Barnestorming- Korean Dexterity Games in Review, Asara, Augustus, Catching Fire, Big Black

Barnestorming- Korean Dexterity Games in Review, Asara, Augustus, Catching Fire, Big Black Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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Whack off and flip out.

On the table

In honor of Pete Ruth, I’ve reviewed a couple of Korean dexterity games that Mayday Games has brought over to the US. I’m not crazy about supporting a questionable company, but there’s no denying that Click Clack Lumberjack and Coconuts are crazy, silly fun. And they’re perfect for kids, which is the angle I’m approaching them from. The only hard part about dexterity games with the very young is teaching them any kind of finesse or fine motor control. But they’re getting there, and we’re having lots of fun with these. I’ve played with some friends as well and they were good fun in an adult setting as well. Both would, in fact, make excellent drinking games.

Sons of Anarchy rules. Gale Force Nine has done it again. In terms of licensed games right now, they are blowing everybody else out of the water. Smartly picking TV shows instead of video games or other IP and then turning out top notch designs that can appeal to hardcore fans and non-fans alike. Review next week. Apparently, it’s turning up in some Target stores already ahead of Gencon. You’ve got the nod.

Disappointment in the ERP!  Kramer and Kiesling’s Asara came in, a 2010 SDJ shortlister…and it reminded me of that vast sub-middle tier of the Eurogame world, the kind of uninspired and workmanlike games that Kramer in particular often did in the early to mid 2000s. It’s a GREAT looking game, almost DoW quality with a HUGE board, lots of colorful art…but the gameplay just isn’t exciting at all. The tower erecting concept is…well…fill in the blanks on that one. I do like the twist on worker placement, combining that mechanic with cardplay, having to follow suit once somebody “opens’ a section but the rest of the game just left me feeling kind of empty. It was inexpensive and I don’t regret trying it, but it’s been one of the only games I’ve picked up lately where I was just like “maybe not keep this one”. The Swarm made up for this fumble though. I love that game.

I really like Augustus, on the other hand. Yep, it’s Bingo. But it’s a smartly framed version of Bingo with more strategy than you might expect. Talk about immediate. I sat down with friends to play, passed out the objective cards and I said “we’re going to play Bingo”. Everybody knew what to do right away and I explained the scoring cards and objective effects when they came up.  It feels unique, fresh and definitely another sign that Eurogames in particular are starting to slough off some fat. Well worth $14. Too bad about the gigantic, air-filled box though.

Punched the Diskwars expansions last night and was infuriated that I’ve now got to figure out a storage solution.

On the Consoles

Didn’t even look at them this week. Thought about downloading Rogue Legacy, then thought “$17, not so much”.

On IOS

Got into a bit of a donnybrook at Toucharcade when I called them out for a) posting a review of the Blood Bowl app by someone who had NO CLUE whatsoever what the game was supposed to be and b) for changing the review after it was posted because the guy complained about not seeing the die rolls even though there is a detailed log of every die roll available and also a couple of other “corrections”  that other commenters noted. I’ve been playing single player games, and it is every bit as effed up and unfortunate as the Xbox 360 and PC versions. It’s unfortunate because it is the 1:1 Blood Bowl game that you want on a digital format, yet it’s so sloppy and crude in places that it’s just disappointing. The tutorial is horrendous, the interface baffling, and huge swaths of the game are not explained at all. The color commentary is AWFUL, the graphics are ugly and the AI comes in three flavors- dumb, dumber, and dumbest. But god damn it, it plays Blood Bowl with you and frankly that’s enough for the most part.

I also picked up a kind of neat one called Deep Loot. It’s kind of a roguelike, I guess. You dive down  and recover treasures, but you have a limited air supply that is also your hit points. Run out, and you go back up. Then you spend gold on new equipment to do better next time. It’s free but it has a doubler, I didn’t buy it because like most IOS games I don’t forsee playing it for more than another week.

On the Comics Rack

I’m hardly returning to the Great Comics Binge of 2012-2013, but I’ve been dipping back into the boxes to resume my “read all of Sandman” project. The stumbling block has always been “A Game of You”, which I just do not like at all, and I’ve finally gotten over that hill. Fortunately, that was followed up by a couple of really cool stores- Russian werewolves and Marco Polo.

On the Screen

I watched Catching Fire, the second of the Hunger Games films and really liked it. Some great story twists, I loved the calling of the Quarter Quell, new characters and so forth…even grimmer than the first, and I thought Jennifer Lawrence did well in conveying a sense that she had been changed (even damaged) by the experience of the 74th games. I like the rising opposition storyline and Stanley Tucci keeps just killing it as the quintessential television presenter you just want to punch in the face repeatedly.

But I kind of had forgotten a lot of stuff from the first film, so I had a few “do what now” moments…then I went back and watched the first again.

I’ve decided that I actually really like these films and I think they are closer in spirit to 1970s science fiction- grim, dystopic and with overt political and social messages. But I especially like that they are pitched at a young adult audience and more specifically a FEMALE young adult audience. It’s very rare in film to see SF that is geared toward women, and it’s nice to see a very realistic and believable female character. I love that Katniss is no-nonsense, resolute and a survivor without falling into the warrior-woman/man with tits/male fantasy problems. She remains feminine. I particularly like in the first film where she is effectively learning to survive in the capital, almost kind of observing things…like the interview with Caesar, she’s almost like alien under a microscope, but she starts to work out how to take the initiative.

Looking forward to Mockingjay.

 

On Spotify

Really should be “on Youtube” this week because there isn’t a single Big Black song on Spotify. Given Albini’s general disdain for digital formats and the music business, not surprised.

Damn, what awesome albums “Songs about Fucking” and “Atomizer” still are. So relentless, malignant and violent…yet oddly impotent, with Albini’s Midwestern nerd voice hardly approaching the machismo of hardcore or metal. When he’s singing about burning stuff in Kerosene because there’s nothing to do, there’s an awkward authenticity there that’s disarming.

Back when I first heard Big Black, I was under the impression that they were an industrial band…at the time I was really into Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Ministry and so forth and I got a copy of the “Songs About Fucking” LP from Atlanta’s venerable Wax Trax record shop. It was much closer, really, to mid-1980s Midwestern American hardcore…but way heavier and with a throbbing, unstoppable drum machine. Definitely noisy and “industrialized”, but not at all what I had expected. I didn’t really like it at first.

But it stuck with me, and over the years I came to really appreciate what was going on with those records. It’s been maybe eight or nine years since I’ve listened to them and they sound just as fresh and harsh as ever.

And now Albini  is one of the big names in production…and he placed 13th in the World Series of Poker last year. How about that.

Barnestorming- Korean Dexterity Games in Review, Asara, Augustus, Catching Fire, Big Black There Will Be Games
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