I don’t know about you guys, but I’m packing in this tabletop gaming thing. I was on my way home from seeing STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN that just opened in the theaters and picking up a new 45 by this band Huey Lewis and the News my friend told me about when we were at the arcade playing Ms. Pac-Man when I heard Pat Robertson responded to a question on THE 700 CLUB on Thursday that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS “literally destroys people’s lives”. I looked into this and found a comic strip called “Dark Dungeons” that talks about how evil roleplaying games are. There’s also this movie called MAZES & MONSTERS with some unknown actor called Tom Hanks in it and it’s really making me question the hobby in general. Then I realized IT’S TWO THOUSAND AND FUCKING THIRTEEN!! The “D&D is devil worship” bullshit hasn’t been relevant in ALMOST THREE DECADES. And the question put to Roberts had nothing to do with D&D. It was about a video game. He went on a two minute long rant about D&D after getting the loosest possible justification to take potshots at a hobby that is probably older than most of the people reading this article – including the person writing it.
Tabletop gaming, no matter the genre, is a good and positive thing. It’s no surprise that the entire industry has been growing the past five years at a rate greater than damn near every single other segment of the entertainment industry. We live in an era that seems to be doing its best to isolate us as humans. We spend most of our time staring at computer screens, televisions, and smartphones rather than interacting with one another. Tabletop games by their very nature are the opposite of that, creating a social atmosphere as you sit around a table and actually talk to other humans face-to-face. This social aspect is even more important to outcasts, freaks, losers, and geeks who may have no other way to socialize, especially as young people. I grew up in a small town and didn’t have a lot of friends. The ones I did have, I met through gaming and most of them are still my closest friends to this day.
Need more reasons? Every dollar spent at your Friendly Local Gaming Store is a dollar put back into your community as they’re one and all independent businesses with a local owner, supporting entrepreneurship and small business. Even game design companies themselves (with only a couple of exceptions) are small, independent companies with ties to their local community. For those of us with old age sneaking up on them (or maybe just too much bourbon) who want to stay mentally sharp, gaming gives you the opportunity to hone essential math, reading, logic, creativity, and problem-solving skills. We also learn about history, mythology, science, literature, and vocabulary through osmosis as we learn more about the worlds we play in. Finally, gaming gives us a great outlet to get away from the real world for a little while and emotionally recharge, whether it’s escaping the tragic events in the news or simply taking a break from the little stresses in life.
Regardless of what anyone says, gaming is good. I’ve met hundreds of gamers over my lifetime and I can say with certainty that I cannot recall a single person I’ve met who has been negatively affected in any way. So let’s leave the trolls to their trolling and start talking about games.
Just to tweak Robertson’s nose a little, our first news item involves both tabletop gaming and video games.
Steve Jackson Games along with Tinderbox Entertainment released the first trailer of the MUNCHKIN video game for the X-Box 360. No news on a release date yet, and there will not be a mobile version in the near future as their agreement with Tinderbox doesn’t cover those platforms and they don’t have any agreements with other companies. The game itself at this stage appears to be a digital variation on the MUNCHKIN DELUXE set with its level-tracking playmat rendered in 3D, but we don’t have a lot of information yet as the game’s still in development.
For the purists amongst you who do not wish to sully your tabletop hands with a controller, Steve Jackson Games also released more information about MUNCHKIN PATHFINDER including a gorgeous cover image drawn by John Kovalic who again does the art for the set. This stand-alone version of Munchkin (yeah, like it’s not going to just get shuffled into your 2000 card mega-deck since it’s cross-compatible with the other versions of the game) has been licensed and approved by Paizo to ensure the best Munchkin experience possible in Golarion. We’ll get our hands on the pyromaniac GREMLIN-like goblin goodness for our MUNCHKIN games this summer.
I played FLUXX for the first time this past weekend, specifically STAR FLUXX. The non-intellectual-property-infringing orgy of sci-fi references is one of the countless variations of FLUXX available on the market. The idea behind FLUXX is simple: You draw a card, and then you play a card. Repeat until there’s a winner. Except those rules change based on what cards you play. The only rule that’s constant throughout the game is the winner is the person with Keeper cards (cards that you keep in front of you instead of playing to the discard pile) that match the current goal in-play. The gameplay is as frantic as you’d expect in a game like this, and hilarity ensues frequently as well-laid plans are smashed to bits by one rule or goal change.
Why do I mention a game that’s been around for years? Because FLUXX: THE BOARD GAME comes out this summer, taking the same constant rule changes and adding the extra element of the board. You draw a card, play a card, and move one space on the board. And again, that one space changes throughout the game, including what happens when you land on specific squares. If you have that player in your gaming group that over-strategizes on silly fun games like he’s playing chess against a Grandmaster, this is the perfect little bee to put in his bonnet. The card game is a blast, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the board game this June.
Have you read the short story “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman? If not, you can download a free PDF of the story from Gaiman’s website. It answers a very interesting question: What if Sherlock Holmes encountered the Cthulhu mythos? Tree Frog Games http://www.treefroggames.com/a-study-in-emerald announced they’re working on a board game set in the world described by Gaiman in the short story. The mechanics are simply fascinating, as the game is both cooperative and competitive at the same time. There are two factions, the Loyalists and Restorationists, of which the 2-5 players are secretly assigned. The faction who has the member with the lowest points is eliminated at the end of the game, and the player with the highest points of the faction remaining wins. So even if your Loyalist has a commanding lead over the other players, you can still lose if your fellow Loyalist at the table has the lowest score. And you don’t know who’s on your team. A Kickstarter for this project is in the works, but you can download the playtest version for free now if you’d like to try the game out. Note: Playtest means “work in progress”. There’s no art and the rules are a little rough.
Paizo is doing a major overhaul to the Pathfinder Society organized play rules for PATHFINDER. The biggest changes include the elimination of two factions, the discontinuation of faction mission hand-outs, and the official sanctioning of the Adventure Paths in reverse chronological order. If you’re a member, be sure to click on this link to get the full list of rules updates.
In the first article I did for AICN Tabletop, I mentioned the DWARVEN FORGE GAME TILES Kickstarter. In case you don’t know what Dwarven Forge is, they’re the greatest manufacturer of terrain for roleplaying games. Since its release in 1996, gamers have coveted the gorgeous but incredibly expensive terrain, making Dwarven Forge the status symbol of luxury in the gaming world. The company is looking to change that by bringing that same level of quality to a more affordable price.
I supported this Kickstarter at the $120 level and recommend anyone wanting to get in on this Kickstarter do the same if not going to a higher level. While the base set itself is a good deal at $65, the $120 level is where the stretch goals kick in and you get all the additional pieces that are being unlocked at a breakneck pace as the fundraising progresses. And trust me, you want to get in on this Kickstarter. This is the Reaper Miniatures BONES Kickstarter all over again – an established company with an incredible new product that’s cheaper yet more durable than their current line available at prices below retail. If even a third of the claims on this Kickstarter are true in terms of appearance, durability, and weight reduction; this will cement Dwarven Forge as the king of RPG terrain.
RELIC EXPEDITION is a competitive exploration board game that has some very interesting mechanics. The goal of the game is to be the first of the 2-4 players to collect four matching relics, either by matching the type of relic or its color. The board randomly generates by drawing tiles as you explore, and a roll of the dice determines how many actions you can take per turn. You have resources that help you out as you search for relics, but you have limited space in your backpack for both resources and relics, forcing you to make hard decisions on what to keep and what to drop. This Kickstarter just shy of its funding and a week left to get there, so if you’re interested, help push it over the edge.
Autarch Games made a splash last year with its ADVENTURER CONQUEROR KING System (also known as ACKS), a streamlined yet detailed fantasy roleplaying system. Now they’re looking to scale up with DOMAINS AT WAR, a tactical wargame based on that system. While the rules are compatible with one another (allowing your ACKS characters to participate in large scale combat), the game is also stand-alone so you can clash armies independently of the roleplaying game. There’s a little less than a month left for this Kickstarter and they’re just shy of their $15,000 base goal.
Boy, have I saved a good one for last. ROBOTECH RPG TACTICS, a boardgame/wargame expansion of Palladium’s ROBOTECH RPG. I’m going to be up-front here. I was playing BATTLETECH long before I ever heard of ROBOTECH or MACROSS. So that’s not a Tomahawk, it’s a Warhammer. That’s not a Defender, it’s a Rifleman. But I haven’t seen these designs in miniature form in years (outside of expensive eBay auctions) because of a licensing issue between FASA and Harmony Gold in the 90s. So I’m mostly interested in this Kickstarter for cool minis for BATTLETECH and hope like hell the scales match.
Taking a step back from my obvious bias, this game looks great. The sculpts on the miniatures look amazing, and while there’s not a lot of information on the rules at this time, what is covered looks like it will translate well from the RPG to the tactical game. If you play the RPG or are just a fan of the original show, this is a bit of a no-brainer as it’s already fully-funded just days after launch and more stretch goals unlocking every day.
That’s all there is this week. Next week’s column may be a little late due to a surprise I’m working on. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse to read me retweeting people you probably follow already, and you can email all your gaming scoops to TheAbstruseOne@gmail.com.