Tag: tabletop games

State of the Nerd - Winter 2019

The State of the Nerd, winter 2019

I’ll be honest, I hit a bit of writer’s block with the original post I was writing for this week – and between that and the cold I’ve been battling, it’s been a bit of a rough week.  I’ve managed to get something posted every week so far this year, though, and I really don’t want to end that streak, so I figured I might as well do a State of the Nerd post.  It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and I’m pretty sure some of you folks are curious about what I’ve been up to!  So, without further ado… the State of the Nerd!

This winter’s been a particularly rough one, mostly due to the weird weather we’ve been having. I’ve been trying to keep my spirits up with as many nerdy and crafty pursuits as I can, though.

  • I’m still working on learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and I think I’m just about at the point where I might be able to play a game without “training wheels”, so to speak. I’ve still only played against J so far, and since he knows I’m still learning the game, he doesn’t mind when I stop and ask him about how a specific card works or how many creatures I should attack with. I’m definitely still enjoying the game, and I’ve got a post in the works in the “keeping organized” series about how I keep myself organized when it comes to Magic.
  • I’m itching to get Ëlinyr’s stuff out of the garage and play in Kishar this season. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve worn the bright red dress that’s been dubbed “Ëlinyr’s stealth dress” and put the sand dragon mask on my Toothless plush, and gotten ready to play.  I’m especially excited about this season, as Ëlinyr bought a house in-game with a couple of her friends, and also bought a business! Plus, there’s a whole bunch of new plot lines to explore, and new people for Ëlinyr to meet. Before all that, though, I’ve got some new costume pieces to make for her.  I really need to get on that, since I think we might start playing again next month…
  • I’m actually going to try to play more board games, especially the ones Ross and I have bought at past Gen Cons or through Kickstarter and then let sit on the shelves in the living room, gathering dust. Board games are fun, and I think it might be a good way to add some variety to our weeknight evenings. (Currently, our evening routine involves watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica or two and then going off to do our own things – I’ll go read a book while Ross goes off to play with the flight simulator he bought recently.  Which isn’t bad, but it’d still be fun to do something different now and then.) I’ve pre-ordered a game from Amazon that I’m really looking forward to – Scram by TeeTurtle! It’s about collecting cats – how could I say no to that? Plus, the artwork looks adorable, and I do have a soft spot for cute things.
  • I think I finally settled on at least one cosplay for Gen Con – I think I’m going to dress as Lapis from Steven Universe.  I still haven’t decided on whether I’m going to wear her old outfit or her new one, but I think it’ll be a fun costume to put together either way.
  • I actually finished a craft project recently!  I finished the Russell Street shawl that I started late last year – I struggled with it a bit in the second half of the pattern, and as a result I’m not entirely too thrilled with how it came out, but hey, it’s finished! Of course, I finish one project and then start two more – I’m working on another shawl, and also picked up English paper piecing and am making a quilt out of tiny hexagons. It’s a good break from knitting, that’s for sure.

And, well, that’s about all the interesting stuff that’s been going on with me lately.  Here’s hoping writer’s block doesn’t last a second week on that one post I’m trying to write, as I think it’s another one people will really enjoy.

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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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.

Kickstarter: is it worth it to back a project?

If you’ve been around the internet during the past few years, you’ll at the very least heard of Kickstarter – the crowdfunding platform that allows people with great ideas to get help from others to bring their ideas to fruition.  So many awesome things have come out of Kickstarter campaigns – I’ve backed comic books, games, mini figures, and most recently I backed the sixth Dumbing of Age book on Kickstarter, as well as the Tentacle Kitty Little Ones – Earth Colors project.  (Because there can never be enough tentacle kitties.)

I mean, come on, how can you say no to this?

After I backed the Tentacle Kitty Kickstarter, I poked around my backed projects, to see what I’ve gotten and if there was anything I hadn’t received yet. And, well, there was something alright. One thing to keep in mind about Kickstarter is that backing a project doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually get something. The Kickstarter FAQ mention it, and mention that if a project doesn’t deliver, it’s on the creator to deliver news, or refunds, or both.  The one Kickstarter project I’ve been waiting to receive my rewards for is for what appeared to be an awesome notebook that I’d love to bullet journal in – the Mont Notebook.  I backed it last August, it was funded early last September, books were expected to be delivered in October.  Seemed pretty straightforward.  However, there were printing issues, and the whole run of notebooks had to be sent back, and then they got stuck in customs, and now, nearly eight months after the promised delivery date, there are still no notebooks.  The creators disappeared for a while, then posted a short update nearly a month ago saying that they were planning on sending out the books, and that we should update our addresses if we needed to – however, the pledge manager page they were initially referring people to doesn’t exist anymore.

With so much uncertainty involved in backing a project, you might think, “Why do I want to throw money at something that might not exist?  Is it worth it to even try?”  Well, not all Kickstarter projects are the same – and not all of them are going to end up in lost money and frustration.

I’ve backed Kickstarters that had issues before.  My first ever Kickstarter, run by Impact Miniatures for a set of Chibi Dungeon Minis, ended up delayed because one of the project creators ended up in the hospital for weeks.  Dressing Your Octopus, a paper doll book made by one of my favorite artists, Brian Kesinger, encountered printing delays, and to make up for those of us who were going to give the book as a holiday gift, a Christmas card was sent out to everyone with a code for a free downloadable version of the book – and the book got to everyone almost two months late, but there was communication.  And the Bones II Kickstarter by Reaper Miniatures, oh, that one was fraught with issues.  I think the Kickstarter ended in November of 2013, and the minis didn’t start shipping until early 2015.

However, there are also a number of things I’ve backed that wouldn’t exist without a Kickstarter project to get them started, like the Tentacle Kitty Little Ones and my beloved Fidget Cube.  Lots of successful companies use Kickstarters as a way to gauge interest in a project or a game, and end up finding out whether or not an idea is a good one – like, for example, Exploding Kittens.  It’s one of the most highly backed Kickstarters of all times.  Apparently, people really wanted a game by The Oatmeal about kittens making things explode!  Others use Kickstarter as a way to handle preorders for something they intend to make anyway, like the Dumbing of Age books that come out every year and get shipped on time, like clockwork – even last year, when the author had newborn twins to take care of.  (I swear, David Willis must be part robot.)  Despite delays for some projects (like the Chibi Dungeon minis and the Bones minis), I always got what I pledged for, and sometimes a little extra as a thank you.  Even if there were delays, there was always communication, like with the bones minis and their weekly updates, or the Dressing Your Octopus one with regular updates and a Christmas card to all backers.

So what do you do if it looks like a Kickstarter you backed isn’t going to pull through?

  • Don’t panic – there might be an entirely valid reason for delays!  There might be production issues with the item, or health issues with the creator or their family, or something else that might end up with a lack of communication on the creator’s part – but the project might still be moving along merrily.
  • Look at the comments on the Kickstarter – if others have gotten their rewards, then maybe there might just be shipping delays – contact the creator and see what’s up.  It’s possible they recently shipped your reward but forgot to notify you.
  • If there are other complaints of not receiving items, and especially if there are no responses from the creator, like with the Mont notebook, then it’s time to see what recourse you might have.  Contacting Kickstarter would be a good place to start.

A good article on how Kickstarter handles accountability explores even further what Kickstarter does to try and keep potentially bad projects off the site, and whether or not people who start a project are legally liable to give you the rewards you pay for.

One thing to keep in mind: not everyone on Kickstarter is out to grab your money and give you nothing in return.  Take a look, for example, at this collection of goodies I have that likely wouldn’t exist without Kickstarter.

This isn’t everything I’ve Kickstarted, not by any means!

Yes, there is a bit of a risk with backing projects on Kickstarter – however, in my experience, I’ve almost always gotten the rewards promised for projects I’ve backed, and I’ve helped a lot of people get games, books, and toys from the drawing board into reality.  I think the latter part, helping people bring their ideas into reality, is the best thing about Kickstarter – and so even though I’ve been burned by that one pesky notebook, I’m going to keep on backing projects and helping creators out.

Another tiny little review: Loot Letter

Anyone remember the tiny little review I did ages ago for a tiny game called Love Letter?

Well, apparently that tiny little game has spawned a tiny little parody. World, meet Munchkin: Loot Letter.

You know it’s going to be silly if it’s in the realm of Munchkin.

A quick refresher: in Love Letter, your goal is to get your love letter to the princess. You’ve got a small deck of cards which are numbered, and there are various amounts of those numbered cards – there are far more of those lower number cards than higher number cards, and there’s only one 8 – the princess. Once you get the princess, you pretty much win the game unless someone forces you to discard her.

Well, Loot Letter is pretty much the same – only there’s no princess. Only loot. And Ducks of Doom, and a Dread Gazebo. And a lot of potted plants.

I got the chance to play Loot Letter with some dear friends over dinner recently, and it was quite a bit of fun. J and Kasi had played it on their own previously, and found out there’s a lot less strategy involved and a lot more luck when playing with just two players. Adding a third player, though, made things more fun, and introduced more strategic moves to try and win the loot. Even though I goofed up a few times by not entirely thinking through some of my moves (like using a Dread Gazebo to swap hands with someone without really thinking about the effects of someone else ending up with the cards in my hand), I somehow managed to win the most loot!

If you’re in need of a short game to pass the time while waiting for food at a restaurant, or for a TV show to start, but don’t feel like something sappy, then Munchkin: Loot Letter is the game for you.

Munchkin: Loot Letter on Amazon

Tiny little review of a tiny little game: Love Letter

Last night, I had the opportunity to play a new game – it’s a short and sweet little game called Love Letter.  Michael and I played it while at dinner at the local Chinese buffet place – because why not have a little game with your dinner?

51Z6pBcHybLThe premise of Love Letter is simple – Princess Annette is pretty darn popular, and has quite a few suitors wanting to get a love letter to her.  However… she’s locked herself in a tower, and it’s your job to try and cozy up to the people closest to the princess in hopes of getting your letter to her.

61QKHd7QoBLThere’s a small deck of cards with various people from the castle, with different numbers on each card.  The number indicates how close that person is to the princess.  Each card also has a condition on it – for example, the Priest card makes it so another player has to show you their cards, and the Countess card has to be discarded if she’s caught with the King or the Prince in the same hand (scandalous!) – these conditions can make game play pretty interesting.

At the end of each round, whoever has the highest numbered card in their hand gets their letter to the princess, and they earn a token of her affection (which is a little tiny red cube).  Once a player earns enough tokens, they win the princess’s affection (and therefore the game).  The game can be played with 2-4 people, and the amount of tokens needed to win changes with the amount of people playing.  For two players, you need seven tokens to win.  It’s a pretty quick game to play, especially depending on what cards you end up with.

Michael and I managed to play through an entire game in a half hour – I was wiping the floor with him for a chunk of the game, as I kept getting lucky and getting the princess card (I mean, how much closer can you get to the princess when you’ve got the princess card?) – however, then Michael kept getting cards that made it that even once I’d gotten the princess card I’d have to discard it (and therefore lose the round, because the princess card’s condition? When discarded, you lose the round).  In the end, Michael swooped past me, captured the princess’s affections, and won.  I was so close, too – I was two tokens shy!

So, in short, this is a good little game to play if you’ve got a little bit of time to kill and want a small game to play – the entire game fits into a bag roughly the size of a dice bag, and doesn’t take terribly long to play.  It’s also pretty entertaining, too, and is pretty inexpensive to boot!  You can find it here on Amazon.

So, in short, The Crafty Nerd’s verdict?  Pretty darn awesome, and I suggest you give it a try!