Thanks to AEG Customer Service

Obviously everyone knows I like board games, but one of my favorite things about the hobby has always been how good the industry treats its customers. In a world where most companies are looking to take you for as much as they can, board game companies almost universally have great customer service despite the fact that a lot of times they are not making a lot of money per unit sold. They’ll replace missing pieces, cards, etc, often at no cost because they want you to enjoy their product and continue to enjoy their product.
— Haen, gamer

I picked up a Smash Up box at Gen Con. It was missing a card. I e-mailed AEG customer service, and they sent me the card.

That is not much of a story. It rarely is when things work properly. Customer service worked well, and now I have a full set rather than saying, “Pretend this card is a Collector.”

: Zubon

Balanced Forces

I love and fear asymmetric PvP. It is so hard to balance well and so good when it is done right.

There is something satisfying about being the big monster fighting several of your friends, or being that group of friends taking down a big monster we know to have a capable pilot. About pitting goblins against elves against dragons. About ninja and samurai, pirates and ninja, merchants and pirates. Symmetry is elegant and much easier to balance, but teams with different advantages and disadvantages add so much more color.

But it is so easy to get wrong, and if you mess it up, it may not be fixable. Or maybe the balance really is perfect, but not in your local gaming group, where one person is especially good with one strategy and makes all the other factions look like trash. It is hard to tell whether the im/balance is in your game or your gamers, and imbalanced gamers can lead to runaway differences in-game.

I see the latest thing on Kickstarter or Steam, and my interest is piqued, but it will take many hours of (hopefully someone else’s) play to see whether the game has the chops to make it work. A bit of randomness in the game can hide imbalances for a long time, and really for as many times as I am likely to play a game, “close enough” is probably good enough.

: Zubon

Premium Game

I have previously mentioned the notion of a premium game that charged more for more, rather than a F2P race to the bottom. Monte Cook, bless his heart, is going for it. He is Kickstarting a new RPG called Invisible Sun that costs $197. That is the lowest pledge tier. The other pledge tier is $539, which adds on the stretch goals and a 12-month subscription of sorts. That’s it, those are the two options. The premium and ultra-premium pledge slots were all sold for $42,811. It garnered a quarter-million in about a day, is already funded, and now can start putting the stretch rewards in that $539 box.

I respect the audaciousness of the project. Monte wanted to make a deluxe game, so he went and did it with a bunch of friends, a big box with books and cards and dice and a cloth map and everything you dreamed of doing as a young nerd. Kind of like when Steve Jackson used Kickstarter for his dream deluxe game, only more. Kind of like that $1000 omelet only the omelet itself is both the PR stunt and the product they are really selling.

I do not have a regular gaming group and I cannot see myself buying this, but I am interested in seeing where it goes and what will get added to the game as its pledges rise above a half-million.

: Zubon

Tinker Steampunk Metal Meeples Closing

As a reminder, our friend Tesh’s Kickstarter for metal steampunk meeples has a week left. The number of options has doubled with the addition of a Dame meeple to accompany the Gentleman. By popular demand, this Kickstarter will help pave the way for a future one with a broader range of Tinker steampunk meeples.

I am still in love with the founding idea of Cheapass Games. They started selling white box (or often envelope) versions of what are now their free print & play games. The idea was to sell you just the game, usually a board or cards, and then you could buy yourself a fancy set of peripheral components to use with many games. Get a nice set of pawns, money, etc. and use them for every game, rather than getting a couple pieces of expensive (yet cheap) plastic with every board game. It is an approach that works well when you are pondering efficient storage for tabletop games.

: Zubon

Gen Con and Kickstarter

It felt like Kickstarter usurped the Gen Con vendors this year. I go to Gen Con mostly to see the new games, and it seemed like most of the prominent new games were Kickstarter successes, waiting to fulfill delivery from Kickstarter, about to start a Kickstarter, or on Kickstarter now. The others were delayed and maybe available for a prototype demo. Overall, a disappointing time checking out new games this year. I should have kept a tally of the number of times I heard “only available to backers” as I walked around the exhibits hall.

How about some examples? Friends were very excited about Scythe, and that’s a Kickstarter link. I said I was going to look at the GameFolio system, and that’s a Kickstarter link. I had on my list to see One Deck Dungeon, not yet released, and that’s a Kickstarter link. Okay, I am getting tired of saying that. BetaBotz and Giga-Robo are two current Kickstarter projects that were there, and I cannot give you links to upcoming Kickstarters that were being promoed. As I look back through the BoardGameGekk preview, it was not that severe, but it certainly felt like Kickstarter was taking over the role of pre-release game promos. Certainly there are publishers using Kickstarter heavily to gauge interest and collect pre-orders.

Other differences in the world noted at Gen Con:

  • Geek Chic remains the big name in gaming furniture, but they seem to be staying at the high end while competitors arise at lower price points. Carolina Game Tables was at Gen Con, and I did not see BoardGameTables.com but they recently had a successful Kickstarter. Google tells me there are also a few companies in that space in the UK.
  • On the cosplay front, in one day at Gen Con, I saw only 19 Deadpools and Harley Quinns, which seems like a big drop from previous years. All but one of the female Harley Quinns went with the Suicide Squad style; all but one of the male Harley Quinns went with the classic costume, sometimes a skimpy version.

: Zubon

Tabletop Games: Storage and Mobility

Storage solutions interest me. As you accumulate games, how do you make them conveniently available, visible (or not), and portable? For small collections, stacking up a few boxes in a closet works perfectly. Over time, collections become not-small, and there is no consistency on box size between companies, so you can easily end up playing a cross between Tetris and Jenga every time you take your games out or put them away, and then some games are packed so perfectly you forget you own them for months because you cannot see the box.

So what are we looking for in storage? Size standardization is a great thing, with the notion being that we will take the games out of the original boxes (trash or carefully store in pristine condition, according to your gamer type) and put them in something conveniently modular. The modules need to be of different sizes, because some games are large with lots of bits while others are very small, but most boxes have a lot more air than you need. Boards and rules usually need to be stored separately from game pieces because of sizing issues; indeed, the large boxes are usually because of one large board and a few tallish pieces, so you need large overall dimensions. Game pieces should be able to be stored separately, again needing different sizes of compartments for different games. Transparency and space for labeling are great, because you want to know what is in storage (and find it). I would also want to be able to pull out one game without upsetting the whole apple cart, and for larger collections you want to be able to take some subset of your collection along in mobile storage. Bonuses include if the containers for pieces are also functional during play.

Pausing to note that audience participation is encouraged, please discuss your storage needs and solutions in the comments. Continue reading Tabletop Games: Storage and Mobility

Story via Mechanics

One thing I enjoy in the Pathfinder Adventures story mode is that the rules can be adapted to create good scenes, fluff out of the crunch. One of these is done inelegantly, with a paragraph of text that makes that one a mini-game, but consider:

  • “The Poison Pill” sets you against someone leaving deadly traps around town. The usual henchman mini-bosses are obstacles (poison traps) instead of monsters.
  • “Local Heroes” wants you to network around town and meet people. The henchman mini-bosses are replaced with allies you can recruit, with the goal of closing all the locations instead of defeating a villain. And the scenario reward is more allies.
  • Several scenarios have a special rule that makes the difficulty scale in a way that encourages you to find the villain as quickly as possible and to create the usually desired effect of rising difficulty over time. For example, “Undead Uprising” raises the difficulty to defeat Zombie Minion mini-bosses for each Zombie Minion defeated (and the boss summons more before the final confrontation). “Foul Misgivings” increases the difficulty of everything as Haunt mini-bosses haunt your characters, and the lowest difficulty adds a rising chance for a bonus boss fight as you meet Haunts (the higher difficulties just throw the bonus boss at you). “Them Ogres Ain’t Right” increases the final boss’s difficulty by 2 for each mini-boss defeated. A wildcard mechanic has the same effect of rising difficulty, which could get ugly stacking with the scenario mechanic.
  • Several locations have connections to specific allies who can be used for bonus effects, like the one who can banish the aforementioned Haunts.
  • “Angel in the Tower” requires you to have someone at the Shadow Clock location or else time starts slipping away.
  • “Battle at the Dam” has the most elegant implementation: “The Dam may not be temporarily closed.” For folks who have not played, if you encounted the boss but have not closed all the locations, you can “temporarily close” them to keep the boss from escaping; if you win the fight, the boss flees to any open location. If the Dam cannot be temporarily closed, you MUST fight the boss there, either early (and you spend the rest of the scenario tracking him down) or more likely as the climactic battle (because why risk fighting a mini-boss there when you cannot close it).

: Zubon

Conflict and Anger

Typically, the more direct the conflict, the less anger it tends to provoke. At the extreme, I don’t think too many people have flipped the table because someone captured one of their pieces in a chess game. … On the other hand, indirect conflict, which is perhaps, another way of saying passive-aggressive conflict, tends to produce stronger feelings. For example, spite-drafting a card in a drafting game, taking the last of a scarce resource in a resource management game, or blocking someone out of a needed action spot in a worker placement game are all the sort of thing that tend to irritate people in a way that blowing up their troops does not.

Inverted Porcupine

That seems about right to me. No one objects to killing in a murder simulator. People get up in arms when you take the last wheat that their imaginary sheep needed. The harshest PvP MMO in history is A Tale in the Desert, where the explicit Conflict discipline was about playing friendly games of open competition, while Leadership and Worship gave you the chance to kill people in a permadeath game.

: Zubon

Crowbar

crowbar card from the pathdfinder adventure card game I am trying to decide if this is an example of fluff versus crunch or of fridge brilliance. The crowbar is a staple of gaming, and in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (as well as Pathfinder Adventures), it is an “item” and not a “weapon.” It helps you get past barriers.

blacksmiths son and shopkeepers daughter cards from the pathfinder adventure card game But these two are “barriers” classified as “obstacles.” They get in your way, presumably want to talk, and can take up your turn. Shopkeeper’s daughter is getting chatty? Out comes the crowbar. Blacksmith’s son is trying to seduce your ranger? Crowbar.

: Zubon