Thrower’s Tally: Board & iOS Games of 2012

It’s the time of year for lists. Lists of things from the year that’s about to end. Most especially of things that you’ve found to be of surpassing excellence. I am no dissenter, no maverick, not strong enough to resist the pull of seasonal traditions. So here is mine.

Thanks to my slot at Gamezebo I feel, for the first time ever, qualified to make not one list but two. Both in the same article, o lucky reader! First there will be my favourite iOS games of the year, and then my favoured board games. With so much to write there is no longer time for seasonal waffle and chit-chat. On with the picks.

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Cracked LCD- Battle of the Bulge (IOS) in Review

I’ve only had the game for a couple of days, but after playing it almost constantly through the week I’m already prepared to tell you that Shenandoah Studio’s Battle of the Bulge is the new standard as far as IOS boardgaming goes. Unlike the many ports we’ve seen of popular tabletop games or downscaled PC-style wargames like Battle Academy, Battle of the Bulge is a ground-up tabletop design by veteran designer John Butterfield that just happens to be on your iPad instead of rendered in cardboard chits. It’s a digital-only, low complexity area impulse wargame in the classical sense, and it is just about the most accessible and immediately appealing one in any format I’ve played in many years. This is it folks, this is the flashpoint game that makes wargaming a very modern, very real proposition for the tablet generation. Continue Reading…

The Holiday Plans

Today is my last day of “work” (put in quotes due to the fact that I’m getting absolutely nothing done today), before taking almost two weeks off to spend with my family over the holidays. I’d like to say that I’m going to spend that time doing nothing but lounging around and playing games, but alas, my time will instead be spent following the steps below:

Step 1: Pick up Transformer.
Step 2: Wrap Transformer carefully in newsprint.
Step 3: Place wrapped Transformer in moving box.
Step 4: Repeat for the next several hundred Transformers.

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Rayman Legends Demo Impressions

Last night, I had my first “wow” experience with Nintendo’s new Wii U console. It wasn’t with any of the late-to-the-party ports or even a first-party offering. It was with the demo for Ubisoft’s upcoming Rayman Legends, now available for download. It’s just three levels, but it’s one of the most exciting, refreshing, and innovative gaming experiences I’ve had all year. It’s heartfelt, beautiful, and genuinely whimsical in a way that no cheapjack indie clone coasting along on fake 8-bit chic or even Nintendo’s own nostalgic Super Mario Bros. Wii U is. It’s joyful, full of love for video gaming and without a trace of the kinds of commercial cynicism or insulting lowest-common-denominator condescension that have become endemic in the industry. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #155

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark #155 brings back the Brakke and Cackowski-Schnell Hour of Power, while Bill coughs and wheezes his way back to health from whatever demon germ took hold of him. This week we devote ourselves to discussing some early impressions of the iOS implementation of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition (hint: largely positive). Brandon takes a nap with some Sleeping Dogs and also transfers his Skylanders addiction to still another platform (iOS). And I offer some insights from my first Pathfinder play-session in over a year and why I very much dig the Monk character class, even if I ended up knocked unconscious in one of the first battles out of the gate.

All this and more in this week’s Jumping the Shark!

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Calendar Man – Week of 12/17

This is it folks, the last Calendar Man post of the year. Sure, there will be deals and such from now until the end of the year, but as of Wednesday of this week, I am officially off of the clock for the rest of the year. This week has nothing of note coming out, a pattern I see repeating until I’m back on the shift and I’m fairly certain you can navigate the retail landscape on your own until the New Year.

So yeah, I’ll post something on Wednesday, Bill, Todd and I will do a show on Thursday and then it’s nothing but holiday eating and packing my many, many Transformers to fill my free time. Whee!

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City of Horror Review

City of Horror art

Zombie board games tend to focus, like the films they emulate, on the players surviving by putting up barricades and beating the undead to death with whatever they can find. But if you’ve seen enough horror movies you’ll know there’s a second string, a darker theme where cooperative groups mercilessly pick the weakest member to sacrifice to the shambling hordes so that the others might survive. That’s the grim base on which City of Horror rests.

And grim is the word. There are few games more callous than this. It’s not a game to play with relative strangers. It’s not even a game to play with friends that you can’t rely on not to hold grudges. Players control a variety of characters, spread around a zombie-infested city. Each turn there is a vote in each board area that’s accumulated sufficient zombies. Each character in that area gets to vote for who dies, and the character with the most gets eaten. Gone. No second chances, no dice, nothing. Eliminated.

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Cracked LCD- Hooyah: The Navy SEALS Card Game in Review

A couple of years ago, I played a prototype of an as-yet unpublished game that was essentially a scenario-based dudes-in-a-hall game with a modern, Special Forces theme. The game needed lots of work, but it really made me aware of how underused modern military conflict is as subject matter- at least on the tabletop. You’d think that with the popularity of such themes in video games that there’d be more crossover, but with a few rare exceptions there isn’t anything resembling a tabletop Modern Warfare. When I saw that US Games Systems was releasing a title called Hooyah: The Navy SEALS Card Game, I thought there might be a breakthrough. Unfortunately, the gameplay is closer to Ticket to Ride than Zero Dark Thirty. Continue Reading…

Fluxx Out for iOS

Fluxx, the latest iOS game board joint from Looney Labs and Playdek is currently available in the App Store for the low, low price of $2.99. I haven’t paid much attention to this game while in the toy section at Target, my eye unerringly drawn to Transformers and Skylanders but the mix of weird cards and shifting rules sounds interesting. Offline and online modes support between two and four players with a single player mode against AI opponents, pass and play local multiplayer and asynchronous online play. No idea if all of the expansion decks will be coming to iOS but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Christmas time is soon upon us. Plenty of time to spend at home ignoring one’s family to play iOS card games. Hmm…

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Mini Review

I had planned on doing my usual long form review of Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracles, but alas, I just don’t have it in me. I apologize to my fellow Laytonites out there who feel I’m giving them, and the game, a short shrift.

I know this guy who once said that he’d love Halo if Bungie would only change everything about Halo that makes Halo Halo. That’s kind of where I am with the Professor Layton games right now. The Layton games follow a pretty strict formula of whacky characters, a semi-mystical story that ends up being explained away through non-mystical but no less fantastical means, great puzzles, interesting mini-games and beautiful, hand drawn animation. The puzzles change, the mini games change, the story changes, but everything else remains the same, which is great if you really like the established formula.

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