Feb 252017
 

Casual gamers are, in my opinion, the bread and butter of any hobby. The vast majority of any hobby’s follower is a casual person who enjoys whatever it is on an ad-hoc basis.

And of course the presence of casual gamers has an impact on the gaming experience. If anything because the level of commitment of a casual gamer is never going to be the same and thus they might not engage or otherwise participate in the same way as a more hard-core gamer.

And it would seem that can be a frustrating thing for some. Like Jim.

In this episode we actually get to disagree a fair bit about it, for I think casual gamers are a good thing and it is the responsibility of the person around the table to control how they behave.

In this episode it becomes even clearer that Jim is the nicest of us two!

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Feb 212017
 

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What’s up is a memory game for two to four players from Strawberry Studios that plays in 15 to 20 minutes in which players must create collections of birds to become the winners.

There is little else to say, as thematically What’s Up could be anything, so there is no story background or mechanics to match the theme.

Production wise the game is actually very good. A very small box to fit in any pocket or bag (no… you are unlikely to fit his in your jeans’ pocket, don’t push it), it is sturdier than most larger boxes and has a really lovely cover with a very clear and just as lovely design at the bottom of the box.

Inside you will find 30 cards and a small rules booklet. The box is just over twice the size of the cards, which means the box could be even smaller and thus fit in your jeans (jeeezzz…. Stop going on with that!) but the size makes sense because, in line with the other game the studio has published, that means you have plenty of space for all the cards once you sleeve them –  and sleeve you should because lots of play they will see.

The illustrations on the cards are just amazing. Perfect for any and every children’s book, the cute little birds are just amazing to look at. The card material is not the thickest and it is not laminated in plastic. Although that is a bit of a shame, since I am ambassador for the “Let’s Save The Cards” movement and believe that leaving them without sleeves is card abuse and should be reported, I will say that it doesn’t matter because you will protect your cards with sleeves, won’t you? WON’T YOU?

Because if you don’t, you deserve what is coming to you. Probably faded cards and dog eared edges. And you don’t want that.

Anyway, it won’t happen because as soon as you see the lovely illustrations you will want to sleeve these cards.

Yes… I know I keep going on about it. So what? My review, my points!

The rule book follows the same sort of design and it is clear and with examples and even an F.A.Q. section with one question which answer is “No”. You’ll have to get the game to know the question. I don’t like spoilers.

Gameplay can be explained in less than a minute. Setup all the cards in a grid on the table. Each card has a number of birds from one to three in four different colours. The aim is to create collections of birds. A collection is a set of three cards – one with a bird, one with two and one with three – of the same colour.

In order to get the collections, players must flip one card and one alone. If the revealed number and/or colour of bird appears, they can be added to the collection. If not, the next player has a go.

That’s it.

Of course, the more attention to the cards flipped you pay, the easier it will be to remember where is that card that you needed. And thus the sooner you will get your collections.

The game ends either when a player has got four collections – one of each colour, when there are no more cards on the table or when the remaining cards can be placed on anyone’s collection.

The player with the most collections, or the one who got four collections first, wins the game.

Conclusion

As a mega quick game that can be played by people from ages 6 onward. Even though the game says 8+, I have seen children of 6 using mobile phones, iPads and build kingdoms in Minecraft, so I reckon they can handle such a simple game.

Replayability will depend on various things. Firstly how good a memory you have. Second, your age. Younger players (and I mean children) will get a lot more out of this game than adults. The fact is that, eventually, you will learn what the cards are and the game will lose it’s edge.

Don’t get me wrong, it will take a while before that happens, and considering this is a small game you won’t spend hours and hours playing, I can’t foresee that becoming a problem unless you specifically want to just memorise it in order to win every single time (I have seen people like that… they exist).

Although that is a problem that could easily be solved by having three copies of the game, shuffling the 90 cards together and then dealing thirty on the table, I really can’t see myself doing it because the game is OK as it is for my group and a couple of games between beers from time to time.

I certainly have no problem recommending this game. Quick, simple, fun, challenging enough to keep the whole family amused and looking really gorgeous, you can’t go wrong with this.

Highly recommended!

Feb 172017
 

pic2993325_mdPublished by Strawberry Studios, 3 Wishes is a quick and extremely simple card game for three to five players and a play time of 5 to 10 minutes.

Imagine you find an old lamp in the beach and manage to summon the genie who lives in that lamp. Of course now you and your friends argue about who discovered the lamp and the genie gets annoyed.

It will only grant three wishes, but only to the person who makes the best three wishes.

High stakes for powerful wishes!

3 Wishes comes in a pocket size box that will easily fit into any bag. With an absolutely adorable cover and a box built to withstand travel and quite a lot of play.

Inside, 18 cards, 10 wooden tokens 5 player aid cards and the rules have plenty of space to coexist. You see… this has some clever and very simple design not many other games think about: Enough space to put all the cards back in the box when you sleeve them.

The illustrations on the card are truly lovely. Each one reflecting a wish the players can ask for and they fall into three different categories: Gifts, Super Powers and World Harmony. Icons to define what type of wish each card belong to and a number or a multiplier to determine how good the wish is.

Those points will determine the winner at the end of the game.

Playing the game is extremely simple. Firstly, all cards are played face down. Two cards are placed in the middle of the table and each player gets three cards, all of them faced down. During their turn, players can take two out of three actions: Peek at any card in front of the player or one of the cards in the centre, switch any two cards or shuffle the three cards in front of you and peek at one.

Once at least four rounds have taken place, any player can decide to end the game rather than taking an action.

At that moment, players will reveal the three cards in front of them. If they have one of each type of wish, they count the points on the cards and the player with the most points is the winner. If they don’t have one of each, then that player loses.

Conclusion

For a game that plays in just a few minutes and needs about two to be explained to players, 3 Wishes has a great deal to offer.

What usually starts as a peek a card game, soon becomes a vicious game in which players try to keep ahead while messing the other player’s combination of cards.

Play time of 5 to 10 minutes – depending how many players –  is accurate, so don’t expect this game to keep you amused for hours. However, as a mega-quick filler to take with you and play anywhere with friends is just perfect.

Tremendous good fun and very, very good value for money.

Feb 162017
 

clichesHow many times have we seen the same clichés in RPGs? How many more times will we have to endure them?

Truth is that clichés have a reason to exist because they make life easy for the writer or player, so it is not surprising that we see them so often. However, overuse and simplification have made those clichés to become really tired and boring.

Even though they do have a place and a time, usually it is not the correct place or time when they are used and we find too many of them in our games.

In this episode, Jim and I discuss what clichés should never be seen again in our games and why.

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Feb 142017
 

gay_characters_2Let’s concentrate on the people who don’t know how to deal with characters who are non-straight.

I am prepared to believe some don’t know how to deal with that because there are people who live in areas where it is less accepted, there are less outed people or whatever other reason. I am going to think they are not homophobes, just ignorant. It happens… nothing wrong with that.

So, blessed as I am by knowing a lot of LGBTQI people, I went to my social network circles and asked around. And I got a lot of really good advice.

To start with, my friend James Pisanich said: “For people at your house I recommend you just forget their sexual identity and treat everyone as a friend”.

And this is sound advice. Just imagine those player characters are your friends. To some degree, they are an extension of the player friend who is playing them. Does it matter to you if your friends are LGBTQI? If it matters to you, then you are part of the homophobe group, this part of the article doesn’t apply to you. No part of this article applies to you.

Otherwise, treat that character as you treat your friend. Don’t make their sexuality an issue. Just let it be there as and when your friend decides it should be. It will probably be less often than you might think.

Someone I do respect a great deal, Erik Scott de Bie  said: “…it’s all about casual inclusion. The male bartender whose husband is the cook. The snot-nosed noble heir who has both male and female prostitutes hanging on him. The beautiful elf lady who dotes on an elderly matron who has been her lover for fifty years… You just have these characters show up and don’t treat it as strange or unexpected.”

The point made by Erik also makes perfect sense and it works well: Just let those things be, just not be the centre of anything. And drop them in as if they were the most natural thing in the world. In a fantasy world – and all RPG worlds have a very healthy dose of fantasy – it could easily be the most natural thing in the world.

Erik also goes out to point that “A lot of people confuse “sexuality” with “sexual,” thinking that including non-straight people is tantamount to including sex in a game.”

This is probably the strongest fear a lot of people have: If I have gay characters, I will have to have gay sex. Establishing as part of the social contract around a table a “no graphic sex scenes” game – either straight or homosexual – will solve that problem. You can then concentrate on having fun with the characters.

Avoiding casual homophobic language is also something you can do and it is a lot more important than you might think. Questioning their manhood for being gay or likening them to women will only help make people feel uncomfortable, even if it is something that socially accepted.

I know this can be hard, specially if you know the person and ar used to joking with them, so ask them for help. Ask them to point out when you have inadvertently overstepped the mark. You will find out it is a lot more often than you realise.

Which leads me to the next point: Ask your players. If you are unsure about how to deal with a character from the LGBTQI spectrum, check with your player and ask what they need from you as a GM, or as a game companion. It is unlikely that person will chastise you for asking. It depends how you ask, but it is unlikely.

Of course you could also turn the whole adventure into an LGBTQI issue, as suggested by both Erik and Jessie Foster. How about a princess who asks your help to bring her lover back who has been sent away by her homophobic father? Why not have a prince who wants to be smuggled away to be with his knight? And why not having a prince asking you to gather some components for a spell that will transform her body into a female body so she can feel complete?

However, if you are going to go with this, do check with your players. They might be dealing with similar issues in reality and need the game as a means of escapism. Shawn Harris made a great point that “LGBT people know more about homophobia and transphobia than cishet people, so either leave it alone (‘cuz you’d be surprised what went on historically) or ask for tips from the player.”

Also, make sure that homosexuality is not the enemy. Don’t use any NPC’s sexuality as the reason why they are in the wrong, or the antagonist.

Overall, the safest bet is to, simply, not make a big deal of it. Remember you are playing a game, not a life-depending reenactment that will cost you anything.

Just have fun and let people have fun.

Feb 122017
 

images-18[1]Oftentimes I have found people complaining that LGBTQI characters don’t fit in some games. Somehow, having a non-straight character at the table could destroy the fine veil of historic believability a fantasy world has to offer.

Needless to say, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the real reasons are nothing to do with history or believability. There are many reasons behind this behaviour. That is an excuse I will concentrate on for this article.

However, I was given a genuine reason and it is a reason I want to concentrate on today: ignorance.

People who feel uncomfortable either having a character at the table, or playing a non-player character when they direct a game, because they are worried the portrayal of the LGBTQI character will be flawed.

To say that LGBTQI people have existed since the dawn of time is to state the obvious. Numerous records point at people with homosexual tendencies, transexuality, intersexuality, etc, from ancient times to today. It really doesn’t take too much to find serious studies on the topic from very specialised viewpoints.

You can easily find photos of people in same sex relationships in the 1800s USA, and 1800s and 1920s in the USA and the United Kingdom. And those were times when being out was far more dangerous than today.

If we can find people who were ready to have their photo taken, imagine how many more there were hidden. And those people were entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, policemen… actors, directors.

Hence, even though the American government decided the first amendment did not apply to movies for a while and decided it was illegal to depict LGBTQI characters in movies, there were numerous references and appearances of gay characters during this period.

Even during that time, some creators found less plausible to have a world without gay characters and face fines than completely shut us down.

Because there were gay people. There were private clubs where people could go to have same sex encounters without being prosecuted or vilified. Or at least run a lower risk of being found out.

In short, there were Gays at times when we believe everything was soooo hard for them to be alive without being killed on sight.

Of course that extends to the middle ages with numerous studies showing different levels of tolerance towards LGBTQI people. We can also find LGBTQI people in the Middle East through the ages, or India, Japan and Native American Culture.

Therefore, to say that a Gay character doesn’t fit in the setting can only be a product of homophobia or ignorance. Because people were there.

So how can this be applied to RPGs?

Well, firstly it is a matter of deciding to what extent the historical background of the game matters. You, as a team of players, must decide if having Elder Ones in a game is OK but LGBTQI people are not. If having knights with magical swords is OK but having a Transgender NPC is too much. If seeing dragons or throwing fire balls is fine but a Lesbian Cleric is just not possible.

If you want to decide that LGBTQI has no place around your table, well… so be it. You are probably a homophobe.

I would also say you are doing a great disservice to RPGs. You are not playing them right.

Yes, I am saying there is way to play RPGs incorrectly if you think there were no LGBTQI people in ancient cultures, there were.

The application of the historic background and attitude towards LGBTQI people are optional. Nothing stops you from having an Inquisitor who is more interested in the mission he is going to entask the group with than one particular character. Nothing stops you from having a police officer in the 1920s who has better things to do than hassling an character for being gay. Nothing stops you from having a Shogun who has decided that a Samurai’s bravery is worth more than the rules about homosexuality. Nothing stops you from having any excuse to let your friend play a LGBTQI character.

Because the fact is that it doesn’t matter if someone wants to run a gay character. If it is a problem, then you should wonder if the problem is you. It probably is you.

By now I have already proven that they were accepted at times and places where we believe they weren’t. And that there was a support network, sometimes hidden. And people willing to risk their lives to show that we were there.

So, please, no more “gay people don’t fit in the system”. It doesn’t work.