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  • You know, for kids.
  • Back when we rebooted and relaunched as There Will Be Games a couple of months ago, I was suddenly flooded with review copies and titles that I picked up on my own that I wanted to cover. And I've fallen behind, so this edition of Barnes on Games is kind of a "catch up" on some things that I'd really like to get the word out on- some genuine surprises in this batch. So here's a pile of games and what I think about them.

  • Seven Games. One Box.

  • Four editions, three strikes...

  •  In which Yie Ar Kung Fu is referenced.


     

  • Joey Jo Jo, the Man's drummer fled the home and family to hang here and be bad. Being bad when you're married with children means showing up with a 12 pack and ordering pizza, when the wife's got you on a diet. I ordered a salad, just in case the wife called, so I could say we had salad for dinner .

    Joey Jo Jo used have the job of hauling a bazooka around across his shoulders. Once he was running through the woods with that bazooka and ran between two trees that were two close together and damn near knocked himself unconscious. So Joey is the only dude I know who has actually fired a bazooka. He's also the only dude I know who has had his ass kicked by a couple of trees while holding a bazooka. 

    After dinner, Joey was really keen on playing Last Night on Earth, but he had forgotten his glasses at home. So he played a couple games of Blokus with the Spawn. But this was totally unsatisfying, like eating salad when you are craving a pizza.   

     

     

  • I won't comment on the popular or well known games, those that go without saying, e.g. Zelda 3, Super Metroid, F-Zero, etc.

    (J) = Game was only released in Japan, but an English translation is available for emulators.

    • Aerobiz Supersonic: A game about managing an airline. As usual for games from KOEI it is also a good simulation: Every major aircraft is represented with unique stats and historical events occur, like for example the war in Iraq, which renders flights to Baghdad unprofitable. The goal is to become the dominant international airline, which can be quite difficult if you start out in Cuba for instance. A solid 7.
    • Ball Bullet Gun (J): This is one of the first tactical games using the action point system. As the name suggests it recreates skirmishes with airsoft guns, but the many different weapons have very realistic stats and functionality. You're also tasked to build your own squad with various specialists. The game is especially fun in two-player "hot seat" mode, as searching for the opponent is an important aspect of the game. I rate it a strong 7.
    • Banka (J): A very profane side-scrolling Beat 'em Up which provides for quick fun, but also allows the player(s) to perform more moves than the usual side scroller such as Final Fight 3 for example. Still, only a weak 7.
    • Blackthorne aka. Blackhawk: A Shoot'n'Run from the early Blizzard. The control system is similar to Prince of Persia, only that you can choose for yourself when to switch to your weapon, which is a shotgun here and has to be used often. Another solid 7.
    • Cannon Fodder: This was a very innovative game at its time, because it could be played with the SNES mouse. You're moving around a map with one or more squads; left-click means "move here", right click means "shoot here". "Move and shoot" is also possible, as is using grenades or rocket launchers, several vehicles and buildings. The goal is to kill all enemy soldiers, to destroy key buildings or both. You lose if you lose soldiers faster than you receive recruits. Just a 7.
    • Clocktower (J): A Japanese horror game and an early point and click adventure. Despite being a two dimensional game, the game can actually be very scary. Trust me, I'm not scared easily. My rating is equal to the number of different endings: 7.
    • Cybernator: A very good Shoot'n'Run, where the player controls a mech, which can jump, hover, charge and use a shield, machine gun, fist punch and other weapons/tools. The game requires to constantly switch between weapons, offense or defense and the different movement options. An entertaining 7.
    • Der Langrisser (J): A very innovative game, which was one of the first tactical RPGs and introduced different advancement trees and story arcs into the genre. Basically you use several heroes, who can also recruit troops, to battle the enemy. The game provides the player with many different tactical and narrative options. A strong 7.
    • Earthbound: The coolest RPG ever created. I bet the designers/programmers were on psychedelic drugs when they made this game. The single most defining piece of media in my youth. This one almost goes up to 8.
    • EVO: A game about evolution. You start out as a fish and get "evolution points" for eating other animals, which you may then use to grow strong teeth, tougher skin, spikes etc. or to change your species to amphibian, dinosaur and later even human. An innovative 7.
    • Firestriker: This game takes the basic game play from Breakout and adds several cool elements to it: a hero, moving monsters and various items. I rate it a small, fun 7.
    • Firemen: What appears to be a boring game about firefighters turns out to actually be an action shooter. You enter a chemical laboratory, which is on fire, and have to extinguish ever changing and evolving flames and rescue the employees. A hot 7.
    • Front Mission (J): A very cool tactical, turn-based RPG, which puts the heroes in wanzers (walking panzers). Constant modification of the wanzers is very important and every battle is very challenging requiring good planning and tactics. It features one of the best storylines in video gaming and a great ending. A strong 7.
    • International Superstar Soccer Deluxe: The best soccer game for the SNES, whose defining game play can still be found in modern soccer games today in only slightly changed form. I once won the world cup with Nigeria on the hardest difficulty level, which was cool. I rate it a sporty 7.
    • Ken Griffey, Jr. presents Major League Baseball: People who played it agree, this is the best baseball game of all times. It didn't have the license to the players' names, but this was made up by cool naming (e.g. the San Diego Padres are punk rockers) and stats and appearance of the players are real. Definitely a 7 for baseball fans.
    • King of Dragons: This is a great fantasy side-scrolling Beat 'em Up. Character options are: Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Dwarf and Elf. One or two players battle several fantasy creatures and steadily get better abilities and weapons. A weak, but recommended 7.
    • Kirby Super Star: The best Kirby game for the SNES. Next to the classic story, several different game modes are provided, such as a treasure hunt, food race and some mini games. A star-surfing 7.
    • Lufia 2: I never finished this RPG, but every time I play it, I'm convinced that it is very special. Just a 7.
    • Metal Marines: A simple but addicting real-time strategy game. You're based on one island and try to capture another, by first setting up basic defenses, factories and power plants to generate energy and resources, so to later go over to the attack. The name giving Metal Marines are tall mechs which are required to the destroy the enemy bases. I rate this fun game a 7.
    • Ogre Battle: An awesome tactical RPG, which is all about organizing an army out of many creatures and maneuvering them around in the different levels. Each squad fights for itself under a given command, e.g. kill the enemy leader. Timing is very important as is creating suitable squads for the different maps. Each creature can also advance to at least one other type, e.g. amazons can become witches, clerics or valkyries, but each requires different manipulation of alignment and other attributes. The game play is very special and I haven't seen it used in another game yet. Almost an 8.
    • Pacific Theater of Operations 2: A great game about World War 2 in the Pacific, which gives the player complete control over all forces on strategical and tactical levels. It is epic and time consuming. The controls also take a little to get used to. If you manage to get into it, you'll see that this is definitely a 7.
    • Robotrek: This game might have inspired Pokemon. The player controls a young engineer who deploys robots with different abilities in battle. A weak 7.
    • Romance of the Three Kingdoms 4 - Wall of Fire: Another great strategic game by KOEI, which has the player trying to become the next emperor of China in the 1st and 2nd century. The heroes and events of the famous historical novel are all represented. This is an advanced version of Gemfire, which is also recommended. A solid 7.
    • Shadowrun: I disregarded this game after playing it first, but it is really a very good real time RPG set in the role-playing universe of the same name. In the SNES game though, you are a fighter, decker (hacker) and shaman at the same time. It has an interesting story line set in the near future and can get pretty hard at times, too. I rate it a 7.
    • Street Fighter Alpha: This is the best Street Fighter game for the SNES, which introduced many elements found in modern Beat 'em Up games. It also has very good graphics for a SNES game. Just a 7.
    • Smash TV: A stupid and fun action game. What is not to like about having four different fire buttons? (One for every direction.) You are the participant of a modern game show, firing your way trough masses of mutants, while collecting dollar bills, credit cards and pink slips of sport cars. A brainless 7.
    • Syndicate: If this was a board game, people would call it a "hidden gem". It was difficult for me to wrap my head around this game at first, since I didn't have a manual. But once I did, I had great fun with this little shooter. You control four agents, each of which can be individually armed and equipped (cyberware, etc.) and try to achieve missions set in the near future. These almost always consist of shooting opposing agents with various weapons in real time. A good 7.
    • Tecmo Super Bowl: I was a big fan of Tecmo Super Bowl 3 at first, but this game is actually better. It's simpler to control, but has less bugs to abuse and is a lot more difficult. It's almost impossible to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs, since Emmit Smith is unstoppable. I had great fun playing this game against people who don't even know the rules of American Football. I usually pick a bad team and give them the Cowboys, which would then always make for an exciting and balanced match. Without a doubt a strong 7.
    • Tetris Attack: OK, I just had to include a puzzle here and this is an interesting one. It has several play options and while it is simple rule-wise, it's hard to find the really good, high scoring combinations. Absolutely a 7 for puzzle fans.
    • Top Gear 2: Another game from a different genre, here's a racing game. Top Gear (1) was already a cool game, but the graphics were a little slow, which made the game too hard to savor. Top Gear 2 is a very enjoyable  game, where you are racing long tracks with a very neat graphical representation. This is probably one of the first games where you could upgrade and customize your car with the money you earn from races. A quick 7.
    • Uncharted Waters 2: This is yet another very cool game from KOEI. You can choose from six different characters who, after the discovery of America, all sail around the world for different reasons. Available for play are an adventurer, a merchant, a pirate, an admiral, a discoverer and a cartographer. This should give you a general overview of all the different things you can do in this game all around the globe. You start out in a small vessel and after some progress you can buy a big ship fit to cross the Atlantic, or equip cannons and go pirating. I rate this game a very strong 7.
    • UN Squadron: This is a fun little "flight sim" (aka. side scrolling shooter) which allows the player to pick one of three different pilots, choose from several contemporary fighters and equip different weapons. The game depicts the war against a "desert dictator", i.e. it was "inspired" by Operation Desert Storm, but actually has cartoon graphics. Rating: 7.
    • War 3010: This is an early game from ID Software and while it looks crappy, it is sort of an early version of Advanced Wars, only that it is set in space. You are given an assortment of different specialized spacecraft and battle an evil alien imperium. The missions get very tough over the course of time. A tenuous 7.
    • Wonder Project (J): Last but not least, another very innovative game which used the SNES mouse. Arguably a supreme version of Tamagotchi, you are training a robot doll (Pinocchio) to perform various tasks. The robot has several interlocking attributes. For example you can teach him to read books and be nice to animals, but then he will run away scared upon seeing a sword. So to make him aggressive, he first has to read some comic books. This is really more of a kids game, but quite funny. A solid 7.
  • Actually there is none. My dad sent me game money, but everything I want hasn't been released yet. I pre-ordered Battlestar Galactica and Red November. Amazon says these will ship October 31, but I'm not going to hold my breath since I hear that BSG pre-order has sold out. I'm waiting for Touch of Evil and Tales of the Arabian Nightsto be released. So it looks like I may not be celebrating my birthday, new game wise, until December or later.
    Just to rub it in, my Dad called to wish me a happy birthday, and told me that he had played an "outer space" game last night, where he was a robot. I asked him if perhaps he might have been something called a Cylon. Yes, he remembered that was what he was. He told me it was very complicated, but that he won. He didn't say whether he liked it or not, so I don't know if he will play with me when he visits sometime after my copy finally arrives. So my dad got to play BSG before I did. Go figure.
    My man took me out shopping, but I couldn't find anything I wanted, not even shoes. Well, that's not entirely true. There was a pair of kitten heel thongs at White & Black, but they didn't have them in my size.

    In other news, I played Jamaicaat game club on Thursday. Meh. I wouldn't veto it if someone suggested it, but I wouldn't jump at the chance to play again either.

     

  • board2zalgo_thumbnail.jpg
  • My game order arrived tonight. It was a belated Father's Day order. I was waiting for Kingsport to come out.

    Detroit Cleveland Grand Prix. Father's Day gift for the Man. He needed something in the cupboard to counter the overwhelming girliness of my pink game. I taught him how to play, and we played one lap. Then I started feeling sick again, so we quit. Plus it isn't much fun as a two player. But it was enough for him to know he he likes it. He'll be teaching it to the band boys next band night.

    I spent the rest of the evening on the sofa, drinking OJ and watching Strictly Ballroom, while punching and bagging. I usually save the chick flicks for band night, but I got special privileges tonight on account of being sick. Plus we watched Cloverfieldlast night, which was mostly lame. I just didn't give a shit what happened to any of those annoying characters. I was like hurry up and f'ing die already. Maybe if a big monster was chasing Antonio Vargas I'd care. Yikes, he's hot.

    Quest for the DragonLords. Father's Day gift number 2. Showed this one to the Man a few years back, but he said no more long games with lots of little pieces that we won't be able to play. That was when our spawn was just a wee demon in constant motion. Now she's older and leaves us alone while she spends hours using up the cell phone minutes, and she doesn't stick little game bits in her nose anymore. So I showed QftDL to the Man again, and he said cool. But then it was out of print and I couldn't find it, but then it suddenly showed up in stock at SuperHeroGameLand, so I got it. The Man cracked this one open first thing, but then was all put out by the 40 pages of rules, which means I'm going to have to be the one to read the rules. Well, it was my turn anyway, since he did Memoir '44 Air Pack.

    La Citta.I played this several years ago and remember liking it, but I can't remember much about it other than it felt like a micro civ building game. Plays in under two hours. Plays two player. Francie might like it. I think I got a misprinted token sheet, so I had to email RGG. So this one probably won't get played this week.

    Kingsport Horror. Haven't even broke the shrink wrap. Punching and twisting out the figs for QftDL took up most of Strictly Ballroom, so I didn't get to the The Beast yet.

     

     

     

     



  • Just a week ago we were all grousing about what more could be done with Battlelore and the growing disappointment with Days of Wonder.  It couldn't have been more timely, as news is just now coming in that Fantasy Flight Games will be taking over the Battelore system.

    To read the details so far, head on over to our forums here.
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    Last night while playing Nefertiti, I realized that I'm good at games with a 'break the rules' mechanic. Things like variable player powers, tech trees, one time use cards. Whether it is deciding what weapon to purchase in Runebound, when to use that special card, which gene to buy in Primordial Soup, what special action, improvement or favor to use in the Euro of the week. I never thought of this as a skill, but last night I came to realize that some of the people I play with find it challenging to read all the text, absorb it, remember it, and understand it's strategic implications.

  •  After last year's Trashfest, I swore I would never GM Arkham Horror again. What a fiasco that was. However, two of the sweetest gamer guys in the world e-mailed me last week and asked if I could sub for the Conn Con Arkham GM, who had cancelled due to a family illness. If anyone else had asked I would have said no, especially since Conn Con is primarily known as an RPG event. However, my friends were in a bind, and they assured me that it was a family friendly event, and that only 5 people had signed up for Arkham, 2 of whom were people I knew and liked. So we decided what the heck. Let's take a mini family vacation.

    Less than 24 hours after I made our reservations, MegaFauna Dan calls and says that his friend told him that there was going to be a "big" Arkham Horror event at Conn Con and we should all go.  HA! Since clearly I was going get some walk ins, like Dan and friend,  I contacted the Conn Con dudes and told them that I would run two tables and asked if they had another copy of the game.  

    The first thing that struck me when we arrived at Conn Con was that it wasn't being held at run down third rate hotel, like most game cons are.  The lounge and bar was swank. There was an indoor pool and fitness room. Our room had been recently remodeled and had a wide screen TV.  

    Usually, when attending a game con, I can find the game rooms by following the noise. Not here. Conn Con is still a small con, and as I said is still primarily known as an RPG con, so there weren't all that many gamers in attendance. Additionally, the rooms clearly had some decent sound damping. There were several tables of games being played in the main room and it was still possible to have a conversation in a normal speaking voice. 

    All the gamers were engaged when we arrived. We had gotten in about an hour after the afternoon's scheduled events had begun. We simply aren't capable of getting anywhere earlier than 2pm.  There were several scheduled games going on in the main room. In another area, Beyond Candyland was running an event for families with young children. I figured we were out of luck, and would spend the next few hours at lose ends. However, Erik and his wife (at least I think it was his wife, I didn't catch her name), who had just finished running the Pitch Car event, took notice of the Spawn and the Man eyeing his stack of Pitch Car boxes and stepped up and offered to teach them to play. This was particularly appreciated as Erik had just finished breaking down the track and packing it up.  

    With the family occupied I had a chance to chat with Zev.  Zev tells me that last year, after they got Tales of the Arabian Nights all translated and the rules tweaked, he started play testing it, and discovered that the card/chart results that indicate which paragraph you get, had no correspondence to the subject of the paragraph. He was absolutely incredulous over this aspect of the game that we had simply accepted in the original version. So Zev undertook the enormous task of making the card/chart results correspond to the paragraphs. He has written over a hundred new paragraphs so that now when you roll up an encounter with a happy hunchback, you will actually have an encounter with a happy hunchback. Awesome! He also told me that I could put Tales on my birthday wish list and not be disappointed. He feels confident that it will hit the shelves this summer. 

    Zev went off to play a German game about a swarm of something with Megafauna Dan and some other guys, and I was introduced to an energetic and charming man who turned out to be Curt from Smirk and Dagger. On F:AT he may be known as the guy who did Cutthroat Caverns, but around my house he is better known as the inventor of 3D chalk. The Spawn was totally thrilled to meet him. He had a prototype of "Shootin' Ladders - Frag Fest Total Carnage Has It's Ups & Downs," and invited us to play. Shootin Ladders is a shoot out between gingerbread men with weapons such as an M&M 16 and Rocket Popsicles, that takes place on a Chutes and Ladders board that has a couple of walls added to block line of site. We played a last man, or rather last body part standing scenario where we blew of each other's gingerbread parts and collected them as trophies. It was funny, and the Spawn liked it, except that it went on a bit too long for her. Curt says they are still in the early phase of play testing, seeing what works, seeing what people like. I think it has a promise as an Ameritrash Jr. game once they finish tweaking it.

    The Man and the Spawn took off to the pool while I grabbed some dinner and then started setting up for Arkham. This is when things started getting a little hairy. The second copy of the game had never been punched, so my friend Star rounded up some friends and some ziplocks and stated punching. A couple of people objected that the tables in the main room were too narrow, but two together was too wide. Someone suggested we move to the round tables out by the water fall, so we tossed the half set up games into the boxes, moved out and started setting up again at the round tables.  Sometime during all this moving we realized we had 15 people of widely varying skill levels who wanted to play. Star dug up a third copy of Arkham, and of course it hadn't been punched either. I turned over my copy of Arkham to MegaFauna Dan and informed him that he was now running a game of Arkham with expansions for the experienced players. Dan, Star and I triaged the players as they arrived into beginners with me, intermediates with Star and experienced with Dan, while simultaneously trying to punch and set up the games. I had to move one last time when the lights over my table were dimmed for some reason, but the guys I had were good sports, and helped me move, finish punching and setting up the game.

    Out of the four guys in my group,  I had two role players and someone who had played before. Three of my group were also familiar with Lovecraft. This combination made teaching and running the game very easy. The role players easily accepted me in my role as GM, and were willing to just jump in without needing all the details of the rules, the way many gamers do. Despite the fact that I wasn't playing a character, it was a fun night. The investigators lost just one doom token short of defeating the big bad. I got the impression that they enjoyed themselves. 

    Meanwhile, Dan was running an epic game with Dunwich, Kingsport and Dark Pharaoh. I got the impression that they enjoyed themselves as well.

    My impressions were confirmed on Sunday. The Arkham players were still discussing the game they played the night before. A few of us were trying to decide what to play, when someone said that after Arkham everything else just seemed kind of bland. So I said why don't we just play Arkham again, this time with King in Yellow. And so we did.

  •  The Man gave me this for an anniversary present. I know nothing about anime, unless you count sticking My Neighbor Totoro into the DVD player about a bazillion times for my spawn when she was a toddler. That movie was like valium for kids or something. And what is it with kids that they can watch the same thing over and over and over again?
    Man, I love this Cowboy Bebopstuff. It really is the music that takes it to that next level and makes it great. I may have to get one of the Seatbelts' CDs. However, I can't make any sense out of the lyrics to the closing credits. Translation is such an odd thing. When I watch anything that has been translated from Japanese, I always wonder, is this as strange as I think it is, or is it the translation? I have a friend that used to work translating German porn movies into Czech. I always assumed she could speak German, so when we went to Germany together I asked her to order a sandwich and a beer for me in resturant. She managed to order us soup with a big dumpling and beer with raspberry syrup in it. I asked her how she could earn a living translating German movies if she couldn't even order a sandwich. She told me she actually didn't really speak German. She just kind of made it up. The people she worked for didn't speak German either, so how would they know whether she was actually translating it or not.

    Also I know some dork is going to post and tell me how some completely obscure and totally incomprehensible anime with tentacles, and girls in sailor suits riding giant moles , and boys who look like girls that transform into spirits, or some such shit is so far more superior than Cowboy Bebop.

     

  • Recently, on the internets, I've been noticing people seeking blogs, articles and podcasts with a female gamer's perspective. Therefore, I have decided to provide some insight into the psyche of the woman gamer.

  • Went to Francie Pants' house for dinner and games last night. She e-mailed me last week to ask if I would add Dominion and Dominion Intrigue to my next game order. I used her request as an excuse to order Middle Earth Quest. The box arrived yesterday afternoon, so I called Francie to let her know, and she said she was having a couple of people over for dinner and games, and I should come and bring the boxes. 

    Francie made awesome garlic bread. I thought we were going to play Dominion, which I still haven't played, but no one was into it. Instead we played Samurai, which I had only ever played on computer before, and Pompeii.

    Mostly we talked about Space Hulk and Middle Earth Quest. This is like the year of the broken figures or something. Remember a while back when it was all about the warped boards. Now it's all about the figs. I think that my Middle Earth Quest figs were made out of old chewing gum scraped off the bottom of a desk. I got two broken Middle Earth Quest dudes and three broken Space Hulk dudes. The other guy who got Space Hulk and I were able to glue the GW figs back together, but the Middle Earth Quest dudes are seriously FUBAR.  I still have to give the not obviously broken figs a closer inspection to make sure they are going to hold up. There is a third one that may be too seriously deformed to use. It keeps falling over. Then I have to get my butt in gear and request the replacements. 

    I would be playing a bunch of Space Hulk and Middle Earth Quest with the Man this weekend, but I have to go visit relatives instead. Boring. I'm bringing my DS.  I don't care if it does set a bad example for the Spawn. I'll let her bring hers too. Maybe we can find a place to hide and play while everyone talks about the Real Estate Market, and Healthcare Reform, and Baseball. 

  • It just wasn’t in the Cards.