Spine of Night is out on Shudder

A while back I posted about a short film called Exordium which is quite an amazing bit of work for a mere 7 minutes of rotoscoped goodness. Now the entire film is complete and on Shudder!

https://www.shudder.com/play/46e286e8efcda9f8

Short Review:

I don’t want to spoil anything but this is about the closest film to Heavy Metal that I’ve seen. It’s a series of connected vignettes with connected characters. Most of them are quite good with just one that fell flat for me as it added nothing to the overall narrative and the characters weren’t in other parts of the movie.

The character designs are very interesting and if you have seen Exordium, that part is NOT in the film but fits in perfectly almost as a prelude. You get to find out more about the skull and the bloom in Spine of Night if you are curious.

As a criticism, some of the rotoscoped side/minor characters aren’t costumed up all that well. There was one dude that looked like he was just in a tshirt and jeans.

Of note, Lucy Lawless’s character is stark naked the entire film. While there’s not much in the way of sex-scenes, this may be enough to keep the younger kids away. I’d say 13+ on this one. The violence is nothing worse that a regular Rick and Morty or Metalocalypse episode.

If you love the Rotoscope, this has some amazing stuff. It’s not as artistically breathtaking as Fire and Ice, but it’s excellent to see a movie like this made and I want more!

Velocicoaster FTW

Silly name, and I had to wait for over an hour to get on (including 15 minutes of technical difficulties) once but holy shit, this was the craziest fucking rollercoaster I have ever been even near, let alone on. Afterward, I was still in a daze for 10 or so minutes. I followed the directions and pressed my head against the headrest during turns so didn’t have a sore neck.

While the first part of the ride is incredible, the money shot is near the end where you slow down to about 40 MPH and hit a tunnel that accelerates you in about 2 seconds to 70 MPH while on the flat then it shoots you up into a loop that inverts at the top (so you go up it upside-down and go down the outside right-side up), then flips you over for an extended hang and after a couple of turns, fires you into a spiral over water. Highly recommended.

Elden Ring – a golden shower of FROM hits

I’m 17+ hours in and I’ve seen a few things and suffered some bad beatings, had my first character’s save file corrupted and had to start over from scratch. I’m going to comment on a couple reasons why people may not like this game even though reviewers have given it 10/10 almost across the board. Do you like Dark Souls? This is absolutely a 10/10. Fan of Breath of the Wild or Monster Hunter? This is probably 7/10 for you. Lukewarm or couldn’t get through Dark Souls? This may not be your thing, and that’s OK!

First off, this is fundamentally a FROM game, but open world. It takes a lot of things from previous FROM games, mixes them up, improves them and throws you into this gigantic area to try to deal with all of it at once. There are wandering giants, mud men that rip their chests open and shoot their insides out, gigantic fighting trees, parades of low-lifes, mount and blade style mounted warriors, harpies, sirens, and just so much more. The game feels like a best-hit collection from the previous games, yet due to the new context, without being repetitive or redundant.

FUUCKED!!!!!!

Mechanically, the game is closest to Dark Souls compared to Bloodborne or Sekiro. I think there is a ton to learn and the nature of the game forces you to deal with aspects of the mechanics that you may not have bothered with in the previous Souls games, such as the magic system, summons, mass healing, AOE attacks, and so on. At the root of this is the incredibly varied nature of the enemies you will face. The Tank and Spank style that I went with in the original Dark Souls works, but there are mobs and bosses that will really cause problems for this style and will force players to add other aspects (like summons) to their repertoire. I went through the entirety of Bloodborne using the Kirkhammer to smash things with no thought to any other mechanics, but there’s no way I will make it through Elden Ring with such basic tactics that I can see. Add to this that many battles will be fought on horse-back and you have a totally new dimension to the game. And speaking of horse stuff….

The Mount and Blade Parts

Mount and Blade is an awesome series with excellent mass combat mechanics and really groundbreaking horseback combat. Elden Ring borrows from this extensively and creates many of the same type of feels with it’s horse-based combat. I am addicted to running around and challenging other dudes on horses to fight. The best part is dragging your weapon along the ground and just mowing through dismounted enemies. This is very similar to the feeling of smashing into a formation of foot soldiers in Mount and Blade and hacking them down with a giant sword or scythe. If you dig Mount and Blade, you will feel instantly comfortable with the horse-based combat of Elden Ring.

Classes

There are a lot of classes in the game and they all give you a basis for a playstyle that you may or may not follow through the game. It’s fundamentally if you want to go Strength, Dexterity or some sort of magic. Class doesn’t matter that much and if you are stressed about it, just take the wretch and let what you find in the game define what you become– it almost always works out that way anyway.

That said, I really like the prisoner for the silly helmet and the Samurai who starts with a longbow and katana (this would be a dexterity build). I started with the bandit for a dex/arcane build, but my second character was, of course, a wretch. While lots of builds are effective, not all of them are easy and you could be setting yourself up for HARD MODE if you go down the magic path (at least at first) without ever playing the game. Basically there are a lot of foundations to choose from, but they don’t matter all that much and even out as you gain even 10-15 levels.

a wretch, doing what wretches do which is being naked and afraid.

Weapons

Weapons will feel very familiar to Souls players, in fact, many are nearly the same but with one critical exception: weapons have special abilities called Ashes of War that allow one of the heavy attack buttons to invoke a special move– some of which are pretty mundane (like Determination that gives you extra damage) and others that are spectacular like Glintsword Arch which turns your weapon into a massive one for a single strike, or super useful such as a special dodge. What’s more, you can change these special powers out, which also can change your ability affinities with each weapon (for example, some Ashes will change a STR affinity from D to B, etc.). These use you characters spell points (FP) to use, so most of them you can’t use all day. Great addition to the game so far that you may miss early in your play.

Magic

I have never run a balls out magic user, just added a bit of Faith to my STR builds to heal on the fly. I’ve seen some magic during multiplayer and it is NUTS in this game. This is an area of Elden Ring I can’t wait to explore more, as soon as I get more confidence that I can survive!

a couple of Wretch and Turtle Friend

In addition to the normal spell builds available (pyro, sorcery, faith), all players can use SUMMONS. These are NPC’s that join you in a fight /period of time and range from sorcerers to wolves, undead and many other things I haven’t seen before. This helps a ton with bosses and you can tell that they made bosses more difficult assuming that all players would use summons.

Multiplayer

I ran all of Dark Souls 1 and 2 without using multiplayer the first time, and boy I missed out. Multiplayer is one of the best parts of the game despite the fact that it is obtuse to try to get going at first, and currently prone to drops on the PC fairly frequently.

The beauty of multiplayer is the fact that it can ease up the difficulty vs mobs and bosses and allow non-standard and sub-optimal builds as well as allowing more experienced players to carry newer folks through some of the really rough spots so they can progress.

Invasions are a bit odd in Elden Ring– you can only invade players that are already using summons of other players, so you are walking into a 1v 2 situation at least every time as an invader. If your goal is to hunt and kill people, that’s great, but if you want to duel, this is very different from Bloodborne /Dark Souls.

There are invasion arena areas where you can get duels in designated areas, but it’s definitely not the same as the old games– seems like it’s a bit friendlier for new players who don’t have to worry about getting invaded while alone.

Onward!

Elden Ring is awesome and absolutely deserves the hype it got before release and is getting post release, confusing (by design) and very difficult to try to solo. I have a long, long way to go in the game and will probably do a real review in about a year– likely when Elden Ring wins GOTY for 2022.

Ancient DOTA 2 Highlight Reels

Back in 2012 and 2013 I played a lot of DOTA with the gang. Great game, but man the last hit farming click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click before you get to the good stuff was just super annoying. Eventually the clicking started to bother my shoulder area something fierce and I threw in the towel on the game. No doubt, this is almost a better game than the game that spawned it (Warcraft 3), note I said ALMOST.

Anyway, if you have the patience, you might see yourself in the following. I was not a good video creator at this time with sound levels, etc, but stuff for the archives. Though I uploaded all of these to youtube, I was too embarrassed to actually share them.

2021 – Video Game of the Year: Virtua Fighter Ultimate Showdown

Why on earth would I pick the GOTY for 2021 to be a remake of a game that came out 10 years ago? Because this game is still the best fighting game there is and we played the shit out of it regular since it came out last summer.

Any time my kid’s friends are over and they feel like playing a fighter, they always select Virtua Fighter, and, until this summer, we had to lug out the XBOX360 in order to play it. What’s more, these kids couldn’t go home and play/practice the game so the only time they could play was at our house. No longer! With the release of VF Ultimate Showdown, modern consoles get this absolute gem ad infinitum.

When it first came out, I was skeptical– especially after the Warcraft 3 debacle by the now collapsed and sold Blizzard Activision, and I was confused why they didn’t just port it direct instead the overhauling of the graphics. As a test, I played the 360 one for a couple hours, then switched to the new one, then switched back and it’s just as responsive and plays exactly the same.

Graphics wise, it’s an update that definitely modernizes the characters and stages, but in some cases not for the better. First off, a lot of the male characters look great with the exception of Akira who does not look quite right at all to me. However, ALL of the female characters look much worse than their 2010 versions in the face region. I do not like the way Vanessa, Eilene or Pai look at all, Sarah is the only one that turned out sort of OK. I think they need to keep working on the faces for all the characters.

Bling wise, there’s a fraction of the character customization in the game compared to 2012’s version– no longer can I bust out Vanessa barefoot in a wedding dress or customize her to look just like Sarah so it’s hard to tell who the other person is actually fighting (haha!). There is a 10$ Yakuza costume pack that adds some new threads, but overall a minor disappointment.

That said, they created/recreated blocky Virtua Fighter 1 style character models for all the characters (including the new characters added from VF2 onward) and that’s fantastic, I can play with the VF2 version of my old main, Lion, but with his full moveset from VF5. Baller!

While the access to this game on modern consoles is the core reason why this was selected as GOTY, the second main reason is really critical– since this game sold so well SEGA is now thinking hard about a Virtua Fighter 6, which should be the end goal of all humans in the coming years.

Online play works great and I’ve had ZERO lag issues, my losses are my own fault and not like I yelled at the TV at the time, ping based. My online play is limited because I have access to local, albeit short and small bean, players.

Recent interest in the game has picked up, and while this new version is definitely not Virtua Fighter 6, I’ve just been super pumped to be able to play this online and locally since it’s release. It looks great, with the exception of some facialisms, and plays, as always, fan-fuckn-tastic. If you have never played a Virtua Fighter game, it is not hyperbole in the slightest when I say it is the best fighting game ever made. It’s three buttons, it’s easy for beginners to pick up and play (together) and have fun and shockingly deep for intermediate and expert players. Below is an example of me fighting against two 11 year old kids that switched off using the controller.

Taking on the HEAVY Eklund

My tastes have changed in boardgames since I started playing Root and exploring it’s influences (Pax and COIN among others). The games of a certain cloud of designers that have, for me at least, put the last nail in the coffin for the tired, samey design by the numbers point salad games or games pretending to be one thing, but are actually another because of big Ameritrash pieces (i.e.:Scythe). When you head down the Root rabbit hole and try to piece that game together from it’s origins, there’s a list designers that are huge parts of the puzzle along with Cole Wherle: Volko Ruhnke, the Hollanspeil guys, and of course, Matt and Phil Ecklund (and their team).

On that line, I’ve been doing some board game trading and selling, trying to both ditch some of the dreck and pair down the PHYSICAL size of games I have. I picked up Bios Megafauna, Bios Origins, Bios Genesis, Greenland, High Frontier and Neanderthal recently, which all have a fairly high complexity level, but tiny little boxes. I can fit nearly ALL of those games in the same space as Rising Sun or any CMON game, let alone the giant coffin box of Starcraft or Twilight Imperium.

While I’ve bought into these games heavily, they are challenging to learn and as should be required of anything that isn’t just for show (and I definitely have games that are just for show), they need to hit the table.

The key to Matt and Phil Eklund’s success as designers is taking highly complex ideas and chaotic events and putting them into a extremely playable games for their subject matter where, (amazingly) all of these pieces and parts of mechanics interact with each other in crazy ways. Think Pax Porfiriana is just a tiny engine builder with a bunch of fuck you cards? Play it again and you notice that you are working to control 4 different factions that are struggling against each other during the game as an undercurrent to the conflict between the players. It’s a wow moment. It’s also a wow moment how EASY the game is to play once you know how. Pax Renaissance is a real beast to learn, but essentially the same thing: small box, HUGE game, easy to play once you know how (except for remembering how each of the wars/revolts work which is hard).

Let’s talk about these Pax badboys a bit. The core thing with a ‘hard to learn’ game is that you need to know before you go into it that you will like it and the effort will be worth it. Not only that, you have to expect that your friends will like it also, at least to give it a shot. People actually play Advanced Squad Leader a lot. It’s ridiculously complex, but there’s a reason for it’s continued existence in published form: it’s very good. When you are dealing with an Eklund game, especially a 2nd edition version, you can be sure it’s going to have extreme value as a game and that the complexity level and steep learning curves leads to rewards in play. If you can explain it well, your friends with a little patience will like these games. Here’s a run down of those that I’ve played, a few that I’ve learned and have yet to play and a couple that I haven’t cracked yet.

While these are all complex, there are some mechanic similarities that make it easier to learn the others when you’ve learned one. The most important is the way they handle card draws. It’s a bit between random draws (like a Tom Wham game) and totally non random (any euro) in that you can see cards coming down a conveyor before they fall off and out of the game, or in the case of events, take place. Almost all of these games have some sort of market, whether it’s for parts of a space ship, mutations or stone age tools.

Greenland

We’ve only played this 4-5 times now, and it took me quite awhile to learn in order to teach it in a reasonable amount of time; that is, to not annoy players with too much explanation before we started playing.

You play as one of the tribes in competition during the beginning of a big chill on Greenland that left only the invading Thule alive historically– the original Greenland natives (the Norse) fled or died out. You hunt for trophies, food, energy and have to manage your tribe elders that give you special powers. It all seems very complex at first, but once you get over the hump, like all the Eklund’s I’ve experienced, it’s surprisingly playable. Elder actions are the most complex part of the game, so if you are going to study the rulebook, that’s the section to get to. Players are only managing four resources (people, ivory, iron and energy) and you don’t build much of an engine, hence management of these is not complex. If you are going to teach the game, you can start with that as the base.

This game so obviously inspired Sons of Anarchy that SoA is almost a retheme, but unlike Sons of Anarchy, where the opportunities for crime and control increase as the game goes on as you draw tiles, Greenland can get colder and much more difficult to succeed in hunting, building things and surviving as you go, even though you may have tech-ed up a bit or sabine-raided (exogamy) to gain the cultural powers of another tribe.

This is one that I highly recommend pushing through and learning as your first Ecklund game. It is actually quite easy to play and obvious to players what you are trying to do and how to win. It is only a bit more complex than Sons of Anarchy. It is one of Ecklund’s games without a map, and I find those to be a bit better than those with a map to deal with so far. Like Porfiriana, the set up time is very quick and you can get right to the action. This is also a dice-chucker which I really love.

Bios Megafauna

Holy shit. This is an unbelievably ambitions game with a relatively tiny box for what’s in there. You play as a species that has just crawled out of the ocean onto land and start to mutate, speciate and populate (like it says on the box). What it doesn’t tell you is that this is also a planetary weather, tectonic and exogenesis simulator at the same time. I noticed this from the side of the box: “Fight the Medean entropy.” The game also includes an NPC ‘villain’ which represents single celled organisms that wish the earth to return to the paradise before multicellular life (which is one of the theories around the Permian-Triassic extinction event).

What does this all mean? Not only do you deal with your species vs others, but systems in the game change game state constantly as well, with continents smashing into each other, asteroids hitting, winds shifting and oceans filling with plankton– oh tasty plankton.

Compared to Greenland, this is a challenging game to learn. I think I understand most of it, but 1/3rd of the rulebook is explaining the crazy special events that happen and I don’t fully get the mutation and speciation rules, especially emotions (which I think are just Up the Creek / Chaos Marauder type card sets that link to each other).

I think with some work, even kids could play it as long as someone really knew the rules. Even if this comes out once a year only, it will be worth having (like Republic of Rome) and does not take up a lot of space.

As an aside, Megafauna has the ‘controversial’ essay on global warming from Ecklund. As someone who despises the overuse of plastics, that we still have gas-fueled cars and that we do not have a far more robust nuclear power program to solve ALL energy needs in the first world, I was wary at first, but the essay is thought provoking and not what you think it is. Since ‘settled science’ is not actually science, almost all of the heat this essay gets by keyboard warriors can be completely ignored, since most are of the propagandized ‘if you don’t agree fully that global warming is caused entirely by humans carbon emissions, there’s something wrong with you’ knuckle draggers. While Eklund takes some serious jabs at the media and government (anyone remember the War on Drugs? How about the War on Terror? War on Covid? Are there some similarities here? oh yes) on their stance on global warming, the core of the essay is his belief that it is not only carbon that causes global warming– there are other factors in play, such as sun spot activity, passing through various parts of the Milky way galaxy and the not-so-subtle fact that the planet had a jungle climate from pole to pole for millions of years at one point. Like any good teacher or essay, Eklund’s presentation prompts one to think and study on their own, especially if they disagree with it. What’s more, in Bios Megafauna, one of the end states of the game is greenhouse overrun, so Ecklund is not saying that it isn’t a danger! Anyway, ignore all the idiots that haven’t read the essay that criticize it in general to virtue signal or white knight on BGG, rather than attacking the details, they are drones or followers. You will read people attacking the details of the essay here and there, but they refrain from the ad hominem nonsense. Also of note is that these BGG minnows got Ecklund banned from the site.

Neanderthal

This game looks a lot like Greenland and shares some of it’s dice/hunting mechanics. Why have or play both? Neanderthal’s scale is likely the answer. In the game you play as one of three predatory ‘apes’ that have just acquired basic language. You have to grow the species until the have enough language skills to become a tribal culture. Each turn represents 40 generations of your species. Like Greenland, the focus is on hunting and acquiring ‘daughters’ that linguistically advance your species.

I haven’t gotten this one to the table, and frankly it will be a long time I think due to already getting players comfortable with Greenland. However, I think this one will be the game I bust out with my kids to help them understand the concepts around the origin of species. I love the fact that if you hunt a biome and there are predators adjacent they will move to that biome and fuck your hunters up!

Bios: Genesis

Bios Genesis is one I still have to learn and it’s been quite a challenge so far. I cannot imagine anyone taking on a topic like this, and frankly I have no idea how a game like this got made and that the designer was able to focus on just this topic enough to build all these engines that work together. The attention to detail and graphic design is impressive. Fundamentally you are a set of protein chains that are seeking out refugia (places that are amiable to the creation of life) and trying to survive and become multicellular, and then get BIG. This is complicated by other players, naturally, but mostly from an absolutely brutal event deck with heating and cooling, radiation surges, cancer, volcanic eruptions, on and on. If you can get through the rules, this is supposed to be a fantastic game.

Bios: Origins

This is Ecklund’s answer to the Civ game genre. The twist here is that you lead a species of predatory apes advancing through very early technology and migration as the species and not as some divine leader or autocrat. I’ve learned this one but haven’t played it yet. This seems like a beast but there are some recognizable parts from other games that are buoys in the storm, like an easily understood market, a set of slots for potential cities that doubles as a score track and of course, a crazy map where both the edges of the hexes and the insides of the hexes are important all at once. I need to get this to the table.

Pax Transhumanity

We have now played this enough for me to be able to write a review of it. This is a near-future business simulation game where you play as entrepreneurs and try to make the most out of rapidly advancing technology to solve core issues that humans in general deal with (like hunger, which if you are reading this, you probably have never experienced, but right now, many people are), and pollution.

This is challenging to learn and not something that will hit the table a ton, but it’s a solid game and very interesting to play once you get the hang of it.

High Frontier

This is the holy grail of Ecklund’s designs and what appears to be his most complicated game. You are a corporation trying to get into space and exploit resources in the solar system– and you do this by building your rockets in order to make the trips you want to make and carry the things you need to carry. Think Merchant of Venus but you have to get your ship outfitted first with technology your species doesn’t possess yet.

All bow to the map for this one:

If you are looking for help learning any of these games, look no further than this fine Wisconsin lad (here explaining Matt Ecklund’s Pax Transhumanity).

Gencon 2022 – Covid Shitshow: Year 2

In order to attend Gencon both vaccinations (a ‘full course’ whatever that means, especially if people got the J&J or Astrazeneca (Europe’s vax)) and masks are required for attendance, making Gencon the least appealing convention to go to. In contrast, most Conventions require a negative PCR test for either unvaxxed, or the smart ones, for ALL attendees 72 hours before the convention. This is the Way.

Let’s break it down

“They can either be manufactured or homemade and should consist of a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.”

Scott Gottleib just dropped what people have known and stated since the beginning of the pandemic (especially in the beginning) that cloth masks do not work at all vs Covid or any airborne virus. So, the masks that are required are? Surgical with the open sides since they are made to stop stuff from dropping into a patient during surgery? N-19? Good luck getting enough for even 1/3rd of the convention staff let alone guests. Respirators? You going to spend 50$ or more on one of these? The last one may be the only one that actually works. None of what they listed above does anything at all for viruses.

Since most people touch, move and never change their mask during the day what you have in reality is a bacteria filled sack hanging off your face all day, breathing that at other people that are breathing in and out the same thing, all the while pulling them down to eat candy bars and drink mountain dew which completely negates the point of someone wearing a mask vs an aerosolized virus in the first place! In 2020 I can see people still thinking these had some effect, but with multiple studies and massive (and I mean massive) real life examples of masks doing absolutely nothing, this is the height of stupidity to require. Shit show.

Vax
These mRNA therapeutics they are calling vaccines have saved many lives in high risk groups, but swing into the negative risk profile under 40 quickly where the vax is more dangerous than covid, especially the milder Omicron. Gencon has many, many people in high risk groups attending, elderly, morbidly obese, people with heart and lung issues, diabetes, on and on. It’s important that these people get the vaccines or better yet, stay home until they have had Covid, but for everyone else, especially people that have had the disease? It’s preposterous.

These vaccines do not and were not designed to prevent spread like our government falsely advertised last Spring with Biden, lying to the entire population of our country, stating “If you get the vaccine, you can’t get Covid” bullshit. So why would they be mandated for anyone for attendance to anything? Zero logical reasons. What’s more, any immunity that might prevent spread (not just protection for yourself) comes only from prior infection since those folks have mucosal, t-cell and if they got it bad enough to have symptoms, antibody levels of their immune system. mRNA Vax people are walking around with only a spike protein part of the virus in comparison and that has proven to not stop infection or spread in the least. Shit Show.

Seasonality
Summer is not the time of Covid and the case counts and illness nearly disappears from late April to early October in our hemisphere. This is known. Why it happens this way is likely a ton of factors, but Gencon being in July or August is during the most safe Covid months of the year. There won’t be any Covid around to get, even for those who have never had it, which by Summer will be a very small number.

Gencon is not doing it’s staff, it’s visitors or it’s future prospects making it’s convention an uncomfortable event with precautions that have been proven to not be effective in the least. It’s not more safe in any way.

What is the answer? As opposed as I am to the plague of testing that is taking place for people that are not sick, the answer to Gencon’s Covid problem is simply the requirement of a negative Covid test 72 hours before the convention for EVERYONE regardless of ‘vaccination status’ whatever that now means to people and there’s no need for the pretend masks unless people choose to wear them, which people will do if they want anyway.

It pains me to see how idiotic this all is in the face of what we know now about this virus, the very short term efficacy of the mRNA vaccines, it’s age stratification and method of spread and the fact that with their current requirements, it is putting their guests at more risk pretending these things work. Sad and, a shit show.

The Board Games of 2021

A LOT of games came out during 2021 despite supply chain issues, despite shipping issues and despite a lot of people working from home. It was a deluge…

Quantity does not equal quality though, and many of the games I saw or looked at were the same old tired worker placement point salad that everyone still seems to be pretending are fun to play after basically playing the same game with different art over and over again for the last five years. While not endless trash like Hollywood, and endless stream of the same thing.

That said, there were some interesting games that came out in 2021, likely many of which I didn’t get exposed to yet and will sometime in 2022 as the better games start to bubble up from the vast amount of chaff. Here’s what we got to play that was new this year.

Bloodborne: The Board Game

Well this was another giant CMON game I fell for and spent a lot of money on. With only 2 plays so far I’m not sure it was a good idea. This game is basically Hellboy with a strange card-driven combat that at first is totally counter-intuitive. While this might not see much play, the miniatures are incredible and I really just need to paint the guy with the Kirkhammer and I’m satisfied. I have a few friends that are really into Bloodborne so this may hit the table at some point. Otherwise it’s another Zombicide: Invader that just did not hold any interest even for my kids after a couple plays. CMON has some great games, but they rehash the heroquest/tons of miniatures thing over and over again, and again.

Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy

This is a shorter, 4 faction version of the original 1979 DUNE game from Avalon Hill by the original design team. Got in only one play and I think this is a winner if you want the feel of the original game but want to bust this out on a week night instead of a weekend. There are a couple modifications that shorten the game a lot (like no auction phase) which I like, but part of me wanted to get out the real game. I will try to get this to hit the table as much as possible this year.

Pax Viking

Ahhhh the Pax games… this was an odd one, even for Pax games as it’s much less like the original (Pax Porfiriana) and more like Merchants of Venus or Wasteland Express. I played this only one time with 6 players (mistake) and so I can’t really see where this one’s core draw is yet. Probably a sleeper hit that has just not gotten to the table again yet. The circle shaped cards are.. interesting…

Vampire: The Masquerade – Rivals Expandable Card Game

This I’ve only played once so far and am interested in playing more. It’s an LCG with many of the same rules from Jyhad/V:TES from back in the day, but shorter playtimes and some different win conditions. This being an LCG, it’s hard to judge after just one play and fumbling through the rules at that. One to watch. It has to compete with one of the best games ever: Shadowfist so let’s see what happens.

Spartacus: Game of Blood AND Treachery

This is a new reprint of an older game with new art and slightly adjusted gameplay. I LOVE this game and can’t wait to play it more. It’s very silly, the table talk and interaction is hilarious and the backstabbing feels wonderful to be on the receiving or giving side. Yes, it’s a classic and not really new for 2021, but this version hopefully will get an expansion or two to round out the game and add more players! I really like the card art compared to the photos from the show as well.

The Hunger

I’ve saved what I think is the best for last. The Hunger is a very new game by Richard Garfield, and after two plays, this is one the family can agree upon as good which was a Christmas Miracle! It combines a race game with market manipulation and deck building into an awesome blend of mechanics that go way beyond the sum of it’s parts. My only small complaint is that the board can be tough to read due to how glossy it is. This would be better matte for sure. The original name for this was Fat Dracula or Fat Vampire and that’s what we call it because your vampire gets fat and slow as the game progresses if you are not careful and can easily burn up to ash at dawn, giving it a wonderful Dungeon Quest feel. Like Dungeonquest, you don’t really effect the other players during the game except to bump them off spots on the map if you land on them. Most of the time the lack of interaction is a big deal breaker for me, but with these push-your-luck games it has proved to be acceptable. It’s the big non-interactive Euros that really put me to sleep.

There you have it, I have some work to do with playing games released in 2021 now that we are in 2022, namely ANHK and the new Cthulhu version of Battlestar Galactica: Unfathomable.

For 2022, I’m pumped for Stationfall and Bios Mesofauna the most, with the new version of Massive Darkness in third place.

KOF XV is going to be REAL good

Ten days ago was the second Beta/Demo for King of Fighters 15, a now ancient and renowned series of fighting games that used to come out with a new version EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1994 -2003. It made the switch (for real this time) to 3D with XIV and while that game was good, it didn’t look all that great and had some pretty wonky new characters. What’s more it didn’t FEEL like KOF to me, something was just off…

In contrast, KOF XV looks good and plays exceptionally good. The first demo was fun, but had a few issues (it being a network test beta after all). To give it the college try, I went back and played a few of the older King of Fighters during the same weekend as the demo to see how the feel of the games compared, and while I think KOF 13 (the last sprite-based version) is my favorite gameplay wise, 15 is a close second place.

The toughest thing to do for one of these fighting game companies is to move from 2d to 3d, which only a few series have done successfully (Street Fighter with SFIV, Guilty Gear with Xrd and Strive). A lot of both soul and gameplay can be lost in translation which can be seen in the Street Fighter EX and early attempts at King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown. While most of those are OK games, they really could not hold a candle to their 2d versions when they were released. Nowadays, with the crazy good looking 2d games that Arc System works are putting out, we don’t even think about the struggle it was to get games to look as good as their 2d sprite-based counterparts. SNK has struggled like any other company and I would say nothing looked particularly great in 3D until Samurai Showdown 2019.

Gameplay wise, 3D games that mimicked 2D fighters tended to be slower than their 2D counterparts and rarely felt all that great. Meanwhile full bore 3D fighters worth bothering with (Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Tobal, etc.) were fun straight out of the gate and didn’t have ‘better’ versions to compare them to in the first place. Newer 2d games using polygons instead of sprites have certainly solved this issue and here we are with a good looking and extremely playable KOF!

Here’s some babbling about the game from the demo:

Character wise, I stuck with the old standbys, and I really don’t think most of the new characters are all that great (and there were a ton of lame ones added to KOF 14 that didn’t make it to 15 so far), with the exception of Meitenkun, the sleepy kid who falls asleep during his own supermoves. INSTANT MAIN.

2021 Movie of the Year – DUNE

This was the most predictable ‘best film of the year’ AFTER it came out. Before it came out, I was very skeptical that they would be able to pull it off and assumed it would just be MCU in space or worse. After all this Star Wars garbage we have been subjected to over the last 8 years (minus the Mandalorian), it’s refreshing to see a good character driven sci-fi movie that isn’t just a cascade of space piss into our open mouths. There have been notable series, such as the Expanse and Lost in Space, but no films of note in this genre worth bothering with for a very, very long time.

Dune is an atmospheric movie with amazing scenes, incredible interpretation of the technology of the both low tech and high tech societies. I’ve seen it three times already and will probably watch it again just because of thinking about it during this post.

If you would have told me that I would be posting this a year ago, I would have said no fucking guey dude but the sequel can’t come fast enough!

We already know what the film of the year for 2022 is: