All games are customizable

 

You know, in all the hype of Risk being customizable, I forgot that ALL games are customizable.

Now, I know there are some people who think games (and indeed books) are beautiful perfect museum objects. You should look away now. I read books with a pen in my hand, because annotation adds to meaning and clarity. Why should games be any different? Don’t like a rule? Change it. Add an in-joke. Make a cultural reference more localized. Doodle on the corner. It shouldn’t have to be 1001 Blank White Cards (which is one of my favourite games, by the by) to make us get the pen out.

And I say this because we need all the encouragement we can get, it seems. Case in point: this weekend we are gearing up for our local convention and tournament of the awesomely ridiculous and ridiculously awesome CCG, Shadowfist. One of the tournaments uses a draft, but since the game requires basic cards (like lands in magic) and most “lands” in the game have super-powers, we have “pods” of basic sets of lands ready to go, which are assumed to all have blanked rules text to keep things fair. After a very long conversation about whether we should print out blanked templates to stick onto the lands to make up permanent pod cards or just ignore the text, we finally, finally realised that we live in a world with photoshop, cheap ink and excellent printers. Not to mention scissors and glue.

Since they have no rules, there was no issue of design or fairness, and because the game is about battling for control of Feng Shui energy by claiming or defending sites, the obvious conclusion was to make our local tournament be about local conquest. Which is to say, we made up a whole set of cards based on local Brisbane landmarks. The con blog has three done so far. The whole deck is going to look awesome and make the tournament feel unique.

And it struck me that this needs to be done EVERYWHERE. Why play Monopoly and land on Park Place/Mayfair when you could land on Dave’s House? Why win $50 in a Beauty Contest when you could win $50 Fighting a Giant Wombat? Sure, biro looks cheap but GIMP is free, and we live in a world of glue and scissors.

Forget the sacred. It’s stopping us from making games more awesome, more fun and more about US. This weekend, I want you all to drag out your Monopoly set and rename all the properties. I dare you. I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU.

Then post your new board on the web. And the best thing is, yours won’t look like anyone else’s, ever. You’ll have a unique board game that you helped design (if only graphically), and you didn’t even have to play Risk to get it. And that’s awesome.

Ah, City of Heroes, I love you

Our new thematically-linked superhero team, Not Just For Christmas. They have a linked backstory and origin as well as their own stories, but I won’t bore you with them here. Suffice to say, any game that lets you play dogs gets my attention, and City does so much of MMOing RIGHT – not least of which is maximizing the “dress-up” fun of it all. It was designed and released before World of Warcraft and has consistently done a better job in design and playability in almost every respect, often being light years ahead of the market leader or indeed any competition.

It goes free to play in October, so you may want to check it out.

It’s not just an RPG that fits on a business card…

 

…it’s a GREAT RPG that fits on a business card. By the always goddamn fricking brilliant James Wallis. I like the way it understands pacing and plot. I’ve always been a fan of “procedures”, as Ghostbusters called them, where the plot beats are hardwired into the game mechanics, and this does this beautifully.

As the man says, it’s pretty free-form, but what isn’t these days?  And it’s short, too, which we really need more of. I mean short to play AND short to read. Short is good if only because it’s easier to sell (in every sense).

Only problem is, I have no way to get business cards apart from stealing them from that big jar at Subways. As always, gaming has driven me to crime.