Friday, December 26, 2014

PLOT 2014 in Review: Play on Target Podcast Ep. 37

For Christmas/Boxing Day we got you a new episode of Play on Target. This one takes a look at 2014: what we did, what we liked, and what we played. There’s an intriguing intersection of interests here. And a few divergences. In particular you get to hear me quiz the other three about their excitement and fascination with Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. We wrap up the show with a series of “lessons learned (or re-learned) in 2014.”

In re-listening to this episode, I realized I use the phrase “off the reservation.” Hearing myself say it, I realized how problematic that is. A Google search suggests that’s the case. I’m going to excise that from my vocabulary.
As I mentioned in the show, I tried to track my gaming more closely this year. Here’s what I did. That's as a GM unless otherwise noted:

Total Games Run/Managed: 117
Total Sessions Played: 22

RPGs: Action Cards continues to work for our group. We've refined it significantly and it really hums along now. The system matches my style of running. We’ve taken what we like from Fate and brought that over to our base game. The ability to print up nice cards via DriveThru Cards has also upped the quality of the presentation. Action Cards doesn't get in the way when I run and pushes me to play better. On the other hand, I’m biased since I wrote it and we’ve been playing it since ’99.

13th Age has also been a revelation. If I’m doing that kind of game- hack or dungeon crawl, this will be my go-to system. I like what it offers me as a GM: story-sparking tools, neat constraints, and great monsters. In the past when I’ve written up bad guys and foes, I’ve usually sketched them and added one or two cool things they can do. 13th Age takes something of that approach to stat blocks. I love putting fights together and seeing what actually happens. More than most games, it has made encounter-building a pleasure for me.

I’ll limit my picks to three other games which stuck with me. First, Kingdom changed my perspective on community based games. It showed how you could play out the central elements of those stories. I played Kingdom first at the end of 2013 and then several times this year. I've haven't posted about it because I'm still turning over what to say. Each time we run Kingdom I see something new about the system and the kinds of play it generates. Second, while I only played Psi*Run once I really loved that. I need to try that again online and see how it works f2f. The collaborative background building as a failure mechanism can be super-fun. Third, I played a prototype written by Keith Stetson at Metatopia. I really, really want to play the finished version of that.

BOARD GAMES: This year I played 165 session of board games. Far and away Imperial Settlers was my favorite new game. I had loved 51st State from the same designer, but that game was a bear to learn. Imperial Settlers, though, teaches easily. It has smart card play, hard choices, and can go swiftly with the right players. I want to buy a second copy of it so I can have the same factions play off against one another.

If I have to pick my three other favs this year, I have to go with some older games I either played for the first time or which had expansion. Legendary remains strong, and the additions this year made it even better. That’s one game which Sherri will gladly play any time. I like the Villains version, but the base game remains the best. I know some have said Legendary Encounters works even better, but I really dislike the artwork there. W├╝rfel Bohnanza is the Bohnanza Dice Game, only available in German. It is awesome- absolutely the best dice game I’ve played. It has clever design that’s challenging and keeps everyone involved. Finally, I got to play Ora Et Labora by Uwe Rosenberg and loved that. I keep thinking about the mechanics. But I only played it once so that’s a hard call. 

I had a couple of gaming disappointments this year. I picked up Praetor, a Roman building game. It was fun the first time I played, but on subsequent replays the cracks began to show. It  has serious problems despite some great mechanics. Shadowrun: Crossfire also fell flat for me. That’s too bad because many smart people really like it. The worst game I played this year was Marrying Mr. Darcy, a random, “take-that” piece of idiocy.

VIDEO GAMES: I played more board game apps this year, which I lump under Video Games. Of those, Lords of Waterdeep felt like the best implementation. Great interface, smart AI, and easy play make it an absolute pleasure. On the PC, Euro Truck Simulator 2 ate up hours and hours of my time. I’ve actually avoided it because I’m afraid I’ll get sucked in. Part of the draw comes from being able to listen to podcasts (like Serial) or audiobooks while I play. On the console, Dragon Age: Inquisition grabbed my attention like no other game. It has been a while since I’ve really knuckled down and played an rpg like that on the PS3.

The biggest disappointment for me this year was Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. Despite the naysayers, I’d gotten many hours of enjoyment out of the previous two installments. I like the world, like the characters, and enjoy the gameplay. This one pretty much chucked all of that out. I went in super-excited and stopped playing after only a couple of hours. 

If you like RPG Gaming podcasts, I hope you'll check it out. We take a focused approach- tackling a single topic each episode. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the podcast's page at


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