Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Passive & Active Entertainment

Every so often I hear the argument on the internet justifying the high prices for games – usually roleplaying games, but also board and miniatures games – that they offer far more entertainment in dollars per hour of enjoyment than a few brief hours at the movies. Thus a $50 roleplaying game with all its creative potential for years of play is far more worthwhile than a similar dollar-value of movies, usually about one movie with a handful of attendees, the size of the average gaming group. I don’t follow these discussions much; from my point of view as a consumer I value my money on my own terms and I evaluate each potential game purchase on its own merits. But I find the comparison between the price of games and movies and the amount of enjoyment they provide one of those apples-and-oranges issues. Although it seems like a valid point for a discussion, we’re really talking about two very different kinds of entertainment: passive and active. In one participants remain relatively passive, sitting back and enjoying someone else’s vividly creative efforts. In the other the participants themselves – working within an already established framework, like a game – actively take part in creating their own entertainment.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

WEG Memoirs/Gaming Artifacts: Star Wars Battle Book & Dueling Pack

Imagine a simpler time, before personal computers, smart cell phones, e-readers, tablets, electronic games with state-of-the-art graphics, and even the internet became ubiquitous elements of our society. It was during this time, the mid-1980s, that West End Games capitalized on the niche popularity of Alfred Leonardi’s innovative Lost Worlds and Ace of Aces “combat picture book games.” In 1988 West End released the Lightsaber Dueling Pack, enabling players to fight a battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker (like the one at the climax of Return of the Jedi); in 1989 the company published the Starfighter Battle Book: X-wing vs. TIE Interceptor, putting players in the cockpits of those ships for a head-to-head dogfight. They represent innovative game formats of their time that have since passed from practicality and popularity.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Temptation of Random Tables

Random tables remain a staple of roleplaying games. They determine random encounters, character backgrounds, treasure and magic items, monster and retainer reactions, or even form the basis for an entirely random dungeon or hex crawl (among a great many other things). They’re a temptation for both gamemasters and game designers, offering quick means to generate encounters and add another layer to an adventure or setting. They serve as prompts, providing a host of ideas in a succinct format to roll or choose. Part of the responsibility for their successful use depends on how designers present table information and tie it to the existing setting or scenario. Part of the responsibility depends on how gamemasters implement a random table result into their game. Random tables run the risk of seeming lazy tools rather than inspiring enhancements.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Interesting Wargame Releases, Spring 2017

I don’t talk much about “news” or “new releases” here at Hobby Game Recce; it’s often fleeting and doesn’t seem to matter months or years down the road. But now and then a few gaming products release that catch my attention for one reason or another...and this just happens to be one of those times. Announcements by three different companies promise some notable wargaming products that cater to my own interests and hopefully engage the enthusiasm of other gamers: a Wings of Glory Battle of Britain starter set; a Commands & Colors game set during the American War of Independence; and some interesting terrain and tank kits from Battlefront Miniatures. One things certain with all these releases: I’d better start saving up my money if I want to buy any.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Customizing My B/X D&D Experience

My son and I have been gaming on and off recently, occasionally testing the waters of intro roleplaying games between Pokemon card game duels and an occasional board game. We’ve enjoyed Hero Kids, though each adventure requires a good deal of prep, whether I’m printing and adapting an existing scenario or devising my own (with the requisite maps). We’ve also tried the forgotten Pokemon Jr. Adventure Game – a wonderfully simple yet entertaining intro roleplaying game experience that capitalizes on the popular Japanese license – which I’m enjoying for its very basic, read-aloud scripted scenes and simple combat system printed on the various Pokemon cards. Both games still hold some potential for several more play sessions, especially if I can wean everyone off Hero Kids’ maps. At some point, though, I’d like to transition to something a bit more mainstream that also caters to my own gaming urges. So I’m re-evaluating my current views regarding Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, as many of you know, my preferred version of D&D and, despite my general explorations of the Old School Renaissance, my preferred OSR game. I’m looking to make it more comprehensible for a seven year-old and provide a more heroic (read” less-deadly”) experience for characters.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beyond First Edition RPGs

The release of subsequent editions of roleplaying games carries different significance for publishers and gamers. Professional publishers often develop subsequent editions to further refine the game system or setting, but usually with the core motivation of launching a new product or product line to stimulate sales. As consumers, gamers have the prerogative to invest their money in what they like; some love new editions of their favorite titles, others try one edition and either stick with it or move on to something else (just as some gamers find everything they need from a game’s core rulebook while others need every published supplement). Do gamers really need subsequent editions, or would publishers’ efforts be better spent on developing and releasing innovative new rules and settings?


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Portable Kriegspiel

Veteran gamer and designer Bob Cordery recently released The Portable Wargame, a small yet illuminating booklet that vastly refines the idea of the classic Kriegspiel for today’s gaming audience. It distills the wargaming experience to a gridded surface (squares or hexes) using modular terrain on a board far smaller than the sprawling landscapes usually enjoyed by miniature wargame enthusiasts. While gamers have been using gridded boards for a while – and some, like Richard Borg’s Commands and Colors series, continue making innovations in that field – The Portable Wargame provides a rules framework to run a streamlined yet satisfying game with fewer resources and less time than traditional board and miniature wargames.