Author Archives: toppcm

What Type of Gamer Am I? Results

The results of this quiz were not especially surprising to me. I generally know what kinds of games and mechanics I like, and the game essentially told me what I already knew. That does at least mean the quiz is accurate though, which is good. My profile was “Low Conflict and Gregarious”.

My highest scores were in the categories of Social Fun and Aesthetics, which scans perfectly for me. I love tabletop games even more than things like online video games because it’s so much easier to have a connection with the people you play in person with, and there’s really no experience quite like having a group you meet up with week after week to play with. Aesthetics I value for a different reason, mostly just because I’m a big graphic design nerd, and I love games that have really strong artwork and visual design. It’s one of the reasons I love card games like Magic and Flesh and Blood so much, they always go above and beyond with their artwork and graphics. Social Manipulation comes in third, which really is just a subsection of Social Fun for me. In my opinion, one of the best ways to create variance in a game is with people: A game where people can make a lot of different decisions makes a game much more fun and replayable, and will always lead to a lot of great stories. There’s a reason social deduction games are so popular, there’s tons of room for personal creativity and narrative equity.

My love of games as social experiences also shines through in other results not shown on the main graph, like the high values in Chance and Accessibility. Accessibility is an easy one: While I do like my games to have some depth, the less time we need to spend learning the rules and reading the rulebook, the better. Ideally we should be able to mostly just jump right in to the fun part with just a bit of explanation. Accessibility also extends to being able to invite in players of all backgrounds or skill levels, everyone should be able to feel welcome playing a game. Chance goes along with what I was mentioning earlier about narrative equity and creating stories: Not only do random elements stop a game from becoming “solved” and keep it replayable, super memorable random outcomes make for great stories. My low score in cooperation is mostly just a personal taste thing: I like plenty of co-op games, but I think they’ve become a bit overdone/overexposed recently. I like my games to have some amount of competition, generally.

Finally, the other big part of my profile was “low conflict.” This should be unsurprising if you’ve been reading my reasoning for my other results: I don’t dislike competition, but having fun with a group is first and foremost why I love tabletop games. Trying to win absolutely has its place, but some people really take it too far, and it can lead to the game not being fun for the rest of everyone else. I like to try and keep things light, still trying to win as much as I can but not letting that be my entire focus of playing, even when playing in tournaments I always like talking to my opponent after the game, because that community aspect is so important to me.

Fiasco Playset: Viridian’s Last Mission

In the World of Viridian’s Last Mission, high fantasy meets classic spy and heist movies. Megalomaniacal villains vie for world domination, while international intelligence agencies send in secret agents to thwart their plans, with no shortage of high-tech gadgets, death-defying stunts, and high-stakes games of baccarat. At the core of the world, however, is magic: Whether that be arcane-powered technology, minotaurs and goblins populating the cities, or a family of powerful elvish druids, secretly sealing away a nightmarish power that’s ripe for exploitation by an enterprising villain.

Your game may lean more into the supernatural and fantastical elements, or stay more grounded in classic super spy troupes. Whatever direction your Fiasco ends up spiraling, I hope this setting provides great inspiration for your games.

This document is based on a world I created for an old fan project. The specifics of that project aren’t super important, but if you’re wondering where the name came from, it’s there.

Dune: War for Arrakis Review

Dune: War for Arrakis is a 1-versus-1 asymmetrical tabletop war game that was successfully funded on Kickstarter last month, produced by CMON. While the physical version of the game isn’t out yet, the developers made the incredibly cool move to release the game for free on Tabletop Simulator to let everyone try it and see if they want to back the project. As such, I got to try out the game with my brother. While it might take you a couple plays to really wrap your head around, and can have some punishing RNG for first-time players, it’s got a lot of cool mechanics going on and is absolutely dripping with the flavor of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi universe.

    War for Arrakis is essentially a new spin on CMON’s previous asymmetrical 1-on-1 game, War of the Ring, which was similarly set in the Lord of the Rings universe. It shares a lot of its core mechanics with that game, such as combat, action economy, and some aspects of victory progression. Players play as one of two factions: the house Harkonen and house Atreides. The Atreides feature the protagonists of the first novel, fulfilling “prescience” cards to reenact scenes from the story and score points to win. They have control over Arrakis’ mighty Sandworms and have resilience to the harsh natural elements of the planet. The Harkonen are the villains, sending out vehicles into the desert to harvest Spice, and aiming to exterminate all of the Atreides’ bases. They get many more actions in a turn, and have much more raw military might.

    The key mechanic of the game is action dice. At the start of a turn, each player rolls their action dice (with the Harkonen potentially rolling less if their trade relationships are down). These dice tell you which actions you can take on your turn, from drawing useful cards to adding troops to the board to moving troops. The Atreides roll fewer dice than the Harkonen, but also have a free action they can take without a dice: Placing a “Wormsign” token on the board, which at the end of the turn may flip over to reveal a powerful Sandworm, as well as giving their troops free movement over spaces with a Wormsign token. Each player also has Leaders, which enhance certain die results’ effects. This mechanic gives an interesting limitation to your strategy, but can also be frustrating. For instance, in my first game playing as the Atreides, I never once rolled the option to place more troops on the board, which made it feel like I had little I could do about my loss once the Harkonen’s ball got rolling.

    Combat works slightly differently for both factions. While the Harkonen’s troops are face up at all times, the Atreides start with “reinforcement tokens” face down on the board. Each token has an amount of troops under it, which are revealed and placed on the board when attacked. This gives the Atreides a slight edge in combat, especially on defense. Once troops are revealed, a player may choose to discard an unwanted card for a boost in combat, then rolls one combat die for each troop and card. Shields block damage, swords deal damage, and special leader abilities can have different effects depending on the leader one has in combat (for instance, an unnamed leader turns these into swords, but Stilgar’s leader ability turns into two swords). Not having a leader makes these die results worthless, so whether to bring along a leader or not can be an interesting “push your luck” decision, especially since named leaders have other useful effects you might want to keep them alive for. I’m a big fan of the combat in this game: It’s got enough variance to stay interesting while being decision-rich enough to reward skilled players, especially when combined with the game’s movement mechanics.

    My biggest complaint with this game is that it can be very punishing for a player who doesn’t know the right strategy to use from the start or who ends up with bad luck, especially when playing as the Atreides. The Atreides as a faction rely a bit more on random chance than the Harkonen, their victory condition relies on randomly drawn Prescience cards, which they may or may not have the ability to fulfill at any given time. It’s important to fulfill these early too, since progressing on the prescience track also gives the Atreides more powerful leaders that are key to their victory. Their smaller dice pool also exacerbates the issue of random options. While the action dice certainly lead to interesting moments of limited options, when you don’t roll the option you need it can be frustrating. If the Atreides get off to a rough start, whether just through random chance or gunning for something that isn’t a winning strategy, it’s easy for the Harkonen to run over them. For instance, in my first game playing Atreides I thought prioritizing denying the Harkonen spice would be important in the early game, but this led me to lose a lot of troops and eventually be unable to stop the military power of the Harkonen, even with some lucky Sandworm placements. In my second game playing as the Harkonen though, the Atreides player played the correct strategy of waiting in the early game and not trying to be too aggressive, while I learned that Spice is really a relatively minor factor in the Harkonen’s game plan (only necessary for paying to keep trade partners happy and making sure you have enough action dice). Not knowing that was the correct strategy is what led to a very swift loss in my first game, which combined with poor RNG was a bit frustrating.

    Overall though, the more I played the game the more I liked it. It has a steep learning curve, but not in the way a lot of games do. Rather, you need to have some amount of trial and error with your strategies in order to figure out what you need to do in order to counter the other faction’s game plan. This is true of a lot of asymmetrical 1-versus-1 games, but the added RNG of action dice can make this issue a little bit more frustrating and leave you with even less room for error. A good player can play around any dice rolls, but it takes several playthroughs to learn how to, and it leads to the game not making a great first impression, seeming unbalanced or unwinnable for the losing player and not very fun for the winner either. These are problems War of the Ring had a bit as well, and if anything War for Arrakis makes them a little bit worse, with the randomly drawn Prescience cards being now the only route of victory for the Atreides.

    Still, in the grand scheme this is a complaint hardcore wargamers will not feel as much. Especially if you’ve played War of the Ring a lot, you’ll pick up on the correct strategy faster, and if you do know what to do there’s a really challenging and decision-rich wargame here with a lot of replayability. I think what this game absolutely nails is the flavor, though. The map is a recreation of Frank Herbert’s original drawings, with each faction playing not only with characters and events from the books, but also in a way that evokes their strengths and weaknesses from the story. If you’re a fan of the Dune universe and want a game that really evokes that original novel, I think this game (compared to the original Dune tabletop game and Dune: Imperium) does the best job at it.

Magic: the Gathering Colors Quiz

When asked to create a Buzzfeed-style quiz about leadership and games, I knew exactly what I’d want to choose: the colors of Magic: the Gathering. Magic’s colors are not only made for gameplay, they also each have a philosophy behind them. A white-aligned character values community and collaboration, a blue-aligned character values knowledge and the pursuit of perfection, a black-aligned character values personal motivation and ambition, a red-aligned character values creativity and impulsiveness, and a green-aligned character values tradition and discipline. These five colors can be mapped onto people and the way they think rather well, and it’s a common exercise among Magic players to think what colors they would be (as I can tell, since at least one other person had the same idea for this assignment.)

When it came to writing the questions, I specifically wrote them to be like questions you’d ask someone at a job interview for a leadership positions. Questions in that format, asking what they’d do in a given situation, I think can give great insight into how people think and solve problems. Every answer gives you points for one or more colors, and every question has an answer that will push you towards any given color. The answers generally wrote themselves, honestly. I thought of what the reasonable responses to that situation would be, and they generally all had obvious colors that mapped onto them. I think that really goes to show how well thought out the color system is. I also gave every question a Magic-themed splash image, just to add some extra fun and flavor to taking the quiz, and to show off more of the art of Magic, which is one of my favorite parts of the game.

My responses were interesting: Out of my sample size of 11, nobody had a result of Black or Red. I think in hindsight this was an error in the way I wrote the answers, Red is the color of creativity, and considering most of the people I interviewed were in the College of Creative Arts I think I must’ve made an error for none of them to have Red as their final result. In one of their words, “we’re creative but we don’t wanna get fired lol.” I think I may have made the “creative” responses seem to rebellious or unappealing from that perspective. The same goes for black, I think looking back that I might not have done a good job making black’s answers not feel selfish. I was specifically trying to avoid that, but it’s a difficult needle to thread just by the nature of the color’s philosophy and the fact that this is specifically a quiz about leadership.

Despite this, I’m still happy with the quiz. I think the questions all read well and other than the lack of Red in the results I think they generally map well onto the people who I know well and their personality/leadership styles. One last thing I’d like to comment on is the site I used for this, uQuiz. Compared to Buzzfeed, this site has a much more user-friendly UI both for creating and playing quizzes, and has a number of helpful features on the backend once your quiz is published. For instance, it lets you know the names and answers of everyone who takes the quiz, and gives you stats about the number of people who got each result. It was very helpful when creating this quiz and I highly recommend it to anyone else attempting this assignment.

Aaron: Blue
Josef: Blue
Mel: White
Micah: White
Elizabeth: White
Shea: Green
Ash: White
Chase: Blue
Sam: Green
Malakai: Blue

Geeks on Ice: Campus Gaming Event Reflection

Geeks on Ice, an annual event held by the League of Geeks, was held September 16th of this year. I’m an officer of Meeples, the tabletop club, and so I attended both as someone who helped organize and set up part of the event, as well as someone who just wanted to attend and see what all the other organizations had going on. My role in Meeples is the Trading Card Game Coordinator, so I was focused on running TCG events on the ground floor while I was there, but I spent time in many other clubs’ areas doing other things as well.

As far as turnout, it was great! From the very start of the event we had a constant stream of people coming in, and at the event’s peak almost every table we’d set up on the ground floor had a group playing a game at it. There was some concern that Art After Dark, another campus event being held at the same time, would step on the toes of Geeks on Ice and lead to both events having less attendance, but that didn’t seem to be the case: Many people it seems like went to both at different points in the night, and it was great to see such a strong turnout. While walking around and checking out all the different clubs, it seemed like all of them had several people in their dedicated area at most every point in the night, which was great to see. Plus, at least for Meeples, we had a lot of people come to the club for the first time in the couple of meetings immediately following the event, saying that they’re there because they played games at Geeks on Ice. If that’s not a mark of the event being a success, I don’t know what is!

Events like Geeks on Ice are super important for on-campus organizations, since it helps them get their name out there and attract people to their clubs who wouldn’t have otherwise known about them or been inclined to go to their meetings. For example, I didn’t even know we had a “medieval club” on campus, but seeing a bunch of people all dressed up in armor and period clothing with swords and shields made me very curious to learn more about their organization. Even if I knew about most of the other organizations, if the increased meeting turnout from Meeples is anything to go by, other groups likely also saw increased interest from people who weren’t aware of the clubs prior to this. Events like Recon and the Halloween Party are also good for this, but I think Geeks on Ice is especially effective because of its setup: With every group having a specific corner of the building or smaller room, you’re more incentivized to see what each club is individually all about, and that’s a great way to get new people interested, or at least involved at club activities at the event itself.

As for what I myself did during the event, I showed up early to help set up tables and chairs and things, as well as carry over games from Armstrong. We tried to pick as many games as possible that are generally popular and that we thought people casually walking by the table full of games would see and want to play. We actually sat some of these games out on empty tables specifically, which seemed to work well as I believe all the games we sat out like this got played at those tables. I spent a good chunk of my time facilitating or playing games in that area (since it was my job after all), and even in the dedicated TCG area we had a lot of people playing. Lots of Magic, including people playing the game-in-a-box we brought, and even some Yu-Gi-Oh players which was cool to see, especially since that game isn’t usually played at club meetings.

Otherwise though, I was able to check out other organizations as well. While I can’t really play VR due to my bad eye, I was able to watch other people playing it, which the club also broadcast onto the big screen of the ice rink. It’s always fun seeing how peoples’ movements mapped onto controllers look kind of silly in-game. I also watched some of the Fighters Guild just playing casual matches in a couple of different games. Fighting games are a genre I’ve wanted to get into for awhile now, and I’d actually forgotten that the Fighters Guild was actually a club, so I made a mental note to consider going to one of their meetings in the future. I also just met up with a group of friends of mine (who I didn’t even know would be there, actually) and hung out and ate pizza (the pizza was great, by the way, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen pizzas that big in my life.)

All in all I think this was a great event! I kinda came at it from two different perspectives, one as an officer for one of the clubs represented at the event and another as just someone who likes checking out all the clubs and seeing what they’re all about. On both axes I think Geeks on Ice was a great success and a very fun experience. We had a great turnout and it was just fun to see everyone having a good time and be around people interested in similar things. It’s funny, even if you never actually talk to or interact with most of the people at an event like this, just knowing you’re surrounded by a bunch of people with similar interests to you is a very cool feeling, and one I didn’t really get to experience much before I came to college, since I lived in a super small town with nothing to do.

(The photos are of the areas I helped set up for my TCG Coordinator Role)

Interview with Carter Blalack

I had the pleasure of interviewing Carter Blalack, a technical artist at High Moon Studios, who develop the yearly Call of Duty titles. We discussed his role as a technical artist, leadership, the importance of good communication, and advice for aspiring game dev students. He had a lot of interesting insights, especially if you’re looking to get into the industry, so I highly recommend giving the interview a listen!

You can listen to it here: