Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pandemic Custom Card- Special Delivery!

It was very nice of the creators of Pandemic to include some blank cards with the game, encouraging players to create their own Special Events and Roles. Considering how bad we seem to be at saving the world from disease and pestilence we could really use all the help we can get. So we decided to make our own Special Event.

I thought that it was very important for the card to be balanced, none of us wanted anything that would just turn everything in our favor. As nice as it would be the have a card that automatically cures one of the viruses, it’s not really keeping with the spirit of the game. That spirit being to crush the players and leave them feeling useless. I mean, who doesn’t want that to continue? Katie, Mike, and I put our heads together and came up with a new card, Special Delivery! One of the problems that we have, especially when playing with a smaller number of players, is trading cards to one another to cure a disease. Special Delivery allows the current player to give any City card in their possession to any other player. Basically I imagine the player packing up a vital piece of information, or a disease sample, and boxing it up into a parcel and shipping it off at high speed. It certainly isn’t overpowered. Trading cards is a part of the game and a regular activity among players, this just makes it a bit easier at a key moment in the game.

Katie was tasked with creating the card and I have to say, she did a rather awesome job. For one, it looks just like the other Special Event cards which is cool. And the picture is great; a package being sent off in a hurry. I especially like how it looks like a stamp. All around win. Rather than printing onto the blank card she made a sticker of the right size and just adhered it onto the template. Brilliant.

Considering that we lost again last night, even with the Special Delivery contributing to the curing of the black virus, we may need to come up with some more Special Events or a new Role or two.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Campaign Journal #15- Bad Times in Ocrist

The party decided that they would rescue the soon to be executed prisoner for a variety of reasons. They thought that by doing so they would get in good with the insurgency, which would lead to the leadership of the rebel faction, who they would in turn give over to the DuChamps for the reward money. Then, using their connections with the DuChamps, kill everyone and loot all the rumored money that the crown was said to have. Got that? Kill some people, betray some people, kill some more, stack up piles of gold. Sounds like a plan. What could go wrong?

After leaving the meeting with Firebeard they checked into a room at Oh Starry Night, a local inn recommended by the red haired rebel spokesman. Since it was still early at this point they decided to have a night on the town; gather some intel, scout the route the prisoner would be taking the next day, and try to avoid getting into trouble. They knew the path that the prisoner would be taking from the prison to the town square from the documents that Firbebeard had given them. It was a simple path that passed through a residential neighborhood to a commercial district. After much deliberation they decided that they would most likely strike before the doomed man reached the town square. Originally they wanted to free him from the gallows to make the most public showing that they could, but common sense intervened and they thought that this may be a better approach.

Ranking the Weapons

How to arm oneself is one of the most important decisions that a young adventurer will ever make. For a caster it may not mean much, but for a warrior? It literally could mean life or death. For a feat heavy melee specialist (i.e. fighter) it is even more important because they will probably have to commit to a weapon type in order to take advantage of all those Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization feats out there. So what’s it going to be? Greatsword? Longsword and shield? Whip? I’ve decided to look at the weapons out there and try to decide what, if any, is the best weapon available. I’ve also decided to stick with core (though I don’t think that limits things all that much).

In order to evaluate what’s out there I decided to break weapon traits down into a couple of categories; base damage, critical, and special features. Right off the bat I eliminated a whole bunch of weapons, I don’t think any reasonable person is going to argue that the greatclub is the best weapon around. It has inferior base damage and critical, and no special features to speak of. Is it without value? No. It only costs five gold and looks pretty cool, but for our purposes we are going to rule it out. A trident is okay since you can throw it, but an adventurer can do better. Leave it for Poseidon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Campaign Journal #14- Poison! Death! A Den of Spies!

While fleeing from the Wicked Annabella roadside inn Glee, Romulus, and Lela heard voices coming from the woods. The muffled voices were bickering about something and the party snuck up on them to get a closer look. Within moments they were exchanging pleasantries with their wayward adventurers Henri and Mgabwe. Henri had a black eye and Mgabwe seemed to have every bit of hair on his body burnt off, but for the time being they had resolved their argument about the nature of arcane magic. The party filled them in on their most recent adventures and then they set off for Ocrist. Mgabwe did not get on well with Corwyn, which was to be expected.

They decided to travel along the road since they are not openly warring with either faction. After several hours on the road they found themselves on a bluff overlooking a large open field, the Field of Sorrows that they had heard talked about from several sources. From their vantage point they could see a large force of the DuChamp army massing on the field, off in the distance they could vaguely make out another gathering force. They also saw the wagon of death driven by Ichabod on the opposite side of the field, he waved to them. They saw no reason to jump into a battlefield so they kept following the road to the East.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Retro Game Night- Careers

Part two of retro game night (part one here) found us playing Careers, a 1955 Milton Bradley game about finding the right path in life. Now, I don’t know a ton about board games from the 1950’s but I think that this one had to be way ahead of all the others. It’s fun, engaging, interesting, and has a nice mix of luck and strategy. Really, there is a lot going on here.

The game begins with each player creating their own formula for success in life. By choosing a combination of money, fame, and happiness it is up to each player to dictate the terms of their success. I love it. Not only does it give the player the chance to do some strategizing from the get go, but the sentiment is awesome. Life is what you make of it. Of course, in this game there are also winners and losers so take from that what you will. The formula has to add up to 60 points and each player secretly writes it on their player sheet, keeping it hidden from the other players. The player sheet is also a nice part of the game. There are a couple of elements that need to be tracked during the game (salary, number of times you’ve completed a career, and fame and happiness) and it is really nice to have a sheet made to do this, rather than just a piece of paper.

Throughout the course of the game numerous career choices will arise and decisions will have to be made as to which to pursue. Some offer lucrative salaries and the chance to make a lot of money (like Big Business), others a chance for fame (Movie Star), and yet others provide a chance for happiness and personal satisfaction (like Farming). The two most outrageous careers are the Expedition to the Moon and Uranium Prospecting. Both of these offer a ton in the way of money, fame, and happiness but are much harder to get into. Yes, there are entry requirements for each career, which makes a lot of sense. Farming may be easy to get into, but not just anyone off the street is going to go to the moon. (Interestingly this game was created way before anyone ever went to the moon, really before the space race was all that heated up actually.) The requirements are usually money, though a specific college degree can sometimes help out as well. Once you’ve already been through a career you can always go back into it for free.

The game play is simple enough that even little kids should be okay with it but with enough options to keep it from being mundane and still appeal to all types of gamers. It is certainly more than just roll the dice, move your mice. Like most games, the board is a giant square and players move around the perimeter and encounter the spaces that they land on. However, spaced throughout the board are all the career tracks that a player can enter. Each one is a slight detour from the main board but it is on the career tracks that the game is really played; it’s where the money, fame, and happiness are most found. Normally two dice are rolled for movement around the perimeter but only one is rolled when you are moving through a career, which is good because the career tracks are only about ten spaces. Choosing what career tracks to enter is probably the most important decision that you will make (I sound like your mother, don’t I?) as you try to complete your secret success formula. A player can only go through a given career a maximum of three times, though that seems like enough to most likely win the game.

Over the course of the game players accumulate experience cards, which allow you to move a certain number of spaces in lieu of rolling the dice. This is really nice when on a career track because it allows you to land on a space that has a benefit that you really want or need. I assume the benefit of real world experience is that you have a better chance of making good things happen for you in the working world. There are also opportunity cards that let a player move to different career entry points on the board, some also waive the requirement to get into the career. This can give a player a huge advantage, especially if they can get into a strong career early on and then just keep going back to it. The rules also suggest that players are free to trade cards with each other, which is another nice feature of the game.

I have to say that I was delighted with Careers. I sort of expected it to be nothing special, it’s sole appeal being in the cool looking retro board and some of the outdated language, which is funny in hindsight. But in actuality this is a really fun game. The rules are easy to learn, the game takes about a half hour, and it’s a nice break from some of the more intense games out there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Campaign Journal #13- The Corruption of Corwyn, Lela's Imminent Death, and the Plot Thickens

With the mountains and the medusas finally behind them the party set out East, towards Ocrist. The plan was to stop along the way at the Wicked Annabella, the roadside inn owned by a friend of Corwyn. Ultimately they hoped to pick up on the spy hunting mission given to them some time ago by Autumn, the mysterious agent of the DuChamp family. He had offered 10,000 gp for each undercover Coleridge spy that the party could present him with.

While traveling through the woods at night Glee spotted a pair of figures also moving through the woods, they were flanked by a pair of wolves and were armed. He pointed them out to the rest of the party and they slowed to observe the men, eventually coming face to face with the woodsmen. Both sides approached cautiously with weapons sheathed, and the party did something they had never attempted before. They talked to the strangers rather than killing them. Bizarre. The group of two was actually a group of four and they all made camp together like a big happy family. The leader of the group indentified himself as Martin, a traveling priest of Fharlaghn who had come to the island to aid the Coleridge’s in their fight against the oppression of the DuChamps. Martin described himself as a freedom fighter, going where he could do the most good. He sympathized with the Coleridges and was now working with the army to insure victory. He spent part of the night explaining the situation to the party and attempting to win them over and get them to join the cause. Eventually Martin went to sleep and Lela used her Fascinating whistling, followed by some Suggestion to plug one of the guards for some information. The guard said that Martin was a good man and genuinely cared for the plight of the oppressed on the island, though he expressed some concerns over the actual motivations of the Coleridges. There is a rumor, he said, that for years the DuChamps have been guarding a powerful treasure and that is the real reason that the Coleridge Clan wishes to unseat their power. So that they can get at whatever it is that is hidden in Ocrist. While all this was going on Corwyn was making multiple attempts to get into Lela’s pants. They did not work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Retro Game Night- What Shall I Be?

The other night we had a retro game night with a couple of old games purchased at garage sales. Probably not the kind of stuff that we would play every day, but definitely good to break out on occasion.

First up was What Shall I Be?, a game from 1966 that helped young girls decide what career was for them. Apparently the only options at the time for a lady were Teacher, Model, Actress, Stewardess, Nurse, and Ballerina. What, no housewife? As you would expect the game plays rather simply, though it is not just a linear, roll the dice Candyland style walkthrough. The goal of the game is to get enough experience in the career that you want, and also have the right traits to be successful at it. A person who gets too easily excited is not going to cut it as a Nurse, though excelling when it comes to applying makeup will allow you to go far as a Model. Players take turns rolling the dice and moving around the board, hoping to land on the right spaces.

The dice rolling mechanic is a tiny bit interesting, just in the sense that you don’t roll the two dice and move that amount. The player rolls two dice and has the choice of moving the total of the two, or the amount shown on either of them. Who said that women didn’t have options in the sixties? Certainly not the makers of What Shall I Be? The board is a big circle with six sections that break off of it. Each of the sections is the career path of one of the six wonderful career choices available to the young lady. The winner is the first to collect four matching career cards (obtained by landing on spaces along that career path) and two personality and two subject cards that are beneficial to that career. Those are collected along the outer rim of the board by landing on certain spaces marked with a circle or heart. Some of these cards are really awesome. I think that my favorite is the Slow Thinker card, which is bad for a nurse, but apparently is not at all a hindrance for a teacher or any other profession.

Is this game anything other than luck? On the surface the answer to that question appears to be no, the game is really just a series of randoms. Looking a little bit deeper, and I still come up with the same answer. I suppose that there is some strategy involved in picking your career since there are only five of each career card, so you need to make sure that you are not doubling up the choice of another player. I mean, I know we all want to be an actress, but the world only has room for so many. The personality and subject cards are totally random though. By choosing which roll to keep you may be able to increase the total number that you draw, thus increasing the chance that you will not be a slow thinker. One thing I will say is that we have played this game three times (I think) and every single time Mike has won. Is that luck? Or is there some skill at this game that Mike has uncovered? Perhaps What Shall I Be? is more involved than I suspect.

It’s not a bad game at all and it only takes about 20 minutes to play a full game. Every once in a while it’s nice to have a change of pace and it’s kind of interesting to see how far games have come in the last 40 years.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Campaign Journal #12- Finishing Up at the Temple

With the medusas in the Temple taken care of it was time for the party to loot and pillage the area that they had lusted after for so long. Exploring the top of the Temple they found piles of bedrolls and other mundane supplies, it seems as if many of the creatures lived and slept at the top of the steps. They also found a slightly raised section of the floor that contained the familiar indentation of the snake that they have seen several times before. Before trying to open it up they decided to check out the half dozen buildings that were built up around the Temple.

At about this time Henri and Mgabwe got into a fierce debate about the nature of he arcane arts. A debate that could only be decided by the two of them teleporting far away to the appropriate research facility. And with that they were gone! (Both of these players are on separate European vacations for the next couple of weeks and will not be playing)