Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Tsushima Project

Even before the covid-19 pandemic shut down society as we know it I’d started a new project inspired by my son’s varied interests in history: wargaming naval actions from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. After chancing upon some 1:2400 scale period Russian ships at the Williamsburg Muster game convention in mid-February I set out to acquire a small Japanese force, adapt some naval wargaming rules, and prep my play surface. It’s been a diverting side-project the past few weeks while my son’s been home, first with a mild illness, then with the state-wide shut-down of schools through March 27 (now extended through the end of the academic year...). So far I think we’re well on my way to some successful naval wargaming.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Solo Gaming in Pandemic Times

The covid-19 coronavirus seems like something from the intro to a post-apocalyptic roleplaying game. Or a night playing Pandemic. Anxiety remains high, especially with our 24/7 information highway overload and a problematic centralized federal government preparation and response. Hopefully everyone employs good hygiene practices and uses “self isolation” to whatever degree possible (I realize not everyone can engage in it, especially first responders and medical workers, but also those who have little choice but to report to work lest they lose paychecks and jobs). We need entertaining diversions to occupy our inflammably anxious minds and provide some positive, imaginative experiences. Solo gaming to the rescue!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Expanse, Mysteries, and RPGs

I am late to the party immersing myself in The Expanse television series, but I’m enjoying it immensely.* The setting, storyline, and characters offer plenty of puzzles to explore from one episode to the next in a fast-paced, well-built story. Aside from the constant concerns about how the protagonists are going to make it through the latest crisis, it challenges viewers to figure out the parameters and possibilities of the setting, the significance of plot elements, and the characters’ motivations. The show keeps viewers wondering...and engaged. My experience watching The Expanse reminds me how much mystery one can infuse into a media series...and how roleplaying gamers should keep engagement with mystery fresh in our game worlds.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Space Marine Adventures for Solo or Coop Play

I don’t recall where exactly I first heard of Space Marine Adventures: Labyrinth of the Necrons, but the concept of introductory solitaire and cooperative play grabbed my attention. I’m not a huge fan of Warhammer 40k, though in my distant past I dabbled with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (second edition) and found a used edition of the fantasy miniatures rules, more out of curiosity than any other motive. I have a vague awareness of what Space Marines are and that they apparently spend much of their time fanatically blasting things. So I’m in no way invested in the Warhammer 40k universe, but knowledgeable enough about its basics to enjoy an entertaining solo/coop game experience with high production values and good replay possibilities.

Friday, February 21, 2020

West End Memoirs: Scott Palter

On Monday, February 17, 2020, Daniel Scott Palter passed away. He was best-known as the founder and owner of West End Games, yet also infamously known as the person who sent the company into bankruptcy, losing the license for what was the groundbreaking first Star Wars roleplaying game. I’m sure some people – particularly those who lost jobs and opportunities with the company’s bankruptcy – hated him and never forgave him for what he did to West End in those final days. Over the years I’ve had to reconcile my feelings toward him. I have the natural animosity over West End’s demise. But I also realize he provided me with an opportunity to have my dream job: working full-time as a designer and editor at a roleplaying game company, and with the Star Wars franchise, no less. Despite all the frustration and drama, they remain the most fulfilling, productive five years of my professional life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Father-Son History-Wargaming Weekend 2020

My son and I spent an extended weekend immersing ourselves in history and wargaming in what is becoming an annual tradition. I took him out of school on Friday so we could leave early and spend the afternoon at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, then attended the Williamsburg Muster wargaming convention, and finally visited Historic Jamestowne before heading home Sunday. (Our school system doesn’t get Presidents’ Day off....) Our son’s fourth grade curriculum includes “Virginia Studies” for social studies, a subject he already enjoys and which we’ve indulged with additional trips to historic sites during the past year. He’s also interested in games, including historical wargames, so the weekend provided an opportunity to engage with both history and games.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

WEG Memoirs: Sabacc Proposal

I was doing some post-holiday tidying when I stumbled upon an old manuscript box with the words “Sabacc Proposal” scrawled in marker on the side. It’s filled with a hodge-podge of cards – two full-color deck for the proposal, one black-and-white deck with card backs I think I printed for later convention games – some credit chits and bills, a few “item” cards with values for when the stakes went high, and some copies of the rules. Kind of a mess, really. It’s a relic from my time working on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game at West End Games in the mid 1990s. My boss Rich Hawran and I had an opportunity – goodness knows how it came about – to present some Star Wars-based game designs to a development team at Hasbro, specifically the card game sabacc and the holo-chess game dejarik. We drafted rules, prototyped components, and did some basic playtesting, but overall we were little more than rank amateurs pitching game ideas with fueled by our fanboy enthusiasm for Star Wars.