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  • Barnestorming- Introducing the Review Corner, XCOM in Review, Wario Land 3, Berserk, Brian Eno

Barnestorming- Introducing the Review Corner, XCOM in Review, Wario Land 3, Berserk, Brian Eno

MB Updated
There Will Be Games

 Grand opening!

On the Table

Cue the fanfare and raise the curtain, it’s time to unveil The Review Corner @! This is a project myself and a crack team of writers have been working on in secret since early February and we’re happy to finally roll it out to the public. It’s an idea that was cooked up by my man Charlie Theel- he pitched the concept of starting a regular reviews feature at Miniature Market’s site and they were totally on board. What’s more, they are committed to developing the feature into a leading source for high quality, authoritative games writing.

Yours truly has stepped up to take the Editor-in-Chief reins so I am, more or less, the boss. I wrangle the writers into some semblance of a schedule, harangue them for comma splices, shove style guides in their faces and where necessary offer kindly red-pen rewrites when they venture off into terrible pop culture references or if they wander too far afield from writing strictly about the games and the experiences they provide.

Charile Theel is my lieutenant, he’s our Lead Writer and I’m honored that I was the first person he wanted to bring on board after Miniature Market gave the high sign to move forward. Charlie and I have selected a crew of folks that range from seasoned vets to some new writers that we felt deserved a chance to reach a bigger audience. I do not agree with all of our writers. There are a couple of writers that have a style that I don’t personally care for. But the goal was to provide a wide range of interests, opinions and approaches so I think you’ll be impressed with the diversity on display. You’ll recognize a couple of these names- our very Nate Owens (San Il Defanso) and Pete Ruth (SuperflyTNT) are on the roster as are Dan Thurot, Byron Campbell and Kyle Mann.

But let’s be upfront about something. This is a paid gig for an online retailer so we are well aware that the first thought on many minds will be “shill reviews”. I’m going to bury that assumption right here. What you will not see at the Review Corner are reviews written to drive sales. We are not writing these reviews to steer buyers to a purchase. Miniature Market’s leadership is 100% behind our writers expressing themselves honestly. This was one of the key things I personally discussed with Miniature Market, that we would have absolutely no credibility if we could not give a total bomb of a game a one-star rating. They completely agreed, without exception.

We are rating on a star system, which I actually despise because I am a firm believer that a solid review does not need to have some kind of calculated score. But it’s a popular method and I decided to go with it under the stipulation that our writers use the FULL scale and understand that a game that is rated five stars isn’t just a game you think is really great- it’s a game that is a significant release. Likewise, a one star game isn’t one that “sucks”- it’s one that has fundamental, terminal problems in its rules, production or gameplay.

Also in the name of full disclosure- some of these games will be comped to our writers by Miniature Market, but not publishers or designers. Our writers (and myself) are paid, so this is a pro-level gig. And as the EIC, I expect pro-level work and pro-level integrity at all times.

We’re aiming to have a review a day up, Monday through Friday, but there are already plenty  posted for your reading enjoyment, including my review of XCOM. It’s a much better game than I expected, so consider today’s Cracked LCD to be this piece linked here.

Hope you guys enjoy it- I’ll be posting links to my Review Corner pieces (about one a month) here with the usual Cracked LCD fare continuing to appear here at


On the Consoles

You know what’s a really interesting game? Wario Land 3, the old Game Boy Color one. It’s such a strange design…you can’t die. Instead, things happen like you get flattened by something or a little guy throws a donut in your mouth and you get too fat to jump. But these status changes may enable you to do different things, potentially opening new pathways or revealing secrets. There’s almost a Metroid-like quality to it too, because you have to go back to old levels to use new abilities. And there’s this TERRIBLE golf mini-game that is really bad, unnecessarily difficult, but hugely addictive because you just want to beat it. It’s sadistic but fun. I love this little game.

I got Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (more Wario, right)…it was really good, but I beat it in like 90 minutes. Worth $2.99 though, definitely.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D…almost caught up to the point where I left it off a couple of years ago. Definitely prefer this kind of game on a mobile device.

Stepping back into Bloodborne after a hiatus…somehow I missed the entire Forbidden Woods area. So…very…lost…



Hey, did you see that Hearthstone came out? I’m getting back into it.


On the Screen

I’ve never seen/read any Berserk and this reboot movie came up on Netflix. MAN IT WAS GREAT! I really had no idea what it was about, or that it was like this 100 Years War-era set medieval low fantasy thing. If you have ever said “I wish there was a movie made from my Cry Havoc game”, check this out. It is excessively violent, but you know, splitting a dude’s head with an axe isn’t tidy. But it does put Fist of the North Star to shame.  The story is decent, should appeal to fans of Game of Thrones. I got a “Malaysian edition” DVD with the other two films- apparently it’s an attempt to completely reboot and consolidate the Berserk story, sort of like how the new Yamato series updated and shortened everything.

One really cool touch- one of the main characters (a veeeery transgender-ish mercenary-king) wears a helmet styled after the one in Phantom of the Paradise.

I started watching X-Men: Days of Future Past but it was just really lame so I bailed. I don’t know, the Fox take on X-Men is just really…tacky…in the aftermath of the bona fide MCU.

Daredevil, what more needs to be said.

Oh, if you haven’t seen it, watch the Mad Max: Fury Road “Legacy” trailer. It almost made me cry tears of oil and radiated water.

On Spotify

I love it when I have those “oh wait, I’ve never really listened to that” moments. This week, it was Brian Eno. I’ve listened to plenty of “Here Come the Warm Jets” and “Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy” because those are essential records in the glam rock/pre-punk canon. But I’ve not really listened to “Another Green World” or “Before and After Science” so I’m in process now on those.

But of course I had to listen to the first two records near-obsessively this week. I think I listened to “Baby’s on Fire” 100 times. What an amazing track. The first four tracks on that record are just untouchably great and at least five years ahead of their time.

There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of and as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #200881 16 Apr 2015 13:53
For whatever its worth, technically BGG sells games too.

Good luck!
stoic's Avatar
stoic replied the topic: #200885 16 Apr 2015 14:23
Good luck to all. I look forward to reading these reviews.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #200895 16 Apr 2015 15:05
You guys think Barnes is hard to deal with on the forums? Try writing for him.
DukeofChutney's Avatar
DukeofChutney replied the topic: #200905 16 Apr 2015 15:30
Good to see you guys getting paid for your work, I hope this gig works out well.
logopolys's Avatar
logopolys replied the topic: #200946 16 Apr 2015 23:54
Wow. Barnes, San, and Superfly are three of my favorite reviewers. And now they're all in (a second) one place!!

EDIT: Does that Review Corner have an RSS that I'm missing?
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #200947 17 Apr 2015 00:33
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #200948 17 Apr 2015 00:37
Something about this rubs me the wrong way. Probably not justified. Probably I'm wrong.

Just seems like the Fort being tossed aside for what $15 bucks a review of which you may get one or two a month?

Also, Superfly who has countless times argued that paid reviews are nothing more than shilling for the man. I find it surprising he is on board with this massive ship-jump.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #200949 17 Apr 2015 01:29
Wow, thanks for the negativity. I'm not quite sure how anyone is "casting the Fort aside", but I think it's pretty crap to cast aspersions on folks trying to earn a little money for what they do over some kind of fealty to this site. For my part, I've been here since day one and I'll be here when Shellie pulls the plug. Never made one cent here. I think it's pretty lame for you to fault me or any of my staff for taking advantage of professional opportunities offered elsewhere- that are quite a bit more than $15 a month, BTW. And that offer potential exposure and readership far more than F:AT or any blog or amateur site would.

Pete has agreed to contribute on a pro bono level. I hired him, gave him a rate, and he specifically requested that he not get paid for his work. I met with him yesterday and tried to convince to earn a little ammo money but he insists on doing it for free. There is no compromise of integrity there.
Hex Sinister's Avatar
Hex Sinister replied the topic: #200950 17 Apr 2015 02:00
Man, congrats to you guys. I hope this works out well for you all.

Also, Eno rules.
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #200953 17 Apr 2015 04:04
So you think jumping to another site, will in no way negatively affect the traffic to this site? And you all think this way?

Hope you're all right

As I'm reading it, correct me if I'm wrong, it really doesn't benefit this site at all (may possibly divert traffic from it) but it definitely improves your personal exposure (by you, I mean the collective you).

Why are we to be happy again? Because of your personal success or because of the diversion of traffic, further marginalising this site?
Rafael Silva's Avatar
Rafael Silva replied the topic: #200955 17 Apr 2015 07:30

But the goal was to provide a wide range of interests, opinions and approaches so I think you’ll be impressed with the diversity on display.

Oh, right, I was looking at the "Meet the writers" page, I'm impressed alright, never seen so many dork looking white guys together, you can find more diversity at a Gay-Neo-Nazi rally.

Gratz guys!
lj1983's Avatar
lj1983 replied the topic: #200957 17 Apr 2015 08:43
so Barnes has been writing for Nohighscores (and gameshark prior to that), and that's ok. but writing for miniaturemarket and editing other people writing for miniature market isn't? Matt Thrower writing for shutup and sit down is ok? but this isn't?

people continuously bitch about how big BGG is in our hobby, but when a group of writers come together to put reviews out, outside the BGG realm its a bad thing?

and there isn't any ability to comment on those reviews. the review discussions that happen on this site will continue to happen. I figure the barnestorming articles will still happen, with links to reviews. I hope San/Charlie/Pete do something similar. We have a lot of smart people on this site, with great insights into games that don't write reviews. their discussions on other people's reviews can be as valuable as the review itself.

alot of negativity for a net-good thing. also yeah, be happy for people's personal success. Exposure to the collective 'you' for a group of people more active on FortressAT vs on BGG may end up being more exposure to FAT in the long run as well.
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #200958 17 Apr 2015 09:20
I very much doubt that this will cause MORE traffic to the Fort.
Why would it? It's designed to pull traffic to MM. If it doesn't, it's not doing it's job.

I think it's one thing Barnes working for Gameshark and Pete doing SuperFlyCircus. It is quite another to pull nearly all the writers over to MM in order to divert traffic from here to there which is absolutely the primary motivation for MM or maybe you thought MM were doing this for the good of the hobby? Why go to FortressAT when you can just go to MM and read all these writers in the one place and not be distracted by the noise of FAT?

FYI I don't bitch about BGG because I don't use it. I do use this site.
OldHippy's Avatar
OldHippy replied the topic: #200959 17 Apr 2015 09:41

ThirstyMan wrote: ... and not be distracted by the noise of FAT?

The reviews are nice and all... but aren't most of us here for the "noise"?

It'll be fine.

Good luck and all that guys, I'll check it out from time to time.
DukeofChutney's Avatar
DukeofChutney replied the topic: #200960 17 Apr 2015 09:42
TBH most of the reviews posted to this site by the main writers are either already on their blogs or are links to other sites, so I don't see how this changes. besides Barnes often adds a few extra bits of commentary or meta commentary on his reviews here so it doesn't bother me.

Secondly, I would suggest people that are actually interested in what these reviews say more than just the star rating and tagline are interested in the comments and debate. Its the forum here that matters. Thirdly, other people than these four can write (and do, Barneys 5 second = best) content for this site.

One advantage of these reviews is they appear to have a tight word count, which I appreciate.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #200961 17 Apr 2015 09:43
Andy, there's a couple of things you might be mistaken about here: First, I'm not, nor ever have been a "staff writer" here. I repost my blogs here because nobody goes to my site anymore, and hasn't really since I imploded my BGG account. Second, the articles at MM are much, much different than the articles I post on my site, primarily because the reviews at MM are MY opinion alone, not the opinion of the Circus.

I'm writing for MM solely because I want more exposure for my site. I told Barnes that I didn't want to get paid for it, but he kind of pointed out that it's no different than review copies, and after much reflection, I have to agree. So, what I'm doing is that I'm going to create a "request a game to be reviewed" page, and I'm going to spend the proceeds to go out and buy it, play it, and then give the game away to my readers as I usually do. I think that allows me to remain a "non-profit" writer, so to speak, and it actually is a good thing for my site as it allows me to start reviewing more things that are requested, which allows me to provide better service to my readers.

And here's the new page announcing this new "program" for as long as I am not fired by Michael:

I'm not sure anyone remembers how the Circus works, but it's 100% unique in how I do it:

TL;DR: We take polls every time we play a game. We have to play it 3 times, and it has to be with at least 1 different person each play, more or less. Everyone gives me notes, and then I kind of compress the notes into the article. The articles I write are a hybrid of a bunch of people's opinions and sometimes I'm stuck writing positive things about games I don't really like because it polled well. Sometimes I have to skew negative on games I really, really love. So, it's not all me, where at Miniature Market, it's 100% certified Grade-F Pete.

Make any sense?
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #200962 17 Apr 2015 09:46

ThirstyMan wrote: Why go to FortressAT when you can just go to MM and read all these writers in the one place and not be distracted by the noise of FAT?

90% of Barnes reviews will still be on CrackedLCD and he'll still continue Barnestorming every single week. His material won't crossover and you won't be able to read his CrackedLCD work on the MM site.

I will continue to contribute here sporadically. One of my issues for my brief stint writing here has been kind of figuring out what I want my column to be. I could keep doing the commentary + review link like Barnes/Thrower do but that just feels a bit off when they're already doing that.

I don't know about Nate/Pete and their future. Nate had stepped away from FAT prior to the Review Corner. I don't see Pete abandoning his Superfly Circus reviews as his foul mouth can't quite run free on the Review Corner.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #200963 17 Apr 2015 09:47

I don't see Pete abandoning his Superfly Circus reviews as his foul mouth can't quite run free on the Review Corner.

Hey, fuck you. COLORFUL mouth. COLORFUL.

I'm never going to stop the Circus, as long as I feel I have something to offer the hobby. It's always been there (first in Blogger form, now in form) and it shall always be there. I also have my Facebook Circus deal where I re-post my articles there. My articles are here. My articles get picked up by two different other organizations, one is G*M*S Magazine in the UK, the other is a game store that seems to be doing what MM does (I actually wrote them a cease-and-desist until they agreed to certain conditions such as not changing a single fucking word and providing proper attribution) called Roll For Crit.

Make no mistake, folks, everything I've done and will always do, I do for the hobby. I just dropped $600.00 on the website for 5 years, plus I spend 50$ a month getting games that I want to review (I still only get a very small amount of review copies, and then only from two publishers, and I almost never ask for them...they just appear). If someone requests a game get reviewed, I go out and buy it, then review it. I've given away something like 75 games since I started the blog, paid shipping on nearly all of them.

It's just how I do things, and that will never change. My hit rate is like 100 per day now at max (it WAS 6,000 per month back in the heyday), thanks to me stupidly blowing up the BGG account that had all my reviews. Because of the ban, I can't even repost them. Dumb ass move, that wasn't well thought out.

So, there ya have it. For me, the only thing that changes is that my wife doesn't ask about "COOLSTUFFINC" on the credit card invoice anymore, because I say, "Oh, that's Barnes Money, sweetie."
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #200964 17 Apr 2015 09:50
I find foul more complimentary. But if you want to homogenize your own style, sure - Colorful.
wesbaker's Avatar
wesbaker replied the topic: #200968 17 Apr 2015 10:21
I only have two beefs with this whole thing:

  1. I'd like to see some pictures in the reviews. A wall of text is fine here and there, but if every review is just text it's a little boring. I like how Pete does his reviews at SuperflyCircus with the box art and a supporting image or two. Not so much that it's all about the images or detracts from the reviews.
  2. Why didn't this post of you pointing to the Miniature Market review show up in the FAT RSS feed?
Other than that, I like the idea and I'm happy to see folks who are taking the time to review games for us getting paid for their work.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #200970 17 Apr 2015 10:22
My lowered involvement here would be happening with or without the Review Corner. I stepped away because of grad school, and that was going to happen either way.

When I was approached for this project, it offered a lot of compelling reasons to get back into reviewing. First of all, the exposure is a big deal. For me it really does feel like a move up to the big leagues, not from F:AT but from being a plain old blogger. My reach was always going to be limited if I left things the way they were. When I started classes I assumed (with some regret) it was a fun hobby I got to do that was now behind me. This is a big step forward for me personally and professionally.

Secondly, it requires less of me in terms of actual work , since I will be writing less each month.

Lastly, and perhaps the biggest reason, it pays me money. This is much more than just having a little bit of extra cash, although that part is really important. For me this is the first time in MONTHS that someone has looked at what I've done and said, yes, that is worth money. After months of failed job searches and acceptance of my role as a stay-at-home dad, I was presented with an opportunity to do something I love to do for money, while still allowing me to focus on school and be at home with my kids. I felt I would be stupid to NOT take it.
MacDirk Diggler's Avatar
MacDirk Diggler replied the topic: #200971 17 Apr 2015 10:28
I, for one, am glad a couple of people took exception to the formation of "Murderers Row" over at MM.

Not because they are right, mind you. I mean Barnes, Pete, Charles T, and until recently San Il Defannso have all been MAJOR contributors to content on this site. Not just reviews, but also they HIGHLY participate in the threads/ discussions. And of course they have done that for free. So what if they get paid to write for another site? I bet if you figured what they are getting per hour for their reviews it's not a lucrative proposition. Hasn't Barnes been on No High scores for years now? You feel you own them?

Miniature Market does not step on F:AT's toes There is no discussion forum there and until there is one, there is absolutely nothing to worry about how it will affect F:AT. And thats why I am glad a few people bitched about it.... because that is part of what makes this site great is the DISCUSSION and variety of opinions on any topic. Barnes and his fellow review writers need that discussion as well. The reviews just sit on MM and lay there. As long as they are cross posted with links to them from here, those guys will be able to continue to get the feedback they crave.

If it's one thing I have learned about Barnes, it's that he likes to stir things up and he needs a reaction. He isn't going anywhere.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #200973 17 Apr 2015 11:04
A little aside here, and sorry Michael for what I'm about to say as it's going to destroy your cred quite a bit:

I was in HotLanta two days ago for work. Michael and I have threatened to meet up for years, but it never worked out, but this time, we did. I had a trade show to do and luckily I had a co-worker there to cover the booth whilst I was away. I had planned on meeting up from 1-2PM, and then being on my way. So, I had planned on that because my co-worker had to drive back to the Carolinas and it wasn't a short trip, and he's an older gentleman, so I tried to make sure he wasn't going to get killed in traffic like I was going to have to be on my 8 hour journey home later that day. It's an important point that needs saying: I am almost obsessively punctual because I think people's time is valuable and I hate to make people wait on me.

Well, I ended up going to the wrong place (not my town) and the place was closed. BUT, I had arrived 15 minutes early and I had time to get to the right place, thanks to Mike guiding me in on the phone. He literally saw me powerslide around a city street corner because I didn't want to be late.

Anyhow, we decided this bakery place wouldn't fly so we tried to go to some other place. First it was this place that served tapioca snot in soup, but he couldn't find it. Then we went to this little French bistro, got some coffee, and I hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon, so I got a croissant too.

We talked, and talked, and talked. Now, I have a knack to be able to "figure out" someone in minutes, which is probably why I'm such a great salesman. Michael is a charismatic, interesting, highly intelligent, (and here's the part you might not have guessed...) earnest, conscientious, kind, down-to-earth, humble person. And he's actually REALLY funny.We were so enthralled in the conversation, which spanned from quantum mechanics, God, art and horseback archery, that I literally didn't realize that it was 3:15 by the time I looked at my watch. That NEVER happens. I NEVER lose track of time. I'm still kind of mystefied. My only regret is that I didn't take a selfie to prove that it actually happened.

I get back to the show, and my co-worker's long gone, the union guys are taking down the booth frames, and I'm literally the last one left there from the show. I took down my booth and ended up sitting on 285 and then 75 for an hour and a half, in traffic. And I was LUCKY that it was so light.

Just thought I'd share my experience.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #200975 17 Apr 2015 11:11
Plot twist: it was Steve Avery in a Barnes suit.
charlieturtle's Avatar
charlieturtle replied the topic: #200976 17 Apr 2015 11:14
In the MM Review Corner, will you ever have multiple reviewers reviewing the same game?