Barnestorming #15- Smallworld: Underground in Review, Black Swan, Work for Love

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Barnestorming #15- Smallworld: Underground in Review, Black Swan, Work for Love
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It's a world of Barnestorming #15, after all.

On the Table

Smallworld: Underground is under the ground glass of Cracked LCD this week. It’s a no-brainer. If you like Smallworld, this is worth having. It’s more of everything that makes Smallworld great with just a couple of minor additions that just increase the variety and variability of the game. Plus, the game not only works as a complete standalone product, it’s also compatible with previous releases in the line. I do kind of wish Mr. Keyaerts went a little wilder with it, but I like the Relics and Popular Places, and I think that I’d play Underworld over the base set with no expansions. Fun stuff.

Chaostle. Listen, I was playing this game last night and this mage was having the worst luck. She fell into a shark tank, wound up having to gift everybody else an upgrade, and got some bad vibes. She had a sharp turn of luck while fighting a Unicorn, however. She rolled to use her time warp ability, went into the future, and brought back a nuclear warhead that does 300 damage. Unicorn had like 35. It was freaking awesome.

Chaostle is completely ridiculous. It’s the “Rainbow in the Dark” of board games. As in, it’s completely tasteless and luridly cornball, but it’s also a fist-pumping blast with serious hooks. I have a weird respect for the game, because it really isn’t like Talisman or any dungeon crawler you’ve ever played. Not at all. It’s more like a cross between Parcheesi and Sorry with fantasy fighting. But there are also elements that remind me, strangely, of The Gothic Game and it works on that kind of “third beer” level. I really like the format- no monsters, no co-op. It’s all just brawling, and it can be ruthlessly brutal. And that’s before you roll on the “Happiness” and “Doom” charts that provide extended narratives about what happens- sometimes really funny things too, like that shark tank. Yet it’s not ironic or silly at all- it’s dead serious, earnest, and it wants you to believe that the vector gridlines behind the Unicorn’s portrait are awesome. Because they are. I’ll review it soon, but I will say in advance that if you can’t have fun playing this game, you’re in the wrong hobby.

For all of my “immeasurable hatred” toward FFG or whatever it was that Christian said, I’ll be reviewing three of their damn games next month- Gears of War (duh), Rune Age, and Elder Sign. All paid for out of pocket. Stay tuned for used copies- maybe!

On the Consoles

My Catherine review is up at Gameshark. I liked it a lot. There are some things that keep it out of the “A” range, but it’s very innovative and I love that it has a real-world theme that I think most men will relate to. It’s not about sex, cheating, or philandering at all. It’s about growing up and maturing ideas about relationships and family. I can’t believe it’s a Japanese game.

I tried to start up Dungeon Siege III, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a more dreary, lifeless, soulless, and heartless game. It’s like having some guy rattle off the stats of his D&D character to you while you’re looking into a pot of dishwater. I swear every time I start it up I play for 30 minutes and fall right asleep. It’s monumentally dull. It could be that Bastion has forever ruined this kind of game for me since it cuts right to the chase and doesn’t waste time with so much fucking bullshit.

I’ve actually gone back to Halo: Reach over the past couple of days. I had to rebuy it, having long ago traded it. Man, I’m having fun with it. Once again I’ve realized that the greatest thing about Halo is how accessible and easy to play it is, along with all of the different ways you can play it. I’ve been playing in the “Action Sack” , so it’s all these really crazy game modes like this one where you have giant Skee-ball courses on both sides of an arena and you have to knock giant golf balls into the holes. While being shot at and fighting with the other team. Then there’s Dino Blasters…

I’m telling you, with the headset off and no indication that the person fucking you up is a potty-mouthed 10 year old future Klan member, the game can be a lot of fun. It’s unbeliveably well designed, and designed for fun.

Not much new other than those. I skipped Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. I think I’ll wait for a sale on that one.

On the Phone

I’ve barely touched any IOS games this week at all. I played two games of Kard Kombat but that was it. And there’s NOTHING new that looks interesting. I was thinking about Final Fantasy Tactics, but $16 for _any_ IOS game is ludicrous.

Puerto Rico is out, and I’d try it…but I don’t have an iPad. And if I did, I’d get Ghost Stories over it.

Oh, and you did see that AEG has partnered with Incinerator Studios (Ascension) right? Nightfall is coming.

On the Screen

I finally watched Black Swan. What a shrieking disappointment. I felt like I was watching a film made by a very young, still-in-school filmmaker with a very blunt, too-obvious grasp of metaphor. Which is ironic, because it is EXACTLY the kind of film I wanted to make when I was in film school. In fact there’s things in it that I thought were rather alarmingly close to ideas and concepts I kicked around in my screenwriting notebook years ago.

I did like the surprise body horror angle, of course. But whereas Cronenberg does that kind of thing with a clinical coolness, Aronofsky’s style in this film is all overheated, theatrical melodrama. Which works in the context of the narrative, I guess, but I was really kind of surprised at how outrageously campy the movie was. Even more surprising is how some of its more over-the-top beats played well to critics, because I thought some of it was laughably bad. As a whole, the film felt like a cross between Carrie, The Red Shoes, and Fame with some drag queen histrionics to spice things up. And Aronofsky and co. were all talking about Eurohorror and Polanksi films as touchpoints...I think it's closer to John Waters, in some regards.

I did like how it brings forward the idea from The Wrestler that these performers literally destroy their bodys- and their minds- to achieve a level of perfection. I think that’s awesome. And I did like certain elements of the film, like Vincent Cassel’s “is he a dirtbag or just being an artist” take on a George Balanchine-like figure.

I didn’t buy Portman at all until the very end. I thought she felt WAY too old for the role, and the cornier bits didn’t play well through her. Like when she was angrily shoving her stuffed animals into the garbage chute in a huff. Or playing the “bad girl”- I mean, “Black Swan”. But her performance and dancing at the end were pretty great. Not Oscar great though.

And Winona Ryder? Please stop getting old.

On Spotify

So I did, in fact, follow up with my commitment to listen to Ministry’s first album. “With Sympathy”, it turns out, has a couple of quite good commercial goth-pop songs that are a hell of a lot better than some of the contemporary shit from that era (such as A Flock of Seagulls or Icicle Works, for example) and I’d much rather hear “Revenge” or “I’m not an Effigy” over the umpteenth record where Jourgenson and co. have attempted to remake “Psalm 69” again. Or their horrid covers. I think the songs on here, barring “Work for Love” which is genuinely terrible, aren’t any more embarrassing or bad than “Everday is Halloween”, “All Day”, or any of the other pre-Twitch material. The fake English accent? Well, that’s silly, but it was the 80s, man.

I also think Al Jourgensen is a liar. All of that “the record company made me do this record” crap is just his way of denying that like a lot of up-and-coming acts in the early 1980s, he was following current trends and what was popular in clubs and on the radio. Nobody made him write and record those songs, and if you listen to the demos that were _at Wax Trax_ for this stuff, it’s not that much different. It is more polished, and I can understand possibly being disappointed in the result…but come on Al. You wrote this stuff, you meant it, and you need to just embrace it as part of your past. The record is a hell of a lot more respectable than the trailer trash metal that Ministry would later become.

So I’m staying on the 1980s Wax Trax Chicago/Belgium axis for this week. I’ve been plumbing Spotify for the Front 242 catalog. I had a discussion not too long ago with Billy Motion, who claimed that Front 242’s stuff hasn’t held up to the test of time. I disagree. Greatly. And if you’re playing Net Runner, there is no better background music.

But that’s for next week.

There Will Be Games

Michael BarnesFollow Michael Barnes Follow Michael Barnes Message Michael Barnes



Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of and as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

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