An Open Invitation

As a fully paid up member of Geek club I have sunk too much money over the years into trading card games, only to be unable to compete with players who can afford to sink yet more money into the game for those overpowered rare cards. And yet I never learnt my lesson, and whenever a new one that looked interesting came around I’d be right back into the cycle.

Enter Fantasy Flight Gamesliving card games. If you’re not familiar with the format it is essentially a trading card game with an important distinction; all of the ‘boosters’ ‘ contents are already known, and usually supplied at the maximum amount allowed in a deck. No more costly chase for that one rare card that would really make your deck. There are also plenty of places to plan your deck online, meaning you can plan future purchases to gradually improve your deck.

What really pushes the FFG LCG format over the edge for me is the support for the online community and OCTGN. OCTGN is an online tabletop tool which allows you to play your favourite card games against your friends online. The best part is the aforementioned support by FFG. They allow use of all but the latest booster packs on OCTGN.

Which leads me to my open invite.

I know a few of us already play the A Game of Thrones LCG, and I propose an online tournament (or league if we can get enough players) through OCTGN. I am more than happy to teach people to play and use OCTGN. I suggest that we all play each other either best of three as a small tournament or perhaps twice in a league, with the winner taking 1 point and matches taking place once a week over OCTGN, and I will provide a chapter pack of your choice for the player with the most points when it’s all done.

I’m also going to try to live stream / record and narrate some games since it is all done online.

So what do you think?  Why not leave your WWE style call outs in the comments below and lets get this going…

Unmissable Day of Sex “Offer”

Ok, well , that’s not exactly true. This is just an amusing “offer” that Steam have on at the moment for the latest instalment in the Deus Ex series…

Yes, for a limited time only you can pre-purchase the game, Dues Ex: Human Revolution, for £29.99. That’s a reasonable 14% discount, very nice. More unreasonable seems a related offer for the “Augmented Package” (keep the jokes for the comments section) which contains the new game and the original (and universally agreed to be awesome) Deus Ex for £39.99. This might seem all right until you look at the individual purchase prices, £5.99 and £29.99, so a grand total of £35.99.

So, for the privilege of buying these two games in the same purchase you’re charged and extra £4.01. Needless to say… this is one of the worst offers I’ve seen on Steam. Truly unmissable… :o)

Let the ‘craft begin!!

A while ago a small group of us got together for a LAN to play an incredibly geeky game called Artemis. This required us to play the crew of a star ship, each of our computers functioning as one “station” of the vessels bridge, and Stupor’s very own Neil as Captain (he just shouted orders at us with no PC control of his own). In any case, once we’d exhausted the “kill n ships while defending y space stations” scenarios someone (our Captain, oh Captain as I recall) suggested we invest in a little Indie game he’d played for a while and become rather addicted to. This digital Crack was the Beta of Minecraft. It all went down-hill from there… To cut a long story short, we all paid our fare and played into the night. Around 3am we called it a day but our generous host (The Very Reverend Booth) left the server running so we could all connect up from home and extend the madness we had created.

Some months later the game has been updated several times. More resources,  further recipes and enemies that can actually hurt you, rather than groaning impotently in your ear. To mark both the leaps forward made by the game itself and the fact that one of our number has been gifted a licence for the first anniversary of his 29th birthday, it was decided we should LAN again, lay waste to the old world and start over. Below you will hopefully find the story of the first days of that new land. It will be bigger, it will be better, it will undoubtedly be even mentaler…

15:00ish
The game begins. A new world is generated and we dive in. First thing we wander around aimlessly, hit each other a little, laugh then get on with the serious business of finding a mountain to build a monster proof home into. We all know that mountain will have to be removed eventually, but the group deludes itself into thinking that it wont happen this time.

15:00 to 16:00
Neil digs a pilot shaft and we follow him down. So far down it almost becomes up.  Many, many red blacks (a rare and precious element for making electric circuits) are found, plus iron and diamond. Ralph and Matt sink “Shaft 2”, they find more iron, red and a little diamond. Nice… Work begins outside, ‘Tash fences everything in and Ralnor finds and replants reeds. Doors are placed and the base takes shape…

16:00 to 17:00
I try to start writing and get bitched at for standing around (cheers guys :o). Bedrooms are created (one nice one horrid). We all begin to gather and expand the base. Neil sinks a shaft to the mining level and equipts it with ladders, much much better than the circular staircase that took minutes to get down. I order everyone outside, we must have a picture…

17:15
The lads are putting windows in the bedrooms, two little ones have turned into what is more a entire wall of glass. This always happens. ‘Tash gets lost in the wilderness and decides to hide until the zombie goes away.

17:20
Ralph has a bucket, Ralnor decides we need a kitchen room and completes a “Ninja” entrance way. Matt wants to build a farm and everyone approves… Ralph walks on the farm while stating “I’ll be taking that mountain down”. Trev manages to interact with things in the game at last…

17:30
Ralph find a “flock of cows” then picks the flowers… BY KILLING THEM!! He also starts to wear some leather trousers which make him looks like he’s wandering around (the worst) half naked. One of the exits from the base becomes “the reed garden”, accessibility is limited but its all for the greater garden.

17:45
Matt’s farm is taking shape but people continue to walk all over it, this vexes him. The cook room is also finished, ovens line the walls, it’s like a lady-dudes dream :o)

17:55
Neil finds coal and a bunch of Creepers really close to our base, he tactically allows us them to explode on him, therefore defending the base. He then proceeds up our mountain and discovers how massive it actually is, finding both snow and pumpkins upon it. Most pleasing as snow can be used to produce snowball to throw at innocent folk and pumpkins are, well, just nice pumpkins.

18:15
After a good nights sleep we emerge to find a Creeper trying to explode Matt’s farm, he keeps his distance… We’ve now got enough red dye that Neil decides to start on the “Carpet Project”, we all think we know what he means, but you never know in this game. The first snowballs are used in anger, Ralnor is displeased. Ralph refuses to get in bed before he’s covered in leather (and in the game).

18:30
Everyone gets back to mining. Neil mines some fish and ‘Tash mines some sheep. I dig down from the top of the mountain and dig through an oven. Creeper alert in the reed garden!! He explodes and we figure we ought to sort these gits out… We decide to make a cake but we need eggs and milk, but where might we find these? A plan is formed, worry chickens so they produce eggs and squeeze the cows to make milk, that’s how it works right? Tastey, fresh squeezed sky juice could be nice :o)
Ralph wants the cows for leather, but ‘Tash wants a bucket to attack the cows for milk. Matt goes to the loo but and **** suggests we could dig up the farm in his absence, it’s agreed that that would be foolish, as he may kill in revenge.

19:00
“All the cows and no buckets” is exclaimed as ‘Tash find the cows, she does manage to milk the cows and is rewarded with some white liquid. “Yes, that’s the milk” Ralnor reassures her “unless you found a bull”… Everyone decides to gather resources again, Neil and Ralnor decide to deep mine down, reaching into the depths with pick and bucket in search of lava. The idea of tiling the kitchen is raised, everyone turns into a Changing Rooms style home furnishings fiend.

19:30
Everything’s quitened down a bit, everyone’s just going round doing their own thing. Cake has been baked, and the bedrooms have been nicely carpeted (the jack o lanterns add a disturbing edge). Also the kitchen has been nicely tiled. Tash has gone “underwater pork hunting” and Neil has put a carpet on the roof of the entrance. Ralph is digging, who knows where, who knows why? Perhaps he’s trying to mine for cows again (he likes that leather a bit too much). Oh, and we have a secret entrance to our base, it is a little too secure to be secret and is Neil states it”disrupts my pumpkins”. Sounds uncomfortable… It’s turning into a very English base, carpets, books and lots of coal.

19:50
Neil wants to “dig higher” and Matt wants to bake some bricks, where will it all end? People have found my lovely sky observatory but Ralph wants to throw himself off. In any case, perhaps a nice glass floor would add to the effect. Also I think they may have worked out where the wood went, well it definately wasn’t that ladder to the sky, I’ll tell you that.
We now also have automatic doors (Woot!! just like Tesco!!), Matt has laid some purest red from pressure pads to the front door, so we don’t even have to open the doors ourselves any more :o) Disaster strikes immediately as Matt realises that the pressure of monsters will also open our front door, pigs begin to open and close the doors at random.

20:15
Nail and Ralnor start messing with infinite sources, I wished it was for BBQ but it was for water :o( They’ve decided to build out of the side of the base with glass, then to place infinte water on it to make a “water feature”. This water fall with viewing platform is perhaps the maddest thing thus far, but it is pretty sweet. This is living…

20:30
Me and Matt decide to find some desert, we’ll follow the rising Sun and see what we find… I get dropped from the server, my first crash but everyone else seems to be experiencing ore crashes than usual too. Matt digs a hole and see’s out the night “Saddam style” buried. He continues on at first light and find a lake in the mountains and a desert with cactuses in it on the mountain just next to it. The level designer (which amounts to a mathematical equation)  is doing a really cool job of making the world, but throws up these oddities sometimes, no-one’s complaining though :o)

21:00
Pizza arrives (in the real world) and we break for eats.

21:55
‘Zza is dead, tea has been drunk and the dog of the house has been teased into a drooling mess. Lets load up and get back in…

22:05
First building idea since Pizza, the two crazies have decided we need a pool. Where to build it though? Should they lower the floor or make it in a sensible place, nope, it’s gonna be made of glass and in the air. Apparently it will be like a scuba tank with reeds used as an airlock, lets see shall we… Neil immediately floods the kitchen.

22:25
Argh!!! My second crash, just as a zombie activates a pressure pad and enters the base!!

22:30
The scuba tank is complete, I immediately drown in it and respawn in a tree somewhere. Matt begins to cultivate the cactuses he found, to use to discourage any further monster intrusions. They hurt like razor-wire, let’s see how many people die on this defensive measure.

22:35
Matt has an ingenious idea, cactuses grow 3 blocks tall but can’t exist between two other blocks (so they can’t be built). He places the cactus “seeds” in some sand then puts two dirt blocks higher up, at the 3 level. Once the cactus grows to 3 tall the top will immediately pop off, as it can’t exist there, so self-farming. He extends this theory even further by growing the cactuses on an incline and putting a water flow around them, this means that, when the cactus blocks pop they land in the water and are swept to the bottom of the hill where an individual can pick them all up at once. It’s basically a cactus conveyor belt. Awesome invention, truly inspired :o)

23:00
The next project was “The Great Underwater Tunnel”, so basically the Euro-tunnel but made of glass. Trev brought all the sand in the world (to cook up into glass), Neil made the air pockets and then put Jack O Lanterns in the water (cause they work there) and the tunnel was born. It’s good, but something’s missing. Ralnor solves the problem by building a monolith to show the way into/out of the tunnel.

23:28
Neil crafts the first phallus of the night, it took a lot longer than normal (and yes, that is what she said too…).

23:45
Matt discovers a new enemy, the Slimes. They’re just like the Minecraft version of Slimer but they hurt a bit, after a little butchering they split into small and non-harmful versions of themselves. Matt smashes them and is surrounded by the annoying little buggers. Also, I pick up some Slimeballs. They seem quite useless but I’m sure we’ll find something to do with them. Just when you think you’ve seen it all Mincraft goes and surprises/delights you all over again…

00:00
And it’s about time for me, one more picture and I’m out. The guys start to play around with dispensers, they fire out whatever you put in, in response to a circuit. It doesn’t take long before they think of firing stuff out that will hurt things, just like the real world, eh?

00:15
So that’s me finished. It’s been a good day of digging and making, what more could a boy ask for? The three remaining guys are now looking at making buttons to fire things out of areas of the base at enemies and making music blocks (they do what you’d expect from the name). The world’s gonna be left up for us all to play online, so I’m gonna be checking in over the next few weeks to see what happens, the updates have certainly enhanced the game and, for the creative of mind, it’s so much fun to play. It really is the living-Lego for the grown-up geek. Any who, I’m out, here’s one last look at what we’ve created from the outside, it looks kinda weird but it was bags of laughs and there’s so much more under the surface too (kinda like the game I guess). Wonderful stuff…

Nostalgia Trippe: Gamebooks

Lone wolf 6 coverHello children. Are you comfortable on your Thomas the Tank Engine bean bags? Does anyone need a wee before I start? No? Good, let’s begin.

I want to take you back to a time from my youth. Games came in three formats, floppy disk, cartridge and tape, you could still buy betamax and Tandy was still in business. It is a time when kid’s movies are still scary, cartoons are all extended adverts for action figures. I am 10.

All of my non-school time was taken up by mapping out our local woods as a fictional realm with my best friend (this included us following about a mile of waist deep fast flowing water at one point. We were sticklers for detail), failing to learn to skateboard, reading fantasy and Sci-Fi, and poring over the new issue of White Dwarf.

White Dwarf was (miniature gaming overlords) Games Workshop’s monthly magazine, and my friends and I were big fans of the minis they made. We all had a few Orks, Space Marines and Eldar kicking around our bedrooms but hardly ever played the games. My best friend had a copy of Man O’ War which we occasionally tried, but none of us ever got into wargaming until the nigh incomprehensible mess of Rogue Trader was done away with and replaced with the brilliant second edition of Warhammer 40,000. Now, I could write pages about just the Wargear book of 40k2e but you’ll get that in another Nostalgia Trippe. Instead what I want to illustrate is that I had these great fantasy worlds stuck in my head (still do) but my love of gaming had not yet developed.

What led down the terrfiying road to turbo geekdom was coming across a second hand book. I can’t remember where I bought it, but I do remember why I decided I had to have it:
1) It was called Kingdoms of Terror, which to my young mind was possibly the greatest title ever
2) It had a kick ass (we would have said wicked at the time) monster on the front
3) It promised me that I could ‘choose my own adventure’
Not long after getting this book home I had my weapons in hand; an eraser topped pencil, a packet of crisps, the recollection of a bunch of He-Man cartoons. Ready for adventure I was.

It turned out the book was a revelation. The blurb claimed I was Lone Wolf, the last remaining knight of the Kai order. It was my job to use my skill with both sword and supernatural power to bring back the former glory of my order.

AWESOME!

A few pages in, and Lone Wolf/10 year old me is trying to convince a guard to let me into a town without paying the extortionate toll. Lone Wolf’s silver tongue fails so I decide to try and jump a wagon to gain entry for free. The book tells me to pick a random number from the table at the back of the book then turn to entry 36. I do as I’m told, and I’m presented with this:

LW 6 Guard

‘You are a few feet from the wagon when your horse refuses the jump. It rears up, its forelegs scrabbling at the air. The long day’s ride has taken its toll, and your horse has neither the strength nor will left to clear such a daunting obstacle.

You lurch backwards, falling over the horse’s rump and desperately cling to the tightening reins as it teeters on its hind hooves. Suddenly, the horse falls, pinning you beneath her as she crashes to the ground.

Agonizing pain gives way to numbness as you fight to hang on to life, but it is a battle that you can no longer win.

Your life and your quest end here.’

What the hell? I’m an elite Kai warrior and my horse has just fallen on me. For a couple of seconds I sat in stunned silence. I contemplated throwing the book in a drawer and fogetting it, but then realised that I’ve learned a lesson. I know where I might fail now. Armed with this new insider knowledge I rolled up a new Lone Wolf and started again, but this time taking different skills, get past the guard and always keep my finger stuck in the previous page.

With my new found prescience (finger) I made short work of the book, but it left me completely engrossed. Apparently this was the 6th book in the series, and better yet you could keep your character from previous books! Soon second hand book stalls and John Menzies (that’s an old newsagent/bookshop, folks) had yielded books one to four. I ended up with most of the first two series of books, although where they are now is anybody’s guess. Let’s hope some kid at a jumble sale has picked one up and is reliving my first experiences in the world of fantasy gaming. Do kids still read gamebooks? Not a clue, but they damn well should!

The Lone Wolf books were only a gateway drug, however. Whilst browsing the second hand books at a jumble sale I came across a series of six books which looked similar to the Lone Wolf ones I loved, but at the same time pretty different. These books were called Dragon Warriors, and it turned out they were a lightweight roleplaying game system released by Corgi books as a pocket-money friendly competitor to the expensive D&D Red Box. The intro told you that the books were a way to let you play out your favourite fantasy adventures, like the one in The Hobbit. Play The Hobbit like a game? Sold!

Some lizard thingThe rules were complicated for a young lad, and it took some convincing, but I eventally talked my friends into letting me murder them in different ways using inescapable traps and overpowered monsters, as is the way of the young inexperienced DM. While these rules were OK, I complained for and received a copy of the basic D&D box (the one with the dragon cards rules integrated into the DM screen, the cardboard standees and poster map of Zanzer Tem’s dungeon). This and GW’s output kept us busy for a few years. At A-level I ended up running a one-off AD&D game for about 10 players, but we really got into the White Wolf games Vampire The Masquerade and Werewolf The Apocolypse. Then 3e came out, which had a bit of play but not as much as it deserved.

Now I run a (semi?) regular D&D 4e game, have a massive stash of RPG books and PDFs as well as board games and a penchant for all things gamer-nerd, and it’s all thanks to gamebooks.

Yes I’m a total geek, but gamebooks were an essential piece of my childhood. I’ve not even mentioned the amazing free roaming Fabled Lands books, or the massive range of the Fighting Fantasy series and it’s RPG spin-off. If I’ve tickled your nostalgia sense however, or you just want to see what the fuss is about, it looks like lots of folks are feeling the same way. There’s reissues and RPG conversions abound. Below are some of my favourites if you want to take a look…

The old Lone Wolf books are due to be reissued sometime, but they’re also available for free online (with the blessings of Joe Dever, the author) at http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/Home

There’s also a reissue of the Fabled Lands books coming out, and a free-app version here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/flapp/

Fighting Fantasy has already seen some re-releases along with an iPhone app and some other bits over at http://www.fightingfantasy.com/

New Vegas: Double Hardcore Mode

With the release of Fallout: New Vegas in The States, my excitement in anticipation of this RPGFPS is just about peaking. Whilst sitting around at work, day dreaming of what I might be able to do and what may lay in wait for me to discover, I’ve toyed with many things. Top most of my “to-do” list is that I MUST play the game in the new “Hardcore Mode”.

“Hardcore Mode” is something that was first introduced in PC Mods of the original Fallout 3 game and turns the more forgiving aspects of surviving the wastes into something more realistic and, in that case, much harder. Dehydration and malnutrition become as lethal as any Deathclaw or Super Mutant Behemoth you might stumble across. Add to this, weighted ammunition and a kaleidoscope of harsh effects the multitude of drugs can cause and the game becomes a survivalists dream (or nightmare, depending on their masochistic tendencies). Saving your last irradiated box of Insta-Mash for the long trek back across the desert will be a necessity and searching the toilet bowls of a petrol stations smallest room for whatever liquids may remain will become common practice.

Thanks to "tocsik" for these lovely real-life labels

“Ok,” say some of you, “but wont that make it more difficult and less fun as a result?”

“Perhaps,” I reply, “but I think that’s the point. The sense of achievement will be increased and the entire atmosphere of the game will be ratcheted up, off-setting any loss you might feel”

In that spirit then, I dreamed up and now introduce an idea for to increase my personal gaming toughness; “Double Hardcore”, which basically boils down to this single statement:

Playing Fallout: New Vegas in “Hardcore Mode”, but only having one life to play with. Once your character dies, that’s it, end of story, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and start from the beginning all over again.

Saving can be done as much as desired of course, so the player can stop whenever is needed, but the main aim is to start the game, sort the settings out and just play as one person for as long as is possible.

I got the dispatch notice for my copy yesterday, so I can hopefully kick my plan for “Double Hardcore Mode” into gear sometime on Friday. I’ll then update this here blog on how it went and, even more hopefully, give a running commentary on the happenings in the life of my persistent avatar at that time and perhaps in future too.

Undoubtedly it’s gonna be a scary-ass time in the New Vegas wasteland, but it’s certainly gonna be an adventure too.

Neptune’s Pride – Neil’s (backstabbing) Game

As you see this, gentle reader, the editorial staff of Stuporcollider and 60% of our readership (plus guest) prepare for the commensment of a war to end all wars. Or, more likely, a conflict to start a lot of arguments and recriminations. This will be an ulimate battle to the death, eight players, one galaxy. Only one race will survive to rule…

You didn’t guess it?? Well we’ll be taking part in a premuim game of Neptune’s Pride. If you’ve not caught news about this online multiplayer RTS, that’s probably because it’s still in Beta and even when it is finally at v1.0 will doubtless remain a fringe game, with hardcore participation but shallow mainstream penatration. That said, inital reports have not been unappealing and, lets be honest, we’re at the fringes anyway. If you’ve ever played Risk then add to that mechanic some simple technology trees and a trade system and you’re pretty much where the game seems to lie. NP’s scale, however, is completely none-terrestrial. You venture through the stars of a random or systematically constructed galaxy to find and conquer your fellow players.

One of the main features, and one I like the sound of, is the pace of the game. It’s an RTS (so’s not turn-based) but traveling from star to star takes a number of hours. The game is played through your chosen interweb browser, so you can log-in and check you progress a few times a day, set what you want your dudez to do and leave them to their jobs. This allows for a lot of tactical thinking and games that last weeks.

Just inside the left shoulder blade...

Obviously the size and power of your fleets influence greatly your success, but there’s also the opportunity to form (and there for break) alliances with other players. This, I think, is where the beauty of the game could be. I can envisage some exploration, a bit of combat/trade and then a whole lot of backstabbing and subterfuge… I can hardly wait…

And with that, the e-mail has arrived telling me that the game is afoot…

I intend to post  “every now and then” with comments on the game itself and coverage of hostilities, for as long as I survive. So check back for fighty talk and feedback soon. I’m now off to plan how best to eradicate everyone else from my universe!

More Star Trek Beta Keys

Us chaps have been trying to get beta keys for Star Trek Online keys all over the place (because we’re giant geeks), and have ended up with a few more than we need.

Ado kindly gave out a spare a couple of days ago, but we have another two to give out. All you need to do is add a comment to this post. The first folks to comment will get the keys unless you’re one of our filthy spam posters, then we’ll continue blocking you so hard!. If you added a comment to the last beta giveaway post, sorry but we’re going to have to ask you to comment again. It’s only a few words!

I’ll be posting a quick overview of the game shortly, in the mean time it’s a birthday weekend, so drinks abound. Never fear though, I’ll get your keys out post-haste.

As a pleading side note, if you’ve managed to find us for a key please have a poke around the site and send us an email at neil[at]stuporcollider[dot]com or post a comment. We appreciate anyone who wants to join in! Good luck…