Monday, September 2, 2013

Game Review: ROFL

Cryptozoic Games, the publishers behind the World of Warcraft collectible card game and Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’leyh, brings us the new “party game of mix-communication” called ROFL. ROFL is created by John Kovalic, the mind behind the go-to party game Apples to Apples. I had a chance to give ROFL a good playthrough recently. So does it hold up against my other favorite party games like Apples to Apples, Dixit, and Scruples? Let’s break it down...

Presentation and Unboxing:

Yes... That's Gilly the Perky Goth on the box!
The first thing I noticed when I opened up the cardboard package in which ROFL arrived is a colorful little orange and yellow box covered in artwork from Kovalic himself. As a fan of Kovalic’s other work on Dork Tower and Munchkin, this made me extremely happy but I suppose milage may vary if you’re not a fan of John’s cartoony style.

Compacted inside this fairly small game box is everything you need to play the game... and I mean everything! It comes with a game board, a set of 175 cards, a package of cardboard counters, plastic player pieces, an hourglass timer, and enough dry erase boards and erasable markers for up to seven players. Oh... and it has a rulebook. I suppose you kind of need a rulebook. And, as a bonus for people who are a little anal about their games, the pieces fit easily back into the box. Heck! It even comes with a tiny baggie for the player pieces! Score!

But how does it play?

Gameplay Basics:

As the title suggests, the basic gist of ROFL is based on text and internet lingo. ROFL, OMG, JK, TTFN, THX... you get the picture. Starting with that as a base, ROFL is a spiritual successor to classic games like Charades and Pictionary. It’s a guessing game but, instead of one player trying to get the rest of the group to guess, it’s actually flipped the other way ‘round.

A gameplay turn goes as such. A player, appropriately called the guesser, draws a card. These cards each have a phrase, quote, or saying on them with a corresponding category like music, movies, books, etc. Without looking at the card, the guesser shows the phrase to the other players who then simply tell the guesser the category. Those players then have 30 seconds to write down any combination of letters and symbols to convey that phrase back to the guesser. The catch is that this has to be done in as few letters/symbols as possible, hence the text lingo aspect. After they’ve written their shortened phrases, the players place their pieces on the game board to indicate in which order they’d like the guesser to guess their phrases. Then, starting with whichever player placed their piece on the lowest number on the game board, the guesser gets 30 seconds each to try and guess the phrase. If he doesn’t, gameplay continues on to the next player until the guesser either guesses (or doesn’t) the phrase. Once the guesser guesses, points are tallied based on where the pieces were on the board.

Gameplay sounds simple enough. It does sound like a party game in that it’s casual and easy to explain. Now to actually try it out...


As a father, most of my casual gameplay is done with my family. This is great for play testing since I get a group of players from across different ages. My first night of ROFL gameplay was with 5 players ranging from 9-39. (I’ll let you guess where I fall in that group.) Of course, the rules for ROFL recommend that it is for ages 13+ but I’m just a rebel like that.

This box is like a TARDIS with how
much they crammed in there!
The game started off slowly as I discovered that the game was a little harder to explain than I first imagined. This is mainly due to my group not grasping the idea that the game board is only for determining play order rather than the traditional get-to-the-end-to-win kind of board. But I got the rules explained thoroughly by playing through a mock turn with no point tally. This worked splendidly and our game of ROFL was underway!

The gameplay goes in 3 rounds. This means that every player gets a chance to be the guesser 3 times. This meant, with a group of 5 players, our game consisted of 15 turns. The first few turns were a bit awkward as players found their footing. Each player started off writing abbreviations as we so often do in texts. OMG = Oh my God! TTYL = Talk to you later. ...and so on. But, as we came to find quickly, quotes and phrases don’t lend themselves well to direct first-letter anagrams. If I wrote “WIC”, would you guess that the phrase is “Winter is Coming”? Of course not! And if you do, I’m not sure I want to play this game with you... weirdo!

After a couple of turns, things started to get more interesting in their phrasing. For example a phrase like “Winter is Coming” became things like “WNTR CMS” or “WNTR S CMNG”. Then, after about 2 rounds, things started getting creative. “Winter is Coming” started becoming “NED SAID”, “AFTR FLL”, or simply “STARK”.

Like any great game, once the simplicity of the rules is established, then the strategy begins. The main strategy in ROFL is determining the order in which you want the guesser to try and guess your phrase. It would seem obvious that you’d want to go first but then you realize that, if the guesser doesn’t guess the phrase from first player’s symbols, they then have a hint of sorts going on to the second player and so on. For example, we drew the phrase “My precious...”. One player, wrote simply “LOTR” and another “GOLLUM” and jumped to put their pieces on the board first. When the guesser incorrectly guessed “Lord of the Rings’, and “Gollum”, as they seemed obvious, the next player wrote simply “RING” and took the points. Another strategy tip that we quickly learned is that, if the other players beat you to the board and you’re going to be last anyway, go ahead and write out the whole phrase. On the off-chance that the guesser gets you to, you win the turn... and the points


So, was ROFL a hit? In short, I’d say yes. It takes a little more rules explaining and paying attention to strategy than the aforementioned party games but it’s still great fun to play. Even with the younger kids in our group, the only change we had to make was to toss out a card if we deemed it too difficult for the group. This mostly consisted of us removing pretty much anything in the “politics” category. As an added bonus, as with Munchkin, there are blank cards so that you can insert your own phrases to the box for even more added fun.

The one thing I expect a few may balk at with ROFL is the price. For such a small box, the cost is nearly $40 but, like I said on unboxing, Cryptozoic packed a LOT into that bright little box for the cost. In fact, I’d think that if they sold the cards, board, and pieces by themselves for say $25-30 and you had to go buy dry erase boards and markers, you’d still be over $40 so don’t let the size fool you. BST THNGS CM N SML PKGS.

Buy ROFL here and get your game on!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My History with Shadowrun

I first played Dungeons and Dragons when I was 10 years old. For years, I was constantly lost in the realms of shadow demons, kobolds, hook horrors and of course... the trademark dragons. During this time, I also became an avid viewer of sci-fi. I watched 'Star Trek' reruns religiously. I stayed up way too late on Saturday nights to catch classic sci-fi movies on the tube. I was first introduced to my favorite Doctor (Tom Baker) in 'Doctor Who' reruns on PBS late nights. But the world shattering moment came when I first saw a little movie called 'Blade Runner'. I mean c'mon! This movie had everything! It had Han Solo running around killing synthetic humans, a sexy robot, Larry from 'Newhart' building cool little creatures, and Rutger Hauer as one of the greatest villains I'd ever seen or have seen since. Top that off with a storyline that makes you question what it even means to be human and you've got the recipe for one of my favorite movies of all time!

With Dungeons and Dragons and 'Blade Runner' as my backdrop for great storytelling, it should come as no surprise that when, in my 10th grade year of high school, FASA Corporation released the original 'Shadowrun' RPG, it was a must have for me. The idea was that, in a cyberpunk future, the magic of the old world had reawakened, creating a mash-up world where synthetically enhanced beings lived alongside elves, orcs, trolls, and dragons. Of course, that 1st edition game system left a lot to be desired but I played 'Shadowrun' anyway. The 2nd edition of 'Shadowrun' improved the game mechanics somewhat but they never reached the feel of Dungeons and Dragons for me and eventually my friends and I stopped playing and moved on to try new games and systems.

The years went by and I grew from a young geek into a geek father and husband. In that time, my collection of RPG rule books went into storage one by one. I switched from RPGs to video games, collectible card games, and board games. I only occasionally got to play some old school D&D on rare occasions.

Then, several years ago, with my kids a little older, I got the idea to drag back out those old rule books and introduce the younglings to the same realms of fantasy that I adored as a kid. They proved themselves to be my offspring and quickly took to loving the idea of interactive storytelling that pen and paper RPGs provide. We started off playing D&D 3.5 edition and we tried 4E but didn't like it. In the end, we turned back to old school 2nd edition. But, regardless of edition, I was back into pen and paper RPGs.

Then when I heard that 'Shadowrun', that cherished game of my youth, had returned with a 20th anniversary edition (Man! Am I that old?), I had to grab a copy. The mechanics that I so disliked in those earlier editions were completely changed. This new system seems so much more intuitive and easy to use. On the other hand, that world that I'd grown to love had also changed. As the real-world years moved on, the in-game story of 'Shadowrun' had followed along and 20 years had passed in that world as well. The harsh world of deckers, street samurai, and mages had turned into something else. It was still distinctly 'Shadowrun'... but something was missing. The grim and gritty setting seemed too bright to me. The matrix (one of my favorite parts of the original setting) had gone totally wireless, losing much of its flavor in the process. Still, I tried this new version of 'Shadowrun' a few times but it never clicked with either myself or my play group. And thus, my hopes of playing 'Shadowrun' as in days of old faded.

Then I hear rumbles of something on the internet of something called 'The Year of Shadowrun'. I hear that the various companies that now own the rights to 'Shadowrun' are making some new video games, a new edition of the actual RPG rules, and a few other goodies like a board game and miniature battle game as well. I was intrigued but skeptical. The world of 'Shadowrun' had moved on without me and I wasn't feeling it any more. Then I hear that the first of those two new video games, titled 'Shadowrun Returns' was going to be set in the year 2054 and I was sold. For those of you haven't played 'Shadowrun', 2054 was stepping time back 20 years into the original setting that got me hooked on the game in the first place.

So, I quickly read up on everything I could about 'Shadowrun Returns' and, despite my initial skepticism, it all looked good. Really good! Jordan Weisman, one of the creators behind the original 'Shadowrun' RPG was involved. It was a tactical turn based game, a genre that I've loved since playing 'Shining Force' so many years ago on the Sega Genesis. This was it! I was actually excited about 'Shadowrun' again! I might not be able to ever rekindle that pen and paper world, but darn it! I could live it out in a virtual one.

I was so excited about the idea of 'Shadowrun Returns' that I joined up to the online forums for the game and read up on every update and discussion. As the months passed, I was exposed to new info on the coming pen and paper system and, at first, I ignored it. Then I start hearing good news. The magic system is being overhauled and made even better than 4E. Okay good... but what about my beloved matrix? Wait! What? The hackers now need to plug into the matrix to do serious runs again? They need cyberdecks again to hack a system? My inner kid was aglow. It sounded like the 5th edition of 'Shadowrun' had fixed the qualms I had about the 4th.

After reading with bated breath each new press release on the 5th edition rules and snagging a quick start copy at this years Free RPG Day, I'm thinking I'm going to give 'Shadowrun' another chance. Here's hoping that the world of 2075 can find its place in my heart the way that 2054 did.

Stay tuned to this blog after I finally get to play 'Shadowrun Returns' when it released on July 25th and the actual RPG hits bookstores sometime in August. Until then... keep runnin', chummer!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Still Kickin'

Pfew! New house, new job, new... well... that's pretty much it but the last two months have really taken it out of me. I figured it was time for me to pop in here to Hyde and Geek and update the world on why there's been no new posts.

Here's the main scoop. I'm slowly transforming this site from a news site into a personal blog. Oh! I'm sure I'll still post fun stuff and news that I find amusing or interesting and I will probably write some reviews from time to time. But, since I don't have the time to keep it up to date, I figure there's no point in calling it a news blog when it's only updated once every few weeks.

That said, now that I'm (mostly) settled in the new place and getting into the swing of things with the new career, I'll try to post more here and at my Tumblr.

As for the KNTR Tweetathon, I still want to do it again but I'm not sure when I'll have enough vacation to get around to it. Rest assured, I'm still working to help out that group as much as possible so I'm coming up with other plans at the moment as well.

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Joker Has A Laugh In 'The Batman Chronicles'

Check out this clip for an upcoming fan-made Batman series called 'The Batman Chronicles'. If the teaser is any indication, this could be fun.

For more info, and to help fund the project, check out the serie's IndieGogo page.