FanExpo afterthoughts! Or my ten best recollections of this year’s Convention.

1) Driving Davros

In addition to posing for this pic, I actually got to drive around in him on the convention floor. It was AWESOME!

2) Matt Smith meeting me, and checking out my book promo magnet!

He was a lot of fun to meet.

3) Slave Leila

Yeah, I’ve got nothing to add that wouldn’t be unsafe for work.

4) Running four awesome RPGs (one ended in a party wipe)

A shout out to TAG, and their team who do an excellent job of co-ordinating every year.

5)Getting invited to Kimikon at the CNE next October by Sakimichan!

She is an amazing artist!

6) Making tons of Contacts!

Everyone was amazing and outgoing and supportive.

7_ Getting a replica of John Snow’s sword!

It’s a full tang sword. It has decent balance too.

8)Connecting with a game designer to try to get a supporting RPG going for my novels.

9) The best Incredible Hulk cosplayer I’ve ever seen

I wa impressed.

And last… but not least, lunches were pretty good to.

All in all, it was four days, 56 hours, 500+ promotional magnets given out, and about 200 photos taken with cosplayers, 2 dead feet, and an unforgettable week in Toronto.

Can’t wait to next year!

Role Player! More than just a hobbyist, now an actual game.

Just amazing! 
For all of us who have pined away over those six blasted stats, trying to make the best ends of the damnable pips staring BACK AT US WHILE WE TRIED TO FORGE A Barbarian Halfling, of an Orc Wizard, this game is for us!

This game involves a drafting mechanic and dice manipulation to create a impressively simple, yet puzzling math equation that sums up to a sh!#-load of fun! On to the WAR review!

W (Worth) 8.5  okay, here is the skinny. The dice bag that comes with the game is of low-mediocre quality, but you actually get a functional dice bag. The 73 dice are of average quality, but they are the average sized dice, not the mini dice, and you get 73 of them! Ten of each colour and 13 gold dice… the makers of the game do have a sense of humour. The cardboard components are good, and the cards are well done. The wooden trackers are okay. Having said all of this, the $55.00 CDN price tag is ridiculously cheap by comparison for the contents. Especially compared to other competitive games that tend to run ten to fifteen bucks more. Well done, Thunderworks!

They replayability of this is astronomical, even including solo rules.. this amps up the replayability value.

A (Art)  7 The thematic Presentation is very well dome. The artwork itself is average in quality. Rulebook is decently arranged, and in full colour. The organizer in the box is well done, and they provide more than enough space for hopeful expansions to come. They provide ziplock bags as well. I feel compelled to point this out here, as my Roleplayer box contents looks more desirable to fish out and play than any of my Fantasy Flight Games.
R (Rules) 9.5 The complexity of this games comes from the strategic dilemmas you confront… not the rules themselves which are easy to comprehend, and are elegant in operation. Set-up is quick, with everyone grabbing a character race. (After dice are rolled to determine who goes first) then Alignments, and backstories are shuffled and dealt to all. The first player draws a die and notes the colour, taking a corresponding class of that colour. This proceeds around the table. Then the initial dicepool are drawn and rolled by the active player . This is determined by the total number of players +4. This formula mitigates the length of time each game takes.

The turns move along with a die drafting/initiative component, then die allocation phase, followed by a market phase. The clean up phase end the round. Then the next player becomes the active player.

In this manner one tries to get his character the best stat line he/she can, while trying to achieve certain goals pertaining to alignment, and backstory. Equipment, Skill, and Trait acquisition further lends depth to the character creation process.the end product is a victory point laden character that one would want to run in pathfinder, or D&D.
Overall: 8.33 This game is a MUST HAVE for any RPG affectionado. The mathematical puzzles, and tactical logic that is contained herein is incredibly fun and challenging. ‘Nuff said.

DUNKIRK! Should it help evacuate $20.00 from your wallet, or is it a lost cause?

Hey, while I am usually analyzing games, I used to be the entertainment editor for my college newspaper “The Nomad”. So it is with a hint of nostalgia that I put fingertip to iPad, and tap out this review.
Dunkirk is a big-budget film that is incredibly ambitious. Great. This sentiment describes the bulk of box-office releases in this day and age. So let’s cut to the chase.

The cinematography is par with modern IMAX productions. Not great, just average. Also the sweeping shots over the French beaches where stirring the first couple of times. By the time twenty minutes had rolled by and you pan over the beach for the 4th or 5th time, you begin to find an element of boredom setting in. Not a good scene.

I applaud the author of the screen play for his attempts to interweave three threads of story arc together. This is masterfully done. But! The shallow character development causes a lack of empathy for the trials beset upon the characters. Which is truly tragic considering the, potential for harrowing sympathy keeping us on the edges of our seats.

See the following image for a better understanding of what was actually happening at Dunkirk:

The allies were forced into a wee pocket of resistance surrounded by Panzer divisions. The mechanized Wehrmacht were testing the perimeter while the Luftwaffe strafed and bombed the beaches. The moive attempted to capture the time-sensitivity by the inane ticking of a timepiece (presumably a 1940’s pocket watch)  I thought I was supposed to be watching a cinematic telling of the evacuation of Dunkirk, not Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Tell-tale Heart.” The fragility of the situation would have been better demonstrated by more combat scenes in the village proper. There needing be many just enough interspersed to make the point.

The dog fights were realistically done. I mean acoustically everything was bang on and exhillerating. This also meant that they were visually blasé. Damn you realism!  This would have been far more palatable if the beach scenes were more appropriately orchestrated in lieu of their boring staticness. Even artists who witnessed Dunkirk had an idea to impact the audience…

In short. The Stuka dice bombers where perfect. The use of time-appropriate costuming, and equipment was spot on, if they had only taken the time to better develop the scenes.

Save your money from the beaches of Dunkirk! Wait for Netflix.
Worth: 5

Art: 3

Realism/Relevence: 8

Overall: 5.33

Descent 2nd Edition: Descent into Darkness… or just the back of my closet?

As a Fantasy author, I must admit, I spent a lot of my youth crawling around perilous dungeons. My delving career spans decades to the late Seve….w-w-well now that I think about this, you don’t need the specifics, only to know that my expertise is well grounded.
Descent tries to deepen the tabletop dungeon delving experience without having to crack out the Ol’ D&D thing? No they aren’t the first to try to pull this off.Dungeon captured the spirit or the crawl with the uncertainty of the delve Ina simple and easy to set up fashion.

Good luck finding this venerable gem.

But how does the ultramodern Descent stack up? Let’s delve into it!  On to the WAR review!

Worth: 5.33.  What gives with such a harsh mark? Simmer down, my fans… I assure you I’m not waxing romantic over some nostalgic bullish!.. Truth be told, Fantasy Flight Games have very good quality games. Production wise. The card stock is good. The pressboard sheets always come away well with little issues on tokens having crappy flash on them, or unsightly tears. Their custom dice are good as well. The card quality is good and you get a ton of stuff in the box! A ton! I swear if you curled the box 45 times a day, you’ll get the girl, and never be bullied. You might even not get picked last… well we can dream, seriously, there  is a slew of map pieces, tokens, cards, dice, and miniatures. Two books, one for rules, and the other for flavour, and campaigns. The usual failings of the FFG cardboard insert is obvious. It’s broken guys, fix it!

Where the worth begins to fail in is as follows: all those beautiful monsters could have been pre-painted (before FFG cries out “but what about those who like to customize their minis?” I have a two word rebuttal for them. “Black Primer”.   The other intensely devaluing element to this it simple…. the set up time is to long. By the time I’ve finished setting up for a supposed beer and pretzels casual dungeon delving night, I’ve likely could have hade every one outfitted with level one characters and already gotten them out of the tavern in a modular called The Keep on the Borderlands.. this prolonged set-up is a major detractor from the desire to visit the game much at all, if ever again. There are just other, faster set up games with the same flavour. This hurts the 98 CDN$ price tag.  Enough said. Let’s move on!

Art: 7.5.  As I alluded to above, this is a pretty set of components. The book’s layouts are visually compelling and colourful. The map tiles are stunning, stuffed with detail, and their puzzle interlocking elements work well together. The multi-coloured dice are good quality and look as such. The minis are all stunningly well-sculpted. I reinforce here they should have been painted. The folks aren’t buying a euro-game here. Nor are they Jessica Riley committed to the hobby to paint their minis. Those who are…black primer solves for over-paints. The cards are well inked, and they have nice artwork on the character cards. The tokens are cleverly designed. They are cut beads of sweat for stamina, and hearts for health. All inking is good. The art is good. FFG did well over all here. 

Rules: 7. Okay, let’s get the sticky bits out of the way first: the writers are often obtuse in where they stash their rules. So the learning curve is a little slanted. Get better organized guys. It’ll help your clientele! Following up this minor glitch, is the nice adversarial relationship put on the poor sot who has to take the role of the overseer. This isn’t to bad if you got a DM/GM who like the gig. Otherwise, Sword and Sorcery, to its ilk, that pits the game itself against the players may be a better Schtick for you. Just an element to consider. The rules mechanics themselves are smooth and streamlined. They’re all very sensible. They’re straight forward. There is nothing here that is new though. All have been done in some iteration, or another. There is one exception to this. The incorporation of the surge icon and number icon to provoke special events/abilities or to determine if a ranged weapon hits its target respectively are kind of cool and somewhat unique.the conditions that can effect the heros are clean and balanced. The stat line for each hero seemed a little arbitrary and not diverse enough to make them feel particularly specialized. Over all they were okay.this game is mechanically well balanced, and mechanically smooth. The situation rules for specific scenarios all seem to be evenly applied.
Overall:  6.43.  The attempt to have an ongoing campaign is cool and the two-act scenarios with dynamic changes to the latter act depending on the outcome of the former scenario is clever…if not the set up times. There are just better options out there to herald a dungeon crawl that don’t require half the evening for set up for a 45 minute run.

Please leave any thoughts in the comments below. Also if you know a better dungeon crawling game that I don’t need to back to the 80’s to get, likewise leave it in the comments. I’ll be sure to check them out. I may even review them!


Updates! Also appearances coming up in August


Yup, I’m still alive! In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to for my absence from posting for the last while, allow me to assure you, the time (other than my sickness, of the upper respiratory variety) has been well spent.

Firstly I’ll be posting a review of Descent, 2nd Edition, Descent into Darkness. Secondly, I have been working on a Fate Core survival one-shot titled “the last game of the season.”.

I have also been getting all of my ducks in a row for my upcoming book release. That is more work than actually writing the manuscript. The Chronicles of Crallick will enjoy its world-wide release November 16th. The Spirit of Amathrain series launches with that title. I hope you will enjoy the rid right along with me.

Now while most of you are looking forward to my next game review, and several are curious about my novel, I’m sure the bulk of you are wondering, “Why should I care if you’re working on a Fate survival one-shot?”

Well, I’m glad you came out with that query. You should care if you happen to be in Toronto Ontario, on the weekend of August 29th–Sept 1st. For the second year running, I will be making an appearance at Canada’s Fan Expo. It is held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.posted above is the schedule of the games I will be running, so if you desire to find out just what kind of story teller I am…you needn’t look for your opportunity. Nor do you need to wait til November.

I hope to see some of you there! Here is the FanExpo link for details about the convention: 

The Fate of FATE Core Rules. Fate Review.

Fate is a Role-playing Game system like no other!

Imagine, if you will, a system as versatile as GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) from Steve Jackson Games, but with way less math and short character creation time. Then Throw in the most intuitive mechanics you can find, and what are you left with? The awnser is a system that has new players take to it like a fish to water and leaves veteran gamers flummoxed over their inability to min-max. Or to hedge their bets with a concrete stat line.

That’s right… NO STAT line!
With that rattling about in your delicate brain pan, let’s break this bitch down, on to the review!
Worth: 10. Yeah, that’s right….the first perfect score I’ve granted on this site. Congrats to Evil Hat Games. While they are not the largest company around, they not only provide a FREE (donate what you will) PDF version, but their hardcover rule book, I paid a whopping $25.00 for. CDN. The 291 page core rulebook retails for less than a20 page softcover module for some dungeons-type game. The dice are sold separately, but are industry standard dice prices for nice custom to fate rules dice, but wait! If 12$ CDN is too much for your wee pocketbook, (total is still less than the PHB for D&D) then grab four of your Yahtzee dice, and tell your grandma the dog ate them. The last component is to get some tokens for Fate points. Dollar store poker chips will do nicely. Or snacks… just remember not to eat your fate pool!

As for replayability, RPGs are inherently great in this category… even the cumbersome GURPS which is the second most complex in the history of the genre. (Role-Master still holds the title, and GURPS is quickly chased by Traveller) with the open ended vibe of Fate, this system does this job very well. There are several expansions to help give you inspiration, but I truly feel these are unless I are. Just ramp up your imagination to eleven and get busy creating.
ART  9, Evil Hat Games does what it can on a limited budget. What is presented is clean, professional, and well organized. For those using the PDF, it comes across mildly disjointed, unless in two-page mode. Also their efforts to cross-genre emphasize the system potential is mildly skewed. Those minor nit-picky points aside. Bang up job. Only lost a half point there. The other half point is hit on character sheet Design. Could have been a little better in layout.
Rules: 9.5.  As I established, I hate giving perfect scores as it implies there is no room for improvement. In the worth of this game, I find that to be the case. As for the rules?  Here we go! First character design is based on a series of self-made aspects and then a physical description. Then you stack a pyramid of skills that are very subject to interpretation. Don’t like vague skills? No problem, Evil Hat Games says make them whatever you want. AWESOME!  Then you polish off your character with stunts, and gear, and give them a few Fate points to spend, and then you’re off to your adventure! 

The gameplay is very organic, using four +/ /- three sided dice to determine variance. As these are strongly weighted towards zero, how you used the environment, your own aspects, and skills becomes very important. I love the organic feel of these interactions. It boils down to overcoming something, creating an advantage, or contesting something. It’s elegant, promotes creativity, and stymies those min-makers who always succeed. You know who you are.
Combat is clever. To learn more… bu the book. Allow me to say, it’s quick, intuitive, and doesn’t get overly bogged down.
Overall 9.5  If you only ever want to try out one RPG in your life…make it this one. You will not be disappointed.

Gloom: Fairytales, if Misery Loves Company, then Break Out the Good China!

Hey guys, I know I plugged a review of Descent, and its in the Works. But this little gem cropped up on my radar and I just had to give it a whirl. Here are my thoughts on Gloom: Fairytale Edition.

Fairytale gloom is an instalment of the Gloom franchise. There is the original Gloom title, and the newest Gloom in Space. As a fantasy author, I felt drawn to this title, but rest assured the others all hold their themes equally well.
Gloom is a card game with transparency designed cards. This allows layering of effects on cards below in a clever mechanic. The objective of these games is simple, albeit perverse. You must make your family of four as miserable as possible while killing them off swiftly at the height of their distress. While you are tackling this task, you are trying to cheer your opponents familia meme era up.  Failing that, you try to kill them off in a manner that prevents them from being to unhappy in the afterlife.

The first person to have their fourth family member die triggers the end of the game. The points of each player’s dead are tallied up, and the victor is declared. Survivors don’t count. After all, they didn’t even have the decency to die when you needed them most.

I have streamlined my categories for my criteria in critiquing games from the cumbersome 9 sections to three. W.A.R.

W: Worth: this will cover the Value, Replayability, and Fun Factor elements of a game.

A: Art: this will cover Art Design, Thematic Content, and elements of Organization.

R: Rules: This field will handle the complexity, the mechanics (how clever, intuitive, original), organization of the rules as well.

Overall will remain unchanged.
Worth: 8 the quality of the cards seems to be very good. They are flexible enough to be durable without being flimsy. They are a little slippery when trying to shuffle the deck. Be cautious! The inking process may wear after extended use, but that will have to be assessed at a later date. The packaging is compact and organized well. The 30.00$ CDN seems worthwhile. Due to the encouragement of story telling while playing this game, there is loads of opportunity to crack this game out again and again.

Art: 9, The theme is consistent throughout the game. The art Design is lavishly gothic, and beatifully applied. Even the mechanic of layering modifiers onto cards helps to add the many layers of onion like appeal. (Quote from Sheri) the box is organized as well as a small cardboard box can be. I found a swarm of plastic cards all throughout my laptop bag, so durability of the container is an issue.

Rules: 9, play runs smoothly through turns that are comprised of taking two plays, or killing one character, and pretty much doing what is told you in the card text boxes. Easy. The end of the turn is marked. By drawing up to your hand size of five cards. Scoring is like golf… the lower self worth your dead family members have, the better. The whole game is best served with a healthy dose of players narrating the events of the cards. 
That’s it in a nutshell.. so go forth, have fun, and remember, cheer up your neighbour. You only hurt the ones you love.
Overall: 8.67

So there you have it, Gloom Fairytale. Please let me know what you think of the new review format in the comments below.