John-Michael Gariepy

The Top 11 Classic Monopoly Player Tokens – Part Two

Previously, in The Top 11 Classic Monopoly Player Pieces – Part One, we discussed the fastest and easiest way to lose a game of Monopoly:  By choosing one of those six inferior pieces.  The good news is that you don’t have to choose any of those pieces.  There are eleven Monopoly pieces to choose from, and Monopoly is a game for 2-6 players.  As long as you choose one of these six pieces, you’ve practically won the game already against the ignorant riff-raff who chose to play The Ship.

Oh, hold it.  We appear to have a snag.  Monopoly boxes vacillate on how many people can play the game.  The original game says… well, it didn’t list the upper number of players… I guess that’s where the confusion stems from.  But most modern boxes say from 2-8 players.  That means that if you’re unlucky and are forced into last choice of token, you’ll need to use some fancy reverse psychology to keep your opponent’s greasy hands away from these bad boys…

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Number Six: Sack of Money

We’re at the halfway point, which means that The Sack of Money is as middle of the road as you can get.  Introduced in 1999, The Sack of Money was voted in by the players over a piggy bank and a biplane.  So I have the whole lot of you to thank that I can’t run around the board squealing like a pig, or run around my living room, biplane in hand, shooting down The Red Baron.  Thanks, internet community.

The Bag of Money, getting back on point, is an odd token.  It’s like I’ve already won.  I got this bag of money.  If I lose (and let’s face it, unless I’m a tactical genius, the odds are against me), I’ve still come out a winner, because I still got an overflowing sack of cash, and no one can take that away from me (except, maybe, the owner of the game).  It’s like playing ‘Deal or No Deal’, choosing the minimum amount of suitcases I need to open, and yelling ‘Deal!’ before the banker has a chance to give his offer.  I’m going to walk out a winner.

It’s nice to know that The Sack of Money isn’t going to screw anything up, but unless that fella puts everything on the line, he will never be a Rockefeller, just be a spoiled rich kid.  The sort of person who can buy subservience, but never loyalty.  Loyalty costs a lot of money.

Read more…

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The Top 11 Classic Monopoly Player Tokens – Part One

Which player token should you use?  No choice in the game of Monopoly is more crucial than this one.  The pawn you represent yourself with tells other players who you are, and what kind of strategy you will employ to seek victory.  Choose poorly, and other players will greet your trades with skepticism and scorn.  Choose wisely, and your play group will seek to trade commodities with you for little more than a smile.  Choose The Thimble, and the other players will snarl, snatching the game pieces back, slamming the box lid shut and insisting that you leave.

This top list is for The Classic Monopoly game, only.  I refuse to list and examine every permutation of every Monopoly game and game variant’s token.  So that means we will pretend that Monopoly didn’t have three tokens pulled from the core game in 1950 (A Lantern, A Purse and A Rocking Horse).  We’re also unimpressed with the Koala that only appears in Australian versions, the Locamotive, which only appeared in the Deluxe Edition, or the token remakes for Monopoly: Here and Now.    We’re also not here to discuss which of the Ninja Turtles was the greatest (That would be Donatello), or who is the most awesome character hanging out at the G.I. Joe home base (That was a trick question.  The answer is: Zartan in disguise).  Back in my day, we used to have eleven player tokens, and they were not created equal.

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Number 11: The Thimble

The Thimble is the lowest of the low.  If someone you don’t like asks you to play a game of Monopoly, there’s no better way to insult them than to say, “Sure!  I’ll take ‘The Thimble!'”  You could grab the box out of their hands, rip it in half, toss both halves out the window, punch that jerk in the face, then storm out of his building.  But if you did that, the hated gamer might sit down, confused by your actions.  By claiming ‘The Thimble’, however, you’ve sent a clear message:  I don’t respect you as a human being.

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The Random Dungeon: Room Zero and The Theme

In my Previous post on Room Negative One,  I argued that you should Dungeon Master your game as if the world outside the dungeon is as exciting a place as the dungeon itself. ‘Dangerous dungeons do not exist in a vacuum,’ I implied, ‘and the players should be harried at every turn when approaching their destination.’  Now I’m going to argue the exact opposite.

Room Zero represents the first room upon entering the dungeon.  In many ways, it may be the most important room out of the one hundred or so rooms that your players explore.  That’s because the first room will frame the rest of the dungeon.  Players will subsume what to expect based upon what they see, or don’t see in this room.  If your players see an empty room with four doors, they can assume that your dungeon will be sparse, low on detail playground for a series of miniatures combat scenarios.  If, however, the first room they encounter is rich with details – from the mutilated bodies of dead orcs on the ground, to the cryptic runes etched into the wall, to the more crude taunts from one goblin tribe to another scratched below that – then your players are going to assume that your dungeon has a lot of important intricate details in it and they will advance appropriately.

You can do a lot with player expectations.  You can play against them, luring them into a false sense of security, or trick them into trusting in the wrong non-player characters, with some well-timed false clues.  You need to be careful when doing this, though.  If you subvert a player’s mental process too often, you’re inviting them to stop thinking about the consequences of their actions.  After all, if nothing follows its logical progression in your game, then its best to take everything at the point of a sword.  Just smash everyone or everything.  It’s probably a monster or a trap.

More often, you should seek to justify your player’s expectations.  Just like Chekov’s Gun, if your party sees evidence of orcs in the dungeon in the first chapter of your journey, then they should attacked by orcs in the second or third chapter.  “If it’s not going to be fired,” instructs Chekov, “It shouldn’t be hanging there.”  Playing within the realm of player’s expectations is a rewarding experience, even if it sounds counter-intuitive.  Giving your players what they expect, after all, doesn’t sound imaginative.  But finding a way to reward your player’s insights, while maintaining an engaging plot, is a very imaginative task, indeed.  Anyone can perform the unexpected.  Performing the expected, and maintaining excitement, is an earmark of good story-telling.

In this spirit, you should let your players have Room Zero, the first room of the dungeon, as a room to acclimate themselves, group Read more…

Session Impressions: Core Worlds

Rhythm.  When I re-listened to the Myriad Games Podcast on Core Worlds, this word popped out at me.

Many board games can have a great feel despite a complete lack of rhythm.  Monopoly-style games, for example, represent a slow and inevitable arms race.  Monopoly doesn’t have a rhythm so much as it has a tipping point, where the game breaks, and must end.  Magic: the Gathering is built off of an engine which implies rhythm:  You play one land per turn, then, tap those lands for more and more powerful cards as the game continues.  But the point of most Collectible Card Games is to subvert the rhythm of the game.  You want to find ways to ‘cheat’ the rhythm, advancing to stage five while your opponent is stuck on three.  While a Dungeons and Dragons campaign can be built off the tenet of good rhythm, more often it represents a series of individual scenarios that accumulate into an adventure, in the same way that life can be seen as ‘just a bunch of things that happen to you’.  These games are fun, so it’s clear that a game doesn’t need to have a good rhythm to be fun.

If you say, however, that a Deck Building Game has a strong rhythm, it’s a great complement.  DBGs are built with a certain amount of given information (there’s a small selection of cards that will be in a person’s hand, and, presumably, many of those cards will be resources), and the entire genre is built around the idea of making your deck better and better as you move through the game.  Despite these controls, when you play through Dominion or Thunderstone, for example, your game may result in a chain of meaningless turns, due to the players’ inability to overcome a hurdle, or the game might result in a romp, as the players smash through their decks and crush the scenario.  For a genre filled with a limited number of controllable knobs, it’s an odd truism that many DBGs can’t play a more sophisticated tune than ‘More! More! More! More!’.

Core Worlds has a strong rhythm.  What you do on turn three will be different than turn six.  When you get to turn ten, the game is over.  Count up your points.  Each round in the game is meaningful, and the consequences of your actions are tangible.  Early in the podcast, I teased Sara when she explained what Core Worlds is.  She starts off by saying the game is complicated… which is a rough way to sell a game.  When writing this mini review for Core Worlds, I also found this review on Amazon by M.P. Cummings:

“We’re somewhat new to card based tabletop games, so this was a great find. My girls (ages 8 and up) love playing, and since there are defined rounds, it doesn’t drag forever. Great game!”

That’s an excellent summation.  Sara’s right:  Core Worlds is a complicated game.  But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to understand.  That just means the game has breadth.  You can play it many times, and still struggle to wrap your head around ‘the right strategy’.

But, hey, if you aren’t convinced, maybe you’d prefer to listen to the podcast?

100 Article Posts on [Unnamed Blog]!

Hey, everybody!  We’re having a party here at [John-Michael Gariepy’s Unnamed Blog]!  100 posts, and 13,000+ views!  Oh, and my Klout score just passed 40!  Klout thinks I’m a Networker!  Thanks, Klout!

If I could only invent a name for [Unnamed Blog], though.  I’m supposed to be ‘the creative one’.  But, you know, there’s only so many good names out there.  And I refuse to call my blog something plithy and game-related like “John-Michael’s Critical Hits!”.  Besides, someone else must have that blog name.  Yup.  Found it.

Coming up with a good name for what you’re doing is tough.  Dave and Josh made it look so easy with our old blog Guilt Free Games.  A little alliteration, with a pop music name that simultaneously tells you a lot, and tells you nothing.  Tiiiiiiin Roof! Rusted.  Aah, baby, that’s where it’s at.

Naming yourself isn’t a problem limited only to blogs, of course.  Do you remember a time when you could name your Atari 2600 game ‘Boxing’ or ‘Adventure’?  The music industry is full of names that can’t be used, because someone, once, decided to cut an Read more…

The Top Ten Most Desirable Magic: the Gathering Cards, According to Gatherer, Part Two

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In The Top Ten Most Desirable Magic Cards, According to Gatherer, Part One, we witnessed six of the finest pieces of cardboard ever to grace the game of Magic.  Those cards were powerful, flexible, open-ended and fun.  Well… fun at least for the person who cast them.  It takes a certain caliber of cards to get a consistent five star rating on Gatherer.  Card number eight, for example, Gaea’s Cradle, ranked in at a 4.842 community rating out of 219 votes.  That means if seven people gave this the worst possible score (one-half a star), then the other 212 voters gave it a full five star rating (which is not how it went down, since the math is an approximation).  These cards have a higher density of stars than the Messier 80 Globular Cluster in the constellation Scorpio (Oh snap!  I went there!).

Despite that, there are seven cards that have garnered even more respect from the Magic playing community than that.  Among them is:

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The Top Ten Most Desirable Magic: the Gathering Cards, According to Gatherer, Part One

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Magic: the Gathering is a collectible card game, where players spellsling against opponents by crafting a customized deck out of 12,758 possible cards.  This article is about ten cards that will steal victory on the verge of  disaster.  These ten cards are deck hacks.  Even in the slowest theme deck, they will super-turbo charge your way to victory.

“Oh!”  many readers are saying to themselves right now, “I’m not sure how you’ll paint your list, but I already know which card will take number one.  It’s Black Lotus, right?”

This card sits at the top of most top ten lists, and for good reasons.  It’s the most expensive Magic card ever printed, not including misprints and specialty printings, clocking in at $4,999.99 on Starcitygames.com.  It’s demands that figure for a reason, too.  Black Lotus not only accelerates you faster than any singular Magic card, but it does it as a 0-cost artifact, allowing you to play crazy insane with cards like Auriok Salvagers.

I could spend an article series delving into why Black Lotus is so over-the-top broken, and why Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, thought this was okay.  But I’m not going to.  Because it didn’t make the top ten.  It isn’t even in the top fifty.

That’s because, like in my previous article The Top Ten Most Reviled Magic: the Gathering Cards According to Gatherer, we’re using Gatherer, Magic: the Gathering’s online card database, to rank these cards.  Gatherer has a lot of features.  One of them is the ability rank the card you’re looking at using a .5 to 5 star rating system, and according to the Magic community’s votes, Black Lotus isn’t worthy enough.

Why?  Well, because Gatherer is a melting pot of ideas of what makes Magic a great game.  It’s not enough for the card to be merely spectacular.  For a card to make it onto the top ten list it has to be so much fun to play, that few people will get mad when you do it, because, damn, they want to do that too.  Gatherer doesn’t tell us what cards are the most powerful, (Though, don’t get me wrong, every one of these cards are utter game breakers), it tells us which cards people love playing and wish they had.  It tells us which ten cards, out of all the cards in Magic, are the most desirable. Read more…

Random Dungeon Generator: Room Negative One

Do you recognize this?

Hey!  It’s the start area example chart for Appendix A of the DMG for the original Dungeons and Dragons game!  For people who played the game in much of the seventies and eighties, this was probably the first place you explored.  Some crazy room with multiple branching hallways (Except stunted Number Four.  Nobody likes you Number Four!) leading to various doors.  The point was to find some neutral ground between the way back home, and the various twisty turning branches that would be your adventure.

Cool, and evocative, huh?  They also hold a high nostalgia value for Dungeon Masters.  You see, in many of my fellow DM’s eyes, they see these six shapes, and they just want to get drawing, or rolling for random rooms to attach to these suckers.  These six shapes (well, five of them at least) are practically calling for you to scribble away, attaching doodads and doohickies, until you wake up in a fever pitch, with a pencil clutched in hand and a finished dungeon.

But, secretly, as good as five of these shapes are for your imagination, they can stifle your creativity.

Everything in your dungeon will spawn from how you begin your dungeon.  But these strange starting shapes you’re presented with only encourage you to draw more goofy shapes.  It doesn’t explain why the players are here, or who built this dungeon, or what the theme of this setting is.  It’s just a weird shape, devoid of any emotion besides the symbolism you put into it.

That’s why I made this random room generator.  Room Negative One is a quick two rolls that mold the purpose of your dungeon.  First, roll on the “Dungeon Location” chart to determine what environment your dungeon takes place in, then roll on the “Dungeon Purpose” chart to determine why, exactly, this dungeon is here, and what role it takes in the world your characters play in.  Or don’t roll anything and just choose from the list.  That’s cool, too.  Oh an you’re more than welcome to roll multiple times.  Many of these entries are better when combined with other entries.

While we’re here and talking about it, I should remind you that every step which brings you closer to the dungeon itself can be an adventure.  If you roll up a Volcano Wizard Fortress, I think you owe it to your players to describe what it looks like on your travel to the volcano, create some small adventures before you get to the fortress itself, and deal, somehow, with the guards who are outside the fortress.  I mean, if I was a wizard, and I owned a volcano fortress, I probably wouldn’t leave the front door open, leading down to a set of stairs into a safe and cool start area.  I might, however, leave an open door that leads down a set of stairs to an empty Start Area Four, in which all doors lead to veins of liquid magma.  That’d show ’em.

Oh, and when you get done making your dungeon, maybe you’d like to populate it with Random 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons monsters?

Where is this Dungeon located?

01 – 03 At the heart of a city

04 – 06 At the heart of a ghost town

07 – 08 The Dungeon is a City

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DC Adventures Log 6: All Hail Riverdale!

In our last DC Adventure, DC Adventures Log 5:  Super Friends, Team Lex hurtled back in time to the year 1975 and, um, ‘befriended’ the Super Friends.  Well, actually, they attacked the Super Friends on sight, but when a giant moon monster threatened to eat the Earth, Team Lex, Sherlock Holmes and The Super Friends banded together to fight the interstellar menace.  While they celebrated their victory, however, U.N. soldiers stormed the Hall of Justice and eradicated the Super Friends in a volley of kryptonite bullets.  After the dust settled, a geriatric General in a gunsuit smashed through a wall of the Hall of Justice, declared he had killed Team Lex once today, and would do it again.  Luckily, Skeets, Booster Gold’s time travelling computer buddy, appeared, told the players to quick, name a year, and one of the players chose 1953- Bzooweeoovzip!

Bzooweeoovzip! Team Lex and Sherlock Holmes were crammed in a bathroom stall, which, based on the bathroom tiles used, the tinny sound of Muddy Waters coming from what was obviously a jukebox outside sped up to 47rpm to hurry through songs for more quarters, and the hamburger grease smeared throughout the stall, Sherlock Holmes declared the group was in the bathroom of a soda shop in the year 1953, somewhere in the northern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire region of the U.S..

Our super-powered misfits filed out the bathroom, past a confounded teen culture and greeted by Pop Tate, who apologized.  He didn’t notice these circus performers when they first entered Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, but would be more than happy to take their order.

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Dungeons and Dragons Random Encounters: Levels 27, 28, 29 and 30

For an explanation and introduction to Random Encounters, go to Why would anyone make a giant chart of Random Encounters?

Roll once for each adventurer in your party.  Whenever you roll a Brute, or a Soldier, add two of that creature and roll one less time total.  If the last creature you roll is a brute, or a soldier, your players will have to suck it up.  There will be more experience for them anyway.  Whenever Minions are rolled, add the number of minions shown to the encounter and count them as one creature for the purposes of generating an encounter.  Whenever an Elite creature is rolled, count it as two separate creatures for the purpose of generating an encounter.  When a Solo creature comes up, stop rolling, since a solo monster by itself is a good challenge for characters of that level.  If you’ve already rolled up three creatures before the solo joined the party, you may want to indicate to your players that now would be a good time to run…

When rolling on this chart, if the party is level 29 or 30, add 20 to their roll.

01- 05 Roll again in the Level 25 and 26 Random Encounter Chart.

06 – 10 Roll on the Random Hindrances Chart.

11 – 15 (Elite Brute) Balor (Demon)

16- 21 (Brute) Shadowraven Swarm (Sorrowswarm)

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