Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I'm pretty sure my actual exposure to zombie movies is limited to parodies and homages (i.e. Shaun of the Dead and Fido). But that's enough for me to enjoy Last Night on Earth, because that's what the game is.

Jeff Tidball turned me on to it with his comments on GamePlayWright, but it's been between print runs for a while. This weekend we were up in Monterey for a wedding, and I noticed the hotel we were staying it was right across the street from store called The Game Habitat. We arrived too early to check in, so when we decided to wander around downtown for a while, I suggested we check the store out. As luck would have it, they'd just gotten a copy in stock. I valiantly held off purchasing for several hours, but like any zombie movie protagonist, I eventually succumbed to the inevitable.

Since buying it on Saturday, I've gotten in two plays of it, and I'm quite pleased with my purchase. I'm going to talk more about it on the show, but thus far my opinion is that it fixes most of the problems I have with Arkham Horror and Betrayal at House on the Hill. It reminds me most, actually, of Habro's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love to an irrational extent. Expect to see more of this one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Games at Mark's, May Edition

My boardgaming life has been a bit spare recently, but one of Mark's regular events (which I've written about before) was last weekend. We showed up a little late, and our timing was just wrong enough that pretty much everyone there was in the middle of a game. Fortunately, someone (whose name I sadly missed) broke out a copy of Mr. Jack (with the expansion), which turned out to be just right given the time we had. We played a pair of games, and it cemented my conclusion that Mr. Jack, like Fury of Dracula, is clearly balanced for a different group of gamers than the ones I normally play with. Jack and Dracula just have too hard a time. Still, it's light and fairly quick, and the expansion does switch things up a bit.

As the other games broke up, I rounded up some players to try the copy of Age of Gods I'd cracked open. I'd only read the rules that morning, but what I'd seen had intrigued me. I'm going to talk about this one at more length on an upcoming episode of Have Games, Will Travel, but suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised and I would gladly play it again.

I skipped out on the next round of games to chat with folks, but before Gwen and I headed home we gave Roy's copy of Infernal Contraption a try. I'll admit, I wasn't particularly inclined to like it, and I didn't. I have the same feeling about it that I do about Fluxx: I appreciate the cleverness of the mechanisms and the interesting emergent behavior, but I get the same enjoyment out of watching it that I do out of playing it.

So not a huge number of games played, but two of them were new to me, and with PaulCon VI coming up next month, I'm sure I'll get more in soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In a Wicked Age, Session 2

13 May 2008

Oracle: God-kings of War
  • The very first time a certain young solider, impressed against his will and wanting nothing more than to return to his home, has killed.
  • The human servant of a mighty and unspeakable demiurge.
  • A demon of rage and avarice, secret power behing a great tyrant's rule.
  • The site of a pitched battle, ground churned and stinking, and the widows mourning there.


Ashur, the young solider, later to become Ashur Bey (played by Roy)
  • Best Interests: For me to win reknown by killing Hadir Eil; for me to win Leili's forgiveness
  • Particular Strength: A Father's Blessing (for Myself/Self-Protection, Potent)
Leili, the widow of the man killed by Ashur, a noblewoman in the retinue of the tyrant (played by Christina)
  • Best Interests: For my husband's death to be avenged; for Omar to guard over my husband forever
Omar, the immortal gravedigger, bound to this place of death for eternity (played by Ted)
  • Best Interests: For death in this place to end; for me to be consumed by the demiurge; for Leili to rule over the kingdom
  • Particular Strength: Family Locket (with Love/Action, Consequential (for Myself/Self-Preservation))

Other characters

Nur-Ayya, the great tyrant, whose life has been extended beyond mortal span by the demon
  • Best Interests: For me to marry Leili
Isar, a demon of rage and avarice
  • Best Interest: For Ashur to depose the tyrant
Hadir Eil, a fierce warrior and general, the servant of a mighty and unspeakable demiurge
  • Best Interest: For me to kill the gravedigger
  • Particular Strength: The sword Kismet (with Violence/Action, Consquential (for Myself/Self-Protection))

How it went down

At dawn on the first day of of a terrible battle, a frightened Ashur pulls his sword from the guts of the first man he has killed. Omar creeps him out, buries the body, and takes the head.

Meanwhile, Nur-Ayya and Leili (a noblewoman in his retinue) discuss the battle from the safety of the tents. Nur-Ayya is an ancient man, kept alive and moving only by Isar's dark magic. His desire for Leili is obvious.

That night, Omar takes the head to Leili, but she refuses to look at it or acknowledge her husband's death. She pleads that it was not his time.

Ashur is dragged before Isar, who tells him that Nur-Ayya can only be slain by a man who has been blessed by his father and killed his first man within the last three days. Isar promises him great wealth if he does it and great suffering on his family if he doesn't.

Omar encounters Hadir Eil on the battlefield. Hadir says that all this has happened before and will happen again, unless things are unmade by chaos. He wishes to kill Omar, but cannot unless Omar takes up a blade. Omar does not, and Hadir Eil rides away.

Leili summons a soldier to help find her husband's body. The solider happens to be Ashur, and he realizes who he has killed. As they seek out the grave site, they see Hadir Eil riding across the field, but they avoid him and find the grave site. As Ashur digs it up, the corpse sits upright and points accusingly at him. He confesses to Leili that he killed her husband but says that he turned traitor first. It was only after he stabbed one of Ashur's fellows that Ashur killed him. Ashur flees into the night.

Omar arrives and tries to keep Leili from unbraiding her hair for mourning. He reminds her that all of her husbands have died here.

Ashur tries to poison Nur-Ayya. He is caught and dragged before the tyrant, where he begs for his life. Nur-Ayya is not surprised, as he killed the previous tyrant at Isar's request. He spares Ashur but banishes him from his presence until the three days have passed.

Intrigued by Hadir Eil's words, Omar seeks out Isar. The demon draws back in fear at both Omar's presence and the mention of Hadir Eil's god. He tries to cast Omar from the tent, but he fails, and Omar forces him to reveal how to contact the demiurge.

The next day, having learned of Leili's husband's death, Nur-Ayya comes to her tent to press his suit. He reveals Isar's hand in the death, thus alleviating some of Leili's fears. She agreed to marry him after her day of mourning is over.

Omar is visited a second time by Hadir Eil, who offers him the sword Kismet with which to fight. Omar again refuses.

During the battle, Ashur finds himself fighting against Hadir Eil. He is struck full in the chest with a blow that gashes his armor and leaves a severe welt but nothing more.

Leili sends a servant to offer Ashur a great ruby ring if he will do a favor for her, to test if Ashur is possessed by the avaricious spirit of Isar. Ashur refuses the ring, telling the messenger that he already owes Leili a blood debt.

Omar uses his sorcery to subtly turn the tide against Nur-Ayya's forces, but Isar's magic and the thought of contacting the demiurge are too much for him, and he withdraws to make preparations.

That night, Hadir Eil and Nur-Ayya parley, as is required by custom. They do not come to terms, but during the truce, Nur-Ayya and Leili are married, much to Isar's surprise and displeasure.

As Hadir Eil returns to his camp, a shirtless Ashur stops his retinue and begs a boon. He asks to borrow Kismet to slay Isar. Hadir Eil agrees, on the condition that after it is done, Ashur slay anyone he sees that day. Ashur consents and takes the sword.

Ashur finds Omar digging a huge grave asks Omar to guide him, blindfolded, back to Hadir Eil after he has killed Isar. Omar agrees. Ashur then sends word to Leili to tell the demon that he can be found at the foot of the great wizened tree on the edge of the battlefield, thus discharging his blood debt to her. When the messenger finds her, she is in the demon's tent.

On the last day, the armies clash for a final time. A furious Isar finds Ashur at the tree, where Ashur cleaves him in twain with the rune-covered sword. Omar appears from nowhere and pushes Ashur into an open grave, commanding him to "be as one dead." Omar then harness the dying demon's power to fuel his ritual to summon the demiurge. While he does this, Leili arrives and starts to dig up Ashur to make sure his head is still attached. Omar stops him from seeing her, gives her the sword, and asks her to help kill Hadir Eil as part of the ritual. She assents. Near the end of the battle, Hadir Eil rides up and finds Omar holding his sword. He embraces Omar as his brother; Omar takes advantage of this to bind them magically together. As they move to fight, Omar tosses the sword to Leili; Hadir Eil tries to call it to him, but he fails and Leili strikes down him down. As he lies in the dirt, she stabs him and Omar rips out his heart. The ritual complete, the battlefield is flooded with the presence of the demiurge. Omar is consumed by it, each of the millions of buried bodies springs up into a dark twisted tree, and the very name of the place is erased from the mind of humanity. Never again will a battle be fought here.

In the aftermath, Ashur finds the sword Kismet and is hailed as a conquering hero. Hadir Eil's forces are dispersed. Nur-Ayya, without the power of the demon to sustain him, dies, and Leili becomes ruler of his kingdom.

We Owe
  • Jila
  • Ashur
  • Leili

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In a Wicked Age, Session 1

6 May 2006

Oracle: Blood & Sex
  • A siren-ghoul, who entices the amorous into deadly peril.
  • An oasis of sweet water in a barren wilderness, haunted by the shadows of some vast atrocity committed centuries ago.
  • A slayer of monsters, heralded and lauded.
  • The death of the primary heir of a local noblewoman.
  • Jila, the siren-ghoul (played by Ted)
    • Best Interests: For the slayer to fall in love with the mother; for the lover to join me in undeath.
    • Particular Strength: Unearthly Beauty (with Love/Maneuvering, Far-Reaching)
  • Asanu, the dead heir (played by Christina)
    • Best Interests: For my lover to join me in death; for my mother not to name a new heir.
    • Particular Strength: Touch of Time (with Love/Maneuvering, Consequential (with Love/Action))
  • Ashur Bey, the slayer of monsters (played by Roy)
    • Best Interests: For the lover to fall in love with me; for the head of the siren-ghoul to hang from my belt.
    • Particular Strength: The sword Kismet (with Violence/Action, Consequential (for Myself/Self-Protection))
Other characters
  • Soraya, the noblewoman
    • Best Interests: For the slayer to destroy the shadows; for the ghoul to face justice for the death of my son.
  • Merzhad, the lover of the dead heir
    • Best Interest: For me to be named heir
  • The shadows
    • Best Interest: To absorb the dead heir
    • Particular Strength: Bloodlust (with Violence/Action, Consequential (Directly/Action))
How it went down

Ashur Bey arrives at Soraya's palace in the barren wilderness. She instructs him to destroy the shadows that plague the oasis and that caused the death of her son, Asanu. Ashur Bey seeks out his fiancee Merzhad to learn the details of Asanu's death.

Merzhad, meanwhile, is visited by the ghost of Asanu, who professes his undying love for her. Ashur Bey arrives, and Merzhad is torn between her dead lover and the very much alive Ashur Bey. Asanu succeeds in making Ashur Bey look foolish, and he leaves to investigate the oasis.

Later, Merzhad discusses Asanu's reappearance while bathing with her best friend, Jila, who is disguised in human form. Jila suggests that if Merzhad can recover Asanu's signet ring, Soraya will be forced to acknowledge Merzhad's claim as heir to the kingdom. The two of them sneak out of the palace and head for the oasis. Asanu disguises himself as a feather on Merzhad's breast and comes along.

Ashur Bey has already arrived at the oasis and given the shadows a whipping. This doesn't stop them from whipping up a sandstorm to separate Asanu (in feather form) from Merzhad. The feather catches on a reed near the edge of the oasis, and when Jila and Merzhad arrives, Ashur Bey helps them locate Asanu's body. A struggle ensues, as the shadows attempt to animate the corpse to choke Ashur Bey. In the confusion, Jila reveals her true form, Merzhad stabs her with Ashur Bey's sword, and Jila kisses Merzhad. The shadows are defeated, and Asanu's spirit reinhabits his decaying body. Merzhad rejects both Jila and Asanu.

Soraya arrives with a small force of men. Asanu convinces her not to name an heir, and Jila makes her fall in love with Ashur Bey, who becomes prince consort.

Some months later, after a failed revolt, Merzhad lies dying in her prison cell. Jila and Asanu come to her, and she accepts their offer to join them in undeath.

After Soraya's death, no heir is named, and the kingdom is reclaimed by the harsh desert sands...

We Owe
  • Ashur Bey
  • Jila
  • Asanu

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Weekend In Sacramento

I drove up to Sacramento last weekend to do the photo shoot for A Penny For My Thoughts, and while I was there, I managed get in a little bit of gaming. Ryan and I broke out BattleLore and managed to get in two Lore adventures, Crisis in Avignon and Assaulting the Tourelles. These were my first games with a full War Council and with a customizable one, and I really like the flavor that the latter option adds to the game. I also realized that I'm willing to deal with BattleLore's setup time for a six or more banner game. Otherwise, I'd rather play Memoir '44. Still, my love for the Commands and Colors system goes deep.

On the roleplaying side, I got roped into producing a pilot episode of Primetime Adventures for Ryan, Jerry, and James. The idea of cop show in the vein of The Shield or The Wire was floated, but we settled instead on Air Crew, which was a cross between Airplane! and The Love Boat (with a good helping of the Airport movies as well). I was the only one at the table with prior PTA experience, but that didn't matter much. We had a few problems with disagreements about how long the episode should be and what the tone of the game was, but everyone picked up the Fan Mail mechanic pretty quickly, and it ended up being a lot of fun. And as Ryan said, "That was the sort of game we wouldn't have considered if we hadn't been playing PTA."