Tuesday, 31 December 2013

That 2014 Look Ahead Post

A blog like this wouldn’t be a proper blog without taking a look at the year ahead and making some bold commitments.  So what does 2014 look like from here?

Game Time

It looks like I’ll largely continue where 2013 left off when it comes to game time.  I want to be able to commit to at least 3 sessions in 4 for attending the club on Friday nights.  Not quite sure how best to allocate those (if at all) but Star Wars EotE will definitely be 1 of those session as will board games.  If I can sustain attendance and if Alpha Strike (post to come on that) gives me the ability to play Battletech within the clubs hours then I can see that being a semi-regular game.

Alongside that though there’s a small group of people that I’ve met via BoardGameGeek who are looking to establish a board game night in St Andrews.  Not quite sure where this is going yet (early days) but if I can add this to my game time then that’d be great.  Note I say ADD as I don’t want it to be simply a case of more options, same amount of play.

I have been tempted to try and establish and ORC style community/club near where I live for some time but never really had the time to invest in making it happen.  Maybe with the help of the other guys who are interested that might change.

I also expect (or should that be hope?) that 2014 will be the year that home based gaming becomes a reality. This might suffer depending on how the St Andrews thing develops but I have enough “gateway/pseudo-mainstream” board games to make this a reality and have some neighbours / local friends who have an interest in the hobby that needs to be explored a bit more.

Commitment wise I know there’s a limit to what I can do here but let’s go with the following –

  • 3 sessions in 4 on Friday nights at DWARF.
  • Once a month gaming with the St Andrews crowd.
  • Once a month gaming at home.

That gives me a fairly low bar to aim for.

What to play?

As with 2013 I expect my board game collection to develop further, possibly more likely to be expansion related than new game related though especially when it comes to games like Gloom, Sentinels Of The Multiverse, Seasons and Lords Of Waterdeep.

RPG wise I’ve already said that Edge Of The Empire will likely be a mainstay for the first half of 2014.  I’d also like to do more with D&D Next prior to the official launch and of course the Atomic Robo RPG is due out in 2014 so expect that to be my “New Year, New Game” game.  Whether I play it that often is yet to be determined but I know if nothing else it will be a great pickup game.

I also hope that Alpha Strike (seriously there’s a post to come on that!) gives me the opportunity and the players to play Battletech. It might also lead me to trying to run the Battletech RPG – A Time Of War again but I’m not making any commitments around that!

What else?

Well GenCon is probably the main thing.  I plan to fly out from Edinburgh on Tuesday the 12th August returning on Monday the 18th (well Tuesday the 19th really due to timezone stuff).

Tickets go on sale on the 26th January and I’ve got a few options accommodation wise.

What I would like, although happy to do without, is for some of my gamer colleagues to come with me!  Yes Richard Talbot, +Chris Brind and a few others I’m talking to you!

When I’m at GenCon there are a number of things I want to do, not least of which will be play some D&D Next with the D&D team.  I want to play Atomic Robo RPG with Mike Olsen, assuming he’s planning to run games of it again, and no doubt I’ll be playing a variety of board and card games when out there.

I also want to meet up with some other gaming bloggers when at GenCon, specifically UK based bloggers.  I don’t really see myself as a blogger.  I mean sure I’ve got a blog (the one you’re reading) and it’s about gaming but it’s not review blog or anything like that so not sure how it fits in other than being MY blog about MY views on the hobby.  Mind you how is that different from any other individual blog?  Anyway… I’d like to meet up with some other bloggers when out there if only to just y’know meet them!

Other than GenCon?

Hmmm not sure.  Without revisiting some of the objectives I’ve set I’m really not sure.  I would like to try and get this blog back onto a regular schedule, whether that be daily, weekly or whatever but I’m not quite ready to set that agenda plus I seem to be writing longer and more detailed posts just now so maybe that’s an evolution of the blog that I should just let evolve further.

I always have a temptation to get my original gaming group back together and 2014 will be no different. Whilst I would still like to do that the challenge as ever is getting us all in a room and given that this happens once a year at most there’s usually other things that we want to do.  Still in many respects I think that temptation will diminish over the next few years as my game time grows and my gaming group grows with it.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 Retrospective

This has been a bizarre year in many respects and I’m not just talking gaming wise.

I’ve changed job twice since the beginning of the year and that brought with it some challenges around my free time, particularly of late.
I started this blog which when I set out to do it I was confident of achieving the post a day goal but that’s proven to be unachievable for a variety of reasons (see above), still at least I managed it for 100 posts!
My game time has solidified around the Friday night gaming I have at DWARF in Dunfermline where I think I’ve managed to attend 3 sessions out of 4 on average over the past 6 months which is great and I’ve reminded myself of the gaming goodness that’s available out there.

My Gaming Principles have been fleshed out and have largely stood the test over the past year.

Quick reminder –
1. Only buy it if you’re going to use it.
2. Is everyone having fun? Including you.
3. Accept that you’re going to be the GM.
4. Change is a good thing and is necessary.
5. Opinions aren’t as important as knowledge and experience.

I think the 1st one is probably most open to debate.  The games where I’ve not used it or indeed not used it that much are probably systematic of this hobby and my personal enthusiasm for the products that are put out by publishers.  That doesn’t mean I have abandoned this principle, more that there will always be exceptions (Star Wars LCG being the most notable one although there are others).  I plan to do a value related post to show the variance across my 2013 purchases in the next few weeks so we'll see just where the problem lies.
The other 4 seem to just be everyday parts of my hobby and also I feel they relate to the Tabletop Ambassador post I did a while back.
So does anything need revisited or added or anything like that?  I don’t think so.  I believe that these 5 principles are working for me (value aside for some things) and indeed believe that they will continue to be the core of how my hobby operates.

Alongside that I established my current hobby objectives.  Again a quick reminder –
1. Sustainable and regular gaming.
2. Play more with more.
3. Home based gaming.
4. Play something new at least one in every six gaming sessions.
5. Visit more game shops.

Apart from number 3 these are all doing fine.  Sure I’ve been restricted by only having the Friday nights for gaming but I expect in 2014 that this will change and I have some thoughts on how to do that.  The home based gaming I suspect hasn’t happened for a number of reasons.  The main one is that I just haven’t put the time or energy into making it happen.  The other is that there may be a psychological barrier going on here – home is for home stuff type of thing.  I don’t associate my time at home with my hobby so the motivation (whilst there) isn’t that strong.
I didn’t do enough of 5 but that was largely down to work stuff getting in the way.  I expect that to improve in 2014.

If I was to add anything to the objectives it would be – Attend more gaming conventions.  That’s largely driven by my plans to go to GenCon in 2014 and with the news that D&D Next / 5th Edition will be released there I’m more excited than I was previously about going.  I also have a desire to go to UK Games Expo (2015 I suspect) and Dragonmeet (2014 is possible).  Alongside those I should be at Conpulsion in Edinburgh again this year but I’m less convinced about that as every time I go I feel more underwhelmed than before…  Definitely a post needed on that topic.  Just need to ensure I’m giving constructive criticism rather than just having a moan!

Highlights of 2013

Board games.  As my gaming shelf will attest 2013 was definitely the year of board games for me.  Why is that?  Well I think in the main it’s down to being able to just grab some games and sit down to play, with minimal (or in some cases) no prep required.  Any particular games?  Sentinels Of The Multiverse, Seasons and probably The Resistance are the stand out games for me just now.  There are others that I thoroughly enjoy (Lords Of Waterdeep) but those 3 are probably the 3 biggest successes.

Alongside boardgames I’ve re-ignited my roleplaying thanks to Edge of the Empire from Fantasy Flight Games.  I expect the first half of 2014 to be loaded with EotE gaming.  I also expect some D&D Next to be in there but (perhaps predictably) that’s likely to take a less important role until the game is officially released in the Summer of 2014.

The people I play games with.  Without getting all slushy and asking for a group hug I have to say that the group of people I’m gaming with are great and the group continues to grow which is excellent.  As I’ve covered here through my posts on community this is a large, if not the largest, part of the hobby for me and it reminds me why I do it.

Lowlights of 2013

Nothing really stands out as a particular lowlight.  If you look again at the objectives I’d set myself sure there is still that home based gaming gap but other than the odd Friday when I just couldn’t make it along to play games I don’t really have a lowlight for 2013.
There was the 1st Anniversary of the closure of KoA which did hurt a little but I don’t think I’d reflect on it as a lowlight as such.

So in summary?

2013 has been a good year of gaming.
It’s difficult to say if it’s “the best ever” or whatever as I don’t think I can really compare it to anything in the 1st Chapter.  It’s definitely up there though and I hope 2014 is even better.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Navigating the Barriers

Whilst perusing the blogosphere lately I’ve either struck on a pattern forming or at very least I’ve found some blog posts that resonate with where my head is at with the hobby.  It’s probably the latter really and the nature of my Google-fu.

Over on Plaid Hat Games there was a post about Barriers Of Entry to the board gaming hobby.  This is something I’ve touched on here in the past but mostly from the community angle as opposed to the product angle.  But then again I’m not a publisher of games!

Whilst reading this I was nodding away enthusiastically and then realised that I may actually be a barrier of entry.  But before I dig into that topic it’s worth exploring the elements that Colby talks about in his blog post linked to above.

A lot of what is covered is focussed on the board game market which is to be expected as Plaid Hat are a board games publisher but at the same time it can be related to the other formats within the tabletop hobby.


“What do you mean I need to read this 100+ page book before we can start playing?” Nothing worse than being given a manual on how to have fun.  This is particularly problematic when it comes to RPGs and Wargames but some CCGs (I’m looking at you Magic The Gathering) have similar challenges when you look at the “comprehensive” rules.

The size of the tome isn’t the only problem though and as Colby says the ability to read, digest and ultimately understand a ruleset whether that’s on 1 page or 100 pages is what’s important.  I used to have a rule when it came to RPGs that if the character sheet looked complicated then the rules must be too.  Whilst that’s probably been unfair at times over the years it is however a reflection of rules being a barrier.  Taking a board game like Bang! however the rules are relatively simple; unfortunately the rulebook reads like it’s been translated from Italian by Google Translate…

Layout of the rules is also particularly key.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read through a “Getting Started” or indeed “Character Creation” section of rules only to learn elsewhere in the rulebook that I’ve missed something or worse still got it wrong.  Proof reading isn’t just about grammar and spelling it has to be about flow of information to the reader too.

The solutions presented by Colby are fine and whilst I don’t want this to be a response post I do feel that watching videos of actual play and indeed having a game demo’d to you are not good ways of learning how to play the game.  These are more about showing what playing the game is like rather than explaining how to play the game.  Plus the number of times that Wil and other people get the rules wrong doesn’t help matters.
So what’s my solution?  Participate in actual game play.

This is not the same as having a demo as really a demo is only there to give you a taste for a game.  This is participating or perhaps even just being a spectator of a game that you’re interested in.  This gives you the fun factor of playing the game, playing with other gamers and also helps to determine if the game is of interest to you mechanically or thematically.

So how do you participate in or spectate on a game?  I bring you back to common themes of this blog – community and the flgs.  Both of these present opportunities to take part in games for the first time and also hark back to the other category that I’m going to mention but I’ll come back to that, honest I will!

Stage Fright

This barrier I agree with wholeheartedly and believe that it can be compounded by the community in which you’re playing in or indeed attempting to join.  I’d agree with Colby’s solution to a point but for me Stage Fright is as much about how you tackle engaging the new player into the group.  My post on New Players is relatable here.


Again I'm going to agree with Colby on this which will likely come as no surprise with my posts on value tackling this from a consumer perspective.  I do however think that pointing out the cost of production can at times be a double edged sword.  Smaller print runs suggests “unpopular” which in turn can work against getting people to take part in playing.  Yes it helps to explain the difference in pricing but it doesn't explain the value of the product being bought.
Education on the re-playability and in many respects the high production quality of the games across the hobby is where the solution lies, not through explaining the economics of the hobby.


Yep, agreed on all fronts.  I think the community (including the publisher and the FLGS in that) is what helps here.  Promotion of the hobby as a whole is something we all should have a vested interest in.  Online shows like Tabletop and ShutUp&SitDown help but other exposure through mainstream media like Community and Big Bang Theory (which I have problems with but that’s a post for another day) TV shows help to showcase the hobby to a much wider audience.  Indie movies such as Zero Charisma (which I've still to see) also give an insight into the hobby. Indeed one of the best hobby themed movies is Tap: Max's Game which is a Czech movie about playing Magic.
The word nerd or geek is traditionally banded about when it comes to tabletop games and the mainstream exposure that the hobby gets is usually through the stereotypical nerd/geek representative.
My challenge back to the community at large is “So what?”.  I’ve been a geek since I was 12 (which is 28 years ago) and I was probably a geek before then too based on the TV shows I was into back then and that I was into computer games from the point of getting my ZX Spectrum not to mention my interest in comic books.  The tagging of nerd/geek doesn’t actually mean anything unless it’s being used derisory to demean what you’re doing.  <snark> Sure, go ahead make fun of me playing with funny shaped dice, at least I’m sitting round a table with friends and having fun… </snark>

Attention Span

I hadn’t really looked at this barrier in this way and maybe that’s a gap I need to review but in short Colby is spot on that finding the right length of game for the target player is as important as finding the right theme, complexity level and other facets of game selection.  Attention span though is as much about keeping the player interested as it is about how long a game can take to play through.  Indeed finding that game which tackles the “keep them interested” aspect is probably the only sure fire way of getting them interested in other games.
Playing a game of Tsuro because it only takes 15 minutes should only be done on the basis of “we only have 15 minutes to play something” and not because of the attention span of the player.  Sure if they like puzzles with elements of strategy and luck then Tsuro is a good option both because of the game itself and because it only takes 15 minutes you can play it more than once!

So this not-a-response response post brings me to the one thing that I think is overlooked in Colby’s post. In saying that I’m not surprised it’s missing as it’s probably one of those emotive topics that a publisher should stay away from to avoid rocking the boat with potential customers.


I’ve touched on this before but didn’t really dig into it.  Gamers are as much a barrier to entry to the hobby as anything else.  This isn’t about problem gamers who are “no fun” to play with, although they do constitute a barrier of sorts.  This is more about addressing the knowledge and experience gap between the new gamer and the long standing gamer.  Indeed that can be extended further to cover the casual gamer and the “serious” gamer.

Gamers are as much an asset to the hobby as anything else, indeed a strong community is the very foundation of what makes this hobby great and is probably the largest single reason why I’m still a gamer.  So why do Gamers represent a barrier of entry to the hobby?  Simple.  It’s all about language and a certain amount of snobbery/elitism.
Think about it, the way you talk when gaming with your friends is laden with gamer phrases and in many respects will be very “in crowd” based.  Especially when talking about the finer details of rules and play styles and army builds and so on the new gamer will likely be a) bamboozled by the terminology and b) disconnected from the conversation.
I know I experience that sensation when people start to talk about army builds and deck combos as I’m not well versed in either the terminology or indeed the knowledge required to participate.

So what’s the solution? Well that really depends on the situation.

If it’s a club based community it’s largely the responsibility of the “leadership” to be on hand to help new gamers take part.
In a FLGS based community the responsibility really lies with the FLGS staff or a representative of that staff (e.g. an organised play leader) to ease the new gamer into the hobby.
If it’s a home based group then well it’s fairly obvious that whoever is doing the introducing of the new gamer really has that responsibility to ensure that all the other gamers are trying to include the new gamer.

There is however another aspect to this.  The new gamer has to be prepared for the experience of gaming, they have a responsibility to not be put off by the language (gaming language that is!) used at the table. That’s easier said than done especially if the new gamer is nervous about this endeavour.

Plus let's not forget the geek-mantra of “Don’t Be A Dick!” championed by Wil Wheaton which applies to both new gamer and existing gamer alike.  I'd like to expand on that by quoting the Wyld Stallyns and suggesting that we all "Be Excellent To Each Other" when playing games.

A lot of this has been touched on in other posts I've made but it was only when reading Colby's post that some of the barriers experienced in the hobby were crystalised for me.  Plus, it goes to show what my posts look like when I'm not posting every day.  I likely wouldn't have gone to this level of detail otherwise!!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Why D&D Next is important.

So Wizards have confirmed that D&D Next / 5th Edition will be released in the Summer of 2014 which is usually code for "around the time of GenCon".

Why is this important though?

If you look at the D&D "family" of games you can see that these still account for the largest slice of the RPG hobby.
Pathfinder has in most regions replaced D&D as the market leader and with other relations like 13th Age and Dungeon Crawl Classics and the plethora of retro-clones out there you have to ask is there a demand for D&D itself?

I believe that there are 2 aspects to D&D with one more important than the other depending on your point of view.


D&D is for a lot of people looking in on the RPG hobby the only game that exists. You say "Roleplaying Games" to people who don't know what it is they will either look blankly or think of something like World Of Warcraft or another MMO.  If you say Dungeons & Dragons then you're more likely to get a reaction that at least suggests they know what you mean, if likely a more stigmatised version of the game.

The brand for D&D is largely historical and really down to the way that the hobby has been (mis)represented over the past 20+ years.  Without a D&D product available to buy it can be difficult to overcome that situation of a consumer wanting to buy D&D. Sure you could suggest alternatives but none of those have any kind of brand which usually results in a level of distrust if the consumer is asking for D&D itself.  I've witnessed this and it's not just limited to D&D but that's another story...

So I believe that having D&D as a brand is important to the hobby as it provides a recognisable name that the mainstream public can identify with and should be able to associate new people with the hobby.

It's D&D

This is more about the perception of the hobby from within.  Some people will focus on a specific game as their game.  For me fantasy roleplaying has always been about playing D&D and D&D has always been about fantasy roleplaying.  Sure there are lots of other fantasy based RPGs out there but none of them appealed other than in my early gaming years when I dabbled with games like MERP, Rolemaster and Runequest but ultimately D&D was where it was at.

There are others like me who will only play the "true" version of D&D simply because it's D&D.  Sure that's perhaps narrow-minded or even ignorant to what else is out there but it's not as if D&D is the only RPG I (or indeed those others) play.  I suppose in some respects it's an emotional attachment to the heritage of the game, plus as I've said elsewhere I embrace change in the hobby including new editions of a game.

Yeah but Dave, why is D&D Next important?

It may not have the largest market share of product sales right now and it might not even have the largest player base but it's D&D.  It's also being produced by Wizards Of The Coast who could quite easily have decided to not bother as Magic The Gathering continues to grow exponentially so why should they bother about a brand that isn't anywhere near as commercially viable?  It's D&D, that's why.

If it fails commercially then I do worry for the future of the brand and in turn potentially for the RPG marketplace but I think if nothing else it will help to provide some much needed interest in the RPG market as a whole.  If the finished game is anything like the playtest rules then I think it's going to be very popular, not sure if it'll be popular "enough" though (whatever that is).

So 2014 sees the release of 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (well really 6th as 1st Edition was AD&D and we had "Basic" D&D before that but let's not split hairs) and it's also the 40th anniversary of the game being released.  That landmark milestone is a fantastic opportunity for Wizards to promote D&D in new ways and reinvigorate a title that in many respects lost it's way over the past 10 years.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Still gaming

I've had no time to post but still gaming so thought I'd share some of the games I've played recently.

Dread Curse - A pirate themed game where the players take on various roles on the pirate ship. Objective is to have the largest hoard of gold at the end of the game avoiding the black spot coins. Lots of fun playing this despite my ending the game with both black spot coins. There's a certain level of strategy and bluffing involved but I feel the level of luck needed (or bad luck in my case!) was a bit higher than I usually like. More plays needed I think.

Seasons - Becoming a staple of my gaming just now and given the layers to this game it's a different experience each time. The most recent game we played used all of the rules from the core set so next time I think we will start to add in some of the expansion contents which brings more cards to add variety and more optiins to likely confuse us at first.

Bang! - Hadn't played this for a while so it was good to play it again. Still plenty of variety to this which was great to see even if John did seem to have a combo that meant his sheriff was unkillable and his luck on drawing cards was crazy at times.

Gloom - Fast paced game as we were short on time but always fun to break out Gloom. Especially on Friday the 13th. Some weird and wonderful stories coming out during the game too.

Resistance - Almost a guaranteed play when we get together and lots of fun as some players get so confused about who is and isn't a spy it's hilarious. Having played it with the expansion cards a couple of times I've yet to be convinced that they add to the overall play experience but need to use them more to really be sure.

I think that's all of the games we've played in recent weeks and this Friday is the last gaming night of the year (at the club at least). 2014 looks like being a good year of gaming for me but that's likely to be another post as I revisit and set out my gaming objectives for next year. Not least of which will be getting my RPG sessions fully up and running.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Off the rails.

So it looks like I've underestimated the challenge in maintaining this blog on a daily basis.
Rather than promising to overcome the challenge I've decided to pull back from the daily post commitment and at least for now keep the posts to when I can make them.
I have plenty of content that I want to share it's simply a question of available time to make the posts.
Topics that I will write about are a mixture of those which I've already posted about and some new ones.

Namely -
GenCon 2014 - My plans to go continue and I'm (gently) harassing friends who would also be interested in going. Either way though I will be in Indianapolis next August.
Star Wars EotE - Having held the initial session recently I expect to post about the progress of this game and what learnings I take from the game mechanically.
D&D Next - Similar to EotE but yet to kick off the sessions.
Hobby Value - This is an ongoing thought process and I will continue to share the value measurement that I'm tracking of my hobby but also the ways that value can be measured as part of the purchase of games.
Hobby Profile - I have some data that I want to digest and share my views on with respect to growing the profile of the hobby within the UK and beyond.
What's New - I am continuing to look at new games and accessories that intrigue me and some of those are worthy of posting about.

Plus anything else that strikes a chord with the intent of this blog.
So. Have no fear the blog will continue but unlikely to be daily at least for the foreseeable future and maybe that gives me the chance to dig deeper into some of the topics listed above or indeed revisiting previous topics.
Cheers for now!