Calendar Man – Week of 1/21

sega E3 preview the cave shot 1

There’s slightly more stuff out this week than last week, but still not enough to warrant more than a paragraph talking about it. Sorry folks, but seeing how another holiday season is right around the corner, fast on the heels of the last one, this is all you get. This week’s two big releases are Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the PS3 and The Cave, coming to a bevy of digital download services near you. I played both of these games at E3 and both are beautiful, very stylish games. Unfortunately, given my current slate of games, I don’t need another 40 hour game. A 2D adventure game, on the other hand, will fit the bill quite nicely. Other stuff comes out too, including the PC release of DmC, ShootMania Storm, Strike Suit Zero and Dawnstar. Yay, PC shooting.

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Dungeon Command Wave 2 Review


You may remember that I wasn’t hugely impressed with the initial releases in the new mix-and-match miniatures skirmish line Dungeon Command from Wizards of the Coast. The absorbing tactics of the maneuver phase had to be counterbalanced against a dull and predictable combat mechanic. But there was potential there, the maddening hint of unfulfilled promise.

Stand-alone games don’t get a second bite at the cherry. But this isn’t a stand-alone game, it’s a series of modular packs meant to combine together and increase your options. And so I thought I’d put the second set of releases, Tyranny of Goblins and Curse of Undeath through their paces to see if they pushed the envelope, did something more impressive with the creative ideas that underpinned the concept.

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Cracked LCD- AEG’s Tempest Games in Review


It’s certainly not unheard of for publishers to concoct settings and “worlds” that connect disparate games along lines of theme or setting but rarely is this approach applied to Eurogame-styled titles. Eurogames, barring expansions, tend to exist in their own universes with no narrative connectivity or resonance between them. AEG, who came up with this crazy idea of creating a “living” game world that would change as a result of organized play and other events in their long-running Legend of the Five Rings CCG, has come forward with a concept that attempts to do exactly that. The product line is called Tempest and the setting is a kind of ersatz Venice circa the Renaissance, with nominal historical trappings shunted aside in favor of in-game fiction, recurring characters and groups, and generalized themes of control, deceit, treachery, and politics.

Out of the gate, this idea runs into some issues because the games- Love Letter, Dominaire, Courtier, and Mercante- fall in line with the typical thematic expectations of the Eurogame genre, which is to say that narrative and specificity are de-emphasized in favor of mechanics and process. The Tempest idea emerges unfortunately as little more than fluff text and artwork justification, and the overwhelming sense I get from these titles is that none were specifically designed to be Tempest games. Continue Reading…

Playdek on sale this weekend

Playdek interview part one playdek logo

You’ve probably noticed that we here at NoHighScores are big fans of PlayDek’s card and board game to iOS conversions. Well, if you’ve yet to purchase some of their smooth, usable and generally excellent games or are short of a few in-app purchases keep an eye on the app store this weekend when everything PlayDek will be priced at 69p ($0.99 in barbarous foreign currencies). Summoner Wars is particularly good if you’ve yet to take it for a spin, with deck-builders Ascension and Penny Arcade following close behind.

Getting Down and Dirty with NFS:MW

For all of the open-worldedness of Need For Speed: Most Wanted it doesn’t take but a few races around a few blocks to realize that Fairhaven isn’t as random as it looks. Oh sure, while tooling around, traffic looks like it follows random patterns, but when you’re in a race and you scream through a sidewinder turn up in the mountains, that red van will always be there for your crashing needs. It may be up the road a piece or down the road a piece, but it will be there.

It makes sense, as part of learning a route is learning  more than just the turns and straightaways but also learning the obstacles, but it does take some of the magic away to know that when you crest that hill in the oncoming lane, you best switch lanes quickly lest you take out that hatchback that’s cursed to drive that stretch of road forever. One of the best things about Driver: San Francisco was how some of the events had to be completed within the random flow of traffic, meaning that when you had to cross those eight lanes of highway traffic, you may hit a blessed empty spot or you may hit a wall of buses.

Thankfully, NFS:MW still has plenty of ways to mess with you, and all of the memorizing in the world won’t help, not when it’s a windshield full of dust slowing you down.

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On Boredom and Looking Ahead to 2013

This is the time of year when everybody and their brother coughs up a games they are looking forward to list. (Well,  it was when I wrote the initial draft of this post.) We didn’t have much of that here, but certainly it’s come up on Jumping the Shark. The thing is, for me and video games, there’s not much I’m looking ahead to. I mean I’m sure there will be stuff I play and stuff that, as the year proceeds, I’ll get excited about playing, but I’m as bored to tears these days with the Video Game Preview Circus as I am with the rest of the industry. It’s been a recurring theme this past year that there’s plenty enough going on in the present that precludes me from having any desire to spend time getting amped up about gaming projects that I may or may not see in the next 6 to 12 months.

“Dear, Gaming Industry,” as the cliché goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Except, well, it’s you…

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #158

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Image: Filomena Scalise /

Jumping the Shark #158 features Bill’s initial steps into the 15-play marathon that is Risk: Legacy, the only boardgame I’ve ever heard of that comes with an expiration date (sort of). I also talk cardboard bits this week, having introduced my family to King of Tokyo, Dungeon, and Survive: Escape From Atlantis. All three were big hits in the Brakke household and you’ll want to know all about that. Brandon carries the torch for actual video games, continuing his freewheeling ways with Need for Speed: Most Wanted and digging deeper into Revolutionary War conspiracy with Assassin’s Creed III. Finally, we wrap up with a lengthy discussion about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that sees Bill and I agree on virtually all the finer points, while coming to completely different conclusions.


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Calendar Man – Week of 1/14

The relative dearth of new releases continues this week with DmC leading a very small pack of new games. DmC (PS3, 360) is the reboot of Devil May Cry, a franchise in which I have no skin, so go ahead Capcom, darken his hair and do whatever you want to the guy. Means nothing to me. I downloaded the demo, so we’ll see how that goes. Borderlands 2 gets Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, a piece of content I won’t play due to the level cap still being at 50, and Crusader Kings II gets The Republic expansion pack. Old school dungeon crawler Wizardry goes online  and the PSP continues to get some love with Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.

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The Tyranny of Challenge

Like most middle-aged gamers, I cut my teeth in the noisy, garish world of coin-op arcades. When each play costs anew, game designers and manufacturers had a vested interest in making them tough. Not too tough to put off potential gamers, but enough to require repeated coins pumped through the slot.

It was a delicate balancing act but we lapped it up, living for those sweaty moments of exquisite agony where new and unexpected situations taxed your muscle memory and you twitched instinctively over the joystick. Trying desperately to keep that personalised bunch of mindless pixels on the screen burning brightly for one second longer, fired with the knowledge that pocket change isn’t that easy to come by when you’re a teenager.

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Cracked LCD- Star Wars LCG in Review



Fantasy Flight Games struck Star Wars paydirt in 2011 with X-Wing, and right there at the end of the year the company released its second Lucasfilm-blessed product, a Star Wars-themed Living Card Game. Announced some time ago, it had a somewhat troubled development with the original design hewing by most accounts fairly close to Nate French’s co-op concept for 2010’s Lord of the Rings card game. With Eric Lang billed as the designer, the title is now a rather traditional two player, competitive card game. Fortunately for Star Wars fans and the rehabbed CCG set,  it’s a really good one that follows X-Wing’s lead in sticking close to classic source material (with just a smattering of Expanded Universe material). Continue Reading…