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Trains and Stations Review


I’ve always loved interaction in games. I’d bet that most gamers do, really, it’s just that those who’ve chosen to embrace the bloodless, over-balanced mechanical model that runs screaming as far from zero-sum games as it possibly can think that logic is more important than interaction. But there is, thankfully, an alternative. Instead of having players taking chunks out of each other, you can instead encourage them to co-operate for mutual gain.

My suspicion is that this what Trains and Stations sets out to do for the light family gaming crowd. Clearly influenced by age-old classic Poker Dice, the game sees you roll a handful of beautifully marbled custom dice, picking what they want to keep and rolling the others again. Except that, in a nod to modern sensibilities of choice and strategy you can actually keep certain dice from turn to turn if you find you didn’t roll the combination you were looking for and you have to pay for each re-roll.

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/11


This is it folks, week one of our two week entrance into the next generation of console gaming. With both consoles needing day one patches for various levels of functionality, it’s going to be a rough go of things. I think we can take that as a given. That being said, keep calm, keep in mind that all consoles have launch problems and threadbare lineups and for God’s sake, if someone wants to buy a new console at launch (like me) and they’re not taking your games and/or money to do so then by all means, let them have their fun.

The first console out of the gate is Sony’s PS4, which also happens to be the one I’m starting out with. I’ll get an Xbox One eventually, just not at lunch. The PS4 is launching with a bunch of games, too many to list out individually but follow that link and you can stuff yourself with super hi-def goodies. Me, I’m going with Skylanders, AC IV and Killzone. Yeah, two of them are already available on other systems but if I can push more pixels, why not do it? The third is because Killzone is gloriously stupid and sometimes you have to sit back and marvel at Teh Stoopid.

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Hornet Leader & Cthulhu Conflict Review


When my children were small and I didn’t get out much I played a lot of solitaire board games, and I decided that I didn’t like solitaire board games all that much. It’s hard to see what they give you that a strategy video game doesn’t, except lots of annoying overhead. There was, however, one exception: Vietnam air-war game Phantom Leader.

It’s part of a whole series of related air combat games from Dan Verssen Games. Hornet Leader is one of the more recent and critically lauded entries, and after my experiences with Phantom Leader I was pretty excited to try it out.

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/4

This week brings the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, the last big release before Microsoft and Sony trot our their consoles and start massaging numbers to declare who “won” the holiday season. I like the above CoD commercial however for it to be realistic, one of them has to be a twelve year old racist, one has to be doing nothing but tea bagging a dead soldier, two of them have to aggressively sexually harass Megan Fox and none of them are work together.

If soldiering isn’t your thing, see if you can drop a few pounds before the busy Holiday Eating season with Zumba Fitness World Party. Or, and here’s an idea, you can stay seated and play The Guided Fate Paradox or Castlevania Lords of Shadow Collection. You know, whatever works. If bugs are more your thing, Daedilic’s Journey of a Roach unlocks on Monday. If bashing monsters is more your speed, Final Exam releases this week. I’d be more interested in reunions if I could bash in a zombie’s skull at one.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/28


As October winds down, games continue to get out of the way of console launches and Call of Duty leaving not much more in the year than, well, console launches and Call of Duty. So far, I have found this holiday season to be pretty damn boring. GTA V continues to impress, but that game came out a month ago. Arkham Origins is exactly what you would expect , so take that for what it’s worth. I still have my PS4 preorder and I have a Swap Force Skylander already purchased for the PS4 version of that game, but one game does not an exciting console launch make. That’s not to say that the other launch games can’t be good, I’m just not interested in buying them at the moment. I guess it’s a statement to GTA V’s staying power that I’ve played it for a month straight, single player and online, and not only am I not finished with it, but I want to keep playing it.

Oh, right, new releases. Battlefield 4 is a shooter with dogs, but I think you’re punching them, not leading them into battle. I could give a rat’s ass about Battlefield so…yeah. If soldiering isn’t your thing, how about pirating? Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag releases this week in all of its swashbuckling glory. I’m sure I’ll play it. I’ve played all of them. Whether or not I enjoy it is another thing entirely. It can’t be worse than ACIII can it?

If pirates and soldiers aren’t your thing, how about wrestlers? WWE 2K14 has those, and lots of ‘em from the looks of it. Sonic Lost World 3DS has hedgehogs, because why wouldn’t it? Angry Birds Star Wars has angry Star Wars birds or maybe birds that are angry at Star Wars? I don’t know. Blood of the Werewolf has blood, werewolves and platforming. I guess I should know what this whole Slender Man thing is, but I don’t because I’m old. Slender: The Arrival is the game of the uh, whatever Slender Man is. Master Reboot is a first person sci-fi horror adventure shooter with memories and what have you. Deadly Premonition, a game I couldn’t play for more than twenty minutes before quitting out of boredom hits the PC as does Football Manager 2014. Finally, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army 2 releases on Halloween because of course it does.

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Knock-Knock Review


Knock-Knock is the latest game from Russian developer Ice Pick Lodge. That may mean nothing to you: it meant nothing to me when I first downloaded the game. Some of their previous titles did chime a little as names I’d heard now and again – Pathologic or The Void. However I soon came to understand that for those more familiar with this studio and its titles, the name presages a unique combination of inventive gameplay and jarring oddness.

Almost everything you need to know about Knock-Knock can be gleaned from one brief anecdote. About halfway through the game I spent one level wandering aimlessly around a darkened house, turning on lights and began to grow pretty bored. Then I opened a door, walked through and found myself in a dank corridor which I had to wander up and down through a series of more doors before discovering I was back at the start of the tedious level again. Infuriated, I wanted to stop. But I kept on playing.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/21


This is our new dog Finley. He’s a nine week old Corgi mix. Mom is purebred Corgi, dad is a terrier of some sort. I wanted to name him Chuck Finley, the name of Bruce Campbell’s undercover persona on Burn Notice but the family wouldn’t go for it. Finley was a nice compromise as I can call him Chuck Finley and everyone else can call him Finn if they so desired. He is very tiny and very adorable and very scared of Ruby, his 68 lb sister who thinks that it is the best thing in the world that she has a playmate, even if said playmate is smaller than her admittedly huge, cinder block head.

On the gaming side, this week is superhero heavy which is just fine by me even if I won’t get to either of the week’s big new releases in some time. First up is LEGO: Marvel. I quite enjoyed LEGO Batman 2, but I”m not sure if I want to play another LEGO game at the moment. They all tend to blur into one another so it’s important that I keep them separated by a significant amount of time. On the other side of the superhero universe, Batman: Arkham Origins comes out on Friday. If Arkham Origins ends up being 75% of the game that Arkham Asylum or Arkham City is, I’ll be happy. Again, I can’t say I’ll play it immediately, but if it’s good, I’ll play it. I understand that they have to have continuity with the voices and all that, and Troy Baker does a really impressive Joker but I do wish they could have let him go in whatever direction he wanted. John DiMaggio’s take on the voice in Batman: Under the Red Hood was great precisely because it wasn’t a take I would have expected.

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Runewars Review


Fantasy wargames have a sad history of being far too much wargame and not enough fantasy, tired repetitions of stacking limits and zones of control but with dragons in place of Panzers. Adventure board games, in a similar vein, have always struggled with the inherent problems of making a genre that celebrates individual achievement and massive power differentials into an interactive, strategic form. Runewars seems like Fantasy Flight’s attempt to solve both these problems at one stroke.

Players pick a side, build a board and launch into a fast-paced cycle of season-based turns in an attempt to conquer as many dragon runes as possible. There are various routes for doing so. The time honoured method of annexing territory from your neighbours is one, and that’s your fantasy wargame. Slipping hero figures silently through the massed hordes of your opponents to fulfil quests in different territories is another, and there is your adventure game. Finally there are various events and auctions that can occasionally be manipulated to gain a rune and that’s pure Fantasy Flight, an uneasy but often brilliant mish-mash of old-time game theme with modern-style mechanics.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/14

skylanders swap force shot 1

This week marks the next salvo in the ongoing war between Activision’s toys and portal series Skylanders and Disney’s toys and portal series Disney Infinity. Skylanders SWAP Force¬†features all new “normal” (non swappable) characters as well as a number of characters that let children dismember robots and squid pirates and then mash them back together in some sort of grotesque Frankenstinian parable of man’s audacity at playing God. It also features jumping. Disney’s response to this bold move is to sit back and wait, knowing full well that the day the release the first set of Star Wars toys, retail outlets the world over will be rent asunder. I do not have Skylanders SWAP Force, nor am I feeling the urge to fill my house with more figures, but once the PS4 drops, I’m pretty sure I”ll heed the call of plastic. When it comes to toys I have long since learned not to make predictions about me not buying things.

Valhalla Knights 3 drops for the Vita this week if you want a “gritty” RPG that lets you befriend female shopkeepers. I know that when I think gritty, I think of friendly shopkeepers. In the “games I never see anyone buy yet they keep making them” file we have a new Wipeout game as well as a new Cabela’s game.

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Circus Train Review


Roll up! Roll up for the greatest show on earth! Who doesn’t love a circus? Well, now you get the chance to run your own in Circus Train. Not in the modern day, of course, with its annoying animal welfare laws and societal distaste for freak-show exhibits, but in depression-era America.

This is the second edition of this game. Both it and the original were published by the delightfully cheapskate yet innovative Victory Point Games. Except you wouldn’t know it if this was your first VPG title. In place of the flimsy counters and paper map of the original you’ve now got a mounted jigsaw board and chunky counters. They’re laser cut, so be prepared to wipe a lot of soot off your fingers for the first few games, but they’re worth it for the bargain basement price.

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