Archive for April 2011

April 29, 2011-End of the Month Podcast Review

April 29, 2011

You know, this month I was going to review one of my favorite Podcast; but things have gone so sour that I am going to take my frustrations out on another.   This month’s review is the podcast “All Games Considered,” and it is dreadful.  Take all that is disingenuous perky and comical in a morning show host, spit it up among two people and then double stuff it with AV nerdom, and then you would have this podcast. 

I know you are going to ask, “How can I rip on a podcast that won gaming awards two years in a row?”  My reply is that nobody is really listening to what they are saying, because it sounds so good.  This is a really well produced podcast; it has an ambitious format and is well edited.  I will give them some kudos for all that.  There are several different types of segments, News, Feedbacks, topics, Reviews, and the like; which have the feel of a radio show or morning TV show.  It even has real commercials.   Additionally, it sounds live and off the cuff, but really it is recorded and then edited.  If a member doesn’t like what they said, they we rerecorded the conversation and edit out the bad stuff.  They play bloopers at the end of the show. 

 Why do I not like this podcast?  Because, if you listen to it and I mean really listen to it, you realize that this is a work of ego not art. 

1-They passive aggressively brag about their podcast and all the stuff they are trying to do, how much work they have, and how they cannot do things because their already too much stuff they still have to do.  Here is a hint: if you have 50 ten minute interviews from game designers at Gen con; don’t play them all and cut out the first three minutes of everyone saying how great Gen con is-after the fourth interview, I get that everyone is excited about Gen con! Also, don’t talk about how to produce the interviews during the shows!! 

2-They say the right PC thing and then act smugly with those things they disagree with.  They have three tones during this podcast, a parental tone of PC authority, a post high school understanding of what passion is, and then the pre-pubescence glee.  Presentation goes like this: We know what we are saying is the right thing to say so you will give us some creditability, but these people do it this way and miss the point, and I just can’t wait to do our way-wheeeeee giggle giggle. Here is a Hint: If you review another podcaster’s product, because they are friends, don’t talk about how great it is for ten minutes and then at the end say “but I had a few beefs with it, just personal, nothing I want to talk about.”  When you are pressed, don’t expand your thoughts with “it’s just some stuff I understand what they were trying to do but I disagree with or would have done differently.”  Really??  Acting a little passive aggressive there too? 

3-Also, they are just wrong.  They say stuff that is just inaccurate about the gaming industry, history, rules, and a half of dozen things.  Half the stuff they never correct and the other half they dismiss with an attitude that says “we set the standards, nobody is more right than us, so where else are you going to go?!”  Here is a Hint: If I didn’t have anywhere else to go, then why do I know you are incorrect?  Bye bye.

The best thing I have to say about this podcast: Thank god the host just found somebody on match.com (yes, he talked about how he met someone online during the podcast and how that is going to take away producing the podcast.)

The worst thing I have to say about this podcast: Good Lord, he will come back and make more when she dumps his passive aggressive ass. 

April 28, 2011- And then there were three.

April 28, 2011

You know, gaming groups are a lot like garage bands; if everyone joins just to play, then everything goes great.  If people show up with their own agendas, then it turns into a soap opera of drama.  Personal hopes and dreams are really big distraction to a group who are trying to do one single collective task.  Most failed garage bands had one person who wanted to be the next big hit, wanted to find their own voice, or simply hook-up with another member.  The band fails when those members realize that they are not going to be able to get what they want by using the band.  That is the real sin of the whole thing, a person trying to exploit the group to get what they solely want. 

I think my Star Wars Campaign was destined to be just as much as a failure around the dinner table than if I we tried to rock out in the garage.  After all, half of us had our own hidden agendas and now we cannot exploit the group to get them, so we want to leave the band.  My son has already left the group, so now there were three.  I had my own agenda involving my son, which now makes me question if we should continue.

The thing is I suddenly understand how I was messing up the whole band with my own agenda.  What I need to do is choose an instrument and just play.  Not try to do anything beyond what the group is trying to do.  Unfortunately, we have not been just playing; so, the question is whether the rest of the band wants to continue playing?   

April 27, 2011-I promise on Wednesday

April 27, 2011

Two weeks ago I promised boccobsblog that, on Wednesday, I would talk about the various online sites I tried using to find a group of players.  I didn’t say which Wednesday.  Additionally, I want to clearly state that I am not a computer guy or online savvy.  It took me a few weeks to figure out that podcast were a good thing, before that I would visit radio stations’ webpages and listen to my favorite programs.  So these observations are really from a newbie point of view.

http://www.Meetup.com –“the Everquest of Social Media”

This network is set up for people to find events and groups of like-minded people, and it does this wonderfully.  You can join for free and search for groups within your area that are doing things that you want to do.  Each group has their own webpage with message boards and email alerts.  However, to start an actual group cost about $10.00 a month.

I have been using Meetup for a few years and have gone to…three events.  So, does it work?  Hummm…not for me.  There are thousands of groups and members, but I think a lot of them are like me.  Four years ago, I was on my third day of being bored at home and knew the upcoming weekend had the more of the same.  I went on the computer and joined Meetup to see if anything was going on.  Since then, three out of four weeks I just automatically delete their “weekly event notice.”  Once a month I look at the notice before deleting it.  That is problem with Meetup, it looks like a network which would entice people to join groups, but it is not.  That would involve an advertising campaign or Marketing strategy beyond a weekly email.  There are a lot of people on Meetup, but the question is how active are they on Meetup.   I have had two people join my Apocalypse World Meetup group; they joined and have never done anything since then-one of them lives in a different state.   Really? You are going to drive two hours to play an RPG on a weekday?  Reminds me of getting friends request from people who have just discovered Facebook.

Meetup works well if you already have an amateur organization with a core group of people who are active and have that manager attitude.  You can use Meetup to expand your recruitment and add another layer to your organization; however, you already need to be established.    

April 25, 2011-More Storms in April

April 25, 2011

This month is turning out to be a disappointing month.  Not only did I not get my Apocalypse World game started but now I got the talk from my son that I have been speculating would happen since December- “you know Dad, I am getting bored of Star Wars, pretty much all role-playing, and I think I would rather play RPGs on the X-box.” 

You see, I am a divorced Dad that lives about an hour away from his kids which only allows me visitation every other weekend.  Playing Star Wars was a good way to bond with my oldest son; it was something to do over the weekend and gave special attention from me to him.  In December, he transferred schools and moved in.  Over the last four months he has found more things to do around our home than he could by just visiting every other weekend and has received that fatherly attention you can only get by living with your father.  When you are a visiting Dad, you want the all the weekends to be good; so you don’t worry about the little things, you turn a blind eye to a messy room, and empathize about school and grades because they are not your responsibility.   A weekend Dad has to accept that he does not have any direct control over his children but rather influence which is directly related to how receptive your children are to you.  Pissed off kids, generally, are not at all receptive to your opinions, so you want to keep them happy. 

Living with your child is a completely different setting which changes nearly all the dynamics.  That messy bedroom for two out of fourteen days is now messy twelve out of fourteen, no blind eye turned for that.  School and Grades are now my responsibility, so I have to directly get involve.  Sure I can still empathize once every three months when we have a heart to heart talk about his feelings towards school; but I also have to make sure he is turning in assignments every week.   Instead of worrying about what we can do, I worry about what he is doing.  Also, he gets to see my bad days and normal flaws, which can be shelved for two out of fourteen days.  In other words, we are getting normal parent/teenager relationship.

All of this has taken the luster out of gaming together, which I figure would happen down the road when I agreed to having him live with me and Laura.  I hoped it would not be so soon, that the game would be compelling enough to keep his interest.  However, can a teenager keep his attention on a game that happens at most-once a month?  No, not really.  So, when he talked to me this gaming weekend about not wanting to play, I complemented him on his honesty and courage.  I was disappointed but not angry, I understood where his heart was coming from which lessen the pain- I did hound him about his homework. 

Many people say that they game to get away from their life that it is an escape and that they can be briefly somebody else who is not them.  I never really understood that, because life has this way of following you around.  When try to stop it, it is like putting post in a field, life just walks through the gaps.

Pete

4/18/2011-The intro is purplely

April 18, 2011

There is talk across the internet of the secret truths hiding in the dark shadows of the gaming industry.  The actual facts are purposely hidden and obscured by those involved to keep us uninformed.  Although they directly conceal many details, they cannot control indirect trends.  They may blind us, but we can still smell.  Currently what wafts across the breeze and raises the inquisitive brow upon hitting the attentive nose is; Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG could have a bigger slice of the market than Hasbro’s 4th Edition D&D over the last year.  The irony of this possibility is that Pathfinder, through legal maneuverings, is the very same 3rd Edition D&D that was produced by Hasbro.  Many curious consumers now smugly thumb their noses at Hasbro with an unsaid “told you so.”  Because, the consumer base for D&D felt completely taken advantage of by the transition from 3rd to 4th edition and now they can legitimately say that Hasbro should not have change.

I disagree. 

D&D was and still is the industry leader of RPGs.  Should Paizo’s Pathfinder slay the Goliath brand of D&D then they themselves will be forced to make the all too similar choices that Hasbro has.  The RPG market is small and there is only room for one industry leader.  There is plenty of room for innovated companies within the market, but they are sailing inside the wake.  These companies work within the established market and their gains are indirectly gathered by the actions of the leader.  Quite simply put, nearly everyone started RPGs by playing D&D.  D&D is the Kevin Bacon of RPGs; you cannot within a group get farther than three degrees away from D&D.  Can Paizo, by catering to consumer base with an older system, be a real industry leader?

What is the authentic duty of an industry leader of a small market?

An Industry Leader by definition has the following; Brand Recognition, Regulatory Advantages, First Mover Advantage, and Dominance-all things which D&D has capitalized on by Hasbro.  But why? To meet the one authentic duty of an industry leader of a small market: expand the market.   What other company within the market can? Think about it, how many fans of the Dresden Files or Mouse Guard, who never played a RPG, just happen to buy the RPG because they were fans of the setting, but had so much fun playing it they bought Fiasco, D&D, Paranoia, Mage, or any other RPG?  Nope nearly impossibility.  Hasbro can try to take back consumers who have left the brand, but that would be difficult.  It is easier for Hasbro to bring in new consumers and they are the only ones to have the resources to so.  The D&D miniatures game and their board games are examples of their attempt at doing this.

So, I think D&D is still going to be flagship for RPGs, even if Pathfinder has more of the market.  I would only speculate doom for D&D if Paizo starts producing game that expands the RPG market.  Then the real battle will begin.  Because trying to expand the market and doing it well are two different matters; I am not saying that Hasbro has successfully expanded the market at all.  They have done it, but not well and that is a whole other topic.

Pete

4/16/2011-Don’t cut down half your cornfield to build a gaming room.

April 16, 2011

Well, my Apocalypse World gaming group is a complete flop.  I would love to say; that I don’t know where these people came from, that there were incompatible players, or how they had such misguided expectations of the game.  I would; but nobody came.  Not last week, nor this week, and I am suspecting nobody will show next week either.  I don’t understand why, I did everything possible to gather a group of gamers from my computer without leaving the house and I still got nothing.  This experience has really soured my faith in technology.  They said social networking systems would work miracles and I had miraculous expectations.  I heard a voice and it said to me “Type it and they will come.”  That’s the last time I listen to voices in my head. 

The thing that just burns the hairs off my dice bag is that I knew better.  I know that technology does not replace things; at most it makes them more efficient.  You cannot recruit people just by joining a few online groups and making a meetup.  It takes footwork, getting out there, and making face time with others.  It always been that way and will still be that way after I smoke myself to death.  Every few weeks, on one of the many gaming podcasts that I listen to, somebody sends an email asking about how to find a gaming group-the answer is always the same.  “Go online and find a meetup or craigslist or bla bla bla.”  Sure, you can do that and with the luck of the die you might find a group.  However, you just need to do the leg work and actually do some real networking. 

I still am keeping my goals for this year.  First goal is to run an Apocalypse World game in addition to my monthly Star Wars game.  Second goal is to game with more players that I have not gamed with.  My first attempt to accomplish this failed, by my own hand.  Live and learn.  Now I have to do what I knew needed to be done and not look for an easily way out.  I have to get out there and show my face.

pete

4/13/2011-The Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game Review

April 14, 2011

Take a knife to 4th Edition D&D and cut down anything that hints at role-playing; leaving just the bone of having to work together.  This includes the Dungeon Master because he would add too much flavor to the game.  Then boil down all the rules to make it simple, because you have to add an additional layer of random meat to compensate the loss of the GM.  Pepper in some artwork, but not too much, and you will have Wizards of the Coast’s basic D&D board game mechanic; making The Wrath of Ashardalon, a fairly bland game. 

This is the second Dungeon Crawl board game produce by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro with the same basic system using D&D as its inspiration.  WotC obviously has the outside goals of, introducing more people to the D&D Brand and getting a piece of the Dungeon Crawl board game market by using the brand.  Unfortunately, the game does not raise interest in RPG because it is really just a tactical game.  True, my nine-year old enjoys playing it, but he admits he doesn’t want to try the RPG.  I guess there is a chance for his palate to grow.  However, there is a good chance that WotC might get enough of the board game market and make a profit to keep adding supplements. 

The Crunchy Bits

Players can choose a dwarven warrior, half-orc rouge, dragonborn wizard, half-elf paladin, or human cleric to be their hero for the game.  From there, the players can choose their heroes’ special powers, mimicking 4th edition’s mechanic of “At Will,” “Daily Power” and “Utility Power.” The “at will” powers can be used throughout the game, but all others are a one-time use.  Not all heroes or powers are created equal; the wizard is very useful while the rogue is almost pointless.  Each hero has basic stats for the game; hit points, speed, AC, and such.  Your hero can advance a level during gameplay, which gives you bonuses to your stats.  Gameplay for the heroes is a simple “move-attack” phase during your turn, with your hero rolling a D20 adding combat modifiers vs. a monster’s AC. 

There is no Dungeon Master with this board game; therefore the players have to take some additional responsibilities and there are a few minor random systems.  The players are in charge of the monsters that they draw from the deck, however, each monster have a set priories in which they act.  This surprisingly works really well; even if you mega-game the monsters to the heroes’ advantage.  The random systems involve drawing dungeon tiles and cards (monster, encounters, treasure, adventure cards and a few more). These systems might be optional add more complexity to the game.  They work well in adding more flavor and tactics to the game; however, some rules are not distinct or clear, requiring some house rules or group agreement on how to apply them.   

The game includes an adventure book that, in theory, contains over twenty different quests, but that is based on drawing cards.  The first few quests get players acquainted with the game while the others provide enough different flavors and tactics to avoid game repetition.  Oddly, there are campaign’s rules which allow players buy magical items and bring them from one quest to another.  If you are going to have a campaign, why not play a RPG?  Old dogs…

The Soft Chew

There is not much fluff to this game, yet for some reason I feel transported back to sixth grade going through the module B-1 “Search of the Unknown.”  You go down a hall and get hit by a fungal plume and when you open the door it releases a lava trap; impractical and very old school.  Players argue about tactics not motivations and the setting is defined just enough to explain why you want to play.  There is a nostalgic feeling to playing this game.  True, some people will miss the competition and strategy in playing against a human opponent (Game Master), but the random element maintains a mystery and tension for everyone playing.   

Unfortunately, the game loses the basic role-playing fundamentals that higher principles were built on; creative problem/solution and prevention actions.  Players cannot tap a 10-foot pole in front of them to set off pits before walking on them.  Heroes cannot take hours investigating a well of water or clump of mushrooms to figure out if and how they might be dangerous.  There are no GM tricks for them to out-wit.  The walls turn to magma because the card that was flipped over says so.  Without these basic role-playing options that were a given during the old school days, players are pigeon-hole into making only tactical and risk assessments for the game.  This means that they only see the hero that they are playing as a tactical tool instead of a character.  This is the one true irony of the game, D&D is the founding brand of role-playing and this game has nothing to do with playing a unique character. 

Tasty Bits

Miniatures Stuff!!!  You get 35 unpainted figures with this game, 40 interlocking dungeon tiles, and other gaming tiles with this game.  Even if you don’t like the game, you have the basic requirements to have a good fantasy RPG session.  They are not the cheap stuff that Milton Bradley produces but good solid Hasbro pieces.

Versatility!!!  I don’t know about other dungeon crawl games, but there is a wide range of stuff to apply some creativity too.  WotC has built into the game several categories and discrete intricacies into the game that a creative person could effortlessly start playing with.  For example, want a Dragonborn rogue? Then replace the Half-orc race card with the Dragonborn race card, now you have it.  Make your own powers, races or monsters.  I started house ruling during the 1st game that I played, talk about old school.  I am surprise that there is not an online presence adapting and adding to this game.

Solo Play!!!! If you do not like grinding to MMOs, then try playing this game solo. Solo play is the greatest aspect of this game.  You can get a deeper level of tactics and possible combinations of actions than any button pusher online.  Start off playing three heroes, then try two or if you want a real challenge, try just one.  If you get bored, start playing with the versatility of the game and see where that takes you. 

Bitter Bits

No role-playing-I identify more with Professor Plum more than Quinn the Cleric. 

Inheritance of D&D- Because this game is structured on D&D, it inherits some of the problems that come with playing D&D.  Most of the challenges and creativity is external; monsters, events, magic items and setting; not within the hero you are playing.  This will move many players to find new and creative external challenges, keeping the hero stagnate.  Okay, this is an abstract way to say: if you like this game, then you will want to buy supplements that give you more figures, tiles, monster and event cards. 

Conclusion

The Wrath of Ashardalon is a stew of good and bad things with nothing being exceptional.  It is bland; but none the less, filling.  It barely meets the two requirements of a game, it’s fun and you will want to play it again.  You are not going to beseechs others to play with the excitement that a typical RPG invokes.  Instead, it will be a good filler when you cannot play any real RPG. The game is like ranch flavored potato chips, it has some flavor and will satisfy your hunger, but it’s not a real meal. 

On a personal note; I would be tempted to buy supplements if they were priced right.  However, I don’t think I would spend another $65.00 for an additional and compatible game, like the soon to be released “legend of Drizzt.”  I certainly will not pay for additional adventures that are sold as PDFs. 

Rating

Content: 3 out of five-I like playing it instead of MMOs, but if I hope my friends bring a new game on gaming night.

Style: 2 out of five-The miniatures are good, but I wanted more pizzazz with the cards and tiles.