Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Three-Dragon Ante Designer's Diary

Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition should be on sale on Thursday, September 18th! For a bit more of a preview and notes on a couple of the game's origin stories, check out the Designer's Diary that came out today on Boardgame Geek

I saw the finished cards and the sturdy new game box for the first time yesterday. That's me above, squinting in Seattle's single moment of sun yesterday afternoon, timed perfectly to celebrate the arrival of the shipment from Wiz-Kids. 

And in what looks like a smoky tavern but is actually just a photo taken with my fuzzy phone-camera in my garage studio, here are friends Rob, Michael, and Sunga playing our first gambit with the actual cards. We played three games in the style that the game terms 'among friends'--playing with ten random cards secretly selected from the thirty mortals and legendary dragons. You find out which special cards have been added to a particular game by playing the cards or having them played against you. As our trash-talking and brutal ambushes revealed, among friends could be a dangerous style in a world where everyone is armed with daggers and lightning bolt spells. To emulate the games  played by gamblers in D&D worlds who want to reduce their chances of being slashed or electrocuted, maybe you'll want to play show 'em style as explained on page 14 of the rules! 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fun to Watch: NWSL Soccer

We’ve loved following the National Women’s Soccer League in the USA the last four or five years. It’s presently a nine-team league, which is small, but the quality of play is excellent and games can be watched on yahoo or on some of the ESPN channels.

There’s about a month left in the regular season and then there’s a four-team playoff before the championship game on October 27th.

Without going into too much detail, I’m going to write a paragraph on why each of the teams in the league is Fun to Watch. This first installment features the three teams on the bottom of the league. They’re not making the playoffs this year.

Orlando City FC
Honestly . . . the first half of the season they weren’t much fun. Superstar forwards Alex Morgan (USA) and Marta (Brazil) both played like they were conserving their energy for the World Cup. Defender/midfielder Alana Kennedy was the team’s high goal scorer, managing at least one ridiculous bicycle kick, but when you have two of the best international strikers on your team and only your defenders are scoring, you’ve got trouble. The best things they had going for them were that midfielder Dani Weatherholt wasn't being dragged down like the rest of the team and that defender Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris are engaged, a sweet romance in the middle of a hard season.

So, the reason they’re fun to watch now? Marta came back from the World Cup inspired and passionate. Yes, she quickly collected a red card for her passion, but watching Marta play now is like watching angry-Michael Jordan cut through fools. It’s too bad this a sport where being Michael/Marta isn’t quite enough to take over games completely and win, but it’s gasp-worthy entertaining.

Sky Blue FC, from New Jersey
I love watching Sky Blue because they feature two talismanic players, stars who pushed their countries to win World Cups. Unlike Marta and Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd did NOT conserve her energy before the World Cup, she played to prove she belonged as a starter on the national team. Also unlike a lot of her USA national teammates, Lloyd didn’t spend weeks celebrating the win, she got back to work and has been either lethal or great fun to watch or both at the same time.

The other national talisman, Nahomi Kawasumi of Japan, hasn’t been getting as much playing time this year. Shewas on the Seattle Reign for years and is one of the best passers in the game, maybe she is on the downside of her career, but she hits the ball sweetly and enjoys Beckham-level fame in Japan. She’s always worth watching. (Actually, there's a third highly skilled national talisman on Sky Blue, but Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez is famous for scoring Costa Rica's first World Cup goal rather than for pushing her team to win the whole thing.)

Houston Dash
They haven’t lived up to expectations, so this is another team that’s features an extremely talented player trying to push her team towards the playoffs. Or a win or three, just-maybe. Rachel Daly, of England, is a striker or midfielder when she plays for Houston, and if the USA’s Crystal Dunn wasn’t in this league, Daly might qualify as the NWSL’s most versatile player. England played Daly a little as a defender in the World Cup, at first, and later let her sub in at midfield. I think they would have been better off to play her from the start. For Houston she’s a constant threat, no matter where she is on the field. Like Marta, she’s not taking sh*t from anyone and has the recent red card to prove it. Also like Marta, and like the aforementioned Michael Jordan, Daly does seem to play better when angry, so who can say what she'll throw into the last few games?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Three-Dragon Ante Legendary Edition Preview: A New Archmage

Today we’re looking at one of the mortals from the original 3DA that always struck me as a missed opportunity . . . and how it has changed now that I got the opportunity to revise the cards that were the least fun.

The Archmage

Here’s my honest assessment of the Archmage’s power in the original 3DA set: I can’t remember it. I remember every other card. I can never remember what the Archmage did unless I had the card in front of me. When we published the Emperor’s Gambit expansion for 3DA I started playing with custom decks and the Archmage hasn’t been invited to my table for years.

So I have to look at the original cardset again. OH. Right. It used to read, “Pay 1 gold to the stakes. Copy the power of an ante card.” Let’s count the ways that was bad.

First: The Mortal Tax

Why did mortals cost 1 gold to play in the original set? It wasn’t for play balance. Back when I came up with 3DA I had the notion that it was meant to a game all about dragons. Mortals, I thought, might have wild powers, or might not, but there needed to be an expected cost for playing them. The same reasoning originally led me to rule out color flights of three mortals.

By the time I designed Emperor’s Gambit, I understood that forcing a 1-gold cost for playing a mortal was a silly/meaningless game mechanic with no story payoff. The mortal tax went away and it hasn’t been missed.

Second: Oddly Weak Power

But speaking of story, what was I doing making an Archmage, a powerful wizard, so dependent on ante cards that are by definition almost always cards that someone has decided aren’t worth playing? Maybe the card offered a hint of a gambit-opening tactic: “I could put a high card in the ante, make everyone ante a lot of gold, and have a good chance of using that card’s power through the Archmage as the first player in the round.” Maybe, but so what? That tactic seldom qualified as the smartest use of good cards. Even when it triggered its power, the original Archmage was usually reduced to stealing a few coins or cards from the ante. It rarely seriously affected the game.

the new Archmage

New Arch-Magic

The first goal with the new Archmage was to live up to the card name with a power that feels magical. The second goal was to change the power into something that can affect the way you play. Playing the new Archmage early in a gambit may paint a target on you for your foes’ Red Dragons but it’s also going to ensure that the high or middling cards you plan to use to challenge for the stakes will trigger their powers no matter how puny the flight of the player to your right.

As powerful magicians who generally favor the side of Law, it’s not surprising that Archmagi would rather not team up with Copper Dragons! If you play a Copper Dragon after triggering the Archmage, you must want to throw a little Chaos into your flight.

Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition should be on shelves in about a month!

Monday, July 29, 2019

My GenCon Schedule

I'm going to be simpler to find this year. Many years I orbit the Pelgrane booth, but in the past it's been a loose orbit. This year the orbit tightens and I'll be working the Pelgrane booth most of the show. Find me and the rest of the Pelgranistas at booth #1417, where we'll have a couple new products for Night's Black Agents and one new sandbox adventure book for 13th Age: Shards of the Broken Sky.

13th Age Monster Workshop 
Friday, 11:00 am to noon. Stadium Meeting Room 12
This panel is a team-up between 13th Age designers and audience members who end up as 13th Age designers! Previous workshops' creatures that we polished and published include three entries in Bestiary 2: the shadow mongoose, the salamander (originally designed as the lava moth), and the Koruku, the avatar of the Iron Sea's hatred for the Dragon Empire. That's Rich Longmore's illustration of the Koruku above. Its brainstorm melted my brain cells. Bring your brain and help distribute the meltage.

13th Age Glorantha Signing
Friday, 3-4 p.m. Chaosium booth #829
Jonathan Tweet and I will be scribing runes into books. Also autographs.

BGG Interview about Shards
Saturday 1:30
Digital discussion for on-line viewing.

Swords, Spies, & Shoggoths: the Pelgrane Press Panel
Saturday, 2-3 p.m., Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Station A
This is one of our Ken & Others Talk About Stuff panels. Happily the stuff includes some mostly-unannounced 13th Age books!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Guest Post: Jonathan Tweet's GenCon Schedule

In 1978, I went to Gen Con as a 12-year old and bought Cosmic Encounter. Nine years later, I returned as a vendor selling Whimsy Cards, and I’ve been back most years since. This year at Gen Con, I’ll mostly be promoting Over the Edge, the all-new rewrite of my influential 1992 RPG. Here’s my schedule of public events.  

Wednesday during the day, no plans, maybe I should make some. 

Wednesday night, Diana Jones Award party at the Slippery Noodle, game professionals welcome. Eager to see who wins from among the four worthy nominees.

Thursday, 11–1, Atlas Games booth, #1421. Talk to me about Over the Edge, Clades/Clades Prehistoric, Ars Magica, On the Edge, or anything. Yes, I’ll also sign whatever books of mine you bring.

Thursday, 2–3, Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn A. Basics of finding players, getting a campaign started, and taking the gamemaster role. With Darcy Ross, Robin Laws, and Justin Alexander. Crowne Plaza is the place with the creepy white statues, so that’s good. https://www.gencon.com/events/149629

Friday, 3–4, Chaosium booth, #829, signing 13th Age Glorantha, or anything. With Rob Heinsoo. 

Friday, 7pm or so until much later, ENnies reception & silent auction (6pm) and awards (8pm). Union Station Grand Hall. Last year I had a fun time bidding at the silent auction and losing all my bids. 

Saturday, 11–4, Atlas Games booth, #1421. 

Sunday, 11–2, Atlas Games booth, #1421. 

Sunday, 3, http://twitch.tv/genconstudio, live interview. 

Then 24 hours until my flight out on Monday.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Three-Dragon Ante Preview: Copper Trickster & Gold Monarch

Unlike games with the original 70-card 3DA set, games with the Legendary Edition start with 70 cards made from the 10 standard dragon colors and add 10 unique cards chosen from 15 Legendary Dragons and 15 Mortals. You can customize your deck with the cards you enjoy playing with most or choose randomly for an unpredictable mix.

Today we’re introducing two of the new Legendary Dragons. The Copper Trickster is first, pictured alongside a standard Copper Dragon. 

Copper Trickster

As you can see, we’ve used the normal dragon art by Craig Phillips for the Legendary Dragons but set them apart with different card graphics. The Copper Trickster counts as a Copper Dragon for purposes of creating a color flight, though this may be a bad example to highlight, since Copper is arguably the most difficult color flight to attain!

Gambling with a Copper Dragon’s power when you don’t have any other good ideas is a time-honored method of inviting luck to solve your problems. As the legendary representative of its color, the Copper Trickster applies the luck to where you need it most. Unlike a normal Copper Dragon, the Copper Trickster discards a different card from your flight and replaces it with the top card of the deck. Unlike normal Copper Dragons, that can sometimes trigger powers that are actively bad for you, you can trigger your new card or not, as you choose.

The Copper Trickster has a way of shaking things up when your opponents thought they understood the probabilities. Your top deck card draw may fail you, but at least it’s going to put a scare into everyone else.


Gold Monarch

Timed correctly, Gold Dragons are a huge helping of awesome. Win the gambit with high cards? Check. Draw lots of cards? Check. Search for a color flight of Gold Dragons while drawing those cards? Triple-check.

Therefore, I felt fine about giving the golden Legendary Dragon a touch of noblesse oblige!

The Gold Monarch’s drawback doesn’t kick in unless you win the gambit. If you’re going to whine about it, you’re whining as the winner, so try roleplaying draconic majesty instead. You've carved a slice of high moral ground covered in treasure! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Legendary Marvel Deckbuilding Fun

The photo is from playtesting the first of the two new Legendary: Marvel Deckbuilding expansions that Devin Low is designing at the moment. Lisa has just identified the troubling details of the Faustian bargain that one of Devin's new game mechanics has offered her. She is turning the bargain down, hard.

Devin, meanwhile, is still chortling over the fact that so many players *will* accept the bargain, rubbing his hands together evil-mastermind-style to try and get Lisa excited about the possibilities.

Lisa said, "I read Faust in the original German. I'm not falling for this." And Devin/Mephistopheles had to be content with future souls.

I obviously can't provide details or even the names on the two expansions, but I can say we loved them both. The new mechanics provide a couple different assessment/achievement levels that are separate from the usual rubrics of Victory Points and slimmed-down decks. Trash-talking and roleplaying around the new mechanics is fun and fits the storylines that the expansions are based on. Fun new mechanics that are also funny? A big win.