Category: News

Alleycon 2014 – A local gaming/fandom con in Gwangju

Last year a small geek fandom con dubbed, Alleycon, was run at a local eatery in Gwangju, Korea. This Sept. 27 it’ll be hosted in a larger venue at the Gwangju Women’s University. Last year the event was pretty fun and it looks like it’ll be bigger this year with some more guests and organized events.

Pre-registration I believe is closed, but seems there is still quite a few passes left so registration at the door shouldn’t be an issue. Not certain about the costs, but all day passes should run between 20,000-30,000 kwon. Best of all many con events will have proceeds going to a local orphanage. So you can spend some cash picking up (and playing) some geek-centric items and ease that guilt a little knowing you are doing some good at the same time.

There’ll be a cosplay contest, video games, some Q&A sessions via skype with some sci-fi authors, and a bevy of tabletop gaming. Along with set events, there will also be a room with open tables. So if you are itching to throw down and try out a game in your collection, this might be a great chance to try it out with a few like minded folks.

I’ll be running a Bolt Action demo game and also a Savage Worlds WWII game. Last year I did something similar and had a good time running events as most of my players had not tried RPGs or miniature wargames before. So it’s always a treat to give folks a chance to see what the hubub of gaming is all about.

Why is the starter set for D&D ignored?

So news has hit like a ton of bricks about the release schedule for DnDnext. EN World got a scoop and have followed up the official announcement over on the WotC main page. Two big things that stand out are a staggered release for the core books with the DMG rounding up the group last. The next bit of news that seems to get a lot of chatter are the prices, which tips in at $50 a book.

That’s pretty hefty. I can totally see how folks could be put off by that. Some also have been pretty vocal about the price of entry for the new edition being too high, so high they aren’t going to bother. What I don’t get is how the starter set is completely ignored by them.

I guess people are imagining the worst with the starter set. Honestly I felt much of the past introduction products for 4E were lackluster. However I have hopes for the new boxed set. I really have a vibe they are going for a more complete product with the introductory box.

One thing that stands out is that the boxed set will allow characters to jump up to 5th level. Hopefully there will be some rules for character generation. Some of which that has been hinted looks positive:

However there are some other comments that make me wonder if WotC will adopt a more open approach to getting those rules out. There might be slimmed down rule PDFs or an online character generator:

This last bit makes sense. The public playtest rules are out in the wild. While torrents are illegal, folks at WotC have to recognize stuff is out there, so why not embrace it somewhat and provide free, legal PDFs of their own? More importantly, if there are tweaks to abilities, spells, and powers, an electronic version can be pulled and a new errata version put up. It could be a nice way to ensure players are bringing up-to-date characters around the table at public play events.

The starter set might be lackluster with just pregens and a simple basic adventure. However it might also be a pretty phenomenal product. It might have the muscle in rules and material to be the only thing needed to play D&D. If you really want options and the full plethora of creatures, treasure, and classes, the core books are the way to go. But if you want to play a game and get a few levels in for some characters, the starter set might be a solid option.

It may very well be the product that everyone points to and says, ‘This is what you need to play D&D.‘ It’s only $20 too. A great price for hopefully a great product to get people playing D&D. Maybe with all the gnashing of teeth and ire over the core books, folks need to remember there is a product that will be out there made especially for those that want to try D&D out, and it’s far less than the $150 price tag of the core books.

New fleet documents for Firestorm Armada

As the new version of Firestorm Armada is on the shelves, Spartan Games has put up new fleet files for the major races in the game. From their download section it appears that much of the older files will be slowly getting the 2.0 treatment. So if you are a fan of the game, you might want to keep an eye on the downloads section of their site.

Overall the fleet documents look pretty cool. It seems that games are codified into tiers and points depending on the type of fleet you want to play. For a specific point value game, you have a few choices for each tier. Tier 1 being your command battleship class vessels, tier 2 being the cruisers, and tier 3 being frigates and escorts. The higher point values, the more options you have and the bigger the squadrons. For most of the races there isn’t much difference but some allow for more squadrons of lower tier ships. It’s a bit more regimented than before which I like.

Looking over the ship stats the larger vessels have hard points. You can then pay for specific weapon and defensive systems up to that hard point value. It’s a nice way to tweak your forces and try out different weapon layouts. So not all carriers or battleships are alike.

Model assigned rules (MARs) seems codified now so that nearly every ship save for the smallest frigates have racial special rules. Another layer of variation is that weapon systems appear to have different keywords. There are still primary weapons and torpedoes, but also beam, scatter, kinetic weapons, etc. What is nice is that most frigate ships have the option of also having these special weapon systems. Again, another way to tweak and customize your fleet giving it some flavor.

The profiles for battle stations are also presented. Overall they look like floating masses of guns and hull points. They appear pretty immobile. It might make for some interesting scenarios representing a recon in force or a border skirmish.

I like Firestorm Armada but always felt that the rules didn’t allow for some more variety in the races. It was just little differences, or incorporating more flexibility with weapon arcs (one group had turrets, one had gun racks, etc.). While there were some unique technologies like cloaking, for the most part they were all the same. The optional MARs rules for the different races helped alleviate this but it wasn’t part of the official game. Now they have seemed to have really embraced that concept.

I’ll be blunt, I am a bit miffed that this follows on the heels of a new rule book so soon. Like they wanted to roll out a new book incorporating new ideas, but realized it didn’t go far enough. I understand the position they were in. Either they stick by a rule set that isn’t dynamic enough for the game they wanted, or just go for it and put better rules. For new players, I think this will be a great system. For older players, I can see why some feel a little burned. It’s almost treading on Games Workshop-rollover-of-product territory. But looking at these fleet rules, I am digging the direction they are going with FA. It seems worth getting behind this new book.

New boxed set for Firestorm Armada

I’m sorta going through a love/hate relationship with Spartan Games. I think they sort of painted themselves in a corner with Firestorm Armada. They cranked out a hardback book to be a ‘definitive’ edition of the rules, then realized the game was not as deep as they wanted. The core mechanics are sound and there was some variation in the ship designs and systems but it just barely scratched the surface. The MARs (Model Assigned Rules) only dabbled a bit with different units and never really expanded beyond a few models. It’s a shame as with all the different races there was certainly room to expand on that concept more. With Dystopian Wars, they really saw how popular MARs was with players and having nation/faction bonuses really made the game more interesting.

A short while back I stumbled across an announcement of a FA 2.0 rulebook which had some details on the new direction of the game. Now being announced is Storm Zone: Battle for Valhalla which is a new boxed set. It looks pretty neat and has rules, tokens, dice, 2 starter fleets, tactic cards, and what looks like cool fighter stands. The price is pretty hefty tagging in about $130 USD, but it looks like you get 2 complete fleets with the set. I really dig the look of the new Terran fleet models and have to say Spartan Games seem to be really improving their sculpts.

One thing that stands out for me are the Tactic Fleet cards. I sort of liked the STAR deck as an addition to the base game. A form of short term bonuses you could employ for your fleet and the more ships you had, the larger your hand (meaning the more options available). It looks like it’ll be tweaked some but I like that FA is dabbling into this somewhat. How core to the play experience is another question, but it may just be an option which would be nice. A little something to add a wrinkle to your typical session.

There is a slight cloud on the horizon with this game. Spartan Games seems to recognize a need to have material that can accommodate older players with the new edition. What worries me is they’ve seemed to have gone a Games Workshop route with a rapid turnover of the rules. I expect the models will be interchangeable, but having fans that have gone through 3 rule books in the space of 4 years seems pretty drastic. I’m certain some will throw in the towel with the game. However another part of me recognizes that they have to bite the bullet as they realized the rules just aren’t as robust as what people want. Core changes to ships and fleets need to be done to allow for some variety in the races, translating to different fleet tactics and a deeper game overall. I’m a little torn with the announcement of these rules. While I have some desire to pick them up, I also realize it’s plunking down another chunk of money while I ignore a growing stack of outdated books I currently own (and thank god I didn’t pick up Marauders of the Rift).

Firestorm Armada 2nd Edition Announced

A while back I lamented the release of the rules for Firestorm Armada. I’m a fan of the game and figured with the free rules being released, that was pretty much a death toll for the game. Well it seems like FA is getting a second edition treatment of the rules. And much of it looks pretty good.

I am digging the options for altering ship systems on the fly, granting more power to movement or defensive systems. I am also really excited about the different alien race weapon systems. When Dystopian Wars was released, they really got into the model assigned rules giving units some flavor. FA screamed for this treatment and MAR stuff was released for the game, but not really developed. A racial MAR document was floating around, but never really was folded up officially in the revamp of the rules. Looks like the second edition will address that.

We’ll see how it pans out. On one hand, I’m happy to see the rules getting a revamp. On another, I feel a little burned that the turnover with the rule books were so rapid. Hopefully it won’t sour folks too much on giving FA a try. I really think the rules needed a revamp. The ‘reprint’ of the first edition cleaned up some rules, but didn’t add much to the game. It does look like you will get a much deeper, tactical treatment of space fleet combat. Hopefully Spartan Games can shed it’s image of rapid turn over of rules to give FA some legs.

The Agents: a Card Game on Kickstarter

I’m sometimes on the prowl for new games through Kickstarter and a recent campaign really got my interest. The Agents is a turn-based card game that has a great theme and looks to be an interesting take on card-based mechanics.

Developed by Saar Shai, players take the role of independent intelligence groups controlling recently disenfranchised agents. Without clear instructions, these agents try to navigate a new world where they go to the highest bidder in a world of secrets, deception, and treachery.

As a player in the game, you are trying to accrue a set number of points employing a group of agents that is shared among your opponents. A really neat feature of the game is that the orientation of the card dictates how it plays for both you and your opponent. Most agent cards have abilities tied in with a particular role. If you want to use that ability, you are offering your opponent points. If you choose instead to gather points, the ability of that agent is now under direction of your opponent.

Not only are points needed to win the game, but they are also used as a currency to buy more agents and missions. With constant swapping, removal, and addition of agents, you get this constant ebb and flow of points. It seems to have some interesting ideas and looks like a lot of fun.

I’d be remiss to mention the artwork from Danny Morison. It captures a gritty look with a touch of sci-fi, almost giving the game a near-future dystopian feel. The game rules and a print and play version are available. The Kickstarter campaign has a few weeks to go however they have already secured project funding. It might be a great time to pick up the game and maybe get a few additional stretch goal goodies. At $18 for the base game, it seems a nice deal for an engaging card game with a great theme.

[EDIT: So the kickstarter was successful and I picked it up. Elsewhere you can get my thoughts on the game.]

Firestorm Armada Free Rules

It just seems that Firestorm Armada news around the industry sites have been dropping off. If anything, Dystopian Wars/Legions seems to have captured a lot of folks’ imagination and has new products rolling out pretty regularly. Well it does indeed look like FA is DOA as the rules for the game are available for free online at the company web site.

Unfortunately the pdf does not have rules for the fleets and ships. Fortunately for fans the excellent site, Black Ocean, has got files for all the fleet ships available. Be sure to visit their site and snag them.

I liked FA. While it was more a naval war game with sci-fi trappings rather than a full out space simulation warship game, it captured that feel for me and used pretty simple mechanics. I liked the maneuvering for position and trying to move into ideal firing arcs. My only complaint was that many of the fleets felt a bit too similar, but the MARs rules somewhat addressed that. And for the life of me I never understood why they didn’t adopt a racial fleet system like an earlier version of the MARs rules that were floating around online.

Sad to see the game on the decline and for sure I expect that the line will evaporate in the next few years. It’s odd with the popularity of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, that space naval games seem too much a niche genre to get any traction with gamers. Well if you like free stuff (and a fun game to boot), be sure to pick up the FA rules.

Obsidian Portal Kickstarter wrapping up

A possible dashboard layout. Spiffy!

I’ve frequently gushed on this blog how much I love Obsidian Portal. In fact, I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time. It’s been very functional over the years however I understand the people running it really want to give it a face lift.

A Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up in a few days. Fortunately, they’ve made their funding goals and then some. I’ve been a freebie user for a long time and I appreciate Obsidian Portal allowing that. If you aren’t a regular subscriber to their system this kickstarter is a great way to support the site.

So I hope folks are willing to send a few dollars their way. The project is funded. It’s a nice way to thank them for all the support they give to the gaming community. There are only 5 more days until the campaign ends, so if you are inclined be sure to support it soon.

Magicians (a language learning RPG) Kickstarter campaign wrapping up

Kyle Simons approached me a while back about his project on kickstarter, Magicians. It’s an interesting hybrid RPG that uses traditional storytelling along with a free dictation application to teach a foreign language. The game itself is a modern fantasy setting in Seoul, where the players discover they can wield magical power. Players soon discover that all around them is a secret hidden world of fantastical forces (some good, some evil).

There are a couple of intriguing things about the game:

Educational – I hear this sometimes about how RPGs have a positive impact on education. It’s refreshing to see a game that directly promotes learning. The key to character advancement is paired with mastering Korean. Language pronunciation and improving vocabulary is a front and center with the game.

Use of voice dictation software – While focusing on the written language is great, having additional utilization of oral communication is also important. As a westerner struggling to learn Korean, I’ve found I have to relearn how I produce certain vowels and consonants. It’s a very subtle thing to master and you don’t get this by focusing only on reading and writing comprehension.

Unique Setting – While modern urban fantasy is something touched on with different games, I think traditional Asian folklore is something that has been either ignored or glossed over. I consider it a plus learning about different legends and mythologies through the game. It can also serve as adventure fodder for other settings, and allow you to learn a bit more about other cultures.

I’m happy to say that their kickstarter campaign has been funded. However it’s wrapping up in a few days. If you have any interest in this, now is the time to pitch in. You’re jumping in on a funded project, and I dare say a unique educational application of RPGs. I think it might be something that could catch on as an alternative language teaching method. Would be neat to get in on the ground floor of this project. Check it out!

Announcement of Sparta Studios

A quick newsflash of sorts. Studio Starta has been annouced from the folks that make Uncharted Seas, Dystopian Wars, and a favorite of mine, Firestorm Armada. It looks like they will be working on various games in the Firestorm Armada universe with many different games and scales being released involving ground warfare. The concept is a series of games related to a planetary invasion, moving from 10 mm, 15 mm, up to 28 mm depiciting various types of scenarios (from mass combat of combined forces to small skirmish battles). It’s a pretty ambitious range of games and figures.

I do wonder about the competition though. 40K seems to be the 800 pound gorilla for futuristic skirmish-type mini games (not to mention a few others like infinity and alternate history settings like Dust: Warfare). As for sci-fi large scale battles with combined forces, Dropzone Commander has made a recent splash. Thier models do look gorgeous, although I’m balking a bit with the prices.

Seems a year or so ago, the 10-15 mm range was wide open for a major sci-fi game. Games Workshop dabbled in it a bit with different games, but the core following of that universe seems to enjoy the heroic scale and skirmish type battles. With Dropship Commander however, I think things have gotten a tad crowded for Spartan Games.

I do admit however that thier idea is pretty interesting on the different ranges and types of battles they want to mimic with various rulesets. I’m not too keen on the 10 mm armor combat but the 15 mm scale battles sound fun. I’ve been wanting a more sci-fi themed game for 15 mm stuff. Love Flames of War but dabbling in a different genre for that scale of minis would be a nice break. I guess time will tell. However, if they can link it to a larger campaign mode incorperating Firestorm Armada, they might have an interesting hook to draw in some players.

[HT to the Shell Case for passing this news along.]