Posts tagged Board Games

Y U NO WONDER!? (Forbidden Stars session)

During the Easter Holidays I had the chance to play this beautiful game once again. In it, you and up two three other people are trying to be the first to take control over four of your objectives through clever tactics, brutal cunning, cunning brutality, sheer force or some other way.

The game is a bit like a mix between Starcraft: the board game and Runewars but with a lot more Orks and 40k grim dark esthetic.

 

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In this game I took the mantel of the noble Eldar with the goal of finding lost artifacts and crush all opposing forces by massive amounts of fire power. Whilst I was lurking in the corner of the map and slowly building me a army of improbable size, the three other factions was duking it out on the battlefields. The Space Marines player was tearing through the Orks, by employing superior combat tactics (AKA combat cards), even though the green waves were greatly more numerous. However, the Orks wasn’t only receiving large losses in manpower, they were also dishing out some on the Chaos player, and all while me, the Eldar, built more ships.

As the fighting continued amongst the others I only participated in some small skirmishes and instead built myself beautiful cities and improved my combat gear and tactics (AKA combat cards). But to my despair, it seemed all my massing of armies was about to be for naught when the Space Marines got a golden opportunity to win the game by claiming a unprotected objective. As their ships was about to send down troops for a sure victory, the Chaos player probably made a deal with Tzeentch and Warp-blocked the Space Marines. I do believe also heard the Chaos player whisper “just as planned” when this happened. This turn of events gave me more time, time I desperately needed if I was to have any chance of winning this game.

Which I instead spent on building more stuff.

So of course the Space Marine player won the game, but I won the resource and production race, and in my book that is worth more than any objectives. I ushered in the Eldar race in to a new golden age of peace and prosperity whilst the others were pettily sacrificing their people to the machinations of war.

Also, I think there should be a way to win by having more resources than the others, like being able to build a wonder a lá Age of Empires style (AKA me being sad over losing the game).

 

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Sad Eldar is sad

Pics found: Here and here.

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The Bullet Sponge

This post is kind of a continuation of the last one, so if you haven’t read it you can click this -> A lesson learned about mass combat (Almost shameful self-promotion). Today’s topic is:

DnD Hit points

Discussed from a D&D perspective.

A problem I had with the encounter I mentioned in my last post was that it was a bullet sponge. Hit points in D&D work by an “all-or-nothing” principle. If you have any hit points, even if you were burned to cinder or lost a limbs, than you are good to go and kick all the asses in the world (poor mules). On the other hand, as soon as your hit points go below 1, you can’t do anything, you become useless. Of course, you can house rule or as the GM say that the players injuries are to sever for them to kick ass, even though they have some hit points left, But as the rules are written (as I have comprehended them), you don’t really get affected by the loss of hit points till you go below 1. This is nice and good, since it allows your players to be heroic till they drop dead. It might also lessen the severity of being stabbed by a sword…

But the title of this post isn’t “Hit Points”, it’s “The Bullet Sponge”. The bullet sponge is the concept of having a character, friend or foe, which can take a ridiculous amount of damage without breaking a sweat. ‘Cause guess what? The players aren’t the only ones benefitting from the “all-or-nothing” hit points principle.

A bullet sponge can easily become boring, since they eat damage to the face like breakfast cereals. But it can also be a highlight of an encounter/adventure/campaign. To make a bullet sponge into a chore, make sure it isn’t a real threat to the players but at the same time it is mandatory to kill it. It will then become a waste of time, since it can’t really do anything to the players but it is still an obstacle which can only be beaten by the most uninteresting action, attacking. (Attacks can be interesting, but when only done to lower a number enough it isn’t cooler than simple deduction)

However, if the bullet sponge is a serious threat it can be fun. For example, your group of adventurers is being hunted by a giant and very strong bullet sponge, which creates tension. The players can’t just stop and fight, they would be killed if they did, but if they slowly wear it down or are able to lure in to a trap for massive damage it could become a memorable encounter. Another way to do it is if you introduced a bullet sponge early in a campaign, a sponge which they can’t possibly beat, but they face again later in the campaign, when they are strong enough to beat it. It could serve as proof of how much the players have grown in power. Or you could just have a bullet sponge as the final encounter of a campaign, which “forces” the players to use everything they’ve learned and acquired during their adventures to best it in combat.

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A lesson learned about mass combat

I have a long running D&D campaign going at the moment; this is my first real campaign so I have learned a few things along the road. One thing I learned through a terrible second half of a session is how to NOT do good mass combat.

So the group of heroes had entered a dungeon under a swamp, built to god of death, typical D&D stuff, when they on their way out entered a previously unexplored room. This room was packed with zombies, ’cause the bad guy used it as a zombie storage room. It was a optional encounter. The heroes entered the room and started murdering the 15-20 something zombies, of which some were a beefed up kind of zombie, AKA lots a more hit points.

I mainly did two things wrong with this encounter. The first thing was giving the players a combat advantage in the form of high ground. The zombies could only get to the heroes by going up a stair, which the party’s beef cake blocked and could just push the zombies back down the stairs. So no one in the party, except maybe the person on the stair was in any danger.

Secondly, I rolled all the dice. You might think “isn’t role playing about rolling dice and see what results come out?” Well yes, but when every zombies gets to do a roll, that takes time, a lot of time. The encounter lasted over an hour, just because I made every zombie roll their die individually. Also, I made a third mistake, which is debatable. In the beginning of the encounter I wouldn’t say a zombie died unless their hit points were at zero. This only prolonged the suffering and by the end of the encounter I let the zombies die like flies just to end the combat.

Now lets clear a few things up, a long combat encounter is not bad in and of itself, but when there is no real danger, action, drama or stakes at stakes, it just becomes a choir. Combat should not be tedious, if it is, it is done wrong. You could have a whole session centered on combat, but than it has to be interesting combat. Giving the players/heroes an advantage in combat is also not bad, but when the advantage cancels out the danger of combat, it is probably a bad advantage, well at least in this situation, since the fight still lasted over an hour.

So what should I have done instead?

The advantage should probably not been so strong, the chokepoint with the stairs was cool but I could have let one or two zombies get up the sides or swarmed the player at the stairs. Regarding the dice rolling, instead of rolling individual dice for the zombies I should have made just one roll for all zombies of the same kind and used that result when they used the d20. As for damage, I should have used the average number stated in the zombie stats and only rolled to see if they hit. Finally, I shouldn’t have rolled unique hit points number for the zombies, or if I did, used one for all of the same typ. Instead I should have used the number stated in their stat block.

Those are my mistakes, try to learn from the so you won’t have to do the same.

Featured image

Unrelated, but at the same time not

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Censorship: Slavery edition

Are you offended by slaves? I’m not… Well let me clarify, I don’t like slavery nor do I think that people should be able to own another person. Slavery is wrong. But I am not offended by a slave; I am not offended by playing a game with slaves and slavery in it. If I did I wouldn’t like playing Puerto Rico.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3076/puerto-rico

But I love Puerto Rico; it is an awesome worker-placement game. But the narrative it presents is one about slavery and how slaves were used to richen people and used to build societies. So if you think about it, it is pretty horrible game. But I won’t stop playing it.

  1. Because it is too much fun to play it.
  2. We shouldn’t shy away from these kinds of topics; instead we should use it as a base for discussion.
  3. Why shouldn’t games be allowed to touch on hot topics?

I will point out that the rules book for Puerto Rico calls the slaves for colonizers (at least in the version I read), to that I say no. They are represented by brown wooden cylinders, you get them by boat and you also get points from having the most of them. Sure, it could be colonizers, but since it is port cities you are building, and the colonizers are put to work in different fields I don’t think it is that plausible. Also slaves were most often used in port cities during the early days of Puerto Rico’s history, when it was still a Spanish colony.

This brings me to the series Tabletop, with Wil Wheaton. When he plays the game Five Tribes on the show he decides that the slave subject in the game shall be “censored”. Instead they call slaves for assistants or/and helpers. He also explains why there are slaves in the game and why he doesn’t like it. Tabletop is also meant to be a “family show” so he could have used that as the reason to not call slaves slaves.

(4:54-5:45)

I don’t think Wil Wheaton is stupid, narrow minded or a “political correctness lover” for doing this. It’s his show and he decides what to do with it, and he also explained his decision. However, if he hadn’t explained himself I might have been more concerned. As I said/wrote in the beginning, slavery is bad, but you shouldn’t scuff it under the rug. We need to be able to discuss things that happened in the past, no matter how cruel or horrible it was. Why? To learn from it and also see how things changed. We are a product of our history. Just think about yourself, you probably have done a few things you aren’t that proud of. You don’t need to tell everyone about the unproud moments in your life but you should try to use them and think about why feel ashamed for/by them. They are a part of you and will shape you as a person.

As a wise person said (L.P. Hartley): “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

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About role playing and being a flexibel GM

Role playing is fun, at least I think so. Role playing is about interactions, be it to solve a puzzle, kill a monster or overcome a challenge, the interactions between the players and the GM are the most interesting. You could argue that almost all interactions are between these two, since the GM’s job is to create a narrative/a series of challenges for the players to overcome and almost everything can be said to be a challenge.

What I am focusing on though, is when the players force the GM to think on his/her feet, when the players do the unexpected. When the GM’s plans wither and burn, when everything goes in a totally different direction.

As I stated before, the GM’s job is to create a story/narrative/series of challenges, which most often requires some planning and “preproduction” from the GM (unless they use a published adventure). He/she might have decided that the players will be facing a dragon in their next session. The GM could stop at that point of planning and just have a pure slug fest between the dragon and the players, but it wouldn’t, probably, be much fun since it would boil down to “who can produce the highest number fastest”. Instead the GM could put some more planning in to it and decide that the dragon is inside a cave filled with treasure, traps and monsters. The dragon might have a really awesome chamber in which it resides, so that the players might have to use said chamber’s features to defeat it. Everything from dropping a chandelier to fighting on top of pillars in lava could make the challenge more interesting. Then, the players ruin it.

The players might get information about the dragons keep and decides it is way too much of a hassle to go through the dungeon. So what do they do? They blow up the dungeon, killing the dragon and all your rigorous planning. This sucks, the GM might think. Which it does, but it forces the GM to be flexible and react to the players and not the other way around, as it usually is. The GM could say that the players’ actions indeed succeeded in killing the dragon, but it also shook the ground so hard that the tremors destroyed several nearby villages. This would turn the players into villains instead of heroes.

Even though the players might ruin your awesome story or overcome your challenge in a very unheroic way, it is still fun. It is fun when things don’t always go as planned and it is fun to react on the spot. ‘Cause that is what role playing is about, to step in to a role and react to things on the spot. If everything is predecided than it isn’t role playing. It would only be a play. Being a GM can be an ungrateful endeavor, since all your work might be undone in just a few seconds or just completely ignored. However, the most successful RPG sessions I has had was when I had to react to the players actions. So don’t be mad if things don’t turn out as you planned, instead see it as an opportunity to do something else.

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Tiny Wooden Pieces

I like webcomics, not all of them cause I haven’t read all of them, but I like most webcomics I come across. They are often small bursts of fun/joy in a evergrowing ocean of information. Just a while ago I stumbled upon a webcomic which scratched a certain urge/craving which had mostly up till now been unfulfilled. A webcomic about board games and board gaming.

http://tinywoodenpieces.com/

It is a little rough around the edges, but they’ve only been making it for about a year, but it might just be a diamond in the rough. I truly hope Tiny Wooden Pieces will gain popularity cause I think it has shown potential and it deserves a chance to grow. I therfore sacrifice a whole blog post for it gain some free PR.

(Heartpillow gained +2 Paragon points)

DISCLAIMER:

There might be another or many other webcomics about this specific subject but I haven’t found them nor looked for them, cause I’ve been busy.

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