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Star Wars X-Wing Scum and Villainy Review


Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.

At that moment, I decided I needed Scum and Villainy.

Before this revelation, I’d dismissed it as a cynical marketing gimmick to sell more ships. Especially more Z-95 and Y-Wing models, designs that have languished in popularity since launch. And it is, of course: some of the ship options make that abundantly clear. It’s just that now, it looks like a fun and attractive marketing gimmick rather than a cynical one.

That said, the core set to this new faction, Most Wanted, represents good value for money. You get three ships – two Headhunters and a Y-Wing, all with variant paint schemes – and a slew of upgrade cards. It’s especially good value for Rebel players because, of course, these ships can be used in Rebel squadrons too. All you need is a Rebel version of the ships for the correct pilot base tokens.

As well as having all the cards and tokens for the ships in the box, Most Wanted provides Scum & Villainy branded pilots for some existing ships. One, of course, is the Firespray. Which means, of course, that there’s another Boba Fett pilot card. This version gets rerolls for each enemy within range one.

There are also variants for the unloved HWK-290. While they don’t make that awful ship any better, there are a couple of neat new pilot skills on offer. Who isn’t going to glee at the idea of stealing enemy focus tokens, or of taking stress to cause automatic damage to ion-disabled targets?

These sorts of abilities are emblematic of the feel of Scum and Villainy. Some of the pilots like to fly by themselves, others can pinch tokens off friendly pilots. There’s even an new kind of “illicit” upgrade, which offer nasty surprises to the enemy, like discarding to gain a free 360 degree attack. Flying a Scum squadron feels more like a ragbag collection of selfish individualists than a well-drilled military wing. And that’s exactly how it should be.

For players who are more heavily invested in Imperial ships, the benefits of Most Wanted are more questionable. There’s one or two useful upgrade cards, but nothing special. Some people may want to get in to X-Wing and start off with Scum and Villainy, and for them Most Wanted is an essential starting point. They’ll need at least one or two more ships to build a squad, though.

And what better place to start than with the Starviper. This ship is the reason I was looking for an excuse to get in to Scum and Villainy. Not because it’s overpowered or has unmissable tasty upgrades, just because it’s such a beautiful model. Like some pale, ghostly space butterfly cruising through the cosmos. It might be the best-looking ship in the whole Star Wars canon, and this miniature does it proud.


It’s no slouch in battle, either, although with a high point cost and one shield and four hull, it’s vulnerable to critical hits. To compensate it’s very maneuverable. It also has a new move, Segnor’s loop, with allows the model to about-face after taking a gentle left or right turn.

Segnor’s loop is also available to the only new big ship in the range, the IG-2000 Aggressor. Indeed this beast is incredibly dexterous for its size, also being capable of the standard K-turn, and having three attack and evade dice to boot. The fluff says that this is because the pilots of these ships were bounty-hunting droids, which didn’t need life support. So all the extra space could be filled with engines and weapons. In reality it seems an excuse to make this a small model compared to the other big ships, yet charge the same price.

In addition to that powerful stat line, the IG-20o0 title card has another surprise. Each pilot can use the pilot abilities of every other friendly Aggressor pilot on the board, regardless of distance. This at once creates fascinating tactical opportunities while being an obvious stunt to try and make people buy these models in pairs. I guess it’s just a mercy that at 36 points each, you’re only going to see two in a standard 100 point list. Either avoid this, or be prepared to invest heavily.

Which leaves us with the odd one out, the peculiar Syck Interceptor. At first glance, there’s nothing to recommend this. It’s similar to a TIE fighter, but swaps some speed and maneuverability for one point of shield. The model is ugly, aside from a nice metallic sheen. It’s so obscure that even my Star Wars fan opponent has likely never heard of it.

So what’s the point of them? Well, for two points you can buy the “Heavy Syck” title which allows you to mount a cannon, missile or torpedo option on your strange little ship. That’s not interesting in itself, but it does offer quite incredible flexibility for squad building. If you’re desperate for a particular combo that won’t quite work with the other ships on offer, chances are a Heavy Syck can carry what you need. That still makes it far from an essential purchase for Scum and Villainy players. But having one around might prove handy for creative squad builds.

And that’s the current contents of this wretched hive. At first glace, it’s hard to see why someone would want to run a whole squadron from this faction. Existing players will buy selectively for spare ships and handy upgrades. But without the draw of iconic movie starfighters, these appear destined for collectors only.

Playing with the ships, however, makes it clear where the appeal lies. While the Rebels and Imperials execute their military maneuvers with bland precision, the Scum are full of pomp and flavour. The lack of film tie-ins leaves a blank canvas for you to paint your own characters and stories. Without such obvious co-ordination and killer combos as the existing factions, you might not win quite as many games. But my word, you’ll have a lot of fun trying.

X-Wing Huge Ships Review


We’re used to seeing massively overblown adjectives in game marketing, so much that we probably tune them out automatically. But when Fantasy Flight decided to describe the new big ships for X-Wing as “Huge Ships”, and the play formats that include them “Epic” and “Cinematic”, they weren’t kidding. These things are colossal.

Indeed the Tantive is so enormous that I actually felt embarassed getting it out and putting it on the table, as though I were some rich kid with a box of ridiculously overpriced toys flaunting it in front of his friends.

Which I was, of course, but that just made it worse.

It didn’t help that the Tantive is the uglier of the two models. That’s not FFG’s fault, of course, it’s down to the people who designed the ships for the film. The Rebel Transport is sleek and compact in comparison, and has a lovely assortment of multicoloured containers on its underside. Both, in common with their more modestly scaled companions, are wonderfully sculpted and painted.

For all its clumsy looks, the Tantive is, however, arguably the more interesting ship. But before we look at that, we ought to briefly examine how these things play.

Big ships mean big changes. These beauties have their own special movement templates, range rulers, upgrade decks and all that jazz. From a mechanical point of view there are two stand out changes. The first is that they’re treated a bit like two inter-connecting ships, with the two bases supporting each model translating to a “fore” and “aft” section, each with its own damage deck. In the case of the Tantive this is taken to the extreme of having two ship cards, each with its own upgrades.

The other significant difference is the use of energy tokens in place of weapons. These are an extra resource, accumulated each turn depending on maneuver selection. They can be spent on various interesting things like replacing shields, automatic evade results and perhaps most interestingly granting a free action to nearby friendly ships. The choice of what to spend these on – or, indeed whether to hoard them – is always deliciously difficult.

Yet however much they bring to the game, it needs to be set against the additional burden of rules and token-fiddling required to implement them. The simplicity of X-Wing was one of its joys, and it already required quite a lot of cardboard juggling, so these aren’t welcome changes. I won’t be using these ships every game.

Doubly so because the rules make it very clear that they’re not for every-game use. You’re supposed to either stick with the included scenarios that come with the ships, or use them in “epic play” format. Both require larger than the normal three-foot square play area, needing either four by three or six by three depending on the scenario.

The scenarios in each box can be played individually, or linked together to make a campaign. While some of the scenarios felt a bit long, mostly these are fun, well designed and don’t suffer too much from the rich-get-richer problem that plagues a lot of campaign rules tacked on to what were originally stand-alone games. Both are very good, but I thought the Tantive campaign was the better of the two simply because the rules are less convulted. Also, as I said before, the Tantive is just a more entertaining ship to run.


The reason is very simple: the Tantive is a proper combat ship, while the Rebel Transport is purely a support vessel. It has limited offensive capapbilities from one upgrade, the Slicer Tool, which allows it to do 1 damage to nearby ships with stress tokens, and the transport can burn energy to inflict stress on enemy vessels. It can also wipe out small ships simply by crashing into them, a surprisingly common occurance on a tight board with players used to the forgiving nature of the standard overlap rules.

The Tantive can do that too, however. And it can also field guns. Lots of guns. Lots of big, heavy guns.

Part of me would love to pretend that the fascinating tactical opportunities offered by the Rebel Transport were the best thing about the huge ships. And they are pretty neat: with the right upgrades you can use the Transport as a fire sponge, repair damage, even remove stress and target lock tokens from friendly ships. But I’m too shallow for that. overwhelming firepower was what I always felt was missing from the X-Wing game, and overwhelming firepower is what the Tantive gives you.

There’s no better showcase for this than the first scenario in the Tantive line-up which pits the single behemoth against a swarm of six TIE fighters. I didn’t have six TIE fighters and subbed other TIE models instead, and it was still amazing. This is what X-Wing was made for, nimble fighters zipping back and forth across a sluggish colossus as it tries to smash them with turret-mounted turbolasers and quad cannons and all the other cool stuff that comes in the box.

I don’t dount that FFG know this perfectly well, and put a premium price tag on the Tantive as a result. But both ships are fantastic additions to the X-Wing lineup, even only to see them drifting serenely across the starry void amongst your tiny fighters. If you’re a regular X-Wing player, you need one of these, and if the Transport makes more monetary sense, you can be sure of being very happy with your purchase.

X-Wing Wave 2 Review

X-Wing big ships - firespray and falcon

If an evil genius were to invent a machine to suck money directly from the bank accounts of gamers, it’d look a lot like the X-Wing miniatures game. If he were to go back and tinker with it, seeking to make to terrifyingly irresistible, and add the power to suck in non-gaming Star Wars fans too, it’d look a lot like the wave 2 miniature releases.

There are four new ships to add to your collections. The Empire gets Boba Fett’s Slave-1 and the four-cannon TIE interceptor while the Rebels resist them with the A-Wing fighter and, of course, the one we’ve all been waiting for: the Millenium Falcon.

I have to admit I passed on Slave-1. Ever since I was a small boy, watching Empire Strikes Back on the cinema screen in slack-jawed amazement, I always thought it looked ugly and ungainly. And as a big ship, it’s pretty pricey. I’ll probably pick it up at some point for all the usual, tedious, nerdy reasons: completeness and a cool-sounding scenario. But for now you get reviews of the other three.

X-Wing TIE Interceptor

We’ll start with the lone Imperial ship that remains: the TIE interceptor. It only featured briefly in the original trilogy films so, unsurprisingly, you don’t get any big-name pilots or upgrades. What you do get is an astonishingly flexible ship. It’s a TIE fighter with an extra attack dice, and a new “boost” feature which allows you to make a 1-length straight or banking move after it’s normal move.

Think about that a moment. It’s still got the TIE barrel roll ability, alongside its speed and agility rating. It might be fragile without shields, but It’s a hard ship to pin down into a firing arc, never mind actually hit. And as long as it survives that extra firing dice ensures it can dish it right back to its tormentors. The mere existence of this ship should be warning to Rebel commanders to pack more missiles.

Not being a huge Star Wars nerd, I’m confused as to why the wave 1 TIE ships were pale gray, but the interceptor is dark blue. Otherwise you’ll know what to expect from another figure using the basic TIE chassis.

X-wing A-wing

Oddly, while the Imperial side gets a fighter that’s approaching the terms of an X-Wing in terms of firepower and utility, the Rebels get the equivalent of a TIE fighter in the A-Wing. To my astonishment it’s actually slightly more maneuverable than the Imperial mainstays, having the same dial but with one extra green action. It has shields, but only two, and a paltry hull at the same value.

Continuing with the similarities, it can’t barrel roll but it has the same boost ability as the Interceptor, which is almost as useful, and it has the same agility value. But unlike most imperial ships the A-Wing can carry missiles. Given it’s relatively cheap point cost, loading these things up with warheads and unleashing first-attack hell looks like a viable strategy.

The model for this is so tiny that I actually felt slightly cheated by the price when I first saw it. But of course a few gram of plastic isn’t going to make any meaningful different. And it’s actually a really lovely little thing with an amazingly detailed paint job for a pre-painted figure.

Anyway, these are both valuable additions to the game. At first I was worried that there might be a problem with power creep here: the TIE interceptor is superior to the basic TIE for not a lot more, and the A-Wing isn’t hugely underpowered compared to other Rebel ships for a quite a lot less.

But the costs do seem to work out when they’re actually on the table. What’s rather more dispiriting is that both these ships seemed tailor-made to be used en masse. Interceptors, fragile but packing a powerful punch, are going to draw massive fire if used in ones or twos. A-Wings on the other hand look be used like a skirmish screen or as a swarm, both requiring multiple models. Could get expensive.

X-Wing Millennium Falcon

Speaking of which we have yet, of course, to talk about the big ship. The Millennium Falcon. And it is big. Palm-sized. And hugely detailed to match. It’s a feast for the eyes. And since it packs pretty much every remaining famous name in the genre amongst its pilots: Han, Chewbacca, Lando – Luke Skywalker is even in there as a crew upgrade – it feels utterly essential if you’ve bought into the base game.

There’s a fair amount of brand new stuff to look at in the box for this as well. In addition to the expected slew of upgrades the Falcon brings with it some new concepts. It has crew upgrades, so you can have Han in the cockpit, Luke on the guns and Chewie repairing the engines all at the same time. There are also new title cards which you can apply to specific ships to mimic something from the film: in this case a “Millenium Falcon” title to apply to basic freighter which helps make it more like the fastest hunk of … oh, you know.

So you know you’re going to end up getting one anyway. But what’s a bit unfortunate about the Falcon, and indeed all three of the ships I looked at in this new wave expansion, is that they’re just not that different from what’s already there. I’ve already made an explicit comparison between TIE fighters and the A-Wing. The TIE Interceptor is the Imperial equivalent of an X-Wing. And the Falcon is probably the worst offender of all being very much like a souped-up Y-Wing, even down to the circular firing arc.

It’s sad, but pretty much inevitable given the simple rules framework of the base game which is an essential part of its accessibility and appeal. Instead it feels to me like the real strength in these new Wave 2 additions is actually the cards. The upgrades, missiles, modifications and of course the unique pilot skills on offer. The amount of choice in the system to build you 100 point squad has now reached hugely impressive levels, with enormous amounts of variety you can recombine together to try and get a new tactical edge.

It’s a phenomenon, X-Wing. A buildable miniatures game that’s just sucked in people across the geek spectrum for all sorts of different reasons. And so far there seems little reason to imagine that it’s going to let them go anytime soon.

Cracked LCD- GOTY 2012 Expansions in Review


3-21-2013 9-52-59 AM

Among last year’s best games were Arcane Wonder’s first release Mage Wars, a complex CCG-on-a-board dueling game and Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing, the best miniatures game I’ve ever played. Naturally, great games that sell well (and some terrible games that sell well) tend to be the start of product lines, particularly when the titles in question have modular or customizable elements and “open” architecture. And so it has come to pass that both of these outstanding titles have received their first expansions, effectively giving us a first taste of how these games might open up and create new play spaces and options for those willing and able to stick beyond the core set.

Mage Wars has already had a couple of smart add-on purchases like a couple of “Core Tome” sets that give you the option to add more cards from the base game to your set and a package that gives you enough action markers in two new colors to table three or four players. But Forcemaster Vs. Warlord is the first actual content expansion, and it’s going for about $30 online. The set adds two new mages to the existing four, and provides a wealth of new spells, creatures, and equipment to use either with the included deck lists or custom spellbooks of your own creation. Two more of the fun vinyl spellbook binders are included, and it’s greatly appreciated since assembling them for play is one of the more labor-intensive parts of the game.

This is a fine expansion in particular because it further develops the Mind and War schools of magic as presented in the Core Set- and that means that these mages tend to play very differently than the four original characters. In Magic: The Gathering terms, the Forcemaster is a “blue” deck with lots of deflection, control, resistance, and trickery- not to mention the ability to pretty much jerk the other player’s creatures around the board at will. The Warlord is definitely a “red” deck focused on martial strength by way of lots of goblin soldiers, siege engines, and military outposts that can spawn units deep in the field. I’ve been playing mostly with the recommended spellbook lists and really enjoying both of these characters. Together, they make for an interesting match-up since the Forcemaster is almost alone on the battlefield all the time and the Warlord has tons of creatures and effects that benefit them.

If there’s a downside, it’s that this is already a pretty complicated, multi-faceted game with lots of information for a player to digest- particularly since it’s a game where you play with your entire deck open and there are tons of status effects, special abilities, combinations, and other intricacies. And this set gives you about half again what the Core offers, so if you’ve not fully digested what’s in that box then the expansion might be a bit too much. At least until later on, when you’ve got a better handle on the game and the wide variety of options that spellbook construction affords. Alternately, if you’re a red or blue Magic player then you might want to just start learning the game with one of these characters.

X-Wing’s new expansions, on the other hand, feel indispensible right out of the dock if only because they bring to the table more iconic ships to fuel your Star Wars (OT only, thank you) fantasies. If you’re playing this game or even remotely invested in it, I don’t see how you could not want the YT-1300 Millennium Falcon, the Firespray-class Slave-1, and a flight or two of TIE Interceptors and A-Wings. Each ship comes with a couple of new pilots and a small pile of upgrade cards but the sting of expensiveness is still felt. The new large ships are $30 a piece (but they look fantastic) and the fighters continue to retail at $15 each. Only the obsessives will likely want to field more than one of the big ships, but of course the sky is the limit with the small ships. I’m happy with three of each to allow for a player to take either a lead and a wingman or a lead and two wingmen.

A few new concepts are introduced among the new ships, chief among them is a new “Boost” action that gives the A-Wings and TIE Interceptors a surprising increase in agility by simply allowing the player to add a 1-straight or 1-bank to their move. The Firespray can load seismic charges or proximity mines and the YT-1300 has a killer 360 degree firing arc with its main guns. Needless to say, Boba Fett and Han Solo are among the featured pilot cards as are Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca. A new upgrade card allows ships to be “titled”, so that YT-1300 can be dubbed the Falcon for the sake of your scenario.

There’s a pair of much-needed scenarios included between the big ship packages. I’m really fond of the Bounty Hunter mission where the Firespray and an Imperial escort are in pursuit of a couple of Rebel ships- one of which is marked with a bounty. The Rebels- all under stress tokens- have to turn to fight and the Bounty Hunters win if they destroy the ship with the bounty token. It’s a fun, fast scenario with a touch of narrative. It’s also a natural fit for a Solo versus Fett showdown. It’s worth mentioning that with a Piloting skill of 9, Han almost always shoots first. This is Star Wars done right, as you remember it and as you love it.

Naturally, there will be more of both of these games coming in 2013 and beyond. I’d like to see both games expand laterally rather than vertically in the future. It’s great to have more units to play with, but I’d like to see other concepts developed to make these games more comprehensive and rich. I want to see Mage Wars develop terrain effects and maybe different arenas with unique layouts or effects. I’d like to see neutral creatures or other elements that create a larger sense of a game world. For X-Wing, it seems that a B-Wing and TIE Bomber are inevitable and very much wanted, but beyond that the core Star Wars ships in this scale class are few. Scenarios, campaigns, and card-based expansions would be greatly appreciated. And please, for Vader’s sake, can we get an official X-Wing playing mat with a Death Star surface on one side and a star field on the other?



Cracked LCD- Barnes’ Best 2012, Analog Edition

Quite frankly, I thought 2012 was a pretty shitty year for board games. Not just because I didn’t play them nearly as much as I have in recent years due to being in double baby jail with a one year old and a two year old, but also because the really outstanding games were few and far between. There was a whole lot of mediocrity, and then the Kickstarter thing made it possible for any yahoo to sell underdeveloped, unfinished beta prototypes to suckers. There weren’t really even all that many games in 2012 that I felt were compelling enough to try outside of the reprint cavalcade, which caught up this year with Crude, Wiz-War, Merchant of Venus, and Netrunner. I didn’t play Risk: Legacy, the new Descent, Mice & Mystics, or tons of expansions for pretty good games that came out this year. I couldn’t possibly care less about Zombicide, Seasons, or most of the new deckbuilders. Regardless, here are your Barnes’ Best board game picks for 2012.

There were, of course, a couple of really great games that rose above the clutter, made even more cluttersome by all of the Kickstarted crap that’s only just now disappointing “backers”. As usual in my Games of the Year articles, I’ve disqualified reprints and I’m only listing new-in-2012 titles. It just wouldn’t be fair to this year’s new games to shunt them out of recognition because a 30 year old masterpiece is back on the shelves. Because, I mean, seriously- was there a better game released this year than Netrunner? Not quite.

First up, the honorable mentions. Two of these are games designed by personal friends, Battle Beyond Space and Article 27. The former is a great 2-4 player space battle that is dramatic, surprising, and frequently hilarious. The latter is a classically designed pure negotiation game that would be considered a classic had it come in a 3M bookshelf box. John Clowdus did good by us again this year with Tooth & Nail and Donald X. Vaccarino delivered his best game to date with FFG’s excellent cyberpunk heist game Infiltration. Dungeon Command started out good and got better over the course of four releases, offering a simple but compelling dungeon brawl option. And then there’s the Star Wars LCG, which I just started playing in the final days of 2012 but will review favorably next week.

Now, on to the shortlist. The four best games of 2012 and my pick for Game of the Year.

1812: The Invasion of Canada

This was one of the first games I played in 2012, and in my review I mentioned that it set the bar pretty high for the year. I knew all year long that we’d see this game in this column. Play after play, this simple team-based wargame has delivered the goods. It’s fun, fast, and full of interesting strategy. The dice-based combat system allows for some surprising strategic detail, the battles range from complete washes to total devastation, and overall the game has an easy flow that rewards risky play- and cooperation between teammates- over rules exploitation, resource management, or other factors. The subject matter may not be the most scintillating and on the table it looks like total cube confusion , but this was one of the best ways to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the titular event.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery

This is 2012’s Cinderella story, a game that beat the odds to emerge as one of the year’s top titles. The strikes against it were potential deal breakers. But these first-time designers, publishing through a company that has never done a board game before, came up with an innovative game that is as conceptually thematic as games like Battlestar Galactica and Dune are. Splitting the process between a nasty take-that card game and a one-on-one gladiator battle with a gambling element, Spartacus did an awful lot with the subject matter without getting bogged down in rules. It definitely has the best- and most necessary- rule of the year: don’t be an ass. This great game can be had for around $20, and with an expansion on the way I expect to be playing it into 2013.

Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep board in play

The genius of Lords of Waterdeep is that is very much a back-to-basics Eurogame, offering a simple but not shallow worker placement mechanic paired up with a fun- but light- dusting of Dungeons and Dragons atmosphere. It’s hugely accessible, unlike so many games in its genre. In a year where I found myself more attracted to simpler, more minimalist designs I appreciated that the designers of this game really cut through all of the bullshit and got right down to key elements that make these kinds of games work. It’ll never be as deep or intricate as Caylus, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun to play and that counts for…well, everything.

Mage Wars

Of course, Mage Wars was hardly a simpler, more minimalist design at all. Instead, this game is a complex, detailed game that feels like an omnibus of hobby gaming concepts. It’s a board game, miniatures game, and collectible card game all in one. It really should have been a hot mess and reading through the rules I thought it would be, but in play Mage Wars offered some of the most rewarding gameplay of 2012. With an intriguing “open deck” style of play that uses binders to allow players access to every card in their deck, the designer made the most of several bottlenecks in the design to keep the decision-making interesting. But it ain’t dry- there’s also plenty of dice-rolling, PVP ass-kicking to do while you’re making all of those compelling decisions. Definitely looking forward to expansions on this one as well.

And finally, Barnes’ Best Game of the Year 2012…it’s probably no surprise, but here we go…


Star Wars X-wing miniatures game in action

X-Wing is quite possibly the best tabletop miniatures game I have ever played, leveraging familiar subject matter and the particular style of Star Wars’ dogfighting scenes to present a fast-and-furious game that feels exactly right and is suitable for any player that knows what an X-Wing or a TIE fighter are. Low rules overhead and the use of templates to handle all of the measurement keep the usual miniatures table disagreements to a minimum, and the novel card-based method of building out and equipping ships makes for a great metagame. And the miniatures are truly impressive- any Star Wars fan that grew up with the toys is going to love them. Yes, this is an expensive game but if it sinks its teeth into you, you won’t notice that you’re spending your games budget on extra Y-Wings and TIE Advanced instead of on other games you won’t play nearly as much. This is a game that’s great as it is today with only four ships available, and will only get better in 2013 as more are released. This was- and is- the 2012 game I played and want to play again the most. A truly phenomenal game that builds on great ideas from its peers and improves everything across the board.

That’s it then. We’ll see what happens in 2013…it may turn out that X-Wing wins this year too! Stay tuned for the digital edition, in which I make one of those crazy statements about a currently popular game that may get me publically executed.