Game Enlightenment

Game Enlightenment is part two of a dual posting in honor of #TabletopDay, written by my wife and professional educator, Sarah Smith. To read part one, written by me, click here! -Melvs

Albert Einstein says, “Play is the highest form of research.” When I see quotes from Mr. Einstein, I always think that it might be slightly cliche to use them in my writing, but this just fit my perspective on gaming so well.

I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.

-Sarah Smith

Being a fourth grade teacher, I am constantly trying to find ways to appeal to the minds of learners. Today, more than ever, our learners yearn for new ways of thinking. So many of the strategies in teaching that have been used are timeless and will continue to be important. I will in no way negate the greatness of memorization, repeated exposure, pencil on paper, standard algorithm, or proper spelling and grammar. Yet, I find myself along with many of my colleagues, attempting to pull every learner’s mind into the crave of enlightenment.

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Playing games seems to be one way to inspire young learners. Board games, card, interactive sport games, and role playing games are proven ways that teach learners how things work. There are many strategies and skills that come from play. I want to address, that I also think unstructured play can be great for learners as well. Going outdoors and using imagination is simply amazing. But, in this piece I would like to stick to the “structured” form of play that I have had the pleasure of introducing in my classroom, and at a very recent dual school event. A few strategies, that I have experienced both for myself and observed with learners, include things like mental math, re-reading, problem solving, note taking, perseverance and collaboration. Ask any gamer, and the strategies would most likely go on and on. The skills that I have observed include interacting appropriately with others, using expansive language to communicate thoughts, goal setting and organization of materials. The increase in these strategies and skills have resulted in learners wanting to participate even in undesirable subjects. They experience increased reading and math levels. There is an obvious increase in classroom comradery, goal setting, and above all else FUN!

forbidden island

 

I have used games in my classroom from teaching Kindergarten in an inner city charter school to my current fourth grade classroom in a rural community. In all of my years I have been able to use a variety of games to teach life and academic skills, and how to have fun while learning. Last night was our first Mother/Son game night, that I organized with a group of parents at my school. It was one of most invigorating events I have organized this year. Playing games is always enjoyable for me, but to share it with learners and parents was like watching your D20 land on a critical hit!

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The evening was a series of fun “carnival” like games in the gym, pizzas, snacks and conversations in the cafeteria, and (my biased favorite) tabletop games in the library. When you walked into the library it was a series of moms and their sons conversing with other moms and sons on goals and strategies of the games. Some of the most popular games were Forbidden Island, Machi Koro, SmashUp, King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride, Chaos and Alchemy. There were of course some standards as well, Checkers, Candyland and Connect 4. My husband, Kevin Smith @sharndm and friend/colleague Shane Johnson @mrshanejohnson8 ran the room with ease. I have to say, I was super impressed with the amount of kids that were able to just pick up the goals of the games. Shane is the gifted instructor at our school, and I have seen him utilize his classroom for a way to use tabletop games to guide learning through multiple intelligence styles. Many of his students attended, and it was very obvious that they have made great strides in communication skills through tabletops. The evening ended in raffling off some games, a donated laptop computer, and lots of smiles. I drove home on cloud Valinor.

machi koro

I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.

-Sarah

Big Games, Small Learners

I can think of no finer subject on International Tabletop Day than stories of our younger generations being introduced to the joys of tabletop gaming! Many of you know that I spend at least one afternoon a month volunteering at my local library, teaching teenagers how to play, and run, Tabletop Roleplaying games. This isn’t a story about me though, I want to send up some accolades to the duel efforts of my wife, Sarah, and her co-worker Shane on their efforts to bring the joys of gaming to their students at Wright City West Elementary, here in Missouri, and find ways to encourage learning through these games as well.

shanes room

Just over a year ago Sarah began helping Shane develop a board-gaming curriculum in his Spectrum classes. See, Shane works with their district’s Gifted program. The only experience I have with children in such programs is having been in one myself. Many times these kids are incredibly bright, but may lack some of the social skills that make utilizing their gifts, in an effective manner, difficult. Shane has spent countless hours figuring out how collaborative board gaming, and even games where one needs to strategize against multiple opponents, into ways to develop social skills and analytical strategic reasoning. I think most of us realize, deep down, that tabletop gaming easily accomplishes these duel needs, and likely more. Personally I keep pestering Shane to write a piece for the blog with even more details surrounding his excellent program.

Shames room

Shane’s students love Machi Koro. Both the original & Bright Lights Big City

Sarah, being something of a board gaming guru herself, spent plenty of time introducing Shane to games she loves playing. Letting him know what she thought might be a good fit for his students. This wasn’t really enough for her though, she really wanted to devise a method to bring her love of gaming to the student en masse. She came upon an idea through her work with the Parent\Teacher committee that she helms as the teacher coordinator for the group. The last two years they had put on a successful Father\Daughter Dance but had never done anything for the mothers and the sons of their school. Sarah saw this as a perfect time to inject some gaming into the equation. She pitched the idea of a Mother\Son Game night, and the group took to the idea and I have to say, last night was a big success!

For a first time event, there was a large showing. Obviously games of all stripes were on the agenda, like the physical games in the gymnasium, but Shane and I ran a room with tables littered with board games for people to enjoy. One of the challenges we faced was the fact that the event was only going to last for two hours so we had to pick games we owned that would allow for multiple plays within that time frame. I ended up mostly helping introduce people to Gamewright’s Forbidden Island. I’m happy to say that both groups survived the sinking island and flew off to victory. Shane did a lot of floating around, assisting with multiple games and I spent a bit of time helping new players learn Iello’s King of Tokyo. Even got to help folks play a little of Michael Iachini’s Chaos and Alchemy (a game I was fortunate enough to playtest way back when!)

One of the best things about our board game room was hearing parents talk about how they had never known games like this existed. They expected the board game room to contain all the board games of their youth, and while we did provide games like Connect Four, Operation, Candyland, Sorry, etc., they typically wanted to try their hand at the new stuff. It is a testament to Sarah’s investment into this idea that many walked away intent on discovering more “games like this”. Especially because they could see how much their kids loved playing these new games. I sincerely hope we’ve created some burgeoning gamers out there!

game night library

The library for the Mother\Son Game Night!

Sarah has told me she wants to build on this, make it more than just a thing done for Mother\Son night, she trying to think on ways to build it up! Perhaps dedicate a full Saturday to inviting the families of surrounding communities to play games at one of the school buildings. The thought is fanciful of course, lots of logistics involved there, but it’s certainly a wonderful idea I’d love to see come to fruition. If anyone has the drive to see it done, of course, it’s my wife.

I just can’t wait to see the different ways Sarah and Shane bring tabletop gaming into the lives of their students. I know Shane wants to learn more about tabletop role playing games next, he’s only dabbled, and I’m excited at the prospect of assisting him in that goal. I know through personal experience that kids and teens can learn a lot from games like Dungeons and Dragons, thorough my work at the library, social skills, reading\writing, and arithmetic. It’s all there, packaged in a fun way that encourages collaborative teamwork as well. I’m only an amateur in the field of “teaching” with these tools though, in the hands of experts like Shane and Sarah it could do some really cool things.

-Melvs

If you enjoyed this article you are going to love Sarah’s. She delves into what teaching through learning means for her. I urge you to check it out!

Decades of Tales from the Yawning Portal

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Tales from the Yawning Portal features seven iconic adventures and dungeons collected from the 40+ year history of Dungeons and Dragons. Updated for the fifth edition of the game we are treated with some of the most famous titles out there, not only from the early days but with many picked from the pages of years recently past as well. Another nice little touch is adding in details of the Yawning Portal itself in the introduction for GMs to use in their campaigns.

I love the idea of this book, it holds so much use for just about any Game Master out there. If you are a beginner, the wealth of resources provided to you by having all of these adventures close at hand is simply fantastic. It provides you something to run for your group if you find you aren’t up to crafting one on your own. If, rather, you feel like taking your first crack at adventure design, how could you do worse than some of the most famous quests ever built? Experienced GMs will likely use this book to run some of these iconic games for fun or pull ideas from the pages. Either way, this book has some serious use!

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The book itself is as gorgeous and well crafted as always. Binding seems solid and the artwork excellent. I especially like that though the book maintains a cohesive look there are dozens of little touches to each adventure to mark their uniqueness. It’ll look really nice on the shelf next to my other 5e products, and will certainly shine behind the screen.

Let’s dive into what adventures have been chosen shall we? The book prints the adventures in the ideal order you’d want, by character level. You’ll soon see that if you were to play these adventures from one end to the other you’d have a nice character progression!

The_Sunless_Citadel

Chapter 1 – The Sunless Citadel – by Bruce Cordell, published in 2000. Original Edition, 3rd.

A buried citadel brings the dangers of blighted nature and your more typical monsters in this dungeon run for players of 1st level in anticipation of advancing to 3rd. Looking through this one I can see that this would be a great starter adventure for new GMs and new players alike. As cool as everything leading up to it is, I think the best part of this adventure lands on the climactic battle. I don’t want to reveal much, but the final challenge is really where it’s at.

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Chapter 2 – The Forge of Fury – by Richard Baker, published in 2000. Original Edition, 3rd.

The Forge of Fury was originally designed to be a direct sequel to The Sunless Citadel so it’s no surprise that it works best for characters starting at 3rd level, it should take them to the 5th level. You could easily slide this adventure into any campaign though. Once more the players will find themselves in some ruins, this time an old Dwarven Stronghold. As you’d imagine, it’s brimming with dangerous monsters just waiting to get a piece of the PCs. That’s not where the adventure ends though, they’ll find themselves deeper and deeper into the goings on and the earth itself. The last fight is about as iconic as it gets!

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Chapter 3 – The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan – by Harold Johnson & Jeff R. Leason, published in 1980. Original Edition, 1st.

Let’s do the Time Warp folks! Hailing from before I was born we have an adventure that gets off to a thunderous start, quickly pitting the PCs against its foes. One of the coolest aspects of this adventure comes from its homage to Mayan and Aztec imagery & design. From all accounts the authors went to great lengths to study the cultures before producing the story-line. The result is really immersive and feels very different from your traditional crawl. I really love this one and plan to run it for my group first chance I get! Oh, and this one is geared toward PCs of 5th level and will take them to, or near, 8th level.

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Chapter 4 – White Plume Mountain – by Lawrence Schick, published 1979. Original Edition, 1st.

White Plume Mountain is one of the better known adventures from the early days. The concept is pretty excellent, there’s a village near a volcano and superstitious chatter abounds! People near the volcano tend to disappear as well. Now some highly valued magical weapons have disappeared and White Plume Mountain seems to be mixed up in the whole ordeal. Hosting some great baddies to fight, plenty of magic items to grab, and intriguing rooms inside a volcano, this adventure is a great place to delve into! As expected this adventure runs best for characters of 8th level and will likely end up around 9th-10th level.

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Chapter 5 – Dead in Thay – by Scott Fitzgerald, published 2014. Original Edition 5th.

Technically Dead in Thay was crafted during the playtest period leading into 5th Edition, but now its been fully developed. This adventure is a sprawling dungeon that pits the adventurers against some truly renown evildoers in the Forgotten Realms, the Red Wizards of Thay. The Red Wizards have obtained ownership of a dungeon, known as The Doomvault, that frankly grants them access to too much power. It has tipped the scales too much in their favor and they need to be stopped. This is an all out dungeon crawl of epic proportions for PCs beginning at 9th level and should end with them at 11th. It’ll take time though, this place is huge, easily the largest dungeon in the book!

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Chapter 6 – Against the Giants – by Gary Gygax, published 1981. Original Edition AD&D

Written by Gygax himself, Against the Giants was originally a compilation of adventures written that pre-date the official release of Dungeons and Dragons. The concept begins simple enough, giants roam the civilized lands antagonizing the populace. The PCs are tasked with removing the threat. As high level adventurers now, 11th level or higher, they are to be considered some of the “go to” folks for handling such a menace. I really like the fact that this adventure hold so many named enemies who can harry the adventurers later if not dealt with in full when first encountered. You get a taste of a lot of giants and their strongholds here, truly a feat to take them all out! This adventure would fit nicely into Storm King’s Thunder if you can find a place for it.

ToH

Chapter 7 – Tomb of Horrors – by Gary Gygax, published 1978. Original Edition OD&D

We knew it would make the cut. Even some who have never played a game of D&D in their lives know a thing or two about this one. It’s even iconic enough to have earned a place in the book Ready Player One as one of the first big pop culture references. To hear Gary Gygax say it, Tomb of Horrors is an adventure for players who crave a mental challenge. It doesn’t feature a ton of baddies but it makes up for that with trap after trap, and puzzle after puzzle. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal, but you can bet I’m going to read over the 5th edition version to see if I can suss out what makes this dungeon tick. This is the penultimate adventure of the book though and were your players to play them all back to back (and a decent GM would easily find a way to connect them all) your PCs will likely enter this dungeon at around level 15 or higher and end at level… well they probably won’t survive it to be honest.

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The book rounds itself off with some pretty good appendixes. There are certain magic items and monsters found within the pages of this book that can’t be found elsewhere, so it’s obviously nice to have some extra space to store those. If I’m being honest I would love to have every magic item and every monster referenced in each adventure located at the end of each chapter they are found in, but I get the idea of not creating extra bulk for the printers. The new items and monsters are some really cool treats too.

As I said before this book is really useful and would make an excellent addition to an aspiring GM, or even an old hat’s bookshelf. Each adventure is really well laid out and the updates help it fit really finely into this new age of Dungeons and Dragons. I hope to see more inventive additions to this line of books!

-Melvs

 

Fresh To War: Uboxing the Warmachine & Hordes New Releases for April 2017

*It’s a new month so it’s time for some new miniatures from Privateer Press! This time the faction of note is none other than Khador. Now, Nick is already our most learned member of the group when it comes to Warmachine\Hordes, so it is no surprise I tap him so often for these reviews. This time though, we are talking about his main faction. This leaves no other choice than to once again welcome Uncle Grumps to the page. Take it away bud!

What’s up, Jerks? Uncle Grumps here with another quick look at some new releases from Privateer Press. Today we’ll be focusing on the glorious Empire of Khador.

First up: Assault Kommander Strakhov & Kommandos

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP $24.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“Assault Kommander Oleg Strakhov has spent decades carving a bloody trail through the kingdoms of western Immoren, eliminating high-profile targets and destabilizing opposing forces with well-orchestrated strikes. Strakhov stands as a Khadoran legend. Those who tell of his deeds speak of him as more specter than man, an unseen force capable of accomplishing impossible tasks under cover of night and leaving no evidence of his passage.”

Strakhov 2 is Khador’s newest warcaster unit. Strakhov’s stats are similar to those of his previous incarnation. He’s gained a point of MAT and DEF but lost a point of ARM. Strakhov has also kept his Pathfinder ability, which allows him to ignore rough terrain, his immunity to fire and corrosion damage, and his ability to ignore gas/cloud effects thanks to his Alchemical Mask. The Assault Kommander has also picked up a few new tricks. He’s gained an ability called Tactical Flexibility which allows him to give his unit Reposition [5”], Stealth, or Overtake for one round. On top of all that, he can also Assault, letting him make a ranged attack as part of a charge. Strakhov is armed with two Trench Swords. These are magical, POW 11 melee weapons that come with Grievous Wounds and the Combo Strike ability. Combo Strike is a special attack that allows Strakhov to add the POW of his weapon twice to the damage roll. Strakhov’s ranged weapon is the Death Whisper Carbine, a range 8” POW 6 gun that halves the ARM of models hit thanks to Armor-Piercing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two Kommandos that make up Strakhov’s unit. Their stats are similar to their Kommander’s. The Kommandos have one point less in MAT and ARM, and 3 points less in DEF. They share the following abilities with Strakhov: Alchemical Mask, Immunity: Corrosion, Immunity: Fire, Assault, and Pathfinder. They also have the ability to create a 3” AoE smoke bomb as a special action. The Kommandos are armed with the same Death Whisper Carbines as the Kommander and Trench Swords. These melee weapons are POW 11 and have Brutal Charge which gives them + 2 to charge attack damage rolls. The fun continues on Strakov’s spell card. His first spell is Inviolable Resolve, a low cost upkeep that gives a friendly Faction model/unit +2 ARM and prevents affected models from being moved by pushes or slams. Next is an interesting little spell called Last Stand. This a low cost upkeep that gives a friendly Faction model/unit and additional die on its melee attack and melee damage rolls. The catch is that after the model makes a melee attack, it’s destroyed at the end of your turn. Next up is Lock the Target, a low cost, POW 10 offensive spell that prevents the targeted model from running, charging, slamming, or trampling. He also has Quicken, a moderately priced upkeep that give a friendly Faction model/unit +2 SPD and +2 DEF against ranged and magic attacks. Last but not least, we have Return Fire, a dirt-cheap spell that allows the affected friendly Faction model to make a basic melee or ranged attack after it is targeted by an enemy ranged attack. Strakov’s feat is called Mission Critical. It gives friendly Faction warrior models in Strakov’s control range +3 ARM, Tough, and Feign Death.

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I haven’t had a chance to get a game in with Strakov yet (Between the release of Persona 5 and the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, my free time is currently occupied.), so be advised that this article is going to be more Theory Machine-y than usual. Inviolable Resolve will work well with Iron Fang Pikemen, Man-o-War Shocktroopers, or any of Khador’s other stellar units. Last Stand gives you some interesting options. Keep in mind that the spell doesn’t have to be cast on warrior models. A Berserker with three focus and Last Stand sounds pretty nasty. Quicken will help you deliver your troops to the front line swiftly and, hopefully, in one piece. Return Fire seems like it will work best on a ‘jack or another hardy target. The free attack triggers after the attack on your model is resolved, so you need to survive if you want to tag the enemy back. Strakov looks like a lot of fun to play. He has to tools to ably support your army and his unit is capable of causing plenty of mayhem themselves. I can’t wait to get him on the table.

Next up: Greylord Forge Seer

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP $24.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“More than just craftsmen, Forge Seers also take to the battlefield alongside the warjacks they help create. These Greylords apply their knowledge of magic and mechanika to imbue the weapons of warjacks with the power needed to cut down unnatural foes who are more than flesh and steel. Clad in Man-O-War armor, Greylord Forge Seers charge into battle with the hiss of steam in their ears and the chill of winter at their fingertips.”

The Greylord Forge Seer is a monster of a model. In my opinion, it’s one of the better sculpts that Privateer has recently released. The Seer’s statline is what you would expect from a Man-o-War Greylord. He’s low SPD and DEF, high ARM, middling MAT, and eight damage boxes. The Seer brings a slew of useful abilities to the battlefield. He’s got Immunity: Cold and Battle Wizard as you’d expect from a high ranking member of the Greylord Convenant and the Repairable rule common to the Man-o-War models. The Seer is also a ‘Jack Marshal with a unique Drive called Dark Sigils. This Drive gives the Warjack under the Seer’s control the Magic and Blessed properties on its melee and ranged weapons. To top it all off, the Greylord Forge Seer has Magic Ability [7] and access to three spells. Empower gives a focus point to a friendly Warjack and gets rid of Disruption. Hoarfrost is low range, high damage AoE spell causes Stationary on a critical hit. Winter’s Wind gives a friendly model that’s immune to cold the Freezer ability. Freezer causes enemy models (without immunity to cold) that end their activation near the affected model to become Stationary. The Forge Seer is armed with a magical POW 14 Rune Weapon that freezes enemy models on critical hits. The Greylord Forge Seer is well worth the 4 points it costs to bring him to the table.

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It’s notable that the Greylord Forge Seer is the only model in the game to have both access to both ‘Jack Marshall and Empower. When you add in his Drive, the Seer is one of the most powerful ‘Jack Marshalls in the game. A ranged ‘jack with the Dark Sigils drive can be useful for taking out annoying incorporeal models like Pistol Wraiths. The Seer has no problems mixing it up in melee if his ‘jack gets totaled. His Battle Wizard ability can help him attack with Hoarfrost from unexpected angles or cover himself with Winter’s Wind to discourage enemies from leaving models to close to him. The Greylord Forge Seer seems like he’ll work great with Khador Warcasters who like to keep all their focus to themselves.

Lastly: The Khador Command Book

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP – Softcover $34.99

MP – Hardcover $44.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

In the cold north of western Immoren lies the mighty Khadoran Empire, whose massive military epitomizes the national ideals of strength and resilience. This formidable force is led by powerful warcasters as unrelenting in battle as the bitter Khadoran winter and back by the most brutal and heavily armored warjacks ever to stride the battlefields of Immoren. With thundering ranks of bold imperial soldiers, howling madmen armed with ancient relics, and potent arcanists wielding forgotten and forbidden magic, the army of Khador marches with on singular goal: to carve out the greatest and most dominant empire the Iron Kingdoms has ever witnessed.

Forces of WARMACHINE: Khador Command provides the foundation you need to lead the empire’s conquest with:

  • • Complete rules and profiles for the proud warcasters and unstoppable warjacks of Khador, including two new warcasters and a new Man-O-War solo.
  • • Detailed history and background information, including an in-depth look at Khadoran warcasters and warjacks.
  • • A painting guide full of tips and inspiration to help you create an army as individual as you are.
  • • Two new theme forces that allow you to create specialized Khador armies with specific benefits.

FOR THE EMPRESS AND THE MOTHERLAND!

Like the others released before it, the Khador Command Book features the complete rules for the majority of the released models in the faction. It also contains additional info about the Khadoran military and the larger than life characters that wage war on the Empire’s behalf. The Command Book also includes an in-depth painting guide. There are guides for how to reproduce the studio paint scheme and for two fantastic variant schemes. I expected great things from the Khador Command Book and I wasn’t disappointed. I heartily recommend it to any true suns or daughters of the Motherland!

Looks like that’s all the time I’ve got for today. If you’ll excuse me, I have to return to the not too distant future. ‘Til next time, folks!

-Uncle Grumps

Understanding Character Attachment

 

Today we have a real treat. After reading my post regarding his research project, Tyler Beckett has graciously offered to expand upon the subject by offering a point of view from the researcher’s own mind. So please welcome Tyler’s debut on Melvin Smif’s Geekery!

Did you know that playing a taller avatar in a video game can trick you into driving a hard bargain? Did you know that players are more willing to help out women characters in video games, regardless of the gender of the player? That’s not the least bit rational, but it’s true. We are all affected by these tiny decisions that game designers make, and most of us don’t know or notice.

Video game research is well-funded when compared to tabletop research; it’s a bigger industry, and there’s more attention and money. So they get to explore all these connections, get to ask what exactly influences player decisions. For me that means I’m reading research about who plays WoW and why or how Dragon Age lets me sleep with my favorite characters, and I’m wondering how I can apply that to tabletop. Usually that’s enough.

But this time, folks, it is not, and I am here specifically to discover something about tabletop RPGs. Your usual host, Melvin Smif, was kind enough to talk about it in his own post, so if you haven’t already, go there to hear his thoughts. But the gist of this little article is this: I am conducting a research project into our amazing hobby, and I ask for your help.

Do players form strong bonds with their characters? To many of us, the answer may seem obvious. You spend hours playing and healing and leveling your kickass dragonborn fighter; how could you not? But I want to verify that it’s true for our community, and I want to go even further: do we form strong bonds with our characters even when they are dramatically different from us?

I am asking, specifically, about gender and sexuality. Do we become attached to our characters even when they are a different gender, or if they love people we would never love? Are we as attached to those characters as the ones that are more similar to us? Those are big questions, and like the rogue who thinks they probably know which vial is a potion and which is poison, I dislike uncertainty.

So let’s investigate. I have a survey here which will ask basic questions about your attachment and motivations in tabletop RPGs. Or if you’d rather, take this survey about times you’ve played characters with different genders and/or sexualities. Just one per person, please, and that will get us great research.

I started by discussing how subtle game design choices affect players, and I want to bring it back to that, because really that’s why this research is important. If video gamers are more likely to help female avatars than male, should tabletop games use more disguised succubus to trap us? If all video gamers, regardless of gender, frequently heal more when they have women avatars than when they have male avatars, should Wizards of the Coast and Paizo nerf women clerics? Those aren’t serious suggestions, intended more to point out how silly our own unconscious choices can be.

But what if game masters and game designers learn how to adapt to these quirks? What if, through this research, we learn that players can form attachment regardless of character identity, and we learn how that happens? Maybe our games could use these discoveries to enrich our experiences. Maybe they could incorporate the subtle mechanics so that when men play as women or lesbians play as bisexuals the differences help us become more attached, in much the same way we already love characters whose quirks are entirely different from our own.

It’s a big goal, and I don’t know for sure that I’ll pull it off. But I play tabletop, and if I’ve learned anything from those games, it’s how rewarding our adventures are when we take chances.

Tyler Beckett

Survey links:

https://t.co/s59nEApkTH

https://t.co/raNl8FSITG

Playing Against Type

I am a Roleplayer. When I play a tabletop RPG, I invest in my character & their relationships. When I GM a game, my NPCs have at least a thread of a backstory, or at least I’m ready and willing to invent one on the spot. Suffice it to say, I love to invest more time into characters and their drivers than I do the mechanics of the game itself. So when my good friend Tyler Beckett asked me to pass along the word of his research study into how people approach playing their PC’s and NPCs it got me thinking about the type of characters I’ve brought to the table as a player and a GM.

First and foremost I want to introduce Tyler’s research study, namely with the hope you will participate. I very rarely ask my readers to actually do something, basically I’m a “if you dig it, go for it” kind of guy, but this time I’m straight up asking you to take his surveys. Tyler’s research study is titled “The Effect of Gender & Sexuality on Character Attachment in Tabletop Role-Playing Games” and he is interested in how you approach playing RPGs. Whether you relish playing against your current standing in life (for reference I am a White, Heterosexual, Able Bodied, Male), or maybe you tend to adopt a similar character (or NPC) to who you are. Right below this paragraph I’m going to place two survey choices. I want you to answer one of them, if it isn’t too much of a bother. It will really help Tyler out!

Survey One: Have you ever played a Character with a different gender/sexuality? Take this Survey

Survey Two: Have you ever played characters who had the same gender and/or sexuality as you? Take this survey

With that out of the way, I want to talk a little bit about my own experiences.

I’m one of those people who will play the most interesting character (as I see it) for the game. If I encounter a game where the characters are pre-made I’m choosing who interests me the most, they don’t have to match my real life identifiers. I think this hearkens back to my days as an actor, as short lived as they were, I simply adore the improvisational storytelling that can lie at the heart of RPGs. I will say though, I’ve only once chosen to play against type when crafting a character of my own. More on that later.

When my core group and I play an RPG we typically play mostly along the lines of type. Our group is almost of the same sex that we identify with ourselves, and likely the same sexual orientation, if we ever really let that into the game. See, our RPG sessions have almost never allowed even the concept of having sex into the game. We are far more interested in the standard concepts of heroics to be our main drivers. I can’t point to a single gaming session where the love of a PC\NPC played any role in our gameplay. I haven’t even seem it in our casual side play. Keep in mind this is largely unrealistic but in core group’s RPGs we don’t always focus on realism, we focus on the parts that intrigue us as a whole, and a love life practically never figures into that.

As I have progressed as a player and GM, away from my core group, I’ve encountered a few situations where love\lust have been critical to the story. These situations were always really interesting to me, namely because they were a fresh perspective in tabletop gaming. Most notably was the game run by Mr. Hussman at Gen Con 2016. Love was at the center of the game and due to my relative inexperience with the concept “in game” it was wildly refreshing. Even when i had to take the mantle of a character against my real life “type”.

In the end I’d recommend anyone who plays an RPG to try and break the mold a little bit. It really refreshes the entire gameplay. Even if you find yourself more enthralled with mechanics than Roleplay, give it a try.

-Melvs

P.S. Please help Tyler by answering his surveys!

 

 

 

Fresh To War: Uboxing the Warmachine & Hordes New Releases for March 2017

*March has not been a friend to me, but I am back in action folks. Hope you all didn’t miss me too much! Though it may be a bit tardy, here are some of the recent offerings from our friends at Privateer Press!

I’m excited about this month’s review items because I have long considered obtaining a Hordes faction and Legion of Everblight happens to be the one I’ve decide to go with. I’ve done plenty of research into how this faction works but, I’ll admit,  I’m also a little nervous approaching this review. We’ll see just how well I have a handle on things as I give you my thoughts on my first two Legion pieces eh?

First up: Fyanna, Torment of Everblight

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Available as of 03/22/2017

MP $17.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

Fyanna, Torment of Everblight is one of Legion’s fiercest forward commanders. She leads small strike forces of blighted Nyss against key targets deep in enemy territory to make way for more substantial Legion forces. Having received the ultimate gift in the form of a shard Everblight’s athanc, Fyanna combines her skill as a formidable assassin with the power of the dragon’s deadly spawn.

Fyanna, Torment of Everblight began life as a combat solo. From everything I’ve read Fyanna1 was a bit overpriced, and pretty much mediocre at best. As a Warlock though, Fyanna2 strikes me as a pretty solid, forward pushing, force to be reckoned with. Looking at her stats alone she stands out as a solid front line fighter. High speed, strength, and Mat mixed with Dodge, Overtake, and a range of 4 inches with her barbed chain makes her very deadly on her own. Fyanna2 isn’t a combat solo anymore though so she comes with plenty of ways to add potency to the beasts, units, and solos that take the field with her.

The Torment of Everblight packs some truly nasty spells, namely Fury and Iron Flesh. Fury is overwhelmingly good for Legion because, as far as I can see, Legion’s Heavy Warbeasts come with low DEF anyway making for the offset of -1 DEF for the additional 3 STR hardly anything to concern yourself with. Not to mention it’s very cheap, at only 2 fury, and it’s an Upkeep. Iron Flesh could serve to pad up the Warbeast or, better yet, beef up an entire unit with its additional +2 ARM and a very helpful immunity to blast damage. I can see a great jamming unit come from this mixture. Her Feat is all about beefing up your units’ inability to get hit, adding +3 DEF and Dodge, for that deep forward push into the enemies’ ranks. Considering she also brings Overtake for herself, and as a Field Marshal, your forces can get very close and personal quickly, and with minimal casualties.2017-03-16 11-35-48.8022017-03-16 11-36-52.429

The only potential shortcoming I can see for Fyanna2 I can see come from the mixture of low Fury and excellent upkeep spells. Also, on a personal note, I had one Hell of a time putting this model together. Tons of small pieces, that require very fine dexterity to glue together. I feel I did a pretty OK job in the end though, with only minimal profanities thrown about. 2017-03-16 14-22-36.6532017-03-16 14-21-56.155

Next up: Azreal, Legion Nephilim Heavy Warbeast

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Available as of 03/22/2017

MP $59.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

A marriage of blighted blood and Nyss flesh, Azrael is the personal warbeast of Kryssa, Conviction of Everblight and manifests the greatest qualities of the nephilim. He possesses a cunning intellect and wields more power than most of his kin. A muscular, serpentine body and full, leathery wings propel Azrael through the sky, and his ash and flame scour the battlefield of all who would oppose the Legion of Everblight.

From what I can see Azrael is a pretty standard Heavy Warebeast stat-wise, and is actually kind of expensive. There is one extremely potent addition to this winged beast though, it’s Thrown Spear attack. This thing really packs a wallop! Azrael’s good SPD and power of flight will get it within its range of 10″ quickly. Azrael has eyeless sight, thus avoiding most concealment from its ranged attack. The Thrown Spear itself has a huge POW of 17 and carries with it the additional benefit of having the “Thrown” rule making it possible to actually beef up the damage from this ranged attack by increasing Azrael’s strength.  To add icing to the cake Thrown Spear also includes a Critical Smite that can push enemies away on a Crit and lastly we add in Reload1 allowing for another throw!

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Azrael comes with a number of other useful tools, a Bond with Warlock Kryssa, the “It Burns!” rule to alight melee attackers with the Fire Continuous effect, and has the Serpentine Rule to protect it from knock down. This beast seems like a potent ally on the field of battle, if you can afford that 21PC that is. It was also a blast to put together!

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Lastly: The Forces of HORDES: Legion of Everblight Command Rulebook

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Available as of 03/22/2017

MP – Softcover $34.99

MP – Hardcover $44.99

These books continue to be solid investments for those who wish to field their armies. Honestly, the details on the Privateer Press page spell the offerings out immensely well.

Hailing from the frozen northern wastes, the Legion of Everblight represents many different races gathered and corrupted by the insidious power of the dragon Everblight. Led by preternaturally potent warlocks, each of whom holds within her breast a shard of the dragon’s own essence, endless ranks of blighted Nyss and ogrun march forth to spread the dragon’s corruption to the farthest reaches of Immoren and beyond. This formidable army is backed by twisted and terrifying dragonspawn born from the very blood of Everblight’s generals and shaped by his own nightmarish imagination.

Forces of HORDES: Legion of Everblight Command provides the foundation you need to unleash the destructive will of the dragon upon your foes with:

  • • Complete rules and profiles for the blighted warlocks and terrible warbeasts of the Legion of Everblight, including two new warlocks and a new character warbeast.
  • • Detailed history and background information, including an in-depth look at Legion warlocks and warbeasts.
  • • A painting guide full of tips and inspiration to help you create an army as individual as you are.
  • • Three new theme forces that allow you to create specialized Legion of Everblight armies with specific benefits.

EMBRACE THE POWER OF A DRAGON!

That’s all for this month folks! Hopefully I generate some steam here and get a few more articles churning out!

-Melvs

Fresh To War: Uboxing the Warmachine & Hordes New Releases for February 2017

*Another month, another lineup of excellent miniatures from Privateer Press to showcase. This time hailing from those dark druidic denizens of the forest, the Circle of Orboros! As has become something of a monthly tradition I shall step aside and let Uncle Grumps chime in and tell you what’s what!*  – Melvs

What’s up, Jerks?  Uncle Grumps here again with another quick look at some new releases from Privateer Press.  Today we’ll be focusing on the Circle of Orboros.

First up is Una the Skyhunter

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Available as of 02/22/2017

MP $16.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“During her time tending the far-flung griffon roosts of the Circle, Una developed an unparalleled affinity with the winged beasts and now employs them to cut down opponents without mercy. Having refined her arcane command over the elements, she is able to call upon the howling gales and updrafts of the highest mountain peaks to shape the flow of battle.”

Una the Skyhunter is the epic version of Una the Falconer, Circle’s character lesser warlock.  Through her transition to a full-fledged warlock, Una has kept her affinity for the flying Warbeasts of the Circle.  Una’s statline is fairly average for a Warlock with the exception of her lower that average MAT of 5.  She also boasts a Fury 7, 15 hitboxes, and 29 Warbeast points.  Una’s main weapon is her Wind Strike, a magical attack with decent range and POW.  Wind Strike has 3 attack types  you can chose from when making an attack.  Black Penny allows Una to ignore the penalty for attacking a target in melee, Snipe gives her attack +4 RNG, and Thunderbolt pushes models directly away from Una.  Wind Stike also has Reload [2] which allows Una to spend Fury to make up to 2 additional attacks.  (I don’t know how someone would go about reloading a magic staff but apparently it’s no problem for the Skyhunter).  Rounding out her weapons is Talonstrike, a magical, 2” reach melee weapon with a low POW.  Una’s abilities include Bird of Prey which gives griffon Warbeasts in her control range Flank with other griffon’s in her battlegroup and Hawker which gives Sprint to Warbeasts with Flight in her Command range.  Between the extra damage die from Flank and the movement shenanigans possible with Sprint, you’ll want to load up Una with as many griffon Warbeasts as possible.

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Una has access to four spells.  The first is Hand of Fate, a low cost upkeep that lets a Faction model/unit roll an additional die for attack and damage rolls and then discard the lowest.  Mirage grants a Faction model/unit Apparition, which allows a model to be placed 2” from its current location during the Control Phase.  Twister is a low cost offensive spell that creates a 3” AOE cloud effect for one round.  Finally, Wind Wall is a moderately priced spell that causes non-magical ranged attacks to automatically miss the caster and any models completely with 3” of the caster.  Additionally, models affected by Wind Wall cannot make ranged attacks.  Una’s feat, From on High, gives Faction models with Flight in her control range +2 SPD and prevents friendly light Warbeasts from being targeted by melee attacks for one turn.

Scarsfell, Rotterhorn, and Razorwing Griffons all shine with Una.  On her feat turn, these light Warbeasts can threaten huge parts of the board.  Including a Gorax Rager for its Primal animus will allow you to buff your Griffons to even more ridiculous levels.  Keep in mind that Una’s Warbeasts must be within 8” of her to benefit from Hawker.  This can leave her vulnerable to a counterattack if you aren’t careful with your placement.  Use Wind Wall to keep her safe from shooting and Twister to block line of sight.  Una the Skyhunter brings an interesting bag of tricks to the table.  She’ll have your opponents warily watching the skies for the whole game.

The next model we’ll be looking at is Kaya the Wildheart

72102-kaya-the-wildheart

Available as of 02/08/2017

MP $29.99

From Privateer’s website:

“Atop her moon-white wolf Laris, Kaya the Wildheart rides at the head of swift forces fighting with fang and claw. She and Laris operate as one, Kaya skewering foes with her spear while the great wolf’s jaws clamp down on exposed throats. Any pack of beasts under Kaya’s command strikes with stunning speed and power, rendering the opposition incapable of counterattack.”

Apparently, Kaya is no longer content to just use Laris as a “barknode” and has decided to ride the poor doggo around the battlefield.  Kaya 3 has the similar stats to her two previous incarnations.  She has lost a point of DEF and gained +2 ARM.  Kaya’s weapon of choice is Mistral, a moderately powerful magical spear with 2” reach.  She also has a moderately powerful mount attack courtesy of Laris.  Kaya has the Pathfinder ability which allows her to ignore movement penalties from rough terrain and Reposition [3”] which allows her to advance 3” at the end of an activation in which she didn’t run or fail a charge.  On top of all that, she has Field Marshall Reposition [3”] which gives all Warbeasts in her battlegroup Repostion.

Kaya 3 has four spells to work with.  The first is Blood Spiller, an inexpensive, moderately power offensive spell that allows Warbeasts in Kaya’s battlegroup to charge or slam the model hit without being forced.  Next we have Fog of War, a moderately expensive upkeep that gives concealment to all models in Kaya’s control range.  Note that this includes enemy models.  Soothing Song is a dirt cheap spell that allows Kaya to remove 1 point of fury from each living Warbeast in her control range.  Kaya can only cast Soothing Song once per activation.  Finally we have Synergy.  This spell gives models in Kaya’s battlegroup a cumulative +1 bonus to melee attack and damage rolls (limited to +3)for each other model in her battlegroup that hit an enemy with a melee attack while in her control range.  Kaya’s feat, Moon Shadow, gives friendly Faction models +2 DEF, lets them ignore free strikes, and allows them to move through enemy models for one round.

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Just like her other incarnations, Kaya 3 is a warlock that wants plenty of Warbeasts in her battlegroup.  Synergy is an extremely powerful spell.  A Warpwolf Stalker that has warped strength and has the Synergy bonus is effectively MAT 9 and hits at POW 21.  Fog of War can help your melee beasts get into combat without getting shot up.  Soothing Song allows Kaya to take more living Warbeasts and lets her push those Warbeasts harder without fear of frenzy checks.  Any Circle melee Warbeast is going to work well in a Kaya 3 list.  Consider bringing a Gorax Rager or a Feral Warpwolf for the always useful Primal animus.  A unit of Shifting Stones can help with fury management and help keep you Warbeasts in the fight.  Kaya only has 6 fury to work with so bringing a Druid Wilder for the free upkeep might be a good investment.  Kaya the Wildheart brings a powerful set of abilities to the battlefield and she stands ready to lead your beasts to victory!

The last release we’ll be looking at today is the Circle of Orboros Command Book

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Available as of 02/08/2017

MP – Softcover $31.99

MP – Hardcover $41.99

Like the other two Command books that have been released, the Circle book contains the rules for the majority of the released models in the faction.  This book also contains a plethora of useful information about how the enigmatic Circle is structured and how its members wage war.  The Command book includes two new Theme Forces: The Bones of Orboros which focuses on the construct Warbeasts of the Circle, and The Wild Hunt which grants bonuses for bringing Wolf Sworn models and units.  The back of the book contains guides for how to recreate the look of the studio Circle paint scheme and guides for two amazing variant schemes.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who plays Circle or even has a passing interest in the Faction.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  As always, feel free to post any comments or questions you might have.  ‘Til next time, folks!

-Uncle Grumps

I Implore you, Kickstart this Geek: Bedlam Hall

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It twas merely a little over two years past that a small confederacy of role play designers, known under the droll moniker of “Monkeyfun Studios, LLC”, put forth a role playing game entitled Spirit of ’77. This bizarre little game placed an onus on its players of crafting stories one might find from that era of ill repute known colloquially as “the 70’s”. This game premise inevitably succeeded and procured more than enough funding to be a successful enterprise. Thus the myriads began to frolic as odd men and women from popular culture of that time. I even found myself dabbling in a distraction or two, once wearing the mantle of character similar to Colonel Sanders of all people. It twas naught but silliness, though I’d be remiss if I did not make mention that it could be said I rather enjoyed the experience. Let it not be said that I am without a sense of humor.

It appears that Spirit of ’77 will not remain the only production from this company however, as even now a new venture has taken shape. A member of this illustrious group, David Kizzia,  has designed a game entitled Bedlam Hall and placed its creation, once more, into the hands of potential investors via the website Kickstarter. Apparently it has generated some interest as it has reached already the agreed upon amount to which was needed for its funding. Were I one to resort to such base celebratory expressions as “whooping”, or “hollering”, now would be such a time as to exhibit such behavior. I will however simply offer a stoic nod and offer my felicitations.

What is Bedlam Hall you may ask? Well, if one cannot seek the answers themselves I suppose it behooves me to make it my duty to inform. I am but a servant in such regards after all. Bedlam Hall has the purpose of placing its players in the roles of much put upon servants in the great household of the Blackwood Family. They will then have the esteemed pleasure of serving at their masters’ beck and call diligently, and securing for themselves the prestige of being useful members of the staff. It is truly that simple, nothing else to worry one’s head about. What’s that? Rumors of the macabre? Well now, certainly every great family holds its own secrets and machinations. Who are we to question their day to day activities? We are there to serve and if that includes having to survive meager bouts of insanity or a run in with some eldritch horror, that strikes me as part of the job and need not be remarked upon! Honestly, you should be more careful not to besmirch the good Blackwood name!

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There are many ways to invest in this ghoulish enterprise but let me regal you with the price points that most intrigue me.

15

At merely fifteen dollars you can find yourself receiving this property in a digital format. This strikes me as the ideal manner to lay purchase on this product if you are of the same like as myself and fear overextending your meager, servant’s, earnings. It is at this level I found myself investing and I shall wait patiently to receive my earned reward.

40

 

If you’ve a mind to be a mite more spendthrift my suggestion would be to find your way to the transaction value of forty dollars. At this level not only would you receive a physical book and the digital copy, but it allows you access to all of the treacherous stretch goals I will go on to further explain if you’ll permit me to elaborate below. Keep mindful of the fact that this price point is by no means the most costly you can find yourself within. If you’ve the financial means to do so your potential rewards for backing can be quite intense!

 

As I made mention above this funding ask has already been met with success. Therefore if you were to wish to involve yourself with its investment you would find, with certainty, in receipt of a final product. At this point they are even successfully unlocking what many call “stretch goals”, or rather items in excess of the initial product itself. Currently those who have invested at a price point of fifteen dollars or more will also find themselves obtaining an adventure entitled Terrible Tale #1, my my no attempt to bury lede on that title eh? There are more terrible little goals in store in the event funding levels reach such heights. If, God forbid, they reach a level of funding that exceeds twenty thousand dollars we will all be subjected to a truly monstrous horror. There would be actual efforts made to create a roleplaying game surrounding the concept of a “Gruel Truck” in some fanciful setting. Why they would subject us to such a morbidly frivolous, indecent game is beyond me. It is simply out of taste! What improper individuals would want such a thing?! Alas, if things keep going as they are you may just see this come to fruition. Lord help us all.

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If it were put upon me to suggest whether or not to back this project I would be forced to lay bare my honest opine on the subject, and emphatically implore you to do so. It is with no regrets that I personally made purchase myself after all and it would be silly of me not to expect the same of you. Do yourself the justice of acquiring this offering will you? I do not doubt you will find yourself pleased. Now, off with you. You’ve a Kickstarter to explore!

Your humble servant,

Melvin

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I suppose you’ll be wanting a “sneak peak”, if you will. Well, if you must. Here is an example of a potential character one might play.

Kickstart that Geek! Dragon Brew Boardgame

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I’m fortunate enough to be friends with one of the team that worked on the development of Dragon Brew, Toby T. Gee.  You may recognize Toby from his blog, Roll and Groove, an excellent read that delves into his twin loves of board gaming and music. If you already follow his work, you may have noticed he hasn’t been as active of late (a loss to us all) but I choose to believe it’s because he has been diligently working with the team behind Dragon Brew to bring it to fruition. Toby helped them edit the rules and rulebook and has joined the rest of the team in marketing it to the masses prior to and during its Kickstarter run. It’s because of this welcomed relationship that I was able to play one of the prototypes of Dragon brew, back in May of last year, at Geekway to the West 2016.

Dragon brew mixes two of my favorite things, board games and craft brewing. Add in the perfect fantasy setting and you have a recipe for good fun. Apparently in “Brumancia”, the fantasy setting for the game, years of bitter war and conflict have been replaced by a brewing competition. If only our world were so noble. As a worker placement game you choose a fantasy race, each with its own special forms of brewing prowess (perhaps they start with more resources, or more gold, etc.). All the players then proceed through a turn of the game, brewing their special beers that they will eventually put before a panel of judges to win victory points for the place earned at each competition. When I played the game I was informed it was still in development but what I played felt pretty polished, and I had a blast playing. The only thing missing in the equation was a nice cold brew to compliment my gameplay (though, if I recall it was like 8am… I mean, I’ve started earlier… but still).

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This is August Games’ first product on Kickstarter but they’ve long been ingrained in the board gaming industry as lovers, and promoters, of the hobby. The man at the helm is Daniel G. George who was one of the founders of the Board Games and Brew podcast. Together with Kate Blevins, Jeff Cornelius, and Tom Lathos they’ve been podcasting about board games and beer since the fall of 2014. Daniel came up with the concept for Dragon Brew while chilling on the beach with his wife and a few brews on a rare sojourn from their children (I totally understand this). Reading his Designers Blog (an excellent read for those interested in the process of building a board game), things apparently just clicked in his head.

“Why not have a game where you take ingredient cards and lay them to make your own beers with custom names?  I grabbed my note book and sketched out cards lining up to create beers. I always ask myself “WHY” when I think of a new mechanic.  Why would players want to do this? What is the goal of the game?  To win prizes at a beer festival of course!  Judges with personalities and unique preferences!”

The wort was mashed, all that remained was a little fermentation of the core engine behind the game, and now of course we are at the bottling stage…ok, enough brewing puns, it might leave a bitter taste (ok, not sorry).

So let’s get into the pricing for the game, shall we? August Games keeps it simple. There are only three options remaining that get you the game.

49-dollars

At $49.00 this is your best bet to get the game at a reduced price. From what I understand the retail price will likely jump to $65.00 post Kickstarter. So basically it’s a good time to buy.

65-dollars

As you can see, buying in at the future retail price now will get you some extra goodies. Signed stuff is always cool, plus I dig the art!

190-dollars

Getting four copies for $190.00 is a great way for your FLGS to get a head start on shelving the game for future sale. Let them know about it!

At this point the game is already 94% funded, and could very well fund before I hit the “post” button. Backers will get this game, especially considering they’ve also partnered with Quartermaster Logistics (the sister company to Cool Stuff Inc.) for backer reward fulfillment and warehousing. Let’s take a gander at a few of the stretch goals that, while not inevitable, are certainly the next step once this funds! Here are the first three.

I’m a huge fan of the third Stretch Goal. It’s always a lot of fun when a game can boast it’s own style of Meeple. So like its first two stretches, most of the goals focus on adding a variety of playable races to the game. There are already a lot to choose from but adding more sounds like a ton of fun, and likely something you’ll only be able to get as an expansion to the game later on. Another nod toward the solid move it would be to back during the Kickstarter.

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What’s in the box you ask?

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As you can probably tell, I’m geeking out about this game. Get in there quick folks and get a copy. I’d love to see this game shoot through stretch goals! Take care folks!

-Melvs

P.S. With only a little more than one hundred tickets to Geekway to the West 2017 remaining, you might be able to corner Toby and I and force Toby to demo this lovely game for you!

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