No Honor Among Thieves


Second Look – Storm King’s Thunder

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.When I reviewed Princes of the Apocalypse, I commented that the first half of the book “can almost be used as just a setting book for the Dessarin Valley”. But that didn’t prepare me for what I’d find when opening up Storm King’s Thunder: over a fifth of this 256-page book is devoted to quick looks at an area that makes up the Dessarin Valley, and areas north of Mirabar, south past Daggerford, and as far east as Anauroch. Those “quick looks” are anywhere from a paragraph of few lines to a full page, several with suggested encounters (most centered around the giant activities that drive this book’s campaign). In the section before that, two major locations in the Dessarin Valley are detailed (and one location far to the north). Combine this with Princes of the Apocalypse, and you’ve got a fantastic gazetteer for your campaign. A section of Mike Schley’s Forgotten Realms map is used in that 50+ page setting section.

Your players will be at one of the three locations very early in the campaign, defending the location from attack. However, you’re not just playing your heroes, each player at the table is given an NPC they’re in control of. While the battle rages on, your heroes and these others aren’t necessarily in the same location. The NPC survives? They’ve got some storylines your players can follow up on, things that require your heroes to travel quite some distance to complete – one has your heroes escorting the character to the next town over to meet their boss who then tasks them to safeguard a wagon to a town way the heck far away after which they get an anonymous bundle that directs them to a town even further away in the opposite direction where they’ll get their final reward which is pretty cool indeed.

Storm King’s Thunder seems to have a lot of travelling involved.

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It feels natural to compare Storm King’s Thunder to Princes of the Apocalypse. Both take place in the same general area (although this giant adventure can take heroes far afield from the valley). Both have a preferred story progression while including some free-form events. Both have a large section dedicated to the overall setting, tempting the Dungeon Master to make it her own. However, while Princes is set up assuming the heroes would tackle the elemental cults and temples in a level-appropriate manner, there’s nothing stopping a group of 4th level heroes from stumbling into an area designed for 7th level adventurers, complete with a staircase leading down to a place for 10th level heroes, Storm King’s Thunder has an adventure flowchart designed to avoid just that issue. This isn’t to say there’s a lack of choices for the players.

storm-kings-thunderThe adventure proper begins with a choice of the three locations mentioned earlier. If your heroes head to the major location far to the north, they don’t have the adventuring goodness that’s at the two different major locations in the Dessarin Valley. Likewise, the middle part of the campaign offers to take the heroes to multiple locations, but they only need to go to one to progress to the conclusion. This final act has some branching options as well. In other words, my group playing Storm King’s Thunder will most likely have a wildly different story to tell than your group playing the same campaign.

Storm King’s Thunder forgoes standard XP and leveling, opting to reward the players by completing goals. Each section of the book has a character advancement sidebar, giving direction for when the heroes gain levels. Thus, that middle part of the campaign where the players have multiple paths but only need one to advance the storyline, they all hit 9th level when completing that mission. Less bookkeeping, more adventure, if you ask me.

The cartography is all over the place within this product. However, unlike earlier storyline campaign books, none of the maps are signed, so it’s difficult to tell who did what. You’ve got some things that look more like general fantasy maps instead of something worthy of the word “cartography”. You’ve got small maps that incorporate hand-drawn imagery to stuff that looks like it’s built using basic shapes in Illustrator or thrown together using different terrain packages in Roll20. Then you’ve got the map of Triboar, which looks completely hand-drawn. There are six different cartographers listed in the credits, all with differing styles. This probably won’t bother you, but in my day job as a graphic artist working with book layouts similar to this, it bugs the heck out of me.

The artwork, also with some varying styles, is much more in sync. Those NPCs your heroes could control? There’s eighteen of them with a large range of body sizes, skin color, and ethnicity (if you translate all the fantasy races over to “human”). The collage of images on the cover is impressive – you can see the standalone King Hekaton on the first page of the book and the combined illustration collage before graphic elements were added to it on the second page.

Several tie-ins to this storyline are available and planned, including an Assault of the Giants boardgame from WizKids, Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds ready-made adventures, and more.

A copy of Storm King’s Thunder was provided free for review by Wizards of the Coast.

 

 

Google Search Playing Cards

google-playing-cardsGoogle’s version of playing cards show suits but, reminiscent of online search, require players to fill in the blank for face values.

 

[via Search Engine Roundtable]

 

2016-national-toy-hall-of-fame-finalists

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play has announced 12 finalists for potential induction in the class of 2016. The finalists are:

  • Bubble Wrap
  • Care Bears
  • Coloring Book
  • Clue
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Fisher Price Little-People
  • Nerf
  • Pinball
  • Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
  • Swing
  • Transformers
  • Uno

Final selection of inductees will be made by a national advisory committee and the results announced November 10th. Usually 2-3 are chosen. Criteria include:

  • Icon-status—the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered.
  • Longevity—the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations.
  • Discovery—the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play.
  • Innovation—the toy profoundly changed play or toy design.

Game Bandit

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesSpend $50 or more at Victory Point Games and get a free copy of Dragon Master, while supplies last.

Everything Board Games is running giveaways for five different games, some though for only a few more hours.

Funagain, again, offers a special Essen preordering service that enables U.S. customers get games that would otherwise only be available in Europe.

A bundle of everything in ebook format from Lamentations of the Flame Princess is available from DriveThruRPG for $169 (that is 33% off priced individually).

Buy one Pokemon card pack, deck, or tin and get the second 40% off in-store only at Toys “R” Us.

The Army Painter is offering a special bundle including one Mega Paint Set, one primer, one anti-shine mat varnish spray, and one Quickshade for $151.

Online, Toys “R” Us has a nice clearance section of games, which includes Loopin’ Louie at 40% off and Star Wars Box Busters at 75% off.

Russ Morrissey is running an alien race design contest for his N.E.W. roleplaying game. The prize is a hardcover copy of N.E.W. The Science Fiction Roleplaying Game.

Get a free set of dice with the purchase of any Adventure Case or Dice Chest from Dog Might Games. Also 20% off all in-stock items.

All DramaScape print-and-play products are 50% off this month.

Subscribe to HarnQuest from Columbia Games and get 50% off all Harn PDF products.

Starting in October, “mini” versions of Hasbro board games will be available for AU$3.50 with the purchase of a Sunday Herald-Sun.

Man vs. Meeple is giving away a choice of game from Renegade Game Studios: Lotus, Clank, or Covert. Watch the video and comment to enter.

A new indie games bundle deal just launched on Bundle of Holding with a starting price of $4.95.

Apt to Game is giving away Scythe from Stonemaier Games (Canadian residents only).

The Giveaway Geek is giving away Mansions of Madness from Fantasy Flight Games.

Essex Mums is giving away Pickin’ Chickens from Drumond Park (U.K. residents).

The Reading Residence is giving away Countdown from Rocket Games (U.K. residents).

Chronicle Books is giving away a package of snacks and three party games: Get to the Point Poker, Listography: The Game, and Guilty as Charged.

Chic Geek Diary is giving away Googly Eyes from University Games.

Quillable is giving away a choice of two games, plus coloring books from Raincoast Books (Canadian residents).

November 2nd Brings The Game: On Fire

The Game: On FireIDW’s it game, The Game, is getting a new edition. The Game: On Fire features the same great play of the 2015 Spiel des Jahres nominee while adding new “On Fire” cards, which must be played on when they hit the table.

The Game: On Fire will hit store shelves on November 2nd, and will retail for $19.99

2016 Tak Open Online Tournament

takwyrmwoodThe US Tak Association is hosting the 2016 Tak Open Online Tournament beginning this week via PlayTak.com. The tournament will be run Swiss-style tournament, and games will be played on a 5×5 Tak board. Play will switch to a 6×6 board during the final rounds.

First and second place winners will receive gorgeous purpleheart, wenge, and kingwood Tak sets handcrafted by tournament sponsor Wyrmwood Gaming.

Registration will end this Tuesday, 9/13.

Pokemon TCG November Releases

pokemon_logoNovember is a big month for the Pokemon TCG with 4 new releases.

The first is the Pokémon TCG: 2016 Collector Chest Tin. Priced at $29.99 with a street date of November 1st, it’s a lunch box filled with:

  • 5 booster packs
  • 3 foil promo cards: Volcanion, Magearna, and Shiny Mega Gengar-EX
  • A Pokémon coin
  • 2 sticker sheets
  • A mini album to store your cards
  • A Pokémon notepad and 4 pencils
  • A code card for Pokémon TCG Online

Next up are the Pokémon TCG: Gengar EX Box and Pokémon TCG: Kangaskhan EX Box. Each of these includes an EX foil promo card featuring the Pokémon on the box, an oversized promo card of the previous EX card, 4 booster packs, and a code card for Pokémon TCG Online. I haven’t seen a specific street date but do know that they’ll be priced at $19.99.

Last, and certainly not least, is the Pokémon TCG: Alola Collection. Priced at $29.99 with a street date of November 11th, these are the first Pokémon TCG product featuring new Pokémon from Pokémon Sun and Moon. Each collection includes:

  • 3 special foil promo cards featuring Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio
  • 1 of 2 foil oversized cards featuring a Legendary Pokémon-GX: Solgaleo or Lunala
  • 1 of 2 sculpted figures featuring Solgaleo or Lunala
  • 1 of 2 collector’s pins featuring Solgaleo or Lunala
  • 5  booster packs
  • A code card for Pokémon TCG Online

Hasbro Gaming LabHasbro has launched its third game design challenge, this time with a focus on family games and a celebrity judge, Daymond John, founder of FUBU and one of the investors on the television show, Shark Tank. Interesting choice considering how poorly board game pitches usually do on such shows.

In any case, again, five finalists chosen by Hasbro will pitch their designs to the public with crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo. And again the ultimate winner will receive $25,000 and a trip to Hasbro headquarters.

The first challenge focused on party games and picked The Mister Toast Card Game as the winner. The second, which asked for games that would also be of interest to game enthusiasts, awarded Hex Casters the top prize. This time, the Family Face-to-Face Game Challenge will judge submissions on the following criteria:

  • 34%: Gameplay for All (cross-generational gameplay that’s easy to get and easy to get into)
  • 33%: Theme (excellent content, narrative, and conceptual visuals to match)
  • 33%: Viability and Potential for Success (ability to be created and delivered to gamers, potential to appeal to all levels of players, likelihood to be the next hit game)

Entries are due by October 23rd.

fantasy-flight-gamesgamesworkshoplogo.jpgGames Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games have terminated their license agreement. According to an announcement by FFG, the company will end sales of all products based on GW properties—Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40,000, and Talisman—as of the end of February, 2017. All previously-announced products, however, will be delivered before that date. That includes a couple of Talisman and Warhammer 40,000: Conquest expansions.

storm-kings-thunderThe latest story-line for Dungeons & Dragons saw its official launch this week with the full retail release of the Storm King’s Thunder adventure book ($50 suggested retail). Developed in-house at Wizards of the Coast, Storm King’s Thunder sees the player characters defending the Sword Coast in The Forgotten Realms against the depredations of ravaging giants.

The adventure covers character levels 1-11, for the first five in a more traditional progression and in the later levels with a modular approach. The book includes an adventure flowchart to help guide the dungeon master, as well as an appendix with suggestions for integrating it with other published adventures. Part of the story involves the characters making use of the giants’ own rune magic to craft new fantastic items.

For those playing Dungeons & Dragons remotely online, licensed versions of Storm King’s Thunder are also available in Fantasy Grounds ($35) and Roll20 ($50). The story line makes an appearance as an expansion to the Neverwinter MMO. And coming from WizKids are a Storm King’s Thunder Icons of the Realms miniatures series (later this month) and an Assault of the Giants board game ($100, May 2017).

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