A night at the theater

Caught the last week of Titus Andronicus at CalShakes today.  I picnicked on polenta (with red and yellow bell peppers) and roast chicken, a slice of potato casserole, a couple macaroons, and a banana, all homemade except the chicken and, of course, the banana.

CalShakes still has a keen sense of humor, even in a play as bloody as Titus.  During the final scene, Titus came out in apron and toque.  The lewd characters made relevant gestures during any innuendo.

It’s cold at night, on the other side of the hills, even in June, so I did Charlestons and Shirley Temples in the Bart station.  I wonder if it’s better to only ride the Bart one station to Rockville and bike home rather than four to Downtown Berkeley.

I got stopped by campus security for not having lights on; apparently there has been a spate of late night collisions.  Got home and melted chocolate to dip the macaroons in.

James’ games for 2011

No game really captured my attention last year.  Oh, 7 Wonders was on my wishlist (A civilization building game that can field up to 7 players and plays in 30 minutes?  Heck yes.) but I wasn’t that excited.  San Juan and Race of the Galaxy both check two of those boxes (build a civilization in under an hour), so nothing to get that excited about.  2011 has been a bit different.

First there was Yomi.  To be honest, at first I was a bit dubious about this game.  The designer is a bit pompous, which sometimes means the game is talked up more than it deserves.  But I decided to try it out through the cheaper print & play route (the full games would cost $100) and was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong.  Well, partly wrong.  My review can be read here.  The bottom line is that Danny and I played Yomi regularly, 1-3 nights a week, for a month and had a lot of fun doing so.

One tempting games is Ascending Empires.  I’ve wanted a dexterity game for a while: PitchCar is almost universally reviewed as one of the most accessible and fun games people own, where everyone from kids to grandparents are ask for another games.  Accessibility and fun factor are important considerations for me since most of the people I play games with are not hardcore gamers, so I tailor my collection to games I hope they find interesting.  Last year, Catacombs mated a dexterity flicking game with a dungeon hack & slash.  There seem to be some issues, but it’s a good game (as of writing, games with similar BGG ratings include Wyatt Earp, Junta, Mr. Jack Pocket, Elfenland, and Ca$h ‘n Gun$).  Now Ascending Empires has melded a flicking game with a space 4X game.  Main thing stopping me from getting it right now?  Playtime may be a bit long.  People do make a point of it having quick turns and low downtime, so it doesn’t feel long.

One upcoming release I’m excited about is The Ares Project, which is basically a boardgame version of an RTS.  Before I had heard about this game, I had posted my thoughts on boardgaming RTSs here; I was working up to restarting my Narbonic card game design.  I like how the designers captured (most of) the essential elements of RTS games, and after reading the faction descriptions, it sounds like each faction handles uniquely.  I’m looking forward to this hitting the shelves.

Finally, there’s a couple Discworld games coming out toward the end of the year: Ankh-Morpork and Guards! Guards!.  Ankh-Morpork is designed by the eminent Martin Wallace, though he hasn’t really made a game this simple or short before.  It seems to capture the chaos of Ankh-Morpork well, though whether you feel you’re actually playing the characters from the books we’ll have to see.  Between almost certainly being a decent to game good and the Discworld theme, I don’t think I can pass this up.  Actually, now I’m just debating between getting the deluxe or collector’s edition.  On the other hand, much of what I’ve heard about Guards! Guards! hasn’t resonated with me, as I mention here.

Addendum: Some part of me just wants to see spaceship wailing on each other, and guess what’s coming out this year.

Gaming bucket list

I’m not a big fan of bucket lists as I’d rather have a richer/more-fulfilling life than one-off experiences.  That extends to gaming, which is why I’ve sold off my monster games that take a whole weekend (or several) and instead have a variety of short, accessible games which I can play regularly with friends.

There is, however, one gaming experience I would like, well, to experience: a full pen-and-paper RPG campaign.  In particular, there’s one game I’ve wanted to play ever since I heard about it: Primetime Adventures, which isn’t what most people think about when they think of RPGs.  I’m just going to quote the book:

If you enjoy great television, then you’ll love Primetime Adventures, the game that lets you create and play the TV show you always wanted to see, complete with meaningful characters and gripping drama.

As a group, you and other players will create the show and its cast, then play out actual episodes of the series, exploring the personal struggles and cooperatively laying out fantastic stories that television executives can only dream off.

Basically, it’s not a game about hitting monsters with sticks, leveling up, and beating the big bad.  It’s a game where players create characters with their own issues, motivations, and story arc and weave them together to into stories, like Firefly or Glee or Doctor Who.  And I’m looking for 4+ other people who also want to create stories to play.

What can you do in this game?  Well, pretty much anything.  For example, the show can mix and match genres or draw upon your favorite shows.  Create characters you find compelling or want to see in action.

For example, the book gives an example of a show about family, except the family are prohibition-era bootleggers.  The older brother is a war hero trying to readjust to life before trenches.  The sister (Meredith) wants to be a socialite and tries to fast-talk her way into society, but her family’s condition keeps drawing her back.  The dad is trying to support his kids by fighting off a rival bootlegger while coming to terms with his dead wife; his best friend is a cop, which complicates business.  The younger son is trying to escape his brother’s shadow and has become a delinquent; he’s nemesis is the younger brother of a rich girl Meredith is trying to impress.

Here’s another example:

  • A dozen or so years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, another generation of students must deal with the realities of the wizarding world.  Students from all houses unite to form a quidditch team to heal the divides.  Various canon characters make cameo appearances.
  • Lucas (Gryffindor) grew up with a father seriously maimed in the last war.  He doesn’t like that Gryffindors are mostly known for their pranking and believes the decades-long systematic alienation of Slytherins is what drove a lot of them to follow Voldemort.  It’s his idea to start the quidditch team.  His nemesis is a Gryffindor prefect who abuses his position.
  • Finley (Slytherin) was formerly a lackey for Malacius (do I have to give a house name?), but was betrayed by them.  He has to deal with his desire for revenge.  He has the Slytherin knack for cunning and is very good at noticing (and exploiting) details, which helps as a seeker.
  • Ava (Ravenclaw) is a muggle-born computer geek and keeps trying to mate muggle technology with magic, but people in the house disapprove, so she is a social outcast even among Ravenclaws.  She tries to prove herself as keeper and team strategist.
  • Callum (Slytherin) was Malacius’ other minion but quit when Finley did.  This causes problems for inside Hogwarts, by antagonizing a powerful Slytherin faction, and for his family outside of Hogwarts for the same reason.  Or he can fix things by just giving up his principles.  Even big hulking beaters have personal problems.
  • Leah (Hufflepuff) is torn by different loyalties: she just made Hufflepuff chaser, and Hufflepuffs make a big deal out of loyalty and friendship (not much else going for them…), but Lucas is her childhood friend and budding romantic interest.
Right, if the above interests you, this is what I’m looking for: people who (even if they are like me don’t think of themselves as that creative) would like to give it a try, can meet for 1.5-3 hour sessions once every 2-4 weeks.  Ideally, a short season would be 6 sessions (one brainstorming/character creation, five episodes).  People who like improv theater, who like seeing what a group can come up with, will probably enjoy this.