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Papers Please shot 1

Papers, Please

Papers Please shot 1

24.11.82 – Today was my first day working as an immigration official at the newly opened border checkpoint in Grestin. I am thankful for the opportunity to help our glorious Arstotzka and monitor the tide of immigrants into our land. It is tedious work, punctuated by brief moments of anxiety as the printer in my station spits out a report of my latest error. Luckily these moments were few and far between and I was able to process enough people to pay for food, heat and rent in our new lodgings. I even had enough left over to save up for the sweets that Piotr loves so much. I am hoping that once he is better, he will be able to appreciate them. Living near the smelting plant for so long may have damaged his lungs beyond repair, but I am hopeful that this position will mark a new start for all of us.

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Eclipse is (Nearly) Ready!

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Eclipse is a wonderful boardgame from designer Touko Tahkokallio. Basically, it’s a Eurofied version of Master of Orion and it won a slew of awards after its release in 2011; it’s generally considered one of the better games of the past few years.

I like Eclipse. But it’s a beast of a game, takes up a lot of room and is one that you need to play several times in order to get a feel for how it works — Eclipse takes practice in order to learn how to play well. And when it comes to boardgames, that can be a slight problem. For some, playing a 4 hour game as a “learning” experience is frustrating because gamers, whether they be inclined to video or cardboard, are not a terribly patient lot.

This is precisely why I can’t wait to play the iOS app of Eclipse, which is ready to go and awaiting approval from Apple ($6.99).  Now, you can play the game, test some strategies, generally learn what the hell you are doing and THEN take that experience to the table. This is also from Big Daddy Creations, who know how to port a boardgame to the app store — Neuroshima Hex, anyone?

I’ll keep you posted when it’s ready for your money. Until then, screenshots!

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Injustice: Gods Among Us in Review

calendar man 4-15 injustice shot 2NetherRealm’s 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat was an unexpected hit- not to mention one of my favorite games of that year- yet the follow up, Injustice: Gods Among Us has still managed to surprise me and in some ways it’s the superior game. Following on from Kombat ’11, it’s a brutal one-on-one fighting game that manages to pull off that very tricky balance between technical, skill-based gameplay and populist accessibility. It’s packed to bursting with (get this) single player content and of course a great roster of fighters including some of the biggest names in the DC Comics universe. That’s right, this is the game that will finally let you put to rest the question, “who would win in a fight between Harley Quinn and Doomsday?” (more…)

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Calendar Man – Week of 4/22

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Yet another glorious spring week is upon us. Well, it’s upon me. Other people may not be in a spring time state of mind, or state of the world. Sorry about that. Spring is rad. You should try it.

This week brings Dead Island: Riptide (360, PS3, PC), which I had hoped would be good but early reviews aren’t promising. It also brings the Star Trek (360, PC, PS3) movie game, which I saw at E3. It did not impress. I have it coming from GameFly, so we’ll see. LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins for the 3DS came out on Sunday, so you can pick that up now if you so desire. Lucky you. I hope to play that soon as Luigi’s Mansion wore out its welcome, SMT: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers didn’t get its hooks in me and Etrian Odyssey IV won’t be here for another day or so. Also this week is Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS3, 360), Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, Poker Night 2 and StarDrive.

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Good is the new Average

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I don’t like rating games, video or board. A good review should manage to encapsulate how you feel about a game without stamping a score at the bottom. Numeric ratings attract attention away from the writing, and have neither the subtlety or nuance to express wider ideas about the value of the game beyond its play, or the reviewer’s tilt.

But I don’t always have the pleasure of writing just as I’d like to, and many of the editors I’ve worked for want scores. Out of five, ten or, worst of all, a hundred. So I dutifully assign a number and try to move on. But I remain haunted by past scores. Is game X really two stars better than game Y? Was I really right to give game Z that score out of a sense of quality, even though I, personally, disliked it?

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Cracked LCD- Relic in Review

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The answer to your first question about Fantasy Flight’s  Relic is “yes, this game is pretty much a mildly redeveloped Talisman with Warhammer 40k illustrations and text”. The answer to your second is “Yes, in some ways it’s actually better than Talisman but not quite as expansive so both are worth having on your shelf.” Thirdly, “No, it’s not any shorter so expect to spend at least three or four hours flipping cards, rolling dice at them, groaning, and laughing.” (more…)

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Where Lost Islands Lost Me

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The game I spend the most time with on my iPad is Lost Islands, the free to play Skylanders game from Activision. I don’t usually play free to play games, in fact, with the exception of Jetpack Joyride, I actively avoid them. Lost Islands was another story though, a story with Skylanders in it. Skylanders has three iOS games and a PC game to tie in to the console games, all of which use the figures used in the console games. Cloud Patrol is a shooting gallery game, Battlegrounds is a hex-based, real time action-RPG and Lost Islands is a free to play, kingdom builder. The fact that you can use your figures across all three games made it all the easier to buy more figures for the main game, not that I needed a reason. I mean, come on, this is me. I don’t need reasons to buy toys, but as reasons go, increased utility is a pretty good one.

As I got more figures, my kingdom grew and grew in the usual free to play way. Characters use energy to go on missions, missions that reward them with gold and experience. Gold buys crops which in turn grow more energy. Gold also buys houses which attract Mabu citizens. The more Mabu you have living on your island, the more public buildings you can have. Public buildings and houses grant your kingdom experience. As your kingdom levels up, you can get better houses and better public buildings. As your characters level up, they can go on longer missions that give bigger rewards. Grafted on to all of this is a quest system that rewards you in money, experience and gems, a multi-purpose currency used to buy special buildings, buy new Skylanders and speed up missions and building construction. Finally, there’s a pretty nice “element of the day” mechanic in which Skylanders that match the element of the day get reward bonuses when completing missions and planted crops that match the day’s elements give additional energy.

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Tuesday Celebrat’n – The I Got Engaged Edition

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I’ll talk about the usual gaming stuff in a minute. I feel a bit of a heel for titling a post as a celebration after what happened in Boston yesterday. This is gaming blog and that’s a tragedy that I’ll only speak of to say that what terrorists –those born within our borders or those without– want is to create fear. You want to beat these people? Keep living your life the way it works for you. Don’t let them make you afraid to walk down the street or board a plane. They are few. We are many. Also, this.

Anyway, the celebrating part is a personal note because I’m happy and excited and that only happens like once or twice a year. (No, not really.) If you’ve been listening to JtS for the past year, you’ve probably heard me drop Michelle’s name here and there. For awhile it’s felt much too small to call her my girlfriend. It was a situation in need of rectification. I had a ring and a plan and it all almost came apart when, after a nice one-year anniversary dinner, we were attacked by a flock of (two) wild geese. I was afraid for my life, but I had a job to do and my bravery must have impressed because now I’ve got myself a fiancee. I’m a happy, lucky man and there’s no question I’ll be marrying above my level.

So… wooooo!  Now, let’s talk games. (Thank you for indulging me.)

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Calendar Man – Week of 4/15

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Hey, you know what’s not much fun? Running cable, that’s what. Thankfully my basement is still unfinished so that I could run network and phone cables to various rooms on the first floor. Plus, I got to learn how to terminate cat-5 cable which will help me out, well, never but I saved about five hundred bucks by doing this myself rather than hiring an electrician, so there’s that.

Oh, right, games. Another superhero fighting game comes out as does a “new” Shin Megami Tensei game for the 3DS. Seeing how I’m about a battle or two away from completing Fire Emblem, I may have to play that one. Then again, Etrian Odyssey IV is first in line, so it may get the nod. As for couch time, I’m in the middle of Gears of War: Judgement. People Can Fly have made some interesting choices with this game, including a nice selection of new weaponry and a scoring system that allows you to take on mission modifiers that makes things more difficult so that you can obtain stars more quickly. Stars unlock things I don’t normally care about, except for an additional campaign mission, but the modifiers are usually interesting enough to be worth it. Plus, People Can Fly know that colors other than brown and grey exist, so they use a more vibrant color palette. Still, in the end, it’s a Gears of War game, with all of the baggage that comes with it. I’m enjoying it, but I’ve certainly played this game before. It’s not a total waste though, as it makes me want to keep seeing work from People May Fly and I’m always down for having developers to keep an eye on.

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Dungeon Command: Blood of Gruumsh & Series Overview

dungeon command blood of gruumsh figures

Inconveniently Wizards of the Coast decided to release five sets for their modular miniatures game Dungeon Command, and I covered the first four in batches of two. So now we’re left with an odd one. However, the good people at WotC informed me this is the last release currently planned, so it seemed a good idea to cap the whole thing off with a series overview.

But first, the new set. It’s called Blood of Gruumsh which, for anyone passingly familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse in which the games belong, will signal orcs. For some reason the orcs in this box are a peculiar shade of blue-gray rather than the green which is universally assumed in other fantasy settings. But aside from that oddity they’re the best figures in any of the Dungeon Command sets: solid, detailed sculpts with pretty reasonable paint jobs.

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