Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yet more books

I know, it seems like this is all I write about these days, but it needs to be done, and I slowed down my reading for the last couple days.

I got another box from Goodman games. There were a couple more Xcrawl games and some Dungeon Crawl Classics along with what looks to be the first book in a new series called the Wicked Fantasy Factory. I also got the new Softcover second edition of the Etherscope setting, which is cool, but comes about a week after I bought the other version. *sigh*

Let's see, I also got two more CDs of PDFs. One from Tangent Games and one from Open Design. I also got a CD from Flying Mice the other day, which I forgot to add to my list, so I went through and caught my list up to date.

I know, these filler posts are boring. I'll do another review for tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More books.

You know, I was just thinking that I had probably received all the entries that were likely to come this year when UPS brought me a huge box of Warhammer Fantasy books.

Not that I'm complaining, they look great, and if the fans at are to be believed, they'll be great to read and playtest. Of course, it does mean that I need to make another trip to the FLGS. There are a lot of books there, but no main rulebook.

I'm looking forward to it. I have a huge collection of books, but in recent years I find myself falling into the trap of buying just a few lines and missing a lot of great stuff that's out there. That's the best part of being a judge. I get to read some of the best books on the market, including those I might have otherwise just let slip by.

It's also gotten me in the habit of actually reading my purchases again, which is a huge benefit to doing this. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but some time a few years ago I started buying books that looked interesting, and just sitting them on my shelf, fully intending to read them, but never getting around to it. At this point there are dozens of them, just sitting there. I really do like reading RPG books, but somewhere along the way I forgot that and stopped making time. Now I have no choice but to power through them, and it's been really fun. I didn't know how much I missed it.

Okay, so enough waxing nostalgic.

I'll break out the box later tonight and add them to my list, along with a CD with a couple PDFs I got from Flying Mice.

In the mean time I'll go ahead and mention that my Sunday group is currently playtesting Crisis in Freeport. This is a kind of unique experience for me, since I actually get to play the adventure. I've been gaming for 25 years, and I've always been a GM. I can probably count the number of games I've been a player in on my fingers. Okay, maybe not if you count convention games or one-shots, but you get the idea. I'll read through the adventure when we're done, but for right now I'm just sitting back and enjoying the ride. Besides, the player running the game knows Freeport better than I do, so he's likely to do the adventure better justice.

Well, back to the reading. Hopefully tonight I can finish off the Warlords books and write up my reviews for tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Warlords of the Accordlands: World Atlas

Finished reading another Warlords book.

I've got to say, I'm really enjoying this series. If you have any interest in d20 settings, this may well be worth the look. It's definitely one of the best books I've read this year, and not just those submitted for the ENnies.

The world itself has a compelling history, and the various races are interesting and just different enough to make them unique. As an atlas, the book gives great detail on each race and kingdom, and includes maps for several major cities. The cartography is clean and easy to read. Te art is consistently good, with no real stand out pieces (for good or ill).

It's a fantastic book. I give it a 9 out of 10. It might do a tad better, but the history is just a little disorganized, and throws a lot of names at you that just don't stick real well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An off-topic aside

Sorry about last week. I'd like this to be a daily blog, but that just doesn't work well with my schedule. I do aim for at least three to four posts a week though.

Last week my mother was in the hospital having open-heart surgery and Thursday was my birthday. Neither are particularly conducive to blogging.

Things are getting back to normal now, so expect me to post a bit more this week to make up for last week. At least sitting around a hospital gives you plenty of time to read, even if it doesn't give much time to type.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Warlords of the Accordlands: Monsters and Lairs

I started reading Warlords of the Accordlands last weekend. For some unknown reason I started with the Monsters and Lairs book, I suspect it has something to do with general laziness and the fact that it was on top of the stack.

I'm impressed. The game has gotten a fair amount of bad press, which I find surprising. The art may not be to my personal tastes, but it's consistent, and seems to convey the feeling of the setting. The book itself (speaking of only the monster book at this point) is well-make and easy to read.

As for content, I like it. I've always enjoyed monster books that give you a brief encounter example, and Warlords definitely does that. Each of the books also comes with nice pull out maps, which is a good touch.

The monsters themselves are very good. The traditional monsters have been re-imagined (like short-lived necromantic elves), and the new monsters are good looking and well balanced. I like the fact that there are a lot of "cool" monsters at low levels. When your players see these things it'll scare the bejeezus out of them. 1st level characters expect goblins and kobolds, not abyssal creatures spawned from the essence of a dead dragon responsible for the creation of the world.

See. Cool.

Anywho, it's a great book. I give it a 7, maybe an 8 out of 10. As much as I like included encounters, they take up a lot of space in the book, and it's not like you can use them over and over again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vampire: Dark Influences

Our Sunday group gave Dark Influences a try this weekend instead of our usual game.

The pieces are well-made, sturdy and attractive. The art is good and evocative, and the game itself uses Vampire-isms to good effect.

My problems with it may seem a bit nit-picky really. The game recommends that you use five dice, but it comes with one. Luckily I usually play L5R on Sundays, so I had extra d10's with me, but it would have been a huge pain to roll a single die over and over again.

Also, the font on the cards looks nice, but especially when the print is small it can be very hard to read. We weren't playing in an exceptionally well lit place, so that probably exacerbated the problem, but I can't imagine that some of those fonts would be an easy read even under the best of conditions.

The game itself was an interesting concept. The old prince is stepping down, and you have six turns to convince (through battle or charm) as many kindred as possible to support you in your bid to take his place. You spend blood to try to convince kindred to join you coterie. Each blood pool let's you roll one die, an 8 or higher is a success, with 10's allowing you to reroll.

Gaining support, or causing another player to lose the support he has gained, gives you event cards, which can be used at any time for a variety of effects. We had players steal blood and spend it for you, replenish dwindling supplies of blood, or automatically gain the support of an available vampire.

All in all it was fun, but not quite fun enough to make up for the length of time that a game seems to take. We spent an hour going through just the first couple turns, which was likely because we didn't know the game well, but the taking turns aspect of the game lends itself to drawn out play. It was simply too slow.

Also, the game is supposed to evoke images of political intrigue, and perhaps for those with stronger imaginations than mine it might, but I saw no need to even check which archetype I was trying to attract. I'm not sure if I ever read a single card during play more than what it took to determine what modifiers my rolls were getting.

So, nice attempt, and probably worth it for Vampire fans, but it wasn't for me. I'll give it a couple more tries before I make a final decision to make sure I wasn't just not getting it on a first play through. For now I'd give it a 5 out of 10, losing a full point because they are difficult to read.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Quick update.

Well, I got a book from Memento Mori Theatrics today. Lacuna Part I. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City (second attempt). It's another one of those books that a lot of people may not have heard of, but those who have pour on considerable praise.

Right now, however, I am hip-deep in both Hollow World and Scion: Hero. Why both? Because I am a human ferret, jumping from one shiny thing to another without thought, rhyme, or reason. Hopefully I'll finish both of those at work this weekend, so I can move on to something else. I kinda let myself get bogged down this week, and considering how far behind I am, that's not good.

Besides, something needs to be done to tame Ptolus. Books that big need to be put in their place.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Monte Cook is trying to ruin my system.

Okay, it may not be on purpose, but he's done it none the less.

Ptolus intimidates the hell out of me. Seriously. I know it's not much larger than two regular-sized core books, but damn it's big. Every time I go to pick it up, hoping to get started reading it, I just put it down and pick up something else. I know I have to read it, heck I want to read it, and soon, but it frightens me.

The damn thing is staring at me, I can feel it.

Okay, so that's a bit dramatic, but it is certainly big, dense, and thorough. I can't imagine how the average person retains all of that knowledge.

So, in case you haven't guessed yet, I got my box from White Wolf today. As I pointed out elsewhere, those guys know how to protect a book. The books were well staked inside a box filled to the brim with packing peanuts. That box was then placed inside a larger box, likewise overflowing with little foam Guardians of Shipping.

I'll add the list of books to the left, but there are quite a few, and unfortunately I've barely glanced at them. Promethean is there, as is Scion, and a couple Exalted books (no Lunars, but it does include Dragonblooded). There's also a nifty looking card game for the new Regalia category.

I have some small experience with Scion, but I'm really excited to dig into that book. Our group had a blast with it, and it seems to be the kind of system that's right up my alley.

I already owned copies of all the Exalted books they sent, so that'll make those ones a bit easier to review. I still haven't played with the rules yet, so that'll have to be added to my to-do list.

All in all it's an excellent showing. I can't wait to get them read.

Even you Ptolus... Even you...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Midnight Syndicate

Well, I managed to read about five pages last night, so not a huge amount to talk about today. I got a Midnight Syndicate CD (Out of the Darkness) today, but haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. Hopefully I'll find some time after the kids go to bed.

I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a background music kind of guy. I know it works well for some people, but I'm easily distracted, and constant noise in the background tends to pull me out of the game, rather than help me get into it.

That said, I really like the atmospheric stuff that I've heard from Midnight Syndicate, and I'll definitely be giving it a try. The first exposure I had to them was the CD that came with the (rather excellent) Goodman Games adventure Cage of Delirium. Listening to that music while reading the adventure really added to the whole experience, so I'll at least run that CD while play-testing the game.

I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Wherein I wander a bit off topic...

Well, I finally got around to updating my list of items I have received off to the left side of the page. It's starting to get a bit unwieldy, but it'll do for now.

Anywho, happy belated Easter. I took the weekend off to do the rounds to various friends and relatives. My kids managed to hunt for eggs three times in one day, and I have a whole lot of eggs that will never get eaten.

Oops, it's not that king of blog.

So, today I start reading Hollow Earth Expedition. This is one of those games that you hear so much about, and you can't help but be a little excited to give it a read. I haven't done more than flip through it yet, but one thing that really stands out to me is the artwork. It really evokes the theme and setting, and that speaks well for the thought and effort put into the book.

Friday, April 6, 2007

More on podcasting

Now that there are definitely enough podcasts to qualify for their own category, I am somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of hours that our gaming brethren have logged trying to entertain and inform us.

Before starting work on the ENnies I had been trying to catch up on few casts on my own. That seemed simple enough, listen to one until you had heard them all, then switch to another.

That worked well when I was listening to the first three or four.

Now there are some 360 hours of podcasts currently on my wife's iPod, which I stole because it got to be a pain carrying my laptop everywhere. I'm roughly halfway through those, and there are maybe a hundred or so episodes of various casts that I already deleted, and so aren't included in that number.

The problem is, that's only about a third of the podcasts that have entered. I haven't even added most of them to my iTunes yet. Now, for me it's not a huge problem. I drive an hour and a half to work everyday, and often listen to a few episodes while at work, but I feel a little sorry for all those other judges out there who may not have my kind of free time. :)

Not that they're not fun to listen to, but as you realize they're stacking up you find yourself doing odd things to catch up. Today I washed dishes to the dulcet tones of the Bear's Grove, and last night I was trying to study an adventure I want to playtest while listening to All Games Considered (not that they entered, but I'm still trying to catch up on back episodes).

By the way, let me say now that Mick Bradley may well be the funniest gamer I've ever known. Not that I've listen to his cast yet, iTunes seems to hate it, but I hear him on all the other podcasts and every once in a while he makes me almost shoot diet coke from my nose.

Anywho, not much to share really. I just wanted all those podcasts out there that I annoyed into entering that I am listening, and progress is being made.

However slowly.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Delivery from Canada

Hoody Hoo!

My box from Canada arrived, and though the box itself was in bad shape, everything seems to have made it through. I'll add the products to my list later, but it's a bit much for the time I have available right now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Xcrawl: Necromerica

With nothing else to really write about, I've decided to take this review a little more in-depth. I purposely try to avoid making too many direct comments about the games I've been reading, in an effort to ward off any speculation on which games I might nominate. There are simply too few entries at this point to even begin making guesses. If anyone really wants more comprehensive reviews of the games I'm reading, I'll be glad to do them after the nominees are announced.

That said, I will probably pick out the occasional product to give a brief synopsis. There's no rhyme or reason behind the products I pick beyond, "this is the product I just finished reading, and I have nothing else to talk about."

So, Necromerica. Before I get too far I should point out that this is my first real experience with Xcrawl. I've never read the core book, so my suppositions are all based on what I've read in this adventure. If you've ever read the Dreampark game or novels you have probably been inspired to run a 'professional gamers' campaign at some point. Xcrawl takes that idea and runs with it.

Unlike the future that Dreampark presents, Xcrawl takes place on an alternate Earth, where America seems to be controlled by a Romanesque Empire, and the gladiatorial games of choice are custom-created dungeon crawls. The PCs are superstars in a bloody death-sport, sent into dungeons filled with traps and monsters for the chance to win gold and fabulous prizes.

The adventure itself is a fun little romp that showcases the dark humor and moral decay of the world. Sponsors pay the characters 'appearance fees' for collecting patches by completing rooms, and in one case, for catapulting a bound and gagged orc onto a spike covered wall (the orc of course is wearing a tee shirt with a competitor's logo). Prizes include motorcycles, cleaning products, and gift certificates for kitchenwares ("For the serious kitchen wizard!").

All in all it looks to be a lot of fun, and it's the kind of adventure that really makes you want to pick up the core book and a suppliment or two, just to see what they did with the rest of the world.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Scion: Hero

My Sunday group playtested Scion: Hero last night. I don't know if White Wolf will enter it or not, but I know they entered (and won with) at least one product last year, so I figured there was at least a reasonable chance.

All in all we loved it. I was pretty shocked at the number of dice we rolled, and I run a regular Shadowrun game, so that's saying something. It wasn't uncommon to see players having to roll two or three handfuls of dice when making an attack. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but I could see where it might turn some people off.

Other than that I don't think we had any problems with the system. It was quick, and we had no problem teaching four players who had never even seen the book everything they needed to know in about a half-hour.

If you've played the new World of Darkness you have a pretty good idea how it works. If you've played Exalted 2E or Shadowrun 4E you know exactly how it works. Roll a number of dice equal to your attribute plus skill, and count successes. There are a few powers and tricks of course, but that's all you really need to know to get started. Once the players really get into it and learn to use the stunting system the game gets very good, very fast.

This is definitely going to be a welcome addition to my personal collection, and may well take the place of my GURPS game before we really get it started. We'll see.

Whether or not it gets the nomination will of course depend on whether or not White Wolf enters it, and of course what else gets entered in its categories, but I think it makes for a strong contender.