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

Necromunda – the release we’ve been waiting for!

Holy Shit. After what I can only assume was a successful run with Necromunda Underhive, GW has brought out the big one: a $290 set with a crapload of beautiful, modular, lego-like terrain and two full gangs.

One of the reasons I think Necro has done well, other than being awesome, is that the gang boxes themselves are VERY well priced at 35$ for 10 models in the kit, and the Underhive box was not super expensive either. At MOST you will need 2 gang boxes which, for 70$ being all you will ever need for a gang is fairly reasonable (Forgeworld weapon and head sets aside). You want to get a gang and play with a bunch of books and prigles tubes for terrain? Fucking go for it. 35$ and some of the special dice and you’re rolling. Barrier of entry is very low.

I won’t go into the way they sold the books much, but that was a bit of a gouge and for early purchasers like me, annoying. The specific gang tactics cards being printed once and then never again is also SHIT but that can easily be fixed with your own set of cards printed at gamecrafter or something similar. As for the books, I would trust the community rulebook at this point more than anything GW comes out with going forward. Like all these small games from Blood Bowl to Epic, the community typically owns the rules at a certain point and I think Necromunda is there.

So this new set…the cost… is horrifyingly high. at $200? yeah! $290? Wow. That said, the terrain in the box looks simply amazing. I just don’t know if this is the best thing for starting Necromunda players because of the cost.

The old set from 1995 had a good, low cost solution to the terrain problem inherent in this type of game, but it was cardboard and did drop you out of the immersion quite a bit. When we played a lot (’95-’96), we tended to just leave the exact same map set up because it was fragile to take apart and put together. I still have all of it minus a crapload of bulkheads.

Despite the cost, I definitely want the new set– it’s just how to justify that much, especially since I have the HULK in the basement which is TOTALLY READY FOR NECROMUNDA any time. I get a fucking massive woody thinking about the new terrain pieces combined with the Hulk.

The hobby project around the new set is also looking insane, but as far as I can tell, almost all of it is non-glue so that just leaves the priming and painting, which can be done in stages…. very looongg stages….

“Finished” Goliaths

Since I got my Goliaths finished (at least the first 10), we played this weekend for the first time with the new version and I was very happy with it. It was far too long coming to really sit down and give it a go as I purchased the first Underhive set the week it came out. I was worried about the switch from IGOYOUGO to chess style but it flows well with the ‘leader moves’ mechanic from the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. If people didn’t notice, GW has been maintaining a ruleset similar to Necromunda for a long time now with the LotRSBG.

I was also concerned with the close combat being boring compared to the old Necromunda (2E 40K) which was fantastic, but it works very well– the acting model has an advantage but if the defender survives, they get a counter.

One thing that was odd to me was NO OVERWATCH. I had my leader stuck around a corner between two groups of adversaries and didn’t know what to do and I was like: oh can I put an overwatch counter on him? Nope. You can’t just sit back and automatically get the drop on someone in the new Necromunda and while strange at first, I think that improves the gameplay flow throughout.

The game is more complex with gangs in the beginning as you get skills right out of the gate. In the old Necro, all the gangs were the same at first except for their equipment choices. In the new one, any Champions and your Leader get a skill at the start.

Anyway, looking forward to more Necromunda. Here’s some shots from the games this weekend which were played on the tiles rather than the 3d board.

Lots of burning…
Escher on Escher Action!
This is a blurry shot, but my leader was trapped on a bridge over green muck by three gangs!

Root – First annual Wisconsin Championship!

The first annual Wisconsin Root championship is in the can and I had a ton of fun running it. We had a full group with 16 players and four tables, which was a great turnout. About 3-4 of the players were new to the game so it was also fun for everyone to introduce the game.

I’m going to go through the rounds, then the winners and then some stats at the end. There were some beautiful and vicious games throughout the tournament but I couldn’t watch them all.

I just want to say that I did pull out a crushing win with the Otters while the final was going on and I hope to see more Otter players next year– they really are easier to win with than the Lizards!

Faction Selection

Players rolled dice and the highest down got to select their factions. This allowed players to play to their strengths but also forced players to play factions they weren’t great at sometimes as well.

Scoring

I did a two round swiss (~2 hours each) with a final with the five players with the most points. All other rounds were 4 players. 1 point for a win, 0.5 for a second place. We had a very large group of people tied for slots in the final, basically because we had so few rounds (only 2), so I would not do it like this again.

Dan is contemplating his future dominance move…

Round one

The Cats pulled off a win at Table 1 (Joe S) with the Vagabond in 2nd place (Graham).

Table 2 was won by the Eyrie (Courtney) with the Alliance in second place (Adelheid).

Table 3 was won by the Lizards (Chris K) with the Alliance in second (Chris S). Dan G went for a Cat dominance victory in the game and was crushed outright!

Table 4 was the Alliance for the win (John R) and Lizards in second (Matt T). IIRC Matt had 29 points as lizards again in this game.

Silas makes a move with the Lizards

Round Two

I put the winners and second place all mixed up together and the rest of the group on the other two tables. We didn’t have any drops between rounds which was great.

Table 1 the first Vagabond victory by Wyatt dominating the game with Beth taking second with the Eyrie.

Table 2 Brad Z pulled out another win with the Cats with Dan G in second place with the Eyrie.

Table 3 was won by Joe S who played as the Alliance with a couple of the other players tied for 2nd place (Courtney and Adelheid).

John R won table 4 with the Alliance and Chris S took 2nd with the Eyrie.

Tables 1 and 2 in round 2 (and Wyatt has some kibitzers)

Finals

This is where my point system didn’t work out well, as we had three people that had either multiple wins or took one win and a second place who were for sure in the finals, but four people that had a single point. Matt T and Wyatt decided not to continue in the final round so we had our five. Again, I would be more granular next time with this few of rounds so this didn’t happen.

The final Table was:

Brad Z – Eyrie
Chris K – Vagabond – Tinker
John R – Woodland Alliance
Joe S – Vagabond – Scoundrel
Courtney – Marquise de Cat

I was playing in another game during the final (these guys all knew how to play and didn’t need me much at all to arbitrate) so I don’t know how it went play by play, but it looked like everyone was at parity early and the Tinker jumped ahead and then got it done.

Kris K pulled out the win as the Tinker Vagabond with everyone else in second place except the Eyrie.

Joe giving the LOOK.

And below are our winners. I had a first and second place prize (the BGG Root bags for each faction) so I told Kris I would owe him some bags since he doesn’t own the game yet and gave the prizes to John, Joe and Courtney.

Courtney, Joe, Chris K, John.

STATS!

While the winning faction was no surprise to anyone (and probably got a few groans from experienced players), there were some surprises for me in terms of what factions were picked, and which ones won games.

Woodland Alliance

Another heavily favored faction to win, the Alliance was selected in 7 games and won 3. Selection to win ratio was 0.43.

Marquise de Cat

Assumed to be one of the weakest factions in the game, nevertheless, the Cats were a force to be reckoned with yesterday. Games without the Cats get very strange for other factions and really turn the faction ‘tiers’ on their head as well. The Cats were selected in 7 of the games and won twice. Selection to win ration was 0.29.

Vagabond

While the winner of the tournament and heavily favored in any given game, the Vagabond was only selected in 8 of the games (twice in the final) and won twice. IIRC we saw a Tinker, Scoundrel, Thief, Ranger and the Possum played. Selection to win ration 0.25.

Lizards

Considered the most difficult faction to win with, the Lizards were selected in 5 games and won once for a ratio of 0.20. I noticed a few players were playing them wrong so watch the rules carefully.

Eyrie

The birds were selected in EVERY game of the tournament and there were some very good bird players. However, they only won once with a selection to win ratio of 0.11. The Eyrie took second in almost every game they were in so watch out!

The Otters

The Otters were only selected once (by a player new to the game) and they didn’t pull out a win. I did score a victory with them in the game I played while the final was going on. Trust me, they are MUCH easier to win with than the Lizards!

Rules and Arbitration

Root is not an easy game to learn and many players (including myself) get small rules wrong, especially with the Vagabond, Otters and Lizards. The main thing I was looking out for was that the Lizards must discard a random card when they lose a garden, and it’s critical that they know what actions they take require a DISCARD and which ones are just REVEAL. The Vagabond is very ticky-tacky with a lot of rules. I reminded players that if you exhaust and item that’s not in the satchel– it goes immediately into the satchel (like tea).

We had one set of boards that didn’t have the 3rd printing update on them, so we had to layover printed sheets. Hopefully for next year we will have that all squared away.

I only had to look up stuff a couple of times. One question was whether or not you could play multiple Ambush cards in a single battle. You cannot.

So thanks to all the players and Gamehole Con for hosting and of course Leder Games for making Root in the first place. Thanks Matt, Dan and Brad for letting us use your sets of Root!

Root – big player count guide!

Ah the chaos of six or seven players in a single game of Root, the chaos is too good to pass up if you get the chance, even if Root was not really built for this many players. Just like Blood Rage: slipping in that 7th faction into the box begging to be played with TOO MANY players, Root has seven factions with the base set and expansions…so far.

While six player Root is insane, the core issues with the game at seven, with two vagabonds, is that space runs out really fast for area control factions (Cats, Birds, Moles), the crafting items run out really fast and double-vagabonds cause tons of chaos on the board with few repercussions to themselves if the other factions are fighting like crazy. While this may seem to give the vagabonds the win every time, in my experience, they end up in second or third place instead.

Who’s absolutely not winning big games are the area control factions. Cats have a rough time in every game due to very slow scoring and the huge risk a playing a dominance card entails with this many players– it’s nearly impossible to catch everyone out of position at the same time in order to pull one off. Birds need to expand and control, and the latter is nearly impossible with seven factions, many of whom will be constantly bombing off your big armies and roosts or co-exist-blocking your control/movement so you get that extra collapse you didn’t plan for. Moles can burst up wherever at first, but then they too get into the area control game in order to score points and not have their parliament destroyed (which it will). This is a small strategy guide for the area control factions with 7 (and maybe 8 and 9 players soon…).

Communication. With an experienced group, you could pull it off with the Cats, Moles or Birds, but you must work together from turn 1 enough to stop the other factions. New and even intermediate players don’t really talk enough and make plans, and that’s a mistake in this large of a game. You need to be constantly talking about everything all the non-area control factions are doing because it’s not always obvious, and certainly not as obvious as a piles of cats in two corners of the board, the spread of the birds, or the initial Mole’splosion.

I’m still learning the strategy of Root, but compared to any normal person, after nearly 40 games and quite a few big ones, I know everything. Below are some non-faction specific tips for the area-control factions. You better know your faction’s path to scoring well going into one of these big games (or not, it will still be fun), so I won’t go into that here.

  • Agree to attack the Vagabonds every turn possible: with 2 on the board, itwill be very tricky to hammer both down so they don’t insta-win. Two Vagabonds is the striking difference in seven player vs. 6-player games.
  • Surprisingly, the Lizards are tough to deal with in this big of a game. If you attack their warriors, it really just feeds their engine, so you have to just pick off gardens here or there– or convince the vagabond to attack them constantly so you can swoop in and destroy gardens. This is tough because the Lizards usually hang towards the back of the pack in terms of points and are typically very friendly with the Vagabonds and Otters. It will be nearly impossible to control who the hated outcast is with this many players, so Lizards could be showing up everywhere.
  • Woodland Alliance can be dealt with, but just know you will be dealing with clearing-nukes constantly during the game from both the Alliance and Lizards. One tactic is to swarm into Alliance clearings with tons of warriors but not attack so they cannot move warriors out of it to place sympathy– this of course will cost you board control in other places dearly. You must talk to the other area-control factions to make this work. An empty board means LOTS of sympathy tokens so keep your clearings packed (you know, until they get nuked).
  • Rarely buy from the Otters, which will force them to feed their funds box with Lizards, who will buy everything they got. Target their trading posts if you can get to them before you have to rush during the end game to stop them from automatically winning. Most Vagabonds know not to attack the Cats until late game, so you can often convince them to go hostile with the Otters to gain points instead of Cats/Birds.
  • Craft fast (nearly impossible for the Cats, but try at least) to prevent the Alliance from depleting the items. Lizards can also craft very easily once they get rolling mid game. The Bird’s trading leader is more important to get out earlier in larger games.
  • Pay very close attention to the following:
    • outcast and hated outcast, count the cards in the Lizard discard often and announce it to everyone.
    • Watch which bases the Alliance have out on the board, and which they do not have out as that is a clearing-nuke waiting to happen.
    • Make sure the vagabonds are playing correctly: sacks for space and the rules for tea are the most missed parts of their rules. Remember that if something is damaged that isn’t in the sack, like tea, it goes in the sack and counts against item limits.
    • Make sure the Lizards are playing correctly. They lose random cards from their hands when gardens are burned, and do NOT get Acolytes when nukes go off from the Alliance or the nuke vagabond.
  • There’s nothing better than smashing the Vagabonds so hard they have to damage sacks and then discard a bunch of items. Remember sacks go into the sack when they are damaged! Try to double or triple hit them before their turns to force them to discard items back down to six. Most of the time they will never be able to recover those lost items.

What if you are not one of the area control factions? Baby, you got it made! Just lurk and do your thing. Alliance wants an empty board to spread sympathy–just keep the other factions fighting. Lizards want to put so many Lizards in each garden clearing that no one will mess with them, and help the vagabond and buy a ton from the Otters to score, score score! Otters want to coexist with their trading posts and then foment conflict– especially among the vagabonds. Try to set up a critical turn where you can get a lot of purchases (like when you draw a bunch of bird cards to sell, or critical bunny cards for the Cats) and then save that dough to score. From my games it’s either the Otters, Alliance or Lizards that pull off wins in a big game, so just play to your strengths.

I would say a board with 2-3 more clearings and another two ‘crafted item’ spots would help with big games. but I can’t really say for sure. The more spread out the board, the harder it will be to get in those critical attacks on the vagabonds, otter trading posts, sympathy and lizard gardens.

Lastly, did I say communicate constantly? The central conflict between the cats and the birds is totally null and void in this large of a game. Those two factions especially should be allied and planning together until the very end. I can’t wait until the Corvids and Moles are out and we jump in with 9!

Remember how bad it is

Now that we are getting painfully close to the next cascade of space-piss called [DISNEY]Star Wars, some of you may have forgotten just how bad the last movie in this series of films is.

Just in case you need a reminder in incredible detail: READ THIS.

Note, I’m not talking about Solo or Rogue one, both anchored by the old plot-lines and characters as they were, and prequels to boot–I’m referring to Disney’s creative failure: the post Return of the Jedi films. This series and it’s financial (wait for it), artistic and narrative failure pretty much assures that Disney will never successfully move FORWARD in time after the Return of the Jedi and will likely cannibalize the past (before the prequels, etc.) from here on out. Hopefully though, Disney will stop making Star Wars films altogether.

“The people sometimes called fanboys, but by the wise called loyal, lifelong, cash-heavy customers with disposable income, did not make undue demands. All they asked was not to be bored, not to have their intelligence insulted, not to have their beloved space fairytale of princesses and star-knights mocked and derided and deconstructed and turned into a political football.

All the filmaker had to do was not suck. That was all.”

Hey it’s horror movie time!

October, bust out the horror films. There’s so much good stuff out there, from Hammer horror to Roger Corman films and a ton of totally crappy horror films that are just awesome to watch.

Some films I’ve enjoyed for various reasons this season.

Possession (1981)

This is a film about divorce and it’s effect on a family and children masked as a horror film. It’s completely nuts, but there’s so much going on–spies, outerworld entities (or maybe not), the Berlin wall. It’s difficult to imagine this being pulled off successfully without absolutely superb acting, and there it is. If you’re prepared for something really fucked up, but not stupidly so, this is a great choice. Note, get the FULL 2 hour film, not the butchered American release.

Drag Me To Hell

This is a masterpiece and one of my favorite horror films. It’s got jump scares, creeping dread, gross out stuff, and Evil Dead style Three Stooges style fighting as well as excellent character development throughout. It’s a pretty good one for kids too (no nudity, no sex, not a lot of swearing).

Dead Alive

Before the LotR (and Hobbit disaster), this was the work of Peter Jackson, and it’s an absolutely excellent undead goregasm. Totally gross, super cheesy, fucking hilarious and a big step up from Bad Taste. The “Annual Meeting” scene is unbelievably awesome.

Killer Queen Black is out

If you’ve been to an arcade in the last couple years, you may have noticed the GIANT arcade machines in the back with everyone yelling all the time while playing. That’s Killer Queen, the 10-player version.

Now the Switch and PC get their versions so you can play at home. Looks like it’s only 4 player vs, but that’s still pretty great.

Pax Porfirana guey!

This is a post for MOUTH because I think I found a tableau other than the most expense card game out there (Glory to Rome) that Matt actually likes to fulfill your Race for the Galaxy needs on the ski trip. I know he’d like you to leave that one at home, and here’s a very viable replacement: a strategic tableau builder, highly thematic, not overly complex with an all-vs-one win requirement at the end (like Shadowfist).

One checks Boardgamegeek a lot and one plays a bunch of games and one thinks one is on top of it and know what’s good and what one’s group should play because one knows what’s in the top 100 games and what’s out there but let me tell you– you don’t know SHIT. A lot of the hot games that run up the BGG ladder are flashes in the pan– fun for the euro crowd but ultimately shallow patchworks of regurgitated mechanics loosely tied to a theme which eventually become boring as there’s no interaction with meaning, and it’s a hollow experience (Scythe, Coimbra, on and on). The experience in most is akin to everyone playing solitaire.

I like games where the problem in the game is the other players. All CCG’s are like this, Gangland, Rising Sun, Root (oh especially Root…), Blood Rage, on and on. In many tableau games, you’re really just still playing solitaire, Race for the Galaxy, which is a great game and spawned an entire sub-genre, isn’t about crushing or even really interacting with your opponents, it’s all about engine building faster and better than the other players. Then the game ends and it’s a point salad. Pax Pofiriana is a tableau and you try to build an engine (multiple actually), but there isn’t a point salad at the end unless all players fail to win via the normal means, which is to become the leader of Mexico after Pofirio Diaz is toppled from power (or abdicates).

In the game you play as a hacendado near the turn of the century (1880’s -1920 is the period) and are trying to build out your businesses, banks, ranches, mines, transportation systems and personal military in anticipation of either a coup, revolution or abdication of the long-time president of Mexico- Pofirio Diaz. If it was a straight copy of RftG, you’d just win at some appointed time with the most money– but the victory conditions are extremely different.

Basically, there are four separate”I’m going for the win” cards in the game and each allows for a different victory condition: Military, Loyalty to the current government, US Annexation and leading a successful revolution. Each of these cards are tied to a type of victory points in the game that you try to collect. They come up semi-randomly during the game into an area where they can be ‘purchased’ by a player and played for the win. When someone goes for the win, all the other players try to stop them by increasing the current government’s strength or their own. The whole thing is a sub-layer over the top of a solid engine builder.

So the game is a good replacement for Race for the Galaxy AND it’s a non-CCG game that gives some of the same feels as Shadowfist.

It’s also very, very nasty with extortion, assassination, bribes, enslaving the indians, but with the caveat that an enemy one turn may be the only thing preventing another player from winning in another. So if you wanted an update of a game like GANGLAND (from 1996) this is what you’ve been waiting for, though without Lump Loafman and Clubber Clovis and those guys.

Lastly, the history you learn from this game is amazing. I had a class on Latin American history in college and the end of it was all about the Mexican Revolution, so I had to read 3-4 books on the subject and write a paper on it. I remembered just enough so when I saw this, I knew just enough to be able to grok what it was about. This game is PACKED with insane historical detail about the period in question and it’s really fun to read the flavor text on the cards while waiting for someone to finish their turn. The game just begs you to study the period further and even lists resources to do so at the back of the rulebook.

So do check out the game, MOUTH, since this whole post is for you and also Matt.

actual quote from President Diaz

Justice League – The Giffen/DeMatteis years

I found the video below and wanted to post it for those of you that may have an interest. Even though I was a little kid, I was definitely OFF normal superhero comics by the mid-80’s, especially the DC ones who seemed super cheesy next to the Xmen– that is until Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was amazing beyond compare. Note: generally people think Marvel got WORSE after Secret Wars, and DC got BETTER after Crisis and set shit straight that DC was and is better than Marvel. Out of that came a new Justice League comic that was pretty much one of the best –and certainly my favorite— comic runs in the history of (standard) superhero comics.

This series takes a bunch of second run heroes, many of which were acquired from other comic companies over the years, and mixes them up in some high-stakes trouble while following many of their domestic lives. The core series with the writers lasted for 60 issues and is collected in trades. Like Swamp Thing, Groo, the Claiborne Xmen and Byrne Fantastic Four, JLI is a must read series even today and has had a huge influence on the direction of DC. The also excellent and much more recent Mr. Miracle series is almost a sequel to this work.