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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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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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Drow – The Other Elven Meat

Image Copyright: Marvel Entertainment LLC

Image Copyright: Marvel Entertainment LLC
The fair-skinned evil Dark Elves of Thor.

Last month I went and saw Thor: The Dark World, the latest in the Hollywood onslaught of Marvel films that have graced the screen since their re-boot with the X-Men franchise way back in 2000.

It was a decent film, one that delved further into the conflict between Thor and his brother, but also brought in other elements of the fictional Thorian universe, notably the appearance of Malekith the Accursed and his race of Dark Elves as villains. As a Dungeons & Dragons Gamer, the appearance of these ‘dark elves’ immediately brought to mind their role-playing equivalents: the Drow.

When it comes to specific villain’s and monsters that litter the Dungeons & Dragon’s canon, I have always had a particular fondness for the race of evil, magic-using, dark-skinned  subterranean elves that inhabit many of the worlds that make up the fantasy realms of my games. My own weekly D&D campaign is in the midst of an ‘Underdark’ arch that features several of these beings- though their purpose in the plot is far more dubious than their traditional bent at best.

One of the traits of these Drow, or dark elves, which has always intrigued and in all honesty upset me, is the singular fact that these evil elves are gifted with dark skin.

Image Copyright: Paizo Publishing, LLC

Image Copyright:
Paizo Publishing, LLC
A dark-skinned, female drow; the standard, eroticised ‘evil elf’ as the ‘Other’.

As a monster race, the Drow were created by one of the originators to the D&D world, the one and only Gary Gygax, who is said to have crafted both the name and existence of these alternative elves from a blend of Norse mythology and his own imagination. The word “drow” is an alternative of the word “trow”, or its cognate “troll” and comes from the Gaelic dialect of the Scots. The actual appearance in myth that the drow are based on are their Norse equivalents, the Dökkálfar, or ‘dark elves’ who live underground and are described in the Prose Edda, a compilation of Norse myth penned in the 13th century, as ‘blacker than pitch’. They are the counter parts to the Light elves, who were said to be fairer than the sun to look at.

Based on this description, Gygax went on to create one of the most iconic and ubiquitous villain’s of the fantasy genre. Unfortunately one of the lasting hallmarks and most indelible fact about the drow was and is their dark skin.

drowwords

Original Drow description from
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (1977)

This trait has been brought up over the years around various tables as somewhat perplexing. The fact that the drow are subsurface dwellers should mean that rather than having dark-skin, they should be completely pale; the absence of sun light should make them look something more like albinos (similar to the cave-dwelling cannibals in Lion Gates 2005 Descent), where there is no longer a need to have protection from harmful ultra violet radiation, which is the main benefit of tonal differences in melanin, or skin pigmentation. At the birth of their inclusion into the world of D&D, I’m willing to believe that the science behind subterranean life and the effects of sun deprivation were at best a murky topic, and fantasy references served as the basis for the fleshing out of their general appearance.

Image Copyright: Lions Gate Films.   The underground dwelling evil albino cannibals from the 2005 Horror Film The Descent.

Image Copyright: Lions Gate Films.
The underground dwelling evil albino cannibals from the 2005 Horror Film The Descent.

This observation may at first seem overly critical of made-up villains in a fantasy world, but it is a topic that has evidently been raised elsewhere, time and again. And as a Gamer, who also just so happens to be a Gamer of Color, I am indisputably afflicted by a gene that causes me to explore things that interest and confound my understanding of the various systems that surround me.

One of the main problems with their skin tone is the historical rationales that sometimes accompany its presence in the fantasy settings; that it is part of a curse they received for being ‘evil’ and coincides with their subsequent expulsion into the underground. This mythology has an all too familiar and chilling parallel in the real world.

The Mark of Cain, a Christian concept as to the branding curse of the fabled first murderer in human history has at times over the centuries and very believably been attributed to dark skin. It was a defining rationale behind slavery and segregation in the United States from a religious standpoint, and was wholly integrated into the Mormon faith, something that the Church only divorced itself from in the later-half of the 1970’s. The idea of cursing an individual, or even a group of individuals with any easily identifying mark, such as a Scarlet Letter, is a concept old an ingrained into the human psyche, the dangers though of such a racial deliminator are easy to see.

These dangers are addressed in a scene from another Hollywood film– in the 1992 movie, Malcolm X, Denzel Washington who plays the civil rights leader speaks to the power of language and the importance of choosing ones words for the implications and imagery that it can not only conjure, but perpetuate out into the world beyond the self. The tropes of dark skin seem as rooted in our subconscious and across cultures as the ideas surrounding darkness itself seem to be: evil, ugliness, danger, shadows, monsters and above all, the unknown. By associating these terms and ideas with physical manifestations of our fellow human beings, people effectively charge interactions with these individuals with notions of perceived specificity: hence we get the stereotype. Which is why the idea of drow, or dark elves, being evil, malicious, dangerous and predatory have been a point of issue for some of us in the Gaming world. Add to this the expanded universe where the drow through editions of D&D canon have been expanded upon with facts that include how their society is matriarchal (a subtle implication about the dangers of female empowerment and agency) and ironically, big traffickers of slaves (quite the inversion).

All of this was bouncing around in the recesses of my head as I watched Thor: The Dark World. It wasn’t until I was thinking back about the film though that I could appreciate the comportment of its evil characters. The ‘dark elves’ in the world of Thor, based on their Marvel comic book origins (who have a mix of purplish-white skin) were in fact pale skinned individuals. At long last it seemed, the ‘dark’ sunless and nihilist evil elves of the universe held a glimmer of a more plausible appearance. I also reflected on the controversy over Idris Elba’s donning of the mask of Heimdall in the original and in the sequel to Thor and wondered if the film-makers wanted to treat the subject with a more encompassing brush-stroke concerning their Dark Elves.

Image Copyright: Marvel Entertainment, LLC

Image Copyright: Marvel Entertainment, LLC
The African-Nord.

All the elements of fantasy speak to a reflection in our broader understandings of the world and how we perceive the elements that move about us, even and especially in Hollywood blockbusters. By infusing these worlds we create with preordained concepts, we are not really leaving behind or escaping anything that persists in the world, and even more, we are limiting our ability at creating truly divergent universes that might imagine a more fantastic world than our own. Of course, Games are as much about perpetuating our myths and symbols as they are about creation and interaction. Still, by challenging the ‘rules’ of what has come before, Gamers themselves are typically graced with a mindset towards breaking these very truths, and what better rules to break, than some of the most ingrained and harmful ones around. So when you get a chance, why not challenge some rules you see concerning language and descriptive iconography, and above all,

Game Forth!

  • Most of the historical details in this article were culled from Wikipedia.

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Independent Game Designer Spotlight & Interview: Clance M. Morring – BATTLE THIS!

Image Copyright: Clance M. Morring

Image Copyright: Clance M. Morring

With the rise of Kickstarter, strategy, card and board game designers have been given access to a pool of potential customers and funding that spans the entire  globe.

This shift in public awareness has fundamentally changed the way independent companies can bring their ideas to the market, allowing everyone from sole operators to experienced creators the chance to showcase their ideas at game design.  But even with tools like Kickstarter at their fingertips, there are still some creators out there who are doing things the old-fashioned way- with boots on the ground, personal demos and play-testing.

This is the case for Clance M. Morring, whose board game is a unique take on Chess. His design fuses figurines and tactics from the  world of war-gaming with one of the oldest games around to create a particularly engaging product he calls BATTLE THIS!

Promoted as a military version of Chess, the game pits two players against one-another on a traditional Chess board with three differing types of pieces: an infantry-man, a tank and an airplane. Set-up in the classic two column starting formation of Chess pieces, BATTLE THIS! proceeds in the same turn-based order with the modified pieces of this variation each having their own methods of defeating other pieces; planes fly diagonally, infantry ‘run’ forward and creep back and sideways, and tanks target diagonal squares while moving forward at a slow pace.

At first sight, the hand-painted miniatures, which are surplus plastic army-men, tank miniatures and planes mounted on clear-colored bases along with the sparsely designed board itself carries with it a  rugged workshop feel that lacks the polish of a professionally made product typical of your average Kickstarter fare. However, what was surprising about the BATTLE THIS! was that after the about the fifth move the Gaming zone in my brain seemed to switch on and the tactical aspects of the Game jumped out at me.

The unique moves of the pieces, essentially a variation on Chess, infused the game with what I felt was a distinctive feel for the chaotic aspects of military campaigns; the fact that infantry and planes could move back and forth across the battle-field and conquer squares with lighting speed or through slow marches really gave the game individualistic flavor.

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Mr. Morring demonstrated the game itself to me recently and during the session I had the chance to ask him a few questions and get some insights into its history, and the challenges he faced as an independent designer with his first game:

Mr. Morring, when did you begin production on your game?

“I start producing my games in the months of February through May of 2012 and then I released them to the public for sale in June of 2012. So far I have made 500 games, sold 434 and is now left with 66 games to sell.”

What’s the process for getting your game, BATTLE THIS! to your customers, do you use outside manufacturers or do you do everything by hand?

“I self-publish. The entire BATTLE THIS! Board Game is hand-made and I manufacture, package, shrink warp, box and ship them from my home. My buyers are receiving the original Inventor’s copy, that may one day become a classic collector’s edition. This is one of the many reason why I am able to market and sell my BATTLE THIS! Board Game so well.

Production time: It takes me at least two days to make one set, that’s because I have to hand paint all the Brown playing pieces brown and then touch them up the next day after it dries and I have to glue all the Soldiers and Airplanes onto their bases. So instead of just hand producing one game at a time, I try to average about 50 games a week; it’s much easier and quicker.”

Where did you get the idea for BATTLE THIS!?

“My BATTLE THIS! Board Game came to me in a dream I had 20 something years ago. It was a dream about two creature like entities pitting us humans against one another; to them it was just a game but to us it was real life war. The entire rules and concept and unique strategy was given to me in this dream, thus “BATTLE THIS!” was born. Till this very day there’s no other game like it on the market and I own all exclusive rights.”

What markets have you sold your game in, what type of web presence do you have?

“The market that my board game is selling in are: Toys and Games, Board Games and Strategy Abstract Board Games. Since I had 20 something years of researching the Toy Industries and savings, it was not difficult for me at all to get into the market, it became a matter of when to get into the market, not how. After gathering all my resources for the supplies I needed to produce my BATTLE THIS! Board Game, myself, the 1st thing I did was design my BATTLE THIS! Website and BATTLE THIS! Blog Site in 2012, then I started selling my board game on my job, in my neighborhood, on the streets, in the parks, at board games meet ups, on Amazon and now on eBay. Form June of 2012 till now, I have hand produced 500 games.”

What were some of the challenges you faced as an independent game designer?

“I didn’t experience any difficulties getting my board game to market because they are originals, the problem I did encounter was how to hand produce the games. After a few trials & errors and wasted materials at a costly expense, I did manage to work it all out. Nobody was willing to help me financially and physically take on this project; I had to do everything all by myself. I received no support what so ever from my family, certain neighbors and close friends that I use to hang out with. The woman I loved made me choose between her and my game, so she ended up leaving me as well in 2011. She made it very clear, she never wanted me to start this project. Those around me said that I am 24 years late and that no one plays board games anymore. They told me that I’ll be just wasting my time, money and effort, that I’m living in a fantasy world, selling people a dream. Those who I gave so much of myself to and thought was for me, were honestly, spiritually against me. A year later, my BATTLE THIS! Board Game sales and the contacts I have made, have proven them wrong.

This has been a very lonely journey for me, I was surrounded by negative thinking people who had been praying for me to fail. What keeps me going, is my love for my board game, my belief in myself and the BIG picture I’m chasing after. I’m a very focused and  disciplined person who has learned to use the negative vibes as the match to light my fire and push me into my blessing.

The feedback I received, once my BATTLE THIS! Board Game has been released, are very positive. People are so impressed with the product, how it’s put together and packaged. They love the fact that the rule book is only two pages, the game is easy to learn and not complicated but challenging. For a home-made game, my customers are getting a really good quality, package fun play board game.”

What do you see as the next steps in promoting and distributing BATTLE THIS!?

 “My goal for 2014 is to have BATTLE THIS!  made as an app and into software, also to have the board game itself professionally manufactured by a Toy company. For more information about me, my journey and the Battle This Board Game, please visit my website http://battlethisboardgame.com “

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Given the hobby’s humble beginnings, its great to see that independent, self-made creators are still out there in the Gaming world, so when you get a chance, why not head over to the BATTLE THIS! website, support an indie designer by purchasing a copy of BATTLE THIS! and

Game Forth!

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Player Loss / Opportunity

It happens to the best groups, it happens to the worst groups- eventually every Gaming crew has a loss of a player or two, or three or, even all of them.

It can be a tough thing even assembling enough players at a table on a regular basis, but once a solid and reliable group has formed, any loss to consistent players can feel like a threat to the continuation and the future of the campaign. Despite these losses there is an interesting opportunity that this event can provide to a gaming group, provided there are enough players to make a table still viable.

In my weekend home-game we’ve had our share of player adds and player…deletes? But through it all there’s been a core group that has been around from the beginning. This continuity has provided stability and also reassurance I think to the players and to myself as the Game Master.  It has given both myself and the group license to try all sorts of ventures in the gaming world that a less predictable group might not have done for fear of keeping the player base content.

One of the things that it has allowed us to do is run a separate party within the larger Fourth Edition Campaign that we are engaged in that is comprised of these ‘lost heroes’. Calling themselves the Helm’s Heroes (after a particular deity’s lost keep in the fantasy world of Faerun), the group is a conglomerate of players who over the years we have been playing together, came and went with the passage of time.

Some of these Heroes were veteran members of the group who due to job or family had to leave the group, others were one or two session dilettante’s- as one of our resident comedian’s humorously dubbed a particular stop-over PC, ‘two-session Sam’.

What we created with this second group of Player Characters was an entire party, with a much less serious, much more comical tone that incorporated the remembered aspects of these wayward former members and interlopers. To me, this provided the group a few things that I really wanted to incorporate into the group.

Chiefly, it expanded on the concept of continuity; player’s got the sense that their characters had a place even if they had to leave the campaign, not just any place, but a sort of hallowed remembrance status, where other players would take up their characters’ mantle long after they left the group. This may not be an appealing idea to some players, they may prefer to control the destiny of their characters from start to finish, but so far we haven’t run into any players who’ve objected to the idea (because they aren’t around!)

Secondly this party of Heroes also gives a bit of reinforcement to the original party and to the members who show up week in and week out. Its a bit of a positive affirmation as to the importance of the group and to the dedication of its members. Helm’s Heroes may be off doing their own thing that may be every bit as adventurous and awe-inspiring, but the real campaigners keep chugging along, building up their repertoire and experience.

All in all its a different approach to dealing with player loss; instead of delegating one-time or a few week members to the mists of forgotten memory, Helm’s Heroes provides a good concrete way of coping with the real-world challenges in getting a good mix of players together on a consistence basis.

So if you’ve had a player loss due to a move, a job change, or just wander off, rather than never speaking about them or their character again, why not let one of your current players inhabit them for a session or two? If you’ve suffered enough change of seats over the life of your campaign group, why not compose an entire party of these Lost Heroes, and have some fun by giving the players a chance to put a new take on a familiar personage, and above all let them,

Game Forth!

  • Player loss can come from without as well as within, check out this humorous approach to how the Gaming world suffers from player stealing and edition indigestion: Edition Wars.

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