Twenty Sided Store

A retail store and premier event organizer in Williamsburg Brooklyn that focuses on high quality Board Games, Role Playing Games, and Magic: The Gathering.

Role Playing Games

Giaco's Top 5 Games of the Week

Top 5 This week I'm taking a look at five of my favorite games new and old, available at the store and absolutely worth checking out.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars: Imperial Assault Star Wars: Imperial Assault is one of the most massive games you'll find set in the Star Wars universe. This game, like many RPG's and the board game Descent, has one to four players take on the role of rebel adventurers playing against another player who controls all of the "baddies"—monsters and imperial troopers, even Darth Vader himself. Everything from the adventures, to the expansions available, to the level of detail in the sculpted miniatures really sets this game apart from others like it.

Smash Up

Smash Up Smash Up describes itself as a "shufflebuilding" card game, where each player chooses two small decks of cards belonging to separate factions and shuffles them together. The question is: who will you smash together to fight against your opponents? Will you team up Zombies and Ninjas? Aliens and Dinosaurs? And the expansions aren't just fluff, with new factions based on sci-fi, mythical heroes, and just plain awesome-ness. This game is fast, easy to understand, and great for goofy crowds of friends.

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion [Roleplaying Game]

Star Wars Age of Rebellion Whoa, Giaco... Another Star Wars entry on this list? You're mad with power! True, but Star Wars: Age of Rebellion is one of the best roleplaying games I've played in years. Featuring easy-to-grasp rules (that are also used in the Star Wars RPG's Edge of the Empire and Force and Destiny), this game sets players and Game Masters in the center of the battle raging during the original trilogy. While Han, Luke, Leia, and co. are off freezing on Hoth or blowing up Jabba's barge, you'll play as lower-ranking rebel soldiers trying to steal secret plans and investigate rumors of Imperial hide-outs. The other RPG's in this series mentioned above are great, too, but nothing feels better than donning that bright orange jumpsuit and blasting away at a bunch of fool stormtroopers.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill The leaves are changing here in Brooklyn, pumpkins are beginning to appear on the stoops of brownstones, so naturally I'm getting truly into the spooky mood. And when Halloween season roles around, I really only want to play Betrayal at House on the Hill, the amazing semi-cooperative board game from Avalon Hill. In this game, players work together to search a creepy haunted house (generated randomly from hidden tiles revealed as you explore) for secrets and treasures, but when a random event called the HAUNT is triggered, one or some of the players will be revealed to secretly be a traitor. From there, the game turns on its head and is a frenzied race to survive at the House on the Hill.

Sushi Go / Sushi Draft

Sushi Go / Sushi Draft Why do we need two sushi-themed card-drafting games? Because sushi is delicious, and card-drafting games are the best... duh! These two sushi games will appeal to different tastes. Sushi Go is all about building the best plates of sushi, and it involves split-second decision making and planning ahead. Sushi Draft is much lighter, and better for kids, featuring large, round cards that can either be "Eaten," "Stored for later," or "Passed." So, do you want build the perfect sushi plate with Sushi Go? Or do you want to stuff your face with Sushi Draft?

Tune in Today

Race to the North Pole

Can you and your crew be the first to make it to the frosty north? In Race to the North Pole, players compete to become famous explorers by beating their opponents to the Pole. The game features a rotating board to capture the wild and unpredictable weather of the North Pole. Move you pawns toward the center of the board, gear up to survive the harsh conditions, make a perfect plan... and watch helplessly as the merciless wilderness spins the board and changes your route.

Mystery of the Abbey

Someone's died in the Abbey, and it's up to a small group of investigative monks to find the killer. Mystery of the Abbey wonderfully updates the classic whodunnit board game Clue. Move your monk around the Abbey, cross off suspects from your list as you investigate, and be the first monk detective to solve the Mystery of the Abbey.

Bycatch

Bycatch is a brand new card game that requires the use of a camera phone. Each player takes on the role of a nation, and cards are drawn representing people, some of which are terrorist suspects. Players can create shelters for their people, and players can use their camera phones to do surveillance on the opposing teams. Bycatch is a very smart game that asks deep questions about surveillance and wars on terror.

Lotus

Clear your mind, ignite your senses, and take in the beauty and power of the lotus garden. With Lotus players compete to grow beautiful flowers, using insect guardians to help them. Along with easy-to-learn rules and fast, fun gameplay, Lotus also features stunning artwork, with a unique "card fanning" technique to recreate a blooming flower.

Coup : Rebellion G54 Anarchy Expansion

This new expansion to the famed bluffing game Coup: Rebellion G54 adds new characters and gameplay mechanics. Lie your way to victory with new roles like the paramilitary, arms dealers, and socialists, and try to gain as much influence as possible before the end of the game.

Mansions of Madness (2nd. Edition) Expansions

Two new expansions to the second edition of the Cthulhu-centric investigative/horror game Mansions of Madness - Suppressed Memories and Reoccurring Nightmares - hit shelves today. These expansions bring all your favorite investigators and monsters back from the first edition of the game and make them playable with the second edition. So whether you miss playing as Ashcan Pete, or you want to square off against the Priest of Dagon, these two expansions bring the best moments from the first edition back from the grave.

Star Wars X-Wing: ARC-170 (Expansion)

Take flight with the newest expansion to rebel fleets in the tactical ship-to-ship combat game Star Wars X-Wing. The ARC-170 provides heavy firepower, crew and astromech upgrade slots, and introduces new pilot cards like Shara Bey (Poe Dameron's mother) and three other aces.

Extra Goodies!

New in stock this week are also: Star Wars and Marvel crochet kits, hoodies, and LEGO sets, new Star Wars photomosaic puzzles, and Dungeons & Dragons miniatures to tie into Storm King's Thunder.

Engaging the Senses | Tabletop RPGs

I have been running rolplaying games at Twenty Sided Store and recently we concluded a 6-week campaign season of Curse of Strahd, a Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft adventure and just kicked off the first organized play campaign of Numenera by Monte Cook Games, an excellent science-fantasy roleplaying game (RPG) that uses the Cypher System.

So, I thought it would be a good time to talk about setting, tone & theme in roleplaying games, specifically through engaging the senses. Vivid smells, sounds, and colors can be described through physically engaging your players’ senses and actually immersing them into your fictional worlds.

A little preparation can go a long way to making a campaign engaging to the senses. In Curse of Strahd, it was important to capture the essence of a classic gothic horror tale of gloom and mystery set in the foreign land of Barovia. Similarly, part of the fun of the Numenera setting is exploring an Earth - a billion years in the future, a world where nanomachines, interdimensional aliens, hyper-evolved cephalopods, and a host of other weird phenomena have rendered the world almost incomprehensible.

Lets get started...

Sound

In most tabletop RPGs, sound is the primary way of learning about the game world. Players talk and listen to the Dungeon Master (DM) - a clever use of sound, or sound effects, can really enhance a game.

For example, when I ran a game of Sorcerer, a game about demons, corruption, moral decay, and the limits of ambition, I made sure to have an off-putting (but not too obtrusive) background track on loop. Then, as the DM, when I roleplayed the different Non-Player Characters (NPCs) I would modulate my voice in volume, tone, and accent to make each character feel more distinct.

In the Numenera campaign, I might play some white noise as the adventurers explore an exotic vehicle that has crashed and buried inself in the sand. What’s that strange, rhythmic tapping that they hear in the forest? - as I proceed to tap under the table using a ruler to create added suspense.

Humans are exceptionally good at noticing and reacting to changes in sound patterns, something storytellers often exploit when telling ghost stories. In the Curse of Strahd campaign, I would speak slowly and softly as the players explored a location, and then slam my hands on the table for dramatic impact when a trap springs or a monster appears, making the players jump. I'll admit, this is easy to overuse, but you can never go wrong with vocalizing the creak of an old door or replicating the pitter-patter of rain on the roof in which the adventurers are huddled for protection.

Sight

Sight is the second most common way of engaging your players. Most DMs have used images or minis at some point in their career. Let's go further than that...

As a performer, I love costumes. During the Curse of Strahd campaign I dressed in black, slicked back my hair, and wore copious amounts of eye-makeup and black lipstick to set the tone for the campaign. For the Numenera campaign, maybe I'll don a weird hairstyle or apply some intricate makeup.

Props are cool too. Before a home game I'll pull out and arrange my old Halloween props - tomb stones, spiders, cauldrons... (trying not use the overly gimmicky ones, of course).
Lighting is the best prop and can really change the vibe in the room. For a simple effect, try lighting some candles over a dark tablecloth.

Hand drawn maps or Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles covering the table for the players to interact with are also a sweet alternative. When Monte Cook visited the store to run a Numenera game, owner Lauren painted a large underwater battle map to immerse the players in the setting.

Touch

Giving people things to touch and fiddle with has long been a technique used in many different venues, from classrooms to interactive theater spaces, as a way to hold people’s interest.
Using simple handouts, even a sheet of paper with a fragment of Strahd Von Zarovich’s journal on it is much more interactive for a player than simply listening to the DM read the text. If you want to go all out, stain the paper with tea to make it look aged.

In Numenera, players can find Cyphers, which are like consumable magic items, meant to be used frequently. Using a deck of cards to represent the tangible objects instead of marks on a character sheet, is a great way to encourage players to use the Cyphers fast and freely. Monte Cook Games has created a Cypher Deck (which the store stocks) that I use often. To up the ante, hand the player an actual object when they find a Cypher, like a tiny potion bottle filled with red colored liquid or bits of an old malfunctioning electronic device.

Taste and Smell

Yes, you can of course, cook up some tavern stew for your players to eat while they gather information, but food and scents can also be used more subtly. At a convention I was at recently, I signed up to play Golden Sky Stories, a lovely game about friendship, dreams and magic in pastoral Japan. As we gathered to the table, the DM offered us jam cookies before we started. This reinforced the tone of joyous delight among the party, straight off the bat, without using any words. I would love a glass of dry red wine, before venturing into Castle Ravenloft!

For Numenera, I might try doing the opposite. A rose-petal potpourri placed on the table, while describing buzzing ceramic automatons trailing electrical cabling above. The unusual juxtaposition might help underscore the weird nature of the world.

Go the distance

Anything that immerses your players more fully into the world, or even just enhances the mood of the world, will intrigue your players. During Curse of Strahd, I used the Tarroka deck, a D&D themed tarot deck, to read the players fortunes. The fortune-telling performance was mainly about setting up the atmosphere, but it also was used to further the plot in a meaningful way.

Engaging your players' senses is a powerful way to achieve atmospheric immersion. So go ahead. Sing at your players. Feed them fritters. Tell them to close their eyes and hand them peeled grapes. It’s sure to be memorable!

Interview | Monte Cook

Since the release of Numenera, The Strange, and the Cypher System, I have fallen in love with Monte Cook's Games.

I have been preparing all week for Monte Cook's visit to Twenty Sided Store this Saturday, May 14, 2016, and I thought I would share with you a couple questions I'd always wanted to ask him.

LB: Was it a dream of yours to work as an editor for roleplaying games or would you say you were just in the right place at the right time when you landed your first job?

MC: I’d wanted to write roleplaying games from the age of 14, when it first dawned on me that it was actually someone’s job to do so. This happened when I first saw a D&D module called Dwellers of the Forbidden City by David Cook. The fact that his last name was my last name made me realize, even as a young teen, that there were real people behind these cool products.

LB: You were right in the middle of it all when D&D really influenced a mainstream audience. I feel like that time inspired many young gamers and indie RPG designers? What was going on in the roleplaying community, what was it that really ignited the whole thing?

MC: It was sort of a perfect storm. Geek culture was sort of finally taking over society, and D&D had lost the "stigmas" that it had in the past. Those who were part of the D&D craze of the early 80s now had kids of the right age to maybe introduce. And 2nd Edition had really been fallow for a long time, and D&D fans were eager for something new. So when 3rd Edition came out in 2000, it was absolutely huge. Suddenly, characters in sitcoms were playing D&D, and GE was using D&D to help sell appliances. What a change from the late 80s and the 90s!

LB: You were one of the first to publish games in PDF format, what did you learn from that experience and would you say some of your ideas have now come full circle?

MC: That was back in 2001, and basically, back then I didn’t know how to get my own products printed, warehoused, or sold, and doing so myself electronically seemed like an easier way to do it. Of course, no one was doing that back then, so I sort of inadvertently blazed a trail. I had just finished writing The Book of Eldritch Might and I remember sitting in my living room talking to my friend Bruce, wondering, “Will 20 people buy this? 50?” I had no idea if the format would catch on. Of course, we sold 1,000 in the first few hours of releasing it (and remarkably, still sell a few copies each month 15 years later). It is interesting to see that PDF has now become a standard in the industry and there are multiple whole rpg ebook shops online. What I would have given for that back then!

LB: What led you to creating and ultimately deciding to publish Numenera and the Cypher System?

MC: The ideas for the setting and system were actually things I’d been kicking around for literally 20 years. After leaving my contract position at WotC to lead 5th Edition design, I found myself with a clear schedule for the first time in years, and those ideas came bubbling to the surface again. I guess game design and setting creation is an addiction.

LB: Which came first, your interest in sci-fi fantasy or your interest in roleplaying games? What was your first experience that made you fall in love with both?

MC: Science fiction. I already was a fan, reading Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and even Frank Herbert and then when Star Wars came out I was in for life. For me, discovery of D&D came about a year or so after Star Wars. (Personally, I believe the success of D&D owes a fair bit to Star Wars, even though D&D technically came first. As a kid of 10-11 at the time, I can tell you that Star Wars just sort of primed the whole culture to be not just receptive, but eager for anything to do with imaginative action and otherworldly adventure. Plus, you know, sword fights.)

LB: For somebody who has not yet played Numenera, the Strange or the Cypher System, how would you describe the differences between them?

MC: The Cypher System is the game engine for the other two games. The Cypher System Rulebook is most of the game mechanic stuff taken from the other two with all the setting stuff taken out. It also has guidelines for adapting the rules to any genre—fantasy, sci fi, modern, and even superheroes.

The Strange is a science fiction game that postulates that there are otherworldly realms where all the fiction of Earth is real. So you can travel to Sherlock Holmes’ London, then to a place where plucky rebels try to save the galaxy from an evil empire, and then to a place where Lovecraftian horrors lurk at your doorstep. And your characters adapt to each new world each time, which keeps things interesting!

And of course Numenera came first. It’s a science fantasy game set incredibly far in the future, where technology is so advanced that it seems like magic (and thus it’s a science fiction game that feels like a fantasy game). It's really, really weird, in all the right ways, I think.

LB: For the Game Master, what is the most important thing to keep in mind when running a Cypher System game if they really want to bring out the essence of it all?

MC: Story trumps rules. Period. In fact, the way to really think about it is that ACCORDING TO THE RULES you should ignore or change the rules where you need to in order to keep the story going well. That’s what the GM Intrusion mechanic in the game is all about.

Once Upon a Game | Fall of Magic

Fall of Magic

I want you to close your eyes and think about a tabletop roleplaying game. Just grab the first image that pops into your head. Got it? What did you see? A group of friends sitting around a table? A map dotted with minis, tokens, and dice? More snacks than a Super-Bowl party? The large rulebook filled with tables, charts, and enough minutia to make your tax accountant giddy? All True! Yet, this stigma that roleplaying games are “complex” has carried since the beginning.

Well, gentle reader, roleplaying games aren’t made like they used to. Leave your GM screen at home - you won’t need it. Over the next few weeks we will look into some of the best shared storytelling RPGs out there.

Today, I would like to talk about a game that we will be running this weekend. It was voted Kickstarter's Staff Pick - Fall of Magic.

FALL OF MAGIC

Fall of Magic is a game about pure improvisation and storytelling with little to no “game” going on. Players inhabit the roles of travelers with the Magus, a mystical being leading the players on a journey through a fantasy world to Umbra to prevent the end of magic.

Unique to other games, Fall of Magic utilizes a designated play area, a scroll with a map of your journey on it. Players place markers for themselves and the Magus, representing where they are, and move them throughout the course of the game, building their characters up as they go along.

On their turns, players move to a new location on the map and select a scene. Each scene has a “story prompt” listed underneath it, something that must be introduced to the narrative during your turn. Some story prompts add new information to your character, others change your character in unforeseen ways, and some give you a choice.

The players improvise their scenes from the perspective of their characters, although everyone is allowed to contribute to the story. Instead of moving themselves, players can elect to move the Magus further along the map, and describe a scene from the Magus’ point of view.

The open-ended nature of the story prompts allow for players to expand beyond the typical fantasy tropes and create a collaborative story that is uniquely their own.

The best part is, if you want to try Fall of Magic, Miguel Zapico is running it this Sunday at Twenty Sided Store. Sign Up Now!

Happy Gaming!