Month: May 2018

Gloomhaven Characters: Tinkerer (SPOILERS)

Gloomhaven Characters: Tinkerer (SPOILERS)

I retired my first Gloomhaven character last night, and I wanted, for those interested, so write up what some of the different characters are like. Thus far we’ve seen five different characters and I feel like I have a solid grasp on a few of…

TableTopTakes: Sagrada

TableTopTakes: Sagrada

Story Time! I have to tell the story of how we got the game, because it’s a ton of fun. Kristen and I were in Los Angeles over International Table Top Day this year to visit some of my family. They were going to be…

Hitting the Table: Tips for Finding People to Play Games with You

Hitting the Table: Tips for Finding People to Play Games with You

This topic came up recently on a forum that I’m on, football related but in the general random talk section, how to find people to play a game with you. The person has The Thing board game, and wants to get it to the table, but is having issues finding people to play it with them. I responded to them quickly there, but I realized that’s a good topic to write about on a Friday.

Image Source: Board Game Family

I’m blessed with a lot of friends who like to play board games. When I was starting playing Gloomhaven, we didn’t end up with a fourth player because the person I asked was too busy playing other board games to commit. We host a board game night and get 8-10 different people showing up most times. The Risk Legacy group and the Gloomhaven group have no overlap. So clearly I have a lot of friends who like to play board games like I do. But what if you aren’t as blessed or you’re working against bad board gaming experiences?

Let’s start by talking about places where you can meet new people. This might be outside of your comfort zone, but it’s a good possibility for meeting new gamers to start playing with.

Look for meet-up groups online. There are a lot of meet up groups that plan events at breweries, game shops, and other places to hang out and play games. Obviously, this is going to be all strangers unless you can grab a friend to come along, but it would be a solid way to find people you know will be interested in board games. It’s also low commitment since you don’t need to show up at all of them, but going to a few in a row would be good to build up relationships.

Local gaming stores are another good option. Again, this is going to be more random people that you are meeting up with, but keep an eye out for board game events. International Table Top Day which happens in April of each year (most likely) is a great option. A lot of stores have sales, promo cards, and other events. Depending on the shop, they might have limited events otherwise, so they are going to be less likely to get you randomly connected with more gamers than a meet-up would be.

Image Source: CONvergence

Local conventions are also a great option. Nerdy conventions often have gaming rooms and planned events and games that you can sign up for. If you have one that is for gaming in particular, that’s going to be your best option to get connected with people. Even conventions that aren’t focused on gaming often have gaming rooms. CONvergence, the one that Kristen has written about, has multiple gaming rooms even though that is not the focus of the convention. So even if the convention on the surface doesn’t look like it’s focused on gaming, check out the details and you might find that they have some gaming that you can take part in. I will point out that this is the most likely to be a one off, but who knows, you might make some great connections, or get connected to a group that way.

If all of that seems too intimidating, you can try and recruit from within your friend group. You might find out that there are people who actually like board games that just assume when someone asks if people want to play board games, that they mean Monopoly or some other game that they don’t like. So be specific when asking people to play board games with you.

That is going to be the case sometimes, but more likely, you’re going to have to introduce people to the hobby or break down the perception of the hobby. What am I talking about when I say break down the perception of the hobby?

Image Source: Gamewright

A lot of people have the idea of board games of rage quitting Monopoly, or a game of Risk that lasts five hours. There isn’t fun with their memories of board games, and that is something that is tricky to work against. Or they have an idea of gaming as a bunch of overweight guys with acne sitting in of their parents basements playing a massively complicated game. It takes time and patience to change peoples opinions, especially from negative to positive. So what can you do to change minds?

Start with easy to grasp games. Games that have lighter rules and a heavier theme or at least a nice look to them are going to get people more apt to play. Sushi Go! is a good example of this. The game is pretty simple and straight forward, you try and get points by picking cards. It’s something that people can understand, and then you add in the graphics. The sushi and various foods are drawn in a very cute way, so it’s fun to look at while you play it. Once they’ve enjoyed a simpler game like Sushi Go! start them on more challenging games like 7 Wonders, which is a similar concept, but more moving pieces.

Also, start with games that are faster. To keep on Sushi Go!, it’s a fast game as well. There are a couple of areas that you can keep a game faster. One is how long it takes to play the complete game, but the other is how long it takes between turns. Now, gaming is often a social event, but you want people to stay involved in the game. So while in Sushi Go! there can certainly be talking, it also moves forward and keeps everyone busy with the game, so you’re less likely to forget what is going on. It doesn’t have to be a game where everyone is always taking their turn, but as long as they stay involved throughout the game that’s good.

Sometimes you also run into people who just think that they won’t be good at a board game because board games are too logical and they aren’t that logical. This has a nice solution to it, and that’s cooperative board games. A good cooperative board game means that they don’t have to do all of the thinking and planning themselves. As they are learning the game and the strategy behind it, try not to run their character for them. Give them time to come up with ideas, give suggestions when asked, but let them learn to play their character. Pandemic is a good game for this, especially with giving them a more straight forward role like the medic where they are going to be removing disease cubes, let them figure out where they want to go and what they want to do, and then suggest something if you see a better/different option. Cooperative games also has a lot of theme or an interesting theme a lot of times, so it might be easier to grab someones attention.

Speaking of theme, that’s one final way to get more people to play board games. Find your friends who really love The Thing, those are the people who even as non-board gamers might be interested in playing. Or find the theme that people might be interested in, your Lord of the Rings friends might want to play a Lord of the Rings themed game or even a fantasy game as compared to playing a Sci-Fi themed game to start. If you really like Euro games and trading the Mediterranean, you might have to find one that has a theme pasted onto it that people might like better. For example, there are some Euro games with a Vikings theme, that might be easier to get people to play. So look through your collection and figure out who you know who might like some theme in particular.


Now that we’ve gotten some ideas out there, go find your gaming group or make some new fans of board games. Have you tried any of these before, if so, let me know how it went in the comments below…


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TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven Part 3

TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven Part 3

I said that I was going to come back to Gloomhaven at some point in time, the first two parts were from when we had started playing the game, now we are a ways in, so I wanted to come back to it as the…

Solo Gaming

Solo Gaming

It’s been a long day of work, school, or life in general, and you just want to unwind. It’s pretty normal for people to pick up a controller and play their favorite video game to unwind. This is something that people have been doing for…

TableTopTakes: Dragon Age RPG

TableTopTakes: Dragon Age RPG

First, let me say that this game review is going to be different than the standard board game review. Dragon Age RPG is very much a pen and paper RPG and does not have a board, cards, etc. However, it is a “table top” game, so it falls under that area of review.

Secondly, I am going to be using more comparisons, most likely, in this post. My plan is to compare and contrast it against Dungeons and Dragons in particular and probably will compare it against the Fantasy Flight Star Wars game that I’ve run as well. The reason for doing this is to better be able to highlight what I do and don’t like about the Dragon Age RPG. It’s also to be able to highlight what I prefer so that you can make a more informed decision and see where my hang-ups with the system are more clearly.

Image Source: Old Dungeon Master

Dragon Age RPG

Let me set-up the reason that I was running this game. With Dungeons and Flagons, and having tweeted about running Curse of Strahd, I clearly am most comfortable running Dungeons and Dragons. However, Kristen and I have some friends, a couple of whom hadn’t played many if any RPG’s before. They are big fans of the Dragons Age video game series, as am I, and the thought was that this would be a good introduction to RPG’s for them. I agreed to run this game, going through an introductory scenario, over a few sessions.

Image Source: Green Ronin Store

So, let me start right there. I was running a free module put out by Green Ronin Press. The module itself was laid out pretty nicely, and having the monster stat blocks easily available was nice. However, I don’t like running modules all that well. My reason for that, even with Dungeons and Dragons, is because it limits my creativity as you do need to follow the story fairly well or at least verify that on the fly I’m not changing a major plot point for no reason. This mean the game generally runs with less of a flow. The Dragon Age module actually runs pretty smoothly, but a lot of that was because it was a very simple straight forward module. I also felt like I couldn’t go off script because I know a little Dragon Age lore, but it’s just from the game, other players knew way more than I did. The one issue that wasn’t my personal preference about not running modules that I have was that there were a ton of NPC’s, and a lot of NPC’s with stat blocks. The issue with that is that it means those NPC’s are supposed to be in combat. So we had 4 players, 6 monsters and 4 NPC’s in the final combat, and it could have been five NPC’s. Any time I see a module doing that it makes me sad, because it’s taking focus off of the players. However, the module is balanced for that, so it’s risky to remove those NPC’s.

The game itself has a well written book. I’ve heard, but we didn’t get to high levels yet, that the balancing of the various classes is all over the board and that eventually rogues tank just as well as fighters. The information is laid out nicely and it gives you a ton of options. Literally a ton, the book is giant. However, it combines the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Players Handbook, and Monster Manual all into one. While Dragon Age only has 3 different classes, Rogue, Mage, and Wizard, the classes from the video games; it gives you a ton of variability within the class. A rogue can be ranged or sneaky or stabby, a fighter can fight with a bow if you wanted or with a great two handed sword or a sword and shield and mages have a plethora of different magic options to diversify into. I think the biggest way the game let’s you diversify is with the races as you have various different Dalish elves (the elves in the computer game) that you can play depending on what you want your backstory to be and what class you want to play. The downside to this is that you need to know the world of Dragon Age some before selecting a character, otherwise the options don’t mean all that much. This compared to either Dungeons and Dragons or the Star Wars RPG that plays with more common character types that people are more familiar with, so it makes it easier for people to pick up.

Alistair from Dragon Age gazing to the left with a disgusted expression
Swooping is…bad.
(Credit: BioWare)

The biggest feature and issue that I have with the game comes mechanically. Instead of a Dungeons and Dragons style die system like a lot of games have where you roll a D20 (twenty sided die) and add something, in Dragon Age, you roll three D6’s (six sided dice). This means that the math is slightly different from other games, which isn’t a big deal while running a module. Two of the dice are supposed to be the same looking, and one should look different. The different die is known as your “dragon die”. If you get doubles on any of your dice when doing an attack or casting a spell, you stunt. You then get stunt points equal to what is facing up on your dragon die. Stunting allows you to do cool extra things, like ignore half an enemies defense or deal extra damage. As compared to a critical hit in Dungeons and Dragons or a triumph in the Star Wars RPG, stunts happen a lot more often. How often they happen is and isn’t my issue with them. It isn’t an issue because it’s still exciting for players when they happen and you still feel a little bit like you’ve just had a critical hit. The issue with it is that picking out and spending your stunt points is not a fast process. There are multiple stunts all at varying point levels, so do you want to spend two points on these two things or three points on that one thing and then do something less with your last point? With the monsters they at least tell you what the  monsters favorite stunts are in order so it goes fast for them, but as players and as often as stunts happen, it slows down the game and combat.

In our game, we just used stunting in combat. And in the module there was a lot of combat. In Dragon Age, combat itself is quite brutal in terms of resource management which is similar to D&D and other games. The reason I call out just using stunting in battle is that you can technically choose to use stunts for more mundane activities as well. This takes away from the role playing aspect of the game and makes it into a roll playing game instead. As compared to D&D, Dragon Age focuses a to more on the dice, but a more apt game to compare it to is the Fantasy Flight Star Wars game which has you rolling a handful of dice at all times. In my opinion, while the Star Wars game can bog down with the dice as well at times, it does so less. There’s one major reason, in Dragon Age, the extra time spent on the dice is mechanical. In the Star Wars game, it’s much more focused on adding to the story. So even in the Star Wars game where eventually you’re doing less story and more mechanical things because you don’t know what to do with all the advantages and disadvantages, it’s still allowing for story based things and out of combat it allows for that as compared to out of combat stunts which are still more mechanically focused.

So, I’ve hit on the big things with the Dragon Age RPG, how well do I like it overall? I think it’s a fine system that feels like it tries to emulate a video game RPG a fair amount. While it isn’t my cup of tea as much as a more free form system like Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition or most definitely the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight is, some of that comes from me having run a module. There’s just too much busy work for me to really want to run a game in the world. I would be interested in trying Fantasy Age, also from Green Ronin, which is using the Dragon Age system but is more generic. The reason for that is it gives more world flexibility and the freedom to play wherever you want without worrying about messing up cannon. I also think that I can run a game with more interesting characters in the Dragon Age world with a Dungeons and Dragons rule set than I could with Dragon Age RPG. But as a way to get someone to try out a pen and paper RPG who wouldn’t normally otherwise, but would try Dragon Age because of the video games, it’s not a bad spot to jump in.

Have you played/run either the Dragon Age RPG or the Fantasy Age RPG based off of the same system? How well have you liked it?


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Failing Forward – RPG Concepts

Failing Forward – RPG Concepts

It’s classic roll playing, you’re at a house, the door is locked, and as the rogue, you’re rolling to pick the lock. You roll the die and don’t get enough to unlock the door. You ask the Dungeon Master, “Can I try again?”. They respond…

Revisit Rewatch Review: Avengers Infinity War Spoiler Edition

Revisit Rewatch Review: Avengers Infinity War Spoiler Edition

Alright, I’m back with a review that is going to be full of spoilers, so you have been warned by the title, you have been warned by this paragraph, and you will be warned by the gif below. Doctor Who Spoilers GIF from Doctorwho GIFs…

Revisit Rewatch Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Revisit Rewatch Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War

But, but, but, but this is new, it isn’t an old movie, this is a brand new movie. Well, we can still review them, and with something as nerdy as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we clearly need to do a review on it. This is going to be the spoiler free review, I’ll likely do one later that has a number more spoilers, thoughts, guesses, etc. for the future.

This is what Marvel has been building towards for 10 years, basically since Iron Man came out and we got the idea that we would eventually have an Avengers team. In the first Avengers movie we saw Loki wield the power of one of the Infinity Gems as he tried to conquer Earth. Since then we’ve run across some in The Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron,  and Thor: The Dark World. And we’ve had little bits and teases of the villain for this movie, Thanos, as he seeks to gain power. We’ve met his children Gamora and Nebula and seen him interact with Loki. Finally, Thanos is putting his plan into place to collect all of the Infinity Gems. Unfortunately, that means that he is coming to Earth to get the gem that Doctor Strange has and that is embedded in Visions head.

That’s it that I’m going to say about the plot. There is so much more going in the movie, but I don’t want to give away what else is happening and the storylines that are intertwined together. The story in Infinity War is extremely well written. When sitting through a two and a half hour movie, the time seems to fly by. You get great returns of characters, you get awesome moments of combat, you have heartfelt reunions, and humor all worked together into the perfect blend. This movie feels like what we’ve been building to for ages through all of the other stories, and while you could watch this without having seen any of the movies before and probably still enjoy it quite well, you are going to really appreciate it if you’ve seen the previous films.

There are two huge things that make this story work:

  1. The villain is amazing. Thanos is scary. Thanos is evil. The main characters can’t easily beat him or get the upper hand on him. Thanos even probably knows he is evil, but he so firmly believes that what he is doing is for the right reason it makes him even scarier. He is how a villain should be written with clearly defined motives besides wanting to be a villain. Thanos has those in spades,  and if you go back to the article I wrote about good villains, even with his almost god-like powers, he is more than just a powerful villain to be beaten like Ares is in Wonder Woman.
  2. It brings so many things together. If you want to see heroes team up who haven’t ever teamed up before? You’re probably going to get it. You want to see storylines that have been hinted at and teased in post credit scenes actually happen? You get those. It’s a masterfully written story that brings so many things together you really feel like every movie, even duds like Thor: The Dark World, were worth it because of this story.

Another really cool thing about this film is that you start to see some of the characters really develop into their own. This is the second time we’ve seen Doctor Strange outside of his own movie. In Thor: Ragnarok, it was a brief cameo, but we get to see Doctor Strange really interact with other characters from the MCU and we get to see him develop even more so as a character. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we get a good idea of who Peter Parker is, but this also really lets him shine and you see him as something different than before and you see him grow through the film. As was hinted at in Captain America: Civil War, we get to see Scarlet Witch and Visions relationship grow and how it’s already grown, and as Black Panther hinted, we have the return of Bucky. These are just some of the storylines and characters that come together and really grow and take on a solid life of their own.

Avengers: Infinity War is not just a superhero film, it is that and it has it’s superhero moments, it is a story that has a ton of depth. It is a comedy at times, it is a tragedy, it is a drama. It has everything rolled into a single story and it is beautiful. It’s a story that is so well put together that you don’t even notice time passing, and it’s a story that leaves you excited and waiting for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to see what is going to be happening.

It’s a film that I’m going to highly recommend. It’s likely going to demolish box office numbers, and so I really don’t need to tell you to go see it. I will say, if you’re thinking about waiting until it comes out on Blu-Ray and Redboxing it, you can, but I do think that you’ll lose something. I already know I want to go back to the theaters and see it again, and I’ve heard that it is wonderful in 3D. Consider splurging and going to see it if you weren’t planning on going already, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I will say this, as there are plenty of times movies are over-hyped and don’t live up to expectations, if nothing else, Avengers: Infinity War is a stellar superhero movie and can be enjoyed as such.