Audio Report: better late than sparkly-sounding

Y’all gave us a lot to talk about last week, and talk we did, for 50 minutes of goodness. The sound is still a little wonky but there aren’t any irritating artifacts this time. Thanks for your patience on that front. Leave comments here on our requested topics or others, and we might discuss them on the show if they’re up before, um, we record tomorrow night. (Seriously, we do have a technique on deck that will greatly increase our response time and sound quality.)


  1. You guys are into miniatures games. What do you guys think of Your Move Games “Battleground” game? It did quite well for a new release at GenCon. I played it once post-Gencon and found it to be a fascinating idea (wargame with cards for units intead of minis), but I found some of the calculations required for play to be clunky and I found that the designers made creative tactical movement too difficult to pull off, weakening the game. Nonetheless, it’s so different that it’s worth a review. The website has sample cards and complete rules.

    If you want to review an SF game, YMG has another game called Space Station Assault. I found that played “as is” that the game was too straight forward for me. I won twice in a row versus a clever gamer, just by doing the most aggressive, mindless strategy around. Nonetheless, it has really high production quality for a new game company and it may be worth a quick review if you guys are trying to focus on SF games for a week or two.

    YMG’s “Succession” is also worth a quick review. I’m focusing on YMG because they are a local Somerville, MA-based company that just made a big push in the last year to get up and running. Some of their designs need some work, but their production values are among the highest in the industry.

    Re: how salesworthy SF games are… I think SF RPGs can sell, but generally they are only going to sell really well if they are licensed products. Most SF games that aren’t licensed (and even some that are) tend to end up in the discount bin of my local game store.

    I think unlicensed hybrids of SF or cyberpunk do fairly well if they involve fantasy (Spelljammer, Shadow Run, etc.).

    Thanks for taking my suggestion to time code your podcast summary. It allowed me to skip around to the stuff I am interested in. It’s also useful if I want to revisit a review from an episode so that I know where a given review is at.

  2. Almost forgot… Greg Porter has a new Non-Collectible Customizable Card Game (NCCCG) engine called “Infinite Armies” out. It’s a PDF with lots of Acrobat Javascript allowing people to design their own cards for the Infinite Armies card-based war game. It’s worth a review side-by-side with the YMG battleground as a sign that some wargamers are looking for cheaper ways to play their games (with cards) rather than buying expensive miniatures.

    “Infinite Armies” is probably the first do-it-yourself customizable card game engine commercially available. It can be purchased at and a variety of other places.

  3. Lee,

    Thanks for all your comments! I am about to head over and check out Infiinte Armies. Thanks for the tip!

  4. In regards to the dominance of fantasy minis in relation to SF ones, I think you’re right due to one major factor: there are no “generic” SF games.

    D&D, no matter how you look at it, is still generic fantasy and you can use anything to represent your character. SF is different.

    If you want to play Warhammer 40k, you have to have GW minis, etc. Shadowrun might be the exception but the system doesn’t encourage the use of minis but Shadowrun has its own “feel” that most SF minis don’t match i.e. a Mobile Infantry mini from SST isn’t going to look right for Shadowrun. The Rezolution minis come the closest for Shadowrun.

    Possible mentions for SF minis that I haven’t heard you guys mention:

    Pig Iron Productions:

    Wargames Foundary, street violence line:

    West Wind Productions, Road Kill game:

    Alpha Forge Games:

  5. Battletech’s factionless miniatures – great observation. I never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense.

    Fantasy v. science fiction RPGs – The genius of D&D is that it takes all these common fantasy tropes, many from widely disparate sources, and uses them as the surface elements of the game. There’s enough recognizable bits there that people know what’s going on, but the whole they form is unique to D&D.

    It’s weird when you think about it. D&D mixes Tolkien and Howard, and in the end it makes sense, but if someone created a game that mixed Star Wars and Star Trek, that would seem like a clunky mix. I think SF’s much stricter divides between sub-genres hampers its popularity as an RPG genre. It’s much harder to build a game that encompasses all of SF’s tropes in a coherent, logical way.

    SF is based on a time and place. Fantasy resides in this timeless otherwhen that looks sort of like medieval Europe. You can mix those fantasy elements together much easier, since they have that basic, shared element. SF, not so much.

    Good points on Magic of Incarnum. Those are definitely food for thought. It’s interesting when you compare it to psionics – gamers seem to “get” psionics much easier, probably because it’s been part of the game since 1978. When a gamer sees a D&D book on psi, he has a basic idea of what to expect. Not so much for Incarnum.

    (Yes, and this really is Mike Mearls. Or at least, I hope it is. I’m wearing his underwear.)

  6. I was advocating for a big release of a space opera game in the other thread. I was, and still am, a huge “Traveler” fan. My bookshelf is groaning with the weight of SF novels. Aside from LOTR, Leiber, Howard, and Moorcock, I have little in the way of fantasy novels (Martin and the like leave me cold).

    My point is, there are probably a lot of gamers like me who prefer SF to fantasy. So where is our game? There was a thread on RPG net a while ago where people were brainstorming a Chinese themed space opera setting full of nano-tech “magic” and such. I’d kill to see that released as a fully developed game, something like what GR is doing with WFRP (which seems to be making a decent splash for a non-D20 “mainstream” fantasy RPG).

  7. Chris,

    Yeah, I could, but I’m not a d20 fan. I could do it with GURPS too (and the upcoming “Space” book has me interested) though GURPS tends to beat me over the head with crunch. I’d prefer to see something new system-wise that is integral to or supports the setting, if you get my drift.

  8. >> What topic would it be most appropriate in? I can post to the geek, no worries.

    The Dice Tower and BoardGamesToGo both seem to use General Gaming. Go to and then click ‘New Thread’.

  9. I have long sought a science fiction rpg to slake my thirst for blowing up bugs with a laser rifle. Haven’t really found one, though d20 Future is probably the closest I’ve found.

    The problem is described correctly in the podcast… there aren’t any generic Sci-Fi RPGs. If you look at Science Fiction literature in general, the thematics and worlds vary so vastly most of the time it’s hard to lump them into one sort of genre. Phillip K. Dick, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Orson Scott Card; all these authors wrote/write about the future with their particular stamp on it.

    And many sci-fi fans have varying definitions of sci-fi. An older person may consider the works of the ‘Grandmasters’ to be true Sci-Fi. Somebody more familiar with contemporary Sci-Fi might point to the works of William Gibson.

    The genre’s evolved as our own society and technology evolves too, so writing a sci-fi game presents the same challenge many of the genre’s writers face: Datedness. That is… things like predictions back in the ’50s that computers would be massive building-sized things… then the transistor was invented. Not many writers foresaw something like the Information Age coming either (Aldous Huxley perhaps).

    So sci-fi is so diverse and volatile that it sort of reduces the chances of a company getting a non-liscensed Sci-Fi RPG ‘just right’ to “not very likely”.

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