Barnestorming 1974- Crude in Review, Mage Wars, Batman & Robin,

Barnestorming 1974- Crude in Review, Mage Wars, Batman & Robin,

Michael Barnes     
 
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 Not to be confused with "Crude: The Steve Avery Game"

On the Table

Crude. If you like economic or business games, you should play this game. If you like games like Acquire, Power Grid, or Settlers of Catan you should play this game. This is an important reissue of an important game, one that I think is the missing link between Sackson and Teuber. Stronghold’s new edition is a pretty straight reprint with some minor, designer-sanctioned changes and some improvements. It didn’t really need to be modernized all that much. In fact, it still looks like a 1970s game, which I actually kind of like. My Worthpoint article isn't up yet, but it's also about Crude, more from a collector's perspective.

Mage Wars. It’s really good, but I get a feeling that it’s one that I won’t be adding to the permanent collection. There’s TONS of game here, and if you’ve got another party interested in really digging into the deckbuilding aspects of it and learning the cards, then it could be something you’ll play for a long, long time. I love how it’s almost a kind of uber-game, bridging a lot of different hobby game types into one massive but not really all that unwieldy whole.  There’s TONS of keywords, status effects, and then there’s that whole “open deck” style of play…all of which are major roadblocks without experience.  Expect a first game slow-motion trainwreck. But once it opens up, it’s really, really good. More later.

Really, really want to play Lord of the Rings right now. I may have to solo it tonight.

 On the Consoles

Mostly Halo 4. I play another game, I sit there wanting to get back to Halo 4. I’m finally hitting my stride and not winding up with a 1:3 K/D every match. Not like I really care, but it is nice to not be dying all the damn time.

Dishonored really ran out of steam.  The game is amazing for the first three or four chapters, but then it starts to feel really gamey and the development curve flattens out. The short-range teleport, the vision mode that lets you see cones of vision…you’re really way over-powered in the game, and not in a cool way like the Arkham titles. I don’t know if I’ll finish it. But I have a sense that it might be another Assassin’s Creed, where a second game will be the one to play.

 

On IOS

Thought about Phantom Leader, but couldn’t part with $15. It totally looks worth it, and it seems like it’d be a perfect fit. Just being a miser.

 

On the Comics Rack

Other than The Slavers story in Punisher Max, which I liked a lot because it actually handled some pretty hardcore subject matter well and challenged the reader to confront what they say they’d like to do to human traffickers, the main thing I’m reading is Grant Morrisson’s Batman & Robin series, along with revisiting Batman Incorporated (which I hated the first time) and The Black Casebook, a collection of silver age Batman stories that influenced Morrison’s work with the character.

Having the full picture of what he’s done with Batman, I’m inclined to say that it is by far the best long-form run on Batman that there has ever been. But it is most definitely not accessible, it’s often maddeningly pretentious, and frequently too obscure for its own good.

The genius of this glorious mess is that it’s very much a culmination of ALL of what Batman has ever been as well as a reclamation of all the stuff that anyone that started with Frank Miller claims to hate. It literally spans the entire history of the character, including the TV show and even Digital Justice. It brings in all of that crazy silver age stuff, but it’s strikingly modern, artful, and immensely rewarding. This is a run where Bat-Mite shows up and it makes sense…and is really kind of awesome.

Batman & Robin starts off with an incredible sequence that references- get this- The Wind in the Willows. Think “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. It sets the tone for a manic, reckless book that is just completely bursting with nervous energy. It’s Dick Grayson and Damian, and their dynamic is really compelling. It’s also post-Final Crisis, so the “death” of Bruce Wayne weighs heavily on events. So many tremendous and ORIGINAL Batman ideas fly by, almost establishing an entirely different Gotham city. Professor Pyg and his Dollotron army. The Prince-inspired Flamingo. Recasting Red Hood as a pop-culture vigilante with a penchant for catchphrases and using Twitter. The mysterious Oberon Sexton. For the first book, I think it’s’ practically untouchable, particularly the issues with Frank Quitely. The second book gets sort of bungled up in a half-assed tie-in with Blackest Night, but gets back on track and ends with a real shocker. Highly recommended.

When I read Batman Incorporated before, I didn’t have the background to really get it. Now that I do, the book isn’t the incomprehensible catastrophy it was before. More importantly, the concept has moved from “pretty cool” to “this is how Batman really should be in 2012”. Morrison is taking the idea of Batman as the lone, dark knight vigilante with probable psychosis and turning it upside down. Instead, he’s leveraging his fortune and resources in a positive way, funding a larger, global war on crime. It ties into his idea of Bruce Wayne as the “optimal man”, this immensely powerful man sloughing off self-absorption and pathos and really doing something beyond locking up Penguin or Riddler again. Yet it still has that sense of incorporating (hah) ALL elements of Batman- it’s as much trashy pulp as it is serious, grim character study.

Call it the Unified Batman Theory.

 

On the Screen

More horror. I watched The Innkeepers on Netflix- I liked Ti West’s first film, House of the Devil OK but this one was just absolute crap. Cheeseball ghost story with virtually nothing to recommend it. Not even Kelly McGillis as a bitter old drunk.

Watched part of House…man, that movie hasn’t aged well at all. I remember seeing it in the theater, the whole time thinking “Isn’t that dude the Greatest American Hero?” I actually don’t think I’ve ever watched it since it was released.

I also watched part of Demons of the Mind, one of the few Hammer films I’ve not ever seen, and come to find out I wasn’t missing much.  More of a period psychodrama than a horror film, I can definitely see why it’s not more widely discussed.

 

On Spotify

Repo will be pleased to hear that the tape adapter has again broken, and I have no way to listen to music in my speculated ’85 Ford Escort. Gotta put in an order to Monoprice.

Barnestorming 1974- Crude in Review, Mage Wars, Batman & Robin, There Will Be Games
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