Tabletop Season 4 Day 5: Star Realms and Five-Year Mission

IMG_20160502_095636We did two games today, and I remember why I insisted that we only do one game a day, because I’m exhausted.

I had a whole lot of fun, but holy crap am I exhausted. I don’t know how I did this for ten straight days for three seasons, but I’m glad we don’t do it that way any more.

So in the morning, we played Star Trek: Five-Year Mission, which is a surprisingly fun cooperative dice-placement game. Like Dragon Farkle, it’s a game I shouldn’t like at all because dice (and as much as I love Star Trek, I’m inclined to stay away from it in my work, because of reasons) but I have fun whenever I play it, and it’s a good game for introducing people to our hobby. I played with Jesse Cox, Jaime King, and Jessica Chobot … and it was pretty hilarious.

In the afternoon, we did something I never thought would work, but ended up working spectacularly well: we played a 2-player game! Melissa De Tora, who is a professional Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour player came down from Seattle to battle heads-up with me in a game that I love called Star Realms. If you like deck building games like Ascension, you’re going to go nuts for Star Realms, which has my favorite Tabletop game app since Carcassonne.

Tomorrow, we’re playing Flashpoint: Fire Rescue, because if there’s one thing I want to play more of on Tabletop, it’s co-op games that we’re probably going to lose. (No, seriously, I really enjoy co-op games that I expect to lose, because that makes the improbable victories that much better).

The April Reboot Check-In That Happened In April

It’s the last day of April, so check me out: I’m doing my reboot check in for April before April is over. Go me!

I had this epiphany at the beginning of September: This thing that I’m doing? This series of choices I make every day? It isn’t working. I don’t like the way I feel, I don’t like the way I look, I don’t like the things I’m doing. Things need to change.

So I took a long, hard, serious look at myself, and concluded that some things needed to change.

  • Drink less beer.
  • Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
  • Write more.
  • Watch more movies.
  • Get better sleep.
  • Eat better food.
  • Exercise more.

Last year, I decided to hit the reboot button on my life. I’ve checked in about once a month since then, to see how I’m doing, celebrate the victories, and identify where I can do better.

Let’s see how I’m doing after seven months.

Drink less beer – A+

So I decided to cut alcohol out of my life because I was really struggling to get the last three to five pounds of weight to fall off. It took about two months, but it totally worked! I hit my target weight goal, but instead of picking up beer again, I decided to just keep on not drinking. Now, some days I really miss having a beer or ten, or enjoying a nice drop of scotch in the evening, but I think I’ve said this before: what I get in return for giving this up massively outweighs the small sacrifice. I didn’t realize how much more time I have to do things that are not having beer or whatever until I just stopped drinking beer or whatever.

Read More (and Reddit does not count as reading) – A

This month, I’ve been doing a ton of reading, and not only have I been doing a ton of reading, I’ve been getting a ton of inspiration from the reading, which is why I wanted to read more in the first place. I’m mostly reading SF/F short stories (my Lightspeed Magazine subscription is one of the best things I’ve ever bought in my life), and I started the second book in The Expanse series. Last month, I gave myself a B on the curve because I was displeased with the lack of diversity in my reading, but considering how much stuff I have to do every day, I’m actually bending the curve in my favor and taking an A this month.

Write more. – A

I wrote two speeches since I last checked in, a bunch of intros and rules explanations for season four of Tabletop, and I did some development work on this webseries idea I’ve been kicking around for a few months. I really want to write the things that I want to write (that sounds weird but it makes sense in my head), but I’ve been kind of busy writing the things I have to write. But I’m writing, which is what matters.

Watch more movies. – A

I’ve been going through the playlist and the queue and watching, on average, three movies a week. That doesn’t seem like a lot, and it also seems like a lot. Life is weird like that. So I’ve watched some thrillers and some horror films, and Anne and I are working through the unwatched screeners we were sent during awards season. Some of the stuff I’ve watched has been great, like LOVELACE (except Franco, who was horribly miscast) and SPOTLIGHT. Some didn’t quite live up to the promise of the premise (The Child and Citadel), and some other stuff didn’t make enough of an impression on me to mention. The thing that’s been great (and the reason I wanted to do this as part of the reboot) is that I’ve gotten inspiration from everything I’ve watched. I’m getting ideas for camera work, pacing in storytelling, and other intangible things that make me want to write a script and tell a story. Even the movies that aren’t very good have something inspiring in them, and they provide a good counterweight to the ones that are spectacular. The good movies make me want to make something like them, and the bad movies make me feel like anything I do, even my dumb ideas, are worth the effort, because if this thing got made, why not my thing?

Get better sleep. – A

I was going to take this off after last time, because it feels like an easy A, but a lot of people convinced me to keep it on the list. I’m glad they did. Maybe it’s because I’m getting graded, maybe it’s because I think about it, maybe I have no idea why but I needed a third thing on this list, but I still make an effort every night to get in bed whenever I need to, so I can get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep. I’ve gotten into the habit of making good sleep a priority, and that means that if I know I have to get up at 6am for some bullshit reason, I’m going to be in bed by 10 the night before. As part of a reboot, this is successful and important, because in the pre-reboot days (preboot? nah.) I would have just stayed up late doing something I didn’t need to do, usually playing video games, and then felt like shit the entire next day. The whole reason I decided to reboot was because the way I was doing things wasn’t working for me. Not getting enough sleep was a very big part of that, and being committed to quality, restful sleep has made a huge and positive difference in my whole life. It’s something I need to remember, though, and something I need to keep working at, so it stays on the list.

Eat better food. – B

So … I’ve developed a taste for ice cream. It’s not a ton of ice cream, but it’s almost every day. It’s preferable, health and calorie and X-factor -wise to beer, but it’s extra sugar and OMG I LOVE ROCKY ROAD SO MUCH YOU GUYS.

Um. Yes. It’s a thing. On days that I run or do lots of exercise, I feel like it isn’t the biggest deal to have a scoop of ice cream, but it’s becoming a habit and I probably have to address it sooner than later.

As an aside: Nearly everyone I know has commented at some point recently that I look good. I’ve lost weight, I feel happier and generally better, and that’s all the result of this reboot really working the way that I wanted it to work. When I get complimented, I never want to be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m pretty fucking awesome,” so I say what’s mostly true: “Thanks. All I had to do was give up everything I like.” So, like, if my life is generally good, and I’m taking good care of myself, and I’m accomplishing the things that I want to accomplish, one semi-bad habit, like ice cream, isn’t the big of a problem.

Still, I could probably dial it back, and also eat fewer Red Vines (why are Red Vines so good? One answer is that they’re not fucking Twizzlers, which are goddamn disgusting).

Exercise more. – C

This is the real disappointment for me this month. A combination of work and being sick and travel and some moderate Depression flare ups have all come together to keep my running shoes in the closet. I’m doing — well, I wanted to say that I’m doing my best, but I don’t think that’s actually true. I always say that “your best” will vary from day to day, and that it’s important to be kind to yourself when your best on one day isn’t at the same level as whatever your best was on another day when you actually got the thing done … but if I’m being honest with myself, there have been several days this month when I could have said to myself, “yeah, I don’t feel like going out to run, but I’m doing it anyway” or “I’ll just walk, and maybe I’ll run once I’m out, but I am going to get off the couch and go, because it’s something I need to do.” I haven’t been committed, and partially that’s because I did my 5K and that felt like a goal, and in my mind the box was ticked. Exercise and fitness isn’t a thing with one finish line, though, and while it’s important to take days off to recover, something consistent like walking around the block or whatever every day is better (at least for me) than working out hard twice a week. So even grading on the curve, I’m giving myself a C this month. I’d give myself a D, but the travel and being sick was out of my control, so … yep. C.

Okay, let’s total this up and see how I did.

It looks like 26 points out of a possible 28 points. I got that last month, and I feel like I did better this month. This is me making the unimpressed silver medal face, even though I’m giving myself an A- instead of a B+ this time. The lack of commitment to exercise, and the excessive ice cream is really pulling my average down. That’s a bummer, but this is an ongoing process, and now I know where I need to focus on improving for next month.

Tabletop Season 4 Day 4: Dragon Farkle

IMG_20160427_101542Did I choose a dice game that’s pretty much entirely about luck? Yes, I did. Am I nuts? Maybe a little bit, yeah. This game is just silly and occasionally stupid, and always fun. Justifying why you lost thousands of soldiers and only scratched the dragon, or why you had a thousand soldiers ready to join your army but then lost all of them seconds later is a big part of why I like this game.

I played with Derek Mio, Neil Grayston, and Brandon Routh.

I wanted to mix up what we usually play on the show, and since we did so many heavier games last year, this is a great way to provide some balance and casual silliness to the lineup. A game like this also helps us learn how to make our own fun when we play, because the dice aren’t always going to do what we want, so if you’re just being competitive or getting super serious about strategy, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Because Dragon Farkle is 100% about luck and being silly, I don’t mind the randomness of the dice. There is just no strategy involved at all, here, so you either accept that and let the dice fall where they may, or you play something else. There are other games that have a lot of strategy in them, or other mechanics that should reward clever thinking, but then they put dice into the mix and if you don’t get lucky, all that strategy and clever thinking is wasted. Games like that are annoying to me, and make me feel disempowered. But Dragon Farkle? You roll the dice, press your luck, make a bunch of dumb noises, and then get on with it.

I shouldn’t like this game, but I have fun every time I play it. Maybe you will, too.


Tabletop Season 4 Day 3: Codenames

Code Names Tabletop
Photo by Michelle Morrow

Yesterday, we played Codenames for Tabletop.

Codenames is something I’d like to see more of: a party game that breaks out of the typical (and at this point overused) “impress the judge” mechanic, while encouraging and facilitating genuine and meaningful communication among the players. Whether you’re new to the hobby, or have a bookshelf filled with epic strategy games, it’s a great addition to any gaming library.

Like Mysterium, it’s a game I had to play for all of one round before I decided it would be perfect for the show, and holy crap did we have fun playing it.

I played with Michelle Morrow, Ashley Esqueda, Travis Willingham, Jackie Kashian, and John Ross Bowie.

Tabletop Season 4 Day 2: Mysterium

IMG_20160425_102325So this one time, Dixit and Clue got stuck in an elevator, and … well, Mysterium happened … and I’m really glad that it did. It’s one of those games that plays pretty quickly, and whether I win or lose, I want to play again right away.

This game has been on my list since I first saw it at GenCon last year, because it’s just perfect for our show. Also, the artwork that is such an important part of this game is so beautiful, I’d like to buy a whole lot of it and hang it on my walls in Castle Wheaton.

I played with David Kwong, Laura Bailey, and Shannon Woodward.

I freaking LOVE this game, and I think the episode we shot today is going to do a great job showing people exactly why. And here’s a super neat not-so-secret: if you own Dixit, you can use your Dixit cards with Mysterium, for an instant expansion.


Tabletop Season Four Day One: Fury of Dracula

Tabletop Season Four Day OneI’m probably not going to have the time or energy to do this for every day of production, but I do right now, so …

Today, we started production on season four of Tabletop. It feels strange to me, like I’ve been doing it forever, and like I just started it for the very first time. There’s a lot about last season that was a pretty big bummer for me, but all of those things were addressed and corrected in the off season, and if today is any indication, this will be the most fun I’ve had doing a season of the show since the first one.

We made a number of production and personnel changes, but the production change that’s most important to me is that we’re only doing one game a day for most of this season. We’ve always shot two games per day, and it felt like a race against time before we even got into the set to start shooting. A schedule that’s less aggressive means that we can play a couple of bigger, more complex games that take longer, and it also means that when we play a most games, we aren’t racing against the clock to start the next one like we’ve done in the past. I’m hopeful that by the time we get to the last few days of production, I’ll be as happy, focused, relaxed, and satisfied as I am right now, instead of the usual exhaustion and mental numbness.

But today? Today was awesome. I played Fury of Dracula (third edition) with Amy Okuda, Grant Imahara, and Ify Nwadiwe. We had so much fun! It was as intense as you’d want this game to be, and we played enough to probably make two dramatic and entertaining episodes. I know someone’s going to ask what roles we played, but I’m not going to say right now, because reasons.

Fury of Dracula was one of the games that helped make me a Gamer in the 80s, and it’s a game that I would have loved to play on the show. So when Fantasy Flight reprinted it and updated to this new edition, it was one of the first games I put on the list.

If you’re curious about it, and don’t want to wait months to see us play it, I highly recommend the Shut up and Sit Down How To Play video (which I watched myself, while I was learning this edition), because it’s informative and entertaining. For those of you wondering, we played with the advanced rules today.

Also, if you’re into Dracula and RPGs, you may like Dracula Unredacted, which is what happens when Night’s Black Agents and Dracula collide.

Dracula is not a novel. It’s the censored version of Bram Stoker’s after-action report of the failed British Intelligence attempt to recruit a vampire in 1894. Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have restored the deleted sections, inserting annotations and clues left by three generations of MI6 analysts.

I mean, seriously. Even if you’re not going to play it, it’s a hell of an enjoyable read.

And since we’re talking vampires for a moment, some of my very favorite vampire movies, in no particular order:

  • Near Dark
  • The Lost Boys
  • Nosferatu
  • What We Do In The Shadows
  • Fright Night

I’m proud of the work we did today, and hopefully tonight I will actually sleep all night, instead of waking up again and again from panic attacks and nightmares like I have for the last week, while I was stressed as fuck about getting production off the ground, and could only think about the stuff that made me unhappy from last time. It’s good to have something positive and awesome to build on, so my brain will hopefully focus on that now.

Here’s The Game Lineup for Tabletop Season Four

Agressive BreedingWe looked at eleven million games, and playtested ninety-six thousand games, for season four of Tabletop.

The exact order that we’re releasing episodes and the exact timeline for the release isn’t set yet, and it isn’t up to me, but here are the games we’ve settled on for Tabletop Season Four:

  • Lanterns
  • Fury of Dracula
  • Mysterium
  • Code Names (with six players for maximum funtimes)
  • FATE Core RPG
  • Dragon Farkle
  • Flashpoint
  • Harbour
  • Eldritch Horror
  • Star Realms
  • Monarch
  • Star Trek – 5 Year Mission
  • Champions of Midgard
  • Steam Park
  • Tiny Epic Galaxies
  • Welcome To The Dungeon
  • Misspent Youth RPG

This season, I wanted to play games that were accessible to families, indie games, more RPGs, and at least one or two games that broke the rules I usually use to choose games. We start filming in a few days, and the season will be released starting in June or July. And because I know it’s going to end up being a FAQ: Titansgrave’s second season is in development right now. We’re aiming to film it in a couple of months, and release it in Autumn.

I hope there’s at least one thing here that you’re looking forward to, and PLAY MORE GAMES!!