So Spirit Island was definitely the new-to-me board game highlight of this year's Trogland meetup. Let's talk about it a little.
First off, Spririt Island is a cooperative game, which is always a big plus for me. There are a number of competitive games I enjoy of course, but all else being equal, coop is always more fun. I'm always glad to find a new, solid, coop game.
In this game, each player plays as one of several primal "spirits" inhabiting an island and taking care of the natives. Unfortunately, some punk colonists from who-knows-where have arrived and are messing up the place - like they do. Your objective as a group is to stop their spread, repair their damage, and ultimately eliminate them from the island - hopefully keeping the natives safe(ish) in the process.
Each spirit starts off in their own little corner of the island. As the game progresses, they will spread their influence, gain powers, and increase in colonist-stomping strength. On each turn, you'll "grow" a bit, and then try to find the best way to apply your current powers to the situation at hand.
Each spirit also plays quite bit differently from the next. Not quite Vast-level "different", but enough that it meaningfully effects the play and feel of the game. Also enough that, with all you have to keep track of just for yourself, it would be hard to concern yourself with what anyone else is doing. This goes quite a ways in preventing the "alpha gamer" problem where you have one person that wants to tell everyone else how to play.
The mix of characters at the table will also affect your group's overall strategy and the general progression of the game. Really interesting dynamics there.
The pacing of the game has an interesting reversal of many games. Many games start out slow and easy and ramp up to a certain franticness. Spirit Island is almost the opposite - you start off feeling pretty overwhelmed by the colonial presence, but as you play through turns and gain power, you quickly begin to out-pace them and, by the end of the game (if you're winning), you're pretty handily wiping them out. You might think this would be anti-climactic (and, I suppose it could be in some senses or situations), but it actually plays really well.
Really enjoyed this one. Like I said before, probably my favorite find of the weekend.
So last weekend we had our mostly-annual Trogland meetup. I say "mostly" annual because we missed last year for the first time since we started doing this thing back in '07. Things just kinda fell apart in 2018. At this point, it's mostly just me planning the thing with some input from some of the others. Not that I mind, really, but it's a significant task.
This year, though, I think went pretty well. We had a different venue which was a little smaller, but our old location inflated the price on us about 700% which was undoable. Sunday we actually spent in the game room of a local game shop, which was actually kind of cool.
We operated at a bit of a deficit this year. I was glad we had some cash left over from previous Troglands to break even. May need to tweak some things for the future, but overall not a big deal.
I think this year's Trogland went quite well. One of the cool things this year was that several of the kids were actually old enough to participate. I guess we're getting to be that age. I mean, we have been doing this for 12 years.
Games at the Trog.
So we played games, of course. I mean, that's what we do. Didn't get to run the Fate game I'd pitched, but after the massive Battletech encounter, several of the participants weren't up for a longer time commitment.
I got to play Stuffed Fables again - still only made it to the junk-pile page, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Played through Mysterium as a player, which was fun even if I was terrible (I'd been the ghost the previous 2 times).
The Mind is a very interesting game in its staggering simplicity.
Sheri played a game called Comanauts, which I understand to be similar to Stuffed Fables but with a darker, more serious sci-fi theme.
I got to play Pandemic again for the first time in years - and, for the first time ever, we won.
Unearth was enjoyable, though we didn't get to play a whole game.
I think the board game highlight of the weekend for me was Spirit Island - will be making a post dedicated to that one.
And, of course, I got to run the Battletech scenario, which always takes a long time but I always enjoy. Ran this one as a double-blind where both sides felt like they were the underdog and a countdown timer brought other conditions into play. It went just about exactly like I'd hoped.
That's just what I made it to the table for (or observed). LOTS of other games were played. Lots more fun was had.
It was a good time, as always.
Oh, and on Sunday at the game store we picked up Folklore, which we heard great things about from some other attenders and we're planning to try out tonight.
- Lily, Tyrrox, and Ravina were upstairs battling the hordes of demons rushing out of the previously-sealed room. They were managing to keep most from escaping, but some managed to push their way through.
- Trying to stay focused, Taryn dropped the key and headed deeper into the room - trying to get closer to the rift before triggering the anti-magic effect. He was unexpectedly pursued, however, by a pair of devils that suddenly appeared.
- Kael, meanwhile, played as though he accepted the hezrou's offer for aid in defeating the more powerful demon while he too maneuvered further into the room.
- Fighting broke out between the two most powerful demons in the room, but the most powerful demon present seemed intent only on tempting Kael - presenting him with powerful artifacts and an implicit promise of great power. Taryn, on the other hand, was struggling against the devils to get the orb out of his pack. Seeing Kael less harassed by enemies, he threw his pack to his friend. Kael caught the bag, which interrupted interaction with the demon. Within that brief moment of clarity, he pulled out the orb and shattered it.
- The resulting shockwave plunged the room into darkness as all magical and supernatural effects were extinguished. The group hurriedly withdrew, occasionally being buffeted by demons also escaping.
- Near the surface, they reached the edge of the anti-magic effect. Outside they found a dense magical fog and the distant sounds of battle. As Ravina cast a Wind Walk spell to aid in their flilght from the region, they caught site of the bronze dragon, still very angry at the intrusion...
- The Foxes had discovered that Muggs (the leader of the Stone Club) was going to be attending a particular hound race at Vreen's and made a plan to pull of their hit operation then and there. Fortune was with the PCs' crew this time, as Muggs conveniently separated himself from his attendant and bodyguard - a woman called Rellanna. While Drave tangled with her and everyone else was distracted by the manifesting form of a horrific spectral ogre, Erik was able to move in for the kill.
- This turned out ot be Erik's last operation, however - the scoundrel's life had taken its toll on the man, unhinging him a little. His companions decided they'd turn him in to take the fall for the crew to clear some heat on them.
- While their leader is dead, the Stone Club is by no means defeated. They're undoubtedly planning a counterstrike, and foxes will need to press their advantage if they're going to make this strike really count...
- After some discussion and further study of Lily's map, the group decided to explore another possible entrance to the dungeon vaults: a secret passage that seemed to originate from another building. After finding that route impassable, they resigned themselves to the "main" entrance and decided to rest for the night. Passing through the streets again the next morning, they found them thick with an unnatural fog and could hear the sounds of some commotion in the distance - at least some of which was certainly the dragon.
- The plan for the dungeon vaults was this: they would break the seal and fight off the demons just long enough for someone to get near the rift and shatter their anti-magic orb (an object they'd picked up back in the horde of the dragon they'd fought in Velgrin) - believing that rift to be the source of the "wrongness" and hoping that the anti-magic field would seal it up at least for a while. They would then do their best to flee on foot until they escaped the magic-void area and could use spells and magical equipment to enhance their escape - hopefully avoding the dragon. They would then return to civilization and tell others what they'd found and what they'd done, and advise them that they had no way of knowing how temporary or permanent their "solution" might be.
- The warding seal on the vaults seemed ready to give and it collapsed immediately on contact with Lily's Dispel Magic spell. The door itself unexpectedly disintegrated, and demons began pouring out - though most seemed more interested in escape than combat. While Lily, Tyrrox, and Ravina fought with the fleeing hordes, Kael and Taryn fought their way down to the dungeons below. There, Taryn found himself with a familiar red key and a mental nudge toward the malfunctioning portal, and Kael was addressed by a Hezrou telling him he would need its help to destroy the Glabrezu now approaching them...
For a variety of reasons we decided we'd start a new Battletech campaign rather than continuing Aralakh. We spent a session making new characters with some slightly different rules. The new gang will be a Davion-aligned merc unit operating somewhere near around the midpoint of the Capellan march.
- Though they could still hear the pounding of the dragon above them, the group decided Lily should cast her Legend Lore spell to learn more about the place they've found themselves in. In so doing, they learned that the deep interior of this keep was once the lair of Lochthuun, the legendary hydra, and that its death apparently tore open a rift into the lower planes which was the origin of the contaminating evil of the region.
- Deciding they needed to see what was actually going on in the dungeons below, Kael activated the ethereal ability of his armor and passed through the door. On the other side, he found several dozen demons, a malfunctioning portal, and the abyssal rift floating above the perfectly-preserved body of a massive hydra. The group now needs to decide what to do about the situation to prevent the situation from worsening and to keep the cult from abusing it...
- As the Mafka zealots launched their attack and the roaring creatured bellowed from outside, Ravina began her spell to de-petrify the goblin leader. As the creature's warnings grew closer and more angry, the zealots retreated. Ravina completed her spell and managed to restore the goblin chief to life, though he was not too happy to see his saviors. As the building shook, they all moved further into the structure away from whatever was outside.
- The goblin chief stopped his aggression against the group, but insisted they part ways. At Lily's convincing, he indicated the way toward what the goblins called the "Deep Evil" - which was down in the lower dungeons and vaults of the keep. They made their way down, hearing the furious pounding overhead, and found a sealed door bearing an evil, pulsing rune...
A couple of weeks ago I broke down and ordered some guitar pedals. The idea was to create a selection of pedals I could use both with my amp and running directly into a mixer for playing at our church and/or for recording (been doing some writing again lately).
I haven't spent extensive time fiddling with each one on its own, but I have been playing a lot with them as a unit. What follows are my initial thoughts and the reasons I chose the ones I did. My default choices were going to be Boss pedals, because they're a good industry standard, and they make solid stuff. I stuck to that default sometimes; other times, I didn't.
Going in order of my effects chain, the first pedal is overdrive - specifically, the Boss OD-3.
I suppose the main question to answer is "why the OD-3 over the SD-1, which is about half the price?". I did debate this quite a bit, but after watching several comparison videos on youtube and reading reviews, it seemed that the OD-3 was reputed to be a bit clearer, warmer, and less harsh - and I wanted "overdrive", not "super overdrive". There's also a little of "you tend to get what you pay for" in my thinking.
I don't have any personal experience with the SD-1, but the OD-3 sounds great. It gives a nice, warm, blues or classic-rock style overdrive crunch to the signal on its own, and if I run it into my distortion pedal or drive channel on my amp, I get a really nice, jagged, high-gain metallic distortion. It's just what I wanted from overdrive.
This was the pedal that I agonized over the most. There are a lot of different distortion sounds, and they all have different characters. My original plan was to go with the good ol' DS-1. It's a well respected pedal, and it's cheap - and I still might pick that one up - but I really wanted something versatile.
In a couple of distortion pedal lists and videos, I found the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal - and I really liked the sound of it. This one has two different distortion circuits, the sounds of which you can use seperately, blend together, or even run one into the other (I do think it would have been cool if they would have made the blend/series switch a footswitch). It's not a super-high-gain pedal (their Full Moon Distorition is more aimed that way), but you can get a pretty wide range of drive from using only channel A with just a little gain, to a pretty heavy sound running channel A into B with both gains cranked. Add my Overdrive onto the front end, and you can get some pretty wicked gain (albiet a bit noisily) as mentioned above. The Fender tone also does a bit to mitigate the midrange exaggeration of my SG+amp combo (which I've mentioned before).
The Fender pedals are solidly built, look great, and I have to admit, I loved the name of this one. "Pugilist" as the name of a drive pedal is pretty awesome.
Next up is the compressor. Once agan, I initially figured on picking up the Boss CS-3, but read several articles sayng it was a bit noisy. I know there is some misconception with compressors and noise, but I saw this concern often enough that it affected my choice. Since I'd already gone with one Fender pedal, I decided to take a look at their compressor, The Bends.
This was another pedal with a good look and a cool name, but that wasn't going to sell me on its own. The reviews on this compressor were very positive though, and a couple even commented that this particular compressor was quiet and subtle. Compression is one of those effects where, if you're doing it right, you don't really notice it - so this sounded good to me.
The controls on The Bends are a little different from those on the CS-3 and more "standard" compressors, but ultimately they do the same thing and give you a fair amount of control (moreso than the much-loved MXR Dyna Comp, which has one knob for "compression"). Also, I like the feature where the jewel LED on top of it actually changes color to show when/how the compressor is affecting the signal. I tend to leave this on all the time, but its effects are most noticeable when playing clean - tightening up the dynamics and giving a little boost to sustain.
So then there's the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble. This pedal is different from the others in that I've had it for about 20 years. It's probably not one I'd pick out these days, but I got a lot of use out of it in the past - and I have it, so I threw it in. It performs its chorus functon well, but it's not an effect I use super often - and when I do, it's usually fairly subtle. I think these days, if I was going to pick up a modulation pedal, I'd probably look at a flanger or phase shifter. Like many modulation pedals, it will take you all the way from "barely noticeable" up through "unusably bizarre".
The biggest reason I wanted a reverb pedal was for amp-less playing. My amp has a decent spring reverb built in, and I'm not super picky about my reverb sound - I just know I don't like the sound of an electric guitar without a good dose of it.
For whatever reason, reverb pedals tend to be some of the more expensive effects. I went ahead with the Boss RV-6 on this one, as it was well-liked and seemed to have a decent selection of reverb types/effects. I also liked the fact that it has a +delay mode to play around with without buying a dedicated delay pedal. Whle I may not be picky, I have enjoyed playing with what this pedal can do - and it's reverb is quite a bit juicier than what's in my amp - so it's usually always on.
It sounds good. Like I said, I'm not super picky on reverb in particular.
Last in the chain is the MXR 10-band EQ pedal, which I've talked a little about before - it's good for guitar and bass, and it has +/- sliders for volume and gain. It does a good job of taming my amp in a couple of ways, and it should give me more control over my tone for direct inputs.
So that's about it. I'm pretty happy with this setup. Nothing super fancy, but it gives me a solid sound and some versatility. If I get good mileage out of this stuff I might eventually pick up other toys - perhaps wah, volume, phaser, delay, some more drive pedals - but most of that stuff is all secondary at best.
- The group awoke to find themselves surrounded by goblins. They were approached by one of them - Tofkag - who turned out to be the leader of one splinter of a local tribe. In exchange for their help in de-petrifying their leader, they told the PCs they would lead them to the keep by ways that would avoid the more hostile goblin factions. They spoke with Tofkag for some time about his tribe, the keep, and the "Deep Evil" he said dwelled beneath it.
- Making it to the keep the following day, they made their way into the ruin. Within the CourtHall of the primary tower, they found the statue of the former leader of the goblin tribe - as well as some of the Mafka zealots Tofkag had warned them about. The altercation was only beginning when the building was shaken by a tremendous roar from overhead...