Wednesday, August 30, 2006

out to pasture

It’s been a little quiet on the blogging front of late, as mostly we’ve been working our limbs off on super secret Dark Heresy stuff. We could tell you about it, but then we’d have to burninate you.

Of course, working ceaselessly on corruption, gothic decay and the merciless irony of an acolyte’s life means we like to take a little light relief now and again. Computer games have sucked up some of our spare time (‘Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’, Mah-jong and ‘I love Katamari’) as well as board gaming (Shadows over Camelot and Ticket to Ride)

Imagine our delight then, when Mal Green arrived in the office with what he described as the peak of board game design. “It’s got pigs in” he said. Immediately we were hooked.

Mal had managed to find a copy of the old 80’s game ‘Farming’

The cover had us intrigued. We too wanted to take part in crop production simulation.

So we wandered over to Bugmans, bought ourselves some cider (naturally) and set about the game. We decided early to add the magic ‘you must talk in character’ rule from Shadows over Camelot- resulting in west cun’ry Farmer Rowland Cox, Naarfolk Faarmer Kate Flaack and Mummerset Pirate Farmer Mal Green.

The rules were very simple. You started with a farm full of animals and crops, and had to last out the year. The Farmer with the most money at the end of the year was the winner. “It be dead easy” said Farmer Green “you do read caards, an’ do what they do say”

Oh, understatement, the sweet, intoxicating apple in the cider of life…

The central mechanic was a suite of 52 cards, one for each week of the year, which were read out in order- 1 to 52- to simulate the passing of the seasons. Inserted into the calendar at random intervals were various stock auctions, disasters, good things, random bills and ‘hazards’ which could be good, but were most likely bad.

You could choose to invest in stock- pigs, sheep, horses or cows or crops- potatoes, oats, barley or wheat. These would invariably cause expenses- from vet bills to silage costs, but would occasionally produce money in the form of milk, piglets, lambs, calves and crop yield.

If money was tight (which it very often was) you could sell off your livestock. Occasionally you could buy more stock at auction- where you had to bid against the other players.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, but we started to get nervous when we read the cards. Little things made the difference- you never saw the word ‘calculate’ –it was ‘computating’ there were charts. There were strangely scaled pictures. There were impenetrable instructions.
For example
“A full half of your dairy herd has calved. Lose 4 calves. 12 are heifer calves, the rest are bulls. You have 87 tonnes of silage. Each calf, ewe and lamb consumes a ¼ tonne. Each Cow or Horse consumes 1 tonne. You must make up any shortfall at £6 a tonne.”

You effectively spent all your time paying out money for things. Labour costs, manure, silage, income tax, fraud investigations by the E.C and so on. Your animals died all the time, and you started to take a strange interest in beggaring your neighbouring Farmers at auctions. A visit from the milk board was a much anticipated event (because you could make money from your dairy herd’s milk) and the price of pigs became of supreme importance. We grumbled at any expense and watched each other with suspicious eyes. We spoke to the bar staff in our ‘country’ accents…all in all…it was great.

There was a sense that it was unfair, but that it was equally unfair. Except for that cheatin’ beggar Green, who invested early in potatoes an’ made out like a sheep botherin’ swine at end o’ year…

Worth a play? Yes, if you’ve a group of like minded cider swilling fellas who ain’t of a mind to take it too serious, like. You’ll be needin’ one of them calculators to be a doin’ the computatin’ for yer, and like as not a pen an’ some scratch paper.

Get into the spirit of it, and you’ll be up in’t top field with yer leg bound in polythine afore ye can say “blackbird, I’ll ‘ave ‘ee”

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bats on a Barge

So, we're all back from the USA, mostly over our jetlag and pleased to be back in the land of rain, proper tea and smaller portion sizes.

Not only did we come back to find all manner of advance copies of novels on our desk, alongside 'The WFRP Companion' the Italian 'Plundered Vaults' and French 'Realms of Sorcery'...we also found a large rubber cobra and tickets to go see 'Snakes on a Plane'

As they'd done the novelisation of 'Snakes' the guys at Black Flame invited us along to see the serpentine epic...

And how was it? Well, it was the perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon- cackling at enjoyable rubbish, and cheering at snakes slaughtering and being slaughtered by Samuel L 'Mothertruckin' Jackson.

So of course now our minds turn to WFRP adventures, like 'Bats on a Barge' 'Stoats on a Boat' and naturally, 'Cats in a Carriage'...but of course these things don't just write themselves. Will some WFRP fan out there rattle out a homage?

Who knows...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hot off the press- The ENNIE awards

So, the awards finished approximately 25 minutes ago, and here we are blogging the evening's entertainment.

Friday night saw everyone who is ENNIE one in the roleplaying industry gathered in the Westin Ballroom IV.

As winner of the 2005 Best Game catagory for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, we got the honour of presenting this year's award to none other than Green Ronin publishing for Mutants and Masterminds second edition- and a pleasure it was too. The guys from the Green cleaned up again, scooping awards for best cover and fan's choice for Best Publisher amongst many others.

It was very nice to witness well deserved awards graciously recieved- so whilst we didn't get any gongs ourselves, it did feel like an evening well spent.

Still, we can't wait till next year- when books like 'Children of the Horned Rat' will be eligible for the awards..., manthing!

Friday, August 11, 2006

first day of GenCon

So, we're over in Indianapolis (well, at least some of us are) and we're enjoying the first day of that great big gaming show we all know and love.

It's been very very busy. Traditionally the Thursday of GenCon is 'warm up day' where you get in the zone of working a booth, try to remember how the till works, and attempt to memorise US dollar pricing... but not this year- oh no.

From everything we're seen, and from all the various companies we've talked to, this has been an incredibly busy first day. Just about every stand has done really well, the vibe amongst the game manufacturers is good, and all in all, the impression is that the 'industry' is on the upswing.

Pretty appropriate then, that we've been talking to folks about 'Dark Heresy' and what it's going to be like. We never did get round to making those tattoos we were thinking about- but we have had time to unveil a bit of the cover art and to make a handout with all the details of the first releases for the game. People seem genuinely excited- from fans who have been waiting for 20 years or more for Warhammer 40,000 roleplay, to store owners who beleive a big release like this will be a real 'shot in the arm' for roleplay in general.

So good news all round then.

The fact we've had authors like Dan Abnett, Matt Forbeck, Chris Pramas, Rob Schwalb and Gary Astleford signing at the booth has made things even better- there have been queues around the booth of folk clutching novels, art books and roleplay suppliments in their sweaty, excited paws.

We've also been chatting to fans about playtest for Dark Heresy, the latest WFRP releases, and even sneak previewing 'Tome of Corruption' for those folk we think can withstand the insidious ham tainted delight of this 'big book of chaos'

So, more tomorrow, on the four greatest days in gaming...