Furious about Fury?

I saw Fury last night in theaters. I almost didn’t make it due to some friends cancelling plans. Fortunately, another friend didn’t get the memo and showed up at the theater. So… I rushed out to join him instead of working on fixing my two lemons of computers or playing with my new tablet.

Let me just say now, I am so glad that I got my ass out of the house and over to see this movie!

I almost can’t gush enough about Fury. It may have been the best war movie I have seen since Saving Private Ryan. In fact, I’m pretty much ready to go see it again right now.

The Soundtrack: I always enjoy when there are moments actually made memorable by the music. When a movie or show has a soundtrack that really matches the theme of the overall movie and the feel of the scene, it becomes memorable. I must applaud Steven Price, I’ve never heard of him before, but I hope to experience more of his works in the future. Also, for the World of Tanks junkies amongst you, you’ll recognize the main theme as the one that plays currently on the World of Tanks selection screen.

The Acting: Even Shia puts in a great performance. The new crew member to the tank, Norman, does a great job of feeling like an empathetic human being that isn’t a veteran of war. He doesn’t come across like the jerk face that the translator from Saving Private Ryan did.

The Visuals: When the first anti-tank round flies past the Shermans, I held my breath. As the next round loaded and got ready to fire, I gasped. Really, the action scenes were incredibly vivid and intense. If you try to look at it from a realistic war or tactics stand point, you’ll probably get annoyed. The tank battle later does have tactics that I assume might be real. But don’t read into those things too much. Just get swept up in being a part of the tank crew of Fury.

The Plot: So there isn’t anything all that exciting or crazy about the plot. Its just, here are some military guys and they get some orders to do some normal military things. Its not about the plot, its about the characters and the situation at the end of April 1945.

The Pacing: This is probably where the movie shines most. The action scenes are succinct and very well shot. The character development isn’t forced in the slower parts of the movie. There’s also a really great scene right in the middle of the movie where you get a long chance to catch your breath and just soak in what it might have been like for the GI’s and their interactions with the German civilians.

In the end, this is a movie that was worth seeing in theaters. It is worth seeing a second time. I am really thinking about going to try to see it again before it leaves theaters. Definitely catch this on blu-ray or something later, even non-war movie buffs might just like the character interactions.

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Imagining a Story in your Games

What makes a board or card game fun? Well, that question could be answered differently about as many times as there are people on this Earth. Though, there are definitely certain camps within the stratosphere that pull some of those disparate opinions into line.

Its where that whole “Eurogame” or “Ameritrash” argument comes from. Those titles aren’t all that positive or exciting, nor are they a good way to break down board games.

So let me tell you about an example of a “Eurogame” that is lesser known and that I truly love. Constantinopolis has little blocks, its a game about economy, and there are little symbols that mean things with no text associated. All things I commonly put in to the “Eurogame” camp. Though, the thing about this game that I love, there is a solid THEME. When I play this game, I can truly imagine myself being a wealthy patrician, trying to become the best damn merchant that this fictional port city has ever seen.

I’m just glad that my imagination can make sense of what the board and the pieces represent and that it is not just a “points salad”.

I also love some “Ameritrash”, more often than not. Though I think you could put a game like Risk into Ameritrash, and I don’t really care for it. The way the mechanics of Risk work, its just hard to envision and there is no story at all, its all just some simple mechanics, which can be just fine. Its just not what I love as a gamer. I can crunch numbers, but what I want in a game is that elusive story and theme.

Enter another unspoken hero. Android is a game with a ton of text, a ton of moving pieces, and a ton of cards. I LOVE it. I had wanted to play this game for so long and never could find the right group or the right time, as it is a long game. I finally got to play this with a friend before he moved far far away and another buddy. I am always worried to introduce games to people that have a lot of moving parts. I know that this one went well when, after the game, they both wanted to play again right away. We didn’t have time for that, but the thought counted.

The game drips with story and theme. And with those friends, I knew that would hook them as it did me. Games, to me, are just so much more memorable when you can talk about a story that unfolded because of the game and the people that played it.

I know that some people like the min-max game approach, and others like challenging puzzles, but my argument is that a game is best if you combine either of those or other elements with a solid theme.

That is all.

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The New Super Heroes

Lesley and I tried out Sentinels of the Multiverse while we were in Chicago. We went to Dice Dojo, which is an EPIC game store. They have a giant wall of opened games that you can try and then you can go into the shop and buy them. I’ve known of Sentinels for a long time, but for whatever reason, I never felt the interest to try it. I think some of it has to do with looking for more co-op games and Lesley likes Super Hero themed things.

We are really loving this game!! The theme shines and the game play is sweat inducing and easy to envision.

Pros:
The theme of the game is just dripping from everything. The rulebook has comic book like font. The card art looks like comic panels and each card even comes with a quote on it.

The potential for the game to be varied with expansions is high with mixing the villains and the environments. I LOVE the lord of the rings card game, but I really like the idea that here, you can sort of create your own story by mixing the different villains and environments with each other.

The heroes have stories in the book and each hero has a pretty neat story. Also, rather than being a deck building or deck construction game, this game actually has pre made decks for each hero. The hero card that games with the deck looks like a comic book cover with that heroes name, hit points where the issue number would go, and that character’s starting power.

Some might see the numbers of repeat cards in the hero decks as a con, but really, for some heroes, it is a must. The card draw mechanic almost just seems like an easier way simplify the game where really, you should be able to pick whatever powers you want.

Cons:
In some ways, the game is a little simplistic and a little “mathy”. Lots of you get a +1 here and you get a +1 there.

The simplicity is only a con for people that want incredibly crunchy games. There are enough strategy and options to make the game good, but also that simplicity keeps it accessible.

The math doesn’t get out of control, but the bonuses and penalties need to be monitored, fortunately, this is helped by tokens provided with the game.

The four villains and four environments don’t allow for a huge amount of re playability. I do wish that there were multiple scenario cards with each villain to give a different feel when you fight that same villain. That would also be very thematic. Legendary has this done well.

In Conclusion:

Try this game! Learn how to play it and then you’ll at least want to play it as a longer filler game if not a game to play all evening.

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Dungeons and Dragons: Resurgent

I am excited to hear and see talk about D&D again. I am enjoying the fact that the local mailing lists about organized play are starting to get lively again. This is a good thing, but will it be sustained?

This last weekend, we just finished our 2nd full session of D&D with the new rules. I am so far, feeling that old pleasant excitement of all the years I’ve put time into this game. Let me attach a warning though, I often get excited about new game editions. I also liked 4th edition for a long time. It was a different game, but it was still a game with a lot of fun to be had. With that being said, it was a “different” game. 5th Edition doesn’t feel like a different game, it feels like a more refined and faster playing version of the game I have grown up with.

We started out at 4th level and I made a pure Druid. So far, shape changing is incredibly awesome (especially since I took the Circle of the Moon build, giving bonuses to shape shifting). So far, the Barkskin spell that used to be a staple of Druids is just terrible. If you want to take advantage of something like Barkskin, you MUST take the Warcaster feat or change into an animal with a very high Constitution. The reason, because Barkskin is a concentration spell that is supposed to help protect you from injury, meanwhile, each time you take damage with it up, you have to make a Constitution check or it drops. This is just silly. I haven’t had it last more than 1 hit yet. Or… I could just use that spell slot to heal myself as a bonus action thanks to the build type that I chose. I’m sad to see that spell coming off of my list, but now I’ll have more slots for more RP/flavor spells. This is the best part about the shapechanging druid, having spells just for the purposes of interesting flavor.

The game has been much more conducive to roleplay than 4th was and I can say that 4th also has taken away our skills at theater of the mind, but I think we are all getting there. I suggest dipping your toes into a game and seeing what you think.

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Thunderstone Advance: Card Strategies

What am I finding maddening so far? It seems like Thunderstone and not Thunderstone Advance have a lot of online support. I’m SSOO late to this party. Its like I have arrived at an 80’s theme night wearing my Foo Fighters t-shirt and pre-torn jeans with chucks. Oh well. Sometimes we all have to make due with a little less than we actually want.

Let’s take a look at some of the strategies that I develop based on my initial look over of cards on the table in the village. When I see a stack of heroes like the Lorigg that provide Light and Gold, strategies change rather drastically. Unless playing against certain monster types that might penalize having more heroes or weak strength heroes, cards like the Lorigg let you skip out on more light source cards and also on picking up a cheap weapon or food just to get the bonus gold in your hand near the beginning of the game.

I’ve found in my last few plays that leveling up Regulars is a big waste of time. Its much better to get rid of them to monsters Aftermath effects or to cards that destroy your cards. The problem with leveling them up is that it costs the same 2 xp as it does to take a classed hero from level 1 to 2. Level 2 heroes tend to be pretty solid, so I find it a much better strategy to take a hero to level 2 rather than getting rid of a Regular that way.

The Lorigg is a good example, though the Advance version is different, the concept remains the same. Getting a card that gives 3 gold on just one card is great for getting those slightly more expensive cards. It could be the difference between getting a Fireball or Creeping Death and all the 6 or less cost cards that tend to be out there. Its also good for later game to buy the higher level heroes when going to the village.

Level 3 and 4 heroes that give VP are great to work toward early. Not only will they let you take on the dungeon more, but also when you buy a level 3 or 4 hero or level up to one, its similar to spending your time dungeon delving, except that hopefully you can buy a useful late game village card after you’ve spotted a weakness in your deck or a strategy that no one adopted.

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New Obsessions: Thunderstone Advance

I played Thunderstone at GenCon 2013 as a ticketed event. I was curious what all the hubub was about. I had a good time, but I didn’t find it more amazing than other deck builders.

For some reason, when I started signing up for 2014 events, I saw Thunderstone and thought, this’ll be a fun 2 hours. So I ordered another ticket. I played it and had an absolute blast! I think the guy teaching it was more enthusiastic and the card combos were more fun than I remember from the previous year.

Now, my girlfriend is newer to board and card games and she’d already played one deck builder, which was the “DC Deck building game”. Which, on a side note, is a really terrible name for a game. But whatever. I don’t like that deck builder much either so I didn’t ‘think’ that she would hate all deck builders. I explained what the game was like and what made it different to her. With that, I decided to take advantage of a show special AEG had and I bought the “Worlds Collide” box. This is a starter box with reprints of a bunch of old Thunderstone cards that are not part of Advance yet.

She finally beat me for the first time last week and now is even more excited to play. We had played probably dozens of times before that and with other people and she still loved playing with not having won those times.

The fact that you get to level up heroes and that theme of going into the dungeon or the village to get your party stronger really keeps us coming back.

The game play is very similar to other deck builders, but the strategy and the dungeon delving is just enough different to separate it. Its very easy to teach to people that know even a tiny amount about deck builders.

My one criticism of the game is probably that you can get a combination of monsters and village cards that actually go pretty badly together. You might have enemies that require magic attack and have 0 magic attack heroes. But, get Into the Abyss or Numenera to get the colored xp tokens. The colored xp tokens can be discarded not just for leveling up heroes, but for getting other benefits based on the color. These enhance the game a lot! I almost thought about not using them, but the feeling of drawing the xp tokens randomly and getting some use if you have a stack of xp is just great.

My card spotlight that we’ve used so far:

I couldn’t find the Advance version, but here is the Thunderstone version. The Harruli is a fantastic guy if you have any spells at all that have a good effect or, even better, spells that let you cycle through your deck. The level 2 guy is probably the best of the group, but having one level 3 with some level 2’s is probably a good idea. The level 2 version gets a +2 Magic attack for every spell present. The level 3 doesn’t get any bonus attack, but he can search for spells to add to your hand from the top of the deck. Try him out with a Time Bend some time!

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Ending the deadly game with Ender

I recently caught Ender’s Game on HBO GO. I heard a lot of pretty terrible reviews and a lot of fans of the book that were just furious with the poor movie performance.

Now, I’m gonna lay the opinion smack down on you!

Let me start by saying that I have read the first book, and I have not read Ender’s Shadow. Also, I didn’t really like the book. There is just something inherently not fun about reading about a story focusing on children that is not a children’s book. In that case I would understand writing about children. In the book, the children were younger over all than they were in the movie.

I went into the movie with incredibly low expectations, although, my buddy that was watching it with me said that it wasn’t so terrible.

The pacing of the movie was a little bit weird, but I actually don’t mind that all that much. I find that that generally means it isn’t following the cookie cutter Hollywood formula.

The actor who played Ender had a creepy genius look to him. The combat sequences were enjoyable and the end had an esoteric sequence that I found a good way to describe Ender’s final mental state.

Harrison Ford was not as monotone as I felt people were calling him out for. The other kids were mostly forgettable, though I did enjoy the short squad leader and the way he bossed everybody around. The actors all took it seriously, which gave it a good feel.

This movie is an entertaining sci-fi flick that you’ll probably enjoy unless you have a… passionate investment in the book.

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