Saturday, 30 December 2017

Looking Back - Hobby Goals

At the beginning of each year I set myself various goals, for some areas - like my writing goals, the idea is to challenge myself to achieve various things. For some areas - like my hobby goals, it's to vary things as much as it is to challenge myself. At the start of 2017 I wrote up some hobby goals, they focused on playing a variety of board games, getting some role playing done, painting and modeling, podcasting and game design. The results were a mixed bag...

Board Games Played...

Like 2016, in 2017 I set the goal of playing 100 different board games. Half way through the year this seemed an easy goal to crack, but for whatever reason, I only managed to cross the line in December. It's been an interesting year, my gamer group has moved from playing miniatures games almost exclusively to playing mostly board games, and for the first time in years I feel like I am moving back into the sort of awareness and familiarity with the industry I had when I was more heavily involved in it. I have certainly played more recently published games this year than in the previous few years, and most of this has to do with two factors - my kids becoming old enough to play more games, and my gamer group choosing to play more board games.

For anyone particularly interested, the Geeklist on Boardgamegeek where I maintained the list of the unique games I have been playing can be found here.

It's no surprise that the games I have played the most over the course of the year are games my kids have enjoyed. So far this year the most played games with the family have been...

Zitternix is a dexterity game, much like pick up sticks. You roll the dice and remove the stick matching the colour you rolled. The blue, red and yellow sticks are worth 3, 2 and 1 point respectively. It's a fun game that plays very easily. My daughter, 2, could play this with little trouble, and often requested it. Well worth looking up if you're after a quick and enjoyable game for the family.

Spooky Stairs is a roll and move game with some serious differences. If you roll a ghost, one of the Ghost pieces is placed over the top of a player piece, meaning you must remember which one is yours. Add to this the rule that if you roll a ghost you may switch the positions of two ghosts, and the game is a surprising and enjoyable memory game. Some arguments and tears were shed over being 'ghosted' and 'swapped' - but for all the pain at the time, these little moments are where we learn to be good losers and gracious winners. Again, a really enjoyable game.

Slamwich is essentially snap with a few twists. My kids love it mainly for the food aspect. My daughter always like to repeat the name of every, single, piece of food represented on every, single, card played. But is rather cute and amusing. Another solid game.

My youngest took the 'Muncher' card a little too literally it seems.

Machi Koro is a fun little dice rolling game. You build up a little town, roll the dice and activate and use the powers on any buildings matching the number you rolled. It plays quickly and my son absolutely adored this game, which meant it hit the table with fair frequency. Well worth looking up as a slightly more complex family game to those above.

One of my greatest pleasures this year has been reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to my son. It started with whining about how much he was sure he'd hate the book, and by the time the Dursleys were hiding out in a hut on a rock and Hagrid was banging on the door, he was well and truly hooked. He loved the book, and we're currently reading Chamber of Secrets, which is great. For Christmas one of the newest games to be added to our shelves was this: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. A deck building game with the Harry Potter theme.

I'm usually wary of games that have such a big licence, they tend to be fairly ordinary. But this one is absolute gold. The deck building aspect is neat, and the 'game' includes 7 games - each adding in aspects from the books as they move through the series. The game starts simply, but becomes more challenging, complex and interesting as the different 'games' and their suite of additional cards, pieces and rules are added in. A very solid game we have already played quite a lot over the last few days.

The best new-to-me games I have played are all quite different from one another. A real-time game, an epic story laden miniatures board game and a tight euro game with a theme I adore.

Eye for an Eye is a game that is planned to hit Kickstarter next year I believe. I was lucky enough to get the chance to play it with the designers Ben and Shae, at Shepparcon - a local gaming convention. I had an absolute blast. If someone had asked me whether a real time miniatures game was likely to be any good, I would have flat out said 'no'. This game, however, proves me wrong. Each player has warrior, and rolls dice to place on their warrior cards which may then be spent to move, change facing, attack, defend and use special powers. It is frantic, with everyone rolling, placing and spending dice as break-neck speed, and, most impressively, it works. I had a lot of fun with this, and I thoroughly recommend keeping an eye out for the Kickstarter when it comes.

Mythic Battles: Pantheon. My friend Quinton kickstarted this, and wow, what a lot of boxes, cardboard, card stock and plastic. Having played now the intro scenario, a story scenario, a co-op scenario, and a drafting battle between three players all I can say is that the game is easy to play, and a lot of fun. The choices are many, and the game is tense. But the rules are easy enough to handle that it all just works and works smoothly. I really enjoyed playing this, and I am looking forward to playing more!

I could have gone multiple ways with the last of the three, X-Com, Rex: Final Days of Empire, Red 7 and others were all contenders for the last of the three. In the end I have run with Terraforming Mars. This is a dyed in the wool euro game, with multiple paths to victory and a very solid game engine. I really love the theme, but the game play itself lives up to the hype that has surrounded this game since release. It is highly enjoyable, tense and engaging. So, Terraforming Mars rounds out my top three new-to-me board games of 2017.

Miniatures games are long and involved enough that I won't attempt to do a top three for the year. What I will do is my pick of the games I have played this year, and a couple of honourable mentions.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best miniature game I have played this year, and quite possibly one my my favourite miniatures games of all time, is Sharp Practice, from TooFatLardies.

This game breathes the theme, it is such an enjoyable and story laden experience that every game has been an absolute joy to play. I never thought I would be interested in gaming the Napoleonic Period, or any other black powder era, but here I am. This game, quite simply, is phenomenal. The staccato beat to each player's turn perfectly echoes the theme of the period, the leadership and activation rules are tense and thought provoking. All in all this is a wonderful game, and I thoroughly recommend checking it out.

Honourable mentions:

I have a box of 15mm Gauls I have been meaning to paint and base... perhaps 2018. I bought them specifically for Sword and Spear. This game is very good, with simple, tight game mechanisms and a really interesting activation system it is well worth looking at if you are after an Ancients game!

My son picked this game for the lovely miniatures. I am hoping to get some paint on them in the coming year. The aesthetic is wonderfully charming and the game rules are simple and story laden. Highly enjoyable all together!

On the miniature related goal front, one of my goals for the year was to assemble a bunch of terrain and get things painted. I did manage to assemble some terrain, and a collection of models for Kings of War, but the painting was an abject failure. I don't think I painted a single thing. Perhaps next year will offer better prospects on this front!

The last game playing related goal for 2017 was about role playing. Over the year we've played a few different systems on and off, but without a doubt the best and longest running in 2017 has been our Symbaroum campaign. I really enjoy this game, and if you're keen you can check out my review here. The art is amazing, and the system is easy enough that it doesn't get in the way of the story at all. Thoroughly enjoyable! I am looking forward to continuing the campaign into 2018!

The last two goals I had for 2017 revolved around the podcast On Minis Games and getting some games designed of my own. On both fronts I have done far less than I wanted to, and must count these goals as failed. Hopefully I'll come back to both in 2018, more on that in another post perhaps. The key reason I didn't get to them is because of the freelance work I have been doing, so I need to look at how I structure my time to see what else I can fit in. Hopefully both these missed goals are something I'll come back to.

Overall I have been very happy with the year, sure I didn't paint, design or podcast as much as I had hoped. But I have been playing and enjoying more board games, I've been role playing more, and hey - you can't do everything!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Looking Back - Writing Goals

At the start of the year I set myself some writing goals for 2017, these focused on four things: writing for Spartan Games, writing for Modiphius Entertainment, writing for my blog, and writing some things for myself.

Well, what a year 2017 has turned out to be. At the start of the year everything seemed to be bursting with action as far as Spartan Games was concerned. Things started going a little wayward, and then suddenly, Spartan went out of business. This was a big shock for all involved, and I was none the wiser when it happened than everyone else. I'm sad to see Spartan go, I got along well with the owner, Neil, and liked the company and the games they made a lot. Shortly afterwards we got the news that Wayland Games, under their Warcradle banner, picked up the various Spartan IPs. I haven't had anything to do with the new rules that are coming down the pipe, but of course, I wish them all the best in their endeavors!

Needless to say this change in landscape for Spartan put paid to any of the goals I had had concerning them, so not much happened on that front. One goal down.

Onto my second goal... Modiphius Entertainment. On this front I have been kept extremely busy. I have spent most of the second half of the year writing for the Infinity Role Playing Game, and have also managed a few things for the Star Trek Role Playing Game as well. A vast majority of the things I have been working on are still in approvals, and I have a few things that will consume my attention throughout January, but it has been busy.

Through my work with Modiphius I learned that if I push myself I can manage upward of 50,000 words in a month, at one point pushing to 20,000 in a week. So far this year, for both Infinity and Star Trek I have penned around 110,000 words, for about 9 different books/products. I say this with a pinch of salt, as much of what I have done is sitting in the approvals lines with either CBS or Corvus Belli, but in terms of what I have produced (not necessarily what will hit print) - those are the numbers.

Overall I am reasonably proud of this achievement. It has taught me a lot about getting words on the page, and the sum total of that experience has taught me one key lesson: sit down and write.

On the blog front I have managed (just, at times) to hit my goal of two blog posts per month. Though I really feel I need to up my game to blog at least once a week. Goal achieved, but room for thought on next year...

On the personal writing front things have been of mixed success. With my freelance work I have been kept busy enough to keep me away from other, more personal stuff. I have managed a few things though:

  • I have started the plans for several novel ideas.
  • I have been listening to range of podcasts on writing which has been an excellent source of inspiration and information (I will blog about these at a later date).
  • I have bought a few books that should help me moving forward (I will blog about these at a later date).
  • I have solidified a plan for how I should proceed with my personal writing projects.
  • And, I have a more clear idea for how to get there.

So while I haven't written as much as I would have liked, not all is lost!

That gives a rough summary of how I have fared against the goals I set at the start of the year. Overall I have to say I have learned a lot about myself as a writer, and this should provide me with a better structure come 2018. At a later date I'll go through and lay out some of my goals for the upcoming year, but suffice to say for now: I am very happy with my writing achievements for 2017. I am hoping 2018 is even more successful. We shall see!