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The New Science Overdrive

Today was an interesting day.

It started off with Kickstarter promoting our boardgame The New Science as “Project of the Day.” I assume by the time some of you read this it will no longer BE “of the day” but as I type this…yep…there it is front and center on


It was followed by distributors contacting me wanting to carry the game. Funny how that works, eh? A few hours later we zoomed past our $15,000 goal and we’re currently sitting a tick over 17 grand with three weeks left in the campaign.

Surreal 2x.

Last weekend I was able to show the game off to the masses at Buckeye Game Fest, a small local con with a solid core audience. Richard Launius was there but I never got to meet him. Damn it. But The New Science was a clear hit. People are digging the theme, even the die rolling–sometimes the absolute bane of hardline Eurogamers– fits the theme so well than they don’t seem to mind. I tell you it’s crazy town.

I still need to write the Dark Souls PC review, which is coming along, even though I haven’t technically “finished” the PC version and have yet to see the new content. GFWL really hurts this game, but it’s impossible to not recommend. I’m also playing Borderlands 2, which I find fun, if a bit formulaic at this point. EA didn’t send me FIFA so I’m not covering it. Atlus is sending the new Sherlock Holmes game which Brandon can dig into as soon as I send it to him.

I have a demo for Card Hunter which I need to get to as well. That looks so damn cool, I just need to find the time to get into it. So I am alive, just sort of lacking the time to do a lot of game writing at the moment.

Oh, as for “other” boardgames, the new Star Wars X-WING minis game is freaking amazing. A-MAZE-ING. Yes it’s ridiculously overpriced and is a clear money sink (FFG knows this game…and knows it well) but hot damn if this isn’t awesome. It’s a pretty simple game but it’s exactly what I want out of a Star Wars combat game.

I defy any group to play this game without at least ONE “Stay on target!” quote coming out of someone’s mouth.

Introducing The New Science

As I continue to make my way through my second Dark Souls playthrough (review coming this week but if you don’t already have this game then there’s just no hope for you) I have a special announcement today as Conquistador Games has launched a Kickstarter campaign for The New Science (TNS).

Before I get into what TNS is all about, I promise that we are not just making boardgames set in the 17th century.

Anyway this is a worker placement/area control game set during the Scientific Revolution.Whereas Road to Enlightenment is this big, somewhat sprawling combination of deck building and Diplomacy, The New Science is a quicker play designed to take about 60-90 minutes for 2-5 players. Well, technically, 2 to 5. Ideally this is a game that is best played with 3 to 5 players.

I had more of a hand in developing this one, and had a much larger role in the rulebook editing so if this rulebook is an issue…you can yell at me. I may yell BACK but you are free to yell.

Speaking of which if you’d like to read the rulebook in PDF form you can do so here at BGG.

OK, here’s what the game is about:

You control one of five famous scientists from the era (Newton, Galileo, etc.), each of which has slightly different “stats” in researching, experimenting, and publishing. The game is played on what is essentially a large tech tree full of important discoveries from the era. Each player attempts to earn prestige (victory points) by first researching, then successfully experimenting on, and finally publishing their works on a specific discovery. The trick here is that when you do decide to publish, every other player can take your findings and build on them, racing up that part of the tech tree (in this case they literally read your book) so deciding when to publish is a key part of the game.

There’s more going on as well with “happening” cards that throw a monkey in the wrench and other areas in which you can spend your limited energy each turn. You are only allowed three actions per turn so deciding where to use them is a big part of the game.

So take a look, see what you think, ask me any questions either here or at my CQ email address

Back the project so my family doesn’t starve. Think of the children.

NHL 13 Review

You have heard this all before.

“We rebuilt everything from the ground up!”

It’s the most common mantra when it comes to yearly sports games. Well, that and “we have added thousands of new animations!” which very well might be true but when in fact you may end up actually noticing maybe a dozen or so.

It’s the nature of the 12 month release cycle beast. You need a new hook to get both old and new players interested in what is essentially the same game you played or are still playing from last year.

NHL 13 is no different, really. In this case, however, the hook works.

If you’re a casual player of this franchise, many of the gameplay changes won’t smack you across the chops. However, more ardent fans of NHL will most certainly not only see but perhaps even struggle to get accustomed to the new skating model, which EA is dubbing as “True Performance Skating”. In this case, the “new from the ground up” thing may actually be true.

This is by far the most immediately significant change since EA added the right thumb skill stick. Skating is now physics based. This is according to EA; I have no idea if it’s true or not. I do know that some of the tricks you used to pull in NHL12 will not work anymore because the skating is so very different.

Zipping down the ice at full speed only to stop on a dime and deke the goalie?

Uh, no.

Changing direction like an NBA point guard? Making tight turns without losing any speed? Making a perfect pass into the slot at full speed? Not unless you’re a puck magician.

This may sound like just a neat feature but in truth it’s a staggeringly important one. Getting the skating model down is a baseline feature that needs to be good otherwise you simply have an arcade hockey game not grounded in some sort of reality. The kicker is that it’s not until you play NHL 13 and then go back to NHL 12 that you see just how wildly different it is both in theory and in practice. The new model affects fatigue, shooting, penalties – basically the entire game because skating is the foundation of the sport. It especially changes defensive philosophy because freelancing is now a VERY dangerous tactic. Being forced to play positional hockey in a videogame is a first.

It’s not perfect – you’ll still see too many puck handling miracles from time to time and I swear there are times when I can feel that a CPU goal is coming minutes before it happens regardless of what I do. I have no way to prove this, but the AI build up is unmistakeable. The simple fact is that NHL 13’s gameplay does take the franchise up a notch, and this is a franchise that ever since it introduced the right stick shooting mechanic has been top of its class, crushing 2K to the point of submission.

You are still going to need to tinker with the gameplay sliders a bit – particularly the passing and receive sliders because tape to tape passing is alive and well in NHL 13, which is a shame, but at least you can mess with the settings to get a little less predictability. Still, no sports game makes you tightly grip your gamepad, use body-English or give an exasperated sigh when the opposing goalie makes another wicked save than the NHL franchise. It has a real penchant for causing some high stress moments – particularly when playing against a buddy in the same room.

There are two new modes: one is NHL Moments Live, which lets you recreate classic NHL moments to see if you can change history. I find these types of modes in sports games fabulous wastes of time.

GM Connected mode allows up to 750 players to play in a worldwide league – 750. There was a time when something like this would have made me pass out from the possibilities of playing in such a format, but fact is, I don’t have time for modes like this anymore. I fiddled with it and it’s clearly full of unlimited potential for a hockey geek, but I find myself continually going back to Ultimate Hockey Team.

For whatever reason, the card collecting mini game (something I usually hate in a videogame) totally clicks with me in NHL. It lets me sit down and play a few games, buy some new cards, and go about my day. That’s about all I have time for these days and HUT is a perfect way for me to play and the new interface changes to it are a welcome addition.

It is getting more difficult each season for EA to convince people to pony up $60 for a new sports game but when you consider the fundamental changes that NHL13 has added, going back to NHL 12 isn’t an option–and making the old version obsolete is about all you can ask for in a yearly update.

Madden 13 Early Hours Impressions

I have had a retail copy of Madden 13 for about a week now and while my time has been limited of late I have managed to play about 10-12 games and fiddle a little with the Connected Career mode.

So, below are some rapid fire style impressions, certainly not a “review” as I’m not ready to write that yet.

My impressions thus far are based solely on All-Pro level, no slider adjustments.

  • It looks fine. I am rarely one to go all crazy about graphics and this one looks fine. Looks like Madden.
  • There are a shocking number of new animations and as a result it plays like a different game; this Infinity Engine change is evident the minute you start playing. You can hit receivers literally in stride. It looks, in that regard, more like football than any Madden game, ever. There is no more Magic Bullet physics when passing. Everything looks and behaves pretty darn accurately. I haven’t seen anything physics related that looked like a clear case of “videogame” physics. Not saying there aren’t some issues but I haven’t seen any.
  • I love that receivers can get jammed on the line and the better ones can escape the jam and get wide open as a result.
  • In fact, the passing game as a whole I really enjoy. Dropped passes, passes thrown into tight coverage that before were auto-incompletions as passes would bounce off hands, helmets, whatever. You can really thread the needle now.
  • The run game, as a user, isn’t bad. The runners feel a little tiff but it’s still entertaining and the blocking feels extremely well done.
  • The issue, thus far, is the CPU. The CPU run logic is not good. I see far too many cases when a RB gets caught on a lineman or has a CLEAR lane and instead weaves into its own man for no gain. I do not FEAR a good RB right now —
    even playing as Cleveland. And Cleveland hasn’t had a good run defense since the first Clinton administration. Again, this is without slider tweaks but on base All-Pro, not so much.
  • I played a week 1 game against Philly and the Eagles had a total of 112 yards of offense as Cleveland won 20-0. At NO TIME did I feel threatened by Philly’s offense. Again…playing as Cleveland, that should simply never happen or it should be crazy rare. So much of this stems from both weird playcalling and bad running lane logic.
  • When I want to choose a play why can’t I see the down and distance? If i choose gameflow and change my mind and backj out..I can no longer see it.
  • No more Collinsworth. Win.
  • Looking for realistic penalties? Keep looking. Nothing to see here.
  • Connected Career shows ENORMOUS potential. This has Josh Looman’s fingerprints all over it. It looks incredibly deep and I hope there are no killer bugs the deeper I go because after the pre-season and a couple of weeks of the regular season I am loving this stuff. Only problem? It SCREAMS PC interface. There is a LOT to look at in this mode and therefore there’s a tom of screens and sub screens. I need a mouse, a keyboard and an excel-style interface. Some people don’t mind this stuff but I despise doing this level of management on a console. But the RPG style design is so cool it might just be worth it. You can get sucked into this mode for hours, seriously. It’s clearly been designed by a football fan. If you liked what NFL Head Coach was trying to do, well, here you go.

So, thus far, I like it. It’s rough im spots,; it’s not the revolutionary step that NHL took a few years back with shot stick, but it’s a direction the franchise needed to go as the old engine was…damn old. Question is, do you want to pay $60 for potential? When it works Madden 13 is a blast but when the CPU looks like the Bad News Bears of the makes it hard to get into.

I can see online franchises being ridiculously fun with the Connected Careers in full effect. If I had the time to do that these days it would be an auto buy because most of the issues I see are AI related.

So, Now What?

This has been a rather surreal week.

Over a week ago, last Monday to be exact, I started my new job as Director of Conquistador Games, a company that develops and publishes boardgames. If you have been reading No High Scores for any length of time, you know we’re all boardgamers to some degree — from the fanatical to the Brandon. So the idea of running the day to day of a company that deals in boardgames…well that’s something I couldn’t pass up.

However over the past week or so, I have played precisely zero videogames. Well, that’s not entirely true: I am still playing my online Summoner Wars matches, but that’s it. I remain hooked on that game despite my ineptness. It’s very odd — these types of tactical games are normally right in the sweet spot of the bat for me, but I continue to lose a LOT. I think I’m 8-15? I’m a friend list target.

My Xbox hasn’t been turned on in two weeks. My PC has been used solely for Firefox, Adode InDesign, Word, and Email.

(Again I am technically lying as I continue to run our OOTP 13 baseball league.)

But for the first time since the Clinton years, I spent a week that I wasn’t on vacation not following the videogame industry in any way, shape or form. If anything went down last week — I missed it. I am somewhat grateful to the fact that it remains a downtime for new releases and Steam Sale aside, there isn’t a lot going on at the moment. That will certainly change in August.

Dark Souls on the PC. Enough said.

But what does the Director of a new game company actually do? Yeah, see, I wasn’t sure either. Turns out, so far at least, a little bit of everything.

Still, it was a bit strange not playing anything plugged into a wall.

I certainly played a lot of stuff this week, though, all in cardboard and plastic form. Over the past week I have playtested The New Science (our latest game that is currently still in development), taught people how to play Lancaster (a brilliant worker placement Euro), lost a game of Olympos (got crushed actually), watched helplessly as my monster got trounced in King of Tokyo, and tried out the new Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders. I also traded Quarriors for yet another worker placement game called Fresco. Hooray! I have been in a serious Eurogame mode of late. It’s like Barnes and his JRPG thing. Hard to explain.

Oh, and I also taught myself how to play Macao.

So, a Director just plays boardgames all day!

OK, not really. There is much to be done and I have been exceedingly busy, which is why I haven’t been posting much.That WILL change once I start playing games again but in the meantime:

  • The CQ website needs an overhaul. I am starting to learn the CMS but there’s a lot of work to be done here from basic updating with our current designs to getting the store to work.
  • I have been editing The New Science manual, which is another high priority as the game nears completion. If CQ Games has bad instruction manuals, well, we can’t have that.
  • We’re also getting another Kickstarter campaign, this time for The New Science, prepared for the coming weeks.
  • We are also gearing up for WBC and getting the Kickstarter orders for Road to Enlightenment ready to go. This is going to be a long trip but I’m looking forward to it.
  • Speaking of — if you are in the Lancaster, PA area on August 3rd or 4th stop by the Academy Games booth. We are sharing their booth this year at the Con and I’ll be there in full Company Man mode, talking Road to Enlightenment and we may also be showing off Pocket Armies: Red Storm.

So a rather busy week. This does not include a trip to a chiropractor in yet another attempt to fix my neck/arm/hand nerve issues. That was wild. I have never heard my neck crack like that.

But I will close with puppies.

Jack and Monty came home last night and we have some great pictures of the little devils. They are full brothers and have been a blast so far. We have been visiting them for the past month so they already know us to some degree.

Little brown furballs of awesome.