Barnestorming #8324- Epic Spell Wars in Review, Kid Icarus, Skrillex hate

Barnestorming #8324- Epic Spell Wars in Review, Kid Icarus, Skrillex hate Hot

Michael BarnesMichael Barnes   April 05, 2012  
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On the Table

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mount Skullzfyre. That should be enough to get you interested in playing this game or at least reading this review.

It’s a fun game, and it’s actually a smarter design than I expected. The multi-part card thing is very similar to BattleCon, but you’ve got three pieces instead of two. The Dead Wizard mechanic is freaking great, even when you’re eliminated you’re drawing cards and getting ready to get revenge in the next round. I love any game where a player is able to say “fucking kill me now or Barnes is going to slaughter us all in the next round”.

The art style is freaking killer. It looks like Larry Elmore dropped a bunch of acid, put down his airbrush, and looked at some 1960s underground comix for inspiration. While watching Superjail.

Funny enough, Rob Heinsoo is one of the credited designers so there’s actually some genuine D&D cred.

Anyway, the game has a little cardboard standup of Mount Skullzfyre that does nothing but look awesome on the table. Game component of the year.

The winner of last week's "Guess Bill Abner's Line" was no one. He put something in there about paying attention to other people's quests. I didn't write that. I never would write that.

On the Consoles

Reviewing Ridge Racer: Unbounded this week at Gameshark. It’s not bad, if you like racers like Split/Second and Burnout. It’s not very original, but it’s at least got some grit to it unlike the past 49 Ridge Racer games.

Funny enough, playing it made me want to get back to Driver: San Francisco so I rebought a $11 copy of it at Target. I think that game was really underrated last year. It’s a totally unique concept with the weird Life on Mars/possession angle. And it’s refreshing to hear a bunch of obscure go-go and funk on a soundtrack instead of god damned dubstep. More on that in a minute.

I just wrote up Kid Icarus: Uprising for No High Scores. I freaking LOVE it. It’s like a cross between a Treasure shooter and a simple dungeon crawl with loot and weapon crafting. The best thing about it is that there’s more dialogue than in Nintendo’s past ten years of games. Pit, Lady Palutena, and even the bosses literally jabber NON STOP through the whole game. But it’s not irritating- it’s funny! She’ll describe the bosses- “In the eighties, Thanatos appeared as one of Medusa’s henchmen…” and it’ll show the original Kid Icarus graphics on the bottom screen. Game is hard as balls too if you crank it up past about 6.0 on its sliding scale.

Biding time until the Witcher 2 comes out. Very excited to finally play that.


Battle Academy reviewed at NHS- the long and short? Definitely worth $20, there’s virtually unlimited depth and play value. I’d love to try the async multiplayer if any of you folks got the game.

I bought Imperium Galactica II, but I have no idea what I’m doing and I can’t be arsed to watch a video tutorial right now. Looks great though.

Bug Princess 2 (Mushihimesama Futari) came out last night, I didn’t buy it yet. But I will.

On the Screen

We have become a Toy Story household. River is officially obsessed with them. And I have to admit, I’ve really become enamored of them too. I never really liked them, but having seen them all 175 times over the past two weeks I think I’ve got some kind of Stockholm Syndrome.

Nah, they really are pretty great- the writing is extremely smart (despite Joss Whedon on the first one), the characters are great, and it turns out that they’re pretty timeless unlike too many animated films.

But yeah, River flips out when we’re in the store and he sees “Badoo” and “Wodai”, which is what he calls them. I got him a 12” talking Badoo for Easter. Perhaps it will tell him the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve tried about four times in the past week to watch Shaolin Soccer since I’ve never seen it. I fall asleep every time. I really should start it before 4am.

On Spotify

OK, back to the dubstep thing. I feel like an old man, but I really had no idea what dubstep was and why the kids are talking about it these days. I knew Skrillex is a Big Deal, they were on the Ridge Racer Unbounded soundtrack, and the record nominated for a Grammy and all that. So I thought I’d listen to the Skrillex records on Spotify so I could be with it.

What a load of shit. It’s such a soulless, plastic, and completely baseless kind of music that seems like it’s written by and for people who really don’t give a flying shit about music. It’s so empty, hollow, and without any sense of purpose. All the “drops”, the autotune vox…it’s alarmingly commercial and bland, unlike the best electronic and techno music.

Seriously, hold up “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” to Daft Punk’s “Discovery” or Justice’s “Cross”…there’s awesome, hard-rocking and body-moving dance music that’s thoughtful and heartfelt and then there’s empty headed bullshit party music.

Beside that, who the hell will listen to this crap two, three years from now? It already sounds dated.

Damn youngsters. Buy a Kraftwerk record.

I hate dubstep, too. Unfortunately, my girlfriend has become obsessed with dubstep. So it's starting to grow on me a little, like fungus. By turns shrill knob-twiddling or vibrating like a gigantic vibrator, the typical dubstep song sounds a lot like most other dubstep songs. It's a very shallow, niche genre, and I don't really see the purpose of it since it doesn't even have a danceable beat. And yet I have small snippets of dubstep wandering through my thoughts, more than any other music at the moment.
By the way, Rob Heinsoo was also one of the co-designers of the excellent Shadowfist CCG.
I had my first old man moment when I asked my kids, "What's a Skrillex?" Then I had my second when I decided it was just noise and I was too old to think anything good about it.
It isn't universally garbage, it just became garbage when the "industry" got their hands on it.

Rites of Spring:Fall Out Boy::Plasticman/Plastician:Skrillex
Hmmm. I'll be involved in a board game gift exchange in a week. I'll have to add this to the list of possibilities.

Edit - trying to post images/links in these comments is messed up.
The Epic Spellfyre art is the best board game art in at least five years. Either find me a counterexample, or stretch it even further. Some of the best board game art I've ever seen!
The winner of last week's "Guess Bill Abner's Line" was no one. He put something in there about paying attention to other people's quests. I didn't write that. I never would write that.

Glad to hear that! I literally just thought that line was you jumping the shark.
I like the art because it's _modern_. It looks like something produced in 2012, not dated ass science ficiton/fantasy paperback book art. It looks like something a kid or teenager into the Adult Swim shows or comics can pick up and show to friends without being embarassed by it.

It's also genuinely funny, and it doesn't look anything like the homely nerd drawings in Munchkin. It also totally succeeds in capturing the absurd and absurdly violent tone of the game.

I'd say that Cave Evil still has one up on it, but this is definitely in its class.

What I DON'T want to see anymore is the overblown FFG style that's stuck in this kind of 1988 D&D thing, regardless of the obvious anime influences that stuff like Runewars shows. I find that style more tasteless and tacky than Epic Spell Wars, and Epic Spell Wars has a picture of a man being killed by a giant testicle.
The last time we played some of the players really got into the spell reading part. I thought the guy playing Pissed was going to give himself a stroke. And it is amazing how well the Dead Wizard cards even the playing field.
Michael Barnes wrote:
I'd say that Cave Evil still has one up on it, but this is definitely in its class.

You are very right, I had forgotten about Cave Evil. Two very individual styles that are not remotely seen anywhere else in boardgaming, whereas so much board game art tries to look like all other board game art.
I don't give a shit about Dubstep, or, for that matter, electronic music in general. For my taste, its fans and its press are far too eager to invent a new label every time some musician changes the usual beat pattern a little bit, and declare it "revolutionary". But I have a feeling that judging Dubstep by Skrillex is like judging Black Metal by Cradle Of Filth. or Punk by Blink 182. Or thinking that "Emo" has always meant this horrible post-goth pop-punk with whiny lyrics about teenage angst. New music genres almost always start as very interesting and exciting (with the notable exception of nu-metal; even its pioneers, namely Korn, were pretentious pieces of shit from the get-go), then they slowly become stale and formulaic.
Not having any clue what dubstep sounds like is not a generation gap, it is called good taste.
I listened to dubstep for about 1 minute and that was enough.

Talking about a real generation gap: I was not so long ago playtesting Rogue Agent, my little cyberpunk-themed boardgame project, at what should be the most geeky gameshack in the city.
It was what seemed like a mix of Magic-addicts, eurogame-snobs and console-slaves all thrown in a small space with just enough softdrinks and bad pizza to keep going until the wee wee small hours.
Imagine more black metal and obscure sitcom shirts you have even seen in one location.
I mean, this was all the geekiest individuals compressed in one room.

I was sitting at a table with these 20-somethings and talking about cyberpunk.
I mentioned Blade Runner as an inspiration for the game (almost feeling embarassed since it felt way too obvious too mention it), and all these faces across the table looked at me as if I was talking Mandarin. Next, the leader-of-the-pack replied: "Blade Runner, I have heared of that movie...isn't that a Bruce Willis movie?
After which the rest of the table admitted they had only vaguely heared mentioning of it.
And then it suddenly dawned me...I am getting old.
Nice review of Battle Wizards... I'd like to try that game out. Seems like it might wear out its welcome quickly though.

My first exposure to Skrillex was the rather cool video about the child molester. I don't hate the music, but it's not my preferred form of electronica, that's for sure.

And I got Nightfall on iOS.... expect the pain, Barnes.
Man alive, David....that's some fucked up shit. "Is Blade Runner a Bruce Willis movie?" Yeah, that alone would be enough to make me feel 10,000 years old.
It might be my fault that my girlfriend is into dubstep. I took her to the local goth club years ago, and she saw this video up on the big screen. Years later, she heard the song on the radio, went searching for more, and stumbled into dubstep. I do like this video of Satisfaction, by Benny Benassi, and unlike most dubstep, I can dance to it:

Nice review Barnes. I've had my eye on this game for a while...the art style had me hooked as soon as I saw it. I'm glad to hear that the game itself is a fun little time waster. I just wish it wasn't a "take that" card game. That is such a crowded genre and I already have far too many. However, I don't have one with a dude being killed by a giant testicle....and I think I just sold myself on this one!

Also kudos for mentioning the cool skull/mountain prop, I love that you dig stuff like that. It's so pointless and unnecessary, but I love that they included it. Did any else see the video review from the Dice Tower (not Vasel though) where the guy just tossed it aside like its a piece of shit? He claims that it has "no importance to the game". No importance to the game? Look at it! The epic spell wars can not occur without the mountain on the insolent fool! All kidding aside that guy is my perception of most BGG users; people that are highly uptight and don't know how to let loose while hanging out with friends. I'm probably wrong, but that is how I envision 85% of the BGG populous. They push their cubes, get crumbs in their beards and they don't use the fucking cool mountain included in this game.

Anywho, I agree with others that this game has some of the best boardgame art to come down the pipe in a while. It reminds me of that Comedy Central show "Ugly Americans", but with more bright shiny colors. FFG and others could do themselves a favor by taking some risks with the art design. It all looks very "samey". The best stuff to come out of FFG recently was Wiz War (love the art style of that one) and Cadwallon: City of Thieves (which was done by Dust Games). Other companies are just as guilty of this, but FFG has been riding by with the same Runebound/Descent/ Arkham Horror re-used art for far too long...
That cardboard mountain is the heart and soul of the game. It tells you exactly what kind of game this is, and it gets everybody in the mood for some ball-rocking magic blasting. But I can definitely see uptight pricks huffing and puffing about it being "useless".

I _love_ components like that. The glasses in Junta, the pointless cathedral in Mutant Chronicles. the big stand-up whiteboard in the better edition of Really Nasty Horse Racing, the balaclava in War on Terror...not enough awesome stuff like that in games.

You're right, Wiz-War was FFG's best art at least since Cosmic Encounter. The problem is that people with no taste routinely mistake "competent illustration" for "art".

I'm sure there's SOMEBODY out there that wants (or has) framed prints of FFG box art on their walls because they think it's "great art". That makes me want to barf.

The worst "I have no fucking clue what Blade Runner" thing I've ever seen was on this interior design show I saw of them designers kept talking about how they were referencing Blade Runner. What they did looked absolutely nothing like Blade Runner whatsoever in any way. They were just name dropping.
On the dubstep thing- Wice, I see what you're saying but the music still blows. I have heard some of the lesser known stuff (like Plasticman, but I didn't realize that I was listening to dubstep at that point), and I didn't like that either.

But when I hear "dub"...I better be hearing some god damned Lee Perry.

It is weird that dubstep is so's not really danceable or clubby at all. I guess it's music intended for you to update your Facebook page to or something.
I generally hate "Take That" games.

I'm loving this one, however. And it isn't just because of the art and theme.

There are two things Epic Spell Wars adds to the mix:
1. Simultaneous card choice. It helps speed up turns just a bit, but it also adds uncertainty and whimsy to the entire game. The spells themselves are defined so that the effects will change depending on when they go off and what other new effects are added to play.
2. The spell cards themselves specify the target. There aren't many cards that allow you to choose WHO to play the card on. It is mostly stuff like Strongest Foe, Weakest Foe, Foe on your Left, Every Foe. Take That games get into stupid cycles where you just beat down the strongest player until someone lucks out and doesn't die.

Spell Wars has none of that. It is possible to take a player out in a round before they even get a turn (that is hard, however). And each round is pretty much reset to the same even starting position (with the wizards who died earlier in the last round getting some perks). So it avoids both the parade of the strong players with the cool cards pounding the weak ones into dust as well as the tedious nailing anyone who gets ahead.

And so for all of the stupid silliness, it is a damned clever design that neatly veers around the pitfalls of its predecessors.
I totally agree- it's really a better design than most take that games. It's still very simple and all about beating down other players, but there are some controls in place that keep it from bogging down or becoming too lopsided.

I think it's a far better game than most of the popular that that games, including old favorites like Family Business.
Skrillex is dubstep? It's been a long time since I've plugged into the electronic music scene, but back in '99-'02 dubstep was like a combination of drum and bass 2-step and dub. Skrillex doesn't really sound anything like that to me. But then I imagine the genre has changed quite a bit in the past decade.
Oh, and at least for Skrillex it's not really music to dance to as much as mosh to. He was at ACL last year and at his set people were going absolutely bonkers pogoing up and down and going nuts.

I'd love to get my hands on Epic Spell Wars just for the games art direction alone. It's brilliant. More publishers should be experimenting with different art styles than the standard fantasy book cover look. Have you seen the comic Orc Stain for instance? That shiz is crazy. And totally awesome. There is so much awesomeness going on out there in the art and illustration worlds and board game companies aren't paying attention to any of it.

Too bad Zev sold Z-Man, I'd totally be his art director.
I'm calling it...Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mount Skullzfyre is going to be the Magical Athlete of 2012.
metalface13 wrote:
Skrillex is dubstep? It's been a long time since I've plugged into the electronic music scene, but back in '99-'02 dubstep was like a combination of drum and bass 2-step and dub. Skrillex doesn't really sound anything like that to me. But then I imagine the genre has changed quite a bit in the past decade.

It's probably a case of Flanderization. Some characteristic features of a music style are so popular among fans, that they want to hear more and more of them, the stimulation threshold goes up, and eventually the style becomes its own parody.
And yet I have small snippets of dubstep wandering through my thoughts, more than any other music at the moment.

I'll bet I can read your thoughts, then. Are they something to the effect of...


I know I'm old and miserable, but before it was called dubstep, we had a perfectly good phrase for the sound of someone dicking around with the oscillator on a synth or guitar pedal for 3 minutes at a time; we called it "fucking annoying."
The winner of last week's "Guess Bill Abner's Line" was no one. He put something in there about paying attention to other people's quests. I didn't write that. I never would write that.

Hey I guessed that line! Go see the comments.

Your contest is stupid and broken.
Hatchling wrote:
Your contest is stupid and broken.

You must've missed the title. It was called A Few Acres of Barnes