Jon Del Arroz’s Based Dragon Award Recommendations

Ran a poll yesterday on which blog my readers would like to see next, and the winner by no uncertain terms was my recommendation for Dragon Award nominations. If you haven’t seen the Dragon Awards before, they are the premier award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, given at Dragon*Con, arguably the best convention that exists. Please, readers, do take the time to vote as this is really your award choice and your voice matters.

Best Science Fiction Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli

Richard really has created a great science fiction, and I mean that in the classic sense. It’s on the short side, but it’s packed with a lot of ideas and it’s definitely the best sci-fi of the year. 

Best Fantasy  A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day

Vox Day is the most underrated fantasy author in fiction. His Arts of Dark and Light series is frankly better fantasy than Brandon Sanderson (of whom I’m a big fan), Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks or George R.R. Martin. The characters are fantastic, the world is a very cool Roman-esque fantasy world, it’s tense all the way through, and it’s got very cool magic and magical beings.

Best Young Adult Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter.

The Rachel series is really a wonderful take on wizardry school. I find it a shame that this series hasn’t won an award yet and that should be remedied in 2017.  Mrs. Lamplighter-Wright gets mad at me when I say that this series is better than Harry Potter… so I won’t say it. But I may have said it somewhere else in the past 🙂 

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz. 

It’s like Rogue One, only better and with actual characters who aren’t flat and have real romance. Do I need to explain this one to you? 😉  If you click on the nomination page and put one book in, put this one in. 

Best Alternate History  Breath of Earth by Beth Cato. 

This both took place in my home city and dealt with a period of time you don’t read a ton about. Everyone knows about the 1906 earthquake’s existence, but adding details and magic to it makes for a really compelling tale.

Best Apocalyptic A Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys.

Dan’s got a fresh take on Zombies that is very fun, a lot of action, and a wild ride. It’s pretty long for a zombie book but it only gives the plot that much more depth.

Best Horror Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Declan continues to redefine Vampire fiction with his third installment in the series. Book 1 got a dragon award nomination last year, and the series only gets more interesting from there. While book 2 is also eligible, this is where Declan should make his stand for the awards, as it fits the horror genre like fangs fit the Carotid artery.

Best Comic Book  Motor Girl #1 by Terry Moore.

His Rachel Rising was one of my favorite books of all time, and I was sad to see it end. This has classic cartoon elements, a gorilla (RIP Harambe), aliens, and a much deeper plot that’s unfolding. Issue 1 is great for the hook, and well worth the read.

Best Graphic Novel  Chew vol 12. – Sour Grapes by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Chew was honestly the best comic book of the last several years. The concept’s cool. It’s hilarious on every front. It’s actually pretty in depth, and the expansion of the powers of food get so ridiculous. People hated on the ending, but I thought it was fricking hilarious. Chew is most worthy of the Dragon.

Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy TV Series No award.

I don’t like any SF/F TV shows right now. They all suck. Bah humbug.

Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy Movie Passengers

This is a beautiful film. Great plot, great sci-fi, great romance, great characters. It can be a little slow at points but the timing feels realistic.There’s a lot of good sci-fi plot points and tropes in here and frankly Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence could do the hokey pokey on screen for two hours and I’d watch it and probably love it.

Best PC or Console Game Final Fantasy XV. 

An excellent installment to the Final Fantasy series. The battle system was wonderful, story great, characters compelling, the backstory and world were done right and the visuals are stunning as always.

Best Mobile Game Epic Card Game Digital

This game took everything fun about Magic: The Gathering and got rid of the heavy baggage of that game. It’s somewhat simpler to play though when I went into competitive matches I got STOMPED, so there is a lot more depth than people realize as well. There’s some cool mechanics unique to the game too and it’s super exciting that it’s now on a digital platform in app version. 

Best Board Game Hero Realms

Star Realms in Fantasy, yet they tweaked a couple of things to make it unique. You can play with “class decks” which you customize your playstyle before you even start, a nice innovation for deck building. On top of that, the power curve is very different. It’s worth a play, or a hundred.

Best Miniatures/CCG/RPG  Star Wars: Destiny

I mentioned this was my favorite game of 2016 launching at the tail end of the year. It’s a competitive card game but with dice, and has a very unique duel feel to it. I love how the dice work, the game mechanics are very clean and it’s always tense to play. Fantasy Flight usually nails it with their star wars games and this is no exception.

And there you have it. Go out and vote!

First Take On Fantasy Flight’s Legend Of The Five Rings Reboot

Yesterday, Fantasy Flight Games put out the first real information on their relaunch of L5R, which is probably my favorite all time game if I really get down into it. It struggled a bit after the “race for the throne” to hold a lot of people’s attention — which as a Megaevent where the card game players really got to shape what happened in its very in-depth storyline, a large part of why I loved the game so much.  After that, it was hard to find that level of engagement, really it was an event that couldn’t be topped in gaming.

The game did suffer from some mechanical flaws to it that made for lopsided victories, taking too long to really build up the engine to get going, a “lose more” capability as if a person got behind early they didn’t have a lot of ways to come back, among other things. When FFG bought the property, much of the player base had shied away because of some bad design choices made in Emperor Edition of the game that made it unfun for many to play, and difficult for new players to get involved.

FFG opened the announcement with their “clans” or factions in the game that you can play. In the old version there were 9 playable factions, this is down to 7, a pare down that is necessary for game balance I think. 9 was very difficult, and a couple of the clans always ended up unplayable. I like this from the get go.

The first explanation gets into “how to pay for cards” in the game, which also has a cool mechanic called fate, in which it gives you currency. A card only stays in play for how much fate you’ve paid above its cost. This solves some of the problems of the game’s first iteration as someone’s massive build up could be impossible to overcome, also an issue in Magic The Gathering if you’re not playing the correct colors for board wipes. This is a solid idea, and I’m interested to see how it goes.

I love the redo of honor. Honor was a number that you’d get in the old game, and you’d just have it. If you got a certain number of points, you’d win the game. That holds true here but now there are drawbacks and uses for honor as well — it’s used to refill your hand and draw cards. If you sacrifice more honor you draw more cards, making it a very useful mechanic indeed, and it really makes you have to think if you want to use that as your victory path.

Then we get to the meat combat of the game. This is really where it’s become a much different game than the first iteration where you had cards with Attack values, and they’d go into a province (which is where cards are played from) and go up against the other army’s attack values. In the old game, if you had higher, you’d wipe out the entire army. The province then had a “strength” rating, and if your army had higher than that plus the defending army’s strength, it would be destroyed, and that player wouldn’t be able to draw cards from it anymore. Not the case now. You compare, all cards seem to be safe other than from card effects that give removal. It didn’t exactly define what happens with provinces in this gameplay page, but says that the winning player gets the Imperial Favor.  I do like that there’s 2 different attack stats – military and political, and you choose which battle you’re going to pursue. It’s a lot like Game of Thrones in that regard for the stats, but still has a nice L5R flavor. Looks like the concept of Chi is gone, so there’s not going to be any annoying shenanigans on that like the old game had. Much simpler sounding, and decent enough. I’ll have to see how this is played in earnest.

Victory paths — honor is still a condition of victory possibility, so is dishonoring your opponent, and then destroying provinces is also the same, but they label it a bit differently. I see that getting all 5 rings into play is not a victory condition, which is sad, but it is probably better to pare it down to 3 for balance’s sake, at least to start.

I’m going to need to see a little bit more about how the destruction of provinces work and really how battle flows to draw a real conclusion. Here’s my thoughts on points so far:

  1. I like that political is a skill now and they attack via political means. That means we won’t be seeing passive honor decks that just sit there. That was a negative play experience and that honor does something useful and politics is an attack form and a stat now is very interesting, also thematic.
  2. I’ll note the cards they had didn’t have character names on them, but things like “Matsu Berserker”. These appear to be non-unique cards, meaning you can play multiple on a battlefield at a time. I appreciate that the non-unique aren’t named actually, because they’re supposed to be representative and it kinda didn’t make sense the way it was done before. I note that the unique names are shown, so they do exist. Interesting flavor, and fine by me.
  3. Story appears to be rebooted. This is good. The old story was a jumbled cluster to say the least. I hope they still allow player involvement in making story but that they’re a lot more careful about it. This needs to be the top notch dialed in aspect of the game.
  4. All the new mechanics look cool on the surface. I’m excited, personally. This looks to be shaping up to be something good. I trust FFG. They seem to do great to a point, which is where we’ll really see, which is when the cardpool for the game gets pretty big.
  5. Overall, the streamlining looks good on all fronts. It looks slick and fun. About as happy as I can be given the information that I have.

Star Realms: Rescue Run Promo Card!!!

Needless to say, I’m excited. A reader messaged me this morning and let me know that Star Realms: Rescue Run has been made into a promo card for the game,which is available on the Board Game Geek Store:

Very cool. I love the art with the event frame. I think that Antonis (the artist) did an incredible job in making the book cover about the most beautiful piece of game art I’ve ever seen. If you missed my interview with Antonis, it’s here. 

But what a cool event as well. You can stack your next turn or make this one really hum. I’d love to see it chained in a hand where you’ve got some card draw for maximum use. Event pops, grab what you want from your discard, play the card drawing card, proc an ally ability and put the turn over the top. Such a useful card and can’t wait to add it to my deck.

If you’re grabbing this card from the Geek Store, and haven’t gotten the book yet, you should. It’s gotten great reviews, is nominated for an Alliance Award, and adds a lot of flavor depth to the game. It’s available here.  

Edit: Already been asked if I’d sign the card. Yes. Message me privately or leave a comment with your email below and I’d be happy to have you mail it over and mail it back to you. Can’t be responsible for mishaps with the post office though, so do bear that in mind!

Never So Excited To Get A Box (Star Realms!)

I found out a couple weeks ago that Star Realms has produced a new storage box through Legion Supplies. The little boxes that the base game comes in barely stores those cards as it is, and so when you sleeve your cards (pro-tip you should always put game cards in protective sleeves, especially if you’re going to play a game hundreds of times. The cards will wear out otherwise!) it wouldn’t fit in there. Naturally for awhile i had them in a standard card box, but then they outgrew that.

Star Realms came out with a box that fit that base set and its subsequent expansions a couple years ago. And that came with the promo card Merc Cruiser and a bunch of sleeves, which is a great reason to buy it on its own.

However with Colony Wars, the United expansion, cosmic gambits… even that box is overflowing to the point where I can’t fit all the cards in it. .

They finally made a bigger box! This one is 500 count, and should last me at least through next year at which point I hope they’ll come out with a double rowed box. It’s also quite pretty. Further pretty are the 4 awesome dividers depicting space battles. Great art as always. Fun stuff.

It also comes with more sleeves (depicted above), which i can always use and finally, the most important part.

A new card! The Merc Battlecruiser. 6 damage for 6 and draw a card, plus it procs any faction you want on ally abilities. This card is hot! I think it’ll be a must buy whenever it hits the trade row. Very exciting.

Cold Shadows RPG

I love RPGs! I won’t lie, what got me into this whole writing game was playing Star Trek RPGs on message boards in the mid-90s. From time to time, I hop onto one of those games anonymously for a little bit of fun until I get busy writing a book and can spend only so much time typing. I’ve also played a lot of tabletop RPGs over the years, including Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinders, DC Universe RPG, Star Wars Saga, Star Wars Fantasy Flight, Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea, among others.

What I haven’t had in my life is a Soviet vs. American themed cold war spy game, until now! Continue reading

Geekchats with Android: Netrunner Designer Damon Stone

Geekchats returns with its first installment for 2017! Last year we started this wonderful series with NYT Bestselling Author, Todd McCaffrey, as well as Amazon Bestselling Author, Michael J. Sullivan. I am super excited to talk about theme and gaming with Damon Stone. We’ve been on panels in person at a convention talking about just this topic, and it’ll be interesting to revisit and see how the importance of theme has changed since that time, especially with the current prominence of Legacy games. I hope to glean a little information on Netrunner’s forthcoming Terminal Directive expansion with that in mind.

You can watch the feed of Damon Stone and me below, which sill stream live on Wednesday, January 25th 2017 at 12:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. 


Next week, we will have a social theorist who has written for Foreign Policy, The Federalist, Vice and the Week, James Poulos to talk about the meaning of freedom an discuss his new book, The Art Of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us From Ourselves. Stay tuned for details!

Gaming and the Future According to FFG

Team Covenant this week put up a pretty interesting video from a gaming business perspective. It’s a bit dry if you’re not interested in the topics, but they interviewed Fantasy Flight’s CEO Christian T. Petersen about the Asmodee merger last year, what it means, and Fantasy Flight’s direction going forward. I love Team Covenant’s videos, especially the one where I walk in the background at Gencon 2016 because it has my pretty face on it. I’ll let you find that one yourself if you haven’t seen it. The info from this video seems to be from Nov 2016 as there is some dated material, but it’s still worth the watch as it’s been posted this week.  Continue reading