The Dice Tower – Origins 2010 Episode


I listened to The Dice Tower‘s Origins Episode this week.  It’s ‘Vasel’-less.  Eric does a fantastic job holding down the fort and the contributors are great.  I like the team format.   Here are my thoughts.

Defenders of the Realm – There was much talk about this game and the initial buzz is good.  Co-op, beautiful art, gorgeous minis, and good game play all lead up to promising product.  I hope it holds true.

Queen Games – This was Queen’s first Origins as their own distributor.  It is good to see them confident enough in North America to take this step.  They make some fantastic games.  First news was Fresco getting a Spiel de Jares nomination.  Next, Wallenstein reprint!! WooHoo!  This is a awesome game.  Queen makes a couple  games I enjoy – Shogun (of course) &  Sultan.

Railways of the World Card game – This one is getting a lot of publicity.  Not just for the name but that it is a good game.  It sounded interesting from the description.

Eric talked to a person from Sonic Legends.  They make gaming sound tracks.  Or atmosphere music to use while gaming.  I have  couple of their pieces from the Gamers For Haiti bundle but have yet to use them.  I’m curious now and may try them tomorrow night.

Eric talked to the guys from Plaid Hat Games.  They make Summoners Wars which Tom V. has raved about.  The game sounds fun but I’m going to wait a bit on it.

Lock N Load – They talked to Lock N Load, a company famous for wargames.  They talked about something new – a non-wargame game called House of Spirits.  I think it was a co-op horror game.  I’m intrigued and I think my group would like it.

Egizia – I’m looking forward to this.  Doug and Shelley Garrett of Garrett’s Games And Geekiness did an in depth review of it recently and it sounds like one I will like.  It has also gotten good press on some other podcasts.  It sounds like it has the depth and decisions that I like in a game.  It is on the buy list.

They talked to Mayday Games.  They are famous for bits.  They are now making Crokinole boards too.

Asmadi Games – This is a new company that I didn’t know about.  They are putting out a new game – Innovation- that sounds great.  It is a civilization building card game.  The mechanics sound fun and the game appears to have some depth.  I’m going to try to get an interview with them.

They talked to Rio Grande also but I didn’t write down any notes for that.

Miscellaneous games mentioned:  Mow – sounds really fun, 11 Nimnt – again sounds fun, Perry Rhodan – one to look into, Aye! Dark Overlord – more fun, Masters of Venice – this is one I will buy soon.

All in all it was an excellent and extended show.  I enjoyed it very much.

A Conversation With…Don Dehm of Pulp Gamer


This time my guest is Don Dehm. Don is the leader of the Pulp Gamer Media Network and many of its associated podcasts which include Out of Character, The Game Kennel, and Family Night. All the podcasts in the Network are top quality gaming shows and highly entertaining. He is also an active advocate for gaming and the game industry. Thanks for joining me, Don.

Tell us about Pulp Gamer and the Pulp Gamer Media Network.

Pulp Gamer is a media network and production house. We work in both audio and video and produce podcasts for organizations such as the Game Manufacturer’s Association and Mayfair Games.  Those shows and others from our partner organizations can be found at pulpgamer.com and a number of other outlets such as iTunes and YouTube.  Our most popular show is Out of Character.  We have a crew of retailers, game developers, and other industry professionals that gather around the microphones and talk about issues around roleplaying, board gaming, and other points of interest about the hobby.

Out of Character is my personal favorite. But I’m a bit biased being a ‘satellite’ of the show. I really enjoy the camaraderie exhibited on the show.

What got you into podcasting?

The first time I was introduced to podcasting, it was the Daily Source Code with Adam Curry, someone I recognized as an Mtv VJ when I was growing up.  My eyes lit up.  It all made sense to me that this was the future and it would be a great way to promote the hobby.  It also looked easy.  I had the technical skills, and I was a DJ in college.  How hard could this be? So I set off with a couple of my closest friends and our first podcast was born.

What is the hardest part about podcasting?

There is really a lot that goes into putting together a good show and the challenges change over time, especially after you have been doing it for several years.  Keeping it fresh is tricky, but I think the hardest part is keeping a consistent schedule.  We would have a much larger audience if we didn’t have small holes in our recording history.  We have had to make some sacrifices but we are now producing Out of Character pretty steadily.  As a result of that, and the great talent, we are doing really well.  I have to give kudos to the crew.

You review a lot of games.  What is the hardest part of reviewing a game?

I don’t review as many games as I do coaching our review team.  That being said, the hardest part is always about being concise.  Anyone can ramble on about a game.  Few can capture what they are trying to say before the listener (or reader) looses attention.

What is/are your current hot game(s)?

It always depends on who I am playing with.  My favorite games will only tease me with the promise of satisfaction if they aren’t played with the right group.  I have party games I really like, euro games I really enjoy, and roleplaying genres I prefer, but it all comes down to the group.  I do have a soft spot, however, for cooperative board games.  When it comes to roleplaying I like character driven campaigns.  I am also always on the lookout for a good post-apocalyptic theme.

What’s coming up for Pulp Gamer?

The entertainment climate has changed and we are going to be responding with some new shows to continue to distinguish ourselves.  We have learned a lot over the years and will be applying that to strengthen our line-up.  We will be strengthening our online presence and our network to capture the attention of both casual and hobby gamers and continue to contribute to the growth of the hobby.  Beyond that, you will just have to listen to Out of Character to keep up with the latest scoop.


And one extra that I ask all my guests, in your opinion, for board games and rpg’s, what makes a good player?

Funny you should ask that.  I just asked the same thing on one of our recent podcasts when we were discussing how to become a better player.  To me, a good player is someone who stays engaged and helps others to stay engaged at the table.  It is a group experience and everyone has to contribute.  Focus on making it a good experience for everyone.  If everyone does that, it is really hard not to have a good time, and it’s all about having a good time.

Thanks for your time, Don. I can’t wait to see what new things the Pulp Gamer Media Network has in store.

To learn more about Pulp Gamer and listen to some fantastic podcasts, visit pulpgamer.com and check out all the great shows.

A Conversation With…Jess Hartley


This time we are joined by author, game designer, role playing enthusiast Jess Hartley.  Jess is a regular on Pulp Gamer Out Of Character and her blog, One Geek To Another, is nominated for an ENnie this year.

Thanks for joining us today Jess.

**My pleasure, Tom! I’ve enjoyed your commentary on Pulp Gamer’s Out of Character podcast, and I was honored that you wanted to ask me some questions.


Tell us a bit about yourself to start off.

**I’ve been working as a freelance writer for about 7 years now. Much of my work has been in the gaming industry, although I’ve also been working on some independent projects. I’ve written extensively for White Wolf Games, and the World of Darkness (both Old and New) are some of my favorite RPGs to play.

Beyond that, I’m a mom of 3, who loves to travel, cook and make things (from costuming and jewelry to replicas of medieval manuscripts). I’m an avid reader, I collect fairy tales, and I’m kind of an etiquette nut.


With regard to role playing games, what are some aspects of a good player?

**Good is such a judgment call. It can mean different things to different people. As for me, the kinds of gamers I like to interact with put the group’s fun on an even footing with their own personal success. They don’t mind when the rules take a back-seat to the story, or when something bad happens to their character if it means building a better story. I like playing with folks who laugh a lot, don’t nit-pick about the “small stuff” and who realize that a game is just a tool for having fun.


There is a lot of talk about social contracts among rpg groups.  What is your take on this?

**I did an entire presentation on social contracts in rpgs at the last Gamemaster’s conference – it’s a topic that’s very meaningful for me. I think most problems with social contracts at the gaming table comes down to one thing – a lack of communication. Expectations that aren’t expressed clearly lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Assumptions about acceptable behavior can lead folks to not realize they’re acting inappropriately. Fear of offending can cause relatively minor issues to fester into major ones. For most problems, polite communication is the key to resolving these differences.


Tell us about your most memorable gaming moment.

**There’s no way I could pick just one. Gaming has been such a big part of my social life over the last 20 years, it would be impossible to say “this one moment was the most memorable.” But some of them include things like… Making my first-ever dice roll and getting a critical miss, which banked a crossbow bolt off the helmet of a fellow party member. Getting to watch an IC funeral played out for one of my long-term LARP characters, including seeing players moved to tears in the depth of their IC sorrow for her loss. Meeting folks face-to-face for the first time after playing on a MUSH or MUD online with them for years. DMing my first game (Promethean: The Created) for some dear friends and fellow game-industry folks. Watching folks play the first adventure I ever wrote (The Rose-Bride’s Plight) in a LARP setting. I could go on for hours – I think anyone who’s gamed for long could. It’s such an immersive recreation, it really touches you deeply.
What are you currently playing?
**At the moment, I’m involved with several LARP games, all World of Darkness. I live in a very remote area, so I don’t have a regular table-top group, sadly. I play a little online, but much of my RPG fun over the past few years has been at conventions and events.


Tell us about your current projects.

**Well, I’m wrapping up work on the Shattered Glass Project (www.shatteredglassproject.com). It’s an independent fiction experiment based on a patronage model. The response has been pretty overwhelming so far.

I’m also still writing One Geek to Another, my etiquette and advice column blog. In fact, OGTA was just nominated last week for the ENnie Awards in the category of Best Blog (http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/?page_id=784) – Voting opens to the public on 7/16/2010.

My serial fiction for Mind Storm Labs (The Adventures of Little Yoshida) is being released, chapter by chapter.  Folks can read a little more about it here: http://www.alphaomegathegame.com/index.php/permalink/little_yoshida_episode_i_rough_trade_is_now_available/

Other than that, I’m currently working on some independent fiction projects, and a game project or two that are currently still under NDA.

I can’t wait for The Shattered Glass.  Everything I’ve seen so far has me excited to read it.   One Geek is a lot of fun and useful.  And I voted for it by the way.  I haven’t read any of the Little Yoshida chapters yet.  But I’ll visit soon. Who would you like to see interviewed here?

Chuck Wendig, Monica Valentinelli, Matt McFarland, Boyan Radakovich, Cam Banks or John Wick – they’re all great creators and awesome people… I’m sure there’s a thousand others who I’m blanking on at the moment!

Those are excellent suggestions.

Are there any links or sites you want to direct us to?

Folks are always welcome to come by my website: www.jesshartley.com. One Geek to Another is hosted there, and there’s excerpts from a lot of my fiction and game work.

And, of course, come visit Out of Character podcast and the rest of the Pulp Gamer network: www.pulpgamer.com

This was a lot of fun.  Thank you Jess.

Everyone remember to head over to the ENnies website and vote for One Geek To Another.  Voting closes in a day or so.

I hope you are enjoying these interviews.  I’m having a great time doing them.  Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Go Forth And Game,

tomg

Six Questions With…Eric Summerer of The Dice Tower


Welcome to the inaugural episode of Six Questions With….  In this series I’ll be interviewing gamers and game industry folks to talk about gaming.  We will be discussing things like what makes a good player and a great game, upcoming games, game theory, and podcasting.

My first interview is with Eric Summerer.  You may know Eric from The Dice Tower, one of the premier podcasts about gaming.  I came to know Eric through feedback to The Dice Tower and subsequently we have been playing games online at Yucata.de.  Eric has a no loss record by the way.  I have found him to be a very pleasant and interesting person who is passionate about games and gaming.  So Eric, tell us about yourself.     

I’m a voice actor and stay-at-home dad living in Hamden, CT.  Most of the time, I do pretty dry corporate narration (investment regulation laws, Six Sigma, sexual harassment policy, etc.) from my home studio, but occasionally I get to do some higher profile work like video games and audiobooks.  I now have over two dozen titles at Audible.com, and I even received an Audie nomination last year for Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (I’m bragging, I know.  I’ll stop now.).  For the past several years, I’ve been pretty heavily involved with the production of The Dice Tower podcast with Tom Vasel, and with Sam Healey’s departure last summer, I got promoted to the co-host position, which has me playing lots more games, both good and bad.

1. Why do you play games?

Well, the easy answer is, “to have fun,” but I think it’s really a means to socialize with friends and family.  It’s a framework for hanging out.  While I certainly focus on the theme and mechanics of the game itself, if I enjoy spending time with the people I’m playing with, I’ll still be having fun, even if the game’s terrible.

2. What is your most memorable gaming moment?

I have to pick just one?  Okay, here’s one from childhood that still sticks with me:  Back in the day, we used to play those Monopoly games that would last way too long, and if it got too late, we’d have to pause the game overnight.  Well, I had convinced myself that if only I had Boardwalk and Park Place, I would have a lock on the victory, so after everybody else was asleep, I snuck downstairs and moved the two properties to my side of the board.  Yes, I admit it.  I was a dirty cheating cheater.  Bear with me.  The point is that it didn’t matter.  Park Place and Boardwalk didn’t win the game for me.  I still lost the next day.  To this day, I don’t know if anybody else knew that I had cheated, or if it was just karma smacking me down, but from then on, I haven’t (intentionally) broken the rules to a game.

3. What makes a great game for you?

Intriguing mechanics and interesting decisions.  That’s why my number one game is Power Grid.  The way the power plants become more efficient (and more expensive) during the course of the game, as well as the shifting commodities market, and the way the board develops based on the players’ actions, come together like a well-oiled machine.  I’m willing to overlook an absence of theme, or a theme that doesn’t quite click, if the mechanics make me sit up and take notice.

4. Tell us about The Dice Tower.  How did you get involved, etc.?

I was a fan of the show before I became a contributor.  I started listening somewhere around Episode 35.  I heard the last few Tom and Joe episodes, which is where Sam started sitting in as the “third man” on the podcast.  In the high 70’s, episode-wise, Tom and Sam ran a contest for Ninja Galaxy, in which listeners needed to e-mail Tom in order to enter.  At the end of my contest entry, I mentioned to Tom that I was a voice actor, and would be happy to contribute my production capability if they needed announcements or bumpers.  Tom wrote back right away, asking if I’d be willing to do some silly commercials for the show.  Fake sponsorships led to segment intros, which led to episode intros, which led to comedic sketches, which led to recurring characters, and before you know it, I was handling the bulk of the pre-production duties on the show.  When Sam announced his departure from the show, I was honored that Tom asked me to step up and expand my role on the show, but I was also terrified.  Sure, I was fine producing silly three-minute bits in my little padded box, but now you want me to actually say something intelligent about the games?  Help!  I have to say that the listeners have been extremely supportive and welcoming to the new guy, so that sense of panic has diminished quite a bit.  Now if only I could get Tom to stop making fun of my Top Ten selections…

5. I know you review games on a regular basis.  What is the hardest part about reviewing a game?

Putting your finger on exactly why you like or dislike a game, and articulating that in a meaningful way.  It’s easy to just spit out a gut reaction (“this was a fun one” or “this didn’t do it for me”), but that’s not going to be of any use to the listener.  What elements stood out, or what mechanics failed?  Was it art design?  Ease of teaching?  A particular strategy that tested the limits of the game’s intent?  No matter the length of the review, whether it be 72-seconds, or a mention in a Top Ten list, or a full review on the podcast, I try to give a concrete reason for my reaction to a game.  Note that I said “try.”  I certainly fail sometimes.  It’s something I continue to work on.

6. Excluding Merchant of Venus, what out of print game would you like to see reprinted?

Heh.  Am I that transparent?  Okay, if I can’t pick MoV, I’d have to go with flowerpower.  This was one of the Kosmos 2-player games that didn’t get picked up by a US publisher, and was therefore only available in German.  It’s a cute little domino-style tile laying game, in which you’re trying to create beds of flowers on your side of the board, while disrupting your opponent’s side by playing tiles as weeds.  It’s one of my wife’s favorite games, and one that we’d love to give as gifts, but finding copies is increasingly difficult (one copy at a recent con was priced at $75).  Still holding out hope for a reprint, perhaps with a different theme that won’t be perceived as a “girl game?”

Thanks for the interview Eric.  I agree with you.   Intriguing mechanics are a draw for me too.  I enjoyed hearing about how you approach a review.  And I’ve heard that flowerpower is an excellent game.  Perhaps we will see a new reprint soon.

Eric, thanks so much for your time.  I really enjoy having you on The Dice Tower.   I’ll see you on Yucata.de.  I’m itching for a win.

Well that’s the first of many.  I have several waiting for posting and several more out for answering.  One constant theme in the interviews and that I want to address later in its own series is ‘How can we improve as players?’.  Think about that and let me know what you think about this interview and the future topic by commenting below.  And if you have suggestions of someone you would like to see interviewed tell me there also.

Until next time – Go Forth And Game.

tomg