Gen Con Finds: Short Order Heroes

Full disclosure: I met Jesse Butler, the creator of Short Order Heroes, at Gen Con. He’s a great guy and so maybe I’m a little biased regarding his game. I don’t think so, but I just wanted to put that out there.

This probably shouldn’t have been such an epiphany, but when Jesse Butler demo’d Short Order Heroes for me, I was blown away. Each card has a personality attribute like cute, complicated, or tough. Each card also has a numeric value on it. These cards can be used to flesh out NPCs, create personalities for PCs, or even as a very light RPG.

It was their use to quickly give NPCs quirks that first caught my interest. I’m generally pretty good about differentiating NPCs, but everyone has an off night. And even then, I actually work better when I am not the one deciding on the personality. Just as having the players decide on the setting makes me excited and offers a little challenge, it’s the same way with throwing down a couple of cards from the deck. Cute and tough? Okay, that’s interesting, and it’s not something I probably would have thought of myself.

Then Jesse showed me how to use it as an RPG, creating characters with the cards, using them also to flesh out obstacles, and then the pack becomes the randomizer with the PC’s card traits providing bonuses to their actions. I’d been talking with some friends a while back about creating a 5 Minute RPG – one that could be played anywhere, anytime. This pretty much does that.

Is it perfect? It’s a bit expensive for its utility as an NPC personality matrix. Now, the art and production values are excellent, but if you are someone who hesitates to pay $20 for a book, that might be a lot to ask for a deck of cards. That said, it’s within the price range of many other card deck games.

All in all, I give Short Order Heroes 4.5 cute quirks out of 5. It’s a game and a game utility in one deck with great art and a fun concept.

You can find out more about Short Order Heroes at Calico Games.

You can hear the Accidental Survivors try to cook up a five minute RPG here.

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I Have Returned!

From Gen Con.

This is not a real post, but just a quick note to mention the three things I really loved at this Gen Con.

Short Order Heroes – fantastic little RPG using cards to build characters and stories that can also be used to quickly give NPCs personalities. For building stuff on the fly, I think this would be super valuable.

Cartel – Mark Diaz Truman ran us through a quick session of Cartel (Mexican narcofiction Powered by the Apocalypse) which was both properly badass and incredibly fun. Watch for the Kickstarter because I don’t think you want to miss this one.

Castle Assault – I’m more an RPGer than a boardgamer, but I had a chance to play about 30 minutes of this and I had a lot of fun. The rules are simple enough that I had a really good idea how everything worked by the end of that 30 minutes. Definitely give this a look.

I’ll be writing reviews for each of these in the coming days. Right now? I’m just happy to be home.

 

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On the Con

In case you didn’t know, I’m at Gen Con. You can see my schedule here. As you might have noticed, it’s a very, very busy schedule. If you happen to be in the area, come and see me to say hi. I won’t be out guzzling beers, but should be at both the IGDN Gen Con Social and out on Friday night with some friends.

Stick around, as there’ll be lots of post-Gen Con articles. I have a feeling this will be my last for a while, so I hope it’s as memorable as all the others have been.

See you post-Con!

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Five Canadian Craft Brews

Sunday was barbeque day with our family friends. They have two daughters as well. When the families get together, the girls disappear and the parents enjoy some conversation. It’s become a tradition to bring different beers every time we do this, and this time I brought a bunch, five of which we sampled.

The best of the bunch was Red Racer India Session Ale by Central City Brewing. It has the character and taste of an IPA but is very light and refreshing. At only 4.0 % alcohol, it’s definitely a beer you can have a few of out on the patio without feeling the effects, but doesn’t sacrifice taste. It doesn’t taste diluted, just lighter. Really enjoyed this one. I give this one 4.75 bbq sausages out of 5.

The second best was Big Mouth Pale Ale by Hop City. Like Red Racer, this was really refreshing. It was much more a pale ale and didn’t have the hoppiness of Red Racer. I think my palate has been altered by the IPAs I’m constantly drinking, and I found Big Mouth slightly lacking in character. There was a hint of hops, but it didn’t have the strong taste of Red Racer. I give this one 4.5 cedar planked salmon out of 5.

Pompous Ass English Pale Ale by Great Lakes Brewery came in third. This one is only ranked lower than Red Racer and Big Mouth because I do prefer IPAs in general, but this was a really palatable pub ale that would be super welcome if I was at a bar. I found it really enjoyable, even though it was outside my usual zone, and I gave it 4.25 “time, gentlemen!” out of 5, but measuring it as an English Pale Ale, I think I would go 4.5. It really was good.

I don’t recommend Old Tomorrow Canadian Pale Ale. Again, this is coming from a guy who regularly drinks IPAs. It wasn’t a bad beer, it just wasn’t memorable. Were I at a bar, and this was on tap, I might consider it, but only if my usual choices were unavailable and there were no IPAs to try (or Steamwhistle or Mill St beers available). That’s damning with faint praise, but I didn’t find much to praise it for. I give this one 3 near misses in horseshoes out of 5.

Finally, another non-recommendation – Wellington Special Pale Ale from Wellington Brewery. I wanted to like this one because it comes from Guelph, near my old stomping grounds of Kitchener-Waterloo. There actually was nothing special about this pale ale. The word that came to mind as we were trying it was “industrial.” It tastes like something brewed by Molson or Labatts, and that is not a compliment coming from me. It’s light enough that putting some lime into it and drinking it cold makes it palatable if not enjoyable. I give it 2.75 sex in a canoes out of 5.

There you go. I will definitely be buying Red Racer ISA in the future, and will have to put it up against Muskoka Detour and Amsterdam Cruzer to find my preferred session IPA, but I think Red Racer has an edge because it is so light without losing any of the IPA character. If you dig IPAs but want something you can enjoy by the pool or while you are at the BBQ, I think Red Racer ISA is an almost certain hit.

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Accidental Survivors: Starting – The Campaigninging

A new podcast episode has been released into the wild. In this one, Chris and I chat about my Gen Con plans (my Gen Con calendar is here, and you can see me at the Indie RPG Matchmaker and Historical Gaming seminars), the movie Ant-Man, and how Chris and I generally go about preparing (I use the term loosely) and initiating a new RPG campaign.

 

You can download the episode here.

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Jupiter Ascending

So my wife and I watched Jupiter Ascending last night. I wanted to check it out because it looked like a pretty sprawling space opera. My wife kind of knew of it, but to say she was interested in watching it would be a huge stretch.

My wife and I are usually on the same page when it comes to movies. We both had the same reaction to the Matrix Trilogy: love the first, accepted the second, hated the third. We haven’t seen Speed Racer or Cloud Atlas. Any cachet the Wachowskis might have had, they burned to the ground with Matrix Revolutions. I would have been interested in seeing Jupiter Ascending no matter whose name was attached to it.

Well, maybe not if it were Uwe Boll . . .

The movie was fine. It wasn’t great. The visuals and action were pretty amazing and I’d give it high marks for those, but even then, in some of the fights – especially the starfighter engagement over Chicago – the geography and choreography of the fight was hard to follow. It was too quick and busy to really get involved.

This was definitely space opera. It certainly seemed to be a riff on Dune, with its trade houses and even an organization that supposedly had some level of oversight and influence on these houses – though this seemed more of an accepted fiction within the movie than an actual fact.

And this really impacted on the convoluted plot. Everyone is trying to be underhanded and sneaky about their plans and the ultimate fate of Earth (so very, very valuable . . . of course), but the big bad space police called the Aegis evidences no actual power or influence in the movie. By the end of the movie, all the Byzantine politics and scheming seem spectacularly unnecessary. Perhaps that was part of the message of the movie – without teeth, oversight is meaningless. Granted, that’s probably a good message for today, but it makes no sense in this movie. The Aegis aren’t supposed to be the FCC, they’re portrayed as a uniformed police force, the FBI, and Interpol all rolled into one.

So the plot seems needlessly complex, and within that plot are a bunch of two-dimensional characters who spout clichés. There are no surprises in this movie. Well, the lead character’s final choice is a surprise, but it also seems pretty indefensible. I can find reasons for the decision, but they frankly seem pretty weak and only viable when placed in a stark black & white, binary choice situation. There must be a million middle roads between the choice the character makes and the blandishments of those trying to use her throughout the movie.

This is a complete waste of some actors who have proven their range in other performances. They do their best with the script they are given, but they really aren’t given much with which to work. Eddie Redmayne, who plays the main villain, chews scenery like he knows exactly what kind of movie he is in and decides to have fun with it.

In the end, Jupiter Ascending has very little going for it.

I give Jupiter Ascending 2.5 harvested planets out of 5. It looks great and a couple of the action scenes are honestly tense, but in general its 127 minutes of complexity and implied profundity that actually covers its mundanity. Kind of like Matrix Revolutions.

You can learn more about Jupiter Ascending at Wikipedia or IMDB.

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Gen Con Social

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