...just some thoughts from the week that was, including Lost, Blue Moon, being all that I can be, and more.
So I was going to do a Snapshot entry for today, but I've discovered that either:
- My digital camera is terrible at taking pictures of game components OR
- I suck as a photographer. (Evidence is leaning towards this direction.)
Instead, I'm just going to do some stuff on what's been going on lately.
How's Your Mum?
Mr. Skeletor came back with a vengeance this week, with an article giving Games Workshop a piece of his mind and then followed THAT up with probably one of the greatest game interviews you're likely to ever see. Hanno (of "eat shit and die" fame) gave as good as he got and in the Fortress: Ameritrash arena was able to earn respect.
Which is cool, you know...if it had been an AT designer with a take no prisoners attitude telling his detractors to eat shit and die, we'd have been cheering them on. When a Euro publisher/designer is capable of doing the same thing, well, he deserves the same treatment. We might not be ready to drink the Agricola Kool-Aid, but it's clear Hanno's days as "AT Villain Extraordinaire" are over.
The important thing is that you guys are voting with your clicks and letting us know you want to keep the flow of boardgaming stuff flowing, and while we'll still keep the "Trash Culture" stuff coming, we won't lose our main focus on boardgaming anytime soon. That being said...
I Was "Lost", But Now I'm Found
I also had designs originally to do reviews on Lost, a la the "Sarah Connor Chronicles" reviews. Problem is, it's hard to try and write a review that just doesn't sound like gushing fanboyism. Shows that are borderline bad are easy to write about because the jokes just flow...but it's kinda boring to read "Lost is awesome" over and over again, with paraphrasing for emphasis. Don't worry about Sarah, though...there was no new episode this week due to the State of the Union address, but I'll be back to busting the chops of the show next week.
"We are strategerizing within our power to combat the threatism
of Skynet to all the peoples of American descent."
It became fashionable to bash on Lost, especially during Season 2. Even I'll admit that I was starting to feel like they were spinning their wheels a little bit. But since that time, they've recovered nicely and have been firing on all cylinders ever since.
Really, the established end date for the show has been a godsend, as now you can see that they're putting the puzzle pieces into place to wrap up the show. I remember an interview with the people who made the TV show Ed and they talked about how difficult it was to write each season when they didn't know how much longer they were going to be on, or even if they were going to be on next year. That's no longer a problem for Lost.
What did I think about last night's episode? It was much more subdued than I was expected, which is actually a good thing because there was some denouement to be handled following last season's finale...too many shows are just concerned with getting the new season going forward and just brush aside whatever happened in the previous finale/cliff-hanger.
I won't spoil much, but they're setting up some interesting stuff in a new way that I didn't expect. If you'd told me that Lost was going to incorporate "Flash Forwards" and not somehow ruin the plot or remove the suspense from the "present events", I'd have told you that you were crazy. Instead, it's a great twist and it's got me looking for answers to questions in a much different way than before. They've really mastered a great way of weaving their narrative into past, present, and future and it works.
If you've skipped out on Lost since Season 2, you owe it to yourself to give it another chance. And if you've never seen it and are questioning its Trash credentials, the show has featured the following: smoke monsters, implied time travel, psychic visions, telepathy, telekinesis, badassery, betrayal, blood and guts, guns, murder, and backstabbing. Plus Kate in a bikini...that's got to count for something.
Blue Moon Risin'
Recently an AI version of Blue Moon was released by a BGG user named Keldon (the AI program is available on his website, HERE). Pretty much if I've had a break at work I've been playing the hell out of this. The AI has been trained against itself in thousands of games and makes for a ridiculously formidable opponent. What's been awesome playing against it is that you pick up on ideas and combos that you just didn't think of before.
For anyone who hasn't played Blue Moon, it's pretty much "CCG 2.0"...a true haven for those of us who have fallen off the CCG wagon and can't afford to get back on. I know that we give Reiner Knizia and Euro designers in general plenty of grief but even so there's no way to consider Blue Moon anything close to "Euro". It's unbalanced based on certain matchups, it manages to make each people thematic as hell and completely different to play as, and it's got all kinds of typical crazy CCG stuff going on like blowing up all your opponent's characters, chewing through their hands with discards, and drawing fistfuls of cards yourself. It's got card combos, traps to spring on your foe, and in general is confrontational as all hell because it's just you and your opponent going at it, throwing everything you have at each other.
Sure, yeah, it's still mathy as all get out sometimes (c'mon, it is Knizia), and it isn't nearly as complex as some of the more involved CCGs, but even so it manages to be plenty of Trashy fun. The AI version is so good that it got my brother and I to drag out the Blue Moon decks again this week and start playing them again. We used the Emissaries and Inquisitors cards, having played sparingly with them in the past and they're great because they have the ability to imbalance the game even more if you aren't careful (no way they tested each and every combination). It's possible to pick an Emissary that makes your deck flat out suck, so you've got to watch it. Anyway, we played to five crystals and my Aqua with the TuTu-heavy Emissary beat my brother's Khind with Crystal-heavy Emissary 5 crystals to 4, re-establishing my dominance over the land of Blue Moon...at least for now.
In the Army National Guard....You Can.
Speaking of CCGs, we also played a little card game we got for free (OH NOES~!) called "Mission Command". It's a game that's given out as a promotional item for the National Guard. What's interesting about it is that whoever designed it was obviously influenced by CCGs, seemingly Star Trek in particular.
Each player has a small selection of "Citizen/Soldiers" that have a particular skill, and you also have a General who has a broad range of more powerful skills. Each turn you complete missions by playing resources and increasing your skills of your soliders in play. Once they complete missions their skills increase. Eventually the goal is to 'defeat' the main game mission (played to the center of the table) in which you have to have high totals of all the main game skills to complete it.
It's not bad, really, but it's certainly no great shakes. For one, the main missions aren't difficult enough and this has the impact of making all the high-level resources and missions useless. You can't use the high level resources or try the high level missions until you've bumped up your soldiers' ranks, but by the time you get to that point you've already enough skills to beat the main game's mission, even the "tougher" Level Two game missions. This pretty much means that all those level 4 resources and high-level missions you draw are complete deadweight. It pretty much suffers from the Drakkon syndrome ("Hmm? What? It's over?") I think if the game had been put back in to cook a little more they would've fixed that, but what do you want from a free game?
(I also have their other free promotional game Daring Eagles, but I haven't played it yet. It looks like a cross between Stratego, Chess, and LOTR: Confrontation, though I doubt it has the flow or pedigree of any of those titles. Games that are unplayed AND free? The Mad Gamer himself is going to kill me where I stand!)
Really what's funny about it is that CCG are pervasive enough to even influence the hack design of promotional/propaganda games. Seriously, imagine a "Army National Guard" game based on older style games...roll the dice, move your pawn, draw a card--"You've just been deployed to Iraq, soldier! Move Ahead 3!"
...and that's a wrap. Have a good weekend, everybody, and be sure to squeeze some "blowin' up shit real good" in there somewhere. The Super Bowl is this weekend, and may all the good, football-gods-fearin' people pray to the pigskin idols for a Giants victory. I don't think I can take another solid year of people from New England going, "Oooh, yeah, Tom Brady is so fuckin' awesome, there, ya know..."