Sunday, December 27, 2009

My 2010 gaming wishlist #3: Roleplaying

Looking back
The bad
That definite hankering which came upon me earlier this year gnaws away at me ever more insistently, and yet we didn't get any roleplaying going. Why? Short form: there wasn't enough interest around the table for me to want to change tack with a successful boardgaming group. Long form: well, therein lies the rub.

Readers with more than passing roleplaying experience will be well aware that clashing playstyles and other social dynamics are core issues which can confound a roleplaying group. They are also very personal issues since they arise from the relationships between friends. Tempting as it was therefore to sound off a GM's frustrations here @RD/KA!, I could never escape the realisation that any such roleplayer's bitching in which I felt like indulging should be kept strictly face-to-face. It's only fair after all.

The Adventures of Felix Mephisto, Gentleman

Donald ran this back in 2005, using FGU's quirky old game Flashing Blades. It was a lot of fun and some moments stand out as among the best roleplaying sessions I've ever played. :0)

The Adventures of Felix Mephisto, Gentleman:
- Prologue
Part 2:
- Chapter 1. In which: Felix Suffers for his Naiveté
- Chapter 2. In which: Comforts & Clever Contrivances Notwithstanding, Felix just Suffers
- Chapter 3. In which: A Taste of Pain & Poison Gives Felix a Taste for Bloody Vengance
- Chapter 4. In which: A Taste of Power and the Imbecility of Minions Give Felix Pangs of Guilt
- Chapter 5. In which: Conspirators Are Confronted & Confounded, & Felix Receives His Just Reward

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My 2010 gaming wishlist #2: Boardgames

Preceding generalities in particular
I have already noted 2 key items on my 2010 boardgaming wishlist:
  1. Descent- that old favourite, with a new Overlord at the helm.
  2. Chaos in the Old World- a new game of which I've not yet got the measure.
  3. The imminent Horus Heresy.
  • New opponents to expand the sphere of my WW2 tactical gaming.
  • Among the more recently published 2009 additions to my collection which I'm keen to play are:
  1. Monty's Gamble: Market Garden: an 'area-impulse' game of Monty's ill-fated attempt to go down in history as the 'general who beat the Germans at their own game and brought the war to an end before Christmas'.
  2. Panzerblitz Hill of Death: the most famous and popular WW2 tacsim ever, revamped; the 'Hill of Death' was Hill 112, which were the commanding heights of the Normandy battlefield in 1944, and over which the British and Germans fought several bloody battles before the final breakout in August.
  3. Storm Over Stalingrad: another area-impulse game inspired by Storm Over Arnhem- Courtney F. Allen's groundbreaking 1981 design; which serves to remind us that the legendary Up Front was neither a fluke nor a flash in the pan.

Friday, December 25, 2009

My 2010 gaming wishlist #1: 2009 back at ya!

Something I prepared earlier...
Last December I wrote my 2009 gaming wishlist. Looking back at my 3 wishes I can say that 2 were granted:
Unfulfilled was my hope of moving beyond tactical games into the realm of WW2 operations with Corps Command: Totensonntag.

Combat Commander: Pacific

Played a mere 7 times after the 2-year onslaught that was Combat Commander: Europe, CC:P is a game whose surface I've barely scratched. What I've seen so far was great:
Of the various rules changes major and minor, just 3 can be said to be revisions to the core system:
  • Stacking and cover.
  • Instant kill.
  • Night rules.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bargain-hunting strikes not once, but twice!

Girls grabs meWhen you find a TPB on the shelf with the striking and seductive cover seen left. When comics luminary Brian Michael Bendis blurbs it thus:
"The Luna Brothers are the future of comics and it's happening right now. This book is essential for your collection. My highest recommendation."
And when it's going for half price at the Borders 'Everything Must Go!' closing down sale, what's a man to do? Buy it, naturally enough.

And? In a phrase: I like it!

Ever since the glory days of the anglophone comics renaissance of the early/mid 80's, I've been interested in comics which bring the medium's quintessential narrative strengths to genres other than the costumed superhero. Stories of everyday life are ones which I've yet to see satisfyingly rendered in comic form in a way transcending prose, although that might just be because I've not looked hard enough. Art Spiegelman's Maus is a landmark example showing that comics can deal with the real world as opposed to the heroic world, even if its 'everyday' isn't quite the big lives of small things I had in mind.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Twas the game session before xmas

None shall pass!
The choice falling to Gav should he choose to appear on Sunday; and with that existing uncertainty- a Saturday night's partying, doubled by overnight snow; Andy, Donald, Tony and myself played some filler while we waited to see if our main game of the day'd be Risk (Revised) or Roborally. We began with Ivanhoe, a game which doesn't see the table as often as it used to because it turned out that it wasn't as universally loved and admired around the table as'd been hitherto believed by yours truly.

Sunday's game- just Andy, Tony and me IIRC, was an example of the tight cardplay which I love so much in Ivanhoe. Tony took a quick early lead on 3 before Andy and I started swapping wins amid the inevitable 'leads to par' of Ivanhoe defensive play. That opening round or two included- IIRC, my loss of a token because I had to withdraw with the Maiden in play.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Worse than being talked about?"

The shadow of hindsight- cast by FFG's announcement last Friday 11th of next year's Horus Heresy big box boardgame, has left that 'Cease and desist' letter GW served on BGG looking perhaps a little more than just another 'eccentric' interpretation of fair use on the part of the company's corporate legal lackeys?

Fanciful to suggest this it might be, but when Purple Pawn gaming newsblog staff writer rjstreet pleads that FFG aren't GW- so that he doesn't have to boycott, passing on this shiny new offering of 40K boardgaming goodness; well I can't help but speculate that this act which has enraged so many across those thar intarwebs these past 3 weeks; that this otherwise senseless purge finds its rational kernel in its peculiar echo of the infamous Exterminatus of 40K lore. The apocalyptic overtones of much of the quite justified outrage just adds to the effect.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Worldbuilding & HERO #1: Brass tacks

Vast open expanses?
Worldbuilding- AKA. subcreation, is an essential feature of roleplaying; a creative endeavour in which many players- GM or otherwise, love to indulge. As readers will be well aware, this places roleplaying games squarely in a cultural trend the 20th century great grandaddy of which is J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. (Map via: geektyrant.)

The history of subcreation in our own culture of the fantastic is not my subject here, but I cannot pass by without mentioning Greg Stafford's Glorantha. Best known as the setting of the RPGs Runequest and HeroQuest, Glorantha is unusual among RPG settings in that it wasn't a gaming setting at all when it was first created; unusual, but not unique- M. A. R. Barker's Tékumel was the same. The only adventure gaming settings I can think of which might rival these extraordinary creations in their subcreationist breadth and depth are GW's Warhammer Old World and 40K Dark Millenium.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Underground, overground!

Bones to crunch underfoot, again!
Hotly anticipated by Tony, Donald's choice of Descent for yesterday's Sunday session was sure to be popular. When Liam joined us I knew it was going to prove interesting too: both the dungeon-bashing theme and the detailed systems put Descent outside the realm of the sort of family games that are the staple fare of the casual gamer, so that this would be the most obviously geeky of the games Liam had played chez yours truly.

I became immediately aware of this 'clash of cultures' as setup proceeded. I mean to say, Liam's a fan of that classic family strategy game Risk, so he's had a taste of boardgames which take a wee while to setup. With Risk though, the setup is a part of the game, in which the players determine their strategies. In Descent on the other hand, a similarly lengthy setup is a simple consequence of the sheer wealth of parts.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser

Flashbacks from a cartoon robot TV
Last weekend's Sunday session – Andy, Donald and Gav making us four – opened with Andy's due choice (my preferred of his last call from 2 IIRC)- Roborally. Preferred it might've been, but the prospect of playing this early Richard Garfield design filled me with a perplexing mixture of anticipation and reluctance. I'm pretty sure that latter sentiment was mostly down to all the lengthy games I've lost against 'Uncle' Martin. What was perplexing was the strength of that sentiment, even if it was only momentary. Let me explain.

My Roborally@BGG stats notwithstanding, I've played this game an awful lot; so much so that my set is pretty worn, the program cards especially- as was noted on Sunday. So I like it a lot. More than that: in a very real sense my fondness for Roborally surpasses my grognard's passion for the WW2 tactical boardgames I love so much to play. The comedy of errors that is Roborally gameplay plays a big role in this, naturally enough; but the game haunts this gaming geek's imagination for one reason above all: Twonky.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

More than mere marginalia

Just do it!

Participate: The revolution of fan culture. from lori on Vimeo.
The creator of this video is a friend of my old sparring partner Badger, who tells me that it is a student exercise. The video has no authorial overview and is a bit short on analysis, but the interviews more or less speak for themselves so that the end result is well worth watching. I found the video particularly interesting because I believe that the advent of the shared narrative of RPGs' was a pivotal moment in the development of the participatory culture lori takes as her subject.

In a pleasant coincidence, hard at a curry cook-up last week I listened to Paul Merton's The House That Jazz Built on BBC R4 (last chance to listen again Sat. 12/12/09). Fascinating in its own right, this documentary about Ronnie Scott's world famous London jazz club proved apposite because of its reference to the egalitarian ethos of the jazz scene in the early postwar days; an ethos in which the barriers between creator and audience were permeable in a way which immediately reminded me of lori's video. This parallel is doubly apt because some roleplayers like to use the metaphor of a jazz band's jam session to convey the nature of a roleplaying session.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Unexpected arrivals

A fond farewell
Many readers will be aware of last week's news that the Borders Books UK chain has gone into liquidation. I was saddened to hear this because Borders has been my favourite bookstore for several years now. For all I know Waterstone's might be a better bookshop- it was certainly my introduction to modern chainstore bookselling; but I preferred Borders' ambience. My visits there down the years have netted me a great wodge of cheap crime novels and thrillers as well as many bargains in the military history department. Borders even featured in the first series of posts here @RD/KA!

I already knew I was going to miss the place, but I didn't expect to be mildly shocked at the stark reality when Bill and I visited yesterday in search of more bargains, from the closing down sale. The shelves around the store were already picked half clean, giving the place the eerie air of the rotting hulk of a familiar old ship in which I'd travelled halfway round the world and back.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

All new! All singing! All dancing!

Shiny! Shiny!
We were 4 for games on Sunday, pleasing Gav because we came in under the 5-player limit which is one of the new features of the Risk (Revised Edition) he'd been inspired to buy after my comments about our recent big game of the current edition of classic Risk. A combination of Gav's bubbling enthusiasm for his new toy coupled with natural curiosity in the face of a radical redesign of this popular and well-known game meant that Tony- whose pick it was, was happy to elect to try the new game.

What went down
We played the 4-player starter game: a fixed setup for quickstart, and no rewards for objectives. This proved to be a great way to get rolling. The inevitable clunks and fumbles aside, the logical and coherent revised rules proved easy to pick up and we soon found ourselves playing a game that felt a bit like classic Risk with added blitzkrieg- a lot of fun, let me tell you!