A weekend of gaming, from Cal & D to Power Grid

Saturday, I got together with Cal, Martin and Steve so we could finish our now-epic one-shot of Cal & D.

The plan was to start at 10, because Martin had a family commitment that we all decided (despite his disagreement, which was wrong) that wasn't nearly as important as crawling the dungeon and emerging victorious with copious amounts of treasure.

However, we all stayed up too late on Friday, so we started a little bit later, like … 1130. Well, that's not entirely correct, either. See, we got all our stuff together at 1130, but we had to bullshit and tease Martin about his family commitment for at least an hour, so we actually started at 1230.

We could have sat around my dining room table, but since Cal & D requires no maps or minis, we instead played in my living room, Cal standing on one side with his DM stuff, and the three of us sitting in different places on my two couches. It made me tremendously happy to sit around and play like this, because it's how we used to do it in the old days, when minis weren't nearly as integral to combat as they are today.

Cal recapped for us, and Martin rolled 2d12. He pointed at the result and asked, "So do we win now?"

"No," Cal said.

I rolled d20. "How about now?"

"Still no," Cal said.

It was the perfect way to start Cal & D, where the table talk — in this case, living room talk — is more important than the actual game.

We explored the Tomb a bit more, until Steve's Gnome wandered into a room and turned himself invisible before the door closed between him and us. Our characters didn't know that he'd activated some teleportation device while the door was closed, so we decided to role play it as honestly as we could: Steve's Gnome was fucking with us, so we just walked away to teach him a lesson (because that makes a lot of sense when you're in a Tomb filled with traps and who knows what else.)

"DMs just love it when you split the party," Cal said, using a tone which indicated that this probably wasn't true, or if it was, he was not one of the DMs who subscribed to this particular opinion.

We did the split party thing for close to 30 minutes, until Martin and I ran into a locked door that we couldn't get through. "Let's go back to that room at the bottom of the stairs and get L'Anklebiter," I said, "so he can pick the lock."

This eventually led us to a room filled with giant rotating knives ("Knives?" "Rotating knives, yes." "We just wanted a nice block of flats." "I see. I guess I didn't properly divine your attitude toward the tenants.") I was cut to fat ribbons by them, and Martin's little gnome guy tried to dodge them, but failed for some reason.

"Don't I have [some Gnome thing that Martin made up to get out of the way]?"

"No, that's in an older edition of Cal & D," Cal said, "it's not in this edition."

"Yeah, didn't you read the Rules CALpendium?" I said, particularly pleased with myself. "That whole system was pretty heavily revised."

"I guess I haven't picked up that particular book, yet," Martin said.

Eventually, we met up with L'Anklebiter, who was fighting some kind of nasty Hag. During the fight with the Hag, Martin's Gnome (who you may remember is the Travelocity Gnome) used his Gnomish Hookhammer (this is hilarious if you're a certain kind of gaming geek) to trip the Hag.

"You need to say some kind of trip-related pun," Cal said, "or the attack fails."

Steve and I laughed, and Martin completely froze. His face turned red, he stopped breathing, and I'm fairly sure he begain to sweat. "Uhh," Martin said.

"Come on, man! You TRIPPED her, and your whole thing is that you send people on TRIPS. You have to come up with a pun."

Martin looked as if he had forgotten how to speak, and quite possibly how to think.

"Five, four, three," Cal counted down, "two … one."

Martin blinked. "I got nothing."

"BOOOOO!!!" I hollered.

"THUMBS DOWN!" Steve said.

"The Hag gets up," Cal said, "And the Travelocity gods are so displeased with you, you are transformed into …"

An excited silence filled the room. Even Oingo Boingo, which had been playing on the stereo, seemed to fade into the background. 

"You are transformed into … William Shatner. And now you work for Price Line."

I exploded into convulsions of laughter. When I got my breath back, I said, "Oh my god, Martin. You're The Shatner now!"

Martin looked about as sad as it's possible to look while playing Cal & D. "I just … I couldn't think of anything."

"Have a nice TRIP?" I said. "You should have booked TRIP insurance?" 

"I know, I know," Martin said.

"I'm sorry, you didn't sound like The Shatner at all, just then. You're going to have to work on that."

Around this time, we took a break to compose ourselves. Then we realized that Martin had to leave for his totally-not-important thing, so we put the game on hold, to be completed at a future session.

Shortly after Martin left, Cal's wife and my wife came home, and we transitioned to board games.

First up, we played Pandemic, with the On The Brink expansion. I am of the opinion that Pandemic should always be played on the Hard setting, because we're probably going to lose anyway, and there is much more glory in beating the game on Hard or Legendary or Are You Fucking Serious than the easier settings.

We set up, and Anne said, "isn't this that game you say you never win?"

I told her that it was, and it would be a good bonding experience for us all, since she'd never played it with us before.

"Okay," she said.

"Seriously, I have had more fun losing this game than I have had winning other games."

"If you say so," she said.

"Trust me!" I said.

"Let's just play the game, okay?" Cal said.

"Good idea."

We won, with just two cards left to draw and the outbreak level at 7.

"I thought you said you never won this game!" Anne said, clearly disappointed to have been victorious.

"Well, you're just too good at it," Steve said to her, "so it's all your fault that we won."

We broke for dinner. I made Pappardelle with Vegetarian Bolognese. I was really stressed out about screwing it up, especially because Cal and his wife Raellen are incredible chefs and we usually play at their house and eat their food … but it was amazing. I was proud of myself, and everyone enjoyed it. Go me!

After dinner, we played Shadows Over Camelot. It was a ton of fun, as usual, even though we lost, because Cal was a filthy stinking traitor.

Cal and Raellen went home after that, because Cal, Steve, and I were planning to go to OrcCon by LAX on Sunday, and we didn't want to get down there too late.

I've written about OrcCon before, but a quick recap: it's a mid-sized gaming con that I just love. I've been going to it since I was in high school (not every year, sadly), and it is what comes to mind when I think of "going to a con." It has a great community feel, tons of open gaming, a great library of games to check out, and tremendous volunteers.

So Steve and I drove down to LAX around 10, met Cal, and found our friend Shane, who was volunteering to run tournaments, teach games, and generally help make the con awesome for its attendees.

We had hoped to get into the Dragon Age RPG, but we missed the start time by nearly 2 hours, and we'd missed the BSG start time by over an hour, so we grabbed a copy of Forbidden Island from the game library, and played it in Open Gaming, while we waited for Shane to finish running a tournament.

It was a seriously fun game, and we beat it on Hard (I wanted to play Legendary, but they were chicken.) My friend Paul Tevis, creator of the fantastic indie rpg A Penny For My Thoughts joined us, and we played Tales of the Arabian Nights with him. This is a great game that is truly about the journey instead of the destination. The goal is to have an interesting life that's filled with stories and adventure, even if terrible, terrible, terrible things happen to your character. It's a polarizing game, but I love it.

Paul had to leave for a game, so we wandered the dealer's room for a bit. I bought a copy of Lunch Money (finally) and considered buying coasters with dragons on them.

"I don't think I can sell these to Anne," I said.

"Hey, if the wives want us to use coasters, we should get to pick them out," Steve said.

"You know what? That makes a whole lot of sense to me," I said, and I bought four of them.

Our shopping completed, Steve headed down to the airport to fly home. Cal and I found Shane and played Power Grid Japan with him and a young couple (Crystal and Kevin) who I think Shane knows from the con. I was in the lead for the entire game, until Crystal connected and 15 cities when I had 13 and needed one more turn. Oh well, second place was fine.

I could have stayed at the con and played more games, but I wanted to have dinner with Anne, so I thanked my friends for playing with me, and left around 6:30.

When I got home, I proudly showed Anne our new coasters.

She was Not Amused™. "How about you use those on game day, and we pick out some different ones … together," She said.

I silently cursed Steve, even though I still thought that his idea was intriguing, and I wished to subscribe to his newsletter.

52 thoughts on “A weekend of gaming, from Cal & D to Power Grid”

  1. Wil, Dude, Freaking hilarious as always, and you are not alone with the whole ‘reverting to 12 years old’ when you game. All too frequently all gamers do that.
    I do have to ask though, you mentioned it in the original post about Cal & D and did it again here. As soon as the women folk appear, it’s an immediate transition to board games.
    What’s up with that?

  2. For some reason i enjoy the Old Man Wheaton DND blogs 😀 maybe because Id like to be playing some DND..
    wow I miss our 15 year campaign that ended a few years ago…. epic adventures..epic Friday and Saturday nights… alot of BS… lots of pics drawn (yes some phallic)..
    And who can forget the PIZZA :)

  3. I was the perfect age to play DND when it first became popular, but that was not my path – Star Wars was my obsession. I have friends from my class that still play DND, as you guys do. I think they have more fun in the retelling than in the actual game itself!
    I find board games more my style, but have recently found games like Qwirkle very fun because of the strategics involved.
    That being said, I like games that involve problem solving – something many kids nowadays don’t do too often in non-electronic formats!

  4. Best weekend ever. Cal & D sounds like a lot of fun. I used to play in a 2nd Ed game that also had no minis. It was fun.
    Also, dude, dragon coasters are awesome. But I can’t argue with Anne’s logic. :)

  5. I’d like to go on record here and apologize for pulling Paul away from your game so that he could come play in mine! But I can report with no hesistation that he rocked Dying Kingdoms, even if all of the influences were tied up by the Senate.
    #orccon FTW!

  6. It was awesome seeing you at OrcCon, Wil. I’m a fan of Tales of the Arabian Nights – the story makes the game, whether you win or lose. Have you played 7 Wonders? Definitely the hot game of the con!
    It rocked giving you your namesake token – loved the twitpic! Hope you can make it back to the dungeon this summer!

  7. Ah, the beauty of what you write, aside from being well-written, is that it could have been written by anyone so many of us know. That’s what makes you normal & awesome at the same time. Nawsome? Awemal? I bet you get the idea. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love reading about your Cal&D sessions, this one had me holding my breath so I wouldn’t I wouldn’t get the “why isn’t he in a straight-jacket?”-look at work this morning.
    To quote Sheldon: “WHEEEEATOOOOON!” (if you’re confused, that’s an explosion of nerdrage). My group (like so many others I’m sure) has a hard time fitting in sessions around Real Life™, and as much I enjoy reading about yours, the green-horned Enchanted Bunny of Jealousy rears its fluffy little head.
    So despite my foibles, keep up the stories Wil, I’ll keep laughing while I cry inside! heh

  9. I need to stop reading this stuff in my office at work – real life LOL’ing at the Shatner bit attracts too many odd glances.
    Thankfully I’m amongst fellow IT nerds so it’s easy to explain. But still…

  10. Tales of the Arabian Nights is super fun, but we found that the more we played it, the more the same stories kept coming up. So we instituted a new rule where the day would change to night every other turn.
    It made for a more interesting game play, because sometimes if you chose to do bad things – then bad things would happen more often :)

  11. I am completely shocked that you didn’t own Lunch Money before this. I mean, I am not geek enough to be worthy of fastening your All-Stars, but I own Lunch Money… and a lot of Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. Nothing says “I love you” like the Stomp card.

  12. Hi Mr. Wheaton (or Wil if you prefer). I saw you at the con, was a bit startstruck, then wanted to take your picture. I didn’t want to disturb you, so I just smiled to myself and moved on. My questions to you are, is it cool just to covertly snap a picture of you without bugging you? Would you prefer me (us) to approach and ask you first? Or would you rather I (we) just minded our own damn business? Not that I’m going to stalk you or anything, just in case I ever bump into you again. I nearly flashed you the Vulcan hand sign, but thought better of it. :)
    Best wishes,

  13. Not sure if this has been mentioned anywhere (or if i should mention it here) but in the new issue of SFX magazine a man looking very much like you and wearing a very striking fez was featured.

  14. I think the logical middle ground on patterned coasters lays with well drawn (not girly drawn, you know the difference) Unicorns. Women look at them and say “Aww, a Unicorn! How cute!” Whereas the those recruited into the Nerdly Army secretly think “Cute? Yes. That thing’s got darkvision 60 feet, magic circle against evil, spell-like abilities, immunity to poison, charm, compulsion, low-light vision, scent, wild empathy, and the horn is a +3 Magical weapon. Indeed, it is cute. And I shall one day claim it as my mount”
    Or something like that…

  15. Awesome, a list of new games to try out! Have you ever tried Fluxx by Looney Labs, or Chez Geek by Steve Jackson games? Both are card games, play fairly quickly, and are a fun to play.
    Anybody out there have a favorite game that can be played in under 2 hours? My old friends and I are getting back into playing but are limited on time since they have young kids.

  16. I though “Tales of the Arabian Nights” sounded familiar. I dug out an old copy I have. Old is right, copyright 1985. I am betting I bought is from about 1985 to about 1988. I hate being old.

  17. I’m a big board game fan. Shadows Over Camelot is another game that we often never win. We try to play when all slots can be taken, so someone is always the traitor.
    I will have to look into Pandemic. Hex Hex is a good one, if you like card games.

  18. Wow. You guys are serious about the dick punching, eh?
    I read your version, and Wil’s was just better because he has a +2 to Blogging Keyboard from his years of service to the internets.

  19. Even though you won, I’m glad Anne had a reasonably good experience.
    My wife, on the other hand, gamed with our group once, and it didn’t go nearly as well. We were playing a dungeon board game (which I currently forget the name of) where you start on the edge of the board, work your way to the middle, and then run away to the outside again.
    Well there’s a small chance you can draw trap cards, and there’s an even smaller chance that it’s a “cave-in” card that instakills you. It often happens as you’re running from the middle near the end of the game… for my wife, it was her first turn.
    First turn: cave-in. Dead.
    I said, “Sweetie! you can start again – we can pretend that never happened.”
    “No,” she replied, “that’s fine, dear. I’ll just sit and watch for the next couple hours while you finish.”
    Sigh. She never played again. ANYTHING.

  20. I don’t know if you do requests…but if you’ve got a free moment, I would very much like to hear your thoughts on the death of comic genius Dwayne McDuffie, if you were a fan of his work. (Of course, I do not mean to assume that you were a fan of his, just because you like comics…but a lot of us were.)
    …and sorry if this is the first you’re hearing of it.

  21. I just wanted to share a learning experience I had the other night. Inspired by listening to the podcasts of you and Scott, Mike, and Gabriel, I have been learning to DM using the new Red Box, running the game for my husband, our 13 year old daughter, Gabby, and our 8 year old son, Ben. But I’m such a newbie that my head is constantly filled with that worrying voice that I’m not doing it right. I actually found myself having mild anxiety attacks and really not enjoying myself very much.
    The other day Gabby had a sleepover and Ben, being 8, was causing brotherly michief so I intervened. In our regular game we had left it with their band resting in the dungeon, so I had him set up the map with the crossroads showing, grabbed his deck of pokemon cards and improvised a side game for the two characters he was playing, (a dwarf fighter and a dragon born warlock). I told him his guys had fallen asleep in the dungeon and awoke to find themselves in a strange land.
    I just winged it and we had so much fun and my confidence got exactly the boost it needed. The real turning point was when the Farfetch’d landed on his dwarf’s head and was pecking it. (Ned, his dragonborn had accidentally burnt up its nest).
    What a difference for me once I relaxed and just let things flow rather than worrying every five seconds if I was doing it right. I hope to carry that feeling over into our next family game.

  22. I hear that dragon coasters give your coffee table a +3 bonus verses Diet Coke.
    I hope I never find out because I don’t want to be found anywhere near a Diet drink of any kind.
    Reminds me of a game we used to play (Wil played in it occasionally, too) where we used “light beer” as a faux-“Detect Evil” at taverns. We’d look around and if we saw people drinking light beer, we’d just attack them on site.

  23. Ah, Shadows Over Camelot and Pandemic, so much fun! My friends and I have recently discovered the joys of playing Battlestar Galactica with the new Exodus expansion (and Pegasus as well). I’ve played the expanded game nine times and none of those times the humans managed to win. Either the game has become ridiculously difficult or the people I play with (let’s be fair – me included) suck at it.

  24. I suggest a good game of BANG! No, really, look it up. Western Style card game, different guns determine your range. The range of a target is how far away from you they are sitting at the table.

  25. Sometimes, just letting things flow naturally is a big help.
    I have also been listening to the podcasts, and enjoying them. However, Since you brought up the podcasts, and I was listening to them all again today at work. . did anyone else notice that Aeofel should have had another turn before he died?
    He was bloodied at 23, took 19 falling into the acid (4). Took 12 the next turn from the acid (-8). Then took 11 (-19), at which point, it was stated the bloodied value was 13, and he was dead.. when Bloodied was 23… 4 more negative HP to go! LOL
    Yes, a couple years late, but I did come across them late myself

  26. I recently joined a gaming group (after having only played party games) and I’m quickly finding out that I love it. Pandemic was one of the first ones I played and it rocks my socks. Also, Power Grid! Battlestar Galactica is another one of my faves, although I’ve never seen it won.

  27. Lunch Money is the best! I used to Demo it all the time when I worked as the lone token female at WoTC. The only game that comes close is Apples to Apples played with a sharpie!

  28. With some of the expansions and box sets there are blank cards you can write on those to create your own.
    Another way is to alter the card just *slightly* (see avatar pic) to make it more fitting for the group that is playing. I had the card “giant squid” while playing at an anime convention so it became “giant squid porn” and the tentacles just begged to be added. It defiantly makes the game more personalized and possibly more lewd.
    For even more fun you can also build your own custom expansions. At Katsucon they had added a “Con” expansion with many references that went over other staffers’ and my heads.

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