Time for another work trip. The trips only come up about once or twice a year, but recently they’ve been above and beyond. Why? Well, both my boss, Robert, and coworker Joe, are gamers.
Because one of our offices and many coworkers are there, our recent trips have been to Roseville, Minnesota. Turns out our office is very close to the Fantasy Flight headquarters and flagship store, which is just an additional bonus. We normally work during the day, then dinner, and on to play for 4-5 hours each night at Fantasy Flight.
If you’ve never been to the Fantasy Flight game store in Roseville, I can’t really speak highly about it enough. They’ve got a huge number of large gaming tables. There are always many folks there playing all manner of board games, role playing games, and war / miniature games. They carry the huge selection of Fantasy Flight games as well as many other game vendors (including a decent shelf of role playing games!) They have a kitchen with hot foods including chicken wings and the like. And they have coffee, and beer on tap. The place is unreal.
This trip was a little different, in that we met up at Raleigh, North Carolina. It was my first time out there, and I’ve got to say, atmosphere was nice, very walkable downtown and surrounding area, and food and coffee was amazingly good. We don’t have a work office there, but a few of us gathered at a hotel with a conference room to work on an important work project.
But once work was done, and dinner was had, it was on to gaming! We ended up playing at the hotel lobby bar every night, just the three of us (my other coworkers are not gamers, so much).
Fall of Magic
A game that we played one of the last times we met was The Quiet Year, which my friends really enjoyed. Normally we stick with board games, but I’ve been able to inject some role playing games, especially in the realm of GM-less “hippie” games.
This time I brought Fall of Magic, by Heart of the Deernicorn (and specifically by Ross Cowman). It was recently released through a Kickstarter, and I was able to finally play a game at the last Strategicon (here’s my post on Orccon 2016 in February, where I did).
It was a game that both Robert and Joe were intrigued by and open to trying, and so we launched into it. We started with creating our three characters:
- Robert as Vago the Crag-Singer of Istallia
- Joe as Caspian The Ranger of Mistwood
- Tomer as Justice the Apprentice of Ravenhall
Such a thoroughly enjoyable session. We played for about 3 hours or so, and everyone was so present, and brought interesting personalities and perspectives to the game.
Almost from the start we had a Magus which was a very old, desiccated, and quite mute old woman in a large robe. In fact, we had a hard time knowing if it was actually an old women, except for what some guy told us, who dropped her off to us when we began our journey. Although this meant we didn’t get to explore the Magus much for most of this first session, it had the effect of really letting us have space to explore our characters and their interactions and growing relationships.
I loved how Robert and Joe played Vago and Caspian, respectively. Vago was a cutthroat merchant, who brought along Mallory, a little girl that appeared to be his pack mule (but was really a spice expert that gives Vago the fame he desires). Caspian was a confident Ranger, and played great. But what was also excellent was when we were called to play other roles. Joe as the Barley Lord was brilliant!
From the get-go, I decided that my “apprentice” was really a sort of sacrifice for the Magus. That I was from a village that used to struggle with war and conflict, but now lives in perfect peace. But that peace comes at a cost, and that is that we are asked to “randomly” sacrifice an individual in the village, once every while, to the Magus. This individual allows the Magus to continue doing its work. And that sacrifice, in this story, was me. Leaving behind a wife and young daughter, but knowing that my sacrifice would help them, and my people, live in peace, I reluctantly, but stoically, go to meet my fate. It was a fun role to play, because I also got to be naïve of the rest of the world. I got to approach and explored the world and the people I met, with trepidation and wonder.
I mention this because I’ve found that it is quite enjoyable for me to approach this game with an idea of my background (at a high level), and my goals or struggles. However what I also like to come in with is a complete ignorance of the Magus, who or what it is, and any of the other players in the game. It allows me to have a strong idea of how my character would react, but nothing about what he or she will have to react to. It also doesn’t decide any outcomes. Will my character allow himself to be “sacrificed” in the end? Maybe, maybe not. What is this sacrifice, anyways? Who knows.
We played up until Mistwood and the Hunt Lodge, and then decided to take a break. Just before we broke off, the Magus finally began to speak
The next day we decided to continue onwards, but didn’t have as much energy, and only made it to the Mouth of the Deep (after about an hour of play). And unfortunately that’s where the story ends.
I would love to play a game more thoroughly through. Both times I’ve played have been up until about the same area (the first time was up to Istallia). That said, I really enjoyed the pace we went at, and wouldn’t trade that or any of the excellent play, just to get further in the game.
We were low on brain juice the second-to-last night, and decided instead of continuing Fall of Magic, we’d go with a board / card game. Robert brought Smash Up, which I’ve seen but never played. It’s a game where you grab two random sets of cards that are associated with two different factions, and then duke it out over shared objectives. Each faction has its strengths, and because they represent things like Wizards and Robots, you get teams such as the Wizard Robots. This is where the game gets its name “Smash” and “Mash Up” for its own mash up of Smash Up.
So… I was the Ninja Zombies, vs. Robert’s Goblin-Fairy Dinosaurs, vs. Joe’s Pirate Aliens. All in all a fun little beer-and-pretzels game. Not one I’m itching to buy, but I could definitely play again.
I haven’t played this Fantasy Flight game in quite some time, and it was nice to bring it out again. It’s a effectively a game of War, but actually interesting and dynamic. It comes with a little map of provinces in Italy, and each battle (individual war game) allows you to claim one region on the map. The goal is grab enough of them, or perhaps fewer of them by making them adjacent.
One thing that makes the game dynamic, is that when a battle is over, that doesn’t necessary mean you draw new cards. If there are cards left, you continue with those cards to the next battle. But once everyone runs out of cards (or everyone but one individual), then everyone re-draws. It really adds a cool element of pushing-your-luck (or trying to push your opponent’s luck) in the game.
Unfortunately it’s really built to be a multi-player game that shines with 4-6 players. Robert was busy the final night, so it was just Joe and I, and although we had a good time and Joe got to learn the game, it doesn’t shine quite as much as a two player game.
We ended up playing an ad hoc 2-player hack, where we each controlled 2 different colors, and alternated between which color we played each round. This made the game last a little longer, and also had the effect of increasing the relevance of the spatial, map-grab part of the game.
And so ends Workcon Raleigh 2016. Can’t wait for the next one…