Jul 292014
 

CognitionBy Paco Garcia Jaen

I think Wizards of the Coast had a  pinch of genius moment when they included the diversity paragraph in the new edition of D&D. Pure genius!

I don’t know if it was accidental or if it was a calculated risk, but my goodness it’s paying off!

Why do I say this? Because everyone is talking about it. People who were looking forward to D&D are talking about it. People who don’t care about D&D are talking about it. People who didn’t want to care about D&D talk about it. People who like the diversity clause are talking about it. People who dislike it are talking about it.

People are talking about D&D. The diversity clause is not the only thing they’re talking about, but it certainly is making a lot of noise.

And that’s good!

I personally believe the inclusion of that paragraph is a good idea. People argue it’s not necessary and I could agree with that. It doesn’t really make or break the game. It’s not pivotal and thus is not necessary.

I think it’s a good idea to have a reminder, though. Although plenty of people have said “this paragraph is telling us we can play the game as we have played all along”, most players, without some sort of prompting or reminder, just fall back into the binary heteronormative paradigm and leave it like that. Most people have no hidden agenda or try to avoid diversity; it’s simply that falling back into “normality” is a very easy thing to do.

Regardless, though, this is an absolutely brilliant marketing technique that’s paying dividends because there’s so little to be upset about, it’s controversial enough to be interesting and long lasting, and it’s therefore raising awareness of the game.

Whether this paragraph is necessary or not, not many people are saying it’s a bad idea. Or that it is a bad thing. I don’t think many people are complaining about the notion of having diversity in their games; people are questioning the need for the reminder more than anything else and a few are resenting they feel they’re being told how to play the game.

Either way, to come up  – even if it’s been accidentally – with a means to make your audience talk about your product for a reason that’s controversial but not pernicious or a mistake… well done WOTC!

I think this is something a lot of designers out there should take note of and learn something!

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Jul 282014
 

gencon_logoGenCon is for many of us Europeans a Mecca of gaming we’ll never get to see. Though I hope to someday.

The biggest four days in gaming, as the slogan aptly announces, has been going more than 45 years. From humble beginnings it’s turned out to be a true giant. And deservedly so.

This year it also comes with a very interesting twist that’s made it very exciting for even more people: The re-launch of Dungeons & Dragons, the game that started it all.

Wizards of the Coast has this year made a huge effort to bring the excitement to the floor and regain the mantle that it lost quite a while ago. And I hope it works. I truly do.

But of course that’s not the only thing that goes on. The Ennies are there and, literally, thousands of games people can join.

Vickey Beaver and Jim Pinto join me in this most excellent episode to talk about GenCon, how to manage the schedule, what to do and, just as importantly, what not to do.

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Jul 282014
 

pic43663_t[1]A REVIEW IN HONOR OF THE D-DAY LANDINGS ANNIVERSARY

By Evaldas Bladukas

It’s been 70 years since the D-Day landings and to celebrate the souls that fought in the war, for the next two weeks we’ll be having a look at World War 2 themed tabletop games. Memoir ’44 has been a mainstay of the genre for ten years now and is a game that still sees a lot of support from the publishers. It uses the Command & Colours system which has been utilized in numerous other war games.

p.s. Just like in all good things, our video this week features a post-credit sequence. Make sure you stick around! You won’t be disappointed.

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Jul 272014
 

mindjammerBy Paco Garcia Jaen

Mindjammer is a mammoth tome of an RPG straight from the mind of the talented Sarah Newton, experienced writer and designer with a catalogue of games that include Monsters & Magic, Legends of Anglerre and many others.

Mindjammer came to my attention for the first time years ago when the novel in which the universe is based was published. I devoured it. Knowing Sarah’s writing I knew it’d be good writing, but I was really unprepared for the story scope and magnitude of the setting.

As you can imagine I was gagging for the roleplaying game, and when I saw the book my heart both sunk and soared all at the same time.

I have a couple of things to say as means of disclaimer. Firstly I know Sarah very well. She’s a friend. Thus this review won’t be unpleasant and it will be a bit biased. Having said that, I will be as objective as I can.

Secondly I didn’t like FATE when I tried to read it. I had heard a lot of good things about it and I backed Evil Hat’s Kickstarter campaign. I got less than 1/2 into the book and I had to put it down. I just didn’t get it. That made me read this book a bit begrudgingly.

This review is not exhaustive either. This game is too large to review it in one go, so this is the first or two reviews.

My heart sunk because when I said earlier that it’s a mammoth tome, I really meant it. Clocking nearly 500 pages, this hardback is a mighty beast and a heavy one at that. Sturdy hardback with a *gorgeous* full-colour map courtesy of Jason Juta and 24 pages in full colour with the rest of the pages in black and white. I’m afraid I am not a friend of huge tomes anymore.

And it soared because I know the absolutely amazing setting Sarah has come up with and seeing the amount of work and material thrown to it made me very, very excited to find out what was inside the book. Also, to see the production value of the book was heart warming. It is really a fantastic quality game.

So with a fair bit of trepidation I opened the book and started to read. As suspected, Sarah’s writing is approachable and easy to get on with. That is helped by a great layout and a good choice of font that let your eye glide over the pages without a problem.

The book contains 25 chapters (I told you it was mammoth) and they cover everything from some basic introduction, the rules basics, character creation, rules, skills, stunts, cultures… all the way to appendices that contain a few character and environment sheets.

The Introduction and the Basics chapters are all the players need to get started. There is enough in those two chapters to give newcomers an idea of what’s going on and how to use it. It’s by no means enough to run the game, but it manages to convey the atmosphere and ethos of the game well enough to get you going.

Then we start with the heavy duty stuff…

Character creation is a doodle. It is suggested that the character creation process to take place during a session and do it as a collaborative exercise between all the players. I would certainly agree with that. In fact I think is something most roleplaying games would benefit from. In Mindjammer’s case it’s more poignant because of the scale of the game. Mindjammer is a space opera with the potential to host adventures at an inter-galactic scale and consequences that could affect entire civilisations. Creating characters synergistically will help the adventures not get out of hand.

Cultures, Genotypes and Occupations and the game start to shine. This is a setting placed 15.000 years in the future. Things are bound to be a bit different. And they are. Consideration has been given to genetic manipulation, evolution, transhumanism, alien contact… You name it, is there. And is there in a way that invites you to explore and create your own variants. Ideas kept coming almost effortlessly.

And then we got to the rules. And at last I can say I now get FATE. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sarah has managed to delve into the FATE system in a way that gives sense to everything I couldn’t understand in the FATE core book. The abilities, compels, dice rolling, stunts, consequences, skills and extras are covered in the following chapters and now I get it. And I even like it!

Then the game shines a bit more. The technology episode is tremendous. Believable-sounding explanations that are actually based on a layer of real science grabbed me right away and, once again made me think about the possibilities. And there are many of them.

Playing and Gamemastering Mindjammer gets a thorough cover in the following chapters, and thank goodness for that. This game is immense and the scope for it to get too big is just as immense. Mindjammer is so huge that one could just stand and wonder “so what do I do” and not know what to do because of the magnitude. These chapters help with that. A lot.

The Mindscape is one of the pivotal aspects of this game. A network so vast that can hold the consciousness of billions of beings and the memories of anyone who’s connected to it. Vast and vastly powerful spaceships travel between planets to update the databases and make them available to all to access. Like our current Internet with a neural connection and so hugely vast we can’t really imagine its size. Of course you can get inside it and play as an entity directly interacting with any conscious being, virus, defence programs, firewalls… Like TRON but a lot better, bigger and more exciting!

Starships, Space Travel, Vehicles and Installations are probably the weakest chapters. Not because they’re weak, at all. They have some fantastic examples of ships, vehicles and weapons of all kind. It’s just that they’re the most predicable chapters. Admittedly it’s very difficult to come up with something truly new and innovative on that ground and, to be perfectly honest it doesn’t really need to be. There’s some comfort in the familiarity of space travel as we know it from Sci-Fi tradition. Also it leaves you, the player and GM plenty of space to come up with your own ideas, which is something Sarah tells you to do throughout the book.

I am going to stop this first part of the review here because the next chapter, Organisations blew me away and I rather leave it for the next instalment than add another 500 words to this one.

So far my heart is soaring with this game much, much higher than it sunk when I saw the size. Even if I weren’t interested in playing (I am) I would recommend this book for the advice, ideas and sheer amount of useful data it contains.

Second part of the review with my conclusions coming very soon!

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Jul 272014
 

img[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

The release of D&D Starter Set sparked many reactions from a lot of people. Mostly, people have been excited and mostly they have been welcoming. Some people, though, have complained about how two individuals who were consulted. The extent of their influence on the game is unknown.

I can understand that. I don’t know any of the two people in question, but what I have read that they’ve written make them come across as thoroughly obnoxious and up-their-own-arse individuals with no empathy or room for what anyone else think.

Quite frankly I would have consulted them too. If anything because whatever they said would have been put in the “this is probably the wrong thing, so let’s avoid” list.

The thing is, these two individuals (I won’t mention them because I don’t want to give them any more publicity) have got more attention than the good people who’ve contributed to the game. Their presence alone is like having a cockroach in a restaurant. No matter how clean everything is; no matter how well cooked the meals are; no matter how it’s pretty much unavoidable that there will be vermin, their mere presence taints everything else even though they are insignificant.

And we are letting that happen. We are contributing to driving people off the restaurant because someone saw a cockroach.

This is a metaphor, of course. I am not saying they’re like cockroaches, just that the reaction the spark is similar.

So how about we do something else this time? How about, this time, we don’t engage? How about we simply let WOTC that having people like that is not what we expect and simply, leave it there?

Yes, people will goad you into “conversations” because how dare you have an opinion that clashes with theirs? How dare you dislike what they so like? Don’t bother with them. Make your voice heard, don’t give them another route to get out and point at more cockroaches in the catering community.

Why aren’t we talking about the good people in the industry? Why aren’t we talking about Cam Banks, Shannah Germain, Christina Styles, Rob Donohue, Bruce Cordell…

Why are we wasting our time with the obnoxious when we have so many *amazing* people instead?

By the way, I have no grudge nor axe to grind with them two individuals. I don’t like how they come across and I feel the conversation would be more constructive if it was directed at the excellent people instead. Neither of them have done anything to me and disliking their Internet personas is not the same as having axes to grind or grudges.

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Jul 252014
 

pic1528436_t[1]Iello released Titanium Wars at Spiel 2013 and the theme and looks were enough to get me very interested. Then I found out it was also a resource management game and also a card game. I like all of that.

The subject? You must expand your galactic empire to win the game. You do that by developing technologies, building armies and blasting the other players out of the sky.

In a nutshell, a winner for me.

But in reality how does it play? Well, this episode will tell you because we sat down around the table and played it so we could tell you how good it is!

Hope you enjoy the show!

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If you have enjoyed this podcast, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website or simply click the advert below. Every click helps us a great deal!

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support

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