iTouch and gaming is fun again

A recent WSJ article shows that Nintendo is starting to get a clue that they are under fire, but they are still in denial. From the article:

” Nintendo and Sony say unlike Apple’s products their devices are designed to be game machines. “From the actual game play to the games themselves, we don’t see any real overlap,” said a spokesman for Sony’s games division.”

“If we can’t make clear why customers pay a lot of money to play games on Nintendo hardware and Nintendo software and differentiate ourselves from games on the mobile phone or iPhone, then our future is dark,” said Mr. Iwata at a recent company event.

We are a Nintendo family. We have a Wii. We have a lot of Wii stuff. We have multiple DSs. We have a library of DS games. We have a library of DS games the game chips of which the kids are constantly losing and re-finding (sometimes) despite dollar penalties to replace lost games and family peer pressure from other people angry at the lost game. We have invested a lot of energy ( and money) into the Nintendo platforms.

Then I got an iPod Touch. I have purchased a couple of DS games since the Touch came into my hands. I have been fairly disappointed in them. I hardly play them. My iTouch is rarely far from my hands ( part of that is the fault of Tweetie2.

What are the reasons that I think the Touch is a superior platform?

1) The games are cheap. If a game sucks and I only spent 3 bucks on it, do I care? When I spent 20-30 on it, I am grumpy.

2) I can download the games without ever going to a brick and mortar store. I know Nintendo is going there with the DSi, but I am NOT going to spend 200$ each for 4 kids just to upgrade and get download capabilities. It sounds silly, but in a family and life pressed for time, it makes a big difference.

3) I can load and take MANY games with me without carrying a case of game chips.They can’t get lost, I do not have to keep track of them. I am considering switching our family to this platform, just for the loss of Mom headache of tracking games when we travel.

4) The games and the interface is fun. Nintendo may have a machine designed for gaming, but it does not grab everyone. My second daughter- the rebelliously Anti-Geek in the family who gave up her DS years ago and rarely plays Wii got ahold of my iTouch the other day and started playing games. I had to arm wrestle it back from her.

5) Even the gamers like it. My two stepsons are at prime tween gaming age and have been gaming almost as long as they could walk. They live and breathe games. Getting time on the iTouch to play is a huge motivator for them. They play RPG, they play tower, they play strategy and they play just silly stuff.

If Nintendo thinks that having a device “designed for games” is superior, they are lost. Do they forget that electronic games evolved on Computing platforms? Have they noticed that other gaming platforms have evolved back to computing platforms and do much more than games these days? Time for Nintendo to look around and do an honest assessment or their future is so dark it will be 6 feet underground.

In the Twilight Sector a Role Player’s Dream Comes True

I am an old school RGP’er. For me, it is about the role playing. I have been lucky enough to find and grow a group of friends who feel the same way and a couple of times a year we get together for a weekend long gaming session that both satisfies and leaves us hungry for more. We play a variety of games, from D&D , ShadowRun, Cthulhu, Hollow Earth, Traveller and others. The ones we latch onto longest tend to be the richest settings and the most imaginative stories that the DM puts together. Although we are enamored with the concept of Traveller, it tends to not get as must traction because the ( very old) manuals and supplements we have access to tend to be full of mechanics, but not as much story. When I was given the opportunity by @ephealy to review a new setting for Traveller, I was both excited and hopeful, but also cautious- wondering if I was going to get another book full of lots of tables.

When my link to The Twilight Sector Sourcebook by Michael J Cross and Matthew Hope arrived, I downloaded it quickly and did a quick flip through before work. I was intrigued by the subtitle “Space Opera” and encouraged by the parsity of tables and the number of beautiful interior illustrations. I could not wait to have time to sit down and read through the entire 131 pages. I was not at all disappointed.

The first 30 pages are back story. Not dry, historical Old Testament style “begats” but rich storytelling that quickly builds a Universe in your mind. There are 17 pages of “things to consider when playing and new rules, but much of this is due to the introduction of mutants. The are two types of mutants in the setting ( Scientifically Induced and Natural) and there was a need to explain them further and describe the powers, combinations and possibilities of these character classes. This is followed by 44 more pages of narrative description of the 7 main systems in the Twilight Sector and its 2 stations. Again these include illustrations, stories, history and maps. The last 28 pages are the beginnings of an Encyclopedia Galactica, which the state up front will be expanded in every supplement. I am crossing my fingers that they will take this feature and put it online, not requiring the purchase of every supplement for a “full encyclopedia” – that comes across as slightly manipulative.

The best thing for me was that after reading the sourcebook, my mind started spinning possibilities. I have already contacted our biggest Traveller enthusiast and we are going to co-GM a round of Traveller in this setting during our Dec 11 weekend gathering. I think it could turn things around for our group. The writers are very clear in pointing out that you could spin any genre in this setting, from mystery to horror, but the truth is, as rich and diverse as the setting is, you could run many different games in this setting as well. I can easily imagine playing with Mutants & Masterminds ( with modifications), Cthulhu or even a modified ShadowRun in this captivating setting. That would of course, break way too many rules for most gamers,so we will stick with it as a Traveller setting for now.

Want to learn more about Twilight Sector? Read on…

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Spring Kwakcon Kometh


Sycamore house is a-bustle with activity today. We are making final preparations to get ready for Kwakcon, our biannual gaming event. It looks to be a good crowd this time around, with some old familiar faces and some first time attendees. We have some long running adventures continuing ( ShadowRun and Call of Cthuhlu) a second round in Traveller and some new games ( Paranoia, Untold and something top secret Hobbes is bringing to playtest). We have folks coming from at least 4 states this time, and we are really excited to have Brannon and Nathan the inventors of Untold joining us to “game their fingers off”. If they can come from Alabama to check out the action, almost anything is possible.

I will probably be fairly quiet on Twitter and the Blog for the rest of today, as I am busy cleaning, shopping and cooking before the crew arrives at 8ish, but I will be active off and on all weekend on Twitter and the Kwakcon website. Be sure to stop by and check out the happenings.. even if you are far away. Hopefully you will be able to come and game with us in the fall.

Last Night On Earth:Review

Harv gave us this:
last night on earth game box a family copy of Flying Frog Productions’ “The Last Night on Earth” game for Christmas this year. Since we actually had Christmas with Harv on New Year’s day, last night was our first chance to sit down with the whole family and give it a run through. We enthusiastically give it a 6 thumbs up. We played with a group of 6 that ranged in age from 8 to 43, with a 43 year old female and a 16 year old female, the rest male. (My 13 year old daughter is currently on a rampage against the total family geekiness and shut herself in her room with a phone and 8th grade gossip while we played) The game was enough of a hit that after the first game, the next words out of most players mouth was “let’s play again”. We played two games in about 3 hours. Even with pauses for learning rules, the first game played in an hour. We started with the basic game ( “Die, Zombies, Die!”), and I agree with the game makers that this is a great game scenario to learn the turn rules.

The game is played with 1 or 2 zombie players and up to 4 hero players. The zombies are a team and the Heroes are a team, working together to meet their goals. If you have never seen a zombie movie in your life, but like strategy type board games, or RPG games, you will enjoy this game. If you are a fan of zombie movies, you will revel in this game. It is a cinematically rich game, with amazing graphics on all the game pieces, quotes from zombie movies and the classic zombie movie characters (the priest, the sheriff, high school sweetheart, high school hero, Jake the Drifter, the nurse, etc…). The item cards are lots of fun to play with ( revolvers, pump shotguns, pitchforks, baseball bats are some of the weapons) and the events are not only fun, but make a classic zombie movie ( teen angst, over confidence, zombies take over buildings or cut the power to make a black out, etc..). As a matter of fact, if you could record the game play for play, you would have the outline for a great B grade Zombie movie. The fun thing is, the game is so variable there are probably thousands of outlines in the box. Maybe some movie makers need to buy the game and play it to release a series of “Last Night on Earth” web flicks.

Our biggest complaints were from the zombie players- they wanted more zombies in their zombie pool. There were several times they had the ability to take over a building, but only had one zombie in the pool to place in the building. I agree that having more zombies on the board would make the game more fun and more challenging, even from the Hero Player’s perspective. A small technical detail, but one that was a constant ongoing issue was the colors of the zombies. The zombies in the pool are two colors, so that two players can play on the zombie team. One group of zombies is moldy green and the others are baby poo brown. The issue we had was that one of our zombie players was color blind, and the two groups of zombies looked exactly the same to him. Different colors or markings on the zombies would be helpful. We might get bored one winter day and start painting the plastic miniatures to make them easier to distinguish.

One of the features we really like about the game was that when a hero character dies, you are not out of the game. Your Hero becomes a Zombie Hero under control of the zombies and you get to draw a new hero character out of the set to start in the game. Because the game can go for an hour and a half, this works ell to keep all players engaged and not have “I am dead” dropout boredom issues. This was a nice twist and I wish more RPG board games did something in this manner.

All in all, it was a blast of an evening. Everyone is looking forward to playing again- it is without question getting added into the Kwakcon game round up and we are already looking forward to the expansion pack being advertised to come out this year. We would even pay to just have more packs of zombies and some zombie cards to add to the game– sort of like Heroscape expansion packs. It was a big enough hit that I was motivated this morning to clean out the hall closet and make a good space to store that and a few other family games for easy access, without putting the games in the midst of all the kid games where pieces are at risk of being lost.

Now? I am off to get lunch on the table and keep the kids from eating me…