Thursday, May 19, 2016

Savage Rifts Kickstarter Ends Today

If anyone is still thinking about getting in the Rifts Savage Worlds conversion Kickstarter ends tonight, around 9pm Central. I backed it because I am interested in both the Rifts setting and using Savage Worlds to run it and I believe the answer to my "Will I ever run this?" question is a definite yes!

Anyway, just a PSA for anyone interested but not yet committed.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Side Quests - Star Trek Online goes Backwards and Sideways


Star Trek Online has had two big announcements this week. The first was news of a new expansion coming this summer that is all about the Original Series. The intro video is here and I think it looks great, but that is coming from a guy who runs a full set of retro-blue phasers on my Galaxy-X. So in general I think it's cool.

I have to say though that even with the 50th anniversary of TOS I am not sure a federation-centric TOS expansion is what the game really needs. There is already a whole story arc dealing with time travel to the TOS era. It's one of my favorites, but the whole game is set in the Next Gen era and devoting a whole expansion to going backwards seems a little off, a dead-end in a lot of ways. I know a lot of people would like to see something more like the Cardassians added as a playable faction - something more focused around the action in the 2400s. I'm not going to be a naysayer just yet but I've had 5 years to get used to the TOS era being referenced in but not focused on in the game and I don't feel like it's a missing piece of the game. It could be a lot of fun though, so I will wait and see.  


I'd say this one is a pretty big deal too. Being available on the two big consoles in free to play form means a ton of new business. Plus, those who might have been interested before but didn't have a PC capable of running the game now have a great option, especially if they (or the kids) already have a console. new expansion or not this would be pretty big news on its own. There's a video for it too here. The Odysseys are very pretty ships.

Anyway, that's a lot of news for online games recently. It's an interesting time for sure.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Side Quests - Marvel Heroes Civil War Extravaganza

I won't typically do back to back posts on computer games but we have some overlapping events this week - it's a good problem to have!

Before we get into the event details let me say something about the game: It is truly free to play. You can play any of the heroes in the game (55 of them right now)  up to level 10 then choose one to uncap (playable to level 60).  The second day you log in you will be awarded 400 eternity splinters (the in-game means by which you buy heroes) which is enough to unlock another hero for free. With the event below you can also pick a free Iron Man or Captain America as well. So there's potentially 3 free heroes as of the second day you log in to the game. Eternity splinters both drop regularly during play and are awarded as part of the log-in rewards. There are heroes that unlock at 200, 400, and 600 splinters. June is the anniversary month for the game and there are typically a ton of giveaways during that as well, including a free hero at some point. With May full of Civil War and June full of anniversary it's a great time to join in and find out if you like it.

Midtown Madness can get pretty crazy

The Civil War tie-in is MH's biggest event yet. I'm just going to cut and paste the info below:

Starting this Friday, May 6th, we will be kicking off our first event of the month and will continue through the coming weeks.


  • Crossbones in Patrol Modes - Crossbones and his band of mercenaries have begun terrorizing civilians in Hightown Patrol, Industry City Patrol and Midtown Manhattan Patrol. It is up to our heroes to go in there and stop him before more innocents are caught in the crossfire!
  • Madripoor Bazaar Chase - Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D have been busy tracking Crossbones and have located him in a heavily populated Bazaar located in Madripoor. Many innocent civilians are trapped and only our heroes can go in and help them! The chase ends with a confrontation with Crossbones that will have a very polarizing effect on the world and their opinions on super heroes.
  • Bonus Experience - All of the playable heroes in Captain America: Civil War will get 50% bonus experience! This includes Captain America, Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Black Widow, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Spider-Man!
  • Edit: Due to player requests, we will also be doing 50% base bonus experience for all playables.
  • Giveaways - We will be sending out 2 codes later this week, one for each side in the Civil War. You will be able to redeem only one of the codes in order to declare your allegiance! The codes will give you either a FREE Iron Man and Team Iron Man Mystery Box, or a FREE Captain America and Captain America Mystery Box! These codes will only be available for a VERY short time, so be sure to claim them quickly once we send them out!
  • Civil War! - After the events of Madripoor, lines are drawn between Super Heroes and you must choose a side! Raise you influence with your team by doing daily missions and hunting down Super Villains. Will you do what it takes to ensure your side is the winning side, even if it means fighting other Super Heroes?
  • Tournament - Prove your allegiance by working with other players in a Civil War tournament, where the rewards are not based on individual placement, but team performance!
  • Bonus Experience - All of the playable heroes in Captain America: Civil War will get 100% bonus experience!
  • All the new Civil War related game content from the previous 2 weeks!
  • All the new Civil War related event content from the previous 2 weeks!
  • Bonus Experience - All of the playable heroes in Captain America: Civil War will get 150% bonus experience!
  • Civil War Game Modes, patrol bosses, event components will be going away!
  • Odin's Bounty Returns!
It's a pretty slick game. It's not one I play for six hours in one sitting but you can jump in for an hour here and an hour there and have a good time. There are a lot of resources online about missions, characters, builds, etc if you do get into it. It's family-friendly as there's not a bunch of blood etc so it can be fun to jump on with the kids and run around as a team. It's also life-friendly as I mentioned above - you can jump in for short runs and the game works just fine. It's not a complete City of Heroes replacement but it does let you team up with a group of fellow heroes and run the streets fighting bad guys and that's a great thing to have again.

Edit: And of course later on the day I post this it turns out there's a new "new player experience" coming as well. Take a look here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Side Quests - The Old Republic's May 4th Celebration

I try not to shill too hard for these kinds of things but I've been getting back into SWTOR and they do have a nice set of bonuses going on right now:
  • Free droid pet - you'll have a collection of these fairly quick if you play regularly but one more isn't a bad thing
  • Double XP:  May 3rd through May 10th, then again from May 27th through May 30th.
  • Free level 60 character: Apparently if you start a free trial by May 30th you get an insta-60 to run through the current (and expanding) Knights of the Fallen Empire story. That's pretty nice.
Based on those perks, if you're at all interested in some Star Wars computer RPG action it's a great game with a great story for each of the 8 classes and it is completely playable as a free player. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

40K Friday - Eldar Expansion

While building this new army I have tried to take a modular approach. By that I mean this: acquiring, building, and painting specific chunks of an army small enough to get painted in a reasonable amount of time and that make up a single unit or formation. In the end it's all stuff that goes into the mix but it feels more organized for now.

For example I started with a farseer, some dire avengers, and some rangers - the basic HQ + 2 Troops that everyone loves for the core of a combined arms detachment. Next up was the wraith host which is also a separate formation so I could play one or the other or both or add some of the pieces of the host in as elites and heavy support to the CAD. A Falcon and a squad of fire dragons adds more options under the CAD, together or separately. A squad of striking scorpions, some swooping hawks,  and some more dire avengers open up some additional options beyond their normal CAD role via the Aspect Host or Dire Avenger Shrine formations. For Apprentice Blaster I tried to stick to the same concept in helping him get his Eldar going by making sure he had a pair of jetbike squadrons and a jetbike farseer to form a new core of his force. It's not just picking up a squad here or a vehicle there, it's trying to add a discrete element of the army as a whole piece. This is my attempt to follow an orderly approach.

A fair amount of this stuff is already painted so I can field a decent looking force, but I am always thinking about the next set of units to add. The triple dark reaper squads are present but unpainted and are high on the to-be-painted list because I plan on using them a lot. The swoops are up there too as I like to take at least one squad in most battles. I did recently realize that I had been heavily focused on aspect warriors and wraith units (I knew about those) but I really had not come up with a plan for the guardian units - defender squads, vypers, war walkers, etc. I have a bunch of them but I haven't done any work on them. This is supposed to be an Iyanden force as far as themes go but I would also like it to be my "everything eldar" army so building a Guardian Host formation makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure how much I will field it (I'm more a fan of the wraiths+ aspects right now) but for those really big battles it's a nice option to have.

After deciding to plan this out the one unit I did not have that the formation requires was a support battery. This is partly because in prior editions I didn't care for them all that much and lately they've been hard to find and expensive when you do. Eventually I found a full set of the prior metal models at a price I could stand and bit the bullet. They are the mini's in the picture at the top. I think they should be fairly quick to paint and I'll probably field them as a heavy support option in the CAD before I ever field a Guardian Host. I'm going to build them with the vibro cannon barrels as shown above because I think they look the coolest but I'll be fielding them as D-Cannons because I like those the best in-play. Eldar can be tricky you know. People do seem to be having some success with them and if I'm not fielding the wraith units for some reason it's another way to get some d-weapons on the table. They only have a 24" range but that's a 24" box where no one really wants to be. I'm pretty sure I'm going to give them a warlock babysitter as well to try and keep them around a little longer.

Up next for painting as of late April: Wraithknight, Dark Reapers, Swooping Hawks, and gun batteries

Building as of late April: Vypers, War Walkers, Dark Eldar (more on that next week)

Ah, the good old days
So what's next? Vehicles, namely transports.  I have one painted falcon and two unpainted wave serpents. I'm fine with my eventual guardian host being ground pounders, while the dragons ride in the falcon, the scorpions infiltrate, and the reapers are foot units for sure. I'd like the wraithguard to have rides and my two current wave serpents are probably destined for that duty. Beyond that I do have a vision of a fully-manned, fully-mechanized Avenger Shrine with 30 of them in 3 serpents zooming across the board, disembarking, and unleashing massive shuriken death on some unfortunate souls. It would probably have to be instead of the reapers or the wraith host in any normal-sized battle but a man can dream. After that and once the massed guardians are finished, I think the army is done except for some fine tuning.

Next week: progress on the Dark Eldar allies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The FLGS Part 2 - The Future

GenerationX - My FLGS of choice

I talked about my personal experience with game stores in an earlier post - but what does the future hold? What will be the ultimate fate of the FLGS?

Let me take a side step and bring in a semi-related topic: computer games. I used to buy computer games in dedicated computer stores, in more general electronics stores, and even in used book stores. Today they are like almost all of my music and some of my movies: mostly purchased online and downloaded from Steam or GOG. Remember when people were afraid to download things from the internet? When it seemed very impermanent? I think the last computer game I bought in a store was Starcraft II a few years back when Target had a really good deal. I used to enjoy browsing the PC game section at Half Price Books because you could find older games there, but now GOG (and Steam too) handles that, in addition to making sure they work on modern systems and removing all worries of a scratched or broken disk. Sure, I miss the big box with a real printed manual, a map, and maybe some extra doodad in it, but nobody does that anymore. Time, technology, and changing tastes can shatter any business and warp any hobby.

The FLGS is in a slightly better position because they're not selling a digital product - they're selling physical, tactile games:

  • Card games tend to be the bread and butter and I don't see that changing any time soon. I don't think printing your own cards at home will become a thing anytime soon as there are too many ways to cheat and it destroys the whole concept of collectibility. 
  • I think the boardgame revival of say the last 5-10 years came along at a great time as it extends the life of the FLGS both as a place to buy a boardgame and a place to play them. One of the elements of that revival has been "nicer" games with fancier components and miniature-like pieces and I don't see that being a homemade option for years either.
  • Miniature games are less of a sure thing for me. There's a lot of cool stuff out there now but home 3D printers are rapidly getting better and cheaper. There was a time when we had to go find a copy machine to print sheets for Battletech, Star Fleet Battles, and D&D. I haven't done that in maybe two decades. If you don't believe me take a look at this - it's #5 on DTRPG's hot sellers list as I write this. If you're going to have to paint them at home, why not make them at home - legally! Once the miniatures are all about the pattern and not the physical item, all that's left are the rulebooks and  - well, see below.
  • RPG's are also an uncertain commodity for me. They're mainly sold in book form, and there are two problems there: Drive-Thru RPG and Amazon. In my experience gamers tend to be cheap as money is tight when you're young and have the time to play all of those games that are out there. Older gamers tend to stick to games they already know (in general - not everyone all the time) and while they will lay out $150 for the leather-covered-gilt-edged hardback version of  Runequest 1979 edition on a Kickstarter that's not really helping the FLGS keep the lights on. I'm just not sure RPG's are all that much a part of the future.

I'm not sure that just selling games is enough to have a bright future. Space to play is a common feature today and a lot of stores sell snacks and drinks to take advantage of that - more power to them I say, especially if that really adds to the bottom line. I've seen some opinions online that a future FLGS could charge to play, either by time or by space and maybe that's an option but I don't really see it as viable. This is probably where I should talk about my personal experience again:

I've never played an RPG in a store, gaming or otherwise. In junior high and high school we played at someone's house. In college we played in someone's house, dorm, or apartment or in a common area in the student center. Once I was past the school years we again played in someone's house or apartment. I know my experience is not universal, and I am probably not the primary target anymore,  but I don't think I am that unusual of a case. A game store is a terrible environment to try and run a game in my opinion. It's noisy and it's as full of distractions for gamers as any place on earth. Add in some passerby conversation and it's never going to look as good to me as almost anywhere else. With local RPG groups on social media and more and more ways to play online there will be an ever-shrinking need to go to the store to find a game.

In contrast I have played card games, I have played boardgames, and I've played quite a few miniature games in stores and they work fine. Why? Well, most of the time it's a two-player game, it's competitive (there's a winner and a loser), and they are shorter than a typical RPG session. All of these things mitigate the downsides (to me) of playing in a store. In addition the individual components of card games and games like X-Wing tend to be far less expensive and have far less of a discount online - 20% off a $50 book is a lot more noticeable than 20% off of a $14 Tie Fighter or a $10 pack of cards.  Also, RPG's tend to be played with a group of people you know to build a campaign over time while the more competitive games can be enjoyed with total strangers as a one-off experience. Sure, there are one-shot convention type modules but I would argue that those are unusual ways to play an RPG whereas they are the standard way to play a lot of the other types of games.

Now that I've given my experiences you can understand why I think trying to charge RPG players for space to play will never be a great source of revenue - because there is always somewhere else you can play for free, and it's probably a better environment anyway. try charging people to play and you lose the potential for impulse buys of games and of snacks and drinks and the cross-pollination effect of having games in action in the store getting noticed by other people.

The local Cinemark - my movie viewing establishment of choice
I've seen some suggestions to take this concept to the extreme and open a "gaming cafe" establishment that mainly sells space, food, and drinks. I think that's a terrible idea as I don't think there are enough gamers out there willing to spend enough time and money at that kind of place to keep the doors open. Plus, calling it a "gamer cafe" or a "gamer tavern" pretty much tells the other 90% of the population to walk on by. I can see it maybe working in a college town, close to the college, but even then I think you'd have to have a pretty solid business plan. In some way it has to be "better" than playing at home for it to work and that's a tall order. I've seen it compared to movies out versus movies at home and that's not a great example - sure, I have a nice TV, a fast internet connection, movie channels, and a pile of DVD's and Blu-Ray's, but I don't have a building-sized screen and the newest movies - if I want those I have to go out! What's the comparable "gotta have" thing that a game store/gaming cafe has over my game room at home? I've yet to hear a strong answer to this.

I know a lot of British gaming clubs have dues and use the money to keep a playing space - that makes more sense to me than trying to turn it into a business but that doesn't help the FLGS.

RPGs aside stores do charge people to play in card and mini tournaments and they seem to do just fine and I wouldn't expect that to change anytime soon - they're competitive events so the cost to enter is offset by both the experience and the chance that you will win! It's a totally different type of experience than a typical RPG and that's why it works.

These things drive my prognostications directly. I think that Magic and other card games and their associated events will continue to be a major factor in keeping the FLGS alive. There are two generations who see this as a "normal" thing when it comes to playing  these kinds of games. Miniatures games, especially pre-painted simpler ones like X-Wing, will be the next biggest factor. Traditional miniature games will decline but not die off completely for another 5-10 years and the events associated with them will still play a role as well. Boardgames will be a player too but I don't see them jumping to the top of the heap in most places. RPGs will continue to decline to where the RPG section in the game store looks like the PC game section at Best Buy these days.

A new type of RPGer will become increasingly common, one who meets people online, buys their books online, and meets up to play at a school or house or apartment or dorm without ever setting foot in a game store. I'm sure they will eventually go to one, maybe to play with an existing group or in some organized play event, but they won't be going to buy games as their primary purpose.

That's about as far as I can see. If anything ever happened to Magic I could see stores crashing all over but as long as it's there, or if something even bigger comes along (something like X-wing) then they have a chance.