Cardboard Children: Ghost Stories

Hello, youse.

I hope you all bought some new and very expensive board games this week, and then didn’t bother reading the rules.

First, the news!


Eccentric game designer Frederic Moyersoen has put out a video trailer for his upcoming board game Van Helsing. You might think that the trailer for a board game should maybe…I dunno… show you the board game, but you’d be wrong. What a good trailer for a board game does is let you watch a 10 minute long low-budget clunky comedy with a creepy final “gag”. It’s unmissable stuff, for the bat sound effects alone:

As for the game itself, I don’t know anything about it yet. What I do know is that Moyersoen’s last game, Nuns On The Run, was a lovely little bit of fun. So we can be optimistic about Van Helsing, I would say. ARRRE YOU TRRRRRYING TO FOOLME!

In other news, you’ll remember me saying a fortnight ago that the only problem I had with the new edition of the great Dungeonquest was that I thought the old, basic combat rules should have been included alongside the new rules. Well, Fantasy Flight Games this week solved the problem, with the release of some combat variants for free download. It’s because of things like this that I love Fantasy Flight. I love you guys. You can download them here:

I said it should happen, then it happened. Let’s try this again.

The only thing that’s wrong with the government is that the Tories shouldn’t be in power. COME ON FANTASY FLIGHT YOU CAN DO IT!

With all that said, let’s talk about CO-OP GAMES.

There are a lot of co-op board games going around these days. This is either because many board gamers are gay bears who are totally trying to get into the pants of people they play with, and so don’t want to fight with them. Or maybe because far more couples are playing board games nowadays, and the guys are sick of being crushed by the women. (Women are the best at board games. Never forget that. That’s what happened when Eve ate that apple – the most devious strategies for every board game that would ever be created were poured into her brain, by Ludocifer himself.)

The first co-op game I played on my return to the board game hobby was Reiner Knizia’s Lord of The Rings. That’s like being introduced to sex by Mick Jagger’s Mars Bar. I’m not a Lord of the Rings fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I still expected that the game would be a little bit Tolkienish. You know… “Eladrioliel of Olador, son of Olodriladior of the Gelerin, conqueror of Elordiohlordhelpme.” Instead, it’s a weird abstract experience, where you and a group of other bored people work out how to most efficiently use some cards with symbols on them, and work out the best excuse to get out of the room. The only thing Lord of the Ringsy about the game is the artwork that serves as the board’s background. Which essentially means I could roll a die onto one of the Rocky Balboa coasters on my coffee table and call it ROCKY: THE BOARDGAME.

The next major co-op I played was that big beast, the iconic Arkham Horror, from Fantasy Flight Games. It’s a game that sees you and your buddies playing investigators who are trying to stop one of the Great Old Ones from arriving and fucking up everyone’s day/universe. Now, I might find Tolkien dull, but Lovecraft is my MAIN MAN. I’m Lovecraft mad, me. So, Arkham Horror couldn’t fail, could it? Big beautiful game, five of us round the table, a Lovecraft theme. IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL!

It failed. At the end of the game, we were all saying words to the effect of: “Yeah, that was alright.” A game with Cthulhu and Azathoth in it and I’m saying it was “alright”. It was heartbreaking. It was easy, and clunky, and mechanical and – here’s the truth – I think I disliked it even more than I wanted to admit. I didn’t get over it for a while, to be honest. There’s far more to my Arkham Horror story, though. It doesn’t end here. I’ll be giving AH a column of its own down the line, but let’s just say right now that it’s a story about how a man eventually fell in love with something he didn’t initially understand. Like how Johnny Depp fell for Vanessa Paradis after she learned some English.

Anyway, my point here is this – I don’t want any of you people out there trying out your first co-op game and hating it so much you decide not to try any others. That’s what happened to me, and I want to spare you that fate. So I’m going to recommend an absolutely amazingly brilliant co-op game that will have all you brainboxes scratching your brainboxes.


Antoine Bauza’s Ghost Stories is, excuse my language, absolute fucking genius. Each player is a Taoist Monk, a guardian of a Chinese village. In each turn, the evil Wu-Feng will send ghosts to attack the village, and you must react to the threats as best you can. Eventually, Wu-Feng himself will arrive, and when you exorcise him you win!

If only it were that easy. Ghost Stories is an unbelievably difficult game. It will have you and three of your friends staring at each other, biting each other’s fingernails.

PLAYER 1: What if we… No, that won’t work.

PLAYER 2: If you place your Buddha there, then I can – Oh fuck, no. I can’t. Never mind.

PLAYER 3: We’re fucked.

PLAYER 4: No, we’re not! Look, if you go to the Sorcerer and take the hit on this one-

PLAYER 2: I only have one life point left.

PLAYER 4: We’re fucked.

PLAYER 1: I’ll take the hit, die, then you can come to the cemetery and revive me.

PLAYER 2: The cemetery’s haunted.

PLAYER 1: Yeah, but you spend a Yin-Yang to bring the cemetery back and then you can-

PLAYER 2: We need my Yin-Yang to stop the other ghost.

PLAYER 1: We’re fucked.

You’re trying to stop a village from being haunted. Ghosts keep coming until four areas of the board have been haunted, and that’s when it’s GAME OVER.

The village you protect is made up of a set of 9 village tiles, each of which allows you to visit whoever lives there and make use of their power. For example, you can visit the temple and use a Buddha statue to block the progress of a ghost. Or you can go to the Tea House and heal up a bit. However, these tiles are randomly placed at the start of the game. That means that two locations that were side-by-side in the last game might not be this time. It’s hard to bring any well-worn strategies to Ghost Stories. You need to react on the fly. To everything. All of the time.

The ghosts come out of a card deck, and each ghost has some kind of power. Some make you roll a Curse Die on your turn, which can do things like haunt a tile and take life points from you. Nightmare. Other ghosts start to move towards the village, haunting a tile a couple of turns later. Daymare. Other ghosts steal dice from you and reduce your combat efficiency. Eveningmare. Other ghosts stop you using any items. Maremare.

And it’s all gravy when the first few ghosts come out. You chill, and start getting rid of them, working out which one is most beneficial to get rid of first. Everyone’s smiling at the table. Then they come faster. And then you’re being overrun. And then you’re choosing between a ghost that need to be gone NOW, and a ghost that needs to be gone NOW. And then you’re choosing between a ghost that needs to be gone NOW and a ghost that needed to be gone LAST TURN and another ghost that needed to be gone TWO TURNS AGO. And then the big bad comes out and then you die.

Exorcism of the ghosts is simple, but difficult. Each ghost has a resistance number and colour. Let’s say a ghost has 3 Red. That means you roll your three dice, and hope that the red side comes up three times. Tough, right? Fortunately you can use red items to make up the shortfall. Unless a ghost has stopped you using items, that is. So, yeah, sorry man. You need to get three reds on three dice. Oh, and a ghost has just stolen one of those dice. 3 Red with 2 dice. Good luck with that.

Each Taoist has two special powers, and will start the game with one of them. These might give you an extra die in battle, or let you take two actions in a turn instead of one, or lower a certain ghost’s resistance, or something equally sweet. And much of the game is trying to work out the best order to act in, and what sacrifices are worth making.

Truth time. I haven’t yet won a game of Ghost Stories. I’ve come close, but never quite managed to beat any of Wu-Feng’s various horrible incarnations. I would play it forever, though. It’s a masterpiece of game design. The random placement of village tiles, the random allotment of powers, and the random arrival of ghosts means that every time you play you’re having to construct a new master plan as you go. Everyone putting their heads together to talk through some hopeful, shaky plan.

In my last game, I made one mistake early doors. One tiny mistake. I took out one ghost when I should have taken out another. The minute I made my move, I cried out in horror. I realised right away that we’d be paying for my fuck-up for the next half an hour. I felt like I’d let everyone down. That, my friends, is the mark of a good co-op game. In Knizia’s Lord of the Rings, I just wanted it to be over, whether I won or lost. In Ghost Stories, I wanted to reverse time so I could undo my stupid, stupid, stupid, unbelievably stupid mistake. I wanted to play again, right away.

Please do check this one out. I’ll be looking at the expansion, White Moon, down the line. So that I have an excuse to buy it.


Okay, so I’ve had a read of the new Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. The set itself contains a Dungeon Master’s Book, a Player’s Book, cardboard tokens with pictures of goodies and baddies on them, character sheets, power cards, a big “battle map” and some dice.

Wow. Okay. So, here’s the first thing that came into my head when I looked at all this stuff. “GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY”. Seriously. This is a nice little package for the price.

The Player’s Book is pretty sweet. It’s written in a Fighting Fantasy style, a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing, and leads you through the process of rolling up your character. It offers you situations that you can resolve in a manner of your choosing, and gives you a class type based on that. It works beautifully.

The Dungeon Master’s Book lays out an adventure for the new players to get their teeth into, and explains the basic rules. I love the Battle Map that comes with the adventure. It’s the kind of thing that got me into games in the first place. A beautiful big thing, so lovely it doesn’t matter that it’s printed on paper the thickness of a kid’s bedroom poster.

The rules themselves, as written in the DM Book? Well… in this Starter Set (and please do notice that I’m saying “in this Starter Set”) it looks more like a ruleset for a miniatures battle game than an RPG.


I said it. It looks more like a ruleset for a miniatures battle game than an RPG.


But here’s the thing – it looks like an absolutely beautiful ruleset for a miniatures battle game. And I know that, with further reading, and further supplements, there will be nice roleplaying rules to back those battle rules up. What can be wrong with that? And besides, a good GM can make sure ANY system has plenty of roleplaying. If that GM has a tight battle foundation to lean on, where’s the problem?

Certainly, the game seems different enough from the narrative-heavy (and utterly brilliant) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition. It looks like an exciting, well-designed, dynamic dungeon battle RPG. And, quite honestly, I was so impressed with the Starter Set I went straight out and bought the new Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Rules Compendium, and the new Heroes of The Fallen Lands book. Because I have more money than sense and addiction issues.

I’ll be keeping you updated with my first nervous steps into the world of D&D in the weeks ahead. Why not come with me, stranger? Pick up the Red Box and we can do it together, traveller!

Keep rolling those bones! (Dice) See you next time, adventurer! (Internet website reader)


  1. Harmen says:

    Yeah, Ghost Stories seems to be fun enough, played it a few times now, all times with 4 people. I was standing in the store with AH in my greedy hands, but decided on some other game. It was mostly the length which put me off, so please do talk about it!
    Pandemic is also a nice co-op, to stay on topic.

  2. Robert Florence says:

    I definitely will talk about Arkham Horror. It’s probably the weirdest game ever to have major success. Probably because it’s been designed by a GENIUS.

    And, oh yeah, Pandemic. Pandemic is GREAT.

    • Bob Bobson says:

      I got the expansion a month ago, it’s pricey for an expansion and worth every penny. So many new and different ways for it all to go wrong. You’ve probably already got it, but if not do so before writing it’s column.

  3. ulix says:

    Not at least mentioning Pandemic once in a post on Co-op boardgames is a cardinal sin.

    Also, Last Night on Earth (think L4D as a boardgame).

    Who is going to Essen this year? I might be there on either Saturday or Sunday.

  4. Robert Florence says:

    I only didn’t mention Pandemic because I think it deserves a column of its own.

    The ones to mention were LotR and AH, because they’re both terrible introductions to co-op gaming, for very different reasons.

    Last Night on Earth has a zombie player, so isn’t completely co-op.

    Don’t forget that Castle Ravenloft, from last week, is a great co-op game too!

  5. President Weasel says:

    Played and loved (and won once or twice) Pandemic.
    Played and rather enjoyed Ghost Stories, we might even have won it once although I can’t be sure. I can be sure the game’s beaten us a lot more than we’ve beaten it.
    Played a lot of Arkham; my friends love it a lot more than I do but it’s not horrible – I just like other games better. Arkham is complex and time consuming for the amount of enjoyment I get out of it, especially with the expansions.

  6. Bas says:

    Once a week isn’t enough! Anyone know of other boardgame blogs that have this level of quality?

    • President Weasel says:

      Can I recommend the quality board game blog Downtime Town (written by some chap called Rab Florence whom you’ve probably never heard of.)

    • ulix says:

      You can get relatively good video reviews from “The Dice Tower” and “Board To Death”.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Bas, do you have any preferences. Say what you are looking for and I’m sure the hive (we are the hive right) will chuck some suggestions out.

      If you have titles thrown at you then I would suggest looking them up on boardgamegeek -they have reviews from random people as well as the Dice Tower and Board to Death people. Many reviews are done on video these days as well.

  7. Henneth says:

    Another top post. This is rapidly becoming by favourite RPS column (despite where it may or may not have been in relation to Russel Brand).

    Is the (that) D&D Starter Set compatible with the new Castle Ravenloft? Could be interesting to see how the two would mix.

    I’ve heard loads of good things about Ghost Stories, as well as mutterings that it’s insanely difficult to beat. I might have to pick this up as Pandemic wasn’t much of a hit with my usual group (they are wrong – it’s brilliant), and Arkham Horror causes them sanity loss due to the sheer number of bits they have to deal with.

    • says:

      You can use the minis and tiles from the board game with the red box, but that’s about it. The second board game will be compatible with the first, when it comes out.

    • echomateria says:

      Sorry, it was supposed to write “Ever played Gloom? It was one of the most different and entertaining card games that I have ever played.” with Gloom hyperlinked, no idea why it messed up this way.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I liked it. It made it mysterious and exciting.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      What made it interesting? Stand out ideas etc

    • KBKarma says:

      The game works like this: each player has a family of five, and a hand of see-through plastic cards with positive or negative numbers on them. The aim of the game is to tell a story that involves your family becoming more and more unfortunate and depressed before they finally died/topped themselves, while making everyone ELSE’s families have happy and wonderful things happen.

      Designed by Keith Baker, he of Eberron (DnD 3.5 noir/steampunk setting) fame. There are two expansions, which take it from four players to six, and add houses. Not sure how good the expansions are, but the original is fun. It recommends narrating what the card does. For example, you don’t say “I play Taunted by Tigers on the Old Dam, that’s -20.” Instead, you say “While visiting the zoo, the Old Dam tripped in front of the Big Cat enclosure. Embarrassing as that may have been, on standing up, she promptly stepped on a banana peel and fell again. When she looked up, she found that she was being Taunted by Tigers.”

  8. mister k says:

    I like my co-op games to have betrayal, ala the brilliant Battlestar Galactica.

    • jalf says:

      Ah yeah, every coop game should have extra backstabbing. That’s just such a genius combination!

      It’s got about the same amount of “ok, we’re fucked” as Kieron described in Ghost Stories, as everything automatically goes wrong for the human team, but with the occasional “ok, you’re fucked” as well, when one of those backstabbing filthy Cylon agents decides that things just aren’t going badly enough yet.

      Just stay away from the expansion (or, if you must, play it selectively, with only a few bits from the expansion added in), and it’s an amazing game.

    • jalf says:

      Kieron? Why did I say Kieron? Kieron didn’t write this article. Oops, sorry!

    • Chris D says:


      It’s ok. It was probably just the grief talking. We understand.

  9. Devenger says:

    Pathfinder RPG player here! Yeah, what you’ll find in the D&D Starter Set is pretty miniatures-battle-game. But that’s okay! And as you say, a good GM can weave roleplaying magic into any system they land in.

    There can be problems with a system primarily geared to combat (and a tabletop miniatures style of combat, at that). You’ll end up invoking Rule 0 (make something up!) far more often than many GMs want to, because the combat rules have such abstract and dissociated consequences on encounters that aren’t entirely combat. (‘No worries lads, I’ll just permanently block this 5ft wide corridor with this pillar of energy; I can replace it every turn, and there’s no rules for destroying it…’) My argument may sound weak, and maybe it is; there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of duct tape. But keep enough rolls of duct-tape handy if you’re running non-combat encounters.

    Disclaimer: Don’t let anyone ruin your fun by claiming there’s a better way. What works best for you is always the best choice. On the other hand, finding what works best requires some experimentation… play what you want, and play lots of different things you think you might enjoy too! (And don’t be scared away from a system because its fans seem to treat games in a very different way to you, or tend to dislike what YOU play… be better than them, and go and enjoy their game of choice as well.)

    • Devenger says:

      More on-topic: I really need to find some people up for picking up a board game and just playing it. Ghost Stories sounds great, albeit anxiety-inducing (feel terrible whenever I let a team down…). Hopefully the university which I leave for tomorrow will be good in this respect.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Note that a system geared towards combat is not the same thing as a game geared towards combat. All editions of D&D have been systems geared towards combat (i.e. the majority of the rules presented covered killing things and taking their loot), 3.x perhaps even more than AD&D2 – through sheer volume of supplements more than anything else.

      As for Rule 0: any system that doesn’t require the DM to use Rule 0 is a terrible system. Combat encounters won’t require any DM fiat in 99% of cases (the 1% of cases is the percent where you accidentally put your players up against monsters that play off each others’ strengths and end up having to fudge rolls and “forget” to use powers of else you’ll end up wiping the party instead of depleting their resources slightly); however, you need to distinguish between non-combat encounters (i.e. skill challenges which give you as much XP as a fight) and non-combat stuff that isn’t actually an “encounter.” While the former suffers from being the worst part of 4E (the default skill challenge mechanics are both boring and unfair), several people have replaced the stock skill challenge system with much better homebrew variants (probably the most used is the Obsidian Skill Challenge System); on the other hand, the latter is roleplaying and there is entirely DM fiat. Pathfinder (AKA 3.75, AKA 3.x) is no better at not requiring Rule 0 for combat than 4E is, and unfortunately suffers from having pointlessly detailed rules for skill usage (with charts and whatnot) which are completely unnecessary and serve only to hamper roleplaying.

      Disclaimer: Don’t let anyone ruin your fun by claiming there’s a better way. What works best for you is always the best choice. On the other hand, finding what works best requires some experimentation… play what you want, and play lots of different things you think you might enjoy too! (And don’t be scared away from a system because its fans seem to treat games in a very different way to you, or tend to dislike what YOU play… be better than them, and go and enjoy their game of choice as well.)

      This is probably the truest thing that’ll ever be written as a comment on this here column, though.

    • Devenger says:

      Thanks for the response, very interesting. I’ll have to give the Obsidian skill challenge system a look, and perhaps recommend it to my 4e-running friend, who I know struggles with the systems WotC have suggested.

      I find the discrepancy between the high fidelity of combat mechanics and the lack of detail on other potential gameplay elements frustrating, but this is just personal preference – players have different expectations of games, and that’s half the fun. Ultimately, if the GMing is good, I’m happy to bring a character into any setting under any system.

  10. Snall says:

    I hate all you people who have people who play games….

    • President Weasel says:

      Do you have a boardgame shop near you? The better kind, run by a board games enthusiast?
      Worth checking to see if they have board game nights in the shop. They may also have a noticeboard with people looking for other people to play boardgames with.

      It might mean talking to… strangers.

    • Snall says:

      I’ll check it, but pretty small city I live in…

    • President Weasel says:

      If you’re not within travelling time of Reading I can’t help you.
      If you are, eclectic games has regular nights and the guy running it is an enthusiast.

  11. TooNu says:

    I walked around the shop with Dungeon Quest under my arm for an entire 15 minutes before putting it down. I have addiction issues, thankfully my missus has the ability to make you feel guilty about even thinking about spending money. Ah love.

    I bought Horus Heresy some months back, can I just say here and now that it’s not great. Oh, chaos in the old world is the best Non-co-op game ever. Buy that, go on, buy it.

    • Robert Florence says:

      I disagree on Horus Heresy.

      It’s not just great, it’s grim.

  12. DrGonzo says:

    That film was weird. Oh so very weird. I can’t figure out whether it was intentionally funny or not.

  13. Alexander Norris says:

    I thought you’d planned a full-on Red Box review for this week rather than just an unboxing, Rab? I’m happy CC is covering 4E either way (I’m over my initial disappointment caused by learning that yes, even RPS has grognards, which is something I already knew anyway but just wanted to delude myself about a little longer – why must you shatter my innocence, Rab? Why?).


    And I know that, with further reading, and further supplements, there will be nice roleplaying rules to back those battle rules up.

    I’ve not got a copy of the Essentials stuff here right now, but I was pretty damn sure the Red Box includes skills (an integral part of characters) and skill challenge rules. These are pretty much the only “roleplaying rules” you’ll find in 4E (i.e. mechanical elements that restrict what you can do). Because 4E is a grown-up game, it expects you to actually roleplay and not consult a table and roll a die to decide how your character is acting, so it only presents detailed combat rules (where balance is important).

    So no, aside from magic items and rituals, you won’t find that many more non-combat rules outside of the Red Box, though obviously, there’s a tonne more races, classes, items, etc. This is by design, and it’s good.

    • Noc says:

      I kind of take issue with this (as well as your responses to Devenger, but this seemed like a slightly more appropriate place to comment). Mostly ’cause…

      If you want freeform roleplay, unencumbered by silly rules and mechanical restrictions, why the hell are you playing Dungeons and Dragons?

      If you want pure, freestyle roleplay, you can do that. You are allowed! You are totally allowed to roleplay without rules or dice or character levels or ability modifiers or skill checks or anything.

      (Note: this is something I have done on multiple occasions, and enjoyed immensely. I feel that this is important to disclose, because otherwise it might sound like I’m being a grumpy “hardcore” gamer, grumbling all about how “you pansy roleplayers should get off my DnD and go play your stupid little pretend-games somewhere else, while we REAL gamers roll MANLY HANDFULS OF DICE at things.” I am not saying this! I am in fact the absolute pansiest of pansies. But as someone who’s enjoyed both ends of the mechanistic/freestyle spectrum, I have fairly developed opinions about how they should mix.)

      Anyways! So, freestyle roleplaying is an option, and there are even plenty of stripped-down, narrativistic systems that’ll give you a skeleton statblock and a simple method of arbitrating contests for when you need to determine something randomly, if pure-freestyle isn’t your thing. This gives you the greatest degree of “grown up” roleplay, as you term it, unfettered by rolling unnecessary dice and consulting unnecessary tables.

      . . .

      The reason people turn to rules-heavier systems is because they provide some level of structure you don’t get in freeform systems. Building a character mechanically equips you with tools to interact with the world: your character is strong, or smart, or charismatic. They are skilled or tough or have magic, and this is what their magic can do, and so on.

      A good system that “supports roleplay” lets your actions in roleplay-driven scenes mesh seamlessly with mechanics-driven scenes. Out-of-combat matters like fatigue or mental state or preparatory work can affect combat in clear mechanical ways — and the the other way around, too, with combat-centric abilities having a out-of-combat applications.

      This is the reason to turn to DnD for roleplay in the first place: because the mechanics and the structure serve the roleplay. You’re stuck in the middle of hostile territory and are wounded, low on potions, and out of spells, with danger all around! What do you do? OR, this demon is offering you a magic sword with abilities you really need for your quest, but is it worth the price? Your party’s spellcaster has to eat a baby every morning or lose his power, but you happen to like babies! Or what-fucking-ever: all of this roleplay stuff is directly provoked by, and supported by, game mechanics.

      Which is the reason to have game mechanics cover things beyond pure combat and occasional skill-checks, and — relevant to my complaints about 4e last week — why people tend to like combat mechanics modeling world-phenomena more closely.

      Yes, making your out-of-combat rules system predicated upon consulting table after table is bad. But there are plenty of combat systems that involve too much unnecessary bookkeeping, die-rolling, and table-consulting too! These systems are not bad because they govern something that should be freestyled, they’re bad because they’re clunky and inelegant.

      Example time! So, it makes sense that one might get tired after walking all day, so there should maybe be a system that reflects this. So, hmm, lets see…we can look up our Con score, and compare it to a table, and find out that we can walk x miles per day at an “easy” pace and y miles at “grueling” pace, so, lets figure, we’re in the “grueling” category so everyone gets…a -2 Fatigue penalty to rolls! This is exactly the sort of thing no one really bothers with, for very good reasons, because it’s clunky and has little bearing on meaningful decision-making.

      OR we can say “You guys marched all day. That’s a big physical task, so everyone roll Con + Athletics, or be tired.” That (provided this “tired” state is equally elegant) is a very simple mechanic that covers a wide range of character actions and doesn’t involve consulting any tables at all! It’s a simple, out-of-combat consideration that can have a significant affect on decision making — which helps both drive roleplay and integrate roleplayed choices back into the mechanical segments.

      In the SAME WAY that being injured, or being out of spells, or being stuck in the middle of a hostile dungeon without your equipment drives roleplay, which is why you’re playing DnD in the first place!

      4e doesn’t have a terrible amount of support for this. It does do a couple really interesting things that I wish they’d done more with, like the Healing Surges thing, but…the combat system has been developed into a really arbitrary place, and none of the core combat or progression or equipment mechanics seem to mesh very well with out-of-combat roleplay stuff. Like gameplay/story segregation in JRPGs, but not quite as bad.

      (Of course, now I’m getting all sorts of interesting ideas about how to use Healing Surges to rebuild the 4e powers system, but this post is getting hella-long already.)

      . . .

      Anyways! So you say, “Oh, but the GM can do all that! You don’t need all that shit in the book.” Well…yes, but there are all sorts of fairly good reasons why it’s better to have a mechanic pre-defined. Here they are:

      – It ensures that the players (and by extension, the characters) know about the mechanic ahead of time, and can incorporate it into their decision-making. A game where you know that, say, fatigue is going to be an issue ahead of time will play out very differently than one where the GM says out of nowhere that “Oh, yeah, you guys’ve been working fairly hard. You get a -2 penalty to checks in this encounter.”
      – Pre-defined mechanics will tend to be better balanced than something the GM has to improvise on the fly. And if the system isn’t clunky, it saves time, too: everyone will already know how it works, and you don’t waste time trying to come up with a mechanic, or defend it against player quibbling.
      – The mechanic is more likely to be integrated into the rest of the game logic: so, with your Fatigue example, there will be things that will cause fatigue (either as a cost for abilities or as an offensive power), and there will be ways to reduce or prevent it.

      And, the best thing? For the most part, this is all self-correcting! If a mechanic is too clunky or irrelevant players just ignore it, which means you’re no worse off for it being included in the book. On the other hand, if a mechanic is any good, it’s better to have it predefined, instead of expecting GMs to come up with it on their own!

      Thus, it is better for a rules system to have mechanics for all sorts of nonessentials than it is for the system to omit things because they “should be left to pure roleplay.”

      And if you want a freestyle system, unencumbered by obnoxious game-rules, D&D — 4e or otherwise — is not the game to play.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Next to rolemaster, all RPGs are pussywhipped.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      4E does not offer completely freeform roleplay, and I never claimed it did. All editions of D&D have had a combat system rather close to a tabletop wargame at their heart, which is of course entirely normal because of Chainmail. As a result, D&D needs detailed combat rules to ensure that the combat portion of the game is balanced.

      This does not mean that D&D needs detailed rules for how to go take a leak or how to haggle. It’s still a roleplaying game; the combat is there because D&D has always assumed heroes killing monsters and taking their loot, but the other half of the game has always been about pretending to be Syr Godfric of Meleran and his childhood friends, the dwarf Amrac and Mandras the Fearsome, Wizard of the Fifth Circle.

      You don’t need pure freestyle roleplay to accomplish that, and this isn’t what 4E tries for. It does, however, lean quite a bit on narrativist games. 3.x’s non-combat rules were shit. They served only to limit out-of-combat interaction in completely meaningless ways, to enforce some sort of ridiculous pseudo-realism on a fantasy game that included casters who could quite happily destroy entire cities by tenth level (this same pseudo-realism being what was used to justify the fucking atrocious balance of 3.x classes).

      In 4E, you have tools for dealing with the world, same as you did in 3.x – and these are your character’s skills, just like they were in 3.x. What you don’t have is the network of completely pointless rules that serve no purpose other than to curtail your fun and make it harder to play a role.

      Yes, making your out-of-combat rules system predicated upon consulting table after table is bad. But there are plenty of combat systems that involve too much unnecessary bookkeeping, die-rolling, and table-consulting too! These systems are not bad because they govern something that should be freestyled, they’re bad because they’re clunky and inelegant.

      Yes! Which is why 3.x’s out-of-combat rules are terrible and 4E’s are fine: 3.x’s are clunky, inelegant and get in the way of roleplaying; 4E’s are there if you need to use dice to resolve a situation, and otherwise work on the assumption that since it’s your story in the first place, you’ll do whatever is most fun or most dramatically appropriate. This is how roleplaying games should work.

      OR we can say “You guys marched all day. That’s a big physical task, so everyone roll Con + Athletics, or be tired.” That (provided this “tired” state is equally elegant) is a very simple mechanic that covers a wide range of character actions and doesn’t involve consulting any tables at all! It’s a simple, out-of-combat consideration that can have a significant affect on decision making — which helps both drive roleplay and integrate roleplayed choices back into the mechanical segments.

      Or: if I, as a DM, feels tiredness should affect heroes in a meaningful way, can look up the normal DC for a skill check at their level and make them roll an Endurance check to determine whether they offer combat advantage to their enemies for this encounter. This is the entire point of the Endurance skill in 4E.

      The point is, though, that 4E makes certain assumptions about what kind of people your characters are (just like every prior edition of D&D), and those assumptions are that you are a cut above everyone else and destined for greatness. Mundane things like thirst, hunger and tiredness should not impact your adventuring in any meaningful way unless they’re a key part of the adventuring itself, i.e. you’re on an expedition to the setting’s Antarctica, or you’re playing Dark Sun; and if they don’t impact anything in any meaningful way, they do not need rules. If you are playing Dark Sun or a campaign about exploring a hostile environment, it’s as simple as going “in this campaign there will be a thirst/tiredness/hunger mechanic that does X.”

      Yes, D&D can do low-fantasy campaigns, but it does them poorly. Every edition of D&D since AD&D2 has been like this, and they’ve gotten progressively worse at supporting things completely outside their flavour and better at supporting the things they’re supposed to support. If you want gritty low-fantasy, play WFRP! If you want space opera, play Traveller! Don’t play a game of heroes adventuring into dungeons to kill dragons and expect it to model everything that takes your fancy, because no system is capable of doing this except the most abstract, rules-light-to-the-point-of-having-nearly-no-rules narrativist system (e.g. Wushu).

      – Pre-defined mechanics will tend to be better balanced than something the GM has to improvise on the fly.

      The point is that you don’t need balance outside of combat. Outside of combat, logic and roleplaying should dominate. If you want to do something or say something, you do it, and if it’s an action that should have a chance of failure because things are made more exciting by its having one, you roll a die and take a skill check. If you run into a locked door in a situation where the locked door isn’t plot-relevant (i.e. it’s just a regular door, as opposed to a magic door to the wizard’s bedroom or a bank vault or your cell door), what should happen is that you go “someone in the party kicks the door down” and the DM goes “okay, someone kicked the door down; the coast is clear, but you’ve made quite a bit of noise.”

      – The mechanic is more likely to be integrated into the rest of the game logic: so, with your Fatigue example, there will be things that will cause fatigue (either as a cost for abilities or as an offensive power), and there will be ways to reduce or prevent it.

      Having a table listing what does and does not cause fatigue is superfluous, and is going to lead to just as much, if not more, arguing. Why would certain things cause fatigue and others not? The answer has nothing to do with the natural order of things and everything to do with designer fiat, which is ultimately the same thing as DM fiat. In other words, why bother putting fatigue rules that 95% of people won’t use in the rulebook when the 5% of people who would like fatigue rules can use the incredibly simple building blocks of the system to create a condition with mechanical disadvantages for use in combat and agree with each other on what would logically cause that condition?

      it saves time, too: everyone will already know how it works, and you don’t waste time trying to come up with a mechanic, or defend it against player quibbling.

      4E is designed so that coming up with a mechanic doesn’t waste time, so it takes approximately ten seconds for anyone who knows the system to go: “How do I represent fatigue? I represent fatigue by a condition that gives -1 to all defences, and is inflicted on people when they fail an Endurance check, DC normal, and lasts until they rest for an hour.” Roughly three-quarters of the 4E DMG is dedicated to exactly this: “how to create extra rules that you feel ought to govern things but we don’t.” It contains DC tables, rules on how to create monsters and traps and diseases, ideas for how to use skills in your campaign, etc. All it takes is reading the DMG and a little bit of understanding the rules to know how to create additional rules that you can seamlessly bolt onto the system.

      As for all agreeing on a rule beforehand instead of the DM magicking it out of thin air halfway through a session, sure, I agree with you; that said, only a bad DM would do the latter and apply the rule with no prior notification, and I don’t believe the system should be responsible for doing damage control on sloppy DMs. Common sense, some decency and a well-written 30-page “how to DM” section should be all you need to start down the path of good DMing; sadly, the rest of it is entirely experience and you can only learn that by DMing and making mistakes.

      And, the best thing? For the most part, this is all self-correcting! If a mechanic is too clunky or irrelevant players just ignore it, which means you’re no worse off for it being included in the book. On the other hand, if a mechanic is any good, it’s better to have it predefined, instead of expecting GMs to come up with it on their own!

      The reverse is as true if not more: a superfluous mechanic is going to be ignored and unused at best, or modified by the GM at worst. Why waste time creating it and waste space in the rulebook including it? On the other hand, if a DM feels a mechanical element is needed, he can just create it simply and easily using the building blocks provided.

      In other words, where balance doesn’t matter (outside of combat, where how much people contribute to the game is limited only by how much they want to contribute to the game), create rules for creating rules and let people go wild. Where balance does matter (in combat, where it doesn’t matter how much you want your archer dude to be cool if archers are in every way mechanically inferior to spellcasters), create rules governing as much as you can to ensure balance, because balance is not something the average person has a good grasp of – it takes a lot of experience with different systems and a lot of playtesting to balance things, which is why it should be the job of whoever has the most experience and the biggest pool of playtesting man-hours (usually, this is the designer, but that’s not always the case).

      And if you want a freestyle system, unencumbered by obnoxious game-rules, D&D — 4e or otherwise — is not the game to play.

      This is absolutely true, but it’s not an excuse for having superfluous and/or bad rules that interfere with your playing the game.

      In any case, it seems we disagree on what the purpose of an RPG should be and not on the objective quality of 4E/3.x, which is fine. You’ve obviously got a brain on you and you’re not spouting blatant lies, and this is an argument about design philosophy, which I’m more than happy to have.

      Honest question, though: have you played 4E? A lot of your complaints are things addressed by 4E’s DMG1 (and a tiny bit in DMG2), as I’ve just pointed out.

    • Noc says:

      …this is a bit late in the posting, since I was out most of the day. Hopefully it gets through before this thread is lost in the shuffle of weekly news!

      I have played 4e! I mentioned it in passing last week, I think.

      Of course, as mentioned, what we’ve been doing is running through the sample modules (the Cormyr quest chain, to be specific). We’ve run through…three of them, so far? Which might be a big part of the problem, because the way these modules are kind of really, really shitty?

      It’s entirely possible that I’ve been projecting the modules’ faults onto the system, on the assumption that they are handling matters the way the system intends? Because holy shit, playing through their “Skill Check Encounters” left us feeling like “What the hell, we are playing a minigame. THIS IS STUPID.” See also: distributing loot WoW-style, and Bioware style quest hubs alternating with Boss Encounters.

      . . .

      Anyways, you’re right: I don’t think we disagree on the merits of 3.5e’s systems. I don’t like ’em either! And 4e’s systems are indisputably a lot cleaner. I think where we diverge is our ideas on whether or not that equates to elegance of design.

      Like, looking back over the 4e rules: you’re right, there’s a fairly simple system for arbitrating out-of-combat effects: “Make a level appropriate skill check, and get a level appropriate bonus or penalty.” 4e’s aggressive balancing keeps these values fairly tightly in line, so it’s really easy to whip up a mechanic on the fly.

      However, I don’t feel that this is a particularly elegant system? It is simple, but it is also shallow: the primary manifestation of player choice is when you’re sitting there wondering “Should I train Endurance or Dungeoneering? Which is the DM gonna make me roll more?”

      Similarly, you have a bunch of different rules for character exertion, tiredness, and fatigue operating in parallel: you spend Healing Surges, you expend Powers, you spend Action Points, you make Endurance rolls, you have your Fortitude Defense, you take check penalties, and you receive the Weakened, Slowed, or Dazed status effects.

      . . .

      What I would consider elegant is something that rolls all of this into a single resource. You’d have Physical Surges, which you spend on healing, Martial Exploits, and miscellaneous physical tasks.

      So, a fairly basic mechanic, with varying availability by class, (in pool size and recharge options) and varying importance in combat, and a very simple application out-of-combat — namely, spend a Surge to do a thing.*

      Suddenly, a core character trait is relevant both in- and out-of-combat! Classes suddenly get very different, as do methods of problem solving: picking the lock on the back door becomes very different than scaling the castle wall and then hoisting the rest of the party up. It doesn’t involve any more rolls or stat-checking or table-consulting or bookkeeping, but does drive roleplay and decision making much more than the existing system does.

      This is basically how I am defining “elegant mechanics:” simple systems that pull a lot of weight and provoke a lot of interesting decisions. Additionally, these system serve roleplay better if they are integrated well into world-logic, so they can provoke character decisions in addition to player ones. (As in: “Maaaan I don’t want to do this ’cause it’s haaaard and costs Surges and I’m tiiiired” is totally an in-character consideration, while “Nope, can’t do that thing, it’s a big deal and I already did it today!” kind of isn’t.)

      (This is what I was talking about with “Predefined mechanics that are incorporated into the rules,” in my last comment: not more tables of “Things that cause fatigue,” and more status effects and powers and so on…but single simpler systems that both drive combat and drive broader out-of-combat play.)

      4e’s mechanics aren’t very much more elegant than 3.5’s, I think? With the exception of the Powers system (Which I have other issues with, as I rambled about last week), it’s mostly the same stuff, just cleaned up a bit and nailed down into a tighter balance scheme.

      But I feel like they also cut out a lot of relevance along with the chaff, and that the mechanical skeleton of the system can produce much more interesting systems if it was just combined in a different way.

      The modules we’ve been playing have been kind of shitty, but a lot of my frustration with the system has come not from them, but from paging through the PHB and trying to ponder out paths of character advancement; while other games have me pondering and plotting mid-week and figuring out awesome things to do when play reconvenes, leveling up in 4e leaves me picking what feels like the least suboptimal choice, closing the book, and resolving to not think about it until the next game-session.

      *For the sake of this discussion, lets assume that there’s a simple and easy way to rework the Powers system around this mechanic. I have lots of ideas about how to do this, but babbling about them is beyond the scope of this comment, I think.

  14. Temple to Tei says:

    Few centimes worth: Lord of Rings co-op was good for me in my situation. with a non-agressive girlfriend who only played games to make me happy. I died so that she might live and win the game :)

    It was very much a ‘what do we do to get past this situation’ game, but for us it was what we wanted. We even played WOW the Boardgame as a co-op and our favourite part was the the many hours we spend before the game picking skills. And just as long re-picking during the game.

    So, maybe what I am saying is: if you are very close to someone, and trying to get the into boardgames, then a little LOR co-op might work for you.

  15. Antlia says:

    No, this can’t be right. I’ve had FUN with that LotR game. Well, it must be shit if a real boardgame expert says it is…

    Looking at the scoresheet we’ve played it 37 times.

  16. Ed says:

    I was about to post RAH RAH RAH PANDEMIC RAH RAH CO-OP RAH RAH but then I noticed that the first 4 posts sorted all that out. Carry on!

    Ghost Stories does look interesting – if it captures the silly charm of Mr Vampire, Chinese Ghost Story etc

    (Great column btw, really enjoy seeing it appear in the RSS feed and thinking “of course, it’s Saturday!”)

  17. Hippo says:

    Arkham Horror was my first and (for now) only coop game. I’ve only played it a few times. And the last time, everyone else had left when I finally managed to close that last gate and win the game. I probably bent the rules quite a bit in order to achieve that. The point, anyway, is that they left before the game was over. So… not a huge success.

  18. Armyofnone says:

    Goodness, what is is all this boardgame discussion on my internets!
    Honestly, though. Enjoying reading this, even if I don’t play boardgames besides my weekly DnD 4E session. Keep up the good work and addition of variety to RPS! It’s some sort of spice, I heard.

  19. malkav11 says:

    Ghost Stories is indeed very hard. What amazes, also frightens me, is that it is very hard indeed on the lowest of four included difficulties. I don’t even understand how you could possibly win at one of the harder levels, when they start doing things like, oh, I don’t know, unleashing MULTIPLE INCARNATIONS OF WU-FENG ON YOU. Jesus christ. We did win once, though. I think. Unless we were misunderstanding a rule someplace, which is possible – the rules are quite terse and not as helpful as I would like. We were on our very last legs but we got lucky and the particular incarnation of Wu-Feng that emerged was one we could take out on that last turn before everyone died.

    I haven’t gotten to play with the White Moon expansion much yet. Everyone at my gaming group seems to feel they need to get a better handle on the basic set before they introduce complications like saving families of villagers. We did once substitute the new village title into the layout, though. The one where you can simultaneously attack all ghosts of your color. It’s very potent.

  20. Aquarion says:

    If you like the style of Arkham, but the horror of the game is too much (It is lovecraftian in every sense of the word. It’s almost a satire of complicated board games. Listening to a group of twelve people play it with all the expansions in the pub one evening, experimentation found that you could take any five seconds of discussion and it would sound like someone taking the piss out of boardgames).

    Anyway, less complicated but of the same style and with similar creeping horror (due to the “by the same people” thing) is Shadows over Camelot, which you should try if you haven’t,

    • DrGonzo says:

      Where is it you live that you could play ‘proper’ boardgames in the pub without being punched in the face?

    • malkav11 says:

      Er, what? A) Arkham Horror and Shadows over Camelot are not the same sort of game at all. Arkham Horror is a tense, heavily flavorful cooperative game with enormous amounts of variability in game elements and a nearly RPG-lite feel. Shadows over Camelot is a pseudocooperative game where you have hugely limited resources and time to deal with an overwhelming threat while someone in the group attempts to sabotage you. There’s minimal flavor and very limited options that make it both unpleasant and dull for me. B) They are not made by the same people. Arkham is Fantasy Flight, Shadows is Days of Wonder. The designers are also different people.

  21. nayon says:

    Please talk about Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer: link to

  22. Sunjammer says:

    A lot of Arkham Horror haters on here.. Or uh. Not haters i guess but non-believers?
    Personally i look at AH as a kind of compilation of Lovecraft fan fic. If you’re not into Lovecraft, you’ll experience strongly diminishing returns. To me a big part of the experience of that game is interacting with Lovecraftian characters in an unbelievably hostile setting. The fluff is just really important to get enjoyment from it.

    The moment you pick characters strategically for their stats, or sit down a night to read through all the event cards to “prepare yourself” or whatever I think you’ve failed. It’s a game where you are supposed to fail, because the stuff you are up against is beyond you. Playing AH by candlelight and dark ambient music has been super cool in the past.

    If i have a real complaint about AH it’s that it’s a coop game that doesn’t play strongly to the coop aspect; There is no way to join forces in combat, and there is no way to travel beyond together and experience things as a group. Instead, you’re all a bunch of independent investigators, which seems a bit counterintuitive.

    A less real complaint is that it’s just a really demanding game physically. I’ve often wanted someone to make a computer version of it, simply because it’s so hard to get everyone together in a space large enough with the time to spare to set it up.

    • Tei says:

      But.. but… You are tchulu!, thats why you like it!

    • Sunjammer says:

      I’m an absolutely stupid HPL fanboy.. Which makes it hard to be objective, yeah :/

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s still fairly cooperative for all of that. Resources can mostly be pooled, several of the characters can activate their abilities on behalf of other characters, some spells can be used to help other characters, and then there’s the day to day coordination of “you kill this monster on the streets there so that I can make an unimpeded (and unsneaky) run over to this gate here while Bob closes the square gate so that the monster that’s about to kill Jane gets sucked back in….”

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      I too am a lovecraft whore, but I believe that bias in no way effects the fact that the Call of Cthulhu is the best RPG ever published. Ever.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Yo, yo, Tetragrammaton, I respect your opinion and your name is hella cool (though more by association with Equilibrium than Jewish mythology) and I’ma let you finish, but WFRP is the greatest RPG of all time. OF ALL TIME!

    • Chris D says:

      The greatest RPG of all time is obviously Feng Shui. Obviously. You’d have to be a fool to think otherwise.

      Although Deadlands is pretty good too.

      And Legend of the Five Rings.

      I also really liked Earthdawn

      And a lot of the White Wolf stuff.

      And clearly you can’t forget Paranoia.

      I’m so confused…

  23. Spacewalk says:

    I did buy a game this week (Ravenloft) and I have yet to not read the rules. I probably don’t need to, it’s just moving things around and rolling against numbers isn’t it.

  24. Morph says:

    Ghost Stories is my favourite co-op, though Shadows over Camelot and Arkham Horror are both very good. GS is kind of an insane puzzle that keeps changing and it needs to be co-op because it’s too bloody hard for one mind to try and solve. The expansion is probably not worth it – adds some unneeded complications.

  25. The Pink Ninja says:

    I wish I had friends to play boardgames with :(

    • Blackberries says:

      Do you have friends? Then you have friends to play board games with. Seriously. I only “got into” board games a few months ago (courtesy of Rab’s DowntimeTown, as a matter of fact), starting with purchasing myself a copy of Citadels. I announced to my friends that I had a game and asked if they’d like to try it out… they agreed, and loved it. I’ve since also acquired Condottiere and Pandemic, both of which have similarly gone down a treat.

      I even brought them with me last time I visited my family, and they were just as warmly received then.

      I’d say drop £20 on Pandemic or Citadels and persuade your social group to give it a try.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      No, I don’t have ANY friends. Seriously, the only people are have conversations with are my parents and one of my uni professors.

  26. bleeps says:

    I got me hands on Space Hulk Death Angel this week. I’ve yet to open it up as I have a ton of work to catch up on and I followed someone’s advice and checked out Dark Flight.

    Also, another big up for Pandemic here.

  27. Wedge says:

    I played Ghost Stories once… good lord that game is impossibly and brutally unforgiving. My main problem with it was some of the monk’s abilities were absolutely necessary, while others felt almost useless.

  28. veerus says:

    What about Space Alert?

    • Allandaros says:

      Space Alert is bloody awesome. You have to hit the screensaver to stay alive!

  29. Hybrid says:

    Haha well I’m currently the winning bidder for an Arkham Horror base set on eBay. We’ll see how I like it if I do win.

    • Hybrid says:

      …and outbid at the last second. I’m a fan of Lovecraft, should I look for another copy?

    • Walsh says:

      Yes, I love the game as Lovecraft fan. I also love the fact you can play by yourself. Now you may think it odd, playing a board game by yourself, but once you get into it and force yourself not to cheat, it’s as much fun as a PC game, in my opinion.

  30. Radiant says:

    “…it’s a story about how a man eventually fell in love with something he didn’t initially understand. Like how Johnny Depp fell for Vanessa Paradis after she learned some English.”

    I’m very glad you write here.

  31. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I’m in the minority, but I don’t really like Pandemic. I’m a strat player. I’m also, when playing games, loud, bossy, and assertive.

    So typically, I end up playing at least 3 roles in Pandemic, as I order other people around. If I can pull the helicopter pilot type, it’s worse. But generally I’m going “Okay, scientist, you need to go to mexico, cure two yellow, and give the medic a card. Medic, then you go to asia, and finish off red. Then I’ll go to San Fran and eradicate black. Good game, guys.”

    Knights of Camelot is fairly entertaining, though – it also has a betrayal piece, which I think is key to any good co-op game.

    If we’re doing styles, let’s add some coffin box games, eh? Rune Lords, Starcraft, etc…

  32. RogB says:

    this week i bought the space hulk card game DEATH ANGEL, and need to read the rules again as they seem fairly confusing at first glance.
    But I’m rather taken with the quality of the fantasy flight silver line boxes, and would probably buy more if they were also solo. (solo is pretty frowned upon in boardgaming circles but it seems more of a social hobby than ours, ironically.)

    I’m now trawling Boardgamegeek for every SOLO fantasy and sci-fi game, including print and play. Heres my shortlist which may help someone in a similar quandry.

    currently prepared but not played:

    and supposedly the ultimate solo dungeon crawler is but its out of print. There are rules and tiles available, so I might undertake a -massive- print and play remake of this.

    • RogB says:

      good lord I made a complete arse of that. in plain english instead:

      – Zombie in my pocket
      – Lost Patrol
      – Dungeon Plungin

      and the uber remake – Warhammer Quest

    • -Spooky- says:

      Munchkin Quest ;)

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Runebound may be worth a go for you solo -one of the main complaints is that it feels like a solo game as there is little player interaction (read: little opportunity to mess with the other players).

      If you like the look of a game, check the developer’s website or even BGG for some alternative rules for solo play. At lot of people are forced into soloing multiplayer games and spend a lot of time to creating workable solo rules.

      My personal preference is pc/xbox for solo play and boardgames for with human creatures.
      Boardgames feel more like a puzzle when played solo for me.

    • RogB says:

      i’ll check those out, thanks!

  33. bill says:

    Is this WHFRP 3rd Ed a new development, or is it one of the old ones?

    I still have my old WHFRP book, but i have no idea which editions they got up to. Warhammer city and the old white dwarf scenarios are still my 2nd fave RPGs ever.


    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Shiny & new

      link to

      Haven’t had a chance to try it but i hear great things. Never got to play Paranoia either.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      A lazy bit of research later:

      “Of special notice is the secret society known as the Wobblies. The game’s backstory indicates that the Computer was worried about this society, and sent a pack of Troubleshooters to investigate. Since the society didn’t actually exist, the Troubleshooters found nothing to report, and were terminated for laziness and insubordination. After a couple of Troubleshooter groups were thus disposed of, a newly sent group founded the society themselves in order to have something to report on. By the time the game setting takes place, a number of other secret societies have sent spies to join the Wobblies and the end result is a group that consists entirely of spies for other groups”

      I must play this game.

    • bill says:

      I always thought Paranoia would make the only great MMO ever. If done right.

      You’d have the unique attribute that your character would get slaughtered in horrible ways at the end of every quest.

    • bill says:

      Plus you’d have no idea what your true mission was. You’d all be trying to betray each other. And it would be fun/funny.

      Oooooh shiny!!
      I don’t need it at all. But shiny!!!

  34. Alexander Norris says:

    I think at this point I need a t-shirt that reads “I ONLY EVER COMMENT ON RAB’S COLUMNS TO TALK ABOUT D&D.”

  35. Blackberries says:

    How the crap did it take me two weeks to notice Rab’s doing a column for RPS. I’ve even optimistically checked DowntimeTown in this time.

    I am incredibly bloody happy. And tempted to buy both Ghost Stories and DungeonQuest, though can’t even slightly justify that expense. Not least because I bought Kingsburg last Saturday.

    Why do you do this to me, Rab. Why.

  36. Quine says:

    Next to rolemaster, all RPGs are pussywhipped.

    This, but then my sessions tended towards the simulation end of combat manoeuvres because combat was difficult and dangerous and your party had to think and plan how they approached situations, rather than breezing through heroically and moving onto the next target to mug.

  37. dustin diamond's sex-tape says:

    as i frigid boardgame virgin (other than the standard mainstream fingering behind the bikesheds from monopoly, risk and its ilk) my experience with the lotr game last week was not an entirely unhappy one. my standards are obviously piss poor and my technical input would likely be akin to “i like the bit in halo when you shoot the man” given how i enjoyed my shallow defiling by a fumbling wrongcock of the board game world, but it was a step into a brave new world that i mean to pursue.

  38. Temple to Tei says:

    I think LOTR co-op is a good starter’s choice (of course it may be rose tinted spectacles as it was our first time together). The theme of throw the ring in the thing is known widely these days and with no (unless I remember it wrong) dice rolling it comes down to a co-op chat almost.
    Competetive games for first-timers can be demoralising as they are crushed by the experienced players and if the first time is bad, well we know how that goes (are we still going with the metaphor?)

    It felt almost freeform in its playing.

    Co-op games are very dependent on your group. Haters of co-op will typically have a dominating member who basically plays the game for everyone. Someone above mentions Pandemic as being one of the worst -you plan your moves and your co-players at the same time. With the right group it seems to hit the good times, with the wrong it falls flat.

    Rob is an ameritrash fan, so the muted, gentle approach of LOTR probably didn’t hit the right notes.
    Feel like I’m defending LOTR a lot. What can I say I (and others) have enjoyed it.

    My fave game is Battlelore with its multi figures and lots of cards -wargame with a simple mechanic so nothing gets overwhelming
    My second is WOW the Boardgame with its absolutley masses of figures and billions of cards (for what it is worth never actually played WOW the mmoorprorpg. Quests and levelling your character with a ridiculous amount of skills.
    Oh, wait my second may be Race for the Galaxy -card based only, sci-fi empire builder.

    Some other basic games I know -all are card based rather than big boards- and will be classed as filler or gateway by true players and playettes:
    Lost Cities -kinda math based, but no bad reactions from those I have tried it with -little bit of risk taking and trying to stop your opponent
    Jambo -be an african trader, really like this one -little bit of ‘screwage’ of the others
    Balloon Cup -had it for years, wierdly never played, but recommendations from others.

    Catan the card game -do not like the board game for some reason, but love the mechanic in the card game for gathering and keeping your resouces.
    San Juan -again the card game, never played the boardgame

    Another name to throw out there would be Galaxy Truckers -seems like a crazy game:
    build a spaceship, watch it blow up (never played but love the some of the game session diaries)

    Again boardgamegeek has reviews, video reviews and game sessions.

    For those of you who cannot meet others a lot of these are now playable online.
    (I feel gulity for being in London and not taking advantage of the many bg groups here -while others would wish to be in my position of choice)
    San Juan and Race for the Galaxy both have decent pc conversions -other publishers host their own onine facilities. Days of Wonder certainly for Ticket to Ride and some of its other titles.
    For the xbox I recommend Carcassonne -I presume there is a decent pc conversion somewhere.

  39. Robmonster says:

    Where is the best place to buy these kind of board games in the UK? It seems that if it’s not Monopoly, Scrabble or Boggle my local shops does not stock it.

    • RogB says:

      best off googling for local shops. my nearest (manc) has a ‘travelling man’ and another shop called ‘fanboy 3’ that stock this kind of thing.
      otherwise hit the online sellers (boardgameguru, gameslore etc)

    • Robmonster says:

      Any recommended on-line shops?

    • Robmonster says:

      Gah, I clicked reply before noticing you had already mentioned a couple of onl-ine shop. Sorry!