Loremaster Games Progress Report!

I thought it was high time to dive into a progress report for Loremaster Games in 2017 and let everyone know what we've been working on behind closed doors. 

I've been wanting to write this blog post for awhile but as some of you know, I've been hard at work on The Traveler's Guide to Edara, which is DONE, thank goodness, and the PDF is in final review. Once any necessary changes are made, that will be out to backers.

Secondly, I've finished the Ashcan preview version of Gears of Defiance. This is a game dear to my heart and something I'm very excited about it. I think the ashcan looks good, and I can't wait to get graphic design and layout done on it. The aschan should be available at Gen Con, if all things go as planned. 

I'm still hard at work on First Responders, Inc. If you've been following along on the Game Dojo (which you should be!) you'll notice the game has become more and more of a light Euro with every iteration. I've revamped a good bit of it between this version and the last, enough so that it looks on the surface like a very different game. I'm happy with the direction, and the core mechanics have remained unchanged, but the way the game pays out income has changed for the better. I'm excited to bring this one to conventions and give people a chance to demo it. 

Lastly, I'm happy to announce that I have incorporated as Loremaster Games, LLC. This makes us an official company, and allows me to handle things like taxes, payroll, etc. I'll also be channeling all my freelance work through Loremaster Games as well, to make more sense on the business end of things. This should really help when it comes to publishing my next few books. I'm looking ahead past Gears of Defiance and First Responders, Inc and have several ideas of where to head next. 

Can't wait to start production! 

On Modular Design - First Responders, INC

Lately, I have been hard at work on First Responders, INC, working with Sen-Foong Lim as part of the webinar series "The Game Dojo" (which can be found on Youtube or through Meeple Syrup.) My goal is to spend the next few months playtesting the game as much as possible to get it ready to be pitched during this year's con season. (If you're interested in taking a look at it, let me know.)

The game has always been ripe for expansions. The very nature of the game itself lends to it. New sets of crisis cards, new upgrades, new elements that can change the game. But I had never really settled on an idea. Until now. 

I want to talk about modular design in board games. Yes, many games do have modular elements. Settlers of Catan is famous for having a modular board that changes over time. One vs Many games like Descent or Imperial Assault are, by very definition, modular, and involve a huge amount of tiles. But I believe a game can be modular beyond just changing the board every game.

First Responders, INC is modular in that sense. The game is played on 16 tiles (as of now) that relate to 4 different districts: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Parks. These same 4 tile types will always be present, but will be laid out in a different way each game, leading to a variety of board set ups. Also, each "season" of game play will feature a 13 card deck built randomly from a pool of 20 cards, so even if you have the cards memorized, you'll never know when, where, or even if one particular crisis will show up. This is also modular. 

But I knew I wanted more. I wanted pandemics, I wanted military actions, I wanted crazy-sci fi games with zombies and aliens and conspiracies. It was always on my wish list, but I hadn't figured out a way to really implement this. Until I played First Class. 

If I had played First Class last year it would have been on my Top 10, probably Top 5, maybe even Top 3. I can't stress enough how good this game is. And it is a game that is truly modular.

The base game puts you in charge of a train company. You operate two lines, and are in charge of adding new cards, moving your conductor up and down the train, and moving the train down the line. You do this by drafting cards from a pool that allow you to extend your train line, let you move conductors, let you add new cards, and let you build combos that chain to score tons of points. But this is just the base of the game. The game also comes with 5 modules (of which you add 2 each game, in any combination.) These add to the game, changing its very core. They'll have you picking up passengers, housing celebrities,  storing luggage, sending postcards, switching your trains onto new tracks, and even solving a murder on the Orient Express. The game feels the same, plays the same, and yet is absolutely different. 

This is my goal for First Responders, INC. The game was designed for this in the beginning, it just took a new experience to really lock the idea into place. The base game is finished and in playtesting (coming soon to Tabletop Simulator, hopefully, and Print and Play), but I'm going to take some time and reflect on how I want to build the modules, and what I want them to include. 

First Responders, INC is coming soon! 

Loremaster Games in 2017

Hey all! Welcome to 2017! 

The new year has been pretty busy already, which shouldn't come as a surprise. I took a week off for the holidays but am now back into the swing of things. I wanted to take a moment and let you know how things are progressing, in general, and where you can find me and try my games over the next year. 

Conventions

I will be traveling to many conventions this year in an attempt to demo my new games and try to grow a community and audience. Hopefully I will see you at at least one of them. Here is my tentative list

  • IndyCon (February)
  • Who's Yer Con (March)
  • Origins (June)
  • Gen Con (August)
  • Metatopia (November)
  • BGG Con (November)

There are a few other Cons I would like to hit, like Geekway to the West and Con on the Cob. I'll see how many my schedule allows me to do. 

Edara

2017 should be a big year for Edara: A Steampunk Renaissance. The Traveler's Guide to Edara will be releasing sometime this year and physical copies will be for sale at both Origins and Gen Con (and most likely some other cons as well.) We will be running games of Edara at Gen Con this year to give everyone a chance to try out the system, which we're very proud of, and also see of the content we have planned for future supplements. 

We will also be putting out more adventurers for Edara (finally!) and are in the process of bringing on some writers to help make that happen. 

First Responders, Inc

The goal here is to have First Responders, Inc in such a state that it can be shopped to publishers by Origins. Hopefully I can bring it to both that convention and to Gen Con and see if anyone is interested in it. The game has come along nicely (and I'll have some playtest information to post on the blog soon) and The Game Dojo is still in full swing helping me perfect the game. I will be bringing the game with me to local game design days in Indianapolis, as well as to Who's Yer Con. If it still needs more work after Origins I might bring it to Metatopia as well. 

Gears of Defiance

Expect a Kickstater this year! It will either be late 2017 or early 2018. The plan is to have an ashcan ready for sale at Gen Con so everyone who is interested gets a chance to check out the ruleset. I'm pretty proud of this game, and ready for it to get out there in the world. The feedback I received from Metatopia last year was phenomenal. I'll probably bring it back there one last time to polish the final version before the Kickstarter launches. I'm currently in talks with a potential publisher, so we will see where that leads. 

The Space Empire RPG

Yes, the Space Empire Game, of which I haven't spoken much about yet. I am co-designing this game with Jason Hilberdink and we are still fairly early in the design. My hope is that we have a working prototype of the RPG ready to go for Metatopia this year, with plans on focusing on the game in 2018 and maybe publishing it next year as well. It is an interesting take on Powered by the Apocalypse and I can't wait to see where it takes us. 

Thanks for checking in

That's all for now, but stay tuned to this blog for future updates on the games we are designing! I'm sure I'll pepper in a few blog posts on relevant topics, other games, and just my life in general. 

2016 Top 10 Part 3: Video Games

Well, I've done board games and tabletop RPGs. Lets move on to another form of gaming new and dear to my heart: video games. 

2016 was a very good year for video games, with the release of two long anticipated games. How do you think they will stack up on my list? Keep reading to find out! 

10. Battlefield 1, Dice (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

The Battlefield franchise has always excelled at delivering large-scale battles that take place across a wide variety of terrains and environments. The more recent Battlefield games have been modern, showing future warfare along the lines of what Call of Duty has been presenting. Battlefield 1 takes a step back to World War One and presents an online experience like no other. The graphics, sound design, and gameplay all work together to recreate the experience of fighting in the World's Greatest War. Fight in the trenches, pilot authentic aircraft and tanks, and use inaccurate WWI weapons as you fight in a variety of game modes, based on real locations and battles fought in the war. Battlefield 1 is a must have for any war enthusiast. 

9. Batman: Arkham VR, Rocksteady  (PS4) 

It is impossible to convey this game to an audience in print. Videos and screenshots won't do it justice. The only way to really understand why this game made it on this list is to play it for yourself, and you should seek out that opportunity. Akrham VR puts you in the role of Batman, literally. It isn't as much a game like the Arkham series, as it is an interactive experience, much closer to the Telltale Games series. You literally see Gotham through Batman's eyes as you travel from one location to another looking for clues to solve a string of murders. This game is like nothing I've ever played before, and it proves the VR experience for me. The opening moments, when you're standing atop the Gotham City Police Station looking down over the city, brought me to tears; it was such an experience. 

8. Pokemon Go, Niantic (iOS, Android)

Of course Pokemon Go is on this list, and I probably don't need to explain what it is or how it works because, if you're reading this, you've most likely played it. Pokemon Go brought a new dimension to Pokemon gaming by using your GPS and mapping software to force you to hunt down Pokemon in real life locations. Get out of the house, get to your arts district, and start seeing new parts of your city as you search for Pokemon and hit up landmark Pokestops to refill your items. Then, when you have a team assembled, battle for control of Gyms that are linked to real world locations. There are some features lacking in this game, but the promise of a trading system and player-vs-player battles leaves me thinking Pokemon Go still has a lot of surprises left. 

7. Doom, iD Software (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

This game is a return to Doom's roots. After Doom 3, which featured a slower, more survival horror version of Doom that turned off a lot of players, this new iteration is Doom as you know and love it. It is fast paced, frantic, gory, and full of tons of fun (and up-gradable!) weapons that let you shred the battlefield. Doom also features exploreable environments, tons of hidden secrets, character upgrades and progression, and tons of gory kills. The action never slows down as you fight your way through horde after horde of mutated demons, making your way through a high-tech facility on Mars. Don't doubt this game, it is the Doom you grew up with, only better. 

6. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, SquareEnix (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Cyberpunk? Check. Dystopian Future? Check. RPG Elements? Check. I have always been a fan of the Deus Ex franchise, and so I was already hyped for Mankind Divided, the direct sequel to 2011's Human Revolution.  Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an open world FPS/RPG hybrid featuring a huge tree of character upgrades, tons of customizable weapons, and many paths to your objective. Seriously, you can make your way through Deus Ex's sprawling environments in a variety of ways: fighting your way through, using stealth to knock out your opponents Metal Gear Solid style, sniping them out from a distance, crawling through the vents and using secret pathways to avoid detection altogether, or hacking computer systems to turn security in your favor. Unlike its predecessor, Mankind Divded doesn't shoehorn you into forced combat boss battles either, which is a welcome relief. The story, the world, and the characters are memorable, and the game will have you searching every nook and cranny to expose new secret paths. It is a true staple of cyberpunk gaming. 

5. Titanfall 2, Respawn Entertainment (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

 

Titanfall 2 is a fast-paced FPS where you play as the pilot of a massive Titan, a giant mech equipped with advanced weaponry. You can battle other pilots in a variety of multiplayer modes, like capture the flag, domination, bounty hunt, and standard deathmatch. There are a ton of new Titans in this game, which will allow you to customize your characters to your playstyle. I can't stress enough that the multiplayer in this game is VERY GOOD. You can quickly traverse the battlefield with a variety of skills like sprint, double-jump, and wall-running, as well as an equip-able grappling hook that will pull you towards your destination. You are always moving, always running, and everything happens in seconds.  It is a great multiplayer experience, but it is the single player campaign where Titanfall 2 shines. Normally, multiplayer games such as this have campaign experiences that feel tacked on and lifeless, which is why Titanfall 1 discarded the campaign mode. I'm so glad they brought it back for TF2. The campaign is solid. I won't give away spoilers here, but there are SO many cinematic moments and so many cool levels that are really well-designed with multiple paths to the objective. Just like in the multiplayer, you will be constantly moving as you bounce off walls, run across gaps, and perform cool executions against your enemies. Then, get into your Titan for some truly epic Titan-on-Titan boss battles. It is one of the best campaign modes I've played in an online multiplayer shooter. It could stand alone, for sure. 

4. Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog (PS4)

If you're already a fan of the Uncharted series, then you know what you're in for with Uncharted 4. I had expected the game to be breathtaking, and to feature amazing panoramic shots and unique vistas (which is what the Uncharted games have always been known for), and Uncharted 4 does not disappoint. You'll find yourself getting distracted by the scenery way too often. If you've played the first 3 games, Uncharted 4 offers more of the same, just with a better story, cooler moments, and smoother gameplay. For those new to the franchise, you can start with this one as it does a good job filling in the gaps. However, it is definitely worth playing through the first 3 games, especially with an HD remaster collection out for the PS4. It is a classic adventure game, with puzzles to solve, enemies to shoot at, and quick-time events that allow for some really cinematic moments. Uncharted 4 is fantastic, and in any other year might have been my top pick. 

3. XCOM 2, Firaxis Games (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

I came aboard the XCOM franchise with the reboot that Firaxis did a few years ago, simply titled XCOM. I had never really played the old PC games and so I didn't know what I was expecting, besides an isometric turn-based strategy game. XCOM gave me so much more: the ability to design a base, to customize characters, to pick from a variety of classes with their own trees, and to play complicated strategies and wait for the pay off. XCOM thrilled me in a lot of ways no other game has, and I thought it was the pinnacle of strategy gaming. Until XCOM 2 came out. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything XCOM did, XCOM 2 does better. It is smoother, more elegant, graphically better, and tells a better story. The stakes are high in XCOM 2 as you control a rag-tag group of resistance fighters moving around the world to build a resistance network. XCOM 2 has you working to defeat the aliens while protecting your own people and having to choose between several missions, knowing you can't save everyone. It is often gut wrenching, difficult, and brutal. But when your strategy pays off, it gives you a high like nothing else can. Soldiers will die in XCOM 2, but when you manage to end a mission having saved everyone, its a nice pat-on-the-back. Try the Ironman mode for a seriously brutal, realistic experience where every decision is permanent and you can never go back to load an old save. 

2. Final Fantasy XV, SquareEnix (PS4, Xbox One)

Final Fantasy XV was first promised to us back in 2006 (under the title Final Fantasy XIII: Versus). A lot has changed since then, but the anticipation for this game has remained high. It had every chance to let us down, and the odds seemed high that it would. Surprisingly, it lived up to the hype, which I highly doubted it could do. Final Fantasy XV is an incredible game, and an experience worth playing. It takes the things that players loved about the old FF games and brings them into the new generation. It is also the first FF game (outside of the MMOs) to feature an open world which, like most open world RPGs, is filled with side-quests, interesting characters, and a lot to do. The battle system is fun, but requires more participation than some of the older FF games, since this turns into more of a button mash a la Kingdom Hearts then choosing attack options from a list. What really makes FFXV shine are the characters. The game has been called a road trip on steroids, and that is basically true. The characters really get a chance to bond as they travel together, drive together, play games together, talk to each other as they walk through new areas, camp together at night, eat together, and even pose for photographs along the way. Each character has a unique personality, a different fighting style, even a favorite food. And watching these characters grow and bond as the game progresses is a very satisfying experience. 

1. Overwatch, Blizzard (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

What other game would be my number 1? Overwatch is the game that I sunk, by far, the most hours into in 2016 (even more than FFXV!). Overwatch is a team-based FPS that plays on the some of the same beats as Team Fortress, but with far more style, more character options, and better gameplay. Overwatch features over two dozen characters to choose from, divided into four classes: Damage, Defense, Tanking, and Support, but even two characters in the same class play so differently. It takes hours to learn and master a hero, but it is important that you learn a variety across all different classes, because team composition is an important aspect of this game! Every character serves a specific role, are good against certain characters, counter some and are weak to others, and even work differently depending on what other characters are in your party. The game is very much an MMO when it comes to party make up. If you run in with 6 DPS characters, you will do a ton of damage, but you won't survive along. You'll find yourself changing characters a lot as you realize your character just isn't working against the opposing team's makeup, which adds a cool layer of strategy to the game. Every hero has their counters, and if someone on the enemy team is giving you too much trouble, switch to the character best suited to take them out. And the characters are really where Overwatch shines, and why so many players are drawn to it. Much like League of Legends, every character in Overwatch has a unique personality, interesting quirks, cool costumes, backstories, and their own part to play in the game. Every character is viable in the game, depending on the situation. Overwatch is lacking in a campaign mode, but still tells a story through its various maps. Each map features a different objective: capture points, push a payload, or king of the hill. The game has a ton of modes too: a competitive mode where you fight for ranking, a variety of arcade modes that twist the game in fun new ways, and a quick play mode that drops you right into the action. I think Overwatch will be my favorite shooter for years to come, and definitely is my favorite game of 2016. 

2016 Top 10 Part 2: Tabletop RPGs

Welcome back to my Top Ten list! Last week I talked about my favorite board games, and today I'm going to shine the light on something else I'm very passionate about: role-playing games. I present this list with a caveat: I have not played every game on this list! As other RPG players know, its very difficult to play every new RPG that comes out. They require a dedicated group of people, preparation, and time. 

Some of these I have played and, in full disclosure, some I have contributed to. However, none of them are my designers, property, etc. I don't stand to make any money off of any of these games or anything like that. What I have done is read them, made characters for them, studied them, and talked A LOT about them. 

Here is my list of Top 10 RPGs in 2016:

10. Fantasy Age Bestiary, Green Ronin

Fantasy Age.jpg

I've loved Green Ronin's Age system back before Fantasy Age was even a thing (it is the same engine that powers the Dragon Age RPG). I love the Fantasy Age core book that they put out last year, and I'm glad to see them continuing the line. The Fantasy Age bestiary is everything you want out of a supplement. First of all, its huge and filled with amazing artwork. The graphic design is fantastic, they present a huge variety of monsters, and every entry is incredibly detailed, including ways to weave these monsters into your campaign. It is a great resource for Fantasy Age, or for anyone who likes looking at pictures of awesome monsters. 

9. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Ed: Curse of Strahd, Wizards of the Coast

I am a huge fan of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It made a lot of the tactical portion of the game (which has always been my least favorite, even though it is a draw for many others) optional and allowed players to focus on creating unique characters and telling cool stories. I love the character creation system and the streamlined mechanics. That out of the way, Curse of Strahd is the single best companion book they've released so far. First of all, it is a return to Ravenloft, my favorite D&D setting. The game is dripping in suspense, mystery, and danger. I won't spoil the adventure here, but the inclusion of one singular bad buy that acts as the party's nemesis throughout is a great inclusion. Unlike some of the other adventure modules that have been released, Curse of Strahd is a sandbox style game, where the players can explore the castle at their own pace, feeling a bit like Castlevania turned into an RPG. Seriously, if you're a fan of D&D or have been waiting for a reason to try 5th edition, this is your reason. 

8. 7th Sea, 2nd Edition, John Wick Presents

At last, 7th Sea returns. After a record-breaking Kickstarter, John Wick, the original creator of the 7th Sea line, brings us a new edition of the classic RPG of swashbuckling swords & sorcery. For the most part, 7th Sea did not disappoint! 7th Sea was one of my most anticipated games of the year, and I was sure it would hit the top spot on my list. However, I wasn't prepared for everything else that came out this year! 7th Sea is a return to form, with heroic heroes and villainous villains, in a world that is maybe a little too black & white, but makes for pretty cool moments. The entire look of the world has been re imagined, and the book is filled with vibrant artwork that sucks you into the world of Theah. 7th Sea, 2nd Edition surpasses the first edition and is, simply, incredibly fun to play. Plus, you get to be a pirate. 

7. Shadowrun Anarchy, Catalyst Game Labs

This year, Catalyst did the impossible. They made Shadowrun fun again. At least, fun for me. See, I've always, ALWAYS loved Shadowrun. It was one of the games that got me into tabletop gaming, way back in the day. You'll be able to tell from this list that I am a huge fan of cyberpunk games, and Shadowrun is responsible for most of that. However, the game just got too unwieldy for me. It requires a ton of planning, so much math (literally spreadsheets and tons of reference sheets are needed to easily play the game). I've grown to enjoy more of the indie-game story-telling method where the focus is on telling a story together instead of doing a bunch of math. Then here comes Shadowrun Anarchy, a game that takes indie story-telling mechanics and combines them with Shadowrun's math in a way that seems impossible but that ends up being incredibly elegant and, best of all, incredibly fun. Anarachy does not replace the main Shadowrun rules, so those who prefer the old way still have everything they need at their fingertips. But for me, I won't go back. I love the focus on collaborative story-telling, while still keeping the fun of building dice pools. Some of the more complicated aspects, like cyberware, hacking, etc, have been streamlined into a system of Amps, like Feats in D&D, that get added to your dice pools and allow you to pull off cool maneuvers. If you like Shadowrun but have also turned your back on the system, I think its time to try Anarchy. 

6. The Sprawl, Hamish Cameron

Another cyberpunk game?? Yes, I do love cyberpunk. But that isn't what earned The Sprawl a place on this list. It is a brilliant implementation of the Powered by the Apocalypse system. I may be a bit biased here, because PbtA is my favorite game system, and so you'll see a few games using that engine on this list. But The Sprawl really shines in its adaptation of PbtA to a cyberpunk game not unlike Shadowrun. The Sprawl has you running missions with your team, at the behest of multinational corporations. The game includes a new concept for PbtA, called "Legwork," which is basically a montage of everything you did to prep for the mission. The better your Legwork, the more of an advantage you'll have on the mission. There are moments for drama to shine as well, as each character gains XP for different things that might pull them in different directions during a mission. (Yeah, sure completing the mission is important, but I want to level up too!)

5. Epyllion, Marissa Kelly

Another PbtA game on my list? Yes. But this one is about dragons. Scratch that - baby dragons. The setting, theme, and artwork in this game should be enough to draw you into it, but the gameplay itself is very solid. It has you taking on the role of semi-typical baby dragon archetypes, like smart academic, the risky daredevil, the brave warrior, etc. The goal of the game is to explore your world (and solve mysteries) while making friends and collecting friendship gems. But eventually, you will have to face the sad truth that you can't stay a baby dragon forever: eventually it is time to grow up and take on your adult responsibilities. The game does a lot of cool things with PbtA, including the addition of the Royal Dragon Houses, which grant different bonuses to your character, not to mention that everything about it is pretty dang adorable. Its a great game to play with kids and families. 

4. Bubblegumshoe, Emily Care Boss, Ken Hite, Lisa Steel

The Gumshoe system came out a year or two ago and presented a system that focused on investigation. Normal RPG trappings, like combat, take the backseat to investigating crime scenes and looking for clues. The system is responsible for great games like Trail of Cthulhu and Timewatch. But Bubblegumshoe is my favorite. Bubblegumshoe is Veronica Mars meets Scooby Doo. You are a team of high school investigators solving crimes in your small town while dealing with normal high school stuff, like how cool you are, and who your best friend is taking to prom. The game focuses on social combat through a verbal "Throwdown" that pits two characters against each other in an argument, insult contest, or, in the case of one of my games, a rap battle. It is a more lighthearted take than say Trail of Cthulhu, but it isn't all sunshine and daisies. The game also deals with your character's relationships with their parents and other characters in the world around them, which can lead to some intense drama situations! If you like teen crime solving shows like Veronica Mars or Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,  this game should be on your list. 

3. Undying, Paul Riddle

Another Powered by the Apocalypse game on my list? Yes. Spoiler: it isn't the last one either. I've said it already, but I'll say it again: I absolutely love this system, and I love seeing games that use the system in a unique one. And Undying is maybe the most unique RPG I've ever played. Players choose their playbooks from a list of fairly standard vampire tropes. After that, they compete for hunting grounds, stalk their prey, and try to drink as much blood as they can. Undying is interesting in that it is a dice-less RPG. Yes, no dice at all. Instead, every vampire accumulates blood, which they can then expend to take certain actions. The more blood you are willing to spend on an action, the better your result. In contests that pit vampires against each other, each vampire secretly bids an amount of blood to spend on the altercation. It is really a unique system that turns blood into a much-needed commodity. Undying focuses on the political side of being a vampire, like Vampire: the Masquerade originally touched on. Vying for control of the ruling house and picking the best hunting grounds for yourself will ensure that you have the most blood and power. The game is also unique in that time can pass very quickly. Since the characters are immortal vampires, when an action scene is done, decades may pass before the vampires re-enter the world to enact their newest machinations. 

2. Blades in the Dark, John Harper  

If you know what Blades in the Dark is, then you know what it is on this list. It is one of the coolest, most innovate RPGs I've seen in awhile. It is an "industrial-fantasy" game where your characters are members of a thieving crew trying to make a living for themselves and build a criminal empire by carving out a piece of the haunted city Duskwall. (Yes, you live in a haunted city). The game is split between various phases: planning the mission, executing the mission, and investing back into your empire. The game will see you fighting other games for territory, taking control of new buildings and locations, and being dastardly thieves, right from the beginning. You start at the bottom rung and fight your way up from there, with the goal of achieving some sort of notoriety for yourselves. It is brilliant, beautifully designed, and puts the focus on the amazing, and often dark, deeds your characters pull off. It is seriously worth checking out, and is not only near the top of my 2016 games of the year, its close to the top of my favorite games of all time. 

1. Headspace, Mark Richardson

If not for Headspace, Blades in the Dark would be my number one game. It was a touch decision on how to place these, but Headspace just barely nudges Blades out. Headspace is a cyberpunk game utilizing the Powered by the Apocalypse engine. What a minute, didn't you just read about this game? Yes, Headspace is similar to the Sprawl. When they first came out, I wasn't sure there would be room in my life for two PbtA cyberpunk games. But I was wrong. While Sprawl focuses on the corporate intrigue and mission based running, like Shadowrun, Headspace goes to a much deeper place: emotions.

The premise of Headspace is incredibly interesting. It is a cyberpunk future where your team is able to connect their minds together remotely, in order to hear what they are thinking and to access each other's memories, a bit like the TV show Sense8. See, in Headspace, every character can be compared to Jason Bourne. When they are doing what they are specialized in, be it hand-to-hand combat, driving, piloting, using weapons, etc, they are the best at what they do. But when one character is forced to do something they have no skill in (like the pilot needing to fight their way out of a situation), they have to rely on their mental connection and borrow the skills from another character. This turns them into somewhat of a badass, but every time you do this there is emotional bleed, which is one of the coolest things I've seen in an RPG. See, every character has an emotion linked to their skills that represents some past incident. Maybe fear, or guilt, or anger. When someone borrows your skills, they experience the linked emotion too. If they experience too much of a linked emotion, it can drive them crazy. The game also presents a "Ghost" player to borrow from. Right before the action of the game, one of your teammates dies. But their consciousness still exists,  trapped in your neural network, still experiencing the same emotion they felt when they died. They will speak to you, offer guidance sometimes, and allow you to use the abilities the rest of your party might not have. Headspace is a roller coaster of emotions. It isn't about doing the mission and getting paid, its about telling a story full of drama and coming to terms with your past actions. It deserves its spot as number 1, and it is a must have for every RPG library. 

 

 

2016 Top 10 Part 1: Board Games

As 2016 wraps toward a close (good riddance!) its time to look over the GOOD things that happened this year. There were a few, in my personal life, of course, but that isn't what these lists are about! I'm going to take some time of the rest of this month and post a few of my favorite 2016 Top 10 lists. 

In honor of my favorite video review channel, Man vs Meeple, posting their top 10 board games yesterday, I figured this was a good place to start! If you haven't seen their video (or if you don't watch Man vs Meeple), you can find it here. PS: this is definitely a show you should be watching if you're into board games! 

Without further ado, my top 10 board games of 2016:

10. Bloodborne, by Eric Lang

Bloodborne is based on the From Software video game of the same name. The game pits you up against a series of interesting, and sometimes crazy, monsters in a competition to do the most damage to the monster before it dies. The game throws in a cooperative aspect as well: if you don't kill the monster in time, it will run away and no one gets the points! Be warned, however. In this game, much like the video game, you will die a lot. Every time you die you lose all your banked points, called "blood" unless you take a turn to rest. It is a hand management game with a little cooperation and a little "take that" thrown in. Its quick and easy to set up and plays in about 30-45 minutes. Its a fantastic filler game while you're waiting. The best praise I can give it is that it is the most accurate representation of a video game in another format that I've ever seen. 

9. Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition, by Nikki Valens

Mansions of Madness was a game a loved to play, but could never get to the table. Part of that was the obscene amount of time the game took to set up. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition has completely removed that problem. Not only that, it takes away the 1 vs many element and lets up to 5 players play cooperatively. The narrative is controlled by an app, which is one of the coolest integrations of technology I've seen in a board game yet. (X-Com was a good start, but this knocks it out of the park.) The map is revealed piece-by-piece as you explore new rooms, so you never know what will be waiting for you through a door. Couple that with the great presentation: music, sound effects, even voice acting, and the replayability of dozens of modular scenarios and you have a game that will hit the table over and over. 

8: The Others: 7 Sins, by Eric Lang

This is the second Lang game to hit my list, which isn't a surprise given Blood Rage was my number 1 for 2016 (and still probably my favorite game of all time.). The Others is not for everyone, as it is a difficult, punishing, one vs many type game. One player takes on the role of a Sin (choose from all 7!) and controls their grotesque minions who are out to destroy the world. There are a variety of different modular setups and 3 different types of stories to tell. This means you might be playing a different objective on a different map against a different sin every time. There are dozens of cool heroes to choose from, and the sculpts are amazing, as Cool Mini just keeps upping their mini game. Its post apocalyptic, its nail-biting, its modular, its got tons of RPG elements, and it looks beautiful. I understand why this game didn't make it to a lot of top 10 lists, but I would gladly play it. 

7: Flamme Rouge, by Asger Harding Granerud

I wasn't sure what to expect from Flamme Rouge. It is a game about long distance cycling, which is an interesting theme. My experience with racing games is limited to Formula D, but Flamme Rouge took racing in an unexpected direction. It is a hand / deck management game with a surprising amount of strategy that isn't visible at first blush. You have two decks, one for your Rouler and one for your Sprinter, that each have a set amount of cards. You draw a few at a time and use them to move around the board. Inclines and declines will either slow you down or speed you up, and being at the front of the pack leaves you exhausted, which clogs your deck with low speed cards. Those who are behind can position themselves correctly and drift up to the pack, closing the gap. There are a lot of strategic decisions to made here: if you play your fastest cards first and get in the lead, you'll get so exhausted that all you draw in the end are slow cards which let you watch as everyone passes you. It is a fantastic game. 

6. Lorenzo il Magnifico, by Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Lucian

This game, on the other hand, I knew I would like right away. Its by the same designers as two of my all-time faves, Grand Austria Hotel and The Voyages of Marco Polo. It takes a lot of familiar elements from those games and re-invents them. Also, it is set during the Renaissance which, as many of you know, is one of my favorite time periods in history. It is a Euro game that allows you to use some of the great leaders of the time (like Leonardo Da'Vinci) as you use a combination of resource management, worker placement, and tableau building to get an engine up and running. Getting that engine going and watching a chain reaction of cool things happen for you is very satisfying. There are other things to manage, such as a Faith track that could get you ex-communicated from the church, and a military track that is needed to clear new lands to allow your resource engine to grow. And, unlike Grand Austria Hotel, you don't have to wait 15 minutes for your turn to come back around! 

5. A Feast for Odin, by Uwe Rosenberg

I know many people have this game higher up in their lists, but for me its a solid choice for spot 5. There is an absolute TON of things going on in this worker placement / resource management game. You'll have the choice of over 60 actions to take on your turn, but the way they are divided and laid out on the board never leaves you feeling overwhelmed. The 60 actions are broken down into easy-to-digest categories, like farming, hunting, exploration, etc. This game has agriculture, it has whaling, it has ship-building, it has markets, it has tile placement, it has exploration...it has SO much going on. Yet for all that, its actually a medium weight Euro. The game never feels out of control and there isn't a ton of "take that" happening, though other players can snipe your best placement spots, like in most Worker Placement type games. It combines a lot of aspects of Rosenberg's other games (even a tile placement mechanism very reminiscent of Patchwork.). It is a little expensive for what it is, but that is due to the huge amount of components that come in this box. There are like 20 punch boards: a dream come true for many gamers! 

4. The Networks, by Gil Hova

This game came out of nowhere to quickly become one of my favorite games of the year. It has a theme which appeals to me (I love television and really get into all of the TV puns on these Network cards), and is a tableau building game about trying to build the best television network. You will have to manage your money and take on ads to pay for your shows, slot your shows in the best time slots, attach the most recognizable stars to your shows, and make sure they don't dip in popularity as the seasons go on, all in an attempt to score more viewers than the other networks. There is a small bit of "take that" with Network cards that can be grabbed to affect other players, but mostly its a race to grab the show you want for your time slot before someone else does. There is a bit of set collection here too, as you get genre bonuses for having similar shows. This game really makes you feel like you're in charge of a TV network, and an expansion due to come out next year adds drafting and asymmetric player powers, which do amazing things for the game.  

3. Great Western Trail, by Alexander Pfister

Pfister is one somewhat of a roll: Isle of Skye won several "Best Of" awards last year, and both Mombasa and Broom Service were highly reviewed games. I think Great Western Trail is his best game yet. It also uses one of the most interesting mechanics I've ever seen in a board game. Its a play on a rondel, where you are constantly moving your cattle from your ranch (the start of the board) to Kansas city, where you will put your cattle on a train (in a set-collection mini-game) to sell it along your train route. The farther your train route extends, the more points you'll get for your cattle (but never more than the total from your set!).  Along the way, you'll stop at outposts and buildings, navigate hazards, trade with natives, recruit new workers (engineers to help build buildings, conductors to help move your train, and ranch hands to help you herd more cattle), and try to move wooden circles from your player board onto the score board in order to access the abilities hidden beneath them. As more buildings and hazards get added to the map, you'll have more options of places to stop along whichever route you take to get to Kansas City. Once you get to Kansas, you reset to the beginning and do the whole thing over again: over, and over. This may sound repetitive, but its not. Every path through the West forces you to make decisions, as some of the best buildings may be hidden behind hazards or by tax stops placed by the other players. There is seriously too much going on in this game to give it justice. You just have to try it and play it for yourself. 

2. Clank!, by Paul Dennen

clanks.jpg

This should come as no surprise to those of you who know me best. Deck builders are my absolute favorite type of game. No wait, Worker Placement. No wait, deck builder. Okay, whatever, they're tied as my absolute favorite. Clank! takes a fairly standard deck-building mechanic and builds an entirely different game around it. The cards you use to build your deck are used to buy new cards and fight monsters (pretty standard deck builder fare), but that isn't all. They're also used to move your meeple around a game board, where you are trying to race other players down into the depths to score the most valuable artifact and get back out of the castle in one piece. As you do, you'll make a LOT of noise, called Clank!, which will stir the dragon that lives in the depths. Every Clank! you make is added to a pool, and when the dragon awakes, those cubes are put into a bag and a few are drawn, dealing damage to players. You don't have a lot of health in this game, so managing the amount of Clank! you are making is critical. If you die while in the depths, you score 0 points, so it definitely becomes a push-your-luck, race to the finish game. Its going to be hard to go back to a regular deck builder after this one. 

1. Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius

This should be no surprise, as I've basically talked about Terraforming Mars non-stop since it came out. I love everything about this game. The tableau building, the engine building, the tile placement, the hand management: all of it comes together to make an amazing game experience that I would gladly play over and over. Add in the advanced rules for variable corporations with their own abilities, advanced cards that scale the game, and a drafting mechanic that really helps plan your hand and get your engine running. Seriously, I can't recommend this game enough. Go get it. Play it. Tell a friend about it. Terraforming Mars is absolutely my number 1 game of the year.

Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Destiny, by Corey Konieczka and Lukas Litzsinger

I'll say this: I like Star Wars: Destiny, the new card/dice hybrid game from FFG, way more than I wanted to. At first, I was very put off by the amount of luck inherent in the dice rolls, and was a little frustrated with it. I kept comparing it to Ashes in my mind, which was one of my top games of 2015. This is nothing like Ashes. The reason this game didn't make it onto my list is because its fairly new, and distribution issues have really botched the launch. I was able to get a pre-release kit (a starter set and a couple of packs), but nothing else, so I really haven't had a chance to dive into the meatier parts of this game, such as deck building. But, I think it is something I will play a lot over the coming year. 

 

 

 

The Star Trek Announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 LONDON, ENGLAND (December 1, 2016): Modiphius Entertainment, publisher of the Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant Chronicles, Conan, Infinity and John Carter of Mars roleplaying games, announces the missions for the Star Trek Adventures™ living campaign playtest, to develop the first official Star Trek RPG in more than a decade, are now live with more than 5,000 players and counting. To join the campaign, visitwww.modiphius.com/star-trek .

 

Thousands of players around the world will adventure through the Star Trek universe like never before in an epic storyline written by New York Times Bestselling Star Trek author Dayton Ward and Scott Pearson ( Star Trek novellas: The More Things ChangeAmong the CloudsTerra Tonight), developed by Nathan Dowdell (Black CrusadeMutant Chronicles 3rd EditionCorvus Belli's Infinity: The Roleplaying Game and Robert E Howard's Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of) and lead writer David F Chapman ( Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Roleplaying GameConspiracy X 2.0Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG). Joining them are an interstellar line-up including writers from all previous editions of the Star Trek roleplaying game, as well as big names from across the tabletop gaming industry including:

 

Shawn Merwin ( Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition: War of Everlasting Darkness, Halls of UndermountainDungeon Delve), Jim Johnson ( Lord of the Rings RPG, Mage: The Awakening, Shadowrun Augmentation), Jacob Ross ( Legend of the Five Rings, Mongoose Traveller, Kaigaku), Patrick Goodman ( Shadowrun: Fifth Edition, Shadowrun: Street Legends, Shadowrun: Storm Front), Ross Isaacs ( Line Developer Star Trek RPG (Decipher) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Roleplaying Game(Last Unicorn Games), Ian Lemke ( Changeling: The Dreaming, White Wolf Publishing, Earth Down), John Snead ( Mindjammer: Traveller, Eclipse Phase, Star Trek Next Generation RPG Last Unicorn Games.), Dan Taylor (IDW Publishing’s Star Trek comics), Bill Maxwell ( Fading Suns, Star Trek Roleplaying Game, Mage: The Awakening), Tim Beach ( Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Red Steel, Maztica Campaign Set, Hail the Heroes, Dungeons of Mastery, City of Delights) and Andrew Peregrine ( Doctor Who, 7 th Sea, Victoriana)

 

As well as Aaron Pollyea ( Battletech), Oz Mills ( Fantasy AGE Bestiary, Dragon Age: Faces of Thedas), Ade Smith ( Mutants and Masterminds: Atlas of Earth Prime - Northern Europe, Rogue Gallery. Fainting Goat Games: Extreme Earth), Chris Huff ( Mutants & Masterminds Freedom's Most WantedDC Adventures RPG Heroes & Villains Volume 1, DC Adventures RPG Heroes & Villains Volume 2), John Kennedy ( Ninja Crusade 2E, Infinity Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Myth Board Game), Kevin Mickelson ( Mask of Death, A Learning Time, A Frightful Time, A Miraculous Time), Ryan Schoon ( Fragged Empire, Edara: The Steampunk Renaissance, Baby Bestiary) and Chris Huff ( DC Adventures, Mutants & Masterminds, Pathfinder).

 

The playtest gives fans of the legendary television series and films the opportunity to contribute to the development of the game; to sit in the captain’s chair, seek out new life and new civilizations, give all they’ve got to a warp core breach, or explore their own adventures in the Star Trek universe.

 

The living campaign begins with playtest missions and will continue with the release of the core rulebook in the summer of 2017. The living campaign takes place in the Shackleton Expanse, an area of space vastly unexplored by both the Federation and the Klingons. Starbase 364, Narendra Station, named after the battle of Narendra III where the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-C was destroyed, serves as the keep on the borderlands for excursions out into the frontier of space.

 

As the crews of the U.S.S. Venture, U.S.S. Bellerophon, U.S.S. Thunderchild, explore strange anomalies and discover new life while uncovering an ancient civilization and mysterious technologies, those aboard theU.S.S. Lexington will shape historical events for those very ships.

 

Assignments are still open for Captains and Officers to take their place aboard the bridge and make Star Trek gaming history. Further, local game shops organizing an in-store playtest group will receive starbase status with pre-order promotions for the game’s retail release. Fans attending Dragonmeet in London on Saturday will have the final chance to receive a free Captain Kirk or Captain Picard figure when they sign up for the Star Trek Adventures playtest.

 

To register yourself or your group online, visit www.modiphius.com/star-trek .

 

To register as a retailer, visit http://www.modiphius.com/retail-support.html

 

Star Trek Adventures will use the Modiphius 2d20 game system ( Mutant ChroniclesInfinityConanJohn Carter of Mars) designed by Jay Little ( Star Wars: Edge of the EmpireX-Wing Miniatures Game). Modiphius is also sculpting an accompanying Star Trek miniature figure line, the first to be produced in 17 years. Resin 32mm-heroic scale hobby figures will feature classic Star Trek characters and crews, boarding parties and away teams. Geomorphic tile maps of burning Federation ships, mysterious colonies and embattled Klingon cruisers will set the scene for dramatic new voyages in the Final Frontier.

 

Under license by CBS Consumer Products, Star Trek Adventures is slated for a Summer 2017 release and the playtest crews will be listed in the Star Trek Adventures book manifest.

 

™ & ©2016 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

About Modiphius Entertainment

Modiphius Entertainment is a London, England-based entertainment publisher of tabletop games and related hobby merchandise. The company launched its first game, the Achtung! Cthulhu Roleplaying Game, in 2013 via a highly successful Kickstarter, followed by 5 additional projects that were among the biggest in the Kickstarter tabletop games category. A slew of games are in development with licensed properties including the forthcoming Star Trek Adventures RPG & MiniaturesMutant Chronicles RPGDUST Adventures RPG based on Paolo Parente’s DUST universe, Infinity Roleplaying GameMatt Leacock’s Thunderbirds, a cooperative board game based on the classic 60’s show and the official Kung Fu Panda Boardgame.

 

Modiphius Entertainment seeks to inspire with its tales of heroism, adventure and courage and is built on strong principles of fair business practices. Modiphius Entertainment also works to combat global child trafficking through raising awareness of and funds for Vision Rescue. For more information, please visit modiphius.com.

Prototyping!

I was encouraged to start a blog to help organize my thoughts when it comes to game design. This idea was brought up specifically for designing and prototyping my first board game, First Responders, Inc, but it applies to all of my designs! 

If you haven't seen it already, you can check me out on The Game Dojo talking about First Responders, Inc. 

After the episode, I was given a few assignments; to add some things into the game that I had conceptualized but hadn't implemented yet. 

The number one thing on my list was something that has been obviously needed since the very beginning: player boards. It is much easier to keep track of all your information, and your possible actions, if you have your player board in front of you. It also helps you remember your Corporation's special ability. 

First, I designed the Player Boards in Photoshop. I toyed with the idea of using InDesign for the boards (which is what I use to do the layout for my RPG books), but Photoshop just seemed better for this task. I'm sure there are other programs that may have handled this easier, but I don't know those programs :) 

After that, I assembled my prototyping station. I didn't actually HAVE a prototyping station before, but Jon Gilmour has one, and I'm jealous of it, so I want one too. But seriously, Jon suggested the paper cutter which I can already see will be valuable. 

 

RPG books for scale. Also, they happened to be sitting there. 

RPG books for scale. Also, they happened to be sitting there. 

Once that was done, it was time to print the Player boards out onto special full-size label paper, so I can stick it to the foam core. Once printed, it was a simple matter of slicing them up with the paper cutter and affixing them to the foam core.

 

It was tricky to get the hang of cutting the foam core. I used an Exacto knife for its precision and sharpness and I tried to do it free hand. 0/10 would not recommend. I won't be doing that again. Next time I hit up the craft store, I'm going to pick up a ruler to make sure my lines are perfectly straight.

 

And Ta-Da! Fully functional Player Boards. I printed them out in black & white, but the designs are color so it works either way. Why black & white you ask? Because I don't have a color printer! That's right! I come from a background of RPG design and am used to printing out hundreds of pages of text at once, which can drain through your black ink like crazy. And so I switched to a laser jet. Absolutely love it. Only have to replace the toner once in a blue moon. It has saved me so much on ink! 

However, that doesn't always work with prototyping. Luckily I think we have our old ink-guzzling color printer somewhere around here. Might boot that up and do color versions for the "final" prototype; the one that I actually show off to publishers.