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Cardboard Children: The Catch-Up

"heroes would move"

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Hello youse.

I’m back. Even better than that, I’m back full time as a fully integrated member of Team RPS. That means I’ll be here every weekend, delivering all your board game and card game and RPG content. Basically, if it’s a game, and you need to sit at a table to play it, I’ll cover it. I’ll write about it, photograph it, film it and show you it. And I’ll also do those things with the game.

It’s a big responsibility. Where else can a fella speak about board games to OVER TWO MILLION UNIQUE USERS? Nowhere else. Only here. Only on the best games website on the planet. I will make you spend mad money in the months and years ahead. You will hate me for it. You will be penniless. You will have no space left in your house. You will wish death on me.

This week, a catch-up.
THE CATCH-UP – DESCENT SECOND EDITION

Well, we’re all still waiting for the Second Edition of Fantasy Flight’s Descent. I played the hell out of the first edition of this dungeon crawler, despite it being an unwieldy, messy terror of a thing. The biggest problem with the original Descent was the time it took to play, and the unthematic way that movement and combat unfolded. The heroes would move through the dungeon like a SWAT team, covering angles and trying to limit bad guy spawns, while the Overlord player would try to find gamey ways to execute his plans. And there is constant rulechecking. You could be enjoying your hundredth experience and still have to check you were doing it properly, like the world’s most unconfident lover. It just didn’t ever feel right, despite being deep and fun.

I had high hopes for a clean, stripped back version of Descent. And it’s all looking a lot better than I’d hoped, to be honest. This looks like a very different game, meaning that the first edition remains relevant. That’s always a good thing for people like me who spent a fortune on all the first edition stuff because I’m a fucking idiot. Take a look at the most recent update from Fantasy Flight, unveiling the Necromancer class for the Mage, which allows a player to use the Overlord’s own minions against him.

That looks good, right? That looks like a focus on theme, right? The designers are also saying all the right things about correcting the weaknesses of the first edition. I think this is going to be one of the best releases of the year, if it stays on target. Descent: First Edition is a great game. This refinement could lift it into awesomeness. I’ll try to bring you the earliest possible review, like a professional or something.

THE CATCH-UP – NETRUNNER

Netrunner is back! No, I don’t know if that’s a good thing either. I’ve never played it. But I’ve heard about it. Oh, have I heard about it.

INT. BOARD GAME SHOP

ROBERT is looking at some MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards. He picks up a deck, looks at it. DAMP-SMELLING MAN shuffles over.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Well, well… you like Magic?

ROBERT: Um, aye.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Okay.

There is a pause. The man stays close, invading ROBERT’s personal space.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: You should really try Netrunner. It’s Garfield’s masterpiece.

ROBERT: Really?

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Best card game ever. Ahead of its time.

ROBERT: Where can I get it?

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: That’s just the thing…

DAMP-SMELLING MAN vanishes in a puff of damp-smelling smoke.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: (From beyond) You can’t…

But now you can. Fantasy Flight are moving it into their much-loved (hoho!) Android universe (I’ll be telling you about Android down the line) and turning it into a Living Card Game. That just means that the collectable/random aspect is removed and you lose all your money by trying to keep up with the monthly releases instead. Oh, and Richard Garfield isn’t involved with this new version either. I don’t know. I think I should be excited about it, but I’m not. Do any of you have experience with the original version of the game? Comment! Tell us about it. Should we be excited?

THE CATCH-UP – MY WORRIES ABOUT KICKSTARTER

I need to talk about this. It’s been bothering me.

Kickstarter bothers me. It really does. I love the notion behind it. And I think that most of the stuff on there comes from a positive place, especially anything involving fetishes or cats. But board games? Really? I dunno. Here’s my thinking – most board game Kickstarters try to pull people on board by showing a nice bit of artwork, or an explanation of the game’s theme. Or maybe even an explanation of how the game plays. But how well are these things playtested? Publishers usually demand a certain level of playtesting before a board game ever makes it to market, because it’s the publisher who is taking the risk. When it’s the consumer carrying all that risk, through Kickstarter, where is the necessity for a rigorous playtesting process?

I’ve only played one game that came from Kickstarter so far, and it was awful (Miskatonic School For Girls). It worries me. It all worries me. Great games need to be tested and refined and tested and refined. Looking or sounding cool isn’t enough.

Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Make sure you’re not funding a first draft.

THE CATCH-UP – MAGE KNIGHT REPRINT

Hey! Mage Knight has been reprinted, and if you haven’t ordered it yet you should drown yourself in a bath of vomit. Take it from me – this is one of the very best games ever made, and a PC gaming audience will take to it like a duck to vomit. Seriously, this game was made for you, and you can even play it solo if you struggle to find people to game with. It was my game of the year last year, and nothing else really came close.

You seriously better order that shit before it’s gone again.

THE CATCH-UP – TABLETOP

Have you seen Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop yet? Basically, it’s Wil Wheaton playing boardgames with some other people, and filming it. I get asked about this show ALL THE TIME.

“Hey, Robert! What do you think of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop?”

I think anything that brings more attention to board games is a good thing. I think Wil seems like a lovely guy. And I love the part in this episode where he says “This is bullshit”. I’ve been there a million times.

The trouble with any show like this is that it all hinges on which game is at the table. I am never going to sit for half an hour and watch people play fucking Smallworld. Never. Not even if they were all Charlize Theron and the game table was vibrating and I had an X-Ray TV. But something like Mall of Horror? You bet. People brawling and shouting. Fantastic. Still, the show is a positive thing and I’m glad it exists.

THE CATCH-UP – THE FUTURE

Now that this is a proper full-time thing for me, I’ve made some arrangements that will allow me to get games onto a table on a regular basis. I have the place, I have the people, and my friend James Purefoy might be joining us for a few sessions too. That means I should be able to bring you solid up-to-date coverage on new releases in the months ahead. I think when you’re speaking to so many people on a weekly basis, you have a responsibility to try and stay CURRENT and VITAL. If there’s anything coming down the line that you’d like me to check out before you waste your money, do let me know.

I think we’re all caught up.

SATURDAY

Yesterday I went to a wargames show here in Glasgow. It was called Wappinshaw 2012, and it was a bunch of people in the Royal Concert Hall’s Exhibition Hall flinging dice onto giant tables. I’m not a wargamer, so the show didn’t really speak to me. It was fun to walk around and hear what people were chatting about, though. The big talking point seemed to be Empire of the Dead, and whether or not it was better than Malifaux. Both of these are skirmish games with a Victorian horror angle, making use of beautiful miniatures. The demo game of Empire of the Dead certainly looked great. But it’s so expensive to dip into these things. Man! A rulebook and a couple of starter sets for Empire of the Dead would set you back about 80 quid. How do young people get into these games? How can you possibly afford it? The 12 year old boy playing that Empire of the Dead demo I watched surely couldn’t ever afford to take the game home, could he? (And no, I don’t have an answer to that talking point question of the day. I should maybe try to answer it, though. Or maybe you can! Empire of the Dead or Malifaux? And are either better than Necromunda? NAHHHH.)

GOODBYE

Bye now! Next week I’ll be recommending a beautiful new game, and introducing you to my new friend Dr Paul Mawhire.

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Robert Florence

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