A Renaissance for Vegas Game Day – August 17

Gamers try Fantasy Flight Games Ingenious Board Game at Vegas Game Day

Spontaneous Board Gaming at Vegas Game Day: Ingenious from FFG

Several months had passed since I last attended a Vegas Game Day at the Emergency Arts Building here in Las Vegas. On the whole, compared to my first time at a Vegas Game Day, attendance in the early half of 2013 has been down, but on August 17, I saw promising signs of a Vegas Game Day Renaissance. While the morning session had four of the /usr/tech/lib’s six tables reserved for games, there were so many new faces that impromptu board game action spread over to one of the remaining tables.

However back in 2012, Vegas Game Day would typically have all of its available tables booked with a variety of role-playing and board games. At the time Vegas Game Day was also serving as a meeting place for volunteers for the now-defunct Las Vegas gaming convention Neoncon. For VGD organizer Perry Snow, ensuring the right coverage of scheduled games is just one of many challenges in providing gamers a great place to play and meet other like-minded gamers. He also creates and updates the day’s schedule on Warhorn, besides designing and updating the brochure each month which describes the day’s offerings. Snow also spends time monitoring the group’s Meetup page, welcoming newcomers, answering questions, and steering gamers towards others with similar interests. Helping others is a major part of Snow’s regular workday as a programmer analyst, which sees the fan of the Citadels Card Game and the Cortex Plus (Drama) RPG system troubleshooting user problems with computer applications. As someone who has spent most of his life in front of a computer screen, it is the social aspect which Snow enjoys most about Vegas Game Day, meeting and sharing with other gamers in real time.

As Snow tells it, in the past a Vegas Game Day might even be followed by pick-up games at an organizer’s house. If a newcomer gelled with his or her table or party, he or she might be welcomed to come play later or in a home campaign. While there is still that possibility now, Snow is unable to provide it himself, having become married and the father of two. As for the right number of games offered at the tables, Snow admits it can be difficult. In the past he had a dedicated board gamer who could be counted on to bring his own games or play in games scheduled by others. However after three months of little to no turnout for the board game sessions, the player lost interest. For RPGs and would-be GMs, it can be even more draining. The GM can spend hour upon hour prepping an adventure only to not get enough players to play.

Such was the case on August 17 when the morning session of Shadowrun was scrapped due to low player turnout. In part this seems due to Vegas Game Day coinciding with Gen Con, but it’s not the first time that Shadowrun’s been cancelled recently. For now the steady sessions and mainstays seem to be Savage Worlds and Pathfinder Society, but the influx of new players may see some changes to future Vegas Game Day offerings.

Savage Worlds: The Land of Ugh!

Savage Worlds uber-fan Jerrod “Savage Daddy” Gunning has done it again! Taking inspiration from Wingnut Games’ Land of Og RPG, Gunning ran a caveman-themed Savage Worlds session with delightful results. Most significantly our characters’ vocabularies were very limited. At the beginning of the session we made a Smarts roll to determine our vocabularies and took turns drawing words out of a hat. I rolled a 3 and had “No”, “You”, and “Cave” for the rest of the game. We also knew our character’s own names; mine was Frock. True to form, rather than just using poker chips or some other token as Bennies, Gunning provided us with rocks to use to get re-rolls and as rewards for good role-playing.

Five real rocks used as Bennies on top of Savage Worlds Ugh Caveman character sheet

Real Rocks for Bennies Only Add to the Immersion in Savage Worlds: Land of Ugh!

The actual adventure was simple and straightforward. Our caveman chieftain commanded us to go out and gather food and to also look for a rival tribe in the area. Unfortunately for us, to understand this required successful Smarts rolls and a decent amount of role-playing. After knocking a little sense into the less intelligent we set out and came upon some velociraptors. An excellent opportunity to use the Finger-Counting skill! Success! I counted out the number of raptors as three on my thick fingers as my main rival, Urr, moved in to attack. Other players had failed their Notice rolls and blundered about. I may have tried to encourage my fellow cavemen, using my words: “You cave! You cave!” I certainly attacked and brained one, “Frock cave you!” Urr claimed another and our pea-brained ally Grog found some fermented mangos and tossed one down another’s throat. I began to eat the brains of one of the raptors, hoping it would allow me to gain some smarts and received a Benny for my efforts.

“You’re not afraid of the mango.”

Grog handed out fermented mangos, which the rest of us promptly began to eat and successfully passed our Vigor rolls to avoid intoxication, even as we failed to understand Grog’s animated warnings. Around this point, I also used my Pictogram skill to draw a lewd depiction of a velociraptor … riding Urr (which would be far too obscene to show here). To even look at the drawing, Urr’s player had to make a successful Smarts roll, which he did. “You cave! You cave!” I suggestively taunted Urr. Among his responses to me was “Idiosyncratic.” Gunning had peppered the commonplace words like “You”, “Me”, “Rock”, and “Bang” with “Idiosyncratic” and “Perspicacious”. Yes, Savage Worlds of Ugh! was both funny and fun.

The T-Rex Battle

Gamers play Savage Worlds Caveman adventure at Vegas Game Day

Savage Worlds Indeed! Players get Primitive at Vegas Game Day

The climax of our adventure soon arrived in the form of a “big hairy” battling some other primitive cave people. Apparently their vocabularies were as horrible as ours because the beast turned out to be a Tyranosaurus Rex. Supposedly they were a more advanced tribe as well, using spears with sharp rocks attached. Frock had the Arrogant hindrance and paid little heed as those who made their Smarts rolls realized and tried to explain the better weaponry. It was all in vain anyways because Frock rushed off to show the T-Rex who was boss, racing against Urr to make it there. That left Urr’s brother Gurr to try to use the new technology, while Grog began pulling back a tree to use as a catapult to launch mangos (or maybe even rocks) at the terrible lizard.

“Frock you!” I cried as I struck at the T-Rex with my Trademark Club doing 1d6 + 1d10 + 2 points of damage, which actually did no damage because of the T-Rex’s 22 toughness. At some point I wised up and made a successful Cavewise roll to notice that the others attacking the dinosaur weren’t of our tribe. “You no Frock cave!” I bellowed as I brained one after another. Two significant things happened in the meantime, the first being Urr climbing up the T-Rex and Grappling it around the neck. How he wrestled the great beast! Grog abandoned his catapult attacks and made his own contribution, grabbing palm fronds and waving them around. Grog only had “Big” and “No” in his vocabulary and it wasn’t quite clear who he was cheering on, but we did get a bonus for his cheerleading. The attack bonus later turned into a Spirit check when Grog upped the ante and did a cartwheel and the splits revealing bruised, overripe mangos he had stashed down into his loincloth. Gagging at the sight, we managed to fight on and I would love to report here that Frock did the dino in. Being quite Arrogant, Frock thinks he did. It’s possible, though unlikely, that Urr actually managed to choke out a T-Rex.

crude pictogram of dinosaur with blurred crotch held by stick figure cavemen

Another Pictogram (Blurred for Decency)

Having dispatched the dinosaur (and the rival tribe), we needed to communicate the need to return to our cave which resulted in another round of Pictograms. This time most of the group seemed to understand the message and we returned home triumphantly, bearing the full T-Rex (after some successful skill checks). Another highlight of the game was hearing Jerrod Gunning instruct another player, who was trying to get somewhere, “Give me a die up there by Pace. It’s probably a d4 since you’re Obese.” Fun times indeed.

Pathfinder Society Scenario 04-18: The Veteran’s Vault

Pathfinder Miniatures on Flipmat in Pathfinder Adventure The Veteran's Vault

The Veteran’s Vault Holds Many Dangers and Affords Much Combat

When a Level 3 Fighter named Asir Al-Nimr adventures with three first-level characters deep into PSS 04-18 The Veteran’s Vault, the greatest challenge, it turns out, is maneuvering around in the sewers in Full Plate +1. However while I wouldn’t say the challenge was welcome, all of the combats would have been over quickly if I didn’t have to manouever the slow-moving Asir into position first. As my ninth Pathfinder Society Scenario completed, I can say that The Veteran’s Vault is a little atypical in its lack of dedicated skill challenges, instead being a pretty straightforward combat-heavy dungeon (or sewer) crawl. As such, it lacked the compelling narrative of A Silent Tide or the exploration and mystery of Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, but it should please combat-oriented groups. I was definitely pleased to survive the sewers and dispense Abadar’s justice to enemies left and right with very few scratches on my armor to show. Asir did trigger a trap that did 12 points of damage, which would have felled any of the first-level characters, but the party’s Oracle quickly healed him back to full.

Hero Lab

Earlier in the morning I downloaded Hero Lab from Lone Wolf Development, clicked around in it for 10 minutes, and then purchased a license for $29.99. Offering support from systems ranging from Savage Worlds to World of Darkness to Shadowrun, Hero Lab more importantly has extensive Pathfinder character generation files. Several months ago I had tried to create a new Level 1 Cleric on the fly by hand 10 minutes before an adventure was to begin, but found it too challenging. While Hero Lab has been a little quirky in the two hours or so that I’ve used it, it has worked charmingly well. I inputted Asir Al-Nimr and was pleased to see almost all of my character validate in Hero Lab. Even more pleasing for me was that Hero Lab caught a few of my skills that I had listed as higher than they were and took into account my Armor Check penalty for my magical Full Plate.

Screenshot of Hero Lab Application showing Pathfinder Society character

Validation is a Breeze with Hero Lab – A Screenshot of the Program Showing Asir Al-Nimr in All His Glory

Having earned 9 Experience Points, Asir leveled at the end of The Veteran’s Vault and is now a Level 4 Fighter. I eagerly entered Hero Lab and spent my new Skill Points and chose Desperate Battler from the list of Feats. The Feat provides a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls provided no ally is within 10 feet, which tends to describe the first few rounds of any of Asir’s battles. By the third or fourth round so far, Asir might be moving over to help any comrades who are engaged, having already dispatched his own foe(s). While I could add this new Feat into Hero Lab, I haven’t been able to add Furious Focus in yet. The feat, which offsets the penalty to hit from my extra-damage dealing Power Attack, comes from the Advanced Player’s Guide, which is not included in Hero Lab’s core Pathfinder files. At this point, I can live with the missing feat compared to the $9.99 cost of downloading the Advanced Player’s Guide.

Once I finished tinkering with Asir, I set out to create that Level 1 Pathfinder Society Cleric that had eluded me thus far and ended up making two! Now that Asir Al-Nimr is 4th Level he will be tackling adventures for 4th-5th level characters, which frees me up to also adventure at the lowest levels with my new PCs. I think that the $29.99 for Hero Lab is a true testament to how much I have enjoyed Paizo’s Pathfinder Society organized play, as well as a commitment to further adventures in the world of Golarion. And while I have GM’d a Pathfinder Society Scenario for my home group of players, I have only ever played the game at Vegas Game Days, so I look forward to many more of those as well.

Vegas Game Day December 8

The final Vegas Game Day of 2012 drew a slightly smaller crowd than normal to the Emergency Arts Building near Fremont Street Experience on December 8. Starting in the new year, Vegas Game Day will be moving to the third Saturday of every month and will also be starting earlier, running from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. As a morning person, I welcome the change. The area isn’t the best either, so it will make for a safer walk to my car.

Savage Worlds: Flight of the Living Dead

Back in November, Jerrod Gunning ran a session of Savage Worlds: Jem that saw the iconic cartoon band from the 1980s bringing a defector in from the cold using their deep cover as a rock band to perform the CIA’s dirty work. Or so I gathered, because I was playing Hellas at the time. Since playing in his My Little Pony and Scooby Doo Savage Worlds games, Gunning has started his own website, sincitysavages.org where he provides other Savage Worlds fans insights into his own devious mash-ups, adventures, and rules concoctions.

Gunning promised to kill us all in Flight of the Living Dead, his zombie apocalypse adventure set high in the skies on Savage Air Flight 69 from Chicago to Las Vegas. Once we had run through his six prepared PCs we could take on the roles of the flight crew and experience their dismemberment. As usual Jerrod Gunning does insane prep for his adventures and I browsed through Sly Stallone’s picture and Morgan Freeman’s, before choosing the character of Anthony White, Chicago Metropolitan PD. White had the Disadvantage of being Arrogant which suited me just fine. His illustration is actor Anthony Anderson from Law and Order. Fortunately I have been slowly making my way through the police procedural series and am stuck somewhere in 2002 and so hadn’t encountered Anderson yet. Playing Morgan Freeman would have been like playing God, but playing the heavy Anderson seemed within my reach, especially since I have no idea of how he sounds or what he acts like.

RPG character card for PC Anthony White for Savage Worlds zombie game

Gunning Provides Players with Airline Ticket Character Sheet, Plastic Bullet Bennies, Dice, & More

Joining me on SA69 were Air Marshal John Brickman (Sylvester Stallone) and the cowardly architect Timothy Treymore (Jason Statham playing against type). Brickman, who had the advantage of being armed with a Glock, almost immediately got himself into some Mile High Club shenanigans with a stewardess with a very high Aced Flirt or Seduction roll. In Savage Worlds, if you max a die roll you keep rolling until you stopped and Brickman rolled very well. For those of us keeping our body parts to ourselves (for the time being), things got complicated during our in-flight viewing of The Dark Knight Rises. An old lady started to have a seizure or fit and soon was biting into another passenger. While the architect booked it because of his Yellow disadvantage, I asserted some command presence, or at least tried to. I also tried to work in a Snakes on a Plane reference, but for the life of me, couldn’t manage it.

Three gamers playing Savage Worlds at Vegas Game Day with signs

Flight of the Living Dead: Gunning Entertains Perry Snow and Casey Spicer

The old lady and I tussled. Brickman showed up and I returned to my seat. Then things got chaotic as others started to turn. The architect knew that they were zombies, but Brickman and I played it dumb at first. He ended that when he pistol whipped one to death. I was like “Whoa, whoa! Not me, that wasn’t me! That was the Air Marshal,” before whispering to him “Haven’t you ever heard of a civil suit?” Introductions were made and the situation continued to deteriorate until it was hard to disbelieve the evidence before my eyes. I wasted a couple zombies, starting with the one who clawed me.

R.I.P. Anthony White

My weapon of choice was a fire extinguisher. I never sprayed it at the zombies, instead caving their heads and torsos in with it. I must have killed two or three as I made Vigor roll after Vigor roll. We didn’t talk about it at the table, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before Anthony White turned. Perry Snow as Brickman began referring to me as “Chicago” as we did battle with the undead. A zombie’s head exploded, in Gunning’s words, “like a bag of salsa in a microwave.” As I became Fatigued I started feeling it in real life, letting my role play grow more and more exhausted, trying to find a drink in the upstairs lounge to cool off as the fever wracked my body while Brickman conferred with our pilot. We hit turbulence and somehow White clung to life and a seat. Brickman shot more. I found some inner strength and took another two out. There were references to Diamond Shaft and Tango and Cash as we fought on. I spoke my last words to Brickman as he took aim at a zombie with his Glock, “Make every one count.” Then I succumbed, dying.

Two PCs and GM for Savage Worlds playing role-playing game at Vegas Game Day

Jerrod Gunning Throttles a Phantom Zombie

In undeath, Anthony White truly was a monster. The architect Treymore came out of the cargo hold, where he’d been hiding and fighting off a zombie by himself for most of the game. Somehow there was a pitchfork aboard the plane and the architect wielded it against White as Brickman shot at his former short term partner, having abandoned his first method of execution. Originally Brickman was trying to go for the “ironic mercy killing” by clubbing me with my own fire extinguisher saying, “White, you were a good man. I wouldn’t want you coming back.” Instead, the other PCs fought against my character, now an NPC, round after round, but still White refused to go down. Brickman was missing easy shots. Plastic bullets used as Bennies were flying off the table. Eventually it happened and there was possibly another bag of salsa description as White fell.

Carrying On in White’s Footsteps

With Morgan Freeman still out for me as a possible PC choice, I had to select from between the Scarlett Johansson bail bondswoman and the social media happy blogger Jason Vaughn played by Ashton Kutcher. Since I like to play assholes the choice was pretty easy.

Ashton Kutcher as Jason Vaughn in Savage Worlds

Replacement PC, Coward, and All Around Douche: Jason Vaughn

Vaughn spent most of the flight cowering in the bathroom tweeting to his followers about the unfolding drama and getting the scoop on the architect by posting his Nikon Coolpix footage while the architect’s smart phone content was still uploading. Treymore tweeted at me. I tweeted @treymore. I cowered. I failed Fear checks to get out of there. I decided my SIM card was getting full and dashed for it. Just then, with tears in his eyes, a flight attendant rushed to the emergency exit and opened it. WHOOSH! We all made a series of checks to avoid getting sucked out as zombies and hapless passengers flew past and joined the despondent attendant in his plummet. Then unbelievably we were landing at McCarran. We had survived! Well, most of us anyways.

Pathfinder Society Silken Caravan No Go

For the evening session I was scheduled on Warhorn to play PSS 00-03 Murder on the Silken Caravan. While waiting for the afternoon Pathfinder Society session to end and get our third and fourth players, I started to pick Venture Captain Chris Clay’s brain on what sort of equipment I might buy and how to otherwise improve my fighter Asir. I ended up getting a Wayfinder and a good deal of advice from Clay and the other player. The Wayfinder provides magical light, serves as a non-magical compass, and can also house ioun stone, provided I live long enough to acquire one. I learned that my skills were off by a good deal (much to my benefit) and went back through and reconfigured them. After an hour of this and BSing, Clay apologized and called the game off because Murder on the Silken Caravan is a long and involved adventure and we wouldn’t be able to finish it in the remaining three hours before the hard deadline of midnight at the Emergency Arts Building.

Nonstop Flights from Chicago to Las Vegas

Meanwhile Jerrod Gunning had been running the second session of Flight of the Living Dead with the same basic structure and events. Brickman was taken as a PC again and blasting away at zombies as well as hitting the Morgan Freeman character, a retired Vietnam vet and airline pilot with a prosthetic leg. The passengers seemed to be just as dangerous as the zombies as I sat in on the session and listened as Gunning described their stampede. I left with a feeling of hope that Las Vegas would be protected from the brainless zombie menace thanks to the PCs’ heroics and made my way safely home through the drunk tourists on Fremont Street.

Triple Ace Games at Gen Con and Iceblade Keep

3D Miniature Terrain Piece of Giant Tower on Rock Outcropping Called Iceblade Keep for Hellfrost at Gen Con

Iceblade Keep in the Triple Ace Games Booth

Back in August at Gen Con, I saw a lot of fabulous terrain on display (and for sale). While most of the best terrain I saw was being used to display miniatures, Triple Ace Games had a stunning display piece in the form of Iceblade Keep. Triple Ace Games is based out of the United Kingdom, but their core fan base is “definitely” American says Robin Elliott, the keep’s builder and Triple Ace’s Production Designer, who also brought the impressive model out to Indianapolis in August.

Hellfrost Savage Worlds

Using the Savage Worlds rules, Triple Ace Games has developed its own game and campaign setting, Hellfrost. Hellfrost is a fantasy setting featuring a society recovering from a 500 year long winter. Set in the land of Rassilon, Hellfrost provides a number of PC classes, races, spells, and new Edges for its players and is built around three core books, the Hellfrost: Players Guide, the Hellfrost: Bestiary, and the Hellfrost: Gazetteer. In order to play one would need a copy of the Savage Worlds rules from Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The model of Iceblade Keep does an excellent job of reinforcing Hellfrost’s themes of desolation, dread, and despair, as well as served as something of a light house to draw curious players into Triple Ace’s booth space.

Iceblade Keep

Iceblade Keep took Robin Elliot three months of evenings and weekends to constuct, all for a one off promotional piece for them to demo Hellfrost on. Elliott designed the keep to break into separate rooms, which also helped in dismantling it for transportation to Gen Con in a large cardboard crate. The structure of the tower is 3mm foamboard with smaller sections held together with dressmaking pins until the PVA glue could dry. For the base, Elliott used a mixture of foamboard and home insulation polystyrene blocks to form the rocks. He then coated the polystyrene with an acrylic medium followed by household emulsion and acrylic paints to achieve his splendid result.

Iceblade Keep rises out of a snowy terrain board. Colossal tower with miniatures on the table

Triple Ace Games’ Iceblade Keep Represents the Forlorn Nature of Hellfrost at Gen Con 2012

Within the fantasy setting of Hellfrost, Iceblade Keep is a “long-abandoned travel tower.” As Elliott explains, “Travel towers are built and usually maintained by an informal organisation devoted to keeping road travellers safe called Roadwardens. They originally used the tower as a base for their patrols but the route on which the tower was built became little used and the tower has now been overun by orcs and ice goblins.”

Triple Ace Games

As an RPG publisher though, Triple Ace’s real focus is on gaming books and they brought quite a selection with them. If you’ve ever wanted rules and ideas for role-playing your own journey through the Looking Glass, Triple Ace Games offers Wonderland No More, their Alice in Wonderland game and setting. If that’s not your cup of tea, there is the futuristic gothic Necropolis 2350 which had me doing a double-take. Necropolis 2350 is a setting highly reminiscent of Dune, Fading Suns, and GW’s Warhammer 40,000. PCs take on the roles of knights in the Sacred Orders and basically serve as inquisitors of the Holy Mother Church, fighting its battles and carrying out investigations. Another Triple Ace Games title on offer was Sundered Skies which has steampunk fantasy elements of floating airships and pistol combat in the vein of Spelljammer (just not in space) or Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. The UK company’s latest addition Savage Worlds All For One: Régime Diabolique was also on sale with a small paper sign in Triple Ace’s booth advertising “Savage All For One is Here!” As its title might hint at, All For One features a Three Musketeers setting which is actually 1636 France.

Roleplaying game manuals at Triple Ace Games booth at Gen Con 2012

Triple Ace Games RPGs at Gen Con: Wonderland No More, Necropolis 2350, & Sundered Skies

Vegas Game Day – October 13

Savage Worlds Scooby-Doo

Another Vegas Game Day, another afternoon of playing Savage Worlds, but this time it was Scooby-Doo and it was a straight up version of the animated series. Other players showed up over time with a Shaggy and a Velma taking their roles first. I wasn’t feeling too good on my Scooby voice so I was relieved when his role was taken by the other guy at the table and I wound up with Fred, which ended up working out perfectly. Fred had the Disadvantage of being Overconfident and also following red herrings, which felt like a good match for me. Plus I’d be the de facto leader of the team.

Fred standup character card for RPG of Scooby-Doo with Scooby Snacks treats in foreground and Mansions of Madness board game tile

GM Jerrod Gunning Goes the Extra Mile: Character Cards, Edible Bennies, and a Haunted Mansion

The Headless Ghost of Col. Sanders

We were on our way to Shaggy’s family reunion in our Mystery Machine van when a strange figure appeared and I easily avoided hitting him with a good Driving roll. We followed him into a Southern plantation mansion and up the stairs past the painting of Colonel Sanders who was pointing down in the painting. Up in the study though we received the first fright of many: the young man had aged rapidly to an old man in his 80s. He claimed to be the realtor, Mr. Hannigan, and we drove him over to the mansion’s owner’s house. Miss Green had inherited the home, but was now selling it. Just as she was telling us more we heard the squeal of tires; the Mystery Machine had been stolen by Mr. Hanigan! Arriving back at the mansion, we encountered his skeleton in the study! Zoinks!

Savage Worlds GM Jerrod Gunning explains a game concept to Scooby-Doo players at Vegas Game Day.

GM Jerrod Gunning Checking Notes for His Savage Worlds Scooby-Doo Game

Frightened Velma lost her glasses in her own vomit, Fred took a paper clue out of Scooby’s mouth and tore it up, and many investigations were made. There was a large meal for Shaggy and Scooby in the old kitchen which had a surprisingly modern fridge, and we eventually met up with the headless ghost of Col. Sanders who tried to scare us off by lobbing his head at us, which saw Shaggy and Velma fleeing, while Scooby and I stood our ground. Velma later Noticed the track wire for the head and the mini projector for the “ghost”.

The adventure culminated with us building a trap to catch the culprit. From some dice rolls we had 15 possible steps in our trap. We were using Mansions of Madness board game tiles for the layout of the game with paper stand-ups of the characters and the van. These helped when we worked out how Scooby and Shaggy would dress up as Union soldiers to lure the ghost while Velma would project a horde of angry escaped slaves to chase the Confederate ghost down the stairs into our elaborate Rube Goldberg trap. The trap started with ketchup and vomit to make the stairs slippery, multiple tripwires, Hanigan’s skull knocking into the “ghost”, a pressure plate releasing a mousetrap that would in turn release a counterweight driving the lawnmower forward to cut a wire, causing the egg beater to move a fan to stoke a candle to inflate a balloon to raise a board to knock over a lamp and eventually ensnare the ghost in a rug. While this was possibly our GM’s favorite point, I wanted to get to the inevitable unmasking. We could use many of our skills and I burned through four Bennies to get re-rolls on my dice. Gunning had thoughtfully gotten us sweet Keebler Scooby Snacks for the Bennies, but my luck was out and I barely contributed anything. Our Scooby-Doo player, Steve, chowed down on his Scooby Snacks as well and also spent the last third or half of the game playing Shaggy too, supplying great voices for them. He role-played both for the lure and the chase was on. When the villain rolled against the trap though, he rolled snake eyes so we easily captured him.

Mansions of Madness board tiles used for Savage Worlds gam of Scooby-Doo

Board Game Tiles from Mansions of Madness Used as a Game Map for Scooby-Doo

Not surprisingly the villain was Mr. Hannigan who was searching for the buried treasure in the house and had concocted an elaborate scheme to drive away any interlopers. We had also failed to locate the treasure with the clue “Soldiers march in single file” which was referencing one of the columns in front of the house, specifically the one that Col. Sanders’ portrait was pointing to. Within we found stacks of Confederate bills and all had a laugh at Hannigan’s hijinks. True to form, Gunning had even considered including outlying characters Scrappy Doo and Scooby-Dum in the game’s session, but didn’t have the time to include them or guest stars like the Harlem Globe Trotters or the Monkees. He had considered having KISS show up, but wants to save that for a more music-oriented adventure where Scooby and the gang are traveling to a concert.

Pathfinder Society – Silent Tide

Partway through PSS 00-01 I found out that I was going through the original Pathfinder Society adventure that started it all and would be the most familiar adventure to most Pathfinder players. While it makes no efforts to introduce a ton of thematic information as PFS 03-11 In Service to Lore does, Silent Tide proved to be a very strong adventure. It helped that we only had two other PCs, the cleric Logar whom I had adventured with before, the Wizard Maladorian Veld, and the NPC rogue Merisiel. She had joined our party because there were only 3 PCs, but if there had been only 2 PCs we would have been unable to play. I have to hand it to GM, Venture Captain Chris Clay, for the way he managed Merisiel because I can quickly resent an NPC foisted upon the party. Merisiel was helpful without being intrusive. The focus remained on the PCs and while there was no PC to PC role-playing going on, I was able to interact in character more with the NPCs than I have been in past games due to the small party size.

Pulled Along by the Silent Tide

While having only three PCs helped in wading into Silent Tide, the adventure is so solidly written by Michael Kortes that only the most jaded of gamers could dismiss its plot. After some opening narration about sloshing through the rain in one of Absalom’s slums (aptly named the Puddles), we came upon the man we were tasked to find, Yargos Gil, but he was chained to three others and being pushed off a cliff by six or so tattooed would-be toughs. This pissed me off. They fell into the waters below to drown, the last one desperately clinging to the cliff edge, but we had the gang of thugs between us. As we battled the gang, the last captive’s strength ran out and they fell. I was hooked.

Dry erase board with miniatures for Pathfinder Society and gaming supplies at Vegas Game Day

Captives Being Drowned and Rescued in Pathfinder Society – Silent Tide

After some serious ass-kicking we managed to save the captives from their watery grave and the rest of the adventure unfolded across at least four more encounters. Without spoiling too much, one encounter does involve problem and puzzle solving. It seemed better suited for our Wizard and Cleric (and Rogue) to deal with so I chilled out a bit, but when a riddle was revealed, I was riveted and worked on solving it and then went on to help with another of the tasks too.

The penultimate encounter saw us arriving at a temple or cathedral.
Me: Whose temple is it?
GM: Abadar.
Me: Abadar, who’s Abadar? Wait, that’s my god!

I was incensed. These undead Black Eschelon bastards were defiling the temple of Abadar? Not on Asir Al-Nimr’s watch! If the surviving member of the temple clergy, the defenseless, injured acolyte, would have Sensed Motive on me she would have found that I was eyeing her as a potential target for not defending the temple more fervently and with her life. As great as my zeal was on such hallowed ground, the last third of the encounter devolved into an odd quagmire of ranged combat for which Asir Al-Nimr was not even equipped and fortunately before I had to start climbing the huge organ pipes, our GM announced we had defeated the menace.

Gaming mat with picture drawn of Absalom granary for Pathfinder adventure Silent Tide with miniatures

Further into Silent Tide We Battled the Undead in a Granary

Their leader remained as well as our real mission objective, retrieving an important item from him. He was cowering in his kennel with his human guards and a canine companion out front named Marrow Chomper. A mighty slice from my greatsword later and Marrow Chomper was dying on the ground, forget the element of surprise! I cut down his master a few turns later after battering down a door that I kind of initially struggled to open and Silent Tide was over. Boasting isn’t really in Asir Al-Nimr’s character, but I do have to say that I was carving the bad guys to little pieces, pulverizing the undead into dust. It may have helped that they mostly had less than 8 hit points to begin with, but retooling Asir was a big part of it too.

Asir Al-Nimr Born Again

Before the game I asked Chris Clay to look over my character with me because I had amassed 873 gold in my two previous adventures and in Pathfinder Society games you are allowed to reconfigure your character before 2nd level. We ended up dropping Asir’s Shield Focus and instead I took up Power Attack. I switched Weapon Focus from Longsword to the Greatsword and purchased a Master-Worked Greatsword and a Master-Worked Breastplate. My AC dropped one from 19 to 18 and my movement dropped from 6 squares to 4, but now I was hitting with +8 on regular attacks doing 2d6+6 damage with the two-handed Greatsword and Power Attacks at +7 for 2d6+9 damage. As a result, I was putting down enemies left and right throughout Silent Tide (besides rolling fairly well).

A Level 2 Fighter Takes the Field

Having completed three PFS adventures, I leveled up! The Fighter section in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is literally 2 pages long. Besides getting a bonus to Fear saves, I got a small bump in Fortitude and could select an additional Feat. I snatched up Cleave to be able to possibly hit multiple opponents and gained 6 HP plus my Constitution bonus for a total of 8 more HP. I’m really looking forward to my next Pathfinder Society game.

Vegas Game Day – September 8

Having missed the last several Vegas Game Days, I was pleased to attend the session on September 8 and be able to pick up where I had left off with my Pathfinder Society character Asir Al-Nimr. I also was eager to play in another Savage Worlds session with GM Jerrod Gunning, but this time instead of My Little Ponies, I thought I might get the chance to play as Brainy Smurf and practiced my Brainy voice on the drive down to the /usr/lib tech library near Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas.

Pathfinder Society PFS 00-02: Hydra’s Fang Incident

As one of my fellow Pathfinder Society tablemates dryly observed, perhaps there might be an incident involving the pirate ship, the Hydra’s Fang, for us to deal with in this PFS adventure. First though I had to pick a faction, something I had planned to do at the end of the In Service to Lore adventures once I’d been exposed to all of the factions through the series of introductory adventures (which I had yet to complete). However I was ready and quickly announced my intention to serve Osirion. In Pathfinder Society games, there are ten factions who have varying goals for each adventure. Completing your faction’s additional mission objectives earns you Prestige within the faction and also helps to determine the story arcs that Paizo writes for the Pathfinder Society. Even though Asir Al-Nimr is a warrior, he is a relic hunter and wishes to see Osirion restored to its former glory.

Pathfinder Society Players and GM Use MapTool Software to Represent Characters at Vegas Games Day

Pathfinder Society GM Perry Snow Using MapTool to Run Hydra’s Fang Incident

After a brief mission briefing from a lieutenant of a faction, we were on our way and then spent the next three and a half hours embroiled in one melee after another. In all we battled through four encounters with no puzzle-solving or creative problem solving to deal with in the Hydra’s Fang Incident, nor any involved skill checks for that matter. This was quite a change from PFS 03-11 In Service to Lore which was combat-light, but none of my five fellow players were complaining. Though one of our two Monks was Dying at one point, we successfully bested the evil DuMoire and his incompetent half-elven henchman with few scars to remember the battles.

Survival vs. Winning

This second game of Pathfinder Society confirmed for me that Pathfinder Society is more about surviving each encounter than actually accomplishing any goals, objectives, or “winning”. Even had I and my fellow Osirion agent not recovered the brass key from our foe, we still would have gained experience and gold and unlocked access to treasures assuming we defeated the various foes thrown at us in the four encounters. I rolled an astonishing four 1’s to attack throughout the four hour adventure and also spent four rounds asleep due to a Sleep spell so I slightly appeciated the fact that Asir Al-Nimr had to merely limp along through the encounter and soak up enemy attacks and survive to be one step closer to Level 2. Though Pathfinder can be brutal, if you have enough companions there’s no need to pull your own weight and you can just phone in your action for the turn, which can lead to loss of engagement with the game. This is further compounded by the fact that any extra actions or loot you try to take during an encounter will not carry over to any further adventures, which serves to reduce party arguments over treasure while also reducing motivation for some players or their characters.

Shedding Light on an Unusual Methodology

Though I had played with our Pathfinder GM before as a PC in his Hellas adventure and alongside him as a Pony in the Savage Worlds My Little Pony, I had never seen his setup until Saturday’s Vegas Game Day. Perry Snow had an elaborate rig set up alongside us and overhead with a projector hooked up to his laptop. He projected maps of our encounters down onto the tabletop using the MapTool software. A key feature of the software that Snow used was its control over environmental lighting and corresponding line of sight issues. Several times during the adventure the lack of lighting created problems for us and we had to either make light or choose different targets and actions. Consequently I think we valued our party’s Sorceror more because of his spell equivalent to Dancing Lights and our party’s non-humans probably relished their infrared vision or low light vision.

Pathfinder Society players listen attentively to GM with elaborate rig above projecting image of playing map

PFS Members Listen Attentively Beneath Elaborate Rig Projecting Map Down From Above

While I sometimes overlook lighting entirely both as a GM and a player, I thought it was interesting to see how much can be made out of a very small facet of gameplay. I have encountered issues with illumination and vision in the past, but I have never had a GM who cared about Encumbrance for any game system. At the end of the day, the matter of vision was a very minor one and only influenced a few play decisions for us, but it illustrates just how much focusing on a minor aspect can flavor a game. It could be converting currency from one nation’s gold coins to another, actually having to ration food and water for survival (as in Dark Sun games of yore), or dealing with nuances in spellcasting and having the right components or room to make the right gestures, but they all add detail and flavor. They also stand out though because the trend seems to be towards bigger, bolder storytelling and not trudging through minutiae. For me the bigger issue for the MapTool projection system was my preference for the tactile involvement of moving my miniature on the table, but I’m glad to have the chance to be exposed to different playing styles.

Projected Image of Ship in Hydra's Fang Incident Pathfinder Society Mission Using MapTool

Projected Map of the Hydra’s Fang Packing a Lot of Foes for PCs to Battle

Smurf-Pocalypse Now… Or Not

In Character Name Tags for Undead Smurfs Meet Camp Crystal Lake Counselors for Savage Worlds

Selection of Camp Counselor Name Tags for Savage Worlds

I was scheduled on Warhorn to play Jerrod Gunning’s Smurf-Zombie mashup game using the Savage Worlds rules, but I turned out to be the only player. It also turns out tha I would not have been playing Brainy Smurf, Papa Smurf, or even Smurfette because the PCs for Gunning’s abandoned adventure were to be camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake which had become overrun with zombie Smurfs. As I waited to see if another player might be joining us, I selected one of the jock camp counselors to play, Lawrence Taylor. Gunning has always provided in-character name tags for his PCs to use and had run a game of Ghostbusters earlier using Savage Worlds rules in which the PCs encountered both Elvis and Michael Jackson’s ghost.

When no other player came by, Gunning and I created an archetypical character for me in the Savage Worlds RPG rules. Basically I expained that I wanted to create a generic character that was both competent and an obnoxious jerk. We came up with a character who had a high Dexterity, high Toughness, and a lot of skill in Fighting. I took the Vengeful and Overconfident disadvantages to ensure that I would plunge ahead into conflict and that I would take offense to any perceived slight. After some discussion I also took the Outsider disadvantage instead of the Quirk disadvantage to represent that I wanted to play a total chauvinist pig with a vein of racism. The Outsider disadvantage would represent the hostility I might meet depending on the culture or group with which I might be interacting.

Three Savage Worlds Players Plus GM Getting Animated Over RPG of Ghostbusters at Vegas Game Day

Savage Worlds Ghostbusters Getting Excited Earlier at the Vegas Game Day

Role-Playing the Rash, Brash Douche and Being “That” Guy

While Asir Al-Nimr is, in theory, a cunning fighter, why do I want to play so many reckless warrior PCs? The most attractive sort of class for me has always been an intellectual and manipulative magic user, but I think I’m choosing warriors for these public play situations because I have so little to lose. There has been little continuity and I’m not invested in the tough idiots I end up playing. I’m also attracted to playing a character so unlike myself, characters that act first and ask questions later and who insult and mock the villains and NPCs they meet. What do I have to lose? In fact, I may even want to play these characters in such a dangerous manner because I would find some poetic justice in their deaths. I even have some interest in dying just to have another aspect of gameplay to write about, if I’m being honest.

Going along with that, the other thing I’ve realized about my public play choices for characters and role-play is just how willing I am to be “that” guy at the table. The guy who ignores gaming conventions about disarming traps or party order. Part of it is my frustration at how damn pedantic and nerdy we can get as gamers, spending twenty minutes on something that should take five minutes at most. I’m totally willing to be the guy to open the chest or to open the door (and hopefully move on with the plot, assuming that there is one). In both Pathfinder Society games so far I have disarmed the traps simply by being exposed to them, but I’ve had so little to lose. Asir Al-Nimr, as it turns out, is also quite tough, nimble, and lucky. While I do think I’ll become more cautious as I gain levels and treasure, my impression is also that there’s not a lot my GMs can do to dissuade me. In a home campaign, the GM could have a series of deadly traps which would eventually kill my character, but in the public play setting adventures should be balanced in theory. It’s not like I open trapped chests when I am down to 3 HP; I do have some sense. Plus I think GMs love to see a trap go off. I know I do.

Vegas Games Day – May 12 2012

Savage World of My Little Pony

Blue dice are arranged on Savage Worlds info card with Rainbow Dash action figure

Part of GM Jerrod Gunning’s Elaborate Prep

What do you get when you combine the Origins award-winning Savage Worlds role-playing game system with the Emmy-nominated My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? A whole lot of fun and a game called Savage World of My Little Pony. I intrepidly signed up for the session when I saw it open on Warhorn, only having seen some old episodes of the original My Little Pony ‘n Friends series from Sunbow. When I was a kid and went along to my sister’s Girl Scout meetings with my mom and sister I would also play with the My Little Pony castle and the dragon Spike that the troop leader’s daughter had.

However, I knew this feeble background probably wouldn’t be enough to convincingly role play as a pony or pegasus. I wanted to be prepared after all, so I watched an episode of the new Friendship is Magic series, which seems to be Flash-animated. Given the opportunity to play as a pony, my wife decided to join me at the Vegas Games Day where the session was being held and she watched a number of further episodes. I caught a few more episodes in the background while painting miniatures. This would also be our first exposure to the Savage Worlds system.

Cupcake Justice

My Little Pony action figures square off at Vegas Games Day

The My Little Pony Epic Boss Fight Against the Evil Queen

As it turned out though, it was everyone’s first experience with Savage Worlds, for our GM and the 4 players alike. As it also happened, we would not be doing the publicized adventure from the show’s pilot and second episode, collecting the Elements of Harmony, because we started out with 3 PCs, and the planned adventure would require all 6 of the Mane Characters. I took the more butch tomboy Rainbow Dash (if a character with rainbow in her name can be considered masculine), my wife played appropriately enough Fluttershy, and Perry took the show’s chief protagonist, the scholarly and arcane Twilight Sparkle. We set off on our adventure, Cupcake Justice.

Pinkie Pie and all the other pony bakers and confectioners in Sugarcube Corner had been busy baking. Princess Celestia would be visiting from Canterlot for the Cupcake Cantillion, but disaster had struck! All of Pinkie Pie’s precious cupcakes had vanished. Twilight Sparkle sent messages to our characters via Spike and the investigation was on. We entered a flashback as Pinkie Pie tried to recall what she’d done earlier in the day. This was further complicated when our fourth player, Dylan, came along and took on the role of Pinkie Pie and hit the REWIND button in the flashback. One of Pinkie Pie’s Edges is Breaking the 4th Wall, as she frequently turns to the viewer in the cartoon series and contrives all sorts of odd anachronistic inventions. In the Flashback we’d seen a vial with some Icky dripping from it. We only discovered it was Icky after Fluttershy got too scared trying to investigate it, rolling a Critical Failure. Our GM decided that Fluttershy would be Shaken for 4 rounds as she trembled with fear. My bold and brash Rainbow Dash snatched the vial, unstoppering it, and tossed it up in the air to down it. This earned the character a fit of vomiting, but earned me the player a Benny for RPing my character’s Hindrances/Edges.

Unlike most games of Savage Worlds, we could share our bennies. Bennies are used to make rerolls, to escape from Shaken effects, and so on. We each started the game with 3, but through role-playing our characters Edges and Hindrances gained many more, in the form of gum drops. Later in the game, when Pinkie Pie Broke the 4th Wall for the last time by building a helicopter in the forest, we confronted some Changelings who were trying to get to Ponyville. Pinkie Pie crashed the helicopter and she and Twilight Sparkle were Stunned or Shaken. I spent 2 of my Bennies to get them unShaken and RP’d encouraging them to get up to their feet.

Our GM, Jarrod Gunning, really knocked himself out with his prep work for the adventure. We each had name tags we proudly wore, helpful handouts on the Savage Dice system, flipbooks with character abilities, Edges, and Hindrances, RP tips, and actual toy ponies to represent us. During my wife’s research into Friendship is Magic, we were both amused to learn about bronies, “bro” ponies fans. Jarrod Gunning is not a brony, but his daughter is a fan of the show and he’d playtested it a bit with her, her friend, and his wife. Our fourth player Dylan was also not a brony, but I laughed when he said some “bronies” he knew had made him watch the show.

Cover of role playing game system Savage Worlds showing spacefarer and fantasy warriorIn our adventure, which Gunning had devised himself mostly on the fly, we encountered Parasprites, Changelings, and the Queen of the Changelings. Twilight Sparkle and I used magical powers in dealing with them, such as my Whirlwind and Twilight Sparkle’s magical unicorn telekinesis and spells. Fluttershy hid and Pinkie Pie was her goofy self. There were Twilight Sparkle doppelganger Changelings and pretty much every other cartoon trope Gunning could cram in enjoyably. Twilight Sparkle defeated most of them herself. The moral climax of Cupcake Justice happened when Twilight Sparkle levitated a single cupcake into the mouth of the evil Queen, forcing her to acknowledge the pleasure that can be had with a cupcake. The second climax was Pinkie Pie’s desperate battle against herself and her Sweet Tooth hindrance after we baked up a mega cupcake for Princess Celestia to enjoy, using Spike as a bellows to help heat the delicious baked good. Dylan must have downed a dozen gum drop Bennies before finally succeeding.

Savage World of My Little Pony did not originate with Gunning himself. Instead he slightly modified some of the characters and powers found on Rodger Marsh’s (giftkrieg23) deviantart page. Marsh’s 66-page Savage World of My Little Pony PDF is available for free download and requires at least the Explorer’s Edition of Savage Worlds to play. While our party never got into full combat and there was never a chance of PC death, Gunning had done away with at least part of Marsh’s restriction(s) against violence.

7 Wonders

Game box for 7 Wonders showing Colossus of Roades, Pyramids of Ghiza, and other wondersWe played two games of the basic version of Asmodee Games’s 7 Wonders. I found the game to be enjoyable and easy to learn. It may even be a game where the cliche, “easy to learn, difficult to master” could apply. At the same time, I found myself agonizing each round over which card I would keep to expand my civilization. The “board game” aspect is using a random civilization playing board in front of you. In my first game I was Olympia and in my second, the more scientific Babylonians.

Players are able to purchase resources from adjacent neighbors, yet it involves no social interaction or bartering. There are no hurt feelings or manipulations as can be found in the Catan family of games (or indeed Munchkin later that night). Smart players keep tracking of their neighbors’ advancements and play off of those; I found myself too engrossed most of the time in my own developments to really begin trying to strategically block my neighbors. The only thing vaguely resembling conflict in the game occurs at the end of each age when Military Achievements are totaled. If you are stronger than your neighbors you get 1 VP in the first age, 3 in the 2nd, and 5 in the 3rd. Meanwhile the penalty for being weaker is a measly -1 VP token for each “defeat”. While there is a card that gives additional bonuses for defeated neighbors (Strategists’ Guild), the VPs it awards can be game changing, but not game breaking.

Wooden table with playing pieces for 7 Wonders, cards and tokens

An Unfolding Game of 7 Wonders in Progress

I also enjoyed how 7 Wonders scales as a game. Yes, we had fun with 5 people playing the game, but I barely glanced at the 2 people who weren’t my neighbors. I didn’t trade with them, I didn’t have to beat their Militaries, and I didn’t know the game well enough to keep track of which cards they had already deprived me of. The second game with only 3 players was much more intense. Many cards in the game award Victory Points, coins, or resources based on what your neighbors build, so every card brought out in a 3 player game can directly affect you. With 7 cards in each Age, you also will get 4 of the cards you initially passed on at the begging of the Age in the 4th turn. The other aspect of scale that I find encouraging is that I don’t see any reason why, in smaller games, players couldn’t agree to be dealt more cards. This is very appealing since I enjoy building and developing. Instead of 14 cards divided by 2 players, you could have 24 cards for a longer more developed session each Age.

7 Wonders has a more advanced B version and also has expansions with leaders and cities, so I look forward to exploring those in future Vegas Game Days or at other conventions.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

Chubby goblin Gobble T. Goop on playing card for Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule
Guitar-jamming Candy Rock fairy from Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

Example Card Art from Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

In between the games of 7 Wonders, we played two quick games of Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule, the first offering from Game-O-Gami. The game’s developer, David Sanhueza, had brought his prototype of the game to Vegas Games Day and quickly walked us through a demo. The game consists of 20 double-sided playing cards depicting a Fairy/Faerie on one side and a Goblin on the other. Mike Maihack’s Froudesque illustrations are consistently strong throughout the cards and will doubtlessly appeal to fans of Faeries, young and old. Players are dealt a hand of Goblins face up. The first player to get rid of all of his or her goblins OR to have 6 Fairies in hand wins.

This is accomplished by choosing one card each turn to go into the central Faerie Ring. If your card has a bunch of stars on it then all of the cards in the Faerie Ring will flip, otherwise whether cards will flip depends on a rhyming mechanism. There are five rhyming families in Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule. Once any cards flip or not, if your card’s “suit” matches the emblem on any others, you take those cards. The charms or Symbols are Frogs and Mushrooms and then Suns and Moons. If a card is showing a Fairy with a Mushroom, then the reverse side must be a Goblin with a Frog.

The speed of gameplay really depends on the wits of the other players. I spent a lot of time staring at the Symbols trying to figure out what card(s) I would have to pick up from the Fairy Ring. Overall though, I think each game took no longer than 15 or 20 minutes to play. The Goblins have fun gross names to say like “Boogery Boo” or “Soggy Soup” and I can envision children and parents enjoying the game. Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule is also possible to play as a Solitaire game with 5 Goblins dealt and 5 cards in the middle.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule will begin its Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, May 15. David Sanhueza expects the game to retail for $10-15. It also sounds as though there will be iOS versions of all Game-O-Gami releases.

Munchkin

Deluxe Munchkin game board dungeon and Munchkin playing cards

Munchkin game in progress. Opponent is 1st Level with Tons of Loot

I have been living under a rock and had never played Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games before, though I was certainly aware of it. My wife and I played a game of it with two other players, with what may have been 3 decks’ worth of cards. It took a while, but I started getting the hang of Kicking Down the Door, Looting the Room, or Looking for Trouble. The dungeon board is a feature of the Deluxe Set and not required to play the game, only serving as a visual cue for what level each player is. My wife ended up winning, due more to the social aspects of the game than to any plan or tactics of hers.

Much like her My Little Pony character, my wife is shy. She did not try to harm the three of us during the game, didn’t get terribly upset when cards were taken away from her, and was seldom targeted towards the end of the game. She was also sleepy. Out of all the games that Vegas Games Day though, Munchkin aroused the most intense emotions and got a little ugly to me. Trying to pick up the basic card mechanics was complicated by the social aspects of players crying “He’s going to win! We all have to stop X.” This happened at least 3 times in the hour long game. There were social maneuvers against trading cards, against combating monsters together, and so on. There was a slightly awkward and puzzling whine along the lines of “Well I guess the game’s about to be over. Looks like you’re going to win” when my wife made it to Level 7, this coming from the guy who had been at Level 7 for ages ahead of the rest of us. Unfortunately his ploy of focusing the attention of the other players fizzled, even though I suppose he was right. She did win, just 15-20 minutes after he tried to distract attention from his lead.

I spent most of the game frustrated and at Level 2. Any time I got equipment it would be taken away because of Income Tax, other players’ Thief abilities, Curses, and so on. We were all frustrated by 5 or 6 Rangers that were very close to one another in the deck. When the game ended, one player had maybe 3 or 4 Wandering Monsters, but no monsters to play them on. By the time my wife won though, there were three of us who had moved to Level 9. The only way to get to Level 10 and victory is by slaying a monster at Level 9.

Munchkin got physical too. If a fight is too difficult other players can assist the player in the fight, usually for a share of the Treasure. When I found out that I didn’t have to actually honor arrangements made with others who joined me in a fight and then was so much of a Munchkin as to try to keep all the treasure myself, there was a 10 second clawing fingers match over the 5 Treasure cards we had unearthed or looted. Amidst some laughter, my “helper” pried away one of my Treasures. No blood was shed, but I could still feel the sensation of his badger-like fingers digging into my own 10 minutes later.

My thoughts also lingered on Munchkin. Despite the ugly emotions it had engendered, or maybe because of them, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night having feverish Munchkin dreams and nightmares. While my wife is not interested in playing again, I think I am. I want to see all the different cards that are possible. We didn’t play with Portals or Dungeons. No Elves or Halflings appeared in our games despite frequent references to them on other cards.

Goblins Rule, Faeries Drool card image copyright Game-O-Gami. 7 Wonders box art copyright Asmodee Games. Savage Worlds cover copyright Pinnacle Entertainment. All used with permission.