Favorite Meat-space game Gone Virtual: Small World

Small World (board game)

  • Publisher: Days of Wonder
  • Publish Date: 2009
  • Genre: Strategy board game
  • Players: 2–5
  • Age range: 8 and up
  • Playing time: 40 to 80 minutes
  • Skills required: Strategy

In Small World, players set out to dominate a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all. Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Players much choose the best combinations and special abilities in order to take over the world.

Small World’s variety of race and ability combinations is delightful. Each race has a unique power or benefit, as does each ability. In total, there are fourteen different races and twenty different abilities, so the possible combinations keep you on your toes. The random pairing power-race create some very intriguing game play. Funny combinations include Merchant Ghouls and Flying Giants.

I like Small World because it’s easier to teach and understand, and plays faster than many other strategy games. Of course having a chorus of players sing “It’s a Small World (Battle Hymn)” while Commando Trolls roll in for the taking is quite funny:

It’s a world of slaughter
A world of tears
A world of dopes
And a world of fears
There’s too much that we share
So beware
It’s a small world after all

Small World for the iPad

  • Publisher: Days of Wonder
  • Publish Date: 2010
  • Genre: Strategy game
  • Players: 1 or 2
  • Platform: iPad

Small World is a fantastic board game, but unfortunately the iPad adaptation isn’t all that it could be.  When it first came out, I couldn’t help but feel that it was rushed out the door. Thankfully, Days of Wonder has put out a series of patches that wrap the game up nicely. For almost $7, the price is surprisingly fair for what you get — more so than with other board game ports. And though its only a two player game or vs an AI, the fact that it is a digital board game means you can’t lose any pieces! Great easily play game in a car, on a plane, or at the DMV while waiting for your driver’s license renewal. Its a pleasant way to waste some time with a friend.

Game of the Moment: Screenshot of Koi-Koi

Hanafuda (花札) are playing cards of Japanese origin that are used to play a number of games. The name literally translates as “flower cards”.

Koi-Koi (こいこい) is a popular card game in Japan played with Hanafuda. The object of the Koi-Koi to form special card combinations called “yaku” from cards accumulated in a point pile. Players can gain cards in their point piles by matching cards in their hands, or drawn from the draw pile, with cards on the table. Once a yaku has been made, a player can stop to cash in points, or keep going (referred to as “koi-koi”, hence the name of the game) to form additional yaku for more points. The point values assigned to individual cards have no effect on the score, but they are helpful to judge their value in forming yaku.

Much like western playing card games, you can also play this one online or in meat-space. Learn how to play How to play Hanafuda Koi-Koi yourself!

Things that Every Modern Day Delta Green Character Should Have

I’m rather obsessive compulsive when it comes to planning out a RPG character. Call of Cthulhu under a Delta Green campaign setting that makes it hard for me to resist, especially when I’ve got modern day items at my disposal.

This time I was making an ex-army US Fish and Wildlife Special Agent character, who was fresh from a wilderness stake out and took a small break to help some out of town Delta Green Agents. I was curious as to what kind of gear that they would have and looked up some info at http://www.lab.fws.gov/. I didn’t go far as to have an evidence lab kit, but I’ve been hunting before, camped in Alaska for 2 weeks straight, and have been to Washington Arms Collectors Shows at the Puyallup Fair Grounds (really fun show, you should try it), so coming up with up with a basic gear list for wilderness camping is fairly easy and fun.

I don’t go camping much these days, but I’ve learned that Home Depot online and Joe’s Sporting Goods online are great places to make a list. And it’s always joy to go pretend shopping. I won’t include weapons and guns, since the game has special rules for that.

Truck – something like a Ford F-250 XLT (extra long bed) with a Truckbox installed. Storage on the go is important.

Hunting Knife & hatchet – very important.

10 foot aluminum ladder – good for vertical movement, but its also good for helping you hang up game or fresh kills.

3/8 in. x 75 ft. Camouflage Rope – water resistant and it floats

Tool box – filled with standard hand tools such as a hammer, wrenches, screwdrivers, utility knife, sharpening kit etc

Bolt Cutters – 24 inch, good for getting out of tight jams

Crowbar – these things are just handy where ever you go

Slim Jim – not the jerky sticks. It’s a tool used for lock picking cars and works like a charm older than 1992. On newer cars, you have to know where the lock rod is.

Hunting Blind – surprisingly, modern ones are really built for comfort

Folding chair or Hunting stand – you need to sit on long stake outs

Binoculars – they even have ones with built in digital cameras now

Flashlights – a mag-light and water proof floating browning

Cameras – you can go digital hand held, but they also make game cameras which are automated and detect movement

Handheld GPS – they have ones that will transmit your location to a website service

Camping Cast iron Dutch – for cooking on the go

Mess kit – how you going to eat?

Low profile burner stove – they make ones that are light weight and conserve fuel.

Digital Recorder – really this is good for keeping notes

Laptop – for when you’re in town

Cellphone – who doesn’t have one these days?

Winter tire chains – really this should always be in your truck, especially if you’re traveling in heavy snow conditions

4 weather Sleeping bag and pad – camping, duh

Hand warmers – these are chemical hot packs which keep your hands warm.

Portable Pisser Cup – yeah they make these and they sound funny, but they really handy for the woods. They even got a girl attachment.

Personal Cleaning kit – unscented is best so you won’t attract animals or bugs; Includes TP for your bum.

Tarp or truck cover – for protecting your gear.

Hunting dog – optional, but a really good companion to have with you if you’re soloing

Come Play D&D with us @ PAX!

Hey DDO Players! Let’s get together this PAX and play some PnP D&D!!

“The Crypt of Gandor Grey”

  • DM: Sigfried Trent
  • Location: PAX 2010, Table Top Free Play Area, 2nd Floor (Look for signs!)
  • Date: Friday, Sept 3rd
  • Time: 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • System: D&D 4th Edition
  • What to Bring: A level 1 D&D 4e character (PHP, PHP2, or PHP3), if you don’t have one we have a stack you can pick from. Character sheet, dice, etc.

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Everyone in the party knows one another from a past adventure, in which they teamed up to track down a dangerous fugitive who had been killing women in the countryside. Having decided they made a good team they registered themselves with the mercenary’s guild in Baron’s Bridge.

The party has gathered to hear the job offered by a young man named Phillip Grey. Phillip wants to hire the party to break into his Uncle’s tomb and recover whatever he has stashed there. His uncle, Gandor Grey, died 6 years ago from natural causes and despite his substantial wealth, left nothing to his family. Instead he had a lavish tomb built in a private cemetery and family legend has it the rest of his wealth was buried with him.

Phillip needs the money because he borrowed a good bit of money from the Red Hands to purchase spells to heal his ailing mother. While her health has greatly improved he can’t raise the money to pay back the loan and the Red Hands have a brutal reputation. He feels that since Gandor is technically family that this isn’t purely theft.

He needs help because he knows Gandor had his tomb built with death traps and possibly magical guardians of some kind. The construction of it was expensive and done by some shady out of town contractors. He’s offering to split any treasure found 50/50 with the group.

If you would like to join in email us at ddocrunchybits@gmail.com and we’ll reserve a spot for you!

Jordan Weisman & Alternate Reality Games

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Jordan Weisman, an American game designer, author, and serial entrepreneur. Weisman is known for designing games such as MechWarrrior, Shadowrun, Mage Knight, and Heroclix. But what the lecture focused on was Alternate Reality Games or ARGs.

What are ARGs?
An ARG is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform. It very often involves multiple media — such as cell phones, the internet, and TV — and game elements to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.

An ARG is primarily defined by intense player involvement with a story. The story takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.

Some examples of ARGs:

  • Portal 2 (http://portalwiki.net/) On March 1st and March 3, 2010, Portal was updated to feature parts of an eventually highly successful alternate reality game (or ARG) to promote its sequel, Portal 2, leading gamers and journalists to postulate that an announcement for Portal 2 or Half-Life 2: Episode Three might soon be made, until Portal 2 was announced on March 5, 2010 for release in Q4 2010.
  • I love Bees (http://www.ilovebees.com/) – served as both a real-world experience and viral marketing campaign for the release of developer Bungie’s 2004 video game Halo 2. The story is of an AI named Melissa, trying to survive by transferring herself San Francisco-area web server, which happens to host a bee enthusiast website known as I Love Bees.
  • The Beast (http://www.42entertainment.com/beast.html) – A campaign built and executed for Warner Brothers to promote Steven Spielberg’s film, AI: Artificial Intelligence. The Beast was a sub-dermal narrative that drew consumers into the world of AI, and made them active participants in the fiction before the film’s release.
  • Year of Zero (http://www.42entertainment.com/yearzero/) – Year0 is based on the Nine Inch Nails concept album of the same name and was a campaign building up to the release of the album. The story of Year0 borrows heavily from well-known dystopian fiction crafted by writers such as George Orwell.
  • Cathy’s Book (http://www.cathysbook.com/) – An interactive book which includes an evidence packet filled with letters, phone numbers, pictures, and birth certificates, as well as doodles and notes written by Cathy in the page margins.

ARGs: Kin to Role-Playing Games
ARGs have a puppetmaster, who is very much like a game master for a role-playing game. The PMs craft the story, NPCs, obstacles, and clues for the players to find and interact with. The primary difference between ARGs and Table-Top RPGs is that there aren’t any set rules for the players. In fact, players must discover the rules and boundaries of the game on their own. Players also do not have to assume any “role” or made up character to participate in the game. They play the game as themselves.

A Trans-media Game
Clues, puzzles, obstacles, and other story information can come in a myriad of real world media. In the Year0 game, the first discovery of the game was found by fans that discovered a new Nine Inch Nails tour T-shirt highlighted with letters that spell out the words “I am trying to believe.” Which then lead to the website, http://www.iamtryingtobelieve.com/. In the case of Cathy’s Book, you can read the book by itself, but if you call the phone numbers and go to websites, you find additional information about the story and the characters. Today with iPhones, Blackberries, and other mobile devices lend themselves to new types of interaction for ARGs. Microblogs and Social Networking sites such as Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, and Myspace provide new trailheads for players into ARG storylines. Yes, that’s right; Skynet Research has its own twitter page at http://twitter.com/SkynetResearch.

The Hive Mind
“Collective intelligence”, or CI for short, is a phrase Pierre Levy created in 1994 to describe the impact of Internet technologies on the cultural production and consumption of knowledge. Levy argued that because the Internet facilitates a rapid, open and global exchange of data and ideas, over time the network should “mobilize and coordinate the intelligence, experience, skills, wisdom, and imagination of humanity” in new and unexpected ways.

In Internet lingo, this is also known as the Hive Mind. One of the difficulties in constructing an ARG is that anything that a group of puppetmasters can craft, the collective Hive Mind of the audience will quickly decode and solve it a matter of minutes. In the example of The Beast, the PMs came up with a website puzzle that would only allow one entry per person per day. The PMs thought that it would take the audience days to solve the sequence, but the Hive Mind quickly organized themselves into online committees. The committees then crafted a solution to the puzzle and assigned tasks to individuals. The individuals went to the site to input their portion of the solution into the site. They then reported results into a central location for The Hive Mind to review. The effect was that the puzzle was solved in a matter of minutes after the Hive Mind organized itself.

In the case of I Love Bees, players around the world to worked together to solve problems with little or no direction or guidance. In one instance of a puzzle, the game presented The Hive Mind with 210 pairs of global positioning system coordinates and time codes, with no indications to what the locations referred to. Players eventually figured out the coordinates referred to pay phones and the times to when the phones would ring. The audience would then try to coordinate and task sub groups or individuals to reach the phones in time to receive the message.

Find an ARG Hive Mind
There are quite a few Hive Minds out there dedicated to playing ARGs:

The Take Away: Simple steps to creating an ARG.
From Jordan Weisman’s lecture, I learned a few simple steps to creating an ARG – which can be applied to creating table-top rpg games:

  1. Write a story
  2. Create all the evidence that would exists had the story taken place
  3. THROW THE STORY OUT
  4. Hide the evidence all around the digital world and physical world
  5. Inspire the audience to find all the evidence and learn more about the story.