Mondays I like to take some time to look back on the last week in gaming. I write about what games I played, any events I attended and any other cool gaming related things that have happened in the past week.
I don’t know if it’s carryover from Queen City Conquest or what, but I actually got in some more roleplaying last week. I ran a session of Rockerboys & Vending Machines and my oldest daughter ran her first game of Tales of Equestria. Also, we finally started our Gloomhaven campaign. On Saturday I got CV: Gossip off my pile of shame and we played a four-player game of Terraforming Mars at the FLGS.
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I’ve mentioned before that we often have attendance problems on Monday nights. This happens when you game with adult gamers who all have lots of family and/or work obligations. Well, last Monday we had the opposite problem. I recently invited a long time friend back to the group and in addition to them showing up so did everyone else. This meant we had 7 players, somewhat unexpectedly.
Now I own a few games that will play 7, but not a lot and the ones I have just didn’t appeal. We talked about a few options and then decided to do some future planning. This involved making characters for Mouse Guard, a fantastic Roleplaying game based on the comic books by David Petersen. Mouse Guard, as a game, plays best with 3-4 players so making characters now when everyone is present means that the next time only 3 or 4 people show up we will have that game as a play option.
Making Mouse Guard characters got everyone in the RPG mood and I had a flash of inspiration. One of the best games I played at QCC was Rockerboys & Vending Machines. I talked about this game on last week’s look back and on the podcast. It’s a quick one-shot roleplaying game that is great for shorter sessions and is designed to be run on the fly with zero prep. It’s also the kind of game that will work with 6 Player Characters.
So I grabbed the copy of the game I brought home from QCC (It’s a free game and we got to keep our copies after playing at the con). Everyone made characters and we played through a session. It went very well. I rolled up a random scenario while the players made their characters. It’s a super simple system with all of the rules on one sheet of paper, two sides. Character creation only requires players to pick some stuff off of a few lists, pick a name and pick one number for their stat.
Rockerboys & Vending Machines is not a deep game nor is it a serious game. It’s a love letter to all things cyberpunk and everyone at the table rolled with that. Our session was filled with tropes and cliches and was hilarious. We had a rock concert, drones flying around, a murder, a break in, quite a bit of combat, some hacking, and lots of moments of triumph and some amusing moments of failure.
Having now both played and run the game I strongly recommend checking it out if you have any interest in the genre at all. You can get the game for free on DriveThruRPG.
If you have been watching the Tabletop Bellhop twitch channel you may have seen me building the Meeple Realty Gloomhaven Town insert and watched me record a “reboxing,” where I punched the game and got all of the contents into the insert and back into the box. While I had some technical difficulties, I think most of them have been worked out and you can look forward to more live content like this. All that prep work was done for Friday night when we finally started our Gloomhaven campaign.
Gloomhaven is the number one rated game on boardgamegeek.com and it has been for some time (since December 29th 2017). Being number one is a big deal. Boardgamegeek is where the people who take the hobby seriously hang out. It is the largest tabletop gaming database in the world. Being ranked number one on BGG is a first among peers kind of thing.
I backed the second printing Kickstarter of Gloomhaven after hearing the crazy amount of hype out there. Almost every podcaster I listen to loves this game. Some won’t shut up about it. So I was very happy to finally get the game to the table. The burning question of course is: is it really that good?
So far: no. Actually, I’m quite baffled at how a game that is this complex and fiddly managed to make it to top rated game in the world. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that I can’t believe that something with this steep a learning curve has such universal appeal. To me the number one game should be something I can sit down and play with almost anyone and have fun, that’s not what I see in Gloomhaven.
That said, we had fun. Making characters was fun. Opening boxes and not knowing what we are getting in them was fun. Doing the initial city quest was fun. The initial travel quest was fun. Then we set up the game and tried to figure out how to play an actual mission. This was less fun.
There are a ton of rules in this game. Gloomhaven is basically a GMless RPG and along with that has about as many rules (and exceptions) as a standard roleplaying rulebook. Actually, I own roleplaying games with far fewer rules (not just Rockerboys & Vending Machines, mentioned above). It doesn’t help my opinion of the game that we basically didn’t even make it to the last room. The only reason it got opened was to see what was there as there was no chance of winning at that point. The intro mission was hard enough that I actually spent time going through various rules discussions and FAQs thinking we must have done something wrong. We did not.
As of right now, I’m looking forward to playing again. I still haven’t figured out exactly what we played wrong but I’m interested in trying to solve that puzzle. I do have to say I wasn’t blown away by the game, but, it was only our first time playing.
Because Gloomhaven is a long campaign game that I expect to be playing for a long time, I’m not going to say much more about it now. Assuming nothing messes up our schedule I should be back here next week talking about it again, and then you can learn if repeated play changes my mind on the game.
Saturday, my wife and I went to Brimstone Games for one of their board game nights. While she tried out Disney Villainous (which she said was very asymmetric, decent, but something we didn’t need to own), I broke out CV and more importantly the expansion CV: Gossip. I’ve played CV a good number of times but Gossip has sat on my pile of shame since before Xmas and I was glad to finally get it out of the pile.
In CV each player is building their own personal resume (thus the name). I also like to think of it as Yahtzee Game of Life. Players roll dice then spend symbols on those dice to buy cards. Your cards go into a tableau that represents your CV. Like Yahtzee, there’s a push your luck element and you only get two re-rolls. The cards represent important moments on your CV, events in your life. These include activities, education, social events, jobs, and objects. Each game you start off by drafting childhood cards, then play through three rounds representing your teen years and early adulthood, your adult life and finally old age. In the end, you score points for how fulfilling your life was. Mechanically this is a set collection based system where you score the most points for having sets of activities, eductions or social events with bonus points given for the objects you’ve collected. To make things interesting each game you randomize a set of goal cards, one personal one for each player and a number of public ones based on how many people are playing the game. These give bonus points out for various things like collecting sets of different types of cards, having a variety of jobs, etc.
CV: Gossip adds two new types of cards to the game. Gossip and Fortune cards. Gossip cards get shuffled into the regular deck and add a “take that’ element to the game. The effects of gossip cards are negative and when you buy one of them you can place the card in another player’s CV tableau. Fortune cards are a new stand-alone deck and include cards that can only be bought with good or bad luck rolls. These new cards help mitigate some of the negative effects of bad luck that can really hurt a player’s score when playing with just the base rules. I really enjoyed these new additions to the base game. Both add a bit more balance to what was a rather random game. At this point, I will never play CV without Gossip and strongly recommend anyone that owns CV to pick up this expansion.
After CV my wife re-joined us and we played a very solid four-player game of Terraforming Mars. As we had less than 2 hours to play we house ruled the usual set up to make the game quicker. We kept all the corporate wars cards in and we used non-beginner corporations but we started everyone off with 1 production in every resource. This worked very well for moving things along and we were able to finish a full game in about an hour an a half. I do recommend trying this if you want the full game experience in a shorter time. Now I realize that the new Prelude Expansion is designed specifically for this, shortening the full game, but I don’t own that. At least not yet.
I’ve been slowly trying to introduce my kids to the world of pen and paper roleplaying. I didn’t want to be that gamer parent that forces their kids to play games and have only been introducing new games to them when they actually ask about it themselves. So it’s been a bit of a slow ride so far. Last year the kids wanted to know what “the RPG friends” play on Monday nights and I introduced them to the fantastic Mermaid Adventures game by Eloy Lasanta. This is a very simple kids RPG that only requires two D6 to play. The kids had fun with it and we will probably play again but it’s very simple.
At some point, I tried to convince Big G to try running Mermaid Adventures herself. She had read the book but was not interested in running it, only playing. I finally got her to admit that was because Mermaid Adventures was “daddy’s game” and not her’s. So last year for Xmas I got her Tales of Equestria the My Little Pony Story Telling Game. This way she would have her own game to run, if she was so inclined. My daughters are both pretty obsessed with My Little Pony so I figured it would be a good fit.
For some reason, it took Big G months to come back to the game. Out of the blue, one-day last month, she came downstairs from her room with the core rulebook in her arms. The book was filled with rainbow coloured sticky notes and she said: “Want to play my RPG?” Sadly it took about another month to get all of us to the table to play Tales of Equestria. Big G kept wanting to review rules, or we had some other things going on, or we were off to QCC, etc. Whatever the exact cause, I’m just glad she didn’t lose interest.
So yesterday afternoon, my wife, Little G and I sat down and Big G ran her first roleplaying game. It was fantastic!
First, she handed out hand-drawn character sheets from behind her handmade GM screen and walked us through character creation. I made Flash, a pegasus with the element of Loyalty who’s talent was “The Stare.” An important part of character creation (at least in her eyes) was that we draw our characters and make sure that all the equipment we bought is also drawn. That took some time but was fun. After character creation, we took a short break so my wife could start on dinner and then we got into our first adventure.
In the adventure we found ourselves having to watch the pets of the main characters in the My Little Pony universe. It was silly, over the top, fun. The mechanics reminded me of Savage World. Our stats were given a die type and when we tried something we rolled that die and tried to meet or beat a target number. Like Savage Worlds, Tales of Equestria uses exploding dice (which they call the Exploding Hoof system). Overall it seemed like a decent enough system and a solid step up from Mermaid Adventures, without being too complex. Big G did a great job of running the game and her mom and I were there to help when she got stuck, which wasn’t often.
I’m looking forward to playing more Tales of Equestria and continuing our story. We ended on a cliff-hanger with every single animal escaping the house. I’m not sure how we are going to get them all back.
That’s my week in gaming. A solid mix of rpgs and board games. What did you play this past week?