A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zombie Month! All Things Zombie! Actual Play Experiences

And by experiences I mean, "Things myself and a friend found in playing that the rules don't bother to mention".

Maybe I just misread the rules.  I've gone over it in play, and now again before doing another minicomic talking about my issues with some pictures for quick reference.  (I like pictures.  They are shiny.)

(Y'all know the click for bigger drill by now.)



Yeah.  This game for 60 bucks is a complete disaster.  Its limited in scope, overly luck dependent, missing obvious and important rule situations, got a totally borked set of timing for events, and the game's design makes it possible you will lose just due to a bad Zombie card draw.  

Heck, the scenarios don't even list partial victories!  Just all or nothing for the most part!

If this was a 5-10 dollar print and play PDF game or a 15-20 dollar minibox game ala the old Steve Jackson games I would say its a fun little diversion for what it is, and any flaws could easily be houseruled.  

But as a 60 dollar game I have been waiting for since preordering in July 2008?  INEXCUSABLE.

Thick cardboard mapsheets that have tears in them just by virtue of being thick cardboard folded.  The fact that you have 4 maps but you can't even use all 4 sides at once due to them being double sided.  Lock N Load's first game used thin laminated cardboard sheets that were single sided allowing for lots of fun scenarios.  (And it was only a 35-40 dollar game.  With 5 sheets each almost as big as one of these mapboards.)

Yay a full color big manual.  That's missing obvious information, has such loose timing rules its almost a complete mess, and not even enough scenarios to justify the price even if the rules were totally clear!

I mean, the rules don't even have SCALE information listed in them.  This is something nearly every hex n chit game has in them!

This game WASTED money on high production values instead of gameplay, what really matters.  Yes, the counters are great and the maps do look really pretty.

But the game is so lacking its not even funny.

Its an ok play if you aren't paying for it, but as someone who did, I feel cheated honestly.  For any sad sack unlucky enough to pay full MSRP plus shipping you are getting cheated, AND Lock N Load is repeatedly punching you in the groin.

Maybe a FAQ will fix the rules queries, but for a game in development this long it should be AIR.  TIGHT.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zombie Month! First Look Review of All Things Zombie!

I have slaved over a hot keyboard to bring you the gameplay first look review of All Things Zombie!, in all its too expensive for what you get glory.  Enjoy!

(As usual click on the pictures for a larger one.)










So there we go!  It only took 1 3/4ths years to get, and with some mild board damage, but I finally got the game and for much cheaper than its MSRP.  Is it worth 60 dollars?  HELL NO.  It is worth 30-35?  Sure!

Its quick, its fun, its coop, competitive, or solitaire, and it looks nice outside of the aforementioned board damage.  Still, I wished it was either cheaper or its costs were used to provide more game instead of a fancier one.  Lock N Load isn't a big company so this format of game costs more than they should probably do.  There just isn't 60 dollars of content here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zombie Month! Unboxing of All Things Zombie!

It took an age and a half, but the game I paid for in July 09 (meaning it doesn't count as part of my 2010 purchase limits) finally has arrived after insane amounts of delays.

Let's start with the unboxing.  I will have more time to read and play it next week.  Expect a proper review Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

(As always with my images, click on them for a bigger version.)

I've been a tad busy, especially since with all my new money from not buying games I probably won't get to play any time soon I have started keeping fish:

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Triceratops: Dana, Marie, and Nova.

Like my gaming, I did my research before even starting the aquarium.  But y'all don't care about my fish sorority, so let's get to the overpriced zombie goodness!










This game came in at a perfect time, as most of my upcoming blog projects involve our brain eating corpse friends, so expect April to be ZOMBIE MONTH here at Wargame Dork.

I've got tons of zombie related content to get to, so look forward to it!  


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Operation Don't Buy So Much Dammit Part 2: Future Purchase Plans

Well I know how much I have left I can spend this year without breaking my vow (889 dollars US), but part of having a budget is figuring out what I will buy.

So what is on my radar for this year's spending?

Let's take a trip towards THE FUTURE:

RPGs

Well, RPGs are probably the low end of the totem pole so there isn't much I actually want.  In fact, there is nothing I must have this year at all.

By and large, outside of the Lulu fanmade type supplements for X-Plorers , and the retro D&D mags Fight On! , and Knockspell , I can't really see much new I am looking for.  Perhaps any supplements for Witch Girls Adventures as they did me right when my copies of the rulesbook came to me in god AWFUL condition.

While not must have, I still want the Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition rules, and various supplements and books for it, Call of Cthulhu/Basic Roleplaying, and Warhammer 40K RPG.

But again, most of this isn't MUST BUY NOW.

And OOP D&D or Ghostbusters are things if I see cool and cheap I will grab.

I give Palladium 70 or so a year for their awesome Grab Bag deal, and my continuing mission to collect every issue of the Rifter.  That should cover all my needs there, including whatever new Robotech releases they have this year.

But really... we can probably just say I will spend around 170 bucks on RPG products the rest of the year.
(Meaning I won't be buying many 40K RPG books unless I get coupons or someone is unloading them.)


Boardgames/Hex N Chit

Another category I will probably just be dropping a C note or less on.  (And I spent that amount in 09 on Space Hulk 3rd edition ALONE!)

There are only 3 games I really want to buy this year.  Tank on Tank , a rules light, introductory hex and chit wargame that will be perfect to help bring new gamers into the glory that is moving little cardboard chits around and checking combat resolution charts, Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit Expansion Pack , which gives me more things for ASLSK which is always a good thing.  (Provided I ever get to actually PLAY it with anyone.  Even gave the first Starter Kit as a gift to a friend.  And it accomplished nothing.)

And finally for the boardgame category, THE NEW VERSION OF OGRE , the best thing Steve Jackson games ever made.  It might not be out this year, but depending on price IT MUST BE MINE.  Because I love Ogre/GEV.

So about 120 or so for Boardgames?  While there might be some more issues of Operations magazine in the pipeline (see from the ASL link), and I wouldn't mind Chaos in the Old World , its by no means a must buy.

But if Ogre gets shunted to 2011, Chaos is up on the docket.


Miniatures Gaming

Or near minis in the "Machine Sheet" game genre's case.

So what am I to be needing?

Well, about 150 for Warhammer 40K this year.  Codex Blood Angels due next month to make my Pre Heresy World Eaters usable again.  (The free online codex I used as an epiphany and a way to play my cheap army even cheaper being kind of butt.)  Plus 2 Dreadnoughts I need to get on the cheap, and some Drop Pods.  Maybe a few more things for my Tyranids, or me taking advantage of someone selling off some goodies cheap.  (Which is the foundation of my World Eaters army.)

I would say around 100 for Rackham's Confrontation and AT 43 this year.  I need A Griffon Cannon Team for one of my 3 Confrontation armies, and whatever I can get fun and cheap for the others and of course, the big man on campus for my AT 43 UNA, the FIRE CRAWLER , which I may just get in the UNA army box whenever it comes out.  50 online for a box including a 60 MSRP supermech, a 45 MSRP mech, and a couple 20-30 dollar squads of infantry and terrain & other goodies?

SCORE.

For Uncharted Seas I mostly just need a few bits for the Bone Griffons undead fleet, and maybe a few new ships for the Dwarves and Elves.  So.. 50 bucks tops.

Arcane Legions and Battletech and Car Wars are more "Well this is something cool and cheap.. let's get it!" than must buys at this moment.  So I will say 75 dollars for the three of them.  Which means a couple boosters for Arcane, a Technical Readout or a few Mech models for Battletech, and maybe another book or two for Car Wars.

For Federation Commander I need the Orion expansion for 30, then possibly another 35 if the Interstellar Concordium set comes out.  So lets just make it 70 total since I buy a pack of ship cards sometimes too.

So if we leave a little wiggle room for things like Heroscape, the toy wargames from Radioactive Press and Star Wars Minis' final map packs we get a 500 dollar ballpark.

So my estimated purchases for the rest of the year?  790, which brings me under the 1000 limit, though this would be the "bronze" category.  This means I will either have to drop some stuff, delay it till 2011, get it as a gift (ha!), or sell some goodies to get goodies.

But I see it being easily doable, especially if many of the above I skip on.  I'm not really playing most of the above, and in the case of games like AT 43 and Arcane Legions I have PLENTY ALREADY.

But, let's see what we see.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Ongoing Project: Operation Don't Buy So Much Dammit!

Yes.  My ongoing mission this year is to drop the amount of gaming products I buy.  My primary goal is to spend under 1000 dollars, though I will be happier if I can keep it under 750, and proud of myself if I can keep it under 500.

See money is getting tighter (yay medical bills), but that's really only half of the equation.  The other half is the knowledge I am simply not USING what I already have, and its really kind of foolish to buy books and games that won't get played much, if at all.

Players Wanted! poster placed at 3 different comic/gaming shops in the region.  (Email address, location, and little contact rip tabs omitted.) Amount of contacts received: ONE.  Amount of active players added to group: ZERO.  AWESOME.)

My Tuesday group has pretty much dropped down to 2 people including myself, and the other guy tends to have a lot going on so at best we maybe get to actually GAME twice a month.  We had other people but real life tends to get in the way.  (Not to mention one long gone player all but insisted we play on his schedule at his convenience and he changed days off more than some people change their car's oil!   Looking back and talking to people, this cost us quite a few of what at one time was nearly a 10 person group.)

And Connecticut gamers being Connecticut gamers, actually trying to meet up with new groups or trying out a new game is all but anathema to them.  (Not helped by most people refusing to drive more than 15 minutes from their homes, but expecting me to drive EIGHTY.  Seriously.)   

If Facebook, posters, talking to existing gamers at 40K pickup games, and using almost every known resource to find players isn't working, why should I even bother buying more stuff?

The answer is: I SHOULD NOT.

And thus, my new little project is born.  Every now and then I will make a little post saying what I bought, and why.  

You see, keeping track of my purchases and having a year long spending cap is a good way at saving money.  I have already passed on a couple things just because it will affect my total limit, and it makes me take a step back and decide if I REALLY need that item.

Now here is my self imposed rules:

1: Stuff sold on ebay can be used to buy new stuff without it affecting the total amount.  Its ok to sell off silly things for more silly.  Keeps junk out of the house and all.  

2: Things like containers, paints, and various hobby supplies that can do other duties don't count.  

3: This is only for hobby and tabletop games.  Resident Evil 5 for the PS3 won't count.  Scrabble would.  

4: Game magazines count, but comics and magazines that happen to have some gaming content do not.  This means something like Fight On! and Knockspell count, but Knights of the Dinner Table which is a comic with a bunch of hobby games articles does not.  

So let's see what I have purchased up to this point?

2 Halo Boardgame boxes bought at a discount.  22 bucks.  Cheap scenery and a fair value.  Game sucks as my review pretty much showed.  

1 Wings of War plane model.  15.  I like to get some WoW planes every now and then!

2 second hand Warhammer 40K Space Marine Bikes.  10.  Need them for my World Eaters Pre Heresy army.

1 Warhammer 40K Lictor.  22.  Finally my Lictor triumvirate is complete.  Only took me 2 years.  

Warhammer 40K Battle Missions.  25.  A useful book full of new 40K battles to play.  I will be doing a review eventually.  The main rulesbook only has 3 missions with 3 setup types.  This book adds 33!

Warhammer 40K Codex Tyranids.  25.  Its the new Tyranids codex!  I play Tyranids.  DUH.

So my current total is:  119 by March 19th.    So nearly 3 months and I am barely over 10% of my spending limit.  If I hadn't placed this restriction on myself I probably would have spent 2-3 times that, income permitting.

I have already passed up on the Doctor Who RPG, 2 more Dark Heresy supplements, and some Battletech books.   

Let's see what I can do.

And maybe some of yall out there might want to try to do the same, especially if you are having the luck in getting to play something besides the D&D, 40K, and Magic stranglehold that seems to be the giant monkey on the back of hobby gaming.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Citytech 2nd Edition Unboxing!

Yes.  Here we will show the contents of a 16 year old boxed set after I ruin its collectibility by taking off the shrinkwrap and showing all you fine people what is inside.

Buy a product just to hoard and not make use of?

That's just stupid.

















There we go!  Everything you didn't care to know what was in Citytech 2nd edition, plus my thoughts and commentary.  As usual, click on the images for a larger version, and I still don't know why Comic Life exports the comics with those weird grey bubbles around the sides.  It doesn't affect the comic itself, but it still annoys me.

Originally this was gonna be a Toyniverse comic with my toys making commentary and framing the unboxing, but I took the pictures over a month ago, and forgot what they were going to be saying and doing!  I think the unboxing and detail stands well enough on its own though.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mechanics of Electronic RPGs.

Over at : Gamespite, there is a REALLY long article about the mechanics of electronic RPGs and their flaws.  Being that Gamespite is one of the usual electronic game websites where the NES or SNES is largely considered the ONLY SYSTEMS THAT EVER EXISTED/MATTER in retro times, the article skews VERY heavily towards the JRPG side of things.  Which sort of misses the point that many problems in electronic RPGs have either been solved by a computer based RPG, or were things designed to work in tabletop games that were just sent straight over to digital without wondering if it actually WORKS in an electronic environment where there isn't any GM to referee, and players are mostly limited to whatever the game understands.

(This is pretty much why I just cannot enjoy the Adventure Games genre.   The games basically insist on each problem having one solution.  In the Text Adventure days, this not only meant knowing what to do, but typing it in the correct format the game's "Parser" understood.  So to get by a nasty Orc guarding a chest might not accept "Kill Orc", "Hit Orc", or "Fight Orc", but ONLY wants you to "Use Sword on Orc", even though its all the same thing.  The later point & click games fixed the parser problem, but then turned into pixel hunts for objects/environmental objects to be used, but came up with ridiculous puzzles such as putting tape on a mouse hole to get mouse fur to make a fake mustache to get by an NPC.  In an RPG players could come up with dozens of ways to get by the same NPC.)

See the electronic RPG genre has ALWAYS had flaws.  The earliest games were basically fun because they were replicating the simplest parts of a tabletop RPG, though usually with an electronic GM who was hidebound at following the RULES BY THE BOOK the way Gary said it MUST. BE. DONE. in AD&D.

(As opposed to the way most people really played it.)

For a time this was enough.  Then the JRPG genre began being birthed with Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.  They made the games a LOT more user friendly, and were in general a lot easier and simpler than their more draconian CRPG parents/competitors.

Dragon Quest never autosaved your PC dying.  Not even a "Game Over".  You just lost half your cash, but kept everything else you had accomplished including Experience Points and finding that nifty Sword of Facebreaking.

Which lead to increasingly boring games as all you did was wander around fighting easy, pointless random combats you needed to do to have enough money and levels to take on the next dungeon's end boss.  Who was usually in a room just after a save/rest point where all the resources you expended to get to that point were recovered, removing even any resource management challenges.

And then the boss was the usual "Immune to all status effect spells, fighters should hit, mages should cast buffs/obvious direct damage spells, healers heal party every turn possible" strategy that will guarantee you to defeat 90% of all JRPG bosses out there.

Of course this lead to JRPGs BEING MORE ABOUT THE STORY/CHARACTERS TO LUST AFTER WITH DIRTY COMICS AND FANFIC, and all the level gains and even the sheer joys of exploring a new world being little more than time sinks and busywork to the point most JRPGs are 50 hour games with 40 hours of filler content and anything semi meaningful being the other 10 hours.

Now this is not to say Computer RPGs haven't found their own sins, though they have mostly become action games with Adventure Game dialogue trees.  Except the action is half controlled by the RPG part, which annoys BOTH groups.  The RPG player doesn't get the strategic itch scratched, while the action player has to deal with resource management and character building and his or her skills are only about half the equation.

Both sides are sort of leading towards why RPGs are becoming a smaller and smaller segment of the marketplace.  Now this leaves out the market's increasing desire to sell to the biggest demographics (which they sort of have to given the insane budgets most games have these days), and how the mass market is generally only interested in being a virtual sociopath (Grand Theft Auto type crime games), virtually teabagging someone after shooting at them (First Person Shooters), or the "Casual" game which are for non gamers mostly.  (Stuff like Peggle, Wii Sports, Bejeweled, Tetris.  Basically the pick up and play games the "Hardcore" gamer market seems to loathe, but was most of the game market in the early 80s.  Pac Man and Donkey Kong would be classified as Casual games now.  Clearly Casual is a term which SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A BAD THING.  I may one day do a discussion of this term.  It really can apply to tabletop games too.  Some times you want Advanced Squad Leader.  Other times Ogre fits the bill.  And you really aren't getting ANY ASL players without them getting into Ogre first.  But again, topic for another time.)

What follows is some more of my thoughts on Electronic RPGs as I had posted to Gamespite, but with some edits to be blogpost worthy.

As if the above pile of text wasn't enough additions..

The problem with electronic RPGs, both C and J types is that they are based off of tabletop RPGs without actually using the lessons of tabletop RPGs.

Take the mentions of level grinding and such.

In a tabletop game the GM can put the odds in the player's favor or properly warn the PCs if they go places they shouldn't. Players can also do creative actions and things no electronic game can really be prepared for. (Well except for some of the Roguelikes...)

Not to mention the game mechanics in tabletop RPGs have been bastardized into electronic ones without actually understanding them much. In general Dragon Quest and much of the JRPG family seems to use the gameplay mechanics of Tunnels & Trolls over D&D.

The problem is T&T is designed for tabletop games where the GM can officiate things and actually INSISTS players and GMs houserule and use creative thinking.

This doesn't work as mentioned on an electronic device.

As an example, in the most recent T&T ruleset they explain using a battle between 2 goblins and a troll. Mechanically the goblins CANNOT WIN. EVER. The troll's stats are too high. Much like JRPGs level and stats mean all, and 10 level 1s are no match whatsoever for 1 level 10. Not even a speedbump.

(Some systems like older D&D editions, or Basic Roleplaying are nowhere near as bad. In Basic Roleplaying a master swordsman will still probably die if outnumbered just like in real life. In older D&D the high level is just going to be injured, but will still probably win.)

But T&T has a Saving Roll mechanic where you take an attribute, and make a Saving Roll to do things. (GM tells you which attribute to roll against and maybe gives a penalty/bonus.) In the T&T rulesbook example it has one goblin making a kick to the troll's groin. The Saving Roll succeeds and the GM decrees the troll is stunned and can now be beat on for a couple rounds till Mr Troll gets his senses back.

Obviously electronic RPGs can't plan for this stuff.

But they kept the long amounts of monster bashing without really understanding WHY it was in the tabletop games. Because a GM and players can make even the most irrelevant random encounter an entertaining night's play.

Heck, I had a weekly 6 month Dragonlance campaign built on a minor encounter taking on a life of its own due to player actions. (And me rewarding the players for cleverness. Which also made up for the initial encounter being too tough for them. A PC got captured, and due to some smart RPing turned a one shot baddie into the grand villain of a whole campaign. That the 6 month mark was really only 1/3rd of the total story.  It was never continued due to a mix of a self absorbed player constantly forcing scheduling changes on us, causing many people to stop playing, and myself not really wanting to continue it with half the group no longer with us.)

This sort of thing is why I have always wished e RPG makers would stop the grinding and make more meaningful encounters. I'd rather have shorter games without the time wasting killing the 1000th Slime. Instead of a 60 hour game with 1000s of 1 minute speedbump fights I would much rather have a 30 hour with 100 carefully preplanned encounters where I could do more and have more strategies and actions.

This is probably the reason I love the SRPG genre so much. In the best games' cases the battles ARE the game, and tend to be epic, interesting, and cinematic.

I have seen games that have covered some of the other flaws in RPGs as well.

Fallout 1-2 keeps the random encounters on the overworld map as you explore, with all the genuine combat and encounters mostly being prebuilt setpieces with a variety of solutions.

Most of the early Ultimas used a form of level scaling and play time length timers which gradually scaled up the number and power level of the random encounters on the overworld map (which you could avoid fighting entirely if you spotted them far enough off, sometimes leading to dozens of monster hordes chasing you around the map. Course you could usually get vehicles to shoot at enemies from afar if you needed to clean house.), and many hand crafted strategic battles in the dungeons.

Older games handled level scaling pretty well too, usually going with the classic D&D paradigm of "The lower the dungeon level the tougher the monsters", which made for a nice risk v reward scenario. Sure the first level of Werdna's dungeon has easy to kill monsters. But the XP gain will be slow, and the treasure sucks. Once you hit level 3-4 this level stops being the slightest threat, and is just.. BORING.



What I think electronic RPGs need to do is look at what tabletop games have done since 1980, and try to figure out what can be applied to them.


Its not enough just to be a simple emulation of the basic tabletop RPG elements any more.

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