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AICN Tabletop! STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE! PANDEMIC! D&D Next! And More!

Hello gamers, Abstruse here with your weekly dose of tabletop gaming. Nothing cute this week, let’s just get right into the awesomeness.
 
 
The drama over the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS movie keeps going as Sweetpea Entertainment (production company of producer/director Courtney Solomon) filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit from Wizards of the Coast, arguing that Sweetpea still legally holds the license. They refute the biggest claims in the lawsuit by arguing that WRATH OF THE DRAGON GOD and BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS fulfill the requirements of the “use it or lose it” expiration clause in the license (WotC’s claim is that, since these were not theatrical releases, they don’t count). Sweetpea’s motion further demands that WotC prove their claim that Sweetpea has used their trademarks without permission (which may be difficult for either side considering the oddness of the original license contract and the OGL). 
 
The most damning argument from the motion to dismiss, though, is the claim that Wizards of the Coast did not give Sweetpea Entertainment “an opportunity to cure” before terminating the contract. In less legalese terms, this means that before a contract like this can be terminated, the licensing party (WotC) has to give the licensee (Sweetpea) a chance to fix whatever’s wrong before terminating the contract early. So this is exactly what I was afraid would happen, both sides are standing their ground and, unless they settle soon, both sides are going to miss the lucrative tie-in window for the 40th Anniversary of D&D as well as the release of D&D Next.
 
As far as the game itself goes, the R&D Team for Wizards of the Coast’s D&D NEXT group ran an online demo of A1: SLAVE PITS OF THE UNDERCITY under D&D Next rules (in fact, the most recent in-house version of the rules, so there’s a few mechanics that aren’t in the current playtest packet). DMed by Mike Mearls, head of R&D, the players are all other members of the R&D team: James Wyatt (Human Monk), Greg Bisland (Human Cleric), Rodney Thompson (Halfling Rogue), Peter Lee (Human Fighter). While not QUITE as entertaining as watching professional entertainers play, the demo is still fun to watch. Note: By watching the event, you’re agreeing to the Playtest Agreement for D&D Next, so if you’re paranoid about legalese, you’ll want to read that first.
 
The newest playtest packet survey went out this week, so if you’ve signed up for the D&D Next playtest, check your inbox. I CANNOT BEG YOU ENOUGH; RESPOND TO THESE SURVEYS AND ANSWER HONESTLY!!!! These surveys are the prime feedback that Wizards of the Coast is using to adjust the playtest. Whenever the new edition of the game comes out, I want it to be the very best possible edition of D&D that brings in the most new players possible. In order to do that, Wizards of the Coast needs feedback from EVERYONE INTERESTED IN D&D. So even if you’re a die-hard Pathfinder or OSR player, PLEASE download the playtest packet, read through it, try a one-shot if you like, and respond to the survey!
 
 
This Tuesday, STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE will be on store shelves ready for the holiday weekend. While the Beginner’s Box version of the game has been available for nearly a year now, the game will finally be released on July 2 to hungry fans. I’m pretty sure you already kind of know if you’re interested in this game or not, so I’ll just refer you to Fantasy Flight’s description of the game for more information. The Core Rulebook retails for $59.99 and the specialty dice (required to play the game) are $14.99 per set.
 
 
Paizo’s PATHFINDER PAWNS are one of the greatest tools ever given to new DMs. They’re very sturdy cardboard tokens that stand up on plastic bases, allowing DMs to purchase an army of “miniatures” for use in their games at a fraction of the price of metal or even plastic miniatures. The trend started with their PATHFINDER BEGINNER’S BOX and continues with the newest, NPC CODEX, full of townspeople, guards, and other non-monstrous types. And don’t let the PATHFINDER logo on the box scare you away if you play other editions. These are simple stand-up cardboard tokens, so you can use them no matter what edition of what roleplaying game you use. Unless you have a massive collection of miniatures, this is a no-brainer to pick up.
 
Lead Pathfinder Designer Jason Bulmahn has launched his own publishing company, Minotaur RPG. He’s not leaving Pathfinder, but using Minoatur to publish his ideas that were “too niche or small in scope” for Pathfinder’s core product line. There’s currently eight PDFs available for purchase on the website, each 6 pages long at $1.99. If you’re worried about spending even that small amount of money, the books are all OGL and the crunchy rules bits (feats, items, monster stats, etc.) are available to view for free on the website.
 
 
Remember when I said that Steve Jackson Games was looking to acquire games from smaller companies? They announced the first result of these acquisitions on Wednesday, CHUPACABRA: SURVIVE THE NIGHT. Originally published by Haywire Group, this dice game comes with 24 glow-in-the-dark dice and the rules are very simple (not surprising as Haywire’s games are targeted at preschool and elementary school age groups). Each player gets six dice and rolls them, with four possible results: Chicken, Goat, Oxen, or the dreaded Chupacabra. Each chupacabra allows you to steal animals from your opponents and add them to your pool of dice. The last player with dice left wins. The set is designed for 2-4 players to play in 10-20 minutes. Haywire’s website doesn’t mention this, but STJ states that you can combine sets for more players (most likely greatly increasing playtime, though). You can pick up the Haywire Group version of the game now if you’re impatient, but odds are it will go out of print soon. Steve Jackson Games hasn’t announced a release date yet for their version of the game.
 
 
Asmodee US (probably best known as the company running neck-and-neck with Days of Wonder for Most Games Featured on Wil Wheaton’s TABLETOP) announced their newest game, MASCARADE</a> will get its US release this September. The bluff game revolves around a renaissance masquerade party filled with nobility attempting to amass as large a fortune as possible while keeping your identity a secret...or announcing it to the whole world. The game comes with 13 unique character cards plus various tokens and counters, with rules supporting as few as 2 and as many as 13 players.
 
 
STANDARD ACTION, the hilarious webseries by director Rob Hunt and writer/producer/star Joanna Gaskell, became a quick favorite of mine the second I was made aware of its existence. While we may have some time to wait before we get Season 3, you can get your fix until then with the new Standard Action webcomic starting on July 5. The comic will appear on the Standard Action homepage and will update on Mondays and Thursdays, telling the stories that were too epic to show on-screen. While Joanna Gaskell is not directly involved in the webcomic,  she is acting as content advisors with the heaving creative lifting handled by Thunder Frog Studios. Woody Arnold is writing the comic and it will be drawn by Jon Huckbody and Kodi Enetanya. And if you haven’t watched STANDARD ACTION yet,
 
 
what the hell are you waiting for?
 
 
PANDEMIC is one of my gaming group’s favorite games. I’ve never played a game that required so much strategy and clear thinking that still creates so much tension. To make the game even better, Z-Man Games released the first of a series of free Scenario Packs for the game. Pretty much the only issue I’ve had with PANDEMIC is the set-up. It’s very easy to end up with a board that’s just made to screw you due to the randomness. You start off with two cities right next to each other with three infection cubes at the start of the game and no one got the Medic role, you’re kind of hosed right out of the gate and spend the first 2-3 turns of the game running damage control and hoping an Epidemic card doesn’t screw you even worse.
 
If we can get a large collection of these scenario packs, it will help solve this problem by giving us more balanced challenges. It takes the randomness out of the set-up by telling you which cities to infect, which cities go in the discard pile, and what roles everyone has (though it does lock you into 4 players). The first scenario even offers a slight change to the rules, by “locking down” four of the cities on the map so that no one can travel to or through them in any way, but they also don’t get any infection counters. This adds a new challenge to the game without making the already difficult game even worse. If you don’t have PANDEMIC, get it now. You will never have more fun losing a game than playing PANDEMIC. Unless it’s strip poker.
 
 
 
John Kovalic sums up our fascination with Kickstarter perfectly right there. So what’s out there this week?
 
Remember how I said about a month or two ago how WEREWOLF: THE APOCALYPSE 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION was everything you needed to play Werewolf in one package? Well, White Wolf disagrees with me and are Kickstarting the CHANGING BREEDS 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION. This book in its original form was a sourcebook (NOT stand-alone) that brought shapeshifters other wolves into the World of Darkness universe. Werelions, weretigers, and werebears, oh my! If you picked up the WEREWOLF 20th Anniversary book already, this is probably a no-brainer for you as the project is already funded. If you didn’t pick it up, you may want to if you’re interested in this book as, while the Kickstarter doesn’t state specifically if it’s required to play CHANGING BREEDS, the reward levels seem to imply it’s a sourcebook and not a stand-alone game. The Kickstarter runs until July 25.
 
For those of us who study Calculus just for fun, we finally have a board game marketed directly at us. ANTIMATTER MATTERS is a board game all about SCIENCE!! The game uses actual physics as its game rules, so you’re learning quantum mechanics as you play the game! The goal is to build atoms using various subatomic particles, avoiding hazards like quantum entanglement, antimatter collisions, and cosmic rays. It’s like CERN the board game! This project is about halfway to its funding goal and runs until July 14. As always, there are multiple pledge levels, but to get the game itself when it’s released, you’ll want to pledge at the $59 level. Pretty please, if you do nothing for me internet, make this game happen. Science and gaming go together like chocolate and peanut butter!
 
GIVE IT TO THE KING is a very simple but strategic game where 2-4 players compete to deliver messages to the King. The gameplay is simple – roll a die, then move a figure down the corridor toward the King. You can’t move backward and you can’t share a space. When a message gets delivered to the King, that turn is over and you start over (the game lasts five turns). The variety comes in the form of the messages themselves (which give you different points whether you keep them secret or reveal them to other players for advantages) and in the fact you can move your opponents’ pieces on your turn. The Kickstarter just launched and has a way to go to hit their $23,000 goal, but it’s running until July 25. You can get the game at the $36 pledge level.
 
One thing I’ve found interesting about Kickstarter is the variety of projects showing up. I’ve covered two different webseries and several gaming accessories in this column, but I haven’t yet mentioned this particular trend – Funding a convention. ChupacabraCon runs from January 17-19 in Austin, TX, at the Hilton Austin Airport hotel, and they’re using Kickstarter to fund the convention. $25 gets you a weekend pass to the convention, while higher tiers allow for VIP passes to meet the convention guests, T-shirts, advertisements in the program, and other special perks. They already have several guests lined up, and the Kickstarter goal is a mere $5000 (as of Friday, only at $190 raised but it runs until August 27). This isn’t the first convention I’ve seen on Kickstarter, and it’s a great way to find out if there’s any demand for a convention in an area before committing a lot of money to start it. Definitely an intriguing idea, and I can’t wait to see what happens with all the conventions taking this route to get started.
 
Thanks all for this week. This weekend, I’ll be at RTX (RoosterTeeth Expo) in Austin, TX, from July 5-7, and next month I’m at Space City Con in Houston from August 2-4. If you want to get together and play some games, let me know! You can follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse to watch me argue with people who it turns out were actually agreeing with me or email me at theabstruseone@gmail.com.
 
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