Shadowfisting, 1996, guilt

ouch time
Harbinger, bare-chested Hero of the week!

With pretty much everyone I know that plays Shadowfist moving to the four corners of the country and beyond, it’s been tough to keep the faith–even with my whirlwind of playing during Gencon every summer– it’s just not enough!  So thanks to everyone that got in on the 5 or so games we threw down this week.

That said, it’s still difficult to even discuss getting new players into a game like this except casually.  There has to be massive trepidation on anyone’s part who remembers the 90’s around getting into a CCG for any reason– even one as fun and accessible as Shadowfist.  Even if someone hands a new player a deck and a shoebox full of cards, if you want to really get into it, it’s still shockingly expensive compared to board-gaming and even miniature gaming.  New expansions cost around 120$ to get a full set (with the commons and uncommons you need to flesh it out) and the search for various rares can get both frustrating and expensive.

The advantage of Shadowfist is that, unlike Magic, cards have become more powerful as the years and expansions go on– most early cards that are difficult to get have either been eclipsed by new cards or have been reprinted: this is the exact opposite of Magic, where the most powerful cards are never reprinted.  Rares, typically, are cards that you only need one or two of unless you are building something really weird so though you may chase down Ting Ting (‘The’ chase card until her reprint in 2001)– you really only need 1-2 copies if you are building a single deck around her (which MANY people have).  I run out of cards while making decks a lot (mostly uncommons) but I have 20+ decks lying around, I can’t imagine playing the game focusing on just one faction, or just a couple of decks– but that’s what new players are faced with: it’s prohibitively expensive to collect to a level where you are focusing on multiple factions in relation to the current big deal: boardgames.

So every worm turns and eventually people will probably get back into the CCG’s a bit as a gaming culture, but probably long after we stop seeing Yugioh packs in Walmart. Magic, while I have no interest in the game itself, is keeping the faith by it’s tenacious continued existence.   Back in the day–well, 90’s, there were miniature gamers that had no qualms about dropping a shitload of cash (and time) on their armies and a lot of that attitude translated to the CCG’s when their time in the sun came.  The issue I see going forward with the board game crowd is that a gaming group collectively can amass a gigantic board game collection for fractions of the cost to truly get into a CCG.  A single boardgame may not get even near the play of a CCG, but since there are so many boardgames owned by a group, there’s a ton of variety.

However my favorite type of game– multiplayer asymmetrical strategy– is without a doubt represented best by CCG’s to the point where nothing else comes close to the richness and myriad of choices, situations and metagame.  Even my favorite asymmetrical board games feel like short, clipped experiences compared to the metagame analysis, deck building, tweaking and then (the best part) playing a muliplayer CCG.  Though boardgaming is the rage right now, and people poo poo even the very idea of a CCG due to the perception of predatory pricing and rare card modelling (especially in the case of Magic) I think it’s an amazing form of gaming that captured the gaming world’s attention for more than a decade right when the time of the computer and console game was coming into it’s own as a form of entertainment bigger than television.

Though I won’t sing a lament for games such as Rage, Blood Wars or Arcadia, there are a few CCG’s whose awesomeness as the ultimate experience  in multiplayer asymmetrical strategy games cannot be denied, Shadowfist being the hands down best but Jyhad, Doomtown and Legend of the Burning Sands /Legend of Five Rings are in the ranks of praise as well.

Ye olde school cRPG's anew

While I vehemently disagree with the pen and paper RPG resurgence these days that focuses on using antiquated and outdated rule sets from the 1970’s as if they were even mildly comprehensible, some of the best Computer RPG games came from the mid to late 1990’s when the technological constraints allowed developers and artists to get into a 2d groove before everything had to be 3D with explosions to sell to the public.  Two companies (that I know of) are still pushing these types of games out and while I’ve just touched on the demos of each, I found them far better than the “how could I have lost interest if it’s supposed to be so awesome” Dragon Age.

The first company is Basilisk Games, creators of the oddly named Eschalon and Eschalon 2 and who’s mission statement is: Our mission is to produce compelling old-school computer role-playing games for gamers who still rememberwhat great computer RPGs used to be about…

The second is Spiderweb Software, creators of both the Avernum and Geneforge series.  Being founded in 1994– this is a company that simply never stopped making the 2D cRPGs.

Since my single reader of this blog has a bit more time than I do for gaming, get going and get me a review to post!

Virtual California Cocksucker

Rockstar “making it fun to kill cops since 2001” entertainment has set loose its new murder simulator Red Dead Redemption. RDR is fun to play, beautiful to look at and filled with all the annoying shit that plagues Rocktar open world games. I have RDR for the 360 and have played for about 10 hours.

Where RD Wins:

– Graphics. The fucking horses look great. The clothes the main character has look badass. The old west buildings / scenery look perfect. The cycle of day and night is well done and adds loads of atmosphere to the game. JUST FUCKING WAIT UNTIL IT RAINS ON YOU SOME NIGHT IN GAME!
– Sounds is fucking great. I’ve a 5 speaker setup and I just love hearing people shooting at me from behind, bullets whizzing past my head as I make my get away. Sometime you hear gun shots echoing off canyon walls, alerting you to trouble near by. JUST FUCKING WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR THE THUNDER IN THE EVENING WHEN IT RAINS IN GAME!
– The world feels very open and full of lasting consequences. No more shooting up the place and simply driving away to make a clean get away from the cops. In RDR you develop a bounty for all the “bad” shit do you, and that bounty doesn’t go away after you ditch the sheriff and his men, the bounty is on your head, growing ever larger in the event you commit more “bad” shit until you pay the bounty off with hard earned cash or get a pardon. What this does it make you less likely to just randomly shoot the place up when you are trying to progress through the game. It just adds a nice layer of consequence that is sorely missing from the GTA series.
– Multiplayer seems fun. I don’t fucking hate it. I’ve played maybe 4 hour of it. Most of that time was spent in “Open World Mode” which is just unstructured play time with the entire world map as the play ground. Players joining/leaving your game at random free to work together on “quests” to earn XP, or free to fucking open fire and grief like there’s no tomorrow. I prefer the shoot now, listen to players calling me asshole on live later option. I shall need more time with the Multiplayer once some of my real life friends pick up the game, it’s the only way I’ll play nice, playing with real life friends. The idea you can just ride around and shoot things together is a good idea.
– Shooting shit feels wonderful. Shoot some poor assfuck while he’s riding a horse, and the poor fuckass may blasted off his horse but get stuck in his saddle, causing a wonderful scene of man being dragged by horse. Aiming on the console controller is of course a challenge for an old school PC gaymer like me, but i just use the “casual” targeting mode which includes a snap to target feature that kicks in when you aim, which 90% locks onto the intended target. Bullet time! The game has Dead Eye bullet time, a feature you can activate to slow time down and line up 1 to N shots and then blast away hitting each target in real time. I always forget I have this option making for some failed combat encounters.

Where RDR falls flat:

– Fucking boring old west story so far, about 8 hours in maybe? While some of the dialog is interesting, and the character models are wonderfully detailed and well animated, it’s just average story telling. “Hey can you find this for me? Can you kill this person for me?” repeat, repeat, repeat. Ya we have some old west activities in there, herding cattle, roping wild horses, but the main portions of the story and just find this and kill this. What’s to be expected though here? Despite the “no new ground broken” nature of the quests, they don’t detract enough to be faulted.
– Might be getting old fast, the third time it rained on me at night the magic was already gone compared to the first time it happened.

Were RDR Loses:

– Fucking TERRIBLE minigames. I hate minigames, and I hate the minigames in RDR.
– Go in water, YOU FUCKING DIE! This only a problem when you are riding a horse top speed and fail to see a small river in front of you, before you can stop the horse or turn your end up the the water , “YOU FUCKING DEAD”.
– Launch time DLC failure. I bought the game from Amazon, it came with some code for Gold Guns, and for the last 5 days the code entry process in game has FAILED! Fucking Rockstar, er I mean Fucking Game Devs/Publishers that skimp on launch data server capacity/network infrastructure.
– No save anytime any where feature? This happens to me with all Rockstar games though, I play for 10 or so hour,s the missions get more complex and require too many start overs from some arbitrary save point because i didn’t drive/kill fast enough, I give the fuck up and say “FUCK YOU GAME FUCK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME SAVE WHEN I FUCKING WANT TO SAVE”. It’s always some fucking timing mission mechanism that puts me over the edge and makes me quit. LET ME FUCKING GO AS SLOW AS I FUCKING WANT ASSHOLES!

(if/when RDR hits PC, a Deadwood mod will be a must)

AT-43 2nd Edition announced

Looks like around Xmas we’ll be looking down the barrel of an AT-Gauss gun at the next addition of AT-43, Rackham’s excellent futuristic miniatures game that has had a really rocky road so far what with the deluge of cheap miniatures on the market and a hap-hazard release schedule typical of Games Workshop back in their glory days.  Don’t have a link but I’m sure glad I didn’t spend a lot on the rule books/faction books as I assume all of those will get updates we get to pay for.

Finally a D&D board game

4th Edition D&D is really a board game. It has a lot more in common with Descent, Warhammer Quest, Heroquest and the like than say, Paranoia or Vampire the Masquerade.  That said, 4th edition is quite a bit closer to the original D&D games from back in the day: i.e.: extremely combat with miniatures focused.    With the release of 4th edition, I was shocked that the ‘starter’ set was a few books and some chits and dice in a box rather than a massive box filled with miniatures (prepaints or not) and lots of hard cardboard dungeon tiles a la the British Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Board game (only available in England).  That starter set would have been cooking with swamp gas.

Well now Wizards is finally getting on the warhorse and is planning to release Castle Ravenloft D&D Board Game and guess what it looks like? Descent!

ravenloft STUFF
Look at all the shit you get in the box!


Distant Worlds! (?)

To begin, let it be known throughout the lands that I’m extremely skeptical of any Space Strategy games these days.*

Matrix Games has recently put out two space strategy games, Distant Worlds by Code Force and Armada 2526.  Distant Worlds is another go at the RTS/4X genre muddle and has most piqued my interest since it’s release in March. Yet, not enough to actually buy it.  It has ship design, a MASSIVE galactic map and pretty sweet graphics for it’s suite of earth animal-influenced  alien races.   Here are a couple videos that may pique your interest as well– and if it’s enough to actually buy it… please let us know.

Moving your fleet around and fighting

Exploration (with a shot of the massive galactic map)

*After Master of Orion 3’s cascade of space piss into my open mouth a few years back, I  lost hope in the genre as, almost by design, the games kept getting worse and worse from the high point of Master of Orion in 1993, Ascendancy in 1995 and Emperor of the Fading Suns in 1996.  Since the heyday, we’ve had the mediocrity of Sword of the Stars, a mess of what are really RTS games that, while OK for RTS games, fail to really hit the mark with the 4X turnbased crowd (Homeworld, Hegemony and Sins of Solar Empire) as well as the excellent but multiplayer-only Ultracorps.

What’s more, the game series that is considered the current king of Turn Based 4x Space strategy games: Galactic Civilization is such an incredible rip-off of Civilization 3/4 that I consider it simply a graphics swap rather than a new game.  The galaxy in Galactic Civilizations, like Civ 4, is just a big flat map with planets (cities) that you move your units on.   Sometimes in Galactic Civilization there are asteroid fields (forests) that slow down your movement.  What’s worse it’s not a ‘globe’ like Civ so managing a big empire, multiple fronts on a big flat map is even more tedious than Civ. That said, please note that it is with a mountainous level of distrust that I even mention any current 4X space games on this blog in light of the simple question: are they better than the original Master of Orion? If not– why would anyone bother? Better graphics? who cares.  Better interface? Really? Is that even possible? Seriously: you can have the best 4X game, plus it’s almost good sequel, for 6$.  Keep that in mind with this and any subsequent posts on this subject.

Starcraft 2 beta action

I was late for work Thursday after a 6 hour download of the beta and patches and a SINGLE game with the Protoss that went late into the night.  Having played it before almost 3 years ago at Gencon, playing the beta is nothing altogether new– which is going to be a theme as I go forward in the next month or so babbling about the kings of RTS’s new title that is so very improved and so very much the same.

I’ve gotten in a single 1 on 1 game against a total n00b.   One thing to mention straight off if you are on the fence about liking it considering that it feels at first blush very much like an upgrade is the fact that it looks incredible. The level of detail to the maps is just ridiculous, and the units look great.  As much as the multiplayer is the real draw of the game, I’m really looking forward to the single player.

Being crushed by my enemies…

Being driven before them…

and letting them hear the lamentation of my women!

That’s the story of my first campaign run through Mount and Blade : Warbands.  Being a seasoned veteran of the old version of the game I feel I was slightly overconfident and went into some siege battles that decimated my miniscule warband– then I wandered into three armies of Swadians who had their way with the rest– what’s more, while running away (all alone) I ran into another full army who attacked and had their way with my lonesome self.  I took down 15 or so before, yet again, being captured, probably raped and pillaged.  Though you don’t lose all your good/goods/weapons,  there is a random roll and I lost my elite tempered sabre, about 2K worth of flax, and, of course, all of my followers are locked up in some castle jail somewhere.  A desolate place to be in the game– but who can stop playing even after constant and massive set backs?  That’s the beauty of the game: you and your fellow ‘lords’ are effectively immortal– you just keep going.  Raise another army, train them, go on some trading runs and then you’re back in the field after an hour or so destroying the Swadian masses.

For those that don’t have it yet, if you have the old game and just want to play the single player campaign: wait until you can get Warbands for cheap.  It’s really just an incremental update rather than a new version of the game for single player, which I am fine with as it’s a fantastic indy game.  Sure you can get married and learn some poems (!?) but that’s really not enough to warrant a purchase unless you are dying to get some multi player in.  However, if you have been waiting for multiplayer all these years– immediately go out and spend the cash as that’s where this version shines.