News

    -

    BoardGameGeek News | BoardGameGeek

  • First Hints of Alderac's Game Line-up for 2018

    by W. Eric Martin

    In a December 2017 newsletter, Alderac Entertainment Group highlighted how it had scaled back its game releases in 2017 — with only a dozen new titles being released, three of them exclusively in the Big Game Night package at Gen Con 50 — compared to sixteen new games appearing in 2016. (These totals do not include Smash Up expansions and other game line extensions.) It's not clear right now where 2018 will fall in the rankings of "number of new titles released" for AEG, but the publisher has revealed some of what's coming:

    Rüdiger Dorn's Istanbul: The Dice Game, which Pegasus Spiele debuted at SPIEL '17 in October, will hit North American markets in an AEG version in April 2018. For a taste of the game right now, you can watch this overview that BGG recorded with Pegasus Spiele in Essen.

    John D. Clair's huge card-crafting, city-controlling game Edge of Darkness has already been previewed at conventions throughout 2017, such as our video coverage at the 2017 Origins Game Fair, and this title should be out sometime in 2018.

    • Clair also has a new Mystic Vale expansion heading to market — Conclave — with this item consisting of new cards for use with the base game as well as a storage box to hold everything Vale in one place.

    • AEG will release a second new game from Clair in 2018: Space Base, which bears this minimalist description: "Roll 2D6 to built the ultimate space base!" Both Conclave and Space Base are due out in March/April 2018.

    • In May 2018, The Captain Is Dead space saga gets a new episode in Lockdown, with the crew finding themselves imprisoned on their own ship. Hostile aliens have taken control, and the crew must work together and remain hidden while attempting to regain control of the ship.

    Smash Up: That '70s Expansion, another expansion for the vast Smash Up line that can be played as a two-player game on its own, features factions of truckers, vigilantes, disco dancers, and kung fu fighters.

    • Finally, we have Lost Atlantis, a design by Jani and Tero Moliis due out in Q4 2018 that AEG describes only as a "3X game under the sea".


    Read more »
  • VideoLang and Bauza to Unleash Victorian Masterminds in 2018

    by W. Eric Martin

    Let's set the WABAC Machine to November 2015. Game designer Eric M. Lang showed up as a special guest at BGG.CON, and while at the show, he recorded an overview of Victorian Masterminds with our own Beth Heile, this game being a co-design with Antoine Bauza that was signed with Space Cowboys "possibly for publication in late 2016, as Lang notes in the video below, but possibly later".

    Turns out that "possibly later" was the operative phrase.

    After much delay, the game is now due for release in 2018, but with CMON Limited releasing the game instead of Space Cowboys. CMON hired Lang as Director of Game Design in March 2017, and a press release announcing the game states that "CMON is pleased to have worked with Space Cowboys to add Victorian Masterminds to its library of games."

    Here's a summary of the gameplay, followed by that overview video shot back in Nov. 2015. Note that components and other things in the final will differ from what's shown below, but you'll get a taste of the game from one of the guys who knows it best:

    Sherlock Holmes is dead! And with London's greatest detective out of the way, those with villainous minds decide to wreak as much terror as possible on the populace — and you are one of those dastardly no-goodniks!

    While Europe sits unprotected in Victorian Masterminds, you and other players send your henchmen to different cities to use their varied abilities, collect material for your steampunk-inspired contraptions, destroy buildings, and complete missions. At the same time, the Secret Service follows your path of destruction. Every contraption is unique and allows you to take different actions, leading to highly strategic, asymmetric gameplay.

    In more detail, during the game, players take turns placing one of their five agent tokens — Henchman, Machine, Saboteur, Pilot, Number 2 — face down on one of the five action spaces. As soon as three tokens are on a space, those tokens are flipped and activated, first in first out, with each agent carrying out its individual action in addition to whatever takes place in that space. When an evil mastermind completes their contraption or the Secret Service brings this villainy to a halt, the game ends, and whoever has generated the most victory points wins.


    Youtube Video Read more »
    -

    BoardGameGeek News | BoardGameGeek

  • First Hints of Alderac's Game Line-up for 2018

    by W. Eric Martin

    In a December 2017 newsletter, Alderac Entertainment Group highlighted how it had scaled back its game releases in 2017 — with only a dozen new titles being released, three of them exclusively in the Big Game Night package at Gen Con 50 — compared to sixteen new games appearing in 2016. (These totals do not include Smash Up expansions and other game line extensions.) It's not clear right now where 2018 will fall in the rankings of "number of new titles released" for AEG, but the publisher has revealed some of what's coming:

    Rüdiger Dorn's Istanbul: The Dice Game, which Pegasus Spiele debuted at SPIEL '17 in October, will hit North American markets in an AEG version in April 2018. For a taste of the game right now, you can watch this overview that BGG recorded with Pegasus Spiele in Essen.

    John D. Clair's huge card-crafting, city-controlling game Edge of Darkness has already been previewed at conventions throughout 2017, such as our video coverage at the 2017 Origins Game Fair, and this title should be out sometime in 2018.

    • Clair also has a new Mystic Vale expansion heading to market — Conclave — with this item consisting of new cards for use with the base game as well as a storage box to hold everything Vale in one place.

    • AEG will release a second new game from Clair in 2018: Space Base, which bears this minimalist description: "Roll 2D6 to built the ultimate space base!" Both Conclave and Space Base are due out in March/April 2018.

    • In May 2018, The Captain Is Dead space saga gets a new episode in Lockdown, with the crew finding themselves imprisoned on their own ship. Hostile aliens have taken control, and the crew must work together and remain hidden while attempting to regain control of the ship.

    Smash Up: That '70s Expansion, another expansion for the vast Smash Up line that can be played as a two-player game on its own, features factions of truckers, vigilantes, disco dancers, and kung fu fighters.

    • Finally, we have Lost Atlantis, a design by Jani and Tero Moliis due out in Q4 2018 that AEG describes only as a "3X game under the sea".


    Read more »
  • VideoLang and Bauza to Unleash Victorian Masterminds in 2018

    by W. Eric Martin

    Let's set the WABAC Machine to November 2015. Game designer Eric M. Lang showed up as a special guest at BGG.CON, and while at the show, he recorded an overview of Victorian Masterminds with our own Beth Heile, this game being a co-design with Antoine Bauza that was signed with Space Cowboys "possibly for publication in late 2016, as Lang notes in the video below, but possibly later".

    Turns out that "possibly later" was the operative phrase.

    After much delay, the game is now due for release in 2018, but with CMON Limited releasing the game instead of Space Cowboys. CMON hired Lang as Director of Game Design in March 2017, and a press release announcing the game states that "CMON is pleased to have worked with Space Cowboys to add Victorian Masterminds to its library of games."

    Here's a summary of the gameplay, followed by that overview video shot back in Nov. 2015. Note that components and other things in the final will differ from what's shown below, but you'll get a taste of the game from one of the guys who knows it best:

    Sherlock Holmes is dead! And with London's greatest detective out of the way, those with villainous minds decide to wreak as much terror as possible on the populace — and you are one of those dastardly no-goodniks!

    While Europe sits unprotected in Victorian Masterminds, you and other players send your henchmen to different cities to use their varied abilities, collect material for your steampunk-inspired contraptions, destroy buildings, and complete missions. At the same time, the Secret Service follows your path of destruction. Every contraption is unique and allows you to take different actions, leading to highly strategic, asymmetric gameplay.

    In more detail, during the game, players take turns placing one of their five agent tokens — Henchman, Machine, Saboteur, Pilot, Number 2 — face down on one of the five action spaces. As soon as three tokens are on a space, those tokens are flipped and activated, first in first out, with each agent carrying out its individual action in addition to whatever takes place in that space. When an evil mastermind completes their contraption or the Secret Service brings this villainy to a halt, the game ends, and whoever has generated the most victory points wins.


    Youtube Video Read more »
    -

    Gnome Stew

  • The Ideal First Level Combat Scenario – 2SLDper+2BT+CR+PP
    The Ideal First Level Combat Scenario – 2SLDper+2BT+CR+PP


    My schedule lately has been… less than stable, so my gaming has been coming in small chunks. I’ve got games I play in and run that go off once a month or once every two months, I’ve got one-shots that occur on sporadic weekends, and when I feel the need to get some time as a player and just jump into a game, I find a local adventurers league game and throw something together to play.

    If You’re Not Familiar…

    If you’re not familiar with Adventurer’s league games, D&D’s current organized play model, they are fairly formulaic, super light on story, and focus more on combat options. They are great fun for jumping in without prep, buying into the railroad, and getting some play in. In adventurer’s league games, everything is logged and there are strict rules to how your characters level. I’ve worked on products for adventurer’s leauge games and I’ve played in more than a few. While they are sometimes light on deep story, focusing more on the play aspects of the game, they distill D&D down to its core game and…

    They Are Really Effective At Doing Combats, Especially First Level Combats

    Dirty Kobolds like this make ideal enemies to dispatch in simple combats.

    Playing characters in AL games mean there is a lot of playing through level one adventures, and combats made specifically to be the first combat your low level character ever sees. One thing I learned from playing in the various games offered around Columbus (there are many) is that there is an IDEAL style of combat for low level characters, especially if it is the first combat.

    If the first combat doesn’t fit into the ideal, things can go very wrong for the game down the line. Even if a formulaic game, like some AL games can be, the first combat is an essential part of the plot, story, and action. It has certain purposes it needs to fulfill. This holds true for games that are not D&D, but really for any game that has combat as a general them. Combat is always a challenge, something for the players to overcome, using their characters abilities. If it is too hard, it stalls the action or kills morale up front. If it is too easy, it sets a tone for how the rest of the challenge of the adventure will be. If it feels like it has no connection to the overarching plot, it just feels like a time filler. So, what do I see as the ideal first level combat?

    A Formula For The Ideal First Level Combat For Any Game

    Elements of this will change based on the game you are playing and the goal you are trying to achieve with the first combat, but here are my guidelines for an ideal first level combat.

    • The enemies should be somewhat squishy – The players want to feel that their combat abilities matter, so the enemies used in the first combat shouldn’t be tanks or impossible to hit for their level. The enemies don’t need to all be one-shot kills, but the players should be able to get in a good blow and take out at least one enemy with ease. It could be a group of small squishy enemies and one or two harder to take down enemies, but the first combat shoudl validate characters ability to affect the world.
    • The enemies damage should be a threat, cumulatively – You want the damage of an enemy to feel threatening, but not one shot most of the party. Taking the squishy enemy example from above, each time one of your enemies makes a hit on a character, it should be a small amount. Not enough to kill them at once, but enough that 3 or 4 hits takes a person down. If you are using one or two more threatening enemies alongside your squishy enemies, then their damage levels can be much more threatening, marking them as the true danger in the combat.
    • The Right Number of Enemies – So far, in our example, we’ve got squishy enemies with minimal damage, and one or two more threatening enemies with more impressive damage, but how many of them? That will depend on the number of player combatants (PCs and NPCs on the players side). You’ll want enough squishy enemies that each player can take out one or two on their own, or if they have an area of effect ability, or clever use of terrain or scenery, they can take out multiple. The many squishy enemies are a threat in numbers, meant to distract and harass so that they characters can’t focus on the bigger threats. A fairly standard option would be 2 per PC that is very combat oriented, or 3 per PC if there are some good area attack options.
    • The Big Enemies – The smaller squishy enemies are primarily there to give the players something to push through to get to the real challenge, which is the big enemies who are harder to take down and who do a bit more damage. Because there are less of them, perhaps one or two per combat, they can provide a large threat, but not a constant threat in the way the many squishy enemies do. One shot from these enemies will put a character close to dead, but that means they shouldn’t get too many attacks like that, perhaps that these bigger attacks don’t happen until the 3rd of 4th round once the smaller squishy enemies are already engaged.
    • The Rewards Should Be Commensurate With The Threat – As far as the threat goes, a combat like this should feel fairly threatening, and the rewards should match up for the level of threat. Included in the rewards should be something to restore any fallen characters to full health, or near full health, and something that provides a small boost in wealth, if that is the vibe of the game. A bigger reward should also be in something that progresses the plot forward, something that helps validate the combat that just occurred. If you are using a game system where leveling up occurs based on what you have defeated, there should be a small boost to the next level based on this combat. It’s not necessarily enough to level the characters up, but for the players to get a taste for the next level and feel the reward as a tangible thing.
    • And It Leads To… – Maybe this first combat is just the introduction, a way to shake out the bugs on the characters and provide a small bonus (in wealth and xp) in exchange for a moderate threat that they can mostly recover from. It validates their choices to buy healing potions or bring a cleric with them or upgrade their armor. Once they are done with this one and slightly recovered, the next threat might be right around the corner. The next combat can be whatever is needed, but it is now in line with the first combat and follows through with the challenges set up by the first one.

    So Why Is This An Ideal First Combat?

    Unsurprisingly, it has more to do with the story and the experience than it does with the actual combat. Every part of the formula: 2SLDper+2BT+CR+PP (2 Squishy Low Damage per PC + 2 Bigger Threats + Commensurate Rewards + Plot Progression) is meant to provide a valid threat with a valid reward that gives the characters a bit of a workout while progressing the story. The end goal is how it feels to the players at the end. It feels like the squishy enemies were a threat because there were many of them, it feels like they got some early wins by easily taking out many of the squishy enemies, it feels like a bigger threat because the bigger enemies really hurt them with just one hit, it feels like the fight was worth the rewards in loot, and it feels like the combat mattered because they got to push forward with the story.

     Unsurprisingly, it has more to do with the story and the experience than it does with the actual combat.   
    It all comes down to how the players feel at the end of the combat. They feel validated, threatened, shaken out, recovered, a little proud, and like they matter to the story. While the 2SLDper+2BT+CR+PP formula is pretty D&D specific, it holds for other sorts of games that have similar combat scenarios. Even in very narrative games, where combats are handled with less mechanical rules, the formula still holds, in theory. It may not be 2 squishy enemies per PC, but one because Squishy enemies are not as much of a concept in deeply narrative games and mechanical combats tend to be less of what drives the game along. In these cases, you still want enemies that are easier to defeat, an enemy or two that are bigger threats, rewards that feel commensurate to the challenge, and progression of the plot.

    Your Take

    This is all based off of games I’ve run and played and thinking about what the first combat means to the player perspective, but what is your take from your experiences? What was the best first combat scenario you ever played or ran, why was it good, and does it fit the idea behidn this formula? What would you change about the formula to make it fit the vibe of your games better?

    Read more »
  • A Computer Security Approach to Changing GMs
    Matrix Computer Security Image

    I’ve been working in computer security, in some fashion, since the early 1990s. One of the key concepts in this field is to separate processes on computing systems, so they can’t talk to each other or read/write data between each other . . . unless done so in an explicit manner. This can be done via one of three methods: physical, temporal, or virtual. I won’t delve deep into these approaches of computer security because that’s not the point of this site. We’re here to talk about gaming advice, after all.

    Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s get to the gaming advice. These three approaches of separating processes and data can be used when changing GMs within the same campaign. It’s difficult to create a smooth flow between a GM change, even when planned, so hopefully what I have to say here can help keep the waters calm and the players engaged.

    Physical

     In the gaming world, each GM should “claim” a particular section of the world. 
    In the computing world, this would mean Client A is on computer A, and Client B is on computer B. Likewise, you should run your web server on one server and your email server on a different one. This is an over simplification, but it sets the stage.

    In the gaming world, each GM should “claim” a particular section of the world (or continent or city or planes or whatever) and keep their gaming sessions isolated to the part that they’ve laid claim to. The trick here lies in getting the PCs from one part of the world to the next when a different GM jumps behind the screen. This can be done with interludes (Savage Worlds anyone?) or a brief transitional story told by the GM to set up why and how the PCs have traveled to a different part of the world.

    The more closely tied the sections of the world are in physical and story space, the easier it is to make this transition. Try to keep the adventures swapping between regions of a single nation or neighboring nations. Even using two different cities that are relatively close to on another is an option.

    By allowing each GM to have their own part of the world, this allows each GM to bring their own flavor and style to the game, which is one of the reasons to change up GMs. The trick is to make sure the various GMs work with one another to maintain a continuity in the world.

    Temporal

     When swapping GMs, a time gap can occur. 
    In the computing world, there used to be a concept called “time sharing” back when there were a few mainframes in the world. Basically, Client A would “rent time” on a mainframe for a few weeks and then their data would be archived and purged from the mainframe before Client B took over the mainframe. With the ubiquity of cloud computer and “always on” services, this has fallen out of favor.

    However, these same concepts can be applied to a game. When swapping GMs, a time gap can occur. Again, the incoming GM can give a brief tale about what happened over the past 2-3 months to set up what the next adventure will be about. Instead of moving the PCs across space, the GMs will work together to shift them forward in time. Of course, the world will change around them, and this can allow each GM to bring in their own story ideas and flavors.

    An alternate to having the GM dictate what happens during the “downtime” is to seed the PCs with a few events that are happening, and then ask them what they are doing with this time of non-adventure. This allows for spell research, magic item creation, training, building a stronghold, growing their congregation, and other activities that adventurers (especially the higher level ones) never seem to have time to accomplish.

    Virtual

     These two characters under a single player should be related somehow via backstory. 
    With computers, you can easily run web, email, DNS, FTP, shell servers, databases, and other services on a single computer. You can also easily run both Client A and Client B services on a single computer by using virtual segregation to ensure A never touches B’s data and vice versa.

    To apply these concepts of virtual segregation in games, I would approach this by having each player control a character for each GM, but only one character at a time. There could be a higher level character and a lower level character in each player’s portfolio. These two characters under a single player should be related somehow via backstory. The easy option that I’ve seen used is to have all of the characters, regardless of which GM is in charge, be part of a single organization. This allows for the story to center around the organization.

    By virtually separating the characters between GMs, this allows for the GM that is now a non-player to not have a character for that group. This resolves issues along the lines of, “But what is Gorgash doing while the rest of the party is out adventuring?” Of course, Gorgash would be the current GM’s character in this question. The GM simply doesn’t have a character in the group when she is running the game.

    Combining Approaches

    As some astute readers have probably realized by now, it would be very easy to shift things physically and temporally in one fell swoop. This is perfectly valid. Feel free to mix and match the various segregation tools at hand to find what works best with your group.

    Conclusion

    I’ve seen all of these approaches used to good effect when changing GMs. I’ve also seen them when the GM needs to or wants to provide a different flavor to the game. I’ve also seen temporal shifts happen when the entire group consisted of elves, and the PCs universally decided to hang out for a decade or two and then jump back into the fray.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the world is a living, breathing character as well. Anytime you shift the PCs around, the world is going to shift around them. This doesn’t mean world-shattering changes happen each time, but there will be shifts and subtle changes going on around the group as they move about.

    Has anyone out there tried one of these three approaches? How about combining them? I’d love to hear your stories and further advice in this area.

    Read more »
    -

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Shadowhand - Review @ PC Gamer
    PC Gamer has reviewed Shadowhand: Shadowhand Review Regency Solitaire was one of my games of the year for 2015. It’s a Jane Austen-style love story through which you progress by playing hands of the card game, solitaire. It was easy to sink entire evenings into Regency Solitaire.... Read more »
  • Hand of Fate 2 - Review @ KGK
    KGK has reviewed Hand of Fate 2: Hand of Fate 2 - The KGK Review! Having not played the previous installment in the series, Hand of Fate, as I’m not a fan of card based games, I decided to give the sequel, Hand of Fate 2 a chance. May as well keep an open mind and see what all the hype is about.... Read more »
    -

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Shadowhand - Review @ PC Gamer
    PC Gamer has reviewed Shadowhand: Shadowhand Review Regency Solitaire was one of my games of the year for 2015. It’s a Jane Austen-style love story through which you progress by playing hands of the card game, solitaire. It was easy to sink entire evenings into Regency Solitaire.... Read more »
  • Hand of Fate 2 - Review @ KGK
    KGK has reviewed Hand of Fate 2: Hand of Fate 2 - The KGK Review! Having not played the previous installment in the series, Hand of Fate, as I’m not a fan of card based games, I decided to give the sequel, Hand of Fate 2 a chance. May as well keep an open mind and see what all the hype is about.... Read more »