Category: Games

Gen Con 2019: The Haul

One of the big reasons people go to Gen Con is to buy games – lots of them. And this year, I definitely bought some games! Not as many as some folks, but I did bring home a couple new additions to my game collection. Of course, I found some not-quite-game-related goodies too! My Gen Con 2019 haul is a little smaller than it’s been in previous years, but here’s just about all of it!

Photo of my Gen Con 2019 Haul.
Some – but not all! – of the haul.

Want to hear more about what I got? Read on!

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Gen Con 2019, Day 3 and 4

Since Day 3 is mostly going to be covered in a post specifically about the Blue Rose LARP, and there wasn’t much to Day 4, I’m going to cover these both in a slightly belated post.

Day 3

Day 3 of Gen Con was a blast! Granted, I spent most of it helping run Trials of the Rose: The Call to Adventure, but that’s what you go to Gen Con for, right? Running or playing games!

Before prep started for the Blue Rose LARP, I got the chance to wander around the convention center a bit. I saw some awesome cosplayers, and also ran into this little guy!

Gray and white dog dressed up as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

This is Gandalf, and he’s become a bit of a Gen Con celebrity over the years. Ross and I were behind Gandalf and his owner in the costume parade last year, and I ended up following Gandalf’s Facebook page afterwards. This sweet little dog gets to go to a lot of conventions, and probably has more costumes than I do! I’m happy I got to see him – and he definitely loves his fans, he ran right up to me as soon as I took my camera out and gave me a bunch of doggy nuzzles. I even got his pawtograph!

A photo of Gandalf the dog wearing a Starfleet uniform, with a paw print signature at the bottom right corner.

After wandering the convention center for a bit, it was time for the LARP!

Me wearing a purple shirt with puffy sleeves and a green corset dress.

I’ll cover most of the LARP in its own post – from the prep I did to the actual storytelling that happened. I will say, I think I did a much better job storytelling at Trials of the Rose than I did at the City of Heroes LARP last year. (Then again, I think anything would have been better than that, given that I had a nasty anxiety attack just before the City of Heroes LARP.)

Day 4

Me wearing a Toothless kigurumi.
I was one exhausted nerd on Sunday.

Day 4 of Gen Con didn’t really happen this year, due to Ross being sick. ūüôĀ He’s been struggling with stomach issues on and off for months now, and parts of Gen Con were particularly rough. On Sunday morning, he wasn’t feeling well at all, so we decided to just pack up and go home. It didn’t help that the Marriott never actually sent a bellhop up to help us with all our luggage, despite us calling twice, and never passed the word on to valet parking that we wanted to pick up our car. (Then again, I think we got off easy with hotel difficulties, given that I heard a story about a valet backing someone’s car into a window at the JW Marriott…) Once we dragged all our stuff downstairs, and once the valet brought Luna up from wherever they parked her, we headed home to look at all the goodies we got and relax a bit. (And, in my case, wash lots of costume laundry.)

And that’s the day-by-day report of Gen Con 2019! I’ll be posting more about the con in general, cosplayers at the con, the Blue Rose LARP, and my Gen Con haul later!

Keeping organized – the Magic: The Gathering edition

Welcome to another post in the Keeping Organized series – this post focuses on how I keep my Magic: The Gathering stuff organized. If you’re not all that familiar with Magic, you might think “come on, how much organizing does a deck of cards need?” Surprisingly, there’s a lot of other pieces that go into playing a game of Magic. When I started playing, I had no idea how much stuff went along with whatever deck I’m playing with. So, here’s how I keep organized when I’m playing Magic: The Gathering!

The bag

Image of a cream colored bag with the text 'Some days feel like Helvetica' on the front.
It’s not exactly a Magic-themed bag, but my inner typography nerd loves it – and it fits all my M:tG stuff perfectly.

First off, I have a bag to hold everything in. It keeps all my Magic stuff together so it’s not all over my house, and also makes it easy to grab and go when I want to play. While there are plenty of bags out there that are made specifically for holding Magic gear, I just use a simple tote bag. (I have no shortage of them, since I tend to collect them for project bags.)

If you’re looking for a Magic-specific bag, here are a couple that I’ve had my eye on:

USA Gear Deck Storage Bag on Amazon

Ultra Pro Gaming Case on Amazon

The deck box

A green, heavy-duty Magic deck box. It holds two decks of cards and also has a tray to hold extra accessories.
I love this deck box – it’s way better than the cardboard box my Saheeli deck originally came in.

This one’s kind of obvious. My deck box holds whatever deck I’m playing with, and it also holds tokens and counters that might be needed. The box I’m using now is a fancy one that holds two decks! (Eventually I’ll get a second deck.)

There are many different types of deck boxes out there, to fit any budget and any level of collecting. From simple cardboard boxes to heavy-duty storage, you’ll have no problem finding a deck box that suits you.¬† Here are a couple to get you started:

Ultra Pro Set of 5 Deck Boxes on Amazon

Ultimate Guard 200 Card Twin Flip N Tray Xenoskin Deck Case

Caseling Hard Case Bag for Card Games

A label maker

The same deck box shown earlier, this time focusing on the label on the front which says 'Thopterpocalypse - Izzet Artifacts Matter'.
Okay, so Saheeli doesn’t directly make thopters, but a bunch of other cards in my deck do – and it’s fun raining thopter doom on people.

While this probably isn’t necessary for those of us just starting out in the hobby, people with huge collections might benefit from a label maker. As you can see in the image above, it can be really helpful if you have a lot of pre-built decks and need to know what’s in each deck box. (Plus, it’s fun coming up with silly deck names, haha.) There are lots of options for label makers out there, and here’s a link to the one my friend J has:

Brother P-touch Label Maker on Amazon

A container for extra accessories

A tupperware container holding some small dice, a Magic: The Gathering health counter, and a dinosaur token counter.
Sometimes, simpler is better – and this is about as simple as it gets for keeping M:tG accessories together.

While my deck box does hold a fair amount of stuff, it doesn’t hold everything I need to play Magic – and that’s where my little tupperware container comes on. It currently holds health counters, dice, and regular counters, and I could easily stash extra tokens in there too. Depending on how many extra accessories you have, you might need a little more than just a tupperware container, though. My friend J, for example, has a large organizer that holds lots of counters, health counters, and other things that might come in handy when playing.

Large plastic container with the Magic: The Gathering logo on the front, holding lots of dice, health counters, and glass pebbles that are used as counters.
And sometimes, you need something bigger to keep all the bits and pieces you need organized.

You can probably find an empty container laying around at your house to use, if you need one for your extra Magic pieces.

A card holder

Wooden card holder, holding up seven Magic cards.
Best $10 I’ve ever spent.

This is quite possibly my favorite piece of Magic gear. It’s pretty simple: just a piece of wood with slits cut into it to hold up my cards while I play. This simple little piece of wood helps me see all my cards at a glance, and I can use it to keep them organized while I play. It also makes it so I can crochet or knit while I’m playing, which is an extra bonus.

Hardwood Card Holder on Amazon

Websites to keep track of my cards

I’m currently using two sites to keep track of my cards: MTGGoldfish and TCGplayer. MTG Goldfish will be more useful to me in the future, when I have more than one Commander deck.¬† TCG Player is definitely more helpful for me now, as it helps me keep track of all the cards I have. I figure keeping track of everything now, when I’m just starting out, will be way easier than trying to catalog everything later if I end up with a large collection of cards.

MTGGoldfish

TCGplayer

May 2019’s Nerdy Tidbits

Welcome to Nerdy Tidbits: a monthly series that collects all the little nerdy things that happen during the month that aren’t quite big enough for their own post! This month, I’ve got some costume planning, a nerdy moment at a bagel shop (of all places), and a short ramble about the first Kishar game of the year!

Gen Con costume planning

The first nerdy tidbit focuses on Gen Con costuming – which shouldn’t be a surprise! Costume planning is always a big part of my Gen Con planning each year, and this year is no different. It took me a while, but I finally figured out what costumes I’m wearing this year! I’ve actually got a bit of a theme going: strong women of sci-fi.

Photo-collage of President Laura Roslin (left) from Battlestar Galactica and Captain Kathryn Janeway (right) from Star Trek Voyager.
Two of my favorite strong women in sci-fi: President Roslin and Captain Janeway.

And this year, I only have to buy one of these costumes! I have a suit in my closet that I think should work out really well for Roslin – and if not, there’s always Goodwill. It might be a little tricky for people to immediately recognize me as Roslin – but I’ve got a plan for that. Thanks to the Denna costume I wore a few years ago, I have a bunch of name tags laying around… so I’ll just stick one on that says “President Laura Roslin” in big letters and hope that does the trick. While my hair might be a little too red to properly pass for Roslin, I think with some styling it should be close enough.

For Janeway, I’ve been meaning to buy myself a proper Starfleet uniform for a while now. I think this is as good a reason as any to get one. FanPlusFriend’s Costume Store has a Voyager-era uniform for a reasonable price, so I’m planning on getting the uniform there. I should be able to get my hair into a style similar to what Janeway’s got in the above picture, too. I’m excited about not needing a wig for either costume this year – the Sailor Moon wig from last year is more than enough wig, haha.

A nerdy encounter at the West Baden Bagel Bistro

Photo collage of a number of different minis and some homemade mini terrain.
You know, when I went in for a bagel for lunch, I didn’t expect to see minis, but hey, I’m not complaining.

Last weekend, I met the fine folks that run the West Baden Bagel Bistro, and found out they’re also a bunch of gamers! We talked about games we play, showed off minis we’ve painted, and generally nerded out. It was great – and I had a tasty bagel, too! If any of you find yourselves down in West Baden Springs, IN, you should definitely stop by the West Baden Bagel Bistro.

The start of Kishar: Season 8

Me, dressed up as my Kishar character, √člinyr. In the background, on the car behind me, is a plush Toothless wearing a brown headband that says "sand dragon".
Toothless and I in costume, and ready for a new season of Kishar!

This season of Kishar started off with a bang, so to speak – we went from an air of excitement and revelry to mourning the loss of the sultan over the course of the two-day game. (That new notebook I bought √člinyr definitely got a lot of use!) I’ll be writing up a summary of what happened from √člinyr’s point of view soon – you can find that summary over on √člinyr’s blog within the next few days, and I’ll also link to it here when it’s done.

And there’s May’s nerdy tidbits for you all – here’s hoping this turns into a fun series of little nerdy things!

√člinyr’s new notebook

The first official Kishar game of the season is this weekend! I’m excited to get my elf ears on and slip back into the role of √člinyr, the sassy thin-blooded elf scholar. I’ve mentioned in the past that one of the things I do to help myself keep organized when LARPing is to take notes – and other players find my notes really helpful when we try to figure out if events in past games have anything to do with what we’re facing today. (There’s a reason √člinyr ended up becoming the official scribe of one of the player groups in Kishar!) However, the notebooks I’ve been using for √člinyr, especially the most recent one, don’t quite exactly fit into the setting, appearance-wise.

√člinyr’s old notebook, which doesn’t quite look like it belongs in a fantasy LARP.

So, I bought √člinyr a traveler’s notebook, which looks like it’ll fit in with her character much better than the Arc Notebook I got from Staples a while ago, and even though I haven’t taken it to a game yet, I’m in love with it.

Okay, this looks much more setting-appropriate!

I picked it up on Amazon earlier this week, and I’m excited to put it to good use.¬† I’ve already done some writing in it, brainstorming some ideas for a coffee shop/bookstore that √člinyr recently purchased.

Yep, √člinyr’s officially an entrepreneur, in addition to being a scholar.

The traveler’s journal came with three notebooks (one each of lined, blank, and grid pages), a pen clip, and some additional accessories. I’d say this is probably one of the best purchases I’ve made for √člinyr since I started playing in Kishar, and I’m excited to use her new journal this weekend!

Traveler’s Journal on Amazon (Amazon affiliate link)

Tiny review: Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

How many of you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book series? I remember reading through all the Choose Your Own Adventure books that my elementary school library had, multiple times, so I could get to all the endings.  Choose Your Own Adventure books were the best.

Well, did you know that there’s now a Choose Your Own Adventure game?

Well, there is, and I got to play chapter 1 of the game today at work!¬† (Yes, we got to play games for research purposes, so we can make our own choose-your-own-adventure-esque games – how awesome is that?) And oh, it was lots of fun.¬† I’m going to buy it for myself so I can introduce friends to it, because I know a lot of people who would really enjoy this game.

In the game, the player (or players – while this game can be played by one person, we played it with twelve today!) takes on the role of a detective who’s been having nightmares about a haunted mansion and its missing owner – so of course you have to go investigate it. Gameplay involves two decks of cards – the story deck, which is composed of cards that tell the story, and the clue deck, which includes tools that help the player out, clues that change the story paths available, and other information the players might find helpful.¬† The game mechanics also include a danger meter, which determines just how challenging any challenges that come up during the game may be, and the psychic scale, which we didn’t really get to interact with much today.¬† The game starts by a player reading the beginning story cards for the chapter, and the game progresses by making choices on what to do next, much like your typical Choose Your Own Adventure book.¬† However, unlike reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books, sometimes challenges appear that force you to go one way or another, depending on if you pass or fail.

The story itself is based on an actual Choose Your Own Adventure book, and that includes all the random dead ends and false starts and, of course, multiple ways your character can die.¬† We managed to die, what, four times today? We got buried alive twice, got strangled by plants once, and – my group’s favorite – killed by a pack of Dobermans surrounding a chimpanzee playing a violin. I’m not even kidding. (We’ve been making jokes about the violin-playing chimpanzee all day.)

As I said, we only got through the first chapter today, but playing the first chapter was so much fun! Part of that might have been due to playing with a larger group of people, with a chunk of us tending towards the nerdier side of things (there were a number of Doctor Who and Stranger Things references made while we were playing), but I think it’d be fun with almost any group of people. Heck, I can see Ross’s family having fun with this at the next holiday gathering. (Then again, we’re all huge nerds, haha.)

If you have fond memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, then you should give this a try!

Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger on Amazon (affiliate link)

Getting ready for Kishar: season 8 (or: LARP laundry day)

It’s officially spring, and the weather’s getting warmer – and that means LARP season is coming!

The “fan club” is ready for a fight, haha.

I am really excited for the next season of Kishar to start. Granted, the first game isn’t until May, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start getting things ready now!

And folks, I’m really glad I decided to go through my LARP gear bucket now, instead of just before the first game. Due to the garage flooding during some insanely heavy rains earlier this year, all the gear I stored in there was either really musty smelling or covered in mold. So, I guess today is √člinyr’s laundry day!

Even thinblooded elves have to do laundry sometime…

Thankfully I only lost a sword frog and a shoulder bag to mold – everything else is getting washed! And I’ve even got some new stuff for this year, too, which I thankfully did not store in the garage. Like, for example, new elf ears! (and yes, I am wearing them while doing LARP laundry.) They’re a little smaller than the old elf ears, and they’re slip-on ears as well – given that √člinyr’s now a thinblooded elf, I think the smaller ears work better. (I am so glad she’s not a full-on sun elf anymore, I am so done with sweating glitter on hot days.) I also made a new skirt to go with an old shirt I made ages ago, and together with the trusty ol’ corset vest they make up a new outfit for √člinyr!

So stealthy. ūüėõ

I’ve also made some adjustments to the “stealth” dress, as it’s been named, mainly adding some bias tape to the bottom to keep the edge of the dress from snagging on everything it brushes past. I had to remove a tier off the bottom of the dress when I first got it, to make it so I wasn’t tripping over it constantly, and the raw edge kept getting stuck on all sorts of things – sticks, thorny bushes, the buckles of my boots, and so on. The stealth dress was my first costuming piece, and I want it to stick around as long as possible. ūüôā

Anyhow! I’ve also been brainstorming some story-related ideas for √člinyr for this season – especially since she’s now the owner of a coffee shop and bookstore (which still needs a name), as well as the owner of a rambunctious juvenile sand-dragon (think scaly Golden Retriever). Between the coffee shop/bookstore, the pet sand-dragon, adventuring, and teaching at the Royal Academy, √člinyr’s going to be rather busy this season, I think.

Now, here’s hoping the musty smell comes out of her gear. There are a few things I think I’m going to have to rewash because they still smell a little bit, so here’s hoping a good soak will take care of the mustiness in those last few items. Otherwise, I’m going to have to go shopping for LARP gear…

My new toy: a laptop actually made for gaming

For a couple of years now, I haven’t really owned a decent computer I could play games on. I mean, sure, I had my work laptop, Jadzia, who was a powerful behemoth when she was new, built for video editing – but she was my work computer, and I felt guilty installing video games on her, even if I never played them at work. I’ve got Nog, an old Lenovo ThinkPad that I inherited from Ross when he got a new work computer, but he’s nearly seven years old, and was never meant for gaming. He runs Stardew Valley pretty well, and Terraria runs alright too.¬† Sure, it took about five minutes to create a new world in Terraria, but neither of those games are too resource-intensive. I wanted to play more than just Stardew Valley and Terraria.¬† I wanted to be able to play more modern games, and maybe have a computer that could do some light video editing on top of it all.

Enter Sharon.

Sharon (named after Sharon “Athena” Agathon in Battlestar Galactica) is a brand spanking new Lenovo Legion Y520. And I love her.¬† She’s so lightning fast compared to most of the other computers I’ve used recently, and definitely the fastest computer I own. She can play Elder Scrolls Online with some pretty high graphics settings. She also handles video editing pretty well – I was able to use her to give a demonstration on how to use Adobe Character Animator, which is a pretty resource-demanding program, and everything ran really smoothly.

There’s Character Animator, doing it’s thing, picking up me smiling at the camera!

As with every piece of technology, Sharon has her pros and cons…

Pros:

  • Boots up ridiculously fast. I think she goes from completely off to functioning in less than 10 seconds. (I haven’t timed it, though.)
  • Everything in general is lightning fast, with a 7th gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB solid-state drive. It’s fantastic.
  • For a gaming laptop, she’s rather light – she’s definitely lighter than the Dell Precision I had as my work laptop up until last week, and that was built for video editing.
  • Lenovo laptops offer Conservation Mode, which helps laptop batteries live longer if said laptop is primarily used while plugged in.¬† It’ll keep the battery charged between 50 and 60%, which’ll help the battery live longer.¬† You can turn Conservation Mode off and charge the battery to full if you anticipate using it unplugged in the near future.
  • There’s a lot of open vent space on the bottom of the laptop, to help increase airflow and vent out all the heat that builds up when you’re gaming.

Cons:

  • With all the vents being mainly on the bottom, if the laptop isn’t propped up on some sort of cooling mat (or even something to just get it off the desk), it’s a little hard for it to vent out the heat properly.¬† I ended up getting a cooling mat, but have only used it while playing Elder Scrolls Online since it’s a rather graphics-intense game.
  • The fans are a little loud – and the system’s a little aggressive about keeping things cool, so the fan does kick on a fair bit.¬† I don’t mind it too terribly much, but Ross said he noticed it from the other room.
  • The laptop body picks up smudges from my hands pretty easily – it’s only a minor annoyance, but I do find myself having to wipe it down every so often to get rid of my smudgy handprints.

I was lucky enough to get the Legion Y520 on sale – the configuration I got typically retails for $1499 before tax on Lenovo’s site, but there have been multiple sales lately bringing the price below $1000 – which is a great price for such a good laptop.¬† If you’re looking for a sub-$1000 gaming laptop that’s ridiculously fast, and aren’t too concerned about having the latest and the greatest processors, then the Legion Y520 is a good choice.¬† I’m certainly pleased with it – and my friend Kasi even bought one for herself after I showed her how well Elder Scrolls Online runs!

Speaking of said laptop, though, I might have to go disappear to play some Stardew Valley. My farm is calling…

Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop – Lenovo

Review: Stardew Valley (the mobile version)

Oh, Stardew Valley. You’re one of the reasons I bought a new gaming laptop (although you can still run on my old ThinkPad). I’ve spent many hours planting and taking care of farm animals and trying to get friendly with the villagers. And now, I can do all that on my phone, thanks to the recent mobile port of Stardew Valley! It finally made its way to Android a few days ago, and was released for iOS a couple months ago.¬† My review focuses on the Android version, but I’m pretty sure everything’s the same on iOS. For those of you who’ve never played the game before, Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, similar to games like Harvest Moon, where you’re responsible for taking care of a farm. In addition to making sure your farm succeeds, you also get to make friends with the villagers, as well as eventually start a family if you want to. You even get a pet! (I’ve got a cat.)

I’ve been really pleased with the mobile version so far – the developers did a good job of making it as enjoyable an experience on a mobile device as it is on a full computer.¬† The controls are easy to pick up – you can either tap a location on the screen and your farmer will move to the tapped square, or you can hold your finger on the screen and your farmer will follow in the direction of your finger. The entire interface in general has been customized for small touchscreen use, which definitely makes playing easier. For example, your entire inventory is visible on the left side of the screen, and you can scroll through all your items and tap on the one you want to use to make it the active item.

Farmer √člinyr, about ready to start her day, while Robin is hard at work building an expansion to √člinyr’s house.

The interface for shopping has changed slightly, too – while it’s not universal for all shops (for example, Marnie’s shop listings are displayed a bit differently than the items in Pierre’s general store), it’s definitely geared towards mobile use and makes it easier to tap on what you want to buy.

Let’s buy a chicken! Because everyone needs chickens.

The crafting menu, as with other similar menus, are also mobile-optimized:

Let’s make ALL THE THINGS for the farm!

Another thing I’ve really enjoyed that’s exclusive to the mobile version is the ability to zoom in and out on the map, which has come in helpful when I’m looking for things to forage or just want a large overall view of an area.

Oh hey, there’s a spiceberry down on the lower left corner of the map!

Plus, it has all the original story and townsfolk you’ve all grown to love, plus the new farm types that were released when co-op mode became available! It’s very easy to lose a few hours playing on the phone, that’s for sure.

That being said, there are a few things missing from the mobile port – specifically, co-op mode, saving games to the cloud, and the ability to sync games between devices and computers. While they’re not a deal-breaker for me, some folks might really miss these features. There is a work-around to make it so you can play save files from the desktop version of Stardew Valley on mobile (link focuses on iOS version of the game), but it’s a little labor-intensive and involves a lot of shuffling files around. I’ve just been setting up a different type of farm on all the devices I’ve been playing on, so I get to explore all the different farm types.

There are also a few things that have taken some getting used to, like the automatic tool choosing – sometimes it doesn’t work as intended, and you’ll need to manually choose the tool you need to do a job (like when cutting grass, you’ll need to manually select the scythe before attempting to cut anything down). There’s also an auto-fight monsters mode in the mines, but in order for that to work well, you’ll need to select your sword before starting to do any mining – otherwise, you’ll just end up attacking with your mining pick, which isn’t as effective. Also, I’ve found that it’s really easy to accidentally select an item from my inventory while trying to navigate to the left side of the screen, and if you’re not careful, you might accidentally end up giving it away to a villager if you don’t switch away from said item before trying to talk. (for example, I accidentally gifted Penny an artifact that she really didn’t like, whoops)

Overall, the mobile version of Stardew Valley is great! There are some bugs, given that the game just got released, but I’ve only encountered them when trying to play on my Chromebook (which I was able to fix by restarting the Chromebook), and the developers are working hard to get them fixed. If you love Stardew Valley, are okay with not having co-op mode and cloud saves, and have a little extra cash laying around, you should definitely pick it up for your mobile device.

Stardew Valley on the Google Play Store – $7.99

Stardew Valley on the iOS App Store – $7.99

Blue Rose: the romantic fantasy RPG that I’ve fallen in love with

I’m no stranger to tabletop RPGs – I’ve played in a number of different systems, including Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and White Wolf’s World of Darkness.¬† However, in all my years of gaming, I’ve never played anything quite like Blue Rose.¬† For over a year, I’ve been part of a group that plays Blue Rose somewhat regularly, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

What is Blue Rose?

Blue Rose is a tabletop RPG published by Green Ronin, and is labeled as a romantic fantasy game. It’s set in the world of Aldea, and players can play as a number of different humanoid races or as a rhydan (which encompasses many different types of psychic animals). Player characters have three classes to choose from: adept, which is your typical magic-using class; expert, which includes scholars, spies, tricksters, and negotiators; and warrior, which is your classic fighter class.¬† There are plenty of other aspects that go into developing a character, including their background, goals, destiny/fate, and, of course, their relationships with others – including friends, family, and romantic relationships.

The main focus of the game is on developing relationships, but depending on the storyteller, there may be a fair bit of exploration and adventuring involved as well.  The world of Aldea is definitely large enough to do plenty of exploring in, and the core book includes details about many countries outside of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose.

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Keeping organized: the role-playing game edition

It’s no secret to you readers – I enjoy a good role-playing game, whether it’s tabletop or live action. It’s also no secret that I’m not exactly the most organized person at times – I try really hard, though. If I’m not careful,¬†I lose track of my game stuff easily – just ask me how many character sheets I made for my Blue Rose character before I finally figured out an organizational system. (Pretty sure there’s four of them floating out there, including two versions of the digital character sheet I keep as a backup.) I can also get distracted pretty easily during games, and if I’m not careful, I’ll miss something important. After years of gaming, I’ve figured out a few ways to help keep myself organized when it comes to the various role-playing games I’m in.

Interested in learning about them? Read on!

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Another new hobby – Magic: The Gathering

I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how I’m finally learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and, well, what better time than now?

My first attempt at learning to play was back in 2005, when I was in college – a couple of the guys in SUNY Potsdam’s Gaming Club built me a simple deck, I watched them play one game, and then I think I got pulled into a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign and forgot about learning Magic entirely.¬† I had that deck for years – I think I ended up donating it to Goodwill a few years ago, before Ross and I moved into our house.¬† (I’m kicking myself for that now – I wonder how much some of those cards might be worth now!) I was still vaguely interested in learning, eventually, but I didn’t know anyone that played – until I met J, anyway.

Last year, I finally decided maybe I should try learning to play again – and J was more than happy to teach me.

A Magic: The Gathering game in progress
The beginning of a game where I got whomped by a pile of merfolk. And yes, I do have a Doge playmat.

I’ve been learning for a while now – I think J started teaching me the game last summer, and I only recently got to the point where I decided “okay, I’m going to stick with this, maybe I should get a deck of my own instead of borrowing one of J’s many decks every time I play.”¬† So, with J’s help, I picked out one of the 2018 premade Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander, depending on your preferences) decks and did a little tweaking to make the deck a little more powerful.¬† I ended up choosing the Exquisite Invention deck, after looking through J’s copy of it – I’ve been calling it the Thopterpocalypse Deck, because when my deck is behaving, I can generate a lot of thopters and servos to rain down doom on my opponents.¬† (I say¬†when my deck is behaving because the last two games I’ve played, all my land has ended up at the bottom of the deck, no matter how many times the darn thing gets shuffled.) Now that I’m getting a feel for the game, I’m comfortable enough to be silly – like giving personalities to creatures I play, for example.¬† It’s ridiculous, I know, but sometimes it’s fun to say “oh, the Master Thopterist is in a bit of a mood, so he’s going to attack with his two thopter buddies.”¬† It’s fun to be a little sassy while I’m playing, haha.

One thing is for sure – I definitely don’t know nearly enough to make decks on my own.¬† Deck building is insanely complicated.¬† You have to think about how all the cards interact with each other, and how certain cards can trigger combinations that may or may not wipe out another player’s creatures.¬† It’s mind-boggling.¬† I don’t know J does it – then again, he’s been playing Magic for¬†far longer than I have.

I will say, sometimes it’s hard for me not to just buy all the cards I can. I like collecting things, and if there’s something I’m enthusiastic about, I end up wanting to throw money at it and buy all the things. I’m really glad J is guiding me in what to buy and what not to buy, because otherwise I’d probably end up with a hot mess of somewhat useless stuff because I think the card art is pretty. Also, good lord this hobby involves buying so much¬†stuff – not only did I end up buying a deck of cards to play with, I had to get a deck box, and I bought Saheeli-themed card sleeves (since she’s the commander for my deck), and of course I had to get that Doge playmat, and yesterday I just picked up some token counters because Saheeli likes to make ALL THE THOPTERS¬† – and speaking of thopters, I got lucky with that blind bag draw!

Three Magic: The Gathering token counters - one with a dinosaur on it, another with a thopter, and the third with Liliana.
why yes, Saheeli, let’s make 50 thopters and rain down the thopterpocalypse, yesss

I sort-of knew what I was getting into when I got into the hobby – at least with the fact that cards can get expensive and there are LOTS of them, heh – but I didn’t quite absorb just all the little things you need to play Magic. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s not stopping me from wanting to play.

I’m really enjoying learning how to play.¬† Each game is like a constantly shifting puzzle that you need to solve. Sometimes you get lucky and can solve the puzzle early and knock out your opponent, and other times you just end up stuck waiting for a needed card or two that never come up.¬† It’s fun, and exciting, and sometimes overwhelming – and I love it. I’m really glad I got into this hobby.

Game review: Patchwork

Yes, there is a board game that’s essentially about making a patchwork quilt. My friends J and Kasi bought this game recently, and when J pointed out that they had a game about making quilts, I had to play it.

The box for the board game Patchwork, with game pieces surrounding the box.

In Patchwork, two players compete to make the most complete (and highest-scoring) quilt they can on a 9×9 game board. Gameplay is pretty simple ‚ÄĒ players move tokens along a board (called the “time track”) to determine whose turn it is, and as players move along the board they can collect extra buttons or small patches to help fill in empty spots on their board. Each space on the board represents a unit of time, and each of the patches has a time listed on them, indicating how many spaces you’ll be moving along the board.¬† (After all, quilting does take time!)

Around the time track is the collection of quilt patches you can choose from. During each turn, players have the option to purchase a quilt patch or earn extra buttons by moving to one spot ahead of your opponent.¬† You’re limited in which quilt patches you can buy, however: a marker works its way clockwise around the circle of patches, and you can only choose from the three patches in front of the marker. This is where sometimes moving ahead of your opponent can come in handy, if there aren’t any patches you can afford or any patches that fit on your board ‚ÄĒ you can simply choose to earn extra buttons, one per spot you end up moving along the board.

The game Patchwork set up and ready for play, with a square board that keeps track of player turns and differently shaped pieces of various colors representing quilt patches surrounding the board.
The game, set up and ready to play!

The buttons that players collect are really important.¬† Not only are they the game’s currency, but they also help determine who wins at the end of the game: whoever has the most buttons at the end of the game wins.

Game pieces from Patchwork, each displaying a button cost and a "time" cost. One patch has three buttons on it.
The patches that have buttons on them really help you out in this game.

As you can see, some patches have buttons on them – and those help you out as you move around the time track.¬† If you move past a button on the time track, you earn a button for every button that’s on your quilt.¬† The bigger your quilt gets, the more buttons you can earn at a time. (At one point, I think I was earning 15 buttons every time I hopped over a button on the time track ‚ÄĒ my quilt was very decorated!)

Patchwork game board with a couple of pieces on it, arranged to make a small, irregularly-shaped quilt.
My patchwork quilt, early on in the game. I didn’t end up winning – I had too many blank spaces at the end, boo.

When both players get to the end of the time track, that’s when you figure out who the winner is.¬† First, you count up how many buttons you’ve earned, and then subtract the amount of blank spaces on the board from the amount of buttons you’ve earned.¬† Whoever has the highest point count after that is the winner!¬† I didn’t win yesterday’s game, but I certainly had fun playing and will definitely be picking this game up for my collection.

Patchwork on Amazon

Finally got a Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for!

I think I got a little burned out on everything after Gen Con – hence the lack of a post last week.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I tried to get the last of my Gen Con reports put together, and there’s a start to it in the pile of half-finished blog posts I’m accumulating, but I just couldn’t nudge myself towards getting it done.¬† I’ll try to finish it soon, though, as there are some pretty cool vendors and artists I want to share with you all that I discovered at Gen Con.

So that this week’s blog post isn’t all just me being down on myself for not posting last week, I’m going to talk about a Kickstarter whose rewards I’ve been eagerly awaiting for a little while now.¬† Those rewards showed up on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t help but share them with you all, because they’re so beautiful!

Yep, that’s right – the Name of the Wind Art Deck Kickstarter started shipping last month, and I finally got my goodies.¬† They were definitely worth the wait, that’s for sure.

Now, this isn’t the first deck of cards that’s had artwork from Name of the Wind on them – a deck was released a few years ago (also the product of a Kickstarter, if I remember right), with artwork by Shane Tyree depicting the characters we all know and love. I’ve got the Shane Tyree deck as well as the new ones with art by Echo Chernik, and it’s really interesting to see how each artist envisioned the characters.

From left to right: Auri, Denna, and Kote, with Shane Tyree’s art on top and Echo Chernik’s art on bottom.

The coin that I got as part of the rewards is beautiful – and pretty hefty, too!¬† I’d be afraid to flip it and accidentally dent a table with it when it lands, haha.

The prints are beautiful, too – I can’t wait to get them framed.¬† I’ve been especially excited about them, since I love Echo’s work, and it was really exciting to get to meet her at Gen Con.¬† All in all, I’m really happy with the quality of everything – the cards feel great in your hand, and the artwork is absolutely wonderful.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with four decks of Name of the Wind playing cards. ūüėõ

Gen Con 2018 Report: the LARPs

This post is part of my Gen Con 2018 Report series – you can find the whole collection here!

As I mentioned briefly in some of my daily Gen Con posts, I took part in two different LARPs this year at Gen Con, in very different roles.¬† I’ve never actually LARPed at Gen Con before, so being involved in two different games might have been a little ambitious, but in retrospect, I had a heck of a lot of fun.¬† Both games I was involved in were put on by Phoenix Fire LARP, a group that my dear friends J and Kasi run with some of their friends. Since convention halls don’t really lend themselves well to boffer LARPs (or, LARPs that make use of foam weapons for attacking others), J developed the FIRE System, which uses a deck of playing cards to determine damage dealt to characters, help add an element of chance to certain actions, and to help with determining initiative for the players.¬† It’s a really neat system that’s pretty quick to learn.

While both games made use of the FIRE System, they were about as different as things can get Рand I had completely different experiences in both games, what with running one and participating in another.  Read on to learn more about Return to Paragon City and Showdown in Sacramento!

Return to Paragon City

The three main storytellers from Return to Paragon City – Daniel, Kasi, and myself.

Return to Paragon City was the game I helped run – it’s based on the beloved MMO City of Heroes, which I didn’t get to play for long before they shut the game down back in 2012.¬† The game was run as a hybrid tabletop/live action game, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. However, to be honest, when I first volunteered to help run Paragon City, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect I’d be running part of the game by myself, but that’s what ended up happening. And given that it was my first experience running¬†any sort of game, I was anxious as heck about it. I’ve played in tabletop games for years, and I’ve got a year and a half of LARPing experience under my belt, but running a game?¬† Telling a story and keeping track of where everyone is in location to the bad guys¬†and keeping track of the bad guys’ health ended up being a really overwhelming prospect for me.¬† I was so worried I’d mess something up, and then freak out about messing things up, and it’d all spiral out of control.¬† Each playtest we did helped me feel a¬†little¬†better about things, but not much.¬† I ended up showing up to the game in the middle of a massive anxiety attack. Oh, brain.¬† Why do you do this to me?

Some of the fine superheroes from my table at Return to Paragon City.

Anyhow, I told J that my brain was conspiring against me and that I had no idea how I’d be able to run my section of game, so we tag-teamed my section of the event – I’d do the storytelling, while J handled the combat parts.¬† That combination worked out well – during combat I focused on keeping track of where people were on the map and how many hit points the bad guys had, while J handled the actual logistics.¬† And our group had loads of fun!¬† We had some great superheroes in our group, including Professor Photon, Cameraman (who had a camera prop and involved it in all of his attacks), and The Spicy Taco (whose attacks were, of course, taco-themed).

All in all, I learned a lot – and learned that maybe I need training wheels, so to speak, for a little bit longer when it comes to running a LARP.

Showdown in Sacramento

Showdown in Sacramento was an entirely different experience.¬† In fact, the only thing Showdown and Paragon City had in common was the FIRE System – everything else was incredibly different.¬† Instead of being set in a fictitious city full of superheroes, Showdown is set in Sacramento during the gold rush era, and is full of supernatural beings- mages, werewolves, vampires, and fey (in addition to regular plain old humans).¬† In last year’s game, an event happened that caused all the supernatural beings to glow with a specific colored aura around them, based on the type of supernatural being they were.¬† This made things a little… interesting for this year’s game, especially when it came to the political elements.

I like how J and Kasi handled character creation, although I know it resulted in an immense amount of work on their end.¬† Instead of creating our own characters, we were each assigned a character and given a fair bit of backstory for them as a starting point for this year’s game.¬† I ended up playing Lucina Finch, a relative newcomer to Sacramento who’d recently purchased a mine and was planning on using her abilities as a mage to construct machines that would work in the mines, to lessen the potential harm to humans.¬†¬†Having the character information to start from made things much easier for me, especially since I was new to the game – once I got into character and started interacting with others, I had a great time.

Lucina Finch with J (who played many roles during the game, haha).¬† And yes, that’s the mole from my Marco costume earlier in the day – I’ll have to remember to add that for next year’s costume, haha.

Lucina partnered up with two other mages (Isadora and Adelia) to work on making more machines to work in the mines, which was one of Lucina’s main goals for the game.¬† There was also a lot of mining (Lucina had to pay Adelia for the rights to her gold-detecting machine somehow!), a marriage market where Lucina got matched up with a friendly werewolf named Thomas, a number of fights with thugs attempting to raid the mines (Thomas protected Lucina from one such attack by transforming into a werewolf, which Lucina thought was pretty awesome), and even voting on political issues that would affect the supernaturals living in Sacramento both immediately and in the years to come.¬† And with the help of a couple of others, the lady mages found out the source of the auras that were affecting the supernatural folk of Sacramento!

 

The cast of Showdown in Sacramento!

I had a heck of a lot of fun in Showdown, and I’m really glad I decided to jump in and play this year.¬† Granted, doing two 6-hour LARPs over the course of two days was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.