Oh man, such mixed feelings.

This just arrived. The book is huge. Like Coriolis huge. Of course it’s gorgeous. I’ve read the PDF and I shrug a lot. But the at heart of it, if I’m being honest, I have such strong positive feelings about this thing.

If I had unlimited funds, I’d have sought out the Kult license a long time ago. And it probably would’ve been a PbtA design, like this is. Aaaand I probably would not have done it how they’ve done it, which I’ll go into at some length when I’ve had time to digest it.

I also feel like I’d really like to run a campaign of it, but not with my regulars because their appetite for this kind of horror is not up to the task.

A Feast for Odin

One of my birthday presents to myself was a copy of this monstrosity. It’s by the same guy who did Agricola and Ora et Labora, both of which I adore. So does my wife!

So I’m punching out the 400 million chits and my wife walks by, right? And she says “looks like the same theme as that farming game and that game about the monks.” She doesn’t really hook into the names of things, or the people behind them, but she’s absolutely killer at building economic engines.

Her use of “theme” caught my ear! I dug in a little and I think she means, like…thematic ingredients. Getting sets of one resource to turn them into another resource. Paying ongoing, escalating maintenance for workers. Old-timey dark-agey jobs on cards. I mean, she’s right. This game really does feel like a remix of everything Uwe Rosenberg has ever done.

I liked it a lot after a single three-player game last night. My use of the word “theme” doesn’t match my wife’s, though, and I really enjoyed the fact that the vast point-salad style of the game means having to choose a route and stick to it really tight. I started with animal husbandry, sheep specifically, but instead of drilling down on that — making wool, trading that wool up for better stuff — whaling caught my fancy. And then I was in the boat business, which I kind of had to be anyway since you need a kind of boat to really trade. And then I’ve lost the game, because I stupidly thought I could be a whaler and a shepherd. Nah brah, specialization is where it’s at.

There are literally 60-ish worker placement options on the big central board. You start with 6 workers, and all the placement spots cost between 1 and 4 workers. Even at the end of the game, when you have 12 meeples, you just can’t do everything. I was surprised at how not-confused I was at keeping 60-ish options at front-of-mind. Really they’ve got them bundled up into maybe 8 different broad categories of things: building ships and boats, hunting, raiding, trading, crafting, farming, whatever. It’s not bad but I know I lost hard because I didn’t really understand how to follow my development to its logical conclusion. I started with a sheep and ended with five sheep and a nice enough spread of goods on my homeland, and ended up last. It feels like a good metaphor for life.

Anyway, get this! The game comes with an entire book with nothing but essays about Viking life as expressed through the game! It’s turned out to be a super interesting resource for Sagas of the Icelanders. Iceland is one of the places your Vikings can go explore, too, which is neat.

Top marks, can’t wait to play again.

Legacy Tuesdays!

So it’s gonna be all Legacy all the time around here. Unsub now or forever hold your peace.

Tonight is our first full session of Legacy. Pretty stoked! Jonathan Perrine and I spent some of the morning poring over the minutiae of the moves, specifically how you move back and forth between family and character moves.

I’m relieved to find that it’s actually not that hard to use both move sets! I remember this being a question in my thread last week. The short, better answer than what I said then is, looks like you can step “up” to family moves without formally and fully “zooming out.” It can be like… an interstitial kind of scene. I dig that, and I’m glad we didn’t attempt these kinds of narrative gymnastics on our first session.

One thing I’ve been chewing on a lot is finding the right balance of character-level play and family-level play. I feel like staying up at the family level is kind of too strategic — specifically, I worry that my strategy game fans will want to play at that level and forget about their characters.

Last session, we basically had a very small little “so this is what your world is like” session. They saw the three major families, we saw the gothic monster threat (vampires in this case), and discovered there are opportunities to explore lost underground facilities (where the vampires are). That could be a freestanding thing, yeah? Almost a prequel type scene. Or we can stick to what’s going on, maybe pop back up to the family level to figure out what’s going on, and then get back into the action we left last session. It’s an open question and I’m looking forward to hearing what the players want to do with it.

In any case, I really don’t want this first age to last past tonight. I feel like seeing the passage of time is the secret sauce of Legacy. So I think I’m gonna nudge them toward wrapping up whatever they’re doing so we can advance the setting a bit.

Other stuff I discovered on my reread:

* I really dig the “zoom out” move. Basically it’s a consolation prize for everyone who played a quick character: your own family/character gets to advance a bit when they’re off-screen. That’s terrific, I love it. Makes me want to experiment with the quick character rules tonight, in fact. So maybe that’s where I’ll go: let’s focus on one family and really put this game through its paces.

* Some of the move triggers are kind of hinky and not-PbtA-ish, due to the scale at which things are both triggered and resolved. My eyes keep looking for narrow fictional triggers and that isn’t how moves are written in Legacy. It’s fine, just different.

* One move set in particular I’m tripping over is how Role moves are written. They have kind of … two triggers, because they do two things. One is triggered at character creation, to get the ball rolling on character-centered action for your family. So stuff like how the Rebel role on the Scavenger playbook is about how you think your family is hoarding stuff to the detriment of someone else. Get on that, rebel!

But the other thing Roles are there for is advancement. But advancement isn’t, you know, a thing you chase hard in Legacy. Basically when you’ve seen your way through your role’s purpose — the Elder learning something that shakes their view of the world, when they’re a Rebel; the Hunter taking on a mission to hunt down a dangerous target, when they’re an Agent — then you mark it, advance, and move on to a new Role. Actually there are several ways to mark your Role and they’re scattered throughout the book. It’s an editing thing I wish were tighter, so thank goodness for PDF searches.

Oh and while I wrote this I ran into one more: marking roles is descriptive and prescriptive! If you do the Leader thing while you’re an Outsider, you mark Leader! That’s interesting. Lots of load to stay on top of.

I would say a major feature of Legacy is that there are just too damned many moves for a GM to stay on top of. It’s daunting. I wouldn’t play with players who weren’t good at closely watching their own move sets looking for triggers.

More tomorrow, after we’ve played.

The Kickstarter is now live for New MexiCon 2019!

Come join us for our 6th year of playing indie tabletop games in the Land of Enchantment!

When: April 5th-7th, 2019

Where: Same great venue, different name! Ramada Midtown, 2020 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.

Register for New MexiCon 2019 here: [goo.gl/QRL3BK]

Hope to see you there! And, if you’re in ABQ tonight, join us for the launch party at Slice and Dice!

http://goo.gl/QRL3BK

This morning I discovered I completely missed a Kickstarter for an expansion of a game I really like. It’s a small card expansion (Missions and Powers for Xia), like $18 retail, shouldn’t be hard to get. But I’m like…I thought I was actively following this game’s development! How on earth am I supposed to just keep up with that shit, much less expand my horizons with new stuff?

It made me feel weirdly helpless. Like, one missed email and it probably got sorted into junk by Outlook anyway, and I might not be able to buy it directly from them. Lots of game stuff isn’t even showing up in stores any more.

Small announcement

I don’t know how exactly I’ll be interacting with it but I’ve set up the Indie Game Reading Club as a page on Facebook. Feel free to sign up now so when I swing around to posting with more regularity you’ll know where to find me.

https://www.facebook.com/indiegamereadingclub

My most likely scenario is that I’ll be moving the contents of IGRC to my own website and using the FB page, as well as my MeWe and whatever else I can be bothered to set up, to announce updates and talk with readers.

https://www.facebook.com/indiegamereadingclub

Thousand Arrows is a tabletop role-playing game about the Japanese Warring States Period, powered by the Apocalypse and currently on Kickstarter. All my years working as a game designer and sensitivity reader, my master’s degree in Eastern classics, and my black belt in Bujinkan budō taijutsu culminated in this game.

I want to bring you something which highlights aspects of samurai life and history you’d never heard of, in a format which teaches you to engage with unfamiliar cultures and historical settings in a fun and gentle way. Please back the game and share it with your friends.

Yours in gunpowder and betrayal,
Mendez

Neanderthal

This showed up in the mail last week along with its companion game Greenland. I made the mistake of unwrapping it and trying to read through and learn with players sitting at the table. What a foolish thing to do. It’s by the same dude who did High Frontier, my favorite-favorite brainmelting all-day slog.

It’s a teeny box! For heaven’s sake, you’d think it would be uhhh…a filler, you know? But that’s not what’s in the box. It’s a serious, science-y game.

The whole time I’m reading the rulebook I’m like gawwwd this feels problematic. But it’s all rooted in what I understand to be pretty well-established science about the evolution of our species. But, like, most of the game is centered on the males: what they hunt, their sexual practices, beating on each other, and marrying/acquiring “daughters” that then help your tribe evolve. The game’s economy revolves around three types of vocabularies each species (Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and Archaic) is developing. Certain combinations of “words” (chits in one of the three colors) unlocks major breakthroughs and allows your tribe to evolve. It’s bananas and difficult and, just eyeballing the game, prone to the same fuck-you design style as High Frontier.

It doesn’t care if you don’t understand something. It doesn’t care if you didn’t roll well. It doesn’t care if you drew poorly. Evolution is brutally efficient at weeding out weaker tribes, right?

Can’t wait to play it but it’s a spicy meatball.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/171662/neanderthal