My current Flash Point set up

I am unabashedly a huge fan of Flash Point: Fire Rescue.  I think my main reasons are that it’s cooperative, it can be played solo or with only two people, and it has a very visceral feel to it.  I’m not a big fan of abstract games, but that’s just me.  But there is one problem with Flash Point that’s almost inescapable: lots of fiddly bits and maps.  I have all of the expansions, including the bonus Dangerous Waters map that was funded as part of the Kickstarter for Extreme Danger, and I hated my organization.  I had lots of little plastic bags filled with stuff, and prior to Extreme Danger, I was rapidly running out of box space.  Fortunately ED included a second box, but even more fortunately I remembered an old solution used with the 1980′s Avalon Hill classic, Up Front: a fishing tackle box.

IMG_0293

I went all over to craft and hobby stores, I went to Home Depot and Lowe’s.  No one had exactly what I was looking for, namely something that I could shift the internal walls to vary the size of the compartments.

I found my solution at Walmart, I think it was under $10.

It works pretty good, though it does take a little longer to set up a game.  But cleaning up is faster, and all I need is my original box with all of the maps and rules and my smaller box and I’m ready to game.

 

Speaking of gaming, I did a solo Flash Point Saturday that was great.  The first time that I played the submarine I got my butt handed to me.  I was running four roles: chief, veteran, rescue dog, and structural engineer.  Unfortunately the structural engineer and dog got trapped in the bow of the sub, the vet got blowed up, and I couldn’t get the chief from the back of the ship to extinguish the entry point and then get to the bow to free the dog and engineer before the sub sank.  Very frustrating game, but sometimes that’s the way the dice rolls.  Saturday I did a re-match, this time starting with the captain, the structural engineer, and CAFS.  The firefighters were able to clear a path for the engineer to extinguish all the hot spots and deal with initial explosion damage, after which the engineer became the haz mat tech and dispatched the three hazmats, and then became the generalist.

At the end game, I’d almost rescued all of the people and only had one damage cube on the board in a non-vital area.  And I succeeded in extinguishing all of the fire.  I’ll tell ya, that felt pretty good,  The only POI killed by a flashover turned out to be a false alarm, so no deaths!

I got lucky with explosions, and dealing with all of the hot spots as soon as possible was a definite help.  I think on the sub, a better strategy is to keep your non-firefighters working with a firefighter and keep one firefighter in the bow, one in the stern.

Speaking of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, he’s crowdfunding Season 3

I have to be honest, I haven’t watched Tabletop.  My excuse is mainly that I don’t get to game very much up on this mountain, and I’m sticking to it.  Still, I know it’s a good program and was quite pleased to hear that he’s bypassing Google and trying to directly fund the next season.   And considering that he’s $422,000 in to his $500,000 goal with just over a month remaining, he’ll make it.

For those not familiar with how Tabletop was initially funded, it all came down to Google wanting to manufacture quality content for YouTube.  They announced that they would be accepting proposals to fund some production, and Felicia Day started working on a proposal for the Geek & Sundry channel.  She approached Wheaton and asked him what he wanted to do if he had the money, and he told her that he wanted to sit around and play board games with friends.  In a nut shell: Tabletop.

Geek & Sundry, along with Tabletop, have been fantastically successful, and the love for Wil’s program is definitely being expressed through donations to his Indiegogo campaign, of which I will be participating.

http://www.wired.com/2014/04/wheaton-tabletop-crowdfunding/

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tabletop-season-3-with-wil-wheaton

Celebrate Tabletop Day with a free RPG bundle!

Lots of good stuff in here: Traveler, Call of Cthulhu, Eclipse Phase, Night’s Black Agents, Firefly, etc.  They’re mostly demo packs, but still an excellent overview of new RPGs that might be worth checking out.

I have no idea how much longer this free bundle will be running.  Their web site has been getting slammed, so you might have to refresh your browser over time to get in and get the bundle.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=128081&it=1&SRC=Newsletter_FPW_CTArpg

New Humble Bundle eBook sale

There’s only six days left to purchase it, the current bundle includes eleven books: Tithe: A Modern Fairy Tale (Holly Black), Mogworld (Yahtzee Croshaw), Jumper (Steven Gould), Arcanum 101 (Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill), To Be or Not To Be (Ryan North), Bleeding Violet (Dia Reeves), The God Engine (John Scalzi), Uglies (Scott Westerfield), The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Wil Wheaton) and Zombies vs Unicorns, an Anthology (various authors). These books are available in multiple eBook formats, including Mobi and Epub, they have no DRM on the files, and you can pay whatever you want for them. If you pay $15 or more, you also get the audio book of Cory Doctorow’s Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton.

The money that you pay is distributed, at the rate that you decide, between the authors, a charity to help authors with medical crisis, or a tip to Humble Bundle.

https://www.humblebundle.com/?ebookbundle3

Happy Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons

This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of Dungeons and Dragons, the big daddy of the RPG industry, and rumor has it that this weekend is the actual release date anniversary. It’s been a heck of a ride, lots of editions, the deaths of its creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the formation and ultimate dissolution of Tactical Studies Rules, etc. Lots of water under the bridge, and the river is still flowing strong.

Somewhere I have the original white box release of the game, unfortunately I’m missing one of the three books.

And now for some public sacrilege: I really don’t care much for the game. For me, it was much more complex than it needed to be. I don’t mind complexity in games occasionally, it’s just my personal style is more towards simpler games. And this is especially weird considering that Champions is perhaps my favorite RPG. But to each their own.

I have put in a lot of hours playing D&D in various incarnations, and I have had fun doing it. I think, for me, it really boils down to the GM, or DM if that’s your preference. As in so many games, the GM can make or break the game, and my earliest encounters were with GMs that really broke it for me. My favorite GM is an old friend of over 30 years, and as a rule I will enjoy anything he runs, and he ran a D&D campaign for a while for a small group of us. And we had fun. But you’re not going to find a lot of D&D products in my collections.

Still, Happy Birthday, D&D! Thank you for being instrumental in creating an industry that has brought a lot of fun to millions of people around the world!

Cards Against Humanity

My wife Russet and I attended Denver ComicCon with our hosts Kris & Dave on Saturday two weeks ago and we all had a marvelous time. One of my acquisitions was finding a copy of the adult card game, Cards Against Humanity, for sale.

It’s not adult as in sexually-explicit, it’s adult in that some of the cards have some moderately disgusting themes. It plays just like Apples To Apples, and you need a group of 4+ people to play, three people would just be boring. And warped senses of humor are a definite plus. The player whose turn it is reveals a black card, which will have one or two blanks. It might read something like “When I become a billionaire, I’ll erect a monument to ______”. The other players choose a white card from their hand of ten and play it face-down, you might end up with things like “Michelle Obama’s forearms”, “snot”, “a space/time paradox”, “Adderol”. The player who played the black card selects the one that they liked best, for whatever reason, and the person who played that card gets the black card as, I kid you not, an “Awesome point”. You can do things with Awesome points, but I won’t get in to that here.

Anyway, awesome game. Highly recommended, assuming you have the requisite twisted sense of humor.

I pulled it out while Dave was in the bathroom, explained it to Kris, and she was initially a little dubious. Russet hadn’t played Apple To Apples before, but she had played a game that I made called Karaoke Screams, which uses the same mechanic. Once Dave returned from his pilgrimage, we played for probably an hour and had lots of fun.

Cards Against Humanity is described on the box as “A Party Game For Horrible People”. I think that pretty much says it all. It’s also released under a Creative Commons license, you can download it and print it yourself if you don’t mind killing your printer. It’s available at the Cards Against Humanity web site.

Improvisation in Gaming Supplies

A lot of my gaming buddies date back to the early 1980′s. Some have moved away, one unfortunately passed away entirely before his time. Two months ago my friend Ben had a stroke. He’s doing better, but he’s in a recovery facility. Today my wife and I took two games and played them with Ben, and we came up short in supplies! We’re on the road, and there’s limits to what I can bring, especially when we don’t know what we’ll be playing. Generally on road trips I pack small games and only bring RPG stuff when I know for a fact we’ll be playing an RPG.

So I got caught short.

We played “Hey! That’s my fish!”, a nice little simple game with tile laying and resource collecting, with an interesting self-destructing board: the space you start on is the space that you collect on your next turn, and it’s removed from the board. We had fun with that, and then went to play Munchkin, and quickly realized two problems: no dice and no counters.

Munchkin needs 1d6 to run away from monsters, and every player needs 10 chits of some sort to count levels earned. I didn’t have either. Conveniently I had an excellent iPhone app called The Dicenomicon, I highly recommend it, and dialed up a 1d6 roller. Dice problem solved. And since we only needed chits and what was on said chits was irrelevant, so we pulled out the sixty or so tokens from That’s My Fish.

Worked great. Well, aside from screwing up the rules in Munchkin in a couple of places. There’s tons of dice rolling programs for smart phones and tablets, lots are free, Dicenomicon is not but it’s a really good program. And chances are you can find something to substitute for counters.

Look around you, there are solutions just begging to be implemented.

Phoenix game convention trying to fund through Kickstarter

MaricopaCon is a small game convention that started as a gathering at someone’s house, it’s grown every year and now they’re trying to run a full two-day convention at the Mesa Convention Center. They’re currently two-thirds of the way to their funding goal, I hope they make it as it’s been a while since the Phoenix area had a good game con.

Excellent games of 2012, part 1 of many — Flash Point: Fire Rescue

I don’t get to play as many new games as I would like, but I played some exceptional games last year that were new to me and I really want to share them. These games may not have come out in 2012, but that’s when I first played them.

Up first, Flash Point: Fire Rescue by Indie Boards & Cards.

My wife and I first played this over Thanksgiving while in Colorado with our friends, Dave & Kris, they have both expansions. It immediately went on my Xmas list, and surprisingly, my wife bought it for me. It helps that she also likes the game. It is a cooperative game, similar to Pandemic, where everyone is a specialist firefighter trying to extinguish a blaze and save lives. The game is lost when four people die (called POIs, or Points of Interest) or you run out of structural damage cubes (black) where explosions have weakened walls and the building collapses.

The box says the game is rated for two to six players and 45 minutes, I think those are good estimates. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t play this game solo, just play two or three roles and be honest with the dice rolls. The game uses two dice, a d6 and a d8. The boards are divided to use the d6/d8 for coordinates for placing fires, POIs, smoke, etc. It is also fairly compact and can be played on a card table, though there can be a lot of fiddly bits.

Each player takes a specialist role card, and you can change it if you don’t like your role or the needs of the fire suggest a different role would be useful, it will cost you a turn to change roles. Some roles are: Fire Chief (gives extra movement to others), Engineer (repairs structural damage but cannot fight fires). Paramedic (throws bandages at POIs so they can move faster), Generalist (most movement and firefighting capability, but that’s all that role does), Compressed Air Firefighting System (AKA CAFS, amazing firefighting ability but doesn’t move fast), etc. One role allows you to use the water canon on the fire engine, a HazMat specialist, a Thermal Imaging Technician, etc. Text on the card explains what the role can do.

To set up a game, select a map and roll to place explosions, smoke, hot spots (which may cause more fires) and POIs (placed face-down). Depending on the scenario, you also may place HazMat. There are simple rules to relocate a POI or HazMat if the roll would put them directly in fire. Firefighter specialist roles are distributed or selected, then everyone chooses where they are entering from and who goes first. On your turn, you move (optional), perform an action (fight fire, rescue people, repair damage, whatever), then roll for more smoke. If you roll a location that is already smoke, it turns to fire and any adjacent smoke turns to fire. If you roll a location that’s fire, it explodes and the fire spreads and damages walls. After you roll smoke, you roll to replace any POIs that were rescued.

Every firefighter carries an axe and can chop through walls, it takes two actions and places two damage markers on the wall, which means fire can spread through the breech and that it cannot be repaired by the structural engineer, that role can only remove single damage tokens.

POIs die easily. If they’re on smoke and it turns to fire, they’re dead. If they’re next to an explosion and it hits them, they’re dead. Lose four POIs and you’ve lost the game. The tricky bit about POIs is that they’re placed face-down, and all you see is a question mark. You think there’s something there, and you’re going to have to go and check it out, but it might be blank, or it could be a pet. If a pet dies, it counts as one of the four deaths.

To save a POI, get them out of the building. You can carry them, which reduces your movement, or if the paramedic threw a bandage on them they can move with you. They cannot move by themselves. Get them out to the ambulance, and they’re saved.

To win the game, rescue seven real POIs, the blank ones are false alarms and don’t count for winning or losing.

Obviously the rules are a little more complicated than what I’ve described, but not seriously so. It’s a very quick game to learn and lots of fun, once you’re set up the rules aren’t needed much once you’re familiar with the game. Since it’s cooperative, table talk is encouraged to coordinate actions and make sure you don’t screw someone else up if you can avoid it, or to explain that someone’s planned action is a really bad idea or there’s a better way to do it.

The game plays at a brisk pace, which helps maintain a high level of interest. I’ve won games with three roles in play, I’ve won games with six, and I’ve lost them with any number: the number of players/roles makes little difference as to how tough the fire is. The more roles, you have more flexibility but more chances for the fire to spread massively before it’s your turn again. Fewer roles means faster action, but you might not have the role needed at the moment. Changing roles requires you to be at the fire truck and spend a turn. It’s not uncommon for the Imaging Technician to start on the truck, spend one round identifying POIs, then switching to another role.

You always want either the generalist or the CAFS in the game, if you have neither you’re in trouble and if you have both you’re either going to rock the fire or you might be weak for other needed functions.

HIGHLY recommended, this game is a blast. They also funded it and the expansions through Kickstarter, and had some great deals for getting previous releases.

http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/fpfr.php

The game is available at, in addition to hopefully your Friendly Local Game Store, at some Barnes & Noble and some Targets, and Amazon, natch.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls up on Kickstarter

Tunnels & Trolls was one of the first FRPGs published, coming out in 1975. I owned both D&D and T&T in the late 70′s, and I found T&T to definitely be more to my liking of the two. You only need one type of dice, six-sided, and once you’re comfortable with the system you pretty much don’t need a rule book. I found it lent itself to more story.

T&T also spawned solo adventures with actual combat, you would roll dice to defeat opponents. LOTS of solo adventures were published, and this Kickstarter will include a couple.

Admittedly I am biased as I worked for T&T’s publisher, Flying Buffalo, and know all of the people involved. But it’s a good product, a good project, and a chance to get it as a PDF.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls on Kickstarter

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