Category Archives: Games

some kind of verb, some kind of moving thing

This guest post was written by Will Hindmarch, a freelance writer and designer of games and fiction. Read more at his blog at wordstudio.net.

A few years ago, inspiration struck me a few times in a row and I started work on a new tabletop game. It was a story game about journeys. I knew that much. Sitting down at my kitchen table, writing in my notebook, ideas collided and threw off sparks that I distilled in handwriting as quick as I could.

One idea sparked another. I wrote down design questions and then answered them, right there on the spot. Not every answer was right. I learned that much. Actually playing the game showed me new questions and confounded some of my answers. No worries, though, that’s just the way that goes. Onward.

A few months ago, I described this game to a friend of mine who digs these sorts of things. I discovered as I talked that the game felt pretty finished. I’d been testing it for years, playing it with a myriad of new players, but I didn’t know how to tell myself it was ready to show people. So when I described the game to this friend of mine and he said “That sounds great!” it gave me the jolt I needed to turn my notes into a manuscript.

I’d been sort of writing this thing, in bits and pieces in my head, for a year. I knew what I wanted to say but I had been slow to turn my thoughts into text. Part of it was fear: this was a new kind of game for me and I’d be measured against giants when it was done. Another part of it was … also fear: what if what I wrote sucked out loud? I write for a living and I still feel that way sometimes.

Odyssey by Will Hindmarch

Odyssey by Will Hindmarch

A few hours ago, I launched the crowdfunding campaign to pay artists (and me) to finish the game book. The game’s called Odyssey. I think it’s pretty good.

I wanted to make this thing. I’ve wanted to make this thing for a while. What I needed was to get excited. It was a spark of enthusiasm — from a friend I wanted to inspire — that helped make this thing.

We participate in the creation of so many things, sometimes without knowing it. I don’t know if my friend knows that his casual enthusiasm powered this project’s creation like a life-giving bolt, but it did. Sparks start engines.

New Tabletop: Betrayal at House on the Hill

This week, Ashly Burch, Keahu Kahuanui and Michael Swaim join me to play one of my very favorite RPG-in-a-box games: Betrayal at House on the Hill.

I’m a huge fan of Ashly’s work in Borderlands 2, and after I met her at Valve last year, I became a huge fan of her as a human. She’s really awesome and a hell of a lot of fun to play with. If you like things that don’t suck, check out Hey Ash, Watcha Playin’?

Keahu and I have a ton of friends in common, but we’d never met until just before we shot this episode. Since then, we’ve become very good friends, and I even get to be a Bad Idea Bear for him from time to time when giant pizza is involved. Thank you, Tabletop Gaming, for helping me make a new friend. Oh, and Keahu is on some TV show about wolf hunters or something like that. I think it’s animated.

Michael Swaim knows Felicia, and is a lifelong tabletop gamer, just like me. He also writes for Cracked.com. Felicia suggested that I invite him to the show, because he’s hilarious and fun to be around, and she was pretty sure we’d like each other. I hate to admit it, but Felicia was right.

This was so much fun to play, and so much incredibly awesome stuff happened, we ended up cutting it into a two-part episode (but fear not! Part two comes out next week, because we love you and don’t want to make you wait two whole weeks for the second part. Did I mention that it was awesome? It’s awesome.)

When I get home from Texas, we’re shooting a Very Special Episode of Not The Flog, where I’m going to share some of my favorite horror-themed tabletop games. I have a pretty big list in my head, but I’m sure there’s something awesome that I’m forgetting, so if you wanted to maybe get onto Not The Flog, tell me the title of the game you love, why you love it, and what your favorite Halloween candy is. I’ll pick some and put them into the show, which is coming out sooooooon.

Soooooon.

Soon.

Anyway, turn down your lights (where applicable) and enjoy the show!

Coup: An amazing bluffing game from Indie Boards And Cards

Thanks to my fellow gamers respecting, understanding, and supporting my “I’m not here to take pictures and sign autographs, I’m just here to play games” policy at GenCon, I got to play a ton of really great games this year, including probably the best bluffing game I’ve ever played. It’s called Coup, and it comes out from Indie Boards and Cards (they do The Resistance, among other things) later this year.

While I was waiting in the airport to come home yesterday, I looked it up on Boardgame Geek, and decided to add my own review to the board, you know, to give a little something back to the community:

Subject: One of the best bluffing games I’ve ever played.
I played a demo of this at GenCon, and fell in love with it. I played with five strangers, and when the game was over ten minutes after we started (it takes all of 2 minutes to learn it) we were ready to start over and play again.

The cards look great, the rules are incredibly simple to learn, and even though there’s player elimination, it only takes about 10 minutes to play, so nobody has to sit out for too long.

This is a fantastic palate cleanser during a game day, and a great way for a few players to get into a quick game while waiting for a slot in another game.

You won’t see this on the Geek, though, because it wasn’t accepted

Comments from users that moderated this article:
Not much content
Not a review
Lacks depth.

Well fine! You’re not my real dad! I’ll put my not-a-review on my own site! With blackjack! And hookers! In fact, forget the review!

I’m just kidding. I suppose it’s not actually a review*, and more of a forum post … but it really is a great game, and something I hope we can find a way to play on Tabletop if we do a season three.

 

*This one is, and it’s worth whatever geek gold you happen to have in your pocket.

Not the Flog 3

We are having entirely too much fun making Not The Flog.

This week, I’ll discuss some smartphone and tablet app versions of games we’ve played on Tabletop, forgetting to mention one of the very best, Forbidden Island.

Oh, and the intro that Sean Becker made is maybe the best thing on the Internet today.

Enjoy!

The new Tabletop is a real Smash Up.

We wrapped production on season two of Tabletop on Tuesday night. When I got home from the set, Anne asked me how I was feeling.

“Do you feel sad that it’s over, or relieved that you get to catch your breath?”

I grabbed a glass out of the kitchen and walked across our living room.

“I’m tired, so I’m looking forward to a couple days of being a fat piece of shit on the couch, but I’m going to miss playing games all day for my job.”

I poured an Arrogant Bastard Ale out of my kegerator — a gift to myself — that’s been in the living room since it arrived a little over a month ago.

“That makes sense,” Anne said.

“Yeah, and I’m really proud of what we did this season, so I feel sort of sad to say goodbye to my crew for another year.”

I filled my glass and took a sip. “Ahhh that’s good beer.”

“This thing is the Leg Lamp,” she said, pointing to my kegerator.

“You mean it’s a thing of indescribable beauty that should be in the front window?”

“No, I mean that it’s a thing that really needs to be in your office and not the living room.”

I took a drink of my beer. “But if it was in my office, we’d have to walk all the way down the hall to get beer.”

She hesitated and I pounced. “See? That’s science. I win.”

I sat on the couch and she looked at me. “I’m going to move it as soon as I clean up the disaster that is where my office used to be*. Thank you for being patient.” I hoped she would not use up all the glue on purpose, as we settled down to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones.

Today, I’m starting to get back to normal. I’ve slept a lot the last two nights, so I only feel a little fuzzy in my brain. Also today, the newest episode of Tabletop was released! It’s Smash Up, with Rich Sommer, Cara Santa Maria, and Jen Timms.

Watching this today, I am once again blown away by the magnificent work of our editors. This game has a lot going on, and they worked very hard to make it understandable and entertaining. Tabletop is a show that is made in editing, and I realized while watching Smash Up today that the last five days of production, while very long and intense, represent only the beginning of the process that makes Tabletop possible. So, Yasu and Steve, if you’re reading this: thank you for your incredible work. I’m grateful to have you on my team.

*During production, my office becomes a huge pile of boxes and games and all kinds of stuff that just gets set aside until production wraps. It’s currently the worst it’s ever been, because in addition to the usual cruft from production, there are several boxes of things I brought home from conventions last month, as well as a whole lot of homebrew that’s bottle conditioning. It’s a hot mess.

in which i play games for my job, and i am grateful

Last night, my friend and associate Tabletop Producer, Boyan, came over to play some games with me as we prepare for season 2.5 of Tabletop, which we start filming a week from tomorrow.

We’re going to play Ticket To Ride: Europe, because I think it’s a wonderful example of a Tabletop game that’s a variation on a theme, with some minor changes, that’s just as fun to play as the original. In fact, this is the version of Ticket To Ride that made me fall in love with the game. I didn’t like the original the first few times I played it (it wasn’t the game’s fault; I was carrying some baggage from a few really bad games of Power Grid with me), and the smaller map, stations, and tunnels made Europe a game that I still love to play.

2013-05-30 20.22.34

As you can see by the blurry hand up there, trying to hit the table, I asked Anne if she’d come back on the show and play this game with us.

2013-05-30 21.00.28

She said yes, so the three of us played this game and a couple others last night, to prepare for filming next week. And not that it matters, but I won all the games we played, because the cameras weren’t rolling.

But here’s the thing … for almost 4 hours yesterday, I got to sit in my dining room and have a beer while I played boardgames I love with my friend and my wife … and it was legitimately for my job! I was actually working and loving it. So I want to take a moment and just say thank you to everyone who watches Tabletop, and everyone on our crew and at Geek and Sundry, for making this life I currently have possible.

the sky above the port

This guest post is brought to you by Will Hindmarch, writer and designer of such titles as the one he’s about to tell you about…

A-N-N

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

Today is the day. Today I debut Always/Never/Now, an all-in-one RPG adventure of futuristic cyberpunk action and intrigue. It’s 100+ pages in PDF format and available at DriveThruRPG right now for the somewhat remarkable price of FREE.

Additional posts and thoughts on A/N/N can be found at always-never-now.tumblr.com.

A/N/N is developed from adventures and characters my friends and I played years ago — and then brought out of retirement for one more mission in 2011. I retrofitted the adventure I wrote for that reunion and playtested it at conventions like Gen Con, Origins, and PAX until it was sharp enough to share. Then I invited artists Steven Sanders, Noah Bradley, and Craig S Grant to make it more handsome.

And today, at last, it’s ready for you to play.

If you find that you dig A/N/N and you’d like to thank me with dollars, please click the donate button on my website.

—Will Hindmarch

wandering the deadlands

I woke up before the dogs this morning, opened my eyes to the blue/grey light of six am sliding though my blinds, and listened to birds singing in the yard.

Marlowe stretched and rolled over to rest against me. Watson jumped up into the bed and wrapped himself around my head, and Seamus snored at my feet. I lay there for a few minutes, soaking in the feeling of being in my own bed, in my own home, with my pets around me, knowing that I’m heading north of the wall tomorrow to sleep in a hotel for four nights. I can’t complain — I’m not staying with Craster — but I do love my house and all who live inside it ever so much.

I arched my back, felt my ribs crack and blinked sleep out of my eyes. I eased myself out of the bed so I wouldn’t wake anyone up, and walked into my kitchen, where I began to prepare my morning coffee. I’ve recently converted to the Chemex, and though it takes a little longer than the Aeropress, it’s worth the wait, and the ritual of the whole thing pleases me.

While I waited for the hot water to drip through the grounds, I heard footsteps in the hallway. Anne came out and said, “What are you doing?”

“Making coffee.”

“Why are you awake?”

“I don’t know. I guess my body decided that it had all the sleep it needed … so here I am.”

Marlowe walked out, her little feet clicking against the floor, and joined us in the kitchen. She looked up at Anne and wagged her tail.

“Good morning, little Marlowe Bear,” Anne said, petting her. Marlowe wagged her tail faster.

I poured my coffee and took it into the dining room, where I had left my Deadlands Marshall’s Guide open last night. I picked up reading where I left off, coffee warming and waking me up.

Deadlands is a setting for Savage Worlds. It’s a “Weird West” setting where players live in an alternate version of 1879 America where the Civil War isn’t really over, but a cease fire holds, most of California has fallen into the ocean due to a great earthquake, and all kinds of weird and terrifying monsters roam the countryside. I’m going to start a Deadlands campaign for my group in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been preparing, figuring out what parts of the world interest me, where I think my friends would enjoy exploring, and what sort of big story I want to take them through over the next few months. It’s the first time I’ve run a campaign since the 80s, and I’d forgotten how much work goes into the whole thing. My brain is tired from all the information I’ve been cramming into it, and I feel a pleasing mental fatigue that I normally only experience when I’m working long hours on a movie or tv show.

My imagination has been working overtime as a result, and though I can’t remember any of my dreams, I wake every morning with an unsettled feeling, like a soft sort of dread from whatever Dreamlands I visited while I slept. It’s not unusual for me to have full-blown nightmares when I’m away from my own bed, and I must admit that I’m a little anxious about what waits for me in the dark Canadian nights of the next few days.

Anne went into the living room and Marlowe snuggled up against her on the couch. In our bedroom, I heard Seamus’ collar jingle as he woke up. Outside, the birds continued to sing. I sipped my coffee and turned the pages.

It’s cold for Los Angeles today, gloomy and even a little misty at time. I imagine that above the grey clouds and beyond the heavy mist that clings to the mountains, our universe is being constructed, much like the Deadlands that I’m building in my head.

first impressions from savage worlds

I want to do a spinoff of Tabletop that is a season-long RPG show, with the same group of players and one campaign. I’m trying out different systems to see what I enjoy the most and what would work for the show. Last night we played Savage Worlds, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t imagine another system that would let us get in 5 satisfying combats in one session, and the thrill of exploding dice was really great (except when we were trying to subdue some bad guys, aced three times, and ended up killing them. Oops.)

My friend Martin ran it for us, in a post-apocalyptic setting he’s been working on for a long time. It says a lot about the system, I think, that he could just drop something into it that he developed entirely on his own and Savage Worlds supported it without any weird hacking.

My general impression of the system is positive, though I think using a wild card die with a d4 skill for a trait test is a little broken. We didn’t run the math, but it seems like it turns a lot of those trait tests, which should be very difficult to make since you only hit a success one in four times, into a little better than a coin flip. We talked about making a house rule that a d4 skill doesn’t get a wild die, but I need to do more research on it before I commit to the change.

We felt that the allies were a little overpowered, though I think we were running them wrong (I had 5 grunts with me, and instead of rolling once for them, I rolled 5 times, which I think was a mistake). Again, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little tweaking to get better balance.

When I run Deadlands, I’m going to use a modified Zones system that John Rogers told me he lifted from Fate, which seems really great: an area is broken up into zones, and it costs one movement to go from one to another. If you’re in a zone with an enemy, you can melee, and you figure close/medium/long by counting zones between you and your target. Rogers told me that he puts each zone on an index card, and encourages his players to describe what each zone looks like (for example: in a nightclub, the stage is one zone, the tables another, then the bar, and the balcony. The players describe the area, so they’re building it in their imaginations and making it come to life). This lets you keep track of combat and gives a sense of spatial awareness without making it about minis on a map and counting squares, which I really don’t like. I don’t mind minis when I’m playing Warhammer, but otherwise, they just aren’t for me.

Overall, I liked it enough to play the system again, and I got enough of a handle on it as a player that I feel comfortable running it for my group next time we get together. I have an idea for a Deadlands campaign that should be pretty fun for everyone involved.

More #TabletopDay awesomeness

TableTopDay_300x600I was talking with my pal and Tabletop Day Super Make It All Happen Guy, Boyan, a bit earlier today, about what people will get when they go to one of their Friendly Local Gameshops to play games on Tabletop Day this Saturday.

Here’s what he sent me:

7 WONDERS — Catan Civilization Board
BELFORT — Promo cards
CASTLE PANIC — Multi-color Hero promo card
D&D — Drizzt promo card
DIXIT — Dragon promo card
DOMINION — Promo cards
ELDER SIGN — Promo card
EVIL BABY ORPHANAGE — Promo cards
FLUXX — Promo card assortment bundle
GLOOM — TableTop Day promo pack
MAGIC — Free Magic: the Gathering Cards
MAYFAIR — A whole sheet of promo tiles
MUNCHKIN — Killer bookmark
RESISTANCE — FULL GAME & promo card set
SPARTACUS — Promo card
SPOT IT — Spot It promo pack
TSURO — Tsuro of the Seas promo tiles

Some of you may be asking yourselves, “How do I get all this awesome free stuff?”

Easy! You just go to www.tabletopday.com and search events that have stars as their icons. These are stores that are guaranteed to have the #TableTopDay retail launch kit. Stores that are listed with a playing card icon may have them, but it’s not guaranteed. We’re not sure how each store will decide to give away their various promotional items, but I’m fairly certain it will involve some sort of gaming experience.

What’s that? You want even more awesome stuff? Okay, how about a TabletopDay bundle from DriveThru RPG, that’s an entirely free set of RPG PDFs that includes quickstart rules for A Song of Ice And Fire RPG, Brass & Steel, Leverage RPG, Savage Worlds, D&D 4th Edition, and Mistborn? Or maybe you’d be interested in playing ACTION CASTLE, the first adventure in the Parsely system!

There’s a ton of free stuff and it’s all free to celebrate Tabletop Day. Also, it’s free. Because we love you. Also, don’t forget to download, print, paste, and cut out your very own stand-up me and Tabletop Trophy Of Awesome!

I have to say thank you to all the publishers who got on board with us, and are giving these amazing things to our fellow gamers, and to all my fellow gamers out there who are participating in something that’s so huge and epic, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

This is going to be so freaking great, you guys. Until TableTop Day … PLAY MORE GAMES!