RPG Highlights of 2008

2008 was a huge gaming year for me: I managed to squeeze in more gaming, both online and face-to-face, this year then since my high school days when we played nearly every weekend.  2008 was a huge year fro Indie RPGs for me: I purchased nearly two dozen different titles and got to play at least a quarter of the games I bought.

My favorite RPG sessions this year:

  • In the spring I got to play a few sessions of Dogs in the Vineyard which really has changed the way I look at conflicts as well as how a system’s mechanics really can reinforce game play.
  • In March I ran a one-shot session of Chickens in the Mist using the Savage Worlds RPG as part of iCon 2008 that was absolutely hilarious – it included a character attempting to use a couch cushion as a shield, another who tried to electrocute a giant, mutated chicken with a halogen desk lamp, and a mad, suicidal race through the backcountry of Texas. You can find the chat logs to the game here.
  • Running Cold City for my local group in which they had to hunt down a Nazi monstrosity that was prowling the sewers of post-war Berlin.
  • In August I got to play a couple sessions of The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries with friends which was another fantastic game. I played Sin Jin Lee, kung-fu master.
  • In October we started our Spirit on the Verge game which is a cross between the Star*drive setting for Alternity and the Firefly TV show using a hack of the Spirit of the Century Rules.
  • In December we wrapped up the main story arc of our Mutants & Masterminds game in which I play a gun-totting hero named Calibre. My favorite scene of that game was when I shot out the door to our jet and jumped out the door, firing the whole way down.
  • Finally there have been the RPG sessions with my six-year-old son which have been a lot of fun.

Some of my other highlights of the year include trying out 4th edition D&D, which turned out to be a lot better than thought it would. I had sworn off D&D completely after the disaster that 3.5 turned out to be, but 4E is cool in a tactical miniature game kind of way. I’ve had a good time running it both for the kids at the after-school club I run as well as online via Fantasy Grounds 2. I also have really enjoyed playing Mouse Guard.

Finally 2008 was a great year for my own writing: I’m about 75% done with Kidz and also have a 2nd game (Desperate Measures) in development.

All in all, I have to say 2008 was a great gaming year. I hope 2009 is even better.

The Haul – Spiel 2008 wrap-up

So I spent too much money… but I got some great deals.  What did I buy?

  • Descent: The Road to Legend expansion set from Fantasy Flight Games.
  • Arkham Horror: The Black Goat of the Woods card expansion from Fantasy Flight Games.
  • Last Night on Earth: Growing Hunger expanion from Flying Frog Productions
  • 2 Starter boxes of D&D minis – they were 5 euros each and too good a deal to pass up. I don’t play D&D minis but will use them with the 4E school club game. I probably should have bought some of the booster packs since they were cheap too but I just don’t use minis that often with my RPGs.
  • Some dice from Chessex and Koplow.
  • A couple of deck boxes from Upper Deck – they were on clearance and I could use them for the extra WM/Hordes/other game cards I have lying in a stack on the game table.
  • Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, Eberron: Secrets of Xen’drik, Dragons of Eberron, Eberron: Dragonmarked. I got them for the buy 1, get 3 deal.  I kind of wish I had picked up the other 4 Eberron books left in the series since I found them at another booth running the same offer….
  • The Eberron Adventures: Grasp of the Emerald Claw, Shadows of the Last War, Voyage of the Golden Dragon, along with the Lost Caverns of the Underdark Dungeon Tile set. Same as above: Bought the dungeon tiles and got 3 same or less priced items for free.
  • Pulp City Heroes & Villains starter boxes along with a Sentry bots, Chimp-Chi, Mourn, and the alt Gentleman blisters.
  • Vol 3 of Fables – I wanted to buy more volumes but they were pretty expensive and not discounted much at all off their straight US$ price.
  • A few small items like card protector boxes (for board games) and some acrylic putty for basing miniatures.


Spiel 2008 is this weekend and a few friends and I are going on Sunday.  What is Spiel? It’s one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world and the biggest in terms of board games. It’s a really great place to see and try out new stuff, see old friends, and buy stuff I probably don’t really need but want. The only down side are the crowds tend to make it a challenge to move around and the food costs a small fortune.

Report from Spiel 2008

I’m back from my day at Spiel with a sack full of booty, an empty wallet, and sore feet.  The day started at 10am and pretty empty halls but within about 90 minutes it was pretty packed and hard to maneuver. I got to play a few demos of games, watched a couple others, saw some weird stuff, and did a lot of bargain hunting.

Here are the highlights of what I saw:

Pulp City – This is a skirmish-size miniatures game where you play super heroes vs. villains. It has some pretty simple mechanics, good looking pewter minis, and very small army sizes which means it doesn’t cost a fortune to play. The demo was fun and they had me hooked the minute I got to pick up a car and throw it on top of the super villain. Any game that lets you do that gets two thumbs up in my book.  The game is also easy enough that I can teach it to my 6-year-old and actually have a meaningful game with him.  I ended up picking up both starter boxes (heroes & villains), plus all the singles they had for 65 Euros which is a pretty good deal IMO.

Mutant Chronicles – the collectible, non-randomized miniatures game. It uses 54mm pre-painted plastic minis. The minis look cool and the game intrigues me (it’s from Fantasy Flight which is usually a safe bet for great games). The price was also very reasonable (20 Euros for the starter, 12.50 for the booster packs). The problem was that the game looks fairly complicated and right now I’m not interested in mini games I can’t teach to my son since getting my adult friends into another game is difficult.

Monsterpocalypse – the new CMG from Privateer Press. I’m a big fan of Warmachine & Hordes (though the price increases have severely cut down on my purchases) but Monsterpocalypse doesn’t thrill me. The minis look pretty good (some are awesome, some are kind of crappy looking IMO), the buildings look awesome, the map is cool. The rules seem interesting and deep enough to be enjoyable long term. The problem is that it’s a collectable and the boxes are randomized. Sorry, no sale. I’m not spending my money amassing a bag of shit I don’t want in order to play the faction I like. It’s not cheap at all which makes the idea of buying multiple starter boxes trying to get a particular faction’s monster ridiculous.

Paintball – A card game a lot like Jungle Speed but you get to hurl a little ball at your opponents. It was fun and fast-paced but kind of pricey (20 euros) for a party game.

Flames of War – Not a new game at all, but some friends are now playing and so I checked it out to see if I wanted to buy into it. However, after talking with some dealers, I realized that the game has some major inherent flaws:

  • It costs a fortune to buy a division worth of stuff. For example, a SS Panzer division army costs 200+ euros.
  • You can’t play against all of your friends: Axis members can’t fight other Axis members (unless you’re playing some sort of fantasy game), Allies can’t fight allies, and certain divisions & forces never saw action in particular theatres as well. In other words, playing the game is even more expensive than dropping a couple hundred euros on a Panzer division.

Other things I noticed or realized:

  • Very little new miniature stuff and a lot of companies that were present in past years were missing (or hiding): I failed to find Freebooter, Rezolution, Infinity, or Urban War booths anywhere. Privateer, except for the Monsterpocalypse stuff, also had a very small presence.
  • Lots of D20 stuff was on fire sale. I got some amazing deals on books (buy 1, get 3 free!):  While I hate D20, I really like the Eberron setting and so took the opportunity to pick up most of the remaining setting books because they were so cheap. I also bought the  Expedition to Ravenloft adventure simply because it was essentially free. I should have just have biten the bullet and bought the rest of the books I was interested in but I held off since buying stuff on impulse simply to own it is something I’m prone to.
  • D&D minis were also on clearance: You could get a gigantic blue dragon for 10 euros. The Driz’zt limited edition box was selling for as cheap as 10 euros as well (if you bought a couple boosters of other minis which were also on sale).
  • Lots of LARP stuff and lots of people in costume. Some women look good in tight leather or chainmail bikinis; others really should rethink their wardrobe choice or at least hit the gym if they’re going to go out in public dressed that way.
  • LARP is expensive…. 65 euros for a short sword is expensive. I’d really like a tri-corner hat but I can’t justify spending that kind of money for something that would hang on my wall.
  • If you want to demo games, you need to show up early and rush to the tables: Otherwise you end up waiting in line for people to play 3-hour  long games: I kid you not, Fantasy Flight let people play full length demo games which might be fine for Jungle Speed but a game of Arkham Horror can last 6 hours.
  • 3 Euros for a Coke is a ridiculous price. This year I was smart and brought my own bottled water.
  • If you’re going to buy board games, you really need to bring a pull cart with you because they are heavy.