Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Warmachine Battle Report

Psst! Here's a sneak post (this doesn't count as Monday's post). This is a game of Warmachine I played some weeks ago. It's not very long, but it's neat. Take a look.

Here it is!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Onyx Path

"Oh most glorious Carmin! Please will you step down from your golden throne of gaming and share your glorious opinion with the masses regarding White Wolf's change to Onyx Path?"
"HAHAHAHA! NO! You cannot begin to comprehend the wondrous sounds that I form regarding this pleasing news, for you are mere mortals, and are of the flesh! NOW GO!"
"Please, oh game master! We are aimless! We know not what to think regarding this news. Shall it usher in a new era for the World of Darkness both new and old, or is it but another sign of the end times?"
"SILENCE!"
"But oh handsome typer of game-related musings, we beg you! Tell us already."
"FINE! But I cannot be held responsible for what might result from your hubris. Now let me put on these fangs and this cape. I'm just going to... Climb down... From this... Throne... Ah, there we go! NOW HARK... I SHALL BEGIN:"

It was announced at GenCon this year (2012, in case you just woke up) that Onyx Path Publishing (OPP, but not the kind you're thinking of) will be the new publisher for White Wolf's (WW) properties. OPP is run by Rich Thomas, who has been with White Wolf since the beginning, as well as staffed by all the writers, and designers we've loved from White Wolf's heyday(s). They also own the properties to the Trinity universes (Adventure!, Aberrant, and Trinity (├ćon)), and Scion. They've announced a new edition for Exalted, and are probably going to do a new edition for Scion as well. But don't take my word for it; check out their release schedule here.

A bit of background: In 2006 White Wolf merged with CCP (Crowd Control Productions. The makers of Eve: Online). At first it was great, because it injected more capital into WW and allowed them to do cool stuff. However, the cracks soon became apparent when CCP had to lay off a huge majority of WW staff because of the shortcomings of Eve. It soon became apparent that while passionate about WW's stuff, CCP was just not fit to publish pen-and-paper games. So, Rich Thomas decided to start his own company and called it Onyx Path Publishing. He's licensing the rights to make pen-and-paper products of the World of Darkness (current and classic), and Exalted (these games are still owned by White Wolf, which is a division of CCP... Try and keep up). He also bought Scion and the Trinity universes.

So where does that leave us today? With much optimism. OPP is still banking on the digital production model, which I have mixed feelings about. However, One Book Shelf has stated that they're looking into ways to include the retail channel in their model, which would be stellar. Really, I'd just like to see the core books and the storyteller screens kept in regular supply through the traditional means of distribution, at least, but I'm no businessman.

OPP is also promising a slew of new stuff! Of course, I'm most excited about any Vampire: the Requiem stuff, including the new campaign/update to the game system, but I think I'm going to fall for the new WoD stuff, and the new Mummy stuff. I don't think I'll contribute to the Mummy Kickstarter, but I'll get the books through Print on Demand (PoD, or Now in Print, as they're calling it, despite the fact that it abbreviates to NiP. What's with White Wolf and these fairly tame sexualized abbreviations?).

I'm most excited for the revisions to the WoD and VtR games. I like how they're not going to a new edition, despite the fact that I normally back new editions pretty faithfully. I'd just hate to have to do extra work to bring my old books up to speed, and I dislike the stigma that a new edition evokes amongst gamers. They're also releasing more fiction, which will be a definite buy for me. I'm reading through the Clan Saga from the Masquerade days, and really enjoying it, and I've always thought the fiction in the gaming books was fantastic.

It does seem to be an ambitious schedule, especially for a company that's going through some pretty ambitious changes. As one of my favorite gaming companies producing one of my favorite games, I wish them the best, and hope that all the huge decisions they've made in the last few years turn out to be fruitful.

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P.S. I've had 18,000 viewers as of me typing this!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Vampire: the Requiem

Eight years ago today, Vampire: the Requiem and the World of Darkness was unleashed upon the gaming world. I wasn't involved in the game at the time, but it has since changed my gaming. Now, Vampire didn't change my life, or have me meet my beloved the way that some testimonials claimed (which are touching, as any passionate gamer might agree), but Vampire had a profound effect on my gaming life. So I guess insofar as gaming is a part of my life, I guess it did change my life... No beloved, though.

Anyway, here's what I typed, ad hoc, on the White Wolf forums. It's a short birthday wish to one of my favorite games of all time.

I was a huge D&D player in the '90s, but an even huger CCGer. Vampire: the Eternal Struggle still occupies a top 3 spot for my favorite CCGs of all time. I never got into Vampire: the Masquerade because I always thought there was too much there, and it would be too huge a jump (I was also in my teens in the late '90s/early '00s so the idea of a role-playing game with gothic imagery was out of my comfort zone). So it went largely ignored.

In 2006 I began working for a game shop and we stocked the White Wolf role-playing games. It wasn't until a year afterwards that I thought I'd just give the World of Darkness a try. I had played every other RPG I could get my hands on, except this one, and thought I'd give it a shot.

I can surely say that Vampire: the Requiem changed the way I feel about role-playing games. It was refreshing to be free of plot, and given ultimate reign in a role-playing game. Not to say that others are constrictive, but Vampire told me I could be as free as I want. It was the first game I'd seen that
suggested I use certain rules in the main body of the text instead of in a sidebar.

Ever since 2007 I've
"embraced" the other WoD lines, and even went back and gave the Masquerade a shot. Nothing has replaced the joy and the excitement I feel for the Requiem, though.

Today it sits on my top 3 role-playing game list just like its card game cousin sits on my top 3 CCG list. Thanks a ton, White Wolf (Onyx Path), and Happy Birthday to VtR!


So that's that. Just something short, sweet, and fanged for today's post. There's been a lot of news coming out of GenCon (natch'!) and I'm not going to comment on all of it, but I will comment on Onyx Path Publishing in Wednesday's post, because the World of Darkness is so near and dear to my heart. So come back tomorrow, (blood)suckers!

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Kingdom Builder

For the amount of board games I play, I sure don't write a lot about them on this blog. I guess it's because I play so many of them, and talk about them all day at work, that I feel I've said all I need to say about certain games. However, if you're too far from the shop, or lazy, or are afraid of vagrants on the bus, and your car is on cinder blocks, you don't get to admire the pearls of wisdom I shed to the customers who come through our door.

So let me speak of the winner of this year's Spiel des Jahres: Kingdom Builder.

(photo by Raiko Puust)

I've played Kingdom Builder many times - probably 13 by now - and I really like it. It has some of my favorite aspects of board games: speed, ease of play, and player interaction (and maps... I love maps!). The average game takes about 30 minutes when you really get into it, but your first game will be closer to the 45 minute mark that the box claims. The game is simple to learn, and has many opportunities for strategic maneuverings within the confines of its basic game play.

In Kingdom Builder, your goal is to build the best kingdom. The quality of your kingdom is measured in points (or gold, as they call them). You only tally points at the end of the game, and you get points for touching cities (3 points), and fulfilling the conditions on the kingdom builder cards. Whoever has the most points, wins!

Kingdom Builder Cards (photo by Raiko Puust)

At the beginning of the game you have 10 kingdom builder cards, and 8 map sectors. You randomly choose four map sectors and set them up in a rectangle in any orientation (so long as it makes a rectangle), and three kingdom builder cards which sit at the top of the board. Each player then receives a terrain card, and the game begins.
 
(Photo by Mikko Saari)

On a player's turn, she flips over their terrain card (which she's allowed to peek at), and places three (always at least three, if possible) settlements on a terrain hexagon that matches the one on her card. These settlements always have to be touching a settlement belonging to her color, and matching the terrain hex on the terrain card. If this is not possible for whatever reason, all remaining settlements may be placed somewhere else on the board that matches the terrain card, but does not have to touch an existing settlement. The player then discards the terrain card, and draws another. Play passes to another player.

Terrain Cards (photo by Chris Norwood)

There are some neat things that one can do in this game, beyond simply placing settlements. If a player's settlement should touch a hexagon with a location on it, that player gets the location counter that's sitting on top of the location. There are always two location counters on a location, and a player may not receive more than one counter from the same location hex. She can receive another of the same location counter from a different location hex, but never from the same. The counters confer upon the player certain benefits that are explained in the game. Ship counters let you build on water, while barns let you move one settlement from a hexagon to a hexagon matching the card you just played. These counters can only be used once per turn per counter, but they have unlimited uses during the game.

Location Counters (photo by Chris Norwood)

The kingdom builder cards will give you more opportunities to score points. These ones are scored before cities, and include opportunities like extra points if you build on every horizontal line of hexes, or if you have the most settlements in one of the four sectors, etc.

It's that simple!

The game does have opportunities for strategic thought, though. One strategy I've used to some success is making sure I delay placing settlements so that they touch multiple terrain types for as long as I can. This way it leaves my decision-making open for as long as possible. If I can get to multiple spaces on the board quicker than my opponent, I can surround them, or just take some of those kingdom builder card conditions a lot quicker.

As mentioned before, I like the game because of its simplicity and speed. I find simplicity a virtue, and this game's got it. There are multiple areas for strategy and each game is going to be different what with the random board sections (which each include a different location), and kingdom builder cards. I normally move on to an expansion slowly, but with this one I'm dying to get on to the expansion.

At first I didn't like the random card draw for settlement placement. I thought this was too random, and I believe that a few players will see it that way, but ultimately I like randomness in my games, as I feel it's a great equalizer between player's skills. It also teaches you to roll with the punches, a skill I've noticed many gamers don't really like to utilize. I also wish there was a way to keep score during the game, but there's really not. I'd like to know how well I'm doing during the game, so I can adjust my strategy to suit the situation.

All-in-all a deserved win by the man who created Dominion, and though this may sound like heresy, I do believe I enjoy Kingdom Builder more than I do the father of all deck-building games. If you haven't played Kingdom Builder yet, pop down to your local game shop and do so.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunday is Game Day!

This past Sunday I, once-again, ventured into Vancouver's North Shore (I say that it's Vancouver's, but it's really two independent cities named after Vancouver) to roll dice, drink beer, and yell. Sunday's game was Warhammer 40,000, and Sunday's army was Chaos Space Marines.

What I love most about this club I go to ("CHOP!") is that the members are completely concerned only with amusement. They're infamous for being loud; in fact, their name derives from the sidebar in the Warhammer rulebook on page 72, and they're known to yell it out whenever something incredible happens in a game (in which case you're supposed to yell along with them). This might irk some people who desire a more chess-like atmosphere, and it has made some people cringe who aren't used to the Vancouverites' antics (such as my beloved American folk), but I think it's fantastic!

Miniatures gaming is supposed to be fun, and crazy. I think Games Workshop knows this too, as their new rules sets lean more towards this kind of play (see my posts about Warhammer 40k 6th edition during June 2012). Of course, the strategic element has to be primary, but who says you can't season it with wackiness?

Anyway, I digress. CHOP!'s loudness and outgoing approach to wargaming has forced them to find a venue where they can be themselves. They found one in a local lodge in North Vancouver, where they get their own room, and access to as many British pints as they can drink (which is a lot).

Now, I don't mean to paint these guys as amateurs; they're not. They will give you some of the hardest games you've ever played. They're not power gamers in that they'll bend the rules to benefit themselves, but they're not above taking advantage of certain "hidden gems" or oversights on the part of the GW design team.

All-in-all, I have a fantastic time gaming with these guys, and they're hosting a tournament in a couple months, in which I'll take part, and begin a long-desired project on this blog: a tournament preparedness series.

Regarding my game of 40k: I lost, but just barely, against an opponent I respect greatly. He had a terrible series of die rolls, but in the end he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat; or should I say I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory? CHOP! to me, I guess.

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