Friday, January 3, 2020

The Biggest Thing to Happen in Gaming in 2019!

Time for me to reveal the Biggest Thing to Happen in Gaming last year!  For me, that is.  Not for the world at large.  Or...actually, it's somewhere in between.  This is the thing that had an impact on the scene that is gaming (all of it...computers, cards, dice, meeples, rock, paper, scissors...I'm treating it all as one big entity) that also had a big impact on me.

So it isn't something like, "I randomly ran a WEG Star Wars adventure for a couple of friends from work, and it was a blast."  That was a big event for me, but had little impact on gaming as a whole.

It also isn't something like the release of Fantasy Flight Games' Marvel Champions: The Card Game, which looks to be a highly regarded addition to the customizable card game family, with a killer license, awesome production, and lots of fans.  I think it'd be something that's right up my alley.  But...I've never played it.  I think it's big, just not for me.  (Yet, at least.)

Nope, it's somewhere in between those two.  And...it's a tie.

The Biggest Thing(s) to Happen in Gaming in 2019...


1A:  The rise of Oathbreaker



While it had been around for a couple of years, it wasn't until 2019 that most of us in the Magic: The Gathering-playing world heard of Oathbreaker, a variant of the Commander/EDH format that uses a Planeswalker card as the leader of your deck, along with a single "signature spell" that they can cast when on the battlefield.  It uses 60-card decks and 20 life, can easily be played 1v1 or multiplayer, and is flavorful, fun, and often fast enough to be completed over lunch.  The last two years have seen me venture back into MTG after going too many years getting in too few games, and Oathbreaker has really caught my attention as a format of choice.

It gained a lot of steam this year.  (The Planeswalker-themed set War of the Spark surely helped!)  I suppose time will tell if it has the staying power of its "parent" format, but I definitely think there's a possibility it will.

And then there's...

1B:  The rise of auto battlers



When I was much younger, I really enjoyed video games and was often looking to play the next big thing.  However, it has been a very long time since I have been anywhere close to actually playing the next big thing.  Somewhere around the end of the era that people talked about how many bits were in their consoles, my fingers quit understanding the way modern video games worked.  I've always paid some amount of attention to the video game industry and the popular games at the time, but other than digital card games (which I generally love, but whose video-gameyness could be debated), I've rarely played them.

Then came Auto Chess.  Born as a mod for the MOBA Dota 2 (and apparently somewhat based upon an old Warcraft 3 custom map involving battling Pokemon), Auto Chess spawned an entire genre of game (the auto battler) in which players spend round after round building a team to fight one of the other competitors at random until just one is left standing.  I'd try to give more detail into how these games typically function, but whenever I do, it just makes them sound like a weird exercise in resource management and matching like items, which...I guess they kind of are.  I really have very little idea how to explain why these things are so addictive, but I can tell you that as soon as I finish one game, I'm pretty much ready to start the next one to see if a good strategy holds up or if I can improve upon a bad one.

There's a good bit of info out there on the net for these games.  My personal favorite at the moment is Chess Rush, but the biggest names in the game are probably Teamfight Tactics (using League of Legends characters), Dota Underlords (the official Dota entry), Auto Chess (made by the creators of the original Dota mod, and the source of the picture above), and Hearthstone Battlegrounds (a more recent entry that builds on the card game's engine).  For the first time in...decades, probably...I was playing a non-card-based video game that was the buzz of the gaming world.

Although...the genre is arguably about as close to being a card game as a "true" video game can get without actually involving digital cards.  A discussion for another time, I suppose.

Happy New Year, everyone...here's to an awesome 2020!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Rules option #2: Swords & Six-Siders (and the OSR as a whole)

Another strong option as a framework to build a MotU-inspired miniatures game on top of would be something in the realm of the Old School Renaissance.  No matter how far I stray in my interests, there are a few foundations I always seem to come back to, and the OSR is one of them.  This blog, in fact -- while all over the place at times -- was started with a thought that it would fit into the OSR community.

Since using huge D6s is one of the details I'm looking for in the rules, one of the obvious candidates would be Swords & Six-Siders, which sports a strong OSR feel while keeping all rolls down to a single D6.


I'm sure there are other D6-only OSR efforts out there that follow in the footsteps of classic editions of D&D...this is just the main one I'm familiar with.  And while I've never played it, it looks both solid and fun.  (I'm also a fan of the generic OSR house rules for D6-based combat given in this blog post over at The Bogeyman's Cave.)

Some big advantages of going this route include the use of the OGL (and S&SS has an accompanying license, I believe) and the huge amount of material that's out there to steal use.  I could probably even leverage some of the work I put into Light City, my little Swords & Wizardry Light superhero project (that also got a LOT of material added by Justin Isaac).  After all, superhero fiction is sort of the third foundation holding up the Masters of the Universe property, along with pulpy science fiction and fantasy.

On the other hand, I probably don't want to use granular hit points in a big outdoor minis game...and I think that going this route might tempt me to also make use of a giant D20 for combat, rather than just the D6s.  That could end up being some combination of expensive and a hassle.

Still...all in all, it's a nice option to consider...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Space Fantasy News: Insects on Mars?

In a story that has understandably been making its rounds on the web, an American entomology professor recently presented a poster showing his take on evidence for historical, and extant, life on Mars resembling our planet's insects and reptiles.  Dr. William Romoser, a Professor Emeritus at Ohio University with 45 years of service to the school, showed his work at a meeting of the Entomological Society of America in St. Louis.

One of Dr. Romoser's figures.

On the one hand, I do think stuff like this has the potential to put wind in the sails of crackpot theorists who would love to distract us from...y'know, true stuff.  (There's definitely been some concern over the implications of such claims for the future of our search for extraterrestrial life.)

On the other hand, though, it's 2019, and we have a scientist talking about stuff that's pretty much straight out of old school planetary romance tales, and that's kind of awesome.  It's awesome because ideas like this gave us the character of John Carter and all of the fiction he would go on to inspire.  It's also awesome because I think we need a world where established scientists are willing to bring up ideas that will be widely viewed as nonsense.  Every once in a while, such a wild idea will help us see an old problem in a new way.

So...maybe the greatest takeaway from all of this is that once you're a Professor Emeritus, you don't have to give a eff anymore.

(You can search some relevant words and find a number of reports on this around the net, or just click here and see Dr. Romoser's abstract and poster.)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Rules option #1: The Masters of the Universe RPG

I'm keeping my eyes and mind open for rulesets that can serve as a core for Project 5.5, my take on gaming with ridiculously buff action figures in the style of the old Masters of the Universe line.  These will likely be dedicated miniatures or RPG rules (or both), and as I mentioned last time, I have a few key elements I'm looking for...with ease of play and use of D6s for resolution probably being the most important.  At the moment, anyway.  I could honestly see myself altering the goals if I hit upon just the right set of rules.

So...with all of that in mind, I figured I should begin my quest by going straight to the source: FASA's Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game from 1985.

From BoardGameGeek.

I now know from reading up on this game a bit (primarily this review) that a common reaction, upon learning that it actually exists (and especially once one realizes that it was made by FASA, of Star Trek RPG and Battletech fame), is to assume that it's a must-have piece of gaming history.  And I'll admit...even after reading about how terrible it is (such as in the review linked above), there's a part of me that thinks this would be a holy grail of sorts for my small RPG collection.  But...well, it apparently really is terrible as a game...not even a true RPG (to the extent that it has a page on BoardGameGeek), and pretty much impossible to play as presented, even as a board game.

It sure LOOKS like it'd be awesome, though.  Plus, I'm mostly interested in how I might tweak it to work as a minis game.  Here's the character card layout:

Also from BoardGameGeek.

Those skills...which include combat ratings...are apparently resolved with a D6 roll (and certainly pass an eye test for being on that scale).  So, check on that.  And the double-digit values for Strength, Agility, etc. at the top of the card look to be based upon some sort of 2D6 roll, probably a roll-under resolution.  (I don't know that those numbers even get used in the game as written...)

The Life Force and Magic Points look like they could be fiddly in the sort of game I'm trying to make, but overall, this looks like a definite contender.  I think it'd be pretty fun to take the bare-bones rules presented here and attach enough chrome to make it playable as a miniatures game.

More options to come soon...!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Choosing a framework for Project 5.5

So...my first (next?) step for Project 5.5 shall be to decide upon a ruleset that can serve as a framework for the sort of "miniatures" battles I want to stage.  I have some in mind already...and am having a tough time settling.

In short, I'm looking for rules that are...

1.  Fun to play.
2.  Functional with minimal paperwork (since it'll be played outside).
3.  Capable of capturing the somewhat gonzo science fantasy flavor of Masters of the Universe.
4.  Usable with teams of 3-6 figures per side; ideally it would work (and retain its playability) with as few as one figure, up to maybe dozens.
5.  Able to make use of these great D6s Laura gave me for my birthday last year.  (I have six of 'em.)
Tulip is just there for scale.

I hope to get some posts up this week with some of the options I see as top contenders.  In the meantime, please feel free to suggest away if you have ideas!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Introducing Project 5.5 ... aka The One I'm Going to Finish

Hello, all who happen upon these words in the binary aether!  For...oh, I don't know, like a year and a half now...I've been thinking about returning to this blog.  I even posted a thing a couple of months ago, thinking it might be my foot in the door for a return to the realm of geek blogging.

I've come to realize that returning to a neglected blog feels a lot like it did trying to get up the courage to go out on the floor at a middle school dance.  You have some idea of what it's supposed to look like, and man, all those folks doing it make it look so easy.  But the longer you wait, the harder it becomes, because it feels like the stakes just keep getting higher and more people are wondering why you aren't doing it and oh man why is everyone looking at me so this better be good if I'm actually gonna do it now.

(Why, yes, I may have some long-unresolved issues stemming from adolescent unpopularity, why do you ask?)

So, whatever, the time is now...I'm gonna dance, and here's the move I'm starting with:

Project 5.5

I'll give the background in some upcoming posts, but in short, this is my attempt to create a relatively fast 'n non-relatively fun "miniatures" game designed to be played outdoors with squatty, overmuscled, Masters of the Universe-style action figures.

Because the world may not need it, but I sure do.

I'm already hearing the questions...

Hey, you ADD-addled gamer, what makes this one different from the other million and one projects you started on this blog?

Why in the world would this be "the one you're going to finish?"

Who are you again?  How did I end up here?

Well, if I wasn't serious about it, would I have bought this ridiculous lot of figures on eBay...?



Eh, actually...I might.  I have a history of less-than-stellar choices on eBay.

But...I have a really good feeling about this one.

NOTE:  If you hate puns, please read no further on this page.
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Yep, I'm at the dance and getting back out on the floor.  Can't wait to try the punch...

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The 8-bit origins of Auto Chess

Hi internet!  I made a thing.

'Tis a wee thing, but a thing nonetheless.  And while I haven't posted anything here in...quite a long time...it seemed to me that there may be some overlap between folks who might enjoy seeing said thing and those who would be aware that I posted something here (I posted it over on Reddit, but that's obviously much less satisfying than a blog post...).

So...I've developed an obsession with Auto Chess as I have for very few other games over the years, and I eventually started thinking about how fun it would be to have a version of the game (or an auto battler in general) in a retro gaming style.  Since I don't know what the odds are of that ever happening, I doodled this together to at least see what it would look like.  And...you never know...maybe some indie developer and fellow lover of Auto Chess sees this image at some point and decides to make it happen...


And...that's it!  It ain't much, but it was fun.  I'm hoping to keep playing with this over time to maybe produce some more compelling images...

EDIT 09/14/2019:  I see that this post has actually gotten a few views and don't know what the chances are that anyone who's seen it is at all familiar with Auto Chess.  So, I figured I'd post a screenshot of the mobile game.

(It's a very good mobile game, by the way.)