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Sins of a Solar Empire – Trinity Easter Sale

This one gets my stamp of approval. Sins of a Solar Empire is a really, really good game. Really. It’s a manageable, reasonably paced real time space opera strategy game. Stardock and Ironclad are offering Sins of a Solar Empire – Trinity for $20 via Impulse.

‘This new bundle pack includes the original Sins of a Solar Empire, plus the Entrenchment and Diplomacy expansions.’

Head over to the Impulse store for more details but if you never got around to playing this one — $20. That’s a great deal.

Sins isn’t finished either, as the Rebellion expansion should be out soon (Q4 2011) which offers new factions, ships, victory conditions and more.

Now — there is a catch here. The Rebellion expansion runs $40. If you buy Trinity and then upgrade that’s a bit pricey, whereas if you wait for Rebellion…you’re saving $20. (It’s a standalone expansion) If you want to play Sins NOW — get this Trinity deal. If you have some patience and don’t mind waiting, Rebellion for $40 might be the way to go. Your dough, your call.

DS Lite Discontinued?

No High Scores

The DS Lite, arguably one of the most successful handheld console ever made is officially no more if a leaked internal GameStop memo is to be believed. According to GoNintendo, the memo states that the DS Lite’s have all been discontinued and once GameStops sell through their existing stock they are to take the console’s various boxes used in store displays and discard them like so much garbage. Nintendo, hasn’t said anything official however when the largest video game retailer in the country tells its stores to stop displaying a machine that has done nothing but sell since it was released, I’m thinking this is a thing that is happening.

Given that the DSi, DSi XL and shiny, new 3DS are still available for all of your dual screen needs, this isn’t surprising however it is a bit saddening. I had an original DS Phat and the revisions and improvements brought to the DS Lite were so welcome it made playing the DS, already an enjoyable experience, a complete joy. Unfortunately what it also did is make people say things like “Oh, five hour battery life on the 3DS? I’ll just wait for the eventual hardware revision.” Of course, that didn’t stop all of the revisions from selling like a house a fire.

So goodbye and God speed DS Lite. You will be missed.

Seen at GoNintendo.

Fill Your Mobile With Cheap Games (EA "99 Cent" Sale)

No High Scores

Nothing says Easter weekend like getting 99 cent games for your iPhone and iPad devices. Or at least, that’s what EA wants you to think. They also seem to be pulling a bit of a bait and switch on the Android users because the banner page says Android apps are included, but when you go and look at the specific sale list for Android nothing’s marked lower than $1.99. Nice one, guys. Really. Nothing says Jesus risen like LIES!!!

I mock because… well, because I enjoy it. Let’s be honest. Anyway, it’s not a bad list (nor is it particularly impressive), but you might find something there that tickles your fancy. I’ve gone ahead and listed each of the 99 cent titles (and the $1.99 stuff for Android), which aren’t the same across the three platforms:

iPhone/iPod Touch: Liqua Pop, Coconut Dodge, Bop It, Pictureka!, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Swap This!, Reckless Racing, EA Sports MMA, Mirror’s Edge, Monopoly, SimCity, Skate It, The Simpsons Arcade, Spore Creatures, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Connect 4, Battleship, Surviving High School, Dragon’s Lair, Jewel Quest Mysteries, Monopoly World, Snood, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Spore Origins, Trivial Pursuit, Lemonade Tycoon, Yahtzee Adventures, Boggle, Pandemonium, Sudoku, Star Trek, Dead Space, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

iPad: Max & the Magic Marker, Dead Space, FIFA ’11, Risk, Pictureka!, Clue: Secrets & Spies, Reckless Racing, Madden NFL ’11, Boggle, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Scrabble

Android: Tetris, FIFA ’10 (yes, 10), Worms, Bejweled 2, Monopoly, Life

Daggerdale Wants You To Die In Its Tower

The upcoming dungeon romp, Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale throws the whole dungeoning genre on its head by having you climb a tower instead of go deep in a dungeon. Scandalous! Frankly I don’t care if it takes place in a dungeon or a tower or an Oklahoma City Walmart, as long as my co-op buddies and I can kick skeletons in the gonads, I’m happy.

Hunted: The Demon's Forge Trailer

This is actually part trailer part voice over from the developers, who go into what the game is really all about.

And it’s really all about grabbing a sword or a bow, casting spells, and killing a mess of stuff. With a partner. OK there’s more than that as there seems to be an actual story, dialogue, and other rpg trappings. This trailer does an effective job of showing you what makes Hunted tick.

But yeah, mostly killing stuff.

The game is set for a May 31st release.

JoWood Officially Closes

Austrian publisher JoWood Entertainment is officially closing its doors, reports German website Boerse-Express (by way of Game Informer).

Best known for publishing the Gothic RPG series, as well as other notable games Torchlight and The Guild, JoWood filed for bankruptcy on January 7th, 2011 and announced that a restructuring was in order. Attempts to find suitable investors has since failed.

Don't Shoot the Food – Portal 2 Edition

No High Scores

I’m not playing Portal 2 right now, but based on what I’ve read, I wish I were. In due time, I guess. I know that cake jokes are just that, a joke right now, but I still remember what a great gaming experience it was to come across “The cake is a lie” in the original game. It was such an amazing moment, to get a glimpse of what was going on behind the test chambers and to come across these frantic scribblings about dishonest dessert. I mean, what the hell? When the implication of what the truth of the lying cake was, it all fell into place and finally, your suspicions were confirmed that the entity leading you through the course didn’t have your best intentions in mind.

I mean, come on. Jokes aside, that was awesome.

So, with this in mind, and on the occasion of Portal 2, this week’s column is all about the cake. Sour Cream Blueberry Crumb Cake to be exact.

While I’ve always loved to cook, until recently, baking filled my heart with dread. Cooking requires recipes, sure, but you can go off the reservation and freestyle, even if I don’t. Baking, on the other hand, is very precise. The reactions that take place while baking require things to be measured precisely and at the right temperature in order for things to be successful. I used to make cakes and they’d either never rise, or they’d rise to unsustainable heights and then their centers would collapse. It was frustrating and incredibly disheartening so I stopped doing it.

Then I got the book Cookwise for Christmas. Cookwise is an excellent book because it teaches you why things happen the way they do while cooking, in other words, the science behind cooking. Knowing the science behind cooking is such a fantastic tool to have as it not only helps you understand what went wrong, or how to cook effectively, but it also allows you to better experiment as you can understand what flavors go with what. Of course you can get that through experimentation, and you should experiment, but experimenting when baking, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place, is not the best way to make your way through the cake forest.

So, armed with Cookwise, I went about figuring out why I wasn’t able to bake. First of all, I was checking the cakes too much and it was causing huge temperature fluctuations in the oven temperature. Second, I wasn’t bringing the cold items up to room temperature. Finally, I was either not beating enough, or beating too much air into the batter. All of this together led to a cavalcade of subpar cakes. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong, things made a huge turn for the better and I fell in love with baking cakes. That love has since been eclipsed by the love of making pies, what can I say, I’m a fickle baker, but I still remember how great it felt to finally get something as wonderful as a cake made from scratch right.

This is the recipe I learned to make cakes on, and it is a truly delightful cake. Moist and buttery with a delightful layer of blueberries and a sweet and crunchy crumb topping. It’s also pretty easy to make, especially for first time bakers, with one caveat. You need a stand mixer for this one. I have tried to do it with a hand mixer and it wasn’t nearly as good. I understand that stand mixers are expensive but if you’re planning on making cakes on a regular basis, it is totally worth it. I have a big, black beast of a Kitchenaid and it is, hands down, one of the best purchases for the kitchen I have ever made.

Enough of that though, let’s get baking.

Sour Cream Blueberry Crumb Cake from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle and John Uher

Crumb Topping
1. 1 cup all purpose cake flour
2. 1/4 cup sugar
3. 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4. 1 tsp cinnamon
5. 1/8 tsp salt
6. 7 Tbl melted unsalted butter – Yes that’s a lot of butter but trust me, we’re just getting started.

1. 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2. 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3. 1/4 tsp salt
4. 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries – If they’re frozen, don’t thaw them out.
5. 1 cup sour cream – I usually take it out and put it on the counter before I get started making the cake.
6. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
7. 10 Tbl (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter – Make sure you set the butter out for 30 – 40 minutes ahead of time so that it can soften.
8. 1 cup sugar
9. 2 large eggs – Get the eggs up to room temperature by putting them in a bowl of warm water while the butter is sitting out.

Cooking Steps

1. In a medium bowl, mix the dry topping ingredients together. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork until the butter is completely absorbed. Set aside.
2. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 x 9 cake pan. I use Crisco followed by flour. You can also use butter, or cooking spray in a pinch, but I’ve found that the flour doesn’t stick as well with cooking spray. Even if you have a nonstick pan, grease and flour as the flour lets the batter climb up the sides of the pan.
3. In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry cake ingredients together.
4. In another bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 Tbl of the flour mixture from the previous step. Make sure the berries are all evenly coated. Set aside.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
6. Using the paddle attachment of your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed about 4 or 5 minutes, until the butter is nice and fluffy.
7. Beat the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed.
8. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, reduce the mixing speed to low and add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with half of the sour cream mixture. In other words, beat in 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 the sour cream. 1/3 the flour mixture, the remaining half of the sour cream and finally, the remaining 1/3 flour mixture. Make sure that the new ingredients are fully mixed before adding the next ones. Stop to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
9. Once fully mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the blueberries.
10. Scrape the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top of the batter with a spoon.
11. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the batter, breaking up any large lumps.
12. Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean. I use spaghetti as a tester. Feel free to use whatever thin, needle like object you have. No syringes, obviously.
13. Let the cake cool and then serve from the pan.

It seems complicated, but it’s really not and it makes a fantastic cake that goes down great with a ice cold glass of milk. And, unlike cake jokes, it never gets old.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Omen: Reign of War in Review

John Clowdus, whom I always think is actually named Evan Williams because the first time I met him he was drinking it, runs a small DIY card games company called Small Box Games. He’s done a lot of interesting designs and some quite nearly great ones, but his newest release is where it all comes together. This is a great two player card game with lots of tension, drama, and conflict. Oh, and it looks freaking outstanding. If you’re in the market for a quick-playing game of this nature with easy rules (seriously, they’re like four small pages) or if you want that CCG-ish feeling without the investment then this is thirty bucks well spent. You can only get this at the Small Box Games Web site, so don’t bother hitting up your FLGS for it. You can also take a look at the rules and their other fine games while you’re visiting there as well. Wax, Insyllium, Irondale, Agoniste, and Politico are the other ones you should look at more closely.

As for the Omen review, it’s back on the Mothership, because they pay me to put it there.

What's This? More Mount & Blade Warband Codes?

Did you enter our awesome Mount & Blade: Warband Contest where we gave away five GamersGate codes?

Did you lose? (You probably lost.)

The folks that won…isn’t that game great?

I come bearing great news. We have two more Warband codes to give away! Yes! Right now! I was going to open up the contest again but figured the people who signed up originally should get a chance at redemption. We’ll have another giveaway very soon, promise.

The two additional winners are:

Crowfoot68 and Tassatus

I’ll email the winners their codes momentarily. Of course I could have done this all privately but then you wouldn’t see what a nice fellow I am. (Well, unless you lost again….sorry about that.)

Trail of Brotherhood coming from Arkham Horror designer Richard Launius

Sometime back in 2005 this guy came walking into my store, Atlanta Game Factory. He looked totally out of place among the ne’er-do-wells, nicely dressed in an gentlemanly overcoat and he looked a little bit like an older Steve McQueen. He picked up a couple of games and brought them to the counter, introducing himself in a baritone that would make a tent revival preacher jealous. “I’m Richard Launius, I designed a game called Arkham Horror.” Over the years I got to game frequently with Richard (and discovered that he actually did PC game development in the 80s and was a VP at a major telecom firm). Not only do I consider him a friend, I consider him one of the nicest, most honest, and passionate gamers I’ve ever met in my life. He’s also ridiculously prolific although only Arkham Horror and Defenders of the Realm have seen print. I’ve seen tons of the man’s unpublished board game prototypes. There’s A LOT of them. One of them that he showed me years ago was Trail of the Brotherhood, a co-op/competitive title that pit investigator players against an adversarial occultist player trying to do Lovecraftian bad things to the world. It looked pretty interesting.

Now, a weird company I’ve never heard of called Eos Sama out of China (!!!) is announcing that Trail of the Brotherhood is on their books and going to press, expected on shelves sometime in May. Surprise! Their Web site is very odd, the header has the wrong title (“Trail of Brotherhood”), and the press release is obviously written by a non-native English writer which worries me about the text contents of the game. An excerpt:

Sorcerer Player: In Trail of the Brotherhood one devious player takes on the role of the ancient sorcerer traveling the globe seeking to unify independent cults into The Brotherhood. It is the goal of this player to gain enough Power through the cults and utilize a magical item to summon forth the Old One (Chosen by him prior to starting the game). In order to do this the player will need to prevent the Investigators that pursue him from learning which Great Old One he seeks to awaken. He can do this a number of different ways, including direct attacks from cults in the brotherhood, misdirection and the summoning lesser creatures to do his battles. Once the Sorcerer player achieves joining enough cults to The Brotherhood to provide the power needed to summon the slumbering Old One and possesses the magic item required to complete the ceremony, he can awaken the Old One and win the game.

Investigative Players: The other players (1-3 players) take the role of Investigative Teams. It will be their job to disrupt The Brotherhood, prevent them from gaining enough power to summon an Old One into this world and ultimately to identify through discovery of Clues left in the wake of The Brotherhood’s activities the magic item required for the ceremony – then to obtain that item by taking it from a Cult or the Sorcerer and destroying it, condemning the Old One to continued slumber…at least for now.

Trail of the Brotherhood is part adventure and part deductive strategy as the players enter the desperate world H.P. Lovecraft.

There it is then. I’m going to try to track down a review copy to cover in my weekly column.