Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding the Time to Play Games - Part 1

I recently turned 48 years old. There's really nothing magical about that particular age. Talk to me in two more years and I might feel drastically different. But for now, I'm just another year closer to a milestone birthday.

That said, flipping another page on my Life Calendar did trigger me to stop and ponder the state of my life. What significant problems do I need to fix in my life? How do I boost my happiness level? What are my plans for the future? There are always dozens of things to think about.

Over the past 3 years, one recurring thought has continually bubbled it's way to the top of my brain: How do I find the time to do those fun things that I truly love to do? I wish I knew the answer to this one of life's many puzzles. But I haven't figured out the magic formula yet.

You see, I love to play tabletop games (board games and miniatures war games). They fill a very special niche for me, exercising the strategic-thinking and creativity portions of my brain. But try as I might, I have failed miserably to achieve any consistency in getting my friends together for regular game nights. I have done much more in the way of researching and thinking about games than actually playing them. That's truly sad.

There are a host of reasons why getting games to the table have failed for me. For starters, 9.5 to 10 hours of every weekday are spent working or driving to/from work. Then it's home for dinner with my wife Anna, followed by doing dishes. So most nights, my "free time" doesn't begin until 7:30 or 8:00 pm. Some nights are devoted to spending quality time with my honey, who unfortunately, does not share my same passion for tabletop games. So that doesn't leave a big window of opportunity for gaming during weeknights. Not to mention, I'm mentally exhausted from work many of these nights. Those of you who work in the IT field can probably relate to this well.  

My gaming buddies are of a similar age, and although they may be home earlier than me, they have their kids' activities to deal with. So free weeknights are typically limited for them as well.

I confess that I have other outside interests that eat into my time, like dining out, going to the movies with my wife, reading, listening to podcasts, walking, painting miniatures, designing games, surfing the internet, occasionally playing the drums, etc. Perhaps I have too many other interests?

All I know is that it adds up to one thing: I don't get to play games often enough.

At this moment, you're probably thinking, "so do something about it Nancy Boy and quit whining!" And you're right; all the whining in the world doesn't result in problems fixing themselves. So after mulling it over in my head, I believe that I need to do a couple of key things:
  1. Prioritize which Fun Things are most important to me. 
  2. Take that priority list, cut it down to the 3 most important things and focus solely on them. 
  3. Schedule regularly recurring Fun Time events on my calendar and stick to that schedule.
I've often said to myself that scheduling fun time seems silly. I have a schedule at work; why do I want to create a task schedule for FUN stuff? But after several years of failing to achieve what I wanted (which is playing more games), something has to change. Flying by the seat of my pants is NOT working.

Perhaps a disciplined approach will produce the desired results? I guess I'll never know unless I try.
So it's off to create a prioritized Fun Things list. I'll share that in Part 2 of this blog-post series.
Wish me luck!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Loving the Dice Tower News

As much as I love to drop in and peruse Board Game Geek on an almost daily basis, finding easy-to-digest, headline news about board games isn't quite as simple to find there as it should be.

Enter the new (at least to me) Dice Tower News blog by Tom Vasel and company. Wow, this is exactly what I've been looking for! Small, bite-sized chunks of gaming news in a clear, concise, easy-to-read format. It reminds me in some ways of the Tabletop Gaming News website geared to miniatures wargamers, and it steals some of the thunder from Purple Pawn. But you can never have too much GOOD information, so this is truly a welcome addition the board gaming community. Check it out!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gnomes on the Brain

Just found this cool web blog solely dedicated to the fantastic Gnome Wars miniatures wargame.

For the next 59 days, the blog is covering the author's preparations for several Gnome Wars battle games that are being run during the Cold Wars convention in Lancaster, PA (March 8 - 11). 

Check it out.

I own and have reviewed the Gnome Wars rulebook, but have yet to get the game to the table. It looks like a really fun and hilarious system, and the games I've seen of it being played at various HMGS East conventions rank amongst the most memorable and entertaining wargames I've ever seen played.

I'm currently painting up some Swiss regiments (arquebusiers), with some Germans waiting in the wings. I'm planning to use these figures to form some gnome gunner regiments for my fantasy armies in the upcoming Sword of Severnia campaign that my buddies and I are starting this year. But I would love to get enough of these awesome little dudes to fight some Gnome Wars skirmishes against my friend Kevin's set of Leprechauns. And oh yeah, I need some bunny cavalry!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On the Campaign Trail

As some readers of this blog may recall, I've been designing and playtesting a set of fantasy battle rules since 2006. The game is called Sword of Severnia and it's a tactical miniatures wargame typically played by 2-6 people on a 6' x 4' tabletop.

SoS is in the same genre as miniatures games like Warhammer, Battlelore, Hordes of the Things, Kings of War, and Warmaster. But my wargame is not tied to any particular manufacturer's range of figures and it has some unique game elements that make it play a good bit differently than other games in the same genre. Ultimately, it offers more interesting decisions and is more fun; in my humble opinion of course!

I spent a good chunk of 2006-2008 designing, testing, and refining the game while I ran my small business. But since moving to a consulting role with Hershey in 2009, the time that I've been able to devote to game development has severely diminished. It has been a real challenge to keep things moving ahead towards the ultimate goal of getting the game published. But I'm getting there, slowly but surely.

This past Fall, my burning desire to start a full map-based wargame campaign was rekindled. Not only would this be a helluva lot of fun for me and my 3 wargaming buddies, but it would make our battles really mean something. No more isolated, one-off battles; this would be a series of connected battles and savvy diplomatic actions that decided the fates of mythical nations and their kings. Plus, it would spur us to playtest the hell out of the Sword of Severnia tactical game rules on a regular basis. So it was a true Win-Win proposition.

All I needed was to design and write-up some campaign rules. Easier said than done, but I wasn't going to be denied. I spent about 6 weeks developing the game rules to my liking, liberally borrowing ideas from earlier campaign rule sets that I've developed over my 30+ years as a game design hobbyist. I sent them out to the game-group, and we met to review and discuss them. I've got a few minor tweaks to make, but so far so good with the rules. Crown of Severnia, the campaign rules that tie in with my tactical battle game, has officially been born. Woot!

Campaign preparations are now underway. We've even created a website to display updated maps, track stats for our realms and warlords, share campaign news and propaganda, etc. Turn-1 of the campaign should hopefully start within the next 6 weeks. I'm really excited!

Now that my beloved campaign concept has come to fruition, I've been looking for other sources of inspiration to stimulate my creative juices and help me add more bells and whistles to my core set of campaign rules. One book that I recently purchased for this purpose is the Warhammer General's Compendium by Jeremy Vetock and Eric Sarlin.

Wow! I've only touched the surface of this hefty tome, but I can already say that it's the best book on wargame campaigns that I've ever read. Chock full of gorgeous pictures and interesting ideas, it's a must-have for any serious gamer looking to get into miniature wargame campaigns.

I found it very interesting to see the kernel of several ideas that I used in my own map-based campaign rules system. Great minds think alike sometimes! But there is certainly plenty of other stuff in here to inspire me, and it showed me just how many varieties of campaign systems there can be. Although it's sadly out-of-print, this simply amazing book is well worth trying to track down for a reasonable price on eBay, Alibris, Amazon, etc.          

Fight On!