It's the UK Games Expo this weekend! To celebrate the convention - which Dicebreaker will be attending - we’re talking about the tabletop games we’ve been playing. Whether board games, tabletop roleplaying games, card games or miniatures games, this series of articles provides you with some recommendations and an opportunity to share what you’ve been playing with us.
This week’s entry features Matt playing a TRPG inspired by band Los Campesinos!, Maddie sharing her latest Masks: A New Generation update and myself offering my thoughts on one of the several Commander decks for the latest Magic: The Gathering set.
If you’ve been playing something you’d like to share with us and your fellow Dicebreaker readers, then feel free to comment below or on Twitter @joindicebreaker.
What We’ve Been Playing - June 2nd 2023
Magic: The Gathering - Commander
Though obviously the highlight of last weekend’s MCM London Comic Con were Dicebreaker’s panels - which you can watch back right now if you missed them - and its very first tabletop industry event, the convention was also the perfect opportunity to play more Magic: The Gathering - Commander.
Dicebreaker received several March of the Machine Magic: The Gathering Commander decks the other week, so we were able to crack them out over last weekend’s Comic Con. The Commander deck I chose had Gimble the Gremlin as its leader card - because of course it did, I picked it - and was mainly focused on utilising artefacts.
Gimbal’s deck features several artefact cards, as well as cards that create artefact creatures and spells designed to work in tandem with artefacts. The leader card itself will generate an artefact whose stats are determined by how many artefact cards currently in play. Artefacts are a fun card type due to the fact that their potential benefits can vary greatly and they cannot be used in combat - unless they’re altered by another effect. There are some especially entertaining artefact cards in Gimbal’s deck, including one that immediately eliminates a permanent target and will return to your hand if destroyed, rather than going in the player’s graveyard.
When Gimbal’s deck is working as intended, it enables the player to draft an army of artefact creatures who are subsequently buffed by artefact cards. Nevertheless, as is the case with many Commander decks, the Gimbal deck is reliant on players being able to draw artefacts to begin with - as many of its key gameplay mechanics and advantages rely on artefacts being in play. Whilst the Gimbal card does automatically create artefact creatures at the end of the player’s turn, the creature itself is nothing to write home about.
I’m considering altering the deck by swapping in more artefacts to make its entire gimmick a little more potent. Regardless, a ‘gremlin’ Commander deck is most definitely my vibe.
Masks: A New Generation
I’m still playing the teen superhero RPG Masks: A New Generation and generally loving it. However, as more time goes on one thing has stood out to me as an issue - the playbooks. On the surface they’re really inspiring, giving great ideas on what kind of hero you are. I’m playing someone who’s trying to fight for good despite being raised by a villainous parent, but once you get into the mechanics of the books, they leave me a little lost.
Masks is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, which means it uses ‘moves’ - things you announce you’re doing when you attempt to do something that would involve a dice roll. The general moves available to everyone work fine, but the specific ones on each playbook seem, well, way too specific. Rather than moves that could be directed by the players using the character, they’re usually hyper-specific scenarios a GM would have to set up, which would mean they need to memorise every playbook being used in a game ready to create opportunities for players to use them. Which is an impossible task when they already have enough things to keep track of.
I’ve found myself basically ignoring the specific moves I have on my sheet. The levelling up feature does mean I’ve been able to pick a couple of other moves from other playbooks which are easier to work into gameplay, but otherwise I’ve stopped worrying about using them and am just enjoying our super story as it is. I’d still definitely recommend the game, but don’t worry about your playbook moves, just enjoy the action and angst of being a super teen.
The Fall of Home
At last week’s Tabletop Creators Summit, designer Jo Winter very generously gave me a copy of her RPG The Fall of Home after spotting my Los Campesinos! T-shirt. (Los Campesinos shirts and hoodies make up about 50% of my wardrobe.)
Inspired by the LC! song of the same name, Winter’s GM-less, dice-less RPG weaves a story across three acts, as the players’ characters meet while returning to their home and discover what remains of its ruins, before attempting to move on - both geographically and metaphorically - into the future.
Winter’s compact rulebook, first published for last year’s Zine Quest, is a complete delight, with its sharp rules, evocative guidance on establishing players’ shared stories and setting, and gameplay examples (you can create your own place, or use one of those Winter details in the book) accompanied by beautiful black-and-white imagery that hints at the mysterious collapse of the characters’ home.
For me, The Fall of Home’s emotive, narrative-focused gameplay brought to mind the similarly powerful act-based, conversation-driven scenes of cinematic noir gem Fiasco. Players determine their character’s defining relationship to their home - their ‘Walk’ - as they travel towards it, before spending remnants to comb through what remains of its Ruins in search of meaningful fragments that relate to their character’s traits and memories. If a player is able to collect enough fragments, the final act sees them recounting how they’re able to finally move on; if they are unable, they cannot move on, be that literally or symbolically.
The Fall of Home’s simple rules and structure allow its powerful themes of memory, loss and connection to come to the fore, packing a whole lot of emotional punch in a slim tome. It’s a fitting tribute to the song’s ode to “those who left, or those who can’t or won’t”, whether you’re a Los Campesinos! fan or not. If you’re not, you’re in for a double treat: listen to one of the UK’s finest bands to get up to speed, then play this.
Goodness, why on earth would I be playing Warhammer 40K this week I wonder? I couldn’t possibly say, but I imagine fans of giant flesh eating bugs and massive chain gun firing robots will have something very exciting to watch on the YouTube Channel this weekend. I wonder if there’s something massive happening with Warhammer recently that might have something to do with it? It’s tough to say!
Either way, it was fun to jump back into the game that specialises in rolling enormous handfuls of D6s again after so many tight and tactical skirmish games. I was fortunate enough to be playing with armies that had been built and painted by our gracious host (more on him this weekend), so I forget about the hours and hours of construction and painting that you need to invest to play these sorts of games. Instead I was just having a blast moving huge piles of bugs up the board and unleashing my fistfulls of dice to hilariously little effect.
Am I tempted to get back into large scale miniature wargames and paint up a full army? Tough to say! But it was at the very least a nostalgic experience, that’s for sure.