29 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #39: Bluebeard's Bride: An Interview with Whitney Beltrán

This article is an installment from the PinkFae Archives. It was originally published on 29 October 2016.

The cover art for Bluebeard's Bride. Bluebeard himself holds his wife in an awkward embrace, as she holds a ring of keys and hesitates, unsure of her husband. The image is in greyscale, except for Bluebeard's hair, which is blue, and the ring of keys in the bride's hand and some accents in the bride's dress, which are a muted bronze colour.

About a week ago, I received an email from Whitney Beltrán, one of the creators of a game called Bluebeard's Bride. I agreed to do an interview with her. We sat down over Skype, and I am pleased to share a condensed version of our conversation. We started with the usual pleasantries, before I described PinkFae's mission.

Whitney Beltrán - That's a pretty fascinating intersectionality. Because Bluebeard's Bride is specifically a feminine experience, whether you are a man or a woman or somewhere in between. It would be really interesting to see what trans men or trans women think of this. Would they react any differently than anyone else? Probably not, but would there be special purviews where they would identify with things more strongly or less strongly? It's a whole separate bag, that I am not super qualified to talk about, because I am not trans. But I would be interested to explore.

22 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #38: Board Game Review: Steve Jackson Games Triple Threat

This week's entry is another board game review from the PinkFae archives. It is also an entry in the series of articles on Gen Con 2016. It was originally published on 22 October 2016.

A banner made up of three images fading into one another: on the left, a photo of the board from Bill and Ted's Excellent Board Game (cartoon-style temporal pathways in the style of the original movie) with cardboard pieces representing the players in phone booths and characters from history). In the middle is the cover for I Hate Zombies (a cartoon style man, grimacing in anger and covered in bandages, with a horde of zombies behind him). On the right is the box for the Simon's Cat Card Game next to several of the cards from the game, all decorated with the character from the titular comic.

For my last entry about Gen Con, I'm going to do three board game reviews in one article. Why? Partly because the games are all short and simple. Partly because they're all from Steve Jackson Games. Partly because it's time to finish up the Gen Con posts and get on to something else! So we're going to look at the three games they demoed at their 'Play New Releases' table: Simon's Cat Card Game, I Hate Zombies, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game.

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, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.

The Ratings

Here are the ratings for all three games.

15 June 2019

Board Game Review: Mixed Company

The game box, a green box just large enough to hold a couple hundred normal-sized playing cards. The box is green, with the name and logo on the cover. The cover sits next to the bottom, which holds a number of cards. Some of these cards are lying on the table next to the box. Some cards are face down, so you see the back, which consists of the name and logo. Others are face up, so you can see that they have a white speech balloon on a green background, with a variety of different text in the balloons.

I didn't mention in the article I wrote about Token Con back in October, but one of the things I did was learn about an interesting new game called Mixed Company. As I was walking through the company booths, someone at one of them said, 'Would you like to play a game?'

I responded, 'Is that a trick question?' I sat down and learned how to play. It was a fun little game, and after we played a round and the designers were discussing some of their plans for the development, I asked them, 'Is this game just a way to trick people into learning good discussion and debate skills?'

Their answer was, 'I think that "trick" is a strong word. Maybe "encourage?"'

Being a big fan of rational discourse, I was of course intrigued. Additionally, the game was fun! So I followed their facebook page, and as soon as their kickstarter went live, I immediately backed it.

I've received a reviewer copy, and have played again with some other people, so I think the time has come to review this game so that you can decide if you want to back it.

08 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #37: How to GM Part 4: Preparing a Game Session

This entry was part of the 'How to GM' series on PinkFae. It represents a brief break in the entries about Gen Con. It was originally published on 15 October 2016.

A line drawing, coloured, of a swan standing on a large stone telling a story to two other birds standing nearby. In the background is a castle near some farmland and some clouds. This image is meant to be symbolic of a GM leading a game session.
A swan telling a story. Much like the GM tells a story to the players in a game session, often of fantastical tales, such as a swan telling stories.
I have one more post to write on Gen Con. But we've been hearing about Gen Con for months now. Let's take a break before we finish it up. It's been a long time since we've had any installments on the Analysis of GMing series. Let's get another one of those in! This time, we'll talk about planning a game session.

So you've chosen a game, gathered a group of players, and have a design for the overall campaign. It's time to start getting into the nitty-gritty. Before you meet up with your players for that first session, you need to know what's going to happen in that session. So let's take a look at that.

01 June 2019

Geekway to the West

The Geekway to the West Logo: a green meeple under a blue arch that resembles the Gateway to the West arch in St Louis. Next to that, in white letters, is the title, with a white arrow pointing to the right under the 'to the' part of the title.

My friend John has been trying to get me to go with him to the Geekway to the West convention in St. Louis, MO, for several years now. I wasn't able to go, because work obligations prevented me from being able to take the time off when the convention was happening.

Until this year.

I went to the 2019 Geekway, and boy did I have a great time!

For those who don't know, Geekway to the West is a board game convention that takes place annually in the St. Louis area. Unlike Gen Con, which is dedicated to tabletop gaming of all sorts, and which has tons of panels on all sorts of gaming-related topics, Geekway is focused exclusively on board games. Pretty much everything there is about playing, buying, selling, or trading board games. They have some tournaments, and a few special events (like the 'fancy gaming' event, and the game design contest, and the craft fair), but other than that, it's all board games all day.