Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making Use of What We Have

As a gamer I keep long lists of games and components I’d like to add to the extensive collection of materials I already possess. But sometimes the urge to run a particular game hits me when I don’t quite have all the appropriate pieces; at these times I rummage through the components I have and “make do” with something close, crafting a new game experience to use what I have on hand. Some recent flea market acquisitions inspired me to take this approach on several levels to create an unexpectedly interesting game experience I’d otherwise never pursue.

A Panzer IV waits just inside the
Bois de Bavent behind the minefield.
The regional miniature wargaming convention I recently attended hosted a Sunday morning flea market where gamers could set up on a table to sell their unwanted wargames, painted miniatures, history books, and other wonderful diversions. An old friend had some zip baggies of various Axis & Allies Miniatures (okay, and some Star Wars capital ships from some Wizards of the Coast game I’d completely missed...that I couldn’t resist). The pre-painted vehicle minis work well with 15mm-scale World War II miniatures games like Flames of War (though I’m sure diehard players would cry heresy!) and my own Panzer Kids, still in the development pipeline and awaiting what time and focus I can pry away from real life. Since Panzer Kids focuses on tanks, I was naturally looking for armor; most vehicles I collected when I was buying into the game’s frustratingly randomized booster packs consisted of German and American tanks, with a scant few British ones.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dyson Logos Offers Free Commercial Map License

I don’t really cover “news” as such too often here at Hobby Games Recce. Other websites compile the deluge of relevant adventure gaming developments in a far more timely and comprehensive manner. But I still occasionally find “breaking news” that grabs my attention. Dyson Logos’ recent announcement deserves note: he’s releasing every map that hits the $300 level on his Patreon site under a free commercial license for use by anyone in a for-profit project.

Cool Map by Dyson Logos
The prolific and talented mapmaker already allows individuals to use his maps in their personal, free materials with the proper attribution. Several times each week his Dyson’s Dodecahedron blog releases new maps, each with enough adventure hook notes to suggest how to populate them and use interesting features he’s packed into each creation. Many other talented artists produce maps and map-based game materials online – Tim Shorts, Matt Jackson, and Simon Forster remain among my favorites – and while I like their contributions to the collective map-making community, Dyson’s style really connects with my ideals for how dungeon maps should look: black-and-white line art, crosshatching (with some nice embellishments), intuitive secret door notation, and a solid feel for imbuing the graphic map with elements suggesting their specific and more general purpose.

I’m excited about this news for two primary reasons: it provides free maps for publishers and it reinforces the effectiveness of the Patreon model.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gaming Artifacts: First Minis and Buildings

In the “Golden Age of Roleplaying Games” of the early 1980s miniatures seemed an integral part of roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, not surprising considering the hobby’s origins in miniature wargaming. Well before game stores stocked walls of Warhammer or Reaper miniatures for every conceivable fantasy race and monster – and before the rise of popular, tournament-driven fantasy battle games – hobby stores often settled for whatever they could get from distributors at the time, usually from one of the two pillars of the miniatures producers, Grenadier Models and Ral Partha.

I still have some of the earliest miniatures I bought and painted, though I have since re-painted them after much practice and gaining a slightly better ability (though nothing I’d brag about). The Christmas after I discovered D&D I’d received boxed set 2009, “Wizard’s Room,” as a gift but found no practical use for it in my games. Later I bought Grenadier Models boxed set 2005, “Fighting Men,” and a single model of a dwarf holding a spear (possibly Ral Partha but maybe RAFM). The latter I bought specifically to use as a test piece for painting with the TSR Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Basic Paint Set (also received as a holiday gift). I wasn’t too discouraged by my paint job (until years later when I realized it looked simply terrible), and collected a few more Grenadier miniatures to add to my collection, most notably some orcs, skeletons, dwarves, a giant, and some dragons.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Hobby of Tinkers

Gamers of all stripes tend to fiddle with their material to some degree. Tinkering only seems natural in a hobby with such imaginative games and numerous rules systems for achieving different play experiences. After running some games by-the-book, gamers start taking rules into their own hands to customize the experience to their play styles, audience, and personal vision for a game.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb form of “tinker” as, “To repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner,” with the noun form of “tinker” being one who engages in such activity.

The adventure gaming hobby not only relies on some imaginative game mechanics and themes across its various forms, but attracts creative, intelligent, and critical individuals who have no qualms about imposing their own adjustments on existing games. Some gamers customize existing settings and scenarios for their own gaming table, while others completely rework rules and campaign worlds, adding their own imaginative interpretations on published material to craft games emphasizing a particular style of play or thematic elements. Some games offer optional or advanced rules individual gamers decide upon using right at the game table. Others tinker with existing rules after extended p lay reveals deficiencies in procedures or more efficient ways of resolving conflicting game elements. Really ambitious gamers take a much-played game and decide to run with their own visions for its design, in the process creating an entirely new game inspired by but quite different from the original.