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”

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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”

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.

War of Ashes RPG: Conflict and Fate

Elvorix PriestessTime to get back to specific planning for the War of Ashes RPG, but still by way of my observations on the Fate system this weekend at Big Bad Con.

When I (gleefully) agreed to write this book for Evil Hat Productions, I took stock of my strengths and weaknesses as a gamemaster.  I know that I am not as good at running combat scenes as social conflict ones; I usually get bored or distracted with the fiddly bits of most systems when running a combat that involves many characters.  For a game where warfare is so present, that was a concern so I immediately decided to push my skills in this direction.

This weekend I ran two Fate Accelerated games that included quite a bit of combat—not just that, you understand, but a significant amount.  I even started the convention with a game of space knights in giant mech armour, in media res in a big combat.  Then I played in a few more Fate Accelerated and Fate Core games, and I embraced big combats again.

It went well.

This is important; if Fate group combat is easy for me to handle as gamemaster, it’s probably easy for anyone, once they are comfortable with the base system.  Now I feel comfortable with the prospect of writing a Fate game for a setting where combat is frequent.  In fact, the takeaway for me is that in Fate, all types of conflicts are in fact mechanically similar—something many games promise but few actually deliver.

As I had noticed the very first time I played Fate Accelerated, the key to conflict is to create tactical options for your characters—whether players characters or gamemaster characters—by using the “create an advantage” action.1  Even if you are not playing a “combat character”, in Fate you play a capable individual, well above average.2  This means that you should build success in your own character’s way.

Are you sneaky but fragile, unable to take much damage?  Use your stealth to create advantages that will allow you to avoid being hit and strike from the shadows.  Are you a non-combatant, a peaceful healer?  Perhaps you can create advantages that let your voice of reason be heard above the din of battle, or allow you to use your knowledge of healing to incapacitate the opposition without bloodshed.  Is the opposition too well armoured for even your spear blows to pierce?  Work with your group of adventurers to create distractions, use cover, aim carefully, taunt the enemy, etc.

Jaarl Ilk-Master The use of “create an advantage” to generate temporary aspects on a scene, a location, an opponent, etc., and especially to create some free invocations of that temporary aspect, is a very simple mechanic to provide endless tactical variety.

The first level of options is of course in which temporary aspects you create, for example whether they are based on resources you have, manoeuvres, terrain, your opponent’s concentration, and so forth.

The second level of tactical options lies in what order you use these temporary advantages and stack them together. You may defer the use of a helpful circumstance so someone else can use it better, for example, or you may save something to cover your escape.

The third level  is subtle because it’s narrative: when you are choosing to invoke one aspect rather than an another, you get the same immediate mechanical benefit—for example, a re-roll of the dice, or a +2 to the result—but you move the story in a different direction, and this alters subsequent tactical options.  Because many of us come from a background of very specific roleplaying games and rule sets, we often tend to make a sharp distinction between story and mechanics, but if you think about it, tactics are quite literally the sum of the two.  So the spirit of the Fate system fits perfectly with that of the War of Ashes: Shieldwall miniatures game, and we need to showcase this in the WoA RPG.

Notes:

1 It’s all true in other versions of Fate, but can be hard to discover if you are new to the system. Fate Accelerated makes this shiny. Return.

2 Naturally, this means compared to the setting; if you play a Muppets game, you are an above-average muppet, and if you play a Middle-earth character, you play an above-average elf, dwarf, hobbit, rider of Rohan, etc. Return.

Credits: Art ©ZombieSmith 2012-2013, used with permission.

War of Ashes RPG

Vorix skirmisherI guess the critter is out of the bag about the game I will be writing for, as we have received official permission to talk about the project development.  (Fred Hicks talks about it in today’s blog entry.)  The working title is War of Ashes RPG, although this may change; it will be a role-playing game based on the intellectual property from ZombieSmith, publisher of the miniatures game War of Ashes: Shieldwall, and implemented using Evil Hat Productions’ Fate Accelerated system.

Last night was an excellent, stunningly productive meeting — believe me, it’s usually my job as project manager to try to herd cats, and it was lovely to watch Evil Hat’s Sean Nittner skilfully do the herding.  Good Lord, we started1 and ended on time, we had a discussion agenda and action items, and Sean sent meeting notes the same night.  We established responsibilities, lines of communication, schedule, and basic process.2 This is new territory, getting all this without having to beg for it!

evsk1_large

This was my first in-person view of ZombieSmith’s WoA miniatures, but you can have a look at some on their site (they’re even nicer live!)  The hope is that we can come up with a game that will remain role-playing but will readily plug into the miniatures game.  It’s not as easy as it sounds; if you’ve tried it this with Clan War/Legends of the Five Rings (AEG), Warhammer Fantasy Battles/Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (Games Workshop), Warhammer 40,000/Dark Heresy (Games Workshop/Fantasy Flight Games), BattleTech/BattleTech RPG (FASA), etc., you know how tricky it can be.  This will be a role-playing game first and foremost, but we’ll try very hard to use Fate Accelerated’s flexibility to match the games as closely as possible.

I will be using this blog as a notebook of ideas, a sounding board, and I suspect, an overflow for all the stuff that won’t fit in a single book.


Notes:
1 Except for the fact that half of us literally missed Levar Burton’s visit to EndGame by seconds.  While this picture was being taken, we were around the corner on the sidewalk, wondering: “Where are they?  I thought they were right behind us?”  Return.

2 The perverse part of me suggests that I should now answer only every fourth or fifth e-mail, starting each time with “I didn’t read all that, can you summarize for me?” Kind of like the jerks who refuse to tip because they were shorted on tips when they delivered pizza as teenagers. But no, I’m not one of them. Return.

Credits: Art ©ZombieSmith 2012-2013, used with permission.

Dragonflight program: Updates

Dragonflight 2013 program coverThe addendum for last minute changes to the Dragonflight game convention program is now available.  The convention takes place in Bellevue (Seattle area) this weekend, August 9-11, 2013.  Three formats to choose from:

.PDF: As an addendum indicating changes, from Issuu or Google Drive.  If you don’t already have the PDF program, here it is from Issuu or Google Drive.  Note that Issuu allows you to browse online, magazine-style, and to download as PDF by clicking “Share”, then “Download”.

.ePub: (For Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc.)  As a zipped ebook of the full, updated program, including the cover and metadata.  Just unzip and add to your library.  Download from Google Drive.

.mobi: (For Kindle)  As a zipped ebook of the full, updated program, including the cover and metadata.  Just unzip and add to your library.  Download from Google Drive.

Dragonflight 2013 convention program

Dragonflight 2013 program cover

EDIT: See the updates here.

I’ve finished preparing the program for the 2013 edition of Seattle’s Dragonflight game convention. It will be the 34th edition of the convention, and you can expect lots of board gaming, wargames, role-playing, miniatures games, etc.

In addition to the print version which will of course be available at the door that weekend (August 9-11, 2013), you can download it as an e-book in three different formats: .PDF (good for viewing onscreen on PC, iPad, etc.), .ePub (for Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc.) and .mobi (for Kindle, etc.)

The files should be posted shortly to the official convention site, but you can also get them from:

  • ISSUU: Viewable online in magazine format; to download as PDF, click on “Share” in the bottom left area, then on “Download.
  • Google Drive: Here is the PDF version; and here are the .ePub and .mobi versions, zipped together including cover and metadata.