What’s My Motivation?

Bringing and keeping a party together in an RPG

I’ve always had trouble killing off player characters in RPGs. I understand the importance of real dangers to the party to keep the stakes high, but it’s difficult to separate a player from a character they spent so much time and effort into creating and playing. So, imagine my horror when I lost not one, but two player characters, in one night, to sheer lack of motivation.

One was an elderly preacher on a quest to see the fabled City of Lost Angels for himself; the other, the son of a wealthy rail baron trapped westward after a chance encounter with a fierce and sinister rival. Between the brutality of Ezekiah Grimme’s theocracy and the screaming fire of Darius Hellstromme’s ghost rock bombs, the two characters could not book tickets back east nearly fast enough.

And you know what? I don’t blame them. The characters would have left, and thhe players were good sports about it; they created new Deadlands characters that very night. Even so, it’s a problem I would do best to avoid. Continue reading “What’s My Motivation?”

First Impressions: Scythe

pic2323719It took me a while to realize that there’s a very, very passionate fan of Stonemaier Games among my friends. In my defense, it was hard to notice; they were divided among a whole bunch of people. Between us, we have nearly every game published by Stonemaier games.

I suppose it was my turn to help out so I was one of two people to Kickstart Scythe, a crunchy game set in an alternate Europe between the world wars, but with giant mechs, too. Everyone represents a nation not-so-subtly inspired by real nations, vying for control in the lands surrounding the now-shut factory that had armed them in the recent past. Really, how could I not jump on board? Between their outstanding reputation and an incredible theme, I backed the project and then promptly ignored everything about it until it arrived in the mail.

Apparently I missed a whole heck of a lot of hype, as every other review I’ve seen or read has mentioned. Let me start off with my own expectations: I expected a good game, with high production values, and an effective use of a compelling theme.

Did it succeed? Read more to… eh, that feels dirty. I’ll tell you now: it hit all three points. There’s my thesis, and I’ll just clarify them in the following. Continue reading “First Impressions: Scythe”

On Lifestyle Games

Mondays are quickly becoming Warmachine nights, as I just got a couple friends of mine to join in on the miniature-based wargame. That’s not to say that means we always play the game on Warmachine night; sometimes we just end up painting, as our toy soldiers aren’t quite ready yet.

A term popped into my head, one that’s relatively obscure but quite evocative: lifestyle games.

Maybe I should take this moment to define terms, since I couldn’t seem to find one elsewhere. As I see it, a game is a lifestyle game if the player spends a disproportionate amount of time on that game in particular, rather than games in general; it often becomes a priority in a person’s time spent socializing or at leisure.

Warmachine is the latest one I’ve dabbled with. I’m also in an role-playing game campaign. I have plenty of experience with Magic: the Gathering. Clearly there’s something about these games that deeply appeals to me. I can think of plenty of other examples, too.

I’m willing to bet you know some people who have a poker night, if you’re not a part of one yourself. It becomes deeply ingrained in a person’s social life; on, say, Fridays, they meet up with their poker buddies and play.

Did you know there used to be a television show called Championship Bridge with Charles Goren? It premiered in 1959, well before poker ever aired on television. You might think Charles Goren was just a television host. Nope, he was a well established public figure because of Bridge. He wrote books and articles about the game. Heck, the show even had celebrity guests, which really preempts shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown or Dancing with the Stars.

Have you heard of Curt Schilling? He’s a baseball player, and a BIG fan of a game called Advanced Squad Leader. So much so that, unable to attend a convention dedicated to it, he started his own that took place in the off season. He made an offer to buy the game, joined a separate company trying to do the same, and how he’s co-owner of Multi-Man Publishing. He’s kind of a fan.

I know the focus of this site is board games, but I can’t pass up mentioning video games. E-sports are a thing now. There are high-level competitions for games like Starcraft, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends. These competitions are broadcast, with commentary, and spark plenty of discussion and even fantasy leagues.

Did you know that there are people who go to gaming conventions primarily to play train games? I’ve heard of the Puffing Billy tournaments, mostly centering around 18xx games, which… on second thought, I’ll leave it for another article, but suffice it to say people dig train games.

Hopefully that makes the subject clear. Now, let’s take a look at what makes these games tick.
Continue reading “On Lifestyle Games”

First Impressions: Codenames

pic2582929No one game is for everyone, but for every person, there’s a game out there that they will probably enjoy. (Odds are more than one, but I’m hedging my bets with terse generalizations.) Board games are incredibly diverse, as are the tastes of people who play them.

That’s what made Vlaada Chvatil’s Codenames such a big surprise—there’s a consensus, and a positive one at that. There were a ton of great games released in 2015, but if you ask anyone what the best party game was, or filler game, or word game—or just about any category that can reasonably describe this game—people will say Codenames is one of the best in class. Not only is it the top-rated party game as determined by the users of BoardGameGeek, but it’s the nineteenth best game period.

So, now that I managed to play a game, careful to manage my expectations, I can confidently say—I get it. It’s really good, and just about everyone ought to try it. Continue reading “First Impressions: Codenames”

A Roundabout Path to Wargames: First Impressions of Warmachine

I got into wargaming almost as an accident.

At first, I was just looking for something to paint. I had begun painting miniatures in college, but since I didn’t have a D&D group and my then-burgeoning board games collection didn’t contain any that could use a good painting, I fell out of the hobby. I liked the look of Warmachine, and heard nothing but great things about the game. I might as well pick up a battle box. Worst case scenario, I’d have fun painting them. If I ever got a chance to play, so much the better.

Then I picked up a copy of the rulebook. I have a strange habit of collecting and reading rulebooks for role-playing games just for the hell of it. I have an extensive collection of those books, many of which I have no intention of actually playing. (I’m already in a Dungeon World campaign, about to join a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and toying with the idea of running a Star Wars campaign—I don’t think I’ll be playing Gary Gygax’s Lejendary [sic] Adventure anytime soon, but I’m glad I have it.) RPGs actually stemmed from wargames, so I figured the reading material would be just as enjoyable.

I figured a smaller-scale game with RPG elements might stick. It didn’t, as Malifaux just didn’t strike anyone’s fancy… but it did get one of my friends to ask about that other game I had talked about. He liked the look of the Protectorate of Menoth and withing a week he had a 15 point army. Another friend of mine had already begun toying with a Mercenary faction, but I guess each of us just needed at least two opponents to make thing interesting. So I rounded off my small band of Cygnar models and played my first game this weekend.

So, after years of accidentally falling into Warmachine, this past weekend, I played my first game—and it was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time. Continue reading “A Roundabout Path to Wargames: First Impressions of Warmachine”

First Impressions: Dominant Species

pic784193This is a game I’ve been eager to play for a long, long time.

Dominant Species has gotten a lot of praise over the years, and the theme instantly hooked me. It tickled the part of me that was so fond of “edutainment” as a child. Not that I expected a learning experience—I’m fully aware of the basics of survival of the fittest by now—but combining an unusual theme I was taught in school with a game reminds me of the days when those topics were made more engaging and more palatable with games or video.

My expectations were for a robust and highly thematic game outside GMT’s wheelhouse. After all, they’re a publisher best known for war games, not something like this. I wanted to develop my species into the most competitive ones around, even though the cover of the box kind of made it look like we’d be teaming up like some kind of weird rag-tag band of animals teaming up for an action movie. Like a prehistoric version of the A-Team.

So how did it stack up? Pretty well, as it turns out—though it’s a very different game from what I thought it would be. Continue reading “First Impressions: Dominant Species”

Review: Friday

pic1513328…and a new perspective on solo games.

1 player, 24 Minutes

In my article on Agricola, I mentioned how I never played solo board games before. Nine of the ten games of Agricola I played this year ended up being solo; clearly, I enjoyed playing it all by my lonesome. In the end, though, I accepted the fact that, given the option and without a motivation to do otherwise, I’d rather just play a video game than a solo board game.

But then something strange happened. I was in a simple card game review—look forward to reviews of Red7 and Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz sometime soon!—and I decided to better understand their rules by playing some mock games against myself. In the middle of one of these phantom games, I realized that I really would like to play a proper game.

And then, naturally, I found a copy of Friedemann Friese’s Friday sitting on the shelf at a local shop.  Continue reading “Review: Friday”