My 2016 in gaming

Time for data analysis, because I’m a nerd!

Unsurprisingly, my gaming in 2016 was affected by my health issues. I had medical appointments, minimal energy, and because of a suppressed auto-immune system, I avoided large gatherings like conventions and in-store game days. The only convention I attended was my beloved Big Bad Con in October, and I still had to have regular naps in my hotel room! The games I did play, I tended to play repeatedly at home, online, or with a small group of close friends. The length and complexity of games I could play was often reduced — even the size, since we played games with a small footprint on a surgical tray in the infusion room during chemotherapy!

By December 31, I still ended up with 47 different games in my list, down from 62 in 2015.  Let’s start with some summary numbers:

2016_in_gamingMy game types were divided between about 55% tactical and strategic play (2 miniatures games, 13 board games, 11 card games for a total of 26 different titles) and 45% narrative play (19 role-playing games, 2 storytelling games, and no live-action role-playing game this year, for a total of 21 titles). This does not reflect the respective amount of time or number of instances I played each; I have not been tracking this level of detail.

  • Games I labelled “storytelling” rather than “role-playing” included Fiasco and Downfall.
  • The distinctions between board games and miniatures games or board games and card games can be blurry, such as in games like Yggdrasil or  The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game.

Some 28 of these 47 different games (60%) were new to me: I had never played them before 2016. And of these new games, 5 were playtests (18% of the new games or 11% of the year’s total.)

To my chagrin, only 6 (13%) included at least one woman among the designers (Megan Bennett-Burks, Emily Care Boss, Peggy Chassenet, Caroline Hobbs, Anna Kreider, and Emma Larkins.) I’m unable to track persons of colour among designers, though I believe there are a few (e.g., Christopher Badell, I think?) I want to do better in supporting diversity.

I also rated each game subjectively, from 1 to 5 stars:

  • Among the 19 games I had played before, the average rating was 4.0 — no surprise there — with my favourites being Night Witches and Sentinels of the Multiverse, each scoring 5 stars.
  • Among the 28 new games, the average was of course a little lower, 3.4; my favourite new games were Masks and Venture City, each rating 4.5 stars, and my least favourite were Exploding Kittens and Haiku Warrior, each earning only 1 star.

I played with a total of 46 different people, 21 of which were new to me (46%.)

Here is what my list of games looked like (after the cut): Continue reading “My 2016 in gaming”

How my “51 in 15” turned out

A year ago Epidiah Ravachol came up with a game-related New Year’s resolution: play 51 different tabletop games in 2015 (he used the hashtag #51in15). He included all sorts of games: role-playing, card games, board games, miniatures games, etc., counting each title only once, no matter how many times he played it over the course of the year. A few days later Epidiah expanded on his resolution and posted cool badges for various challenges. I liked the idea and I started keeping track of my games in a spreadsheet.  By December 31, I exceeded the target, ending up with 62 different games in my list.  Let’s start with some summary numbers:

51in15types-piechart

My game types were divided about equally between tactical and strategic play (5 miniatures games, 12 board games, 13 card games for a total of 30) and narrative play (25 role-playing games, 6 storytelling games, and one live-action role-playing game or LARP, for a total of 32).

  • For clarification of the latter, games I labelled “storytelling” rather than “role-playing” included The Quiet Year, Fiasco, Monster Draft, Durance, Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn, and Bluebeard’s Bride. But honestly, the difference is subjective — I was only trying to explore the data for patterns.
  • Similarly, the distinctions between board games and miniatures games or board games and card games can be blurry, such as in games like Robo Rally, Galactic Strike Force, or The Grizzled.

Regarding some categories Epidiah created badges for:

  • I played 16 different games that play under 30 minutes (such as the Mint Tin games, Coup, or Hanabi.)  Five were board games and 11 were card games.
  • I played (or ran as game-master) 16 different games with more than five players. Of these, one was a card game, one was a board game, two were storytelling games and 12 were RPGs.
  • Seven were designed by a woman: two of these were storytelling games and five were RPGs.  I wish that count was higher and I will keep working at it.
  • I had a horse in the race!  I ran several games of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus at conventions.

But here is the thing that I’m really proud of:

  • No less than 44 of these 62 different games (71%) were new to me: I had never played them before 2015.
  • And of these new games, 9 were playtests (20.5% of the new games or 14.5% of the year’s total.)

Here is what my list looked like (after the cut): Continue reading “How my “51 in 15” turned out”

The Dystopian Universe RPG!

DURPG-Cover-Mockup-600pxHuzzah, I can finally talk about this project.  I’m project manager for Evil Hat Productions on a new dark science-fiction role-playing game powered by Fate Core. The setting is The Dystopian Universe, licensed from Travis Worthington at Indie Boards & Cards, and you may be familiar with it as the setting for several other games including The Resistance, Coup, Coup: Reformation, Coup: Rebellion G54, One Night Revolution, etc.

The game is written by Anna Meade and Brian Engard, with system development by J.D. Yearsley.  Applications for the first public playtest just opened today and will remain open through November 30.  (Here is a link to the application form.)

Corruption. Betrayal. Intrigue. Just another day in Paris Nouveau.

In a cyberpunk, dystopian future, the citizens of Paris Nouveau are no more than indentured servants. Virtual reality has come at a cost they can never pay, a tradeoff of freedom for technology. But there are freedom fighters who reject the system, unplugging from the illusion and working to make things right once again. They are La Résistance. Rise up and defy the corporations in the Dystopian Universe RPG, set in the same universe as The Resistance, Coup, and One Night Revolution from Indie Boards & Cards.

The Dystopian Universe RPG is a stand-alone game that uses a customized version of the Fate System. Within these pages, you’ll find:

  • Playsheets for nine character archetypes with tie-ins to the cards found in other Dystopian Universe games
  • New aspect rules to help reflect the intrigue of the Dystopian Universe, where no one is exactly what they seem
  • Two new systems to help GMs escalate conflicts based on character actions: blowback and the Vigilance Track
  • New equipment rules using Fate points from a character or from their supporters at La Résistance.
  • A streamlined modular system for creating missions, along with sample missions to get you started

The Dystopian Universe RPG: Vive La Résistance!

I borrow Epidiah’s “51 in 15” resolution

Playing at ECG

Update: Epidiah expanded on his resolution and posted cool badges for various challenges! (Jan. 12, 2015)

Epidiah Ravachol came up with a game-related New Year’s resolution: play 51 different tabletop games in 2015 (he uses the hashtag #51in15). He includes all sort of games: role-playing, card games, board games, miniatures games, etc., counting each title only once, no matter how many times he plays it over the course of the year. I don’t know if I can get to that many, but I like the idea and I started keeping track of my games. The holidays gave me a head start, getting together with friends from out-of-town to play games. I started a spreadsheet to keep track and I will report at the end of the year.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Progression

Sentinel of the MultiverseMy husband and I encountered Sentinels of the Multiverse (published by Greater Than Games) for the first time in 2014—i.e., after everyone else—and we immediately loved it. It is a superhero-themed cooperative game, easy to learn and with fantastic replay value.

Also in 2014, we started replacing movie- or television-watching during dinner time with board games instead: some that got a lot of mileage included Mice & Mystics (Plaid Hat Games), Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert (GameWright), Zeppelin Attack! (Evil Hat Productions), Galactic Strike Force (Greater Than Games), Smash Up (Alderac Entertainment Group), and a smattering of others.

But our most-played was hands-down Sentinels of the Multiverse, which prompted us to get the Infernal Relics/Rook City expansion and the decks for heroes Unity and The Scholar, villains Miss Information and Ambuscade, and the Silver Gulch 1883 and Final Wasteland environments. (I’m sure we’ll get other expansions in 2015…)

We usually played with two heroes each, one of us also handling the villain deck and the other the environment deck. We worked our way through all the villains we had available a few times, then encountered them again in Advanced mode until we had managed to beat them all. (I think Citizen Dawn was the toughest in Advanced mode.)

We tried playing with three heroes a few times, but it broke the convenient back-and-forth of alternating turns between Edmund and I, so for our next challenge we decided to start tackling villains using only two heroes. We started during the holidays; so far, Expatriette and Nightmist have beaten Baron Blade in the Realm of Discordia; then Ra and Tempest beat Omnitron in Wagner Mars Base, and Ambuscade in Insula Primalis.

Now we’re done with the wimpy villains—things are about to get tough! Our own ratings for the villains’ increasing difficulty, different from the official ones:

  1. Baron Blade, Omnitron, Ambuscade
  2. The Ennead, Plague Rat, Spite, Apostate, Gloomweaver,
  3. Akash’bhuta, Grand Warlord Voss, Miss Information
  4. Citizen Dawn, The Matriarch, The Chairman

Expatriette Ra_0 Tempest

Update: On 1/11 Ra and Tempest beat Gloomweaver to a pulp in Silver Gulch 1883, and on 1/12, they squeaked to a victory over Apostate in the Ruins of Atlantis, with Ra incapacitated two turns from the end and Tempest ending with 1 HP!

Update #2: Last night Ra and Tempest beat Spite on Wagner Mars Base. Ra was not ideal, Haka would have been a better choice here, but we still managed it on the second try.

Update #3: Epic victory against Plague Rat tonight for Haka and Tempest, in the Realm of Disco(rd). At one point both heroes were at 2-3 HP left, afflicted with “Infection” and Plague Rat was back at full health with half a dozen Ongoings. Then the moment we’d been waiting for arrived: the Distortion “Imbued Vitality” came into play, so all ongoings suddenly had 6 HP and were the lowest villain targets. Haka used “Punish the Weak” and destroyed them all. Shortly before that, Tempest had just managed to put two copies of “Cleansing Downpour” in play. From then on we slowly crept up on Plague Rat, but then we started worrying that we would have to shuffle the villain trash—and bring back all the Infection cards. We finished him on his last card!

Christmas Cheers and Holiday Haul

After our homey Christmas Eve, we slept in on Christmas Day. In the (late) morning, Edmund baked his contribution to the get-together later that day: another recipe from Where People Feast, Pacific macaroni and cheese… a deceptive title for a scrumptious baked pasta dish filled with fresh crab meat. It smelled so good, I started hoping San Francisco would be snowed in within the next half-hour so we could justify staying home and eating the whole dish!

Then we exchanged some stocking stuffers, and we headed out with the steaming dish to have Christmas lunch-dinner-feast at our friends’ Steve W. and Dorene with a bunch of other friends and family. As usual, everyone had brought wonderful dishes to share and Steve W. had cooked up a storm. It was a day of comfortable conversation, friendship, good food, and bad puns.

After exchanging gifts with our friends, we came home not too late because (1) we wanted to exchange the rest of our presents to each other, (2) I wanted to avoid seasonal drunk drivers as much as possible, and (3) our hosts had to fly out to a wedding on the 26.

We were quite pleased with the presents we gave, they seemed to hit the mark. And as usual, I received way more than I should, from people who know my tastes well. First, the “us” presents:

World of Dew coverEdmund got us a role-playing game right up my alley which I had somehow missed, Ben Woerner’s World of Dew (Woerner’s Wunder Werks). Happily for us, even though we had missed the Kickstarter campaign this spring, the good folks at EndGame had not, and they had ordered several retailer copies so that Edmund found this and brought it home. It is in turn based on John Wick’s game Blood and Honor (John Wick Presents), which I had also missed—in this case because it was released during our moratorium on all non-essential purchases. Both are beautiful books illustrated with vintage Japanese prints.

Usagi Yojimbo Saga trade paperback cover, vol.1To go with this, Edmund also got us volume 1 of the 30-tear anniversary Usagi Yojimbo compilation (Dark Horse Comics). We’re both fans of the long-eared ronin, it will be nice to re-read these adventures in one fell swoop. (I wonder how many volumes this new compilation will end up necessitating? I probably shouldn’t ask myself these questions, and should just enjoy my 600 pages of furry chanbara instead…)

Finally, Edmund also got us a paperback copy of the latest novel in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Blood of Tyrants.

Downwood Tales coverThen we received the latest expansion for the Mice & Mystics board game from our friends Steve W. and Dorene, Downwood Tales (Plaidhat Games). We’ve greatly enjoyed Mice & Mystics and we were looking forward to being eaten by snakes or having our mousey fur incinerated by firebelly newts, and playing new characters like Jakobe the gecko and Ditty the shrew. This is a massive expansion that seems to provide as much material as the original set—or perhaps even more, since some elements appear to increase replay value. This afternoon we made it through the first chapter and enjoyed it.

Hobbit Tales coverSteve P. and Maureen gave us another game, very story-oriented, Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn (Cubicle 7 Entertainment). It’s very similar to Atlas Games’ Once Upon A Time card game, though a bit more structured and also more competitive. I agree with reviewers who have suggested that for family play, you’ll get a better experience from not keeping score. In addition, Maureen gave me one of those handy vacuum sealing corks that allow you to keep wine good for a few days more after opening the bottle. Heidi and Eric gave us lovely glass-blown Christmas ornaments.

Race to Adventure! coverKaren Twelves and Sean Nittner gace us a copy of Evil Hat Productions’ Race to Adventure!, a compact board game based on the pulp universe of Spirit of the Century. This belongs in the category of games that, although competitive, are not too painful to lose at because you can play them in half an hour or less, like Race For the Galaxy (unrelated, despite similar title.)  I suppose this can also be said of the Hobbit Tales game above, but I feel the competitive aspect tends to detract from story, so I prefer to play it more cooperatively. Sean and Karen also gave us a print copy of the beautiful Atomic Robo RPG.

Finally, June and Edmund both got tons of sweets for us, especially chocolate.

Lovebirds broochLovebirds earringsPresents that were for me only: Edmund gave me beautiful silver jewellery designed by Haida artist Odin Lonning: a brooch and matching earrings on the Eagle and Raven lovebirds motif. Pacific Northwest people like the Haida and Tlingit (among others) have two main social groups, called moieties (literally, halves), the Eagles and the Ravens, each in turn containing 22 or 23 lineages. Traditionally, one cannot marry within a clan or lineage of the same moiety, so marriages typically signify the joining of an eagle to a raven. Eagle and Raven, when linked together, are consequently known as the Lovebirds. The Lovebirds are a popular design for items such as bracelets and rings, given as gifts between couples of these clans.

Strong Female Protagonist_01In addition, and perhaps to give the brooch something to hold in place, Edmund took me at my word when I said I would adopt The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide as my Christmas wish list, so he gave me the Infinity Scarf (#29 in the list.) Amusingly, when I wore it yesterday I received several compliments on the look, but only Dorene noticed what the theme was. Hee hee. Rounding this up, Edmund also gave me the first collected volume of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag‘s Strong Female Protagonist, a comic book you can also enjoy online.

My mom sent me four little books she got at the annual book expo, le Salon du livre de Montréal: Le Journal d’Edward, hamster nihiliste, 1990-1990; Tous les coqs du matin chantaient; Mitsou: les aventures extraordinaires d’un chat végétalien; and La Fabrique des mots. She also sent two DVDs: Louis Cyr, the Strongest Man in the World; and The Scapegoat.

Zeppelin Attack! and other weekend fun

Zeppelin Attack!I confess, I did very little that was actually productive this weekend. I needed the R&R—it’s been hectic at work. The weekend went thus: Friday: play in Edmund’s playtest of my game, the War of Ashes RPG. It’s run via Skype and I have little effort to make since I’m merely a player, not the game master. Saturday: get a haircut, have pot-luck lunch and a game of our DramaSystem series, “To End All Wars,” then go out for teppan with a friend. Sunday: go see Guardians of the Galaxy for a second time on the big screen, and try a game of Zeppelin Attack! since we just got our copy this week along with the Doomsday Weapons expansion.

Zeppelin Attack! can be played with 2 to 4 players, but it was just Edmund and I. We picked our villains at random, I drew Jacqueline Frost and Edmund got Walking Mind. We did many things wrong which we corrected in play, but it’s clear that this is a game that will take a few tries to learn properly. We didn’t really start seeing the synergies between cards until the end. I say “end”, but really we just had to call it and stop because it was getting late. Nevertheless, it seems like there is a lot of tactical play possible. It’s more limited with just two players, I think it will be more fun with three or four because then you have to split your attack and defence strategies.

Board Games and Movie: I’m Bad

LotR card game: the Spirit deck, with heroes Eowyn of Rohan, Dunhere, and Eleanor.
LotR card game: the Spirit deck, with heroes Eowyn of Rohan, Dunhere, and Eleanor.

I had a packed to-do list for the weekend that included tax filing, layout work for the Dragonflight game convention, course work for online classes, editing the War of Ashes RPG draft in response to reviewers’ and playtesters’ comments, posting my notes on the playtest of Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, responding to other mail, taking care of bills,  plus social commitments for both Saturday and Sunday which I had backed out of at the last minute.

But after a long work week with rough commute hours (two to two and a half hours each way), I felt I had to have a day off. I decided to re-accept the Saturday social, which turned out to be two board games and a movie. I had my first encounter with Fantasy Flight Games’ Lord of the Rings “Living Card Game,” we played another session of the old warhorse Arkham Horror, and we re-watched Galaxy Quest.

Lord of the Rings Card Game: Three players with decks built on Leadership, Lore, and Spirit respectively, tackling the introductory scenario. I was surprised at how easy it was to learn to play after the initial explanation of the rules had bewildered me.

Arkham Horror: All-female roster, all starting in the North End.
Arkham Horror: All-female roster, all starting in the North End.

Arkham Horror: Three players, using the “King in Yellow” expansion. We managed to hold four gate trophies (six, actually) and seal five gates with Elder signs on the very turn when the Doom Track would fill up and Hastur was going to show up. We also kept the terror level to 0 most of the game, 1 point on the final turn; and we cleaned up most of the monsters. This is the game where I’ve felt most confident we were ahead throughout, thanks to some excellent luck in drawing our characters’ random equipment at the start.

The four characters (we had a dummy hand) were coincidentally all female: Zoey Samaras, Wendy Adams, Lola Hayes and Agnes Baker. Zoey started with a randomly drawn Elder sign; Wendy also starts with one by default plus she drew a Press Pass card that allowed her to double up on clue tokens; and Zoey started with two perfect items: a magical weapon and a Healing Stone, both of which saw much use.

On the one hand, I will pay for this; on the other hand, I would have paid if I had tried to work through the weekend and keep going through the week, so I ended up picking the more fun option. Oh, also: we won both games.

GalaxyQuestCast

Relic: Stupid Dice!

Relic: Gargoyle encounterWe played Relic again, the recent release from Fantasy Flight Games; I’ve talked about it in a previous post. That little bastard here, the gargoyle? It was emblematic of how unfair the dice were. We had the classic spread that Edmund was complaining of in a comment on one of my other recent posts on board gaming: the breakaway player who levels up every two or three turns, the middling player just about holding his ground, and me—rolling only 1s unless I’m rolling on behalf of someone else’s enemy, in which case I get 6s. I levelled exactly once.

The gargoyle became the flag-bearer for this phenomenon. With a score of only 2, it should be easy to get rid of, but it rolled two 6s and a 5, handily crushing one player character. Then a second player fought it, and the same thing happened: two 6s and a 5 (rolled by a different player.) Then it was banished by an event and we never got our revenge!

Stupid dice.

Board Game Day: Eldritch Horror

Eldritch Horror box coverOn Saturday we had some friends over and we tried the recently released board game Eldritch Horror from Fantasy Flight Games. This game is the heir and “streamlined version” of Arkham Horror—also from FFG—which I’ve mentioned a few times here.  Game Informer has an excellent and detailed description of the game, so I’ll give you my own impressions.

The Game

Like its predecessor, the game is about brave investigators shutting down inter-dimensional gates to prevent Elder Gods from erupting into our reality and eating it. It’s a very Lovecraftian setting, except that it’s possible to win. Not easy, mind you, just conceivable enough that it’s worth playing. Instead of concentrating on Arkham and its surroundings, it goes world-wide. The rules feel familiar but you have to build your sense of what is likely to happen in any given location or mission all over again. Continue reading “Board Game Day: Eldritch Horror”