Episode 20: Origins Roundup, The Panic Station Challenge and Battlemap or not in RPG Combats

In episode 20, the founders give you a slew of reviews in rapid fire succession regarding the games they played at Origins Game Fair this year.  Then Tony brings you all the juicy news from the gaming world.  The gang played Panic Station with Stephen Buonocore and reflects on their previous impression of the game.  In the RPG realm, the guys talk about whether or not a battle map is the best way to run combats.

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Origins Roundup:

  • Eclipse: 00:35
  • Settlers of America Trails to Rails: 00:40
  • Abaddon: 00:46
  • Zpocalypse: 00:49
  • Dungeon Run: 00:55
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue: 00:60
  • Core Worlds: 01:08
  • Cosmic Encounters: 01:13


  • The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast is now a part of the Dice Tower Network! We're very proud to be part of an excellent group of podcasters who are just as passionate about games as we are.
  • Recording Day Technical Difficulties: We had the sound card we use for recording go out on us during the recording session. We apologize if the sound quality isn't up to par with what we typically put out. We picked up a USB 4 channel replacement to use as a backup or use when we're at conventions. Let us know what you think of the sound quality during the discussion segments.
  • We had some questions regarding our release schedule. Last month we did the first, third, and fifth Wednesday of the month, though our usual schedule is just the first and third. We had the episode recorded and edited so we decided to release early. We'll let people know when we have these variations so you guys will know when to expect an episode release.

Opening Banter Topics:

  • Origins deals were crazy this year! Anyone who was there will remember the "Free high fives with every sale!" at the Dominion castle who drove prices down to ridiculous levels.
  • Origins sponsors dictating prices at the show?
  • Box O' Rocks at Origins was a hit! Er...well at least everyone talked about it.
  • Jamie really wanted the Black Box of Glory to Rome, but they wouldn't give it out due to some Kickstarter concerns.
  • Mage Wars was everywhere at Origins. Stickers on the floor, hotel keycards, Mage Wars tournaments.
  • Felicia Day and Will Wheaton were at Origins! Tabletop on Geek and Sundry was being heavily promoted. Chris explains the Will Wheaton effect.
  • Tony and Aaron (a gamer friend of ours) insult Felicia Day. Feel free to send them hate mail.
  • Chris played Tentacle Bento, which is basically Gin Rummy.
  • Jamie demo'd Abaddon designed by Richard Borg and shares his experience meeting him.
  • Brian shares how awesome the gaming community at Origins was.
  • The founders met up with Stephen Buonocore, more on that in the discussion!
  • The D&D Next Playtest Session was a tad underwhelming.
  • Lords of Waterdeep D&Deeples are available! Check out this thread on Board Game Geek for more information.

Origins Roundup

Instead of the usual walk-through and review we're doing a segment we're calling the Roundup. This is something we'll be doing in the future whenever we attend a convention will consist of a series of rapid fire summaries and mini reviews of the games played throughout the event. Enough with the segment description. On to the gaming goodness!
The galaxy has been a peaceful place for many years. After the ruthless Terran–Hegemony War (30.027–33.364), much effort has been employed by all major spacefaring species to prevent the terrifying events from repeating themselves. The Galactic Council was formed to enforce precious peace and it has taken many courageous efforts to prevent the escalation of malicious acts. Nevertheless, tension and discord are growing among the seven major species and in the Council itself. Old alliances are shattering and hasty diplomatic treaties are made in secrecy. A confrontation of the superpowers seems inevitable – only the outcome of the galactic conflict remains to be seen. Which faction will emerge victorious and lead the galaxy under its rule?

The 19th Century has arrived and Americans are heading west. Wagon trains are forming up and heading out to settle new lands and build new cities. These new cities will need railroad lines to bring in new people and necessary goods. Some head west for the adventure, some to start a new life, still others to find work. Look west to make your fortune. As the population grows, resources will dwindle and the smart money seeks new sources and new markets. Finance your settlers as they head west to build the cities of tomorrow. Link these cities with rails of steel and operate your railroad to supply the townsfolk with goods. To the west lie lands to settle and fortunes to be made!

It's the distant future, and mankind has taken a galactic leap forward through space, time, and technology. Life as we know it struggles to endure on the Abaddon. Once the home of a mysterious, non-human civilization, the planet is now a desolate wasteland bearing one immensely precious resource: Feronium power crystals. The unimaginable energy contained within the crystals is coveted by two groups of humans: the Satellite City-States and the Commonwealth Alliance. Using Links – giant bio-mech suits made from modified military vehicles and alien technology – the warring factions fight a weary battle for territorial control of the Abaddon.

Zpocalypse is a survival board game set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Two to four players start in a basement/fallout shelter which can lead out to several base locations or even through the tunnels to sewer grates throughout the transformable board. The survivors are trying to make it day to day in a world torn apart from the walking dead. As in any survival game, one needs food, guns, ammo, and more. Players go out into the wasteland and scavenge for supplies, or perhaps to find a new gun or melee weapon to fend off the next zombie attack. In addition to gathering supplies, each player forms and controls his own squad – and each squad works to fortify the bases. Your walls and barbed wire won't hold the dead for long, however, and they're getting hungry.

A tale of teamwork and betrayal! The mole ogre howled out as it collapsed into a bloody pile of rent flesh and broken bone. The aging knight bent over, panting heavily, and gave his dwarven peer an approving nod. It had taken great effort between them both to slay the beast, and they had each taken their share of wounds. But in the end their cooperation had paid off and they both knew it. And then their eyes found the treasure chest sitting in the corner of the room. They looked at each other. They looked back at the treasure... and then the real fight began. The game where YOU are the final boss!

The call comes in... "911, what is your emergency?" On the other end is a panicked response of "FIRE!" Moments later you don the protective suits that will keep you alive, gather your equipment and rush to the scene of a blazing inferno. The team has only seconds to assess the situation and devise a plan of attack - then you spring into action like the trained professionals that you are. You must face your fears, never give up, and above all else work as a team because the fire is raging, the building is threatening to collapse and lives are in danger.

The ancient Galactic Realm, ruled from the Core Worlds of the galaxy, is waning. Now, the barbaric kingdoms that lie beyond the galactic frontier are amassing their strength, choosing this pivotal moment to strike at the heart of the fading republic, establishing new empires built upon the ashes of decaying civilizations. But these outer systems are not yet strong enough to engage the forces of the Core Worlds directly. The young kingdoms must first gnaw at the edges of the crumbling frontier, developing new types of units and shrewder tactics. They must build up their energy resources to launch magnificent fleets and overwhelming ground forces. Then, when the time is right, they must strike at the galactic core itself, claiming the most exalted planets for themselves. The barbarian kingdom that achieves these goals will carve out the greatest empire in the galaxy.

In Cosmic Encounter, each player is the leader of an alien race. The object of the game is to establish colonies in other players' planetary systems. Players take turns trying to establish colonies. The winner(s) are the first player(s) to have five colonies on any planets outside his or her home system. A player does not need to have colonies in all of the systems, just colonies on five planets outside his or her home system. These colonies may all be in one system or scattered over multiple systems. The players must use force, cunning, and diplomacy to ensure their victory.

Gaming News with Tony Topper

Misc. News
  • The Boyscouts are now offering a Game Design merit badge! Why couldn't they have done this 25 years ago?
  • Z-Man Games takes over publishing for Hanns Gluk from Rio Grande Games.
  • Wizards of the Coast announces the D&D Next Playtest Hotline. Expect a lot of "that isn't implemented yet." answers to your questions.
Product Announcements /  Releases
More to come...
  Kickstarter Projects Ending Soon (and Ulule.com) Alien Frontiers: Aurora is up for backing on Ulule.com (a site similar to Kickstarter). Aurora is a language translation project that plans to deliver Alien Frontiers to folks who would like to have the game available to them in their native language. Written by Alessio Cavatore, Kings of War is an easy-to-learn fantasy battle wargame that is tactical, simple and innovative. Currently over 3000% funded, with only a little time left to back this project!
Contests and Conventions
  • More to come...

The Panic Station Challenge

The founders issued a challenge to Stephen Buonocor of Stronghold Games, wherein we issued a review of Panic Station back in December and didn't find the game enjoyable for a myriad of reasons. The challenge was to play a game of Panic Station with us and prove to us it was a good game. He accepted the challenge and graciously took time out of his very busy schedule to meet up with us. In the end, we walked away from the table laughing and retelling the tale of events, moment by moment, as one player infected another and the remaining human players realized they were doomed. We were happy to admit that our assessment of Panic Station was off. This lead to us having an in depth discussion about the way we approach games, whether it's us being close minded about the games we like, being hypercritical of every aspect of a game, or just having expectations that are off when we sit down at the table.

To use a Battlemap or not in RPG's?

At Origins several of the founders had an opportunity to play in the D&D Next Playtest where they experienced combat both with and without a battlemap. Afterwards, we discussed why we decided to switch to a battlemap, what we liked about not using one, and the problems that were resolved and introduced when we started using a battlemap. The group is split between those who want to use a battlemap and those who don't. The predominant reason for using a battlemap is consistently the resolution of misunderstandings about the scenes playing out, what character is where, the distance between characters, etc. Those in favor of not using one share that players having the perfect top down view with total awareness of everything occurring in combat breaks immersion. After looking back with rose colored glasses at the topic, Tony presents an idea to appease both camps.

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