Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tanks Offers Gateway to Minis Games

Gale Force Nine recently announced it’s releasing Tanks: The World War II Tank Skirmish Game in April. With the rules currently online in PDF for review and a substantial preview on the company’s website, the game looks similar in spirit and in some mechanical elements to the popular X-wing Miniatures, Star Trek: Attack Wing, and D&D: Attack Wing games using the FlightPath maneuver system. At first glance Tanks looks like an accessible, affordable gateway to the miniatures wargaming hobby.

Frequent readers know I maintain an interest in World War II history and gaming, and have even developed my own tank-themed miniature wargame rules for kids, parents, and newcomers to the hobby (Panzer Kids...more on that at the end of the feature). I’m always interested to hear about new games in this period, particularly ones that don’t have a huge buy-in and have rules suitable for new players (especially children mature enough to dabble in such pursuits). So when I heard news of Tanks’ imminent release from Tabletop Gaming News, I dropped everything to investigate. Gale Force Nine’s website included a host of resources previewing the game and its components: a PDF of the full rulebook; photos and descriptions of the contents; and pages in the “How to Play” section demonstrating core mechanics.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Community & the Allure of the OSR

I’ve been exploring various games in the Old School Renaissance movement (OSR) for their varied interpretations of the core material, interesting settings, and overall nostalgic connection to the roleplaying games of my youth. Along the way I’ve realized something beyond the game mechanics and settings: by working with a game engine based on Dungeons & Dragons, the original and most popular fantasy roleplaying game, OSR designers tap into a vast community of fans (and potential customers) who share that familiar experience.

I’ve seen various arguments about what defines an OSR game, how the OSR emerged from the Open Game License (OGL) of the 2000s, and, of course, which OSR games are the most popular, true to the originals, and innovative in their own right. I certainly don’t wish to delve into those issues here (if at all); but the OSR capitalizes on a confluence of familiarity – for both the designer and audience – with not simply a core game system but a shared gaming experience through some iteration of D&D.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Star Wars Duels Redefines “War” Card Game

I recently picked up Star Wars Duels, a card game from Hasbro with an obviously popular theme, at the behest of the six year-old Little Guy, who saw it on sale at our grocery store and immediately wanted it to try for our weekly family game night. I’m not a huge fan of card games, though we have a number we enjoy because they’re right at the Little Guy’s level and work with engaging themes (particularly Godzilla Stomp and Otters). Star Wars Duels pleasantly fits into that category, combining modified “War” gameplay with colorful images of Star Wars characters kids love.

The 54-card deck comes with a rules flyer and a reference card for some of the symbols used in the game. They’re standard playing card-sized cards, though given the box size and the intended audience I somewhat expected slightly larger, more kid-friendly cards. Each card comes with a blue, red, or yellow border for the heroes, villains, and neutrals (mostly creatures); a full-color photograph of the character; their name; a card value from 1 to 10; and one or two symbols related to the character’s affiliation. The heroes and villains each have 23 cards, with 8 yellow cards devoted to neutrals. Card values seem a bit inconsistent, but vary from a standard playing card deck spread: 8 to 9 cards of the lower values (1–3); 4 to 7 cards of the middle values ( 4–6); and 3 to 4 cards of the highest values (7–10).

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Subscription Boxes

Every few months I get in a mood to rant about gaming magazines – how nostalgically wonderful they seemed in their print heyday, the effects of internet and PDF, and their dubious future – and I generally rein myself in, delete much of the tirade, and perhaps get a blog post out of what’s left (such as “Nostalgia for Gaming Magazines” and “The Vast Internet Versus Edited Periodicals”). I even have a rambling, admittedly confused missive about the viability of a D6 Adventure Journal sitting around somewhere that seems to have lost its point (if it ever had one in the first place). Yet news last week from GeekDad about War Games Supply reminded me I’d not yet discussed a similar concept, the subscription box approach, one pioneered in the gaming world in 2014 by Mythoard and now perpetuated by this latest venture catering to hobby gaming enthusiasts.

Frequent readers of my magazine missives know I enjoy well-curated periodicals delivering regular doses of quality game material. A good editor not only ensures writing, layout, and art reach certain standards but in a way also curates the readers’ experience to provide them with material they’ll find interesting that enhances and expands their enjoyment. Certainly I expect a particular magazine to deliver content consistent with a focused subject, but I’m always delighted to find a periodical pushing my boundaries, forcing me to examine issues differently, or revealing something previously unknown.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WEG Memoirs: Young Writers Workshops

Sifting through boxes in the basement often uncovers lost bits of my past. My latest foray brought forth a small packet of papers: a pile of photocopied Star Wars line art from West End Games products, a sheaf of double-sided worksheet forms about creating planets and aliens, and some note cards with talking points for a seminar I gave way back in the mid-1990s. Long ago while working as an editor with West End I had several opportunities to participate in young writers’ workshops in my hometown. As a writer and editor who worked on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and managed its quarterly Adventure Journal I found myself in a position to combine the exciting Star Wars universe and my career experiences to inspire creativity in young people. Having the resources and professional credentials to participate in these workshops remains one of several aspects of my work with West End I miss.

In my early adulthood I’d always maintained contacts with my old high school where I grew up in Connecticut. At the time I still knew teachers and administrators with whom I could work to share with students the professional skills and experiences I’d recently acquired. While working as a reporter and editor at the Ridgefield Press – where I gained a great deal of my professional editing experience – I ran an after-school writers workshop at one elementary school and occasionally spoke to classes on various journalism-related subjects. When I left to edit the Star Wars Adventure Journal for West End Games I was a little more than a two-hour drive from home; so occasionally participating in school-related presentations remained possible. At the time my mother was a third-grade teacher in the town’s school system, a connection which also offered opportunities to talk about writing and publishing with kids. Perhaps the most interesting activity was an annual kids writing workshop one Saturday every spring. Here students from the town’s third, fourth, and fifth grades could sign up for the day’s activities, which included a group assembly and talk from a notable author, two subject-specific seminars, and a wrap-up writing session with educators. Being only an hour north of New York City, the workshop drew many notable news media and publisher personalities for some very diverse offerings. For two years I volunteered to give workshop presentations related to my work on science fiction and Star Wars. The first year I went on my own; the second I brought several editors from West End who had ideas for their own workshops.