Thursday, August 30, 2007

Best Cover Art--An Early Look

I'm an absolute art fiend, so when it comes to categories like Best Cover Art, you think I'd be in good shape, right? Well, the problem is, so many book have rawkin' cover art. One measure of a piece of cover art's effectiveness is, "what does it convey of the setting? Does it make me want to explore this game further by effectively presenting an intriguing suggestion of the contents therein?".

The second measure, of course, is, "does it make me throw up the horns?":

This, I feel, is well-served by many entries in the RPG world.

Here's just a few of the pieces for products we've seen entered thus far this year:

Necromancer's City of Brass:

Palladium's Hades:

PCI's Witch Hunter (wish I had a bigger pic of it):

Aaand the Cover Art to Battletech's Introductory Boxed Set:

This will be a fun category.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

That's A Whole Lotta Setting!

At least one other judge and myself have noticed how awfully involved many of the RPGs/settings that have been submitted thus far this year are. I'm not sure if this is just a coincidence thus far, or if its part of a largr trend I was previously unaware of, but products like EOS' Lesser Shades of Evil and Apophis Consortium's Shadow Nations really require a good bit of chewing for full digestion! I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing, so long as a "heavy" setting is well-presented. But if this keeps up, there are going to be many sessions with some very "thick" works.

In other news, since I've had Aces & Eights and Coyote Trail on my mind, here's a link to a bit of Wild West source material, Risus-style.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Look, And In Regards To "Selling"

I picked up a template for the site I thought worked a little better and was more aesthetically pleasing. Hope you like it, because I sure do.

I've had the shilling/selling of RPGs on my mind lately, not sure why. But there are some things I mentioned on a message board post earlier this morning:

At Gen Con this year, I had people try to sell me on various games. Now, I don't mind a push. I do mind when they push too hard, make me uncomfortable, or don't take a "no" or "maybe" for an answer without acting royally pissed.. At least two smaller-press game designers did that this year (and one much larger-press vendor), and I'm not sure if it's just a bit of overzealousness or what.

It's pretty much the equivalent of the "Wushu Factor" online. After someone pushes something so hard, you begin to doubt their sincerity, intent, and honesty, to a point. If a game is recommended incessantly, annoyingly, and without regard for basic courtesy, be it online or at a Con, my Inner Gamer completely shuts down, tunes out, and sets his virtual profile to Ignore.

The other one is "This Game is Only For People Who Like X", or "X is better than Z!!!!". Geez, man, I'm cool with honest comparison, but how about not taking a dump on games I may like while you're doing it?

So what gets you when you're curious about a game? What approaches do you like, and what turns you off?

Another is "guerilla marketing" by having fans/friends of the game/designer start up "Sell Me" threads. This is sometimes a hard one to spot from earnest discussion, but if I find out about it, it usually rubs me the wrong way.

Another thought that's crossed my mind is that some games definitely deserve better fans than they have.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First Weekend in Review

It was a pretty good weekend as far as getting some reading in, daughter's birthday and all. I managed to take a good look at all the products I mentioned Friday, as well as start in a bit on Ravencross/EOS' future dark RPG, Lesser Shades of Evil. That's a product I'll have to slowly chew through, I think. I don't really want to get into the specifics insofar as what I reviewed this weekend until I get a chance to do some Actual Play, but I will say that a lot of the products so far either look good or seem to have some qualities I like, but also leave some questions as far as how they'll actually play out at the gaming table. (Colonial Gothic, Witch Hunter, I'm looking at you here, among several others).

I'll be taking a look before work today to try to plot out my Week of Review a little bit more carefully. I want to get through as many of these products as I can before the next wave hits, and I want to make sure its done right.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The First Weekend

My daughter's (3rd!) birthday is this weekend, so I won't get any Actual Play in, but I do have several items on my list to go over, including StrikeForce, Witch Hunter: The Invisible World (from Paradigm Concepts), the City of Brass Boxed Set (from Necromancer), and the remainder of Rifts Dimension Book 10: Hades. Depending on birthday party arrangements, I may be able to squeeze in one more work, but we'll see.

I think the other judges and I are settling in. Discussion has started on products--initial thoughts, reads, prepping for actual play. I'll tell you one thing--the folks running the ENnies are very diligent from what I've seen that each judge is contributing and has copies of what he or she needs to have. I''m really looking forward to deliberations--hey, I'm even looking forward to our first Big Disagreement, even if just to get it out of the way.

I'm also really curious to see which companies decide to enter this year, but my guess is we likely have a while before we find out on that.

Here's to the weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Few Things...

I should mention just a few things:

-By the rules set down, I'm not going to be able to tell you which judge hated what and that sort of thing. The deliberations and that private debate remains, well, private.

-I will be happy to tell you my thoughts on any product I review, or tell you if we haven't received a product, or general information about how busy we are, what's going into the evaluation process, etc. I promised to be as open as I can with everything, and I will, as far as I am able without compromising the integrity of the awards or the other judges.

-Keep in mind that even if I do review a product, it is still going up against plenty of other products that might be just as good or better. I'll also look at products likely quite a few times as the ENnies get closer. Just because I give it a generally positive review now or in March does not mean that you'll see it in the ENnies, or that if it isn't in there, other judges hated it.

-I will be disallowing comments for publishers for now, as getting into arguments or praise-a-thons with them over product would not be fitting. There will be forums open for the ENnies soon, and at that point, I'll allow 'em again. I hope you guys understand this. I'm being as open as I can without sacrificing the integrity of the awards.

Thanks, and happy reading!

The Year Ahead, And Small Press

I like a lot of different games. I'm very much in one sense a "traditional gamer", but I also like small press games like Burning Wheel, Lacuna Part I, FATE, and In Harm's Way. I really am all over the map when it comes to RPGs. That's why I'm so interested to see who is going to be submitting product this year, and who won't. Are the indie/small press guys going to submit stuff comparable to what we saw this year (Burning Empires, Spirit of the Century), or will we see entries from more traditional-gaming (but respected) small press publishers like Precis Intermedia?

I really think one of the coolest things about the small press and pdf movement is we have all these companies out there making just a huge array of games that wouldn't have been possible or financially viable 1o years ago. And it's not just the "indie" movement, but a lot of really talented folks finally getting their chance to shine, be it in a less traditional game or something a bit more mainstream. I'm excited to see who's in and who's out this year.

But if you think your favorite small press guy can hang with the big boys, encourage them to enter their best into the ENnies! And you can promise them that whatever the name on the spine (or e-spine), they'll get a fair shake and equal treatment from me. A good game is a good game, no matter who makes it.

I wanted to somehow tie this in to the following picture of me with Gary Gygax, but I couldn't think of anything. So I'll just post it anyhow, due to sheer awesomeness and the fact that it makes me happy:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It Begins...

Well, with Gen Con having winded down and no longer having the excuse of recovery from that event, I've jumped right in to the product that needs reviewing for next year's ENnies. I've organized my office space to handle the process as best I could--turned the whole thing into a queue of sorts, really. Aside from that, I'm ready to start chatting with the other judges and seeing the lay of the land, so to speak.

One thing's for sure--by the end of it all, someone will have called me an asshat for some product that gets put into the awards. You can't please everyone, so you know it's coming. What I will try to do, though, is answer as many questions as I can about the process and what went into it. Then, at least people will be a little bit better informed as to why things panned out the way they did.

Then they can call me an asshat.

Guys and gals reading this, please don't fail me. Your thoughts are important, too. While judge's vote remains his own, your commentary can help me think about things in a different way or possibly help me see something I've missed. So get those comments rolling!

Monday, August 20, 2007


Well, I don't know that a blog deserves such a term as "relaunch", but here were are!

This is Zachary Houghton (Zachary The First or zacharythefirst) on various Gaming Message Boards, and I've decided to bring RPG Blog back up. Why? Well, for one thing, I miss writing about RPGs, and want to start in again. Life has settled down somewhat, and I think I'm ready to get back in the saddle. I had some issues with Typepad, so we're going to be seeing how Blogger treats us.

(Note: I'd have gone with thte straight "rpgblog" address, but we have a squatter).

So, here we'll stay.

Now, the other reason I'm doing this is because I have been elected as a 2008 ENnies Judge, and one of the promises to voters I made is that I would make the entire judging and evaluation process as visible and as open as I could. To that end, I'll be commenting on many of the products that come my way, and hope to hear your thoughts on the same. The more the ENnies are an award that is truly representative of as much of the hobby as possible, and the more folks feel a sense of kinship and ownership in regards to the process, the cooler I think it'll be! Naturally, in the end, my vote remains my own, but if you're able to get me to look at something a different way or perhaps pick up on something I've missed, or if you end up finding out about a product you might otherwise have overlooked that leads to more fun at your gamig table, then I think this will have been a success.

I'll be doing some housecleaning around here for a few days, but, yeah, we're back in business.