Dungeon Situational – Nemesis

There are days when the grind of combat becomes a simple matter of pointing and declaring “I hit that one” or “I cast this spell”. Sometimes what is required is a combat so utterly challenging that players are forced to think outside the box, get creative, and push themselves to the very limit. It need not be the bigbad, the final villain, the single enemy to which all other narratives have been merely a pursuit. It might be something stumbled upon in the course of exploration, something rumoured, but never sought, or something simply in the way of something else…

The raid boss, or nemesis villain, is more a staple of the hack-and-slash style RPG than the narratively driven tabletop role-play, but it’s fair to admit sometimes that we’re gamers of a new generation, who want a break from talking around a campfire, and just want the deadly thrill of facing a foe designed to kill. Continue reading “Dungeon Situational – Nemesis”

GeekOut Shrewsbury August ’18 – Tengen Toppa GeekOut Lagann

August, that long awaited Shrewsbury meet, a whole six weeks have elapsed since last we gathered and the enthusiasm has not faded, nay it has grown. Although it’s notable that with the encroaching term-time, and so many of you retreating back to university our numbers have taken a small blow, so too will our growth from month-to-month subside for a while. Still, there is ever more to look forward to.

August, that long awaited Shrewsbury meet, a whole six weeks have elapsed since last we gathered and the enthusiasm has not faded, nay it has grown. Although it’s notable that with the encroaching term-time, and so many of you retreating back to university our numbers have taken a small blow, so too will our growth from month-to-month subside for a while. Still, there is ever more to look forward to.

This month’s theme was Tengen Toppa GeekOut Lagann, which will make very little sense to those not at least vaguely into their anime. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a ridiculously over the top anime about robots fighting moons and smashing together to make walking boat-swords. You can see the appeal. Our mechs will not be fighting anyone with boat-swords…

Continue reading “GeekOut Shrewsbury August ’18 – Tengen Toppa GeekOut Lagann”

GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet – May ’17

May comes and May goes, but every month something new for GeekOut Shrewsbury. More new faces, more new games, more new plans for our glorious and shining future! And as we continue to grow you continue to grow with us, making the Shrewsbury Meets yours. Remember we’re always looking for ways to improve and make these events better for everyone, so we want your input on what you want, on what you geek out about, because we’re not just out to play board games all evening.

Not that that’s a bad plan, but it damn near killed some of us this month. Continue reading “GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet – May ’17”

Card Games

There’s something weirdly therapeutic about shuffling a deck of cards, and for enthusiasts of all stripes there’s an ever increasing number of games to choose from across a wide variety of genres, so many in fact that I for one do not remember the last time I played a game with the classic four-suite deck. The combination of a randomised deck, the resource-management elements of a hand, and the sheer volume of options afforded by the printed space on cards make them a versatile utility for any game designer.

But with such an array of choices, how do you know what’s right for you?

Decks

The structure of decks, and how those structures are reached can vary wildly:

Pre-built decks are the most common by far, and most frequently multiple decks control different elements of the game. For example, in Munchkin the Door deck describes your encounters, and the Treasure deck rewards you for your efforts. In Bucket of Doom (a recent acquisition of mine) players are required to formulate escape plans drawn from the Situation deck using one of their Item cards as the most essential component. Or to take it one step further, in Boss Monster, you have a Dungeon deck with which to built your evil lair, a Spell deck that grants you special powers, and all players are at the mercy of the Hero deck.

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Deck building games most commonly feature a single deck around which the entire game focusses, which is slowly divided amongst the players. The DC Deck Building Game is a favourite of mine, in which players begin with only a handful of powers, and must gather more powers, as well as allies, equipment, and even a few enemies in order to strengthen their chances of securing better cards as the game progresses, and work their way through the super-villains. Smash-Up takes a different course, where the deck is built right at the beginning by combining any two of the large choice of factions together, using complimentary tactics to compete for control of the bases.

CCGs (collectible card games) offer players a library of cards from which they can collect and horde, and building a deck from what cards they amass from booster packs and boxes. Whoever can build the best deck wins. This type of game lends itself to victory through study, knowledge, and yes, more than a little cash spent on cards that can assure victory, and this can create a rather elitist type of gamer, or just a bunch of people who really enjoy testing their strategic thinking.

The real beauty of the deck structure is that it is easy to expand upon. As a perfect example, Cards Against Humanity having such a simple structure allows the creators to bring out new decks based on what’s funny to a geographical area (or hand us some lazy British stereotypes, cheers lads) or simply add more material to keep the game fresh. Smash Up gains more factions to mix and mash, and CCG’s expand upon the ever growing market, changing with the time so as to prevent older players gaining too strong an advantage over new players. It never quite works out like that though…

Hands

Your only resource is the cards in your hand. Games may differ, changing the way cards are played depending on other elements of the game, but ultimately you can only control what you do with what you have. Card quality can vary, and you can end up with some hands offering you next to no choices, while others grant you significant bonuses in any situation. You’re frequently limited as to how many cards you can hold, and almost always limited on how many you replenish, so managing this precious resource is a tough balancing act of weighing pros and cons of each play, calculating the best order, but leaving yourself prepared for what may come.

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It’s little wonder it can take some people an hour to make up their minds.

The random nature of a well-shuffled deck can be a blessing and a curse. Some players may find that the cards they draw just aren’t good enough, or are stuck with the agony of choosing which of their incredible choices would be best used in the moment, only to find another, better situation arise soon after. Magic the Gathering players will be familiar with the terms Mana-Screwed or -Flooded referring to having too little or too much of the essential resource card. Fans of Cards Against Humanity or Dixit will know the sting of picking up “The Perfect Card” the moment they made an inadequate play.

This level of chaos can put some people off playing, but sometimes it’s best just to make the best of what you have and hope for a change of fortunes. And if it never happens you can always blame the cards.

What I Did On My Holidays – 2015

The Diaries Of A Geek Stubbornly Dragging His Comfort Zone With Him Into The Wider World

Last year I went to Liverpool and subjected myself to its’ populous for a weekend. This year, myself and my girlfriend went to the Lake District, and for those of you outside of the UK or utterly oblivious to national parks, they’re a place of long walks up hills, along lake-shores, and through drystone wall towns and villages predominantly made of Mountain Warehouses, cafés, pubs, ice-cream stands, and tourist shops. These are not particularly places where one might find a comic book, computer game, or anywhere where geeks may gather en masse, but still a great place to unwind, just take your own games.

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It’s so picturesque I can practically hear the Midsomer Murders theme tune!

We went equipped:

  • A full set of D&D core rule books each with notebooks so that we could sit and write campaigns.
  • Mancala – an African board game that I highly recommend.
  • Eight Minute Empire – A quickfire game of rapid expansion and gathering power that takes a lot longer than eight minutes when you’re only just learning.
  • Boss Monster – A game who’s purpose seems to be to humiliate me. First of all it strongly resembles a game I’ve been working on for waaaay too long, not only that but my belovèd girlfriend utterly destroyed me repeatedly. It’s about building an 8-bit sidescrolling dungeon to kill heroes in.
  • I also took a load of Magic decks because I fully intended to get round to teaching her to play. Never happened.

We also stopped in Liverpool again to catch up with the same friends and get in some quality geek time. Turns out they had a copy of Exploding Kittens (now available for purchase according to an email I got earlier today) so naturally we squeezed in a few games. It turns out it’s exactly as awesome as the name would have you believe, although I have to say that the NSFW version doesn’t add an awful lot except scope for more players.

The next day proved a point.

After a brief stop in Kendal (that we agreed to revisit, it looked promising) we arrived, settled in to our caravan, and went out for a meal. Within minutes a family settled onto the table next to us, we engaged them in conversation, and the geekiness emerged. It took staggeringly little time for us to start discussing games, and we sat grinning at each other as we realised that gamers can find their own kind anywhere, even in tiny villages in the countryside.

That’s satisfying. Our love to that family, who may never read this, but at once we felt like we could go nowhere and want for conversation with like-minded people. It turns out that there if you’re willing to talk to anyone who’ll listen, eventually you’ll connect with someone in a place you never thought you would.

Tuesday took us into Windemere, the largest town on the edge of the largest lake in England. After about twenty minutes milling around in search of parking and truly drinking in the British holiday-going experience, we started to search in between the tourist hotspots and outdoor clothing chain-stores for a sliver of local character. And this is what we found in a small side-street bric-a-brac shop:

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  • Thirteen issues of Dragon Magazine, dated April 1988, May ’88, June ’88, August ’88, November ’88, December ’88, March ’89, May ’89, July ’89, August ’89, December ’89, March ’90, July ’90
  • Six issues of independent gaming magazine G.M, dated December ’88, January ’89, May ’89, June ’89, August ’89, and January ’90,
  • Three issues of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf, dated April ’85, October ’86, and February ’87
  • A Warhammer army list book called Ravening Hordes
  • And finally a second edition Red Box Dungeon Master’s Guide (sadly annotated by a former owner)

Now to say that the condition of these magazines is far from perfect would be fair, they were dumped in a charity shop and some of them pre-date me, in fact most of them do. Nonetheless they are amazing. Sitting and leafing through just a few of the articles was an amazing experience I’ll go into in greater detail at a later date, but they were a fascinating look into how things have both changed and stayed the same. At £12 for the whole stack and the look of slightly smug glee on my girlfriends face as I poured excitedly over her discovery, I’d say I was ultimately the one who got the better deal here, no matter the state they’re in.

Middle middle middle we had fun, and food, and played games and made our way home via Kendal, and upon re-visit my on-board geek-shop compass dragged us from Games Workshop and into a market wherein we discovered Level 8, the gamers’ refuge on the border of the Lakes. Level 8 are currently a market stall but I hear are about to make the move to larger shop premises and good luck to them. As well as all the traditional fair they also have a surprising range of nerdy knitwear.

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Click the image if you want one

On the subject of local gaming stores:

e-Collectica Games Day October 2015

It approaches on swift wings! In the Morris Hall on the 24th of October. Shropshire and West Midland locals keep your eyes peeled on Facebook, and here for updates and information.