What's on Your Tabletop? (Board, dice, card, and role playing games)

Catan will never be my favorite game, but it’s one that I have so much respect for. In all that it does, it’s basically a perfect game. No one has managed to make a successful derivative of it (unlike the many deck builders following Dominion), so it pretty much stands alone.


I have a fascination with the creation, design, and development side of the media I consume, and board games are not exempt from this. Bruno Faidutti has created some games I’ve really enjoyed (Mascarade and Citadels). His blog on the development process and compromises he’s had to make us eye-opening. This latest post (French at top, his English translation at bottom) is a nice overview of what he’s had to deal with on several of his designs while working with publishers. Most surprising to me was his attitude about it: broadly speaking, trust the publishers.


What’s been popular lately with my 10 year-old is Gloom. We’ve had it since Christmas, but one night she was finally interested enough to sit down and learn the rules. There’s an appeal to the simplicity of the rules along with the clever and fairly unique design.

In Gloom you have a family of sorts whom you want to make miserable and then kill. All of the cards are transparent, so you just overlay modifiers and untimely deaths on them. The modifiers can be positive, too, so you can play them on opponents to make their lives better or on yourself because they occasionally let you draw new cards.

My daughter and I don’t take full advantage of what the game offers. There’s flavor text on every card, allowing you to make up stories about the characters and the miseries they encounter. Right now we’re just interested in the main mechanics and remembering that modifiers sometimes have extra directions on them (such as one of the best modifier cards instructing you to discard your whole hand, or others indicating you lose the ability to draw new cards – which makes those two cards a horrible pair).

We’re still figuring the game out. I’ve become good at killing off my characters quickly, despite scoring fairly low. The game ends as soon as someone’s family is completely eliminated. The only characters you can score in the end are those who are dead. So even if each of the five family member is only worth -20 points (aiming for lowest score), it’s better than just one character worth -50. The game is basically a race right now, but I hope it changes over time.



I need good light to read those cards and it to be earlier in the day.

We also spend more time making elaborate stories for why uncle died so young “yes he did find love as you pointed out (played a card making him happy which lowers my points) but that love turned out to be mocking him to her many, many lovers and was only there for his money. As he turned for comfort in opium dens there was none left and so did she. His misery is complete. He is loveless, alone, and in poor health…” you would say as you play a misery card covering up the positive effects your opposition have put on one of your family.


“If you’re the first person to give up their character to death or retirement, you get to unlock all the shiny stuff,” Birch said. “I tried to build in this concept that people moving on through death and retirement isn’t a bad thing. We want people to evolve their story.”

In my experience as an RPG reader (gaming only started a couple of years ago), the rare system in which your character is expected to end but the player carries something forward from them is incredibly intriguing to me. The system for Pendragon has rolls for the development of family, and it’s expected that during King Arthur’s 65 year reign your character will have had children who have had children in that span – and your character will have died. You should be playing your grandchild or great grandchild by that point. So why not have more games with generations and legacies?

This requires long-term games, but isn’t that often the goal anyway?


Free RPG day June 24th. Not sure what countries, sorry.

Edit: Fixed date


Tomorrow I get to sit at the head of the table and GM my first RPG. I wonder how many other people started off leading games based on an attitude of, " Oh hell, I’ll do it."


Following up on this now that I’ve had a successful session, I didn’t realize how even the most simple of adventures could be ground to a halt by the players.

Plan: Called to village to do a thing. Meet the people who called you to retrieve something from someone. Meet person and realize she’s the victim. Go back and fight.

Players: Go to village. Meet people who called you t-- we don’t like them, so we’ll instigate a fight. Dissuaded from fight, meet person and realize she’s a victim. She suggests they go back and do something. No, let’s try to start an uprising instead by going door to door and handing out pamphlets!

I heard players will just do their own thing, but I didn’t realize just how far from plan they might go. And it’s honestly much more fun to let them try their thing and see how they feel about their plans going poorly, too.


Me (first time DMing a game with people I don’t know well) “OK, so you’ve received a quest from your contact, and you’re on your way out of Waterdeep to meet a sage in Daggerfo—”
Player: “Wait, did you say we were in Waterdeep? This is a Forgotten Realms campaign! Why would we waste time with this podunk village and its so-called ‘sage’? We’re going to go see Elminster! Shadowdale’s east of Waterdeep, isn’t it?”
Me: “I — wait, what? Seriously?”


I continue to be amazed by how much better kids games are than they were back in the 80’s. My 6 year-old is currently hooked on Dragomino, a more streamlined version of 2017 Spiel des Jahres Winner Kingdomino, and Zombie Kids Evolution.

Zombie Kidz is a cooperative game fairly similar to Pandemic, but on top of that it’s also a campaign game. Optionally, players can track their wins in the instruction booklet, and there are 13 envelopes with new rules that players open after every five-ish wins. These range from special abilities for each kid or special abilities (and dreaded lairs that protect them) for each zombie. The game is already fun, but the replay value is clearly incentivised. It’s great to have a kid day, “One more game.”

When she’s older, I’m looking forward to trying Zombie Teenz with her. I hear that one is a little more narrative, through, and there was a twist in the game that made my friends and their kids pretty much stop playing. That alone has me more excited


Picked this up over the weekend, can’t wait to play in a few weeks when summer camp season wraps up!


I made a fun little discovery while prepping the character creation session for my RPG group. Familiars of Terra strikes this weird tone that I’m trying to place in order to share it with my players, just as a backbone for character creation but certainly not to determine the overall tone of our table. Because the game involves having a familiar that does the majority of battling, it’s been suggested that the game is Pokemon-like. No. Definitely not it.

When you read (and reread) the backstory of the game, something else becomes clear. You’ve got six nations in the game, each distinct in cultural and economic capital as well as in local fauna. Prior to the game’s time period one of the nations went fascist and declared war on everyone else, pretty much changing the direction of everyone. And these nations are all designed with this weird reverence for and exoticism of real world cultures, obviously designed by someone outside of them.

It’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The cultures in the game largely Indigenous American, but I know the game was published in the UK. So I looked up the designer. Elizabeth Chaipraditkul it’s a Netherlands-based designer of Thai descent. Cool. Explains the feelings I have, which aren’t negative. Given that this is a relatively little-known game, though, I was curious what else she might have worked on since then, as there are no additional releases for FoT save for a quick-start guide and a Free RPG Day supplement. Turns out she worked on a fairly big release later on.

It’s Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game.

There might be a game to transition to fairly easily when we’re done with this one.

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Never played it, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this :smiley:

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It’s 100% accurate.
You should only play Diplomacy with people you don’t know and will never meet again, or people that you trust so deeply that being stabbed in the back would only be a minor setback. Anyone else and it will utterly destroy your relationship. Never, never play this with people you have to work with.

Also, if you would like to experience the similar horrors of Diplomacy but in a game that only lasts about 60-90m instead of multiple hours and only needs 4 or 5 (instead of requiring the full 7 that Diplomacy really needs), I can recommend Stefan Dorra’s Intrigue.


Once a month I video chat with my best friends of over 20 years. One of them really wants to run a long game of Diplomacy with us online. Something tells me that might impact attendance to our monthly calls.

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If I’m recalling the history correctly, this sounds like a full circle sort of thing. Didn’t Dungeons and Dragons come out of wargaming? Because there’s now a miniatures wargame for D&D. Although I’d be surprised if this were the first.

(According to Tabletop Gaming magazine, this game is a hard pass. Boardgame Geek users seem to like it enough, though.)

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Yeah, D&D was an offshoot of a set of medieval combat rules originally developed by Jeff Perren and then expanded by Perren and Gary Gygax and published in 1971 as Chainmail. One of the things Gygax added was an appendix to use the rules for fantasy gaming. At the same time, Dave Arneson was playing a more personal-level game called Braunstein written by a friend of his, and used Chainmail to resolve combat. Arneson modified the game further as he played, adding elements like character classes and levels. Arneson and Gygax had collaborated on a Napoleonic-era naval combat game and after that they decided to combine their work on Chainmail and Braunstein into a fantasy-themed personal-level game.

There’s been a few mass-combat games based on D&D down through the years as well. The prior one to this was a modification of X-wing, of all things.


I forgot about Attack Wing. That one kind of came and went after a couple of years. And X-Wing Miniatures was based on or related to Wings of Glory, another war game based on real war.


Alphabetizing the game titles in this article’s title suggested to me far more accolades for the licensed titles than seems to be the case. They’re the bait to get you to read an article about how great Vaeson did – or in my case that it simply exists and should be read up on more.

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