I’ll admit I’ve never really immersed myself in pre-made fantasy world settings, particularly those that emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s and grew exponentially from core boxed set concepts to entire continents of supplements and “splatbooks.” A few exceptions exist, but they come from my earliest days exploring the adventure gaming hobby and those years after college when I had money to pursue other games with engaging settings tied to specific, non-fantasy game systems. I think my perspective results from a confluence of circumstances: the content and marketing of these worlds with my inability to immerse myself in roleplaying games at the time they were released.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Friday, May 15, 2020
I don’t usually indulge in politics or other sensitive, real-life subjects here at Hobby Games Recce. If I do, it’s in some way related to games. So I’d like to propose that the current pandemic situation has some parallels to gaming; specifically how we play games, strategies we use to succeed, and what happens when we win or lose. So bear with me if you will or simply come back next time for a less-politically tinged feature. And if you’re the kind of person who takes offense at my sentiments on these subjects, well, sic transit mundus.
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Recently the online classic game store Wayne’s Books posted the “Mos Eisley Shoot-Out” pamphlet under its home page’s “New Arrivals” banner. I always enjoy seeing West End Games material on the site. Nothing tells me more about how the gaming public views a title as the price listed at Wayne’s Books. It’s always nice to know people still appreciate the work we did long ago. Collector’s prices reflect a game book’s physical condition as well as the product quality and the demand among aficionados (and I’m sure a number of other considerations of which I’m unaware). I was somewhat surprised, then, that the 11x17-inch, double-sided, full-color folded brochure mini-game West End published and gave away for free in 1997 was listed at $25.99.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
For two months the covid-19 pandemic has altered how we live our lives, including our gaming habits. Most world governments imposed limitations on their population (followed more stringently in some places than others). In less than two months more Americans have died than in all the years of fighting in Vietnam. Depending on how soon scientists can develop more effective testing and tracking, vaccines, and treatments/cures, we may never really return to a semblance of “normal” we experienced before. In the face of this deadly pandemic most everyone’s trying to adapt to the new situation: businesses, conventions, individual gamers. No doubt we’ll continue adjusting as conditions change for better or worse. We just have to sit back and see how our efforts affect the pandemic...and until then, we can distract ourselves and find some respite from this grim reality through our modified adventure gaming hobby activities.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
I was talking with someone about historically themed wargames a while back and was asked if there were any cooperative wargames in which players worked together to defeat a common adversary. We were also talking about how to introduce the concept of historical wargaming to kids in fourth through eighth grades, their parents, and interested adults. We both knew the core cooperative board games like Forbidden Island and and Pandemic (oddly relevant in today’s situation). Although I know several very good wargames for solitaire play (and adaptable for group cooperative play), I admitted I couldn’t think of any that were both cooperative and suitable for a beginner audience. So I started looking for suitable solo or coop wargames and, barring that, seeking ones I might modify to fit my parameters of something cooperative for a newcomer audience.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
I really did mean to set aside work on programmed solitaire roleplaying game adventures after finishing The Asturia Incident. Even during that project I briefly detoured to revise my old Trapped in the Museum solo scenario for the OpenD6 system on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary. After those forays into solo adventure gamebook writing I’d wanted to return to my long-neglected Infinite Cathedral project: a medieval roleplaying game setting bound to no particular game engine. And yet I now find myself tackling the challenge of creating a system-neutral programmed solitaire scenario. At least it’s serving as an introduction to the Infinite Cathedral and will hopefully fuel my enthusiasm for the main project ahead.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
|Tiny ships for small hands.|
Last time I documented my efforts to bring Russo-Japanese War naval engagements to the tabletop. I finally pried my son from his tablet for an afternoon fighting a preliminary battle to learn the rules and get a sense of effective tactics. As mentioned before, we used a homemade ocean hex map, some ships from The Viking Forge I’d painted and based, and Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames, with modifications from my own “Critical Damage Table” and a small historical adjustment in favor of the Japanese forces. The battle was close, the “Critical Damage Table” played a role in the action, and we learned some of the finer points about the rules.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
I’d been on the fence about getting into Warlord Games’ Cruel Seas since it released in late 2018. The game focuses on small-craft naval engagements in World War II featuring such vessels as the American PT boats and German Schnell-boots (“fast boats,” or S-boats). I’d read about various issues folks had with the game, but eventually I put it on my wish list and received the starter boxed set as a gift during the holidays. I’ve played a few solitaire games to familiarize myself with the rules (though I haven’t managed to paint the ships yet), enough to formulate some opinions. Most of my issues with the game relate to elements I feel might have been handled differently, primarily from the perspective of catering to newcomers or improving the product quality. Despite the expense to buy into the game, Cruel Seas offers a beginner-friendly, accessible wargaming experience for those interested in this kind of WWII naval skirmish.
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
About 20 years ago I created a fantasy version of the D6 System for my own use, unimaginatively titled Fire & Ice. Those were the days after West End declared bankruptcy and laid off its staff, but a few years before its acquisition by Purgatory Publishing and the release of the D6 System trilogy D6 Fantasy, D6 Adventure, and D6 Space. This was the time in my life I refer to as my Desperate Freelancing Days as I scrambled to line up freelance game-writing work while holding down a part-time office job. Luckily I had a solid local gaming group to provide some imaginative diversion to my real-world troubles; so it was here that, seemingly on a whim, I returned to play around with my favorite D6 System in a more casual setting.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
I finally got around to changing the calendars from 2019 to 2020 and – goodness gracious me! – realized I already have a number of gaming events lined up for the first two months of the New Year. Ten years ago I had several conventions I’d attend, primarily running roleplaying games. I’ve had to cut back on cons, particularly those farther afield. But with a son with an interest in history and gaming as well as my greater involvement in historical miniatures wargaming, I’ve settled into a general routine of regional conventions and events we can both enjoy. As my schedule shows, however, I’m not above testing the waters with new events to possibly add to my slowly growing repertoire of conventions.''
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
On January 7 we slip past the 12 Days of Christmas and back into the cold, dark, drudgery of the New Year, facing numerous tasks postponed by a month-long holiday preparation and celebration plus the inevitable disappointment when we break our New Year’s Resolutions (a ritual I’ve long since abandoned). It’s easy this time of year to descend into the depths contemplating the misery of reality, to allow the real-world anxieties to wash up over our temporary yet festive bulwark of holiday jubilation. So forgive me if I reflect on the fun game-related bits of this passing yuletide celebration in a futile attempt to prolong the uplifting spirit of the season.