Urge to Game Rising

For the last two years, I’ve been the DM for a Dungeons & Dragons game that nominally meets every other week. We’re currently going through the adventure path Out of the Abyss, but we’re over a year in and only just getting to the halfway point in the story. And the characters will need some grinding time before starting the next chunk at a higher level.

Using an adventure path has proven to be invaluable. It’s pretty rare that I can’t prepare the session day-of if I’m too irresponsible to give it more time during the week. But even with this amazing material, it’s a lot pull together mentally.

We’re going to take a little break and I’m super excited about it. Most of my players have expressed interest in DMing a one-shot or module. We’re going to let everyone have a turn behind the screen while I get my creative juices flowing again to do the latter portion of the adventure. I’m looking forward to playing and seeing what ideas our will-be-DMs have in mind.

So that got me feeling good. Then this week a freaking awesome episode of Tabletop was released: Fate Core.

I have seen the rulebook for Fate at my friendly local game shop before. But my roleplay experience has always been in fantasy worlds like D&D and Pathfinder. So I didn’t really see the need to learn a new system.

But this video has me itching. I want to play it so bad. Not sure this is an urge that can be stopped. Who’s in? I’ll have what Dr. Osgood was having!

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Instant Subscribe: Atomic Game Theory

Atomic Game Theory is a YouTube show hosted by Richard Malena.  Malena uses conflict theory and math to explain interesting choices in designer board games. There are only three episodes so far, but they cover some great games: Dominion, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Lords of Waterdeep.

Richard is a pleasant host and the writing displays clear, educational thinking. Something tells me Richard is the guy that reads the rulebook in its entirety then teaches his gaming group how to play the day-of. I’m that guy in my circle of friends so I grok you, Richard. Also, it’s produced by Angela Webber. Yes, that Angela Webber. She’s great too.

(Hat tip to Geek & Sundry)

Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease Recap

Shadows Over Innistrad, the new block of cards for Magic: the Gathering, officially goes on sale Friday. Last weekend I got to play in a prerelease sealed deck tournament at the Louisville Game Shop to get an early experience with these new cards.

During a pre-release tournament, each player is a given a special box of six booster packs from the new block to make a deck with a minimum of 40 cards. You also get a special promotional card for your collection, and prizes awarded to the top players. At our event each person in the tournament also got a couple extra Shadows Over Innistrad booster packs (that couldn’t be used in your tournament deck.)

Once everyone is registered and has their pack, you only get 30 minutes to make your deck before playing the first match. That’s actually my favorite part: quickly opening up all your new cards, examining them briefly, and whittling it down to an efficient 40(ish) cards with a simple plan to win.

I looked at going for Red+Black for the cheap creatures, some with transfrom, but didn’t have any options for a heavy hitter with those colors and couldn’t think through what my plan would be. If I had more werewolves maybe Red+Green would’ve worked.

Three mythic rares were included in my pack. Each stood out as a potential finisher.

Archangel Avacyn that transforms into Avacyn, the Purifier was a pretty obvious win condition. She was even on one of the event posters. Then I saw how many flyers I had overall and how well my Blue cards allowed for Investigation.

My plan became clear: Blue+White flyers, and investigate as much as possible to help my draw and increase chances of getting Avacyn, Geralf’s Masterpiece, and my last big flyer, Reaper of Flight Moonsilver.

avacyn.jpg
Avacyn, the Purifier

It’s a simple deck and wasn’t an overwhelming winner, but it was something I knew I could play. To start, I used every blue card I had then added all my white flyers. Since my blue strategy was mostly Investigation, Tamiyo’s Journal became an obvious artifact to thrown in there too.

Tamiyos Journal would let me sacrifice 3 clues to search my library for any of my heavy hitters from the deck. Oh, and it ensures I gain at least one clue every turn too – convenient!

After that five more white cards made the cut: Inspiring Captain, while not a flyer, is a formidable 3/3 with a buff for my whole board. Survive the Night provided more Investigation, with some buffing as a bonus. Silverstrike and Angelic Purge were my best removal spells in the whole pack (my black options were really disappointing.) And finally, Chaplain’s Blessing is 5 life for 1 mana — too good of a deal to pass up.

Finish it up with 18 land, split between Islands and Plains, and I had a 41 card deck.

My Deck

Artifacts

White

Blue

Land

  • Plains x9
  • Island x9

Also in my prerelease pack I got a couple other rare cards in other colors:

The promotional card for the event was “Foreboding Ruins,” a pretty cool red/black dual land.

I felt good about the deck, and even looking back, I don’t think I’d change anything about the build – only my play.

There were four rounds in the tournament, but I only played the first three as I had dinner arrangements to get to. In those three rounds, I lost (0-2), drew (1-1-1), and lost (1-2).

I found the Investigate-heavy strategy worked pretty well. I got at least one of my big flyers out almost every game, and never felt totally hosed. I just didn’t always have ways to handle more aggressive creatures. Could’ve really used more removal spells or de-buffs.

The sealed deck format of these prerelease events is a lot of fun. If you’re like me and don’t have a large collection of cards nor many other friends who play, it levels the playing field on what cards are available and provides a place to meet new folks for a game.

 

 

Onyx Guardian Badge

It was never my intention to focus on the Guardian badge in Ingress. Earning it seemed at lot more about how other agents play instead of about how you play. But around day 100 you start to get the itch that this portal might be the one that makes it all the way. Mine finally did.

image

Not sure if any strategy is actually key to earning the Guardian badge. I think it’s mostly luck. But I can tell you how I handled mine and maybe that will help you with problems you’re encountering.

Low Resonator Count

One resonator is all you need to own a portal. Further resonators will only draw more attention to it, and if there’s anything you don’t want, it’s attention. Put one L8 resonator on your portal and leave it be. This means it’s less likely to be see on the Intel map, and no one will accidentally make a field with it as an anchor.

Recharge

Since you can’t rely on any backup resonators, you’ll want to recharge frequently. While I didn’t see myself as focusing on the Guardian badge, I have been working on my Recharger badge so this goes hand in hand. Make your guardian candidates your first recharge then carry on with any other recharging strategy you have. Learn to quickly find their portal keys when sorted by Name (since your distance will change.) Daily recharging isn’t necessary, but is ideal.

You may find that other agents have ‘bumped’ your portal, adding their own resonators to fill in your gaps. I never recharged their resonators, so that within a week mine was on the only one there.

Wheaton’s Law

Have you heard of this rule? It says “Don’t Be a Dick.” A lot of Guardian candidates are lost because player A does something player B doesn’t like, so player B makes a point to hunt down player A’s portals. I avoided doing anything anyone wouldn’t like by not playing much in the past few months — that’s not really a great strategy for enjoying a game. But I think you can follow the same principle by focusing on fielding, missions, and meetups when you have a strong Guardian candidate.

Hunting for unique portals by playing on a side of town you don’t normally visit can be seen as crude by an agent who’s already mad, even though you’re playing with good intent. Normally I wouldn’t let something like that bother me, and I’d just play where I wanted anyway. But I’d rather avoid the conflict entirely if it keeps my 100+ day Guardian alive. No conflicts means stable portals.

Double Up

My Guardian was actually a pair of portals right next to each other. They both made it. However a couple times it was a close call. Never were my portals directly attacked, but they both took heavy damage from incidental XMPs nearby. Also, a couple of times one of my portals anchored a relatively large field — but not both. It never ended up being the clincher for me, but it was a nice insurance to have two portals instead of one.

LARPs: The Series

Tapletop gaming is my preferred leisure time. Some of my favorite nights with friends have been spent playing board games, and recently my social calendar has been spent playing D&D. But one of the great things about being a geek is it’s easy to find joy in others geeking out too.

So even though I’ve never played in a LARP, the webseries LARPs caught my attention right away. Maybe not right away. Season One was originally released in February-March 2014, and had critical acclaim but wasn’t widely distributed. I started watching when it re-released on Geek & Sundry in January 2015.

True to the Geeks

It’s not easy to capture geek cultures in media. It’s too easy to portray the people involved as less-than-normal, making those who engage in activities like role play seem eccentric (at best) or downright strange (at worst.) But downplaying the fantasy and focusing on LARPers as just people with the normal problems of everyone else also belittles the magic the activity can provide. Some amount of balance must be struck.

LARPs: The Series finds this balance well. The show gives equal interest to its characters who have normal drama and happen to enjoy LARP, along with letting us watch the unfolding story of the Guardians of the Eleventh Eye. Whether they’re playing the game or living their real life becomes secondary to the series. It’s more staging than anything else.

That feeling of role play being part of real life is what makes it ring true to the fellow geeks who are watching it. It feels real because the games we play really become staging to our lives too. Sure, we know it’s a game, but playing that game with our friends becomes just as much a part of who we are as where we work or the habits we form. The story in LARPs lets that notion develop naturally for the characters and the viewer.

Season 2

The first season of LARPs ended with me gasping for air. I moaned out loud wanting to know what would happen next. Everyone had so much still hanging out there. It was so… awkward! In a dramatic irony way, not the socially awkward geek way you normally get when hanging out with me. But it was also so right. The story was meant to pause there.

Season 2 picks up right where the first left off. There’s lots of tense ideas in play but the story developed much more slowly and thought-out. Every episode still has it’s amazing moments, but there’s no filler at all. The first nine episodes are just a crescendo to an amazing half-hour season finale in episode 10. All the little hanging bits of tension left for us seem to pay off. Everything works out so well, but not as we’d expect at the end of season 1.

I cried at more than one moment.

No More Waiting

While we were still in the middle of season 2, I found myself actually recommending to my friends who were still uninitiated with LARPs to hold off on watching until they could watch both seasons all at once. Because the waits between episodes were really crushing me. I couldn’t wait for them to enjoy the series as much as I had, but I could tell that both seasons combined would make such a beautiful product. The remainder of season 2 didn’t let me down.

Now is the time! No more waiting! If you’ve not watched LARPs, you have no reason to hold off any longer!

Binge It

I made a playlist of all the LARPs: The Series episodes from both seasons in order. So you can binge them all, start to finish, right here:

Season 3 and the Future of LARPs

Jon Verrall (writer for the series and the actor who plays Evan) says there’s nothing to announce for a possible season 3 yet. But there’s obviously good potential for that if you watch the conclusion of season 2.  They crowd-funded the second season, but that was before Geek & Sundry went into their new setup as a part of Legendary. Since Tabletop season 4 and Titansgrave season 2 aren’t being crowdfunded I doubt LARPs season 3 will be either.

However, LARPs also has a different production arrangement from other G&S programming, so I could be way-off. For now it seems the best thing you and I can do to make season 3 happen is to watch the LARPs we’ve got.

Did You Enjoy LARPs? Why not try:

  • More LARPs
  • Share LARPs
  • Watch LARPs everyday

Did You Blog About It?

Please let me know in the comments if you’ve blogged about LARPs: The Series. I keep my posts spoiler-free for the most part, so I’ve decided not to share too many specifics about the episodes. But I’d love to join the conversation on your site if you do!