Titan+Cosmic Encounter+Colossal Arena...but ugly.
On the Table
Monster Derby! Frank Branham dragged this out back when we first started playing Magical Athelete because he said it was similar…it was, but with a little more meat to it and published ten years before. It also seemed to count Titan, Cosmic Encounter and horse racing games in it lineage. But it was GOD AWFUL ugly. Seriously. Take a look at the pictures on BGG of the first edition. It is literally an eyesore.
But it’s back ($10k Kickstarter) and it’s slightly less ugly. It’s cleaned up a bit and streamlined. Jeff Siadek designed this thing, and it’s yet another unique and impressive design from him and Gorilla Games. This is totally one to pick up if you like rowdy, easy-to-play game for groups. It plays just fine with as few as two player, but with five to eight players Monster Derby rules.
Be warned, it is VERY old school. I’m talking about plastic paperclips on the component manifest . But hey, they get the job done. This is a case where the cruddy artwork and production values actually somehow enhance the game- it give it a homespun charm and a sense of unpretentious honesty that a lot of game lack these days. Review is here.
Rampage arrived, so I’ve been playing that a lot with the kids. Very stripped down- I just let them each take one of the four monster actions each turn and whatever they knock down, they keep as points. They LOVE it. River keeps asking to use the cards, but I keep telling him he has to be able to read first. Scarlett wins almost every game. I did run into some production issues with the game, which is something I rarely complain about. The board was miscut so that the center building slot was misaligned and one of the ruin tiles couldn’t be stickered properly. And some of the stickers were also off. And I was missing some meeples. And the boards were warping REALLY bad. Asmodee sent replacements within a week.
Played a little Firefly last week, that was fun…I think the naysayers are missing the boat on this one, it’s such an easygoing game, don’t take it so seriously. Trying to get Archipelago out with real people over the weekend and kind of dreading explaining the rules.
Some review copies are inbound after some badgering. Ars Victor, Galaxy Defenders, that Super Fantasy thing…looking into Rogue Agent too.
On the Consoles
Finally got a hold of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Yes, it is really short. But it also blows just about everything else away. After blowing off inches of dust covering the PS4 (which has been virtually worthless for almost six months now), I was really impressed by the Fox Engine- it looks _great_. By far the best looking “next gen” game so far.
It took some breaking in because it doesn’t really feel like MGS at first…but after playing through the main mission, where you have to rescue Paz and Chico (from Peace Walker) from a Guantanemo Bay- like camp, it is totally MGS. Just very, very refined. By jingo, they finally got the gunplay right. The movement is far more organic and fluid, but there is still that weird layer of complexity to the controls. It’s also kind of an open world concept, even though this “prologue” is a small area. This means that approaching your objective is entirely up to you. But Kojima has done some neat things with it, which makes it feel like you are really on the ground making strategic decisions and using clues to figure out where you need to go and do.
The end of the main mission was just awesome. I got Paz and had to carry her to an exfiltration point. But the closest one I could choose was “high danger”. So I hid her and “prepped” the site, taking down a guard near an AA gun and a couple of others milling around an APC. I called in the chopper, and all hell broke loose. At this point, I didn’t even know I could get in a vehicle so I was just trying to buy time to get the chopper down and her into it. But I saw the prompt, hopped in, and just started tear-assing around, blasting everything. Then I had to run and grab her, under fire the entire time, and literally “get to the choppa”. It was awesome.
I’ve only done one of the other side missions, which give you different objective but in the same camp. There were two renegade Marines I had to find and neutralize. But this time it was daylight. I snuck around doing the MGS thing (lots of crawling, of course) but then the whole thing went pear-shaped when a guy on a guard tower saw me and hit the alarm. The Marines were alerted and started to leave. So I kind of panicked, getting into a running gunfight while I was looking for one of them. I turned a corner and there was a jeep coming right at me so I blazed it. Boom, killed one of them. Then I got a message that the other was leaving so I literally ran through the camp to the last known point and looked everywhere but I couldn’t find him. So I got in one of those APCs and headed for the road. Find that guy trying to leave in a jeep too, blasted him. So dramatic.
Production values are about as high as it gets- and it’s all super-stylized in that classic Kojima way. Ends with an incredibly gruesome scene that was super intense.
Oh, and talk about good taste…it uses Morricone’s “Sacco and Vanzetti” as a theme song. So awesome.
It just really sucks that Phantom Pain is a 2015 release.
Don’t be daft…Hearthstone. I’m having an embarrassing slump right now, I’m losing four out of five games or something. I’m completely incompetent at building Warrior and Druid decks.
Yomi is actually really good on IOS, but there are some really crude elements that are extremely irritating. Like literally just scanning the card artwork into the game, resolution be damned. But there it is, Yomi. It’s a little expensive ($20 for everything), but it’s still a great game and this is a great way to get to play it.
On the Comics Rack
The Fifth Beatle was pretty good. It’s sort of a speculative story about Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager up through Sgt. Pepper. He was Jewish, gay and really kind of brilliant in how he helped to shape their early career. The interesting thing is that it really is the Brian Epstein story, not so much a retelling of the Beatles’ early days. Most of the Beatles material is on the peripheral, and if you know your Beatles history it really enhances the story but never becomes it.
The artwork is awesome- oddly dark and cheerful at the same time. There’s an interlude when they tour the Phillipines that’s done in a style similar to the Beatles’ cartoons. There’s a bit where Epstein meets Colonel Parker that is creepy and menacing. There are some possibly mystical elements.
In all, I liked it, it was a short read but I came out of it wishing that it was film rather than a comic. I wanted to know more and I wanted to have a better grasp on what was fact and “enhanced” fact. Definitely worth looking at for rock fans and Beatles fans.
Going back to Spider Island this week. The story is kind of dumb, but it’s entertaining.
On the Screen
The kids finally watched The Wizard of Oz, which is just about as magical a movie as there has ever been. It’s almost otherworldly. Maybe because it is so ingrained in the cultural consciousness.
It blows my mind that Victor Fleming directed it in the same year that he directed Gone With the Wind. Talk about a banner year. Hey guy, you just directed two of the most important, timeless, culturally significant film ever made. You win 1939.
I tried to watch Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I remember back in summer 1991, it was THE movie. I saw it like seven times in the theater. It seemed so big. But after seeing it all those times, I never watched it again until this week. I’m not really sure how I feel about it now, I don’t know that it’s dated all that well and I actually kind of lost interest halfway through. One thing I do like about it a lot is how there’s just that little taste of the man versus machine war of the future, and for the rest of the film it’s something that’s “coming” but never shown. That sets up a really compelling tone. But then it plays cute with the “boy and his robot” stuff. I dunno, maybe I just wasn’t really in the mood for it.
Well, I was going to listen to the Jesus Lizard all week but I wound up listening to the Faint’s entire catalog. “Goat” and “Liar” next week, without fail.
I did take a few listens of the new reissue of Final Conflict’s classic “Ashes to Ashes”. This is LA hardcore from 1987, but they were more aligned with the peace punk/crust thing than the usual SoCal hardcore influences. It’s very D-beat, very metal and really pretty awesome. I had not heard this record since the mid-1990s and the years have been very kind to it- it sounds better than ever, actually.
But you know, listening to this kind of music makes me kind of sad. Like a lot of 1980s punk rock, it was made by teenagers and young adults in the 1980s, during the Reagan/Thatcher era, in the middle of the “yuppie” boom and during a time when nuclear Armageddon seemed like something very real and even probably. Kids were bored, had little to look forward to in terms of pursuing the traditional career paths unless they wanted the typical suit-and-tie job. The suburbs were growing and crushing everyone under the weight of mediocrity. So these kids picked up guitars and SCREAMED about it. Frustration, anger and FEAR.
These days, kids are so pacified and misdirected…it would take a massive Instagram outage to get kids really fired up. Social media has made everyone feel like they have a voice (protip- they don’t really), and instead of using things like music as an outlet they act out their frustration, anger and fear through online bullying, video games and somatization.
I miss that feeling that a record could change the world, even if it was not much more than a basement-recorded cassette tape handed out to 100 kids at a show. I miss that feeling that music was dangerous and life-changing instead of being safe and reassuring, providing kids with this false world of affluency, endless parties and sex wrapped up in pointless slogans and overproduced 808 beats.
I was talking to this guy my wife works with, he’s a in a pretty big indie band that is on tour with Deafheaven right now and he was commenting that the kind of music his band makes is “grown folks music”…which is really ironic, because it’s totally Amphetamine Reptile-style sludge-punk like Tar or the aforementioned Jesus Lizard. He says there are practically no kids at their shows- it’s all people 25-40 years old. But in 1992, 1993…it would have been MUCH more skewed to 18-25 because that was who was listening to punk rock then. But he’s right, punk rock has become “grown folks music”…and that’s really kind of depressing.