You Don't Have To Like A Game Because It's Popular!

You Don't Have To Like A Game Because It's Popular!

Once again, I'm expanding on a twitter rant I had a couple of weeks ago. This time, it was spawned because of various facebook posts I've seen over the past couple of weeks in regards to Keyforge. If I were to summarize these posts, it would sound something like: OMG WHY IS KEYFORGE SO POPULAR? IT'S A DUMB CARD GAME AND A WAY FOR FFG TO MAKE MONEY CALLING IT A UNIQUE GAME WHEN ITS ACTUALLY JUST A CCG WITH A NEW COAT OF PAINT! 

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When You Don't Have Enough Spoons For Board Games

When You Don't Have Enough Spoons For Board Games

Are you familiar with the Spoon Theory? I've linked to wikipedia for some quick info, but there's a lot more in depth stuff available to read on. Also, I'm not an expert, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Basically, the idea behind the Spoon Theory is that people only have a certain number of "Spoons" in a day, representing the amount of energy you have to conduct activities. For those with disabilities or mental illnesses, some tasks require more "spoons" than they would for another person, especially activities that require interacting with other people. 

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Stop Using CMON's Loss As A Market Indicator!

Stop Using CMON's Loss As A Market Indicator!

Recently, CMON issued its Third Quarter Earnings report, in which they described a revenue loss of about $4.1 million. This has caused the "BGG elite", as I've come to know them, to go crazy and saying that the end times are coming for the board gaming industry. Is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about this? One company does not represent the whole of the board gaming industry. In fact, my position is that the CMON loss has less to do with industry trends and more to do with the fact that they just didn't have that many interesting kickstarters this year. I went on a twitter rant about it a few days ago, but I thought I'd dig into the numbers a bit more to explain myself. 

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Mutant: Year Zero Review

Mutant: Year Zero Review

By Chris Nickell

Editor’s Note: Chris is on the Dirtbags of Holding podcast, and has been playing RPGs (and running them as a GM) for years. I recently got a bunch of RPGs to review from Free League Publishing and asked Chris to help me out.

“The Red Plague hits a world already on the brink of collapse. Extreme climate change, global economic crisis, increasing conflict between old and new superpowers. When the pandemic comes, the last thin veneer of stability crumbles. … Yet life remains. Slivers of humanity survive the Apocalypse. In the Ark, a small settlement at the edge of a dead city, the People live. You are a spawn of humanity, but not quite human. You are twisted funhouse images, mutated freaks. Your bodies and minds have incredible powers, but you are unstable. … But the safe days are over. Food is running scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent. “

The post-apocalyptic genre in gaming is one that I hold close to my heart. As a GM I love presenting my character players with their own version of the Kobayashi Maru (no-win scenarios) and watch as they debate the best course of action and roleplay through difficult decisions. Occasionally, I get a Kirk in the party that finds a way to cheat the system and pull a win out of a no-win scenario. Those situations make gaming history in our group and are truly the apex of our collective storytelling.

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How Do I Get My Players to Roleplay? - Ask the Prof

I'm trying something new here. Got a question about board games, roleplaying games, comics or pop culture? Send me an email or tweet me @ChrisTheProf on twitter with the #asktheprof hashtag and I may answer it in a future column. 

Brandon from the Brawling Brothers podcast (@BrawlingBros) asked: 

"How do you loosen up the 'stiffs' at the table and have them fall into character?!?" 

First of all, calling them stiffs is probably not helping your cause. Secondly, I totally know where Brandon is coming from. One of the first games I ran as a GM was the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG from Wizards of the Coast (basically D&D 3.5 but with Star Wars). I was trying to get a new group of friends into RPGs and as such pretty much everyone in my game had never played in a RPG before. A couple of players got into it, but there was one or two people that basically acted like we were playing Zork

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Munchkin: Shakespeare Deluxe Review


By Judith Moore

When a friend (Editors note: MEEEE!) gave me the chance to try a new variant on Munchkin, I jumped at the chance. Munchkin original flavor is already a favorite in my household; the adults have read Shakespeare; what was there to lose? I was slightly concerned that the references would be too obscure for my kids to enjoy, but that concern was soon laid to rest --buried AND praised, if you will.


This was our first Deluxe game, and having tokens and a board to manage levels makes it easier on the small fry. The character tokens and cards are whimsically illustrated, in keeping with any good Munchkin game. All good and well so far, but what of the cards? The battles!? The monsters!? The LOOT!? After my husband and I finished laughing ourselves silly, we had to explain the best jokes to the kids. While the implications of the Cuckold Horns went right over their heads, the Monolog and Dialog were instant favorites (yes, they are actual logs…) and the monsters needed very little explanation.


We were able to jump right in to gameplay! The pacing of Munchkin: Shakespeare is very different than that of the first game. There are far more opportunities for multi-level advancement, and catastrophic level-losing slapdowns, than in the first game. There are also more opportunities to meddle with other players, to the great glee of all involved. The new Bard class, in particular, leads to some great shenanigans when paired with suitable dice rolls! After only one game, we were hooked. We could not stop playing until we’d seen all the cards!

By the end of the first session, Munchkin Shakespeare had taken its place as our favorite Munchkin variant to date. It also has inspired a desire in my oldest (8) to read Shakespeare! Is this game a comedy? Is it a tragedy? The answer is yes, it is all these and more, but above all, it is FUN.

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The 10 Nerdiest Things of 2016

It's been a heck of a year.  People moan about 2016 for various reasons, but instead of looking back at any negatives of the year, here are the things that I enjoyed out of 2016.  Instead of posting several different lists for movies, tv shows, board games, etc, I decided to just combine them all together! Let me clarify - some of these items have been around for awhile, but 2016 was the year I was introduced to them.  And for me, whenever the year would get me down in one way or another, it was these 10 things (among others) that would lift my spirits.

10. Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Although Rogue One was a close contender for this list, I'll kick off this list with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Fantasy Flight Games.  At this point, I have 4 different versions of a Star Wars RPG on my shelf, but the FFG version is by far my favorite.  I had run Edge of the Empire in a previous year, so putting it on this list might be cheating, but this year was the year that I actually got to fully explore the game.  Previously, I didn't understand completely how the system worked and was figuring out pieces of the game on the fly.  This year, not only did I get the chance to figure out how the game was played (more on that in a bit), but I sat down with my friends and recorded an excellent campaign for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast.  If you haven't heard that series please go listen now!  Of the campaigns we have done so far, it has to be my favorite.  The pilot I came up with, Scratch, has to be the most fun character I have ever role played, and I know for a fact I'll be dusting off that character sheet at some point in the future.  If you've ever wanted to explore the Star Wars universe, even if you've never played a roleplaying game before, this game is worth taking for a spin.

9. The Campaign Podcast

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How did I learn to play the Star Wars RPG?  Well, 2 of my fellow Dirtbags, Cory and Jimmy, introduced me this year to a podcast called Campaign.  The Campaign Podcast on the One Shot Network is an actual play podcast that features Kat Kuhl as game master along with a cast of awesome characters playing through FFG's Star Wars game.  It has action, comedy, drama, and a crap ton of Star Wars.  Once I gave this podcast a try, I quickly burned through the 70+ episode backlog in order to get caught up with the story.  If you want to get a feel for how good (or bad) this system could be used, then you need to give this podcast a shout.

8. Numenera

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This year was also the year I figured out what the heck this Numenera game that I kept hearing about was.  Starting out as a Kickstarter in 2013 that raised over half a million dollars, Numenera is a science fantasy Role Playing Game that takes place in a billion years into the future.  Eight great civilizations have come and gone on Earth, and now you play as characters in the Ninth World, exploring the world and finding remnants of the previous civilizations.  The line between technology and magic is very thin in this game, as players get "Cyphers" - one use bits of technology (called Numenera in the setting) that can do all sorts of mysterious things.  This game, and the Cypher System that powers it, intrigues me so much.  It revolves around letting the GM easily make adventures and stories, while not being completely light on mechanics like other narrative focused games.  In fact, Monte Cook Games, the company that produces Numenera, touts that you can use the Cypher System to create adventures right on spot.  Here's an example of one of these instant adventures, hosted by the company at Gen Con this year (see if you can hear me in the audience shouting suggestions!).

7. Scythe

If you had told me at Gen Con that the board game Scythe by Stonemaier Games would end up on my Top list of 2016, I never would have believed you.  Scythe is a resource management/area control game set in an alternate World War I era….with giant mechs.  Yeah, sounds like it would be right up my alley right?  However, when I gave this game a try at Gen Con, it seemed very complicated and too complex for me.  Fast forward a few months, and I decided to pick up a retail copy of the game at a nearby store.  Since I had played with the Kickstarter version, I *had* to of course pick up the metal coins and realistic tokens.  Then, the game seemed complex to set up so I *really* needed to get The Broken Token insert.  Makes total sense…..  By this point I had gotten a few plays in of the game and was completely sold in.  The components, the artwork, the strategy, all of it just hits me right in the sweet spot.  I even took it home for Christmas and taught my dad how to play - and he normally is not much for very complicated games.  Yet we played the game multiple times together over the break - and had a blast doing it!  This is a game I can't wait to take out again, and I feel that purchasing the expansion for the game is in my near future.

6. Legends of Tomorrow

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I love the DC Comics TV shows that are on the CW network.  So when I heard about "Legends of Tomorrow", a show where some of the characters spun off from previous shows "The Flash" and "Arrow" time travel to stop a massive plot, I was sold.  Featuring characters such as Captain Cold, Firestorm, The Atom, and Rip Hunter, the first season of the show had its problems but was still enjoyable to watch.  If that was all that I had seen, however, it would not have been enough to end up on this list.  Luckily, the first half of the second season has come out, and has made this show a part of my "must watch" TV each week.  Now, I can not stand to be behind in this show, for they have taken out what didn't work in the first season and cranked up what did work to 11.  Not to mention, the huge crossover episode "Heroes vs. Aliens" between Supergirl/The Flash/Arrow/Legions of Tomorrow put together is easily the best live action work that DC has put out in years (sorry Batman v. Superman, but you had some serious problems).  With drawing in at least 3.3 million viewers each night, I'm probably not the only one who felt this way.

5. Ice Cool

This game completely caught me by surprise.  Ice Cool, by Brain Games, is a dexterity game where you flick penguins around a school trying to score fish before the hall monitor hits you.  The penguins are weighted like "weeble-wobbles" so that they are always wobbling around and can result in some special trick shot maneuvers.  Here is a play through of the game, if you want to see the game at work.  It is such a simple game that was sold to me as a kid's game but I've had more fun playing this with adults than I have kids.  You can get some really ridiculous shots in some times, which makes the game more than a straight skill game.  One randomly good move can get you caught up, and is hilarious to watch someone try and repeat the same shot.  This game is a ton of fun that you can play with all of your friends and family, so I encourage you to give it a try.

4. Overwatch

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Anyone who truly knows me will not be surprised to find a Blizzard video game on this list.  Overwatch is the company's latest game, a team based first person shooter that plays a lot like Team Fortress 2.  Players take on different roles and try and score objectives instead of a traditional "deathmatch" style game.  These traits that make the game different from classical shooters like Call of Duty are exactly why the game appeals to me so much.  In this game, I don't have to be the best crack shot, as I can help my team by shielding them from damage or healing them instead.  There's a whole layer of strategy that you don't get in other games.  Not only that, but Blizzard puts their heart and soul into everything that they do, which means that you get a game with all different kind of characters.  Each character has a detailed backstory that builds to the overall lore of the game.  Playing this game with my friends has become a big thrill for me over the past few months.

3. Pokémon Trading Card Game

For a reason you will find out soon enough, I have gotten really back into Pokémon this year.  Like, in a big way.  I've been playing through different versions of the video games, buying up related shirts, artwork, etc.  However, the biggest way I've been "catching them all" is through the Pokémon TCG.  All of us here at the Renshaw house have jumped on the bandwagon of the game, at the right time it seems as Pokémon celebrated it's 20th anniversary last year.  All through the year, The Pokémon Company did several events to get people back to that 90s nostalgia, including releasing a set featuring artwork from the original version of the game.  Suffice to say, every time we go to the store now, we are picking up booster packs of the card game and enjoy opening them to see what we've "caught".  We don't get to play the game too much but we still have plenty of fun collecting the cards together.

2. Pokémon Go

I've been an off and on Pokémon fan since the 90s, but what sparked this most recent bout of Poke-mania?  Oh, you know, just a tiny mobile game called Pokémon Go.  Taking the world of Pokémon and fusing it with our own, Pokémon Go was an unstoppable force during the summer.  Oh, and Pokémon Go is still a thing, despite what some would lead you to think.  From a peak of 40 million players, less than 15 million people still play the game as of October 2016.  That's still more people than the population of Illinois!  My wife, daughter, and I all play Pokémon Go, and we love going out to places and walking (or driving in this colder weather) around catching various Pokémon.  Ashley and I will have dates where we go out and just sit around at a popular place for Pokémon and catch as many as we can together.  People scoff when they hear that I've actually spent money in the game for items and such, but spending $5-10 for an hour or more of entertainment together is a pretty cheap date, in my opinion.

1. Deadpool

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If you are reading this blog, chances are you've already seen Deadpool, the movie about the violent and vulgar Marvel comic mercenary .  You might know how great it is.  Why do I think it is better than everything else on this list?  Typically, when I enjoy a movie a movie in the theater, I can't wait to purchase it on DVD/Bluray/iTunes.  If I really like a movie, I'll even rewatch it a couple of times after it releases.  I've probably watched Deadpool over 10 times by the this point, and it hasn't even been a whole year since its theatrical release.  This movie is perfect for me in so many ways - the superhero genre, the humor, and the way it doesn't take itself serious at all.  Every time that I watch the movie, I laugh at the same parts.  It never gets old!  Granted, this is not a family movie, nor even a movie I would ever think about showing Chloe.  Still, the enjoyment I have gotten from this movie definitely solidifies its place here on the top of my list.

What About 2017?

Now that we've talked about last year, let's look ahead and briefly see a couple of things that I'm looking forward to this year.

(Movies) Superheroes.  More superheroes.  And did I mention superheroes?  There's a lot of comic book based movies coming out this year that I am really looking forward to.  I don't even have to wait very long, as The LEGO Batman Movie (probably the one I want to see the most) comes out February 10th.  On the opposite side of the year, we get to see if Batman v. Superman will redeem itself as Justice League opens in November.  Inside of those layers of DC bread, we have lots of Marvel goodness that will be drawing people into the theaters.  Between Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Logan, Some are predicting that Marvel will rake in over 3 BILLION dollars.  That's a lot of dough - I hope the movies turn out to be good!

(TV Shows) DC is already killing it with all of their CW shows, but in addition to more episodes of my favorites, the show I'm really intrigued about is DC's latest attempt.  Powerless is a new comedy debuting on NBC that features goofy scientists making all the high tech gadgets that the world needs when superheroes fighting supervillains is an everyday occurrence.  I thought the idea of a comedy in the DC universe was a weird idea, until I saw the promo.  The show reminds me a lot of another show I enjoyed, Better Off Ted.  If it can be even half as good as that show, and with the talent that is behind the show, it may turn out to be a real winner.

(Games) This year, I'll have many Role Playing Games that I'll be trying out for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast, but I think the one new game that I'm the most curious about is Starfinder by Paizo.  Taking the Pathfinder ruleset and throwing it into science fiction, Starfinder releases during Gen Con this year.  If you want more information about this game, I did an interview with James Sutter, the Creative Director behind the game.  Paizo has a radical fanbase and I'm sure the game will sell very well, but the real reason I'm curious about the game is that Paizo has a great staff of creators who weave together awesome adventures and gameplay.  Thus, Starfinder is bound to be a very interesting RPG experience.


So there you have it.  What tickled my fancy in 2016 and what I'm anxiously awaiting in 2017.  What about you?  What did you enjoy last year, and what are you looking forward to this year?

I'm creating an RPG! And I need your help!

I've been a fan of Role Playing Games (RPGs) for an extremely long time.  At this point, it has to be over 15 years.  In that time, I've played lots of games.  While I enjoy many of them, one of the things you need to know about me is that I always have a constant drive to create new things.  Sometimes, I get ideas that don't work within any of the games that I know.  For instance, there have been many times that my D&D group wants to get together and play, but our DM cannot make it for some reason.  Without them, it is really hard to continue our current campaign.

The last time this happened, I had an idea: what if we had a short game, designed around simple adventures, that we could play on those days when the entire group cannot continue our normal story?  A game that would be all about silly fun, and it wouldn't matter how ridiculous it was because you wouldn't be worried about any long lasting continuity.  So I decided to create that game.  Over a weekend, I wrote up a framework of some ideas for a very light game - extremely light, as the original framework only took up about 4 pages.  Then, it just so happened that my group had another regularly scheduled game that couldn't be held.  A perfect opportunity to test out my new idea!

I ran a short game for my group that night, and they provided me with lots of feedback.  Incorporating some of their thoughts, I reworked a lot of the mechanics and ran another game - this time with half of the Dirtbags of Holding folks.  We actually recorded this short game as well, so look forward to hearing that adventure after our Fate campaign wraps up.  This game was very inspiring, as I ended up making even more changes while we were playing.

Now, I'm ready to open up to everyone else about this, because I need your help!  I've taken all of these experiences and drafted up the first version of the rules for this new game, which I'm calling "We've Run Out of Ideas", or WROI.  The premise behind the game is that you are Actors within a big budget time travel movie.  The writers, however, have gone on strike - to which the studio decided to just fire them all!  So now, you are in charge of coming up with the movie's plot.  You and the other players will create characters, discover the quest that your characters are on, and take turns playing through the storyline.  You don't even need a GM to play!  All you need is the rules and some six sided dice.

The idea behind the game is to be an easy and quick game to pick up and play.  The test games that I have done have gone about an hour or so.  However, this is the first game I've ever tried to design, and probably one of the biggest projects I've ever worked on.  So, I need people to help me out and download the rules and play it with their friends!  Let me know what works and what doesn't work.  The more feedback I get, the better the final product will be!

If you are interested, send an email to  Or, hit me up on twitter @ChrisTheProf.  I'm using an app called Slack to talk with playtesters and distribute new versions of the rules.  If you contact me, I'll send you a link to join the Slack and read up on the rules I've written.

5 Things About The Poltergeist Remake

I had the "Privilege" seeing the Poltergeist remake this weekend.  As a general rule, I hate horror movies and do everything in my power to avoid them.  However, my wife ADORES them, although I'm not sure which she enjoys more: watching the movie or watching ME watch the movie.  Regardless, the original Poltergeist was one of her favorites growing up, so as soon as I heard that there was a remake, I knew that I was doomed to see it.  Having now seen it, I have some thoughts, which I will now share with you, relatively spoiler free.

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Agents of SHIELD: Taking The Marvel Out Of The Avengers


Last week, we closed out the first half of the season for the brand new show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. As a big fan of the all the Marvel movies we've been exposed to recently, I've watched the show from the beginning with keen interest. How has it fared so far? What am I looking forward to in the second half of the season? Read on to find out.

A Great Premise

I watched the pilot episode of SHIELD and walked away very excited. In the episode, we were reintroduced to Agent Phil Coulson, the SHIELD agent we first met in Iron Man and last saw (supposedly) dying at the hands of Loki in the Avengers. We are introduced to a group of people (mostly SHIELD agents) that Coulson has gathered to react to new threats/elements in this Post-Avengers Marvel Universe. This premise sounded great, and made me think that we are going to get a Fringe/X-Files type show set in the Marvel Universe. I was all on board with that premise, and was eager to see how it would pan out in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Misguided Focus

As the season trundled along, it feels like somewhere along the way, the writers did not quite know what they wanted to do with the story. A lot of time is spent on Skye and Agent Grant Ward, one is a hacker-turned-wannabe SHIELD agent (maybe?), the other a sterotypical hard edged solo spy type. Many of the filler moments between action scenes seem to revolve around some romantic tension between the two or focus on Skye and why she's joined up with Coulson. These storylines seem to just kill any sort of good moments that the show brings up. Neither character is really that interesting, and I really could care less about Skye and her desire to find her parents.


Instead, the character that the show should be focusing the most around, Coulson, is only give moments to shine here and there. I'd wager that about 75% of the people watching Agents of SHIELD are doing so because they fell in love with Agent Coulson throughout the Marvel movies and were excited to have a show focused around that character. Yet the writers on SHIELD are instead taking two of the most uninteresting characters of the series and forcing some drama down our throats. The interactions between the characters needs to be natural, not created for the purpose of filling up time. Case in point - one of the best episodes of the season, FZZZT!, spent half of the episode dealing with the two Agents Fitz and Simmons. Those moments are full of so much emotion and so much drama, while at the same time felt very natural and helped build a connection with the characters. Then, when that connection is tested at the end of the episode where it looks like one of them may perish, you find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping that it isn't true. I've yet to feel that connection with Agent Ward or Skye.

Make Mine Marvel

For a TV show supposedly based in the Marvel Universe, we've hardly seen that much of it other than an occasional reference. Instead, the show seems to want to create its own continunity, its own villians for the show to operate in, which is completely opposite of what ABC has been selling the show as. This show needs to have better tie-ins with the movie universe that made this show possible. For instance, the episode following the new Thor movie was advertised as this big tie-in with the Thor movie, which got me excited. Yet, the "tie-in" ended up being that the episode started with a few minutes of the agents cleaning up Thor's mess, followed by a new Asgard - related story that had nothing to do with Thor: The Dark World. The story was pretty good, but don't sell me on an episode being a tie-in when the biggest link to the movie is a joke about wishing for a "God of Cleaning up after himself".


Now, ideally it would have been cool to have Thor himself show up in the episode for at least a little bit, but I realize that gets expensive. There's two answers to that: A) This is DISNEY for crying out loud, I think they have the money to make this happen and B) there are other cheaper ways to tie into the movie. Like, could we have Kat Dennings character or the doctor appear in the episode. Since, you know, they *were* in the same area when the movie ended. That wouldn't have been that hard to coordinate. But if you are going to sell this show as being a part of the Marvel Universe then you have to actually link it to that universe - just like how in the movies characters crossed over to other movies.

I Still Have Hope

There is still time for Agents of SHIELD to impress me - we still have half of season 1 to go, in which I'm hoping we get answers to some of the bigger questions that they have been stirring up. Also, there will more than likely be a second season to this show, during which I hope they find their footing and get a better idea of what they want the show to be. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions that I have:

1. Get rid of the Skye character, and/or Agent Ward.

2. Focus more on the premise and/or Agent Coulson.

3. Give us more crossover/tie-ins with the Marvel movies (a LOT more).

4. Change up the writing staff - I figured out most of the big plot twists of the mid season finale halfway through the episode!


What have you guys thought of the first part of Agents of SHIELD? Have I missed anything important/not understood anything? Let me know in the comments below!


The D20 Experience: Editions And Whats Next For D&D

The D20 Experience is a column I run on this site where I talk about the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, both aspects of the game and how they apply to my adventures playing in a regular D&D group. If you are curious as to what D&D is about, I suggest you take a look at this previous article. If you've been around D&D long enough, you've probably heard people talk about "editions" and which edition is their favorite to play. Some people get really heated about which version of the game is the best one. If you want to get a bit of insight into this, and are curious about what this "beta" edition of D&D that is going around, stay tuned for a short story on editions and the thought process I went through when I decided to take a spin in the DM chair.

I had this big post planned out and written up about the various editions of D&D and why people get so fierce about one edition over the other. Well, Evernote decided to erase it before it sync'd back to my account and I lost that post. I was not looking forward to rewriting it, so instead I'm going to summarize it here. For any extra information, I'll point you over to this wikipedia page. There have been 4 editions of Dungeons and Dragons; two by the original company TSR, Inc. and two by Wizards of the Coast when they bought the rights to D&D when TSR went bankrupt. Fourth Edition is the current edition of the game, but many players did not like the changes to the game have stayed with the very popular "3.5 Edition".

There is a 5th edition of the game that is currently being worked on called "D&DNext". Wizards of the Coast has been "beta" testing the game by releasing versions to players for free and encouraging their feedback. They have been incorporating the best aspects of all the other editions and rolling into one improved edition. According to what I've seen, this edition will come out sometime in 2014.

Being a giant D&D nerd, I have been really interested in D&DNext. I have access to all the beta materials, read through all the materials, and have been listening to the official D&D podcast talk about it. Everything that they have been talking about has me really excited to try out the new rules. In our group, our DM has mentioned that if any of us wanted to take the wheel on the adventures for a little bit we were more than welcome to. Given all of this, I started thinking about creating my own D&D story, using it to experiment with the D&DNext rules (and not touch our current campaign).

I've been a DM before, several times in fact. However, usually when I had been running games, I could not get people together often enough to have a regular running campaign. So the adventures that I created were one-time stories, maybe with a possibility of extending into another session if I got the same group of people together. With the regular schedule that my D&D group keeps fairly well, I wanted to experiment with building a "world" and creating an extended story that would last several sessions.

With this in mind, I went about delving into the D&DNext materials to get as knowledgable about the rules as I could. Yet, the more and more I read/heard about the game, the more I began questioning my decision. You see, I would have to teach everyone at the group these new rules, which would make the first couple of sessions rocky to say the least. On top of that, every couple of months they send out revisions of the rules to address concerns/ideas that players had submitted. So, every little bit, I'd have to teach everyone the rules AGAIN. That's when I realized that for now, D&DNext would work best for one off dungeon crawlers instead of a long ongoing story.

So what did I do? That's a story for next time :)



How Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 Reminded Me I Suck At Building Decks

This week, Wizards of the Coast will release the latest core set to the Magic The Gathering Card Game, aptly titled "Magic 2014 core set". To prepare players for this release, a couple of weeks ago, they released the latest edition of "Duels of the Planeswalkers", their video game adaptation of the card game. How does this game stack up to the previous editions? Well, I received a review copy of the Steam version of this game, which I will gladly talk about past the break.

I mentioned that I got the steam version of this game, and I'd hate to start off with a frustration, but I want to quickly get it out of the way. The game is available for several different platforms such as Xbox, Playstation, Steam, iOS, and even Android this time around. As they add more and more platforms, I always struggle with figuring out which edition to buy. Usually I end up picking up the platform I think ill get more playtime on. Last year, I was grateful that I bought the iOS version, as I got so much farther in the game than ever before due to playing small games while on the couch. However, I always seem to get the Steam version as well, and it always annoys the crap out of me that the different platforms do not "sync" with each other, unlocking content and decks with other copies of the game. I would pay much more money buying the game on multiple platforms to play it wherever I want if I knew that I could continue the progress I made on my Xbox or iPad. This is just a small frustration that I have had on the series from the get go, and 2014 does nothing to change it.

Most of the game plays out like the previous editions: you select one of a variety of decks and play through a campaign against other "Planeswalkers". As you progress, other game types unlock, such as harder versions of the people you have beaten previously. Not only that, you can modify these decks with cards that you get from winning in the campaign; and even use these decks against your friends in the Multiplayer mode. The other games did a fabulous job of all of this and Magic 2014 carries on the torch in these regards extremely well.

For this iteration though, one of the big draws is that of the "Sealed Deck" mode. In this mode, you are given 6 "booster packs" filled with various cards and are tasked with creating your own custom 40-card deck. You then can use this in a similar campaign mode, which can earn you further booster packs, or against your friends. It is in this mode that this game shines over the previous versions, as a common complaint against the Duel of the Planeswalkers games was that deck customization was very much downplayed. This version has an entire game mode designed to appeal to those who want to build their own deck from the ground up. If you have no idea how to do that, the game can either auto-build you a deck with the cards available, or provide hints to you as you go along in the building process.

I enjoyed the previous iterations of Duels of the Planeswalkers, and I REALLY like this new version. One of my weaknesses in Magic (the physical version) is that I don't do a very good job of building my own decks. Magic 2014 shined a bright light on this fact when I tried out the new Sealed Deck mode myself. I did a horrible job at it. I went through all the cards, tried to come up with a theme to build my deck around, and managed to put together some cards that really made me feel confident in it. I had an idea that it might not go so smoothly, but I thought the good cards I put in would balance out the risky ones. Boy what I wrong. The first game I played I was ripped a new one, and I'm not even playing on the highest difficulty. The second game started off equally as horrible to the point where I gave up knowing how the game was going to play out. It might sound like this would affect my opinion of the game, but actually I am really glad this feature is available. Previously, I'd have to wait until a tournament to test my deck building skills and see how I'm improved. Now I have an easy environment for me to experiment with, adjusting and perfecting my deck building skills which should help me out in the physical game. Not only that, but I can access this anytime I have some spare time to sit down in front of the computer, giving me lots of potential practice time.

So if you have any interest in Magic at all; from having played the game in the past, currently playing it, or have been curious as to what this game is about, I highly suggest that you pick up this game. I'm sure that you will have lots of fun and develop a new love for the card game.


5 People That Should Not See World War Z

After the different approach that I took to the Man of Steel review, I thought I would continue that trend by talking about other movies as I see them. This review is a little late, but after the break we will talk about World War Z, the recent movie based off of the book by Max Brooks.

1) People who hate Zombies

This one is obvious, but I felt like we should go ahead and get this out of the way: World War Z is a zombie movie. In it, Brad Pitt's character and his family suddenly find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak. They have to fight their way to survival, and then Brad Pitt gets tasked by the governments remaining to figure out what the heck is going on. If that bit alone turns you off, you might want to skip the rest of the review and the movie as well.

2) People upset that the movie is different than the book

Disclaimer: I have not read the book. My wife has read most of it so any comparisons are based on what she has read.

When this movie first came out, all I heard on the Internet were people talking about how the movie didnt match the book. This is true, but from what I've been told, it would have been hard to make a mass-market movie based on the content in the book. If you were one of the people ticked off at this notion, don't bother seeing the movie. One way or another, your pre-determined mind will find a way to hate it. Now, if you have read the book and are fairly open minded, go see the movie. You'll be pretty well entertained and will spot tons of references that the oblivious person next to you won't get. It's like watching a comic book movie: it's not always the same story you read, but there will be tidbits and Easter eggs that only you will pick up.

3) People that couldn't stomach The Walking Dead (also, small children)

This movie is intense. It's rated PG-13, but there some R rated horror movies that are not as freaky as this movie. Unlike the walking dead, there isn't as much graphic detail shown, but what is shown and the shots used will scare the pants off of people who aren't as tolerant of horror movies (i.e. me). Do not bring small children to this movie, as you won't be able to get them to sleep anytime soon. Shoot, I'm 27 and I wanted to wait a couple of hours before going to bed to put some space between myself and the movie.

4) People that don't want to rethink their zombie escape plans

On long car rides, or anytime that we want to kill a few minutes, my wife and I will talk about our plans for surviving the zombie apocalypse. We've thought up scenarios to protect our house, places to avoid if we get caught away from home, etc. Part of the reason I was creeped out was the way they shot the zombies and tried to scare the audience. The other reason was because I knew my wife and I were going to have scrap most of those plans and start over. The way that the movie presents the zombie apocalypse makes you realize more that in an outbreak, you have 2 things to fend off: zombies and other people trying to survive. It brings a whole new perspective to the zombie genre.

5) People that hate a good movie

Hey what do you know? The same people that were on my Man of Steel review. I really liked this movie. As I said above, it brings something new to the zombie genre and I really appreciated that. It is definitely a movie that I will be thinking about for awhile.

Are you one of these people? If not, go check out the movie and let me know what you think.

5 People That Should Not See Man of Steel

This weekend, the latest movie entry into the Superman mythos, Man of Steel, opens in theaters. I was fortunate enough to see an early sneak preview of the movie last Sunday. Among other things, I came away from the movie thinking that there are going to be certain people who don't like this movie. Read onwards to find out which people those are.

1) People Expecting This To Be The Christopher Reeves Superman movies

For me, when I get to thinking about what Batman is, I always think of the Batman portrayed in "Batman: The Animated Series". That was "my" Batman - what I base all other portrayals of Batman against. For some people, probably a good many people, the Christopher Reeves movies are "their" Superman. Therefore, I would imagine that there is a decent number of people that are going to see this movie hoping that it will be like the Superman movies that they remember. Those people will probably be disappointed. Times have changed, and Man of Steel reflects that change. While the core character and what he stands for are similar in both movies, the overall tone and feel of the movies is very different than the tone of the 70s movies.

2) People Expecting This To Be The Dark Knight

Having directed The Dark Knight trilogy, many people seeing Christopher Nolan's name on the Man of Steel movie poster may be concerned that this movie attempts to "Batman-ify" Superman. I can see how someone could think that - Superman movies havent done very well recently, but the Batman movies have, so lets just put some of those appealing Batman aspects into this Superman movie. However, Christopher Nolan and Zack Synder did not do that. The tone and universe may have a similar feel to The Dark Knight, which is the way it should be since both movies take place in the same universe, but Superman shines like a beacon, being the man of hope when the world plunges into darkness. What you end up with is a movie that shows how a man like Superman can exist in the same world as Christain Bale's Batman (by the way, in one of the space shots, look at a nearby satellite for a small Easter egg).

3) People Taking Small Children

Typically, for big comic book movies, Ashley and I are of the belief that we should watch the movie first, then take Chloe to it later. This way, we know what's coming and we can shield her from any scenes we feel are too young for her. Most of these movies she really wants to see, yet most are rated PG-13, and this way she can still see the movie with me still holding on to some sense of "good parenting". For Man of Steel, we thought about bringing her along with us for this one time - I mean it's Superman, how bad could it be? I'm glad we decided not to bring her, because I don't know if she's ready to see the movie. As I alluded to above, this movie gets pretty dark. In order to bring out the best traits in a character, you need a villain who is really good at the opposite. In Man of Steel, General Zod is a dark, evil man who will stomp on anyone who gets in his way or who he deems "inferior". This works in the sense that it lets Superman's goodness shine, but the result is a few intense scenes that I believe might be rough for some small kids watching the film.

4) People Who Hate Good 3D

I've heard it explained to me plenty of times that the best 3D is the kind that is not completely obvious to you. Our eyes see in 3D everyday, so if done correctly, good 3D movies would look very natural to us, adding depth to the experience. The preview of Man of Steel we saw was in 3D and this is exactly how I felt watching this movie. There were no cheap gimmicks of objects being thrown at the screen or other effects that other movies use because they are being shot/rendered in 3D. Overall, the 3D felt very natural and did not distract from the movie, which I believe qualifies it as a good usage of the technology.

And Finally....

5) People That Hate A Good Movie

I really liked this movie. Superman has never really been a huge character for me: i consider the other movies to be "alright", I did enjoy "Smallville", but I don't regularly read Superman comics either. While I still prefer the Batman movies, I had fun watching the movie and it did make me want to go to the comic store to look at Superman comics, which for any comic book movie is a good judge of how good it was.

Go see the movie, for most of you out there, you'll enjoy it. If not, comment below and let me know what you thought about it.


Board Game Review: Legendary - A Marvel Deck Building Game

As many of you who follow me on twitter may have seen (or read about in a previous article), every Monday night our local gaming store hosts a board game night. For the past couple of months, Chloe and I have been attending each week to try out many new board games. Normally, when I review board games, I try and make a video for you guys so you can see the board and visualize the game. However, I don't have the money to buy every game we play so you are going more blog posts talking about the games we are playing. Whenever I do get around to buying a game, you'll probably see a video review come out of it as well. Some of these are going to be a bit old as I need to get caught up on all the games we've played. Last month, Chloe and I tried out a game that I was very excited to learn to play. That game is "Legendary", the Marvel Comics Deck Building Game by Upper Deck. The idea of mashing up two of my favorite obsessions, board gaming and comic books, seemed too fun to be true. What did I think of the game? Read on to find out!

As I mentioned above, Legendary is a deck building card game. That means your job is to use the cards you start with to gather better cards to improve your deck for later turns. In Legendary, there are two lines of cards in front of you, a line of heroes that you can "buy" and a line of villains that you "defeat". Each line gives you cards that will be used at the game to determine who is the winner. At the same time, however, there is a "mastermind" - a villain with a plot that the players must defeat together or else everyone loses. If that sounds confusing at all, don't worry the game plays pretty well and is easy to pick up. If you've played other deck building games like Dominion, you will quickly catch on to Legendary.

Chloe and I both enjoyed this game. It strays away from other deck building games like Dominion and Ascension by adding in the cooperative gameplay of the players having to work together to defeat enemies to help topple the mastermind. This aspect, combined with villains who are constantly trying to escape, really do a good job of bringing in the superhero feel of Marvel Comics. The people we played with commented that there have been several times they've lost against the board, and they will purposely break out the game to try and defeat that mastermind again.

Yet, the addition of the Mastermind also contributes to the only problem I have with the game, which is it's length. To defeat the Mastermind, you have to kill him like 5 times, and he has a pretty high life value that you have to beat. In the game Chloe and I played, bad luck on the cards that were available really hurt us early in the game which made it hard to build up a good deck that would give us the cards we needed to hurt the Mastermind. Luckily, a couple of the other players we were with managed to hit him in a row a couple of times during the game. This also led to those players winning the game, but by that point it was getting late and I needed to get Chloe home to bed, so I was more relieved that the game was over.

That small bit aside, we did enjoy the game, and it will be added to the list of games that I want to get at some point. If you are a Marvel Comics fan, pick this game up and give it a try. I'm sure that you will find it rather enjoyable. You can even use the affiliate link below to pick up the game cheap at Amazon, which will kick back some money here to the site to help us out!

What deck building games have you played? Let me know in the comments below!

Magic The Gathering Review: "Dragon's Maze: The Secretist" part 3

A few months ago, you'll recall I wrote an article about The Secretist, parts 1 and 2. These two short novellas are the Magic: The Gathering lore novels for the first two Return to Ravnica sets. Last week, I received a copy of the conclusion to the series, Dragon's Maze. I loved the first two parts of this series, but how did the conclusion hold up? Read on to find out!

Dragon's Maze starts out where the previous book, Gatecrash, ended; the planeswalker Jace Beleren was trapped in an inescapable room with vampires about to bare down on him. Of course he manages to get out (by the way, I felt really dumb for not thinking of the obvious way that he could get out of this), and races to put together the final pieces of what the "Implicit Maze" is. Jace has to find out its importance to the ten guilds of Ravinca quickly, as the guilds are assembling their maze runners and preparing to run the maze, regardless of its outcome.

I really enjoyed this story. I sat down Sunday night before bed and started to read this story. Next thing I know, it's late and I've finished the book! It was so compelling that I could not put it down. The book really shows the hatred and disagreements that the ten guilds have for each other. It was building up in the other two books but really comes to a boil here. It begs to wonder how these people haven't killed themselves yet, and as your reading the book it appears as though they just might do it now! The mystery behind the maze unfolds in a way that makes complete sense and shows the great insight and wisdom that the creator had about the guilds when he created it.

With all of the good aspects that I enjoyed about the book, there are a few down points about the ending. First of all, the conclusion of the maze and what it brings about makes sense, but Jace's role in the post-maze Ravnica confuses me a bit. Even Jace brings it up as a question in the book, but it's never really answered other than a simple retort. The other issue I've had is one that went back to the other two stories as well. There is another planeswalker featured in the story, an Izzet Mage known as Ral Zarek. He is this powerful Mage capable of walking to other realities, yet through most of the book he begrudgingly follows orders of his guildmaster. Granted, his guildmaster is a dragon, but I just expected more out of the character and throughout the three stories his role felt very flat.

Regardless of those few little quirks, I still really loved this story. Ever since the beginning, the story drew me in and continued to hold me there until the tale was done. As for the format, I think that Wizards of the Coast's experiment into short novellas for their stories is a good step. For someone like me, who jumped into this storyline part of the way through, it made it really easy to get caught up on the story. If you a fan of Magic: The Gathering, I think you will enjoy the three parts of The Secretist, and I think you should pick them up and read them. Affiliate links for the Kindle versions are below if you wish to help support this site.

  Return to Ravnica: The Secretist, Part One

Gatecrash: The Secretist, Part Two

Dragon's Maze: The Secretist, Part Three

The D20 Experience: What is D&D Anyway?

Ok so I already changed the name of my D&D column, big deal. I think this one sounds much better. After writing last weeks post and doing some reflecting, I realized I may have made a mistake. On this site, I talk a lot about D&D and some of the various D&D products but I failed to realize that some people may not understand what D&D is. Even worse, through all kinds of stereotypes out there, they may have a completely incorrect idea of what the game actually is.

Today, I set out to rectify that mistake. This post shall be my "Beginner's Guide to D&D," if you will. I aim to explain what the game is, some basics on how it is played, and what you can do if you are interested in playing. I think the best way to do this is FAQ style, which shall begin after the break.

What is D&D?

D&D stands for "Dungeons and Dragons", a pen and paper role playing game (RPG) currently produced by Wizards of the Coast (the same people that produce Magic The Gathering). It was created in the 70s by the late Gary Gygax.

What is a Pen and Paper RPG?

"Pen and paper" is just a term used to distinguish RPGs like D&D from those that you can play on your computer. In a pen and paper game, you and some friends gather around a table and play with sheets (of paper) that detail what all the things your particular character can do

FYI - though the term does include the word "pen", I HIGHLY suggest you use a pencil when you play this game. You will be writing and erasing things very much.

So how many people do I need to play D&D?

Technically, you can play with as little as 2 people. As far as the most people that can play, I've played games with up to 11-12 people. Be warned, at those numbers, games quickly devolve into tangents and side conversations. Ideally, 3-6 players is the best number to work around.

Alright, how do I play D&D?

One person in the group is called a "Dungeon Master" or DM for short. Before you play, he has planned out an adventure for you, either entirely of his own design or bought/downloaded a pre-made adventure from a website or a gaming store. This person acts as the storyteller and the referee; setting the scene for the other players and facilitating how they interact in this made up world. The other players each play a unique hero in this world. Some adventures have pre-made characters as well but in most D&D games you create a custom hero using several fantasy races (like human, elf, dwarf, etc) and a class that describes what type of character you play (such as a warrior, a cleric, a wizard or even a thief).

Performing actions in the game (specifically when you are fighting something) typically require to roll a 20 sided dice to see if you succeed/hit. You roll the dice, add any special bonuses your character has (maybe you are an expert swordsman, so it's easier for you to hit), and the DM tells you if you have succeeded or not.

How do I win? How does the DM win?

In D&D there really is no "winning". You role play your character through different encounters and adventures. The game is more about creating an entertaining story than winning. The DM will create obstacles and monsters to challenge you, but if all the other characters get killed he doesn't "win". It just means its time to move to new characters and a new story - or maybe the dead characters continue their adventure in another way (resurrected by a obscure cult? A new journey through the afterlife?)

What do I need to play D&D?

You need other players, for starters. You'll need a sets of different sided dice, which you can usually buy as a pack for a couple of bucks at a comic or gaming shop. Ideally, each person should have their own, but if you are getting started then a couple of sets you can pass around will work. All of the detailed rules on how to play are listed in a book called the "Players Handbook". If you have experienced players in your group, it is not needed but if you are new I recommend picking it up and reading it. It contains everything you need to know to play the game, create a character, etc.

The person who is the DM needs to be very familiar with the rules of the game, and should probably have the other two "core rulebooks" - the Dungeon Masters Guide and the Monster Manual. These books will have information on how to create adventures and combat encounters. Some people also use miniatures and some sort of map or tiles to lay out the land and help everyone visualize things, but these are not required either.

Where can I find people to play D&D with?

If you don't currently have any friends that play D&D, the best thing to do is to find a local gaming or comic shop and see if they run any games. Typically they will have folks that are ready and willing to teach new players how to play. I've also heard of people that use sites like to organize D&D groups. Lastly, it might be kind of rough but you can always purchase the three core rulebooks I mentioned above and try and start your own crew! There are plenty of resources online to explain out all of the details, and feel free to email me ( if you have any questions that don't get answered.

Are you ready to play yet? Have any questions that I didn't answer? Comment below or email me at the address above and ill fill in any gaps I've left.