Category Archives: Games

Rory, Rory, Tell Us A Story!

Rory's Story Cubes (Fright)

Fright Cubes!

We recently attended a friend’s birthday gathering, and while we were sat celebrating our success at the Ludorati Escape Room, one of the guests produced a handful of what we initially thought were dice. But these were no ordinary dice! These were Rory’s Story Cubes! Sets of dice, but instead of being marked with the traditional ‘pips’ or numbers, these featured pictures. One set (“Fright”, pictured left) had skulls, ghosts, traps and other scary images, while the second (“Clues”) was covered with symbols you might expect from a detective novel, such as Magnifying Glass, Fingerprint, DNA Helix, and Blood-Stain! Each set has three dice, and although there are many ways to use them, we went for the simplest: Roll all 6 dice, and make a story from how they land! Mix the order around to suit. We took turns to explain what our roll signified, each of us telling a more spine-chilling tale than the last, until we felt it best to stop, lest we scare away the other patrons of The Salutation!

There are currently nearly two dozen sets of Story Cubes, each featuring 3-9 dice, in various themes (including Dr Who, and Moomins, to go with the more generic Actions and Voyages!). “Rules” are included with each set, but they are more like guidelines, and the symbols and pictures do not have set meanings. The DNA spiral might mean finding a bio-metric clue, such as hair, or you may feel it refers to a family connection! The Portcullis could indicate a castle, but might be some other protected building, such as a Bank Vault, or even a person acting in a guarded manner!

Story Cubes

What Would You Write?

Here we have one of the stories we told! Shadow-in-Doorway -> Poison -> No Entry -> Microscope -> Television -> Blood!

I’m sure you can come up with your own tale about these pictures! Is the shadowed figure the Hero or Villain? Why is the entrance barred? Who’s blood ends the tale?

No two stories are ever the same! In fact, we had fun taking the same dice, and each telling a different story from them! In one, it wasn’t poison, but a Forbidden Potion that had magical properties!

An excellent way to cure writer’s block, or just while away an afternoon, you can use them solo, or with a group of friends. Mix and match them as you like. Stick to the “Rules”, or make your own! YOU are the author of these tales!

I am tempted to use a few of these cubes to tie in with my #WhatWouldYouWrite twitter feed, asking readers to interpret the minimal cues I provide (often #TodaysTitle), and suggest possible stories. Is that something you would be interested in? Do you search for inspiration? Search no more! Rory’s Story Cubes are here!

Why not tell us about what stories you have told with them? Or what you use to inspire your tales? Or even how you spend your days?

Art In Space!

In Space, no-one can hear you say “Actually, I’m really enjoying this game!”

Star Traders, one of the Trese Brothers‘ games for Android phones/tablets, has been described as “Elite for the New Generation”. Although it lacks the 3D flying-through-space effects that made the Sinclair game a Classic, it does have over 200 planets to visit, with control of them spread between the Three Great Houses and the Three Syndicates, along with some Independent places.

The basics of the game are quite simple – choose a profession (including Merchant, Pirate, Explorer or Military Officer), jump in your ship and zoom around the Quadrant, trading, exploring Wild Zones, fighting other ships, Aliens and Pirates! But soon the intricacy of the game’s design becomes apparent. The Quadrant is not a happy place, and each of the six Factions has their own plan for ruling it. Political Intrigue soon (from Turn 1) colours your choices, as Factions declare Trade Embargoes, Alliances, Spy Battles and even Solar War on each other, but beware, these relationships can change rapidly, leaving your peaceful trade mission suddenly in the heart of hostile territory! Aiding a Faction in its cause can be very profitable, but will make you enemies!

I could go into details of how to play, what tactics work best for each style of play, how to customise your ship, etc, but I think I’ll leave you to explore it yourself!

This is made all the easier with, like all of the Trese games, free versions being available, so that you can try them out before deciding whether to upgrade to the Pro versions. There is also an active Forum, where you can read up on other players’ tips, and ask how to refine your strategy. Even better, the Designers constantly monitor the forums and have opened both  “bug reports” and “Design Suggestions” threads, which they take on board, and reply to swiftly, letting you know how things are progressing. There are constant updates to the Game Engine, which is generally a positive affair, adding new features, extra ships and tweaking the interface.

So, if you like the sound of taking control of your own spaceship, and zooming across the vast expanse of The Quadrant, dodging Patrol Vessels, fighting Aliens and Exploring Wild Zones, ready to land at a safe haven to off-load your ill-gotten gains hard earned cargo, why not give Star Traders a go! You won’t be disappointed!

The Art of Art (Part Two – Pencils)

As part of my Toy Soldiers hobby, I have been (slowly) making a Giant’s Causeway out of cheap coloured pencils. While this may hold some small interest for Art Lovers, the cause of this blog post is the Art that manifests itself behind the scenes.

You may remember my previous post, discussing the Art of my work bench, and the tissues and palette that build up with paint over time.

In a similar vein, I have inadvertently produced a sand-paper Art. I have been sawing and smoothing down pencils to create the hex-blocks needed to build the Causeway, and this has led to my sand-paper picking up the colours of the pencils. In this way, The Art of Art is produced, an accidental find, from the making of other Art.

I hope you appreciate it as much as I do!

Sand Paper

Sand Paper

Procrastinate Now! A review of CardHunter.

deckbuilder

Equipping Your Character

A friend (@ZeRootOfAllEvil) put me on to a silly computer game recently. Going by the name Card Hunter, it is a board game, based on Dungeons and Dragons, and has been soaking up all of my spare time.

The game itself is quite simplistic: you equip each of your three characters with weapons, armour, arcane items etc, and each piece of equipment has some cards associated with it, that go to build your Deck. When you choose an Adventure, you draw some cards from your deck, and the opponent draws from thiers. You now take it in turns to play cards (Attack, Move, Block etc) until neither player wishes to play (or is out of cards), at which point you draw three more, and continue until the Challenge is completed, or your characters have been defeated. As you complete Adventures, you find more (hopefully improved) cards, and gain Levels (giving you more Equipment Slots, so more cards) and can use better cards.

Adding to the amusement is the ongoing storyline: Gary, the Games Master, has borrowed this set of cards from his older, more experienced brother, who keeps offering unsolicited advice, and warnings. Also, Gary is trying to stop Karen, the pizza delivery girl, from finding out what a geeky hobby he has! The story unfolds gradually, as you complete Adventures, with Gary’s brother confiscating the cards, and Gary finding another set from an unexpected source!

Adventure map

Adventure map showing the Characters facing a horde of Monsters

There are a lot of in-jokes, and self-deprecating stereotypes; those of you who know D&D, MtG, etc will find some parts disturbingly familiar!

The game has a lot to keep people interested, with more and better Items, new abilities and different types of Challenges. There are shops to buy new Items, and sell your Loot to. Some Adventures are not available until others are completed, giving several in-game story-lines, and although it is possible to go back to earlier Adventures, if they are too early, your party is handicapped, so that they are not too easy! If you fail part of an Adventure, you get up to three attempts, and then must start it from the beginning, or try a different one.

I haven’t tried the multi-player section yet (and probably won’t). It looks to be a Gladiator Tournament, where people match up their characters and tactics to see who wins. Personally I prefer the “Player vs GM” Adventures.
But whichever you prefer, it will soak up your time, as you keep pushing for that extra Win!
Just one more Adventure! 🙂

The Games I Play

OK, I admit it. I play video games.

Actually, not so much any more, but since the early 80’s I’ve been playing computer games.

3D-monster-maze-T-rex-2-steps-away

Classics such as Space Invaders, Centipede and Mr Do in the arcades, and 3D Monster Maze, Snake and stuff arduously typed in from magazines on my Sinclair ZX81. Later my friend acquired a ZX Spectrum, and home gaming was taken to a new level!

I think I was just at the right age, having experienced games arcades at the seaside, and then witnessed it make the technological and economic breakthrough into the living room at home.

elite

As time progressed, and games and the hardware to run them became increasingly more sophisticated, I was treated to the delights of Elite, Atic Atac, and Knight Lore. While the Platform Game became more detailed and intricate, it was the ever-expanding scope of games such as Elite and PIrates! that really caught my attention. Whole worlds, even galaxies were being built inside computers, and I was being given a chance to explore them! And with Sid Meier’s next releases, to rule them!
By the early 1990’s I had seen what happens when a place is ruled badly, and Sid Meier gave me a chance to do it right!

Elite, Civilisation, The Settlers, Railroad Tycoon … a whole series of Empire-Building games filled my spare time for several years, as expansions, and sequels and new versions were released, taking advantage of the Onward March Of Progress in computer hardware and programming techniques.

But like all good things, it appears to have come to an end.

The Settlers V turned away from its cutesy, cartoon-like graphics. 220-16-civilization-agaCivilisation V moved to hex-based rather than square-grid and emphasised the military side too much. They, and the other games that I had loved for so long, sit untouched on the shelf, vying for space with lesser titles.

I did have a phase of on-line multi-player games, mainly Neverwinter Nights, and while it had many similar elements, and the added attraction of adventuring with other real people, it didn’t last.

And so now, with so many pulls on my time and resources, I am struggling to find a game that I enjoy so much. Maybe it is just nostalgia; none of these new-fangled offerings will live up to The Golden Age. Maybe it is not being able to play for 18 hours straight any more. An hour’s snatched play here and there doesn’t do them justice.

Maybe I am growing up.