Button Mashers Beget Button Mashers

(Editor’s Note:  Apologies again for our silence this week.  I’ve been dealing with end of semester stuff.  Hopefully I can maintain the schedule of posting twice over the next two weeks.  If not, I’ll definitely be back when finals are over.)

My family took me to a local arcade (yes, they still exist!) for my birthday this year.  It might be more accurate if I say the local arcade since I believe it is the only one close enough to be called local.  We do have a Chuck E. Cheese, but the arcade there is secondary.  You mostly go there for the mediocre (really, terrible) pizza.  Wait, why does anyone go there?  A question for another time, perhaps.

The trip took me back to the years of my youth misspent in arcades from Erie, Pennsylvania to Silver Springs, Maryland.  I got 2 hours to play Tetris, Dig, Dug, Rampage, NBA Jam, The Simpsons, Centipede, any many others.  Sadly, no Q*Bert or Pac-Man and the Mrs. Pac-Man machine was out of order.  Also no Mario Brothers and the only Neo Geo games were Bubble Bobble and Bust a Move.  Aside from the more modern games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, those were the old school games that I played in the arcade and at home.  Still, I had so much fun and it is one of the best birthday presents ever.

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Button mashers in training

During one of my breaks to watch TMNT (They showed it on the big screen, but with no sound.  That’s my only complaint, even if understandable.) and eat free fries (part of a Groupon deal), I noticed Liam and Aiden playing together on a machine and having a ton of fun.  I went over to see what brought them such joy.  It was one of those Street Fighter clones, but one that I’d never played nor even seen.  This is noteworthy because I thought that I’d played them all.  At the least, I was sure that I’d played the ones that featured Ryu as a character.   I noticed he was on the roster during one of their character selections.

Now, it is bugging me again that I never knew the game existed and I forgot to write down the name of the game.  I need to figure this out.  Bear with me.  Enjoy the musical stylings of Nick Winters while you wait.

Okay, I’m back!  Google is a wonderful thing.  Whether you need to find the name of a never before seen 2D fighter or directions to the Rhode Island Convention Center for an underwhelming trip to wach the SCG Open event, Google has you covered.  Sure, they’ll catalog your search results, sell your personal information and data, and then use that money to lobby Washington DC for less strict anti-trust laws.  That’s all a small price to pay for all that convenience.

Once they finished playing and it was time to go, I asked the natural question, hoping for a particular response.  They looked like they had fun, but I wanted to be sure.  “Did you like it?”  I asked.  They both said, “Yes, it was fun!”

Woo hoo!

It started with board games, branched out into Heroclix, Pokemon, and Magic, and now extended into 2D fighting games.  My kids share many of my gaming interests and I’m thrilled by the prospects.  In fact, they enjoyed the game so much that they didn’t want to leave.  While I’m not entirely sure how they kept track, we only had technically two hours to play and our time was over.  No tears were shed, but they definitely expressed their disappointment.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the game they were playing:

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Tatsunoko vs. Capcom

I remembered that Chris gave me a copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 3.  This led me to download the second game on XBox Live.  I mentioned to the boys that I owned a similar game to soften the blow.  Naturally, my intent was to play the game with them.  However, as happens (and happened too often this winter), the game got lost in the shuffle and forgotten for several months.

I don’t remember exactly how or why the game came up in conversation again.  I think that it was just luck.  We were sitting in the living room, Aiden had finished playing some ‘Splosion Man, and was getting ready to turn off the XBox.  I grabbed the other controller to load up Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  He got so excited when he heard the music and saw all the characters that were available.  Neither he nor I understood the intricacies of the game, so we were on mostly level ground in that regard.  I did have the advantage of knowing some of the special moves.  That advantage disappeared quickly, though.

I’m not sure that he knew the exact moves.  Then again, I’m not sure that he didn’t, either.  He pulled them off with such frequency and skill that he might have stumbled onto something by mistake.  Either way, he beat me legitimately more than once.  I’m not proud of it, but it did happen.  As someone who pretends to be a reporter on the internets, it is my duty to report news when it happens.

Breaking!  8-year old beats his father!  Click here for the rest of the story.

Hey, maybe I’m not just pretending to be a reporter.  I seem to have learned the basics of web journalism already.  I can generate click bait.  What do you mean journalistic integrity?  See, I’m a natural!

We moved on to Marvel vs. Capcom 3.  Excited by the fact that, even though it takes them a while, Capcom can count to three, I assumed that meant that they also improved their games with each successive sequel.  Sure, I knew that they often didn’t necessarily improve when they released the in between expansions for each game, but they had to make the sequels better, right?  I excitedly told Aiden that they made the graphics better and added new characters.  Sadly, only one of those was true.  There were actually less characters and they didn’t even necessarily pick the good ones to include in the game.

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Marvel vs. Capcom 2
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Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Of course, the game featured all of the familiar faces from both Capcom and Marvel.  Ryu, Sagat, Ken, Spidey, and Hulk all made the cut.  So did some secondary characters like Dormammu, Moon Knight, the Darkstalkers girls, and the guy from Ghosts and Goblins.  Deadpool and X-23 were added with a few others, but Zangief is gone.  Probably the most egregious omission is the mummy guy from Darkstalkers.  I accidentally discovered this move that turns the oppponent into this tiny zombie looking robot thing.  Aiden and I laughed hysterically any time that I managed to land the attack.  That’s what games are all about.  Finding a move in a fighting game that makes both you and your 8-year old son giggle in the same way and spam it to no end.

Another strike against the third game is that Christine found the case.  She asked, “Is this appropriate for them to play?”  I asked what she meant and that I played it with Aiden and saw no problems.  She replied, “It’s rated T.”  I rolled my eyes.  “Probably for cartoon violence or something.”  To be honest, I never checked the ratings and felt a bit embarrassed by that.  When I checked, I was flabbergasted.  Partial nudity and sexual themes?  WTF?  I’m not sure that I played that game.  I did a little research and I guess that it is due to the Darkstalkers ladies and Deadpool says a few potentially offensive things.  I think that they were a bit heavy handed with the rating, but I can see their point.  Some parents and children might be more sensitive to these issues.

All things considered, the second game seems like the obvious choice.  No Deadpool and there are the ridiculously sexist costumes for some characters mentioned above, but they are overshadowed by the sheer number of other characters and easily avoided.  I would give the game a try yourself first to see if that is something that you don’t find too offensive.  If you find that it is okay for you and your kids, then get your kids to fight with each other and not worry about the destruction of property as a result.

…in a fighting game. Continue reading

Dudes Playing Magic

(Editor’s Note:  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as they say.)

I have expressed my admiration for the Star City Games stream on the page more than once.  Some of the play leaves a bit to be desired and can be painful to watch, especially in the early rounds.  To be honest, all around the play is pretty loose and might frustrate you for one reason or another.  Notice that I said that I admire the coverage.  When I want to watch great gameplay, I watch the official Magic channel.  Though it’s getting better, their PT and GP still lags behind SCG.  Therefore, when I am in the mood to just watch Magic and be entertained, as I usually am, I tune into the SCG broadcast.

During the many streams I watched, I saw several advertisements for shows that were going to happen locally.  There was one in Worcester and one in Providence.  I eventually succumbed to the pressure of advertising.  Okay, okay, as soon as I learned of them, I put the events on the calendar.  Since our family has the habit of committing to things and then deciding last minute that we’d rather sit around our house in PJs, I needed something to solidify the commitment and force me to follow through.

Luckily, the Providence event was scheduled for only a few weeks after the release of Dragons of Tarkir.  For the last three sets, I wanted to order an intro set from SCG.  I think that’s what they call it.  It is a booster box, a fat pack, and one each of the intro decks.  I always buy a booster box and fat pack for each set, so it is a good deal for me.  But, I’ve never had the money to get one before they sold out.  This time, I finally did.  I took all of this as a sign that it was meant to be.  I put in the order, chose pick up in Providence, and jumped on the hype train.

Choo, choo!

The Dragons of Tarkir release was still two weeks away and the event about a month after that.  It gave me plenty of time to psych myself up.  Being the good marketers that they are, the fine people of SCG helped.  They kept advertising the events.  During one of these ads, the commentators went on about how Magic events were becoming more like conventions.

Chugga, chugga!

The weeks passed.  Chris ordered and received the singles for his decks.  I started to regret my decision to pick up the cards instead of delivery.  Christine reminded me that the scout camping trip was that same weekend.  The regret deepened because now there was real possibility that I would not even be able to go.  Life and literature are nothing without conflict, and we have a doozy one on our hands, dear readers.

*sounds of the hype train derailing*

Those of you who follow us on Twitter already know the outcome, but don’t spoil it for the rest of us.  Up until now, the story has lacked something.  Now, though, it’s riveting and I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next and how (er, if) I make it to Rhode Island.  Okay, let’s get this train rolling again.

*chuff, chuff*

*whoo, whoo*

I came up with the plan to only stay one night at camping and come home late on Saturday.  That left Sunday free to go to Providence.  It meant a ton of driving on top of the usual insane amount of driving I do during the week, but I’m a survivor.  I will persevere.  Even so, true to our reputation, I started to waffle before the weekend in question.  Luckily, the boys kept me honest on camping and the cards did the same for my plans on Sunday.

I’m glad that we went camping.  I was able to get some articles written, go on a hike, fish with both Liam and Aiden, play some cut throat Uno, watch an epic game of capture the flag, and just relax in general.  The trip helped to put me in the right frame of mind for the drive to Rhode Island.

I woke up Sunday morning early and ready to go.  I loaded some of my favorite podcasts on to my tablet, made a breakfast of champions, took a shower (this is an important step from what I’ve heard), hopped into the van, fired up the GPS, and drove.  As an aside, can I just say how much I like GPS.  I would have loved to have been a part of the programming teams.  Well, I’d have rather been exploring all of the places to help build the maps and take pictures.  Either way, it speaks very loudly to my explorer spirit and they did a great job.  It has gotten to the point that it is almost foolproof.

Okay, here it is.  The moment that I’ve been anticipating for over a month.  I’m pulling into the garage.  Oh, crap, there’s a parking fee.  Not entirely unexpected (it was an expense that I hadn’t considered), but a bit of a disappointment.  Part of the reason for travelling was to save on shipping.  With this expense plus gas, I’m pretty sure that plan has gone out the window.  Oh well.  There’s one reason that I am a mathematician and not an economist.

I’m in the garage, parked, and on my way to the event.  This is a big place.  How will I find it?  Oh, good, there’s an information desk.  I’ll ask him.  No, never mind, I found it.  I’ll just follow all the guys wearing hoodies and back packs.  Up the escalator, take a right, stop to read the rules and guidelines, and finally, I am here.

And…it’s just a bunch of dudes playing Magic.  Well, that’s also disappointing.  I’m not sure what I expected.  No, that’s not true.  I know exactly what I expected.  The comments from the SCG crew stuck with me that these things are becoming more and more like conventions.  I’ve been to several conventions, both big and small.  All of them have been much more than just dudes playing Magic.  Damn.  Oh well, I’m here.  Might as well make the best of it.

I check out the feature table.  Hey, that’s Jim Davis!  (Not the Garfield guy, that would be too cool for words.) Let’s see what he’s playing.  Oh, Andrew Boswell is here, too.  He went undefeated yesterday.  Okay, so it’s dudes playing Magic, but these are dudes that are pretty damn good at playing Magic.  That makes it less disappointing.  I can come back to this.  I have  a bunch of cards to pick up.  Also, where are Patrick and Cedric?

I got to the place that looks like a place to pick up cards.  No, those guys are buying.  No, these guys are selling.  Oh, customer service.  I travel back over there.  They point me to the guys buying, who point me to the guys selling.  I finally grab my product and go back to the feature tables.  Jim Davis is till there.  Boswell is still there.  Some guy with what looks like Jeskai aggro sleeved in pink is destroying his opponent.  No sign of Fabiano. (I later learn that he was playing in the Modern side tournament.)

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Well, let’s see some of what is in this box.  I I find an empty seat at a table and crack open the box.  So…many…cards.  Oh, hey, look over there.  That’s Patrick and Cedric!  I open the intro packs and the boosters inside.  Nothing too noteworthy in the packs, but I did get a Dragonlord Dromoka and Dromoka’s Command.  I resist opening the booster box and fat pack because I’m saving them for a video.

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To bolster my restraint, I go back to watch more of the feature matches, but I’m more or less done.  Damn.  3 hours driving for about 2 hours of watching dudes playing Magic.  Yep, definitely not an economist.  Oh well, lesson learned.  If I do go to Worcester, go as a competitor.  The only problem is that the main event in Worcester is Legacy.  While Chris and I are Legacy players (technically, I’m mostly Modern), I don’t have a single competitive Legacy deck.  There is a standard side event, though, and I have a couple of standard decks that could to some damage with a tweak here or there.  Oh, what’s that I hear?  Is that the hype train warming up again?

All aboard!

Mini Marvel Masters

(Editor’s Note:  Hulk Smash puny….wait, what this?  Hulk puny!)

Our other major topic of this weekend’s episode of the podcast was Heroclix.  Bear in mind that Chris hasn’t played a game and I’ve only (basically solo) played against a very young Aiden.  The segment is more about our reasons that the game interests us and this article will follow suit.  We will play some Heroclix (both constructed and sealed, if those are the same official designations) and return in a couple of months with our thoughts on the actual game.

I learned about the game thanks to Aiden.  Having kids really brought out the kid in me in a big way.  Liam’s discovery of (and subsequent obsession with) Pokemon got me back into Magic, gave Chris and I another outlet for our monthly “nerd nights” and ultimately led to the podcast and web site.  Aiden is younger than LIam by about two years.  As a result, he was unable to play Pokemon until recently when he learned to read.  He’s still not as interested in the game as Liam, but he will play.  Therefore, a couple of years ago, when we were in a local game store and Liam bought a new Pokemon deck, Aiden wanted something, too.  I steered him away from Pokemon and found the Heroclix.  I thought they were just miniature action figures and he really liked super heroes.  I never suspected the complexity of the game associated with these tiny guys.

Ostensibly marketed as a game for kids, it had a comprehensive rule book.  Thankfully, it also came with a quick start guide because I wanted to try the game.  Aiden still couldn’t grasp a majority of the rules, but he liked picking his team, moving the pieces, and pretending to battle.   I liked being able to take control of my favorite comic book characters, using their powers, and the minor bit of strategy involved.

Heroclix appeals to a wide range.  When Chris and I started the podcast, I knew that we would have to be more than just Magic, fighting games, and Gears of War, so I started researching other games to cover.  I didn’t know how he’d respond to Heroclix, with its reputation as a kiddie game, so I initially looked into Warhammer and Hordes as options.

I had seen both games played at some prereleases that I attended.  I also have a friend who at least collects the figures, so they seemed like a more natural choice as an adult game.  I did some research.  Most gamers agreed that Hordes was the better game.  That might just be my hipster confirmation bias that everything popular is lame.  Nevertheless, I found a PDF of the rule book (because I’m cheap and the book is $70) and started reading the rules.  The game interested me since it shared fantasy elements with some of my other favorite games, most notably D&D and WoW.  I researched more.

Boy, was I wrong about either game as a better choice than Heroclix.  Sure the games are intended for a more adult audience.  They are to Heroclix as Magic is to Hearthstone.  They are more complex in rules and interactions.  They are also more expensive.  Much more expensive in some cases.  I may invest in an army later, but those games are certainly not entry point.

We went back to Heroclix.  Both Chris and I experienced a lull in our Magic interest near the end of last year.  We planned to play Heroclix to combat that and for the purpose of adding variety to the podcast.  Then, as it does, life got in the way.  We weren’t able to meet, record, or game for several months.  After things calmed down, the podcast came back, and Heroclix grabbed our attention again.

I’ve purchased two booster packs (Incredible Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy) and the Age of Ultron starter pack.  Look for break videos on the Hulk and Avengers sets.  I’m saving the Guardians for a draft that we have planned for our next get together.  While Heroclix might not contain the same complexity as Warhammer or Hordes, it is by no means an easy game.  The rules are quite complex and I understand that deeper strategy awaits than when I played a five year old Aiden.  I’m excited by the prospect s of playing a new game that is completely different from card games.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still enjoy cards and spend an absurd amount of money on the hobby.  My discovery of streams, Chris’s idea to branch off into standard, the seeming break neck pace of new sets, and the boys showing renewed interest have all led to me finding new joys in cards.  Heck, even taking a break to play the dead and buried World of Warcraft gave me new reasons to continue collecting and playing.

Even so, it is good to try new things.  Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.  I don’t know who they are, but I’m sure somebody says that.  Heck, I’m somebody and I just said it.  How’s that for circular logic?

The price for Heroclix is right.  While Hordes and Warhammer cost 70 to 100 dollars for a starter set, you can get a booster brick (essentially a case) for 40 dollars for at least one set.  The Age of Ultron was 37 for 6 model.  Per piece, that is more expensive than Hordes starter sets.  You have to consider that Heroclix models are already finished and that you have to buy paint and potentially books that go for 30?/50? dollars each.  Plus, I don’t know how competitive those starter decks armies are for the other games.  There is definitely one competitive piece in the Age of Ultron set and maybe one fringe piece, too.  Worth the investment.

The rules are intuitive and easy to learn.  Kids can easily pick up and play the game with the basic rules.  The full rule book offers more of a challenge.  the strategy differs significantly from cards and the variety will lead only to good things.  It gives me and Chris another game to play.  I can try again to play the game with my boys now that they are older and better able to handle some more strategy and complexity.

Stay tuned to the page for more on Heroclix as we learn the games, play a few rounds of various formats, and attempt to teach the kids.  If you’re like us and don’t know much about the game, please join us in our journey and learn.  If you’re more familiar with the game, feel free to leave comments, emails, and more advice and suggestions.

Currently Playing…Vol.12

 

I think we're gonna need a bigger screen..
I think we’re gonna need a bigger screen..

Thor: God of Thunder (DS) Good lord it’s a game based on a movie and it’s actually really, really fun!  At first glance it looks like your normal run of the mill beatemup, but there are some neat elements in this game that make it stand out. You collect runes that upgrade Mjolnir (that’sThor’s mythical hammer for you comic noobs out there), your armor and your helmet. There are some of huge bosses that take up both DS screens, and the combat is pretty decent.  My one complaint is that the enemies get very repetitious.  You definitely get tired of seeing the same baddies over and over again. In my opinion, the good outweighs the bad though. It’s a ridiculously cheap game (only $5-$7 on eBay)and 100% worth the money.

 

wheroesWorld Heroes Anthology (PS2) In preparation for our next podcast, in which we will be discussing 2d fighters in general, I’ve been dusting off some older fighters in my collection and giving them another look. Well, let’s just say I now remember why I let this one collect dust.  I actually really enjoyed the first World Heroes game for Snes, so I figured that the PS2 versions of these games must be just as good right? Wrong. The original plays fine, it’s still fun, and I still really dig the Deathmatch mode.  That’s were the compliments end. The Anthology also consists of World Heroes 2, World Heroes Jet, and World Heroes (not so) Perfect.  These 3 games suffer from speed issues. I think it’s the emulation that they used to port these games over, but whatever it is, it makes the rest of the games not fun at all. One fight you are flying around the screen at a breakneck pace, and the next match you are at a normal, or slightly below, speed.  It makes the game feel unpolished in a way. I’ll still play it but only for the original World Heroes, which doesn’t suffer from the same issues as it’s successors.

Booster Break! Vol.2

It’s been a few months since we’ve done one of these booster break articles, partially due to the fact that I’ve pulled nothing noteworthy out of the boosters I have bought since the last one back in January.  Also, we really want to start recording our booster breaks. Unfortunately,  that didn’t happen today, but I still wanted to share the 2 Heroclix boosters that I bought with you guys.  One Fear Itself,  and one Amazing Spider-Man. What makes these two boosters so damn special?  Well, today my friends, Lady Luck, instead of crapping on me, like she usually prefers to do, instead decided to smile upon yours truly.  First up is the Fear Itself pack:

Prodigy (C)

Thule Society Priest (C)

Red She-Hulk (C)

Speedball (U)

Greithoth: Breaker of Wills (R): I love the sculpt on this guy..one of the best I’ve seen so far, and I also really like his Extreme Absorption ability. This allows him to use Impervious, Invincible, or Invulnerability for the rest of the game when he hits a character who possesses one of these powers. Too bad, he is a little too expensive to play at 200 pts.

Okay, so you’re probably shaking your head saying “Woop-dee-effin’-doo”.  I completely agree with you; all in all a pretty underwhelming booster of Fear Itself. I was really hoping for a Kuurth, but the odds of that happening with my luck were not good.   So now, things get interesting as we move on to the Amazing Spider-Man booster:

Werewolf (C)

Daimon Hellstrom (C)

Dracula (U)

Now things get good…..

Alyosha Kraven (Prime Rare)

Spider-Man 2099 (Super Rare)

I was blown away.  A prime and a super in the same pack?! And in the first booster of ASM that I’ve ever bought?! Hmm, maybe my luck is changing………….

…………..

………nah, probably not. What’s that saying?  “The sun even shines on a dog’s ass occasionally”.  Sounds about right.

Thanks for reading, and I know that I said we would have videos of our breaks before, but it’s coming, I promise.

 

 

The Death of Wolverine, the Walking Dead, and the State of Comics

(1st Editor’s Note:  This is a repost from our now defunct Entertainment Compendium site.)

(2nd Editor’s Note:  Spoiler Alert:  Wolverine dies….or he already died.)

Either way, you would think that the death of one of Marvel’s most popular characters would cause more of an uproar than I’ve seen.  Granted, I’m not as involved in comics as I used to be, but through my various social media outlets I’m connected enough to know that giving Thor a sex change over the summer created quite a fuss.  Heck, when Kirkman killed off Glenn in The Walking Dead (spoiler alert!) last year, people went nuts and were going to boycott pretty much everything.  Why, then, does nobody seem to care that Wolverine is either going to die or already dead?  I talked about this with Chris and his theory was that comic book (and soap opera, if that’s your thing) deaths rarely stick for very long and that they will most likely bring him back in a year or so.  I have heard that theory mentioned elsewhere and admit that it holds some water.  However, I think that there’s more to it than just comic death fatigue.

There are two reasons that I think this and they are essentially the same.  I will first go back to a lesson from history, The Death of Superman.  This story is now over 20 years old and has since been reversed at least twice, but at the time it was a huge deal.  DC was killing one of the faces of their franchise and the symbol of truth, justice, and the American way.  Comic fans counted down the issues until the big event, the news covered it like it was an actual celebrity death, and DC even followed up with a tribute called Funeral for a Friend.  Everyone knew that the death would be temporary.  Sure, they faked it well by introducing four new “Supermen” to take his place, but no way would DC actually allow Superman to stay dead.  Still, everyone played along and enjoyed the ride.

The other example is more recent and I mentioned it earlier.  Last year, the creator of The Walking Dead Robert Kirkman killed off Glenn in a very violent and (some would say) unnecessary fashion.  Relax, fans of the television show, he said that the character is much too popular to do the same on TV.  That statement speaks to the point of this article, but you must know by now that it will take a bit longer to get there.  The internet became very angry about Glenn’s death.  Fans threatened to never buy the comic again.  Some went as far as to call both Kirkman and those who didn’t join the boycott sadists and far worse.  Internet rage is not a new thing, but given the lukewarm reception of Wolverine’s death, I find the juxtaposition interesting.  Especially when you consider that the title of the book is “The Walking Dead” and that doesn’t refer just to the zombies.

Superman dies and he gets national coverage.  Glenn dies and he is supported by the combined rage of the internet.  Wolverine dies and his legacy is met with a collective yawn.  Heck, even Thor’s sex change got more play than poor Wolvie.  So, what gives?  I think that a big part of it lies in Robert Kirkman’s assurance to everyone that TV Glenn is safe.  Comic books were big in the 1990s.  They have their roots in counter culture and blossomed through the love and admiration of young awkward boys who wanted to be heroes themselves.  Those boys grew up and had their own money and comic books became so popular in the 1990s that several of the lesser known companies became big names and one company even sprouted from the ire that several artists and writers felt towards the big two.  While collecting and reading comics might have still been considered a nerdy hobby, the internet showed that there were many nerds and some of theme were even conspiring to change the world.

Nerds grew up more and got married (sometimes to other nerds) and had nerd babies that are now growing up and discovering the wonderful worlds available to them.  I ask the rhetorical question again in a different way.  What happened?  Comic books should be more popular than ever.  This strange off shoot of comic book “culture” is more popular than ever.  Movies and television shows based on the most obscure heroes become huge successes.  Two coastal comic conventions (that have little to do with actual comics other than the “culture”) do huge business along with countless other local and cousin, like gaming conventions, draw massive crowds and continue to grow.

What happened to comics that even a die hard fan who collected as recently as Civil War (admittedly not all that recent) has completely given up on them?  The 90s were the best of times for comics, as illustrated (pun intended) above.  They were also the worst of times.  All of those companies vying for what is ultimately a niche marked caused oversaturation of the market.  The same happened with baseball cards.  I was burned by the promised collectability of both and both have since been recycled.  The quality of writing and art suffered as they tried to find more artists for the new titles and it seems that they never learn their lessons and repeat this pattern every 10 years or so.  Comic books ahve also become very expensive.  I often joke that it’s no wonder that half of this country is illiterate because nobody can afford to read.  Seven years ago when I collected last, books were $1.99, sometimes $2.49 and the “big” issues were $4.99.  A quick check of the Midtown Comics web page shows that many of the books now retail for $3.99 and $4.99.  That’s twice as much as I used to pay for a paper back novel (When I was your age…) and more than a booster pack of Magic cards.  I can buy a comic that I will read once or 15 cards that I will use on a monthly basis.  As the prices rise, other hobbies rise to capture those dollars, and the “culture” is able to more accurately capture the spirit of the comics in other media, comics sadly decline.

Superman died during a resurgence of the Golden Age of comics.  Glenn died and is a part of a show that isn’t shy about killing some of the most loved characters, but he had a rabid television audience.  The feminine side of Thor could easily pollute the next movie that comes out.  Wolverine is dying in a medium that has been slowly dying for years, but few seem to care.  I’m a bit of a doomsayer when it comes to all print publishing (especially textbooks, those *******s need to die), but I honestly believe that print and all associated need to change or go extinct.  As long as people are confident that Hugh Jackman (or someone else, if they decide to reboot since that’s big now) will pop those claws in the latest summer blockbuster, then nobody will care than he’s being killed for a year or so in the funny pages.

We Are Builders of (Lego) Worlds

(Editor’s Note:  This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but it was VSL night and I crashed after that.  Sorry.)

We recorded Episode 5 of the podcast this past weekend.  I’m in the process of editing it and it should be live by next weekend.  Hopefully, because it is a busy one with a Cub Scouts camping trip followed by a drive to Providence for the Star City Games event.  Look for my article about that next week.

We discussed Heroclix and Lego Games in this episode.  I already covered several of my favorite super hero themed games last week, so what better way to follow that and the podcast than with more Marvel Madness.  Both the Lego games and Heroclix have DC counterparts, but I am an unapologetic Marvel zombie.  Also, that alliteration at the end of the last sentence was so worth it, amirite?

I never used to be interested in the Lego video games.  I shared the sentiment of a friend who said, “why play Lego games when you can just play Legos? ” (sic.  I have since learned that there is no plural to Lego.) I owned Lego Indiana Jones as one of the XBox promotional combos and didn’t play it for the longest time.  It wasn’t until they released the Lego Star Wars game that I gave them a chance.  Almost immediately, I realized my earlier mistake of equating the games to actual Lego.  I would say that Minecraft is more comparable, but even that isn’t the exact same thing.  All three fit a niche nicely and can peacefully coexist.

The initial games were fun enough to keep me playing.  Eventually, the boys caught wind of the game.  It started with them joining me to play.  I found this very frustrating because you were limited in how much you could move by the other person playing the game.  When playing with young children, this often meant not being able to advance in the level because they didn’t understand this limitation.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times I tried to explain to them, nothing changed.  I’m not proud of this, but these gaming sessions often ended with me dropping out in frustration and coming back after they went to bed.  How funny is that visual?  Instead of playing Dead Rising or GTA as I had been, I got relegated to playing Lego Star Wars while they slept so that they didn’t mess up my progress.  Alas, karmic retribution will find a way.

The boys figured out how to work the XBox 360 by themselves.  As a consequence, they loaded up their new favorite game, Lego Star Wars, and promptly deleted my saved game.  There was only one save game slot in the game.  Luckily, the designers tackled that and now games have multiple files for saves.  I was almost 70% completed, too.  All things considered, I think that I handled the situation well.  I did what any well-adjusted adult would have done, I complained about it on Facebook and disowned them.  I wish them well, as always, with their new families.

Jokes aside, I got over the transgression and have visual proof that I beat the game 100%.  It is one of only two games that I do so without help, so I’m proud of the achievement.  (For the record, Jak and Daxter, not Ratchet and Clank, is the other.)  Adding more slots for saved games is a component of one of the major selling points of the Lego series.  Take Two could easily simply churn out decent game after decent game, slap the Lego brand on them, and people would buy them.  They don’t.

Not only did they add the save games, but they make other quality of live improvements, too.  Remember when I mentioned that playing with young children was frustrating because of movement limitations?  No more.  It started with a smart split screen that offered more range of motion, became a gameplay mechanic by adding a new puzzle type, and now offers both players complete freedom to move via complete split screen.  On the topic of puzzles, the puzzles have been improved and made more challenging.  Granted, the games are still mostly geared to kids, but there was at least one part in Marvel Super Heroes that had us all stumped for several days and maybe even as long as a week.  The puzzles are varied, too, and often able to be solved in more than one way depending on the characters available.  This is important because each successive generation of the game offers more and more characters.  In addition (and this is one of the favorite things for Liam and Aiden to do) you can create your own characters.  They made their own super hero team and created an entire story while playing through the open world map in Marvel Super Heroes.

I can admit when I’m wrong.  It happens often enough that I’m used to it.  I never thought that I’d willingly play a Lego video game.  It seemed like a silly idea given that Legos (I know, not a word) are a thing and we have so many of them in the house.  While we still enjoy playing Legos (there’s that non word again!) and other family toys (Lincoln Logs, Thomas the Tank Engine, board games, etc), the Lego games have become an integral part of at least our father-son game playing time.  Christine even noticed the recent announcement of Lego Dimensions, so it is spreading to the whole family.

The Lego games are not only fun to play.  They are also constantly improved in nearly every way imaginable.  Like actual Lego, they can inspire creativity in players beyond the main game.  They are kid friendly, sometimes challenging to adults, and encourage families to play together as a result.  Even if you don’t have kids, there is plenty to enjoy about the games.  I compared them to Grand Theft Auto in the podcast and there are many similarities, right down to the senseless violence of little Lego men exploding.  There is no blood, drinking, drugs, or other elicit activity.  If that’s your thing, then stick to GTA.  Otherwise, pick up your favorite Lego franchise, convince someone to join you, and have an absolute blast.  You won’t regret it.

Currently Playing…Vol.11

fighter_history--article_image

Fighter’s History (SNES): Commonly referred to as Karnov’s Revenge, this game is actually nothing like the first Karnov, which was a platformer/shooter for the NES.  Fighter’s History is actually a fighter (re: Street Fighter clone) that was released on the SNES and the Neo Geo.  This game is probably the closest thing to Street Fighter that I have played on the Snes, although not as good as Street Fighter (duh).  In fact, It’s so close that Capcom actually filed a lawsuit against Data East.  Enough about that unpleasantness though.  As far as fighters go this game is really decent.  I usually don’t have high hopes for any fighter released during the Genesis/Snes era, with the obvious exceptions of MK, SF, Killer Instinct and Samurai Shodown, but I have to say this one is worth picking up.  There are 9 fighters to choose from, and as is the case with all 2D fighters, they have their own set of special moves complete with fireballs, flying spinning kicks, jumping uppercuts..hey..wait a sec…ahem..moving on! The controls are decent, there is no lag as you pull off a special move and go straight into a combo, and the backgrounds are definitely on the same level as Street Fighter 2.  I actually found that the 1 player mode is fairly easy, even on the hard setting,  so there isn’t too much replay value there.  Karnov is the last boss, and his moves are predictable, so once you figure the pattern out he is easy to beat down so it takes the challenge out of the game a bit. I think the replay value lies within the Vs mode where you and a buddy can beat the bajeezus out of each other.  Of course that value is limited as there are only 9 characters but still it’s worth the money as this game only goes for around $10 on eBay. Helpful hint: the speed can feel a little slow, especially when compared to today’s fighters, but go to the options menu and change the speed to fast and the game flows much better. 

 

Abzan Cards I Own (Standard, Take 2)

(Editor’s Note: As with many of my decks, you will notice an underlying theme.)

This deck is inspired by Gerrard Fabiano and his “Sultai Cards I Own Deck” from the first SCG.com Modern open that I watched.  Not being on his level as a player, I don’t have nearly the cards, so it is considerably more on the pauper end, but still strong. I went 1-1 in games against two different decks with it last night against Chris.

Main Deck (60 Cards)

Creatures (23)

Abzan Battle Priest (2): Outlast and gives all other creatures with +1 counters lifelink. A bit of overkill depending on the board, but still helpful.
Abzan Falconer (2): Outlast and gives all other creatures with +1 counters flight. Good for all of the potential dragons if you don’t get the Longshot Squad.
Abzan Guide (3): Expensive, but the lifelink is nice and it can be a cool morph trick.
Abzan Skycaptain (2): I only have purchased one fat pack of Fate so far and got 2 of these guys. Bolster is stronger than Outlast and plays well with the other guys who buff +1 counters.
Ainok Bond Kin (3): First strike to dudes with +1 counters. If you can combo with one of the other guys, you can really trade well.
Disowned ancestor (3): Nice, cheap chump blocker that can become more with Outlast and combo players.
Longshot Squad (2): These guys might be the first to go because of the Falconers, but good right now just in case.
Voyaging Satyr (4): Underrated mana dorks, in my opinion.
Wardscale Dragon (2): Dragons finally made it into one of my decks. They are pretty powerful. Who knew?

Spells (10)

Dragonscale Boon (3): +1 counters and untap for unexpected up trade on your opponents turn.
Feat of Resistance (3): I can see why this card is so popular on the open and pro circuits. It also fits well with the theme.
Pacifism (2): My favorite Magic Card.
Murderous Cut (2): Strong Removal fed by the other spells and Evolving Wilds with Delve.

Artifacts (2)

Abzan Banner (2): Mana plus potential card draw. Sounds good to me.

Legendary Enchantment Artifact (1)

Bow of Nylea (1): I had one of these lying around and it seemed to fit pretty well.

Land (24)

Blossoming Sands (2)
Evolving Wilds (4)
Forest (4)
Jungle Hollow (2)
Plains (8)
Scoured Barrens (2)
Swamp (2)

Sideboard (8)

Drown in Sorrow – 3
Bile Blight – 3
Grim Contest – 2

I’m still working on the deck and the side board.  I might work in some End Hostilities, but I don’t know what else right now.  Picking up my Dragons of Tarkir cards next week, so the deck will most likely look very different.  Isn’t that what Standard is all about, though?  Finding the cards that work for you and your deck playing them.  Stay tuned as this one evolves.  Click the Outlast tag below to see former iterations and that evolution.

I Wanna Be Your (Spider)Man

(Editor’s Note:  Do you have a module based on the comic where Peter Parker and Mary Jane get married?)

Once upon a time, a gamer was a gamer.  You played video, board, card, roleplaying, and sometimes miniature games.  You bonded with other gamers over your mutual status as outsiders from polite society.  Really, we were complete outcasts, but it is infinitely more satisfying to tell those tea drinking weenies to suck eggs.  To be fair, this might have only been true about me and my friends.  Not only is that presumptuous, but I have actual evidence to the contrary.  Growing up, I saw the same people in the arcades as in the comic book store and in the RPG section of Waldenbooks (remember that place?), so there was definitely a fraternity of gamers that I’m not sure exists anymore.

I don’t know how or when it happened, but like much of our society, the gaming community became segmented.  (I’m about to get real for a paragraph.  Relax, though, it isn’t going to get to the level of those Dove commercials, but I have some things to get off my chest.) As a result, certain segments of the population that consider only their peers to be “true” gamers.  Honestly, these “true” gamers are really only a segment of a segment.  Yet, they have held tremendous influence over the hobby for at least a decade.  They used this influence to push for only one type of game at the exclusion of all others.  The tide appears to be turning back thanks to efforts by other gamers and even game designers.  The designers have created games to appeal to a wider audience.  This “new blood” has understandably caused some friction and resentment on the part of the “true gamers”.  2 Guys Gaming is both inspired by this movement and hopes to serve as inspiration to others to keep it going.

So, what does all of that have to do with the old Marvel RPG?  As one of the games that I used to play with friends, I thought of it recently because of 2 Guys Gaming.  We try to approach games from a fresh perspective and strive to make games fun again.  I doubt that we will ever do a podcast segment because it is defunct and Chris never heard of it, but it works perfectly as an article topic.

I enjoyed the Marvel RPG more than Dungeons and Dragons.  Not only did the game allow me to play as some of my favorite super heroes, it also scratched my creative itch by allowing me to create new ones.  That was the most fun, in my opinion.  I liked reading about the dragon slaying adventures of wizards and warriors, but my fevered teenage dreams always revolved around fighting side by side with Spider-Man and the Hulk.  Marvel RPG gave me the opportunity to do that at a time when most video games were centered around the X-Men or TMNT.

Kevin (of missing Episode 2 of the podcast fame) and I created a team of mutants to cause havoc (no pun intended) in the Marvel Universe.  Those games were some of the most fun that I had as a gamer before getting back into Magic a couple of years ago  That led to introducing my kids to the many worlds of gaming, getting together with Chris, rediscovering my love of the hobby, and starting the podcast and website.  Naturally, this all led to renewed interest in the games that I used to play.

If you have been following, you know that some friends and I are trying to find time to play some Dungeons and Dragons.  Liam and Aiden have both contributed to my interest in Magic, Pokemon, and many of the other games that I’m currently playing.  I picked up a Star Wars introduction RPG because I thought they might like it.  We haven’t played yet, but I might start them on Marvel instead.  It is a universe that they are more familiar with and it is easier to integrate those familiar characters into a story.  I’ve recently discovered a page that offers all of the old books and modules as PDF downloads.  Time to do some reading to familiarize myself again with the game rules.

I always knew that there would be benefits to having children.  I never suspected that one of those benefits might be the beginnings of a playgroup for video, RPG, and card games, but I’m definitely happy that it worked out that way.  Whether your curious about the game or looking to recapture former glory, you can find a massive trove of resources here.  In closing, until the cease and desist letter arrives (not my first one, but my first one from Stan lee, so I’d get it framed), Excelsior!