I’ve been away. You may have noticed. I’ve been away because I was presenting a panel on fantasy gaming and economic recessions at ArmadaCon, back on the ol’ stomping ground in the South West. It’d be slightly antisocial of me to sit in the hotel bar blogging when I could be off attending panels and playing games and laughing at costumes, especially when I was already being antisocial by spending two to three hours a day writing (never turn down a paying gig, that’s my motto), so I didn’t.
Panel went well, thanks for asking, and while we did catch it on film the footage I have is ninety minutes of my talking head, and could do with some editing down, but I’ll stick up some select nuggets and my notes just as soon as I’ve time to make ’em legible. No doubt the ArmadaCon YouTube channel will have some highlights available in due course… at least, I hope that’s what they were filming for… anyway, that went well and I picked up some writing tips from another panelist, which is always a plus.
Anyway, while I was down there I played some games.
Call of Cthulhu! For once I wasn’t in the GM’s chair, and had a lot of fun steering my flabby little law student around a Mysterious Spaceship that we’d all woken up on, finding his little sister’s brain in a talking-brain jar, stabbing slimebeasts with a pen-knife, and running headlong into a twist-on-a-twist ending that relied entirely on people accepting the situation that they found themselves in and had a nice double-twist for experienced CoC players who think they’ve seen it all just because they own the complete works of Lovecraft. GM Gary was bloody marvellous, I think we scared some passers-by with our awesome roleplaying-fu, and I got the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks afterwards. Turns out staying up ’til gone midnight playing Call of Cthulhu and drinking rum is good tactics.
Mijnlieff (by Hopwood Games, and Andy Hopwood seems to be on the Gaming Curriculum wavelength, which pleases me)! This is addictive: so very, very simple with so many, many inherent possibilities. You have a board of four squares, divided into four, which can be arranged in any formation as long as at least their corners touch. You have eight tiles each, and each tile dictates where the opponent is allowed to place their next tile – you can lock them into placing next to you, into diagonal or horizontal lines away from you, or force them into any space not adjacent to you. Simple – but simple rules breed complex gameplay, and Shiny and I spent two hours scratching our heads and doing moose impressions* and generally being evil to each other. Ten quid for a nice wooden set. I likes it.
Braggart (by Spiral Galaxy Games, just up the road from me in Telford)! Probably my pick of the weekend, if only for the terrible faux-roleplaying it brings out of people. You’re heroes, sitting around in a bar, weaving together your various exploits by assembling cards that describe the Scene, Foe, Deed and Result of your endeavours – but the room is full of other heroes who know the shameful truth, and at any point someone can call you a Liar and swap out any part of your tale for something a little less… imposing. Braggart is another of those simple-mechanic screw-your-neighbour games, with a strong hand management component that rewards players with a good sense of timing. It’s also fun, especially if you play it with the sort of roleplayers who do the voices. “LES FIBS OOTRAY-JEUSE!”, and all that.
Back to the Future! I didn’t realise this was a Looney Labs game, although the card layout should have been a giveaway, and if I had to describe it I’d say “like Fluxx but it starts out overcomplicated instead of ending up there sometimes.” I didn’t enjoy this one, to be honest – it takes the regular Looney Labs focus on hand management and changing the playing field, but over-regiments it: there are too many mechanics to concentrate on tactics, it’s too dependent on the luck of the draw, and victory is arguably reliant on remembering the plot of some (admittedly very good) films. It’s telling that I don’t really remember enough of the mechanics to describe it – all I remember is five or six different types of cards passing by in a blur. It’s possible that you can get good at it by playing some more, but if I’m going to invest effort in learning an overcomplicated card game, I’m going for a less niche one that’s more actively played…
Magic! Yes, you saw that. I used to play, back in secondary school, and I got out when the shenanigans quotient far exceeded the amount of fun that was being had. Blue decks that played with themselves in a second turn that went on forever, black decks that spawned an infinite number of 2/2 tokens, red decks that cycled the same small set of cards almost infinitely… it was mechanically perfect gameplay but it was sodding boring.
However, Shiny and Pags and Penardun have gotten together behind my back and started playing (I turn my back on them for a year and look what happens!), and I borrowed some of their decks to throw down. Pags’ mono-green deck is a monstrosity of creatures that get better just by being in play for more than one turn, or having land on the table – Penardun’s is a bit clunkier but much more to my taste, with all the cheap and cheeky little creature-killing instants and zombie token swarms that made my previous decks so much fun and pressed all my theme buttons. Played three or four games during the day on Friday, had fun, looking at putting something together. Possibly black/blue, to get the zombie theme in and keep my rules-control freak tendencies happy.
* – it’s been decided that the majestic Moose is my fail-totem, to be invoked whenever the dreaded misplay emerges.