31 January 2015


When I was very young, I watched a movie called E.T. I'm sure you've heard of it. I remember a brief scene in that film that involved some people sitting around a table with 3D models of tunnel walls, talking about arrows in the chest and undead creatures casting spells. For a long time, I thought that that was what Dungeons and Dragons was: an elaborate board game with a lot of parts.

When I grew older and finally learned about what D&D really was and how it worked, I realised that all of that stuff on the table wasn't necessary (for that matter, in my experience, most players don't mess with that level of paraphernalia; they just place figurines on 2D maps). Some players prefer that level of detail, but others are content with mere verbal descriptions.

As a Storyteller/Method Actor, I didn't feel a great need for miniatures. On occasion, when we got involved in an intense combat, it would be necessary to give players a somewhat more exacting description of where the characters were located in relation to each other, and to the items in the scenery (trees, buildings, cars, etc). Normally, I would just mark the places on a piece of paper. If it was available, I would be fancy by making use of a dry-erase board.

25 January 2015

In the Spirit of Fun

I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade. I was drawn to the rich setting with great potential for character development. Once, I was playing a Salubri character. Salubri have access to a defensive power called Obeah. One of the abilities of this power is to erect a force field around the character, so that anyone not already within 25 feet cannot approach any closer than that distance.

At one point, my character finds herself in a small cavern with at least one hostile NPC. I state that I am looking all around me to ensure that there's no one within 25 feet. To emphasise the point, I turn my head to the left and the right.

I considered, at this point, stating outright that my character was looking in a full 360° arc, just to be sure the GM understood what I meant. But then I thought to myself, 'No, that won't be necessary. The GM is understanding enough to know what I mean. I'm not going to insult her intelligence, nor her ability to be a good GM, by stating the obvious.'

What a fool I was.

17 January 2015

Board Game Review: Avalon

This week, I'm going to look at a game called The Resistance: Avalon. It shares some similarities with the popular party game Mafia (which I learned as Witch Hunt) that has been adapted to the game Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. It is, in essence, a variation of the game The Resistance, reworked to have a medieval theme.

We're going to take a look at this game, and as always, I provide ratings based on my system:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Pretty
Expected Length of Game Play: 15 to 45 minutes

04 January 2015

Matching games to players

So you've got your group of friends together, and you're planning on spending a lovely evening playing one of your favourite games. You make sure everyone is ready, everyone understands the game, and you start in with the evening's session. But halfway through, you realise you're just not having that much fun. This game, which you normally so adore, just isn't fun for you tonight. What could be wrong?

Might it be that you've got the wrong mix of players?

Take my situation, for example. In looking over my games, I notice that I have a penchant for games that involve creativity in some way. I'm not overly fond of chess, but I adore chess variants (3 player chess, byzantine chess, infinity chess, spherical chess, etc). This is mostly because I love seeing what sort of different or unusual spin can be put on the main game. I also love games like Gloom, where half the fun of playing is in seeing what sort of outlandish stories can be told in the course of playing the cards. Fiasco is, of course, purely an exercise in creativity. I've always loved tabletop roleplaying games precisely because of the stories told through them; Changeling: the Dreaming is paramount amongst this category of game because it encourages and rewards creativity.

But over the years, I've noticed that there are some people who just don't fit with these sorts of games.