XCOM: The Board Game's companion app is more than just a gimmick

Am I shocked to learn that board-gaming veteran and genius, Eric Lang (Chaos in the Old World, Quarriors!), is blurring the lines between app and board game? That he’s integrating digital functionality into a board game? That he’s made the app something more than accessory or optional add-on? That he’s done it with a franchise as rich and fun as XCOM? That he’s done it, by all accounts, in a way that is not only satisfying and logical but also pioneering and terrific fun? 

I am not. This is what Eric Lang does.

Go get us, Eric Lang.

Life is Strange, episodic adventure game, coming from Remember Me dev

i haven’t finished playing Remember Me, yet, but I really dug its world-building and its design — lots of interesting choices made in that game. I picked up the art book for it because that game’s so lovely (and because I’m a fan of art director Aleksi Briclot).

Now the developers at Dontnod are cooking up a story-driven adventure game about rewinding time and a mysterious disappearance? I’m in. I love that the game is being teased with an image of faces and light … the other photo is pretty commonplace for modern video games, alas.

Thanks for the heads-up, Polygon!

Shadows and Lore

The gameplay clips from Monolith’s forthcoming Shadow of Mordor fascinated me. The game looks to build on an Assassin’s Creed-style open world by developing relationships between the player’s protagonist and a Mordor full of distinct orcs and Uruks, using a game mechanism called the Nemesis System. Intriguing.

But why is this game set in Middle-earth? Why pit the lone hero, Talion (with yet another motivation of familial revenge driving yet another dude on a grimdark quest), against a nation and a ruler we are almost certain cannot be defeated within this play experience? We can find some dramatic tension there, knowing that Talion’s mission is doomed, I guess.

This all felt like a disharmonious combination of mechanics and theme, to me. Until I heard that the resurrecting spirit that gives Talion his shot at revenge draws from the lore of Middle-earth in a way I didn’t expect. That wraith is Celebrimbor, the Elf and smith who helped a disguised Sauron craft the Rings of Power in the forges of Eregion at the foot of the Misty Mountains back in the Second Age. Now we have a big, dramatic backdrop for this game that explores some of the years between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring in a new light. Backing that up with distinctive gameplay in a region of Middle-earth we seldom get to see as more than a volcano — that’s an art-design challenge I want to see Monolith tackle.

Between this, my fondness for LOTRO, and the new e-books I’ve picked up for The One Ring roleplaying game, (including Rivendell and its look at Eriador), I think some more gaming in Middle-earth might be in my future.

Fifth Generation: Preparing for a Session

camharr:

wordstudio asked if I might write a post about how I prepare to run a session of tabletop gaming. I am here for such requests!

You should know right off the bat that I’m still an enthusiastic amateur of a GM. I’ve been running games, off and on, for only a few years, after Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition came out (in 2008, Google says, and wow, time flies). I’ve been

I’m always curious to know how different GMs prepare for play and how that preparation turns into actual play in the moment. This is a great look at Cameron’s approach.

Playtesting and critique require a lot of different skill sets to do well. it requires more than an opinion and more than a desire to design or fix something yourself. It is a different skill, shaping one thing into another, than it is to create a thing from scratch. Seeing what something can be — maybe what it tried to be in addition to what it is — takes practice. “Here, let me rewrite that for you” or “Here, let me correct that for you” is a different act than making a thing exist in the first place. Obvious, probably, but worth saying.

Seventeen People

You want a magnificent, beautiful, worthy analysis of a great story? I give you Jon White’s “Seventeen People,” a spectacular analysis of his favorite hour of television.

Required reading for you screenwriters, fans of The West Wing, haters of Dire Bochcoization, and dual-classed (or wannabe dual-classed) writer-designers.