Sunday, 24 November 2013

The value of buying online...

A friend of mine likes to talk about the monetary value difference between buying online and buying from bricks & mortar stores at RRP.

Seriously, I have a friend that does this probably more so that I do!  Anyway.  He posted recently about online discounting v FLGS' for Games Workshop products and it went something along the lines of this -

The “myth” of the Online discounter for Games Workshop:

A box of Space Marine: Assault Squad - RRP from GW is £20.50.  One of the cheapest sets and the smallest box size.

Picking 3 Online Discounters, how much do you actually save?

4TK Gaming: Assault Marines @ 20% off - £16.40 + £2.60 Postage = £19.00
Saving £1.50 ! (That's only a 7.5% reduction!!) and 3 - 5 days for delivery

Wayland Games: Assault Marines @ 15% off - £17.02 + £2.75 Postage = £19.77
Saving 73p! (That's only a 3.5% reduction!!) and 3 - 5 days for delivery

Dark Sphere: Assault Marines @ 25% off !!! - £15.38 + £3.80 Postage = £19.18
Saving £1.32! (That's only a 6.4% reduction) and 3 - 5 days for delivery

So what does that mean then?

It means you can save money, albeit a relatively small amount when you factor in postage but is it really worth saving £1.50 when you have to wait 3-5 days to get what you want?

I suppose the economy of scale is when you buy in bulk online but then again if you're buying in bulk maybe it's worth having a conversation with the owner/manager of your FLGS as they might be able to do something.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Questions - When do people play games?

And we're back!  What did I miss?  Nothing?  Really? Oh well...

I've only got 1 more post to make on the revisiting the questions before I return this broadcast to your usual content.

When do people play games?

In the previous post on this subject I focussed on the length of time it takes to play a game and explained how widely varied that can be.

The question of when is as much about where as it is about when.

Tabletop games can be played anywhere there's a table, yes some of them need a big table and indeed some of games are designed for a specifically sized table but in reality if you have a table (other work surfaces can apply) you can play a tabletop game on it.  But when do people play games?  Anytime is the simple answer or maybe that should be all the time.

I mean there are people who play games on specific nights of the week (Friday nights for me) and there are those who play games during the day (ORC Edinburgh was built on the principle of Saturday afternoon RPGs) and indeed there are a lot of gamers out there who play at every opportunity they have.

The benefit of a number of the games out there is that you can play short games, long games and some games in between and that enables the gamer to really play whenever they have free time.  Some of the most enjoyable games I've played have been short 30 minute games like The Resistance.

What you have to consider when deciding to play a game is home time do you and your fellow gamers have to play.  Then it's simply a case of picking a game or number of games that fit that slot.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Did I speak too soon?

Ok so the eagle eyed amongst you will notice that I've not managed to get back to posting here.

Don't worry though as I will get this sorted as I expect to get back to the forward posting over the next couple of days to restart the posts after this weekend.

This week has been challenging in the same way as last week with work taking priority.  The positive news though is that this Friday I get back to playing games with the start of my new Star Wars RPG campaign but more on that later...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Normal Service Will Resume!

As predicted but hoped to avoid in my post about November I've not had time to do a few posts for several days which has resulted in a gap in the posts on here.

This is just a quick post just to say that normal service will resume as I'll get back to posting regularly this weekend.

I will also be missing my regular gaming this Friday night which is also frustrating but hey that'll change too.

So, what have you been reading or doing or playing in my absence?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Questions - Where do people play games?

Continuing the theme of re-asking the questions I've come to a revisit of this post on where to play games.

I focussed a bit too heavily on the FLGS side in that earlier post and I think in this post I want to focus on the majority of gamers that are out there and where they play.

The majority of gamers out there are home based gamers or "kitchen table" gamers as I've referred to this demographic in the past.  Yes there are clubs all over the world that exist purely for gamers to congregate and share their hobby, but what I'm saying is that the majority of gamers out there are perfectly happy playing at home with a small select group of fellow gamers.

This was how I started out.  At home with my friends, usually on a weeknight or Saturday night and we'd get together to play a RPG of some form or another.  Nowadays though that home-based group plays a lot more than RPGs.

I know more people who play games at home than do at the clubs I've attended over the years. In fact I'd go so far to say that the home based group is not just the majority of gamers out there but is probably something in the region of 70% of the gaming population - particularly in relation to RPGs and Board/Card Games.

FLGS' and clubs help to draw these people out into their gaming spaces on a part time basis and of course enabling them to participate in the overall hobby community can help the kitchen table gamer to meet new gamers. In the main though these home based groups aren't interested in doing anything more than simply play games at home.

As time has moved on the solitary gamer has perhaps found it harder to find the community around them as in the main it's a static community which either isn't a) looking for more gamers and b) bothered about that wider community.

So what's the answer to the question Dave?

People play games all over the place whether that be the home game, the gaming group/club that meets up in the pub/cafe/wherever and the community that's hosted in your FLGS.  Personally I feel it keeps coming back to the fact that whilst this is a social hobby the majority of those targeted as part of that community aren't really that bothered in being social about it beyond their kitchen table with their usual set of players.

None of this is wrong but what it does do perhaps is say that the majority of gamers are not interested in or really all that bothered about the community of gaming.  They like to game - yes.  But the community around the hobby is much more than simply that which exists in clubs and stores around the world.  The majority of gamers just aren't that bothered about all that, they just want to play games at home with friends.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Questions - How do you play RPGs?

In the last post I talked about how to play tabletop games in general and I made reference at the end of the post that RPGs are a little bit different.

RPGs have the same "Action & Outcome" element in the main particularly in relation to conflict resolution but they also introduce players to a more narrative style of game play.

This isn't limited to only RPGs as there are other games that have a narrative element but in the main this is a RPG component.

So, how do you play RPGs?  The normal way I walk a new player around this is to take an everyday situation and then introduce an usual component but this is likely better explained by example.

Me: Choose an everyday situation and let's roleplay how that might change.
Player: Ok, my commute to work involves driving to the train station and then getting a train to Edinburgh.
Me: Right, so you're on the train and it's quieter than normal for a Monday morning.  The train stops just before crossing the bridge, a rare occurrence but rare enough for you to take notice.
Player: I check my watch and take a look out the window to see if there's anything unusual.
Me: Your watch has stopped at 7:13am which was 5 minutes after you boarded the train.  Outside of the train the weather is heavy rain and strong winds.
Player: Maybe that's why we've stopped before the bridge?  The wind I mean?  Not sure why my watch has stopped either.  I get out my mobile phone and check the time on that.
Me: Your phone has lost power which is odd as it was more than 80% charged when you got out the car. It doesn't respond to any attempts to turn it on.  Other passengers are starting to move around.
Player: Ok.  Odd.  I get up and ask if anyone has the time or a phone I borrow.
Me: There's a man in a light grey suit at the back of the carriage.  You've never spotted him before, in fact you don't remember him getting on the train.  The passenger in the seat across from you says that her phone is also not working.
Player: I call out to the man in the grey suit.  "Hey, do you have the time?"
Me: He doesn't say anything but starts walking towards you.  You think he's got something like a knife in his left hand.
Player: A knife?! Crap. Ok, erm I took an umbrella with me this morning as I thought it might rain.  I take it out from my bag and hold it.
Me: One of the other passengers notices he has a knife too and screams.  Another man tries to grab the grey suited man but is stabbed in the process.  He falls to the ground.
Player: Ok... I grab one of the hard suitcases that's on the luggage rack next to me and throw it at him.
Me: Ok.  Here are 5 coins, flip all of them.  Tell me how many come up tails.
Player: <flips coins> 4 tails, 1 heads.  What happens?
Me: You hit him with the case and knock the knife from his hand.

etc etc...

The situation was entirely narrative until there was an action that required a random element to the outcome. What's key though is that out of every option available the Player had chosen to confront the man in the grey suit.  They could have easily tried to head for another train carriage or indeed ignored the grey suited man. The coin flip was to measure the random element with tails classed as a success in this case.

This is roleplaying at it's core.  Situational narrative with conflict resolution.  With each decision and result leading to another situation.  Simple really.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Questions - How do you play?

This question came up in a conversation with a non-gamer recently and it reminded me of the chat I had with my "nearly gamer" work colleague.

The mainstream board game that is played by families across the world isn't that far removed from the hobby game scene.  Sure the games are different but there are similarities with respect to how you play the games.

Now the first thing you have to consider is that these are games.  In the mainstream market that usually translates into "competition" rather than anything else. It also usually doesn't include any real strategy elements other than perhaps in games like Risk which is one of those games that sits on the border between mainstream and hobby gaming.

In simple terms each game consists of the following -

Rules - These will vary based on format of the game and complexity level.  Some hobby games are fairly light on rules whereas others will have pages upon pages of rules to govern the gameplay.
Chance & Strategy - I'm struggling to think of any hobby game that doesn't have a Chance or Random element to it.  Almost all of them will involve some level of strategy though.

Rules in Hobby Games
These govern all sorts of things from how far you can move miniatures on a table, how cards interact with either other, how your player character does when trying to pick a lock etc etc.  Different levels of rules and play styles will be covered by the rules of the game.

Chance & Strategy in Hobby Games
In most games this involves dice of some description. Whether that be the default 6 sided dice that you can find in most mainstream games but some games use different numbers of sides including but not limited to d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 and d100.
For games without dice the chance element is normally managed through shuffling a pack of cards to ensure that the drawing of cards from the deck is relatively random.

So an example of this would be a wargame like Warhammer or Warmachine where the player elects to move their models by a pre-set (in the rules) distance and then opts to conduct an action that needs a random element (dice roll) to determine success.

In the main that's all there is to it - Action & Outcome. Sure you add things like story and for RPGs you also need to include the actual role playing but that's very specific and probably a post by itself

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Questions - Who to play with?

This goes back to my previous posts about community and how you find other like minded gamers.

If your search for people who play the same games as you is starting completely from scratch then the best routes that I've found are -

Internet search for clubs - you shouldn't limit that search to the game/format that you're looking to play. Invariably a gaming club will have players of various games so be prepared to search for games that aren't on your list.  e.g. searching for Warhammer and Bolton will bring up a variety of information about wargamers in Bolton. That may lead you to find Board/Card, CCG or RPG players

The other primary source of gamers is the game store. The Find Your Game Store website helps you to locate game stores throughout the UK and a lot of them will either have onsite play space where you can get to know that localised community or will have information on groups of gamers in your area who play the same games.

Manufacturer websites also in some cases have event locators.  e.g. Wizards Of The Coast have a locator which enables you to search for organised play events for D&D and Magic.

If after exploring each of these and you still come up blank then I'd suggest alternative approaches -

If you have a FLGS nearby to you then offer to run demos of the games that you want to play.  That way you might just be able to build that player base that you are looking for.

Check out your local University and College setups to see if they have any gaming societies or semi-related subjects for societies like Sci-Fi / Fantasy themed societies.  Even if you aren't a student yourself this suggests at least that there is a population of people who would be interested in playing the games you want to play.

Plus going back a few posts I looked at the Online Communities that exist.  Whilst it is possible that any post you make will be lost in the noise of the forums it'd definitely worth posting.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Revisiting the questions - Why should I buy Game X?

Back at the end of July I asked the question Why Play Tabletop Games? and a few others too.

I'm going to revisit each of these over the next few days and ask them in a different sort of way.

Why should I buy Game X?

Let's assume for a moment that the game interests you already.  Let's also assume that your fellow gamers are likely to be interested in it for the same reasons you are.  But what is it about Game X that makes you choose to play it?  The reason I'm asking the question is because I'm never really sure that games get their pitch correctly.

The constituent parts of that sales pitch involve -

  • Theme - Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Historical/Horror etc
  • Artwork
  • Blurb on the box/book

These items combined are the face value sales pitch.  The reason you've decided to pick it up and have a closer look but not necessarily the reason why you're going to want to play it.  This is an important step for any game as once you've got it in your hand you're more likely to actually buy it.  But what comes next?

This is where I think a lot of games are disadvantaged or perhaps even let themselves down.
A sealed product cannot be perused any further and the potential purchaser is really limited in how they take their decision making beyond what they've already gleaned from the external product.  This leads them to reading or hearing opinions from a vast array of online resources and the retailer themselves.  Not a bad thing but is there not more that a manufacturer can do here?
An "open" product gives you a chance to read the introduction and other parts of the game.  How often though does a product introduction start off with a "This is how to play" section rather than a "This is WHY you should play" section?

For me there should be more stuff on the why people should play Game X in a highly visible way on the product itself.

But what do I mean by that?  Do I mean the social benefit stuff?  Well that's kinda a yes and a no.  I'd love to see a quick and simple graphic that tells me if the game is a resource management game, a mathematical game etc etc but I don't really think that's what I'm after.
I'm after a more robust hook than "oh doesn't this look cool!" from a game.  Give me backstory, tell me what role I'm playing in the game, intrigue me, give me an example of play WITHOUT mechanics, show me all the components laid out in an actual play situation etc etc.

Or am I asking for too much?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Online Communities

Pre-Facebook/Google+ etc online tabletop communities tended to be based around forums.  Those communities are still very vibrant today and tend to be the best "hub" for activity on discussing your hobby online.

In the past I've used sites like ENWorld and in the main really down to my RPG playing history.  I still use ENWorld from time to time and rarely use other than for their Game Index.

With other tabletop formats I've never really been part of the forum community "scene" except for geographical communities like ORC Edinburgh (obviously), Dunfermline Wargaming And Roleplay Fellowship (aka DWARF - now my Friday night club) and the Kirkcaldy Gaming Club.

With my relatively recent interest in boardgames increasing I've started to use BoardGameGeek a bit more. This is mostly for researching number of players that games can accommodate rather than reviews as I'm not a huge fan of review websites.

With the explosion of groups and communities on Facebook and Google+ as well as publisher pages etc the amount of information available is amazing; at times perhaps overwhelming when you have a cross hobby interest.

The online communities really enable you to find that specific group of people that you're looking to engage with and in many respects can help you to find other players to game with.

What online communities are you a part of and why?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Long November

November looks like being a long month for me for a variety of reasons.

My day job as a Project Manager is something that keeps me very busy.  In November I am changing role and moving from 1 large financial services institution to another and that will likely detract from a) my hobby and *apologies in advance* may also impact on b) this blog.

I'm hoping that neither will be the case but such as the way of things I can only see long days ahead which will minimise my time available to do things like this.

However, I'm not one to walk away from a challenge!

By the time this post goes live I hope to have gone through the character creation process for the D&D game I am planning to run.  This will be using the last playtest packet for D&D Next ahead of the formal release which some indicators still suggest will be in 2014 (GenCon!?) but there are others that suggest it might slip into 2015.  I'm hedging my bets on 2014 largely because of it being the 40th anniversary of D&D and I think WotC would be making a mistake to miss that one.  Unless of course they plan to use that to re-release the original D&D box set in a non-collectible format...  Something I'd probably end up buying anyway.

Also November is a 5 Friday month which means there's 1 additional slot of gaming goodness on the horizon.  I expect it to go something like this -

1st November - Well I've already covered that as I expect to be going through character creation for D&D Next.  I also expect to have read the rules by then but that may be unlikely...
8th November - Board/Card Games methinks.
15th November - Star Wars campaign kick off.  As I've said elsewhere on here I'm planning to use the Beyond The Rim scenario as the framework for this.  There is a concern that, at least initially, I'll be using the book as written but as with most published scenarios I will likely deviate from it enough to give the players enough variety in play.  I've read through the book once so far and I have a few ideas for alternate railroad stations but I definitely need to re-read it and expand my notes a bit ahead of this session.
22nd November - Board/Card Games methinks again.
29th November - This is an interesting one as with it being a 5 Friday month I'm tempted to do something different.  Not entirely sure what that would be other than perhaps let +Erik Langskaill beat me at Star Wars LCG again.  Alternatively I could kick off the D&D Campaign which might be the more logical option; assuming of course that we've agreed a setting for it!

December however is a short month with really only 3 Fridays in it that I will be likely to game on so the temptation grows to get the D&D Campaign kicked off in November and have D&D and Star Wars take precedence over Board/Card Gaming.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


So in Indie RPGs there are 2 terms which seem to form the cornerstone of how gameplay works.

Kicker - Dramatic scene described by the player with their character in the middle of it.
Bang - The action that drives the story, usually instigated by the character.

These 2 aren't exclusive to Indie Games though, both are used throughout the RPG hobby just that in Indie Games they've been pushed to the front of "how to play".
In many respects this approach is the origin of the player narrative style of game play that has led to GM-less RPGs.

What I've been considering of late though is how this approach can be used to define the environment for a new campaign.  Sandbox / Sandpit style approaches work in most creative fields.  A group of people get together and create with no restriction knowing that what they come up with is collaborative and probably more importantly drives a collective story.

Seeing as this is the 5th of November I'm going to use the phrase Fireworks to cover this process and really that's not a bad definition.

As the creative process flows the players all start to bounce ideas off each other ultimately resulting in that collaborative and collective picture of where their characters will exist and the adventures that they will take. All that's really happening here is a creative chain reaction but one that isn't restricted to linear paths. Woah that's pretty heavy but then again what's so special about that?

Nothing really but to take the Kicker and Bang labels they're really not that special either indeed the Firework is a culmination of those to reach a major Bang or indeed succession of key Bangs throughout the collaborative picture.

I suppose that the Firework is almost more aligned to that collaborative piece too.  Each player and their character will have their individual Kickers & Bangs but when you combine these from multiple players you arrive at the Fireworks.

This might not be anything new to you and in reality it's nothing new to me but in the interest of giving things labels (is there such an interest?) I think Fireworks serve the purpose of describing that collective Bang.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Planning for GenCon on a jet plane.

As I continue to prepare (save) for GenCon 2014 I have set up various alerts on the price of flights to Indianapolis.

So far the price from Edinburgh is varying between £862 and £926 return with Glasgow being that little bit cheaper but a much longer drive to the airport and home for me.  It's a strange experience watching the price go up slightly then come down again ever so slightly (today it's at £882 for Edinburgh and £866 for Glasgow) as I resist the urge to buy the tickets too early.

At the same time as looking at this I've also received an "Important Information" email from the GenCon team.  It has lots of information in it but the bits of particular import are -

1 - Pre-Registration opens at noon (Eastern time so that's 5PM UK time) on Sunday the 26th January.  This is open until June 29th at 11:59pm (again Eastern time so thats 4:59AM UK time on the 30th June).
No real danger of me waiting until June 29th....

2 - Hotel Registration begins on 2 days after Pre-Registration so that's Tuesday the 28th January at the same time so 5PM UK time...... which means if I'm going to opt to be part of the hotel room-block that GenCon have then I need to be hovering over a fast internet connection at work.  Either that or I take a day off...
At present I'm still looking at the condo/apartment option as a preference but will decide that in January I suspect.

There's a variety of other information in the email but these were the 2 of particular interest and essentially my "Go / No Go" timeline around whether I can muster up some friends to go with me!

So on Christmas Day it's only 4 weeks and 4 days to GenCon pre-registration!  Excitement builds!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Celebration Time

In the run up to Christmas (yes I know November's only just started) there tends to be a lot of celebration planning, thinking about gifts to give and that you may receive.

That annual celebration along with others similar celebrations are part of our culture and everyday lives. Within the hobby community celebrations come in all shapes and sizes with different products and manufacturers providing some focus through their Organised Play activities but also using new releases as celebrations of that product.

For me celebrating my hobby just involves having fun playing games and I'm sure this is how the majority of people celebrate their hobby.

My FLGS recently celebrated 15 years of operating and as part of that fantastic anniversary they held a party.  I couldn't attend it due to family commitments but from what I have heard it was a fantastic day of gaming and cake.  The shop had constructed a Death Star trench out of MDF and had also build a number of gun emplacements using Lego and people played X-Wing.  As well as that there were board games a plenty and Magic drafts for others to enjoy.  It was, judging all by the posts I've seen on Facebook, a fantastic day for all that went along.

Events like this and to some extent conventions also provide that opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate the hobby as a whole no matter what format of gaming you indulge in.  It's probably what I miss most about the 1st Chapter.  This blog however isn't about looking back at that time it's about looking forward and so I've started to consider how I can celebrate the hobby more in the future.

There are a number of options here and there's definitely a variation in scale that they can take however I'm not quite ready to share these here as there's a lot of other stuff I want to focus on first before I start to really promote my plans for future celebrations.

Rather than just leaving it hanging there though, perhaps I can ask a favour of my readers by asking a few questions.

How do you celebrate your hobby?
What types of celebration do you enjoy most?
Why don't we celebrate the hobby more?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Force is strong with this one.

In my previous post on licenses I made reference to the popularity of Star Wars within the hobby.

Star Wars is one of those properties that has serious longevity and is consistently establishing new fans to enjoy the games by publishers such as Fantasy Flight Games.

What caught me by surprise today is that ICv2 have released some market performance information around the success of games in the Non-Collectible Miniature format during Summer 2013.

These numbers are taken from independent stores in North America and doesn't include Games Workshop stores in that mix.  The numbers show that the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game outsold Warmachine, Warhammer Fantasy and Hordes.  Now there are no numbers published to give market share or anything like that but seeing the game selling so well in comparison to the stalwarts of that format is surprising.

Top 5 Non-Collectible Miniature Lines – Summer 2013

Warhammer 40k
Games Workshop
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures
Fantasy Flight Games
Privateer Press
Warhammer Fantasy
Games Workshop
Privateer Press

Mind you looking back at my post on bias/snobbery in the hobby I had managed to determine that the market for Warhammer (both games combined) was something in the region of 1.5 Million players worldwide.  So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that a game which gives fans of Star Wars the opportunity to play games of starship battles or maybe it's more a reflection of the size of that format as a whole but either way it was a surprise to me to find X-Wing as the 2nd most popular Non-Collectible Miniature game of the Summer.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Why Don't Superhero RPGs Work?

Ok so the title is a generalism because Superhero RPGs actually do work but why aren't they more popular?

Let me explain.  Comic books are going through a bit of a resurgence in recent years.  This is in part due to the success of movies based on Marvel (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and The Avengers) and DC (Batman, Green Lantern and Superman) properties.  I also think that like Hobby Games the comic book market is experiencing an element of "Geek = Cool" just now.

So why then do I think that Comic Book RPGs don't reach the same level of popularity as say Fantasy or Sci-Fi based RPGs?  I honestly don't know...

It's been one of those "Why?" questions that I've been trying to work out for a long time.  Given the episodic nature of comic books and the opportunity for Superhero team-ups surely this should be a perfect fit?

Maybe it's down to a lack of systems available to play?  Nope that's not it as there's an abundance of RPGs focussing on Superhero type games.

In a previous post I mentioned that I owned but never played Brave New World which was a Superhero RPG using something similar to the Savage Worlds mechanics.  Indeed over the years I've owned a variety of Superhero RPGs but I've never managed to run a decent length storyline and that's speaking as someone who's been reading comics for as long as I've been playing games...

So - Why Don't Superhero RPGs work?