International Tabletop Day 2015

Saturday was International Tabletop Day 2015. I’ll describe what I played below. Please note that I didn’t read the rules to any of these games except Redshirts, so my descriptions of them are limited to my interpretations from a single playing.

Heat. In this game the players are criminals working through different stages of a crime spree, trying to take the most money without earning too much heat from the cops. The cards in your hand represent actions you can take, such as a bank job (earning money if nobody else tries a bank job the same turn), petty theft (earning a small amount of money but not generating heat), or laying low (to bleed off some heat). The rules suggest that players chat in character about their plans for each round, but we were so focused on learning the game that we didn’t do much of that.

Shootin’ Ladders. A nicely twisted takeoff on Chutes & Ladders, where players are homicidal gingerbread men trying to blow each other to crumbs. Movement is similar to Chutes & Ladders (including the chutes, and also the ladders), but everyone has a gun (a Dessert Eagle) and can get more guns, items, and ammo from the board. I got my guts shot out, but I’d do it again.

Redshirts. We played one round using my copy of Redshirts. In this game, each player tries to be the first to get all her away team members killed off. It’s a mildly-Munchkin-like game of screw your neighbor. Players can play missions on themselves or others, and want to fail their own missions (getting their folks killed) and make the other players succeed. It’s always hard to wrap my brain around at first, but I like it. On this occasion, due to either closely matched (nonexistent) skill or weird luck, nobody even took the lead in this game, so we called it a tie after a while.

Sentinels of the Multiverse. This is a superhero game I’d heard good things about, and I liked it. It’s a cooperative game where each player is a superhero, fighting as a team against a single supervillain. The villain we chose was a robotics factory that could also turn into a giant robot. One player had lightning powers, one was very much like Superman, the third was Egyptian-themed, and I was a Batman-clone. Each hero has his own deck of cards representing powers and equipment. My Batman-themed deck, for example, had a crime computer (defending us against some damage), grappling hook (for knocking away enemy effects), and blades I could throw to damage one target a lot or several targets a little. I liked the fact that the longer the game went, the more cool stuff we got to put into play, increasing our options. I also appreciated that the game assigns complexity levels to all the heroes and villains, making it more accessible to new players.

Dominion. We finished up with Dominion, another one I’d heard about but hadn’t played. It’s a deck-building game, but not a collectible one—all the cards you need come in the box, thankfully. The goal is to increase your wealth enough to buy the most property. A big part of the strategy is that money and property cards aren’t useful to you in the action phase, so you have to balance how much money and property cards you have in your deck vs action cards, such as ones that give you more actions, let you draw more cards, or make opponents discard theirs. I’m proud that out of three of us, I came in second place! (Maybe I should mention that the other two players tied each other for first.)

How bout you? Did you celebrate International Tabletop Day? If not, maybe you’ll join me next year!

Gamer Vision

I had a weird case of virtual deja vu today. I was vacationing in New Orleans, checking out the French Quarter, when I got the feeling I’d been there before. After a bit I figured out what it was…the architechture and street layouts were reminding me of the video game Infamous 2, which is set in a fictionalized version of New Orleans! I’d say the game’s developers succeeded at getting across the feel of the city.

Later, I saw a ladder extending from a house’s second floor balcony up to the roof. My first thought was, “If I could reach that ladder, I could climb up there and get a shard or whatever other treasure is up on that roof!” Yep, I’ve been trained by the games to look for ways to gain items and experience points in real life.

GenCon 2014 Recap


I survived my third GenCon! I hadn’t been since the Boy started kindergarten a few years back (when the con coincided with his first week of school). It was great being back at GenCon, and I never want to be separated from it again.

My friend (and superb Paranoia GM) Kerry was there too, as well as some of his friends. Kerry and I don’t live in the same town, and in fact only see each other at conventions. We met at his Paranoia game at MidSouthCon a few years ago.

At a con as big as GenCon, it’s hard to split your time between games, the dealer room (or Exhibit Hall, as they call it at GenCon), and panels. And sleep. (That last part is hard to skimp on for this aging gamer, or else the other choices suffer.) This year I did moderate gaming, heavy Exhibit Hall exploring (though not enough–it’s never enough), and no panels. (And sleeping through most of my morning plans.) I wanted to check out some writer’s panels, but the games I most wanted to play conflicted with them.

The games I played were Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and SpaceMarvel Heroic RoleplayingFading SunsCthulhuTech, and World War Cthulhu. It was my first time playing any of those, and almost all of them were fun. My favorite bits were playing as the 4th Doctor, playing as the Thing, and being taken over by an energy parasite (in WWC).

Adventures in the Exhibit Hall

Mongoose Publishing and Cheapass Games were the only companies on my wish list that did not have booths. Paizo had four Cheapass games for sale, including a card game version of Kill Dr. Lucky called Get Lucky. As a gift for a friend, I bought Veritas, in which you play as the Truth. Awesome.


Monte Cook Games had their new game The Strange on display. I’d been planning to buy Numenera at the con, but after lots of deliberation picked The Strange instead. It looks amazing. The book is pricy, but players only need the $20 player’s guide. A couple of cute kids (around 8 to 10 years old) ran my transaction; I wonder who they were.


I tried out the Bravest Warriors card game, and liked it. I’d have bought it for the Boy, but it was sold out. They were showing two decks, each supporting 4 players, and combining the decks allows 8 players. Each deck is $13. Yes, please.

At the Eden Studios booth I got to talk to Alex Jurkat, who was my editor when I worked on a few City of Heroes adventures. It was the first time I’d seen him since the previous GenCon for each of us (in 2006, I believe). Like back then, we mostly talked about getting our kids interested in RPGs. He’s been more successful than me at that goal. The Boy has video game fever.

A man at the Pinnacle booth talked to me about the Savage Worlds edition of Space: 1889. It looks excellent, and I’d have probably bought it if I had the latest version of Savage Worlds. (I don’t know for a fact the game wouldn’t work with an older edition of the rules, but with limited Exhibit Hall time I got in the habit of making quick decisions.)


I spent a lot of time at the Steve Jackson Games area. It’s hard not to, with so many Munchkin variants on display. I bought Munchkin Adventure Time for the Boy, and now I’m really eager to try it out, but have to wait until his birthday, because that’s what I’m saving it for. I’m also excited about the pocket edition of Ogre (selling for $2.95, just as it did when first released in 1977), but I missed out on Car Wars, which sold out before I arrived.

The biggest hit to my wallet (and my RPG shelf space) was from the 20th anniversary edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, by Onyx Path. It’s stunning. I like the larger-than-normal print in the book (and my aging gamer eyes appreciate it), though I wonder how much that added to the page count. I got to talk to the game’s art director, and compliment his work. He says their next Werewolf book will be a revised edition of Way of the Wyrm. I took a look at the anniversary edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, but my wallet said no, not this time, you’ve hurt me too much already.


During my Fading Suns game I learned that the game (which I thought was no longer in production) had been revived by FASA. Yay! The setting is like a science-fantasy dark ages in space, with lords and aliens and psychics. I invested in the new edition.


At Chaosium, the big news was the impending release of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, due out in November. For the first time the core rules will be in two separate books, the Investigator’s book and the Keeper’s book. The final manuscripts were on display, and the books’ interiors are gorgeous. I can’t wait.

I’m not a big D&D fan, but I still bought the new 5th edition of the Player’s Handbook at the Wizards of the Coast shop. One reason I bought it was because, as a student of RPG design, I’m curious about the changes to the game. But the more personal reason is that it was at my first GenCon that I bought my first version of D&D, the 3rd edition (which was released at that GenCon in 2000). So I guess I wanted to carry on that tradition. And, spoiler warning, I’m loving the 5th edition.

I was glad to see fewer PC or console games on display at this year’s con than there were the last time I went. I love those games, of course, but they’re easy to find everywhere else. The electronic games that did make it to the show were more closely related to tabletop games, being either electronic versions of tabletop games (such as an iPad edition of Ticket to Ride), or digital assistants to traditional games (like an app that facilitates gaming groups that are separated geographically).

There’s so much more I could ramble about concerning this year’s GenCon (the costumes! The shirts and hoodies and robes for sale! The dice, man, the dice!), but I better stop ‘cause I’m getting antsy for next year already. Only 48 weeks to go!