Empire of the Imagination by Michael Witwer (Book Review)

Gary Gygax played a huge role in gaming history and his contribution is still felt to this day across many tables and platforms. Find out more about this rarely spoken of legend and read what we think of the book.

Written by: Michael K Grymm

“I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else”.

Gary Gyax,

Author, Game Designer & Legend

Unlike many of the contributors and bloggers online today who write at length on the subject of tabletop RPGs from a long history of gaming I came late to the party so to speak (forgive the pun). Though I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons through the cartoon that was airing on KTV2 in the early 90’s, which introduced me to basic lore and class concepts of the game despite it being severely watered down I got the idea of what fantasy as genre was.

Being a young boy in that era, growing up with tapes of Conan the Barbarian, The Hobbit animated film and the Heroic Legend of Arslan my mind already had awesome imagery populating the depths of my imagination. Heroic swordsmen dueling for the honor of their people and mages casting powerful magic against unholy demons were but a few of the cool scenarios I already had in my head running to a metal soundtrack.

            The cartoon was campy even for me as a child but I loved the idea of a group of friends coming together to defeat evil, if only around a table in a ‘let’s play pretend’ fashion. Being born and raised in Kuwait until I was 13 getting your hands on the game was next to impossible as most content in the country is still censored and certain board games, books and movies were not available. This would not be the case for videos games and movies as much because piracy was a big thing in the Middle East but nobody was pirating D&D to my knowledge.

The first copy I ever saw of the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide were when a new American family moved into the building and one of their kids played 3.5 with their friends back home. Sadly we never got around to playing but I remember being fascinated by the class options while also being intimidated by all the charts and numbers. It was not until my mid teens where I would get a firmer grasp on what RPG systems would become thanks to computer and video games having the global impact they did in the mid 90s to mid 00’s. I can still remember playing Blizzard’ Diablo on the Sony Playstation and later Diablo II on PC before getting hooked on Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 1 & 2 for the PS 2. The Dungeons & Dragons novels and the Dragonlance books would allow me to quest further into imaginary realms with heroes and villains doing epic magical battle and added more material for our talks in the playground. These ingredients would be the fabric of day dreams and short stories my brother and I would write in our primary school education, some would even win my brother his first writing awards. Fantasy will continue to be a big part of our pastime and content we enjoy even now as adults and Gary Gygax played a part in it much like he did for millions of others.

            All these great memories and feelings of nostalgia can in a large part be contributed to work of 2 men, Gary Gygax and David Arneson. Two avid, imaginative and almost obsessed creative giants whose talents we lost far too soon. This article will focus more on Gygax, the man who would co-found Tactical Simulation Rules in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with a few friends and change the nature and shape of gaming and entertainment forever by publishing the still popular and relevant Dungeons & Dragons tabletop rpg system.

            I first heard about this book the first year it was published but only got it to read it the following year. Myself being a huge fan of history in general I find that I too love learning about the history of authors and the games that made my childhood so interesting and colorful. This autobiography chronicling the life of a man who I feel generations owe a lot to first emerged as the thesis for author’s Master Thesis at the University of Chicago.

            The author, Michael Witwer has been in writing professionally for most of his post graduate life but also is an accomplished stage performer with a history in community service and healthcare. Michael also has a blog and has appeared on several blogs and videocasts where he not only talks about the process of writing Empire of Imagination but also the stories surrounding that time and what could not make the book. I suggest checking out his appearance on Matt Chat to find out more about our author and get some other tasty pieces of information.

            I pushed play on this audio book knowing more than the average nerd about the origins of D&D and it’s creators. Having read whatever I could find online as well as the documentary ‘Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons’, the review, which will be published on Nerd Dimension next week. Familiar with Gary’s troubled past at TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) and the legal feud between himself and Dave Arneson was also something that I hoped would be cleared up through the passages of Empire of Imagination. The author did his homework and attempted his best to deliver a man’s life story with great care to his legacy while also staying the course on keeping it balanced and true to events that surrounded this overlooked legend. This was no easy task when you consider that the author had a subject that had already passed by the time he started his research and had to find contacts and sources who could still testify to the events and Gary’s character. Some of the key actors in the drama would obviously avoid making comment, namely the conniving Blume brothers who this writer feels personally and directly contributed to many of the financial headaches of TSR prior to Lorraine Williams’ arrival at the company.

            Empire of the Imagination is a collection of authentic accounts in which the reader is taken through the life and times of a simple man, not a hero fighting in a war against a maniacal tyrant nor a political leader who captivated the hearts and minds of millions. Gary Gygax for the most part was a storyteller and gamer in a time where neither would get you far in life. The man spent half of his life working a 9 – 5 struggling to get by to feed his family of 4, which would continue to grow but it is this very struggle and his optimistic attitude that endears him to the reader. Witwer would write about the highs and the lows and the moments that molded Gary in his youth to his actions and digressions in adulthood. This expose of sorts brought home to me the nature of this man and how he truly cared about gamers and the game when RPGs, videogames and publishers looked at the genre as a whole as a fad and a niche that would eventually fizzle out. He started conventions and collaborated with people via snail mail and long distance phone calls just to enhance the experience for not just his players but also all players.

            Hearing about how Gary and his war gamer buddies went from reenacting historic military battles to designing an entirely new way to play and create a format of entertainment is inspirational and warms your heart to those independent creators out there today doing the same thing. You can identify with the working class man still devoted to his passion and seeing it come to fruition left me with a good feeling.

            This book is a must read for anybody who is a fan of the RPGs and classic Dungeons & Dragons as much as it is for the novice player just entering the universe that is RPGs. The story is gripping from beginning to end and you will feel for not only Gary but also for those around him while learning what it took to keep the game going for as long as he did. His determination and drive and eternal boyish nature would allow him to repeatedly pick himself up from any thing from financial ruin which would cripple anyone else to the emotional desolation of two divorces this small and great man would rise and be responsible for how we spend countless hours of our lives today. The book is well worth the purchase and I warmly recommend it to anybody who is thinking of getting to rpgs and not just a MUST read for writer and creators already in the industry.

I will have to give this book an 8 out of 10 and is worth having as I myself have revisited it 3 times until now and every time I pick up something new.

Why you should – or shouldn’t – play Warhammer 40k in 2021

I’ve been out of the Warhammer game for over 15 years at the time of me writing this article. I have however continued reading the books, and tried to keep up to date with the lore – but being the massive universe that it is, it’s a challenge just to keep up with the basics.

When I found myself with some more free time between work, iI’d already decided on one thing I wanted to do – get back into Warhammer. 

Playing Warhammer when you’re a teen can be tricky. First of all, Warhammer can be a very expensive hobby to participate in – at least insofar as the tabletop miniature game goes. As a teen, you usually don’t have the financial means to collect, play or engage in the hobby to the extent that you might want to. This could be the reason why the game did not gain as much traction to become a mainstream IP until the last two decades which have now made it one of the biggest gaming franchises in history. 

As an adult, however, while you usually have the financial means, you may lack the time needed to fully invest yourself in your Warhammer hobby or have the required spaces to host the battles. When I started my hobby back up again, I knew I had to moderate my expectations. While I could buy all the models and supplies I wanted, I knew that it would take significant time to paint them to a standard I’d be satisfied with. A long project, as it were.

Still, despite it being a long project, I believe there are reasons why you as a gamer, as a hobbyist, a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast, should want to play or engage in the massively interesting hobby that is Warhammer – and in this case, specifically, Warhammer 40k.

In this article, I’m going to plead my case if you will – and also mention some of the cons and arguments of why you maybe would want to consider not getting into the hobby.

The game

Warhammer/Warhammer 40k is a miniatures war game that’s mainly aimed at a demographic of 15-50 years old – most of them male though their big boom in the late 80\s and early 90’s saw it grow in popularity with younger players as well, as young as 12-13 in some instances. The company that makes the game, Games Workshop, was founded 40 years ago in the UK and has since then become a company valued in the billions. While other toy companies are failing, and people are losing interest in many physical toys as opposed to digital ones, Warhammer and Warhammer 40k is thriving in ways it never has before. Aside from an resurgence in tabletop/classic gaming overall, Warhammer is thriving even more and growing its fanbase.

How can this be?

1. The Setting/Universe & Peripheral lore products

The detailed setting of, in particular, Warhammer 40,000 is a rich setting filled with literally hundreds of novels/books, and tens of thousands of hours worth of lore, content, artwork, audiobooks, and products to feast on. The Warhammer 40,000 universe makes almost every other setting appear underdeveloped by comparison. Star Trek is a joke when holding the details and attention paid to the universe Games Workshop have nurtured for decades. Star Wars may be fleshed out well in some ways – if you include comics and novels – but Warhammer dwarves their catalogue. Dungeons & Dragons isn’t a setting in itself, and Warhammer 40k easily eclipses popular settings like Faerûn and Eberron. The Warhammer 40,000 lore is bigger than Star Trek and Star Wars combined. 

Top 10: The largest and coolest Warhammer miniatures - Geek Indeed

I’ll go so far as to say that no setting is as well-fleshed out as is Warhammer 40,000 (just my opinion, crucify me in the comments if you must!). While Warhammer fantasy (or AoC) has a well-thought-out setting, the background pales next to what exists for 40,000, which is one of the reasons you find more people leaning towards 40k rather than AoC. That, and how Space Marines have always appeared cooler to boys and were designed and marketed in that way.

The backstory and lore is rich, and it’s easy to get caught up in it – at least how I see it. The peripheral lore, books, and settings that go with it make it one of the deepest settings in existence, in my opinion. Certain settings aren’t that interesting to get into if you’re not engaged in the playing of the game but nonetheless the settings are there. In my opinion, the Warhammer 40,000 universe by itself is good enough to captivate, even if you don’t play the miniature game with its dystopian and dark futuristic narrative.

2. The models

How the models look is a big part of the success of the game – and the fact that the company employs, and holds a competition for master miniature painters to achieve results like above, and showing players what they could do, is a big part of the popularity of the game and why it has maintained a steady player base.

3. More than a game – Games Workshop knows its stuff

Do it the way you want to.

Warhammer 40,000 is:

  • A miniatures game.
  • A tournament game
  • A painting/collecting hobby
  • Books/Audiobooks/Comics
  • Computer games

The fact is, Games Workshop has done a masterful job of creating what is essentially crack for the middle-class nerd with disposable income, and a hobby that younger nerds look to and may want to play or just awe at in store displays. It hasn’t always been this way for the company –  over a decade ago, it was in a slump and it seemed doubtful whether the business would survive or not. 

However, leadership adjusted, the company grew, invested, and expanded, and now we’re looking at a company that essentially “owns” both its setting rights, the production supply of miniatures, the books and everything having to do with Warhammer itself.

And they’re executing their plan to get people involved in a masterful way while making impressive profits.

These, I believe, are some of the main reasons why Warhammer is so successful. 

However, why should you play the game? Why should you get into, or take an interest in the massive setting that is Warhammer? Here, I’m going to be talking mainly about the miniatures game – but many of the arguments can be used for the books or peripheral products as well.

Let’s take things point by point – Why you should play Warhammer.

1. Increases Attention Span & decision-making skills, patience, and Fine motor skills

2016's Miniature of Year - Warhammer Community

Working with Warhammer miniatures can be a mundane and grueling task to some. The detail required in assembling and painting the things will test your patience, fine motor skills, and attention span. Good results here will depend on your ability to handle both fine tasks, and repetitive tasks – any of these things are valuable skills both inside Warhammer 40k  and in the real world. This point is of course not unique to WH40k, but other miniature games may not have the same combination of media, or the wealth that Warhammer offers to players. 

Simply working with the miniatures and doing your best to assemble and prepare them in a way that’s attractive will improve the skills you have.

2. Actual practice of skills, such as math

What is Mathematics? | Live Science

Actually playing with the figures will require different skill sets. The measuring, memorization, and the sheer amount of rules to remember, dice rolls in the dozens, and to quickly crunch relatively simple algebra will still offer opportunities to improve such skills while playing a game. This differs markedly from playing the same game online or digitally, which to me is a huge bonus.

Depending on what level you play the game – everything from casual to tournaments – it will tax different levels of your strategic thinking and other, related skills, all of which are transferrable to the real world as well. In the end, playing a game like Warhammer brings with it many of the same boons we see in playing sports (although the physical exercise won’t be all that significant here).

For this reason alone, it could be an argument to play strategic board games, even if you don’t play Warhammer.

3. A community spanning several age groups/categories and exists in most places

Home - Warhammer Community

Few communities for board and miniature games rival that of Warhammer. The community is global, with clubs even in mid-sized towns, and the hobby popular in many European countries and the US. You’ll usually (outside of Covid-19) have a relatively easy time finding people to enjoy your hobby with. 

What’s more, these people will typically be of all ages and many different backgrounds. Now being nearly 40 years old, many of the people who began playing are in their 40’s or 50’s now, with many of them still playing the game to some extent. It’s always a great hobby, and a great outlet, when people of all age groups can enjoy the same hobby and get together in the same setting. 

Overall, the community which can bring people together is another reason in favor of Warhammer. 

4. An artistic hobby & creative outlet

Creative Assembly får Warhammer-licens. Spännande! | Feber / Spel

Obviously, working with Warhammer will cater to your creative side. The painting, the modeling, the building of your army – all of it works to encourage your fantasy and imagination. You can play the way you want, model your army the way you want. The rules even have support for creating your own specialized army setups, and the company actively works with you if you want to customize your models further, providing details and tools for you to do so.

Warhammer is like lego for adults – your imagination, not much else, sets the limitations here.

5. A non-digital hobby in a digital age

In an ever-increasing digital age with our children and friends spending more and more time in front of screens, I view it as important to encourage hobbies that take us away from the digital world and the screens. While parts of Warhammer can be made easier through the use of modern technology, it is the low tech of the board game that I find appealing here. 

I believe it crucial that we spend more time with each other – not through screens and digital media, but around a table, or in groups, engaging in socializing, games, thinking, and just plain fun. Warhammer is a hobby that offers all of these things and offers it to all demographics and categories of people. 

6. It’s just fun.

Space Marines Showcase: Darcy's Imperial Fists - Warhammer Community

Playing the game is just plain fun. I play an Imperial Fist army in the 40k universe and setting my majestic, sun-yellow warriors of terra against a Xenos horde or the traitor Astartes is always a fun time. Strategizing and trying to outthink, outflank and use my resources better than my opponent. Cheering the dice rolls when they go my way, and cursing them when they do not. Build amazing battlefields that we can play, and enjoy.

All of it is great fun – and this is the main reason the game should be played and enjoyed. A hobby that wasn’t fun, or this much fun, I would spend neither the time nor the money on.

7. You will be constantly challenged

Review Roundup – Imperial Fists, Salamanders and Aeldari – Goonhammer

You can expect a constant challenge when playing Warhammer. The rulebook alone is several hundred pages long, and scenarios will always bring up questions regarding situations, or how to interpret the rules or how to make something as fun as possible. This is not even mentioning the challenge you will find yourself in if you start looking at tournament play, which is of course an entirely different ballgame. 

I myself haven’t always enjoyed being challenged – but everything from the assembling and painting to the playing is a challenging endeavor with Warhammer and in a very good way. That’s also a reason why I find playing Warhammer to be worth my time. 

The flip side

Like with any hobby, there are downsides to Warhammer as well. It wouldn’t be a balanced nor even an attempt at an objective piece without getting into the cons of the game, and the hobby. 

I’m going to keep it simple here, however, as I really believe it is a quite simple side of cons.

There are two main reasons why you should consider not getting into at least the miniatures side of the game. 

1. The cost

Games Workshop has made certain that if you want to play Warhammer, they’ll get your money somehow. It doesn’t really matter to what extent – if you want the miniatures, the paints and supplies, the books, the peripheral products, everything is priced accordingly and for many can add up to a kings ransom for something which is designed to get you hooked. Warhammer is miniatures war game and your units determine the strength and scope of your attacks and nobody wants to be the guy who shows up with 4 infantry men against an armored cavalry. 

While the company has of course spent billions (likely) to perfect its manufacturing techniques, it does hurt to pay $80 for less than a pound of plastic pieces that come in the shape of a space marine chapter master. 

40K: Mortarion Unboxing - Bell of Lost Souls
Games Workshop Webstore

Even the main troops aren’t exactly cheap. Running a 1000 point army will quickly push the price tag above $200. Include the supplies you need for painting, and if you want the company’s paints, that bill goes above $400. With rulebooks, sets of things that you, strictly speaking, do need to enjoy the game, very few people can properly start the hobby below $500.

Most spend far, far more.

To some, and certainly to most kids, this is prohibitively expensive. There are of course ways to cut the costs through package deals and similar things, but the fact is – this stuff looks good, and it costs even more. The end results may be very impressive, but getting there will take heavy, bloody chunks out of your wallet. 

Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you can start “on the cheap”. Warhammer is an expensive hobby, and if you get into it, you’ll find yourself either spending a lot of money or cursing yourself that you don’t have the money to spend.

2. The time dedication

Secondly, Warhammer takes time. This is less of a problem for many people, but it may be a problem to some. Not everyone has the time to spend dozens and hours (and it will take dozens) to prepare an entire army. The games usually take between 2-4 hours depending on size, which is something that for many people still can be handled – but you do need to realize that the game will take some of your time if you get into it – and if you decide that you like it, it’ll take a lot of time.

Therefore, the ideal player for Warhammer that I see, is someone with a decent job, some disposable income, and plenty of time on their hands. That’s a slim group, so most of us have to make do with some shortcoming in this list – but it’s usually something that we can work around.

3. The Nature of Miniatures Game

With more alternatives Games Workshop has managed to adapt to the industry but it is not the miniatures alone that are lining their koffers, moreso it is the IP which has been licensed out for anything from mobiles games to remastered pc games. Miniature games are focused on collecting units and going to war with your opponent and mobile pvp can provide that for far less of a time and money invesment.

There is no story to speak of as you are in a skirmish or conflict opposed to a campaign where you see narratives and plotlines unfold. You do not level up rather you buy stronger units and this mode of play is not for everyone especially if you are the kind of person who dislikes pay to play games or do not have the time and resources. Miniature games are linear and are a time investment when playing similar to tabletop rpgs but whereas D&D is a social, cooperative and collaborative experience Warhammer on the other hand is competitive and does not have as many players.

In the end, nothing should really stop you from enjoying the hobby if it’s something you find that’s to your liking other than finances.

To play or not to play Warhammer? I see it as an easy choice, at least for myself. I love the game, I love the setting, I love the lore, I have a great job and I’ll be playing and enjoying the game for many years to come.

I hope to see you around, fielding your own armies, and that we will meet in joyous battle (or alliance) one day.

Podlight: The Lovecraft Tapes (Podcast Recommendation)

Four years ago I was looking for a way to get into the tabletop RPG Call of Cthulhu, having already familiarized myself with the basics of a D100 system and was always a fan of HP Lovecraft’s work it sounded like it could prove to be a fun thing to run for my group someday as we all enjoyed horror as a genre of game, novel and film.

While scouring YouTube and Facebook for something worth checking out I actually stumbled upon The Lovecraft Tapes in the podcast app later that day on my cellphone. I decided to start from the first case / season (Lights, Cameras, Chaos)episode and never looked back.

The Lovecraft Tapes Logo (awesome Tees in the merch store)

The podcast is an actual-play series with a video and audio component in which the Keeper / Host Jeremy runs sessions of the Call of Cthulhu, with Matt, Bryan and George playing the roles of investigators in an episodic format. With George mysteriously disappearing after a case the boys would recruit the talents of Gabe to continue their investigative efforts. Jeremy’s narration and chemistry with the players make for enjoyable listening but also helps in explaining how the mechanics in the game works for novice players. The party banter never gets stale and the way they approach the problem solving keeps the game fresh from episode to episode.

The boys at Lovecraft Tapes have grown through the years and have an impressive back catalogue of content worth checking out for anybody who is a fan of COC or someone new to the system and looking for a fun way to figure out how you could run the game. Jeremy never overcorrects and lets his players doom themselves but that is what is the fun in this specific game, the party seldom makes it to next week yet here they manage to survive to laugh another day…for the most part.

Apart from providing listeners with the podcast they also have Recommendos where the guys review and recommend video games, movies and a wide range of other cool stuff worth checking out. They always give a shout out to indie stuff when they can and are very responsive to queries and emails which I can vouch for myself. I can only apologize that it took me this long to get around to doing a piece on these guys. I salute their commitment to the culture and fun and hope to hear more from them for many years to come. Even how they would interject comedic ancient one commercials would bring cool intermissions between bad rolls and horrific consequences was but one of the many ways the team crafted brilliant entertainment for all fans of the genre. If you are somebody who cannot get enough of COC or HP Lovecraft this could be that casual listening for your down time between plotting sessions or reading novels.

When I first started listening I must have binged through the first 3 investigations in no time as I was working a warehouse job which was tedious to put it mildly somewhere in the countryside of Sweden. With a nagging supervisor and coworkers who did not care too much about the new Slav I was left to my own devices and forklift. Jeremy and the guys played a huge part in me not letting the company’s BS affect me as much during the day to day grind as the provided enough humor and intrigue to keep me going through eps. I soon found myself downloading 2-3 episodes at home and looking forward to work just cause I knew I would go through more of the adventures. For that I am indebted to you bros and supremely grateful.

So for any of you looking to get a fix of audio horror within a comedic yet interesting narrative look no further than The Lovercraft Tapes. It is hard to bring light to unspeakable dark cosmic horrors such as the ones contained in the tomes printed by Chaosium and Delta Green but this team will bring you out the end of it with some good laughs and a smile on your face.

The site offers several tiers of support from a Student of Miskatonic to The Dreamlands granting you different levels of access from prior rewards and benefits to including opportunities to play videogames with the guys and even the chance to play an NPC in an episode of the podcast! This group of gamers have truly been able to translate their passion into something great that can be monetized and inspire us here at Nerd Dimension to stick with our passions and make sure to have fun on the journey.

If you would like to find out more about The Lovecraft Tapes and see how you could support them please do click the links bellow and make sure you like their page and subscribe. There is a ton of cool content on their website and more information about the now expanded team of contributors and players.

Patreon

YouTube Channel

Twitter

Discord

Medieval, Tales from Europe (new realistic setting for D&D 5E hitting Kickstarter) – Interview with Andrea Oneglia

Mykal talks with one of the Italian Trio behind Medieval – Tales from Europe to bring you guys more info on the this new, exciting setting aimed for 5th Edition players looking for more realism in their tabletop rpgs.

It has been a while since we last delved into the depths of tabletop RPGs and are fortunate enough this time to bring you some firsthand testimony and insight from a designer himself, Andrea Oneglia of Tales for Gamers Publishing (wicked nice name btw) whose efforts are focused on the release of his debut RPG setting Medieval – Tales from Europe which will be hitting Kickstarter soon.

Medieval – Tales from Europe is a historical setting that wants to bring the role players into a bizarre, unpredictable and absurdly real world, soaked in esotericism and full of that fairytale atmosphere that only the Middle Ages can offer, now finally proposed in a classic manner for the world’s most famous role playing game. A low magic system with only one race, the human, and 11 new playable classes will teleport you into the tales of an ancient and tumultuous Europe. Live unbelievable chivalrous adventures mixed with fantastic and supernatural events, marked by typical epic tones and by the satirical and grotesque ones of the folk stories. Keep up to date with the latest released news, explore our contents and support the Kickstarter campaign to receive everything you need to immerse yourself in this amazing story.

What drew me in from the first glance was the artwork I saw in a post he had on a Facebook group we both are members of. I clicked and discovered that Andrea and his team were working on a 5TH Edition Setting set in the Medieval Era which is intended to give players a more immersive and realistic feel. This to me sounded awesome and the further I dug the more I was intrigued and wanted to hear more about it. With information on the project scarce I decided to reach out to the man himself and see what unfolds. Andrea replied promptly and turned out to be a pretty solid guy and upon our request to do a write up agreed with open arms and sent us what he had at the time.

Q1.) So Andrea, tell us a little about yourself? (-short points where are you from, where you grew up etc.)

I was born and raised in Italy, in a small city 20 miles away from Naples, not far from Pompei, surrounded by the sea and by cultural and architectural remains of romans and Etruscan populations. I grew up in a territory rich in history and soaked in mysticism, legends and ancient tales. I grew up with the stories my grandparents used to tell me about the saints and other spiritual beliefs, for example the Jianara (a famous witch who would sneak in your room while you sleep to choke you to death! I’ve never known why!). Most of the time, those stories turned into world war II stories, unfortunately.

Q2) When did you first embark on you journey into the roleplaying games?

The role-playing games came much later in my life, even if the gaming world in general has always been a constant since my childhood (mostly videogames). Another separate hobby of mine was reading and writing, principally science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed writing stories about interstellar travels, multidimensional existences and a lot about medieval fantasy settings too, things like King Arthur stories or even more unrealistic as Lord of the Rings. At the age of 15 I found out there was a way to combine the two things (games and narrative) and the result was incredible! That’s how I got into the role-playing games world, starting with Dungeons and Dragons (the most popular) and having the chance to explore the others just later. D&D allowed me to bring other people, mostly my friends, into the stories I used to write, to make them see what I see and to make them live the worlds I have created, which was something I have always researched. We from Tales for Gamers Publishing believe in the artistic power these things innately possess and we want to give our contribution in helping others “live” more engaging tales, as the historical ones can be.

Q3) You are a European working in Canada, so have you come across any cultural and business differences since you have moved?

My moving to Canada was a shock I could say. We are talking about a country that turned immigration into one of its main strengths, since it’s a relatively young country that needs young professionals to grow. We can’t really say the same for Italy, where for cultural, geographical and organizational aspects immigration hasn’t been considered as a resource yet. This makes Canada a giant boiling pot where everything ferments, grows and can contribution to a diverse ecosystem. There is space and opportunities for every decent person who feels like making a difference in this world in all the fields, from science to art (there is a huge community of role-players here!). At the same time, being a young country, founded entirely on colonialist politics (that dissolved almost completely what was here before), it doesn’t share the long reaching pasts of a lot of the nation’s back in Europe. Speaking about Quebec at least (where I live), the locals still struggle to find an identity and a link with their past which translates in still keeping today a veiled, and for some traits silly, discord between the French and English cultures on the territory (the two countries who fought for the occupation in the 18th century).

Q4) So what about your setting, Medieval Tales – from Europe (Medieval, Tales from Europe) made you feel confident enough to make the bold step of crowdfunding at this early stage?

The most immediate answer I can offer is: “because I love it!” Because I am the first excited fan of this setting and I like to play it with my friends! Even at the time when the mechanics were unclear, we were already trying (spontaneously, in our game sessions) to build up a more realistic system, more theatrical and less role-standard, more human and less divine, more survival and less chill. I can honestly admit that there is nothing like this around (yet)! Yes, there are medieval settings, some of them quite good, but for one reason or another they didn’t see much success and the gamers community seems still to crave more of it in their gaming. Medieval, Tales from Europe, is also introducing new (or not explored enough!) concepts in the RPGs world (the supernatural and the fear of the unknown, the weapons as ultimate deadly instruments, the concept of ultra-specialized classes), which raised huge interest in the players I shared it with. All these things made me decide to take action, step forward and propose something different to our community of players.

Professions + logo Kickstarter

Q5) 11 professions this early seems interesting and from the material you have shown they all vary and will probably feel different. I noticed that you did not shy away from including some interesting yet darker parts of European History including the Surgeon which reminds us of images of the plague. Please tell us about some of the classes and how they differ to a newcomer.

A realistic and historical setting as ours intends to be, needs to start from scratch with the classes. Most of the examples of what we have seen so far appeared inadequate for our purposes. Having the classes boil down to be no more than a fighters, better fighter,  other mediocre fighters, but fighters at the end of the day (which, just to be clear, works just fine in some of the amazing and valid RPGs systems we see around, based mainly on combat). With all the respect for those great titles, those classes sounded just wrong for the setting we have started developing. I like to look upon our 11 new classes as actors on a stage, ultra-specialized, very different from one another and, most importantly, irreplaceable! If your party are short an Explorer, the other players need to work harder to compensate some of the benefits the Explorer can provide during travels and still have some needs unmet. Same for the Artist, the Rogue and all the other classes (which are called Professions in this setting). The Surgeon is for sure one of the most interesting actors on our medieval stage! He can provide useful support in sewing the wounds and in restoring your hit points and there will be no one else able to do it in such an efficient way. The Surgeon can be a sneaky danger too if under menace, since he or she knows the body’s weak points, how to damage them or use them during torture. In summary, there is nothing in common in the different Professions except they are all humans with important skills but vulnerable and never perfect; people that try to do one unique important thing: survive!

Medieval - Tales from Europe
Nerd Dimension do not claim any ownership or copyrights over Medieval – Tales from Europe.

Q6) Low fantasy as a choice brings a lot with it. You have chosen to limit the playable races to only Human which I think is a pro but I am certain you must have got a few odd looks from some of the folks around the table or at the comic store. Please shed light on the decision and how you feel it will positively impact the game?

A low-fantasy system with only humans came as a crucial choice, even if drastic for some aspects, for the sake of a more realistic setting. This for us is going to add other interesting elements, not remove them as we are trying to be as true to the setting. I will try elaborate with an example. Have you ever thought about how devastating some abilities such as Darkvision (an ability in classic rpgs that allow a character to see in the dark) can be on the narration, on the suspense and the engagement you can have at the table when a character gets into a fully dark catacomb? Why there is even a torch in the starting pack of an adventurer if 70% of the classes can see in the dark and you are never going to light it up in a dungeon (and we could say the same about so many other cool but useless objects)? However, the RPG world is wide and vast, and there are players who love settings where “human issues” can be simply overcome with a snap of fingers. Medieval, Tales from Europe wants to provide an alternative support for those players who seek a more competitive game setting, where you’d better think twice in choosing your equipment if you don’t want to end up alone, frozen to the bones, in a dark cave full of venomous snakes or a bear (deadly situations even for a 20th level character in some cases). Also, these features allow for us to finally branch out for some new kind of stories we can play out around the table, such as the story of Saladin who led the Islamic forces during the Crusades, or the story of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Year war, along with many other historical events that comprise the rich history of Europe. Or those tales between myth and legends such as Robin Hood, King Arthur and Lancelot’s story, and heritage of our European culture, stories that simply need the characters to be human and far fro perfect. Is there another way you can play these scenarios with Dungeons and Dragons without the new features (and the drastic choices) Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to introduce?

Q6.2) In the brief you emailed us you highlighted that Low Magic is different to No Magic and we wanted to give you an opportunity to expand on that for our readers.

When we think about the Middle Ages it suddenly brings up dark images to ones mind such as the esotericism of forbidden doctrines and the use of occult sciences which in the Dark Ages claimed to induce supernatural effects on people and situations (a classic example is the voodoo dolls or the habit of keeping crystals or herbs in the houses to keep the malevolent spirits away). In such a scenario it’s hard to imagine a setting that doesn’t take magic into consideration in some form. At the same time, magic as we know it, described well by the fantasy settings of the past, doesn’t exist in our world and it can’t exist in a realistic setting. That’s why we had to work firstly on the concept of magic we wanted to introduce and then on the game mechanics and how to put it in player’s hands. In Medieval, Tales from Europe magic doesn’t exist, but people might interpret some weird signs and circumstance as such because they believe in it and, most importantly, they fear it! The Arcanist, one of the most magic-like Profession we have introduced, is nothing else than a trickster who is himself convinced of the reality of the effects he creates to be true. Such an insane personality can have a great impact on other people’s minds because he uses fear as a weapon, and he will find out it can be as sharp as a blade. In our setting everything is possible, all the supernatural effects can be realized but only if the character is good enough in influencing people’s mind. How does this translate in game mechanics? There will be no spell list in this new setting. We have introduced (for the first time in a tabletop RPG setting, to our knowledge!) a system where whatever supernatural effect can be created by the player itself, not combining parts or pre-generated words but simply inventing it. The Storyteller will give a score to those effects and the player will need to roll a Charisma check (Influence) to create the right grade of suggestion and make the effect appear real to those who are watching (even if it is not). Some of these tricks can have an effect as real as an arrow in the chest!

Q7) You are obviously intending to run Medieval Tales – From Europe over the Dungeons & Dragons 5 Edition rules set which is the most popular on the market. This is a two part question so sorry Andrea,

  1. What did you like about 5E and how do you feel you added to it with your setting
  2. As an independent publisher and creator can you tell us how it is working with an existing rules set and whether it comes with complications?

The 5th Edition is far from being a perfect setting but nothing ever is to be honest. For example, it gives the impression of going easy on players as a RPG system. I feel players are not challenged enough and a lot revolves around the combat with fewer opportunities for diversifying and customizing the characters that it’s previous editions. Even the level progression, according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide should be triggered by an insane amount of combat encounters, primarily. This being said, the system seems to have a pretty strong up-side, which deserved to be use for our setting: it is incredibly widespread (everyone plays it!) and it’s the easiest to learn, an aspect that attracts a lot of new players. As I said previously, we had to adjust some aspects of the 5th edition engine to make it suitable for a realistic setting but we kept intact most of the main backbone. We tried to make the smallest changes possible, preferring to adjust some mechanics instead of outright removing them and forcing players to learn new ones from scratch. The results are far better than what we anticipated with a more challenging and a more interpretative fashion of play compared to the basic 5th edition. Thanks to the Open-Gaming License (OGL) released by Wizard of the Coast in early 2019, the 5th edition rules are free from copyright and everyone can use them, under specific conditions and with the limitation of not including any of the world-settings the company has created for an eventual business idea. Thanks, Wizards!

Q8) Being bilingual yourself I have to ask whether or not you intend to publish in several languages other than English, perhaps Italian, Espanyol or German?

Out first choice was the Italian language, an automatic choice given the nature of content and the south-European flavor of the setting. Plus, Italy is proving lately to be infected with the bug and in Europe is leading in new role players and in new related contents including boardgame publishers. With the recent growth in popularity of boardgames, roleplaying games and the success of movies like the Avengers and shows like Stranger Things the ranks of tabletop rpg fans continue to grow daily in my home country. We decided to also publish in English in order to reach everyone else in the world and give them the chance to get immersed in the fascinating tales of our continent. If Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to be translated in other languages, it depends on many aspects, mostly the Kickstarter campaign outcome.

Q9) The artwork we have managed to see so far are distinct and reminiscent of Fantasy Novel covers in a more modern style. What is your experience and advice when it comes to reaching out to talent whether it be artists or designers, has the internet allowed for more affordable and efficient collaboration?

The power of social media and this recent RPG explosion we are having in Italy allowed me to get in touch with some great artists in the field. I had the fortune to meet the artists and got them involved in this project quite easily. I guess they saw a chance to get some more exposure (they are all still carving out their own path) and at the same time they gave me the honor of using their amazing illustrations for this project, which appear to fit our vision and one for the project! It’s mind boggling how many artists are out there online working on these types creative jobs, whether it is artwork or game-design. I see a great future for such collaborations and partnerships as more and more talent is taking their abilities online.

Q10) The last question is about the Kickstarter and what do backers get? What are you goals, what is the figure and more importantly, what do supporters get who pledge to your campaign?

We expect to see a great Kickstarter campaign in December 2019 which hopefully will turn Medieval, Tales from Europe from ideas into reality. The funds we are asking for will be entirely used in completing the project, to cover the production and shipment costs of the material we offer and the expenses in time and instruments the artists involved in this project need in order to give us their best. In defining the rewards we are going to offer in exchange of the pledges, we based the decision on a simple concept: we want the player to get what they need to start their experience with Medieval, Tales from Europe as soon as they get it in their hands, and nothing more. We believe that less is more, and we want to concentrate the material in useful products, avoiding unused gadgets. Among the rewards there will be the Player’s Guide in PDF and Hardcover format and some others contents including a one-shot adventure, a little guide for the encounters with some crucial enemies stats, famous medieval characters’ sheet, artworks and more. There will be some good deals for the early birds and for those present in our newsletter list. Most important, we will take care of the shipping cost of all the products and once the campaign is over, hopefully with a positive outcome, our backers will not be charged anything more. They will be invited in a private Facebook group where they can follow the different stages of the project, stay in touch with us the producers and just wait for the product to arrive.

Arcanist

Andrea’s story is one shared by many independent creators but too many allow their ideas to remain nothing more than pencil scratches on the back of a character sheet. Andrea has been thinking and working on a setting with a foundation in realism that itself is historically rich and inspiring. Himself investing into getting the artists to help bring these same ideas to life. The dancing blades that harken to the ottoman and Turkish Empires look fierce while the Warrior and Explorer remind you of the Knights of Britain and the voyages of the Spanish Fleet. This Era in European history is rife with conflict, myths, religion and intrigue so splashing in a dab of fantasy adds just enough to make it feel new and worth exploring. This game is different in the best way possible, it is supposed to be different.

We must commend Tales for Gamers Publishing for getting behind their ideas and having a vision they are pursuing. They are doing what designers could never have dreamed of twenty years ago, today they can call their friends and fans to action. Gamers have elevated crowdfunding to where it is legitimately funding bestselling products tabletop to the Xbox store and Tales for Gamers are not taking much risk. By taking their time to build more awareness for their game they can launch a Kickstarter to an interested public and audience. More important it is great to see an Italian creator and publisher aspiring to make his mark internationally with his work. This is a European project that we are certain will find it’s place at tables across the continent. Our job at Nerd Dimension is help however we can because growing up I always dreamed of being part of the industry, work within in and belong to the culture and now I do. Today we can step up and get behind creators like never before and Medieval Tales – From Europe is something that I feel has been missing from the tabletop and with our help Tales for Gamers can remedy it. We would like to salute the valiant efforts of Giovanni Laudante IT specialist of the group, Davide Santonicola the super fan who always is ready to help and last but not least collaborator Maurizio Infante.

We are going to pledge to the campaign and we invite our readers to check out their page and see what it’s about for themselves. Andrea and his team are communicative and are always looking for more people to hear about Medieval Tales so please give them a like and show them some support. I myself have been guilty of scrolling past Kickstarter posts because most of them fail for a reason but I am glad that I checked this one out. Next time you guys are going through your troll page, click on one of those posts if it seems cool because you could be helping that dream come true for somebody.

I was thrilled to cover this and expect us to have Andrea back on, this time he will appear on our podcast which will go back up when our co-host Bakreni returns so make sure you are subscribed and are following our pages to hear how everything went. Until next time reader, role deep and stop trying to pick pocket in the tavern already!

 

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Witch of Salem : Fun for 4 with a great theme [Board Game Review]

Mykal discusses one of his go to Horror tabletop games with Halloween coming up, maybe your group would enjoy Witch of Salem.

I first came across Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games ) designed by Michael Reineck (Pillars of Earth, Cuba: El Presidente) whilst watching a Dice Tower Top 10 with Tom Vassel and his buddies. I was searching for a coop board game with a good theme that did not take too long to set up and play yet still was interesting enough to my group that we play it again. Off the rip I liked the Cthulhu mythos with the it being the early 20th Century New England involving ancient ones, demons and intrigue.

My initial fears after playing Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror (Fantasy Flight) was that I would pay a lot of money for a game that the group would not play enough to warrant its price. An issue for many people entering the hobby of board games especially those who intend to collect is the price on some of the best games are pretty steep, add in postage you are looking at a hefty some of cash for something you won’t get to use that offten. I have paid for games that I only ever got to play once and wished I could have got another honest opinion on the game before buying it. Board Game Geek did not have it scored too high (6.6) yet what I could read the game seemed straight forward, challenging and did have a tone of play that matched the theme.

The game’s designer Michael Reineck is a German designer who was nominated in 2008 for Designer of the Year, the year Witch of Salem was released along with some of his other projects. I could not find a website or social media page to dig up some more info but he has worked on more than 6 published board games and the list is nothing to sneeze at. The artwork (Franz Vohwinkel) even when looking at reviews seemed interesting as it did in Dragons Lair when I went to purchase it.The artwork looks great from the box to the cards to the map you play on with the right dark tones to bring the setting to life.

witch of salem spread 2

The box contains all your standard board game pieces, tokens, cards and a board with a manual to read which could have been streamlined a little more but was easy enough to comprehend. The game is limited to 4 players max and is a cooperative game involving strategy and combat. Not really a mystery game despite the description on the front of the box but the horror theme and the the progression mechanics are easy to use and build tension as time passes in the game.

This is a fun game and is pretty simple to learn after one playthrough. That being said, Witch of Salem is not an easy game and scales well for a maximum of 4 players. There are a variety of ancient ones you can find yourself grappling with as the time mechanics don’t seem to stress the players more rather keep the tension and pace consistent. Towards the end you and your players will have to come together to seal the gates and prevent the demons from entering our world. This is something you can play for a while as games seldom feel the same and it is great for a halloween board game before the movies or after dinner. I recommend this over Eldrith and Arkham as it plays faster, is taught easier and the price is fair considering what you get out of it. If you want something that will have you on the edge of your seat for most of the game and don’t want a million things to set up Witch of Salem is the horror coop game for you.

 

Rating: 8 out 10

I gave it a lower score because I feel that the game could be fun with more players and there were no expansions released. The rules are not as straight forward and all of the characters are the same with no significant diffirences in skills and abilities.

Fighting with little plastic men. The story of Warhammer:Fantasy Battles

New contributor and fellow Nerd Big K aka Kruno drops an article about the best table top fantasy war game of all time. Read more to find out more about this forgotten classic.

Related image

 

It was the year 1998, the author of this text was in his late teens and admittedly a bigger geek then I am now if that is even humanly possible.

My friends and I had been playing D&D from the very beginnings and as a group we have been hardcore gamers, but D&D to us was a system that was just missing something, we could not quite put our finger on it, but as we understand it now we were missing gritty reality and logic.

While playing D&D at later levels, talking 12th and up, any character could basically walk into a village, kill every single person there and leave without so much as scratch on them! So things like that happened a few times in our playgroup before we disbanded until we could find a punishing enough system that would prevent stuff like that from even the most advanced level players.

We explored and read a lot and my friend and I found an article on (god damn I feel so old for remembering) Alta Vista(for those of you who don’t know what it is, its basically something like Google but way more primitive) about Warhammer: Fantasy Battles. It was a game of heroes and armies clashing on the field of battle, where 2+ players each commanded their own little or big army as we would later discover and beat each other senseless for bragging rights and a pint of beer, or if you played seriously on the tournament scene you could win some nice expensive Warhammer figurines and accessories like paint stations and professional style airbrushes.

In August 1998 the very first box of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles 5th edition arrived in Split, Croatia and my entire crew gathered to see what was in the beautifully painted box which sported a knight in full plate armor on a warhorse charging some sort of lizard like creature.

The suspense was crazy and we were all giggling like schoolgirls, and then we opened the box, it was full of unpainted and un-assembled models of knights, archers, lizardfolk, and sported 2 phenomenal looking heroes/champions for each army.

It also contained a phenomenal rule-book with loads of rules for almost any situation that could occur during the game itself and incredible Gothic looking artwork which we all fell in love with at first sight.

While some people felt underwhelmed and a bit disappointed, most of us including me saw huge potential in Warhammer. I saw endless possibilities for customization and making your own unique army and heroes, which could possibly be used in other gaming systems not just in Warhammer.

Now that we had the actual game it was but the the beginning of the love that would mark the next 20 or so years of my life.

We would all now have to chose an army to represent us best on the battlefield, it would define the way you build your army,  the way you play and what were the strengths and weaknesses of your particular army.

As a group we all picked what we felt most comfortable with.

The Vampire Counts with their incredible necromantic magic that could make entire units of skeletons appear on the battlefield.

The High Elves with their fast moving infantry and cavalry paired with their Mages that could wreak havoc on enemies.

The Empire ,a human faction with  heavily armored knights and heavy artillery like cannons and mortars to back them up and mostly used infantry as cannon fodder and something to be sacrificed to achieve victory at any cost.

The Dark Elves and their specialist units which were lightning quick while their heroes were ferocious in up close melee combat.

The Wood Elves as absolute kings of shooting with their longbows which had extra range and extra power, and the best scout units in the game.

 The Brettonians as a human faction which could be best described as feudal french knights mixed with crusaders and peasants as backup units which provided numbers while their fantastic cavalry did heavy hitting.

The Skaven a race of mutant ratfolk which use unstable magics and fight in huge numbers while supported with a form of close combat magics and semi/mechanical shooting which were hugely unreliable but when they did work  it proved absolutely devastating for the enemy.

The Warriors of Chaos a semi human demon faction wielding insanely powerful magic, which were the ultimate bad guys in the Warhammer world.

The Dwarfs a  reliable army of heavy armored infantry that could withstand almost any charge and strike back with good measure, backed up with some of the most devastating shooting units in the game and very decent protective magic.

And the last but certainly not least, my own favorite faction

The Orcs and Goblins   purely for practical reasons cause nobody else wanted them, I took them as my favorite and never regretted it for a millisecond.

It was an army of monsters, giants, trolls, goblins and orcs which lived in a mostly nomadic tribes and while they had huge numbers they were primitive and their magic was unreliable. When it did hit  it was absolutely devastating and while orcs were huge lumbering brutes that relied on pure strength, goblins were sneaky and devious so with those 2 combined were for me a match made in heaven.

 

And so we all began collecting and painting our armies, gathering for gaming and painting sessions that would last for entire weekends, I personally remember a couple where my folks asked me „Have you guys eaten anything in the last 2 days?“ we would paint and play for hours, the game was to us so immersive and so gritty and real that we had people including me (actually, especially me) have nerd rages for rolling bad and having our heroes killed by sheer bad luck. To most of us it was the best representation of tabletop conflict we have ever seen, and we loved every second of it, because even if you lost, there was a sense of dramatic achievements when you told how your mage wiped out an entire enemy unit when his spell failed (yes it was actually quite possible for a spell to fail and do devastating damage to both friends and foes alike).

We loved the unforgiving nature of the game which made you think of it like chess but with six sided dice included, mistakes on the battlefield were severely punished and your units could quite easily be wiped out by much inferior opponents just because you left your flank or rear open and vulnerable to attack. It was unlike anything we ever played before, in D&D you could resurrect your fallen comrade, in Warhmmer if a Lord/Hero/Mage died it was a huge deal and most armies suffered greatly with a loss of such a huge point investment and lack of leadership.

Warhammer as a game itself has many extensive rules, most of which I will not mention in this text, cause I’m writing an article not a 450 page book, but I do need to mention the game has complex character stats and quite a few of them for each model/character and the better your stats the more points the model costs and each game is played with an agreed number of points, for tournaments it was considered that 2000 point games were most balanced but most playgroups played anything from 500 point skirmishes to 5000 grand battles.

The game itself developed and my group played all editions of the game, however instead of making progress, it is my firm opinion that the game was at its peak during 6th edition which was the most balanced and started deteriorating from there, instead of fixing the minor issues of the game Games Workshop made 7th edition which was somewhat an improved version of the 7th but it reduced and gimped a lot of armies because it reduced the number of race specific magical items doing away with the uniqueness of armies,instead of listening to their player base Games Workshop messed up big time, we thought OK, we can adapt its not 6th but its still playable.

After 7th edition was released followed by the semi disastrous and final installment of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles the 8th edition, while it added some great stuff, like advantage for fighting in large units the so called horde units, it absolutely killed cavalry and mobility and made all armies a copy paste of each other which huge infantry units charging frontally into each other. It seemed to us older players that the game was so stupidly simplified that even preschool children could play it, and we were pretty pissed off.  The number of race specific magical items was almost nonexistent, everything was  incredibly streamlined and we were all disappointed and incredibly angry to the point that some people actually quit playing all together after reading the rulebook.

It was a sad time, we were friends who shared an interest but this tore our group apart, nobody wanted to play with these stupidly simplified rule set, we felt like the huge effort and not to mention a really large money investment was taken from us because developers were morons who did not listen to their player base! Games Workshop wanted to make more money but they failed to realize that you can’t make such drastic changes without alienating and antagonizing longtime customers and supporters of you previous iterations.

It felt like they cheated us old players in favor of new kids and we were pissed off, I believe we had every right to be.

Warhammer: Fantasy Battles no longer exists as a game system, it is replaced by a stupidly simplified game called Age of Sigmar, which while undoubtedly fun to play has no where near the complexity of the game I loved to play which has reduced the number off stats and characters become 1 man armies that decide combat results, while in previous editions it was all about the positioning of your units making the right charge at the right time. Now it is all about who has a bigger sword on a bigger lord class character which is too simple, non complex and for this reason is NOT in the true spirit of Warhammer!!!

It makes me sad and happy at the same time that a group of enthusiasts made an unofficial Warhammer game called the 9th Age but, its not officially endorsed by Games Workshop unfortunately.

This was my experience with Warhammer: Fantasy Battles a game that has given me great joy and a lot of fun memories. It made me a lot of friends and it saddens me that it no longer exists as something I loved to play but as something completely different, that greed and corporate money grabbing destroyed what was once of the greatest tabletop war game of all time.

 

I hope you enjoyed my debut article for Nerd Dimension and look forward to reading you feedback in the comments. Remember to rate, comment and subscribe to our Facebook page and Podcast to stay in the loop as we upload new content.

Nerd Dimension TOS Ep 2 with guest David

They return !

The nerds return with another throwback installment in which we tackle many issues and of course go overboard with our sound effects and trolling. Apart from giving listeners our opinions on the listed below we through in our specific brand of humor as to offend only the most sensitive of listeners. We try to not make time sensitive content so that you will never feel like you are keeping up with a trend or listening to another pod-casting reviewing the newest products. By not having sponsors we have the liberty of talking about what we want, the way we want and pick and chose topics we feel may not have been discussed enough or from our position. In between day jobs, shows and other day to day BS we have to deal with we gotta vent somewhere about the shit we love so enjoy as we talk about:

– D&D Shadow Plague (Comic Review)
– Fairy Tale Fights Review (Xbox 360)
– Shadows  Over Camelot (Board Game Review)
– Book Recommendations
–  Apollo still hating on flat chested actresses portraying Wonder Woman !

And of course over the top sound effects !!!

 

 

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7 Wonders (Board Game Review)

One of the most popular games out now makes the cut. Read more to see why we enjoyed this card drafter

I first saw this game being played at a convention and it seemed pretty interesting at a first glance. Building up wonders , I think five people were playing and the artwork really impressed me. It really looks like the developers and publishers had really put in some hard work. The different size cards and draw system intrigued me and the players seemed to really be having a blast. I was still kinda new to the drafting card game as a system but I liked how the game seemed to flow pretty fast despite all the players. I watched a few turns play out before grabbing a smoke break and talking to someone who had played it before where they broke down some of the core mechanics. At the time he mentioned how the expansions added more to the game and how he was surprised I had not come across it before. It seemed like something I would like to play, it had enough moving parts and flavor I thought to be something worth buying especially when you can play up to seven out the box. It is hard to find a board game that can scale well and I am always looking for games that can include more players as I rarely have the perfect numbers to run some of my other board games which often cap at 4 to 5.

Only a few months later I find myself playing the game with some friends after a dinner party and I was instantly sold on it. It did not take long to explain the rules and the beautiful artwork and colors added to theme. The owner of the game we played had it very well organized so the set up was pretty smooth and it just looked fun and the dinner table sat 6 comfortably so there was ample room for the guests. The system of play was new to me and the way you drew cards and point system made sure you had several ways of winning the game which several of the players found interesting along with the diplomacy and deal brokering that could occur between turns. The energy at the table felt like everyone was eager for the next turn and after a few turns the players stopped asking questions and kept things moving. Despite the game not being cooperative it did not really have us at each others throat and was not too rule heavy. This all added to the excitement and I decided that it would be something I purchase for my new group when I move to Sweden.  The game has been critically acclaimed since its original print in 2010 for Repos Production from Belgium. Designed by Antoine Bauza, a designer I was not to familiar with but he won the Game of the Year Award (Spel Des Jahres 2011) and apart from that I could not find much on him online.

When I walked into Dragons Lair and saw they had all the expansions I figured this was a game that has staying power and obviously is well supported by its publisher. Another thing that was an unofficial cosign was that several of the store’s customers I asked for opinions said the game was easy to learn and fun to play. In fact out of the four people I asked all four had played and had something nice to say about it. After reading more about what the expansions offered I immediately bought Leaders and the stand alone Duels so that I could play with my Girlfriend who was keen on the idea after already playing the basic Settlers of Catan game for boardgaming.

The first time we played we had 5 players and it took us in total two hours to run the first game but it was thoroughly enjoyable for everybody involved. The rules were pretty straight forward, the color coding of the cards you drew and their abilities made for some interesting back and forth across the table as players new to board games quickly got a hang for the mechanics. The time system makes sure the game does not last too long so the next few games were around an hour and some change. I do not see how someone could play it in under an hour with 5-7 players unless they all shared the same degree of experience in playing it.

7 Wonders plays like no other game I have played before, the artwork is brilliant and the the mechanics are really quick to learn even for the most novice of players. The game has replay value and just looks inviting once set up. If you are thinking of the next board game you want to buy for your group to play every once in a while that is not too intense 7 Wonders is what you should be looking for. What I really enjoyed was how the game forces you to consider and pay attention to what is happening around the table, meaning more interaction between players and a interest in what they did in their turn. It has enough strategy that my brother who is a stern strategy game player had a blast setting up resource cards and building up his forces.  There is something to building up an ancient civilization and constructing a wonder that is just awesome for the average history buff like Apollo.

The downside is that is that it is not a cheap game and the cards should be sleeved for repeat play. The thing about card heavy games is the constant shuffling and use results in wear and tear and 7 Wonders really looks too good that the aesthetics are a huge part of why you like the game. The sleeves just keep the game looking good for longer and saves your nerves when sticky fingers threaten smudge a card. That is where it gets a little tricky because the game is so popular and demand for those specific sleeves so high it is hard to find them in-stock at most online board game retailers. I have spoken to several clerks who have confirmed that the suppliers cannot ship enough and there are shortages in several countries. The sleeve size is not as common as the american board game or trading card game which does add to the problem. Apart from the money you have to invest the game does require a bigger playing surface to fully enjoy everything, much like Mare Nostrum, Twilight Imperium and any of the newer Dungeons and Dragons board games from Wizards of the Coast.

After discussing with my fellow Guild Members and Nerd Dimension crew we came to the decision conerning the score.

7 out of 10

Out the box the game is impressive, easy to learn and will have you coming back for more. Due to its simple and fun play mechanics even players new to the genre will easily master it. We took points off for the price point, space requirements and do feel that the expansions did fix some things to make the game more interesting through new options and the introduction of new mechanics. This game is worth the money and we suggest reading up on the expansions if you are a seasoned player looking to have more depth and flavor out the gate. 7 Wonders has done great and stood the test of time, we predict that the game will continue to dominate and is firmly in the position that few title can claim.

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Marvel : Legendary Board Game Review – A coop deck builder for the newbs but does it deliver ?

Upper Decks smash is reviewed. Capes, Crime Fighters and Cards, lots and lots of cards !!!

This review was years in the making and I wanted to play through the game enough times before passing judgement on something I was excited about for so long. I was hyped about it when I first heard of the concept of a coop Marvel game, something to play with friends that was not miniatures on a board and had more possibilities. Granted I was not a deck-builder fan at the time but it sounded like something I could enjoy.  More importantly I wanted my group to have played a few hands to see how players of different levels of experience felt about it. A game with hundreds of cards and new mechanics may be fun for an avid gamer but a newbie might be overwhelmed by all the things they have to remember.

The game is pretty popular from the amount of expansions (11 at present) that  continue to be print and with Comic Culture and Nerd Culture being at an all time peak I felt something like a COOP deck builder required us to be able to give an accurate, fun and informative review. I saw a lot of Youtubers discussing it, lots of reviews but it was one of those games that was not so popular in Croatia so at the time of its release it did not get such a push I guess in the Eastern European markets. I digress. Nevertheless I was syked to play it after reading and hearing mixed reviews I still went in hoping for the best.  Upper Deck are not usually associated with board games as many of my peers recall them from sports trading cards and memorabilia so it had me curious to see how they would fair in this new realm. To clarify I would like to state that I was not big on deck builders or card games at the time so this was a recent purchase after I had played a few more card games .

Having new players and a bigger place meant I could get back to boardgaming and this is a game I felt I never quiet played enough of. The first time I played it was in Split with my close friends and guild brothers Boris aka Moses and Ivan aka the Apache in a small apartment an wound up playing it on the floor! So my first impression was that I needed space to run it. I recently played it at the new place with my girlfriend and fellow Nerd Dimensioners Apollo and Gustonius. I purchased the game at Dragons Lair in Kungsholmen Stockholm. The price did catch me a little off guard considering that it is not the newest title however the artwork on the box and the shape of it made for easy storage and display piece . Seeing the amount of expansions already available indicated to me that this game obviously is still selling well when so much added content is still being released.

The base game contains 500 cards in total, a gameboard and manual. Upper deck threw in a ton of free dividers so you can label all the heroes, villains, schemes etc as to make it easier the next time you play. WARNING ! This game will take time to prepare and explain and I suggest you play it with 3 before playing five. After you organize the infinity deck of cards you can build the decks which go on the board. The board is good quality and straightforward with authentic artwork. Upper Deck saw to it that the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and reaming flavor added to the game. The manual is short and simple, big enough text and pretty easy to understand after you flipped through it.

LEGENDARY MIC FNL

Included is how to- run your very first game and other ways to run the villains so that you can easily setup the henchmen and masterminds. The mechanics involved players drawing from different decks to either build their own deck or to play their hands on the table. You combat bad guys by playing different shield cards which serve as a currency or attack points and your goal is to prevent bad guys from escaping and destroying the master minds. The game is not the easiest and you will be knocked around but it does balance out as you start taking villains off the board. The developers and designers created a beautiful game and made sure that each game will be different. The mechanics do take a couple of hands but you will know what you are doing after 3 games and will be able to explain to any new players you wish to include in the crime fighting fun.

After playing enough games I did start feeling that I was playing the mechanics more than I was fighting bad guys but in all fairness it is a deck-builder game not a classic boardgame. Luckily I had purchased the Deadpool Expansion which was not expensive and added more cards and made for some interesting combinations. This being a review of the base game I will say that despite have 500 cards the game did feel like it was more mechanics and it did not give me enough options to make it more of a game that I could play say twice a month. 7 Wonders does this well where you get enough flavor and options out the box and it gets people back to the table because it is engaging despite being a competitive game. When I purchased the Dark City expansion I saw that it allowed for more options and added mechanics which did make the game harder but in return the scales did tip back in the players favor with better cards and characters. The base game should have included a few more things and with the price tag I would have preferred a mat instead of a board for conveniences sake.

All in all Marvel did deliver a fun deck-builder that you can teach kids and adults could still enjoy as it has moments where it does feel a little pokerish yet maintains a very enjoyable team aspect. Working together, letting the next player get a certain hero so they can deliver a harder hit. It does have a competitive option where you count up the amount of damage done and cards in your deck to determine who earned the most points which also can spice it up. This is a game which needs sleeves and expansions so be prepared to dish out some coin for it if you want to truly be able to enjoy the game. The cards will get worn out and the expansions keep you and your players more interested. As a stand alone it can prove fun for a regular group but is not something we recommend for smaller groups as we feel it plays best at 4-5 players.

The Nerd Dimension will give this game a

 

6.7 out of 10

 

*Ruling: Despite the great artwork the game is a considerable investment for a game that will not have the same feeling after 20 games. The mechanics can be mastered but for new players it can take a couple of games.The Legendary system has been applied to everything from Buffy to Aliens so it is not that the system is bad but I felt there would be more flavor in the base game. However the rating jumps higher when you add the expansions so subscribe to see which ones we liked and which ones we felt did not add much.

 

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Mazes & Minotaurs RPG Review

The title speaks volumes so read on to hear what we think of the classic free to play RPG of Legenadry Games Studios !!!

One of the new members of our guild brought forth the idea of us playing a different RPG at our next game session. At first when he mentioned it I had heard of it before but never played or read any of the materials. To my surprise I discovered it was a free to play game and he himself had had worked with Legendary Games Studios so expect an interview with him in the near future. With the summer season around and the Euro 2016 being the biggest topic it was high time I put something out for my nerds too.

The game is set in the mythic setting of ancient Greece and the theme is heavy in the game. The selection of classes are easy to understand as well as equipping  and filling out the character sheet is straightforward and streamlined for ease of play. It runs on a D20 system and has numerous modules free to download online. I had the pleasure of playing two sessions thus far of the game and am returning tonight to wrap up the adventure we are currently on.

 

M&M

 

What I really did like was how fast we rolled our character sheets and how combat is much easier than in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. No attack opportunities and no feats, I found myself not having to as the Game Master too much as is that easy to play. The backdrop and setting also is fun because how many of us in high school would have to killed to play a game such as this when we were reading of Hercules and Hades. What is refreshing is the change of pace and amount of reading required to get into the meat of the game. To play your class you literally only need to read your page on your specific class and the rest pretty much plays out as any other RPG. The flavor does separate it and the price point is impossible to beat. We all truly recommend this game for anybody looking for something new and I would say is a must if you are trying to introduce new players to Role Playing Games as other RPGs tend to involve a lot more reading and newbs will walk away unimpressed, overwhelmed or bored in the first session. Mazes and Minotaurs does not share this problem and can go over well with an entire of party of newbs and as a result of a streamlined system you spend WAY less time flipping through pages and more time engaged in the game.

 

Homepage & Downloads 

 

MM2