You are in a tavern. An old wizard approaches you. He whispers in your ear "Barnestorming #9". Roll 1D20.
On the Table
Conquest of Nerath may not do anything particularly new, but it does the Gamemaster thing better than just about any game since the 1980s- and it trims enough fat that it can actually be completed before everybody just kind of gets tired of playing and lets the guy with the most territories or biggest army win. It’s a vastly different kind of game than Runewars or its ilk, it’s very traditionalist and sort of defiantly old-school but in ways that I think are to its credit. It knows exactly what its aims are, and if your goals match up with what the game is trying to do, you’re going to have a good time with it. In other words, dice should be rolled directly into the box lid. Review is at Gameshark.
I played an utterly ridiculous game of Settlers last night. Due to some bad weather and a couple of cancellations, we had a smaller than expected turnout at the Hellfire Club. I had only brought four player games, and we wound up with six. We played Princes of the Renaissance, which was fun once I remembered how to play it about ¾ of the way through it, and afterwards we had to rely on the Hellfire Club’s very small library of mostly very long games since I stupidly left Cosmic Encounter at home. So we went with Settlers with Cities and Knights.
I had a couple of drinks so I didn’t really want to bother with a bunch of rules folderol. I more or less just set the game up at random and laid out the number chips willy-nilly. We didn’t have enough somehow, so we just declared that all empty lands would produce on ALL numbers. There was some initial balking and appeals to balance, but eventually everyone was on board with me that it didn’t really matter as long as we had fun.
And we did have fun. Lots of it. The only detrimental effect that the weird resource placement had was that the game ended quicker, but it was still complete and competitive. We had one guy that would have like 10 bricks in his hand by the time his turn came around. It created these unusual situations where a player would be practically a monopoly on trading for one kind of resource. Once cities were built and commodities were circulating, it ended pretty quickly though.
We played fast and loose with the rules in general…we had one person totally forget the “no adjacency” rule, but by the time anyone noticed it was too late anyway. The game- and our fun- was not affected at all by the mistake.
So the moral of the story- once again- is that the fun of games is in who and how you play them, not what the games actually are or what’s written in the rulebook.
I’m trying to get Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars played a couple of times to review next week…but it’s just so deathly uninteresting.
On the Consoles
Shadows of the Damned is a screaming disappointment, I never would have thought a game made by guys that are responsible for stuff like Resident Evil 4, Killer 7, Vanquish, and No More Heroes would be so mediocre, safe, and average. Look past the Castlevania-meets-Cannibal Corpse art direction and the intermittent sparks of brilliance (small revelations about the culture of Hell and storybooks telling the origins of the bosses) and it’s just an average-at-best third person shooter with extraordinary music. Sorry, I’m not surprised any longer when a Suda 51 game breaks the fourth wall or throws in a crude 2D segment. I’m writing the review tomorrow for Gameshark.
I’ve got the Ocarina of Time remake but I’ve barely looked at it. The 3D and improved graphics are great though. I’ve got the review of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries for 3DS coming up next week so it’ll probably get bumped for a while. I’ve never actually played through the whole thing.
On the Phone
1-Bit Ninja is worth looking at. It’s another really freaking hard platformer, but this time with Gameboy-era graphics and an interesting control scheme. You can’t go backwards, only forwards. So you touch the screen and move, touching the left side to jump. It’s hard as hell, but addictive like Super Meat Boy and its like.
I picked up iAdmiral after our very own Grudunza mentioned it in our forums. It’s pretty good, it’s a simple Napoleonic-era hex-and-counter naval game. It’s VERY much like GMT’s Flying Colors. It’s a little simplistic and it could use a little more transparency in terms of the rules and resolutions, but it’s reasonably fun. The AI is sort of weird though, it does some pretty gamey and unrealistic stuff.
On the Screen
I had never actually seen Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, with Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, and Barbara Stanwyck, until last week. I’ve watched it four times since if that tells you anything.
What an incredible movie. It’s a simple but suggestive story, pitch black and ruthless. It’s widely hailed as one of the best Film Noir pictures, and for good reason. The premise doesn’t sound all that great- insurance salesman gets caught up in a lady’s scheme to off her husband and collect the titular double indemnity- but it goes into some really interesting places. Some more subtle than others.
Watching movies like this, Touch of Evil, the French crime pictures I’ve been enjoying, Chinatown…it just pushes me further and further away from caring about all of this jumped up modern schlock like the Green Lantern movie, the disco-dancing funny animal CGI pictures, and whatever other garbage is on screens this summer. There are so many amazing movies to be seen, why waste your viewing time on over-marketed shit?
Isn't this poster great? I love that Edward G. Robinson is watching them...he's all like "yeah, see?"
On the Turntable
From Slayer I’ve moved on to Anthrax…well, some of Anthrax. Back in the 80s, they were my favorite band, particularly after I got “Among the Living”. Here was a band that sang about Steven King books and Judge Dredd- I could get with that a lot more than I could all the devil stuff or more prurient subjects of other metal acts. Plus, they had a social conscience- witness “Indians” (“we’re dissin’ them!”).
I also really liked their humor and their embrace of some more punky, hardcore elements despite Joey Belladonna’s cock-rockin’ crooning. Up through “State of Euphoria”, I loved these guys and one of the first shows I ever saw was the Headbanger’s Ball tour in 1989 they headlined with Helloween and Exodus in support. I was fourteen, and I thought I was a total badass wearing my denim jacket with the sleeves cut off and a Nuclear Assault patch on the back…getting dropped off by my parents.
Once “Persistence of Time” came out, I lost interest though…it was a darker, slower record and that didn’t work for me. I liked the fun, thrashy Anthrax. I’ve never bought a record of theirs since, and what I’ve heard of the later material was absolutely horrible and borderline unlistenable. I did see them again when they opened (!) for The Misfits’ first reunion tour and they had Joey back in the band instead of that dude from Armored Saint. That was pretty cool.
I may dive into another of the “Big Four’s” 1980s work next week…Metallica. I haven’t listened to a Metallica record since the Black Album, which I hated vehemently. I’ll never forget taking a two hour bus ride (on the wrong bus) to the mall to buy that album with my friend David Green and when we got back, in addition to being up shit creek with our parents, the record completely sucked. I never really liked anything other than “Kill ‘em All” and “Ride the Lightning” anyway. Oh, and I absolutely hate Megadeth, so they’re right out.
So next week- maybe Kaiju World Wars, but more likely War of Honor.