Friday, March 30, 2012
Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a pretty wild little game that allows a remarkable amount of storytelling without anyone having to be in charge. It can run the gamut from light-hearted and silly to gritty and thrilling, and when everyone is in on the story all the time, you never know where it's going to wind up until you get there.
The basic premise of Do is that all the players are teenagers raised in the temple at the center of the universe, which is a huge place full of breathable air and populated by thousands of tiny planets. The monks teach them how to fly, but these kids can't be full-fledged monks until they finish their pilgrimages. So the earnest do-gooders fly out into the universe, read letters written to the temple, and solve problems.
That's the concept, at least. In actuality, the pilgrims are trouble-prone teens who are exceptionally likely to cause considerable property damage before they finish whatever they started. This dichotomy is expressed in each pilgrim's name. For example, Pilgrim Bushy Finger might help people by growing leaves out of his butthole, but get in trouble by getting his fingers stuck in embarrassing places. Man, if I had a dollar for every time that has happened to me...
Well, I would have eight dollars.
The way the game works, you're almost guaranteed to get into trouble. And when you do, your friends will help you, by gleefully coming up with some ridiculous tale of how you did something incredibly stupid. You can try to get out of trouble on your turn, and you'll need to get free, because you can't help until you do.
This is all accomplished by an incredibly simple but thoroughly brilliant mechanic. Each turn, you'll draw three stones from a pouch, and choose to keep from zero to three. If you keep three, you can perform some amazing act of heroism, but if you choose zero, you'll be able to extend the story. Since your goal is to use all twenty of your 'goal words' (as detailed by the letter-writer you decide to help out), it's not a good idea to end the game too fast. You need to keep it going, so that you have a chance to write enough story to solve the problems. The game becomes a careful balance between routinely getting in over your head and attempts to be at least mildly heroic. If you maintain this balance, you'll overcome obstacles and save the planet that was swallowed by a giant air whale. If you fail, the whale will poop you out, and the planet will still be swirling around the whale's lower intestine.
There are a lot of elements of Do that make it a pretty great game, but there are also sacrifices made to make it a more collaborative exercise. When one person is in charge, you've got at least one person who can guide the story and keep it on track. If your game master is good, he can maintain good pacing and keep everyone involved, make sure the story moves forward, and otherwise make sure the end result is fun. Without that controlling factor, you may find yourself subject to considerable down-time, meandering plots, and frustrating developments.
In fact, this is really my biggest complaint with playing Do - it's a free-for-all. There are rules in place to keep it from flying too far off the tracks, but if you've got any control freaks in the audience, they're going to be pulling out their hair by the roots. To be able to enjoy Do, you have to be relax, roll with the sudden changes, and improvise wildly.
But even though Do is like driving a freight train downhill with no brakes, it's also a ton of fun. Discovering the end of the story is a blast, but the journey is the important part, not the derailment that takes out Barstow. You might not have expected Pilgrim Dopey Farts to wind up covered in whale snot and hanging upside down from a tree, but as long as you can laugh about it, you can have a good time. And the stories you tell will be fresh, authentic and totally your own (as long as, by 'your own', you mean 'belonging to you and the handful of miscreants who thought it would be funny if you were stuck down at the beach wearing only a sock and a woman's high-top sneaker').
Roleplaying without the GM
Innovative, fresh and fun, like DJ Jazzy Jeff, but not as urban
Fun, clever setting
Can be pretty chaotic
Good chance of boring downtime
If you want to try a new kind of story game, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a great place to start. Noble Knight Games has it, and you can even save some green on it:
PILGRIM SAVING MONEY
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
When I was a kid and my parents were half-hippies (incidentally, nearly every parent whose kids were born in the 70s was at least half hippie, especially if they were academics like my old man), we had a game called The Un Game. It was a game you played where nobody won and there was no competition. It was dumber than goat cheese, but it did highlight an important point about games - people don't really like losing. I could have told my parents this little tidbit without having to play such a retarded game, but they were half-hippies so we played it anyway.
(By the way, experts disagree on what, exactly, makes a parent half a hippie. There are some who insist merely smoking weed while you were pregnant makes you a hippie, and others who say that just makes you a dumb sack of crap who could still be a Republican. My parents did not smoke weed, but my mom had very long hair and my dad had a huge beard, and I remember more than one church service that took place outside, and we played instruments made from cleaning supplies. Not sure if that qualifies, but I'm still pretty sure my parents were at least quarter-hippie, if not full-fledged half-hippies.)
Now we don't have hippie games any more, unless you count anything that Looney Labs ever created, but we do have cooperative games. Interestingly enough, most cooperative games are not born of a desire to avoid making someone lose, but rather to make everyone work together toward a common goal. These are practically corporate games, not hippie games, and could probably be used as team-building exercises (this is a term used in big business to describe anything that is not your actual job but that you have to do anyway, as long as it involves other people).
There are many cooperative games that utterly fail to be interesting, unfortunately, largely because they end up being mostly like a puzzle that one person solves and then he tells everyone else what they have to do. Happily, Flash Point is not one of these. Flash Point is a very fun cooperative game where you and a few friends sit around a table and save innocent people and their pets from a randomly blazing house fire.
Right from the start, Flash Point is better than most cooperative games because it is not some lame puzzle game. You won't be saying, 'OK, you go here, then I'll draw this card, then you play over there, and I'll do this, then you hit me in the face for being a micromanaging asshole and then I will try to stop the blood from coming out of my nose.' Instead you will be saying, 'holy crap, save the dog! I'll try to put out the fire!' And then something will explode and you'll be thrown out a window and the dog will be cooked like Christmas ham.
In fact, in terms of allowing individual decision-making instead of group think, Flash Point is closer to Arkham Horror than Pandemic. Because fire can pop up anywhere, a move someone suggests on their turn could be pointless by your turn. Sometimes the move that everyone says is stupid could be the one that saves Little Johnny's life, as you cut through the wall with your fireaxe and drag him off the toilet to safety when everyone was screaming for you to put out the blazing inferno. Then the blazing inferno explodes and demolishes the house, and you end up polishing your medal for bravery and telling the others that they can suck it. By the same token, the move that everyone agrees is the best maneuver could end up costing you the game, so nobody can blame you for using your best judgment and just doing what seems like a good idea at the time.
Flash Point could not exist in a vacuum. It draws elements from lots of different cooperative games. You can see ideas from Pandemic and Shadows Over Camelot, Forbidden Island and Ghost Stories. And then it takes the parts it borrows, improves them and focuses them, and applies them to a completely different idea to make a different game that is more fun than most of its predecessors. For one thing, you're all firemen. All by itself, that's pretty awesome. The only way it could be better is if one of you could be an astronaut and one could be a policeman, but then you would be uncomfortably similar to the Village People.
As you play Flash Point, the fire that rages around you will keep you guessing and running around in circles. People will cry out from inside closets and underneath tables. The gallon drums of gasoline that the parents store under their bed will explode and throw fiery debris all over the living room. You'll force your way through an inferno, just to find out that the cries you heard came from Little Rosie's realistic baby doll. And for no reason I can imagine, you'll save the family cat.
With all this excitement, it's hard to stop playing after you win. In every game we played, we kept going even after we knew if we had won or lost. The first time, we got our seven victims, but went back for the other three - but then the house collapsed and killed a firefighter and made orphans out of the five kids (and two pets) we had already rescued. Once we kept running around, dragging people out of the house until we had nine (sadly, Aunt Edna died on the toilet). Every time we played, we kept playing - four times, in fact, which is coincidentally exactly how many times I've played this game. It says something about how much fun Flash Point is when we all want to keep playing even after the game is over. We don't even do that with Arkham Horror, and we love Arkham Horror.
Maybe the reason Flash Point is so easy to keep playing is that it's fast-paced, tense and most of all, short. You can finish the whole game in 30-45 minutes, and with four different levels of difficulty and two different houses to put out, there are plenty of reasons to go back and try it again. Can you still save all those people if they have a box of bottle rockets in the attic? Would it be better to send in the fire chief and leave the paramedic in her ambulance? Why on Earth do we keep saving the stupid cat?
Flash Point might not be a hippie game, and it's certainly not one you can win every time. But it does have a ton of excitement and thrills, which is not something I can say for The Un Game. That just had everybody singing Kumbaya and saying nice things about people we barely knew.
Tense and exciting, with barely predictable randomness and occasional flaming death
Not a game where you have to listen to one dickhead who thinks he's in charge
You get to be firemen
The wooden pawns would have been 236% cooler if they were little plastic firemen
Flash Point is a bad-ass cooperative hootenany. You can find it at Noble Knight Games, where you will totally save some money on it:
THE ROOF IS ON FIRE
Monday, March 26, 2012
I really like racing games, but there are just not enough of them that are awesome. There are some that are very smart games, but they feel about as action-packed as a geriatric bowel movement. Then there are fast-paced romps where you have less control than a horse on roller skates. It's hard to find one that hits that sweet spot of being intellectually stimulating and high-octane kick-ass. So far, I've found exactly two.
Rallyman is not one of those two, but it sure is good-looking. It's actually a pretty smart racing game, but if you ask me, it fails in one fundamental aspect - it's not all that exciting. If Rallyman were a woman, she would be a sexy MIT grad student who just lays there and wonders what color to paint the ceiling.
Rallyman recreates the thrilling world of rally racing, which is apparently done without having other drivers on the track. You'll race, but the starts are staggered so that you rarely have to worry about running into the other racers. In the end, you'll compare your time to determine who won the race, which means that you won't be blocking the passing lane, slipping past your opponents on the inside, or gunning it to ram the leader into a ditch. You'll just drive smart and shoot for the best possible time.
It's kind of sad, really, because the basic mechanics of Rallyman are pretty damned sweet. You have a handful of dice, each representing a different gear, and you roll them to move. Every die you roll lets you move forward one space, but if three dice come up with the danger symbol, you wipe out. That part is pretty cool, combining elements of pushing your luck and planning for optimal positioning.
There are even some really clever mechanics for going around corners and hitting ramps and driving in the snow. Rallyman actually has tons of really groovy features that make me want to play it again, even as I sit here writing about a game that I know I don't much want to play again. If they had just tweaked it a little, I would have been drooling at the chance to race my friends just one more time.
Really, there are two things that would have made Rallyman awesome. One, they need to get rid of the staggered starts and let us all mix it up right out of the gate. Plus they need some rules for banging into each other and drafting and stuff. Less smart driving and more aggressive driving - that's what I need.
And two, the boards needs some fixing. They're really cool, and you can set up the four different boards to make hundreds of different tracks, from short jaunts to lengthy endurance hauls. But if you let us all take off at the same time, we need more room for cars to share space. Of course, without the first change, the second isn't needed at all, but I maintain that if you had fixed these two things, Rallyman would have been di-no-mite.
OK, now, I concede that rally racing is generally a race against the clock, not a street-racing bump-and-grind, and so in that way, the game does a good job of simulating that particular sport. Maybe I'm just the kind of adrenaline junkie who watches NASCAR to see crashes (though I do not watch NASCAR), but I think I would be horrifyingly bored by rally racing in real life, which explains why I'm not a fan of it in a board game.
Rallyman is undoubtedly a decent racing game, especially if you want to play it solo. Because really, even if you are playing against other people, you're still playing it by yourself, it just takes longer between your turns. While I can definitely appreciate the technical brilliance of Rallyman and its intriguing dice-based speed mechanic, it just comes roaring out of the box and falls flat on its face. Because when I race against other people, I want to be a speed demon in a killing machine. I don't want to be a hot science chick who is boring in the sack.
Cool, innovative speed rules using lots of dice
Seriously easy on the eyes, with neat components
Four boards that can be used to make an enormous variety of race tracks
Lots of replay, if you like playing alone
A racing game with no outright competition
Rallyman is one of the games you can get from Game Salute, and that's it. So if you like technical racing without much competition (which, I gather, is what rally racing is all about), you can get it right here:
DRIVE BY YOURSELF
Friday, March 23, 2012
It is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with new things to say about updated versions of Fluxx. It seems that once or twice a year, Looney Labs comes out with a new kind of Fluxx that is compatible with all the previous versions. Whether it's Martian Fluxx, Stoner Fluxx, or Increasingly Irrelevant Fluxx, Looney Labs now has more members in the Fluxx family than Angelina Jolie has children (I am actually guessing - I have no idea how many kids Angelina Jolie has).
The latest Fluxx theme is another in a long line of things that might remind you of smoking marijuana. It's called Oz Fluxx, which seems pretty innocuous, until you remember all your friends who said that if you turned off the sound on the TV and played Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' while you smoked a bowl and watched Wizard of Oz, the music went with what you were watching on the screen. Only nobody ever actually tries that, they just talk about it like it was some kind of pointless urban myth. Seriously, for all the talking, I have never met one person who did that.
Oz Fluxx is really just Fluxx, but with different cards. And some of the cards do stuff about other cards, assuming you've got the right cards together. Mostly it's keepers that let you discard creepers, like the tin woodsman who can get rid of mean trees, or the bucket of water you can use to discard the Wicked Witch of the West. It's all story-themed, of course, so having the scarecrow and Toto is worth about as much as a small, yippy dog.
The goals also riff off the movie, like Future Leaders of Oz where you have to have scarecrow and tin man, or Next Stop Kansas that requires you to have the flying house and, well, Kansas. It's not exactly fresh or original, but if you really dig Judy Garland and technicolor, then you might love it. You might also prefer the company of gentlemen. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In terms of game play, Oz Fluxx is better than some Fluxxes, and worse than others. It's no Martian Fluxx, my favorite of the batch, but I like it better than the original. Somehow, even if it's still the same game, simply having a theme makes it more enjoyable. Even the Wizard of Oz makes a better theme than space cookies.
It does not make better art. But then, in all fairness, most of the Fluxx games have perfectly dreadful art. Oz Fluxx is just staying true to form by having mediocre art in some places, cute art in others, and kind of crappy art everywhere else.
But let's face it, if you're a fan of Fluxx, you'll probably pick up this one whatever the art is like. It's kind of a shame that there's not more attempt made to make Oz Fluxx smarter than it could be, the way Martian Fluxx or Zombie Fluxx actually gave you a theme that made the game better. But at least it's not Dirty Underwear Fluxx, because the only redeeming feature of that game would be that the art would look nothing like its inspiration source.
I kind of like The Wizard of Oz
Doesn't really add much in terms of game play
One huge upside to Fluxx is that it's an affordable game that takes like two minutes to teach. If you want Oz Fluxx, you can get it cheap direct from Looney Labs:
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
I get new games all the time. It's the upside to writing game reviews. In fact, the only two upsides to the whole gig are the free games, and the ability to write off-color humor. But since the end of last year, I've been waiting to find a truly awesome game, one that got me so excited that I want to play it over and over, and not just keep it in a closet until I run out of space and donate it to the Red Cross or Amnesty International or some other organization that doesn't need it at all, so that I can feel good about myself because I contributed something entirely useless.
Well, last week, I got one. It's the first real keeper I've scored in months. It's called Eminent Domain, and it gets more fun every time I play it. It's gotten so I can barely get any work done without wanting to play it again.
Eminent Domain is a game where Wal-Mart gives a bunch of money to the city so that they can buy your house and turn it into a parking lot across from a football stadium. That is actually a really crappy game to play, unless you're Wal-Mart or the city councilman who gets to buy a new convertible with the graft Wal-Mart gave him. Fortunately, the Eminent Domain that I got last week is not that game. Instead, it's a game about exploring planets and discovering science stuff and blowing things up.
Now, we've seen a lot of these kinds of games. They're usually some massive, four-hour marathon game (unless they're an eight-hour marathon game) and they cost like 80 bucks because they're chock full of plastic spaceships and planet tiles and moon bases and piles and piles of cards. This is the first time, however, that one of those explore-and-dominate-in-space games is a deckbuilder.
Yep, it's a deckbuilder. I know a lot of people, disgusted with the whole deckbuilding idea, have just thrown up in your mouths and left for the bathroom. Good riddance. We don't need you. We need people who will play Eminent Domain, because it's so much fun that I plan on preaching it like a cardstock religion. You can call me Holy Reverend Spacekiller. I won't respond to that, or anything, because that's just stupid, but you can call me that anyway. Come to think of it, you could call me pretty much whatever you want. It's not like I could stop you.
But Eminent Domain is not like other deckbuilding games. There are no piles of intriguing cards, mixed up every time to be something different. There are five cards. Well, OK, there are way more than five, but there are only the five different card titles. They're stuff like survey (to find new planets), colonize (to settle new planets), and warfare (to blow stuff up and steal new planets). And on your turn, you don't buy them. You just get one, and then you do what it says, and then everyone else gets to do what it says (but they don't get a card).
It would seem like this would be a pretty dull game that would get old really fast, because it's not like you go, 'hey, colonize is interesting, and all, but this time, let's get rid of it and play with Spinach Factory. That has a neat power.' But the thing is, you can try a different strategy every time you play. Because doing a thing adds that card to your deck, the more you do something, the better you get at it.
The key thing that makes this game not like any of the other deckbuilding games out there is the fact that you can do stuff on other people's turns, if you have the card. That means that if you really like war, and someone else goes to war, you can jump in and have a little war of your own. If another guy decides to produce goods to sell later, and you're the merchant king, you'll get more out of his turn than he will. Research and colonizing and surveying all become more powerful the longer you do them, leading to a really interesting game where every decision matters, not just because you need it to help you out, but because you don't want to throw out freebies to everyone else.
Interaction in Eminent Domain is around the high end of middle. You won't attack your opponent's planet and nuke his guys from orbit, but at the same time, every time you take a card, you're opening it up for the other people at the table. It's critically important to choose a strategy that both benefits you as much as possible, and allows fewer bonuses to other people. People who hate games that don't let you sucker punch your buddies might not love Eminent Domain, but it's not one of those solitaire games where everyone plays the system. Your strategy absolutely must take into consideration the actions of your opponents, or you'll feed them the game.
I think the reason I really like Eminent Domain, possibly more than just about any other deckbuilding game, is that it does an exceptional job of feeling like a game about building an empire in space. Even the theme in Nightfall (still my favorite deckbuilder) is little more than an excuse to buy cards and play chains. But in Eminent Domain, the actions you take actually feel like you're doing whatever it is you're supposedly doing. When you colonize a planet, you can imagine the ships launching to set up homes on alien planets. When you use a warfare action, you can picture the fleets of warships you're assembling. And when you decide to produce, you can really see all your wage slaves breaking their backs in sweatshops to make you affordable sweaters that you can buy at Wal-Mart (right before they turn your house into a hot-dog stand).
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have obtained a copy of Eminent Domain, not because it's hard to get (it's not) or because the publisher is particularly stingy (they're not). I am lucky to have landed the game because it is the most fun I have had playing games this year. And that's not to say that I haven't played some fun games this year, it's just that this one is so very damned fun. It might not appeal to fans of bloodshed and nut-kicking, but it's thematically consistent, interactive, clever and tense. If you've hated every deckbuilding game before now because it didn't feel like anything but a bunch of combos and tricky rules, try one more time. Eminent Domain is worth the effort.
Different enough to bring a fresh idea to a rapidly stagnating game concept
Full of tough decisions and smart plays
Difficult to 'solve,' because every strategy has a counter
You're not just playing against the game - you're playing against your friends
A deckbuilding game about space that actually feels like a game about space
Won't let me blow up my friends
This is one great game, and even better, it's not stupid expensive. In fact, if you run over to Noble Knight Games, you can pick save off the original price (which is already damned reasonable).
BUILD YOUR EMPIRE WHILE YOU BUILD YOUR DECK
Monday, March 19, 2012
There sure are a lot of games these days with zombies in them. You can't swing an undead cat without hitting one. Some of them don't even need zombies, they're just in there because zombies are the new Care Bears. Or unicorns. Or something else really sweet and loveable that is a merchandising gold mine.
Unfortunately, most of those games kind of suck, or are at least less awesome than they should be. I mean, zombies are pretty cool, in that they are dead and still walk around, unless they have a terrible virus that makes them eat other people, as in modern zombie movies that try to make the flesh-eating psychopaths seem plausible, and not just in a Hannibal Lecter kind of way. Come to think of it, I am not sure why zombies are so popular, except that possibly a lot of people think it would be cool if something dead ate their face. But whatever the reason, lots of the games are not awesome.
Zpocalypse intends to change that, both by being a cool game about zombies, and by obviously being imaginative by changing the first letter of 'apocalypse' to an upper-case Z. Which, of course, stands for zeppelin. Why a game about the walking dead attacking a fallout shelter would be named for a zeppelin, I cannot say for sure. I am especially disturbed by the complete lack of zeppelins in the game itself.
What are in the game are lots and lots of zombies, and just a few people who will try to kill them all but fail miserably because there are just way too many zombies. And they kind of move fast, which is unfortunate because while you are trying to cut one in half with a samurai sword, another six or seven will come up and surround you. As anyone who has seen a zombie movie will know, getting surrounded by zombies is exceptionally bad for you. It can lead to athlete's foot.
The survivors in this bunker (that's you, if you're playing the game, or if you are living through a zombie apocalypse, which seems unlikely) have more problems than just the hordes of zombies. They are also very hungry, and require an absurd amount of food. In fact, if they don't eat, the survivors just sit around in the bunker and watch reruns of Three's Company. So rather than just hiding out in the bunker and locking the door at night, they have to wander around looking for food and guns and stuff.
Time is of the essence here. Survivors need to really hustle if they're going to find something to eat, because before you know it, zombies will show up. Then the survivors have to kill them, which would be easier if survivors were not completely incompetent at killing things. Cut them a little slack, though - before the zombies arrived, these poor bastards were janitors and school teachers and eight-year-old girls. Now they are janitors and teacher and eight-year-old girls who have guns and baseball bats.
The survivors learn how to fight zombies pretty quick, fortunately. What they do not learn is how to close the door after they leave. In that way, they are very much like teenagers, who will let bugs in the house because no matter how many times you ask them if they were born in a barn (to which you probably know the answer, since it is very likely you were there), they just plain forget to close the door.
Anyway, with the door to the bunker left open (and the people inside far too hungry to remember to close it), the zombies will have to all be killed before they can get to the tasty meat snack at the center of the bunker pop. This poses a challenge because there are so many zombies and only a few people with a stomach full of irradiated Pop Tarts who could kill the interloping dead people. But eventually, all the zombies will be dead, or all the survivors will be dead. Either way.
To give you a better summary of how this goes, it's a fairly straight-forward process. First you look for supplies. Then you feed a few people so they can fight. Then a ludicrous number of zombies appear and you have to kill all of them in a big skirmish-type game with an incredibly high body count. Then you do it again, after which time zombies probably eat you to death.
Zpocalypse is a cool game. At first glance, it might seem ridiculously difficult, but the thing you have to realize is that if you don't play well, zombies will eat you. If you play well, zombies will still eat you, but you will destroy a lot of them first. Don't get surrounded. Kill zombies, but also find food (and smart people, because smart people find more food). Protect your home with barricades and walls and stuff. And then kill a bunch of zombies before they eat you.
Some parts of Zpocalypse are kind of busy. This is not what a more well-spoken, erudite game reviewer would call an 'efficient design.' Me, I just think there are more rules than are strictly necessary, and that makes what should be a pretty straight-forward bug hunt into a bit of a cluster hump. There were lots of places where we said, 'what do we do now?' Or 'how do we kill that guy?' Or 'does this smell spoiled to you?'
For the most part, though, Zpocalypse is an action-pack, gun-toting, zombie-slaying gore-fest. It's an aggressive, violent game against unmitigated horror in a no-win scenario. The winner is the guy who takes out the most zeds before he goes out in a blaze of gunfire and bloody limbs. It's all about killing in the most spectacular fashion possible, not surviving or escaping.
For it to be about escaping, they would have had to include the zeppelins.
Groovy zombie art
Lots of bloody mayhem
Exciting tactical festival of death and dismemberment
A neat story every time - though every story pretty much ends the same way, with everyone dead
A little clumsy in places
You are going to die. It's just a matter of how many zombies can you take with you
There's only one place you can get Zpocalypse right now, because it's not actually made yet. Right now, you can only get one through the Kickstarter that's going right now:
Friday, March 16, 2012
Before I start this review, I want to put this right out there - this is not a filler. I do have games now. I know, last week was all about TV shows, and while I had some good stuff in there, it wasn't games because I was out of games. But now I do have games I could write about, I'm just not writing about them because I just read these books and they are so freaking awesome that I think I will explode if I don't tell someone how freaking awesome they are. Which I just did. But I'm not done yet.
The books I just finished are called the Mistborn Trilogy. There are three of them, which you probably could have guessed, because otherwise they would have been dramatically misnamed. I also finished a fourth Mistborn book, but it is not part of the trilogy, and so I don't think I'll really mention it, but you should probably read it anyway.
If there was a college just for nerds, the Mistborn Trilogy would be required reading. It might even have a semester-long course where you discuss how all of the standard fantasy tropes we take for granted can be turned on their head and kicked in the junk while they are upside down, because that's what Mistborn does. It defies everything you've come to expect in fantasy, whether you're a fan of Moorcock or Lieber or Tolkien. It pulls absolutely no punches, and yet manages to be fun and exciting even in the face of incredible darkness.
Brandon Sanderson, the genius who wrote these books, said on his blog that he had a duel intent when writing The Final Empire (the first Mistborn novel). First, he wanted to show a world where a big damned hero made his epic quest - and then totally failed. Like, imagine Frodo putting on the ring and then getting eaten by Sauron, who went on to stomp a mudhole in anyone who thought he wasn't dead sexy. Second, he wanted to write a heist story, where a bunch of professional thieves and general ne'er-do-wells pull off an incredible scam. The result is, more than anything else, like Star Wars - but better.
Yeah, I said that. Better than Star Wars. Bold words, especially from a guy for whom Star Wars is the pinnacle of nerdvana (but only the original three movies, not those horrid prequels). The themes and excitement present in Star Wars are all over Mistborn, but they're more developed and presented with a nuance that would fly right over George Lucas's bearded head. There's the classic hero's journey, but it takes on an element of growth and maturity that is simply not present in nearly any piece of fantasy fiction.
If you're just reading books to see magic stuff happen to people just before they get cut in half, Mistborn won't disappoint. It's not just smart. It's fast and furious and fun. The world possesses a fascinating kind of magic that has incredible internal consistency of a kind rarely viewed in fantasy fiction. You can keep your fireballs where we can't see them, because in Mistborn, the magic makes sense. So does the violence, for that matter.
In fact, while the bloodshed in Mistborn isn't disturbingly over-detailed, it's still there. Peasants are unfairly slaughtered by lords. Thieves beat and kill their weaker minions. Horrible monsters tear defending soldiers apart like unwanted parking tickets. And yet we are spared having to wade through disgusting descriptions of dismemberment (if you like alliteration, you're welcome) because Sanderson focuses on the action, rather than becoming obsessed with the gore. It's there, it's just not the star of the show.
The stars of the show are the people who, you know, star in the show. From the terrified street urchin to the overconfident con man, the idealist-turned-realist nobleman to the overlooked spy, the people of the Mistborn books make the entire thing feel real. These are not just sparingly constructed character types meant to push the plot forward. These are three-dimensional people capable of insecurity and doubt, cowardice and courage, love and hate. The magic of the world feels real because the characters feel so real.
So let's say you're a fan of Martin's Game of Thrones books. I am, so I feel qualified to talk about them. Now, those books are really very adult, possibly because there are boobies in every third paragraph and rotting bodies dot the landscape until it looks like Jackson Pollock painted it with the world's most horrifying can of paint. Well, the Mistborn books manage to be just as intelligently mature than those books without giving us one single swinging pecker. Not only do we see grown-ups acting in grown-up ways, but Sanderson does it without resorting to rape scenes and pedophilia.
At first, the tone of Mistborn might seem like a book for young adults. But as you dive further into it, there is some amazing depth that will fly right past the heads of anyone not old enough to grasp a crisis of faith, gut-wrenching sacrifice, or moral ambiguity. These are not cheesy romance novels or light-hearted escapades into a black-and-white world of good and evil. Sanderson is capable of remembering that even when people are doing bad things, it's because they believe it is the right thing to do.
I haven't read books I enjoyed this much in a very long time. If you haven't read the Mistborn books, you owe it to yourself to get yourself to your local library and discover this magnificent world for yourself. And after you're done, remember one thing:
No fair dropping spoilers.
Amazing depth and maturity, without ever resorting to Letters to Penthouse
High-flying, super-powered action scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat
Thoroughly believable characters in a thoroughly believable world
I liked it more than Tolkien
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
My favorite (and only) guest reviewer has once again stepped up to help me out. In yet one more display of why my old man is the coolest ever, my dad has written a review that will get me out of having to write again. I love that. So here you go, the other Mister Drake.
Russia Besieged: A Lot of Potential, Waiting for the Final Verdict
The Russian Campaign is iconic. It was one of those games that was a classic in an incredibly short time. Most of all, it was SO MUCH FUN. But all of us true-to-be wargamers knew from our first play that it wasn’t a great historical simulation. So about a year-and-a-half ago I began searching for my next purchase of the "ultimate" East Front game. I loved TRC, and since RB is a kind of "redo" of the game, but with a more historical OOB and refined rules, it seemed to fit the itch. After several months looking at several games, I bought Russia Besieged. Unfortunately, I live in Reno, and it’s a desert for wargamers. I had to wait over a year till I visited family to finally get to play it. Here’s what I’ve discovered about the game.
The map is large, with larger hexes, but essentially the same map as Russian Campaign. The one great difference between the old and the new is how the rivers are placed. In TRC they run through the center of the hex, which I never really appreciated, but in RB they run along the hexside. I think this makes a better simulation. While ZOC extend across rivers, units are not required to attack across a river while in the enemy ZOC. This works out well. The map artwork is a bit bland, but much better than TRC. All in all, I like the map. But I oh-so-wish they would have mounted the map, though I realize it would have raised the price of the game. We had the game on the table for most of two days and it never did lie flat. This is one of my minor disappointments in the game.
Russia Besieged is beautiful. If you loved TRC, then you’ll be even more enamored with RB. The counters, like the hexes, are larger, so they’re easier to handle and see for those of us who were veteran gamers when TRC came out. But the best improvement in the counters is that they’re almost all back-printed, so you can take step losses in combat. This is a tremendous enhancement for historical simulation. As an aside, there are a few Field Marshal counters that are missing in the counter mix, and as you read through the rules they tell you that they'll be available in the expansion, which it seems is now unavailable. (This is the SECOND edition! How can they be missing still?) However, the game charts are absolutely top-notch. They’re large, easy to read, and laminated. The OOB charts are especially large and beautiful. On the not-so-happy side, for some odd reason the Axis infantry counters are dark green, and the combat/movement factors are in black, so they don’t stand out well at all.
If you’re familiar with TRC then you’ll slide right into the RB rules. But be prepared. This is NOT a fifth edition of Russian Campaign. The map is basically the same, the counters are fairly similar, but otherwise it’s an all-new game. There a LOT more rules here. They’re not as well written as the old game, so they may take some focused reading, but all veteran gamers will master them the first time through. There are some nagging minutia that I don’t think are at all necessary, but the designers were obviously trying to make a better historical simulation. In many ways they succeeded, but some of the small stuff is not important to game play.
The air rules are EXCELLENT. Stukas no longer fly from the Army Group HQs, but from airfields. During an impulse the airfields can either support a bomber run, or they can move to a new location. Also, the Germans don’t have just three Stukas with varying strength. Now they have NINE Stukas in ’41, each allowing the German player to raise the combat odds by one. As the game progresses the Germans receive fewer aircraft each year. And for the final touch, the Russians have aircraft arriving in 1943. I love these new air rules.
But then there’s the weather chart. This is where I have to voice my greatest disappointment with the game. Actually, a cool aspect of RB is that the German player rolls for weather for each month – no more snow in April, no more clear weather in December. At face value this is a substantial and excellent improvement. So why the upset? As we played the game we found the German player would roll First Impulse LT MUD; Second Impulse SNOW. He’d then move light mud, then snow, and then I’d move light mud, after he’d just moved snow. This was REALLY quirky. I have no idea how they can get around this, but it’s just too weird for the Germans to move in snow, hunker down in their winter defenses, and then the Russians move light mud and get to slam them hard. In Sep/Oct the situation can be CLEAR/MUD, which also allows for some shady moves by the Russians.
I’ve read the comments of several who say they don’t care for RB because it doesn’t have any scenarios. I suppose that if you really played scenarios it might be an issue, but for myself, I bought The Russian Campaign when it first came out in 1978, and of all my games that don’t require scenarios to play (ASL, Up Front, CoH, etc) I’ve played TRC the greatest number of times, and every time it was the campaign game. So for me, the scenarios are irrelevant. And the positive side of not having scenarios is that the gameboard doesn’t have all those vari-colored dots that definitely detract from the attractiveness of the map.
This is a much larger game - not just in the size of the map and number of counters - than TRC. It plays with the feel of a much larger scope, so that it feels like a mini-monster game (if that makes any sense). If you enjoyed the old game, then you should easily transfer your affections to RB. The new air rules allow the Germans much more flexibility, while the new Oil rules impact the way they bring in armor replacements. It’s a very fun game to play, but in my one play it didn’t end up at all historically accurate.
So far I’ve mostly had good things to say about Russia Besieged. But when we got into game play - and I have to disclose that I’ve only played it once - I was hugely disappointed. In the first two turns of 1941 I found the game playing out about the same as TRC. The Russians were taking a pounding, having a difficult time plugging the holes in their lines, and having trouble slowing down the Germans. Kind of a déjà vu. But then the game began to look a lot different. When the Russians brought in their September thru December reinforcements, it was a whole new game. In our one game, the Germans lost due to a Russian Automatic Victory (sudden death) at the end of 1942 because the Germans just could not take 16 Major cities. After just one play I don’t know if the German player just had bad strategy (he was trying to get 10-1 as often as possible) or if the game is flawed in favoring the Russians.
Admittedly, and expectantly, I need to get in more plays. Russia Besieged is a beautiful game with some excellent improvements over Russian Campaign. It SHOULD play well, but in my one play it was a disappointment, although as the Russian player an especially fun one.
If you're a grognard like my dad, you probably realized that Russia Besieged is not an easy game to lay your hands on. It's sold out a lot. But if you do want it, there is one place you can find it - and even save a few bucks! That's right, Noble Knight Games:
Monday, March 12, 2012
Here's a story about Robot:
Robot loves to play Mahjongg and cheat, but plays the strip variety.
Robot plays poorly because he can't stop watching strippers.
Robot lost his pants and was nude, but he didn't really care.
Robot had no real genitals, you see, and so was not ashamed.
Robot had neuticles, which made strippers scream and run like hell for the nearest exit.
This made Robot very sad, and he ran away, committing a homicidal rampage.
When the police found Robot, he was humping a jukebox and baking a cake.
Robot baked so well the police enjoyed his delicious cake and then arrested him for two minutes.
The police gave Robot pants to hide his terrifying neuticles, and he joined Styx to perform Domo Arigato.
Robot became famous and never killed again, because he could finally afford real genitalia.
Robot could finally play Mahjongg near strippers, but only Tuesdays after baking cakes.
We wrote that brilliant piece of children's fiction in just thirty minutes. Improbable, but true. We did have help, though - a book named Happy Birthday Robot. It's actually a game, and one intended to be played by fourth-graders. In fact, it has the potential to be wildly educational, when played with young children instead of perverted adults who think nudity and murder are hilarious.
Happy Birthday Robot is a delightfully illustrated game of cooperative storytelling aimed at kids who are around ten to twelve years old. Any younger, and they may have some trouble with the grammar and some of the game concepts. Any older, and you're likely to see a penis in your story. That is, of course, only a downside if you didn't want the penis there.
Happy Birthday Robot uses some fairly simple mechanics to create a cooperative storytelling game that will allow players to create short, amusing tales in less time than it would take to just come up with one on your own. And because you're brainstorming your story with a handful of other people, you never have any idea where the story is going to go. Robot might ride a unicorn, collect balloons, or poison Sally's cheese and laugh as she dies (hopefully, a room of ten-year-olds will not come up with that last one - but we totally did).
This is obviously intended as a game for children. All the pictures in the book are geared towards kids, and there are numerous notes from school teachers who have used the game to teach cooperation, storytelling, grammar and how to avoid having to teach math for two periods of the day. If I had a classroom of ten-year-olds, I would definitely make it a priority to play Happy Birthday Robot with them at least once every six weeks. I would have to split the class up into small groups, who would each write a story, but it would delightfully fun to see what they invented.
However, I do not have a classroom, a fact which benefits both myself and the gaggle of unruly children who would have been my unwitting playthings. Instead, I know grownups who love to tell insane stories. And while I have never tried to play Happy Birthday Robot with kids - and probably never will - I cannot wait to play it again with some drunk friends. And maybe my teenagers. They're the ones who think it's funny when robots kill people. I'm the one who thinks it's funny when Robot humps a jukebox.
It's been a long time since I played a game that I found so delightfully entertaining, whimsically hilarious, and flat-out silly as hell. It might be targeted at elementary schoolers, but I'm here to tell you that it's not the least bit difficult to enjoy this one with a group of punch-drunk adults. I can only hope that the game's creators are not overly offended that I have managed to put comical murders in every story we've created with Happy Birthday Robot, but I don't intend to stop.
This game is just too much fun.
Simple, intuitive rules let you spin a quick tale fraught with hilarity
Easy enough to be grasped by third-graders, as well as people who are stupid because they drink
An entertaining exercise in imaginative improvisation
Could be rather educational
Could be rather educational
May contain genitals (the stories, not the game itself)
You know what would help me not have to spend a week reviewing television shows? If I could get more games. And I could get more games from Noble Knight Games if you would buy your games from them, and tell them I sent you. You can get Happy Birthday Robot right here:
PUT A WIENER IN YOUR STORY
Friday, March 9, 2012
I think that's why I love Black Books so much. It's a British comedy about possibly the worst bookstore in England. The title character, Bernard Black, is a depressing shut-in and alcoholic who steadfastly refuses to clean up after himself. His best friend, Fran, is a neurotic lush who can't keep a boyfriend. And his only employee, Manny, is almost the complete opposite of both of them - smart and orderly, outgoing and friendly, and oddly enough, the perfect yin to Bernard's grouchy yang.
Black Books could be a lame buddy sitcom, like The Odd Couple or Bosom Buddies. But instead, it's hysterically amusing and terrifically absurd. Like when Manny discovers he is a piano prodigy, and ends up hiding inside the piano to play it with spoons so that Fran and Bernard can pretend they're actually competent. Or when Fran goes on vacation, just to find that Manny has gone next door to work for the well-lit chain bookstore next door and Bernard is living among moldy books, wine spills and dead badgers.
It's almost impossible to describe how bizarrely hilarious Black Books is. When Manny accidentally ingests - and then absorbs - the Little Book of Calm, he walks around like Jesus in a bathrobe, dropping serene quips that somehow sound like the wisdom of a holy man, in spite of being holistic health tips. When the Manny and Bernard accidentally drink a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine, they end up poisoning a prominent religious leader. The apartment behind the shop is so dirty that they sometimes have to kill the messes before they can throw them away. It's surreal and hilarious and brilliant.
To make the humor just a little more edgy, Bernard is not just a crotchety shut-in. He's actually bad people. He delights in the misery he inflicts on Manny, and mistreats his customers so badly that he rarely manages to sell anything. When a little boy comes up short for the book he wants to buy, Bernard tells him, 'I've never told anyone this before, but… You're going to have to get a job.' As a customer buys a book from him, Bernard tells him, 'Enjoy. It's dreadful, but it's quite short.' He's always a mess, and always drunk. And while you probably won't feel sorry for him, you can't stop laughing at him.
It's a little odd that I am this fond of Black Books, actually. I am usually not a fan of shows where the main characters lose all the time. I can't help but be amused at the antics of Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I just can't watch them for too long without wanting to get depressed. Sometimes I want to see the heroes win.
And while the main characters in Black Books don't ever win, per se, it's made palatable by the fact that they absolutely have it coming. Bernard is painfully blunt and totally hilarious, and you love to see him lose because he's such an asshole. Fran is so self-absorbed that you really don't mind when she winds up on the losing end all the time. And while Manny does suffer regular abuse, the beauty of the show is that he's actually completely happy with his life, because he hated being a buttoned-up accountant and he loves the madcap hijinks. So I guess I like Black Books because the good guy gets to be happy and the bad guys are always miserable.
If you're a fan of dry British sitcoms with a bizarre and twisted bent, you really ought to check out Black Books. The only other British comedy that comes close to being this amusing is Black Adder. If you've never watched a British comedy, just try one episode of Black Books. If you don't find yourself laughing like an idiot, then this brand of goofy just isn't for you. But if, like me, you wind up chuckling and giggling and outright guffawing at the implausible stupidity and malignant narcissism, then you're in for a treat.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
When I first set out to do a week of TV reviews, I was only planning on reviewing shows where you could find the entire run on Netflix. For that to happen, though, it has to be a show that's off the air, and I'm watching some pretty awesome TV right now. Plus I want to highlight some kick-ass old shows that you may not have known about, so telling you to watch Battlestar Galactica is probably a waste of digital breath on a site devoted to geeks.
So instead of following my own stupid rules, I'm going to tell you why you should be watching Archer. It's a spy show-slash-comedy about the most backward, socially retarded group of miscreants who ever infiltrated governments to botch an assassination. Plus it's a cartoon. And it's just wrapping its third season right now, but you can see the first couple seasons on Netflix, so it counts.
At first glance, this sounds like it should be really stupid. But it's damned smart, even when it's making jokes about anal sex or malodorous bowel movements. Not only that, but the cast is impressive. Two members of the crew from Arrested Development make regular appearances, and the main female spy is voiced by Aisha Tyler, a woman who is both talented and ridiculously sexy. In fact, everyone on the show has comic timing down to a science, and sometimes the delays between punch lines are funnier than the lines themselves.
One huge upside to making the show a cartoon is that they can frequently cause incredible injury to the characters without having to consider long-term ramifications. And they do, and it's almost 100% hilarious. When Archer (the womanizing spy) propositions Lana (the gorgeous chick spy) and she deliberately crashes the car into a light pole, Archer flies through the windshield and lands, mangled and bleeding, on the hood. This sounds demented, but the response is comedically perfect - 'so, that's a no?', followed by Lana not saying anything, followed by Archer (who, as I mentioned, is a twisted mess) saying, 'Oh, OK, then I guess just pout.'
The show is often bizarre, punctuated with grotesque humor and overtly offensive humor. All the main characters work for ISIS, which is owned by Archer's mother. Archer has no idea who his father is - mainly because his mother doesn't either. Both mother and son are horrible alcoholics. Archer routinely visits prostitutes, and even has a few favorites. He also hooks up with the women who work in the office, making for awkward conversation that Archer handles by being absolutely the most insensitive man alive.
And that's just the main character. The escaped Nazi gadget guy is in love with a computer-generated anime hologram that he created himself - in the same lab where he makes clones of himself. The head accountant is a sex addict (to which everyone will reply, 'that's not a real thing!'). And the mother - who is old enough to retire - is regularly caught having kinky sexual encounters with foreign agents.
But the greatest thing about Archer is not the bizarre and often unsettling humor, or the ridiculous situations that result from the ISIS employees being intensely incompetent and completely devoid of scruples. The best parts are the simple exchanges that show how smart the writers really are. They frequently play off commonly misused phrases (like the use of the word 'literally') or idiosyncrasies of the English language. They make obscure-but-hilarious cultural references. And they are not afraid to make their characters look incredibly foolish if it serves a comedic purpose.
You might think that a show about a crew of misanthropes might have trouble creating sympathetic characters, and yet even as Archer is cheating on his girlfriend, who is faking an affair with 20 different men, and the secretary is getting off on being choked while the HR lady curses and leaves toxic waste in the men's bathroom, you'll end up liking these people. You won't feel sorry for them when bad things happen to them, or anything, because they totally deserve it. But by the same token, you'll be rooting for them to succeed, which they do, every now and then.
If this sounds like a show you should not let your kids see, you're right. It's not just the subject matter that makes this a late-night comedy. Nearly every episode of Archer has at least one scene where someone is naked (though you never get to see the naughty bits). There's frequent profanity, some of which would get a network shut down by the FCC. In fact, if your kids aren't old enough to watch this one, wait until you're sure they have fallen asleep. And if you're offended by scatological references and naked butts (not to mention bed scenes that end with chocolate sauce on the ceiling and blood on the sheets), you should definitely avoid this one.
I, of course, have no intention of avoiding Archer. I watch every episode, going so far as to buy the new episodes from Amazon Instant Streaming the night after they air. I LOVE this show. It is incredibly funny, and has provided my family with a constant source of quotable humor. But then, my kids are teenagers, which is good, because both my son and my wife have installed Archer soundboards on their phones, and like to drop opportune phrases at regular intervals. I guess in my house, Archer is family television. Because everybody in my house likes to laugh.
Monday, March 5, 2012
There are times when I want to watch a show about the characters, where I'm thinking about what motivates these people and why they do what they do and how they interact with each other and, if it's on HBO, which ones will show me their boobs before the credits roll. But sometimes I just want to see a cool story with lots of guns and punches.
Day Break is firmly in that second category, an exciting thriller of a TV show that gives me just about everything I want out of quality programming. This is a show with good acting, believable characters, a great story, and Moon Bloodgood in her underwear. In fact, Day Break is the kind of show that makes me wonder why movies even bother. The entire show is 13 episodes, and is completely finished when it's over. It's like a carnival ride, but without the smell of puke and dirty urinals.
Now, back in the dark ages, we had to tune in every week to watch the latest episode, and I always forgot what happened last time, and needed the 'previously, on whatever show has you totally hooked right now' that starts off episodic TV shows these days. But thanks to the wonders of Netflix, now you can watch all 13 episodes in a row, with quick breaks for important stuff like peeing and sleeping and calling in sick to work.
Day Break follows Detective Brett Hopper, a cop who has to solve a crime. Right off the bat, half of you just went to sleep. Police dramas might be the most boring concept on TV, and have been for decades. But don't worry - this is not one of those boring police procedurals where the bad guy gets caught every week after the cops use good old-fashioned police work. There's no procedure to this one at all, especially because Hopper spends the entire show running from the cops (and getting caught on a regular basis).
See, Detective Hopper has been framed for killing an assistant DA. The show starts off with him getting arrested, protesting his innocence and getting locked up anyway, then getting dragged out of his cell and ordered to confess to the crime - right after he watches his girlfriend get shot and killed on DVD. This would normally be a very bad day, but Hopper finds out the next morning that it could be worse. It could be that he has to do the entire thing again.
Every day, Hopper wakes up at 6:17, and it's the same day. The traffic report is the same, the bird on the windowsill, the joggers running past the window. And worst of all, Hopper has no idea why he's stuck. He tries to run - and gets his partner killed. He tries to solve the crime - and gets other people killed. In fact, over the course of the show, he shoots the same pair of bad guys at least a half-dozen times, and sees the deaths of his friends and families so often that it starts to make him crazy.
And still he has to do it again. Every day he gets a little closer to figuring out who framed him and who committed the crime, and it's fantastic fun to watch. He'll hold a bad guy at gunpoint one day, and if that doesn't work, try smooth-talking the next day. He'll learn all kinds of stuff about which bad guys are doing what - but he can't really prove anything, especially when the informant squealed on a day that only Hopper remembers.
Where most TV these days tries to be innovative by being just like every other show on TV, Day Break tried something that just wasn't being done at the time. It was a 13-episode mid-season replacement that had a clear starting point and finish line, and didn't pretend that everything had to be resolved every week. Because of the crazy reset-button nature of the show, they could kill anyone - and they did, over and over and over.
Unfortunately, Day Break was a network TV show. ABC aired the damned thing for six weeks, and then pulled the plug before it was done. But luckily for those of us in the modern world of streaming television, you now have the chance to see the entire series, start to finish, and you don't have to stop unless you really need to peel your sorry ass off the couch to let the dog outside. And as long as you pay your Netflix bill, you also don't have to put up with some crappy network deciding to cancel halfway through.
Day Break is an incredibly fun show with a high-action, pulp feel to it. It reminds us that HBO doesn't have the corner on awesome TV - though ABC reminded us that there's a really good reason you shouldn't watch network television. Nothing like living up to their name - I'm pretty sure ABC really stands for Already Been Canceled.
Friday, March 2, 2012
So to buy myself a little time, and because I would rather waste pixelated breath than take a week off, I'm going to spend all three updates next week talking about something near and dear to my heart - television.
That's right, next week, all my reviews will discuss TV shows. But because my crappy rent house doesn't have cable, all the shows I review next week will be stuff that you could watch on Netflix.
Now, you might protest. You might say, 'but I don't have Netflix!' And my answer will be, 'then don't read Drake's Flames next week, unless you want to see if I can figure out a way to get boob jokes into a TV review.' Because, see, I do have Netflix, and it's just about the only way I have to watch anything at all. And honestly, I would rather have some way to stream old shows than cable, so that's what I recommend, and that's what I'll review.
Now, you might really enjoy reading about television programming, but if you're not all that thrilled to see my game review site spend a week not talking about games, then throw me a bone here. If you know of a game company that needs a game reviewed, give them my name, or give me theirs and I'll write them myself. If you ARE a game company, drop me an email (the address is in my profile) and send me some free games so that I can talk about them.
In the meantime, I'm going to dedicate this weekend to seriously spooling through some streaming TV, and the entire time I'm watching, I'll be thinking this poignant thought:
"Maybe I shouldn't have pissed off Fantasy Flight."