Category Archives: Opinion
Things I’m opinionated about
As mentioned in my previous post, I attended the four days of Connecticon recently. And though I would not call it a raving success (at least for myself, the convention itself was great), I did manage to play a lot of games over the course of the weekend. Could I have gotten more games in? Most certainly, but that is my own failing rather than that of the convention. After all, they did have a game library that I did not take any advantage of.
Role Playing Games (or RPGs) are a curious case for me. I love the idea of slipping into another role for a little while and exercising my creativity. Sadly, I usually never get the chance to really get into an RPG. This is usually because I don’t usually have the time to get into a long running campaign, or the availability due to work to get in on a regular group. Moreover, I would rather play as a character than as a game master, which means that I am less inclined to try and organize a gaming session. In spite of this, there are still a number of RPGs that I would like to try.
Thursday night of the convention gave me the opportunity to try out one RPG that I have wanted to give a go since I picked up the rulebook. End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse is published by Fantasy Flight Games is the first book in a series that has the players coming up against various end of the world scenarios. Zombies, obviously, are the first in that series. What makes this series stand out is that the players are pretty much playing themselves.
The group I was in Thursday consisted of five people (including myself) and the GM. After we wrote up our characters (or rather, after we wrote up ourselves), we dove right into the scenario, which started exactly where we were, a ballroom in a hotel playing games. Then, all Hell broke lose. In our particular scenario, we had no survivors. I was the first casualty, taken out be a old lady zombie with a walker and her husband.
And to think it seemed so promising after I axed a zombie earlier.
There was one thing I suspected about this RPG. Or, at least the zombie apocalypse RPG. The source book provides immediate scenarios (like the one run Thursday) as well as long term campaigns. One of the things I suspected is that a one off scenario (again, like the one we ran) w0uld work well, but the game might fall apart if it extends further than that. Granted, with our entire group dying, there was not much of a chance that we were going to run a longer campaign, but there was a feeling that a campaign would have started to fall flat. Still, as a singular session, this RPG was actually pretty cool and I would love to try it again… and hopefully survive this time.
The other RPG I played this weekend was one I had not planned on trying out. The Dresden Files Role Playing Game is based on the Jim Butcher book series using the Fate system. The particular campaign I hopped into had started earlier in the convention, with that session being the second of three. I had not planned on joining in, but ended up getting pulled into it. Thankfully, the runners of this game (I’ll explain that in a bit) had preconstructed characters that players could slide into. My particular character was a smooth talking con man who happened to have psychometric powers and had a voice from a powerful idol talking in his head.
Anyone who knows me will know that this is completely the opposite of who I am.
By the end of the night, I was hooked enough to rearrange my Sunday plans to take part in the third and last session.
Part of what pulled me in was the simplicity of the system. Players role four specialized six sided dice. The number faces are replaced with blanks, plusses and minuses. Minuses counter plusses, and the end result is added to skills for the outcome. It was easy for me to slide into the system as the End of the World RPG uses itself (though that system uses regular six sided dice to role for successes and stresses).
The bigger part that pulled me in was how the campaign was structured. This was not just one table at the convention, but two tables. Each table represented a different location in the world (the table I was at was in South America). The two tables were able to actually communicate with each other through text messages on cell phones, allowing for both tables to share information with each other. Sometimes it was helpful, sometimes not… much like real life. The game left me wanting to play more, either the actual Dresden Files RPG, or the Fate system in another game.
Learn To Play…
A majority of the board games I played through the weekend were in Learn to Play situations. Games were presented for those who were unfamiliar with the particular games, or at least that particular version of the game.
The biggest of these (at least for me) was Mansions of Madness. This is a game that I have had sitting in my collection, but have never brought to the table because of the long set up time. Thus, it is a game that I never really got a chance to try out.
At least, not until the convention.
The learn to play set up made it easy for those of us playing to get into the game better since there was one person explaining the rules but not part of the game itself (mostly because there were too many people interested in playing).
Now, having played the game once with guidance, I am more inclined to try it again, possibly even running as the adversary if I needed two. And I can mark it off as one of my games in my collection that I have played.
Also fitting into the games I own but not played was Sentinel Tactics. Sentinel Tactics is based on the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game, bringing many of the card game’s characters to a miniatures game. I was able to run through one quick scenario (it was pretty late when we started), but got an idea how the game is played. It was interesting, but I got the feeling that if there were more characters in the game, it would be a bit more interesting.
I also had a chance to learn Eclipse during the convention. This is a game of space exploration, planetary conquest, and resource management. This is not a short game, but still quite interesting. Unfortunately for me, it is also one of those games in which if you make a mistake in the game, you can pretty much consider yourself out of the running for victory
It also was a bit marred by a player who withdrew from a combat situation without even trying to fight. This player eventually ended up winning the battle once we allowed him to take back his withdrawal and fight the fight.
Belfort was a game of worker placement set in a Medieval town with some area control mixed in as well. It was pretty straight forward once we got into the game, but it seemed to lack something for me that other worker placement games have. I would play it again, but I’m not sure I would buy it for my collection.
I also sat in on a learn to play Red Dragon Inn, which was a bit of a misnomer since just about everyone at the table knew how to play the game. It also fell short because the copy at the convention was only Red Dragon Inn 2, which meant we had only the four characters that were in that set, limiting how many players could actually play the game that day.
The last game of the convention was also my last learn to play. Even that, though, was a bit of a misnomer because Small World Realms does not really change all that much from the Small World parent game except replacing the board with modular hex tiles that were set up according to a scenario. Small World is needed to play the game. Still, it was fun to learn a different way of playing Small World, even if I did not win.
Demos, Demos, Demos
A lot of the other games I played were demonstrations. Many of these were set up by people working for the companies who make the games (ZMan Games, Steve Jackson Games, etc.) Many of these games were new to me, and were interesting to try out.
The biggest surprise was Munchkin Legends. Anyone who has read my blog knows how I have felt about Munchkin, especially after a particularly disasterous first (and up to the convention, only) time playing it. So, I was a bit surprised that I was willing to give it another go. Fortunately, this time through was no where near as painful as that dreaded first play. The massive run up of levels that multiple players had in that first game was not present, which made this time through a lot more enjoyable. It may have also been because we were not playing a six person game, but a four person game which cut down on the back stabbing that usually comes with Munchkin games.
I also got the chance to try out Flick ‘Em Up at the ZMan Games table. This is a dexterity game that will not see its official release until Gencon (so… soon). Up to ten players take the roles of wild West lawmen and outlaws. Players flick discs to move their pieces, then flick “bullets” to shoot their targets. If your shot knocks over the target, that target loses a health (or “dies” if it has lost enough).
It was an interesting game. The pieces are nice wooden pieces that should hold up for multiple plays, though the “bullets” might get lost easily. I’m not really big on dexterity games, mostly because I’m not all that dexterous. But, it was actually kind of fun to play. I might not buy it, but I would probably play it again if it came to the table.
I also was able to try out Merchants and Marauders, also my ZMan Games. This game is set in the days of the Spanish Main. The nice thing about this game is that it is completely possible to take one of multiple approaches to winning the glory points that are needed to win the game. You want to be a pirate, you can. You want to play it straight and just be a merchant, you can win that way as well. And, while set up takes a bit of time, the pieces look nice. I would consider adding this to my collection.
I also got the chance to try out the deck building game Tanto Cuore, or, as Wil Wheaton refers to it as, Felicia Day’s pervy maid game. I am not sure if I would ever buy this game, but it was fun to have played it at least once.
Unfortunately, not every game can be a success. I did manage to play two that just did nothing for me.
Maze Racers was a demo game that is going to be released later this year. Players build a maze using magnetic walls on a tablet. Once the mazes are built, the tablets are exchanged and the players race to try and make it through each others maze.
This game just did not do anything for me. It might be cute for children (I’m thinking 6 to 10 years old), but I just did not get any sort of thrill from it. It did not help that the maze that I was handed to complete actually did not allow for my marble to get through.
The other game I played that was a dud for me was Incursion. This scenario based miniatures game is set in an alternate reality which pits power armor wielding Americans against Nazi zombies. The scenario in question was a simple point A to point B march, complicated by swarming zombies. Parts of the game seemed too simple (as the Americans, I was killing a lot of zombies), and the card play seemed a bit overwhelming for the particular scenario. I’m not sure if this runs as a campaign or not, but then, I was not all that thrilled with the game itself to care if it did.
The last game I’ll mention that I played at the convention was one that I had brought with me. Rumpelstiltskin is a small two player card game from AEG. Each player gets a deck of ten cards and a mission: find out the name of their opponent. Players then play cards from their hands trying to keep their opponent from guessing the last card in their deck. If they run out of cards, the player loses. If their opponent guesses what the last card of the deck is, the player loses. It is a quick and simple card game that works well as a filler game.
Naturally, if you go to a convention, you are most likely going to hit up the dealers’ room. I was no exception.
From one place I managed to pick up both Dominant Species: The Card Game and Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth for ten dollars each. As it turned out, this particular dealer had reserved the booth the year before then went out of business. Thus, he was selling off whatever he had left dirt cheap.
I also managed to pick up what I call my convention grail game: Machine of Death (with expansion). I had played this game based on the Machine of Death anthology series a while ago and have been trying to find it since. Amazon had it, but I never took the plunge there, preferring to purchase locally if I could.
On the last day, I also picked up my own set of Fate dice (having to borrow dice during the Saturday night and part of Sunday’s sessions of Dresden), a dice bag for them, and Monster of the Week, an RPG that sounded interesting for me. I figured that even if I don’t get a chance to play it, it might provide some source material for a future National Novel Writing Month project.
A recent post on the Board Game Geek Facebook group got me thinking about this, and I thought I would share a few thoughts on it.
The post was from a board game designer who balked at a 1 out of 10 rating on Boardgamegeek.com. It turned out that the person who had posted the low rating was basing it more on the fact that the game was on Kickstarter rather than how the game itself played. In spite of the fact that the rater was more than likely a troll than an actual reviewer, the comments about the post, and the reaction of the game creator got me thinking about the whole idea of the “1” rating.
Now, this is not a defense of people who use poor ratings to more or less mess with people. Or worse, people who use poor ratings to make some sort of personal political statement. I have seen someone on Amazon review a G.I. Joe figure poorly because they felt G.I. Joe was promoting war and blah blah blah. Political statements should not be made in toy reviews. Well, most times they shouldn’t be.
When it comes to games, I have yet to rate something a 1 out of 10. The lowest I have come has been a “3” rating on three games. That is not to say that I would not consider giving a game a “1” rating. When it comes to books, there are a few that I have given the dreaded “1 out of 5 stars” rating. Actually, quite a few… well, thirteen. And, if you ask me about any of them, I would defend my choice, backing each one up with reasons why I gave them that rating.
Still, for the most part, I tend not to fall onto giving that dreaded “1” unless I feel it necessary. A rating that low is a nuclear option. Something has to be so disastrously bad for me to even consider giving it a rating that low. It’s probably why I have given bad ratings to books more than I have come close to giving them to games.
As amateur reviewers (which, let’s face it, most of us who post on websites like Boardgamegeek and Goodreads), we do need to think carefully about how we rate games. It is very easy to simply rate good games as 10’s or bad games as 1’s. But, ratings like that deserve, no, demand an explanation as to why they got that low or high rating. And you need to be able to back up. If you ask me why I have the book One Second After a 1 star, I will tell you. You may regret getting me started as to why I hate that book (yes, I used the word “hate”), but you will know why I gave it that rating. Vengeance ratings (“I hate Kickstarter so I give this game a 1”) are never acceptable.
And game creators, you do need to realize that your game will not jibe with every player. You may have created the best deck building game in the universe, but someone who does not like deck builders will most likely not like your game, no matter how good it is. If you get a bad rating that is backed up by legitimate reasons, you just need to accept that and move on. Dwelling on two bad reviews among a hundred good reviews is not going to help your game. If your game is really that good, the law of averages will take over and the handful of bad reviews will be more than balanced out by the good ones.
And, if a bad review is just a troll in disguise, your supporters will make sure that those who need to know will know. At least, that’s what happened when someone used a product review for a toy as a soapbox for his own political view.
Recently I read a post on Boardgame Geek’s Facebook group that got me thinking. The poster had gone to a local game shop with his two young kids (11 and 12) and felt left out because no other players made any real attempt to include them in any of the games being played. The post ended with the poster telling people to be mindful of others and to be less “cliquey.”
Which, naturally got me thinking.
Now, I have to admit that my personal experience with children and game groups is very limited. When I was more into X-Wing, we had two kids come in with their father who were probably a little bit other than the ones in the original post. Both were okay for the usual 100 point dog fights. But, when we tried to tackle something a bit larger (on one occasion it was a 300 point huge ship battle, and another it was a second Death Star run scenario), their interest in the games fell off to the point where the remaining adults ended up planning and playing all of their ships in addition to their own. Based on what I read in the original post, this happened to the two kids there as well (though I can’t be sure if it was from not being included or just being kids). It is slightly aggravating when a grown up mind starts to wander from the game, and it was a bit annoying when it happened in the games I’ve played as well.
Again, I like kids, but I can understand why some gamer groups might not want to start a game where one of the participants a pre-teen. For some, this may be their night out away from their own kids. They managed to get a sitter, or their wives are watching the young’uns, and they are looking to have a little bit of fun. Probably the last thing they would want is to, well, deal with a kid after taking steps so they don’t have to. For others, it is their time to just be themselves, something they might feel they can’t do if there is a child around. And there are a few people who might feel a little bad if they do play a game and the kid lost, even if the kid does handle it will.
Now, I don’t want this to be just a bunch of excuses for excluding children from games or anything like that. Children introduced to games will be the next generation to carry on gaming. They will be the ones as adults who will say, “Hey, remember that game Smash Up? That was a cool game,” just as many of us fondly remember games like Dark Tower or Fireball Island. So, how do we fix this problem?
First, parents need to realize that there are going to be some gamers who do not want to play with children. It’s not about being “cliquey” or anything, they just want to play games with people closer to their own age. Your child may be a prodigy and know the rules of Catan inside and out, but there will be some people who do not feel comfortable playing games with an eleven year old.
Gamers need to realize that there are some people who probably won’t make the first move when it comes to games. Hell, I often have that problem with new people and I’m actually in a Meetup group for games. Some people, no matter what age they are, just really need that one person to say to them, “Hey, we’re just getting started, want in?”
And back to the parents. There are a lot of FLGS’s out there who do try to be kid-friendly. I know a couple of the stores near me will try to maintain that by warning players if they get too loud or too inappropriate (one even has a “swear jar”). The original post mentioned it was a game night, and from the sound of it, his two kids were the only ones there. It seems to be quite logical that he could have approached the store owner and asked if there was a child friendly game day scheduled, possibly even offer to help set one up if there was not one. Again, I know there are a whole ton of safety things that may come into play.
If setting up a child game day doesn’t work, there is always Meetup and other sites that allow people to find other like-minded people. Start a “Gamers with Children” group. I would even suggest a cute gaming title like “Meeples with Mini-Meeples” or something to that effect (if you want to use that, be my guest, I don’t mind). Members can set up “events” where the children can play games together and the grown ups can join in if they want, or possibly set up their own game while the kids have fun.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if I can really consider myself a comic collector anymore. It isn’t something new, but something that’s been lingering for a while now. But I have been noticing a growing shift in my interests away from comics to other interests, like board games. In thinking about this, I realize there are a number of reasons why I might not consider myself a collector anymore.
- Expense – Granted, the costs of comics has been relatively stable lately (as opposed to the massive inflation in the 1980s and 1990s). But, comics are still running roughly three to four dollars a book, and that doesn’t include annuals, mini-series, and special expanded issues which generally run much higher than the usual fare.
- Quality – I will admit this is strictly subjective, but the comics that have been coming out just have not been thrilling me. There are fewer and fewer books that just have me eager to read the next issue… consistently. Over the course of the previous year, I have seen the number of books I pick up each month drop more and more to the point that I now pick up one Marvel title (Silver Surfer, which knowing my luck will be cancelled sometime in the next year). I will still check out newer titles, but usually do not stay with them past the second or third issue.
- Event Fatigue – I’m just getting tired of all the event books that the publishers have been putting out. I was not entirely thrilled with Convergence, especially since it was coming off Multiversity, which was coming off Forever Evil, which was… well you get the point. And I’m not trying to single out DC Comics here, because I’ve been event fatigued from Marvel much longer. Secret Wars is the only Marvel event in the last two years that I have picked up more than the first issue. And, to be completely honest, I get the feeling that because I’m not reading all the spawned titles for Secret Wars, I am completely lost. Sadly, that’s been par for the course for me with the Marvel events, which is probably why the Marvel titles have been the ones that have gone by the wayside first.
- Lack of Rereadability – This ties into quality, but there are not a lot of titles that I want to reread once, let alone multiple times. I look at it this way: why should I buy a bunch of comics that I will read once and say, “Meh,” when I could pick up one board or card game and get a ton of replay out of it. There is also the social aspect that board games provide, something which I admit I need help with.
So, is this just me growing out of the hobby? Or has this happened to other people? Please leave your comments below.
I went to a relatively new restaurant in the area. I say relatively because there were others restaurants in the chain in my state, but this is the first in my area. I am not sure if I will go back to it.
It was not because the food was not good. Well, not entirely. I thought the food was okay, but I have had better in other restaurants, and have seen better as well.
My biggest problem was with the order itself. There were three of us in the party. Of the three orders, two of them were wrong. One of those orders needed to be remade completely… which happened to be my order. So I had to sit and wait while the rest of my party was able to eat. Yes, we did receive an apology from the manager, but it still did not make much of a difference when I received my meal after the rest of my group had already eaten half of theirs. Then, on top of all of that, it was still incomplete.
As I mentioned, we did receive an apology, but that was it. Granted, nowhere is there a restaurant customers’ Bill of Rights. And, frankly, I’ve seen some restaurant customers who really need a swift kick. But, I have been to other restaurants that seem to go the extra mile. There was one restaurant who gave us one of our meals free because the steak was cooked medium instead of medium rare… without any complaint about it. Heck, if the manager had not said anything, we would not have even known.
Over the years, we have had our fair share of good meals and, for lack of a better phrase, problem meals. We had one meal at a casual dining chain that took a couple of hours to bring the entrees out. They offered us free dessert… which took another hour to be brought to our table. But we did go back. We have also had one restaurant lose our order and not say anything about it for over an hour. That time was so bad that I had to cancel my order because I had to go to work. We never went back there… and they are now closed. And we had another national chain mess up our orders on multiple occasions (including bringing out a sandwich which was not what was ordered, bringing it back, then bringing out another sandwich which was till not what we had ordered).
The restaurant business is tough. I do recognize that. Still, as a restaurant owner or manager, you do need to set yourself apart from your competitors, stand out to make customers say, “Yeah, let’s go back there.” The best way to do that is make the food on your menu the best you can. The worst way it to make very bad mistakes and not have stand out food.
This week’s choice may seem a little premature, given that a week from Sunday is May the Fourth (be with you). But it seemed appropriate given recent developments in the Star Wars Universe, and more specific, the expanded universe.
For those who may not know, the Star Wars expanded universe encompasses everything that was written outside of the six movies. This includes comics from Marvel and Dark Horse as well a a multitude of books that have come out since Return of the Jedi. At the time, these books continued the story began in the first trilogy and filled the void for those of us who clamored for more Star Wars (myself included). While not everything was great, there was a lot of wonderful material that came from those books. The expanded universe was not considered official canon, but with so much of it being of high quality, a lot of fans accepted it as unofficial canon.
Now, with Disney working on returning Star Wars to the silver screen with Episode VII, it would seem that the expanded universe is being set aside. Granted, I understand that with the new movies continuing the story from Return of the Jedi some of the expanded universe really could not connect with what is to come. Still, it’s right to see books like Heir to the Empire (the first of the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn) or comics like Dark Empire fall by the wayside for what we can only hope will be worthy successors. And I really mean hope since Episodes 1-2 disappointed me so much (I still have yet to see Episode 3).
Still, we can hope that some of the expanded universe may still be accepted as canon. I mean, given that the next trilogy is set 35 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, there is still a lot of “wiggle room” for some of what we have seen come before to continue to be.
At least, we can still hope.
In the meantime, here is a performance of the Imperial March.
As I write this, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who has aired, and we are counting down to the Christmas episode, which is to be the last episode for Matt Smith. Since the first teaser for the 50th, the Whoverse has been a buzz about where the John Hurt Doctor fits in, and how that affects everything that we know about the regeneration cycle.
I have written about this in the past, but it seems fitting that I should revisit this in light of both the events of Day of the Doctor, and comments made by Peter Moffat which seem to throw more curve balls at the Doctor’s regeneration cycle.
I would consider myself a casual gamer. This is mostly because I just have never really had a big opportunity to participate in games. Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that did not have a lot of kids. This meant that any games that I wanted to play, Monopoly, Checkers, even card games like Go Fish were usually with my parents (mostly my mom) or a special occasion.
This situation did not get much better as I grew up.
And, sadly, still persists to this day. Now, my biggest issue is that most of the people I know are from work. Nearly all of them do not share my enthusiasm to spend a couple of hours playing a board game, and certainly not the ones that I would want to play.
I have begun to look for other casual gamers through Meetup.com, but once again, work becomes an issue. I work nights and have an odd work week, which means while many groups are meeting on Friday nights and Saturdays to have a little fun, I’m at work. And when I’m off, they are at work.
It doesn’t help that thanks to TableTop on Youtube, I’ve seen how a lot of these games play and want to play them that much more.
Somehow I will have to work this out… after November, that’s National Novel Writing Month time.
Friday, I had a brief mention of iOS7. Now that I’ve had a chance to check it out a little bit further, I had a few observations.
For once, this entry is not about my own missed opportunities (which easily it could be). This time around, I want to look at some missed opportunities with Spider-Man, namely spawning from One More Day.
For those of you in the know, I don’t have to explain what One More Day is. For those of you who don’t know, One More Day was a Spider-Man story line that ran in 2007. The basic gist of the story is that Spider-Man seeks to save his Aunt May. The story ends with Peter and May Jane willingly sacrificing their marriage to Mephisto (the Marvel version of the Devil), thereby saving Aunt May and erasing the knowledge that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, which had been revealed during the Civil War mini-series.
It is the story line that effective killed Spider-Man in my eyes. I have not read a Spider-Man book since (though, thanks to Marvel pushing him into everything, I was still exposed to him in Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Superextradelicious Avengers, and FF). I had a lot of problems with the resolution to the series, especially since it seemed to be directed by Joe Quesada’s inane belief that you can’t tell good stories about married people.
Naturally, as with any story line you hate that much, you start to think of ways that it could be better… so much better.