mneme: (Default)
I went to Dexcon this past weekend. It was a lot of fun, and I tried 3+1/2 new games (at least), 2+1/2 at least I really liked (I enjoyed Automobile and would play it again, but economic games are hardly novel to me at this point).

Scoundrels of Skullport: I like Lords of Waterdeep, though it's hardly a serious worker placement game (due to the high variance on the Intrigue and Quest cards, there's a lot of randomness there). But Scoundrels makes it a much better game, IMO -- the new buildings generally give more to everyone, so everyone can do a bit more (which makes extra actions slightly less critical, and also makes the expensive plot quests from the original game more worthwhile overall). It also dilutes the obligatory mandatory quests with more "help everyone" Intrigue cards--and provides more ways to play Intrigue cards than the very limited Waterdeep. (it also provides more ways for people to dig themselves into a very deep hole, but then that's the nature of in-game decisions). The addition of 40 point quests makes quest and resource depth a lot more interesting, overall, and I liked the game a fair bit running on a "wealth" model rather than a "scarcity" one (for various reasons, I ended up spending most of the game with far more Thieves and Warriors than I could use, which was a refreshing change).

Thebes came out in 2007, but was new to me. It uses a lovely time track mechanic (plus a great theme; love the archeology); the same one used in Village, but the game itself is very different, as you run around Europe learning about the old world, lecturing, and picking up extras like shovels, research assistants, and cars, then head for the old world and decide how much time you want to waste spend digging up dirt (and the occasional artifact). Then head back to Europe for more lecturing (if you're lucky), and if you found the good stuff and people are still interested, putting on shows of what you've found. The classic approach seems to be to max out your knowledge, then put in time on a few good digs so you get lots of artifacts, but I managed to more than squeak out a win by doing a lot of lecuring (lectures use trianular numbers, so 6 lectures got me 21 points), developing a really good shovel, and randomly digging for a week or three each at every single site to see what appeared when I pulled 3 or four tiles.

Bora Bora I actually learned back in Feburary, but I liked it then, and just ordered it; it's a worker placement+action economy game (more or less) with some interesting action mechanics, as you can take multiple men and women into your village, but only one type of male action and one type of female action can be used (in addition to your workers) in any given turn.

Also, there's Trajan. Trajan isn't worker placement, exactly -- it's an action economy game where the central mechanic is mancala, as you make moves on your personal mancala circle that determine determine what action you take, move the global time track forward (so a big pit can let you control the pace of the game -- or force you to end the turn when you'd rather let it continue for a while), as well as letting you qualify for bonus tiles.

Finally, there's Andromeda, which I tried out after Lisa's game last Saturday in June). I'd seen this a few times, but never tried it; it's good! It's a meld-making game where you build up material on various planets and use it to try to take stations near those planets by earning a certain number of pulls via a lotery system -- all your pieces pulled get to occupy one of the three stations near the planet, while all opponent's pieces pulled result in them being sent back to earth (so no station for you, but less competition next time). It was really fun, and choosing to save special cards for endgame vs spending them, and making early points vs using melds to develop, all felt like real choices.

Wow

Jun. 4th, 2013 02:20 am
mneme: (pony)
So, I've long been a fan of Jenna Moran's (formerly Rebecca Borgstrom) fiction and freeform rpg, Nobilis. So naturally, I contributed to her (currently running) kickstarter, Chuubo's Magical Wish Granting Engine. Which is as awesome as a plot-oriented RPG about a boy who makes (often ill advised) wishes can be, and if you're interested in it, you should support it, but that's not what I came here to write about.

No -- instead, one of the backer rewards for Chuubos is an expansion for Nobilis, 3rd edition, on Treasure, called "The Book of Treasure". Treasure is one of the new stats in Nobilis 3rd -- it represents your ability to connect to people -- and to connect to -stuff-; both to have a favorite aunt who is important and helpful in your story, and to have a really nice car, or a magic sword that can cut anything, or a pet cat who follows you everywhere.

So, there are a lot of awesome things about this book. It both expands on every element of Treasure (so far; I'm only 22 pages into a 49 page book), and gives design notes for -why- various things are the way they are in the game -- for instance, it explains that the reason making anchors (connected people and things) is a level 0 miracle is because the designer -wants- people making connections, even if they're not heavily invested in the idea of Treasure.

But the thing that inspired me to post tonight is where it talks about abilities -- particularly Treasure -- that follow an absolute. Being as strong as you need to be. A sword that can cut -anything-. Omni-corrupting artifacts, or hats that shield you from corruption.

In other words, powers that start forum arguments rather than ending them--as people argue whether the Hulk being stronger than anyone beats only Thor being strong enough to lift Molnjir.

What Jenna points out, quite successfully, is that arguments like that -- powers like that -- particularly when they work -- are not arguments about rules. They're metaphors -- and moral arguments that center around the metaphor, not about any particular rule.

The Hulk isn't just "the strongest guy around". He's the superhero that represents the limitless strength of righteous rage. The One Ring isn't just infinitely corrupting (although it is) -- it represents that principle that power itself corrupts without providence and faith in Eru [that is, god]. Superman isn't just as strong as he needs to be (although he is); his is the strength of the pure heart taht acts from unsullied motives.

As such, when two "unlimited" powers clash, what determines what wins (ideally) -- what -should- determine what wins--isn't a number like how many tons the Hulk can lift or who has a bigger stat. Instead, it's the right solution to the moral question posed by their metaphors in the situation. Clark Kent should lose to the limitless power of conquest represented by Apocalypse when his heart is divided and his moral fevor weak -- but win if he's resolved his dilemma and acts from pure motives. The Hulk should defeat many other limitless powers, even that of war, but may prove powerless, in the right situation, against someone representing the power of calm.

This is why, Jenna explains, the rank of a Treasure miracle doesn't determine which one wins; instead, the rank determines the scope of the miracle--how many different things you can do with Treasure--but in a contest between absolutes, what should win is the thing that's won the battle of metaphors.
mneme: (pony)
I've always been pretty leary of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games, for those of you who have been spending the last decade or so sleeping under a rock, and have only just now emerged for a spot of decannual [mental note: find out what the actual word for "of ten years" is--ah. decennial. Thanks, [personal profile] thnidu] sunlight).

I mean, first, it seems like they're typically a bit of content wrapped around a crazy reward model.

And...here I go a little long. How'd that happen? )

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Joshua Kronengold

May 2017

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