• Gamicon Zinc

    Gamicon Zinc
    February 27 – 28, 2021

    ALIENS ARE PLAGUING OUR CON!

    Actually, we’re not absolutely sure of that, but 1 out of 1 conspiracy theorists say that’s the cause, so we’re going with that.

    We feel extremely lucky that we were one of the only conventions to actually happen in person in 2020. And we feel kind of bad about that, so in solidarity with all the virtual conventions of 2020, we have decided to make Gamicon Zinc (February 27-28, 2021) an all virtual convention (Saturday & Sunday only). As a bonus, it helps keep all of you wonderful people safe from the super con crud that is continuing to plague our nation.

    Yes, we know this is disappointing, but we have been working hard for months, going to other virtual conventions, learning all the ways to bring virtual games to you, and figuring out ways to keep our awesome community connected and informed about games. We think we can bring you a great virtual experience, and an opportunity to stay in touch with all that we love about Gamicon.

    And did we mention it will be FREE? Yup. You can register online with code GamiconV2021 and your membership will be free with no fees. If you would still like to support Gamicon, there will be virtual sponsorship memberships available. If you would like to donate your 2021 membership, just let us know.

    Here are some things we have in the planning stages:

    Guest appearances and game offerings from around the world.

    D&D Adventurer’s League

    Video Gaming

    Expanded exhibitor area

    Panels and Reviews

    Virtual gathering rooms on Discord where you can stop in and chat about game related topics with all those awesome people you haven’t seen for a long time.

    What you need to know:

    If you had already registered for Gamicon Zinc, your registration will automatically forward to Gamicon Gallium (February 24-27, 2022). If for some reason, this date makes you unable to attend, you may contact us at info@gamicon.org by December 15th, 2020, to see what we can do for you.

    Discord Server: Join the Gamicon Discord Server!

    We are looking for individuals to run panels and games, moderators for our discord server, twitch and YouTube streamers and more. Do you have a great idea for Virtual Gamicon, we’d love to hear it! We understand that for some of you, virtual gaming isn’t your cup of tea, but we hope you will register anyway, and check out what other offerings will be available.

Tabletop Simulater for Noobs

This is a big one folks. Tabletop Simulator is probably the #1 online board game platform. It has the highest number of available games. If you attend an online convention or event, you will almost assuredly need TTS to play the offered games.

TTS is offered through the STEAM platform. You will need to have STEAM to get to TTS. STEAM is free, but once you get to it, TTS will have a cost. At the time of this writing, TTS cost was $19.99, but it can be found at a discounted at different times.

Once you have TTS purchased, you can join in games hosted by other players, or can host games yourself. I have not yet found a game that costs extra once you get into TTS. To find your games, you will need to search the workshop. For the love of all that is holy, BOOKMARK THIS PAGE. You can navigate to it by going to the TTS page, and clicking on the workshop tab, but I can never remember how to find it. https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fsteamcommunity.com%2Fapp%2F286160%2Fworkshop%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3nvfUSjLB-9tNQZ108wOgkIlDlkMePzuCfKPBeEvEfXP9qQfZ9vM832i4&h=AT0FvNPgn2wRBnkkVvk2tLJ-jBdzerxn755waiWhcGERuZ5tyUi4217jiE3VuZ1LaHxEZDEtfXwZXFTdZ_XKzFTQvLmUl31O5a_ok9BJH7LO4hgvvkwynx4xGwRaZOqHiQ

When you search here, a list of games will show up. You may find several versions of the game you are looking for because it is mostly community created content. If you can find one with good reviews, try it first. Otherwise you may have to just try them out and see what you get. You can also try to figure out if there is a version that has been created by the publisher and try that one first. It can be kind of hit and miss. If you find a good version, please make sure to give it a review so others will be able to find the good version.  Once you have found the version you like, click the green “plus” symbol to add it to your TTS account.

To access the game, you will launch TTS by clicking the green “play” button. Once it loads, you will have the choice to JOIN or CREATE a game. If you click JOIN, you will be prompted to find a server. Your game host will give you this information. When you find the server, click on it, and enter the password if your host has required one. The game will then load.

To CREATE a game, you will click CREATE. Then it will ask if you want single player, multiplayer or hotseat. Hotseat is what you will need if you have multiple people playing on one device that they hand back and forth. I won’t go further into hotseat at this time because I have not used it. Most of the time you will be choosing multiplayer.

It will then prompt you to create a server name, choose if you want to play with public, friends, or invite. You will probably want to choose public and give a password. That is the easiest way to have people find it. If you use Friends, you will have to have everyone friended in STEAM, and it doesn’t seem to always recognize them. I haven’t used invite, so refrain from commenting on it. Make sure to click your number of players and then you will click “Create Server” and TTS will open to the game selection page. All the games you have selected recently will show up on the front page. To find games you selected in the “workshop” click “workshop” on the left and those games will show up. Click on the game you want, and it will load. If you click public without a password, anyone can join you, which can be fun if you are looking to meet some new folks.

Once you get in, you will see the table set up. FIRST THING go to Options/Permissions and turn off table flip. Guaranteed, someone will want to see what it does. Hint: it flips the table and you have to start over. It is kind of cool, so let someone flip it at the end of the game.

I’m not going to go into an in-depth tutorial here. Menu/Help will give you most of the controls. Clicking on your name on the top right will give you the option to change your color, if another color is available. The other important feature is the rotation angle at the top. Some games will have pieces that may need to rotate and you can change the angle of rotation here.

Some of my general observations. There is a rules menu, but very rarely have I actually seen the rules there. Most of the time you will see them on the board, and you have to click on them to see them. There isn’t really any consistency on how you view the rules. Some you can right click and go to a page, some you have to hover over them and click “alt” (which works to enlarge almost every game piece on the board and probably one of the most used key commands).  Clicking shift and dragging over objects will select several items at a time. If you have to draw cards, right click and go to the hand icon and choose the number of cards, or click and pull a card quickly. If you go too slow, you’ll pull the whole deck, so right clicking is usally the best option.

The graphics are good, but connectivity can be a problem. In some games, I have glitch problems pulling items out of bags. Not sure why, but bags can kick me out of the game. It’s easy to get back in, but if this happens to you, just have someone else pull your items from you unless you want a great exercise in frustration.

TTS has a chat function, but not voice or video, so you will need another platform of your choice for that. Once you have it all set up, it is a platform that can give you a lot of options and a lot of fun. But it does take some time to set up, so make sure that you are prepared going into a game so that others don’t have to wait on you. To set up STEAM and TTS can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and it’s really annoying to have to wait for someone to set up when you are ready to game. I’ve never heard anyone grumble, because, let’s face it, we’ve all been there in the last year, but it is frustrating when you are ready to play and have to wait. Especially if you aren’t able to finish the game because of it.

So get it set up and check out the next convention. There are a lot, and most are free. Keep on gaming until we can get back to in person games again!

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October 2020 Minutes

Mindbridge Meeting Minutes Wednesday October 7, 2020 at 7 PM

  1. Call to Order
  2. Minutes – reading waived
  3. Treasurer’s Report
  4. Convention Reports Read More »
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A Basic Introduction To STEAM For Non-video Game Gamers

Video gamers have known about STEAM for quite a while. It was created to make updating games easier. As it has grown it has come to include much more for the gaming community. I first learned about STEAM when I found out about the Jackbox Games (Quiplash in particular). You will need steam for some board games and most commonly for board gamers, for Tabletop Simulator (hereby abbreviated as TTS).

The first step you will need to take is to download STEAM to your device. (https://store.steampowered.com/) This might take a while, so make sure you do this well ahead of your planned play session. Downloading STEAM itself does not cost anything, but once you get it downloaded, access to most games and TTS have costs associated with them, and everyone playing will be required to have paid access to the game.

Once you have downloaded STEAM, you will set up an account with a username and password. This username and password can also be used online in your browser to navigate the STEAM store and your account settings.

In the STEAM store you can browse the many titles of video games and board games available. You can browse through their “Free to Play” area. I have found most of the free titles to be video games. Searching for “Board Games” will get you a list of games available on the STEAM platform. The “big one” that you’ll want to look for is Tabletop Simulator. I’ll stop there with that, because I will be devoting an entire upcoming post on TTS. I really enjoy playing the Jackbox games through STEAM and highly recommend them. I have also played “Lords of Waterdeep” which seems to run pretty well. As with any online game, your computer system and wireless connection will play a large part in the type of experience you have.

There is a community section where you can find discussions and a marketplace, but again, I have found them to me mostly of use to the video game community, and have not used them at all in my online board game journey.

It is helpful if you are friends with the gamers you expect to be playing with, but I have found connecting with friends a clunky and annoying task. Once done, however, it is easy to connect with them for games.  To connect with a friend, go to your username tab, and click friends. Then click add a friend in the left menu. You will get a code that you can give your friend or you can enter the code that they give you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes a couple of tries. There is also a link that you can copy and send to them. Again, I have had mixed experiences with that.

That’s about all I have to say about STEAM itself. As a boardgamer I use it about 90% for TTS, and 10% for Jackbox games and that’s about it.  Your mileage may vary. It is 100% necessary for TTS though, as TTS is only available through STEAM.

Please feel free to comment, discuss and share your experiences with steam in the comments, but please also be nice. There are a lot of people trying to learn these platforms and your help and advice are welcome, but not your scorn or disrespect. I don’t claim to be an expert, and only talk about that which I am familiar with. Thank you.

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Roll20 for Virtual RPG’s

 

 

I’ve discussed one way to play board games virtually, and we’ll get to other options, but today let’s look at Roll20 for virtual RPG gaming. Roll20 is a way for GM’s of many different game systems to host their online games, whether its a single shot game or a campaign. It allows the GM to set up their maps, and have the players create or insert their character sheet and link that sheet to a token (image) on the map, which will keep track of hit points and other often used data.

Roll20 is a free platform, with paid options for those who want to have access to things like dynamic lighting and custom character sheets. It supports D&D 5E and Paizo products as well as many other publishers. It hosts most of the newest D&D Adventurer’s League Modules, which you can purchase right from the marketplace within Roll20, and have all of the tokens, maps and other components necessary to run the event. Also, when you purchase modules, the text of the module goes into the journal sidebar, so you can read right from your screen. I have a little problem with that, because you have to switch between tabs on the sidebar to get to the chat window, to add tokens, and/or to look at the journal. There may be a way around this that I have not yet found. There is inline video and voice chat which works reasonably well. It has a nice feature that is available to all subscription levels called Fog of War, where you can black out a map, and reveal sections of it to your players as they go. You can see through it so you know what you are uncovering, but your players can only see what you uncover. Dice rolls are available in the chat window, so that everyone can see what the rolls are, which is nice. You can do this without much setup by using text prompts in the chat window, or, if your players have built their characters in Roll20 you can use shortcuts. You can also “whisper” to other players in the chat window so that only you and them can see the exchange.

I have had some difficulties using the search engine to find some things in the marketplace, and have had to follow links from outside the program if there is something that I have been notified about. Again, this may be user error. I have run 2 games using Roll20 and have spend some time fiddling around with the interface, but not nearly enough.

Like any RPG GMing scenario, the more time you put into the interface, whether it be pen & paper (drawing maps or building 3D dungeons, finding the right minis and coming up with good NPC’s) or virtual (figuring out how to use all the cool tricks of the interface, and find good e-tokens, upload maps and get your players up to speed) the more time you spend getting set up the easier the game will run. There are some great You Tube videos on how to use all the tricks in Roll20. It’s got a lot to offer if you have the time to spend getting up to speed. I was able to get up and running with a basic set up with only a couple hours of preparation. I didn’t really get the best use out of the character set up for my players, but if you are looking for a basic “Here’s the map, your character is here and moves there”, and let you players keep track of things like hp and spells and such, it’s do-able with a minimal amount of effort. Especially if you purchase a pre-made module within Roll20. We started our first game with pen and paper character sheets and just used Roll20 for chat/maps/character and monster movement. I would highly recommend starting by having your players create their character within the game. It gives you many more options that work automatically down the line.

Roll20 also has a decent amount of community content available. As of this writing, there is no way for someone to create a Roll20 “module” that a GM can import into the system to use. You can import individual pieces easily, and can search for community created tokens (character/monster/dungeon dressing) within the program, or buy them and upload them.  A couple nice ones that I have found are 2minutetabletop.com, which has a nice selection of inexpensive tokens and maps, and DM Dave, who has content within Roll20 as well as a Patreon where you can get A LOT of really nice content for a minimal price. He also regularly puts out free content which is well done.

The help feature in Roll20 works reasonably well. I have been able to find answers to my questions fairly rapidly. The Tutorial you take when you first log into a game takes a little time, but is well worth the effort as it explains most of what you need very well. However it IS a LOT to take in when you are just starting, and if you are like me, you’ll forget half of what it taught you by the time the tutorial is finished. I recommend giving your players a virtual “playground” starter screen where they can get in prior to your game time and kick the tires before they start play without messing up your finely crafted map areas.

Overall, you should expect your first several games to take longer than a normal game session as people get used to the interface. I have found this to be the way with most online RPG platforms. I would recommend if you are looking at a 4 hour play slot, that you pick a 2-hour adventure, or plan to split your normal adventure into two sessions. And be prepared to spend game time sharing platform knowledge as well as game information. “You see the giant ahead of you, he hasn’t noticed you yet…” says the GM.  “Hey guys, did you know if you type /gr /w [name] [message] that only you and the GM will see the message…uh…not that I just did that…” responds player A.

Overall, I like Roll20. It can get you up and running quickly, but has a lot of depth that you can explore to make your gaming smooth.

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