This Week Online - April 26, 2014

Hey all - Hope you've had a good last week. Amusingly enough, I didn't have a whole lot to post from last week so I had to wait a few extra days before some goodies came to my attention. I hope you enjoy these!

  • Do you enjoy literature? Do you enjoy comedy? The perfect melding of the two is at Thug Notes on YouTube. It's simply fantastic.
  • Are you a Patrick Rothfuss fan? You should be. He announced on his blog today that he is coming out with a new book which is not the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle. Yes, I'm a bit disappointed, but it's set in that world so that'll be a nice consolation.
  • Stephen Colbert is closing down The Colbert Report and taking over The Late Show from David Letterman when he retires at the end of the year. As a result, Stephen has been making the rounds on shows this week. Here he says goodbye on The Daily Show. And he was also on The Late Show this past week.
  • John Waters filmed a no-smoking PSA? Yes!
  • Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen being adorable, AGAIN.
  • A fantastic fan film featuring Harley Quinn.
  • Short film following two astronauts on a ship that can travel back three minutes in time. Simply great.

I'm still trying to find the time to finish the Berlin installment of the latest Shadowrun Returns game in order to review it properly here. So far it's great, but I'm only about 10 hours of gameplay in.

Also, I picked up a game for the iPad (and other systems) called Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon. It's a "free to play" city-building-in-a-pvp-world type game. I played Evony back in the day for a while until the pvp stuff eventually drove me away from it. The interface on a touch screen is great. And it has neat added features like building mythical troop units (minotaurs, dragons, ogres) and you can raise an epic dragon to defend your city. If you like this sort of game, give it a try.

This Week Online - April 14, 2014

Hola all - please enjoy some amusements I found online in the past week!

Lastly, you know I'm a big fan of Tabletop, the Geek & Sundry web show hosted by Wil Wheaton on YouTube. They've decided to crowdsource the third season of the show over on Indiegogo. Check out the campaign and give if you can. If he can reach $1m, we will get a third season of Tabletop with 20 episodes AND a new spin-off show all about roleplaying games. THAT is something I really want to see!

Enjoy your week!

Saturday is Tabletop Day!

thumbs_tabletopday_logo Yay! Saturday is Tabletop Day!

From game stores to individual households, Saturday is the celebration of all things tabletop gaming. Get out and check out your local game store, or invite some friends over to play a game. There are SO many games out there worth checking out. A few of my current favorites are:

The Tabletop Day website is where you can get information about game stores and events near you. Check out this video where Wil Wheaton talks about the day and some fun swag Geek & Sundry has worked hard to get out to participating stores.

Play more games!

Game Reviews - Gone Home and Papers, Please

I recently had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling, which afforded me the time to play through a couple of Steam games I hadn't gotten around to yet. Gone_Home

 

Gone Home is a well-crafted story-based game where all you do as the player is wander around an empty house. You never encounter another person. There is no violence. The game is all about finding clues about what is going on and piecing the story together yourself. You are a college-age girl, who has come home after spending a year abroad in Europe. You come home to an empty house - your parents are missing as is your younger sister. Your family had moved into this house while you were away, so you are unfamiliar with the house. The main story focuses on your younger sister, but there are stories about your dead great-uncle (who left the house to your father), your father and your mother as well. All of the stories are excellent - the main story is compelling and will keep you engaged throughout the gameplay. The side-stories aren't critical to completion of the main story and one of them is quite subtle; I found it worthwhile to take the time to find all of the stories available in the game.. The entire gameplay took me about 4 hours to complete.  I don't want to ruin anything about this game - but if this sort of game appeals to you I highly recommend it.

Papers_please

 

Papers, Please is a game called a "dystopian document thriller". I admit, I'd never run into a game quite like this one before. The music is fantastic and the graphics are crude but support the overall sense of Soviet-era repression and scarcity of resources. You are a border inspector and it is your job each day to review the papers (passports, passes, work permits, etc.) of people requesting entry to your country. You approve or deny their request. Sounds simple, doesn't it? With each passing day, the amount of things you have to remember to check on various documents increases. You are paid by the person that you review, so the slower your review goes, the less you get paid. You have a family at home for whom you have to pay rent, food, medicine, etc. I enjoyed playing this game a couple of times. The first time I didn't make enough money, my family got sick, and I messed up so much I was thrown in prison. The second time I got through about 15 days of story and discovered the game was starting to feel more like work than like a game. You have to keep track of a LOT of minutiae related to the documents.  I appreciate the story, and how awful a bleak, repetitive job like that would be -- the game does a great job conveying that. I didn't find the game particularly fun.

Tabletop Thursday - Fortune & Glory

Yesterday’s Tabletop episode featured the board game Fortune and Glory. The players are Felicia Day, Ryon Day, Wil Wheaton, and Brandon Routh. My first exposure to Fortune & Glory was on the game review site Shut Up & Sit Down. They did not favorably review the game, saying that there isn’t much strategy to the game and that if a player happens to roll poorly on a consistent basis they can end up not having a lot to do for the duration of the game. My favorite quote from their review is "This game, this beautiful game, this landfill of components, cards and color, this crush of cliffhangers, is everything that's wrong with Ameritrash."

As a quick aside, Shut Up & Sit Down is a fantastic gaming review site and I think it’s a great compliment to Tabletop (and On The Table) for gaming news. They’re raising funding to keep their website/content production going, so if you feel like tossing them some monetary love I think they’re worth it.

My thoughts about the game from this episode of Tabletop… well, 7 minutes in Wil cuts in and admits they got the rules all wrong throughout their gameplay so the episode isn’t really a representative sense of how the game plays. So, it’s hard to gauge. They certainly seem to have fun playing the game. But there are a LOT of bits involved… games with tons of bits can be a headache. There also seem to be a TON of rules and rules variants.

I think this is a game whose theme (Indiana Jones-style adventurers traversing the world to gather artifacts and fight Nazis) is very appealing. I will probably rent this game from my local game store to give it a try before thinking about purchasing it.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/rQMuu_7jn2I width="400" height="300"]



If you take the time to watch this episode, I recommend you take an additional 10 minutes to watch SU&SD's review as well.

Tabletop Thursday - Ticket to Ride: Europe

Happy Thursday! Today's episode of Tabletop features Ticket to Ride: Europe. [youtube=http://youtu.be/Bk8X2fn9a4I width="400" height="300"]

Players are Emma Caulfield, Anne Wheaton and John Kovalic. The chemistry between the players is very upbeat and positive, despite Wil and John's initial competitiveness against each other. Still, this game basically plays just like the original Ticket to Ride from last season with very small variations.

Hope everyone has had a good week. The kids in my area got the entire week off from school due to snow, and this was also my son's birthday week. So happy birthday to him, and yay snow! I feel like I've gotten some proper Winter now.

The big project at my house is painting a bathroom to look like the inside of the classic TARDIS. It's turned out to be a lot more work than expected (as all painting projects do). I'll be posting pictures & details here when it's finished!

Don't miss Tabletop Day 2014!!! (April 5th)

thumbs_tabletopday_logo I don't know what you did for Tabletop Day last year, but I had a fantastic time going to my local game shop and playing games. Dragon's Den in Short Pump, VA is my store of choice, and they put on quite a game-filled day for last year's Tabletop Day.

I got to play Cthulhu Fluxx for the first time, and discovered that the rules for that variant of the Fluxx games are far more complicated than most. I also saw people enjoying wonderful games like Gloom, Sentinels of The Multiverse and Dixit, to name a few.

Here's an ad that Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton did to promote awareness of Tabletop Day on the USA Today website.

Take your family to your local game store and check out some new games. Tabletop games are all the rage right now, and there are tons of fun games out there. Your local game store owner will be happy to introduce you to them. You can also check out my link on the left for the full run of Tabletop episodes (Geek & Sundry's YouTube show), featuring wonderful games and how to play them.

If you need help finding a Tabletop Day participating store in your area, check out the official Tabletop Day website!

To quote Wil Wheaton, "Play more games!"

Journey - The Game

journey-game-screenshot-1  

For Christmas, I received a Playstation 3. This was primarily because there were Playstation exclusives I had never had a chance to play which, by all reports, were amazing games. Journey is one of the games I've had the pleasure of playing.

You are dropped into the world with very little in the way of explanation. Not a word is said throughout the entire game. The way your character communicates is by singing. There are various notes which are played when you activate certain abilities, call creatures to you, etc. It's very charming.

The world is pretty stark. The landscape you move through resembles snowswept mountainsides and vast barren deserts with ruins slowly dissolving into the sand. You are able to fully explore all of the areas that you go into, and in exploring you discover measuring tape creatures (though I always thought of them as my flag friends). You occasionally run into others just like you also completing the same areas, helping each other for a brief time before the other runs off until you need help again.

The entire game only takes an hour and a half to play, and that's if you run around and look under every rock like I did. It's well worth the time and money. It's a beautiful game. It's a musical game. It's a simple game. It's a peaceful game.

And I don't know a lot of games out there about which you can say all of those things.

Tabletop Thursday - Takenoko

Today's episode features the game Takenoko, which I've heard of but have never played. It looks like a really cute game and the folks in this episode have a great time playing it. I'll definitely be picking this up for a future game night!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/wv4n-e-hb_o width="400" height="300"]

I love the animated panda, but not as much as the Owlbear from Lords of Waterdeep.

Enjoy!

This Week Online - October 18th, 2013

Goodness how the time has flown! Real life has kept me away from the site but I'm back with some fun things for you to check out on the Internet!

I've got several more posts in the pipe for the upcoming week. There have been two Tabletop episodes (Shadows Over Camelot and Betrayal at House on the Hill) since I last posted. Also, I saw Wil Wheaton vs. Paul & Storm in Northern VA a couple of weeks ago. More on all of that soon!

This Week Online - October 1, 2013

Hello all - Here's tidbits from the Internet that I've gathered over the last week. I hope you enjoy them.

I'll be back Thursday with a link to the new episode of Tabletop!

Tabletop Thursday - Lords of Waterdeep

This episode actually aired two weeks ago, but I wanted to get it posted here before tomorrow's new episode comes out. Lords of Waterdeep is a resource management game set in the legendary Dungeon and Dragons city of Waterdeep. Knowledge of D&D is not required to play this game. The interaction between Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Pat Rothfuss and Brandon Laatsch is great in this episode. Much fun is had. I have asked G&S if they would consider making the owlbear image available to folks to use... I'll post more here if I hear anything back.

Oh, and definitely watch the gag reel. There is so much owlbear goodness all over it.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/D7DvEIfrP84 width="400" height="300"]

Postscript:  There must have been a lot of requests. Enjoy OWLBEAR!

owlbear

The Bounty of the Internet

Goodness, the last few days have been a wealth of things to see. Let me share some of the wonderful things I've found out there over the holiday weekend.

  • The best Zombie-related short film I have ever seen'
  • Have you heard of what3words? I hadn't either. I think it's totally cool.
  • Thug Notes!!! I can't say it enough. Did you use Cliff's Notes in school? Did you like to read books? Do you have an appreciation of urban gangster culture? This is the perfect amalgam of all of these interests. I can't even pick out one particular review to point you to because they're all so good. Pick a book you've read and GO THERE NOW!
  • Here's what you missed by not playing Bioshock Infinite. (spoilers)
  • Here's what you missed by not playing Borderlands 2. (spoilers)
  • The Wheatons are asking for donations for their local humane society and offering an awesome geek calendar as an incentive. Even if you don't back their humane society, please consider donating money to your own local humane society. Animals are awesome.

More to come over the course of the week!

Tabletop Thursday - Star Wars X-Wing

Yay, new Tabletop! And it's funny and engaging. I get the impression from how this game is edited that the game takes a REALLY LONG TIME to play. The premise appears to be cooperative teams who play Empire or Rebel Alliance against each other. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of the ancient game Starfleet Battles -- but that's Star Trek (and far more complex) and not Star Wars.

Seth Green is funny and understated in that way I get the impression he always is. His wife, Clare Grant, is highly competitive. Mike Lamond (who I didn't know before this episode) tries his best to keep Wil on task and focused on the game. Seth and Wil's impressions of various characters from Star Wars are worth watching this episode alone.

Enjoy!

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mxPFHBCfuU width="400" height="300"]

Shadowrun Returns

SRR_Avatar_512x512  

Hoi chummers!

Shadowrun Returns (available via Steam) came out this past Thursday. Having played the original tabletop Shadowrun, this game is a delightful trip down memory lane for me. The game plays similar to the Diablo games and games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. It's a top-down RPG which features a turn-based combat system. The graphics aren't as sophisticated as Diablo (the game was funded on Kickstarter), and the built-in story isn't very long.

The world of Shadowrun is a near-future apocalyptic world where technology, magic and fantasy races exist. In Shadowrun Returns, the setting is Seattle and you can choose to be a human, dwarf, ork, elf or troll. You also select from one of six archetypes (class) to play. Mages are magic users. Street Samurai chip themselves out with technology to enhance their physical characteristics and can use lots of weapons - both ranged and melee. Deckers can hack technology - doors, cameras, automated weapons and computer systems. Shamans summon spirits and use magic. Riggers control drones, growing to control larger drones and larger numbers of drones as their skills progress. Physical adepts are martial artists who also command the ability to cast combat spells.

The built-in story has been enjoyable so far. I haven't finished it but I've played it for a couple of hours so far. The NPCs all speak in the banter of the game and the bleak cyberpunk sensibility of the Shadowrun reality comes through nicely on the screen. One of the neatest parts of this particular game is the ability for the community to design stories themselves for others to play. I am looking forward to seeing how this game grows and how stories develop. The creators of the game are working on another story currently - set in Berlin.

Tabletop Thursday - Star Trek Catan

This episode of Tabletop came out a week ago, but I was busy keeping track of events going on during San Diego Comic-Con so am just now getting around to posting it. Star Trek Catan plays just like Settlers of Catan, except there are Trek character cards which give players special limited use abilities during the game. [youtube=http://youtu.be/O7_Yd3_M8iQ width="400" height="300"]

I own this game, but have not played it yet. So many games, not enough time! Overall this episode didn't seem as fun or as easy to explain as Settlers of Catan. Honestly I felt like the recap using video from the Settlers episode made things a bit more confusing, and I don't feel like the character cards were explained well at all.

Also, I hate to say this, but the table dynamic didn't seem as entertaining as all of the other episodes this season. I felt like this episode, more than any of the others, focused on Wil trying to be humorous while the rest of the table watched him do his thing. I also felt like the cut scenes where gameplay was fast-forwarded gave the impression the game takes a REALLY LONG time to play.

Still, that doesn't discourage me from wanting to try the game out. I'm looking forward to dipping into it in the near future!

Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine

Monaco_What's_Yours_Is_Mine_Wallpaper  

I'm not sure what has taken me so long, but I'm becoming more and more of a convert to Valve's Steam game distribution system. It's quick. It distributes both Indy and mainstream games. I'm kinda loving it.

The most recent game I've played on Steam is Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine. If you enjoy films like Oceans 11 and want to play a game with simple graphics, fantastic multiplayer gameplay and great music, this is a game for you.

You can unlock 8 characters who perform various roles in your crime gang. The Locksmith (blue) picks locks, opens cash registers, locked doors and safes faster than anyone else on the team. The Pickpocket (yellow) has a pet monkey which enables him to gather coins at a distance. His monkey doesn't trigger alarms and he can hide in bushes longer than anyone else on the team. The Cleaner (pink) can knock out passive guards and heal faster than anyone else on the team. The Lookout (red) can see all NPCs on the board without requiring line of sight and can enter windows/vents/stairs faster than anyone else on the team. The Mole (violet) can dig through walls, go through secret passages fast and break jewel cases faster than anyone else on the team. The Gentleman (teal) wears a permanent disguise and can get into vehicles faster than anyone else on the team. The Hacker (green) disables security and can hack computers faster than anyone else on the team. Lastly, we have The Redhead (orange) who can attract and distract a single NPC and convince it to open doors and not harm teammates. She can also revive teammates faster than anyone else on the team.

As you can see, it's a fun list of characters to play, and you can play in teams of 4 players. You work through missions, robbing banks, busting criminals out of jail, and other fun acts of ne'er do well.

If I have any criticism of the game it's that the graphics are rudimentary and learning what to interact with and where the doors are can be difficult at times. Fortunately, there is a single-player mode which allows you to play the game at your own pace and learn where things are before joining a group for a break-neck run through a mission.

This game is currently on sale on Steam, as July is the month of game sales there. I've seen it for $10 instead of the usual $15. There is a bundle (4 licenses) option as well.

Realms of the Ancients

rota A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of the creators of a new roleplaying game (RPG) that is seeking funding on Kickstarter. I haven't had a chance to play the game myself, but I know several people who have and have shared their play experiences with me.

Realms of the Ancients is a RPG with its own set of mechanics and its own setting. The mechanics are straightforward, and all of the various classes, races, etc. generally factor down into four core stats that determine success/failure when rolling dice. The setting is vast, encompassing anything you can think of on many planets in many galaxies in many universes in many dimensions. You like fantasy? Here are knights and armor and swords. You like science fiction? Here are starships and lasers and space travel.

There is a lot of choice offered to the player in terms of character creation. There are sixteen races and thirteen awakened paths (think classes) to choose from initially. Over the course of game play, the character will receive transformations (which are mainly up to the game leader and the particular story being told) which can entirely change the character in new and unexpected ways.

If you don't like the predictability of RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, the transformation concept in ROTA is compelling.

The game is geared for an ideal set of 5-6 players maxing out around 8. Groups of players should try to balance the roles of their characters between tank, healer, ranged damage dealers and melee damage dealers to create a group dynamic that is interdependent and able to face any challenge.

This is a game for an experienced storyteller/dungeonmaster/game leader. Because the setting is so vast and limitless, the DM can tell any story that they want to. The rules allow for the earning of experience though events, puzzles and quests, so the types of stories and play can be quite varied.

The team at Immortal House has three weeks remaining on their kickstarter project. Through various backer levels, you can receive the rule book, the novels upon which the world is based, and you can even participate in beta testing, helping to refine the game system prior to publication.

Do you like RPGs? Do you like open worlds and interesting game mechanics? ROTA will appeal to you. Check out the Kickstarter and help get ROTA funded!

Tabletop Thursday - Formula D Extended

Today is Tabletop Thursday, and Geek & Sundry released the extended version of Formula D, the first episode from Season 2. It's nearly 2 hours of film, which is closer to the duration of an actual game of Formula D. [youtube=http://youtu.be/ZCu4_wowv4A width="400" height="300"]

 

We played Formula D at a Game Night party at our house and we had 8 players. We used the basic rules (not the advanced rules that you see them use in the video) which means we didn't track specific damage or use the character cards. Despite the fact that not everyone at the party was interested in racing (at all) or Formula One, everyone found this game to be an absolute blast. The strategy involved in gear selection and the number of stops through a turn proved quite challenging when you have 8 drivers on the track.

June Game Night

IMG_0920 Last night we hosted our bi-monthly Game Night, playing The Resistance, Wits & Wagers (Family Edition) and not Formula D as pictured above, but King of Tokyo. If you are unfamiliar with any of these games, I refer you to the Tabletop link in the right hand column for an overview.

We started the evening out with burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans and a delicious tomato pie. You wouldn't want to game on an empty stomach, would you? Beer and wine were also enjoyed, at dinner and throughout gaming. We had 5 guests, plus myself and my husband, making 7 players for the evening.

We started with The Resistance. With 7 players, you have 3 spies and 4 Resistance members. It was a lot of fun, but eventually proved that the Spies were too crafty for our group (despite the cries of "Viva la Resistance!" at the table). Out of 4 games played, the Spies won every single game. I think we weren't thinking enough about team compositions and taking our approve/reject votes as seriously as we should have. But a good time was had by all.

IMG_0921

 

The next game we played was Wits & Wagers (Family Edition). Because we had seven players, four people had to play as teams of two. Overall, this game didn't seem to grab the hearts & imaginations of everyone at the table as much as The Resistance did. I think the fairly dry topic questions, and the fact that the answers are always in the form of numbers turned this game into an exercise of betting strategy. I think our gaming group is more tuned in to words over numbers as well - games like Cards Against Humanity will last us for hours and hours. (the Blue team won the game)

IMG_0922

 

One of our gaming friends had to leave at this point, reducing our numbers to 6. As die-hard tabletop gamers know, this is the magic number that opens up a vast wealth of gaming options. For some reason, most games are limited to 6 players -- games for more than 6 are difficult to find.

We decided that, instead of playing Formula D (which we had played at a previous game night and thoroughly enjoyed), we would play King of Tokyo, which was new to most everyone at the party. Playing King of Tokyo at the end of the evening was ideal - the rules are easy and the mechanics simple. Playing with 6 players certainly makes things more challenging - you play with both Tokyo City and the Bay of Tokyo as board locations. As we discovered, this makes the damage doled out much higher and deaths much more likely. We played two full games. The first one ended with The King triumphant, having killed off all of the other monsters in the area.  The second ended with Mecha-Dragon triumphant, winning by victory points (though he nearly won through attrition as well). I think this game was a big hit with the folks as the party overall. How can you not love pretending to be a giant monster trying to take over Tokyo?

IMG_0923

 

All in all, this was yet another successful game night! I look forward to our next party in August!