Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wingspan: Vote of Confidence

For about 36 hours, I owned a copy of Wingspan. I taught the game to a nine-year old who coincidentally shares his name with a bird. That's his younger sister on the left, she realized the game was too much for her and instead she gleefully punched out birdfoods. When the nine-year old loved the game as much as I did, he took it home to his nest.

Friday, December 6, 2019

13th Age Update

Here's an update on the first wave of 13th Age books that are in production. And if you haven't picked up earlier books, now could be a good time at the Bundle of Holding, which has the core 13th Age books as a bundle here, and more recent sourcebooks and adventures here.

Book of the Underworld
We're nearly finished developing Gareth Ryder Hanrahan's Book of the Underworld. John-Matthew DeFoggi finished his development pass and I'm midway through my own devpass. Today I'm designing some new fungaloids and troglodytes. I think the book will be headed to the editor by the middle of December, and we have more art to commission as it's being edited. Artists' timelines will influence the publication date, but my guess is that editing and art will be wrapped up close to the same time.  Pelgrane likes to put books on pre-order when editing is complete, so look for the pre-order sometime early next year. 

If you missed the origin story for the cover of the book, painted by Lee Moyer using some pencils from Rich Longmore, look here

Gar's work is endlessly inventive. I laughed out loud several times reading through the book and what Gareth doesn't know yet is that other people are looking to follow up his book by writing a full adventure based on something he tossed off in a couple paragraphs. The except that follows is not that specific inspirational paragraph, but it is another chunk that got me thinking. It's the first of the thirteen Secret Ways into the Underworld. 

1.      The Unraveled Dungeon: A few feet to the left, and this living dungeon might have been one of the infamous horrors of the age, a fiendish labyrinth of monsters and traps sprawling out beneath the skin of the world. Unfortunately for the dungeon, something snagged it in the depths of the underworld as it climbed towards the surface. As it rose, the dungeon unraveled, leaving a thread of corridors and chambers behind it, a long linear path stretching down behind it. When it finally broke through to the surface, there was almost nothing left of it—it now looks like a small dungeon of a few rooms, only one door leads to stairs that goes down and down and down forever . . . . 

Elven Towers
We don't have the cover art for Cal Moore's new adventure yet, but given that Cal turned over the manuscript yesterday and John-Matthew started development today, I'll be working on the cover art assignment this weekend. 

Shards of the Broken Sky is the story of how the Archmage fumbles protecting his secrets. Elven Towers is the story of how the Elf Queen tries to avoid a similar disaster. The campaign-tier adventure's usual assumption is that the PCs are more or less on the Queen's side, but there are options for working against her. 

Depending on how your campaign paces itself, there's material for at least 1.5 or two levels of play, and with a bit more attention paid to the Court of Stars (possibly borrowing ideas from Robin D. Law's writing in 13 True Ways), the adventure easily handles three levels of play, all of champion-tier. 

Crown of Axis
The impetus for this experiment is that The Strangling Sea, a first-level adventure, is finally out of print. Crown of Axis is an entirely different approach to a first-level adventure. Instead of being published as a print-product, it's going to appear as PDF-only. We gave Wade Rockett free rein to create an introductory adventure and he's chosen to take us into the arenas of the capital city. Further plot details would count as spoilers, so let's just leave it at this: Crown of Axis isn't just a reference to the Emperor, it's also the name of the venerable-but-fallen-on-hard-times arena that's the main setting for the adventure. It's in this list of first-wave products because Wade will finish the first draft quite soon and the fact that's it's PDF-only means it may zip past other products into publication.

Monday, November 18, 2019

New 3DA ability and archetypes for tournament play

WizKids is running Three-Dragon Ante tournaments on Friday and Saturday of PAX Unplugged in Pennsylvania, December 6th and 7th. They had the fun idea of having people play in-character using the roleplaying rules for meshing 3DA with D&E 5e!

I thought a bit about how the current roleplaying rules would work in a casual-but-still-competitive tournament. My feeling is that the Ante Manipulation abilities (page 26 of the rulebook) aren't right for tournament play. They're OK in a home setting where players are accustomed to picking on each other week after week, but they're both vindictive and distinct from the way the game usually takes players' money, so no Ante Manipulation abilities in this tournament.

To help the fighter/barbarian types who are most likely to have the Threats & Promises ability we just ruled out of the tournament, here's a new Card Draw ability that's for characters with muscles. Like the other Card Draw abilities, Getting Angry Now lets you draw two cards when it triggers.

Getting Angry Now
Pre-requisite: Strength 16+
Trigger: You just lost a gambit with the second-strongest flight, or tied for second.

I'd say it makes perfect sense to let it be used if you're the second weakest when the Druid has awarded the gambit to the weakest. You're gonna be angry. 

If you bring your own character, the folks running the tournament will help you you select abilities that are right for the tournament. If you're showing up to play and you don't have a character ready, here's the short list of possible character archetypes I put together for WizKids to work from. These archetypes use the abilities as printed in the rulebook, with one exception: the Desperation ability is fine, but could get irritating if used too many times in a game, so for tournament play I'm suggesting that each player with the ability can only use Desperation once per game. Since it's therefore one of the weaker abilities, characters with Desperation will also have another ability that's on the weaker side, so they'll never be entirely out of options. 

3DA Archetypes

Drow Rogue
Card Draw: Versatile Trickster

Dragonborn Fighter
(Player chooses their color!)
Card Draw: Draconic Ancestry
Card Draw: Desperation [[but only usable once per game]]

Gnome Bard
Card Denial: Cutting Words
Card Draw: Fast Hands

Half-elf Paladin
Card Draw: Inspiring Leader

Half-Orc Barbarian
Card Draw: Getting Angry Now
Card Draw: Desperation [[but only usable once per game]]

Halfling Rogue
Card Draw: Gambling Background

Human Cleric
Card Draw: Blessing of the Trickster

High Elf Wizard
Card Denial: Mystic Discouragement
Card Draw: Practice Counts

Wood Elf Ranger
Card Draw: Desperation
Card Draw: Practice Counts

Other heroes…

The halfling rogue’s ability is fine for any player character who has a lot of experience gambling.

The half-orc barbarian’s abilities work for any strong fighter-type.

The wood elf ranger’s abilities work for any character who otherwise doesn’t belong at these tables!

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.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Three Dragon Ante Preview: The Dracolich & the Dragonrider

Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition aims to replace the long out-of-print core set originally released by WotC in 2005. As explained in my previous post  on the contents of the new set, Legendary Edition is a mix of the original cards, a handful of Mortals from Emperor’s Gambit, updates of a few cards from the original set that have been revised with more interesting mechanics, and 17 entirely new cards.

Today I’ll show off an update of one of the original cards and one of the new Mortals.


Back in 2005, the Dracolich’s power read: Copy the power of an evil dragon in any flight.

That wasn’t the game’s worst power, but it wasn’t great. Occasionally you could pull off a combo with evil dragons you’d played earlier in a gambit. But not often. Usually you were somewhat reliant on the cards that your opponents had played. That type of reactive play wasn’t all that interesting, especially since a couple of the evil dragons in the core set had weak powers that have been slightly improved in Legendary Edition!

I didn’t think it was worth trying to hold on to the original ability. Instead, the new Dracolich, pictured above, wants to trigger its power when it’s played alongside other evil dragons. A bit like the Emperor from the Emperor’s Gambit set, the Dracolich is capable of boosting your flight’s Strength without giving the foe to your left a better chance of triggering their own powers. It’s obviously not much use alongside good dragons and Mortals, but if you can hold on to the Dracolich until you’ve got two other powerful evil dragons you should be capable of fighting above the evil dragons’ normal weight class.

It’s also worth considering as an opening bluff. Convince opponents it’s not worth fighting you this gambit and you may be able to take the stakes with middling cards.


Illustrated by the wonderful Craig Phillips, who has now created all the illustrations for the game, this new Mortal can also play for Strength or for misdirection. If you can trigger its power in a flight with two strong dragons, you’re riding a winner. Played early in a gambit it can let you feel out the opposition. Is anyone going to rise to challenge? Or is an opponent clearly setting up a Druid, at which point you might even be able to challenge for the weakest flight!

In fact, one of the sneakiest uses of the Dragonrider is to team up with a Druid! Trigger the Druid and the Dragonrider alongside another Mortal and your 0-Strength Dragonrider can win through weakness!

The Rules

For more on Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition, see the rulebook that WizKids has put up on Boardgame Geek.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Twenty-sided rune dice for 13th Age Glorantha

I love that both 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest are up for awards at the UK Games Expo later this week.

So here's a note on on a product that people may not have realized works for both games: the set of RuneQuest expansion dice from Q-Workshop.

 RuneQuest Turquoise & gold Expansion Dice (3)

The hit location die and the twelve-sided strike-rank die aren't going to do much for 13th Age Glorantha players, but the runes on the 20-sided die are the runes used by 13G in exactly the right order to replace a glance at the random rune table.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Four Notes about Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition

Wiz-Kids has released more info about the new edition of Three-Dragon Ante, so I can start explaining a bit more about what's in the box.

Little Bits: The new edition isn't just cards and a rulebook: it also includes enough gold and platinum pieces for up to six players, along with six 3DA Ability disks for to use for playing a 3DA game as your D&D characters.

100 Cards . . . : This Legendary Edition contains 100 cards. This includes 70 cards for the same ten colors of dragon that were in the original Three-Dragon Ante game, the five familiar chromatic and five traditional metallic dragons of D&D. Seven cards per dragon color is a bump up from the original game's six-per-color. I've noticed that people enjoy playing 3DA with big groups, and in the biggest groups it was possible to *almost* run out of cards and have to shuffle small discard piles too often. Adding a new intermediate-strength dragon card for each color means less shuffling for everyone.

. . . including 30 Special Cards: You don't play with just the seventy-card deck. The standard rule is that you play with 80 cards each game. The extra ten cards are selected from a pool of thirty special cards, split into two types. Half the special cards are Legendary Dragons, either powered-up versions of the ten familiar dragon colors or something special like Bahamut, Tiamat, and the Dracolich. As an example of what I mean by 'powered-up versions of the familiar dragons,' take the Legendary Dragon named the Red Destroyer. The Red Destroyer can be part of a color flight of Red Dragons. A normal Red Dragon steals a card and 1 gold from the strongest opponent; the Red Destroyer steals a card and 10 gold.

The other 15 special cards are Mortals. Yes, there are several new Mortals in this set, with new art by the original 3DA artist, Craig Phillips!

The standard way to play is to randomly select ten of the thirty special cards to add to a game, but the rulebook contains other sample deck configurations. You can customize or randomize each game.

Strengthening the Fun: There were a few cards in the original game that I thought were weak or not enough fun. I'm not going to detail all the changes, yet. But I will say that cards like the White Dragon and Black Dragon have stronger powers than they did in the original card set. Meanwhile, cards like The Priest and the Dracolich are no longer kind of meh; now they have  interesting powers that can be worth planning around.

Brutal Self-Promotion: As I'm posting this blog, the Kickstarter for my new game, Wrestlenomicon, designed with Shane Ivey & Dennis Detwiller of Arc Dream Publishing, has 18 hours to run. Check it out for fun whiskey-and-pretzel gameplay, wonderful art by Kurt Komoda, and grievous Lovecraft puns from Shane and Dennis.

Elder Rumble: Multiplayer Rules for Wrestlenomicon!

The Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter is in its final 25 hours. We've kicked, and now we're stretching towards the goal that will add the third elder god to the game, Nyarlathotep, who in Wrestlenomicon terms is less a crawling chaos and more the Chaos that performs an Elder Ollie On Your Head

To honor the many backers who are putting in an extra $15 to $30 *before* we've reached the Nyarlathotep stretch goal, pushing us towards the line, we thought we'd share some of the current multiplayer rules. (The Nyarlathotep deck will cost $15 plus shipping and handling, and people adding a full $30 are hoping to also add Yog-Sothoth.) 

These are the rules for three or four player games where it's every god for itself. This is the first draft, details may change as we playtest more and if Shane and Dennis decide they want to revise my placeholder names. 

These rules are fun, even just playing with multiple Cthulhu and Hastur decks. A couple of my friends who started by playing three-player games think of Wrestlenomicon mainly as a three-player game, they love the shifting priorities created by the attack arrow. 

Elder Rumble

Elder Rumble matches three or more combatants against each other, fighting until only the winner survives.

Set-Up: Each player uses their own track, meaning you’ll set up more than a single track of space cards. Add a line of space cards for each additional player. For example, for a three-player game, set up two sets of space cards so there are three columns. Cards are placed between the space cards, one column/track per player. 

First Turn: As usual, each player chooses a card simultaneously. High Momentum takes the first turn. Break ties with alphabetic order.As usual, the first attack to reach Ground Zero slams. But only that first attack. Even if a following attack lands before the target has a card on Ground Zero, that later attack does not slam.

Turns go clockwise: Once the first player has taken their turn, proceed clockwise around the table.

The Attack Arrow: Each player in an Elder Rumble has an attack arrow that sits down under their Ground Zero and flips between left and right. Each player's first attack goes against the foe whose track is on their left (or around the table to the player on the right if you’re the left-most player). As soon as a player attacks, and their attack is totally over, they flip their arrow to point at the enemy in the other direction. In other words, you’ll attack a different enemy with your next attack that reaches Ground Zero. Keep alternating attacks back and forth.
Important multiplayer rule: All card and rule references to “your enemy” or to effects that are meant to hurt a specific opponent refer only to the player you are presently aiming to attack!

Rumble Bonus: When your card is the card that take out an enemy’s last Guts card, you gain bonus Guts equal to the number of players who are left in the game. Draw the right number of cards off the top of your deck and place them on your Guts pile.
Remove the dead god’s track. If there are still three or more players in the game, keep using the attack arrows. When the game is down to two players, remove the attack arrows and bash each other like a regular two-player game.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Return of Three-Dragon Ante!

I've kept quiet for months, but the hatchling is out of the nest! The photo below is from W. Eric Martin's Board Game Geek report on this year's New York Toy Fair

WizKids will be releasing Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition later this year. I'm overjoyed to have the game coming back to print and I think both long-time players and newcomers will find something to like in this edition. I apologize for announcing the upcoming game without explaining more about its contents and intentions, but WizKids hasn't made the detailed product announcement yet.

If you're not familiar with Three-Dragon Ante, it's a card game of luck and skill that I designed to be something like Hearts in terms of complexity and playtime, though not in technique. In some respects, 3DA is the opposite of poker, since instead of folding out of hands, savvy players milk their cards for as many micro-rewards as possible, setting up later success. As an in-world game based on the iconic chromatic and metallic dragons, it's what heroes and other tavern-goers play for gold in the worlds of D&D, and you'll find it referenced a few places in the D&D Players Handbook.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bring on Squishyface!

Lisa hanging out with someone clean cut for a change

We've played soccer together for 33 years and card games for 30, so really, I should have known that Lisa's favorite card art wasn't going to be something subtle! Her favorite Wrestlenomicon move is Squishyface, a Combo for Hastur that will enter the deck when we hit our first stretch goal and expand to 70 card decks.

Back the Kickstarter! Summon the Squishyface!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Adding Nyarlathotep & Yog-Sothoth to Wrestlenomicon

Arc Dream has announced our targets for adding new elder gods to the Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter! Actually Arc Dream announced a whole bunch of new stuff, including playmats, wallpapers and even a special card illustrated by John Kovalic!

Perhaps the biggest piece of the announcement is the plan for adding new elder god decks to the game. Cthulhu & Hastur made sense as the first to engage, but what's a cosmic battle between elder gods without the Crawling Chaos? The new gods will also come with rules for three and four player games. Battle Royale is grand melee style, every god for itself, or fight as a team. If fighting as a team feels too goody-two-shoes for you, there is of course an option for fighting each other after you've wiped out your rivals.

I've already designed the first draft of the Nyarlathotep deck. Same system that we used for Hastur and Cthulhu: Dennis and Shane supplied the names and I'm coming up with mechanics, though obviously we need the Kickstarter to fund and push through to the stretch goals before Kurt handles the art. Yog-Sothoth isn't as far along as Nyarlathotep but the first draft is in progress.

Here's how I summarize the new-elder gods.

Nyarlathotep messes with opponents by using Mastery cards that slam their own type of attack as well as their usual target. For example, Nyarlathotep's Bizarre Mastery card, Nyarly Don't Surf, slams Bizarre as well as Dominance. And while Nyarly's attacks and permanents slow the enemy down, Nyarly is busy building a pyramid of cards! Each attack that hits Ground Zero adds another block to Nyarly's pyramid. Cap the pyramid off, power Nyarly up,  and your enemy is gonna get capped.

Yog-Sothoth plays from two angles with twister cards that can use their Momentum to move its cards backwards on the track, looping all the way around to the lowest spaces near Ground Zero. Meanwhile, Yog-Sothoth has 'Groove Thang' cards (like When a Singularity & Matter Love Each Other Very Much, or Let's Smoke a Bowl of Antimatter) that mess with the enemy all the way down the track. Groove Thang cards generate random aggressions that are printed on Yog-Sothoth's Cultist cards. Trigger a Groove thang ability higher up the track (not at Ground Zero), draw a random YS Cultist, and find out what grooved.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Wrestlenomicon vs. Epic Spell Wars ! ! !

That's pro-wrestling-style hype for a grudge match that's more likely to be a team-up!

Three of the card games I’ve designed are somewhat similar to Wrestlenomicon’s style, play time, or ambition. Here are notes on fun elements of Three-Dragon Ante, Inn-Fighting, and Epic Spell Wars and how those elements compare to what’s going on in Wrestlenomicon.

Three-Dragon Ante
3DA is a game world artifact, the card game people in D&D worlds entertain themselves with in taverns when they’re not brawling.

Ambition: Like WrestlenomiconThree-Dragon Ante features a simple mechanical innovation I was surprised hadn’t been used before. In 3DA’s case, that’s the idea that high cards help you win the stakes but cards lower than what your opponent just played provide micro-rewards that set you up for later success. That makes Three-Dragon Ante the deliberate opposite of poker, that rewards folding out of bad hands instead playing through.

Wrestlenomicon’s ambitious streak, mechanically speaking, is that it models big slow cosmic wrestling attacks by giving them no immediate effect when played, except for moving a previously played attack (or attacks) further down the track towards Ground Zero, where attacks go off. This style of obvious-incoming-attack and uncertain-momentum seems to me to do a pretty good job of modeling a wrestling match, and I was amused to come up with a fun mechanic that apparently hasn’t been used before.

A card and dice game of tavern-brawling.

Play-style: This one is a bit more like Wrestlenomicon in that it’s definitely a fight that rewards offense more than defense. There’s a lot more uncertainty about what you’ll be able to accomplish on your turn—dice are like that. So it’s much less strategic than Wrestlenomicon.

Inn-Fighting is also a game that is meant for multiple players, not a great two-player experience. In that, Wrestlenomicon is different than all three of these games. Wrestlenomicon was designed as a two-player game.

But towards the end of the development cycle, Bebo Boe asked me why Wrestlenomicon couldn’t be played by more than two players. My answer was something like “I tried it and that didn’t work,” which didn’t exactly satisfy her. So I thought about it some more and came up with an easy solution for making it a three or four player game. (More players are possible, but relatively slow.)

Even if we don’t do more decks right away, you’ll be able to play good three or four player games as grand melees or team matches if you have more than one copy of the game. If the Kickstarter does well and we publish more decks soon, even better.
ESW is definitely the closest of my little card games to Wrestlenomicon, if only because it benefits so hugely from co-creators card concepts and sense of humor!

I submitted a game of dueling wizards to Cryptozoic. But by the time ESW was published Cory Jones had changed nearly every name and written an entirely new art order. So the punch-drunk names and wild art by Nick Edwards in ESW, that add so much to the game, well, they weren’t how I’d handled it.

Likewise, in Wrestlenomicon, Shane Ivey and Dennis Detwiller came up with all the card names. They’d handled the art direction and Kurt Komoda handled the art before I joined the team. So instead of the ESW situation, where I actually had no idea what cards were going to accomplish by looking at the final art, since everything had gotten moved around, with Wrestlenomicon I got to design every element of the mechanics to match and live up to the art. I’d say it was inspirational but it went a couple steps past inspiration. I scrapped the first two attempts because I needed to create a game that was enough visceral fun to live up to Cassilda’s Thong and Tentacle Necktie!

I’d say that ESW and Wrestlenomicon end up as similar crazy-fighting fun. ESW is lighter, but as a two-player game, Wrestlenomicon is faster. You can usually play a full two player Wrestlenomicon game in between twenty and thirty-five minutes, sometimes even less. Longer games are possible, but rare.

Even so, the decisions you’ll make each Wrestlenomicon turn, and over the two or three turns you might be trying to look at least half-way ahead, are more decisive. Play skill matters more in Wrestlenomicon, despite the apparent randomness of the dice. It’s possible for one game to pivot mostly on the dice, but if you play two or three games, patterns emerge.

If you’re curious to see more of how Wrestlenomicon plays, click here for a how to play video from Bebo with bonus wrestling violence, and then check out the full rules and initial DIY card set that are available in the first update for Kickstarter backers. Any pledge will get you through the gate to see the DIY kit. If you’ve read this far, chances are that you’ll like it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hastur vs. Cthulhu: The Home Front!

The Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter is in full swing with rules and DIY printable PDFs available in the first update for backers!

The campaign is structured so that most pledges add to either Cthulhu's coterie or Hastur's entourage. You'll find that Cthulhu is accepting allegiance on Twitter at @TentacleNecktie, with Hastur slightly in the lead at the moment at @EatYellowSign!

This Cthulhu vs. Hastur grudgematch has been playing out in my house for a couple years now, because my wife Lisa . . .
a) loves the game
b) was therefore willing to playtest it again and again and again during time when we were having fun hanging out instead of working
c) loves the art on the Hastur cards so much that she has a hard time playing Cthulhu, even though the straightforward Cthulhu mechanics are more her personal style. She plays Red/Black in M:tG, and Hastur is a bit more Blue/Black if we're gonna break it down like that. Lisa's Sense-of-Hastur helped keep the design on track when things got a bit too convoluted.

So Kurt Komoda's amazing Hastur art easily claimed its first victim. Lisa had never heard of the Yellow Sign, but she's an artist and a writer and Hastur had her number from the first stroke of its giant paintbrush.
Me, I can't choose a side. I love all our children equally. If pressed, however, I'll admit that little Nyarly, waiting somewhere in the shadows, that kid has issues.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cthulhu. Hastur. Who’s the Great Old One, and Who’s the GREATEST Old One?

Time to find out. It’s WRESTLENOMICON, the card game from veterans of Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Epic Spell Wars, and Delta Green. Back it now! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcdream/wrestlenomicon

Monday, March 4, 2019

Archmage Engines on Apocalypse Road

My favorite racing games are Thunder Alley and Grand Prix, designed by Jeff & Carla Horger and published by GMT. Both games ask you to control a team of multiple cars using cards that have a variety of movement effects but almost always benefit some of the other players' cars as well as your own. Strategy counts but there's a lot of luck and a fair amount of chaos. (See this review by Francis K. Lalumiere for a more thorough recommendation.)
Strategy, luck, and even more chaos is coming up in the next installment of the series. Apocalypse Road mixes car wars-style combat in with the racing. I always wanted to like SJG's Car Wars, but the truth is that it was too fiddly for its payoff, for me, so I'm looking forward to auto-combat in a system I enjoy.

At some point I decided to sponsor a driver in the game, paying a bit of support money and naming him Ole Tubli. Like my name, it ain't pronounced like you'd expect, which is fine. If you're not pronouncing it American style, this driver's name is Estonian for 'fare forward bravely,' my Dad's usual telephone sign-off, pronounced o-lay tube-lee.

After getting Ole Tubli into the races, I realized this was probably my life's one chance to sponsor a racing team. So Ole Tubli is part of the Archmage Engines team. Yes, the team will use something like the symbol of the Archmage from 13th Age, though I haven't worked out with Jeff which image will work better for his game. Maybe something like this . . .

Or if we play it straight . . .
Jeff has written a series of blog posts introducing the Apocalypse Road racing teams and the post involving the Archmage Engines just went up. If you feel like racing alongside Ole Tubli (plays mean guitar), Gid Zornes (grinder), and Sargon "The Winged Bull" Ashur (master metalworker) by sponsoring/naming a driver on the (extremely eclectic) Archmage Engines team, Jeff's blog has notes on how to join!

As the blog mentions, the game has reached the magic 500 pre-orders threshold, so GMT is going to start production and publish. The game is still available for the lower pre-order price through its GMT Project 500 page.

Ole Tubli!