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Be the King of the Castle Thanks to the King of Kickstarter, Matt Colville

Feb 20 2018

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we take a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is Strongholds & Streaming, a 5th Edition supplement from Master Class Dungeon Master Matt Colville.

Matt Colville, writer of the Critical Role comic book, occasional guest here on Geek & Sundry, and Dungeon Master extraordinaire can add one more title to his repertoire: King of Kickstarter.

MC-KS-update

Matt is currently in the middle of a million-dollar Kickstarter campaign. (You read that right, one million dollars.) Strongholds & Streaming, Matt’s fundraising efforts for a 5th Edition book and his next campaign livestream, is enjoying incredible support from tabletop fans around the world.

Strongholds &…

While Matt may not quite approve of the “King of Kickstarter” title, it’s clear that his Strongholds & Followers book, the campaign reward, is an instant success appealing to tabletop role-playing game players worldwide. Giving players expanded options for owning keeps, towers, temples, or establishments, the book is something Matt has worked on since 1985.

“This is a variation of the rules I used in the 80s,” says Matt. “Every edition of the game, I’ve updated my rules, including the warfare rules, to bring them in line with the current edition’s philosophy. It’s lucky that 5th Edition has Mike Mearls’ very old-school love of charts! We intend to give your percentile dice a workout.”

Once a player has chosen their stronghold, they can then determine the types of allies they will have beside them with a roll of the die. Whether you attract units, adventurers, artisans, or ambassadors to your side, you’ll marvel at the new facets of your adventuring life as a political power.

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You can even attract the help of special allies like dragons, and some classes get bonuses to their abilities each time they return to their stronghold.

Rather than making the content available through Patreon or on a RPG download site, Matt chose Kickstarter because he’s a huge fan of the platform himself. “I’ve backed over 20 products, I think it’s a total game changer for the tabletop business,” he says. “Kickstarter lets the creators and the consumers interact directly and I consider this virtuous.”

He recommends Strongholds & Followers for both players and game masters, although he admits that his ulterior motive is obviously to get his book in more hands.

“Players need to see the book so they can leaf through it and go ‘Ooh, I want this!'” says Matt. “Players wanting things for their characters, having ambitions outside just leveling up, is a huge part of what makes this game different from a video game. In this game, you can build a stronghold, you can rule a people, you can tame a land.”

strongholds2

… Streaming

Along with raising funds to print and distribute the book, Matt’s campaign is also aimed at supporting the livestream of his next campaign. He gave his players a few options for the campaign, all based around player ambitions and what they might accomplish in the game.

“I asked them which they wanted to play and there was a lot of discussion!” Matt says. “But in the end they voted for the Big City campaign. So they could make a stronghold inside Capital, and there are good reasons to do so, but it would probably be an Establishment. But there are Keeps and Towers and Temples abound in the city.

“If they’d chosen any of the other games, you’d see a more classical use of these rules.”

Strongholds & Streaming & Smash Success

The success of the campaign has of course been an unbelievable experience for Matt, but he’s not resting on his laurels when there’s work to do. “I dreamed, I dreamed we might do $300,000 in a month. But I thought there was a 50/50 chance we’d never reach the final stretch goal.

“I know the Kickstarter is a smash, it may end up being a record-breaking smash for this category (tabletop RPGs), but to my way of thinking… we haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t made a book. We haven’t made minis. We haven’t streamed our game. Only if we succeed at doing those things and then those things are reasonably popular will I consider this a success. Until then, all we did was raise a lot of money.

“So that is what all my thought is bent upon. Getting the book done, making it good. Streaming our game, making it good.”

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Featured Image (Castle Artwork): Conceptopolis

All Other Images: Matt Colville

TEASER: Our New Show ‘Key Question’ Provides Thought-Provoking Pop Culture Answers

Feb 20 2018

Marisha Ray has a lot of questions — mostly about heroes and stories relevant in pop culture today. Luckily Matt Key has the answer — actually, TOO many answers.

Key Question follows Marisha and Matt on a train of logic to examine and analyze the hidden meanings in some of the most famous pop-culture figures, all on a quest to discover if pop culture is our salvation or our doom and everything in between. The goal? To engage the audience in high-level thinking to learn about the icons in the nerd scene.

Key Question will be airing exclusively on Alpha starting March 6. Don’t have a subscription? You can get a free 30-day trial on projectalpha.com!

WATCH: How to Play – ‘The Grimm Forest’

Feb 20 2018

Every week, Game the Game host Becca Scott shows us how to play awesome tabletop games here on Geek & Sundry, as well as play great games with fantastic guests.

This week Becca’s taking on a twist of the Three Little Pigs with The Grimm Forest. The king is planning on developing land in the Grimm Forest. The problem is that his current Royal Builders, the Three Little Pigs, have grown old and senile. You play a niece or nephew of those legendary pigs trying to build three houses before everyone else to gain the title of Royal Builder.

It’s every pig for themselves during the Gather phase. During this phase, you choose one of the resources on the board you want to collect. Outwit your opponents and try to pick one that no one else is going to so you can grab everything for yourself. The twist is that everyone is secretly picking their location. Place your miniature on the resource area after everyone reveals their location.

Now that you have the building material, it’s time to build! Each house comes in three pieces and each piece costs a different amount to build. Yes, you really are putting together a three-dimensional house. Each house type comes in its own color and shape, so no hunting for a certain piece (and it’s colorblind friendly).

Once you get the walls of your house up, you get to draw Friend cards from the deck. Your uncles were so legendary that word of your competition has spread throughout the land and caught the attention of some very famous faces. Befriend some of them to help you win. Will Cinderella help you gather resources faster than anyone else? Can you convince Rumpelstiltskin to turn your straw into bricks or wood? Will the Wolf destroy the resources before you can collect them?

Who will be the first pig to build three houses and become the Royal Builder? Gather your materials and enter The Grimm Forest.

The Grimm Forest is developed by Druid City Games, published by Skybound Games and can be bought from reputable game retailers and from SkyboundGames.com.

This video is sponsored by Druid City Games, publisher of Grimm Forest.

WATCH: Inside the Box – ‘Charterstone’

Feb 19 2018

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. 

Ever wanted to get away from it all to live a quaint life in a rural village, filled with pumpkins, airships, and floating islands? Well look no further than Charterstone from Stonemaier Games.

With this board game, you’ll experience life in a burgeoning village in Greengully, as one of its six founding members. Each player gets their own charter, a section of the board, that they can develop however they want. The game uses stickers to permanently change the face of the board as you grow and expand. Want to start a wheat farm, then build a bakery and earn points from selling bread? Or perhaps you want to settle in the clay pits and forge living golems out of brick? As the game goes on, so does your town expand and prosper. But behind this charming veneer is a smoldering mystery. Who are you, exactly? And why do you have memories from other villagers, long dead? Who is this all-powerful Forever King, and why does he care so much about your tiny village? The answers to these questions will be revealed over the course of 12 games, each one altering and expanding on the ruleset. By the end of the campaign, your playgroup will have your very own unique worker placement game that you can then use to play over and over after the story resolves.

Jack can’t wait for the rest of the group to play Charterstone, and he soon finds himself delving way deeper into its cartoony world than he ever imagined. After meeting a new friend, Jack discovers that all isn’t as quaint as it seems in Greengully. Meanwhile, it’s up to the rest of the ITB crew to play through the game to help Jack uncover the ominous mysteries of Charterstone from the inside out.

Have you played Charterstone? Tell us what you think about it in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: Inside the Box

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WATCH: Critical Role – The Howling Mines (Campaign 2, Episode 6)

Feb 19 2018

It’s finally here! The new Critical Role has started. If you’re new to the show, every week, a group of talented voice actors embarks on a D&D adventure set in a campaign setting designed by voice actor and GM Matt Mercer. (If you’re new to Critical Role, check out this primer for newcomers to the show. You’ll be cursing Gil with the rest of us soon enough!)

This week, players Marisha RayTaliesin JaffeLiam O’BrienLaura BaileySam Riegel, and Travis Willingham questions the crownsguard for clarity about last night’s attacks, and their hunt for the gnolls leads them to a descent down a mysterious mine…

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 sponsoring this episode of Critical Role! Check out https://www.dndbeyond.com for all of your D&D digital toolset needs!  

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.

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This is a sponsored video.

Critical Role’s Second Campaign Takes Cosplay To The Next Level

Feb 19 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.

It hasn’t taken long for the newest group of adventures in Exandria to find their way into our hearts. The new characters we’re getting to know in the second campaign of Critical Role are all immediately memorable, with personalities and histories that fans can’t wait to find out more about.

But that doesn’t mean it’s too early for fans to show affection for these stinky people. Some cosplayers began working on their costumes the moment the characters were revealed in the first episode, or found inspiration when Ariana Orner’s breathtaking official art and character portraits made their debut.

Take a look in the gallery below for costumes of the new Critical Role player characters put together by amazing cosplayers.

Mae Burke is new to Critical Role, but she immediately wanted to rise to the challenge of cosplaying Mollymauk Tealeaf. “I’ve had friends in the Critical Role fandom since the first campaign, but I didn’t actually ‘get into’ the fandom until the second campaign,” she says. “The first set of misadventures was simply too daunting of a task to listen to, and I was already listening to another Dungeons & Dragons campaign at that time.”

mae-mollymauk

But once she started watching, Mae was hooked, and dazzled by the description of the exquisitely dressed tiefling–especially by his coat. “I really enjoy bringing others’ art to life through cosplay, and one of my most favorite aspects of creating something is embellishing. I’ve laid out an entire map of what symbols will go where on the coat, and am excited to use a mix of hand embroidery, sequins, and rhinestones to have it all come together.”

Micaila Dean has been a Critical Role fan for about a year, and her heart lies with Vax’ildan, whom she cosplayed late last year. “In the first campaign, I fell in love with Vax from the beginning and he has been an absolute joy to cosplay, the favorite cosplay I’ve done of anything,” she says.

In the second campaign, she felt that same instant connection, this time to the tiefling cleric Jester.

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“Honestly, the entire cast is amazing and picking a character to cosplay was hard, but I see quite a bit of myself in Jester,” says Micaila. “And after all, who doesn’t love to carry pastries around at cons?”

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Featured Image: Mollymauk: @AstinStratoti , Caleb: @umopepisdnwI, Nott: @turnfolio, Photo by Alexei Glick

Other Images: Mae Burke and Micaila Dean (Calli Faulk Photographer)

EXCLUSIVE REVEAL – Critical Role: Vox Machina: Origins #1 Convention Exclusive From Dark Horse

Feb 19 2018

In case you missed it,  Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins is a comic book series that explores a part of the adventuring party’s story that has remained out of the public eye.  It’s written by Matt Colville and Matt Mercer with art by Olivia Samson and lettering and colors by Chris Northrop.

The stories have been available digitally (through digital retailers such as digital retailers Dark Horse DigitalComiXology, iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook, and Google Play) and when we announced the comic in September, we also promised that print versions would come in this spring.

Our friends at Dark Horse took it one step further and created a special exclusive version of Critical Role: Vox Machina: Origins #1. It’ll debut in 2 weeks at Emerald City Comic Con, will retail for the cover price of $10, and will also be made available at any convention Dark Horse is in attendance at until it sells outThere were only 1000 copies of this convention exclusive printed, so you’ll have to act fast if you want to get your hands on one.

CRRLDHDP #1 CVR CONV EXCL

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Take An Inside Look At Education In Gaming With These GM Tips

Feb 19 2018

GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we talked about having fewer high quality sessions over a mass, and this week we talk about education through gaming

As gaming becomes more mainstream in the last decade, more applications are being found for the pastime beyond a night with some friends. Since gaming is now multi-generational we can see the impact healthy gaming has on families. If we look beyond gaming as a mere tool of imagination and escape, does it have educational benefits? What about the school system? Did many of us not after all, have that one cool teacher who used to play some old school pen & paper?

BJ Hensley brings real-life experience to GM Tips with Satine Phoenix and offers valuable insight into a new use for gaming that is becoming more popular. Get caught up below.

This episode is less about sharpening your specific GM skills and more about what’s happening in the gaming industry when it merges with the field of education. In that vein, this article is about running games that are educational and what game companies have products with an educational twist or are designed to promote family play.

Playground Adventures

Created by BJ Hensley, (and also the focus of the video) this game line is a one-stop shop for educational tabletop needs for a variety of ages. If you are a teacher by chance and looking to enhance your curriculum or teach some math skills by doing pathfinder character creation, this studio has you covered. On a whole, I find this studio caters very much to a far younger audience than even I would run a game for—which makes this a rare find for gaming parents with little kids. They do have products that range up higher and a young adult line as well.

Pixies ON Parade

Given the anxiety that many kids face in math (heck I have a 10-year-old who just failed his first math test), working in that skill mastery in other ways is a valuable tool. Take a look around even if you don’t have kids yourself because chances are you know someone who does. A core rule-book given as a gift at the right time has the potential to get tight-lipped children talking about adventures or hobbies they’ve had in their imagination.

Learn Larp

Learn Larp, LLC is an educational consulting and game design company focused on the power of role-playing games as a co-created experience to build empathy, collaboration, problem-solving, and awareness. Everything discussed in the video above, this company is dedicated to putting into practice. With some amazingly fun games as well like the popular Magischola or Edgeworld a wild west based LARP. When you really sit back and think about all the random factoids you learn just to play your characters, it’s rather impressive. Getting ready for a LARP and reading the lore, rules, and even building a character is an important skill; then add in some travel logistics.

Wizard Larp

Magischola Preparatory Academy is a summer camp LARP for young adults that provides an immersive LARP experience for kids age 11-17. Run by experienced camp counselors and industry veterans they allow kids to study rune lore, magical creatures and get to have a camp in a friggin’ castle and learn teamwork at the same time. The event takes place every summer in Pennsylvania, and just like their other events, they intend to expand out as popularity demands. Self-sufficiency has long been taught at summer-camps, but those camps don’t always draw interest from all kids; so add a splash of geekery in and I’m left wondering.  Why didn’t I have this when I was 12 years old?

 

Catthulhu

CallOfCatthulhuBanner

I’ll be honest, this one is a little less on the educational side and more the best family RPG I’ve ever seen. There hasn’t been a hilarious laugh from any kid around me yet when I’ve shown them the Catthulhu book, and you can’t force that type of buy-in. The concept alone sells itself and creates a laughing and hilarious humor right from its character creation. Call of Catthulhu: Book 1 the Nekonimikon is at its core, a well-designed RPG for all ages and it has been talked about as a fun family game before. When it comes to finding one that has an instant-out-of-the-box appeal I would be remiss if I did not highlight Catthulu.

We would love to hear some expert opinions from teachers and educators that are using gaming as an educational tool, and if you have any stories, can you share them in the comments below!

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Featured Image: Catthulhu

Image Credits: Pixies On Parade by Playground Adventures, New World Magischola Providence Predatory Academy, Catthulhu

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.

Why Humans in Trek Are Exceptional: They’re Dumb & Lucky

Feb 16 2018

Every Friday at 4:00 PM PT, a talented crew roleplays their way through the galaxy to fulfill a mission: to boldly go where no one has gone before. Follow the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch

Humans, judging by the technology of the other members of not just Starfleet but the other alien species that Starfleet encounters, are playing a massive amount of catch up in the galactic scale. Yet somehow Earth ended up as the center of Starfleet even though our species is a new player in the game. How did that happen? Surely, Vulcans, Andorians and the other members of the Federation had ideas for alliances before Zefram Cochrane took a joyride on a warp engine? Why do humans have all the luck?

Exhibit A in this argument none other than James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise with a long history of rule-breaking behavior. Whether its reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test to win the no-win situation, travelling back through time on multiple occasions to save the Federation, or even hijacking his old ship to save his best friend, you’d think that Kirk would be dead or worse a thousand times over. Yet he is lionized by future generations of Starfleet and even oddly respected by his enemies. Kirk is exceptionally lucky because a lot of the time the problems are caused by the dumb actions of his very human crew members who might, say, touch a disease victim with a bare hand. His luck cancelled out their dumb action and saved the day.

wesleycrusher

There are…various reasons why we love Wesley Crusher around here, but he’s also another great example of this principle. It doesn’t seem like a smart idea to put families on board an exploratory vessel, even if it has sweet saucer separation powers. But without Wesley, the Enterprise would have been destroyed long before the heroic powers of Commander Riker’s beard would have come into play. Or course, Wesley balances that out with some dumb moves of his own, but in his defense, the death penalty for stepping on someone’s garden is also an example of dumb non-human behavior.

orb-sisko

Commander Sisko continues this trend by somehow being chosen as a central figure of the Bajoran religion…just as their region of space became important due to a stable wormhole. While Sisko isn’t as reckless as some other humans he still has moments when he does something that should have turns him into so much space dust. He punched Q, and thought it would be fun to time travel to see how things were back in Starfleet when Kirk was still young.

Humanity plays a big role in Starfleet, but one that we imagine causes non-humans a lot of headaches and awkward paperwork. We tend to go big or go home and for the most part, it’s worked out. There will be a day where our luck will run out and that will be a true test of our willpower, ambition what we’ve learned in the stars. But, until then, hold our Romulan Ale as we attempt to plug a warp core into another warp core just to see what happens.

 

What do you think? Is humanity part of Starfleet because of dumb luck? Tell us in the comments! And be sure to tune into our Star Trek RPG show, Shield of Tomorrow on Geek & Sundry Twitch and Alpha every Friday starting at 4 PM PT, followed by our aftershow on Alpha, Behind The Shield, where the crew discuss the episode and debate topics like this one.

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Feature Credit: Paramount

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

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: True Romance

Feb 16 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Taliesin Jaffe and Amy Dallen were joined by Michelle Nguyen to chat about their favorite romance comics and manga.

Michelle, Taliesin, and Amy gushed about their favorite romantic manga from the 1980s to today, and mentioned some of their favorite comics both mainstream and indie that also make them feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Taliesin talked about his love for Kimagure Orange Road, a romantic comedy manga and later anime that focused on a love triangle between a boy name Kyosuke and two girls, Madoka and Hikaru. Kyosuke also has ESP powers, but those are mostly tangential to the story, which at heart focuses on the trio’s relationships with each other.

The Wednesday Club trio also chatted about a few of their other favorites from Japan and Western comics.

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

Taliesin, Michelle, and Amy also talked briefly about Scott Pilgrim, Cowgirl Romances, Young Romance, Princess Jellyfish, Love and RocketsSunstone, and the recently released The Secret Loves of Geeks.

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.

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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: Image Comics

WATCH: Shield of Tomorrow – I Remember – Part 1 (Episode 4)

Feb 16 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.

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.

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Enhance Encounter Quality While Minimizing Combat With These GM Tips

Feb 15 2018

GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we talked about keeping that awe and wonder over years, and this week we rolls right into quality over quantity.

What if dungeon crawls aren’t your thing? Even if everyone is having fun rolling from one combat encounter to another, but you spend your time longing for more in-town time there is hope for you and GM’s like you. A lot of game systems from D&D to Shadowrun focus very heavily on linear encounters with enough action to light up Nakatomi Tower. But no matter what system you are running, this week we will focus conflict quality over quantity.

Jason Carl, master of vampires and wine, adds his two coins about storytelling on this week’s GM Tips with Satine Phoenix.

A full guide to running a six-hundred man LARP will have to come at a later time, particularly with only five storytellers. Hats off to Jason Carl for that one. Alright, let’s talk some Vampire: The Masquerade and the delicious joys of heightening conflict by minimizing combat.

Tension Through Morality

Why have seven combats in between two levels when you can have your players squirming in their seats over a single ruthless choice between a rock and a hard place? Intense morality choices aren’t a tool you can whip out in every single fight. They need to be built up, measured, and weighed with calculated risk. Vampire: The Masquerade pioneered this in the early nineties with the struggle for humanity with a very simple choice: You must drink from humans, potentially killing them, in order for you to live—and sometimes the beast within you takes it too far.

Vampire-The-Masquerade-Bloodlines

Translated into a game like D&D, you’ve gotta hit your players where it matters to them. Giving the party a choice to kill a murderous orc for revenge or stay your blade and take up arms with the foul creature in an attempt to redeem him. In Shadowrun, such a choice could be doing a run for someone so evil, but needing their gear, intel or money for a future mission to do good. These choices will always require a GM to know their players. Very few games have such intricacies backed into the mechanics, and even those will still require an attentive storyteller. But if you can find this spot, you can run for weeks with without back-to-back combats.

Heighten Your Characters Conviction

In Vampire: The Masquerade, there is a noble group of heroes who call themselves the Sabbat. These champions of justice fight against the oppressive Camarilla who serve ancient vampires that will one day rise and devour the world. Without these pillars of morality, these beacons of light in the World of Darkness, oblivion would await everyone—and they are the sect of conviction. So how does having conviction make combat have more impact? The answer is it makes every fight matter.

Even if you have a lot of dungeons to crawl through, a united convicted party sees each step as a conquest to a greater war. Conviction adds gravitas to any fight. There is a ceremony, ritual, joy, and delicious freedom in victory. Along with an equal number of emotions on a loss, and there will be losses. War is not easy, but your characters must take each step forward, even over the bodies they’ve laid at their feet. For storytellers, giving your NPC’s such zealous conviction makes them stand out and seem less bland. Which only heightens quality.

Extended Combats

Some adventures can be described as a series of small combats strung together in sequence until there is a final boss pay off. Campaigns could arguably be defined as a series of adventures strung together until a final pay off. Changing up the tempo within these definitions allows you keep things fresh and also shine a massive spotlight on a single part of the story.

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What you do is take a planned boss encounter, and instead of having a bunch of small, lead up encounters—you make it all one super long running fight. Without rests or breaks for the duration. Imagine the adventure starting off battling the red dragon, and in the aerial fight as they barreled from village to village they were always locked in combat. Running into the tavern to buy new gear or a potion, while the town guard was fighting for their lives outside, then back into the fray the heroes go. Long, multi-faceted, and engaging combats like this reduce the need for quick-hit one-shot encounters and allow more time to be spent on the build up.

What are your tips for some sweet combat quality? I left off a secret tip for the Vampire: The Masquerade fans but I’ll include it here: Amaranth makes every combat tastier. If you’ve got any hidden gems, let us know in the comments below!

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Featured Image by: White Wolf Studios
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.

TUTORIAL: How To Speedpaint Stormtrooper Minis from Star Wars: Legion

Feb 15 2018

Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild is our show where host Will Friedle goes on a journey to learn how to paint miniatures. Last season, he learned basic techniques, and in season 2, he’s be improving his miniature painting skills as guests join him and teach him new tips and techniques. Join him on Alpha paint those #happylittleminis!

Fantasy Flight Games’ newest miniature game, Star Wars: Legion, is set to release next month. Coincidentally, the recent episodes of G&S’s Painter’s Guild cover miniature painting basic skills, with this week’s episode introducing speedpainting skills. It’s the perfect time to master those painting fundamentals and get miniatures painted to tabletop quality quickly.

With this tutorial, you’ll learn to paint white in a way that is quick and easy. This is a shortcut to painting smooth white without doing dozens of thin layered paint coats. Combining these foundational techniques on this beautifully sculpted miniature, you’ll get these Stormtroopers done and on the table shooting Rebel scum faster than you can power up a Deathstar.

Before we get started, remember, to paint minis, you want to use miniature paint. It’s simply far more pigmented. You won’t get the same results with craft paint.

Prerequisite: Prime Black

prime black

It may seem intuitive to prime a model that is predominantly white black, but it serves a purpose. Black is a very beginner-friendly priming colour because shadows are dark and places your brush cannot reach will likely be black. In this case, we’re going to harness that property to create the shades and shadows of the armour since the black parts are recessed.

We’re using that black to help give definition to the miniature- the shadows for each armour plate (we’ll refer to them as blacklines moving forward) are much easier to around using foundational techniques (like drybrushing) than they are to paint on. Developing blacklines by working lighter colours up from black rather than painting black onto the model (known as blacklining) is soul crushing. Trust me.

Step 1: Drybrush Grey

Drybrushing is a very simple technique: simply load undiluted paint into a synthetic-fiber brush. Wipe most of the paint off of the brush and onto a paper towel (the brush should barely leave any hint of paint when pulled across the paper towel).

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Drag the bristles vigorously across the miniature. It will deposit the paint on the model most heavily where the sculpt is raised, and leave the recessed parts dark. Because drybrushing is the process of depositing paint in this manner, it’s often used to highlight miniatures as when it’s done with a lighter colour on a darker base, it mimics the effect of light and shadow.

For our purposes, the grey will provide some coverage and a transition colour between the black and white, which will help blend out the shadows and keep the white from looking too chalky.

(Just so you know, the best drybrush for miniature painting is a $3 makeup brush called the Eyes Lips Face Contour brush – a brush I discovered for this purpose because it’s a terrible eyeshadow brush and I wanted to repurpose it. I’ve talked about it before here on Geek & Sundry and you can grab it from the cosmetics aisle where they sell ELF makeup or the ELF’s online makeup store.)

Step 2: Drybrush White

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You’ll likely want to do a couple drybrush coats. It’s better to work multiple layers upwards and maintain the integrity of the blacklines while still painting quickly. Don’t be tempted to glob paint on heavily at any stage – you will lose the black lines you’re working hard to preserve, and going back to correct isn’t particularly fun.

Take a moment and have a look at how the paint is depositing – that’s where you’ll want to pay particular attention to for the next step.

Step 3: Layer White Paint

When painting layered highlights, you want to thin your paint down to the consistency of skim milk.  If it looks like sour cream, that’s fine for drybrushing, but not for this technique.

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Take your thinned paint, and apply it to highest points of the model and where the most white paint has accumulated thorugh drybrushing (such as the innermost sections of each plate). Focus on maintaining the blacklines you’ve worked hard to develop and preserve throughout this process. If you’re not comfortable layering white paint, focus on keeping it in the middle of the big white areas that you drybrushed. You can even drybrush again to brighten up the areas you’ll want to put this thin layer down.

This layer of paint will serve to smooth out the final effect of the white and highlight the brightest parts of the miniature.

Step 4: Apply a wash of black

Stormtroopers guns are black. But at the scale they’re at, painting them straight black will make them look completely flat and unfinished. Even black items reflect and cast shadows to the eye, so to mimic that on the minaiture, you can simply take a black wash from a miniature paint line, or thin down some black miniature paint in water at a 10:1 ratio so it maintains the water-like consistency and the colour is translucent rather than opaque.

wash black

Because you drybrushed the model, its highlights are already highlighted, and its shadows are shaded. Applying a black wash to the weapon will darken it to the point where it looks black from tabletop, but has some depth and looks as though it’s interacting naturally with light. You may need to do a few layers if you overly thinned your wash, but it’s better to work the wash colour up than to put too thick a coat of paint on.

That’s it! It took me about 20 minutes to do the single figure start to finish, but when painted as a batch of 7 minis (the base unit size), I was able to cut down the time to 15 minutes per model. If it looks too easy to be true, check out my video below and see it for yourself.

Want more tips and techniques to develop your miniature painting skills? Watch Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild on Alpha – new episodes go live every Monday. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Get a free 30 day trial at projectalpha.com

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Image Credits: Teri Litorco

Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about painting minis and playing miniature wargames/boardgames. She’s also the author of The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming. She’d love to see pics of your #HappyLittleMinis – send them her way on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

Gallery: Critical Role Fan Art – Finding a Rhythm

Feb 15 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.

Take a long rest by settling in and browsing this week’s gorgeous Critical Role fan art.

Check out this week’s art in 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 cast? You can 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 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.

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Featured Image: Cindy Cho (http://americankimchi.tumblr.com/)

WATCH: Game the Game – ‘Fallout: The Board Game’

Feb 15 2018

Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best boardgames the industry has to offer. How to Play videos go live every Tuesday and we post Game the Game playthroughs every Thursday here on Geek & Sundry.

This week, Becca is joined by Ash Minnick, Joseph Linbaugh, and Ivan van Norman to play Fallout: the Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games. In this adaptation, players are competing to be the first to reach a certain number of influence points before everyone else. Who’ll come out on top? Watch the game and find out.

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LISTEN: Critical Role Podcast – The Open Road (Campaign 2, Episode 5)

Feb 15 2018

In case you missed it, or prefer to get your episodes of Critical Role in podcast form, the latest episode of the new campaign, “The Open Road”, is ready for your listening pleasure!

If you’re new to the show, every week, a group of talented voice actors embarks on a D&D adventure set in a campaign setting designed by voice actor and GM Matt Mercer. (If you’re new to Critical Role, check out this primer for newcomers to the show. You’ll be cursing Gil with the rest of us soon enough!)

This week, players Marisha RayTaliesin JaffeLiam O’BrienLaura BaileySam Riegel, and Travis Willingham take their characters on the road, preparing for a long trip to Zidash. But trouble in the small town of Alfield stops the band of adventurers in their tracks…


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 sponsoring this episode of Critical Role! Check out https://www.dndbeyond.com for all of your D&D digital toolset needs!  

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.

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How To Mod ‘Fallout: The Board Game’ For Longer Solo Player Survival

Feb 14 2018

We love tabletop games here at Geek & Sundry, and we love to showcase the best games out there. If you want to stay tuned into what’s new and exciting in world of tabletop games, be sure to tune into Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott weekly here on Geek & Sundry.

Fallout: The Board Game is a post-apocalypse game based on the beloved Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout video game universe. Released in late 2017, Fantasy Flight Games has created a tabletop version of the Fallout experience that’s both inspired and inspiring, especially if you’re a true Fallout fan.

Fallout: The Board Game (FBG) is unique in that it does something the video games franchise has yet to do: provide a multiplayer experience. However, FBG also does one thing as well as its video game forebearers: provide a top quality solo player experience. FBG’s solo player mode is just as challenging as its video game counterpart, due in large part by playing solo on a relatively small map that can quickly become crowded with enemy creatures.

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I have played through all four scenarios in solo and multi-player mode many times since FBG launched, and taking a cue from video games, have modded a couple of the rules to help my character stay in play and alive longer. I also think these mods help bring an extra element from the Fallout video games that I was missing, thereby raising the FBG solo play experience closer to the level of what I love so much from the video games.

RAW Play

FBG’s solo play mode only makes three changes to the standard rules as written (RAW), which cover how quests, encounter cards, and the agenda deck operate. The three main actions – explore, move, and fight – remain the same.

In standard gameplay, you explore map tiles (flip them over to reveal more of the map), move your character through the spaces on explored map tiles, and fight and attempt to kill enemies on explored map tiles.

Enemies activate at select points on specific explored map tiles. After enemies are initially activated (spawned), they then activate again at the end of your turn, according to icons at the bottom of drawn Agenda cards. The rules state: “When an enemy type activates, you move each enemy of that type one space toward the nearest survivor.”

So, here’s the dilemma: The more map tiles you have explored, the more enemy activation points there are, resulting in an increasing number of enemies. In multiplayer mode, this isn’t so much of a concern, since there are other characters on the map who may encounter and fight an enemy before you do. In solo play, it’s just you, and you can get surrounded by enemies rather swiftly, with each enemy on the map making a beeline directly towards you.

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Modded Play

Playing through the scenarios in solo mode, I naturally thought about how well FBG captures the feel of the Fallout solo player experience. Alternately, I also thought about what was missing. As I noticed the above dilemma, where every enemy on the board had my character dead in their sights, I also noted they were ignoring each other in their paths to get to me. If you’ve played the Fallout video games, you know this doesn’t happen often and have likely witnessed many battles between enemies out in the open world.

So, in an effort to increase the inspiration factor from the Fallout video games, and to help me stay alive just a bit longer in solo mode, I developed and changed a couple of rules to apply to enemies on their activation turn.

Enemy Mod Rule #1
When two (2) or more enemies occupy the same map tile, there is a chance an Active enemy will spot other enemies and will use its Move action to go towards a selected enemy INSTEAD of using its Move action to go towards the player character.

  • To determine if an Active enemy spots another enemy on the same map tile, roll all three V.A.T.S. dice. If the rolled dice results in showing more hit indicators than non-hits, the Active enemy has spotted another enemy.

Enemy Mod Rule #2
If an Active enemy moves into a space with an Inactive enemy, no Fight action occurs. If an Inactive enemy becomes Active, AND has one or more Active enemies in its space, the Fight action occurs immediately.

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Enemy Mod Rule #3
When an Active enemy Fight action occurs, initiative is determined by rolling all three V.A.T.S. dice, once for each enemy.

  • The enemy whose V.A.T.S. dice roll results in the greater number of hit indicators wins initiative, and attacks first.
    Ties are rerolled.

Enemy Mod Rule #4
Enemy Fight actions against each other happen exactly as the Fight action between enemy and player, with one exception:

  • Enemy abilities are ignored completely.

And with that, you have my improvised and adapted homebrew rules for increasing the fun and survivability factor in Fallout: The Board Game solo play. Hope you enjoy it!

Let us know what you think about these homebrew rules in the comments! And don’t forget to check out into our tabletop show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott as we play games and talk about what’s happening in the land of tabletop gaming. New episodes go live every Thursday here on G&S!

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Featured image credit: Fantasy Flight Games/Bethesda Softworks LLC.

Image Credits: Jim Moreno

Check out our new Apocalypse Survival RPG Show – We’re Alive: Frontier

Feb 14 2018

Ivan van Norman is back in the Game Master chair, bringing a new kind of horror RPG to Geek & Sundry. This time, he’s pulling out Outbreak: Undead to craft this story. We’ve talked about the system in the past, and described it as a true survival simulation RPG. Given the fact that the game is structured for sandbox-style exploration by the players to drive the story, we can expect that there will be twists and turns. And also deaths. There are many ways to die in Outbreak: Undead.

Joining Ivan around the table as players are Mythica actress Melanie Stone, Twitch streamer and cosplayer Alcuin Gersh, Xander Jeanneret of Sagas of Sundry: Madness, Overwatch voice-actress Anjali Bhimani, and Vince Caso of The Guild.

We’re dropping them into a world where it’s been seventeen years since the outbreak first began. Now the Mississippi Line acts as the border between the infected, and those attempting to rebuild civilization. They’re a group of survivors must cross the river in order to ensure the Survival of those at home. Comprised of resilient mercenaries of all backgrounds, the team must navigate the wasteland of middle America, battle surprisingly-cunning undead, and most importantly, STAY ALIVE!

The show is based on the award-winning podcast We’re Alive. While you’re waiting for the show’s premiere, do have a listen to the podcast. We dig it, and think you will too.

Check out the trailer above and stay tuned as we’ll be revealing more about this show (including the characters this talented group will be playing) leading up to the premiere on Alpha on February 28th. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? You can get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

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Build Your Own Civilization in Gentes Deluxified

Feb 14 2018

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we take a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is Gentes Deluxified by Tasty Minstrel Games, which easily surpassed its funding goal of $40,000 and is near $300K as of this writing. 

A civilization-building Eurogame, Gentes offers streamlined turns while maintaining a satisfying depth of overall gameplay. Players are responsible for growing their city-states in the Eastern Mediterranean during the first millennium, B.C. It was released to much acclaim at last year’s Essen SPIEL thanks to it being the latest game from designer Stefan Risthaus, who also created the highly regarded Arkwright.

Tasty Minstrel Games decided to use Kickstarter to fund a “deluxified” edition of Gentes featuring upgraded bits and components. According to Lance Myxter, the decision to offer this version was an easy one, after successful deluxified editions of Orleans, Yokohama, and other popular Tasty Minstrel Games titles.

“We like to think we know what gamers want,” Myxter said. “TMG is going to make the decisions that gamers would want us to make.”

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Gentes Deluxified will have over 170 wooden bits and meeples, over 80 metal coins, and more. All stretch goals for the campaign have been unlocked and these include six oversized meeples and 24 two-color silkscreen printed meeples, a foam-core insert from Folded Space, and the New Cities expansion.

“We just went in and tried to upgrade each individual piece,” Myxter said. “There were some slight art improvements, but for the most part, our source material, the original version published by Spielworxx, was excellently done – we just built up on top of that base.”

The game is for 2-4 players and will last around 90 minutes. Players will establish and populate significant cities by training priests, soldiers, merchants, artisans, and scholars, while creating monuments that will glorify their greatness to those who see them in the future.

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On their turn, players will take an available action tile and add it to their player board. These actions include buying cards from a common display, building monuments via cards, training/educating their people, building/founding cities, and taking money.

After taking an action, players pay the required money or place one or more hourglass tokens on their player board’s time track. These hourglass tokens introduce an interesting time element to game play, since each hourglass token prevents players from taking further actions. If a time track is full, then a player can no longer perform any actions.

At the end of a round, players will remove action tiles and one hourglass token, thus limiting the number of actions they’re able to take in the next round. After six rounds of play, the player with the most victory points is declared the winner.

The Gentes Deluxified Kickstarter campaign ends on February 16th.

Do you have any games with upgraded components? Tell us in the comments!

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Image Credits: Steve Swayne (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Wikimedia, Tasty Minstrel Games

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

WATCH: Wednesday Club One-Shot – Which Caped Crusaders Could Handle a Crown?

Feb 14 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.

Taliesin Jaffe, Matt Key, and Amy Dallen invite guest Markeia McCarty to the Clubhouse to help answer a burning question: Which superheroes would make a good king or Queen? And of course, which wouldn’t?

Even the Chief weighs in on this one, so why don’t you too? Let us know what you think in the comments! And join The Wednesday Club Live Wednesdays at 7pm PT on Alpha or Twitch.

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5 Tips For Surviving and Thriving in the Apocalypse From Whitney Moore

Feb 13 2018

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

Whitney Moore, host of Thrashtopia on Alpha, doesn’t let the apocalypse get her down. The world may have ended, but like Whitney, you can still handle whatever life throws at you with a smile. Whitney has shared all of her tips for Adulting in Apocalypse to live your best life both in and out of the apocalypse, and you can find them on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel now.

Here are five tips from Thrashtopia that can help you make it through a lousy day or the apocalypse. Or, you know, both.

behonest

Honesty is the best policy. Whether you’re being frank with the person you’re breaking up with or being honest with yourself and admitting you’re hallucinating an evil doppelgänger, just tell the truth and it’s better for everyone involved. Wait, what?

Learn how to tie a tie. No, seriously, this is a really useful video, you should watch it.

keanu

Put on a Keanu Reeves movie and work out while you watch. This is another super-useful tip that you can take advantage of right now, no apocalypse required. Whitney likes to put on a Keanu movie and punch and kick along with him for ninety minutes; you’ll get in shape so fast you’ll say, “Whoa.”

Find your self-confidence. Be proud of who you are and give yourself credit for being awesome. Whether you’ve survived the inevitable AI uprising or you just made it through Monday, that’s an accomplishment to be proud of in itself.

whitney-thrashtopia

Face your inner demons. Or are they actual demons…? What’s happening?

Watch full episodes of Thrashtopia with host Whitney Moore and BunkerBot (Jason Charles Miller) to experience life in the bunker, weird inventions, and lots of guests. 

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All Images: Geek & Sundry / Alpha

 

Q&A With ‘Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon’ Game Designer Gunter Eickert

Feb 13 2018

For those who love Saturday morning cartoons and over-the-top superhero films (and who doesn’t?), the Volition-developed Agents of Mayhem video game offered the perfect mix of the two genres in an open world adventure game. Set in the same universe as the popular video game franchise Saints Row, boardgame publisher Academy Games, known for their historical and strategic tabletop game offerings, has taken on the task of adapting Agents of Mayhem for the tabletop.

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The result of their efforts is Agents of Mayhem – Pride of Babylon which is fully funded (four times over) on Kickstarter as of this writing. As the project describes the game:

Agents of Mayhem, Pride of Babylon is a team vs. team skirmish boardgame for 2 to 4 players. The game is played on a modular 3D board that is fully destructible. You and your opponents will play through a radiant story where every choice you make will have effects that ripple throughout the campaign. Play as either LEGION, an organization of supervillains who have taken over the world, or as MAYHEM, a band of anti-heroes who will do whatever it takes to stop LEGION.”

Geek & Sundry got a chance to ask Gunter Eickert, the Academy Games Creative Director and the game designer behind the analog adaptation of the Agents of Mayhem, a few questions about creating and adapting this game for the tabletop.

Geek & Sundry: Let’s talk about process adapting the video game Agents of Mayhem to the tabletop. What sorts of things did you want to carry over from the video game to the world of analog gaming?

Gunter Eickert: Agents of Mayhem is unique among third-person shooters in that you don’t just play a single character but a team of characters that you can switch between at will. This was one of the main things we wanted to carry over. This is why you get to play 3 Agents at once just like in the video game and freely switch which one you take your actions with turn to turn. Unlike the video game where all 3 characters take up the same space, your team of Agents of MAYHEM gets to spread out and work together using real-world military squad tactics.

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We also wanted to bring out the personality and humor of the game.

Character customization and leveling is another key feature of Agents of Mayhem that we brought to the board game. Before each mission, you get to attach gadget cards to your character that can drastically change their play style and the strategies available to them. You can also purchase upgrades for your characters after each mission. These upgrades stay with your character much like a legacy game but you can reset the game at any time without the need for replacement parts.

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One thing that is different in the board game is that you can also play as the evil LEGION. In the video game, LEGION is not a playable faction. However, LEGION and its cast of characters are just as interesting, deep, and funny as the Agents of MAYHEM. So we wanted to allow players to explore and play them just like the Agents. This is why Agents of Mayhem is a 2 to 4 player team versus team game and not just a cooperative game against a non-player LEGION. We do offer an AI expansion in the KS though that lets you play the game solo or cooperatively as MAYHEM or LEGION.

G&S: This game is a departure for Academy Games, so much so that a sci-fi branch of the company was created to make this game. Can you give me some insight into how Academy Games was approached to make this game, and how your approach to this game differed from your previous titles?

GE: We created Apollo Games to publish all of our non-historical sci-fi and fantasy games. These games will still be in the Academy Games family but will be marked with Apollo Games to easily distinguish them as non-historical.

Volition approached us about doing a board game for the title they were working on over 2 years ago. Several of their staff are fans of our other games and trusted that we could do the franchise justice because of our excellent track record (Most of our games have won several games of the year and design awards). We were of course initially surprised since Volition’s Saints Row series is so different in theme than any of our other games but we quickly saw some great potential for an Agents of Mayhem board game and the theme was not much of a hurdle.

We actually designed this game just like we design any of our historical games. We treated the Saints Row and Agents of Mayhem canon as if it were history that we had to study, learn intimately, and accurately represent.

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I think it is also important to mention that we initially ignore the theme or history of the game as we start to design it. We focus on the game mechanics or the game’s engine as we call it. Once we know we have a fun and engaging game engine, we then build the theme/history around it, altering the game engine where needed. To illustrate how unimportant theme is for building the game engine, the 3D buildings originated from a war game based on modern-day Fallujah. The Refresh System that allows you to take actions with any one of your Agents each turn came from a strategic level game on Gettysburg. And the optional artificial intelligence you can add to the game so that you can play it solo comes from our WWII tactical game, Conflict of Heroes. All of these games have drastically different themes but we were able to take mechanics from each, and add some new ones to create a great game engine for Agents of Mayhem.

Another interesting fact is that the first version of the board game’s system had everything in the video game represented. We made sure that you could do everything in the board game that you can in the video game. We then removed the elements that did not translate well to a board game because they were either not fun or simply not necessary. For example, in the first version of the board game, killing an enemy would cause them to drop loot like scrap and cash that you would then use to build new Gadget Cards and buy upgrades for your side’s main base. However, this was tedious in the board game and really was not fun or necessary to make a game that felt like Agents of Mayhem. So we removed it and replaced it with a much simpler and more abstract mechanic that still gives the feel of customizing and upgrading your side.

However, most things are still represented. This allowed us to easily add every character’s special abilities, upgrades, and gadgets to the game and make them feel like they do in the game. You can still teleport units with Hardtack’s harpoon, trigger explosions that have a delay before they go off so that your opponent has a chance to dodge them and trigger powerful mayhem abilities.

G&S: Some people may be very familiar with the Agents of Mayhem game, and some players may not be. What sorts of things will fans of the video game love in the board game?

GE: The video game’s fans will love that all the personality and feel of the characters are in the game. When you play an Agent, what they can do in the board game feels just like what they can do in the video game, keeping each character’s unique play style. You get the same satisfaction from timing the use of your Special Gadget ability or Mayhem ability.

They will also enjoy the humor and personality that we have put into this game through the flavor text of character’s cards, the comic book intros to Missions, and the narrative of the campaign.

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Most of all though they will love the ridiculous things you can do in the game that let you break the normal rules. Whether it is ripping the head off of an enemy and throwing it at another, blowing up a building with a laser in space, or bailing at the last minute as your car blows up in the face of LEGION. The Agents of Mayhem board game has an epic and ridiculous feel to it.

G&S: Can someone who isn’t familiar with the video game still enjoy this game? What sorts of board gamer will really appreciate in Agents of Mayhem?

GE: People who know nothing about Agents of Mayhem can definitely enjoy the board game because to be good at it requires no knowledge of the video game at all. Because we started by first developing a fun engine and then putting the theme on it, the players that don’t know the theme will enjoy the engine.

We also focused on making a game that is very accessible but has gameplay that is deep and meaningful. Put another way, the rules are simple but there are a lot of choices you make while playing that have a strategic impact on the game. The game also has a nice pace to it that will keep players engaged. A player is doing something and making choices in every minute of the game. For this reason, wargamers and strategy gamers will like it.

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People who enjoy legacy or story-based games will also enjoy Agents of Mayhem because of the story campaign. You and your opponent will procedurally generate each Mission of the campaign by playing campaign cards. These campaign cards will have you make choices when they are played or add objectives to the game that will give you victory points to win the mission. At the end of the mission, players will draw numbered campaign cards from the campaign deck depending on what objectives they achieved and failed. They will then use these cards to build their future campaign mission and continue the story. This will allow you to play through a series of procedurally generated campaign missions with a radiant storyline that has hundreds of possible endings. Unlike a Legacy game, you can reset the game at any time and start playing it.

The character customization and progression should also be fun for people who like building characters in an RPG.

G&S: Designing a tabletop game that actually has a 3d board is no small feat, both from a game mechanics standpoint as well as a production standpoint. What do the 3d board elements bring to the player experience?

Simply put it adds a lot of new options. Just like in the video game, players can move vertically as much as they move horizontally. Being able to fight in the streets and alleys between, on top of, or inside of buildings creates a great variety of gameplay. Each battle zone requires completely different tactics and gives a different feel to the gameplay. When fighting on top of a roof it is very open, you have to worry about being pushed or thrown off, and have to cope and use the gaps between buildings to your advantage. At ground level on the streets and in the alleys, there are a lot of choke points that you have to fight through and you always have to worry about being attacked from above. In buildings, the fighting is very claustrophobic and close-quarters. You can easily find yourself cornered or in an explosion that you cannot escape. However, you do have the benefit of protection from outside attacks and attacks from higher ground. You just have to make sure that someone does not bring the building down around your head.

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Agents of Mayhem is also one of the few board games out there where controlling the high ground and elevation matters when you attack. This is something that is really important in real-world combat, so the 3D board adds an extra level of realism to the board game.

The 3D nature of the game also makes gameplay easier. Something you can’t move through is not just represented by a graphical wall on the map. There is a literal structure to show you where there are walls blocking your way. This had the unexpected side effect that I have never seen a player need to check to see if they have Line of Sight on their target. The 3D board seems to allow our brains to easily determine this without thinking.

Last, the 3D board just adds a nice aesthetic that makes the game more fun. Anyone who enjoys playing miniature games with cool terrain setup will understand how having a cool looking 3D structure improves the fun of a game.

G&S: Agents of Mayhem is an over the top, humorous title. As a game designer, how do you leverage humor to connect the tabletop game experience to the player?

GE: First, it was important to understand that humor is subjective. What one person finds funny another will not. So we really try to put a variety of humor in the game. A static board game also does not have as many options to portray humor as the video game so we had to get creative.

In the video game, the characters have a lot of funny lines. We have placed these as flavor text on most cards and have an optional rule that promotes players to say them aloud as they take actions with a character for a small bonus.

We also plan to include short comics at the beginning of missions, similar to the comic book cutscenes seen in the video game. These will not only put the mission into context but should also give players a good laugh at the very start of the game.

Last is what you can do in the game. We allow players to take some pretty funny actions with their characters and attempt to complete humorous objectives. This allows players to experience the humor of the game but to also create it.

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Agents of Mayhem – Pride of Babylon is still funding on Kickstarter, but if you want to get your hands on it when it ships, you only have until February 27th to back it. 

Image Credits: Volition/Deep Silver/Academy Games
This is a sponsored post.

WATCH: How to Play – ‘Fallout: The Board Game’

Feb 13 2018

Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best boardgames the industry has to offer. How to Play videos go live every Tuesday and we post Game the Game playthroughs every Thursday here on Geek & Sundry.

This week, Becca’s teaching us all how to play Fallout: the Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games. In this computer game adaptation, players are competing to be the first to reach a certain number of influence points before everyone else. The twist is that you aren’t always sure how many points your opponents have.

Pick one of the five citizens of the post-apocalypse as your character (these miniatures are amazing and worth picking up the board game for). Each player will start with an agenda card that gives them an influence point and a secret goal to gain more points. Now it’s time to explore the wasteland.

Each game has a scenario that adds its own twist to the game at hand. They introduce the opposing factions at work in the game as well as a global objective for all the players to achieve. Players can help either faction as they choose, but must also keep in mind that if a faction reaches the end of its power track, the game ends. This could result in no player winning.

You move around the board, exploring new tiles, killing enemies, and finishing quests. Doing this gains you experience and levels your stats. Every time you reach the end of your experience tracker, you get to draw two tiles from the SPECIAL pile and choose one to add to your board. These tiles allow you to reroll during combat and skill tests, but add an additional experience point you must get to level again. It’s an awesome way to show that leveling is easier at low levels and gets harder as the game progresses.

One of the really cool things about Fallout: The Board Game is that all of your encounters are choose your own adventure style. Each card has multiple options for you to choose from, so you aren’t stuck helping someone you don’t want to. Don’t want to fight? Choose a peaceful option. Really want a weapon? There are some cards that have an option to access the store to spend all of your ill gotten bottle caps on new gear.

Be careful of the wastelands though, radiation is a big concern. If your radiation tracker meets your health, you die and respawn without your current inventory (what a waste of caps). If your radiation exceeds your health, you go to the great wasteland in the sky.

If you are ready to explore the wastes, grab your Nuka-Cola and watch Becca’s How to Play.

Want more boardgame goodness?

‘Escape the Dark Castle’ Delivers a Light RPG Experience in 15 Minutes

Feb 12 2018

We love tabletop games here at Geek & Sundry, and we love to showcase the best games out there. If you want to stay tuned into what’s new and exciting in world of tabletop games, be sure to tune into Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott, with episodes going live that you can watch here at GeekandSundry.com.


The rattling at the stout door pulls you from the throes of aching slumber and back into the brutal now. You can’t help but sit baffled as the egress to your cell lies clear, beckoning into the dark passageway. 

You waste no time grabbing a suspiciously discarded flail and bounding around the corner. The smell arrives before the collision, a large hellish thing stumbling towards you with oozing limbs and bent claws outstretched. Closing your eyes, you pivot and bring the spiked head of your weapon around in a wide arc. It smashes into the beast’s crooked shoulder. Black spray coats your face and wets your hair. You wish this was all a dream. This nightmare is just beginning.

Escape the Dark Castle is a game of atmosphere. It’s an RPG-like cooperative adventure game that hits hard and fast in a bloody quarter-hour. It will draw your gaze with fiendish style and keep you coming back for more with engaging play. Originally funded on Kickstarter and published by Themeborne Games,  this indie design channels the retro feel while packing a lot of punch.

Those seeking puzzle-based challenges or sophisticated mechanisms to untangle in cognitive workout need avert their gaze. This is a title that’s all about presenting a simple framework to deliver gripping narrative as it shoves you through a gauntlet of spikes and fire.

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Participants each grab a character card and their asymmetrical die. You’re not a badass elf slinging fireballs or a hellacious barbarian who collects heads from the fallen, no; you’re a cook or an abbot or maybe even a tailor. Mom and dad would be proud of you for choosing simple and reliable careers when all the other kids were heading off to fritter their lives away in the darkest of dungeons.

But something happened. Maybe you undercooked the demon-prince’s side of human flank. Or perhaps you left a button off the evil sorcerer’s pantaloons. It doesn’t matter now because you’re rotting in a cell and sucking on your thumb for eternity. Or at least, that was the case until the game begins properly and you’ve initiated your daring escape. Now you’re going to run through a fun-house of monstrosities that will have your teeth chattering and piss running down your leg. The barbarian life doesn’t look so bad now, eh?

To escape Castle Grayskull you’ll build a deck of 15 random challenges from a larger collection of 45. Variety is strong between plays and you’ll never know exactly what you’re going to run into.

The top card is flipped and a challenge is presented. If you’re lucky it’s a seedy human being trying to sell you spit in a jar and pass it off as a cure-all for your open sores. If you’re unlucky it’s an army of skeletons or an infected ghoul lurching from the darkness.

Some encounters will prompt choose-your-adventure-style decisions, many require die rolls. Combat consists of building a pool of dice with both random and specific symbols representing the threat of your attacker. Players spend rounds rolling their single die and then removing opposing symbols matching what they’ve rolled. It’s damn simple.

This is a resource management game at heart where you’re trying to minimize damage and hang on until the bitter end. If you hit the final boss with a few items intact and at least one limb remaining, you might have a shot. Maybe.

Escape the Dark Castle has no business being as enjoyable as it is. There’s very little going on mechanically but it all comes together so well to produce an experience.

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The challenge with a short 15-minute game is in providing a hook. These designs are typically called ‘filler’ and they struggle to produce meaningful occurrences. This design overcomes those challenges with a number of clever twists.

First, that graphic presentation is absolutely stellar. It’s a dark, black and white visual design that hearkens to heavy metal and classic horror. It’s evocative and it pulls you in. Then it utilizes that setting expertly with its snippets of story and impassioned illustrations placed at the center of these enormous cards. A gripping context is provided to each encounter and it works wonders to obfuscate any possible shortcomings.

And of course, there are a few of those pesky niggles. Most are matters of design choice as opposed to unintended flaws. By placing a sense of accessibility as a primary creative goal, the game homogenizes characters in a slightly disappointing way. The inclusion of a special ability, for instance, would have added a touch of individualized flavor beyond the unique spread of die faces.

Additionally, the experience is at its best when you’re stumbling through the stone passageways and astonished with surprise. These embers fade slightly over time as cards become more familiar and that edge wears off just a little. The system compensates for this somewhat as the timing of encounters often produces different tactical considerations. For instance, running into the cheeky trapped treasure chest presents a different risk assessment if you’re fresh off the boat than it does after you’ve tussled with a wolf and traded blows with an indignant beggar.

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One of the unheralded qualities present is in how well this game scales with player count. While the decision space is not large, it’s quick and varied enough that it doesn’t feel a slog, even with three or four participants. However, it’s also extremely satisfying as a solo affair where you control two characters. It may even be strongest in this regard as you’re able to rattle off game after game at your convenience.

Escape the Dark Castle is one of those designs that is extremely economical in what it offers, providing an engaging journey into the heart of darkness in a very short period of time and with only a palmful of rules. This is a game that will leap off your shelf and set itself up as you’re enjoying a dark beer, ready to punish you again and again as you attempt escape. There’s nothing left to do but open your arms and let the gloom envelope your body.

Have you played Escape the Dark Castle? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to check out into our tabletop show Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott as we play games and talk about what’s happening in the land of tabletop gaming every week here on Geek & Sundry.

Image Credits:  Charlie Theel

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

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

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