Thursday, March 27, 2008

Memoir 44 • 10 Days in Asia • The Lord of the Rings

I have been playing a lot of board games with my wife lately (she's not a gamer, but does enjoy some of the mass market potential board games).

We've played six games of 10 Days in Asia in the last couple days, three games of Memoir '44 (only the first scenario) tonight, and countless games of Lord of the Rings (the non-competitive one) over the months.

These are all fantastic games, and certainly excellent games for couples to play together.

10 Days is simple, straight-forward and with enough luck and planning to keeping players coming back for more (strategic theorist probably won't enjoy it however). It's a simple travel game, done in the style of skip-bo, but adding countries that you must encounter in linear order, although boats, rails, and planes help you get around Asia. This is the fourth game in a very, very successful series. I assume Latin America is the last one they can do (America, Europe, and Africa being the previous three).

Memoir '44 is a light version of the Ambush series, allowing people who aren't World War II nerds to play squad level games without the Ph.D necessary to tackle Squad Leader. There are 16 scenarios in the core box and the rules can be digested in no time. In typical Days of Wonder style the components are gorgeous, high quality, and instantly draw you in. The Command deck of cards really make the game, and I would love to see more, to vary up the tactics in this game.

Since Reiner is among one of my favorite designers and I've had the pleasure of working with him FOUR times now, I can say nothing but great things about the Lord of the Rings co-operative board game. If I was forced to rank his games for myself -- and I would hate to do that -- it would go something like

Lord of the Rings
Lost Cities
Tigris and Euphrates

[Look for two great new Reiner games by the end of the year, btw.]

Lord of the Rings is the perfect co-operative board game. While Shadows over Camelot (a pristine example of collaborative play) has few, if any flaws, Lord of the Rings captures the essence of the story as closely as any game possibly can. It handles up to four very well (although a fifth requires the use of Fatty, who is hardly a comparable character) and everyone has a stake in the game from beginning to end.

I know I've played this game over 30 times, but I couldn't tell you exactly how many.

Expect more board game posts in the future, alongside my RPG notes (to anyone still reading this thing).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vampire: Requiem

We are running a short campaign of Vampire (until D&D comes out or something). The game is set in Los Angeles, with all of the characters living near or on the UCLA campus.

We are starting very slowly, trying to learn the system and the environment (two of the players are new and I have to forget 15 years of Vampire lore).

The first session involved an old man (Demetrius) in a house in Westwood, lying in a bed, in an attic, with a tent to help him "breathe" (part of his dementia is that he believes he still needs to breathe). A 200-year old Greek (turned at the age of 70), he has been an important, but frail component in the Carthian movement in Los Angeles for over 50 years. Having amassed some wealth before his embrace, he was able to sustain a good life for himself as a kindred.

However, he is tired of the cycle and had decided to pass on his power to three new Vampires (enter the players), who consumed his essence and became powerful vampires (more than just low-level neonates). They also consumed a great deal of his memories, and acquired his diary.

The vampires have also acquired the modest, but well-protected home that Demetrius built as his haven.

After the game, we spent about an hour making characters and getting into the swing of how the game will go.

End Session One.

Players: Richard, Joel, Aaron.
Clans: Daeva, Mekhet, Ventrue
Covenant: Nothing yet, but the Carthians are their first connection.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nerds Unite

The G.I. Joe movie is coming.

And Ray Park is Snake Eyes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke Passes Away


Someday this blog will have happy news again. I just know it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fallout 3

Some concept art from Craig Mullins was posted on IGN. Here is the best of them.

Any day now, Craig is going to break out and people are going to appreciate his work.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I am constantly surprised to find out that some gamers do not know about this series.

In case you've never heard of it, Gipf is among the most ambitious board game projects... well... ever. Smart, fun, fast, and well-designed. They leave Ingenious in the dust.

Dvonn is the best game in the series, but I recommend that you play them to find your "style." Pünct looks really smart. But it's new and I haven't played it yet.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gygax: Kind Words

A very nice article about Gygax on a somewhat professional site.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax: Requiem

The internet is abuzz with news, in-jokes, award plans, honorariums, and stories about the pathfinder, Gary E. Gygax who passed away at the age of 69 (beating the life-expectancy for writers by 1 year). Gary did not act alone in his creation of Dungeons and Dragons, but he is honored nonetheless as the person responsible for making a game we all chipped our teeth on.

Those of us in our 30s and 40s, we owe a great deal to Gary and Dave Arneson for their efforts.

But for all the noise, most people aren't really saying much. Many are racing to make saving throw jokes or find ways to express how "speechless" they are. And as some one who has made a habit/living in an industry that did not really exist before D&D (certainly Gencon was just a club before D&D), I too should be saying something.


But why aren't I moved to write or say thanks. Certainly when news of Eric Wujick's health was posted, I was quick to pen some kind words and tell Eric I hope to see him soon.

Why then am I devoid of emotions or speeches for Gary Gygax?

Most likely, the industry is getting older. More and more people are reaching the age where cancer is a possibility. Many of us have lost friends and family. Others are numb to things like -10 Hit Point jokes because we have been surrounded by this kind of blissfulness for 30 years now (crap I've been playing for 26 years). And truth be told, while Gary gave us the tools to spark our imaginations, he didn't give us our imaginations.

And while I would love to thank the guy who invented matches, it's not the same as thanking someone for inventing fire. Maybe I wouldn't be working in a creative field if it weren't for D&D. Maybe I'd be stuck somewhere thinking that managing a Denny's is just what happens to poor, white-trash kids with no connections. And maybe without D&D I wouldn't even know what it is to be some banal cubicle drone, whittling away my days with free cell and yahoo groups.

But I'm going to be 38 this year.

Gaming is less and less a part of my life anymore. Gary's presence dominated my environment 15 years ago.

But not today.

Losing an uncle you haven't seen in 20 years is much different than losing a friend you see every Wednesday.


Thank you for enriching my childhood. And you will be missed. But please understand, that I haven't been impacted by you in so long... well... I guess I'm just not going to weep or mourn or even ruminate over what you've given me. I get tired of living in the past, and my only hope is that I can honor your passing by making great games for the future, by gaming and telling stories as much as possible, and once per convention slipping in a bad saving throw pun, even if it pains me to do it.

Thanks for all you've given us and if there are Seven Heavens and you're up there gaming, I hope Gord the Rogue is having a hell of a time.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008