Monday, July 17, 2017

Thunder Alley & Apocalypse Road

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Thunder Alley is a pretty great NASCAR racing game by Jeff and Carla Horger, published by GMT. Read more comprehensive reviews of Thunder Alley’s clever racing and drafting mechanics here and here.

Neither I, nor anyone I’ve played Thunder Alley with, have been NASCAR fans. But as an evocative simulation of bump-and-grind team racing, Thunder Alley has succeeding in making nearly everyone who has played it in our games say something like “Wow, I never really cared about NASCAR, but if this is how the tactics work, I could pay more attention.”

I admit that we haven’t followed up on that by following NASCAR. But we’re all looking forward to playing the game again, it’s an elegant design that’s extremely fun.

And speaking of looking forward to playing …. What I’m really looking forward to is the Car Wars style version of Thunder Alley, cars with weapons racing on closed circuit tracks! The game-in-the-making is called Apocalypse Road. It’s presently at around 337 orders on GMT Games’ version of crowdfunding, the Project 500 system (aka P500) that requires 500 pre-orders to get published.

P500 preceded Kickstarter, it’s one of the early crowdfunding systems. P500 works extremely well for GMT but I’m not certain it’s working as well as it could be for Apocalypse Road. GMT mainly publishes historical games. It has some science fiction successes, but they’re considerably less wacky-looking than Apocalypse Road. I’ve got a hunch that few GMT P500 people were ever into Car Wars. I believe that Apocalypse Road will benefit from getting noticed by a wider fantasy/science fiction-oriented gaming audience.

Take a look at the ApocalypseRoad development page. It’s combat racing, something like automotive roller derby: you’ll score points for completing laps with the cars on your team and for eliminating opposing cars. You can build cars for speed or for combat or maybe you’ll want both.

I’m fond of the Horgers’ recent Grand Prix. It’s a lot more predictable than the madness of Thunder Alley. But I’m hoping for the chaos of weaponized racing, and hope the game gets noticed by people who like a good car war. 

Image result for apocalypse road game

Friday, June 23, 2017

We Shadows have Offended

The massive opening of The Yellow King Kickstarter project has caused me to reconsider an event that took place on June 21st, just prior to the launch of Robin D. Laws' new GUMSHOE game.

I was talking with the London half of the Pelgrane Press publishing team on Skype. Behind Simon, a woman in a summer skirt dithered in the doorway, obviously wanting to talk with him but not wanting to interrupt as he talked into his headset. She came back a couple minutes later and knocked to get his attention.

Simon got up and talked with her a bit at the door, too far from the microphone for me to hear. He closed the door and said, “They’re doing a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream in the hallway and they’re worried that with the door open, people will think I’m part of the play.”

I said, “That’s the most perfectly English thing I can imagine."

A couple days later, with The Yellow King surfacing, I’m not sure what I saw. People putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the hallway? This is normal now?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fire Giant and Snowy Owlbear: 13th Age Bestiary 2 is ready to roll

illustration by Rich Longmore

This fire giant soldier is smashing his way into reality: Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 is (almost) finished with layout!

What’s the hold-up?

It’s the fact that anyone who buys the SnowCubEdition of Bestiary 2 as a pre-order before June 21st gets their name in the book’s credits. Layout artist Jen McCleary is waiting for that list on the 21st to put the final touches on the credits page.

Soon after that the layout PDF will go onto the Pelgrane store bookshelf of everyone who bought the SnowCub Edition and the book will head to the printer.

I’m thrilled with the final 304 page tome! Every designer and artist contributed something special, Jonathan showed up with insightful sidebars, I wrote a two-page appendix to support folks who want to use these monsters playing 13th Age in Glorantha, and towards the end, partly because of comments from people who purchased this pre-order, we added new building battles tables that include weakling and elite creatures as well as different sizes of mooks. Our thanks to everyone who is contributing by picking up the SnowCub

Friday, May 26, 2017

Card Brain

Card game design has become my hobby. When I need a break from doing roleplaying design, I work on a card game. The pieces of the brain involved in card game design are different enough, for me, that I get to relax.
      I recently designed a fierce little two-player experience that has become my wife Lisa’s favorite game. You know a design is going well when you get trash-talked in the first playtest session. Lisa handily won the first game. As we were shuffling cards to play again, she patted my hand. “You played very well,” she said, meaning the opposite. 
      It looks like I’ll have news about the game’s publishing-arrival in a couple months. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Alarums & Excursions #500 arrives this Sunday!



[[art by Lee Moyer]]

Lee Gold is putting out the 500th monthly issue of the Alarums & Excursions roleplaying fanzine on May 21st.

A&E is an amateur press association. Each issue contains pages from two or three dozen contributors who discuss rpg systems, write-up sessions and entire campaigns, review newly acquired games, share game mechanics ideas, and comment on everyone else’s writing. Yes, it’s a lot like a play-by-mail version of an all-rpg-topics-considered online discussion folder. You can find the details and contribution guidelines here.

Back in high school, I found my clan when I followed a plug from Dave Hargrave in the Arduin Grimoire and sent Lee money to get hold of A&E #67. Over the years the clan has included most all the people who helped me enter the gaming industry and a powerful ring of lifelong friends. If this is the first you've of the fanzine, see A&E's Wikipedia page for a small slice of the past and present contributors.

I haven’t been contributing lately, but in honor of the anniversary, I arranged for a color cover from my comrade Lee Moyer. I’m also going to contribute a zine to the issue, including notes on some of the campaigns played in my 19-years-and-running Wednesday night gaming group.

Former A&E contributors who read this: Lee would love to hear from people with short updates, mentioning how you heard about A&E, when you started reading or contributing to it, and what you are up to now. In fact, Lee would love to hear more than that from former contributors; issue #500 isn’t necessarily a reunion but it could be. You can go the full-fledged contribution route at $1.75 a page, or you can send Lee your update by email at lee.gold@ca.rr.com and she’ll get it into issue #500 as a filler if it reaches her at by 5 pm Pacific Daylight Time on May 21st.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Home Art Gallery: Tyger Tyger

I loved this painting when I saw Heather Hudson working on it years ago. When Heather sold it as a print several years ago, I jumped at the chance. The print blazes to the left of my desk.

Heather and I met when she was illustrating M:tG cards and then painted some of the most fun cards in Shadowfist. Of course this painting is neither of those things. It's drawn from William Blake's poem The Tyger. If you haven't read it recently, follow the click trail.

I admit that I haven't spent much time with Blake's writing. Maybe I'll get reacquainted after Steve Dempsey unleashes his Gumshoe game on English mysticism, which I hope ends up with the name Fearful Symmetry.

You can find the prints and cards that Heather sells now here.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gamefest in Denver, April 21-23

I'm spending this weekend wrapping Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 up for layout.

The weekend after, April 21-23, I'm joining around nine other gaming guests and many many other gamers at Gamefest in Denver, the gaming wing of the bigger Star-Fest convention.

My schedule looks something like this:
  • Saturday 10:30am-12pm - Game Designer Panel Q&A - Hosted by Boardgame Corner of Dice Tower (Panel Room)
  • Saturday 1pm-5pm - 13th Age (RPG Room)
  • Saturday 6pm-10pm - 13th Age Glorantha (RPG Room)
  • Sunday 10am-2pm - 13th Age Glorantha (RPG Room)

Convention games are fun for introducing people to experiences they've never been eaten by before. I'll be drafting some of those experiences from Bestiary 2, even for the 13th Age in Glorantha games, since Bestiary 2 includes an appendix about translating many of its monsters to Glorantha.

Thinking ahead and setting up my gaming travel kit, I'm finally retiring my original copy of 13th Age. Not from my desk, it still has some miles left for domestic duty, like a soccer player who is retiring from the national team but will keep on suiting up for the home league. Here's its current condition:


I've been  referring to this copy of 13th Age as 'the broken book' for years, ever since I was running an event at a Gamerati convention. Eric Fell and Derek Guder and some other fun people were in the game, but it was a 7 year-old boy walking by with his dad who nailed me. He looked at the game table and said, "Why is that book broken?"

"Because it's well-loved," I finally get to respond.