This is the second year in a row I've taken part in Extra Life's 24-hour Game-a-Thon to raise money for Children's Miracle Network. Last summer, Ben Gerber of Troll in the Corner posted about his Extra Life team and mentioned that he was looking for more members and I thought it sounded like great fun and signed up. It was. Last year was a total blast as we had people in and out all day long - we ate a ton of food and played lots of games.
This year was a completely different experience. The problem seems to stem from the change of event date from November 2, post-Halloween, to October 25, the weekend before Halloween. That put a serious dent in the interest level of invitees. It wasn't that I was getting "no" either, it's that I wasn't getting any response at all. Of the more than 150 Facebook invites sent out, I had 10 yeses who were even physically capable of coming and even fewer maybes and zero comments or questions. I kept up hope going into Friday night that people had just been undecided or forgot to respond and that they would still pop in for a game or two before heading off to whatever Halloween plans they had, but as Saturday rolled on I saw that just wasn't the case.
In the end, I had 6 die-hard friends show up who, along with my wife, son, and brother all filled spots at the table. They all ended up putting in more time and playing more games than they had originally planned and for that I'm grateful. Without their support this year's event simply wouldn't have happened. Some games got reshuffled, others canceled entirely, but in the end we made it 24 hours without a break.
And on the financial side it was a complete success. We blew through last year's total and ended up raising $771 for Children's Hospital at Providence. I can consider the event a success in terms of the real world good that was accomplished.
But as of this writing I'm pretty sure this is the last year I'll participate.
As with last year, Ben managed to gather some sponsors to donate games for us to play and give away during the event. And, as with last year, I put my requests in for games that sounded like they would keep the energy level up rather than games that are more well known or had a higher "cool" factor.
• Crazy Creatures of Doctor Gloom - As I said, my criteria for which donated games I would like to play is the energy level. The break-out game at last year's Game-a-Thon was a kid's game called Monster Cafe which I picked simply because I thought it looked like silly fun. It ended up being the highlight of the event. This year saw a similar outcome with Doctor Gloom. It plays sort of like a multi-player solitaire, but with a direction-switching element which provides just enough strategy to make it interesting at all skill levels. It's not deep, but it's smooth - the simple mechanic plays like butter.
• Get Lucky - I'm a big fan of Kill Dr. Lucky, not so much of Save Dr. Lucky (in fact, prior to this year's event I gave away our copy of Save to a team member). So with a 50/50 track record, I was on the fence about Get Lucky, the card game version. But it's my new favorite of the series because everything that makes Kill so much fun has been distilled down to a deck of cards and streamlined strategy.
• Zombies - Shambling and Hungry - This is pretty much UNO, but with some nasty zombie-themed twists. It's simple and brutal. My only recommendation would be to house-rule the Infection cards because if you start with three or four in your hand, your game is pretty much over from the start. A tweak that makes game play a little more fair to the infected but which makes the Infected cards much more brutal overall is - when someone has to pick up the pile of cards from play, anyone with three or more Infected cards may drop one from their hand onto the pile before it's picked up. You're still pretty hosed if you're getting loaded up on Infected cards, but now infection is a danger to all of the party.
• As Nas, etc. - A good friend of mine lugged over a gigantic pack box filled with heavy wood game pieces and a gigantic bucket of multicolored beads to teach us to play a few medieval dice and card games he'd been running at our local ren faire. It was a great break and a pretty interesting little history lesson. No, you can't hire him, but if you make it to Alaska during Three Barons I can easily recommend the Crimson Dove tent as a worthwhile place to lose some of your money.
• Munchkin Adventure Time - I ordered this off of Amazon because hey! Munchkin! Adventure Time! And then I got it and saw that it wasn't a Steve Jackson Games game but something they licensed to a third party and I suddenly became a lot less enthused about it. I was wrong because it's easily the most entertaining Munchkin version I've ever played. The cards are completely redesigned - although they still have all of the information on a traditional Munchkin card, it's laid out so much better. And if you know Adventure Time it becomes a much more enjoyable game because seriously, who doesn't want to punch Donny square in his noggin?
• Love Letter - You could be like me and read the reviews of Love Letter and dismiss it easily as just a puffy game about yet another imaginary pre-Renaissance Italian ideal and bleh. You could also be like me and be completely wrong because everything people say about Love Letter is true, it's a damn fun game to play and the first time you knock a player out in the first round using a Guard you're gonna want to play it at every opportunity.
• Where Art Thou Romeo? - I made a comment about this on G+ during the event so this is less a review and more an expansion. First, this isn't an actual game that's for sale, it was a special tiny give-away to Kickstarter supporters, so saying it's a bad game is bit like saying the Dr. Lucky coin that went out to Get Lucky backers is a terrible game because all you can do is flip it and get a 50/50 result. But it does include rules for a "game" to be played with the cards and that's what I'm critiquing. In the "game", players get a character card and the person who has "Juliette" has to listen, for 30 seconds, to everyone else tell her they're Romeo and then decide which of them is telling the truth. The problem is that there's no info currency for the players to bluff with or for Juliette to use to determine who might be the liars. If you passed a quarter around the table and then had everyone yell "I HAVE THE QUARTER" at your waitress for 30 seconds before asking her to decide who's telling the truth you'd have exactly the same "game" but at least in my version there's a chance alcohol could be involved.
The Missed Opportunities
One of the night's disappointments was being forced to drop The Agents from this year's roster because we just didn't have the players. And that's a shame because Double-edged Games donated an entire set - base and all of the expanded decks - of a game that I'd never heard of prior to this year's Game-a-Thon but whose concept immediately grabbed me. Since the game didn't go home with anyone, I'll try to find a local gaming club event to bring it to and make sure it gets the play it deserves because it just sounds like a cool game.
That said, there are a few podcasts I've been listening to regularly and, in light of having any gaming projects finished to talk about (there's a GENERALA dungeon coming soon, I'm just waiting for playtesters to get back to me) I'm filling my blog void with podcast recommendations. I've ditched the radio and TV shows that release podcast versions and listed, in no particular order, what's currently in my subscriptions.
Kumail Nanjiani's X-Files Files - This podcast started out as another b-celeb invites other b-celebs on to talk about something and then plug their stuff, but Kumail's genuine fanship for X-Files made it so much more than that in just a few short episodes. Cocktail Nation - Koop Kooper is the standard by which other music podcasts must be measured. Even toned, interesting, and he spins a pretty good tune. If you like lounge music, this is a good use of an hour of your time. Fear the Boot - RPG podcast that sometimes strays dangerously close to dudebro chest beating with a few of the hosts, but Dan always brings it back before it gets obnoxious. Blurry Photos - Supernatural and esoteric topics. I've been getting a little bored lately with their ever-increasingly-complex intro pieces, and I frequently skip over their pun runs, but the rest of the show is well produced and does a decent job of talking about the weird and paranormal without being too pro- or anti-. Welcome to Night Vale - Narrative about a weird little town, you might have heard of it. I've been losing interest since the election ended, actually a little before the election ended, but I'm willing to give them time to come back to the random silliness of the first 20 or so episodes. Nearly Enough Dice - RPG related, but also covers computer games. Basically, it's two people just sitting and talking about the geeky things they've done or played in the last week. It's a gaming podcast that doesn't interview all the same people every other gaming podcast is interviewing. Also the hosts are fun people. How Did This Get Made - Honestly, I skip every other HDTGM episode because they do these dumb, half hour "previews" of upcoming episodes. Which is dumb. Just give me the episode. Their actual episodes are entertaining if you like bad movies. The Bugle - Do you find John Oliver funny? Because this is John Oliver. It's the funniest current events podcast out there. The Moth - Storytellers telling their stories. I'm amazed at how often someone starts telling a story and I'm really not interested in their story and by the end of their story I'm loving their story. Geologic - Atheism, music, and, well, George. George likes to talk about himself a lot. Fortunately, he's usually entertaining. A few of his bits are not. Getting On with James Urbaniak - James Urbaniak and a rotating cast of writers do a podcast that's James playing fictionalized versions of himself. What makes it work is how well he sells the character - whether it's James the wild west gangboss or James the dad who's hiding, along with his trick-or-treating kids, from a real life werewolf. The Big Red Couch - Gaming inspiration. I used to love a podcast called Postcards from the DungeonK which was basically two guys picking a topic and talking about how to use said topic in roleplaying games. It was brilliant. Then they changed format to be just another interview podcast that talked about the latest gaming products and/or Kickstarters. Big Red Couch takes the run-with-an-idea concept and, well, runs with it. It's a handful of hosts, one of whom sounds remarkably like Fin Patterson from YSDC, who draw a phrase from a box and then spend a week designing either a campaign scenario, setting, or a new game concept based on that phrase. Then they all share and discuss their concepts. I'm probably not selling it right. It's a very entertaining listen, but be warned, they really need an upgrade in their recording equipment. Mysterious Universe - Esoteric topics. MU fills that void that was left when Art Bell left the air, that mixture of wide-eyed wonder at supernatural topics combined with a decent dose of skepticism when fringe topics go too crazy. Penn's Sunday School - Yeah, I know, I wear my atheism on my sleeve. Also, I took my first girlfriend to seen Penn & Teller. She hated them. We're not together anymore. Regret Labs - Science. Aric McKeown was (is?) half of the, now sadly defunct, Mustache Rangers. This is his new podcast where he and cohost Levi Weinhagen ask the science questions that the rest of us don't ask because we're afraid of being laughed at for not knowing the answers to. Revolutions - History. Mike Duncan, he of History of Rome fame, talks about actual revolutions from history. It's deep and dense at times, but Mike could discuss the history of the dictionary and still find a way to make it entertaining. Nerd Poker - RPG actual play. D&D and fart jokes. This one's not for everyone. RPPR Actual Play - RPG actual play. I've been listening to RPPR's actual play for a long time, since the first few episodes of the New World campaign. They are, without a doubt, some of the best actual plays out there. WTF with Marc Maron - I find myself skipping this more often than not because I don't know/don't care about the interviewee. But when it's someone I know and I'm interested in knowing about, Marc puts on a fine show.
I got more downloads since the update than the previous version got in its entire existence. But that was still less than 100 individual user downloads. If I was going to grow this game, I realized, I need to add new ways for people to get the game. But how to rope in players who don't want to download the game and all the materials for the game for free?
By making it pay!
That's right, if you were unsure about grabbing the game before because it was a free game placed on a website you aren't familiar with, now you have the option of paying for the game on DriveThruRPG!
Check it out, write reviews.
Honestly, I can think of nothing more appropriate to the ridiculous, over-the-top play of GENERALA than bards, and, frankly, I'm sheepishly surprised I forgot to include them in the original rules.
Speak of the original rules, currently, the new bard songs (linked right) are only available in a supplemental PDF file. They'll be getting some good playtesting shaking down before they go into the full rule book so only you reading this post even know they even exist.
They'll have to fight off other black ops agencies from other countries, and even some in the US government, that have also made similar discoveries and either want to be the only ones controlling the weapons or to force public disclosure. Eventually, they're authorized to use the weapons against other enemy agencies, to viciously deadly effect.
And then a hologram is unlocked. Even without understanding the aliens' spoken language, the images displayed are enough to explain that the infestation ... is man.