Wednesday, May 29, 2013

King of Tokyo...A Smashing Good Time!

King of Tokyo has been out for a while now.  There's even an expansion.  I've played quite a few times now, and I completely understand why this game keeps flying off the shelves.

For those of you that don't know, King of Tokyo is a simple, fast paced game for 2-6 people in which players take control of a monster and battle other monsters for control of Tokyo.

When I teach the game, I tell people it's like Yahtzee, but I don't like Yahtzee and I love this game.  How is it like Yahtzee?  Well, you have six dice that you are trying to roll for sets, and you are allowed to roll the dice three times on your turn.

That's pretty much where the similarities end.

In KoT, the first player to reach twenty victory points, or the last monster standing, will be crowned the King of Tokyo and the games winner.  Monsters earn VP by rolling at least three of a kind of 1's, 2's, 3's on the dice, buy entering or starting your turn in Tokyo, or buy purchasing VP from the market.

Collecting sets of numbers not really your thing?  Well then, maybe you'd be better suited to go for the knock out victory.  Instead of collecting VP and rolling for numbers, you'll be keeping all the claws you can in the hopes of damaging your opponents.  Each monster starts with ten hit points...reduce that to zero, and it's so long King Kong.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Six dice, ten hit points, should only take a couple of rounds to knock the scales off of Gigazaur (who is clearly not Godzilla...clearly).  Well, not exactly.  See, all the while your fists of fury pound away at your opponents, they could have the good fortune to roll hearts, healing themselves the whole time.  Then where will you be?

Unless, of course, they're in Tokyo.

Oh, did I forget to mention that you can't heal while your sitting there, racking up the VP in Tokyo?  Well, I'll mention it now.  You can't heal while your in Tokyo.

No problem, you say, I'll just use my claw dice to injure the weakest person.  After all, they can't all roll hearts.  Well, maybe that will work for you.  But good luck with that, you're going to need it.  See, the way attacking works is that the monster inside Tokyo attacks all the monsters not in Tokyo, while all the monsters not in Tokyo attack the one that is.  Which means, in a four player game, assuming no one has died, there is going to be a three against one battle all the time.

I know, I know, why would you ever go into Tokyo?  Well, that's how you earn VP, remember it's a race to twenty.  As I mentioned earlier, you get one VP for going in Tokyo, and two for starting your turn there, which means if your able to take and hold Tokyo for one game round you earn three VP.  Your almost there!

Yeah, you're thinking, but I'm going to die.  No, see, that's the thing.  Suppose The King (not King Kong) is in Tokyo and Gigazaur (not Godzilla) decides to unleash his scaley, clawy, fury on the King.  Well, the King then gets to decide whether or not he is going to stay in Tokyo, or relinquish his crown.  On the outside, he can heal, but he's going to have to give Giga those much desired VP.

Choices choices.  Like what to buy.  Segue...

So on the dice there are 1's, 2's, and 3's you can collect sets of for VP.  There are claws which hurt your opponents. There are hearts which heal you, unless you're in Tokyo.  And there are lightning bolts.  What are lightning bolts?  They're money.  Well, energy.  See, every time you keep a lightning bolt you get a little green cube which you can use to buy things in the market at the end of your turn.

The market is three face up cards.  All the cards have a price, energy cubes, and a power, ranging from extra damage, extra VP, extra healing, even earning extra money.

But here's the cool thing.  That seven energy cube power that is super powerful is staring you in the face, but it's the end of your turn, and you don't have enough cubes to buy it.  The guy to your left has six energy cubes, meaning if he rolls even a single lightning bolt it's his and your monster may as well sink back to the undersea volcano he came from.  All is lost!  Or is it?

It's not...

See, instead of buying something from the market, you can pay two energy cubes to wipe the slate clean.  All three cards in the market are taken away, put in the discard pile, and replaced with new cards from the market deck.  Now you may be able to afford something else terrific.  Or not.  See, it's random replacement so what comes out may be just as good or bad as what was there before.  But maybe it's just as good or bad in a different way, a way that helps you and not Captain Energy Cube to your left.  At least he doesn't have a rocket pack...

Rolling dice, buying powers, kicking tail and taking names, all in about 25 minutes...not bad.

Should you get King of Tokyo?  Only if you love fun.  Or even like fun a little bit.  Even if you hate fun...yes. Yes, you should buy King of Tokyo.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hey, that's Tom Cruise! A review of Oblivion.

Now I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction in the world.  I think the last Sci-Fi movie I saw in theaters was Prometheus...and the guys at Red Letter Media pretty much sum up how I felt about that movie:

That isn't how I feel about all Sci-Fi, I loved the original Alien, the original Star Wars trilogy, and I'm a big fan of cyberpunk (but I love most things with a noir vibe), but I never give Sci-Fi the benefit of the doubt that I'm going to enjoy it the way I do other genre's.  Would I have seen this movie if my girlfriend didn't want to go?  Probably not.  Or at least I would have waited until it was on Netflix.  But she wanted to go, so I went, and...I enjoyed it.

Not a glowing review, I know, but I would recommend seeing it and would even see it again (though probably not in theaters as fewer and fewer movies seem to get me in a second time nowadays).

As far as an actual review goes, it's hard to talk about this movie without entering spoiler land, but I'll try and avoid actual plot points.

So let's talk about the plot in the most general terms.  It was both predictable and not.  What I mean is there are a few things that just don't sit right with you from the beginning.  Part of that may be because the trailer was awfully revealing (though possibly deliberately misleading), part of that may be because we have seen enough dystopian future movies to know not to trust what we're told at the outset.  For whatever reason, they feed you a bunch of information at the beginning and you don't buy it (none of us in our group of four did).

That being said, there were ways in which it wasn't predictable.  It's like if you were at bat in a baseball game.  You've seen a couple of fastballs, so you guess the next pitch is going to be a slider.  You get a curveball instead.  You knew it was going to be offspeed, you just didn't guess the exact pitch.  That's how I feel the plot twists came at you in this film.  You knew something was coming, and even had a guess that was close, but what really happens isn't exactly what you guessed.  I think that's a good thing.  It isn't enough to blow your mind, but it is enough to keep you engaged.  One thing I would like to point out is that I've heard people say the movie is confusing.  It's not.  At all.  It jumps around once or twice in an unexpected way and forces you to realize what you're seeing, but if you can't do that...go watch Avatar, I guess...

As far as the visuals go, the film is gorgeous.  No two ways about it.  There are a lot of visually striking scenes ranging from platforms in the clouds, flights through deep canyons, gorgeous desert wastelands, and lush forests (which I wasn't expecting but I'm not revealing anything major).  The scenes are pretty, the people are pretty, everything is pretty.

The people...the acting in this movie was...adequate, I guess.  At first it's all Tom Cruise being very Tom Cruise and letting you know Tom Cruise is in this Tom Cruise film.  Tom Cruise.  I didn't mind.  That's what I expect from a Tom Cruise movie.  As far as the rest of the acting, it's okay.  It gets the job done.  You understand what they're feeling, you understand what's going on, the plot advances.  Everyone does a fine job, but no one really adds anything special to their role, nor do they detract from the movie.  I guess what I'm saying is anyone, even Morgan Freeman, could have been replaced, but no one felt like they needed to be.  It was people reading lines and emoting.

So what I felt left with at the end of two hours was a film that did it's job telling an interesting story, one that I could even be bothered to see again, one that left me entertained, but not one that blew my mind or left me wanting more.  The group I was with didn't talk too much about the film after it was over, and not in the Star Wars Episode 2 kind of way in which we were struck silent with the horribleness we had just witnessed, but in a this movie is a neat little film in a neat little box with a neat little bow on top.  Enjoyable, just not much to talk about.  Like I said, I would recommend it as a fun summer flick, just don't expect it to change your world.

Monday, April 29, 2013

More than Meets the Eye - A Review of Love Letter

Love Letter, designed by Seiji Kanai and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), is one of the biggest surprises to hit my gaming table...I was going to write, "in a while" but I'm instead going to write, "possibly ever", possibly ever.  It is game number four in the Tempest Shared World Game Series, a collection of games whose locations and characters are part of the same created universe, supports 2-4 players, and plays in around 20 min.

The object of Love Letter is to get your letter to the Princess Annette while stopping your opponents from doing the same.  The entire game consists of a rule book, thirteen or so little wooden cubes used for score keeping, and 20 cards (16 game cards and 4 reference cards), all of which fit nicely inside a pretty little red pouch.

That's it.

Here's how you play:  In a two player game, you shuffle the cards, remove the top card from the deck face down, and flip over the top three cards face up so both players can see them.  Then you deal each player one card.  In a 3-4 player game, you skip the step where you flip over the top three cards face up.  Then each player is dealt a card, play moves to the left, and on your turn you draw a card, play a card.  You earn points by having the highest card in your hand when the draw pile runs out, or by being the last player standing in the round.  In a two player game you are trying to earn seven VP (red cubes), three/five, four/four.

That's it.

Doesn't sound like much, I know, but you need only play a few rounds before it's clear that there is more to this game than meets the eye.  Each character has a unique power, e.g. the Priest who allows you to peek at another players hand, or the King, which lets you switch hands with a player, and the way the cards interact is so interesting that players always feel like their decisions matter and constantly keeps them engaged.

Here's an actual example of part of a round I played recently:

My opponent played the Priest on me, which forced me to reveal that I had the Princess card in my hand, the highest number card in the game but her power forces the owner to lose if they ever discard her.  On my opponents next turn she played the King, which forced me to switch hands with her.  I ended up with a lower numbered card and she took the Princess from my hand.  Victory for her, right?  Nope.  On my next turn I drew a Prince card.  The Prince's power is to force an opponent to discard  their hand and draw a new one. Guess which opponent I chose?  In three rounds my opponent went from a mediocre hand to holding the top card in the game to eliminated.  This type of topsy turvy game play happens all the time, and it creates a great balance between strategy and luck.

I have played this game as both a two player and a four player game, and both have been tons of fun, although I think the game works better as a 3-4 player game because you have more options.  As an example, the Guard lets you guess another players hand and, if you guess correctly, you eliminate that player from the round.  In a two player game I guess the hand of the person sitting across from me.  Whom do I choose in a four player game?  The person I think is going to win that round?  The person currently in the VP lead?  The person who eliminated me last round?  Three and four player games let the card powers play off of each other and create dynamics that the two player game simply doesn't (at least not as often).  That being said, this game still plays really well with two players and I wouldn't hesitate for an instant to do so.

So there you have it.  Love Letter, which will probably set you back around $10 (totally worth it) or if you are buying a game online you may be able to tack it on for cheaper than $10 without paying extra shipping (that's what I did, sorry FLGS), is fast, easy (to learn and play, not win), and tons of fun. Worth every penny and then some.

Side note:  I don't normally sleeve my cards, but there are so few of them in this game and they all get handled all the time, so I am going to do so.  You may want to as well.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Waking: A Tale of Two Mindsets

I was at Boston Comicon a few weeks ago and I picked up a copy of "The Waking" because I had read the first issue before, enjoyed it, and the reviews on the TPB were pretty good touting intelligence, a fresh new twist on the zombie story, a book that will have you on the edge of your seat, etc.  I can see that.  But I can also see this is a book published by Zenescope.  Yeah.  Cover time...

There is a cool concept here, and I'm pretty much going to tell you what it is, so *Spoiler Alert* I guess.  Basically, this little girl, the one on the cover, was killed and the murderer got away with it.  So the dad gets really sad, and starts to hate a lot, so people who were killed come back from the dead to kill their killers.  Apparently murder victims can never be at rest because of the harm done to them, but if they kill their killers, they will be.  But here's the thing, once the zombie kills the person it has come back for, it for reals.  So daddy doesn't want his little girl to kill the man who murdered her because he doesn't want her to die again.  He figures he'll just bring back everyone who was murdered and one of them will eventually get the guy who killed his daughter, but since she didn't do the killing she won't die herself, and they can be together.

Not a bad idea, I suppose, for a guy who can bring the dead back to life because he's sad, but if you think about it, doesn't that mean his daughter, murdered, will never find peace?  Maybe, but the topic was never addressed.  Other topics were however, but not with much enthusiasm or depth.  The obvious question is whether or not the police detectives, who serve as the protagonists of the story, should try and stop the zombies?  The line of questioning could serve to open the way for some pretty meaningful dialogue on justice, responsibility, the natural order of things, etc., but instead is summed up in about two panels.

Panel 1:  Female cop says, "I don't want to stop them because they're right." (Referring to the zombies...also, I'm paraphrasing.)
Panel 2: Male cop says, "Yeah, but it's our job." (Paraphrasing.)

And then boobs.

"Where did that come from?" you may be asking yourself. But remember, it's Zenescope, so take a great idea and the possibility to really tackle some issues, but imagine that idea was thought up by a fourteen year old boy.  So they let you know that the deep ideas, the good stuff, is there, but then the time and panel space needed to have any kind of meaningful discussion is instead replaced with a detective complaining about too much sex with his nympho wife (because there's plenty of that in this book...complaining, I mean) and shots of his wife naked in the shower...which really progress the story...yup.

There's other stuff too, like how we have four detectives as main characters, three males, one female.  The guys are all in dress shirts, ties, trench coats, typical city detective garb.  Our female detective, on the other hand, wears skin tight jeans and a top that is designed to expose massive amounts of know, the stuff professional women wear to work.  Not to mention that some of the dialogue comes across like it was written by a kid in high school who thinks it's a sign of maturity that he can make sex jokes with girls, while everyone over the age of eighteen lets out a heavy sigh, and everyone in the workplace files sexual harassment claims...

In the end, not to sound like a broken record, but it did come across as if there were two writers; one who thought of a cool idea and wanted to discuss some interesting ideas in an artful way, and the second who works for Zenescope and had to have boobs in a comic...cuz boobs are cool.  So, worth the $12.99 asking price?  Ummmm....I's a cool stepping stone to some interesting conversation, but really, if you just read this review...I think you're set.  I will tell you this though, the TPB contains issues #1-4, and is a self contained, full story in it's own right.  The guy at the booth who sold it to me (discounted for the Con) said they're making more and the next TPB issue will be coming out...eventually.  I probably won't be picking that one up.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dark Rain: A Review

I picked up Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story when I found it on sale at Borders not too long before they closed their doors for good.  I heard awesome things about it, and the book jacket was covered front to back, top to bottom in praises of the work Mat Johnson and Simon Gane put together.  Now I've read the book myself, and the feeling it left me with, when all was said and done, could best be described as, "meh."

Okay, first I want to talk aesthetics.  My copy of the book is gorgeous.  The book itself hardcover with the title of the book and Vertigo pressed into the cover.  The jacket is amazing too.  Nessim Higson and Daymon Gardner did an amazing job with it.  The image of the house in the flood, the map of New Orleans, glossy and textured over the house image, and the image of the man on the back, looking to the heavens as the sun sets (rises?) are all beautiful and eye catching.  The picture on the internet doesn't do it justice, you really need to see it for yourself.

As for the inside of the book.  The artwork is fine.  Simon Gane chose to use a lot of muted blues, greys, and blacks to set the mood of New Orleans just after Katrina.  It's dark. It's stormy.  People are sad, lost and there isn't much hope to go around.  The characters are expressive, and Gane is really good at showing the emotion, the turmoil of the characters involved. 

If I have a problem with the artwork it's that the backgrounds aren't very detailed.  Look passed the characters, the action, and you're going to see blank sheets of blue, black, and grey.  It's fine for the overall look of the book but sometimes I was looking for more.  It may have been done to keep the attention on the characters themselves, but Gane is so good with his expressions and actions I don't think it necessary.  The characters would hold up on there own.  Show me some of New Orleans.  Although, I have to admit, when there were backgrounds, such as a city under water or a couple of bodies floating in the water, they packed a punch.  Maybe that was the whole point; limit the use of detail so that the detail we get hits us harder.  I don't know.  You'd have to ask Gane.

As for the writing, I don't want to give away anything, so I'm not going to really get into the plot, but I have to tell you, when Johnson has a point he wants to get across, he does it with all the subtlety of a nine pound hammer.  It isn't necessarily bad, but I've seen it all before.  Our hero isn't really a bad guy, just a regular guy who made some mistakes.  Really though, he's got a heart of gold.  When he isn't stealing from other people.   The "scary black guys" with backwards hats and backpacks aren't bad guys.  They're the one's handing out food and water.  Like we didn't see that coming four panels away.  And then there are lines like:
"Governments just leaving them to die because they're black.  Most of 'em."
"No.  Because we're poor, black, and never vote Republican."

Not to say there weren't some touching moments.  One scene that got me in particular was of  a mother holding her infant child that had recently passed; knowing it, but trying her best to avoid dealing with it.

At the end of the day I'm not sorry I read the book, but really, if the chance came again, knowing what I know now, would I still buy it.  I'm not sure that I would.  The book has some talking points, I'll give it that, but it doesn't go out of the way to reveal anything we didn't already know, nor does it help itself with statements like the one I mentioned above.  I guess in the end I'll say this, if you can pick it up for $5-$10, it might be worth the time and money.  But for the $24.99 asking price on the book cover?  I'll pass.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Been a While

Moved to Laconia from's better, still isn't the Apple.  What are you going to do?  I had a reading for my short story "Live Free or Die, Die, Die!" a few weeks back.  There is another one this Friday, Nov. 4, in Manchester.  I'll have to look up where...

Yesterday I dropped the dog off at day care and drove down to Sommerville, MA to take the Phase I test for the FBI to become a special agent.  I'm happy to report that I passed the test and will be contacted soon about moving on, meet and greets, interviews, etc.

I discovered a scar on my arm today that I didn't know I had, maybe an inch above the wrist.

Sommerville, I think that's how you spell it, I'm not going to bother to look it up, seems like a decent place for a college with a cool little downtown area, but driving in and out was such a pain.  Also, the building I was looking for was the end of the street because the street changed names three times in less than a hundred yards.  Who thinks that's a good idea?  It was a good thing I showed up earl for my test because I spent all that extra time just trying to find the building.

I have a training session for my new job today, from 2-9, then I start tomorrow from 8:30-1 as a telemarketer.  Because that's what all lawyer's really aspire to be, telemarketers.  I honestly don't know if I'm going to be good at it.  They want a positive, upbeat attitude all the time.  It's about energy, Energy, ENERGY!!! and I'm...not.  But whatever, I'm going to try it because I need some form of income, even if they don't provide health insurance.

I don't want to work Saturday's...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occupy Movement

I've been reading a lot about the Occupy movement that started in New York.  Apparently it is spreading and there is now an Occupy Boston, LA, Chicago.

I've also been reading this website ( and I recommend checking it out.  Some of the stories are heartbreaking, and unfortunately, all to easy to relate too.

Also, I found out there is an Occupy Albany campaign that I think I will look into.  One of my old college roommates, who lives in Albany now, is already there.  The next general assembly meeting is 5 o'clock on Sunday, October 9.

If you're interested in any of this, check out the following sites, as well as the one I mentioned above: