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Since we have a lot of stuff, we tend to take a lot of stuff with us when we attend conventions. And when we go on vacation. And when we go away for the weekend. Actually, we end up hauling board games or RPGs pretty much everywhere we go. It’s not like that’s necessarily easy; board games are heavy, especially since we like Fantasy Flight games with tons of bits. RPGs can be as easy as a dice bag and a few books, but as you can tell from the blog, that’s not really how we roll; we go in for box sets and lots of props. That being said, we’ve perfected the art of carrying game stuff with us over the past few years. Here are some protips:

  • Useful Bag #1: the LL Bean XL Boat and Tote bag. I got one of these from my work a few years back, and it’s a lifesaver. The thick canvas ensures that it won’t break under the weight of your heaviest games, and the sides stay upright and sturdy to keep your boxes from sliding around in transit. These have a kind of uncool middle-aged mom-vibe which I don’t love, but if you can get your games to fit in them, they’re probably the safest way to go. Tuck a rain jacket in on top to make sure that nothing gets wet on the way into the building.
  • Useful Bag #2: the IKEA bag. Those big-box FFG games won’t fit in an LL Bean tote, but they’ll fit in one of those huge, tarp-material IKEA bags. (I learned while writing this post that they’re called FRAKTA bags. I will now insist on calling them “the FRAKTAS” in an annoying voice from here on out.) Since they’re designed to fold up after use, the IKEA bags have flimsy sides and won’t keep your stuff from sliding around in the car, so make sure you Tetris anything you put in these bags into the back of your car carefully so your stuff doesn’t go flying when you take a left turn.
  • Useful Tip #1: Keep your dice separate from everything else in a handy dice bag. I like the FFG bags, although many people I know swear by DragonChow bags. Little dice bags can get lost in the mess of everything else you’re carrying, so stash them in a smaller bag that you mean to take with you. Lots of games use standard sets of dice, so having a set handy means you’ll have your own handy.
  • Box it: Staples carries Really Useful Boxes, which are my favorite way of carrying little bits and organizing them at the table, but any crafting store will have an assortment of plastic boxes ideal for carrying bits in their beading section. If you store your things in crafting boxes when you put your games away, you’ll have a handy way to keep them tidy on the table, too.
  • Take the right equipment: I’m fond of my cardstock buildings, but they don’t travel well. Pulling out Paizo or D&D map tiles allow for a variety of quick scenery changes without taking up a ton of space.

I was in a not-so-local but still friendly gaming store the other day where they had a table dedicated to Wyrd Miniatures/Worldworks Games Terraclips for Malifaux. These sets feature lovely, full-color building pieces in modular sheets on hefty punchboard (1.7mm thick, to be exact.) You can clip the sections of wall, flooring, and roof together with the little terraclips made of transparent plastic so that they don’t mar the overall look of the terrain. I only got a quick look, but they seem high-quality and versatile enough to fit multiple scenarios. Best of all, a disassembled and boxed set takes up about the same space as a couple of RPG rulebooks. The Malifaux set would work well for any dark-ish city setting, (general WFRP and Mordheim both leap to mind,) and Worldworks has several dungeon sets coming soon that includes lava pits, rooms full of gold, and sarcophagi. These strike me as a nice compromise between easy-to-damage cardstock buildings and difficult-to-store plastic or resin models. I hope they plan to keep expanding the line! In fact, if this product line keeps growing and the space in my apartment keeps shrinking, I might end up replacing my own shelves of cardstock scenery with these.

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.

I have a love/hate relationship with Worldworks Games. I love them because they make the most beautiful cardboard models on the market, but I hate them because their kits always reveal the shameful limits of my ability to make things with my hands. I once bought one of their kits, printed the whole thing out, and got so frustrated just reading the instructions that I boxed the whole thing up and shoved it to the back of a shelf.

Granted, that probably says more about my psychology than about their models. Most of the difficulty of making their stuff comes from the fact that so much of it is modular, so you must construct every piece with utter precision so that the doodad can fit neatly into the slot and the whatsis can swivel freely on the thingamajig. Unfortunately, when I feel that I have made a part of a paper model “precisely,” it usually means that I managed not to glue the X-acto to my face in the process.

It was therefore with a bit of trepidation that I bought the Roll Arena. I LOVE this kit–it’s a little dice-rolling table with awesome divided drawers underneath that hold cards. I could certainly see a GM using it for his dice and, say, a critical hit deck. It gets better, though: the bottom of the rolling surface has several interchangeable inserts, all of which are divided differently and decorated with unique imagery, and the kit comes with blank cards that correspond to the imagery on the inserts so you can create your own dice games. The piece’s rather Warhammery look and its Unblinking Eye-esque insert pushed it from the “that’s cool” category over into “I’ll buy” for me.

I spent a couple of hours on it this morning, but didn’t complete it yet because work I’m actually paid to do got in the way. I’ll save the rest of the construction for another day when I have less work to do. Suffice it to say that like all WWG products, this kit presents a challenge, but it doesn’t seem insurmountable.

Here are some pictures of my process this morning. (Do head over to Worldworks Games to see the results of a competent model-maker building this.)

Setting my stuff out neatly (ie, throwing everything on the table in such a disorderly fashion that Tzeentch himself would be proud):

Feel the imprecision (and the cat fur!):

The structure of the top partially completed:

I may actually end up printing and redoing this part of the model again now that I know how it works. As you can see, though, it’s decorated with lovely graphics. I’ll let you know how it goes as I finish it up–and of course, I’ll be completely truthful about gluing my hand to the floor or whatever mishap will inevitably happen.

One of the things I love about WFRP are those tiny little adventurer’s boxes that hold each player’s character sheet, fortune points, stance tracker, and other bits. Since I have four regular players in my group, I store our boxes in the Adventurer’s Toolkit box:

If you’re a fussbudget like me, though, you want everything that your players need in one place, including a small pencil. Luckily, fussbudgety people like me also know where to get school supplies for almost every occasion, so I found short mechanical pencils to fit neatly into those tiny boxes:

I’m a big fan of the little Zebras. They never require sharpening during a dragon attack. They have nice erasers that don’t leave residue when you take a bunch of wounds. They aren’t expensive, and, most importantly, they come in generous packs of 28, so when your players inevitably lose their pencils, you have more. Don’t ask me how players continually lose pencils even when they have a nice box in which to store them. I guess you have to expect those things when you have a game that includes so much Chaos.

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.

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