Wizzywig: Where Hacking and Tabletop Gaming Collide

In addition to a latex sword for LARPing, some Paizo GameMastery Map Packs, and other gifts, my wife surprised me on my birthday with the graphic novel Wizzywig by Ed Piskor. Wizzywig follows the life of the fictional Kevin “boingthump” Phenicle, a composite character blending several real life hackers, most notably Captain Krunch and Kevin Mitnick. Piskor varies his engaging narrative frequently, switching mostly between Kevin Phenicle telling his story in the first person to Kevin’s best friend Winston’s radio talk show with smaller chapters each with a dozen characters giving a man-on-the-street perspective in their own single panels adding further variety and perspectives.

Secret Service agent makes off with GURPS Cyberpunk cover in Ed Piskor's WizzywigMidway through Wizzywig I was surprised to recognize an event from tabletop gaming history pop up amidst the hacker chronicle. On March 1, 1990 Steven Jackson Games’ headquarters in Austin, Texas was famously raided by the Secret Service causing a “catastrophic interruption” for SJG, nearly shutting them down. I had only just started playing D&D at the time in 6th grade and was unaware of the raid, but it has come to have notoriety within the gaming world and helped in the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

While Piskor’s version of the GURPS Cyberpunk cover is close to the original it also reminds me of the artwork for the Crazy Occupational Character Class from Palladium’s RIFTS. The entire episode only appears in Wizzywig for half a page with Kevin “boingthump” Phenicle having no connection to it. We can get a chuckle out of the “media” reaction to the GURPS title below, but actual links between role-playing game supplements and possible criminal activities – however minor – can sometimes exist.

Black and white comic book panels from Wizzywig with talk show host and pundit showing alarm over GURPS Cyberpunk title

While the basic D&D and AD&D books of the 1980s were short on descriptions of how to actually pick pockets or locks, I had multiple friends trying to play the role of Thieves in real life. Were these inspired by the actions of their RPG characters? Yes. Did they ever keep a pilfered wallet or actually steal anything? No (not that I’m aware of). It’s unlikely that an RPG manual ever provides as good an example of criminal activities as fantasy fiction might. It’s also much more likely though that best-selling mainstream authors like Michael Crichton or Stephen King or popular TV shows like Dexter will be the ones to provide information on how to commit crimes and cover one’s tracks. Can a person learn about poisons from reading fantasy novels or from RPGs? Certainly, but an innocuous cookbook or encyclopedia is a more likely source. It’s also laughable to think that I can pick locks just because I have manipulated lock picks onscreen with my characters in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. While I do make my PCs roleplay out their bribery attempts and attempts to intimidate or interrogate NPCs when I GM, actual knowledge of anatomy, torture devices, or the criminal underworld is not required.

Where the worlds of hacking and role-playing games do collide though is in the pursuit of knowledge and freedom. While Ed Piskor never goes into why exactly Kevin Phenicle hacks in Wizzywig, most actual “classical” hackers want uninterrupted access to knowledge. Many role-players want to know what it’s like to lose a comrade, win a war, or save the princess. Arguably the lowest level of hackers and the lowest level of gamers enjoy simple brute force attacks before they mature into wanting to do more with their respective hobbies. Gamers and hackers also want the freedom to game how they want to with many hackers hacking into games to improve them. While some sandbox video games are allowing more and more freedoms in gameplay, nothing has come close to replacing the freedom enjoyed by tabletop role-playing gamers.

Panels from Wizzywig are copyright Ed Piskor and used with permission. Views expressed are my own and not Ed Piskor’s or Top Shelf Productions’.

Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture From Geek to Chic

ORange and blue cover for Dungeons and DreamersWritten by Wired contributor Brad King and CNET’s John Borland, Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture From Geek to Chic traces the development of computer gaming from Dave Arneson’s and Gary Gygax’s tabletop Dungeons and Dragons up until 2003, when Dungeons and Dreamers was published. The majority of the book focuses on Ultima-creator Richard Garriot, followed by attention to John Romero and Eric Carmack of id software responsible for such hits as Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake. When not focused on these three gaming gods, the authors take a look into the world of the orginal MUD (Multi User Dungeon) developed in Britain by Richard Bartle, foray into Will Wright’s Sims titles, explore LAN parties and the rise of professional gaming, and touch upon computer video game violence. Almost everything else is left out of the book. There is no Monkey Island, no reference to Sid Meier’s Civilization, nor mention of King’s Quest or X-Wing, much less Oregon Trail. Almost absent are any real time strategy titles like Warcraft I or II, Starcraft, Total Annihilation, and Command and Conquer. Everquest is mentioned multiple times, but its creators are absent from the authors’ narrative. Meanwhile World of Warcraft was still in development and released a year later. Missing too is any explanation of how computer game culture has actually gone from geek to chic, as well as a close look at what actually constitutes computer game culture. For example, there is nothing about l33t speak, energy drinks like Bawls, or Penny Arcade, to name three of the more visible aspects of computer game culture already in existence in 2003. To pick up where King and Borland leave off with Dungeons and Dreamers, I suggest Peter Ludlow’s and Mark Wallace’s Second Life Herald, which follows the story of Will Wright and his Sims Online and explores the rise of Second Life, as well as details griefing a bit more than Dungeons and Dreamers. However I actually read King’s and Borland’s book more to see what it has to say about tabletop gaming, but even there I found it slightly missing the mark.

Namely, to Brad King and John Borland, Dungeons and Dragons is a “paper game”. I have never heard of an RPG referred to as a “paper game” in over 20 years of playing. I would actually think someone was referring to the Paper Mario game possibly, but knowing what they were writing about, I could easily stretch it out to a pen and paper game, which I’ve certainly heard of before. Otherwise the authors are fairly succinct. D&D was hugely influential to almost all early computer game programmers and the authors begin the book with the fateful second meeting of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax at Gygax’s house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1972 and the first heady game of what would become Dungeons & Dragons. As Dave Arneson describes the origins of D&D, “We were having a tremendous amount of fun, but we figured we were crazy, we had no inkling that this would turn out to be something so big.” King and Borland go on to substantiate the influence of D&D on programmers and just how influential the game was.

From King and Borland we learn that among Dungeons & Dragon’s earlier players was Richard Garriott who first played D&D at Oklahoma University at a computer programming summer camp in 1977. The son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, he would go on to write the Ultima series of games. I literally got goosebumps when the authors described his first meeting with his fellow summer campers, when one of them says “You must be from Britain, so we’ll call you British.” If you’ve never played an Ultima game, Lord British is the head of the realm and plays a huge role in the series. He pretty much is Ultima and is only surpassed in importance in the series by the player-controlled Avatar and frequent companion Iolo. King and Borland reveal that Garriott also developed his Lord British persona in Society for Creative Anachronism events in Austin, a passion which he shared with another gamer turned SCAdian named Steve Jackson. While Jackson went on to create and publish OGRE, Illuminati, Car Wars, and GURPS with his namesake Steve Jackson Games, he never got into video gaming because as Jackson is quoted as saying in the book, “I have always been very interested in the computer game world, but through bad decisions, bad luck, or both, I never got very far into it.”


The D&D players who did get into computer games included Willie Crowther with his Colossal Cave, Richard Bartle who developed the original MUD, and some of the creators of Zork with King and Borland tracing the lineage of these text-based games over the internet-forerunner ARPAnet in the 1970s. In terms of first person shooters, King and Borland tap gaming superstar John Romero and the subdued Eric Carmack. Quake was originally a character in one of the “long-running, epic” D&D campaigns that Carmack GM’d, but few other details of his tabletop past are provided. The authors note that increasingly for modern gamers, a shared history of playing D&D is not as typical as it once was, with the “new” generation of gamers in 2003 “knowing only the modern, complex digital game worlds”. Aside from these few references to RPGs, Dungeons and Dreamers has little else to do with tabletop games, but is well worth reading if you are a video game player and want to understand your hobby’s roots or if you’re an academic and want an introduction to the rise of computer gaming. Originally published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, Dungeons and Dreamers is now out of print. The authors appear to be planning a second edition of the book to commemorate its 10th anniversary and more information can be found at dungeonsanddreamers.com.

Las Vegas Board Games Group Meetup – June 20, 2012

Havana

Cover art for Havana from 999 Games and game components displayedI started the evening off with Havana from 999 Games. The game’s owner, Dan, had won the game in a previous Las Vegas Board Games Meetup raffle and had yet to play it. Usually I hate figuring out a new game with other beginners, but Havana proved to be fairly easy to pick up. The artwork on the cards has great visual appeal, even if I don’t care for the imperialistic era the game tries to represent. I believe we were competing plantation owners trying to develop our properties, hiring Workers and finding Building Materials to do so, paying for our efforts occasionally with Pesos. These buildings are worth varying amounts of victory points and in a three player game, the first to 20 would be the winner.

I built a cheap building initially with a cost of two Pesos and then the game was on. Turn order depends on the two cards you are playing. Each card has a number from 0 to 9 with some numbers repeating. Cards are always read as the lowest two-digit combination so 9 and 2 become 29 with 0 and 8 becoming 08. The lowest two-digit number plays first, followed by the second lowest, and so on. However the higher-numbered cards tend to have potentially greater benefits. I was fond of Grandma who is a 9. She gave me access to half of the Rubble and half of the Building Materials. The problem is that a player playing a lower number may have reduced the available materials. Each turn you select a new card in secret to play which forces one of your old cards to retire. This also means you always know 50% of what your opponents will be doing next turn or even more if you pay attention to which cards they have already retired. One of the cards does allow you to bring cards back into your hand as well. There are also offensive actions in the form of Tax Collectors and Materials Thieves. These can deprive your opponents of their resources, but each resource-stealer has a counter card that can be played to block it. These blocking cards are also number 2’s, helping to enable a better place in the turn order.

Playing cards and tokens on checkered table during Havana game play at the Juke Joint in Las Vegas

My Cards Make 28, But Opponent has 25: He Goes First

Our game turned out to be a very close one, heating up at the end when I seized victory by trying to have a low combined number and was able to get the building I needed to ensure my victory. Other than the secret choice of which card you will be bringing out each turn, Havana has no secrets. There are no game-changing cards revealed at the end of the game and you can easily tabulate your opponents’ victory point totals while you’re playing. The final building I built was worth 4 victory points bringing me from 16 to 20. One opponent was already at 19 and the second had been tied at 16 with me. 999 Games has a fast-paced, enjoyable game in Havana and I would love to play it again and possibly use some of the four or five cards I never even played. Having even more players would also add to the strategic aspect of the game without overburdening it, I think.

The Golden City

Up next was The Golden City from Kosmos, yet another game involving colonizing and trade routes. For a four player game we had 16 outpost or settlement markers and the game would end as soon as someone built all 16. Actually getting to the valuable center of the mysterious Golden City is the most rewarding with a large number of Letters of Business awarded. This also requires a special key, obtained by building an outpost on a key-rewarding point on the map of the island. Game play is based on little geographic cards that are either Ports or one of four region types, Desert, Forests, Mountains, or Plains. Each round players select a pair of cards dealt face up to bid on. You can pay an additional coin to displace someone else’s bid to get the preferred cards you want. If you want to retake the same pair of cards you were just kicked off, it would cost a further additional coin. The most common settlement areas on the map reward players with either more coins or more territory cards to use.

Perhaps two thirds of the way through the game I realized how perilous my position on the map was. I was expanding out instead of in to the Golden City and my efforts to block others’ routes really hadn’t paid off. Luckily I was able to secure a valuable post in the Golden City several turns after the others had all done so already. I was the only player to build on a settlement square that grants access to a special deck of cards. The card I chose rewarded me at the end of the game for each of my card-producing outposts, garnering me 8 points, if I recall correctly. Placing my 16th settlement ended the game and I was a bit surprised by how close it was. The winner had 56, second had 52, I had 50, and last place had 35.

The Golden City map featuring 4 types of terrain with playing settlements on it

My Red Outposts are Spread Out and Shallow. Black in the Lead.

One aspect of The Golden City that I never pursued was that each turn there is a bonus map area that is rewarded for development. The other players either developed according to the bonus area or seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. While I did manage a few Letters of Business for happening to have an outpost in the designated area one or two turns, I mostly ignored it. On the other hand, the game also has a random preferred commodity each turn such as Liquor or Fruit, rewarding 2 trading vouchers for having it, with 2 more for having the most of the commodity. These I did attempt to collect, but possibly to my detriment because I was not expanding into the heart of the Golden City, denying myself the points from those territories as well as not blocking my opponents’ access.

Revolution

Cover art for board game from Steve Jackson Games Revolution showing gold coin, blackmail envelope, and red fist for ForceI found myself playing Revolution from Steve Jackson Games with the Meetup’s founder Stephan Brissaud aka Frenchy and two fierce opponents from previous Vegas Board Game Meetups. Initially I thought I understood what I was dealing with in Revolution. Each turn you bid in secret on securing the support of allies in the Revolution with a choice of 12 on a little bidding board. The boards are revealed and the winner for each partisan is determined by the highest bid of either Force, Blackmail, or Gold, with some personalities uninfluenced by a particular currency of Revolution. The Captain (of the Garrison), for example, cannot be won over with Force. Instead he must be Blackmailed or bought with Gold. Simple enough, right?

Bidding board for board game Revolution showing rules of game and 12 possible choices

The Bidding Rules for Revolution and 12 Choices

Midway through the game I realized that both I and Frenchy were vastly outclassed and we both knew it. In Revolution it is entirely possible to have wasted your bribes or payments each turn if a superior bid has been entered against you. I know both Frenchy and I had at least one round each where our efforts were entirely wasted. In focusing on a pattern of picking the Rogue who generates Blackmail in order to Blackmail the Captain who generates Force to then Force the Rogue to my side, I had not amassed much Support, which is the measurement of victory in the game. I tried to switch tactics to capture more Support with not much success as the final scores show. I had 47 Support and Frenchy had 58. In second place David had 185 Support and Zach, the former Munchkin World Champion, had 214.

Playing board for Steve Jackson Games board game Revolution showing that red is in last place

Red Has Been Almost Wiped Off the Revolution Board

Despite the overwhelming defeat, I would like to play Revolution again. What really killed me was not paying attention to my eroding playing pieces on the board. When the game ends, after a certain amount of rounds, extra Support is awarded to whomever has the majority of pieces in each of the board’s locations such as the Tavern or Garrison. On the other hand, Revolution is not forgiving and has no recovery mechanic. I don’t see where I could have recovered after the first few rounds and botching something on a turn and getting nothing can be very devastating. Force, Blackmail, and Gold go away each round. If you happened to be outbid on everything, you still gain 5 Gold at the end of the turn for your next bid, but compared to a Force or Blackmail, Gold is useless. The lesson is that Revolution indeed does have a very slippery slope.

Would I play it again? Definitely. The next go round though I would pay a lot more attention to trying to win from the start of the game and try to read my opponents’ bidding style to get an indication of what sort of bid they might make each turn. An integral part of the game is also announcing at the end of the turn, before the next round of bidding, what sort of currency/bribes you have for that turn. I paid only slight attention to my opponents’ capabilities during this game, but I will be sure to take my opponents’ coercion methods further into account in the future.

King of Tokyo

Kaiju monsters battle over metropolitan Tokyo on the cover of King of TokyoAs the head of Iello USA, Frenchy is the distributor for Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo. Garfield may be familiar as the creator of Magic: The Gathering. King of Tokyo seems simplistic by comparison, perhaps deceptively so. You have your kaiju or monster stand-up playing piece and you roll dice, trying to either be the last surviving monster or to try to achieve 20 Victory Points, with the winner being the King of Tokyo. The monster cards have dials to keep track of those victory points. Each of the King of Tokyo dice has an Attack emblem, a Lightning symbol, a Life, and the numbers 1-3 on its faces. Players can keep dice results they like after rolling the 6 dice and get up to two re-rolls. One way to get Victory Points is to enter Tokyo, but another is by having multiples of at least three of the same value on the dice, with a 3-3-3 worth 3 points and a 3-3-3-3 worth 4 points, I believe.

One of the things I liked about King of Tokyo was the slight amount of variety in the actions you could pursue. I didn’t focus on making sets of numbers to gain victory points for example. Instead I kept Life results to go up in hit points, kept Attacks to damage my opponents, and most importantly tried to get Lightning/Energy for the coolest part of King of Tokyo: the special attacks deck. There are three random cards drawn from the deck that represent special Kaiju attacks that players can buy, with a new one being dealt to replace any card purchased. The card art is excellent and it is remarkable that players can play an entire game without ever purchasing a card to use and therefore might never see more of the beautiful card art.

Kaiju monsters from Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo game battling over its game board, giant ape versus robot with mecha-dragon in foreground

Tokyo and Tokyo Bay Occupied! My Mecha-Dragon is in Foreground

In the end my pseudo-strategy didn’t pay off. I was eliminated after a few other monsters. This is a refreshing aspect of King of Tokyo; in every other modern board game I have played in the last few months there are no eliminations. Every player is involved until the end of these other games, however painfully as Revolution showed earlier. Just like Magic: TG or Monopoly, in KoT once you are killed you are out of the game entirely. As anti-social as this might be, the game also has a powerful socializing influence. When a player’s monster enters Tokyo the game changes to an us vs. them game with those on the physical board doing damage to every monster on the outside with their attacks and vice versa. While there isn’t any collaboration possible with this mechanic, I did find myself cheering my allies’ attacks on the monsters inside Tokyo when they were able to hit. The two players on Tokyo and Tokyo Bay must likewise feel ganged up on and a sense of comraderie. In smaller games though, the second location of Tokyo Bay is not used.

More than the other games of the evening, King of Tokyo has a real beer-and-pretzels game feel to it. I couldn’t see playing it for hours on end, but it functioned well to cap off an enjoyable evening and would be great in between other board games or during an RPG break for some quick carnage.

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.