I really like that my address falls earlier in the day in the UPS delivery schedule.
I really like that my address falls earlier in the day in the UPS delivery schedule.
13th Age is a game I fell in love with from the start, after reading enough of the core rulebook to get a feel for the design philosophy that Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet were going for with their game. This is incredibly ironic, considering how much of 13th Age’s design borrows from 4e, which I really didn’t like as an RPG. It’s been aptly described as a hybrid of 3.5 and 4e with some new mechanics of its own added to the mix.
Although this may sound like a recipe for a jumbled, unplayable mess, it works surprisingly well, especially considering how vastly the mechanics for 3.5 and 4e differ from each other. I had gotten the core book for 13th Age less than a year after the 4-year D&D campaign that I ran wrapped up. I remember thinking at the time that this is the game that 4th Edition should have been and that I very likely would have run A Time of Dragons using this system had it been available then.
Sadly, I’ve only gotten to play an actual game of 13th Age a handful of times, when I ran a very short-lived campaign for two of my friends. The campaign got off to an exciting, memorable start, but life events and schedule changes soon after caused our tiny group and campaign to dissolve. But I happily can say that the experience of playing 13th Age lived up to the expectations that had formed in my mind after reading the core rulebook.
The system is for experienced players. Like 5e, the focus is on storytelling, and 13th Age lends itself more to theater of the mind style play, even more than 5e. The blend of 4e-style combat mechanics with this style of play is truly an impressive feat, considering how trying to play through a battle in 4e without miniatures and a battle map makes about as much sense as using Windows without a mouse — technically possible, but utterly impractical. The game leans heavily on the improv skills of the GM and players, and those with the ability and willingness to put in the effort to create a collaborative story will be rewarded with many memorable moments, as my players and I were despite being able to play only a few sessions.
Since getting the core book for 13th Age, I’ve added a few other items to my collection. A copy of 13 True Ways was something that’s been on my radar almost from the start, but I only recently acquired one. I didn’t participate in the Kickstarter for 13 True Ways because I hadn’t even heard of 13th Age until after it was over, but I almost certainly would have if I had been aware of this game at that time. Although I haven’t played 13th Age in several years, it’s definitely something I want to revisit again, and even just paging through 13 True Ways has reminded me of how much I like this game.
Nearly 10 years ago, during the early stages of running what grew into an epic, 4-year D&D campaign that I ran for my friends, we faced a crucial decision. I had been running what I had envisioned as a narrative miniatures campaign using a very light set of rules (along with the setting) adapted from Reaper’s miniature game, Warlord. However, a few games in, because of the strong storytelling aspect of the games, as my players naturally started approaching the scenarios with more of an RPG mindset rather than one geared for a miniatures game, I realized it made more sense to transition to a bona-fide RPG rather than continuing to wing it using the rules-light system that I had cobbled together. The question was, which system to use?
Interestingly enough, the timing of this transition coincided with the end of 3.5, and the impending arrival of 4e. Pathfinder was also in its nascent, pre-published form, having recently been announced as well. Other than my wife and myself, everyone involved in that campaign had little experience with tabletop gaming, and none at all when it came to D&D, so I had the luxury and privilege of deciding essentially on my own which system our group would use. I decided relatively early on that it would be between 3.5 or 4e. Pathfinder looked interesting, but I wanted to go with something that was already (or about to be) published rather than waiting another year before being able to get my hands on printed versions of the core books (I did ultimately adopt a few of Pathfinder’s mechanics for sorcerers into the campaign, however).
Like many other gamers, some of the things I had seen in previews for 4e had me concerned, but overall, I thought it looked promising, so I kept an open mind before its release. I was eager to try it out and got to play in a demo game with my wife and one of our friends shortly after its release. My response at the time was that I thought it was ok. We had fun with the demo and had a couple of memorable story moments, but it felt like too much of the focus of gameplay was on the mechanics themselves rather than having the mechanics facilitate the gameplay experience that is unique to tabletop RPGs.
Another 4e demo game sometime later, plus some forays as an observer in the edition wars confirmed my initial thoughts. I’m not offering any new insights here, but for the record, my thoughts about 4e can be summed up this way: it was a radical departure from previous versions of D&D. This didn’t make it a bad game, but one could arguably say that this did make made it a bad D&D game. I think the description of it being essentially a tabletop version of an MMORPG, with its emphasis on powers, even for things like basic melee attacks, and the frequency at which they could be used, is a fair one. That being said, while it may have been a bad D&D game, it excelled at what it was designed for: gameplay that focused on small-scale, tactical combat.
Had it been marketed as something other than the next edition of D&D (or possibly even as a spin-off game based on D&D), there would probably have been little controversy. Of course, the trade-off would’ve been not being able to lean on the D&D brand to help market the game and boost sales — not to mention the logistics and potential problems involved in supporting multiple product lines (which TSR had already experienced previously in its history). Then again, while WOTC/Hasbro were able to leverage the D&D brand to boost sales, it’s reasonable to question whether or not the resulting damage to the brand from the controversy surrounding 4th Edition was worth it.
I decided to go with 3.5 for the campaign. It had officially come to the end of its life cycle, but it was a new system for me and and my gaming group. My friends and I switched the campaign over to the new rules. It successfully ran its course over the next several years, with the PCs going from low-level fledglings to 15th-level heroes by the end. At the same time, I saw my collection of 3.5 books fill out from the three core books to taking up a decent amount of space on my shelf. Since that time, 4e also ran its course, and we’ve seen the advent of 5e. I’ve picked up many of the 5e books and even added a smattering of 4th edition books to my collection — but not the core books themselves.
A year or two ago, I decided that although I’m not terribly fond of 4th edition, given that D&D has been a part of my life for so long, I wanted have at least the core books as part of my collection. to own a copy of every edition of the game. I would occasionally search online and at Half Price Books, but I was never thrilled with the prices I saw for the condition that the books were in — for a relatively unpopular edition, the books still seem to be steadily climbing in price as time goes on.
I actually hadn’t thought much about them in a while, but as luck would have it, I recently came across someone selling a brand-new set online for a steal, and I jumped on it without any hesitation. The books have since arrived and found a new home on my shelf, and I now own a set of core books for every edition of the game.
Well, complete except for the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual that I lent out to some old friends over a decade ago… And everything starting from AD&D 1st Edition, anyway; I’ve never actually owned a Basic set – Red Box, White Box, original, reprint, or otherwise. Not yet, at least.
In between dinner and bedtime (our daughter’s, not ours), we sleeved and prepped the game as a family, and my wife and I got in a few rounds of play, with the girl spectating off to the side. Our first impressions of this game are good. It’s always a plus when I find a new game that my wife genuinely enjoys. We would’ve played more, but my daughter protested the idea of missing out on “discovering the game together as a family” (her words) so much that I promised her we’d wait until tomorrow morning so that we could all play it together.
With a new edition of 40k nearly upon us, not to mention a bunch of other boardgames and RPG and miniature game rulebooks that I already own that I have yet to try, the only logical thing to do would be to get even more books for more new games, right?
In fairness, Open Combat doesn’t exactly count as a new acquisition in the normal sense since it’s a Kickstarter reward from a little over two years ago. Between hiccups in fulfillment on Second Thunder’s end and my experiencing several significant life events since the Kickstarter ended, this one kind of got lost in the shuffle until recently when I got an e-mail reminder to claim my reward. It’s a great looking, high-quality book, and I want to play Open Combat, but truthfully, it may be a long time before I do so.
Two years ago when I backed the Kickstarter, I had pretty much written off anything to do with Games Workshop. I said goodbye to 40k, as I felt the rules were beginning to become too bloated and cumbersome and required too much work for me to find enjoyable (I did elect to keep the vast majority of my minis though). I figured that maybe I’d pick up the occasional miniature now and then if they released something that I thought was really cool, but I certainly wasn’t going to continue collecting entire armies for a game I wasn’t going to play anymore. My, how times do change.
With the renaissance that Games Workshop is in the midst of and with all of the awesome things they’ve been doing and coming out with, I’m dangerously close to going full-on fanboy. Age of Sigmar got off to a rocky start, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about the General’s Handbook and how it brought some much-needed clarity and organization to what I understand is a very open-ended game. I never would have predicted when I started this blog that it wouldn’t be too long before I’d be eagerly anticipating and buying new rulebooks from Games Workshop, singing their praises, and quite simply, feeling connected with them as a customer and a fan.
And who knows, maybe I’ll try to get in a game of Open Combat sometime this week just to spite myself and make me seem like a liar.
From the U.S. this time, though. Although the box arrived in similar condition as the last one.
These guys look like my kind of low-level soldier minis: fun sculpts that are relatively simple to paint, so it shouldn’t take too long to get them onto the table. Plus their description on the back of the box as “malicious progeny” struck me as being really funny for some reason.
Got these at a pretty good price from an eBay seller in Poland. The box took a small beating on the journey, but the contents are all intact.