My Board Game Wins are all Fluke (Why luck is important)

Lady luck is on my side tonight! Well, every night actually. Somehow I have a strange knack for either fluking wins or just plain doing the right thing by accident. Although now I’ve said that everything is gunna go to shit.

Oh pop up pirate! What a laugh! A ‘barrel of fun’ you could say! Or at least the advert did…

Are you a lilly livered landlubber? No? Thought not. Not even sure what that means. I think it roughly translates from pirate to ‘A scared person who happens to live on the land and is not the seafaring type.’

Impressive that they got that down to 4 words that all alliterate then really.

Pop up pirate is an example of a game that is PURE LUCK. This is not good, I mean at least it’s short I guess. Luck based games maybe great for kids, but allowing your players to have some semblance of control over the outcome makes the game endlessly better. If you want something like pop up pirate just get jenga instead…

Also, and I’m gunna spoil your childhood here if you played Pop Up Pirate at all, but it was ALWAYS THE SAME HOLE THAT POPPED HIM UP.

I know right, absolute dream smasher…

This article is about luck in games though, and why some luck is important, but not all luck.

Reason luck is important 1: It keeps everyone in the game… usually

You know, unless you get like, SUPER unlucky and either everyone ends up going for you. That or your rolls are terrible all the time, or someone you play with cheats, or someone you play with weighted the dice so that when you roll it it always lands on a 1, or someone you play with blackmailed you into playing badly and loosing on purpose. Either way, some luck is good.

It helps people who suck at strategy to actually stay competetive! Like me!

Reason luck is important 2: It keeps people on their toes

Y’know, their metaphorical toes, not their real ones. That would be weird. Just a whole bunch of people eagerly anticipating a dice roll huddled closely round a table and also standing up… on their toes. Painful for the toes really, that’ll play out badly in the long run…

Reason luck is important 3: It adds an element of humanity

And we could all do with feeling a bit more human I’m sure. It’s like when in Catan I can never get any 2 for 1 trades done, because my bartering skills in real life ACTUALLY suck. Or when no matter how high my charisma is I still can’t succeed on a skill check for persuading that giant dragon to just chill, let’s sit down, have a heart to heart and reminisce on past times, when we used to bicker and fight all the time and how he always wanted to burn me and my friends to a crisp, oh the fun we had and how we laugh about it now, hahaha!

Planning for randomness is an important and very human part of luck in games though. I mean hell, even Puerto Rico has SOME element of luck to it, and that game is strict AS…

Luck of the draw

GET IT. BECAUSE IT’S LIKE DRAWING CARDS AS WELL AS DRAWING A GUN. I’M SOOOO FUNNY.

Yeah it’s a bad joke I know. A play on words if you will. Will you? I hope you will. Please will! Will!

Luck is important though. Like how lucky I am that all of you wonderful thousands (read: 3) people are reading this, oh how lucky!

Yours luckily,

Chris

Top 5 ways to loose friends over board games

Yep, that’s right, absolutely no idea!

Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I have SOME idea, SOME of the time. I’m kinda halfway between all the gear and no idea, and gear and idea.

Sometimes though, people get right up my nose about stuff. That’s the expression I’m sure. I’m not an angry man in any way, but there are some table-flip worthy moments I have when it comes to board games.

I don’t actually flip a table by the way, although that would be very satisfying… What I really do is just  pretend to flip the table in my head, and actually just make a ‘tut’ sound in real life, whilst looking disapprovingly at the other players.

SO passive aggressive… doesn’t it just MAKE you want to play board games with me. Of COURSE it does! Right?

Way to loose friends 1: Take it WAY too seriously…

You know the friend. It’s this guy…

Either that or they’re consulting the rule book for the 15th time to try and figure out a way to explain that the move you just did was not allowed, and that the strategy you’ve been planning for the last hour and a half is actually impossible in the mechanics of the game. JUST LET ME BREAK THE RULES OR THE TABLE GETS FLIPPED OK?!

Oh gosh I’m the guy…

Way 2:  By playing any version of Monopoly at all

This game is just the actual devil, in board game form. It’s a game based on luck, where 1 or more players get left out half way through and the person who wins literally makes it rain money over everyone else whilst wearing sunglasses, standing on the table and thrusting in slow motion.

That’s how it happens in our house anyway.

Way 3: By always guessing the same thing EVERY TURN in Cluedo

Mrs Peacock with the dagger, no Rev Green with the dagger, ok… Miss Scarlett with the dagg…

I’VE SHOWN YOU THE DAGGER CARD LIKE 5 TIMES IN A ROW STOPPPPPP. I can literally see the pencil mark crossing it off your sheet. Not that I was cheating or anything…

Way 4: By always choosing the same person as the werewolf

IT’S DAVE AGAIN I KNOW IT. He’s the werewolf. He looked at me funny for real this time. It’s the crooked smile and the yellow teeth and the eye-patch and pirate hat that gave it awa… OH MY GOD DAVE IS A PIRATE?! Did you guys know? You did… Oh. Guess I’ve just not taken the time to get to know you that well Dave, I’m so sorry, please accept my apologies and let me get you a drink. Wait scratch that just let me take you out for lunch tomorrow, that cool? No? WELL how RUDE, and no I will NOT walk the plank. How dare you. Right! That’s it I’m leaving!

Pretty sure that explains that one fairly clearly…

Way 5: Playing D&D and not role-playing your character

Last but not least it’s the classic D&D problem. Or classic D&D problem… Well maybe it’s not classic but it IS still a problem.

I mean it’s a role playing game after all, don’t play it if you’re not interested in playing a role. I’m not asking for much here, just when you next talk to Doris (the great grandma of Lucy the tavern owner, of course) as she offers you a tea and a biscuit, be polite and do a little funny character voice so that everyone laughs and we all have a wonderful  time and the other players celebrate and rejoice at the role playing hilarity, showering you with praise and champagne and gold and gift certificates. I mean really, is that too much to ask? It is? Oh. Ok no worries, in which case forget all of that then…

Go straight to jail

Apparently that’s a good strategy in the end game of monopoly. Just go to jail. It’s safer, you don’t have to pay all that money for staying at either fancy or non-fancy properties in various areas of London! Ah what a damning indictment of the modern day housing situation. Or something. Shame on you monopoly! Again…

Just don’t do any of the things on this list I guess. Or try not to? Especially not monopoly… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Yours friendily,

Chris

How to master farmland in Carcassonne (not really though)

Farmland. It’s something we all struggle with on a daily basis I know.

Honestly have no idea what that image is going on about, it just said the word ‘farmland’ and kinda looked fun. Super relevant content alert.

So girls just wanna have corn ok. It’s a very valid point and the image does well to explain this. I want corn as well though, come on lets share the corn around. We can be corn buddies and live in a beautiful, wonderful world of corn, where we frolic amongst the sheafs and bath in the corny corn of the field of corn aaaaah corn.

That’s basically a rough idea of my train of thought whilst playing Carcassonne anyway, or at least, my face says; ‘carefully planning a strategy here, please do not interrupt,’ whilst my mind is all like; ‘CORN CORN CORN YEAAAAAH,’ whilst the statue of liberty lady in the gay pride dress dances with me and we have a great time. Bet you’re jealous now eh.

When it comes to farmland though, here are a few strategies I use, so I’d take a bet that they’re not that well thought through and probably don’t have a high success rate. Take this advice at your own gaming risk!

Keys to farmland 1: Get it around the start and end of the river

Ooo the river.  A wet and powerful ally (if you are playing with it… ok gross that came out wrong…), one whose grandeur is only superseded by proceeding to take all the farmland, and then coming back from 30 points behind to win the entire game.

Though wet and powerful though, the main bits I focus on are the first and last tile. These are the tiles that connect to the most surrounding land, and often link up with castles on BOTH sides of the river. That’s more than 1 side! It’s 2! Hah!

Then once you’ve done that just build stuff around those tiles, tada!

Keys to farmland 2: Use multiple meeple as a scare tactic

Oh we’re getting into some dark shit here my friends! Some dark shit indeeed!

Ok, again with the grossness, nobody needs to know that. TMI, sheesh…

So those little wooden people are your friends. Your fun, colourful and inanimate friends. Sometimes I talk to them at night, they whisper to me oh so gently. “O Christopher when will you play with us again, play with us, go on.”  and I tell them “NO! Stop it meeple! I never liked you ok?! Just get over it and move on already, this isn’t about us anymore!”

It’s a pretty fucking weird relationship, not gunna lie.

Here’s the trick though. Once you have a potential farmland just DOUBLE DOWN ON THAT. Go straight in with another meeple on the same farmland and all the other players will be like; ‘Better not go there, no chance I can win that!’

At that point it’s in the bag… just one more thing.

Keys to farmland 3: Be a dick

It sure is random guy on a meme! It sure is.

A big castle looking jaggedy penis. Painful.

It’s easy to be a dick with farmland though! Join up a tile to something not connected, farm that land, and then before you know it; ‘Oops, oh what a shame, I’ve just connected to your farmland, guess we’ll just have to share the points on that one then! Oh what a shame…’

I mean I call it a dick move but really it’s JUST THE RULES OF THE GAME. No dickery here. That’s definitely a word. How do you think they got away with the nursery rhyme ‘Hickery Dickery Dock’ eh? And guess where the mice in that rhyme came from, yep that’s right, a FIELD. And fields make up farmland.

Just blew everyone’s mind right there. I am a conversational wizard.

Harvest Suggestival

Because what’s better than having a good harvest huh? JUST TELL ME THE HARVEST WAS GOOD OK! I don’t care about who died in the night.

Different game there, my bad. This is not werewolf. Although Carcassonne probably had werewolves. And no doubt that is already a Carcassonne expansion… there are just. too. many.

Whether it’s in the werewolf expansion (not real) or just the plain old vanilla game (definitely real), hopefully these tips will aid you in your quest for farmland! Just don’t forget about castles.

You can forget about roads though, those things SUCK.

Yours farmily,

Chris

How to affect change successfully (The art of baby steps)

Everybody habitually hates change. I don’t know if that is a fact but I just made it up to shock you into reading the rest of this article. Hope it worked!

Yes tiny boy child ghost from the film that has that plot twist at the end. Change IS scary.

Think of the last time someone made your tea the wrong way without you knowing and then try and tell me change ISN’T scary.

But what scares us Chris? If change is so scary why do we do it?

No idea… errr, yup!

So how do I create positive change. Is potential positive progress probably possible? Potentially…

The key is to not do what Dr. Evil is doing here by masking real stuff with fake air quotes. The key (I think… so probably wrong) is something like this…

Key to change 1: Keep it short and simple

Some people call this ‘KISS’, which I think is stupid. I’m not stupid, stop calling me that! And I’m certainly not going to go around calling other people stupid. That’s just mean.

It should be ‘KISASS’ instead. Keep It Simple And Super Short. Ok so maybe not the best acronym…

So yeah I just posted a picture of a fish, there is a link though, bear with me (no bear pic, soz). Like this fish though, people nowadays have very short attention spans. This is something I have talked about before on numerous occassions, followed by making a joke about my mind wandering off into the distance.

Not today though! I’m too focused. It’s another attribute I share with the goldfish. My razor sharp focus…

Also, this bit about keeping it really short and simple, has actually gone on for quite long. Yes I am a hypocrit. And yes I probably have made that joke before. I’m a hack and a hypocrit!

Key to change 2: Keep it consistent and iterate frequently

Oooo look at you, using such a fancy word there. Who’d have thought it. Yep; ‘keep’. Far beyond my vocabulary level…

We are human beings though, creatures of habit. We like routine and structure and subconsciously crave it. If you want to make a big change you have to take it slow, keep it consistent, and keep making small iterations as you go along.

Big change makes people scared and wary. Small change make people feel part of a process towards progress, if they have involvement with it that is.

Put that on an inspiration instagram why don’t ya. Cringe. I’ll excuse myself, the vomit is making it’s way up. Back in a sec!

Key to change 3: Don’t be afraid to admit it doesn’t work

Oh what an idiot! Haha, I can’t believe they would make that move oh what a stupid chess play!

I actually have no idea if this is good or not I just googled ‘board game bad play’ and that’s what came up. Doing my research proper y’know…

Failure creates  a psychological win win on a team though. If you succeed, you win. If you fail, then admit failure, set a good example of accountability for your mistake, fix the failure, and move forward, therefore also winning. I believe there is always chance to turn failure around into an opportunity, either for yourself or others.

The only true failure is if you fail and then DO NOTHING. Profound, I’m sure… (read: definitely not profound)

Changing of the guard

Yep, it’s just a phrase with the word ‘change’ in it, absolutely no relation to the article.

There you have it though. A full proof (read: absolutely not full proof) way to affect change um… wherever you want to affect it. Go get that change my little changelings. Weird nickname, I take that back… go get that change my fellow human people! It’ll do you good. Or bad I guess, either way it’ll do something!

Yours changingly,

Chris

You have been Waylaid by Enemies (an ode to Baldur’s Gate)

“A den of STINKING EVIL. Cover your nose Boo! We will leave no crevice un-touched!”

I’ll come back to this guy later…

For me, like many others… well, maybe a few others, Baldur’s gate holds a very special place in my heart. All those times getting waylaid by enemies, pausing the game to plan out your moves before getting completely destroyed by some kobolds that came out of the woods whilst you were sleeping. Aaaaah the fond memories…

For those of you who don’t remember, Baldur’s Gate was an AD&D video game that was released in theeeee 90’s? I wanna say 90’s because I was definitely playing it on the computer at my Grandma’s house when I was like, 10 or something.

The game though holds a special place in my heart for more than a few reasons, and yep, you guessed it, I’m gunna go into those in a handy, neat little list style blog post now…

Special place in heart reason 1: The game was hard, no I mean like REALLY hard

Like, I died playing it. A lot. I mean, my character died. I didn’t die, otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this. Or maybe I’m just a ghost writing it from the graaaAAaaAAaaaveee… *spooky noises*

10 year old me saw this screen way too many times…

The fact that it was hard though meant that I literally ended up playing it forever. So it has a special place just by virtue of the sheer HOURS I spent, staring at a CRT monitor, looking at tiny people casting magic spells at kobolds, and then dying… again.

Special place in heart reason 2: The opening battle was immense

When you left that first village/castle/whatever it was (candlekeep), you got caught in the night, and a wizard guy who is called… Gorion? He was called Gorion! (Says google). He tries to fend off some bad dudes who ambushed you, and the ensuing battle is, well, I’ll be honest it’s visually underwhelming by today’s standards…

But back then I thought it was the absolute shit. I wanted so bad to be a wizard that powerful. All those badly rendered opengl graphics just pulsing at my tiny pixelated fingertips!

Special place in heart reason 3: Minsc was an absolute genius of a character

You know, the guy I posted soundclips of at the start of the article. Well, he was a ranger type character, who held big weapons, and had a pet hamster. Called ‘Boo’. Obviously.

And whenever you clicked on him in the inventory screen he made a tiny little *squeek*. That was apparently all I needed for laughs back then.

For real though, he was the best.

Special place in heart reason 4: In BG2, there was  a sword  that talked, and it had CONVERSATIONS WITH  BOO

Let’s just say this, this sword was pretty ‘on edge’…

Badum tsh.

Kinda gets annoying after a while huh?

Special place in heart reason 5: It was the gateway drug to so many great RPGs

Once I had a taste, I was hooked! Ahahaha! And now I sound like that ridiculous talking sword, but with gaming not killing, obviously. I’m no murderer, the only thing I murdered was my social life by getting so heavily into video games… hah *cries in corner*.

I loved it really though, Baldur’s Gate was the first really immersive narrative driven RPG game that I had played, and I couldn’t wait to play more. It got me interested in D&D, and involved in tons of geeky shit that people definitely bullied me for, but I’m fully proud of that. It was a shaper of my childhood.

Samurai

Was not a class in Baldur’s Gate, nor was it a good play on words of ‘summary’. Poor show there Chris, poor show.

Oh well, back to the roleplaying and social isolation then. Sure!

“Butt-kicking for goodness!”

Yours roleplayingly,

Chris

Life is a Double Edged Sword

Have you ever done something where you immediately realised that the decision you made was the wrong one.

If you havn’t then, well, you must be a robot I guess? Some sort of amazing decision maker who only makes the exact right decision, I worship you almighty lord of correct and timely decisions. You are my god now…

Most people call this ‘gut feeling’ though. I would like to call it something else… something a bit more… fantasy RPG related. It’s slightly different to gut feeling, but the physical urge is the same.

Actually it’s kind of the opposite of gut feeling, but whatever, we continue!

Tell me Chris, what is this so called Double Edged Sword you so fondly talk about…

Ok so the double edged sword is that time when you did something and then immediately regretted it. Where you acted on base impulse or intuition, and that rash decision turned immediately sour. Basically, any decision where the correct answer, was the exact opposite of what you thought it was.

Here are some hopefully relatable examples that are totally in no way related to my personal experiences at all…

The one where she says ‘it’s fine, don’t worry about it’

IMMEDIATELY WORRY ABOUT IT. This is the classic double edged sword situation. What you need to do is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT THOSE WORDS MEAN.

Now the main reason for putting this here is to help clarify what the ‘double edged sword’ actually is. But really though, apologise for the thing you have no idea that you did, draw a picture of a heart on a bit of paper (like Nick Offerman would do), write something nice inside, and give it to her right now.

The one where you wanted to quit because it was hard

‘It’s too hard.’

‘I just can’t do it anymore.’

This basically means you have reached the key point in any venture, hobby or misadventure, the point where the only way to be successful is to go harder than you have ever gone before, at the exact time when you feel the weakest.

You’ll most likely either come out like an absolute hero… or fail spectacularly, but isn’t that better than just giving up though? That’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night at least…

The one where you thought messaging MORE would make them respond quicker

You know what I really love. When people send me essay messages over and over and over again, it’s great. I just never reply to anyone unless they’ve sent me 15 messages first, that’s really the threshold, THEN I’ll pay attention…

Just leave it, go and spend your time being more productive, perhaps even failing at that life goal of yours like in the previous example… Aaaah, much better…

The one where everyone watched you jump in the deep end

Because failure is a self fulfilling prophecy. The time  you believe you’re going to do a giant belly flop that ruptures many internal organs, is inevitably the time when jumping off the diving board DOES  result in severe internal rupturing. SO do yourself a favour and stop imagining yourself rupturing internally already… No, you can imagine internally, don’t imagine externally, that’s weird. Just stop the ORGAN RUPTURING train of thought. Ok, glad we cleared that up…

Great advice I’m sure though. Yep, stop worrying said the non-worrier to the worrier, I know it’s in your nature but why not stop doing the very thing your body automatically makes itself do! Easy right?

Ok maybe not.

Seriously though, just believe you can be a pro diver, and you’ll at least be borderline average. I mean, it saves the hospital trip for all those ruptured organs at least. OOOO ME KIDNEYS, they PANG something horrid.

Sum-more-ry

Give it some more! Actually, just do the opposite. Not give it less… I mean do the ACTUAL opposite. That’s what the article is about! So maybe instead of finishing this article I’ll just stop writing instead. Seems the reasonable thing to do.

Logic!

Sort of…

Yours weapon-rily

Chris

 

Dungeons & Dragons: How to Create Memorable NPCs

The party was scattered across the room and as the floor began to cave in, we watched  in disbelief as one of the demon hounds pounced straight towards Dave, knocking his sword out of his hand and sending him flying across the floor, towards the rapidly opening chasm. As the sword clattered to the wall, Dave struggled, frantically grabbing for any sort of purchase as he careened towards the edge of the chasm that had been created. The hole  that had opened up had  seemingly no bottom, and Dave clung by one hand, on the edge of certain death.

As I saw this all unfold a rush of adrenaline coursed through me, and for a second I forgot my wounds and the enemies surrounding us, and made a final, impassioned leap towards the struggling and  helpless Dave; “I bloody ‘ate ‘ights,” he muttered as I slid in desperation to grab his hand .

You roll a 3…

Dave grabs onto you, but his grip is weaker than you expect. Slowly his hand begins to slip through your fingers.  Letting go now would be fatal .

He falls…

An ode to Dave…

Dave was the best D&D NPC I ever  created. He had everything, and everyone in the party had a connection with this bumbling idiot of a cockney guardsman.

Dave taught me a lot about good character writing, what they should have, and what not to do when creating NPCs in D&D or any other tabletop roleplaying system.

Lesson 1: Give them their own goals

To make a character believable they have to have their own aims, their own dreams and their own goals. This could be bigger or dependant on the situation. Who knows what Dave wanted to do! I mean I did, I was the DM so that seems like a reasonable assumption…

These might also not be immediately apparent. It wouldn’t be natural if Dave just burst into the room exclaiming “What’s going on here I’m trying to find my son because I heard a commotion and havn’t seen him since a couple of days ago and thought he might be in here but really I’m kind of concerned for him in general, he’s been acting up recently and started to come down with a strange illness before I saw him last and I’m really worried… errr, hi!”

Let the players discover these subtleties themselves, and allow yourself to develop the character in an ongoing fashion in the context of the actions of the party.

Lesson 2: Give them their own insecurities

Again, an introduction of “Hi, my name’s Dave and I’m worried that I’m actually not a great parent, my wife left me 2 years ago and I’ve been looking after my son for the week but I can’t find him anywhere. I’m kinda going through some stuff right now and don’t feel overly confident in my career either,” is probably not really appropriate…

Either something obvious like this, or you could create an absolute douchebag NPC who is actually just masking his anxiety with awkward bravado, or to outwardly prove  himself before asking out one of the party on a date mid encounter. I mean you have to be comfortable with role playing this character obviously but I see no reason not too. The best way to create awkwardness in game is to have it in real life right…? RIGHT?

Lesson 3: Give them their own moral outlook, and let that develop

Inevitably, if you’ve written a good campaign, the players will be faced with moral and ethical dilemmas where there may not be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision, but rather 2 or more muddled, slightly ambiguous options. Killing ‘Fluffy the Bunny Tyrant overlord’ may be the right thing to do for the society of fluffy bunnies, but if that’s the case, you’re still gunna have to kill a cute bunny…

Now to really up the NPC game, if there are situations where not only the players weigh in on these decisions, but the NPCs the party is attached too also react based on their own moral and ethical compass, then you have created the perfect situation to develop empathy and humility with your players towards the NPC (or a realisation that the person they befriended may not be as innocent as they once appeared).

The key thing here is giving the NPC an element of humanity. The mere sight of bunny dictator ‘Fluffy’ may send your socialist NPC into a wild blood rage where he lashes out and decapitates the furry creature. This may not sit well with  your adventuring party of animal lovers and AETA supporters (Adventurers for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Certainly creates an interesting story twist though!

Lesson 4: Give them empathy, even if they are evil

Lastly for this article, and not leastly, is to give the NPCs empathy. And yes, EVEN if they are ABSOLUTELY AND ABHORRENTLY EVIL. In fact, it might be even more important for the evil NPCs.

No one in the world thinks they are the bad guy. Living things are more complex, as should be the characters that you create for your world. For the most part, there is always a reason for behaviour, actions or emotions. This can come in the form of a villain trying to save his true love despite having committed horrendous crimes to ensure they stayed together, or in my case, Dave’s growing agitation and concern for his son as he slowly descended into a frantic and distraught liability the longer he adventured with the party.

Sam-mery…

…would be the name of this section if I was talking about an NPC called ‘Sam’, but I’m not soooo this doesn’t really make much sense…

ANYWAY

What I’m trying to say with this piece is really just that the NPCs that you create, and the ones that are truly memorable, have as their foundation those core aspects of humanity; morality, humility and empathy. Once the party can relate, understand or discover these aspects of a character, and the beliefs and reasons behind the actions and behaviour of their companion, or the barkeep, or whoever, they will begin to establish a deeper connection subconsciously.

Yours character-fully,

Chris