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September 16
2014

Board Game Review: BattleCON

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The young fighter grinned, a plan in her mind. Her accursed gauntlet twitched with energy as she channeled power into it. Then, she thrust her palm forward, sending a ripple of black energy hurtling outwards. But she had acted too late. Her opponent leapt over the blast, landing neatly behind her. “Nice try,” the opponent smirked. “But still too slow.”

Alright, so, if you have an overactive imagination like me, these kinds of scenes play out in your head every day. For everyone else, however, you might need some encouragement. The closest thing to the scenario above would probably be a fighting game of some sort. Something ridiculous, like BlazBlue or Persona Arena.

Fighting games are great and all, but I’m not exactly the best at them. For some of the more technical games, I’m downright awful, in fact. I get the main themes, of course. Fighting games require a strategy and a foresight to understand what your opponent will do next. That, however, is incredibly difficult to develop on the fly as you’re desperately button-mashing for a chance at victory. What if I told you that there was a game that gave you the strategy of a fighting game without the button-mashing and split-second timing?

Enter BattleCON.

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July 10
2014

D&D’s Bumpy Road to Inclusion

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(A word of caution. Some of the links to articles contained within contain strong language.)

On Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast released the free basic rules to the fifth and newest edition of the most popular RPG franchise, Dungeons & Dragons. Inside, aspiring adventurers and dungeon masters can find rules on how to create adventurers who are devout Clerics, brawny Fighters, devious Rogues, or worldly Wizards, and then tells them how to go out into the world, slay monsters, collect treasure, and become ever stronger.

It also included something new in a D&D product, something that gave me pause when I saw it for the first time. In fact, I didn’t actually believe it when I first saw it. The passage in question is a mere two paragraphs filed under “Sex” (as in one’s biological sex), but the content of those paragraphs are stunning to anyone used to tabletop RPGs.

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June 25
2014

Tabletopping: Monsterhearts

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Tabletopping is a series where Bryce takes a tabletop RPG he has never played before, sits down with some friends, and tries it out. It’s about his first experience with a new game. As a result, rules will be gotten wrong, confusion will arise, and not everything will make sense. Some games rise, and others fall, but either way, stories will be made and told.

Teenagers and monsters must have something in common. They’re matched together so frequently. Teen Wolf, Buffy, Twilight, Vampire Diaries…what is it? Is it the using monsters as a metaphor for the isolation that teenagers can feel growing up? Is it the gratuitous and over-the-top action that can arise? The secret lives that some have to lead? Or a confluence of all of these factors? Well, now you can find out for yourself.

Enter Monsterhearts, by Avery Mcdaldno. Monsterhearts casts the players as—you guessed it—teenage monsters, struggling to get by in a world that is either unaware or terrified of them. Monsterhearts tells you that it knows you could write a better Twilight. I mean, hell, anyone could, right? So do it.

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February 28
2014

Board Game Review: 7 Wonders

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Strategy games that span millennia and have you building up civilizations from nothing—like, say, Civilization—often can be multi-hour affairs. Sometimes they can last days if you want to play an epic multiplayer game. So one can imagine that board games that emulate this genre take an equally long amount of time with just as much concentration and strategy. And, well, you’d be right! Games like Clash of Cultures and Civilization (the board game) can be very long and intensive. However, what if I told you that there was a board game where you could build a civilization in half an hour? Even if you had the maximum of seven players? It’s true! 7 Wonders aims to provide difficult choices and requires flexible planning, all in a sleek, 30-minute package. The question is: does it deliver?

…the answer is yes. This game rocks. Sorry, I’m bad at suspense.

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January 28
2014

Tabletopping: Fiasco

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Fiasco is not your usual tabletop RPG. In fact, it’s difficult to describe it as an RPG at all. It’s more like a board game, RPG, and acting exercise all met and threw a really screwed up party. Or had a really screwed up kid.

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November 20
2013

Tabletopping: Ashen Stars

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So far, our group has played classic fantasy in Dungeon World, modern-day supernatural in Don’t Rest Your Head, and, er, 1920s Russian ninjas in Fate Core. So where else do we turn to now…but the stars? Science fiction RPGs definitely have a history, so it was inevitable that we played one eventually. The question was which one?

I had a vague plan of what games I wanted to try, and for this session I wanted to play a game that used the GUMSHOE system. The GUMSHOE system is based on investigation and mysteries rather than dungeon-crawling and explosions (though there are plenty of those too). The choices I presented to my group were to play either Nights’ Black Agents, where you play as ex-special forces fighting vampires in a superspy setting, Mutant City Blues, where X-Men meets CSI, or the game that we ended up playing, which is Ashen Stars.

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November 13
2013

Tabletopping: Fate Core

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I sit around the table with the other players. I begin, “In this game, we can basically make up what kind of genre we want to play and what kind of world we want to play in. So, what elements do you want to be in our game?”

“Ninjas,” Rick says immediately.

“Supernatural!” says Ben.

“Russians!” says Rick.

I stare for a moment. “So…Magical Russian ninjas.”

“In the 1920s,” Noah says.

“…in the 1920s,” I confirm. “This is going to be weird as hell game.”

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