Finalment! I have beaten the Elden Ring, which took me months too long and many, many tries against Malenia, the Fire Giant and some other boss I can’t remember any more.
It goes without saying that the game is a masterpiece. The attention to detail, the unbelievable scope, the number of bosses, the incredible amount of build options and weapon combos, the multiplayer (both partying up and PVP) and especially the rather interesting purgatorial storyline. It is a really good time to be alive and able to wield a mouse and keyboard or controller, I will say that much. Is it my favorite From Software game? No. I think even after all the fun Elden Ring is, Bloodborne is still my number 1, but I need to go back to it and play again and see if it stands up to ER.. and then finish Sekiro or Armored Core… did I mention it was a good time to be able to play video games? Will I play through ER again? Certainly, with stupid builds that can only make it with tons of help from other people.
One of the issues for me is that the game is… too long. I feel like the battle with Morgott should have been the natural end of the game, and the first DLC should have been up to the Fire Giant, Malekith, Malenia and the Elden Beast. These are generally good bosses, but for the base game? I had my fill of ER when I beat Morgott in May of 2022 for awhile and set it down except multiplayer with a second or third toon to jagg around with. It took me a long time to get back to the game and when I did, I think it wasn’t with the same fervor as the first 2/3rds.
That said, the final battle with Malenia, the probably 100+ tries against her were really epic, attempting different tactical paths, failing, trying new ones, failing, going back and beating up bosses I missed to get certain items, then going back and failing and finally running into the fight with no spells and just the GUTS Sword (and a mimic tear…) and getting a bit lucky with dodging the Waterfowl during her second form and then blammo– the hardest From boss in the can!
Unlike Bethesda games, From doesn’t necessarily care if you miss a bunch of stuff, so they hide their big dungeons quite well in ER, and the first instance of this in Stormveil Castle was pretty eye opening for me– the majority of the castle and dungeon beneath was not only totally optional, but fairly difficult to find to boot. This theme continues throughout the game, which is both good and bad. Good because the sense of exploration and discovery is certainly there all the time, especially after stumbling across the giant hole left by Radahn getting his arse kicked. Bad because– you miss stuff. If I didn’t have Nathan around mid-game for multiplayer, I would have missed tons of dungeons, just walked right past them. Later I was a bit more careful and was looking for particular items for my GUTS sword build. I think a bit more GO THIS WAY for some of the dungeons would have helped so I wasn’t looking online for hints all the time.
Favorite Bosses list:
Radahn – worth buying the game for just this
Redwolf Radagon – yeah, easy fight but really fun boss.
Godrick – just a jerk that needed to be put down for good!
Godskin Duo – Made me think of some other skinny and fat guy…
Malenia – can’t deny it, this was a good fight.
Well that’s it on ER for now. This is a lifestyle game for many people and for good reason, it is absolutely excellent. I can’t wait for the DLC and it’s hard to imagine what they could even do that they haven’t done before.
Is that the right spelling? I don’t even know. This looks quite interesting, though the ‘goals’ in the game to fulfill plots are sort of odd because it’s about patterns of card spacing in a grid, but I’m hopeful that this simple mechanic will bear fruit Sticking PAX on stuff and calling it a day is not something I hope for this line of games that has been so influential on what I love to play these days instead of just another viticulture slapped on some random theme game.
Pax Illuminatem also boasts being one of the few blatantly Masonic games, with the exact goal of Freemasonry itself: spreading the teachings of the Enlightenment which looking at Western history, is probably the most important thing from a non-scientific side we did and can do going forward.
I like Sid Sackson’s Acquire a lot, it’s a fun tile-laying game that incorporates stock and rail type mechanics into a simple, effective design with a ton of potential for chaos, backstabbing and excellent combos. It’s easier to get to the table than Tigris and Euphrates since it’s hotels and stoNKS which people seem to gravitate towards a bit more than the more esoteric entities/factions in Tigris. Acquire should be in every gamer’s collection….
….And yet it’s been 24 years since we had a good version of the game! The last version that was comparable in components to the original 3M 1960’s release was by Hasbro in 1999 with their excellent ‘tech company’ version with beautiful molded plastic towers and all plastic tiles/tray to play on. Naturally, that version went out of print and started to command massive prices, especially since every single version after it flew so far off the mark component-wise, none of them were even worth looking at. For a long time, if you want a playable version of Acquire, you bought the 1964/8 or 1971 version at 30-40$. Why? Acquire is a tile laying game that absolutely requires a molded plastic tray, readable tiles and tray numbers, as well as some sort of plastic hotels. Many companies ran through versions of Acquire trying to cheap it out and just do cardboard with tiles. The game just does not work without the molded plastic tray to hold the hotels/buildings: with one small bump of the table, YOUR GAME IS FUCKED. Sure, you can put it all back together again, but the critical heuristic part of Acquire is not having to do that, which the original version from 1968 had no problem fulfilling.
Now we have the RENEGADE Games version and I am very pleased with the quality of the components in addition to having an excellent tile tray that really locks in the tiles. The buildings are cool looking, cards are all very clear and well designed and if you do happen to have the holy grail Hasbro version, is in a much smaller, more portable box than the 1999 big box game.
If you’ve never played Acquire, it is Sid Sackson’s masterpiece of design and I highly recommend the Renegade games version now before it to goes out of print!
Sometimes stuff comes out of nowhere and ends up being critical move forward for an entire genre. Notably Warcraft 3, while eagerly awaited, was far better, and had much more influence on future games/gaming than anyone could have expected even in a genre (RTS) that had been run through by 2003 like a 2 dollar whore.
Street Fighter 6 just may be this type of historic game in the fighting genre. I thought the hype around SF4 was great as it brought a lot of people both into and back into fighting games, especially ones that weren’t Tekken. SF5 just didn’t do it for me and I barely played it, mostly as the graphics looked actually worse to me than SF4. This version is something else.
First off, I was intimidated by the new systems (drive rush, perfect parry, etc.) but having played with people that were completely new to the game with just a few matches of play able to pick up on perfect parries and the drive rush, one can see how easy these are to start to use. Since most folks can’t even do a QCF nor a DP consistently, these are single or double tap button presses that the opponent must respond to or he will take a beating, making a newer player able to effect the match regardless of lack of other knowledge.
Second, the feel of the game, the weight of the hits, characters, effects, is simply outstanding. I’m not going out on a limb already to say that this is probably the best 2D style fighter ever made and I am not, generally, a fan of Street Fighter over King of Fighters or some of SNK’s other games (Last Blade, Samurai Shodown). SF has always been super slow to me, with very limited mobility on the screen and tons of positioning plays which just bored me compared to the much more dynamic KOF that has many different types of jumps, dodging (which makes approaching easier and faster) and a focus on fast play. No longer. SF 6 resolves ALL of those issues, making it much easier to move across the screen and engage with the other player. Fireballs and zoning are still a thing, but they are not the ridiculous spacing play that (intermediate) players suffered with in old games.
Lastly the graphics– the characters look incredible, and as we play more we will forget just how good they look, how amazing the animations and how awesome the fanservice is! It’s been very fun to see how the characters evolved as they have ‘aged’ from the original SF Alpha series where all the characters look like little kids.
Overall, not just highly recommended, but give the game a try as I very much believe SF6 is going to be considered one of the best fighting games ever made. And I leave you with some high level Chun Li, who I think so far is the strongest character in the game, but we’ll see as EVO and other tournaments hit.
Along with Dave Trampier, there is one other TITAN of the old school D&D art, and that is the incredible Russ Nicholson, who brought to life the entirety of the Fiend Folio as well as gobs of other art for games throughout his career. While the original Monster Manual’s art was a huge inspiration, the Fiend Folio took both the monster designs and art to a new level.
Unlike Trampier, who quit doing any art in the early 80’s (and missed the MTG cash cow that he would have fit into perfectly), Russ kept on doing art for OSR modules, DCC and other games his entire career. RIP Russ!
We used to LAN a lot, like once a month. Now it’s once per year only BUT there are some advantages in comparison:
There is more alcohol than everyone can consume during the weekend
Food is in abundance beyond imagining
Instead of a flop house style weekend with everyone sleeping on the floor under their computers, it’s in a real house with actual real rooms.
Weed items are effectively legal and plentiful, but no one smokes
We started out with some various board games, but when everyone was in attendance we threw down the 2nd annual 7-man Talisman game which was, again, EPIC. Last year I had taken tooooo many mg in gummies so I was fucked up and just wanted to lie on the couch hence was quite glad when my character was killed off. This year I was BEER fueled and tried to go for the win, but my only claim to fame was killing off the hated PROPHETESS before she could bust out onto the scene and become unstoppable.
In the end, the Vampiress racked up the kills and destroyed everyone. I’m not sure anyone even went to the middle region, let alone the center. This is a very fun way to play with lots of players who don’t mind getting eliminated (to go play other stuff together after). It is very random though, but buy the Talisman ticket, take the fucnk ride.
We didn’t get many other board games except a good round of Dungeon Degenerates which degenerated into a TOTAL PARTY KILL about half way through the adventure. We were up against 6 monsters and didn’t use some of the items that could have put us in the W column, totally underestimating the enemies and getting destroyed. Great game and one that should get some more plays. The psychedelic board is a world of wonders.
The LAN type games were again dominated by Counter Strike and CSGO as it should be. We had old ass laptops and that’s about all they could run, so we took advantage of having 7 of them and had a blast co-op vs the bots with bots added (manually) every time we won a round until it was a proverbial SWARM. I preferred the CSGo with the more refined weapons and physics (let alone the graphics). Even on these old laptops, that ran just fine.
We did play QUAKE which was eye-bleedingly awesome but my skills at least were real rusty compared to other people (if they had skills in the first place that is). My loss at Q3A though was real bad. The verdict was that I had played too much Virtua Fighter and not enough Quake over the last year. My issue is I have to keep my skills up for VF because I have punk kids that I play in that, not so much with Quake.
For console stuff, we got in some great sessions of Tobal 2, always an amazing game to play and re-learn. It still holds up after all these years and for me at least, blows Tekken away. In Virtua Fighter 5 though, as noted above, I ran the jewels on the other players just from often playing and having timing down. It’s the anti-button masher, so you have to know when it’s your turn and not your turn or you get transanaled. I’m not sure the other players had all that much fun getting beatdowns when I chose random characters… We did get some DOA for the fanservice boob bounces and while DOA 6 is fun, it’s just so much slop compared to VF. Next year I want to have some type of fighting game tournament with something just stupid nuts like My Hero One Justice or Brawlhalla.
Keneda brought some chicken fight game that could handle 4 players + but I think I was drunk when we started and just threw the controller down and yelled at the TV and left to go play Donkey Kong in the basement region. I got some folks to play Dragon’s Crown and you just really cannot appreciate the largest breasts in a video game without actually seeing them in motion. It’s a great game, but I’m not sure even those sweet lovin thighs or sorceress’s breasts could hold people’s attention away from Counterstrike.
Despite the fact that after a series of 60-70 degree days there was a massive snowstorm and only Matt and I got out of there in time, I believe in my heart it was a successful OLD PERSON LAN.
EVO Japan had some great choices for games this year.
Here is an amazing King of Fighters final where Kyo just wrecks. Other than B.Jenet and Kyo, I really don’t like any of the other characters from the final match but in KOF casual, there are so many to choose from, it doesn’t even matter.
Virtua Fighter @ EVO
VF is the best fighting game there is, but it hasn’t had a new version since Virtua Fighter 5 in 2005!!!! (updated for PS4/PS5 with new graphics a few years ago). The fact that this game is at EVO is simply another testament to how good it is.
This is a LOOONG video, but if you are interested in solid English commentary and some awesome matchups, with a bit of a surprise victor, give it a watch.
Samurai Shodown (2019)
This is SUPER long and has only Japanese commentary. but it’s a good view into the current meta of Samsho as there are very few characters that make it to this level. Charlotte, Shiki, Baiken (from Guilty Gear), Genjiro, Yoshitora, Rimruru (bleh) at the top and Basara, Hibiki (from Last Blade), Warden and Cham Cham here and there. Baiken was selected by the winner last year, so in the final it would have been great to see Shiki take her down.
Next year will see Tekken 8 and Streetfighter 6 for sure so likely at least one of these games will be dropped from the roster to make room. EVO USA is in August, so we shall see what goes down there (only KOF XV from the above list is included).
Oh boy, this game is a doooooozy! While waiting for the kickstarter to arrive, which could take until Summer due to the distribution company going out of business (Funagain), I set all my search triggers to see if anyone was selling a copy and was able to pick one up and get it shipped a few weeks back.
I can’t say yet if Stationfall is good, I can’t say if it will stand up to a bunch of drunken oafs for the 2+ hour play time, but I can give a take on what I think this is about and why I think this will be HATED by some, and really up other people’s alley: this game is a CHAOS GENERATOR.
The Ecklunds, designers of Pax Porfiriana, Bios Megafauna, Greenland, ET AL., have this concept of the achterbahn in many of their games, which means ‘roller coaster’ in German. It signifies that when you start play, you’re not just building an engine or fighting other players, you are doing those things while the game itself is taking you on a wild ass ride. Sometimes you have an easy time, like in Greenland when you don’t have many cards move to the cold side during the game, or an absolutely brutal time, when in Pax Porfiriana you get two Bear events in the first turn and everyone sits in Recession for the whole game trying to claw their way enough funds just to buy a ranch, let alone other political machinations! You’ll notice that the Pax Porfiriana clones and similar games from other designers (namely Cole Wherle, Jon Manker) completely avoid having the achterbahn in the game, keeping the randomness down to the order that the cards come out or are played by players rather than the game itself causing massive shifts that people have to deal with. Tableau and Ops games like Pax Viking, Reign of Witches, Oath and Pax Pamir appeal to gamers that want more control over what they are doing themselves and directly to each other, and less or no interference from the game, pushing them much closer to engine builders such as Viticulture or Euphoria.
Stationfall represents, in the body of work so far from both Ecklunds, the purest expression of achterbahn yet as it begins as a literal ride on a space station station down from orbit to break up into pieces in Earth’s atmosphere, and it does this with NO event cards. The entire game state, that changes with every player’s turn, can work for or against the player based on their goals, and the moment the players start interacting with the Station’s systems and items, everything goes completely insane. That said, the rollercoaster aspects are generated FROM the players themselves and not an event deck, but the butterfly effect from a single turn on the board state can throw plans and even the station itself into complete chaos. On the first turn it’s possible that the Project X experiment is released, power is shut down and the antimatter decays (meaning the station explodes in 4 minutes instead of 13). All of these things have to be mitigated in order to be successful and that’s something a lot of players are going to hate, and many, like me, are going to love.
I’ve had one play with humans and two solo practice plays. As this isn’t a review (people should play games shorter than 2 hours at least 5-10 times before reviewing them), I’m not going to go into how the game works all that much, nor whether I think this game is good for more than a play or two for lols, but more about what the hell you actually do.
First, players must realize that they are a conspiracy and not (at first) a single character. What this really means is that at the start of the game, before your conspiracy starts to run dry on influence, you can control the actions of any other character in the game– including those of other players (until they reveal themselves). The game is NOT like Battlestar Galactica / Unfathomable or any other type of deduction game where deduction of who is who matters a ton to gameplay. It’s important, but not core to the game. The core gameplay is using the characters on the board to get the shit done you need to fulfill your conspiracy’s objectives as quickly as possible.
Each character has a set of victory conditions that allows them to score points at the end of the game. You choose one of these characters to be your main conspirator in the beginning of the game, and one other character to be your enemy/friend depending on if they are naughty or nice. if you fulfill the vp conditions on your character as much as possible, you will likely win. The game is all about who can pull the most points out when Stationfall happens. The victory conditions are wildly different, some hoping to save characters, some hoping to kill them all and blow the station up, and some trying to infect everyone with whatever disease is on the ship, etc. There are robots, people, data and objects that can be characters, so it’s pretty wild. Experienced players can likely deduce who is who after the very first turn, but early days of the game, there’s just no way to tell (except maybe the Engineer or the Daredevil).
Stationfall won’t have a ton of table talk trying to convince people to do things (which is something I thought it might have) until such point as which people have revealed themselves as a certain character– then negotiations can actually work. There is a bribe mechanic, which can score a player some points of they do another players bidding with their main character, but there’s also no reason that other people may want to talk over what might be the ‘best’ course of action for a character for them.
Teaching / game length
This likely should be the first part of this post– teaching this game will take some time and you need to prepare your gamers for it. If they are Viticulture style people, this is going to be a very, very difficult game for them to grasp at first, and you will need to go through not only everything on the ship, but all of the character special powers as well. I don’t have too much advice on this one as I’ve only taught it once, except go through EVERYTHING. Talk about the pieces of the ship, the non grav areas, the dark areas, the loading claw, the powers of the bridge, the anti matter, outside the ship, the mesosphere and all the characters in the game. Once you finish teaching, the game will go surprisingly fast as player’s turns actually do not take very long to complete (unless you are on Table Top Simulator that is)
On the Winning
Victory for a character cannot be determined until Stationfall (however that comes about) but some players will ‘make their points’ early with their main character and use the rest of the turns to mess with other players’ designs. In the one game we played we had a daredevil who did NOT use the project X Death Ray to destroy the escape pods that had made it to the mesosphere, ruining the other player’s chances of winning, but it was certainly a possibility. I think there can be some downtime for players who have made it off the Station and can no longer score points,, but I’ll have to see how that plays out with more plays of the game.
Overall, I think this is a very exciting and completely nuts game that goes against the grain of what’s popular in almost every single way. Since I hate the current trend in boardgames (place workers, point salad) this is very refreshing.
Time marches on my friends. Holy cow, it’s 2023. I am shocked at how quickly the years fly by since about 2008 or so… while I like to think this is due to having unprotected sex and the output of such things, it’s probably just about getting old and so little in each year MATTERS. In 1989, every week was some major life event it seemed like, but now, eh…
That said let’s look at 2022: the YEARS BEST SHIT.
Lots of stuff came out that I have been waiting for, but the big one by Matt Ecklund didn’t get here in time for 2022. I haven’t gotten John Company 2, Bios Mesofauna to the table, so I can’t include them in a best of (yet).
The game of the year for me, despite the fact that the first version of it came out in 2019, is WARCRY. I’ve gotten 10+ games of this over the year and I will call it now as the greatest beer and pretzel miniatures game there is. Most games are 3-4 turns and take about 40 minutes from set up to tear down (or to the next game). I’ve now painted the majority of my terrain and I’m just about to start in on the next box set (Red Harvest) and paint some more Warbands. I’m going to do a big ass review of it and why would people play it vs the also excellent Frostgrave or Necromunda. Warcry has some constraints you have to learn to live with, but once you do, it is just superb and most of all, it makes me laugh when I get my ass kicked most of the time as it’s some crazy ass move or ridiculous roll.
The other game we played a lot of was Spartacus, which was originally released in 2012 (a great year for board games!) and has an updated, non-show-related version. I wish I had known this was THAT good back when it was sitting on shelves, we would have played the crap out of it by now. When you see that tons of people have built custom stadiums for the game, you can probably make some assumptions about the quality of the game.
I read a bunch but I can’t keep up with yearly releases of books, my favorites that I read this year (new, I read books I’ve read over again fairly often), all highly recommended are:
River of Earth – James Still. This is about a poor kid who follows his family around to different mining camps and towns. Doesn’t force the reader to dwell on what the character or author is thinking about situations, it just has the situations. It reminded me a lot of John Gardner’s Nickel Mountain, but not a slog which Nickel Mountain was, a pleasure to read.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Brilliant, short spy novel by Le Carre. He has an intro where he spells out that ALL of this is fiction and it’s just slightly influenced by his work in the secret service. People accused him of using real situations which he denies, saying his work as a spy was incredibly boring and stupid in contrast. I wanted to start on the George Smiley novels (Tinker Tailor, etc.) and this is the one to get that rolling.
The Passenger/Stella Maris. Feel like thinking about existence and getting sort of depressed but amazed at the same time? Read these. Ostensibly about some mysterious passenger missing on a plane that “crashed” into the ocean, it’s really about the conditions of existence that would allow that to happen or as McCarthy puts it in another novel: the joinery.
I didn’t see much in the theaters in 22. 2022 and this year is really just waiting for DUNE 2 since most of the time instead of going to a movie, I would just watch DUNE again The film of the year is the NORTHMAN, but we all knew that. Viking anti-hero revenge film? Oh yeah.
I liked the Terrifier 2, but it was too long and a couple parts took it too far to really love (which is why the fans love the movies, so I get it).
The Video Games
Elden Ring just blew everything out of the water this year, but there were some incredible games and a few disappointments.
What can I say about Elden Ring that hasn’t been said– it’s Dark Souls writ wide, with all the good and bad that comes with open world. I still haven’t finished the game, but I have played hundreds of hours, played dozens of them with friends and the PVP that comes with it. Overall I think the game is too long and probably should have ended at (spoiler) Margott v2. However, there are some fantastic bosses after that– and the Fire Giant is just incredible (and very hard). One of these weeks I’m going to put a fork in the game, but I just keep playing with my low level characters multiplayer and love it. There are so many builds, so many ridiculous weapons and spells, and with the multiplayer it’s a game we will be playing together for years. Is it as good as Dark Souls 1 or Bloodborne? No, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be an absolutely legendary game. Elden Ring has become the game that everything else will be defined against for a long time.
I only have 12 hours or so into the game at this point, but for me it represents exactly what I love about indy video games– a very simple premise taken to the next level. Vampire Survivors is an anti-bullet hell game, in that you run around and shoot things that come at you (rather than dodging stuff that shoots at you). Running around with the whip on a grassy field at first is very boring, but just give it a chance and you will realize that it becomes like modern art at the end of a level with sprites filling the entire screen and you nailbiting that you’ll survive. This is a 2022 gem and everyone should play it. If you love this, check out RIFT WIZARD that came out in 2021– instant classic and takes the crown of SWORD OF FARGOAL for me.
Disappointment – Victoria 3
I was really looking forward to this game all year, especially after the horrible addiction that I had to Crusader Kings 3 and my love of Machiavelli the Prince, Port Royale and similar economic games. Victory 3 was just very strange to play and figure out, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what effects my actions actually had. Maybe there’s just too much going on, but one thing I will tell you in the hours I played: I was bored. CK3 set a high bar for strategy games (as well as Stellaris). I will give this another go at some point, but there’s been the call to Crusader Kings 3 again that has made it impossible. Why mange budgets when you can get cheated on by your spouse with your own bastard son of her mother’s!
There’s some great games that I got to play over break, but that’s going to be a separate post.
My record of the year is CYGNI 61 by RTR. I didn’t listen to much else that was new. A new LORN just dropped recently so that will be on the list for 2023.