Cracked LCD- Themedome: Tammany Hall vs. Five Points

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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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Jumping the Shark Episode #191

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On this week’s episode of Jumping the Shark the gang is all in and we’re going card hunting. Is Card Hunter, this free-to-play old D&D-inspired card based game, as good as advertised or is it just another momentary diversion in a time where’s there’s a legion of other time-wasters out there. We’re all weighing in and we’re all on different parts of the fence over it. Who’s the guy who can’t stand the kitschy humor? Who is that doesn’t much care for the free versus pay model? And which one of us is it that can’t seem to get past the mini-dragon guys?

Also this week, Breaking Bad, 9th grade girls basketball shenanigans, and your very own home seller’s update. Don’t every accuse of us of not covering gamut.

Enjoy!

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/23

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GTA V left a pretty big hole in the release calendar, unless you like soccer and Scribblenauts, so there’s not a whole heck of a lot coming out this week. Those interested in picking up the HD remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker need only pick up a fancy Wii U bundle to do so. If you already have a Wii U, you can either download it already or wait until October to buy a physical copy.

If you like soccer, football, whatever, this is your week. You get to choose between PES 14 (PS3, 360) and FIFA 14 (360, PC, PS3). Decisions, decisions. For those who love superheroes and adjectives, Scribblenauts Unmasked (3DS, Wii U) gives you the opportunity to make your very own mopey Batman, zombie Superman or puce Green Lantern. I have no idea if any of those things are possible so don’t get mad at me if you can’t although “mopey Batman” is redundant.  In remake news, Shadow Warrior gets a release if you’ve been itching to return to that particular IP. Kalypso lets you rise as a Venetian in Rise of Venice, Garry has an incident in Day One: Garry’s Incident and aliens rage in Alien Rage.

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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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Cracked LCD- Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia in Review

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Plaid Hat Games’ first licensed title, designed by Issac Vega (City of Remnants) is Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia, based on 2K Games’ hit video game 2K Games’ Bioshock Infinite. This is a huge property for the company, representing a product  has an enormous potential audience including lots of consumers that will buy this game simply because it’s a Bioshock product. For fans of this beloved-by-everyone-but-me video game there is plenty to relish. The game is lovingly appointed with the game’s painterly, Maxfield Parrish-inspired visual style and the fan service is thick.

But differentiating itself from its digital surce material, there’s an interesting shift in perspective. Gameplay is removed from the first-person perspective of protagonist Booker DeWitt and his ammo mule/mystery girl Elizabeth. The scope widens to explore the larger story of conflict between the floating city Columbia’s Founders and the rebellious Vox Populi.

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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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Jumping the Shark Episode #190

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s another Bill and Todd show this week on Jumping the Shark. This week we turn our attention back to Paradox’s game of strategic intrigue and outright blundering, Crusader Kings 2. Find out why Bill has a firm grasp on his little corner of Scotland and me… well, my turn ruling in Ireland has had its issues. We also talk Creative Assembly and the fiasco that has been their release of Total War: Rome 2. And Bill has yet another new gig. Find out what makes this one different from all the rest and will surely launch him on the road to stardom!

Enjoy!

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/16

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This will be a good week if you’re looking forward to playing GTA V (PS3, 360) as it drops on Tuesday but it will be a bad week if you’re into intelligent discussion about GTA V as I’m sure it will be near impossible to find, drowned out in a sea of complaints that scores are too high, scores are too low, this person got paid, it’s not on PC and so on and so forth. I like Rockstar games, warts and all, so I’m happy to get back into the swing of things, even if not being able to rocket through the streets and leap tall buildings will make getting around more difficult and less fun.

In other news, Nintendo continues to show a complete and utter lack of respect of the Tuesday release date by dropping The Wonderful 101 on Sunday. MechWarrior Online goes “live” on Tuesday despite having been around for a year so strap in and unleash all your hellfire missiles in celebration. Infinity Blade III also releases this week but after having played the first two, I think I’ve swiped and dodged as many enemies as I can. The Infinity Blade games are very good looking but the repetitive nature just doesn’t do it for me. I wish they hadn’t canceled the ARPG they were building as that would have held my interest. I’m sure they’ll do just fine without my purchase.

Last week I forgot to mention that Card Hunter released. That was my bad. You should play it. It’s rad.

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Dear Esther: Down in the Deep

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Last week I found myself in a twitter conversation about Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs which lead on to the previous game from its developers, Dear Esther. I offered two statements about Dear Esther, first that it was full of faux-intellectualism and second that it wasn’t particularly “deep”, both of which my conversant challenged. I couldn’t really answer properly in 140 character bites, but I think there are some interesting enough questions around this to merit wider discussion.

First, let’s talk about Dear Esther. If you haven’t played it, it’s a first-person experience in which you wander around a small island, triggering a selection of different voice snippets that hang together into a maddeningly incomplete narrative. There’s no enemies, no puzzles and you’re largely on rails, although there are occasional opportunities for exploration. So that narrative, which draws from a very large selection of passages and is different on each play through, makes up much the game’s value.

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