Friday, February 18, 2011


Two games with huge reputations are being reprinted this year (at least according to the companies reprinting them). One I already have, but the other . . .
  • 1830, the classic train game that spawned a huge line of games (well, not quite accurate--1829 actually pre-dates 1830, but 1830 was the first 18XX game published in the U.S., and it's the game that generated the insane love for the series). Mayfair Games will be reprinting it, apparently with some variant rules. I own the AH original, so I'm not interested in this one, but it's nice to see the game will be available again. Of course, the fact that several dozen 18XX games are already in print diminishes the excitement for this one, I suspect, but I think a lot of people will still pick this up.
  • Breakout: Normandy, long regarded as the best of the area/impulse games (and according to some the best Normandy campaign game), has been out of print for years. L2 Design Group will be reprinting in time for WBC. This is a game I'd love to try, but given their other games I expect this will be very expensive, so I doubt I'll get it. Of course if someone wants to donate it to me, I'd humbly accept.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tom Waits and the World of Darkness

In an earlier posting, I talked about how King Crimson's music (especially the album "Beat") fit my view of Over the Edge. Another musical association I make is between Tom Waits (especially "Rain Dogs") and the World of Darkness. Why?
  • Waits describes life in the underbelly of a big city; his cast of characters included criminals, bartenders, and struggling workers. The screwed up nature of these characters' lives reminds me of the WoD.
  • The people in Waits' songs are often desperate and crazed, covering these up with bravado and violence. And alcohol. If there's an official songwriter of drinking, it's Tom Waits.
  • The world Waits describes is seedy and decaying.
If I ever run a WoD game again, I definitely will draw on Waits' music for inspiration. And possibly background music.

A World of Darkness Campaign Frame

I've been thinking for a while about a campaign framework for a World of Darkness game for a group of players who know virtually nothing about the setting. That lack of knowledge makes running a Vampire or Werewolf game very hard, but straight-up Hunter doesn't exactly fit what I want either. I've come up with several different ones, but recently I came up with one that I think has legs.

The setting of the campaign is Chicago, mostly in the neighborhood of Rogers Park (where I lived for 7 years). Since I love the city, and think it's a great WoD setting, this makes sense. The PCs are newly assigned members of a gang crime task force that includes the Chicago police, the prosecutor's office, and several federal agencies. In particular, the players are assigned to the section of the task force dealing with Russian gangs in the Rogers Park area.

However, all is not as it seems--the PCs are acting as undercover agents because the Feds suspect corruption. Someone on the task force--maybe several people--has been bought by the gangs, and is sabotaging the task force. So the PCs' real job is to find out who the corrupt people are, and take them down.

How is this a World of Darkness game? Lurking in the background are supernatural forces. The PCs don't know about this, and neither do the players, which makes it good for WoD newcomers. It also presents all kinds of opportunities for intrigue and deception, which is what a good WoD game should have (at least I think so).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's the CRT, stupid

As I've probably mentioned in this blog (and I've certainly said it in my podcast), I'm not very good at most wargames. It takes me longer to get a decent understanding of how to play than most people, I think. I've figured out one reason why this is the case--the CRT (Combat Results Table). The CRT is a staple of many wargames--usually you calculate the odds of an attack, roll a die (or dice) and cross-reference the roll with the appropriate odds column on the CRT to figure out what happens. Most results are fairly standard--units are damaged or eliminated, retreats, etc.

However, every game has a different CRT, and when learning a new game you need to actually study the CRT. Different CRTs can produce wildly different results. I tend to think all CRTs are like the classic Avalon Hill ones, like in The Russian Campaign, so I tend to play that way. Which often leads to bad results.

For example, the CRT in the excellent game A Victory Lost is pretty mild--even at high odds, most attacks don't directly damage or kill units. Instead, retreats are by far the most common result. Since eliminating units is a key way to earn victory points in that game, you really need to know that about the CRT and adjust your play accordingly. Other games have much deadlier CRTs, or ones that favor the attack or defense. I have a feeling if I studied CRTs more diligently, I'd probably be a little bit better at some of these games.