Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Mar 092017
 

The second album from Musivational (i.e. Ben) launches today on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify and of course, Bandcamp! The latter is the cheapest option at $4

Once again Musivational has returned to the roots of 80’s music, generated by 2017’s digital instrument’s with a 90’s fashion sense and the scifi goodness of the 50’s through the present. Add all that up and you’ve got a little slice of Controlled Chaos. 17 tracks touching on such wide and varies subjects as 80’s manga, modern fiction, bad-ass level 1 spells and the tech breakthroughs that should have come 30 years earlier.

Not only is this a bit of a passion project but the music can easily fit into any scifi/retro/cyberpunk style game night. Please check it out!

Track List (linked to Bandcamp where you can stream these all for free):

1.  Moonwalker 04:23
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3.
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6.
7.
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11.
Scalzi 06:05
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Tree Frog 04:04
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about

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Total Confusion 2017 – This one goes to 11

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Mar 012017
 

There’s a peculiar thing about this particular convention – every single one I’ve attended has been the best one yet. That’s not bad, by any means – in fact, it’s great! Turns out Total Confusion 31 continues this streak with some new faces, some new friends and a hell of a lot of gaming. For that reason, this is going to be a long post!

I’ll take a look at this convention day to day, but first let’s look at the basics. Total Confusion bills itself as “New England’s Largest Gaming Convention” and they’re not wrong. While other conventions may draw many more attendees, Total Con is the largest convention dedicated entirely to the art and science of playing games. When I first stepped into the new location on Wednesday afternoon, there were already 20-30 people scattered about gaming. Now the convention doesn’t officially start until Thursday morning but I know folks showed up on Tuesday evening with the intention of getting in a full day of gaming before getting in a 4 day weekend of gaming. That’s awesome.

This is just the Board Game room. There’s a lot more to this con!

What’s always awesome

Have you ever gone to Gen Con and off in the distance seen someone like Tim Kask or Mike Pondsmith – maybe attended a talk they’ve given or an event they’ve hosted? Here at Total Con, you’ll just bump into them in the hallway, or in the game room – or jump into one of the games that they are running! The guest list for this convention never ceases to amaze me. Some the highlights? John Wick, Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Cody Pondsmith and many, many more! Your chances of just bumping into someone amazing are great! This year we also had a few folks just drop in – like Stefan Pokorny of Dwarven Forge and author R.A. Salvatore. You really never know who you may be talking to – or better yet, gaming with! For a New England con, I think this alone makes Total Con a unique experience. And that’s not counting the huge number of gamers like you and me who are always willing and ready to have a great time.

So many awesome people!

Tim Kask, Stefan Pokorny and two con attendees play Ticket to Ride

What was new

This year, Total Con moved venues for the first time in well over a decade. The Best Western Royal Plaza Marlborough, MA. It’s not the first time Total Con was at this location but it’s been a while. The change in venue offered two very important differences over the last hotel. There was more than adequate parking and there was a more than adequate number of rooms. These two things made for a huge difference from the last few years where attendees who both wanted to stay on site or drop in for a day had the easy ability to do so.

Wednesday Evening

The new venue also offered a much different layout, with board games, mini’s, the computer games room and the young player’s area being on one side of the hotel and RPGs being in another. This did result in a little bit less mingling, but also a lot less crowding. On the whole, I think it was a good thing. In fact, a day or so after the con wrapped up, even though official numbers aren’t out yet, the TC Facebook page posted:

TotalCon 31 is officially in the record books!!! With all the big changes going on, we expected a bit of a drop, instead the convention grew again!!! The convention surpassed every bench mark it set as a goal. That credit goes out to every volunteer, industry guest, game master, performer, vendor, exhibitor, and podcaster that was in attendance. The TotalCon team may provide the framework but the passion, creativity, and heart you bring to the table is what gets folks excited and what keeps bringing them back year after year. And now to see folks jazzed about creating new events for 2018 is AWESOME!!

Wednesday

Since my wife is on staff for the convention – and Total Con didn’t officially kick off until Thursday morning, Wednesday is always an interesting time. Generally my wife and I go into the airport a few times to pick up several industry guests being flown in from the mid-west or west coast. Generally for us this is a day of greetings, getting folks settled into the hotel and whatnot. We ended up in the hotel bar that evening, as we so often do. It’s our chance to see convention staff members we don’t get to see all that often, greet incoming guests and psyche ourselves up for a lot of uptime and not a lot of sleep.

Thursday

My Thursday started with being interviewed for And Now A Word From a Gamer – a new documentary that was filmed almost entirely at Total Confusion. Hopefully we’ll all be able to see the final film at Total Con 32 (and also everywhere else!)

From there I went to the first game I was running all convention – Above and Below. I love Red Raven games and Above and Below may be my favorite (with Islebound a close second). It was fun to teach three other folks the joys of cave exploration.

After that I did what I’ve done every year for the past three years. Help set up, move crowds through and then take down Sal’s Traveling Flea Market! This is a pretty sweet event where over 800 games and game related products were brought in. A whole bunch of ’em sold too.

Finally, after the flea wrapped up around 11, I found myself with my wife and the head of con security in the board game room with a quick game of Splendor.

Friday

This was my big day. I was running games in all but 2 slots, which worked out to roughly 11 hours of planned gaming (and in reality about 15 hours of actual gaming).

The morning started off with an event I called Territorial Disputes. I brought a number of small, area control games and had fun playing them with three folks I’d never met before. I brought Age of War, Eight Minute Empire:Legends, Guilds of Cadwallon and Tiny Epic Galaxies. We ended up playing War several times and Guilds once but didn’t have time to make it to the other two games.

From there I got to introduce six folks to Cutthroat Caverns – my all time favorite take-that style game. While I had originally intended to play as well, I had a grand time running the game (as it was entirely full with no space for me)!

Then on to the first big event of the day for me. Scythe. Taking two slots from 3pm to 7pm, it had sold out in pre-reg. Strangely, only 2 of the pre-registered folks showed up to play. That was fine though as three more players materialized seemingly out of thin air. One had to leave mid-game, which gave me the opportunity to allow a 6th person to jump in whom I taught on the fly. I. Love. This. Game.

I had a 2 hour break for dinner, roughly 20 minutes of which I spent in my room relaxing with my wife. Then it was down to the bar/restaurant where I secured two tables for dinner and for my next event. Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. I’d call this game a stunning success. It helped greatly that a pub game event had just ended and we attracted a few of those folks to our table (along with their pub games). I have never, ever laughed so hard during a gaming event. We played a six player version of Loopin’ Chewie (that I modified with 3D printed parts), Villa Paletti, Pairs, Animal upon Animal, Skull, and finally several rounds of a terrible game (which I loved) called Midnight Party with Hugo the person eating ghost. We literally closed the bar down with this event – they turned out the lights on us. It was amazing.

 

I will certainly be running this event next year – in fact I’m hoping to team up with Mat who ran the pub games event so we can have one epic night in the bar gaming our little hearts out.

Saturday

This was my lighter day. I’d purposely not scheduled any games as Luca was going to join us for the day. After touring the con a bit, we settled on a copy of Ice Cool from the Vendor’s room (the awesome folks at Crossroads Games). It’s a fairly simple, dexterity/flicking game where you attempt to get penguins through different doors to capture fish tokens while one player is trying to get your little penguin school ID card. Players switch off as the penguin attempting to capture the others. The physical (and graphical) design is amazing, and the physics of the game are a lot of fun too. I’d play this one just about any time. We played it at various times during the day with various people.

Then we bumped into our buddy David (who’d entertained us at the Granite Games Summit) and he introduced us to a bunch of cool, smaller games. We played Stack, Kingdomino (a surprisingly fun filler), and Mint Works – a tiny little worker placement game in a mint tin. Lots of fun!

From there we went to the all-con-long Paint and Take event. You paint a mini and then you take it. This has been a favorite of Luca’s in the past years and this time I joined her. Loved it!

Luca and I also got to demo her game Candy Crash and got some great feedback!

From there I got to relax a bit, grab dinner with my wife and some other convention staffers and then headed into the board game room to see what was what. I played a pick up game of Tiny Epic Galaxies, Played several rounds of Spyfall (finally!) I had a fun time also teaching Guilds of Cadwallon whilst playing Tiny Epic Galaxies. Something I’ve not done before. It must have been okay because I won TEG by a decent margin.

Later that evening I had the privilage (as I have for the past 6 cons) to attend an industry guest party. It was, as always, an amazing time filled with amazing people who I never would have met were it not for Total Confusion. I also found out that John Wick has a much, much better angry face than I.

Sunday

Ah Sunday… a day of winding down and doing nothing. NOPE! Not at this con! Sunday morning I ran my Prototype Workshop. This Sunday we had five prototypes to go over and it was a lot of fun seeing a ton of creativity and good games before they make it to publication. I fully expect to see at least a few of them in game stores in a year or three!

From there I was going to run a Bohnanza game but didn’t have enough folks to do it. So I wandered back into the vendor hall, bought a few things, wandered back into the board game room and was almost immediately scooped up for a game of Vast: Crystal Caverns. This is a very cool, very asymmetric game in which players take on the rolls of the Knight, the Goblins, the Dragon, the Thief and the Cavern itself. I played the Cavern. Very interesting game! I was a bit burnt out at this point (it’s 2pm on Sunday after all) and didn’t play at my best but still very much enjoyed the experience.

Remember how folks were at the hotel a full day early to game? Well here’s the board game room at about 4:15pm on Sunday. Still stuff going on!

From that point on I was pretty much toast. I’m lucky not only to be invited as a guest but that my wife is on staff which means I get to see the after party (full of pizza) and hear how all of the staff experienced the convention. From there it was a quick ride home and a short dive back into reality.

In Conclusion

I had a fine time. Total Confusion remains one of my favorite times of the entire year. As always, a huge thanks to the fine folks who make Total Confusion the best. The amazing staff and volunteers, the awesome guests and everyone who comes out to play! If you are anywhere near the area next February, I cannot encourage you enough to get out – even for a day – and play with us!

I played a bunch of fantastic games, ran some fun events, met a ton of great people and loved every minute of it! Special thanks to those who brought their prototypes to the workshop – some very interesting ideas! And to my friends at the con – those I met six years ago to those I met this weekend, you are the best part of this whole experience!

Here’s a semi-annotated gallery of most of the pictures I took at the convention – not all of which made it into the posts above. They may be a little out of order. Enjoy!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Total Confusion kicks off Feb. 23rd! Here’s my official schedule and more about the convention

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Feb 192017
 

Every year in February, I have cause to celebrate! My favorite convention, Total Confusion kicks off and this year is no different! I’ll be in attendance all convention long, from Thursday the 23 through Sunday the 26th.

If you’re in or going to be in the area this February, you definitely want to check Total Confusion out. I’ll get to my tentative schedule in a moment but first I can give you a few other reasons to join us. How’d you like to play games with Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, John Wick,  Michael Curtis, Jay Libby, Peter Bryant, James Carpio, the Dark Phoenix folks, the Iron GM folks and more?! Oh, and I’ll be there too.

For the last while, Total Confusion was in Mansfield, MA. This coming year they’re moving to the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA. I’m bringing a bag full of games to play and I’ll also have some copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me as well.

Thursday

10am -1pm – Being interviewed, lunch, hanging at the flea setup, etc.

1pm-3pmAbove and Below.  Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. tcaboveandbelowIn the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they’ve been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?

3pm-11pmFlea Market. I’m once again volunteering to help run the Total Confusion Flea Market. I’ll be setting up and then guiding excited guests through the maze of board game and RPG deals.

Friday

10am 12pmTerritorial Disputes – Eight Minute Empires, Ages of War, Guilds of Cadwallon and more. If you’re feeling like controlling some area in a few tiny games, this is the event for you. Explore some fun, fairly fast and not terribly large area-control games.

1pm – 3pm  – Cutthroat Caverns“Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.” I like to call this one Munchkin but for adults. It’s a semi-tccutthroatcooperating dungeon romp where you’ve already done the hard work, and gotten the magical gew-gaw! Now all you have to do is get back out. Easy, right? Right?! In Cutthroat Caverns, it’s every player for themselves, except  you need the other players to make it out! At least, most of the way out. 

3pm-7pm –  Scythe – Scythe is a 4X board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and tcscythevalor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. If you’re looking for strategic game play, beautiful artwork and resource tokens that will amaze, join us!

9pm-11pm – Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. What? Kids games? Where? At the bar. Why? If you have to ask, this event isn’t for you.

Saturday

I’ll be hanging out with friends, my daughter, my wife and playin’ games!

Sunday

10am – 12pm – Prototype Workshop. Join me with other industry insiders as we look at you board and card game ideas. Spend 10-15 minutes explaining your game and showing off your prototype. Receive 10-15 minutes of feedback from us!

1pm-3pm – Bohnanza – It’s Sunday, the convention is winding down and you’ve come to realize you have not yet fulfilled one of your bucket list items. To become a successful bean tcbeansfarmer. In the classic Bohnanza, players have a gas wheeling and dealing, making and breaking alliances and of course, planting lots of beans. This fairly casual card game could be the perfect way blow out the con.

And that’s my convention so far. I’m running a fair number of events and am reserving some time on Saturday for myself. I may participate in a panel, I hope to get in a game or two (maybe even *gasp* an RPG!) I’ll have my personal copy of Swamped and Ninja on me and I can easily teach either of these in a fairly short amount of time, so if you see me wandering around or stationary for a short time, feel free to come up, say hi and ask!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Candy Crash – a game designed by Luca for 2-4 players – grab your Print and Play here!

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Jan 272017
 

Candy Crash is a die rolling, card playing game for 2-4 players, aged 8+ which plays in 15-20 minutes.

In Candy Crash, each player takes on the roll of a teen, working a job such as lawn mowing or a paper route. They’re all saving up to buy the best candy on the street at the local candy shop.

Every turn, each player does their job and earns one coin. If they do an excellent job, they may earn a tip and start taking home some of that delicious candy!  Players earn money, purchase upgrades to their dice, special skills and compete to be the first on their block to take home the ultimate candy prize.

Luca came up with the idea for this game a few weeks before Christmas. Since then we’ve been hard at work on testing this and refining the rules! We’ve put together a Print and Play version and we’d love to hear what you think. You can download the PDF from right here. What you’ll need are 10-20 6-sided dice (depending on if you have 2-4 players), a printer and some scissors. That’s it! We’re also looking for a new name, as Candy Crash may be a little too close to some other, popular online game.

We’ve also entered this game into the Cardboard Edison 2017 Game Design Contest. Here’s the video we put together that gives you a good idea of what the game’s all about.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Musivational – a new album of electronic “RetroWave” music from Ben is now available everywhere!

 Ben's Corner, Gamer Tunes, Troll in the Corner  Comments Off on Musivational – a new album of electronic “RetroWave” music from Ben is now available everywhere!
Jan 232017
 

Not gaming – but certainly Creative. I’ve been hard at work on an actual musical album, called Musivational (also the name of the band). Hard to believe but this album is out… now! It’s all electronica in style, and belongs to a sub-genre called RetroWave – which harkens back to the glory days of the 80’s. Think Terminator, Stranger Things and heavily synthesizer influenced TV soundtracks and you’ll have a good idea.

I’ve been listening to a lot of trance/dubsteb/electronica lately as it’s a wonderful way to relax. I can simply listen, or work on something else creative while the music plays and I find it keeps me very focused. I’ve tried to recreate that with my own work.

Another influence is the the artist Simon Stålenhag – who’s evocative artwork gives me the chills! I think back to the RPGs we played in the 80’s, the fiction I read and Simon’s artwork is the best of all of that squeezed into some amazing pictures.

All 16 songs were generated on one lowly iPad – using Garageband. Lots of loops, lots of me performing electronic instruments and just a few vocals as well – though heavily digitized.

If you’d like to hear it, you can listen right here:

If you’d like to buy it, you can go to Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music and more. Also – it should be on Spotify and Pandora by now as well. Please let me know what you think and feel free to rate the album wherever you listen to it or purchase it. Thanks!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

 Posted by on January 23, 2017

Turbo Drift – a real space racing game done in just 18 cards

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Jan 062017
 

Before the holidays came and ate up my entire life, I was given a copy of one of the three newest Button Shy Games productions – Turbo Drift by Rob Cramer. For a long time I’ve been admiring Button Shy’s devotion to the very small game space – it’s an interesting design challenge to make good games that fit into 18 cards or less and a little plastic wallet. I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised a number of times and Turbo Drift is, while a very different kind of game for Button Shy, no exception. Turbo drift is on Kickstarter right now!

How to play

Turbo Drift is a racing game for 2-4 players, taking about 20 minutes for ages 8+. In the game, players will place a series of Barrier cards onto the play space, decide where the racers will be starting from, place their Car cards there and then determine where the Finish Line card will be. The Car cards have a plain and a B side – make sure they’re on their plain side. Now, take the Path cards (there are six of them and they’re double sided), shuffle them up and lay them out in a 3 card by 2 card grid. You’ll end up with something that looks like this (but probably neater).

That Stoplight card you see at the top right is the First Player card – whoever is designated as the first player should have that in their clutches. Clutches. I’ll give that a moment to sink in. The game progresses over a series of rounds until a player’s Car card touches or overlaps the Finish Line card, when the game ends and that player has Champaign poured all over them.

Each round goes like this:

  • The first player places the Burning Rubber card behind their Car card to move forward, or in front of their Car Card to move backwards.
  • Now just go ahead and pick your Car card right up.
  • Choose your Path cards – by either selecting a vertical row of 2 cards, a horizontal row of 3 cards or any 1 card. (If you’re crazy like a fox, you can take ALL of the cards in a Nitro action once per game as well).
  • Now, connect your Path cards in any order you like to the Burning Rubber card to see where your Car will be moving.
  • Flip your Car card over (so if the B side wasn’t showing before, it is now) and place it at the end of your Path cards, like so:

In the above example, the White Car has nearly won the race, while successfully not crashing into anything like that Barrier card below it or the Black Car card.

If, when placing your Path cards you do encounter a Barrier or Car, you crash! This means you remove that path card, place your car back on the playing surface and you’re done with your turn this round. It’s possible to not move anywhere if that was your first (or only) Path card.

If you manage to run across one of those Turbo Boost icons on a Barrier card without actually touching the Barrier (your Car can overlap a Barrier card as long as the actual barrier isn’t obscured by your Car Card) then you get to Turbo Boost! That means you get to take the Burning Rubber card and place it at the end of your full path – even if you’d be going through/jumping over another Barrier or another Car.

Now that you’ve moved, flip over the Path cards you’ve used and add them back into the grid. It’s the next player’s turn this round. If all the players have taking a turn this round without crossing the finish line, that round ends and the next round begins starting with the first player.

The advantages to taking 2 or 3 cards are obvious – you move further! Unless you’re like me and crash into a barrier on your first card. The advantage to taking just one card though is that you get to reassign the First Player card to whoever you wish – usually it’s yourself. This reassigning can happen several times over one round though depending on what tactics the other players are employing. There is also a certain strategy to making someone who’s about to crash go first to see if they can get out of their potential collision.

So that Nitro action? Once per game, you can scoop up all the cards. You cannot however choose what order you play them in. You start at the top and work your way down. You can stop at any time though (whether it’s one card, somewhere between one and six or all six).  Be careful though – if you crash into a barrier or another player, you go up in a giant ball of flame and that’s the game for you! We’ve had a 2 player game end rather quickly and abruptly this way and it was spectacular.

Real Space Racing

As in, it takes place a real, physical space, not on an x,y,z axis in a near vacuum. That’s a concept I’m finding in a few games and I’m really loving it – you basically take the space that’s available to you and utilize it as your game board. This can be your table, the floor, the air craft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) if you happen to have clearance and a lot of time on your hands. What this does is effectively turn an 18 card racing game into a game that fits into whatever space you have – it can be a big game if you want it to be. Another game that immediately comes to mind that utilizes this is X-Wing from FFG.

Why you should play

Turbo Drift manages to capture the essence of those funky old 8 or 16 bit, top down racing games for older computers that I still love. The cars are all equally matched, all equally hard to control, the course is ever changing to your own designs and it’s just plain fun. After the first few turns of your first game you’ll find that the game plays out very quickly. Our first game took us a good 40 minutes but after that we were down to the stated 20 or so minutes for a full 2 or 3 player game.

Turbo Drift manages to cram all of this into 18 cards and does a fantastic job at it. Players are really never bored even while watching someone else take their turn because you never know what will happen – crashes, driving off the table, getting <—–> that close to the finish line but juuuuust missing it. The game is actually pretty exciting for us and we’ve had a few moments where we’re all standing in anticipation of what may happen next. Can they pull of that last Turbo Drift to scoot across the finish line or will they end up facing the wrong direction and having to throw it into reverse?

There’s a bit of luck in that the grid of Path cards is constantly changing but you can still choose which among them you’ll take and if you’re careful enough or crazy enough, you just might win. I tried several strategies – the slow and steady wins the race strategy and the driving like a crazed, caffeine infused cheetah strategy. I’ve met with equal success with both although the crazed strategy is a bit more fun.

Button Shy recently posted a few suggested setups for various race courses on the Kickstarter page, which I’ve added below. You can set up the Barrier cards however you like though.

Here’s a 20 second gif of an entire race between Luca and myself if you’d like to see what a 20 minute game looks like.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

And now for something completely different – Music

 Troll in the Corner  Comments Off on And now for something completely different – Music
Jan 052017
 

A long time ago, in a galaxy somewhere up in New Hampshire, I used to play in a band. I’ve always loved music and have always fooled around a bit with musical production. Over the past year or so I’ve very much gotten into electronic and dubstep music – mostly because I love having something trance-like on while I’m thinking, writing and creating. Over the past month, I was given the opportunity (free time) and the tools (Garage Band, electronic instruments) to actually create something of my own. So I did.

Musivational is what I’m calling it. The concept behind the music is a re-imaging of my childhood in the 80’s. It’s influenced strongly by my own memories, awesome 80’s flicks, shows like Stranger Things and the artwork of Simon Stålenhag www.theverge.com/2013/8/27/466484…i-tech-were-real which you should really check out if you’ve not already.

This is a complete, 100% experiment on my part. The neat thing is – I’m actually launching an album which will be available from just about all electronic music distribution formats. iTunes, Play, Amazon and the rest. Here are links to two songs if you’d like to check them out. The actual album drops January 23rd. This will be the first, and possibly the only time I’ve ever tried to make money from music. We’ll see how it goes. It cost me very little to do this. I can make back what I’m spending to keep this album in circulation (which is approximately the cost of a nice dinner) for a year, I’ll keep going with projects like these. If I can’t? Well, at least I’ll have done this!

Please let me know what you think. Constructive criticism always welcome!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

The Climbers – wonderfully wooden abstract about climbing, with real (tiny) ladders

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on The Climbers – wonderfully wooden abstract about climbing, with real (tiny) ladders
Dec 132016
 

climbers

I was recently introduced to the abstract game The Climbers at the Granite Game Summit. I was immediately taken with the components and the game play. Nice, chunky wooden components and decent strategy! Let’s take a look at The Climbers and see what it has to offer. Climbers is a game for 2-5 people, ages 8+ and plays in anywhere from 15-45 minutes. Players pick a figure of a specific color and can only climb on blocks with that color, or grey facing upwards. Blocks can be moved and turned to facilitate climbing.

How to Play

When you first open the box, you’ll see it’s packed tightly with all of the components. 35 wooden blocks of varying sizes, 5 short ladders, 5 long ladders, 5 colored figures and 5 colored blocking stones. Two of these wooden blocks, the largest, are solid grey while the rest of all of the varying five colors on them. The wooden blocks come in 1?, 2? and 4? sizes.

Setup: To set the game up, the two large, grey blocks are placed upright next to each other. This forms the core of the climbing structure. Next all of the colored blocks are placed around the two grey blocks so that the grey blocks are completely obscured. This is done randomly and can be a fun little exercise if everyone starts grabbing and placing blocks rapidly. They can be placed horizontally or vertically. All of the blocks must be placed so that they are entirely on other blocks (or the table) but they can be placed offset of each other. Each player chooses a color. They take the pawn and blocking token of that color and both a long and a short ladder.

The blocks are all configured so that Red is opposite Yellow, light Blue is opposite dark Blue and Purple is opposite Grey.

Play: At the start of the game, all of the pawns are simply hanging about on the table. Here’s how a turn works.

First, a player may move an empty block to a new location or rotate it. The blocks must end up connected to another block, with at least 1/4 of the surface touching that other block. They cannot overhand, nor can holes be created. Blocks can be placed on other ‘occupied’ blocks (with a pawn or pawns on it) provided that there is still enough room for those pawns. Each pawn takes up 1/4 of the surface of a block. Blocks can’t be loose, inclined (tilted) or skewed. And you can’t move the same block someone just moved on the prior turn.

Next, that player may move their pawn (called the “climber”). You can move the pawn up, down, horizontally or in any combination of those. Your pawn may only move upwards or downwards 1? without the assistance of a ladder. They may use the short ladders to climb up the equivalent of a 2? block or the long ladder to move the equivalent of a 4? block (so that could be 4 1? blocks or any other combo). Once the ladders are used, they’re discarded – you only get one shot with them! Also, your pawns may only move onto a block of your color or a grey block.

Lastly, you may place a blocking stone on any unoccupied block. No players may move onto this until the start of your next turn, when the blocking stone is removed from the game. Again, you only get one shot with the blocking stone!

Winning: If no players can move higher during their turn, the fist player who couldn’t move their pawn higher gets one more shot. If they somehow contrive to legally move higher, the game continues. If not, the highest pawn wins! If two or more pawns are the highest, whoever arrived first is the winner.

Why you should play

There’s a few rules to digest in this one, but I assure you that once you’ve played a few turns, you’ll get it. From there on in, it’s a fun, fairly quick little puzzler of a game that will have people up out of their seats, wandering around the table to look at it from all angles. There can be a bit of a take-that aspect of the game, but there can also be a surprising bit of cooperation – nothing forbids players from working together to attain greater heights.

This game could I think best be described as absolutely charming. Even when you’re doing a bit of a take-that move, it doesn’t feel like you’re denying other players so much as settling on a very decent strategy for yourself. Lots of people love playing games that give you the feeling of having built something at the end – a decent card engine, an engaging and interesting city, a massive army. This not only gives you that feeling but collectively all of the players are building a colorful, if abstract tower while also climbing that same structure.

The game is completely random at the start in that the tower was built with no plan. From there on out though every single factor of the game depends on how the blocks are moved by the players and where they place their ladders and blocking stones. The strategy in this game lies not only in getting your pawn to climb higher, but doing so in a way that makes it harder for others to do the same while they only move or rotate one block.

I very much enjoyed my time playing this game and am looking forward to adding it to my collection. The components are nice, chunky wood, the game is simple to explain, easy to teach and very fun to play. It’s also pretty quick for a 2-5 player game – after the first play I think most games could be played out in 20-30 minutes tops, even with five players. If this sounds like the kind of abstract game you’d enjoy, you can pick it up at the Strategic Space site in the US or at your FLGS.

 

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.