Monthly Archives: July 2015

Busy Autumn

It looks like I will be attending three conventions this fall – Dragonflight in Seattle, and Celesticon & Big Bad Con here in the Bay Area.

I’m going to be running a lot of Motobushido – two games at Dragonflight, one at Big Bad Con and one at Celesticon.  I’ll be running a Night Witches variant at Big Bad Con and doing some Games on Demand GMing as well.

If you are going to be at any of these events, please look me up!

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The One Ring

Played “The One Ring” this weekend.  Without going into distressing detail, I am playing an elf (!) slayer (no surprise) with a big-ass spear.  He’s Middle Earth’s only noir elf, doesn’t like singing (though he’s pretty good at it), and mostly spends his time wandering Mirkwood and sticking said spear into orks and goblins.

Also in the party were a Beorning, a High Elf, a Woodsman, and a Dwarf.

We got to run into a slightly younger version of Legolas, who I got to be disrespectful to and lived.  We got to visit Beorn, and discovered that he’s just a big-hearted, cuddly softy (who can rend you to bits fairly quickly and efficiently).  Finally, we got to take an epic tour of scenic Dol Guldur, touring their famous pits, sampling their unique native orkish cuisine, and experiencing quaint local customs such as “get your ribs crushed by a cave troll”.  I turned out to be particularly good at the latter, though the dwarf clearly beat me in the “throw yourself on the swords of the orc guards” competition.  Eventually we decided that we had stayed long enough, and departed, rescuing a high elf princess and bearer of the third of the three so she could drop it off in Lothlorian on her way to catch a cruise ship across the sea.

“The One Ring” strikes me as a system that tries really hard, but ultimately seems to have a few too many bells and whistles to keep track of.  You roll a d12 plus a number of d6’s for skill rolls, trying generally to beat a difficulty of 14.  But –

– if you roll a Gandalf rune (12) shows up on the d12, you get an automatic success, regardless of the other dice numbers

– if you roll a Lidless Eye (1) on the d12 the result counts as a 0 (which is no big deal, it’s only one point less than what you would have rolled anyway) AND regardless of whether or not you succeed, something terrible happens to you.

–  if you roll a “6” on one or more of your d6’s, it increases the level of success.

– you can spend “Hope Points” in order to add one of your characteristics scores to the roll, but when you spend Hope Points you bring yourself closer to despair which seems a bit problematic to me for two reasons – first, Hope Points regenerate very slowly.  If you get more than a couple per session you are doing pretty well.  Second, the way they are used strikes me as rather counterintuitive.  “Ha, I have dug down into the depths of my soul and have pulled victory from the jaws of defeat!  I’m da elf!  I’m da elf!  I’m…  so depressed.  Life is meaningless and we are but characters in the trilogy of life!”

Weapon damage seems to be similarly complicated, with damage, injury, and edge stats to keep track off, all of which do different things depending on the roll you get on the dice.  Combat isn’t a big part of our group experience though, so I haven’t played around with those much.

The setting is, however, quite good.  The game is set between “The Hobbit” and “Fellowship of the Ring”, about 5 years after the Battle of the Five Armies, during the last of the good years.  Smaug is dead, the Necromancer has been driven out of Mirkwood, and everything is great!  New era of peace and prosperity around the corner!  Pay no attention to that slimy looking dude wandering around Mirkwood and babbling about “Precious”.  There are a lot of creepy, rotten things to fight, lots of quests to go on, and in general you don’t have to worry about messing with the canon.

I think we all had lots of fun being brave and heroic and stupid in the special way that only epic fantasy characters have of being brave and heroic and stupid, secure in the knowledge that if they are going to die, they are going to die cool.


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Celesticon 2015

So it’s official.  Not going to Pacificon this year.

Or probably ever again in my current incarnation on this earth.

There was drama.

So anyway, it’s off to Celesticon 2015 this year for Sophie and I.  Sophie will be an exclusive guest of the convention, running her new game, “War of Ashes:  FATE of Agaptus”, while I will be running “Motobushido.”  Celesticon has a pretty generous policy on comping badges – 6 hours of GMing will get you in the door for free, which is great!  I admit that I am not a great CoC fan, but for those who are, Sandy Peterson will also be at Celesticon running his famous game and leading seminars on how to write an awesome CoC adventure, along with several other notable guests.

I hope that if you are in the Bay Area September 4-7, look me up at Celesticon!

Mad Max: Fury Aisle

Fun new game!

Needed for play

  • Some sort of medium for playing music recordings
  • Soundtrack for “Mad Max:  Fury Road”
  • Headphones or earbuds (optional, but recommended)
  • Grocery Store with narrow aisles and/or routinely packed with shoppers


Put your headphones on, and cue up the soundtrack, preferably starting with “Chapter Doof”

As you cruise around the store shopping, treat all shopping carts as post-apocalyptic vehicles trying to stop your shopping cart (hereafter known as “the rig”).


“What a lovely day!” You make it up or down a single aisle without having to wait for some dumbass to get out of your way.  1 pt.

“WITNESS ME!”  Any time a store employee asks you if you need help finding anything.  5 pts.

“Chrome” – any time someone hits your shopping cart.  1 pt.

“Shine” – any time you hit someone else’s shopping cart.  1 pt.

“FOOL!” – manage to get helped at the meat department in the order you arrived without some jackass cutting ahead of you.  2 pts, or 3 pts if you actually scream “FOOL!”

“Hope is a mistake” – find yourself totally blocked in an aisle, unable to go forward or back, for at least 30 seconds.  5 pts.

“Healthy Babies” – encounter running child…
… and avoid:  3 pts

… and hit with cart:  5 pts

…  and hit with cart hard enough to make child cry:  7 pts

“Ah, mediocre!” – find your way blocked by someone on their cell phone discussing which type of soup they should get (other products 1 pt. less).  5 pts.

“Our Better Selves” – actually assist another shopper in some tangible way (help them find something, reach an upper shelf, etc.  Simply not killing them doesn’t count).  10 pts.

“Feels like hope”  – wait in line at the check out aisle for less than 5 minutes.  1 pt.

“Some Kind of Redemption” – store employee opens a new check out line just for you.  10 pts.

“The Vuvalini” – encounter an old woman in the produce department who starts a conversation about rhubarb or something, and converse with her politely on the topic or her choice for at least a minute:  15 points plus she doesn’t shoot you dead.

Post your score.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Nux (Nicholas Hoult) ©2012 Warner Bros

“What a lovely shopping day!”


Some Quick Card Games

Over the weekend Sophie and I played a few quick card games that we have been accumulating.  I think all gamers get a few of these over time – they’re inexpensive, which makes them good gifts, and they play quickly, which makes them great for filling in space while waiting for people to show up for a game or if a given game runs short.


2-5 players

Ages 10+

15 minutes

A wealthy patron commissions a lovely landscape mural, hiring the greatest (and most competitive) painters in the world… you! Interfere with each other’s paintings and compete to win the world’s greatest treasure: Points!

On your turn, draw a card from the central display. If it is a Commission card, keep it at your side for scoring at the end of the game.

If it is a tree card, you may add it to any player’s tree. If you make a contiguous limb of cards sharing one or more features, you score 1 point for each instance of those features in that contiguous group.

If you score more than 10 points in a turn, remove the scoring cards and the owner of the tree collects them as “pruned” branches.

Then reveal a new card in the central display. If there are ever three Commissions in the display, discard them all and replenish the display with three new cards from the deck.

I think that of all the games we played, this one took the longest.  There are a fair number of tactical decisions to be made regarding scoring.  Since your opponent can score off your tree, you want to be wary of setting up 8- or 9- point scores that your opponent can play off to prune your tree.  You need to keep an eye on your opponent’s tree for opportunities as well.  Until you get used to looking at both your tree and your opponent’s each turn the game will play a little slower than listed (no surprise) but once you get the hang of it things can go very quickly.

Commissions in the game (methods of scoring extra points) can be an important factor in play – an extra 10 points at the end of the game is quite a boost.  The commissions that come up early in the game will drive player strategy (if you get a commission for “most branches”, for example, you will want to build up your tree and score  without allowing for pruning, so you get a lot of branches, and you will want to pick up other commissions that play on that, such as “longest branch” and “least pruning” and avoid commissions like “Most pruning” and “smallest tree”) while commissions picked up later in the game will revolve around targets of opportunity, and trying to get commissions that will nullify your opponent’s (so if your opponent has “largest tree” you should start looking to get “smallest tree”).  Particularly in a two-player game, this can even out a lot of the commissions – it gets harder to do in games with three or more players.

We made an error in scoring the game our first time out, but I think it worked equally for and against both of us, so it probably didn’t make a big difference.  I wound up losing by a couple of points.

Incidentally, the wealthy patron who commissions your landscape mural must be HP Lovecraft, because my tree looked more like the tree that Clancy Brown had tattooed on his chest in Carnivale than a lovely landscape.

Outcome:  I lost by a couple of points.

pic1845363_tNINE LIVES

2-5 players

Ages 8 and up

15 minutes

Cats are running loose through the city! There are nine different breeds, five cats each, each with their own personalities. Rescue as many cats as you can, but try not to get scratched!

NINE LIVES is a fast game of trading, bidding, and clever tactics. Each round, all players bid a numbered card from their hand. High bids use special powers first, which can force trades between players. Then, low bids get first choice of cats to rescue, which is key scoring victory points and winning the game. Score points by rescuing the majority of a breed, rescuing any cats of a rare breed, and finally one point per scratch… but only if you have the *fewest* scratches!

This was a fun little game that I, at least, probably didn’t really grasp on my first play-through.  You are trying to score points by collecting sets of different breeds of cat into your kennel.  Some breeds are rare and worth more points – exactly which breeds are rare is determined by drawing a few cards from the deck at beginning of play and setting them aside.  Each cat has a value, which is used for bidding each turn – and cats of higher bidding value also have special abilities which can allow you to swap cards out of your hand or kennel.  Art on the cards is very cute, with lots of nice drawings of cats, and each cat (even within the same breed) is individually named.

Each game is exactly five rounds long, so even learning the rules the game goes very quickly. You start with five cards, and play one out of your hand each turn, so your choices become more constrained as the game progresses (something I didn’t realize on my first play-through).  It is a good idea to look at your hand before turn one and get an idea of what order you want to play your cards in.

Cats are also rated for the number of scratches they give you if they are in your kennel at the end of the game.  Once again, this means that you want to keep track of your opponent’s kennel, since having more scratches than your opponent at the end of the game costs you points.  Some cats are relatively benign, and some are really vicious, which is a factor to consider when deciding what breeds to collect.

If you like cats (and what sane person doesn’t?) this is a great game to pass a lighthearted 15 minutes.  Just looking at the illustrations during play will make you feel better.

Outcome – I won by a couple of points on scratches.


2-6 players

Ages  13 and up

15 minutes

You are head of a family in an Italian city-state, a city run by a weak and corrupt court. You need to manipulate, bluff and bribe your way to power. Your object is to destroy the influence of all the other families, forcing them into exile. Only one family will survive…

In Coup, you want to be the last player with influence in the game, with influence being represented by face-down character cards in your playing area.

Each player starts the game with two coins and two influence – i.e., two face-down character cards; the fifteen card deck consists of three copies of five different characters, each with a unique set of powers:

Duke: Take three coins from the treasury. Block someone from taking foreign aid.
Assassin: Pay three coins and try to assassinate another player’s character.
Contessa: Block an assassination attempt against yourself.
Captain: Take two coins from another player, or block someone from stealing coins from you.
Ambassador: Draw two character cards from the Court (the deck), choose which (if any) to exchange with your face-down characters, then return two. Block someone from stealing coins from you.

On your turn, you can take any of the actions listed above, regardless of which characters you actually have in front of you, or you can take one of three other actions:

Income: Take one coin from the treasury.
Foreign aid: Take two coins from the treasury.
Coup: Pay seven coins and launch a coup against an opponent, forcing that player to lose an influence. (If you have ten coins or more, you must take this action.)

When you take one of the character actions – whether actively on your turn, or defensively in response to someone else’s action – that character’s action automatically succeeds unless an opponent challenges you. In this case, if you can’t (or don’t) reveal the appropriate character, you lose an influence, turning one of your characters face-up. Face-up characters cannot be used, and if both of your characters are face-up, you’re out of the game.

If you do have the character in question and choose to reveal it, the opponent loses an influence, then you shuffle that character into the deck and draw a new one, perhaps getting the same character again and perhaps not.

The last player to still have influence – that is, a face-down character – wins the game!

Another fast and easy game, with lots of potential for bluff and deception.  The rules are a bit longer than the previous two games, but once they are understood the game runs very quickly.


Yeah, there is a “however” here that prevents me from saying much more about this game.  And that is that despite what the box says this isn’t really much of a two-player game.  The nuances of bluffing just don’t work as well with only two players, and it is unlikely that you will see the full range of characters and their powers in any given game.  Also, given that players start supposedly evenly matched, and there are only a small number of turns in the game (our game ran 6 turns), the player who goes first has a sizable advantage.  Certainly the second player still has a shot depending on the luck of the draw, but the game is really the first player’s to lose.

On the other hand this game looks like it would be an insane free-for-all with more than two players, and the 6-player game must be a bloodbath.

I wouldn’t recommend this one for two players, but really look forward to playing it with three players or more.

Outcome:  I won by virtue of being able to stab Sophie’s characters to death before they could coup me to death.

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