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Oh, my God.
There’s this, the Locus from Geek Chic.
We have dithered for about a year on whether or not to buy a GC table. Several of our friends have them, and they’re beautiful pieces of furniture. Since my husband and I GM, we both drool over the GM station add-ons; how great is it to have the GM screen be part of the table!? We live on the third floor of an historic building, though, that “features” no elevator and narrow doors and hallways. Although GC comes and assembles the table for you, the thought of getting the table back down those stairs when we move in a few years gives us a heart attack, so we haven’t yet ordered one.
But the Locus? Sheer awesome. As of today, we are officially saving for it. I’m ultimately glad we held off on buying a GC table after the first Pax East, because we wouldn’t have been able to justify buying two–and we couldn’t ask for a table that better fits our multimedia style of running RPGs than this one.
In other news, I was just reading (another) WFRP3e post complaining about how much room the system requires if you use all of the components in the RAW. We have a pretty tiny apartment, and we solved this problem (and the problem of playing other FFG big box games with expansive maps and a billion plastic men) by buying two Nordens and using them side by side.
At $179 each, the Nordens won’t break the bank, but they provide a large surface for gaming (about 35″x60″); four to six people can easily sit around the table and play a game, and if you put two Nordens side by side, you have plenty of room to display a large map in the center of the table while you put each PC’s components around the edges. Best of all, when you’re finished, the Norden folds up into a tiny set of drawers, perfect for storing cards, dice, or minis. We have had ours for over a year, and the wood surface cleans easily…and since they’re our gaming and craft tables, they’ve seen their share of soda, food, glue, and paint.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how we currently store and deploy our metric ton of gaming stuff, but I have to admit that everything’s better when it comes with a touch screen.
As you may have gathered, I’m picky about my gaming accessories. Deck boxes are no exception. If you play Warhammer 3e, you will probably gather a whole host of containers for all the bits: baggies for the cardboard standees, plastic Really Useful Boxes for the small decks of wound cards and such, and deck boxes for the regular-sized cards. I generally dislike most deck boxes on the market today; they’re either hugely unattractive or sport blatant advertising for Magic the Gathering. Worse, many are made of that flimsy plasticboard junk that doesn’t always hold up if you stack it into a box with other heavy things. For awhile, I was keeping my decks in baggies because I just didn’t like the available options.
A big gaming store near us had a display of a whole host of Rook Art Boxes, though, that changed my mind about deck boxes. (They’re called the Famous Artist Series on some sites.) These are lovely. Made of thin but sturdy metal with a hinged top, the Rook boxes protect your cards well and are small enough to fit into other game boxes. At the moment, I still keep all of my materials in the original Warhammer FRP Core Set box, and the Rook boxes nestle nicely alongside everything else inside.
A wide range of fantasy artists have done front cover art for these boxes; the evocative images tend not to be overstated, and a variety of styles and subject matter means you can probably find something you like. Plus, as an added bonus, the later series let you stack a complete set side by side to see an additional image.
Unfortunately, the Rook Art Boxes don’t seem to be widely available on the Internet, although you can find them on the Warstore. You might want to check your local gaming store to see if they carry them or if they can order them for you. They’re definitely worth doing a bit of hunting to find.
So, that game I said I wasn’t going to order (but obviously did) arrived today. So there’s that.
Also, Monday marked my first venture into GMing Mouse Guard. I was a little fussbudgety going in because I wasn’t sure if I could keep my wits about me as much as Mouse Guard requires. I generally allay my fears by prepping copiously, but found that my trusty technique didn’t really fly for MG. With only a couple of plot points written ahead of time because the game aims to be so responsive to player innovation, the prewritten material didn’t lend itself to needing a whole host of cardboard buildings or excessive highlighting/notetaking. Even my plan to pull pictures for my iPad failed, largely because I couldn’t find naturescapes with tiny mouse buildings in them. Go figure. I pulled a couple of atmospheric pictures, but they seemed so irrelevant to the feel of the game that I ultimately gave up that approach.
After a half hour of wandering around disconsolately with the rule book, I decided to make some player kits.
We are as enthusiastic about our board games as we are about our RPGs–and just as obsessive about the stuff that comes in them. As you can imagine, our place has a whole drawer full of multi-sized baggies to help organize all of the bits from each game. We separate what each player needs at the game’s start out into player kits, which speed up the beginning of the game. (This is totally normal where we come from. Believe me.) Here, for instance, is the player kit for my team in the new Blood Bowl card game:
There’s everything you need to crush the opposing teams in one handy baggie!
With idle hands and nervous energy, I decided apply the same principle to my Guardmice. I went onto the excellent Burning Wiki section dedicated to MG and downloaded the character sheets for the premade characters, deleting the prewritten Session Goals because I wanted my players to create their own. Then I either downloaded or typed up descriptions of each mouse’s starting city so that my players had a better sense of where their mice originated so their backgrounds could inform their RP.
Finally, I made copies of those awesome flow charts, too, just in case, although we didn’t find ourselves using them. I packed all of that into a clear plastic page protector, and, of course, pulled out my bag o’ mechanical pencils.
It’s not the kind of prep I’m used to, but I finally felt like I’d done my “homework,” so I could relax a bit and feel ready to go.
As for the actual game play, it seemed to go well. We had quite a bit of party tension; one mouse wanted to slip away from the party to go get revenge against a former friend who had wronged her, but her Patrol Leader wouldn’t let her out of his sight because he wanted to keep her safe. It led to some interesting tension, especially when the other two mice decided to let them fight it out and deal with the main mission head-on with rope. (When it comes right down to it, most things in RPGs can be tackled with rope.) It does seem easier in MG to split the party than in other games, because so much relies on the players just talking out their decisions; while the GM resolves one set of checks, the other team can be talking out what they want to do. Our group really enjoyed the social combat rules, having a really great time thinking up direct points, rebuttals, and confusing errata to represent their Attacks, Defends, and Feints. I let them down on combat a bit; it was our first major conflict, so I focused too much on the rules, leaving them feeling like there was no RP to combat, when in fact, I was just trying to make sure everyone knew how the order of events went. Sill, you live and learn. They seemed to enjoy learning that they had far more power to negotiate about what the world was like, but were, as I predicted, a bit nonplussed by the fact that there wasn’t as deep of a prewritten story to follow or as many premeditated puzzles/challenges to “get right.” I suppose that ultimately, I could remedy either of these in subsequent sessions, should they choose to give it another go.
Given that we’ve played WFRP for so long, they were right at home with the cards in the MG Box Set, and remarked several times on the charming illustrations and the high production value. It seemed completely worth it to have the additional pieces since it gave this far more abstract game a bit of an anchor for my players.
Overall, it was fun for me to see the group work together in a different way, and I enjoyed the experience of more free-form GMing. I may try to GM a Mouse Guard game at a convention at some point. After all, there are so many possible ways I could make newbie-friendly player kits for a convention!
It’s always nice to get a surprise gift from your spouse. I have read on the Internet that some women like flowers or chocolate, but I prefer gaming stuff. (Big surprise.) Last week, I got surprised with a Fantasy Flight Supply Dice Bag. I’d had my eye on these on the website, but couldn’t really justify buying one because I don’t have many un-bagged dice lying about. But, hey, a present! You can’t say no to a present.
The bag is quite nice; it’s made of soft nylon with a suede-like exterior. Mine has the sword detail, printed in a sparkly silver metallic color. At 6.25×9″, the roomy bag easily holds far more than a full set of d20 or WFRP dice; you could probably sneak in a small pad and a little pencil, too, for travel gaming.
Mine’s currently holding the graphic Mouse Guard dice from the Boxed Set. Although I feel a bit guilty about putting non-FFG dice in an FFG bag because I’m crazy like that, the sword seems thematically appropriate for the little mice fighting for what they believe. Neither sword-wielding mouse nor FFG employee has come to my door yet to complain. Now that I think about it, though, it would be pretty cool if an armed mouse showed up at my house. If that happens, I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them.
I love Really Useful Boxes. I love them so much it’s almost embarrassing. They’re made of durable plastic, they come in cool colors, and they have awesome little clips attached that snap them securely shut. Plus, they hold game stuff well! What’s not to love?
I have such an incredible love for this product that I’d originally considered writing this piece as a formal ode celebrating its awesomeness. Luckily for all of us, I have too much work to finish this weekend to make that practical, so you’ll just get a regular post. Although you can order Really Useful Boxes online, they can also be found at your local Staples if you’re a fan of instant gratification. At our Staples, the Boxes tend to be kind of a come-and-go item, particularly in the smaller sizes. Yet Back to School always means they’re in stock, so I thought I’d remind you now so you can go grab some if you have any loose stuff that needs storing. (At our stores, the small RUBs are up front in a bin, while the bigger ones are at the back of the store with the luggage and the file cabinets.)
IMHO, the best thing about RUBs is that the 0.3 liter boxes hold those tiny Fantasy Flight Game cards securely and without giving them room to slide around. If left loose, those cards can get easily bent, and if you’re a fussbudget about your games the way I am, you know that a bent FFG card is a full-blown disaster. Not only do the boxes keep the cards safe, but the boxes themselves are relatively small, so you can easily fit them back into the cardboard game box from whence the cards came. My Warhammer FRP cards nestle cozily inside the original Core Set Box encased in one of these:
The clip locks on the sides of these secure them well, so you don’t have to worry about the cards coming out if you jostle the box or sit it upright on a shelf. Plus, you can see through the top and the sides, so you don’t have to waste time opening boxes until you find the set of cards you need. Look! Everyone’s favorite: Wound Cards!
Larger boxes can be used to transport and protect books and character sheets. Here’s the short 4 liter-sized box carrying my Rogue Trader stuff:
I’ve also found the miniscule .14 liter boxes useful for storing FFG counters and such. The RUBs come in about four billion sizes and shapes, so you can probably find one that will fit almost any bill–even those bills not directly related to Fantasy Flight. If you’re looking to get your hands on the small boxes, you might want to go to your local Staples before Back to School ends. Beware, though–these things are addictive. You might find yourself hoarding extras in a drawer for when you pick up your next FFG game. Or maybe that’s just a mark of my own personal lunacy.