It has been a couple of years since the release of the core set – Players Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide – and in between we’ve mostly seen the release of campaign books that have added their own flavour that a half-awake DM can implement to great effect in his/her own games.
Across the last two editions we’ve seen something of a template in terms of extra material, and the same with independent adaption Pathfinder; more monster manuals, more player options, flavour books that add new worlds or mixed materials that play to a theme, accompanied by campaign modules which are primarily focused on a playable adventure, rather than adding usable material for anyone to use. (more…)
As I sit here, finishing up the very last of Westworld, I find myself with far too much to pick apart and discuss for a mere review, but I find myself wanting to review it from an unusual perspective.
The series is fantastic, well written, brilliantly performed, layers of philosophy woven with drama, all brought to a satisfying conclusion that ties loose ends neatly but leaves a whole new string to unravel. And yet above all, I’m left with a complaint that makes me strangely unsatisfied with the series as a whole.
Westworld is a bad game. (more…)
So on a recent quest to scour the internets for interesting things to talk about for this site I sometimes come across things purely by accident. If you’re a fan of RPG games in the style of Dungeons and Dragons then stay tuned because today I introduce you to the world of Pugmire.
The thing about a town like Shrewsbury is that it would take you a full lifetime to uncover every corner, unveil every hidden gem. There are alleys off alleys, doors you could walk past a thousand times and never notice, and amongst them are some of the venues e-Collectica have used for their Games Days. The hall upstairs from a church, a hall hidden behind some shop fronts, and most recently the Darwin Community Centre, a little hall just outside of the town centre that’s innocuously concealed behind two gates and a fairly blank looking door, and a faded sign. About the biggest marker on the place is the Pokestop… or maybe the guy stood in the gate on Google Streetview?
When I led this commenting on hidden gems, I was absolutely talking about the Darwin Community Centre. As tucked away as it might be, that place has everything a bunch of enthusiastic gamers could want! Tables!
But seriously, there were a few issues in the build up to Games Day, namely a few of the staff being unable to attend due to illness or other engagements; this put some of the schedule out, but it didn’t stop people from enjoying themselves. People arrived and delved straight into the library of demo games, a few people brought new things to try, including guests from the Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare presenting historical skirmish games.
I had the chance to field a playtest of a little something I’m working on for something bigger: Six Goblins in an Overcoat. Players take the role of one of six goblins doing their best to present themselves as a single normal human trying to navigate a human town and break into a cat orphanage to get at the tasty, tasty cats inside. It was short but sweet, brilliantly chaotic, limbs were abandoned, swapped, badly coordinated, and I think it could go somewhere with a few more experiments. Anyone who’s in, just say the word…
And of course the day would be woefully incomplete without the raffle. It’s nice to hold a ticket that could win me something other than a bottle of wine, a pack of chocolates, or some ornament that’ll end up a Christmas present for someone who likes that sort of thing. A bag of dice for the first ticket, followed by Dobble, and finishing out with Back to the Future, which I did not think had a board game… the more you know.
Finally, the most important news from this Games Day, that there will be another. It was starting to look doubtful, but the venue and the people just made for a much better time, and more importantly a much longer time. Every event so far has had to shut down by 17:00, we squeezed an extra couple of gaming hours into the evening and made full use of every minute, we were still fighting for Tokyo right up until the last call.
There is no fixed date for the next event, but keep an eye on e-Collectica’s Facebook page, or just stay with us on GeekOut South-West, you know I’ll be all over it.
Munchkin is a game that strips the Tabletop RPG to its foundations, separates out the memes, in jokes, and instantly recognisable features, and parodies them mercilessly. The Steve Jackson game has not only gone wild with no fewer than fourty-two expansions varying from boxes of a few hundred cards to blister packs of about fifteen, three or four re-releases, and about twenty spinoffs with their own catalogue of expansions, and I haven’t even touched upon the assorted merchandise, Munchkin themed game-rereleases, a board game or… several… look it’s getting really difficult to keep track of all this now.
Not a bad back-catalogue for a board game released in 2001, right on the cusp of the reviving board game market. So why have we never reviewed it before?
How to Play
The premise is that the players are a party of adventurers trampling through a dungeon, bashing down doors, killing the monsters, gathering their loot and levelling up.
The game begins with two decks of cards (heights may vary depending on number of expansions; number of decks may vary depending on expansions or spinoffs; there may also be a board, bobbleheads, entirely fictitious miniatures…) one Door deck, one Treasure deck. Players begin as level 1 humans with no class (seriously that joke is in every rulebook) and start with a hand of four cards from each deck.
During the game the door deck will offer you the chance to gain classes, or change race to a classic fantasy species, throw out curses to debilitate you, and monsters to challenge you. Defeating monsters raises your level and earns you treasure, items or abilities that make it easier for you to progress, or make it harder for your “friends” to win. The first to reach level 10 wins the game.
As a D&D fan and lover of all things nerdy – or at least classically nerdy – the decks are jam packed with jokes that I can appreciate on an esoteric level. They’re my jokes, in-jokes for the in-crowd, mixed in with a few that are easier for other people to get, not many. But the sheer variety of sets means there’s something for everyone to laugh at and feel very clever about. I know nothing about westerns, very little about the old wuxia martial arts films, but there’s a set for those who geek out about them. There’s a few puns I get in The Good, The Bad, and the Munchkin, but what the hell are The Eyes of Texas?
Once you get past the comedy and into the game there are some very simple mechanics that are easily built on to create a game that’s interesting and different every time you play, moreso the more you add, detract, change and mix. While there is such a thing as not being “in the mood” for Munchkin you can always pick up and play and expect something interesting. The simplicity of the basics and universal appeal also make it a great game for bringing in new gamers who may never have tried anything of the sort.
It’s an elegant blend of strategy and chaos, building your character up to the heights of power, only to be torn down when you get too big for your own good. Negotiating for help during a fight can be a cutthroat time, as players bargain for treasures, threaten to worsen the situation, and choose their allies carefully. It’s a thrill to toppling someone before they win, but there’s a method to tearing one player down without exhausting your resources so that someone else can snatch victory from someone else’s defeat. Depending on the cunning of your opponents, the second rat is often the one to get the cheese.
I’m a harsh enough critic to admit that Munchkin is flawed, despite its success.
My biggest grievance is an issue with any game dependent on random chance, and that is that bad luck seems to dog certain players, despite the odds being even every turn. Too often I’ve seen one player get stuck around level three or four through no fault of there own, while everyone else toughs it out around levels eight and nine. Lack of creatures you can defeat, lack of creatures altogether, means no levels, no treasure, and a handful of broadly useless cards.
To balance this there is the charity rule, meaning that the lowest level player gets the cards discarded by those who’ve reached their hand limit, although it’s fairly uncommon occurrence it can help to gather the hand-me-downs. Your biggest advantage as a lower level player is that the guys who are winning become the victim of every screw-over and cut down the deck has to offer, where you get a fairly easy ride. Ultimately you may very well find yourself catching up, or even getting to a point where you can win, but in the mean time it’s boring and disappointing round after boring and disappointing round.
More sets means more mechanics, ones that are rarely of use to you once they’re diluted by the other cards. Stripping down the sets to the core, picking and choosing some favourite expansions makes the game a lot more manageable, and if you’re savvy you can put together custom decks designed around your favourite game elements.
Final flaw, and this one’s very nit-picky. Once you’ve browsed the deck once and played the game a couple of times the humour is rather lost, you may find yourself buying the decks to try and find a new joke to laugh at. As I say, nit-picking.
This is a must-have for any games cabinet, at least one copy of any variety. You can happily spend the absolute bare minimum on this game and expect a lot of fun times to be had from it, and if everyone has their own favourite version at home then you’ve got the chance to try out a few things. It may not be a game to every one’s taste but it’s a definite crowd pleaser with no great limitations on maximum numbers of players, making it a great one to bust out at parties, conventions, or just a night when no one wants anything too serious.
Shameless promotion here, my friends at e-Collectica games will be celebrating the store’s 10th birthday on October the 15th with their longest ever Games Day. 10:00 – 19:30 at the Darwin Community Centre in Shrewsbury. If you’re in the midlands and want to join us for nine and a half hours of games come on over. We’ll be featuring a Ticket to Ride tournament, a couple of roleplays and your chance to learn some new games, or just play some favourites. More info at the event page on Facebook.
It’s way too late to do a review of Skyrim, the game is fast approaching its 5th anniversary and there’s a major remaster on the way instead of an Elder Scrolls VI like most of us would rather see. Personally I want to see Elsweyr, never play Khajiit, I read Ahzirr Traajijazeri and I love the sound of the rebellion, maybe include Valenwood so we can see the walking trees that wood-elves make their cities in. Not a huge fan of Elder Scrolls Online because I’m not a fan of MMOs, and it sounds like it wasn’t all that popular from what I hear, I can’t find any population statistics which is quite interesting. (more…)
What drives a “normal” person to take to the wayward life of adventure? Tanners, soldiers, smugglers, musicians, rarely are people born heroes, and even when presented with great power they may not be so inclined to take up the great responsibility. Ordinary people have lives, families, jobs and a status to keep quo, and don’t want to spend weeks walking between death traps for ungrateful clients and nations that will never know their names. It’s dangerous, difficult, stupid, and frankly not a great return on investment. (more…)
Deception is rarely fun for everyone concerned. Ok, so the longer you can keep the grand reveal from your group the more incredible it may be, but in between there’s a long stretch of frustration because people prefer to know things than be kept in the dark.
Ah, but when someone is in on it, then things get more interesting. Bringing someone into the fold makes for an interesting dynamic, pitches the group against one another in the best possible way, and can make for a few rather interesting story moments that will leave your group exchanging dirty looks at one another for years to come. (more…)
I use the term DM or Dungeon Master to describe those running role-plays because my preferred set of rules is Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve dabbled in many a game system, discussed others at length, and even made some efforts into making my own. With the explosion of diversity in rules spanning genres, creating worlds or plunging players into worlds they’ve always wanted to explore, but so often you’ll find there’s something missing, or that your chosen campaign doesn’t match up with the rules at hand.
It’s been a long time…
There’s no point in orchestrating every little event in the world, it’s a lot of work for next to no reward, but if every little event is pure storyline then your world becomes bland and featureless. You can fill the quiet moments with quick little scenes and randomly determined vignettes, it’s a classic method of space-filling and a great opportunity to breathe life into your campaign. (more…)