Come on in for Next of Ken, where I'll chatter about some movies I watched recently, bitch about Netflix, flaunt my boardgaming birthday loot, and talk about Ghost Stories and Nostra City. Join us, won't you?
I Wish I Had a Window That Would Let Me See, Back Into That World
I've actually watched several movies recently, playing catch-up in a few cases.
One of the ones I finally got around to watching was Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. The whole movie was pretty much carried by him for sure, but it was clever enough in parts and was a nice popcorn take on Holmes. With the sequel (and Moriarity!) on tap for this Christmas, I wanted to be ready. However, just mentioning Moriarty brings up memories of the awful, awful Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie...remind me again how they screwed THAT one up so royally?
"You're the man now, Tom!"
My wife and I then watched The Lincoln Lawyer; decent enough for a little potboiler thriller. Not going to win any awards, but efficient and has a few nice twists and turns. We still crack jokes on how little effort Matthew Mcconnaughey puts into trying to sound like wherever his character is from: it's always, "Hey y'all, I'm a Nigerian drug runner, awrahhhht?" Must be Southern Nigeria, I guess.
I also saw The Source Code, which was surprisingly good, though not a homerun. I'll probably always be a Jake Gyllenhall fan thanks to Donnie Darko, and he does a good job here, but the junk science (and the questions it raises in the ending) kind of muddy the water a bit. Still, it's a good sci-fi movie where sci-fi isn't the actual focus--the technology is loosely explained, and then from there the characters deal with it as a tool, and also you can examine the ramifications of such a technology. At any rate, it's worth Redboxing or Netflixing, but I doubt I'd bother buying it.
Speaking of Netflix, I went ahead and cancelled our 1-DVD plan and kept the streaming plan ahead of the ludicrous price increases coming down the pipeline. In case you haven't heard, Netflix will be de-bundling its streaming and DVD plans, which would be just fine *if* they weren't also jacking up the prices. Our 1-DVD/Streaming plan was $9.99 a month; when the price increases kick in, that exact same plan will effectively cost $15.98. It doesn't sound like a lot, but that's $70 a year, for no real improvement in service whatsoever. That's not to mention rates just increased this past February.
At one point I was all about the Netflix--great service, great price. But now I'm starting to question if they don't have their head up their asses. The streaming option is very nice, but selection isn't always that impressive. It's gotten better for sure, but still leaves something to be desired.
If our kids didn't watch so many kids shows on Netflix, I'd probably have just opted out of the service entirely--we have a pretty impressive OnDemand service with Charter, and with HBO/Cinemax on demand, there are better options to pick from in terms of new movies. The kids however have a plethora of stuff they like on Netflix with Power Rangers, The Avengers, so on and so forth, so right now they are using it ten times as much as we are.
Still, we'll keep Netflix around for now. The ability for the kids to watch on their Wii is huge, and it is nice to be able to watch some of the smaller, independant movies through their service. But Netflix--I used to be a big fan...and now you're on notice.
Oh, Games...A Million Times Better Than The Pain
My birthday order came in, though I'm not allowed to rip 'em open until the big day arrives. Here are the highlights:
Battleship Galaxies: Before this came in, I had been trading for people's Star Wars Starship miniatures. Somehow, getting this made that melt away. The mixture of awesome minis, the funky targeting system, the tight energy management, and the cardplay makes this seem like a light starship fleet battler that won't require you to be a "lifer" to enjoy.
Olympos: I enjoy both Vinci and Small World quite a bit, so was eager to play Keyaerts' new offering. It looks like the "serious" mode of play that Vinci has, but with all sorts of tweaks, including a new time system for taking actions. The time mechanic sounds a lot like Red November, and that's probably my favorite part of that game, so I'm looking forwrad to seeing how that works here. Bottom line--if I dig this more than Vinci, Olympos will inherit my set of extra Age of Mythology minis.
Quarriors: This is the current deckbuilding hotness. I have been F:AT's resident champion of deckbuilders. Plus, I'm honestly looking for something simpler that fills my need for Dragon Dice--I know that the only comparison is that they're dice with creatures on some of the faces, but it's the "roll the dice that represent critters, and use the icons for special purposes" routine that I'm after. I think this will do just fine.
Dunwich Horror: Finally this sucker is back in print. I wanted a big box expansion for Arkham Horror, and this is the one I settled on. Injury and Madness sound like great additions. Now with this mixed in with the base game and Curse of the Dark Phaoroh, I should have plenty of variance in the location events, but not so much that those cool expansion elements get buried or marginalized. It seems like a good mix to me; we'll just have to see how it goes.
Junta: Viva El Presidente: Got this one for the funny theme and the faster lunch-hour gameplay. My brother recently picked up Intrigue, and I still like Lifeboat (Gorilla Games) quite a bit, so I think this makes a nice trilogy of hour-long nasty screw-over-your-neighbor gameplay.
Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta
We played a couple of games this weekend in the form of Ghost Stories and Nostra City. Both were games my brother had gotten for his birthday this month.
Both of my brothers and I made a run against Ghost Stories. On Easy. And got into a bind with ghosts and got our asses kicked. I'm thinking we will either not try this again with only three or make doubly sure we play next time with the expansion (which he also got.)
The problem is with a ghost spawn every turn, and you not always being able or willing to banish a ghost every turn, the board fills, until your only option is fighting ghosts, all the time. I had the kung-fu master with the extra combat dice, but they hated me. We all died and probably had seven more cards before Wu Feng even materialized.
I thought Witch of Salem was hard! (We ignore the stupid rule in Witch of Salem about not talking about portals, as that is one of the stupidest rules ever committed to a rulebook.) But this one is solidly handing us our own assholes on a silver platter for breakfast. And early in the morning ain't no time to be dealin' with that shit, yo.
Then my wife joined in for a four-player Nostra City. Nostra City is a great, little bit obscure game that we found out about from Steve Avery at Trashfest. It's "competitively cooperative", in that if the boss is found guilty at trial, you all lose, but there can only be one winner.
Players accumulate Wiseguys and Turfs, running illicit activities such as prostitution and drugs. But if other players have dibs on those types of turfs, then you have to share the take, or "cheat" them and risk their ire. Then players will use their still available wiseguys to make bids on goods to be found on "The Street", using the loot they gained from cashing in on those illegal activities. Lastly, they can secretly place evidence on the boss, to help him be found innocent.
The bad thing is, there is a Vendetta deck and inside that deck are two "Snitch" cards, where one of the players' turns into a Fed informer. You get Vendetta cards through certain powers of Wiseguys but most often when you are "cheated" on a deal by another player, so if a game gets really nasty, its more likely that someone is going to go to the Feds. "If I can't get my cut, none of you other bums will either." The wiseguys are a nice mix of various powers; some are great at working certain vices, others can get you bonus cards, there is plenty of variety in the different thugs you'll have at your disposal.
There are some Euro mechanics involved here, as at its heart its something of a worker placement game, but without so much cockblocking. Your guys can only do so much. Also, the blind bidding for cards in the middle of the table is definitely Euro material, but at least there are cards you can play to screw with the auctions.
We played a couple of rules wrong, so if you do get this, make sure to check the FAQ and read the rules carefully. We were only allowing one cash-in per turn per player as well as not forcing certain Wiseguys to tap to use their powers. It's not really clear in the rules that you have to do this, but the designer has clarified it to be so. We ended up strapped for cash and having a lot of wiseguys with nothing to do.
Anyway, we hit the last month, and during that turn my youngest brother turned secret snitch. I put some heavy evidence to help the boss but little-known to me he had countered that with some heavy evidence against. The cards were revealed, and the boss was at -1 Guilt (which is bad, if he doesn't finish positive, all the wiseguys lose and only the snitches win.) So thanks to the surprise testimony of a mafia man turned states' evidence, all the mafia families went down.
Nostra City is really good--the theme is great as the trial is going on while the players are still trying to run their businesses. They want to come out on top, but they all go down if the boss is found guilty. Add in a healthy mix of temptation to cheat others and nasty Vendetta cards that allow you to whack opposing wiseguys, steal their money, force them to unevenly swap turfs with you...it's pretty mean. I like it a lot, actually.
That's going to do it for this week...as always, comments and feedback are welcome. 'Till then, keep flippin' them space castles. I'll see you in seven.