Tag Archives: Fun

GamesQuest, Insomnia and the UK Games Expo

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything on here, but this time I have good reason for not being around! Basically I’m under orders from my doctor to rest up. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!

I have a shed load of things I want to discuss on here, but I’m going to spread things out over several posts, just so I can rest between writing them. This post is going to be a high level overview of a few of the things I’ve been up to over the past couple of months. So, here goes!

Gamesquest
GamesQuest – For a couple of months now I’ve been spending some of my free time writing for the GamesQuest blog. I’ve had the chance to write reviews for some fun games and, as you may have guessed, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

GamesQuest sell the latest and greatest games and collectibles, so if you ever need something then check them out! Here’s list of the blog posts that I’ve done for them; if you’re interested in reading up on any of these games then follow the links direct to the post:
Rampage
Space Cadets – Dice Duel
Assassins Creed Arena
Marvel Dice Masters Preview
Marvel Dice Master Review

Insomnia

Insomnia51 – In April, I went to my first ever Insomnia Games Festival. It was a great experience with lots of PC gaming going on all around. I’d never been to an event like this and I found it quite interesting. I watched some of the indie developer talks and there was a lot of useful information from the video game industry that you could quite easily extrapolate to apply to virtually any other industry, especially that of board games.

Having stopped playing video games a couple of years ago I was primarily interested in the particularly busy area of the exhibition hall that was occupied by non-other than the GamesQuest team and their vast selection of board games. This was the first time I’d had the chance to meet Nigel (Mr GamesQuest) and Nikki and I were really glad we took the time to visit.

We were in Coventry from the Friday to the Sunday and during the day we spent a lot of time at the GamesQuest area. We got the chance to try out some fun games such as Zombicide, Game of the Thrones the board game, Assassins Creed and Small Worlds. We also spent some time away from the event playing Fairy Tales and Marvel Legendary with the new Paint the Town Red expansion.

During the evenings we grabbed some food before heading back to the Ricoh arena to catch up with Nigel and Paul for two very fun-filled gaming sessions in their hotel bar. We had the pleasure of meeting some great people and played some awesome games such as Kackerlacken Poker, Nosferatu and CV. I just want to give a special thanks, and shout out, to the following people for welcoming us into their group and providing hours of entertainment:
Nigel and Paul Matthews
Daniel Thompson
Peter Coleman aka Moley
Paul, Connor and Harry Wheeler.

If there’s one, vitally important, thing that I’ve taken away from Insomnia, it’s the knowledge that I am possibly the worst bluffer in the entire world… My appalling number of losses at Kackerlacken Poker will haunt me forevermore! I still bought my own copy, and a copy Nosferatu too, the next day though!

UK Games Expo

UK Games Expo 2014 – Last year I was fairly new to the world of board games, I’d played enough to have heard about the UK Games Expo, but I hadn’t got any real experience with being part of a gaming group, or simply sitting down at a table and joining a game. It was all very new and scary to me. I dropped in on the 2013 expo around lunchtime on the Sunday, right near the end of the event, and I didn’t have a clue how to make the most of the time I had. We bustled around, bought some games and didn’t get a chance to look at everything. We should have made time and got there really early!

This year I’ve learnt my lesson, I’ve joined various gaming groups, become more involved in my blogging and am more keyed in to the board game industry as a whole. So I’ve bought tickets for the entire event, including a hotel stay at the Hilton where it’s being hosted, just to make sure I don’t miss out on a single thing!

As of writing, there’s only ten days left to the UKGE 2014 and if you’ve not got a ticket then why not? Go buy one right now! Literally, stop reading my random ramblings, go to the UKGE website and book one for collection on the day! The pre-booking is only open until May 23rd so there’s only four more days before you’ll have to hope you can get one on the door!

What I’ve come to realise is that, last year, my opinion about the event was tainted by my own lack of preparation and turning up late on the Sunday. This year I won’t be making the same mistake!

Make sure you get the most out of the expo as well and, if you can, attend both Saturday and Sunday, if not Friday too! There’s tonnes of things to do this year, including the famous bring-and-buy sale, numerous tournaments, an alien laser tag event, Numerous RPG sessions, the exhibition hall (rammed full of game retailers) and absolutely tonnes of demo games going on across the weekend. That’s not to mention special guests such as Ian Livinsgtone, Steve Jackson, Matt Leacock and Chris Barrie!

Coming Soon

Coming Soon! – One of the cool things that came out of visiting Insomnia back in April; I got to spend a good amount of time chatting to Patrick Campbell, one of the UKGE organisers. He had a tonne of interesting stories to tell about the crazy things that’ve happened at the event over the years. Personally, I found them all very exciting and I simply don’t want to miss out on any of it this year! I’ve since been in touch with Patrick and he’s agreed to answer a few questions for the blog to give everyone an insight into what the event’s all about and why he loves organising the UKs biggest board gaming event. Stay tuned for that appearing on the feed soon!

Also, in the next week or so I’m going to be running a competition to win something VERY cool. Keep checking back for more details as I get them!

Dark Darker Darkest – David Ausloos Interview

DDD

Back in 2013 I Kickstarted a game called Dark Darker Darkest (DDD). It sounded like the kind of thing I could really get into. It’s a horror-based game that reminded me a lot of my first play through of the original Resident Evil on the Playstation. I’d originally noticed it on BoardGameGeek where game designer David Ausloos was talking about the progress of his design and providing the community with snippets of information that kept us hooked.

Almost two years after I first heard of it, on June 11th 2013, the Kickstarter campaign for DDD launched. There was a lot of excitement from the fans and within two hours the game had reached its funding target and was working towards the first of the stretch goals. All was going well and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately as the campaign progressed it became apparent that the publisher Queen Games hadn’t really planned for the campaign as well as they should have. Plagued with misunderstanding and confusion for the backers this particular campaign goes down as the worst run campaign I have backed.

The game released with a rulebook that was more than a little confusing and a whole bunch of other publisher problems. Alas, Queen Games seemed to have moved on at this point and were busy with their next campaign. The supporters of Dark Darker Darkest were left asking the same questions over and over with little or no response.

Despite such a difficult start to its life the game still shows a great deal of promise and David Ausloos has been working hard on improving the rules. He’s been personally sending Geek Mails to anyone on BoardGameGeek who owns DDD to let them know when errata and clarifications are released. In fact, late last week I was happy to receive such an update which stated:

“With some excitement on my part I can finally present you the revised rules for Dark Darker Darkest. This was a massive project, doing a complete rewrite of the original rules that failed to offer consistent information and was riddled with errors that affected gameplay.

It was also an opportunity to listen to the feedback from players all over the world and tweak a few mechanics for optimal gameplay.

I am very happy with the end result, which is a big step up from the previous version.”

On reading this news I mailed David back to thank him for his dedication and asked if he would be willing to answer a few questions that I could then post here on the blog. David accepted the invite and here we are. I hope you all enjoy reading our little chat.

Tom Chats with David Ausloos

Tom: Hi David, thanks for agreeing to do this, I really appreciate you taking the time to have a chat with me.

David: Thanks, I’m glad of any opportunity to support the game.

Tom: I was thinking we’d start with something easy and then move on to the Dark Darker Darkest questions. So let’s kick off with – When and how did you get into the board game hobby and when did you realize you wanted to design games?

David: Actually I’ve been working on board game designs since I was a kid. Nothing serious, but my parents still kept some of the little prototypes I made. Funnily enough horror was my favorite genre for board games even back then. I think my first game was actually about a haunted house. Go figure…

Tom: Speaking of haunted houses, when I first heard about Dark Darker Darkest, the premise and feel of the game reminded me of Resident Evil on the Playstation. What were your main inspirations for DDD? Did you borrow ideas from the video game world?

David: There were a number of inspirations, but the main one actually came from playing another zombie game that, for me, failed to deliver the feeling of being fragile as a human being and totally outnumbered by hordes of the undead. I wanted to capture the feeling of this small group of people struggling for survival.

The remake of “Dawn of the dead” certainly inspired me too, but I wanted the universe to be a little more gothic and weird. I hope to expand further into this unsettling house of horrors, more akin to Dario Argento in its surrealist touches than the urban realistic setting of Romero’s work.

Tom: That’s quite an interesting vision and I think you’ve managed to capture that feel quite well in the final game. You must have been pretty confident that the theme would appeal to lots of people, but thinking back to before the Kickstarter campaign, did you ever imagine you would reach the funding goal? and what went through your mind as you hit that goal within two hours?

David: There were definitely signs that the game was on the radar of a lot of gamers.

It was in the top 15 most anticipated games for years on boardgamegeek.com and during playtests I felt it triggered something with gamers. But of course, these things are hard to predict. In any case I was extremely happy with the end result.

Tom: Later in the campaign there were numerous problems as Queen Games confused backers with some very strange and, what felt like, very reactive stretch goal additions and changes. Did any of the stretch goals get added without you signing off on them? I guess what I’m asking is; were you surprised by any of the additions made by the stretch goals and how did this effect you?

David: It was a hectic period. I think the main problem was that Queen had no previous experience with this type of game. This is not a typical Queen product, as it also attracted miniature gamers. In this genre of games a Kickstarter is as much about components as about the actual game. This was something Queen might have underestimated at the beginning of the campaign.

Tom: I think you’re probably right with that and I suspect it’s a lesson that will only help improve their future campaigns. At the time though, there seemed to be a lot of negative comments flying around, some of which were not even remotely constructive. How did you feel about that?

David: The public can be very harsh in their opinions, and leave a company little or no room for error, regardless of the fact that this is their first step into a new genre or product. I understand both sides, but it was sometimes sad to read all the harsh comments that got posted during the campaign. I had to constantly remind myself: this is only a game.

The campaign itself was a learning process for everyone involved. In this type of production there are so many people involved… As the designer you’re only one small cog in a gigantic clockwork machine. This can sometimes be frustrating because it’s hard to get a view of the whole big picture.

That said, I felt it was an interesting month and on a personal note it made me feel that Kickstarter is becoming this giant monster with campaigns being more and more about eye-candy in the form of fancy stretch goals rather than actual content and gameplay. As a designer this can be frustrating, because everyone is talking about the quality of the miniatures, and nobody even mentions the actual gameplay. It feels as if that just doesn’t matter anymore.

Tom: Does this turn in the industry concern you?

David: I can’t deny that this trend for a designer is somewhat of a concern but I think only time will tell if this will increase or decrease.

Tom: Going back to Dark Darker Darkest and thinking about the rulebook that it shipped with. Obviously you wrote the original rules, but how involved with the production or editing of the final product were you? Where there any issues that appeared in the finished rulebook that weren’t in the rules you provided originally?

David: I think the biggest problem is communication. I think the co-operation of an editor and a designer on the rules is crucial, and I feel this aspect was not as tight as it should have been. In general, consistent rulebooks are possibly the most difficult thing to produce. If it was easy to do, we’d see a lot more perfect rulebooks out there.

In practice though, most rulebooks turn out to be anything but waterproof and most games I buy myself in a first print run end up with with a FAQ produced shortly after release, with all the mistakes corrected in the second print run.

The chances of mistakes multiply when the system is more involved like DDD. There are so many variables and I think the editor involved had somewhat underestimated the possible situations the system could render that needed to be covered by the rules. Add to this time pressure and you have a non optimal context.

So again, for me this was a learning experience. It is definitely a focus point for me on future releases, in fact, the rulebook of Rogue Agent that was produced in the same period is I feel, more optimal.

Tom: Over the past few months you’ve been working to improve the rulebook for players. I’ve seen two GeekMails from you to date; the latest of which resulted in this very conversation. I’ve not had chance to try the new rules but I commend you on how much time and effort you are personally putting into supporting the game. With this in mind, if you could go back to before the Kickstarter what’s the number one thing you would you do differently?

David: I would have liked a little less time pressure.

I had to focus on so many things during the production process. It was exhausting. Fascinating but exhausting. I can only hope that gamers remember that each step of a product is usually a step with the aim for perfection, but seldom reaching that.

For me DDD is this living system that I want to further explore with new additions, expansions and ideas. It has a lot of potential for growth in all manner of directions. Now that we have a solid set of rules I feel I have a steady base to work on.

For me the opportunity to rework the original rules and turn it into something consistent and solid feels like a big relief and first time players will be experiencing the game like I intended it to be.

Tom: You said in your GeekMail that you’ve received a lot of feedback and support from players all over the world. How does this make you feel? Are there any people you’d like to give a shout out to?

David: Oh, there are lots. Some of the people I thanked in the revised rules have been wonderfully supportive, offering me feedback on every little detail. Michael Meyers (Scubaroo on BGG) springs to mind. He’s played the game a lot and knows the system through and through, so it was fantastic to be able to communicate with him about some ideas I had for tweaking the system to make it even smoother.

John Bruns was also available to offer me feedback whenever I needed this, and Richard Waszczuk and Richard Keiser did amazing things with the editing. I can’t thank them enough for the amazing job they have done. We had a very intense communication back and forth during the whole editing process. It also helped that they knew the game system well.

Tom: OK, I couldn’t go through this interview without asking. Do you have any idea when the DDD backers will be receiving the rest of their content?

David: If you are referring to some of the new creatures, they are almost ready for production.

They were actually specifically produced upon request by backers, so they could only start work on them after the campaign. I’ve seen first the shots of the sculpts that will be posted on the campaign page soon, and they look great. I’m excited that we can work on new creatures to add extra variety in the encounters. This game is all about creating unique stories with each play, and adding new rooms/encounters/characters helps to ensure that no game ever plays out the same.

Tom: Despite the issues that you’ve had over the past 6 months, I noticed that earlier you mentioned expansions. Do you have plans for any? Or are you working on any other projects at the moment that you’d like to mention?

David: Yes, there are plans for expansions. Not much I can say, but like I said, for me this is like a potentially endless playground to project ideas onto. I see the universe of this game expanding in different directions. Some will focus on the more grotesque gothic side of things, some might even
put things on a larger scale.

At the moment though, I’ve just finished development on a game called Red Moon. I am very happy with the recent playtests I did, which spawned a lot of positive feedback. Some say it’s my most accessible game for a wide audience, and who am I to disagree?

It’s a compact little, hidden information, game set in a small Russian village. You’re a lieutenant sent by the Tzar with a mission to protect the village from an assault by werewolves.
I have tons of other game systems written out on paper that I want to further develop. Enough material for another 10 years of game design! Ahhhh… so many ideas… so little time.

Tom: Red Moon certainly sounds like it’ll be worth a play, when do you think we’ll be seeing this one on the shelves?

David: I’m going to submit it to a publisher soon.

Tom: Going back to DDD, you must have gained a massive amount of experience from working on it, I was wondering if you could give any budding game designers out there a list of the three most important things you’ve learned during this project?

David: Try to focus on one good mechanical idea and build a system around it.

There are so many good dungeon crawlers on the market, so make sure if you want to design one that you can offer a new twist to the genre. A unique mechanical idea that can offer players a new way of playing such a game.

For me with each new design I set out to find that new twist. If I don’t find a way to introduce something fresh and unique to a genre I leave it alone.

Tom: Awesome advice, and something I’ll definitely bear in mind as I work on my prototypes in the future. It’s been really good to chat with you and hear about your DDD experiences. I just want to say a big thanks for joining me here on GeeksThatGame, I wish you all the best with your other projects and I’ll let you know how I get on with the new DDD rules.

David: Thank you for inviting me for this chat. Enjoy the revised rules, and try to stay alive.

So, there you have it folks, a very cool interview with Dark Darker Darkest designer David Ausloos, I hope you found it interesting and I hope those of you who have a copy of the game are going to grab the new rulebook and use it to shed some light on those Darkest of rules.

Interestingly, as I was about to publish this post I got a mail from Kickstarter informing me that there was an update (#44) for the DDD campaign. It looks like the photo David mentioned during the chat is now available to view, it looks very cool, and there’s some positive comments and signs of progress from Queen. Hopefully DDD is now becoming the platform that appealed to me so much at the start of the campaign.

SampleDDD

As always, I hope you enjoyed the post, feel free to add comments and I’d be especially interested to hear how people have got on with the new rules!

International Tabletop Day

tabletop

Last Saturday, 5th of April 2014, was International Tabletop Day! A celebration of all things tabletop game related. I realise that this post is a little late but I still wanted to tell you guys what I got up to!

Brainchild of Will Wheaton of Star Trek and Tabletop fame, the day is dedicated to the gathering of gamers and those interested in gaming. It’s a great way to promote the hobby and get more people playing games and I was really looking forward to taking part in as much fun as I possibly could.

So, wanting to optimize my play time I worked out what my options were and set out for a day of fun and games!

As you might already know, I attend a monthly board game session held at Firestorm Games over in Cardiff. This year they were running a Tabletop event that was both a celebration of gaming and a fundraising bake-sale event for the Help for Heroes charity. As a full time board game fanatic and a cake addict, this was the greatest news I’d ever heard, so I headed there to start.

Arriving over in Cardiff at 10am we played a few quick games of a Donkey, a children’s card game that one of the younger members of the group was thoroughly enjoying. It may not have been my kind of game but we all had some fun and that’s what the day’s all about right?

After Donkey we had a couple of games of Forbidden Desert, followed by Fleet, Eight Minute Empire: Legends, Dominion and finally Wits and Wagers. There were so many different types of cake it was unbelievable and staff from Esdevium games were on hand to demonstrate Terry Pratchett’s The Witches, Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries and Carcassonne.

The whole session was a great success and a lot of fun was had by all. A big thanks goes out to Clare for organising the cake sale and fundraiser, not to mention Roy for making sure everyone knew about it, and Jake plus the Firestorm staff for making sure everything was running smoothly on the day. By the close of business the cake sale had managed to raise £128 which is really great!

With Firestorm closing at 6pm I had a plan in place to continue the gaming fun. Thanks to Ian over at Rules of Play I’d heard about another Tabletop event running nearby that started at 7pm. Just enough time to dash over and get a good table. So, almost as if I’d planned it, we made our way over to The Gate to join the Rules of Play team for more gaming delights. I’ve seen their sessions at The Gate advertised on numerous occasions but living over in Bristol has meant that we, sadly, couldn’t make it over to any of them. Unfortunately weekdays, work and travel just don’t mix that well. However, this Tabletop event was a Saturday so we HAD to be there!

The event kicked off at 7pm as planned and we began with some games of King of Tokyo, we then followed this up with some Zombie Dice, which I haven’t played in quite a long time. Nikki and I ended our gaming at about 10.30pm after a game of Citadels. By this point I was starting to get tired, Nikki was sure her brain was melting, but Chris soldiered on and joined a group for a game of Ticket to Ride Europe.

Nikki and I sat chatting at our table and were shortly joined by Steve from Rules of Play who we chatted to until the very end of the evening. It was really good to get to chat to him outside of the store and Nikki and I had a great time discussing all manner of subjects with him. At one point he tried to persuade us to give role playing games a try, something I’ve avoided like the plague since my first and only experience of them put me off for life. However, Steve was quite persuasive and even Nikki seemed to be warming to the idea slightly. In fact Steve was so persuasive that I’ve since ordered a copy of Fiasco to dip our toes into a very simple system and have been looking into the FATE Core System too!

All in all it was a great evening and the perfect end to a wonderful day. We played some awesome games and met some fantastic people who I would love to spend some time gaming with in the future. I even got some fun tabletop promos which really topped the whole thing off nicely. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of the 7 Wonder Will Wheaton promo cards but What I did receive was totally awesome! and all I can really say is that I can’t wait for next year!

Sentinel Tactics – New Add-ons

AddonTitle

It’s been a while since I last posted about Sentinel Tactics and there’s been some great progress with the campaign. I correctly guessed that the $125k and $155k stretch goals would be Ambuscade and Proletariat, but the $230k stretch goal was a set of environment elements, not the Dino mini I predicted.

On April 4th it was announced that a new pledge level, “Super Heroics in Full Color”, was being introduced that provides backers with a set of painted minis (delivered at a later date) as well as the unpainted set that will come with the first delivery. The new pledge level costs $250 plus postage, but for the quality and number of minis you’re getting it doesn’t seem too bad a deal (If you’re a backer in the US or Canada that is, carry on reading for more on this).

Since then we’ve smashed through two more stretch goals for some Citizens of the Sun miniatures at $170k and Unity at $185k. Looking set to hit the $200k stretch goal very shortly (they’re at $193k at the time of writing) the guys at GreaterThanGames have made an early announcement before they head off to PAX East. In the announcement they detailed the future of the campaign, the $200k stretch goal, and the next three stretch goals all the way up to $245k.

So, the $200k stretch goal is a set of six blade battalion miniatures, which is the last of the stretch goals for the initial pack. Anything beyond this will be made part of an additional add-on pack costing $40 for the unpainted version or $100 for the painted. As you can see, first of the add-on stretch goals are bonus maps and some additional miniatures. Unlike the initial game that appears to contain map tiles, these bonus maps are described as a “poster map with included scenario”, not quite as nice as I would have liked but they could be quite cool. Also, based on the silhouette of the minis it looks to me like there might be some Dino minis coming our way but don’t quote me on that!

addons

So with the cool news out of the way I want to return to a gripe that I mentioned in an earlier post… International Shipping.

For Sentinel Tactics, international backers are left with three options.

  1. All at once – Pay $40 postage and wait for July 2015 to receive everything in one parcel.
  2. Unpainted Individual Parcels – Pay $40 postage to receive the game in December 2014 and another $40 postage to get the add-on pack in July 2015.
  3. Painted Individual Parcels – Pay $40 for the game in December 2014, another $40 for Painted minis in March 2015, and yet another $40 postage for the add-ons in July 2015. Yes, you read that! $120 in postage charges if you want to play the game at release and get all the cool Kickstarter stuff.

I love the idea of Sentinel Tactics, and I really want to support GreaterThanGames who do an awesome job, but let’s face it, people don’t want to pay the premium Kickstarter price only to have to wait 6 months after release to get the game (which is the most cost effective approach for backers.)

There must be something that can be done about these crazy postage prices. Companies such as CoolMiniOrNot and GameSalute seem to be able to provide international shipping to Europe at a very reasonable price which even covers their backers for any additional packages that might be needed. I paid $35 postage for my Zombicide Season 2 kickstarter pack, which was an absolutely massive parcel, and there’s even a second parcel yet to come!

I really do wish GreaterThanGames could work out how to achieve this for their backers here in Europe because the steep prices will definitely put people off of supporting the campaign. In fact I’ve even heard a few people talking about cancelling their pledges which makes me feel very sad.

Sentinel Tactics: Uprising Expansion

Expansion

Just a short update today. The Sentinels Tactics campaign reached another stretch goal! I predicted an expansion and that’s what we got, kind of…

In response to reaching the $110k goal, GreaterThanGames announced the Sentinel Tactics: Uprising! Expansion. I’m not sure what I think about this stretch goal… On the one hand there’s a nice box with some new scenarios, tokens and “side-characters”; on the other hand, the box will mostly contain the characters we already unlocked.

I’m going to reserve judgement on what I think of the expansion for now. I’ll probably warm to it more once we see more characters added. The one thing that did please me though; no mention of extra delivery charges! Thank you GreaterThanGames!

Sentinels Tactics – First Stretch Goal Update

Stretch goals

It’s been less than 24 hours since I posted about the Sentinels Tactics Kickstarter campaign and it’s already reached the third of its stretch goals, $95k!!!

It’s awesome news for GreaterThanGames but it’s even better news for us, the backers and fans. That’s three new characters added to the game and a new pledge level added to the campaign.

So, what’s this new pledge level for? It’s for the extra minis for the new characters. The new pledge level is a $20 increase in cost over the previous highest level but as more characters are unlocked their minis will be added to that pledge level making it better value the more we unlock.

Yesterday I had a stab at guessing which characters were coming in the first three stretch goals. I’m happy to say that I managed to guess one of them right. As you can see from the image at the top of this post, the first three goals were:
$65k – Beacon
$80k – The Operative
$95k – The Visionary – One of the predictions I made yesterday

There’s been four new stretch goals added to campaign this evening, so I’m going to take another stab at guessing who or what each one is.

$110k – Some kind of expansion for the base game? Or a second chapter to the story? Will this mean another new pledge level? Or will it mean paying double delivery for those of us who are international backers? It’s how last years Shattered Timelines campaign panned out once Vengeance was added, so I see no reason for it to be any different here. I have to admit that if the delivery charges double to $80 I’m not sure how many international backers will be able to afford the extra cost.
$125k – Ambuscade – a nice shiny new villain?
$140k – As the tiles for Tactics have Megalopolis on one side and Insula Primalis on the other I’m going to take a stab at the Silhouette of a T-Rex actually being a T-Rex to do battle on those hexes of war.
$155k – Proletariat – another villain to balance the ranks perhaps?

OK, so that’s my update for the day, let’s hope more of these stretch goals get unlocked tomorrow!

Sentinels Tactics Live on Kickstarter

Sentinels

A couple of weeks ago I received my Kickstarter copy of Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance the latest and greatest expansion for my favourite super-hero card game. Today I received a Kickstarter update from GreaterThanGames informing me of the launch of their new Kickstarter campaign for Sentinels Tactics: The Flame of Freedom. I instinctively clicked through to the campaign and after viewing the introductory video dived right in and pledged at the Heroic Figures and Combat level.

There’s three pledge levels at the moment, each designed to meet the needs of the fan:

  • HEROIC FIGURES! (Just the miniatures) for $40
  • HEROIC COMBAT! (Just the game without the minis) for $50
  • HEROIC FIGURES AND COMBAT! (The game and the minis) for $80

If you’re a fan of the fiction behind the Sentinels of the Multiverse then this Kickstarter looks like it will be right up your street. The base game includes Legacy, Bunker, Tachyon, The Wraith, Absolute Zero, and Ra, as well as the villains Baron Blade, Omnitron-V, and Citizen Dawn. If that isn’t enough then the various stretch goals laid out already promise more fun characters to join the action.

The Flame of Freedom is set several years after the card game and tells the first story in a series that pans out through the hex-based tactical skirmish gameplay. GreaterThanGames have uploaded a sample of the game rules for us to review, and it looks pretty fun to me.

Taking a better look at the campaign I noticed a few things that made The Flame of Freedom stand out from other campaigns I’ve seen or pledged for in the past:

  1. The base game doesn’t come with any miniatures. These are an additional cost for those who want to splash out. This seems like a good move as it keeps the cost of the base game low for those who aren’t interested in the minis. Although, personally, I loved them the second I saw them and had to have them.
  2. The stretch goal character silhouettes give away a bit of information as to who the special characters might be. At a glance I’m going to guess at Unity and Visionary being two of them, but that’s purely a guess. I imagine it won’t be long before I find out though because when I started writing this post the game hadn’t reached its funding goal but now it has. The thing to note with the stretch goals though is that they only provide the character cards etc. not the minis that represent them, they come at an extra cost.
  3. Minis! They look awesome! I just hope they throw in a custom set of dice as a stretch goal to make the game that little bit more awesome!

Despite the game sounding totally awesome, there’s one thing that might make international backers think twice. For those of us here in the UK there’s a hefty $40 shipping charge. I’m sure it’ll be worth paying for it in the end, but it’s a hard pill to swallow all the same. This charge was the same for the card game Kickstarter, so if you pledged and were happy with that one then this won’t be too big an issue for you. The Kickstarter page has the following apologetic message from GreaterThanGames about the charges:

“Even though we recognize that the international shipping fees are ridiculous, they will by no means cover all of our international shipping + customs charges. However, we hope that they will at least allow us to not lose money on international rewards. We would rather charge a high shipping fee than get rid of international delivery all together - we love our international backers!”

So, that’s about all I have to say about Sentinel Tactics at the moment. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as the campaign goes on, so check out the Kicktraqing page I’ve just added for regular updates, or better still; head over to the Kickstarter campaign and pledge!

Eldritch Horror – Forsaken Lore

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It’s finally been announced!

The first of the Eldritch Horror expansions was announced on the Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) website on February 10th! I would have loved to have got this up on the blog sooner, but I guess three day old news isn’t too bad, especially given how exciting it is!

So, what’s all the fuss about?

Well! Here’s a few choice excerpts from the FFG announcement that really got me excited!

“Forsaken Lore adds over two hundred new cards to Eldritch Horror, including over one hundred new Encounter cards, twenty condition cards, and fourteen new mysteries.”

“…the malignant influence of Yig, the Father of Serpents, extends across the globe.”

“…In Forsaken Lore, evil continues to spread as new Mysteries for the Ancient Ones included in Eldritch Horror are uncovered…”

“Eighty-eight new research cards help your investigators to discover the horrible truths of the Ancient Ones bent on the world’s destruction.”

So, there you have it! The first, of what will undoubtedly be many, Eldritch Horror expansions! For the complete announcement take a look at the FFG site here. I for one am extremely excited by this announcement and I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on it when it releases in quarter two 2014!

A weekend of gaming!

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This weekend has mostly been dedicated to relaxing and playing games, something that I need to do on a more regular basis! Anyway, I thought I’d take a few minutes out from relaxing to drop a quick post on here as a summary of my gaming antics.

Saturday:
I attended the monthly gaming session at Firestorm games over in Cardiff. As always I had a great time playing games with attendees both new and old. I managed to get quite a lot of games played which is always a bonus.

Alhambra – I’ve wanted to play this game for a long time. I’m not sure why I hadn’t bought it already, but for some reason it had stayed on my wishlist longer than most other games. After my single play of the vanilla base game I was surprised at how little there was to the game. I really wanted to like it especially after hearing people saying that they’d enjoyed it, unfortunately though, something just didn’t click for me.

There was no player interaction at all with Alhambra, I just did what I needed to do when it got around to my turn and didn’t really care much about what anyone else did. I suspect that the game may be improved dramatically by the expansions, but I just don’t know because they weren’t included in this playthrough. Perhaps someone out there can point me in the direction of the best additions to try?

All in all, I’m glad that I hadn’t bought this on a whim, I feel it’s just not a game for me.

Château Roquefort/Burg Appenzell – A very fun kids game that will appeal to both adults and children alike. Some amazing production value with this one, a great board and some amazing little mice/player pieces (see the photo at the top of the post for just how much fun these pieces are!)

This game took me back to my childhood, when I played a game called the aMazing Labyrinth. I loved that game and when I got into board games again all these years later I called my parents and asked them to find it. Filled with the joy of nostalgia I set up and played aMazing Labyrinth, only to find that it was nowhere near as good as I remembered. Château Roquefort however, utilises the same tile pushing mechanic as aMazing Labyrinth, a similar item collection concept, but adds a few more layers of complexity to it. As the game progresses, the board evolves, cheese are collected and mice sent plummeting to their death in small shallow pits. This game is really quick to play and I’d recommend it to all families and most gamers!

Guild Hall – I got this at a really low price in a sale earlier in the year. The box makes this game look terrible, the pigs on the front of it don’t even feature in the game, and anyone who sees it turns their nose up at it almost without fail.

So, in an effort to show a few people this little gem, I grabbed a large plastic deck box, transplanted the cards and tokens into their new home and persuaded a few people to join me in a game.

I really like Guildhall, it’s fast and it’s fun. You collect sets of cards, when you have a set you can use it to buy points, and you play until someone scores twenty points. That’s the basics of the game, but there’s so much more to it. There’s a selection of cards that you use to build your sets, each having their own unique ability. I won’t go into detail in this post but there’s a lot of player interaction hidden away in this fun little game and it’s really worth giving it a shot!

Francis Drake – I’ve had this game for a few weeks now and not managed to get it to the table. Jason from the Cardiff group had brought along his copy and set it up for me to have a try. Jason, Paul, Gavin (new to the group) and myself took on the roles of explorers and started hiring crew, purchasing cannons and gaining the odd bonus by “taking” the Queen. Yes I said it!!

From the box, you wouldn’t get that this game is seriously fun. The artwork is your typical Euro style and the box put me off buying it originally! Thankfully I watch the Dice Tower and saw a glowing review of it on there, so I figured I’d grab a copy whilst it was still available! Keeping this short and sweet though, this three round game had me entertained and engaged throughout. I lost by quite a margin, but I still enjoyed it!

The Resistance – A great game that I’ve played hundreds of times. I’m not exaggerating here, I’ve played it so many times over lunch that I stopped counting at about 125 plays. I’ll get round to writing a review of this and its sister game Avalon sometime in the near future.

Coup – Set in the Resistance universe, Coup is a game of lies and deceit. You can claim to be any of the characters in the game, and if no one challenges or blocks you then you get to do as that character does. The trick is, you don’t actually have to have that characters card to claim that you do. After backing this on Kickstarter I’ve played this a few times. It’s not bad but there’s plenty of games that are far more fun to play. Resistance or Bang the dice game with their hidden roles are both more fun and frantic than any game of Coup.

Sunday:
Sunday wasn’t going to be a games day but it turned into a 2 player gaming session whilst a delicious Sunday lunch was cooking in the background.

We managed to get two games played, each hitting the table for the first time. Both games belong to Nikki and I have to admit I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy either. However, after a bit of a rules reading session we started playing what turned out to be a pair of pleasant surprises.

Cyclades – Greek Gods and Mythical beasties make for an interesting and fun game. I’d played this before on the iPad and hadn’t been impressed at all. Bringing the game to the table I was worried that I’d feel the same about the physical version. However, after a very quick glance through the rules we were up and running. It’s fast to learn, easy to play and with more than two players I think this could be a lot of fun! I would definitely play this again, even with only two players, and would be very interested to see how the new conversion pack works that lets you use the monster figures from Kemet in Cyclades and vice versa!

Drum Roll – OK, so I saw this on one of the crowd-funding sites a good while back. I thought it looked interesting, but as time went on I decided it wasn’t a game I would be interested in. When Nikki bought this game I was surprised, and a little apprehensive. It just didn’t appeal to me at all anymore. However, looking for games to play on Sunday, we finally brought it to the table.

All I can say is that I actually really enjoyed this game. Although there’s not a lot of player interaction it’s quite good fun gathering performers, building a circus troupe, and putting on shows. It’s fast paced and you’re never left bored or wishing your time away. The art work is beautiful and drips theme from virtually every component. This is a very nice game and I am happy to say I grossly underestimated how much fun it would be.

And Finally…
So, that was my weekend of gaming, I had a lot of fun playing through most of these games and I can’t wait to play some more. This week I don’t think I’ll have a lot of spare time free for gaming so any time I do get will be completely dedicated to playtesting the last two chapters of the Mice and Mystics Downwood Tales expansion. I can’t wait to get my teeth into these, the story so far has been extremely interesting and I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Technology, Stories and Learning

As you may know I’m an instructional designer by trade, one of those people who creates the eLearning and training you all have to sit through at work. Also, if you’re here reading my blog then I assume that you know that I am also deeply in love with games that tell a great story!

In a professional capacity, I recently attended the UKs largest learning and skills convention, Learning Technologies 2014. Throughout the day I went to several of the seminars that caught my eye. Two on gamification and one on an eLearning course about story telling skills. I have to be honest, I wasn’t massively impressed by any of these seminars, but they all gave me time to think a little about story-telling in games, and later about story-telling in learning.

Gamification is rapidly becoming common-place throughout the business world and it’s begun to show its face in the eLearning sector too. However, gamification isn’t the holy-grail, nor is it the answer to everything that ails your learning content. You need to use gamification with caution and exercise restraint when you do. You must always balance what a business needs against what’s actually good for the learner!

I’ve heard it said that stories are one of the many elements that you can find in the gamification toolkit. I disagree with that concept on a fundamental level and would strongly urge people to think of gamification as nothing but a tool in your storytelling toolkit. After all, some of our favourite games are based entirely around a story. The game elements and mechanics work together to deliver and present that story to all who will listen! However, that said, this blog post isn’t about gamification or the merits of its use, that’s a topic for another day. This post is all about stories.

For the last three years I’ve been following the blog of Cathy Moore, an excellent instructional designer, who has a lot to say about the use of scenarios in a learning context. Why do I mention this?

Well… What’s a scenario if it’s not a story?

And what makes a story successful?

The answer to that second question’s simple! It’s all about the emotional engagement or investment!! If your story doesn’t evoke feeling and engage the reader then how can you hope for it to be remembered?

Story

During my time at the Learning Technologies conference I began wondering how I could use stories to promote learning. Not just a short scenario that illustrates a single point, but a full blown narrative, a story that evolves with the learners understanding. I thought carefully about how I learn to play a game. How I absorb abstract concepts and adapt my own behaviour to fit within the constraints of the game itself. I thought back to the different rule books that I’ve read over the years, hundreds of them if we’re counting. Some of these books were good, with excellent examples. Others were terrible, filled with confusion and errors. But ultimately, at the heart of every game, there is a rule book that teaches players to drive the mechanics that ultimately deliver the story.

I don’t really want to stray into the realms of discussing serious games or, more accurately, learning games. So, with that in mind, I’ve thrown together some thoughts on how someone who creates learning could go about constructing a story for an intervention. Here’s a handful of tips that I came up with for starting to think about your own learning stories:

  1. Work with subject matter experts (SMEs) directly – Don’t just ask them the same old tried and tested questions! That just leads to stagnation! Ask them about their feelings on certain subjects.
    Is there a particularly difficult task?
    How does it make them feel?
    How should it make the learner feel?
    See if you can include some of their personal experiences in the story that you’re building. This will help you build rapport with them and they may even provide you with some story-telling gold.
  2. Keep the story relevant to the learner – Why does the learner care about what you’re teaching them? Appeal to the learner’s intrinsic motivations if at all possible. Simply saying that they will be motivated to learn because it’s part of their job doesn’t count… Whether your employer believes it or not, work necessity is usually an extrinsic motivation, the learner is being forced to care, and therefore is unlikely to actually care on an emotional level.
    Take for example a company who wants to reduce the number of accidents at work because they may soon face financial repercussions. Do the workers ultimately care about the repercussions that management have to deal with? Probably not, in fact, they most likely care more about themselves and their co-workers.
    So, with that in mind, start creating a story that’s based around an accident. Highlight the personal physical risks and explain what they could do to their colleagues if they don’t act responsibly. Once you’ve got them emotionally invested in the idea, reveal the big picture consequences. Perhaps the company is fined for its accident record. After paying the fine they can no longer afford to operate the business and take the decision to shut up shop. The result? Unemployment!
    What you put into the story is up to you, but don’t be afraid to tap in to the way people think, what they like, or what they fear. But a word to the wise, be sensitive!
  3. Start small and build up to a grand finale – I once heard that a person will only remember the best bit of a course, the worst bit, and the very last bit. So let’s make sure that the last thing we show them makes it worth waiting for. Of course don’t just try and cram everything in at the end, no-one likes a brain dump.
  4. Do not be afraid of comedy – There’s a fine balance between funny and cringe-worthy. But, even so, if you can make your learners laugh you’ll be giving them a small dose of endorphins. Yes you heard it here first, try and make your learners happy!
    Forget the teachers of the past who believed that you weren’t in school to have fun.
    News flash!!! There’s nothing in the world that says you can’t have fun whilst learning!
  5. Involve and engage the learner – Don’t be afraid to personalise your story, to bring the learner deeper into the world that you’re creating for them. If you can get your courses to pull the learners names from your learning management system then even better! Address important questions to the learner directly. For example, in a first aid scenario have someone asking the learner for help.
    “Tom! Help me lift this weight off of his leg!”
    Of course, in this scenario you probably wouldn’t want to lift that weight in case the victim had a crush injury. If you lift it and circulation resumes then you may release toxins back into his body and outright kill him. But in a learning solution it’s OK, “no people were hurt in the making of this story” and it’s one hell of a memorable lesson for those that didn’t know about crush injuries.
    “Who lifted this off of him? Was it you Tom? My God! You’ve killed him!”
    Remember though! Don’t trick your learners into doing things wrong, let them make their own mistakes, let them fail, but never trick them.

Anyway, that’s five little tips for coming up with your own stories to enhance your learning content. I’m not an author of fiction and I won’t pretend that I can provide you with all the guidance you’ll need. But I do hope that I’ve been able to provide something here that will be of use to you in your future stories! Don’t forget though, if you’re developing a game and want to work on a story for it, then you can just as easily apply the five tips to that too. In fact, for any game developer reading this, I highly recommend reading up on some instructional design principles before you start out writing your all-important rule book!