Fly Casual – a review of Risk: Star Wars Edition

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on Fly Casual – a review of Risk: Star Wars Edition
Oct 112016
 

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Note: This is a review of the Black Edition of the game, which comes packed with higher quality everything. Game play is the same with either version. 

Some games are destined to be modern classics for hobby game enthusiasts. Risk… is not one of those games. One could argue the ‘classic’ part of the argument I suppose. Risk: Star Wars edition – based off of the hard to find and very expensive Queen’s Gambit though is a bantha of a different color. This time Hasbro hit it out of the park with this tight, 2 player game that is thematic and, well, good.

Risk: Star Wars Edition – 2 (or 4) players, ages 10+, plays in about 45 minutes.

How to play

As always, this isn’t a deep dive into the rules. I’ve purposely not gone over every single rule here in this summary.  Also this review game play wise is for either the standard or Black edition of the game but the pictures will reflect the Black edition and hot damn do they look good.

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To start, set up the TIE Fighter looking board which is pretty neat in and of itself. The center board will feature the Death Star smack dab in the middle surrounded by a whole lot of TIE Fighters and Rebel Fighters. Either side (the wings of a TIE-Advanced) are dedicated to either Luke and Vader or the forest moon of Endor. Then players decide who’s going to be the Rebellion and who will be the Empire. On the Rebel’s side of the board, a number of fleets of X, B and Y wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon are organized around the Death Star while more fleets are held in reserve on tabs that attach to the main board. On the Imperial side, a whole ton of TIE fighters are set up along with the hefty Executor class Star Destroyer.

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Not pictured: I may or may not be actively salivating.

What you’ll see once you’ve gotten the board set up is that there are really three intertwined but different games going on at once. In the center is the Death Star, surrounded by Rebel and Imperial fleets. On one side of the board is the Shield Assault area. This represents the Rebels attempting to take down the shield generator on Endor. On the other side you’ve got Luke versus Vader – representing the iconic clash between the new Jedi Luke and the seasoned Sith Lord Vader.

Coming along with all this each player also gets their very own deck of Order cards. Once shuffled each player draws six cards into their hands. Order cards let each player choose one of several actions. The Empire may choose to attack with the Death Star and take out some Rebel ships, or use Force Lightning to ruin Luke’s already sketch afternoon. The Rebel players are often given the choice of attacking with ships, attempting a run on the shield generator or having Luke take a shot at Vader.

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Once each player is ready to go, they both choose 3 of their 6 cards and place them face down on the table.

Each player, starting with the Rebels, flips over the top card on the 3 card stack and chooses one of the orders on that card to play. Once played, it goes face up into your discard pile.

If you can’t play what’s on the card, it just gets discarded.  After each player has executed (or failed to execute) all 3 orders, 3 new cards are drawn and the next turn begins. Once the decks are depleted, the discard pile is shuffled and forms a new deck.

The Empire wins the game by destroying all of the Rebel ships. The Rebels win the game by destroying the Death Star. Here’s the big, bold HOWEVER. The Shield generator has to be taken out before the Rebels can even attempt to attack the Death Star. At that same time fleets of ships are maneuvering and attacking each other and the Death Star is taking out whole swaths of Rebel ships while the Rebels are fighting to take down the shields and Luke and Vader are confronting each other too. The fight between the two is to the death – unless Luke can successfully redeem Vader. Ship to ship and ship to Death Star combat is ruled by the roll of the dice, with different ships being more or less effective.

If Luke is destroyed, the Empire gets some bonus cards. If Vader is destroyed, the Rebellion gets some bonus cards and if Vader is redeemed, more bonus cards are in order for the Rebellion.

Why you should play

This game takes everything you love about Return of the Jedi, compresses it into 45 minutes of game play with some really stressful decision making (in a good way) and stays on theme the entire time. It’s challenging with both players managing three different fields of battle and once you get the hang of it, the whole thing works surprisingly well!

Who doesn’t want to sit on the bridge of a Mon Calamari cruiser and direct the entire freaking Rebel fleet in a massive attack on the Death Star? Or sit in your strangly lumpy metal throne and cackle evilly while that very same Death Star blows up the entire Rebel Fleet? Oh hey, you’ll also be coordinating a ground attack and a light saber duel.

If that’s not good enough for you, I should also mention that the Black Edition comes with just a ton of miniatures too.

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The game has a lot of tight, meaningful choices and scenarios where you’ve got two or three good options and are forced to pick just one. Assaults between ships and the Death Star are determined by die rolls, and of course the cards you draw determine what orders are available. There’s certainly a random, perhaps slightly chaotic side of this game but I don’t feel like this detracts from the game play at all. Many of these rolls, particularly towards the end game, are of the stand up and fist pump variety.

It can be easy, especially on the first play, to lose track of the side boards (Luke vs Vader and the assault on the shield generator). It’s very important for both sides to pay attention to these though and the will become apparent towards the middle and end of your first game. Without lowering the shields, the Rebel ships will be slaughtered. The loss of Luke or Vader can deal real blows to both sides by providing a pretty decent advantage to the other.

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Now this is not a high strategy, brain straining euro-style game. Nor is it a carefree, chaotically random dice chucking game where your strategy doesn’t mean diddly. It’s something of a hybrid of those two states. Your decisions do matter and without a solid strategy you won’t win the game. But you can expect to be thwarted by the occasional card draw or die roll too. It is also a Hasbro game so don’t expect FFG level minis. The TIE fighters and Rebel ships are the same Risk plastic we’ve come to know. The Black edition does come with some nice metal Minis and a handful of tiny plastic storm troopers.

For the price, I think you’re looking at an extremely good 2 player, head to head game that really bears no resemblance to classic Risk whatsoever. If you go into the game expecting a bit less than an hour and some light strategy and dice chucking, you’ll come out of it very satisfied. The game plays well with 10 year olds and adults. There’s also a four player variant but I’ve not tried this. I’m very impressed with the game itself – apparently a reworking of the Queen’s Gambit which I’ve not only never played but never even seen.

The standard version doesn’t feature quite as many miniatures but is available for an MSRP of $30. The Black edition is sleek and well packaged, has more minis and is available for an MSRP of $50.

If you get either version of the game, I’d highly recommend downloading the rules summary sheet found on BGG.

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.

Indie Talks Episode 43 – Jay Little

 Board and Card Games, Indie Talks Podcast, Role Playing Games  Comments Off on Indie Talks Episode 43 – Jay Little
Feb 262014
 

indie talks logo

Jay Little is our guest in this episode! Jay’s designed over 50 titles, many of which grace my (and probably your) gaming shelves! He’s had his part in such huge games as X-Wing, Star Wars Edge of Empire, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Blood Bowl Team Manager and so many more.

Jay talks about how he got into table top games, his experiences working in the industry and what it’s like to fly star fighters and get paid for it.

Like what you hear? Support the podcast through Patreon! $2 a month from you allows me to create a lot more content, get more great guests and improve the quality of the show!

We would love to get your feedback about our show! Contact me with comments: ben@trollitc.com, follow me on twitter @trollitc, and also check us out on iTunes! Hell, you can even catch us on Stitcher.  While you’re at it, there’s the Indie Talks Facebook page and the Indie Talks Google+ page. MySpace…well, I won’t go there if you wont. Please do rate this podcast on iTunes, and leave feedback through any of these links!

 

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.

GE40: 5 Signs Star Wars: A New Hope is a GREAT Film

 Geeks Explicitly, Movies and TV, Podcast, review, Reviews  Comments Off on GE40: 5 Signs Star Wars: A New Hope is a GREAT Film
May 232013
 

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is one of the best pieces of cinema made in all of human history. What are some of the signs to alert viewers of the film’s magnificence?

Jonathan shares 5 signs that show this is a great film.

 

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About Jonathan J. Reinhart

Jonathan J. Reinhart is an editor of Troll in the Corner where he writes about wargaming. Jonathan also is the owner of the Wargaming Recon podcast. He has been gaming with miniatures since 2000 and playing board games from a young age. He's played a myriad of games such as: Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Starship Troopers, Axis & Allies: War at Sea, Flames of War and Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. War at Sea and the Black Powder rules are his current go-to games. Jonathan enjoys casual, fast, fun, and group board games. Sitting Ducks Gallery, Zombie Dice, Guillotine, Pandemic, and Carcassonne rank high on his list. He is a retired local politician with a B.A. in Politics & History, which provides a useful background for historical gaming. A casual World of Warcraft player, he became a Kingslayer as Viktrious the Blood Elf on 4/23/11 and followed that up by slaying Deathwing on 5/9/12.

Mar 042013
 

starwars

I finally got in several plays of the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game with my buddy Dan. A few people have already asked me how it went.

Short answer

Get this game.

Longer answer

It’s a wonderful game, horribly addicting and plays out just like I wanted it to. The rules are complicated enough to keep the game interesting, but simple and easy enough to keep it moving at a fast pace! Our 2nd battle, which consisted of 3 TIE fighters and 2 X-wings at a 60 point buy ran us almost an hour. That’s fast!

The minis are really good (although one of my X-wings suffers from droopy laser cannon syndrome) on the whole they’re well crafted and look amazing. I thought the little plastic stands and poles would be precarious but really they do a fine job of holding these things upright and facing forward. The details on these minis are very, very good. No painting needed, no assembly needed. Just grab the base, grab to plastic poles and you’re ready to fly.

Tactically the game is fairly simple, with everything you need to play right out of the box. Simple though doesn’t mean unfulfilling or easy. Playing this game feels like watching a battle scene out of Star Wars, with more in common with a WWII dogfight than space combat. That’s right where I want this game to be. Fighter craft whoosh by each other, execute amazing maneuvers and come up shooting.

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love the fact that you can play this game on any surface. I was quite surprised at the size of the box when I purchased this and the reason it’s so small is that there’s no board needed for this board game. We played on my buddy Dan’s kitchen counter, which was just a bit over 3’x3′ and it was a great size for the ships we fielded.

The hardest thing about this game was reading through the directions and really getting a sense of play. I read through them once, then broke out and assembled the three minis that come with the base game and actually played out a short combat by myself. Once I had done that, it all made sense.

Now my only problem is I want more! More ships, more pilots, more add ons!

Mechanics

The game is set up quite nicely into several phases. If you’re interested, Fantasy Flight has the rule book up as a PDF here. First, each player enters the planning phase. Both players take their maneuver dials (handy little round dials that show what each ship is capable of) and plan their next move. They then place these face down next to each ship so the other player cannot read them. In reverse pilot skill order (each pilot has a skill number, from 1-9, higher being better) each dial is revealed and that maneuver is executed. The game comes with every template you’ll need to do these maneuvers, which is amazingly handy. Just place the template at the base of the mini, hold it down, and move the mini to the other side of the movement template.

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After each ship has moved, they can choose to perform an action. Many ships have standard actions (such as save up a dodge, or gain a target lock) and higher scored pilots also have additional things they may do during the action phase.

Now that everyone’s moved, from poorest pilot to best, it’s time to shoot some stuff. In the combat phase, things go in reverse order. The best pilot gets to shoot first (if there’s a tie, the Empire has initiative, causing Imperial ships to move first, and shoot first). Dice are rolled for both offense (that red number on the TIE fighter card above) and defense (the green number). Hits and critical hits are totalled, while the defender gets to remove them. Whatever damage is left over is applied to the ships in a neat mechanic. Standard damage has the player take 1 damage card and put it next to the ship card. With a hull of say 3, it takes 3 damage cards to destroy that ship. If a critical hit is scored that same damage card is taken, but flipped over. It then has text and conditions that are applied to the damaged ship, limiting it in some way or causing even more damage.

Lastly we hit the end phase, where tokens are cleaned up and everyone still flying breathes a sigh of relief.

Three turns later, two of these ships were destroyed.

Three turns later, two of these ships were destroyed.

Some Last Thoughts

This game has gotten the mix of simple mechanics, interesting abilities and tense situations exactly right. It’s can get a bit tense (in a good way) as each player is waiting for the others to reveal their maneuvers and move these ships around. Will you end up in someone’s firing arc? Will they be yours?

I really like the movement and firing mechanics, with simple range finders and movement templates provided in the base game. It makes for a really fast game. From introducing Dan to the game through the completion of our second battle took an hour and forty five minutes. That’s great! Our first battle was one X-Wing vs two TIE Fighters. Our second battle was 2 X-Wings vs 2 TIE Fighters and a TIE advance. You’re fielding fairly small ‘armies’ in the game which makes it entirely manageable. This game reminds me just a bit of the old Car Wars game by Steve Jackson Games. A few templates for moving and range and you’re good to go!

The biggest downside I’ve found to this game so far is my almost physical need to acquire more ships! I haven’t yet had a chance to use my Y-Wing (a problem I’ll remedy real soon now). The wave 2 ships have just come out, introducing the A-Wing, TIE Interceptor, the Millenium Falcon and the Slave 1. Wow! The last two ships are a bit more pricey with an MSRP of $29.99 – but they’re also nearly 4 times the size of the other minis available for the game, and introduce new rules for larger ships.

It’s been a long time since I fell for a game so quickly and fully. I think the last title that grabbed me this hard was Dominion and the various expansions that are available for it. The base set of X-Wing retails for $39.99 (you can often find it at amazon for $30) and comes with three models (2 TIE Fighters and 1 X-Wing). 1st wave expansions include the TIE Advance, X-Wing, Y-Wing and TIE Fighter.

With the base game you can certainly play it and have fun but I think you’ll find yourself craving more. Some folks have suggested grabbing two base sets to get six ships total. I’m on the fence with this. By purchasing a TIE Advance, the X-Wing, Y-Wing and TIE Fighter expansions I was able to add 4 new ships to the mix and you get some unique pilots and add-ons such as astromechs.

Either way, if you’re the type to like this kind of game, you are going to want to acquire some more ships. If you’re really into it, you can even go so far as to download this fan made, scale Corellian Corvette and add it into your game.

Wow!

Wow!

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.

GE25: 5 Great Sci-Fi Aliens

 Geeks Explicitly, Movies and TV  Comments Off on GE25: 5 Great Sci-Fi Aliens
Dec 132012
 

Aliens and Sci-Fi go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly Time.

This episode shares 5 Great Science Fiction Aliens.

There’s only so much room in a top 5 list and we’re bound to leave out some of your favorites.  Let us know what you think we got right and what you think we got oh so very wrong.

Aliens

Aliens

 

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About Jonathan J. Reinhart

Jonathan J. Reinhart is an editor of Troll in the Corner where he writes about wargaming. Jonathan also is the owner of the Wargaming Recon podcast. He has been gaming with miniatures since 2000 and playing board games from a young age. He's played a myriad of games such as: Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Starship Troopers, Axis & Allies: War at Sea, Flames of War and Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. War at Sea and the Black Powder rules are his current go-to games. Jonathan enjoys casual, fast, fun, and group board games. Sitting Ducks Gallery, Zombie Dice, Guillotine, Pandemic, and Carcassonne rank high on his list. He is a retired local politician with a B.A. in Politics & History, which provides a useful background for historical gaming. A casual World of Warcraft player, he became a Kingslayer as Viktrious the Blood Elf on 4/23/11 and followed that up by slaying Deathwing on 5/9/12.

Nov 292012
 

You probably have a geek in your life and maybe you can use some ideas for what to buy them this holiday season.  This episode covers 15 gifts perfect for any geek.

The idea of the holiday gift guide started in 2006 with Jonathan’s other show Wargaming Recon.  You can see what past Holiday Gift Guides were for that show.

The Geeks Explicitly list covers a variety of fandoms, products, uses, and even locations.  It has something for your kitchen, your home, the office, to wear, and to play with.

We hope you will find this list to be useful.  Don’t hesitate to tell us what geeky gifts you’re wishing for, by leaving a comment.

Continue reading »

About Jonathan J. Reinhart

Jonathan J. Reinhart is an editor of Troll in the Corner where he writes about wargaming. Jonathan also is the owner of the Wargaming Recon podcast. He has been gaming with miniatures since 2000 and playing board games from a young age. He's played a myriad of games such as: Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Starship Troopers, Axis & Allies: War at Sea, Flames of War and Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. War at Sea and the Black Powder rules are his current go-to games. Jonathan enjoys casual, fast, fun, and group board games. Sitting Ducks Gallery, Zombie Dice, Guillotine, Pandemic, and Carcassonne rank high on his list. He is a retired local politician with a B.A. in Politics & History, which provides a useful background for historical gaming. A casual World of Warcraft player, he became a Kingslayer as Viktrious the Blood Elf on 4/23/11 and followed that up by slaying Deathwing on 5/9/12.

Epic Level Artistry: Ryan Rhodes

 Epic Level Artistry, Role Playing Games  Comments Off on Epic Level Artistry: Ryan Rhodes
Oct 152012
 

It’s the middle of the month and time for another installment of Epic Level Artistry! This time we are stoked to have Ryan Rhodes, illustrator, graphic artist and RPG player. From science fiction, fantasy, western and/or steampunk, Ryan is able to lend his style to many different genres and infuses life and humor in many of his images.  Check it out!

Merman by Ryan Rhodes

So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history with art in games and RPGs.
I joined the Star Wars Artists’ Guild in 2002, shortly after it got its first official site. I was a community member, then, not an artist. I think I was only 15. I was drawing, but I was pretty shit at it. I wanted more than anything to be a guild member and draw people’s characters, but my application was denied twice. I had some personal correspondence with Daniel Falconer (who did concept art for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films), and he gave me a lot of advice. I tried emulating what I saw him and some other artists like Khairul Hisham doing at the time, started experimenting with ink, and built a really novice portfolio. That was enough to get me in the guild. Since then, I’ve done a ton of Star Wars RPG art. I’ve done a lot for free, through the site, and a fair share of private commissions. At some point I branched from Star Wars and started playing other games like D&D, and I started doing art for those games, too. About two years ago I started getting regular paid work for small-time RPG content publishers.

What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
My favorite system is actually Marvel’s diceless RPG system. I’m not sure how many people play that or even remember it, but I thought it was brilliant. I really liked the Cortex system for Serenity RPG, and Decipher’s LOTR. But of course I play a lot of Star Wars. And recently, a lot of Pathfinder. That’s my favorite at the moment.

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I’ve spent a lot more time GMing than playing. I didn’t necessarily choose to, but it’s worked out that way. And once people decide you’re good at something, you’re generally stuck with it. I love GMing, but I love having a break once in a while to play, too. I think when I’m playing (rather than GMing) I do a lot more art for my home game. I think being a player frees me up to be creative in other areas. Being a GM can be pretty taxing.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
I almost exclusively draw characters. I’ve been playing around with more scenes and landscapes lately, integrating these things together. But characters are definitely my milieu. For me, the concept and the image definitely grow together on the paper. It’s very rare that I get a really clear mental image of what I’m going to draw before I draw it, and it’s usually wrong.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I’ve been doing digital illustration for several years now, which is the avenue I went down trying to find perfect ink lines. The computer gives me a level of control I really like. I can be a real perfectionist with my lines if I want. But I still love sketching on paper from time to time, mostly to unwind. Sometimes I really like that the real ink lines on paper are kind of messy and noisy and misbehave.

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming?
I think I spend at least six hours a week drawing. I tend to sit down and draw for about 2 to 4 hours at a time, and I almost always do a piece from start to finish in one sitting. I haven’t gamed much in the last few years. My friends and I have slowly been moving away for school and work, and it’s been hard to find time to get together. I gamed almost nonstop over the summer while my little brothers were staying at my house. All they wanted to do was play Pathfinder every day.

Cosmic Frog Jam by Ryan Rhodes

Are there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
One thing I notice about character art, especially in Pathfinder, is that the characters are totally laden with gear, which I find aesthetically shitty, and totally hilarious and appropriate from a gaming perspective. I still like the sketchy character portraits from D&D 3.5, and I think the character art from Decipher’s LOTR really hit on that style. I think it really works for fantasy, which is funny because I’ve been doing a lot of fantasy art lately, and my style is like the antithesis of that! I remember noticing some art in a style more or less similar to mine in some of the later Star Wars Saga Edition books. I think it really works for sci-fi.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
My first love was for R.K. Post, and I still really like his stuff. I think a major influence was Daniel Falconer, more than any other. I had been trying to emulate his pen and marker style for years. Grant Gould is also a major influence; I love his brush pen lines and digital colors. But I think I was also influenced by traditional artists like Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Privat Livemont, and others.

What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?
I draw with an Intuos tablet and Photoshop CS4. I also draw on paper at times with pigma microns and brush pen. I have a nice sepia set I really love.

What projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
I did some work for a steampunk space western RPG called Westward, published by Wicked North, and contributed to a couple resources by VonSchlick including a superhero and a horror gallery. Lately I’ve been working for Purple Duck Games, doing fantasy art for various projects. Lots and lots of character and monster art. I’ve really been enjoying the work with Mark Gedak, at Purple Duck. I feel like he has a good handle on my abilities and gives me stuff I really enjoy.

Self Portrait by Ryan Rhodes

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured?
I’m pretty proud of a character portrait I did for myself, of a character I played in a Pathfinder game two years ago. He was sort of my take on Merman, from Masters of the Universe. I have a few Star Wars pieces that I think are pretty killer, and a couple fantasy pieces that turned out way better than I anticipated.

What would be a dream job/commission?
A dream job for me would be to collaborate with someone really motivated and knowledgeable on a big project, like creating our own sci-fi RPG. I’d also love to work on a big illustration project, maybe like a storybook or something. That would be challenging, but worthwhile.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
I’m working on my MA in linguistics right now, so I do a lot of research and conduct experiments occasionally. I do a lot of reading, and I play a lot of board games with my girlfriend. She’s not into d20, so we’ve been trying to find a game system she and I can both enjoy.

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
For people looking to hire artists, I think I’d say don’t over-specify your wants. You never know when an artist might surprise you with something you didn’t even realize you wanted. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else’s input on your vision. To artists, I would say try to be outgoing. This is my biggest hurdle. I’ve been lucky that other artists have opened up to me, because I don’t really put myself out there enough. I owe a lot to the artists that do!

Your ‘Context Free Comics’ are really funny. Are those posted anywhere or do you just do them as the mood strikes you?
I post them here: http://contextfreecomics.blogspot.com/. But I should warn you, I haven’t updated in 7 months. Maybe if my other work slows down, I’ll get back to the comics. I know my girlfriend has plenty of ideas!

Regarding your graphic design pieces, when you’re designing for an organization or an event, what do you take into consideration first? How do you decide on fonts/images? What comes first when you’re composing the design? How is it different from illustration?
All the graphic design work I’ve done has been pro bono, either for an organization I belong to, or as a favor for friends and family. Sometimes they have very specific wants, which can make the job a lot easier. Otherwise, I try to find the core message and use that to guide the aesthetic. Like everything else I do, this is a monkey-throwing-darts kind of process, where I try lots and lots of different angles until I find something that resonates. I never studied this stuff in school, so it’s a very intuitive process.

The first thing is always the imagery. I find the image I want to convey, and I fit everything else into that, hopefully in a way that flows well. In illustration, I have to think about how to highlight a character within the parameters of the medium, so I have to decide what they’re wearing, what they’re holding, how they’re poised, in a way that reveals something about them. In graphic design, there are similar principles, but applied to the arrangement of image and information.

Your bio says you’re a linguist. What languages do you speak/have you studied? Do you ever incorporate this into gaming?
Well, I’m not a polyglot, but I think every linguist knows something about a huge number of languages, even if we don’t speak them. Right now I’m working on a local language called Chukchansi (a Yokuts language of Central California). Their tribe recently donated a lot of money to our linguistics department for a language revitalization project.

As far as incorporating this into gaming, I think it has definitely aided our ability to make up alien languages on the spot. My friends and I have fun ad-libbing alien dialogue during our Star Wars games, and I think having studied so many languages, and having a general linguistic curiosity plays into that. I actually spent hours in front of the TV with a notepad during middle school trying to decipher the alien languages of Star Wars. I found out later that there’s nothing to decipher, and they’re all nonsense. I should have invested my time in Klingon…

Please drop a fresh beat for us.

Fresh Beet by Ryan Rhodes. HA!

 

So there you have it! If you dig what you see here you can find Ryan’s portfolio or check out his dA. Thanks to Ryan for taking the time out for answering our questions; happy gaming!

About Tristan J Tarwater

Tristan is the author of 'The Valley of Ten Crescents' series and someone who is obsessed with elves. She once gave her 3.5 elf druid 'Skill: Basketweaving' just so she could take the spell, 'Beget Bogun.' Check out more of her work at backthatelfup.com

Dec 022011
 

Normally I’m posting about literature in some form, but this past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a beta weekend of Star Wars: The Old Republic and I really wanted to talk about my experience. I’m also curious about the opinions of others who’ve participated in any of the beta weekends, the whole beta, or who haven’t participated but are interested in the game.

First let me start by saying I’ve played several different MMO’s in the last five or so years (including City of Heroes/Villains and World Of Warcraft). I’ve played enough to know what I like and what I don’t like. This was my first opportunity to play in a beta. My testing in SWTOR was limited to a few hours a day and I limited myself to one character–a Smuggler (Human female) whom I took the Gunslinger route once I leveled enough to open that up. I had planned to play Smuggler from the first time I read the character descriptions, but it was this trailer http://www.swtor.com/media/trailers/return that made me want to run as a Gunslinger. Based on the number of Gunslingers I saw listed as online whenever I played, I’m not the only one influenced by the trailer. I managed to level her up to 15 and completed a part of the Smuggler storyline that got me a ship. It figures, I get the really cool toy and beta weekend is over!

My overall impressions of the game from this limited experience are that it’s a creative, exciting and engaging game. I loved it and I can’t wait for the game to be released. I was impressed with the story line they are creating for the Smuggler class and I loved having a choice on how I wanted to reply to the people. Not all responses gain you light side or dark side points, but they can help convey how you want your character to be seen by other players and NPC’s. And apparently I’m fixated on having my character come off as a (keeping this kid friendly) witch. The scenery is impression—I got dizzy the first time I looked over the side of a tower on Coruscant! I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring outside of areas related to my quests because of the limited time, but I’m looking forward to doing that once the game launches. I felt less forced to take every quest that came up as available with this game and, at least in my experience, the familiar “kill 10 of x” quests/missions didn’t seem as numerous as they do in other games. A majority of the missions like that I encountered came up as bonus missions while I was in an area, so I could choose to do them since I was in the area anyway, or I could ignore them without preventing my character from advancing the quest line with that quest giver.

On the whole I had a lot of fun and minimal issues. I had maybe one or two disconnections and the only time I experienced noticeable lag was while on a team and in combat. But then this was a “stress test” and they’d allowed a lot of people in and if I understand things correctly they gimped their servers a bit to inflate the demand on their system. There were some minor graphics things—like having an odd piece of floating metal follow my character around for a few hours. And my companion (basically a sidekick) also had his weapon missing a few times, so he sometimes appeared to be firing an invisible blaster. There was nothing that hindered game play though.

I’ve seen people complain about how buggy the game was and that has me puzzled. As I said, I’ve never participated in a beta before, but I knew going in that this wasn’t a finished product and the idea for giving people access was to test what was done and see where things needed to be fixed. I expected graphics glitches, lag, crashes, characters getting stuck in places they shouldn’t and other problems. To me there didn’t seem to be a lot of these.  I’m just wondering if people had unrealistic expectations of what they would encounter in an unfinished product. I’ve also seen people complaining that they had to grind at higher levels. Granted I didn’t get higher than level 15, but I never felt like I had to slog through missions to gain experience. The complaints seem to come from people who on one weekend ended up with characters over level 40. I’m wondering if it was really grinding they experienced or burn out from spending so much time pushing one character up the ranks. I can’t imagine getting a player up that high in a weekend in any game. Then again, I have other things and non-pixilated people I need to devote time to on the weekends, so I don’t have as much time to game as I did back when my husband and I were first starting to game.

Has anyone else had a chance to beta test the game? Complaints? Concerns? Are you looking forward to it or have you been turned off by the experience? I had to go back and edit this as I was ready to submit it since I’ve had an email today telling me there is another beta test this weekend and I have an invitation to that. I’m up for suggestions on whether I should keep trying to level my Smuggler or give something else a try.

[tags]star wars,swtor,video games,pc games,[/tags]

About Kate

I'm a wife, mom and seemingly normal coworker by day. And at night, I fight crime. OK no, not really. Most of the time I just fight pixilated monsters and let Sims die in horrible accidents while their spouses are in other parts of the house cheating on them. Did I mention I've never been accused of being normal? When I'm not killing Sims or getting lost in Azeroth, I enjoy reading and creating stories that I hope will someday be published. I will give just about any genre out there a try, but I prefer mysteries and crime fiction for both reading and writing.