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Brakketology Plays Catch Up

Spore

Brakketology is back this week. After a full week spent moving to a new home I only got my PC hooked up for the first time last night. Consequently, I’m way, way out of the loop, so I’m just throwing out there a few things that have caught me eye the last coulpe days. Before that, though, some things I’ve learned from the move: Moving with two kids is, to use Brandon’s words, exponentially more difficult that moving just an adult or two. Cleaning up after the prior residents left the place a federal disaster zone is a wee bit frustrating. Having Comcast television service is way worse than having just their Internet. The bill is cheaper, but holy cats is the UI bad on their boxes. We’re talking Gameshark.com levels of design awfulness. Do these people not have anyone working on this stuff? Also, when loading and unloading a Uhaul, do not, do not, do not, walking into the trailer hitch. Ow.

In items that may or may not be more relevant to you, Soren Johnson penned a cool retrospective on Spore, there’s some new Kickstarter projects worth checking out, and you Sony controller fans (both of you) will be able to use your maddening little gamepads on the PC. It’s all after the break. Woo!

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Cracked LCD- Duel of Ages II in Review

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When Brett Murrell’s Duel of Ages appeared back in 2003, it was sort of a strange entity. Its marketing materials and website conveyed an ambitious- and seemingly venture capital backed- line of products that were very much not in step with the current design trends at the time. Puerto Rico was still considered one of the top games in the hobby and the first “hybrid” American games with Eurogame influences such as Christian Petersen’s A Game of Thrones and Glenn Drover’s Age of Mythology were starting to appear. Heroscape and War of the Ring were right around the corner.

With this context in mind, I have to admit that when I first played Duel of Ages ten years ago I didn’t like it very much. It felt old fashioned and not in a good way. I wasn’t really sold on the concept of bringing together characters from four different eras and kitting them out with mismatched gear. It was a highly idiosyncratic game, with unusual sawblade-shaped modular map tiles (“platters”) that were notorious for warping. I felt like the game was clunky, clumsy, and retrogressive. Yet it persevered, becoming something of a cult classic among its fans that just couldn’t get enough of putting William Wallace on a bicycle, armed with a plasma rifle and with a grenade-hurling wizard and an angry bear in hot pursuit. Continue Reading…

Android: Netrunner – Creation and Control Review

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Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game and that means lots of little expansion packs. Quite an alarming number of little expansion packs if you’re a relatively casual player of the game like I am. But this latest pack isn’t little: it’s big. It comes in a proper box and contains 165 cards: 3 copies each of 55 different ones. As a casual player I approve mightily.

Like all the expansion before it, the focus is squarely on one faction each for the corporation and runner players, in this case Haas-Bioroid and the Shapers respectively. That’s a bit more odd considering you get a lot more cards in this deck but there you go. The Shapers probably needed it as, despite their name, they’re probably the most shapeless, ill-defined faction so far. And I like Haas because I’m a former genetic engineer myself. So, again, I approve mightily.

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Cracked LCD- Themedome: Tammany Hall vs. Five Points

themedome

A couple of months ago, I found myself unusually obsessed with Martin Scorcese’s 2002 picture Gangs of New York. Without going all Roger Ebert on everyone, the Barnes capsule review is that 50% of the film is absolutely amazing and could be one of the Great American Films, the other 50% is either awkward, sloppy, or Cameron Diaz is on the screen.  But then you’ve got Daniel Day-Lewis towering over the entire thing in one of his routine outstanding performances. Getting into this film, with all of its incredible pants and hats, drew my eye toward a couple of games that have themes and settings from the same time and place as the film, a late 19th century Manhattan undergoing rapid change under the forces of immigration, old world rivalries transplanted to the nascent metropolis, and back-room politics rife with corruption.  One is Tammany Hall, first published in 2007 and designed by Doug Eckart. The other is Five Points, a 2013 issue from Mayfair Games designed by Andreas Steading.

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Brakketology Finds True Love

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The Special Love of Human and Chordate. You may or may not have seen that Jaws: The Text Adventure has made some, er, waves this past week. It’s worth poking around a bit with your nose and then devouring whole. (You play Jaws. Hence the terrible puns.) I’ll tell you that the genius in this is not in following the path of the movie Jaws. I tried and finished at around 70% score (measured in how full you make your shark). The prize is in seeing what sorts of undocumented commands you can find. The documented commands pretty much consist of N, E, S, W (compass directions) and eat. Most everything else you have to discover for yourself. I think it’s safe to say there is no way for me to top this 0%. The command that produced this wholesome and in no way inappropriate result?  While swimming innocently up to the beach I encountered a bather and issued the command: Kiss Woman.

It’s gold, Jerry. Gold!

After the break I troll JJ Abrams for his trolling of Star Trek: The Video Game, Steam decides to further complicate life, and GTA V makes bank…

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Hell’s Gate Review

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If you’re in the habit of picking through lists of board and video games about World War 2, you’ll see a lot of names you recognise from deeply-buried folk memories and history classes. Normandy and the Bulge, El Alamein and Monte Cassino, Stalingrad and Kursk. But there’s one battle which seems to attract considerably more interest from game designers than it does the general public: the Korsun Pocket. And that’s what Hell’s Gate is all about.

It has an interesting pedigree, this game. Originally designed by an university lecturer as a means of demonstrating the dynamics of encirclement operations in-class, it found its way into the academic literature and from there to Victory Point Games who’ve produced this lovely print. The soot-besmirched counters that result from their laser cutting process might bother some people, but there’s no doubting the durability of the thick card or the evocatively polar board art. You can almost hear the icy winds sweeping across the steppe as you play.

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Brakketology is Keeping it in the Family

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This week Brakketology is celebrating the mere possibility that Steam is making its Libraries sharable with family members (and a bit beyond). As Kyle and Ana begin to clamor for more and more PC time, my need to have my Steam library accessible to more than just myself will become crucial. I’m just not quite sold on the fine print yet. Also making the rounds this week, Bioware is getting interesting again, EA is very proud of all the new IP they’re working on, even if they’re not too sure what the words “new IP” are supposed to mean, there’s a Kickstarter project that you should be looking at, and Blizzard just keeps on being Blizzard. But first…

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Descent: Labyrinth of Ruin Review

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The original Descent was probably as famous for its seemingly endless expansions as its astronomical play time. Some gamers made almost an entire hobby out of trying to collect them all. Arguably, the new edition with its focus on campaign play is even more suited to expansionism that its predecessor. So, after small box addition Lair of the Wyrm we now have the first big box expansion, Labyrinth of Ruin.

And it is a big box, with more of everything. And I mean everything. Pretty much every deck in the base game now has some extra cards, there are new rules (though nothing terribly demanding), new heroes, monsters, tiles and archetypes and, of course, a brand new campaign. There’s so much it’s hard to know where to start.

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Cracked LCD- Dragon Con 2013 Post-Mortem (or, The Misanthrope among the Tribes)

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It’s late in the afternoon, Saturday at Dragon Con, and I’m walking by Malcolm McDowell’s table in the room of “celebrities” that I like to call the Career Graveyard. This man was Alex in Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, one of the defining films of my life and one of the great performances in cinema. 17 year old me would have lost his damn mind. But at 37 and having seen him at the past three Dragon Cons I’m completely unmoved, unphased as I push the stroller containing Peter Pan and Tinkerbell past the dim stars of shows I’ve never even heard of. My wife, who works in film and television, is irritated by the phony glamour of it all as we edge past the morbidly obese on their mobility scooters, past the muffin-topped jailbait skanks desperate for attention in what passes for “sexy” in the minds of the socially decrepit, and through the pathetic tribal boundaries between Browncoats, gamers, otaku, steampunks, and furries. Amidst the sleazy aura of desperation and the stench of sweltering bodies, she asks “why do we still come to this?”

For the first time in the 21 years that I have been going to what is billed as the Southeast’s largest celebration of pop culture, I don’t have a justifiable response.

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Brakketology Gets a Job; Keeps Flying

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In this day and age a guy has to do what he can to get by. That means you have to take a lot of jobs to make ends meet, even legal ones. A Firefly class boat needs parts and supplies to keep it in the air, after all. In this week’s Brakketology, if you haven’t guessed, I got a chance to play Firefly: The Game. Along with some first impressions of that, there’s a promising first look at Banner Saga (via RPS) that demands you pay attention, more Enemy Within bits, Project Eternity continues its climb up my list of most anticipated games, Amazon does something that almost made my life better, a real Ultima lands on iOS, and Xbox One gets a release date…

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