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Geek and Sundry

Inside the Box – Tokaido

Sep 22 2017

Tokaido from Fun Forge sends you back in time to the Edo era, as traveler along Japan’s famous Tokaido Road. In your journey from Kyoto to Tokyo, you’ll stop at local landmarks such as shinto shrines, villages, and relaxing onsen (hot springs) to earn points and see who can have the most awesome trip. On the way, you’ll piece together stunning landscape vistas, collect sets of souvenirs, and meet fellow travelers along the road. Then top it all off with a stay at the nearby inn to gorge yourself on Japanese delicacies before setting off for new adventures tomorrow!

The ITB crew dive into monkey-filled hot springs as they explore Japan’s finest landscapes (and food! – Hana). Will the power of friendship see them through, or will the game devolve into petty bickering and backstabbing? Oh, who are we kidding? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course there will be backstabbing. SO much backstabbing.

Featured Image Credit: Inside The Box

Inside the Box is a comedy tabletop game series, bringing their favorite board games to life with a mix of visual FX, cinematic presentation, and an alarmingly immature sense of humor.

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Wizards, Warriors, and Wyverns

Sep 22 2017

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Amy Dallen, Matt Key, and Taliesin Jaffe talked swords and magic and more. That’s right, the hosts picked their favorite fantasy comic books in honor of the release of Vox Machina: Origins.

“Western fantasy specifically is this set structure of racial identifers — dwarf, elf, man, and their various outliers being pixie, hobbit, and otherwise. Stories are either set around dragons, wizards, and questing,” Taliesin said. “It’s a series of tropes. It’s kind of a little package collection of tropes that we have decided gets its own genre.”

Record of Lodoss War

If you’ve ever dreamed of a Critical Role animated series, the first episode of Japanese anime Record of Lodoss War is as close as it currently gets. “It was a D&D game — one of the early D&D games — in Japan, that actually got turned into a TV series where they took their campaign and made a novel of it,” Taliesin said. It later turned into a manga and anime adored by fans worldwide.

The TV series is the epitome of 1990s anime, but characters like Deedlit the elf and Parn the fighter are pure fantasy. “It’s a fascinating, 90s anime-style rendering of D&D tropes,” described Taliesin.

Note: The manga is currently out of print, but can be found used online.

(Central Park Media, Ryo Mizuno and Yoshihiko Ochi)

Red Sonja

Red Sonja may have gotten her start in the pages of Conan comics, but she evolved into a character that stands completely on her own in the hands of the brilliant writer Gail Simone. The She-Devil with a Sword had problematic beginnings, like her now trademark metal bikini, but she has since turned those into her own form of strength.

“I like [Red Sonja] a little more than Conan,” admitted Matt.

Taliesin agreed. “It has a little more of a magic sword and sorcery vibe than Conan,” he said. “In the Gail Simone run, she addresses some of those issues surprisingly well… The art figures out ways to make the costume interesting without making it leery.

I really like the book.”

(Dynamite Comics, Gail Simone and Walter Geovani)

ElfQuest

ElfQuest

ElfQuest is the story of Cutter, a wood elf chief, and his quest to find other elves in The World of Two Moons. Their world is also populated with humans, trolls, and more creatures familiar to fantasy fans, but in a setting that stands uniquely alone.

“It’s one of the absolutely legendary independent comics,” said Amy. “It’s been running for thirty years.”

“It’s a little bit Dark Crystal, a little bit Tolkien,” Taliesin said. “It’s got such a phenomenal energy that’s all its own.”

(Dark Horse Comics, Wendy and Richard Pini)

Steve Lichman

If you’ve ever wondered what the creatures inside a dungeon do when there are no heroes crawling around it, Steve Lichman is the irreverent answer. Critical Role Dungeon Master Matt Mercer has recommended the series to both Matt Key and Taliesin, and after a look at just the first few comics, it’s easy to see why.

“It starts off as high fantasy, beautiful artwork… all told from the perspective of the creatures in the dungeon when nothing is happening,” said Matt.

(Dave Rapoza Comics, Dave Rapoza and Dan Warren)

Nimona

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Nimona is another refreshing take on the fantasy genre that started out as a web comic. The graphic novel asks the question, “Are the good guys really all that good?” Nimona, the lead character, is a shapeshifter who decides that being the sidekick to a villain is the life she wants to lead.

“It’s just special,” Amy said. “The book is dedicated to all the monster girls, which is just as special.”

(HarperCollins, Noelle Stevenson)

The Autumnlands

“It’s anthropomorphic animals living in a magical world, a medieval magical Renaissance world… and they used all the magic in the world to try to stop it,” described Matt. The comic reveals more about their universe and the history of the world as more of the story unfolds.

When they use the last of their power to summon their creator who originally endowed the world with magic, they are shocked to see… a human.

“The world is so well drawn out that by the time that character arrives, you find him very weird looking,” said Amy.

(Image Comics, Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey)

Matt, Amy, and Taliesin also chatted briefly about books like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Bone, A Tale of SandPower of the Dark Crystal, Demon Knights, Birthright, and Green Valley.

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

Featured Image: Geek & Sundry

Other Images: Dark Horse Comics and HarperCollins

3 Miniature Painting Hacks From The Kitchen

Sep 22 2017

I’ll be the first to admit that there are moments where I feel totally spoiled as a hobbyist. It feels like there’s a product for everything. At the same time, specialty products come with a specialty premium taxed onto the price: that $10 I spent for 3.5 oz of basing sand seems pretty extravagant upon reflection (I’d rather have spent more money on minis, to be honest.) Sometimes the best tools can’t be found at the hobby store (and are found in odd places, like the cosmetic aisle). Sometimes cheaper alternatives can be found by looking around your home.  Either way, these tips might give you some help or inspiration for your next miniature painting project.

Check Out Your Spice Rack for Basing Materials

I’m constantly raiding my cupboards for unique items to put on bases. There are so many interesting effects that you can achieve with things that are commonly used in the kitchen.  Take, for example, baking soda. When sprinkled on a layer of extra-thick cyanoacetate glue (AKA gel superglue), it has a chemical reaction that sets the superglue immediately while also crystalizing to create a lovely snowy-ice effect that is somewhat translucent while having a little white powder texture.

Baking Soda (1)

A second basing material that I have a near abundance of and am admittedly addicted to is my beloved coffee. Used (and subsequently dried) coffee grounds are a fantastic basing medium. You can superglue them down and use their brown colour to your benefit, or you can put a PVA glue seal down (a mix of  between 3:1 and 5:1 water to PVA glue) on top of already glued down coffee grounds and paint them up (the glue seal will prevent colour from staining whatever you put on them. If you leave it unpainted, it’s pretty convincing dirt.

Coffee

Since I feel that bases look best with a mix of at least 2 textures on them, a coffee-ground dirt base is easily embellished with dried herbs and spices. You can lay them on unadorned for some dry leaf fall texture, or you can add some paint to them for better emphasis. Starting from the top and going clockwise, the herbs on this base consist of dried rosemary, dill, thyme (rubbed) and Italian seasoning. On the right,  the rosemary is painted with a mustard brown colour, the dill has a little brighter green painted on it, I added a brownish orange to the thyme and the Italian seasoning was painted with a mix of fall colours. And yes, that is coffee as the textured earth on the base.Herbs (1)
Finally, peppercorns are fabulous additions to bases as round shapes. I used some white peppercorns (painted orange) for pumpkins and black pepper (painted with silver and a dark wash) as a pile of cannonballs, but these would be great as other ornamentation. They can also be crushed for a larger, more coarse texture to mix with coffee grounds.

Peppercorns

Put The Kettle On To Reshape Miniatures

Hot Water

Whether you’ve got a weird bend in a plastic sword, spear or staff, or you’re looking to reshape your plastic miniature, hot water is your friend. Put the kettle on (or microwave some water) and bring it to a boil. Depending on what you need, pour the water over or dunk the miniature, letting the heat warm the plastic. With gentle pressure, reshape the miniature, holding the shape in place until it cools (or you can dunk it in some ice cold water to speed up the process).  You can even do it to pre-painted miniatures, as I did in this Geek & Sundry Vlog, using a prepainted D&D Attack Wing miniature, though I wouldn’t recommend doing this after you’ve completed a paint job.

2017-09-21 21_53_54-Dungeons & Dragons Attack Wing - Model Makeovers - YouTube

Please Pass The Salt (For Weathering Effects)

Got hairspray and salt? You can do some excellent weathering and paint chip effects with the pair of them. Spray the hairspray, throw on the salt and let it dry. Add some paint on top, and then go in with a wet brush and rub the salt and hairspray off to reveal the paint underneath.

Bonus Tip: Dishsoap is Tough On Grease But Great For Minis

I use dishsoap so much when I paint miniatures that I have a small bottle of it in my hobby kit, for good reason. Check out the article on Household Hobby Hacks to find out what I use it for.

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Looking to learn more about painting miniatures, be sure to join Will Friedle on The Painter’s Guild this Monday on Alpha and jump on the miniature painting bandwagon! Share your photos of your painted miniatures on social media using the hashtag #happylittleminis and your minis might be featured here on Geek & Sundry!

Image Credits: Teri Litorco

Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about miniature games that include various painting tutorials and helpful tips. To keep up with what she’s playing and painting follow her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and help her continue to make accessible painting tutorials by supporting her on Patreon.

‘Seikatsu’ is a Beautiful Game of Perspective, Tension, and Birds

Sep 22 2017

Seikatsu begins when you sit down at the table. In most games, where you sit only affects turn order which rarely makes a difference. In Seikatsu, where you sit determines your perspective and that is the game. Where you sit – and thus what you see – will determine your points at the end of the game in a clever scoring system I haven’t encountered before.

I’m a big fan of tension in board games. I want to be hiding my hands under the table so my opponents don’t see how nervous I am, heart racing as I plot my turns. This usually comes to me in the form of negotiation, arguing, and cajoling. There isn’t really any of that in Seikatsu. Players are working together, sort of, to fill a Japanese garden in the center of the table. The tension comes from the unique end game scoring system that sees you realizing that you gave your opponent more points than you scored for yourself.

In Seikatsu players take turns laying acrylic tiles onto a communal board. Each tile features 1 of the 4 different types of birds and 1 of the 4 different types of flowers. These gorgeously illustrated tiles are used to collected two different kinds of sets. The first is pretty easy to do. Birds score for flocking together; place a bird and you score 1 point for each bird of the same type it’s adjacent to, including itself. This is the only way to score points while taking your turns.

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The flowers also score as sets, but the mechanism is completely different. The playing surface is large hex made up of tile spaces arranged so they make columns. At the end of the game, each column will score based on which flower type exists in the highest quantity. Having 3 blue flowers in a column is worth less than having 5, and so on. This is where your perspective comes into play. The board is positioned such that each person is looking down a different set of columns. My leftmost column may have 2 blue flowers in it but each of those flowers is in a different one of your columns.

This simple scoring feature gives Seikatsu dramatic tension. You aren’t just deciding which space to put a tile on to increase your count, you’ve got to recognize that each space is actually an intersection of 3 competing columns. Ideally, you’re placing some pink flowers in such a way that adds to your set while blocking your opponents from piggybacking off that placement. It adds a clever spatial wrinkle to every turn as the threat of your opponents scoring big points off something you played earlier looms over every placement.

seikatsu collage

This is the same board from 3 different sides. Each player has 7 columns, but which tiles are in them is completely different. Note how Green’s center column has 1 empty space but Blue’s has none.

Seikatsu is a game of balance. You must play your tile adjacent to one that’s already on the board which means you won’t always have a great play. There is a push and pull as you press an advantage and stack a column at one point in the game only to have to play defensively later to prevent an opponent from doing the same. All along the way, you’re watching for the chance to eek some point out of a flock of birds or set up for the future.

This peaceful ebb and flow is broken up in only two ways. The first is the end of the game. I usually sit back at the end of any tile laying game, content with the little world I’ve built. There is no easy contentment in Seikatsu; my world is also my opponent’s world and watching them score more points with the same tiles hurts. Unfortunately, the lack of hidden information also means there’s the potential for the game to stall. Every placement has three perspectives to consider so if your group is the type to want to consider every option then things can move a bit slow.

This problem is less present with 2 players and non-existent when played solo. The solo mod is a lot of fun for when you have 10-15 minutes to kill and is surprisingly tricky. There are slight rules tweaks, but nothing significant. While you are comparing your score to a phantom player, the game doesn’t feature an unsatisfying “dummy player”. It’s more of a shifting puzzle that you attempt to navigate and hope to not give up too many points.

Nothing about this game is complicated – the sets are easy to understand, the rules simple – yet the actual play is a beguiling puzzle. The pleasant art and simple systems bely a deeply tactical experience I keep coming back to play. I haven’t played a game that relies on different player’s perspectives to dictate scorings but I found myself really appreciating the nuance it brings to tile-laying. It takes advantage of physical space in a way few games do and the result is an excellent game.

What’s your favorite flower? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Rafael Cordero

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.

 

4 Things We Want to Encounter in ‘Tales From Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation’

Sep 21 2017

Gary Gygax, well known as the father of Dungeons & Dragons, designed an adventure back in 1975 for the inaugural Origins gaming convention. The monster-laden, trap-riddled dungeon crawl, titled Tomb of Horrors, pitted players against the evil demi-lich, Acererak, as they sought to find his inner sanctum to destroy him once and for all.

S1ModuleCover

It was deadly, insidious, and more than a few characters perished in the “Huge Pit Filled with 200 Spikes” or from the toxic fumes released by the “Poisonous Pews”.

Since it was first introduced, Tomb of Horrors has been remade many times over. It was recently updated for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition and was released as part a collection in April called: Tales from the Yawning Portal.

Now the Tomb is being resurrected again. This time as a digital board game called Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation. It will use the same base mechanics as other D&D board games like Wrath of AshardalonCastle Ravenloft, and Temple of Elemental Evil, but with a few tweaks. Olivier Latouche, Lead Game Designer, said “Finding the right balance between the board-game feel while remaining within the video game spirit was an amazing challenge, yet very rewarding once we’ve achieved it.”

 

Tomb of Annihilation

According to the Tomb of Annihilation team, there will be a brand new crafting system to upgrade your hero’s weapons and armors, the addition of side quests, and you’ll be able to give your heros an Adrenaline Rush boost or even cancel an Encounter. Combine that with over 40 main quests and a procedurally generated map to keep everything fresh and exciting, and we have to say the game looks amazing!

Tomb of Annihilation

When asked about his favorite part of the game Latouche said  “The diversity of powers is what I like most, because they are all so very unique. They allow you to really create your own strategy.” We can’t wait to get a chance to try the game out, but until then, here are a few things we’d like to see in the digital version of the game (fingers crossed).

Getting a Bit of the Local Color

Tomb of Annihilation

Acererak’s headquarters, the Tomb of Annihilation, is set in the region of Chult, a mysterious island of jungles, monstrous humanoids, and Dinosaurs. We know the adventure is set within the tomb itself, but Chult as a setting doesn’t get enough love and it would be amazing to get to walk the markets and explore the swamps on our way to meet our inevitable end… I mean, to destroy Acererak. We’re not going to die in there. Let’s stay positive!

Dinosaur Riding

tomb 2

Seeing as Chult has dinosaurs, it would be megalithically cool to have a side quest where you get to ride one of those terrible thunder lizards. Even better if it is part of some sort of chase scene and to put the cherry on top, let’s just make your character a halfling. We can squeeze this into Eberron right?

Yuan-Ti

yuanti

Since Acererak has decided to build his evil lair smack dab in the middle of Chult, you’d think he’d hire some local creatures to fill out his roster of baddies. You’ll most likely encounter plenty of undead, demons, and even a gargoyle, but why not add the Yuan-ti into the mix? Yuan-ti are evil snakemen (no not like Cobra Commander…ok maybe a little like Cobra Commander) native to the jungles of Chult who are said to be descendants of cultists that mated serpents with humans (don’t ask how. You don’t want to know). These slithery serpent men could make for an exciting challenge within the depths of the tomb and from the into screen it looks like we’ll be seeing them in the game for sure!

Acererak Calling Out the Uppity Heroes

tomb6

Here’s the thing with this adventure. As far are the tabletop version is concerned, Acererak built himself this tomb, sealed himself inside, and was content to leave the world alone. So when a group of greedy adventurers decides to break in and loot the place, disturbing his final rest, Acererak has every reason to be angry with them. This is a clean cut case of robbery and yes, Acererak is technically evil to the very core of his rotting bones, but perhaps this one time, the heroes are kinda being jerks.

Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation is being released by BKOM Studios to Steam in October and, if you love roleplaying and video games, make sure to check out next week’s Game Engine! Taliesin Jaffe, of Critical Role, will be hanging out with Erika Ishii and Kate Elliot! Watch Game Engine on Twitch every Tuesday at 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Pacific.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credits: Wikipedia, Wizards of the Coast

ForeverVerse: Episode 28 – Uncharted Territory Part 2

Sep 21 2017

Our ForeverVerse crew continues to find its way in this new universe of The Witch is Dead by game designer Grant Howitt! Head over to G&S Live and subscribe to catch up on previous episodes of ForeverVerse on top of your other Twitch G&S favorites.

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

Game Master Tips with Satine Phoenix – Epic Home Brews

Sep 21 2017

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

This season, Satine brings in some of the best minds to craft an adventure to the show to tackle the issue of the day. In the latest episode of GM Tips, Satine is joined by Chris Lindsay from Wizards of the Coast to discuss Epic Home Brews!

Check out GM Tips with Satine Phoenix every Thursday at 10AM Pacific or find more tips by checking out previous episodes & seasons here at Geek & Sundry.

 

Critical Role Fan Art Gallery – Heroes Brave & Bold

Sep 21 2017

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

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

Want more Critical Role?

Featured Art Credit – DJ Crumrine  @djcrumrine

Amon & The Equalists Have Invaded IDW’s ‘The Legend of Korra: Pro-bending Arena’

Sep 20 2017

In case you’ve been hiding out in the swamp with Toph and don’t know, IDW is currently Kickstarting an immersive miniatures board game set in the Avatar universe, The Legend of Korra: Pro-bending Arena. We excitedly talked about it when the game was first announced and since its launch on Kickstarter last week (and fully funding as fast as Pabu can eat himself sick), we’ve been on the edge of our seats with their daily updates, watching as IDW adds more and more to the base pledge box. It’s basically 15 days of Korra goodness packed into a single Kickstarter campaign.Korra-FB-Avaialbe
The game is set in Book 1 of Legend of Korra. It is a strategic sports game, where two players face off in head-to-head matches that capture the action and excitement of pro-bending from the show. Talking with the designers, Jessey Wright and Sen-Foong Lim, we got some insight about how they translated the sport of pro-bending from the screen to the tabletop. “We worked very hard to make sure the mechanics of the game create the intense back and forth,” Jessey told us. “I think we met that challenge, and have designed a game that will make players really feel like pro benders.”

Sen went on to expand on the idea of immersing players into the universe in which the game is set. “I am a firm believer that tabletop games are a curated experience so I want to help people relive the feelings they had while watching the cartoons that they loved. “

KorraPainted1

Not everyone can be the Fire Ferrets though, and the game is populated by other teams. As of this writing, the Wolfbats, Rabaroos and Boar-Q-Pines have been announced as playable bending teams. While we didn’t get to know them as well in the show (other than the arrogant, antagonistic, Wolfbats).KorraPainting2
Sen made it clear that the teams have their own feel and personality on the table. “The Boar-Q-Pines are a very offensively-minded team vs. the Rabaroos who focus on character interplay, with one move triggering another.  Each team has its own definable style of play.”

Jessey added, “Rabaroos, for instance, move around more than other teams, and their unique mechanic lets them deliver a rapid series of attacks. For the individual characters, we set out to make sure every character was mechanically unique (there is no duplication of abilities in the game), and that goal ensured that we made each character (on an individual level) have their own bending personality and style. This also supports the Fantasy Team rules, which let players mix and match characters from different teams.” Yes, you read that right: fantasy team pro-bending is a thing. 

Today’s release announcement is a particularly exciting one. Just as the pro-bending arena was invaded by Amon and the Equalists in the show, the game too has been invaded by Equalists in today’s announced expansion.

Amon-Equalists

Sen describes the new expansion. “As with many stories we love, it’s often a strong villain that adds that extra something to a story.  The Legend of Korra is no exception to this rule.  Amon was easier to incorporate due to his role, along with the Equalist forces, in sabotaging the Pro-Bending Arena.  We have some very interesting mechanisms in store for the players with them.  Not only can you play as Amon and 2 Chi Blockers against a team of 3 benders, but two players can join forces against Amon and 4 Chi Blockers! While neither Amon nor the Chi Blockers bend elements, their mix of martial arts, hi-tech weaponry, and Chi blocking skills will test the mettle of the most seasoned veterans of the arena. “

With Amon and his equalists in the mix, we can already hear the pro-bending arena’s announcer guy build tension with his questions: “What other exciting announcements will we be seeing?  Will we get expansions to help combat these Equalists? How many more Korra villains will we be able to play?”

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The best way to stay in the loop is to checking out The Legend Of Korra: Pro-bending Arena Kickstarter and follow IDW Games’ Facebook Page for updates.

Image Credits: Nickelodeon/IDW Games
This is a sponsored post. 

The Best Trek Game Returns with the Ferengi and Cardassians

Sep 20 2017

2016 was a heck of a year for board games. With the release of giants such as Star Wars: Rebellion, Inis, and Scythe, it was difficult to make a name for yourself. Star Trek: Ascendancy didn’t care. It owned its namesake and propelled itself towards the top of the heap at sub-light speed, and as such was named as one of our Games of the Year for 2016. This (inter)stellar game displayed a masterful approach to thematically capturing the sweeping grandiose of Star Trek in its entirety. Featuring touchstone elements of each major series contribution to the IP, this design simply has it where it counts.

And now it has even more.

The Ferengi Alliance and the Cardassian Union have finally arrived. Originally set to debut late in 2016, they’ve course corrected and made it to their destination. It was well worth the wait.

Both species offer unique and evocative playstyles that are as varied and interesting as their base game counterparts; these are not b-sides in any way. They possess individual strategic challenges and will appeal to those seeking different approaches to the well-worn hurdles of politicking and war. The Ferengi make peace and love divorced from the tactics of the Federation. The Cardassians will tickle the small of your back with a disruptor pistol and veiled whisper, shedding the brute force of the Klingons and technology porn of the Romulans. The only challenge you’ll face going forward is settling intergalactic disputes on who gets to play which faction.

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The Ferengi are totally bonkers. They feature almost no offensive developments and can’t even form a simple battle fleet. What they can do is park their inconspicuous spacecraft in your backyard and setup trade markets like a boss. There are natural incentives for these bulbous head merchants to share spaces and form trade agreements – soft alliances which benefit both sides.

Additionally, they can’t build culture nodes. Yeah, the main resource to seal the deal and achieve victory in Ascendancy is locked away from these poor dudes. Luckily, they can buy culture with production and can manufacture production nodes regardless of the color shown on a planet. Combine this with their bananas trading empire and you have a faction that can tool up their fleet quickly and spread like galactic herpes. At least after trading with a Ferengi, you don’t immediately regret it.

The Cardassians are a little more pew-pew and less schmooze. Ok A LOT more pew-pew. While the bulk of their developments center on defensive military capabilities, they can build some downright potent ship groupings. They’re also the absolute strongest faction at invading worlds and will have you constantly running defense groups and managing your fronts.

It is true they can struggle at times to separate their identity from the Klingon war machine. They make headway by relying on small precision strike teams as opposed to mass battle groups. This presents a tactical consideration that absolutely shifts the makeup of their personality. It’s also quite enjoyable to launch nimble fighter groups and make hay with the blood of your foes.

The trade-off for enslaving scores of planets is the requirement to keep ships in orbit to plant the proverbial boot on their helpless necks. This thematic threading of source material throughout design elements reinforces the philosophy of the game and its astounding pedigree. Trek nerds will not be disappointed and will eat this up like the delicious Gagh it is.

One of the big draws of these two expansion sets is the ability to finally play four players. Heck, you can even play five if you’re feeling particularly brave. The downside here is that you’ll be spending the better part of an Earth day as the playtime explodes into a lengthy four and five hours. Downtime is, of course, excessive at five players and still a nuisance at four.

Fortunately, the dynamics of a larger game are spectacular as alliances become multi-layered and wars IMG_2074span multiple fronts. The Ferengi also shine with larger player counts as there’s more opportunity for trade. While the effort and length of play will be prohibitive for many, if you can take a shot of adrenaline and down a case of monster, the effort will be worth it. The physical heft of burgeoning empires and the collisions that occur when talk meets deadly force is a spectacle. You could even go so far to argue that this is Ascendancy at its absolute best.

Simmering in the background of these releases are the additional planets and exploration cards included. While the factions are clearly the selling point, mixing the new content into your existing stacks can provide a huge jolt centered on Ascendancy’s most addictive mechanism – exploration.

The Ferengi offering is focused on trade agreements. You will discover third party arms dealers and profit-mongers that will provide momentary boons. These typically require a diplomacy check to acquire but will pay off repeatedly throughout the game. The Writ of Accountability even makes an appearance as a re-occurring event that threatens to tear apart your alliances.

Cardassian additions are all about conflict and interaction. One minute you’re skipping along in the Enterprise and the next you run into a violent fleet requesting (read: demanding) the swapping of planetary systems. You think you’re safe and then bam, weird pale dudes digging for night crawlers in your backyard. Solid chance they’re going to gank your stuff.

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Shifting borders and toppling the cart is fun stuff. These interactions alter play in interesting ways and boost the experience regardless of which faction you’re currently fielding. Mix them in pronto and make it rain.

Really, no one here should be surprised. Ascendancy is a killer game and these expansions keep the bar elevated. With the Borg warping down the pike in the near future, that bar’s quivering and waiting to be assimilated. In the mean-time, get your trade game on and blow up those who are foolish enough to turn their back on you.

 

Are you a fan of Star Trek: Ascendancy? Let us know in the comments!

Cover Image Credit: Charlie Theel

Image Credits:  Charlie Theel, Gale Force Nine

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

Get a Peek Into ‘Vox Machina: Origins’ Issue 1

Sep 20 2017

Vox Machina has been to hell and back (literally), and today they’re headed into uncharted territory that’s just as thrilling: The pages of their own comic book series.

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins, written by Matt Colville with art by Olivia Samson and lettering and colors by Chris Northrop, explores a part of the adventuring party’s story that has remained out of the public eye… until now.

Vox Machina Origins

In the pages of the Critical Role comic book, we’ll see how these legendary friendships were forged and just how Vox Machina formed into the impressive and tight-knit crew they are today. That includes “how they first met, how they became a group, and then all the adventures that you didn’t get a chance to see that were all pre-stream,” said Matt Mercer at San Diego Comic-Con.

Vox Machina Origins

Issue #1 begins at the beginning, naturally, as twins Vax’ildan and Vex’ahlia encounter a slightly bewildered but powerful young half-elf druid in the marshland outside of Stilben. Together they have a dark mystery to uncover in swamp’s murky depths – and in Tal’Dorei, nothing is as it seems on the surface.

Vox Machina Origins

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1 is currently available at digital retailers Dark Horse Digital, ComiXology, iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook, and Google Play at a cover price of $3.99. Look for the collected physical edition of all six issues in Spring 2018.

Catch Vox Machina’s ongoing adventures in Critical Role every Thursday night at 7:00 PM Pacific on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel.

All Images: Geek & Sundry / Dark Horse Comics, Deborah Hauber and Olivia Samson

Game In The Old World With The Warhammer RPG Humble Bundle

Sep 19 2017

For most people, fantasy tabletop settings share a lot of common elements, such as timeless elves, powerful wizards, and fantastic magic. Some players, however, like their fantasy a little darker, with corruption everywhere, rat people digging beneath castles and a world where good is never guaranteed to triumph over evil. Many of these fantasy fans have found Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay a bit more to their liking. Currently, a massive collection of PDFs is available over at Humble Bundle ready for old fans to fill in their collection or new fans curious to try something a little different come game night.

Warhammer Fantasy is one of Games Workshop’s most famous worlds, spawning several miniature, video, tabletop and role-playing games. The setting differentiates itself from standard fantasy in a few ways. It mixes in a dash of the Holy Roman Empire to the usual medieval setting. It also takes a few more cues from Evil Dead than Lord of the Rings. That pushes the timeline a bit forward into a world where black powder weapons have started to replace bows and crossbows as the ranged weapon of choice. Chaos is also a malevolent force that seeps into everyday life in the world. It also happens to be the main source of magic, so magic-users have to balance their quest for cooler spells and magic items with becoming a servant of evil.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is also notorious for chewing up characters and spitting them out, which is why character creation is entirely random. When one character dies, a new one gets rolled up in a few minutes and can end up with a career ranging from an Agitator to a Zealot, with 60 careers in between. Characters hardy enough to make it through their initial career can end up cycling through advanced careers such as Witch Hunter or Politician. The percentile system offers an excellent amount of flexibility, but most Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay veterans have at least one story where the dice failed them and left their character in a terrible position.

62847The Humble Bundle benefits Action Against Hunger and ends on September 26th. It has several donation tiers, each one including all the books at all lower tiers. One dollar grants access to the second edition of the game as well as several adventures that will get players  involved with the intrigue of the setting. Donating $8 adds more adventures and books detailing aspects of the setting. A $15 donation opens up several player options including more weapons, more spells and more curses when spells go wrong. The highest level, $20 opens up even more sourcebooks, including several more careers and the original 1st edition for the first time in PDF.

That’s less than a dollar a book at the highest level. Even the lowliest rat-catcher can afford taking a chance on that.

Feature Image Credits: Games Workshop

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

 

Acquisitions Inc. Live Is a Crash Course in Tomb of Annihilation (Literally)

Sep 19 2017

At PAX West 2017, hundreds of attendees filled Seattle’s Benaroya Hall for a raucous night of Dungeons & Dragons. (Yes, you read that right.) Gamers turned into a chanting crowd lining the tracks of a dinosaur race thanks to the exciting tale spun by Wizards of the Coast’s Chris Perkins for the Acquisition Inc. Live show.

Acquisitions Inc Live

If you’ve been wondering what Tomb of Annihilation, the latest adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, is all about, you couldn’t find a better crash course than this episode of Acquisitions Inc.

Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation

An affliction is ravaging the populace of the Forgotten Realms, and players will uncover it and its cause in Tomb of Annihilation, now available in wide release:

The talk of the streets and taverns has all been about the so-called death curse: a wasting disease afflicting everyone who’s ever been raised from the dead. Victims grow thinner and weaker each day, slowly but steadily sliding toward the death they once denied.

When they finally succumb, they can’t be raised—and neither can anyone else, regardless of whether they’ve ever received that miracle in the past. Temples and scholars of divine magic are at a loss to explain a curse that has affected the entire region, and possibly the entire world.

Acquisitions Inc.

Acquisitions Inc. members Omin Dran (Jerry Holkins), Jim Darkmagic (Mike Krahulik), and Viari (Patrick Rothfuss) are joined by guest Strix (Holly Conrad) on the island of Chult. Their friend (?) and colleague Jim Darkmagic is also suffering from the death curse, and they are racing against time to help him and the others afflicted.

Even if you’ve never seen Acquisitions Inc. in action before, the show begins with an animated recap that gives you both the summary of the story and a feel for the characters—if you can stop laughing long enough to listen.

Together, their quest leads them to the jungles of Chult, where the story opens with an action-packed dinosaur race careening through the streets.

The energy in the room was electrifying, and you can add the same excitement to your group’s own escapades in Chult thanks to this unforgettable new adventure. Tomb of Annihilation is now available at your local game store and online at Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, and D&D Beyond.

Are you planning to enter the Tomb of Annihilation? Tell us about your adventures in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Image Credits: Kelly Knox, Wizards of the Coast

4 Things You Should Know About The Cassini Space Probe

Sep 19 2017

Every Wednesday at 9:30 PM, a talented crew roleplays their way to fulfill their mission and boldly go where no one has gone before. Join the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.

Exploration is a key component to any Star Trek series. Last Friday, we said goodbye to one of our most prolific and loyal explorers. The Cassini space probe went through what NASA called its Grand Finale after 13 years of service. The probe exceeded expectations and its mission by several years. It transmitted data back to Earth that will be valuable for decades to come as we continue to explore space. For those wondering why things got so emotional on social media over a robot, here are four important things to know about the space probe.

1. Cassini’s Full Name Was Cassini-Huygens

The Cassini-Huygens space probe was named after two influential scientists who made huge discoveries related to Saturn. Giovanni Domenico Cassini  discovered four of Saturn’s moons (Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione) and a division between Saturn’s rings that were named after him. Christiaan Huygens discovered the moon Titan. NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency collaborated on launching Cassini-Huygens on October 15, 1997. Over 260 scientists from 27 countries were part of the mission.

2. Cassini Visited Other Planets In The Solar System

While Saturn was always the main target, the probe visited other places in our Solar System on the way out. It flew by Venus in 1998 and 1999, Earth in 1999 and Jupiter in 2000. It even flew by 2685 Masursky, an asteroid in the main belt.

3. Cassini Was Sent On A Four Year Mission That Lasted 13

1040_cassinihuygens_BTN_16_purple_final_01

Cassini’s original mission was supposed to last between 2004 and 2008. It arrived in orbit on July 1st, 2004. It dropped the Huygens lander off on Titan in 2005. The lander sent data back to Earth using Cassini as a relay. Cassini’s initial mission was to gather data on Saturn from orbit as well as the moons nearest to the planet. The mission was extended twice, each time allowing for the probe to gather more data on Saturn and its moons. The craft even detected seven new moons while in orbit.

4. Cassini Was Destroyed on Purpose

Because it outlasted its original mission by so long, the probe didn’t have enough fuel to break its orbit of Saturn. Rather than run the risk of the probe contaminating a moon with Earth microbes by crashing into it and influencing the potential for life on another world, the Cassini probe was directed to take a few more daring photos of the rings before being sent into the planet on a trajectory that would burn it up.

In case you’re wondering how far from home Cassini was, here’s an image of our entire planet taken by the craft.

3028_PIA21445_figA-1280w

We are that bright dot in the center.

If you’re ready to catch Star Trek Adventures in action (albeit in the 24th century), the crew of the USS Sally Ride flies every Wednesday at 9:30 PM PT on Twitch.

Feature Image Credits: NASA (Fair Use)
Image Credits: NASA/JPL (Fair Use)

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

Yo Ho Ho! Five Games to Play on Talk Like a Pirate Day

Sep 19 2017

Ahoy mateys! Tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day and you still have time to make plans for aaarrr-guably the coolest holiday around. Of course, no pirate-y party is complete without throwing back a coupla tankards of your favorite grog or binge-watching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but don’t forget to leave room on the tabletop so you can create some high-seas action of your own.

Here are five pirate-themed games that’ll have any landlubber swashbucklin’ in no time with their fellow scallywags.

Jamaica

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In this gateway-style game you’re racing around the island of Jamaica, trying to grab treasure while making sure you have enough food to replenish your crew as you continue your journey. Your opponents are trying to do the same thing and if your ships ever land in the same spot, it’s time to do battle. Roll the dice, add your cannon modifiers, and may the best buccaneer win.

The top-notch components include big, chunky dice and colorful artwork, highlighted by the gorgeous board and plastic ships. It takes the roll-and-move mechanism and transforms it into a rollicking adventure, one that gamers and non-gamers will appreciate when it hits the table.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

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One look at the stunning art is all it takes to make you want to play Dead Men Tell No Tales. You begin at the entrance to a burning ship, which is ripe for plundering by you and your crew. Flip over a tile and find out what awaits you: deckhands, guards, treasure, additional weapons, undead skeletons, and more.

Fans of Pandemic and Flash Point: Fire Rescue will recognize the similar cooperative mechanisms here, but the gameplay and theme set it apart. Although the rules for movement and explosions are fiddly, once you get into the flow of things you and your mates are in for a tension-filled race to escape from burning and exploding rooms with your treasure … and your heads.

Libertalia

Many gamers consider Libertalia their Citadels killer, with its familiar role selection and bluffing mechanisms. Here, each player has an identical deck of characters to choose from, so the mind games begin from the get-go. Each character is played in numerical order, with day effects being resolved before night effects.

The game gives off a pirate-poker vibe, with lots of cutthroat action enhanced by the top-notch artwork and components. Player interaction is the highlight of the game and with its easy-to-learn ruleset it won’t take long before you’re telling your friends to walk the plank.

Swashbuckler

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A classic from the 1980s, Swashbuckler is a hilariously fun romp in a tavern: think Errol Flynn meets the Dread Pirate Roberts meets the Keystone Kops. Writing your programmed movement on a sheet of paper is dated as well as clunky, but the results are always a blast. You’ll parry, thrust, swing on chandeliers, jump onto tables as you wreak havoc on the bar, but you’ll also do a lot of lunging at air whenever your opponent selects the perfect counter to your movements.

Since Swashbuckler has been out of print for many years, it may be difficult to track down a copy (I’m fortunate that one of my friends has his own blinged-out copy, as shown above). Thankfully, the game has been re-implemented in The Dragon and Flagon, with a few improvements such as those pesky programming sheets being replaced with movement cards. The tavern is still where all the action takes place, so it’ll satisfy your urge to do battle amongst the local drunkards.

Dead Man’s Draw

DeadMansDraw

After a long day of talking like a pirate and playing buccaneer-influenced games, this quick-playing card game is a great way to wind down the shenanigans. Players draw cards one at a time, trying to add to their pile of treasure while also messing with their opponents through a few of the take-that cards. It’s push-your-luck and set collection in a little box of pirate fun, perfect as a game night appetizer, snack, or dessert.

What are you playing on Talk Like A Pirate Day? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Ruel Gaviola

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

Check Out Our New Fall Twitch Schedule!

Sep 19 2017

It’s that time again; the leaves are changing, the sun is setting earlier, and pumpkin-spice everything is for sale. It’s time for fall! With the changing season comes our new Fall Twitch schedule, featuring some returning favorites at new time slots, as well as new shows. Check out our updated schedule below, which begins in October!

BetterTwitchQ4

MONDAY

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm | MINES N CRAFTS  – Mines N Crafts is your favorite place to watch our crafty hosts make stuff on-camera while you create things in Minecraft. Follow along with our hosts as they make crafts IRL – then be wowed by the scale and scope of our private, subs-only Minecraft server!

HOSTS
Amy Dallen
Stef Woodburn
Gina DeVivo

7:00 pm – 10:30 pm | SHIELD OF TOMORROW – In the very first livestream of Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures RPG, we join host Eric Campbell as he guides Captain Hector Navarro and his crew on a mission of scientific discovery throughout the far extremes of explored (an unexplored) space. Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?

CAST
Bonnie Gordon
Sam De Leve
Amy Dallen
Hector Navarro
Aliza Pearl

 

TUESDAY

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm | GAME ENGINE –This gaming and tech news show features plenty of audience interaction, special guests from the gaming and tech worlds and insightful coverage of all the hottest tabletop and video games.

HOSTS
Erika Ishii
Trisha Hershberger

 

7:00 pm – 8:00 pm | TALKS MACHINA – Brian Wayne Foster dissects the adventures of Vox Machina on this Critical Role after-show, which features cast member appearances, fan creations, Q&A sessions, and RPG-themed giveaways.

HOST
Brian Wayne Foster

9:00 pm – 10:30 pm | AXYB – The ladies of AXYB are back for more episodic stories, crazy scrambles, and all the sidetracks that made this show must-watch Twitch in the first place. For the uninitiated, AXYB is a sensational show where our hosts play Telltale adventure games while YOU make all the decisions. Each host champions one controller button and fights to earn your choice for each decision tree. In the end, you decide. Choose your own misadventure!

HOSTS
Becca Scott
Whitney Moore
Stef Woodburn
Blythe Wiedemann

 

WEDNESDAY

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm| GAME THE GAME – Ivan Van Norman and Becca Scott break out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week!

HOSTS
Becca Scott
Ivan Van Norman

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm | THE WEDNESDAY CLUB – Time to geek out with The Wednesday Club about the comic books you need in your life (whether you know it or not)! 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.

HOSTS
Taliesin Jaffe
Amy Dallen
Matt Key

9:30 pm – 10:30 pm | ASK YOUR BLACK GEEK FRIEND – Waking the world, one geek at a time. Damion Poitier and B. Dave Walters introduce Ask Your Black Geek Friend! From video games and comics to movies and books, our hosts create a safe and open forum to ask questions and discuss topics surrounding the need for and spread of diversity in pop culture.

HOSTS
Damion Poitier
B. Dave Walters

 

THURSDAY

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm | LOREMASTERS – *NEW SHOW* Ryan Green and a guest spend 90 minutes going deeper into a fandom then you may have thought possible. From Magic: The Gathering to Street Fighter we’re examining the stories and worldbuilding that makes these properties so enchanting. The guests and subjects are as varied as can be but the one thing that brings them together is passion.

HOST
Ryan Green

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm | MOTHERSHIP – The variety show phenomenon known as Mothership unites the personalities, topics, and interests of both Nerdist AND Geek & Sundry into a one gloriously interactive package.

HOSTS
Jessica Chobot
Hector Navarro

7:00 pm – 11:00 pm | CRITICAL ROLE – Matt Mercer and the rest of the Critical Role cast continue their epic adventure for fortune, glory, and fun.

Cast
Ashley Johnson
Laura Bailey
Liam O’Brien
Marisha Ray
Matthew Mercer
Sam Riegel
Taliesin Jaffe
Travis Willingham

 

FRIDAY

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm | DICK & JOHNSON – What’s more important: saving the world, or finishing this beer? Hector Navarro and Keller Knoblock, two backwoods Alabama boys who kick ass and chew bubblegum, have to decide.

HOSTS
Hector Navarro
Keller Knoblock

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm | HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL – *NEW SHOW* In our own version of pilot season we’ve asked 5 great creative minds to build shows for Geek & Sundry’s twitch. We’ve given them a budget and a pair of episodes and we can’t wait to see what happens. Kate Elliott hosts it all and shows us a behind the scenes look at how the episodes were made.

HOST
Kate Elliott

9:00 pm – 11:00 pm | GATHER YOUR PARTY – It’s Friday night, and you know what that means… Party time! Join us for your weekly overdose of singing, dancing, and general shenanigans. Gather Your Party is a must-watch variety show for your Friday night, with special guests adding to the fun while you play along at home!

HOST
Erika Ishii

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ TV Adaptation Has Started Filming

Sep 18 2017

On the heels of the success of the television adaptation for American Gods, BBC has released photos of their adaptation of Good Omens, Neil Gaiman’s first novel written in collaboration with Discworld series author Terry Pratchett. If we weren’t excited enough already, seeing David Tennent as Crowley cranked up our anticipation for the show a notch or twelve.

They are amazing. This is them in the opening scenes, 11 years ago, in St James’s Park. David and Michael, demon & angel. #GoodOmens pic.twitter.com/ceK4XYY881

— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) September 18, 2017

We’re not the only ones excited. Gaiman commented on the start of production: “People have fallen in love with an angel and a demon in a book by Terry Pratchett and me, and they have been excited and nervous to see how they would appear on screen – and I was probably the most nervous and excited of all. This is a first look. Michael Sheen is the best and finest of bookseller angels, David Tennant the coolest and most delightful of demons. Together they are one hell of a double act (or do I mean one made in Heaven?)”

Without spoiling anything, the story centers around an angel and demon, who both have found a soft spot for humanity, having migrated to earth in the days of the Garden of Eden (as the Serpent and Angel with the Flaming Sword) and whose affection for people have lead them on a path trying to prevent what seems to be the inevitable Apocalypse.  Along the way we’re introduced to some pretty interesting characters, including a 17th-century prophetress who cautions against the purchase of Betamax.

Me, with @terry_and_rob. They cannot start shooting Good Omens as we have stolen their clapperboard.

A post shared by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on

Both Gaiman and Pratchett created a world in the novel full of juxtaposition, mythology, and whimsy, and this adaptation will undoubtedly be full of delight as a result. Whether or not the show will include some of the innumerable hilarious footnotes, including the story of the disgruntled bible typesetter who had his own ideas about Ezekiel 48:5, is something we’ll eventually find out, but either way, we’ll be excitedly waiting.

Image Credits: Neil Gaiman | Twitter (@neilhimself)

Critical Role: Episode 111 – Shadows of Thomara

Sep 18 2017

Welcome, travelers. Join Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer as he leads his troupe of fellow voice actors Ashley Johnson, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey, and Liam O’Brien on epic Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. These familiar voices bring the audience into the full experience of D&D, allowing imaginations to soar as the characters embark on adventures. This is Critical Role!

In this episode, Vox Machina make their way through the cursed caverns of the undead dwarven city of Thomara, hoping their presence won’t be discovered…

Thanks to Middle Earth: Shadow of War for sponsoring this episode of Critical Role! Click here to learn more about the game.

Want more Critical Role?

This New Cthulhu RPG Setting Will Get Your Tentacles Slithering

Sep 18 2017

What if Cthulhu cultists ran an entire American city in the 1930s?Cthulhu City 2

That is the question asked by Cthulhu Citya new setting book for the Trail of Cthulhu role-playing game which imagines Great Arkham, a city of factories and mobsters and windowless cyclopean skyscrapers, where the blasphemous Church of the Great Conciliator is the largest religious sect, and the dark shapes that flit through the night sky must be large birds.

They must be, right?

If you are unfamiliar with HP Lovecraft and his horrors, he is a 20th century American weird fiction writer who envisioned a blind and cruelly indifferent universe in which powerful alien beings are slowly awakening from eons of slumber to take Earth back from humanity, not because we’re sinners or evil, but just because they can. (You can learn more about Cthulhu gaming here.) These tropes, memes, and abominations are collectively called the Cthulhu Mythos. Cthulhu City is a new take on Lovecraft because while he always imagined these awful powers working on the fringes, Cthulhu City puts them in control of a major American metropolis.

Pelgrane Press publisher Cat Tobin described the decision to publish Cthulhu City as “easy.” The game “subverts the traditional Mythos RPG in the kind of way we like to do at Pelgrane Press,” and given that Pelgrane sold out of Cthulhu City at Gen Con 2017, Tobin’s instincts appear spot-on.

For aficionados of Lovecraft, the following sentence may tell you all you need to know about the world of Cthulhu City. It was founded by a free-thinking man who was driven out of Salem for being part of a religious minority, a man named Joseph Curwen, and its current mayor is named Charles Ward.

Making the Cthulhu Mythos Fresh Again

But even for those less steeped in the Mythos, Cthulhu City offers something new. It is a Cthulhu setting where a number of preconceptions are turned on their heads. For example, knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos is not hidden in libraries and distant ruins. Instead,

“the Mythos is just beneath the surface. Its spoor is everywhere; the city is foul with supernatural corruption. People have to willfully blind themselves to avoid acknowledging the existence of inhuman horrors in their midst. The Investigators – unable to share in this comfortable delusion – know they are surrounded by the forces of the Mythos.”

There is no retreating to the comforts of daylight, family, and home in Cthulhu City. Otherworldly profanities are always there, right in front of your eyes.

Great ArkhamAnother example of the inversion of Lovecraft’s ideas in Cthulhu City comes from the fact that it is the player characters who must live outside the law. Instead of cultists having to hide their activities from the authorities, it is the player characters who wish to disrupt the activities of alien gods from beyond time who must keep their activities quiet lest they be wiped from the face of the earth.

Cthulhu City takes Lovecraft’s ideas and first allows them to be rewritten by existentialist philosophers, then drags them through a sewer. Writer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has managed to make Cthulhu gaming grimmer, darker, more desperate, and more implacable than it already was.

The book describes the feel of a Cthulhu City game thusly:

Great Arkham is an occupied city. The game casts the Mythos as the occupying power, with the city authorities as quislings and collaborators, and the player characters as resistance fighters. It’s inspired by the human horrors of mass surveillance and oppression, as much as by Lovecraft. The Mythos can strike without reason, without apparent purpose. Tentacles unfold from the clouds, and grab some unlucky soul off the streets; ghouls steal children from their cribs for sacrifice in a witches’ sabbat; invisible horrors beyond perception infect the pineal glands of the unwary, devouring their sanity like psychic parasites and causing brain lesions. The people who live in Great Arkham did nothing wrong– the city is not Hell, and they are not sinners. There is no cosmic plan for them, just cosmic indifference that manifests through the city’s organs.”

A Setting Book with 21st Century Design

Thick setting books may seem old-fashioned, but Ryder-Hanrahan brings a firm 21st-century design aesthetic to the project, and frankly, it could be run as a campaign with relatively little GM prep. For example, settings can be portrayed by the GM as “Masked” or “Unmasked.” A Masked locale is one relatively untainted by the ravening obscenities from beyond our space-time that pervade Great Arkham, and an Unmasked location is filthy with it. St. Mary’s Hospital, for example, may be on the front-line of the fight against typhoid, or it may be run by a cult of undead cannibal doctors. Similarly, non-player characters are presented as potential victims, servants of the Mythos, or allies.

Ryder-Hanrahan also includes ready to run encounters for the GM. In one particularly pants-wetting example, the player character is at a diner when scraps of overheard conversation, the radio, the words of the waitress, all begin to form phrases, then sentences, which coalesce into a passage from a text the player character knows. “The city is reading [the Necronomicon] to the Investigator, as if trying to reveal some hidden truth through every possible means.”

It is difficult to describe the sheer weight and volume of excellent ideas contained in Cthulhu City. This seems to be a hallmark of the work of Ryder-Hanrahan, whose previous efforts included the amazing Dracula Dossier.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and the Weight of Imagination

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan describes himself as “a slow writer with way too many projects” who “has no life outside of gaming, other than occasionally listening to way too many political podcasts.”

Ryder-Hanrahan’s lack of a life outside gaming benefits us all, as his gaming output over the past ten years has been impressive in both quality and quantity. Ultimately, every tabletop role-playing game product ever made is an imagination aid; the product promises to help you have more fun with your imagination than standing in your backyard with a plastic lightsaber pretending to be Obi-Wan Kenobi by providing structure and ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. And it is in this ineffable realm of imagination improvement that Ryder-Hanrahan excels.

Capture

Reading his work produces a kind of euphoria, as plots, characters, locations, encounters, and opponents percolate in the mind, and to describe what I feel when I read it, I get jazzed about how much fun this is going to be at the table. In addition, he is a lucid and vivacious writer who will keep you reading his work.

Like fantasy? You should check out his fantasy campaign where players go up against a sentient dungeon that swims through the earth and starts hunting down their family. (It was inspired by Moby Dick!) Want more Cthulhu from him? Check out The Mythos Dossiers for The Laundry RPG. And if you want to see what Ryder-Hanrahan describes as his, “magnum opus” check out the Dracula Dossier, which may be the greatest campaign of all time.

Why do you love Cthulhu? Let us know in the comments below!

All images courtesy: Pelgrane Press

Ben Riggs speaks five languages and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points podcast. He is also the liberal voice on Across the Aisle, a podcast where a liberal and conservative work together to solve the 21st century’s problems. 


 

 

Commission An Artist to Take Your D&D Character to the Next Level

Sep 18 2017

Once your shiny new D&D character is created, did you know there’s an extra step you can take to make the character feel completely yours? Commissioning an artist for a character portrait has never been easier, and it’s affordable as well. You can use the portrait online, or print it with your character sheet to show off to your fellow players.

Read on for the how-to for finding and hiring an artist so that you’re both happy in the end with the result, with tips from a professional: Tess Fowler, comic artist and Critical Role fan extraordinaire.

Tess began her professional career taking small commissions. “I started my career at 17 drawing other people’s D&D characters,” she says. “I loved them all. But my favorite commission to date was when I did the variant Critical Role cover for the Dungeons and Dragons comic.”

D&D Critical Role Variant

You don’t have to be a comic book publisher to commission an artist. Here’s how to get started.

Think about what you want your character to look like. This might seem like an obvious first step, but it’s best to be ready with specific requests for the artist so that their job is easier and your character looks how you’ve always envisioned.

Find reference images to help your character come to life. “If you want it to look like you, and that’s something the artist can do,” says Tess, “be sure to include clear, well lit, high res photos of your face from different angles. I also usually ask for full length photos so I can get height and proportions right.”

Creating an original character? Find out what the artist needs to make their job easier. “Ask the artist first,” suggests Tess. “If they do a lot of character commissions they might only need a written list of details.”

If they do ask for reference images and you have a specific character look based on your favorite movie, TV show, novel, etc., send those along. Don’t assume that the artist knows who that character is, or even what Dungeons & Dragons is. The more images you can provide for reference, the better.

“Chances are if you can think of it, there’s a movie with a prop that an artist can base things off of,” Tess says. “Lord of the Rings comes immediately to mind. When I was just starting out, I subscribed to medieval weapons buyers guides. They came with photos of people in Renaissance Faire costumes. So useful!”

Fighter, Igor Canova

Find an artist with open commissions. You can search Twitter, tumblr, reddit, or at conventions for artists who are currently taking commissions. Searching “commissions open” on Twitter and sorting by Latest can give you a great place to start.

Tess suggests even looking through Instagram. “If you’re looking for an artist to commission, check hashtags,” she says. “Especially on Instagram. Tags like #inktober #mermay #comicart #animation #inking.

“And from there, take some time to find someone whose art speaks to you. See what hashtags they use. Then keep diving down the rabbit hole.”

If there’s an artist you’ve found online that you’ve long been a fan of, through Critical Role fan art, for example, ask politely if they are taking commissions.

Read the artist’s terms before you contact them, especially image ownership. Know what you’re signing up for and how you can use the portrait once you receive it.

Don’t haggle the price. “It’s best to ask for an artist’s rates up front, if they’re not posted online,” Tess says. “And if it’s in your price range, great! If not, keep hunting. It’s all about respect.”

Be prepared to pay correctly up front. You’ll likely pay by PayPal online or cash at a convention, but make you’re ready when the time comes. While it’s not required, you can also consider adding a tip if you’re happy with the results. “If you know an artist is struggling, it’s nice to throw in a bonus,” Tess says. “Sometimes it’s the difference between dinner and no dinner for them.”

Be patient! Art takes time, so be sure to give it.

“Be respectful. Ask questions. Explore,” says Tess. “It’s a wide world of art out there just waiting for you.”

Do you know an artist you recommend for character commissions? Let everyone know about them in the comments.

Featured Image: Vex’ahlia by Tess Fowler

Other Images: IDW Comics, Igor Canova

Gaming On the Other Side of the World: Check out This Board Game Cafe in the Philippines

Sep 15 2017

For gamers used to spending hours indoors, the Philippines is the perfect vacation spot for enjoying healthy doses of sun and fresh air. From the famous white sand beaches of Boracay to the secluded islands that surround Palawan, there are countless places to lounge amongst the picture-perfect beachside settings.

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After you’re recharged and ready to get back to the tabletop, you won’t have to look too far to find a friendly place to play your favorite games. Gaming cafes can be found throughout the Philippines and thanks to three friends in Cebu, Vault Board Game Cafe recently opened its doors to serve the gaming community.

“When people hear the word board games, they usually associate it with chess, Monopoly, and checkers,” Vault co-owner Ean Dacay said. “We want to share our library with Cebu and let everyone know that there are more board games to discover.”

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While the majority of gaming cafes are located in the country’s capital, Manila, Dacay and his friends (and fellow co-owners) Robin Cañete and Marco Tan saw an opportunity in the southern city of Cebu.

“We wanted to be the first board game cafe in Cebu,” Dacay said. “We decided to bring that concept from Manila to Cebu.”

It wasn’t strictly a business decision, though. All three owners are gamers at heart, having started with gateway games like Cards Against Humanity and Catan. While Cañete was in college, he visited a nearby board game cafe, eventually discovering Shadows Over Camelot and other hobby games. It was this shared love of gaming that was the impetus behind Vault.

“Before we opened,” Dacay said, “we would invite our friends and have a weekly board game night. There were many moments where we laughed until we cried or betrayed one another for our own selfish ambitions, but at the end of the day we still remained friends and would do it again the next week.”

These were the type of moments that Dacay, Cañete, and Tan wanted to offer to the local community: the uncontrollable laughter or gut-wrenching decisions found within the hundreds of games they now lend out to customers. On any given night you’ll find one of the owners teaching games.

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For customers to play games as long as they want, there’s a minimum purchase of 150 pesos (about $3). The Vault menu features American fare such as chili dogs, flavored french fries, and deep-fried Oreos as well as milkshakes and iced teas.

The owners make sure that their customers have plenty of reasons to come back, from specials on food and drink, to their current promotion: playing games for menu items.

“There are a series of challenges a customer can finish, such as solving a riddle and playing a specific board game,” Dacay said. “Certain challenges have a certain amount of points depending on the difficulty. The higher the difficulty, the bigger the points. Once they have enough points, they can cash them in for a reward such as discounts on their next purchase or free food.

“It’s this unique experience that we want to share with Cebu.”

Have you visited a board game café outside of your country? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Ruel Gaviola

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

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Len Wein – A Life in Comics

Sep 15 2017

In memory of Len Wein, 1948-2017

The Wednesday Club, hosted by Amy Dallen, Taliesin Jaffe, and Matt Key, is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show discussing all things comic books. This week the hosts took a look at the life and legacy of the legendary comics creator Len Wein.

Len was known not only for the almost countless contributions to comics he made—your favorite character was probably created or re-energized by him—but also for being genuinely friendly to fans and colleagues in the industry alike.

“He co-created Wolverine, co-created Swamp Thing, co-created most of the second generation of X-Men,” Amy said.

“He is the Illuminati of comics,” Taliesin said. “He’s just behind everything.”

Len’s body of comics work is almost too large to cover in one list, but the hosts highlighted some of his most well-known and beloved characters and books. “It’s not a body of work, it’s the body of a leviathan,” said Taliesin. “This man worked on every comic book ever written.”

Giant-Size X-Men

Giant-Size X-Men

Wein and Dave Cockrum reinvented the team of mutants in 1975 with a single standalone issue that has become a comic book legend. Giant-Size X-Men introduced and re-introduced characters like Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine, and Storm, and bridged the gap to the original team of X-Men, who hadn’t had a new story published in years.

“It’s just an amazing collection of characters that they brought out,” said Taliesin.

“This is one of the biggest, most important contributions Len Wein had made to comics,” Matt said.

“I don’t know who I’d be if he hadn’t introduced those X-Men,” said Amy.

(Marvel Comics, Len Wein and Dave Cockrum)

Swamp Thing

The Swamp Thing made his unforgettable debut in House of Secrets #92 as Dr. Alec Holland found his life forever altered in the swamps of Louisiana. “You’ll never be the same again” after you read it, promised the cover of a reprint of The Original Swamp Thing Saga. “It’s so true,” said Taliesin.

Not only did Len create Swamp Thing, he’s also credited with connecting Alan Moore to the character, who reportedly was intimidated when he was contacted by Len to work together. “That’s who Len Wein is,” Matt said with admiration.

(Vertigo Comics, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson)

Human Target

Christopher Chance is the Human Target, a man who puts himself in harm’s way to protect those who need him (and pay him). Chance has no superpowers, but he’s highly skilled at disguise, espionage, combat, and more to keep himself alive in the face of constant danger. Chance was originally created by Wein in backup stories of Action Comics in 1972, said Taliesin, and in 2010 experienced a resurgence thanks to the Fox TV series with the same name.

“I became a fan of the Human Target because of the original 1992 television series that they made,” Taliesin said with a smile. “I found the comic book because I thought this was the best thing ever when I was a kid.”

(DC Comics, Len Wein and various co-writers and artists)

Tales of the Batman

Tales of the Batman

In the 1970s Len pitted the Dark Knight against just about all of the villains in his rogue’s gallery in Tales of the Batman and other stories. “It was really interesting, almost psychologically disturbed Batman stories that I’m always a big fan of,” Taliesin said.

“It is kind of Batman’s storytelling at its best,” said Matt, “because he is such a deep, psychological character. He’s so messed up.”

(DC Comics, Len Wein and various artists)

The list of Len’s incredible characters and books goes on and on, and the hosts also chatted briefly about DC Universe Legacies and Alan Moore’s DC Comics Presents #85: Superman and Swamp Thing.

“Len Wein is the reason I do what I do, in a lot of ways, because Nightcrawler is the reason I got to read comic books,” Matt said. “Thank you for creating a character that my mother and father were able to look at and say, you know what? Comics are okay for our oldest to read.”

“May we all leave behind the ripples of sweet, generous personal stories in our wake,” said Taliesin. “What a phenomenal legacy.”

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

Featured Image: Geek & Sundry

Other Images: Marvel Comics and DC Comics

Tutorial: How to Easily Paint Convincing Rust Effects For Your Miniatures

Sep 15 2017

Let’s start off by being clear: this is a two step tutorial. The first step is to mix pigments with a medium. And no, they’re not hard to find special products from the other side of the planet. You’ll probably be able to find them at a fine art supply store near you or online.  The second step is to apply this mix of pigments and medium to your miniature. That’s it. It sounds simple, and it is. This is one of those painting techniques that is nearly goof-proof, yet yields excellent results.  You can check out the video above and read out the tips below to see how the rust effect is accomplished.

For this rust effect, you need two things: rust-coloured pigments and liquid acrylic matte medium. I picked up mine from the art store, but you might find them at soap making stores or online. Red coloured pigments (particularly red oxide) is remarkably cheap and a little goes a long way.

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Warning: pigments are a messy business. A little sprinkle astray can mess up carpets, cover and stain tables, and get all over your clothing. You will definitely want to protect yourself and your working surfaces and contain your pigment use by using a lipped tray or box lid and work with small amounts at a time.

The matte medium acts as a pigment binder, adhering the pigment to the miniature. All you need to do is take a couple drops of matte medium and mix a small amount of pigment into it. I use two shades of pigment so that the rust has some depth in colour, but you can easily only use a single colour. If you do choose to use multiple pigment colours, you can mix your pigments or apply them in layers for depth.

Mix the medium and pigment together. The consistency you want will depend on the results you want. If you want a thin wash of rust, thin it down so it looks like watered down paint, apply it with a brush, and dab off the excess with a cosmetic sponge. If you’d like it to look like built up, textured rust (like that on neglected, junk cars), mix it into a thicker paste and stipple it on with an old brush, letting the pigment not only stain and colour, but also build up texture.

Rust Demonstration
You’ll want to apply it over something that hints at metal, and you can further define the metal edge by painting metal where use would wear off the rusting metal, keeping it shiny and metallic. This technique isn’t specific to weapons though: you can use it for all sorts of things, from rusted terrain pieces to vehicles like tanks and anything else that would be metal.

Optional step: If the rust colour isn’t orange enough, you can mix a little bright orange paint into the pigment mix. Or drybrush some orange onto the rust. It’s really that easy.

Heck, when you combine the salt and hairspray weathering technique with this rust technique, you can even make milk cartons look like painted rusting metal.

Milk carton rust

Looking to learn more about painting miniatures, be sure to join Will Friedle on The Painter’s Guild this Monday on Alpha and jump on the miniature painting bandwagon! Share your photos of your painted miniatures on social media using the hashtag #happylittleminis and your minis might be featured here on Geek & Sundry!

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Image Credits: Teri Litorco

Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about miniature games that include various painting tutorials and helpful tips. To keep up with what she’s playing and painting follow her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and help her continue to make accessible painting tutorials by supporting her on Patreon.

 

4 Things You Should Know About Sally Ride

Sep 15 2017

USS_Voyager,_ventral_viewEvery Wednesday at 9:30 PM, a talented crew roleplays their way to fulfill their mission and boldly go where no one has gone before. Join the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.

The ship is an important part of any space story. In some cases, it becomes a character in the story. In others, it provides an ambiance that fans want to take with them wherever they go. Our crew at Shield of Tomorrow chose an Intrepid-class vessel and named it after Sally Ride, one of the most famous astronauts in our time. Here are a few things to know about this remarkable spacefarer.

1. Sally Ride Was The First American Woman In Space

Sally Kirsten Ride was born in Encino, Los Angeles, California on May 26, 1951. She obtained an education at Stanford University with a B.A. in English and a B.S, Masters and Ph.D in physics. NASA put out an advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper seeking astronaut applicants. Ride was one of six women accepted out of 8,000 applications. She was part of the development team for the Space Shuttle’s first robotic arm and served as a planetside flight controller for the Shuttle’s first two missions. She went into space as part of the Space Shuttle’s second mission aboard Challenger on June 18th, 1983.

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As an additional bonus bit of trivia, Ride was the third woman in space. The first two,  Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982, were part of the Soviet space program.

2. Sally Ride Investigated The Challenger Disaster

Sally Ride was part of the Rogers Commission, which was created to discover why Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its 10th spaceflight. The commission found that NASA’s organization and culture had been at fault because it voilated its own safety rules. A flaw in the O-rings caused pressurized burning gas to escape and cause the external tank to rupture. General Donald Kutyna claimed that Ride quietly provided him with information about the flawed O-ring design that led the Commission in the right direction in their investigation.

3. Sally Ride Founded A STEM Program For Teachers and Kids

Sally Ride Science was founded in 2001 by Ride and Tam O’Shaughnessy, Karen Flammer, Terry McEntee, and Alann Lopes. The nonprofit organization was created to encourage students to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs and teachers to add STEM ideas to their programs. The organization joined up with the University of San Diego in 2015, where it still operated to this day.

4. Sally Ride Is The First Known LGBTQ Astronaut

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Ride kept much of her life, but her death revealed her as a pioneer in yet another sense. Ride was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died on July 23rd, 2012. Her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaugnessy, was revealed in Ride’s obituary and later confirmed their relationship.

If you’re ready to catch Star Trek Adventures in action (albeit in the 24th century), the crew of the USS Sally Ride flies every Wednesday at 9:30 PM PT on Twitch.

Feature Image Credits: NASA (Fair Use)
Image Credits: NASA/JPL (Fair Use), CBS

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

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