Cracked LCD- Monster Derby in Review

monster derby 2014

A few years back when the Japanese roll-and-move rumble Magical Athlete was making the rounds, my friend Frank Branham pulled this esoteric and extremely ugly game from the deepest recesses of his voluminous game collection. He said it was a lot like Magical Athlete, and he wasn’t kidding. This 1994 title had a similar “racing monsters with special powers ” concept but it was slightly more complex with die-rolling combat, terrain effects and a mutual control scheme whereby players secretly try to maneuver their win, place and show picks to earn points when- or if- they finish. I was surprised to see that the game was designed by Jeff Siadek, who has become known in recent years for a couple of really good small press titles such as Battlestations, Lifeboat and World Conquerors. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #206

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alright, listen up. We have a new episode of JtS. It’s #206. That means… well it means Brandon and I talk about stuff. You know the drill. This week Brandon admires Hitman GO to an extent with which I’m not entirely comfortable . He also completes his Bravey Default adventures and begins a foray into Hearthstone (iOS). (One that I, with much regret, have since joined.) I’m also not quite done with my adventures in FTL: Advanced Edition land. This week I get into more of what I think works best and the stuff that feels a little off-balance. (Spoiler: There’s not much.) Finally, we wrap with a big-time, spoiler lamp is majorly lit, discussion of Captain America: The Winter Solder and its affects on the rapidly improving Agents of SHIELD.

It’s all here. Come get some.

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Cracked LCD- Hearthstone (IOS) in Review

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After a lengthy public beta, a general release on PC and Mac and then an agonizingly long one week delay following a “soft launch”, Blizzard’s much-ballyhooed Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has finally hit the platform that could potentially make this free-to-play collectible card game a phenomenon. Hearthstone on iPad is a masterful implementation of a masterfully designed game rich with the kind of polish, refinement and attention to detail that has qualified Blizzard’s best work reaching back to the very first Warcraft. Bar none, Hearthstone is the best card game available on IOS and it may just be one of the most significant examples of video games finally repaying all of that debt they’ve had to tabletop games for all of these years. Continue Reading…

Wiz-War: Malefic Curses Review

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Wiz-War makes me angry. I get angry when I have the wrong cards, when the dice fall wrong, when the wrong people gang up on me. But that’s good anger. The bad anger is all the years I spent not playing this great game while it was out of print, until Fantasy Flight picked up the license for an eight edition. Now, in true Fantasy Flight style, there’s an expansion: Malefic Curses.

The box contains a board and pieces for a fifth player and three new schools of magic. A lot of people have been waiting for this largely for that fifth participant, but I’m not one of them. Wiz-War is a pretty chaotic game, and works best when clipping along at a premium pace. Five, I think, is too many. The additional interaction is fun, of course, but it’s not enough to compensate for the extra downtime.

Still, the fact that the new board is purple is a bonus since it now means no-one has to play the urine yellow mage from the base game when you’re playing with four. So it’s not all bad.

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Cracked LCD- Hey Kid, Wanna “Back” a Copy of Catacombs?

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I recently had a moment of weakness. I failed a saving throw and started thinking about “backing” a Kickstarter “project” despite my sincere reservations and general animosity toward the shift the hobby and video gaming industry has made toward crowdfunding everything. I’m not quite sure how gaming consumers could not be tired of the seemingly endless parade of vaporware products sold on cute videos, pictures of prototype miniatures, a phony sense of exclusivity and of course the nonsense notion that you are somehow supporting creators’ dreams rather than just paying up front for a product that may or may not meet expectations. It’s a sad day and age when all of these carpetbagging hucksters shilling zombie dungeon crawl tactical skirmish miniatures games (with REAL metal coins) are making a kind of money that has eluded the hobby industry for a couple of decades now by selling games based on “stretch goals” rather than product quality and company reputation. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #205

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandon and I are back for Jumping the Shark #205. And there was much rejoicing. This week I go soul-reaping with the new Diablo 3 expansion. Brandon has a Second Son and he’s already Infamous, which I believe makes him so famous that he’s, like, more than famous. He’s in famous. Pretty awesome. (And points for you if you know the reference.) There’s also much talk of FTL: Advanced Edition, even more Bravely Default, and we part with a secret that will shake the very foundations of your reality. The Abner? Yeah, we made him up this whole time.

Minds, blown.

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Cracked LCD: The Mushroom Eaters in Review

 

mushroom eaters boardNate Hayden’s The Mushroom Eaters is a very limited release from micropublisher Blast City Games. You might remember Mr. Hayden from the ravishingly grim black metal brawl Cave Evil from a couple of years ago. He’s shifted gears with this release, producing one of the most profound, transcendental gaming experiences I have ever had in a lifetime of playing games.  When I call this game “challenging”, I don’t mean that it’s tough to beat or that the rules are complex. I mean that its theme and the way the subject matter engages the player is especially demanding and in a way that isn’t just rare in the games medium- it’s almost nonexistent. I don’t know that I’ve ever played a more provocative and daring game that risks everything- including core notions of “fun” and “competition”- to illustrate what is ultimately a journey of the mind, body and spirit. And yes, this game is about tripping on psychedelic mushrooms as the title suggests. Continue Reading…

FTL Tips and Strategies

Note: I originally published this article in September of 2012. I haven’t updated it for the Advanced Edition, but with Advanced Edition and the iOS port out today, I thought it worth a bump back up to the front page. Most of the advice herein remains accurate. I’ve only just begun to mess with the AE on iOS, but hopefully (maybe, maybe, maybe) I’ll have some new thoughts to post on it next week. Possibly. I think.  

I am, very likely, the last person on Earth who should be writing tips guides for gamers. Nonetheless, I’ve put in enough time and spectacularly destroyed enough starships (along with going 2 for 2 in victories on Easy) that I feel I can offer you, dear reader, the chance to learn from my mistakes. Without further adu, I present to you 15 tips for surviving to the final boss in FTL:

Continue Reading…

Diablo 3 is Still The Same Old Waste of Time

Diablo 3 Reaper

In the past month the world of Diablo 3 has seen some tectonic shifts. The Auction House closed. Along with it, Blizzard implemented a massive patch, Loot 2.0, which has had enormous consequences for the (virtual) world economy. Oh yeah, and last week they released the new Reaper of Souls expansion that included a new class, a new act, and a new mode of play. If you’re a lapsed Diablo 3 player, like me, you might be inclined to jump back into the game and see what all the hub-bub is about. You’d be a fool to do so. You see, you’ve already got a fool right here at NHS willing to do that. The things I do so that you don’t have to.

After the break, no need to thank me…

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Kickstart This: Chaos Reborn

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Those among you who are long-nailed and hoary-bearded enough to remember my initial posts on NHS may recall my fond reminiscences concerning an 8-bit strategy game called Chaos. I’m not sure how well known it was outside the UK, but its pedigree is sufficient that it’s well known among prominent games journalists this side of the pond and is a common target for fan remakes.

But the fan remakes can go stuff themselves, because the real thing is about to be updated. Its designer, Julian Gollop whose name you’ll likely recognise from the XCOM remake is kickstarting a modern sequel, Chaos Reborn.

I want to play this game. I need to play this game. I haven’t desired a game with such fervour since the manic buildup to Half-Life 2. But it looks like I might need your help to get it, since the kickstarter still needs about $65k with 15 days to go. Rarely have I despaired more of the tastes of the modern gamer.

Go back it now. I thank you. And when you get the game, you’ll probably thank yourself.

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