Role-Playing and Board Game Garage Sale

The time has come to weed the game library. Behind the jump you will find role-playing games, board games and card games I would like very much for someone else to own. Generally speaking, it’s all older stuff, so if you’re looking for titles from the 90s and early 00s, this might be the sale for you.

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Prepare for the Coming of Geek Week Game Night

Brennan barters games for a ride back to Burlington from Langdon Street.

Once again, Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier throws its doors open to the nerdly set for Geek Week 5.0, a five day celebration of all things geeky. The Geek Week Game Con, an fixture of the event, takes place Wednesday, April 27th.

There will be a board game library, of course. As Ben Matchstick tells us over at Green Mountain Gamers: “There will be a lot of goodies for RPGs and board gamers. Dominion, Catan, Bananagrams, Agricola, and tons of others. You got it, bring it! There’s also an arcade machine emulator that will play over 4000 old school arcade games, just for that throw-back feel.”

As for role-playing games, Ben himself is planning a Gamma World adventure. I’m going down with Fiasco and InSpectres in hand. I don’t know if we can gin up characters and finish a game in three or so hours, but I’d like to give a shot. I know enough role-playing-friendly folks in Montpelier that we should be able to reach critical mass easily enough.

Exploring Gamma World

Two months ago, about mid-November, I got a funny bug in my brain. See, Held Action has had a Twitter account for a while — @heldaction — which for the most part just relays notifications of when new posts go up here. But ever since I discovered my favorite instant messaging client, Adium, had Twitter functionality, I’ve been much more predisposed to watch the tweets go by. And since most of the people I follow are somehow involved in role-playing games, it’s not surprising one hears about new games and supplements as they hit the market.

What does surprise me is that tweets about playing Gamma World at Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington, D.C. got me to look at some reviews for it, like Dave Chalker’s, which then got me to want to try it. At first this was going to be a private one-shot thing, but with the holiday season underway that seemed infeasible. The next opening was the Winter Weirdness game day in Barre, so I leaped on that as the place to try it. I think this was mostly me trying to justify a purchase of a new shiny with the excuse that it was in the name of a good cause: building the role-playing scene at the Green Mountain Game Days.

As things actually happened, and lucky for me they did, I got in a test run well before Winter Weirdness with a different group of people. We played through the adventure included in the core box set, “Steading of the Iron King.” And that was for the best, because this was my first substantive encounter with the fourth edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons — and that’s an interesting thing about this new version of Gamma World, in full it’s branded as D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game, the implication to me being it’s positioned as a short-term alternative or supplement for full-bore Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Continue reading

What a Wearying Wonderful Winter Weirdness Whirlwind

Nicole and John (left and right) explore the irradiated splendor of Gamma World while Mariah (center) observes.

All the ramp-up and preparation came to a head on Saturday, as we hosted our first Winter Weirdness game day in a church undercroft in Barre. It was, by any metric, a smash hit. Forty-odd people came in out of the cold and snow to spend their day playing games and making new acquaintances — I love watching the activity stream over at Green Mountain Gamers and on Facebook as people who meet up at these game days connect there.

My day consisted of getting to Barre early enough to set the room up, stashing soda and supplies in the kitchen and greeting the first arrivals until there was critical mass to play something and realizing that the way into the church basement wasn’t as clearly marked as it might have been. In the rush, the big friendly meeples that usually adorn sidewalks and doors to signal the location of a game day didn’t make the trip down the interstate.

As the day got underway and more people rolled in, a couple people came to me wanting to play Gamma World, which was pretty cool. I’d had the opportunity to try out the adventure in the back of the book previously with a different group of people, so I had an idea of how it might go. However, I’d forgotten there’s a critter in the second encounter that can easily lay waste to the entire party. The first time, I fudged it to keep the adventure moving forward. This time, however, I played it straight, mostly because it was a game day and I don’t think anyone wanted to spend the rest of the day playing through even an abbreviated version; that first run through took five hours to get through four encounters with fudging, as I was very aware of how much time would be involved in playing all the way through to the end, even if I skipped portions of the scenario.

By then it was 2:00 in the afternoon, so a group of us trooped over to Ladder 1 Grill, which is maybe fifty feet from the back door of the church, where I had an awesome turkey and bacon melt sandwich. Unlike the last two venues for the Green Mountain Game Days, downtown Barre has ample opportunities for sit-down and take-out food; Montpelier has even more, fancier options if you’re willing to take the drive and lose time at the tables.

After lunch, I wound up in games of Betrayal at House on the Hill and Dominion. My rule of thumb has become play new stuff at game days and conventions or play old games with new people. Plus the copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill belonged to Joe and it needed breaking in. Really, it pined for its dice to be torn out of their packaging and rolled. So we obliged. Dominion I got to play with my friend Kaye, Rick from the Book Garden and two old time gamers who were encountering the game for the first time that day. That was a cool experience to watch them pick up the mechanics.

Later, I tried out Elasund: The First City with Sarah, Andrew and Rod. It’s very Eurogamey. That’s all I want to say on the topic.

Accusations fly hot and heavy in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.

Elsewhere, Carlo, Munk and Rachel played Battlestar Galactica for what must have been ten or eleven hours. Not all in one game, but two with other players. I am deeply impressed by their commitment to fostering uncertainty, mistrust and paranoia.

In short, it was a huge day of gaming with people playing their brains out. I don’t know if the lousy morning weather worked for us — making people stircrazy and antsy to play games or against us — by penning them in their homes — but overall Winter Weirdness was an absolute success. And I think we found a great venue in the Church of the Good Shepherd’s basement. It’s cozy, has an very well equipped kitchen, a secondary space upstairs that’s idea for quieter role-playing games and is in easy walking distance to plenty of places to eat. Plus Barre is marginally central to three population centers: Burlington, the capitol district and the Upper Valley; sadly, when it comes to the Northeast Kingdom and southwestern Vermont, there’s still no way to get ther from here. Regardless, I think Green Mountain Gamers has found a second home in Barre.

The Acquisition Imperative

Periodically, I get a yen to buy a board game or role-playing game. It’s a strong enough yen that I’ll fixate on it for some time. A couple years ago, for reasons I still can’t fathom, it was a general impulse to buy HERO System books. I gave in to that one and wound up with two or three feet of shelf space given over to books pushing a system I wasn’t entirely sold on. I think I’ve run precisely one session of role-playing using HERO, the sole session of an ersatz Spelljammer campaign I called Known Spheres. That game actually died for scheduling reasons rather than a dislike for HERO, just for the record.

Anyway, I get on these “want it all” or “I want that so much” kicks. For the most part, I keep on top of them, mostly by waiting myself out. Sometimes I will actually get to try the game without buying, usually discovering it’s not something I want. And there are the times I make mistakes.

Lately, the game I’ve fixed on is Talisman, the old fantasy adventure offering from Games Workshop. I will admit that Talisman is not a good game by any means. You roll a die, move your character and, most often, draw at least one card. Even the direction you move along the board doesn’t always matter, as you’ll draw the same card regardless of whether you go right or left. Nevertheless, I do find the game entertaining. The art evokes a simple, parochial sort of fantasy world that’s miles closer to how I envisioned The Hobbit on first reading than the design of Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films or the dungeonpunk aesthete that’s percolated through role-playing games since the launch of Dungeons & Dragons‘ third edition.

Right now, I get to play Talisman once every couple of months whenever Nonny happens to bring it to Tuesday night at Quarterstaff Games, which is probably just enough to keep me from getting tired of the game. But I do find myself thinking “I could easily pick up Fantasy Flight’s new edition of the game, which is widely available and has a steady stream of new content coming out.” (This sets aside the question of whether I need a steady stream of new content; being disappointed by weak Arkham Horror expansions contributed to the lessening of my ardor for that game.)

Recently, the promotion of the new Gamma World happening on Twitter has gotten to me. I really would like to try this, because it sounds like a goofy good time, which is about the only way I want to deal with the premise of “after the Mega-Whoops.” It’d also be a chance to take a good, long look at the rules underlying Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, on which this iteration of Gamma World is based.

Here’s my conundrum: I’ve always — more often than, fairly frequently, a bit, when it suits me — said it’s better to use the stuff you’ve got than buy yet another set of rules for role-playing that are ultimately only slightly different from the dozens one already owns. But the point of trying the new Gamma World is one’s trying the new Gamma World, not mimicking it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or whatever else. So the usual tactic of “use what you’ve got” doesn’t work, partly for the system involved, but also because I don’t have any role-playing materials about a wacky post-apocalypse.

My first tactic is to mitigate the risk of a non-utilized purchase. If I actually play this one, unlike the many, shamefully unplayed role-playing games on my shelves, I can better rationalize the purchase — which is probably still a logical fallacy given past behavior and the extent by which similar decisions have changed notably in their outcomes. To this end, I’m trying to find some people to commit to playing Gamma World at Winter Weirdness on January 8th.

At what point does a $40 box set become worth it? One play? Two? Six? A dozen? In dollars per hour, if we play a four hour session at Winter Weirdness, that’s $10 per hour of play, not counting tax. If one considers preparation time entertaining and it takes ten hours to absorb everything in the box, it’s less than $3 per hour, but I don’t really hold with that perspective.

Again, though, I think this is an expression of my recurring “Ooh, new. Want!” impulse. I could just ignore it, stick with Ghostbusters and Fiasco for Winter Weirdness and go on my way. That honestly makes the most sense and saying “We’ll have Gamma World to play!” isn’t really going to make a difference in who turns out, will it?

What would you do?