Sunday, October 21, 2012

Infiltration: the game that almost got away

Feel the hype, sigh
Infiltration: are you
up for a caper?
The social media advertising for Infiltration passed before my eyes registered but ignored, a disinterest no doubt prompted by its being set in FFG’s Android universe: Android — “a board game of murder and conspiracy set in a dystopian future” about which the consensus is that its attempt to marry narrative to a competitive boardgame failed because of the clunky complexities of Kevin Wilson’s design methods (as seen in, eg. Arkham Horror or Descent, whose heavy status-tracking and bean-counting mechanics are exactly what would suck all the fun out of playing a co-op against a pseudo-narrative solitaire engine) — was one of a handful of later FFG releases enjoying certain novel features sparking an initial interest which quickly waned when I realised what I’d be buying. That is to say: a big box of toys and other shiny stuff thrown together into the interminable clunk of too, too many cards and counters presided over by a rulebook both poorly organised and frustratingly vague.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

September games round-up: not writing, gaming!

Getting back on track
Write-ups of gaming sessions have been a staple here at RD/KA! since the earliest days (the first use of the ‘got game’ label dates to my 5th post back in August 2005, and the label itself is second only to ‘boardgames’ as the most used label). As well as being satisfying to write, these posts have also driven the development of my use of graphics on the blog, which in turn means that they have been the engine of my learning how to use the GIMP. These posts don’t come without their problems:
  • They’ve taken ever longer to prepare the more graphic-intensive they’ve become.
  • Writing them is very much ‘of the moment’; ie. they have to be written very soon after the gaming session, when my memory is fresh.
  • Taking notes during a game- for the sake of adding detail to a session write-up, can be more than just distracting: it can also disrupt my enjoyment of a game and my attention to the flow of the game- at the expense of my decision-making.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Black Hearted Press: classic supernatural re-imagined and sociopathic Significant Others

A small confession
When, last month, I wrote thanking “John and David of Black Hearted Press for the small gesture of faith they showed in an unknown blogger” I was talking about the free review copies they’d given me of comics published by their Glasgow-based independent comics publisher, Black Hearted Press. There I was just sitting quietly in the Scotia when Jim Stewart- of The Astounding Ganjaman fame, pointed this guy in my direction, telling John (for John Farman it was) that I was someone he should talk to. The next thing I knew I had 3 free comics and an article to write. My introduction to David Braysher soon followed, and a fourth comic had been added to the pile of what was my first officially commissioned review.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

To tweak perfection?

Old news is good news
That cover, the true
story of which can
be found here
Word broke on the internet some weeks ago of news that at first sight seemed almost too good to be true: Valley Games have acquired the rights to Up Front and are working with designer Courtney Allen on a new edition, to be funded via Kickstarter later this year for a planned publication date in 2013. The initial excitement felt by fans of this all-time classic will have been quickly tempered by healthy scepticism upon all-too-immediate recall of the vapourware that was MMP’s ill-fated Up Front 2000. The lapse- in March 2011, of MMP’s licence with Hasbro was nothing less than a mercy killing. No one really believed anymore that MMP were going to bring this one home, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ultimately relieved that some of MMP’s more esoteric suggestions for their new edition of Up Front (first announced in an ad in ASL Journal #2) didn’t see the light of day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sisters, doing it for themselves #2: the comics, and more!

Great piss-up, but, well, y’know?
Cover art:
Gill Hatcher
So, the crew at Team Girl Comic managed to stage a launch event for their 5th issue which exceeded all expectations, their own above all. But you can’t judge a comics collective by its ability to organise a night out in the pub, especially here in Glasgow, where successive generations of teenagers have known that a simple bottle of Buckie is the secret to a good night on the bevvy. No, ultimately TGC must stand or fall by the quality of their comics. With 5 issues containing 94 strips and cartoons by 21 contributors across a total of 160 pages there’s more than enough of TGC available definitively to make that judgement.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Celebrations and felicitations!

Edinburgh Games Hub: so hot it’s cool- it’s Official!
My enthusiastic response to my first visit to the Edinburgh Games Hub means that readers should be unsurprised to hear that I kept my promise and turned out for the EGH’s official Grand Opening on August 31st. Gav joined me on the bus ride to Edinburgh for the day and we arrived around lunchtime to find the cafe already thronged and buzzing. Needing to relax a bit after our journey, we promptly plonked ourself down at the nearest convenient table- which just happened to be the one upon which Zia (Shaz, the proprietor’s mum, remember?) had laid out all the special munchies she’d prepared for the day. Soon enough we got to talking with the guy already sitting there, who was there with his young son.
Derek & Gav in the Edinburgh Games Hub cafe

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sisters, doing it for themselves #1: "Drink! Girls!"

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date”
Too much fun?
Nah, but phew!
Writing, several weeks ago, about the crazy busy time I’d been having, I mentioned another adventure in the Glasgow indie comics scene. It’s a measure of just how crazy busy I’ve been (and that’s both crazy busy and just a bit plain crazy too) that it’s taken me this long to get round to writing up an exciting event which took place way back on July 26th. It’s also a bit embarrassing, but I can live with that; I’ve already had to live down worse thanks to RD/KA! after all!

Style & attitude!
Once again demonstrating the way in which the tendrils of social networking are working their way into our lives (a demonstration which will later prove to be strangely apt…), today’s story started with yet another random item popping up in my newsfeed via a fB friend. This is already ubiquitous enough to have become almost boring- or would so become if the results haven’t so far proved so exciting. It’s certainly difficult, as a writer, to vary your hooks for stories when so many seem to be starting with the fB newsfeed! Anyway, the event in question was COMICS NIGHT! with Team Girl Comic, in Glasgow’s well known centre of alternative grassroots culture (and oldest pub), the Scotia Bar. Comics? Girls? Drink? I needed no second bidding.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

'Death Ray Manta': indie, still psychedelic after all these years

“Like, cosmic, man!”
The origin of Death Ray Manta
The many-splendoured universe that is digitial gaming is terra incognita to me I must confess. I mean, I’ve played video games hundreds and hundreds of times: across different platforms- arcade games, Spectrum games, PC games, console games, social network games; in genres too numerous to mention, but which barely amount to a representative sample of what digital gaming is and has been. All those games, and all I know about the single most important new gaming medium of our age is the depth of my woeful ignorance.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My geeking summer #2: True North

A hot time in the old town: Games Hub Edinburgh
This post could also be subtitled ‘fB strikes again’ because, exactly as with last month’s encounter with Mark Millar at Plan B Books, this story all began on Facebook. If I recall correctly, what happened this time was that a couple of months ago I followed through on a link that a friend had liked and lo, there it was: the Games Hub Edinburgh, a fB group for an upcoming games cafe in Edinburgh. Frankly, I was gob-smacked. What an awesome idea! What a risk to take. Just WTF! More seriously though: the Games Hub Edinburgh strikes me as an idea whose time has come, and as the most important thing to happen in the Scottish gaming community since I don’t know when. OK, starting G3 back in 1998 was totally exciting, and no small achievement for all concerned, but what we have here strikes me as being different by a whole order of magnitude. GHE, after all, won’t be a club meeting weekly for some 4/5 hours. It’ll be open 12 hours/day, 7 days/week. See what I meant about awesome, and the risk?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My geeking summer #1: "Oop north"

Land of the White Rose
England, York, &
the White Rose
I mentioned last time that I was holidaying with family in York after a trip to Bradford. I’m back home now and reality has finally reasserted itself, so it’s back to the old bloggery. Where better then to begin than with a geek’s eye tour of my wee visit to the legendary county of Yorkshire (no prizes to readers who offer suggestions, constructive or otherwise!- NB, that’s no prizes, not ‘No Prizes’, OK?)?

Blast-off in Bradford
The geeks
The expanding Hive
The convention I attended in Bradford wasn’t a geek-con as such, but it was hoaching with geeks of all kinds. I’d been hoping to get some gaming in (I even took along a few cardgames for that very purpose) but the gaming area wasn’t very well organised, so that turned out to be a bogey. Still, I had fun handing out my card, which turned out to be a great way of smoking out the other games geeks (not that they needed much encouragement). Among the highlights of those encounters were:

Monday, August 13, 2012

This is not a blogparty…

A last gasp?
Today is RD/KA!'s 7th birthday, one I honestly barely expected to celebrate after the fiasco that was the 5th birthday blogparty. But here I am, although it’s just a quiet night in this time.

The past couple of weeks have been crazy busy for me, what with 3 games sessions, another foray into the hustle and bustle of Glasgow’s thriving indie comics scene, a visit to the hottest happening in the Scottish gaming scene in longer than I can remember- plus another Claymore; on top of all of which I’ve just landed with family after a whirlwind of a long weekend at a convention in Bradford, where I met a host of new fellow games and comics geeks.

So I’ve got loads of material and a lot to celebrate, but I’m totally exhausted and on holiday to boot. No promises then to those who’re wondering when promised articles will appear, other than that they will appear, and as soon as possible.

The usual suspects?
I had all sorts of things in mind for today's celebration post. Frankly though I'm so tired I just can't be arsed. So I'll just say this: as proud as I am to be celebrating 7 years in the blogosphere, this really isn’t about me, it’s about you- my readers. Cheesy? No doubt, but it’s the knowing that you’re out there- each and every one of you, that picks me up and keeps me going. Thank you all, my dear readers, from your ‘humble’ scribe. ;)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The 2012 ENnies

In the nick of time…
Not just D&D anymore
Voting closed a few days ago in the 2012 ENnie RPG Awards. I don’t play D&D in any of its variants and Gen Con Indy is a bit off my patch, so the build up to this year’s voting had completely passed me by (yeah, yeah, I know that this information would’ve been spread far and wide across the adventure-gaming internets, but all that somehow passed me by too!). Still, I did pick up on the announcement of the opening of voting on July 20th. Why not, I thought? At the very least I’d get some material for an article here at RD/KA!. It turned out that I got that and a whole lot more to boot. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Awards, what are they good for?”
It’s fairly easy to assemble a self-appointed panel of judges to pronounce on the year’s output of a sector of the adventure-gaming industry via a set of awards; easier still, in this internet day-and-age, to establish fan-based awards; and easier even than that to scorn any and all such exercises as piss-pot ego-stroking on the part of hole-in-the-wall special interest groups. So, what are the ENnies actually worth?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A long time coming

Sorting out unfinished business
Still crazy after
all these years!
A few years ago I made a couple of passing references—one, writing about my Penumbra’s Talons; the other, writing about GW’s mighty Space Hulk 3rd edition—to a project which involved a nameless friend and a Space Hulk set. I am pleased, at long last, to be able to tell you that this friend- Matt Forbeck, who I met at Bill King’s wedding back in 2005, will soon be getting his hands on that set of Space Hulk 3 he’d almost, but not quite, forgotten about (who could forget Space Hulk 3?).

My first Truly Epic
RPG campaign
I can’t take much of the credit here- it’ll be a long time before I revive and renew my miniatures’ craft skills to the point where I can paint my own Space Hulk set let alone one for someone else. No; credit—for the fact that Matt and his kids will soon be enjoying playing Space Hulk with their own fully-painted set—starts with Andy, who gave me the recommendation which finally broke this years-old logjam. And who did Andy recommend when I spoke to him about contracting-out this paint-job? None other than Brian, who regular readers will remember as Siegfried- murderous lowlife with a heart, from my Ashes of Middenheim campaign back in the glory days of Green Ronin’s stewardship over WFRP2.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hail, and farewell

Spencer James Warner
Master Craftsman
3rd Feb 1968 - 14th July 2012
Proper and fitting
We laid Spencer Warner to rest yesterday. The loss of this genial man will weigh down for a long time to come upon all who knew him. As ever with all that is best in life, you can’t really appreciate ‘it’ until it’s gone. Spence’s obvious great human qualities aside, Glasgow gamers are grappling with that ‘it’ being his quiet indispensability, the simple secret of which Spence explained to me not long after G3 brought us together:
  1. Always be early.
  2. Always have something to do.
Spencer was, and he did, and our community of gamers is better off for that.

Shining moments
I sadly can’t remember if I ever talked with Spence about this, but G3 is the proudest achievement of my life. Among all the friends who helped me during the trials and tribulations of the early days of our mad endeavour, Spence is the one whose very character left the magnitude of his true contribution quietly obscure, as befits the modesty of his peculiarly patient brand of indispensability. Spence was our rock, our foundation, as we learn with each new day since his passing. Approaching our club’s 15th anniversary without our Founding President at our side to share in our everdays—not to mention our pride—is a wrong we can’t bear but which we just can’t right.

And so, to all who knew Spence: his legacy is our endurance now he’s gone. Let us gamers who were such a part of Spence’s life honour our friend so as to continue to bring comfort to his family, who meant so much to him.

The last words will be Spence’s. Rest easy big man.

A fond memory
One night many years ago, when G3 was still in the small hall at Woodside, I got Spence and his son Steven to join me in a game of Gunslinger, an old favourite of mine from back in the day, which I was delighted to get to play again- a rare treat. Spence won, quietly ripping me a new one in the process. As the 3 of us walked away from the table afterwards I was enthusing about what a great game it had been and I overheard this exchange:
Steven: “I don’t get it, John got beat and he’s saying it was a great game?”
Spencer: “You’ve got to understand son, for some people it’s all just about playing the game.”
Spence's last laugh!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Facebook strikes again, again #1: “kick ass!” meets KICK-ASS

Time for Plan B
“A wretched hive of
scum and villainy.”
Remember the Scottish Cartoonists’ Society from the time back in April 2010 when I met them at a Glasgow Comic Mart? I’ve been on the SCS fB group ever since and have been receiving regular invitations to their monthly nights out all that time. I finally went to one not long ago, but that’s another story. Sufficeth to say that it was great to meet up with faces old and new, and that I enjoyed a cracker of a night out.

Parnie Street: two games shops, two comics shops, and more.
A 'No-Prize' for
the wittiest caption.
One thing I learned that night was that John McShane- the founder of the SCS, runs a comic shop in Glasgow that I didn’t even know existed, which goes by the name of Plan B Books. I had occasion to get in contact with John last week, by which time it turned out that I had actually visited Plan B Books at their new address in Parnie Street- Glasgow’s Geek Central (AKA. ‘Glasgow’s Left Bank’), a street just chock-full of shops catering to diverse geeky interests, chief among which are games and comics. All too brief, that visit was on the occasion of Bill and me taking a trip down to Static Games during his recent trip to Scotland. My main memory of perusing the shelves at Plan B that afternoon is that they are dominated by the sort of independent comics that you just won’t find in significant numbers in Forbidden Planet (not the Glasgow one at least). A place worthy of serious consideration for this comics geek then.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In the lair of the White Bear

A chance encounter
A studious White Bear
I first met the White Bear last summer, in the guise of her secret identity (who shall remain nameless, naturally enough). For the purposes of this article though, I can tell you that the White Bear hails from Copenhagen, which is why, on my asking what had brought her to Glasgow, she told me that she was working on an art project funded by Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). Intrigued but wary- because of my philistine tendencies when it comes to modern art, I soon warmed to the White Bear’s theme when she explained to me that it had been inspired by a quotation from Fyodor Dostoyevsky (who regular readers will remember is my favourite writer from the pantheon of 19th century Great Russians):
“Try and set yourself the task not to think of a white bear, and the cursed thing comes to mind every minute"
Winter Notes on Summer Impressions 1863
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Listening to the White Bear explain how she had escaped from inside the head in which she had been trapped by Dostoyevsky’s thought-experiment; and how she was now travelling around the world to “examine the ideas and consequences of the dichotomy [between] inner beast and shallow surface, and [to] investigate the profound impact [that] the idea of a true inside and a merely representative exterior has on all kinds of fields”, I found any lingering prejudices melting away.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Just when you thought it was safe to venture back onto the internet…

It lives!
Innovation in
mental health care?
Site-visitors who’ve tracked the ‘Recently played games’ widget over on the sidebar (or on my BGG profile page) during the months of this longest of bloglags will have been aware of continuing activity there throughout all that time. Regular readers will be quite unsurprised to hear that the recent reappearance of Up Front is particularly gratifying to yours truly. But it is the unexpected return of the Cylon menace which I must bring to your attention today.

Another random assembly of nuts, cranks and scrounged body-parts
A genuine masterwork?
I hosted a boardgaming stag-night for Badger last August. Seven of us played Cosmic Encounter and Dominion, both of which went down very well in a company of mixed gaming interests and enthusiasms; a success sufficient to generate demand for repeats, which themselves have happened often enough to establish a definite new games group. And so last Saturday 6 gamers assembled for a much-anticipated session of games and grub, with the prospect of playing Battlestar Galactica: the boardgame adding unknown and challenging expectations to the already familiar atmosphere of pleasant anticipation.