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  • Bolt Thrower #i - It Never Snows, Agricola, Rivals, Forest of Doom, Dark Souls, Element4l, Snuff, Looper, Reggae

Bolt Thrower #i - It Never Snows, Agricola, Rivals, Forest of Doom, Dark Souls, Element4l, Snuff, Looper, Reggae

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There Will Be Games

bolt-throwerThere’s nothing imaginary about this edition of Bolt Thrower. It’s huge.

Board games

So this Bolt Thrower is bought to you courtesy of Shut Up & Sit Down allowing me to review monster wargame It Never Snows. Real team effort this time: I wrote the review, and Quintin edited it into something special.

It Never Snows is the world’s first accessible monster wargame. Five map, 800 counter behemoths are not supposed to have easily digestible rules that span only a few pages. Anyone can play this, provided they can find the time necessary. And, like most monster games, the focus is on logistics, getting the right things to the right place at the right time, more than strategy.  Worthwhile if you can find the time, if only because it might be your only chance to play such a colossal game.

iOS

Been busy on Gamezebo of late, although I think they’re getting a bit annoyed with me having to pass on work because I’ve only got a swiftly-obsolete iPad1.

I took a look at the long awaited Agricola, which is very well done although I think the amount of information needed to play is more than even Playdek’s legendary UI skills can cope with. And the AI isn’t quite up to snuff, but that was a tall order too. It’s about as good as could be expected.

The Rivals of Catan on the other hand is a bug-riddled mess. A recent update improved things somewhat but there’s little excuse for releasing a half-tested product in the first place. And there’s no asynch either although the AI is actually pretty good. I’d never played this before and really enjoyed the game: enough to consider grabbing a physical copy.

Truth be told I’m getting a bit tired of board gaming on the iPad. Board games are meant to be played with other people, and aside from a few monster wargames, are best that way. Video games are meant to be played alone and if that’s what you’re doing, get something designed for just that.

On NHS I reviewed the latest Fighting Fantasy Gamebook from Tin Man, Forest of Doom. Their gamebook engine is great, and it’s got a nifty new auto-map feature but the choice of source material is unfortunate. The adventure is old school in all the bad ways.

Xbox 360

Two words: Dark Souls.

When I was a teenager, playing 8-bit RPGs for the first time I used to dream of a future where there would be RPGs where combat was in real time, forcing you to master two skills at once and pull off the moves under pressure. Dark Souls is almost exactly what I had in mind. It’s uncanny, almost like Hidetaka Miyazaki saw inside my head and made my dream come true.

Except he turned it into a nightmare. I’ve found its difficult level a little overstated but that’s mainly because I’m not bothered about turning to a FAQ whenever I get stuck, or the impenetrable mechanics aren’t explained. I do want to have fun with it after all.  But it’s still pretty punishing. I just seem to be a sucker for it. I wish I’d got the Prepare to Die edition but I skimped to save a few paltry pence. No idea if I can just “upgrade” on Xbox with a new disk or DLC. I guess it’s long enough as it is.

I was forced to tear myself away from it recently to review Element4l for PC Gamer. Any other month I’d rave about this: it’s a super-cool new indie puzzle platformer with the freshest mechanics I’ve seen in ages. You can’t really move: instead you have to change form and use the physical properties of your new shape to navigate the environment. Ice slides, for example, and air floats.

For what sounds like a very static game, it’s often joyously fast-paced and punctuated by some challenging puzzles and move sequences. Soundtrack is ace too. Definitely worth checking out, but I couldn’t wait to get back to Dark Souls.

Books

Snuff by Terry Pratchett is my current bedside companion. Sadly it just continues the slow decline in quality that’s been evident since the Discworld series hit the mid-twenties. It has its moments, but it’s also rambling in places, largely unfunny and the social commentary treads ground he’s already covered with much greater panache in previous titles. It also seems to turn Sam Vimes into some sort of omnipotent superhero. I think I liked him better as a grizzled man of the people.

TV

Caught Looper and really enjoyed it in spite of the fact that much of the film was spent trying to paper over its own colossal plot holes. Clever stuff: I need to see it again to really mull over everything that was in there.  Always good to see mainstream cinema demonstrate it can be both intelligent and entertaining at the same time. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a way to make the story vaguely plausible.

Half-way through Game of Thrones season 3. It continues to be enormously entertaining although I often get lost in the confusing plethora of people and places and the tangled lines they interweave. That, I suppose, is one reason to prefer the bloated, overindulgent books rather than the TV show.

I also read this article about feminism which opens talking about Doctor Who companions and thus, on its narrative, neatly nails what’s been bothering me about all the companion characters since the reboot, except for Donna. Still want to know what's so odd about Clara though. Not quite at the season finale.

Music

It’s summer, and clichéd as it is that means reggae for me. It’s one of the few genres of music where, thanks to lackadaisical quality control in Jamaican studios, compilation albums are often as good if not better than artist albums.

My sound for the season is therefore the deluxe edition of the soundtrack to Jamaican movie The Harder They Come.  The film itself is largely forgettable but the original soundtrack was an ace compilation of classic reggae. The re-release adds a ton of tunes I don’t remember being in the film, but it now reads like a who’s who of 70’s roots and is a joy from start to finish. The high point is possibly the high point of the whole era: Toots and the Maytals with the unforgettable Pressure Drop.

There Will Be Games
Matt Thrower
Head Writer

Matt has been writing about tabletop games professional since 2012, blogging since 2006 and playing them since he could talk.

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