Saturday, 30 March 2013

On Gaming, Wil Wheaton and TableTop... or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Wesley Crusher and Board Games.

Gaming has probably been one of the highest influences in my entire life next to movies & TV, comic books and music. I’ve been gaming since I can remember and I can’t think of a extended period of time when I wasn’t doing some sort of gaming in my free time for any prolonged period of time. When I was a lot younger I remember playing board games with my Mom and my brother (and if he was wasn’t working my Dad) and we had a few of the classics like Scrabble, Cluedo, Monopoly, Trouble, Connect Four (my personal favourite), Snake and Ladders (obviously) and a couple of others whose names elude me at this point1. It’s funny how much you don’t realise that some of those games really do teach you a couple of things2, and as much as I hated Scrabble back then I kinda like it now and I can get pretty aggressive at Monopoly. Unfortunately like most people the older you get, the less you play such games, and with the invention of home computers and gaming my gaming desire were sated elsewhere (specifically the Commodore 64 at the time).

For the sake of being truthful and to taking the long route to get to the point, I have a confession to make. When I was a young kid I hated Star Trek, and for the life of me I can’t truly understand way because it should have been a show that I would have loved. I think it just never took my imagination at the time but I do remember being distinctly put off by the theme music (yes I didn’t like the woo-ee-oooh voice over the music) but I think it was also in combination of the static picture of the grey big headed alien that used to creep me out3. Along came this thing called “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and by that stage I was a little older (but not much as we’re about to see) and I became a rabid fan of that particular incarnation... well except for one thing, and by thing I mean person, and by person I mean Wesley Crusher. Wesley was a little bit older than me and by all accounts he should have been someone I should have looked up, and yet I didn’t, I just couldn’t stand him. I think it could have been the great combination of ‘whiny’ mixed with ‘know-it-all’ but alas the true reason is locked up within the mind of a 10 year old4. Either way like most imbeciles I transferred that grudge to the dumb actor that played him and I held that particular grudge for a few years, mostly because I was a dumbass teenager and that’s what you do. I wish I could go slap that idiotic version of me and say “HE’S JUST AN ACTOR, BLAME THE CRUMBY WRITERS WHO COULDN’T WRITE A KID TO SAVE THEIR OWN!” But I digress... a lot as it seems.

During this time I pretty much stopped playing “bored” games altogether, amiright? Ha ha, actually I still liked playing board games but opportunities presented themselves few and far between. Typically the only times I ever got a proper chance to play any was playing Scrabble when we were suffering from regular power black outs, mostly because it was the only game mom insisted on playing.. stupid learning games when I could be playing Amiga. By the time my brother left home we never played any, although one year my parents bought me the 20th anniversary Star Wars Monopoly set, which to this day remains my favourite version of Monopoly (especially as the Pewter tokens where taken from the same moulds they used for the RPG lead figurines). Sadly as much as there was a flurry of monopoly playing, it kind of fizzled out, but not until one epic game on one of my birthdays when a match lasted until 4am, at which that point I was so tired I called the game and kicked my friends out of my house so I could sleep.

Cut to a few years ago and I remember reading about PVP and how Scott Kurtz had met this person who was surprisingly cooler than anyone really gave him credit for, his name was Wil Wheaton. What. The. Hell??? One of my favourite web cartoonist likes Wesley Crusher??? Well luckily enough (for me) I had grown up a lot since then so instead of vowing to stop reading PVP, I started to look into the worst thing to happen to Star Trek (well until Enterprise) and was surprised to learn that Wesley had become an author, “because obviously he was a fucking terrible actor har har!” my incredibly dumb teenage inner nerd probably said, and so I started reading his blog. Just for clarification this was about the time that ‘Dancing Barefoot’ had been published and I think ‘Just a Geek’ was in the process of being completed, but it was an incredibly good point to start reading as his skills were starting to get really good (as his earlier blogs are a bit... well, self-absorbed crap is probably a bit harsh but kinda fair, yes I went back that far). And so I started to like Wil, but the Wesley thing still was in the back lurking5 but was financially (and geographically) unable to get his books so I never truly became a fan... until a couple of years ago.

Since after High School the only gaming that wasn’t in front of a TV screen was role-playing, which was sometime in front of a GM screen (if I was running it), I had pretty consistently played Advanced Dungeon and Dragons 2nd Edition from 1997 until around the time 3rd Edition came out. Athough around 2001/2 I had “graduated” to playing the more serious RPGs like Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension. After a few years of playing these games I slowly got tired of the weekly RPG grind, and other associated dramas, so I quit playing for a few years. I eventually returned for a short spell but between early morning wake-up for work and late night RPG sessions were very taxing, as well as other dramas that where much like the other dramas, made me quit once more. Since then I’ve joined other games and they either went nowhere, or people became unavailable so the games never continued, or I got so tired of turning up for a campaign and spent 95% of the time twiddling my thumbs because I had nothing to do.

I’m not sure exactly what happened but I was thrown back into the world of Wil Wheaton after reading more about some of the things he had been working on. I remember that he was in an episode of Numbers playing a jackass comic book publisher, but I ended up downloading the episode because it was also set in a comic convention and also guess starring Christopher Lloyd. I really like the episode and I did like what is possibly the birth of Evil Wil Wheaton. Around this time I find this thing called “Memories of the Future” in which Wil starts writing humorous plot summaries of old TNG episodes, but wasn’t able to find all of them at the time. Then Wil starts popping up all over the internet in things and I go back to his blog and I’m immediately hooked back into his world, but I wasn’t truly a fan until I started to listen to “Memories of the Futurecast”. Wil’s delivery combined with his reviews just killed me and I needed more, so I got all of Radio Free Burrito. At this time Lulu had finally started delivery overseas and I had a job which allowed me to buy more crap off the internet, it was like a match made in Silicon Heaven. Needless to say I got all his books, his podcast, his audiobooks (which are also in the car) and started following his blog again. It was because of Wil’s cameos I ended up becoming a huge fan of both Leverage and Eureka, both of which I’ve rewatched numerous times are both some of my favourite tv series of all time (independently of Wil’s contribution to the series but his cameos did inspire me to watch them).

Finally we reach to this time last year and a web series that I can honestly say has changed my life for the better. Whilst I still love playing video games to this day, and will probably finally get started on the buttload of new DLC for Mass Effect 3, RPG gaming was either getting stale or games were being cancelled or never started6 despite best efforts, so the whole ‘social’ gaming stuff just really wasn’t happening and I don’t care much for MMORPG. Any way suddenly there was this announcement that Felicia Day was creating a new channel on YouTube that was finally showing the new season of The Guild, along with a load of new showing including... wait, what? Wil Wheaton? Hosting a show about gaming??? Shut up and take my money! It turned out to be a show dedicated to table top or board gaming, but not your regular Monopoly/Cluedo/Scrabble ventures. It was intriguing to see this show, never thinking that within a few short weeks I’d be playing the games involved within the show itself! Whilst I spread the word to a few of my friends about the show, it was my friend Adam who I’d only known for a short time beforehand (and yet strangely enough helped him move before I really got to know him) had a couple games, including Settlers of Catan... and so we played it... and I was hooked. My other friend Eric had gotten a decent job and was also starting to build up a collection of games from TableTop, so we arranged a game’s night with Adam... which then turned into a weekly gaming night (including RPG sessions) and we included more people7. Whilst we haven’t gotten around to getting all the games that have been played on TableTop, the ones we have played have been incredibly good (and in some cases downright hilarious) that we also tend to take several games to PC or Console gaming nights to have a break from the monitors and have some fun.

So far between Adam, Eric and myself we have the following games played on TableTop or derivatives of: (in order of episode appearance)
- Smallworld (not a big fan, but I’m warming up to it)
- Settlers of Catan (one of my faves)
- Tsuro of the Seas (the sequel to the one played, and possibly a better game)- Ticket to Ride (a personal favourite, and a story I’m hoping to share in the future)
- Munchkin (originally just Space Munchkin but a group effort has expanded this to included many of big box expansions and loads of the littler expansions to the point we have at rough guestimate over a 1000 cards in the set)
- Cthulu Gloom + Expansion (spin off of the original Gloom, still very fun)
- Say Anything (THE best party game with a bunch of funny seedy people)
- Elder Sign (slow to start with, but can be one of the best group games)
- Dixit (like Say Anything, can depend on the group, fun but I think I prefer the other one)
- Pandemic (pure evil)
- Fluxx / Star Fluxx / Pirate Fluxx / Zombie Fluxx (we were playing this before TableTop was made, but I think my preferable deck is Zombie) 
That’s it so far, we’ve been trying to get the rest but they are either hard to get, sold out, or cost too much/can’t afford at this moment. Strangely enough we hardly every take any photos of us playing these games and with today being International TableTop Day, here is a photo from Thursday when we were playing Cthulu Gloom.
1 – There was this absolutely awesome ‘haunted house’ board game that I thought was pretty fun, unfortunately my recollections are incredibly sketchy at best; however I remember that if your character got scared you had to put this little plastic glow in the dark scary face on it, which was kinda awesome.
2 – I swear Connect Four and Battleship helped me learn more about strategy then Chess ever did.
3 – One day I’ll reveal why I didn’t like Doctor Who has a kid as well... but not today.
4 – Whilst the VHS copies where available here, it didn’t debut on TV for a couple of years afterwards, probably a good thing too as I vaguely remember watching an episode on VHS and had no idea wtf was going on with the series... by this stage I had gotten over my fear of the old series was becoming a fan of the movie series, so I didn’t know why there was no Kirk or Spock at that stage.5 – Well until a few years ago when as an adult I re-watched every TNG episode and saw some absolutely fantastic Wesley episodes I must have missed as a kid, and got a greater appreciation for the character and was actually happy to see him in Nemesis.6 – I’m not entirely blameless, I’ve had a Ghostbusters RPG on the boil now for nearly 2 years and just haven’t had time to work on it let alone run it.7 – Which keep being run until Adam and his fiancée were forced to move house at short notice and the drivable distance isn’t feasible to make regular trips from my house or at least whilst I don’t have a job and can’t afford the fuel.


  1. I'm the guy on the left! :P

    Great read, great post!

  2. our gaming nights will return...the Hero Base is coming!!!