Random Encounters (Friday, January 23 2015)


Welcome to Random Encounters, the weekly round-up of interesting bits and pieces from across the worlds of gaming that didn’t really fit anywhere else. Roll a D8 and begin:

1 – Mengel Miniatures Interview: Gav Thorpe

Great interview here with Black Library author Gav Thorpe that covers everything from his work writing Dark Angels fiction to his thoughts on The End Times and other events.

In some ways, resources most importantly, it (The End Times) is Storm of Chaos Done Right. I’ve not been party to the inside take of the whys and wherefores of the story itself, and I think the two events were aiming to achieve very different things although there is some common crossover in the stories – part of that being because the End Times is drawing on pretty much every miniature made in the last twenty years, including those for SoC. The main thing is that its even bigger than Storm of Chaos.

2 – The 5 Words Magic: The Gathering Players Need To Stop Using

Nick Watson of GasMTG makes some excellent points about really gross, damaging language that M:TG players — and anybody who plays any kind of competitive game, really — need to stop using.

Ironically, for those who spend so much time playing a game where Wizards cast powerful spells with devastating effects using their words, we seem to forget how important ours can be. We may think nothing of it because these words don’t affect us or our friends, but we fail to realise how they might impact those around us with different experiences to our own. Or even contribute to perpetuating a harmful attitude or culture in our society.


3 – Cardboard Crack: Sexism

A great comic that pretty much completely nails why getting upset about “politics” in gaming is inherently missing the point.

4 –  A Guide To Cosmic Encounter’s 5 Expansions

One expansion for a game is fine. Two — manageable. Five is when it really starts to get complex, which is why this excellent guide by Shut Up and Sit Down is very handy for Cosmic Encounter players.

Now get to write a HOT ARTICLE about every single Cosmic expansion that’s been released to date. Five different boxes of madness that add a total of 115 (that’s one hundred and fifteen) new aliens to the base game – a staggering increase of 230% to the base game’s already ludicrous wad of 50 aliens.

5 – This American Life: Playing Diplomacy with an actual diplomat

Thanks to Ginji for sending this one in.

Ira talks to Grantland writer David Hill about the board game Diplomacy. He had a couple experiences that made him believe that maybe he didn’t understand how to play properly. So he enlisted a ringer, an actual diplomat, to go with him to the national tournament in North Carolina.

6 – Breaking gender and racial barriers in Netrunner

A great piece by Eric Caoli on gender and identity in Netrunner and well worth reading.

If you play Android: Netrunner as a male character right now, more often than not you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. I doubt that’s the result of an agenda Fantasy Flight Games, Netrunner’s developer, is advancing; that’s just the current landscape of this constantly evolving card game, a quirk in the male-dominated tabletop community.

And, relatedly:

7 – Why Netrunner matters

Kill Screen‘s Clayton Purdom looks at Netrunner’s history and mechanics.

Netrunner is in a lot of ways the direct descendant of Magic: The Gathering, the uber-nerd game of the past quarter-century, and it’d be easy to paint my defeat as, perhaps, a Star Trek fan tearing into someone that didn’t know the difference between honorable and dishonorable Klingon assassinations. Revenge of the Nerds, in other words; a place with no real-world consequences where the picked-on can feel superiority.

But I do not think this. I think quite the opposite. I think, rather, that these people are acolytes, privy to the knowledge that in Android: Netrunner exists one of the singular cultural artifacts of our time. I am very, very sorry that I wasted their time, because what was going on in that game store was important.

8 – The truth about the dungeon master who disappeared in the steam tunnels

Jess and I watched Mazes & Monsters a few years ago (Spoiler: It’s not good) and, while I knew tangentially that it was “based on a true story”, it was very interesting to read this account and see just how “true” it was.

The truth of the matter, however, was much more painful. At the time of his disappearance, Egbert was a sixteen-year-old prodigy who had been pushed by his parents since early childhood to overachieve. They’d rushed him to graduate from school early, and subsequently enrolled him in Michigan State, where he stuck out like a preschooler. In addition to his social misplacement and the tremendous academic pressure put on him by his parents, Egbert was struggling to hide his blossoming homosexuality—both from his parents and from a not-exactly-friendly 1979 Michigan.

Unable to make friends at the university, Egbert drifted into the Dungeons and Dragons players—but only briefly, looking for some way, any way to connect. He also drifted into drugs. And what actually happened when he disappeared was not a D&D freak out—Egbert entered the steam tunnels to take an overdose of Quaaludes. When that didn’t work, he ran for the home of an older male “admirer,” where he hid out for weeks, leading to the hysteria over his disappearance. His parents, unwilling to publicly air the fact that their son was gay, readily bought the Dungeons and Dragons narrative.

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