The Future is Bright


But as a migraine sufferer, bright isn’t always good.

Welcome back to an actual playthrough of a new game!  YAY!

Don’t let my first sentence fool you, the game I will be playing through is good….REALLY good.  But I am also warning that my health still isn’t as great as it could be, so I probably won’t be playing as smart as I could be and this may take me a whole lot of time to type up.

I’m going to get a few days of posts logged before I post the first one, in case I’m unable to keep up (I usually go fairly live with my playthroughs), but we’ll see what happens.

And who knows in the future things might be better.

Which brings me to today’s game:

Pax Transhumanity.


In this tiny, tiny box is a HUGE HUGE game that will melt your brain 12 ways from Sunday.

The elevator pitch of the game is that you play an “Influencer” of some type, trying to get your Ideas spread out there into the world, influencing the 4 Spheres of the future: The First World, The Developing World, The Cloud and Space.  You score points by solving Problems in those Spheres (like Aging, Social Immobility, Artificial Consciousness or just being plain ol’ Earthbound), dealing with Future Shock (But won’t teenagers use this technology for sex? Answer: Yes) and/or building factories (because the Eklunds love free and open business).

Ah, but were it only that easy.

Because the game has “PAX” in the title (and yes, I realize my last post was called “PAX Unplugged, but that PAX stood for, quizically, Penny Arcade), it is in a class of games that began with Pax Porfiriana.



What makes this game fascinating is that the winner is they who has the most points.  Only there are 5 different kinds of points, and which points counts depends on the Regime in power at the end of the game.  So you can try to have all the points of all the Regimes, or just go for one and fight like hell to make sure that’s the Regime in power.

Fighting like hell is kind of what Pax Porfiriana is all about.  It’s a hoot, I recommend it.

Because of that, Pax Transhumanity is also a bit like that.  So depending how the game ends, you get points for different things.

The game could end in a Singularity or Paradigm Shift, where one technology overwhelms the world and all the matters is how much Future Shock you managed to handle.  Basically the world changed so much so fast, that the world looks to you as a savior for holding their hand the most through the uprising (“Thank you Mr. Jobs for making all this tech into big icons we can hit with our fingers instead of typing words onto a screen.”)

The game could end in a Tycoon victory when you just have factories all over the freaking place, and it doesn’t really matter what ideas have been put out there. (“Oh, Disney owns Amazon now?”)

The game could end in a Tipping Point, where one Sphere gets smashed down before the “Dominant Sphere” gets awarded points. (“We don’t care how much you built up India, we’ve passed the point where Earth can sustain the number of humans on the planet, but thanks to your success in space, we may be able to do something about it.”)

or finally there’s Plurality, where everything is worth a little bit of points. (“You’ve played through all the cards….so we’ve got to end the game somehow, right?”)

So what do you go for?  Do you try to build factories to get the Tycoon victory?

Do you solve problems and dodge whatever Sphere will be smashed in the Tipping Point victory?

Do you “Quell Heat” and cover up Future Shock for a Singularity Victory?

Um.  Yes?

And we haven’t even gotten to the rules yet.

Pax TranshumanityMap

So here is our playspace.

Um, it’s a little crowded.  Let’s zoom in a bit.


First is our little player board.  There’s our “pool” of unused bits, namely cubes that we can add to our wealth if our ideas infuse us with some cash, as well as discs that act as our factories.  If we get all four down on the board and we trigger an action that would make us place a fifth, BOOM tycoon victory.  The most straightforward of the victory conditions.

On the right side we see something that may look familiar to those that read my (aborted) playthrough of Pax Emancipation.  This is where all the money in the game comes from.  To generate a dollar, simply slide a cube down the ladder from Capital to Wealth or from Wealth to Debt (once Capital is out of cubes).  As an action you can remove cubes from the board to huddle them all back onto Wealth, drag cubes from Capital to Wealth to drag cubes from debt up to Wealth and then finally drag them all back up to Capital.  It makes the world go ’round ya’ll.

But that’s not the only source of money in the game.  You can also sell patents.



Every time you drag a cube from the patents card back to your Wealth, you can as many dollars as that color is worth.  So you see, the black player starts with a cube in Red (Assembly).  Patent worth is judged by how many of that color is shown in the Human Progress Splay, which is just a row of colors that is conveniently below that patent card.  At the beginning of the game, there is one random color there, in this example a green.  So Red is worthless, but at least you’d get a cube back.  But if Pink were to “Sell” their patent, they’d get one dollar and that cube back into their wealth.

As the game progresses, you’ll be doing the fundraise action less and less because you’ll earn more and more patents, and you’ll find that patents are worth more and more money.

Or you’ll find that whatever you’re doing isn’t earning you patents and your opponents are laughing at you…


And here we have one of our Spheres, the First World.  It’s split into two sides, one for Ideas, and one for “Makers.”  Or, I guess to be a bit pretentious, Philosophy and Entrepreneurship.  The other spheres are likewise split into Freedom/Productivity, Security/Privacy and Astronautics/Robotics.  But they’re split into the Research side and the Commercializing side.  There’s also big ol’ stop signs showing, which are the Barriers.  Again, those familiar with Pax Emancipations might remember that phrase.  The more Barriers showing on a card, the more expensive it is to do anything there.  If there’s an Employee sitting on a Barrier, then you can’t see it, and things will be cheaper (“I’m working on it!”).  If there’s a factory on it, the same effect (“They’re working on it!”).  There’s also two Utilities-in this case Western Universities and Defense Contractors.  You can get work from them to get things done cheaper, but you can’t gain Patents that way.  Because, duh, they’re doing the work for you.  But work costs Barriers X Two.  If you get Subsidized work at these Utilities, then it only costs as many Barriers are showing.

50% off!  Cha-ching!


And now the Ideas themselves.  There’s a lot going on here.  You’ve got the colors on each edge, sometimes the same, like our Diamond Fiber (Red/Red), sometimes not, like Universal Property Directory (Green/Blue).  This is important to see if the Idea is Viable to be Commercialized.  We’ll get into that later as it’s the most in depth thing to wrap your head around in the game.

The other things to notice: The icons on the left are what you are awarded when you Commercialize the idea.  Things like: Factories, our Diamond Fiber idea earns you a factory in the Developing World…because there’s a lot of diamonds there, and making super strong thread is useful.  It also specifies the type of factory, in this case a “Maker” factory since this is a practical Idea over a philosophical one.

You can also be awarded “Problem Chits” for solving problems.  Like the Diamond Fiber solving the Earthbound problem, since it allows for a Space Elevator (I’m assuming).  The Universal Property Directory solves Disenfranchisement and Social Immobility.  I would probably have to do a lot of reading to understand the whys and wherefores of that one, but that’s the joys of playing games like this one.  The Universal Property Directory also causes a Exoglobal Recession Impact.  How’s that for a mouthful?  If you don’t deal with the Jealous Mobs (the little black square in the lower left/upper right of the card), then everyone loses an Employee to the pool.  There’s also a White square called Shadow Rich on that card, too.  If you Syndicate that Idea (basically put some resources there to work on it), you are forced to put a cube on the Shadow Rich as well, in order to deal with the “Heat” of that particular fear.  Dealing with Heat can be points at the end of the game (See Future Shock way up above), or it can just lock up your resources.  You have to spend actions to remove heat, and uncovered black heat is a dangerous thing.  We’ll get into that later.

So that’s the basics of what the game looks like.  You’re probably already tired, weeping slightly and might need a drink, so I’ll finish here and start the actual solo game tomorrow to give you some time to rest.  So go talk to your robotic companion from Robotix, drink your Soylent, put some CBD under your tongue and take a nap.  You’ll be fresh and new for tomorrow.

Though it often seems like tomorrow is now.


PAX: Unplugged

Or: Sure, I’ll walk a few miles for that.


Sorry for the long delay everyone.  My workload has about tripled and I find I have very little time to, well, goof off like I used to.  What you are reading now I put together over the course of many, many days (weeks, crap, it’s been a month), one paragraph at a time, just because I really wanted to get something down on paper (screen) while it was still bouncing around in my doofy head.  What follows is a long, rambling tale about one socially awkward fellow’s take about a GIANT convention that he had the privilege to spend 3 days attending.  It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, however, and in those 3 days, there was maybe 6 hours of actual convention attended.

The rest was just walking and sadness.

If that’s not your bag, then you can skip the next posts.  No problem.  I’ll get back to my game playthroughs at another time.  I will mention the following games in these posts: Chiseled, Pittsburgh ’64, Dreams of Another Tomorrow, Gloom/Frosthaven, The Dresden Files, The Fate System, Spirits of the Century, Pax Transhumanity, Bios: Origins (2nd edition), It’s a Wonderful World, Nobilis, Bulldogs!

I ended with that one because the punctuation comes with the title.  So if you’re interested in those games, you can just scan through until they come up.  So let’s get to this:

This was not my first PAXU, which I will call PU from now on.  No, I won’t call it PU.  That’s just wrong.  I’ll just call it the convention.  Anyway, this was my third convention.  My first was just one day and was kind of a blur.  My second I went on behest of Fog of Love and spent 90% of the con demoing their FABULOUS game.  I loved that, but didn’t really get to see what else was happening.  So as a birthday gift, my wonderful wife got me the 3-day pass so I could actually see what on earth happens at this thing.  I was also privileged enough to get that Friday off of work, so I could be in from the doors opening on Friday until closing on Sunday.

So things started out….not so great.  I got up relatively early.  The doors opened at 10am and I’m only 10 minutes from a train station.  It’s an hour ride to Jefferson Station, which is literally underneath the Philly Expo Center, so I needed to catch the 9am train to get there.  I’m up, I’m dressed, and it’s about 8:30 or so.  There’s a pretty big pile of dishes left over from breakfast with the family, so, sure, I’ll take care of those before I leave.

And suddenly it’s 8:55.  Oops.  Not sure how that happened, but train #1 missed.  So another cup of coffee is poured and I wait for the next train that leaves at 9:55.

Okay, it’s a little before 9:45 and onto the road I go.  Maybe cutting it a bit closer than I should have, but I should have plenty of time.

And then I get behind the SLOWEST PERSON IN THE WORLD.  I drove down a road that has a 35mph speed limit (and I drive slow, ask anyone, I would do 35 on this road) and this driver was doing between 15 and 25 the entire drive.

I pulled into the station as I watched the 9:55 train pull away.

So now I had another hour to kill.  Yay for internet based phones and a vivid imagination.

And naps.  Naps are cool.

Finally on the 11 o’clock train bound for Philly!  Hooray!

I’ll refrain from discussing loud “WE’RE ON A TRAIN DADDY” and total mansplaining the bejezus out of the railsystem dude (do you have to repeat each stop to her after the conductor announces it, really?)…let’s just get to the con.

Let’s start with this:  The convention center is BIG.


That’s three blocks long and one block wide.  And I’d include the Reading Terminal Market in that, so there’s another block there…because if you’re at the Convention Center, you go to the Market to eat.  Because you’ll probably want to die from all that walking, so why not kill yourself with calories, too?

So even though the train comes out right under the convention center, I walk about a half block (inside, mind you), before I see any stuff.

I see security, I see nerds going to and fro, but not the convention itself.  But it’s still area I have to walk through, and I’ll have to walk back through to get to the train back home.

I already regret that my sneakers gave up the ghost last month and I’m wearing my leather Chuck Taylors I bought for work.  They’re awesome, but not for walking on concrete for hours.


Conservative AND pretentious!

So into the Expo area I go.


No sure how they made the picture look so empty, but it was MUCH more crowded than that.  And this was on Friday.  When people should be at work.  Eep.  I worked my way through the crowds, trying to catch a glance of booth after booth, though getting close enough to talk to anyone would have involved a lot more gumption than this little gamer would never have.

I did find the Fog of Love booth (the mile high string of heart shaped balloons certainly help) and I wanted to say hello to Jacob (and get the obligatory European hug), but the booth was hopping just as much as it was the previous year so there was no way I was going to upset the rhythm they had going there.  I made sure to get a look at the faces of the people in the demos, and they were all smiling and laughing.  What a great game.

I also saw the game being played in the open gaming area several different times.  It made me happy.  That game deserves to be played out in the wild.

A few elbows, maybe a headbutt and a stroller to the knee (I would have been a mercenary if it wasn’t for that…), and someone actually recognized me out of the crowd.  Mind you it was “The Professor” Pilkus, probably the most social gamer I have ever, ever met.  If you are in any boardgaming circles anywhere, you’ve probably heard his voice in a podcast, read something he’s written, or played something he’s had a finger in.  The dude is everywhere, and it’s mainly because he’s the nicest dude you’ll ever meet.  And if you’ve ever met you in person (even once!), he’s the kind of guy who will be able to pick you out of a crowd of 10,000 people and say hello.

I then found Larry Wickman at his booth for Gamewick Games.  That may sound familiar because I just did the playthrough of Innsmouth 32…34….36…whatever that number is.  He had a little booth where he was promoting his just successful kickstarter (“That’s my life for the next four months”) as well as selling the other sets from the Shuffling Horror series.  He also had these swell new neoprene mats of the Shuffling Horror board.


Not actual picture of mat.  Just picture this in neoprene, without cards or tokens on it.

Hey look!  That says Innsmouth 32 on it!  I was right with the number!

Anyway.  I own the mat now, my first ever neoprene mat.  Go me.

After exiting his booth, I stumbled across the hall and someone was just starting to explain a game I had a mild interest (due to its solo option).  A deck “Deconstruction” game called “Chiseled.”

It’s from Copper Frog games and was a failed kickstarter from last year.  They were going to relaunch in 2020, and they were still showing it off to drum up interest.

The idea is that you had a big ol’ (okay, maybe 30ish cards?) deck of cards, and through a common selection of 7 or 8 tools in the center of the table, you tried to whittle your deck down to where it would score more points than your opponents.  It made a lot of sense considering the game was about making sculptures.

The interesting mechanic was that once a “tool” was selected, it got flipped and no one could select that tool again until all tools were selected, then they all got reset.  Strangely I ended up winning by 2 points, even though my sculpture was only worth something like 4 points.  The guy running the demo had 2 points, and the dude beside me had negative 10 or something.  Apparently our play was odd in that it ended a lot quicker than most games go, but the timer is based on drawing a specific hand: If it ends up being all, um, body parts (ie. you have no “Scrap” in your hand), the critics get one step closer to showing up at your studio.  And through the magic of shuffling, much of my scrap was shuffled to the bottom, so the critics speed walked towards my studio quickly.

The game was fast, the decisions were interesting, and it was a fine filler game.  I wasn’t blown away or anything, and I could see if you were looking for something light and was a bit different from your standard deck builder (it’s the opposite of a deck builder) that could be played from 1 to 4 players.  I just hope the kickstarter offers it for a low price.  I wouldn’t pay much for it, as it should be just a deck of cards, but there you go.  I’m not a great review guy.

A cross-check, boarding, hooking, holding and too many men on the ice later, I made it to the end of the expo section of the convention.


I didn’t get to actually see much, given the crowds, but it was a lot to take in.  It was a shame I didn’t get to sit down and actually enjoy anything, but there was still plenty of convention left.  So I flipped open my handy-dandy little convention map and looked for the Role-Playing game section.  I’ve heard that the indie scene is powerful over here (much as it is in the New Jersey conventions I frequent), so I wanted to check that out.

Huh, turns out I have to walk to get there.  Who knew?

After walking about 2 blocks, I head down the stairs and see some theaters, a “AFK” room (for destressing), a LARP area…and none of the rooms I was actually looking for.  Huh?

I look out the window, and I see on the other side of Arch street the places I wanted to go.  Oops, I didn’t go far enough, and I have to go back to the stairs, go up, go over the street (since I didn’t know where I could enter on the other side from street level) and then come down.  Grrrrrrrr.  I got really growly at this point.  And that’s when I realized it was something like 3pm and I hadn’t eaten since 8am.  LUNCH!

So I found a seat (which took much more walking and time to find) and I sat and ate the sandwich I had made at home.  I forgot my waterbottle at home, so I walked to the little giftshop thingie to buy one after my much needed eating, and saw a line a half mile long, so I walked into the expo room to walk around the handful of food carts there to see which one had a small enough line that I could just buy a soda so I could use that bottle for the rest of the con (they have nice bottle fillers all over the place, so you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money for bottled water).  30 minutes later, I found a mac & cheese place that only had 1 person in line.  I got a bottle of Sierra Mist.  $5.25 please.


I’m really far away from the RPG space at this point, since my wandering for water/soda took me back into the expo space so I said “eff it, I’m going to find and play a freaking game.”  So I headed to the Open Play area.


This picture is a lie.  There’s no way that those 3 chairs on the right of the shot were open.

Does that trigger anyone elses’ anxiety?  Awesome.

So I walked through, either looking for a space I could sit and set up my own game and a “Looking for Players” flag, or looking for others with “Looking for Players” flag.

Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, Oh look, a looking for….nope, they’re in the middle of the game, they must still have that up from before….walk, walk walk, oh another fla…nope, they’re already playing…walk, walk, walk, Oh, an actual “LFG” sign up with a big video screen and everything!  Awesome!  There’s only a few games listed here, but I’ll go check them out!  Oh, they’re full, too.  Um, whatever that game is, that’s not where they say they are.  Um.  Okay, well, I guess that doesn’t work.  Walk, walk, walk.  Is anyone sitting there?  Or is that just that groups stuff sitting there?  I’m too much of a social wuss to ask, and I’ll just assume it’s a group that’s going to get a Looking for Group flag or something, so I’ll just keep walking, even though it’s been a half hour of walking and not finding anything.

I’m tired.

Ah, the First Look section, where a bunch of games brand new from Essen are showcased.  Neato.  And look Pax Transhumanity and Bios: Origins.  I received those 2 days before the con started.  Nice to see those there.

And there’s 4 people at Bios: Origins.  Let’s see how that’s going, since I’m not doing anything else.  And those games are right on the edge of a walkway, so it’s not like I have to knock anyone over to check it out.

It’s then I notice the “Looking for Teacher” flag.

“Do you know how to play?” They ask with child-like eyes.

“Um, yes.”

“Can you teach us?”


“Sure, let’s go.”

So the next hour and a half of my con is spent running these guys through the basic game of Bios: Origins.

Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE teaching games to people.  This blog wouldn’t exist otherwise.  But a few things got to me as I was thinking about this afterwards.

  1. I was doing someone’s job. – There are volunteers with the Pax staff who are there to work with the First Look games and teach them to people.  While that person did stop over and say hello while I was there, they clearly were doing a lot of other things and was happy I was there to help.
  2. I stood THE WHOLE TIME in the walkway of the area.  What the hell was I thinking?

After an hour and a half, I finally excused myself because they seemed to have picked up on the game.  I was thirsty as all get out because I had talked almost non-stop for over an hour.  Those guys didn’t even know my name.  No one asked.  I didn’t get a handshake.  I get thank-yous as I walked away, but….

I don’t know.  Like I said, I enjoy teaching games.  It’s a little bit of performing (which is something I used to do) and a little bit of gaming (which is something I do a lot), so since I derive joy from it, I should just shut my yap, right?

But as I got my bottle filled and I sat on the floor outside of the expo hall, feeling the pain in my feet and the soreness in my throat, I was like: Why did you just do that?  Was it because I wasn’t doing  anything else?  Was I that desperate for attention that I was willing to stand there for so long, and now I’m whining about it?

As I said to my wife afterwards: “I dunno, I just want a Coke for it all.”

Which I guess is why I have my Kofi Page.

So in a fit of depression, I walked into the Expo session and bought Dreams of Tomorrow


Soooooo pretty.

I didn’t get a demo, but I got to hear a bit of the pitch and see two people playing it.  And it’s got a solo option.  And I read one review.

Not the kind of research I usually do before buying a game, but I was grumpy at this point.

It’s a roundel game.  But instead of a circle, it’s a set of 4 cards with a top and bottom that can be flipped and swapped around by player actions.  I’ve only played 2 solo games of it, and have been pretty underwhelmed by it, but that was against the Easy and Medium bots, so there might be more to it with the Hard bought or in Nightmare mode.  Which introduces a horse meeple.

The NightMare.

That’s almost worth the sale right there.

After the purchase, I walked back to the open playing area looking for a place to play my new game.


I couldn’t find a place to park my little butt.  At this point, it was nearing dinner time, and if spaces didn’t have people in them, they had half eaten dinners.  Was that people claiming territory?  Was it just the dinners of the gamers sitting a few seats over?  I have no idea.  Either way, I wasn’t going to try and get near anyone’s half eaten Chinese food to put my brand new game.


But wouldn’t you know it, in the First Look section, a gentleman was sitting at Pax Transhumanity and the rules were being taught to him by one of the Pax Unplugged staff!  Awesome!  “Mind if I play, too?”

BOOM!  I GET TO PLAY A GAME!  After Chiseled, this would be my second played game in about, what, 10 hours of con?

I told her to just continue the rules explanation, sitting quietly, not wanting to be “That guy” and muscle in and take over or mansplain or anything.  But then…

“So the barrier cost for the Research action is the number of uncovered barriers, but if there’s another players cube on the idea, then the cost is doubled.”


“Um, that’s actually not true.”

Shit.  I just “Well, actuallyed.”  I resisted the urge to run, to scream, to pee myself (I may have a little), I probably blushed a whole lot.  I did manage to feel really, really awful.

“Oh?  You know how to play?”

“Ye…It’s just, it’s not the other player’s cube, it’s whether it’s subsidized work or not.”

I start sinking into the chair, like the scene in Get Out, the convention going miles away.  She hates me.  This guy is probably rolling his eyes: “Great, I’ve got a know-it-all showing up in the middle of this thing.”  I feel like I’m going to throw up.  I sit on my hands so I don’t slap myself in the face.

“Go ahead, I’m sorry for interrupting.”

She’s looking down at the play aid.  “No, you’re right.  You’ve played this before?”

*mumbles* “A few dozen times.”

“Do you want to explain it?”

Oh crap.  What does she mean?  Does she honestly want me to explain it?  Or does she want me to just shut my hole?  I am totally stepping on her toes here, it’s her job to teach this game, and who the hell am I (I didn’t even make it into the rulebook)?

“NO! No, I just, thought I was helping.  Go ahead.”

“It would make me feel more comfortable if you did it.”

Okay, those are the words I needed to hear.  I guess after seeing me successfully teach Bios, and struggling a bit with this, passing the reigns didn’t feel like a “loss” or anything.  She left after the first minute or so of my explanation, so my anxiety did ping a bit, but I also just figured she had a billion other games to teach, so there you go.

Either way I got to play a fun 2 player game (It didn’t seem bad as I was able to actually sit and play this time).  And hey, if you were that gentleman, post in the notes, because I wrote your BGG screen name down wrong.  I’d love to get in a VASSAL game with you!

And that ends day 1.  The expo was closed, I was out of granola bars.  I would have had to eat a real dinner (and after spending $5.25 on a 20oz bottle of soda, I didn’t want to spend more money on food) and it was something like 7pm, so I decided to call it a day.  I had all day Saturday, and I needed to let my legs heal a bit.  Peace out, Philly.

Saturday started with me going shoe shopping.

No joke.  New Sketchers and then back to the train.  I had a new plan this time.  I brought a few more games, and I planned to stake out a space in the open play area and set up a “Looking for Players” flag and just have at.

I did another quick sweep of the expo to see if I could see anything that I missed before, but again the crowds were pretty huge, so I didn’t see anything I couldn’t see before.  I was able to take a few pictures of the new Gloomhaven stuff and send it to my group.  I’m looking forward to that, even though we probably have 2+ years of Gloomhaven goodies to play through before we’ll even TOUCH Frosthaven, but it’s nice to know we’ve got that much adventure looking for us.

So then I found a table. *gasp*  Yes I did.  It was early enough in the day that I managed to find a space big enough that I was able to squeeze in.  I wiped all the crumbs off of the area (c’mon people!) and set up Dreams of Tomorrow to play out a solo game.  It’s new and eye-catching.  It could draw in some people whom I’d naturally say “Want to play?”  I also stacked my other games up closely beside me, in case anyone would be interested in those.  Then I played.

Every few moments between turns, I looked up, trying to make eye contact with passers by.


Eventually the folks beside me were growing (no, they weren’t mainlining mayonnaise, they were gaining more people to their group), so I felt I should move my stack of games to give them more room as I could tell one looked a bit squeezed.

I looked around some more.


I checked my phone again and again, the folks I knew that were also at the convention would occasionally update their locations, so maybe they were looking for me.

No updates.  Nothin’.

Okay, so that was that.  Packed it up and gave the group beside me more much needed elbow room (I was at the edge of the table, so I didn’t have to worry about the other side).

At this point, I was a bit hungry and grumpy, so, to hell with it.  Suicide seemed like the only choice.  Suicide by food, that is:


Photo by N. Santos for Visit Philadelphia – Used without permission because I’m a nobody.

If I thought the convention was crowded, Reading Terminal Market was worse, but that’s to be expected.  It’s the Greatest Place In The World(tm) if you like food.  I totally wanted to get something at Keven Parker’s Soul Food cafe, but I would have been waiting for a loooonnngg time, so I went to Hunger Burger instead.

It’s okay, everything is good.


One fantastic burger, mac ‘n’ cheese and vanilla milkshake later, I could return to the convention.

I burped a little just typing that.  MAN it was too much food.

I entered the convention from the RPG side of things to see how things were over there (given my experience from the previous day).  I didn’t dig out my map or anything (I was holding a vanilla shake after all), so I just wandered and found a Fantasy Flight Games RPG room.  I decided to walk in and see what their big banners and such were proclaiming.

“Can I help you?”


I mean, “Hi.”

So a dude approaches me the second I walk in, and as I look around the room, I notice there are no other people walking around.  Oops.  Did I just walk into a private party?  Why is the door open, then?  Why are there big signs like “Ooooo, look at our cool RPGs!  I mean, don’t come in and look at them…but OOOOO”

“So, um, there’s an Android RPG?”

“Yup…it’s based-” and he explained how the game is based off of their other systems but set in the Android universe.  I saw a pile of books and such off in a corner of the room.  Were they for sale?  Could I look through them?  I suppose I could ask the guy, but for some reason I was getting this real “I’m not supposed to be here” vibe.  Like I should have signed up for the RPGs in this room at some previous point, and since I didn’t, “OUTWORLDER” was flashing on my forehead like some neon cowboy from the 60s.  So I slowly back-walked my way out of the room and made for another room.

Ah, here was….Well, I completely forgot what company this was…but it was a boardgame company.  Anyway, I walk in and..

“Can I help you?”


I mean, “Hi.”

Again, I look around and this guy and I are the only ones standing in the room, everyone else is at a table playing one of their boardgames.  At least this time I saw the games for sale with a price list and a cash register, so that was clear, but again, this guy stood right next to me “to answer any questions,” so wandering around to look at things seemed verboten.  Didn’t know I needed an escort, but I guess my vanilla shake looked like it could be spilled at any minute.

I would never spill that thing.  It was too good, but they didn’t know that.  How could they?  I never offered a sip.  So I guess it’s my fault.

So I back walked, again, out of the room.


I had enough of this side of the convention, so I finished my shake, finally let the empty cup fall from my clutches, and walked the 4 or so blocks back to the other end of the convention.

New shoes were doing well.

And look at this, two folks sitting down at Bios: Origins.  Need a third?  Yes?!

I can play!

And teach…which I guess is okay, but no biggie.

Had a blast with these two as we struggled to take over the world together.  They picked up on the strategies pretty quickly and I ended up only winning by one point (those Hobbits are tricky!).

Yay!  A good 2 hours of happy fun playtime!

Not long after that, I was on my way out, and I passed a small group of folks setting up a game called Sabotage:


I LOVE the artwork in these games.

It’s a hidden movement team game of spy versus super-villain and we had a blast.  I was on the spy team and we lost pretty horribly.  Not as horribly as we thought we would, but we were pretty clumsy spies, and there were a few times we found ourselves standing right on top of the villains.  You’ve got to play VERY smart…

We….we were not.

While the game is heavily over-produced, so everything has fancy pieces and looks super-awesome, it’s probably a bit much for what the game is, but after a long day that wasn’t all that great for me, it was a good way to say goodnight to the con.

I’m trying to speed this post up now that we’re nearing the end of December (and the year!) and I haven’t finished it yet.  So I apologize for kind of sprinting through Sunday.

I immediately went to the RPG section and found (with a map this time) the Games on Demand table.  It’s a convayer belt of indie games being run on the hour.  I took a look at the upcoming events, and I saw that Brennan Taylor would be running Bulldogs!, his very own game in a little over 2 hours.  That’s something I could get behind, so I set an alarm on my phone and headed to the main area.

I spent some time surfing the PAXU boards to find out: What am I doing wrong?  Why do I feel like I’m not doing anything and whenever I interact with another human, why is it so damn awkward?  Sure, I got two wonderful games in the previous day…but out of 16 hours, that was 3 hours of success and 13 hours of failure.  Somewhere I read: “If you set up a game and get a looking for players flag, you will succeed.”  So, that’s what I decided.

I didn’t pack nearly as many games (they’re heavy!), but I grabbed Pittsburgh 64 and my new playmat and looked for a table.  I found one since the crowd was a bit smaller on Sunday morning.  I rolled out the beautiful mat, set up the cards, made it look all sorts of pretty, put out the looking for players flag and sat.

And sat.

I managed to find one member of the 1 player guild whom I had been trying to run into the whole freaking con, so that was nice.  Staying put in one location finally made that possible.  Unfortunately he was also on his way to the train, so that was the end of that, but it at least was an interaction.

While sitting and staring, I saw someone sit down a row down and a table or so to the side of me.  Mind you, his hair was a normal color, so I had to look a few times to make sure, but it turned out to be Fred Hicks.

For those unfamiliar, I’m a bit of a Fred Hicks fan boy.  My first foray into “Indie RPGs” was a game called Don’t Rest Your Head:


It’s messed up, but fun.  Like, REALLY fun.  But nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, like the next game I found in the Evil Hat catalog.  This was a big ol’ game called Spirit of the Century.


This was a game that let you play out the pulps of The Shadow, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and just about any 1930s super(ish)-hero you can think of.  And it also introduced me to The Fate System, an RPG system that uses Aspects to drive the story forward like numbers are used to drive most conventional stories.

And it. is. brilliant.

On a lark, I ran it for two friends.  She became a swarthy pilot, he a swarthy explorer.  Before they knew it, she was running for her life as the natives on a lost island were chasing her as a well of souls was opening up and he could answer the ubiquitous: “What do you do now?” with, “I roll into the well of souls.”

Because that’s what heroes do.

She managed to get to the plane JUST in the nick of time (duh) and rescue him as he dangled from the edge of the well holding onto a native’s spear that he had jammed into the earth.

And the kicker was they didn’t care about that.  The real juice was that the whole time she was pissed off that he never noticed that she was flirting with him during the entire episode.  Because that’s what her Aspects made important.  And it was a memorable experience (this was, what, 15 years ago?).

We have since used the Fate system for (nearly) ALL of our RPGs.  Our last game was Seven Seas, using Fate.  Before that, Call of Cthulhu, using Fate.  Before that The Dresden Files…which uses Fate right out of the tin.  You get the idea.  It just works for our group and has given us hours and hours of entertainment.

And much of it was thanks to Fred Hicks, the guy sitting a few tables down from me.

I had been sitting alone at a table for a half hour.  I was tired and grumpy, so I decided to go against the screaming voice in my head and go say something.

So I approached and merely thanked him for all the work he’s done (he is also amazingly transparent with his business practices, promotes diversity in gaming, and does his best to just not be a douche in any of his life decisions, so kudos for that) and thanked him for the last decade and a half of gaming that he brought me and my group.

Then I sheepishly returned to my table and wondered if he was now starting to text his friends for help: “I’ve got a stalker!  SAVE ME!”

I don’t know if he did.  I don’t know if I was that weird guy.  I probably was.  But I was bored.  I was depressed, and one of the things that helps me is the games this guy makes, so I wanted to thank him.

After one hour and twenty-three minutes of not a single person approaching me, my very pretty playmat, my Looking for Players flag or anything, I decided that the advice given was not 100% true and packed everything up.


Ironically, I ran into a member of that very same gaming group in the expo hall soon after.  He had been at the con the whole weekend and I only just then ran into him.  Yeah.  It’s a big place.

I checked my phone.  It was still about an hour until my Bulldogs! game, but I figured with the long walk to the RPG section, I should start meandering my way there anyway so I don’t miss it.  Which would totally be my luck at this point.

When I arrived, they were just finishing up the announcements for the games just starting, and there were two that were still looking for a player or two to fill the game up.  So that was a dilemma:  Wait an hour and play a game I’m interested in with the game designer (and good guy, from what little I know about him), or get in a game right now because, hey, right now?

Oh, what the hell.  Let’s do one right now.  There were two games, I don’t remember the other one, but I chose Nobilis, a game where you play god-like beings.  Neato.

So, the conceit of the game was certainly interesting.  We ended up playing ourselves…if we were given god-like powers.  I was a god of Loyalty.  Huh.  Not sure how that would have changed my life, but it was fun to think about.  We were charged with a simple scavenger hunt by our boss.  We were to “jump into” the other games that were being played at that time, and collect things to bring back to the big god ball thing that was being held later.

I’m hazy on the details.  It sounded cooler than that.

So the GM walked around to find all the games that were being played in the room, so we knew what game worlds we could jump into, and then made a list of things for us to collect, things like:

  • a cursed item
  • a foolish plan, brilliantly executed
  • a scoundrel’s lucky item
  • A bad idea
  • etc

There were some really cool things he came up with, but I can’t remember them now.

So I’ll sum up the weirdest part:

We jump into Scum & Villainy (Star Wars with the serial number filed off).  We get the foolish plan, brilliantly executed.  We turn it into a Story so that we can “keep” it and bring it to the party.  To keep the “story” going, we make a sequel to the story to get another item we were searching for.  The sequel has all the standard things you would get in a (Disney with the serial number filed off) sequel.  THEN we made it an ACTUAL movie with a movie set and everything, where one of us was an intern working on the set.

Having god-like powers is fun.

So we took a reality, made it a fiction, made it into a meta-fiction….

Then we went to the past to ANOTHER movie to find “An Alchemical mixture gone wrong,” to get the Flubber (from the Robin Williams movie, two of our players were only 16 and didn’t know the original) that was originally made for the movie but proved too dangerous, which is why they used that awful computer animation.

While they did that, I used my Anchor to Anchor Robin Williams to me so that he would still be around when we would return to the present.  That was important to me.  No one else cared, but from one guy with depression to another, if I could go back and convince him to stay around, I would in a heartbeat.

Anyway, to sum up, Inception had NOTHING on the story we ended up playing.  It was a lot of fun.

Sunday finished with me playing a game of Its a Wonderful World with two folks:


This is a nice game blending tableau building and card drafting that plays quickly but still makes you think, and sometimes think hard.  One player picked up on the strategy a bit quicker than the rest of us, and she ran away with the game, but it was still a fun game, and one that I now own because of it.

And there you have it.  My incredibly wordy con experience.  It only took me 3 weeks to write!

Next year, I think I’ll just go on a Sunday, sign up for an RPG, hit the expo hall afterwards and then try to get in a game.  A plan of attack is needed to properly experience the convention, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  Clearly my own social awkwardness contributes to a lot of it.


But we’ll see what next year brings.  I can’t stop going to a con that’s only a quick train ride away due to my own failings.  So we’ll just keep chugging along.

For those of you who read through all this…congratulations!  I won’t beg for money or anything, because you’ve earned a respite.

I’ll get back to the fun stuff next year.

Which is tomorrow.


And Roll Credits


And there we have it.  No Post-Production for me.

I made it to Reel 4, but couldn’t survive the onslaught of fish-faced-folk.  Not getting the other Sanctuary on the table certainly hurt, though the Weird Medallion we stumbled upon caused much, much mayhem.

But it was all for naught.

So, sure, we can call that a “Loss” in the terms of a solitaire game.


We can call that a surprise ending for an American horror movie.  I mean, sure, in Europe and Asia horror movies have the bad guys winning all the freaking time, but America?  Never!

But Innsmouth 32 is a different kind of film.  It’s one that’s made on your table, with your friends and your dice.  Will it be a good one?  A bad one?

Who knows?  But it will certainly be a fun one.  If you’re interested in the game, as of this writing the kickstarter is still ongoing and you can pick it up there.

Reel them in!


Let’s all go to the lobby…let’s all go to the lobby…

Ah, forget it, we still have three reels to go, and this one is the longest in the game.  Hope you have a large popcorn and similarly sized bladder.

Oooo, the Gangster comes back right out of the gate.  They’ve turned him!

But worse than that, it looks like two of the characters have wandered out into the marshes (not the Marshes) and might get lost!  The Dice tell me it’s the Book Worm and the Art Student.  I wonder what they expect to find out there?  I hope it’s some answers because the doctor is feeling awfully lonely right now.

That Plot Device gets replaced with a Power Play card:

Ah, so you’re THAT kind of professor.  Insanity hasn’t been a problem yet, but it’s good to know I’ve got two shots against it.  And that card is replaced with a Strange Dagger, a Speed or Guts test to do +2 damage and it also brings along 6 Mythos Points, and if they’re used in a banishment, you get -2 to the Monster Save.  Preettyy Niiice.

I’m going to speed things up a bit since the mechanics are pretty well documented by this point, but I’m going to forego an Action phase and Spotlight our Theology Professor as he does a Take and Attack on the High Priestest in the 13 Strength Throng.  This will force a Take and Attack (sadly at 13 Strength again) and avoid 2 attacks.  It will also put a strong item in the Professor’s hands and he’s got a 7 Guts, so hits are likely.  It’s a risk, but I’ve got to put some of these creatures down…

But before we speed things up:


Whenever the screen shows 3 monsters, it’s called a Creature Feature (in Pittsburgh 68, it was called a Three-Card Zombie, which is a funnier name, but not as universal).  Whenever that happens on a player’s turn, the three monsters immediately attack!  If it happens on the BitJ’s turn, it immediately adds one monster to a Throng.  Multiple Creature Features can trigger in a row on the Director’s turn.  It can get brutal.  Looks like a 7, 5, 4 attack.


The 5 hits for 1 damage, and I soak it with a spoint.

The Movie continues…the girls stumble around the marsh….COMPLETELY lost. (Boxcars!)  While the Theology Professor puts the High Priestess out of commission, he doesn’t manage to hold back the tides (ahem) and the BitJ’s forces fill so quickly he establishes a 4th Throng!  But the man can dodge attacks like nobody’s business.


Reel 2 passes and…

The girls finally flee the marsh, but the Bookworm is slain the moment she escapes!  Several other characters appear and disappear in a chain of death leaving only two left on the screen: The Art Student and The Professor of Languages who is wielding a Broken Oar.

Highlights include: A Gun Moll appearing, grabbing a Tommy Gun and taking down an entire Throng with one shot!  And then experience the opposite kind of luck and bombing on a Flail check in the next turn.

The Aged Scholar filling up on Mythos Points only to have the Defense Points of the Sanctuary fail and he’s killed in the Strange Temple (that is still there with 4 Mythos Points).

There is only ONE card left in the Survivor deck, meaning the best I can do right now is a one-star movie.  I should have drawn more Survivors earlier…getting that Lost in the Marshes card at the beginning of Reel 2 really put me in a binding and I probably should have handled that differently.

The BitJ is handling just fine.  No weirdness and I’ve been trying to exploit it the best I can.

Reel 3 is only 15 cards, and Reel 4 is 10, but the deck is now packed with Familiar Faces.  There’s also another Sanctuary, so that might help.  It’s not looking good, and my movie may not make it to Post-Production.

Luckily, it plays so quickly, I can easily play again!

Roll ’em!



It Stinks!


No, not the game.

That’s what I get for trying to put more obscure references in here.

ANYWAY.  Back to our game.

I’m going to take a chance and introduce a new character with a Spotlight action.


Ah, the Shop Clerk.  Not good for stats, but at least he has 3 Spoints on him (and he’ll draw fire from other, better characters).  I guess while poking her nose around, The Book Worm found a local willing to help our heroes escape the town!

Now our Clerk has an action.  I could have him take a weapon, but I’d rather give one of them to a more useful character.  I could have him do a search action and dig through the discards (which also includes all the unused cards) and see if I can find a useful card in there.

Nah, let’s just have him Rest and get 2 more Spoints.  Let’s see if he can soak the upcoming attack.  That brings him to 5.  All characters can have 7 Rest Spoints max, so that works out fine.

And back to the BitJ (am I the only one pronouncing this like a naughty word?).  Like I said in the earlier post, it’ll do a Take and Attack, grabbing the only remaining monster and making his Throngs nice and strong.  So Our Four Fish-Faced Locals join some Deep Ones for a Total Strength of 10 and they attack our Shop Clerk for squealing to the Book Worm.

And we roll a 4 for their attack.  That’s a hit.  But what’s this?  I rolled 4 the hard way – 2 and 2.  That’s a special attack!

(Larry Wickman LOVES craps as you’ll see in all of his rules sets)

Any time you roll a number “the Hard Way” it boosts the attack, so a double ‘2’?  That gives +2 to the damage of the attack.  So 1d6 + 2 later, we get an 8 damage attack!  Our Shop Clerk must flail!  Okay, technically I could spend all 5 of his spoints and 3 from my Power pile….but that’s a bit much, don’tchathink?

Condiments and pickled pigs feet go flying off the shelves as the locals start busting up the place trying to get to the Clerk.  Run! Run for your life!

The Clerk’s speed is 6, but I’ll spend 2 of the Spoints I earned next turn to boost that to 8 to make my odds jump to the 77% range or so.  Yeah, still very conservative, but these attacks won’t stop in the first Reel, and we’ve got longer Reels to deal with.

Double 5’s!  That’s a miss and our Shop Clerk gets lost under a flurry of claws and fists!  That’s what you get for squealing!  The Clerk gets put into the discard pile because he may come back as “A Familiar Face,” turned against us at a dramatic moment.

*sniff* We hardly knew ye.

The BitJ replaces the 4 with….

Another weapon!  Good news for us!  Bad news for the BitJ.  However, the Fade Out token triggers, and the Pocket Pistol is discarded to be replaced with Popcorn.

You heard me.



Hmmm…this is a card I have not built into the BitJ yet.  Let’s go with: Take the first Familiar Face you find and add it to the Reel.  If no Familiar Faces in the discard, then take the first Monster you find.

So our Clerk is going to come back SOON.  What a surprise it’ll be for the Book Worm.  Maybe the information he gave was all a ruse! Dun dun DUNNNNN!!!!

The Popcorn is removed from the game (it does not go into the discard pile), so we have to add a card to the screen still- Elders of the Abyss.  7 Strength and if I do an All Out Attack, they will Attack from the Screen.


So I’m back to that same question: Spotlight a character, or have both the Gangster and Book Worm go?

Let’s buy ourselves some time.  There’s only 5 cards left in the Reel, and maybe if we thin out the Throngs a bit, we can forstall a big attack.  So let’s just do a regular Action phase.

So we’ll have our Gangster just take the Cargo Hook.  It works with Guts, which the Gangster has an ‘8’ in, and gives +2 damage.  Not bad.

I’ll also have the Book Worm burn 2 Mythos points to Banish the 2 Value card out of the 3rd Throng.  I know 2 isn’t a big deal, but that will make the throng value 6, which will make the BitJ do a take and attack on its turn, saving me from 3 attacks and only giving me one big attack.

The 2 Doubtful Shapes get a saving’s throw, but must roll Snake Eyes (Watch Out for Snakes!), but crap out and go into the discard pile.  The Book Worm only has 1 Mythos Point left, but there’s always a chance she can get more.  Before my turn ends we replace a card on the screen where the Hook used to be and….it’s a Plot Device:


Hmmm, I can choose to use it to wipe out a monster, but then it’s out of the game, or I can wait to use it in a later Reel where I could wipe out multiple monsters.  As much as I’d like a chance to kill a 6 or 7 strength creature, I’m going to discard this and move on.


The blur is for dramatic tension.

Oh no!  Let’s see who gets snagged- The Gangster!  Of course, the guy with the Cargo Hook.  Dangit!  Only 3 points ’till it’s gone, at least.  But it’s still a waste of an action to free him.

And yet another card is revealed

3 Vile Villagers.  Okay, that I can handle.  What a way to spice up the end of the Reel.  Well, there’s still 2 cards there, and one of them is the turned Store Clerk.  *sigh*


So we’re back to the Brain that grabs the Elders of the Abyss to make a strength 13 Throng…

But wait, what’s the point of going over 12?

There is no point, in fact 12 is an auto-fail, so going over 11 is unnecessary, but it’s a brain in a jar.  Perhaps when the Mi-Go was transporting it a few bits of strategy were forgotten.  Cut it some slack.

Anyway, it attacks our Book Worm as she’s the only remaining Survivor on screen.

It does not roll boxcars, so it does damage, and that damage is- 4.

She only has 1 spoint herself.  I could buy it all off, but with a Speed of 6, I could buy that up to 9 and save myself a spoint….or even up to 8?  Of course, that worked so well with the Store Clerk.

Ah well, Odds ‘n’ Gods, baby.

I’ll spend her 1 spoint and one of my Power Spoints to give myself an 8 or less to flail.

And I roll 8 the hard way!  Sadly there’s no hard way bonus in a flail test, but it feels good!  We refill the screen, and there’s the Shop Clerk.  Familiar Faces use their Muscle score as their Strength, so he counts as a ‘6’.

Oh, and he puts the Fade Out token on the Broken Oar, too.  Dangit.

So it’s back to me, and I need to rescue the Gangster.  That’s going to involve another Spotlight action.  Let’s see who is going to shine as the great rescuer?


Ah, the Art Student.  Jinkies!  She’s got a Guts of 7, so a good chance to set the Gangster free.  I could use some of her spoints to help, but I’ll go with my, ahem, Gut and stick with seven.

And I roll exactly 7.

However, I only roll 2 for damage, so the Gangster is still imprisoned.  Uh oh, they’ve been spotted!

And now it’s time for an All Out Attack from the BitJ.  The Brain goes from highest to lowest strength, attacking down the length of priority, never fixating on a character.  So it will be:

Strength 13 vs. the Gangster (for having a weapon)

Strength 10 vs. the Book Worm (for having Mythos points)

Strength 7 vs. the Art Student (for being what’s left)


4 the hard way against the Gangster, plus 6 on damage is 8 damage, so he’s flailing.  2 spoints later he escapes certain doom.

The Book Worm makes an easy escape from her attacker (I risked no spoints on her roll of 6- and made it!)

And I lucked out by rolling 11 on the Art Student’s attack.

But the Broken Oar fades out at the end of the turn and…


We find a Strange Temple.  This gets moved to the side and 12 Mythos Points and 12 Defense points are put on it.  I can send characters here to Investigate and get some mad points, items and it prevents them from being attacked.  Of course, the BitJ can attack the Sanctuary and blow it up, but I hope to do some more damage before that.

No card is replaced as the Reel deck is empty.  We have to remove the Shop Clerk to move on to Reel 2, so I’ll do a Regular Action, hoping one of those will be putting an end to that poor kid.  Oh, there’s a 3 Strength card there, too.  Can’t forget those.

So let’s start with the Art Student doing another Guts action to rescue the Gangster.  Another roll of 7 is successful, and with only 1 point left on the card, Taken is discarded and he is freed!

So I’ll have him use the Cargo Hook on the Shop Clerk.


I hit, but only do 5 damage, so I should have spent spoints on damage.  Dumb me.  And I’ll move the Book Worm to the Strange Temple for obvious reasons.

Another All Out Attack from the Brain.  Now, though the targets are different:

13 vs. the Sanctuary

10 vs. the Gangster

7 vs. the Art Student

5 hits get taken off the Temple.  I soak 2 damage to the Gangster from my spoint pile and the Art Student is missed again.  Not bad at all.

Only 2 cards on the screen, let’s finish this thing.

Gangster swings at the Clerk.  Hits and kills.

The Book Worm Investigates in the Temple to gain 1d6 Mythos Points.  And the Art Student is doing a base Muscle attack on the Three Vile Villagers.  Hey, it could happen.

A nine won’t do it.

Back to the Brain and….


the Gangster goes down!  I took a risk on a 7 flail test and rolled a 9!  The folks don’t take kindly to murdering their Shop Clerks, it seems.  The Temple is holding up nicely with 5 defense points left.

We are a little low on Muscle, so let’s see if we can spotlight a savior that will end this Reel for us.


The Doctor of Theology?  Not what I was planning on, but as his Action I can use the 3 Mythos Points he starts with to Banish those Villagers and end the Reel.  Begone with you!

They miss their Saving Throw and go to the Discard.  One Reel down, 3 to go.

So now we do a little record keeping.  First we give out an Insanity.  This is a chit that goes on someone’s stat and lowers it to 4.  However, the Doctor can heal one of these per Reel, so I’ll just auto-heal it and we’ll just move on.  Don’t worry, more Insanity will come out later.

Then we shuffle the discards and deal out the next Reel.

Oh, and this Reel is 20 cards deep.  It’s the Rising Action.  I have 7 cards left in the Survivor deck.  I need to bring 2 more of them into the game and then stay put in order to get the best win condition.  Of course, if all of those die, then I start dipping into the pool and my score drops.

Of course, I can draw extra before that happens to keep my alive Survivors more numerous in exchange for the “perfect” score, but we’ll see how that all pans out.  I have no weapons and if it wasn’t for the Book Worm soaking up Mythos Points, things would be looking pretty bleak.


It came from the…


Cell phone!

One new wire and we can continue.

Was the suspense worth it?  Let’s not worry about it, let’s get started.


Boy, if this is the quality of my pictures, then it was TOTALLY worth the wait, huh?


Before we dive into Innsmouth, let’s take a look in Pittsburgh to show where we’ve come from.  Pittsburgh ’68 was the first game in the series, and featured some punk rock art work for its cards:

It wasn’t pretty, per se, but it fit the genre and was totally fine for a small game company’s first foray into card games (Gamewick also produces an excellent RPG called “WEGS – the Wickedly Errant Game System).

But, um, Innsmouth has a biiiittttt of an upgrade with the art, in my humble opinion.



Our B-movie just got a big budget.  We’ve been Sharknado’d.

But anyway, let’s get on with our playthrough.  I’ll pull out my Brain in the Jar (which we’ll just call my BitJ from now on), which, sadly, just looks like this:


Clearly I’m the son of a pharmacist.

And let’s start our Movie.

We start with our Pre-credits sequence.  We get 7 “Spoints,” which stand for Survivor Points.  These are also our Power Points which can be used on ANY of our Survivors.  However, these 7 are all we get for the WHOLE MOVIE.  So they have to be used sparingly.  And then we deal out our survivor the camera first falls on:


Ah ha.  So a group of Gangsters hijack a bus of Miskatonic University students and Professors who were on their way to Dunwich.  They take them to the nearest port so they can evade the cops, and now they are in Dunwich.  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

We now shuffle up the deck and deal 3 cards to the screen to start our Movie.


Oh no!  It looks like the Gangster drove him right into the middle of a Ritual where a High Priestess and some Deep ones are praying to something off in the distance.  Not a good start for the Gangster.  Per the Opening Scene rules, any monsters that appear in the first 3 screen cards are taken by The BitJ and become the first cards in the first three Throngs (piles of monsters) it will use to harass and kill my Survivors.

Now the credits roll as the camera gives us a nice dolly shot of the creepiness of Innsmouth as our heroes escape from the bus as the fish people look on.  We deal out 10 cards from the deck to be our first “Reel” of the four Reels of the game and then place 3 back onto the screen.20190717_093046

And now it’s my turn.  I have 2 options, either a Spotlight Action, or Regular Actions.  A Spotlight Action is a significant action that only uses 1 Survivor, while Regular Actions are what you can do with all of the Survivors in front of you.

Of course, with only the Gangster in front of me right now, a Spotlight Action is pretty much a given, however, here are my options:

Take + Attack.  The Gangster can pull out that Pocket Pistol.  That allows him to “Test” whatever trait is lit up there (Speed in this case).  The Gangster’s Speed is 7.  So if the Gangster can roll 7 or less on 2d6, he would hit whatever monster he decided to shoot (You decide before you roll, of course).  Then he deals damage, which is 1d6 +3.  If you do the value of the monster or more damage, boom, no more monster.

That wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Now, technically the move is “Take + Act” which means he could take the gun and do any of the actions from the Regular Actions list….but why would you grab a gun and then rest?  C’mon!  Start shooting already!

The other option with the Spotlight is to throw that Spotlight onto a NEW character!  You get to draw a new Character, give that character 3 “Rest Spoints” (Points that can only be used on that character) and then that character gets to act.

So, in order to actually win, I need to bring in more characters, so I’ll Spotlight a new one and draw The Bookworm.  She has 6 Muscle, 6 Speed, 7 Brains and 5 Guts, but she also has 2 Mythos Points.

Mythos Points are a new addition for Innsmouth.  You can spend Mythos points to “Banish” monsters.  You spend as many as the value of the monster and the monster has to make a “Savings Throw.”  That is against its own value on 2d6.  If it fails, it’s discarded.  It’s possible to amass quite a few Mythos points, so that’s a nice way to clear out some big creatures so her head start of 2 points is nice and her other stats aren’t bad either.  I’m not going to use her action to grab the gun as I want that there for the Gangster, so I’ll have her do some Investigating.

So we focus in on a student as she rummages through a house, trying to figure out what on earth was going on down by the ocean.  I have to Test Brains, and since her Brains are 7, I think that’s a fair roll, so I don’t spend any Spoints on it (each point raises the stat by 1).  I roll 7 exactly.  That gets her Reel# in Mythos points, so it’s only 1 so far, but it’s a step in the right direction.

But now, it’s the BitJ’s turn.

So we look at the throngs of the BitJ.  If there are 3 throngs of strength 7+, then it would do an All Out Attack, but since this is not the case (it currently has strength 7, 6, 2), it does it’s own Take and Attack action.  It will take the highest value monster and add it to its lowest value throng.  So it draws the Deep Ones and adds it to the Two Doubtful Shapes to make that a value 8 Throng.  It can then attack a Survivor using a simple priority list:

– In Sanctuary with Most Mythos Points (then lowest defense)

  • Survivor with Item that gives biggest damage bonus (2d6 damage is considered greatest).
  • Survivor with most Spoints
  • Survivor with highest Muscle.
  • Survivor with highest Mythos
  • Random, but did you really make it this far?

So it attacks our Book Worm since she has 3 Spoints and it wants to drain those from her.  So it has to roll 8 or less in order to hit her.  Let’s roll those bones!  A 6 will do it.  Everything does 1d6 base damage, so she gets hit for…2 damage.

So now I have a decision to make, I can either have her soak the damage.  To soak you simply spend spoints on a 1 for 1 basis until the damage is gone.  2 spoints gone, and she’s safe.  OR I can do a “Flail Test.”  Roll Speed or less and she survives.  A six isn’t too difficult to make, but you’re still taking a risk.  I think I’ll spend 2 of the 3 she started with and let her survive for another turn.

Now we replace the screen card that used to house our Deep Ones.  It is replaced by a Broken Oar: a Weapon that can use Muscle or Speed and delivers +2 damage.  Nice!

However, at the end of the BitJ’s turn, he gets to use the “Fade Out” token.  This token is placed on the weapon that provides the largest bonus.  If it is still there at the end of the Director’s next turn, the card is discarded.  So the Pocket Pistol may fade away.  Chekov’s gun, this is not.

And that’s it, one complete turn around the table.

It ain’t Shakespeare, it’s dice chucking fun.

But I still have to choose: Do I start shooting?  Do I focus on strengthening my party?  I know the BitJ will do a Take and Attack next turn with a strength 10 throng.  After that, it’ll be an All Out Attack with 10, 8 and 7.  Bing, bang, boom.  That will hurt.  Of course, you can’t have a horror movie without people getting killed, and I need to drain, what, 8 people from the Survivor deck to get a 5 star success?

So it’s not completely brainless.



Watch Out for Snakes!


Snake-eyes, that is.  This is a gaming blog, after all

PS – Those who get the subject reference are my kind of people.

So I know this blog seems to cater to deeper games.  Sure, the Two Hour Wargames line is fairly light, but it brings with it high overhead in story creation to link it all together.  In fairness, I’m pretty sure people come here to read about complicated games so they can understand how they work and feel confident when they try them out themselves.

But you know what?  Sometimes I just want some popcorn, beer, and a bad, bad movie.

Luckily there is an entire series of games that simulate the experience of bad, bad movies:


Shuffling Horror.  Get it?

I said BAD movie, didn’t I?

I’ve got Pittsburgh ’68, mainly because I did the bulk of my growing up in Butler, Pennsylvania, where “Night of the Living Dead” was (ahem) shot.  I used to drive past the graveyard in the opening scene (“They’re coming for you Barbara!”) at least once a week.

Alien invasion movies are also fantastic, so Roswell 51 strikes my fancy, too.  Especially because the board is so pretty.  And we can’t forget this great film:

So when I heard that the third game in the series was hitting kickstarter, I was thrilled to hear it.  And, well, the kickstarter is dropping in about one hour as I type this!

And what type of movie will we be playing?  Why a tentacled filled horror, of course.

Join me as we play:



Some of you may have noticed a “problem.”

3-13 players?  I thought you played most things solitaire, you friendless loser!

Well, first, playing solitaire has nothing to do with how many friends I have, so take your preconceptions and blow them out your patoot.  And second, this is going to be a different kind of playthrough.

This is going to be watching me playtest my solitaire system for the game, which I am delightfully calling the “Brain in the Jar.”  This rule set should be able to be used for any of the Shuffling Horror games and should even make the game playable with 2 by using the win conditions I’ve created.

Neato, huh?

Of course, we have to find out if they work.

And if they’re fun.

And playable.

And understandable by anyone other than myself.

And able to be conveyed clearly and concisely (I’d love for all the rules to be able to be stuck on a single card).

And thematic.

So it’s not without stress, which does take some of the fun out of playing.  But on the good side is I’ve gotten about 7 playtests and I’m still enjoying myself, so if nothing else, that’s a positive for the base game, if not my solo rules.

The solo player’s goal?  Create a 5-star movie.

You do this by finishing your film with 5 survivors left in the survivor deck.


If you end up with 6, your B movie falls out of the “So bad it’s good” category, and just fall into the “Bad”.  Less than 5, and you just get different levels of bad.  Going from Plan 9, down to Hobgoblins, to Manos: The Hands of Fate, to Octaman and finally Rollergator (the only Rifftrax I couldn’t finish).

Of course, your movie may not finish if all your survivors are killed by the oncoming hoard, too.

So far, of my last 4 playtests, I’ve had 2 total kills, 1 one-star movie, and 1 7-star failure.

I would start today, but apparently the wire I brought in that can transfer the pictures off of my phone is completely kaput, so you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, though, pop up some popcorn and grab that VHS of “Samson vs. The Vampire Women” and make a night of it.


What a headache.


I am back from Dexcon (a gaming convention in Morristown, NJ), where I happily ran High Frontier and Expedition Zetta.  I also spent much of the convention on my back enjoying a migraine.


Anyway, I’ve been wracking my brain about what to run next on here, as my choices are limited by what I can do on Vassal, or what I can get set up at home and take adequate pictures of to make a compelling narrative.  Sadly it’s much easier to play Vassal here at work as I can squeeze in a few hundred words during any downtime I have, rather than trying to get an hour of play during the moments when I’m home doing homey things.  And then I’d rather just play, rather than document.

And darnit, I’m still bummed that Steam got blocked by our firewall here.  Tabletop Simulator was an easy way for me to port in a ton of games for you guys.  I guess it was a security concern.  *shrug*

Anyway, while monkeying around, I noticed all of the pictures in my old High Frontier posts were broken, so I’m taking the time now to fix them (and also fix spelling/grammar errors as I find them).  Sorry to anyone who went back to read that and were confused without any references to guide them.

So that’s what I’m doing now: improving past posts.  Who knows what new stuff I’ll do in the future, but I’m just putting this up there to say that I’m still thinking about it.

Shhhh…I’m listening to reason



So as I’m typing this I’m into day 6 of a hell of an ear infection.  Yeah, you know those things toddlers get?  Well, this bad boy crawled up and grew on my ear drum and made it go concave and made me feel like someone was jabbing an icepick into my head.  Now it’s just like I’m in an airplane and have had to pop my ear.  For six days.

Let’s just say I’m a little miserable.

So I might not be as chipper for the rest of this game, and excuse me if I’m a bit short on details as my patience is waaayyyy down.  I hope by the time you read this it will have cleared up (yes I’m on some meds and I’m going to an ENT if those don’t work), but for now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Which is the elephant.

Pax EmancipationMap

We’ve been doing some damage here and there.  Well, we’ve been STOPPING damage here and there, which is usually not what one does in most games, which is nice.  Anyway, we ended the last post not in control of the elephant, so we have our fingers crossed that it won’t start too many fires.

And a roll of ‘2’ assures that (mostly).  It skips the modernized Brazil and lands in London where it’ll only roll 1 Hate die and while The Terror and Gabelle Tax Farmers (The what?) are still there, I can handle them and maybe start a Revolution there.  A roll of ‘2’ again, however, results in nothing happening.  Again, no pogroms or Revolutions, so we Refresh the Market and move on over.

All I did for the Missionaries is fundraise since I already have two Syndicated agents who can do some good stuff during that phase, so I got another freeman in the Kongo as well as some anarchy out of the Colonies.  Of course, that meant the Elephant sat in the Kongo and rolled the one number that would created frustrated hate, resulting in anarchy and the Kongolese Revolution starting.  Hrmph.

We also played the last Western Idea into the Market, meaning we’re about half way through the game.  Let’s check the scores!

Red Agents on the board: 4

Slavers: 6


Freemen on the Board: 7

Needed: 15

Still doable.  Just need to keep my eye on the prize here.

CaptureThis one will be a little tough as I don’t have those symbols available in the splay so I’ll have to find a Lawsuit action to get it in there, and the cheapest one of those is cost ‘4’ right now, which is a bit too pricey at the moment.  While I won’t gain much for completing that Revolution, it will keep me from LOSING my current gains if it fails.

A few turns pass and we drop a few more Freemen, get our money back, and fill up Revolutionaries on the Colonies, eventually finishing up that card.  That gave us another sunk slaver, more freemen, and another symbol pair into the splay.  Unfortunately it’s candle/candle which doesn’t help us at the moment, but it could down the line.  Oh, I also took down the KKK because eff those guys.

Turns pass and Red is able to spend 3 to get a Lawsuit action and get a comet/feather into the Bill of Rights, getting a manifesto written and free fundraiser as a bonus.

The Revolution soon passes while Korea gets pretty uppity.

Now here’s an interesting move.  I’m trying to get the Japanese Sphere cleaned up to get a lot of Freemen down to win with the Missionaries, but I need agents to do anything.  Right now there are 4 barriers, so it’s expensive to drop a Red agent there.  But, this idea is in the Market for 2 gold:


And comet/feather is a symbol pair in the splay, so it is Viable.  That means I can do a Legislate action with it to get the bonus on the left side of the card:  A free agent in Edo.  Bam, 2 gold savings!

I now have about 3 turns left.  Let’s see where we are:

Red Agents: 6

Slavers: 5

Freemen: 11

Needed: 15

Gotta get those Westernize actions and fast.


What the hell?  It’s a new day and I went to load my game and this is what happened and…


Oh no.

*slaps forehead*


Yup.  I frickin’ saved my Bios: Origins 2 game over this one.  Gah!

So here’s another teaching moment, when playing two games at once using Vassal: BE CAREFUL WHAT FILENAME YOU’RE USING.

At least I got through most of the game.  So what didn’t you get to see?  Endgame scoring.

So, when you are unable to fill the market because you’re out of cards from the 2 16 card decks you made at the beginning of the game, that’s when you check to see if you win.  I was pretty close to winning, and unless something went horribly wrong, I could probably have gotten those 4 Freemen down without trouble, so no problem there.  Then you calculate points.

Points are basically every token of your color on the board, plus each token in your “score pile,” which is every barrier, slaver and anarchy you’ve removed from the board.  Disease tokens are a nice 3VP (and pretty necessary to win multiplayer, IMO).

The basic solitaire/co-op win condition is to just pass your basic win conditions by the end of the game.  If you get more than 50 points, that’s a “marginal victory,” 70 is a “get up and dance” victory.  Okay, I may have taken some editorial license on that last one.

In this particular game I doubt I would have reached marginal victory.  I hadn’t done much to get barriers since they weren’t part of my main goal, so that was a lot of points I left on the table.

Other bit, if this was a competitive game, the game wouldn’t be over, oh no, it would get REAL.  The Idea decks would get reshuffled and 5 card decks would be made and you’d continue to play, however no one has to worry about their goals anymore.  Now it’s pure point scoring, because there can be only one winner.

Scoring changes a bit, too.  Sure, you get 1VP for each piece of your color on the board (except for Dissidents, White scores all VPs for Dissidents because Missionaries like martyrs) but factories score more points, equal to the number of merchant ships adjacent to their sphere squared.  I’ve never seen anyone try to get a boat sunk to lower a factory score, but I wouldn’t put it past them!

There’s also bonus points for every Sphere that ends in your own personal political ideology, and here’s where you can score some big catch-up points and where a lot of the push and pull in the co-op phase can happen.  You see, if a Sphere is in your ideology, you score a VP for every token on that Sphere, regardless of the owner.  Double VPs, baby.

So Parliament gets that bonus if the Sphere has ONLY red barriers attached to it.  Missionaries gets it if it has ONLY white barriers attached to it and Philanthropists get it if there are NO barriers attached.

This is where “Corruption” comes into play.  Corruption is a choice in a Revolution resolution as one of the many choices you can make with your agent.  You can choose to have another player (or yourself) put a barrier BACK onto the Sphere, aligning it to your politics.  It’s mean, and dangerous to do in the co-op phase, but totally worth it.  It won’t make you friends, but I did say there was only one winner, didn’t I?

Because of this “co-op until it isn’t” mentality, the game becomes much more cerebral and a hell of a lot of fun, and even if you lose, slavery was still abolished so it’s not like it was all for nothing.

Like playing for a week and then saving the wrong file….


Apropos Tunes

I love the idea of thematic music with my games.  I try, most of the time, to set up a radio or ipad or whatever next to the table and have some music playing in the background.  If I’m feeling scrappy, I look up or some other “ambiance” sites to get something that really embodies the game to get the feel of what I’m doing.

And then I forget about it because once I’m thinking about the game, I barely register that music is playing.

So I’ll be honest that I don’t know why I bother doing it.

But anyway, I happened to be listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” before starting this session, and as I loaded up Vassal and opened WordPress’s editing program “The Trial” began.  The strange warbling “craaazzzyyyy, can’t you seee hee”ss craaazzzyyyy” relating to the subject of slavery certainly hits the mark, as well as the chanting of “Tear down The Wall” at the end to break down the literal Barrier tokens.

It just worked.

Of course, what’s not working is my strategy so far, so let’s get back into it.

(and Prince’s “Purple Rain” album is starting now….so make of that what you will)

We’re back to the Parliament’s turn, and at least we have some cash (4 in Capital and 2 in Debt).  We’re still looking at anarchy in India, so getting a boat out there might not be a bad idea since we can afford it right now.  Of course, we also don’t have ANY agents on ideas, and getting the Revolution viable is important.  That will cost a bit of cash, too.

Pax EmancipationMap

Okay, plan thought up, and it should create some wealth for the future, as you’ll see.  1st, shipbuilding.  3 from Capital to Wealth (and one added to Debt from the pool), and a boat put in the space between India and the East Indies.  I can’t afford to put a Marine on there, but as my free Maritime action, I’ll jump my marine from the Caribbean to the new ship and rescue an anarchy.

I then drop 2 gold to place an Agent on Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood.


The reason to do that is the symbol in the lower right with all the hands in the air (like they don’t care…HAAYYY—OOOO).  Because we’re now in the Ops phase, I will activate that icon, called the Plebiscite action.  It would seem that Gabriel here has made an idea so prevalent, that it gets added to the “splay” of The Will of the People.  This means I can take any card that is under this one and take it and add it to the Will of the People Splay.


Well, one of them is our Revolution, which we can’t use, so we’ll do Habeas Corpus.  I’ll take that and add it to Will of the People with the Candle showing next to the Lock.


This makes every idea with Lock/Candle on them Viable.  Like our Revolution!  This move also creates some bonus actions as well.  First, the Plebiscite action gives you the ability to do a bonus Fundraiser, a bonus Legislate action or a Nationalize action, which isn’t a big thing in solo or co-op games.  I’m going to do a Fundraiser because…well…money!  I’ll take my token off of Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood (I don’t think I’ll need that anymore, and add it to my two agents in Wealth, and then move those three up to Capital.  Oh hey, fundraiser let’s me do a Maritime action, too.  I’m going to grab a barrier off of India.  It has to be a purple one, but it’s one less thing to go wrong there.

ALSO, because I made a Revolution Viable, I am considered to have written a manifesto, so I can add an Agent to those Revolutions (yes, you can do multiple with one action if the Revolutions have the same icon pair) from the pool.  More money!

Which now means I can do an Op from the Revolution.  I’ll just do a Maritime action and free some anarchy off of the Colonies.

Woo!  What a turn!  But now the Elephant can respond, and I didn’t control it, so it will walk (and show up in India on a ‘6’).  So let’s see.  A ‘4’ has it showing up in Hong Kong, which gives it 3 Hate Dice.  There is no cultural diffusion since there is already a card missing from the Market.


5,5,5.  Huh.  The only thing with a 5 on it is Hereditary Serfdom which does not have a frustration outline, so nothing happens.  *phew*  No pogroms happen, so we can jump right to the Revolution phase.

No new Revolutions happen, so we’ll resolve Brazil.  First, it modernizes:


Then the Dissidents will fill any empty black squares in the Sphere.  If those are full, they’ll go to the Sphere with the least amount of barriers and fill squares there.  That sends them to the Colonies.  Nice.  Now going from right to left on the card, we get to Write the new laws for the location.  So the “Red Player” gets an action, then White gets 2, for the agents on the Revolution card.  You can take a slaver off of the Sphere, take an anarchy, take a barrier, place an agent anywhere on the board, put the Revolution into the splay that made it Viable or be corrupt and make other players put barriers back into play (which is fun in competitive games).

Instead I’ll have Red sink the Caribbean slaver, White build its Factory (more on that later) and sink the other slaver.  With that, the Revolution card gets discarded and the face of the world is forever changed.

So with White’s turn I decided to get the Colonies going again, first Fundraising and then plopping an Agent in the Caribbean to use Literacy and create a Dissident.  I didn’t expect anarchy or anything, but at least I’d control the elephant and maybe drop my own anarchy in a turn or two while Parliament worked somewhere else.

And then I rolled ‘6’ on the hate roll, and anarchy happened anyway, so Revolution happened anyway!  The downside to this is I’m not able to get any free agents on it, so it sits there with 3 open spots that need to get filled the hard way.


And no, Guns ‘n’ Roses “Civil War” isn’t playing right now.  I’m over GnR.

Back to the Missionaries and I still feel like I’m broke.  Of course, I should keep in mind I had ZERO gold not too long ago, so 2 in Capital and 1 in Wealth is nothing to sneeze at.

Okay, so let’s use our new-found factory.  I’m going to (for free!) place a new agent into the Kongo.  Normally I wouldn’t be able to due to the sickness marker that is there (the green-yellow disc).  But now that I have a factory, I can totally do an elephant action in that Sphere and cure the malaria there and take the disc as 3 VP at the end of the game.


I guess I’ll use my other action to get a Revolutionary on the Civil War since that’s the cheapest slot.  And for Ops, I’ll Maritime in the East Indies to take a barrier and Westernize in Luanda to get more Freemen down.

Elephant turn and we roll a ‘1’.  Uh oh.  That’s the Revolution card.  It has an arrow on it so it slips into the Eastern column.  If it is pushed off the Market completely, it will count as a failed Revolution which will hurt (you have to put slavers, barriers and the like back onto the board…no one likes that).  Guess I’ll have to turn up the heat there.

Our hate roll kills that new Freeman and sends into the Dissident square.  Nuts.  Ah well.  No pogroms, no Revolutionaries, we refill the Market, are happy to see the card going next to our Revolution will NOT push it if it gets rolled and we get back to our rich Parliamentarians.

Since the Revolution doesn’t have as much of chance of falling off of the Market right now, I’ll focus on longer term play and build a boat.  I also slap a Marine on it to try and bridge the gap between number of Agents and number of Slavers for the eventual endgame scoring.  I spend my free Maritime action to grab the Continental System barrier from Europe and snag an anarchy off of India.

And I know this gives me no Ops, but the free Maritime Ops I think makes up for it, I’m going to fundraise to get three agents in Capital and be able to spend 1 gold and have to roll 1+ to sink the slaver in the Mediterranean.  I also grab the anarchy out of the East Indies.  I think that’s still a pretty effective turn.  Of course, I didn’t control the elephant.  Hmmm.  Guess that’s a calculated risk, if I’m lucky, he’ll land in the colonies or Europe.

But I guess you can wait until tomorrow for that.

Creeping upon its petty pace-