Category Archives: Game Night

How Humanity was Saved by Giant Space Whales

I want to say interesting things about last night’s game of Microscope RPG, but honestly what I *really* want to do is go hit some thrift stores before games day this afternoon and women’s book club tonight. I’m going to write up a narrative of the history we built when I have more time to devote to it, but for now here is the broad outline of the history we created. Hopefully this will leave you curious and wanting to know more!

The Fall of Galactic Civilization

Named characters/places:
Lem Empire
Mongol Empire
Jay Edwards, scientist
Mary Parks, scientist
Officer Jackson, campus security
Peter, Mary’s finance
Leslie, Mary’s colleague
Danny, a five year old child
Malak, mystic
Isabelle, revolutionary, descendant of Jay Edwards
Ogadeh
Dina, lives on Mongol Prime
Dr. Stalinov, research scientist
Pedro, badass lab assistant
Rosie the Gorilla
Servitas, a planet
Cervantes, revolutionary
Janet, pilot
Stefen, commander


Allowed:

Magic
Interspecies Genetic Engineering
Space Whales
Empire
Environmental Destruction
Secret Societies (of humanoids, not of space whales)


Disallowed:

Religion
Nuclear Weapons did not cause the fall
Mythological Creatures
Faster than light travel
Superheroes (ie one person cannot singlehandedly save/destroy civilization through superhuman means)

Period One (dark):

Civilization is on the verge of collapse

Event (dark): Humanity mines the last warp crystal

Scene (dictated, dark):
Q. What happens when a galactic cruiser (The Titanic) runs out of fuel?
A. A catastrophic implosion, known as the “Great Implosion”

Event (dark): Great Implosion consumes Earth’s sun (dark)
Event (dark): The Great Implosion causes water to become scarce

Period Two (dark):

Water is so scarce it becomes a highly limited and valuable commodity

Event (light):
A team of valiant explorers travels into the center of the Great Implosion

Scene: (light)
Q. What does Mary Parks see in the Great Implosion that she writes into her notebook?
Setting: An exploration vessel traveling into the Great Implosion.
Characters: Mary, Dr. Stalinov, Janet, Stefan
A: The secret to (creating) water.

Event (light): Jay Edwards investigates a water-purifying animal (light)

Scene (dark):
Q. Who betrayed Mary?
Setting: Leslie and Mary’s lab.
Characters: Peter, Leslie, Pedro, Time, Rosie the Gorillia
A. Leslie and Peter

Scene (dark):
Q. How did Jay Edwards manage to steal Mary Parks’ ideas?
Setting: Mary’s bedroom/house. Characters: Officer Jackson, Leslie, Peter, Jay
A. Jay Edwards takes Mary’s journal from her bedroom during a homecoming party.

Period Three (light):

Mankind grows, having become reliant on Edwards’ space-faring purifying class of humpback whales

Event (light): Jay Edwards is imprisoned for treason
Event (light): Jay Edwards pioneers/discovers Mind Travel/Communication (while in prison)

Scene (light):
Q: How does The Mind work?
Setting: Jay’s prison cell, Leslie’s office, The Mind, Mongol Prime.
Characters: Guard, Leslie, Doctor, Jay, Dinah
A: Can only be accessed while sleeping/meditating; requires focus to interact visually with others; can affect into physical reality while in The Mind, but requires training/practice/skill; physical space inside the mind is a gray, formless void, much like fog. Language barriers still exist.

Period Four (light):

An era of creative expression flourishes as Mongols and Humans share idea via The Mind

Event (light): A Mongol shares his technique for removing traumatic memories
Event (light): The Great Implosion, which sucked most of the water from the galaxy, is contacted by the multitude of the mind, creating a dwarf planet that houses the Cave of Power (…. huh? I guess it was pretty late at that point…)

Period Five (dark):
The First Galacitic Civil War

Event (light): The people of the planet Servitas isolate themselves via The Mind
Event (dark): An ancient secret society known as the Falling Star rebel against what they consider to be the tyranny of The Mind
Event (dark): The creation of the mental dagger used by Isabelle to kill the Great Khan

Period Six (dark):
Lem Empire scours dissenting planets

Event (dark): The Lem Empire (“Lempire”), via the Mind, diverts water whales from Servitas

Period Seven (dark):
The New Mongol Empire nearly reconquers the galaxy

Event (dark): Mongol Prime mysteriously vanishes and only one person remembers it ever existed

Scene (light):
Q: Why does a five year old (Danny) remember Mongol Prime , which disappeared when he was one year old?
Setting: In a cave of power in some indeterminate place. Characters: Time, Danny, Malak, Jay
A: Jay Edwards (who is trapped in the pool inside the Cave) can project memories into people’s minds

Event (light): Death of the Great Khan
Event (light): The Mongols elect Jay Edwards’ descendant as their new Queen

Scene (light):
Q. Why did the Mongols elect Jay Edwards’ descendant as their new queen?
Setting: In a mental/astral space.
Characters: Unnamed general, multitude of generals, Isabelle, Khan
A. Isabelle killed the Khan, then his highest ranking general, and showed supremacy over the horde

Period Eight (light):
Mankind returns to its primitive roots

Event (light): Cervantes, last member of the Falling Star and the last one to know of the mental dagger, uses it to kill himself.
Event (light): The Lem Empire is intentionally, methodically disbanded from inside
Event (dark): Primitive man discovers long lost notebook

Gaming Can Save Lives

This article from Ars Technica is a great personal narrative about one man’s struggle with deep depression and how the board gaming hobby has helped bring him out of the darkness.

I have suicidal depression—and board games saved my life

This is the part I found the most fascinating:

“Board games give me something that little else does. They give freedom within a constructed framework; players are given the social space to bounce off each other like carnival bumper cars, while remaining safe and bounded. Everyone jockeys to achieve something—whether to become king, to solve the puzzle, or to save the world. The objectives and rules form a kind of joyous arena in a 1990’s-style Gladiator gameshow where the players and walls are covered in brightly colored padding. In your game you might be trying to brutally murder another player’s character, but the game will always make sure that everyone is having fun, that everyone is safe. Every rule is a safety net, letting you walk the tightrope without fear. To someone terrified and unable to deal with social situations, this web of gameplay and rules can be an unbelievable gift.”

This resonated with me – one of the things I appreciate most about the board gaming Meetup group I’m part of is how our events are welcoming to newcomers. All of us are socially awkward weirdos of one shade or another, but once we get over the initial hurdle of welcoming a new person into our midst, and they get over the hurdle of taking that first step to show up to a new place as a stranger, it’s easy to involve them in a game and bring them into the fold. The rules and boundaries of board games make for a safe and structured social encounter. No small talk needed beyond “Hello” and “What kind of games do you like?”.

When I’m having a bad day, sometimes it’s a relief to know that no one will expect me to talk about my bad mood, my worries, or my stresses. Around the game table, none of that matters. My friends will accept me exactly where I’m at and then we’ll put aside everything to immerse ourselves in a game or two for a few hours.

On the other hand, though, sometimes I do want to talk about what’s going on, and that’s where I struggle. Game night can be so focused on the games that there’s not much room for depth of relationship. It’s almost a taboo to start conversations that take away from the game playing. Anything more than light banter is a distraction from the real reason we’re there, and I find myself longing for deeper connection with these people I spend up to 13 hours of each week with.

I’d love to hear from other people about their experiences with depression and board games, or depth of relationship in gaming groups/game nights.

The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow, Part 1

Last night was a busy night at Math Haus. My housemates had friends over to play Pathfinder in the living room, and while they did that, I had a few friends over to play The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow at the dining room table. The designer is running a session of the card-driven version (in development) at Gamex this coming Memorial Day weekend, but I found the original dice-based version on their website and it sounded like fun.

I now present to you….
The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow

A tale of mischief and bullying

Characters:
Benny, 6 1/2 years old, played by Ron
Laurie, undeterminate age, played by Casey
Jack, 8 years old, played by Chris
Sally, 7 years old, played by Me

Part 1

In Raven’s Hollow, the sun never shines.

Today was a day like any other. The adults of the town shuffled around, doing whatever boring things adults did. The sun did not shine, and the children entertained themselves as best as they could in the brown and gray world of ancient trees, mud puddles, tangled thickets, and decaying buildings.

Benny was in a foul mood, and was taking it out on a snake he’d found by the side of the creek. He wore a baseball cap (turned backwards, of course, like all the cool kids he saw on TV), and he was wearing a pair of dirty sneakers. They weren’t the cool sneakers he’d asked for, so instead he had drawn lightning bolts onto the sides with crayons. The shoes were stained strange colors from where he’d emptied the contents of a glow-stick onto them, trying to make the lightning bolts glow. (It hadn’t worked, hence the foul mood.) In his grubby hands Benny held a stick, which he was trying to poke in the snake’s mouth. The snake was having none of this, and kept snapping at the stick with sinister-looking fangs.

“Come on, snake. Just open a little wider, like that… no, hey! Not like that… Now, just stay still for a second…”

Just as Benny lunged forward with a decisive jab, a rustling in the brush surprised him, and he missed, stumbling forward. The snake made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snicker.

“Hey Benny, what are you doing?” asked Laurie with a sneer as she emerged from the bushes.

“Oh, it’s just you.” Benny rolled his eyes. “Go away Laurie, I’m busy.”

Laurie was a tall, gangly girl with ratty ginger hair. She was wearing shiny patent leather shoes (still shiny because she’d been careful to avoid any mud puddles) and in one hand she was carrying a bright red balloon.

“I’m not doing anything,” she answered snottily. “What are YOU doing?”

“Trying to get this snake good,” Benny answered, scowling. “But it won’t stay still long enough.”

Laurie scoffed. “Only little kids poke at snakes with sticks. I dare you to poke the snake in the mouth with just your finger! You’re not scared, are you?”

Benny eyed the snake, which eyed him back. He looked at his finger, then looked back at the snake’s evil-looking fangs. He gulped, started to move toward the snake with one pointer finger extended, then thought better of it and shrugged.

“Nah,” he said. “That’s dumb. Who cares about a dumb old snake, anyway?”

Laurie snickered. “Oh yeah?” She took a few quick steps forward, grabbed the snake by its tail, and before Benny could do anything about it, she spun it in the air and flung it downstream into the creek. “I guess you won’t care if I do that, then.”

“HEY!” Benny shouted in protest. He scampered into the stream, but the snake was no where to be found. He turned back to Laurie, who was lost in laughter. “You’re just a dumb girl. Stupidface.”

“Whatever, Benny. You’re the stupidface.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of a stupidface carries a balloon, anyway? Balloons are more dumb than snakes.” He walked over to where Laurie was standing and narrowed his eyes at her, then reached forward and grabbed the balloon out of her hands before she had time to react. He released the string, thoroughly enjoying her shrieks of dismay as the balloon climbed up, up, up before getting tangled high in the limbs of an ancient, decaying tree.

“There. If you climb that tree and get your balloon, I might believe that you’re not just a stupid girl. And I won’t tell all the other kids how stupid you are. Stupidface.”

“Okay, I’ll do it,” said Laurie without a second thought. She carefully took her shoes off and placed them on a pile of dry leaves at the base of the tree. “I’m not going to get my shoes dirty, though.” She looked up at the tree, which was swaying in the breeze and making loud creaking noises. A large raven settled itself down on a branch not too far from her balloon. The branch seemed far too thin to support the weight of the massive bird, but Laurie thought that maybe it meant the tree was sturdier than it looked.

After another moment to gather her courage, ignoring the irritating taunts of Benny behind her, she squared her shoulders and started to make her way up the tree, carefully placing her hands and feet on the sturdiest-looking of the decaying branches. After a much shorter time than either child had expected, she was almost within reach of the balloon. The raven, still eyeing her, flew down a few branches and almost as though it was helping her, plucked at the balloon string with its beak, conveniently untangling it from the branches and dropping the end down to where Laurie could grab it. She tied it around her wrist and descended back to the ground.

“See?” she said, brushing the dust off her dress. “Easy.” She smiled smugly, reaching for her shoes. They were gone. She frowned.

“Are you looking for these?” Benny dangled them in front of her eyes, then snatched them away cruelly. “Finders keepers!” he said, and ran off into the forest, ignoring Laurie’s shouts behind him.

***

Jack was the largest of the children of Raven’s Hollow. Maybe not the oldest – it was possible that title went to Laurie, but none of them were entirely sure how old she was. No, Jack was simply the largest. Tall and wide. He would be intimidating except that he was a good, quiet child who preferred to spend his free time surrounded by books. Today he was working his shift at the library, pushing a rickety cart around and shelving books. In his back pocket was a copy of his favorite book, which he occasionally snuck out to read a few pages, tucking it away again quickly before the librarian, Mr. Smithers, caught him. Today, Mr. Smithers was no where to be found, so Jack was taking a longer than usual reading break. This is where Benny found him. Benny snatched the book out of the older boy’s hands.

“Hey, what the…?” Jack said, startled. He looked up, and sighed. “Benny! Give that back!”

But Benny was too quick for Jack, and tossed the book high onto the top of one of the bookshelves, laughing with glee.

“Who reads books, anyway? Why don’t you ever play outside, Jack boy? Books are for sissy girls.”

Jack decided to not point out the sissy girl shoes that Benny was wearing at the moment (Laurie’s shoes, in fact). Then he looked sadly at the top of the bookshelf. There was no way he could reach that high, despite being the tallest boy in his grade.

“Aw, Jacky boy lost his book! Hey Jack, I dare you to climb the rickety old ladder to get your book back.”

Jack hesitated. “But Mr. Smithers will be angry. I’m not supposed to use that ladder….”

“Are you… scared?”

“No!” Jack responded a little too quickly to be convincing. “But Mr. Smithers is my friend. I don’t want to make him mad.”

“Sounds like you’re scared to me. I’m gonna tell everyone else what a scaredy butt you were, can’t even climb a ladder without an adult…”

“Okay fine! I’ll do it!” Jack cried. He stormed off, and when he returned he was wheeling the old library ladder around from where the librarian kept it in a dusty corner. He placed it at the base of the shelves where he thought the book had landed. He grabbed the sides of the ladder, and climbed one rung, then another. The rungs creaked in protest, but they seemed to hold his weight safely. He successfully climbed to the top, retrieved his book, and on the way down, “accidentally” dropped a heavy hardcover book on Benny’s head.

“OW!” Benny shouted. He wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tounge. “You’re just a dumb butt face. Butt eyes! You have butts for eyes!” He ran off, rubbing his head and shouting insults behind him at poor Jack.

***

You can read Part 2 here!

Urban Planning and Psych(ot)ic Visions

Last night our fearless leader Matt was out sick, but we persevered. After a long game of what I like to call “The Deciding-Which-Game-to-Play Game”, four of the menfolk decided to start with a game of Hearts, and the rest of us settled on Suburbia. I was pretty pleased because it’s a game that’s been on my “to learn” list for a while but whenever it’s come out I’ve either not felt like playing it or been more interested in something else. Considering we have a copy at my house I probably should have played it long ago but whatever.

In this game, I learned that I am not very good at city planning. I built a very pretty city, and scoffed at my neighbors’ cities filled with ugly airports and commercial parks. I started off well enough, and for a bit I was even leading the pack. My Redistricting Office ensured that I was in a significant lead for the middle part of the game.

But then, I discovered that building a city is much like racing horses as a Pocket Card Jockey. If you’re not careful to take it slow and steady, you will start using your resources faster than you can store them up, and in the final stretch you will get passed by the cities that played the long game, while you limp across the finish line with zero income, zero reputation, and nothing left but crushed dreams.

By the time we finished, the game of Hearts had been long over and they had moved on to Kingsburg. While the rest of us waited for them to finish up the last year and a half, we played a brief game of Qwixx. For a Gamewright game, Qwixx gets a lot of play in my circles – it’s one of my favorite fillers, actually. Good combination of quick and strategic, aesthetically pleasing, and not relying on bidding (which is not my favorite mechanic in the world). I was pretty pleased with my final score of 75 except that Byron managed to score a ridiculous score of 115. What even.

Qwixx and Kingsburg finished at about the same time, so we mixed it up a little. Half the group finished off the evening with a game of Dungeon Dice, and I managed to convince a group to play my 11th game of Mysterium with me. I’ve written about that more on my 100 Plays blog, but in short: we tried Hard mode for the first time, and lost, but not for lack of trying valiantly.

Another night of gaming complete! Tonight a friend is visiting from Nashville, so a few of us are gathering for dinner and maybe even some games (shock!).