Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"I suppose nothing hurts you." "Only pain."

One of our RPG group has recently been going gaga over dinosaurs with the release of Ultimate Magic by Paizo Publishing. One of the class variants listed in it is the Saurian Druid and she's just crazy excited about it. To help her scratch the itch for that class I've been trying to think up some kind of setting that I could throw them all into where dinosaurs would make sense but I've been having a hard time finding something that fit the bill. To try to get some inspiration, I decided to bust out the popcorn and hit NetFlix streaming for some old fashioned sword and sorcery adventure.

The Conan movies and stories are something that I just never got into when I was younger. I liked fantasy as a setting but just never thought about even taking a look at the works of Robert E. Howard until recently. Since I had some time to kill and no book to read I went with the next best thing which was the old Conan movies with Arnold. Unfortunately the original is not available for streaming so I went with the next best thing, Conan the Destroyer.

I must admit that I went into the movie with pretty low expectations. As I recall this was one of Arnold first movies so I wasn't expecting any fantastic dialogue and being made in the early 80's... well like I said; low expectations. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong.

I'm not saying that this is some award winning movie but I definitely think that it worth taking a look at. The acting was much better than I was expecting and it was pretty entertaining overall. Even the special effects were better than I expected especially considering when it was done. The story is kind of predictable but even so it was fun to watch it play out.

One of the things that I found really interesting was actually the climactic battle at the end of the movie. Near as I can tell there this story is not drawn from the Robert E. Howard original works but there was a definite Lovecraftian overtones to it. Given that Howard and Lovecraft actually corresponded with each other quite a bit it makes me wonder if this feel was something that the script writers actually drew from the novels or if this was just something they wanted to put in. Might be time to hit the library to do a little "research"...

But I digress. If you are looking for some sword and sorcery mayhem on the big screen I'd definitely recommend checking this movie out. I've heard the original is better but I still think this one is worth watching.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Just Don't Say A Word...

Recently we have been bringing a truly insane game to the table more and more often with our friends. Perhaps we should not expose them to such madness for fear of what it might do to them. Perhaps it was our own madness drove us to do such a thing. No matter for now we must tell the world of that which is... unspeakable.

Unspeakable Words
published by Playroom Entertainment

Unspeakable Words is kind of like Scrabble in some ways and like Boggle in other ways. Basically you have a hand of seven letter cards that you use to make words which are worth a number of points depending on which letters you use. Oh and you also have to roll to see if you go insane. Yes that's right, we are talking about Scrabble with a Lovecraftian twist.

The inspiration for this game comes from Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos as you are a researcher trying to find those words which man was not meant to speak. The hounds of Tindalos are coming for you as you seek but you have totems which will protect you... for a time.

In this game you are using the cards in your hand to try to makes words which are worth a number of points depending on how many angles are in the various letters. For example, an O is worth nothing while an A will get you 5 points each. To win the game you have to be the first player to reach 100 points... and still be sane. Each time you play a word, you score the value of the word and then you need to roll a sanity check on a d20. If you roll equal to or higher than the value of the number then everything is fine. If you roll less than the value then your grip on reality is starting to slip and you need to sacrifice one of your totems to remain sane. You still score the points but you are one step closer to losing your grip on reality and the game. The only exception to this is when you are scoring the winning word. For this one you have to pass you sanity check or you don't get the points which adds a nice bit of tension to the game. Your about to win but you have to make sure that you can make the die roll or else it will all be for naught and you'll have to try again next turn.

There are also a few optional rules which add even more Lovecraftian feel to the game such as the Unspellable Oath or Psychotherapy. The Oath lets you play any combination of letters when you only have one totem left (its amazing what crazy people say...) while Psychotherapy lets you discard your had to try to earn back a totem.

Overall I really can't recommend this game enough. The game play is fast and fun, the components are really nicely made, and its even still in print! That's right folks, I actually talked about something you can go pick up without spending a small fortune. So go check it out... but be careful what you say...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Icarus Rising

For my first game of Warcosm I decided to break out some Cold Navy miniatures that I'd picked up years ago. These minis were originally produced by Xtreme Hobby but they have changed hands a few times since then. Currently the line is being produced by Ravenstar Studios and they have been expanding the ranges for all four of the races that are covered. I haven't picked up any of the Ravenstar minis but they look very nice on their website and I think I'll look at picking up some more to flesh out my rather small "fleets". The two different factions that I'm using are the Terran Navy and the Kharadorn Royal Navy.

One of the things that the Warcosm rules includes that I really like is a random scenario generator. If you don't have a specific scenario in mind all it takes is a few rolls to breath a little life into what could otherwise be a fairly stale battle. "My ships are gonna blow up yours because you stink. So there." Now that's a great reason for to interplanetary navies to fight each other...

For this first game the scenario is a blockade run. The a couple of Terran warships are trying to break through a Kharadorn blockade to deliver vital information and are attempting to take advantage of an increase in solar flare activity to do this. The flares are disrupting sensors for both fleets but also make entering hyperspace a risky proposition. Their only hope is to break through the blockade before any more Kharadorn ships are alerted and move beyond the flares so they can make good their escape.

From a mechanical perspective, the mission was a blockade run with the Terrans trying to escape the far side of the board. The time limit on the game was triggered when two ships on one side were destroyed at which point the game would end in two turns (this number was determined by a die roll so it could have been much higher). The board was affected by solar flares which effectively reduced all the to hit rolls by one and can make hyperdrives malfunction.

Now that the the stage was set, it was time to unleash the fleets and see who would prevail.

The game opened with the two battle groups approaching each other. Between the limited ranges and the solar flare activity there was no way that either side would be able to hit each other even after they moved so we move swiftly on to the next turn.

The Terrans lost the reaction roll for the second turn so are forced to move first and fire second. As anyone can imagine, loosing the reaction roll can put you at a massive disadvantage as you attempt to guess where your opponent will end up so you can keep him in your firing arcs and then hope you survive the incoming shots so you can return fire. In this case there is little for the Terrans to do but drive straight across the board as they tried to break through the Kharadorn lines. In response the Kharadorn ships sweep into position to launch their opening attack. Combining their firepower, the Karria destroyer and one of the Gerrakk frigate are able to pound through the armor plating on the Masada destroyer and score a critical hit that disabled one of the forward laser turrets. The second Gerrakk focused it fire on the Northhampton frigate but only managed to score a minor hit on its shields. The Terrans were quick to retaliate as the Masada and the Northhampton both focused on the Karria, destroying its shields and armor in one fell blow. Meanwhile the Northhampton also let loose a missile on the first Gerrakk and managed to take down its shields and destroy its armor. Finally, the Terran fighter squads opened fire on the Kharadorn ships. The attack on the Karria failed to inflict any damage but the second squad managed to rip apart the already damaged Gerrakk scoring the first kill of the game.

The Terrans finally managed to win the reaction roll for the third turn which left the Kharadorn at a major disadvantage as they struggled to get into the best position to attack. Meanwhile the Terrans continued to rocket forward toward the far side of the board. As they were not in position to get off the board yet the Terrans were forced to hold back most of their firepower this turn though one of the fighter squads managed to damage the second Gerrakk. The Kharadorns were under no such restrictions and let loose with all their available firepower. The Northhampton managed to escape unscathed but the Masada started bleed out atmosphere as it took damage to its frame.

The Kharadorns won the reaction roll for the fourth turn which left the Terrans in a very poor position as they would be firing second. With little else to do the two captains blasted toward the far side of the board and safety. This was short lived though as the Kharadorns were able to swing their ships into the perfect position to let loose a barrage against both of the Terran vessels. The Northhampton lost its armor plating and the resulting explosions swung its nose to port but the essential systems remained online but the Masada was not so lucky. Laser and rocket fire from the Karri ripped into its hull and blasted the ship apart.

At this point I called the game as it was clear that there was no way for the Kharadorn to stop the remaining Northhampton from escaping to safety making the whole scenario a minor victory for the Terrans.

Final Thoughts

Overall I really enjoyed this system. It is fairly simple in its execution but not so much as to be dull and boring. I realized towards the end of the game that there were some rules that I was misplaying as a few of the rules are a little unclear as to exactly how some things are defined but these were relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. I also quickly noticed that it seems like this system would be able to handle anything from small skirmishes like this all the way up to a full fleet action with relative ease which is impressive in itself. Combine all of this with the very open framework that the game is built on and you have a fun light space combat war game.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Space... the final frontier...

Blasting Out Of This World For Some Interplanetary Action!

One of my oldest loves when it comes to gaming genres is space combat. Whether its fighter vs. fighter or fleet vs. fleet, I've always had a soft spot for space games. While digging around I recently unearthed some star ship miniatures that I bought years ago so I decided its time to grab a rule set, stat them up, and get them on the table! Of course the real question is just which rules should I use?

The first system I decided to try is Warcosm which is available from the fine folks at DriveThruRPG (psst... there's a link at the top of the page). This game has some setting elements slapped on but it is basically just a rule set which is fine with me. I think its more fun to dream up the fluff myself so a skimpy setting is perfect. The other thing this rule set has is construction rules which in my mind is a must and also a major factor in staying away from some of the bigger names in the space genre.

Next up after that I'll be taking a look at one that was released almost twenty years ago but the company is still producing minis for it to this day. Which one is this? None other than Full Thrust which is now available as a free download at the Ground Zero Games website. Unlike Warcosm, Full Thrust has a very well developed setting and covers a number of different factions most of which even have their own lines of miniatures that are available from their web store. It also has a ship construction system so if you are not interested in using the canon universe you can easily create your own faction, race, or entire universe if you want which as I've said before I consider a huge plus.

After that... well, I'm not sure what I'll look at after that. There are a number of other space combat systems out there but for now I think these two are as good place as any to start. But more on that soon...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Well crap...

Well it turns out that my slight scare from yesterday had more to it than I had originally suspected. Today we lost access to our external hard drive again though I don't think that any information has been lost (keeping the fingers crossed here...). Unfortunately most of my gaming information is currently trapped in the Purgatory of the inaccessible hard drive which might put a bit of a spanner in my posting schedule but I'll see what I can do to keep things coming. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogcast already in progress...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nooooooooo!!!!!

Isn't it Tuesday? So why a motivational for today of all things? Well, after thinking that I'd lost all of the information on my external hard drive yesterday morning this was definitely how I felt.

Thankfully it turned out to be a glitch so it was alright in the end but damn if it didn't scare the piss out of me!



Thursday, July 7, 2011

Really Diggin' Dem Bones

At our last gaming session SpacerGal kept raving about this game she'd picked up for her Nintendo DS, saying that it was even better than Pokemon. Personally this is like saying that strychnine is better than cyanide but after listening to her go on about how great Pokemon was it got me thinking that maybe I should check this game out. Just what game was it? Why none other than Fossil Fighters.

In this game you play a budding young fossil fighter hoping to prove that you have what it takes to become a master fossil fighter. To do this you have to find and clean fossils of various dinosaurs which are then used to create a vivosaur copy that you can battle with. Kind of an odd concept but it sounded intriguing so I decided to bite the bullet and pick it up to see if it was as good as SpacerGal said.

I still don't know how it compares to Pokemon but I have to say that Fossil Fighters is a fun little game that challenges you on several levels. Finding the fossils is relatively easy but before you can make use of them you have to clean them. This is done using the touch screen on the DS to break and drill away the rocks from the precious bones within but be careful! If you just go at the rock willy-nilly you will not only break the rock but probably the fossil as well. At best this will make you vivosaur weaker than it should be but it could make the bones completely useless as well.

Once you have created your vivosaurs from the bones that you successfully cleaned it is time to fight! To do this you must choose which vivosaurs you will have on a team and then pick which team to use. In my opinion this is one of the places where the game really shines as you can either just pick whatever looks cool to you or you can get deeper into the mechanics of the whole thing to create a balanced team to take to battle. Each vivosaur has different strengths and weaknesses and its up to you to create a team that you can take to the "table" that is strong enough to beat you opponent and get you one step closer to becoming at Fossil Fighter Master.

This game is definitely worth picking up in my opinion. There is more depth to it than first meets the eye but even that depends on the user. Feel like just screwing around? Go for it. Want something a little more in depth as far as strategy? This game can give you that as well. And the really cool thing about it? You can get it for less than $20. A fun game at a great price is a combination that you just can't go wrong with.