Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The future of Gaming

The brunette and I like to game. We dabble in strategy miniatures, role-playing, accessible video games, forum gaming, board games, card games, play by emails—even app based games. We are very fortunate to have friends who share our various addictions. There is at least one other person in the larger friends group with an interest in whatever flavor of entertainment happens to catch our fancy. The devil is in the details. Work schedules change. Children have to be looked after. Previously inseparable friends decide they can’t stand the sight of each other. People move. Avid players fall out of love with gaming. There always seem to be as many reasons to sit down for a gaming session as there are challenges to doing so.

I’ve come to view the changing environment much like tidal ebb and flow—largely beyond my control. Fifteen years ago I was the person being suckered into everyone else’s hobbies. Now I’m the one hustling for compatriots. I find myself more and more often as the person expected to get the ball rolling. This is something of a mixed blessing. It’s great to be able to set the standard, to be a leader, and to run things the way I want them run. That said, it’s really annoying when you can’t build up enough interest for something you’re passionate about. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not obligated to do all the work; but if I want to make something happen, it’s hypocritical to complain about the effort involved.

So, what to do? There are a lot of games on my plate. A brief list looks something like this:

1. Descent road to legend. Complete a full campaign.

2. Exalted 1st edition. (Run and Play.)

3. Exalted 3rd edition. (Run and play)

4. Hellas. (Run a full generational campaign.)

5. Warmachine (Play approximately three times a month.)

6. Hordes (Build an army and play three times a month.)

7. Iron Kingdoms Role-playing. (Get a regular group going more than once every two weeks.)

8. Flames of War. (Play at least once a month.)

9. Bloodbowl. (Run a group through several seasons.)

10. Dragon Dice. (Play at least once every two weeks on a somewhat competitive level.)

11. Dragon Storm. (Run, play, and create content on an ongoing basis.)

12. Dominion.(Play once a month)

13. Ascension.(Play twice a month)

14. WOW the board game.(Play once a month)

15. A variety of board games that are coming in through kick starter this year. (Play once a week for several months until I’m comfortable with them.)

16. Several apps for my iPhone. (play every day)

17. Magic the gathering. (Play once a week with a dedicated casual group.)

18. Warhammer 40k. (Play once every 2 weeks once they fix the freaking rules.)

19. Warhammer fantasy. (Play once a month once they fix the rules.)

20. Pathfinder. (Play at least once a month in an ongoing campaign.)

That is a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately I can narrow the list. Some of the items are already in process. Other items can’t or won’t be done. In order:

1. Pookah is the man with the plan when it comes to descent and WOW. I’ve mentioned several times that I want to play. He has been receptive. The issue is finding a regular time when 5-7 of us can get together outside his work schedule, kids, and life. He owns the games and has the most experience with them. I really want to play road to legend. It’s looking like the best plan may be to say let’s start somewhere in the morning and pull a marathon until everyone drops—I shall see what I can do. WOW can happen but falls under that same category of need 6+ hours to really saver the experience. This is one of those things that I’m sure will happen eventually—but I’m not holding my breath over.

2. Exalted is the single best fantasy game I have ever experienced. I want to run it only slightly less than I want to play it—which is a lot. It’s currently in a transitional stage. We kickstarted the hell out of the third edition. I am running a casual game now for a few people; but my hopes really rest upon third-ed. I want to recapture the wonder of the game, the beauty of the setting, the joy of a new game. Sadly, the group I ran for a few years ago fell apart due to external factors. I built for them I believe the best story of two decades of gming. Since then the magic has been—muted. I am up for exalted as always—but my dreams are on hold till third-ed hits the shelves.

3. If exalted is the best fantasy game, Hellas is the best sci-fi game. It seamlessly merges Greek and Roman myth, space opera, and epic storytelling into a tasteful package. I have been in first blush with it ever since one of the authors ran a starter game for me during my first gencon. I want to tell the story that the system was so beautifully designed to tell. I have not found the group I can trust with that dream yet. I need people willing to act, speak, and live in character. I need people who will set aside the in jokes, the cheap humor, and the tired tropes of classic gaming. I know fantastic role-players. Sadly, I have not seen the kind of group yet that will live up to my admittedly high expectations. This one goes on the back burner till our group changes or I build something fresh at the LGS.

4. Warmachine and Hordes are great games. They have all the classic markers I love about strategy miniatures—custom army building, decisive combat, and a fictional world worth the name. I’m currently planning on joining a new league at alternate worlds in July. Deathquaker is helping to finish up my forces. If things work out there, I’ll be looking at starting a hordes army—probably legion. I’d like to start common play there and at Titan, but not until I’ve gotten a better grip on the system. It’s been years since I’ve played any serious warmahordes. We’ll see if, after I’ve gotten my own skills up to competent levels, I can renew interest in our private group.

5. We’re currently playing a once-every-other-week game of Iron Kingdoms role-playing. The system is structured such that I could run it, but I really don’t want to handle the miniature side of things. I have the old D&D 3.0conversion books…which I can maybe see about putting together. The catch is that this newest version is just a better game. It has major problems—the combat system is ridiculous for one thing. Even so, I would much rather work with the newer game. The setting is more defined and the mechanics intentionally mimic the miniatures game. I’ll have to see where this campaign is going. I don’t think I can or would really want to have this group meet more than once every two weeks. Transportation time is too much. I can only get 5 hours of sleep before a Friday shift so many times before I start paying for it in productivity. After I play some more and get back into miniature gaming, perhaps my confidence level will increase to the point where I’ll be fine running this one.

6. Fow is not happening as often as I want. On the other hand, that’s my own damned fault. I currently only have one opponent. I could move to Titan for a shot at regular gaming and probably will try and do so next year. For now though, Wmtrainguy is it. Having to pick between FOW and bloodbowl plus other games is…challenging. I’d like to pick up a late war army, but I’m not playing enough as it is with the two huge early war armies I already have. This is one of those games that really is better the bigger you make it. The corollary is that the better the game is, the more time is required. So, while I’d like to game more, I’m ok with the current frequency provided I get some quality time in with my 15mm boys—so far, so good. It helps knowing that relief is within my reach.

7. I am slowly making my way into bloodbowl. In retrospect, it was only a matter of time. I’ve kickstarted a dwarf team and will be backing the artists future campaigns as well. My current intent is to play a few more games with wmtrainguy, read the rules a few more times, perfect the accessible interface we’ve been working on, get a team or two painted, and start a league next year after the holidays end. Whether that ends up at Titan or in our private group remains to be seen. I don’t know how many people actually can follow through with in-person play. I’m taking the long view on this one. Like warmachine, it’s worth waiting until I have the resources to do the hobby justice. Too early and I’ll likely just start a flash in the pan.

8. Dragon Dice has problems. It’s one of those games that looks simple, fun, and low intensity from the outside. From the inside, true competitive play with the current rules is an exercise in rules-lawyer-fu. I really like the game. To get more than three of us on board though I’m going to have to take the lead. Whether that ends up meaning we run from our apartment or we start up something at an LGS will depend on interest levels. We’ll definitely be running an event later this year for our friends. I’m not sure how much traction another “collectable” game will have with this group. Regardless, pushing the game locally and writing a functional version of the rules is on my list of things to do this year.

9. Dragon Storm is…complicated. I can and probably will write a dedicated article on the subject. Currently, a few people have taken over production of cards and con-pimpping the game. They are doing the best they can. Despite my frustration, I appreciate what they’re doing. The challenge is that in the last year and a half since Mark’s tragic passing, our online community has died. Part of that is certainly uncertainty over the game’s future. Part of it is that many of us were vested contributors and have been shut out—killing much enthusiasm. I’m not sure what to do with/about DS. It is a great game. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours on it. It deserves…something. I’m just not sure how much energy I want to commit to it at this point. I have so many projects on tap right now, that I’m not sure how much I want to risk. I’ll be buying the new sets. I may run a few games. The last three times I’ve offered to run, I haven’t even been able to get 3 players together. So, a lot will depend on how the cost-benefit analysis goes after future attempts. This may be one of those games like Hellas that I set aside until a better opportunity shows up.

10. I really like board games. Thanks to friends, I’ve been exposed to several varieties of table-licious offerings. There’s the new version of ascension. There’s dominion. There’s all the games that my friends have that I don’t. There’s all the games we’ve kickstarted, combat kittens, iron and ale, foretold rise of a god, the ancient world, apex theropod, St. Petersburg, and super tooth. We’ve backed accessible updates to existing games. We’ll probably back more games. The challenge is to find regular participants. Ok, it’s not that much of a challenge. Say then that the challenge is getting enough people’s schedules to mesh that one can get the full experience. The trick is apparently to pick a date and give enough notice that you get a large enough response. Too often and it looses its novelty. Too short notice and people won’t have availability. The answer seems to be to host a session once every 3-6 weeks. That’s not often enough but honestly, given how many other hobbies I have to indulge, it will do.

11. I’m not sure whether iPhone games are a blessing or a curse. They are fun. They are convenient. They are really distracting. I’d like something I can play. I’d like something I don’t have to play all-the-time. I’d like something that I can play all-the-time if I so wish. I’m going to be going through looking for accessible games that may keep my interest. The balance of fun to leave me enough willpower to not suck my life away will be a factor.

12. Magic the gathering was one of my most favorite games ever. I’d still be collecting and playing were it not for the complete evaporation of all casual play in my area. I could easily try for standard tournaments at AW and Titan, but casual play is pretty much gone. My interest in MTG tends more toward unrestricted play less the vintage banned and restricted list. Ok, plus I sold my collection last year. So I’m out of MTG for the moment unless a regular source of casual play shows up. Magic is too resource intensive to keep up with if there isn’t an ongoing source of play.

13. Games workshop, much like dragon dice and dragon storm, is one of those game/company combinations that elicits strong conflicting emotions. I played their signature games for years. I stopped only when their rule sets so completely gutted the games I loved that they stopped even cosmetically resembling the hobby I grew to love. My armies are sold. My books are gone. Most of my terrain is given away. I like somewhat clean direct rule systems. Elegance is desirable but not required. I want to play warhammer 40k and fantasy again—and if they ever get their act together and make a rule set worth playing, I’ll happily dip my toe back into GW’s waters. Until then I shall abide.

14. I’m playing in a pathfinder game now. The frequency is about right for the participants. I started “gaming” with rifts and dungeons and dragons back in high school. D&D and pathfinder in particular harkens back to the wonder of those early days. I want to play more…but with only one available GM currently I’m forced to contain my enthusiasm. If role-playing in general tapers off, I may end up posting at alternate worlds or Titan for a game. Actually, I think I’ll sniff around there anyway and see what’s what. It can’t hurt to see if anything is out there.

That’s the state of gaming. I have other less concrete plans and dreams. These are only the most prominent of my gaming desires. Updates to come.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Running a game for a four year old

Things we learned from this experience:

1. I sound like a dick on tape.

2. Next time figure out how high the kid can count before you give him 6 dice to roll.

3. Never ask a question you don’t want an answer to.

4. Do not run a game in a setting the kid knows better than you do.

5. I should write for this show…clearly nobody else is.