Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Did FFG just declare an invasion?

Yesterday, Fantasy Flight Games formally announced the upcoming release of Genesys, a universal RPG using the proprietary dice system they developed for their Star Wars RPG line.  I know some folks are thinking "no big deal, it's just another GURPS/Savage Worlds/Fate system".  Others might be thinking that FFG doesn't really do RPGs outside of SW and the ending Warhammer Roleplaying Line they had the license for.

To an extent, both of these are right. And given the development of RPGNOW, Lulu, and other POD publishing firms, it's not like there's a shortage of competitors. However, these views ignore two things: first, Fantasy Flight has a LONG history with RPGs, and second, their IP catalog is powerful, and might draw more players into specific setting games.

The announcement lists 5 game type settings. Most likely, there will be some specific rules for each, NPC/race/monsters for each, and a bunch of suggested options that GMs can take or leave for their own game. There are fantasy, steampunk, weird war, modern, and science fiction settings included. There's also supposed to be in depth setting material via supplements. Please keep in mind, there's a LOT of conjecture after this.

What settings can they do? Firstly, there are two they likely can't, though they have boardgame rights. These are Game of Thrones(ASoIaF), and Lord of the Rings. Both of these have other RPG homes, though the TV show and movie rights might play into things.

Other licensed properties they have that MIGHT come to fruition include Doom, X-Com, and the Witcher. I've no clue as to the specifics of the contracts, or if there's been further talk. On the other hand, their proprietary RPG history and other IP list is HUGE.

 From Boardgame/LCG properties:
Android- A fantastic cyberpunk setting, home to three boardgames and the current incarnation of Netrunner. Shadowrun and Interface Zero, look out.

Terrinoth- The world of Runbound and Descent, it's got everything but an LCG. And might become their main fantasy setting.

Twilight Imperium- Yeah, the big 4x game. There was a Discwars incarnation also(bring that back), in addition to the two boardgames. And at one point, an RPG, so this is a recapitulation.

L5R- They bought it from Alderac last year, and the LCG launches at GenCon this year. Why not put out a setting book for this Far East fantasy world? Yes, it's had RPGs, before.

Blue Moon- Yeah. The Knizia game has great art, and might make an intriguing setting.

Anima- A small tactical card game with cool science fantasy Eastern art. It's had an RPG before, though this could bring it back.
Cold War: CIA vs. KGB- A fleshed out spy game, though these options might be in the core book.
Arkham Files- They've got 4 boardgames and are now on their second LCG with this Lovecraftian world. Why wouldn't they go into it against CoC?

From their RPG history:

Dawnforge- Another competitor for their main fantasy setting, and they've plenty of backlog material they could bring back.

Dragonstar- If you want a fantasy space opera, here's the competitor for Starfinder. and DRAGONS IN SPAAACE sounds a lot cooler than Elves in space. They've a lot for this one, too.

Fireborn- Another fantasy setting, where everyone has some relationship to a dragon.

Midnight- A Dark Fantasy game they had during the D&D 3rd OGL boom. Evil runs the world, and you're fighting and hiding. This might make for a good Sword and Sorcery entry.

Grimm- A fairie tale based setting that was originally part of the Horizon line, and expanded to a full RPG book on its own.

Spellslinger- From the Horizon line, this was a Weird West game that could compete with Deadlands.

Virtual- If relevant, it would likely be folded into the Android game.

Mechamorphosis- Because giant robots. Catalyst needs a competitor.

Redline- Jeffro has stated he's always seen Car Wars as properly an RPG. This game started as one, and could easily come back for it.

I don't know how much this would appeal to the OSR crowd. On the other hand, I know plenty of people that have wanted to abandon Shadowrun for an  Android RPG for years.  I've heard a lot of good things about the Star Wars RPGs, and this salvo could launch them fast, especially if they pursue organized play for one or two settings.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Doings and Goings on...

It's LibertyCon week. Yeah, I'm a bit distracted with packing. I will have a book review drop DURING LibertyCon, so please keep an eye out for that. Otherwise, I'm also busy looking for a better paying job. Even if that means moving.

In other news, the new edition of A Pius man is now up on Amazon. Here's the phyisical, and the electronic version. Amazon hasn't merged them just yet, I don't know why. Declan's a friend, and my review of the trilogy(there's also some short stories and a volume of history) is currently my most viewed post. Yeah, I liked the original versions, but from what I've read of Russell Newquist's work, the new edition will be tighter. I'm hoping to snag a copy at LC.

I know I missed doing a post on the games at Origins, but I will work on one for GenCon. No, I'm not going this year; I've got too much on my plate, and GenCon would cost me more than LibertyCon. Without getting a hotel room.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Boardgaming trends: Kickstarter, the good and bad

Over the last few years, there's been an explosion of boardgames that have happened through Kickstarter. This has been both good and bad for the industry, and I'll discuss some of the beneficial and sinister aspects of using Kickstarter for boardgames. Now, I haven't run any campaigns, I have no published designs, though I have backed a number of campaigns, and developed some general rules for what I will back in the way of games.

 If you want great insight into how to run a campaign, the go to place is the Stonemaier Kickstarter lessons page. While he gave up using Kickstarter for various reasons, there's still a LOT to learn from his blog.  Anyway, that's more for project creators, if that's your interest.

Please note that I'm talking about the boardgame side of things, though a lot of this will apply to minis games and rpgs.  The links included here are informative and not shopping links, I want you to be able to look at what's going on, as the industry moved fast before Kickstarter, and is much faster now.

The Good

There's a lot of games that wouldn't exist that are rather good. No theme is off limits.This is pare of the consequence of getting rid of the gatekeepers. Just like in tradpub sff, they mostly think in trends of theme, and will or won't sign a game based on other things announced or recently published in the industry. Some companies got started on Kickstarter, and some have left, others returned.

Some of these, like Gloomhaven and Scythe, are just really big, and have prohibitive up front costs. Others have really niche themes, like Compounded, Scoville, and Viticulture. There's also the instance of the nearly one man company, in Red Raven Games from Ryan Laukaut, with Above and Below, Eight Minute Empire, Artifacts Inc, and more. 

Another consequence is that the publishers involved can up the quality of the components, sometimes with better boards or cards, or even minis and metal coins. Do these affect gameplay? HELL NO. But they do add to the experience of playing, and for some people(yes, I've seen it, though it's not me) the increased immersion granted by metal coins or minis actually gets them to like the game. Yes, I know it's a bit odd. So are gamers in general.

From a production side, Kickstarter enable a company to get a more accurate picture of the demand for their game, and makes for a leaner first run. This means it's not sitting around on distributor or store shelves forever, which has a downside, but they aren't wasting space, either. Lean production changed the landscape of the automobile industry, and this is a way to make some similar gains in this hobby industry.

The Bad

There's a lot of games that wouldn't exist that are rather bad. No theme is off limits. Unfortunately, that also includes a lot of filthy Apples to Apples clones, anti-Christian/Conservative, and other unfortunate creations. There can be a great lack of self awareness, awareness of the hobby, or underdeveloped games. (This is not to say the tradpub game industry has a provably better record, it's just they have better ability to hide it. FFG for a long time had some of the worst rulebooks outside of direct from German translations.)

There's companies that have gone under because of Kickstarter. Cambridge Games Factory went under after running a campaign for a deluxe version of their first hit game. The size of the project and fulfillment was simply too great, and some tragic things happened. Fifth Street Games declared bankruptcy due to fiscal mismanagement.

I've also heard from some store owners that KS has hurt the industry. That's poppycock. Most campaigns and companies running campaigns will have store backer levels, so the fact is  they don't research enough, they want the distributor to do that job. Now, I don't expect anyone to have the whole picture of the industry, that's crazy. I've seen reports from Tokyo Game Market, nobody even has a whole picture of THAT. 

Some of the tradpub have also taken to using Kickstarter for a segment of their games, which has been largely annoying. While it's allowed a faster pipeline, it's also been suggestive of some mismanagement fiscally. Another BIG concern is exclusives; they turn a lot of people away during and after the campaign.

Of course, the biggest hazard is when a company doesn't deliver. It rarely happens now, and Kickstarter has even changed their terms of service to help deal with that in ANY field.

Backing Guidelines

Now, I mentioned earlier that I have developed my own guidelines for backing projects. Here's a few that I use.

1. Know the track record of the publisher. If they don't have one, be wary. It's not a disqualification, but a reputation is helpful. Look on BoardgameGeek in the forums about the company.

2. Look at the rulebook/review videos/playthrough. If none of these are present, that's a GIANT red flag. The more they have, the closer to a reality the project is, and you can find reviewers you trust, just like in sff.

3. Be ready for delays. Most projects don't ship on time, still. Some great companies actually ship early.  Their reputation on BGG should be helpful here.

4. Look at the number of exclusives and add-ons. There's some games that have been out for years that haven't shipped all of the exclusive/early add on rewards. And the more the game expands, the bigger the delays .

I hope this list is helpful to others in the hobby, whether it's this segment or not.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Leaders" going off the rails- a commentary

In case you missed it, the Sad Puppies are supposedly sleeping. Yeah, it's an archive link. I'll explain why later.  This will be a partly fisking post, original in italics, mine in bold.

So what happened to Sad Puppies this year?
In a form or another, we’ve been getting this question for months.  I thought I had explained back when I announced I was “leading” it, though I’ll confess by now I expected to have done something more about it.
So, what happened?
Apparently what always happens when I’m supposed to lead: my health goes feral.
And we're hearing about it halfway through the year because? If you were a real leader, you'd have owned up, and passed it on MONTHS ago, because you couldn't handle it. I'm going to skip the health paragraph and take you at your word there.

On top of which WORK has gone feral.  I need to finish at least five more novels this year (I intended to be at four by now) and that’s for traditional, not counting my indie career.  I’ve also picked up a three-times-a-week columnist gig, and there are other potential jobs in the horizon.  (Man, this ruined career sure is a lot of work.)
  How long ago was your last book before Darkship Thieves? I recall you mentioning 2 years in a previous post, so I'm just doubting your speed anymore. If I'm right, I wish you well with the column, because that's all the writing that'll be visible for quite some time. 
If we’d planned to do something different this year, I’d have passed it on to Amanda early.  But since what we’re planning has no defined deadline, as soon as we get it up (eh) in the next couple of months, we’ll be fine.  And we want to make sure we do it right.
Sure. Right, but you're so far past any relevant times for even the Dragons.  Nevermind the Hugos, which many still had nominating rights to this year. So, what happened to your original site that was up for a day? It had one post on it, and then you deleted it all.

So, originally, we’d planned to do nothing. 

I'm not convinced that's not still the plan.
But the problem with a decentralized, almost leaderless campaign is that it’s prone to be high jacked, and we realized late last year that if someone didn’t announce then someone who was wholly (really) in the rabid camp was going to take it, and make it sound like the campaigns were always one.
Firstly,  the Sads were only really leaderless last year, because you and your friends wanted to play egalitarians. Second, highjacked is one word. Third, so what? Most of the F770 crowd already or still believes they are the same. Yes, they do think Brad is just as evil as Vox.
  But there was no point lending color to this by having a self-proclaimed Sad Puppy leader who’d always been on the periphery, who’s barely competent to carry his own hat in a high wind, and who thinks the whole point is to back the Rabid selections. Yeah.  No.  So I announced.
So you admit your entire play this year was for going after Declan?  Except he made one nomination list last year for the Hugos, and was a Dragon finalist. So where were you? Oh, yeah. Doing less than he was. And ALL he did was list some recommendations, and state very clearly in his post that you were in charge this year. You won't even name names, which is cowardly and dishonest.
 Skipping most of the next paragraph...

Which has its roots in the left and in social markers for an excellent education.  It’s like medieval scholars showing off their Catholic Orthodoxy, or well… Or Shakespeare writing a lot of propaganda plays about the Tudors, which even Shakespeare couldn’t turn into anyhting but dross.  Which tells you the long term value of this trend.)
First, why mention Catholic Orthodoxy specifically? Second, I'll take Shakespeare's dross over your fiction any day. I'm not impressed.

Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.
You had a wordpress site. Run it through Disqus, or a forum software. This isn't hard to slowly build up to. You had a forum style site for SP4, so don't lie about the work. It was up fast, and started literally almost two years ago.  The recommendations pages went live September of 2015. As to the Hugo, if you didn't care, why did you make such a big deal about it months ago?
 Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)
So you lost the keys to your blog, or they were stolen? Pull the other one. There's this wonderful thing called tech support you should have called regarding your own site. As to the new one, who cares, the walls weren't painted yet. Start anew, and your'e good to go inside of an hour. With a new post. I don't trust you to not delete that post. Hence archive.
 We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.
Sounds like you still don't have a plan. Really.
 When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own. 
Who? And that likely wasn't the point. Instead, it was likely "see how easy this is?".
You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.
Wait. Are you talking about my book reviews? HAHAHAHAHA.... Give me a moment. 
You know that's just a schtick, right? I try to give honest feedback on negative things, but largely, I'm just having some fun at the SocJus crowd's expense. Not to mention that way folks know it's NOT an SJW virtue signal fest. Which took a LOT of people away from SFF for years, decades in some cases.
Look, the Tudors won, okay?  And yet the Shakespeare plays supporting them, all but Richard III which is good for other reasons, are the worst dogs in his repertoire.
I repeat my sentiment about Shakespeare's dross. 
 The Sad Puppies stand for literature people ENJOY reading, even if their beliefs are not those of the author.  Also, writing that is not pushing any belief, beyond the natural leaking that happens when an author writes something and puts part of him in the story.
What? Larry was out to expose the collusion, and just put together lists of books HE liked. You're posing as arbiters of good taste. 
 We fully support your right to have the recommendation sites for those who read your catechism and who will enthusiastically love and adore Piers Plowman.  It’s who you are, it’s what you do, and why shouldn’t you have a site for those who think like you?
Are you really going after the SFF Catholic crowd here? That actually write Catholic characters? I've heard tell you share the faith, but this is a funny way of showing it.
Your recommendations no more invalidate the need for a site of our own than do the recommendation sites from the left, going into exquisite detail about how “other” the author of some unreadable tome is, and how they have just the right amount of vaginitude and melanin.
So, where's the site? Ten minutes, up and running. Seriously.
 So, yeah, there will be a Sad Puppies recommendation site — glowers in the vague direction of servers 
 Suspension of disbelief has not been engaged.

And that’s where the Sad Puppies are.  They didn’t run away.  They’re just sleeping in the mud room
You haven't convinced me they aren't "sleeping" at the vet's.
And there you go. A full post, right there, Mrs. Hoyt. See how simple it CAN be? It doesn't need to be perfect, just get it UP and RUNNING. Before you dismiss me, I have a growing number of authors sending me books, some established, some growing. Don't bother, I've read a few of your short stories. Really. I'm not impressed.
 When you play Social Justice, the world loses.



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Appendix N Comics: The Chronicles of Kull, vol. 1

I know some of you might be wondering why I'm not looking at the Moorcock adaptations. I MIGHT eventually track down the P. Craig Russell adaptations, but otherwise I'll pass. I don't care for the material from what I've heard described, and I've watched Razorfist's videos. I'll not bash the material, but it's not something I'll pursue either.

That aside, the massive great bulk of Appendix N material that's been transformed to graphic format has been Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations. So much other stuff that's ignored, and it makes me sad. Anyway, on to what we do have, by Valka!

Most obvious is the art, so let's start there. There's some really good linework in here. In some spots, there's too much, it just overwhelms the panel. The action is well displayed, and otherwise my biggest critique would be the coloring, but that's not unusual for a comic of this age, most of the coloring is REALLY bright. So, it's not quite reflective of Kull's moodiness or philosophical core.

For the most part, the book is a collection of stories that don't interact with each other. There's a few common bits, like plotting nobles and a minstrel, but they are largely set pieces. Thulsa Doom, on the other hand, is a welcome figure, though he only shows in two stories. There's a really nice adaptation of a poem called "The King and the Oak", which approaches the poem really well. Only issue? The coloring.

So what else do we have in these stories? Sea monsters, a werewolf, wax duplicates, snakemen, ancient forbidden cities, necromantic wars, and a whole lotta fighting. Betrayal and plots abound, and Kull must depend on his traditional enemy, the Picts, a great number of times.

This is a great collection overall, and unlike Conan, there's only five volumes in this run. If you're interested, I'd check it out via TFAW, there's an ad on the sidebar you can use.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Down to Sheol by M. T. White

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we have a slight departure from my normal choices of fiction for this venue; we've got CRIME! Now, I wouldn't consider this a pulp story, but it's got plenty to commend it. ON TO THE CHARGES!

First, our protagonist is an Army veteran, just discharged. More to that, his cousin is also an Army vet, with significant PTSD and coping issues. There's a great deal of sympathy for the condition, something the left has little affection for. PTSD in their mind is for fake victims of men looking at them wrong.

Second, our villains are a web of corruption woven through the county. The levels of deception within this story on the part of  the bad guys is honestly dizzying. The fact that none of them think somebody else might be playing them just boggles the mind.

Most of the crimes against SocJus boil down to these issues. However, there's also a portrayal of Christianity that has plenty of room for mercy. There's a desire for healing and peace, for letting go of pain and recovering. To admit that one has a need for healing, that one is in fact flawed, is beyond the SocJus ideals.

Now, I would not call this a pulp crime novel. The pacing is a bit slow for me to look at it in that way. That said, there's still a lot to like in this book, if you like crime novels. I do not recommend it for those that don't, there's some content that fits the story very well. 

If you want a modern crime story with hope, I definitely put this as a good volume. 7 of 10 fell deeds

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Short Story Supergroup: The Challenge from Beyond

I know I don't normally cover individual short stories here, but I found an anthology that made that impossible. If you're a fan of Appendix N, this might blow you away, as I've not seen a bigger game of pass the story anywhere. And by bigger, I mean both quantity of authors and quality, and this is only a 10 page short!

So who wrote this crazy thing? We start with  one of the women the Narrative likes to deny existing: C.L. Moore. We move then to the tragically ignored A. Merritt. The next two authors are actually known quantities and the establishment hasn't been able to bury: H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Yes, we're up to for Appendix N authors, and we now finish with Frank Belknap Long, who Bradbury cited as one who shaped the Amercan SF field.

Where can you find this work? Well, I found it in this anthology in a Barnes and Noble discount section. Yeah, it's on Amazon, but it's three times the cost. Save yourself some cash and still get the story. It originally appeared in Fantasy Magazine in 1935. I don't have an issue or month, so I can't help beyond that.

So yeah, you've got a supergroup of authors writing this thing, and it is wild, imaginative, and I only found two points to the thing that I consider weaknesses. Firstly, the transition to and from Lovecraft's section is well, obvious. From Moore to Merritt is nearly seamless, the styles are slightly different, but both vary their sentence length, and use descriptors in a fairly straightforward manner. Howard to Long is likewise a mostly smooth transition, as both are more inclined to more active prose. Lovecraft, with his winding descriptors that overcome sentences and paragraphs, unfortunately doesn't meld stylistically with either side of his portion. That said, his content fits, is well done, and vital to the work.

The other portion that was a disappointment would be the ending. Partly, I think Long may have felt himself written into a corner.  Part may be due to his worldview, or to his spot in Lovecraft's circle of writers. I would need to familiarize myself more with his work to arrive at any preliminary conclusions.  I just got to the end and felt like, "That's it?".  I might be alone in this, and hope I'm wrong, but I felt disconnected suddenly from the story.

These two points aside, this is an amazing example of writing, and all of the authors add great points to the story. Do yourself a favor and find it. I'll give it 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

recent launches

 Some highly interesting books dropped this week, and while I haven't had a chance to read all of them as yet, I thought I might bring attention to them.

American Prayers by Jay Carper- From the gent behind the Twitter account @HistoryCarper, this book was collected to prove one thing: the Christian founding of the United States.  I haven't read much yet, but there's definitely some great material here, as well as great demonstrance of perspectives.

For Steam and Country by Jon Del Arroz- I've already reviewed the book here (it's the last review to give me some room). This book's a good time, and it's all ages steampunk. You don't like airships? Or ferrets? What are you, a chicom?  I know I missed the first day launch, but if you haven't grabbed it yet, I do recommend this book.

Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach- It's in the queue. I wouldn't call myself a Star Wars fan anymore, though the announced Castalia House forking has my attention. I like both of these authors, so I'm going to give book one a shot. Hopefully, I'll have a review soon.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More thoughts on Crime pulp

So I was on Brian Niemeier's Geek Gab: On the Books podcast earlier this week, with Nathan Housley, discussing Crime and Suspense pulps.

And of course, I had a few thoughts come to mind afterwards.

Let's start with a definition of the Crime genre(yes, I know genres are mostly marketing tools). It's not inherently a mystery story, though it might be.  A great proportion of these feature "protagonists" on the other side of the law. There's a lot of deceit in the several characters, possibly including the narrator. Commonly, there's a lot of violence, and sex and language content is generally within the norm.

I wrote an overview post on the genre of crime comics. While this is a good start, it's also very much an incomplete view. There were a slew of crime comics before the comics code came into being, notably from EC, the biggest victim of the code. On the recent side, Hard Case Crime has been partnering with Titan Comics to bring some interesting stories to graphic format, and if they do quality work long enough, will unseat Vertigo as the crime comics king.

As I've already mentioned them on the podcast and in here, Hard Case Crime is a publisher of crime novels. The stories range from reprints or new work of masters like Max Allan Collins to first publishing authors. The main commonality is that these are all straight up, hard-boiled stories. There's even reprints of works from past masters like Erle Stanley Gardner.

I should also mention the book Dane Curse by Matt Abraham. I reviewed it awhile ago here, and let me say, if you like superhero books and pulp detectives from the likes of Spillane and Hammet, you will likely enjoy this.

As with all the pulps, there's a lot that is stuck in that lost land of copyrighted and out of print.

I mentioned in the podcast that Barnes and Noble has done, and continues to do some great story anthologies. The previous pulp movement had some great anthologies, from Weird Tales, to Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames. Yeah, I'm going to spread out from crime here, but they've got some great anthologies in the bargain sections. I recommend looking for the Fall River Press books and Gothic Horror anthologies if you've got a local store. Yeah, there's plenty of other options, but I figure I'd mention these due to value.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Boardgame Trends: Complexity- At multiple levels

In his post on G. E. V.,  Jeffro made a statement about "runaway complexity" in Eurogames. Now, it's part of a larger view, so I'll put up the whole paragraph:

But the big collectible card game craze of the nineties changed a lot about hobby gaming. Games like Dominion look like relatively simple games. But if a veteran of the Magic Tournament sits down at your table, you’ll get a lesson on just how good “kids these days” are when it comes to stacking a deck. And Euro games that at first looked like something that would double or triple the size of the potential player base become entirely opaque when played by competent players dead set on winning. I almost wonder if the runaway complexity within that space is driven by a desire to further obfuscate the sort of conflict that Euro-gamers consider to be déclassé.

Now, I'm going to have to dissect this carefully, as Jeffro gets some things wright and some very much wrong within this post. I'm not saying that as an insult, but more along the lines that his bias likely colors his perspective very much. There will be more than that to this post, but it's my starting point.

The first statement is absolutely correct. CCGs, and now their cousins the LCG(Living Card Game), and ECG(Expandable Card Game), have definitely changed hobby gaming, some for the better, some for the worse. For those not in the know, the differences between these three(really 2, LCG is a trademark, and ECG is a non-trademarked implementation) lie in distribution. CCGs, randomly distribute cards, and each game has its own scarcity insertion rates in booster packs(8-15 cards, depending on the game). LCGs(and ECGs) have NO randomization. There's an expansion every so often (1 month to three), which has a playset of every card for the expansion in it. Each game also has its own rotation rules.

One of the things this does is maintain the rules through a vast number of changes to the game. However, the changes are through things like cost and interactions. In Magic, a single card will make 3 or 4 either useless or viable. In Android: Netrunner, the game has asymmetrical play, so one card for one side of the game will change the viability of potentially 6-8 cards(these numbers are just rough guesses right now). But what doesn't change? The goal and general mechanics of the game. Some cards will introduce new keywords or mechanics, and these enhance or limit the usefulness of the card.

Dominion, for those not in the know, is NOT a game of this model. It is a cardgame with variable setup from Rio Grande Games. There's two base boxes and about a dozen large boxes. Each box has 25 different cards, with ten copies of each(base boxes also have money and victory point cards). At the start of the game, you have a small deck of 10 cards, and you'll buy more as the game progresses.  But, you choose which 10 cards are available for purchase before the game(money and VP are in every game). Star Realms is another, more compact example of this game type, dubbed "deckbuilding".  Like in CCGs and LCGs, card interaction is a BIG deal.

As to the Magic tournament player statement, yeah, some of those guys cheat on how they shuffle. Others are merely very good at seeing how cards interact. But, a good Eurogamer should be able to keep pace with one that only understands cards about evenly. Card gamers only get interactions, they tend to have trouble with extracard mechanics, so they see trouble learning boardgames until they participate in a turn or two(yes, I've taught card players a boardgame or two).

 " And Euro games that at first looked like something that would double or triple the size of the potential player base become entirely opaque when played by competent players dead set on winning."  I'm not sure what this statement is really referring to. Games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan have both massively increased the player base. However, I also know players that want to understand the game completely the first time they play, and will lock up thinking for minutes when their turn comes. But that isn't restricted to Euros, I've seen it in minis and wargames. Without a concrete game example, I'm going to let that lie for my response.

As to it being runaway complexity, I'm going to simply disagree. It's a more obvious complexity than what Jeffro is accustomed to. Jeffro even states about OGRE, " It took a decade or two and several tactics articles for me to realize just how well the game really worked." That's because it's complex. Incredibly so, in fact. There's a big difference in how the complexity works, though. In a minis/wargame, pieces might have simple rules for how they work. Terrain usually has simple rules for how it works. But putting the two together creates a beast of complexity, especially in games with modular terrain setups. Any game where a player can have an epiphany evan after several plays of it is by nature very complex.

Meatier Eurogames usually do this differently. The complexity is in more places. The rules have a slightly higher initial learning curve, with multiple mechanics potentially interacting for your decision. There's a more to be done in the way of opportunity cost thinking, as choices are potentially vast, but you only get one or a few options that may not return. A good many have point salad type victory points at the end of game, and focusing on a sole method is typically disastrous.

Do most Euros avoid direct conflict? Absolutely, and in some cases, it is a flaw. Part of that stems from a reaction against player elimination, which is seen as bad. But I've also recently seen an increase in Euros with specific points of direct conflict. These are working balance points between solitaire style(pure non interaction) and pure war/elimination games, and I think they're starting to get good results. And one of the best things with Euros is the way they balance at multiple player counts. Direct conflict games are much harder to manage in that respect.

One thing that confounds me when I see Jeffro or Lews Pulsipher bash Euros for the lack of direct player interaction is that it didn't start there. If you look back to the days of 3M games,(yes, they had an excellent game line), they started here, in Minnesota to be precise. Biggest designer of the time? Sid Sackson, whose work for them included Acquire, Venture, Bazaar, Sleuth, and Executive Decision. All of these games avoid direct conflict, and are great fun to play. 3M sold of the game division to Avalon Hill, which continued printing some of the best, and now, they're part of the Hasborg collective.

Jeffro, if we get together sometime, we should play Star Trek: Ascendancy(yes, we'll need a third). I think you might dig the middle ground it occupies between Euro and direct conflict.

Next time, I'm going to discuss the impact of Kickstarter on boardgames, both the good and the bad.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Starship Liberator by David VanDyke and B. V. Larson

Cower not, fierce reader! Today, I'm actually departing from my format. Not because of the book itself, but because this served as a reminder that I'm an Independent Contractor.

Yeah, it has nothing to do with the book. If you like it, they're available via the left sidebar link.

While this was already in my reading queue, Vox Day moved it up by naming it his Dragon Award nominee for Mil SFF novel. Having read a good chunk of that, I was looking forward to a better view of what Vox thinks is good SFF. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed, but I'm guessing he hasn't read the others I have this year(He is no slouch by any measure in reading volume, and has a different exposure than I do.), and that's fine.

Oh, yeah. Starship Liberator. I will try to avoid putting in too many spoilers, I don't care for them personally.

The good:

There's a good amount of action in this book, and most of the tech is well thought out, whether or not it's plausible. It is most definitely consistent. We've got strong political fixtures in opposition, an interesting twist or three, and overall, it's fun.

The main character is, or at least wants to be a hero, and is determined to do the right thing. He has friends to help him, and gains allies along the way.

The writing itself is strong, and clear. While I didn't find it exemplary, it wasn't boring prose; VanDyke has a very large catalog, and produces a lot. But, most of the book didn't really hook me. Oh, yes, I was drawn in well before the end, but I found enough lackluster to say I won't continue this series.

The bad(Sorry, some spoilers here):

At one point, the book was literally setting itself up as Space Nazis versus Space Commies. I wish I were exaggerating. Then, a third group enters, that appears to be good, but ultimately have a corrupt exploiter/slaver segment.  There's more I could go int, but I don't want to either give away to much or make statements that are false about the author.

Plotwise, this book has Hero's Journey all over it. Two setbacks instead of one, no big deal.  His second set of allies are a surprise to everyone, when it should be obvious what's going on.

Toward the end, it felt a bit like I was reading a domain play version of Omega Force, which I haven't touched for awhile. OF is fun, but honestly a bit of A-Team in space. Nothing wrong with it, but know that Starship Liberator reads close to a big picture version of that.

What do I recommend instead?

Cartwright's Cavaliers was my Dragon Award lister.
Star Realms: Rescue Run
Asbaran Solutions

To name a few. Peter Grant also has some good stuff.

Overall, it wasn't bad read. But what I saw of this, the previous books of Van Dyke's I've read(Plague Wars 0-1), and his behavior on the Castalia House blog to Fenris Wolf, I'm not reading him again.

6 of 10 fell deeds. (Like I said, it's alright, but I'm not compelled.)

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Boardgame Trends: game length

Yeah, I'm starting another post set. This is partly in response to some statements made by both Jeffro and Bradford C. Walker in recent posts, that have misstatements about current boardgames. This is mostly due to lack of exposure to the breadth there is, being more focused on RPGs and old school style boardgames(nothing wrong with them, some are quite awesome). As my gaming for the last  decade+ has been primarily boardgame oriented(branching into miniature gaming in the last 3 years), I'm going to try to put forth a more complete view. Apologies in advance for the ranting/spreadshot nature of this post.

This one is from Mr. Walker's post on revealed preferences: time. He states that you rarely see popular boardgame and card games with playtimes of more than an hour. To an extent he's right, but that also depends on how one defines popular. I'm talking about respect within the hobby versus ranking and fixation of its fans. For ranking, I'm specifically referring to what is still a mostly definitive boardgame hobby site, BoardgameGeek. Yes, I know Jeffro likes to troll them occasionally; Netrunner was also completely unknown to him about a year ago though its first incarnation was used for hacking in the Cyberpunk RPG at one time.

If you go strictly by sales, Walker is absolutely right. But, most of the games that meet the criteria of sales popularity also wear thin or have some fatal flaws. Settlers of Catan, for instance, plays in something like that with 3-4, but I can't stand the game. The trade aspect in my experience only happens via exploitively beneficial numbers or metagame relationships.  The Living Card Games from Fantasy Flight Games(Android: Netrunner, Star Wars, A Game of Thrones, and more) have rabid fans and great gameplay, with games taking about an hour in tournament play. Netrunner alone draws hundreds at both GenCon and their own world's tournaments(I believe aobut 500 at world's). No, it's not Magic, but it isn't small.

Now, looking at what has been happening with releases, we see a different picture. What we end up seeing is that while there are more games at the smaller playtimes, many of the lasting games tend to be over an hour. Eight of BGG's top 10 games have playtimes of over an hour, with Through the Ages going up to 4 hours in its official listing. Power Grid plays in about 1.5-2 hours, and was in the 13 years later is just outside the top 20. 

What has developed instead is a bunch of time ranges. Love Letter exploded the 15 minute game a few years back. Most of the Euro games sit somewhere within the 45-60 minute ranges, which is indeed within Walker's statement. Then there are ones that sit at 60-90 minutes, 9-120, and then there are a slew of games that list play times by player count, as in 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes per player. A lot of those are variations of civilization or 4x games, whether or not they're of the mold that an Old School Gamer might consider 4x or civ. Pegasus Spiel obtained the rights to the Avalon Hill Civilization game, and spent years tweaking it before their small printings of MegaCivilization, which takes about 8 hours in my experience(BGG lists up to 6 hours). Is it hugely popular? No but they've had to do multiple printings of a game they sell for $250(current price at Funagain Games).

What Walker did get right one hundred percent is in his post is the advantage of scheduling boardgames vs. RPGs. It's absolutely part of why I move away from RPGs for the most part, and have only touched on them a couple times in the last 7 years. Life happens, and missing a player can kill a session for an RPG, where you just change your boardgame choices based on the players you have. If I've got 3 and plenty of time, I'm up for Star Trek Ascension. 7 players? I've got 7 Wonders, VivaJava: the Coffee Game, Scythe, and Flick 'Em Up! to name some very different games.

Next installment, I'm going to rant about complexity, in multiple forms.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Injustice Quick Reviews 2.8

Cower not, fierce reader! This glorious day, we have a truly diverse selection of books for your consumption. Fiber's supposed to be good for ya, so let's see what tasty tomes we tarry with today!

A Moon full of Stars by Jon Mollison- Jon continues to bring the pulp. We've an adventure in a near Gamma World setting, but we lack guns; gotta give the bad guys some advantages. And it's a bit of a coming of age story for all the major characters, and an exploration of temperment and focus. Major crime: Becoming better for the purpose of redemption. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

Violet Blake by Bre Faucheux- I've been peripherally aware of Miss (Mrs.?) Faucheux for awhile as a podcaster, but only became aware she wrote as a result of Jon Del Arroz' recent appearance on her podcast. The lead is feminine, there is romance, action, and plot twists aplenty. While I doubt I'm part of the target audience, this easily kept me glued to the book. Major crime: Needing help when captured, whether a rescue or a plan and a partner. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

Lee Winters by Lon Williams- This is a collection of 1950's  Weird Western tales, I've read the first five stories. While they don't quite have all the elements most modern ones would have, they wouldn't fit any other description. Part western, part mystery, part bizarre personages and occurances, the stories do get formulaic, but not old. Get the alkali off your face, have a drink, and enjoy. Major crime: C'mon, it's entertainment for white men(in the Burroughs/Merrit sense- civilized). Need I say more? 7 of 10 fell deeds

I, the One by Dominika Lein- I picked it up after the second mention I saw on the Castalia House blog, and I avoided the review until I'd read it. There's an interesting, if somewhat nihilistic, story here. There's a couple of nice turns from and to the weird fiction side of things. Major crime: Self sacrifice and mentoring. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

For Steam and Country by Jon Del Arroz- Yeah, it's available later this month. My man Jon has definitely gotten better after his Rescue Run novel. The heroine is very much believable, as she is feminine and oriented to action. She's not a Mary Sue by any stretch, she doesn't know ANYTHING relevant at the start, and only through experience, hardship, and gut instinct does she become competent. My only plot concern is that it's a little tight to the "Hero's Journey" template.

Jon has made a world that has great potential with this book. Check it out later this month when it launches, he is learning fast at writing good entertainment. Why didn't I recommend it for my Dragon list? It's not alt history. The SciFi, Fantasy, and MilSFF categories had very strong picks, and that's the only other spot it might have gone, but it's blatantly not our world. Oh, yeah, major crime: Men and women are definitely different here. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Dragon Award 2017 Recommendations

Yes, I know that the eligibility ends at the end of this month. I'm fairly confident in my recommendations at this time, and will now post what I'm listing.

SF Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier

Fantasy Novel: A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day

YA Novel: Swan Knight's Son by John C. Wright

Alt History Novel: Crazy Horses by David J. West(yes, I'm counting weird west as alt history.)

Apocalyptic Novel: A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys

Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Comic Book: Green Valley, vol. 1, from Image

Graphic Novel: Kingsway West by Greg Pak, Dark Horse

TV show: I quit caring during Lent.

Movie: Wonder Woman. Went and saw it after seeing Rawle's review of it.

PC/Mobile Game: no clue, not really my scene

Boardgame: Scythe from Stonemaier Games(Star Trek Ascendancy would get it if expansions had been released, but it's only 3 player right now.)

Minis/RPG/CCG: I don't know why they have it like this. It's a bad model, and Magic will get at least nominated every year, because of the sets and rotation. Also, the John Carter game hasn't come out, and the Fallout minis game only just was announced.

Yes, some categories had lots of great books. We don't yet have an embarrassment of riches on the indie/small press side, but we are getting to better stuff than the tradpub guys.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pulp comics: Starslayer: The Log of the Jolly Roger

Earlier this week, I tweeted a picture of this book with the words, "Because Mike Grell".  I am happy to say that this is a great collection, mostly for the fortune of having been born of the pen and pencil of Mr. Grell.

Now, if you know his other creations, such as Warlord, or his run on Green Arrow(among other things), you know I wasn't taking much of a chance.

In many ways, this book is an inversion of Warlord: we have a Celtic halfbreed warrior from the time of Caesar, who has been pulled far into the future to help with a situation requiring a warrior. The headpiece give him the ability to see out of his lost eye, and  a link with the robot that lets him know whatever he needs at the moment, including languages.

Is it pulpy? Um, it's Mike Grell putting a barbarian in interstellar conflict, pursuing a set of ancient amulets of power to save humanity. If it ain't pulpy, I don't know what is. The men are men, the women are sexy, and there's danger at every turn. Sorry, we're all out of aliens, but could I interest you in genetically engineered humans that don't look much like us? How about a battledroid? Would Space Vikings do it for you? Yeah. All of that's in here, and it fits like a glove.

Here's hoping they collect more of this fantastic bizarre story.

You like pulpy sff comics? Check it out. If you don't have a local comic shop, I recommend TFAW first(see the sidebar ad).

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Eating away at confidence: apathy and despair

Sorry, folks, this post might be more personal than you want to read. Feel free to come back for a more interesting post.I know I haven't been posting as much as I'd like, and my traffic is down as a result.

I have a pair of bad tendencies in my life, and they come at me like little voices in my head. They tell me not to bother with something, or what's the point of doing it, or my little contributions don't matter. While I'm not going to stop blogging, I have to admit that it is tempting to give in to the defeatism and apathy.

Now, this is more of a general feeling in my life, not just with regards to this project. I'm feeling stuck in a dead end temp job, because IL just isn't seeing real job growth yet, and while a part of me wants to move, I don't have much clue where I'd go. Sure, I have a degree, but I've no experience past entry level grunt work(a combination of life events and a lack of knowledge about going after things).

Part of this, I believe, has to do with the fact that it's just me. As long as I'm the only one affected by my lack of decisions(that's really what it amounts to), I haven't minded that much. But it's demoralizing to work like crazy, and know you're as disposable as a paper cup to  your employer. I can state pretty confidently about that, given that most people don't  make it to six months, in fact most of the people the temp agency brings in don't stick around a month.

The fact is, my life is lonely. I don't have a home, I have an apartment that holds my stuff, and sometimes me. Sure, I've got friends, but I only see any of them maybe across 3 days in a week. Those of you wondering how I read so fast, I've got very few people taking up my time.

At any rate, if you've got leads for better job markets, let me know. If you're the praying sort, I would appreciate your prayers.

I'll try to have a book review set in a couple days, as well. Thanks for bearing with.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.