Monday, September 29, 2014

Super-Five Playtest

My play-test group for Super-Five has fallen apart, and I couldn't be more disappointed. The game is in pretty good shape, but I'd like for it to be better before I try to release anything to the public. But, right now game play itself has stalled and with it some of my enthusiasm for writing and developing for it and for my blog. So, my apologies for the sudden lack of game design content of late.

Super-Five will introduce another substantial change to the Five by Five roll. It's an important enough development to warrant a Five by Five version 4 down the road. There's some really good stuff in this version of the game just waitng to get out. But, I am not going to release it until I am sure that it's ready.

I am considering opening up the game to a few in the community here, or running an online playtest myself. Please message me and let me know if there's any interest in this.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Krash Karts

My friends and I played "Krash Karts" about a month ago now, and I had been meaning to talk about the game. Krash Karts is the first Kickstarter that I have backed and actually received product for. One cool thing about Kickstarter is since you really can't be completely sure when things are going to be finished and mailed out, receiving the packages can come as a surprise. This felt a little like a Christmas present.

Krash Karts is a card game that plays like a board game, and is about racing and battling go-carts. It is completely obvious that the designer of Krash Karts wanted to make a board game that emulates the video game "Mario Cart." The cool thing about this game is he not only succeeded in his goal, he made a game that is darn fun to play in its own right. None of the people I played with had ever played Mario Cart (Tragedy ... I know!) and they all had a blast! I have spent many many many hours playing Mario Cart on my Wii ... and I had a double blast! This game is fun.

Each player begins with an equal number of cards (I think we each had 3.) These cards are pieces of track to drive on. In Krash Karts you build the race course as you play. This is part of the strategy and part of the fun. Every one has 3 action points they can use to do stuff. Move or draw a weapon card. Since everyone has the same access to resources, using your resources (especially weapons) is the key to victory!

When your car drives off the edge of a track, you must place a new card for your car to drive on. If you are out of cards and can't add to the edge of the track when your car passes over, that's it! You win the game!

This is a PvP battle game but combat is fun and never felt malicious. I really enjoyed the sense of competition and watching the race track take form as we played. The weapons are clever "generic" versions of something very like what Mario Cart might offer and they work really well.

The item cards are really clever they pull triple duty allowing you to attack, defend or lay a certain number of track pieces or short cuts depending upon how they are played. Short cuts are an especially clever device as they allow a car to leave the track and enter at a different location. You can only lay shortcut tiles that form a complete path off and then back onto the track, and since the track is built while you play, it means that the car that's in the lead isn't going to be able to use them because the track ahead hasn't been built yet and you can never go backward. But, the shortcuts can be a game changer for a racer that's gotten stuck in the rear who needs a quick way to catch up. (A single short cut counts as 1 space of movement for a car that uses it no matter how many cards are used to actually make the shortcut!)

We only played once, but things felt really balanced. Everyone has said that they'd like to play again! The game comes in a really small box and everything was really well packaged. I can see carrying this around with me to play on the go. Although the modular track does require a decent amount of table space.

If I could change anything I would make the 3 different tiers of item tokens different colors. Items are balanced and you draw from the pile that corresponds to your placement in the race: 1st, middle, or last. This is also very "Mario Cart" and works well. However all item tokens are the same color. They are marked with the appropriate tier, but these things are tiny and hard to read at a glance. It would have really helped if the different item tokens were different colors based on their tier.

If you like competitive modular games with a decent amount of strategy that's easy to play. I would recommend this game. If you love Mario Cart as I do, I would really really recommend this game. The game and theme here are perfectly presented. One thing I didn't mention is "drivers." The game also has driver characters that you can play to give yourself special advantages in the race. I wasn't that impressed with these, but to be fair, we didn't play with them so I can't speak to how much fun they really are, or what they actually add to the game. I think we might play a few more times without before we add the character cards.



Thursday, September 11, 2014


This is what I had for lunch today. It was surprisingly pretty good!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A few words about Robot of Sherwood

I saw a review for the latest episode of Doctor Who calling it a "farce" and panning it pretty bad. But, I liked the latest episode (Robot of Sherwood) a lot. I feel the show has been taking itself far too seriously of late and that it needs to lighten up. Sure Matt Smith was a huge hamm... but the stories were all pretty heavy. I much prefer a "heavy Doctor" in a light story. We'll see. Wow, I thought that the Sheriff looked so much like the Master!! I was almost certain that we were getting the Master back. Plus in this episode the classic tactic of the Doctor getting himself captured on purpose so he could figure out what was going on, and telling Robert and Clara that this was exactly what he was doing ... and then Clara taking advantage of this tactic herself to interrogate the Sheriff. These were all really good, classic Doctor Who bits. These worked above and beyond the obvious farcical comedy. I loved the episode. It felt like "classic" Doctor Who to me, and I can think of no higher praise. Oh, and I LOVE the opening credits.



Friday, September 05, 2014

The Cursed-Disco-Ball-McGuffin Adventure!

My buddy Larry ran another play-test of Super-Five and it went really well. We are all members of Xavier's School ... sort of new new new new new mutants. This game was part-two in our adventure. In the first part we met some of the other members of the school. I met the other players, a female mutant with a sort of shadow casting ability, and another female mutant with like super-human spacial awareness that allows her to do incredible things. I am Ricky O'Shea a redheaded kid from Cardiff who has transplanted to the school.

My body is covered in a kind of "repulsor-ray force field" that pushes things away from me if they come at me just a bit too hard or too fast. Also, when I jump, the field causes me to bounce when I hit the ground or pretty much anything else, so think Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Superheroes. I have trouble controlling the field effect however (my weakness) and ended up bouncing all over the school cafeteria on my first day.

The buzz about the school was about an upcoming concert, Dazzler! Everyone at the school was in attendance when Magneto attacks with his team of evil mutants! Gosh! As new members of the school, we know when to high-tail it to safety! As Ricky (code named: Rebound.) and his new friends seek shelter, the battle rages and there is a huge explosion!

The one in our party who actually paid attention during orientation remembers mention of a tunnel that accesses the sewers that is to be used in emergency to evacuate the school and we head there. Shortly after making it "safely" to the sewers we encounter some Morlocks!

There's one Morlock that things stick to (my antithesis!) and his mother(?) a mind controller. We end up battling these misunderstood mutants but not before discovering that we suddenly have to sing everything. That's right, sing! It's like that Buffy episode, "Once More With Feeling." but, you know of a decidedly lower musical quality.

About this time Prof. X appears in our brains and shows us an image of a device, now broken into pieces, that was apparently part of Dazzler's stage show techno equipment. The device is apparently responsible for our current "singing" dilemma and the pieces of it must be found.

Anyway, we battle the Morlocks between musical numbers and eventually defeat them to discover one of the pieces that we seek is stuck to the sticky Morlock and we retrieve it.

We leave the sewers not sure where to go next, but the shadow casting mutant, feels a "pull" city-ward, so we follow her lead. Shadowgirl (not her real name) leads us to Cloak (of Cloak and Dagger fame) the source of the "pull" but he doesn't stick around to talk ... "sing" with us. Oh, and Dagger isn't with Cloak, he was running alone.

As Cloak was our only lead, we try to follow him! While bouncing around NY we draw the attention of Spider-man! Yay! We tell him about the broken music device and following Cloak. Spidy asks us about Dagger whom we don't know about. He swings off in search of Dagger while we continue our pursuit of Cloak. This was where the first session ended.

Some of the fiddly (what I thought were clever) new game mechanisms just weren't working. Over the next few weeks I went back and reworked Super-Five in preparation for the next play-test.

By the time we played this second half, I had not only cleaned up the mechanical problems but completed the big bunch of random tables needed to make random supers (for those so inclined) bringing the whole package much closer to being the game that I have been striving for.

Larry informed us that the "singing" effect was still a factor, but that we as players and he as GM didn't have to sing anymore. We were all a bit relieved to hear this. It was fun, but a one game only thing. This game starts a little shaky ... apparently, Shadowgirl (man I need to find out what her name is) can't "sense" Cloak anymore and we are left to wander. Eventually, we spot a kind of unnaturally deeper darker shadow draped over and up the side of some buildings. My character leaps right into the center of it. This might not have been the wisest of moves.

Kudos to Larry for writing an encounter designed to take place entirely "inside" Cloak. It was a pretty novel concept. It seems the one piece of tech that we had found glows like crazy and the second one (now lodged inside Cloak) was the same ... and it's glow was feeding Cloak like a drug ... in a bad way! Shadowgirl to the rescue here as she was able to move around inside Cloak when we really couldn't. She was able to get the piece away from Cloak and we all ran like crazy back towards Spidy and Dagger with Cloak in hot pursuit! We made it and with C&D reunited things got much to the better quickly.

We returned to the school with the pieces that we found, but couldn't find a soul! We made the mistake of going into the danger room and we had to fight some drones there because someone had left the program running. We triumphed ... mostly because of Shadowgirl again, because her dice were on fire! She couldn't throw a bad roll.

We got to the heli-pad area and something about the presence of the two missing pieces there caused Dazzler to come back into phase! That's right, the place was abandoned because everyone had been shifted out of phase by the weird disco-ball thingy (Larry didn't describe it as Disco-Ball like at all ... it was some kind of advanced tech, but Disco-Ball is how I imagine it.) Dazzler appears just in time to scream, "Look Out!" As we are attacked by Klaw!

And the final piece of the gizmo? Inside Klaw's klaw of course, making it extra powerful! We manage to help Dazzler defeat Klaw and bringing the three pieces of the Cursed-Disco-Ball-McGuffin together dispels the phase and the singing effects. The villains who attacked the concert are pretty disoriented and decide to beat feet, and we saved the school. Ricky asked Dazzler to the Prom, but it was kind of an off the cuff thing and Larry laughed it off. So, I don't think it'll happen. Oh, well.

The second half of this adventure was a big success! And amazingly I haven't rewritten a single word of the Super-Five game since. I didn't feel the need. It seems like Super-Five might be getting to the place where I want it. And, I couldn't be more pleased!

I will learn more as we play more, but things feel really good right now. I still want to infuse more examples, both to augment the rules and a bunch of character examples. I also want to include a sample adventure or two to demonstrate how everything works together, but the rules are in great shape at the moment and I am very optimistic!