Welcome, welcome to April’s Roundtable. Sit your bones down and prepare to enjoy a long conversation all about those games played atop the table. There’s a lot of good advice in this month’s talk, as well as some game mod suggestions, and game recommendations.
Personally, I’ve been to a lot of groups that have fallen apart over kind of weird conflicts–it’s what you get with a lot of egos at the table, whether you’re playing D&D or Settlers of Catan. Does someone mediate? Do you take a break?
Jennie: Jo, I have always trusted the DM to mediate any personality conflicts that might arise. With table tops, I’ve found that there is usually one person who knows the game better than the other players and will defer to their understanding of the rules. Mostly, I just trust that we are all adults and can figure out the situation without harming each other in some way.
All that being said, I did have a very strange first D&D experience. The DM thought it would be a great idea to include her very recent ex-boyfriend, his best friend, and her current boyfriend in the group. The ex and his friend ganged up on the current early in the game. By the third game, the current boyfriend had been fried to a crispy fritter and jinxed to disallow his revival from the dead. They did the same thing to the two subsequent new characters that he built. It was a mess!
Jo: My group definitely had some friction, and while the bad blood is mostly gone, we never resolved it with a face-to-face: some side-venting seemed to solve more problems, and we came back together to play our weekly game as if nothing was wrong. Do you think the dynamic changes when you’re playing with random people, in a store?
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: It can definitely change with a stranger group. In the particular situation I have in mind, I’m pretty sure the GM would have backed me up, but I didn’t want it to escalate that much. So I told the other player several times I was fine playing my character and needed no help, then blatantly ignored him when he continued to tell me I had set up my stats wrong, should do something other than my stated action, and was generally gaming wrong. But I had set my boundaries pretty clearly, he finally backed off, and fun was had. Bear in mind this was both our first time playing the game, we didn’t know each other, and I had set up my character just fine.
Kate: I’ve had more success in avoiding friendship-ruining conflict in tabletop games vs. D&D style campaigns. Most of the people I’ve played with understand that games are games, but in RP-type games I think people are prone to what we in the online RPing community call “character bleed.” It’s less easy to not take other players’ actions personally in RP games vs. straight up tabletop. But then again, I’ve heard stories about people getting kicked out of their houses over a game of Monopoly, so it might just depend on the group, and not the game.
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: How do I find a group to play with if my friends aren’t into it?
Jennie: Sarah aka P.W., depending on where you live, you might be able to find a meet-up group that does a once a month or once a week game night. If there isn’t already one in existence, you could start one! I’ve also found that attending cons is a good way to make new gaming friends. You may only have that one game of Bonanza together but it’s usually a great time!
Jo: I’ve had great experiences with local gaming groups. If you find a store you like with good vibe, chances are they’ll be open to hosting a game night, if they don’t already.
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: I found my current group at a gaming store! There are wonderful, progressive game stores out there, and once you find a good one, it’s a great place to find groups. You can also try gaming online. There’s a pretty vibrant gaming community on G+, along with several online gaming conventions.
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: What games are good for beginners?
Depending on age and interest level of the participants, I would recommend trying a few before making up your opinion on gaming. Some people will like the traditional fantasy hack ‘n slash of D&D 5e, while others might prefer the emotional storylines of Monsterhearts. And you can rarely go wrong with Fiasco–I mean, it’s a game about everything going wrong, so usually everyone gets into it without taking it too seriously.
Kate: I really like card games and dice games for beginners. Things like Zombie Dice, Fluxx, and Munchkin are nice warm ups to the more intense games–like anything put out by Fantasy Flight. I also think that Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series on YouTube is a really great introduction not only to a lot of tabletop games, but how you play them.
Al Rosenberg: I would actually suggest Settlers and Carcassone as gateway games. You can play Settlers on your phone (which is where I started playing) and you can get Carcassone on your Xbox. Once you feel more comfortable playing alone/with NPCs, you can seek out real-life players to join you.
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: How do I become a GM?
Kate: In my experience, if you get with a good group of people, all you have to do is speak up and say you want to try to run a campaign and lay out your idea and see who’s interested in participating. Among the D&D players that I knew, each of them ran a different game at different times, some more successful than others.
Al Rosenberg: The only GMs I know, other than Sarah, just became them out of necessity. Like a group of people wanted to play a tabletop and someone had to take the job. I honestly think I’d enjoy GMing more than playing, but I’d probably really overprepare (endless charts and maps and graphs).
Al Rosenberg: Have any of you ever LARPed (Live Action Role-Played? What makes a good LARPing experience? How different is it from tabletop role-playing?
Jennie: Al, I’ve never LARPed. Although I find it intriguing and hope to try it out one day. However, I do not want to naked LARP. Evidently that is a rising trend within the community. There will be no Nerf swords poking me in the bare boobs. Ever.
Sarah aka Princess Wolfypants: I have LARPed once. It was not a good experience. It was a World of Darkness LARP.
My LARPing friends swear to me that most do not involve pretending to be a vampire, or playing rock paper scissors on the floor, or staring around owl-eyed because you have no idea what to do. There are exciting new kinds of LARPs out there that I’d be willing to try, that have focused plots and explore cool scenarios like rock climbers who are stranded, or a magical child who can change reality.
Kate: My best and only LARPing experience was just with some friends at a hotel at an anime convention. We’d never even heard the term LARP, but we decided we were going to “role play in real life” and we had a blast, cosplaying and acting out an entirely improvised action plot. Truthfully, I’ve never tried LARPing since because I know it will be a let down.
Al Rosenberg: Jennie, I’ve heard of the naked LARPing. Actually, I found out about it when googling “Everglades” and there they were, boobs in the swamp with foam swords.
Sarah, I feel like that’s what I would need, really focused plotting.
Jennie: There are certain tabletops that have become new classics–Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, etc. What new games are you playing that you think will make it to that status?
Ginnis: My bf and I play Ticket to Ride every Sunday morning. My parents turned us on to it, and we always play when we visit them. We both like strategy so it’s an enjoyable way for us to relax, but still get a little challenge…and talk trash to each other. I have been starting to wonder about similar type games we might enjoy, as two players, so to second Jennie, any recommendations would be welcomed!
Kate: One thing I noticed in terms of tabletop games and popularity is that it’s not limited to “official” games by the big game companies. Cards Against Humanity is a great example of that. It’s still available for free online, in multiple formats, in addition to the official decks you can buy. They’ve also been incredibly open to people adding their own cards and making their own decks, which is an amazing level of customization and community engagement. I also learned about Kickstarter games that after their Kickstarter success, become small release or print-on-demand, and one of my all time favorite games falls into that category. It’s called Sentinels of the Multiverse and it’s a cooperative card game but with original superheroes.
Jennie: Kate, CAH’s interaction with their fanbase is truly an exciting development. I hope that more game makers and game companies will follow their example.
Al Rosenberg: Sentinels of the Multiverse looks so cool! It seems like an interactive comic book.
Jo: Splendor! Then again, I always want Splendor to be the next big thing.
Jennie: Jo, please explain Splendor to me!
Jo: Splendor combines three of the best aspects of modern gaming, in my opinion: it’s easy to play, there’s a TON of flavor, and everyone feels like they’re doing well. Another advantage: each game takes at most 30 minutes, even if everyone is learning the game for the first time. All you do is collect different colored gems (represented by plastic coins which feel heavy and great in hand), and spend them to buy cards. Each card in turn can be used as currency, and you try to accumulate greater and greater wealth. The person who reaches fifteen victory points wins! The art is beautiful, and there’s very little math involved: the only trouble I’ve noticed is that it’s unfriendly towards green/blue colorblindness, but then the “gems” are different shapes as well. I always feel that a testament to “next big things” is that they can translate well to digital modes (this happened to Ticket to Ride and Carcasonne, and many more). I can see Splendor having a robust video game equivalent, especially if they can get multiplayer down.
Ginnis: Hm, I will have to look into that. Our local comic shop, More Fun Comics and Games, has a great game collection so maybe we will branch out a bit.
Jennie: I’m now suffering a little bit of “knowing all the cards” fatigue with Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. These games delighted me at first but now I don’t find them as surprising. One of the ways that I found to keep CAH fresh was to play Win, Lose, or Draw with the cards. Nothing like watching someone draw “A Stray Pube” and everyone yelling out their way off the mark insane guesses! Has anyone else repurposed or restructured games and/or game pieces to make a new variation of a crowd favorite?
Ginnis: Jennie, can you explain how you modified CAH a little more? We like playing it at parties, but yeah we know all the cards now.
Jennie: Ginnis, I split the group into four teams. Using a giant pad of paper propped up so everyone could see it, each team would take a turn. On that team’s turn, one member would read the card, have sixty seconds to draw what was on the card, and her teammates would yell out guesses as she draws. If a player’s own team does not guess correctly, the other teams get a chance to steal for the point. If no one guesses correctly, no one gets a point. I’m sure the mechanics of this could be explained a little better but hopefully this gets the basic modification across.
Kate: Jennie–that’s an awesome game mod idea! You should share it with more people. Also, this is exactly what I love about CAH and the gaming community–people are endlessly creative with games in ways they’re not with other media.
Ginnis: Oh, that sounds really fun. Another fun party game we like to play is Ellen’s iPhone game Heads Up! (also available on Android). It’s not a tabletop game, but you do play it live with a group. It involves a lot of acting out and since I hang out with a ton of performance art folk, we love any game that allows for that!
Thanks for joining us for this month’s roundtable! Have some answers of your own to share? We’d love to hear in the comments below.