Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WEGS @ WittCon '08
From Dusk 'Til Dead
(photo by j. benton)

Lots o' rats, zombies, ether creepers, spoint frogs (on copper pot).
A Level 88 Dark Mage can be seen on that mighty stack of red chips.
Lower right is a Goblin Mage with Sense Magic up (red marker).
Level 88 Dark Mage is also about to blast a spell...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Happened In Vegas, Part 2

In May 2007, I blogged about how the concept of WEGS was born early one morning after a late-night stint at a craps table in Vegas. Many times that feeling I set to recreate with WEGS reverberates down the dice. When WEGS is at its hottest, it's like a huge craps game with folks shouting, feverishly throwing down spoints and bringing the game to life. Another key part is walking away cheerfully exhausted right down to your wallet (god, that's true on so many levels in the game publishing business!). This feeling happened twice at our recent Wittcon weekend: the first at Krystal Keep and the second at WittCon. Both of these games ran about four hours - and could've gone a little longer if both places hadn't closed at midnite! In both instances I had Vegas flashbacks. And it was good.

A few blogs back I mentioned that there was a down-side to running the larger games (8 players+). It's not the same game from a player's standpoint. This was apparent at Cold Wars when we first stumbled upon the "split table counter-rotational" method of dual Minion Masters. (this method warrants its own post!), but basically two minion masters split the table into two mini-games, running clockwise/counter clockwise around the players. The Minion Masters work in concert with each other well, but from a player's perspective the right side often doesn't know what the left side is doing.

This works incredibly well for mass-combat scenarios and our Yawl games and actually increases the crazed/frenetic spirit of those games. For games with story elements, it's not the best. Wegs Wife I (WW1) was playing in the first game where this occured and she complained afterward that she didn't have a clue what the other side of the table was doing. I voiced my concerns with Willy The 2 that it was our fault for not keeping the game together. There was more to it, though - the noise in the room was ungodly. Our game was in the middle of a huge ballroom surrounded by table after table of shouting war-gamers. We were on the event horizon, as it were, about to be sucked into nothingness. Thus, it was our survival instinct that lead us down the path of the "split table counter-rotational" method. The simple fact was one central Minion Master could not hear everyone at the table. So, we split the table into audible areas and, thus, we stumbled upon a new method for running bigger games.

Who's the muther of invention?
(More details to follow on this thread. Far too long at this point!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Early Depiction of WEGS in Rome?

Suffering the price for bad Minion Mastering...

The Ides Of WEGS...

As it fell during the Ides of March, the Wittcon theme this year was "Alea Iacta Est", or "The Die Is Cast". Caeser's famous line about dice and life. Little did we know how much this would apply to the weekend WEGS games we had scheduled. Ya see, the ides are the 13th or the 15th depending on what month you're in. By some strange machinations of the gaming gods, we ended up with between 13 and 15 people surrounding the WEGS games for two of our games. We have never run games of this size or intensity before - but as luck would have it, we were ready for such an undertaking.

The week prior, at Cold Wars, we had a game with 8 players. When a game gets over 7 players, the job of the Minion Master gets strained, so the Kreator usually pivots in/out for player interaction. At this game, Willy the 2 and I decided to split the players into two groups (left side and right side). He would handle the players clockwise starting at the first player to his left. I handled the players to my right counterclockwise. We would meet invariably at the middle player in the 12 o' clock seat. This style of game-mastering gave WEGS an amazing craps game feel with folks throwing spoints into the center of the table from all sides. There's a price to be paid for this, though (details in later post).

When folks kept showing up to play WEGS at our first store demo this weekend, we just kept saying "Sure! Jump in!". Before we knew it we had nine players. Then some more showed up! Wt2 and I debated over splitting the game in two sessions - but I just didn't want to. It would be too much work to split the poker chips and the cards to two tables. Plus we only had one WEGS mat. So, we hunkered down on our side of the table. The game went from 8pm until midnite. And it was non-stop, over-the-top WEGS goodness.

Little did we know that we were about to repeat this method in a matter of hours...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Professer Wick Explains...

...the difference between a Chainsword and a Boomstick!
(Wittcon 2008, J Benton, Photographer)

Eat! Drink! Play! Sleep! Rinse! Repeat!

March madness! From Cold Wars to Wittcon, the last couple a weeks have been non-stop. Wittcon, hands-down our favorite college con, is only a one day con with three sessions. We sandwich-ed our appearance at the con between in-store demos, turning last weekend into a whirlwind WEGS experience. Add to the fact that we played the largest games ever (12 and 13 gamers in a session) and you get a sense of the game scope. Eat. Sleep. Game. Rinse. Repeat.

Friday began with demos at an amazing store called Krystal Keep in Kettering, Ohio. This is a gamer's nirvana - the size of the store is unbelievable (compared to the standards we have here in NJ). It seems designed so you could use a shopping cart, and its luxuriously roomy. The amount of merchandise is amazing and it's all neatly arranged. It's obvious that the owners care about their business. But that's only the beginning... There's a second half to the store that is equal in size to the front. This is the gaming arena and is equipped with about 14 gaming tables and some of the most comfortable cushioned stools in ample supply. The walls have a racking system with a ton of gaming supplies (mostly terrain) - again all organized in categories, neatly arranged. I've never seen anything like this! And, oh yeah, there are private gaming rooms off of the arena. There are restaurant booths up front placed in a row in the front of the store for painting minis or small game sessions. There's concession machines in the back. This place is unbelievable. It was no shock that the store was full of gamers the whole time we were there.

As two Jersey boys, me and Willy the Two were in awe. And it was here that we ran one of the biggest WEGS game ever... Details on that will follow later this week...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Con Crazy...

The last couple of weeks have been con crazy! I'm not talking of actually attending conventions, but of attending to all the details associated with each individual one (the event schedules, the hotel details, the airfare/transport, booth research). All this is amplified by the number of cons we're considering. Some cons only have a month or two lead time (like the local cons), others want info 6 months in advance. What ends up happening is that March is madness, as the local April/May cons want your info and the June, July, August cons want it, too - pretty much all at the same time! Business suff, man... Anyhow, we're off to WittCon this weekend and doing some WEGS store demos, too - then we have a wee break until April where we have one con every weekend. The wegsite will be updated with all this info in a couple of weeks. 'Til then!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Well... She floats!

WEGS was the freak show at last weekend's Cold Wars. All the other games had ornately painted armies, WEGS had spray-painted minis (copper and gold). All the other games had fantastically-detailed terrain, WEGS had a black/gray battle-mat with a wooden boat on it. All other games were sold out in advance, WEGS had tickets to spare!

But, did we have a great time?

Hell yeah!

The games that did run were just amazing. AMAZING. These were the first full play-tests of our Pirates Of Penzantium rules with folks who never played WEGS before (that's a bit of a lie, we had fans return from last year's Historicon). I was worried at first that folks wouldn't get it because they were not familiar with the 101 rules. Instead, I was amazed at the level of play and the absolutely wicked use of the new skills. The new rules were tested so thoroughly that I have copius notes on what to fix. Some skills were over-powered and some were too weak. We tweaked the skills as we went along - so it was a great test for the system. With skills like Harpoon O' Doom, Chum Chopper, Yawlbatross and Phibe's Phish Phry, how can a game go wrong - right? Plus, Borkfu and friends made a guest appearance in one of the scenarios (and got their butts kicked heartily, mates)!

More details to come...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The S.S. Borkfu

Cold Wars is this weekend and we have a special prop to fit right in with their pirates theme: the S.S. Borkfu. We will be running Pirates of Penzantium events non-stop at the con, and we're going to try to use this prop in every one (if possible). We have a new version of Dwarf Walks Into A Bar (or Barge for that matter) and four brand new pirate scenarios. The Sunday Yawl is Escape From Yawlcatraz. The Wegshogs were even going to go as far as to wear pirate costumes, but didn't want to scare off potential players (plus, our fan base of 12 would lose all respect for us...). See you later, mateys!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pour, Oh Pour, The Pirate Sherry...

The first official play of Pirates of Penzantium (202) happened on Sunday, and it was a rollicking good time, halted often by rule disputes. It has been so long since we've been in playtest mode that we forgot the frustration of not being able to play full throttle (especially after two consecutive sessions of pedal to metal Dingbitt's). Plus, we were up against a time factor: we were trying to run two 2-hour scenarios in four hours (with a new product). To make things fully pressurized, I jumped in as a player, so Will the 2 was stuck all by his lonesome running the game. At the time we thought this wouldn't be an issue as nothing on the Minion side had changed. As we got into the game, Will's head was spinning with all the new skills/spells being thrown at him. As usual, he rose to the occasion, giving me "I'll kill you when it's over" looks every now and then. We had five players:

Dwarf Sage / Don
Elf Mage / Jason
Gobling Warrior / L. Willy
Elf Ranger / Martin
Gnobbit Trickster / Chris

As you see, the Arks haven't changed. All the system stuff is the same. It's the skills and spells that are all new. Plus we have Spante Skills and Pirate Stations, both of which add new elements to the game.

Each Ark has a specific Spante Skill (aka "spill")that can be played on the Spante. These skills heighten a stat associated with the specific Ark, and benefits all those surrounding them; however these spills are expensive. Spills cost 8 spoints to use. This prevents any one Ark from using them solo, so players "buy-in" for the group benefit. Only those who buy-in get the benefit.

Pirate Station is the Ark's pecking order in the pirate crew (eight levels from Deck Skum to Dread Pirate). Stations establish the pirate's Notoriety level and grant bonuses at the higher levels (the Dread Pirate can "borrow" skills from lower crewmen). Pirates can only advance stations when those above them perish, or if the Dread Pirate promotes 'em.

These two mechanics definitely add a level of vibrance to the game. While it plays exactly the same as 101, the extra layers add a distinct learning curve for noobs. That's why we're calling the Pirates version "202". 101 is about getting into a dungeon asap and having a blast hacking. POP 202 is about establishing a group of cut-throats who rely on each other, while keeping an eye out in hopes of advancement. The new mechanics are all about getting the crew established and ready for adventure on the high seas of sorcery!

More on the playtest coming soon!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Sunday Dingbitt's, Part 3

And the game just kept getting better. Last Sunday, we ran Dingbitt's again at the same locale. Of the 5 players from the previous week, 2 returned to do more dungeon diving: Don/Dwarf Sage and Nick/Elf Ranger. 4 new players joined them: Jason, Will, Martin and Kristen. The party was now 6 Arks strong.

Dwarf Sage
Elf Ranger
Elf Trickster
Elf Ranger
Goblin Mage
Goblin Warrior

The week prior, the party made it to Level 4. Last Sunday, we started the party back on Level 1 (so the noobs stood a chance). We added a new rule, too - you can only get a Level Bonus (6%) for levels you've never been on. So, the Dingbitt veterans from the prior week had to "assist" the noobs on the "lighter" levels. Actually, this rule has always been in play, we just never had a group of mixed Arks (noobs and vets). It made it very interesing play as the vets were forever hounding the noobs to go down deeper. The party quickly cleared Levels 1, 2 and 3. They then decided to skip Level 4 and plunge down to Level 5. Perhaps the cockiness in their ability to clear that level went to their heads, the party decided to go full throttle to Level 8 - and therein awaited their unraveling.

The final battle was brutal: five Level 88's Ogres awaited them there (one of each Arketype: Warrior, Ranger, Trickster, Mage, Sage), plus a trio of fiercely ravenous zombies! The battle was a non-stop wegsified last stand, rife with spoint madness, phew popping, wicked failures. One Ark bit the bullet (the Mage), two fled from combat (sacrificing their exit card). The battle actually ended with a draw - neither side won. If the game had gone on longer, a few more Arks would've been added to Dingbitt's heap! Oh well, next time...