Eclipse ! Root! (pax)

Eclipse 2nd (printing? edition?) has not only shipped but has arrived to various areas in the USA. I got to play last Saturday and it was fun as always. They cleaned up the rules a bit and it goes without saying in these years of super over-produced board games that the components are pretty great. If you’ve never played, this is going to be a great time to either pick up the new version or get the first version second hand for a song as people dump them off like crazy in the next few months. For new players, if you can get the first edition for cheap, do it and then upgrade to 2 when you want if you love it.

What’s more the Root expansion is in the house with the Moles and the newly redesigned Corvids (very different from the playtest packet). I’ve gotten one game in so far and probably won’t get a play in until Garycon. While moles are solid, I think it’s important to have the right matchups on the board for them to be really interesting. They cannot easily take the place of the Cats for policing the board from the more powerful factions like the Vagabonds ore Alliance.

Let’s talk about overproduction. In the 80’s or 90’s– even into the early 2000’s– the level of components, pieces, cards, box sizes, miniatures would have been absolutely unheard of compared to today. I look at my game shelf and the only games that come close in size /components from the old days are Samurai Swords (used to be shogun) and Dark Tower. Some of these games I pull out to play are simply ridiculous– Rising Sun, Blood Rage are obvious (luckily these are both excellent) and the new Eclipse is similar. Just a mammoth amount of components that could have been just chits or simple pieces. It makes the game feel more epic, but fuck does it take up a lot of shelf space.

Looking at Fantasy Flight’s Talisman–it’s another highly overproduced game in one particular way– board size. The boards, while beautiful, are far, far bigger than they need to be. The table space needed for Talisman with a couple of corner pieces is ridiculous. Heuristically, players have to ask other players to move their pieces in Talisman 2nd edition, but in 4th– it’s nearly all the time unless you play standing up (usually players only stand up at the very end of the game, say the last 10-15 turns or so).

Contrast this to the Sierra Madre games from the Eklunds. When I busted out Pax Transhumanity in it’s tiny box, one of my friends was like “THAT’S IT?” And Pax are BIG games, sweeping, epic, massive in scale all in a small (Pax Porf) and even tiny (Pax Ren, Pax Trans) box that I can put into my backpack and play anywhere on most size tables.

Farewell Fritz

Fritz Buchholtz passed away last week at the age of 73. He had the best game store in the city for a very long time in Napoleon’s. We had fantastic times there in the basement including many Blood Bowl tournaments, Mordheim, and one fateful Friday Night where we played Mega Supremacy…

While I did get down to the Dungeon in Lake Geneva once, Napoleon’s THE magical hobby shop to go to, even as an adult when it was right up the street from where I lived. A lot of people moved to that part of town just because Napoleon’s was there if you can believe that. I would tell stories of it to my FLA friends as we existed in the no-game-store wasteland of southern Florida.

I bought my first Warhammer book there (40K) and, it being summer, the pages promptly fell out of the binding and I tried to take it back. My dad even came with me and they said it had to go back to the manufacturer which was not the best answer. I still have the book on the shelf of course since what was I going to do at age 14? Mail it to England? I think I got all my Warhammer stuff there. My beaky marines, my WFRP books until I moved to Florida and the nearest game store was over 2 hours away….

I remember Fritz had the best smelling pipe smoke ever and he would come from the back office and talk to his friends about God knows what while we babbled about 40K or Blood Bowl. He would talk to us from time to time and give us advice on some subject none of which I remember.

One time when I was working at a local florist, they had me make a delivery to the North West side. I pretended to get lost on the way back and ended up at Napoleon’s (way East side) for a bit of a browsing session. I worked two jobs, so was never able to get down there except a rare weekend. Unfortunately for all involved, the delivery van wouldn’t start and I was obviously WAY the fuck off course. They had to drive all the way to the East side to get me and try to fix the van. I never did deliveries again.

So many gaming denizens I met and interacted with or simply observed in that place, including the very old school Advanced Squad Leader players who would sit in the back and read the source books as well as the real old school Napoleonics guys who played massive battles on the gigantic sand table in the basement.

There was the MTG guy that lived at home would talk to the clerk while buying boxes of MTG and probably to this day has 100K worth of MTG in his mom’s place. I don’t even know if he played, but he certainly loved collecting.

There was the social studies teacher that wandered in to play a game and got sucked in to what was probably the most disturbing game of Mega Supremacy imaginable, both from an olfactory perspective and how foul and backstabbish everyone was. We stunk up that basement with rump-gasps hours before it was opened up for a 40K tournament!

And of course the goddamn 40K crowd who’s competitive and tournament driven style of play shot the fucking magic out of that game for me forever.

Anyway, fond memories of an inspirational man.

Blizzard is Awesome

Warcraft 3 is awesome and the best game of the 2001-2010 decade. Blizzard was known for highly polished, extremely refined games, even if highly derivative.

that said, you’d think Blizzard would easily be able to pull off an upgraded version of Warcraft 3 with the graphics (they wouldn’t even need to redo any of the gameplay since it’s been refined for almost two decades) UI and performance.

But they didn’t and the game has a 0.7 user Metacritic rating to show for it. That’s right, 0.7! I had a feeling it wouldn’t be all that great, but it turns out it’s REALLY BAD. I think it would be moderately OK if it didn’t fuck the old game– but if you go to Bnet with the old client it downloads 30gigs of shit to your HD that’s now behind a 30$ paywall and you can’t play using any of the old features.

And of course, someone had to go and make one of these:

It’s a forgone conclusion: Diablo 4 will suck. Blizzard will exit the video game business in the next few years.

2019 – Favorite Stuff

Comics

2019 marks the end of the amazing career of Alan Moore with his final comic in the Tempest series of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s easy to make fun of the comic industry and the thousands of comics that are well produced but absolute dreck each year and in addition to that, what I think Moore was saying with Tempest is that the characters that people create are more real than reality itself and will continue on long after the society that created them has been destroyed. While everyone knows Watchmen, do check out his run in SWAMP THING, which was my first exposure to his work as a kid. Him quitting makes me feel pretty old.

Anyway, League was a very interesting series. I wish he had one more block of comics that were more the straight story (like the first two volumes) rather than getting super crazy (Tempest, Century and Black Dossier) or speeding through stories (Rose of Berlin, etc.). What I love most throughout League are the thousands of literary and comic references in each series. It’s almost too much to try to follow on your own, which is why the comics are fully annotated here. With Moore done, is there a reason to head to the comic store at this point? Not too much at the moment.

Films.

Lighthouse, Godzilla. Pretty much runs the gamut of my tastes right there. Godzilla was campy and awesome and Lighthouse was freak out like A Field in England, Mandy, and Valhalla Rising.

Star Wars 9 was interesting to see how they worked around all the problems handed to them from Episode 8 which, like Song of The South and for the same reasons, Disney should put in the vault. Yet it was not a great film and definitely had the ‘just fucking end it’ feeling. I enjoyed some parts, but it’s not worth watching again. Kylo Ren, the most interesting character played by the best actor in the series, had the weakest arc and stupidest outcome. It’s ok for Jedi, like the samurai and warrior monks that influenced them, to sacrifice themselves in battle! Fucksakes. As mixed as the series was, Adam Driver carried the team all on his own. Anyway, I’m getting pumped for sitting down with the Mandalorian though.

My favorite non-2019 movie this year was the LAST VALLEY. Never heard of it? of course you haven’t, but it’s got Omar Sharif and Michael Caine and set during the 30 years war. Among many excellent scenes, in one they play dice for a woman! 1971 had some awesome films.

I probably should have seen a lot more films this year, but just about everything seemed so boring, it’s more fun watching reviews than the actual films!

Board Games.

Root is my number 1 game for 2019. Played the shit out of it, forced everyone to play (many didn’t need it), ran a tournament at Gamehole con and I’m eagerly awaiting the expansion (though I did the print and play with the moles) which will spark up another frenzy of playing. This has killed so many games in my collection. I know this may sound strange, but it scratches the 40K and WFB itch as well.

Otherwise, my current favorites are the PAX series from Sierra Madre Games. I cannot tell you how much I love Pax Porfiriana– so much so that I haven’t even got around to Pax Pamir. Pax Transhumanity is good, but not compared to the other Pax games that I have (Ren, Pamir, Porf). Right now unfortunately for my gaming group (or fortunately if you also love these games), Pax is what I’m bringing every time.

Boardgames are in a really odd state at this point. There are amazing designs coming out, but there are so many design-by-the-numbers worker placement/engine/point salads games that are really all the same and, in general, super tedious. I don’t want to pick on Stonemier games, but they seem to be the Nickelback of boardgame publishers– just putting out the same thing: “multiplayer” solitaire, puzzle, tableau point salad games with a slapped on theme. I guess this is what people want these days. ZZzzzz…

While I’ve stopped doing boardgame kickstarters for the most part, we’ve had had some good times with Zombicide Invader but not enough to warrant the space it all takes up, so I’m on the fence with that one. My kids seem to prefer Massive Darkness anyway despite the fact that it’s much more complex. I like Invader with the kids because it’s NOT complex and I don’t have to explain tiny details all the time, or we get our ass kicked because they forget everything they have leveled up on their sheets.

I did NOT get in a bunch of games of Hate in 2019, which came out early in the year. I don’t know what to say about that one except that it is an absolute work of art from the rulebooks to the boards and especially the miniatures, which are the best that CMON has come out with by far. Seems like it may be a fun day to do a short campaign with 4-5 people, but hasn’t happened yet.

Video Games.

My game of 2019 goes to Samurai Shodown. I just got it, it came out this Summer and I should have picked it up on day one. My mistake.

The game I spent the most time on this year, which is incredible, was Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Simply an amazing open world game trying to be as historically accurate as possible. I really never expected anything like this to ever be a large, huge budget video game. Play it as soon as you can.

Lastly which is an honorable mention is RAGE 2. While the whole thing didn’t really come together, the shooting parts, as I noted in my review, are SUPERB and it’s a damn fun game with an uninspired story with the most unfortunate part being that the vehicle combat was uninteresting. I had a lot of fun with the game and will probably reinstall when there’s more DLC action.

Music.

Well there wasn’t an Aphex Twin record this year, and that’s OK because last year’s Collapse was all we needed for awhile, plus the live shows he has been doing the whole year have been incredible.

In 2019, I’ve been listening to a lot of Hadyn and some other random stuff, but I don’t think I listened to any new albums this year enough to comment. Nothing from Wisp (Dwallicht), Lord Huron, Squarpusher (he did a modern organ music thing that was pretty interesting but not on his own).

That said, I’m going to say my album of the year is Hadyn’s 64th.

This is from ’78, but also very interesting.

RPGs

Last and probably least are Role Playing Games. This year I pretty much put everything RPG on hold due to other real life stuff. Next year will be better as I’m a community leader in a certain youth paramilitary organization that’s taking up quite a bit of free time but won’t be next Fall. I did get to run DCC and Feng Shui 2 this year and played in a good Call of Cthulhu one shot, but that’s about it. Most of my RPG stuff is gathering dust so I’m probably going to shed a ton of it in 2020. My three favorite RPG’s as of now are Mythras, 13th Age and of course, Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition looks like it will have some awesome adventures coming out, including a redux of the Enemy Within, but after talking to some friends that played it extensively in the last year, the system has a lot of fundamental problems, which is really unfortunate in this day and age and especially after the mess that was 3rd edition by Fantasy Flight.

Xmas LAN of Quake 3 Gibbbes

The weekend before Xmas, we had the first LAN in a LONG ass time. It had all the yelling and crying out and gibbes of all the LANS that have come before and what we played, which was appropo on account of it’s 20th anniversary, was tons and tons of Quake 3. I think we hit all the maps at least once and several multiple times. Despite it’s age, the gameplay holds up COMPLETELY against anything else for FFA run and gun. While I love UT2k4 and UT3, nothing else comes close to Q3 after all these years, which is amazing if you think about it. I believe we are coming into a time where game design cannot be topped on certain genres or against certain titles. For example the best RTS is still Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2 is not as good as the original and a fourth Warcraft would not be better than the third. Another perfect example is Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. For 3d fighters, and even fighting games in general, nothing has come close. It’s entirely possible that because of the social and economic changes in the world, that these two games, along with Q3, may be the top games in their genre forever.

Rather than jag around with setting up a dedicated server on one of the machines, Maurice!Bastard got a Q3 server for about 8$ and had it running the entire time.

Other games of note were Vermintide (1) that is excellent fun but we had issues when there were more than 4 of us to play.

IT’s MCDEATH!!!!

I did scooter a few times in Attila Total War which is still my favorite TW game by far, but there was some constant cheesy tactics on my side like wardog spam and use of the silly units that go berserk and become unbreakable so three units can be fighting a single guy remaining from a unit….while the rest of the army is surrounded and crushed.

berserks.

Also of note was the $1.30 purchase of BLOODY GOOD TIME which is a strange FFA FPS where you score various points for kills based on the weapons you use. Using the same weapon over and over gives you less and less points as you go. While I sucked at it, it was well worth the buck or so to pick up for LANS.

The biggest miss is that we did NOT get to play with a group of players Red Faction Guerrilla Remastered. We played a bit with two players and while the shooting is stupid (aim cones) all the crazy power ups and totally destructable buildings would have made for an awesome LAN experience.

We tried to play PUBG a couple times, but it sucked. Everyone else is too serious and too good, so you land, get shot, game over. I think our time with that game is done. It was great fun while it lasted though.

While we didn’t have a ton of people in attendance, and some had to join virtually, it was a fantastic LAN and while everyone is an HPB now and no one needs to leave their house in order to play, you should STILL HAVE LANS. They get everyone together to yell and get drunk.

20 Years of Quake 3

Well holy crap, Quake 3 is officially 20 years old today.

And… it’s still the best DM shooter out there! But it was a long time to fall in love for us, like that funny looking girl on the bus that is into motorhead and jigsaw puzzles. While I had a kick ass time making levels for the game (I think I made a whopping 3 until my HD died and I couldn’t get my source files back and sorta gave up level making) other than to practice for LAN’s I didn’t play a ton the first 6 months or so it was out. I think it hit me when I was stuck in the house for a weekend with shitload of snow (big ass blizzards in ’99 I tell you what) and played vs the bots to 999 frags on a single map. That’s right, 999 frags. No one was around and when I told people they didn’t believe me. After this, I loved the game forever.

Oh how opinions change. Here is Keneda and I’s un-edited reviews of the game from the year 1999. At the bottom is the animated John Romero Gif from that day and age (sorry dude….we were kids).

Quake 3: Arena

(my new girlfriend)

littlemute

Predication is necessary as it is essential to provide my biases walking into this review.  I love Quake. Not Quake 2, Not Unreal, not Doom, but Quake.  I love the speed, I love the level design, I love the totally unbalanced weapon selection, I love the gibbes, I love rocket jumping over a shower of gibbes.  What this means is that any later incarnation of this game will be brutally scrutinized, as Quake 2 was. Quake was made by a bunch of people that had already tasted massive financial success with Doom and slacked in production.  The design of the game drastically changed in mid-development and by all rights it should have been shit.  The reason it wasn’t is that the game designers means of development was to play deathmatch, constantly.  I assume from rumors that they “playtested” the game instead of working for months and months. Look what happened: Dm2, Dm4, E1M2. It’s hard to compare the experience of running “The Bad Place” with 4-6 other people to any other game. Nothing comes close. So there I am, standing in the middle of Dm4 writing this review.

There are a lot of shitty things in Quake 3a:

  • Most of the levels are either built with only beginners in mind or are “trick” levels with a lot of jumps and silly lifts.
  • Prediction.
  • Some of the models are disappointing, and the bot’s “ai” feels like an slightly humanized omicron bot; no suprises there.
  • The weapon selection is also questionable. The Grenade launcher is disappointing for Quake players used to the creamy goodness of the OG GL. The plasma gun is the worst “no skill” weapon I’ve ever seen. It’s weapon effect slows everything down as well as crowding the screen so you can’t see what the hell is going on while firing it.
  • Some of the design choices are extremely questionable. Fat people running around? Vertically challenged levels? An Eyeball with legs? The bot chat feature is absolutely lame. The taunts, already meaningless coming from a machine, are so inane as to turn the stomach. The final boss is the best example of this. For example: Major says “just get my tombstone right” or something to that effect. Now since she’s been killed, this is ok, but instantly she respawns to be killed again. It’s just not internally consistant! If they are fragged but not killed as evident by their respawn, why then talk about themselves being dead?
  • The processor and video card requirements are astronomical. The box should read: “System Requirements: Computer not yet built to run this game, please wait until March of 2000.”

I completed (and I mean completed; ie never to play again) the single player in three hours. It felt like a chore. The bots, with their complete reliance on superior aim gave little satisfaction in tactical play.  You can ALWAYS get the armor or RL when you need it.  The bots ALWAYS run around, never camping anywhere.  There really isn’t anything “new” about Q3a except the engine and art. The game-play is the same, the weapons are the same and the style of game is the same.

With all these problems it seems impossible that Q3a is worth buying. But jesus H christ it is! What id has done with the single player is fine, but makes no difference. Some of the models suck, but it makes no difference. Most of the levels are aesthetics over game-play, but it makes no difference. No one I know has a system that can run it well, but it makes no difference. In four months time there will hundreds of new models, thousands of new levels and a dozen or so mods that ameliorate almost ALL problems. The Voodoo 5 should be out and people will have systems that will be able to run the game. And, of course, someone will remake Quake DM4.

Playing through the single player, I constantly said: “I hate this,” but then during tier five, I started having a bit of fun. Tier five is a stint with some rather good levels in it, like Brimstone Alley, and it contains some of the better models. A few of the levels in that tier are super tight, rather than the typical Q3a flat open area with some curves spread around, so I was in my element: fucking bot ass. It was during this tier that I was able to get the “haste” power up and I realized that there was a ray of hope in terms of runspeed slowness.  If server admins can set run speed…. Excellent!

After I finished off Xeroe (hi, yes bot you can aim better than I can but you jump to the same places every time) I started up a skirmish with nine or so bots on Brimstone Alley with a frag limit of 100 and went to town. Within 10 minutes I realized I liked Q3a, within 20 I loved it. It’s hard to describe the moment where I shifted from hating to loving Q3a, but it happened and here I am writing this review.

Basically the Q3a you get in the box is good, but it’s what you will be able to get off the net in four months that will make this game fantastic. Better CTF with the hook, better levels, more models and more fun and silly mods. With time and better processors we will be able to actually play without a ton of slowdown when someone is gibbed or uses the plasma gun. There is a lot more to be explored in Q3 so I’m going to cut this off for now. It’s not my beloved friend Quake, no, and only time will tell if it’s a worthy successor.  It IS certainly beautiful graphically.

Binary score: 1

[Ed: a Binary score of 1 was the highest possible award for a game. Either worth playing or not worth playing– no in between]

Keneda

» Wow, ID lost its soul, quake3a is proof.
» Anyone have a voodoo4 or voodoo5? You’ll need one to play Quake3a lag free on ANY system. Some people say a TNT2 or GeForce256 can provide a lag free experience, BUT why buy that shitburger when you can get a $600 voodoo5 6000 this spring/summer. Back to Q3A, it’s a beast of a engine, lagg’en the fuck out of my voodoo3 2000 on a p3 549 with 128megs of pc100 memory. Damn… I hate lag. I hate Q3A cuz it lags. Understand?
» The graphics are beautiful. MUCH better then the crap seen in Unreal Tournament. The Lighting, Textures and Weapon effects are bar-none perfect.
» Level design. None. Wastes of curved surfaces abound. My god there’s TONS of useless detail… time could have been spent forging through Fileplanet for examples of GREAT levels. Christ the could have remade all the Quake DM levels. Of the 20+ levels I can say I enjoy 3 or so.
» Sound. Fine. Nothing to great… the music is barely present in the game. Who the fuck listens to the in game music when they are playing DM or CTF? Only net nebbishes. So I guess who cares about music in FPS’ers. Not me, I just pop some Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, or John Zorn in and I’m ready to go.
» Gameplay is fine. Two people meet, one person dies. There’s not too much “getting away” like in Quake. Movement is faster than Quake2 but not nearly as fast as Quake. This makes for duels in which one person usually frags the other. The levels aren’t helping the gameplay at this point. In two months we should see remakes of all the gould DM levels for Quake/Quake2 so gameplay will see a improvement. I have not tried the CTF yet… more people in the clan have to buy the game first… and is it worth it?
» Q3A models are fine to TERRIBLE… and the animations are still VERY limited. I’m not saying that Q3A models are any worse than Quake’s BUT, they’re not any better…. more of the same, with little, barely noticeable, death animation tweaks. Of course they have a higher polygon count, but more doesn’t mean better… it just means more lag, and for what ends do we have to suffer to see a more detailed enemy get fragged?
» Gibbs are real nice in Q3A. They make lag for a voodoo3 like playing over a 2800 baud modem. CHRIST!!!
» Binary score: 0 until I have a voodoo5, at which time I will review the game a second time.

Links

Q3A = Lag