Archive for the ‘John Wick’ Category

Tabletop Games Day 2014   5 comments

Saturday, April 5, 2014 was National Tabletop Games Day, an occasion for people to get together face to face and play board games, card games, role-playing games, miniatures. Savvy game store owners all over America promoted this event by making space available for people to come in and game. I say it proudly. I’m a gamer. I would not miss it. What follows is my record of the day. I hope the rest of you had as much fun as I did.

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Here I am at the front door of Imperial Outpost Games at 49th Avenue and Thunderbird in Glendale, Arizona, ready for action.

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Darrenn is owner/manager of the Imperial Outpost. Hard to find a friendlier, nicer guy. He has done more to promote the cause of face to face gaming in Phoenix than anyone else I know, and in the process has built the best game store and hangout for gamers in the city.

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It’s a room full of gamers having fun.

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Yes, it’s true. Gamers are mostly male, but look there’s a woman in the mix enjoying herself, and also an elf.

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Shelves full of games . . .

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Elf playing Firefly, a science fiction game based on a Joss Whedon television program and movie. Is that Family Guy sitting next to her?

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Finally, some people I know. Starting with the purple t-shirt and going clockwise: Jessie Foster, Unknown Gamer Guy, Will, Devon, Heather. (I admit that I am terrible with names. I’ve never met Unknown Gamer Guy, and it’s only thru years of friendship that I know Jessie’s last name.)

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A second room full of gamers.

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The first game I played–Ticket to Ride, USA. I took second (out of five) in this game.

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The second game I played. Sushi Go. I learned more about sushi in one game than I had ever known before. Came in tied for last out of five players.

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Bwa ha ha ha ha! I am a terrible photographer. My plan was just to get the t-shirts without heads because I wanted to focus on t-shirt messages, but the camera’s field of view was a little higher than I knew, and so I caught the excellent gamer beards of James St. Andre on the left and Jessie Foster on the right. It’s kind of weird how they both assumed the same stance for having their pix taken. I did not notice it at the time.

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My friend, Vic, stops by to say hello to Jessie during our game of Bohnanza. Believe it or not, this is a German game about being a bean farmer. Supply side economics meets Diplomacy and the Wall Street Stock Exchange. The real action is in bean trading.

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Munchkin was there.  It was kind of hard to get Devon away from computer games on her Kindle.

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I don’t know this woman, but she has bright green hair. That comes straight out of Japanese anime.

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Jason Youngdale and Vic are playing Qwirkle. Something like a non-numeric form of dominoes. I don’t know the game, but it looks like fun.

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I don’t know this game either, but it’s impressive in its complexity and graphics.

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Starting with the guy in the red shirt, Rob, James, Nathaniel and the empty seat is mine. The game is Seafarers of Catan, and I won by a single point. This was the last game I played at the Outpost. I had been there for over 7 hours, and was getting very hungry.

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I saw this great miniatures setup on the way out. Look at those dice pyramids in the background!

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John Wick (black t-shirt), his wife Ro (in purple), Gillian and two guys I don’t know were having supper near the front door as I exited. This was the last shot I got, but it shows gamers still having fun even when I was calling it enough for the day.

The gaming party probably continued until midnight or later. I had a great time. I saw some friends. I got some laughs. I exercised my brain (yeah, gaming makes you think.) I pronounce Tabletop Gaming Day in the Phoenix area a great success.


If you did some face to face gaming on Gaming Day, why not leave a comment? This is the perfect opportunity to boast about your victories or moan about your defeats and mention the games you played. We’re gamers. We’ve all been there, and we know how you feel. As Wil Wheaton says, “PLAY MORE GAMES!”


Games I Got at GenCon 2013   Leave a comment

Going to GenCon is all about doing some serious gaming.  It’s also all about getting some new games and stuff to take home with you when the show is over.  Though I spent most of my time running Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls for gamers who signed up to play with me, I was able to spend some time networking, and I did pick up what looks like some pretty cool stuff to keep me entertained for the rest of the year.

The number one acquisition in terms of uniqueness was the two-player Settlers of Catan variant from the Big Game at GenCon.  that Mayfair sponsored on Friday evening.  Rick Loomis, Steve Crompton, and I all participated in this event, which set a world record for the Guinness Book of World Records for most players in a single board game.  We helped set a record with 922 participants in a single game.

We sat at long tables and played head to head with one opponent across from us. We could trade with people to our left and right on both sides of the board. Winner had to amass 25 victory points.

We sat at long tables and played head to head with one opponent across from us. We could trade with people to our left and right on both sides of the board. Winner had to amass 25 victory points.

Participants got to take the game home with them.  I got a map, a set of pieces in a beautiful purple color hitherto unseen in the Catan universe.  And I got the Catan cards: sheep, wood, brick, ore, and grain in one deck and the regular development cards in the other.  They have special backs to commemorate their importance to GenCon and the development deck has an extra card–1 victory point for GenCon.

These cards are just brighter and better looking than those in the basic game.

These cards are just brighter and better looking than those in the basic game.

Anyway, I was happy to play in this event, and I even got quoted and filmed talking about how cool the event was for a local newspaper on-the-spot blog. I found it online, but I was terrible, so I’m not going to give you the link.

Actually the Catan game was the only thing I got to play that I didn’t GM.  I did, however, acquire the following cool stuff.


Here's a game that lies dreaming until the stars are right.

Here’s a game that lies dreaming until the stars are right.

I was walking around the Exhibit Hall and stopped to chat with my old friend Charlie Krank.  We discussed Kickstarter projects for a minute, as Chaosium has done a KS this year roughly 10 times as successful as my own. He smiled and gave me this prototype version of the new Call of Cthulhu edition.  I have only skimmed through it, but Call of Cthulhu was always a great game, and the new version is going to be even better.

(Historical note: Sandy Peterson, who is a friend of mine, created The Call of Cthulhu game at the same time as I was creating Stormbringer.  They came out at roughly the same time, and wound up sharing the Origins Award for best rpg of the year.  I am a little bitter about that. I think Steve Perrin and I would have walked off with the prize of best rpg of the year if Sandy hadn’t produced his masterpiece at the same time–I wonder if he felt the same way about Stormbringer.  The two games are wildly different in concept, setting, and game mechanics but both have their adherents/cultists.)

I saw Sandy and talked to him a little at the North Texas RPG convention in Fort Worth in June.  He and Cthulhu remain the best of friends, and he was showing off the prototype of an Elder Gods conquer the world board game that had the most amazing pieces, and really looked like fun.  I was running dT&T, and he was running Cthulhu, so I didn’t get a chance to play in any of his sessions, but if he gets it produced, he is going to have another mega-blockbuster success with it.

In Call of Cathulhu, heroic cats oppose the efforts of various mystical forces to undermine human civilization and the feline rule.

In Call of Cathulhu, heroic cats oppose the efforts of various mystical forces to undermine human civilization and the feline rule.

I was talking to John Wick at the Independent Gamers Association booth when Joel Sparks came up and said hi.  He was showing off the mini-game that he made for GenCon, and when I saw it, I declared that I must have it.  It was his last copy, but, being the magnanimous and Great Guy that he is, he gave it to me, and signed it o me to prove it.  I gave him my product which was the reprint of Tunnels and Trolls first edition.

This game is brilliant, but cutesy.  Young people, especially young ladies with a fondness for cats, will love it.  I hope I get a chance to run it for some teens and pre-teens some time.  Original in execution, design, and writing style, this is a family friendly game that everyone can enjoy.

A new sourcebook for John Wick's decadent rpg: Houses of the Blooded.

A new sourcebook for John Wick’s decadent rpg: Houses of the Blooded.

The game trading between designers wasn’t quite over yet. When I promoted Cathulhu from Joel, John came back and presented me with the Wilderness manual.  He owed me one.  I had given him a copy of my new board game Dwarves and Dragon two weeks earlier at MaricopaCon.  I thought at first that this was another of John’s gamebooks–the man is so incredibly prolific–but it turns out that Wilderness is written by Jesse Heinig with some additional material by Fabien Badilla, Jessica Kauspedas, and John Wick (himself).  I probably know Jesse by sight, but I don’t know him well.  I do know all his co-writers well enough to  greet them in passing (grin).

This is a 193 page sourcebook for running Wilderness Campaigns for Houses of the Blooded.  Houses is primarily a larp rpg, and I participated in it for several months in 2012, helping to  create the House of the Boar as its first lord.  I doubt if any of my live-action role-playing had any effect on this book, however.  It is very well-written and contains some fiction by way of examples that is a total howl to read.

Dungeon delving isn't all rpgs. There are also board games and card games and card games that are board game like this one.

Dungeon delving isn’t all rpgs. There are also board games and card games and card games that are board game like this one.

Sunday was my trade-with-other-game-designers day.  You wait till the end to to this kind of gathering of free stuff because you want to give everyone a chance to sell all they can to the gamers at the show.  Aaron Kreader is a fantasy game designer who does very entertaining card game variations on the whole men and monsters in the middle ages theme.  He has also done Traps and Treasures and Villages and Villains.  He dropped the alliteration this time to posit the idea that there are Cosmic Forces involved in your average dungeon-looting expedition.  The Hero is the one that is trying to make off with the treasure in the dungeon.  The Guardian is the one that is trying to protect it.  Both sides work through minions.  The Hero force uses Adventurers.  The Guardian force uses Monsters.  When the Looters meet the Guardians, who will win?  Play the game and find out.

Aaron and his lovely wife Lisa epitomize everything good about the independent gaming movement.  They are friendly, funny, and absolutely immersed in the world of gaming–living the dream, and seem to be on the rise.  I wish them well, and am always happy to see them and their games at the conventions I attend.

You would never guess from the cover, but this is a game about starring in horror movies.

You would never guess from the cover, but this is a game about starring in horror movies.

Speaking of free things that just came to me, Crawlspace-13 materialized in my hands while talking to my friend Tom Loney on Saturday.  Tom is married to Chrstina Lea and is also a talented game designer.  They use their own Peryton Press to publish their designs, and they also do some Tunnels and Trolls publishing there.  I really like Crawlspace.  It appeals to the extrovert in all of  us–the idea of starring in a movie.  It gets away from the standard tropes of fantasy role-playing as if we all lived in Middle Earth or Trollworld.  It shows the American imagination at its finest.

(Just one thing, Tom.  If you hope to sell this wacky, fun game, you need to get better covers.  I am not really a fan of the understated look when it comes to game design.  What this really needs is a picture of Johnny Dep with a hatchet embedded in his skull grimly strangling Pamela Anderson while off to the side you see a movie camera and the silhouette of an overweight director yelling “Cut!”)

And this is the final Piece de Resistance of my GenCom games grab.

And this is the final Piece de Resistance of my GenCom games grab.

2013 was a good year for pre-release versions of games at GenCon.  The industry is so big now that it would be a full-time job to try and keep track of all the new games coming out.  I only really try to keep up with my friends, and even at that, I do a very poor job.  TOO MUCH GOOD STUFF!

But Christina Lea is a friend of mine, and a member of Trollhalla, and with her showing her newest game at the con, I felt I should support her efforts, so I made a point of buying a copy of  Qalidar: Resistance from her Peryton Press.  You would not think from looking at Christina that she would have such a weird imagination.  She is an attractive woman with a dry sense of humor, but inside these pages she comes off stranger than Madame Blavatsky.  That’s good.  I like WEIRD.  

Sometimes I wish my imagination was as good as those of my younger friends.  Qalidar is a marvelous name for a world, but in Ms. Lea’s hands it is more than a world–it’s a whole multiverse where everything is more than it seems, and GREATER SIGNIFICANCE fairly oozes out of the pages of text.

I have actually read (almost all) of the Resistance rpg book, and I have to say, I’m impressed, intimidated, and confused by it all.  Impressed by the concepts, intimidated by the creatures (this seems like a very difficult rpg to survive), and confused by why she would want to stay with the D20 style of game mechanics.  I associate D20 with THAT OTHER GAME, and so don’t care for it much.  Perhaps she thinks that is its strength.  Oh well.  I have gamed with Christina in her (sick and twisted) universe, and would be happy to return any time–D20 or not.

With all that loot, and considering that I sold out of 1st edition, Saving Fang, and Dwarves and Dragon, I would say that 2013 was a very good year for me at GenCon.

If you have any GenCon experiences, or comments on the good stuff you picked up while  you were there, or even if you didn’t get to go, and are just jealous of the glamorous game-filled existence of we GAME DEISNGERS (snort!), why not leave a comment?



RinCon 2012   2 comments

39 years ago I helped start LepreCon, the first sfnal Con in Arizona.  At least if anything else preceeded it, my friends and I had never heard of it, though we knew about cons in California and back east.  Since then the number of cons has increased tremendously, and it reached a point where cons weren’t just for science fiction any more–they spread out into all sorts of related fields, like Gaming.

It all blurs together after a while, but I don’t remember going to any gaming specific cons before the 1990s.  However, once the idea caught on, it became quite popular.  This year, I have attended three Gaming Cons here in Arizona–VulCon I, Conflagration 1, and RinCon 2012.  In addition, I have spent most of my con time gaming at DarkCon, LepreCon, ComiCon, and CopperCon.  And those were just the cons in Arizona, which I tend to attend because they are close and don’t cost me much money.  Out of state I went to Origins, OSRcon, and GenCon.   And I’m planning on LaughingMoonCon on Oct. 20.  That makes 8 weekends minimum spent at conventions, mostly gaming–slightly more than 1/5th of the year’s weekends up to my neck in cards and dice mostly.

Last week, Sept 28-30. I was in South Tucson for RinCon 2012.   This southern Arizona convention is about 5 years old now, and I have attended it once before.  This year the Con committee made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (a hotel room for my stay at the con–I’m easy, folks, you can have me for as little as a place to stay while at the con (grin)).  My son and I went to the Con.  I played Tunnels & Trolls twice, and a few other games.  I was on two interesting panels with John Wick and Mark Truman who were the other major frp people at the con.  We talked about such things as GM technique, things to keep in mind if you want to create your own frp game, and how the sport of role-playing has developed and is likely to continue developing.

I took my little camera along and took a few pictures, which I will now share with you.  They don’t really make a story this time, but it should give you an idea of what it was like.

There was plenty of function space at the Airport Holiday Inn in South Tucson. About half of the gaming took place in this large hall. The dealers have an area down at the far end.

I broke a rule, and actually played That Other Game. Jim McKenzie, the big guy on the left ran Pathfinder for most of the weekend, and I sat in on a game Friday afternoon as a wizard. Had to leave after about an hour of play, and I got back just in time for the grand finale. My wizard wasn’t missed, and got to throw one magic missile in the whole game.

Although you will find I prefer my own Tunnels and Trolls to all other frp systems, I am willing to play other games from time to time.  Really, it isn’t the system that matters.  It’s the role-playing that counts and having a good time with others.

That evening, Jamie, the cutie on the right taught my son James, the blurry fellow on the left, and me how to play the World of Warcraft CCG. James won–twice. I prefer Magic ™, but if one were a WoW player (and I’m not), I could see how one might grow fond of this game.

James Ernest was the Guest of Honor at RinCon. James is an amazingly smart game designer of mostly board games, but he could do anything. We know each other, but don’t mingle that much. Here he is having breakfast at the hotel buffet on Saturday morning. Bacon, eggs, and orange juice–yum!

The major Event of the convention was a GM conference on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.  5 game designers including me down front and 20 to 30 people in the audience at various times.

Audience, right side, Matthew Nielson down in front.

Audience, left side.

John Wick sat to the right of me. John pretty much dominates any panel he is on.

John said he had designed 10 rpgs this year already.  I said, big deal, designing them isn’t so hard.  Getting them published and out to the gamers in an attractive format is the hard thing.  John amended his statement to say he had published 10 rpgs already this year.

Mark Truman sat to the left of me on the panel. Mark is a game designer on the rise.

You won’t see any pictures of me at this Con, at least none that I own.  I was always pretty much at the center of the action and looking out admiring the great works of other people.

RinCon pays its GMs in RinCoins–tokens that dealers have agreed to take as part of the purchase price of games. Alas, I spent my RinCoins buying more Magic.

This BEN HVRT (clever play on Roman letters and a movie title) looked like a lot of fun. It represents all the great games I saw at RinCon but never got the actual chance to play.

After 2.5 days of gaming goodness, RinCon came to an end on Sunday afternoon.  While I was there I participated in a Pathfinder game, 2 Tunnels and Trolls sessions, a Settlers of Catan game, several rounds of Magic with my son, a WoW demo, a game of Gloom with my son, and a long session of Legacy the other t & t game (time travel and technology).  It was a good weekend for gaming.

If you were at RinCon, or some other gaming convention recently, why not leave a comment and mention your exploits there?