Game Night Blog Carnival: Scallywags

Pictured above is an “inactive” priate, which counts toward a total needed to sail. The pirate also contains the Monkey card, which allows the player to draw an extra card each turn.

Scallywags is a card game for two to four players ages 12 and older, published by Bent Castle Workshops. As the name implies, the game has a pirate flavor; the object of the game is to be the first to assemble a pirate crew from dozens of interchangeable pirate parts; the number pirates required for victory varies with the number of players.

The Scallywags deck contains 120 cards. Ninety of them are, for lack of a better description, pirate parts; 30 heads, 30 torsos, and 30 sets of legs. The remaining 30 “event cards” allow players to make it easier to assemble pirates or more difficult for opponents to do the same.

Each player gets a hand of 10 cards to start with, and nine cards are laid face-up in the center of the table. These nine cards, collectively called “the commons,” may be taken by players during their turn by discarding and exchanging cards from their hands during their turns. Players attempt to build pirates by using cards in their hands, cards drawn at the start of their turns and swapping unwanted cards from their hands with more appealing cards from the commons.

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Game Night Blog Carnival: Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 divides the D-Day Campaign into several smaller scenarios, playable on a two-sided board that can be modified with cardboard terrain hexes.

This post represents the Athenaeum’s participation in Game Night Blog Carnival, through which RPG Bloggers post a review of a non-RPG game once each month.

Memoir ’44

Memoir ’44 is a two-player board/war game which uses the Command and Colors mechanics developed by Richard Borg; the game was named the official game of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. The game was published in 2004 by Days of Wonder.

Supplements enabling the recreation of the War in the Pacific and for aviation combat have also been released, but are not reviewed here.

The mechanics behind the Command and Colors system – which have been adapted to other conflicts for other game titles –  are simple. There is a game board, marked with hexagons and divided into left, center and right sections; cardboard terrain hexes, which are placed over board hexes to recreate the terrain of a historical battle; a deck of cards containing order cards for units in different sections and tactic cards that can be played in special situations; a lot of little plastic infantry, artillery and cavalry/armor; plastic battlefield features such as barbed wire, sand bags and “hedgehog” tank obstacles; a set of battle dice; and a scenario book explaining how to lay out the terrain and deploy the units to recreate a battle.

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Six aspects of legacy D&D that should make a comeback

Many bloggers have posted on the topic of what features they hope to see in Wizards of the Coast’s next edition of D&D; the act of reading them tends to lead viewers to consider their own opinions about what they would like to see, based on their gaming experiences from prior editions. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to wait for D&D Next if a dungeon master wants to create a better game now; the challenge is found in importing those game elements or mechanics and making them work within whatever version of D&D a given DM may be running.

What follows is my own completely unscientific list of old-school D&D features or aspects that seem to be missing from the current edition, which I’m toying with to see if they may have a part in my next game, whenever that might start.

1. Put the ‘secret’ back in secret doors. This concept is geared toward moving from single-roll resolution mechanics to old-fashioned guesswork connected with role-playing. Older gamers – or younger OSR exponents – will note that prior to the skill rolls introduced in D&D 3e, the mechanics behind finding a secret door or compartment were pretty basic: a 1 in 6 chance for just about everyone but elves, whose chances were 1 in 3. Of course, finding a secret door didn’t imply that it was automatically open; opening the door usually required players to engage in the setting by describing exactly how and where the heroes were searching for a trigger to the door. My players were always seeking hidden studs, loose or false stones, pivoting torch sconces, pressure plates and such, any of which could be manipulated individually or in combination to open the door. Proponents of the 4e mantra of “getting to the fun” seemed to have replaced that part of game play with a not-so-engaging Spot or Perception roll. For us, though, it was fun to guess at how villains would conceal these secret entrances and compartments, and the happiness players experienced after out-smarting the villains was worth the time we “wasted” while role-playing the search.

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An invitation to take part in ‘Read an RPG Book in Public Week’

For many of us, taking part in role-playing games is a “closet” hobby. After all, not everyone understands what these games entail, and explanations can often backfire (It’s easy! All you have to do is sit in the basement for a few hours, pretending you are an elf!); from there, it is easy for people to make several erroneous conclusions about the speaker, ranging from deciding that he or she needs to date more or, in the eyes of some listeners, that the speaker is condemned to Eternal Woe unless immediate repentance follows.

It’s been said that nothing undoes a lie quicker than exposure to daylight, which is why Read an RPG Book in Public Week is so appealing. The concept, put forth by the folks at The Escapist, is simple enough – read an RPG book in a public place, thereby providing an opportunity for coworkers, friends or even passerby to ask about what you’re reading and why you’re reading it. Hopefully, the ensuing conversation will allow you to explain how much fun and creative these games are, and debunk a myth or two about RPGs and people who play them.

Three such weeks have been scheduled for this calendar year: the weeks of March 4 (tomorrow,) July 27 and Oct. 1.

Please consider reading such a book this week. It may advance our hobby, and even help recruit a few new players.

Game Night Blog Carnival: Carcassonne

This post represents the Athenaeum’s participation in Game Night Blog Carnival, through which RPG Bloggers post a review of a non-RPG game once each month.

Carcassonne: flagship of the ‘Eurogames’ genre

The terms “Eurogame” or “German Board Game” are often applied to a genre of games that aren’t restricted to the traditional model of moving a player’s token along a path of spaces in a racetrack pattern. These games focus on providing players with multiple paths to victory, on keeping all players involved until the end of the game, and on making each play experience as unique as possible.

A prime example of this sort of game is Carcassonne, a tile-based game of German design marketed in the U.S. by Rio Grande Games. Although the basic game was first published 10 years ago, Rio Grande has launched nine mini-expansions and eight full expansions to keep play fresh for even veteran players.

The game was named for the French city of Carcassonne, which is famous for its intact Roman and Medieval fortifications. As different cultures occupied the city in turn, each left an architectural stamp on the city, creating what some have called a randomized look, a randomization portrayed in the game of Carcassonne by cardboard tiles which are randomly placed during the game to form an image of a city that differs with each playing.

The game is played with two to six players. Each player is furnished with eight tiny figures, seven of which are used during play to identify each player’s growing influence in the developing city (the eighth is used for scorekeeping purposes). The other primary game feature is the set of tiles, each of which pictures some representation of city walls, roads, religious cloisters, fields, or a combination of more than one of these elements. A “starting tile” – depicting a portion of city wall, a road and a field, which could easily connect with a cloister – is placed in the center of the table before play begins.

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RPG Athenaeum rated ‘G,’ in spite of posts about poisoning, genocide, murder and sacrilege

Image Copyright Motion Picture Association of America, used without permission.

Earlier today, I was visiting the I’d Rather Be Killing Monsters blog and noticed a text widget depicitng a movie-like rating for the blog. Intrigued, I clicked the rating box and, after declining a request to visit the dating site which created the rating code, submitted my own URL for evaluation.

Apparenty, the script associated with submitting the URL scans the subject blog for specific words, then assigns a rating based upon the prevalence of those words. As you can tell from the widget in the upper right corner of your screen, this blog was rated G, indicating appropriateness for all ages, based upon the word “kill” appearing only five times in my 175 posts.

This struck me as funny. While every effort has been made to keep profanity, gratuitous sexuality and graphic violence from appearing on the site, many of the topics, particularly the Crime Scene Sunday feature I used to run, wouldn’t necessarily qualify for that rating. For the record, this blog has posted on genocide, fraud, racketeering, sabotage, poisoning, arson, forgery, murder, hostage taking, robbery, smuggling and conspiracy, as well as describing methods for interrogating prisoners and adapting real-world small unit combat tactics for in-game use.

I recognize that the widget was intended as a fun quiz to drive traffic to a dating site, and my guess is that the keywords used to assign ratings probably included profanity, words related to reproductive or excretory processes, slang and other types of language typically avoided here. Apparently, the only offensive word I used from their list was “kill,” thereby earning myself the same rating as Sesame Street.

I’m tempted to write a stream of profanity now, just to skew the numbers.

In any event, I’d be interested to see how other RPG blogs fare with this rating system. If you have the time and inclination, please click on the black and white “G” Rating box in the upper right corner, submit your URL and let me know if they accurately rate your blog in a comment to this post.