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Top 10 Favorite Table Games

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I love RPGs, gathering around a table and getting lost in fantasy with my friends. Sometimes though I just want a beer and pretzels type of game. Deal out the cards, lay out the tiles, and have fun. In no particular order (because I’m lazy) here are my favorite tabletop games:

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Munchkin – This card game is a simplified dungeon crawl with a stack of doors, and a stack of loot. Each person starts out as a 1st level human with no class, and that’s just the first joke of the game. The weapons are all tongue in cheek, the artwork comical, and the gameplay is fast and funny. The basic game is fantasy based, but there are any number of official sets for whatever your fandom might be. The best news is they can all work together making for some strange combinations.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill – Betrayal was the first random map game I ever really got into. You and your friends play a group of (fools) entering a haunted house. The map is laid out randomly from the foyer as you explore and find omens that will eventually reveal that one of you is a traitor. Or not. The main game has 50 possible reveals, and they’ve recently released an expansion for it, Widow’s Walk.

Abduction – Now this random map game is a simple deck of cards with cardboard cutout minis. You have been abducted by aliens and have to be the first one to escape. The layout of the ship can be chaotic, and with certain cards played, it can actually change at the last second snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. I call dibs on the cow mini.

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Zombies!!! – I thought zombies were cool before they were cool, so when I saw this board game where you and your friends all played survivors trying to escape a town overrun with zombies. I was in. Starting with the center of town you deal out random tiles trying to find the helicopter pad and escape, or be the first to rack up a zombie kill count of 25. The game comes with 100 rubber zombies, so I also found it useful for the survival horror RPG I was running. There are several add-ons to date (8 I think) that make the map more complex adding a shopping mall, a military base, a college campus, a prison etc.

Zombies!!! 4 – The 3rd expansion for this game can really be called a stand-alone. Whereas the first game takes place in a city , this setting is a haunted forest accessible by a bridge out of the main city. The point here is to collect the pages of the Necronomicon and perform the ritual. This version also comes with 100 rubber zombie dogs to “hound” you throughout the forest.

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Red Dragon Inn – Dungeon crawls are fun, but what happens after the quest when the party is loaded down with gold? They drink and gamble it away. This game, with its four stand-alones and several individual add-ons has you choosing a character and using their personal deck to out drink their fellows, or win all their gold. If you pass out or go broke, you’re out of the game. Each character has their own strength and weaknesses. If you choose to imbibe some adult beverages of your own, drink responsibly.

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Epic PvP: Fantasy – This is a one on one deck battling game. Your race is chosen at random, as is your class making for some interesting combos. They’ve also come out with a companion game Epic PVP: Magic that can be combined with the original or played separately. My only wish is that it was designed for more than 2 players.

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Cards Against Humanity – How bad are your friends? How badly do you want to know? Play this game once and you’ll find out. The only drawback I found was after multiple games you start to get shocked less by the combos. Buying more cards, or finding new players is a must to extend the replay ability of this one.

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Chrononauts – Time travel is cool. A series or cards are laid out depicting the timeline of our natural history with alternate versions of key events on the reverse of the cards. Each player is given a secret goal that must achieve in order to win the game. By traveling up and down the timeline and playing cards to switch events they can create the future they know in order to win the game.

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Flux – You win by playing cards to empty your hand, but every card you play changes the rules. I’ve seen versions for just about every fandom (Chtulu, Monty Python, Batman as examples). It’s a funny game that’s easy to pick up and play.

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry Satine Phoenix

satine Satine Phoenix is a true force in the gaming industry. She has been using her fame to promote gaming. Satine has also helped force people to rethink stereotypes about the gamers who play Dungeons and Dragons and how.  

Satine is not what the media portrays a gamer to be and that is important. Too many times we have seen the same depiction of Dungeons and Dragons players. A group of mostly white boys in their mom’s basement. However that isn’t even what most of us gamers in the community are anymore. We are of many races, genders and playing styles. We livestream; play in gaming stores, play on our computers, we gather wherever we can and yes sometimes that is in our parents basements. Satine knows that the perception of gaming needs to change with us.

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Satine has worked in both the porn and fetish industries. There she gained confidence in herself. She also met many different people and found that many of them are huge nerds. Together they would read the same books and game together. Satine decided to use her fame to broaden the spectrum of what a gamer is.

Satine and her friends have made calendars featuring different geeky women. She has used her gifts to draw female monsters. She animates videos. She plays Dungeons and Dragons with all kinds of gamers. In 2010 she started a web series called I Hit It With My Axe.  There she gathered women of all different backgrounds; many some of whom were porn stars, strippers models and a hairdresser, to play Dungeons and Dragons.

satine dance Satine has been also become a big part of Geek and Sundry There she has been spreading the good news about Dungeons and Dragons. She has gamed for charity. Satine has also has an awesome series where she gives Game Masters different tips. She has gotten the opportunity to play games with Wil Wheaton on Tabletop.  

In short Satine Phoenix is a talented, hardworking and giving member of the gaming community. She seeks out nerds and gives them a spotlight. Satine reminds us that it is cool to be different. We should seek out what makes us happy and then share that with the world. She is helping us break Dungeons and Dragons out of the basement and into the mainstream where is belongs.

Always keep sparkling! 

Review: Never Alone

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In 2014, Upper One Games and E-Line Media released Never Alone, a platformer based on the Iñupiat tale, “Kunuuksaayuka.” It is now playable on the PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC, as well as iOS and Android devices. I downloaded the game on the PlayStation 4, so that is the version that I will review.

In Never Alone, an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna leaves her village to find out why her people have been suffering from terrible blizzards every day. An arctic fox comes to her aid, giving players the option to either switch between the two characters in Single Play or work together with a friend in Co-Op.

During their journey, they face a hungry polar bear, gusts of freezing wind, spirits from the Northern Lights that try to capture them, and a terrible man who’s been destroying villages to find a bola…the same weapon that Nuna’s been using to clear obstacles. Uh-oh.

Never Alone is an important game because it was made in tandem with the Iñupiat people. As you progress through each level, you unlock short videos called “Cultural Insights,” and you can pause the game at any time to view them. They were made to teach players about the Iñupiat people’s culture and way of life. These mini-documentaries allow one to gain a better understanding of the characters and themes found in the game. It’s a fun way to learn more about an underrepresented group of people through their own voices. I hope they have the opportunity to make more games like Never Alone.

In the game itself, Nuna and Fox each have unique skills that make them essential to the adventure. You can’t simply use one and ignore the other. Fox can climb walls and call spirits to help Nuna. She uses her bola to break apart icicles and burning sticks that block their path. I did not try out the multiplayer mode with a friend, but I imagine this allows for fun cooperative play.

As it is, I found single player mode manageable, though it could become frustrating at times. When using friendly spirit helpers to bring Nuna safely from one point to the other, Fox needs to stay close or the spirit will fade away. This wasn’t a reoccurring issue throughout the game, yet there were a few instances where Fox drifted too far away and Nuna fell. If I’d had a friend controlling Fox, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

With that said, the game can get aggravating at times. Initially, I shrugged it off because I didn’t grow up playing the side-scrolling platformers on the NES, SNES, or Sega Genesis. I’m only just getting interested in those types of games now.  However, there were moments during my playthrough of Never Alone when I could’ve sworn I’d timed it right, and Nuna seemed to land a jump on to the back of a Spirit, only to hang in midair without catching hold and then falling to her death. I couldn’t tell you how I eventually succeeded and got her to stick the landing. I think it had to do with where Fox moved the Spirit, but there was so much delicate back-and-forth involved that I don’t know exactly.

You will always feel bad when either Nuna or Fox dies, because every time it happens, the camera focuses on the other one crying and falling to the ground in grief. But this also allows you to feel the strong bond between the two of them, given that neither character talks. Instead, narrator James Mumiġan Nageak tells the story in the Iñupiaq language as you play, with English subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

Never Alone looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. Those are easily the best aspects of the game. I enjoyed the quiet, haunting main theme. With Nuna and Fox often exploring the harsh environment with no one else around to help them, a big, dramatic arrangement with a full orchestra would have felt out of place in this story. The music’s there just enough to enhance the experience without feeling intrusive.

And there’s such a beautiful world to explore, from floating ice on the ocean to the ruins of a village with the eerie spirits from the Northern Lights trying to catch Nuna. I would love it if Upper One Games could make something in the style of Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a wide-open, exploration adventure based on other legends from First Nation cultures, with more characters, side-quests, etc. Based on what I’ve seen in Never Alone, that would be amazing.

Never Alone is currently available to purchase on the PlayStation Network at a discounted price for $4.99 until January 16th.  Although it is a short game, it’s worth checking out to support the work of the Iñupiat people.

Games to Get Excited About: February 2018

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2018 promises to be a good year for geeks with a lot of exciting movies coming our way.  Gaming is no exception and February is packed with some interesting titles.  We Were Here Too looks cool; a sort of adventure exploration game where two players communicate over walkie-talkie in order to find their way out of a medieval castle.  Shadow of the Colossus has been remade and is being released for PS4.  Also with the release of Bayonetta 2, the original game will also be releasing on the Nintendo Switch.

There’s one release this month that I am excited about, and hoping I can pick it up for streams in the next month or so.  The history nerd, and gaming geek in me is excited for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.  This game had a rocky start with lack of interest and funding for a game from the newly formed Warhorse Studios.  It looked, for a time, like this game would be just another game that seemed like a great idea but never saw the light of day.

In 2014 a Kickstarter was launched to earn enough money to prove there would be interested enough to justify funding.  They secured the needed funds, and have since pulled in over $2 million.  It will finally come to us in a full release on the 13th of the month after being in beta since March of 2015.

Why am I excited?

Unlike a lot of RPGs, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is going to strive to be historically accurate rather than set in a fantasy world.  The game promises period appropriate architecture, clothing, armor and weapons from early 1400’s Bohemia (modern day  Czech Republic).  In the story the old king has died and the new king’s brother kidnaps him in a plot to seize the crown.  The player takes on the role of the son of a blacksmith, whose parents were killed in the war.  You will seek revenge for the killing of your parents, and attempt to restore the rightful king to his throne.  I love the idea of a historical fiction RPG, which isn’t a very common concept in gaming.  We get a ton of fantasy, science fiction, or variations of those but not many that try to replicate a time in Earth’s history.  I love RPGs, video games, and I’m a huge history nerd so this game appeals to so much of what I enjoy.

The game seems to put a lot of consideration into the details as well.  Your armor and gear will wear down and need repairs.  You’ll need to eat, sleep, and otherwise maintain your character’s health.  Even the horses have their own AI, can fight along with you, and have their own set of skills and equipment slots.  Every NPC has tasks that they perform in their daily lives, and the player’s actions have an affect on them.  From the description it looks like this will be a truly immersive RPG where player actions and conversations will have an impact on the world of the game.

They’ve even gone as far as layered armors and having their damage and wear show on the character’s appearance.  Skills will change when they are used.  Combat will include a variety of moves, defenses, and tactics all modified by a kinetic system where blows can affect what you can do and how fast you can do it.  You can commit crimes, but they can change the game’s economics and how NPCs react to your character.  The level of detail is impressive and it sounds like this will be a fantastic game if they pull it off as promised.

Notable Releases for February

Shadow of the Colossus – A remake of the original is coming to the PS4 early in the month.  This is a complete rebuild from the frame up but it will retain its original game play.

Civilization VI: Rise and Fall – The first expansion for Civilization VI adding several new features, including the ability for your society to rise and fall due to several factors.

Dragon Quest Builders – This game will see players take the role of a hero setting out to rebuild the world after its destruction.  Game play will be along similar lines of other block building games like Minecraft or Terraria.

Dynasty Warriors 9 – This next release of the popular hack and slash action game releases on the 13th of the month.  It will include stealth elements and introduce an open world format.

Secret of Mana – This is a full 3D remake of the 1993 Super Nintendo release of the same name.  It will release in the middle of the month.

Bayonetta 2 – The sequel to the popular action game Bayonetta will release in the middle of the month as well.  It comes to us on the Nintendo Switch along with a re-release of the original on the same system.

PAX Unplugged and The Roll Initiative

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses – I have recently returned from attending my first convention as an exhibitor. Thia the Bard was gracious enough to provide me some questions to answer about my experience.

How did you find out about The Roll Initiative?

I saw an ad posted by The Roll Initiative on a Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League facebook page looking for volunteer Dungeon Masters for PAX Unplugged. I’ve had experience playing in the AL and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to step up and DM, delving deeper into the league.

What is your favorite thing about TRI?

I like that it’s just starting out and this was the first event they were orchestrating. The entire lead team are also gamers and fans of D&D. I was able to be myself and ended meeting a lot of fun people. I hope I made a few friends along the way.

What are you most excited about for PAX Unplugged this year? 

Since this was an official D&D event, TRI was able to get Fai Chen to attend our RPG slots. (Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire is the D&D Adventures League trading post.) Players in the league can use Fai Chen at conventions to trade magical items they don’t have a use for. I’ve collected a few myself, and honestly that was my biggest goal in attending the convention. 

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That’s our logo!

Did you get to attend any panels?

I was so busy running modules over the weekend I was unable to attend any of the panels. I would have liked to have seen the Critical Role gang.

What advice do you have for newbies headed to events like PAX Unplugged?

Be patient. The role playing game fandom is HUGE and sometimes the organizers underestimate how many wonderful people they’ll need to accommodate. The lines this year were incredible and this was the first year for both PAX Unplugged and for TRI’s RPG tables. Next year I’m sure everyone will have a much better experience.

Do you have any tips for gamers who are looking for a group like TRI?

TRI is growing, I can’t speak officially for them, but follow the link above and check them out. I’m sure they could use more DMs. You can also stay active on social media. Facebook has a lot of fan pages for DMs, players, item trades, and games with open slots. Also, if you find a page, or group you like…share it. Word of mouth is the best way to expand what we like about gaming.

10 Things That Happened at Too Many Games 2017

Vanri and Crymson went to TooManyGames 2017! Here are some of what they experienced:

10) Vanri went to her first convention! She loved it, we got her a shirt.

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9) So many amazing cosplays!

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8) After forever, we finally ACTUALLY interviewed +2 Comedy… those nerds!

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7) ALL THE GAMES! So many amazing indie games to see and love.

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6) I played a game I’ve been waiting a year to play and didn’t suck.

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5) Got my hands on a board game I’ve been waiting a year for! For FREE!

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4) Cosplay Pro Wrestling!

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3) The most amazing Pyramid Head Cosplay, I’ve ever seen.

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2) Keith Apicary made me nearly pee myself.

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1) MrCreepyPasta was amazing to interview and we want to talk to him for hours.

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Influential Female Characters: Keyleth

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Most of my readers and our fans know that when I started gaming again, my Dungeon Master suggested I watch some Critical Role to help me. I have a habit of getting stuck in my own head and being too worried about rules to just play and have fun. The show did help and also give me the idea to try what has become my favorite class in D&D because of  the Druid, Keyleth. I felt for Keyleth because her backstory. I was also really interested in her powers. I started playing Druids and that has become the class which I feel most comfortable, but I would never have chosen that class so quickly if not for watching Keyleth.

Keyleth is a Druid of the Air Ashari. Without giving away too much for those readers who are catching up on Critical Role, here is a little bit of her backstory. Keyleth has always been a talented druid, even when she was a child. Her father was the Arch Druid of her people and her mother left at an early age. Keyleth’s  father sees her potential and chooses her to be his successor. As it is then explained in the old intro, “ Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations.” Here, I thought my school days were rough. 

 

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We never really hear about Keyleth having childhood friends. Nor, as it would seem,  has she had a lot of socialization till she is sent away from her tribe. When her father thinks she is ready, Keyleth is sent on a journey to the other Ashari tribes to “establish respect” with their leaders where she becomes a member of Vox Machina, what the group is known as, along the way. Because of this upbringing Keyleth is awkward and, at times, socially inept. She is also reckless in times of stress.

Keyleth is played by Marisha Ray who is not only a gamer, but also an actress and writer. Marisha often comes under fire for her style of gameplay. There are many reasons for why viewers don’t enjoy how she plays. Some of which are because of how their Dungeon Master allows his players to experiment and, some say, he is not enough of a rule enforcer. Marisha also really commits to playing Keyleth, flaws and all. She doesn’t polish her just because she isn’t the most popular character. I know that some of her particularly cringe-worthy moments make it difficult for me to watch her as well.

That being said, I give Marisha a lot of credit. She took a character who comes from a strict and sheltered religious background to thrust her into the world which does not follow the rules. Keyleth has gone through a lot of growing and evolving throughtout the game thus far. She has put aside many of the religious beliefs that she grew up with and has had to learn how to interact with people who have not. Keyleth continues to find her own strength and control over her powers. This has been particularly hard for her since they scare her at times. She also has come to terms with guilt that she continues to bury throughout the game.

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In short, Keyleth is an evolving and flawed character. She is very real because of her flaws. She is kind. She feels things very deeply, including remorse when she makes a mistake. Keyleth is struggling to be worthy of the responsibilities thrust upon her by others. She is finding herself, making herself better and helping those around her.

Keyleth helped me to understand that it is okay for me to play characters who unflinchingly believe in good. That I can play a character who isn’t a perfect hero from jump. Marisha has taught me that it is okay to make a mistake in game and learn from it. Keyleth inspires me to be creative with my characters. To allow an awkward moment to happen if it is what I think my character would do at the time.

She is a great example of being present in the moment of gameplay. Of going with your gut as a player. Of taking a risk because it might lead to something awesome. Keyleth is all of us just trying to figure the world out. She is us trying to figure ourselves out. Keyleth is all of us, just with awesome powers and a really cool headpiece.

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Check out episodes of Critical Role here.  

You can listen to a pretty rad soundtrack that Marisha put together for Keyleth here.

Always keep sparkling!