Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Wisdom comes from examining and reflecting on one’s experiences with an eye toward learning from them. The turn of the New Year offers a milestone at which many people stop to reflect on where they’ve been the past year and where they’d like to go in the coming one. Some set their expectations high with those pesky annual and often-forgotten “resolutions.” Others examine where they’ve gone right or wrong in the past year and resolve to be more mindful of such opportunities to improve themselves in the coming months.

The New Year’s holiday offers a chance for me to reflect on my professional game activities over the past 12 months with an eye toward evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, finding my inspiration, and re-focusing my efforts

Achievements in 2013

Looking back over the past year I see my accomplishments range across a number of activities, few of which one measures in quantitative terms: publishing and promoting gaming product, communicating with the vast gamer community, and connecting with key individuals for both playtesting and networking. Some endeavors have had particular significance for me:

Blogging: Over the course of 2013 I wrote 52 blog entries on adventure gaming and game design. Yes, everyone seems to blog these days and many argue it’s going out of vogue; but blogging fulfills two goals for me. It enables me to communicate with gamers on both general subjects in the hobby gaming field at Hobby Games Recce and on specific issues of game design here at the Game Design Journal. Blogging also requires me to maintain discipline, both to produce relevant, polished editorial content in more than 750 words each week, and to do so on a schedule (every Tuesday morning at alternating blogs). I’m not always successful in the “relevant” and “polished” categories, but the exercise keeps my writing skills active.

Online Playtesting: I sent several projects through various stages of playtesting using online contacts and access through Google Docs (or whatever they’re calling it these days). I viewed this as an offshoot of my activities to increase my online interaction with the gaming community. Early in the year I sent various iterations of my fantasy roleplaying game engine using some innovative dice mechanics (the Oracle System,about which I’ve written before). When inspiration hit me to create a customizable random dungeon generation system, my playtesters rose to the challenge and helped me refine my vision for the product. As with any playtesting effort, some participants offered vague suggestions and impressions (if any at all), but more than I expected provided constructive criticism, fresh ideas, and positive encouragement. I am fortunate to have cultivated a small group of intelligent and loyal playtesters during 2013, an asset I intend to continue using throughout the new year.

Pay What You Want: In 2013 DriveThruRPG.com and its affiliated websites offered publishers the option of pricing products as “pay-what-you-want,” giving customers the option of downloading product for whatever price they wanted, even “free.” The trend quickly gained popularity among publishers for a variety of reasons. I chose to convert all my previously free downloads -- mostly short scenarios supporting my Pulp Egypt and Heroes of Rura-Tonga supplements -- to “free/pay what you want” in an effort to raise some extra revenue from generous donors. (I examined the pay-what-you-want issue and my views of it as a “tip jar” in an earlier journal entry.) The change provided some additional revenue each month; subsequently released free product has fallen under the pay-what-you-want price rationale.

Themed Dungeon Generator:An unexpected project evolved from playtesting the fantasy roleplaying game rules under development. In seeking to self-test the character and combat systems I turned to the venerable random dungeon generation tables of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide (with my own modified monster encounter table keyed to my own game). After finding that experience haphazard and thematically meaningless, I set about creating my own one-page, fillable PDF form to customize my own randomized-yet-themed solo dungeon experience. It suited my needs; with some polishing and quick online playtesting it released to the public through my DriveThruRPG.com e-storefront. It was one of several small game design diversions in which I indulged and the only one to yield saleable product. I generally don’t like releasing small supplements with low price points, but this one sold rather well and made what seemed like sidetracked efforts pay off. (You can read about my solo dungeon delves and the rationale behind Schweig’sThemed Dungeon Generator in past blog posts.)

Goals for 2014

I think I set a positive course for 2013, so many of those trends I intend to continue in the new year; however, many new directions and challenges remain:

Project Completion: I’d like to complete and bring to publication two projects that underwent significant development and playtesting last year: my introductory tank wargaming rules for a younger audience called Panzer Kids; and a fantasy roleplaying game using the Oracle System’s innovative dice mechanic for a basic gaming experience similar to old school renaissance retro-clones, tentatively titled Basic Fantasy Heroes. (I’m also allowing myself to go off on a few other diversion to develop a small abstract board game inspired by some interesting game elements and a quick battle game using 54mm plastic soldier miniatures, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog; I intend both for eventual publication in PDF form, quite possibly for free.) I fully subscribe to the philosophy that “We will sell no wine game before its time.,” which, regrettably, means projects take their time to reach publication, but they meet my personal quality standards on several levels.

Convention Scene: I’m hoping to return to the regional convention scene this year, partly to playtest, demonstrate, and promote my game projects, but also to enjoy myself, mingle with gamers, try new games, and enjoy old ones with new friends. Unlike my previous convention experiences years ago where I attended as a gaming guest running games, speaking on panels, and hosting a dealers table, I’m taking a more relaxed approach, especially in these times of fewer and smaller conventions, tighter finances, and fewer invitations to gaming guests. I have plans to visit a few conventions I’ve attended before, as well as leads on a few others, both well-established and relatively new, I’d like to try.

Continued Blogging: I sometimes debate whether it’s worth my time to continue writing two blogs, one each week, especially when I’m light on relevant topics, have little time and focus to write, or simply don’t feel as enthusiastic about my subject as I should. Part of my blogging satisfaction comes from a need to create meaningful content, but another comes from the interaction I enjoy in sharing these views on the adventure gaming hobby and game design issues. On occasion these missives and discussions inspire me in new directions. I’m looking forward to generating more discussions through blog topics that interest me and the gaming community at large.

E-Publishing: I need to re-focus some efforts to promote my e-publishing endeavors more effectively, beyond actually producing and releasing product (a challenge given my limited time, focus, and energy). I learned during 2013 to use social networking, blogs, word of mouth, and the Griffon Publishing Studio website to promote my activities and publications and intend to continue those practices. But I need to spend time to more effectively market my materials using the publisher tools offered by DriveThruRPG.com and its affiliated sites -- particularly the “featured product” messages -- to boost sales. I also need to start seriously looking to make several of my PDF products available through that website's print-on-demand program.

My reflections on where I’ve been and where I’m going with my game-design endeavors serves as both a kind of “annual report” of the past year and an outline of some tasks that lay ahead. In reviewing last year’s “New Year’s” post I’m relatively satisfied that I’ve at least confronted the challenges I set for myself in 2013; I’m looking forward to moving into 2014 with renewed purpose and some solid goals to achieve.

As always, I encourage constructive feedback and civilized discussion. Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Season for Fantasy

[Note: December’s always far too busy in our household between preparing for the holidays and our son’s birthday. So I hope regular readers will excuse me reprinting -- with some updated sentiments -- a blog entry from two years ago appropriate for the eve of one of the major winter-solstice-based holidays. Enjoy.]

Around this time of year I’m reminded how the holiday season always seems to herald a time ripe for fantasy across the full spectrum of books, games, films, and television shows. For adventure gamers who feast on many of these similar mediums, the holidays remain one of the prime periods of the year for indulging in our  hobby.

GamingPresentsThe general spirit of the December holidays (which really begin around Thanksgiving) contributes to the illusion that anything is possible despite the darkness of the days and the times. Let’s face it: the notion of a jolly obese fellow flying around on a reindeer-driven sleigh delivering gifts to everyone around the entire world in one night is sheer fantasy unto itself (and I’m not even touching the nativity story with a 10-foot pole, though obviously un-American and heretical skeptics might classify elements of that tale as hopeful fantasy, too).

Everyone’s tempted toward fantastic hopes for expected and presented gifts, holiday displays and decorations, plans for parties and feasts, and the overall joyousness of the season. Our unrealistic gift expectations are inspired by an increased flood of commercials, catalogs, and sales for toys (both grown-up and child-level) and manifest in requests (sent by mail or in person at the mall) to the aforementioned jolly obese fellow for unrealistically fantastic gifts. Fantasy of all types abounds.

Enough pontificating; suffice it to say that the holiday season already predisposes everyone toward fantasy, and gamers in particular gleefully indulge in this excess.

The holidays bring a host of fantasy related media into our homes. Every year visions of our favorite holiday-themed tales waltz out of the television, from the stop-motion delights of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town to mere animated fare like Frosty the Snowman and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. New holiday-themed movies premiere in theatres at Thanksgiving and play relentlessly until Christmas (and often beyond); former holiday film releases, like Will Ferrell’s delightful Elf, run constantly on television.

But holiday-themed fantasy offerings often pave the way for more traditional fantasy material at this time of the year. While the summer, and particularly Memorial Day, has been the territory of action and science fiction film releases, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas has recently brought a horde of fantasy movie premieres. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and the first two Hobbit films were released in theatres in the weeks before Christmas. Although only four of the eight Harry Potter films were released in November (the others hit theatres during the summer movie season), several usually appear around the holidays on a major television network (not to mention cable).

Rankin/Bass’ animated version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit was first broadcast on Sunday, Nov. 27, 1977, on NBC, at the tail end of the Thanksgiving weekend that year. Such science fantasy fare as Star Wars was not immune. Though the films all released on prime summer movie weekends, the three made-for-TV specials all first aired around Thanksgiving: CBS first broadcast the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special on Nov. 17, 1978; ABC aired Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure on Nov. 25, 1984; and that same network broadcast Ewoks: The Battle for Endor on Nov. 24, 1985.

The holiday season also brings a break for kids -- both high school and college -- when they spend time at home with family and friends they can subject to such frivolous and fantasy-themed time-wasters as roleplaying and board games. Unlike the summer, that other “season of gaming” when kids have loads of time and friends around (yet often balanced by family vacations or summer jobs), the holidays offer time off without many expectations for productive use of free time, especially when playing outside remains limited by one’s ability to withstand intense cold.

I fondly recall my first Christmas after discovering Dungeons & Dragons, for I received such appropriately themed gifts as module A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, Grenadier Miniatures’ Wizard’s Room miniatures box, and the soundtrack to ET the Extra-Terrestrial, which I found as inspiring as almost any other John Williams score at the time.

As a young gamer I reveled in the two “seasons of gaming” throughout the year: the holiday fantasy season and the summer vacation (it also helped that the bounty of gaming-related Christmas presents was balanced by a host of gaming-related birthday presents for a boy born in July). Christmas always seemed a bit more festive for me as a gamer; call it a combination of the magic of the season, the infusion of game-related gifts, and the immediacy of a shorter break that didn’t linger as tediously as the hot summer days yet required. I have blurry memories of visiting with cousins during the holidays and engaging in gaming activities: one Christmas I attempted to run an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, the daunting A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, no less, using the pregenerated characters provided; another year a cousin tried to teach us Avalon Hill’s formidable Dune strategy game right out of the box!

As I somehow manage through middle age, however, I find my child-like ability to revel in the holiday season’s fantasy appeal challenged by the responsibilities and anxieties of adult life. While I vicariously relive my sense of wonder through my toddler’s experiences, I have difficulty re-capturing my own delight and satisfaction with the adventure gaming hobby pastime. This might become a bit easier as my toddler grows and can share in more of my interests that, right now, aren’t quite appropriate. Maybe next year….

Want to offer feedback? Start a civilized discussion? Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Admiring Interesting Game Elements

I occasionally like to highlight and discuss interesting game elements I notice, whether they can actually influence or inspire my own game design work. Collins Epic Wargames’ Spearpoint 1943 by Byron Collins impressed me with its multi-faceted damage cards and overall smooth interpretation of World War II tactical skirmishes in a card game format. Tasty Minstrel Games’ Coin Ageby Adam McIver incorporates an innovative mechanic in which the random elements determining what actions one can take also serve as the pieces one places, all on a “micro” map that can fit in your pocket. By sheer coincidence both games are running Kickstarter funding campaigns, though Coin Age’s ends in the next few days.

I first noticed this game while attending a small miniatures wargaming convention in Williamsburg, VA, where the creator was running demos. A friend who manages a comics and gaming store showed me a demo copy and was particularly impressed with the damage card mechanic, which, on first glance, offered a different damage complication on each of its four edges corresponding to one of the four unit types (infantry, tanks, aircraft, and artillery). I’ve had my eye on the game ever since -- in a casual sort of way -- but always hesitated at the $29.99 price tag. This past Thanksgiving Collins Epic Wargames had a Black Friday sale that, even with shipping, brought the game into my acceptable price range…so I ordered a copy that was promptly delivered two days later.

The game comes with 50 cards each detailing German and American forces, 25 command cards with advantages and special actions to play as the skirmish develops, and 25 damage cards. Players customize a force based on card points, deploy several units, then engage in combat. The skirmish game concept reminds me somewhat of what I’ve read about Up Front, the card game version of Avalon Hill’s venerable Squad Leader, though I imagine Spearpoint 1943 is a bit more streamlined than that hard-core wargame.

During the course of combat units can sustain damage in the form of points deducted from their endurance (a numerical value indicative of overall strength). Spearpoint 1943 employs an elegant little mechanic in which a card keeps taking damage throughout the turn, but at the turn’s end it defaults back to either full endurance or, if damaged below half endurance but not yet destroyed, then back to half endurance. Any unit taking more than half its endurance in damage also draws a damage card. Each edge of the card contains text for specific damage effects to one of the four unit types. Tucking the card beneath the damaged unit -- with the specific damage effect edge text showing -- also reminds players the unit’s now at half endurance.

Spearpoint 1943 also uses a few other innovative mechanics I like. The game requires players to commit crew cards when putting vehicles and artillery into play. This might seem like an unnecessary detail in a basic skirmish game, but functions as game balance for more powerful units. Players initially deploy only four cards, so a vehicle card and crew card to make that vehicle operational take up two card spaces that might otherwise go to two infantry units. In playing additional forces from one’s hand one must wait until both a vehicle and the associated crew appear when drawing from the reserve deck.

While the cards at first seem overly complicated with many different stats and the rules might seem a little overwhelming as players try to put together all the numbers and procedures, the mechanics work intuitively when everything’s put together on the game table. (I wouldn’t mind finding rules for solitaire play….) Although the interesting elements I admire don’t seem to fit into any games I’m developing right now, they’re certainly approaches I’ll keep in mind for the future.

Collins Epic Wargames is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a version of the game set on the Russian front (the original Spearpoint 1943 covers tactical engagements during the campaign in Italy in 1943). While I’m not planning on backing this particular version of the game -- I’m not really a huge fan of action on the Eastern Front -- I’d love to see a version covering German and British skirmishes in North Africa in 1942-43.

Billed as an “area control microgame,” Coin Ageconsists of a credit-card sized map with four similarly sized pages of rules; players provide the “pieces” using pocket change (one quarter, two nickels, three pennies, and four dimes for each player), though the Kickstarter campaign has already funded the stretch goal of a set of punchboard coins.

The game’s innovative mechanic involves using the coins not only as randomizers to determine player actions but as available pieces to place on the map to control territories. One player is “heads” and the other “tails,” enabling all coins to serve as double-sided counters on the board. Players “roll” (or more accurately “slap!” as demonstrated by the Kickstarter video) the two-sided randomizers (“coins”), with the combination of heads or tails to match the player’s side determining what actions the player can take: placing one, two, or three coins matching the player’s side, moving an already placed piece to an open territory, or even capturing an already placed piece and adding it to their “bank” of available coins to “roll.”

Players aren’t limited to placing pieces on empty territories; they can put a piece on an opponent’s piece on the board as long as the coin is physically smaller than the one upon which they’re stacking. For instance, a player might put a nickel on top of their opponent’s quarter, taking that territory as their own; but their opponent can re-take the area with a penny or dime on a later turn.

The game ends -- and the scoring begins -- after someone claims the last open territory or uses up all their coins. Scoring not only depends on who holds the most territories, but who has majority control of several “regions” consisting of one, two, three, or four spaces. Smaller coins score fewer points than the larger coins, which are already scarce within each players’ bank of available pieces.

Both the “randomizers as pieces” concept and the “stacking territory capture” elements appeal to me, though not for any game I currently have in mind. I could easily see rolling dice and using them with the values they roll as pieces of different strengths (and I’m sure someone’s already done it somewhere). Stacking pieces to capture areas from lesser-value pieces also adds a good bit of strategy to the game: if you make a grab for someone else’s territory you do so at a lower-scoring point value. (Hmmm, the stacking capture mechanic might work for a Gordon Relief Expedition game I’ve causally had in the back of my mind….)

I’m impressed and encouraged by several strategies in Coin Age’s Kickstarter that appeal to me as a potential backer:

Free PDF: Regardless of whether you back it, you can still preview and play the game for free with the PDF download rules and board available at the Kickstarter website. Try before you buy, so to speak.

Low Price Point: The minimum backer level (including shipping anywhere in the world) is a minimum $3, with a suggested “donation” of $5. When was the last time you paid $5 for a well-nuanced strategy game?

Stretch Goals for Everyone: The Coin Age Kickstarter campaign offers a veritable horde of stretch goals that apply to everyone backing the game. As of this writing people who back the game at any level get an additional map on durable “credit card-like” material, cardboard coin tokens (so you can save your change), stickers with the cardboard coin token design to apply to real coins, and -- yet to be unlocked at this time -- one or two additional maps! All this in addition to the originally promised main microgame board and rules. No add-ons or exclusive stretch goals for those backing at extremely expensive levels…just basic rewards for everyone to celebrate the game’s Kickstarter successes.

Support Our Troops: Midway through the campaign Tasty Minstrel Games added an extra backer level in which supporters could not only get copies of the game for themselves, but could also pay to have copies sent to troops overseas through the Operation Gratitude organization. [Edit: Kickstarter administration has since rescinded this pledge level as it supposedly violates their terms in not donating funds to charities...the exact wording and intent of which backers have debated -- and expressed their displeasure with -- at the Coin Age crowdfunding page.]

Ultimately I backed this project for multiple copies, one for myself and a few as gifts for friends.

As always, I encourage constructive feedback and civilized discussion. Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Game-Gift Recommendations

I don’t have many gamers on my holiday gift lists; most folks just get one of my stollens (a German holiday bread I bake in several massive batches). But I like to think I’m qualified to make a few recommendations to those seeking gifts for people on their list who have enough of a casual interest in games to draw them further into the adventure gaming hobby.

GamingPresentsI’ve previously discussed several games suitable for borderline gamers and a few we’ve tried (or would like to try) as supervised games with young children. After reviewing those lists, I’m still convinced they’re right for casual gamers seeking a more involved play experience.  

Here are a few additional suggestions to add to the long lists from those other posts:

Gift Certificates: Gift certificates allow recipients to browse on their own and select something that interests them first-hand. Get one to a Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS), if one exists nearby; or to Amazon.com, which enables one to order from a broad range of game products or, if all else fails, an interesting book (or book download…). The FLGS gift certificate exposes them to a deeper slice of the adventure gaming hobby since it gets them into the store and focuses their browsing (and purchasing) on concrete items they can explore by reading sales copy, talking with staff, and in some cases even trying demos of games that pique their interest.

Books: Several books come to mind that might interest casual gamers and help them think differently about the adventure gaming hobby. A.C. Bell’s classic Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations (which I’ve featured before) offers an exhaustive study and catalog of traditional games from different historical periods and geographical regions, with discussions of the games’ origins, explanations of typical and alternative rules, and diagrams showing boards and demonstrating gameplay. Game scholar Professor Scott Nicholson summarized his research and analysis on both analog and digital game experiences in libraries in Everyone Plays at the Library (another title I’ve previously discussed here). The book offers a framework for evaluating and discussing games in a social context to help determine what kinds of games are idea for different audiences and venues, including many game suggestions. Those interested in the origins of the miniature wargaming hobby might enjoy one of the seminal works on the subject by one of the fathers of science fiction, H. G. Wells. His Little Wars (and the associated Floor Games) in many ways laid the foundation of modern miniature wargaming (along with the Prussian Kriegsspeil). While the text remains available for free online and in the public domain, several good print editions exist that are worthy of any wargamer’s library. Those seeking a suitable magazine gift might find a copy of Wargames Illustrated to tempt the history-minded reader with gaming possibilities, good cartography, and fantastic photography. Single copies often occupy the magazine racks in miniature wargaming-heavy game stores (particularly stocking Batlefront’s Flames of War supplies) and subscriptions are available online.

Euro-Style Games: More big-box retail outlets like Target and Walmart have started stocking more sophisticated board games than the usual fare of Candyland, Sorry, Risk, and Monopoly. Such popular games as Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Smallworld, and Forbidden Island (or Pandemic, its more darkly themed cousin by the same designer) remain familiar to adventure gaming hobby enthusiasts but are still slowly breaking into the mainstream cultural consciousness (I’ve even seen the Star Wars: X-wing Miniatures Game at the local Target alongside Settlers of Catan.) The aforementioned games remain high in popularity among gamers (and retailers) and consist of what amounts to my list of “top” Euro-style games I’d recommend to friends seeking to dabble in the adventure gaming hobby.

Most gamers remain well-connected to internet resources, particularly venues like Amazon.com where they can maintain “wish lists” with relevant products. You don’t have to order from those online venues, but they offer a glimpse into what kinds of games -- generally and specifically -- gamers might want…just see if you can find them at the FLGS before ordering online.

Want to offer feedback? Start a civilized discussion? Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Appropriate Games at the FLGS

Upon hearing that a new Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) opened in my town a mere 10 minutes’ drive from my house -- unlike the other good FLGS in the area, at almost an hour’s drive -- several people commented that I now had a place to a) run a classic D6 Star Wars Roleplaying Game session or b) run playtests of my game projects in development. While I’m flattered by the suggestions, the FLGS is no place for such blatant displays of fond nostalgia or self promotion; however, game conventions remain one of the best places to indulge in unsupported “dead” games and test new projects with some willing gamer guinea pigs.

It’s one of those common sense rules one might think goes without saying; but younger people are coming into the hobby, and some folks don’t generally maintain an awareness of such game-etiquette nuances. A call recently went out from my other, farther FLGS seeking people to run roleplaying games…with the understandable caveat that the games use rules currently offered in the store. It’s a gentle reminder to help avoid misunderstandings and bruised feelings when we interact, especially with such a face-to-face social activity as games in the FLGS.

The FLGS is a business and relies on sales. While some accommodate loyal customers running games not sold by the store, most expect players to run games currently available on the shelves. Even then, I believe if I drop in to use the FLGS’s open gaming space -- and the store doesn’t charge a fee to do so (some do) -- I feel obliged to either make a game purchase, however small, and if I can’t find something relevant to my gaming interests, I buy a soda or two.

I’ve enjoyed my two forays into gaming at the new FLGS in town. One Friday night -- the night the store designated for both Magic: The Gathering and the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game -- I brought along my ships and starfield felt to play with a friend from our occasional board game group; he’d previously only played with the extremely basic but engaging quick-start rules with several other friends and our Star Wars-obsessed toddler, the Little Guy. (I’ve discussed games acceptable for toddlers with adult supervision before.) So this evening provided an opportunity to try the full game with its numerous complexities that enriched gameplay. We had a great time and met a few other players trying out the game. My friend bought a graphic novel and I bought a soda, so we felt we’d duly discharged our minimum loyal customer obligations.

Then last Saturday afternoon the Little Guy and I needed to get out of the house. He’d spent most of the day watching somewhat-kid-acceptable kaiju DVDs and Return of the Jedi and had done little else; my wife needed a break, and I just needed to get out. So the Little Guy and I packed up King of Tokyo and my box of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniaturesand headed out to the new game store. After looking around at games we checked with management and found a spot to pull out King of Tokyo. After finally winning a game we took a break, checked out some of the other games running in the store, looked at some merchandise, and then returned for a quick X-Wing Miniatures Game. The store staff was very friendly and had a great time talking with the Little Guy, who can be extremely gregarious with adults. We felt very welcome and the Little Guy felt at ease. As a reward for his good behavior and to take advantage of the store’s Thanksgiving Weekend “Buy One Get One Half Price” sale (and some credit I had from old comics I’d traded in) we bought another A-wing fighter and the HWK-290 (a ship I’d been lukewarm about, but can be ideal for either a Rebel-allied smuggler ship or a bounty hunter ship) to round out our available forces.

Much as I’d like, I wouldn’t consider running any kind of game at either FLGS that those stores did not actively carry, especially games I’m developing that aren’t yet for sale or might only see release as a PDF available online. Granted, that limits me in what I can play there in the fields of roleplaying, board, and war games; but I respect the FLGS as a brick-and-mortar retail establishment. Some stores don’t mind what customers run, and that’s fine; others charge a small fee to use open gaming areas, and one might see that negates any obligation to run games available in the store. But overall it’s just good manners to make sure the games one runs at the FLGS are acceptable to management…and to respect the store’s decision.

Game conventions offer a good environment in which to run old games or try new designs still under development. A good con offers a wide range of gaming to cater to a diverse crowd, from “dead,” unsupported or out-of-print games, obscure games, or those yet-to-see-publication that creators wish to playtest. Although many conventions offer dealers halls, no obligation to exclusively run particular games exists. While conventions still reserve the right to approve and schedule games according to their own considerations, they’re generally more receptive to offering games one might not find in the FLGS.

I have several games in development I’m looking forward to testing at upcoming conventions. I’m hoping to playtest my beginner-friendly set of tank wargame rules with progressive, add-on complexity (tentatively titled Panzer Kids) at a few small wargaming conventions this spring. I may try playtesting my fantasy roleplaying game rules -- something with a retro-clone feel but some innovative yet basic dice mechanics (an engine we’re calling the Oracle System) -- though I’ve yet to find a suitable regional convention for that. And I always look forward to running a good old D6 System Star Wars Roleplaying Game scenario at game conventions.

As always, I encourage constructive feedback and civilized discussion. Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.