The Bothan Method

Writer_smallerImperial Assault

We’ve been talking a lot about giving roleplaying games a try. Our group has not managed to get anything organised though, which has led to a lot of thinking about DM-ing.

The ideal scenario is an experienced player takes on the mantle of DM and runs the game, allowing us to try roleplaying without spending ages struggling to find our feet with a type of game that has so many differences to board games. But neither myself or Aileen have that experience, so lack a good place to start.

After some research, I decided to order an RPG called ‘Fiasco’. Games of Fiasco are done in one session, and are run without a Games Master of any kind. It’s only just arrived, but it looks great, so hopefully more on that in weeks to come.

Imperial Assault, which this week’s comic is about, is something of an odd halfway house where the issue of a Dungeon Master is concerned. While it’s obviously a board game, and not an RPG, it does fall to one player to ‘run’ the game, and the campaign.

But that player is also the Imperial player, and is not just running things, but playing competitively against the Rebels. Levelling up the same way, rolling the same way, fighting in the same battles, just on the side with all of the Stormtroopers.

More than one review I watched or read of Imperial Assault mentioned this issue: It’s a tough balance for the Imperial player to strike, and one that can make or break the game for the entire group. If they are too aggressive there is the risk that they can run rampant over the Rebels. But obviously they too are looking to win in any given game, so it falls to the Imperial player to get that balance right, in the same manner it falls to a Dungeon Master to create the best experience for their players.

Pertaining more directly to the comic, the game also creates a weird situation where it is 4 players against 1, where planning is really important. If the Rebels don’t work together and plan their assault, they don’t stand a chance.

But you’re effectively left planning things in front of the Imperial Officer who is trying to stop you. It’s a bit much to get up and leave the room in between every turn (and that would be pretty crappy for the Imperial player), so it’s something we’re still figuring out. Hand signals? Time will tell.

For now, I will say that Imperial Assault is an absolutely cracking game. It’s an excellent co-op (for the Rebels) it’s tense, and seems as well balanced as Pandemic. All of our games have come down to the last actions of the last moves of the last turn.

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Loot Crate

Writer_smallerSmash the vase/crate

I guess this week’s comic is a bit of an obvious joke, but I couldn’t resist the silliness of it. Although framed here as a video game reference, the whole crate/vase/loot relationship is just as likely to be found in board games. In related news, we have been playing Imperial Assault, and are loving it. Dungeon crawl games don’t hold any great appeal for me, but dress the archetype in a Star Wars hat and I’m all over it.

As anyone who has ever watched either Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels knows, upon construction of any new building or hangar, standard Imperial policy is to immediately and haphazardly cover the area in crates. While in the cartoons this provide a constant source of cover during firefights, in Imperial Assault they have the additional benefit of being packed with goodies to help the outnumbered Rebels in their mission. And boy, do they need it. IA is hard for the rebels.

Of course, it’s entirely thematically appropriate the Rebellion is outnumbered and outgunned at every turn, and this does add an excitement to the game. It also forces the Rebel players to work together, and coordinate every single action point they spend. In other words, it makes it a truly cooperative game. There is nothing worse than a co-op game where each player basically does their own thing, with little interaction or planning amongst the group. In that kind of environment you might as well be playing a competitive game. Co-op games like that hold little appeal for me; instead, all of my favourite co-ops encourage true cooperation – Pandemic and Ghost Stories being two great examples.

So far in our campaign, the rebels have won once and lost once – but both games were extraordinarily close. We are definitely learning as we go, and our heroes are gaining in attributes and abilities, but of course so is the Empire, and the missions are only getting harder.

I love it.

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One born every minute

Writer_smallerThe Farce Awakens

I believe satire to be an important function of comedy. In this way, and in many others, comedy, and comics, can be a vehicle for commentary, criticism and opinion on its subject matter, be that politics, society, religion, or – in our case – games.

While we will always shy away from being harsh or cutting for the sake of it, some healthy cynicism is, well, healthy, and the incoming avalanche of Star Wars merchandise, games and nonsense would seem a fairly appropriate target. But as fitting a target as it may be, Tiny Wooden Pieces will not be aiming at it. Because here at Tiny Wooden Towers, we freakin’ love Star Wars, and are genuinely super-excited at what looks to be a return to form for the franchise. Like Jawas at a scrapyard, we are eagerly picking up anything and everything in its wake, and basking in pure, unabashed, child-like joy. Star Wars is back. And it’s really back this time.

So in terms of commentary on the crass commercialisation it will bring with it, we are the very suckers that we should be skewering, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

RRRRAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHRRRRRR (that’s my excited Wookie roar)

I mentioned last week that we had a plan to keep the comic updated over Christmas while myself and Aileen took some time off to recharge and play games, and talked about it a little more in the comments. I’ve been feeling for a while that my writing has been hovering close to repetitive, and I haven’t been happy with it for a while, so I want the time off to re-focus and for us to come back better.

So our plan is for about three weeks worth of ‘guest’ comics, where we get some super-talented friends of ours to fill in for us. The comics will remain game-related, and having already seen the scripts we will be using, I promise you, the quality will not suffer in the least. In fact, I think the variety will improve things. This will begin a week or two into December, and I’m genuinely excited to share these comics with everyone. Further into the new year we plan to give the site itself a much-needed overhaul, but more on that closer to the time. Although, while I’m on the subject, if there is anything you would like to see on the site, or improvements you think we could make, let us know in the comments. We would love some feedback on it before we get into the serious planning stage.

Thanks!

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Descent into a galaxy far, far away

Writer_smallerStar Wars Descent

We had a lot of fun doing our last ‘Star Wars Descent’ comic, and figured a new year was a good enough excuse to return to our anachronically-challenged characters, and see how they were getting on in their dungeon.

We haven’t yet made the plunge and purchased Imperial Assault (the Star Wars themed dungeon crawler at the heart of this week’s comic), but there is no doubt that we will. I have talked about this game before, and if you’re not inclined to follow that link, I can sum up how I feel about it in one simple sentence:

I am very excited.

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A long time ago in a dungeon far, far away

Writer_smallerDungeon crawling

If you too don’t know what you are doing in the dungeon, read the help text here.

Dungeon crawling games aren’t my cup of tea (Early Grey, +1 to pomposity). In the same manner that MMORPGs like WoW give me a kind of existential dread, so the endless slog of fight the monster, loot the room, on to the next level holds no appeal for me.  Zombicide is the closest I’ve come to enjoying a game like this, as it essentially bolts a zombie theme onto a simple dungeon crawler. But it lacks ‘proper’ campaign and for reasons we have gone into before, I have been turned off it.

Imperial Assault, announced at Gen Con, is a Star Wars theme bolted onto Descent.

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