Repetition and Gaming

This is the three R’s
The three R’s:
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

The Fall, “Repetition”

Sunday Ray and I played Advanced Squad Leader. We manage to squeeze in a game every 3-4 months. Predictably, I got hammered, due only in part to my usual pathetic dice rolling. The larger problem is that I don’t play ASL often enough to gain any mastery of the rules. Each time I find myself doing stupid things because in the intervening months I’ve forgotten the rhythm of the game and how key rules interact. To really know a game, you need to spend time with it, to play it over and over, and to try out different strategies. If the game has depth, that is. Once you figure out that you should always take the center square in tic tac toe, for example, there’s not much more to master. You can play Diplomacy fifty times though and still not know all the angles though.

Some games stand up to repeat play and some don’t. Some have long term issues that are not apparent at first. And sometimes these things matter and sometimes they don’t! I have a copy of Settlers of Canaan, for example, which is a Biblical variant of Settlers of Cataan. Cataan-heads don’t care for it much because the board is fixed, whereas the original has tiles so the board is created anew each time you play. I can see the issue but it doesn’t bother me because I don’t play the game enough for it to matter. Similarly, I’ve heard fans complain the West End Star Wars RPG breaks down with very experienced characters, Jedi in particular. I never played in a game that lasted longer than a few months, so it was never an issue to me.

Still though, I like to understand games in depth and that requires replay and analysis. This is one of the reasons I wish I had more time to game, even though I usually play at least once a week. When I was in college, I didn’t own too many games, but I knew most of them very well because they were played and replayed. I was quite comfortable redesigning Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, for example, because I played the hell out of that game for years and years. Now the number of games I own has grown exponentially, but my experience with each one tends to be shallower. I’ve played things like Fantasy Flight’s War of the Ring boardgame and White Wolf’s World of Warcraft RPG once each, for example, and chances are I won’t play them again anytime soon.

One thing I do miss about working at WotC is lunchtime gaming. It was nice to be able to play a quick game of Mordheim, for example, and easy to find other players at a company WotC’s size. I was able to enjoy weekly games of Mythos, Formula De, and other games that I wouldn’t have gotten to know well if I didn’t have that opportunity. Since most of Green Ronin’s employees work remotely, that really only leaves me and Nik and I’m pretty sure she’d laugh at me if I suggested playing Legends of the Old West at lunch.

I have toyed with the idea of going to a convention or two just to play games, which may seem ridiculous on its face. Leaving aside all the industry bs for a few days to just go play some old favorites and hopefully find some new ones sounds pretty attractive though. I’d be particularly interested in attending one of the historical minis shows, like Fall In or Salute. Maybe next year.

Callie and Court

I am back at last from GenCon SoCal in Anaheim, so those of you waiting for e-mails back from me should be seeing them soon. The show went pretty well, thought it would have gone better if we had a new product there. Still, it was good to get out and spread the GR love. Also nice to catch up with folks like Bruce Harlick, Christian Gossett, Jeff Tidball, Ken Hite, Keith Baker, Stan!, JD Wiker, Jim Pinto, and Paul Tevis.

This year the dealer’s hall was only open three days. To make that up to us, someone decided to extend the hours of each day, which meant 10-7 Friday and Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday. With only Nik and I there and her out of the booth doing Blue Rose demos Friday and Saturday that meant I did a lot of booth duty. Saturday I was at the booth from 9:30 am until 7:15 pm. I don’t know how it was with other vendors, but I didn’t find the extra hour a day too helpful. I don’t think we got extra sales and I’d have rather have knocked off at 6 pm and gone to dinner earlier.

Due to my booth duties, I did not get a chance to do much else but eat and do some hanging out. I made one tour through the dealer’s hall and didn’t see anything that I just had to have. I was hoping to see more historical miniatures on hand, but it seems like those folks didn’t support the show this year. Did the usual trading at show’s end and brought home Spycraft 2.0, Iron Kingdoms World Guide, and A Game of Thrones Deluxe, all of which look quite nice. I also traded with a vendor who was selling foam swords. Not usually my kind of thing, but I thought Kate would enjoy them. I traded for two and will give one to her for Xmas and keep one to defend myself. Hope I don’t regret that!

Sunday Paul interviewed me for his Podcast, Have Games, Will Travel, and that was good fun. We finished the interview and then kept talking. Ten minutes later we realized we should have talked about that stuff during the interview, so he turned on the equipment and we got back into it. Not sure when it’ll be available, but I look forward to hearing the final result.

On my return I got right into the holiday spirit by going to court. Yeah, baby. As you may or may not recall, I got a ticket for opening the rear driver side door of a cab into a minivan that simply couldn’t wait for the cab to let us out. I argued my case in front of a judge yesterday, pointing out that if the cab had pulled all the way in or the minivan had been even a little patient, this accident would not have happened. He was sympathetic and reduced the ticket from $110 to $50. I was hoping he’d just throw the thing out, but the reduction was better than nothing. And here I never though opening a door could be a crime.

Punk Rock Surprise

I went to a punk show at El Corazon with Rick and Jimmer tonight. I only knew the headline band, the show was on an off night, and the crowd was pretty thin, so I wasn’t expecting much. I’m totally glad I went though, because it turned out to be a great show from start to finish.

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I saw a punk band from China tonight. Beijing to be precise. They were called Brain Failure and they smoked. Sharp musicianship, enormous energy, and a fierce desire to kick ass and take names on their first American tour won me over by the end of their first song. They mixed up punk, hardcore, and even a bit of ska. I guess you might call them China’s answer to Rancid. Good stuff.

The River City Rebels were up next. Originally from New England, they relocated to Tacoma six months ago so it seems like I’ll have more chances to see them. They were a total glam punk outfit, a modern distillation of New York City, circa 1974. Think New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. Hell, you could practically see the ghosts of Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan floating above the stage. There was also some glam hair in effect and hints of cross-dressing. They hit all the right notes stylistically. More importantly, they also rocked. Good trashy songs delivered with lots of attitude. They dragged out their last song a little too long, but otherwise it was a fun set.

The Street Dogs headlined. They are a fairly new band featuring Mike McColgan, the original singer of the Dropkick Murphys, and a couple of guys from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. As their name indicates, they do straight up Clash-influenced street punk. No surprise then that they covered “Career Opportunities” in the middle of their set. I’ve heard both Street Dogs records and they are pretty decent, but the band is better live than in the studio. I haven’t seen McColgan perform since 1996 or so and he’s developed a commanding presence. Great voice too, with a lot more range than the Murphys’ current singer. The band was tight, the songs were catchy, and the crowd was into it. I would definitely go see them again.

Now I’m back home and I’m packing for GenCon SoCal. Nicole and I have to leave at 4 frickin’ am. Another grand adventure in air travel I’m sure. I counted up tonight and realized this is my 11th trip this year. Jesus H.

Before I go, I must share a few choice quotes from an article in the Stranger, one of Seattle’s free newspapers. The new issue came out today and it has a one-page story on Worldwide D&D; Game Day. It’s pretty funny, though I doubt this is the sort of PR WotC hoped would come out of the event.

Every once in awhile comes a rare press release hyping an event to which we wouldn’t send our worst enemy. Until now.

“This translates into vaginas healed over from disuse, penises ignored in favor of 20-sided dice, and just one…more…magic…missile!

“Can I crush my enemies and drink deep of their life force while laughing and toasting my allies?” I asked her.
“Sure!” she replied
“Can I live forever?”
“Of course! If you die, you can be resurrected!”
“Can I have sex?”
“Um…sure,” she said. “If it’s intrinsic to your character, or if you need to, I guess.”

As we left the Science Fiction Museum, Craig beautifully summed up our experience with the highest praise possibly paid to D&D;: “Had I discovered this game in adolescence,” he said, “it probably would have spared me from many a Saturday night spent masturbating alone in my parent’s basement.”

At Least They Were Free

One thing traveling is good for is catching up on all the bad nerd movies I skipped in the theaters. On recent trips I saw on planes or in hotel rooms:

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Some nice production design (the Nautilus is cool, for example) but that’s about all that’s good. It’s amazing that people will pay money to license a good story, then throw it out and write another one. And Tom Sawyer as a pistol-packing Secret Service agent? Please.

Star Wars, Episode III: Yes, I finally took the plunge. It was certainly the better than the first two, but in the way that a headshot is better than being strangled. Again, some very nice production design, but attached to a movie with a narrative that simply fails. I was halfway with it until the scene when Anakin falls to the dark side. He’s trying to save the Republic and is fooled into helping to kill Mace. Then, literally an hour later, he is slaughtering Jedi children with a light saber. Did not buy that at all. Then the entire Jedi order is wiped out in about 10 minutes, shot down like chumps by a bunch of mooks. Bah.

Fantastic Four: This was the worst of the bunch. Oh god, what a piece of crap. I think it’s even worse than the Daredevil movie and that’s saying something.

Little did I realize that an even worse fate awaited me at home. Last night Kate suckered me into watching the Country Bears movie on the Disney Channel. Yes, the one based on the theme park ride that features singing anthropomorphic bears. It’s fine as a kids movie and I guess it could have been worse. I mean, I didn’t want to stab myself in the brain for every second of it. I will have to agree with Stephen Colbert on the bear issue though. Bears, you are on notice!

A Recipe for Hyperbole

The oldest known printed recipe for chowder appeared in the Boston Evening Post on September 23, 1751. Here it is, in its entirety:

First lay some Onions to keep the Pork from burning,
Because in Chouder there can be no turning:
Then lay some Pork in Slices very thin,
Thus you in Chouder must always begin.
Next lay some Fish cut crossways very nice,
Then season well with Pepper, Salt, and Spice;
Parsley, Sweet-Majoram, Savory, and Thyme,
Then Biscuit next which must be soak’d some Time.
Thus your Foundation laid, you will be able
To raise a Chouder, high as Tower of Babel:
For by repeating o’re the Same again,
You may make Chouder for a thousand Men,
Last Bottle of Claret, with Water eno’ to smother ’em
You’l have a Mess which some call Omnium gather ’em.

That’s what I call style. It’s one part recipe, one part poetry, and a heaping scoop of hyperbole. I demand my Tower of Babel Chowder now!

Slight Breather

I got back from our trip to Nottingham a few days ago and have been trying to catch up with things and get over my jet lag. Time spent at Games Workshop HQ is never wasted and we had a very productive week of discussions and meetings. Can’t say anything about our topics, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Suffice to say there’s plenty of coolness to come.

The trip’s timing was impeccable. The Subhumans (UK), one of my favorite punk bands of all time, happened to be playing in Nottingham last Tuesday night. The venue, Junction 7, was literally five blocks from my hotel. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that! Rob and Nicole bagged out due to jet lag, so I went off myself and had a grand time. Nik and I had seen the Subhumans in Seattle a couple of years back, but Junction 7 was maybe a quarter the size of that club. Seeing a band is a dark and dingy club with 100 other punks is really the way to do it. They played a nice selection of stuff, from the earliest EPs to the latest CDs. The new songs were topical and catchy and you just can’t argue with classics like Subvert City, Rats, Apathy, and Religious Wars. GW flying me to England to see the Subhumans trumps WotC sending me to Atlanta to see the Misfits (who were playing at DragonCon years ago). Big ups to toy soldiers!

I now have a slight breather until next week, when we leave for GenCon SoCal in lovely Anaheim. Can’t be too sedate, you see. Wouldn’t be seemly.