Bits or cardboard?

Blaugust 2015 Day 06

I think I’m nearly recovered from GenCon last weekend. Today’s the first day that I didn’t end up taking an hour nap after the kids went to bed before waking up in a panic realizing I hadn’t done my blog entry yet. Anyway, I thought I’d continue with the GenCon theme a little longer, and write about what happens when I get an app version of a boardgame that I love.

In some cases like Star Realms and Summoner Wars, I barely or never play the board game version. I don’t think these games make good examples though, since they offer online play and are two player games, giving me many more opportunities to play the app than the board/card game. Not really a fair comparison.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a better test case. The card game has a lot more content available for it than the app, yet I haven’t gotten my cards out once since Handelabra released Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. The convenience of having a device handle all of the housekeeping is just too nice to pass up, not to mention being able to play it in situations where I don’t have the table space for the card game. Base on my GenCon demo expierience, I think the upcoming multiplayer will have me playing the app even more than the card game.

I don’t see myself giving up boardgames ever, but I wonder what it would take to get me to prefer an original game over a well-done app conversion. Maybe miniatures?

Any bets on how many more blog entries I can wring out of GenCon for Blaugust? Don’t forget to go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page.

GenCon 2015 Part 4

Blaugust 2015 Day 05

2015-08-02 09.42.18Sunday at GenCon is Family Day. Sunday is also the day I’ve been bringing my oldest son with me for the last few years. On the drive down Sunday morning I asked him what he wanted to do at GenCon and his reply was: eat at a food truck, collect buttons, and say hi to Todd. I knew he really enjoyed the button hunt that we did last year for the first time, but I hadn’t realized how big an impression the food trucks had made. I guess for a six year old, getting food out of a truck and sitting on the sidewalk to eat is a pretty cool experience.

2015-08-01 09.07.03The new thing we did this year was watch and participate in the destruction of the balloon monster. This year it was a Kraken. These are made and then an auction is held to pick a winner to destroy them at noon on Sunday. This year they did something a little different by holding an auction just to destroy the head and they let all of the kids assembled take on the arms. I have some video of this that’s just insane to see, I hope to get it posted later this week. There were a few dozen kids turned loose and going feral. Balloons were popping so fast that it sounded like the end of a fireworks show.

2015-08-02 14.18.12The most surprising thing to me that Thing 1 enjoyed was a World War 2 tank game. This was near the end of our day and usually by then he’s tire and beginning to have trouble focusing, yet we stood for nearly ten minutes watching other people demo this game. Then he actually sat down and played through a demo himself for nearly fifteen minutes. I was amazed, to say the least. The guy doing the demo recommended that I check out Brikwars which is a set of miniatures combat rules for use with Lego.

That’s it for my GenCon recaps, now I have to actually come up with topics for the rest of the month. As always go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page if you’re interested in joining in.

GenCon 2015 Part 3

Blaugust 2015 Day 04

2015-08-01 09.17.27On Saturday, started out back in the Golem Arcana area of the play hall. Enough of the east and west coast regional players hadn’t been able to come to GenCon, that most of the midwest regional players got into the national tournament, including me. So I got to play far more than I expected.

2015-08-01 11.23.22My first round was against the ten year old son of one of the other players, Alex76. The game started off badly for me but I managed to tie it up, and then we ended up going back and forth both trying to get the last point we needed to win. In the end it came down to our last two golems, each down to their few hitpoints when I managed to get a successful attack and win the game. While I like to win, I’m not a super competitive person. Most of my favorite games of Golem Arcana were super close ones like this one, some of which I’ve lost and some I’ve one. This one has some great close calls one both sides.

The other thing I really enjoy about this game is the community that’s building up around it. Likely because the game is so new and the player community is small, but everyone is very friendly. Case in point being in this match, where partway through I noticed Alex was having trouble thinking through all of the moves in a turn and I told Alex’s dad he could help him out. I didn’t want to do it myself because I didn’t want to accidentally give him bad advice. There were a lot of instances like this of players helping each other out, and while I hope that the game continues to grow, I really want this friendliness in the community to continue.

Unfortunately for me the next round in the tournament wasn’t nearly that close and I lost about four turns in. As it would turn out on Sunday though, I lost to the play who ended up winning the entire tournament.

Fleet Captains MeetupBesides the Golem Arcana tournament, the other big thing I had planned for Saturday was a meetup with Wininoid, Todd, and Greendragoon, fellow Star Trek Online player and Foundry fanatic, for a game of Star Trek Fleet Captains.

We had a lot of fun and what turned out to be nearly a four hour game flew by. This was the first time I’d gotten a chance to actually get the game out and really play aside from a brief solo attempt to learn the rules. I was really impressed by how well the game captured the different feels of the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans, something Todd commented on as well. I’m already hoping to get a chance to play this again with them next year.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my GenCon recap. If you’re curious about this Blaugust craziness go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page.

GenCon 2015 Part 2

Blaugust 2015 Day 03

I spent the first half of Friday at GenCon in the Exhibit Haul Hall.

2015-07-31 10.37.18Harebrained Schemes was demoing a new game called Necropolis.  It’s a take on the Roguelike genre, which I’m usually not a fan of, with a really cool art style that reminded me a bit of Massive Chalice, which I really liked. I didn’t get very far the few times I ran through the demo, but it’s definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on despite the fact that I’m not totally sure it’s the kind of game I’ll enjoy. Not to mention my already ridiculous backlog of games to play.

2015-07-31 11.27.44The other video game I demoed was the new multiplayer for Handelabra’s Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. This is a really great adaptation of my favorite super hero card game. Sentinels the original card game has been criticized for being too fiddly. I can sympathize with that but don’t mind it myself. If that did bother you or your just interested in trying out the game without investing in the tabletop version, the video game adaptation is really excellently done.

The multiplayer session I tried out is still in beta but looks to be just as high quality as the single player game. Too be honest I wasn’t super enthused about it before my demo, but I’m pretty excited to play more multiplayer in the Steam beta and cross-platform on my tablet after it launches.

Besides video games, I demoed and purchased Apocalypse Chaos from Z-Man games. It’s like a puzzly smaller cousin to Space Hulk. I picked up a Kickstarter edition copy of a interesting looking tower defence game called The King’s Armory. And despite my preordering the most recent Firefly the Game expansion through my local shop in order to  keep from impulse buying it at the convention, Gale Force 9 had a gorgeous playmat version of the board for $40 that I just couldn’t pass up.

I only attended one panel the whole convention. The Writer’s Symposium track at GenCon included a panel on Interactive Fiction that Joe Dever was on that I couldn’t miss.

IMG_0303I also go the chance to meet up with Nos (in the center of the photo), one of the hosts of Kerbalcast. We hung out for forty-five minutes with another listener who was there and got to talk about the podcast, Kerbal Space Program, and board games. I’ve guest hosted on podcasts before, but this was the first time that I’ve met someone I listen to regularly in person.

After that I met up with Todd again and we did a D&D session of Harried in Hillsfar. This was my first ever role-playing experience at GenCon and my first in-person D&D session since college. I was a little nervous about it to be honest, but it went very well. I had a lot of fun, and my Dragonborn Sorcerer Kaar narrowly survived his ordeal.

Todd and I finished off the night playing Android Netrunner ( he won) and Apocalypse Chaos (we lost).

2015-07-31 23.53.49
One “small” section of the GenCon Play Hall

It was another early morning, late night for me but well worth it.

As always, it isn’t too late to join in and catch up. Well it is if it’s not still August 31st, but go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page anyway, there’s always next year.

GenCon 2015 Part 1

Blaugust 2015 Day 02

GenCon kicked off on Thursday morning and I started off the convention in the giant Will Call line. It stretched across the length of the convention center and looked pretty daunting, but I had been through the same thing the year before and found that the line moved pretty quickly. I ended up getting through and picking up my event tickets in about fifteen minutes.

I passed even that short of a time pretty quickly by talking to the people in front of and behind me in line. That isn’t the kind of thing I normally do, but it’s part of the magic of GenCon for me. It’s four days surrounded by thousands of people who are at least as weird as I am. It’s a very liberating experience.

Lone Wold 1 SignedThe high point of the first day for me and possible the whole convention was getting to meet Joe Dever and getting my copy of Lone Wolf #1 signed. He was super friendly and very generous with his time. The Lone Wolf gamebooks were a big part of my childhood, second only to Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and it was a complete thrill to get to meet Mr. Dever and tell him that. I was giddy the rest of the day and thinking about it still makes me grin.

2015-07-30 13.56.34Most of the rest of the day I spent in Hall F which is where Harebrained Scheme’s Golem Arcana play area was. I had signed up for the Midwest Tournament and a large number of the other people in it were from my playgroup here in Indy (note the bowling shirts), so there were plenty of other games to watch when I wasn’t playing myself. I had a bye for the first round as a result of League Play earlier in the year, and I managed to narrowly win my Round Two game. Unfortunately I lost my Round Three game so I didn’t play in the semi-finals on Friday, but it was a super close game.

2015-07-30 16.41.27By the way, I say “super close” not cause I’m trying to mitigate losing. I really enjoyed that game. Both myself and my opponent played extremely well, and the game literally game down to dice rolls on the last two rounds. Had I’d rolled a hit, or had my opponent rolls a miss on the following turn, the outcome would’ve reversed. I totally prefer games like that over just steamrolling someone. Although winning is always nice.

I capped off the day by meeting up with my friend Todd (Wininoid) and playing games in the convention center until they shut the lights off in the play hall at midnight. We had to pack up by cell phone flashlight.

I’d gotten up at 7 am Thursday and didn’t get home and get to bed until 2:30 am. I was pretty amped up from the day even though I was exhausted, so it took me an hour to wind down enough to sleep.

One last thing! It’s not too late to join in, unless you’re reading this after August 31st. Visit the Blaugust Initiate Page to see how.

Blaugust is Back

Blaugust 2015 Day 01

It’s August which means Blaugust is back. The second annual insanity thought up by Belghast as a way to motivate bloggers like me to actually post stuff. Having to write everyday last year finally got me past some of my hang ups and bad habits about leaving drafts unpublished. Usually after writing something I’ve save it and want to come back later to proof it before publishing. A month later when I’d finally look at it again, I’d delete it because it wasn’t relevant anymore or I’d moved on to other things. While I didn’t stick to any kind of schedule, daily or otherwise, for the blog after last year’s event, I haven’t dumped any articles into daft limbo in the last twelve months like I used to.

Besides starting Blaugust, I’m just past the halfway point of GenCon. I’ve had three days of getting up at 7 am and going to bed at 2 am, and I’ve walked a ton. I don’t use a fitness tracker but I’m sure I’ve been getting in 5-6 miles a day between walking to the convention and roaming the halls. I’m exhausted and I’m sure that going to work Monday morning will be tougher than usual but I’ve had an incredible amount of fun in the last three days. The timing for GenCon worked out well as I’ll have a lot to write about from the last few days of getting to meet people and play games. And I still have one more day to go!

Looking Back at 2014

To borrow a phrase: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

One of the best things this year is Thing One started Kindergarten. My wife and I were a little concerned about how he would do, but without cause as he’s been doing great. It’s been an interesting experience getting him on the bus every morning, in fact it’s the first time that I’ve ever been able to keep a regular morning schedule. The terror of parent hood and having my kid be late for school, is far more motivating than being late for work.

The absolute worst thing this year was finding out the youngest of my two dogs had cancer and dealing with all of the treatment, heartbreak, and expenses from February to November.

Aside from the really important real life stuff, it’s been a pretty decent if strange year. GenCon was really great, Guardians of the Galaxy became my favorite movies, Blaugust was a ton of fun, and I discovered a new gaming addiction in Kerbal Space Program, something that finally supplanted Minecraft for me.

MMOs feel pretty flat though. Elder Scrolls Online started out surprisingly good but fell flat once most of the people I played with drifted off into other things. Wild Star was a skip for me from the start, too much like WoW for my tastes both in graphics and the raiding focus. Firefall and Marvel Heroes are two games that I largely ignored when they released but ended up getting into a playing for a bit, even though I’ve not returned to them recently. The one thing I was most looking forward to in the MMO space was the Delta Rising Expansion for Star Trek Online and I’ve barely touched that. Somehow Kerbal Space Program has really grabbed hold of me to exclusion of most other games since October and I’ve been putting tons of hours into both the standard stock game and heavily modded versions.

Unfortunately my List Experiment stalled out in the second half of the year. I only read 22 out of the 50 books I’d set for myself on GoodReads. And while I actually caught up a bit on my comics backlog, I still have movies from the last two Christmases that I somehow haven’t watched. How I can’t find two hours here or there to watch a movie- well then I think about wasting half a night flipping channels on the TV.

All in all, despite some of the great experiences I had over the last year, I’m glad to put it behind me.

GenCon Loot and Recovery


GenCon is over and I can say now that I spent more than I should have, but not as much as I wanted to, so I count that as a win.

The Loot

The card boxes on top are Bug Out and My Word from Out of the Box. Bug Out is a basic matching game that has funny pictures of bugs on them, for instance a termite dress as a construction worked eating a wooden board. It’s not particularly deep, but that’s great for a five year old with a short attention span. My Word is one that I’m going to use differently than intended. You’re supposed to draw cards and make words out of them, but I’m going to use them as letter flash cards and to make specific words he’s supposed to be learning to sight read in kindergarten/

The next one down is The Hare & the Tortoise from iello and is part of their Tales & Games series. The box is made to look like a book and has a nice insert and magnetic closure. It’s a racing game, obviously based on the title, and just a little on the advanced side for my son, which is good since he can grow into it. I’ve played it once with him so far and he had fun moving pieces and drawing cards even though he wasn’t grasping any of the strategy involved yet.

The blue box is the Blue Sun expansion for Filefly: The Game from Gale Force Nine. This includes and add-on board which will make the table space required a little bit more ridiculous than it already is and adds Rim Space to the game, which is the area that the movie took place in. Mr. Universe, Reaver Space, and the planet Miranda. I didn’t get to demo this one, but I couldn’t pass up Firefly related product even if it’s related to the movie part of the franchise.

The two white boxes are the Durani and Guldana factions for Golem Aranca and the white banded stack of cardboard below those is the second tileset. I got the other two factions and the first tileset as part of my original Kickstarter pledge, but I decided after running through the tutorial that I wanted to pick up the other two. I’ve not played enough yet to really comment on how different each of the factions works. I got to play two games at GenCon and I’ve been through one of the tutorial games twice. I’m planning to post some unboxing photos and more thoughts on the game after I get more time with it. I will say that I really like what I’ve played so far and I appreciate being able to off load all of the book keeping to an app. Sometimes I enjoy doing that kind of thing and there’s other miniatures games like Galaxy Defenders for that, but Golem Arcana will be really nice for times when I don’t want to do everything myself.

Downwood Tales is the latest expansion for Mice and Mystics from Plaid Hat. Mice and Mystics is a coop miniatures game, provides a strong narrative experience, and is very family friendly. While I haven’t played the expansion at all yet, I have played the base game twice and quite enjoyed it. I hope to sit down with my oldest sometime in the next year and start a playthrough, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to get the expansion without having to worry about shipping. Having a few promo card included didn’t hurt either. Plus Plaid Hat is one of two small game publishers that I’m a big fan of and I like to support them as directly as possible.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is at the bottom of the stack. It’s a cooperative deck builder from Catalyst Game Labs. I got the chance to play a full game at the release party on Thursday night and really loved it. Being a fan of deck builders and coop games as well as the Shadowrun setting, this was a game that I was fully expecting to buy coming into GenCon. I’m still a little unsure about the character progression aspect as it involves using stickers, but that’s a personal hangup on my part. It feels too much like marking in a book, which I never do except for getting an author’s signature.

Pig and Creeper I also picked up two Minecraft plushies. The Creeper for my oldest and the baby pig for my youngest. They were a big hit, although I started regretting the Creeper choice immediately after getting home as Thing One started chasing Thing Two around the house hissing and then shouting, “Boom!”

Return to Real Life

Today I got back to my real life again. This morning was a real struggle trying to get my kids ready for school/daycare while my body had only started to recover from too much walking and not enough sleep. Coffee was just enough to let me function. The rest of the day was spent trying to remember what I was doing at work last week, catching up on chores around the house, and digging into the massive backlog on my RSS reader. Not much fun but I have no regrets whatsoever. GenCon was absolutely worth it. Totally fun.

Day 18 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Four, Little Kae’s Button Quest

Little KaeToday was the last day for GenCon for me, but it was the first day and only day for my son. This is his actually his third GenCon although I doubt he remembers the first one since he was only three. He’s five now, nearly six, and just starting to get to the point where he really gets something from the experience.

We got to the convention about 10:30. I had planned to hit some of the kid’s games booths in the Exhibit Hall first and then figured we would wander a bit and check out some of the family activities. That changed though when a the first person we see after entering the convention center was a man handing out buttons. We found out that there were eight more people scattered around GenCon with more buttons and that became the quest for the day.

We did still manage to hit the big children friendly publishers: Blue Orange, IELLO, and HABA. I also found a new one call Out of the Box which had several fun (and cheap) educational games. The big purchase in my son’s opinion though was the latest Tales and Games volume: The Hare and the Tortoise. Which I realized after about the fifth time he asked to go somewhere and find a spot on the floor to play.

The other big hit for him was the food trucks next door to the convention. He couldn’t believe that there was a whole street blocked off for people to walk on, or that there were real trucks with people inside of them cooking food for him to eat.

I’m never sure how plans will turn out, but he did a great job walking all over the convention center and following directions. We made it until 3pm before he decided he was ready to go home, which was two hours longer than I expected. He’s still not real sure about cosplayers. On the way down he was talking a lot about wanting to see Darth Vader, but that changed once we actually started seeing people in costumes.

Day 17 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Three

Today didn’t zip by quite as fast as yesterday but it was still a very good day. I took the morning off from GenCon to follow my usual Saturday morning routine of taking my sons’ for their swimming lessons, so I didn’t head downtown until about 11:30. That meant there was zero parking in any of the usual places and I ended up walking a half dozen more blocks than usual. My feet weren’t too pleased about that, although my wallet was happy since it was half as expensive as either or the previous two days.

IMG_20140816_124830I spent the first couple of hours in the Exhibit Hall, which I’d barely seen much of before then. I scouted out a few children’s games so I knew where to take my son tomorrow.

I got to see a prototype of the app version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game being developed by Obsidian. The prototype itself was very good looking. I was slightly disappointed but not surprised that they’re current initial target platform is just iOS but it is being developed in Unity so an Android version shouldn’t be more effort. It’s relatively early in the development process for them so that could easily change between now and the release sometime next year.

After cruising the Exhibit Hall, I played some more Golem Arcana, which was a lot of fun even though I lost the match, before heading out to dinner with friends.

I got to wrap up the evening by seeing a writer’s session on storytelling in new media (mostly games) which had Christine Thompson, aka Kestrel, the lead writer for Star Trek Online on it. Afterwards she hung around for a bit with her husband, Frost from STO’s QA team, to chat with me and two other STO players. She was nice enough to sign the Path to 2409 appendix in my copy of Needs of the Many, and gave out Delta Rising t-shirts and Holo Leeta codes to the three of us. Made my night.



Day 16 of Blaugust