Chicago Geek Guy

Comics, Cosplay, LARPs, RPGs, Fiction, and more... all from Chicago

Category: Stop Chop and Role (page 1 of 4)

The Gaming Table – Mark I.V

Building the Game Table

Last year, inspired by this post over on Board Game Geek, I constructed a gaming table. I had never tried anything like it before. Of all my father’s five children, I’m considered the least handy. I’ve called myself the “anti-Bob Villa” for years. I’m a big fan of the cross-eyed view. My completed projects look great, provided you look at them cross-eyed.

Mistakes were made, but I felt satisfied by the work. I learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and different types of wood. The table wasn’t perfect, but it worked out better than expected and I felt it added a lot to my RPG sessions. The mounted monitor in particular made it easy to share high quality maps and images with the folks seated around the table and added a nice level of detail to the sessions. Using HeroLab to share information during my Pathfinder sessions helped combat move much more smoothly. 

Certain elements didn’t please me. At the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to handle the electrical work, I didn’t care for the wood stain and finish used, a layer of neoprene I mounted under the felt made the dice bounce a little too high, and the counter height of the table made it a bit more difficult to navigate around and play larger board games on. When I had to move last fall, take down, and reassemble the table, I realized I could take the opportunity to make some improvements.

Wiring the Table

Gaming Table - WiringAfter some long conversation with my brothers and the kind sales person from Home Depot, I felt ready wire up the table. I chose four USB enabled outlets, placing one on a side. I also mounted a standard outlet on the underside of the table to power the monitor. I worked slowly and carefully, checking at each step to make sure everything was connected tightly and enclosed in conduit. I’m happy to say, I didn’t even get shocked once!

Time for a Fresh Coat of Paint

Three coats of semi-gloss, black latex covered up the stained wood quite nicely.

 

Cut it Down to Size

Changing the height of the table from counter to standard required chopping off seven inches from the legs.

Gaming Table - Height

A Final Touch

The bottle opener is a crucial feature for those late night sessions.

Gaming Table - Bottle Opener

Ready for Gamers!

Some new felt, sans neoprene, for better rolling.

I’ve got a couple of sessions scheduled for the near future. I will post some pictures of actual use, soon.

 

 

The Chicago LARP Scene – A Guide

My friend Susan Weiner pulled together his list of local Chicago LARP.  It’s a living document and regularly updated. If you know of an event or ongoing LARP that’s not listed, please contact the organizer, gothiklezmer@gmail.com.

Campaign Games

Stories in the Sanguine City

  • Description: Dresden Files setting, Fate Accelerated System
  • Dates: First Saturdays
  • Location: Palette and Chisel Art Academy
  • Game Runner: Laurie Rich
  • For more information: http://ssclarp.com/

Shifting Sands: Space 1889

Ask Again Later

  • Description: Midwestern Gothic
  • Dates: First info session in April, game begins late June
  • Location: Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater
  • Game Runner: Carly Ho
  • For more information: http://askagainlater.com/

Scion

Mage: The Awakening, 2nd Edition

One Shot LARP

Chicago One Shots Group

  • Description: Organizes runs of one-shot LARPs in Chicago
  • Dates: Sporadic
  • Location: Variable
  • For more information: Join this list https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/chicago-one-shots

Tapas

  • Description: Weekend of one-shot LARPs
  • Dates: Memorial Day weekend
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information: http://www.fetefatale.com/ (join their mailing list, or keep an eye on the website)

Peaky Midwest

  • Description: LARP writing weekend, players welcome Sunday
  • Dates: March 17-19, 2017
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information: http://www.peakymidwest.com/

Other Useful Resources

Chicago Gaming Slack

Find a live version of this document at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mFK2ulT5ClQPHr2AQCjC55jvMUYLiK5zPTJ7AyeTH5k/

Greenfire Games Revisited!

I had a chance to swing by my FLGS on Saturday, Greenfire Games. They’ve reorganized a bit since their grand opening. The store offers even more gaming room while maintaining wide aisles to browse product. I kept most of my money safe in my pocket on this trip, but a nice conversation with Mike Bradshaw gave me some information I had to share.

Greenfire Games YouTube Channel

The folks at the shop have started reviewing games and posting play-throughs. They tackle the Doom board game on their first outing.

Check out their channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYSlyJsloO3SpB0u0kcqxDg 

Game Rentals

Greenfire Games now allows you to rent certain games. Leaving a credit card number will let you walk out with hits like Start Wars: Rebellion and play them for a week. The store collects $10 for the service, applicable to a purchase of a shiny new copy game if you decide to buy it. If you don’t want to keep it, the shop will give you $5 back when you return it in good condition. Almost everything on the demo wall is available for rent, including Rebellion, Clank, Android Mainframe, Splendor, Mysterium, Escape from the Aliens In the Dark.

Massive Miniatures Event February 25

Greenfire Games brings in another round of game companies to show off their wares. This event will feature company drive demos of Frostgrave, Dystopian Wars, Wreck-age, 28mm Mechattack, Aetherium, and Hexplore: Valley of the Ancient Kings. Participants will be entered in a raffle for a copy of the recently re-released copy of Blood Bowl. The more demos you play, the more chances you get to win.

Greenfire Games continues to build a sense of community in the south suburbs. I can’t say I’ve met a more fervent group of people dedicated to building on the success of the hobby. If I had more money to spend on games, I would spend it there.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Scythe

I will admit. The vibrant colors of the plastic miniatures first caught my eye; then, the gorgeous art of the game board. It took a second to sink in. Oh, that’s that game my friend Dan’s been raving about.

The Midwinter Gaming Convention gave me my first opportunity to block out enough time, sit down and play Scythe, a worker placement game set in an alternate 1920’s from Stonemaier Games. The game takes its tone from the works of artist Jakub Rozalski and feels a lot like the world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy.

The game looks intimidating. Plastic miniatures, cards, wooden blocks, a large map, and cardboard playmats fill the box. Laid out, the materials take up more table space than there might be table. All these parts serve a noble purpose. Once set up and briefly explained, Scythe offers a relatively easy to play experience. The blocks and plastic simplify bookkeeping, allowing the player to focus on the game itself.

The combination of two different player boards per participant and hidden objective card make the game different in each playthrough. Playing the same faction will feel different from game to game, and strategies and tactics need to reflect the current setting. This game allows for all sort of different game play. Players may explore, produce, or fight their way to victory.

I greatly enjoyed my introduction to the game. Host Kevin Jung and his crew understood the rules well and conveyed them effectively. This session’s players each approached the game differently. One tried to win through conquest. Another though production. I completely failed to utilize my faction’s special abilities and flailed through the playthrough. I don’t think I impressed anyone with my gaming acumen.

Still, the group let me flounder pleasantly, providing help, support, and a sense of humor when needed. Overall, the experience left me ordering my own copy of the game right after the session so I can practice in private. Scythe calls for ONE to five players. After a few rounds with the automation, I figure I’ll be ready to face real people again.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Vendor Room

From my perspective, one of the highlights of every con is the vendor room.  As usual, I was pulled in by the vendors’ siren song of at Midwinter.  At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed with the vendor room.  When compared to other cons I’ve attended, like Anime Boston, which has a giant hall with hundreds of tables, the smallish ballroom of 38 vendors was unimpressive. Upon further examination, I changed my mind.

The vendors were a variety of mostly smaller, individual crafters as opposed to larger retailers selling mass produced products like posters, magic cards, etc. They were selling all types of wares that would be of interest to gamers with a variety of interests including stuffed dice, weaponry and various steampunk items.  I will admit to being a girly-girl, so my own personal focus was more toward the ornamental as opposed to weaponry. 

I purchased items from a number of vendors, and sharing my favorites with you.  In my opinion, the most talented vendor was LisaSell, a 2D and 3D artist who is a magician with resin.  Lisa Sell, the owner, makes gorgeous resin masks from obviously laboriously hand-carved molds, with breathtaking results.  I had spent most of my money by the time I arrived at her table, but I happily plunked down $25 for two smaller pieces (a beautiful steampunk metal fascinator and a resin steampunk charm).  Luckily, Lisa also has an ETSY store (also called LisaSell) where I can purchase one of her lovely masks once I’ve saved up my pennies.

Another favorite vendor was Tops It Off – Custom Crochet Shop, owned by Mimi Refici, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She makes and sells wonderful, winter, geeky creations including but certainly not limited to pokeball hats, a batman hat complete with a mask to cover the wearer’s eyes, and a variety of other characters.  If she doesn’t have the exact item you want, I understand that she can make anything (based upon what I saw, I believe it).  I fell in love with an adorable hippo hat and hard warmers that I’ve worn pretty much every day.  If you can’t wait until the 2018 Midwinter Gaming Convention, you can contact her on her Facebook Page, Tops it Off – Custom Crochet. 

If I had one complaint about the vendor room, it would be the jewelry.  Practically every vendor selling jewelry carried some form of chainmail necklaces and bracelets.  There was else to choose from, other than the not necessarily geeky beaded jewelry, although I did see one vendor selling a variety of jewelry with bones (or resin looking bones).   

My final shout out goes to the Mobile Stress Relief Unit, who did a fabulous job of massaging away my aches and pains.  In general, I have to declare the vendor room a success.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Tokaido

I did not expect to play Tokaido at Midwinter. I bought a copy at my FLGS  six months ago and haven’t even had a chance to open it.  However, Saturday evening as we headed over to the board game library checkout desk, we saw a group of three geeky hipsters opening the Tokaido box. Trusting the friendly environment fostered by Midwinter, we took a risk and asked if we could join them.

The game and the company did not disappoint.

We found Tokaido remarkably chill and seriously fun. Each player takes the role of a traveler walking the “East Sea Road.” Temples, farms, picturesque panoramas, souvenir shops, and inns dot the trail, each offering a unique experience. There’s no dice rolling, fighting, or killing. The players just walk a beautifully rendered game board, soaking up as much culture as they can. At the end of the journey, the player collecting the most local knickknacks, donating the most to the temples, eating the most expensive foods, and viewing the most beautiful landscapes wins the game.

It’s a well-constructed game, easy to understand and lovely to look at. I offer only one complaint. The subtle color scheme of the game makes it difficult to tell the difference between different experiences. The color used for hot springs looks awfully close to the color used for the panoramas.

Sharing the travels with others adds a full measure of enjoyment to the game. Our group of players chose a freewheeling ronin, a geisha, an itinerant monk, and a starving artist. Together, we carved a fun story of adventure and involvement, all in less than 60 minutes.

Tokaido, from Passport Game Studios, for 2 to 5 players, age 8 and up.

Midwinter Has Come! (and Gone!) – First Impressions

2017 marked Chicago Geek Guy’s first visit to the Midwinter Gaming Convention, but not that last. The two of us enjoyed ourselves immensely across two floors of the beautiful Milwaukee Hilton City Center, playing games, shopping, and making new friends. 

Over the next few days, we plan to share our impressions of the convention, the games we played, and thoughts raised by participating. Today, we’ll focus on the Con’s organization.

“We found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit.”

Small when compared to industry power houses like Gen Con and Origins, we found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit. The con grouped registration, events, and the exhibition hall close together, with food and drink offerings just a short elevator hop away.

The size of the convention helped foster a greater sense of intimacy and friendliness. One would likely have an opportunity to game with the same folks multiple times, helping to foster a budding acquaintance or even friendship. Special guest mingled freely among participants. John Wick talked to people in character at the 7th Sea LARPS. Danielle Lauzon deftly led tabletop and live action sessions of the system. All the special guests felt approachable and took care to remember names and offer guidance based on a player’s experience and familiarity with the game.

“It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms…”

Event staff kept a watchful eye on the proceedings, doing their best to find answers when asked. It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms lurking the hallways and play area, chatting people up and listening to feedback. Anne and staff member Meredith Gerber welcomed criticism, often anticipating it, ready with suggestions for next year that would address the problems. Working the registration desk, Jonathon offered an immediate solution to a pressing problem and helped relieve a potential heap of confusion. JR Cillian Green kept things flowing smoothly in the board game library. Nearly constantly filled with happy gamers, we think the convention can count the board game room a growing success.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.”

We got to learn a new game with these friendly folks.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.” We heard this refrain constantly throughout the convention areas. People treated each other with respect and civility. Gamers of different ages blended seamlessly in a safe environment. Hotel staff greeted each participate warmly and felt ready to engage us individually about our hobby.

We believe Midwinter Gaming Convention offers something for all gamers in a healthy milieu.  We’ll dig into the specifics over the next few days.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Vampire: the Masquerade

And we’re at the end of the line for my 2016 Holiday Gaming Suggestions! I hope people have appreciated these three bonus days of more complicated games, because we’re ending with a seriously complicated one: The newest edition of the Vampire: the Masquerade Live Action RPG, by By Night Studios.

Vampire, and all of the other World of Darkness LARPs, use a ruleset called Mind’s Eye Theatre (or MET). Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of my LARPing experience has been with the MET system, I wasn’t actually a big fan of the previous editions. (For the sake of brevity, I’m not including the nWoD/Chronicles of Darkness MET rules in any of this.) While the original rules were undoubtably revolutionary in the early 1990s when they were first published, by the beginning of the 2000s they had become a hot mess. Too much content had been added without really reexamining the system’s roots, in part because the World of Darkness setting was in a state of rapid expansion across its myriad of titles. Ultimately I felt like MET had too many vague rules, exceptions, and downright contradictions in it. This turned the Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic into a slog that easily broke the flow of the game when narrative tension should have been getting to its highest. MET had started as a yacht, and through a series of jury-rigs was trying to perform the job of an ocean liner. It really wasn’t working out.

Somehow, By Night Studios has managed to do what I thought was nearly impossible. They have taken that hot mess and turned it into something grand. This is the facelift MET needed. Not only is it relevant again, but it’s a reminder of why, for a long time, it was the industry standard for Live Action rules.

Here’s where this suggestion gets tricky: It would take way too much time to describe all of the differences between the old MET system and this one. So I’m only going to provide the most bare bones description below. If it sounds interesting to you, check out the free quickstart guide. I highly recommend that anyone who’s every tried previous editions of MET give it a once-over, too. (http://pegasus.rpgnow.com/product/132185/Minds-Eye-Theatre-Vampire-The-Masquerade-Quickstart-Guide)

At its core, the MET system has become simpler than ever. Characters have three different attribute sets rated 1-10: Physical, Mental, and Social. They also have a series of skills rated 0-5, and a pool of Willpower that fluctuates from 0-6. When a character attempts to do something, they play Rock/Paper/Scissors (against the game’s Storyteller, or sometimes against another player) rather than rolling dice. If they lose, they fail. If they tie, they compare their relevant attribute + relevant skill against the difficulty. If the character has a higher number, they succeed. If they win the R/P/S check, they succeed. If they win and their relevant attribute + relevant skill is higher than the task’s difficulty, they get an exception success.

Willpower provides an avenue of hope for the loser of a R/P/S check. At the cost of a Willpower point, the loser can force a retest. This can only be done once per challenge. Given that Willpower also provides a defensive bonus against certain attacks, players must use this limited resource very carefully.

You may be wondering why, at the opening of this review, I wrote that this was going to be a seriously complicated suggestion, then I went on to praise how simple the rules had become. That’s because the complexity is in everything else the book provides. This is simultaneously the newest MET rules, tailored for the Vampire game; a history of the various vampire political movements; an update of the state of the world since the start of the new millennium; the player’s guide for Camarilla, Sabbat, and Anarch chronicles; and a write-up of nearly every vampire clan and bloodline that White Wolf has published since 1991. This book has over 20 years of content; revised, updated, and streamlined! While it is a truly Herculean feat, it also means that the book is incredibly intimidating to new players. There’s just so much stuff! And while the above quickstart guide is nice, it’s a really big of leap from it to the full book. An intermediate resource would be a welcome addition.

To be completely clear, I love this 440 plus page book. I’m amazed by the work that went in to updating both the rules and the fiction of the Vampire: the Masquerade world, and I’m very excited to see what By Night Studios does with the other World of Darkness lines, especially with this kind of quality. (Changeling, please!) But there’s no way I would recommend the book to beginners, not unless I knew they had a strong community of LARPers who would guide them through the steep learning curve.

Good thing I live in a city full of great LARPers.

(PS/Shameless plug: If you do find yourself wanting to buy this book, please consider purchasing it from the Pegasus Games sub-store of DriveThruRPG Thank you!) — with By Night Studios.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Ravingspire

And now the second bonus day of my Holiday Game Suggestions is here, and it’s a doozy! Today’s bonus game is Ravingspire, by Vorpal Chainsword Games. And yes, I know the game designer on this one. No, I’m not getting a whole bunch of money for raving about it. (Hahahaha… sorry.)

Much like Mystic Vale, Ravingspire takes the idea of a deck building game and does something new with it. Actually, it does a few new things with it. The biggest is that it merges deck building with dungeon crawl board games. This game is–by one of the creator’s own admission–Dominion meets Talisman.

The dungeon crawl feel starts at the beginning of the game, when each player picks a their own character. Each character’s starting deck is a different mix of the game’s three currencies: Fight, Skill, and Charm. Additionally, each character gets a unique special ability, and a personalized mix of card types they can hold in between turns. Hello, varied playstyle right out of the gate!

This being a dungeon crawl, of course there are multiple levels to the dungeon and mat. (Three, to be exact.) Each level will have its own group of cards, which are items to be acquired, monsters to be killed, and traps to be overcome. Where your character is on the map affects what they can interact with.

Cards are acquired or defeated by paying their cost in one (or more) of the game’s three currencies. But most cards have an optional cost that’s much higher, but can be paid with a mix of any of the currencies. It’s a great rule that helps speed up the deck building process.

And the dungeon itself is always changing, thanks to a rotating board that the players can fight over control of.

And there are deadly foes that will chase the characters all over the dungeon.

And there are sanity mechanics, which serves not only as each character’s hit points, but also the timer for the game as a whole.

And the end game is determined randomly by drawing one of five possibilities at the start of the game. And for maximum intrigue the endings are sealed. No peeking!

In case it’s not clear enough, Ravingspire is a game with a lot of crunch! This one is for experienced gamers, no two ways about it. But here is no other game quite like it, so if you need to get a game from someone who seemingly has all of them, here’s a great choice.

Special praise must be made for how the game is being sold. It was funded on Kickstarter, and is only available from a few brick-and-mortar stores across the US because it’s not at distributors yet. So it’s also being sold on Amazon… for the same price most FLGSs will be selling it for. It’s a nice gesture that deserves to be called out.

Tomorrow, the last bonus game and the real end to my 12 Days of Holiday Game Suggestions

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Mystic Vale

Hello, first ever bonus day of Holiday Gaming Suggestions! These three days will cover games that are for the more experienced gamer, which is why I didn’t include them in the original 12. But they’re still excellent games that aren’t getting as much fanfare as I think they deserve, so here we are.

We start with Mystic Vale, by Alderac Entertainment Group. (See my post on Lost Legacy about my connections to AEG employees. Nothing’s changed in a week!) Mystic Vale is a much needed upgrade to the deck building game genre for two to four players. Before I heap on the praise I want to be clear that it wasn’t part of my original 12 suggestions because I would never suggest it to people who weren’t familiar with deck building games. I would start people on games like Star Realms, or classic Ascension, and move on to games like Dominion before tackling Mystic Vale.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain why Mystic Vale is great. Each player with start with a deck of 20 cards, and each deck is identical. The main marketplace for the rest of cards (called “Advancements”) features three decks of different levels of cost. Three cards from each deck are face up, and available for purchase. So far, this probably reads like your typical deck building game.

So now I should mention that all 20 cards in each of the four starting decks are sleeved. And all of the Advancement are printed on transparent plastic. After Advancements are purchased, they are added to the sleeves of the cards used during a player’s turn, thus modifying the effect of the card itself. Because of this, decks will always be 20 cards. What each of those 20 cards can do is what changes during the course of the game. And this is how Mystic Vale alters the very nature of a deck building game, making it what AEG calls a “Card Crafting Game”.

Cool card mechanics aside, most of Mystic Vale’s rules will seem familiar to most deck building enthusiasts. The number of players determines how many Victory Point tokens are put into the pool at the start of the game. The final round is when the last of the points is gone. There are no cards that hurt another player’s deck. Individual advancements may also be worth points at the end of the game.

But there are some unusual rules aside from the card crafting. Players will never have a hand of cards hidden from each other. Instead available cards are put face up in their play area before their turn begins, using a cool push-your-luck mechanic I haven’t seen before. In addition to Advancements, players can also purchase a type of card called Vales. But Vales don’t go into a players deck, and they aren’t bought with the basic resource every deck starts with. Players can’t buy Vales without having the right Advancements first.

As a nice added bonus, not only does Mystic Vale come with all of the sleeves you’ll need to play (plus 20 extra), it also has a very well designed storage tray right in the box. It’s an important thing, especially considering that all of the cards are tarot sized.

Dominion started a creative boom in card games when it introduced the concept of deck building. I’m excited to see if the same thing happens with Mystic Vale’s system. If you’re a deck building aficionado, make sure you check out Mystic Vale, and see if you share my hopeful eagerness for the future of these types of games.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

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