Wednesday, 31 December 2014

That 2015 Look Ahead Post

Last year’s look ahead post was structured by –
  • Game Time
  • What To Play?
  • What Else?
  • Other than Gen Con?
I’m going to use a similar structure to this for simplicity other than of course there will be no Gen Con in 2015 for me (Yes +Greg Barr I mean it!).  So…

Game Time

I’ve pulled together a calendar of all events / sessions of gaming that are a) available to me and b) likely to actually happen.  Yes, I’m that guy.

Here’s a breakdown (spreadsheet available on request!!!) –

Other Events
Total Days Of Gaming

So keep in mind that this is what is available to me.  What I expect to actually attend is somewhat different.  The “Other Events” includes things like conventions and other stuff that I‘m considering including a couple of special events throughout the year.

You’ll also notice ENT FRI as an entry in this list.  This is an attempt to create more local gaming capacity (at the expense of some potential DWARF time...). Given my lack of overall available capacity for more gaming I’ve opted to swap the last Friday of the month from a potential DWARF FRI to an ENT FRI. Whether this actually happens is of course debatable…

So how does that resolve?  Based on limited scientific calculations I’ve gone with the following –

Actual Days Gaming

The “Other” is made up primarily of conventions and special events with 1 exception that I’ll come to later in this post.
The RPG is inflated as currently all of the ENT FRI sessions will be RPG sessions, in addition to those I have as DWARF FRI sessions. I stress currently as I have no set venue for these ENT FRI sessions nor do I have a clear view on how this will work.
Board / Card is a mix of ENT SUN, DWARF FRI and DWARF SAT sessions and also relates to that 1 exception above.

So in theory I will be gaming 1 day in 6 throughout 2015.  I can say with absolute certainty that this will NOT happen.  If I get over 50 days of gaming in (conventions included) I’ll be happy, in fact let’s say 52 as that’s an average of 1 day’s gaming per week.

What To Play?

This is a bit of a tough one for 2015 but only because I’m spoilt for choice.

Board & Card games will continue to dominate my hobby time if only because of my ever expanding collection of games and that’s essentially what ENT was built for.  I have a lot of games now and the ENT community in particular is growing its own game collection so there’s more choice on offer than when we started out (which is great). I don’t want to pre-suppose what games we’re going to play as it’s usually a gut feel thing on the day itself.
What I do want to do though is play more Sentinel: Tactics and we’re planning to support the Greater Than Games month in January 2015 so would be rude to not play Sentinels Of The Multiverse too. Also in January (as I’ve posted previously) ENT is planning to host a Pandemic Party on the 25th so Pandemic along with Pandemic: Contagion will be played.
Other than that though the only objective (with a small “o”) that I’ll set is to try and play every game I own once during 2015.  That’s going to be hard to do but would be good to see how far into my collection I get!

RPG wise I want to improve on my time spent on that from 2014. If nothing else I want to run 2 separate games, 1 for the DWARF crowd and 1 for the ENT crowd, note that these “crowds” aren’t exclusive and anyone else that happens to join in on either can do so.  Whether those be campaigns or variety of one-shots I’m not fussed.  There is appetite in the DWARF crowd for more Star Wars so that’ll likely be the option taken there. For the ENT FRI crowd though I’m really not sure.  D&D 5th Edition is the obvious candidate and I do want to run it but there’s also Atomic Robo and a few other games that are calling me back – All Flesh Must Be Eaten being one of them…
When starting a new RPG community (ok so it’s a fork off the ENT SUN community) the temptation could be to launch straight into a campaign game.  With something that’s largely fledgling and really only having 1 “active” GM (that’d be me, although I know +donjondo has and think +Michael Mauderer might have too) the better approach may be to taste test a variety of games to generate that appetite.  We’ll see though…

That’s largely it right?

Well if I succumb to the musings of Greg and John Laurie I may have to admit that Battletech: Alpha Strike is a wargame.  If so then I want to play at least 6 games of Alpha Strike during 2015.  Might have to pick up some of that Dropzone Commander Cityscape scenery though...

Where to Play?

As I’ve now added “Attend More Conventions” to my objectives I should really cover what my intentions are here.  I’ll also try and cover any special events that are part of my plans for 2015.

Conpulsion – Given last year’s largely poor experience I’m tempted to give this a miss in 2015. Currently I’m unable to make my mind up so this will likely remain as a TBC until nearer the time. There is a sense of obligation to go though and I’d be interested to see what improvements have been made.

UK Games Expo – This is the priority convention of the year for me. In the absence of Gen Con this is the nearest thing from a UK perspective.  My accommodation is already booked, just need to finalise the list of others who are going and then get ourselves organised travel wise.  I also need to make sure I remember to take the time off needed pre and post!

Spiel Essen+Greg Barr and +Liz Mackie are -ahem- encouraging me to go to this and it is the exception I referred to above in the Other category.  It’s certainly cheaper than going to Gen Con (Essen in Germany as opposed to Indianapolis but the cost needs to be something I can justify. It might also have to be a later than ideal decision on whether to go but yes Greg the fact that there’s a beer hall in the convention centre is an added draw…

Glasgow Games Festival – This happened at the end of November and I couldn’t make it for a variety of reasons. IF it’s held again in 2015 and doesn’t cause any schedule challenge then maybe I’ll go. That obligation sensation is there alongside Conpulsion as it’s a Scottish Games Convention of sorts so I should probably make the effort…

Dragonmeet – London’s game convention which I had hoped to go to in 2014 but couldn’t justify it… If other events like Spiel Essen and the Glasgow Games Festival don’t happen then maybe 2015 will be the year I’m at Dragonmeet.

There are a few special events that I want to make happen in 2015, some are incorporated into existing ENT SUN sessions but others are a bit more than that.

These are only really planned up to end of July and there will be other options beyond that but I wanted to pull out a few things from this.

The Greater Than Games team always celebrate in January as that’s when they were formed as a company. For 2015 they want to game stores (and some other people like me/ENT) to host special events to promote their games.  There might also be special limited edition promo cards available if they arrive from the states in time!
So in January (11th and 25th) I want to play Sentinels at ENT SUN events alongside hosting a Pandemic Party at the end of January (25th).  Should be totally doable.

In March it’s the Fife Science Festival and we’re trying to link up with the Anstruther Science CafĂ© group to co-host this event at an ENT SUN (22nd). Again it’s likely that Pandemic will play a part but it’s Science so most things can be played!

April sees the next International Tabletop Day (11th) and again we’ll use an ENT SUN (12th) slot to host this.  I really, really, want to push the boat out for this!

June has the first “special” event that I want to organise in 2015.  I had wanted to organise an event in 2014 to raise money for MacMillan Cancer but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.  I want to make this happen in June 2015 instead.  Why June?  Too many reasons to mention but the one at the front of my mind is that this would be the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my friend Ray Gillespie.  Aiming for something around either the 13th June or 20th June for this. I have a venue in mind as with before but this is still in the early forming stage…

Lastly we have Gary Gygax Day in July.  This is normally the 27th of July and there’s an ENT SUN session on the 26th so will likely use that for D&D themed fun.

What Else?

So that covers a whole host of conventions and special events etc but is that it?  In short, no.

I have some ideas that may fall at the first hurdle as they’re primarily about “the hobby” as opposed to “my hobby”.
I also have some ideas that reflect on what I referred to in the 2014 Retrospective post about changing how I engage with my hobby.  Some of these are wrapped up in the above but mostly these are about doing something to improve my enjoyment of my hobby and indeed getting that enjoyment in different ways.
All sounds pretty mysterious? Well that’s because currently it has to be at least until I’ve fleshed some of these ideas out a bit more.  Some of the content is also perhaps a little close to the bone so I need to make sure I’m pitching it right…  It’ll become clear as we move into 2015 what some of these are, assuming of course that they don’t fall at the first hurdle!

Phew! Just read that back and there’s a LOT of stuff here… Maybe I should have split it into 3 posts? What it does say though is that 2015 is looking like a ramping up of hobby commitment for me and also looking to stretch ENT more through the use of events and more sessions in general for RPGs.
It should be a very good and busy year!

Monday, 29 December 2014

2014 Retrospective

2014 has been full of highs in relation to my hobby and how I explore it.  There are some low points but those are heavily out weighted by the high points.

My continuing attendance at DWARF is a high point albeit there were times when that attendance was infrequent. In spite of that I think I managed to attend 2 out of 4 sessions per month on average with peaks of 3 when not impacted by Real Life™ stuff.  The key achievement with DWARF was the completion of the Beyond The Rim story arc in my somewhat elongated Star Wars : Edge Of The Empire game.  As per previous posts on RPGs I would like to have done more RPGs and maybe 2015 will be when I do that but that’s for another post.  Specific thanks would go to my Star Wars group ( John, Simon, Ross, Ant, Dougie and Scott) and a few others at DWARF (namely Brian F, Brian W, Colin, Graham, Greg and +Scott Melrose ).

The establishment and flourishing community that has been built up around East Neuk Tabletop Games is probably the high point of the year.  Not necessarily because it’s been a roaring success (although in some aspects it has) but more because it’s enabled me to help establish a local community who are hungry for gaming, specifically board and card games but with an appetite to try other things.  Biggest thanks goes to +donjondo (Alan) but also to Michael, Richard, Oliver and Martin who have consistently supported our fledgling community.

Another obvious high point was my attendance at Gen Con 2014.  Not quite a life long ambition but from a hobby perspective it was always there as a goal and one that I can now mark as complete. Whether I’ll return to Gen Con in the future is debatable largely due to the financial cost of going (not just due to what games I’d buy) but I’d like to think I will return in the next few years (although not 2015 Greg!).  Big thanks to my travel companions +Liz Mackie and +Greg Barr but also to everyone I played games with and chatted to during that amazing experience.

Other highlights are largely sub-headings under those above but in the main it’s been an excellent year for my hobby and one that’s been quite cathartic in washing away some of the negativity I’d held at the start of this 2nd Chapter.

If I was to single out any form of low point it’d be largely down to personal frustrations over available game time along with the associated balance I need to find in amongst Real Life™ stuff.
I also have some frustrations over the speed of growth and consistency of attendance at East Neuk Tabletop Games but that’s largely irrational and down to my impatience when it comes to building communities.  The Field Of Dreams adage of “If you build they will come” is very fitting here as whilst it has an element of truth to it there are always delays in realising the potential of something like building a community almost entirely from scratch.

What would I have done differently in 2014?

Somewhat positively I’m not sure there is much that I would have done differently.  I’m happy with most if not all of my decisions in 2014 and it’s refreshing to look back and see that.

If I was to nitpick though?
  • There are some bridges that I feel I could have actively worked on in 2014, particularly in relation to the ex-KoA community. As yet I’ve not managed to bring myself to do that, which is largely down to the negativity I referenced above.  Whether 2015 is the year I do that or not is debatable and I’m trying to not timetable that “recovery” or indeed confirm that there are bridges that actually need re-building.  I’ve deliberately remained distant from a number of people that were involved both within KoA and as part of that community.  Some of that is due to personal reasons that I won’t divulge here but also it’s because I don’t really want to be reminded of that low period which unfortunately I associate entirely with that community. This isn’t a big deal (to me) but there are times when it feels like the right thing to do.
  • I had grand plans of organising some special events in 2014. None of which materialised, with the exception of the Tabletop Day event at DWARF.  This was largely down to that Real Life™ thing again but also because I was the only one involved in making these things happen. Something I plan to revisit in 2015 with a plan forming as I type.
Other than those though it was largely a low point free year for my hobby which is itself a cause for celebration!  There were obvious low points indirectly related to my hobby, not least of which was the death of my good friend Ray Gillespie.  One of those special events that I didn’t manage to organise was with him in mind so fingers crossed I can sort something out for 2015.

So what about those guiding principles and objectives I’d set myself way back in this process?

  1. Only buy it if you're going to use it. – Still largely on track with this, yes even with the haul of games I brought back from Gen Con!  Definitely helped by the creation of East Neuk Tabletop as I have more opportunity to play games now. East Neuk Tabletop has also been successful in bringing some historic purchases which have languished on the shelf onto the tabletop instead.
  2. Is everyone having fun? Including you? – Yep, again partly down to East Neuk Tabletop but also due to some occasions at DWARF where I’ve ensured that people aren’t without a game to play (wherever possible!).  I’m definitely enjoying my hobby a lot (especially board games) and no signs of that changing. As I reflected in my recent post on RPGs there are things I’d like to do differently but nothing that’s preventing the fun.
  3. Accept that you’re going to be the GM.  – This one I’ve been challenged on by a few people in recent times. It’s also been challenged by me at a certain level after being a player in a few RPGs at Gen Con.  I still think though that this principle stands as in the absence of anyone else looking to run something (that I’d want to play in…) I am always happy to be the GM.
  4. Change is a good thing and necessary. – Out of all the principles this one is hardest to define other than in editions/revisions of games. What I will say though is that 2015 may also be a year in which I change how I engage with my hobby.  More of that though in my Year Ahead post.
  5. Opinions aren’t as important as knowledge and experience. – Still strongly behind this one, if only in relation to reviews and also when it comes to community dynamics.  I’m pretty strongly opinionated myself and so this has to be there in the back of my head when I start to “rant” about the hobby, which does happen from time to time…
  1. Sustainable and regular gaming. – Massive tick in this box with the advent of East Neuk Tabletop Games.  Whether I can expand on the volume of gaming I’m doing is debatable and something I’m investigating just now ahead of my 2015 post.
  2. Play more with more. – Again East Neuk Tabletop Games is helping with this as is DWARF to a lesser extent primarily through the board gaming I’m doing.
  3. Home based gaming. – No real movement here but again something to improve upon for 2015.
  4. Play something new at least one in every six gaming sessions. – Successfully being achieved without really any effort, thanks in part to my ever growing collection of games but also down to the growth in the gaming community that’s around me.
  5. Visit more game shops. – Hmmm. Still mostly in the same space I was this time last year. Indeed since then Major Arcana in Dundee has sadly closed down.  I have continued to support Black Lion Games as my chosen FLGS and have (thanks to work) made many visits to Fan Boy 3 in Manchester but apart from those it’s been limited.  Sure I’ve made a visit or 2 to Common Ground Games in Stirling and Highlander Games in Dundee but those have been opportunistic as opposed to being part of any grand plan.  Not that this is a bad thing of course!
  6. I've decided to formally add this one to the Objectives list.  Attend more gaming conventions. – Gen Con and Conpulsion were my conventions in 2014. 2015 looks to be slightly (very slightly) busier…
So what else is worth noting from 2014?  Nothing springs to mind so I’ll call it quits at that. If anything it’s probably been one of the best years in hobby terms for me for many many years.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Hobby PR

So I was contacted recently by the Aberdeen Press & Journal about them wanting to run a feature on the local scene for games like Dungeons & Dragons in their paper.

I'll let you digest that for a minute...

So I've previously reflected on media coverage of the hobby and since then there's a been a swell of coverage on board games in particular and strangely enough in The Guardian specifically.

I've also been interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland in the past on D&D around the time that Gary Gygax died.  That was cool and particularly memorable for the quotes from the attendees of +ORC Edinburgh who took part in the broadcast.

But to be contacted via Twitter about a potential article in the P&J (not a paper covering my geographical area of Scotland) was kinda odd but very cool at the same time.  I duly pointed Andrew at some contacts I have in the area and encouraged him to speak to the people at Plan 9 Comics (nearest thing to a FLGS in Aberdeen). The feature went live today and is excellent. Really takes a serious look at the history and stigma of the hobby and comes out the other end representing it properly and positively. Excellent coverage I think and especially pleased to read that Andrew took part in the game of D&D that was ran. As Steve says in the article - "Role playing games are to be experienced, and not observed." You can read it here.

Another thing with respect to Hobby PR that came up recently was in relation to the East Neuk Tabletop Games 14th December session.  It was the final session for ENT  in 2014 and we decided to host our own award show (see previous post - Golden Axe Award).  The opportunity to promote this event, the hobby and most of all the club was too good to let slip so we approached the Fife Free Press and they agreed!  Now this promotion could be very beneficial as we're looking to have a number of special events in 2015 which we can try and get the press to promote alongside us, not least of which is the Pandemic Party we plan to host at our January 25th Event.

So with that in mind Alan and I pulled together a draft press release for ENT which our contact at the FFP really liked. A photographer turned up to our Golden Axe Awards and took photos (including one of the winning game - Dobble - alongside an actual Golden Axe!).  Now it's been a while since I wrote a press release (KoA days) but between Alan and I we managed to cover all the bases.

The photographer turned up on the day and took some great photos.  As I write this the feature hasn't been published yet but once it has been I will share it like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

RPG Pre-Conditions and Self Limitations

So way back when I started this blog I kicked it off with a post called "I'm Dave and I'm a Roleplayer" and I proceeded to talk about the rediscovery of what I wanted my hobby to be.

Since then I've managed to rediscover my hobby and I've achieved some things too, not least of which would be attending Gen Con and establishing East Neuk Tabletop Games.

As my post on DMing Lost Mines of Phandelver attests though I've not really lived up to the title of that first post - namely I've not done much roleplaying since this 2nd Chapter started.

Why is that?  Well.....

My Star Wars game has suffered as a result of conflicting schedules (mine and my players) and establishing another game has proven to be more challenging than I think I ever appreciated.  Not through a lack of player interest more that I've not found or indeed at times made the commitment of time to run a game.

One of the beauties of boardgames is that the majority of them can be played in 90 minutes as a maximum time span. Yes there are some that will take longer but the majority of the ones I own can be played in that 90 minute slot which is great.

RPGs can also be played in a relatively short slot too but I'm beginning to think that I don't like that... I actually think that for me RPGs should be in a 4 hour slot as a minimum.  Sure you can play one-shots in 2 hours or even less and that's essentially how the Star Wars game has functioned since it started.  Now if any of my Star Wars players are reading this don't fret, I'm not about to say that we're only going to play it if I have a 4 hour slot (although that would be nice...).
What I am saying is that for any RPG that I kick off from here-on I want the slot to be roughly 4 hours.

This obviously brings me back to my challenges with that around available free time etc but it also gets me thinking too.  What other things should be pre-conditions of running a RPG?

4 hour slot is great but it should happen semi-regularly. Ideally it should happen fortnightly as a minimum although weekly would be preferable but let's not over extend things and just stick to the fortnightly as a minimum.

The funny thing is that I used to be able to do this.

Every fortnight I'd turn up on a Saturday at +ORC Edinburgh and run a game.  Not always a campaign game but a RPG and I'd run it for 4 hours.  This worked really well for a good few years and then I found I couldn't sustain it due to Real Life (tm) getting in the way...  Ok so that sounds bad. Real Life (tm) didn't so much get in the way, it was more that my priorities changed when I became a dad.

So how does that help me now?  Well it doesn't really.

Where it leaves me is going back to that consistent element of "time". The only way I can really kick off a new RPG session in a 4 hour slot is by making that time.  That really means that something has to give and the most likely (and also easiest) option is that I swap some of my existing game time for other game time.

There is another option, or perhaps just a different nuance to the option above. My Star Wars game has just completed the Beyond The Rim scenario and whilst the players are keen to continue maybe I should put it on a short break and run something else (likely D&D) for a time...  I'm not overly keen on that though as my preference leans more to running RPGs at ENT and given we're now running in a 4 hour slot that becomes more likely.

No conclusions as yet, more pondering required about my options but without pre-empting my 2015 look ahead post I think it's clear that more RPG play is going to be one of the objectives I set myself.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Golden Axe Award

So movies have the Oscars and the BAFTAs if you're in the UK.
Music has the Grammys, Mercury Music Award and other awards.
Tabletop games have plenty of awards, not least of which is the Spiel des Jahres.

Over at East Neuk Tabletop Games we're not to be outdone by industry awards with fancy (ok German) names.  As I said in my last post we've decided to have our own.

The Golden Axe Award will be given to the game that's voted on by the most number of people.  Seems simple enough right?

The challenge is in having a clear winner.

We've played 52 different games over 13 sessions since April which averages out as 4 new games introduced per session.  That's probably very normal for a new community as they look to sample and be exposed to as many games as possible.  I'll be very surprised if we hit that same level of new games per session next year.

So what did I vote for?

I decided to pick games that I've bought since ENT started. That way it was fully representative of my time at ENT.

Dragon Slayer - One of my many Gen Con purchases and probably one the most re-playable games out there. I've played quite a few dice games and most of them are fun, most are fun for a few plays but Dragon Slayer doesn't get old.  Sure it's limited in it's scope but every time I play this (and I've played it a LOT!) it is fresh and lots of fun.  It's also a great "introductory" game to the hobby as a whole as the dice are easily understood and the mechanic is so simple it can be explained in less than 1 minute.

Forbidden Desert - I picked this up at J G Innes in St Andrews.  I've never played Forbidden Island (the other Forbidden cooperative game by Matt Leacock) but I really enjoy cooperative games and I spotted this in the window of J G Innes so bought it on a whim.  Having now played it many times it's probably my favourite cooperative game.  Yes, dare I say probably even more so than Sentinels Of The Multiverse.  I said probably +Greg Barr !!!

Cash 'n Guns - Another one of my Gen Con purchases but a game I've been looking to pick up for several years.  With the second edition being released I had the opportunity.  Why did I pick this game though?  I mean it's hardly the most tactical but what it does have is plenty of fun. It's not about pointing foam guns at each other, nor is it about bluffing with respect to whether you have a bullet or a blank loaded.  This game is about having a laugh and quoting cheesy lines from films.  As with Dragon Slayer above it has a lot of re-play value and whilst it might not have the "introductory" feel of Dragon Slayer it does work on a lot of levels and of course can support a lot of players too!

So those are my votes.  There are many other games on the list that I could have chosen but these are the ones that stood out for me.

If I was to choose any others I'd probably go for Braggart (although I've never actually played it at ENT so doesn't count), Sentinel: Tactics or Shinobi Wat-Aah!
Again they all share that re-play ability that a game needs to encourage you to take it off the shelf time after time.

Monday, 1 December 2014

One Small Step For A Meeple...

One Giant Leap For Meeple-kind?

Not quite.

I realise I've slipped into another "no update" zone with the blog which I can only apologise profusely for. Other than work, family and of course gaming I've not really had any real time to spend on the blog.

So a quick update is probably in order then.

Games at a beer festival went really well. We didn't have any converts but we did have some people asking questions which is never a bad thing.
We managed to play Poo, Get Bit, Kittens in a Blender and Braggart which all worked pretty well considering we were sitting near where the live (and at times excellent) music was being played.
I look forward to the next Cambolicious beer festival in May 2015 where more games and more beer can be enjoyed.

DWARF wise we've finally managed to re-instate the Star Wars game that we've been playing. First game since July and 2 of the party almost died.
We're coming to the end of "Beyond The Rim" and I've been very pleased with the scenario this far.  It is a bit railroady at times but it's flexible enough to manipulate the story.
The question I have started to ponder is what's next? Another Star Wars scenario or something else?
Of course alongside that I've been playing more board games at DWARF

ENT wise we're approaching our final event of the year - Sunday 14th December.  Alan aka +donjondo pulled together a list of all the games we've played since we started and it comes to the frustratingly not rounded number of 49! Then our community pointed out a few omissions and we're actually now at 52!
To celebrate our first year we're hosting a sort of poll / survey to get people to vote for their favourite games played this year ahead of the session on the 14th. Alan came up with the name Golden Axe Award and we've decided to stick with it, although what an ENT would be doing with an axe I'm not sure... ;-)
ENT will also see some changes from the 14th December with us moving to a 4 hour slot (1pm to 5pm) and also moving to the Upper Hall which should be warmer over the Winter!  I think the changes are a positive step forwards for the community, especially for the longevity of the community but also increasing the options of what can be played.

I've failed miserably at getting the "gang" back together for some D&D. This has been solely down to me just not having that much free time to actually play the game for any reasonable length of time (a separate post is brewing on the topic of game length).

So that's pretty much where we are although I do have a couple of other topics to be covered, just need to find the time to write them!!!