Booster Break!

Welcome to our new column Booster Break! It’s exactly what it sounds like, we will be opening assorted booster packs and boxes and showing you guys and gals our monumental pulls and/or spectacular failures via video or pics.  This month I’ll be showing you what I pulled from a Marvel Heroclix Fear Itself booster and a Marvel Heroclix Guardians of the Galaxy booster.

Okay first up is the Fear Itself booster pack. I think I actually did really well with this one, not just because I pulled some strong characters, but because I didn’t get the typical 3 commons, instead it was comprised of 2 commons, 2 uncommons and 1 rare. No super rares or chase, but I was happy with the rare I pulled.

Monkey King (common)

Asgardian Troll (common)

Ms.Marvel (uncommon)

Tanarus (uncommon)

Dr. Strange (rare)

Alright onto the next booster…this one is a Guardian of the Galaxy booster pack. I didn’t do well on this one, some cool sculpts but nothing that stuck out as being playable

Triton (common)

Brother Royal (common)

Nebula (common)

Nova (uncommon)

Shriek (rare)

Yup, this pack sucked..but the sculpts for Nova and Triton (not pictured) are pretty decent, too bad they are not strong in play.

 

That’s it for this edition of Booster Breaks! Thanks for reading!

Breaking New Ground: Heroclix

heroclix boosters

 

One of the most important things that we have learned from producing our podcast and writing for this website is that it really forces us to expand our gaming horizons. Let’s be honest, we can’t just write about Xbox and Magic the Gathering all of the time. That would be boring as hell for you as well as boring for us. Variety is the spice of life and there are some great games out there that deserve their moment in the spotlight. As Shawn has already covered the World of Warcraft card game I thought I would take a little time to talk about the next game that we will be dabbling in; Heroclix.

Late last summer, Shawn mentioned that he would like to try the Warmachine/Hordes tabletop game in order to really bring our nerdiness to the next level. OK, OK, it was actually because he has had an ongoing interest in trying a tabletop game, also the models looked great and the paint/craft aspect was appealing to him. Being an artist, the paint aspect intrigued me as well so I googled the game and was amazed at how incredible the models looked. Then I realized I googled Whores not Hordes. Heh..bad joke..sorry..ahem.. seriously though the models are absolutely amazing and I was immediately fumbling for my debit card. Then I saw the price tag. Game over. Since I have never played a tabletop miniatures game I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars to get enough models to build an army. I mean that’s a lot of scratch lost if for some reason the game isn’t that good. So instead I decided that it would be better to go with the low cost alternative; Heroclix, so we could get a feel for tabletop gaming. We are both comic geeks so it seemed like a good fit. Being completely ignorant in the ways of ‘Clix, I logged onto Ebay and ordered the first booster I saw (Marvel Sinister). A week later it arrived and I eagerly tore the box open. What the?! Where were the character cards?! More importantly where were the goddamn functional dials?! The dials were terrible; it was extremely tough to move it even 1 click on every piece. Frustrated, I slammed them back in the box and tossed them in the closet. I couldn’t understand why people spoke so highly of the game. I sent a message to Shawn letting him know that I thought I should have done more research on the game before making a purchase. After a couple of days, I decided to “Wiki” Heroclix and found out that the Sinister set was one of the very first expansions.  The first sets had crappy dials, and had no character cards, you just had to memorize the powers.  To get actual functional dials and character cards, I would need to buy a more recent set. Long story short, I bought a booster of Fear Itself and a booster of Guardians of the Galaxy. I won’t get into every piece that I got as that will be coming in a new column where we’ll document our pack and box breaks with pictures or video. (Cheap plug.)

So what are my first impressions of the game? Well that’s tough to say, we have yet to play an actual “real” game..but I’ve played myself (I can hear your jokes from here.), and it’s gone well.   I’ve started to be able to memorize what the colors on the dials mean. I was a bit overwhelmed when I first opened the rulebook but just taking the time to actually study and memorize the colors on the dials, the powers they represent  and their meanings made a world of difference. I really like the heavy emphasis on strategy and building the right team. From building your team right up to your last move, you really have to think before you act. It’s like chess but with cooler pieces..aaaaand a ton more rules. As far as the actual pieces themselves…well it’s never going to be confused with Warmachine/Hordes but some of the sculpts are pretty damn good (Tanarus and Dr. Strange come to mind). But some of them are pretty damn goofy too. With that said, the good sculpts definitely outnumber the bad ones. I’m really looking forward to playing an actual game in the near future.  I picked up this game as a way to get acclimated to the world of tabletop gaming and as a primer for Warmachine but to my surprise I found a really great game that will most likely stick around in my gaming rotation.

Collector’s Corner Vol.1: The Madness Returns

New year! New column! During my absence, I picked up a good number of new video games thanks to Christmas, my birthday and my collecting addiction rearing its ugly head again.  Yes, the same ugly addiction that I spent an entire article preaching about how I kicked its ass..has crept back into my life.  Well kind of.  It’s not as bad as before and I’m actually playing what I’m buying this time around.  With that said, my game room/man cave/ nerd den has been slowly filling up over the past month so I thought that going forward; I will share some of the recent additions to my game collection with you guys.

Hyperkin Retron 2: For years I’ve seen the various Retron consoles on Amazon.com and have always scoffed at them. No way was I EVER going to play a single game on a…bleck.. 3rd party console. Plus, no matter what version there always seemed to be some bad reviews concerning certain games not working on them and the sound being sub par at best. Welp, long story short, there was one under the
ol’ Christmas tree for yours truly and I have to say that I’m actually really impressed with this console. It plays SNES and NES games without having to blow into the carts for 5 minutes like a jackass (Yes, I replaced the 72 Pin in my original NES, and no, it wasn’t a dramatic improvement). As far as games not working goes, I own a decent collection of NES games and I haven’t run into one yet that didn’t immediately work. I also really like this console because it cuts back on the amount of wires I have behind my TV and saves on plug space in the power tree (one console as opposed to two) which is essential if you are like me and want all of your consoles to be “Plug and Play”.

South Park: The Stick of Truth (360): I’m a huge fan of South Park, but to be honest I didn’t have high expectations for this game when it was first announced. I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t be fooled by the South Park skin, at this game’s core lies a really solid JRPG. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s hilarious and makes you feel like you are actually in an episode of the show.

Final Fantasy Anthology (PSX): Speaking of JRPG’s, my girlfriend picked up this gem for me. Final Fantasy 5 and 6…you just can’t go wrong. After I complete South Park I plan on diving into FF5.

Deathsmiles (360): A bullet-hell shooter (I’m a fan of the genre), where you choose one of 5 girls (the Xbox mode gives you the choice of an extra character) who each possess magical powers and, well, basically you shoot the crap out of anything that moves, including a giant cow, a pissed off tree, demons, pig chefs, cyclops, lizard men, dancers, dragons, and even Death itself. It’s a great game for when you feel to need to unwind with a game that doesn’t require much
thought.

Persona 4 Arena (360): I can honestly say that I have never played any game in the Persona RPG series, or even had the desire to try one, but I can never resist a 2D fighter. I’ve played this one for only about 40 minutes or so but I enjoyed it and I look forward to breaking this out on the next “nerd night”.

Dead Island (360): I kept meaning to pick this title up but just never got around to it, now that I own it, I can see why it was so popular. It’s an insanely fun and gory shooter. And there are zombies. Good times.

Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (PS2): A 2D fighter consisting of characters from Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury and other classic Neo Geo games. Now that I own this title, I’m only 1 game away from achieving my goal of owning every 2D fighter for the Playstation 2 (Now I just need to pick up Arcana Heart).

That wraps up this month’s edition of Collector’s Corner. Listen up loyal readers; I’m always on the lookout for any “hidden gem” games to add to my collection. By that I mean any game that didn’t get media attention. If you know of any games that fit that description please let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!

Currently Playing…Vol.9

 

d3x360

First of all, I just want to apologize to all of you for letting things drop
for the last couple of months. Work and preparing for the holidays took a bigger chunk of my time than I thought it would, which led to me backing off from writing for this glorious website. Well, good news…I’m back!

<Crickets>

Hearthstone: (gasp!!) I know, I know, I feel so dirty saying it but since
Christmas I have been playing a few games every week. A little background info for you: In the spring I used to play Hearthstone on my Mac but soon became..uh..disenchanted.. with the game and decided that it just wasn’t for me. Then after playing the World of Warcraft card game, I completely deleted Hearthstone. Well for Christmas this year, my sister bought me a Kindle HDX and, well, you
can only play so much Fruit Ninja so I grudgingly downloaded the Hearthstone app. I have to say that it’s amazing how much more I like Hearthstone on a tablet. The game itself still isn’t the greatest thing in the world to me but for some reason it feels less like a waste of time when I don’t have to fire up the Mac and log in to Battlenet. I can just tap the icon and it loads right up. I’m still not a daily player and probably will never be but before the tablet I hadn’t played a game in months. I also made the game slightly more enjoyable for
myself by not playing Ranked past Rank 20, which is just enough to earn the new card backing awarded at the end of season. Anything past 20 and I’m getting smoked by people who have multiple legendaries in their decks and clearly play a ton more than I do (and I suspect spend actual money to buy packs, something I
refuse to do). At least at 20 or above when I lose the games are all close for the most part. So, yes, at the moment, I am in fact playing Hearthstone and actually kind of enjoying it.

Dragon Quest IX (DS) (yes, again.): Well I found a couple of the hidden grottos in the game, completed a few side quests, beat the snot out of some monsters, did some level-grinding and went back and fought Corvus (the last boss) again. Same result. Same. F*****. Result. Why do you mock me, RPG Gods?!?!

Diablo 3 (360): Shawn brought this one over a couple of weekends ago and we played it for hour or so and I have to say I really liked it. I hadn’t had a chance to play it before but I loved the first 2 Diablos (and their expansions) for the PC. The 3rd game doesn’t disappoint..it has all of the classic Diablo chaos and mountains of loot that we all know and love. We both picked long-range combat characters and had a pretty sound strategy for the first few quests of the game. Shawn would cast a spell that slowed down our enemies and we would pick them off even before they could get to us. Of course things were going a bit too well and the difficulty ramped up a bit and we started dying a bit more frequently but it was still fun. It’s not all rainbows and kittens though, but we’ll get into that in our 4th podcast. Despite a couple of minor issues I’m looking forward to playing this one again.

Does Hearthstone still suck?

(Editor’s Note:  In keeping with 2 Guys Gaming’s attempt at catching up from our insane holiday schedule, I am going to offer a cursory review of the new Hearthstone expansion Goblins vs. Gnomes.)

TLDR:  No.

I have talked on the podcast and written here on the website about Blizzard’s digital CCG Hearthstone.  Most of the discussion has been mixed and bordered on negative.  When the game first came out, I endorsed it to Chris and a few other friends because it was an online card game and initially, it is a fun game.  However, like many Blizzard games, sometimes it became more about the treadmill of trying to do daily quests.  These games came against increasingly stronger decks built by people who most likely spent a lot of money building their collection.  The game just wasn’t fun anymore and I uninstalled the game for about a couple of weeks before the announcement of the first “adventure”.

The concept of an adventure is an interesting concept that is completely unique to the digital card game genre.  There’s no way that a table top card game could do what Hearthstone did with Naxxramas.  As an added bonus, Blizzard implemented it well and the new cards changed the way that the game was being played with only a handful of new cards.  Because of the limited card pool, that change felt brief and temporary and honestly not that much of a change.  Hunters and warlocks ran wild and now they has seemingly more tools to dominate.  The game returned to the simplistic feel of being a card game version of rock paper scissors and I stopped playing it again after only a month.  Honestly, I just didn’t find the game all that fun.

For me, the lifeblood of any card game is the expansions.  They bring new cards, new decks, new mechanics, and the promise that the game will provide fun and enjoyment for that much longer.  It isn’t surprising then that I started to pay attention again after the announcement of the first full expansion set for the game, Goblins v. Gnomes.  The first cards out from the set focused mainly around random effects, making it seem like Blizzard was sticking to their guns on the subject of “RNG as skill”.  However, they quickly assured people that was not the case and they only used those cards as the teaser because of the fun effects that would get people talking about the game.

The expansion is focused heavily around random effects that used to bother me.  Chris tried to jury rig a physical version of the game because he was less into the digital content of the game, but the effects of the cards is too wonky to play physically.  Blizzard actually mentioned this in one of their interviews.  They prefer the way Hearthstone is designed because it makes it different from its non-digital contemporaries and therefore it can stand out in a genre that has seen competitor after competitor fall to the might of Magic:  the Gathering.  However, as I play the game more and start to figure out some of the strategy, I realize that RNG can be annoying when you are counting on RNG to win you a game.  It becomes less annoying (and not even RNG) when you use it to your advantage by eliminating the RNG as much as you can.  An example is Flame Cannon.  If you hold on to that card until there are 5 minions on the board, some of them with 5 health, and you don’t have any choice, you’re going to have a bad day.  If, however, you use it on a single minion board and have a follow up in case of more health, then the card is very strong as removal.

So, an expansion that likes to tout the fact that “most of the things fail…or explode” and should have annoyed me to no end has actually had the opposite effect.  The relatively few cards released during Naxxramas were enough to shake up the game in a way that some decks that were very strong are no longer being played while some new strategies have emerged.  GvG has brought even more new strategies to Hearthstone, chief among them one that I have enjoyed since putting together my zombie deck a couple of years ago.  That’s right, mill decks are now a thing (and somewhat viable) in Hearthstone.  The game is fun again and I’m actually venturing back into the Arena thanks to the free run that Blizzard gave away at the release.  “The first one’s free, Kid.”

That’s not to say that everything is roses.  Warlocks and Hunters still rule in constructed and Mages, and now Paladins, still seem very overpowered in Arena.  You will get sick of seeing the same decks over and over again.  I know that I do.  But use it to your advantage.  Once you know a deck,  you know it and can plan accordingly.

I still would not recommend the game to new “free to players” necessarily because it is very difficult to catch up without paying real money.  If you can stand grinding a bit, though, you can get all of the basic cards and there are some good strategy guides for all basic decks.  You may not win more than 20-25% of your games, but that will still be enough to finish your daily quests in a somewhat timely fashion.  Use the gold to play the Arena (and most likely get destroyed, but again there are good guides to get started), get your pack (and hopefully some gold return), and start building your collection to take on your foes.  If you have no qualms about putting aside some of your gaming budget to buy cards or Arena runs in the game, then I would definitely recommend getting in now.  The game can be a ton of fun and it seems like Blizzard is really starting to figure out what they want to do and how to do it.

Pros:  Makes the game fun with the effects and new cards.  Adds some variety to the number of decks that are viable (even if they aren’t being played).

Cons:  Warlock and Hunter just synergize so well with their hero power and class cards that they continue to dominate the games that you will play.

The Last Words:  I can say that Hearthstone is definitely finally worth recommending that people check out.  It can be a grind for players not looking to spend any money, but if you’re willing to put in that grind, it will pay off in the end.

Tempting Fate

(Editor’s Note:  Stay tuned for a more in depth look at the set in next month’s episode of the podcast.  For now, I just wanted to catch up after a busy holiday season and give a first impression of Fate Reforged.)

I have been keeping an eye on spoilers as they’ve been revealed and Chris and I have kept alive our unofficial tradition of sending cards to one another.  Chris is excited that dragons are back (not in a big way, the last set is called Dragons of Tarkir or something like that, so they’ll hopefully blow the doors off with that one) and, as usual, I’m intrigued by some of the mechanics that are being used in the set.  One of the first spoilers to be leaked was Ugin and, as happens in this day and age, many thought it was a fake.  Some saw a dragon and leaped to the conclusion that, if it was real, it would be from the third set and others just dismissed it outright.  It is real and pretty amazing.  However, I know that I won’t play that card.  If I do pull one, it will most likely be one that I sell similar to the foil fetches and Planeswalkers from the previous set of cards.  I’m also pretty sure that I won’t ever play against it, either, so that’s all that I’ll say about it.  Better to focus on the cards that will see play in our eternal struggle of two.

In keeping with the multicolored theme, hybrid mana is back.  I only see it in casting cost of abilities instead of as a way to cast spells and creatures.  Maybe in the next set they will have hybrid mana creatures and spells like they did in the earlier multicolored sets.  The Return to Ravnica block had a huge number of multicolored cards and especially more hybrid mana cards than I could imagine.  I suppose that it keeps with the theme of that block.  While Khans is three colored clans, the focus seems to be more on making those colors interact with one another in unique ways instead of attempting to fuse them together into a whole new strategy.  Therefore, I can understand the decision to not have hybrid mana casting costs for creatures and spells.  Thanks for joining me as I talked myself through that one.

As I mentioned above, Chris is excited that some dragons are in this set.  He’s infamous for his dragon deck that once got me to utter, “That is bullshit” in response to him playing it once.  This is noteworthy because our games are generally friendly and there isn’t much in the way of grumble unless one of us is having particularly bad luck with the mana screw or something.  I made the observation that it looks like they seem to be trying to make dragons similar to slivers.   There are a new class of legendary multicolored dragons that all have an ability that affects the board in some way.  Instead of triggering on play, though, the new dragon abilities all trigger when a dragon attacks.  That adds an interesting wrinkle to EDH.  The other dragons also have similar abilities, but they are more localized to one creature in most cases.  Again, this seems like a bit of a teaser for the last set where they will most likely unleash the dragons in a big way.  Maybe it will even inspire me to make a dragon deck.

Being the type of player that I am, the mechanic that has me most excited is manifest.  I am enamored with Morph and even though I haven’t quite figured it out, I am determined to make a morph deck that works consistently enough to frustrate the opponent as my decks often are designed to do.  I mentioned in the missing Episode 2 of the podcast that I hoped that they would either have more morph creatures or at least more mechanics that work with morph.  While manifest isn’t that, it does share some DNA with morph and makes me even more excited that a face down deck will work in some shape.  I’m going to get to trying to build my Temur morph/manifest deck as soon as possible.

Overall, this set seems like the calm before the storm.  The last set in the block is a big one like Khans and it is named for the other big players on the plane, the dragons, so I think we’ll see some really huge things out of that set.  Fate Reforged isn’t a great set but there are definitely some cool cards and I can’t wait to pick up my box in a few weeks.

RIP WoW: TCG

(Editor’s Note:  This is the same editor’s note as on the main page.  I had been working 3 jobs and had precious little time to devote to the pages.  However, two of those jobs are on winter break, so I have more time and will be updating the pages on a more regular basis.)

(2nd Editor’s Note:  Playing a few rounds of this game has only increased my anger that Blizzard killed it in favor of Hearthstone.  I understand the decision, but it still makes me mad.)

After fits, non-starts, and a fried hard drive (2 actually) that took episode 2 of the podcast, Christ and I got together for a couple of game nights.  We didn’t record, but we are going to this weekend, so be on the lookout for the triumphant return when we push the reset button on the show.  As part of these game nights, in addition to the usual games of Magic and Gears, we played some WoW:  TCG.  This isn’t our first experience with the game, but it was our first attempts at deck building and strategy.  Overall the games were a success and both of us mentioned that they inspired us to find more cards and build new decks or solidify the ones that we already have.  For me, at least, the games were more fun than the recent Magic games.

The first reason is the “new”ness of the game.  I am always really excited when I discover or rediscover something and it has that feeling of being new.  Since we had not played WoW very much, it was a brand new game whild Magic is the old and faithful game, always there for us.  Sure, Khans made it new and exciting for a couple of months, but it’s time for a new expansion again.  Also, because Chris had more time to tweak his decks, the Magic battles were not very competitive this round.  WoW was much more balanced between us.  I don’t care if I win or lose, but I do want the games to be interesting or entertaining.

Secondly, WoW has some definite advantages over Magic.  There is no mana and therefore no mana screw unless it somehow works to your advantage.  Let me explain.  You build resources to cast creatures and spells.  The more powerful resources are quests because they allow you to draw cards and perform other actions.  However, any card can be played face down as a resource.  Doing so removes it from the game for its intended purpose, so you can trade a less powerful creature or spell in order to cast a more powerful one or vice versa.  All of this adds to the strategy and complexity of the games.  I generally try to build my decks so that I don’t have to use cards other than quests as resources, but it is nice to know that the option is there.

Chris and I toyed around with some kitchen table rules to make Magic more like WoW and to remove (or at least reduce) mana screw and make our decks play more like the way we intended.  Chris posted the article last year and you can find it on the page here.  I was trying to think of other ways to counter mana screw, but honestly it has gotten to the point where it isn’t that big of a deal in the games that we play.  Still, it might be nice to have options for people learning the game, so I’ll keep brainstorming.

The only con against WoW is that it is no longer supported by Blizzard, as I mentioned above.  Therefore, the shelf life of the game is very limited, especially if we don’t get out there and buy more cards before they are not on the market any more.  Chris has picked up some cards, but I don’t feel compelled to do so because I’d rather spend my money on the new Magic expansions coming out and expand into other formats in a game that is still alive and growing.

WoW:  TCG was (and still is for a limited time) a great game that got put to the side in favor of the push to digital content.  The most unfortunate part is that as I did research into the game, it felt like it got killed right as it was starting to reach its potential.  I don’t hate Hearthstone as much as I used to, but every time I see a card that uses art from the WoW:  TCG (like the Leeroy card above) it gives me a twinge of anger and sadness that both games can’t coexist and that digital content wins out again.  If you get a chance to pick up some of the starter decks for relatively cheap (which shouldn’t be a problem for the near future) you should definitely check out the game.  You could also get a lot of 2000 cards for fairly cheap, but those are more random and if you are going to do that, maybe get both the starter decks and the random cards to swap them out for stronger decks.  If you are looking for a slight change from Magic, WoW:  TCG is absolutely a strong contender and I, for one, will miss it greatly and wish that I had paid more attention when it was around.

As a post script (postmortem?) to the game, Chris and I were first talking after the announcement that the game had been cancelled and I tried to come up with some ideas to extend the life of games that have been taken off of the market.  The one idea that I thought would be easy to modify is to give people the chance to make their own cards for the game.  There are already web pages that let you make Magic and Hearthstone cards.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to make one that does the same for WoW cards, both heroes and the other cards.  I don’t know how much support there is for such an idea, but it is definitely something that I’d like to see implemented and not just for WoW.

Do you love WoW:  TCG?  Is there another defunct TCG or other table top game that you would recommend as an alternative when Magic becomes stale again?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks, as always, for reading!