I have a new post on the World Hopping blog about the print books vs. digital books debate as it relates to roleplaying materials.
I have mixed feelings about digital books. On the one hand, I really like the idea of them and I definitely like the convenience of being able to pop online and get pretty much whatever you want at a moment’s notice. I am not so keen on eBook readers, however, and you just can’t beat the tactile experience of picking up a book on impulse from your shelf and leafing through it.
The Problem with Print
With the recent rekindling (hah, I’m talking about digital book and I said rekindling! It’s funny because Kindle! That’s an ebook reader, you see. Oh fine, whatever, let’s continue) of my interest in RPG books, this topic has been on my mind as, more and more, RPG publishers seem to be shifting towards digital distribution for their game materials. RPGs have never been particularly well represented in mainstream book shops, with the possible exception of the now-defunct Ottakers chain where I purchased several of my old World of Darkness books. If you want to find a roleplaying game you really need to visit a specialist store (for Scottish readers, I recommend Edinburgh’s Black Lion Games, Glasgow’s Static Games and Stirling’s Common Ground Games) or online retailer. Distribution and exposure is therefore an issue that impacts heavily on the viability of print copies of RPGs, as is the fact that roleplaying is, when it comes right down to it, a very niche hobby. It’s easy to see why the publisher would consider digital distribution to be an attractive option.
I have a new post at the World Hopping blog in which I recount some details of my first experience of being a GM.
In our last thrilling instalment, I was preparing to GM my first game of Vampire: The Masquerade(none of this Requiem nonsense, mind) with a group of friends at our local games club.
So, aye, that actually went rather well.
I’m not going to give a full account of everything that happened because reasons, but I do want to share a few brief thoughts. First and foremost, the heavy reading and other prep work I had done in advance of the game very much paid off. I was very sure of most aspects of the setting and the characters I had to introduce. I also felt that once I was there, sitting at the table, I actually had a much better grasp of the rules than I thought I did. I had a handle of skill checks and dice pools and blood points in a way that I didn’t think I did beforehand. Maybe it was just getting into it and chucking some dice around rather than treating it as an abstract thing.
I have a new post over at the World Hopping Blog in which I prepare for my first session as a Vampire: The Masquerade GM/Storyteller.
Although I’ve only recently taken the plunge into playing tabletop role playing games, I’ve had a number of RPG books haunting my shelves for over a decade, just waiting to be played. White Wolf’s beautiful core books for Exalted, Vampire: the Masquerade and Mage: the Ascension have been part of my collection since I was at school. Ditto for the past couple of editions of Dungeons and Dragons, an armful of All Flesh Must be Eaten books and Steve Jackson’s delightful Discworld GURPS. I can’t say they were really used, but they were appreciated. They were read and some were even understood to some degree.
When it came to choosing a system to run as my first game as GM, it seemed natural that I select not from the shiny new books that I have recently amassed, but rather one of the battered and slightly dog-eared books that have sat so patiently on my shelf, just waiting for a group of players who would engage with them and appreciate their value. After discussing several options with my players, it was decided that I should run a game of Vampire: the Masquerade.
I have a new post on the World Hopping blog wherein I take a look at some of the available boxed RPG starter sets.
I love the current trend for RPG starter boxes. For the uninitiated, these are introductory level boxes, generally consisting of a couple of rulebooks, an example scenario and some pregenerated characters. They also contain dice and usually some tokens or cardboard models and maps. This is not a new trend, of course; many of the original Dungeons and Dragons players would have started their dungeoneering careers with a similar set back in the day, but I do think it’s fair to say that there has recently been a resurgence in companies and games employing the starter box formula to draw new players into their games.
Perhaps companies like to have a product they can sell to new customers which says “this is us, this what we do”, or perhaps it’s down to the fact that many of the designers of our modern games grew up with sets like these. Whatever the reason, it’s a wonderful trend, as these sets are usually gorgeous, with good production values and just enough meat to catch the imagination of new players. I myself have picked up four of these sets in the past year. I’m going to have a little look at each set, giving my first impressions and any experience I have had of actually playing the games.
I have a new post on the World Hopping blog wherein I dip my toe (my big one, if you must know) into tabletop roleplaying.
There’s something really comforting about retreating into the role of a character. I have a responsible, grown-up job that requires me to be on the ball and quite sure of what I am doing, but in my personal sphere, I’m not a very confident person. I could wax lyrical for hours about my work or my particular interests, but I do struggle with small talk. What is with the British obsession with minuscule changes and predicted changes in weather? Bah!
Where was I? Ah, roleplay. Roleplaying games give a group of players the opportunity to take part in a collaborative storytelling experience. This could be done in a competitive way, but is more often cooperative, with each player taking on the role of an individual character and playing out their side of the story. One player, the GM (Game Master), takes responsibility for the structure and narrative of the story, setting scenes and playing as all the different characters and creatures that the players encounter. There are several sets of rules that facilitate this play, providing a logistical foundation for the GM to build upon. This article isn’t trying to review these games, so I’m really not going to comment too heavily on the actual rules systems that each game uses, but rather on my own experiences and gut feelings on how these games went. I’ll probably come back at a later date and have a more in-depth look at some of these systems.
I have a new post over at the World Hopping blog. I’m looking at dungeon crawl again, but this time they are in SPACE!
In my previous post, I discussed the classic fantasy dungeon crawl genre of board games. I took a look at classic examples of the genre and at more modern iterations. Today I intend to do pretty much the same thing, but with a focus on sci-fi games. In considering the classic historical example of the genre, I turn my attention once again to Games Workshop (they really did dominate this genre in the 1980s and 90s) and their classic board game, Space Hulk.
Space Hulk was released in 1989 and was set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000universe. The game is for two players and involves the first player controlling a squad of Space Marine Terminators as they explore an abandoned ship or “Space Hulk” and fulfilling specific objectives. The second player controls wave after wave of Genestealers, a vicious alien race with cruel rending claws. The game is asymmetrical, with the two sides functioning very differently. The Genestealers are very simple to play and are expected to throw themselves at the marines or lie in wait to ambush them. There is no time limit for this player and they usually have access to wave after wave of alien beasties. The Space Marine player has a far more complicated game. Each Terminator is kitted out with excellent battlegear and can easy take down a Genestealer or two at range. However, they are limited in number, die easily when swarmed, and do not respawn. There is also a time limit on this player’s turn, adding to the frantic tension experienced by the player.
I have a new post one the World Hopping blog where I take a look at some dungeon crawl board games.
The dungeon crawl is a common theme in tabletop gaming. Simply put, there is nothing more fun than gathering a group of adventurers and descending into the dark places of the world in search of fun and profit. It is a genre that was originally made popular by classic roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons. My first experience of a dungeon crawl board games came in the form of Dragon Quest, a Dungeons and Dragons board game from the early 90s. In all honesty, we were too young to really understand the rules and just made up rules as we went along. Since getting back into board games as an adult, I’ve reacquired this game and, although clunky by today’s standards, it can still be a lot of fun.
Many of the classic board games of this genre were created by Games Workshop, better known today for their Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargames. Heroquest was simple and accessible game produced in conjunction with MB. It was great for younger players, whilst still having some room for depth and storytelling. Unfortunately this game is also long out of print, but reasonably easy to find in a trawl of eBay, car boot sales, conventions and charity shops.
I have a new post at the World Hopping blog. This is the third and, for now, final installment of my series on starting a board game collection.
In the final part of this series, I’m going to look at heavier “gamer” games and lighter “filler” games. If you have not already done so, you should also check out part 1 and part 2.
6. The Heavier “Gamer” Game
The games covered thus far have all been reasonably straightforward and easy to pick up and play. This category looks at games that are slightly more complex. These games tend to appeal to more established gamers who have some experience in making sense of game mechanisms. Here are some of the heavier games I have enjoyed playing:
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – a dungeon crawl in the spirit of classic games such as Heroquest. One player is the dark overlord controlling the monsters whilst the rest try to complete quests for fun and treasure! Loads of options. Very modular gameplay.
- A Game of Throne: The Board Game (Second Edition) – this is a bit like Risk but more detailed and challenging. The game encourages player interaction in terms of pacts and threats, and rewards forward planning and adaptability. Good theme too.
- Caverna: The Cave Farmers – a huge eurogame. Loads of choices to be made as you develop your farm and your mines to build a life for your dwarf family. Takes a little long to set up and put away, but very good.
- Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) – A huge space opera of a game. If you have played 4X strategy video games such as Civilisation or Galactic Civilisations, then you know what to expect. Lots of options. Fierce conflict over resources. Huge scope.
- Twilight Struggle – area control game covering the period of the Cold War. Pits the USA against the USSR as they try to sway other countries to their side through diplomacy, force and other factors of influence. Event card cover all of the major happenings, such as the space race, Cuban missile crisis and the rise of Thatcher. Complex, long, satisfying.