On the Table
Z-Man sent me My First Carcassonne, and now it’s River and Scarlett’s favorite game. It’s got to be one of the best kids’ games that I’ve played- it is essentially Carcassonne, but with all of the potentially frustrating, confusing or incomprehensible stuff stripped away so that kids as young as two can play (with a little help). At 4, River totally gets it and he’s starting to make “smart” plays, such as they are since the game is extremely simple. In a nutshell, every tile fits with every other tile. So you can put them together in any way. They all have roads and there are pictures of kids on the roads. Finish a road, and everybody get s to put meeples on the kids that match their color. Put all of your kids out to win.
It’s been more successful than some of the other kids’ games I’ve brought in for them because, I think, they somehow just get it. And there’s nothing screwy about it- nothing like the “boost or blast” die result in Race Through Space, nothing like the double dice movement in Enchanted Forest, and so on. You put down a tile to build a village, if the road is finished then you put the kids out.
I love it, they love it, we play it all the damn time. Review is here.
Ars Victor came in the mail this weekend, maybe you’ve seen the ads here for it. Another Kickstarter deal, but it’s actually really good. It’s a fun, light wargame with a really good army building mechanic and extremely straightforward rules. It’s got a little C&C in it, but with a very different way of issuing orders that I think is very smart. The art is crude, but I kind of like it- especially since it is so very obviously nicking Warhammer 40k stuff (Imperial and Eldar, specifically) and the Adventure Time looking stuff makes it feel more honestly silly instead of hiding behind all the grimness. I’m pretty impressed with it so far. Review forthcoming on that one.
As for the Eurogames Reclamation Project- I’ve got to slow down Phase I a bit because, well, I’ve brought in like 25 games over the past month. So I’m moving more titles into Phase II, active playing. Which isn’t to say that acquisitions are over, because they will be ongoing. But I’m focusing on getting these games out with the Hellfire Club and my other irregular gaming pals.
Mississippi Queen with the Black Rose- yes, you really do want the Black Rose expansion. The new hazards make navigating the river pretty tricky in places, which increases the tension and need for careful planning. The Black Rose is a pretty great mechanic- the last place player basically gets to use this boat to either bring them coal or to push other boats around. You can play REALLY nasty with this thing, knocking folks about to pick up a lady to the side or shoving them on to sandbars. It really does kind of “complete” the game. It’s a shame that it’s so expensive and hard to find.
I got the second edition of Pompeii and was kind of pissed at first because I wanted the big, flat box one. But then I realized that I like how Mayfair got it all into a really small box, smaller than a bookshelf one. I actually only played this once or twice back when it was out. I’m glad I got it, it’s really a fun game. Very novel and satisfying. Definitely a Survive! descendant.
Wildlife Adventure was secured in a trade for Relic. I absolutely LOVE the way this game looks- the big, oversized animal paintings on the map. Slightly surreal, which is something I adore about naturalist illustration. It’s a shame about the travel vouchers, which are quite possibly the worst game component ever. Like, magazine paper. But hey, they work. Debating on how to show it to the kids, I don’t know if they’ll really get the whole thing about there being three expeditions. They struggle sometimes when they’re not a specific color.
On the Consoles
Had to take a break from MK8…those 150cc Grand Prix events are tough. One bad line and you drop six or seven places.
Went back to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and I’m trying to get through. “Trying” because the game is SO FREAKING HARD. I went through 30 odd lives trying to get through 2-2, this crazy bit with an exploding mountain and riding Rambi over these bridges. That are, of course, collapsing. I don’t know if there’s anything more stressful in video games than the bonus stages where you have to collect all of the bananas in 30 seconds to get a puzzle piece. I think it’s worse than Dark Souls. I completely tense up and freak out.
I love the Donkey Kong Country games and I’ve played through all of them but Tropical Freeze…great, hardcore platforming with tons of charm and character. Totally fair, totally skill and routine based gameplay. I think this one is probably the best yet. Not that there is really all that much different between them beyond stage layouts, but Tropical Freeze has some awesome levels even this early on.
I caught wind of an Acquire clone called Achoir…it’s OK, hard to play on the phone due to some pretty piss-poor UI choices and microscopic fonts. But it plays Acquire, and it does so well. That also put me in touch with Mcguire, another older clone that I’ve never seen before. It’s better so far, the AI is pretty good and the interface is really nicely done- I like that it always shows you the tiles you have in hand. Great to get some Acquire in, even against AIs. Gosh, remember that old DOS Acquire?
I picked up Qvadriga, the Siltherine chariot racing game that is supposedly like Circus Maximus. It is somewhat, you can definitely tell the designers were aware of that Avalon Hill classic. It’s pretty good overall, but it is BONE dry and there’s lots of watching with no way to speed it up. The interface is really good and there’s lots you can do, but it’s really kind of boring. It’s also really hard. I flip my damn chariot practically every race. I haven't dug too much into the campaign mode, but it looks like there's a pretty complex management game there with running your teams, keeping them fit and so forth to race for various purses and tournaments. Overall, I like it but it is definitely something to play passively. I'm not really too crazy about the "dynamic" turns, which are kind of sort of real time but not really so much. Stick to the "static" turns.
On the Screen
Out of sheer laziness- it was really late, we were in bed, and I couldn’t find the remote- I wound up watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I believe that film is proof that we are not the product of intelligent design because if we were, our eyeballs would have a killswitch installed in them that would shut them off when seeing something so devastatingly, soul-destroyingly awful. I don’t even know where to begin with this piece of cynical trash.
Maybe the scene early on when the kitchen appliances turn into miniature robots, one of which has a giant penis cannon. Or how about the exploding dog house, with dogs running in slow motion. Or the 10 minutes of side plot about Sam’s idiot mother eating pot-laced brownies. WHAT THE FUCK DOES THT HAVE TO DO WITH TRANSFORMERS? Or the whole thing with the Hot Chick Decepticon, another 20 minute time sink so that Bay can show a frat party with lots of sexy young people and a couple of really crass upskirt shots. Or the endless product placement- “State Farm will cover this”. Cisco. GMC cars as far as the eye can see. The whole thing is practically an advertisement for the army, more so than Call of Duty ever was. Fuck’s sake, 130 minutes of the 150 minute film ISN’T EVEN ABOUT THE TRANSFORMERS. It’s about stupid incidental shit or advertising.
The Transformers SUCK in it too. Good god, why are they always somersaulting? Why do they look like my toolbox out in the shed exploded on to a humanoid form and someone CGI’ed a flame job on them? The only thing worth a damn in the entire film is hearing Peter Cullen’s voice.
I honestly can’t believe that these films continue to get made and that audiences won’t just STOP seeing them. I could totally understand it if the movies were big dumb fun, I like big dumb fun. The first one had a couple of moments of big dumb fun, at least. But with this one, you can tell that no one involved is having fun and the intent isn’t to make a big dumb fun movie- it’s for everyone involved in making this garbage to pretty much say “we do not give a fucking shit about anything on the screen, the audience are bunch of morons, where’s my paycheck.” You can almost feel Michael Bay smirking the whole time and nodding his head, well aware that what he is making is literally pitched somewhere around the Limp Bizkit/People of Wal-Mart demographic. It isn’t even effective as pop culture fluff because there’s such a CONTEMPT for the subject matter and the people watching it evident in every frame. This is a filmmaker who has somehow managed to get studios on board with this vision of “blockbuster” filmmaking that completely does away with artistry or quality and focuses solely on dick jokes and booty shots, punctuated by explosions, packaged with a popular toy license so that there’s money coming in from that part of it too.
I think that was literally the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so hateful and joyless in my life- including Nekromantik 2.
I started watching Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy but after 20 minutes I thought “why the hell am I doing this”.
So a shitty week of watching…oh wait, I just saw the new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer with “Cherry Bomb”…that ruled!
Well, this is turning into “What CHROME albums are you listening to?”…I haven’t been so single-minded in listening since I started listening to The Fall in earnest back in 2003-2004.
This week I’ve mostly been into this fairly recent (and crowdfunded) “lost tracks” compilation called “Half Machine From the Sun”, which is mostly unreleased material from between those records…so there’s lots of stuff from the Stench brothers period, where arguably their best material came from. Some very raw (even by Chrome standards) stuff here, some things you can hear that likely turned into other tracks, and some stuff that is just as good as anything else they ever released.
I did wander into the Helios Creed-less “Eyes of the Zombie King”. Oh man, it was awful. It still sounds kind of like Chrome, but without Creed it’s pretty clear that Damon Edge had lost the thread. The key to their sound working was that it somehow bridged the gap between pure punk rock, space rock like Hawkind, early industrial like Cabaret Voltaire and this malignant, pitch black science fiction atmosphere. Without Creed’s guitar work, all of the above are diminished and the really psychedelic angle is almost completely lost. So it sounds like chintzy synth-rock circa 1984 instead of this alien sound from an abandoned future.
Somebody let my kids hear that “What Does the Fox Say” song. I’m having to pretend that it won’t load.