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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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 

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: ★★★★★ 

KickStarter Hopeful – Soul Gambler

If you’ve ever enjoyed a “choose your own adventure novel” then you will like this game.

Billed as “an interactive visual novel” by m.gaia studio, this solo rpg has a contemporary setting, but is based on the 19th century play, Faust by Goethe.  Actually, your only choice of character is a male named Faust.   He is offered a seemingly preposterous deal by a mysterious old lady at a bus stop: sell pieces of your soul for anything you may want.  Using supernatural powers, she quickly convinces Faust that she is for real.  Since the game hinges on him wagering his soul and refusing the deal just prolongs the inevitable, Faust soon enters into a pact with forces beyond his comprehension.

Currently, only chapter one is available, and the character creation screen is simple and logical.  Faust begins with six points to distribute across 4 attributes (Health, Intelligence, Charisma, Manipulation), but cannot initially add more than three points to any attribute.  During the course of the game, there are problems that Faust needs to solve and anytime he sees his reflection, a demon offers to help for a percentage of Faust’s soul.  Depending on the situation, if he has high enough scores in certain attributes, he can save some of his soul and get the job done on his own.

Overall, if you’re looking for an action-packed, fast-paced game, than this isn’t for you.  If you would like something that takes some careful decision making and you like the idea of watching a story unfold as you take part in it, then this game may be a lot of fun.  It’s also perfect for a smartphone, because it’s so easy to put it down and come back later to where you left off.  You can play the free demo version on your computer here or download it through your smartphone’s app search feature.

This is a kickstarter.com game still in pre-production, so if you want to find out more about the developers or about donating,  check out soulgambler.com

Godus Makes Funding Goal

Imagine being a god with nature as your plaything and your own worshipers to inspire or strike with fear as you see fit.   In the upcoming game, Godus, this will be possible.  You will shape the contours of the land throughout the centuries and manipulate volcanoes, earthquakes, storms, and more in order to help and grow your body of worshipers in an eternal battle of the gods.  If this concept sounds familiar, then like me, you may have played a game back in the early nineties called Populous. The development of Godus is being headed by the same man to create that game over twenty years ago.  Head developer, Peter Molyneux wishes to revive the “god game” genre and is poised to do just that by recently achieving his funding goal on Kickstarter.  GODUS_3You can find a video of the game in action as he discusses some of its major features at www.kickstarter.com.  22 Cans is the company behind Godus which has received major headlines at bbc.com and pcgamer.com.

Thank You D&D for Making Me the Successful Member of Society that I am Today!

With so many arguments out there about how Dungeons and Dragons is terrible for everyone who plays it, along with their friends, family and pets, it is interesting and refreshing to see someone arguing that D&D is actually good for you. I have always felt that playing D&D and reading when I was growing up helped me develop a pretty good vocabulary and decent critical thinking skills. I don’t think I could have put it as eloquently as the video below, so I will just keep it short and let you watch for yourself.
Continue reading “Thank You D&D for Making Me the Successful Member of Society that I am Today!”

Kickstarter Review: Quantum RPG

Any Shadowrun fans out there? Here’s another, yet new and updated future-tech, urban based RPG. This game is the brainchild of Joshua J. Frost. He’s worked on several games like Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft TCG, Lord of the Rings, and Shadowrun, among others. If you’ve played Shadowrun then you have a pretty good idea how this RPG will play. If you haven’t played Shadorun then allow me to give it to you in a nutshell.

The game is played in a future, fictional world where technology and magic have come together as one. Humans are now mostly machine with bionic implants that give them more strength or bionic eyes that connect to their laser guns so that it shoots where ever they look. In this game, Quantum, there is a giant corporation called the Progenancy, that controls all aspects of the city you’ll be playing in. They even control a puppet government as their public arm.

The main city you’ll be playing in, Akyrema City, is divided into five districts each populated with the same type of beasts and bad guys.

I’m planning to play this as soon as we get a copy and look forward to getting my tech upgrades on!

Another TableTop Episode Review: Elder Sign

If you still haven’t taken the time to watch an episode of TableTop starring Wil Wheaton on Youtube, you owe it to yourself to watch this latest episode. Other than starring the beautiful and talented (and oh so geeky) Felicia Day, along with the CEO of Blizzard and the co-creator and writer for The Big Bang Theory TV show, this game turns out to be another fun one to watch as well as play.

Continue reading “Another TableTop Episode Review: Elder Sign”

Dungeon Command

On July 21st Wizards of the Coast released Dungeon Command: Sting of Lloth and Heart of Cormyr on D&D Game Day.  While not only used for playing D&D this new product line is designed to fill the miniatures void left since the last line was cancelled, leaving 4e players everywhere wondering “How am I supposed to play this game with miniatures if I can’t buy any?”

The idea behind this new line of miniatures is to appeal to a wider consumer base by being usable in three different games.

First and foremost Dungeon Command is a table top game in and of itself.  Two or more players can sit down at a table with their own war band (the name given to a matched set of miniatures you get in a box) and fight it out.  Each box comes with four interconnecting board pieces used to construct part of the game board, twelve miniatures to use for your army, game play cards and a rule book.  While it is possible to play a game with only one box we found it much more fun and far less confusing if each person has their own war band.

When playing the game each player takes turns.  On your turn you activate each of your creatures causing them to move, attack, and collect treasure.  Each player has a commander card that lists their leadership and morale.  Leadership is a number that tells you the total number of levels of creatures you can have on the board at one time.  If your leader has a leadership of 8 then you can have 8 levels worth of creatures on the board at once.  If a creature dies then it no longer counts towards your limit and you can put a new creature down at the end of your turn.  Morale is perhaps the most important number in the game.  Each time one of your creatures dies you lose morale equal to its level.  So if your level 4 Drider dies you lose 4 morale.  If your morale gets to 0 then you lose the game.

Combat consists of one creature attacking another either with powers printed on its corresponding creature card or by using an Order card.  Order cards are the special abilities for your army.  They allow you to dodge attacks, do extra damage when you attack and surprise your opponent with abilities you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Those are the basics of Dungeon Command.  Each player takes turns controlling his/her army until one of the commanders drops to or below zero morale.  We had an enjoyable time playing this game and if you are a big tabletop game fan then the box sets are probably worth the money.

But wait!  As I mentioned earlier there are three ways these box sets were meant to be used.  The second use for these is in conjunction with the games from the D&D Adventure system.  Think Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon.  Each Dungeon Command set comes with creature and ally cards to let you make use of the included miniatures in any of these games as well!

Lastly and perhaps most obviously you can use these miniatures when you play D&D.  They have standard size bases so they fit on 1″ grid squares perfectly.  Let  me also say that these miniatures are very nice.  The copper dragon in the Heart of Cormyr set was worth the entire purchase price to me.  The paint is well done and the sculpts are very detailed.  I also got a big kick out of the Umber Hulk and the Drider in the Sting of Lloth set.

Conclusion

Wizards did a great job creatin a product to appeal to multiple markets.  Even if you only want these minis to play D&D I would say they are worth the price.  You get all the miniatures you need in a single box to create multiple encounters in a themed adventure and several of the pieces in each box are generic enough to use in multiple settings (I’m quite fond of the spiders in the Drow set).  If  you enjoy tabletop strategy games, the Adventure System games or using miniatures in your D&D game then I would suggest considering this product.  If you are like me and enjoy all three then this is a must buy.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

(5 stars if you will use these for more than one purpose.)