Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Derelik: A new beginning

The ages pass in to shadow as alliances rise and fall. The years slip by in a blur of alarm klaxons and missile impacts. The endless wars of New Eden echo in our minds where they are silent in space. These immortal minds… a curse… a blessing… a source of wealth… But at what cost? Immortals can not know what lies behind the final veil… and so we focus only on the next goal, perhaps only on the next day.

All good alliances must come to an end. Khanid Trade Syndicate still holds its name, but its heart is dead. The shell will ramble on for some time and maybe it will even find a new heart, but not today. Mighty Domitainvs seized all the possessions he could and left—a betrayal the likes of which can only be known in New Eden. But this is not the cause of death to KTS. KTS was dying and its own illness infected Domi to what I can only describe as madness.

We could debate the causes, the effects, the reasons, the lies, and the truths all endlessly. But my Master can only do what all Immortals do… live on.

We left KTS behind. We struck out on our own again. We spent many months in Gallente space re-consolidating assets and seeking new allies. Our friends in Phoenix Division never disappeared, they had only moved on to new wars and conquests. But more war and conquest was not what my Master wanted. We quietly hired out to the Federation Navy for a while. We spent a lot of time in station. And then, as always, something happened.

A few of the war torn pilots of PHDV rumbled out of nullsec space fresh from battle and blood. They were intent on forging a new corp of new pilots. Most of them were not even in their first battlships yet. The rally call went out, “We’re back! Come join together again our missed brothers and sisters.” So we joined. We have moved again to Derelik to start again. It passes the time… and we seem to have very long time to pass.

~Porter Thorne, Servant of Masada Akiva, Tribe Research And Development [.TRAD]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nuns on the Run / Death Angel

Two completely different games, but both pretty fun. I played both this last weekend.

Nuns on the Run is your traditional board game with a fold out board, dice, and some cardboard tokens. The idea is simple, play 1 of 6 novites sneaking around the convent at night while the Prioress and Abbess patrol the grounds. This game manages to capture a little bit of the drama you feel playing hide and sneak as a kid. The only quirky bit is that the novites must write down each of their moves in secret so no one really gets to discover how crazy the chase was until someone wins. The novite wins when she gets the right color key, unlocks the door to her randomly chosen objective, and gets back to her room undetected. This game is high on fun factor, but would be harder for kids under about 10 to figure out. You have to count off your moves in secret and write them down. This might be a challenge for the younger players.

Death Angel is one of Fantasy Flight's small format games. The box is only about 5 inches by 8 inches. Inside is a collection of cards and some cardboard "support" tokens. Death Angel is a spin-off game to the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 franchise. It is a cooperative game where the plays each take control of a pair of Space Marines as they attempt to explore and neutralize an infested "space hulk". The game makes very creative use of simple cards to create a quite complex game. Players familiar with Warhammer will like the concept, but the rules are so unlike Warhammer 40k that no experience is necessary. The complexity will rule out the casual or younger game player.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Castle Ravenloft and Dungeons & Dragons

I'd say about when I was 12 I tried to figure out Expert Dungeons & Dragons (blue box). I never properly got the hang of it. But it did set the stage for long enjoyment of games of all sorts. D&D has changed dramatically since then. Gary Gygax is dead. The mighty TSR publishing was bought by some unknown upstarted called Wizards of the Coast--a cheesy card game maker! WotC rose to lofty heights to be deftly devoured by massive Hasbro. D&D has progressed in to today's world of MMORPGs. WotC has even struggled to make D&D work and I think they have finally hit on the means to keep it going. TSR discovered that once you published your books and your target market had bought them... you were basically stuck. You had to find some excuse to print a new revision to have a new product to sell. Customers hated this and it mucked up the way the game was played. WotC has the same problem, but now that they have teamed up with Hasbro, a toy manufacturing giant, they realized they could pump out game accessories.

Now we see the market full of pre-painted plastic miniatures, game tokens, plastic fold-out maps, handy reference cards and we are sure to see more of these game aids. They let WotC keep a steady product stream without constant re-writes to the rules. Now we see another money-making spin off in to board games like Castle Ravenloft.

In the US, Castle Ravenloft retails for about $50--making it one of the most inexpensive "dense" games out there. The box is packed full of cardboard printed dungeon tiles, cards, plastic monsters/heroes, and tokens. All of these are immediately resusable by the "real" Dungeons & Dragons game (should you choose). This game works on the same basic mechanics of D&D only greatly simplified to be a board game. But it quite conveniently prepares the players for the jump to full RPGs by acquainting them with battle mechanics, movement, and map tactics. It is a fully cooperative game where no "Dungeon Master" is required. Everyone gets to be a player. It is really a brilliant game and product for WotC.

WotC has pushed their table top game to be more like the undeniably successful World of Warcraft MMORPG. Class roles are more regimented and level dependent powers are now ubiquiteous across all classes. But this is not a move without controversy. The departure from the D&D 3.5 rules is massive and essentially un-convertable. No old 3.5 character could really be transfered cleanly to the new rules. In the gulf an old/new publisher, Piazo, has created Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is a mini-step improvement on the D&D 3.5 rules. It follows all the same conventions with a few modifications. Piazo is the old publisher of Dungeon Magazine and has been around since the TSR days. Out of the blue, they appear to be taking the customers left behind by WotC. As a print publisher, they have cranked out dozens of new books full of glossy print and fantastic art. Piazo knows the print business. But will it endure? Who can say?

I bought Castle Ravenloft about a month ago and have played it over a dozen times with adult gamer friends and with the family at home. It is a great, fast, fun game to sit down to. I definite gateway game for those gamer dads trying to rase gamer children!

Game on!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Oi, it's been a while. I've actually been doing lots of game related things and just too busy to catch up. I'll jump in at the end and work my way backward. So today, I wanted share a new word I discovered for a very old concept and stereotype... Fanservice. Fanservice is when a bit of media puts in a lot of typically female sexuality for no apparent reason other than to please its typically male audience. This is generally associated with anime and indeed it has literally hundreds of fine examples.

Sometimes the fanservice is light and generally adds to the story. In Ghost in the Shell there are several episodes where the darker characters are dealing with pleasure-bots in some fashion. These bots are displayed as eyecandy. But this is not strictly fanservice since the plot actually has something to do with the issue of sex trade as a bad thing. A better example in GitS is the variety of shots of Major Kusanagi who will appear in various otherwise professional settings in a form fitting teddy and boots. I tend to laugh at these scenes as none of the conservative characters in the series ever seem to notice. "Yeah, I am the Major. Yes, I am nearly naked. Now on to business." This doesn't happen in every scene or episode, so one would rate GitS as pretty light on the fanservice.

A better and completely over the top example would be the show I watched this weekend, Godannar (pictured above). OMG. Godannar is your basic "robots that can join together to smash giant monsters" story. There are a million of these in anime. But what makes Godannar stand out is the immense dose of fanservice. The female characters of the series all fill the full spectrum of roles from the Head of the Defense force to full robot pilots to lowly mechanics. They are given equal ground in terms of status and intellect, but wowzer... they also have giant bazooms that bounce fully independently and with a high degree of animation. No opportunity for a windblown upskirt shot is missed and I can't mention the gym workout scenes without blushing. The critical bit about fanservice is that it can't really be overtly erotic. The characters in Godannar never dwell on their sexuality or even imply that it occuring. The story is about the robots and the monsters... pay no attention to the perfectly heart-shaped booty in the frame. Say was that a hint of... uh... nevermind.

Godannar is good fun. It isn't cerebral. The emotional content is easily on par with the likes of Robotech or Pokemon. But it can't be beat as an example of high fanservice.

Game on!