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Game Review: Assault 19XX

Paul Roman Martinez’s beautifully illustrated Assault 19XX
Image Source: Adventurers 19XX WebStore

A while back I had the good fortune to interview a Kickstarter Zen master and Eisner nominated fellow by the name of Paul Roman Martinez. With over 100K in successful projects, Martinez publishes an online web-comic called Adventurers 19XX.

The plot follows a paranormally blessed group of heroes in the early part of the twentieth century called Adventurers 19XX as they battle equally gifted but nefariously inclined villains part of an organization called the Black Faun.

The comic is a fantastic mash-up of pulpish, steam-powered eclectic characters and influences. In its electronic pages, Aztec villains fight alongside the likes of Aleister Crowley and chemically vat-grown homunculi against talking bunnies and All-American southerners wielding Lucky Baseball Bats. Since I stumbled across it I have been devouring the chapters whenever I get the chance. It’s a comic that is right up my alley and I greatly suggest giving it a read.

One spawn of the comic is Martinez’s self-developed and crowd-funded 2-6 player game called Assault 19XX.

The Goal

Victory Progression Chart Image Source: Forever Geek

Victory Progression Chart
Image Source: Forever Geek

Assault 19XX is a turn-based card game where Players win by proceeding along a jumbo-sized Victory card track that has 13 Victory point slots with different effects as players reach each Victory level. First to 13 Victory points wins and players receive Victory points by damaging opponents during combat or through special card effects.

Set-up

Components (Basic game and included expansion)

24 Character Cards
122 Luck and Character Cards
48 Chapter Cards
2 scorecards
2 faction markers
6 colored health markers
1 six-sided die

Players are given one of the more than 20 jumbo-sized character cards representing characters from the Adventurers 19XX comic-verse. One player randomly determines whose faction each player is on, the good guys who are the Adventurers 19XX or the bad guys, the magically addicted Black Faun.

Players can either compete on teams, the preferred and implied method, or in a free for all style. Players are then given three random cards from their faction and allowed to select one to play for the game.

Once a player chooses a Character, unique Item and Luck cards specific to that character get handed out. A single Luck card and 4 Item cards are next dealt randomly to each player to form their hand and a health token is given out with starting health being Green on a five-panel geared health track at the base of the Character card. Play then proceeds clockwise starting with the player who originally determined the factions. Players are meant to sit in a staggered setup where team-mates are separated from each other by sitting next to enemies.

Game-Play

Assault 19XX Beautifully rendered cardsImage Source: Forever Geek

Assault 19XX Beautifully rendered cards
Image Source: Forever Geek

Each round players draw 1 Item card to their hand and may play any number of certain ‘instant’ yellow cards, or equip any number of equipment or ‘Luck’ cards to their character, provided they have available slots. Slots include a Group slot, a Head slot, Left and Right arm slots and two small Weapon slots

Item and Luck cards form two separate decks. Items cards are drawn once per turn but events like damaging an opponent, rolling a natural 1 or other cards allow players to draw more cards from either deck.

Players obtain Victory points either by attacking and successfully damaging an opponent or by special cards that give free Victory points or the like.

Attacking and defending is resolved by adding up values assigned to characters, including their stated Luck value, Attack value a random d6 roll and any instant cast or equipped Luck or equipment cards. This attack score is compared to a players defensive total, which is calculated the same way, but minus the d6 and includes their Defensive value instead of their Attack value.

Any time an opponent takes damage from an attack a Victory point is scored, and that player takes 1 point of damage and 1 point only. Special weapons can increase this damage, and other Item cards do direct damage but don’t award Victory points.

Based on the Victory cards, other cards are drawn depending on the slot level, with chapter cards giving other benefits as the game progresses.

Verdict

The Formidable Baron Jumbo-sized Character CardImage Source: Forever Geek

The Formidable Baron Jumbo-sized Character Card
Image Source: Forever Geek

The game play is at first enjoyable, as you play cards from your hand and immediately equip or use the best weapons or abilities you can.

The problem for the game is that there are no opportunity costs to not attacking or not using your best weapons or Items. There are no ‘save-up-for’ investments required and therefore no incentive to do anything other than attack or throw everything you have at an opponent, who will throw everything back. And with only 1 card draw per turn, you can easily exhaust your resources by round three.

The Luck based draw of Items also lends to one-sided outcomes, as a team who is better equipped will invariably become virtually impervious to attack, as I found in game-play; my team mate and I could not damage our opponents even with a perfect roll, so we ended up attacking simply for the chance to get a roll of 1 which is a clover and gives you an extra Luck card.

So once your opponents ramp up, there is little you can do to stop them.

The character abilities themselves also are vastly imbalanced, with some clearly overpowered while others barely effective.

However the artwork is excellent and the theme is top notch. The era accuracy with cards like the Browning Automatic Rifle and MG08 Machine gun and Wheel Tank are just generally cool cards both in terms of design and artwork. There are some odd choices however with a stop-light (Kibosh) that removes cards or the electric torch (flashlight) which adds to defense. But it was a great kick to play the characters from the comic and at the same time admire the art.

Tweaks

The Adventurers 19XXImage Copyright: PrM

The Adventurers 19XX
Image Copyright: PrM

Suggestions would be just an increase per turn of card draws and more ally-helping cards to make the game more cooperative. Static attack and defense values usually suffer from an over abundance of power in one player or team, like in Munchkin where players with better card draws can simply win by Luck alone. The overall mechanic is decent, there just needs some slight tweaking to make the game chug along more smoothly.

I would suggest the game simply for the artwork alone, and if you want to house-rule it to make it a bit more balanced, take out some of the cards from the Item and Luck decks along with some of the character cards to make the game a bit more even handed. Also just add maybe 1 or 2 to the per turn card draws and maybe even make Item equipments single or multiple use only, i.e. ammo, or even add a cost to equip them, such as discarding cards equal to their attack values before you can equip them.

With or without these minor tweaking you can definitely try Assault 19XX, enjoy it and

Game forth!

 

 

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X-Wing Miniatures – Tourney Play

X-Wing Miniatures Game
Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

This past weekend I got a chance to enter my first ever Miniatures tournament, which also entailed playing the first miniatures game I’ve ever played.

One of the genres of gaming that has always appealed to me but has consistently seemed beyond my financial grasp is that of war-games, or miniatures.

With the likes of Warhammer, Shock troops, Malifaux, Dark Age and others, the cost of fielding, equipping and painting an army of fantasy units that makes up your typical war-game presents a huge investment in not only cold hard cash but also time and energy. The ability to not only purchase a workable army but also have it arrive on the scene in pleasing colors and with enough firepower to stand a chance is something that can be incredibly daunting to the budding war-gamer.

Enter: Fantasy Flight X-Wing Miniatures.

Premiering at GenCon back in 2012, X-Wing miniatures is a light 2-player dog-fighting game where opponents build squads of ships from either Rebel or Imperial forces hailing from the legendary galaxy of Star Wars. Cheaper and already painted unlike most war-games, they offer a nice beginners step financially and rules-wise into the world of minis.

As this was my first tournament play of a miniatures game, and my first miniatures game at all, I thought I’d give a recap of the event for folks looking for a brief introductory peek into the world of tourney play.

Setup

Source: Fantasy Flight Games X-Wing Miniatures Tournament Rules

Source: Fantasy Flight Games
X-Wing Miniatures Tournament Contestant Sheet

I dove into the tournament at the suggestion a friend of mine. A local gaming store in my town was participating in the global preview event put forth by Fantasy Flight Games.

Looking to premier their newest expansion to the miniatures game, Wave 4, the winners of these pre-release tournaments would get their pick of one the 4 new classes of Rebel and Imperial ships in an Event called the Assault on Imdaar Alpha.

The rules of X-wing tournaments are the same as the standard rules of the game, with differences mainly in how win/loss affects scoring.

But to begin with, each competitor chooses a 100-point buy for their squad, standard for advanced play as well as a 3 x 3 play area. These 100 points include ships and upgrades. Each player is given a score and squad sheet so Officiators can tally points and track game outcomes.

Luke Skywalker Pilot Card Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Luke Skywalker Pilot Card
A 28-point pilot buy
Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

For my squad, I had the following, coming in at exactly 100 points:

1 – A-Wing : Pilot (Green Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Blue Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Ten Numb)
1 – X-Wing : Pilot (Luke Skywalker)

I participated in three matches, with the first being against a fellow who played a Fire-spray and a two TIE Interceptors, all upgraded. The second match was against a swarm of TIE Fighters with one Howl Runner, while the last was against a fellow sporting a Lambda and two TIE Interceptors.

As it worked out, my rebel forces always squared off against Imperials, but in tourneys, they have the Mirror system, whereby Rebels can face Rebels or Imps can fight Imps, with the exact same squad, including pilots.

Players then place asteroid tokens and ships based on ship point total, lowest goes first (i.e. 99 before 100) with ties rolling off.

The Matches (Squadrons & Tactics)

“For a great game of X-Wing Miniatures, check out the 2013 Championship Finals video above.”
Fire-spray-31 Ship for the Imperials Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

One of the Fire-spray-31 Pilot
cards for the Empire
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

 

As this was my first real outing, not only with miniatures tourney, but with miniatures in general, my experience was incremental. The first match, against a Fire-spray (Bounty Hunter Pilot) and two beefed up Interceptors was basically a turkey shoot—for the other guy.

I entered the match still shaky on the rules, but my opponent was generous with my rookie mistakes. I followed his bounty hunter around, realizing too late I should have been targeting a weaker Hit-point and shielded prey, and due to some bone-headed misunderstandings of the rules, I was flanked and outmaneuvered easily. His squad was overall thoroughly well built and ultimately made it to the final four.

The second match, against a swarm of TIE’s ended almost in my favor, I decimated my opponents seven squad force down to one versus three of mine, but lost one in the final round to an asteroid, and another to good rolls. Forgetting that the win condition was based on points, I flew into an asteroid carelessly thinking the match already over.

The final match was another turkey shoot—this time in my favor. I took out three Imp ships with zero casualties on my part.

Below: One of the upgrades to the first round turkey-shoot that demolished my poor Rebels. Their crime: just out to make the galaxy a better place–
Good Guys: 0 | Forces of Evil:1
One of the upgrades to the first round turkey-shot that demolished my poor Rebels who were just trying to make the galaxy a better place-- Good Guys: 0 | Forces of Evil:1 Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

The first take-away was the concept of the Buy. That is, after two rounds, or matches, the lowest scoring player (myself for an indeterminate reason) receives 5 points automatically, but sits out for the round. Winners of matches can win by Match Win or Modified Match win and scoring is as follows:

•    Match Win = 5 Points
•    Modified Match Win = 3 Points (Win by less than 12 )
•    Draw = 1 Point
•    Loss = 0 Point

The points are determined by remaining ships on the battle-mat at the end of the round which is scheduled to last 75 minutes unless modified by the Tournament Organizer (TO).

Final match mid-round at the tourney where my 'rebel-scum' faced off against a Lambda and two TIE interceptors.

Final match mid-round at the tourney where my ‘rebel-scum’ faced off against a Lambda and two TIE interceptors. The Officiator provided the players with nifty and awesome galaxy battle-maps.

From what I could see of the tactics employed, the basic strategy in squad building coalesced into either ship swarms (4+ ships), notably TIE fighters and X-Wings, or upgrades (3 or less ships with plenty of upgrades). This matches with games design, rewarding less with better equipment, rewarding more with more shots.

In the matches I played, the deciding factor seemed tipped in favor of the better ships, as in the match I won, almost won and lost all seemed determined by ships that had either higher shields, or higher health.

In terms of tactics, outmaneuvering your opponent or trying to flank them, was also important and could negate the other overwhelming determinate of the game: good die rolls.

Grouping up ships also seems the classic play style as it provides greater shots and more dice rolls against opponents ships. This is also a determining factor as it relates to squad building. Ships with better attack dice (3+) have greater chances of hitting, and ships like the Fire-spray with upgrades that re-roll are even more likely to win, as that combo made it into the final four.

So in terms of game play, from my first tourney, it would seem that squad choice, upgraded ships notably with the ability to modify and re-roll, have an edge over pure number of ships and unmodified die rolls (a theory also evidenced by the championship video embedded above).

My Rebels surrounding a soon-to-be destroyed Imperial Lambda on an escort mission to the other-side.

My Rebels surrounding a soon-to-be destroyed Imperial Lambda on an escort mission straight to their Doom– Good Guys 1 | Evil-pants 2.

The Prize

The goal of the tournament was for players to win one of the new TIE Defender, TIE Phantom, Z-95 Headhunter or E-Wing expansion packs part of the Wave 4 release.

Wave-4 TIE Phantom With CloakingCopyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 TIE Phantom
With Cloaking
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 E-Wing The Rebel's answer to the Phantoms Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 E-Wing
The Rebel’s answer to the Phantoms
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A look at these new cards shows some nice new pilots and awesome ships. Definitely the most powerful ‘small’ ships to date it would seem with the TIE Phantom and E-Wing looking to be upcoming staples in most squadrons.

The TIE Phantom, with its Cloaking ability that gives it +2 Defensive die and a base +4 Attack roll is an epic addition to the some would say already beefed up Imperials. As the game is sold as being a dog-fight, ships like these, with 4 Health and high maneuverability thanks to Barrel Roll Actions, are going to make opening rounds in a match probably very one sided.

As a counter to the Phantom though the Rebels are right behind them with the E-Wings, one of which can attack twice per round, losing an attack the following round and another that turns any ally Attacks from hits to Crits against range 1-3 enemies. With Cloaking and Barrel-Rolling TIEs out there, the ability to attack twice, while an enemy is in your sights is a huge advantage, possibly finishing them off in a single round instead of two, a great advantage in any dog-fight where numbers matter.

But aside from these niffy toys that were only available to the top four, the rest of us bottom eight in the 12 player competition received Bandit Rebel pilots; 12-point buy 2-point stat across the board preview Headhunter ships. Designed to be similar to TIE’s I tried out the Headhunter in a match following the competition and while cheap, their pilot score is too low for end-game play.

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

***

The tournament was a great experience and I learned quickly how to use the ships I choose accordingly but also how to maneuver and anticipate my opponent’s moves. And that’s the great thing about the game, its relatively easy to learn, easy to get good at and relatively cheap (compared to other miniature games) to invest in. Add to the fact that the minis are pre-painted and you have a recipe for a very addictive game with a price point low enough to encourage newbie’s into the world of war-gaming. Even better, there is an entire network of retailers, locals and tourneys out there that Fantasy Flight has set up to give the aspiring galaxy Ace the chance to play.

So when you get a chance why not suit up, ship out and pilot your own X-Wing and

Game Forth!

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Doubly Exposed to a Maelstrom – An Alternative Review

Double Exposure's Logo for their first 'Inclusive' Convention- MaelstromImage Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

Double Exposure’s Logo for their
first ‘Inclusive’ Convention- Maelstrom

Image Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

In the spirit of positivity, by way of a certain icon of Geekiness, Curt Thompson, I have decided to post a follow-up to a previous blog that was quite the opposite of this idea of One Love– one that at the time was a politely justifiable rant.

You see, a couple months ago, not long after I formed my Meetup.com group devoted towards bringing more inclusivity to the gaming world, I caught wind of a Gaming convention that was being formed around that very idea: Double Exposure’s Maelstrom.

Needless to say I was slightly peeved when I contacted the organizer to the Convention and got little by way of a response (okay more than a little peeved), especially considering its seemingly recent and coincidental abiogenesis.

It’s never an easy thing to step out of the shadows and admit you’ve got some issues with the way the world is being run, especially the Gaming world where the whole Knowledge Is Power concept is the epitome of elite Gamerdom (see: Uber-pwnage).

Image Source: ???

Image Source: ???–

But as I consider myself generally the optimist, and as the Convention drew near and I was continuously reminded of its approach, I decided to once again reach out to the organizer and start a dialogue. This time, results varied.

Vincent Salzillo, the President and Founder of Double Exposure Inc. personally invited both myself and the members of my fledgling Meetup group to the con, gifting the lot of us with discount tickets and a warm welcome.

Needless to say, the skeptic in me viewed this as a payoff of sorts; the more positive person in me viewed it as an opportunity.

#

In Maelstrom, regardless of the why, I saw a chance to add to the discourse on Inclusive Gamerdom that, aside from glad-handing and talk, have personally seen very little of first-hand.

So, taking up the offer, I headed out with a few comedic friends in tow and adventured out to the wilds of New Jersey, embarking on a quest most geeky into a Maelstrom…

And the results?

Varied.

A fellow (and thus independent from my own sensibilities)Gamer's own image of the 'diverse' crowd at Maelstrom Image Copyright: VB Wyrde

A fellow (and thus independent) Gamer’s
own image of the ‘diverse’ crowd at Maelstrom
Image Source: VB Wyrde (check out his blog!)

While not as eclectic as I had hoped it to be (see photo above), there were a few good signs that the Inclusivity agenda was an important stone in the Con’s foundation. Most obvious and notable to this effect: the panels.

With Seminars set up to cover the idea of Inclusivity, and a huge emphasis on ‘The Other’, a concept I dealt with in a panel I myself hosted (“Kill the Orc!“), there was at least a sincere effort to address the disparity of Gamers in the world of Gaming.

The Black CoyotlYours truly, hosting "Kill the Orc!"

The Black Coyotl
Yours truly, hosting “Kill the Orc!”
-A Seminar about Race & Gaming

The medley of panels and their hosts covered topics ranging from gender issues and religion to sexuality, orientation and the all important, yet somehow nebulous concept of ‘The Other’.

But beyond the panel area, the actual implementation of inclusivity fell somewhat short.

First I’d like to say that points go to the overall attempt at addressing gaming under-representation.  But for actually getting non-traditional Gamers to show up and Game, I didn’t see too many other -ahem- non-traditional looking gamers strolling the halls (see photo above, again).

There were a few, other panelists to be sure, and a handful of other non-trad Gamers, but the bulk of the goers seemed to be cut from the same cloth as other convention-goers.

Now I’ve been to my share of conventions, especially considering the short amount of time I’ve been gaming and the lack of diversity I generally encounter at the gaming table can be both disheartening and hostile at times, sometimes concurrently. So it was a bit disappointing seeing the turnout, however, its something that I’ve come to understand as an Organizer myself is something you really can’t blame entirely on the Convention runners themselves, no matter how much apparent outreach.

But having said all that, and with my critical eye of the overall goals of the convention satisfied, I’d like to put away my  ideological lens for the rest of this long-winded blog and simply describe my experience at the Con itself (which I believe was the point of Mr. Thompson’s Day of 9th)– in short, I had a blast.

Grifter: A Game of ConsMy upcoming 54-card game

Grifter: A Game of Cons
My upcoming 54-card game

The first thing I did when I arrived was get in a play-test of the game I’ve been working on for the past couple of months and am looking to KickStart soon, Grifter with a bunch of great folks who walked over to my ‘lane’ and signed up to play.

You see Maelstrom adopted a basic organizing room where folks could print out the names of games people were willing to run and whoever wanted to, could sign up and play.  So I posted my game to one of these ‘lanes’ and was psyched when four Gamers strolled over, inquired about the title and sat down to play.

Two games in and I got some great feedback and was amazed to find out that one of the Gamers was Tom Tiernan of Everything Epic Games whose partner in crime, Chris Batarlis I’d met at a James Bond LARP event  a year ago and blogged about afterwards (and who was, apparently as pictured above, also at the Con).

After finishing up some great play with my game Grifter, I jumped at the chance to test out his and Chris’ successfully KickStarted Secrets of the Lost Tomb, a Betrayal on House on the Hill homage game. But before that, I gave my Seminar entitled ‘Kill the Orc!’– a not so subtle look at the parallels between fantasy and real-world race relations.

A Ubiquitous Orc...Who regardless, has to die.

A Ubiquitous Orc
Who of course, has to die.

The Q&A feedback I got from the session was again a great experience and it was amazing to be able to openly talk about a lot of the issues that I encountered throughout my short career thus far in gaming.

I heard from folks who told me about their own experiences about inserting taboo topics into their games in an effort to bring awareness of real-world understanding to the gaming table and was delighted to engage with people who described their own discomfort at times over the language used in gaming literature concerning race and gender.

I also got a chance to meet Ajit George and Whitney Beltran, whose own panel seminar on Gaming as the Other dealt with their personal experiences in the world of gaming.

It was through these great gaming folks (GGFs) that I was introduced to the game “How We Came To Live Here“.

Brennan Taylor's Native American RPG A story-telling game of community and consequences Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Brennan Taylor’s Native American RPG
A story-telling game of community and consequences
Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Put out by Galileo Games |Galileo Books, How We Came To Live Here is a Native American story-telling game written by Brennan Taylor that deals with the myths and legends of Native American peoples. Centered around family and the tribe, the game is a surprising answer to the concepts I raised in a blog I posted not too long ago about Native American Druids.

Following this exchange I finally got to test-drive Tom’s Secret’s of the Lost Tomb with my comedy bud, admiring the great art and narrative character backgrounds, and after that I joined a one-shot table of Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG by Fantasy Flight  Games– The Long Arm of the Hutt. Playing a Twi’lek bounty hunter at a table comprised of overwhelmingly non-traditional gamers, it was a great way to end the con.

(Somewhere in all that action I also got in a few minutes of D&D Next as a Drow assassin, but I forget now the order of the affair, only that I Sneaked Attacked the funk out of an undead Dwarven Skeleton – UBER-PWNAGE!)

So all in all,  it was a great con–and a Positive Experience, something that truly made me, as a Gamer, Happy (Nerd Love Post: Owned).

And while the bar Maelstrom set for Inclusive was in my critical eye nowhere near met, nor even analyzed as to how to approach it, the actual outcome of the Con was in my ‘Other’ more positive eye a success– the conversation about inclusivity was started.

So when you get a chance, why not Head Out, Game Out, Roll out with your Gnoll Out and find some reasons to incorporate Inclusivity, in whatever form it takes into your own gaming experiences and

Game Forth!

Game Positively.

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Independent Game Designer Spotlight & Interview: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul Roman Martinez Indie Artist/Novelist and Game Designer Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul Roman Martinez
Indie Artist/Novelist and Game Designer
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Success on Kick-starter is an elusive beast.

With only 43% of all projects reaching their funding goals and Gaming projects even lower down the scale in terms of hitting their targets, some Project Creator’s have nonetheless figured out the secret elixir to success on the crowd-funding site.

One such alchemical master of the world of Kick-starter is Paul Roman Martinez.

Paul has launched not just one successful Kick-starter campaign but managed to spark the imagination of enough admirers to fund four completely unique and varied Kick-starter projects that have consistently bounded past the goal of each endeavor.

Starting in 2012 with the Graphic novel The Adventures of the 19XX: Montezuma 1934, Martinez began the first in his series of Kick-starter campaigns. The comic, a first printing of his successful web-series that he started in 2009, follows the exploits of a band of adventurers, explorers and scientists in the aftermath of the Great War as they try and change the course of history.

Adventurers of the 19xxIndie-pulp styled Web-comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventurers of the 19xx
Indie-pulp styled Web-comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Fused with a mix of pulp, magic, and history, The Adventures of 19xx is a world-spanning mash-up of influences as varied as Duck Tales, Aleister Crowley, Montezuma and Indiana Jones that captures the exuberant futuristic expectations of the world in the beginning of the early twentieth century with a heavy nod towards Steam-punk.

Adventurers Circa 19xxThe Heroes of PRM Web-comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventurers Circa 19xx
Some of the Eclectic Heroes of PRM Web-comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Following this initial success, Martinez delved further into the world of Kick-starter with another Graphic hardcover novel compilation of his Adventures 19XX web-series. Soaring far past his target funding, Martinez next moved into the world of game design with his Assault:19XX Game.

Assault 19xx GamePulp-styled game between the Black Faun Order and the Adventurers 19xxCopyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Assault 19xx Game
Pulp-styled game featuring a conflict between the ancient Order of the Black Faun and the heroic Adventurers 19xx.
Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Set in the world of his pulp comic Adventures 19XX series, the semi-cooperative tabletop game pits 2-6 players  on either the side of the good-guy 19XX Adventurers or as members of the ancient Order of the Black Faun who seek to start the next Great War through mystical means.

Martinez’s most recent Kick-starter campaign, a Bicycle playing card deck set in the thematic style that Paul has perfected over his career was successfully funded this past April and like his previous runs, demonstrates Paul’s ability to set achievable targets and spur enough interest to see that his goals are fully realized.

This continued success has allowed Paul the ability to speak with confident authority to other would-be Kick-starter aspirants. Whether talking about difficulties over Mailing, or his recently and already legendary 11 Things All Failed Kick Starter Projects Do Wrong post, Paul is definitely an artist with a pulse on the Kick-starter beat.

PRM Kick-starter AdviceImage Image Copyright: BleedingCool.com

PRM Kick-starter Advice
Image Copyright: BleedingCool.com

Yet even with all the projects he has going on, Martinez is ever the consummate respondent to backers, fans and Kick-starter aspirants. Taking some time away from his hectic schedule Paul was gracious enough to provide some insights into his inspirations and the processes that go into producing the awesome work that a Kick-starter champ has going for him:

(1) Do you consider yourself a gamer? If so what type?
I love games, but I hate labels. I don’t know why, I just can’t put a label on myself! But I do love games. Boardgames, video games, sports, death races, whatever.

(2) What lead you to being an artist?
Aaaakk! Another label! I don’t know if I consider myself an artist. I just spend too much time doing pre-press and searching for suppliers to feel like an artist. But I’ve always drawn. I still have my first drawing book I received in first grade. I never wanted to be an artist, I just couldn’t stop drawing. No matter how many times I tried, I always kept picking up a pencil and drawing.

(3) Was there a specific moment you considered a career in art?
I’m still considering a career in art, ha! Most people ask, “how can I break into comics or games?” But really the question is, how do you stay there? With every drawing I do I try and get better and develop my style. I will have a career in art as long as it keeps making people happy. As soon as it doesn’t, I will do something else!

(4) What led you to developing the Adventures 19XX series and is the era and motif your favorite genre?
A few years ago I finished college and I was considering getting a masters degree in graphic design. But I thought, what if I just came up with a master’s level project. I figured I could learn just as much and have a great portfolio to show for it. So the 19XX series just started as an experiment. I knew almost nothing about the period and I knew nothing about pulp stories. When I started doing research I didn’t even look at those early pulp comics. I wanted to read books and biographies from the 1930s and see what came out. I don’t think I have a favorite genre. Just like labels, I hate being confined to one thing!

Adventures 19xx Web-seriesPanel from the online comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventures 19xx Web-series
Panel from the online comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

(5) What other genres’ would you like to create in? Game in?
Sometimes I think of doing something strictly for kids. My book is fun and appropriate for younger people but to do something only for kids would free me up to do something truly positive and magical I think.

(6) Do you have a specific mythological setting/world that you most feel a kinship with, and why?
Right now I feel a strong kinship to the religious/lovecraftian/historic world my comic is set in. I’ve always been fascinated with world religions and how they interconnected thousands of years ago with a handful of prophets wandering around the Earth. And I’ve always loved the epic sense of scale that Lovecraft imparted with his tales of the older gods and the races before mankind.

(7) Are there any specific cultural histories of your own that you bring to the mix that you feel are different from the standard pulp comics out there?
There is an epic story that is unfolding in my book series that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. And part of it is simply that my books take place in a realistic chronological time. Each book takes place in a different year and the characters will actually age as the series progresses. And just like in life, some of the best loved characters won’t make it to the end of the series. Most comic books take great pains to make sure no one ever grows or changes. My whole goal is to watch these characters grow and change. Because to grow and change is life. And how can you truly capture life if nothing changes?

(8) What projects/styles do you currently follow? What emerging scenes most intrigue you from an artistic standpoint and a gamers?
I like this atmosphere in tabletop games that is leading to a lot of truly unique voices creating their own games. These are games that never would have made it to market 10 years ago. Games like mine! Even independent comics have always had a way to produce a few issues cheaply to see if a series was going to work. Now with Kickstarter, the truly independent board game maker now has that same chance. I am fascinated by the way all media forms can connect now. That’s why I have a tabletop game that ties in so closely with my series. I’m trying to create something new. I want to create an entire world and story that you read and play through. I know the big corporations have done this on a larger level with hundreds or thousands of employees and dozens of executives each adding input along the way and lawyers making sure all their IP is used properly. But I’m one person. I’m one person who has control over everything. I’ve drawn every single page of my comic, colored it, wrote it, and I produced the board game. I drew every single card, play tested the game, and found a factory to produce it. I don’t know of any other single person who has done so much in such a short time by themselves. And the result is a truly cohesive vision across all my books, games, shirts, prints, and whatever else that comes along.

Paul's Most Recent and Successful KickstarterAviator themed playing cardsCopyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul’s Most Recent and Successful Kickstarter
Aviator themed playing cards
Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

(9) Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on?
I always have upcoming projects and I keep a list of projects that could potentially sidetrack me. I make a list so I can keep moving forward with the 19XX and come back to those ideas later.

But right now I just finished my Flight Deck aviation playing card project and I’m now throwing myself back into finishing the third graphic novel in the 19XX series. The book will be coming out at the same time I release an expansion for my game that will correspond to the book. When that happens the game really will become something more. A serialized story that you play through as a group. The story will become something you experience with your friends, not just read in your room by yourself. I can’t wait for that moment because it’s something I’ve pictured since the series first began in 2010. That’s when I will be able to look someone in the eye while handing them my book and say, “you have something really great here.”

***
So there you have it, some thoughts from the creative and trailblazing mind of a successful Kick-starter artist, novelist and designer.  Why not head over to his unique corner of the web, take a peek at his ongoing series The Adventures of the 19xx, pick up a copy of his Assault 19xx and,


Game Forth!

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Supplement Review – Kobold Press | Advanced Races:Lamia

Lamia SupplementImage Copyright: Kobold Press

Lamia Supplement
The serpentine-bodied lamia
Image Copyright:
Kobold Press

Kobold Press, the independent online web-zine with a history of  producing RPG adventures and campaign materials recently published the latest in its Advanced Races supplements. The website, headed by the venerable Wolfgang Baur, a game designer known for his days at Wizards of the Coast, deals with all things role-playing, with a focus on their own homespun guides and products.

Their most well-known and successful line is their Midgard campaign setting. But in addition to this self-created world, they have also produced supplemental material designed to fit into other worlds and run on the core mechanics for D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. One such line is their Advanced Races guidebooks.

Starting with their first book, Advanced Races #1: Tieflings, the series of compendiums add monster races as an option for players. The books include descriptive histories, cultural and societal identities and race specific feats, traits and class paths.

Their most recent addition to the line, Advanced Races #8: Lamia, deals with the fabled Greek, child-eating demons whose serpentine lower halves were immortalized by the English poet John Keats.

Lamia, like most Greek traditions had several origin stories. They generally all begin with a single woman either a cursed Queen, an ill-fated mistress to a God, or simply a wandering female progenitor with a penance for debauchery, blood addiction and flesh-eating. In all these scenarios, the image is one of evil, accursed wrongness, representing everything that is vile and unclean in the civilized world.

Lamia like much in role-playing canon and what has spread into the mainstream world beyond was first depicted in the world of D&D with the original AD&D Monster Manual last century way back in 1977.

Original Lamia Image Source: Monster Manual AD&D (1977)

Original D&D Lamia
Centaur-like
Image Source: Monster Manual AD&D (1977)

In their first role-playing incarnation, Lamia had lower torsos resembling four legged beasts similar to another Greek inspired monster, the fabled centaurs. In the 4E reboot, Lamia are described as scarab beetled beings that lure individuals to their doom.Throughout the years the Lamia’s biology may have morphed and mutated but the one constant throughout editions and descriptions was and remains their unrepentant evilness.

It is this abhorrent nature that Kobold Press decided to expand upon in their Advanced Race supplement.

4th Edition D&D LamiaScarab bodied LamiaImage Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

4th Edition D&D Lamia
Scarab bodied Lamia
Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

The supplement itself is a quick read, only 17 pages, from cover to cover. Following a short story about a potential adventuring Lamia the guide delves into the descriptive culture and society of the race itself, including their structure and life development. Kobold decided to stick with the serpentine imagery and the guide provides a smattering of NC-17 paintings and artwork that are decent, though somewhat inconsistent with quality.

The guide moves on quickly into Lamia adventure archetypes followed by racial feats and traits. They focus on the Oracle class from D&D and Pathfinder, and Prestige classes include a Moon devoted cleric/arcane hybrid and a melee dual-wielding blade master. The last piece of the guide is a Midgard inclusive section that details how Lamias can be added to Kobold’s signature world.

There is an a good deal of emphasis on the more carnal aspects of Lamia natures including a bacchanal revelry that is specific to the race on the whole. In truth, judging by my knowledge of the race and the suggestive cover, I was expecting more details about these darker aspects of the race, or at least the motivations behind them.

I was really looking forward to a bit more detail for the Lamia, even if it was specific to the world of Midgard. When it comes to supplements like this, I am less interested in mechanics and much more intrigued by  background and world immersion. The Oracle-like prestige class however was a nice addition, and they synergized well with the racial feats. Further historical context, even invented would have been welcomed.

Overall the supplemental was just a bit too lite, however for the price and the excellent layout and images it was well worth the admission. So when you have a chance, and a few bucks to shell out, why not check out the Advanced Race line by Kobold Press, and

Game Forth!

 

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Rush to Judgement – A Vampire in Congress

Republican candidate for Florida’s 3rd congressional district :
Jacob A. Rush, A.K.A. “Chazz Knuckles” A.K.A.“Chazz Darling,” A.K.A. “Staas van der Winst”
Image source: Slate.com

Down in Gainesville Florida, there might could be a new sheriff in town.

Or rather– a Sheriff’s Deputy.

And he happens to be a Vampire.

This week, marking off a splendid April Fool’s Day, Peter Schorsch of the  online Saint Peters Blog reported that 35-year old attorney and Congressional hopeful former Alachua County Sheriff Deputy Jacob A. Rush moonlights during his off hours as a regular member of the Camarilla.

This ‘Camarilla’ happens to be a clandestine Vampiric Order who perpetuate a world-wide Masquerade in an effort to prevent mankind from learning the uncomfortable truth about the presence of the undead living amongst us.

At least, that is the main plot behind the Live-Action-Role-Playing fantasy world where Jacob dons his fictional characters in. It also happens to be a setting of which I am very familiar with.

Vampire the Masquerade, put out by the venerable White Wolf Publishing has been around since the early Nineties. It is a Role-playing setting built heavily around influences like Anne Rice’s Vampire series, and set in a modern Gothic Punk universe called the World of Darkness.

In this parallel world Vampires, Werewolves, Wraiths, Mummies, Faeries, Mages and other bizarre supernatural beings share and manipulate the world of ordinary humans in ways that paved the way for the likes of Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs.

It is a role-playing world devoted towards darker real-world themes and deals with mature issues, all while players don costumes of their fictional characters and act out their sometimes grisly parts.

Mind’s Eye Theater
Image source:
mindseyesociety.org

And this is the main source of Mr. Rush’s woeful uncovering as a would-be Congressman who also happens to be a Gamer.

While my first impulse was to rejoice at the possibility of a Bona Fide Larper running for Congress, regardless of their affiliation and views, some of Mr. Rush’s comments unearthed by the article detail a certain strain of gamer that hits a little too close to home.

The article details some of Mr. Rush’s in character (Chazz Darling) conversations he had online with an unidentified presumable female member of the community. Without listing verbatim what was unearthed (you can find the full quote here) the gist of the article was a rather irate response to another member within the Gaming group of Gainesville that he belonged to that ended with implications of the other individual being abused and left as “Free Candy”.

From a gaming perspective, the statement is clearly, from my own experience and knowledge of the WoD (World of Darkness) very much in keeping with how Vampires view humans:

  • As cattle.
  • As foodbags.
  • As victims.

Mr. Rush’s characterization of the other is in keeping with these sentiments, although the earlier commentary referenced in the article concerning body parts is less so (Kindred [vampires] are generally asexual once they are ‘Embraced’), and the fact that they are directed towards a fellow Kindred is apparent.

The overall tone of his comments though are really very much aligned with the overtly egoist ‘tripping’ that is common among Gamers– what is known as Power-gaming. This is an individual so immersed in the mechanics, story, etcetera of the gaming world that they adopt all of its values above normal behavior and generally brow-beat less ‘informed’ members of the community with these aspects (hence Darling’s derogatory comment about torpor, a situation where a Kindred, who are in the game effectively immortal, can be easily killed, and therefore a condition that only an amateur would find themselves in).

Now far from defending Mr. Rush’s words in this particular instance I simply would like to put forth the context.

In the gaming world, such power-gaming, egotistic trips are par for the course– they represent mastery of a system. It is very much like a couple of football fans talking about how a particular player deserves to get traded for failing to catch a pass, or that a particular team got destroyed or ‘raped’ by another team. Which leads into another of Mr. Rush’s comments; his Rape Face (again, see original article).

‘Chazz Darling’ – Mr. Rush’s Rapey-minded Kindred
Image source: http://www.bilerico.com

In keeping with the tone of the World of Darkness, and its Live-Action game system, the Minds-Eye Theater, the darker aspects of gaming are explored in this particular brand of LARPing, one that lends itself towards such outlandish and abhorrent phrases like Rape Face. For Mr. Rush, donning costumes is comparable to a Hollywood actor stepping into character– in fact it is exactly like that. And, as delicate as some people’s sensibilities may be, Vampires in the World of Darkness are very dark characters. Kindred in that world take what they want. Brutally. While rape jokes are not the most endearing to me personally, the gaming world, just like the real world, has its share of asinine and schoolyard humor (see, Dickwolves).

This is unfortunately the mentality of many Gamers. This is the mentality of individuals who spend copious amounts of time analyzing imaginary worlds and systems of these worlds and look to escape into them. Not all gamers are like this and in truth I enjoy gaming with folks who are less so. I myself am guilty of machismo at the gaming table– but again the jokes and stories around a gaming table aren’t all that much different from what gets told while watching a game of baseball or football, or in a break room at work. There is a certain level of testosterone and political incorrectness that goes with the territory. The gaming world, despite the costumes and burning books and occult trappings, is just another venue for people to do what they do best– communicate with one another.

And what’s more, Mr. Rush’s comments are, artistically not so different from other forms of expression. As a passing comparison, there’s a very strong kinship with the colloquial ‘gangster-rap’ that Mr. Rush’s words evoke and that were embodied in his character’s sentiments towards his fellow gamer.

Both are characterizations of individuals in a dark world, doing dark deeds to achieve dark ends. But in both (hopefully) the purpose is the same– expression. Expression of elements of life that aren’t easily discussed in society, in a safe (hopefully) environment where one is able to freely interact with others of similar mind (hence, the shared Mind’s Eye). Much like rock and roll, which came with the ancillary epithets sex and drugs, rap has its guns and ‘loose women’, and Vampire has its Kine and victims– all different forms of the same, predatory, masculine fantasizing. All things which, despite their supposed offense, attract a good deal of admirers ( Kid Rock is to Chazz as Chazz is to L.L. Cool J). The real question, which the story itself raises, is the publics ability to look at these traits as what they are, personal expression– and nothing (hopefully) more.

And much like the ‘street cred’ of gangster rap, Gamers can and do speak derogatory to new or clueless initiates, in ways very much against the grain– and very much politically incorrect.

A Clan Novel for Vampire the Masquerade–
What would literature be without a little vice?
Image source: Amazon.com

And now having said all that, the real joy is simply in the exposure, albeit less than positive that the story brings to the gaming world. And that Mr. Rush even decided to run for office, given his gaming affectations.

As Mr. Rush expressed in his statement following these revelations, he is a Gamer. A simple enough term but one that brings into the public discourse a very meaningful step towards recognition. And as much as the media is want to label him all manner of perverse and illicit terms, the facts are that he was a deputy sheriff and attorney, both of which are serious bid’nez. But his private life, done with other consenting adults is his own business and one that I have a shared passion for.

Because what I see isn’t a guy who likes to rape people or burn books or drink blood (hopefully), but a guy who likes to get together with a bunch of folks accepting of each others quirks and personalities and spend their time engaged in harmless fun.

So when you get a chance and if you’re a gamer yourself, political affiliations aside, why not head over to his Facebook and let him know you too like to

Game Forth!

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Game Review – Boss Monster

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games, LLC

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games, LLC

Like most things in the table-top world these days, Boss Monster, the card game put out by Brotherwise Games made its grand entrance to the world via Kickstarter.

Packaged in a slick box adorned with digitized artwork of a giant green-skinned bloated king, the games mascot known as King Croak, Boss Monster is a competitive four-player bash I had the good fortune to experience not long after its first edition got shipped out to primary Kickstarter backers.

What first catches your eye about the game is how its box is a tribute to classic Nintendo styled games from the eighties.

With the simplicity of a black background and a single crude display of gaming goodness along with the ubiquitous golden standard of approval, the box ported me back to my many hours spent jumping over mushrooms, slashing through dungeons and firing off blasts of energy trying to rescue princesses, save the world or simply get to the top of a very very tall ladder.

The 155 cards of the game continue with the motif of an eighties time warp, with pretty much blatant lampooning of traditional characters from games like Zelda, Metroid and Super Mario Brothers. But rather than limiting themselves solely to the world of console gaming, the creators of Boss Monster, Chris and Johnny O’Neal, also spruced up the look with elements from Dungeons and Dragons to create cards with table-top affections as well.

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Notice the Dungeon Master Room on the left…
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

The thing that really separates Boss Monster from other games however is its play mechanic.

Continuing with the console theme the goal is to build the ultimate side-scrolling dungeon. Players do this by placing Dungeon room cards each round in the play area in front of them, constructing lairs from left to right filled with either monsters or traps.

These monster or trap room cards contain damage points that adventurer cards are dealt when they are lured to a player’s lair.

Sample Monster RoomImage Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Sample Monster Room
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

A common pool of these adventurer cards are placed face up each round, and when a players combined rewards listed across all their dungeon cards are totaled at the end of a round, denoted by icons for loot, magical power or holy relics, the player with the most of each type becomes a huge beacon for adventurers seeking specific fortunes and glory. Adventurer cards are then placed outside a players constructed lair at the end of the round.

Sample Hero card. Notice that he is drawn to lairs with magic (denoted by the book in the upper right corner) Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Sample Hero card.
Notice that he is drawn to lairs with magic (denoted by the book
in the upper right corner)
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

These pesky little hapless interloping adventurers then proceed to ‘wander’ through a player or Boss’ dungeon cards and are flayed, burned, beaten or booby-trapped to death. Their deaths however add to the total score a player needs to win the game.

A Boss Monster Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

A Boss Monster
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

It’s quite a different theme, one that reverses the concept of the hero and villain most games are designed around.

It reminded me of mechanical elements of James Ernest’s Totally Renamed Spy Game (1996) where players again take on the role of arch-villains hoping to defeat (kill) as many heroes (spies) as possible to win. From a literary perspective it also reminded me of the opening scene in Joann Sfar’s Dungeon Volume 2, where Herbert the Duck’s father is opining about the loss of adventurers “dressed in their best armor, carrying all sorts of precious weapons and magical tailsmen” who are no longer visiting their dungeon and subsequently meeting their demises; i.e. revenues are dropping.

Image Copyright: NBM Publishing

Dungeon Volume 2
Image Copyright: NBM Publishing

So in this respect, Boss Monster follows a proud tradition of allowing players to compete as nefarious overlords turning on its head the traditional concept of saving the world, and prompts players to loot the bodies of those they are more than likely accustomed to portraying.

Overall the gameplay is great; it allows players the tactical satisfaction of designing different types of dungeons that maximize outright damage but that also ‘stack’ with spells and ‘dungeon upgrades’ that must be planned for over the course of several rounds.

What makes it really stand out mechanically to me though is that after all the low level heroes are defeated, the game suddenly goes into ‘epic’ mode and the wandering adventurers are suddenly beefed up in terms of attacks and life points. The game thus shifts from wanting to grab as much attention of these would-be adventurers to diverting them towards one of your opponents in the hopes that they destroy one of your competing Boss Monsters before they destroy you: Grow too fat and you start to attract the best heroes around.

Epic HeroNotice the higher hit points. You DO NOT want to take on these heroes. Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Epic Hero
Notice the higher hit points. You DO NOT want to take on these heroes.
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

So overall the game is a strategic ‘dungeon-building’ blast. The artwork, along with the entire concept holds your attention from start to finish and it offers unique and intriguing gameplay that combines elements in a perfect balance of pace and strategy. The only drawbacks I saw were not getting in on the original Kickstarter roll-out and thereby gaining some of the promo cards

So when you get a chance, feel like having an eighties flash back (who wouldn’t?) why not head out, or on-line and grab a copy of Boss Monster and,

Game Forth!

Another hip-retro icon of the Eighties- The Cosby's! Image Copyright: NBC

Another hip-retro icon of the Eighties-
The Cosby’s!
Image Copyright: NBC

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