Sunday, July 31, 2016

Doubling Up on the Three Storms: Big Trouble in Little China preview

I'm headed to GenCon soon, where previews will no longer be necessary, though an occasional design note may still be relevant.


Today's quick show-and-tell introduces the two versions of the Three Storms. Upper Deck's original card list called them, for example, Battle Armor Thunder and Business Suit Thunder. I loved the observation that when Sorcerous Lo Pan is cackling, he has the battle armor Storms with him, or at least martial arts gear. When Rain goes to see David Lo Pan, he changes into his business suit as a responsible member of the Wing Kong Exchange.




You can see I had fun giving them business titles! Thunder, Public Relations is one of my favorite combinations of image and card name.

As to the toughness of these villains. . . they can cause problems, But in the film they seemed pretty bad at killing the heroes that mattered, so I enjoyed making them melodramatic problems that can  also offer solutions if everyone plays nice!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lords of Death: Big Trouble in Little China preview

I was gonna write my next preview about the two versions of the Three Storms, but I don't have time to tackle that topic today. Instead, here's a henchman.


The Lords of Death seem like a bunch of low-lifes with awesome sunglasses, but nobody ever wants to tangle with them. In the movie it's always, "Ooh, Lords of Death. Don't wanna mess with them." So I tried to capture that with the game mechanics. You can beat the Lords of Death. Heck, anyone can beat the Lords of Death. But if you're not already hurting, you're going to be hurting. Of course, once you've taken out one, you should just keep on going, because you're not going to be hurt any worse . . . until you shuffle your cards and the Wound gets buried in your deck.


As a bonus, Upper Deck followed through with the Lords of Death sucker punch on the game's Wound card!

My GenCon Schedule, 13th Age, & Glorantha

GenCon next week!! I’m going to be spending most of time at the Pelgrane booth, 419. Chaosium is in booth 423, so the two places in the exhibit hall you’re likely to find me are actually a single space with a blue curtain in the middle. I missed last year’s GenCon and I’m looking forward to talking with so many friends as well as a couple hundred people I don’t know yet!

Five Panels
I’ll be on three 13th Age GenCon panels and one Pelgrane Press panel alongside creators and Pelgrinistas such as Aaron Roudabush, Cat Tobin, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Ken Hite, Kevin Kulp, Lynne Hardy, Robin Laws, Simon Rogers, and Wade Rockett. (ASH LAW, Cal Moore, and Jonathan Tweet aren't attending this year.) 

I’m also on one Glorantha/Dragon Pass panel with Chaosium people including Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Chris Klug. We may also have Sandy Petersen, who is about to launch the incredibly cool Glorantha: The Gods War miniatures game, but I’m not certain Sandy is with us on the Thursday night panel.

13th Age Adventure Design Workshop
     Thursday 11 a.m.
     Crowne Plaza: Grand Central Ballroom A

Dragon Pass—Mythology, Magic, & Board Games
     Thursday 8 pm
     Crowne Plaza Pennsylvania Station C

13th Age GM Roundtable
     Friday 11:00 a.m.
     Crowne Plaza: Grand Central Ballroom C

13th Age Monster Workshop
     Saturday 12 noon
     Crowne Plaza: Grand Central Ballroom B

Swords, Spies, & Shoggoths: Pelgrane Press Panel
     Saturday 1:00 pm
     Crowne Plaza: Grand Central Ballroom B

More Glorantha
There’s also a big RQ and Glorantha celebration at 7:00 pm on Friday night with Greg Stafford, Runequest—50th Anniversary of Glorantha in Crowne Plaza Pennsylvania Station A. That’s during the ENnies, but the 50th Anniversary party gets my vote for its scheduled hour.

The other good Glorantha news is from the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter. Jeff Richard has finished the manuscript of the Glorantha Sourcebook and is sending the augmented 13th Age in Glorantha manuscript over later this weekend. I have playtest feedback revisions to handle from the past couple months and a few small improvements, nothing that will take me long after GenCon. We’ll have both manuscripts at the convention to show off and we’ll have updates on publication timing after the convention. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

One and the Same Person, Jack: Big Trouble in Little China preview


I'm happy about managing twelve new schemes in this Big Trouble set! One of them is a riff on a scheme from an earlier Marvel set by Devin Low. A couple others restructure familiar ideas. The rest of the schemes create experiences that haven't been played before.

"One and the Same Person, Jack" is wacky challenging fun and one of my favorites. It's probably the closest I got to capturing the arc of the full movie in a single scheme. And it shows off an unexpected bonus: Upper Deck added fun art to each of the schemes!

Here are the two Masterminds who take turns taunting you:



The next preview will show off a couple members of the Wing Kong Exchange and the Warriors of Lo Pan, which will explain a bit more about what's going on during games of "One and the Same Person, Jack."


Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Favorite Monsters: Big Trouble in Little China preview

Working on a bunch of 13th Age stuff today, so this BTiLC preview is going to be quick and self-indulgent, introducing two of my favorite villains from the set. They really are Monsters, the villain group associated with the worst of the Masterminds, Ching Dai.

I liked these two all  during playtest and I think they'll be fun in widely-recruiting games of Marvel: Legendary. When I saw the final art I was even happier, probably my favorite pieces, oozing personality.


I think the Guardian lives up to its on-screen appearance. It's a villain card that has a markedly different impact at the start of the game compared to the end of the game. At the end of the game, it's a quick 3 VP, especially for a player who has already been doing well. But if the Guardian shows up early, there's a decent chance it's going to escape and force you all to beat the Mastermind an extra time, and that one of your all-in efforts to beat the Mastermind is going to be rewarded with the googly-eyed booby prize of a Guardian card that's only worth 3 VP and doesn't do anything worthwhile for you as a Fight effect.


The Bug Monster is a one-card game dynamic! When it shows up at the start of the game, you're saying, "Thank you, thank you for springing out of nowhere and eating one of my lousy Chang Sing Warriors" (or maybe a Mediocre Hero like the Jerk . . . ). But if it does you the favor of eating a hero you can afford to lose, that's not the end, it gets shuffled back into hiding. The more of your 0-cost Heroes you get rid of, the closer you are to losing a Hero who matters. Eventually the Bug Monster gets a happy meal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ENnnies Shout Out

This morning I made the time to poke around on the ENnies voting site for introductions to cool games and websites I hadn’t looked at before. It was painless, informative, fun, and quick, and given the hassles I went through earlier this week coping with other organizations’ misaligned web sites, a hearty shout-out to the ENNIES for handling their voting process so well.
Things that I already liked, and voted for, include The Dracula Dossier, Feng Shui 2, the Dragon Age RPG, Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff, Illuminerdy, the Epic coins from Campaign Coins and the Frostgrave miniatures rules from Osprey.
Things that I worked on as the 13th Age line developer, and voted for, include the free product Race to Starport (written by ASH LAW) and the 13th Age GM’sScreen and Resource Book written by Cal Moore and Wade Rockett.
        The GM resource book that Cal and Wade wrote most of, and that I contributed three or four pages and chum-the-adventure notes to, comes wrapped in a wonderful triptych screen by our core book artists, Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell and also includes Lee’s full-color map of the Dragon Empire.

        Voting can be handled a few nibbles at a time, but it ends tomorrow, so don’t miss the chance to voice support and browse links to new things you might like. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Green-eyed Brides with Killer Kung-Fu: Big Trouble in Little China preview

Towards the end of Big Trouble, the evil sorcerer David Lo Pan orchestrates a prenuptial kung fu exhibition and magical survival ritual for his two green-eyed brides. Am I the only one who thinks that when Gracie Law and Miao Yin float down from the burning blade, they should have learned martial arts?

Upper Deck arranged that we could add a touch of new content where it felt right, so I added green-eyed brides with legendary kung fu! Each of these cards appears once in the set, they're the rares for Gracie and Miao Yin. As you'll see, they also tie in to the two themes I talked about in my earlier design previews.


Fighting Bride is an example of the way the heroes of this set interact with each other. Gracie is into Jack Burton so much that she can see through his dumb glasses and hold onto him even if he's in his Henry Swanson guise. . . and yes, Henry Swanson is another of the game's heroes. No Jack? No Henry? Or during the Showdown when you can't recruit? Fighting Bride will handle the situation herself.

If you're wondering what the Energy symbol is doing on the card, you *could* imagine that her kick-ass kung fu spear is shooting fire! Or you could stick with this set's definition of that symbol as Magic. When Big Trouble characters have the blue symbol, they're dealing with Magic, but it still works fine to interpret it as the Ranged class when bringing in Marvel heroes or mixing the sets.

Certainly Gracie works better when played with the other heroes in this box instead of mixed with the general Marvel population. Playing by the letter of the rules, the Villains and Schemes and Bystanders in Big Trouble fit optimally into games built using the entire random cornucopia of Marvel cards. But if you want to script your own variation on the films, you *could* propose an alternate timeline in which Jack Burton isn't around to be Gracie's bad-boy love interest, but someone like Wolverine is!


Miao Yin's Green-eyed Bride is an example of the other design theme I talked about in the first preview, compelling player interactions. Everyone else needs to choose a gift. So do you gift high, figuring other players will go cheaper? Or do you go low to make sure you can afford to lose the card? If the lowest cards tie, the tied players all lose their cards and the Green-eyed Bride has a wonderful wedding party. And speaking of happy wedding parties, this was a card that my blue-eyed wife Lisa suggested the final version of the mechanic for! If the card causes you strife at your gaming table, try to remember that it was made with love.