Monday, December 12, 2011

Hi Everyone!
We wanted to thank all of the members of the North Coast Gamers who came out to the Holiday Game Bash! It was good to see everyone again to such a friendly event.  I also wanted to thank the members of other groups that came out, particularly the gang from NOWS who hosted some great games.  
We also wanted to extend special thanks to Alex Ford, Lisa Ford, Dan Radakovich, Ken Podolski, Becky Roberts, Lydia Roberts, Kaylee Mazur, Sean McClain, and Emanuel Felouzis who helped out a huge amount with the scheduling, setting up, check-ins, raffles, and/or tearing down of the event.  I’d also like to thank all the GMs that prescheduled their events before the deadline.  We had some great games going on all day!
The gaming at the Holiday Game Bash this year was great!!  This year, the adding of the second floor rooms made a huge difference!  We had nearly 50 more people attend than last year, but the added space made it feel very comfortable.  For those of you who never made it upstairs, we had 6 additional rooms, 3 dedicated to miniatures and 3 dedicated to RPGs.  Additionally, the Artemis Bridge Simulation Event had its own dedicated room and was a huge success.  People loved the experience.  I thought I would attach their site for the people that asked where to get the game:   There were many, many more games played this year from classic board games to new strategy and Euro games.  I saw several brand new games being played that are not yet published yet!  More announcements on the brand new games when they are officially released!
We kicked off the day with the annual Board of Directors meeting.  We had a good turnout for that, but we would have loved to see more folks.  The PDF of the Annual Board Report is LOCATED HERE.  There is a great amount of information about the Sponsoring Organization and very interesting statistics for the North Coast Gamers.  There are announcements for new leadership, so don't forget to take a look!
We had a couple of great fundraisers that included the Fight Cancer Benefit for Chris Ziga.  We rose over $750 at the Bash along with over $500 at the Roleplayathon!  Huge thanks for all those that donated games, bought tickets, and donated cash for Chris in his fight against cancer.   Everyone said it was great to see Chris in 'gaming spirits' ;-)
The Holiday Game Bash was successful from a financial standpoint as well!  After renting the hall, purchasing the games for the prize giveaways, etc., the organization cleared nearly $600!  (More details are included in the Annual Board Report)
As I mentioned, we had a great fund raiser for Chris Ziga.  Two tables of games were donated by members to help raise the money and STEPHANIE BAKER walked away with over $1,000 in games that covered 2 full tables!!!  Congratulations to Stephanie!  
It has been a great year once again and we’ve had a lot of fun!  We are looking for your active involvement in all of the activities in 2012.  We are still in need of event organizers across North Coast Gamers, Writer’s Bloc, and the Natural Adventures programs.  We also need help with newsletters writers, research writers, blog writers, etc. too!  If you’d like to volunteer in any way, let us know!
Take care and the best Holiday Wishes to you and your family!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Origins 2011 Recap

I always look forward to Origins and end up prepping months ahead of time.  The North Coast Gamers had over 100 hours of events and 5 GMs in the Miniatures room 2 GMs in the Board Game room and 2 GMs in the RPG area.  As usual, everyone had a great time.  The volunteers of both the staff and other GMs were great and it is fun to see the same people from across the country year after year.  Although we don't have a formal get together, we are able to get into a game together, shake hands and otherwise ask how things are going with each other.  There is certainly a camaraderie that is built over the years and friendships across the tables are common.

I admit that this year seemed lighter than previous years on Wednesday and Thursday, but by Thursday evening the place was hopping!  You can feel a vibe in the air that reflected the building excitement of the attendees as the vendors were setting up their booths behind closed doors and the tables in the miniatures hall started to come to life as with landscapes and cityscapes that promised great fun.  Board Gamers carried stacks of their favorite games heading towards the tabletop areas.  Everyone had a smile on their face.  On Friday, the con was in full swing with crowds of people filling the halls.  Both Friday and Saturday seemed to have more people than in prior years.  I noticed many more children and women in the crowd this year which reflected the success of the efforts of making this a family-focused event.  I saw many new and many old (but still friendly) faces carrying GM badges this year and that reflects a level of experience of GMs and their dedication to the hobby and this convention.  Why not 5 starts out of 5 you ask?  Well, to begin with, I would have loved to see more people on the earlier days.  Additionally, there was still plenty of room on all the days for more players!  So, the attendance was ranked just a smidgen lower because we always like to see new people coming and there is still plenty of room for that.

Gaming Diversity:
I’ve been to many conventions and have to say that Origins has been consistent on offering the most gaming diversity.  There were nearly 4,500 events over the few days with top-notch GMs.  I spent most of my time in the Miniature Hall, primarily because I was constantly running events, but I did manage to make it to the other halls and RPG areas.  I was able to get in on some great games.  I’m not a role-player, but clearly the folks were having an awesome time.  The schedule really accommodated everyone’s calendar since there were so many events; it was easy to find an fun game to play.  The board game area had everything… and I mean everything!  They had family games, euro games, war games, old games and games not even released yet.  In the miniatures hall, I noticed an increased number of ‘home brew’ games (the North Coast Gamers ran several of these).  Beyond that, the miniatures hall had everything from historical, fantasy, kid-centric, you name it.  By far, this was the best year I’ve seen for the miniature’s hall.  The Steampunk theme was well carried into this hall with many steampunk games.  I know the Steampunk Beatdown game that the NCG ran was sold out time and time again.  I did notice that there was less interest in some of the ‘branded’ miniature games.  Warhammer Fantasy had a lighter presence than normal even though there were a couple of tourney’s for it and 40K.  I didn’t see any Lord of the Rings being played which usually has a large following, but I simply may have missed it.  The Star Wars game was back and it was a big hit as usual.  Many more historicals than usual and there were several American Civil War games and Flames of War games with fantastic scenery and looked great.  Many sci-fi games filled the hall and there were some 1950’s classics as well as some alternative WWII as well as many of the widely played games of Battletech, Mechwarrior,Star Fleet Battles, etc.  Zombies abounded and I would be wrong to overlook the Smurf Wars game which was one of the favorites.  The RPGs were in a much more comfortable area than in previous years and there seemed to be a huge variety of games being played.  My hope is that someone who is into the roleplaying really provides some solid feedback on their experience.

The vendor room was bigger this year with many more booths than normal.  The eating area was removed at the rear of the hall allowing for more vendors.   Therewere many major manufacturers there this year and also there were some solid, smaller shops as well.  A good number of clothiers to fit with the Victorian theme were present with some awesome steampunk designs.  My favorite was a booth that sold boxes of old vacuum tubes and gears from clocks.  It was capitalism at its best.  I rated this section a 4 out of 5 because I had hope to see a broader variety of independent games that struck my fancy.  There certainly were other independent game manufacturers there, but nothing that fit my personal flavor.  There were a couple of games and a steampunk decoration that I picked up so I contributed to their success.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is a perfect place for a convention.  Plenty of hotel space on site or within a short drive, tons of restaurants, both formal and informal.  Great entertainment at night…not that anyone left the convention at night because of the great games  mind you.  I have no negatives to say about the venue.  In the past, there were problems with waiting for the elevators at the Hyatt, but I experienced only 1 time that I was getting a little perturbed at how long it took.  Otherwise, it was a great hotel to stay in.

A couple of suggestions for next year:
  1. Have large signs in the halls (like a parking lot) to help people find where the tables are...Section A, Section B, etc.
  2. The volunteers were great, but there was confusion when we and our players asked how many seats were available and were told that an event was sold out when in fact there were plenty of seats open.  I learned after the second day that it was better to look up our events online.
  3. We need to do something about the costs for the food court.  $3.00 for a cup of coffee is pretty tough on me, considering I drink 3-4 cups a day!  Maybe I just need to bring my thermos or cut down...that would take care of it ;-)
  4. Information seemed to be shared very late this year for the GMs.  A couple of weeks earlier would have made all the difference in the world.
  5. I'm always an advocate of clubs supporting the events at any con and we do our best to provide that support. It was appreciated that we were allowed to have a club table by our games, but it would be nice to have people have club tables near registration to encourage people to join local clubs.
  6. Many have voiced this already, but I too am fearful of the date move for next year.  I understand the reasons given for the change, but I think it will hurt attendance.  Although we will certainly attend next year, it will be tough arriving before Friday evening because school is still in session.  It isn’t that I’m a teacher anymore, but it does impact the schedule with school events and extra-curricular activities that the kids need to be shuttled to. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Mini or Not to Mini with a Roleplaying Game

Many roleplaying games involve some degree of conflict which is resolved with lots of dice, multiple passes, earnest discussions with the Director aka the Dungeon Master, and comparing results to charts and character sheets. Some systems try to have a simple resolution which involves potentially a rock-paper-scissors chance task and a simple mental box where both opponents cannot run away (similar to Magic cards or related card games) to highly involved multiple chart reviewing and tape measures being extended.
Why use miniatures (minis) and a map with a printed grid versus using your imagination to set the battlefield? The answer is ultimately a style question and an audit system. Do you want to have an highly descriptive combat description with a quick resolution, then you want to avoid minis. Do you want to maintain a mystery and not give away the strengths and weakness of the opponent, then minis are not the answer.
Do you want to know where everyone is on the field and no magically teleporting players who happen to magically be where all the action is even though they have a movement rate that couldn't do it? Do you get tired of characters always shooting around the corner and hitting someone a mile away behind a large building? Do you have over 6 people involved in combat and you can't keep track? You are then a mini person.
How to do minis cheap? Poker chips, dry markers, and a wipeable plastic sheet. Let the players buy their perfect mini, its not your problem. Besides, it lets them be creative and paint themselves silly. If you have an artistic streak, then go forward paint those 100 goblins individually. Remember goblins are sentient beings so they all need to be painted uniquely.
Argument enders: mini tape measures. I use tape measures for LOS (Line-of-Sight) disputes and measuring distances so the power-gamers fireballs are fireballs not nuclear weapons.
Swag out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Of Novels and Game Settings

This past week, the North Coast Gamers submitted a poll on our Facebook Page asking people: "What fantasy/Sci-Fi/Other novel(s) influenced you in the creation of your most exciting RPG campaign settings?"  As of the writing of this blog post, over 500 people have responded and 100 novels have been submitted.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the responses since so many gamers are avid readers.  After another poll, the average number of books our members read every year is at least one every month!  That's absolutely fantastic!  The imagination raging through the veins of our members creates awesome game worlds, deep political intrigue, and all around fun and action within their gaming to keep the party excited and lively, returning week after week for more.

Our parent organization, Social Interactions, Inc, has started a division called 'Writer's Bloc' and I thought I would share a bit about it here.  The Writer's Bloc program provides activities and events for individuals ages 10 and older to improve their social interactions and provide additional opportunities for inclusion through the improvement of their writing and collaborating skills.  The premise is fairly simple... People submit a single chapter of a book and the next person builds upon it with their storyline.  It is a collaborative effort, so people will not be killing of the other author's main characters without talking through and getting agreement on it. Social Interactions has piloted this in area schools and libraries and it is building momentum.  If interested in the program and contributing or just getting involved, let us know!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roleplaying Source Books and Game Mastering: Inspiration

For the typical GM in D&D, Shadowrun, White Wolf games (Changeling, Vampire, and etc.), and etc. are always looking for a good plot that needs to be believable, develops the characters, challenges the characters, and drags them deeper into the storyline or campaign. Each system uses it own words for plot development, challenges, and etc. so I am going to try to use every day terms to discuss them. I refer you to your various gaming guides for your specific terminology. 

Ultimately, you are trying to run a play in which the characters write their own script. You create the world and challenges for them to interact with during the play. Typically your players are the protagonists regardless of their actual moral outlook or actions. As the GM or the Director, you need to make sure they bear the consequences and the world responses to their input. 

Many of the starting books come with everything you need to run many plays or "adventures" but eventually the players read the books from page 1 to page n or they can run a search utility on the reader to find the topic or concept being explored in the game. As a GM, this is a disaster because you need to challenge them and make them think. Its fun to sweat it out. 

How do you keep ahead with a limited amount of time? You buy source books. Source books have new plots, new places to play, new villains, and heros. For the measly low cost of <$50, you get a pregenerated bag of new plots and challenges. My time is valuable and sometimes I don't enjoy fully fleshing out an entire alternate universe. There are people out there working for very small commissions working full-time plus to save us slags days and days of work generating this stuff. If you got the cash or gold pieces, throw them down and save yourself some time. 

My questions to the group:
  1. What is your favorite source books? Please full cite your source so people can run out and buy it.  
  2. What source book would you like to be created? 
  3. Are there cute gamer chicks with red hair and freckles who are free and over 18? 


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flash Mob for Gamers

"Flash Mobs" are typically initiated on the internet and have been a phenomenon of the 21st century mobile media and dance culture. Organizers set up a website, e-mail list, or Twitter account that will provide the information to all interested parties who want to participate.  The notice includes the date, time, and the place to meet.  At the scheduled time, the attendees spontaneously kick into gear and dance a large routine.  Although this craze has been typically related to dancing, this craze easily applies to other interests, including gaming.

Last night was intended to be a quiet 'stay-at-home-and veg' night.  As I prepped the 'man cave' for the evening, I first decided to straighten up some of my books I had left out on the bar.  Putting the books away on the bookshelf, I had to move pull a couple of items off one shelf and move it to another.  At that time, I stumbled across a misplaced rule book for the old SF3D wargame.  Before I knew it, I had the game on the bar and reviewing some long-forgotten rules.  I struggled with a particular rule and posted a question on an old SF3D forum that I had presumed was not being followed by anyone.  To my surprise, I received a response within five minutes and a second response a couple of minutes later.  After thirty minutes, I had 7 responses and learned that two of the responders were both less than an hour drive.  It was a game in the making and I quickly deposed the idea of a quiet night wtching TV. 

The power of Twitter!  I tweeted about the luck and quickly received 4 tweets back from followers asking if we wanted company.  Tweets went out from there and in little more than two hours, I had 23 people at my house!  The impromptu event resulted in several six packs, snacks, and Joe even brought a hundred wings that quickly disappeared.  The games included a couple of rounds of SF3D and Faseri, Warhammer Fantasy, Hordes and Monsterpocalypse.  Board Games included Merchants and Marauders, Twighlight Imperium, Settlers of Catan (3d version), Ingenious, and Mansions of Madness!  It was an incredible, impromptu event.

 We've used Twitter to post some updates on our gaming activities for about a year and although we haven't been using it much, that will certainly be changing!  Setting up a following is a tough thing to do, but certainly, the more that words spread on the fun, the more people will be interested in joining in on these impromptu (and not-so impromptu) events.

We'd love to have you following us on Twitter and we certainly will reciprocate the follow.   Looking forward to havng more of these events in more public venues going forward.  Also, we'd love to have you as a member of North Coast Gamers.  Membership is Free and we encourage you and your family to join! As always, we are always interested in your feedback


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Art of Gaming

I’m not sure what grew first, my interest in miniature gaming or my interest in the miniatures themselves as pieces of true art.  Many people will walk by them in the stores or may see them on my table and think of them as ‘toys’, but one needs to take a deeper look at the artistry behind the piece itself to get a full appreciation for this hobby.

Back in the early 1980’s I had an interest in sculpting.  The medium varied between plaster, wood, clay, and metal but none of my pieces became famous enough to keep myself on an artistic career.  I’m thinking that the names of my pieces: ‘The Black Bubble Family’, ‘Tooth Decay’, and the ‘The Abbot’ didn’t help either.  At the same time, I was just starting to get into gaming, and since I had many of the sharp and pointy tools needed, I tried my hand at things of a much smaller scale to make pieces for our RPG sessions.  I recall sculpting a couple of dragons and some nasty dungeon dwellers, but just could not capture the skills needed to make ‘standard scale’ miniatures… Heritage Miniatures and Ral Partha was the primary miniature companies of the day and ranged between 20mm-25mm in size.  There is certainly a deeper skill to making things in miniature, something I've never been able to master...or even become a fair apprentice. 

Some of the masters that I’ve become fans of Tom Meier, Michael and Alan Perry, and a few others.  I am a fan of certain types of miniatures, so, like any art work, you have have a feel for it or not.  There are just certain sculptors that just don't catch my eye while others will jump all over them.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is always true.  However, to me, it goes beyond just the beauty and into the intricacy, realism, positioning and imagination.  I've always liked Tom Meier’s works and have followed him from Heritage to Ral Partha to Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures.  Certain pieces still hold a special interest for me, and as I cruise across Ebay, I tend to try to snag some of them from time to time.  My opinion is that Tom captures what I like best.  His historical pieces are simply striking and it is fun to watch his works in progress.

In the early 1990’s I had the opportunity to meet Alan and Michael Perry and I feel quite lucky that I was able to have a long talk with Michael about sculpting.  Some of the things he talked about stuck with me when looking at figures from an artistic standpoint.  Proportionality is an important aspect as well as the technical nature of the figure itself.  By that, I mean, how difficult was the item to cast without losing the detail necessary.  Other things like realism of the figure are important…even in regards to fantasy, which might seem a contradiction.  Movement of both body and nature should be reflected in any piece of art, including sculpting.  Mike and Alan combine brilliant imagination with these facets of artistry to come out with the essence of fantasy that seem to materialize from their imagination. 

Over the years, I keep an eye out on the artwork of the miniatures more than anything else.  I must say that there clearly are fluctuations in the marketplace even within the same company.  Sculptors come and go, finances change within the company, and cost cutting exercises change the casting material.  All of these things impact the artistry of the gaming table.  I find myself drawn towards some of the earlier works of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but on occasion I still find some great pieces of art that I decide to put on the gaming table or in a little box in my desk drawer.  Certain companies still hold my attention (and my extra coins) because they tend to look for certain skills in their sculptors.   Pay attention to the sculptors moreso than the companies, because it is their art and not the label of who they work for that should matter.

Directly related to gaming, I enjoy playing all kinds of miniature games, but find that I have most fun playing against opponents who take pride in their pieces.  Painting is all well and good, but to me, that is simply the icing on the cake.  About a decade ago, I used to field my armies completely unpainted but lightly stained to make the details of the sculpting 'pop'.  Mounted on oak and cherry bases, these unpainted miniatures seem to get as much respect as a prize-winning paint job.  I have to say that it is very unlikely that they would have received much attention if they were not of one of a master sculptor.  In competition, there seems to be a difference among players who view their gaming pieces as pieces of art vs those who don’t give it much thought and who would be just as happy to play with monopoly building pieces if they could get away with it.  If there is a high quality collection (regardless of paint job), keep your guard!  It seems that those who hold their miniatures important are likely to make sure they aren't embarrsed on the table!

I’d be interested in what others think on the topic.  Please post your comments or thoughts on your favorite pieces.