Game Review: Title Bout II

I was asked to review Title Bout IIa boxing game designed by Jim Trunzo and published by his company Straight Jab Media (a fitting name.)

I’ve worked with Jim a bit at Nocturnal Media and enjoyed his design on Gunman’s Law and Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis, and he was gracious enough to give me a complimentary copy of Title Bout II for this review. It’s been a while since we’ve done a review, so let’s dig in!

I’ve always liked boxing and fighting games, and I was excited to get this.


What Is Title Bout II?

Like the header says, what is Title Bout II? It’s a boxing simulation board/card game. It’s an interesting beast, mostly charts, cards and numbers, low on immersive qualities (visually) and high on the simulation of boxing rounds.

It utilizes a “Action Deck” to replace dice and provide a series of randomized actions, outcomes and special effects that allow you to simulate the back and forth in a boxing ring.


The Components

I was a little surprised by the small size of the box when it arrived, but it’s jam packed with components.

There’s over 200 cards, a center board, fighter status boards and a small selection of various tokens.

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Each round, fighters struggle for control of the momentum of the fight, attempting to hit their opponent, wear them down, score points from the judges and manage their stamina and endurance against the drain of the ring.

There’s 100 heavyweight boxers to choose from, creating a near infinite amount of possible showdowns that never happened in real life (or recreating famous historical bouts).

The Action Deck is 100 cards, and there’s a small assortment of Strategy Cards that allow you to customize the game and event.

The overall quality of the components is nice, though the cards are a bit thin, and will require card sleeves to maintain their integrity over long use (this doesn’t matter to me, as they’re still better than some truly terrible quality games I’ve gotten and I sleeve all my card heavy games anyways.)

The boards are nice and sturdy and lay flat. The two rulebooks (which appear split due to printing constraints) contain all the information you need to play the game (more on that later.)


The Gameplay

The game play is both simple and complex at the same time. Boxers determine whose in control, an strike is made, an outcome is determined, and then the next round happens.

All actions are resolved by flipping cards from the Boxing Action Deck and checking various numbers on them.

Here’s where the game can get complex. The rule-book is well written, but it is not organized well. There’s little cross referencing, which can provide some confusion when playing the game the first time, as rules are sometimes hidden in unusual sections, in the other rule-book, or not clearly called out.

All the rules are in there, but their interactions or locations can be frustrating to find. Our first game consisting of lots of hunting to make sure we were doing everything correctly. We still missed some items that we had to address on our second play through.

That being said, this is a problem solved by playing the game (or if the designer were to release a PDF index, detailed flow of play with page numbers, or similar), that one could easily get around.

The actual resolving the game actions is not complex and quite fun! There’s a lot of back and forth and sudden bursts and ups and downs, like one sees in a boxing match. The scoring is fun, and our match up felt close!

It is certainly a simulationist game, and there’s a lot more strategy in maneuvering the fighter, dealing with the ups and downs of the ring, and more. Our first game felt rather mechanical and uninvolved from a player agency standpoint, but once we’d played once, we were able to see the places where we could exert our control into the game and our second go around was dramatically different and player driven.


Overall

I’d give this game a rating of 4 of 5. I liked it enough, that I preordered the Middle Weight Cards off the Straight Jab Media website, so I could expand the game! That’s as good a sign as I can give!

With a PDF index, a video series detailing the various phases and turns of the game, or similar, it’d easily bump up to an 4.5. This game is a complex, detailed, and daunting opponent at times, but it’s fun, manageable and interesting.

It just needs to be made more approachable to new players!

Perhaps I’ll undertake such a video series. I’d like to see this game get more traction. I find two-player sport sims board games to be among my favorite sort of board games.

 

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Halloween Game 2018 – Mythras (Mythic Rome)

It’s that time of the year again! Halloweeeeeen gammeeee! *cue spooky music.*

I elected to run Mythras from The Design Mechanism, using their Mythic Rome sourcebook. (You can find all of these books on their website or DriveThruRPG.)

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Rules Changes for Moar Horror

None! The combat rules in Mythras are pretty horrific already (in terms of body horror), and as I was going for a bit of a Lovecraftian Roman Sex Cult vibe, I just cribbed from Chaosium’s excellent 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu (since both games share a similar d100 engine history and are largely easily converted between.)

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Everyone took on the role of a Gladiator or Charioteer (only one Charioteer though), and served in a gladiatorial school (called a Ludus) in northern Africa in Roman Carthage.


The Food

Halloween game is a chance for me to explore another favorite hobby of mine, cooking. I made the following items for them:

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THE GAME

Their owner, Marius was losing money due to cheating from a rival ludus known as Ludus XIII. Marius suspected that Scyllah (the owner of Ludus XIII) was cheating somehow and instructed his gladiators to “desert”, swearing their allegiance to Scyllah and investigating what was going on.

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We had a training match to teach the combat mechanics (the rest of the game is fairly straight forward.)

They staged an escape, in which an overly abusive guard was slain rather brutally.

After that, at Ludus XIII, the Lovecraftian tension started to amp up as one of the gladiatrs was bedded by Scyllah, and it only got weirder from there.

The big set piece was the “scale” Hippodrome I build. It was converted for a 16mm chariot scale and based on the measurements of archeological references for Roman Carthage.

The track itself was over 6 feet long and the gladiators have to survive a death race against ghostly Roman Chariots and strange monsters.

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Overall, it was a great experience, and the sheer amount of fun really made me want to start planning next years already (which is a good sign!)

I’d been growing burned out, so it was wonderful to feel that sense of love of gaming coming back!

 

 

 

Life Changes / Don’t Panic

I’ve been full-time in the game industry for almost 18 months now. It’s been awesome. I love what I do, I love my friends (I can’t rightly call them fans/customers as we’re all in this together as a community).

But sometimes life throws you a curve-ball, and you have to adjust.

The wife and I have been trying to start a family for a few years now. IVF, hormone treatments, surgeries, the whole thing. No luck. So we are preparing for foster care.

Foster care comes with some life adjustments, primarily kids who will likely have medical needs (both physical and mental/emotional.) There’s resources out there, but they can take time, approvals, or more. If we’re going to take in foster kids, we want to give them the best home possible. While Gallant Knight Games provides the income my wife and I need (in addition to her job), we decided we’d rather have a more secure safety net if we’re going to bring children into our home in the near future.

To this end, I’ve gotten a full-time job back in my old career of data analytics! YAY! It’s a great job with amazing insurance, adoption assistance, parental leave, and great pay. It’s basically the dream considering our situations.

However it does mean some changes for GKG and my game career. Nothing major, but some reorganization.

We have 3 existing projects (3.5 technically) that are outstanding: Cold Shadows, Tiny Dungeon 2e (the .5 in the 3.5), Tiny Wastelands and Monster Hunter International. Cold Shadows is on it’s way for fulfillment. Tiny Dungeon 2e is waiting on two books (one almost done, the other headed for pre-press soon), and then wave two shipping. Tiny Wastelands is moving along on track, as is MHI.

However, a full-time job will slow me down. When I started GKG, I was working full-time outside of creating games, and I’m well aware of the limitations and effort it’ll take as I get back into that.

Tiny Supers was scheduled for a mid-May Kickstarter. We’re pushing it back until the PDFs for all our outstanding commitments at GKG (for our GKG specific products) are out. Once PDFs are out, that means books go to print, and we can start the next project.  (Our partner projects are unaffected by this, as we are not as directly involved in the day to day there.)

Based on our timeline, this will likely push it to late June/early July for a Kickstarter, but we’ll see. We don’t wanna jeopardize our quality or results. Our backers and supporters deserve better for that.

Everything else is spaced out enough that we feel comfortable leaving it on the schedule (such as D6 System 2e in September/October) and we’ve got exciting news coming this month about some new stuff in the works we think you’re going to love!

April TTRPG Maker! #AprilTTRPGMaker Day 1-4

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So here we are! I was told I should do this, so here’s day one, two, three and four! Since I’m behind.

1.) Who are you? 

I’m Alan Bahr, founder/owner of Gallant Knight Games, project manager/publisher at Nocturnal Media, and general game enthusiast.

2.) Where ya at?

About an hour north of Salt Lake City, Utah!

3.) How did you get started creating TTRPGs?

I mean, I created my first homebrew within minutes of buying the 3.0 Player’s Handbook (those custom races were awful.) It was a downward and slippery slope from there. Planet Mercenary was my first big entry into the market though. I’ve detailed that a lot.

4.) Describe your work.

Oh man. Generally I sit in a more traditional, rules lite space, where cinematic emulation matters more than crunch, and the game should disappear behind the story. I dunno. What do you think?

Ok! See you tomorrow for more.

Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Guide

My Pendragon guide was very popular. One of my top three blog posts! So I’m doing more for other RPGs I love.

Thus, I present to you, Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Book Guide!

I adore The One Ring (also called TOR.) My love of Tolkien runs deep and nostalgic, and TOR captures everything I adore about Tolkien into a game that I consider near perfect. Cubicle 7 crushed it. Their team has made an amazing game that I’m always excited to buy and play.

I’ve divided these into categories, start with Must Buy, and getting all the way to Optionals. You can click on the titles or the pictures for links to the purchase site (all of them on Cubicle 7’s website). I’ll primarily focus on The One Ring Edition (not Adventures in Middle-Earth, but AEM is amazing!) because it’s both readily available in PDF and Print and because I’m wildly biased (again, my favorite Tolkien RPG ever).

Note, just because something isn’t “Must Buy” doesn’t mean I think it’s bad or don’t use it. Often the opposite! But if I am coming into the game, or recommending purchasing orders to folks, this is how I would recommend it.

 


MUST BUY

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The Core Rulebook: You have to always start with the corebook! Luckily, this scorebook is a 336 page tome full of gorgeous full-color art, easy to read and learn rules, and everything you need to play!

Bestiary, pregens, a small adventure, storytelling advice. It’s pretty much spot on and perfect!TOR_Dice3

 

The Dice SetWhile the dice set is not officially required, I really like having the official dice for this game. They make play much smoother, it’s easier to teach, and it generally improves the experience.

I consider them a must buy if you’re going to play TOR. You won’t go wrong.

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The Adventurer’s Companion: Us roleplaying fanatics love our options, and The Adventurer’s Guide gives us so many more options. A useful book if you want to expand outside of the core options, this book is a must have at any table.

It also includes some unique Fellowship Phase options, and some extra rules to add a bit more crunch and character development to the very streamlined ruleset.

It also has a catalog of all the Fellowship options up to that point, and it adds Generational Play (a favorite of mine design-wise.) Yes please.


BEST OPTIONS TO BUY FOR MORE AWESOME

If you want to add more awesome to your already awesome The One Ring game nights, these books will serve you nicely. I have all of them and regularly use them all.

JourneysAndMaps600Journeys & MapsI love this product. Big, folded maps that I can lay on the table and teach folks with, or show their travels and journeys? Yeah, this is a win.

With the beautifully thought-out travel rules in the core, I consider this product just below Must Have, and it’s an absolutely valuable resource at my table.

The only real issue is that future & new maps aren’t/won’t be in it. Here’s hoping for a Journeys & Maps II or similar product.

 

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The Loremaster’s Screen: Well, how are you going to go wrong with a Loremaster’s Screen for TOR? The back end of it is fantastic, with tons of useful rules information and guides to playing.

Plus as a bonus, you get the Lake-Town rules (for playing Men of the Lake) and some new Fellowship options.

Unfortunately (kinda?), those are reprinted in The Adventurer’s Companion, so if you aren’t the sort of LM who wants a screen, you might not find full value in this.  It’s still beautiful, and I still consider it useful, but I don’t consider it a must have.

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The Heart of the WildThis book introduces River Hobbits, so it’s pretty much perfect from the get-go!

However, it also adds a lot more detail to the Wilderland (the default locale in the corebook), more enemies, more Cultures, and lots more excellent options, like those above.

However, lots of this book (new cultures, added Fellowship phase options) is repeated in The Adventurer’s Guide, so it’s hard to justify on the table at times (for me.)


MORE AWESOME OPTIONS (BUT LESS ESSENTIAL THAN ABOVE!)

So, this is where it gets weird. These options are pretty great! And I love and use them all, but they’re a bit more…precise in what you might want or need.

The books below expand the core experience out of the Wilderlands (the area around The Lonely Mountain) and add new cultures and locales to the game.

However, if you’re not planning to travel to these locations in the game, nor play a culture from there, they are relatively superfluous in your game.

Instead of going over which is in each of these in particular, I’m going to simply show you what they are, and give you a brief overview of how these are all set up.

  • They generally introduce a new culture or two.
  • They introduce specific rules for that culture (such as Horses for Rohan, Dragons & Dwarven Artifacts for Erebor, etc.)
  • They add a new map and new pregenerated characters.

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ADVENTURES!

The One Ring has oodles of adventures. Just so many. And they’re all great. But if you don’t do premade adventures, they’re less useful.

So, mileage might vary! Most of the adventure books are tied to one of the locale expansions above (Tales from the Wilderland being tied to the Corebook, and The Darkening of Mirkwood being stand alone.)tfw_fc800.jpg

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That art though… *faints*

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Book Review: Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers

6196yU0iPgL.jpgSo here’s a thing I haven’t done in a long time, a book review!

Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers by M. Todd Gallowglas is a collection of roleplaying game, fantasy, and dungeon crawling inspired poetry. The book is slim, only 60 pages, and laid out in a minimalist manner.

I haven’t done this recently, so let’s get right to the point. I had a great time reading this book.

I’m not a poetry critic, so I can’t get into if Gallowglas’s words fall into some nebulous category of “good” or “bad”, but I can unequivocally state: I had fun, I laughed, I nodded in agreement, and I saw a reflection of love for the hobby and industry where I’ve been living in some part for the last 20 years.

Gallowglas has an insight into the world of tabletop RPGs, and even when he’s poking fun, it’s with a very loving smile towards an old friend, no malice or ill intent.

I should probably close this review, with some sort of RPG based pun, like how this book rolled a natural 20 to win my heart, or Gallowglas clearly didn’t make poetry his dump stat, but that’d be cheesy….

I fully recommend this book if you love tabletop RPGs, and I don’t think you’ll go wrong with it. It’s an excellent, loving and tongue in cheek analysis of our beloved hobby through an unique medium.

You can read the eBook for free on Kindle Unlimited or buy a hardcopy here.

Pendragon Halloween Game Recipes

Cooking with Alan Time!

Some folks asked for the recipes I used for the Pendragon Halloween Game. Here they are!

You’ll have to bear with me, I’ve never written recipes on this blog before.

These recipes are deliberately medieval-styled, but obviously benefit from modern advances. I used this site to do my best to use ingredients that were as authentic as possible. But I didn’t break my back, as I was more concerned about “feel” than accuracy.

The stew (except for potatoes & the Lea and Perrins) is fairly authentic to some historical recipes that have been studied/cataloged. Obviously Guinness wasn’t around in the same way, but one can safely assume some form of beer was. Now, I’m not a scholar, so that information might be outdated, but I did do some research (yay internet and some free books!) to figure out how close I was.

The Berry crumble is a take on a Scandinavian recipe, and is a pretty reasonable extrapolation of a possible dessert (but there’s no evidence they actually ate dessert in the way we consider it now.)

As for the cider, well, that’s just really good. And it has the benefit of being possible. There’s Saxon and other cultural chronicles that indicate cider was drank regularly! So….yeah.

Not accurate, but a lazy effort!

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