Barnestorming #X or X+1: Terra Mystica in Review, Sudden Death, Galaxy Express 999, Savages

Barnestorming #X or X+1: Terra Mystica in Review, Sudden Death, Galaxy Express 999, Savages Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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 Hey kids, look! Rebuses!

On the Table

The Cult of the New’s flavor of the month is Terra Mystica. Sold out everywhere, climing the BGG charts and all that. I reviewed it at NHS, and I think most of F:AT’s regular membership can safely pass it over. It’s a very well designed game, but it lacks friction, drama, and meaning. The fantasy stuff is really skin deep. This is the kind of game where almost everything you do gets you points, but some actions will give you more points than others so you should pick those. It’s also about overcoming limitations with bonuses to get more points.

I dunno, I can definitely see why it’s a hit with the BGG crowd because it’s a good example of that kind of game…if you like that kind of game. I play that kind of game a few times and appreciate how interesting it might be mechanically and then never want to look at it again.

Finally played Sudden Death for Blood Bowl Team Manager. Loved it. The magic footballs are awesome, I love how they really change the ball carrying game. Do you really want to make a play for it when it gives you a cheating token? Or do you want the extra tackle you get when you come into possession? I like it much better than the flat 2 star power. The contracts are cool too, they add a lottery-like sense of chance to some of the objectives.

New teams are great too. If you have this game and do not immediately do a vampires versus mummies game, you’re missing the point.

Kemet is still soldiering on. Damn, it’s a really good two player game. I think it’s going to be in the winner’s circle at the end of the year. If you aren’t p laying or haven’t played this game- you should be. I think it is better than Cyclades, after all.

On the Consoles

I picked up the Shadow of the Colossus/Ico HD remaster back when it came out and ditched it. I think I got it at the wrong time, at the time I was deep into playing the Metal Gear Solid HD collection, Battlefield 3, Arkham City, and some other big holiday releases. I had never played either game, and I sort of shrugged them off thanks to some really terrible controls and camera.

I picked it up again at the used book store over the week, and now I think I get it. I’m five colossi into SotC, and wow, it really is an amazing game. It’s so freaking subtle. Last night, I was just wandering around and I saw this tree with fruit on it. I shot at the fruit with my bow and it fell. I ate it. I don’t know if it actually does anything or not, or if it’s just a minute detail the developers put in there. I like how focused the game is, how completely uncluttered it is with mechanics, options, and other fat.

Still loving Injustice. I don’t buy DLC, but I caved in and bought Lobo last night even though I don’t like Lobo. Turns out he’s like the best character in the game. His super move is the funniest too, seeing him blowtorch Superman with the afterburners on his bike while flipping him off is priceless. So far, this has probably been my favorite video game of 2013. It just keeps on giving back.

 

On IOS

I had a decent first impression of Star Command, but let me append that. This game is fucking garbage. It’s one of the worst video game designs I’ve ever seen- I am not exaggerating. The concept is an absolute mess, it does not work both at a rules/mechanics level and at a pratical gameplay level. You’re supposed to blow up the enemy ship with your red shirt tactical guys (which basically means waiting for meters to fill up and then playing this sometimes it works/sometimes it doesn’t minigame to target), but when you get boarded you have to pull your tactical guys from the guns to shoot at bad guys. 30-45 minutes later, you realize that the game mostly consists of waiting and getting frustrated with little to no strategic payoff. I think it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever seen on IOS, regardless of the cute artwork. I hope it becomes the poster child for the dark side of Kickstarter.

Much better is the new Sid Meier (!) game Ace Patrol. It’s totally a turn-based WWI aerial board game a la Blue Max. Hexes and everything. Very well done. Free, too. Unless you want to buy some extra campaigns, planes, etc.

 

On the Comics Rack

I had a completely stupid, foolish thought this week. A friend of mine punted me a .zip file with scans of EVERY ISSUE OF BATMAN EVER. Detective Comics, minis, the whole thing. Ridiculous. So I thought “I will read the entire run starting with issue #1.” That lasted for about an hour and I realized that a) it would take forever b) there’s tons of bad Batman and c) in the 1970s, Batman was very much a digest book with reprints of old stories anyway. So I scrapped that idea and instead just read some of the O’neil/Adams stuff.

God damn, “Joker’s Five Way Revenge” (#251) is just an amazing issue of comics. It was Joker’s big return, and it was a return to the more homicidal/psychotic version of the character rather than the goofy clown of the 1960s. The art is killer, the writing is sharp, and it is almost the template for the “modern” Batman. Except that he fights a shark. But that gets at what I like best about Batman (as in Morrison) where the ridiculous, silver age type stuff coexists with the ‘40s/’50s horror and noir and the more modern, grittier material. The cover is just amazing too, it’s now the home screen on my phone.

I read through some Suicide Squad, the original Ostrander books. The first issue kicks off with a huge bang- terrorists assassinating the president at an airport with superhumans- but there’s a nasty twist. No way I’ll spoil it. The rest of the book, so far, has been pretty good but I’m finding it hard to really give a damn about the characters. I mean, come on…Captain Boomerang? I love the “Dirty Dozen” idea, I like that they bring in obscure-ass DC characters and even the Penguin…but the art is HORRID and some of the writing is definitely in that post-Watchmen “trying too hard to be relevant” mold.

JSA, still loving it. Read “Return of Hawkman” so I’m in the mid-20s now. I freaking love this book, I can’t believe I love a Goyer/Johns book so much. Part of it is that I really like that it’s older heroes like Jay Garrick. For some reason, I just love Mr. Terrific. There was a really nice moment on Thanagar between him and Jay about religion, death, and atheism where that whole “acting” part of comics drawing really came through.

 

On the Screen

I was poking around that dumb Crackle thing and I’ll be damned, not only do they have the entire Prisoner series- which you MUST watch if you haven’t, because it is still the best TV series of all time- but they also have rather unexpectedly the entire subtitled, uncut Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 series. Holy shit.

Now, I haven’t watched these in awhile…like maybe 15 years? They haven’t aged very well, probably worse than Leiji Matsumoto’s better-known Star Blazers/Yamato series. They play very slow, especially Galaxy Express. So if you’re going into these, have some patience.

The thing is, the shows are freaking great. Galaxy Express 999 starts off with this amazing concept, a future where the wealthy go to this planet to replace parts of their bodies with cyborg parts. This kid and his mom are fleeing from “human hunters” on horseback, led by a sort of low-ranking noble named rather awesomely Count Mecha. They kill his mom, kid vows revenge. There’s an amazing bit where Count Mecha is at the kid’s mercy and he’s begging him not to destroy his brain, since it’s the only human part of him left. But anyway, the kid meets a mysterious woman that looks just like his mother and they set off into space on an actual train.

Harlock is the greatest anime character of all time, and one of the best character designs ever. I mean, the guy’s ship has a freaking pirate ship bolted onto the back of it. The series isn’t nearly as good as the film, Arcadia of My Youth, but there’s still lots of amazing ship designs, weird science fiction, and poetic romanticism.

So glad to see these again. Now I want DVDs to make it permanent. Somewhere I’ve got a Medicom Captain Harlock doll with real clothes and metal accessories that I paid way, way too much money for back in the early 90s.

On Spotify

I’ve heard some buzz about Savages, a London-based group of women making some post-punk racket. They had a moment at Coachella, I guess, and they’ve been drawing raves for their bracing, aggressive live shows. Their record “Silence Yourself” is out, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard all year. They tread some of the usual post punk boards- Joy Division, Gang of Four, Wire- but the singer obviously has a yen for Siouxsie Sioux and there are some very Daniel Ash-y traces in the guitar work. One track sounds like John Bonham drumming for Joy Division with Siouxsie singing and Daniel Ash playing guitar. The music is hostile, atmospheric, spiky, and tense. It was recorded live in the studio, and you can definitely hear the sound of a band completely clicking together and escalating each other’s intensity.

Barnestorming #X or X+1: Terra Mystica in Review, Sudden Death, Galaxy Express 999, Savages There Will Be Games
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