Back Seat Pilot

Back Seat Pilot

New format! I discussed the reasons for our change of format last week, but for those of you who missed it: We are changing format so that Aileen can unshackle herself from the bonds of a gruelling update schedule on top of a full time job. So that she may discover rooms in our new apartment other than the office. Perhaps she might even once again feel the unfamiliar warmth of the sun on her skin, and feel the burden of overwork lift from her tired shoulders. Maybe she will then stop referring to the comic as ‘my precious’ and speaking in riddles all the time, pausing only briefly to snap about hobbitses.

I have talked about this before, but while comics are a collaborative enterprise, the workload is not equal. A nap on the couch and thirty minutes at the computer is all it takes for me to write a strip, and maybe an hour and a half again to letter it. Meanwhile, this brief flight of my imagination will hold Aileen to the desktop – researching, sketching, drawing, flatting, and then colouring for hours on end. A reduction from six to four panels is an interesting creative challenge for me, but for Aileen it means a significantly smaller amount of time in front of a screen each week.

Maybe come next week she won’t draw me quite as evil looking as in panels 1 & 2. What’s that all about? I definitely don’t remember writing ‘looks like he kicks puppies for sport’ in the character description for this week’s comic.

In further ‘Aileen is overworked’ news, she created this fantastic poster for our friends at Tabletop Cork, for their International Tabletop Day celebration. If you are in or around Cork on the day, come check it out. I will be there all day, either helping out or playing board games, and if the new four panel format is working out, so will Aileen!

8 Comments on Back Seat Pilot

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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Rebel heart

Writer_smallerNEWS ITEMS!

We will be in Boston from Tuesday for a family wedding, buying board games and indulging in as much local food as we can manage in an unfortunately short time. We will also be hanging out at Knight Moves board game cafe in Brookline. So if you are around, come meet us! We would love to hang out and play games. Come along on Tuesday the 3rd of May. We should be there around 7 or 8PM (we will confirm the time here and on Twitter) and we intend on staying until close (11PM) Directions and details can be found here, if you are going to come along, do let us know in the comments or Twitter.

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All we ever talk about

Writer_smallerX-Wing, X-Wing, X-Wing

I always worry a lot about comics that depict Aileen as any kind of bad guy, or nag. Writing is easiest when it’s from my own perspective, and I don’t mind making myself the joke of a strip. This does mean that quite often Aileen gets written in as the ‘straight man’ in the sketch. I consciously try and mix it up whenever I can, but it’s a (semi) biographical strip that draws a lot of humour from our own lives and hobby, so writing it from my own point of view is more natural, and feels more honest. Also I don’t have to feel bad about making anyone else the butt of the joke.

As I said, I try and mix it up, but I also try very hard not to second-guess myself, or to write what I think an audience will want, or avoid what an audience might take issue with. There’s no honesty in that, and it will only serve to dilute what I want to do. I guess what I’m saying is that as well as being my favourite comic collaborator, Aileen is my favourite person as well, and if she comes off as anything less than that in my writing it’s because I’m making myself the punchline of the comic.

I am currently obsessed with X-Wing, and the line ‘All we ever do is talk about X-Wing’ line came from a friend that stayed with us for the weekend. He was imagining Aileen snapping and letting her true feelings come out. Hilarious as this was, the reality is that we are both down pretty deep down the X-Wing rabbit hole right now. Any time that was previously spent on Facebook or Twitter on our phones is now used for tinkering with squad lists on the brilliant X-Wing Squad Builder App (really an essential tool if you play, even casually).

Tiny Epic Western, like the previous games in the ‘Tiny Epic’ series immediately hijacked my attention. Ultimately though, the international shipping makes it a definite no go. The 12 dollar rate turns a great value, pocket-sized 18 dollar game into a 40 dollar game. Which sucks for us.

The magazine I am reading- Starfighter Pilot -does not exist, and I think if I were to list everything that is wrong with the world right now, that would make the top ten.

Also, long time readers might have recognised the reference to a previous comic. Well done if you did, your no-prize is in the post.

29 Comments on All we ever talk about

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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Spoiler alert

Writer_smallerThis one simple hobby will amaze your hipster friends

I think this is the first time Tiny Wooden Pieces has wandered completely outside of our stated subject matter. The plan was always to focus on board games, but mix in other elements of what the kids call ‘geek culture’. And if Star Wars doesn’t happily fit that term then it’s time I hung up my keyboard. Which would mean dismantling my laptop to get at it. And slow, and often frustrating as it is, I’m not quite ready to take that step. And that’s why this week’s comic is about the Star Wars trailer! (see how I tied it all together?).

If you do find yourself on the site just because it’s a Star Wars comic, I’m afraid the rest of our archives are filled with cardboard, dice, counters, and the eponymous tiny wooden pieces. But board games are cool now, so if you don’t want to get laughed at by your tight-trousered, long-bearded, hipster friends you had better read our archives and familiarise yourself with Catan, Netrunner and Dead of Winter. There’s just about enough time left to say you liked board games before everyone else did. You do want to be cool, don’t you?

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Star Wars: Armada

Writer_smallerStar Wars: Armada

A Star Wars ship combat game on the scale of Armada probably appeals more to me than X-Wing. The more salient concern, however, is all the X-Wings on our gaming shelf, unmarked by combat. Rarely ever flown at all, in fact. Turns out the downside of a collectible or a miniatures game is less the expense, and more the time required to play it over and again with all the additions and expansions. With so many incredible games being released all the time, it’s harder and harder to get replay value out of the games we already own. Of course, this is a problem entirely of our own making. And it’s a lack of restraint that is the main ingredient of that problem. There are just so many good games out there. We haven’t even gotten around to buying Imperial Assault yet, and our Risk: Legacy campaign is currently experiencing a ceasefire. Not a truce, or even negotiations. It’s just looking like we might be embedded for a while longer than first anticipated. Bloody great game, though.

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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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X-Wing – Swarm tactics

Writer_smallerSwarm tactics

This week’s comic is about the X-Wing Miniatures game. In particular it refers to the Swarm army list for the game. More on that below, as I’d love to talk a little about the game itself first…

I do my best to avoid miniatures games. Games Workshop was my introduction to gaming, and growing up I loved the science fiction universe, the character of the armies, and the real challenge the game brought to the table. What I didn’t love was the expense (or the painting, if I’m honest). Spending more than €50 on a base game and then needing to spend 3-4 times that to then field a reasonable army was then, and still is, too much for me.

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