Category Archives: Review

Claustrophobia! – Gnomes To The Rescue

Recently I released Claustrophobia!, the game of gnome mayhem on-board a terrestrial submarine headed for the Earth’s core and certain doom. The game is currently in play testing until the end of July this year. In Claustrophobia! you can use garden gnomes found in the wild (or bought at a store) as your “character sheet” and so today I’ll review some of the coolest garden gnomes out there.

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Pirate Loot – All You Need for High Sea Adventures

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of cheap rum!” Oh how we love pirates! They may be scumbags, but we love them so much! A salty campaign at sea always sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? In fact, I recently finished writing a pirate adventure which our group is playing though at the moment, and through that I did some research into the great stuff available for the sea bound gaming group.

Please note, some of these products have affiliate links so that I can make some money, which helps me keep this site going. However, I’ve only reviewed stuff I actually thought was worth recommending.

 

Treasure Chest
"Arrr, there be loot in that there crate!"

Battle Maps

What are pirates without their maps? And what’s a game session without a good battle map? A decent ship map has to be the first port of call for any piratical GM.

I went onto Amazon and bought the GameMastery Flip-Mat: Pirate Ship. It’s super useful, but there were aspects I didn’t like. One side has a top down view of two ships with gang planks between them while the other side has the lower levels of the primary ship, with parts repeated and parts missing (such as the ship’s wheel). I would have liked to be able to fold the map to reveal only one top view of a ship at a time. A nice aspect is that you can fold the map to show just one level of the ship, however, it is at the cost of multiple views of the action. Also, while masts are represented, there’s not much indication of where all the rigging is. There are some cheaper print and play maps out there that have done a nice job with rigging, so I really would have liked to see that here. My last gripe is about the ship’s texturing. I really like how they did the water, but the deck of the actual ship is a little too fake, in my opinion. That said, the map is fully compatible with the GameMastery Map Pack: Ship’s Cabins and makes it that little bit more useful. Unlike anything print and play, this is dry erase, which means you can write on it with markers – a huge plus.

For a cheaper option try out the Battlemap – Pirate & Ghost Ship, which looks really pretty. It’s print and play.

 

Music

I’ve been listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack as inspiration for my pirate adventure, which I actually got onto because our GM uses it in our current campaign. It creates the perfect mood whether your adventure’s nautical or other.

Also, because I’m a big fan, check out Blackmore’s Night’s – Loreley, which works nicely when timed right. They have a bunch more stuff that I’ve played at LARP’s, so I generally punt Blackmore’s Night whenever I can. I mean it’s Richie Blackmore for crying out loud. Deep Purple… you know. Smoke on the Water. Okay, okay, I’ve had my say.

Another band worth checking out, if only for inspiration, is Turisas, and their song Hunting Pirates.

 

Miniatures

I really like proper miniatures, in metal or plastic, but recently I’ve found paper miniatures to be super useful, especially when travelling to the next game session on a crowded train. I’ve looked at a number of printable miniatures and nothing “pirate” really appeals to me, whereas I really like the Militia Men available from onemonk.com. I think real pirates probably looked more like these guys than the popularised image of pirates. Then again, I was raised on Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, so I may be biased.

As for metal and plastic figures, there are plenty out there, so I won’t review anything now. I just wish Wizards had released a few more pirate figures with their Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures; I think they only ever did one. Luckily though, there are also hundreds of pirate toys out there, like these, which may fit into your game, even if they’re a little cheesy. My advice: shop around.

 

Props

Pretty much any toy store will carry loads of pirate props – typically hats, eye-patches, pistols and swords. Look around a bit and you might even find pirate loot. Making a map is a pretty neat touch to any campaign and you can do that in a number of ways, from dipping paper in tea to stain it and burning the edges to designing something in Photoshop. Check out this tutorial on Wired.

 

Well, that should be enough to keep you, *ahem*, afloat. Got any other neat ideas? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Marvel Avengers – the Awesome and the Facebook Fail

The Awesome

I’m very excited about the upcoming Marvel Avengers movie, not because I particularly like the Avengers, but I just generally love Marvel. While I’m not the biggest collector out there, I’ve been a Spider-Man, X-Men and X-Force fan since I was a little kid.

I also love that Marvel HeroClix has a Marvel HeroClix Avengers set, which I think forms part of the restarting of the HeroClix line in general. South Africa even has a HeroClix site of our own and I’m really wishing I was there for some of the events. HeroClix, if you have not played it, is a neat skirmish tabletop war game that does a really good job of recreating the comics. In fact, in July last year I had a chance to play with some veterans and came to see just how meaty this game is, and I’d be the last to pass it off as a second rate game compared to something like Warhammer 40K.

 

Avengers Facebook Fail

I have a love hate relationship with Farcebook, I mean Facebook, but this time the blame falls squarely on the crooked shoulders of Playdom, a game company that produced Marvel Avengers Alliance.

On the surface the game is great: you get to play a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who coordinates the Avengers against some of the greatest Marvel villains of all time. Sure, you get more out of the game if you have gold, which you pay for with real money, but that’s okay, we as gamers are used to that. The problem is that you can loose gold through glitches and server disconnections. If people pay money and loose it due to a glitch, you can bet they will be angry. I’ve lost gold myself, along with a number of buffs I’d picked up through playing, which annoyed me more than a string of bad dice rolls. What I really didn’t like was that I had recommended the game early on to other Marvel fans. What do I look like now, I wonder?

 

Update

Almost a month on and I’m still getting thrown out, even with the latest version of Flash. It seems like only us PC users are suffering, from those I’ve asked. It’s surprising that I’ve stayed around so long.

A familiar sight on Avengers Alliance
An all too familiar sight on Avengers Alliance.

 

It seems, according to Playdom.com’s forum, that the issue with disconnects has been fixed. I have not been able to confirm this yet, but I’ll update you if I hear more. Of course, this is a popular game so there will be a heavy load on the server. Just be warned, is all I’m saying. You might be a lot safer playing HeroClix Online.

Stuffer Shack – Fill your Bag of Hording

I’m loving the web so much right now. It turns out that the more I blog the more I comb the net for great stuff and the more awesome role-playing stuff I find. Stuffer Shack was just such a resource. Go ahead and check it out if you haven’t yet, it’s crammed with plenty of freebies. I got into contact with Tourq Stevens, the brains behind Stuffer Shack and rolled my interrogate, this is what we spoke about:

 

[Rising Phoenix Games] From your website it’s pretty obvious that you’re not only passionate about role-playing, but also about the community in general. How did you get into role-playing in the first place?

[Tourq Stevens] I got into role-playing just like anyone else, I guess.  I went to some kid’s house with a friend, and we all played on the bedroom floor.  My first game had the DM asking us if we wanted to open a door and walk in.  We said “sure,” and were thus maimed when we walked into a pool of acid.  …Well, I hope my first game wasn’t like everyone else’s, anyway.  Ever since then, I’ve always striven to make the game fun for everyone.

 

[RPG] Every role-player has fond memories of a really great game session. Does anything stand out for you? In game or out of game?

[TS] Recently I wrote a quick post thanking D&D 4e for a great game, and a great session.  It was the type of session where I appreciated a game mechanic more than at any other time.  My long, long-favored pastime, though, is drawing heroes and villains for Supers games, like Super World and Heroes Unlimited.  That’s probably when I‘m most content (that, and when I’m creating 3D terrain for my players).  There’s just something to say about the enjoyment and satisfaction from drawing and building.

 

[RPG] What are you playing at the moment?

[TS] A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, by Robert J. Schwalb.  If you’ve seen A Game of Thrones, then you know how important a family name is in this game. That’s why I love character creation – it’s very interesting to see how your character’s family is created, as well as discovering it’s history.  These are things that will definitely come into play.

 

[RPG] Stuffer Shack has loads of stuff for players and GM’s, from miniatures to articles, character backgrounds and adventures. There’s a huge amount of free stuff on the site, tell us a little about the Stuffer Shack philosophy and why you offer so many free resources to the community.

[TS] Good question, and a little harder to put into words than I thought… Gaming is a creative and social sport that can greatly benefit from easily attainable online resources.  Several gaming websites offer free resources (so we’re not breaking the mold there), but we do try to offer a never-ending supply.  Anything we can do to make the game more fun and accessible, we’ll do it.  The art of gaming can only improve as more and more people become accustomed to it, so we’re just trying to do our part by giving as many tools to gamers as we can.

 

[RPG] What made you decide to create Stuffer Shack in the first place?

[TS] I’m a creative type of person.  I like to write and, well, create.  I went on a gaming hiatus, but had all these ideas piling up in my head, so I began to write them down.  Character ideas, adventure ideas, ideas for encounters, monsters, NPCs, enemies, and so on.  I figured I might as well start a website so that I could have somewhere to post these ideas – a means to share them.  And, I figured at least a few of them should be useful to others. (That makes two of us, Ed)
[RPG] If there was one bit of wisdom for player you’ve learned from your time with Stuffer Shack, what would that be?

[TS] Boy, that’s a tough question.  I’d have to say that as a player, it’s important to continue to expand your horizons.  It’s really easy to whip up a stack of numbers and splash them onto a character sheet, but I think players will come to enjoy the game more and more if they occasionally strive to create different types of characters, and/or create characters with more and more interesting story hooks.  Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.
[RPG] Same question, but now as a GM. Has Stuffer Shack taught you anything amazing for GMs?

[TS] I’ve become much more creative in my ideas, and that’s a direct result of me being more creatively active (which is what Stuffer Shack is really about – creative ideas for gaming).  On top of that, running a gaming website has opened my eyes to soooo many other gaming websites, people, projects, and ideas – I simply can’t ever regret it.

 

[RPG] If there was one recommendation you could make to a new player, what would it be?

[TS] Wow, there’s so many things that could be said here.  You know, the only thing that I’ll throw out there is that as a new player – just grab the bull by the horns give it your all.  Let your inner geek out, and let loose.  I think if you’re not doing that, you can’t really have fun.

 

[RPG] D&D next is probably the hottest topic on most forums at the moment. What’s your take on the next iteration of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomenon.

[TS] To be honest, I’m barely following it’s development.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try it out, and I’d love to be impressed by it, but (at this point) it’s just another game to me.  I hope it’s successful, of course.

 

[RPG] Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any secret projects planned or great competitions happening at Stuffer Shack at the moment?

[TS] Great question.  I have a couple of things:

  1. Our site is all about making the game more fun.  In addition to all of the “Steal this…” ideas, we offer gaming accessories that we put together for our home-games.  Only the accessories that we love and use often are the ones that we offer on the site Store.  We do have a secret project in the works, and it’s the biggest addition to our Store as of yet.  I’m contemplating using Kickstarter, but either way, it’s coming.
  2. At Stuffer Shack, we like contests.  We also like free stuff.  So, we have plenty of contests in which we give away free stuff!  In a few months, we’re going to have a “Your Worst Villain” contest.  Basically, readers will submit a few paragraphs detailing a great villain.  It can be submitted for any role-playing game, and in any format.  What matters most is that the baddie be memorable… and bad.  The winners get free stuff, of course.
  3. And, we’re currently right in the middle of the 2nd annual RPG Site of the Year contest (2012 RPG SOTY).  Thirty-four RPG blogs have submitted their sites in the hopes of taking the prizes, SOTY Shield, and most importantly, the title.  Last year, Critical Hits won the contest, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the winner for this year.  In the end, though, the real purpose of this contest is to be able to throw an online party, and to give a bunch of great gaming blogs some extra exposure.

 

Thanks Tourq! I’ll be ordering my mounts soon.Rising Phoenix Games is in the running for the SOTY Shield so go and jump on stuffershack.com and vote. If you have a question for Tourq leave a comment below and I’ll be sure he gets it.

Dungeons and Dragons Map Tiled Reviewed

The first game I ever GMed was Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, or Warhammer FRP, and a delightful little mission called the Oldenhaller Campaign. Most of the “Dungeon” we explored in our minds, with maybe a basic sketch on some scrap paper to help us imagine the scene. The final scene however, was lovingly mapped out by me in pencil to scale on a large sheet of paper, with a grid to help with moving and ranged combat. Today there are more scale maps for miniatures than you can shake a D100 at, and I thought I’d take a moment to review Wizards of the Coasts own map line of Dungeon Tiles.

To date I’ve bought five of the sets. “The Wilderness” master set, which includes numerous wilderness scenes including ruined towers, huts and tents. “Desert of Athas”, the desert themed set, includes a number of 3D elements such as a stair case, stall and wagon. “Caves of Carnage”, is of course set in a cave, but could just as easily map out parts of a sewer system. “Caverns of Icewind Dale”, possibly my favorite set, includes ice, snow and water tiles for both cave and outdoor scenes. “The Witchlight Fens” include swamplike terrain and would probably be useful in any Jungle setting.

Appearance

Ooh, so pretty. The tiles are well illustrated and detailed, and I have yet to see anything better out there. My only gripe is that some of the tiles don’t match up, such as water tiles from the different sets don’t seem to have a uniform colour, which is a pity since every set has a number of water tiles and these would be good points to connect the different sets.

Scaleability

Right off the bat I think you should consider buying a number of sets or duplicate sets, since you’ll get more use out of them that way. Out of the average set you’ll get two small maps or one medium sized map, which I think is pretty good. If a set includes 3D elements then the size of the map will decrease drastically. Still, you can combine the tiles with poster maps like those for Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures or in the Red Box to make those maps much larger and more interesting. The Master Sets have more tiles and are probably the best place to start your collection.

Since most of the tiles are double sided (only the 3D elements are not always), you have many options to build from. If you’re not a perfectionist you’ll be able to extend the maps even further, otherwise some tiles only match up to certain others. Most sets seem to have at least a few tiles that would integrate with another terrain type, such as the wilderness set, but as I said these don’t always have the same colours to fit seamlessly together.

Usefulness

You can use the tiles in any role-playing game or wargame of the same scale, with or without the grid. I’d like to try them with Warhammer or Doom: The Boardgame, or similar games.

For D&D or Parthfinder I’d say they are worth the purchase. They’ve inspired me with some great encounter ideas that I’ve recorded for later.

A nice surprise is the number of useful items, particularly modes of transport, you’ll get. With my five sets combined I have five boats, a cart and two horses. The five boats come in handy when you realize just how much water there is on these tiles, even the desert set.

Packaging

Repacking the tiles in the frames is a big hassle, but the Master Set comes in a box that you can even use as terrain, and has enough space for two more packs along with the contents you get when you buy the set.

Durability

The tiles are made of cardstock, so they won’t survive water or bending too well. But with proper care you should get years of use out of them. The 3D tiles are less durable and tend to rip the surface when you slide them into each other.

Value for Money

Probably the best buy in terms of maps is a dry erase map, but these tiles are very pretty and inexpensive and give you additional options for the games table, which to me is a win. I’ll probably get at least one more set of Master Tiles to round off my collection, which I think says something.

If you found this review helpful leave a comment below, or just let us know what maps you use and any neat tricks you have up your sleeve.