Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiasco - Saturday Night '79

Today was the first time I ever played fiasco. I had the brilliant Derek, Kim and James as coplayers. It was a bit of a slow start at first, and the players were a little reticent, and since I had the strongest rules knowledge I facilitated the game. It didn't take long for the players to get into it. Kim and I were immediately in a criminal relationship (which she defined as "Muscle and Mouth", though neither of us could figure out which was the muscle and which was the mouth we set our need to "to get free... of our criminal charges). Kim and James were in a romantic relationship, with him obsessed with her (totally friend-zoned!), James and Derek were cops on overlapping beats (they were both detectives), Derek's relationship with me was Secret (faithful spouse and the other man/woman) - we interpreted it that Derek was a faithful partner to James' character. While on the take from me).  We determined an important location to be an Alley Behind a Sex Shop, and an important object to be a wad of twelve $100 bills ready to go.What followed was a strange tale of criminals on the lam, trying to pull together a plan to get out of the city before their trial and silence their accusers once and for all. Some highlights include: 

Tina Sparkles: Stripper and object of Detective Hank Doright's obsession accepting a wad of $100 bills but failing to realize that they were marked.

Rico Chavez slamming his car into Hank Doright in order to meet Detective "Catches" Craven.Then failing  to convince Craven to betray his partner. 

Tina Spakles coming up with the money, and the pair of them deciding that they would be better off bumping off the police chasing them. 

Detective Hank Doright convincing Detective Craven to kill off Rico, but failing to convince Tina to stay out of it and her swearing to kill Doright for threatening her partner.

In Act 2 Tina and Rico decide that Petrol Bombs (half tequila/half petrol) would be the best weapons. The police decided on automatic fire-arms. It was a complete fustercluck! (We had run out of white dice by the time the characters met in the alley so everything backfired). Tina threw a petrol bomb at Hank Doright, and his reflexes caused it to explode in mid-air covering Tina in flames. Doright turned in time to see Rico's sweet chevy driving into the alley and Hank opened fire, causing Rico's car to flip and slam into the nearby Detective Craven the flipped car of course exploded. Aftermath: Rico miraculously unharmed crawls out of the car, and races out of the alley; the two cops firing on him, one of the bullets catching him in the ankle.  Rico falls to the ground and gets arrested by Craven. Meanwhile Tina Sparkles in burning agony looks up to see Hank Doright pick her up just as it starts raining the cool water sweet on her skin. Rico went to prison, for the rest of his natural life. Doright ended up married to the terribly burned (mummylike) Tina Sparkles, selling heroin from the evidence room to pay for her expensive skin grafts. Craven was fired from the force for his role in the back-alley battle. Rico meanwhile built a criminal empire from within the prison, ordering a hit on the police who put him there. 

The game was very whacky and could have gotten gonzo very quickly. We had some pacing problems by the end because I had accidentally put too many dice on the table (whoops). We loved how even characters who got what they wanted found it tainted, and those who got the opposite of what they wanted found some redemption. The game was super easy to play and I'm going to go ahead and play this again SOON. It's such a great rules lite story game, and so much whacky fun. Next time I think I want to try LA 1920s playset. I think we could have pulled the Object in a little better (it seemed to take significance but then lose it pretty quickly), but over all the dice forced some interesting decisions.

Games You Might Try II

Okay gang, it's been near a month since my last one of these so I'm writing another. I consider myself a big gamer, but I actually don't play a lot of games. I play games that I feel will be fun, or have something to offer. As always tastes vary, and if you trust my taste you might get to experience something new. So without further ado.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
(Available for Xbox 360 and PC)
I'm seeing all sorts of reviews and suchlike for XCOM, and a lot of them are playing the nostalgia angle. I didn't play the original XCOM, so I have the luck of being able to talk about this game purely for the game's merits. I'm a sucker for a certain type of small-squad strategy game. 4-6 brave soldiers facing the unknown in turn based combat, with base building in between. It's like something ripped directly from my brain. Sometimes I like to just sit there and look at the  battlefield and ponder my next move, before a flurry of clicks and choices. I highly recommend Iron Man mode no matter what difficulty you're playing. It means to take-backs for your choices, and sometimes your choices will be bad. When you lose a squad member you put significant time into levelling you feel responsible. I refuse to rename my squad members to anybody I know or I'd be unable to risk soldiers for victory.
That said the game isn't perfect, I'm playing on PC and sometimes the camera will be niggly and refuse to co-operate (learn the keyboard shortcuts folks) and there's a weird thing where whenever you uncover a group of aliens they basically get a free turn which is dumb (but not game-breaking). Just take uncovering the Fog-O-War slow and steady.

Zombies, Run!
(Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
I've decided to walk for charity ( I notice none of you slobs have donated for my run yet). Now as a bona fide fattie, fattie, boombalattie. I decided to at least do a little training before hand. I decided to try Zombies, Run! as a training tool. Tonight was my first run, the game itself is simple, keep your earbuds in and run. The story plays automatically and weaves into your regular playlist. I really got into the story, and found myself liking the characters involved. I am not by nature a runner, there's too many bouncy parts of me for that to be a comfortable proposition. But today I managed 5k in less than an hour. Maybe that's not fast for you, but for me it near brought me to tears. I was surprised that my body didn't aggressively attack me for trying to move so far so quickly. I'm sure I will pay for it tomorrow, and double the day after. Even so I'll keep you guys updated. My next target will be 5k in under 50 minutes, assuming I don't get eaten by zombies. OH! Also if you finish the mission before your run is over they have a survivor radio station. Pretty funny stuff. If you want something to make your afternoon walk more interesting give Zombies, Run! A go.

(Avaliable for tabletops in PDF and book form)
I gave Fiasco its own post the other day so you can just go back in time and check that one out. I wanted to give Pathfinder a shout out because I am enjoying a wonderful glut of gaming. I am GMing Three Groups at the moment:
Kingmaker, always a pleasure things are getting pretty politically complex. Plus I got to use my Kermit voice for a village of Grippli.
Skull & Shackles, an unfortunate chicken incident had to put our game on hold this month, but my players are loving the piracy on the high seas.
Jade Regent, just enjoyed its first session and I got to attack the players with Goblins and out of control caravans, giant water bugs and shapeshifting psychos. This is going to be fun. Also playing with the narrative style a little bit. A GM gets the same joy that a comedian or a magician gets. Where you know what's about to happen and the players don't and you know their minds are going to be blown. The best part is the players get that moment too!
I'm playing in:
Rise of the Runelords: Seeing a new GM figure out where the rabbits are hidden is magical for me. It creates a sustainability to the game. Brett is becoming a great GM, if he offers you a place in a game snap it up.
Legacy of Fire: GREAT FLAAAAAAAMING EYEBROWS! Need I say more? Darren is a craftsman and always finds a different angle for combat.
Way of the Wicked: I haven't played this one in MONTHS. DANIEL >:(. My alchemist must perform his experiments. Daniel's a great GM and absolutely embodies the spirit of saying "Yes". Unless the question is "Are we playing this week?" :-P

Games You Might Try I

Hey folks, 

I'm just taking a breath here to write up some brief thoughts on games that I'm playing (both video and table-top). You might have heard of these games, you might not have. If you get a chance to play these games do so. They're mad fun. 


Faster Than Light, is a wonderful little game (Find it at, a kickstarter success story and a GREAT way to spend a few hours of your life. The conceit is that you are controlling the crew of a space-ship travelling through the galaxy trying to deliver a message to the federation about dangerous rebels (who are chasing you the whole time), it's got flavors of Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars in a wonderful roguelike. Every game feels different and there's still mysteries to be solved. Odds are you've seen me tweet and post about FTL, because it's a game that asks the player to meet the game part way there. There's something wonderful and simple about the 16-bit graphics and abstraction. You'll care about your crew and the moments of tooth grinding tension, mixed with fist pumping victories make this a must buy. It's pretty cheap, and pretty fun. At around $10 you can't deny it's a good game. (I got my copy as a gift though, and am super thankful for it.)

Mark of the Ninja 

Be like unto a silent wind of doom. Flit between shadows and feel like a ninja master. Mark of the Ninja is a sneak 'em up done right. With just, beautiful animation and excellent art the team at Klei have completely updated the genre. The control scheme is masterful, at no point will you blame the controller for a screw up wherein the guards are alerted or alarms sound madly. Generous check-points make it easy to jump back if you make a mistake and the ability to freeze time in mid air so you can take out a light, distract a guard and zip into the cherry blossom branches simultaneously will make you feel like a master of the shadowed arts very quickly. The story is mostly a clothes hanger on which to drape the cleverly designed levels, but I know most of you love ninjas because of being raised on a steady diet of Three Ninjas, Ninja Turtles and Beverly Hills Ninja so I know story isn't really a concern. You can't help but be mesmerized by the beautiful art, and hot chocolate smooth gameplay.
If you've got an Xbox 360 you'll find it on the Arcade is definitely worth $20. 

Zombie Dice 

Some games are like appetizers, they're what you eat, before you eat to make you more hungry. Hungry for brains! Zombie Dice is an excellent risk vs reward game pitting your bravery and luck vs. the dice is a tricky preposition. The game is fairly simple you're a zombie chasing down  civilians, each dice has either a brain (worth 1 point), footsteps (for a reroll) or shotgun blast (take 3 and you're dead). Each turn you roll three dice, trying to accumulate brains before deciding to stand, but if you accrue three shotgun blasts first then all your progress for the turn is lost. You win if you're the first to twelve brains and nobody can beat you in the lightning round. It's fast paced, takes about a minute to learn and is a good way to get the game juices flowing before a table-top game or between board-games on game night. Give it a shot. Oh wow, and you can play it on your iPhone or iPad for free? Steve Jackson, you're crazy. 

Little games, but beautiful and smart and cool so don't complain to me about boredom because there's lots you can do.

Sticky Dead: The Walking Dead Review (SPOILER FREE)

In gaming there is a term known as "stickiness". The term refers to how long it takes before a player stops playing a game, multi-player adds to stickiness for example. Adventure games tend to have a low stickiness. Being puzzle games by nature, once a puzzle is solved there's not much replay value. Except perhaps for nostalgia, or the rare branching middle chapter (I'm looking at you Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis). Why am I talking about stickiness? Because I am beginning to wonder how well it applies to Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead". A huge tonal shift from previous adventure games, the Walking Dead may have the highest stickiness of any adventure game to date. The game is full of dialogue trees and difficult choices you can't just take back, and the big decisions are on a timer so you make those decisions fast! Sometimes you'll say something dumb and the person who you said it to might not back you up where you need them to. With so many choices the temptation is there to start a new game and decide differently to find out what happens if you moved in a different direction, adding a lot of stickiness. 

Then again, there's a part of me that likes the purity of my decisions. Good or bad. I've realised that some characters might have died unnecessarily, but I don't see me making any decision much differently. My first play through the decisions I make are the decisions I hope I'd make in those situations. Sometimes I disappointed myself by losing my temper, making decisions hastily (not helped by the timer the game places on every choice). I'm not sure if I have the heart to play the game all over again because the story so far has been deeply personal to me. I worry that playing again might dilute the impact the first play through had on me. Make no mistake this game does impact emotionally.

In fact the puzzles themselves aren't super difficult to negotiate, and in fact their simplicity serve as a sort of tension release valve, giving you plenty of time to puzzle out a solution. An incautious button press might alert the zombies if you jump for your gun instead of a handy melee weapon, but such puzzles are rare. So puzzle solving is a way of ramping back the tension, giving you a long moment to breathe and take in the weight of what happened. If anything the challenge of Walking Dead is negotiating the emotional problems and moral conundrums.

So, while I agonise over the wait for episode 5 (Telltale says November Release), I wonder if I could do it all over again would I change anything? I can't help but think, probably not. Then I ponder how much I'm thinking about a game even when I'm not at the computer and realise The Walking Dead: The Game, is much stickier than I could have imagined. 

- Johnpocalypse.