Blurbs from the Booth- Being offensive

Last weekend, I was running games at U-Con.  It’s a fun local convention near Ann Arbor, MI.  Last slot of the con and all things are going well.  I get a few people to sit at my table, and a few more people enter the room, and I wave them over gregariously yelling “There’s always room for one more!”  I start my game the standard way by asking everybody to talk about themselves.  One person asks “About my character or myself?”  I say “sure!” And my player tells the group he’s a motivational speaker for Autistic people as he’s playing a crazy Halfling rogue.  Great, we have a fun character at the table, so I’m looking forward to this game.  The game goes well.  I’m loopy from lack of sleep, so my table and I are a little slap happy and having a blast.  Until, we hear something from another table.  Another GM is talking about some NPC’s and mentioned that they were jumping around like a bunch of “spastic, autistic kids.”  I watched as my motivational speaker instantly went from having fun to pissed as he grabbed his phone to text somebody.   Whatever what said with that text can only be good things!  Right? We finished the game and had fun, but I know he was more than a little hurt by what happened.

Honestly, had I not known someone was in the room with me who would be offended, I might have said the same thing if presented with describing the same characters.  But that doesn’t really excuse that kind of offense.  We live in a pretty small world nowadays.  Not only are characters diverse, but the player base is pretty open as well.  The base rules alone mention all the different types of people you can play.  But, they don’t mention all the different types of people WHO play.  Gamers are not just white guys any more (despite what #gamergate is up to).  We’re diverse, and that diversity has some pitfalls.

What do I want you to get from all of this?  Well, keep in mind you represent.  If you’re running an RPG for the KKK (what the hell would that be?) you don’t really have to worry about who you offend.  But, in an open game at a store or a con, words can really hurt.  I know more than a few words that will get my blog destroyed by commenters (hurray traffic!), but using those words in an open game is equally as bad.  If you’re running a game for Wizards of the Coast, they want that game as open and inclusive as possible.  And saying some hurtful things will not only make you look like an ass, it will also make WotC look like an ass.  Also, keep in mind you represent you.  I’m a big, self-deprecating guy.  I make fat jokes at my own expense, but sometimes, that’s not funny to other people in the room.  Common sense and reading your audience will make your games that much better.  Not just because common sense is good to have, but because you will be as open to as many gamers as possible.  And as we become more diverse, the better we all are.

Good luck and good gaming,

Ed

Blurbs from the Booth-How I review Games

I love gaming, and spend way too much time and money doing it, but not all games are created equal. Some of my more popular blog posts have been my game reviews.  Let’s go through what I look for in a game, and what I want in each area.

 

Board Games

When I examine a board game, I look at four areas: mechanics, theme, instructions, and execution.

 

Mechanics-Board games are applying logic and people skills to better handling a situation compared to your competitors.  The way that logic works is the mechanics- mechanics covers how a game works.  Be it a deck building game, area control, dice rolls, randomocracy, or something mixed between everything, this can really make or break a game.  I like when I see several dimensions of mechanics at play.  Games like Tiny Epic Kingdoms or Trains take two  or more simple mechanics and mix them into something better like flour and eggs making a cake.  Some games do this amazingly well like Rococo.  Some games fail at doing something as basic as rummy….LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU TENTICAL BENTO!  If a game feels like it runs smoothly, then that game will most likely get a five.  If the game runs like a car on its last legs about to die on a bumpy road, that game will most likely be a one or less.

 

Theme-Theme is the story of a game.  Chess is a war between two kingdoms.  Rococo is different dressmakers vying for the most prestige at a ball.  Besides beating your friends at a game, this is the thing that will keep you playing.  If you lose the Lord of the Rings card game, you’ve not only lost, but the world will be plunged into darkness!  But, theme is hard to make happen.  It might just be a simple intro story like in Lost Legends, or it might be an ever pervasive thing that winds through the whole game like Arkham Horror.  Weaving a story into the theme is the height of game design for me.  Games that have tons of story like Eldritch Horror are great games that deserve a five for theme, while some games like euchre don’t even score a one as there is no story to the game.  As the amount of story you want is a game varies from person to person, this is consequently one of the most subject portions of my scoring.

 

Instructions-I’m a pretty smart guy.  I got me a PhD and everything!  (cue people pointing out all the grammar and spelling mistakes….)  But, if you can’t tell me how to play your magnum opus of a game, then that game is crap to me.  Getting your point across is important, but also how you do it is really key.  If you hit me with a wall of text in size 4 fonts on a plain white sheet of paper, then I’m going to hate you.  What you write has to be entertaining and informative while still being easy and fun to read.  Top marks go to games like Dungeon Petz where not only are the rules taught with lots of pictures, but there are lots of small jokes for the players.  Games like CO2 are horrible.  It is only a few pictures with several pages of just black text in three columns on white pages.  Also, if your rules are flat out wrong like pointing to a card that says weapon and discussing how armor works, you are going to make me very mad!  The original rules for The Lord of the Rings Dice Game had massive misprints that completely broke the game.  Needless to say the online rules were much better.  Pictures say a thousand words, as well as, breaking up the text.  Even if I can play your game after reading your rules, your rules still have to serve as a quick reference.  If I can’t find the rules I need even after a few plays, then those rules are still bad.  Layout, text size, text type, word choice, easy of readability, and pictures really define this section.

 

Execution-Here is my kind of catch all.  This encompasses some of the instruction that you might see on cards, the art on all the components, component quality, and even the box.  Execution is easy to mess up.  If the game is about shuffling cards, and you buy the cheapest cards you can find, then the cards will break/fold/tear and the game is crap.  Fantasy Flight games is the king of game execution.  Their games have lots of nice tokens with good quality cards.  Some games fall apart in the box like my copy of Machina Arcana which had a few warped ties and the cardboard standees for the monsters that broke or bent.  This won’t kill a game, but it will make the game more or less fun to play depending on the quality of what you get to play with.

 

Role Playing Games

RPG’s cover paradoxically more and less ground than a board game.  This category covers both a completely new game that is its own thing while also covering a short adventure for an established game.  I tend to cover both roughly the same, but some reviews are much longer because of what I have to cover.  Let’s look at the pieces that are out there.  I roughly divide my reviews on games into: mechanics or crunch, theme or fluff, and execution.

 

Mechanics or Crunch-The real solids of an RPG is its mechanics.  This is the part you will argue over with your GM.  I judge an RPG based on how well the mechanics work by themselves or work with the existing rules.  I also tend to judge the mechanics of how well the work with the story.  RPGs have to have much more focus on the story than a board game does.  Players are much more ok with just rolling dice in a Shoots in Ladders to decide how their characters move, but no role playing game person wants to play a game where all their actions are completely out of their hands without some story behind it.  Some mechanics are amazing like the simplicity of Dungeons and Dragons 5e, and those systems earn the fives I give them.  Some systems are just way to much crap like Fatal (DON’T, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LOOK THAT UP!).

 

Theme or Fluff-If something is the crunch, then the other side has to be the fluffy bits.  Theme and story are the story you play in.  You can play a simple game where you just go around and kill monsters by rolling a die and adding a number, but you won’t play that for weeks on end with your friends.  A great story is what draws players back to the table.  I judge this aspect of the story by how well the story is written and how involved I get in that story.  I love when a story draws you in and won’t let you go.  I really enjoy the theme of the second part of the Skull and Shackles adventure path.  The whole adventure path is about being a pirate, and this whole module is about having a ship, raiding other ships and being a pirate.  Weak stories just turn your players away and bore them to tears.  If you can’t keep me, the GM, in your story, then how can I be expected to keep my players in your story?

 

Execution-As with board games, this tends to be a catch all for a lot of little things.  Text size, art, layout, spacing, font, tables of information, and even the paper quality all factor into this score.  I really like how the Dungeons and Dragons 5e players hand book is laid out.  For a lot of RPG’s, I know I’m basically reading a text book about a place that doesn’t exist.  Here is where you keep me reading.  Giving me a boring list of places with little regard to art or spacing will drive me away in a flash.

 

 

This is how I judge the games I play.  I’d also like to make an aside.  I tend to give higher scores than most reviewers.  There are multiple reasons for that.  For one, I tend to like most of the games I play.  I don’t often read bad RPGs or play horrible board games.  I tend to see the best out there, but some games are bad, and I know it.  And another major factor is I don’t have time to tell my readers about the bad stuff out there.  I review one RPG and one board game a week.  Reading through 300+ pages of a horrible RPG is not only a poor investment of time; it robs me of time to read and do the things I like.  I have way too many stacks of good games and RPGs to read and play that I can’t waste the time to tell you about any bad ones.  Oh, I do play them, and sometimes I do talk about them.  But, for the most part, I just don’t have the time to spend 3-4 hours playing a bad game/10+ hours to read and play a bad RPG, and hour to write about it, an hour to (poorly) edit my writing about it, and an hour to post that around the internet.  If I’m talking about your product, then most likely I like what I see.  If I don’t, and you know I’ve seen your stuff, then maybe there is a problem we should discuss.

 

How about you?  How do you evaluate the games that come across your desk?

Blurbs from the Booth-What the Heck is a Throat Punch Games?!

Hi, I’m Dr. Edward Alan Kabara, Ph.D., and I, along with my wife, run Throat Punch Games (http://www.throatpunchgames.com).  I started Throat Punch Games after GenCon one year.  I wasn’t in a supper happy place in my life as my current job wasn’t very fulfilling, I had just moved to a town with NO board games or RPGs groups, and I just wasn’t happy.  So, I decided to be creative.  I’ve always loved RPG and board games, but I didn’t know how to make my own.  To be honest, I still might not, but after having spent the con talking to tons of the industry leaders, the best way to get into the industry was JUST START CREATING!  If you want to paint, paint.  If you want to make video games, start to program.  If you want to be something, then start to be that something.  That first few things you make will be crap (most likely).  The first cake you bake will be crappy and misshapen.  The first thing you draw will look like crap.  And, the first feats I made were not the best.  But, a master has failed more times than a beginner has even tried.  Thus, I’ve made it my (week) daily mission to develop my favorite games.  I’ll keep banging on this website till I get something awesome to fall out.  And, I invite any criticism you have!  Tell me it sucks.  Tell me I’m stupid.  Tell me exactly why what I proposed will break the game.  But, tell me your thoughts.  I’d like to know what you think.  It’s the only way I can get better.

Over time, I’ve added a few things to my weekly lineup.  Mondays, I do a board game review.  I love board games, and I figured I should put my thoughts out there on game design and the games I play.  Wednesdays, I do an RPG review.  Some days it’s a whole system and other days it’s a simple module.  Fridays….I *try* to put up an opinion piece on something.  This is one of those.  These reviews and opinion pieces are where my wife is most helpful.  I love games, but the weakest subject for me in school was always writing.  I’ve keep working on it, but it’s never going to be my favorite thing to do.  Thus, I decided to make a website where I pound out 5-10,000 words a week. (Hay, you don’t have to be a smart person to get a Ph.D., just a persistent one!)  My wife loves English and wields it like a repair man fixing all my flaws.  So, blame her for when a participle is still dangling!  I’ve also added book, video game, and movie reviews to the lineup, but those happen when I finish some media that has a relation to gaming in any way.

Where will Throat Punch Games go next?  Well, I’d like to use this website as a spring board to some industry involvement.  I’m still a scientist, and I don’t want to stop being one.  But, one day I’d like to see my name as a developer, designer, or author of some major RPG and board game products.   That’s the big goal, but I’d also like to expand the website.  First, I’d like to learn how to make this thing look better.  I’ve done some web design before.  That’s crappy hard coded HTML, not fancy Dreamweaver.  However, with some learnin’, I’m sure I can make this look better.  With the website up and running, I next plan to work on our podcast.  I’m working behind the scenes assembling the greatest geek minds I can to get a podcast up and rolling.  We’re looking to December to get the first one out the door, but this is a process and much harder than I thought.  Also, Ph.D. stand for poor, hungry doctor, and these things take money!  With an every-three-weekly podcast moving forward, I’m also working on a YouTube channel reviewing board games and RPGs.  That’s much further down the line and much more expensive as good cameras cost money!

 

Where does the name come from?

Let me reveal the secrets of where Throat Punch Games come from…for it is a tale of children, violence, and bored gamers.  My closest siblings are 18 years younger than me.  Same mother, same father, same everything, but my parents had just moved to a much larger house and wanted to finally expand the family after living in a double wide trailer for 16 years.  My sister is even younger than that as we’re over 24 years apart.  Well, one day I was at home visiting from grad school.  I was putting on my socks getting ready to go out and help with some chores.  My sister, as carefully and as stealthfuly as only a as a 4 year can manage (which is to say not at all), snuck up to my other sock on the chair, grabbed it, and hid it behind her back.  She then quietly tried to hide the fact she was walking away with her face turned to me as I stared her right in the eyes, backwards walked to a corner of the house, and throw my sock down a hall far from me.  She strode up toward me, looked me in the eye and said “Ha, Ha, socks all gone!”

I responded as an adult…by grabbing the collar of her shirt, looking her in the eye and saying, “You’re so lucky you’re cute, or I’d punch you in the throat!”

She giggled and ran away, and  I was left with a quick anecdote.   Later, when I was telling my friends about this during a Living Forgotten Realms game as I was drawing the map for an encounter, they all laughed.  This became a rallying cry for my party.  And, at the Dungeons and Dragons Expo during the battle interactive, our group was called to the center to decide the fate of the forgotten realms, and we needed a name.  Guess what name came to mind…. Announcing our group as Throat Punch! we were met with cheers. And much later when I was thinking of what the heck to call my fledgling gaming company I thought back to that con, my family, and my silly sister.

Blurbs from the Booth-What I want in the DnD Adventure League

First off, I love the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure League.  I’ve run a crap load of games and loved every minute of it.  I think I’m at least a decent GM who knows a ton of Forgotten Realms lore.  But, I need some help.  Here are I few things I think would make the Adventure League better:

 

1) Small change to the format of the adventures I know its space, but I would really love it you could give me an itemized list of the major stuff in the room/location at the top of each location right after the name and place on the map.  Like this:

Genera Features:

Mossy Cave full of gold

Traps:

None

Monsters:

1-Party one- 6 Kobolds

1 Wizard

2-Party two- Giant Dragon of death

Items:

Awesome sword of Awesomeness

All the gold ever

Why?  Well I read my adventures before every game, but when you’re going through the adventures and you have limited time like the 3.5 hours at GenCon, it’s hard to remember all the stuff that’s in a place or you have to take time and skim read the entire passage.  All the adventures WotC has put out including the Hoard of the Dragon Queen have all the important information buried in the text.  I hate having to reread a half page of text and explain to my players everything in the room that I just read and make it interesting.  Again, this isn’t hard, but a small change will really help me make sure I hit all the high notes in every adventures.

 

2) NPC mentors  My players are getting high enough to get mentors.  It might be time to consider providing NPCs who can mentor the players either through letters or items.  I don’t think these should be anywhere near as cool as real, honest to Amaunator PC mentors, but if my players don’t have one, then they won’t know how awesome one can be.  And, most likely won’t mentor other PCs in the future.

 

3) Starting above 1st level  Let’s start something really controversial!  I’d like the option to start above 1st level.  I’d like generic PCs to give players at 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th level with items and such that they could/world have gotten had they played the previous adventures but not the awesome renowned points.  The first level five and up adventures are going to roll out soon, and new players are going to come to the store and be turned away as the two groups I have at my store won’t be able to keep a level one wizard alive during a CR eight encounter.  Giving me pregens for several levels will really help.  Pathfinder does that, and it’s amazingly helpful!

 

4)World Guide Even more controversy!  Everybody I know wants a world guide.  What the heck is up with the Realms?  Who’s still a god?  Who isn’t?  Who’s pretending?  What the hell is a Phlan?  Right now, we have the old 3.5/4e stuff.  But, there was a whole Sundering book series that people didn’t read that told them about the new 5e realms.  But, none of those books really talked about Phlan.  Heck the Sword Coast got a book, but only tangentially.  My players don’t really know the state of things.  Things are up to 110 years out of date, so imagine using a 110 year old map to understand European politics today!  Don’t give me hints.  Right now my players need firm answers to what the heck is going on.  And I think most GMs do too.

 

Those are my ideas.  I love the game, but give me the proper tools and layouts and I can make my games even better!

Blurbs from the Booth-Throat Punch Games at GenCon 2014!

I was at GenCon 2014 last weekend.  I had a blast, so let’s go day by day and give you my thoughts.

 

Thursday

This day was the start to the con.  I woke up, exercised, and hit the con.  I was able to see the Geek Preacher, the people at TMG, and my friends at Arcane Wonders.  Then, it was off to work.  To even go to the con (and since I love DnD), I worked for Wizards of the Coast running games of DnD 5e.  This year I was able to get an All Access table.  All Access is a GenCon program you can enroll in that gets you a guaranteed same GM for the con, access to all the adventures DnD is running at the con, and a ton of extras gifts.  This year it was a signed copy of the DnD 5th edition Player’s handbook and a Monsters Manual over a month before it’s released to the public.  My all access table was awesome, and then I ran two regular tables.  All of that was a great time, and then I hit the hay.

Friday

Friday was my short day.  I only had two tables to run today, so I woke up, exercised, and then looked for events to sign up for.  While looking around, I found an event that only had one ticket left of 500 originally.  It cost $32, and it promised swag and board games.  Not having a clue I signed up for something called AEG Big Board Game Night.  I run my two tables (having a blast) and then headed off to the Game Night-still without a clue as to what the heck it was.  What I found out was the AEG Big Board Game Night is an event where everyone comes, plays every new board and card game AEG has out, and then gets a box of random games and the latest and greatest game from AEG at GenCon.  This year, I got a copy of Doomtown, the awesome new card game about the Deadlands, the GenCon Exclusive copy of Smash Up, Romance of the Nine Empires, and Valley of the Kings.  I played a TON of games, and had a blast.  If you get a chance, sign up!  I was lucky enough to get a ticket.  Next year, I’m signing up as soon as I can.

Saturday

Saturday was my long day.  I had an 8AM game, a 12 Noon game, and then a 6PM game.  I love DnD, but there wasn’t much time this day for any extra fun at the Con. It was an awesome day of games, culminating with the battle interactive.  I LOVE battle interactives.  I get a feeling of togetherness and of belonging when roughly 300~600 of my closest friends are all working toward a common goal.  My table was amazing.  I hit them as hard as I could, and they barely survived.  Afterwards, we all exchanged contact information, and I said good bye to my all access table.  They were a great bunch of people, and I forward to seeing and playing with them again.  I ran from that game to the Secret Gaming Cabal Podcast meet-up.  I love listening to this podcast, and at their meet-up they were giving away games, so why wouldn’t a board game and Podcast fan be there!  Last year, I won a copy of Pixel Lincoln, and this year I won a copy of Guile and This Town Isn’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us.  I wish I could have stayed longer, but I’m slowly going deaf and it was way too loud in the bar where they had the event.  I decided to grab a bit to eat then meet up with the other DnD judges to celebrate the end of a great con.

Sunday

This was my day completely off.  I started like most other days.  I worked out, ate some food, and then headed to the Christian Mass at GenCon headed up by the Geek Preacher.  I’m a Roman Catholic, but this mass is the most spiritual thing I experience every year.  It’s the one mass I don’t skip out early after communion.  This is a community I WANT to be part of.  If your Christian and at GenCon, its free and an excellent use of your time.  Plus, anytime a mass mentions Dr. Who, you know it’s going to be a wild ride.  Check it out here http://ow.ly/AxTsM Then I hit the main floor.  I played a bunch of Stronghold Game’s games hoping to bet a half price Voluspa for playing five games, but while I was playing my game, they sold out.  Buonocore!  I’LL GET MY COPY OF VOLUSPA ONE DAY!  AND NOW I HAVE TO BUY PANAMAX ALSO!  It was fun, but then I hit the rest of the floor and meandered around.  I saw a few friends, made a few minor purchases, and then went home.  I can’t wait till next year!

 

Next Year’s Geek Goals

Last year, I wrote down my geek goals.  I got some done and some I didn’t.  Let’s write down next year’s goals and this year we will add dates to help guide what I’m doing!

  • Daily posts to Throat Punch Games-That’s been going well
  • Monday board game reviews-Going well, too.
  • Wednesday RPG reviews-Again going well, and lots of fun
  • Friday opinion pieces-I’ve been ok, but I need to be better about this.
  • Fix up Throat Punch Games-Site looks like crap, so I’m going to make it look pretty-goal-October
  • Kick off a podcast-I want to get a few of my friends together to record a biweekly podcast-goal-November
  • Kick off youtube review/instructions/unboxing videos-I’d like to move into reviews on youtube, and I’m hoping to do one every three weeks-goal-January
  • Get writing more-I’ve been doing lots of reviews for my site, but I haven’t written many adventures. I’m going to submit more adventures for publication
  • A PDF of Throat Punch Games on Drive Through RPG-We’re going to make a nice PDF of all of my ideas-goal-March.
  • Post every game I play on Board Game Geek-Check my progress!
  • Daily RPG suggestions on Twitter-I love RPGs, and I ‘ve been thinking about writing ideas/suggestions for the RPGs and groups. Let’s see what Throat Punch Games can do to help the RPG world in 100 characters? Goal-one week!
  • KEEP PLAYING!

 

So those are my goals.  What do you think?  Like what I got?  Hate what I’m doing?  You tell me!

Blurbs from the Booth-The Price of Admission

I saw a thread on ENWorlds discussing how much you would pay at a hobby shop vs. how much you pay online.  I thought about that for a quite a while and I think I’d pay a lot.  Let’s give some examples and thoughts that go with that.

I don’t expect my store to just be a store.  The store is a place I hang out.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I want to make gaming happen.  Gaming is a major part of my life.  I spend lots of money buying games, lots of my time reading/learning games, and lots of my life running games at stores and cons.  My store is a part of my home.  I expect a friendly place where people know who I am, who care that I’m doing well gaming and in my life, and a place that wants me to be there running games.  I know that the store manager/owner is there because on some level he/she has to make money to eat and pay rent, but I also want him/her to be there because they love comics and gaming.  I want that person to want to make games happen too.

I need that store person to need gaming in their life too.  If you are just in the comics/gaming world to make a buck, leave.  That’s not insulting, it’s an economic reality!  There are much better ways to make a buck in this world that requires much less energy.  Franchising out McDonald’s are a much better investment.  Game stores die within the first year all the time, and you can’t just run that store 9 to 5.  I don’t know about you, but 9 to 5 is when I’m working.  So, any place that will give me time to play has to have their store open from 6 to 10.  So the shop keep is looking at a 13 hour day to deal with my crap!

I realize all of this.  I realize that these men and women are working their asses off.  Sure, running a store isn’t as physically exhausting as, say, 13 hours of manual labor like heavy construction of houses.  But it’s at least mentally draining since these people have to dance a hard dance to make all the bills happen while keeping the lights on and dealing with entitled gamers/comic fans all day.

Online shopping is great, but I have NO loyalty to anyone out there.  Sure, I’ll sign up for your discount program.  Yeah, give me your newsletter.  Fine, I’ll friend you on Facebook.  But I do not care about you.  You are a means to an end.  If my only interaction with you is to check a few boxes and have PayPal hand my money to you, then you are no better than any other http place to me.  I don’t feel you care.  You’re just a means to an end.  Amazon, you, any other of the dozens of sites I know, you’re all the same.  You may be much more, but if I’m not helping someone I know needs help in the gaming industry, it’s hard to know if you do or don’t care.

Cons are no better.  I’ll see some con vendors two times a year.  I’ll make some small talk, but I don’t owe any loyalty to you either.  You’re at this con to make some money.  Cons are high profile places where lots of geeks gather.  And you can make a ton of money fast if you know what you’re doing, and you brought the right stuff.  However, I will haggle with you.  Honestly, I will walk up to vendors with my cell phone in one hand and my debit card in the other.  If my local guy/gal can’t get an item, then any con seller is as good as Amazon.  So, if you, the con vendor, can’t meet Amazon’s price, that item can be at my house in two days (prime shipping is awesome!).  Same goes for some companies.  If you are big enough to have a giant booth at GenCon, I have no problems haggling with you.  The smaller companies get a pass, generally, but I have no problems haggling with the semi-large ones unless you’ve earned my loyalty.  If a company has proven time and time again that they are great to their customers, like Fantasy Flight with its rock solid customer support or Wizards of the Coast with its FREE open play programs, then I will not try to fight them on price.  In either case, I expect a deal at a con.  At a con you’re cutting out all the middle men.  If you want to get more money from cutting out those people, then I expect to get a break too.  If you sell for 80% at a con, your still ~40% more then you normally get.  I know this, you know this, now let’s make a deal!

But, when I find a local store that gives me its time/play space, friendship, and a passion for gaming, they get my money.  If you treat me with respect, I’ll put quite a number of hours into making your store the best store I can find.  I’ll run my games there, post about it on Facebook, tweet upon my Twitter, and overall make you a part of my life.  And, for the feelings I get from your store, I’ll pay full price.  I won’t screw around asking for discounts (but giving them to me does help keep me loyal!).  I won’t be an ass and haggle over small things.  I’ll show up every week, pay for my orders, even though I know I’m losing money vs. online shopping, and I will do that with a smile on my face.  That is the price of admission to these places and the feelings and support we gamers get there.

Blurbs from the Booth-The End of the Sundering

I just finished reading the Sundering series for the Forgotten Realms.  I’ve reviewed them all Here:

Book 1- https://throatpunchgames.com/2013/11/14/book-bout-the-companions-the-sundering-book-1/

Book 2- https://throatpunchgames.com/2013/11/14/book-bout-the-godborn-the-sundering-book-2/

Book 3- https://throatpunchgames.com/2014/01/22/book-bout-book-review-of-the-sundering-book-iii-the-adversary/

Book 4- https://throatpunchgames.com/2014/03/16/book-bout-book-review-of-the-sundering-book-iv-the-reaver/

Book 5- https://throatpunchgames.com/2014/04/18/book-bout-book-review-of-the-sentinel-the-sundering-book-v/

Book 6- https://throatpunchgames.com/2014/07/27/book-bout-book-review-of-the-herald/

 

Now that it’s done, what do I think?  Let’s answer a few yes/new questions to keep thing simple (somewhat…):

Will I read more Forgotten Realms Books: yes*

Am I happy with what the Sundering did to the Realms: no**

Do I think the Sundering is a good way to bring new people into FR: yes***

Did you think the Sundering novels had a formula: yes

If you thought the Sundering novels had a formula, did you like it: no****

Are you still a Forgotten Realms fan: yes

Will you run Forgotten Realms games in the future: yes

Was the number of novels appropriate for the setting: no****

Are you glad you read these novels: yes

 

 

How about you?  Have you read the Sundering?  What did you think?  Fill out my survey above and tell me what you thought!

 

*-I was invested in the Realms before.  It was the first real fantasy setting I was part of, so its got a place in my heart.  Some of the books really made me happy to be reading them.  Others….I more suffered through.  I still don’t really like Drizzit, but for some of the new characters, I would like to learn more about them.

 

**-The Sundering, to a large extent, treated the fourth edition Forgotten Realms as a mistake.  I LOVED the fourth edition Forgotten Realms!  But, then again, I loved fourth edition.  For the most part, anything that was novel (pun intended) about the Realms was washed away by the Sundering.  I can deal with that, but since I spent a lot of time and energy to learn and loved that material, it felt like a small slap in the face.

 

***-This really varied book by book.  Some books did an excellent job introducing established people and the Forgotten Realms as a whole.  Some books made even me, who has read 20 to 30 of these novels, not know who the author was talking about.

 

****-The formula to me was: 1)introduce some established people/make some people, 2) introduce the setting 3)introduce a problem for the people in the setting 4)change the setting back to 3.5 Forgotten Realms to fix the problem .  I didn’t think FR was broken, so I don’t like some solutions.  Seeing everything you’ve learned about and cared about changed to move things back to where they were was somewhat saddening.  I have the same problem with comics.  Comics are a sine wave.  If you pick any point on a sine wave, and draw a parallel line to the horizon, you will eventually hit a point exactly as far from zero on the wave again.  To you the wave never changed if you have those two points as your reference.  Comics are the same way: Spider-Man is married-single-then married, Wolverine is alive-dead-alive,  People are on a team-kicked off-back on.  Nothing changes.  You don’t want to rock the formula that works for the comics.  Fourth edition changed things.  Now, it’s back to where it was again.  I don’t want things to change if the change doesn’t matter.  Why bother making things different if they can’t stay different?  No one grows or evolves if everything goes right back to where it started.

 

*****-What I would have loved to see at the end of the sundering was a setting guide.  I’ve heard this complaint repeated several times.  I want to know how things are in the world.  I have a few points of light at best as to what is going on, but for the most of the realms, I don’t have a clue.  I want to jump back into the realms with both feet!  Let’s start gaming!

Blurbs from the Booth- All good things….

It’s been a hell of few weeks full of a great many endings.  I just started a new job/ended an old one, I finished the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, my friends and I finished the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path, and my online play by forum just finished.  I’ve really enjoyed all those things, so I’m kind of sad to see them go.  Let’s go through these changes (I’ll leave out the job, but it’s part of the changes in my life).

My wife and I have been playing through the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game together.  I played the paladin, and she played the druid.  Those two were a dream team as we only timed out of one encounter the whole way through the card game.  It was a blast, and I’ve reviewed them at http://www.throatpunchgames.com.  It’s sad to see it go, but I hope to see things improve.  The mechanics were great, but some tweaks would really help.  I would like a bit more variability between the scenarios and a lot more theme.  The game had some decent variety, but overall, the game was light with regard the story.  When I started listening to the audio dramas, I was able to really put the parts of the scenarios together.  Sad to see the game go, but I’m looking forward to the sequel- Skull and Shackles!

Speaking of, the next thing that just ended was the Skull and Shackles adventure path.  We’ve been playing this for at least two years, every other week.  We had a great group, but had out share of problems: power-gaming, high level play, absences, player interactions, and the general stress that comes from a long campaign.  We had a blast, but some parts of the story stood out like being pirates on the high seas.  Some parts were boring such as the fetch quests that happened in the third adventure.  It was a fun, and I did learn a few things especially about being a DM and Pathfinder in general.  I’m glad I had some great friends to play this path so I could learn and grow as a DM.

The last gaming thing that ended in my life recently was my first play by post game.  I had always wanted to play via a forum.  It was a blast!  I played in a All Flesh Must be Eaten game at http://www.boardgamegeeks.com.  At the start of this year, the Play by Post community organized a giant push to start a bunch of play by post games.  I got to learn the ropes from a bunch of great guys and gals.  Now, I might not have been the best player out there but I did get to learn at the feet of some greats.  It wasn’t the semi-fast pace of a table top RPG game, but I did have fun going to come check my account and see who else posted while I was out.  It was a bit different getting used to having to remember what happened across months instead of minutes!  Because of this, I now run my own play by post game at http://www.paizo.com.  I’m going to keep playing play by post from now on.

It’s sad to see things go.  I loved being part of the play by post group, hanging out with my wife, and playing pirates with my friends.  But, I have two things from those times:  memories and experience.  I have all the great times I spent with my friends, and I’ve grown as a player and as a DM. While I might be sad that some things have gone, I’m excited about what happens next!

Blurbs from the Booth- My time at Origins 2014  

I went to Origins, and this time I worked for Catalyst game labs.  How about we do a day by day run down of what I did, and what I thought.

 

Wednesday

This is a short day.  I got there around 5 PM, and I ran the quick demo table for Shadowrun.  I would run players through 20-40 minute Shadowrun demos and quick games of Shadowrun: Crossfire.  The quick demo table was loads of fun and, I got to play an awesome new game.

After that short shift, Catalyst had a closed meeting with all their grunts to discuss what was coming in the next year.  It’s always eye opening to see how the business of my fun/entertainment works.  Then, I got a goodie bag with a nice bowling shirt with the Catalyst logo on it.  Great times!  How about my thoughts on Shadowrun: Crossfire?  Sure!

Super Short Review of Shadowrun: Crossfire– The game is pretty good, but a little simple.  It’s a deck building game over multiple scenarios.  Each card has icons on the bottom focusing on either magic (blue), weapons (black), social (red), or technology(green).  For the beginner scenario, every player gets an obstacle card with a series of icons and numbers on the top like Red icon/3/Green icon/2.  Players take turns playing cards to use the card’s icons to solve the obstacles in front of each player following the order of icon on the obstacle card.  Continuing the example obstacle above: player one plays a red card and then three random cards with one icon each to solve the next two parts of the obstacle card.  On player two’s turn, he plays one card with an electronic icon, but can’t solve the problem so the problem damages him if it’s in front of him.  On player three’s turn, she plays two random cards for their icons, solves the problem, and all the players get a little money based on how much the obstacle is worth.

It’s a simple, fun game.  I like it, but I would like it to be a bit more complex.  Then again, I also only played a single, simple demo box example having read the rules about three minutes before I thought them.  I expect more to come from the real box along with being able to build up your characters and more deck customization.  I’m going to buy this thing like crazy.  Two things come to mind: 1) It’s Shadowrun, and my main problem with Shadowrun currently is there isn’t enough Shadowrun!  So, I’m getting this because it’s Shadowrun.  2) It’s a co-op game, and that is always fun.  Nothings is better on a cold MI winter night than curl up by the gaming table with the wife and play some co-op games.  I’m looking forward to this one.

Thursday

Thursday started the con for real!  My job at this con was “Interactive Demo.”  Apparently I’m friendly and approachable?!  The Interactive Demo is a three person team that does a short (~15 minute) demo of Shadowrun.  Shadowrun has the ~completely~ undeserved reputation of being an unapproachable math nightmare, and it was my job to make that not true.  Catalyst made an amazing demo location by making a 10 foot high by 10 foot in diameter fabric tube.  The outside of the tube is the Seattle 2075 skyline, but the inside is the amazing part.  It’s the GM screen brought to life!  10 feet tall pictures of all the main antagonist set in the hottest bar in the future!  If you get the chance to do the demo in the future, DO IT!  Here is what the demo is.  One person brings you by and explains the Shadowrun world quickly and gives you a pregen character (YES PREGENS!  I love them, so SHUT UP THE PREGEN HATE!).  Next, you try to enter the club, but more often than not, you get accosted by the second person at the demo, the bouncer.  The bouncer makes you feel like you’re in the world and gets you to start role-playing right away.  After that, inside the tube is “Mr. Johnson.”  I cosplayed a frantic Ares elf scientist or a refined Horizon’s PR troll.  Here you got to the real meat of the game.  You meet Mr. Johnson, play really quickly, and have a blast.  I had a great time and showed a lot of people the glory that is Shadowrun.  But, eight hours on your feet is killer!  I finished my day with a nap then a work out.

Friday

Payday in the real world, so time to buy some con stuff!  Started off the day with working out, then another eight hours of interactive demo awesomeness!  Had a blast doing that and played a whole bunch of Shadowrun with a bunch of new players.  After my shift, I bought all my con events for the weekend, and then  I attended the Secret Gaming Cabal Podcast meet up and meet with a friend from MI.  I dragged him into a demo of Francis Drake.  That lasted till midnight.

Super Short Francis Drake Review- Francis drake is actually two games in one.  One is resource gathering, and the second is blind betting.  In game one, players take turns moving along a dock.  Each spot in the dock is a different resource they need for their travels and to overcome different obstacles at sea.  The interesting thing is you can never move backwards along the dock. You could skip to the last place on the dock as your first move.  If you finish first, you get to place first in the second game, but you have fewer resources.  In the second game, you place discs upside down with different priorities numbers 1-4 on different spaces to spend your resources for points from the first game.  Once all the discs are placed, players resolve their actions in number and then boat order i.e.  All the 1’s resolve, then the 2’s etc…  No one knows what priority you placed on any particular location, so a little bluffing goes a long way.  Player with the most points wins after three rounds.

It’s an interesting game.  I loved what I saw.  It was fun with lots of components, but the person who explained it to us was just a little off on the rules.  That made life a little hard as we kind of screwed up who won and how to play.  I want to pick this game up, but it’s going to have to be via Amazon as its $80 at the con!

Saturday

Another day of waking up, exercise, and running Shadowrun interactive demo.  Working for Catalyst was a blast, and I look forward to doing it later.  But, it’s now my free time to enjoy the rest of the con.  I started by going to the Munchkin Tavern and spun the wheel for some free dice and playing a little Munchkin at a bar with some random people.

With an evening free I played two games.  The first was Zombiecide.  I smell a quick rundown…

Super Short Review Zombiecide- Zombiecide is a co-op game for one to six players.  Players are all trying to survive the zombie apocalypse through different scenarios.  Each turn, players get a number of actions that range from move, attack, search, open door, or other scenario specific things.  As players kill zombies, they gain experience.  When they get enough experience, new options open up for the characters as they level up.  After character actions, zombies move or attack.  Then, each zombie spawn point spawns zombies.  Here is the innovative part of this game.  At the start of the game, only a few zombies spawn.  However, as the players level up, more zombies spawn.  In fact, the player with the highest level determines how many zombies spawn, so LEVEL UP SMART and TOGETHER!  Players have two hit points.  One wound-you take a card that sits in your inventory, but two wounds-you’re dead! Each scenario determines how you win.  Our game was just get to the exit.

It’s a fun game, but it does seem like it will get kind of stale quick without a bunch of scenarios and expansions.  I had a blast, but the people who I played with were pretty cool and we all played smart/well together.

 

After Zombiecide, I moved to the Eagle Games area and played a game of Rococo.  I just wandered in, but I found some friends from AnCon.  They are a great group of guys who are working on their own game.  Another short review?  Sure!

Super Short Review of Rococo- In Rococo, you play a group of tailors trying to set up and gain the most renowned at a ball.  In terms of the game, it’s almost five games in one!  Each turn you select a number of cards (worker selection), you then take turns deciding which workers get to do which action (worker placement), one action is getting more workers ( deck building), and another action is to build dresses and either place them in the hall (area/terrain control) or sell them for money.  Each turn, you get your three actions/cards and any other cards you bought this round.  After each round, new people cards, dresses, and resources come into play.  The person with the most points at the end of the game is the best dress makers around!

I loved this game from start to end.  It was amazingly close in scoring with lots of different paths to victory.  Even though it was 10 at night on a day I’d been up since 6AM, I felt my brain just frantic with different ideas on what to do each turn!

Sunday

Sad day!  The con ends today, so I had to pack up and say good bye.  However, it was my day to hit the dealer’s room!  Today was hard ball!  I stopped by the Catalyst area to say hi, and then I went to WORK.  I made stops all over, and got some great deals.  I was able to haggle a little and get a great deal on Boss Monster!  Then, I bought Knuckle Sammich from 9th Level (All Hail King Torg!).  I moved on and bought a copy of the convention area exclusive map for Trains.  I spent a while talking with the guys at Eagle games and got a great deal on a combo of Rococo, Fleet, and some fish meeples.  Heck I was even able to pick up a copy of Roll through the Ages from a kickstarter with this guys.  I also went to the Dice Hate Me booth and bought a copy of Carnival.  That one was a no brainer as Dice Hate Me was giving a huge discount over the MSRP on the last day of the con!  TAKE NOTE PEOPLE WHO SELL GAMES!  IF YOU GIVE ME A DEAL ON THE LAST DAY OF THE CON, IT WILL OVERRIDE LOGIC IN MY BRAIN, AND I WILL SPENT WAY TOO MUCH ON YOUR STUFF!  I also made some deals with Gamelyn Games and bought a copy of both fantasy Frontier and the expansion to Dungeon Heroes and netted some extra minis.  I was even able to talk to the Asmodee guys and get a discount on the Seasons expansions since they were the demo copies for the con.  Having spent way too much, I then wanted to get a few more games in and I went to Stronghold games and tried Voluspa.  That was an awesome tile laying game.  Too bad they ran out of the expansion for that, or I might have spent a bit more.  If you guys have a combo pack at Gen Con for the base and the expansion, I’m in!  Next, I found a random group playing Tanto Cuore.  I’ve never played before, so I joined it.  Tanto Cuore is what happens if you mix a fantasy maid anime with Dominion.  Not bad, but … know your theme before you go in!  The game ended up in a tie with me and the person demoing the game.  After that, it was a short four hour drive to MI to go home and see the wife and puppy.  God, this was a great con!

 

I can’t wait to go back next year.  I’m looking forward to working with the men and women of Catalyst to run some more games next year at the show.  I got to demo some awesome RPGs, play some great games, and make some amazing friends.  I love the Origins show a lot as it’s small enough that everybody gets to know one another.  This was a great time!

Blurbs from the Booth- Growing Older, not Up

I recently turned 31, and it’s been an interesting 31 years.  Let’s see how my love of geekdome has changed over the years…..

Prioritizing Video Games

One of the hard parts of growing up is finding time.  I’ve become an adult, and it’s boring.  No not the parts of life where you become more responsible for everything, or the part where I’m a semi-successful researcher.  But, the part where you have to prioritize your time.  There just isn’t time to sit and play every game that comes on the market.  Heck, there isn’t time to play all the games I have!  I’ve come see all the new games on the market as very repetitive.  Call of Duty whatever and Battlefield just seem like two sides of the same coin.  It’s too boring for me to play the same game every year.  If you want to get my attention, you have to innovate or tell me an excellent story.  I LOVED Bioshock Infinite.  Sure it was a pretty middle of the road shooter, but man, that story kept me glued to my seat.  I’ve been sitting on Black Ops 1 for the longest time, and honestly, I don’t plan to start playing that any time soon.  Bravely Default?  Yep, playing that right now before I go to bed each night.  It’s now story or innovation.

 

RPGs > Board Games > Video Games

            Now this next one is hard to explain.  It’s like choosing between my children!  But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I love video games less and less. Oh, I still play, and when I get hooked, I’ll do the standard geek thing and play 20 hours straight.  But, if I’m given time, I tend to spend it doing RPGs over anything else.  Then, it’s board games, and finally, video games.  I guess it has to do with how I interact with others.  I see RPGs and board games as having a high degree of social interaction, but video games just don’t have the same level.  I know some strong friendships and relationships are forged online.  However, for me, it’s all about seeing the other person and talking about the game or even life in general.  I have a quote on my library wall “The best memories are made around the table”, and I hold that to heart.

 

Time > Money

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to earn more money.  10 year old me would be thrilled by being able to pick up any game (board, tabletop, and video) that I want the day it comes out.  Now, I’ve got house payments and bills, but even after all that, I’ve still got a bit of disposable income.  However, what 10 year old me had in spades was free time.  31 year old me has to go to work and spends his time organizing other things.  31 year old Ed just doesn’t have all the free time.  I’ve got stacks of video games, board games, RPGs, movies, comics, and a full steam library that I don’t have time to read, play, or do!  No matter how much I earn, I can’t earn time!  It’s taken a long time to learn this, but I understand why so many people drop out of the hobby.  I mean, heck, I don’t even have kids, and I don’t have time!

 

Geekvangalism

            I used to try to just get three other guys (and I mean guys!) together and start a home game.  We would meet in our secret area and just play by ourselves.  I’ve come to see that that’s not what I want any more.  I consider myself a geekvangalist-I want to spread my love of various geek cultures to as many people as I can.  I’m not pushy, but I try to get new people to try what I love.  Or better yet, try anything geeky.  I want as many people to play as possible.  Geek is chic now, but most people don’t know where to begin.  I want to be one of the people who introduce people where to start and give them a description of what’s out there.

 

Story > Mechanics

I now see that the mechanics of the game are much less important than the stories the system tells.  I used to love carrying over 20 3.x books around to whatever convention I was running games at to make sure that everybody knows how to play.  I love knowing minute details about each system and debating how the mechanics of action X were wrong.  I am done with that now.  I just don’t care about the small details anymore.  I’m tired of fiddly bits on a system.  I want a nice and trim system to carry my games.  I am still a card carrying member of the cult of the new.  I buy way too many things that I might never be able to get too.  But, I don’t want to spend an hour of my Saturday night debating if a goblin could grab me based on it being half underwater when it did so.  When a system is just too rules heavy, I see the system as bloated.  Give me some nice, simple  trip rules, and I’ll be happy.

 

Goals

I didn’t start being a major geek until I was in grad school.  Yes, I did play video games in high school, but I didn’t start board games and RPGs till late college.  Before, I just considered them a fun distraction.  But now, I consider them a part of my life goals.  I would like to write for a major company and add to their product line.  Now, this isn’t a goal of being complete freelancer, but I would like to have some hand in some of the games I love.  These things have given me many hours of joy, so I would like to give back to my community.

 

 

That’s where I am today.  It’s been a fun ride getting older as a gamer.  I’ve made some great friends who I see only one a year at GenCon.  Heck, I even met my wife on Yahoo Personals because she said she love DnD.  I plan to keep being a gamer, a dork, and a geek.  Can’t wait to see what happens next!