Friday, March 15, 2013

How Long Do You Game?

I'm excited as all get-out that our new campaign is starting tomorrow. While writing the first adventure I tried my best to keep time in mind. I have a reputation for starting every game with "Ok guys, this is going to e a short one, I swear!" To which everyone responds, "Yeah, right. You said that last time!"

I think the reply is more in jest than a complaint... at least I hope it is!

I have been thinking though, how long is your average game? Over the years, our games have declined in frequency to about once or twice a month. There's a lot of factors involved - mostly scheduling. We're adults now and we can just drop everything  for an afternoon of dice rolling!

As a side effect though, the games we do play have become significantly longer. It's not unusual for a game to last eight or ten hours. Heck, we've done twelve hour games on more than one occasion! These all day events evolve each session, changing the flow of the game. We used to order takeout and eat at the table. Later, we started taking a dinner break and later still, Beck began preparing meals to avoid having to order out. Ordering food is not only expensive, but it breaks up the game twice; once to figure out the food and order; then again to eat it when it arrives.

There's also something to be said about the evolution of our gaming habits and where we play. If we play at my house for instance, odds are we'll have home cooked food. If we play at Jim's we'll most likely have something from the pizza place or Chinese/sushi. (It's also nearly guaranteed that Jim's wife Erica will bake us cookies or brownies or something awesome!)

Uh oh, getting off topic. Sorry!

Now I know a few GMs and bloggers out there who play almost once a week and all I can think is "Where do they find the time!?" Fellow GM and player Noah M. plays in my game, occasionally runs his own and plays in another game online - that's a lot of gaming!

How long do your sessions normally run and how often do you play? Also what's your ideal playing time and schedule? I'm just curious to see how other folks handle their gaming.

Until next time, happy gaming!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Impromptu Game Night

This past Saturday we held an impromptu game night at our home with Noah, Jason, Beck and myself. It was a blast! We played three games: Domain: The Warlock's Challenge, Betrayal at House on the Hill and Bohnanza.

Domain is a 1-4 player dungeon crawl game published by Hobby Products. It is printed in both English and German. In Domain, you take on the role of an adventurer who has decided to brave the labyrinthine dungeons of the Warlock Algrim in the hopes of escaping with one of his four magic treasures.

The game is fairly straightforward: You travel through the dungeon and lay down new tiles as you go. When you reach the central treasure chamber, steal a treasure and escape. During the game you will fight monsters, set off traps and perhaps encounter the nefarious Algrim himself!

The mechanics are sound, although in the opinion of myself and my fellow players, they could use some work. Since the game is tile based, it is possible for one player's portion of the dungeon to be built with no access to the treasure room, forcing him to backtrack and then venture through another player's tiles, a long and often arduous process. In one game I found myself barred from the treasure room altogether, as falling debris, walls, and undead monsters blocked my path! (Undead can only be destroyed with rare special weapons) The largest complaint seemed to be the monsters in the treasure room itself. With an initiative of 40, and beefed up armor/defense, they are nearly unbeatable, requiring a player to either grind out extra levels or use magical means to bypass them. Since so many of the available experience points/magical items/spells are random and hard to come by, luck of the draw plays an overly significant part in your success or failure.

Drawbacks aside, the game is still pretty fun and sometimes the random nature can lead to surprises. During the last game Beck's character, "Lady Vikingchick" was a mere two spaces away from victory when a rock slide blocked her exit, allowing Noah's aristocratic, "Sir Brutaldude" to escape with the magical grimoire and win the game! I'd rate Domain: The Warlock's Challenge a 3 out of 5 stars.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a survival horror game where up to six explorers find themselves within the confines of a haunted house. During their wanderings, one player will eventually become The Traitor, falling victim to the evil influence of the house. The traitor can take the form of anything from a giant spider to an entranced convert seeking to summon an elder god. Once revealed, the remaining explorers must do everything they can to stop the traitor and escape.

The game is tile based and features some interesting mechanics. The presentation is good and the idea that any of your compatriots can become the enemy can be nerve wracking at times. Once revealed, the traitor is presented with a booklet describing what they must do to win. The explorers are presented with a similar booklet, which also dictates their winning condition.

The information presented in the booklets was the primary complaint at our game. We were presented with the elder god scenario. Our goal was to steal an evil tome from the traitor and destroy it before she could summon the evil deity. Her goal was to summon it and kill us.

We were successful! Jason managed to sneak in via a magic elevator and snag the book, he then made a run for the chasm where he would destroy it. Following his theft, Back summoned the evil one.

There was a pause at the table...

We were confused. Our booklet told us that she would use the book to summon the monster and we had just stolen the book! How did she summon the monster? What we discovered was that HER booklet stated that she could summon the monster even if she didn't have the book! We realized that it was just part of the mechanics, but it just seemed... cheap.

Other than that, the game was pretty fun. I'm interested to see what the other scenarios are. I would give Betrayal at House on the Hill 3 out of 5 stars.

Finally we played Bohnanza. A farming themed card game where each player takes on the role of a bean farmer. The idea is to sell your crops just the right time to yield the greatest value, while doing so you are trying to horn in on your opponent's profits by forcing them to sell early and lose money.

The game was great! The instructions were a it confusing, but once we got past them we really got into the flow. We only played one game which was unfortunate, as we didn't really get into the flow until about half way through. The art on the cards was sufficiently comedic and the turns go around relatively quickly. I would rate Bohnanza 4 out of 5 stars. 

And just to update from the last post, There didn't seem to e enough interest to warrant setting up a Kickstater. Thanks to everyone who spread the word though!

Until next time, happy gaming!