Articles Reviews Barnestorming #439- BattleCon in Review, Syndicate, Taxi Driver, Liberteer
 

Barnestorming #439- BattleCon in Review, Syndicate, Taxi Driver, Liberteer Barnestorming #439- BattleCon in Review, Syndicate, Taxi Driver, Liberteer Hot

Barnestorming #439- BattleCon in Review, Syndicate, Taxi Driver, Liberteer

What number are we on?

On the Table

Yeah, I think I like BattleCon slightly more than Yomi. It’s not as immaculately designed and probably not as deep as Yomi can get, but it’s more fun, narrative, and there’s lots more variety and not just because there’s 18+ characters. There’s some really quite unique concepts with the dual-card play, the discard cycling, and the spacing game- you can’t really corner trap somebody in Yomi, and Yomi doesn’t have stages with electrical barriers or where you can fall off an airship.

The problem is that it's another game that some will play once and dismiss. But you've REALLY got to know the cards and know who you're playing for the greatness to emerge. It is NOT a rock/paper/scissors game. The strategy and tactics are all in knowing the cards and how to play against certain characters while making the most of your styles, effective range, mobility, and abilities.

You know where to go to read it.

I’ve also got a new article up at Worthpoint about how reprints have affected the collector’s end of the hobby.

Trying to get some more Rex in- my buddy Will Kenyon (Mr. TI3) claims that he’s found some kind of massive imbalance for the Lazax player or something. Dunno what he’s talking about, but I’m sure he’s played the game at least once a day since it released.

 

On the Consoles

Syndicate reviewed. Had it been a completely co-op game, it might have been great. But they did that thing where they stick a shoddy single player game onto a title that would have been at its best as a multiplayer only thing. I did a seperate article at NHS about how the game represents this idiotic concept of AAA shooters having both single and multiplayer components...and doing neither well. It made Penny Arcade's The Cut.

Totally loving the Vita. I haven’t touched a home console game all week, splitting my time between Wipeout 2048, BlazBlue, Rayman: Origins, and FIFA. FIFA is better than the console version. I’m serious. I think it may be the best soccer game I’ve ever played.

Oh, and Hot Shots: World Invitational. My archenemy. I’m terribly addicted to its weird mix of cutesy/creepy characters with their ridiculous outfits and surprisingly realistic links action even though I hate golf. But I’m no damn good at it at all, and I keep dropping double/triple bogeys in the last half of the tournament I’m trying to win so I wind up 10-11 places down on the leaderboard. Great, great game. Just really hard, and it doesn’t help that some of the features and physics are opaque. But seriously, who wears thigh-highs with golf shoes. Oh, the Japanese. That's right.

 

On IOS

A little Fairway Solitaire here and there, but that’s it. Still can’t stomach the thought of playing through 30 turns of Ascension two or three times a day. Almost all handheld time is on the Vita right now. Nightfall should be out next month, and it’s Playdek so that will probably get me back in the swing of it.

 

On the Screen

After watching it no less than four times this week, I’ve realized that movies are either as good as Taxi Driver or not as good as Taxi Driver.

It’s such an amazing film, and ironically enough I hated it when I first saw it around 1990-1991. At the time, I was all into John Woo and the HK New Wave stuff not to mention cult horror and I knew that Taxi Driver was considered controversial and violent. There was also that sort of loose connection to punk rock and The Clash. I saw it and was totally underwhelmed.

I was clearly a dumb teenager at the time, because it’s a masterpiece. What’s more, the actual on-screen violence isn’t anything compared to the psychological violence that’s going on in it. It’s truly an urban horror movie, and Travis Bickle is very much a combination of traditional monsters. He’s practically a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost, and Frankenstein’s monster. He turns himself into a machine with a drawer guide and a .38. He’s unable to connect with or effectively communicate with other humans that don’t live this kind of nocturnal, fringe existence.

It’s such an incredibly well-made film too, well-acted and well-written. It’s definitely Scorcese’s best film, far more compelling than the gangster cartoons he’s mostly known for.

Movies like Taxi Driver are why I do not give a rat's ass about all the nerd-pandering FX shit anymore. You just don't see films made with guts like this anymore, a real sense of human darkness and real-life grit. It's movies like this that made the 1970s the best decade _ever_ in cinema. And we'll likely never see another film as honest or committed like this again.

 

On Spotify

I don’t even remember the last time I heard a great, new grindcore record. Maybe it was Nasum’s “Human 2.0”? I dunno. Anyway, Liberteer’s “Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees” is the best grindcore record I’ve heard in at least a decade. It’s on Relapse, and I don’t think I’ve heard anything on that label since the early 2000s.

It’s very unsual. It’s a one-man-band, the guy used to be in Exhumed and Cretin, apparently. But this isn’t Carcassian gore grind at all, it’s political, anarchist punky grind with….duhn duhn! Marching band stuff, fife and drum, horns, banjos, early American music, major key riffs, and occasional synths. It comes across something like early Napalm Death, Heresy, or Doom but with occasional NWOBHM guitar leads and then…a brass section. But it is totally 100% grindcore in that old Earache/UK style.

Songs are short, sharp, and stick with you. It’s got some serious hooks and great, very topical lyrics. The only problem with it is that listening to it on Spotify sucks. The songs are mixed together and there are recurring themes and figures, but there’s that gap between tracks as they stream. Apparently the CD linear notes contain instructions about how to make a bomb and a knife with the CD and its case, so it's probably worth buying.

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Comments (45)
  • avatarMillion Dollar Mimring

    Played two games of BattleCon at lunch today. The first time I tried playing as Danny (monster guy) and couldn't get a feel for him. The second game I played as the clockwork knight and lost in the final beat. I had my opponent down to 1 or 2 life. With 5 or 6 beats remaining, I had 12 life, but had foolishly used all my tokens.

    My initial impression is that I also enjoy the game more than Yomi. Although that may have to do with David Sirlin. The more I find out about the guy the less I wish I knew.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Looking forward to the release of Nightfall.

  • avatarJonJacob

    Taxi Driver is great and like you I didn't appreicate it fully the first time I saw it but I learned to love it sometimes around 2000. I think it's his best film but I also think he has three best films. Kings of Comedy is fucking brilliant and Raging Bull I love too. I don't get Casino or Goodfellas, never thought they were great and actually, outside of those three films and the Daniel Day Lewis sections of Gangs of New York I don't really care for the rest of his work. Especially the newer stuff.

    Mean Streets is ok as a kind of hint of what's to come from him later on but it doesn't reach the same highs as his big three. All written by Paul Schrader too.

    I'm done with games for awhile though. My only concern right now is waiting for the Platinum releases on xbox and picking up a PSP vita.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    My initial impression is that I also enjoy the game more than Yomi. Although that may have to do with David Sirlin. The more I find out about the guy the less I wish I knew.

    I kind of feel like that too. When I did my Yomi review- which was probably one of the most positive reviews I've ever written, he emailed me because I mentioned the crummy card stock. I thought it was pretty poor for a $100 game, and I stand by that. He did not agree, and was quite vocal in defending it. It turned into a series of three or four emails about it, and I finally just quit engaging with him about it.

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    That's funny...the only designer I recall getting nasty with me about anything was the FAIL Point Games guys over Toe to Toe. And I SO had that coming.

    But to whine because a review wasn't 100% positive? That's pretty lame.

    Anyhow, I'm not a Yomi fan because I played it before it was Yomi and had miniatures, back when it was called Epic Duels. :) No, I know they're nothing alike, but when I played Yomi I was reminded of the "what the fuck does he have in his hand...can he defend my Bowcaster one-hitter-quitter?" and then realized "Why am I playing this game....I'd much rather be playing Epic Duels.

    And Taxi Driver is his best work, without exception. He's a hell of an actor, or was when nobody knew who the hell he was, and that movie was simply amazing.

  • avatardragonstout

    Looks like I was already beat to the punch in recommending "The King of Comedy", Taxi Driver's possibly darker twin. Travis Buckle is much less uncomfortable to watch than Rupert Pupkin.

    BattleCon - eh, just not interested in the theme, especially after being burned by Yomi being hailed as the second coming of Magic & Settlers, and then dismissed for being "obsessed" when I cared to describe what I didn't like about it. Maybe it's more that two-player asymmetric faction card games are becoming a really, really crowded field, and it's hard FOR ME to justify owning a single one other than Magic when I'm already getting infinity hours of gameplay out of that. Summoner Wars, Blue Moon, Yomi, BattleCon, Netrunner, Puzzle Strike, Flash Duel, any of the FFG LCGs, Star Wars Epic Duels, this new Mage Wars...it is a style of game that I really love though.

    I wish BattleCon luck!

  • avatarSagrilarus

    The link to your Worthpoint article isn't working.

    S.

  • avatarstormseeker75

    I got a copy of BattleCon for reviewing and it strikes me as pretty awesome. I'm excited to get some serious playing in this weekend.

  • avatarSchweig!

    Taxi Driver is my favourite film.

    Have you seen the making of? The have the special effects guy explain in detail how in the final scene he blew away that hand Travis shoots at with his .45 (fake hand with small explosive charge) and how that other guy is riddled with bullets from the .25 (actor was covered with small blood containers that are pulled open with strings).

  • avatarKen B.  - re:
    Million Dollar Mimring wrote:
    The second game I played as the clockwork knight and lost in the final beat. I had my opponent down to 1 or 2 life. With 5 or 6 beats remaining, I had 12 life, but had foolishly used all my tokens.


    Oh, come on, you know it was better than that...you left out the part where I was at 2 life, and on the last beat, I forced you to Clash with me with your Dash, so you had to choose another base, which meant you couldn't slip away from me for the Time Over, and I nailed ya to the perch with my level 5 whats-her-name. That was skin-of-my-teeth, down to no health for the last 6 beats, you at a crap-ton of life, last tic of the clock outfox for the smash face.

    A review for BattleCON is forthcoming from me as well. SPOILER: It's a really, really good game that somehow looks like Flash Duel, has "guessing" and "reading" like Yomi, even has the same theme as both, and yet manages to feel absolutely and utterly completely different.

  • avatarscissors

    I agree that Taxi Driver is MS's best film and a masterpiece. Raging Bull is excellent too, but Taxi Driver stands alone.

    I liked Goodfellas just okay and Casino less and nothing really since (that I have seen) like Aviator, Gangs of New York, some other stuff I've forgotten. Couldn't watch Boardwalk Empire because of how Steve Buscemi was miscast...

    Have sorta changed my opinon of The Departed through repeated viewing (read: self-induced brainwashing) just 'cause I like Marky Marks' turn in it and it has Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen in small roles and the guy who plays Mr French is also okay. Nicholson is godawful in it. In my book almost nothing he did after The Shining was 'good acting' and NOT a cariacature ie. Jack being Jack. Compare his stuff to early work like Five Easy Pieces or One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest. AN exception would be the Sean Penn directed film The Pledge.

    Back to Scorcese, in The Departed what was it with the scene where Nicholson is holding some dead guy's chopped-off hand in a bag? It came off as extremely inauthentic - more a Tarantino rip-off than Martin Scorcese.

    As for Scorcese's latest, haven't seen this Hugo film, don't even know anything about it.

    So yeah, Taxi Driver.

    It's natural though for a filmmaker (as with most artists) to do their most daring and innovative work early in their career, when everything as it stake. Most never reach such heights, though.

  • avatarStormcow

    Looked through the BattleCon free sample PDF, and just from reading the rulebook and cards, I am quite wow'd. It's a totally different game from Yomi - you are managing only a dozen cards in total (instead of a deck of 54), and now there is spacing - but at the same time it's hard not to compare the two, because they're built on the same core concept of fighting games. Where Yomi has more than a little abstraction, BattleCon has richer, more in-depth mechanics that let the Rock-Paper-Scissors mindgames emerge naturally, instead of making it an over-encompassing central rule.

    I'm not so sold on the art - it looks so incoherent, with each character having a different, distinct artstyle. Also the name is kind of dumb. Indines? But then, having 18 playable characters in a $30 box is a big achievement in itself. Overall I'm sold.

  • avatarMattDP

    I really must see Taxi Driver again. I've only seen it once under similar circumstances - and with a similar result - to your own.

    I'll add it to the list of things to watch. But that's regrettably massive, and growing.

  • avatarword_virus

    The Arkham pictures in your Worthpoint article are reversed.

    Also, there was a time in my life where I'd've been totally into that Liberteer record. Thanks to a couple minutes spent checking it out on youtube, I can safely say that time has passed :) Good grind, but just not my thing anymore.

  • avatarSan Il Defanso

    It's interesting to hear some people talk about David Sirlin a little more negatively here, and I'm beginning to feel the same way. I'm still pretty into Puzzle Strike, but Yomi feels like it's stayed at arms-length for me. I do like it, but it hasn't been able to distinguish itself from all of the other ranks of great two-player games I own (like Summoner Wars) or the games that play more but still rock with two (Blood Bowl: TM and Innovation). I definitely wonder if Sirlin is now in a sounding chamber, where most of his playtesters are acolytes. Some of his blogs are mystifying in their "illogical, captain" attitude. Witness his comments about BSG.

    But Mr. Sirlin, if you read this, I really am looking forward to the eventual expansion to Puzzle Strike. Because I do love that game.

    Also Michael, all of the recent good reviews have begun to kind of run together for me, and I'm wondering if they're doing the same for you. While you enjoyed Battle Con more than Yomi, the review didn't seem nearly as enraptured. It was still good writing, no worries. Just wondering if the endless stream of good games is beginning to have some effect on how you write about them.

  • avatarZMan

    Taxi Driver was amazing and we talked about it a lot growing up (in the 70s, in Brooklyn).

    I have to agree that the 70s was a great decade for cinema. I always fall back to that decade when talking about movies being visceral, gritty, good-guys-lose-at-the-end, anti-heroes, great messages, etc.

    I think that stuff started more in the very late 60s, (Planet of the Apes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Easy Rider, etc.) but came on full force in the 70s. This is when the protagonists (and not necessarily heroes) died in the end (hey, much like HK movies!), or just had some great stories and no major SFX.

    Don't know if I'll try out BattleCon: seems like you have to know all the cards before actually playing and I'm not sure I like that. But I guess that is like CCGs where you should know what cards are available to mess with you. If I could draft from a pool of cards, I'd consider it more since even if I do not know what is coming, chances are the person might not have gotten the cards he needed.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    Scissors, did you like Nicolson in AS GOOD AS IT GETS? Cuz that's the first time you actually see him acting since CUCKOO'S NEST. Everything else he's done has been really phoned-in or something. He's great in AS GOOD AS IT GETS. The scene where he realizes he went too far in the restaurant telling her that her son is gonna die. That's a good performance.

  • avatarbillyz

    Taxi Driver is the better movie-- but my vote goes for Raging Bull. This is the scene that always does it for me.http://cli.ps/uBT9

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Zev- to be clear about it, you're only ever looking at six or seven cards for each character plus six base attacks that are the same for every character. It's not a big deal, really, to just look over the cards of the character you're fighting beforehand to get a sense of their range and abilities. All the character cards have tips on the back explaining how to play and what their advantages are. So it's not really like playing blind against a Magic deck or anything like that.

    True, the seeds of 1970s cinema are in the 60s- the films you mentioned, but also very specifically Bonnie & Clyde and The Wild Bunch. The impact of those films is tremendous, I'd be willling to claim that they are easily two out of the five most important films ever made.

    I think what makes 1970s Hollywood so good is that you had this influx of antagonistic, somewhat indulgent _artists_ working in a corporate structure so there's a certain tension there between art and commerce. You usually hear it explained as the "film school" generation, with folks like Scorcese, Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, etc. coming from _studying_ film before making it and that's definitely part of it, but I think it really is about film artists being given some freedom- and resources- to do their thing. And audiences at the time responded to the messages and darker subject matter because it was darker times- the whole post-Vietnam thing and so forth.

    But these days, it's all about money and "I just wanna switch my brain off".

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Also Michael, all of the recent good reviews have begun to kind of run together for me, and I'm wondering if they're doing the same for you. While you enjoyed Battle Con more than Yomi, the review didn't seem nearly as enraptured. It was still good writing, no worries. Just wondering if the endless stream of good games is beginning to have some effect on how you write about them.

    I think if BattleCon had come first, it would have gotten Yomi's review in some sense. But in a post-Yomi setting, it lacks the surprise of success that Yomi had. This is why I focused so much on comparing the two games- not only because it's unavoidable, but also because it shows how a different approach yields a similar, but more complete, concept.

    As for good reviews...man, I gotta tell you. I'm pretty tired of writing 'em. But hey, what do you do when the last dozen or so games you've played have all been really good? Out of the new stuff I've played over the past year, I can only think of maybe three or four games that just weren't good. 2011 was such a strong year, and we're already seeing a lot of good stuff in 2012. There's been sort of a subtle change, I think, in what's coming out...we're sort of finally breaking away from that baroque, FFG-era thing and games are getting leaner and more focused- at least in a general sense. I _like_ this, and I think that some of my recent positivity reflects that.

    I'm also REALLY selective about what I cover, which leads to more positive than negative reviews. I won't review just any old shit that gets sent to me. I don't get a whole lot of unsolicited review copies so it falls on me to contact companies and ask for them many times, and I don't actively pursue games that I don't think have a chance.

  • avatardragonstout

    With regards to Scorsese, I think it's also worth mentioning that Hugo 3D is his best movie in at least a decade, probably decades.

    Sure, the 70s were definitely at very least the third-best decade for film. But overrated compared to the 40s, because modern film-lovers respond more to bold & experimental but obvious self-expression than to subtlety and economy of storytelling. I like the 40s better (and for similar reasons prefer Classical-era Mozart & Beethoven over the more overwrought Romantic composers of the following era of classic music). 50s was great for foreign films, too.

    Michael Barnes wrote:
    There's been sort of a subtle change, I think, in what's coming out...we're sort of finally breaking away from that baroque, FFG-era thing and games are getting leaner and more focused- at least in a general sense. I _like_ this

    I like it too! I think it's interesting, though, that despite the general trend the GotY ended up being a very baroque game.

  • avatarFallen

    Good call on taxi Driver. Fucking brill in every way!

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    Nate: Just keep Drake or myself in mind if you need to see some negative reviews. We're here for you. :)

  • avatarSan Il Defanso  - re:
    Michael Barnes wrote:

    I'm also REALLY selective about what I cover, which leads to more positive than negative reviews. I won't review just any old shit that gets sent to me. I don't get a whole lot of unsolicited review copies so it falls on me to contact companies and ask for them many times, and I don't actively pursue games that I don't think have a chance.

    This is me too, but not by choice. I haven't yet had any response from a request for a review copy, so I end up covering stuff that I've already vetted and decided to purchase/trade for. Nothing wrong with that, but I sometimes think that it'd help sharpen my writing if I was able to get a few more negative reviews under my belt.

  • avatarscissors

    I totally forgot about As Good as it Gets. I did enjoy that, agree about that scene Barney. I mean, I like Nicholson and I guess to a degree all those 70s actors at som e point lost something whether DeNiro Pacino Hoffmann or whoever. But they are a undeniably great for a lot of stuff that they did.

  • avatarWoodall

    I love Taxi Driver and I think the story and grittiness of it all is a majority of it, but it is also helped out by a ridiculous amount of talent for even the small parts. Much like The Departed which is basically loaded all around.

    I couldn't turn off As Good As it Gets the other night. Turns out I'm still in love with Helen Hunt even when she looks horrible in her house dress. :) I should probably like more contemporary women (is Hunt old now to people?) but I don't. They don't know how to be.

  • avatarWoodall

    Of course I never did like Cybill Shepherd so I guess there is no accounting for taste.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    Yes of course Hunt is old now to people but that doesn't mean she isn't hella-attractive. Also that house dress was a fun look for her cuz you KNOW there are some nice melons under there. She's so great in that role. They both won that year which was great (at Oscars)

    I used to have such a thing for Helen Hunt too and would watch Mad About You JUST for all those scenes in the bedroom where she was in hot pyjamas. They never made her wear clothing that showed off her ballistics either (whereas that is ALL Dharma & Greg did) which was really cool of television back then. It wasn't until TWISTER where she runs out in tank top and you're all HOLY COW

  • JJJJS
    Quote:
    Movies like Taxi Driver are why I do not give a rat's ass about all the nerd-pandering FX shit anymore. You just don't see films made with guts like this anymore, a real sense of human darkness and real-life grit. It's movies like this that made the 1970s the best decade _ever_ in cinema. And we'll likely never see another film as honest or committed like this again.


    Drive. You need to see Drive.

  • avatarNotahandle

    Damn, good review Michael, now I'm looking forward to my copy of BattleCON even more.
    (Got something to pick up at the Sorting Office tomorrow, but I suspect it's Zevs games.)

  • avatardragonstout

    Re: Barnes' latest string of good reviews: I was just re-reading his ASL article from years back; what a great review, one of his best by far. That's what I really miss, is the passion and personal feeling of a lot of his older reviews, that actually told a story and didn't spend too much time on mechanics.

    But not every game is ASL, not every game is going to engender a response like that.

  • avatarKen B.

    I'll back up Mikey Barnes on the positive review thing.

    As the Fort has gotten more and more established, we can be more selective in what we cover. So many publishers, especially smaller ones, are pretty much ecstatic when we reach out to them to request review copies. And usually if it's a smaller company, their games have come to our attention for a reason...sort of a "cream will rise" type situation.

    I personally am very selective about what I request for review, and even moreso with what I purchase, so it's not surprising that often my eventual outlook on a game is positive, or at the very least, "hey, this isn't too bad."

    I know I should be out there hunting down games to destroy with utter hatred, but it just feels like a dick move to request a game purposefully that you just know you probably aren't going to like, just so you can publicly shit all over it just to maintain "reviewer cred."

    It's pretty easy to see when some other reviewers and bloggers do this--they'll give lavish praises to Rio Grande or Fantasy Flight or whatever, then every few months they'll bust out some small game from some one-man operation, just so they can rip it apart with glee and say, "Hey, this game sucks!"

    Oh, and to echo what Mikey B. also said--there are a lot of damned fine games coming out lately. That means we can be even choosier in what we cover.


    EDIT: In a sort of proof of "the cream will rise" concept, neither Barnes nor I had any idea the other would be featuring this game in review. And yet, our reviews will fall within a week or two of each other. No planning; just a great game that independently grabbed both of our respective attentions.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    My "Cream will rise" concept is completely different

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I don't think I spend much time at all on mechanics...in fact, I kind of actively avoid discussing them unless it's really important such as the dual card thing in BattleCon. I'm more interested in the experiential part of it, the emotional response, and how the player connects with the game or uses it to connect to other players.

    I have wilfully changed style somewhat over the years, that may be something you've noticed. Personally, I can't stand reading a review that starts out with the writer rhapsodizing about some personal story, something they like that isn't the game being written about,"I've always liked blah blah blah" or other stuff. When I realized that I was writing like that, I made an effort to write cleaner, more focused material rather than 2000 word epics. Because a 750 word, tightly written and pointed review is FAR more powerful than some rambling endurance test. And those rambling endurance tests are far too common in games writing. Look at any number of reviews on BGG. If you broke them out into an outline (which some writers practically do anyway), it'd be ridiculous.

    There's also the issue of writing about games almost every day. Literally. And writing about a new game every week- sometimes two or three depending on my workload at Gameshark- can actually be pretty grueling. It takes something like an ASL to get that kind of boundless passion stirred up.

    Reflecting on positivity, I realized earlier today that I _like_ the direction that games are going right now. It's not like '04 or even '10 where things were on a downturn. There's a lot of new talent, new concepts, and new foci. All things I'm down with, and it's in the current trends so there's less to get ornery and hyper-critical over. Even FFG has been mostly behaving themselves lately and doing some nice, back-to-basics work that supports their core strengths without tipping over into the indulgences of the past. They just gotta hire some QA folks.

  • avatardragonstout  - re:
    Michael Barnes wrote:
    I don't think I spend much time at all on mechanics...in fact, I kind of actively avoid discussing them unless it's really important such as the dual card thing in BattleCon. I'm more interested in the experiential part of it, the emotional response, and how the player connects with the game or uses it to connect to other players.

    I know that's always been important for you (as I completely agree with you on that front), but over the last year I just felt like there've been more and more paragraphs that I skim because they're just going over the mechanics (maybe with some "X mechanic, which is cool" or kinda opinions mixed in). Maybe I was always doing that and I never noticed. In the latest review, two out of eight paragraphs are pretty much just covering mechanics, with one more paragraph essentially being a list of components. Now, I'm not saying to get rid of these: that's pretty far from what I'd guess would be a 4:1 ratio of mechanics:actual-content in most reviews at BGG. And really, you NEED to talk about those things assuming that your reader hasn't already read up on the game. It's just my personal preference to skip that stuff, because if I'm curious about a game I'm usually obsessed enough to have already read the rules and know all that stuff.

    Michael Barnes wrote:
    I have wilfully changed style somewhat over the years, that may be something you've noticed. Personally, I can't stand reading a review that starts out with the writer rhapsodizing about some personal story, something they like that isn't the game being written about,"I've always liked blah blah blah" or other stuff. When I realized that I was writing like that, I made an effort to write cleaner, more focused material rather than 2000 word epics. Because a 750 word, tightly written and pointed review is FAR more powerful than some rambling endurance test. And those rambling endurance tests are far too common in games writing. Look at any number of reviews on BGG. If you broke them out into an outline (which some writers practically do anyway), it'd be ridiculous.

    When you look back on your ASL or Ogre articles, both of which tell personal stories, do you dislike those? Just curious, 'cause I don't think I'm the only one who holds those two as among your best. I also like, e.g., when you draw comparisons between Krull and Talisman, or between Stanley Kubrick and Civilization; sometimes "tangents" like that can be really great for elucidating a different perspective on a game.

    Quote:
    There's also the issue of writing about games almost every day. Literally. And writing about a new game every week- sometimes two or three depending on my workload at Gameshark- can actually be pretty grueling. It takes something like an ASL to get that kind of boundless passion stirred up.

    It is definitely completely absurd to hope for a really passionate article about all but the top maybe 5% of new games, even when they're all pretty good. This latest was actually a really good read, especially because of the comparison and contrast with Yomi.

    No doubt, the Rex review will be interesting.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    ASL and Ogre (and other "Games from the Crypt"-style articles are different though...I think those lend themselves to the more personal stories and anecdotal material.

    Comparisons are important to me, I've always been a big proponent of holding games to critical standards applicable to other mediums. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on Kingdoms of Amalur where the whole thing compared it to Young Americans. So yes, I completely agree on the tangents angle.

    It's really tough on the mechanics end of things...because you do have to explain what's going on and how it works...but if you start to get technical with it, I think you've lost the reader (provided the reader is not a robot or is somehow incapable of just reading the rules for themselves). There's been many a draft scrapped when I looked back over a paragraph or two and thought "damn, that is just a rules precis.

    The trick with Rex is this...how do you review that game _without_ effectively reviewing Dune? I think I have an answer.

  • Sirlin

    Sad to see you trash talking me Michael (and San Il Defanso). You guys listed two reasons that you are "sad you have found out more about me" (really insulting, by the way). One is that I talked about how it's bad to have a squishy rule about communication in BSG, and that it would be better to address the more core problem of incentives for sharing information. I think that's a valid design point, and by identifying problems like that, we can make better games that have fewer problems (especially during play where experts are pushing the limits). In this case, by identifying that it's a problem to allow communication, yet try to restrict it in cases where the players really, really want to communicate...it allows us to even *think* about a new solution, such as changing the incentives to make the anti-communication rules easier to deal with. If we don't identify problems like that, we can't even get to thinking about possible improvements.

    The second one is that Michael is for some reason upset that I disagreed with him on Yomi's cardstock. I very much appreciate his review, it was amazing and awesome. Though I'm not sure why that means I shouldn't say something about the cardstock? It seems very reasonable to me to respond, so I'm really lost there. The issue is that Yomi intentionally uses thinner cardstock than CCGs with a reinforced core and some coating, so that it's a bit closer to poker cards than CCG cards, and shuffles better than stiffer, thicker cards would. The stiffer, thicker cards are actually cheaper to make, so it was kind of a big deal to go the more pokerish way that all the players wanted during development. So if someone writes that off as flat-out low quality, it seemed very reasonable to respond. Sad to see that is held against me for some reason.

    San Il Defanso, despite your slight on my entire playtesting community (why?), I'm glad you're looking forward to the next Puzzle Strike. There's a whole lot that's been done for the sake of casual play and a lot of other stuff done for the sake of highly competitive play. So whichever camp you're in, I hope you'll find it even better than before. We're at the very end of development right now, though we're actually trying to put together a comprehensive strategy guide that really illustrates how much there is to high-level play. It's a pretty awesome guide, the top tournament players are all doing a great job on it, so I can't wait to show you guys.

    Michael, I enjoy your reviews in general, keep up the good work.

  • avatarSan Il Defanso

    David, I'm really excited about more Puzzle Strike. I've played it as much as any other deck-building game, despite there being no published expansion. That can be the kiss of death for deck-building games, but Puzzle Strike has been able to really stay fresh and deep despite having less published content. To me, that says you have a real winner there. So I'm really excited for that one.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I wasn't upset that you disagreed with me, David- I thought it was pretty disrespectful on your end to refute what I was saying _repeatedly_ in PM. I don't much like arguing with designers. Particularly after I gave your game one of the most positive reviews I've ever written. The fact that you're very defensive about the card stock for whatever reason is displayed here again, and I believe that what both San and I were referring to about "knowing more about you" isn't anything personal- it has to do with you as a designer. You come from a very different place than a lot of people working in games, and your more analytical, clinical approach isn't one that usually jibes with what the folks here are interested in. I have no idea who you are beyond your CV and the games you've published- which are by and large, great.

    It has disappointed me that you're so defensive about the game- which doesn't make sense, because it's extremely well regarded and mine wasn't the only best-of-the-year list.

    Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing what you do next- and you should take a look at BattleCon if you haven't already, there's some cool ideas in there that are worth checking out. Yomi (and Flash Duel) are very different games.

  • Sirlin

    Michael, I guess I'm still not getting it. I mean I don't have to get it, so it's ok. But like "defensive" means that I disagreed I guess? Yeah I disagree with things...that I disagree with. There is nothing special about Yomi cardstock as an issue that would set it apart from any other issue I disagreed with. It's just one example where to me it's wrong to completely write it off as "inferior" when there are tradeoffs that have it come out better in many ways. I mean if I said that you don't even play the games you review and that you are a terrific amazing person who is generous to all and really improves the world, you'd probably say "hey wait a minute...that one part isn't right!" The lavish praise would be well-received I bet! Though I'm not sure why that would disqualify you from being allowed any response to the other part. I guess that would be "defensive?" I mean yeah you'd be defending a point. Somehow defending a point is bad? That's what I don't get, as defending a point is being framed as a negative quality here. I expect people to defend their points. I mean especially coming from an academic background where the standard is someone making a point and everyone else questioning it to make sure it's right, and yes "defending" it.

    San Il Defanso, yeah lack of an expansion is a big thing. And Puzzle Strike's has taken really, really long. (It's playable online right now though.) Crazy as it sounds, it's been harder to balance it even than it was to balance Street Fighter. Street Fighter has like a million times more variables, but every damn tiny thing in Puzzle Strike affects like...everything. In Street Fighter sometimes I could change some move that is not used much except for some certain matchup...in Puzzle Strike, there's no such thing as that, so it was just really hard. Having to make something that isn't just fun the first 100 times you play, but that actually works after all these tournaments is just incredibly time consuming. Not to mention the major system change with Combine...anyway, we're almost there. Twice as many puzzle chips and twice as many characters, so the total number of abilities as four sets of Dominion. I hope making a tournament-quality deckbuilding game will get some people excited, but I guess we'll see.

    Oh, regarding Battlecon, there is some other game I worked on many years ago that used the same kind of cooldown mechanic. I was kind of sad to see it in print before I got to use it in my thing. That's a compliment though!

  • avatarSpace Ghost

    I too look forward to the Puzzle Strike expansion.

  • avatarWoodall

    Sirlin,

    I don't give two shits about Puzzle Strike or Yomi, but I am interested in Flash Duel. Also, you made Honda a beast in HD Remix. You can go to hell for that.

    Just kidding, I'm sure you are a delightful person. Or at least tolerable and not deserving of an afterlife filled with the smell of brimstone.

  • avatarKen B.

    As someone who has been helping with the balancing of the expansion...yeah, saying "it's been taking really really long" is an understatement, lol. I think we've been testing this for what, over a solid year?

    Glad to see you on here, anyway. Mikey B. and I have been covering your games for some time now--I don't think you'll find anyone outside of us and Tom Vasel who have championed your games more in terms of reviewers. But if there's criticism, you gotta roll with it sometimes. I disagree with Mike that the cardstock is inferior; but this is due to I think a disconnect between CCG expectations and boardgame expectations.

    It's why you ran into folks on BGG who disagreed with how much Yomi cost. And your reasoning was quite sound--from a CCG perspective (one I'm very much in tune with.) 10 tweaked and playable decks out of the box is a good deal even at 100$ MSRP. But a boardgamer has a harder time seeing that as they don't come at it from that valuation perspective.

    From a CCG perspective, the cardstock is solid, as you've said. But it's 'different' than the linen finish German-style cards that many boardgamers have come to equate with what 'quality' means.

    Uh...anyway, that was a long diversion.


    To swing this back on tangent, yes, the Puzzle Strike expansion is really damned cool, but MAN has it been a bitch to get balanced. To me, Nightfall and Puzzle Strike are the king of Deckbuilders. No other ones come close to the level of direct player interaction as those two. I own several deckbuilders but if you held a gun to my head I could probably be rid of all of them...but those two. Those two, I keep. (And yes, that includes getting rid of my ridiculously expensive and stupidly heavy Dominion Poker Chip PnP set.)

  • avatarcraniac

    There needs to be a rule that designers just respond to criticism with "Thanks for the feedback" and move on.

    Quote:
    Movies like Taxi Driver are why I do not give a rat's *** about all the nerd-pandering FX *** anymore. You just don't see films made with guts like this anymore, a real sense of human darkness and real-life grit. It's movies like this that made the 1970s the best decade _ever_ in cinema. And we'll likely never see another film as honest or committed like this again.

    When I got done watching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the first thing I said to my friends was "Man, I didn't think they made movies like that any more." It's a very different movie from Taxi Driver but definitely has the darkness and the grit. It probably felt unbearably slow and confusing to anyone who isn't familiar with the premise and LeCarre in general.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    There needs to be a rule that designers just respond to criticism with "Thanks for the feedback" and move on.

    I agree with the sentiment here. It's not professional for a designer to retort a critic- not even in PM. I appreciate that David disagreed, but in ANY OTHER medium, a creator "firing back at a critic" is VERY much not a done thing. It's unprofessional, it makes the creator appear desperate and defensive, and it breaks down a certain barrier that should exist between creation and criticism.

    You usually don't see this, even in games. It's pretty rare, but it does happen and when it does it's awkward and uncomfortable. But it never changes the critic's mind, nor does it diminish criticism. I was disappointed that Sirlin did this, although I respect his opinion on the matter and his position. I just don't need the justification or personal exchange over it.

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