Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sentinels of the Multiverse

I am currently in a card game obsession phase.  Absolutely in love with a lot of well designed card games.  My two current favorites are Netrunner and Sentinels of the Multiverse.  Of the two I feel there is a small preference for Sentinels because of the fact that it can be played with more than two-players, and it is even more fun and engaging with the increased player count.  So lets dive in and examine this absolutely wonderful game, the greatest cooperative, fixed deck, comic book themed game in the multiverse.

The game takes place in a series of turns, each one has three distinct components:  The Villain Turn, the Hero Turns, and the Environment Turn.  Each of these distinct types of turns can be further broken down in a few stages.  Each one has a specific "Start of.." and "End of.." turn phase, that really only matters for triggering various effects and abilities.  The Villain Turn also involves drawing and playing a card from the Villain deck.  You will also most likely be dealing with Villain specific powers that relate to either the beginning or end of the Villain Turn.  This type of triggered ability seems to be common across all the Villains in one form or another.

After you've resolved the Villain Turn you then proceed to the Hero Turns.  These also each have the "Start" and "End" phases, as well as the following in order sequence:  Play a Card, Use a Power, Draw a Card.  This can be a simple and straight forward sequence of events, or a complex interplay of abilities and triggers depending on the hero.

The third turn, the Environment Turn, is quite similar to the Villain Turn.  You trigger and "Start" and abilities, then draw and play an Environment card, then trigger any "End" abilities.  After that you head back to the beginning and do it all over again.  This repeats until you've either lost, by all the heroes being incapacitated, or you've won, by reducing the villain's hit points to 0 or less.  The basic rules and framework of the whole thing are quite simple and elegant.  All the complexity comes from the variety of cards and abilities associated with each of the heroes, villains, and environments.

The variety of all of these different decks is perhaps my favorite element of this game.  When you count the expansions and the couple of promo decks you have 15 heroes, 13 villains, and 8 environments.  While all of them operate similarly enough to not require any extra learning curve when switching between them; they also all feel very distinct and flavorful.  You have heroes that are just plain damage dealers, heroes that build up to complicated combos, and heroes that help other heroes shine.  You have villains ranging from criminal masterminds with armies of underbosses and thugs, to deadly mercenaries with impressive arsenals of devices and weapons.  The environments range from the Ruins of Atlantis to a Mars Base.  Each one is fun and interesting in its own right, which is quite impressive.

So far I have played in I believe 6 games of Sentinels, with two of those being solo play throughs to just test out new decks.  The game does not have formal single player rules, so I was basically playing the roles of two actual players, but it was still somewhat enjoyable.  The game really shines in the teamwork and interaction with other players though.  You really feel like a band of valiant superheroes, all working together to take on the big and bad evil villains that threaten the peace and safety of the world.  The game definitely gets easier with more players, and the more the merrier is always true in the majority of board games IMO.  But I can still see it being fun with 2 or 3.

Now let me see if I can remember the participants in each of the games I've played in.

Game 1:  Me, John, Emily, and Armaghn.  We faced the "easy" villain Baron Blade, a sort of mad scientist type.  The heroes that we fielded were the Wraith (kind of a female Batman), Ra (Egyptian themed fire god),  Expatriate (chick with lots of guns), and Fanatic (holy/angel themed hero).  We won, but it was kinda tough.

Game 2:  Same players.  The bad guy this time was Akash'Bhuta (or Osh-Kosh Bagosh as we nicknamed him), a giant tree creature.  Wraith and Ra were played again, but this time they were joined by Nightmist (spellcasting supernatural private eye chick) and Legacy (kind of a Superman type).  We won again, this time a little easier.

Game 3:  Me, John, Emily, Armaghn, and Gabe.  We faced Grand Warlord Voss (Thanos/Darkseid type).  We had Bunker (Iron Man-esque), Ardent Adept (hippie bard music powered type), Ra, Tachyon (combo between the Flash's powers and Reed Richards intellect), and Unity (Gadgeteer chick).  Another tough battle but we won.

Game 4:  Just me.  I faced off against the Deadpool-like Ambuscade.  I used Haka (maori warrior brute type) and Mr. Fixer (Luke Cage/Ninja).  I barely won, and I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have, I probably forgot to do quite a few things by not paying attention.

Game 5:  Me again.  I faced off against the giant evil robot Omnitron.  I had Absolute Zero (kinda a tech using Iceman) and Tempest (Storm-like powers in an alien form).  Stopped at about halfway through in order to start up a game with actual other people, but it wasn't looking great for me.

Game 6:  Me, Emily, Armaghn, and Ron.  We had to face the infectious Plague Rat.  We fielded Haka, Legacy, Visionary (psychic hero), and Mr. Fixer.  We won pretty handily.

As you can see, I'm not the only one who really enjoyed playing and was willing to do so multiple times.  I'm definitely looking forward to more games, and I really think I could do an interesting spin off or two using similar ideas.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition: A Review

So for the past few weeks at out weekly Magpie game we have been playing a little campaign of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition.  It has been a fun and interesting little endeavour.

For those that don't know about the game I will provide a bit of background.  First off the world that it takes place in is a fairly standard fantasy, low-magic type setting at its core.  It is one of the older worlds in this hobby and genre, and a lot of the tropes present in modern stuff can be seen in this.  Here is a bit from the Warhammer Fantasy setting wiki:

"Warhammer Fantasy is a fantasy setting, created by Games Workshop, which is used by many of the company's games. Some of the best-known games set in this world are: the table top wargame Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay pen-and-paper role-playing game, and the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Another game, Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, is a free-to-play release. Warhammer is notable for its "dark and gritty" background world, which features a culture similar in appearance to Early Modern Germany crossed with Tolkien's Middle-earth. "Chaos" is central to the setting, as the forces of Chaos are attempting unceasingly to tear the mortal world asunder. The world itself is populated with a variety of races such as humans, high elves, dark elves, wood elves, dwarfs, undead, orcs, lizardmen, ogres, and other creatures familiar to many fantasy/role-playing settings."

 The game itself uses one of my least favorite systems, a percentile based system.  The system has you roll a pair of ten-sided dice that allow you to generate a range of numbers from 01-100.  You have skills and abilities that also are rated on a range from 01 to 100.  When you roll you are trying to get a result that is under the rating of the skill.  So if you have a 50 Weapon Skill, then when you attack with a weapon you have to roll a 50 or less in order to hit.  My main problem with this style of system is that the range you are having to deal with is so large, and in most iterations of the percentile system you never have anywhere near enough points to spend in order to make yourself reliably good at anything, or at most you can get reliably good at one thing but at the cost of being terrible at lots of other stuff.  Another problem with them is that a lot of them make it very hard for you to raise a skill once you get good at it, which is somewhat realistic, but not in a way that I find enjoyable to simulate.

This particular game actually does a decent job of reducing these annoying tendencies.  For one you have a small spread of attributes that all start at a fairly decent number (around 30-40) and the rating of the attribute translates into a rating for all the related skills.  I.E. if you have a 45 Willpower, then all Willpower based skills will be at a 45.  This is nice since you do not have to spend points on each individual skill.  The method for raising skills is also much more reliable.  Instead of having to roll for it and hope that you get lucky enough to raise it, you just spend XP points in order to raise them at a set rate.  While this is still rather slow, it is set and regular, so that is nice.

 The combat in the system has some really interesting stuff in it.  Probably my favorite aspect of the game so far has been the critical hits tables.  Well, really the whole damage system is pretty cool.  First off you have an amount of Wounds (Hit Points).  When you take damage it gets taken away from this pool of Wounds, with Armor reducing the amount from each hit.  Once you are down to 0 or less wounds, each point of damage below 0 wounds translate into a point of critical damage.  So if you knock someone down to -4 Wounds, then that is a 4 point critical.  You roll percentile dice again on a critical table and cross reference the result with the critical rating.  This gives you a number between 1-10.  You then take that number and consult the specific hit location table and use the entry assigned to that number.  The specific hit location is determined by reversing the digits on the dice that you rolled to hit btw. Here is an example to try and clarify all of that.  Lets say you have a Weapon Skill 55.  You roll the dice and get a 41.  Hurrah you hit!.  So take those numbers and reverse them to get 14, which gives you the hit location, with 14 I believe being the head.  So that is a hit to the head.  Let us assume that you have already removed all the Wounds from this target, so all damage is going to be counting towards that critical rating.  Lets say you do 7 damage, so thats a +7 critical ratings.  Then you roll percentile dice again.  Lets say you get a 31  That means your result is an 10.  You consult the Head Critical result table and you see this result:  "Killed in whatever spectacular and gore-drenched fashion the player or the GM cares to describe."  Huzzah!  We are actually using an even more elaborate critical hits chart than the one in the book that was written by an actual M.D., so its very interesting and detailed.

The rest of the game is fairly straight forward.  If you have any experience with things like D&D you will be familiar with how most of this stuff works on a basic level.  Nothing too complicated.

 As far as the story and campaign have been going, we are playing through a module in the back of the rulebook; and it has been pretty fun.  Its a bit of a mystery investigation type of thing so far.  The party is composed of a Human Thief, a Dwarven Troll Slayer, a Dwarven Shield Breaker, and a Human Initiate of Sigmar (my character).  We have fled a huge enemy invasion, fought Beastmen, Skaven, Ghouls, and other beasties.  We got a Relic of Sigmar, but after it was turned in it was stolen.  We pursued it but have not been able to find it yet.  We've helped out some blind priest, and delved into sewers one too many times.  The play has been quite enjoyable.    I look forward to even more sessions.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September Game Day

Another month has passed and another NWARPG Game Day has come (yay) and passed (aww).  This month it was another Benton County one, out at Gamer Utopia in Rogers.  The last one at their current location, by the time we get back that direction in a couple of months they will have moved into a new store. I kind of liked the old mall location, for the extra stuff conveniently located around it in the same building; but hopefully the new location will be even better.

This Game Day saw a good number of RPGs being played, and a decent smattering of board games as well.  There were some familiar faces that had been missed at the past few game days (I'm looking at you John), as well as the vast majority of the regular crew of wonderful people who I've come to know and enjoy at these and other gaming events over the past few months.  I did not really pay much attention to numbers or counts or anything, but my guess is that we were at least at the 25 mark and maybe upwards of 30 people there playing various games.

I had a truly wonderful time playing in a Dungeon World game.  As usual I absolutely love playing in any of the Apocalypse World based systems a hell of a lot more than I have enjoyed my short forays into running them.  As a player this system just really works for me and I have a ton of fun with it.  It also helps that I've played with great groups and great GMs every time.  This time of course was no exception.  Chris Colbath ran a very fun game, which saw our party of six adventurers undertaking a perilous quest to find and destroy the Corrupted Master.

Our party was composed of Baldric the bard, Mouse the halfling thief, Wolf the half-elf ranger and his bear companion Bear, Lux the paladin, "Horcrux" (not the actual name, but that's what the GM kept accidentely saying so it stuck) the elven druid, and Galadiir the elven mage (ME!).  It was quite an impressive party with lots of varying powers, skills, and alignments (shhhhh, I was EVIL!!)

I totally hammed up my character by dubbing him Galadirr the Unsure and playing him as being totally uncertain and in doubt about everything, including his own magical abilities.  I was constantly "hoping this works!" when casting a spell, and pointing out to the paladin that "the gods don't actually exist"  I also did a terrible take on a British accent, and cracked jokes as often as I could; so for me at least it was a ton of fun. Lots of others were laughing, so I think it was fun for most if not all.\

Our group faced an attack by goblins right off the bat as we were camped out on our journey to find the Corrupted Master (CM).  We handily defeated the foes, thanks in large part to my amazing fireball casting skills.  I'm not entirely certain I believe the stories that they rest of the party put forth about my fireball hitting them as well, I think they just are too embarrassed to admit falling into the camp fire.  After defeating the goblins we made haste to the secret mountain fortress of the CM, which I had never seen before because I definitely had not served an intern-ship with him back during wizarding school.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

After defeating another horde of goblins, and more party members stumbling into random fires that totally were not my fault, I consulted with the most trustworthy sort of individual (a demon) and learned of the secret passage into the tower that I totally did not already know about at all.  We managed to sneak inside and find our way to the CM after only some minor difficulties involving illusions, big scary spiders, fire traps (not my fault!), zombies, and paladins walking directly into the path of innocent wizard's fireballs.  An epic battle ensued, and after some hard fighting, and a fireball landing on the party that was NOT cast by their own wizard, I managed to just barely kill the CM right as his teleportation ritual finished and the body faded away.  The evil wizarding tower was now under new management!!

As I said it was a ton of fun, and hey only 3/5 of my fireballs hit the party!  I rolled well enough on a lot of those castings that I wish I'd taken the empower magic ability, I would have been doing a whole lot more friendly fire damage!

The other two RPGs that went on were a Pathfinder Society scenario (with 5-7 players I believe) and a game of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, a zombie RPG, with 5-6 players as well.  I was busy in my game, and was bugging the board game players when I was not; so I didn't pay much attention to either one, but we have such high quality GMs and players at these events that I'm sure both were a ton of fun.  Sadly the Marvel game did not end up happening, the GM ended up being late and leaving early because of health issues I believe.

As far as board games went I got to play in a few, and there were a ton going on that I saw but didn't participate in.  A group of 5 or so players were unfortunately cursed with having to play Cosmic Encounters, and while they seemed to have fun I'm sure inside they were crying.  ;)

A couple of folks played the new Fantasy Flight Star Wars mini game, that looked like fun and I'll have to try it out sometime.  A few games of Jungle Speed happened, with Emily winning them all I hear.  War of 1812 was played at least once with a group of five, and from the conversations about it afterwards I think everyone had fun and is looking to play it again.  Another one I'll have to try sometime.

I was able to play a 2 player game of Pandemic with Bobby, which we lost due to outbreaks.  Also got to try out Formula D for the first time.  I was trying to be careful and not hurt my car for the majority of the race, which doesn't lend itself to a winning strategy; so I lost that one as well, but it is a very cool game that I think does a great job of capturing the flavor and theme.  Which is something I'm always interested in seeing and learning from.

The big highlight of the board games for me was getting to playtest a game of my own design.  My election satire card game was played for the first time and I was super happy with the result.  No, it wasn't anywhere near perfect, nor was it the greatest idea ever.  But it was somewhat enjoyable, and I think most of the people there saw potential for a decent game to come out of it after more testing and refinement; which is all I could possibly ask for at this stage.  The two big problems were the balancing of the numbers, which I 100% admit were largely arbitrary and just thrown out there to see what would work, and a need for more interesting and dynamic choices at various points in the game.  I got some really good feedback and was super grateful to the group that was willing to try it out.  Looking forward to fixing some things and trying it again.  Thanks Bobby, John, Taylor and Josh!

EDIT:  Oh after I posted I remember that Anders and Chris did quite a bit of discussion about their "Pirate LARP" game, and may have played through some of the mechanics.  Another awesome example of the great community of gamers we have here in the area.  Chris mentioned an idea of making a website that would be a central hub for all our local game design stuff; which I think would be awesome.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dresden Files Session 3

This session began with a trip to the Seattle Underground.  Cyphus was not entirely certain about this little side trip, what with the dirt and such that is usually associated with underground things.  I mean these clothes might be only a glamour, but they are sure patterned after some very expensive items!  But the exciting stuff was going to be happening down there, and Selise was depending on him for some more entertainment.

Thankfully the whole thing turned out to be a fun journey in wardrobe variation!  Cyphus got to play fashionably challenged tourist, fashionable Victorian era train passenger, and appropriately backwards farm person!  So many glamours, so much fun.  The magical train thing that we rode on was very nice as well, Cyphus may have to get one at the Menagerie.

We met an interesting guy named Crafter.  He specializes in creating magical weapons and items.  Cyphus was a bit suspicious of the fact that this guy was making a whole bunch of weaponized magical spells that could be used by just anyone.  But he didn't really stay all that worried, because he met someone even more interesting...Jerry!  He is such an interesting fellow.  Super fun to talk to, and with the most amazing talent for finding things.  Oh!  There was also a gate to the Peach Spring place!  Crafter had made it for something, but Cyphus can't remember who.  Doesn't really matter though, this is how he can get his egg hatched.

Apparently the thing needs five coins to open it up.  Jerry has one, but it was meant for someone or something like that.  Cyphus told Jerry that he would be very interested in any other coins that Jerry might find.  Oh and there was a girl in the mirror.  The dead one.  Apparently she had been spying on all of us.  Thankfully it was only the magically significant stuff or something like that, so most of Cyphus' escapades are probably not on record.

For some reason we decided to go plant a fake ring at George's place.  Finally something Cyphus was good at.  Of course it was super easy to sneak in and plant it, with a veil to hide himself from sight, and his finely honed skills at breaking and entering.  There was also a nice lucky break that the security system was having some maintenance done.  Cyphus was still really impressive though, no doubt about that.  He managed to quickly switch out the ring for a shiny coin, which just happened to be one of the ones for that gate!  Now he only had to locate three more.  There was some sort of altercation with George's folks, but nothing really came of it.  Oh, Steven signed some sort of deal with George; but Cyphus didn't pay much attention to that.

After that we went to a little get together at Blue Jazz.  There were some interesting people there, but by Oberon they were all shown up by the presence of the Summer Lady!  She was glorious.  Cyphus could not help but being awestruck.  He did his best to contain his excitement and stick by Selise.  She was after all his connection to the higher Sidhe society.  The silly white court vampire was talking about peace or cooperation or something like that.  Cyphus made it clear that his loyalty was with the Summer Court.  Then some lady came in and threatened a bunch of people.  How drool.

After that Chin Xi talked to the group, telling us how she was trying to get to Peach Blossom Spring.  What luck, that was where Cyphus wanted to go as well.  Cyphus agreed to help her if she let him hatch the egg in the spring.  After that everyone left the bar, and walked into a war zone.  Cyphus was worried about the other Summer fae, so he rushed quickly home to the Zoo to check on things.  When he got there he discovered that Kaelyn had been killed (no big loss), the Summer Lady and her Knight were at the Zoo recuperating (OMG OMG OMG), and Selise was missing (OH NO!!).  

Cyphus rushed off to try and find her.  He got Akina to help him sniff out her location, and found her trapped in a small old-fashioned glass bottle.  Cyphus began to panic when he was unable to pull out the cork or break the bottle despite his best efforts.  He quickly got a hold of the magic users he knew, namely Chong and Jacob, asking for assistance.  Thankfully Jacob was able to set Selise free.  Cyphus and Selise were both very grateful, and very interested in seeking revenge against the one who had imprisoned her in the first place, Rebecca Black.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tannhauser: A Second Take, Looking For A Third

So I broke out the very first Fantasy Flight game that I ever bought for out board game day this last Sunday, Tannhauser.  This is a tactical miniature combat board game with some cool mechanics and a really cool theme.  The theme is Weird War II, or basically alternate history World War II with crazy supernatural stuff and magic and creatures.

The game plays out in a fairly simple manner.  You have tow sides, Nazis and Union (this world's version of the Allies).  Each side has 5 characters, 3 heroes and 2 troopers.  On a given turn you activate each of the characters individually, one at a time and alternating between the factions.  Each character can do both a Move and an Action.  The Action can interrupt the Move, so you can run up to a door, shoot through it, and continue on by.  You have various stats that determine how far you can move, how well you attack, how good your defense is, etc.  You also have up to four pieces of equipment that give you abilities, powers, and bonuses.  In general you're rolling a pool of d10s equal to your stat and aiming for a DC equal to an opponent's stat.  There are of course a ton of little details; but no one of them is overly complicated and they are easy enough to handle when they come up.

In the past me and my friend Jeremy has played this game quite a bit.  We found it to be really enjoyable and  a nice challenging game.  The expansion adds a new faction that is way overpowered, but we really enjoyed the base game.  Unfortunately I had not had the chance to play it in quite some time.  Also on a down note, this time when I finally did break it out we were not completely able to replicate the fun.

We had five players for this game.  The game can handle up to 10 people technically, with each character on a side being played by a separate player.  We had 2 Union players (Bobby and Anders) and 3 Nazi players (Me, John, and Tim).  We split up the characters as each team saw fit, and proceeded to play.   From the very beginning some huge inconsistencies in the rules and the powers became readily apparent.  The whole game was quite unbalanced and the Union was on their back foot from the get go.  This was in large part due to the use of various items and abilities that we never used back in the day; hence why it was quite surprising and unexpected to me.

There were quite a few very valid complaints and problems pointed out, and Bobby and Anders did not seem to be really enjoying themselves.  I was quite disappointed.  I was especially disappointed to hear Anders say that it kinda put him off on his plans to make his own tactical miniatures game.  I also am planning my own game of this style, but I took the failings as a guide on how to do better.  I hope Anders takes the same sort of lesson away and continues with his game.

On the good news side though, I was reminded of the fact that there is a whole revised rulebook for the game, so I spent the $5 to download it.  After reading through it I was very happy to see the various changes.  Combat is streamlined.  Overpowered abilities and equipment have been fixed.  Smoke grenades actually work like you would expect, and give you some defensive bonuses.  Almost every single one of the complaints we had seems to be fixed or at least helped out.  I really think the game deserves a third chance and I hope I can convince the group to give it that chance.  I'll keep it around for future board game days and Game Days, and we'll see.