Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Terraclips: Adventures in the Third Dimension

September 9, 2012

A confession: I’ve always loved looking at miniatures dioramas and terrain. I don’t play any tactical miniatures games (partly due to cost and partly because I completely lack any tactical sense), so I’ve always just admired from afar. But I always admired the setups at cons, and the first time I saw some Dwarven Forge stuff I needed new pants. But I knew that was more of an investment than I really wanted to sink into a hobby (pay no attention to the sagging bookshelf of games I haven’t ever played!!). And I’m just not crafty enough to do papercrafting.

Recently I came across some the sets of Terraclips at a local store and fell in love all over again. Configurable heavy cardboard terrain. They had a set of Buildings, Streets and Sewers out, and 3 Dungeon based sets dropping in late August (some really awesome pictures and info here). I liked the first 3 sets but didn’t love them – I thought the usefulness of streets and sewers to my personal game was limited, and the buildings were all wooden inn-like structures. But the “Vaults of Ruin” set from the new Dungeon Rise line really caught my eye. The “Dungeon Essentials” had a lot of the basics but was heavy on traps and such. The “Prison of the Forsaken” was full of torturey goodness but seemed a little specific. but Vaults had lots of crumbling walls and archways and I could see using it either for dungeons or as an outdoor ruined temple or a dozen other things. To my eye it had the greatest versatility, so I started there.  I ordered a set from my Friendly Local Game Shop, and here’s what I got. (more…)

[Descent] Pixels iactae sunt

August 25, 2012

Yes yes, I know it’s all Descent and 13th Age all the time here lately. They’re my 2 current obsessions. Give it a week. And this is useful for other games as well, so get off my furry feathered ass. (also, I’m totally stabbing in the dark on the Latin up there.)

ANYWAY, Descent second edition uses different dice than the first edition. Which made me a sad owlbear, because I’d bought a bunch of extra sets if 1e dice. Also, FF isn’t selling extra sets of 2e dice (yet.  If there’s a penny to be sucked out of my pockets, FFG will find a way to do it).
So I poked around online and the folks at the Board Game Geek forum had the answer, at least for a digital replacement. (more…)

13th Age Seminar at GenCon

August 22, 2012

Friend of the Blog and general sexy beast Dan went to GenCon last weekend and files this report…

My time at GenCon was very limited this year, so I was reduced to the following two humble hopes:

  1. Leave GenCon with the same exact number of diseases as I had when I walked in (CON CRUD!!)
  2. A better understanding of 13th Age

The jury is still out on #1, but my understanding of 13th Age is much, much better after I sat in on a seminar, and then subsequently played in a demo run by Rob Heinsoo. (more…)

Descent (Second Edition) Actual Review

August 19, 2012

Last night I did something I’d long though impossible: I played a game of Descent to completion in about an hour.

Now, this was the introductory scenario for the Second Edition and it is designed to be a pretty quick encounter.  The board is tiny – only 2 “rooms” and some connecting “hallway” pieces.  And there aren’t many baddies to deal with – 2 ettins and a handful of goblins. But still, an hour. And it was fun.

Here then are my observations (aside from “it runs shorter”) on the second edition of Descent: (more…)

Changing Horses Pt 4, 13th Age part 2

August 19, 2012

We ran our second session of 13th Age this past week.  The overall verdict was very good. Everyone had a better handle on the characters and the rules this time around and things went much smoother.

I decided not to record this session for a couple of reasons, primary of which being that recording made me incredibly self-conscious the first time out.  Another big reason was that this session tied in very strongly with some stuff in the overall 4e campaign, and without that context I think the listener would be pretty confused.  Lastly, I knew this session was going to be a lot of talking/planning/thinking things through which would only barely touch the system at all (with some background tests and relationship checks) and although we are wildly entertaining I didn’t think that would have much interest for the half dozen or so of you who are reading this but not actually in the game. (more…)

Interlude – Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Second Edition proto-review

August 9, 2012

(Changing Horses will return this coming week, when I run the next 13th Age session. In the meantime…)

Descent is probably my favorite boardgame, although I always found it flawed in a number of ways. A session could easily run 4-5 hours, the rules required extensive FAQing and clarification and boy howdy were there a lot of bits and pieces, both physical and informational, to keep track of.

All that said, I still didn’t hesitate long before ordering the second edition of the game.  The rules are posted on the Fantasy Flight Games website so you can take a peek. I liked what I saw there enough that buying it was a foregone conclusion.

The big changes between first and second edition: no glyphs or going back to town, no money to manage (except in the campaign rules), no treasures or chests, no threat or conquest tokens, characters have classes that determine their abilities instead of random card draws, combat is now done with opposed rolls instead of static armor value.  Other than that last one, these all sound like great ideas to speed up and streamline the game. That last one, I don’t know. It feels like it might slow things down but who knows. One of my other favorite boardgames (Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit) uses opposed combat rolls and I feel like it makes things more exciting there so I’m not completely “opposed” (I’m so very, very sorry) to the idea.

The rules claim a 1-2 hour playtime. Between the simplification of the game and what looks like simplified, shorter scenarios that looks about right to me.

This pseudo-review is based on reading the rules and looking over contents of the box. I haven’t had a chance to play yet but will post a follow-up when I do. (more…)

Changing Horses Pt 3: 13th Age Part 1

July 26, 2012

Last night I ran the first of a 2-part session of 13th Age, a game that is a strong favorite to be the system I convert my 4e campaign over to. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped but I still have faith.  This system still “feels” like a right fit to me.

13th Age is a d20-based fantasy game. What another one? Yes, but this one is by Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo, two names with strong game development kung-fu.  Right now the game is in “pre-release” stage; you can pre-order it from the link above and you get a draft pdf. It’s gone through a number of extensive playtesting rounds but its far from finished. Still I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on this game.  It’s closer to 4e than other d20 variants in a number of ways but strips out a lot of the complexity of other versions and replaces it with a shot of indie game narrative control.

For example, where other games present players with a fixed laundry list of Skills, 13th Age uses “Backgrounds”, which are free-form player-created short phrases, much like Distinctions in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game or Tweet’s own Over the Edge.  The result, I think, encourages players to be more creative to solve skill-based problems and requires that they think a little bit about their character background/values.

For this two-shot I statted up characters beforehand but left off the Backgrounds, the Relationships (connections the character has to the 13 most powerful NPCs/factions in the world) and the character’s One Unique Thing.  Every 13th Age character has a Unique Thing about them, and developing these can help to shape the campaign world as well as defining the character and what makes them special.

(more behind the break, but hey you can download the actual audio of our session here! (please please right click and Save Link As instead of just streaming))

(more…)

Marvels, Mutants, and the Murder Castle

March 6, 2012

Available right now in PDF from DriveThruRPG.com and later this month in print, the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game is by Margaret Weiss Productions, the same folks who brought you the Serenity, BSG and Supernatural rpgs.  More to the point, they are the ones who did the Smallville and Leverage rpgs using a system called CORTEX Plus, a variation on their standard dice pool system from those earlier games that is extensively modified to suit the particular game and genre being emulated. With Smallville, you’ve got dramatic tv series with powers rules that under the hood could do just about anything the awesome indy game Prime Time Adventures can do, though with a more codified tactical structure.  Similarly, from what I’ve seen of the Marvel game, it does a similar job for high action serialized stories (ie comic books, or even, dare I say it, the pulps!).  As PTA is to Smallville, I see Spirit of the Century (or more generically FATE) is to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

Friends of mine worked on the book, and the preview I’ve seen so far looks beautiful.  I ran a demo of the MHR game at my FLGS, The Gaming Goat, this past Saturday.  This was to be part of the official ‘Launch Party’ for the game, but since the print books have been delayed a few weeks, the Goat’s party has been postponed until April.  I showed up, anyway, in case some didn’t get word of the reschedule. Good thing, since two players showed, and a third who was awaiting a later D&D Lair Assault game joined in.  Since we were pressed for time, rather than run the prepared ‘event’, I simply started with my players choosing their demo characters, and followed the premise that suggested; Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine walk into a bar…

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I survived the Tomb of Horrors! (Though I didn’t finish, neither did it finish me) Part 1

February 27, 2012

With the upcoming limited edition re-release of the original core AD&D books (check with your LFGS for April – part of the proceeds goes towards the Gygax Memorial Fund), one of our local DMs, Clyde, decided he wanted to revive some old memories and run a bunch of us through the original Tomb of Horrors module.  A recent return to the fold of gaming, Clyde was a gaming child of the 1980’s as I was, but had last played in the AD&D days. Rejoining the D&D world through the Encounters program I was DMing last August, he has since jumped in with both feet, two-fistedly DMing or playing in upwards of six games a week, both 4E Encounters, Lair Assault (he’s become our main DM for that), Gamma World and Pathfinder.  Though he had a full group of 6 players sign up for this weekend’s run through almost immediately, he consented to run a test last week at the local gaming con, KitCon, after I ran the Lair Assault Talon of Umberlee for him to play for a change.

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[Review] Icons

March 14, 2011

I’ve been bit by the supers bug again recently (it gives me the proportional strength of a box full of d6s) and was looking about at systems out there. I’m kind of tired of high-crunch systems, which unfortunately the genre leans pretty strongly on.  And I’m just plain done with making my own systems or heavily tweaking existing ones. I’d been hearing some good stuff about Icons from Adamant Entertainment, which had 2 big things going for it right up front: 1) it’s written by Steve Kenson, who wrote Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures and 2) my friend Theron had written a module for it and from eight or nine years of internet acquaintance I’ve found his taste to be pretty impeccable.  Added bonus: the pdf of the rulebook is on sale for $1.99. Really, how could I not?

And frankly why had I not picked it up already? Well there were also two strikes against it: 1) I didn’t like the cover art style and 2) it’s based on FATE with which I’ve had some issues in the past. But I understand both of those things are purely subjective and my issues and neither one was strong enough to overrule the positives (this is kind of like FATE dice right here). Or the $2 price tag. (more…)


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