Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gather at the Table

Life must be lived as play, playing certain games, making sacrifices, singing and dancing, and then a man will be able to propitiate the gods, and defend himself against his enemies, and win in the contest.”

Johan Huizinga

It’s that time of year again. We make plans to visit friends or family. Someone prepares a meal, others bring drinks and snacks. Hopefully we don’t have too much anxiety that everyone gets along and carefully laid plans come together. Time to clean the house and prepare the table as everyone gathers. We set up our rulebooks, scenario notes, gamemaster screen, favorite dice. Wait...are we here to celebrate Thanksgiving or play games?

The typical Thanksgiving holiday and gaming share many similar elements. We gather together around a table or similar shared space for a celebration, one of thankfulness and another of play and imagination. Each has a symbolic purpose grounded in some form of play: the recreation (to some degree) of the mythical first Thanksgiving, the immersion in an interactive game that mirrors some reality, however fantastic. One provides an opportunity for reflection, the other for entertainment, and both for taking a break from the normal, often tedious routine of our everyday lives. Both require some degree of preparation – of food, game material, cleaning the house for guests – sometimes fraught with anxiety: will we all get along, will the food be just right, have we forgotten anything, will the overall experience be satisfying? Often everyone brings something for the table, whether a main dish, a host of indulgent snacks, drinks, and dessert. Games even form part of the Thanksgiving tradition as many people sit down afterward to watch their favorite football teams compete...or those of us who aren’t into sports might actually break out some of their favorite adventure games to play or introduce to non-gamers (something I plan on indulging in during my Thanksgiving observance).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Favorite Resources for Solo RPG Play

November has arrived, which means Solo Gaming Appreciation Month (SGAM) returns with a vengeance. The event, organized by the Google Plus Lone Wolf Roleplaying community, encourages gamers to celebrate solitaire play and post their experiences (something the community generally supports throughout the year). Some of us, myself included, dabble in all kinds of solitaire play year-round, from roleplaying games and solo gamebooks to board games and wargames, sometimes to playtest design concepts, other times for sheer entertainment. SGAM offers an occasion to reflect on some solitaire roleplaying resources, some tried and true, some newly discovered, that not only reflect my particular solo gaming preferences but might also enhance others’ solo play experiences:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying Games

So it was that, after the [Flame] Deluge, the Fallout, the plagues, the madness, the confusion of tongues, the rage, there began the bloodletting of the Simplification, when remnants of mankind had torn other remnants limb from limb, killing rulers, scientists, leaders, technicians, teachers, and whatever persons the leaders of the maddened mobs said deserved death for having helped to make the Earth what it had become.”
A Canticle for Leibowitz

I’ve never really immersed myself in the handful of post-apocalyptic roleplaying games released over the years. Sure, I own some, acquired more out of curiosity and an interest in dabbling, but even the few I’ve played never really struck a chord. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with a sheen of anxiety about nuclear war. Maybe it’s because – for the first time in more than 25 years – the threat of nuclear war on even a small scale seems frighteningly possible. Yet I still look fondly at my small collection of post-apocalyptic roleplaying games, day-dreaming of a time when it was considered escapist “fun” to indulge in settings ranging from gritty reality to gonzo fantasy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Returning to Traditional Board Games

A package from Lulu.com recently arrived containing a few books of interest, two titles I knew I wanted – Bob Cordery’s Developing the Portable Wargame and Dyson Logos’ 2016 Dodecahedron Cartographic Review – and one I discovered on a periodic search of the Lulu site (which still doesn’t have a wishlist function or any means of more specifically searching categories)...Damian Gareth Walker’s A Book of Historic Board Games. Frequent readers know I keep a shelf of books about games across the adventure gaming spectrum, including those about more traditional board games like R.C. Bell’s Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, David Partlett’s The Oxford History of Board Games, and Jeffrey A. DeLuca’s comprehensive Medieval Games. Walker’s contribution proves a worthy edition to my reference shelf and opens the door to other resources to aid one’s exploration of more traditional board games from throughout history. It invites readers to discover board games from across history and cultures, a pursuit that can vary our diet of adventure games.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Games Influencing Real Life

Recently I’ve noticed a number of game-related items demonstrating how powerfully games can affect real life when they move beyond the comfortable confines where we safely enjoy them: the kitchen table, family game night, the game club shed, teen gaming day at the library, the Friendly Local Game Store, game conventions. Certainly games occur in reality – read Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens and one learns games and game-like activities occupy particular spaces in which specific rules of play operate – but when games move beyond their usual boundaries they can exert a positive influence in the real world, sometimes just for fun, sometimes for serious issues.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Wealth of Printables

The recent release of S. John Ross’ HexPaper Pro reminded me how much the technological advances of the Internet Age have enhanced our collective gaming experiences. It wasn’t too long ago – in what I like to call the “Golden Age of Roleplaying” (the early 1980s) – that some of us purchased pre-printed character record sheets and hoarded graph paper given our limited resources and lack of home publishing technology. Today computers, printers, and the internet give us seemingly unlimited access to printable game accessories (paper minis, graph/hex paper, maps, adventures), PDF and print products available through online e-storefronts, and to a worldwide community of fellow gamers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gamer’s Gambit Demonstrates Store Ideals

Everyone has their ideas about what makes a good Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). I particularly value a friendly staff, comprehensive inventory, and plenty of play space, all of which goes a long way to cultivating a sustained and diverse play community. I’ve visited many games stores in my 35+ years in the adventure gaming hobby as a player and writer. Even where I live now, on the medieval frontier of Northern Virginia (the medieval side) I’ve discovered several game stores, some closer than others, that hit the marks quite well (though some, always the closest, seem to have a habit of closing after just more than a year in business). My family recently had an excellent experience at an FLGS, this time while on our annual pilgrimage to visit family in New England, and it reminded me what makes for a successful FLGS.