GenCon, Nine Worlds and What’s Coming Up

I think I’m getting old. I spent all of last weekend at Nine Worlds complaining about how tired I was, how stupid it was to attend the week after GenCon, and how I’d never be that stupid again. So I was pretty surprised to look back at old blog posts and learn that not only did I do the same cons back-to-back two years ago, but that I seemed pretty chipper by the end of it. The weary refrain of all men in their late-twenties: grant me the long-lost vigour of my mid-twenties. Continue reading

GenCon 2016: Day Two

Halfway through the con and I’ve still not played any roleplaying games! No games of any kind in fact, except for yesterday’s Dresden Files co-op card game demonstration. This is something I’ll definitely be fixing tomorrow, and to be fair social considerations have taken up a big chunk of my Friday – including reuniting with an old friend that I’m delighted to see again after such a long time of separation. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Only War

Every time I return to the 40K RPG after playing something else, my dismay at its slow, dated, overdesigned combat system increases. How much can I forgive this game for, when the only reason I’m playing is that I’m a Warhammer fanboy? Turns out quite a lot. Dark Heresy Second Edition might represent the system at its most elegant (or perhaps just “most sensible”), but Only War’s focus on the soldiers of the Imperial Guard is surely the best representation of the 40K setting. Back on the battlefield, but without sacrificing humanity to get there, this is what the Grim Darkness of the Far Future is all about. Continue reading

What I Think About Age of Sigmar

After a year of destroying the Warhammer world piece by piece, Games Workshop called an official end to the game’s 8th edition a few weeks ago by releasing the rules for “Age of Sigmar” online. A substantial departure from all previous versions of Warhammer, Age of Sigmar isn’t so much a 9th edition as it is a replacement for a retired game that it happens to share a thin sliver of continuity with.

Gone is the rulebook five hundred pages long, replaced with a 4 page PDF that contains all you need to play except stats for individual units. Gone too are the 15 standalone armies, trimmed down to a mere 4 factions. A radically different set of mechanics have transformed Age of Sigmar into a skirmish game rather than a mass battle system. Perhaps most controversial of all, units are no longer assigned points costs, a measure that historically ensured players selected armies of equivalent power for a balanced encounter. Instead, now players just use the figures they want to play with.

The reaction of the game’s established fanbase, has been… hostile. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Deathwatch

Even though Space Marines are the poster boys of Warhammer 40K, I still remember the raised eyebrows when Fantasy Flight Games announced they’d be getting their own RPG.  Psycho-conditioned, fascistic, meathead superhumans don’t sound like the most fun characters to roleplay, unless you want every PC to sound exactly the same.  But I remained optimistic.  A military-themed RPG sounded interesting to me, and the different Chapters of Space Marines distinctive enough to present a variety of roleplaying options.  To be fair, Deathwatch makes a concerted effort to reflect these themes in the mechanics.  It’s a shame that those extra rules are the straw that breaks the camel’s back in an already overloaded and sluggish system. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Rogue Trader

When making an RPG adaptation of a miniatures wargame, nuance and crunch in combat is expected. You have to do the source material justice, and since “In the 41st Millennium there is Only War”, a 40K RPG is always going to put the violence centre stage. But there’s a difference between presenting tactical options and needlessly complicating things, and crunchy should not mean clunky. The sheer number of difficulty modifiers in Rogue Trader is impossible to remember, necessitating reference material at every gaming session. Combine that with incredibly long lists of skills, talents and wargear, and the “strategy” of Rogue Trader’s combat is more about knowing all the rules and remembering which apply than it is about skillful manipulation of your environment. Continue reading