Slasher Flick RPG Review

Like Slasher/Horror movies where the characters are always getting split up and making bad decisions? Have I found a game for you! Slasher Flick from Spectrum Games is a Slasher/Horror flick ‘Genre Emulation’ game that allows players to take on the roles of characters within a slasher flick. One player takes on the roll of the Director which is similar to a Game Master or Dungeon Master in other tabletop RPGs. The other players all control a Primary character along with one or more Secondary and Tertiary characters. Players earn Genre Points for having their characters say and do things that would happen in a typical slasher flick. Characters invariably end up in a multitude of Kill Scenes with the Killer/Monster/etc. where they must earn Survival Points in order to make it out of the scene, otherwise they die. Both the Kill Scenes and character death happen, as you expect in a slasher flick, pretty frequently. Overall this game is quick to learn, fun to play and does a great job doing what it set out to do, emulating slasher movies.

The game’s mechanics are fairly simple. Whenever a situation comes up that has opposition or a chance of failure the player in control of the character has to make a roll of four dice. Get 2 or more matching numbers and you succeed, otherwise you fail. Hard rolls can drop the roll down to three dice and conversely having a skill can increase your dice pool to five. All rolls in the game are based around four basic stats: Brawn, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit. Every character has these rated either Poor, Normal or Good. The better a character is at something, the smaller the die they use for their roll. So if a character is Good at Brains they roll six sided dice (d6) where a character that was Poor would roll ten sided dice (d10). Primary characters typically have better stats and more bonuses where Secondaries do not.

One of the most fun things about Slasher Flick is that it rewards players for having their characters do non-optimal things that would happen in a movie by awarding Genre Points. Hear a noise in the basement and have your character go down alone while saying “I’ll be right back!” You earn a Genre Point! Sure that character may die but that gives the player more Genre Points to help their remaining characters and possibly win the game.

Kill Scenes are what the game, and Slasher Flicks for that matter, is all about and they run quite well. The mechanics work like anything else in the game, roll dice and look for matches, but there are several twists thrown in which can swing results. The general idea is that a character must earn a certain number of survival points during a Kill Scene to end the scene and make it out alive. If a character drops to negative Survival Points though they die! I have to admit that after reading the rules I was afraid the Kill Scenes would drag on a bit, and they do take a bit of time, but they actually run very smoothly and to be honest are the most fun part of the game. I’m speaking from only having played as the Director though so perhaps my love of killing PCs in Dungeons and Dragons is showing.

If you and your gaming group enjoy a good horror movie and are looking for a fun way to spend a session I highly recommend the Slasher Flick RPG. There are numerous scenarios available and the Director’s Cut of the game that I bought also has a ton of pregenerated characters you can either use directly or just for inspiration.

If you’d like to hear an example of how the game plays stay tuned as we’ll be releasing a podcast episode of us playing our first game, Murder at Red Beard Resort, in the next couple of weeks. You can also find a full list of Slasher Flick products here.

I Could Have Written a Better Screenplay for Mortal Engines . . . And I Kind of Did.

Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved

**Spoiler Alert**

If you have not seen Mortal Engines and want to have a shot at enjoying it – do not read this review. You have been warned.

When I sat down to watch Mortal Engines, I did not have a lot of expectations. I had not read any of the related books nor had I read any reviews of the movie. I knew that the screenplay was penned by Peter Jackson and crew who had written The Lord of the Rings Trilogy screenplays (three of my favorite movies of all time), but even that did not give me any real anticipation of this particular movie. Good thing.

I would not say that I hated Mortal Engines as much as I was simply bored by it. One dimensional characters, a lumbering storyline and ham-fisted movie tropes all combine together into a perfect cacophony of icky gray blandness. If Hunger Games was a zesty southwest omelette, Mortal Engines is cold, unflavored oatmeal.

BUT, instead of going on and on about specifically what is wrong with this movie and offering nothing constructive, I am going to give a try at putting my money where my big mouth is; I am going to offer a critique and then try to offer a workable solution. You can let me know in the comments how great – or not great – of a job that I do.

Okay, let’s get started.

What the hell is going on and why are cities on tank tracks / wheels?

Let’s just call this problem the complete and utter lack of exposition. Here is what you get from this move: There was a big apocalyptic event caused by this machine called “Medusa” that took all of an hour to transform the world into a wasteland. Now cities are on wheels! EXCEPT for the part of the world that is NOT on wheels but it is behind a really, really big wall. Makes sense, right? Right?!?

No. 

What we need here, is some good old fashioned exposition to let us know exactly what the crap is going on.

Some of you out there hate direct exposition in a movie; that’s fair. But, what I think you actually hate is badly done direct exposition. If done correctly, direct exposition can help set a movie up to move forward with all wheels churning instead of leaving the movie audience scratching their heads and asking: why are all of the cities on wheels again? An example of good direct exposition was done by *GASP* Peter Jackson at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Rings. The first five minutes of the movie explain thousands of years of history in an entertaining and awe inspiring way. We see armies decimated by a mighty evil being. We see a magical ring float to the bottom of a river to be discovered thousands of years later. We are being told the history of Middle Earth and we are loving every second of it. This kind of exposition to explain what Medusa was, why it was and what is caused could have been easily just as entertaining in Mortal Engines. It took me Google searching to figure out that the cities were on wheels because apparently the tectonic plates of earth had been disrupted by the Medusa weapon. Why the movie could not have told us that, I do not know.

The Cardboard Cutout Characters

Why is Tom prancing about the wastelands as if he is vacation? Why is he utterly unaffected by being attacked by cannibals and almost being enslaved? Not to mention that he just found out that the savior of his society is a lying sociopathic serial killer bent on destruction for destruction’s sake (more on that later)! Tom needs to be hurting. Tom needs to be questioning the very nature of his existence because his whole world just got turned upside down. But instead he is a happy clown who is bouncing around the wastelands just waiting for his chance to fly a Rickshawesque plane thingy. Be less Tom and be more Jon Snow.

Why does Thaddeus Valentine want to kill everyone just to recreate a weapon that seriously screwed up the earth the first time around? I mean, seriously – what is his motivation? It ain’t family – after all, he killed the mother of one of his children and all but abandoned both of his daughter when it suited his purposes. It is not wealth – he seems to care little for the fact that he is throwing his entire life away to blow up a wall. What is behind that wall anyway? Do we even know that? We need a backstory here, folks. Maybe Thaddeus had a father that was abusive? Maybe his ancestors helped develop Medusa to start with? Just an iota of a reason for his actions would be better than the nothing that we are left with.

Hester Shaw wants to kill Thaddeus Valentine because he killed her mother. That’s all you really need to know as far as the makers of this movie are concerned and by limiting Hester in that way, they are missing out on a goldmine of character development. Hester was raised by an undead zombie cyborg names Shrike who is, by all accounts, the most complex and interesting character this movie has to offer (What does it say when the movie’s best character is literally the emotionless dead guy?). Shrike was a man once with a family. He yearns for the life that he had before becoming a killing machine in way that he does not understand. He has a photo of himself as human with his son that he hides away even from himself. He collects dolls and broken things and repairs them because he longs to repair the broken thing that he himself has become. He takes in Hester – scarred and broken from her battle as a child with Valentine – and he nurses her back to health. All the while, he is still a green eyed emotionless killing machine. Shrike wants a family so bad that he makes a cyborg body for Hester and makes her promise to join him in his eternal life of not-quite-living. He is a tragic and triumphant figure full of contradictions that we can all relate to. Focussing more on the relationship between Shrike and Hester would have helped to humanize Hester as well. A good chunk of the first part of the movie should have been devoted to that story instead of giving it short shrift as paltry flashbacks.

Boring, Safe Storytelling

Look – within the first 15 minutes of this movie, we know who the bad guy is, who the big-hearted romantic lead good guy is, who the grizzled female lead who will give into love is and how this is all going to play out in the end with the good guys winning (living) and the bad guy losing (dying). The only thing that takes a while to get introduced into the movie is the best part of the movie: Shrike.

So, let’s do a little exercise. Let’s flip things around a bit and see how it plays out:

The scene is a dark scrubland at dusk. There is red dirt rock everywhere. A few clumps of grass grow here and there. A single tree is silhouetted against the setting sun. The tree and the land begin to shake. The shaking grows in intensity until rocks jump on the ground and a flock of small birds erupts from the tree. Suddenly, an unbelievably large tank tread is roaring deafening by, missing the tree by inches. It digs and cuts at the land. As the vehicle moves further away, we see that it is, in fact, a small collection of buildings undulating on some sort of flexible platform set atop the giant tank treads. In its wake – close to the camera view – it has churned up a human skull caked in dirt. We watch the mobile town drive further into the distance. Suddenly a large metal, claw-like food crushes the skull like an egg. The camera pans up to show us the back of Shrike, with an eerie green glow emanating from his face. He clutches a tattered doll in his hand and we hear his voice whisper one word, “Hester.”

Cut to the half covered face of Hester Shaw as she walks the streets of what is obviously the same small city that trundled past in the opening. She peers back over her shoulder ominously.

From here, things would be similar to the movie where Hester’s city meets up with other small cities and then gets consumed by London. But now, let’s change things again. Instead of Tom intervening and saving Valentine’s life, resulting in Valentine all but yelling “I’m the villain” as he pushes Tom to his doom, Shrike boards London in secret soon after the smaller city is consumed. When Hester makes her strike at Valentine, Shrike intervenes to try to stop Hester from becoming the killer that he has become. A struggle ensues between the forces of London and Shrike. Hester flees and Tom pursues. Tom slips and falls after Hester when trying to pull her up from the swirling vortex exiting London. Shrike is captured and Valentine, using some of the technology he has accumulated, hacks into Shrike’s memories, learns who Hester is and reprograms him to execute Hester and Tom. Up until the point that he commands Shrike to kill Hester, we are lead to believe that he is trying to gather information to help save London and to send Shrike to rescue Tom and bring Hester back to justice. This would be a much more gradual and satisfying reveal of Valentine as the villain.

This version of the movie would proceed in a more realistic manner with a slower pace and with a more in depth and realistic look at the characters.

I could go on with several more aspects of this movie that could use some TLC; heck, I wrote like the first 25 pages of a new screenplay for this joint in my head in the shower the other day! Alas, though; I have other things to attend to at the moment. I have to go get my house fitted for wheels just in case the tectonic plates doing the tango and I have to drive it away from bigger cities trying to eat me!

Command and Conquer – Playable in Your Browser!

I’ve recently stumbled upon a game in the Chrome Web Store that caught my eye.  I first saw it had Command and Conquer in the name.  That immediately reminded me of the late night LAN parties and early internet dial-up battles of the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of NOD (NOD) I had years ago.  So I figured it would be pretty neat to say the least if someone had figured out how to leverage the graphics power of the modern web browser to replicate the game without the need to download and install anything.  So I went and added Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliance to my Chrome web browser’s list of “apps”.  I was very surprised to find out how this game was different yet similar in many ways to the original series.

Chrome web apps aren’t really applications as most of us know them.  For the most part it’s really just a hyperlink to the web site where the web application is actually hosted.  So when you click on the icon in your “apps” page in Chrome it takes you to the alliances.commandandconquer.com site.  It turns out this game is one of those free to play games.  And by free to play they mean it costs nothing to play but if you want to slip them a few bucks you can quickly gain an advantage over your rivals with an easy, direct relationship to the amount of bucks you throw their way.  The game can quickly be summed up as Farmville but with infantry, tanks, and air support – a Warville if you will.  Similar to most MMORPG you get to choose a world which is to say a server then your base gets randomly placed along the outside edge of the giant circle that represents all of the usable land in that world.  The goal is to get to the center of the world where the hardest and highest level bad guy bases are.  As you take over POI they are called you can earn bonuses for all of the other players in your alliance.  You’ll get bonuses to infantry attack strength, higher defense for your home base defense units, and extra resources gained per hour to name a few.  You’ll set up harvesters to gather resources like Tiberium and Crystals that you’ll use to build the other buildings, like a barracks to train infantry and a factory to build tanks.  These resources will build even if you have your browser closed and your computer off.  So another great feature is you can log on and play this game for almost any computer!  Over a friend’s house and need to check if you have enough resources to finally build that mega killer tank?  Just log on and check!  Need to upgrade your defense HQ and resource silos while waiting for your code to compile?  Just sign on real quick and get it done in only a few seconds!

CnCTA_BaseViewThe big twist in this game is that instead of GDI vs. NOD it is GDI + NOD vs “The Forgotten”.  So you can have players in your alliance that chose to play as NOD and some that chose GDI on the same team both fighting to drive out the Forgotten.  So if you like a game where you play for a few minutes upgrading your buildings, adding troops and tanks to your forces, and researching better technology like laser guided missle tanks then log off and check back in hours or days later, then this game is for you.  In fact, I wrote this review while waiting for some resources to build up that I need in order to repair all the damage my attacking forces sustained on my last attack on a Forgotten camp.  Let me know if you play this game in the comments and join my alliance, Red_Tide!  You can search for Command and Conquer Tiberium Alliance in the Chrome App Store or just go here to get started: http://www.tiberiumalliances.com

Critical Success, Indeed: CritSuccess Spinning Dice Ring Review

Empty out your dice bag. Take out all of the six-sided dice and look at what you have left. Mostly D20’s, right? Those icosagons take up a lot of room, am I right? Okay, put your dice away before someone steps on those caltrop-like D4s. So what the solution to your over abundance of twenty-sided buddies? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Dice Ring by CritSuccess.

Now, my clever little introduction was limited to the twenty-sided version of the ring, but the folks over at CritSuccess have more options than that? There are rings for the D4 all the way up to the D100. Play the Fate System? There is a Fudge Dice ring as well. There is also a ring you can use as a life counter and a ring that has a complete deck of cards on it. There are more rings than that. You can check out the complete line of rings available HERE.

When Danny and I were at GenCon, we started to notice a lot of people walking around with spinning rings. While gaming with the folks from Standard Action – second place winners in the Series category at GenCon Film Fest 2013 – we finally had to satisfy our curiosity. Come to find out the guys from CritSuccess had a booth set up in the massive Exhibitors Hall and we selling all types of spinning dice ring.

We headed to the Standard Action Booth and met up with Aaron and Sam who ran the KickStarter that funded the CritSuccess spinning rings. Sam demonstrated how to wear the ring on our left index finger and spin the ring using our thumbs; he also helped us find the right sized rings. Then, we headed over and geeked out over the rings with Aaron Laniewicz. After chatting and taking some silly pictures, Danny and I each walked away with a D20 ring. Danny chose the blue ring and I took a classic gold ring.

It has been a week and, although I have not had a chance to game with the ring yet, I have been wearing mine most every day to try and evaluate the ring. As a piece of jewelry, the ring is pretty cool for the mere fact that it shows the whole world that you are a gaming nerd if you choose to point out what kind of ring you are wearing. Otherwise, if you are wearing the more classic colors, like gold, you can probably get away with wearing the ring and no one being the wiser to your nerdy ways. The only downside, as just jewelry, is the rattle sound that you get from most any spinner ring; it is no big deal and I stopped noticing it after a few hours.

As a gaming implement, I have noticed just a few potential issues. First, it is pretty difficult to spin the ring hard enough to get a full revolution. That means that you might be more limited in the potential outcome than you would be by rolling a die.

*Update*

The first thing you want to do when you get your rings is to wash them in warm soapy water. The rings have dust and debris in them from the manufacturing process, which just needs cleaned out.

I find it best to make a big bowl of soapy water, and submerge the rings completely. While they are underwater, grip the spinning bands and push them hard against the inside band while turning. You’ll want to apply a good amount of pressure. The idea is to try to use the outer bands to grind/polish the inner grooves. Then rinse thoroughly. Some rings may need more work than others, and you’ll want to keep at it until it feels completely smooth on all sides. Use dish soap for the best results, since it does not leave a residue.

Once a ring is cleaned out appropriately, it will spin AMAZINGLY!

Another small issue is that the two small arrows on the outside of the ring do not always indicate a clear roll. About 1/3 of the time, I have to do a “re-spin” because the arrows are pointing at the line in between two numbers.

*Update* 

As a rule, if the ring lands on a line, the result is the face above the line. You should never have to reroll. As long as you consistently declare the result the face above the line, the statistics are reliable and accurate.

I have not had the ring long enough to make a clear comment on  durability. So far, there does not appear to be any visible wear after a week of use.

There are definitely positive points to the ring. If you were it everyday, then you will never be caught in an impromptu gaming situation with having a D20 (or whatever ring you are wearing) handy. The cool factor you get the first time your friends see you spin a ring instead of roll a die is definitely worth the price of admission in and of itself. One last note, be prepared to get a little callous on the side of your thumb if your spin the ring a lot. I have been spinning this thing like crazy just as a nervous tick and I can feel a callous forming already.

Final Word: The Dice Ring is worth getting just for the cool / nerd factor alone. If you use it for gaming, great; if not, it still makes a nice piece of jewelry to show the world you are a gamer. I suggest all GMs get their players one of these rings for Christmas!

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App Review – Outwitters – Multiplayer Strategy/Board Game

The Goblin overlords at the Goblin Beat have been on me to write a review of some apps that are worth playing and since this game is about  creating an army and waging war it was right up their alley.  Looking for a challenging app for your phone or iPad that has a high replay value?? Then take a look at Outwitters from Onemanleft.com.  The app is free to try but will cost you a small amount of $ to buy the full version.  You can spend hours playing the game continuously or just pick it up once a day to take your turns with your opponents, so the time commitment is solely up to you.  What’s it all about you ask?  Think Risk meets Final Fantasy tactics…

The game pits you against an opponent on a hex grid map.  You square off against one another using 1 of 4 races (Fishmen, Robots, Veggiemen, Adorables).  Every race has the same 5 basic troop types and one special class that vary by race.  The players take turns producing new troops, moving their troops, and attacking their enemy.  Each soldier creation, movement, or attack costs you Wits.  You start each round with a set amount of Wits plus extra ones for each Witt square you control.  The 5 troop types vary in how far they can travel each turn, how much damage they can withstand, and how much damage they do with an attack. The various troops also have different attack ranges associated with their attacks.  For example a Scout can move up to 5 tiles per round and do 1 damage, but only has an attack range of 1 and total life of 1, meanwhile a sniper moves 1 tile per round has 1 life, but can do 3 damage up to 3 tiles away.  The object of the game is to either destroy your enemy’s base that has 5 total life, or destroy all of their troops and occupy their spawn points.  If a round ends and they have 0 troops and you are occupying their spawn spaces the game is over.  There are plenty of other nuances to the game about earning extra widgets during a turn by destroying enemies, etc. and using the special classes of each race, but the game is pretty straightforward other than that.

outwitters2

When you first get started with the free version you only have access to one race and the ability to have 5 matches at a time.  There are different options for purchasing the additional races, and the ability to have more games going at once (Up to 20).  The bundle is the best way to go b/c you get access to all races, and you can have up to 20 games going at once.  You may be asking yourself, why would I continue to play this game every day…  Well if you are anything like me then you like to win, dominate your opponents, and essentially be the best.  Outwitters will rank you after your first five matches into different Classes/Leagues, and with each win and loss you earn more points towards your rank and you can see yourself moving up the leaderboards within the different ranks, plus its funny totally destroying a guy’s entire army when he had no idea he was going to lose on his next turn.  The creators of the game also hold month long tournaments for its purchasers of the game, as well as put out updates for the game regularly with new maps, and recently the 4th race.  All of these were free to anyone had purchased the full version of the game.  They are actively keeping the game updated and improving upon it, so you can expect to get your moneies worth once you have the full version of the game.  I travel a lot so I use this game to pass the time in airports and the hotel when I am on the road, and it never lets me down.  Unless I don’t count my Wits correctly and fail to destroy a soldier on my turn just to watch him get healed and massacre my guys the next.  You will definitely come back for more once you try this out, and the best part is that it is free to try out.  You will not be disappointed, because the opponents will always play differently so your strategies need to change for every different battle you are in on every map.  Some players are more aggressive, more defensive minded, or even very methodical in their troop creation and will slow play you into a trap.  Bottom line is it doesn’t get redundant or repetitive!

The Good: Easy to learn, Great Gameplay.  Challenging opponents that you are matched against based on both your ranks, so you won’t get matched against someone who has played for a year.  Different races allow for different playing styles.  Different maps call for different strategies.  You can have multiple games going, so you don’t have to wait on everyone to take their turns constantly.  Time needed to play a few rounds is minimal.  No match is ever the same.  Developers are continuing to support and update the app.  High replay value.

The Bad: 2vs2 matches take way too long to play. The Adorables race and maps are too cheesy/pink.  You need an internet connection to send your turns, so if you don’t have Wi-Fi for the ipad or a cellular service on your device for any reason…aka no offline play.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

 

 

The Last Threshold by R.A. Salvatore

The Last Threshold is book four in the Neverwinter Saga by R. A. Salvatore and chronicles the continuing adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden and his new group of rather unusual companions.  Dhalia, the elven warrior with whom Drizzt has been running around with for the last couple of novels is back as well as Artemis Entreri who has consented to stay with Drizzt and Dahlia  at least for the present.  Afafrenfere the human monk and Ambergris the dwarven cleric are more recent additions but are in many ways the most interesting characters within the book.  Both are former members of Cavus Dun, a Shadowfell based group of mercenaries, who are now trying to walk a more noble path.  The book follows the group through a number of cities along the Sword Coast as well as other interesting locations and manages to have almost nothing to do with Neverwinter at all.  This doesn’t necessarily detract from the story, but if you were reading the Neverwinter Saga in hopes of reading about things happening in Neverwinter then this particular book might be a disappointment.

The Good

Fans of Salvatore’s patented fight scenes will find quite a few although fewer perhaps than in any other Drizzt book I have read.  Plenty of beloved characters from the Drizzt pantheon get involved in the story at some point as well as well as a little of the Drow intrigue one expects to find in these books.  There is also some halfway decent character development for the previously mentioned Ambergris and Afafrenfere.  When the book ends I found myself genuinely curious about what these two might get into next and what types of adventures are awaiting them.

The Bad

The relationships.  The interpersonal relationships within the book, including the strange love triangle between Drizzt, Dahlia and Entreri introduced in the last book continues to get more bizarre and unbelievable within the Last Threshold.  Many of the scenes would have felt more at home in a teen vampire show than within a Drizzt novel.  What makes it worse is that there is a point within the book where Dahlia starts to become three-dimensional and comes very close to being an interesting character, only to toss it all aside towards the end of the book and go right back to being the crazy black widow she is introduced as in the very first book of this series.

The Ugly

The Story itself.  There really is nothing driving the story forward throughout the book and as a result it begins to read more like a travel log than a novel.  Interesting things do happen but they seem disjointed with no real purpose, no true antagonist and no quest or adventure to speak of through the whole book.  It almost seems as though the emotional and moral fog that Drizzt has experienced throughout the whole series culminates in this book and causes the story to slow and falter.  The story moves along in fits and jerks until it finally fizzles out.

Conclusion

Obviously any die-hard Drizzt fan is going to read this book, but I feel that with very few exceptions they will be disappointed.  This is the first time I’ve ever been glad to finish on of these books just to be done with it and not because I was interested to see what happened next and how the story ended.  If you have been following the Neverwinter Saga from the beginning then you might as well pick this book up, although it might be worth it to wait and see if there will be any more books after this one.  If not I would consider simply skipping this one and coming up with your own ending.  If another book does come out though and you want to continue the adventure then you will have little choice but to power through this book first.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative board game for 2-4 players by GameWright where the players take on the role of adventurers trying to retrieve four sacred relics from a mysterious (forbidden!) island before the entire thing sinks into the ocean.  Each adventurer has a special ability that can help out the entire group.  The diver, for instance, can move through one or more adjacent flooded/missing tiles for a single action, making it easier for him to get around in the later stages of the game.  The ‘board’ is created randomly each game by laying out the included tiles.  Each adventurer has a start tile (the tile itself is marked with a pawn the same color as the adventurer) which means that not only is the board random, but your starting location is as well.
Forbidden_Island
Tiles other than the starting tiles and the finish ‘Fool’s Landing’ tile all have a symbol for one of the treasures.  If you land on one of these tiles with four treasure cards of that type (and the tile hasn’t sunk into the abyss) you can claim the associated treasure and once all of the treasure’s are collected everyone heads back to Fool’s Landing to take off in the helicopter and leave the Forbidden Island behind forever!

Of course this is all complicated by the need to trade treasure cards with other players to have someone with enough of a single treasure type  to claim it and by the dreaded rising of the waters.  During each players turn they may take three actions (move, trade, shore up an adjacent section of the island, claim a treasure), draw 2 treasure cards and finally draw Flood cards.  Each Flood card matches one of the island tiles and causes a dry tile to flip over to its flooded side or a flooded tile to sink into the abyss and no longer be reachable.

waters_riseTo make matters worse the treasure pile also contains ‘Waters Rise!’ cards.  These cards cause the water level to rise and more sections of the island to sink each turn, up to a maximum of 5 before the entire island sinks in one fell swoop.

Review

The attractive tin the game comes in claims that this game takes thirty minutes to play, which is about right but the game play is so fast and intense it feels like much less.  Having played this game with multiple groups of players from age 8 and up I have found that it is always fun and exciting.  The pieces are all incredibly well made and the attention to detail on the island tiles is amazing.  I can’t help but imagine a movie version of this game every time I play through it with the main characters using their various strengths to help each other make it through the island only to jump aboard a helicopter at the last second while the last pieces of the island sink around them.

I would recommend this game to pretty much anyone from a hard-core gamer to a casual enthusiast.  The replay value is very high and the cooperative play style does a great job keeping younger kids from getting angry with one another as they do in many other games.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Interface Zero 2.0: Cyberpunk Savaged

KickStarter is quickly becoming the land of awesome RPG products and Interface Zero 2.0: Full Metal Cyberpunk is yet another example.  The original Interface Zero released back in 2010 as a near future Cyberpunk setting for Savage Worlds.  Now Gunmetal Games is ready to release an updated and improved version of the game along with new settings like Christ Church New Zealand and Atlanta Georgia (home of the Goblin Beat)!  Fans of hacking, cyber ware, robots and books like Neuromancer should take notice as this looks to be a great system.

The original version of the Interface Zero setting was an award nominated hit and 2.0 promises a sleeker  more streamlined version of the same system.  As if that by itself wasn’t enough there are stretch goals (some of which have already been met) to have well-known industry veterans create source books for different locations.  As of this moment the Japan source book stretch goal is close to being reached and it will be written by none other than all around great guy and friend of the Goblin Beat, Stan! Brown.

As with any good KickStarter project there are also plenty of add-ons and Interface Zero 2.0 has some sweet ones.  Firstly, the obligatory custom wild die, which can be had for $2, print editions of the book, custom bennies, custom playing cards and even hardbound copies of the book are available.  Recently they have also added an Explorer’s Edition available as an add-on, the price of which varies depending upon which backer level you select.  If you haven’t seen the Explorer’s Edition bound books before  they are 6.5″ x 9″ and fit great in the hand.

So what do you think, ready to get your Cyberpunk Savaged?  Check out the video below for more information.

Call of Cthulhu Cards

These Call of Cthulhu playing cards are the product of the KickStarter from Albino Dragon. The cards themselves are produced by Bicycle and are of the same great quality you would expect from any other set of their playing cards.
The design on each card however is unique to this deck and was created from the ground up to have the look and feel you would expect from the name. The backs of the cards available to the public now are all red with stylized images of the Necronomicon, the Elder Sign and various other Mythos inspired tidbits. There was a green backed version as well which unfortunately was limited to those lucky enough to find and back the KickStarter before its conclusion. Hopefully they’ll do another run down the road with green but these cards are still very nice.

The custom box the deck comes in is well crafted in various shades of green, leaving no doubt about the eldritch horrohp_cthulhu_card r inside. Inside there are a couple of bonus cards, one double backed card and one with an image of H.P. Lovecraft being caressed by a motley assortment of Elder Thyngs.

The back of the Lovecraft card also has a list of what creatures are located on what card. Each of the face cards has a creature from the mythos upon it, Hastur, Cthulhu, Dagon etc. are all captured upon their own card. The Aces also have some nice artwork although there are no actual creatures upon them and the Jokers have creatures upon them as well (Nightgaunts?).

Those of you who listen to our podcast will note that we have recently been running Realms of Cthulhu adventures. Realms of Cthulhu uses Savage Worlds as the base rule system for Call of Cthulhu inspired games. The big pay-off with these cards is that Savage Worlds uses playing cards for the initiative system. So you can actually use this deck of cards when playing Cthulhu games, which is the exact reason I purchased a deck of these cards.

Any Cthulhu fan will enjoy these cards but I would go so far as to say that any horror/Cthulhu fans that play Savage Worlds should feel bad about themselves if they don’t have at least one deck of these cards.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Adventure Quest: Learning & LARPing for Kids

Every once in a while you hear an idea that is so simple and makes so much since you can’t believe you didn’t think of it yourself.  That is what happened to me when I first found out about Adventure Quest (no not Adventure Time).  Adventure Quest started out as an after school/camp activity created for kids which basically lets them play in a kid friendly, LARP environment where they learn to solve problems through critical thinking, play fighting with foam swords (my kids do this part on their own anyway) and learning about history and mythology.

This one activity actually gets kids to run around and play outside, teaches them about subjects which will help them in school, and helps them learn how to better interact with their peers and adults.  Now the folks at Renaissance Adventures have created a KickStarter to allow them to create game books for anyone to run their own Adventure Quest games with special emphasis on parents, educators, gamers and even entrepreneurs that would like to run the games as part of a business.  On top of that they have also created a RPG version of the game.  According to their claims you can seamlessly go from LARP to RPG and back with the same adventure/story.

The idea of having my kids engaged in playing games outside instead of asking to play a video game is intruiging to me.  If you’d like to know more check out their KickStarter page and see what you think.