Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Manna Hotel - A Fiasco Actual Play

So last night I got to check another item off of my gaming Bucket List: I played in a full game of Fiasco for the first time.

I played in a Fiasco demo a while back with Mike Lafferty, Daniel Gallant and Fiasco writer Jason Morningstar and enjoyed it (you can listen here), but had never had a chance to play a full game. I recently stumbled across the print version in a game shop and pounced on it, becoming so set on playing it that I bought the Companion and new sets of white, black and red six sided dice. After talking about it enough, even my usually non-gamer wife expressed interest in playing it.

So after taking a few weeks off due to various members of the group traveling, we reconvened last night to play Fiasco!

I gave a quick explanation of the game's premise and rules, and we got to work setting up The Manna Hotel playset (available for free here).
Disclaimer: The content is a little stronger than you normally find on my blog, so consider yourself warned.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tommy's Take on Legendary

I've played a few Marvel card games over the years, but last year when I picked up Sentinels of the Multiverse, I also picked up the DC Deck Building Game and the newest Marvel card game: Legendary. Let's take a look at that one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tommy's Take on Bulletproof Blues

What do you do when a Supers game doesn't do precisely what you want it to? In this day and age, you design your own. Brandon Blackmoore did just that, producing Bulletproof Blues. With the 2nd Edition Kickstarter just launching, I'm going to take a moment to review the 1st Edition.

DISCLAIMER: An affiliate link for this game is included, but honestly, if it sounds appealing to you, you are probably better served backing the 2nd Edition Kickstarter. No review copy was provided by the publisher.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tommy's Take on Castle, Baronica & Murder on the Hellstromme Express

Castle: The Detective Card Game

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, Castle: The Detective Card Game is a fast-playing card game designed for more casual gamers looking to dabble in some good, card gaming fun. Retailing for $30, Castle is a whodunit card game, in which everyone selects an investigator from the show (Castle, Beckett, Det. Ryan, Det. Esposito, Capt. Gates or Dr. Parish). Each investigator has a special ability, like Beckett being able to discard two cards of the same name and drawing five more, or Capt. Gates being able to take the top card from the Discard pile into her hand. Once everyone has a character, five suspects are dealt, and poker chips dealt out onto them. One chip says Guilty, the rest are Not Guilty and have a special effect (like forcing you to pass a card to the person on the right, or picking a player and allowing them to draw two cards). If at any point in the game you get the three cards listed on each suspect, you can Confront them, flipping over their poker chip. If they are guilty, you win! If not, follow the text on the chip. The gameplay is fast (each person only has one of five actions each turn) and simple (you are trying to find the three cards listed on the suspect cards to confront them), but has some nice trappings. For instance, the suspects are the murder mystery archetypes, like The Ignored Mistress, The Spiteful Sister and The Vengeful Spouse. In order to confront, say, The Loyal Brother, you need to Search the Victim's Home, have a Poker Game Consult (a Castle tradition) and perform an Autopsy. Other cards have special effects, like Killing By The Book, which has the killer following the MO of a killer from Castle's book (and letting you draw three cards and keep one), while another allows you to add an additional suspect (and maybe even changing up who the guilty party actually is). Some variants include using more suspects, as well as a "Season Mode", which ends when one player has three Solved Tokens.

WHAT WORKS: Good production values, especially the box, oversized character cards and poker chips (which are a thing of beauty indeed). Gameplay is fast and fun for a casual setting, and all of the major Detective Show tropes are in full effect with the suspects. Surprisingly, for a licensed product, the price isn't overly inflated.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not a very deep game, if that's what you're looking for.

CONCLUSION: My wife is a casual gamer who is a fan of Castle, and when I read that this was basically a light, casual card game, I decided to pick it up for her for Christmas. Not a surprise at all, she really likes it. There's nothing deep or in-depth here, and there is a decent sized luck factor, but there's enough gameplay to keep me happy and fast enough play to keep my wife happy. It may not be what some were hoping for from a Castle card game, but it's pretty much exactly what Cryptozoic was actually trying for.

BARONICA: A Dungeon World Campaign Front

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Released by Three Sages Games, Baronica is a campaign front for Dungeon World, which I reviewed recently. Baronica is based on the author's old fantasy campaign, with some details left out. In keeping with the Dungeon World mindset, Baronica is left pretty open for the GMs and players to fill in, maps included. It's a fairly typical fantasy setting, in which the High King has fallen and the people are trying to determine who can take the crown. In the meanwhile, goblins are getting violent, and a dark force is rising to consume everyone (because that's what dark forces DO). A number of important NPCs are provided, as well as questions relevant to the campaign for the players to answer, and Special Moves for certain parts of the setting (my favorite being the move that details what happens when the PCs encounter The Azure Unicorn). Of course, Dangers are present, and a few Fronts are provided to help you guide the escalation of the threat level (such as the Rise of the Dark Lord).

WHAT WORKS: If you read the advice on creating Campaign Fronts and Dangers in the Dungeon World book, and it didn't quite click, then this might well be worth reading. I liked that the maps are left open enough for you to add your own elements and features that appear in gameplay, and I particularly enjoyed the encounter with the Azure Unicorn.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If you already have a sense of what you are doing with Dungeon World, world-building-wise, then there's not enough new and unique stuff here to make it worthwhile. The author admits that it's going to feel a little familiar to some people, so if you're already on that path, you are probably better served to keep going in that direction.

CONCLUSION: Recommended for people who are pretty sure they have the mechanics of Dungeon World down, but are not sure just how they are actually going to get the game going (the front suggests that the PCs begin in media res), but folks who have already started to work on their own Dungeon World setting aren't going to find a lot here to compel them to scrap their work and introduce Baronica in its stead.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Murder on the Hellstromme Express is packed in with the Deadlands Reloaded GM screen, but is also available separately in PDF. It is perfectly suitable for use as an introductory adventure, but can also be dropped into any campaign in which the posse has a need to take jobs for money. The adventure is designed to run from Chicago to Dodge City, with the PCs serving as escorts for a Mad Scientist on a train full of 'em, each trying to impress a Hellstromme Industries auditor and earn points for the big Kansas Scientific Symposium. Wackiness ensues as the agendas of the various scientists bubble to the forefront, intersecting with a raid by a vicious Indian War Party. Assuming everyone makes it to the Symposium itself intact, one of the scientists has a final surprise for the posse...and the amount of help they have in that final battle relates directly to how well they managed the personalities on the train.

WHAT WORKS: All of the scientists on the train are interesting and were a blast to play as GM. Having the posse's interaction with them factor into the end game was a great touch. It makes for a good introductory adventure due to the mundane beginnings that help introduce more arcane elements of the setting.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Might not be enough action for some posse members in the early going. When I ran it, I did have one player get very restless waiting on a fight. It is, literally, a railroady adventure, what with most of it taking place on a train.

CONCLUSION: I wouldn't recommend buying the PDF unless you are completely unable to find the GM screen. Buy that and take this as the extra included with it instead. When I ran the adventure, the mad scientists thoroughly exhausted my players, and - as noted above - one of them got really restless with the lack of action, though that was due in part to the posse averting one issue with intimidation, and another through the well timed use of explosives. Definitely recommended if you need an excuse to get your PCs to Dodge City, or if you just want to show off the mad science in the setting.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Are You Reading Wine & Savages?

Sean Bircher has sure said some nice things about my blog in the past, especially in regards to me being a Savage Worlds blogger, but the truth is, he's another guy (like Jack Shear) whose output just outright makes me jealous.

I first truly became acquainted with his blog, Wine & Savages, after I posted an article about using Savage Worlds to duplicate "Bioware-style" play, ala Dragon Age or Mass Effect, and we had a nice exchange about how he and his wife play lots of one on one games.

All that is good and well, but why should you take the time to read his blog?

Well, if you like Accursed, like I do, then Sean is making your life easier by expanding the game dramatically with more Witches, Banes and Witchbreeds. Want to add Loki, the Gender Bending Witch, to your game? Sean has you covered. Want to play a heroic Jason Vorhees? Sean has you covered. The guy is killin' it with expanded Accursed material.

Sean also has a wide selection of Savage Worlds Edges and Setting Rules (at least one of which I'm likely stealing for my Deadlands game.

Sean is also working on a couple of settings, a Revolution-that-never-was and an Urban Fantasy setting for Fate Accelerated.

And that's just the front page stuff. Dig around and see what he's got. It'll be worth your time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tommy's Take on Dungeon World

We're not complete strangers to the family of games spawned by Apocalypse World, with tremulus and Monster of the Week both taking Top Six selections in past years. So with that in mind, we'll now turn our sights towards the baby spawned by Apocalypse World and Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon World!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tommy's Take on ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying

So I have reviewed a lot of ICONS products over the years (and you may have seen my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posts)...but I've never reviewed ICONS. So, today, I'm going to change that.
The villains they are rushing at are on the
Villainomicon cover.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tommy's Take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Board Game

Let me preface this by saying that this review is the first review I had ever written of anything, and appeared at over 12 years ago. Since then, I have encountered a number of board games that trump this one, but I still maintain that this game was head and shoulders above the licensed games and typical Wal-Mart shelf fare available at the time (or, y'know, now).

Enjoy my first ever review. Ever.


Looking around a nearby game shop not long ago, I found the Buffy the Vampire Slayer board game from Hasbro. Looking it over, I wound up putting it back on the shelf due to lack of funds. A couple of months later my girlfriend picked it up for me, since she's a fan of board and card games, if not RPGs.

Man, I love her.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tommy's Take on Deadlands Dime Novels 1, 2 & 3

Having actually ran the first three Deadlands Dime Novels, I thought I would do some Fast Takes on them for this blog post. One of them was ran in its native Classic rules, while the other two were converted to Deadlands Reloaded.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, there's two versions of this Dime Novel out there in PDF format, one that includes the adventure and one that doesn't. This review is off the print version that includes the adventure. The novel introduces Ronan Lynch (who, I'm guessing, Shane Hensley has a big fondness for), with the novel part written by Hensley and the adventure written by Hal Mangold. The whole gist of the dime novels is that it's a piece of Deadlands fiction combined with an adventure that roughly walks you through the events of the dime novel. In this case, Lynch and crew take a job rescuing a rich man's son from a cult, and the events of the story result in one of the crew becoming Harrowed - Deadlands' own undead gunslingers.

The adventure is very roleplay heavy, actually, (a lot of Deadlands adventures are, though some folks don't seem to think that's the case), setting the posse against an evil cult at Christmas time. This adventure made a huge mark on my early Deadlands campaign, when one of the PCs - ostensibly a pacifist - killed the cult leader's bodyguard with a deadly weapon in the first round of combat. This led to the gunman inhabiting the weapon and killing people on the PC's trail, framing him for murder. Spoiler warning: The Big Bad is female (look at the title).

WHAT WORKS: The fiction is fun, making for an entertaining afternoon of reading. The Christmas setting is an interesting tidbit as well, especially for launching the line. It's not a bad adventure to use as an opening adventure for a Deadlands campaign, especially if you are wanting to ease the group into weirdness.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: May not be enough action for some groups (until the end of the adventure, anyway). The cover promises a fairly awesome Santa Claus and Rudolph battle versus zombies, but that's not anything we ever get to see, unfortunately.

CONCLUSION: Useful for far more than just Deadlands completists, and official conversions for the adventure are available at the Pinnacle site for folks that want to use this in their Reloaded game. It is worth noting, for canon sticklers, that the setting is Christmas 1875, but there is very little preventing you from using it in whatever year you want (though you are going to want to leave it in winter time due to the endgame, or get very creative). Personally, I'll buy and read gaming fiction all day if it's in short bits with an adventure on the back end of it, like this, so long as there's at least a sense of fun (which this definitely has).


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Another holiday themed Dime Novel, this time set in the summer of 1876 (and the centennial of the Union), in Bloody Kansas, in which Our Heroes are drafted into helping Wyatt Earp keep the peace during the big Independence Day celebration. The novel section again features Ronan Lynch, this time teaming with Texas Ranger Hank "One Eye" Ketchum against a sadistic creature known as the Butcher, all while Yankees and Rebels are threatening war in Dodge City.

The adventure part of the novel again casts the PCs in Ronan's shoes, arriving in Dodge City and being pressed into Wyatt's service (though not without pay, for the more mercenary types). This adventure plays to an unheralded strength of Deadlands - investigation - as the PCs quickly find themselves dealing with a brutal serial killer in the middle of the Yankee-Rebel tensions and enough red herrings to drive a man insane. Earp is, at best, available in the background, as he's handed over part of Dodge City to the posse (coincidentally being the one that needs the most looking after, of course), while he and his men are trying to hold down the rest of it. This Dime Novel has opportunity for more action than Perdition's Daughter, especially in the climax, which can easily turn into a running battle in the streets of Dodge City in the middle of the Fourth of July Celebration...

The fiction was written by Matt Forbeck, and the adventure co-written by Mr. Forbeck and Chris Snyder.

WHAT WORKS: Plenty of roleplaying, investigation and action, as well as pure, visceral horror and spotlight on both western life and the continuing tensions between the North and South. A nice cameo from a western legend, with a believable excuse for keeping him from stealing the spotlight out from under the PCs...and a nice, sweet nod to another legendary figure in the final battle.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Maybe my biggest complaint about Deadlands, as a player and a GM, is that many of the enemies (and this includes The Butcher) have some fairly rough weaknesses, and it can be hard even providing the opportunity for the PCs to find out what those weaknesses are, artificially inflating the difficulty of some encounters. When I ran this adventure, this very nearly meant The Butcher cake walked over the opposition.

CONCLUSION: One of my favorite compositions of adventure elements for Deadlands. This was a very fun romp with a lot of variety in the elements, and I was running it for one PC at the time (which nearly got him massacred against The Butcher). A very, very good entry (with Deadlands Reloaded conversions) that tends to get overlooked by the next novel in the series...


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The most infamous entry in the Dime Novels series. So infamous, in fact, that the author is commonly referred to as John "Night Train" Goff. Yeah. The story sees Ronan Lynch and Hank Ketchum running into a very foul train carrying a cartload of undead bloodsuckers. It's completely horrific, bordering on over the top, and thus another good indicator of the Deadlands "feel".

In the adventure, the PCs get to do a little investigation at Barlowe Station before arriving at Varney Flats and getting the MAIN action going. (And points to you if you get the references. I did.) This one does have noticeably less plot than a lot of Deadlands adventures, ultimately coming down to the PCs versus an evil Force of Nature. Most Deadlands groups now have THEIR "Night Train story", and it's become a popular convention adventure. Warning: The body count for this adventure is HIGH.

There is a Night Train scenario for The Great Rail Wars included in the back of the book.

WHAT WORKS: Arguably the most iconic Deadlands adventure. There's a reason for that.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Might be a rough fit for an ongoing campaign, what with the chance of Total Party Kills. I used it in mine, but Adventure Cards, Fate Chips and the Wild Card/Extra divide went a long way towards giving the group a leg up.

CONCLUSION: Arguably the most iconic Deadlands adventure. There's a reason for that. Heck, my group came out of it a lot better than most did, and they're still paranoid about trains, especially ones that show up in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And The Winners Are...(2013 Edition)

Folks, I will not lie to you: This is my favorite part of the year, blogging wise. I lovelovelove when people get to try awesome new games due to the kindness and generosity of publishers. I love it love it love it. This year, I'm only sad that I wasn't able to provide more prize support. If I could have, everyone that entered would have won something. As it is, we had five great prizes and now we have five lucky winners. And the winners are...

1. Bob Huss - Dragon Age Set 1
2. Daniel Walsh - Dresden Files: Our Story
3. Alexandre Zuin Alegria - Heaven's Shadow
4. Jay Peters - Monster of the Week
5. Peter Bogdasarian - Volant: Kingdoms of Air and Stone

Thanks once again to our WONDERFUL sponsors, and to everyone that sends me an email saying "Hey, I was on the fence about this game until I read your review!" and, of course, thanks to everyone that makes their purchases through my affiliate links, because that helps keep me deep in games that I can turn around and review.

I am striving to give you compelling reasons to come back and read the blog (like my sweet new banner), and I hope I'm succeeding.

Let's make 2014 the Year of the Gamer!

Let's make a deal: I keep writing, you keep reading, and we'll both keep gaming. Sound good?