Thursday 29 May 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

If you've been following this blog at all, you'll probably have noticed a board game centric take on gaming. Game sessions is a broader topic than just board games. If you just want board game posts then look for posts with the label "board game": this post is labeled "console game".

Two tanks roll into base. I've got a rocket launcher but only 2 shots left. I duck for cover. Overhead a dogfight is raging, no air support. I run to the wall and climb up to a mounted machine gun. I unload round after round into one tank, but then its turret tracks toward my location. I jump away from the gun, run up a walkway right over the tank. The gun has been destroyed. I grab a wrench and drop onto the enemy tank. Two more hits from the wrench and the tank is gone. Too bad the other tank gets me in its sights then.

Warhawk is about conflict between the Eucadian (blue) and Chernovan (red) forces. There is some back story about Chernovan's invading Eucadia, but you have to look hard to find it. The zone mode is a game about 2 teams with up to 16 players on each team fighting to conquer (or defend) territory.

Warhawk doesn't seem like that much on paper: only 5 different maps, no single player mode, no bots.

Warhawk is my favorite online game.
This game has something for everyone. I really enjoy big games (20+ people). But there are people who enjoy small (2-8) team death matches or flying capture the flag games or 4 player split screen death matches or even just jeep races (not an official mode, but that doesn't stop people).

It does support up to 32 players in 4 different game modes. And each of the 5 maps has several different layouts. There are infantry, jeeps, tanks, and aircraft. Both grunts and planes have weapon pick-ups.

I frequently host games using the PS3 as a dedicated server (how cool is that). Feel free to let me know if there are any game types that you don't feel have enough dedicated servers. I'm currently hosting a 12 player flying capture the flag game.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Ca$h 'n Gun$ Revisted

After that long post talking about different party games, it occurs to me that one of the game I mentioned (Ca$h 'n Gun$) isn't that mainstream, and probably should be described to casual readers (all 5 of you, according to probably erroneous site tracking information).

Ca$h 'n Gun$ is a game which recreates the end of Reservoir Dogs complete with foam guns to point at people's heads. The premise is that you are returning after a successful crime and need to split the money. You deal up some bills from a bag and then the game starts.

Players decide if they will load their gun or not (using a card mechanism so players can count your bullets). They then simultaneously point foam guns at each other. You can then chicken out (which might be a good idea if 5 players have guns pointed at you). Chickening out does cost you points at the end, but it's better than being dead.

Everyone left in then reveals how the loaded their guns. If you are shot you get a wound per bullet. 3 wounds and you are out. I should also mention that shots are mostly simultaneous, too; it's possible for 2 players to shoot each other. The complication is the Bang! Bang! Bang! card. This give that shooter priority over normal shots.

Anyone left after the gun play (ie people who didn't chicken out or get shot) get a cut of the loot, but it must be divided evenly so there's often some left in the pot. Most money minus chicken tokens held by someone with less than 3 wounds at the end of the game is the winner.

I don't really like the game that much. It is fun to point guns at each other, but the payoffs are highly dependent on the number of players left to split the money. I've been in every split except one (due to being shot) and lost by a large margin because the one split I missed was worth 3 times any other one. I supposed there might be some strategy in figuring out the shares based on number of players, but that's seems very mathy for a party game. It also seems unthematic.

I'm playing a game about a shoot out over criminal loot and win because I calculate the division better than others? Oh well. At least it is a quick game (unlike Cranium).

Thursday 15 May 2008

Cranium WOW You're Good

Finals are wrapping up and my brain is starting to recover from the lack of sleep and general stress (so it's time for another post).

There are lots of hobbies and ways to spend free time: from mainstream things like local sports leagues and knitting to more specialized pursuits like water skiing or carpentry. Even within gaming there are CCGs, video games, massive on-line games, RPGs, and board games (let's not get started on the differences between board game styles for the moment).

At a basic level gaming is something we do to have fun. It is a more interactive experience than a film buff's hobby, but less reality based than motorcycling (in that nothing really happens in a game other than sitting down and manipulating some bits).

All this is just a long winded way of saying that I participated in a game of Cranium recently. Party games might as well be CCGs to me: neither really draws me in. I definitely had fun. But that was fun from socializing with the other players, not fun from the game.

If you've been reading this blog regularly then you know that I enjoy the social aspect of games a lot. So why did such a social game "fall flat" for me?

I think it goes back to immersion. Games that draw me into another world more thoroughly than a film tend to be games that I enjoy. During the whole game of Cranium, I was sitting by a board goofing around with friends.

Some abstracts still draw me in. I could play Go almost any time. Go is a war in miniature for me. I can almost feel the cry of soldiers as provinces are snatched up. I feel the enemy exerting pressure on my forces. I am shocked when clever tactics by the enemy turns my planned victory into a crushing defeat.

Cranium doesn't draw me in. I'm still just sitting around next to a board. Maybe party games just aren't my thing?

Ca$h 'n Gun$ is a party game, though. I do enjoy the game with the cop variant. I also enjoy the basic game more than Cranium, but I suspect that that's because Ca$h 'n Gun$ is shorter (and the pain ends quicker). Ca$h 'n Gun$ is immersing no matter how you play it (unlike Cranium), but I don't feel like I have any meaningful decisions (something which is similar to Cranium).

Or the whole bashing of Cranium could be due to my extreme fatigue when playing. I can only say how I felt when playing the game after stress of finals and very little sleep. It could be that the game has "hidden depths" which my sleep deprived mind couldn't grasp.