Little Metal Dog Show: Episode 2.6 -A Game of Chance with Alan Gerding!

A new episode appears! You can grab it from iTunes or – if you’re an impatient type – listen to it right here:

This time, the awesome Alan Gerding joins Michael to discuss all manner of things – from Dark Souls to death threats (yes!), it’s the traditional meandering LMDS that you all know and love. Alan (and his partner in crime, Sean McCoy) run Tuesday Knight Games, makers of Two Rooms and a Boom! aka: The World’s Greatest Party Game EVER, and are now back on the crowdfunding trail with their all new release…

World Championship Russian Roulette is currently on Kickstarter, and it’s unlike anything you’ve played before. After checking it out (and loving it) at Gen Con 2015, the guys have worked like demons on the game and – having learned MANY lessons from the 2R1B campaign – you know that this is going to be a good one. We talk about the Two Rooms journey, the perils and pitstops of making games, and what we can expect from Tuesday Knight Games in future.

Oh, and you should totally listen to the Tuesday Knight Games Podcast too, because it’s excellent. Head over to the KS and throw some money their way – you won’t regret it!

By the way, this was meant to be a much bigger podcast – I actually recorded an hour long interview with Patrick from Crash Games and Lance from Tasty Minstrel (yes, he came back following his appearance a couple of episodes ago!) all about their adventures at the Tokyo Game Market. Everything was great while we recorded… and then my apartment got struck by lightning. My computer was fritzed and I lost a LOT of files, including the recording with Patrick and Lance. I’m gutted, but we’ll be catching up again in the near future, hopefully at Origins, where we’ll discuss what they got up to again.

As ever, thanks for listening!

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On Gen Con, Angry Men and The Importance of Inclusion

Hey everyone. Yesterday I posted a video on the Little Metal Television YouTube channel in response to some offensive bile that’s being spouted by certain sections of the board gaming community in regards to the increased presence of women and representatives of the LGBT community at this year’s Gen Con event, being held in August in sunny Indianapolis. If you’ve not seen the video, I’d be greatly appreciative if you took ten minutes out of your day to check it out. It’s a bit angry and sweary, so is Not Safe For Most Workplaces, but it’s a subject that has really pissed me off.

Now, a few people have been in touch about the video and wanting to share it, but as I am a sweary chap in it they’d sooner disseminate something a bit less… blue. Normally I’d pretty much ignore such a request as I don’t have much of an issue with swearing, but as this is an important message, I said that I’d put up an edited transcript – so here it is.

Thanks for watching, reading, listening… whatever you do. Please don’t let the dark side win.


“This is very much a video where I’m preaching to the converted, but **** it, things need to be said. Before that though, I’d like to tell you a story.

When I was a kid, I was bullied for years. I was fat, I was short, I was basically the prime target for anyone who felt like being an arse for no reason aside from plain hatefulness. The advice I was given was the normal stuff you expect – keep quiet and ignore them, and like a bee, they’ll go away eventually. Which they did, sure, because there’s always going to be someone else who attracts a bully’s attention for a while, but the focus will get back to you eventually. Unlike a bee, the bully keeps stinging, and it hurts more and more every time.

Now I’m older, and I’ve realised that this turtle approach is frankly, **** bull****. As the internet has become more and more dominant in our lives, the ability to bully and intimidate anonymously is something hundreds and thousands of people have to deal with on a daily basis. The only way to stop this tsunami of crap is to address it, face to face – call it out and show the bullies just how much of a joke they are. In the words of the inimitable RuPaul, my goal is to always come from a place of love …but sometimes you just have to break it down for a ****.

Inclusion is important, not just in gaming, but in everyday life. We live in a world where arguments are regularly heard about where people should go to the toilet, where people are denied the ability to stay in hotels or get bloody wedding cakes just because the person they love happens to be the same gender as them. You’d think that kind of thing wouldn’t affect something as daft as playing games, but there has been a horrifying growth in the amount of people who seem to think that gaming is just for white, straight men, and at the moment a lot of it seems to be focusing on the biggest party on the American convention circuit, Gen Con.

Before we start calling out this bull****, let’s look at the positive side of this. Earlier this week, Gen Con announced that over 50% of their Featured Presenters will be female. This is excellent. It shows a growth in the hobby that it truly needs. Games should be not only be played by everyone who wants to try them, they also need to be more represented in the creative fields. There’s also several special guests who are looking to promote LGBT issues in the games they make and play, which is great. Why not reflect the lives of the people who are playing them? After all, cardboard and bits of plastic don’t discriminate. A dice won’t consistently roll badly just because you’re gay or identify as female – dice roll badly because they ******* hate you.

And now onto the dumpster fire of humanity that is people who think diversity is a bad thing. I’ve been made aware of a putrid little corner of the internet called Alpha Game blog which is apparently “Breaking the chains, winning the games, and saving Western Civilization” – according to the writer Vox Day (real name, Theodore Beale). He’s also one of the figureheads of the Rabid Puppies, which is a **** in itself but we’re focusing on games here, not science fiction writing. There’s a small but rabid bunch of subscribers, all of whom seem terrified that women will destroy the world of gaming because – and this is posted all over the blog – “Women Ruin Everything”. Most posts are a carnival of lunatic viewpoints, but a few recent posts have been highly critical of Gen Con, in particular the increased female presence of list of Featured Presenters at the show (which is actually 13 to 12 this year), and Beale firmly believes that Gen Con will shut down over the next decade, apparently for no more reason than he just hates half the population of a planet. Here’s an actual quote: “Men, particularly low rank men, never understand that by inviting women into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.”

Holy **** crap, where to even begin…

Speaking as a Low Rank Man, because this is invariably what I’d be referred to as by this Caravan of Twattery, let’s take that quote and switch it up for some other massive sections of the population.

  • Something stupid to start. “by inviting Belgians into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Of course, without Belgium, we wouldn’t have had the release of 7 Wonders, making the world a worse place.

  • Something a bit harder? “by inviting black people into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Hmmm. That sounds pretty **** wretched to me.

  • “by inviting Jews into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmm.

Basically, these people are the worst. A festering pile of actual human garbage who, when called out on their utterly **** crazy opinions, accuse you of being under the thumb of Feminazis.

Note: if you ever use the word Feminazis in any fashion that even appears vaguely serious, you immediately render any and all of your opinions invalid.

So, let’s see how Gen Con actually goes, shall we? I don’t think we’ll see the entire building ablaze by 11am on the Thursday morning, just because there are people with vaginas in the halls. Hasn’t happened before, but you never know.

I am all for freedom of speech – its a central tenet of the country I choose to live in, after all – but these ******** should also remember that it gives me the right to call you out on your absolutely ******* ludicrous, disgusting opinions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, transgender, black, white, gay, straight, or anything in between – if you sit down at my gaming table, you’re a Person, and I want to play with you. Unless of course, you think that it’s OK to deem anyone else sat at that table as a lesser being than you because of their genitals, the colour of their skin, or their sexual preferences. In that case, how about you bring your little gang behind the bike sheds at Gen Con, and I will bring Literally Everybody Else? Let’s see if you’re willing to voice your opinions in the face of tens of thousands of members of the public. Anyone can post ridiculous rhetoric on a blog, but expressing your opinions in the face of those you’re deeming as less worthy than you is a very different thing.

I can’t wait for Gen Con – it’s an incredible event that offers countless amazing experiences every year, as well as amazing amounts of new games to check out. However, if you’re doing or saying anything that will lessen that experience for even a single person, I will do everything in my damn power to see that you never get to attend that – or any other – convention again.

However, I want to be fair. Muppets like this seem to thrive on the oxygen of publicity, and it just so happens that I have the means to offer just that. The Little Metal Dog Show has a decent audience of several thousand gamers, many of whom will be in attendance at Gen Con, and I hereby offer a platform to anyone who holds these absurd views. You come to me with measured, provable facts as to why anyone who plays the games we love who doesn’t happen to be a straight white male will lead to a negative impact on the hobby and I will be delighted to publish that as an episode of the show, in full. Not half-considered opinions. Not empty rhetoric – stone cold facts. Arguments live and die through provability, and if you’re the kind of person who actually believes that women playing games is going to lead to the collapse of the biggest convention in North America and the end of gaming, you surely have something in your pocket that will back it up, yes?

I’m not hard to find. My email is michael@littlemetaldog.com. I’m on twitter too, @idlemichael. Come to me and do your best to convince me. You’ll inevitably fail, I tell you now, but I’m giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to express your side of the argument in measured, considered terms. It’ll be interesting, at least.

It’s not about being a feminist. It’s not about being pro-LGBT. It’s about being a decent ******* person, and if you can’t realise that, you you probably shouldn’t leave your basement. Hell, you probably shouldn’t leave your house, as you’ll inevitably find the world a very scary place. We’ll have fun playing all the awesome new stuff as you complain like Chicken Little that your world is being destroyed by the rest of us.”

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The Score: Eurogames for Eurovision

It’s that time again, the annual festival of musical awesomeness that it Eurovision! To celebrate what’s basically my Christmas, here’s a daft video with some recommendations of excellent Eurogames that you really should be playing…

Enjoy the show from Stockholm this evening (still gutted that Serhat didn’t qualify for the final) and get playing some excellent games!

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Never Ending Story – Ilios review

Oh man, The Iliad. It brings back weird memories for me, of schooldays when I thought I was clever because I was reading Homer and listening to The Smiths when everyone else was outside playing football and actually having fun with other people. Eh, whatever, I was having fun in my own, lonesome way. Plus I liked hanging out in the library, because occasionally folks would stumble in and we could play RPGs. Yay for the more antisocial members of my school!
However annoying a teen I may have been, the story of The Iliad is still one that I enjoy. The battles, the heroes and villains, the siege of Troy… it remains an incredible tale, even moreso when paired with The Odyssey. Of course, many game designers have drawn inspiration from these legendary tales, the latest of which was developed by Eliot Hochberg; his new creation that recently funded over on Kickstarter is called Ilios, and it’s really rather splendid. One thing though – if you’re looking at a game that will evoke stories of high adventure and embittered gods, this may not entirely be the one for you. That’s not to say that Ilios is bad – not at all, it’s actually excellent – but it’s abstract in the extreme, almost to the point of themeless.
That’s not a problem though – abstracts are much loved by a lot of gamers; look at the GIPF series, for example, and the company responsible for Ilios are also the folks behind another game I really enjoyed, Cartography, so there’s certainly a track record for quality there. Like most games in the abstract genre, Ilios attempts to capture the classic concept of ‘moments to learn, but a lifetime to master’, but does it achieve this lofty goal? Well, first things first – how does it play?
Pretty straightforward, as it turns out. A grid of squares is your battlefield – my prototype copy came with a 7×7 sheet, but the rulebook suggests a 6×6 set-up, or 4×4 for a quicker game. Between two and four people can play, each one represented by an army of coloured discs that will track your plays as well as what areas of the board you currently control. The only other components in the game are a selection of thirty-five wooden Warrior Tiles (of which there are five different types for use during standard play) and one further set of four Iron Weapon tiles that are used to start the proceedings. Each player takes one and placed them on the board, determining where future tiles can be placed for at least the first round…
Each turn sees players choosing from one of three tiles in their hand, which is then placed on one of the empty squares on the grid. The only rules regarding placement is that at least one of the arrows on a tile must be pointing towards a square occupied by an opponent or one of those Iron Weapon tiles that begin the game. Once a tile is in play, anything its arrows point to are ‘attacked’ – in other words, you replace the current coloured disc on enemy tiles with one of your own. You then mark the tile you’ve just played with a disc of your own and, should any tiles now be completely surrounded by a combination of discs, tiles, or the board edge, you get to claim it for yourself (leaving your disc behind to show your feat of strength!), scoring the points shown at the end of the game.
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Placing this ‘1’ tile means you get to seize the 10-point Iron Weapons token – vital if you’re going to crush your enemies before you!

And so it continues – place a tile, switch out coloured discs, occasionally claim a tile for points, then draw back to three tiles – until there are no open squares left on the board. Points are tallied and the highest scorer wins… and that’s very much it, so it definitely satisfies the quick learning time criteria.
As for the ‘lifetime to master’ bit? Well, the games I’ve played of Ilios have been challenging and are often very close, but I get the feeling that if I were to be facing off against someone who had a lot more experience I’d be getting destroyed on a regular basis. While it doesn’t feel like the game suffers from the problem of being solvable (which is an issue some abstract titles can suffer from), greater experience will most certainly pay off as you learn little strategies that can give you an edge in play. The fact that you can also play with between two and four people as well as switch up the size of the board means that there is plenty of variance in Ilios – a smaller board with a larger amount of players leads to an incredibly cut-throat game, while more space means there’s more room to breath and consider your options. It’s a refreshing approach to abstract gaming, and each different game set-up does indeed manage to feel a little different. Sure, the general premise is always going to be the same, but the mix of player count and board size does keep things fresh.
Now, with all that said, I know in my heart that I not everyone will get into Ilios. While yes, I enjoyed playing Ilios, a large amount of gamers out there who will immediately turn it down simply because it’s an abstract affair. However, I encourage you to keep an open mind and give this rather charming game a shot – after all, pretty much every game deserves to be played (unless you’re talking about that bloody awful Doctor Who Trivia Game we reviewed a couple of years back). With even a four-player game taking around twenty minutes, it’s a quick brain-burner that the right group will really enjoy – just make sure that you’re a part of it!

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Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk expansion Preview!

Betrayal_Rafters_Gallery

So, while I was at PAX East this past weekend, plenty of games related news was breaking – most notably the announcement of a new expansion for the classic Betrayal at House on the Hill, some twelve years after the base game’s release. Widow’s Walk was on show at the venue for a select few, and our own Chris O’Regan was one of the lucky ones to try it out. Here’s what he has to say…

“I can’t kill him!’; “why can’t you?”; “I can’t get to him, let alone hit him!”; “I WIN!”

The exchange described here is a common one that occurs towards the end of a typical session of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. A game that was first released in 2004 and reprinted in 2010, it created a 2 phased approach with players creating the world or house their characters inhabited before going onto phase 2 where a ‘haunting’ occurs. This is where Betrayal at the House on the Hill typically, but not always, turns into an adversarial one-versus-everyone else game, based on the revealed scenario that is triggered. In order to win, the other players who were not chosen by the game to be the traitor had to take out the aggressor or simply make a run for it. Sadly, movement is somewhat restricted in Betrayal, which leads to the exasperated discussions about working your way around the house above all else. Long been regarded as a flaw in the game,the new Widow’s Walk expansion does much to address it.

The original game came with fifty scenarios that provided a significant amount of replayability, but after a certain amount of plays it was inevitable that scenarios would repeat. Fans of the game have implored the creators for more scenarios to be made and here we are, twelve years later, with an answer to their calls.

Widows Walk contains a further fifty scenarios, all of which have been authored by various luminaries across the tabletop gaming fraternity. Designers of the original game are present in this roster as well as those who are simply fans of the original and were approached to help make Widows Walk just that extra bit more special. These scenario authors include:

  • Rob Daviau, one of the co-designers of the original and creator of the much lauded Legacy games
  • Christopher Badell, co-creator of Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • Chris Dupuis, designer for Dungeons and Dragons, who has also worked on board games made by Wizards of the Coast including Lords of Waterdeep and Dungeon Command
  • Justin Gary, creator of the Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer deck building game
  • Gaby Weildling, developer for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

It’s an impressive list of people and they have created scenarios that work within the confines of the game, while adding some much needed nuance to it. In addition to new scenarios there are new locations to the point where an entire floor has been added in the form of a roof space. This can be access via upper floor or roof tiles and expand the already large haunted house. There is also a ‘dumb waiter’ symbol that appears on some of the new locations that improve the mobility of characters that were previously hindered by their own ‘speed’ stat. This icon allows players to quickly traverse the various floors of the house, jumping between any locations that show this new symbol.

There are also eleven items, eleven omens and nine event cards included in Widow’s Walk that work with the new locations (and in some cases scenarios, both old and new) to add another layer of enhancement to the original’s gameplay experience, which is generally regarded as quite substantial in the first place.

I played through a sample scenario during PAX East 2016 and experienced first hand how Widow’s Walk is to be incorporated into the original game. While the deck was loaded in the expansion’s favour, there are mechanics in Widow’s Walk that encourage the new content to selected more often than the original’s. This is encouraging as the form of Widow’s Walk could have led it to be swamped by the base game’s content, seeing it surface every once in a while. This would likely lead to resentment as people realise they have paid out for content they are not likely to see.

After playing through for one hour I discovered very quickly how enhanced the movement of characters had been implemented in Widow’s Walk. Characters were given items to teleport to other’s locations and the dumb waiter icon was extremely prevalent. The extra floor increased the play area substantially and encouraged players to explore further than in the original game. This expansiveness of the environment increases the sense of doom in many ways as the further players explored, the further away they were from safety.

From what I played of Widow’s Walk I got the impression that it was deeply respectful to the original material. Wizards of the Coast could have quite easily thrown in a new set of characters and replaced all of the base cards with new ones but this would have diluted the original considerably, to the point where it would have felt like two separate games rather than an expansion to the original.

Once the one hour session was over I found my personal affection towards the original renewed and with it remaining in my collection, it’s likely I shall be placing it onto my game table very soon. Whether or not Widow’s Walk is worthy of anyone’s time is probably still too early to say. The version I played was very much a work in progress, although the scenarios appeared to have been pretty much complete with the authors of all fifty cited in the text, so it is already a very developed product. However, there is time to iron out the kinks before it goes on full release on October 14th this year.

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