers continually expanding upwards is more accurate.

Ancient cities were no different than todays when it came to building. New buildings were built on top of old ones and reused walls, construction closed down lanes of traffic, and underpaid laborers worked till death. Often imported in or captured from war, unless they were fortunate enough to be members of a guild, these workers can serve as a great plot hook to give your campaign cities life. Once you get past the merchant and bazaar areas, at least every city block should have something under construction. If not currently under construction, coming under, or freshly finished.

After all, it’s a great way to cut the tension by having some expensive statue dropped in the distance as they used ropes to hoist it.

Food Is Everything

Food Delivery

The rest of your city should be food. The consumption of it, the cooking of it, the selling of it, growing, distribution, and thievery of it. Food, water, drinks, and medicines are what makes any city come to life for players. It’s instantly recognizable and you can even go through fantasy cookbooks and match the dishes of the cities your adventurers visit! Storytelling through taste is a time-honored tradition passed down through the ages and I sure as hell can’t think of a reason to stop that anytime soon.

Inside the game, keep a coin with you behind the screen for when your players go to a food joint. Heads it’s great, tails it sucks. Doesn’t matter if it’s chicken on a stick or some gourmet nobility meal. The act of flipping a coin sets it apart from dice mechanics from combat, and after you flip enough coins, your players will start associating coin flips with food excitement, and your city will become a vibrant place they can taste. (For better or worse, since food poisoning is a real thing.)

What are some of the best monster encounters you’ve ever had? Tell us your story in the comments below!

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Featured Image by: Vistani Caravan, Barovia Wizards of the Coast

Image Credits: Neverwinter Ruins, Wizards of the Coast, Irony Productions (Grog’s Delivery Service)

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.

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