Anniversary Prep – Wife Edition, Vol 2!

Greetings All, 
This is going to be short and sweet because I am sleepy. As some of you may remember, my husband and I have a big anniversary coming up. Five years! We decided to utilize games that we both love to create anniversary gifts for each other. My husband is doing homemade Mice and Mystics campaigns and I am doing homemade characters, rules, and an adventure book based on Above and Below. 
So far I have written my rules, adventure book, and designed my characters. I still have to design my rulebook and adventure book. I have my backgrounds picked out and my laminating paper ordered. I just have to get the umph to finish. 
So there ya go, short and sweet. I’m going to go pass out now. Good night everyone. Thanks for reading and until next time… Live by the board. 
-livingbytheboard 

Industry Interviews – Plaid Hat Games, Colby Dauch interview!

Greetings All,

Today I get to bring an interesting little interview from Plaid Hat Games own Colby Dauch! Did you know that he used to work for Hasboro and Wizard’s of the Coast? Well… now ya do! Keep reading for more info! Enjoy!

plaid

 

1) I understand that before Plaid Hat you did game design for Hasboro and Wizards of the Coast. Did you enjoy your time with said companies and can you please list a memorable game you worked on for each company?
The work I did for Hasbro and Wizards was as a freelance game designer.  I did enjoy it, especially working under the tutelage of the great Craig VanNess.  Heroscape would be the most notable game I worked on. In fact that’s the only work I did at Wizards after having followed the game there from Hasbro.
2) Have you had any employment outside of the gaming industry?
Yes, I worked doing in home service with the mentally impaired, I worked at an after school program for at risk youth and I worked media director for a church.
3) Why did you choose the gaming industry for a career?
There was no point at which I made  firm choice to make a career in the gaming industry.  Rather it was something that evolved over time.  Started doing development work as a hobby, then kind of became a community ambassador and organizer around Heroscape, then picked up some freelance work, then developed a game of my own, started a game company to publish it, then over time Plaid Hat Games great to the point where I was able to quit my day job and do it full-time.
4)You’re often seen sporting a plaid hat. What came first the company name or the hat? (Where did the company name from?)
That hat came first.  It kind of became an identity marker for me in the Heroscape community and a member of that community suggested the name Plaid Hat Games.  I like the quirkiness of it so I ran with it.
5)What was the first game you ever designed and the first game published under the name Plaid Hat?
The first game I ever designed from scratch was called Summoner Quest.  I scrapped it early on because it was a mess.  I followed it up with Summoner Wars, which was the first game I published under Plaid Hat.
6)A few years ago Plaid Hat joined F2Z, how has the company changed since then?
We joined F2Z, that then joined Asmodee, so we had a couple of years there where we were in a state of flux.  Through most of the life of Plaid Hat it has felt like a scrappy little studio just kind of winging it at every turn.  Now Plaid Hat feels more like it has grown and matured and it now has the support of the Asmodee group.  Our decisions feel more thoughtful and our work is more focused as we are now a game design studio rather than a full publishing company.
7)How do you see the gaming industry (as a whole) fairing in the coming years?
Oh man, I wish I had the power to scry that out.  The trend has been up and up year over year for a long time and I have no solid reason to believe that won’t continue.  There are still a whole lot of people out there that don’t know how fun hobby games are.
8)What is your favorite Plaid Hat game and your favorite non Plaid Hat game?
My favorite Plaid Hat game is Dead of Winter.  It never fails to immerse me in an emergent narrative each time I play it.  My favorite non Plaid Hat game has to go to Heroscape.  It will always hold a special place in my heart.  It’s a spectacle on the table and is just good rambunctious fun.
9)Is your family also big into tabletop gaming?
I found games as an adult.  I’ve spread games to some of my family, but I don’t think many of them are engaging in-game play without my initiating it and they don’t exactly have Board Game Geek profiles.
10)Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to be in the gaming industry?
I get this question a fair bit.  I wish I was better at answering it.  The question has only really existed for about a half-dozen years, so I don’t think anyone has a good answer.  There are questions like it surrounding other media: “How do I get into the Book – Comics – Film – Video Game industry?”  The answers professionals of those industries give to those questions are often nebulous and the question of getting into board games is an even tougher one because all of those other industries have the advantage of being larger and having been around for some time.  You can take college courses in them.  
I really need to develop a quippier answer to this question. It wouldn’t be anymore helpful, but it would sound more helpful and you won’t have gotten bored reading it.
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. I want to say thank you to Plaid Hat Games and Mr. Dauch for this chance, it is much appreciated. Keep sharing these things on social media, so I can keep getting interviews! Thank you guys for tuning in! And until next time..  Live by the Board.
-livingbytheboard

Anniversary Prep – Wife edition

Greetings All,

As some of you may know, my husband and I have a big anniversary coming up this year. Five years married! We are not in the best of financial positions right now so our plans have been cut short. We decided to both work on a game that we can modify and add our own twists and stories to. Of course in the end it was easier to pick story based games. My husband chose Mice & Mystics and I chose Above and Below.

I am several weeks behind my husbands post, but I have been wracking my brain on how to possibly compare to his lovely explanation of his Mice & Mystics prep. Solution: I can’t. I’m not nearly as good at hiding my plans for my “expansion”. In fact, my notes have been sitting open on my night stand for weeks and my husband has been a good sport and not looked… I think.

So let’s do this as vague as possible. I am going to include a video and rules for Above and Below so that those of you that haven’t played yet can get a basic understanding of the game.

In the beginning of my prep I was having a really hard time trying to fit my stories into the actual game. Obviously I couldn’t explore the scenarios that I have written because I’ll know what is best to roll and what my outcomes will be. I want my husband to go through all of the scenarios I have written and in one play through at that, however, I do not want him to suffer during game play because I have all options and he is forced to explore every turn. So I decided that instead of fitting them into the actual game that it my scenarios would be an homage to Above and Below, but played separate if the actual game.

After prepping in that style for a month straight, I changed my darn mind again. I have now decided that at the start of the game we will start with one extra bed and one extra character. We will both explore each turn – He will explore my scenarios and I will explore the standard Above and Below scenarios. I am adding an extra bed and character for each of us so that we can still complete other tasks that we would normally skip exploration for.

Here’s a brief spoiler free preview of how I’m doing my scenarios. We have been together for six years, therefore I am doing six scenarios… something real that occurred each year we were together. There will be three outcomes for each – two positive outcomes based on the number(s) rolled and one negative outcome should he fail to roll enough to succeed. There will be characters he can acquire from successful roles and the characters themselves will have new abilities that can be utilized during gameplay.

That said, there are some things I haven’t worked out yet. For example during some explorations you’ll get 3 coins and a rope for successfully rolling. Well, I’m over here trying to figure out how the hell 3 coins and a rope fit into rolling during a vacation scenario. (There is not vacation scenario, but I wasn’t going to use a real one on here.) I’ve figured out how I’m doing reputation, but those freaking items are the bane of creative existence right now. I’m also creating actual character cards to print out and laminate.

So yeah there is my not nearly entertaining enough look at where I’m at in my anniversary prep. Stay tuned to hear more from my husband and I as our anniversary approaches. Thank you for reading and until next time… Live by the board.

-livingbytheboard

Anniversary Prep – Husband edition!

Hi, loyal readers!

The wife and I have a lovely milestone looming on the horizon, our 5th year wedding anniversary!  So, in lieu of hyper frugality *cough-ostensible-poverty-cough* we decided to make our own mini expansions for some of the games we really love.  Since this is something of a new horizon for both of us (her), we also decided to pick games that emphasized narrative elements in their overall gameplay.  With this criteria, I INSTANTLY chose one of my (our) all-time favorites: Mice and Mystics.  This decision was all the easier to make when you bear in mind that my Wife LOOO-OOOVES one of the central characters of the games.  Now, Mice and Mystics is a game that is very heavy on magic and medieval theme, and using a fixed narrative as a the central mechanic of the whole game.  This made my job CAKE.  Now, you may be asking yourself: “Why in the blue hell is this guy spilling all of the beans about an anniversary gift that’ll be displayed for just anyone to read on the internet?” …shutup you digitally disembodied jerkface, we thought of this little caveat.  These posts will serve more as status updates coupled with non-spoilery details.  With all of this in mind, let’s jump right in to my first update.

Conception
I instantly wanted make a story deliberately for my Wife, something that would stay were her a little longer than a more superficial story.  So, I chose to fixate on her favorite character: Filch, the thief.  She absolutely LOVES him!  In fact, lemme give you a little perspective.  Mice and Mystics is published by Plaid Hat Games, and they have a decent online store that hosts several download only chapters of the game.  Incidentally, they also had several plushies available on their website for sale…but they only had two characters, neither of which were Filch.  She weepily laments (loudly, and often during gameplay) his absence to this day.  (Just want to take a moment to see if Plaid Hat Games could find it in their hearts to donate a Colin plush to this blog…I’d be ETERNALLY grateful…begging complete.)  Needless to say, I thought that manipulating her affinity for this character would be easy enough.
I’m presently at the phase of ferreting out the finer details of a scribble bomb that contains all of the broad strokes, and touch points.  I’m content with what I have so far, but I fear that making it “game compatible” will prove difficult.  The “when” and “where.”  “When can I shoehorn this in?”  “If I put this plot point at this particular area, will it make sense?”  What’s more, I wanted to present this story in 3 separate chapters (playthroughs.)  So, I’m wracked with this paralytic indecision on how to space everything out.  Above all, I wanna tell a halfway decent story, but I also want the gameplay to fun. *sigh* I have WAAAY more respect for Jerry Hawthorne after this (hopefully averted) debacle.
Tune in next time to see if I can pull my head out of my bum and actually get the plot done and get on to the meat and potatoes of this process, applied game mechanics…or tune in for my neurotic mental anguish to be on full display…your call, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to spend your time online.
-The Husband
Thanks for checking this out everyone! Tune in next time for my anniversary plans! And until next time… Live by the board. – The Wife
-Living by the board

Mice & Mystics: Heart of Glorm

Greetings All,

Today my husband and I will be reviewing Mice & Mystics: Heart of Glorm, I asked him to co-write again because he LOVES Mice & Mystics, and let’s face it… he has a way with words. I will turn you over to him and then have a mini review of my own. Enjoy!

Mice & Mystics: Heart of Glorm, by Plaid Hat Games

1-4 players, 60-90 minutes

3d-box-right-mm-hog

-Husband-

Hello, faithful readers!  In her infinite malice, my wife saw fit to subject you poor people to my presence again, so…let the bombarding commence!

Today I’ll be submitting a (mostly, hopefully) spoiler-free review of the second full expansion to Mice & Mystics, entitled: “Heart of Glorm.”

Let’s start with the real meat of the Mice & Mystics franchise, the
story. The story starts a short (unspecified) period of time after
the events of the first game, in the same setting as the first game
(Castle Andon), with (roughly) the same cast of characters from the
first game. This is a great thing, readers. It allows for fun
character/story development usually only contained in a novel, or an
RPG series. Some key characters have started to become battle
hardened, others have emotionally softened from their journey and
circumstances, it’s an interesting evolution. With your original
party of 6, you’ll have a new PC (playable character) to choose from,
her name is Nere’, and she is a different breed of mouse altogether!
All of your mice will be struggling against the villain of this
campaign, the eponymous “Glorm.”  To reveal hardly any of his story
would be ridonculously (enjoy, grammar nazis!) spoilery, so, I’ll
refrain. Suffice it to say, it stands up to the previous game in
terms of story quality, whilst not quite reaching the same heights.

Being that I covered primary gameplay mechanics my review of the base
game, I’m just going to omit the previously covered bits.  As for new
gameplay elements in this game, there aren’t TOO many to speak of.
The biggest addition you’ll receive is your new character: “Nere’.”
With her you’ll have a new combat class: “Wild.”  Being that Nere’
also possesses a “mystic” combat class, it provides an interesting new
slant of how to use magic.  Whereas your other mystic was used
(primarily) to inflict damage from afar, Nere’ can also be utilized to
increase her own stats for a more aggressive style of play.  Also
amongst the new mechanics are new equipment, new class abilities and
new opponents. I will say, some of the new enemies are FRUSTRATING to
say the least.  All in all, welcome additions gameplay, all around.

Last thing I want to touch on, is the quality of the whole package
itself.  I will, say the 2 miniatures that came with Heart of Glorm,
did not match the quality of the base game at all. They were somewhat
flimsy and felt very fragile when handled. However, the campaign book
in the game felt like a marked upgrade over the previous game.  It
felt like better quality paper, better binding, just better quality in
general. As for the box…don’t even get me started! Plaid Hat Games
has set a SERIOUS standard for shelf aesthetics (that is the most PG
way I can express that!)  The box is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS as is the art
inside!  I cannot applaud the art more, people.  Color me a fanboy.
but I’m fairly certain there is some manner of nigh deity working in
Plaid Hat Game’s art department.  Jus’ sayin’.

In conclusion, buy all of the Mice & Mystics products you can find.
Like, seriously. This expansion is more of the same, and that is
super awesome. It may not be as hearty as the first game, but it is a
welcome addition to the Mice and Mystics universe.  Now, please,
support this publisher and go out and purchase this game!

-End Husband-

Wow… I need to start reading his reviews before agreeing to write my own!

Anyhow, Heart of Glorm… is a wonderful story. While I do love the art and would be lying if I said Filch was not my phone background, the story is really the best part. Glorm, the “villain” of the story makes it difficult to win, but he touched my heart. All of the characters have beautiful backgrounds and Glorm is no different.

I put off playing the last chapter in the game for quite a while, because I did not want it to be over. When it was over, just wow. The story ended and it was beautiful. I cried. No joke, I really cried. With the story being such a huge part of the game play it is very difficult to disclose anything without ruining the whole thing for virgin players. This game creates a ridiculous emotional connection to its play and PCs. When you play, you’ll understand.

If you have never played a Mice & Mystics game, please go out and get the first one. If you have I’d love to hear from you about your reactions to the game/story. I will be back in a few days with a mini review of the second Lost Chapter. I hope you enjoyed this review.

If you liked this review and want to be kept up to date please follow my page and like me on Facebook. Until next time… Live by the Board.

-livingbytheboard

Mice and Mystics – Lost Chapter One: Cat’s Cradle

Greetings All,

This is going to be a micro review, if I go too in-depth it will spoil much of the story.

UPDATE: THE LOST CHAPTERS ARE NOW FREE!

Mice and Mystics currently has two Lost Chapters available for download on the Plaid Hat Games site for $0.99 each. The cool thing about these downloads is that they come with the game components as well. You can literally print and play, unless you’re picky like I am. I laminated my gaming components.

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-Lost Chapter One: Cat’s Cradle by Plaid Hat Games-

Lost Chapter One: Cat’s Cradle serves as a very nice transitional story between Book One: Sorrow and Remembrance and Book Two: Heart of Glorm. This chapter introduces a new character named Crumbles, who comes with his very own character token and initiative card. Crumbles happens to be a very cute and tiny toddler mouse who is determined to make you pull your hair out.

Crumbles initiative card is always number 1 on the track and at all times Crumbles must have cheese on his card, he loses cheese via damage. As always if the hourglass marker reaches the chapter end marker you lose the game, however, now you also have to keep Crumbles stocked with cheese or you lose the game.

The story starts with the little mousling Crumbles having gone missing as he follows a strange source of music. The point of the game is to rescue Crumbles and discover/stop the music. I will not reveal the source of the music, but Crumbles will always move the fastest route towards the music. The thing that I love about this chapter besides the fact that it is a beautiful introduction to Heart of Glorm, is that you really get the feel of what it’s like to have a stubborn toddler mouse to chase down. Many times I felt like telling Crumbles that he was in fact raised better than this, but being part of a group of mice that have been on a crazy dangerous adventure… perhaps I’m not the one that should be telling him that.

This is definitely something everyone should play before moving on to Heart of Glorm. There is also a new minion that is introduced in this chapter called Mindless Rats, while they do not outright harm you, they are still a pain in the rear end and take forever to defeat, I suggest you go find out for yourselves.

If you liked this review and want to be kept up to date please follow my page and like me on Facebook. Until next time… Live by the Board.

-Livingbytheboard

Mice and Mystics – Sorrow and Remembrance

Greetings All,

I hope everyone is doing well today. Thank you for being patient while I took some time off from this blog. This will be my first post in quite a while and full disclosure, the body of this post is all my husband’s doing. As you will notice, my cute kitty is not a star in this post… he just got fixed last night so he is cranky and needs his rest, but I promise he will be featured in the next Mice and Mystics post as we are nearly done with the first expansion of Mice and Mystics.

Mice and Mystics is one of my favorite games, however, I find it difficult to explain it to its full potential which is why my amazingly well spoken husband is taking over for this post. His description is a wee bit long, but please stick with it. It’s most definitely worth it.

mm

Mice and Mystics by Plaid Hat Games

Let me preface this by saying: 1) This is as closest product I’ve ever seen to an “RPG-In-A-Box” style game. 2) That’s a good thing. 3) Actually, that’s FANTASTIC.

With loads of personality and terrific presentation, Mice and Mystics is an extremely approachable game. Everything from the box, to the game board (which is a hearty stack of tiles with beautifully rendered art!), to the (shockingly nuanced and durable) miniatures were made to entice and immerse the gamer. Readers, this was no small undertaking. The components in this game were clearly well thought through and were battle-er, I mean…play tested to ensure this product could be more than a pretty trophy for your shelf (or gaming mantle, whatever floats your boat.)

Now let’s mention the art, oh my, this game should not feel so epic and immersive. From the front cover, one gets the feeling of epic (current word-of-the-day) quests heralded by these massive, battle hardened mice. That is most definitely an impression I can get behind! When you get to your rulebook and campaign book, you see that this quality and impression weren’t without merit. Beautifully rendered miniatures and set pieces hoist some fantastically realized tomes. Seldom do I play a game where I spend such an exorbitant amount of time observing aesthetics, that’s my seal of approval!

Now, it is with lots of (pardon me, all of the RPG purists out there) boilerplate role-playing games that the setting can (and usually does) dictate the overall direction of a game…and that’s not always a bad thing. A medieval castle setting (*GASP* like in Mice and Mystics, no less!) can evoke certain expectations, I’m certain one could imagine a dungeon and quite possibly even a (Dare I say it!?) dragon fitting nicely with this backdrop. And you’d be right! Certain tropes and recurring themes/elements pop up more often because they ARE fun to play. They become familiar, dripping with nostalgia and a well treaded path to guide the player. Let me be frank, M&M’s setting and theme isn’t particularly original, but it’s use of its theme leaves NOTHING to be desired.  From room tiles like “The Forge” or “The Alchemist’s Chamber”, this game takes advantage of its tiny (fought the urge to say “mousie” :-D) perspective to highlight the minutiae of its setting.

Now, let’s talk about gameplay. It’s easily the least inviting part of its package, that said, it’s still GREAT!

Now, let’s talk about gameplay. It’s easily the least inviting part of its package, that said, it’s still GREAT! You may be wondering: “That last statement was contradicting as I’ll get out, what is this guy on about???”  To which, I’d reply with: “Shut up disembodied voice, I’m getting to it!”  Gameplay is the most uninviting because of its complexity, and is great because of its complexity. First off, this whole game is a single campaign, broken down into 11 chapters.  This gradual roll through the story, really does wonders for making the game feel epic in scope, the narrative advances at a brisk pace in order to keep you sufficiently hooked and yearning for the next chapter.  The gameplay allows for well-defined battles/battle strategies, which is something more in line with your standard board gamer.  For instance, you begin any battle rotation by shuffling all of the player characters (hence forth referred to as PCs) and enemies initiative cards, and placing them on an initiative track in order to determine the order play at the outset of a battle. When one of the characters you control comes up on the track, a standard turn consists of rolling anywhere from one to upwards of (though unlikely you’ll roll THAT high) 5 dice to determine things like movement, attacks, defending, and searching for items.  There’s a decent amount of rules I’m omitting, but, I’m trying to summarize here, gosh dernit.  However, in contrast to these more well-defined battles, comes a much more RPG approach to things…equipment/character classes and non-linear exploration.  Each chapter you play comes with preset tiles effectively present the PCs with a defined set of areas to explore in order to complete a chapter end goal as well as the occasional side quest. “*GASP* Side quests?!  That doesn’t sound like a board game!”  Once again, disembodied voices, you need to give me a moment to explain.  Some chapters have branching side plots that can actually effect/affect story and gameplay later on in the campaign.  This serves to really invest players in the story, as well as giving you a feeling of control over the experience as a whole. For instance, when advancing toward an end goal, the PCs are advancing toward their destination, when they hear cries of terror from an adjacent tile on the board…do you advance in order to complete the chapter safely??? Or do you the chivalrous thing, and save whoever was in distress?  Decisions, dear player, decisions.  So, now that we’ve covered that, lets move onto the other RPG-esqe element of this game: equipment!  The customization of your characters really caught my eye, right off of the bat.  Each PC starts (most) chapters with set starting equipment that help denote things like attack and defense.  You also begin with an ability of your choice, that allows you to do a wide variety of things, from increasing your to attacking more enemies, heal, set traps, et cetera.  Abilities can be assigned to PC based upon their class, for instance, one of the characters you are able to choose is named “Collin,” he is a “Leader” and a “Warrior.”  This means that he can only use abilities for these classes, et cetera.  Upon receiving enough in-game currency (cheese) during battle, you can “level up” and donate said currency to gain a whole new ability.  Hold your gasps, it is as awesome as it sounds.  Of course, this is just me glancing over the choice bits, I know.
What about the bad parts, you say?  Lets start with the worst culprit, the learning curve.  I won’t even touch on this one long, suffice it to say, I consulted with a youtube link provided by the game’s publisher “Plaid Hat Games” to better understand the game.  …the video was almost 30 minutes long.  Though it did accomplish its task, I had more than a decent base of knowledge to start the game with. Next up, was the price point.  Though clearly I got more than what I paid for, it was still expensive, retailing at around 55 dollars.  Beyond those two sticking points, I don’t really have any qualms with the game sans a couple of nitpicky points.
Overall, Plaid Hat Games has developed EASILY one of the finest games I’ve EVER played and the one of the only games I’ve played that rivals my love of Castle Panic. Folks, this game (and world) has captivated me and my family for over three months. I cannot recommend this game more, please, support this publisher and go out and buy this game!
plaid-hat-games-logo
As usual, my husband has blown my words out of the water. I do agree with everything he said, although it would have been much less epic from me. I had SERIOUS doubts about this game when we first got it, but my mind was changed very quickly. The characters and their stories really make you fall in love with the game. Sorrow and Remembrance is the first of three games in the Mice and Mystics realm, thus far. There are also the “Lost Chapters”, you can purchase and download these via Plaid Hat Games. In a day or so I will post a mini review of the Lost Chapter that came directly after Sorrow and Remembrance, but before the second game, Heart of Glorm. We are two chapters away from finishing Heart of Glorm, when we do so we will also post a review for it. Downwood Tales is the third game, but I imagine it is going to be a while before we get to that one.
I would highly suggest supporting Plaid Hat directly by buying the game from their site, but if you’re like me and like to save money, I would not blame you for heading over to Miniature Market for a better price. They also have adorable plushes available. Do be warned, however, there are promo cards that you get with the game when you purchase from Plaid Hat Games. The promo cards from the first game can be found elsewhere, but it is really difficult to find them. Another thing I adore about purchasing from Plaid Hat’s site is you can buy spare parts, even dice!
If you liked this review and want to be kept up to date please follow my page and like me on Facebook. Until next time… Live by the Board.
-Livingbytheboard