Towards the start of the year as a semi-New Years resolution I decided to get more into tabletop gaming. It has always been something on the periphery of my life and when I meet up with close friends it is what we do to hang out. That’s because sitting around a table rolling dice, playing combos of cards and shifting Meeples about the place is a brilliant social activity. In the past year or so my affection for it has grown exponentially and it felt like the right time to try and take it one step further.
There was one problem though; there was no real tabletop/board gaming communities around my area, Bishop’s Stortford. Sure there are a few groups in Cambridge which is a train ride away and there is always something board game related happening in London which I could go to after work but I am a lazy person and I like to do things as local to me as possible. So I took the plunge and set up a Tabletop Meet Up Group for the people of Bishop’s Stortford and the surrounding areas.
Paul Dean’s recent recounting of a childhood spent playing Advanced Heroquest over on SU&SD got me thinking and reminiscing about the tabletop games I played growing up. Part of me thought that my recent obsession with board games and RPGs stemmed from them currently being in a golden age of sorts. But my trip down memory lane prompted by Paul’s article made me realise that my childhood is steeped in tabletop, more so than I originally remember…
I figured I should start posting more about my tabletop and board gaming adventures now that they are becoming a more regular thing. This first post will be a bit of an info dump but in future expect a steady trickle of board game and pen & paper based delights.
So here we go!
First thing is that I went to Draughts over the weekend and really enjoyed myself. Draughts is London’s premiere Board Game Cafe and is really worth checking out. They have a ridiculous amount of games on offer and the setup is elegantly simple. You pay £5 and you can stay and play as many games as you want. Food and drink are on offer too (at fairly reasonable prices for London) and the whole place has a professional feel to it that other Board Game Cafes seem to lack.
Over the weekend I had the highly entertaining experience of playing Fiasco with some friends. The games sells itself as “A Game of Powerful Ambition & Poor Impulse Control.” The end result of this aim is in practise, a bit off the mark but in Fiasco you have a powerful storytelling engine that makes players think creatively. You naturally expand upon the basic Setup to create a dark and very comic narrative for the characters you have crafted.
For a relatively simple RPG Fiasco has a surprising amount of depth and gives lots of room for the player’s to customise and expand upon their experience. Easily played over an evening the game leaves you wanting more. You wonder what would have happened if you made different choices or nudged the story and your character in a different direction. It is a game of possibilities and it will envelop you before, during and after you play.
After what has been just about the worst customer experience possible with GameStop UK with my Dragon Age: Inquisition Collector’s Edition that arrived both late and heavily damaged. (Something that I am still trying to sort out!) I have decided to make a drastic change in my game buying habits.
I have been burned by traditional retail and online ordering too many times. My life is becoming increasingly busy and I am running out of space for all the crap I buy in a given month. So I am making the transition to buying the majority of my games digitally. If you are a PC gamer this will be old hat to you but for me it will be a big change to how I obtain and play my games. It mainly means I won’t have to bother relying on the long chain of people needed to get the games I want to me on time. I made the move with comic books a few years ago and never looked back so I am counting on having a similar experience with digital games.
I am now nearing the end of what seems like an eternal wait. Dragon Age: Inquisition is released in the EU this Friday! In the run up to the release I have been doing my due diligence and looking back at the first two games, preparing, getting everything ready and myself in the right mindset so I can step back into the lands of Thedas once again with ease.
This is going to be a lengthy piece so get a cup of tea before you go any further!
Like all of Bioware’s franchises Dragon Age is special to me. I initially struggled with Dragon Age: Origins past the Origins point and gave up on it. I figured that while it was a good RPG it just was not the right one for me. I had enjoyed it a lot but I was getting bogged down in the game’s clumsy UI and the various bugs made it a jarring experience at times. I put it to one side and added it to my eternal pile of shame. Then half a year or so later I decided to give it another go. (Mainly at the urging of the members of what used to the be the NowGamer Forums, we are now The Checkpoint, go check it out!)
This time I chose a different origin, Human Noble, and got stuck in. Finally the game gelled with me and I knew what mistakes to avoid in the early game. Also the UI while still terrible was at least usable by me now. Many hours, the Awakening Expansion and all the DLC later and I had seen and done everything that the game had to offer. I even took the time to check out the other origin stories. I embraced the setting, characters and lore. It was a game that taught me a valuable lesson, sometimes you just have to give things some distance and then give them a second try. Dragon Age was “this close” to being a franchise I was going to pass on and now it is one of my favourite IPs.
The choices in the game have weight to them, the characters are three dimensional and have their own problems outside of your main quest. Then there is the story itself which is a grand epic of twists, turns, betrayal, love and loss. The combat is very tactical and you have to really plan out what you are doing. It truly is a superb RPG. (One that really needs a next-gen Remastered Edition!)
Then came Dragon Age II…
It’s been a long while since I’ve done an adventure write up, also it’s been around two weeks since the adventure itself actually happened so the details are starting to get a bit fuzzy. Still I will try my best.
Anyway since my last time running any kind of tabletop RPG I’ve made a couple of major changes. One being I’ve moved systems from D&D 4e to Pathfinder and the other is to be a bit more relaxed with the rules. Both decisions have been great so far. Pathfinder being derivative of the 3.5 rules has taken me back to my youth and has allowed for better adventures, this is mainly because combat encounters no longer take hours to complete! The being less of a slave to the rules thing is more about everyone spending less time flipping through rule books and more about engaging with what’s happening on the table. Which again has proven to be a good decision especially with a group of new players.
During E3 last week Bungie announced that the Destiny Alpha would be coming to PS4 for the coming weekend and that all those who signed up for it where pretty much guaranteed entry. Naturally upon seeing this on the video of the PlayStation Press Conference I leapt at the chance to play some Destiny before the Beta in July.
The rest of the week was long but on Thursday night I received my code and downloaded the client. Sadly I wasn’t able to play it until Saturday morning but the wait was worth it.
My god it was worth it.
(Image Source: OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Yeesh! It has been a busy few weeks for me! Moving onto new projects at work equals new challenges, so I have been arriving home feeling deader than dead. (That’s a whole lot of dead in case you did not know) As a result other, things as usual, have fallen to the wayside.
Still, I have managed to find the time to scribble down many game design ideas and additions to current projects such as CV: The Game! and I am hoping to get some serious design and development time in over the next couple of weeks. CV: The Game! is a great idea that needs to be finished and sooner rather than later will only benefit me. So that is my priority going forward.
In the meantime I have been doing the eternal task of tweaking my LinkedIn Profile and CV just in case something comes up or somebody stumbles across them.
As it gets closer and closer to release I find myself getting more excited to play the HD Remaster versions of Final Fantasy X and X-2. I suppose it has something to do with the major nostalgia factor that Final Fantasy X has for people around my age. Sure I had played Final Fantasy VII through IX on the PSone but when FFX hit the PS2 in Europe in 2002, (almost a year after its release in Japan!) I was 15 and at just the right age to really understand the key themes and thrust of the story in a way I had not with the previous games.
Tidus’ journey into adulthood with the innocence of his youth being stripped away as the hours of gameplay went by reflected certain aspects of my life at the time. It also helped that Tidus as a somewhat annoying character (but not as annoying a Squall that mopey bastard) was surrounded by one of the best casts of characters in a Final Fantasy game. (Please feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below!) The world of Spira was a setting that mixed the post-cyberpunk/neo-gothic stylings of FFVII and VIII with a traditional fantasy setting to deliver a unique world which has not been touched or replicated since X-2. It very much stands apart from the other Final Fantasy games because of this. It does not quite fit into the classic Nintendo or PSone eras of the franchise or into the modern cross-media hit and miss of the PS3/Xbox 360 titles. Hell it does not really fit in with the other PS2 era Final Fantasy games which both went for very traditional settings. X and X-2 are unique to the Final Fantasy franchise and I find it really odd that SquareEnix have not gone back to that particular well to plunder it for more spin-offs and new games. Such as my idea for a Blitzball Manager game for iOS. (Think about it. How awesome would that be?)
Also it helped that at the time of its initial release the game was one of the best looking games ever made, had an awesome combat system and non-linear character progression that was way ahead of its time. But hey I liked the world and the characters. A lot. It is also the only Final Fantasy game that whenever it is brought up in the eternal argument of which is the best Final Fantasy (hint: It is NOT Final Fantasy VII) that causes everyone to pause for a second and ponder before returning to their original and most likely, incorrect pick. (FYI the actual best Final Fantasy game is close tie between IX and XII)