Tired of deckbuilding? Too bad. Barnestorming #14.
On the Table
This week at Cracked LCD I’m taking a look at AEG’s two most recent expansions to its flagship deckbuilding games, Nightfall and Thunderstone. We’ve already run a couple of reviews of Martial Law here at F:AT, so add my affirmative nod to Ken’s and Matt’s. It’s a very good expansion, and since it’s standalone I’d actually recommend it over the standard Nightfall base game. I think the cards are more interesting, the new wound effects are better, and the feed mechanic rocks. Last night at the Hellfire Club I got completely torn to pieces by another player working a direct damage card that feeds and several card-drawing chain effects he built into his deck. Nightfall is eking its way to the top of the deckbuilding pile for me. It’s seriously the one that’s not like Dominion at all. Brutal game.
Thunderstone, of course, is a lot more like Dominion. But it’s like Dominion’s drunk, vulgar uncle that gives you a copy of Hustler magazine for Christmas. It’s unruly, sloppy, but charming and sometimes awesome. Games live or die based on the card mix, which is a problem but the game is so malleable you can do whatever you want with it and not feel like you're commiting a sin against the gods of game design. I’ve come to really enjoy it with the expanded card base and new effects, and Thornwood Siege provides more of both. Now, stuff in the dungeon can come after you. There’s also spells and effects that force other people to go into the dungeon, which is nasty. It’s a good expansion, but I think it’s very much an “advanced player” or “fan” one. I wouldn’t call it essential, and folks new to the game would do well to pick up one of the earlier ones (Dragonspire in particular).
Next week is Smallworld Underground. Easy review. If you like Smallworld, Underground is more of it with a couple of new things added and of course a bunch of new races and powers. Which, like Cosmic Encounter, can only make it better.
Speaking of Cosmic, we played an incredible 7 player game at the Hellfire Club last night. Screw all these people that say that 7 player games are boring, too wild, or five hours long. We were in and out in about 75 minutes. From the beginning of the game, I rallied the entire table to agree to everyone winning except for Will Kenyon, and we all resolved to make sure he scored zero points. So we would all ally together whenever possible so that our Coalition of the Anti-Willing would all move up together. Of course, this also would give me an opportunity to seed colony planets with the required three ships so that I could spread the disease any time a destiny card in that particular system was drawn. This worked a charm for two turns, then we hit a Temporal Anomaly hazard that reversed turn order. The Vulch player wound up targeting me, so I talked him into breaking with the Coalition and we negotiated a colony swap. Of course, mine had three ships in it.
So we were the evil traitors, and I swindled Vulch into setting me up for two different disease outbreaks. I had four points 20 minutes into the game. Of course, they totally bagged on me and I wound up ostracized as the game’s villain. But I was able to get everybody back on board with the coalition, and heading into the last turn Will still had zero points (and he was a good sport about it, playing along), winding up in a situation where the Quisling Vulch player and the Warhawk player were in a situation where either they could win together or they could bring everyone but me and Will into victory. The table talk was just unbelievable. The Warhawk player’s decision was swayed when Vulch reminded him that earlier in the evening, he had sold him a painted and assembled Space Marine army. The Warhawk player caved, and betrayed his father and two brothers to win the game with the guy who broke the coalition and nearly lost the game for everybody but me. Best Game Ever Published.
On the Consoles
My Bastion review went up earlier this week at No High Scores. In short- buy it. It’s an amazing, amazing game. One of the best download games I’ve ever played.
From Dust is also good, particularly if you like the original Populous. It’s a beautiful game from Eric Chahi (Another World!) about the power of nature in conflict with the will of man, and the influence of nature on civilization, religion and society. It’s a little opaque and slow-moving, but there are some absolutely sublime delights in it.
I just got a review copy of Catherine so I’ve started on it, and I’m kind of blown away by it. It’s incredibly well-written and presented, genuinely funny and sexy without being vulgar or low. It’s also definitely not your usual anime garbage at all. The puzzle game part is brilliant and surprisingly difficult. It does make sense in the context of the game. One thing I found really funny is that when you reach a landing in the nightmare tower you can go into a confessional. The off-screen voice asks you a question about love, marriage, and relationships. You have to give an answer by pulling a rope. Then you get to see the results from other players online. It’s a neat touch. A little Cosmo (appropriately), but it’s fun and if anything it shows that once again people are playing through the game as good guys according to the results.
I’m about two hours in, but I really, really, really like where it’s all going. There’s nothing else like it, and the rom-com/horror theme is actually pretty brilliant. I hear it’s pretty long, we’ll see how I feel about it when I review it next week for Gameshark.
On the Phone
Yet another dead week on the App Store, nothing has caught my eye lately. If I had an iPad, I’d definitely check out Ghost Stories though.
But I have been back with Kard Kombat, after giving it up and going back to Orions 2. I’ve decided that Kard Kombat is the better game despite its lack of polish and options. The Tower mode is where it’s at, I love the various challenges that change up the matches. The only problem is that I still think it’s too easy on the hardest difficulty setting, I’m totally acing the AI in most games. I haven’t tried the multiplayer yet.
In case you haven’t heard, Summoner Wars is heading to IOS courtesy of Incinerator Studios, the folks that did the Ascension App. That is going to be awesome.
On the Screen
I closed out the Jurassic Park trilogy this week, finally seeing the third picture. It’s a strange little movie. “Little” because it feels really small in scope, sort of quirky, and incredibly short. It seems more like an B-grade monster movie than the others. It could be because the stern “man should not much with nature” message is backseated to “man will be dinosaur food” one. There’s some really good dino scenes in it though, and overall I did like it. Weird-ass cast, just like the second- William H. Macy, Michael Jeter, Tea Leoni…huh?
The effects were interesting- more practical on display than in the previous films. I didn’t expect that. Lots of puppet work.
I did absolutely love one scene, where after they escape the Spinosaurus (talk about a B-list dino), they’re drifting along the water and there’s this vista they pass of dinosaurs just kind of peacefully hanging out, doing their thing under a beautiful sky. It reminded me of the Age of Reptiles diorama at Yale, a picture I spent an unusual amount of time looking at when I was a kid obsessed with dinosaurs. I liked where it was in the movie, almost as a reminder that nature can be beautiful and peaceful and not always trying to eat you.
I started watching 2010 Palm d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives but it’s kind of slow going. Very, very interesting film. The part where the son shows up as a red-eyed monkey-thing because he mated with other monkey-things sort of freaked me out.
I finished my grand tour of Swans’ entire catalog, ending up with the very good and slightly more country-influenced “My Father Will Lead Me Up a Rope to the Sky” that released last year. Man, I’m worn out. Definitely not easy listening.
But that being said, moving into the post-“Children of God” releases, you get into some really marvelous, crepuscularly beautiful music. Their sound changed pretty dramatically, but somehow it didn’t lose any intensity, emotional power, or muscularity. But the band that recorded “Raping a Slave” is a totally different one that did “The Other Side of the World”, which is just stunningly beautiful. Fans of the Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, or Death in June will find much to like with Swans albums of this period.
The key records here are “Various Failures”, which collects tracks from “White Light from the Mouth of Infinity”, “Love of Life”, and the curious Bill Laswell-produced major label record “The Burning World”, and “The Great Annihilator”. “The Great Annihilator” in particular is a stunning, epic, and immaculately performed recording. It also has by far Swans’ most “pop” song, the quite catchy “Celebrity Lifestyle”, which might be a good starting place for the initiate. There’s a couple of rougher tracks on the record and overall the subject matter is still dark, depressing, and sometimes devastating.
Moving on, something caught my attention on Spotify I’ve never listened to before. Ministry’s first pre-metal album, “With Sympathy”. Common wisdom has always warned me away from it, that Al Jourgensen was ashamed of its commercial, synthpoppy tunes and all. But as someone who’s been nothing but disappointed by Ministry for the past 10 years as they’ve slid into a jokey heavy metal cover band for hillbillies, I think I might take a listen to it at last. It can’t be THAT bad, right?
Tune in next week to find out.