Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Early 2019 Games on the Road

Several times each year I go on the road to run events at game days and conventions. I have my favorites, most within easy driving distance and an overnight hotel stay. On Sunday, Jan. 27, I’ll make the trek up to Northern Virginia for the NOVAG Game Day at the Centreville Library, where I’ll host a Panzer Kids game. Then on Feb. 15-17 I’ll be in Williamsburg, VA, for the ODMS winter convention, Williamsburg Muster, where I’ll run the obligatory Panzer Kids game and a few other kid-friendly events. If you’re in the area come out and join us or the other folks running engaging miniature wargames.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Holiday Gaming Cheer

Despite an overly hectic holiday season overshadowed by a week-long pilgrimage to visit family in New England – tempered with a nice persistent head cold – I managed to find some solace amid the chaotic drama and logistical nightmare of traveling at this time of year. My family and friends were quite generous bringing gaming goodness to brighten this darkest time of the year and the bleak winter months (and I’ll admit I treated myself, too). The season offers a reason to indulge and invite others to indulge my adventure gaming interests. This year was no exception. In the past I’ve discussed how the December holidays seem a magical time perfect for such escapist pursuits as board and roleplaying games with friends and family. Although this season was fraught with chaos, I appreciate the game-related cheer that brightened my holidays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Magazine Daydreams & A Side-Trip to Egypt

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about establishing a kids magazine featuring historical articles with an appropriately themed game in every issue. The grandparents had been asking us what to get our son, the Little Guy, for his birthday and Christmas, which, unfortunately, sit frightfully close on the calendar. One set of grandparents got him a subscription to National Geographic Kids, which he enjoys mostly for the cat features. His new-found interest in various historical periods coupled with Dad’s collection of games with historical themes and my own advocacy for using games for learning (especially with kids) got me daydreaming about a magazine concept. What if kids could get a bi-monthly magazine filled with articles on a specific historical subject complete with a small game bound within its pages? (In yet another daydream I’m employed in my chosen career field with a salaried position at a non-profit group advocating the use of games for learning with both children and adults....) Alas, in this Internet Age where everyone’s plugged in, staring at a screen, and doodling away at some solitaire online time-waster game there probably isn’t much of a market for a print magazine, let alone one geared toward kids (probably more plugged in than any other demographic), and one focused on history with an analog game inside. But it was a nice daydream before reality dashed it to pieces, one that inspired me to develop a very simplified solitaire game about ancient Egypt.

[Editor’s Note: And how timely that, as I prepare to post this, archaeologists in Sakkara, Egypt, have just discovered an undisturbed 5th Dynasty tomb of a priest from 4,400 years ago....]

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Battle Ravens Looks Ideal for Kids & Newcomers

I rarely feature games in active Kickstarter campaigns (though I’ve looked at a few after release); but when I happened upon Daniel Mersey’s Battle Ravens: The Shieldwall Board Game I couldn’t resist both backing it and offering my perspective. Battle Ravens pits two players’ Viking-age armies against each other across the field of battle. Each side gets to place tokens (representing ravens) behind different sections of their line, then spends them to maneuver and fight with their warriors, hoping to break through the opponent’s line and send them running from the field. The battle game format works well for simulating warfare of this age; the rules provides plenty of historical context. The designer has released several recent and popular miniatures rules that work well for beginners. The mechanics seem basic yet offer players some careful choices to make. These elements can satisfy wargamers looking for a quick yet fulfilling tabletop diversion and tempt kids and newcomers to give the wargaming hobby a try.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Orc Ambush in Rohan

Almost three months ago I found an online deal through a game trade community for a host of Lord of the Rings miniatures. They were originally produced for a Play Along Toys line released shortly after the popular feature films. I was particularly keen on these for a number of reasons. I love large-scale 54mm miniatures – I’m a huge fan of Armies in Plastic’s historical lines – because they’re just the right size for introducing kids to miniature wargaming. This particular line came pre-painted, a huge bonus considering the time to get most miniatures onto the wargaming table usually includes a huge investment in painting. And, of course, I’m a fan of Lord of the Rings, and cavalry in particular: this lot included six warg riders and 17 Riders of Rohan, including Eomer. The package finally arrived and I set about basing the infantry on fender washers for stability, matching the weapons and other accessories, and crafting several rock formations similar to those seen in Rohan scenes during The Two Towers (giving the pine bark mulch technique a try). I have a copy of Daniel Mersey’s Dragon Rampant fantasy miniatures skirmish rules that seem perfect for this kind of engagement (I’ve enjoyed his other rules, The Men Who Would Be Kings for Victorian engagements and Lion Rampant for medieval fights, and am looking forward to his Battle Ravens board game currently in a Kickstarter campaign). With everything finally complete I thought I’d set everything up on the basement wargaming table and take a few photos in advance of having folks over to give the skirmish rules a try.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

We Are More than A Blurb

Humans love blurbs, especially in this age dominated by electronic devices constantly vying for our attention. To me a “blurb” can be any short bit that offers a brief summary of something: a news story, a company overview, a teaser for a book, a game description. It offers enough information to garner our interest and invites us to learn more...but usually we make a mental note of the blurb and move on to more pressing matters in lives with too much to do and not enough time. Often we overlook something quite worthwhile. In many cases – especially regarding other people – we should take the time to stop, look, and learn beyond the blurb.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Streamlined Combat for OpenD6 Solo Gamebooks

I’m developing a solitaire D6 Space gamebook, a programmed adventure in the spirit of the numerous solo “tutorial” scenarios I’ve written over the years and have enjoyed in other games. I’m having fun with it, incorporating science fiction tropes I admire, going off to explore entertaining tangents, offering a few seemingly outrageous options, and (hopefully) providing an engaging adventure with plenty of meaningful player choices. Along the way, however, I’ve discovered a particular drawback to using OpenD6 in this programmed solo gamebook format: the combat system isn’t really conducive to providing players with an adversary’s stats and letting them resolve the fight on their own...a staple of many gamebooks and solitaire adventures. It’s not as much a factor in the scenario I’m writing now – it’s not particularly combat-heavy, though it contains a few fights at pivotal moments – but it’s given me cause to think about and develop a better system for more combat-oriented solo gamebooks using OpenD6.