Barnestorming #18- Birthday, Barons in Review, El Shaddai, Zola Jesus

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barons Bill Cosby once said about fatherhood, "Barnestorming #18".

In the Hospital

Technically, we’re still in the hospital but I’m home taking care of River tonight. I go back in the morning to check out mom and baby. We picked Scarlett as her name, and are still debating a middle name. We wanted something Southern and cool…and we do, in fact, love Gone with the Wind.


On the Table

I had intended on reviewing Rune Age this week, but I forgot that I had been neglecting one of my indie review copies. Ducking under the velvet rope and to the front of the line. it’s a review of Cambridge Game Factory’s (CGF?) Barons, designed by Thomas Colthurst. Much like Glory to Rome, it’s a really, really good card game plagued by some utterly horrifying graphic design. It reminds me very much of a cross between Glory to Rome and John Clowdus’ Irondale, with a touch of that Magic: The Gathering/Settlers secret sauce. But be warned- it’s one of those games that non-aggressive players can completely sink. You’ve got to make the most of the knights to mess up the other players’ Baronies. I really hope they Kickstarter the hell out of this one like they did with Glory to Rome. There are rumors.

Review copies of Ikusa and Dragon Rage showed up this week. Ikusa came in a box with color-coordinated packing crinkles and a samurai sword letter opener. Pro PR agency working that one. Dragon Rage was sent to me by our very own Eric Hanuise (the guy with the sombrero'd Mr. T avatar). I didn't realize that it was a reprint of the old Dwarfstar game. It looks awesome, very excited to try it.


On the Consoles

Reviews of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and Toy Soldiers: Cold War have gone up at Gameshark. I gave El Shaddai the lowest score it’s received on Metactritic, a 33/100. I think the game is total garbage, and reviewers lauding its artistry and beauty have either a pretty underdeveloped sense of taste or a totally different barometer of pulchritude than I. Cel-shaded characters and swirly colors do not make art. And if you’re going to adapt the Book of Enoch into a video game, don’t make it more anime garbage. Somebody really should have told these guys that the Nephilim are _not_ jelly bean creatures that frolic with beach balls.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War is much, much better. A- review. Tons of fun.

Right now I’m playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s an easy pick for Game of the Year. It’s so freaking good, it’s the game I’ve waited all year to play. Total old-school Cyberpunk- I’m talking about Mirrorshades anthology Cyberpunk. Huge sense of artistry and world-buildings. Great action with lots of variety and options. Awesome stealth. Hacking. Body augmentations. Evil corporations up to no good. Fucking great game so far.

I also played the Space Marine demo. I fucking loved it. Relic knows how to do a 40K game right.


On the Phone

I’ve been sort of piddling around with Dice Soccer, a game our very own Bullwinkle was hollering about to an empty room in our forums here. It’s pretty neat and would actually make for a pretty good table top game except for the fact that each player would need a unique die. You basically draft a squad, each with a different set of die faces including some special powers, and roll off against the other team. Roll higher (after special effects), and you move toward the goal. Winds up with a roll off against the goalie. It’s free, and it’s worth that price at least.


On the Screen

For some idiotic reason I decided to watch Iron Man 2 on Netflix. Now, I was that one guy that didn’t really like the first one. I thought it was empty, shallow, and had an unbelievably muddy final act. But of course I liked Downey as Stark, who wouldn’t.

Well, in the sequel he’s already playing the character into the ground. Witness the drunken Iron Man party scene. Oh my god.

What a terrible movie. I can’t think of anything good about the entire picture. Endless streams of wink-wink pop culture references (Larry King? Really?). Sloppy action. Mickey Rourke playing himself with a bizarre accent and a toothpick. Scarlett Johansson apparently pantomiming very pretty tree wrapped in leather. Flat jokes left and right. So freaking boring.

I also hate films that just have poorly thought out nonsense in them…like when Sam Rockwell is showing off all the weapons to Cheadle…why the hell would he be showing off all of these arms that his company doesn’t make, that are all small, handheld weapons, to show him what they’re going to install in the War Machine suit? It makes no sense. They’re not putting a FN2000 in that thing! Then there was the scene where Iron Man and War Machine are fighting all of those robots from a Max Fleischer Superman cartoon or something…why the HELL does it cut to a video screen display on a monitor of what the robots see? Who’s watching that? Not the robots!

Terrible, terrible film. It’s like the only reason to watch all of these awful Marvel movies is to get that little nod to the Avengers movie…which can’t possibly be good since Joss Whedon is involved. I’m sure it’ll be very arch and clever. Too arch and clever for me.

Starting to go back through the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Yuen Baio films…haven’t watched that stuff in years. Horrid movies, really…but who watches them for plot or writing? God, Wheels on Meals is bad…but those stunts and fights…


On Spotify

Listening to a lot of new indie artists lately, and not liking much of anything. I tried listening to the last couple of Deerhunter albums, but I don’t like anything as much as their first one, “Cryptograms”. I saw them play in a record store here in Atlanta by accident once. Didn’t know who they were. “They sound like Can”, I said. Years later, I saw them open for Nine Inch Nails to an indifferent audience.

I did find one new artist I really like a lot. Zola Jesus. Interestingly, it’s almost totally goth but very tasteful, sophisticated, and not at all reminiscent of trailer park trash wearing My Chemical Romance shirts and giant, zippered pants. They caught my attention because their most recent EP is called “Stridulum”, which is the title of this fairly obscure Italian sci-fi picture. The record is really good- something like a cross between Siouxsie and the Banshees, old 4AD stuff and…I dunno, maybe Bonnie Tyler? There’s some BIG, widescree drama, but the music is very measured and not really very rock at all. But it is dark, sepulchral, and immediately reminiscent of thick black eyeliner and depressed teens making out by candlelight. But again, in a more mature, adult way.

Cover art is awesome. Definitely interested to hear more, but I’ve gotten hooked into listening to the Wire catalog, all of which is available on Spotify. More on that later.

Gotta go. Next week, Rune Age.

There Will Be Games

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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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